Archive for November, 2014


July 31, 2014

AMSTERDAM (AP) — Malaysia’s prime minister on Thursday called on Ukrainian and pro-Russian separatists to agree to a cease-fire in the area surrounding the site where Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down.

Two weeks after the plane’s destruction on July 17, the remains and personal possessions of many of the victims haven’t been recovered — to the anguish of their relatives and friends. “The conflict in eastern Ukraine may not be easily resolved, but the people on board that plane had no part in it,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said shortly before investigators succeeded in reaching the crash site.

Razak, who was speaking in a joint news conference with Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte in The Hague, is visiting the Netherlands to discuss repatriating Malaysian victims’ remains and the security situation in Ukraine.

“We ask there be an immediate cessation of hostilities in and around the crash site by both Ukrainian and separatist forces,” Razak said. “We ask that all sides respect the lives lost and the integrity of the crash site so that the investigation may proceed.”

All 298 passengers and crew aboard Flight 17 were killed, including 43 Malaysians and 195 Dutch nationals. Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has said around 80 bodies have yet to be recovered from the wreckage, which had been inaccessible to investigators for days because of fighting between the Ukrainian army and pro-Russia separatists.

The remains of more than 200 victims that have been recovered and brought to the Netherlands are being painstakingly identified at a military base in Hilversum, a process expected to take weeks or months.

Razak signed a condolence register for victims and will visit the Hilversum center later Thursday. Rutte said “the pain of the terrible accident is almost unbearable.”

July 20, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Many Malaysians are urging their government and world leaders to take a tough stance against Russia after pro-Russia rebels allegedly shot down a Malaysia Airlines jet, with some calling for economic sanctions and a boycott of Russian goods.

While the rebels and Ukraine blame each other for Thursday’s downing of Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine, near the Russian border, Russia’s government is being accused of not doing enough to ensure that authorities have proper access to the crash site.

Much of the Malaysian anger toward Russia stems from the inability for family members of Muslims who were aboard the plane to perform burial rites as quickly as possible, according to Islamic custom. Of the 298 people aboard the plane, 43 were from Muslim-majority Malaysia and 12 were from Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country.

The plane crashed in rebel-held territory, and the separatists — who are being blamed for shooting down the plane by much of the international community, including the United States — have been accused of preventing emergency workers from retrieving the victims’ bodies.

The issue has caused deep resentment in Malaysia, where many have blasted Russian President Vladimir Putin. Even politicians, who on Friday were careful not to point any fingers, seem to be losing patience.

“Pro-Russian terrorists have not handled #MH17 victims with dignity. Putin promised PM @NajibRazak he would help. He hasn’t,” Malaysian Youth and Sport Minister Khairy Jamaluddin tweeted Sunday, referring to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

As people headed to Kuala Lumpur shopping malls on Sunday, their minds were still reeling from the horrific images of the crash site that have inundated television screens here. Many were calling for tough economic sanctions and an international boycott of Russian goods and services.

“Our government and the whole world have to do something about this case,” said 27-year-old Nur Zehan Abu Bakar, who works in the education sector. “If not, what will happen to our country? What will happen to (Malaysia Airlines)? To show that we are angry with Russia and if they still continue not to help us, I think the best way is for all Malaysians to boycott Russian products.”

Charles Foo, a retiree who was spending time with his family outside a mall, echoed Nur Zehan’s sentiments. “They (Russia) are a big country. We are a very small country, so how much can we do, unless all nations in the world stop buying their goods and whatever,” he said.

Malaysia is one of Russia’s main trading partners in Southeast Asia. Russia also is a key supplier for Malaysia’s military, delivering 18 Sukhoi fighter jets to the Malaysian air force over the past decade.

James Chin, a professor at the political science unit of Monash University in Malaysia, said he believed it was unlikely that Russian-Malaysian relations would be seriously harmed as a result of the incident, though he added that a lot would depend on the outcome of the official investigation.

“The Malaysian government really can’t do much,” Chin said. “The Malaysian government takes the position that it cannot antagonize the Russians now because they hold the key to the investigation.” Some Malaysians said it was important to remain rational and wait for the investigation to be completed.

“For now, I will calm myself down and not listen to all the noise,” a 36-year-old dancer, who wanted to be identified only by his family name, Wong, said at a popular Kuala Lumpur shopping district. “There is no point for me to get emotional at the moment. I encourage everyone to stay calm.”

