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Newsroom diaries 2016: From Kashmir to Syria, a year in terror

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series of newsroom diaries by various members of the Firstpost team. These diaries will provide you with the journalist’s recollections of a particular bit of news coverage in 2016 in which she/he was deeply involved.

In 2001 the world saw the devastating 9/11 attack, with awe and shock. That moment changed everything. We became a more scared group of people. Abandoned bags and clothing choices made us scared. This situation grew worse in 2016, for this year, we got normalised to terror attacks.

It was 2 January and a group of terrorists attacked an airbase in Pathankot, killing 8 people. This set the tone for the rest of the year and it was all downhill from there on.

The year saw some of the most incredulous attacks by Islamic State or IS-inspired terrorists. This included the Brussels airport attack where a coordinated attack by suicide bombers killed 32 people. Then was the Nice attack where a cargo truck was deliberately driven into a group of people on Bastille Day killing 86 and injuring 434. In December, the Syrian conflict had one of the worst repercussion beyond its borders with the assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey in Ankara. A 22-year-old Turkish gunman Andrey Karlov shot dead the 62-year-old diplomat in what appeared to be revenge for Russia’s part in the violence in Syria.

Russia’s ambassador to Turkey was assassinated in Ankara at an art exhibit by a lone Turkish gunman shouting “God is great!” and “don’t forget Aleppo, don’t forget Syria!”. The assassination was photographed and it presented one of the most chilling moments in 2016.

An unnamed gunman shouts after shooting the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, at a photo gallery in Ankara. APAn unnamed gunman shouts after shooting the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, at a photo gallery in Ankara. AP

An unnamed gunman shouts after shooting the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, at a photo gallery in Ankara. AP

The frequency of terror attacks in 2016 was so great that changing the Facebook display pictures became a daily activity for people who sympathised with the victims of these attacks. There were regular fights on social media over the media coverage allotted to a particular attack. The logic was that when a western country was attacked, people noticed, as opposed to when the middle-eastern belt or Asian and African belt was hit. This is probably why 2016 remained etched in people’s memories, for the rise in hits on the European civilisation.

United States suffered the worst attack since 9/11

People take part in a protest against police brutality and in support of Black Lives Matter during a march in New York. ReutersPeople take part in a protest against police brutality and in support of Black Lives Matter during a march in New York. Reuters

People take part in a protest against police brutality and in support of Black Lives Matter during a march in New York. Reuters

This year, the United States suffered under attacks of gun-violence, fundamentalism and racial tension. The ‘Orlando terror attack’ where a 29-year-old Islamic State-inspired radical entered a gay nightclub and killed 49 people, was perhaps the biggest attack on the LGBTQ community. A hate-crime like this one spoke volumes about the rise of intolerance in a Trumpian era. The Orlando attack was the second major terror attack on the US soil since 9/11 and this reign of terror was further fuelled when the major movement for equality — Black Lives Matter — turned violent after the death of police officers during the protest rallies in Dallas and Baton Rouge.

Tentions escalate between India and Pakistan

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

In 2016, there was palpable tension between India and Pakistan and one of the possible reasons was how the year started for the two nations. In January, the Pathankot attack happened and it was the beginning of the signs of mistrust between the two nations. On 8 November, when news about PM Modi’s address to the nation came in, we all thought he was going to announce something in relation to taking strong action against Pakistan.

This notion was not unfounded. For 20 minutes between the announcement of address and the actual address, theories about war were floating on the desk. This was because a month ago, on 29 September, a military confrontation between India and Pakistan began. India claimed that it had conducted “surgical strikes” against militant launch pads across the Line of Control in Pakistani-administered Azad Kashmir, and inflicted “significant casualties”. This was touted as Modi’s surgical strike against Pakistan and was instigated by the 19 September Uri attack where 17 Indian soldiers were killed. The Uri attack was reported as “the deadliest attack on security forces in Kashmir in two decades”

The number of ceasefire violations had increased manifold since then. Out of the total number of 151 ceasefire violations in 2016, 110 of them happened since September.

The palpable tension between the two nations put everyone on edge.

The normalcy of terror attacks hit a raw nerve

There wasn’t just one moment or one incident which affected me the most this year. The normalcy of the situation hit a raw note. “What terror attack are we covering today,” was a frequently heard adage on the desk. The clinical process on the desk when one of these strikes happened was: prep the live blog, write the death toll copies, write analysis copies, do reaction copy, etc. Everybody got the hang of this process after the first few attacks.

However, the efficiency of the desk meant that too many of these attacks had happened and too many people had lost their lives. 2016 had ushered in a new era of normalcy.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 09:24 IST

Mumbai youth who joined Islamic State killed in Syria, terror outfit calls him ‘martyr’

In an official acknowledgment, the Islamic State on Tuesday confirmed the death of Aman Tandel, the Kalyan youth who left for Syria to fight for the Islamic State, a report published in DNA said.

The Islamic State paid tribute to Tandel on Telegram, a social networking site. While hailing him a “martyr”, the message added that he died in Raqqah — a city under the control of the terror group, the report said.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

A report published in The Hindu on Thursday said that security agencies confirmed the death of the Kalyan youth. “We cannot say when and how it happened, but on the basis of accounts provided by the family and other foreign agencies, it is confirmed that Tandel died in clashes in Syria,” the paper quoted an official as saying.

In November, the family of Aman Tandel received an unknown call from Turkey informing them of his death in an airstrike, reported Mid Day.

Tandel, an electrical engineer, along with two others, travelled to Iraq on the pretext of a pilgrimage in June 2014. He is the second India-born Islamic State fighter to be killed after Saheem Tanki — who is believed to have been killed in August 2015, The Hindu reported.

Meanwhile, a Mumbra-based youth Tabrez Tambe, who reportedly joined the Islamic State, came under the scanner of the Maharashtra ATS after the investigation agency refused to accept his claim that he is incarcerated in Libya, reported Mumbai Mirror.

Tambe reportedly called his brother Saud two weeks back and informed him of his arrest by Libyan authorities, the report added.

However, the ATS claims it has not yet received any report on his detention from Libya. The investigative agency believed that Tambe might be faking the story to avoid being arrested in India.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 17:23 IST

Jordanian national radicalised Hyderabad’s ISIS suspect: NIA

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A deceased Jordanian man has emerged as the one behind “initiating” a Hyderabadi man into the fold of the jihadist ideology, an act which culminated in the formation of an Islamic State (IS)-affiliated group in India. The terrorist group later named itself the Jhund Ul Khalifa al-Hind Fl Bilad or Army of the Caliph in south India.A charge sheet filed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Saturday stated that it was between June 2013 and 2014 that Mohammed Ibrahim Yazdani, 30, met Jordanian national who went by the name Suhayb Al Abudi. Ibrahim was then working at the Riyadh-based Bazee Trading Company and made friends with the Jordanian, who was also working in the same company.According to the NIA, Abudi showed Ibrahim several videos of Syrian forces allegedly committing atrocities on Sunni Muslims. Through this, he convinced him that Syrian President Bashar Al Assad was the man responsible for these atrocities.”He (Abudi) also argued that Bashar Al Assad, the Syrian President, was committing atrocities on Sunni Muslims in Syria and the lS was waging jihad against the Assad government. lbrahim Yazdani visited India in June, 2014 for two months, but he kept communicating with Suhayb Al Abudi on Facebook,” reads the NIA document accessed by DNA.According to the probe agency, when IS declared itself a Caliphate under Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in June 2014, and seized large areas in Syria and Iraq, Ibrahim was allegedly highly influenced by the declaration of the Caliphate and had come to a firm belief that it was every Muslim’s bounden duty to perform Hijrah, i.e. migration to the Caliphate.However, his plans hit a roadblock soon when he got to know that Abudi had been killed in Syria in September 2014. The news was broken to him by an individual named Sulaiman who identified himself as the brother of Abudi.Subsequently, after months of following the changing geopolitical situation in Iraq and Syria on Twitter and other social media websites, Ibrahim managed to get in touch with a person who identified himself as, “Abu lssa Al Amriki,” in January 2015.It was Amriki who became the main handler of the Hyderabad module of IS and guided the group through Ibrahim. He advised the 30-year-old not to visit Syria or Iraq and instead directed that, “he should carry on the work of Allah from India itself.”Investigators have referred to the Hyderabad module as the most dangerous in India, citing factors like covert methods employed to recruit the youth, the way in which the members of the terrorist module communicated with each other, and the expertise of the IS handler and those employed to collect arms and ammunition.Everything seemed to go as per plan as Ibrahim managed to recruit several youth from Hyderabad including his own younger brother — till June 29, the date when the NIA finally busted the module. But investigators say that interest in the Hyderabad module was on the wane with some youth, allegedly recruited by Ibrahim — and whose identities are protected by the NIA— left the group right before an alleged terror attack could have been carried. The chargesheet lists out four Protected Witnesses PW’s, who were recruited by Ibrahim and other members of the Hyderabad module at some point of time.In its charge sheet, NIA mentions a youth who was recruited and, “then grew fearful as he did not approve of the plans for the terrorist acts by the group. He then stage-managed his exit from the group by disappearing on the 15 May, 2016, by spreading a message that he was picked up by the police/NlA and questioned about his activities.” This was more than a month before the group was busted.NIA has claimed that even after his exit, the group continued to make plans of carrying terror attacks, but this was after disbanding for a period of five days.Starting May 29, it was business as usual, with the members of the module given different duties, including collecting weapons, planning escape routes, collecting money, and so on. On June 19, three years after Ibrahim was initiated into the jihadist fold, held a meeting during an iftar at the home of another accused named Habeeb Mohammad.It was on this day that Ibrahim, who himself was radicalized by Jordanian nationals, would try to do the same to two other individuals or protected witnesses. Ten days later, however the whole operation came at a staggering halt with NIA making the first arrest.

Aleppo crisis: No tears are being shed for survivors, not in India anyway

“And what is Aleppo?” That fateful answer, to a TV anchor’s query “What would you do, if you were elected, about Aleppo,” is said to have sunk whatever chances Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson had of being taken seriously as a contender for the US Presidency.

Indian politicians need have no such worries. They’ll never have their Aleppo moment as no Indian journalist would bother to ask them such a question. Because no Indian reader or viewer would care to know the answer.

The civil war in Syria has already been going on almost as long as the Second World War. Over 2,000 days of bombing, killing, ransacking, pillage, rape, starvation, disease, displacement and all the horrors that accompany any war. But we were, at most, dimly aware of the havoc in a not so distant part of our continent until the refugee crisis rocked the Western world.

Even then, we may not have been overly concerned by what the UN humanitarian chief, Stephen O’Brien, had to say recently, that Syria is a “living hell” and a “pitiless and merciless abyss of a humanitarian catastrophe”. A “meltdown of humanity” in short. Not our business, we told ourselves.

Reports of seven-year-old Bana Alabed bravely tweeting about the horrors of life in east Aleppo, of doing homework while the bombs fall around her, may (or may not) have tickled our curiosity but that was all. Her tweet on Monday ready: “Final message – people are dying since last night. I am very surprised I am tweeting right now and still alive, 6:19 PM – 12 Dec 2016.”

The images of dazed and bloodied children sitting alone in the back of an ambulance or lying face down, dead, on a beach did move us, but the spark of compassion was only too momentary, the ensuing introspection all too brief.

Today the fight for Aleppo, Syria’s largest city till the killings denuded its numbers, is almost over but not the miseries of its long-suffering citizens. They stayed, and paid the price for not leaving their homeland with life and limb. But to Syria’s President and his allies they will only be seen as rebels or supporters of rebels, hence undeserving of any mercy. Aleppo will be cleansed of the anti-Assad opposition and anyone who sympathised with it, ruthlessly and systematically. We will be too busy living.

“Remember that terrifying moment in the film Hotel Rwanda?” a friend posted in Facebook. “When it’s clear no country is interested in helping those trapped in the civil war, except the UN camp guarded by UN peacekeeping force. That there is no shelter, no respite from the brutal violence, no escaping the bloodbath? As Aleppo goes down, it’s the same feeling of utter helplessness. There’s no power in the world to stop what’s likely to happen there as innocent people stare into the darkness.”

Should we care? After all, it’s not as if we don’t have enough crosses of our own to bear. Too many of them in fact, at any given time. Yeah, we are too vast, too varied, subject to too many natural man-made disasters, often all at the same time (think Chennai, clobbered by demonetisation, death and cyclone with barely any respite). News editors of this country are blessed: there’s rarely a slow news day in India.

Yet, with all our trials and tribulations, we used to, care that is. Not purely because of geo-political or economic reasons considerations but on humanitarian grounds too. As African National Congress leader Ahmed Kathrada, who spent 26 years in jail along with Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu, recalled in 2014, the 125th birth anniversary of our first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, “We will forever remain grateful to Nehru’s government for initiating the campaign to isolate apartheid South Africa.”

People carry their belongings as they flee the Kadi Askar area towards Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood, in rebel-held besieged Kadi Askar area of Aleppo, Syria on 5 December 2016. ReutersPeople carry their belongings as they flee the Kadi Askar area towards Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood, in rebel-held besieged Kadi Askar area of Aleppo, Syria on 5 December 2016. Reuters

People carry their belongings as they flee the Kadi Askar area towards Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood, in rebel-held besieged Kadi Askar area of Aleppo, Syria on 5 December 2016. Reuters

Yes, initiating. “It was only in the 1980s that the rest of the world started to follow the lead of India and the isolation of South Africa from all facets of global life took hold,” pointed out Kathrada. “The steadfastness of Nehru and the All-India Congress leaders served as beacons for the international anti-apartheid movement.”

Our world was larger, it went not just me, my family, my country that is the mantra today. For Nehru, the racial policy of the apartheid government of South Africa was the “greatest international immorality for a nation to carry on that way”. Apartheid became history almost three decades after his death, but he never wavered.

It may have been the times, it may have been the leader, Indians subscribed wholeheartedly. Even in the Eighties, when India earning its place under the sun in cricket, boycotting South Africa on the fields was seen as a badge of honour. Idealism mattered, self-interest was not defined so narrowly.

No longer. Though this is what separates the boys from the men in the international community. The courage to take a stand out of conviction and moral resoluteness, not because it serves some immediate accounting interest dictated by considerations of trade or investment or diplomacy. When we did, as in earthquake-ravaged Nepal, we beat our drums so much that we ended up making enemies of the very people we wanted to help.

No tears are being shed for Aleppo’s survivors, not in India anyway. Few Indians have family or friends there, it attracts few students or tourists from here and is not the stuff of our dreams and fantasies. So who cares who rules Syria and how.

If anything, the Modi government, predicated on the fear of terrorism and buying into Syria’s assertion that its fight was against radical Islam and not mere critics, has taken pains to keep on the right side of President Bashar al-Assad. Diplomatic contacts between the two countries have never faltered, extending even to the organising of yoga classes in the besieged country, courtesy a Delhi police officer tasked with protecting the Indian embassy who knows his pranayam too. Evidently it did not nothing to calm the tempers there.

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 12:24 IST

Syrian official says Palmyra falls again to Islamic State | Reuters

By Suleiman Al-Khalidi
| AMMAN

AMMAN The governor of Syria’s Homs province told state television on Sunday that the army was fighting to regain control of the ancient city of Palmyra after Islamic State had captured earlier in the day.In the government’s first official admission that Palmyra had fallen once again to the militants, Ikhbariyah TV quoted Governor Talal Barazi as saying the army had pulled out of the city.”The army is using all means to prevent the terrorists from staying in Palmyra,” he was quoted as saying, hours after IS and a Britain-based monitoring group both said the militants had full control of the city in his eastern province.Earlier on Sunday, Islamic State militants and Syria’s Russian-backed army both claimed they had the upper hand in the fight for the city. Russia said its jets had helped force the militants out of the city centre overnight and its allies in the Syrian army were now fighting off another assault by the hardline Islamists.

But a news agency linked to Islamic State then said it had only briefly retreated and was now back in control of Palmyra, an account backed by the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict.Palmyra, the site of a Roman-era city and spectacular ruins in the centre of Syria, has become an emblematic battleground in a civil war now in its sixth year.Forces allied to Syria’s government first recaptured the city from Islamic State in March, a victory held up as a major turning point in the war and the biggest reversal for the militants since Russia’s intervention to support Damascus.

But Islamic State militants launched a surprise advance on the city on Thursday, taking control of nearby oil and gas fields and pushing towards an airbase used by Russian forces, the Observatory said.Russia’s defence ministry said its jets had launched 64 strikes and killed more than 300 militants overnight, helping the Syrian army push the main force back.More than 4,000 Islamic State militants had since regrouped and launched a second attack on Sunday, Russian news agencies cited Moscow’s monitoring centre in Syria as saying.

“Despite heavy losses in manpower and equipment, the terrorists are trying as hard as possible to secure a foothold inside the city,” Interfax quoted a statement from the centre as saying. “Syrian troops are fighting to defend Palmyra.”Syria’s army acknowledged there was a large offensive by the militants from several fronts near a major grain silo 10 km (6 miles) east of the city.An Islamic State recapture of Palmyra would be a major reversal for Syria’s government and its Russian backer, which hailed the city’s capture in March, sent troops to protect it and even staged a concert there. (Additional reporting by Jack Stubbs in Moscow; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

First Published On : Dec 11, 2016 21:28 IST

Trump dismisses reports Russia helped him in U.S. election | Reuters

By Doina Chiacu and Howard Schneider
| WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON U.S. President-elect Donald Trump rejected as “ridiculous” reported U.S. intelligence findings that Russia intervened in the presidential election on his behalf through targeted hacking, saying he did not believe it, according to an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”The Republican president-elect’s comments casting doubt on reported U.S. intelligence findings pits him against some leading foreign policy voices in the U.S. Senate from his own party who on Sunday expressed alarm about election meddling by Moscow.”I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it,” Trump said in the interview, which was taped on Saturday.He blamed Democrats for putting out the media reports and said he did not believe they came from the Central Intelligence Agency.Trump’s dismissal was perhaps aimed at squashing doubts about whether he won the Nov. 8 election fairly. However, his comments could also portend conflicts between the new president and the intelligence agencies he will command and feed criticism that his administration will be soft on Russia.The Republican real estate magnate was expected to appoint as secretary of state Exxon Mobile Corp Chief Executive Rex Tillerson, who has close ties with Moscow and has spoken out against U.S. sanctions on Russia.

U.S. intelligence agencies have told Congress and the administration of President Barack Obama that Russia has grown increasingly aggressive in Syria and Ukraine and has stepped up activities in cyberspace including meddling, sometimes covertly, in European and U.S. elections.A senior U.S. intelligence official told Reuters intelligence agencies have concluded with “high confidence” that not only did their Russian counterparts direct the hacking of Democratic Party organizations and leaders, but they did so to undermine Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. The Republican president-elect questioned whether the Central Intelligence Agency was behind the reports that indicated Moscow wanted him in the White House. “I think the Democrats are putting it out,” he said in the interview.

