Friday, February 5, 2016

Religious and Theological Underpinning of Global Islamist Terror: Full Text of Speech at International Counter Terrorism Conference 2016 in Jaipur





By Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam
3 February 2016
The ease and swiftness with which the so-called Islamic State and the self-declared khilafat of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has attracted over 30,000 Muslims from 100 countries around the globe in just one year has surprised many.  But this should not have come as a surprise to us in India. From Indian subcontinent alone, less than a hundred years ago, at least 18,000 Muslims had left their homes, even government jobs and marched off to fight for the last Ottoman Khilafat. This was madness, pure and simple. Most ruined their lives and some died. But they are considered ghazis and martyrs. Important clerics including Maulana Abul Kalam Azad issued fatwas calling for Jihad or Hijrat (emigration) from British India, which was considered Darul Harb (Land of conflict, ruled by infidels), as a religious duty.
 So, for a large section of Muslims the lure of a Khilafat that would rule the world, eliminate all other religions, particularly all forms of idolatry, establish the truth of Islam, is nothing new. When Baghdadi announced his khilafat, it was welcomed in many Muslim newspapers in India. An influential cleric from Nadwatul Ulama, went so far as to post a letter to the so-called Khalifa on his Facebook page, addressing him as Ameerul Momineen, spiritual leader of all Muslims. He faced no protest, not even from Nadwa or Darul uloom Deoband.
With the so-called Islamic State proudly broadcasting its monstrous brutalities and inhuman practices like sex slavery, the community is embarrassed and support is now muted. But this can only be described as hypocrisy.  India’s most popular Islamic preacher and Ahl-e-Hadithi televangelist Zakir Naik has been saying for years, that “Allah has made halal for Muslims sex with slaves and women captured in war.” Muslim religious leaders have never protested. But when ISIS takes these fatwas and Wahhabi/Salafi teachings to their logical conclusion, actually kidnaps and makes Yazidi, Christian and Shia women sex slaves, the community is embarrassed and some clerics start saying Islam has nothing to do with terrorism.
Of course, Islam has nothing to do with terrorism. It is a spiritual path to salvation, not a political ideology for dominating the world. Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) was a mystic who was eventually appointed a messenger of God. There are innumerable verses in the Quran that call for peace at all costs, even going to the extent of saying that murder of one innocent person amounts to genocide of humanity and protection given to one innocent amounts to saving humanity (Quran 5:32). The same is also true of narrations of Prophet’s supposed sayings, Ahadith, (pl. of Hadith). Prophet’s own conduct (Seerat) shows that he accepted peace even at the cost of justice and fairness for Muslims in the famous treaty of Hudaibiya. To avoid bloodshed in the Battle of the Trench, he secured the city of Medina behind a ditch he dug along with his companions around Medina. He declared a general Amnesty for all Meccans after conquering it without bloodshed, when Meccans were apprehending a general massacre as was the prevailing custom of those times. So not only does Quran specifically forbid all violence against innocents and repeatedly warns against aggression, but the Prophet himself avoided violence as much as possible in the most trying times of Islam’s infancy.
 It is true that madrasas and mosques do not overtly preach violence and terrorism. But it is also true that text books in madrasas do preach supremacism, xenophobia, exclusivism and intolerance.  Thus they do the groundwork for militant ideologies by instilling in their students a binary thinking of Muslim/Kafir as opposites who cannot co-exist. As a result, some Muslims self-segregate and alienate themselves from the mainstream. A global Muslim missionary organisation Tablighi Jamaat, for instance, which has up to 150 million adherents in over 200 countries now, focuses entirely on segregating Muslims from the mainstream, asking them to maintain a separate identity, and prohibiting them from following any customs they may have in common with the non-Muslim majority. This Wahhabi/Salafi organisation was recently banned from university campuses in Pakistani Punjab but faces no such restriction in India.
Indeed, a Muslim is bombarded from all sides with sermons calling for Jihad; a Jihad, which is shorn of all its spiritual content and used simply as a synonym for qital, warfare. Even historical fiction written by 20th century Urdu novelist Nasim Hejazi, for instance, can be taken as a call for Jihad, far more effective than any overt Jihadi literature. In most popular Urdu fairy tales, Dāstān-e-Amīr Hamzah, for instance, the central character is fighting with demons who do not believe in oneness of God and are thus kafir. The devotional poetry a Muslim listens to at Sufi shrines contain lines like the following: Aaj bhi darte hain kafir Haidari Talwar se,” meaning, even today the kafirs are afraid of the sword of Hazrat Ali, the fourth caliph. Even the first biographies of the Prophet written by Arabs called them “Maghazi Rasulullah,” meaning battle accounts of the Prophet. The first Muslims, the Arabs, could not celebrate his devotion to peace, moderation, Huqooqul Ibad (human rights) and mystical approach to religion.  They could only hail him as a hero presenting him as a great warrior which he was not. He barely lifted a sword once or twice, 14 years after prophethood, at the age of 54, purely in defence. The prayer a Muslim has been hearing week after week in every Friday sermon for 1400 years is for victory over kuffar (infidels), establishment of the true religion of Islam, dominance over the whole world, elimination of idolatry from the planet, and so on, all generating supremacism, exclusivism, xenophobia and intolerance.
The idea of a permanent confrontation with the kafir, thus, runs through our veins. In verses often quoted by militant ideologues, God assures Muslims in two places in Quran (8:12 and 3: 151) that “He will cast terror into the hearts of the Kuffars (Unbelievers).” This is a contextual verse, like some others, similarly militant and intolerant, revealed during the course of the existential wars waged by the Muslims in early Islam. Any rational Muslim would say today that these contextual war verses do not apply to us anymore. But you will not find even those moderate scholars seeking to refute terrorist ideologies saying that. In fact, the refutations go on to actually justify the core theology of terror and violence.
A hundred thousand copies of an Arabic book titled “Refuting ISIS” has recently been distributed in Syria and Iraq. It is also available online in English. The author Shaykh Muhammad Al-Yaqoubi is, of course, sincere in his refutation. But he too quotes from the same set of end-time prophesies, seeking to prove that Baghdadi and his clique are idiots and should be fought, thus giving credibility to these same series of millenarian prophesies. So what he actually ends up doing amounts to strengthening ISIS’ propaganda of the allegedly coming apocalypse. Unlike al-Qaeda, which did not talk so much about apocalypse, ISIS vision is largely apocalyptic. They base the justification for their war as being the prophesied end-times war. They sacrificed many men capturing a militarily insignificant town called Dabiq (which is also the name of their mouthpiece) because the end-times prophecies refer to a war in this town.
Apocalyptic prophesies are one of the chief tools used by ISIS to attract Muslim youth to be part of an end-time war. If the world is going to end in a few years’ time, with Islam conquering the world, as is prophesied, decimating all infidels, why not be on the winning side. This is an argument that appeals to many. So someone seeking to refute ISIS should not be strengthening their chief propaganda tool. But this cleric or any other cannot help but strengthen ISIS. All clerics believe in the same core theology as do the terrorists. These predictions come from Ahadith (purported sayings of the prophet, pl. of Hadith) and ulema (scholars) from all school of thought consider them akin to revelation. These end-time prophesies can only by questioned fruitfully by questioning the credibility of narrations that were collected up to 300 years after the demise of the Prophet and attributed to him, not by calling them akin to revelation.
