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Eminent writer Mahasweta Devi hospitalised

Banerjee was there for around 20 minutes in the hospital. Doctors said Mahasweta is better now and will be discharged after a week. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>

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New York Police Department foils suspected Islamic State backed attack on New Year’s eve <!– /.block –>
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Also ReadIndiaEminent writer Mahasweta Devi hospitalisedIndiaAnimal Welfare Board advises Centre not to allow jallikattu, claims PETAIndiaUP CM Akhilesh Yadav attends ‘Saifai Mahotsav’IndiaOdd-Even Rule: Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal asks his ministers to lead by example IndiaAfter Modi’s barbs, Congress accuses him of ‘confrontational mindset’IndiaUttar Pradesh: Beat rape accused with shoes, panchayat tells victim <!– /.block –>

<!– /#sidebar-second –>Come January 1, eatables in Parliament canteen to get costlier<!– /.block –>New York Police Department foils suspected Islamic State backed attack on New Year’s eve<!– /.block –> <!– /#content_bottom –>
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Animal Welfare Board advises Centre not to allow jallikattu, claims PETA

“We want to respect that but also ensure that there should be no cruelty. Therefore, we will give you good news in the next couple of days. We will give you good news so that the cultural practice can be followed as well as cruelty should not happen to animals. We have found out some ways and will announce by January 1. The government is positive on the issue,” he had said.

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UP CM Akhilesh Yadav attends ‘Saifai Mahotsav’ <!– /.block –>
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Also ReadIndiaEminent writer Mahasweta Devi hospitalisedIndiaAnimal Welfare Board advises Centre not to allow jallikattu, claims PETAIndiaUP CM Akhilesh Yadav attends ‘Saifai Mahotsav’IndiaOdd-Even Rule: Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal asks his ministers to lead by example IndiaAfter Modi’s barbs, Congress accuses him of ‘confrontational mindset’IndiaUttar Pradesh: Beat rape accused with shoes, panchayat tells victim <!– /.block –>

<!– /#sidebar-second –>New York Police Department foils suspected Islamic State backed attack on New Year’s eve<!– /.block –>UP CM Akhilesh Yadav attends ‘Saifai Mahotsav'<!– /.block –> <!– /#content_bottom –>
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Will finalise electoral strategy for Tamil Nadu assembly polls at appropriate time: Jayalalithaa

“People will not forgive them,” she said, adding her government had an “impeccable record.”

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Indian test captain Virat Kohli named BCCI Cricketer of the Year <!– /.block –>
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Also ReadIndiaDMK chief slams Centre’s decision on LPG subsidyIndiaCensus 2011: Sikhs, Jains have the worst sex ratioIndiaCentre sanctions 4227 additional posts for Delhi PoliceIndiaStarting 2016, devotees can’t wear jeans, leggings, bermudas to Tamil Nadu templesIndiaWill finalise electoral strategy for Tamil Nadu assembly polls at appropriate time: JayalalithaaIndiaNepal’s KP Oli calls up PM Modi; discusses political situation in Nepal <!– /.block –>

<!– /#sidebar-second –>Indonesia arrests three with suspected links to Islamic State <!– /.block –>Indian test captain Virat Kohli named BCCI Cricketer of the Year<!– /.block –> <!– /#content_bottom –>
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Aasiya Andrabi calls for boycott of New Year celebrations in Kashmir, says it’s part of RSS’ plot

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Only unaccounted mufflers will be found if CBI raids my house: Delhi CM Kejriwal

Kejriwal had launched a scathing attack after the CBI raided the Delhi Secretariat and accused the Centre of orchestrating it. While Kejriwal alleged that his office was raided under the pretext of raiding his Principal Secretary’s office, the investigating agency refuted the charges.

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<!– /.block –>Kerala photographer’s studio burnt down days after he questions Islamic traditions <!– /.block –>
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Kerala photographer’s studio burnt down days after he questions Islamic traditions <!– /.block –>
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Also ReadIndia’Akhand Bharat’ a cultural concept, not a political one: RSSIndiaRadhe Maa to Anupam Kher: 8 stars who ‘broke out’ in 2015IndiaGovernment committed to electrification of villages: PM ModiIndiaGovt’s plan to repeal over 1,000 obsolete laws stuck in Rajya SabhaIndiaMann Ki Baat: Address the disabled as ‘divyaang’, not ‘viklaang’, says PM ModiIndiaModi’s Pak visit: What happened behind the scenes to make it possible <!– /.block –>

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Foreign hand trying to stall India’s atomic programme: AEC chief

See we have to supply uranium to our plants so if we do not make anything to process this uranium, how can we say that we will not do anything and keep quiet. The whole exercise to me is looking like an effort to slow down our programme. These types of things do not carry any meaning.

Pallava Bagla

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<!– /.block –>Czech president creates controversy, calls refugee influx ‘organised invasion’ <!– /.block –>
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Also ReadIndiaGujarat open to idea of high-speed racing in Rann of KutchIndiaUP BJP MLA Sangeet Som ‘threatened’ by Islamic StateIndiaDon’t expect much from Indo-Pak talks in January: Sartaj AzizIndiaGovernment plans 50 more research parks to boost Start-up India campaignIndiaATS nabs ‘IS-bound’ Telangana cousins in Nagpur; last year, cops had counselled trioIndiaMissing Malwani youth appears on WhatsApp, says he’s returning home <!– /.block –>

<!– /#sidebar-second –>IPOs 2016: Companies line up offers worth over Rs 50,000 crore<!– /.block –> <!– /#content_bottom –>
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AAP image on decline, Congress going strong: claims Amarinder

Sukhpal was like my own son. Sometimes, in politics, such things happen. Congress party is like big sea…there is nothing to worry about. One person goes and several join the party,” he said.

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<!– /.block –>Centre suggests morality provisions for lawyers <!– /.block –>
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Also ReadIndiaGujarat open to idea of high-speed racing in Rann of KutchIndiaUP BJP MLA Sangeet Som ‘threatened’ by Islamic StateIndiaDon’t expect much from Indo-Pak talks in January: Sartaj AzizIndiaGovernment plans 50 more research parks to boost Start-up India campaignIndiaATS nabs ‘IS-bound’ Telangana cousins in Nagpur; last year, cops had counselled trioIndiaMissing Malwani youth appears on WhatsApp, says he’s returning home <!– /.block –>

<!– /#sidebar-second –>Two dead as massive earthquake rattles Jammu and Kashmir<!– /.block –> <!– /#content_bottom –>
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Gujarat open to idea of high-speed racing in Rann of Kutch

“We expect several thousand more tourists over the next two months in Rann. Every year we are witnessing greater interest, both in India and abroad,” added tourism minister Patel. And with ideas of high speed racing doing the rounds in Gujarat’s tourism ministry, the wastelands of the Rann hope to soon see a display of raw fuel guzzling horsepower that would set the white sands under the full moon on fire.

dna Correspondent

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<!– /.block –>After de-silting and road, BMC hit by debris scam <!– /.block –>
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After de-silting and road, BMC hit by debris scam <!– /.block –>
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Also ReadIndiaGujarat open to idea of high-speed racing in Rann of KutchIndiaUP BJP MLA Sangeet Som ‘threatened’ by Islamic StateIndiaDon’t expect much from Indo-Pak talks in January: Sartaj AzizIndiaGovernment plans 50 more research parks to boost Start-up India campaignIndiaATS nabs ‘IS-bound’ Telangana cousins in Nagpur; last year, cops had counselled trioIndiaMissing Malwani youth appears on WhatsApp, says he’s returning home <!– /.block –>

<!– /#sidebar-second –>Centre suggests morality provisions for lawyers<!– /.block –> <!– /#content_bottom –>
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UP BJP MLA Sangeet Som ‘threatened’ by Islamic State

Earlier this year, Som was accorded ‘Z’ category security by the Centre after intelligence inputs that the BJP MLA from Sardhana could be targeted by extremist elements.Apart from his alleged involvement in the 2013 riots, Som was in the thick of controversy on being felicitated by senior BJP leaders at a rally in Agra during the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha election just before Narendra Modi arrived on the dais.

Deepak Gidwani

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<!– /.block –>European capitals have been warned of possible attack: Austrian police <!– /.block –>
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European capitals have been warned of possible attack: Austrian police <!– /.block –>
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Also ReadIndiaGujarat open to idea of high-speed racing in Rann of KutchIndiaUP BJP MLA Sangeet Som ‘threatened’ by Islamic StateIndiaDon’t expect much from Indo-Pak talks in January: Sartaj AzizIndiaGovernment plans 50 more research parks to boost Start-up India campaignIndiaATS nabs ‘IS-bound’ Telangana cousins in Nagpur; last year, cops had counselled trioIndiaMissing Malwani youth appears on WhatsApp, says he’s returning home <!– /.block –>

<!– /#sidebar-second –>Two teens held for extortion<!– /.block –> <!– /#content_bottom –>
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Don’t expect much from Indo-Pak talks in January: Sartaj Aziz

Modi also attended a marriage function of Sharif’s grand-daughter Mehrun Nisa (who is the daughter of Mariam Nawaz Sharif) at the latter’s Raiwind home on the outskirts of Lahore.

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<!– /.block –>Multi level Mini stadium worth Rs 3.28 crore to come up in Thane <!– /.block –>
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Multi level Mini stadium worth Rs 3.28 crore to come up in Thane <!– /.block –>
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Also ReadIndiaGujarat open to idea of high-speed racing in Rann of KutchIndiaUP BJP MLA Sangeet Som ‘threatened’ by Islamic StateIndiaDon’t expect much from Indo-Pak talks in January: Sartaj AzizIndiaGovernment plans 50 more research parks to boost Start-up India campaignIndiaATS nabs ‘IS-bound’ Telangana cousins in Nagpur; last year, cops had counselled trioIndiaMissing Malwani youth appears on WhatsApp, says he’s returning home <!– /.block –>

<!– /#sidebar-second –>BMC to train volunteers in killing rats<!– /.block –> <!– /#content_bottom –>
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3 missing Malwani youths may not have joined ISIS: ATS

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Lots of people from the area leave home and return after a few days or months, says a police officer

Ayaz Sultan’s mother and brother at their residence in Mhada’s Malwani Gate No 8 on Monday
Aadesh Choudhari
dna
No, the three Malwani youths who have gone missing might not have left to join the Islamic State of Iraq & Syria (ISIS), says the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS).”The three are missing and there is nothing so far to substantiate that they would have joined ISIS. We are, however, inquiring the matter,” said a senior ATS officer.In fact, one police officer even said that youths leaving home and returning are nothing new in the area.”Lots of people go missing from the Malwani area and return home after a few days or months. We have filed missing persons complaint and are trying to trace the three” said senior police inspector Milind Khetle of Malwani police station.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Of the three – Ayaz Sultan (23), Wajid Shaikh (25) and Mohsin Shaikh (26) – Sultan left home on October 30 and the other two on December 16.According to the police, Sultan, who was working in a private company, left home after telling his family that he is going to Pune in connection with a job offer from a Kuwaiti company.Wajid, a commerce graduate, who joined his family business of selling lemon juice, left home after for “getting a correction done in his Aadhaar card”.Mohsin, an auto rickshaw driver left home telling his family that he is stepping out to attend a friend’s wedding.Family of Wajid Shaikh, who stays in Chawl No 76 of Gate No 8 in Malwani, said they do not believe that he could go to the extent of joining the ISIS.”He was a religious Muslim and would offer namaz five times a day. We don’t know Ayaz Sultan, Mohsin Shaikh and their families,” said Wajid’s father Bashir.Wajid’s family is originally from Hospet in Karnataka. He is the only son of Bashir’s seven children. Wajid’s family has been staying in Malwani for the last 20 years.Wajid had left two mobile phones home before leaving. The ATS has seized them.After futile attempts to trace Wajid, his family lodged a missing person’s complaint with Malwani police the same night. “We noticed nothing unusual in Wajid’s behaviour,” said Wajid’s sister Ayesha.Wajid’s wife Bilkis, who is staying in Ghansoli in Navi Mumbai, said: “I have reported the matter to the police and would not like to say anything on the issue.” “Wajid would focus only on his work and would not interact much with anyone. I learnt through the media that he had gone missing and would have gone to join ISIS. I don’t think Wajid would do anything of this sort,” said Wajid’s cousin Wasim Khan.Family of Ayaz Sultan did not comment.

India ready for operation against ISIS if UN adopts resolution

Asked specifically if India will operate against the ISIS under the UN flag, Parrikar said, “that depends on whether UN takes a resolution”.

India on Wednesday said it can undertake operations against the ISIS terror group under a UN flag if the global body adopts a resolution in this regard.Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, who has returned after a crucial meeting with his US counterpart Ashton Carter in Washington, also said that India has been sharing intelligence on the ISIS and it will be enhanced.”We have made it clear that if there is a UN resolution and if there is UN flag and a UN mission, then as per India’s policy to operate under UN flag, we will participate,” Parrikar told reporters at India Gate after laying wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti on Vijay Diwas.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He was replying to questions on the possibility of India’s participation in operations against the ISIS.Asked specifically if India will operate against the ISIS under the UN flag, he said, “that depends on whether UN takes a resolution”.India had earlier this month, along with major world economies, participated in the first-ever global meeting held in Paris to discuss and evolve mechanisms to combat the clandestine and largely undetected terrorist financing network of the Islamic State terror group.Indian security establishment suggests that around 20 Indians are currently fighting for ISIS in Iraq-Syria. They include two youths from Kalyan in the outskirts of Mumbai, an Australia-based Kashmiri, one youth from Telangana, one from Karnataka, one Oman-based Indian and another Singapore-based Indian.Last year, a youth from Kalyan had returned home after spending about six-months with ISIS. He was arrested upon arrival in Mumbai.Among the six Indians, who fought alongside ISIS and got killed were three Indian Mujahideen terrorists, including Sultan Ajmer Shah and Bada Sajid, who had joined its ranks after being in Pakistan, two from Maharashtra and one from Telangana.On September 15, the UAE deported four Indians suspected to have links with ISIS.The UAE had also sent back in September a 37-year-old woman, Afsha Jabeen alias Nicky Joseph, who was allegedly involving in recruiting youths for ISIS.In January, Salman Mohiuddin of Hyderabad was arrested at Hyderabad airport when he was preparing to board a flight to Dubai on way to Syria via Turkey.So far, 17 young men, mostly from Telangana, have been prevented from travelling to Syria, ostensibly to join ISIS.

In touch with ISIS supporters, J&K youths were questioned before PM Modi’s visit last month

The official said while the possibility of IS coming to Kashmir had not grown too much as on date, it was “a concern we must watch” as there were some attempts to connect with the Kashmiri youth through Internet.

Representational Image of ISIS fighters

Security agencies picked up some youths for questioning ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Kashmir last month as they had come in touch with supporters of global terror group Islamic State on Internet.However, the youths were released and handed over to their parents after being cautioned and counselled about the dangers of IS, a senior security official told PTI.The official, requesting anonymity, said that while Kashmiri youths have not shown much interest in IS, there were some incidents where few of them have come in contact with its supporters through social networking sites. “Yes these people are connecting (with IS) on the Internet. Some were rounded up before visit of the Prime Minister (on November 7). It happened around that time,” the security official said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The youth who were detained were questioned by the police … something was there … they were cautioned, counselled and handed over to their parents. These were young boys who were visiting them (IS contacts) on the net. Many a time people get into discussions on the Internet without knowing who they are interacting with,” he added.Related Read: NIA seeks details of internet use, finances of arrested ISIS recruit Areeb Majeed from foreign countriesThe official said while the possibility of IS coming to Kashmir had not grown too much as on date, it was “a concern we must watch” as there were some attempts to connect with the Kashmiri youth through Internet. “At the present moment, we think it (Islamic State) is a very very nascent thing in terms of interest,” he said. The official ascribed the waving of flags in Kashmir during Friday protests to the publicity they are getting from the media.”Those guys who are waving the flags, which happens once in a while on Fridays, … earlier they used to get more publicity and there was more flag waving. Now the publicity is less, so the flag waving has also reduced,” he said.The official, while ruling out any physical presence of the IS in Kashmir, said such an event will be even opposed by outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Hizbul Mujahideen. “Distancing from Islamic State by Lashkar and Hizb was due to the fact that all the outfits are vying for the same people. They (militants) will either join the Lashkar or the IS,” he said.According to the official, intelligence agencies were monitoring the Internet traffic in Kashmir for any interest in the IS. “The intelligence agencies are monitoring this kind of activity,” he added.The LeT last month issued a statement distancing itself from IS. “Kashmiri people don’t want aid and support from an external group,” a LeT spokesperson had said. He also called the IS a “production of anti-Islamic Western countries”.

NIA arrests Chennai man attempting to join ISIS in Libya

It is the first instance of an Indian being deployed in Libya by the ISIS.

ISIS

AFP photo
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Friday arrested a 23-year-old man from Chennai who was on his way to join the Islamic State (IS), reports Hindustan Times.According to the report, the youth, Mohammed Naser Packeer Mohammed, had allegedly reached Sudan and intended to travel to Libya to fight with ISIS militants there. It is the first instance of an Indian being deployed in Libya by the ISIS.According to Union home ministry’s data, so far 23 Indians have joined ISIS and all of them were reported to be in the terror outfit-held area along the border of Iraq and Syria. Out of them, six have been reported killed.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Mohammed Naser Packeer Mohammed is a computer expert. He got in touch with an IS recruiter known as ‘Mad Mullah’ sometime in May this year while he was in Dubai. Mad Mullah told him to reach Sudan from where he was to be sent to Libya to join the IS but his activities came in the notice of Sudanese authorities who detained him and sent back to India,” a senior government official said to HT.”NIA chief Sharad Kumar confirmed that an FIR has been registered by the anti-terror agency against Naser but refused to divulge further.Naser’s father worked in a car showroom in Dubai. Naser travelled to Dubai in 2014, came back to Chennai in May this year and went back again. During the same period he started looking for the ISIS related activities online. The ISIS recruiters promised to train him in Sudan before deployment in Libya. His handler arranged for a Sudanese visa for him and dispatched it to Dubai.So far, Indian security agencies have managed to stop more than 60 Indians from joining the ranks of ISIS, the report said.