Two leading Republican voices on foreign policy in the U.S. Senate, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, joined two Democratic senators on Sunday in expressing concern over possible Russian interference in a U.S. presidential election.”For years, foreign adversaries have directed cyber attacks at America’s physical, economic, and military infrastructure, while stealing our intellectual property. Now our democratic institutions have been targeted,” the senators, including Democrats Chuck Schumer and Jack Reed, said in a statement.”Recent reports of Russian interference in our election should alarm every American.”

“This cannot become a partisan issue. The stakes are too high for our country,” the senators said in a statement. Reince Priebus, the Republican Party leader Trump picked to be his chief of staff in the White House, attacked the news reports for relying on unidentified sources and denied a New York Times report that the Republican National Committee was hacked. He was speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”Russian officials have denied all accusations of interference in the U.S. election. (Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Howard Schneider; Editing by Mary Milliken and Phil Berlowitz)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

First Published On : Dec 11, 2016 21:11 IST

Slain ISIS operative indoctrinated, recruited 5 Hyderabad men

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A key Islamic State (IS) planner from its External Operations division, known by his alias Abu Isa al Amriki, has been identified by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) as one of the main handlers who indoctrinated and recruited five Hyderabad men who conspired to form an IS-inspired module.This is the first time the NIA has identified overseas handlers in its investigation establishing a link that the module in India was set up on the directives of IS based in Syria/Iraq.Amriki will be named in the charge sheet on the Hyderabad module to be filed this month, as one of the handlers from the IS directed to recruit from India, senior NIA officials told DNA. The NIA, in June, arrested five men – Ibrahim and Ilyas Yazdani, Habib Mohammad, Mohammad Irfan and Abdullah Bin Ahmad. They were carrying explosives and weapons for allegedly carrying out terror attacks in the name of IS.Amriki, believed to be an American citizen, was a Sudanese national and was also known as Abu Saad al Sudani. He was killed in an airstrike by US coalition forces on April 22 this year, along with his wife Umm Isa al Amriki, an Australian national. Pentagon has also confirmed Amriki’s role as a planner in the IS’ external operations division, headed by Abu Mohammad al-Adnani mastermind behind the deadly attacks in France, the US, Belgium and Turkey.”Forensic investigation on chat messages, emails, online communication and interrogation of the five suspects has revealed that they received instructions from IS operatives. Based on the IP addresses, the language in chat messages, conversations and accent, we have established that Amirki was one of the handlers. There is also a second handler based in Syria, who seems to be of Indian origin,” asenior NIA officer said.Amriki is booked as a conspirator in the New York New Year’s eve attack in 2015, wherein accused Emanuel L Lutchman, an American citizen from Rochester, New York, pleaded guilty of planning to carry out terrorist attack in the name of IS.The NIA officer said that the modus operandi followed by Amriki in recruiting Lutchman and the Hyderabad men online was strikingly similar. Amriki introduced himself as an IS member based in Syria and encouraged Ibrahim to travel to the Caliphate and join the IS.After the two failed attempts to travel to Syria via Greece and Turkey, Ibrahim came into contact with a second handler – an Urdu speaking IS fighter, whose leads were given by Amriki – in November. The second handler convinced Ibrahim that there was no need to travel to Syria and he should stay in India and continue to do his work (jihad). This included recruiting more members, setting up a module, procuring explosives and carrying out terror attacks.The five suspects also issued a bayah (pledge of allegiance) in the name of IS leader Abu Bakar al Baghdadi, signed and sent through email to the second handler. NIA says he is still active online and he is operating and responding from IS-controlled areas, possibly Aleppo or Raqqa.

Kolkata: FBI team arrives to interrogate Islamic State operative Musa

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A seven-member team of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the domestic intelligence and security service of the United States, have arrived in West Bengal to interrogate ISIS operative Musa. The team arrived at the National Investigation Agency (NIA) office in Kolkata on Thursday afternoon. 25-year-old Mohammad Masiuddin alias Musa was arrested from Burdwan railway station by the CID on July 4 on charges of radicalising youths to join ISIS. Later, the probe was taken over by the NIA and the agency is currently probing his links to Jamaat-Ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and also the Dhaka attacks. While the Superintendent of Police of the zonal unit of NIA in Kolkata, Soumitra Dhar refused to divulge the reason of interrogation, sources in the NIA reveal that Musa had agreed to take on an assignment from a JMB leader Abu Suleiman to target foreigners and US nationals in India and behead them.In March 2015, Musa had met Abu Suleiman in West Bengal during his sister’s wedding. Musa had been in touch with Suleiman over Facebook, but Suleiman had expressed his wish to meet Musa in person. Later, Musa invited him to attend his sister’s wedding, held in Bengal. Suleiman is now on the run and both – the Indian and Bangladeshi governments are looking for him.Musa came under the scanner of CID and NIA after his e-mails and calls were traced to Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Syria. Officials in the investigating agency highlight that he had been touch with several ISIS operatives in Syria through social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Initial investigations revealed that he had also been in touch with several JMB operatives in Bangladesh.Earlier, in the month of August, a three-member-team of Bangladesh’s security intelligence department had also come to Kolkata to interrogate Musa.

Two Turkish soldiers killed in bomb blast near Syria’s al-Bab: Report

Wed, 7 Dec 2016-03:15pm , Istanbul , Reuters
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Two Turkish soldiers were killed and one was seriously wounded in a vehicle-borne bomb attack near the Islamic State controlled town of al-Bab in northern Syria, broadcaster CNN Turk reported on Wednesday.The attack occurred as Syrian rebels, backed by Turkish troops, aircraft and artillery, besieged al-Bab as part of the three-month-old Euphrates Shield operation to push Islamic State and Kurdish militia forces away from Turkey’s border region.

Kalyan youth who joined Islamic State ‘killed’ in Syria

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a phone call purportedly made from Turkey, an anonymous caller on Saturday claimed that Aman Naeem Tandel, alleged to be an Islamic State (IS) recruit, was killed in an airstrike in Iraq. The call, made to Aman’s father Naeem Tandel in Kalyan, has left the entire Tandel family shocked.Aman, Areeb Majeed, Saheem Tanki and Fahad Sheikh, all from Kalyan, had left for Iraq on the pretext of visiting shrines in Baghdad in May 2014 after they were radicalised online and were induced to join IS. While Majeed returned to India in November 2014, Tanki is believed to have died in suicide bombing in Syria in January 2015.The call came when Naeem was in his residence on the second floor of Kungle apartment in Govindwadi area of Kalyan (West) around 11 pm on Saturday. Naeem was informed that his son had achieved martyrdom in an airstrike.”We are in shock as of now. But we are hoping that the call could be fake. We just want our son to come back. We are yet to be approached by the government officials about the call,” Naeem said.Naeem soon informed his relatives in the locality about the call, and people soon began to gather at his house. Naeem met his friends in a local mosque at Gafoor Don Chowk during namaaz and spoke to his close friends about the anonymous call.Earlier, Areeb Majeed’s family had received a phone call and were informed that Majeed had died fighting for IS. The information turned out to be incorrect, and Majeed returned home via Turkey after he got injured while fighting for IS in Syria.Aman’s family and friends believe that like Majeed, Aman too would return home. Badrudinbhai Khureshi, a neighbour, said: “We don’t believe the call. Earlier too, a similar call was received by Areeb Majeed’s family, but he returned. We believe that Aman too will come back one day.”

Rowling sends Potter books to young Syrian fan

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>JK Rowling’s magical book series, Harry Potter has been a hit with both children and adults the world over, ever since the first book released way back in 1997. Her relatable characters coming of age in a magical world of wizards, witches, and unnerving beasts, captured many hearts, and doubly so after they were turned into movies years later. One fan in particular, 7-year-old Bana Alabed, loved the movies so much, that she wanted to read the books as well. Alas, Bana lives in Aleppo, the infamous war-torn city of Syria. None of the series’ books were available in the country, so she did the next best thing – she asked the author to send her some.Fatemah, who runs a Twitter account for her young daughter, helped her reach out to JK Rowling on Monday, saying she really wanted to read the books. Unfortunately, when Rowling encouraged her to get her hands on them, Bana explained that there were no Harry Potter paperbacks available in Syria, a somewhat sobering reflection of the country’s state of perpetual civil war. Rowling immediately sprang into action, she knew it would be hard to have a parcel with hard copies of the books reach Aleppo, so she found the next best thing. Just two days later, on Wednesday, Bana had her own copies of the series’ e-books. The grateful young fan posted a response to Rowling on Twitter saying, “My friend JK Rowling, how are you? Thank you for the book. Love you, from Aleppo.” The author responded once again, her joy at bringing magic into a little girl’s life apparent in her tweet. “Bana, this made me so happy!” she wrote. “Lots of love to you and your brothers!” Fatemah has since posted photos on Twitter of little Bana reading Harry Potter to her two younger brothers on their couch at home. Unfortunately for the little girl, this little spark of excitement is somewhat overshadowed by the multitude of her tweets, pointing out how the family is constantly living in fear of bombardment. Hopefully for Bana and her brother, Harry Potter can be a safe place for them to savour what little they can of their childhood.

19 of 55 stranded Indians from Iraq brought back home: EAM

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>19 of a group of 55 Indians, who were stranded in strife-torn Iraq, have returned home following efforts by the government. Minister of State for External Affairs told Rajya Sabha that Indian Consulate in Iraq’s Erbil has been making efforts to ensure return of the remaining 36 Indians.The Consul General had approached the Prime Minister and the Interior Minister of Kurdistan to ensure return of the Indians, mostly from Telengana, who had overstayed. “As a result of these efforts, a group of 19 Indian nationals has travelled back to India on November 10 without payment of any overstayal penalty,” Singh said.To another question, he said 39 requests for repatriation have been received by Indian Mission in Abu Dhabi and Dubai from persons hailing from Uttar Pradesh. He said a total of 15,431 grievances have been registered on MEA’s online Consular Services Management Portal ‘MADAD’ out of which 9,502 have been resolved.In a written reply to a question on Indians residing in war-torn countries, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj as per records, over 2,500 Indians are residing in Afghanistan, 9,000 in Iraq and about 100 Indians in Syria. The details of people who have not registered with the local missions and embassies were not available.She said government closely monitors the evolving security concerns in strife-torn countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, adding safety and security of Indians in these countries was a matter of foremost concern. “The government has established 24×7 helpline functional in the Indian Missions/Posts in these countries; and issues advisories whenever required,” she said.Replying to another question in Rajya Sabha, Singh said a total of 554 Indian fishermen were arrested in foreign waters during 2016.

NIA gives Zakir Naik two more worries: sister Nailah and IS link

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In what could only mean more trouble for Zakir Naik, the National Investigation agency (NIA) has claimed to have found a link between the Islamic televangelist and a person held for intending to join the Islamic State (IS) in 2015. The arrested individual, identified as Abu Anas, had claimed that he had received a scholarship from Naik’s organisation last year.This, however, is not the only new development in the NIA-led probe against Naik and Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), an organisation headed by the Islamic preacher and now banned by the government. According to NIA, five private companies, in which Naik’s sister Nailah Naushad Noorani is designated as director and additional director, too have come under the scanner after the agency found “connections” between the companies and IRF.”The investigation has revealed that the proscribed IRF has close connections with Harmony Media, Longlast Constructions, Right Property Solutions, Majestic Perfumes and Alpha Lubricants. Documents pertaining to inflow and outflow of foreign and domestic funding, which have been recovered during search operations, are being scrutinised,” NIA spokesperson Alok Mittal said on Tuesday.According to company records, Nailah is designated as additional director Longlast Constructions and Right Property Solutions with the appointment date set to March 12, 2013. She was appointed as director in Harmony Media the very next day. Furthermore, Nailah was appointed as director in Majestic Perfumes and Alpha Lubricants on May 22, 2015.While the private companies allegedly involved in suspected transactions with IRF may soon fall under the ambit of NIA probe, the revelation about Abu Anas, a software engineer and resident of Tonk, Rajasthan is no good news for the televangelist. Anas, 25, was arrested by the NIA in January 2016 for allegedly planning to go to Syria to fight along with IS.”The investigation has also revealed that Abu Anas had received Rs 80,000 from the proscribed IRF as scholarship in October 2015. Anas had planned to go to Syria to fight along with IS in the same period. He was arrested by the NIA in January 2016,” Mittal added.Agency sources told DNA that Anas had also taken a loan of Rs 2 lakh from a private bank with an intention to fly to Syria and this was after he was allegedly successful in sending two Indian recruits to Syria in early 2015.The two Hyderabad-based youth were identified as Arshad Ayub and Mohammed Kadeer.The agency on Tuesday said that it conducted search in one more premise of Naik, taking the number of raids conducted since last week to 20. “These premises are connected to the proscribed IRF and/or its trustees. During the search operations, video tapes and DVDs of Naik’s public speeches, documents related to property and investment, financial transactions, foreign and domestic funding of the proscribed IRF as well as its associated companies, and electronic storage devices have been recovered,” said Mittal.

Sri Lanka says 32 ‘elite’ Muslims have joined IS in Syria | Reuters

By Shihar Aneez
| COLOMBO

COLOMBO Thirty-two Sri Lankan Muslims from “well-educated and elite” families have joined Islamic State in Syria, the justice minister told parliament on Friday, promising that the government would clamp down on extremists.The statement by minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe was condemned by representatives of the Muslim minority, who complained of racism. “All these (Muslims) are not from ordinary families. These people are from the families which are considered as well-educated and elite,” Rajapakshe said, adding that the government was aware of some foreigners coming to Sri Lanka to spread what he called Islamic extremism.”There is a greater fear among the public about ISIS,” he said, using another name for Islamic State. “If somebody tries to spread extremism in this country, we will not allow for that from today. The law of this country is no different to Buddhist monks or ordinary people.”

The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka (MCSL), an umbrella body that includes most Muslim organisations in the country, expressed concern, saying Rajapakshe’s statement came at a “very opportune time to certain extremist elements bent on tarnishing the image” of Sri Lankan Muslims.”The Muslim community is seriously alarmed about the re-emergence of the racist campaign that was carried out by extremist Buddhist monks since the end of the war in 2009,” the MCSL said in a statement. “We urge Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe to provide the evidence and take immediate action against anyone who may have violated the laws of the land, irrespective of ethnicity or religion.”

More than 70 percent of Sri Lanka’s 20 million people are Buddhists, about 13 percent are Hindu, while Muslims make up around 10 percent. President Maithripala Sirisena has been criticised for failing to curb religious hate speech by both Muslims and Buddhists. Some Sinhala Buddhist groups have threatened Muslims and their businesses on social media, while attacks on mosques and Muslim-owned properties have continued under the Sirisena administration.

Muslim leaders warned the government in 2014 of possible Islamic radicalisation and Muslims turning to foreign Islamic groups for support, attributing this to attacks by Buddhist hardliners.Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war ended in 2009 with the military defeating the predominantly Hindu Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who fought for a separate state in the island’s north and east. (Reporting by Shihar Aneez and Ranga Sirilal; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

First Published On : Nov 19, 2016 01:00 IST

India’s ex-Muslims: Shedding traditional Islam for science

India is witnessing the emergence of a movement of ‘ex-Muslims’. Troubled by the involvement of Muslims in suicide bombings in primarily Muslim countries like Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, helped by the availability of alternative interpretations of Islam on the internet, and driven by a questioning mind, Muslim youths in India are gradually leaving Islam. Such youths — both men and women, and well educated — are typically in their twenties and thirties and describe themselves as ex-Muslims, atheists or cultural Muslims. They network through social media, Facebook and WhatsApp, often use anonymous IDs, and are based in towns across India.

Sultan Shahin, editor of the reformist website NewageIslam.com, says that there is no organised movement of ex-Muslims in India like it is in Western countries such as Britain, but some Muslims called him to inquire about real Islam. “I have spoken to 3-4 Muslims who have left five-time prayers. A lawyer in Delhi even convinced his father to leave Islam,” Shahin says, adding that many such youths browse anti-Islam websites and accept the jihadi discourse as real Islam.

Illustration: Satwik GadeIllustration: Satwik Gade

Illustration: Satwik Gade

“I see individuals coming up [on social media] and we know each other. I can say that I am one of them,” says Nadia Nongzai, speaking of ex-Muslims. Nadia, who is based in Shillong and holds a B Tech in computer science and a Master’s degree in economics, comes from a practicing Muslim family. “In school, I could not believe that the god [Allah] who is so great will not have a sense of fair play and will send all non-Muslim kids of my school to hell,” she says, questioning the Islamic teachings that non-Muslims will not enter heaven. She does not hesitate in describing herself an ex-Muslim. Asked if this could pose a security threat to her, she says she doesn’t hide her identity and adds: “I am trained in martial arts.”

Sazi Suber (name changed) was born in Saudi Arabia and raised there by his parents till 10. His mother, who converted from Christianity to Islam and returned to Christianity later, brought him back to Mangalore, where he was sent to a madrassa. Sazi now holds a BE in computer science and is working on an app for comic books. “When I came to India, I found dogs cute and lovable. My mother told me that playing with dogs is haram [forbidden by Islam],” he says about the first clash of viewpoint he had regarding Islam. In Islam, dogs are seen as unpious and Muslims are forbidden to keep them as pets.

Two years after coming to India, Sazi was attending a congregation in Mangalore where an Islamic cleric was telling Muslims on a loudspeaker to not accept water and food from non-Muslim homes. This came as a shock to him and he couldn’t reconcile with this idea. “It was like telling me to hate my mom who was a Christian. No child can accept this,” he says about the cleric’s announcement. It fuelled his questioning of Islam. “I started reading science. Islam appeared as a shock. The logical conclusion led me to think: this was not right,” Sazi, now an atheist and 27 years old, says, adding that he also began questioning as to why only Muslims were involved in suicide bombings.

Ashiq (nickname) is an electronics engineer based in Thiruvananthapuram. “I used to go to a madrassa. I read books from the library about science. I used to ask my teachers: Who created god? But the teachers wouldn’t respond to my questions,” he says, adding that they would instead say: “You are guided by Satan. They would call me Satan’s shadow.” Ashiq’s most piercing question to his madrassa teachers was: since a day can last six months in countries near the North Pole, when should Muslims break their day-long fast? The madrassa teachers did not have knowledge of geography. “The clerics beat me up for asking this,” he says.

Read the full story here.

India hits out at UNSC for delay in putting sanctions on JeM chief Masood Azhar

United Nations: India has strongly criticised the Security Council for taking months to consider sanctioning leaders of groups it has itself designated as terror entities, in an obvious reference to the “technical hold” on India’s bid to get JeM chief Masood Azhar banned by the UN.

Asserting that the Security Council is stuck in its own “time warp and politics”, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin on Monday slammed the Council’s inability to sanction the leaders of terrorist organisations.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

“While our collective conscience is ravaged everyday by terrorists in some region or another, the Security Council gives itself 9 months to consider whether to sanction leaders of organisations it has itself designated as terrorist entities,” Akbaruddin said at a session on equitable representation and increase in the membership of the Security Council.

Earlier this year, China had extended the “technical hold” on India’s move to get Azhar designated as a terrorist by the UN. The six-month validity of the technical hold lapsed in late September and China sought another three-month extension on India’s bid.