Some of these prophesies also come from speculative readings of allegorical verses in the Quran. Muslims have been asked not to speculate about their meaning and leave them alone. But, of course, Muslims do, and the result is prophesied scenarios of apocalyptic wars.
Similarly, in its core theology even the 14,000-word fatwa issued recently (August 2015) by 120 scholars from around the world, agrees with the militant ideologies. Their “Open Letter to Al-Baghdadi” also calls Hadith akin to revelation, knowing full well that all justifications of killings of innocent civilians come from a hadith attributing to the Prophet permission for killing of innocents in an attack at Taif by the use of catapult (manjaniq): (Sahih Muslim 19:4321 & Sahih Bukhari 4: 52:256). This hadith is also used by al-Qaeda to justify use of weapons of mass destruction.
In point 16. Hudud (Punishment), the moderate fatwa establishes a general rule: "Hudud punishments (death for apostasy, etc.) are fixed in the Qur’an and Hadith and are unquestionably obligatory in Islamic Law." Having accepted the basic premise of the Baghdadi tribe it goes on to criticise its implementation in the so-called Islamic State. But once moderate ulema have accepted the basic premise of Hudud (Punishments) based on some verses of Quran and seventh century Bedouin tribal Arab mores being "unquestionably obligatory in Islamic Law," what difference does actually remain between moderation and extremism?
 In point 20 of the fatwa, the moderate ulema seem to be justifying the destruction of idols and Sufi shrines, by talking of the supposed Islamic obligation to destroy and remove all manifestations of shirk (idolatry), only opposing the destruction of graves of the prophets and their companion.
In point 22 of the Open Letter, titled, The Caliphate, the moderate ulema again concur with the basic proposition of the Baghdadi clique: "There is agreement (ittifaq) among scholars that a caliphate is an obligation upon the Ummah. The Ummah has lacked a caliphate since 1924 CE."
This moderate fatwa even expresses belief in the theory of abrogation, whereby terror ideologues debunk peaceful Meccan verses that came at the beginning of Islam.  Thus, like Sheikh Yaqoobi’s “Refuting ISIS” this fatwa too strengthens the terrorist ideology, while criticising its practice.
This is not surprising. The commonly accepted theology of most Muslims agrees with the following features of the Jihadist theology:
1.    It regards God as an implacable, anthropomorphic figure permanently at war with those who do not believe in His uniqueness, as against the Sufi or Vedantic concept of God as universal consciousness or universal intelligence radiating His grace from every atom in the universe;
2.     Quran as an uncreated aspect of God, a copy of the eternal Book lying in the Heavenly vault. Hence all its verses, in their literal meaning, have to be treated as an eternal guidance to Muslims without any reference to context;
3.    Ahadith or so-called sayings of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) as akin to revelation, even though they were collected two to three hundred years after the demise of the Prophet;
4.     Sharia laws as divine, even though they were first codified 120 years after God announced the completion of the religion in one of the last verses in Quran;
5.    Jihad in the sense of Qital (warfare) as the sixth pillar of Islam;
6.    Hijra (migration to Darul Islam – abode of Islam- from Darul Harab (Land of disbelief and conflict)) as a religious duty and an act of devotion;
7.    a caliphate is an obligation upon the Ummah (global Muslim community).
Twentieth century scholars like Syed Qutb (1906–1966) of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Abul A’la Maududi (1903–1979), of India and later Pakistan, who founded Jamaat-e-Islami, are considered the two fathers of modern Islamist terrorism or Jihadism. More contemporary ideologues who have contributed enormously to the Jihadist discourse are Abdullah Yusuf Azzam (1941-89) and Abu Muhammad al Maqdisi (Born: 1959), etc.
Many Muslim scholars would distance themselves from these militant scholars today. But the reason Jihadism is so influential and attractive to so many is that the Jihadist theology is based on the popular theology propounded by major classical Arab theologians like Ibn-e-Taimiya (1263-1328), and Mohammad Ibn-e Abdul Wahhab (1703-1792) or for that matter major Indian theologians like Mujaddid Alf-e-Saani Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindī ((1564 –1624) and Shah Waliullah Dehlavi (1703–1762).
For hundreds of years now, major Muslim theologians have been engaged in creating a coherent and comprehensive theology of supremacism, intolerance and violence in order to expand the Islamic reach. They have conclusively made the lower form of Jihad, i.e., warfare, compulsory for all able-bodied Muslims. Luminaries of Islam have established a theology which basically says that Islam must conquer the world and it is the religious duty of all Muslims to strive towards that goal and contribute to it in whatever way they can.
 All these theologians present in essence a supremacist, exclusivist, xenophobic and intolerant view of Islam and wield enormous influence on our clergy today.
 It is not possible to accept classical theologians and reject their modern militant offshoots just as it is not possible to reject Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and accept Zakir Naik simply because the latter is not actually having sex with sex slaves as Baghdadi is. Our radicalised youngsters can very well see the hypocrisy of those who on the one hand revere Taimiya, Wahhab, Sirhindi and Waliullah and on the other hand claim to oppose Qutb, Maududi, Azzam and Maqdisi and their followers like Osma bin Laden and Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi. No surprise that some of our educated, 21st century, internet generation youth choose to rather be honest terrorists than dishonest hypocrites like their parents, community leaders, politicians, madrasa teachers, mosque imams, intellectuals, etc. who keep saying Islam is a religion of peace while also professing belief in the core theology of Jihadism, equating it with Islam.
One of the key instructions of God was moderation in matters of religion (Quran: 4:171 and 5:80). This was repeated often by the Prophet “Beware of extremism in religion, for it destroyed those before you.” [Sahih al-Jami’ (nos. 1851 & 3248), M.N. al-Albani, no. 2680, and & al-Sahihah of M.N. al-Albani, no. 1283.]
 But extremism has been endemic in Islam, present almost from the beginning of Islamic history. Muslims fought among themselves and quite vehemently even before the collection of Hadith which they now consider divine, and codification of Sharia which they consider their religious duty to impose on the world.
Muslims have still not found an antidote to militant verses in the Quran. Considering all verses of Quran as providing eternal guidance undermines the universality of essential, foundational, constitutive, verses that were revealed largely in the initial years of Islam in Mecca. We received very good advice from Pope Francis recently (September 2015) which is consistent with several verses in the Quran. Describing the holy Quran has as a “prophetic book of peace,” Pope Francis asked Muslims to seek “an adequate interpretation.” The Quran also asks Muslims repeatedly to reflect upon the verses and find their best meaning, as in Chapter 39: verse 55; 39: 18; 39: 55; 38: 29; 2: 121; 47: 24, etc.
Calling Hadith and Sharia divinely inspired and fundamental elements of Islamic faith is irrational.  Saying that it is a Muslim’s primary religious duty to help establish God’s sovereignty on earth and impose “divine” Sharia Laws on the globe is only a way to intensify extremism which goes against the basic tenets of Islam. The idea of Jihad against kuffar and hijrat (emigration) to the so-called Islamic State as a religious duty is preposterous at a time when millions of Arab Muslims are marching almost barefoot to Europe, the so-called Darul Harb, seeking refuge, a refuge that is denied to them by the so-called Darul Islam in the Arab world.