Manohar Parrikar to raise issue of cross-border terrorism by Pakistan with US counterpart Ashton Carter

India’s concern about the US policy in Middle-East relates to the rise of the Islamic State (IS) which recently carried out terror strikes in Paris killing more than 120 people.

Manohar Parrikar

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar is likely to do some ‘plain talking’ on cross border terrorism by Pakistan and articulate India’s stand on the situation in Afghanistan and the Middle East during a crucial meeting with his American counterpart Ashton Carter this week.Top Defence sources said Parrikar, at the meeting on December 9 and 10, will “plainly” tell the US that its policy of engaging Pakistan was not working.Parrikar will also be telling Carter that the American military and foreign policy in the Middle-East and Afghanistan “are not very sound” and not working properly, sources said. Parrikar, who is already in the US on his maiden visit as Defence Minister, will also express his concern over Islamabad’s “threat” to use tactical nuclear weapons against India.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Parrikar’s visit comes against the backdrop of reported US plans to sell eight F-16 fighters and 15 Bell AH 1Z Viper attack helicopters to Pakistan. He is also likely to articulate India’s stand on this.India’s concern about the US policy in Middle-East relates to the rise of the Islamic State (IS) which recently carried out terror strikes in Paris killing more than 120 people. Besides Pakistan and the security situation, Parrikar will also take forward the Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI) as both countries work towards greater collaboration in joint development and manufacture of next-gen military technology, sources said.Both Parrikar and Carter will review the functioning of the joint working group on aircraft carrier and identify technologies India could acquire in future. The two are also expected to discuss possible programmes that could be taken up under the ‘Make in India’ initiative.US’ Lockheed Martin has already offered to manufacture its planes here in line with the government’s ‘Make in India’ push. Indicating its growing interest in the Indian market, Lockheed recently entered into a joint venture with the Tatas to manufacture parts of C-130J aircraft at a newly built facility in Hyderabad.A forward movement is also expected in India’s decision to acquire 145 pieces of M777 Ultra-Light Howitzers from the US under a government-to-government deal that would see its manufacturer BAE Systems invest over US $200 million in India as offset.Parrikar is also scheduled to visit the powerful Hawaii-based US Pacific Command, the first by an Indian Defence Minister. Its area of responsibility includes China, Japan, India, South Korea, Australia and Vietnam.

Russia-led alliance tells India’s Muslims to back its fight against Islamic State

Participants at the Anti-terrorism Day function in New Delhi on Thursday
Manit
dna
Three decades ago when Russia invaded Afghanistan, it triggered a mobilisation in the Islamist world leading to the first modern jihad and initiating the birth of al Qaeda. Now with its military intervention in the conflict in Syria threatening to once again stoke Islamic extremism, Moscow is presenting its involvement as an effective and necessary step to fight the Islamic State group, whose trail of terror is threatening the whole world. The Russia-led alliance comprising Syria and Iran made a case in front of a gathering of Indian Muslim community to support its intervention against terrorism.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Speaking at an event labelled as “Anti-terrorism Day” organised by Anjuman-e-Haideri, a Shiite religious organisation based in Delhi, diplomats and ambassador from Russia, Syria, Iraq and Iran came together on one platform to vow to fight the militant extremist group of Islamic State of Daiesh. Both Iraq and Syria, which is currently fragmented with parts of its countries captured by the extremist group, also blamed the United States for its actions in fuelling the growth of IS.The militant group which came in power in June 2014 and declared a Caliphate thereafter became a target of airstrikes by the United States in Iraq. Since then more than seven countries have attacked the IS held territory, the latest being the United Kingdom.Since October, Russia aligned with the Syrian government in power headed by President Bashar al Assad to begin air strikes against rebel opposition groups and the IS. The Russian Air force is supported on the ground by pro-government alliance of the Syrian Armed Force and Iran backed foreign Shiite militias.Evgeny Bezeka, second secretary, Russian embassy said that Russia’s decision to fight against IS was followed after the invitation of the Bashar government. “We are fighting under the aegis of the international law with allies who understand the threat of IS.’’ Russia’s actions have been 100 per cent more effective in two months to contain IS, than the international coalition’s strikes from last one and half years.Syria’s ambassador Riaz Kamel Abbas and Iraq’s charge d’affairs Mohammad Sabri Rashid claimed that the US was not serious in its intervention to rid the region of IS. “Two decades ago, there was no terrorism in Iraq, after 9/11 and the invasion by US things changed. Even when IS infiltrated to capture parts of northern Iraq and began killing civilians, the US army stood with folded hands.’’Abbas added that the US coalition strikes has helped the militant group grow in size and capture more terrorism. “It is important to fight Daiesh but before that it’s important to know who is the power behind the group.’’India’s Muslims cannot be terroristsThe event had religious heads and representatives from the Christian, Hindu and even Sunni Muslim community. All the speakers condemned terrorism being fought under the guise of religion. “IS should first prove they are Muslims and then talk about Islam,’’ said Maulana Tauqeer Raza Khan from Bareilly. He also said that terrorism attacks in India had no involvement of Muslims and it has added a blot on the community. Acharya Pramod Krishnam said India’s Muslims were targeted as terrorists and told to go to Pakistan. “They are here in India not by chance but by choice.’’

Will help curb ISIS but stop anti-Muslim comment by BJP leaders, Shia body asks PM Modi

Raza said there is nothing Islamic about ISIS – the Islamic State – and their actions are evil and outside the boundaries set by Islam

A prominent body of Shias on Thursday said the community is prepared to give all support to the government to help curb ISIS activities in the country but asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to rein in BJP MPs and leaders from making statements against Muslims.”We are with central government. We will support and give any information to curb ISIS and terrorist activities in India. “At the same time, we would like the Prime Minister to rein in his MPs and leaders from making any ugly statements against Muslims,” Anjuman-E-Imamia President Syed Zamin Raza told PTI here.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Raza said there is nothing Islamic about ISIS – the Islamic State – and their actions are evil and outside the boundaries set by Islam. Speaking on the sidelines of the commemoration of martyrs of the Battle of Karbala, Raza said a provocative and an emotive speech against Muslims has the potential to spoil the good work done to check ISIS activities in India. “A minute’s speech against Muslims will spoil the good work of curbing ISIS activities in the country,” he said.Raza also accused USA and some sections of Wahabi cult in Saudi Arabia of supporting global terrorism. “It is the US and some section of Wahabi cult in Saudi, who are spreading terrorism. Sunnis, however, are not terrorists. Why does the US does not take any action against such cult but are out to dismantle kingdoms of other Muslim countries. Why this double standard?” he asked.Asked whether AEI has chalked out any strategy to stop Muslims from joining ISIS, Raza said an event will be held next month where all important leaders of Islamic communities will be present and discuss terrorism perpetrated by ISIS and other terrorist outfits including Taliban and Al-Qaeda.Raza said ISIS is a threat to humanity and it cannot be defeated unless all work together with the help of technology at people’s disposal. He said the terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut and Turkey are against divine and human laws. “We the Shia Muslim community join the nation in calling for swift apprehension and stiff punishment of the perpetrators,” he said.

British parliament votes for air strikes against militants in Syria | Reuters

LONDON British lawmakers voted by 397 to 223 on Wednesday in favour of launching air strikes against Islamic State militants in Syria after more than 10 hours of debate.

Britain has been bombing in Iraq for more than a year and Prime Minister David Cameron had urged lawmakers to back extending air strikes to Syria to target militants he said were plotting attacks on the West.

(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan, editing by Elizabeth Piper)

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

ISIS influenced very few Indian youths; govt monitoring cyber space, minister tells Parliament

New Delhi: The terrorist organisation Islamic State has been able to influence very few Indian youths and security agencies are closely monitoring the situation, including keeping potential recruits under surveillance.

Minister of State for Home Affairs Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary told Lok Sabha that the government is closely monitoring the situation and has directed the intelligence and security agencies to identify potential recruits and keep them under surveillance.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

“The cyber space is being closely monitored in this regard,” he said.

The minister said a few incidents of unfurling of flags of ISIS by some misguided youths were noticed on different occasions in Jammu and Kashmir and some other states in the recent past.

“…state governments concerned have been directed to take appropriate action against such statements as per relevant provisions of law,” he said.

Home Ministry officials had earlier said that 23 youths have joined ISIS of which six were reportedly killed.

Quoting intelligence inputs, officials had said, it emerged that the dreaded terror outfit considered South Asian Muslims, including Indians, inferior to Arab fighters in the conflict zones of Iraq and Syria.

According to an intelligence report prepared by foreign agencies and shared with Indian agencies, fighters from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh as well as certain countries like Nigeria and Sudan are considered not good enough by ISIS and often tricked into suicide attacks.

Around 150 Indians are under surveillance for their alleged online links with ISIS, the officials had said.

PTI

Malayalam director Ali Akbar hits out at Muslim cleric, claims he was abused as a child

On Saturday, Kanthapuram had rejected Rajeena’s claims that there were instances of child abuse in madrasas and asked for evidence.

Kanthapuram

Malayalam director Ali Akbar has backed up journalist VP Rajeena’s claims about child sex abuse in madrasas and claimed that he had been abused as a kid. Challenging Muslim cleric Kanthapuram Abu Backer Musliyar, Akbar said that the ‘ustaad’ who abused him was still alive and he would be willing to reveal details if Kanthapuram wanted. On Saturday, Kanthapuram had rejected Rajeena’s claims that there were instances of child abuse in madrasas and asked for evidence.Akbar was quoted by saying India Today: “if he’s ready to accept my challenge I am ready to reveal the details. Why should I be scared of telling the truth? It is true that I am a victim of abuse at a madarsa.” Kanthapuram had also said that gender inequality was un-Islamic and women didn’t possess the mental strength that men did. “How many female heart surgeons do you see in the world? They do not have the mental strength. Men do. Women will shiver before the controlling power of a man. Women have other capabilities that men don’t. They are meant for that only,” said Kanthapuram was quoted saying.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Related read: (Kerala journalist attacked over her Facebook post on child sexual abuse in madrasas)

Congress coined the word ‘intolerance’, trying to defame India: BJP

The BJP on Sunday said the word ‘intolerance’ has been coined by Congress as the party is not being able to “accept” an elected and popular government at the Centre.

Shahnawaz Hussain said that the NDA government will never allow intolerance in India.
File Photo
PTI
The BJP on Sunday said the word ‘intolerance’ has been coined by Congress as the party is not being able to “accept” an elected and popular government at the Centre.”Congress is not being able to accept an elected and popular government at the Centre. Hence, it has coined this word, intolerance to malign the NDA government. There is nothing called intolerance in India. Congress, while opposing the BJP, has started opposing the government of India and is working on defaming the nation,” BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain told a press conference.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The NDA government at the Centre will never allow intolerance. In the name of intolerance, whatever is happening in the country, is the making of the Congress,” the BJP national spokesman alleged.Responding to a question, Hussain said if there was a possibility of grand alliance between the Left and the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, BJP would contest the upcoming state Assembly elections next year, alone.On ISIS, he said it should remove the word ‘Islamic’ from its name because it “is a blot in the name of Islam as they don’t have any ideology and their moves are completely un-Islamic.” Hussain also had a word of caution for Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee when he said, “We have to fight against these forces jointly. The West Bengal Chief Minister should remain alert as they (ISIS) might target the state.”

Gender equality ‘un-Islamic’, women fit only to deliver children, says Kerala Sunni leader

“Women can never equal men. They are fit only to deliver children. Women cannot withstand crisis situations,” he said.

Kerala Sunni leader Kanthapuram AP Aboobacker Musalyar

PTI
Kerala Sunni leader Kanthapuram AP Aboobacker Musalyar has controversially described the concept of gender equality as being “un-Islamic” and said that women could never equal men as “they are fit only to deliver children”.Musalyar, the chief of All India Sunni Jamiyyathul Ulama, said on Saturday that women do not have mental strength and do not possess the power to control the universe, “which lies in the hands of men.”“Gender equality is something which is never going to be a reality. It is against Islam, humanity and was intellectually wrong,” he said while speaking at a camp of Muslim Students Federation (MSF) in Kozhikode.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Related Read: Kerala journalist attacked over her Facebook post on child sexual abuse in madrasas“Women can never equal men. They are fit only to deliver children. Women cannot withstand crisis situations,” he said. He wondered if there was even a single woman among thousands of cardiac surgeons. The 76-year-old Islamic scholar’s remarks against reservation for women in elections had set off another controversy recently. He had said 50% reservation of seats for women in civic polls was “too high” but retracted the statement later when it became controversial.Referring to the ongoing debates over allowing girls and boys to share seats in colleges, Musalyar said it was “part of a calculated move to destroy Islam and culture.” He also dismissed recent allegations regarding sexual exploitations at madrasas and asked those who raised allegations to bring evidence to prove it.A controversy had erupted recently after a woman journalist wrote an account on her Facebook wall about the alleged sexual abuse of young boys and girls in madrasas.

Kerala: Sunni leader says ‘women only fit to deliver children’; calls gender equality ‘un-Islamic’

Sunni leader Kanthapuram A P Aboobacker Musliar, the chief of All India Sunni Jamiyyathul Ulama, said women have no mental strength and the power to control the universe, “which lies in the hands of men.”

A P Aboobacker
File Photo
Picture Courtesy: Wikipedia
In a controversial remark, Sunni leader Kanthapuram A P Aboobacker Musliar on Saturday described as “un-Islamic” the concept of gender equality and said that women could never equal men as “they are fit only to deliver children”.Musliar, the chief of All India Sunni Jamiyyathul Ulama, said women have no mental strength and the power to control the universe, “which lies in the hands of men.””Gender equality is something which is never going to be a reality. It is against Islam, humanity and was intellectually wrong,” he said while speaking at a camp of Muslim Students Federation (MSF) in Kozhikode.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Women can never equal men. They are fit only to deliver children. Women cannot withstand crisis situations,” he said. He wondered if there was even a single woman among thousands of cardiac surgeons.The 76-year-old Islamic scholar’s remarks against reservation for women in elections had set off another controversy recently. He had said 50% reservation of seats for women in civic polls was “too high” but retracted the statement later when it became controversial.Referring to the ongoing debates over allowing girls and boys to share seats in colleges, Musliar said it was “part of a calculated move to destroy Islam and culture.” He also rubbished recent allegations regarding sexual exploitations at Madrasas and asked those who raised allegations to bring evidence to prove it.A controversy had erupted recently after a woman journalist wrote an account on her Facebook wall about the alleged sexual abuse of young boys and girls in Madrasas. Related read: Kerala journalist attacked over her Facebook post on child sexual abuse in madrasas

Ringleader of Paris attacks planned more strikes, mocked open borders – sources | Reuters

PARIS The ringleader behind the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris had plans to strike Jewish targets and to disrupt schools and the transport system in France, according to sources close to the investigation.

Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian national of Moroccan origin, also boasted of the ease with which he had re-entered Europe from Syria via Greece two months earlier, exploiting the confusion of the migrant crisis and the continent’s passport-free Schengen system, the sources said on Friday.

Their comments, confirming excerpts from a confidential police witness statement leaked to a French magazine this week, fleshed out a picture of the Islamic State militant who spearheaded the Nov. 13 attacks targeting cafes, a concert hall and sports stadium in Paris in which 130 people were killed.

The witness statement, quoted in the Valeurs Actuelles weekly magazine, describes how Abaaoud approached his cousin Hasna Ait Boulahcen two days after the killing spree asking her to hide him while he prepared further attacks.

Both Abaaoud and Boulahecen died on Nov. 18 in a shootout with police in St. Denis north of Paris at an apartment where the militant Islamist had been staying.

Speaking of the planned future attacks, Abaaoud told his cousin on Nov. 15 that “they would do worse (damage) in districts close to the Jews and would disrupt transport and schools”, the witness statement said.

Abaaoud said he would give Boulahecen 5,000 euros ($5,289.50) to buy two suits and two pairs of shoes for him and an unidentified accomplice to “look the part” in a planned attack on Paris’ commercial district La Defense.

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins confirmed on Tuesday the militants had been plotting to attack La Defense on Nov. 18. Reuters had previously reported the planned attack.

The witness statement also described how Abaaoud had boasted about slipping into Europe with refugees fleeing Syria’s civil war and then spending two months in France undetected prior to the Nov. 13 attacks.

“France – zero,” it quoted him as saying.

On Friday, the Paris prosecutor’s office said it would open a preliminary investigation into how the confidential police witness statement was leaked to the press.

($1 = 0.9453 euros)

(Reporting By Chine Labbé and John Irish; Writing by Gareth Jones; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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

Not Islamic State itself, but the traction of ‘brand IS’ is a security challenge in West Bengal

New Delhi: The Islamic State (IS) mouthpiece Dabiq’s latest story on ‘The Revival of Jihad in Bengal’ has set the alarm bells ringing in this part of the world, especially in the light of 13 November Paris attacks carried out by the outfit. Just how serious is its threat to West Bengal and the rest of India?

In October, West Bengal was alarmed after threat posters of the IS were found in its two districts – Murshidabad and Nadia. And now, the state police and central intelligence agencies are on tenterhooks with the latest issue (12th) of IS’s online propaganda magazine Dabiq.

Besides, claiming responsibility for the murders of Italian aid worker, Cesare Tavella and Japanese national Kunio Hoshi in Dhaka and Rangpur respectively in Bangladesh, the IS claims that the global terror outfit is busy preparing for further attacks on Bangladesh and the soldiers of the so-called Caliphate continue to rise and expand in ‘Bengal’, and continue to terrorise. Though by ‘Bengal’, the IS has meant Bangladesh, the important question that arises is how far its immediate neighbour West Bengal and India as a whole, are susceptible to IS influence and attack?