He lamented that the snail-paced and “never-ending carousel of discussions” on United Nations Security Council (UNSC) reforms, saying “it is time to break the impasse” to urgently reform the body that is “unresponsive” to the current global situation.

The inability to respond to humanitarian situations, terrorist threats and peacekeeping vulnerabilities during this year itself are part of the price that is being paid for the international community’s lack of progress on the critical matter, he noted.

“On issues pivotal to international security such as Syria, there is inaction, and on other situations like dealing with the peacekeeping crisis in South Sudan we see fragmented action which is not implemented even months after being agreed upon,” Akbaruddin said.

“The Security Council, stuck in its own time warp and politics, can only be described as working randomly on the basis of a mix of ad-hocism, scrambling and political
paralysis. Need one say more about the urgency of the need for reform of this relic which has long been unresponsive to the needs of our time,” he said.

Akbaruddin said the never-ending carousel of discussions on UNSC reforms leaves many in the international community perplexed as the crucial reform of the Security Council has been delayed despite both its importance and its urgency.

He pointed out that the Council’s global governance structure does not cease to surprise the international community with its persistent inability to even effectively
engage with the tasks at hand.

“The lack of representativeness of its membership, especially in the permanent category, which was decided upon 70 years ago adds to its lack of legitimacy and credibility,” he added.

The ambassador expressed hope that under the current UN General Assembly President Peter Thomson, a process on furthering the reform will be put in place that can help move from discussions to negotiations.

“It is time to break the impasse. It is time to reflect the different hues in a text so that everyone can discern the trend lines and trajectory of thinking of Member States,” he said.

Poll: Most Republicans believe Russia is meddling in U.S. election | Reuters

Poll: Most Republicans believe Russia is meddling in U.S. election | Reuters

Updated: Oct 28, 2016 20:36 IST

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By Alana Wise
| WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON Most Republicans believe Russia is attempting to influence the U.S. presidential election, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, despite comments by the party’s nominee, Donald Trump, downplaying the possibility.Some 55 percent of U.S. adults, including 51 percent of Republicans and 65 percent of Democrats, said they thought Russia was trying to tip the scales in the Nov. 8 presidential election, according to the survey. Most American adults – 62 percent of Democrats and 48 percent of Republicans – think Putin is supporting Trump for the White House, the poll found.Some 71 percent of those who suspect Russia of meddling believe Moscow is doing so through the recent hacks of Democratic emails, according to the Oct. 18-24 survey. But 57 percent of those who suspect Russian interference also believe Trump has “no involvement in Russia’s release of unflattering information” on his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.The U.S. government has accused Russia of a campaign of cyber attacks targeting the Democratic Party that has led to the release of thousands of illegally obtained emails, revealing the sometimes unflattering inner workings of the party, Clinton’s campaign, and her family’s charitable foundation.

Clinton has said she believes the Kremlin is trying to help Trump, calling her rival a “puppet” of the Russian leader. Trump has declined to implicate the country in any wrongdoing.”I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the (Democratic National Committee),” Trump said during the first presidential debate last month. He suggested the culprit could be anyone from Russia, to China or even “a 400-pound person lying in bed.”Russia has denied it sponsors or encourages hacking activity. Russian President Vladimir Putin accused U.S. politicians on Thursday of whipping up “hysteria” about a nonexistent threat in order to distract voters.

Putin, who has described Trump as “very talented,” said on Thursday the New York businessman “behaves extravagantly” to “get through to voters’ hearts.” Trump has said he is not close with Putin, but has also said he believes the Russian president is a stronger leader than U.S. President Barack Obama.

Already chilly relations between the United States and Russia have deteriorated over disagreements over the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria. U.S. officials say U.S. agencies have concluded that two Russian intelligence agencies – the military’s GRU and the civilian foreign intelligence agency, the FSB – are behind U.S. political hacking, particularly that directed against Democratic Party organizations and individuals.The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online in English, and included 2,008 American adults. It had a credibility interval, a measure of accuracy, of 3 percentage points. (Additional reporting by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Peter Cooney)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

‘Indian ISIS operative Subahani Haja Moideen knew Paris bombing accused’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Subahani Haja Moideen, an Indian alleged to be an ISIS operative, knew the terrorists who carried out the attack inside a theatre in Paris last November killing over 100 people but has feigned ignorance about the deadly plot, it has emerged from investigations.Moideen was arrested from Tamil Nadu in a crackdown by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) with the help of central security agencies and other state police, foiling designs of ISIS operatives to target few judges of Kerala and foreign tourists visiting the coastal state.The accused, picked up from Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu, was radicalised and recruited in ISIS through social media platforms and he had left India for Istanbul from Chennai in April last year on the pretext of performing ‘Umrah’, official sources said.
ALSO READ Man who fought for IS in Iraq held: Here is Subahani Haja Moideen’s tryst with ISISAfter reaching Istanbul, he crossed over along with other people who hailed from Pakistan and Afghanistan to Iraqi territory under control of ISIS.That is the period during which Moideen claimed that he had met Paris bombers including Abdelhamid Abaaoud and Salah Abdeslam, the sources said.
ALSO READ Iraqi forces kill 48 ISIS militants in Kirkuk as group defends last major stronghold MosulWhile Abaaoud was killed in retaliatory fire during the Paris theatre attack in November last year, Abdelslam is in the custody of French police.Moideen had returned to India in November and he said he came to know about the Paris attack through news and remembered his meetings with the accused in ISIS controlled Iraq and Syria, the sources said.
ALSO READ Islamic State seizes 550 families as human shields in Mosul: UNThe NIA has informed the French security officials and contacted its Embassy here, the sources said, adding this was done in case it would lend any help in their investigation.They said that French officials could question him as well after getting the requisite court order.According to the multi-country investigation into the French terror strikes, the accused involved in the gruesome killings were in ISIS-controlled areas at the same time when Moideen was there.31-year-old Moideen was in Iraq from April 8, 2015 from where he was taken to Mosul and underwent detailed ‘religious training’ followed by combat training which included a course in automated weapons. After this, he was deputed to fight war for almost two weeks.During the war, he told interrogators that he was paid US $100 per month as an allowance by ISIS besides accommodation and food.However, he told interrogators that he could not withstand the violence and war misery in Mosul and decided to leave especially after he saw two of his friends getting charred.He was jailed by ISIS and produced before an Islamic judge who sent him to Syria. He claimed that he was allowed to cross over to Turkey from where he contacted his family with the help of the Indian consulate at Istanbul.He arrived in Mumbai after a gap of six months in September last year on an emergency certificate and returned to his ancestral place where he was staying with his wife. He later managed to get a job at a jewellery shop at Kadayanallur in Tamil Nadu.

India calls for global action against chemical weapons

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India voiced deep concern over terror groups acquiring chemical weapons, asserting that the international community must take urgent measures and decisive actions to prevent possibility of any future use of such weapons.”It has been our consistent position that the use of chemical weapons anywhere, at anytime by anybody under any circumstances cannot be justified and the perpetrators of such abhorrent acts must be held accountable,” Ambassador D B Venkatesh Varma, Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament, Geneva said at a debate on weapons of mass destruction in United Nations on Wednesday.He said India is “deeply concerned with reports of acquisitions of chemical weapons and their delivery system by terrorist groups and continuing use of chemical weapons and toxic chemicals in Syria and Iraq by terrorists. “We believe that the international community must take urgent measures and decisive actions to prevent the possibility of any future use of chemical weapons,” he said at the First Committee session of the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly.Varma said India has a large and growing chemical industry and also has the second largest number of declared facilities and receives among the largest number of inspections from Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).He underscored that India has a “flawless track record” of verification inspections and believes that the OPCW needs to evolve transparent and objective criteria and modalities for inspections.”The provisions of the Convention should be implemented in a manner that does not hinder legitimate activities, especially in countries like India with a large and growing chemical industry,” he said.Varma told the committee, which deals with disarmament and international security, that India has strong and law-based national export controls consistent with the highest international standards with reference to control of nuclear, chemical, biological and toxin weapons and their means of delivery.India contributed to international efforts under UN and the OPCW for destruction of Syrian chemical weapons and chemical weapons production facilities (CWPFs) and welcomed the progress made so far in their destruction.”We would encourage further consultations between Syria and the OPCW with an aim to fully resolve all the outstanding issues in the spirit of trust and cooperation,” he said.He reiterated India’s committment to improving the effectiveness of the Biological Weapons Convention and strengthening its implementation and its universalisation.

Brics summit live: PM Modi, Vladimir Putin to inaugurate Kudankulam power plant

Oct 15, 2016

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Goa on Friday to attend the two-day long Brics summit. The leaders are expected to debate “global growth prospects, the role of Brics in leading this global growth and our contributions to it,” according to Indian foreign ministry official Amar Sinha.

Regional security and climate change are also on the agenda, reported, reported Global TImes.

Modi, in a Facebook post, said that he is honoured to receive Russian President Vladimir Putin and Brazilian President Michel Temer for a bilateral visit in Goa.

While Putin’s visit will give India an opportunity to consolidate and reaffirm a unique time-tested friendship and partnership with Russia, Temer’s trip will open up new areas for cooperation with Brazil.

India would also be looking for Brics leaders to condemn recent cross-border attacks from Pakistan, NDTV reported.

Putin’s office said in a statement that “international terrorism and the Syria peace process” would be discussed.

India is expected to continue with its diplomatic offensive against Pakistan on the issue of terrorism originating from there. With the summit taking place within weeks of Uri terror strike by Pakistan-based terrorists, India will be forceful in its demand at Brics Summit, which will also have a BIMSTEC outreach meet, for intensified efforts to tackle terrorism including action against countries providing safe havens to terrorists and arming them.

Modi is expected to hold talks with Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the summit. He will meet Putin on Saturday for the annual summit and the talks with Jinping are also expected to be held later that day. His summit with Temer is scheduled for Monday, according to a PTI report.

The BricsPost quoted Modi as saying on Friday, “Brics will also launch new initiatives in Goa even as we mark the successful operationalization of initiatives like the Brics New Development Bank and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement.”

The Goa police issued an advisory to the general public about the dos and don’ts during the high profile event on Saturday. “All citizens are requested to co-operate with law enforcing agencies and report any suspicious activities or suspicious baggage/article to authorities immediately,” Goa Police said in a press release issued on Friday.

BRICS Summit 2016: Will Modi-Putin meet restore old ties?

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The strategic partnership between India and Russia dates back to October 2000 but over time the bilateral relationship drifted. While Russia turned to China and most recently Pakistan where it conducted joint military exercises, India pivoted to the United States. Along the way the US and Israel supplanted Russia as a major defence supplier but the bilateral talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Goa are likely to re-establish Moscow’s pre-eminent status in India’s defence and security calculus.On Saturday, Putin will meet Modi for the 17th India-Russia annual summit, which will be held on the margins of the BRICS Summit. On the occasion, the two leaders are expected to sign a number of defence deals and also witness the laying of the foundation concrete of Units 3 and 4 of the nuclear reactors being built with Russian assistance at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu.If the ambitious agenda (a vast menu, is how an Indian official put it) of the talks and the proposed outcomes (about 18 agreements are likely to be signed in the areas such as defence and civil nuclear cooperation) are any indicator, the Modi-Putin meeting promises to be as ‘special’ and ‘privileged’ as the strategic partnership between India and Russia.GV Srinivas, the joint secretary (Eurasia) in the Ministry of External Affairs, told reporters in Goa on Friday that “unmatched mutual confidence”, trust and goodwill cutting across party lines mark the India-Russia bilateral relationship. Their “broad geopolitical interests do not clash”; on the contrary, in some cases they coincide.Pankaj Saran, India’s ambassador to Russia, in turn, told reporters that terrorism will be a subject of the discussions. Also, the ‘wide range’ of defence deals to be signed are likely to be far-reaching in their scope and importance for India’s defence and security interests. India, he says, can also be expected to iterate its anxieties to Russia on its fledgling military ties with Pakistan. India, says Saran, is confident that Russia will reflect upon India’s concerns.Among the defence pacts to be signed will be one on the S-400 Triumph advanced anti-aircraft defence system. Some other agreements will be signed out of public view.Some other regional and global issues such as the situation in Syria, Afghanistan and other countries are also likely to come up for discussion. Saran says the “policy position” on Syria that Modi articulated when he visited Moscow in December last year for the annual India-Russia summit remains valid even today in spite of the changes on the ground in Syria and related developments at the United Nations.The India-Russia talks will take place before Modi sits down for a bilateral meeting with President Xi Jinping of China. The Sino-Indian relations have been fraught with mutual distrust and suspicion, in sharp contrast to the nature of ties between New Delhi and Moscow. India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which has been hanging fire for a long time now, has been opposed by China on the ground that India is not a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and that Beijing wants a criteria-based exemption rather a country-specific waiver in favour of India. China’s reluctance to lift the technical hold on the proposed proscription of Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorost group’s chief Masood Azhar by the United Nations 1267 committee is also expected to come up for discussion.

Aleppo rebels outgunned but confident as siege bites | Reuters

By Tom Perry and Ellen Francis
| BEIRUT

BEIRUT A senior rebel commander said on Friday that Syrian government forces would never be able to capture Aleppo’s opposition-held east, more than three weeks into a ferocious offensive, but a military source said the operation was going as planned.Russian air strikes were proving of little help to government ground forces in urban warfare, the deputy commander of the Fastaqim rebel group in Aleppo said. While air strikes have pounded much of the city, they have avoided frontlines where the sides are fighting in close proximity, apparently out of fear they could hit the wrong side, he said. The rebels were well prepared for a siege imposed this summer, and preparations for a counter attack were under way, Melhem Akidi told Reuters.”Militarily there is no danger to the city of Aleppo,” he said, adding: “The more dangerous thing is the daily massacres by the regime that are targeting not just the people but the foundations of life in Aleppo.”However, the Syrian military source and a second pro-government military source in the field said the campaign was on course, reiterating denials that civilians were being targeted.”The accomplishments so far are moving according to the plan, and we are working according to gradual steps,” said the second source, a non-Syrian and part of a regional alliance fighting in support of President Bashar al-Assad. The assessments, on the eve of a meeting between U.S. and Russian foreign ministers in Switzerland to try to resume their failed efforts to find a diplomatic solution, point to a protracted battle for Aleppo. Syria’s biggest city before the war has been divided into areas controlled by the government and rebels for several years. The rebel-held east is the last major urban stronghold of the nationalist rebels fighting Assad, and recapturing it would be a major strategic prize. The Syrian army, supported by Iranian-backed militias and Russian air power, announced a major offensive to capture the rebel-held part of the city on Sept. 22, unleashing firepower not previously seen in the 5-1/2-year long war.The onslaught has killed several hundred people and flattened many buildings. Hospitals have also been hit, leading the United States and France to accuse Russia and the Syrian government of war crimes.Moscow and Damascus say they are only targeting militants.ONSLAUGHT THREATENS BREAD SUPPLY
A member of Aleppo’s opposition city council told Reuters fuel reserves used to operate bakeries could run out in a month if the siege persists. A mill was bombed on Wednesday, another threat to the city’s bread supply, he said.

The air strikes have been accompanied by ground assaults by government forces, including Shi’ite militias from Iraq and Lebanon. Their clearest advance so far is the capture of ground to the north of Aleppo, including the Handarat camp.The army has also reported gains in the city centre itself. The rebels have consistently said these have been repelled.The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based group monitoring the war, said the government advances so far did not match the intensity of the firepower unleashed.The bombardment was expected to bring “much greater results”, Observatory Director Rami Abdulrahman said. Syria’s civil war has killed 300,000 people and left millions homeless while dragging in regional and global powers and allowing for the expansion of jihadist groups including Islamic State, which controls wide areas of the east.As well as Russia and Iran, Assad is backed by an array of Shi’ite militias from Arab neighbours, while Sunni rebels seeking to oust him are backed by Turkey, the United States and Gulf monarchies. LITTLE HOPE FOR PEACE TALKS

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Saturday, possibly joined by ministers from Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Iran.American officials have voiced little hope for success, however, and Lavrov said on Friday he had “no special expectations” for the talks. Kerry broke off talks with Lavrov last week over the Aleppo offensive. The resumption of negotiations, despite the fighting, was a sign of the lack of options facing Western nations over the Syria conflict, where they worry increased arms supplies for the rebels could end up in the hands of jihadist groups.The Syrian government and its allies have been steadily encircling the rebel-held east of Aleppo this year, first cutting the shortest route to nearby Turkey, before fully blockading the city this summer.Assad said this week capturing Aleppo would be a springboard for pushing militants to neighbouring Turkey, a major sponsor of the rebellion.He has offered the Aleppo rebels an amnesty if they lay down their arms, though they have dismissed it as a trick.

ALEPPO “STEADFAST”, FUEL RUNNING OUT
Akidi, speaking from Aleppo, said he was “certain that nobody would be able to storm” the east, which he said could not be compared to other less populous and less well-armed areas that have been captured from rebels by the government.”Everyone who stayed in Aleppo, which was under threat of siege for a long time, has prepared for steadfastness,” he said.He also noted the proximity of nearby insurgent strongholds west of Aleppo and in Idlib province, and what he described as the government’s “fragile” hold over an important access point on the city’s southern periphery. “I do not rule out that the revolutionaries will be able to break the siege soon,” he said.The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a report on Thursday that 406 people had been reported killed and 1,384 wounded in eastern Aleppo from Sept. 23 until Oct. 8. In government-held western Aleppo, which is frequently targeted by rebel shelling, 91 people including 18 children were killed over a similar period.Muhammad Sandeh, of the opposition city council, said a fuel reserve controlled by the council could dry up in eastern Aleppo in a month or less if the siege persists.”There are enough bakeries, but there isn’t enough flour or fuel,” Sandeh told Reuters from Aleppo. “The families get half of their bread needs,” he said. The air strike on a mill on Wednesday had severely reduced bread supply, he said.Water supplies have also been affected by the violence.OCHA said the situation had improved slightly after the parties reached an Oct. 10 agreement to protect water stations from the conflict.Ibrahim Abu al-Laith of the Civil Defence rescue service that operates in rebel-held areas said that even after pumping stations were repaired and the water returned, it couldn’t reach residents due to a lack of fuel.Fuel is the lifeline of the eastern districts, he said.”Ours is running out.” (Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Pravin Char)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Syria’s Assad says taking Aleppo from rebels key to pushing ‘terrorists’ back to Turkey | Reuters

By Jack Stubbs and Ellen Francis
| MOSCOW/BEIRUT

MOSCOW/BEIRUT Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad said on Friday that the Syrian army’s capture of Aleppo, which has come under renewed bombardment in an effort to seize its rebel-held sector, would be “a very important springboard” to pushing “terrorists” back to Turkey.Rescue workers said that Syria’s military backed by Russian warplanes had killed more than 150 people in eastern Aleppo this week, in support of its offensive against the city.Rising casualties in Aleppo, where many buildings have been reduced to rubble or are lacking roofs or walls, have prompted an international outcry and a renewed diplomatic push, with talks between the United States and Russia planned for Saturday.”You have to keep cleaning this area and to push the terrorists to Turkey, to go back to where they come from or to kill them. There’s no other option,” Assad said in an interview with Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda.”Aleppo is going to be a very important springboard to do this move,” added Assad.As the air strikes and shelling of the city’s east intensified after a brief period of relative calm, Syria’s government approved a United Nations plan to allow aid convoys into the most besieged areas of Syria, with the exception of Aleppo. Syria’s civil war, now in its sixth year, has killed 300,000 people and left millions homeless while dragging in regional and global powers as well as inspiring jihadist attacks abroad.Assad is backed by the Russian air force, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and an array of Shi’ite militias from Arab neighbours, while Sunni rebels seeking to oust him are backed by Turkey, the United States and Gulf monarchies.Assad also told the newspaper that the country’s civil war had become a conflict between Russia and the West.”What we’ve been seeing recently during the last few weeks, and maybe few months, is something like more than Cold War,” Assad said. “I don’t know what to call it, but it’s not something that has existed recently, because I don’t think that the West and especially the United States has stopped their Cold War, even after the collapse of the Soviet Union.”Assad added that Turkey’s actions in Syria constituted an “invasion, against international law, against the morals, against the sovereignty of Syria.” ‘MAY AMOUNT TO WAR CRIMES’

As air strikes killed 13 people on Thursday in the rebel-held Aleppo districts of al-Kalaseh, Bustan al-Qasr and al-Sakhour, according to a civil defence official, European Union foreign ministers drafted a statement accusing Syria and its allies of violence that “may amount to war crimes.””Since the beginning of the offensive by the (Syrian) regime and its allies, the intensity and scale of aerial bombardment of eastern Aleppo is clearly disproportionate,” a draft of their statement seen by Reuters said.Syrian and Russian governments say they target only militants.To the south, hundreds of insurgents and their families have left two rebel-held towns on the northern outskirts of Damascus, residents and fighters said, under a deal with the government which is pushing its opponents to rebel areas further from the capital.The evacuation happened after the army gave community leaders in Qudsiya and Al-Hama – which had enjoyed relative calm under local truces – an ultimatum to get several hundred fighters out of their towns or face a wide-scale assault.”They gave us little option: Leave or all hell breaks loose,” said Yousef al Hasnawi, a resident on the local rebel council.The Damascus government says such amnesties are a “workable model to bring security and peace,” but its opponents say forcing Sunni Muslim fighters and their families from their hometowns could create new demographic frontiers and worsen sectarian tensions.

