Palestinians recall envoy after rally with radical Pakistan cleric

Hafiz Saeed, the head of the hard-line Jamaat-ud-Dawa movement, addresses an anti-US and Israel an earlier rally in Lahore on December 17. (AFP)
Updated 31 December 2017
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Palestinians recall envoy after rally with radical Pakistan cleric

ISLAMABAD: The Palestinians have withdrawn their envoy to Pakistan after he appeared at a rally with a radical cleric linked to the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
Palestinian envoy Walid Abu Ali shared the stage with Hafiz Saeed, the head of the hard-line Jamaat-ud-Dawa movement, at Friday’s rally, which was held to protest US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The rally in Rawalpindi, attended by thousands, was organized by the Defense of Pakistan Council, an alliance of religious parties dominated by Saeed’s group. Jamaat-ud-Dawa is believed to be a front for Lashker-e-Taiba, a militant group that fights Indian troops in the disputed region of Kashmir, and which was blamed for the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, which killed 166 people.
Saeed, the founder of Lashker-e-Taiba, is wanted by the US, which has offered a $10 million reward for his arrest, but Pakistan has refused extradition requests and allows him to operate relatively freely. He was recently placed under house arrest for 11 months but was released after a court ruled in his favor.
Saeed denies involvement in the 2008 attacks, and Pakistan says India has not provided enough evidence to charge him. US officials have long accused Pakistan of harboring extremists, allegations denied by Islamabad.
In a statement Saturday addressed to India, the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the envoy’s participation “in the presence of individuals accused of supporting terrorism” was “an unintended mistake, but not justified.” It said the envoy has been recalled.
India had lodged a protest with the Palestinians earlier Saturday, calling the envoy’s association with Saeed “unacceptable.”
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry defended the envoy, saying it welcomed his “active participation in events organized to express solidarity with the people of Palestine.”
Near-daily rallies have been held in Pakistan and elsewhere in the Muslim world since President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital earlier this month, a move seen as siding with the Jewish state against the Palestinians, who claim east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.


Daesh defeated, ‘caliphate’ eliminated: US-backed SDF

Updated 9 min 15 sec ago
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Daesh defeated, ‘caliphate’ eliminated: US-backed SDF

  • The victory marks the end of the militants’ self-declared “caliphate”
  • The SDF has been battling to capture Baghouz at the Iraqi border for weeks

BEIRUT: Daesh has been defeated at its final shred of territory of Baghouz in Syria, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on Saturday, announcing the end of its self-declared “caliphate” that once spanned a third of Iraq and Syria.
The SDF declared the “total elimination of (the) so-called caliphate,” Mustafa Bali, head of the SDF media office, wrote on Twitter.
“Baghouz has been liberated. The military victory against Daesh has been accomplished,” he wrote.
The SDF has been battling to capture Baghouz at the Iraqi border for weeks.
“We renew our pledge to continue the war and to pursue their remnants until their complete elimination,” he wrote.
Though the defeat of Daesh at Baghouz ends the group’s grip over the extremist quasi-state straddling Syria and Iraq that it declared in 2014, it remains a threat.
Some of its fighters still hold out in Syria’s remote central desert and in Iraqi cities they have slipped into the shadows, staging sudden shootings or kidnappings and awaiting a chance to rise again.
The US believes the group’s leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, is in Iraq. He stood at the pulpit of the great medieval mosque in Mosul in 2014 to declare himself caliph, sovereign over all Muslims.