“The influence of the IS ideology is visible. A large number of posters were recovered from 17 villages of Murshidabad and Nadia districts a few months ago. Pasted on the walls in these villages, these exhorted the youth to join the IS, promote its ideology and ‘fight for the cause’. The IS wants local youth, including girls, between 16 and 30 years to get radicalised and start local jihad at the places to which they belong. It’s like outsourcing of terror,” an intelligence agency official told Firstpost, on condition of anonymity.

File image of Bangladeshi security officers at the site where Japanese Kunio Hoshi was killed in Bangladesh. AP

File image of Bangladeshi security officers at the site where Japanese Kunio Hoshi was killed in Bangladesh. AP

“A few among the large number of unrecognised madarsas at remote places, particularly in the districts of West Bengal bordering Bangladesh, have become safe havens for strategising terror activities, including making improvised explosive devices (IEDs),” the official claimed.

Ansar-ut Tawhid fi Bilad al-Hind (AuT), an India-specific jihadi outfit that pledged allegiance to IS in September 2014, has started online propaganda for IS in Bengali. Prior to this, it had posted messages with Urdu, Hindi, Tamil, Gujarati and English subtitles.

The cyber cell of the Intelligence Bureau conducted a national survey to mark the areas from where the IS are trying to recruit youths. According to the survey, Howrah in West Bengal is the fourth city after Srinagar, Guwahati and Chinchwad (a suburb of Pune) where youth between 16 and 30, have shown online interest in IS.

According to Intelligence agency sources, the operators of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), despite a crackdown, has a strong network in West Bengal, and they may be indirectly helping the IS to spread their influence in the state both for indoctrination and recruitment through social media.

Strategic expert Ajai Sahni said, “The IS is not coming here. Like, Al-Qaeda in the past, it’s the brand ‘IS’ that is attracting the youth who want to associate with it. Whether in West Bengal or any other part of India, radical groups — such as the Students Islamic Movement of India (Simi), Indian Mujahideen or remnants of JMB — could be behind activities like putting up IS posters. Chances are that locals could be undertaking such activities to create sensation. There’s a potential danger in this and it can’t be ignored. Simultaneously, the threat of IS shouldn’t be exaggerated, but we need to be ready.”

“In Bangladesh, the present government has taken stringent action against strong radical groups. Now, many highly-radicalised but leaderless groups are forming new small groups. To seek publicity, they are showing allegiance to IS. There is ambiguity as far as West Bengal is concerned regarding the presence or activities of the IS. A fact-based assessment is required,” added Sahni, executive director, Institute for Conflict Management.

There is a close link between Bangladesh and West Bengal on terror activities, and the latter was used by JMB as a base for launching attacks on Bangladesh. After the blasts at Khagragarh in Burdwan in 2014, the NIA during its investigation had gathered that JMB’s first branch at Lalgola in Murshidabad district was set up in mid-2005 by the outfit’s chief Sheikh Abdur Rehman and the second-in-command Siddiqul Islam alias ‘Bangla Bhai’ provided training for three months to local youth “to carry out jihad”. Both Rehman and Bangla Bhai are among the six to whom a Bangladesh court gave the death sentence.

Counter-terrorism analyst Anil Kamboj compared the manufacturing of local shoes in Agra that are spuriously branded ‘Bata’, with the India-based terror outfits or JMB faction associating itself with the IS brand to “add glamour and gain big publicity”.

He added, “There is no presence or direct entry of the IS in India at present. But by using the brand of IS, the local outfits or groups formed by terrorists infiltrated from Bangladesh want to create disturbances in parts of the country. Putting up of IS posters in Bengal may be one such example. The situation is not only alarming in Bengal, but also in Assam, and the latter is more vulnerable.

There are sleeper cells those can get activated with instructions from Pakistan. Out of large number of illegal madarsas those came up from 2005 onwards in West Bengal for providing teaching to Muslim children, a few have harboured terror activities and have become centres for the radicalisation of youth.”

Mumbai’s Mahim dargah develops app to fight ISIS influence among Muslim youth in India

The app will connect all Muslim youth, men and women via their social networking accounts of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram from across the nation to create an anti-ISIS campaign.

Islamic scholars, leaders and representatives of various religious communities voice their opinions against ISIS at a presser outside the Mahim dargah, on Thursday.
Kunal Chonkar
iamin.in
To join the fight against terror propagated by ISIS, the Mahim Dargah trust has developed a first-of-a-kind application. In an attempt to stop indoctrination, radicalisation and recruitment of youths from India into the terrorist organisation, the Pir Makhdum Saheb Charitable Trust (PMSCT) has launched the app titled under its own name.Connecting over 10, 000 small and large Muslim communities across India, the app will ensure much-needed vigilance into the spreading menace of cyber-terror training and recruitment carried out by ISIS in the nation.Developed by a team of Information Technology (IT) students, associated with PMSCT, the app has already connected around 30, 000 youth from Mumbai, claimed Mufti Manzoor Ziyaee, Islamic advisor to the trust.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> “The app features the correct teachings of Islam, articles and speeches by Islamic scholars. It also has an array of programmes related to anti-terror campaigns and community-connect initiatives,” Ziyaee told iamin. The news of four youths from Kalyan, including engineering student Areeb Majeed, having been recruited by ISIS last year was the reason behind the Dargah trust’s initiative to develop the app. They hope it will counter the social media sites used by the terror outfit to influence young men.”Nowadays, Islam can be preached via social networking sites. For betterment of the world and humanity, the right message and teachings will be upheld by the app and thus, all spiritual leaders of the community supported it,” Ziyaee added.The app will connect all Muslim youth, men and women via their social networking accounts of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram from across the nation to create an anti-ISIS campaign. In the first phase of the campaign, the trust will also counsel youth from Kalyan, Thane, Mumbai, Pune and other cities in the state to stay away from any links or connections with any radical outfit. In the second phase, around 1, 000 more apps, twitter handles and Facebook accounts are going to be started to spread awareness against ISIS in India.
This article was first published on iamin.in. For more such hyperlocal stories, visit their website.

Parents should be alert about Islamic State’s online propaganda: Mumbai Police Commissioner Ahmed Javed

“In urban Indian scenarios parents are not aware that ISIS is capable of doing this in the cyber world to their children who use internet daily,” the IPS officer said.

“An alert parent goes a long way and the major worry is how Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is using the cyber-world to get into the mind of youngsters,” said Javed.

File Photo
Mumbai Police Commissioner Ahmed Javed on Wednesday said parents have a pivotal role to play to guard against the youngsters joining terror outfit ISIS. “An alert parent goes a long way and the major worry is how Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is using the cyber-world to get into the mind of youngsters, who have grown up in the liberal democratic lives like France etc,” Javed said during an interaction with industrialists and cyber expert Vijay Mukhi here.”ISIS targets small towns in France and other parts of Europe. ISIS has managed getting into the minds of people. We need to be aware of the danger that is present online and to start taking steps to fight it.”<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”In urban Indian scenarios parents are not aware that ISIS is capable of doing this in the cyber world to their children who use internet daily,” the IPS officer said. Speaking about overall cyber crime, he also said youngsters are more vulnerable to blackmailing, stalking, cyber bulling, and “the problem is that the parents are technologically challenged in terms of picking up alerts, as to what their children are doing or picking up online”.”Hacking is another problem, but the biggest culprits are the business world people, who are looking at making budget cuts in security. Minor aberrations are pushed under carpet by big companies thinking it will be a bad name on the business,” the top cop added. “I was in America and saw that NYPD spends a phenomenal amount of money and is effective cause of the money put in their gadgets etc,” said Javed. “We are the first in country to start a cyber police station in Mumbai, but we still need more in terms of the size of our city. Businesses in banking sector do not report crimes as they do not want to get a bad name and that is not a good strategy,” the CP opined.”By May 2016, the entire city will have dedicated top of the line CCTV coverage. We have also started a traffic 24-7 helpline where people can call for complaints, traffic updates, accidents etc. Police is making constant efforts to make the city safe despite the huge challenges we face on a daily basis like infrastructural, space, traffic, etc,” he said.He also said that the use of technology by police is increasing to make sure the city is safe from all sorts of crime.

Russia says downing of its jet won’t deflect it from Syria mission | Reuters

ISTANBUL/NIZHNY TAGIL, Russia Russia sent an advanced missile system to Syria on Wednesday to protect its jets operating there and pledged its air force would keep flying missions near Turkish air space, sounding a defiant note after Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet.

The downing of the jet on Tuesday was one of the most serious publicly acknowledged clashes between a NATO member and Russia for half a century, and further complicated international efforts to battle Islamic State militants in Syria.

Russian officials expressed fury over Turkey’s actions, and spoke of retaliatory measures that were likely to include curbing travel by Russian tourists to Turkish resorts and some restrictions on trade.

But the Russian response was also carefully calibrated. There was no sign Russia wanted a military escalation, or to jeopardise its main objective in the region: to rally international support for its view on how the conflict in Syria should be resolved.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke by phone with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday. Turkey’s foreign ministry said they would meet soon but Russia’s Interfax news agency said Lavrov had not agreed to meet.

“We have no intention of fighting a war with Turkey,” Lavrov said. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan also said Ankara had no intention of escalating tensions with Russia.

Speaking on a trip to the Ural mountains city of Nizhny Tagil, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the despatch of an advanced weapons system to Russia’s Khmeimim air base in Syria’s Latakia province.

“I hope that this, along with other measures that we are taking, will be enough to ensure (the safety) of our flights,” Putin told reporters.

The despatch of the weapons, which officials later said would be the S-400 missile system, is likely to be viewed as a stark warning to Turkey not to try to shoot down any more Russian planes.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia was forced to fly missions close to the Turkish border because that was where the militants tended to be located. “(Russia’s) operations will continue without doubt,” he said.

Russian forces launched a heavy bombardment against insurgent-held areas in Syria’s Latakia province on Wednesday, near where the warplane was shot down, rebels and a monitoring group said.

The Russian Su-24 jet downed on Tuesday was hit by missile fire from Turkish aircraft as it flew a mission over Syria near the Turkish border, where the Russian air force has been bombing rebel targets.

Turkey said the plane had encroached on Turkish air space and was warned repeatedly to change course, but Russian officials said the plane was at no time over Turkey.

The crew ejected, and one pilot was shot dead by rebels as he parachuted to the ground. A Russian marine sent to recover the crew was also killed in an attack by rebels. Syrian state media reported the jet’s second pilot had been rescued.

Russia’s foreign ministry issued a protest over the incident to the Turkish ambassador in Moscow, according to a Russian foreign ministry source.

PATIENCE TESTED

Speaking at a business event in Istanbul, Erdogan said Turkey had made a “huge effort” to prevent an incident like the downing of the Russian aircraft, but that the limits of its patience had been tested.

“We have no intention of escalating this incident. We are only defending our own security and the rights of our brothers,” Erdogan said.

Turkey has been angered by Russian air strikes in Syria, particularly those near its border targeting Turkmens, who are Syrians of Turkish descent.

It had repeatedly warned Russia over air space violations and last week summoned the Russian ambassador to protest against the bombing of Turkmen villages.

Erdogan questioned how those Russian strikes squared with Moscow’s assertion it is in Syria to combat Islamic State.

“It has been said that they were there to fight Daesh,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

“First of all, the Daesh terrorist organisation does not have a presence in this region of Latakia and the north where Turkmens are based. Let’s not fool ourselves.”

TRADE TIES

Russia and Turkey have important trade ties, and these could be affected in the fallout from the plane incident.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev called the downing of the aircraft a “senseless criminal act.”

“The direct consequences could lead to our refusal to take part in a whole raft of important joint projects and Turkish companies losing their positions on the Russian market,” Medvedev said in a statement.

Russia is a major exporter of grain and energy to Turkey, and it sends over four million tourists each year to Turkish resorts, second only to the number of German tourists.

The Russian government has already said it will discourage Russian tourists from travelling to Turkey, though the immediate impact will be limited because Turkey is now in the off-season.

Russia imports large volumes of Turkish food products and textiles, and Turkish firms are active in the construction and drinks sectors.

Shares in Enka Insaat, which has construction projects in Russia and two power plants in Turkey using Russian gas, fell for a second day on Wednesday.

Brewer Anadolu Efes, which has six breweries in Russia and controls around 14 percent of the market, also saw its shares fall on Tuesday.

SPONSORING TERRORISTS

Medvedev alleged Turkish officials were benefiting from Islamic State oil sales, a relationship that Russian officials say helps explain why Ankara is not tougher on the militants.

Senior Turkish officials have in the past vehemently denied accusations that Turkey has in any way supported the radical Islamist group. The government says it is doing its best to combat cross-border fuel smuggling, and that it has been able to curb the trade.

The Russian foreign ministry source said the downing of the Russian jet would have an impact not just on bilateral ties but also on multilateral efforts, especially international talks in Vienna to try to find a political solution for Syria’s conflict.

“We will without doubt strengthen our anti-terrorist efforts even more and, most importantly, we will more precisely and more specifically ask questions and press for information about who is sponsoring which terrorist organisations and in what way,” said the source.

That issue is likely to further complicate the Vienna talks, where Russia and its partners on one side and the United States and its allies on the other have been unable to agree on what constitutes a terrorist group in Syria.

The United States and allied countries have supplied arms and other help to some groups fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad which Russia has been bombing on the grounds it considers them terrorist organisations.

(Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Can Sezer and Ayla Jean Yackley in Istanbul, Seyhmus Cakan in Yayladagi, Turkey, John Davison in Beirut, Maria Kiselyova in Moscow, Paul Carrel and Madeline Chambers in Berlin; writing by Christian Lowe; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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

Desertions may leave Islamic State high and dry

Corruption is one of the main reasons for desertion, foreign intelligence agencies input shared with India reveals. The deserters interrogation report clearly mentioned that oil business controlled by few commanders and senior ISIS officials called as ‘Emirs’ have resulted in widespread corruption in the ISIS held territory which it claims as perfect Islamic society in its propaganda videos.

All is not well within the Islamic State (IS) that apparently allows only hardened fanatic Muslims to join to further the aim of establishing and expanding the Islamic Caliphate in its purest form. As many as 58 fighters who had committed themselves to further the cause of Caliphate have deserted the IS from January 2014 to August 2015, claims Intelligence input collated by central security agencies in collaboration with the foreign intelligence agencies.The maximum desertions, 21, have taken among Syrians followed by 9 from Saudi Arabia, 4 each from Indonesia and Turkey. Two Indians are also among the 58 deserters, the report says. This is besides the figure of deserting fighters who killed by the ISIS. Their number runs close to 1000 fighters.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”This is not a small figure if you look at what IS promised and why youth having Jihadists frame of mind joined it. It definitely indicates that those who went to join it and were even ready to die for it have found it corruption ridden, suffering from worst kind of racism, and far away from the purity of Islam. This is a telltale sign of ISIS imminent downfall in near future. The rot has set in,” said an intelligence official who monitors the ISIS closely.Corruption is one of the main reasons for desertion, foreign intelligence agencies input shared with India reveals. The deserters interrogation report clearly mentioned that oil business controlled by few commanders and senior ISIS officials called as ‘Emirs’ have resulted in widespread corruption in the ISIS held territory which it claims as perfect Islamic society in its propaganda videos.The deserters admitted that huge sums are paid to favourites of commanders. Syrians, who tops the chart in deserting the outfit, told the interrogators that privileges -attractive houses and money – is given to Westerners who have joined the outfit.Infighting ‘fitna’ is also a potent reason for them to abandon the ISIS and its ideology. Deserters during the questioning pointed out raging battle with Al-Qaeda affiliate ‘Jabhat al- Nusra’ was religiously illegitimate as fighting and killing a Sunni Muslim was against ISIS ideology and in violation of Islamic rules.”Many defectors argued that ISIS fight is focused on rebel groups and executing traitors from the same community. They felt disillusioned after witnessing random killing of civilians and public execution of fellow Muslims. This was not the Jihad they had imagined while joining the outfit,” the intelligence input stated.The disenchantment with ISIS among the deserters clearly shows that brutality and random killing of Muslims with corrupt commanders at the help of affairs has reduced the outfit to another bandit group which will eventually result in its quick downfall, the intelligence collected and collated by Indian security agencies further stated.

Stirred, not shaken: Get ready for a supercharged evening with Tarek Fatah

It is not often that individuals opt for the rough terrain of what they see as the truth and how it must be told. Tarek Fatah has trekked rugged territory in the pursuit of beliefs and generated controversy along with admiration.

His books, Chasing a mirage; The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State and The Jew is Not My Enemy: Unveiling the Myths that Fuel Muslim Anti-Semitism, are a reflection of a strong personal conviction that the unsaid turns sour if kept that way and has to articulated and discussed and even if it ruffles feathers so be it..

Not many people are endowed with that kind of courage and Tarek, it has to be said, does not provoke for the sake of provocation. His path is one of more prudent debate and logic, ready to take on board every point of view, so far as his is also given an airing.

Tarek Fatah. Image courtesy: IBNLiveTarek Fatah. Image courtesy: IBNLive

Tarek Fatah. Image courtesy: IBNLive

As with any questioning of the status quo, especially when it comes to the sensitive reams of religion and faith and custom, Tarek makes one uncomfortable and you wonder what it is that motivates someone to put his hand in the fire when most of us are happy enough to sit around it and keep a distance.

The first disarming factor is that there is no imposition or arrogance of opinion that offends you. Ergo, even when it goes against your ‘natural’ instincts (as in what has been taught) you tend to read on and listen on and find yourself at least taking on board some of the nuances.

Much as John Lennon once wrote the lyrics of Imagine and melted boundaries made by Man in his ignorance, Tarek, though by no means lyrical, also tries to seek a future predicated to having no frontiers that divide.

The second door that opens is his ability not to attack or destroy any pillar of faith but to discuss objectively and use the thrust and riposte of debate to make a point. If anything his ability to underscore human failings and weaknesses are signposts to the incorrect interpretations of all religions.