OBAMA TO REVIEW OPTIONS
U.S. President Barack Obama and his senior foreign policy advisers are expected to meet on Friday to consider military and other options in Syria, U.S. officials told Reuters.Some officials argue the United States must act more forcefully in Syria or risk losing what influence it still has over moderate rebels and its Arab, Kurdish and Turkish allies in the fight against Islamic State.U.S. officials said they considered it unlikely that Obama would order U.S. air strikes on Syrian government targets, and stressed that he may not make any decisions at the planned meeting of his National Security Council.U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are due to meet in Switzerland on Saturday to resume their effort to find a diplomatic solution along with counterparts from some Middle Eastern countries.

Moscow called on Thursday on states in the region not to supply portable anti-aircraft missiles to Syrian rebel groups, warning that any unfriendly actions against Russian forces would draw an appropriate response. ‘IT’S GOING ON NOW’
Air strikes against rebel-held areas of eastern Aleppo had tapered off over the weekend after the Syrian army announced it would reduce raids for what it described as humanitarian reasons, but they have intensified since Tuesday.”The bombing started at 2 a.m. and it’s going on until now,” Ibrahim Abu Laith, an official at the civil defence rescue organisation in Aleppo, told Reuters from the city.Rescue workers said 154 people had been killed in recent days. Reuters could not independently verify the death toll.Aleppo has been divided between government- and rebel-controlled areas for years. More than 250,000 people are believed to be trapped in eastern Aleppo – the anti-Assad rebels’ most important urban stronghold – facing shortages of food, fuel and medicine.In Geneva, the United Nations said Damascus had partially approved its aid plan for October, giving the green light for convoys to 25 of 29 besieged and hard-to-reach areas across Syria, which are also deprived of some vital supplies.But the Syrian government did not give approval for either eastern Aleppo or three districts near Damascus, Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy, the United Nations’ deputy special envoy to Syria, said on Thursday, describing the situation as “dire.” In a government-held area of western Aleppo, at least four children were killed and 10 wounded on Thursday when shells landed near a school, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. Syrian state news agency SANA said the school in the al-Suleimaniya area had been targeted in what it described as a terrorist attack. (Additional reporting by Tom Perry in Beirut, Suleiman Al-Khalidi in Amman, Arshad Mohammed and Jonathan Landay in Washington, Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Kylie MacLellan in London, Jack Stubbs in Moscow, Gabriela Baczynska in Luxembourg and Maha El Dahan in Abu Dhabi; writing by Angus McDowall in Beirut and Peter Cooney; editing by Peter Millership, David Stamp and G Crosse)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Brics Summit: Vladimir Putin states grouping’s importance in face of ‘Western unilateralism’

Moscow: Brics reflects the member-countries’ commitment to uphold international law when some Western countries are trying to promote unilateral approaches, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.

And cooperation within Brics — which clubs Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — was already yielding practical results, Putin told IANS and Sputnik news agencies in an interview ahead of his visit to Goa to attend the Brics Summit.

Putin described Brics as one of the key elements of the emerging multipolar world.

“The five (member) countries have consistently reaffirmed their commitment to the fundamental principles of international law and promote the central role of the UN,” he said in response to questions from IANS.

“Our countries reject the policy of coercive pressure and infringement upon the sovereignty of other states. We take similar stances on urgent international issues, including the Syrian crisis and the Middle East settlement.”

The Russian leader said the Brics summits’ final declarations reaffirm “our shared commitment to the fundamental principles of inter-state communication, particularly, to the observance of international law with the central coordinating role of the UN.

File photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin. AP

File photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin. AP

“With some Western countries attempting to promote their unilateral approaches, this position becomes even more relevant,” Putin said, adding that the Goa Summit would be no exception to this rule.

Traditionally, the declarations of Brics leaders outline fundamental consensus-based stances on a wide range of issues and identify short-term development goals for the five nations, he said.

This, he added, would serve as a target for follow-up steps aimed at strengthening strategic partnerships among the five countries in various spheres.

“As for rendering practical interaction among the five countries more substantive, I would like to stress that today, there exist more than 30 formats for inter-agency cooperation in the political, economic, humanitarian, security and law enforcement areas.”

Putin said the establishment of the New Development Bank (NDB) and the Brics Contingent Reserve Arrangement with a total capital of $200 billion was one concrete example of this cooperation.

“I am convinced that, as the bank gets stronger, its output will only increase, including by means of projects that promote integration among the Brics countries.

“The NDB started its work in 2016, having approved the first projects in all five countries.

“The priority at the current stage is renewable energy. In Russia, this implies the construction of small 50 MW hydropower plants in Karelia worth $100 million.”

Putin said the Brics countries actively cooperated within the Group of 20 and sought to systematically converge their stand at the WTO to improve the rules and spur multilateral negotiations within the organisation.

“This is why I think the cooperation within Brics has already begun to yield practical results. It is essential to continue work on consolidating these results and on identifying areas of common interest.

The Russian leader said the participants in the Brics Summit in Goa would look at the initial results of implementing the Strategy for Brics Economic Partnership adopted in Ufa and finalise the draft of Brics Roadmap for Trade, Economic and Investment Cooperation until 2020.

“We intend to establish new formats and mechanisms to cooperate with our partners, in which concerted measures aimed at developing our ties in various fields will be elaborated.

“At the same time we intend to focus on addressing issues related to strengthening international security and stability, enhancing the competitiveness of our economies and the promotion of international development.”

Putin said Russia supported the initiatives put forward by the Indian chairmanship in such fields as Brics collaboration in agriculture, railway transport, sports, tourism and building people-to-people contacts.

Road to peace in Kabul lies in Kashmir: Pakistan tells US amid growing Indo-pak tensions

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>For the first time, Pakistan has linked peace in war-torn Afghanistan to the resolution of the Kashmir issue, saying a solution to both is required for peace and they cannot be ‘compartmentalised’.”Road to peace in Kabul lies in Kashmir in the sense that when you talk of peace, you cannot compartmentalise peace, you can’t segregate a section… ok you can have peace in Kabul and let Kashmir burn. That is not going to happen,” Pakistan Prime Minister’s special envoy on Kashmir Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed said here.”So you (US) talk of a comprehensive peace settlement, so let the people of South Asia not be hostage to the hostility of the past. Let them move forward,” said Syed, Chairman of the Pakistan Senate’s Defence and Defence Production Committee said during an interaction at Washington-based think-tank Stimson Centre.He is accompanied by Shezra Mansab, a member of the National Assembly of Pakistan, as Special Envoys of Pakistan Prime Minister on Kashmir.”Our core issue this time is Kashmir and no peace can prevail in the region, if this issue is not solved. It is an international dispute. It is not an internal problem. The stakes are very high now, we are nuclear neighbours so we need to have peace on the issue of Kashmir and then rest of the things can be solved,” Mansab said.She added that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has offered peace talks “without any preconditions” but it has been consistently rejected by India.”The way to move forward is negotiations. We are ready to talk on any subject. It is India which says that it is willing to talk about only one subject. We are ready to talk on that subject as well as other subjects,” she said.Referring to the lackluster response that they received during their visit to Washington DC, Michael Krepon of the Stimson Centre asked as to why the US should interfere in this.”Why, when it is so hard for the US to my embarrassment to get involved in more helpful way in Syria, why should the US listen to the argument to be more involvement in Kashmir,” Krepon said, adding that the situation in Kashmir is much better than many other conflict prone areas of the world, including Syria.The two Pakistani envoys had no clear explanation to it. “We request the US to intervene, because it has leverage with India to allow negotiations to start, to end human rights violations in Kashmir, to make sure that the UN resolutions are implemented,” Syed said.Pakistan, which has been hosting several million refugees for the past three decades, does not push people in war zone, he said.”We are facing the consequences of bad decisions made in London, Brussels or Washington,” he said.Responding to a question, Syed said Pakistan is willing to “do anything” what India asks for confidence building measure so as to start negotiations.He, however, had no justifiable explanation on India seeking actions against terrorist groups, including Hafeez Saeed. Syed argued that India has not provided enough evidence to take concrete action against the 26/11 mastermind.”Regarding Jaish-e-Mohammad thing, it takes two to tango.If India is now planning to host separatists from Pakistan who have also been involved in killing of people. And India is naming the province of Balochistan at the level of the Prime Minister. What would happen if Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif starts talking of Khalistan, Nagaland, Tripura, Assam, Sikkim or the Maoist insurgency… we do not want to do that because that is interference in the internal affairs of a neighboring country. You are changing the rules of the game It becomes tit for tat,” he said.”We would say give us all the evidence that you have about Masood Azhar,” he said.”Pakistan’s legal process (on Mumbai attack) is already moving. We are waiting for some evidence, which was not provided by the Indian side. We are moving on that,” Syed said.

MJ Akbar’s visit to Karbala signals India’s commitment to a stable, unified Iraq

Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar, who is on a three-nation West Asia tour (Lebanon, Syria and Iraq) from 17 August to 23 August, is scheduled to visit Iraq on Tuesday.

This official visit is an effort to strengthen bilateral ties with the West Asia region. Akbar’s visit is significant because it comes at a time when the Islamic State (IS) has captured large parts of Iraq and Syria under its caliphate.

External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said that the visit to these three important countries in West Asia is a “reaffirmation of India’s deep interest in promoting bilateral relations as also in the peace and security in the region in its extended neighbourhood.”

The issue of Indians who had been taken hostage by IS in Iraq in 2014 will also find a mention in Akbar’s talk with Foreign Minister Ibrahim Al-Eshaiqer Al-Jafari, according to Swarup, who termed the terror outfit as the biggest “security threat”. Swarup further said that the visit is expected to add further impetus to India and Iraq’s bilateral engagement.

Minister of external affairs MJ Akbar. FacebookMinister of external affairs MJ Akbar. Facebook

Minister of external affairs MJ Akbar. Facebook

“Our time-tested, warm and friendly relations with Iraq are underpinned by historical and religious inkages, strong people-to-people contacts, our energy security quest and capacity-building cooperation. It will also provide an opportunity to meet other senior leaders of Iraq, including religious leaders, and to convey India’s abiding commitment to the emergence of a stable, peaceful, united and democratic Iraq, which is in the interest of regional and global peace and security,” Swarup said.

In Iraq, Akbar will visit the holy city of Karbala, reported The Economic Times. What’s interesting is that Akbar, a Sunni Muslim, will visit Karbala, one of Shiite Islam’s foremost holy cities, which derives religious significance from the Battle of Karbala where Prophet Muhammad’s grandson and his troops were killed.

Tufail Ahmad in his lecture in Hyderabad touched on the various aspects of Islam, its various interpretations and permutations.

After Prophet Muhammad died, a war for succession began that later divided Muslims into two sects: Sunni and Shia. Except for the first caliph Abu Bakr, all three succeeding caliphs and twelve Shia imams were murdered. In fact, the Battle of Karbala was so bloody that after it most Shia imams were poisoned. Prophet Muhammad himself took part in 27 wars. Jihadi forces like the Islamic State were born in the times of early Islam itself, for example when the first caliph Abu Bakr took out his sword and threatened jihad against those Muslims who did not pay zakat (tax).

India and West Asia

Livemint, in a report, mentioned that Iraq is the largest supplier of crude oil to India, overtaking Saudi Arabia in June. A 2015 MEA report detailed that IOC is the single largest purchaser of crude from Iraqi crude procuring around 2,50,000 BPD.

While Indian exports to Iraq consist of agro chemicals, cosmetics, rubber manufactured products, paints, gems and jewellery, ceramics, manufactures of metals, machine tools, electrical machinery and instruments, transport equipment, electronic goods, handicrafts, cereals, sugar, tea, garments and pharmaceuticals, the MEA report added.

In an opinion piece in The Hindu titled Tilting towards the Saudis, Stanly Johny argued that India needs a “balanced West Asia policy”, which has historically been multi-pronged. He further wrote that India, formerly a passive player in West Asia, took greater interest in the region after Manmohan Singh‘s tenure as prime minister with the former even appointing a special envoy for the region.

It is possible that Akbar’s Iraq visit could’ve arisen out of a deputation of Shia representatives, who visited Prime Minister Narendra Modi and requested him not to limit his travel to Islamic countries to Sunni nations alone.

The BJP has also reportedly been trying to woo the Shia Muslims mainly in UP, Delhi, Kashmir and Gujarat, reported Economic Times. Modi has previously received “unlikely” support from the sect in Lucknow and Varanasi.

Speaking to Livemint, KP Fabian, former joint secretary in-charge of Gulf countries in the Ministry of External Affairs, noted that Akbar’s Damascus visit “would demonstrate a sense of belief that it is still important to keep in touch with Bashar al-Assad and that it is safe for a foreign dignitary to go there”.

The conflict in Syria along with the recent terror attacks in Western nations sees President Bashar al-Assad being opposed by countries like the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.

With inputs from PTI

Islamic State threat: India, Syria to intensify security consultations

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The terrorist attack in Dhaka last month that killed 29 people, including an Indian, the news of 20-odd missing Indians and a series of Islamic State (IS)-related arrests are making India reach out to Syria.New Delhi had so far kept a safe distance from the Syrian conflict. Both countries have now agreed to upgrade security consultations that include sharing of intelligence and screening programme for Indians travelling to Syria and its neighbourhood.Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who met minister of state for external affairs M J Akbar on Saturday, is believed to have urged India to play the role of a growing power to stabilise West Asia, rather than remaining on the fence.”There was an agreement between for further upgrading security consultations,” sources said. They did not mention what level it might reach now. During the meeting, Assad also welcomed India’s objective position on the conflict in Syria and both leaders acknowledged that terrorism was a global problem, sources said.”As a growing power, India has a role to play in meeting the challenge of terrorism,” sources quoted Assad as saying. On his part, Akbar said that the age of destruction should give way to the age of reconstruction in Syria. Assad also invited India to play an active role in the reconstruction of the Syrian economy. Both leaders agreed that, as secular nations, India and Syria believe in faith equality. Akbar is currently on a nearly week-long visit to West Asia from August 17.Strategic experts here believe that the IS may not be a serious threat at present. However, it certainly has the potential to destabilise the social fabric and rule of law in the country. “We have often been found wanting in internal security challenges. If the writing is on the wall with respect to the IS, this is one instance where we should get our act together, in order to neutralise the threat well before it gains disturbing proportions,” says Colonel Vivek Chadha, author and fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA).The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has made a host of arrests for suspected pro-IS activities. Early this year, Syrian deputy prime minister and foreign minister Walid Al Muallem, during his visit to New Delhi, had also sought India’s support and diplomatic involvement.India’s opposition to foreign intervention and support for state sovereignty (regardless of the regime) are long-held principles to make its position favourable to the Assad government. India’s interest in the stability of West Asia stems from the fact that more than 7 million Indian citizens are currently working in the region. Their safety remains a top concern, besides the country’s energy needs.India and Syria also revisited a host of long-pending developmental projects, including the $320-million Tishreen power project, overseen by Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL).The impending completion of the Hama steel plant, which is funded by an open credit line for pre-approved loans, was also discussed. India it intends to complete these projects, provided Damascus gives assurance of safety.Since 2013, Damascus had started efforts to court India for political support. “We want India and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) to play an important role in the political process, convening Geneva II and finding a solution to the crisis,” stated Assad’s advisor Bouthaina Shabaan.Syria’s ambassador to India, Riad Kamel Abbas, also referred to India’s stake in the Syrian crisis: the rising influence of IS and the increasing presence of Indian jihadists in the Syrian war.Experts here believe that, so far, India has managed to balance its relations with Iran and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman. But they add that the changing circumstances will make it tougher for New Delhi to tiptoe around regional polarisations. Intensifying Saudi-Iranian rivalry, as demonstrated in Yemen, and the rising influence of IS in India pose an immediate challenge to the government in New Delhi.

Hyderabad terror arrests signal deepening roots of Islamic State in India

Recent arrests of Hyderabad-based youths by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in connection with their links to the Islamic State, signal the deepening presence of Islamic terror organisations in the country. In the recent years, the terror organisation has had a visible change in its operative strategy in the recent years to use internet to attract youth.

The NIA, on Wednesday, took 11 persons into custody after identifying them as Islamic State operatives.

“They came under the scanner after behavioural changes were noticed in them. On the basis of information passed on by the locals, the NIA kept a tab on their activities”, The Hindu quoted an official as saying.

More worryingly, those arrested were also found to be in possession of ammonium nitrate and other chemicals that are used in making highly destructive IEDs, The Hindustan Times reported.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The development is also critical since at least two of those detained were engineering graduates while one is believed to be a management graduate. Their handler, Yusuf al-Hindi, is reported to be in Syria.

Add to it, the city of Hyderabad is increasingly becoming the terror back office of India.

Besides the Islamic State, in the last few years, militants belonging to Islamic terror outfits such as Lashkar and SIMI have also been caught in Hyderabad.