Tricia Yeoh, chief operating officer at the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs, a Malaysian think tank, said while she could understand why Malaysians are so upset, people need to wait for a thorough investigation to be completed before reaching any conclusions on who is responsible for the disaster.

“People need to be cautious in a geo-political climate and environment in which not all information is being revealed,” Yeoh said. “We certainly do not know all there is to know, and for that reason I would have to wait. Having said that, of course all governments should be cooperating to ensure investigations are thoroughly done. This includes Russia.”

2014-04-18

KUALA LUMPUR – About 100 Malaysian Muslim activists protested Friday outside the US embassy against the coming visit by President Barack Obama, denouncing him as an enemy of Islam.

The demonstration underscored the delicate nature of Obama’s trip to Muslim-majority Malaysia, which will make him the first sitting US president to visit in nearly half a century, a period marked by mutual distrust.

The protesters marched to the embassy in Kuala Lumpur from a nearby mosque after Friday afternoon prayers, shouting “God is great” and “Obama is the enemy of the Prophet Muhammad.”

They also bore placards and banners saying: “US is axis of evil” and handed out leaflets saying “Reject Obama, World’s No. 1 Terrorist.”

They dispersed after about 15 minutes.

Malaysia has opposed US wars in the Middle East and supports the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Obama embarks on a week-long Asia tour next week that will bring him to Malaysia April 26-28.

The last US president to visit was Lyndon Johnson in 1966.

US-Malaysia relations have been marked by rancor in recent decades, particularly during the tenure of former authoritarian premier Mahathir Mohamad from 1981-2003, who was harshly critical of US policy around the world.

Current Prime Minister Najib Razak has taken a more friendly tone toward the West, but he is restrained by conservative elements in his Muslim-dominated government.

Obama will also visit South Korea, Japan and the Philippines at a time of unease around the region over China’s rise.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://middle-east-online.com/english/?id=65475.

2014-11-26

(AFP)- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday slammed US “impertinence” on the Syrian conflict, exposing the extent of strains between Washington and Ankara days after his key meeting with US Vice President Joe Biden.

Ties between the the US and Turkey have soured in recent months over the reluctance of Turkish leaders to intervene militarily in the US-led campaign against the Islamic State jihadists, who have taken control of swathes of Iraq and Syria.

In an indication of the tensions that remain between the two NATO allies, Erdogan accused the US of being “impertinent” for pressuring it to help save the besieged Syrian town of Kobane, which is within sight of the Turkish border.

“Why is somebody coming to this region from 12,000 kilometers (7,000 miles) away?” Erdogan said during an address to a group of businessmen in Ankara, in a clear reference to the US.

“I want you to know that we are against impertinence, recklessness and endless demands,” he said.

Biden had personally stung Erdogan last month by suggesting his policies in supporting Islamist rebel forces in Syria had helped encourage the rise of the IS militant group, a slight that prompted Erdogan to warn his relationship with the US number two could be “history”.

Washington is pressing Ankara for the use of the Incirlik air base in southern Turkey by US jets launching assaults on IS.

But Turkey has refused to bow to the pressure, setting several conditions for playing a greater role in the coalition.

“They looked on as the tyrant (President Bashar) al-Assad massacred 300,000 people. They remained silent in the face of Assad’s barbarism and now they are now staging a ‘conscience show’ through Kobane,” Erdogan said.

“We will resolve our problems not with the help of a ‘superior mind’ but with the help of our people,” he said.

Biden wrapped up a three-day visit to Turkey on Sunday without a breakthrough on military cooperation in the Syrian crisis.

But Erdogan’s comments contrasted with the relatively upbeat assessment of US officials that the meeting with Biden had brought closer the two sides’ positions.

On Monday, Erdogan accused the West of coming to the region for “oil”.

“I’m always meeting with them but it does not go any further than what I say. They don’t have any sensitivities. They have only one sensitivity: oil, oil, oil…” he said.

So far, Turkey’s sole contribution to the coalition has been allowing a contingent of Iraqi peshmerga Kurdish fighters to transit Turkish soil to fight IS militants for Kobane.

Source: Zaman alwasl.

Link: https://www.zamanalwsl.net/en/news/7704.html.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

ISTANBUL – Catering to the needs of hundreds of thousands of students, Turkey’s top religious body has announced plans to construct a mosque in every state university, making it easier for Muslim students to observe their prayers.

“Mosques are under construction in over 80 universities,” Mehmet Gormez, the head of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate, known as Diyanet in Turkish, was quoted by Agence France Presse (AFP).