He encourages rather than incites and his favourite subjects deal with Kashmir, Islam, India and Pakistan equations and the terrorist groups which have proliferated.

You may not agree with everything he says neither does he want you to agree. That would be pointless.

What he does is leave you with a few thoughts and a little introspection to be done.

An evening  in his company is a mentally stimulating exercise and the accent on being interactive makes it worth being there.

So be there.

Techie from Telangana dies in Syria fighting for ISIS

According to reports, officials believe that his radicalistation took place in Dubai where he supposedly moved for work.

Islamic State militant

Reuters
Haneef Waseem, 25, a techie from Telangana, reportedly died while fighting for the Islamic State in Syria. A report in Deccan Herald states that he was engaged to a girl from Hyderabad in September 2014 and left for Syria in February 2015 and that he eventually died on March 15, 2015. According to reports, he called his father Mohammad Aleem from Dubai and told that he wanted to cancel the engagement as he was joining the Islamic State and was flying to Syria. Reports also states that Waseem called his fiancée and informed her that he was dedicating his life to ‘jihad’ and didn’t think he could lead a normal life. <!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> His father Mohammad Aleem is stated to have kept the matter and the subsequent death of Waseem under wraps as he was scared of being ostracised by society. They then shifted from Mancherial to Shastripuram in Telangana. Aleem has told media that his son completed his BTech from Shadhan College of Engineering and Technology and went to the UK to do his MS in November, 2014. According to the daily, officials believe that his radicalistation took place in Dubai where he supposedly moved for work.

Sold dreams of jihadi brides, Indian youths end up as cannon fodder in Islamic State

South Asian youth who take enormous risks to join the Islamic State (IS) as fighters often discover the futility of their mission when they are treated as second-class citizens by their Arab counterparts.Probing the working of IS to unmask it, central security agencies in collaboration with foreign intelligence agencies have come out with startling facts that throw light on highly skewed racial discrimination that Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi youth have to go through.The first shock they get is on the marriage count. Instead of getting beautiful jihadi brides that the IS propagandists and inciters use as a bait to lure them, they often end up being used as cannon fodder by their ‘superior’ Arab commanders for suicide attacks and first line of defence during an attack.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The gender ratio in IS-held territory is highly skewed in favour of men, and when it comes to choosing women it’s the senior commanders and ethnic Arab fighters who get the priority, claim reports collated by central security agencies.“The foreign fighters from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, Nigeria and Sudan are the lowest in the priority list for jihadi brides since they are considered ethnically inferior to breed next generation of Jihadi IS fighters,” the report claims.The findings of the report, sources said, were corroborated by youths who managed to come back home after serving the IS.They also conceded that there is a clear hierarchy and the Arabs are preferred as officer cadre and provided better arms and ammunition, equipment, accommodation and salaries. The foreign fighters from South Asia are considered ‘non-martial’ and usually housed in groups in small barracks and paid less than Arab fighters, said sources.As the South Asians are considered apostate and incapable of fighting by the IS, they are brainwashed by the group’s maulvis who invoke the fear of ‘jinn’, a supernatural creature in Islamic mythology. The fear of jinn is invoked to ensure so the recruits do not return to their countries of origin on the premise that the jinn will continue to haunt them for the rest of their life if they do so.The South Asian and African fighters are also monitored closely by the IS police that always consists of Tunisians, Palestinians, Saudi Arabians, Iraqis and Syrian ‘superior Arabs’. The fighters from other nationalities are barred from joining the IS police, showing a clear trust deficit.Many a time, South Asian fighters are tricked into suicide attacks without being aware of their mission. They are provided a vehicle laden with explosives and asked to go near a targeted destination and call a person on a certain number, who would purportedly come and explain the mission. But as soon as driver dials the number, it works as a timer and explodes the vehicle near the targeted location.This is the reason for the disproportionately high casualties among South Asian and African foreign IS fighters than their Arab counterparts. So far, six Indian nationals have reportedly been killed in IS territory. They include Athif Vaseem Mohammad, 25, resident of Adilabad, Telangana, Mohammad Umar Subhan and Faiz Masood, 28, of Bangalore, Saheem Farooque Tanki from Kalyan (Thane) in Maharashtra and two Indian Mujahideen (IM) terrorists Maulana Abdul Qadir Sultan Armar, 29, from Bhatkal in Karnataka and Mohammad Sajid, 30, from Azamgarh, UP.

An Indian born in Pakistan: Meet and chat with Tarek Fatah at Firstpost Salon this Thursday

Tarek Fatah will be the featured guest for the fourth Firstpost Salon, a series of conversations with the sharpest minds and biggest names.

From a leftist student twice imprisoned by military dictators in Pakistan to a popular journalist in Canada, Tarek Fatah has not lost his feistiness. After the 11 September, 2001, attacks shocked the world, Tarek founded the Muslim Canadian Congress, a platform for Muslims who denounce armed jihad to express their views. He has always spoken out in favour of a more liberal form of Islam by supporting gay rights, denouncing Sharia laws and supporting the ban on the burqa and the niqab. He has also spoken out against the US occupation of Iraq.

File image of Tarek Fatah. IBN-Live

File image of Tarek Fatah. IBN-Live

An author, columnist and broadcaster, Fatah was born in Karachi, Pakistan, in 1949. He later moved to Saudi Arabia and then emigrated to Canada in 1987. He has hosted several television shows including Muslim Chronicle, The Agenda, Strong Opinions Show, Friendly Fire and The Tarek Fatah Show. He writes a column for The Toronto Sun.

Tarek describes himself on his website tarekfatah.com as being “an Indian born in Pakistan, a Punjabi born in Islam; an immigrant in Canada with a Muslim consciousness, grounded in a Marxist youth…I write as a Muslim whose ancestors were Hindu. My religion, Islam, is rooted in Judaism, while my Punjabi culture is tied to that of the Sikhs. Yet I am told by Islamists that without shedding this multifaceted heritage, if not outrightly rejecting it, I cannot be considered a true Muslim.”

In 2008, he released his first book, Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State, in which he states his belief that the Islamic state (not to be confused with the terrorist organisation Islamic State) is an unattainable goal that Muslims have been chasing for a millennium. The book was a finalist for the 2008 Donner Prize. Two years later, his second book The Jew is Not My Enemy won the Helen and Stan Vine Award.

Raghu Raman, former CEO of Natgrid and an expert on security and defence matters and himself a TEDx India regular, will engage Tarek Fatah in conversation on Thursday, 26 November. We will be live-streaming from 6 pm. Do tune in and don’t forget to send us your questions for Tarek on Twitter (@firstpost) or on Facebook so we can include them in the conversation.

Seven years after Tarek’s first book and two weeks after the deadly Paris attacks that announced the arrival of the IS beyond Syria, Iraq and the Middle East, it is time to reflect if the ‘illusion’ of an Islamic State is getting dangerously closer to reality? Has radicalisation of Muslim youth taken firm roots? Why? How will the world, Muslim and the rest, deal with this clear and present danger? Is the combined military might of the global powers enough to stamp out the IS? Or does the solution lie elsewhere?

Is there a solution at all?

These are some of the questions that will be asked of Tarek, one of the most outspoken critics of the very idea of an Islamic State.

The good news this time is that the Fourth FP Salon is being thrown open to a limited number of Firstpost readers.

All you have to do to get that Special Invitation is to answer this simple question:

Why did Tarek Fateh do a mixture of the lungi dance and bhangra on 28 August 28?

Rush your answer with your contact number to [email protected]. The first 20 persons to provide the right answer will be invited as Special Guests.

Mumbai-based winners can attend the event in person. Those living outside Mumbai will have their questions answered by Tarek.

Saudi funding fans ultra-conservative Islam in India; the political, ideological response to it remains meek

By Sunil Raman

For years, the growing following and influence of ultra-conservative Islamist ideology in parts of Europe including Belgium, France and even Scandinavian countries has been talked and written about. Sometimes attacks on small scale were ignored as petty crimes or for reasons of political correctness, these were pushed under the carpet as Europe tried hard to project its image as a multi-cultural and multi-religious project where people of all faiths were free to follow and propagate their religious beliefs.

Until the 7 July, 2005 London attacks, Britain loved to show its openness to ideas and people even if they as UK residents preached hatred and opposition to Westminster style of democracy. A radical Egyptian cleric Abu Hamza was treated virtually as a state guest as he preached radical doctrine to Muslims in London and UK. Many in India will remember the freedom given to Khalistani Sikh organisations and Tamil Tigers by British authorities. Radical groups were allowed to spread hatred in the name of freedom and free speech.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

If the London attacks forced British authorities to wake up to the threat posed by such groups and the ideas they propagated, the November 2015 attacks in Paris seem to have woken up mainstream political parties in Europe to such a threat. Suddenly, Belgium is viewed as a weak link and liberal democracies have realised the danger of giving “unfettered” freedom to Islamic groups.

Flirtation with Saudi Arabia saw the rise of fancy mosques across the continent where many clerics preached a return to “pure Islamic ideals” as espoused in the Quran. Puritanical Wahabi ideology was and continues to be propagated from many of these mosques across the world, where clerics are not only sowing seeds of hatred against liberal democracies but also against Shia Muslims.

The last few years witnessed Salafis grow and spread with great speed across the globe as well. Their brand of Islam that considers all ideas and practices of Muslims that are not in conjunction with the Holy Book as heretical has taken root across the continent, among a growing population of young Muslims who are being told day in and day out that they must return to their roots.

Salafis are more conservative and do not accept many of the beliefs of Sunni Muslims, and they are more aggressively opposed to any cultural influence impacting Muslim practices. They are greater opponents of mysticism, and reject ideas of saints and their shrines as unacceptable. This makes South Asian Islam as nothing short of heretical. Men and women must not mix with non-Muslims, give up any form of worship such as visits to Sufi shrines and abjure any act that could be construed as un-Islamic.

Saudi Arabia’s brand of Islam that it has successfully marketed to millions across Asia, Africa and now Europe through generous financial payoffs and donations, has impacted younger population of Muslims in parts of India for last few years.

India has also over the years seen more and more Muslims, particularly the younger population, get attracted to preachings of ultra-conservative clerics. This is not to say that they are supporters of radical groups like the Islamic State and Taliban. But, the change in the complexion of discourse within sections of Muslim population, their responses and growing assertion of some people that there is need to abandon centuries old brand of South Asian Islam are a natural consequence of years of government indifference, some complicity and failure to recognise what/how Saudi money was actually contributing to a change in the way many Muslims think.

A few months ago Oman flagged concern about growing radicalisation of thousands of Muslim workers from India in the Gulf country.

The growing pressure of Wahabis to push their conservative ideology has disturbed sections of Sunnis in India and a few months ago some of its leaders sought government intervention to check its spread.

The Sunni Wakf Board fears that Wahabis could take over a majority of shrines and ‘dargahs’ of Sunnis allowing terror groups like IS inroads into the country. Wahabi clerics and preachers have had little difficulty in getting visas to address and influence congregations across the country.

Salafis in Bengaluru

In the last few years Salafis have managed to take root in large parts of the country including Benguluru which boasts of 42-odd Salafi mosques that preach ideas that are repugnant to centuries-old Islamic traditions in India. That it was not easy to set up Salafi mosques due to opposition from existing Islamic groups in Bengaluru is well acknowledged by the Salafi trust on its official website. “There were physical fights, social boycott, warnings and torture for the above members for bringing the Salafi methodology in their locality” before they managed to build Salafi mosques, states its official website.

Initial opposition later dissolved and they managed to expand their influence in the city and among its young population,

I recall meeting a young Muslim in Benguluru some years ago who was forthright in his criticism of his mother and sister’s “un-Islamic” acts of visiting Sufi shrines and praying at mazars of saints. He also minced no words to state his opposition to Shias terming them as non-Muslims. This young educated man was a regular at a Salafi mosque in Koramangala area, home to wealthy people such as Infosys and Wipro chiefs.

Kerala has for many years seen a subtle shift in the way women dress up, use of headscarves, and even design for new mosques. In fact, preachers from Muslim Brotherhood have had access to Kerala in last several years where institutions like the Islamic Mission Trust have used foreign funding to set up educational and social institutions to widen their reach and influence.

Salafi organisations like Kerala Nadvathul Mujahideen have been around since 1950s but post-1992’s Babri Masjid demolition and the turn of the new century, they have witnessed growth and radicalisation of minds that is a matter of concern.

Al-Jamiya Al-Islamia in Malappuram (north Kerala) with well-defined objectives to provide leadership for teaching, training and research in Arabic Language and Literature has emerged as a new institution that preaches conservative Islam. Saudi Arabia pledged millions of Saudi Riyals to them ostensibly for constructing an arts and science college building. In 2003, it became a university “and a dream come true” when a celebrated international scholar Sheikh Yusuful Qardawi declared it a university. Qardawi, now in exile in Qatar, belongs to Muslim Brotherhood. According to international websites he is known for his militant religious rulings and political commentary in support of acts of terrorism and repression of women.

It also pledged one million Saudi Riyal to the construction of a nursing college. A similar amount was also pledged to Palghat Mujahideen Arabic College Committee in Kerala for the purpose of extending an existing medical college and the Karuma hospital building.

In eastern Uttar Pradesh, Saudi Riyals were donated to establish a madrasa building and a vocational centre for girls in Mirzapur and Siddharth Nagar. Schools and colleges with Arabic names prominently stick out across western UP today. Attempts to also link Muslim identity with Saudi Arabia, reminiscent of what happened in Pakistan, need to be addressed politically and ideologically.

UP, Kerala and Karnataka examples merely illustrate how ultra-conservative ideas alien to Muslims in India are now getting greater attention and following among sections of Muslims because of inadequate political understanding and response. Political parties in India that claim to be flag-bearers of secularism need to look beyond short term electoral gains to formulate a response to Wahabis and Salafis gaining mindspace among sections of world’s third largest Muslim population.

The writer is a former BBC journalist

ASEAN Summit: PM Modi calls for new strategies to combat terrorism, Obama vows to destroy ISIS

Noting that the East Asia Summit is the key forum to shape the region’s collective future, Modi told the leaders of the 18-member grouping that the world still looks to the region to address global challenges and uncertainties.

World leaders at the ASEAN Summit in Malaysia

Voicing concern over a spate of recent terror attacks in several countries, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said terrorism is no longer a “peripheral problem” for the region as its long shadow stretches across the world and called for new strategies to combat the menace.”We often thought of terrorism as a peripheral problem for this region. The barbaric terrorist strikes in Paris, Ankara, Beirut, Mali and on the Russian aircraft is a stark reminder that its shadow stretches across our societies and our world, both in recruitment and choice of targets,” Modi said in his remarks at the East Asia Summit here.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He called for a new global resolve and new strategies to combat terrorism, without balancing it against political considerations and said no country should use or support terrorism.”There is no distinction between groups. There are no sanctuaries. There are no funds. There is no access to arms. But, we also have to work within our societies and with our youth,” he added. The Prime Minister welcomed the commitment to delink religion from terrorism and the efforts to promote human values that define every faith.Noting that the East Asia Summit is the key forum to shape the region’s collective future, Modi told the leaders of the 18-member grouping that the world still looks to the region to address global challenges and uncertainties.He said that since his government assumed office 18 months ago, no region has seen greater engagement from India than the Asia Pacific and the Indian Ocean Region. “This reflects a long standing national consensus in India on the importance of this region for India and the world,” Modi said.On upcoming Paris climate talks, the Prime Minister said, “There, we must not only come together to craft a balanced and concrete outcome on climate change. But we must also stand together to send a clear message that we will not retreat in the face of terror.”Modi reaffirmed India’s active participation in the ASEAN led security dialogue and cooperation forums and said the East Asia Summit must continue to support the evolution of an inclusive, balanced, transparent and open regional architecture for security and cooperation. “We must deepen our collective commitment to strengthen and abide by international rules and norms,” he said. Noting that oceans remained the pathway to prosperity and security, Modi said India shared with ASEAN a commitment to freedom of navigation, over flight and unimpeded commerce, in accordance with accepted principles of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.Noting that India and Bangladesh had recently settled their maritime boundary using the mechanism of UNCLOS, he said territorial disputes must be settled through peaceful means. “India hopes that all parties to the disputes in the South China Sea will abide by the Declaration on the Conduct on South China Sea and the guidelines on the implementation. Parties must also redouble efforts for early adoption of a Code of Conduct on the basis of consensus,” Modi said, without naming any country.China claims sovereignty on almost all of the South China Sea which is firmly opposed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. The Prime Minister also called for stronger commitment and closer cooperation on cyber security. He listed out outer space as emerging a major area of security concern. “We must also continue to strengthen cooperation on non-proliferation,” he said.India, which shares both land and maritime boundaries with ASEAN, said it will continue to deepen bilateral security partnerships in ASEAN and with other EAS partners. “We will remain active participants in the ASEAN-led security dialogue and cooperation forums,” he added. Modi also spoke about early conclusion of a balanced and broad-based Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. “Trans Pacific Partnership is also a major development. These, I hope, will eventually not become competing regimes, but the foundations of an integrated economic community in the region,” he said.Modi said development cooperation was at the heart of the East Asia Summit. “India will continue to support the efforts of our partner countries”. He said India was taking the lead in establishing EAS Virtual Knowledge Portals on Disaster Management and Trauma Care & Nursing. The Nalanda University is shaping up as a world class centre of knowledge and learning, he added. U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday said the United States and its allies would not relent in its fight to combat Islamic State extremists and would hunt down their leaders and cut off the group’s financing.”Destroying (Islamic State) is not only a realistic goal, were going to get it done,” he told a news conference after a meeting of Asian leaders in Malaysia.”We will destroy them. We will take back land they are currently in, take out their financing, hunt down leadership, dismantle their networks, supply lines and we will destroy them.”Obama said it “would be helpful” if Russia directed its focus on tackling Islamic State and he hoped Moscow would agree to a leadership transition in Syria that meant its president stepping down.

Former SIMI member from Karnataka detained in Dubai for suspected ISIS activities

Investigations showed Damudi to be in touch with several other Muslim youths in India as well.