Muslims will just have to abandon the generally accepted current theology that leads to violence and supremacism. We will need to revisit all our literature, even popular fiction and romance, and explain to our youth that we are now living in a multicultural, multi-religious world where a binary thinking of Muslim/Kafir as opposites and permanent war with them or self-segregation is just not viable. Even Saudi Arabia, which teaches in its schools the worst forms of intolerance, xenophobia, supremacism and exclusivism, has to deal with all religious communities.
ISIS may be militarily defeated tomorrow and even go out of existence. But this will not solve the problem of Muslim radicalisation. If our madrasas and educational institutions continue to prepare the ground for self-segregation and militancy, expounding the current theology, mixed with narratives of victimhood and marginalisation, Islam will continue to be hobbled, Muslims will continue to struggle to fit in the way of life in contemporary world.
Moderate, progressive Muslims must urgently evolve and propagate an alternative theology of peace and pluralism, consistent in all respects with the teachings of Islam, and suitable for contemporary and future societies, while refuting the current theology of violence and supremacism.
Unfortunately, as we have seen above, the task is not so easy.  Radicalisation has not just happened overnight. Jihadi theology has evolved over hundreds of years. Major theologians who have studied Islam independently have brought to us a political version of Islam, stripping the religion of all its spirituality.
While it is primarily the duty of Muslims to fight this ideological war within slam, this is no longer just a Muslim concern. The world too must confront Muslim scholars with the supremacism and extremism present in their theology and ask them to rethink Islam.  Progressive Muslims should join the rest of the world to defeat extremism in Islamic theology.

Revisiting Islamic Peacekeepers in Afghanistan


By S. Mubashir Noo, New Age Islam
05 February 2016
The iconic American sitcom Seinfeld has this episode where George Costanza, the show’s lovable loser, mopes to friend Jerry Seinfeld: “My life is the opposite of everything I want it to be. Every instinct I have..it's all been wrong.” Jerry deadpans back, “If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.” Washington will eventually have its own George Costanza moment on Afghanistan, and the futility of an open-ended war. The only question is how many more dead soldiers and civilians will it take to have this epiphany.
The Special Inspector-General for Afghanistan Reconstruction’s (SIGAR) new quarterly report makes for grim reading. At close to 30%, not only do the Taliban hold more Afghan territory than any time after the 2001 invasion, but they are “spreading (Afghan forces) thin, threatening rural districts in one area while carrying out ambitious attacks in more populated centres." The Taliban trifecta of high-stakes attacks in late 2015 adds weight to SIGAR’s assessment. Moreover, even before the militants briefly overran Kunduz, Kandahar airport and besieged Sangin district, UN figures revealed a 19% increase in “security incidents” between August and October. 
US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, however, insists Washington will “stick with Afghanistan” indefinitely. Sectors of the US media also report military that commanders are pressing President Barack Obama to shelve the troop drawdown until he leaves office, if not send in reinforcements. New Afghan war commander, Gen. John Nicholson, meanwhile, takes charge under a cloud of pessimism, admitting that Afghanistan’s security situation "has been deteriorating, rather than improving."
Occam’s razor holds that all things being equal, the simplest explanation is usually correct. Washington’s balance sheet on Afghanistan is beginning to resemble a long list of write-offs. The 2009 troop surge clearly did not work, the Afghan army is still a “force in building” $65 billion dollars later, and SIGAR uncovered over $17 billion in questionable costs relating to civilian aid disbursements in just the last three years. Inspector-General John Sopko further warns that the Afghan economy is punch-drunk from endemic corruption and opium crops are booming again.
So, what is the US still doing in Afghanistan? The war is clearly unpopular back home, and much as I sympathize with progressive Afghans trying to rid themselves of Taliban reactionaries, when will Washington realize that it is part of the problem? “Our jihad will continue until the last occupier is expelled,” the Taliban keep repeating like a broken record. At some point, the US must realize its military presence in Afghanistan is a lightning rod for terrorists. The Taliban themselves view the Kabul government as a round-table of American stooges rather than representative of a new social epoch.
Obama, of course, continues to single out Pakistan as the primary culprit in a combustible Afghanistan, insisting it “can and must” do more to dismantle Taliban sanctuaries east of the Durand Line. The real mystery is how he expects a neighbour choking from the blowback of a decade-old war next door to willy-nilly sever ties with assets originally curated at the US’s behest. Especially when Nicholson himself inspires little confidence by wistfully shrugging “This is Afghanistan, there will always be some level of violence in Afghanistan” at his Senate confirmation hearing.
Afghanistan will not fix itself if US forces leave tomorrow, that much is true. This is where an Islamic peacekeeping force mandated by either the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), or the UN, becomes necessary. Ironically, former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw lobbied for exactly such a post-war paradigm in October 2001 when US forces began airstrikes against the Taliban.
Both Lakhdar Brahimi, former UN special representative for Afghanistan, and deposed Afghan King Zahir Shah backed his plan. Malik Sherzad Khan, a Taliban commander in Jalalabad, told Reuters then: "the US can win in Afghanistan only if UN peacekeepers, especially from Muslim countries, come and take control." "The Taliban will hand over power if peacekeepers are there. They will not fight against Zahir Shah," he stressed. Sadly, Turkey, the country Straw hoped would lead this peacekeeping force, thumbed down his proposal.
At the time, some Orientalist commentators also voiced concerns about the dangers of radicalization if Muslim peacekeepers moved into Afghanistan. To their minds, breathing the same air as the Taliban could brainwash otherwise moderate Muslims into becoming barbaric, bloodthirsty ideologues. As precedent, they pointed to foreign Mujahideen from Bosnia, Kosovo and Chechnya in the Soviet jihad who returned home to destabilize their respective societies. 
Two farcical assumptions anchored these concerns. One, that the average Muslim male is genetically susceptible to radicalization. Two, that the “holy warrior” imports of the Soviet jihad were unwitting recruits. Preposterous. What were they here for then? To sightsee the Buddhas of Bamiyan?  In trying to erase the historical anxiety of another Vietnam, Washington is fast losing perspective on what is good for Afghanistan. It behooves the OIC to step up and take charge, or at least pretend it cares.
