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Islamic World News ( 3 March 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Praying At Mosques Built From ‘Haram’ Proceeds Is Valid, Says Penang Mufti

New Age Islam News Bureau

3 March 2018 

Hindu community celebrates ‘Holi’ across Pakistan



 Praying At Mosques Built From ‘Haram’ Proceeds Is Valid, Says Penang Mufti

 Far-Right Extremists Preparing For 'War against Islam', Report Warns After Terror Plots Exposed

 Hindu Community Celebrate Colourful Festival of Holi across Pakistan

 In Iraq's Mosul, Hundreds Fear Arrest for Sharing Names with Jihadists

 Expelled AIMPLB Member Maulana Nadvi Disassociates Himself from Ram Mandir Issue


Southeast Asia

 Praying At Mosques Built From ‘Haram’ Proceeds Is Valid, Says Penang Mufti

 Indonesian Christians Flogged Outside Of Mosque for Violating Sharia Law

 Indonesia considers house arrest for ailing radical cleric

 Parliament: Singapore is not immune to Islamophobia, says K. Shanmugam

 DAP rep slams non-Muslim body over its silence on apostasy

 Despite top court ruling, lawyer insists Indira Gandhi’s kids still Muslim



 Far-Right Extremists Preparing For 'War against Islam', Report Warns After Terror Plots Exposed

 Teacher Tried To Raise Army of Jihadist Children At School Rated As Outstanding

 UN: War crimes being committed in Syria’s Ghouta must be prosecuted

 German extremists launched 950 attacks against Muslims in 2017: Ministry

 Rohingya repatriation process should include UN



 Hindu Community Celebrate Colourful Festival of Holi across Pakistan

 Public Hanging: CCI Members Concerned over Chairman’s Vague Stance

 Court Can Ask Govt to Act against Non-Muslims Pretending To Be Muslims: Lawyer

 Islamabad, Moscow hold talks, agree to improve ties

 Six suspected terrorists arrested from Balochistan

 Role of non-Muslim Senators in upper house


Arab World

 In Iraq's Mosul, Hundreds Fear Arrest for Sharing Names with Jihadists

 The Signs That Iran And Saudi Arabia Preparing For War

 Tahrir Al-Sham Takes Back Lands Lost to Rival Terrorists in Northwestern Syria

 More Civilians Killed, Injured in US Airstrikes in Northeastern Syria

 Terrorists' Senior Mufti Assassinated in Northwestern Syria

 Several Turkish Elite Forces Killed in Clashes with Kurds in Northern Syria

 Alleged 9/11 plotter’s torture takes centre stage in Guantanamo hearings



 Expelled AIMPLB Member Maulana Nadvi Disassociates Himself from Ram Mandir Issue

 Denied Permission for Syria Rally, Telangana Youth Attempts Suicide

 Pakistan summons Indian envoy over 'unprovoked firing'

 Fugitive LeT Commander Surfaces in Video with Hizbul Mujahideen Militants

 J&K: Militant returns home after mother’s appeal


North America

 Trudeau’s Trip, Extremism Reproduced in Canada, And Reforming Islam

 Canadian Teen Who Plotted ISIS Attack in U.S. Says ‘Frustration’ Turned Him to Violence

 Iraq ‘will never allow US bases on its soil’

 ISIL conducted over 4600 attacks worldwide in 2017, despite major territorial loses: NATO

 UN rights body to hold 'urgent debate' on E. Ghouta


South Asia

 After Kabul Peace Meeting, US Sees Hope for Negotiated End to Afghan War

 Bangladesh court extends bail for Khaleda Zia until March 13 in corruption case

 Myanmar defends troop build-up on Bangladesh border near Rohingya camp

 Clash among Taliban and ISIS leaves 3 dead, 5 wounded in Nangarhar

 Top TTP leader with Al Qaeda links killed in US airstrike in Paktika

 Anti-Muslim violence in eastern Sri Lanka sparks concern



 The Rheumatology Doctor Who Helped Terror Group Morph into ISIS

 At Least 17 Dead As Turkish Jets Attack Pro-Government Forces in Afrin

 Prominent cleric shot dead while praying in Yemen’s Hadhramaut

 Turkey arrests two Greek soldiers ‘on espionage charges’



 Foremost Nigerian Islamic Scholar Advocates Death Sentence for Drug Dealers

 Al-Shabaab Kills 11 in Separate Attacks in Somalia

 UN experts warn of intensified terrorist threats in Sahel

 Boko Haram Militants Kill Aid Workers at Military Base in Nigeria

 Gunmen attack army headquarters, French embassy in Burkina Faso

 Suicide attack outside Mogadishu kills 3 people

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Praying At Mosques Built From ‘Haram’ Proceeds Is Valid, Says Penang Mufti

March 2, 2018

KEPALA BATAS, March 2 — Muslims who are praying at mosques that were built from “Haram” (forbidden) sources of fund such as the lottery fund will find that their prayers are valid and will still gain “pahala” (rewards in the hereafter), according to Penang Mufti Datuk Dr Wan Salim Wan Mohd Noor.

He said performing prayers, be they Friday or obligatory, at such mosques is “harus” (optional).

“The haram part is only on building (the mosque)… Constructing a mosque from Haram money is forbidden.

“The Penang Fatwa Committee has discussed (the matter) in its meetings from Dec 18 to 19 and decided that the prayers are valid and will be rewarded,” he told reporters after briefing Rantau Panjang Mosque committee members over the issue, near here today.

 The briefing and discussion on the matter was held following a complaint lodged by the committee over the doubts in performing prayers at the mosque.

However, Wan Salim said it is harus or optional to utilise the existing mosques that were built on haram sources.

“If anyone wishes to repent from such forbidden acts, then the money can be used for the benefits of the Muslims such as building bridges, public toilets and donating to the poor,” he added. — Bernama



Far-Right Extremists Preparing For 'War against Islam', Report Warns After Terror Plots Exposed

Mar 03, 2018

Far-right extremists are preparing for what they believe is a “war against Islam”, a report has warned in the wake of police alerts over attempted attacks.

Hope Not Hate’s annual report forecast further violence emanating from various factions following the Finsbury Park terror attack on Muslims and neo-Nazi murder of Labour MP Jo Cox.

Nick Lowles, chief executive of the campaign group, said that with the combination of “civil war” rhetoric and growing online hatred, “we must be prepared for more terrorist plots and use of extreme violence from the far-right for the foreseeable future”. “There is a huge spectrum of people but they all believe in this coming conflict,” he told The Independent.

“Some say the only way to stop it is by people like themselves doing something about it, because they believe the state has allowed this to happen through multiculturalism and integration.”

Mr Lowles said a smaller number of extremists believe a war against Muslims “needs to happen” so they can be expelled from Europe.

He was speaking days after Mark Rowley, the outgoing head of UK counter-terror policing, revealed that four far-right terror plots had been foiled since the Westminster attack in March 2017.

Mr Rowley said 10 Islamist plots were foiled in the same period, warning that both sides were “executing a common strategy” by exploiting existing grievances in target communities, generating distrust of state institutions and then “offering warped parallel alternatives”.

A record number of people are being arrested for suspected terror offences in the UK, with 28 suspects detained for far-right-inspired crimes in 2017 according to Hope Not Hate’s count.

The vast majority of terror suspects are alleged Islamists, but the number of white suspects has rocketed and far-right extremists make up more than a quarter of those going through the Government’s Channel counter-radicalisation programme.

Hope Not Hate said that while anti-Semitism is still pervasive in the far-right, recent years have seen traditionally fractured groups rally around specifically anti-Muslim ideas in the wake of 9/11 and Isis terror attacks.

Its report said that the view of Islam itself as a threat had spread into the mainstream and the general British population, with more than half of respondents in a public poll taking the position and 42 per cent saying their distrust of Muslims had grown after last-year’s Isis-inspired attacks.

“With increasingly negative views towards British Muslims – and Islam more generally – there is a growing pool of possible recruits for the far right and, with some now having huge social media platforms, they now have ways to reach people that were unimaginable in the past,” researchers found.

Prominent right-wing figures including American commentator Ann Coulter, ex-Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos, Infowars editor Paul Joseph Watson, EDL founder Tommy Robinson (real name Stephen Lennon), and former newspaper columnist Katie Hopkins are reaching millions of people through their social media posts and videos.

All have seen followers and views spike in the wake of Isis-inspired massacres, with campaigners accusing the far-right of “exploiting terror attacks for its own benefit”.

Because most of the material posted by high-profile figures cannot be proven to call for violence, it has mostly evaded criminal law and guidelines on social media sites.

“While these people are not directly inciting violence, it is the logical conclusion of their rhetoric,” Mr Lowles said.

“With the upsurge in terrorism coupled with the growth of far-right online and their ability to spread their poison to far larger numbers than ever before, we shouldn’t be surprised that people act on it.”

One example is Darren Osborne, the far-right terrorist who was jailed for life after ploughing a van into Muslim worshippers in Finsbury Park, killing one victim and injuring several others.

Records presented to the jury showed that the father-of-four started gorging on material from sources including the far-right party Britain First and Robinson after watching a BBC documentary on grooming gangs.

Police said the 48-year-old became radicalised in just three to four weeks, as he read messages including an automated email from Robinson’s Rebel Media website claiming a “nation within a nation was forming just beneath the surface of the UK”.

“The government and politicians refuse to take the necessary steps to keep us safe,” said the message, which was calling for supporters to join a march.

“It has now been left to us, the ordinary people of the United Kingdom to stand up to hate, to unite and in one voice say ‘no more’.”

Osborne planned his attack after reading tweets from anonymous posters calling on people to “fight”, while a note left in the van claimed “Islam’s ideology doesn’t belong here”.

Following previous warnings about online radicalisation by Isis and other Islamist groups, police said “individuals could look at material today and decide to go and do an attack later on this evening”.

Last month, a Britain First supporter was jailed for trying to mow down the owner of an Indian restaurant after saying he was going to “kill a Muslim”, while a neo-Nazi was convicted of planning to attack a gay pride event and a Hitler-obsessive was imprisoned for threatening to petrol bomb mosques in revenge for the Manchester attack.

Several terror cases involving suspected neo-Nazis are progressing through courts, including alleged plots to attack Downing Street and assassinate a Labour MP with a machete.

The 2018 State of Hate report named numerous active groups of neo-Nazis, white supremacists, Holocaust deniers and figures on the so-called alt-right, which is based in America.

The Government took action against the neo-Nazi group National Action by banning it as a terrorist organisation in 2016, sparking waves of arrests, but members split into renamed national factions to evade the law.

While British street movements like the EDL, National Front and British National Party (BNP) have declined, Britain First enjoys more followers on Facebook than any mainstream political party and new movements have arrived in the UK.

One is the pan-European Generation Identity, which claims it wants to preserve the “ethnocultural identity of Europe” – perceived to be white and Christian – and believes “indigenous” Europeans are being replaced by Muslims and migrants.

A growing faction of the far-right is defined as “counter-jihaders”, who are not part of the wider movement but define themselves specifically against Islam and dominantly act online rather than as part of real-world groups.

An exception is the failed Ukip leadership candidate Ann Marie Waters, who attempted to continue the momentum of her campaign by launching an anti-Islam party called For Britain.

Researchers highlighted the risk of far-right influence shifting extremist ideas into the mainstream, warning: “We risk society being changed by thousands of people gnawing away at it.”

“Something has to be done with people who deliberately incite hatred against a group because that clearly is going to end up inciting trouble and the Government has to do much more not just to take action but to speak out against it,” Mr Lowles said.

“The concern is that we could see tit-for-tat violence, which can spiral out of control very quickly.”



Hindu community celebrate colourful festival of Holi across Pakistan

Mar 03, 2018

The religious festival of Holi was celebrated by Hindus in different parts of the country. People from Hindu Community celebrated the festival of Holi to express religious harmony in Hyderabad.

Hindus paid a visit at a local Mandir nearby Circuit house in Hyderabad to mark the religious harmony in the country.

Two little girls in Hyderabad rubbed colours on each other’s face while wearing cheerful smiles.

Young boys full of colours are posing for a photo in Hyderabad.

In Karachi, members of Hindu community played with colours during Holi Festival at Swaminarayan Temple



In Iraq's Mosul, hundreds fear arrest for sharing names with jihadists

03rd March 2018

MOSUL: Since jihadists were pushed out of Mosul, Mohammed has not left his home. Although he never joined the Islamic State (IS) group, he shares a name with one of its fighters and fears arrest.

Like hundreds of others, the 24-year-old Iraqi father of two has not dared to approach security forces for fear of being detained because of his name.

"I can't get out of Mosul or even move freely around the city," the young man told AFP, adding that security forces "with a list of names on their computers" could arrest him.

Sami al-Faisal, who runs a human rights group, said he had recorded "about 2,500 people suffering from similar names" in Mosul and its surrounding province.

Personal ID cards in Iraq, like most Arab countries, carry a person's first name, father's name and grandfather's name. But to determine a person's surname and tribe, it's often necessary to look into the area's personal status records.

Common names

Civil archives are the only way to distinguish between the thousands of Mohammeds, Alis, Khaleds, Khalils and Ibrahims -- some of the most popular names in the country.

The Iraqi interior ministry has begun issuing new ID cards equipped with a code that enables security forces to retrieve a person's full name on a computerised system.

But in Mosul, where authorities are still struggling to restore public services after more than three years of jihadist occupation, these new digital IDs do not exist.

Although judicial sources and lawyers have told Mohammed he could clear his name in court, the young man flatly refused.

"Asking a judge to investigate means I'll be detained for months at a police station. To conduct an investigation and verify my innocence with various security services... this process takes a long time," he explained.

This puzzle of similar names and the fear of detention is the talk of the town in Mosul.

Sitting at a cafe, Wahid, 30, agreed to talk to AFP on the condition of anonymity about the name he has come to "hate".

He discovered that his surname was on a list of wanted people during a recent trip to his university to collect his diploma.

"This document is only issued after an investigation by the intelligence services, so I gave up asking for it for fear of arrest," he said.

"The scary thing is that I'd be subject to beatings and insults in detention for a long time before I could prove my innocence."

Wahid said one of his friends was mistakenly arrested three months ago for carrying the same name as an IS jihadist. Another was arrested shortly after the extremists were pushed out of Mosul in July.