Islamic State militants

Dubai police have detained a 33-year-old from Bhatkal, Karnataka, who was being tracked for over a year by Indian authorities for suspected online activities linked to the Islamic State, reports Indian Express. Former SIMI member Adnan Hasan Damudi, moved to Dubai in 2012 for work, and is said to have acted as an online recruiter and propaganda agent for ISIS.Indian authorities are hopeful that Damudi, an accountant by training who was last known to be employed as an assistant delivery coordinator at the World Trade Center in Dubai, would be deported soon to India. He was detained a couple of months ago. However his present location is ‘not known’.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Since the detention, Damudi’s ‘suspect’ online activities have come to a halt, sources added. The Twitter account allegedly linked to Damudi, with the handle @AdnanDamudi, that would propagate IS ideology has been defunct over the last year along with his YouTube subscription.Indian and UAE phone numbers suspected to have been provided by Damudi on online forums are also inactive. A Telangana Police investigation into an attempt last year to recruit four Hyderabad youths to IS led to Damudi. The terrorist is alleged to have influenced the four engineering college dropouts to travel to Syria as well as arranged funds for their travel, before the authorities were alerted and the youths detained near Malda in West Bengal and brought back to Hyderabad. A commerce graduate from Karnatak University in Dharwad, Damudi was allegedly also in touch with Sultan Armar from Bhatkal, who was reported by IS-linked websites to have been killed in Kobane in Syria in March this year. Investigations showed Damudi to be in touch with several other Muslim youths in India as well, reports Indian Express. An alleged active participant in online platforms linked to the IS, he was a subscriber a year ago to a YouTube channel operated by controversial Australian pro-IS preacher Robert Musa Cerantonio, who was deported to Australia from the Philippines in 2014.Investigations into the attempt by the four Hyderabad youths to make their way to IS ranks in Syria had revealed that they were initially handled online by a Karnataka-origin man based in the Gulf. Initially 6 youths from Hyderabad had been convinced into signing up for the IS and visas were to be arranged for their travel via Istanbul, says Indian Express. However, two had later dropped out after their parents got wind of their plans as well as the person who was to arrange their visas backed out. The four youths who eventually decided to leave first went into hiding in the Karimnagar district of Telangana and, out of desperation, allegedly contacted Damudi on an Indian number provided by him. Damudi allegedly put the youths in touch with Sultan Armar, who was suspected then to be on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

India 6th among nations impacted by terrorism in 2014; Boko Haram, ISIS responsible for over half of all terror fatalities

According to the third edition of the Global Terrorism Index 2015 (GTI), India ranked 6th out of 162 nations most affected by terrorism in 2014.

India is among the 10 countries most impacted by terrorism in 2014, according to a new report which said that ISIS and Boko Haram are now jointly responsible for more than half of all global fatalities from terrorist attacks.According to the third edition of the Global Terrorism Index 2015 (GTI), India ranked 6th out of 162 nations most affected by terrorism in 2014.India witnessed a slight increase in terror-related deaths, up by 1.2% in 2014 to reach a total of 416, the highest number of terrorist incidents and deaths since 2010.There were 763 incidents which represents a 20 per cent increase from 2013, the report by Washington-based Institute for Economics and Peace said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In India, the two deadliest Islamic terrorist groups in 2014 were Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Hizbul Mujahideen.The Pakistan-based LeT was responsible for 24 deaths in 2014, while Hizbul Mujahideen was responsible for 11 deaths in 2014, down from 30 deaths in the previous year.In 2013 Hizbul Mujahideen was the only group in India to use suicide tactics, but in 2014 there were no suicide attacks in India, the report added.It said that the number of lives lost to terrorism around the world increased by 80% in 2014, reaching the highest level ever recorded at 32,658 as compared to 18,111 in 2013.Pakistan was ranked fourth of the list while the US was ranked 35th among the nations most impacted by terrorism.The report added that just two terrorist groups, ISIS and Boko Haram, are now jointly responsible for 51 per cent of all global fatalities from claimed terrorist attacks.”Boko Haram, which pledged its allegiance to ISIL as the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP) in March 2015, has become the world’s deadliest terrorist group, causing 6,644 deaths compared to ISIL’s 6,073,” it said.India has featured 14 times in the 10 countries most affected by terrorism for the 2000 2014 period.While India continues to be among the 10 countries most impacted by terrorism, 2014 was the first time since 2000 that India did not feature among the ten countries with highest fatalities from terrorism.”However this is due to the growth of terrorism in other countries more than to an improvement in India,” the report said adding that majority of terrorist attacks in India have low casualties.In 2014 around 70% of attacks in India were non-lethal. Of the 50 different terrorist groups that engaged in a terrorist act in 2014, 28 groups did not kill anyone, it said.

Italian shot in latest attack on foreigners in Bangladesh | Reuters

DHAKA An Italian doctor working as a missionary was shot and wounded in the neck in an attack by three assailants in northern Bangladesh on Wednesday, police and a medic said, the latest assault on foreigners in the country.

The attack on the doctor, identified by Italian newspapers as Piero Parolari, follows the murder of another Italian and a Japanese citizen in attacks in Bangladesh claimed by Islamic State that took place in late September and early October.

The latest incident occurred in Dinajpur district, around 400 km (250 miles) north of the capital Dhaka, where Parolari has been carrying out missionary work and medical services among the poor for the last 10 years.

Police had earlier said he had been stabbed.

Parolari was initially moved to a hospital in Dinajpur town, according to Abdul Khaleque, officer in charge of Dinajpur Sadar police station. He was later taken to a military hospital in Dhaka, and doctors said his condition was stable.

Dharani Kanto, an auto rickshaw driver, told Reuters that he had taken Parolari to hospital in Dinajpur.

“No one was attending to him, so with the help of two other people I rushed him to the hospital,” Kanto said.

The attackers fled on a motorcycle, and fired shots to frighten off people chasing them, a senior police official said.

Muslim-majority Bangladesh has suffered a rising tide of Islamist violence over the past year. Four online critics of religious militancy have been hacked to death, among them a U.S. citizen of Bangladesh origin.

In late September, an Italian aid worker was shot in Dhaka’s diplomatic quarter by gunmen on a motorcycle. A few days later a Japanese man was shot.

Islamic State also claimed responsibility for the bombing of a Shi’ite shrine in Dhaka last month that killed two people and wounded dozens.

The government has rejected the Islamic State claims, instead blaming the rising violence on political opponents.

Humayun Kabir, a Deputy Inspector General of police for the northern region, told Reuters that security in the area had been tightened.

He linked the attack on the Italian missionary to death sentences handed down to the leaders of two opposition parties who have been found guilty of committing war crimes during the 1971 war of independence.

“The motive of the attack was to create a destructive and unstable situation in the country to prevent (the) ongoing trial of war criminals,” Kabir said.

Mahbubur Rahman, secretary general of the Dinajpur district branch of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, has been detained for questioning, police said.

A top Jamaat leader was one of two opposition figures whose appeals against death sentences in the war crimes trial were rejected by the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

A further 10 people were detained in addition to Rahman.

Hamidur Rahman Azad, a senior Jamaat leader, said in a statement that its leadership had been targeted indiscriminately by law enforcement agencies, and that the movement was peaceful.

Asaduzzaman Ripon, spokesman for the largest opposition group, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, told reporters that the government should only act on “specific” evidence.

“It is nothing but harassment of opposition activists,” Ripon said.

(Reporting By Serajul Quadir and additional reporting by Hasibur Rahman Bilu from Dinajpur; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Nick Macfie and Mike Collett-White)

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

Putin vows payback after confirmation of Egypt plane bomb | Reuters

MOSCOW President Vladimir Putin vowed to hunt down those responsible for blowing up a Russian airliner over Egypt and intensified air strikes against militants in Syria, after the Kremlin concluded a bomb had destroyed the plane last month, killing 224 people.

Putin ordered the Russian navy in the eastern Mediterranean to coordinate its actions on the sea and in the air with the French navy, after the Kremlin used long-range bombers and cruise missiles in Syria and announced it would expand its strike force by 37 planes.

“We will find them anywhere on the planet and punish them,” Putin said of the plane bombers at a sombre Kremlin meeting broadcast on Tuesday. The FSB security service swiftly announced a $50 million bounty in a global manhunt for the bombers.

Until Tuesday, Russia had played down assertions from Western countries that the Oct. 31 crash was the work of terrorists, saying it was important to let the official investigation run its course.

But four days after Islamist gunmen and bombers killed at least 129 people in Paris, Alexander Bortnikov, the head of the FSB, said in televised comments that traces of foreign-made explosive had been found on fragments of the downed plane and on passengers’ personal belongings.

“We can unequivocally say it was a terrorist act,” Bortnikov said at a Kremlin meeting.

Egyptian authorities have detained two employees of Sharm al-Sheikh airport, where the downed plane originated, for questioning, two security officials and an airport employee said on Tuesday.

“Seventeen people are being held, two of them are suspected of helping whoever planted the bomb on the plane at Sharm al-Sheikh airport,” said one of the security officials, who both declined to be named.

The Airbus A321, operated by Metrojet, had been returning Russian holiday makers from the Egyptian resort to St Petersburg when it broke up over the Sinai Peninsula, killing all on board. A group affiliated with Islamic State claimed responsibility.

RETRIBUTION

Putin, wearing a dark suit, presided over a minute of silence in memory of the victims at the Kremlin meeting, before telling security and military chiefs the incident was one of the bloodiest crimes in modern Russian history.

“Our air force’s military work in Syria must not simply be continued,” he said. “It must be intensified in such a way that the criminals understand that retribution is inevitable.”

On Tuesday evening, Putin visited the defence ministry’s command centre in Moscow, to hear reports from military chiefs about what they were doing to implement his orders.

As dozens of uniformed servicemen watched on, the defence minister and top military officials gave Putin their reports one-by-one, reporting that long-range bombers had loosed 34 cruise missiles and that Russia would bolster its strike force of around 50 planes and helicopters with a further 37 aircraft.

“You are defending Russia and its citizens,” Putin told military chiefs. “I want to thank you for your service and wish you luck.”

Russia began air strikes in Syria at the end of September. It has always said its main target is Islamic State, but most of its bombs in the past hit territory held by other groups opposed to its ally, President Bashar al-Assad.

A senior French government source said Russia had launched air strikes against the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa in northern Syria on Tuesday, signalling Moscow was becoming more concerned about the threat posed by IS.

A French defence official said Russia’s realisation that its plane had been felled by a bomb was a wake-up call for Moscow.

“What’s changed is less that France has changed, but that Russia has,” said the official. “Russia has acknowledged that the plane was an attack carried out by Daesh (Islamic State). Russia … is now beginning to say to itself that Daesh is also its enemy and has to be hit.”

Putin, in language reminiscent of how he talked about Chechen militants during a war when he came to power 15 years ago, ordered the secret services to hunt down those responsible.

“We must do this without any statute of limitations and we must find out all their names,” he said, invoking Russia’s right to self defence under the United Nations charter.

“Anyone who tries to help the criminals should know that the consequences for trying to shelter them will lie completely on their shoulders.”

(Additional reporting by Maria Kiselyova, Vladimir Soldatkin, Polina Devitt, Jack Stubbs and Daria Korsunksya in Moscow and by John Irish and Marine Pennetier in Paris; Editing by Christian Lowe and Peter Graff)

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

Paris attacks – War against terror must be global, not nation-centric: Kiren Rijiju

“Government of India’s effort to fight terrorism will be given further impetus by our unflinching support in this particular case and anywhere in the world, wherever there is threat. We are committed by that and will stand by that,” Rijiju added.

In retaliation to the killing of over 120 people in a string of terrorist attacks across Paris, France launched a ferocious attack on targets in Raqqa, Syria the Islamic State’s de facto capital.

Image Courtesy: Twitter
Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju on Monday said that India is committed to completely support France in its effort to combat terrorism.”This war against terror is not and should not be the effort of France or India but it should be a global effort. So, we have dedicated ourselves and commit ourselves fully to support France in its effort to combat terrorism,” Rijiju told a press conference here.”We have also sent our condolence message to the family members of the victims of terror attack in Paris. Government of India?s effort to fight terrorism will be given further impetus by our unflinching ‘support in this particular case and anywhere in the world, wherever there is threat. We are committed by that and will stand by that,” Rijiju added.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In retaliation to the killing of over 120 people in a string of terrorist attacks across Paris, France launched a ferocious attack on targets in Raqqa, Syria the Islamic State’s de facto capital. At least 120 people were killed and 200 injured across six locations around the French capital on November 13, which is still reeling from jihadist attacks in January.

Why was Paris targeted?

Terrorism has now become a global phenomenon and is no longer confined to the poor and developing countries in the East.

In the wake of the terrorist attack in France, India has to be wary and take conscious efforts to tackle the issue. However, it is almost impossible to fight the battle single-handed, and the Paris attack has laid the ground for an alliance with Europe and the USA.Terrorism has now become a global phenomenon and is no longer confined to the poor and developing countries in the East. It has spread to the European and other influential States as well. We can no longer avoid the Islamic State, as it is not just an organisation but has become a full fledged State that has occupied about 35% of Iraq and Syria.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>There are three immediate reasons for the attack in Paris, that I would like to put forth. The first being political and security reason: France is a part of the coalition against Islamic State, a member of the NATO force. This is the second attack on the country this year, after the attack on Charlie Hebdo. France is thus on the radar and hit list of the ISIS.Socio-economic factors too can be cited as an important reason for the attacks. France has taken a very generous stand as far as the immigrants from Gulf countries are concerned. As a result, a large portion of population in France comprises of the Muslims. However, France has failed to assimilate the immigrants in the mainstream socio-economic process of the country. The economic recession in France for the past three to four years has had devastating effect on the minority population. The immigrants, who are largely wage labourers, have lost their jobs and due to unemployment, have fallen prey to the Islamic State propaganda.Also, when we look at the demographic structure of Paris, the concentration of Muslims is in the ghettos, that have developed in the isolated outer parts of the city. Indoctrination spreads very fast in these areas and the population is polarised. There have been incidences of communal violence in the past as well.The third and a very important aspect is the literary aspect. An increasing number of books being published in French are creating an Islam phobia. For example, according to a book called ‘The Submission’, in 10 years, France will witness a Muslim President or a Prime Minister, if the trend of immigrant domination continues. Islam is thus being projected as a threat to France, and a suspicious attitude has been developed towards the Muslim population. Consequently, the minority feels alienated and neglected giving rise to a social polarisation.In spite of all this, Europe and the United States have not been able to identify their real enemies. They are in a dilemma about their security policies towards West Asia. They have been targeting the Syrian head instead of the Islamic State. Additionally, the United Nation has failed in establishing a common front on the issue. There is a lack of consensus on the issue of terrorism and collective action is needed against those nations who are aiding and abetting the ISIS. India has been voicing this concern for a long time now and it is high time that India’s voice be recognised, and the member-states work hand in glove to combat terrorism.—as told to dna correspondent The author is a foreign policy analyst

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal condemns Paris terror attack

The Chief Minister said, “Paris attack is an attack on entire humanity. Fundamentalism of all kinds is the worst enemy of society. Let us pray for residents of Paris.”

“Whole world should unite and fight against such terror acts,” he tweeted.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday termed the terror strike in Paris as an attack on humanity and said the whole world should unite and fight against such terror acts. “Shocked to learn about the cowardly attacks on innocents in Paris. Whole world should unite and fight against such terror acts,” he tweeted.The Chief Minister said, “Paris attack is an attack on entire humanity. Fundamentalism of all kinds is the worst enemy of society. Let us pray for residents of Paris.” A series of attacks targeting concert-goers, soccer fans and Parisians enjoying a Friday night out at popular nightspots killed at least 120 people in the deadliest violence to strike France since World War II.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>President Francois Hollande condemned it as terrorism and pledged that France would stand firm against its foes. Also read: Live Updates | Paris attacks: Islamic State claims responsibility for the attack that killed at least 128

Dozens killed in attacks in Paris, Hollande declares emergency | Reuters

PARIS Gunmen and bombers attacked busy restaurants, bars and a concert hall at locations around Paris on Friday, killing dozens of people in what a shaken President Francois Hollande described as an unprecedented terrorist attack.

Police sources said at least 40 people were killed and 60 wounded in up to five attacks in the Paris region. French media reported higher unofficial death tolls.

The apparently coordinated gun and bomb assault came as the country, a founder member of the U.S.-led coalition waging air strikes against Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq, was on high alert for terrorist attacks ahead of a global climate conference due to open later this month.

Hollande, who was attending an international soccer match with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier when several explosions took place outside the national stadium, declared a state of emergency in the Paris region and announced the closure of France’s borders to stop perpetrators escaping.

“This is a horror,” the visibly shaken president said in a midnight television address to the nation before chairing an emergency cabinet meeting.

All emergency services were mobilised, police leave was cancelled and hospitals recalled staff to cope with the casualties.

Hollande said police were launching an assault at one of the attack sites as he spoke. A Reuters witness heard five explosions outside the Bataclan music hall, where up to 60 people were being held hostage.

A second Reuters reporter later said police had completed an operation at the building. BMF TV said two gunmen had been killed.

Earlier, witnesses said an elite anti-terror unit had taken up positions outside the popular concert venue, which was attacked by two or three gunmen, who were reported to have shouted slogans condemning France’s role in Syria.

“We know where these attacks come from,” Hollande said, without naming any individual group. “There are indeed good reasons to be afraid.”

HIGH ALERT

France has been on high alert ever since Islamist gunmen attacked the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a Kosher supermarket in Paris in January, killing 18 people.

U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel led a global chorus of solidarity with France and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the “despicable attacks” and demanded the release of the hostages.

Julien Pierce, a journalist from Europe 1 radio, was inside the concert hall when the shooting began. In an eyewitness report posted on the station’s website, Pierce said several very young individuals, who were not wearing masks, entered the hall while the concert was under way armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles and started “blindly shooting at the crowd”.