“Fifteen of them have been opened for prayers and we will open at least 50 more in 2015.”

The decision to construct the new mosques was seen as an attempt to reach out to millions of young Turkish students.

“There are 20 million young people in our country and we would like to reach out to each one of them,” he told the official Anatolia news agency.

According to Gormez, each of the new mosques would have government-paid imams to attend to “young people’s problems” and provide guidance.

“They will be the place where they will feel the love of God in their hearts,” he said.

“We attach great importance to mosques in city universities. They are the only way to bring mosques back into the lives, the cities and the hearts of our people,” he added.

Muslims pray five times a day, with each prayer made of a series of postures and movements, each set of which is called a rak‘ah.

The five prayer times are divided all through the day which starts with Fajr prayer at dawn.

The new mosques were seen as a new step taken by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to reinstall Islamic tenets in the Turkish secular community.

Last September, the government allowed girls in state high schools to wear the Muslim headscarf while banning pupils from wearing make-up, dyeing their hair, or having tattoos or body piercings.

Hijab, an obligatory code of dress, has been banned in public buildings, universities, schools and government buildings in Muslim-majority Turkey since shortly after a 1980 military coup.

Turkey’s secular elite, including army generals, judges and university rectors, staunchly oppose easing the hijab ban.

In 2008, Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AK) passed a constitutional change easing restrictions on hijab at university.

Later in November 2012, Turkey has lifted a decades-long ban on wearing hijab in Islamic schools which came into effect for the first time in the school year 2013-2014.

In October 2013, a veiled lawmaker has entered the Turkish parliament for the first time in fourteen years, marking the end of ‘hijab ban’ in state institutions.

Source: On Islam.

Link: http://www.onislam.net/english/news/europe/480029-turkey-to-open-mosques-in-all-university.html.

November 28, 2014

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Taliban fighters staged an attack Thursday evening in an upscale district in the Afghan capital Kabul. Witnesses described multiple explosions and bursts of gunfire in the Wazir Akbar Khan district, which contains numerous foreign embassies and compounds housing international agencies and companies — as well as the homes of some senior Afghan government officials.

The attack came hours after a suicide car-bomber struck a British embassy vehicle, killing five people including a British citizen. Kabul Police Chief Gen. Mohammad Zahir said there were three explosions followed by extended gunfire. A Taliban spokesman said the intended target was a guesthouse in the district occupied by foreigners. The spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, refused to give further details, adding only that the target of the attack was, “enemies.”

Afghan police flooded into the area and locked down the surrounding streets. Footage from area security cameras showed heavily armed security forces and armored vehicles deploying in large numbers. The attack took place near the compound of the development agency International Relief and Development. The agency’s head of security, Tony Haslem, told The Associated Press the attack lasted about 45 minutes and he heard rocket propelled grenades and automatic weapons being fired.

Deputy Interior Minister Mohammad Ayoub Salangi confirmed that the target of the attack was a guesthouse in the diplomatic area. He said no foreigners had been killed. “One Nepalese guard was wounded, but all the foreigners are fine,” Salangi said. Three attackers had been killed, two by Nepalese guards at the guesthouse, he said.

“One of the attackers blew himself up,” he added. Kabul has come under regular attack in recent weeks. Earlier Thursday, a suicide bomber targeted a British embassy vehicle, killing at least five people, including a British security guard, officials said.

An Afghan national who was driving the vehicle was also killed, and a second British security guard was wounded, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said in a statement. Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry spokesman Seddiq Sediqqi confirmed that four Afghans were killed in the attack and said another 33 civilians were wounded.

Earlier the British Embassy said no diplomats were riding in the car at the time it was hit. Hammond, speaking at a press conference in Rome, called the attack “senseless and cowardly” and paid tribute to those killed.

“Let me take this opportunity to offer my condolences to those who lost their lives this morning, the families and friends of those who lost their lives and were injured in this appalling attack,” Hammond said. “It reminds us once again of the risks that our personnel take every day in trying to help the Afghans to build a better future for their country and by helping them to do so to protect our own security and our own interests. ”

Police said that a car packed with explosives rammed the heavily armored British embassy vehicle, exploding on impact and sending a huge plume of dust and smoke into the air. The midmorning attack happened on the traffic-choked road between Kabul and Jalalabad city. Witnesses said at least a dozen civilian cars were damaged by the blast, and the road was strewn with smoldering debris from the British vehicle.