S.Mubashir Noor is a freelance columnist and audio engineer based in Islamabad

Lal Masjid Becomes Divided House: High Drama Unfolded In The Maulana Abdul Aziz Case On Thursday












Photo: Maulana Abdul Aziz. - AFP/File

Pakistan
Lal Masjid Becomes Divided House: High Drama Unfolded In The Maulana Abdul Aziz Case On Thursday
Hafiz Saeed Calls for More Attacks on India
Solution to Kashmir issue lies in dialogue: PM
Two Pakistani institutions in top 20 think tanks list
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Arab World
40 Takfiri Terrorists killed in Huge Depot Blast in Hama
US Drone Strike Kills Top Qaida Chief in South Yemen
World Powers Pledge $10 Billion in Aid for Syria
Saudi Ready to Join Anti-IS Ground Operations In Syria
Tens of thousands flee as Syria regime advances near Aleppo
US Orders Fugitive President to Attack Sana’a of Yemen
Terrorists Restart Pounding of Nubl, Al-Zahra Towns after Losing Control
ISIL Positions near Deir Ezzur Blown up by Syrian Army Missiles
Syrian Army Blocks Terrorists' Supply Routes at Turkish Borders with Aleppo
Al-Nusra Front Terrorists Pushed Back from 2 Kurdish Villages near Nubl
Syrian refugees struggle to buy food as aid dwindles
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South Asia
QCG Meeting in Islamabad Expected To Finalize Roadmap to Afghan Peace
Hand Grenade Explosion Leaves 16 Wounded In Nangarhar
Situation Is Extremely Complex In Afghanistan, Says Top US Commander
Gen. Nicholson as new commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan
Gen. Dostum rejects he intends to step down from government
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Southeast Asia
Terror Attacks Loom As Indonesian Trio Vie For Islamic State Glory
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Mideast
PM Davutoğlu Announces 10-Point Action Plan in Fight against Terrorism
Official: Russian Talk of Turkish Incursion in Syria Is Propaganda
Report: 9 killed in fire in Cizre building
Iran's Top Commander: US Seeking to Assassinate General Soleimani
Iranian Quds Force Advisors, Syrian Army, Hezbollah, Iraqi Units Replace Popular Forces in Nubl
Iran’s Shahed-129 Drone in Combat Operations in Syria
Two Israeli minors get long jail terms for killing Palestinian teen in 2014
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India
11 Suspected ISIS Operatives Sent To 7-Day NIA Custody
Nawaz Sharif Hopes India-Pak Talks Will Move Forward Soon
No Visa Extension for PIA Officials, Pak Warns India People-To-People Contact Could Be Hit
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Australia
Australian Churches To Offer Refuge To Asylum Seekers
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Europe
Merkel to Travel To Turkey Again Over Migrants
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North America
New US Intelligence Report Says Islamic State Weaker
Racist slur hits Canada’s Sikh mantri in House of Canada
Compiled by New Age Islam Edit Bureau

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Pakistan
Lal Masjid Becomes Divided House: High Drama Unfolded In The Maulana Abdul Aziz Case On Thursday
February 5th, 2016
ISLAMABAD: High drama unfolded in the Maulana Abdul Aziz case on Thursday, as two factions emerged from within the ranks of Lal Masjid supporters, even as lawyers and civil society activists moved the district courts against the cleric for inciting violence and rebelling against the state.
For the first time ever, Lal Masjid issued a press release on its own official letterhead, sidelining the Shuhada Foundation, which has hitherto handled all of Maulana Aziz’s interactions with the media.
The release, issued by ‘Lal Masjid (Official)’, was signed by Mufti Tehseenullah and not Hafiz Ehtesham Ahmed of the Shuhada Foundation, who had been the official spokesperson for the cleric and his family up until now.
Umme Hassan, Maulana Abdul Aziz’s wife, is the chairperson of the Shuhada Foundation, which was established in 2008 but registered in Islamabad in 2013.
Maulana Abdul Aziz appoints new spokesperson, distances himself from wife’s Shuhada Foundation; activists move district courts against cleric
The internal schisms appeared to permeate not just the cleric’s followers, but also his family, and seem to have emerged after he announced that he had forgiven former military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf and all those responsible for the military operation against Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa in 2007.
Speaking to the media after posting pre-arrest bail on Tuesday, Maulana Aziz even said that he had forgiven those who were “plotting against me”.
When contacted, Mufti Tehsinullah confirmed to Dawn that he had been made the official spokesperson for Lal Masjid. “I am part of the mosque’s ‘school of decrees’ and I am well-aware of developments there,” he said, adding, “Hafiz Ehtesham is not attached to the mosque, nor is he aware of the policies of Maulana Abdul Aziz.”
The matter of pardoning Musharraf and others has obviously been taken to heart by the Shuhada Foundation; with its spokesperson Hafiz Ehtesham insisting that forgiving Gen Musharraf would be against the principals of Sharia.
Meanwhile, Shuhada Foundation President Advocate Tariq Asad – who also represents the families of those killed in the Lal Masjid operation – said that Maulana Abdul Aziz was not authorised to pardon Gen Musharraf in all the cases following the 2007 military operation.
“He is only authorised to forgive the death of his own son, not his brother. Nor can he speak on behalf of the families of all those who died,” Advocate Asad told Dawn.
“This is not fair on his part – even his wife Umme Hasaan had tears in her eyes after Maulana Abdul Aziz made this announcement,” he added.
Hafiz Ehtesham claimed that the Shuhada Foundation would reveal certain facts about the death of Ghazi Abdul Rasheed, the younger brother of Maulana Abdul Aziz who was killed in the 2007 operation.
On the other hand, new Lal Masjid mouthpiece Mufti Tehsin said that Maulana Aziz would soon explain his plans to withdraw the murder case against the former military ruler.
Incidentally, the first press release issued on the Lal Masjid (Official) letterhead is a clarification related to an application filed on Thursday by activist Jibran Nasir before the court of Additional Sessions Judge Raja Asif Mehmood.
The application was related to the registration of a case against Maulana Aziz, the students and the administration of Jamia Hafsa, for pledging allegiance to the Middle Eastern terrorist group, Daesh.
Mr Nasir has attached several video clips, in which Maulana Abdul Aziz can be seen praising Daesh and admitting that Jamia Hafsa students made a video calling on Daesh to overrun the state of Pakistan. The case will be heard on Feb 12, 2016.
The Lal Masjid press release clarified that the video was allegedly released in 2014 by former students of Jamia Hafsa and had nothing to do with Maulana Abdul Aziz, Jamia Hafsa Administrator Umme Hasaan and the management of Lal Masjid or Jamia Hafsa.
“However some people are trying to implicate Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa and trying to fan sectarianism in the country,” the press release said, accusing a recently-elected PTI local government member of conspiring against Lal Masjid.
The statement also singled out activist Khurrum Zaki for promoting sectarianism. Mr Zaki, incidentally, also filed an application before an Islamabad civil court on Thursday, seeking the registration of an FIR against Maulana Aziz over his latest video, where he spoke disparagingly of ISI officers and made derogatory references to members of other sects. This application will be heard on Feb 11, 2016.
dawn.com/news/1237531/lal-masjid-becomes-divided-house
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Hafiz Saeed calls for more attacks on India
Agencies | Feb 4, 2016, 11.59 AM IST
Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed. (File photo)Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed. (File photo)
MUZAFFARABAD: Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, on Wednesday praised last month's terror attack at Indian Air Force's base in Pathankot and encouraged similar attacks against India.
Addressing a rally of around one thousand people in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Saeed said: "800,000 Indian troops are committing genocide on Kashmiris. Don't they have a right to carry out Pathankot-style attacks for their defence?"
Saeed also lauded Kashmiri militant leader Sayed Salahuddin, who heads the United Jihad Council (UJC) that has claimed responsibility for the attack.
"You have only seen one attack on Pathankot. Matters could easily escalate."
Crowds at the rally shouted slogans including "The war will continue until the liberation of Kashmir" and "We are ready for jihad".
Strategic analyst Ayesha Siddiqa said Saeed's praise of Salahuddin could be part of a "deflection strategy" to steer blame away from JeM, and by extension Pakistan, where it is based.
The airbase attack occurred just a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid a surprise visit to Lahore, raising hopes for peace between the two countries.
Seven security personnel were killed and several others were injured when six militants, suspected to owe allegiance to Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad, stormed the Pathankot air base in first week of January.