“There were bodies everywhere,” he said.

French media reported five more or less simultaneous attacks in mid-evening in central Paris and outside the Stade de France stadium in the suburb of Saint-Denis, north of the city centre.

There was no immediate verifiable claim of responsibility but supporters of the Islamic State militant group which controls swathes of Iraq and Syria said in Twitter messages that the group carried them out.

“The State of the caliphate hit the house of the cross,” one tweet said.

Three explosions were heard near the Stade de France, where the France-Germany friendly soccer match was being played. A witness said one of the detonations blew people into the air outside a McDonald’s restaurant outside the stadium.

The match continued until the end but panic broke out in the crowd as rumours of the attack spread, and spectators were held in the stadium and assembled spontaneously on the pitch.

TF1 television said up to 35 people were dead near the soccer stadium, including two suspected suicide bombers.

Police helicopters circled the stadium as Hollande was rushed back to the interior ministry to deal with the situation.

In central Paris, shooting erupted in mid-evening outside a Cambodian restaurant in the capital’s 10th district. There were unconfirmed reports of other shootings in Rue de Charonne in the 11th district and at the central Les Halles shopping and cinema complex.

“There are lots of people here. I don’t know what’s happening, a sobbing witness who gave her name only as Anna told BFM TV outside the Bataclan hall. “It’s horrible. There’s a body over there. It’s horrible.”

The attacks came within days of attacks claimed by Islamic State militants on a Shi’ite Muslim district of southern Beirut in Lebanon, and a Russian tourist aircraft which crashed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

Earlier on Friday, the United States and Britain said they had launched an attack in the Syrian town of Raqqa on a British Islamic State militant known as “Jihadi John” but it was not certain whether he had been killed.

(Reporting by Paris Newsroom; Writing by Paul Taylor; Editing by Peter Graff)

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

U.S. ‘reasonably certain’ that British Islamic State militant Jihadi John killed in strike | Reuters

WASHINGTON/BEIRUT The United States announced on Friday it was “reasonably certain” a drone strike in Syria had killed Jihadi John, a British citizen who became the public face of Islamic State and a symbol of its brutality after appearing in hostage execution videos.

U.S. and British officials welcomed the apparent success of the operation targeting Mohammed Emwazi, saying his death, if confirmed, would be a big blow to Islamic State’s image and prestige even though Emwazi was not a significant tactical or operational figure in the militant group.

“If this strike was successful – and we still await confirmation of that – it will be a strike at the heart of ISIL (Islamic State),” British Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement outside his official London residence.

The U.S.-British missile strike believed to have killed Emwazi was months in preparation but came together at lightning speed shortly before midnight on Thursday, as two U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drones and one British MQ-9 cruised above the Syrian town of Raqqa, officials said.

U.S. Army Colonel Steve Warren, a spokesman in Baghdad for the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State, said a Hellfire missile was fired at a car believed to be carrying Emwazi and another man. The missile killed the people riding in the car, he said.

“It’s still a little early, but we are reasonably certain that we killed the target that we intended to kill, which is Jihadi John,” Warren told reporters, adding the verification process still had to be completed.

An Islamic State fighter confirmed a strike took place in Raqqa, the organisation’s headquarters in Syria, and killed several “brothers” and civilians but added via the Internet that “there is a decision not to announce names.”

Rami Abdulrahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, said a car carrying four Islamic State leaders, including one Briton, had been killed in the strike in Raqqa. He quoted sources in Raqqa as saying Emwazi’s body had been blown apart.

While experts questioned whether Emwazi’s death would have much impact on Islamic State since he was not a senior military figure, Cameron described him as a “barbaric murderer” and Islamic State’s “lead executioner.”

“It was the right thing to do,” Cameron said.

E‎mwazi took part in videos showing the murders of U.S. journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley, U.S. aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig, British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, and other hostages.

Shown in the videos dressed entirely in black, a balaclava covering all but his eyes and the bridge of his nose, Emwazi became a menacing symbol of Islamic State brutality and one of the world’s most wanted men.

He used such videos to threaten the West, admonish its Arab allies and taunt U.S. President Barack Obama and Cameron before hostages seen cowering in orange jump suits.

Born in Kuwait in 1988, Emwazi was brought to Britain by his family when he was 6 years old and graduated in computer programming in London.

He appears to have come to the attention of the British authorities police by 2009, when he was barred from entering Tanzania at the request of British security services.

The British government also believes Emwazi was a member of a network convicted of trying to bomb London’s underground railway in 2005, two weeks after an attack by another group killed 52 people.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters the operation against Emwazi did not require prior presidential approval because it was conducted under guidance Obama laid down for the fight against Islamic State, which includes going after their leaders. He said Obama was briefed on the operation on Thursday.

The strike came as the U.S. president is trying to boost U.S. efforts to defeat Islamic State, including sending a small contingent of U.S. special forces troops to Syria.

RELIEF MIXED WITH FRESH GRIEF

Reacting to news about Emwazi, relatives of slain hostages spoke of relief but also a desire to hear him explain his actions.

“As much as I wanted him dead, I also wanted answers as to why he did it, why my Dad, how did it make a difference,” said Bethany Haines, whose father David was shown being killed on video, told Britain’s ITV News.

Steven Sotloff’s parents, Art and Shirley Sotloff, said in a statement the development was “too little, too late” and they were focussed on the positive contributions of their son and James Foley.

John and Diane Foley, parents of James, said in a statement: “If only so much effort had been given to finding and rescuing Jim and the other hostages who were subsequently murdered … they might be alive today.”

Experts said Emwazi’s death may not make much difference to Islamic State or to the struggle against radicalisation among some young British Muslims.

“Islamic State will survive ‘Jihadi John’,” said Jonathan Russell, political liaison officer at the Quilliam Foundation, which aims to debunk the belief systems of Islamic extremism.

“If we’re going to make any sort of progress on winning this global war against Jihadism, we’ve got to focus on the ideology and win the battle of ideas, not just have a look at their propaganda tools and their frontmen and their symbols.”

Peter Neumann, director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College London, said the military impact would be small even if the symbolic importance was significant.

“It feeds into a wider narrative that ISIS (Islamic State) in its core territory isn’t really winning anymore,” he said.

(Additional reporting by John Davison in Beirut, Doina Chiacu in Washington, Estelle Shirbon in London and Robert Muller in Prague; Editing by Samia Nakhoul, Timothy Heritage, David Alexander and Frances Kerry)

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

ISIS presence in India is insignificant, says Home Minister Rajnath Singh

Earlier in July, a report had said that the ISIS was preparing to attack India to provoke an Armageddon-like confrontation with the US.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday said that the presence of the Islamic State group in India is insignificant.The statement comes in the light of increasing concerns about the radicalisation of Indian youths by Islamic State.In September this year, an Indian woman allegedly involved in recruiting people for the terror outfit was deported by the UAE and subsequently arrested in Hyderabad. 37-year-old Afsha Jabeen alias ‘Nicky Joseph’, who hails from Hyderabad, had been portraying herself as a British national while luring youth for IS through social media.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Earlier in July, a report had said that the ISIS was preparing to attack India to provoke an Armageddon-like confrontation with the US. “The document warns that ‘preparations’ for an attack in India are underway and predicts that an attack will provoke an apocalyptic confrontation with America,” the report had said.In May 2014, four youths from Kalyan town — Arif Majeed, Shaheen Tanki, Fahad Shaikh and Aman Tandel — had left India to visit holy places in the Middle East, but disappeared thereafter. However, 23-year-old Arif Majeed from neighbouring Kalyan, who was believed to have been killed while fighting for ISIS in Syria, had returned to Mumbai on November 28.

Kerala: Key accused in professor hand-chopping case surrenders

Nasar was the “chief conspirator and mastermind” of the July 4, 2010 brutal attack that sent shock waves across the country, according to NIA.

TJ Joseph, professor of Newman College in Thodupuzha in Idukki district (File Photo)

Zee Media Bureau
An alleged key conspirator in the college professor hand-chopping case in Kerala in 2010 surrendered before a special NIA court on Friday and was remanded in judicial custody. An activist of radical Islamic outfit Popular Front of India (PFI), M K Nasar, the 28th accused in the case and absconding since the incident, surrendered in the court around 11.00 am, a National Investigation Agency (NIA) official said. The court remanded him in judicial custody, the official said, adding NIA is likely to seek his custody for interrogation.Nasar was the “chief conspirator and mastermind” of the July 4, 2010 brutal attack that sent shock waves across the country, according to NIA. His surrender comes months after ten persons belonging to PFI were sentenced to eight years rigorous imprisonment by the NIA court in the case. They were held guilty of chopping off a hand of TJ Joseph, professor of Newman College in Thodupuzha in Idukki district, for allegedly hurting religious sentiments of a community through a question paper he had set. In his verdict in May, NIA Court Judge P Sasidharan had also awarded two years rigorous imprisonment to three others in the case and imposed a fine of Rs eight lakh on the 13 convicts to be given to the victim.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>37 people were chargesheeted by NIA in the case. However, only 31 underwent trial as the remaining six, including accused Savad and Nasar, were absconding. The right hand of Joseph was chopped while he was returning home after attending Sunday mass at a church in Muvattupuzha in Ernakulam district.

Here’s why PM Modi should not ignore Arun Shourie’s ‘sour-grapes’ jihad

By Gouri Chatterjee

I am no Narendra Modi fan-girl, but even I can find it in me to sympathise with his predicament. Who was it, he must have wondered, with Karan Thapar on Monday evening? He looked like Arun Shourie, talked like Arun Shourie, waved his hands like Arun Shourie, but sounded just like Irfan Habib. Yes, Irfan Habib, that “rabid, anti-BJP” lefty, yet eminent, historian who had said, the day before, at a seminar protesting rising intolerance in the country, that there was “not much difference between the Islamic State (IS) and the RSS as far as intellect goes”.

But there was Shourie, a minister in the first NDA government, author of books glorifying Hinduism, lambasting Islam, denigrating Dalit leader BR Ambedkar, ridiculing ‘pseudo-seculars’, vilifying these very same “lefty” historians as “frauds” and many more, one of the few intellectuals the right-wing could claim as its own, patting the seething writers and other members of civil society on the back as the nation’s “conscience-keepers” while accusing the prime minister of actively engendering a climate of hate by communalising the Bihar campaign and keeping quiet over incidents like the Dadri lynching for electoral gains.

Arun Shourie. Reuters

Arun Shourie. Reuters

Of course, his language was far more colourful than dry academics’. On being told the BJP believes the prime minister doesn’t have to react to everything, he retorted, “The prime minister is not a section officer of the homoeopathy department; he is not head of a department. He is the prime minister. He has to show the country the moral path. He has to set moral standards.” While the left liberals are not quite rushing to claim him as one of their own, they couldn’t have put it any better.

Of course, this was not the first time the honourable Mr Shourie had taken potshots at NDA mark-II. His comment, late last month, that the Modi government was nothing more than “Congress plus a cow” will forever remain one of the most quotable quotes in our political annals.

Predictably enough, the BJP has dismissed his diatribe as the ravings of someone who is not even a member of the party as he had not renewed his membership and were caused by “the pain of not being in government” or in any key position. The rumours had been there from day one: Shourie had fancied himself as the finance minister — after all, he was the first national leader to openly back Narendra Modi’s prime ministerial ambitions — but Modi chose the other Arun, with whom he is really, really close; his soulmate in fact. Shourie was, one hears, offered a sprawling governor’s mansion but, an energetic 74-year-old, he was not ready to be put out to pasture so soon.

Whatever, this Arun jihad against the Modi regime cannot be ideological. He has no reservations about the Hindutva plank — the “spontaneous” demolition of the Babri masjid had “corrected a historical wrong” he had opined in December 1992 — and is an enthusiastic proponent of the RSS’ call for a rethink on the reservation issue. And had touted Modi’s bid at prime ministership at a Brics forum with these words: “What India wants is not divisive but decisive leadership and Modi has certainly demonstrated that.”

Modi will not miss a step at his advocate’s volte face. He didn’t when LK Advani blurted out, in June, that he didn’t “have the confidence that Emergency cannot happen again”, because “at the present point of time, the forces that can crush democracy, notwithstanding the constitutional and legal safeguards, are stronger; a commitment to democracy and to all other aspects related to democracy is lacking”.

He was equally phlegmatic when another party elder, Murli Manohar Joshi, ridiculed Modi’s plans of developing Varanasi on the lines of Japan’s old capital Kyoto and scoffed at the prime minister’s dream project of running bullet trains in this country.

True, these are tired old men, miffed at being forced out of the limelight, hankering for the loaves and fishes of power. He can ignore them. Anyway, NaMo prefers to plow a lonely furrow. He has his self-belief, an unshakeable conviction in his own ideas, his “God-given mission”, and his handpicked loyalists to aid him. He has his brute majority, he will brook no interference.

He has no interest in the parliamentary process, in the give and take of making deals to get legislations passed, in handing out patronage today for a future quid pro quo, in building caucuses, in keeping track of the vanities and vulnerabilities of members that he can play on when needed, in spending evenings massaging parliamentarians’ egos — in short, in politics itself. But then, his great appeal was his authoritarian style, that he could be his own man. He was elected on the promise that he would be himself, he is keeping his promise.

Yet, with the growing crescendo of criticism both within and without, some vocal, many watching from the sidelines in silence, maybe a change in tactics is called for. Otherwise, many of his dreams, his pet projects, his vision of India zipping ahead like a bullet train will go the way of the Land Bill, discarded mid-way.

He could, if he likes, follow the maxim laid down by Don Corleone, the Godfather, for his son: “Keep your friends close, your enemies closer.” Frenemies too. Or, he could pay attention to a fellow Gujarati — Mahatma Gandhi — who said: “I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.”

Russia stance on Assad suggests divergence with Iran | Reuters

MOSCOW Russia does not see keeping Bashar al-Assad in power as a matter of principle, the Foreign Ministry in Moscow said on Tuesday in comments that suggested a divergence of opinion with Iran, the Syrian president’s other main international backer.

Fuelling speculation of Russian-Iranian differences over Assad, the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps suggested on Monday that Tehran may be more committed to him than Russia, saying Moscow “may not care if Assad stays in power as we do”.

While Russia and Iran have been Assad’s foremost foreign supporters during Syria’s four-year-old war, the United States, its Gulf allies and Turkey have insisted the president must step down as part of any eventual peace deal.Talks in Vienna on Friday among the main foreign players involved in diplomatic efforts on Syria failed to reach agreement on Assad.

Asked by a reporter on Tuesday if saving Assad was a matter of principle for Russia, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said: “Absolutely not, we never said that.”

“We are not saying that Assad should leave or stay,” RIA news agency quoted her as saying.

But another regime change in the Middle East could be a catastrophe that “could simply turn the whole region into a large black hole”, she added.

Zakharova said Russia had not changed its policy on Assad and that his fate should be decided by the Syrian people.

But her remarks appeared to suggest a difference of approach compared with Iran, which has sent forces to fight alongside Assad’s military and ordered in fighters from the Lebanese Hezbollah group, which it controls.

Russia “may not care if Assad stays in power as we do”, the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, was quoted as saying by the Tasnim news agency on Monday. But he added: “We don’t know any better person to replace him.”

Syria’s deputy foreign minister rejected the idea of a transitional period sought by Western states that want Assad removed from power, saying during a visit to Iran that an expanded government was being discussed.

“We are talking about a national dialogue in Syria and an expanded government and a constitutional process. We are not at all talking about what is called a transitional period,” Faisal Mekdad said.

Russia intervened militarily at the end of September to support Assad by launching bombing raids on rebel groups trying to overthrow him.

DIPLOMATIC EFFORTS

But Moscow has also shown increasing flexibility as it steps up diplomatic efforts to resolve a conflict that has killed 250,000 and displaced millions.

Syrian government officials and members of the country’s splintered opposition could meet in Moscow next week.

“Next week, we will invite opposition representatives to a consultation in Moscow,” Interfax news agency quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov as saying.

“The meeting … will possibly be with the participation of government representatives,” Bogdanov said. He did not say which opposition members might attend, but the invitation appeared to suggest a change in tone from Moscow, which has until now dismissed such groups.

Moscow’s goal was not to support Assad, but to save the Syrian state and defeat terrorist groups, a Russian analyst said. “It is the beginning of a political process,” said Irina Zvyagelskaya, a Middle East analyst at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura in Moscow on Wednesday to discuss attempts to start a dialogue between Damascus and the opposition, Moscow’s foreign ministry said.

At the talks in Vienna, where Russia was the leading player, Moscow said it wanted opposition groups to participate in future discussions on the Syria crisis and exchanged a list of 38 names with Saudi Arabia.

The list included mostly former and current members of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (SNC), Syria’s Western-backed political opposition bloc, Kommersant newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Among those named were former SNC head Moaz al-Khatib and incumbent president Khaled Khoja, the daily reported, as well as representatives from a diverse range of political, religious and ethnic groups including the Muslim Brotherhood and a Christian pro-democracy movement.

Khoja said last week the Russian air strikes were intended to prop up Assad and had helped Islamic State militants who have taken control of large areas of the country.

The SNC has been accused of slipping into virtual irrelevance on the battlefield as Islamist and Kurdish groups have grown stronger. But it remains one of the main parties in international discussions to end the war.

The coalition boycotted peace talks held in Russia in January and April, distrustful of the Kremlin and dismissing Damascus rivals who attended as token opposition, but it sent a delegation to Moscow in August.

REBEL ADVANCE

On the battlefield, a newly-formed U.S.-backed Syrian rebel alliance advanced against Islamic State in the northeast province of Hasaka on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.

In the west, Russian warplanes carried out airstrikes in Hama province while unidentified jets bombarded the outskirts of the Islamic State-held city of Raqqa in the north.

Syrian government forces and allied militia clashed in fierce battles with Islamic State fighters southeast of Aleppo city, the Observatory said.