Building a homegrown breed of militants seems to be the new strategy of the terror outfit. Up till now, 54 suspected IS sympathisers have been arrested across India. The prospect of “freelance jihadists” is worrying intelligence agencies.

“ISIS modules being set up in India is more dangerous than some youth wanting to travel to Syria,” a counter-terror official was quoted by the India Today as saying.

In January this year, the NIA arrested six suspected IS sympathisers from across the country. Union Home Ministry officials also believed that they might have been radicalised online, The Hindu reported.

The report also added that several low intensity explosives, detonators, wires, batteries and hydrogen peroxide and other material that can be assembled into IEDs.

The Islamic State has repeatedly invoked the 2002 Gujarat riots, Babri demolition, Kashmir and the 2013 Muzzafarnagar riots to incite Muslims to revolt against the dispensation. In a video released in May this year, the Syria-based terror group for the first time trained its guns against New Delhi.

“We will return,but with a sword in hand, to avenge the Babri Masjid, and the killings of Muslims in Kashmir, in Gujarat, and in Muzaffarnagar”, Aman Tandel, a Mumbai based student who escaped to Syria was seen threatening.

According to Intelligence Agencies, six Indian nationals have been killed in Iraq and Syria. A total of 23 Indians have gone to Syria, while only two of them have returned.

ISIS may plan Istanbul like attack in US: CIA

The Islamic State terror group may carry out a terror attack similar to the one at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, CIA Director John Brennan has said.The despicable attack at Istanbul’s international airport that killed dozens and injured several certainly bears the “hallmarks” of the Islamic State’s depravity, Brennan said here yesterday.”We’ve seen ISIL (Islamic State) carry out and incite an array of terrorist attacks in the region, directly, indirectly and I would be surprised that ISIL is not considering carrying out these attacks in the near abroad as well as the far abroad,” he said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”And the United States, as we well know, is leading the coalition to try to destroy as much of this poison, inside of Syria and Iraq, as possible. So it would be surprising to me that ISIL is not trying to hit us, both in the region as well as in our homeland,” Brennan said while to replying to a question at the Council on Foreign Relations, a top American think-tank.”I think what you see in the propagation of their material, they have a magazine, Dabiq, that goes out that says exactly that. It exhorts individuals to do it.” “So if anybody here believes that, you know, the US homeland is hermetically sealed and that Daesh or ISIL would not consider that, I think I would guard against that,” he added.Brennan said global instability is one of the defining issues of the time, and its implications are hard to overstate.”As instability spreads, extremists and terrorists are finding sanctuary in ungoverned spaces. Energy supplies are being disrupted. Political reform is suffering as too many governments opt for authoritarian measures at the expense of democratic principles and respect for human rights,” the CIA official said.As many as 42 people were killed and hundreds wounded yesterday after suicide attackers armed with guns and bombs attacked Istanbul’s busy Ataturk Airport, apparently targeting Turkey’s crucial tourism industry. The government blamed the attack on Islamic State extremists but there was no immediate confirmation from the group.

More than 55% of terrorist attacks in 2015 took place in five countries, including India: US reports

Five countries including India, Pakistan and Afghanistan accounted for more than half of the terror attacks that took place across the globe in 2015, a US official has said.”More than 55% of all attacks took place in five countries, India, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Nigeria,” Acting US Coordinator for Counterterrorism Justin Siberell said on Tuesday. “And 74% of all deaths due to terrorist attacks took place in five countries, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Syria,” he said, adding the figures are based on the data compiled by the University of Maryland.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Although terror attacks took place in 92 countries in 2015, they were heavily concentrated geographically, as they have been for the past several years, Siberell said. The total number of terrorist attacks in 2015 decreased by 13% as compared to 2014, he said while releasing the annual Country Reports on Terrorism.”Total fatalities due to terrorist attacks decreased by 14%, principally as a result of fewer attacks and deaths in Iraq, Pakistan, and Nigeria. This represents the first decline in total terrorist attacks and resulting fatalities worldwide since 2012,” the official said. “At the same time, there were several countries, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey, where terrorist attacks and total deaths increased in 2015,” he added.The United States and its partners around the world face a significant challenge as they seek to contend with the return of foreign terror fighting forces from Iraq and Syria, the risk of terrorist groups exploiting migratory movements, and new technology and communications platforms that enable terrorist groups to more easily recruit adherents and inspire attacks. “ISIL (ISIS) remains the greatest terrorism threat globally. Despite the losses it sustained last year. ISIL continued to occupy large areas of Iraq and Syria,” Siberell said.ISIL’s territorial control in Iraq and Syria reached a high point in spring 2015 and began to diminish thereafter, he said, adding, it is worth noting that they did not have a significant battlefield victory in Iraq after May last year year and by the end of 2015, 40 percent of their territory in Iraq had been liberated. This number has continued to increase in 2016, he said.Responding to a question, Siberell said the number of terrorist attacks in Pakistan decreased in 2015 as compared to 2014, which was a particularly violent year in Pakistan. “The Pakistani government undertook a robust response against a number of militant groups and throughout that end of 2014 into 2015,” he said.”Pakistan is a key counterterrorism partner and we have an ongoing conversation with the Pakistani government for the need to address militant activities in Pakistan and it will remain a key partner in confronting terrorism in the South Asia region,” Siberell said.

959 dead, 1561 injured in healthcare attacks over two years: WHO report

Be it executions of health care workers and patients in Libya by terrorist fronts, targeted bombing of hospitals in Iraq and Syria or armed robberies in healthcare facilities in Africa, providing or seeking medical aid in conflict-ridden areas has turned into a death sentence. The latest numbers released by World Health Organization on Thursday in a report — Attacks on healthcare — Prevent. Protect. Provide, damning to say the least.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The report states that over the two-year period of 2014 and 2015, with 594 attacks in 19 countries, 959 people died and 1561 were injured. Of all the attacks on hospitals, clinics, health posts, physicians, nurses, midwives, vaccinators, lab workers, health care security, maintenance,cleaning staff, ambulances, patients and visitors, 62% were reported to be intentional.Majority of the attacks, up to 38% (228) attacks were reported in Syrian Arab Republic. Close on it’s heels follow regions of West Bank and Gaza Strip (53), Iraq (43), Pakistan (43) and Libya (33). Ukraine, Central African Republic, Yemen, Sudan and Afghanistan have also borne major brunt of attacks.Attacks on healthcare facilities are multi-faceted and include violent search of facilities, abduction of health workers, military takeover, bombings, chemical or cyber attacks, harassment and sexual violence to name a few.Regarding deaths and injuries, in some countries a single attack resulted in mass casualty leading to significant proportion of the total deaths and injuries for that year.In 2015, of 39 deaths, 34 occurred on August 14 when 12 healthcare providers and 22 patients were beheaded and crucified with impunity by Islamic State (ISIS) in Libya. In Iraq, of the 71 reported deaths in 2014, 18 occurred when the obstetrics section of the Hawija Hospital was bombed on 6 September; and of the 43 deaths in Iraq in 2015, 31 occurred during a bombing on Fallujah’s maternity hospital on August 13.International medical aid organization Medecins Sans Frontiers is one of the many such healthcare providers that has faced a huge set back in terms of lives lost to attacks in conflict zones such as Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and Sudan amongst others.”In 2015, 75 hospitals and clinics supported by MSF were hit by bombing and shelling in Syria more than 94 times – that’s on average more than once a week. In total, 23 MSF medical staff were killed, and 58 staff were wounded,”said a spokesperson from MSF. “In Yemen, MSF medical activities were attacked four times in just three months between October 2015 and January 2016.”Dr Joanne Liu, President, MSF International, in her sharp address at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) pointed out, “Four of the five permanent members of UNSC have to worrying degrees been associated with coalition responsible for attacks on the health structures over the last year. These are the NATO-led coalition, Saudi-led coalition attacking Yemen and Russia-backed coalition in Syria.”She further said, “Our calls for independent investigation into these attacks have gone unheeded. Perpetrators cannot be investigators, judges or jury. Medicine should not be a deadly occupation and patients should not be attacked or slaughtered in bed.”2014 – 338 attacks in 19 countries2015 – 256 attacks in 16 countriesTotal – 594 attacksTen countries that reported most attacks on healthcare -Syrian Arab Republic – 228West bank and Gaza Strip – 53Iraq – 43Pakistan – 43Libya – 33Ukraine – 32Central African Republic – 30Yemen – 22Sudan – 20Afghanistan – 10

Recruitment war heats up between IS and al Qaeda in the sub-continent

The bloody rivalry between al Qaeda and Islamic State that took roots in the ongoing conflict in Syria, now seems to be spilling over in South Asia. The Indian sub continent is emerging as a new turf for the global jihadi groups to recruit and draw battle-lines. To attract recruits from India – which has the world’s second largest followers of Islam but have stayed averse to the violent jihad – al Qaeda and Islamic State group have released propaganda videos revealing India’s glorious Islamic past when the country was ruled under Sharia law and chiding the community for not joining the holy war against the taghouts (idolators).<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>This week the al Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), headed by Maulana Asim Umar, released the English subtitled version of ‘Shariah or Democracy’ video while the IS released ‘Bilad al Hind, between hope and pain’, on Telegram, directly addressing the Indian Muslim community, inciting them to revolt against their life under democratic governance and cow worshipping Hindus and follow the path of Shariah.Blaming the British crusaders for destroying and eliminating the Islamic system that flourished in India under the Mughal rule and the onset of democracy which further suppressed the Muslim community, AQIS chief Umar rebukes the Indian Muslims for co-habiting and living under a man-made system as against Shariah-based religious laws. “It is a wonder that 65 years after the British left, some people still adhere to their sinister system (man-made democracy) and declare it mandatory for our progress and stare in surprise to those who want to restore the Islamic system,” Ironically, Umar, identified as Sanaullah Khan, who left his village in Sambhal, Uttar Pradesh as a teenager and later joined al Qaeda in Pakistan-Afghanistan, belongs to a family whose ancestors strived in India’s freedom struggle and condemn jihad in the name of religion.The AQIS, established in September 2014, shortly after IS declared a Caliphate on its captured territory in Syria and Iraq in July, focusing its operations in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Burma. The total strength of the group is not known, but it has presence of handful of Indians particularly from Umar’s native town of UP, who went to fight jihad in Afghanistan. The group’s leadership is believed to be based in the North Waziristan area of the Af-Pak region. Although AQIS has not made any attacks, the Delhi Special Cell last year claimed to have busted a module of five members including the alleged India head, who were trained and planned to conducts blasts.The IS group on the other hand, has lured over a dozen young men from India in its group who are attracted to the ideology of the Caliphate and returning back to the basics of Islam. In its video, the group invokes theology to cast India as a land of Shirk ruled by polytheists and idolators in complete disdain of tawheed, the concept of oneness of Allah followed by Muslims. It castigates Muslims in India for deviating from the fundamental teachings of Islam and adapting practices of the mushkireen (disbelievers). “Those Muslims who are refraining from jihad and are running after the petty glory of small world should see the agenda of the kufr, how they are bent on eliminating Muslims,” the narrators say in Arabic, with images of riots and dead bodies looming in the background, in the IS video.Both the groups attempt to put the sectarian tensions between the Muslim community and majority Hindu into the context of global jihad, equating the demolition of Babri Masjid, riots in Gujarat, Assam, Muzaffarnagar and the conflict in Kashmir, as slaughtering of the ‘Islamic identity’. The IS makes use of its Indian fighters who unable to endure the injustice, travelled to Syria under the Caliphate rule and have now vowed to avenge.“Oh brothers and sisters, they (Hindus) have become the rulers of your life, they can kill you whenever they want, for any reason, like sometimes for slaughtering a cow. Our mothers and sisters are not safe, nor our businesses. Hindus are forcefully trying to convert Muslims, but the worst is that our religion is being mocked at,’’ addresses the masked jihadi, Ahmad Farouq al-Hindi with an evident stutter in Urdu to his Indian Muslim brethren. “Is there still a space for any more humiliation and disgrace. Are you still not able to generate the spirit of avenge and jihad within you ?,’’The IS also targets the Muslim clergy in India for hobnobbing with the idolatory communities and dissuading Muslims away from the honest faith while confusing them with ideas of patriotism while declaring the holy jihad as haraam. “You continue to remain passive and refrain from Jihad in which lies your success and which is fard (mandatory),’’ coerces the narrator in Arabic in the new IS video.The sub-continent with a large number of followers of Islam is an attractive base for jihadi groups to discharge radical propaganda, inciting them to fight for the glory of Islam and their identity.Al Qaeda and IS have a similar campaign currently operational in Bangladesh wherein both the groups are vying to establish a base and recruit fighters to wage jihad. The groups have targeted liberal, secular, bloggers, activists and non-Muslim communities or anyone who mocks Islam through brutal killings and beheadings. The local police however suspects that few local Islamist members particularly from the Jamait e Islami and Jamatul Mujaheedin Bangladesh have established contact with both the groups and as such there is no presence of the jihadi leaders of al Qaeda and IS in the country.Indian intelligence agencies as well believe that the propaganda of al Qaeda and IS group is devoured on social media platforms by ignorant youth, but the number of those trying to actually joining the groups is limited.

Islamic State flaunts Indian fighters in new video; vows to take revenge of Babri, Godhra and Kashmir

Two years after a few Indian youth fled to the frontlines of Syria to fight jihad alongside Islamic State (IS), the militant group has released a video showing the Indian fighters in its troops. Dressed in military fatigue, a boat full of Indians — streaming on the Orontes river in Homs, western Syria — are depicted carrying Kalashnikovs (see pic), and amongst them are members of Indian Mujaheedin, an unidentified fighter with a stutter and boys from Kalyan, Aman Tandel and Fahad Shaikh. All fighters vow to take revenge against atrocities unleashed against Muslims in Kashmir, demolition of Babri Masjid, communal riots in Gujarat, Assam and Muzaffarabad.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>This is the first time the IS group has released a propaganda video confirming presence of Indian fighters among its troops of foreign fighters from at least 86 countries. Although references to ‘Hind’ and cow-worshipping Hindus have been consistent in IS literature and mouthpiece Dabiq, it is paramount to note that the group has directly addressed the Indian Muslim community, admonishing their passiveness for living amidst ‘polytheist idolators’ and coercing them to migrate to the Caliphate or fight jihad.Titled ‘Bilad al-Hind, between pain and hope’, the video was released by the media office of Wilayat Homs on late Thursday evening. The video was shot last year and a few still images were posted by IS supporters on social media. It is however the first time that the 22-minute-long video was released officially by IS-related Khilafah news on Telegram channel and YouTube (from where the link is now removed). The timing of the IS video preceded a few hours earlier by its rival al Qaeda in Indian sub-continent AQIS as it re-upped its propaganda video ‘Shariah or democracy’ narrated by chief Maulana Asim Umar (identified as Sanaullah Haq from Uttar Pradesh), with English sub-titles, indicating the turf war between the two global jihadi groups to attract higher recruits.Narrated in Arabic, the video features five Indian nationals recognised by their kunya — Arabic aliases given to fighters: Abu Talha al-Hindi, Abu Umar al-Hindi, Ahmad Farouqe al-Hindi, Abu Taraab al-Hindi (Tandel) and Abu Salman al-Hindi. All sport nascent beard and long hair, singing nasheed (songs of glory), eating food, smiling and walking in the territory captured by IS and speak on camera in Urdu, with one exception of an accented English. There is also a snapshot of Abu Turaab al-Hindi or Mohammad Sajid, IM commander who died fighting in Kobane, Syria in 2015 and Fahad Shaikh buying food in a bakery at an undisclosed location in Homs.”After the Batla encounter (operation launched by Delhi special cell in 2008, Jamia Nagar against IM members living in Batla House), our lives were agonised. Intelligence agencies, the ATS and police hunted us and made our life difficult. It was with Allah’s grace we managed to escape,” says Umar al Hindi believed to be an IM member.According to Indian intelligence agencies, 23 Indian nationals are enrolled with Jabhat al-Nusra front, affiliated to al-Qaeda, in Syria and IS. Some of them have fled from India, others are believed to diaspora residents, but a majority of this number includes members of IM who escaped to Pakistan-Afghanistan region after the leadership was dismantled here. The video confirms this narrative.Umar says he and a few other brothers came to Khorasan (Afghanistan) where they stayed and fought alongside mujaheedin. It was here in 2014 that the IM leadership headed by Bhatkal brothers once again split, with some members remaining loyal to al-Qaeda and Taliban, and others choosing to join IS. The latter faction came to be known as Ansar-ut Tawhid fi Bilad al-Hind (AuT) and some of its members travelled to Syria.Talha al-Hindi, who is a part of this group and made the hijrah (migration) to the battlefront of jihad in Syria, confirms this. “We are fortunate to pledge allegiance to IS for the second time. We first gave bayah (oath) when we were in AuT in Khorasan,” he says calling other Indian Muslims to obligate and migrate to the land of Caliphate or support the Islamic State in whatever way.The video bears trademarks of IS propaganda in terms of camera work, music and imagery of bloodshed, gore and charred dead-bodies purported to show communal violence between Hindu-Muslims. It demonises India as a land of shirk and idolatory to distort historical facts: that parts of Hind and Sindh (now in Pakistan) were violently conquered by the armies of second Caliph Umar of the Rashidun Caliphate (632-661) to bring people closer to Shariah, whereas Islam is believed to have come to India through peaceful means when Arab traders landed at the Malabar coast in early 7th century AD.The video also highlights the brotherhood between Hindu-Muslims as a ‘taghout’ to invigorate Muslims to join jihad.”You might be a rich businessman or have a high-paying job in a company, but at the end you are still living in Dar ul Kufr (land of infidels),” mocks Aman Tandel, alias Tarab al-Hindi. He further confirms that Saheem Tanki, from the group of four who travelled to Syria from their locality in Kalyan, Mumbai, was martyred in an operation.The Indian Muslims community — which has second largest followers of Islam in the world — has remained averse to jihad owing to the syncretic form of Islam, as well as the historic roots which dates back to the independence struggle when the Darul Uloom Deoband seminary issued a fatwa calling India as Dar-ul-Aman (land of peace). The IS video attacks the mainstream Ulema (Muslim clergy) — who sided with the nationalist and pacifist Deobandi school opting for secular India as against Islamic Pakistan. Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind leader Maulana Mahmood Madani and politician Asaduddin Owaisi are shown as examples of Muslims who propagate nationalism, participate in ‘democracy’ as against Shariah and have declared jihad as haraam.A third fighter, Ahmad Farouq al-Hindi, who has masked his face, and speaks angrily with a stutter says that the rulers in India for years have slaughtered the Muslim community, sometimes for a reason like consuming beef. “Don’t listen to those who say Islam is a religion of peace. It was never so even for a day. It’s always been a religion of Qitl (actual war),” says Ahmad.Their message to IndiansAbu Talha al-Hindi, IM/AuT memberI condemn all those Muslims who are living among the shirk (idolators). If you want a life of dignity and success, then you must follow the road of qitl (actual war) against them.Abu Umar al-Hindi, IM memberDon’t you remember the serial blasts in Mumbai, Gujarat, Delhi and Jaipur. We will cause bigger destruction that this. We will fight with you till the endAbu Tarab al-Hindi, Aman TandelAs far as propoganda is concerned by the government of India and its media, that we three are worried here and want to come back (home), let me tell you we are happy living a life of dignity and honour and are not returning to the land of disgrace. “Yes, we will return, with swords in hand to take revenge against Babri masjid, Godhra, Kashmir and Muzzafarabad.”Abu Salman al-HindiIf Indians think they are smart and intelligent and are spending immense money through research trying to find what we want. Listen. We want three things: either accept Islam, pay jiziya or prepare to be slaughtered.Fahad Shaikh

ISIS’ Shafi Armar still alive and recruiting in India, says report

Amid news of Islamic State (IS) slowly losing ground in Syria, reports suggest that a key ISIS man who was said to have been killed in a US airstrike last month is alive and has been recruiting men for the terror outfit in India. According to a Hindustan Times report, IS recruiter Shafi Armar alias Yusuf al-Hindi, a native of Bhatkal in Karnataka, is alive and looking for new members to join the Jihadi organisation.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>“Some social media platforms announced Armar’s death, but as per our information, he is still communicating with prospective recruits who are under the scanner of security agencies for showing jehadi tendencies,” a senior officer with a central counter-terror group told the daily.
ALSO READ ISIS Indian recruit says they were asked to infiltrate Kanhaiya stir, burn vehicles: ReportArmer is said to operate from Syria and had reportedly put together around two dozen ISIS sympathisers in India. Some of them arrested recently have reportedly told the interrogators that the person who communicates with them identifies himself as Yusuf al-Hindi from Bhatkal and is currently operating in Syria.Armar is said to have started as a member of the banned militant outfit Indian Mujahideen. Quoting a counter terror officer, the report said that Armar fled to Pakistan in 2009 with a few of its top-ranking members before moving on to join the Islamic State.
ALSO READ ISIS declares emergency in self-declared capital of Raqqa in Syria: US officialMeanwhile, a senior US official said that Islamic State has not gained significant ground since it took the Iraqi city of Ramadi a year ago, which it then lost in December, as the US led coalition in Iraq and Syria has been helped by better intelligence and better equipped local forces.Islamic State controls the cities of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria and is proving a potent threat abroad, claiming credit for major attacks in Paris in November and Brussels in March.