97 people with same name

Ahmed Awwad al-Juburi, spokesman of the provincial bar association, is well acquainted with these cases, which can often only be unravelled by determining the names of mothers and wives, and dates of birth.

"Currently, we have identified 97 Mohammed Jassem Mohammeds," he told AFP. All of them can be arrested, although only one is wanted for terrorism offences.

Mohammed Ibrahim al-Bayati, who is in charge of security in the provincial council, said arrests made on the basis of three names should be halted immediately.

Bayati said it is necessary to identify people by their five consecutive names and to make computerised identity documents available to the people of Mosul as quickly as possible.

In Mosul after IS, nobody is spared. Some within the security forces or provincial authorities have already paid for it. Bayati said he too is a victim.

"My name and those of my father and grandfather are held by several other people. I am one of the victims," he told AFP.



Expelled AIMPLB Member Maulana Nadvi Disassociates Himself from Ram Mandir Issue

March 02, 2018

Expelled All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) member Salman Nadvi today disassociated himself from the Ram Mandir issue, saying  the matter is sub-judice and thus ‘we should wait for the Supreme Court’s order’.

The cleric also said that he will return the Board only if senior member Kamal Faruqui and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi are removed.

"I disassociate myself from the Ram Mandir issue. We will wait for the judgement of the court. I will only return to the AIMPLB if four persons including Asaduddin Owaisi and Kamal Faruqui are removed," Salman Nadvi said.

Yesterday, spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who has been trying for a solution to the Ayodhya dispute through mediation, met Nadvi in Lucknow.

"Our efforts are on...towards success and the response from all sides is very good. We will continue the efforts. We are talking of maintaining love and harmony between the two communities and for a grand Ram temple," the 'Art of Living' founder said after meeting Nadvi.

To a question on possible backlash from the Muslim community over his efforts to find out an out-of-court settlement on the vexed issue, he said, "There is a lot of goodwill and cooperation from the Muslim community."

In February, the AIMPLB had expelled Nadvi, who had expressed his view that shifting of the mosque was permissible.

During the general body meeting of AIMPLB in Hyderabad, many of the 500 participants had demanded that Nadvi be removed from the board. The board's spokesman had termed Nadvi's statement as not acceptable and one that was made in his personal capacity.

In the past year, Ravi Shankar has met over 500 leaders in Ayodhya, Bangalore, Lucknow, Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai and other places personally or through video conferencing.



Southeast Asia


Indonesian Christians Flogged Outside Of Mosque For Violating Sharia Law

Mar 03, 2018

Indonesia publicly caned two Christians in a rare case of non-Muslims punished under sharia law.

The two Indonesian Christians – Dahlan Silitonga, 61, and Tjia Nyuk Hwa, 45 – were whipped six and seven times respectively by a masked man wearing a robe, as a crowd of 300 ridiculed and took pictures of them outside a mosque in the provincial capital, Banda Aceh.

The strict Islamic law punishment against the Christian man and woman comes as the predominently Muslim country shifts to a more radical, politicized version of Islam, Reuters reported.

The pair – among five people punished – was accused of gambling. Police said they were playing a game at a children’s entertainment complex that lets users exchange coins for prizes or vouchers, including cash. They were beaten with a rattan stick, while another man involved with them got 19 lashes.

Another couple was whipped two dozen times for showing affection in public.

Banda Aceh is the only province in Indonesia that imposes sharia law since it was adopted in 2001 as part of a deal with the central government to end a long-running insurgency. The province has flogged its non-Muslim citizens for a range of offenses – from gambling to selling alcohol to having gay or extramarital sex.

“This is to create a deterrent effect, in order for people not to repeat violations of Islamic sharia law,” Banda Aceh’s mayor Aminullah Usman said. “We purposely do it in front of the public ... so it won’t happen again.”

Indonesia is the country with the largest Muslim population in the world.

Around 98% of Banda Aceh’s population are Muslims subject to sharia law, but the other portion, Christians and other non-Muslims, when accused of violating both national and religious laws can choose to be prosecuted under either system, often opting for a flogging to avoid a lengthy, costly court process and jail time.

In January, a Christian man was whipped 36 times for selling alcohol and recently the country came under fire after police arrested and publicly humiliated transgender people.

Last year, Indonesia jailed Christian governor, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, for blaspheming the Koran, prompting massive protests and pushback on the country’s stance as a bulwark of tolerance and pluralism in the Islamic world.



Indonesia considers house arrest for ailing radical cleric

3 March 2018

JAKARTA, Indonesia: The Indonesian government is considering house arrest or other forms of clemency for the ailing radical cleric who was the ideological leader of the Bali bombers and is now in prison for helping to fund a jihadist training camp.

Wiranto, the government’s top security minister, said Friday that a meeting of security ministers and police will make a recommendation on Abu Bakar Bashir’s treatment to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

“Clemency, pardon, house arrest or just hospital treatment. It will be discussed in the near future and will be reported to the president,” said Wiranto, who uses a single name.

Bashir, who turns 80 in August, was treated in a Jakarta hospital on Thursday for pooling of blood in the legs, a common condition in the elderly known as chronic venous insufficiency, and later returned to prison.

Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said on Thursday that the government plans to place Bashir under house arrest so he can be cared for by his family or transfer him to a prison near his hometown, Solo in Central Java, according to local media.

His numerous sympathizers hope Jokowi will grant him a permanent release due to his poor health, a move that would help mend fences between hard-line Muslims and Jokowi ahead of a presidential election in 2019 but alarm allies such as the United States and Australia. Jokowi’s approval ratings remain high with the broader Indonesian public.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s office on Saturday described Bashir as the mastermind behind the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, mostly foreigners including 88 Australians.

Bishop’s office said in a statement that Australians expected justice to continue to be served to “the full extent that Indonesian law allows.”

“Abu Bakar Bashir should never be allowed to incite others to carry other future attacks against innocent civilians,” the statement added.

Bashir was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2011 for supporting a military-style training camp for Islamic militants.

The firebrand cleric was arrested almost immediately after the Bali bombing. But prosecutors were unable to prove a string of terrorism-related allegations. He was instead sentenced to 18 months in prison for immigration violations.

Jokowi’s spokesman, Johan Budi, said the president will review the case, and house arrest is “possible under the law.”

He said a suggestion to pardon Bashir came from Indonesian Ulema Council chairman Ma’ruf Amin and would require Bashir to apply for clemency.

Full report at:



Parliament: Singapore is not immune to Islamophobia, says K. Shanmugam

MAR 2, 2018

SINGAPORE - Shortly after it was reported that a Singaporean woman was detained for radicalism last June, an Indian man scolded a Muslim woman on a bus, singling her out as she was donning a tudung.

He told her that Muslims "should stay in Iraq as they did not know the value (of) staying in Singapore".

Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam told this story during the debate on his ministry's budget on Friday (March 2) to emphasise that Singapore is not immune to Islamophobia, though noting that "so far, these incidents have been few and far between".

Mr Shanmugam, who is also the Law Minister, added: "Singapore must not allow the threat of terrorism to breed fear, suspicion and distrust of each other."

MHA has been contacted for more information about Islamophobia cases.

Besides Islamophobia, Mr Shanmugam highlighted the need to prevent religious extremism and segregationist teachings from taking root here.

Citing the banning of four foreign preachers - two Muslims and two Christians - from entering Singapore last year, Mr Shanmugam said preachers who espoused "violence, or spread ill-will towards other religions whether in Singapore or elsewhere" will not be allowed to speak here.

Mr Shanmugam also addressed criticism that the Government "overreacted" in banning the Muslim preachers, Mr Ismail Menk and Mr Haslin Baharim, last October.

He said Mr Ismail Menk's teachings, in particular, were divisive, and the decision to ban them were "carefully considered".

Said Mr Shanmugam: "We must preserve the harmony we have and to do this, we must not let extremist or segregationist teachings infiltrate our communities. Even a small number of persons propagating radical, or segregationist beliefs can be dangerous."

He said the inflammatory and viral potential of such messages is increased with social media, a point also raised by Mr Chong Kee Hiong (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC).

Full report at:



DAP rep slams non-Muslim body over its silence on apostasy

March 3, 2018

PETALING JAYA: A Sarawak DAP elected rep has criticised the silence of the Unit for Other Religions (Unifor) in the state, over the recent incidents that followed a ruling by the Federal Court on the issue of apostasy.

Bukit Assek state assemblyperson Irene Mary Chang said Unifor, which is responsible for all matters pertaining to religions other than Islam, should have risen to the occasion.

“It has been five days since the regrettable incident which happened following the ruling of the Federal Court on the hearing on the issue of jurisdiction for apostasy cases.

“Yet, Unifor has failed to issue any statement of assurance that they have looked into the incident and are taking serious steps to ensure that such a ruckus would never happen again in our state,” Chang said.

She was referring to the aggression shown towards Sarawak’s Catholic Archbishop Simon Poh, as well as death threats and insults to lawyer and PKR lawmaker, Baru Bian, who acted for the four Sarawakians seeking to convert out of Islam.

Chang added that what happened outside the courts and the war of words following the unruly incident in public media is a serious threat to Sarawak’s image of “unity among diversities”.

“Unifor, a brainchild of the previous chief minister, the late Adenan Satem, is supposed to be the platform for non-Muslims to air their grievances and whatever religious issues they are facing.

“It is supposed to be the bridge between Muslims and non-Muslims and to address and settle amicably the issues which might give rise to misunderstandings between the people.

“So, why is Unifor keeping so quiet over the recent events?” she asked, adding that what has happened also threatens the image of Kuching as the “City of Unity” by 1Malaysia Foundation in 2015.

Chang said assurance should have been forthcoming from Unifor from the very first hint of trouble surrounding the apostasy case,

“Where is the assurance from Unifor that the matter has been officially brought to the attention of both the state and federal governments and that the people’s grievances from both Muslims and non-Muslims have been heard and would be addressed and would not be brushed under the carpet?

“Where is the assurance that actions would be taken against those who had ignited and initiated these unwanted incidents in order to dissipate the brewing contention among the religious groups?”

Seeking court order

On Tuesday, the Federal Court ruled that the Sarawak Shariah Court can hear apostasy cases, in dismissing an application by four Sarawakians for the civil court to hear their apostasy cases.

The four were seeking a court order to nullify their status as Muslims, and compel the National Registration Department (NRD) to recognise them as Christians.

Syarifah Nooraffyzza Wan Hosen left Islam voluntarily and embraced Christianity in 2009, while Tiong Choo Ting, a Chinese-Bidayuh Christian, who converted to Islam to marry a Muslim woman, later decided to return to Christianity after the death of his wife.

Another is Salina Jau, a Kayan/Kenyah Christian, who converted to Islam to marry a Malay-Muslim man but decided to return to Christianity after her divorce.

The fourth is Jenny Peter, a Melanau Christian, who converted to Islam to marry a Muslim but also decided to return to Christianity after her divorce.

The four jointly sought the Federal Court’s interpretation of the Sarawak Shariah Court Ordinance 2001, and named the Sarawak State Islamic Department director, the Sarawak Islamic Council, the National Registration Department director-general and the state government as respondents.

No active intervention

Chang said the authorities cannot afford to “bury our head in the sands” on the issue.

“It is not enough to simply assure ourselves that this would not escalate into more serious contentions without any active intervention by the state government.

“We do not want to walk down the same path as our West Malaysian brothers where religious contention is always brewing beneath the surface of superficial serenity,” she said.

The Sarawak DAP committee member also called for Unifor to look into a possible standard operating procedure (SOP) to be enacted for conversion out of Islam, so as to heed the religious freedom that our “forefathers had put in place for the state”.

Full report at:



Despite top court ruling, lawyer insists Indira Gandhi’s kids still Muslim


March 3, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR, March 3 — The three children of Hindu mother M. Indira Gandhi are Muslim, according to lawyer Haniff Khatri Abdulla despite a landmark Federal Court ruling that nullified their unilateral conversion by their father.

Haniff Khatri told a forum discussing the Indira Gandhi case here last night that Tan Sri Zainun Ali — one of the five judges who made the unanimous ruling in January to nullify the muallaf or Muslim-convert certificates — did not declare the children non-Muslim when reading out the 99-page judgment.

As such, the ruling only affected the validity of their muallaf or Muslim conversion certificates, which the lawyer said was merely administrative.

“If you read the judgement, the honourable Datuk [sic] Zainun, she stated that the challenge made [by Indira] was not regarding the children’s religious status. The challenge was in relation to whether the conversion certificates issued by the authority is valid or not, in accordance with the enactment.

“So as usual, she did not touch on the hukum, you know. She touched on administrative [matters].

“In Islam, as we know it, the hukum is, they are Muslims, but from an administrative side, they have a certificate. Is having a certificate or not, what makes us Muslims? No,” Haniff Khatri said at the public talk titled “Forum Ummah: The case of Indira Gandhi — Constitutional implications” held at the Sultan Sulaiman Club.

The lawyer had previously represented another Muslim convert Izwan Abdullah who was involved in a custodial tussle in court with his Hindu ex-wife S. Deepa for their two children, then aged 11 and eight years old respectively.

To illustrate his point, Haniff Khatri then gave as example Muslim couples who flee to Thailand to marry but face difficulties once they are back here, alleging that local religious authorities do not recognise such unions.

He added that although such marriages may not be acknowledged by Malaysian authorities, they are valid under Islam until the afterlife. He argued that the same principle applied to the religious status of Indira’s children with her Muslim convert ex-husband Muhammad Riduan Abdullah.

According to Haniff Khatri, the Federal Court judgment on the Indira Gandhi case was also not clearly written to distinguish between the limitations of the apex court’s jurisdiction and Islamic laws, which would lead Malaysians to believe the children were not Muslims.

“But because of the way the judgment was written, and because what is administrative and hukum was not distinguished, the consequence is that people would assume that the kids are not Muslims.

“However, from the Islamic law aspect, they are Muslims,” he said, adding that in Islam, personal rights are inferior to religious laws.

On January 29, the Federal Court ruled that consent from both parents are needed to change the religion of their children and voided the April 2, 2009 unilateral conversion of Indira’s three children by her ex-husband Muhammad Riduan who was formerly known as K. Pathmanathan.

The ruling brought clarity to an issue that had plagued Malaysia for years, but which the government and Parliament did not resolve despite pledges to the effect.

The Federal Court also ruled that the country’s civil courts are empowered to examine matters related to Islamic law, notwithstanding a constitutional amendment that precluded them from considering topics under the jurisdiction of the Shariah courts. The Shariah courts only have jurisdiction over Muslims.