(Additional reporting by Tom Perry and Sylvia Westall in Beirut; Writing by Giles Elgood; editing by David Stamp)

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

Russian airliner with 224 aboard crashes in Egypt’s Sinai, all killed | Reuters

ISMAILIA, Egypt/CAIRO A Russian airliner carrying 224 passengers and crew crashed in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula on Saturday after losing radar contact and plummeting from its cruising altitude, killing all aboard.

The Airbus A321, operated by Russian airline Kogalymavia under the brand name Metrojet, was flying from the Sinai Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to St Petersburg in Russia when it went down in a desolate mountainous area of central Sinai soon after daybreak, the aviation ministry said.

A north Sinai security source said initial examination showed the crash was due to a technical fault, but gave no detail. The plane, he said, had landed in a “vertical fashion”, explaining the scale of devastation and burning.

The Russian Embassy in Cairo said it had been told by Egyptian officials the pilot had been trying to make an emergency landing at El-Arish.

“I now see a tragic scene,” an Egyptian security officer at the site told Reuters by telephone. “A lot of dead on the ground and many who died whilst strapped to their seats.

“The plane split into two, a small part on the tail end that burned and a larger part that crashed into a rock. We have extracted at least 100 bodies and the rest are still inside,” the officer, who requested anonymity, said.

Sinai is the scene of an insurgency by militants close to Islamic State, who have killed hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and police and have also attacked Western targets in recent months.

Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, launched air raids against opposition groups in Syria including Islamic State on Sept. 30. Security sources said there was no indication the Airbus had been shot down or blown up.

TELEPHONES RINGING

Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail was heading to the crash site in the Hassana area 35 km (22 miles) south of the Sinai Mediterranean coastal city of Al Arish with several cabinet ministers on a private jet, the tourism ministry said.

Russian television showed film of anxious relatives and friends waiting for information at St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo airport. A middle-aged woman was shown weeping and crying out.

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a day of national mourning for Sunday. The passengers included 214 Russians and three Ukrainians.

Speaking at a news briefing in the central Asia republic of Kyrgyzstan, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry described the crash as a tremendous tragedy and loss.

The A321 is a medium-haul jet in service since 1994, with over 1,100 in operation worldwide and a good safety record. It is a highly automated aircraft relying on computers to help pilots stay within safe flying limits.

Airbus said the A321 was built in 1997 and had been operated by Metrojet since 2012. It had flown 56,000 hours in nearly 21,000 flights and was powered by engines from International Aero Engines consortium, which includes United Technologies unit Pratt & Whitney and Germany’s MTU Aero Engines.

Emergency services and aviation specialists searched the wreckage for any clues to the crash. One of two flight recorders was quickly found, but wreckage was scattered over a wide area.

The security officer said 120 bodies had been found intact.

“We are hearing a lot of telephones ringing, most likely belonging to the victims, and security forces are collecting them and putting them into a bag,” he said.

Russian state-run television station Rossiya 24 reported that officials were searching the Kogalymavia airline’s offices in Moscow and had seized some documents.

Interfax news agency said Russian state transport regulator Rostransnadzor had found violations when it last conducted a routine flight safety inspection of Kogalymavia. But after the inspection, in March 2014, the airline remedied the breaches.

Kogalymavia was founded in 1993, and was earlier called Kolavia. Its fleet consists of two A320s and seven A321s.

Russia and other former Soviet republics have relatively poor safety records, notably on domestic flights.

Some Russian air crashes have been blamed on the use of ageing aircraft, but industry experts point to other problems, including poor crew training, crumbling airports, lax government controls and neglect of safety in the pursuit of profits.

The aircraft took off at 5:51 a.m. Cairo time (0351 GMT) and disappeared from radar screens 23 minutes later, Egypt’s Civil Aviation Ministry said in a statement. It was at an altitude of 31,000 feet (9,400 metres) when it vanished from radar screens.

Accidents at cruising altitude are one of the rarest categories of accidents but also among the most deadly, accounting for 13 percent of fatal incidents but 27 percent of fatalities since 2005, according to Boeing.

Investigators would be looking into, among other things, the weather at the time, the pilots’ experience, maintenance records, signs of a stall and any evidence of an explosion.

Experts consistently warn air accidents are usually caused by a cocktail of factors, both human and technical.

According to FlightRadar24, an authoritative Sweden-based flight tracking service, the aircraft was descending rapidly at about 6,000 feet (1,800 metres) per minute before the signal was lost to air traffic control.

(Additional reporting by Ehab Farouk, Jason Bush in Moscow, Tim Hepher in Paris; Writing by Michael Georgy; editing by Ralph Boulton)

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

US to send special forces to Syria, truce sought after peace talks | Reuters

VIENNA/WASHINGTON The United States disclosed plans on Friday to station the first American boots on the ground in Syria in the war against Islamic State fighters, saying dozens of special forces troops would be sent as advisers to groups fighting against the jihadists.

Washington announced the small ground force shortly before 17 countries, the European Union and the United Nations called for a nationwide truce in Syria’s civil war at talks in Vienna, attended for the first time since the conflict began in 2011 by President Bashar al-Assad’s ally Iran.

The participants, including the United States and Russia, said “substantial differences remain” though they agreed it was “imperative to accelerate all diplomatic efforts to end the war” and the ministers will reconvene within two weeks.

In a rare hint of diplomatic progress, Tehran signalled it would back a six-month political transition period in Syria followed by elections to decide Assad’s fate, although his foes rejected the proposal as a trick to keep the president in power.

In addition to Assad’s fate, on which delegates said no breakthrough had been expected, sticking points have long included the question of which rebel groups should be considered terrorists and who should be involved in the political process.

In Washington, U.S. officials said the small special forces contingent in Syria would work with local “moderate rebel” groups to fight against Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, and that it should not be considered a combat mission.

“The president has been quite clear that there is no military solution to the problems that are plaguing Iraq and Syria. There is a diplomatic one,” White House spokesman

Josh Earnest said in Washington.

He said the special forces’ mission would be to “train, advise and assist” local groups.

Making clear they would number fewer than 50, he added: “I think if we were envisioning a combat operation, we probably would be contemplating more than 50 troops on the ground.”

The announcement marks a shift in policy by President Barack Obama.

Washington has targeted Islamic State with air strikes for over a year since fighters seized swathes of eastern Syria and northern Iraq and proclaimed a caliphate to rule all Muslims. But although it has acknowledged conducting special forces raids into Syria in the past, it has not stationed troops there.

The decision is part of a package of other steps to beef up the fight against Islamic State, including sending more warplanes to the region and discussing with Iraq the establishment of a special forces task force there.

For Syria, it is part of what U.S. officials call a two-pronged strategy of increasing aid to groups they describe as “moderate rebels” fighting against Islamic State, while also working on diplomacy to remove Assad from power.

TEHRAN MAY BE “READY TO MAKE A COMPROMISE”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in Vienna that the timing of the announcement, as talks were held in the Austrian capital, was a coincidence and that peace moves must continue.

“We can’t allow those differences to get in the way of the possibility of diplomacy,” he said.

Russia’s decision a month ago to join the conflict in Syria by bombing Assad’s enemies has upended the strategy of the United States and its allies, who say Assad must go, as his presence makes it harder to fight the jihadists.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Vienna that the decision to deploy special forces would make cooperation between U.S. and Russian armed forces even more important.

Russia, which started bombing a month ago, says it is targeting only Islamic State. But the overwhelming majority of its strikes have been against other groups fighting against Assad, including some that are supported by U.S. allies.

For four years, Assad’s closest ally Iran had been excluded from international peace conferences because it rejected a U.N.-backed proposal for a transition of power in Damascus.

However, Tehran may be adjusting its stance in ways that could create more ground for compromise with Western countries.

“Iran does not insist on keeping Assad in power forever,” Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian, a member of Tehran’s delegation at the Syria talks, was quoted by Iranian media as saying.

He later told Iranian state television that calls for a timetable for Assad’s removal had been rejected at the talks and added: “The importance of the Syrian people deciding their country’s fate was underlined.”

A senior official from the Middle East familiar with the Iranian position suggested Iran might go as far as ending support for Assad after the transition period.

“Talks are all about compromises and Iran is ready to make a compromise by accepting Assad remaining for six months,” the official told Reuters. “Of course, it will be up to the Syrian people to decide about the country’s fate.”

SIGNIFICANT UNDERTAKING?

Assad’s foes said such a proposal amounted to no new concession from Tehran, because a new election could keep Assad in power. His government easily won an election last year.

Abu Ghaith al-Shami, a spokesman for the rebel Alwiyat Seif al-Sham group which is fighting in the south, said Assad’s participation in an election was unthinkable: “The fate of Assad and all criminals should be in court following the massacres committed by him and those with him, towards the Syrian people.”

Nevertheless, a commitment from Iran to a defined time limit for a transition could be viewed as a significant undertaking, potentially forming a basis for future diplomacy.

All previous efforts to find a diplomatic solution to Syria’s more than four-year-old civil war have collapsed over the insistence of the United States, European powers, Arab states and Turkey that Assad agree to leave power.

Russia’s participation in the conflict on Assad’s behalf creates a new incentive for a diplomatic push to end a war that has killed more than 250,000 people and driven more than 10 million people from their homes.

In the latest violence from the battlefield, a local rescue group operating in rebel-held areas said at least 57 people were killed by a government missile strike on a marketplace in a town near Damascus.

(Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau, Francois Murphy, Matt Spetalnick, Sabine Siebold and Vladimir Soldatkin in Vienna, Tom Perry in Beirut, Michelle Nichols in New York and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Writing by Peter Graff, editing by Peter Millership and Tom Heneghan)

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

Iran backs six-month Syria transition at Vienna peace talks | Reuters

VIENNA/BEIRUT Iran signalled on Friday it backed a six-month transition period in Syria followed by elections to decide Bashar al-Assad’s fate, a proposal floated at peace talks as a concession but which the president’s foes rejected as a trick to keep him in power.

Sources who described the Iranian proposal said it amounted to Assad’s closest ally dropping its insistence on him remaining in office.

But Assad’s enemies say a new election would keep him in power unless other steps were taken to remove him. His government held an election as recently as last year, which he easily won. His opponents have always rejected any proposal for a transition unless he is removed.

Iranian officials attended international peace talks on Syria for the first time on Friday in Vienna, a month after the balance of power in the 4-year-old civil war shifted in Assad’s favour with Russia launching air strikes against his foes.

Iran appears to be adjusting its stance in ways that could create more ground for compromise with Western countries that are coming to accept Assad cannot be driven from power by force.

“Iran does not insist on keeping Assad in power forever,” Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian, a member of Tehran’s delegation at the Syria talks on Friday, was quoted by Iranian media as saying.

A senior official from the Middle East familiar with the Iranian position said that could go as far as ending support for Assad after the transition period.

“Talks are all about compromises and Iran is ready to make a compromise by accepting Assad remaining for six months,” the official told Reuters. “Of course, it will be up to the Syrian people to decide about the country’s fate.”

Syrian opposition figures, already bristling from having been excluded from Friday’s talks about the fate of their country, dismissed the reported Iranian proposal as a ruse.

“Who is mad enough to believe that under these circumstances in Syria, anybody can hold elections?” said George Sabra, a member of the Western-backed political opposition, the exiled Syrian National Coalition, told Reuters. “Bashar al-Assad and his regime is the root of the terrorism in Syria.”

They say any fair vote is impossible in wartime conditions in which nearly half of the country is displaced.

“In the shadow of this anarchy there will not be real elections, therefore we reject them absolutely,” said Ahmed al-Seoud, a fighter in the rebel 13th Division which has been fighting in the western Hama province.

Abu Ghaith al-Shami, a spokesman for the rebel Alwiyat Seif al-Sham group which is fighting in the south, said Assad’s participation in an election was unthinkable: “The fate of Assad and all criminals should be in court following the massacres committed by him and those with him, towards the Syrian people.”

NEW UNDERTAKING

Nevertheless, a commitment from Iran to a defined time limit for a transition could be viewed as a significant new undertaking, potentially forming a basis for future diplomacy at a time when Assad’s position has been strengthened by Russia’s decision to join the war on his side.

A senior U.S. official and other delegates said a new round of Syria peace talks could be held as soon as next week.

All previous efforts to find a diplomatic solution to Syria’s civil war have collapsed over the insistence of the United States, European powers, Arab states and Turkey that Assad agree to leave power.

In the past, Iranian delegations were excluded for refusing to sign up to U.N.-backed proposals that called for a transition of power in Damascus. Tehran has long said it was not committed to Assad as an individual, but that it was up to Syrians to decide his fate, a position that amounted to an endorsement of election results that confirmed him in office.

Russia’s participation in the conflict on Assad’s behalf creates a new incentive for a diplomatic push to end a war that has killed more than 250,000 people and driven more than 10 million people from their homes. Western countries that have called for Assad’s removal from power appear to have accepted that he cannot be forced out on the battlefield.

In the latest violence from the battlefield, a local rescue group operating in rebel-held areas said more than 45 people were killed by a government missile strike on a marketplace in a town near Damascus.

The group, Syrian Civil Defence, posted a picture on its Facebook page of about a dozen bloodied bodies laid on the ground. It linked to a video showing people tending to survivors in a chaotic scene of blackened rubble and fire.

“Utterly heinous that while world leaders meet for peace in Vienna, attack(s) against civilians continue in Syria,” the group said on Twitter.

HOPE FOR COMPROMISE

The United States has said it is looking for signs of compromise from Tehran and Moscow at Friday’s conference, defending its decision to talk directly to Iran about the Syrian conflict for the first time.

The conference will also be attended by European powers, Turkey and Iran’s arch enemy in the region, Saudi Arabia.

“I am hopeful that we can find a way forward,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters shortly before the meeting began on Friday morning. “It is very difficult.”

Iranian and Russian officials have repeatedly said the priority for Syria should be the defeat of Islamic State militants, who have seized large areas of Syria and Iraq.

The divide between Assad’s allies and Western and Arab nations seeking his ouster has deepened since Moscow began air strikes against opposition forces in Syria a month ago.

Russia says it is bombing Islamic State, but most of its air strikes have hit other groups opposed to Assad, including many that are supported by Washington’s allies.

The United States is leading its own bombing campaign against Islamic State, the world’s most violent jihadist group, but says Assad’s presence makes the situation worse. Washington has said it could tolerate Assad during a short transition period, but that he would then have to exit the political stage.

Assad’s latest seven-year presidential term runs until 2021. He is believed to control a quarter or less of Syrian territory, but that includes the main cities of Western Syria which are home to the bulk of people still inside the country.

Assad’s office said on Tuesday political initiatives could not work in Syria before terrorism had been wiped out, his long-held position.

(Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau, Francois Murphy, Matt Spetalnick, Sabine Siebold and Vladimir Soldatkin in Vienna, Tom Perry in Beirut, Michelle Nichols in New York and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Writing by Peter Graff)

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

Telangana to recruit 33% women in state police force

Chief Minister Rao seems to be keenly aware that unless the law-and-order situation is under control, the state, especially Hyderabad, would not become the investment destination that he wants it to be.

Indian police women marching in a parade
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Telangana is set to implement, voluntarily, 33% reservation in the state police force. The decision will be notified in a few days’ time, according to highly placed sources in the government. The state government is recruiting 7,000 personnel, out of which 33%, 2100, would be women.The initiative for the move came from the higher echelons of the police, and Chief Minister K.Chandrasekhara Rao gave the nod without much ado. It was decided that instead of creating a few all-women police stations, which would be mere tokens, it would be better to have women in all the police stations across the state.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The 33% principle would apply to staffing pattern in all the police stations. It is being argued that the presence of women in all the police stations would not only result in the empowerment of the women in the force, but it would also encourage women to go to the police stations to register their complaints.It was also found that the all-women police stations did not work well as they were intended to. One of the surprising discoveries was that the levels of corruption in the all-women police stations was high.The modernisation of the police seems to be one of the things that is happening at a brisk pace in the little-more-than-a-year-old state. Chief Minister Rao seems to be keenly aware that unless the law-and-order situation is under control, the state, especially Hyderabad, would not become the investment destination that he wants it to be. That is why, he willing to acceded to any demand that would modernise the police system and improve its functioning.One of the consequences of this pro-active attitude of the Chief Minister has been that the city police had placed an order for 3000 patrol cars, and every police station in the state would have a modern patrol car to replace the rickety jeeps of old.According to sources, the two main potential challenges in the new state—Naxalism and Hindu-Muslim tensions or communalism—seem to have been sorted out each in their own way.Thanks to the success of the Greyhounds—the special anti-Naxal force in the undivided Andhra Pradesh—the Naxalites had been pushed from the hotspots in the state like Warangal and Karimnagar. The problem that Telangana police face with regard to Naxalism is to guard the Telangana-Chhattisgarh border. There are incidents where the Telangana police are engaged in skirmishes from the Naxalites based in the Bastar area, across the state border. It is now being asserted that there is a Naxal threat from within the state.As to Hindu-Muslim tensions, the sporadic riots that used to break out in the old city of Hyderabad, where 42% of city’s population (all of them Muslims) stay, are now a thing of the past. It is considered the largest urban concentration of Muslims in the whole country.The police admit that this is not due to the miracle of better policing but due to the widening of roads in the old city. The municipal authorities had demolished many of the ramshackle frontages housing old shops. There is an improved road connection in the old city which stretches into the outskirt of Falaknuma, with its famous palace now turned into a heritage hotel by the Tatas. It has become a huge attraction for the Hyderabadis as well as tourists.Now the owners of the buildings have rebuilt their frontages and turned them into bigger shopping complexes. Due to the flow of remittances from the Gulf countries, many in the old city have gotten into lucrative businesses. People now have economic stakes and do not want a riot to disrupt their lives. It is also due to the improved economic conditions that the children from the families in the old city are going to better schools located across River Musi.The sources say that the police have adopted a nuanced approach to Muslim youth being attracted to jihadi organisations like the Islamic State (IS). While surveillance has been stepped up it is not overtly intrusive. Arrests based on mere suspicion are being avoided and the tendency to file chargesheets has been reined in. Instead, the police call in the family and friends of the youth to apprise them of the issue.The city police have apparently learned bitter lessons from the arrest of 19 Muslim youth in connection with the Mecca Masjid blasts of 2007. It turned out that all the 19 were innocent, and a judicial commission of inquiry came down heavily against police excess. The police say that it was the pressure from political authorities to nail the culprits quickly that led mistakes like framing the innocent. They are now disinclined to rush into nailing culprits and filing cases.