Further planned talks between the top diplomats of both countries that had been due in mid-January were subsequently postponed.
timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/Hafiz-Saeed-calls-for-more-attacks-on-India/articleshow/50846657.cms
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Solution to Kashmir issue lies in dialogue: PM
Dawn.com — Updated about 4 hours ago
MUZAFFARABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif while addressing a joint session of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Assembly on Kashmir Day said that the solution of all issues, including that of disputed Kashmir, lies in dialogue.
"Difference of opinion between two countries is not unheard of," Nawaz said, referring to Pakistan's differences with India over Kashmir. "What is unusual is that for 6-7 decades, we have not been able to get rid of these differences," he said.
"I brought this up with the Indian leadership and would like to reiterate that the solution to our problems lies in dialogue. Unless we sit together and talk about these issues, they won't be resolved," Nawaz told the assembly, expressing hope that the Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue between Pakistan and India would see progress in days to come.
The prime minister said Pakistan has assured Indian leadership of cooperation on every issue, including terrorism. "Pakistan is most affected by terrorism. Who wants eradication of terrorism more than Pakistan?" he asked.
The prime minister emphasised the importance of development in Kashmir. "The benefits of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will reach AJK, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit Baltistan, which are a big part of the CPEC. Development of roads and power projects has been planned to help end the power shortage and bring progress to these areas," he said.
"The President of AJK gave me a list of delayed power projects in AJK. I will ask why there has been a delay and has progress been made on these projects," he assured lawmakers. "If there is a power shortage somewhere, it is a not a problem that we have created, but rather one that we have inherited," he said.
Speaking on the occasion, AJK Prime Minister Chaudhry Abdul Majeed lauded Nawaz for taking a clear stance on Kashmir in the United Nations, Radio Pakistan reported.
In his speech, AJK Assembly Leader of the Opposition Raja Farooq Haider said Pakistan is a source of strength and hope for Kashmiris in their struggle for freedom.
dawn.com/news/1237588/solution-to-kashmir-issue-lies-in-dialogue-pm
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Two Pakistani institutions in top 20 think tanks list
February 5th, 2016
KARACHI: Two Pakistani think tanks — the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA), based in Karachi, and the Sustainable Dev­elopment Policy Inst­itute (SDPI), based in Islamabad — have been ranked among the top 20 think tanks in Southeast Asia and the Pacific region, a PIIA statement issued here has said.
According to the 2015 Global Go To Think Tank Index launched by the Think Tanks and Civil Society Program (TTCSP) at the Lauder Institute, University of Pennsylvania, SDPI was ranked number 15 and PIIA number 18 in their recently released list of 95 think tanks in Southeast Asia and the Pacific region, the statement added. The TTCSP conducts research on the role policy institutes play in government and civil society development around the world.
dawn.com/news/1237436/two-pakistani-institutions-in-top-20-think-tanks-list
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Arab World
40 Takfiri Terrorists killed in Huge Depot Blast in Hama
February 5th, 2016
TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian army and popular forces' attacks on a huge missile depot of the Takfiri terrorists in the Western province of Hama killed 40 militants, military sources said Thursday.
The militants killed in the army attack were affiliated to the Jeish al-Fateh terrorist group, the sources said.
"The terrorists were killed when their depot containing TOW and Grad missiles was destroyed in the Northern countryside of Hama province, leading to a huge blast," they added.
On Wednesday, the Syrian army made military gains in the Southern parts of Hama province after massive airstrikes and artillery attacks.
The Syrian fighter jets struck the militants' gathering centers in Kafr Zita town and Ma'arkaba village in Northern Hama.
Full report here: en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941115000787
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US drone strike kills top Qaida chief in south Yemen
AFP | Feb 4, 2016
ADEN: A senior al-Qaida operative in Yemen with a $5 million US bounty on his head was killed on Thursday in one of two suspected American drone strikes in the war-torn country.
Jalal Belaidi, alias Abu Hamza, a top commander of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), was killed along with two guards when their vehicle was hit in the Maraqesha area of Abyan province, a relative said.
A tribal source also confirmed the death of Belaidi following contact with AQAP militants in the area.
The United States is the only country known to operate armed drones over Yemen, home to AQAP, considered by Washington as the jihadist group's most dangerous affiliate.
The US State Department said Belaidi was a regional AQAP emir, responsible for multiple provinces in Yemen.
It offered a $5-million reward for information on Belaidi over his alleged involvement in plotting bomb attacks on Western diplomatic officials and facilities in the capital Sanaa in 2013.
Full report here: timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/US-drone-strike-kills-top-Qaida-chief-in-south-Yemen/articleshow/50853724.cms
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World powers pledge $10 billion in aid for Syria
PTI | Feb 5, 2016
LONDON: World leaders pledged over $10 billion (9.0 billion euros) today to help conflict-hit Syrians at a London conference overshadowed by the breakdown of peace talks in Geneva.
The European Union, Germany, Britain and the United States were among the biggest donors to provide food, education and job opportunities for Syrians in their homeland and neighbouring countries where they have fled.
But hopes that the package could make a major difference inside Syria were weighed down by the suspension Wednesday of peace talks in Geneva until February 25.
That came as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces, supported by Russian air strikes, stepped up their offensive near the major northern city of Aleppo, forcing nearly 40,000 civilians to flee.
Full report here: timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/World-powers-pledge-10-billion-in-aid-for-Syria/articleshow/50858130.cms
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Saudi ready to join anti-IS ground operations in Syria
AFP — Updated about 4 hours ago
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is ready to join any ground operation the US-led coalition against the militant Islamic State group in Syria might decide on, a general from the kingdom said on Thursday.
“If there is any willingness in the coalition to go in the ground operation, we will contribute positively in that,” Brigadier General Ahmed al-Assiri told AFP.
Smoke rises over the industrial city in Aleppo, Syria. -Reuters
Assiri is spokesman for a separate Saudi-led Arab coalition which, since March, has conducted air strikes and ground operations in Yemen.
That coalition supports the government there in its fight against Houthi rebels who seized much of the country.
Saudi Arabia supports certain militant groups against Assad's forces.
Aleppo encircled, militants trapped
Regime troops pressed a major Russian-backed offensive around Aleppo, while Moscow and Ankara traded barbs over the escalating crisis.
As the offensive raged, diplomatic tensions were also rising, with Moscow accusing opposition supporter Ankara of preparing to invade Syria, saying it had spotted troops and military equipment on the border.
Fighters loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad celebrate with residents of Nubul and al-Zahraa after breaking the siege of their towns. -Reuters
The militants' main supply line to Turkey was severed on Wednesday when regime troops broke an opposition siege of two Shia towns, Nubol and Zahraa, on the route to the border.
Regime forces entered the two towns on Thursday to the cheers of residents, who chanted pro-government slogans and showered the fighters with rice.
A high-ranking Syrian government official described the Aleppo advances as important, but said the regime had even more ambitious goals.
“The next objectives are to close the borders with Turkey to prevent the arrival of troops and weapons, then taking Aleppo province, then Idlib province, and finally Idlib city,” he told AFP.