In a May 2016, Indira told Malay Mail that both her older children have been practising Hindus since birth, with their identity cards still carrying the names they were born with and stating their religious status as Hindu.

The youngest child, Prasana Diksa was taken away by her father as an 11-month-old nine years ago despite Indira winning full custody in the civil High Court.

Full report at:





Teacher tried to raise army of jihadist children at school rated as outstanding

2 MARCH 2018

Ofsted marked a fee-paying Islamic school as outstanding while one of its teachers was trying to raise an “army” of jihadi children, it can be revealed.

Umar Haque, 25, has been convicted of plotting to attack iconic British landmarks such as Big Ben and Heathrow Airport.

But police have said he was also aiming to recruit children from the two schools and the mosque where he taught in East London to carry out future jihad in the UK.

Haque was employed as an administrator and Religious Education teacher at the private Lantern of Knowledge Secondary School in Leyton, east London, between September 2015 and September 2016.

During the period he was at the school it received glowing Ofsted reports, with inspectors praising its "strong sense of community, harmony and respect".

Haque also worked at the Ripple Road mosque in Barking - which was attended by London Bridge terrorist, Khurum Butt, as well as the Hafs Academy in Newham.

'Army of children'

Commander Dean Haydon, head of the Metropolitan Police's Counter Terrorism Command, said: “He abused his position at those venues.

"And he tried - and he did, we believe - radicalise vulnerable children from the ages of 11 to 14.

“His plan was to create an army of children to assist with multiple terrorist attacks throughout London.

“His plans, though ambitious, were aspirational. They were long term attack plans.”

Nobody at any of the institutions raised the alarm and Mr Haydon also suggested they had failed to cooperate fully with the investigation.

Haque came onto the police's radar in April 2016, when he was stopped at Heathrow trying to board a plane to Turkey.

Despite having his passport revoked by the Home Office, he continued to work at the Lantern of Knowledge, until the September of that year.

On January 24 last year he was caught driving without insurance and police again began to look into his activities, at which point they discovered evidence pointing to his desire to radicalise youngsters.

Pupils 'prepared for martyrdom'

It can now be revealed that Haque had access to 250 children aged between 11 and 14 and tried to radicalise more than 100 of them by showing extremist videos including beheadings.

Haque warned the children they would meet a similar fate if they told anyone about his plans as he prepared them for "martyrdom".

He planned to teach the children to drive as they got older, Mr Haydon said, adding: “His intention was those children would help him carry out multiple attacks across London. It was a long term plan.”

A total of 35 children are now receiving long term safeguarding support from social services, supported by the police, local authorities and the Home Office.

The court heard from a young boy on a video-recorded police interview.

"He is teaching us terrorism, like how to fight," he said. "If you fight for the sake of Allah, on Judgment Day, when you get judged for your good deeds and bad deeds, fighting is good.

"He wants a group of 300 men. He's training us now so by the time I'm in Year 10  we will be physically strong enough to fight."

Paralysed by fear

Mr Haydon said police had been met with a "wall of silence", when they had attempted to investigate Haque's activities.

He added: “We found no evidence, at the moment, that any individual raised concerns within the schools. It certainly wasn’t reported to police or authorities.

“Children were paralysed by fear. There was a wall of silence.”

Describing Haque's plans, Mr Haydon said: “He tried to prepare the children for martyrdom, by making them role play terrorist acts.  So terrorist acts that had taken place in and around London. “

He added: "He told them he had significant connections into IS. He showed them pretty shocking videos of beheadings, involving serious injury, murder, mostly overseas.

“He threatened them that if they were to talk to teachers, parents or to allude to anybody outside of that classroom of what was going on, that they would meet a similar fate.

“It doesn’t appear that any of those children raised the alarm bell of what was going on.”

Mr Haydon said this presented "challenges" for the police in trying to understand what was going on in these institutions.

He went on: “It was apparent that he was in the early stages of this long term attack plan, that he intended would take place at multiple sites using multiple weapons, assisted by children that he had radicalised at those three locations.”

School given glowing reports

Ofsted and the local education authority were involved with the schools, while the mosque is subject to an ongoing Charities Commission investigation.

But an Ofsted inspection, which took place when Haque was working there, heaped praise on the Lantern of Knowledge, which charges fees of £3,000 a year.

The report stated: "Pupils speak with pride about their faith and are accepting and understanding of those with other beliefs and lifestyles, even when they are at odds with the central teachings of their own faith."

But while the Ofsted report from the period Haque was teaching there was 'Outstanding', a subsequent emergency inspection that took place in December 2017, after he had been charged and was awaiting trial, described it needing improvement in every area.

'He shouldn't have been teaching'

Mr Haydon said: "He was a very dangerous man. It is a concern what he was doing. He is radicalising children. “He shouldn’t have been teaching – he’s not a qualified teacher, that’s a concern in the first place.”

A statement issued on behalf of the school's board of trustees, said: "The Lantern of Knowledge Educational Trust treats the safety and welfare of its pupils with the upmost importance.

"It adheres to the Department for Education’s statutory guidance for the safe recruitment of staff.

"The Trust regularly reviews its policies and procedures around the recruitment of its staff to ensure they are robust and legally compliant.

"Those involved in the recruitment of staff also undergo training to ensure statutory requirements are adhered to.

"The Trust works closely with third party organisations to maintain the safety of our pupils and assists with any lawful enquiries made by relevant authorities."

But Scotland Yard have raised concerns over the level of cooperation officers got from all the institutions Haque was involved with.

Mr Haydon said: “There were no reports from teachers or the children into the school that raised concerns about Haque himself.”

Referring to Lantern of Knowledge, he said: “We spoke to parents. As you can imagine, they were as concerned and probably horrified as we were.

“It is a fee paying school. Parents are paying a significant amount of money to send their children to a school where they would expect them to be safe.

"And be taught by fully qualified teachers.  In this case, they weren’t. As a result, that’s why we intervened as early as we could.”

Warped ideology

Ofsted’s Deputy Chief Inspector, Matthew Coffey said: “It is of deep regret that this individual was able to work within the independent school system and expose his warped ideology to children.

“Umar Haque engaged in highly sophisticated grooming of young, vulnerable children. We welcome the conviction and are fully supportive of the work taking place across Government to ensure people like Haque aren’t able to do this again.

“Ofsted is committed to protecting children from harm, including radicalisation. However, our ability to do so is hampered by limitations on our powers.

"We have no ability to inspect out-of-school settings, such as madrassas, and we believe greater powers in this area could help keep children safe in the future.

“We know the Government is keen to address these matters and welcome their commitment to closer working.”



UN: War crimes being committed in Syria’s Ghouta must be prosecuted

2 March 2018

Air strikes on the besieged Syrian enclave of eastern Ghouta and shelling from the militia-held zone into Damascus most likely constitute war crimes and must be prosecuted, the top UN human rights official said on Friday.

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the perpetrators in Syria should know they were being identified and that dossiers were being built with a view to future criminal prosecutions.

"Syria must be referred to the International Criminal Court. Attempts to thwart justice, and shield these criminals, are disgraceful," Zeid told the Geneva rights forum which is holding an urgent debate on eastern Ghouta at Britain’s request.



German extremists launched 950 attacks against Muslims in 2017: Ministry

Mar 3, 2018

German authorities say they have registered at least 950 attacks on Muslims and Muslim institutions, including mosques, in 2017.

Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung newspaper, citing data provided to legislators by the Interior Ministry, further reported on Saturday that at least 33 people sustained injuries in such attacks, of which 60 were directed against mosques.

The report also noted that almost all those responsible for the attacks, according to the data, had been far-right extremists, adding that no data were available for comparisons since the ministry only began separately gathering data about anti-Islamic attacks – as opposed to anti-migrant attacks – last year.

Meanwhile, Aiman Mazyek, who heads the Central Council of Muslims, told the paper that the number of attacks on Muslims and Muslim institutions was likely much higher because many authorities were not yet monitoring anti-Islamic incidents specifically and victims often failed to make police reports.

In early June last year, the daily reported that German authorities had registered 208 offenses of an anti-Islamic character in the first quarter of 2017, with incidents including online attacks, threatening letters, attacks on women wearing headscarves, as well as damage to property.

Two months later, the same newspaper, citing German officials, reported that attacks on German Muslims were “becoming more violent”, as Islamophobic attacks between April and June that year wounded some 16 people, a steep increase from two in the first quarter of the year.

Back in late August 2016, suspected right-wing extremists in northern Germany blocked the entrance of a mosque with concrete blocks and covered it with anti-Muslim slogans in a show of protest against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s pro-refugee policies.

Muslims make up nearly five percent of the total population of Germany, which is home to some four million Muslims.

Full report at:



Rohingya repatriation process should include UN

02 March 2018

The EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Friday that the safe return of Rohingya refugees to their home country should be made possible.

In a meeting with Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmoud Ali in Brussels, she said the UN Refugee Agency should be involved in the repatriation process, according to a statement from Mogherini's office.

Mogherini appreciated the generous and humane role of the government and the people of Bangladesh, where thousands of Rohingya refugees currently reside.

Myanmar and Bangladesh signed a repatriation deal for the refugees earlier this year, but authorities in Myanmar have refused to allow any international body including the UN to oversee the process.

More than 750,000 refugees, mostly children and women, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh since August 25, 2017, when Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community, according to the Amnesty International.

The refugees are fleeing a military operation in which security forces and Buddhist mobs have killed men, women and children, looted homes and torched Rohingya villages.

At least 9,000 Rohingya were killed in Rakhine state from Aug. 25 to Sept. 24 last year, according to Doctors Without Borders.

In a report published on December 12, 2017, the global humanitarian organization said the deaths of 71.7 percent or 6,700 Rohingya were caused by violence. They include 730 children below the age of five.

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

Full report at:





Public hanging: CCI members concerned over chairman’s vague stance

March 2, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Members of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) on Thursday expressed serious concerns over the CCI chairman’s reluctance to take a clear stance on the public hanging of child kidnappers and murderers.

The council, whose nine members will finish their tenure on March 5, has been reluctant to adopt a stance on the public hanging of a person convicted on charges of kidnapping and murdering a child aged 14 or below.

Also, the CCI is yet to publish its report on a bill titled ‘Child Marriage Restraint Bill’, which has been pending for the last two months.

It is feared that the council will further delay publishing its reports on several bills owing to the completion of tenure of its nine members who attended a farewell yesterday.

During the meeting, some of the board members urged CII Chairman Dr Qibla Ayaz to put an end to the confusion over the public hanging of child kidnappers and murderers by categorically approving or denying this practice.

Senators suggest rationality on public hanging

CCI member Dr Samia Raheel Qazi stated that the chairman’s vague stance on the public hanging matter had caused further confusion. Another council member, Mufti Abdullah, said it was the need of the hour to put an end to this confusion.

But the CCI chairman, along with council member Dr Sajid-ur-Rehman, maintained that the council had already shared its point of view through a handout. They stressed that it was useless to restart the debate.

The CII chairman, in a press conference held last month, had advised against introducing in the law an amendment seeking public hanging for child kidnappers. The media persons had kept on asking the CII chief for a more detailed opinion on public hanging of such culprits as demanded by a section of society in the wake of incidents of abduction, rape and murder of minor children particularly in Kasur. However, Ayaz had desisted from delving into details.

In Thursday’s meeting, Dr Samia Raheel Qazi claimed that women who cover their faces were being removed from the electoral rolls.

She said the voters’ lists were accessible to everyone on the election commission’s website and therefore they could be misused against women.  On this, the CCI chief said he would look into the matter.

The meeting later agreed upon to recommend a uniform marriage registration pro forma instead of the existing ones.



Court can ask govt to act against non-Muslims pretending to be Muslims: lawyer

Mar 03, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Law expert Akram Sheikh on Friday apprised the Islamabad High Court (IHC) that a constitutional court can direct the government for a legislation against the non-Muslims who identify themselves as Muslims in paperwork.

Akram was assisting the court in a petition filed by Maulana Allah Wasaya that pertained to the identification non-Muslims in the government and other organisations who pretend to be Muslims.

Addressing the court, the lawyer suggested a “strict action” against those who changed their religious status from Muslim to Ahmedi.

Earlier, a NADRA report revealed that at least 10,205 people had changed their religious status from Muslim to Ahmedi.

In his observations, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui asserted that over 10,000 people changed their religious status from Muslim to Ahmedi in their Computerised National Identity Cards (CNICs), adding that a majority of these pretended to be Muslims to hold on to their jobs and then revert back to their official religion after retirement.

Over 6,000 people, who converted to Ahemdi sect, left the country, the judge cited a government report and said that the government had already been directed to present the travel history in the court.

Earlier, the court asked the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to provide a travel history of these people.

Sheikh being concerned over the revelations in the government report said that “Ahmedis can’t be allowed to exercise Islamic rituals as it could “hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims”.

He, however, stated that a separate religious identity is essential for the safety of the minority community’s religious rights, adding that “Islam and the Constitution ensure the provision of rights to minorities”.

The lawyer suggested that one should submit an affidavit on the finality of prophethood mandatory for issuance of a CNIC.

On Thursday, the IHC directed a deputy attorney general (DAG) to provide details of the 2017 census with a break-up of Muslims, non-Muslims, and Ahmedis.

Justice Siddiqui had directed the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to provide details on the Muslim Television Ahmadiyya International TV channel. Upon which, the counsel representing the authority had replied that the channel is operated from the United Kingdom.

Earlier, amicus curiae (court’s helpers) including University of Punjab Institute of Islamic Studies Professor Dr Hafiz Hassan Madni, Ex Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) member Dr Mohsin Naqvi, and current CII member Dr Sajidur Rehman have assisted the court in this regard.

The court had directed them to assist in determining if it is a violation of fundamental rights to ask a citizen about his religion and religious ideology.

The directive comes in the wake of the NADRA report that revealed that at least 10,205 people had changed their religious status from Muslim to Ahmedi. According to the report, a total of 167,473 Ahmedis are registered in the country.

Subsequently, the court directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to submit the travel histories of 6,001 people who changed their religious status from Muslim to Ahmedi.

Full report at:



Islamabad, Moscow hold talks, agree to improve ties

Baqir Sajjad Syed

March 03, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Russia on Friday agreed to explore new avenues for bilateral cooperation to enhance the “existing positive momentum in ties”.