Video footage showed the roof of the embassy jeep had been blown off and flung about 15 meters (50 feet) along the road, an indication that it was a powerful blast, as the vehicles are built to withstand substantial impact.

Taliban insurgents claimed responsibility for the attack in a brief statement. In recent weeks, suicide bombers have launched attacks on military convoys and on compounds housing foreign service companies and their international employees.

Thursday’s suicide bomb attack is the first on a diplomatic target in Kabul for some time, as most embassies are secured behind high concrete blast walls with razor wire and guards with automatic weapons. The U.S. consulate in the eastern city of Herat was attacked last year and the Indian consulate in the same city was attacked in May this year.

In September 2011, insurgents launched a complex attack involving suicide bombers and gunmen on the diplomatic area of Kabul — close to the U.S. Embassy and NATO’s headquarters — that lasted around 20 hours and left seven people dead, none of them U.S. citizens.

Kabul has come under almost daily attack as insurgents intensify their war on local security forces and U.S. and NATO troops, who are set to officially conclude their combat role in the country at the end of next month.

2014-11-27

ALEPPO (Zaman Al Wasl)- Key rebel groups of Aleppo province are massing efforts to unite in one military command as fall of the city seems imminent by Syrian regime forces, field source said.

A rebel commander told Zaman al-Wasl that a unified command is the only solution to surpass all challenges whether on the battle ground or in managing people issues in rebel-held areas. For that, rebel senior commanders have held series of meetings, the source said.

“Conflict of interest considers rebels’ weakness point where rebel areas turned to be cantons affiliate to this leader or that,” source said.

Meanwhile, Bashar al-Assad’s forces are pressing very hard to invade Aleppo’s rebel-held suburbs.

Moderate rebels and many Islamist groups have recognized the surrounding danger where only two options available, fight or being ‘up for grabs’ for Assad or Islamic State (IS).

In that grim scene, people’s suffering continues in regard to their ordinary life, food, fuel and small business to keep surviving. “They went to streets weeks ago, demanding rebel commanders to unite but no concrete response yet,” activists said.

More than 190,000 people have been killed in Syria since the revolution began in March 2011.

Source: Zaman alwasl.

Link: https://www.zamanalwsl.net/en/news/7707.html.

November 28, 2014

BEIRUT (AP) — Police used water cannons to break up a protest Friday by relatives of several kidnapped Lebanese soldiers after the protesters blocked a main highway in the capital.

Security forces beat several protesters and some journalists as they broke up the demonstration. The Islamic State group and al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front in Syria seized some 20 Lebanese soldiers and police officers in August during a cross-border raid. They have already killed three of the captives, beheading two of them.

Friday’s protest came a day after Nusra Front threatened to kill one of the soldiers. The families are demanding that the government negotiate seriously with the militants — who are demanding the release of Islamist prisoners from Lebanese jails.

Lebanon’s Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk said blocking roads “is not the answer.”

2014-11-26

Reporting by Faris Al Rifai; Writing by Yusra Ahmed

(Zaman Al Wasl)- Another shock to Syrian refugees in Jordan after ceasing the food vouchers few weeks ago. The Jordanian Government cancelled all decisions in regard to free treatment in the Ministry of Health’s hospitals and clinics. Syrians used to be treated via the health Insurance system; all they needed to do was showing the documents of the United Nations Higher Council for refugees (UNHCR).

The Jordanian Minister of Health said that decision was issued by the cabinet and had been implemented, as Syrians would be charged directly without any mediators.

The Minister confirmed that Ministry of Health still had JOD.34 Million unpaid charges for treating Syrians, from donors and international organization.

UNHCR has not commented on the decision yet, despite it put huge financial pressure of Syrian refugees, who cannot even afford for their food, and raise worries about the fate of children who make more than half of patients visiting health facilities of the Ministry of Health.

Donors who lag in paying charges for Syrians hold the majority of responsibility for the situation they put fragile Syrian refugees in.

Source: Zaman alwasl.

Link: https://www.zamanalwsl.net/en/news/7697.html.

2014-11-28

To mark the 54th anniversary of Mauritanian independence on Friday (November 28th), President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz raised workers’ salaries.

The base salary of workers earning less than 100,000 ouguiyas (275 euros) a month will climb by 50%, ANI quoted the president as saying Thursday in a televised statement. Wages higher than 100,000 ouguiyas will increase by 30%.

The pay hikes begin in January 2015.

Source: Magharebia.com.

Link: http://magharebia.com/en_GB/articles/awi/newsbriefs/general/2014/11/28/newsbrief-06.