Aleppo city, Syria's former economic powerhouse, has been divided between opposition control in the east and regime control in the west since mid-2012.
dawn.com/news/1237587/saudi-ready-to-join-anti-is-ground-operations-in-syria
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Tens of thousands flee as Syria regime advances near Aleppo
AFP | Feb 5, 2016
DAMASCUS: Tens of thousands of Syrians were reported to have fled their homes on Thursday as regime troops pressed a major Russian-backed offensive around second city Aleppo.
Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, speaking at a donors conference in London, said up to 70,000 people were headed towards his country to escape the fighting.
Both Davutoglu and activists said 300,000 people were isolated in Aleppo after the rebels' main supply route from Turkey was severed by regime forces backed by Russian warplanes.
"The situation in the north countryside of Aleppo is catastrophic," said Maamoun al-Khateeb, an activist and journalist from nearby Marea village.
Full report here:  timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/Tens-of-thousands-flee-as-Syria-regime-advances-near-Aleppo/articleshow/50859634.cms
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US Orders Fugitive President to Attack Sana’a of Yemen
February 5th, 2016
TEHRAN (FNA)- A senior Omani official disclosed on Thursday that the US administration has ordered to fugitive former Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi to immediately attack Sana’a.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the Omani official told FNA that in a telephone conversation the US administration urged Hadi to take matters into his own hands to, what they called, “liberate Sana’a”.
According to the Omani official, the White House spoke to Hadi without first consulting Riyadh, urging him to come up with some kind of media or psychological warfare and victory.
“This clearly shows Washington is in deep trouble in the ongoing war on Yemen,” he told FNA.
Full report here: en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941115000841
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Terrorists Restart Pounding of Nubl, Al-Zahra Towns after Losing Control
February 5th, 2016
TEHRAN (FNA)- The terrorists have been pounding the Shiite-populated towns of Nubl and al-Zahra with maximum power ever since they lost control over the region on Wednesday.
Faced with the army's massive operations that broke the terrorists' four-year-long siege of Nubl and al-Zahra in Northern Aleppo province on Wednesday afternoon, the terrorist groups are now emptying all the missile, rocket and mortar shells supplies on the two towns, the Arabic-language al-Mayadeen news channel reported.
To much surprise, field sources told the Lebanese TV channel that no one has been killed or wounded in the attacks.
Hours after breaking the siege on Wednesday and after the terrorists were forced to leave the areas near the two towns and retreat, the Syrian army and popular forces fired over 100 rockets at the gathering centers of terrorists near Nubl and al-Zahra.
According to field sources, at least 100 rockets and missiles as well as tens of mortar rounds were fired at Mayer and Ratyan towns (the main stronghold of terrorists near Nubl and al-Zahra) to pave the ground for the ground assault.
Full report here: en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941115000857
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ISIL Positions near Deir Ezzur Blown up by Syrian Army Missiles
February 5th, 2016
TEHRAN (FNA)- Several Takfiri militants' center points, on Deir Ezzur's outskirts, were totally blown up by the Syrian army's concentrated missile fire, informed sources said on Thursday.
Sources on the ground reported that the missile attack by the Syrian army was conducted on militants' positions, located in open farms near the city of Deir Ezzur. "Scores of militants who were in the positions were killed on the spot or injured," they added.
Meantime, Syrian army jets targeted two ISIL Takfiri militants' structures, East of Deir Ezzur airport, totally destroying them.
Informed sources in the area further added that militants sustained heavy losses and huge damage in the airstrikes; scores of militants were annihilated or injured.
Syrian army jets conducted several rounds of airstrikes, on Thursday, over militants' positions on the outskirts of Deir Ezzur city.
Inside the city, Syrian army soldiers repelled an ISIL attack on the government forces' defense lines in al-Roshdiyah neighborhood and destroyed positions of the ISIL terrorists in the villages of al-Hissan and al-Gneineh and in the surrounding of Ayash village in Deir Ezzur Western countryside.
en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941115000539
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Syrian Army Blocks Terrorists' Supply Routes at Turkish Borders with Aleppo
February 5th, 2016
TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian army managed to cut off supply routes to the al-Nusra Front terrorists in the town of Mayer, North of Aleppo, at the bordering areas with Turkey on Thursday.
The army forces also took captive 3 terrorists near Ma'arasta al-Khan, a small town in the Northwestern part of the newly-liberated Hardatnin and on the main road to al-Zahra and Nubl.
The developments happened after the army broke the terrorists' four-year-long siege of Nubl and al-Zahra in the Northern Aleppo province on Wednesday afternoon.
The siege of the strategic towns was removed after four years in an army offensive from the Eastern side of the two towns, while other units of the Syrian army also managed to purge terrorists from 80 percent of the village of Ma'arasta al-Khan.
en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941115000678
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Al-Nusra Front Terrorists Pushed Back from 2 Kurdish Villages Near Nubl
February 5th, 2016
TEHRAN (FNA)- The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) managed to free two villages in the Northwestern parts of Nubl and al-Zahra towns and fully purged the al-Nusra Front terrorists from the region.
After the Syrian army broke the terrorists' four-year-long siege of Nubl and al-Zahra in the Northern Aleppo province on Wednesday afternoon, the YPG forces gathered more confidence and freed two villages of al-Zayarah and Khariba near Shirava region.
Reports from the battlefield said that the YPG purging operations against the al-Nusra Front terrorists still continue in the region.
Full report here: en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941115000624
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Syrian refugees struggle to buy food as aid dwindles
AP | Feb 4, 2016
KAWERGOSK CAMP (Iraq): Perwin Shamsaddeen Ali, a Syrian refugee living in a tent camp in northern Iraq, has been reduced to cooking one meal a day for her family of four.
"I cook at 11 o'clock and we eat the leftovers in the evening. Why? Because we have no more food, that's why," the 28-year-old mother of two said as her sons tossed a balloon outside their tent. "Today I gave the kids some noodles, that's all. That's all we had today."
As aid agencies struggle to keep pace with the worst refugee crisis since World War II they have been forced to cut back on assistance, including food rations. With no end in sight to the Syrian war, and regional host countries increasingly overwhelmed, many refugees see the perilous crossing to Europe as their only option.
Donors will be asked to provide nearly $9 billion to aid agencies and host countries in 2016 at an annual conference held on Thursday in London — a record request. But donors have come up short in previous years.
Full report here: timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/Syrian-refugees-struggle-to-buy-food-as-aid-dwindles/articleshow/50851552.cms
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South Asia
QCG meeting in Islamabad expected to finalize roadmap to Afghan peace
By KHAAMA PRESS - Fri Feb 05 2016
The roadmap to Afghan peace process is expected to be finalized during third round of Quadrilateral meeting on Afghan peace process will kick off in Islamabad on Saturday.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan (MoFA) officials said the roadmap to reconciliation process between the Afghan government and Taliban group will be finalized during the third round of the four-nations talks.
MoFA officials are optimistic regarding the gravity and commitments by the stakeholders of the quadrilateral meeting, saying the roadmap once finalized will hopefully help in creation of a comprehensive framework and a clear path for peace talks.
The second round of quadrilateral meeting on Afghan peace process was held in capital Kabul on 18th January where participants of the meeting calling on the Taliban groups to enter into early talks with the Afghan government in a bid to end the ongoing violence in the country.
The Afghan and Pakistani leaders agreed to revive the stalled Afghan peace talks during a meeting on the sidelines of the Heart of Asia conference in Islamabad last year.