“Both sides agreed on the need to further capitalise on the positive trajectory of the overall bilateral relations by exploring avenues for mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation,” Foreign Office said after the 12th meeting of Pakistan-Russia Consul­tative Group on Strategic Stability.

The platform that provides for structured dialogue between the two countries has existed since 2003. The meeting was held at the level of senior officials.

The Pakistani side was led by Special Secretary Amb Tasnim Aslam, whereas the Russian side was led by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov.

“The two sides had an in-depth exchange of views on the regional and global developments, including with respect to arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation,” the FO said.

Ties between Moscow and Islamabad have been improving for years now and the two have taken great strides since 2007, when the ties were renewed after a long estrangement during the cold war.

Pakistan and Russia in 2014 signed a defence cooperation accord and in 2015 they inked a technical cooperation accord providing for arms supplies and cooperation in weapon development.

During Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif’s visit to Moscow last month, the two sides agreed to form a military commission to enhance their defence cooperation.

Despite the upswing in ties, the two countries have moved very tentatively on nuclear cooperation. Mos­cow, for instance, is backing India’s bid for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. However, it is not blocking Pakistan’s candidature. Moreover, it’s not ready to discuss the prospects of nuclear cooperation.

Trade and economic cooperation is another area where the two countries have been lagging behind.

Russia has particularly been interested in cooperation in the energy sector and has been pressing Islamabad to implement the agreements reached in the inter-governmental commission.

The Foreign Office maintained that the two sides enjoyed commonality of approach and convergence on a range of contemporary issues. The evolving geostrategic landscape and more specifically India’s growing closeness with the US and the lingering conflict in Afghanistan have been major contributors to promoting convergence bet­ween the two sides.

Full report at:



Six suspected terrorists arrested from Balochistan

MARCH 3, 2018

QUETTA: Security forces foiled a major terrorist bid in Balochistan’s Pishin area, arresting six suspected terrorists, said the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) on Friday.

According to the ISPR, the suspected terrorists have been arrested from Pishin’s Karbala area.

The ISPR said that 500 kilogrammes of explosive material has been recovered from the possession of terrorists.

The recovered material included explosive jackets, sub-machine guns and improvised explosive devices, said the ISPR.

The army’s media cell said that mines and tools of communication were also found in the operation.

A number of such operations have been conducted in the province where security forces are battling an insurgency said to be supported by hostile agencies.

Full report at:



Role of non-Muslim Senators in upper house

March 03, 2018

To give non-Muslims greater representation in the parliament in 2011 President Asif Ali Zardari signed an amendment in the Senate election rules to reserve four seats for minorities.

The amendment in the Senate rules of 1975 came in compliance with provisions of 18th amendment in the constitution. Under this amendment each provincial assembly can elect a non-Muslim senator in the Senate polls of in 2012.

Kamran Micheal from PML-N and Hari Ram from PPP were the first non-Muslims elected as Senators .

The role of these senators from minority groups from different parties has not played an active role in legislation of the senate. These non-Muslim senators have failed to represent their communities effectively.

Dr. Ashok Kumar

Originally from Sindh province, Dr Ashok Kumar migrated to Hub, Balochistan in 1988. He was elected President Hindu Penchayt of Hub in 1992.  He holds the degree of Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery from Jinnah Sindh Medical University in 1989. He was elected to the Senate of Pakistan as a candidate of National Party on a reserved seat for minorities in Pakistani Senate election, 2015.

Tenure: March 2015 to March 2021

Province: Balochistan

Party: National Party (NP)

Committee Member

To Examine over all working of the Sports Federations in Pakistan (Chairperson Committee)

The Performance of PIA


Information Broadcasting

and National Heritage

National Health Services

Regulations and Coordination

Religious Affairs and Inter-Faith


Kamran Michael

Kamran started his political career in 2001 after getting elected as Councilor. Later he was elected as Member of Lahore District Council.

Kamran was elected as member of the Provincial Assembly of Punjab for the first time in Pakistani general election, 2002on one of the eight seats reserved for minorities.

He was re-elected as the member of the Punjab Assembly for a second term in Pakistani general election, 2008.

He is currently working as a Federal Minister for Statistics.

He has been an elected member of the Senate of Pakistan on minority’s seat since 2012 and has served as the Provincial Minister for Minorities Affairs, Human Rights, Women development, Social Welfare and Finance in the Provincial Assembly of Punjab.

Tenure: March 2012 to March 2018

Province: Punjab

Party: Pakistan Muslim League

Nawaz (PML-N)

Committee Member

Climate Change

National Health Services Regulations and Coordination

To Consider the Islamabad Restriction on Employment of Children Bill, 2017

Brig. (R) John Kenneth Williams

He is a a retired army officer. John Kenneth belongs from the city of  Peshawar in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Brigadier (R) John Kenneth Williams a Pakistani Christian elected to Pakistan Senate.

He was elected to the Senate of Pakistan as a candidate of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf on reserved seat for minorities in Pakistani Senate election, 2015.

Tenure: March 2015 to March 2021

Province: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Party: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)

Committee Member

The Dilapidated Condition of Bacha Khan Airport

Defence Production

National Food Security and Research

Religious Affairs and

Inter-Faith Harmony

Government Assurances

Full report at:



Arab World


The signs that Iran and Saudi Arabia preparing for war

March 2, 2018

Where will the world’s next catastrophic war erupt? And what will trigger it?

However risky the North Korean nuclear stalemate remains, the more likely battleground once again appears to be the Middle East.

And the growing rivalry between the region’s most powerful countries — Iran and Saudi Arabia — will be what triggers it.

In recent weeks, the potential flashpoints across the Middle East have been dangerously intersecting with each other.

They include the deepening war in Syria, the risk of Israeli involvement, the humanitarian disaster in Yemen, the disarray within Lebanon, the continuing sectarian conflict in Iraq and the fear that new nuclear weapons may be introduced in the region.

But magnifying the risk is what looms above all these conflicts.

In varying degrees, all are being fuelled or influenced — as a form of proxy war — by what many Middle East analysts fear is the coming showdown between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

This is not only a showdown over religion, dividing all of Islam, with Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia at the opposite ends of an Islamic rift that dates to the 7th century.

Above all, it is a showdown about power and history in the Middle East. Who will dominate the region? Who will shape the future? And who will lose?

It is impossible to sort through the many crises within the region without understanding the historical context of this crucial relationship. And that is particularly important now.

In recent days, an excellent two-part, three-hour PBS FRONTLINE documentary, titled “Bitter Rivals: Iran and Saudi Arabia,” has been broadcast. It can be watched online at

With correspondent Martin Smith, FRONTLINE teams in the past two years visited seven countries in the region and pulled together a portrait of what drives Iran and Saudi Arabia. In doing so, they explained the many complicated forces that dominate today’s crises.

Although the conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia has its roots deep in history, the most recent transition came in 2011 in response to the so-called Arab Spring.

Saudi Arabia’s monarchy felt threatened by the popular revolts throughout the Arab world, and accused Iran of fuelling the flames. Iran’s ruling clerics, for their part, worried that their own survival was at stake.

When he was U.S. president, Barack Obama tried — unsuccessfully — to lower tensions between the two Middle Eastern powers. His appeal was that they should learn “to share the neighbourhood.” Although that angered the Saudis, it is hard not to conclude that, on this point at least, Obama was on the right side of history.

However, President Donald Trump has moved in an entirely different direction. He wants to scrap the historic nuclear deal the world’s major powers made with Iran, which he views as a global pariah.

Unlike Obama, he has placed no limits on Saudi Arabia, a position that has been evident in Yemen where Saudi Arabia is being accused of war crimes. Iran, meanwhile, has been involved in the support of the Assad regime in Syria, as well financing the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon.

In the PBS documentary, it was pointed out that if more than a million people have died in the region’s conflicts in the past decade, few have been Iranian or Saudi citizens.

The program is probably most revealing in placing the Iranian and Saudi stories in their historical context. Americans, in particular, often forget the enormous role — frequently destructive — of their own government and military in modern Middle Eastern history. People in the Middle East don’t suffer the same amnesia.

The program devoted its opening segment to something that illustrated this point. It was an event that haunts Iranians to this day, but which few Americans know anything about.

In 1953, Iran’s secular, democratic government, led by Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, was overthrown in a coup funded and organized by the CIA and Britain’s intelligence service, known as M16.

That led to the return of the Shah of Iran, and his despotic regime, which was finally toppled in 1979 by Iran’s ayatollahs and their Islamic Revolution.

As Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said in the program about his own country’s relationship with the U.S.: “It is a very unfortunate fact that people have short memories, when actually some of them may not want to remember what happened.”



Tahrir Al-Sham Takes Back Lands Lost to Rival Terrorists in Northwestern Syria

Mar 02, 2018

The sources said that the al-Turkistani terrorists, deployed in Jisr al-Shughour, have joined Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at in the battle against other rival terrorist groups.

They added that Tahrir al-Sham managed to win back control over the town of Ma'arat Mesrin and the villages of Hazra, Tarmanin and Tal Adah and the settlements of Ram Hamdan, Hazano, Hannoush and Ma'ara al-Nu'asan in Northern Idlib after affiliation of al-Turkistani to its gunmen.  

Field sources in Southern Idlib said on Thursday that a number of Tahrir al-Sham and Syria's Tahrir Front members were killed during heavy infighting in the town of Mar'ayan and Ahsam.

Also, reports in Northern Idlib said that Tahrir al-Sham militants have gained control of the towns of Atmah and Salah as well as the villages of Aqirabat, Deir Hissan, Qah and Kafr Lousin and Kafr Lousin corridor in the region after heavy clashes with Syria's Tahrir Front.

Sources affiliated to Tahrir al-Sham reported that they have lost 783 militants during the recent clashes in Aleppo, Idlib and Hama provinces, and sustained 1,329 of injuries.

Full report at:



More Civilians Killed, Injured in US Airstrikes in Northeastern Syria

Mar 02, 2018

The warplanes carried out several combat sorties over the village of al-Safawi near the border with Iraq, leaving three civilians, including a child, dead and two more wounded. 

In a relevant development but in Deir Ezzur province on Wednesday, the US-led collation warplanes bombed a gathering of displaced people in the province, killing and wounding tens of civilians.

Local sources said that the fighter jets carried out another bombing raid on a gathering of displaced civilians in Zahra al-Alouni region in Eastern Deir Ezzur, killing at least 24 and wounding several more.

The number of casualties will possibly rise due to the critical health conditions of some of the injured.

Yesterday US warplanes carried out several bombardments against the Syrian Army troop's strongholds in Deir Ezzur.

The fighter jets pounded the army positions at the Northern entrance of Deir Ezzur city near al-Salehiyeh settlement. The Syrian air-defense units opened fire at invading American jets.

Full report at:



Terrorists' Senior Mufti Assassinated in Northwestern Syria

Mar 02, 2018

Abdul Hamid nom de guerre Abu Torab, a notorious Egyptian Mufti of Jeish al-Ahrar, was killed by unknown assailants at a Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board or the Al-Nusra Front) checkpoint at the entrance of Idlib city amid intensifying infighting among terrorist groups in Aleppo, Idlib and Hama provinces.

Field sources in Southern Idlib said on Thursday that a number of Tahrir al-Sham and Syria's Tahrir Front members were killed during heavy infighting in the town of Mar'ayan and Ahsam.

Also, reports in Northern Idlib said that Tahrir al-Sham militants have gained control of the towns of Atmah and Salah as well as the villages of Aqirabat, Deir Hissan, Qah and Kafr Lousin and Kafr Lousin corridor in the region after heavy clashes with Syria's Tahrir Front.

Sources affiliated to Tahrir al-Sham reported that they have lost 783 militants during the recent clashes in Aleppo, Idlib and Hama provinces, and sustained 1,329 of injuries.

Full report at:



Several Turkish Elite Forces Killed in Clashes with Kurds in Northern Syria

Mar 02, 2018

Hawar news reported that a number of Turkish army men and allied militants, including three Gendarme and police forces, were killed in Operation Olive Branch against the Kurds in the village of Balilaka in Rajou region.

Hawar news further said that a military vehicle of Ankara forces was also destroyed in the fight against the Kurdish militants near the village of Kowanda.

Also, a number of Turkey-affiliated militants were killed or wounded in the village of Midana in Rajou.  

The Arabic website of Anadolu news agency reported on Thursday that a new convoy of gendarmes and the Turkish police special forces were dispatched to Hatay region, bordering Syria.

It added that the forces were sent to the borders to participate in Operation Olive Branch against the Kurds in Afrin.

Meantime, field sources affiliated to Ankara-backed militants referred to the special forces' mission in the second phase of Operation Olive Branch in Afrin, and said the operation would start soon.

Full report at:



Alleged 9/11 plotter’s torture takes centre stage in Guantanamo hearings

3 March 2018

As the 28th pre-trial hearings come to a close for the five alleged planners of the September 11th, 2001 attacks, the defense team for Ammar al-Baluchi used time on Thursday to argue that the United States’ withholding of key information regarding the government’s notorious torture program makes the court proceedings inherently unfair.

Though al-Baluchi himself, according to the court, chose not to attend Thursday’s hearing, his defense team came ready to argue passionately on his behalf. Alka Pradhan, human rights counsel for al-Baluchi, took to the podium to remind presiding judge, Colonel James Pohl, that the abuse experienced by her client is not something either party should allow themselves to gloss over. The enhanced interrogation techniques used on al-Baluchi at CIA black sites are a key facet of the case - not just a minor detail.

In lieu of allowing the defense team to access the top-secret original documentation of the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation program - which includes details on torture techniques used on detainees while they were secretly held by the CIA - the judge allowed the defense to access approved summaries of this information. These summaries, Pradhan argued, not only provide a purposefully vague account of her client’s time in CIA custody, but they are riddled with inconsistencies. Additionally, only a very small portion of the promised documents have been handed over to the defense.

“There is no way we can rely on the summaries,” Pradhan said in court, “there is just no way.”

Visibly frustrated by Pradhan’s persistence on the topic, Judge Pohl reminded Pradhan that the purpose of the summaries, which he authorized, is to give the defense team as much information as they need, without compromising national security.

'Torture is the nasty center of this case'

All members of the defense team hold top-secret security clearance, the highest level determined by the US government. Theoretically, this means that the documents in question are not beyond the team’s security clearance level. Still, while the defense argues that they require all the details of al-Baluchi’s detention from his capture to his arrival at Guantanamo, the prosecution seems determined to limit the defense’s access to this information.