Funding trail on India’s IS module leads to Dubai

Investigations into the Indian module of Islamic State (IS)-inspired Junood-al-Khalifa-e-Hind, is leading a trail to Dubai.Bhatkal resident Ismail Abdul Rauf, who was wrongly intercepted by the intelligence agencies at Pune airport recently, may not have been a wannabe IS recruit or a Syria-bound jihadist. His interrogation, however, has given leads to investigators on missing links that could be a part of the large jigsaw puzzle, including the alleged IS fighter Shafi Armar alias Yousuf al Hindi, and how he purportedly funded to raise an Indian-affiliated jihadi group through Dubai.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Known as the mecca of money laundering or hawala operations, Dubai, along with other countries in the Gulf region, houses a large Indian diaspora. Importantly, various armed groups, including the IS, in the ongoing conflict in Syria are funded through a network of private donations, collected from sheikhs, tribal leaders, influential ulemas and Arab diaspora based in Gulf countries. These two factors could be a starting point in unraveling the funding of Junood-al-Khalifa-e-Hind group outside the Indian territory by the Indians living in Gulf.The trail began in January, soon after the NIA arrested over 20 men in a nationwide crackdown after monitoring their social media activities. The arrested had common links of connection with al Hindi, who investigators believe is based in Syria with the IS group. During the raid at Mudabbir Sheikh’s Mumbra house, the police recovered cash of Rs 1.95 lakh. In his interrogation, Sheikh revealed that the amount was a part of Rs 6.4 lakh he received in two separate transactions through hawala operations facilitated by al Hindi. Sheikh is the only member of Junood Khilafa to have received money from al Hindi to set up the group, organise meetings and help other members logistically to manifest the operations.He was put in charge of disseminating the funds to the other members based in Maharashtra, Karnataka, UP, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu – now in judicial custody – who never met each other personally, but confessed to have been roped in by al Hindi, NIA officials said.Last November, Sheikh got the first intimation from al Hindi to receive a hawala transaction under the code name ‘Nadeem’. In a few days, he received the sum of Rs 1.6 lakh from a hawala operator in Mumbai’s bustling bazaars adjoining the iconic Crawford market. With the test run of the first transaction successful, Sheikh was told to collect another delivery from another operator in a fortnight. This time the sum was larger, Rs 4.8 lakh.Between December and January, when they were finally arrested, Sheikh’s cache of Rs 4.72 lakh was distributed upon al Hindi’s orders to various members including Malik Banda alias Mohsin of UP (Rs 3 lakh), Rs 50,000 each to Imran Moazzam Khan of Aurangabad, Mohammad Hussain Khan alias Jameel of Mumbai, Nafees Khan of Hyderabad who also gave a part of the funding to Ashik Ahmed of West Bengal (arrested in March). The money was used for travelling and purchasing mobile phones, laptops, and even clothes.“The IS-inspired module in India has so far only one form of organised funding through hawala. The main suspect, al Hindi, seems to have thoughtfully picked out roles for each of the members like Sheikh for organising and financing without letting them know what the other was doing. This was obviously done to avoid detection by intelligence agencies and getting caught,” said an NIA official.Rauf’s arrest at Pune airport, triggered by a lookout circular issued in a similar phonetically sounding name earlier in April, turned out to be a case of mistaken identity. Rauf, who was travelling to Dubai, was not the IS suspect the NIA was looking for, but his interrogation revealed details that investigators believe join the dots in the funding and hawala transactions.Rauf had earlier travelled to Dubai 10 months ago to work as a labourer and came into contact with another Bhatkal resident, Ismail Nanda. During the time of their acquaintance, Nanda asked Rauf if he knew any hawala operators in Dubai and the latter gave contact of an operator, Abdullah Umaid. Officials investigating the case said Rauf was later contacted by Nanda and asked to check if ‘Nadeem’ (code name for Sheikh’s hawala transaction) got the money. Rauf did not know who Mudabbir Sheikh was but it is believed that Nanda used the hawala operator in Dubai, suggested by Rauf, to make the transaction.Rauf was earlier a suspect in the case, but NIA has now made him a witness and are verifying the information provided by him. The agency is also making use of the mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) with Dubai to dig deep into Nanda’s identity and find if he facilitated the hawala transactions to India at the behest of al Hindi or any other IS leader. If substantiated, it will take the investigation closer to proving that al Hindi used the IS group’s funds – collected illegally by smuggling and selling oil, antiquities, collecting taxes from population living in its territory, ransom and selling Yezidi women as slaves among other methods – to raise a module in India.

India deeply appreciates US’ engagement in Asia-Pacific: Ashton Carter

Washington: US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter has said new ways of investing and operating were required to tackle five evolving strategic challenges that America is facing even as he termed India as a “new friend” which “deeply appreciated” its engagement in the Asia-Pacific.

“We are entering a new strategic era. Today’s security environment is dramatically different from the last 25 years, requiring new ways of investing and operating. Five evolving strategic challenges, namely: Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and terrorism are now driving DOD’s planning and budgeting as reflected in this budget,” Carter told members of the Senate Armed Service Committee during a Congressional hearing on Wednesday.

However, at this moment IS poses the greatest threat to the US, he said, adding that the US-led international coalition is determined to defeat the terrorist outfit.

A file photo of Ashton Carter. ReutersA file photo of Ashton Carter. Reuters

A file photo of Ashton Carter. Reuters

“I want to focus first on our ongoing fight against terrorism and especially ISIL, which we must and will deal a lasting defeat, most immediately in its parent tumour in Iraq and Syria, but also where it is metastasising. And all the while, we’re continuing to help protect our homeland,” he said.

China in the Asia-Pacific is behaving aggressively, he said. “There, we’re continuing our re-balance to the region to maintain the stability we’ve underwritten for the past 70 years, enabling so many nations to rise and prosper in this, the single most consequential region of the world for America’s future,” he said.

“As I saw in India and the Philippines at the beginning of my trip, our engagement in the Asia-Pacific is deeply appreciated and in high demand by enduring allies and new friends alike,” he added.

Carter said two other longstanding challenges pose threats in specific regions. North Korea is one. And that’s why our forces on the Korean peninsula remain ready, as they say, to fight tonight, he said.

“The other is in Iran, because while the nuclear accord is a good deal for preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, we must still deter Iranian aggression and counter Iran’s malign influence against our regional friends and allies, especially Israel, to which we maintain an unwavering and unbreakable commitment, and also our Gulf partners, with whom I met last week in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh,” Carter said.

Addressing all of these five challenges requires new investments on the part of US, a new posture in some regions, and also new and enhanced capabilities, he said.

“For example, we know we must deal with these challenges across all domains, not just the usual air, land and sea, but also especially in cyber, electronic warfare and space, where our reliance on technology has given us great strengths and great opportunities, but also led to vulnerabilities that adversaries are eager to exploit,” he said.

“Key to our approach is being able to deter our most advanced competitors. We must have and be seen to have the ability to ensure that anyone who starts a conflict with us will regret having done so. In our budget, our capabilities, our readiness and our actions, we must and will be prepared for a high-end enemy, what we call full spectrum,” Carter said.

In this context, Russia and China are America’s most stressing competitors, as they’ve both developed and continue to advance military systems that seek to threaten American advantages in specific area.

“We see them in Crimea, Syria and the South China Sea. In some cases, they’re developing weapons and ways of war that seek to achieve their objectives rapidly, before they think we can respond. Because of this, Department of Defense has elevated their importance in our planning and budgeting,” Carter said.

Why India should worry about IS in Bangladesh

Earlier in January, a co-ordinated intelligence operation in Maharashtra, Telangana, Karnataka, Uttarakhand and more recently in West Bengal led to arrests of over 20 young men from diverse age group and backgrounds. Connected through social media and secret chat rooms online, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) claims that these men aspired to establish the Indian module of the Islamic State group or ISIS. The Junood- e-Khalifa-e-Hind shaped by home grown radicals to launch jihadi attacks and bring IS’s radical ideology in India was busted and locked in.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>But the threat of jihad seems far from over and it is unlikely to come from within India but outside its borders in the neighborhood.The Islamic State in its newly released mouthpiece Dabiq has announced its new front in Bangladesh and its use as a launching pad for guerrilla attacks in India. The declaration of the group’s existence is Bangladesh is a part of the well etched propaganda meant to create fear and insecurity on IS’s growing footprint but in no way are hollow warnings .The 4100 km odd border that India shares with Bangladesh, partly running through the marshy Sunderbans, dense forests and equally densely populated and porous enclaves along West Bengal, Tripura, Assam, Mizoram and Meghalaya, is a known `problem area’ and a weak spot in the robust border management. These borders have long been traversed for illegal human migration, contraband, arms, cattle smuggling, fake currency and used as easy gateways by local insurgents like United Liberation Front of Assam and Harkat-ul-Jihadi-Islami of Bangladesh (HUJI-B)Now transnational jihadi groups including al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and its rival, the IS have made Bangladesh a new hunting ground. And the jihadi wars between the two to gain more recognition, recruits and popularity have started heating up since last year.Ansarullah Bangla Team representing AQIS is waging a war against atheists and secular bloggers. So far the group has claimed responsibility for a string of attacks on Internet bloggers for mocking and criticising Islam. The most recent casualty was law student Nazimuddin Samad, who was killed last week near his university in Dhaka. The IS, replicating its strategy in Syria has murdered foreign nationals and non-Muslims, as it deems them as enemies of Islam.The jihadis of IS and al Qaeda in Bangladesh appear to be members of local Islamist groups who are trying to cash in on the popularity of the new extremist groups. While the numbers and military capabilities of both IS and al Qaeda in Bangladesh are minimal, the acceptance of the former by its central leadership in Syria and its acknowledgement in the group’s mouthpiece Dabiq may propel it to stage stellar attacks.In IS’s terminology India and its majority Hindu population is a legitimate target as apostate and enemies of Islam. In an earlier interview in Dabiq, the emir of IS Khorasan vowed to expand to Kashmir. Presence of several jihadi networks in the unruly Afghanistan-Pakistan region may undermine IS’s ambition from reaching India and Kashmir from the north but the porous borders of Bengal to stage attacks in India and draw global recognition to its cause, will not be hard to cross for the soldiers of Khilafah in Bangladesh.

ISIS threatens attack on India; vows to wipe out Hindus

Islamic State (ISIS) has made new threat to send its fighters from Pakistan and Bangladesh to carry out ‘guerrilla attacks’ in India.In a recent interview carried by Dabiq magazine, the ‘amir’ of ISIS fighters in Bangladesh, Shaykh Abu Ibrahim al-Hanif has vowed to wipe out Hindus and implement ‘sharia’ law in India and Bangladesh. al-Hanif also revealed the terror group is currently training fighters in Bangladesh and Pakistan to launch attacks on India and is seeking the help of the local mujahideen in the country, according to a leading English daily. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The intention behind the attacks, al-Hanif says is to rid India of disbelievers as Muslims are facing trouble because of Hindus. In Dabiq, he has warned Hindus will be their main target in India.
ALSO READ Brussels attackers had experience from battle in Syria, Paris raid: ISIS in DabiqTo establish a caliphate, al-Hanif promises to topple Shiekh Hasina government in Bangladesh. “Bengal is located on the eastern side of India, whereas Wilayat Khurasan is located on its western side. Thus, having a strong jihad base in Bengal will facilitate performing guerrilla attacks inside India simultaneously from both sides and facilitate creating a condition of tawahhush (fear and chaos) in India along with the help of the existing local mujahidin there…,” he is quoted as saying in the magazine.“This would allow IS fighters to enter with a conventional army and completely liberate the region from the mushrikin (disbelievers), after first getting rid of the ‘Pakistani’ and ‘Afghani’ regimes”, he added.

Brussels raids over, no arrests – Reuters witness | Reuters

BRUSSELS Belgian police ended a search of an apartment complex in the central Brussels district of Etterbeek on Saturday without making arrests after having evacuated the building’s residents, a Reuters journalist at the scene said.

The building, which has a shop on the ground floor, had been cordoned off by police and forensics experts entered the premises. Police said snipers had also been deployed.

On Friday, police detained two key suspects in the Islamic State attacks on Paris and Brussels as they pursued operations to track down militants who have fought with or take direction from leaders in Syria.

(Reporting by Temis Tormo; Writing by Robert-Jan Bartunek; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Case of ‘mistaken identity’: Suspected IS recruit held at Pune airport released

34-year-old Mohammed Ismail, who was detained on Tuesday in Pune by NIA investigators, suspecting him of being an ‘Islamic State recruiter’, has been released. Ismail’s detention could have been a case of ‘mistaken identity’, a said senior government official said in New Delhi.

Ismail’s father, Rauf Ahmed, said that he received a call from his son around 11 pm on Wednesday that he had been released and was in Mumbai, reports The Hindu.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Ismail was detained at the Pune airport on Tuesday, as he was leaving the country and flying to Dubai for onward journey to Syria.

Officials had identified him as Raoof Ahmed, a resident of Bhatkal in north Karnataka. “The person detained at the Pune airport also had Raoof in his name and since he is from Bhatkal,the intelligence agencies could have mistaken him for a terror suspect,” The Hindu reports the official as saying.

Security agencies have been keeping a strict vigil after his name cropped up during internet chats with members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which is being monitored by sleuths to look for possible followers of the terror group, active in parts of Syria and Iraq.

They said Ahmed was detained as the Union Home Ministry had issued a Look Out Circular against him sometime back.
At least 14 youths have been arrested early this year by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) as part of its probe on indoctrination of youths by the banned terror group.

With inputs from PTI

Top 5 stories from across India: From Maharashtra’s water crisis to #JusticeforNupur

1. Religious head of Syria felicitates mufti from Mumbai for issuing fatwa against ISISThe religious head of Syria recently felicitated a mufti from Malvani, Malad, who took up the cause of fighting terrorism by issuing a fatwa against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in September 2015. According to Mufti Manzar Hasan Khan Ashrafi Misbahi, ISIS has been misinterpreting the Quran and stood against the very definition of Islam. Mufti was felicitated in the last week of March 2016. Read more <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>2. Thane start-up addresses Maharashtra’s water crisis, offers car wash in just 3 litresAs the state is staring at a crippling water crisis, new innovative ways are coming up to manage this resource. When it comes to car wash, usually a lot of water is wasted. To address this problem, a start-up in Thane promises to clean your car using just three litres. Five youth have come forward to do their bit with ‘Clean Wash Care,’ and so far they have been doing a good job of water management. Read more3. Non-local students protest at NIT Srinagar to raise their demands with MHRDThe students, in their letter to the MHRD, have demanded that J&K police, which lathi-charged students, be removed from the campus and central forces be deployed for the security of the students. Read more4. Situation tense in Chandni Chowk after authorities demolish a piao at Gurudwara Sis GanjThe North MCD, in its anti-encroachment drive, demolished the piao at Gurudwara Sis Ganj. The sevaks from the Gurudwaras started an agitation and quickly constructed it again in retaliation. Read more 5. Over a thousand people demand ‘Justice for Nupur’ on social mediaAn elderly couple, who fled with their nine-year-old granddaughter, has raised the ire of friends and family of 32-year-old Nupur who allegedly committed suicide in Noida’s Sector-14 on March 26. The campaign to seek #JusticeforNupur has intensified on social media and UP CM Akhilesh Yadav’s office has assured that he will look into the case. Read more

dna afternoon Must Reads: From Dravid as prospective India coach to Fadnavis comments on Bharat Mata ki Jai

Fadnavis: If you don’t say Bharat Mata Ki Jai, you have no right to live in this countryThe Bharat Mata Ki Jai debate refuses to blow way and now Maha CM Fadnavis is in the thick of it after he said that those who don’t say ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ have no right to live in this country. He was quoted saying by ANI: “If you want to live in this country then you have to say Bharat Mata ki Jai, otherwise you have no right to live here. Some people say we will not say Bharat Mata ki Jai. Then what? Pakistan ki jai or China ki jai?.” Read more…<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Dravid for coach?The Board of Cricket Control in India has expressed their intentions to appoint ex-Indian batsman Rahul Dravid as head coach of the Indian cricket team. In a report from The Times of India, the Indian cricket board’s advisory committee, comprising Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman, are interested in seeing their teammate Dravid take over as the boss of the national side. Read more… India secures release of four nationals from Syria: Sushma SwarajExternal Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Sunday said that India has secured the release of four nationals from Syria.Swaraj said that the release came after she had requested the Deputy Prime Minister of Syria for their release during his visit to India in January this year. She also thanked the country for acknowledging her request. (Read more…)Tesla to enter Indian market next yearUS-electric car major, Tesla, will enter the Indian market by next year.The company’s CEO Elon Musk in a tweet on Sunday said, “We are working on an exact date, but Tesla will be in India before (Model) 3 production starts. Read more…Indian priest abducted by ISIS alive? An Indian priest abducted by gunmen in Yemen last month is safe and could be released soon, a Catholic group said on Sunday, quoting the Indian foreign minister. Father Tom Uzhunnalil was captured from the southern Yemeni city of Aden by gunmen who killed at least 15 people at an old people’s home in an attack that was condemned by Pope Francis. (Read more… )

India secures release of four Indian nationals from Syria: Sushma Swaraj

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Sunday said that India has secured the release of four nationals from Syria.Swaraj said that the release came after she had requested the Deputy Prime Minister of Syria for their release during his visit to India in January this year. She also thanked the country for acknowledging her request.She also revealed the names of the Indian nationals in her tweet and welcomed Arun Kumar Saini, Sarvjit Singh, Kuldeep Singh and Joga Singh to India. The minister also said that she appreciated the efforts of the officers who had facilitated the Indian nationals’ journey from Syria to India.