Pakistan hosted the first round of direct peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban group earlier in July last year. However, the peace talks were suspended due confirmation of Mullah Omar’s death that led to widening rift among the Taliban leadership.
khaama.com/qcg-meeting-in-islamabad-expected-to-finalize-roadmap-to-afghan-peace-0079
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Hand grenade explosion leaves 16 wounded in Nangarhar
By Khaama Press - Thu Feb 04 2016
16 people have sustained injuries in a hand grenade explosion in eastern Nangarhar province.
Governor’s spokesperson said that security guards of Ali Baba Company were in a vehicle when one of them accidentally exploded a hand grenade.
Ataullah Khogyani added that three of the victims are security guards of the company who were shifted to Nangarhar Regional Hospital following the blast this afternoon.
One of them was announced to be in critical condition.
Other victims are civilians who were present at the site when the blast took place near Gumrak Jumat area in the second police district of Jalalabad city.
They include three children.
khaama.com/hand-grenade-explosion-leaves-16-wounded-in-nangarhar-4547
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Situation is extremely complex in Afghanistan, says top US commander
By Khaama Press - Fri Feb 05 2016
The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan Gen. John Campbell has said the situation is extremely complex in Afghanistan, insisting on an early adjustment to the current U.S. troops withdrawal plan from the country.
Gen. Campbell told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday that the Taliban were emboldened by the U.S. withdrawal and the concomitant reduction in close air support.
He said the Taliban “have fought the Afghan security forces very tough, and we can’t let that happen as we move forward,” he said.
According to Gen. Campbell, the reduction of the troops as per the current plan would limit the train, advise and assist mission in Afghanistan.
Full report here: khaama.com/situation-is-extremely-complex-in-afghanistan-says-top-us-commander-0077
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Gen. Nicholson as new commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan
By Khaama Press - Fri Feb 05 2016
The U.S. President Barack Obama’s pick to lead the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan Lieutenant General John Nicholson was approved by a U.S. Senate Committee on Thursday.
The Senate Armed Services Committee during a hearing with the outgoing commander of the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan General John Campbell.
In his testimony to the committee last week, Gen. Nicholson said he aims to review the current troops withdrawal plan from Afghanistan.
The number of U.S. Troops in Afghanistan are expected to be reduced nearly by half as per the current plan, however Gen. Nicholson said the review would be made taking into consideration the deteriorating security situation of the country.
Full report here: khaama.com/gen-nicholson-as-new-commander-of-u-s-forces-in-afghanistan-0078
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Gen. Dostum rejects he intends to step down from government
By Khaama Press - Thu Feb 04 2016
The First Vice President Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum rejected reports suggesting his intention to step down from the government of national unity.
Admitting shortcomings that often lead to tensions with the government leaders, Gen. Dostum raised questions regarding the reports, saying “How it would be possible to distance from the government that we put efforts into for its establishment?”
The First Vice President was speaking during a gathering organized by the Youth Congress of Hezb-e-Junbish Millie led by him.
Full report here: khaama.com/gen-dostum-rejects-he-intends-to-step-down-from-government-0076
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Southeast Asia
Terror attacks loom as Indonesian trio vie for Islamic State glory
AFP | Feb 5, 2016
JAKARTA: A power struggle among three Indonesian-born Islamic State militants in Syria could have a violent ripple effect in Southeast Asia, senior police warn, as a deadly game of one-upmanship threatens to cause more Jakarta-style attacks.
A crackdown in the wake of January's gun and suicide assault on the Indonesian capital has uncovered a complex web of small militant cells working at the behest of competing ringleaders in Syria, shedding light on the nature of IS infiltration far from its Middle East heartland.
Full report here: timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/rest-of-world/Terror-attacks-loom-as-Indonesian-trio-vie-for-Islamic-State-glory/articleshow/50861852.cms
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Mideast
PM Davutoğlu announces 10-point action plan in fight against terrorism
February 05, 2016
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has announced a 10-article action plan to eliminate Turkey's terrorism problem, underlining that the government will from now on treat people as partners rather than enemies in the settlement of Turkey's long-standing Kurdish problem.
According to the action plan, which Davutoğlu announced in a meeting in Mardin on Friday, the government will introduce democratic reforms while determinedly fighting to eradicate the terrorist acts by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in the country's predominantly Kurdish Southeast.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) launched, at the end of 2012, a settlement process with Abdullah Öcalan, the PKK's jailed leader, to resolve Turkey's decades-old terrorism and Kurdish issue.
The process collapsed when armed clashes began again in summer last year between the security forces and the PKK.
todayszaman.com/anasayfa_pm-davutoglu-announces-10-point-action-plan-in-fight-against-terrorism_411525.html
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Official: Russian talk of Turkish incursion in Syria is propaganda
February 05, 2016
Turkey is not planning a military incursion into Syria and Russian talk of such action is propaganda, a senior Turkish government official said on Friday.
"Turkey does not have any plans or thoughts of staging a military campaign or ground incursion in Syria," the official told Reuters, adding Russia was stepping up its own military campaign in Syria every day instead of working for a solution.
"Turkey is part of a coalition, is working with its allies, and will continue to do so. As we have repeatedly said, Turkey will not act unilaterally," the official said.
A Russian defense ministry spokesman said on Thursday that Moscow had serious grounds to suspect Turkey was preparing a military incursion in Syria.
todayszaman.com/latest-news_official-russian-talk-of-turkish-incursion-in-syria-is-propaganda_411527.html
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Report: 9 killed in fire in Cizre building
February 05, 2016
Nine people were killed and 25 others were injured when a fire broke out in a building in Cizre, a town in southeastern Turkey that has been under a curfew since mid-December last year, a news report said on Friday.
The private İhlas news agency said the fire broke out in a building in the Cudi neighborhood of Cizre.
İdris Baluken, a deputy for the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), wrote on his Twitter account that authorities failed to send firefighters to the building. He said 25 more people were said to still bein the building and that they had suffered severe burns. "We have contacted the Health Ministry so that ambulances pick up the injured. Every second lost will mean new deaths," he wrote.
He also said among those trapped in the building were members of Cizre's local People's Assembly.
Full report here: todayszaman.com/latest-news_report-9-killed-in-fire-in-cizre-building_411516.html
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Iran's Top Commander: US Seeking to Assassinate General Soleimani
February 05, 2016
TEHRAN (FNA)- Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Hassan Firouzabadi warned that the US is planning to assassinate Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force Commander Major General Qassem Soleimani.
"The Americans are desperate to hit General Soleimani to make them feel better about themselves," Firouzabadi told reporters in Tehran on Thursday.
He however maintained that maximum security measures are in place to protect the Iranian commander from such threats, who knows how to organize his forces, launch offensives against terrorists, and earn results.
General Soleimani, himself, had said last November that he expected martyrdom as he laughed at rumors about his well-being.
Full report here: en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941115000546
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Iranian Quds Force Advisors, Syrian Army, Hezbollah, Iraqi Units Replace Popular Forces in Nubl
February 05, 2016
TEHRAN (FNA)- The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force advisors along with the Syrian army, Hezbollah and Iraqi resistance units replaced the popular forces in the Eastern parts of Nubl and al-Zahra towns whose siege was broken on Wednesday afternoon.
The army broke the terrorists' four-year-long siege of Nubl and al-Zahra in the Northern Aleppo province on Wednesday afternoon.