Pradhan and her colleagues argued that it is impossible to construct any meaningful timeline of al-Baluchi’s from the limited information they’ve been given. While prosecution attorney Jeffery Groharing took the floor to claim that no significant edits or mistakes were made to the summaries to mislead the defense, Pradhan kept her argument consistently centered around the inhumane practice of torture and the unfairness of withholding information useful for al-Baluchi’s defense.

“Torture is the nasty center of this case,” she said before judge Pohl.

When Pradhan attempted several times to list detailed examples of factual discrepancies from the summarized documents, Judge Pohl appeared to meet some of these attempts with impatience.

“I don’t want to hear it twice,” he said at one point. Later, he ironically urged, “we’re kind of beating all this to death.”

In the closing presser for the week’s hearings, lead counsel for al Baluchi noted that “it has been said torture is the original sin of the military commissions, and this week was certainly a vivid exhibition of that principle.”

While it’s unlikely that the judge will make a ruling on Pradhan’s argument any time soon, it is clear that many members of the defense team feel that their clients are not receiving the due process thought to be guaranteed by the law. Pre-trial hearings like this week’s have been ongoing for several years. It is unclear when an official trial will begin.

Full report at:





Denied permission for Syria rally, Telangana youth attempts suicide

Mar 03, 2018

HYDERABAD: Upset over the authorities denying permission for a rally to protest killings in Syria, leader of a Muslim group in Telangana's Warangal town attempted suicide by consuming poison.

In a video, webcast live on his Facebook account late on Friday, the youth vent his anger over the police denying permission for the rally to condemn the massacre of innocent people, including children in Syria.

Mohammed Nayeem later took out a bottle from his pocket and consumed its content, saying he was ending his life. He was later rushed to a hospital. Police said his condition was stable.

The youth is the Warangal district chief of Muslim Hakkula Porata Samithi (Struggle committee for rights of Muslims).

He said the organisation had sought permission to hold a peaceful rally and the police had initially agreed to allow the same. Later, the police officials refused to give permission.

Nayeem said he was feeling helpless as he was not even allowed to condemn the massacre in Syria and express solidarity with the victims.

He alleged that the political leaders have vested interests and they were not at all bothered about raising their voice for the community or supporting a just cause.

Earlier on Friday, he had made a bid to immolate himself by dousing kerosene. However, other members of the organisation prevented him from taking the extreme step.



Pakistan summons Indian envoy over 'unprovoked firing'

Mar 2, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan summoned India's Deputy High Commissioner JP Singh for the second consecutive day on Friday over the "unprovoked firing" by Indian troops across the Line of Control.

Foreign Office said that Director General (South Asia & SAARC) Mohammad Faisal summoned Singh and condemned the "unprovoked ceasefire violations" by the Indian forces along the LoC on March 1 in Bhimber/Samahini Sectors.

The firing killed a civilian and injured his wife and son, it said, adding that Indian troops were using "heavy mortars".

Faisal said despite calls for restraint, India continues to indulge in ceasefire violations. India carried out more than 415 ceasefire violations along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary so far in 2018, resulting in the killings of 20 civilians and injuries to 71 others, he said.

He said this "unprecedented escalation in ceasefire violations by India is continuing from the year 2017 when the Indian forces committed 1970 ceasefire violations."

"The deliberate targeting of civilian populated areas is indeed deplorable and contrary to human dignity, international human rights and humanitarian laws. The ceasefire violations by India are a threat to regional peace and security and may lead to a strategic miscalculation," said Faisal.

Pakistan urged the Indian side to respect the 2003 Ceasefire arrangement; investigate this and other incidents of ceasefire violations; instruct the Indian forces to respect the ceasefire, in letter and spirit and maintain peace on the LoC and the Working Boundary.

He asked India to respect the 2003 Ceasefire arrangement; investigate the latest incident and other incidents of ceasefire violations; instruct the Indian forces to respect the ceasefire, in letter and spirit and maintain peace on the LoC and the Working Boundary.

He also urged the Indian side to allow the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) to play its mandated role as per the UN Security Council resolutions.

India maintains that UNMOGIP has outlived its utility and is irrelevant after the Simla Agreement and the consequentestablishment of the Line of Control.

Full report at:



Fugitive LeT Commander Surfaces in Video with Hizbul Mujahideen Militants

by Naveed Iqbal

March 3, 2018

Barely a month after Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) commander Naveed Jat alias Abu Hanzulla escaped police custody, a video has surfaced showing him with a local Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) commander and at least five other militants in a forest. It is unclear where the video was shot even as sources said Jat had escaped to South Kashmir where he was believed to have been active because of his “knowledge of the area and contacts with over ground workers.”

Director General of Police, SP Vaid told The Indian Express that HM and Lashkar could be working together. “They are uploading videos and trying to show that they are active,” he said.

It is believed Jat has since joined HM since LeT has not named a commander since the death of its former commanders Abu Qasim, Abu Dujana and Abu Ismail. Police had suspected Jat would be named the next LeT commander, which is why his escape was orchestrated.

On February 6, two Jammu and Kashmir police personnel accompanying Jat to the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital (SMHS) were killed after militants opened fire inside the hospital facilitating Jat’s escape. The NIA has since taken over the investigation into his escape.

In the video that surfaced Friday, Jat is seen hugging HM commander Sameer Tiger, a wanted militant, and five other armed militants. Police had tracked Jat down to Kakapora in Pulwama shortly after the escape, but he had managed to flee before police arrived. Two over-ground workers and two militants were arrested two days after the incident.

Pictures of Jat, who was active in South Kashmir for two years before his arrest, had surfaced with Hizbul Mujahidden militant Saddam Padder, two days after his escape. Following the incident, the Superintendent of the Srinagar Central Jail, where Jat was confined, was suspended pending an enquiry. Director General Prisons SK Mishra was transferred out and SP Pani was named the Inspector General of Police in J&K.

According to police, Jat was responsible for a number of attacks on police and security forces including the killing of a police officer and a CRPF personnel in Pulwama and Shopian (in 2013) and snatching their rifles.

Full report at:



J&K: Militant returns home after mother’s appeal

March 2, 2018

A boy, who joined militancy in Kashmir, has returned home on Friday following an appeal by his mother, a senior police official said. “Another young boy responding to the appeals of crying mother returned to the fold of family leaving path of violence in the valley”, DGP S P Vaid said in a tweet on Friday. The DGP also wished a happy reunion to the family in his tweet. “I wish the family happy re-union”, he said.

The age of the boy has not been disclosed. Four Kashmiri youths, who had taken to militancy, shunned the path of violence and returned to the mainstream in 2017. Notably, last month, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, in a written reply to a question of BJP MLC Vikram Randhawa in the Legislative Council, said that four misguided youths shunned the path of violence and returned to the mainstream. “Efforts are being made to counsel the families of militants to convince their wards to give up violence”, she said.

Full report at:



North America


Trudeau’s trip, extremism reproduced in Canada, and reforming Islam

February 28, 2018

The recent foray of our illustrious and colourful Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, into the heart of India – politically, sartorially, and philosophically – has certainly been amusing. And not least because it has applied an illuminating Rorschach test to a diverse set of politicians, newsmagazines, journalists, and bloggers of all stripes.

For instance, Canada’s answer to Pravda, AKA the CBC, put a brave face on the debacle by arguing that “rarely has journalistic echo chamber rung more hollow than on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s trip to India”. Although even they had to concede, probably under some duress, that what would otherwise have been, no doubt, a triumphal campaign was marred by “one major self-inflicted [if not fatal] wound with the presence of Jaspal Atwal.”

In addition, more than a few other sources ostensibly more or less in the Liberal camp, such as the Toronto Star, Maclean’s, and Global News, made some rather pointed and trenchant criticisms: “least successful foray into that country since the repelled Mongol invasions of the 13th century”; “tone-deaf, hopeless and unserious”; “Trudeau’s India trip went from bad to ‘Bengal Bungle’”. Et Tu Brute!, indeed.

And for all of which one might be forgiven for taking some satisfaction in seeing Trudeau and company hoist by their own petards. However, it seems more important to ask ourselves to what extent that debacle was the consequence of inexperience, and to what extent it may be merely the latest manifestation of some profound rot in the Liberal modus operandi, and in the “vision” they’re peddling to Canadians.  

And the crux of the matter and the hill which the Liberal Party and Trudeau’s political career may well die on is their rallying cry that “diversity is our strength” – even if that’s a rule that even they seem more likely to break than to observe.

However, it doesn’t take much thought, and it shouldn’t have taken much foresight by the Prime Minister’s Office, to realize that groups are generally not monolithic and that some terms used to describe them – “Sikhs”, for example – may well encompass elements – “terrorists”, “attempted assassins”, “thugs”, for examples – that countries with some claims to being civilized and enlightened might reasonably want to anathematize. And those elements are certainly not people one would want to go on vacations with, much less get into bed with.

And it’s not as if that writing hasn’t been on the wall for some time, even if some of that might have been well before Trudeau burst upon the political stage as Mr Dressup. But, for instance, consider the observations, as reported recently in the Toronto Sun, by “Ujjal Dosanjh, who served as NDP Premier of British Columbia from 2000 – 2001 and federal Liberal minister of health from 2004 – 2006”, and who was in fact the person attacked with an iron bar and put into the hospital by the “estimable” Jaspal Atwal in 1987 for having the temerity, one assumes, of questioning “Sikh extremism”: 

This latest fiasco is déjà vu for Dosanjh, who has spent decades warning Canadian politicians against such extremists.

“Politicians in Canada have turned a blind eye,” he says. “We haven’t really learned our lesson.”

Dosanjh calls the situation “dangerous and pervasive,” citing how politicians of all stripes continue to mix with radicals and attend Khalsa Day events alongside people who hold up pictures of the Air India bombing mastermind as if he was a hero.

Although there have been other writings on that wall that Trudeau should have been aware of, particularly as some was written in the lead-up to the last election. More specifically, Sikh organizers of a yearly Vaisakhi celebration attempted to exploit Jason Kenney, then Immigration Minister, to provide some credibility to various Sikh nationalists. But, Kenny, to his credit and that of the Harper government, would have none of it, got up off the stage, walked out, and read the Riot Act in the process:

“It was an extremist speech,” [Kenney] says. “I had to leave the room, otherwise the community would think I endorse such a campaign. Certain groups have sometimes tried to wield my prominence to advance their cause. I have to be vigilant at all times. They shouldn’t be encouraged to reproduce, in Canada, the tensions of their homelands.” It’s a message he reiterates to new immigrants from China and Tibet, Greece and Turkey, Israel and Iran. 

Indeed – opening the doors to immigrants is one thing, but giving free rein to the worst elements among them to make political hay here in Canada out of the “tensions of their homelands” is quite another. Consequently, while political assassinations and assaults are, fortunately, rather rare in Canada, we should ask how long will it take us, including our benighted politicians, to learn that particular “lesson”. Diversity certainly has some value and merit, but that Liberal slogan – more unthinking mantra than a rational and coherent policy – is hardly an absolute nor was it an eleventh commandment brought down from Mt. Sinai by Moses.

But as much as it might be nice to wrap up that particular problem in the label “Sikh extremism”, severely chastise the Prime Minister and some of his “handlers” about the ears for serious lapses in judgement – being charitable, and pat ourselves on the back for a job well done, that is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, and to stop there would be to strain at gnat and swallow the camel whole. For the facts of the matter are that the flaws and problems with that mantra are far-reaching, and nowhere more evident than with the Liberal Party’s purblind if not criminally negligent response to Islam in Canada.

And while Canada has so far been spared the bloody sectarian violence that characterizes the bitter rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia, between Shia and Sunni Muslims, other Western countries who’ve opened their doors to them haven’t been so lucky. For instance, several recent cases from Britain:

Row breaks out between UK Sunni and Shia over Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr execution;

Shia And Sunni Tensions In Syria Threaten To Split British Muslim Community;

The great Sunni-Shia conflict is getting ever closer to the surface;

Hard not to sympathize with Britain’s Anne Marie Waters, head of the new For Britain party, who tweeted:

Reformers of Islam – we’ll close our borders until you’ve completed your reform. When Islam looks like secular democracy, we’ll talk. Deal?

And that’s hardly just an academic or hyperbolic perspective: both Iran and Saudi Arabia – as described in some detail in a recent PBS/Frontline documentary [Bitter Rivals: Iran and Saudi Arabia] – have been peddling their own versions of fundamentalist Islam in every last mosque in every Western country that has let them in the door. Which just exacerbates the “tensions” in those countries – hardly a benefit of “diversity”.

No doubt there are Muslim organizations, both here in Canada and elsewhere, who make commendable efforts to rein in those extremist elements, those groups and individuals espousing values fundamentally antithetical to the bedrock principles of Canada and of the Enlightenment. But those efforts, those calls for reform, seem more akin to crying in the wilderness, to trying to plant the tender shoots of democracy and humanism in the stony ground of Islamic fundamentalism.

And, to underline that, the Archbishop of Canterbury recently argued, with no little justification, that Islamic rules are incompatible with Britain’s laws which have Christian values. No doubt Christianity has, in its checkered history, also been marred by sectarian violence – the Thirty Years’ War, one of deadliest European religious war in history, saw eight million fatalities – and the Hundred Years’ War over the succession to the French throne is echoed in the rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia for the claim to Muhammad’s “throne”.

However, Christianity has evolved, more or less, and accepts, even if under some duress, the principle of separation of church and state. Which is hardly the case in some of the leading Muslim countries where, generally, Islam still seeks to impose the barbarisms, savagery, and ignorance of the sixth century onto the societies of the twenty-first: rather a stretch to see that as a benefit of “diversity”, even for the most cynical and self-serving of politicians.

Moot how we, as a society, can extract ourselves from the horns of that dilemma.

Raheel Raza – Canadian Muslim, a witness at the #M103 “hearings” argues alongside the president of the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, founding signatory of the Muslim Reform Movement “that we need more intra-faith dialogue, discussion and debate.”