Belgium frees charged suspect in blow to bombing investigation | Reuters

BRUSSELS Belgian prosecutors on Monday released a man they had charged in connection with last week’s deadly Brussels bombings, saying they did not have enough information to justify holding him.

The man, named only as Faycal C., had been accused of taking part in the activities of a terrorist group and actual and attempted terrorist murder after being detained on Thursday. His home had been searched but no weapons or explosives had been found.

“The evidence which led to the arrest of the man named as Faycal C has not been backed up by the ongoing investigation. As a result, the person has been freed by the investigating magistrate,” the prosecutor’s office said.

The announcement was a major blow to an investigation that had netted half a dozen people charged with lesser offences in Belgium and others in the Netherlands, Italy and France, where officials said the same network had planned another attack.

Belgian media had identified the man as Faycal Cheffou and a source close to the investigation had said officials believed he was the man caught in security camera footage at Brussels airport moments before two bombs exploded last Tuesday.

Earlier on Monday, police had issued a new appeal for witnesses, saying they were seeking to identify the man seen in the video wearing a light jacket, with a hat pulled down over his face and glasses. The suspected suicide bombers walking alongside him were dressed in black with their heads uncovered.

Police say one man left a suitcase containing a bomb at the terminal and fled while two others detonated their bombs.

The death toll from the attack on the airport, and a subsequent bombing of a rush-hour metro train, rose to 35 on Monday, excluding the three men who blew themselves up.

Around 340 people were wounded and 96 were still being treated in hospital, of whom 55 were in intensive care, a health ministry statement said.

A Europe-wide hunt for suspects has revealed links with the network that killed 130 people in Paris last November, as well as foiling a new potential attack on France last week, officials said. But several suspects are reported to be still at large.

OTHERS AT LARGE

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for both the Paris and Brussels attacks. These have exposed weaknesses within intelligence services in Belgium, where some of the Paris attackers lived, as well as insufficient cooperation between security services across Europe.

Dutch anti-terrorism police arrested a 32-year-old suspect on Sunday in Rotterdam on France’s request, and Italy arrested an Algerian on Saturday suspected of having forged documents for militants linked to the Brussels and Paris attacks.

Germany has also conducted raids but its Federal Criminal Police Office was among European security agencies still hunting for at least eight mostly French or Belgian suspects on the run in Syria or Europe, Die Welt am Sonntag newspaper said.

The U.S. State Department confirmed four U.S. citizens were among victims of nine different nationalities, including Belgian.

Belgian Health Minister Maggie De Block said more of those wounded in the attacks had since died. “Four patients died in hospital. Medical teams did everything possible. Total victims: 35,” she said in a tweet.

Other foreigners killed were British, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Italian and Swedish.

The airport in Brussels remained closed on Monday and the metro was running a reduced service in the capital, which was largely shuttered for the Easter holiday.

There was no sign of the nationalist protesters who clashed with police on Sunday at the Brussels bourse, where mourners have gathered and placed candles, wreaths and messages for victims.

The State Department has declined to name any of the four U.S. citizens killed, citing respect for their families.

Two of them were identified by relatives as Justin and Stephanie Shults, residents of Belgium originally from Tennessee and Kentucky who were last seen dropping off her mother at the Brussels airport before the explosion in the check-in area.

“The world lost two amazing people,” Justin Shults’ brother, Levi Sutton, said in a post on Twitter.

“It’s not fair.”

(Additional reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Writing by Philippa Fletcher; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Islamic State driven out of Syria’s ancient Palmyra city | Reuters

BEIRUT Syrian government forces backed by heavy Russian air support drove Islamic State out of Palmyra on Sunday, inflicting what the army called a mortal blow to militants who seized the city last year and dynamited its ancient temples.

The loss of Palmyra represents one of the biggest setbacks for the ultra-hardline Islamist group since it declared a caliphate in 2014 across large parts of Syria and Iraq.

The army general command said that its forces took over the city with support from Russian and Syrian air strikes, opening up the huge expanse of desert leading east to the Islamic State strongholds of Raqqa and Deir al-Zor.

Palmyra would become “a launchpad to expand military operations” against the group in those two provinces, it said, promising to “tighten the noose on the terrorist group and cut supply routes … ahead of their complete recapture”.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said clashes continued on the eastern edge of Palmyra, around the prison and airport, but the bulk of the Islamic State force had withdrawn and retreated east, leaving the city under President Bashar al-Assad’s control.

Syrian state-run television broadcast from inside the city, showing empty streets and badly damaged buildings.

It quoted a military source saying Syrian and Russian jets were targeting Islamic State fighters as they fled, hitting dozens of vehicles on the roads leading east from the city.

Russia’s intervention in September turned the tide of Syria’s five-year conflict in Assad’s favour. Despite its declared withdrawal of most military forces two weeks ago, Russian jets and helicopters carried out dozens of strikes daily over Palmyra as the army pushed into the city.

“This achievement represents a mortal blow to the terrorist organisation and lays the foundation for a great collapse in the morale of its mercenaries and the beginning of its defeat,” the army command statement said.

In a pointed message to the United States, which has led a separate Western and Arab coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq since 2014, the military command said its gains showed that the army “and its friends” were the only force able to uproot terrorism.

BIGGEST DEFEAT

In a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Assad said Russia’s air support had been essential in taking back Palmyra, and said the city would be rebuilt.

“Palmyra was demolished more than once through the centuries … and we will restore it anew so it will be a treasure of cultural heritage for the world,” Syrian television quoted Assad as saying.

Observatory director Rami Abdulrahman said 400 Islamic State fighters died in the battle for Palmyra, which he described as the biggest single defeat for the group since it announced its cross-border caliphate nearly two years ago.

The loss of Palmyra comes three months after Islamic State fighters were driven out of the city of Ramadi in neighbouring Iraq, the first major victory for Iraq’s army since it collapsed in the face of an assault by the militants in June 2014.

Islamic State has lost ground elsewhere, including the Iraqi city of Tikrit and the Syrian town of al-Shadadi in February, as its enemies push it back and try to cut links between its two main power centres of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria.

On Friday the United States said it believed it had killed several senior Islamic State militants, including Abd ar-Rahman al-Qaduli, described as the group’s top finance official and aide to its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Islamic State and al Qaeda’s Syrian branch the Nusra Front are excluded from a month-long cessation of hostilities in Syria that has brought a relative lull in fighting between the government and rebels battling Assad in the west of the country.

The limited truce has allowed indirect peace talks to resume at the United Nations in Geneva, sponsored by Washington and Moscow. But progress has been slow, with the government and its opponents deeply divided over any political transition, particularly whether Assad must leave power.

The government delegation, which portrays the fight against terrorism as Syria’s overriding priority, will return to the talks next month bolstered by its battlefield gains.

“The liberation of the historic city of Palmyra today is an important achievement and another indication of the success of the strategy pursued by the Syrian army and its allies in the war against terrorism,” Syrian television quoted Assad as telling visiting French parliamentarians.

The Observatory said around 180 government soldiers and allied fighters were killed in the campaign to retake Palmyra, which is home to some of the most extensive ruins of the Roman empire.

Islamic State militants dynamited several monuments last year, and Syrian television broadcast footage from inside Palmyra museum on Sunday showing toppled and damaged statues, as well as several smashed display cases.

Syria’s antiquities chief said other ancient landmarks were still standing and pledged to restore the damaged monuments.

“Palmyra has been liberated. This is the end of the destruction in Palmyra,” Mamoun Abdelkarim told Reuters on Sunday. “How many times did we cry for Palmyra? How many times did we feel despair? But we did not lose hope.”

(Additional reporting by Kinda Makieh in Damascus, Katya Golubkova in Moscow and Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman; Editing by Alison Williams and Susan Fenton)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Suicide bombing kills five, wounds 36 in central Istanbul | Reuters

ISTANBUL/ANKARA A suicide bomber killed himself and four others in a central Istanbul shopping and tourism district on Saturday, wounding at least 36 people in the fourth such attack in Turkey this year.

The blast sent panicked shoppers scurrying into side alleys off Istiklal Street, a long pedestrian avenue lined with international stores and foreign consulates, a few hundred metres from where police buses are often stationed.

The attack will raise further questions about NATO member Turkey’s ability to protect itself against a spillover of violence from the war in neighbouring Syria.

Turkey faces threats from Kurdish militants, whose insurgency has spread from the largely Kurdish southeast and who Ankara sees as closely linked to a Kurdish militia in Syria, and from Islamic State fighters, who have also recently targeted it.

Germany shut down its diplomatic missions and schools on Thursday, citing a specific threat. Meanwhile, U.S. and other European embassies had warned their citizens to be vigilant ahead of Newroz celebrations this weekend, a spring festival largely marked by Kurds which has turned violent in the past.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing, which two senior officials said could have been carried out by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), fighting for Kurdish autonomy in the southeast, or by an Islamic State militant.

Both groups have targeted Turkey in recent months. A PKK offshoot claimed responsibility for two suicide bombings in the capital Ankara over the past month, which killed a total of 66 people. And Islamic State was blamed for a suicide bombing in Istanbul in January which killed at least 12 German tourists.

One of the officials said the bomber had planned to hit a more crowded location but was deterred by the police presence.

“The attacker detonated the bomb before reaching the target point because they were scared of the police,” the official said, declining to be named as the investigation is ongoing.

Another official said investigations were focusing on three possible suspects, all of them male and two of them from the southern city of Gaziantep near the Syrian border. There was no further confirmation of this.

Armed police sealed off the shopping street where half a dozen ambulances had gathered. Forensic teams in white suits searched for evidence as police helicopters buzzed overhead.

“I saw a body on the street. No one was treating him but then I saw someone who appeared to be a regular citizen trying to do something to the body. That was enough for me and I turned and went back,” one resident told Reuters.

Istiklal Street, usually thronged with shoppers at weekends, was quieter than normal as more people are staying home after a series of deadly bombings.

Health Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu confirmed that 36 people had been wounded, seven of those were in serious condition and twelve of the wounded were foreigners.

Broadcaster NTV said six of the wounded were Israeli tourists and two others were from Iceland. Israel’s foreign ministry confirmed some of its citizens were among the wounded, as did Ireland, which said “a number” of Irish were injured.

INTERNATIONAL CONDEMNATION

Saturday’s blast came as Turkey is still in shock from a suicide car bombing on Sunday at a crowded transport hub in the capital Ankara which killed 37 people. A similar bombing in Ankara last month killed 29. An offshoot of the PKK claimed responsibility for both bombings.

The Istanbul suicide bombing which killed German tourists in January struck at its historic heart and was blamed by the government on Islamic State.

Saturday’s attack brought condemnation from around the globe.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, on an official visit to Istanbul, said it showed “the ugly face of terrorism”, while France condemned it as “despicable and cowardly”.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg described the attack as “another terrorist outrage against innocent civilians and ally Turkey” on Twitter, while Germany urged tourists in Istanbul to stay in their hotels.

Turkey’s Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), a Kurdish-rooted opposition party, condemned the bombing.

“Just as in the Ankara attack, this is a terrorist act that directly targets civilians,” the HDP said in an e-mail. “Whoever carried out this attack, it is unacceptable and inexcusable.”

Turkey is a member of the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. It is also battling the PKK in its own southeast, where a 2-1/2-year ceasefire collapsed last July, triggering the worst violence since the 1990s.

In its armed campaign in Turkey, the PKK has historically struck directly at the security forces and says it does not target civilians. However, recent bombings suggest it could be shifting tactics.

One of the Turkish officials said the PKK was looking to carry out attacks during the Newroz holiday.

At the height of the PKK insurgency in the 1990s, the festival was often marked by violent clashes between Kurdish protesters and security forces. It coincides with the spring thaw, a time when in previous years PKK fighters re-entered Turkey from mountain hideouts in northern Iraq.

(Additional reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley, Asli Kandemir, Humeyra Pamuk and Daren Butler in Istanbul, John Irish in Paris, Paris Hafezi in Ankara, Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem, Hans-Edzard Busemann in Berlin; Padraic Halpin in Dublin; Writing by David Dolan and Nick Tattersall; Editing by Tom Heneghan and Alexander Smith)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Suspected ISIS sympathiser arrested from West Bengal

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has arrested an alleged ‘sympathiser’ of banned ISIS terror group from West Bengal.The agency identified the youth as one Ashiq Ahammed alias Raja, a resident of Hooghly district of the state.Ahammed, who was arrested yesterday, will be produced before a special court in Delhi today for further custody.The agency had registered a case in this regard in December last year on charges that the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) also known as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been “engaged in radicalisation of Indian youths and motivating them to join the terrorist organisation. As a result of which some Indian nationals have already joined it or are in the process of joining it for committing terrorist acts in the conflict zone of Iraq, Syria and Libya.” NIA has earlier arrested 14 youths in the case after a nationwide crackdown.

dna Morning Must Reads: From updates on JNU row to Vladimir Putin announcing withdrawal from Syria

1. Internal JNU committee recommends rustication of Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid, 3 othersA high level internal inquiry committee has in its report recommended rustication of two JNU students and imposition of fines on at least 21 students. Read more here<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>2. Chanting ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ in public is a matter of choice, says Salman KhurshidChanting ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ in public is a matter of choice, former Law minister and Congress leader Salman Khurshid said today. Read more here3. Money-laundering case: ED arrests Chhagan Bhujbal; to be produced before court todayAfter a marathon questioning for 11 hours, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) late on Monday night arrested senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and former deputy chief minister of Maharashtra, Chhagan Bhujbal, for alleged involved in the multi-crore Maharashtra Sadan scam. Read more here4. Vladimir Putin says Russians to start withdrawing from Syria, as peace talks resumePresident Vladimir Putin announced out of the blue on Monday that “the main part” of Russian armed forces in Syria will start to withdraw, telling his diplomats to step up the push for peace as U.N.-mediated talks resumed on ending the five-year-old war. Read more here5. World T20, India vs New Zealand: Men in Blue likely to go in with winning XIAs the hosts take on New Zealand in the first of their World T20 Super 10 encounter at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium here on Tuesday, MS Dhoni & Co have no headaches in terms of choosing its combination. Read more here6. I’m excited about this new wave: Freida PintoFreida Pinto on her upcoming release Knight of Cups and why she’s thrilled about Indian actresses making a splash in the West. Read more here

Afghans feel forgotten in Europe’s migrant crisis | Reuters

CESME, Turkey As the European Union and Turkey focus on stemming the flow of Syrian refugees attempting perilous journeys across the Aegean sea to Greece, another migrant community whose numbers are also swelling says it is being overlooked.

    Largely denied the chance for legal resettlement in Europe and struggling to find work or support in Turkey, Afghans account for around a quarter of the migrants risking their lives in the small boats leaving Turkey’s shore.

Ahead of an emergency European Union summit with Turkey on Monday, the EU executive has announced the first payouts from a 3 billion euro ($3.3 billion) fund meant to help Turkey cope with an influx of more than 2.7 million Syrian refugees and encourage them to stay put.

But while Afghans are unlikely to be prevented from using services such as medical centres and education facilities set up with European funds in Turkey, the fact they speak Pashto and Dari, rather than Arabic, risks excluding them from projects designed for Syrian refugees, aid workers warn.

“The EU is not even discussing these issues and is exclusively focused on Syria,” Kati Piri, the European Parliament’s rapporteur for Turkey, told Reuters last month.

“Even if the Syrian crisis would be solved tomorrow, there would still be a serious refugee crisis, with a large number of refugees in Turkey who don’t have access to their rights.”

Afghan migrants in Turkey interviewed by Reuters said that over the past few years they had been denied interviews with U.N. refugee agency UNHCR that would formally determine their refugee status, a key step in the journey to being resettled.

Polat Kizildag, programme coordinator at ASAM, an organisation which registers asylum seekers in Turkey, said they were generally told they were ineligible because Turkey was the third country on their journey and the expectation was that they apply for refugee status in their second, in many cases Iran.

Human rights groups have said Iranian forces deport thousands of Afghans without giving them a chance to prove their asylum status and that they are pressured to leave the country.

“We want to stay (in Turkey) but … there is no support here. It’s too expensive,” said Najebullah, 45, a father of four originally from Kabul waiting in Cesme, on Turkey’s Aegean coast, to make an illegal crossing to the Greek Island of Chios.

    “In Europe we will get work and they will help us,” he said, echoing a commonly-held belief among the migrants flooding to Turkey’s shore that once they arrive in Europe they will be more easily able to build a new life.

Selin Unal, UNHCR spokeswoman in Turkey, said the most vulnerable, including Afghans, still received interviews, adding that close to 500 Afghans had been interviewed last year. She said the sheer numbers meant those most at risk were prioritised among UNHCR’s active case load of some 254,000 non-Syrians.

RESETTLEMENT WOES

More than 63,000 Afghans came to Turkey last year, a sharp rise from 15,652 in 2014, according to ASAM, counting only those who registered. Some came directly from Afghanistan, others from Iran, where they had tried unsuccessfully to settle.

    Kirikkale, near Turkey’s capital Ankara, is one of several satellite towns where registered Afghans are allowed to reside.

    Hakima Rezai, in her late thirties, said she was trying to get to Europe to be reunited with her four children, taken to Europe by sea by her brother-in-law almost a year ago. She said UNHCR – which declined to comment on individual cases – had told her they could not help.

Rezai lives in a single room with a coal-burning stove and relies on the charity of neighbours. She does not receive the cash cards given to some Syrian refugees by international NGOs and their local partners to help meet basic living costs because there is no such scheme specifically set up for Afghans.

“I cry every day,” she said, showing the identity documents of her absent children.

The exodus from Afghanistan has been prompted by an increasingly precarious security situation, with 11,000 civilians killed or injured in 2015, as well as widespread corruption undermining faith in the future and a war-ruined economy that cannot provide enough work for its population.

Kabul and other Afghan cities have seen a spate of suicide bombings and other attacks as the Taliban has stepped up its insurgency following the withdrawal of international troops from most combat operations in 2014.

The insurgents, driven from power by a U.S-led campaign in 2001, are seeking to reimpose hardline Islamist rule and are now in control or threatening around a third of the country.

FALSE PERCEPTIONS

According to the European Commission, 64,109 asylum requests were registered in Turkey in 2015, more than 11,000 of them from Afghan citizens, but only 459 were concluded, either by granting or rejecting refugee status.

Some are still waiting in Turkey, but others are among the thousands to have crossed illegally to Europe.