The Iranian advisors and the Syrian, Hezbollah and Iraqi forces replaced the popular forces who have become tired of fighting against the terrorists in the past four years to start serious purging operations in the region.
Full report here: en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941115000318
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Iran’s Shahed-129 Drone in Combat Operations in Syria
February 05, 2016
TEHRAN (FNA)- The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) said on Thursday that its Shahed (Eye-Witness) 129 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is providing combat support to the resistance front in the war on terrorism in Syria.
As reported by the Iranian state TV, the drone can fly as far as 2,000km to carry out any type of combat missions outside the national borders. The specifications referred to by the report mentions an effective operational radius of 1,700 km, datalink range of 200km, flight endurance of 24 hours, and a flight ceiling of 24,000 feet.
Full report here: en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941115000734
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Two Israeli minors get long jail terms for killing Palestinian teen in 2014
AP | Feb 4, 2016
JERUSALEM: An Israeli court on Thursday sentenced two Israeli minors for the murder of a 16-year-old Palestinian in 2014, sending one to life in prison for a crime that provoked deep soul-searching in Israel and was one of a series of events that led to the Gaza war later that year.
The court sentenced a second Israeli teenager, believed to have had a lesser role in the crime, to 21 years in prison. Another Israeli defendant is awaiting his verdict following a psychological examination.
The three Israelis snatched Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir from an east Jerusalem neighborhood in July 2014, driving him to a nearby forest and then burning him to death.
Full report here: timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/Two-Israeli-minors-get-long-jail-terms-for-killing-Palestinian-teen-in-2014/articleshow/50856950.cms
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India
11 suspected ISIS operatives sent to 7-day NIA custody
PTI | Feb 5, 2016
New Delhi: Eleven suspected ISIS operatives, who were arrested from across the country for allegedly recruiting and financing people to join the Middle-East terror group, were on Friday remanded in seven days NIA custody by a Delhi court.
The accused, who had their faces muffled, were produced before District Judge Amar Nath amidst tight security and, according to lawyers who attended the in-camera proceedings, NIA had sought extension of their custodial interrogation by 10 more days.
NIA said in its remand application that the accused have disclosed during their interrogation "their involvement in this case about recruiting and financing persons willing to join the Caliphate of ISIS at Syria".
Full report here: timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/11-suspected-ISIS-operatives-sent-to-7-day-NIA-custody/articleshow/50865253.cms
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Nawaz Sharif hopes India-Pak talks will move forward soon
PTI | Feb 5, 2016
AMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday voiced hope that the comprehensive bilateral dialogue process between Pakistan and India would move forward in days to come as he underlined that "differences" on all outstanding issues, including on Kashmir can be resolved only through talks.
Addressing a joint session of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir's 'assembly' in Muzaffarabad to mark 'Kashmir Solidarity Day', Sharif also said that Pakistan is ready to cooperate with India on every matter, including terrorism.
"Pakistan is most affected by terrorism. Who wants eradication of terrorism more than Pakistan?" he said.
Full report here: timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/Nawaz-Sharif-hopes-India-Pak-talks-will-move-forward-soon/articleshow/50867187.cms
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No visa extension for PIA officials, Pak warns India people-to-people contact could be hit
Sachin Parashar | TNN | Feb 4, 2016
New Delhi: After Indian authorities allegedly refused to extend visa of senior Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) officials, Pakistan has warned India that the move will hurt people-to-people contact between the 2 countries.
PIA is the national carrier of Pakistan and provides the only direct air link between the 2 countries.
PIA's Saeed Ahmed Khan and Shabbir Ahmed are station managers for the airlines in Delhi and Mumbai respectively. They have apparently been "stranded'' in India for almost a month now after their visas expired in the first week of January.
Pakistan has now taken up the issue with the MEA saying the decision to not issue visa to PIA officials went against the stated commitment to improve relations between the 2 countries, especially after PM Narendra Modi's Lahore initiative which followed the announcement of resumption of the composite dialogue process on December 9 last year.
Full report here: timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/No-visa-extension-for-PIA-officials-Pak-warns-India-people-to-people-contact-could-be-hit/articleshow/50857865.cms
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Australia
Australian churches to offer refuge to asylum seekers
AFP | Feb 4, 2016
Activists hold placards and chant pro-asylum seeker slogans as they protest outside the offices of the Australian immigration department in Sydney. (Reuters photo)Activists hold placards and chant pro-asylum seeker slogans as they protest outside the offices of the Austral... Read More
SYDNEY: Australian church leaders on Thursday said they would offer sanctuary to asylum seekers facing removal to a remote Pacific detention camp, vowing to defy the government's harsh immigration rules.
The asylum seekers, who were brought to Australia from Nauru mostly for medical reasons, number more than 260 and include 37 babies born in the country and 54 other children, advocates said.
Full report here: timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/rest-of-world/Australian-churches-to-offer-refuge-to-asylum-seekers/articleshow/50852867.cms
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Europe
Merkel to travel to Turkey again over migrants
February 05, 2016
The German government said on Friday that Chancellor Angela Merkel will travel to Ankara on Monday to meet with Turkey's prime minister as she tries to reduce the migrant influx to Europe.
This will be the second time Merkel visits Turkey in recent months. The German chancellor visited Turkey on Oct. 18 for talks with Turkish leaders again on the refugee crisis.
On Jan. 22, Merkel met with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in Berlin for intergovernmental talks.
German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Friday that Merkel and Davutoğlu decided on the trip when they met at this week's aid conference for Syria in London.
Turkey, a key country on the migrant route to Europe, is central to Merkel's diplomatic efforts to reduce the number of migrants coming to Germany. She has resisted pressure for unilateral measures such as a national cap on refugee numbers.
todayszaman.com/latest-news_merkel-to-travel-to-turkey-again-over-migrants_411531.html
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North America
New US intelligence report says Islamic State weaker
Reuters | Feb 5, 2016
Islamic State has as many as 25,000 fighters in Syria and Iraq, down from a previous estimate of up to 31,000, according to a US intelligence report revealed by the White House on Thursday.
US officials cited factors such as battlefield casualties and desertions to explain the roughly 20 percent decrease in fighters, and said the report showed a US-led campaign to crush Islamic State was making progress.
The new intelligence estimate "means they continue to be a substantial threat, but the potential numbers have declined," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
"ISIS has sustained significant casualties," Earnst said.
Ground fighting efforts by coalition partners of the United States are having an effect in the conflict against Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, he said.
Full report here: timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/New-US-intelligence-report-says-Islamic-State-weaker/articleshow/50861026.cms
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Racist slur hits Canada’s Sikh mantri in House of Canada
PTI | Feb 5, 2016
TORONTO: Canada's first Sikh defence minister Harjit Sajjan has been heckled in Parliament with an opposition member shouting that MPs needed an "English-to-English" translation as he spoke, an act dubbed as "racist".
Veteran Conservative MP Jason Kenney sparked a controversy in the question period in Parliament with the heckle directed at Sajjan while the minister was responding about the military mission against the Islamic State. Kenney, a former defence minister himself, said MPs needed an "English to English" translation of Sajjan's responses.
Full report here: timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/rest-of-world/Racist-slur-hits-Canadas-Sikh-mantri-in-House/articleshow/50858794.cms