Certainly a worthy goal, and maybe even one within the realm of possibility, particularly as there are some significant and credible common threads through most religions that might provide a basis for that dialogue. However, there is also a tendency to dogmatic literalism, to a rather risible belief that their “gods” hold the high cards, in most of them that is likely to bedevil those efforts. As T.H. Huxley put it some 100 years ago:

The truth is that the pretension to infallibility, by whomsoever made, has done endless mischief; with impartial malignity, it has proved a curse, alike to those who have made it and those who have accepted it; and its most baneful shape is book infallibility. …. Of infallibility, in all shapes, lay or clerical, it is needful to iterate with more than Catonic pertinacity, Delenda est.

Diversity – in both cultures and beliefs – has some undoubted value, but not at the expense of common principles and values.



Canadian teen who plotted ISIS attack in U.S. says ‘frustration’ turned him to violence

March 2, 2018

A Canadian who plotted terrorist attacks in New York City for the so-called Islamic State said his frustration with the conduct of the United States and its allies had turned him towards “military jihad.”

In a lengthy letter to the U.S. judge sentencing him next month, Abdulrahman El-Bahnasawy described how he came to see terrorism as an acceptable response to “reckless airstrikes” and rejection of the “Islamic system.”

“With airstrikes and bombs they destroyed homes, killed the innocent and terrorized entire populations to make people abide by there [sic] terms and ways, the ways of corruption and enslavement to other than God,” the 19-year-old Mississauga resident wrote.

“Then through there [sic] media they blinded everyone by propagating falsehood and misinformation, that the Islamic System is ‘barbaric’ or ‘terrorists’ or ‘abuse of human rights.’”

The Kuwait-born Canadian was arrested in New Jersey on May 21, 2016, but his case remained sealed until last Oct. 6. He has pleaded guilty to planning terrorist attacks that were to target Times Square, the New York subway and concert venues.

Two alleged co-conspirators in Pakistan and the Philippines have also been charged. The arrests followed an FBI undercover investigation conducted in co-operation with the RCMP.

“These Americans need an attack … I wanna create the next 9/11,” El-Bahnasawy wrote to a man he thought was a co-conspirator but who was actually working undercover for police.

The attacks were to occur in June 2016, during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, U.S. authorities said. El-Bahnasawy had purchased bomb-making materials in Ontario and sent them to the informant.

Global News has reported that while awaiting sentencing last year, El-Bahnasawy was taking an anti-psychotic drug used to treat symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Amarnath Amarasingam, a senior research fellow at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, said the story El-Bahnasawy recounted in his letter was fairly typical of those told by other jihadists.

“All of their past behavior and all the corruption in society is explained by the fact that they themselves and society have deviated from the path of God. Once this truth is established, any threat to it becomes something that must be fought against,” Amarasingam said.

“At the very least, It sounds like he regrets the move he made into violence.”

El-Bahnasawy is to be sentenced on April 9.

On Friday, his lawyers filed a sentencing memorandum in U.S. district court in New York that described him as a socially-isolated teen struggling with self-esteem, mental health problems and addiction.

His mother Khadiga Metwally said in a letter included in the submission that her son started smoking marijuana after researching drugs for a school project. She and her husband responded by taking him back to Kuwait.

Despite treatment, he continued to use drugs and in 2014 was admitted to Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health for four months, but he relapsed.

She said the family’s only concern was helping him get clean and they never thought about “ISIS ideological stimulation or who may entrap him online, or how many informants are going in competition to hunt him.”

El-Bahnasawy acknowledged using a variety of drugs and said he had tried to commit suicide but that he eventually learned to hate drugs, although he acknowledged relapsing.

After moving back to Canada when he was 17, he said his parents “forced me to enroll in an Islamic school” although he did not identify as a Muslim. But he said he was happy because it was better than Kuwait and he soon became interested in religion.

“I realized Islam would fix all the problems in society,” he wrote. “This current system which is the rule of the people (or so called democracy and freedom) led men to the enslavement of everything but God, destroying society.”

He also described his view of how “the U.S. and its allies behave towards the Islamic System.”

“I was very frustrated as I saw (sic) the falsehood and terms the U.S. and their allies try to impose, but this led me to military jihad,” he wrote, emphasizing he was not justifying his actions but “merely explaining my thought process at the time.”

His letter avoided details of the terrorist conspiracy but described how he almost walked away from what he called “the plot.” He recalled typing a code that allowed him to talk to the undercover officer who was posing as a fellow terrorist.

“It wouldn’t work,” he wrote. “I remember thinking it was a message from God to just forget about the plot and do something else with my life, but unfortunately, I remembered that I had written it backwards.”

“I wonder where my life would be if my memory just hadn’t worked that day. Other times I wonder where I would be if the [people] undercover or anyone else I looked up to would have advised me that there are ways other than revenge attacks and violence to oppose corruption.”

Full report at:



Iraq ‘will never allow US bases on its soil’

Mar 3, 2018

Iraq says it will under no circumstances permit the United States to build permanent military bases on its soil, which would be a violation of its sovereignty.

“Baghdad firmly rejects the construction of US military bases on its soil,” said Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Jaafari at the end of an extended visit to Russia on Friday.

Iraq will “not stand on ceremony” when it comes to the protection of its sovereignty, he said.

He said that, back in 2014, when Baghdad asked for international help in fighting the Takfiri terrorist group of Daesh, it said the potential contribution had to meet the requirements of Iraq’s sovereignty and independence.

Jaafari said Baghdad had made the matter clear that contributions to its counter-terrorism operations should not lead to the establishment of military bases or permanent foreign military presence in its territory.

“Iraq’s sovereignty is our red line,” the Iraqi foreign minister said.

He pointed to the presence of permanent US military bases in “South Korea, Turkey, Japan, and many other world countries” long after the end of World War II and said the bases violated those countries’ sovereignty.

According to US government data, there are about 9,000 American troops in Iraq. The US Department of Defense, though, puts the number at far lower.

In 2003, the US invaded Iraq to topple the then-regime of Saddam Hussein, who the US and Britain falsely claimed was in possession of weapons of mass destruction. Former US President Barack Obama pulled out all US combat troops from Iraq in 2011, effectively ending the invasion and occupation of the Arab country.

But the destruction that the war had caused, including the decimation of the Iraqi security structure, allowed Daesh to emerge in 2014. In September that same year, the US led a number of its allies in launching an aerial bombardment campaign against purported Daesh targets in Iraq.

That coalition continues to be present in Iraq even as the Iraqi leadership announced the end of the war on Daesh in the country in December last year.

Last month, NATO even agreed to a US demand to deploy a larger military mission to Iraq.

Earlier, on Tuesday, Jaafari told reporters in Moscow that Baghdad was thoroughly considering purchasing Russia’s surface-to-air S-400 missile defense systems.

“The issue is being studied in every detail,” he said. “All necessary decisions aimed at strengthening Iraq will be made after that.”

Late last month, the US warned Iraq through State Department spokeswoman Heather Neuert of the consequences of extending military cooperation with Russia and striking deals to purchase advanced weaponry, particularly the S-400 systems.

Full report at:



ISIL conducted over 4600 attacks worldwide in 2017, despite major territorial loses: NATO

March 02 2018

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) conducted more than 4,600 attacks worldwide in 2017, even though the group has experienced serious territorial loses, according to an analysis made by the NATO’s intelligence unit.

As the ISIL is defeated militarily in Syria and Iraq, the jihadist militant group has been changing its recruitment strategy and attack style.

“When faced with pressure, terrorist groups are often able to adjust their modus operandi. Throughout 2016-17, senior ISIL leaders adopted their organization to these new realities. For example, granting greater autonomy to its branches, to regional affiliates, basically decentralizing the organization,” a NATO official told Hürriyet Daily News on condition of anonymity.

The official expressed the NATO’s concerns that despite losing territory the group has managed to keep its ideology strong enough to recruit new fighters.

“We observe with great concern that despite intense efforts by the international community to defeat the ISIL, the ideological power of the group remains strong. They are still able to recruit and inspire attacks,” the official said.

Last year, the NATO established a terrorist intelligence cell, which combines operational capability with strategic level analyses to help decision-makers understand current terrorist threats and to raise situational awareness. Intelligence information from various allies about developing threats are accumulated and assessed at this unit.

The group’s changing strategy means an increased focus on “lone wolves” carrying out terrorist attacks, but in less sophisticated methods, so that casualties are fewer than previous attacks, the official noted.

“For example, in 2017, we noticed a shift away from more complex terrorist attacks into more inspired terrorist attacks, often carried out by lone wolves. These are proven to be less sophisticated and sometimes less deadly with fewer casualties,” said the official.

The ISIL has adopted a propaganda and recruitment tactic that clearly favors “inspiring individuals” to conduct these attacks, said the NATO official noting that the group had been “very effective” in using social media platforms to inspire new recruits.

The NATO has also been discussing the potential threat posed by foreign terrorists returning to their homelands. As the group loses territory, these fighters are left with few options as to where they can go, though so far these figures have been relatively few.

“So far we haven’t seen a significant number of fighters returning from the ISIL to the territories of NATO member countries,” the official said, stressing that even a small number of these fighters returning to NATO countries could pose a major threat due to their training and experience in Syria and Iraq.

“Even a small number of returnees that have training and experience in the battle-field pose a significant threat and have potential to strengthen terrorist networks, threaten citizens and imperil infrastructure,” the official said.

The alliance is also concerned about the group’s increasing capacity to use technology, such as weaponized drones, which could also be used in attacks in NATO countries.

“We are greatly concerned about terrorists using commercially available technology such as drones or sophisticated electronics. Since the end of 2016, we have observed the use of increasingly sophisticated weaponized commercial drones, both in Iraq and Syria. We are watching this trend very carefully because terrorists may use these types of tools and technology to target citizens inside our borders,” the official said.

As efforts focus on the defeat of the ISIL, al-Qaida has been steadily developing its capacity, benefiting from the vacuum created after the ISIL started losing territory.

“Even though we have been heavily focused on the ISIL in the past four years or so, al-Qaida has been quietly rebuilding its networks and capabilities. Al-Qaida has established a new affiliate in Kashmir. They have been researching staff in Afghanistan. Additionally, the group has fortified its presence in Syria, Yemen, Somalia and in North Africa,” said the official, adding that the alliance must not underestimate al-Qaida’s ability to benefit from the vacuum created by the ISIL losing territory.

The ISIL could not develop its capacity for chemical weapons, and acquiring nuclear materials remains extremely difficult for the group, but the NATO is closely following these trends.

“So far, the terrorists have not used chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons to the extent that four, five, six years ago analysts feared,” said the official, noting that the alliance had previously observed terrorist groups working to develop these capabilities.

These means the NATO should not downplay the threat, because once these materials are obtained, they are very difficult to detect, the official added.

Full report at:



UN rights body to hold 'urgent debate' on E. Ghouta

02 March 2018

The UN Human Rights Council is set to convene for an "urgent debate" later on Friday on the deteriorating situation in Syria's besieged Eastern Ghouta.

The meeting follows a request from the U.K. on Thursday, the council's spokesman, Rolando Gomez, told a news conference in Geneva.

The Syrian regime opposed the holding of such a debate in the UN Human Rights Council, claiming it "would embolden terrorist and militant groups attacking Damascus".

Russia also rejected the council meeting, arguing it was "useless and counter-productive".



South Asia


After Kabul peace meeting, US sees hope for negotiated end to Afghan war

March 02, 2018

The United States dared to permit itself renewed hope on Thursday that the longest war in its history may be closer to a negotiated settlement, after Afghan-led talks went better than expected.

After 17 years of guerrilla conflict and several diplomatic false starts, American officials take nothing for granted and they still expect the spring thaw to herald more fierce fighting.

But they were pleased, both publicly and privately, by this week's international conference in Kabul , which they see as a step towards talks between President Ashraf Ghani's government and the Taliban.

Ghani played his role to a tee, holding out his hand to the Taliban and suggesting that if they join talks they could be recognised as a political party with a legitimate role in Afghanistan's future.

Washington, even under war-skeptic President Donald Trump, will not seek a unilateral deal with the Taliban to extricate itself from the long, inconclusive conflict, but will instead encourage an Afghan dialogue.

And, just as US policymakers have concluded the still improving US-backed Afghan military cannot win a decisive victory, they now believe the Taliban must understand it will never retake Kabul .

Much could yet go wrong, and US officials are keen to insist that their remaining forces in Afghanistan will continue to support Kabul 's troops and target extremists until conditions are ripe for peace .

But in Kabul and in Washington they are permitting themselves a measure of satisfaction that Trump's vaunted South Asian strategy has begun to gain traction with Kabul and regional players.

US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert made it clear that Washington is glad that Ghani used the conference to signal to the absent Taliban that “there are no preconditions for peace .”

Since a US-led intervention in Afghanistan in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks overthrew the Taliban regime, the militant group has been under pressure to renounce its hardline ideals.

But Ghani and US officials now accept that the Taliban can enter peace talks without first accepting the country's new democratic constitution and its protections for women and minority groups.

The hope is that the group will definitively split from internationally oriented extremists like Al Qaeda and find a role in a new Afghanistan, with an evolving constitution as the “end condition” of talks.

“Along with that there has always been the understanding, even the expectation, that constitutions are living documents,” one senior US official told AFP, predicting that compromises would be made.

Foreign backer

US officials were also pleased that, during the two-day meeting with world and regional powers in Kabul , President Ghani was restrained in his criticism of Pakistan.

Washington shares Kabul 's intense annoyance at Pakistan's alleged support for the Afghan Taliban. Some of Ghani's previous angry speeches have antagonised Islamabad, which denies such accusations.

Under Trump's predecessor Barack Obama, US commandos infiltrated Pakistan to kill Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Now, under Trump, Washington has delayed billions of dollars in aid and advanced equipment for the Pakistani military in order to underline its anger at the alleged support for militant groups.

But the US also wants Kabul and all the regional parties to the dispute to sign up for the peace process, and they were heartened that the Kabul talks passed without a major Afghan-Pakistan row.

The Taliban, of course, did not attend the Kabul talks indeed they condemned them and instead issued a letter calling on the US to negotiate directly with them an end to fighting.

'Courageous stand'

For Washington, however, this is seen as posturing. There's no question of a unilateral deal to exclude the central government, and Trump has signed off on an indefinite “conditions based” military presence.

The senior official pointing to what US ambassador John Bass hailed as Ghani's “very courageous stand” admitted that he and colleagues following the long conflict are prone to skepticism.

But he was clear: "This meeting exceeded expectations."