Islamic state claims responsibility for Bangladesh bombings – SITE monitor | Reuters

DUBAI Islamic State has claimed responsibility for bombings that targeted Shi’ites in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, on Saturday, the monitor group SITE said.

It cited Islamic State as saying “soldiers of the Caliphate in Bangladesh” detonated explosive devices in Dhaka during “polytheist rituals”.

(Reporting by Jeremy Gaunt; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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India’s response to desire for better ties discouraging, says PM Nawaz Sharif

“New Delhi’s response to the desire of bilateral ties is discouraging,” Geo TV quoted Sharif as saying during his address to the Pakistani diaspora soon after arriving in the US on a four-day official visit.

Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, during a meeting with President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin in Ufa. during the BRICS/SCO Summits – Russia 2015 on July 10, 2015 in Ufa, Russia.

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Terming the Kashmir issue as the bone of contention between India and Pakistan, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday said New Delhi’s response to Islamabad’s desire for better bilateral ties has been discouraging.”New Delhi’s response to the desire of bilateral ties is discouraging,” Geo TV quoted Sharif as saying during his address to the Pakistani diaspora soon after arriving in the US on a four-day official visit.Sharif said the Kashmir issue is the bone of contention between the two neighbours and it will have to be resolved for peace and stability in the region.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Earlier in the day, Sharif was received at the Andrews Airforce Base by the Assistant Secretary of State Peter Selfridge and accorded a Guard of Honour by the United States armed forces.During the visit, the Pakistan Prime Minister will hold discussions on wide-ranging issues of bilateral interest with President Barack Obama on October 22, Vice President Joe Biden, and various Cabinet members.Sharif will also interact with members of the US Senate and the House of Representative as well as senior US Government officials.White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the US president hoped to strengthen ties between security forces of both countries to counter extremist forces in that region.”What the President hopes to do is to strengthen the relationship between the two countries based on our shared interest…in countering extremist forces in that region of the world.”I am confident that the President will come to his meeting with Prime Minister Sharif with some ideas about what more the Pakistanis could do to strengthen the relationship between our two countries and to advance the security interests of our two countries,” he said.

5 things you need to know about Muharram

Muharram ‘Tazia’ procession

PTI
‘Muharram’ means ‘Forbidden’ in English. This is the first of the twelve months according to the Islamic lunar calendar. It also marks the beginning of the period of mourning for Shia Muslims, because it coincides with the incidents that led to the Battle of Karbala in 680 AD. Some Muslims fast during daylight hours on the 9th and 10th, or 10th and 11th days of the month. This year, it falls on Saturday, October 24, 2015.Here is all you need to know about Muharram – 1. Battle of Karbala was fought between followers of Hazrat Husain ibn Ali and a grand army of Yazid, when Husain refused to pledge an oath of allegiance and recognise him as Caliph.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>2. Husain and his 71 followers achieved martyrdom on the battlefield of Karbala, including his six-month-old son. Azadaari marks their martyrdom3. The 10th day of Muharram is considered most sacred. It is referred as Ashura and on this day, Husain was killed.4. The mourning rituals include self-flagellation, beating the chest, congregations and public processions. Tabarrukh is distributed after the congregation. It can be traditional food, cash or some other items.5. Tazia, a mausoleum-like structure is set up in establishments and is later buried after the congregation symbolising the funeral of Imam Husain because he never received one.

Mumbai cops beat up two Muslim youths, tell them to ‘go back to Pakistan’

The teens have alleged that they were taken by Bandra Police on Friday night when they were trying to help two drunken people on the road.

Representational Image

Mumbai police has ordered an investigation into the allegations of two Muslim youths that they were beaten up by a policeman and later were asked to “go to Pakistan.” According to sources, the two teenagers, Asif Shaikh and Danish Shaikh, both 19 years old, were taken into custody after the police suspected them of being “agents of Islamic State” ot “terrorists”, NDTV reported.The teens have alleged that they were taken by Bandra Police on Friday night when they were trying to help two drunken people on the road. The teens further said that they were particularly targeted because they were Muslims. <!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>One of the youths, Asif said, “The police beat us up badly and told us to head for Pakistan. They did not even allow us to call home.” They teens also alleged that they police officers also tried to pay them to keep them from filing a complaint. Out of the two youths, one has been hospitalised and the other one is hurt. Joint Commissioner of Police (Law and Order), Deven Bharti, said, “DCP Zone IX has started his inquiry. He should be given some time to speak to both sides. We are recording statements of the so-called victims and also of the police officers. If there are allegations, they should come forward with some proof.”

IUST convocation, to be attended by Smriti Irani, postponed following trucker’s death

On Saturday, a young MBA pass out, in his Facebook profile, had said he would not accept his degree at IUST from Irani as a protest against “diminishing freedoms” in the country.
File Photo
dna Research & Archives
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed who is also the Chancellor of the Islamic University of Science and Technology on Sunday ordered the postponement of the first its convocation in view of the tragic death of a truck conductor in an attack in Udhampur.Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani was scheduled to hand out degrees to passouts of the IUST at a function at the varsity campus at Awantipora in Pulwama district on Monday.The convocation was postponed by the Chief Minister in view of the death of truck conductor Zahid Rasool Bhat, who succumbed to his injuries today at Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi, where he was undergoing treatment after being attacked by hooligans at Udhampur on October 9, an official spokesperson said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>On Saturday, a young MBA pass out, in his Facebook profile, had said he would not accept his degree at IUST from Irani as a protest against “diminishing freedoms” in the country. Read the story here: After Sahitya Akademi row, student refuses to accept MBA degree from Smriti Irani

After Sahitya Akademi row, student refuses to accept MBA degree from HRD Minister Smriti Irani

A young MBA pass out has decided not to accept his degree at the first convocation of Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST) in Kashmir from Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani as a protest against “diminishing freedoms” in the country.

A young MBA pass out has decided not to accept his degree at the first convocation of Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST) in Kashmir from Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani as a protest against “diminishing freedoms” in the country.”Though, for a student, receiving a master’s degree is no less than any prestigious award. But on October 19, (the Convocation Day) I Sameer Gojwari won’t accept it,” Gojwari, who completed his MBA from the IUST in 2008, wrote on his Facebook page.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Gojwari’s post came in response to unconfirmed reports that Irani will be giving out degrees to the pass outs of the IUST at the varsity’s first ever convocation on Monday.”When India’s writers are returning literary awards to protest diminishing freedoms and 41 writers across the country have given back most prestigious awards; unofficial reports say that Islamic University of Science & Technology on its 1st Convocation have chaired a Minister from Central Ministry #BJP, most likely Mrs Smriti Irani,” he said.The Union HRD minister is scheduled to lay the foundation stone of Central University Kashmir complex at Ganderbal on Tuesday.When India’s writers are returning literary awards to protest diminishing freedoms and 41 writers across the country…
Posted by Sameer Gojwari on Friday, October 16, 2015

Bombs kill 95 at pro-Kurdish rally in Turkish capital | Reuters

ANKARA At least 95 people were killed when two suspected suicide bombers struck a rally of pro-Kurdish and labour activists outside Ankara’s main train station just weeks before elections, in the worst attack of its kind on Turkish soil.

Bodies covered by flags and banners, including those of the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), lay scattered on the road among bloodstains and body parts. The HDP blamed the government which, it said, had blood on its hands.

Footage screened by broadcaster CNN Turk showed a line of young men and women holding hands and dancing, and then flinching as a large explosion flashed behind them, engulfing people carrying HDP and leftist party banners.

“Like other terror attacks, the one at the Ankara train station targets our unity, togetherness, brotherhood and future,” said President Tayyip Erdogan, who has vowed to crush a Kurdish militant insurgency since the collapse of a ceasefire and resumption of intense violence in July.

As well as the 95 dead, 246 wounded people were still being treated, 48 of them in intensive care, the prime minister’s office said.

Witnesses said the two explosions happened seconds apart shortly after 10 a.m. as crowds, including HDP activists, leftists, labour unions and other civic groups, gathered for a planned march to protest over the deaths of hundreds since conflict resumed between security forces and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the mainly Kurdish southeast.

“I heard one big explosion first and tried to cover myself as the windows broke. Right away there was the second one,” said Serdar, 37, who was working at a newspaper stand in the train station. “There was shouting and crying and I stayed under the newspapers for a while. I could smell burnt flesh.”

There were no claims of responsibility for the attack, which comes as external threats mount for NATO member Turkey with increased fighting across its border with Syria and incursions by Russian warplanes on its air space over the last week.

But Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, exposing a mosaic of domestic political perils, said Islamic State, Kurdish or far-leftist militants could have carried out the bombing. He said there were strong signs two suicide bombers were responsible.

HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas blamed the government in blunt terms. He said the attack was part of the same campaign as the bombing of an HDP rally in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir on the eve of June elections and a suicide bombing blamed on Islamic State in Suruc near the Syrian border in July, which killed 33 mostly young pro-Kurdish activists.

“The government’s right and chance to hum and haw has long expired. You are murderers. Your hand is bloody. Blood has splattered from your face, your mouth to your nails and all over you. You are the biggest supporters of terror,” he told reporters in comments broadcast on the internet.

The HDP argues that Erdogan seeks to undermine its support and increase backing for his AK Party in elections due on Nov. 1 by associating it with PKK violence and factional infighting, a link the party denies strongly.

Sources in Erdogan’s office said U.S. President Barack Obama called the president on Saturday evening to convey his condolences, condemn the attack and stress that Washington would continue to stand beside Turkey in its fight against terror.

KURDISH MILITANTS’ CEASEFIRE

Davutoglu accused Demirtas, whose party garnered support from largely left-leaning voters beyond its Kurdish base to enter parliament in June, of “open provocation”.

Some activists saw the hand of the state in all three attacks on Kurdish interests, accusing Erdogan and the AK Party he founded of seeking to stir up nationalist sentiment, a charge Turkey’s leaders have vehemently rejected.

Labour unions which helped organise the rally hit by the bombs called a two-day strike for Oct 12-13, although such calls have not always been widely followed in the past.

The scale of casualties exceeded attacks in 2003, when two synagogues, the Istanbul HSBC Bank headquarters and the British consulate were hit with a total loss of 62 lives. Authorities said those incidents bore the hallmarks of al Qaeda.

Turkey has been on alert since starting a “synchronized war on terror” in July, including air strikes against Islamic State fighters in Syria and PKK bases in northern Iraq. It has rounded up hundreds of suspected Kurdish and Islamist militants at home.

Hours after the bombing, the PKK as widely expected beforehand ordered its fighters to halt operations in Turkey unless they faced attack. It said it would avoid acts that could hinder a “fair and just election” on Nov. 1.

Renewed conflict in the southeast had raised questions over how Turkey can hold a credible election in violence-hit areas but the government has so far said the vote will go ahead.

Davutoglu invited the leaders of the main opposition CHP and nationalist MHP to a meeting on Sunday to discuss the events, his office said. Nationalist leader Devlet Bahceli declined.

“BRUTAL ATTACK”

Turkey’s problems have been compounded over the last week by Russia’s launching of air strikes in neighbouring Syria that could further swell a refugee population of over two million on Turkish soil. Turkey has protested to Moscow over incursions into its air space by Russian warplanes.

“This brutal terrorist attack on peaceful demonstrators is also an assault on the democratic process in Turkey which I vehemently condemn,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.

The attacks come three weeks ahead of an election at which the AKP is trying to claw back its majority. In June polls, the party lost the overall majority it had held since 2002, partly because of the electoral success of the HDP, which Erdogan accuses of links to the PKK. The HDP denies the charge and says it seeks improved Kurdish minority rights by democratic means.

Designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, the PKK launched a separatist insurgency in 1984 in which more than 40,000 people have been killed.

It has since reduced its demands to greater rights for the Kurdish minority; but Ankara fears a link-up between Kurdish militants in Turkey and Kurdish groups in Iraq and Syria that could lead to demands for a separate Kurdish state.

The state launched peace talks with the PKK’s jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan in 2012 and the latest in a series of ceasefires had been holding until the violence flared again in July.

(Additional reporting by Orhan Coskun in Ankara, Daren Butler, Osman Orsal and Asli Kandemir in Istanbul; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Ralph Boulton and David Evans)

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

Bombs kill 86 at pro-Kurdish rally in Turkish capital | Reuters

ANKARA At least 86 people were killed when two suspected suicide bombers struck a rally of pro-Kurdish and labour activists outside Ankara’s main train station just weeks before elections, in the worst attack of its kind on Turkish soil.

Bodies covered by flags and banners, including those of the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), lay scattered on the road among bloodstains and body parts. The HDP blamed the government which, it said, had blood on its hands.

Footage screened by broadcaster CNN Turk showed a line of young men and women holding hands and dancing, and then flinching as a large explosion flashed behind them, engulfing people carrying HDP and leftist party banners.

President Tayyip Erdogan, who has vowed to root out and crush a Kurdish insurgency since the collapse of a ceasefire and resumption of intense violence in July, called in a statement for “solidarity and determination” to confront the attackers.

“Like other terror attacks, the one at the Ankara train station targets our unity, togetherness, brotherhood and future,” he said in a statement.

Health Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu told a news conference that 86 people had been killed and 186 wounded, 28 of whom were in intensive care. The death toll could rise further.

Witnesses said the two explosions happened seconds apart shortly after 10 a.m. as hundreds, including HDP activists, leftists, labour unions and other civic groups, gathered for a planned march to protest over the deaths of hundreds since conflict resumed between security forces and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the mainly Kurdish southeast.

“I heard one big explosion first and tried to cover myself as the windows broke. Right away there was the second one,” said Serdar, 37, who was working at a newspaper stand in the train station. “There was shouting and crying and I stayed under the newspapers for a while. I could smell burnt flesh.”

There were no claims of responsibility for the attack, which comes as external threats mount for NATO member Turkey with increased fighting across its border with Syria and incursions by Russian warplanes on its air space over the last week.

But Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, exposing a mosaic of domestic political perils, said Islamic State, Kurdish or far-leftist militants could have carried out the bombing. There were strong signs two suicide bombers were responsible.

HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas blamed the government in blunt terms. He said the attack was part of the same campaign as the bombing of an HDP rally in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir on the eve of June elections and a suicide bombing blamed on Islamic State in Suruc near the Syrian border in July, which killed 33 mostly young pro-Kurdish activists.

“The government’s right and chance to hum and haw has long expired. You are murderers. Your hand is bloody. Blood has splattered from your face, your mouth to your nails and all over you. You are the biggest supporters of terror,” he told reporters in comments broadcast on the internet.

The HDP argues that Erdogan seeks to undermine its support and increase backing for his AK Party in elections due on Nov. 1 by associating it with PKK violence and factional infighting, a link the party denies strongly.

KURDISH MILITANTS’ CEASEFIRE

Davutoglu accused Demirtas, whose party garnered support from largely left-leaning voters beyond its Kurdish base to enter parliament in June, of “open provocation”.

Some activists saw the hand of the state in all three attacks on Kurdish interests, accusing Erdogan and the AK Party he founded of seeking to stir up nationalist sentiment, a charge Turkey’s leaders have vehemently rejected.

Labour unions which helped organise the rally hit by the bombs called a two-day strike for Oct 12-13, although such calls have not always been widely followed in the past.

The scale of casualties exceeded attacks in 2003, when two synagogues, the Istanbul HSBC Bank headquarters and the British consulate were hit with a total loss of 62 lives. Authorities said those incidents bore the hallmarks of al Qaeda.

Turkey has been on high alert since starting a “synchronized war on terror” in July, including air strikes against Islamic State fighters in Syria and PKK bases in northern Iraq. It has also rounded up hundreds of suspected Kurdish and Islamist militants at home.

Hours after the bombing, the PKK as widely expected beforehand, ordered its fighters to halt operations in Turkey unless they faced attack. It said it would avoid acts that could hinder a “fair and just election” on Nov. 1.

Renewed conflict in the southeast had raised questions over how Turkey can hold a credible election in violence-hit areas but the government has so far said the vote will go ahead.

“BRUTAL ATTACK”

Turkey’s problems have been compounded over the last week by Russia’s launching of air strikes in neighbouring Syria that could further swell a refugee population of over two million on Turkish soil. Turkey has protested to Moscow over incursions into its air space by Russian warplanes.

Those involved in Saturday’s march tended the wounded lying on the ground, as hundreds of stunned people wandered around the streets. Some rushed to hospitals, where crowds gathered to donate blood. Bodies lay in two circles around 20 metres apart where the explosions appeared to have taken place.

“This brutal terrorist attack on peaceful demonstrators is also an assault on the democratic process in Turkey which I vehemently condemn,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.

The attacks come three weeks ahead of an election at which the AKP is trying to claw back its majority. In June polls, the party lost the overall majority it had held since 2002, partly because of the electoral success of the HDP, which Erdogan accuses of links to the PKK. The HDP denies the charge and says it seeks improved Kurdish minority rights by democratic means.

Designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, the PKK launched a separatist insurgency in 1984 in which more than 40,000 people have been killed.

It has since reduced its demands to greater rights for the Kurdish minority; but Ankara fears a link-up between Kurdish militants in Turkey and Kurdish groups in Iraq and Syria that could lead to demands for a separate Kurdish state.

The state launched peace talks with the PKK’s jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan in 2012 and the latest in a series of ceasefires had been holding until the violence flared again in July.

(Additional reporting by Orhan Coskun in Ankara, Daren Butler, Osman Orsal and Asli Kandemir in Istanbul; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Ralph Boulton)

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