Under a law passed two years ago, Afghans and other refugees have access to healthcare in Turkey and Unal said the most vulnerable could also benefit from social security schemes.

In January, Turkey also passed a new law to give refugees access to legal employment, a move praised by the European Union, although the programme has not yet been rolled out.

    But many of the Afghan refugees, hampered in part by language difficulties, are unaware of their rights and rely on illegal labour such as fruit picking to survive.

    Birnur Esen, a psychologist who works for IMECE, an organisation which collects and distributes clothes and other supplies to migrants rescued at sea, said convincing migrants to stay in Turkey meant improving their lives there and making them realise conditions in Europe would be just as difficult.

That, she said, should be the focus of European efforts.

“We are trying to change their mind,” she said. “Europe must stand behind Turkey. It must say that if you stay in Turkey, we will improve your conditions.”

($1 = 0.8879 euros)

($1 = 2.9595 liras)

(Additional reporting by James Mackenzie in Kabul, Ayla Jean Yackley in Istanbul and Tom Miles in Geneva; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Janet McBride)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

135 killed in areas covered by Syria truce in first week – monitor | Reuters

BEIRUT A total of 135 people were killed in the first week of a fragile truce in Syria in areas covered by the cessation of hostilities agreement, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday.

In areas not covered by the ceasefire, which came into force on Feb. 27, 552 people were killed, the Britain-based Observatory that monitors the country’s five-year-old civil war said.

(Reporting by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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Seven Indian companies supplying components to ISIS: Report

Seven Indian companies are among those from 20 countries named in a list whose components were used by the ISIS to make explosives, a EU-mandated study on Thursday said, suggesting that more work needs to be done to track the flow of chemicals and other items to the terror group.The study by Conflict Armament Research (CAR) showed that 51 companies from 20 countries such as Turkey, India, Brazil, and the US produced, sold or received the over 700 components used by ISIS to build improvised explosive devices (IEDs).<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Turkey topped the list of countries with a total of 13 firms involved in the supply chain. It was followed by India with seven companies, CAR said in a statement. The study was completed in 20 months. Seven Indian companies manufactured most of the detonators, detonating cord and safety fuses. Under Indian law, transfer of this material requires a licence. Those were all legally exported under government-issued licenses from India to entities in Lebanon and Turkey, the CAR said.According to the report, the terror group mostly uses Nokia 105 mobile phone for remote detonation. Companies from Brazil, Romania, Russia, the Netherlands, China, Switzerland, Austria and Czech Republic were also involved, it said.The study said that governments and firms need to do more to track the flow of cables, chemicals and other equipment. CAR’s executive director James Bevan said, “these findings support growing international awareness that ISIS in Iraq and Syria are very much self-sustaining acquiring weapons and strategic goods, such as IED components, locally and with ease.The report said that CAR gained access to the components through partners including the US-backed Kurdish YPG in Syria, the Iraqi Federal Police, the Kurdistan Region Security Council and forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government. These components were seized during battles in the Iraqi towns of al Rabia, Kirkuk, Mosul, and Tikrit and the Syrian town of Kobani.

Islamic State, Al-Qaeda using social media to buy weapons: Report

London: The terror groups active in Syria are using social media sites like Facebook to buy and sell heavy weapons, guns and ammunition, according to UK media reports.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Islamic State and Al-Qaeda terrorists could potentially also use Facebook to buy an anti-aircraft rocket launcher capable of blowing a passenger jet out of the sky, Daily Mirror reported on Wednesday.

One of the weapons for sale is a MANPADs, or man-portable air defence systems, a type of missile launcher capable of bringing down both civilian and military jets.

It is being sold for USD 67,000 on the page called ‘The First Weapons Market in Idlib (Syria) Countryside’.

Although the sellers are Syrian rebels, the nature of the conflict in the war zone means the weapon could easily fall into Islamic State hands, the newspaper said.

One post on the page shows an AGS-17 Soviet-Era grenade launcher available for USD 3,800.

One of the messages reads: “Quick friends, I need a gun with a silencer.”

The page also hosts an advert for a TOW missile launcher, which the seller claims comes from “The US Pentagon”.

TOW missiles have been controversially supplied by the CIA to selected rebel groups in Syria and Iraq since the civil war erupted in 2011.

Youssef Yassim, an Islamic State supporter from Idlib, is seen posing with an Islamic State flag in his profile and is using the Facebook page to buy a “thermal camera” – used for hunting at night.

The Mirror has reported this page to Facebook and contacted them for a comment.

The news emerged as hackers aligned with ISIS threatened Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in a new video on Wednesday, railing against the social media companies war on its propaganda.

The 25-minute film, uncovered by deep web company Vocativ, displays images of Zuckerberg and Dorsey with bullet holes over their faces.

PTI

India among 20 countries supplying bomb components to Islamic State: Report

Companies from 20 countries are involved in the supply chain of components that end up in Islamic State explosives, a study found on Thursday, suggesting governments and firms need to do more to track the flow of cables, chemicals and other equipment.The European Union-mandated study showed that 51 companies from countries including Turkey, Brazil, and the United States produced, sold or received the more than 700 components used by Islamic State to build improvised explosive devices (IEDs). <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>IEDs are now being produced on a “quasi-industrial scale” by the militant group, which uses both industrial components that are regulated and widely available equipment such as fertiliser chemicals and mobile phones, according to Conflict Armament Research (CAR), which undertook the 20-month study.Islamic State controls large swathes of Iraq and Syria. NATO member Turkey shares borders with both countries and has stepped up security to prevent the flow of weapons and insurgents to the hardline Sunni group. A total of 13 Turkish firms were found to be involved in the supply chain, the most in any one country. That was followed by India with seven.”These findings support growing international awareness that IS forces in Iraq and Syria are very much self-sustaining — acquiring weapons and strategic goods, such as IED components, locally and with ease,” said James Bevan, CAR’s executive director.The sale of these cheap and readily available parts, some of which are not subject to government export licences, is far less scrutinised and regulated than the transfer of weapons. The study found that Islamic State is able to acquire some components in as a little as a month after their lawful supply to firms in the region, suggestion a lack of oversight in the supply chain. “Companies having effective accounting systems to establish where the goods went after them would act as a deterrent,” Bevan said.’REFUSED TO COOPERATE’Bevan said the Turkish government refused to cooperate with CAR’s investigation so the group was not able to determine the efficacy of Ankara’s regulations regarding the tracking of components. Turkish government officials did not reply to requests for comment.CAR gained access to the components through partners including the Washington-backed Kurdish YPG in Syria, the Iraqi Federal Police, the Kurdistan Region Security Council and forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government.The components were recovered during major battles around the Iraqi towns of al Rabia, Kirkuk, Mosul, and Tikrit and the Syrian town of Kobani. The report’s authors said they attempted to contact the companies linked to the components, adding the firms did not respond or were not able to account for where the goods went after they left their custody.Seven Indian companies manufactured most of the detonators, detonating cord, and safety fuses documented by CAR. Those were all legally exported under government-issued licences from India to entities in Lebanon and Turkey, CAR found.Companies from Brazil, Romania, Russia, the Netherlands, China, Switzerland, Austria and Czech Republic were also involved, the report found.

Twin bombings claimed by Islamic State kill dozens in Syria’s Homs | Reuters

BEIRUT Twin car bomb blasts killed at least 57 people in Syria’s Homs on Sunday, a monitoring group said, in an attack claimed by Islamic State.

At least 100 others were injured in the attack in the central Zahra district of the western city, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Footage from pro-Damascus television channels showed charred corpses buried by rubble, damage to shop fronts and debris littering a wide area. Plumes of smoke rose from burning cars and wounded people walked around dazed.

State television said at least 32 people had been killed.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the two car bombs through Amaq, a news agency that supports the militant group.

A bomb attack claimed by Islamic State last month in Homs killed at least 24 people as government forces took back some Islamic State-held villages in Aleppo province in the north.

Sunday’s attacks also came a day after government advances against Islamic State.

A bomb attack killed 32 people in Homs in December after a ceasefire deal paved the way for the government to take over the last rebel-controlled area of the city, which was a centre of the 2011 uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

Violence rages on unabated across the country as world powers and the United Nations push to end the five-year-old conflict, meeting in Geneva to try to broker a ceasefire.

Peace talks were suspended almost immediately earlier this month as Syrian government forces and their allies, backed by Russian air strikes, intensified assaults against insurgents in Aleppo province.

The latest fighting in the north of the country has displaced tens of thousands of people, many of whom headed for the Turkish border. The exodus added to more than 11 million already displaced by the conflict, which has claimed 250,000 lives.

(Reporting by John Davison; Editing by Andrew Roche)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

3 alleged ISIS sympathisers sent to 10 days’ NIA custody

Three terror suspects, who were recently deported from UAE for their alleged ISIS links and for conspiring to carry out terror strikes in India and other countries, were on Tuesday remanded to 10 days’ NIA custody by a Delhi court. Sheikh Azhar Al Islam, Mohammad Farhan Shaikh and Adnan Hussain were produced in muffled faces before District Judge Amar Nath during in-camera proceedings after expiry of their NIA custody.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>According to sources, the NIA sought extension of police remand of the three accused for 12 days, saying they were required to be interrogated to unearth the larger conspiracy of ISIS in India and abroad. “During questioning, accused had disclosed that they were active supporters of Islamic State and remained in close contact with several active members of IS using internet, telephone and other means of communication in furtherance of its activities,” the NIA said in its remand application.The agency further contended that sustained custodial interrogation of these three accused was required “to unravel the larger criminal conspiracy of IS activities in India and abroad including recruitment of resident and non-resident Indians by the IS.””Custodial interrogation of the accused during this period has resulted in the revelation of many facts which are pertinent to establish the inter-connection amongst these accused and their association with IS. The sustained questioning of the accused also led to the discovery of many facts which need to be further verified and investigated to establish their involvement in furtherance of their activities of the IS by the accused,” the agency said.Advocate M S Khan, who appeared for Farhan and Adnan, opposed the NIA’s plea saying his clients have already been interrogated at length and there was no need to extend their custody.Adnan, who hails from Karnataka, Farhan who is from Maharashtra and Sheikh Azhar from Jammu and Kashmir were arrested on January 29 by the NIA after being deported from the UAE. The trio were detained by the NIA on arrival from the UAE at the IGI airport here.The three suspects, along with other unknown associates, were allegedly involved in a conspiracy to identify, motivate, radicalise, recruit and train Indian citizens, located in India and abroad, for planning and executing terror attacks, according to the NIA. On September 15 last year, the UAE had deported four Indians suspected to have links with ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). The UAE had also sent back last year a 37-year-old woman Afsha Jabeen for allegedly recruiting youths for ISIS. In January 2015, Salman Mohiuddin of Hyderabad was arrested when he was preparing to board a flight to Dubai on way to Syria via Turkey.According to Indian intelligence agencies, around six Indians who had joined the ISIS were reportedly killed in different incidents in Iraq and Syria.

26/11 Mumbai attack: All you need to know about Sajid Mir, the LeT contact of David Headley

While deposing before a Mumbai court on Monday, 26/11 Mumbai attack accused David Headley said that his main contact person from the Lashkar-e-Toiba was Sajid Mir, also an accused on the case.All you need to know about Sajid Mir:-Sajid is a 38-year-old Pakistani national-He was one of the earliest members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba and was the head of Lahore unit of the terror organisation.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>-His last known location was recently tracked to Muridke in Pakistan. -Mir has several passports, including one which has a Christian name with the surname Masih. -He has travelled to Dubai, Oatar, Syria and had tried to set up a base in Thailand.-Mir has undergone plastic surgery but it did not alter his face to a large extent.-Mir was arrested in Dubai and was let go due to his LeT connections.-He is known to be secretive, meticulous with an eye for detail and has good understanding of computers and was called as a ‘competent handler’ by Headley.More details on David Headley’s deposition in Mumbai court and what he said about Mir here.

Russia must stop bombing women, children in Syria: John Kerry

US Secretary of State John Kerry has urged Russia to implement a ceasefire in Syria, saying its bombing campaign was killing women and children in large numbers and “has to stop.””Russia has indicated to me very directly they are prepared to do a ceasefire,” Kerry told reporters, fresh from a trip to Europe focused on resolving the five-year Syrian conflict. “The Iranians confirmed in London just a day and a half ago they will support a ceasefire now.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”We will have a much better sense in the next few days of how serious each party is,” added Kerry on Friday, a day after he implicitly blamed Russia’s bombing campaign against the Syrian opposition for the collapse of peace talks in Geneva this week.Moscow, Damascus’s main ally, has stepped up bombing around the Syrian city of Aleppo in recent days, facilitating a government offensive that has forced tens of thousands of civilians to flee to the Turkish border.Kerry accused the Russian military of using “dumb bombs.” “They are not precision bombs, and there are civilians, including women and children, being killed in large numbers as a consequence,” he said, during a joint news conference with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.Russian planes are also targeting hospitals and returning to bomb people rescuing those wounded in earlier air strikes, he added.”This has to stop”, Kerry said.”The Russians have made some constructive ideas about how a ceasefire in fact could be implemented,” he added. “But if it’s just talk for the sake of talk in order to continue the bombing, nobody is going to accept that.” Kerry’s comments represent a clear shift in tone following a months-long attempt to cooperate with Russia over a way out of the Syrian crisis.Washington has accused Moscow of being “partly” responsible for torpedoing peace talks in Geneva on Wednesday that had barely begun.The US and Russia were chiefly responsible for the resumption of diplomatic efforts to end the war.After meetings in Vienna and New York in late 2015, regional and global powers within the International Syria Support Group – including Washington, Moscow, Riyadh and Tehran – are to meet in Munich next week to discuss a ceasefire in a war that has killed some 260,000 people and generated millions of refugees.The diplomatic process was set in motion in December by a UN Security Council resolution passed by its 15 members, including Moscow.

Mumbai man with ISIS links nabbed in Delhi: Police

A 28-year-old man with suspected ISIS links was nabbed from Kashmere Gate ISBT in New Delhi, making it the fifth arrest by Delhi Police in connection with a module of the terror outfit it had claimed to have busted last month.”The accused, Mohsin Ibrahim Sayyed, was arrested from Kashmere Gate ISBT in north Delhi last night, on the basis of a tip-off from a central intelligence agency. During interrogation, it has emerged that he was about to leave for Syria,” Special Commissioner of Police (Special Cell) Arvind Deep said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sayyed is a muezzin at Malad in Mumbai and had come to Delhi to meet an associate, an officer in the Special Cell said. Intelligence agencies had found that he was also close to one of the 14 men arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) last month in its nationwide crackdown against ISIS, the officer said. Sayyed was given Rs 1.50 lakh by a person in Lucknow and he was to deliver it to an associate here, the officer claimed, alleging police have found Rs 85,000 from his possession.A Special Cell team is at present tracking down other members of the network. According to the police, Sayyed, who is believed to be self-radicalised, was acting as a financier and had allegedly given Rs 50,000 to the four persons who were arrested by Delhi Police from Haridwar last month. All of them were found to have links with a former Indian Mujahideen militant who later went to fight for ISIS, they said.”Sayyed was particularly in touch with Akhlaq, one of the four persons arrested last month. The police are checking his background records,” Deep said.Earlier on Friday, he was remanded in police custody till February 10 by a Delhi court.Delhi Police had last month arrested four persons with suspected ISIS links from Manglour in Uttarakhand and claimed to have unearthed a terror plot targeting the Ardh Kumbh Mela at Haridwar, especially the trains headed there, along with some strategic locations in the national capital.The suspects were identified as Akhlaq ur-Rehman, Mohammed Osama, Mohammed Azim Shah and Mehroz.”The arrested persons were allegedly in contact with a former Indian Mujahideen operative, who later went for training in Syria and is presently believed to be a key member of Ansar-ut Tawhid fi Bilad al-Hind (AuT), which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS),” a police officer had then said, adding that the AuT operative is presently believed to be fighting for ISIS in Syria.

Police arrest a muezzin from Mumbai with suspected Islamic State links in Delhi

New Delhi: A 28-year-old man with suspected Islamic State links was nabbed by Delhi Police from Kashmere Gate ISBT, making it the fifth arrest in connection with the busting of a module of the dreaded terror outfit last month.

“The accused, Ibrahim Sayyed, was arrested last night based on a tip-off from a central intelligence agency. Sayyed is a muezzin at Malad in Mumbai. He had come to Delhi to meet an associate,” said Special Commisioner of Police (Special CP) Arvind Deep.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Sayeed, who is believed to be self-radicalised, was acting as a financier and had given Rs 50,000 to the four persons who were arrested from Haridwar last month.

All of them were found to have links with a former Indian Mujahideen militant who later went to fight for Islamic State.

“He (Sayyed) was in touch particularly with Akhlaq, one of the four persons arrested last month,” Deep said.

Meanwhile, police are checking his background record and a special cell team is trying to track down his contacts in the national capital.

Delhi Police had last month arrested four persons with suspected Islamic State links from Mangalore in Uttarakhand and claimed to have unearthed a terror plot to target the Ardh Kumbh Mela at Haridwar, especially the trains headed there, along with some strategic locations in the national capital.

The suspects were identified as Akhlaq ur-Rehman, Mohammed Osama, Mohammed Azim Shah and Mehroz.

“The arrested persons were allegedly in contact with a former Indian Mujahideen operative, who later went for training in Syria and is presently believed to be a key member of Ansar-ut Tawhid fi Bilad al-Hind (AuT), which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS),” police said.

PTI

Islamic State suspect from Mumbai arrested in Delhi

One more person suspected to be working for the Islamic State (IS) has been arrested from Delhi by the capital’s special cell police on Friday. Mohsinh Ibrahim Sayyed, who hails from Mumbai was arrested from Delhi’s Kashmere Gate ISBT area. He was found to be in possession of Rs 85,000.”His age is around 26 years and he is a resident of Malad West in Mumbai. He was part of Roorkee module and was planning to go to Syria. Hw was arrested last night based on a tip-off from a central intelligence agency. Sayyed is a muezzin at Malad in Mumbai,” Special Commisioner of Police (Special CP) Arvind Deep. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”He had come to Delhi to meet an associate,” said Deep.Sayeed, who is believed to be self-radicalised, was acting as a financier and had given Rs 50,000 to the four persons who were arrested from Haridwar last month. All of them were found to have links with a former Indian Mujahideen militant who later went to fight for ISIS. “He (Sayyed) was in touch particularly with Akhlaq, one of the four persons arrested last month,” Deep said.Meanwhile, police are checking his background record and a special cell team is trying to track down his contacts in the national capital. Delhi Police had last month arrested four persons with suspected ISIS links from Manglour in Uttarakhand and claimed to have unearthed a terror plot to target the Ardh Kumbh Mela at Haridwar, especially the trains headed there, along with some strategic locations in the national capital. The suspects were identified as Akhlaq ur-Rehman, Mohammed Osama, Mohammed Azim Shah and Mehroz.”The arrested persons were allegedly in contact with a former Indian Mujahideen operative, who later went for training in Syria and is presently believed to be a key member of Ansar-ut Tawhid fi Bilad al-Hind (AuT), which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS),” police said. With agency inputs.

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