Bangladesh court extends bail for Khaleda Zia until March 13 in corruption case

February 26, 2018

A court in Bangladesh on Monday extended the bail of imprisoned ex-prime minister and main opposition BNP chief Khaleda Zia until March 13 in a graft case, a day after the High Court deferred the judgement on a separate bail plea in a corruption case, media reports said. The 72-year-old three-time former prime minister was jailed for five years on February 8 in connection with the embezzlement of 21 million taka (about $250,000) in foreign donations meant for the Zia Orphanage Trust, named after her late husband Ziaur Rahman, a military ruler-turned-politician.

The Dhaka Special Judge’s Court-5 set March 13 as the date for the next hearing of arguments in the Zia Charitable Trust graft case and extended the bail of Zia, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chief, until then, bdnews24 reported. “The court has set March 13 and March 14 for the next two days of arguments. Zia’s bail has been extended until March 13,” her lawyer Nuruzzaman Tapan was quoted as saying in the report.

On Sunday, the High Court deferred the judgment on her bail petition, saying it would decide after receiving necessary papers from the lower court which sentenced her to five years in jail this month. The Zia Charitable Trust graft case, filed in August 2011, accuses four persons, including Zia of abusing power to raise funds for the trust from unknown sources.

The three others are: Harris Chowdhury, political secretary of then prime minister Zia between 2001 and 2006; Ziaul Islam Munna, Assistant Private Secretary (APS) to Harris; and Monirul Islam Khan, APS of former Dhaka city mayor Sadeque Hossain Khoka. The corruption case is one of dozens pending against Zia, who has been a rival to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for decades. The charges against Zia had led to her boycotting polls in 2014, which triggered widespread protests at the time.

Full report at:



Myanmar defends troop build-up on Bangladesh border near Rohingya camp

March 02, 2018

Myanmar on Friday defended deploying fresh troops to a border zone with Bangladesh where thousands of Rohingya refugees are camped, blaming a militant threat as Dhaka called for an immediate retreat to lower tensions along the troubled frontier.

The increased security presence this week has centred around a strip of "no man's land" between the two countries where some 6,000 Rohingya sought shelter after fleeing a brutal Myanmar army crackdown last August.

The military campaign drove some 700,000 Rohingya across the border in total, with most travelling on to sprawling refugee settlements in Bangladesh's southeastern border district of Cox's Bazar.

The UN has accused Myanmar of waging an ethnic cleansing campaign against the Muslim minority.

Yet Myanmar has staunchly defended the crackdown as an effort to snuff out Rohingya militants who raided police posts last year.

The recent spike in security along the border is a response to new intelligence about the movement of Rohingya militants, said Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay.

"We acted this way based on the information we got regarding terrorism, especially the ARSA movement," he told AFP, using an acronym for the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, a militant group, and declining to elaborate further.

"It was not aimed at antagonising Bangladesh," he added.

On Thursday Bangladesh's foreign ministry said it summoned Myanmar's envoy to call for an "immediate pullback of Myanmar security forces along with military assets from the area."

In recent weeks the Rohingya living in the no man's land strip have faced growing pressure from Myanmar soldiers, who have stepped up patrols along the barbed-wire border fence near the camp and ordered the group to leave over loudspeakers.

On Thursday some 100 Myanmar soldiers arrived near the refugee camp in heavy military vehicles, according to Bangladesh border guards and Rohingya.

The heightened tensions will do little to speed-up a stalled repatriation plan signed by the neighbours in January.

The process was delayed at the last moment due to lack of preparations and protests by the refugees, who fear returning to Myanmar without guarantees of basic safety and citizenship.

Full report at:



Clash among Taliban and ISIS leaves 3 dead, 5 wounded in Nangarhar

Mar 02 2018

At least three militants were killed and five others were wounded during a clash between the Taliban and ISIS militants in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

The 201st Silab Corps of the Afghan Military in the East said the latest clash between the two groups took place in the vicinity of Chaparhar district.

According to the Silab Corps, at least three Taliban insurgents were killed and two others were wounded during the clash.

The source also added that three militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group were among those wounded during the clash.

The anti-government armed militant and terrorist groups including the Taliban and ISIS group have not commented regarding the report so far.

Nangarhar has been among the relatively calm provinces in East of Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime but the anti-government armed militant groups have been attempting to expand their insurgency activities in some of the remote parts of the province during the recent years.

Both the Taliban and militants affiliated with the Islamic State terror group have presence in some districts of Nangarhar.

Full report at:



Top TTP leader with Al Qaeda links killed in US airstrike in Paktika

Mar 02 2018

A top leader of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) having links with the Al Qaeda terrorist network was killed in a US airstrike in southeastern Paktika province of Afghanistan.

“A U.S. airstrike killed a Tehrik-e Taliban (TTP) deputy commander and Al Qaeda facilitator named Rehan in Bermal district, Paktika province, Feb. 22. Rehan is the second significant TTP deputy commander killed in Paktika this year. Sanja Meshoud was killed by a U.S. airstrike on Jan. 27 in Bermal, Paktika,” according to a statement by the coalition forces.

The statement further added that “As TTP deputy commanders, Rehan and Meshoud yielded influence within Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda provides funding to the TTP. The TTP, in turn, facilitate Al Qaeda travel and operations in the region. The removal of Rehan and Meshoud degrades Al Qaeda’s ability to fund and direct TTP and other violent extremists throughout Paktika and the surrounding areas.”

According to the statement, U.S. and Afghan air strikes continue to demonstrate the collective will of the international community to fight terrorism in Afghanistan.

The anti-government armed militant and terrorist groups have not commented regarding the report so far.

Full report at:



Anti-Muslim violence in eastern Sri Lanka sparks concern

MARCH 01, 2018

Sri Lanka’s Leader of Opposition R. Sampanthan on Wednesday condemned the recent anti-Muslim attacks in the Ampara district of Eastern Province and sought “stern action” against the culprits. His comments come in the wake of an attack on a mosque and several Muslim-run shops late on Monday in Ampara town. At least five persons were injured in the attack. Police have since deployed additional security in the area.

Following the development, President Maithripala Sirisena said such incidents are detrimental to reconciliation in the country. The matter was also discussed at Tuesday’s weekly Cabinet meeting, according to Ministers.

Muslims here identify themselves as a distinct ethnic minority, and constitute about 9% of the country’s population. Monday’s incident, said to have been triggered by a Sinhalese mob, has sparked concern among many Sri Lankans, given that the island has witnessed a spate of anti-Muslim attacks over the last few years.

20 incidents in 2017

Hard-line Sinhala Buddhist groups have openly engaged in hate speech against the community. In 2017, at least 20 violent incidents targeting the minority community were reported.

“This seems [to be] a targeted attack in our district, which has a sizeable Muslim population. We are worried because police response was rather slow. Since Monday, there is a lot of fear and anxiety in the community,” said Siraj Mashoor, a political activist based in Ampara. Muslims account for about 44 % of the Ampara district’s population, as per the 2012 census.

Full report at:





The rheumatology doctor who helped terror group morph into ISIS

March 2, 2018

ISIS' former minister for health Kefah Basheer Hussein is calm and collected, almost too composed and smug for a captured man. A corner of his mouth twitches in what appears to be an attempt to hide a smirk. He answers "no comment" to yet another CNN question about the murky years when al Qaeda in Iraq went underground only to reemerge as ISIS.

Hussein says he was a high-level ISIS operative -- not a fighter on the battlefield but someone who formed the backbone of the terror group. An intellect in the shadows, he helped ISIS to survive and morph over the years.

CNN exclusively interviewed Hussein after he was apprehended last month by Turkish security forces. The former ISIS minister, who claims that he left the terror group six months ago, is currently in Turkish custody awaiting trial on charges that have yet to be announced.

A rheumatology doctor by training, Hussein, 39, served ISIS and its previous incarnations for over a decade and a half. For the bulk of that time, he remained largely unknown to intelligence agencies, the US military, and the Iraqi government.

Former Iraqi childhood acquaintances, professional contacts, and others connected to Hussein requested to remain anonymous before speaking to CNN about a man whose terrorist affiliations still haunt and threaten them. His story serves as a time capsule of the rise and fall of the radical jihadi agenda that swept through the region.

The US invasion of Iraq

Hussein was raised in Tal Afar, a predominantly Turkmen city in Iraq, situated on one of the main roads between Mosul and the Iraqi-Syrian border. People acquainted with him in high school describe him as "ambitious," "smart" and "very competitive." Like any teenager with big hopes, Hussein set out for the big city when he graduated.

Hussein was training as a doctor in Mosul when the US invasion of Iraq began in 2003. Seeing a foreign occupying army in his country burned him to the core. His family were zealous converts. In the 1970s, their family broke away from the Shia faith of their tribe to Sunni Islam, according to a neighbor from Tal Afar. Adherents of Salafism, a strict and puritanical interpretation of Sunni Islam, their anger was primed as they watched events unfold in Afghanistan and witnessed the fall of Saddam Hussein. The more raids the US military carried out in their hunt for Saddam Hussein's henchmen and, later, in their targeting of the then-nascent insurgency, the angrier Hussein appeared to grow.

"The whole family had a violent reaction," the neighbor says. "When they (Americans) came to Tal Afar, Kefah was part of the first group that was fighting the Americans -- their house was one of the houses that was used for planning operations against the Americans," the neighbor said.

By his own account, Hussein joined Tawhid wal-Jihad in 2004. The group, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was the ideological precursor to al Qaeda in Iraq. Hussein embraced Zarqawi's ideology.

"We saw many things that happened in front of us, rapes, killings, corruption, the Americans stealing money," Hussein tells CNN.

Hussein says he helped the radical jihadist group by managing health services. It was a role he would play for the better part of a decade across Iraq and Syria as Tawhid wal-Jihad slowly morphed into the so-called Islamic State.

At the height of the tribal awakening of 2007-2008, when Iraq's Sunni tribes fought against al Qaeda, Hussein had his one and only run in with the authorities.

He was detained briefly in Mosul, according to one ISIS expert. Hussein was accused of being a member of al Qaeda but was released after a short stint in jail and was not mistreated.

Hussein himself was evasive on the subject. "At that time, I had security issues but they didn't know anything about me and I changed my address," he says. Asked if he was in US custody, he responded: "maybe."

 A US troops surge prompted by the awakening fighters forced ISIS underground, and Hussein continued his day job at the Ibn Sina Hospital in Mosul. One doctor who worked with him describes him as a "strange" and "distant" figure.

When the ISIS offensive to take over Mosul began in 2014, Hussein emerged from the shadows.

"We weren't sleeper cells, but we weren't participating in the battles for security reasons," Hussein says.

Organ trafficking and blood removal

As ISIS took over the city, a doctor at the hospital recalled Hussein saying: "If any doctors run away, we will execute them."

Hisham al-Hashimi, a leading expert on ISIS in Iraq, told CNN that in Hussein's position, he would have overseen some of ISIS' most horrific activities.

To bolster their blood bank, individuals slated for execution would have their blood removed, in some cases even a kidney extracted. Al-Hashimi said he learned this from his sources as well as people he spoke to who were in ISIS detention.

"It was for their (ISIS') own use, they needed blood. And if they take blood from a prisoner over the course of weeks up until the execution, it would weaken them, make them less likely to struggle. The kidneys, they were for sale," al-Hashimi says.

CNN sources say that they heard about these practices, but had no concrete evidence of it taking place. One former senior official in Iraq's Nineveh province, where ISIS controlled large swathes of land, said that some of the bodies they had recovered from a morgue appeared to have had a kidney removed.

CNN was not aware of the allegation at the time of the interview with Hussein and was not permitted access to Hussein to seek comment on these allegations.

Links to ISIS leadership

Two months after ISIS took control of the city, Hussein's first wife left him, fleeing for the relative safety of Baghdad, according to an acquaintance in Mosul. He pursued his wife relentlessly, sending her threats of abduction, according to the acquaintance who delivered messages between Hussein and his wife.

Hussein took a second wife. It was a marriage of ISIS' top brass. She was the daughter of an influential female doctor, who was prominent within the ISIS cadres. The doctor is believed to be part of the main group that was dispatched to treat ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi after he was injured in 2015.

While Hussein confirmed that he is married and has children, he declined to answer any detailed questions about his family from CNN, saying only, "they exist."

Hussein didn't have a direct relationship with al-Baghdadi, but his second wife did, according to al-Hashimi.

"But these people like him, I call them the black box of ISIS because they have ties to the top tier and to the local leaders. He may not have a direct tie, but he knows important information. And they are trained to be killed and not confess all they know," al-Hashimi says.

"These individuals are fundamental for three main reasons... they are not on any of the terror watch lists, they have charisma and the ability to charm people, and they have complete loyalty to the principles of the caliphate."

A doctor from Deir Ezzor says he met Hussein in the late spring of 2016. He says Hussein was the head of a committee selected by al-Baghdadi, tasked with setting up a hospital in a small village in Syrian between Raqqa -- the ISIS stronghold -- and Deir Ezzor. "I think they picked al-Kasrah [the city between Raqqa and Deir Ezzor] because they wanted to make that they have the capacity to receive high level ISIS members for treatment. I heard that they also improved the equipment there and provided the facility with the best assistance."

An unapologetic view

Throughout our interview, it is clear that Hussein is careful about what he discloses, unwilling to let information slip, but at the same time wanting to appear cooperative. He is oddly apologetic about refraining from answering certain questions. After a string of "no comments" he adds: "I have a trial you know."

Hussein took over the post of ISIS minister of health after his predecessor was killed by a bomb in Mosul, he said. When ISIS began losing control of the city, Hussein moved his base of operations into Syria like many other high-ranking ISIS operatives and began shuttling between Raqqa and Deir Ezzor. "We weren't only serving militants, we were also serving the civilians, people are poor in those areas," he said defending his position.

He is unapologetic in his belief in the Zarqawi doctrine, in ISIS' brutal version of Sharia, or Islamic law. Still he says he was propelled to leave the group after ISIS veered off what he saw as the "righteous path."

"It is a right way of asking people to adhere to Sharia, of course I believe in it... many stuff happened that misdirected the caliphate from its righteous path," he says. "But I always thought about the medical help that I can provide, especially the administrative stuff, so I was a bit late when I left them."

A Syrian who identified Hussein through a photograph knew him as Dr. Omar in the town of al Mayadeen in Deir Ezzor province in June 2017. By Hussein's own account given to Turkish authorities, he left al Mayadeen when fighting intensified. He illegally entered Turkey through the YPG-held town of Tal Abyad.

When pressed by CNN, Hussein is vague about how he left Syria. "Don't ask me how. Don't ask me the route."

After a month in Turkey, he said he secured a fake Syrian refugee ID, but was stopped at a checkpoint while en route to Istanbul.

Alongside him was another Iraqi man who Turkish authorities identified as being one of the men under his command. On that same day, Turkish authorities detained half a dozen foreign ISIS members, including a Dutch and a British national who were on a red notice alert, essentially an international arrest warrant.

Security forces routinely round up hundreds of suspected ISIS members -- ranging from the lowly fighters to logistics organizers to men like Hussein who make up the terror group's brain trust.

Hussein says he did not expect ISIS to lose its so-called "caliphate."

We have defeated ISIS militarily, but only in the sense that there are no ISIS flags, no buildings that they can openly claim as their own... But ISIS is everywhere in Iraq and Syria.

Hisham al-Hashimi

"The caliphate is not just in Iraq and Syria. It is in Khorasan (a historic region in central Asia), Libya and the Philippines currently and also in Africa."

Asked if he wants ISIS to survive, Hussein again answers "no comment."

The US military has long said that an organization can only be eliminated when its middle leadership is destroyed. But when it comes to ISIS, al-Hashimi estimates that only about 30% of the dozens that make up this vital cornerstone are known. And that is precisely what makes it so dangerous.

"We have defeated ISIS militarily, but only in the sense that there are no ISIS flags, no buildings that they can openly claim as their own," al-Hashimi adds. "But ISIS is everywhere in Iraq and Syria."

Hussein likely won't have a role in the next ISIS incarnation.

But when it comes to this deadly, radical ideology, it's not a matter of if but when its other ghosts emerge from the shadows.



At least 17 dead as Turkish jets attack pro-government forces in Afrin

2 March 2018

Turkish warplanes attacked pro-Syrian government forces overnight, killing at least 17 people in a village in the north of the Afrin region in northwestern Syria, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Friday.

The dead included three members of the Syrian Kurdish YPG force, while the rest were drawn from militias that support President Bashar al-Assad and entered Afrin last week to help repel a Turkish offensive, the Observatory said.



Prominent cleric shot dead while praying in Yemen’s Hadhramaut

2 March 2018

Unknown gunmen assassinated cleric Al Habib Aidroos Ben Abdullah bin Sumait, a prominent scholar and imam of Al-Mehdhar Mosque in his home in the city of Tarim in Hadhramaut, southern Yemen.

The gunmen pretended to be joining the cleric to read Quran, and after he allowed them in, they shot him as he performed his prayer, according to sources close to the deceased.

Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr condemned the assassination, which he described as an attack on moderate thinking that rejects deviant ideas and rejects them socially.

He added that Bin Sumait was one of the moderate voices known for his honesty and morals.

The attack is the first of its kind in the city of Trim, which is renowned for its role in advocating tolerance, rejecting violence and advocacy for moderation.

It is especially alarming as the number of assassinations in southern Yemen has risen.

Aden has witnessed assassinations of imams and religious teachers.

Full report at:



Turkey arrests two Greek soldiers ‘on espionage charges’

3 March 2018

ANKARA: A Turkish court on Friday placed two Greek soldiers under arrest on espionage charges after they illegally crossed into Turkey, state media reported, in a move that risks a new flaring of tensions between Ankara and Athens.

Athens said they had lost their way while patrolling the border on Greece’s northeastern edge and entered into Turkey by mistake.

But the Turkish court in the western province of Edirne ordered the pair be charged with “attempted military espionage” and “entering forbidden military territory,” state news agency Anadolu said.

The soldiers had been held by authorities after they entered Turkey, claiming they got lost because of the weather conditions.

But according to Anadolu, the two men said in statements to the prosecutor that they took images on their mobile telephones to send to senior Greek military officials.

The Greek army earlier said the two soldiers had lost their way in poor weather while patrolling the area around the Evros river that separates the two countries.

“There was no fighting and (the soldiers) are currently in Edirne,” Greek military command spokesman Nikolaos Fanios said, adding the pair were in good health.

The Edirne gendarmerie command seized the men’s rifles, Anadolu reported.

Greek government spokesperson Dimitris Tzanakopoulos earlier said that the case was one of “illegal entry” and said Athens expected the “imminent return” of the two Greek officers.

The two soldiers were remanded in custody which means they are to stay in prison ahead of trial, a date for which has yet to be set.

Turkey and Greece are historic foes whose peoples have for centuries battled for supremacy in the Aegean region, and over the last decades they have come to the brink of war on several occasions.

But they have also been allies in NATO since 1952 and Athens has over the last years been one of the most enthusiastic supporters of Ankara’s bid to join the EU.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in December made the first visit by a Turkish head of state to Greece in 65 years in a symbol of more cordial ties.

However, the visit was overshadowed by a broadside by Erdogan in front of Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos as he called for the revision of the post World War I treaty that set Greece and Turkey’s modern borders.

Meanwhile, Turkish and Greek vessels have in the last weeks twice collided off Aegean islets that have been a historic flashpoint in a long-running demarcation dispute.

Another festering sore is Cyprus, where the northern portion of the island is still occupied by Turkish troops following the 1974 invasion in response to an Athens-inspired coup aimed at uniting it with Greece.

Tensions over Cyprus are high as Turkey vows to block any moves by the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government to exploit oil reserves off the Mediterranean island.

But of most immediate concern to Ankara is the presence in Greece of suspects wanted by Turkey on charges linked to the 2016 failed coup.

Full report at:





Foremost Nigerian Islamic scholar advocates death sentence for drug dealers

March 2, 2018

Ibrahim Mohammed

The national chairman of Izalatul Bidi’a Waikamatus Sunnah, a major Islamic group in Northern Nigeria, Abdullahi Lau, wants the Nigerian government to push for death sentence as a punitive measure on drug dealers.

He said the importation of illicit drugs is destroying the future of the younger generation.

The cleric, who said this in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES in Kaduna said it is the responsibility of the government to protect its citizens against drugs abuse.

”Today young women take drugs, widows take drugs, youth take drugs, elders take drugs; In fact, some scholars now take drugs. This is why the government must take the issue of drug abuse seriously.

“The authorities must take stringent action against those smuggling drugs into the country. In Saudi Arabia, anybody caught importing drugs into their county will be killed because his intention is also to kill the people.

“So, whoever wants to kill our children by importing illegal drugs into this country deserves to die before he kills us.”

The scholar added that “agencies like NDLEA need to be supported in this fight against drug abuse, particularly in the north, because a few days ago I heard a tonne of drugs was intercepted on its way to north.

“Such drugs are what the youth take to get involved in kidnapping and killings of innocent people. I think government must fight the dealers to the end to free the society from their devilish act,” he said.

The scholar also spoke on the role of the clergy in stemming the tide.

”Our role as religious leaders is to preach against it and other social vices just like we did when HIV came into the country.

“Our involvement as Muslim and Christian clerics played a greater role in HIV reduction in the society. So, I believe if Muslim and Christian clerics will take it as a duty to continue preaching against the menace, it will reduce God-willing.

“But the authorities whose duty it is to enforce the law must take the fight more seriously because our society is being destroyed,” he said.

The Islamic scholar also urged the youth to learn skills acquisition and to acquire western education so as to be self dependent.

He said Islam as a religion abhors killing of innocent people, adding that the group he leads ”is busy teaching and preaching against bad morals in the society.”

The scholar’s advice on drug abuse comes a day after the Northern Governors Forum in Kaduna urged the federal government to declare a state of emergency on drug abuse in the country.

The governors called on all relevant authorities to step up efforts in combating the menace.



Al-Shabaab kills 11 in separate attacks in Somalia

2 MARCH 2018

Mogadishu - At least 11 people were killed in separate al-Shabaab attacks in Somalia on Friday, officials said, as President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo was in Uganda trying to ramp up African Union support for the unstable country's security efforts.

Al-Shabaab militants attacked an army post in Afgoye about 30 kilometres outside Mogadishu, killing six people, including three soldiers, police said.

"A suicide car bomber rammed into the base, killing three soldiers and three civilians and wounding several others," said senior Somali police official Mahad Yare.

Separately, heavily armed militants dressed in army uniforms attacked neighbourhoods in the Bal'ad district, local police officer Ahmed Nor said.

Three local police officers and two civilians died that attack, along with seven of the militants.

The militants were able to briefly seize government offices there and also released a number of prisoners from the district jail, said one local elder, who asked not to be named.

The toll from both attacks, which were claimed by al-Shabaab on its Radio Andalus, could rise.

"Our brave fighters have inflicted heavy casualties on the so-called Somali army stationed in Bal'ad and Afgoye," the group said.

Al-Shabaab, which is seeking to establish an Islamist state in Somalia, regularly launches attacks on government buildings, hotels and restaurants in the volatile nation on the Horn of Africa.

In October, more than 500 people were killed when a suicide bomber detonated a truck full of explosives in the capital.

Full report at:



Boko Haram Militants Kill Aid Workers at Military Base in Nigeria


MARCH 2, 2018

ABUJA, Nigeria — Boko Haram militants have killed at least 11 people, including three aid workers, in an attack on a military base near a camp for displaced people in the northeastern state of Borno in Nigeria, according to the United Nations migration agency.

The raid Thursday night in the town of Rann, near the border with Cameroon, was the latest high-profile attack by militants in Nigeria’s northeast, and it comes less than two weeks after the abduction of 110 girls from a school in the town of Dapchi in neighboring Yobe State.

The United Nations agency, the International Organization for Migration, said the attack had been carried out by militants using automatic weapons, rocket-propelled grenades and gun trucks. The three aid workers who were killed were all Nigerian, the agency said.

Four soldiers and four police officers were also killed in the attack, the agency said, with three other humanitarian workers wounded.

The Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said it had suspended its work in Rann after the attack and had evacuated staff members.

Last year, a Nigerian fighter jet, searching for Boko Haram members, accidentally bombed the camp for displaced people in Rann, killing up to 170 people. At the time, a Western diplomat said that the Nigerian military had been informed that fighters were massing to attack a military post nearby but that the strike had hit the camp in error.

Thursday’s attack in Rann was a further setback for President Muhammadu Buhari, who took office in May 2015 vowing to improve security and who has repeatedly said that the Boko Haram insurgency has been defeated. The government said on Friday that its search for the girls taken in Dapchi, about 250 miles west of Rann, had been extended to neighboring countries.

The Boko Haram insurgency has been centered in Borno, where militants have used violent means to pursue the imposition of a strict interpretation of Islam. More than 20,000 people have been killed and two million forced to leave their homes since 2009.

Two of the aid workers who died in Rann were contractors with the International Organization for Migration and were working as coordinators at the camp for 55,000 displaced people, the United Nations said. The third was a doctor employed as a consultant for Unicef.

“We call on authorities to ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice and account,” Edward Kallon, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, said in a statement.

Attacks on aid workers are rare, but not unheard-of. In December, four people were killed when a World Food Program convoy was ambushed in Borno.

Boko Haram held a large swath of territory in northeast Nigeria in late 2014. It was pushed out of most of that land by the Nigerian Army, backed by troops from neighboring countries, in early 2015.

Full report at:



Gunmen attack army headquarters, French embassy in Burkina Faso

Mar 2, 2018

Nearly 30 people, including civilians and soldiers, have been killed when gunmen launched a coordinated attack in Burkina Faso's capital, targeting the army headquarters and the French embassy.

Five assailants reportedly got out of a pick-up truck in the center of the capital Ouagadougou and opened fire on passersby before heading towards the French embassy on Friday morning. They then set fire to the car.

Meanwhile, a blast took place near the headquarters of the Burkinabe armed forces and the French cultural center, which are located around a kilometer (half a mile) from the area of the first assault that houses the embassies, the prime minister's office and the United Nations offices, witnesses said.

"I saw people with sacks on their backs attack the guard. Then I heard the explosion. I saw soldiers flee the army headquarters building running," witness Kader Sanou said. The explosion hit the army compound, setting the building on fire.

Media reports quoted three security sources, two in France and one in West Africa, as saying that at least 28 people lost their lives in the attack on the military headquarters.

Two of the sources said 28 people were killed and a third reported that "around 30" died in the attack in the capital.

Government spokesman Remi Dandjinou had earlier said the attackers killed five people and injured about 50 others during the attack on the military headquarters.

Speaking on state television, he added that two paramilitary gendarmes lost their lives while defending the French embassy.

According to the government, four gunmen were killed in the embassy attack and two in the second assault.

Burkina Faso’s government had said in a statement posted on the government’s Information Service website, "Special units of the defense and security forces have been deployed."

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but previous assaults were conducted by allies of al-Qaeda in retaliation for the country's participation in a regional fight against Takfiri militants.

Jean-Marc Châtaigner, France's ambassador to West Africa's Sahel region described the assault as a "terrorist attack.”

The attack was the third major attack in Ouagadougou in just over two years.

In August 2017, a terrorist attack on the upscale Turkish restaurant Aziz Istanbul in Ouagadougou killed 19 people, many of them children, and injured 21 others.

In January 2016, assailants launched an attack on a hotel also popular with foreigners and a café in the capital, killing at least 30 people from 18 different nationalities. The al-Qaeda Takfiri terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attack.

Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in the world, shares a northern border with Mali, which has long been battling al-Qaeda.

French Special Forces have been present in Burkina Faso since 2010 on a declared mission to help regional governments in the Sahel tackle extremism, particularly in neighboring Mali.

Full report at:



Suicide attack outside Mogadishu kills 3 people

02 March 2018

At least three people were killed and three others were wounded when a suicide car bomb blast targeted a security checkpoint in Sinka Dher, outskirts of the Somali capital Mogadishu on Thursday, police said.

Mohamed Bulle, a police officer in Mogadishu said that the blast was a suicide car bomb attack.

"The blast was a suicide car bomb blast and was hit in our security checkpoint in Sinka Dher, three people including the attacker were killed, and three civilians were also wounded" Bulle said.

"Our security forces prevented the suicide attacker from entering the city which we believe that was its main target" he affiliated group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack and said it had killed more than 30 government soldiers according to local media.

Abdi Asis Ali Ibrahim, spokesman for the internal security minister who confirmed the attack to the media has denied al-Shabaab's claim.

Full report at:




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