Taliban fighters now manning checkpoints in Afghan cities

Taliban fighters now manning checkpoints in Afghan cities
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Many Taliban foot soldiers now have new jobs: manning checkpoints on the streets and carrying out security patrols in and around Afghan cities and towns. (AP)
Taliban fighters now manning checkpoints in Afghan cities
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Many Taliban foot soldiers now have new jobs: manning checkpoints on the streets and carrying out security patrols in and around Afghan cities and towns. (AP)
Taliban fighters now manning checkpoints in Afghan cities
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A Taliban fighter poses for a photo during a patrol in Herat Afghanistan on Nov. 29, 2021. (AP)
Taliban fighters now manning checkpoints in Afghan cities
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Many Taliban foot soldiers now have new jobs: manning checkpoints on the streets and carrying out security patrols in and around Afghan cities and towns. (AP)
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Updated 08 December 2021

Taliban fighters now manning checkpoints in Afghan cities

Taliban fighters now manning checkpoints in Afghan cities
  • Taliban fighters have changed roles, from insurgents fighting in the mountains and fields to an armed force running the country

HERAT, Afghanistan: Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan more than three and a half months ago amid a chaotic withdrawal of US and NATO troops, their fighters have changed roles, from insurgents fighting in the mountains and fields to an armed force running the country.
Many Taliban foot soldiers now have new jobs: manning checkpoints on the streets and carrying out security patrols in and around Afghan cities and towns. Last month, several Taliban fighters posed for portrait photographs on nighttime patrols and at checkpoints in the western city of Herat.
One of them, 21-year-old Ahmad Wali, was on patrol in the village of Kamar Kalagh, north of Herat. A student in an Islamic religious school known as a madrassa, he said he joined the Taliban because he believed in the teachings of the Qur’an and was against the American presence in his country and against the previous Afghan government, which was widely criticized for corruption.
Now, he said, he is very busy with his new responsibilities providing security in the area he was assigned to. He hopes both he and his country will have a bright future, and said he was “99 percent sure” better days will come for all people in Afghanistan.
After the Taliban takeover in mid-August, Afghanistan’s already dilapidated and aid-dependent economy careened into full-blown crisis. The international community has withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in financing that the country of 38 million people relied on. Billions of dollars in Afghan assets abroad have been frozen.
Afghanistan’s banking system has been largely cut off from the world, and the new Taliban rulers have been largely unable to pay salaries, while jobs across the economy have disappeared.
Women have been mostly barred from the job market, except in certain professions, and from a high school education, while tens of thousands of people, including highly educated professionals, have fled or are trying to flee Afghanistan, leading to a massive brain drain.


Suspect in killing of Muslim men detained in New Mexico

Suspect in killing of Muslim men detained in New Mexico
Updated 15 sec ago

Suspect in killing of Muslim men detained in New Mexico

Suspect in killing of Muslim men detained in New Mexico
  • Albuquerque and state authorities have been working to provide extra police presence at mosques during prayer times as the investigation proceeded in the city, home to as many as 5,000 Muslims out of a total population of 565,000

TAOS, N.M.: New Mexico police on Tuesday detained a man whom they said is their primary suspect in the fatal shootings of four Muslim men in Albuquerque since November, a series of killings that have shaken the Islamic community in the state’s largest city.
Police tracked down the vehicle suspected of being used in the murders and apprehended the suspect, Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina wrote on Twitter. The latest killing involved a man who was gunned down on Friday night.
“The driver was detained and he is our primary suspect for the murders,” Medina wrote. He said police would hold a press briefing on Tuesday afternoon.
Albuquerque and state authorities have been working to provide extra police presence at mosques during prayer times as the investigation proceeded in the city, home to as many as 5,000 Muslims out of a total population of 565,000.
The ambush-style shootings of the men, who were of Pakistani or Afghan descent, has terrified Albuquerque’s Muslim community. Families went into hiding in their homes, and some Pakistani students at the University of New Mexico left town out of fear.
The first of the killings occurred in November. Three other men were killed over the past two weeks.
The last three victims shared the name Hussain or Hussein, leading victims’ families to believe the killer had racially profiled the men.
One of the victims was Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, who worked as the city’s planning director. His brother Imtiaz Hussain said news of the arrest reassured many in the Muslim community.
“My kids asked me, ‘Can we sit on our balcony now?’ and I said, ‘Yes,’ and they said, ‘Can we go out and play now?’ and I said, ‘Yes,’” he said.
Some of the murdered men attended the Islamic Center of New Mexico, Albuquerque’s largest mosque, which declined immediate comment on news that a suspect had been detained.
Three of the victims were shot near Central Avenue in southeast Albuquerque. Naeem Hussain, 25, a truck driver who became a US citizen on July 8, was killed on Friday, hours after attending the burial of two other victims — Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, and Aftab Hussein, 41 — who were killed on Aug. 1 and July 26, respectively.
Mohammad Ahmadi, a Muslim from Afghanistan, was killed on Nov. 7, 2021, while smoking a cigarette outside a grocery store and cafe that he ran with his brother in the southeast part of the city.
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller thanked local, state and federal law enforcement for their work on the case.
“We hope their swift action brings an increased sense of safety for so many who are experiencing fear from the recent shootings,” he said in a statement.
The manner in which the victims were killed suggested to relatives that the murders were hate crimes.
“There is some extreme hatred in the mind of the shooter,” said Hussain.

 


Daesh threat grows despite leadership losses, UN warns

Daesh threat grows despite leadership losses, UN warns
Updated 56 min 54 sec ago

Daesh threat grows despite leadership losses, UN warns

Daesh threat grows despite leadership losses, UN warns
  • Although it has suffered territorial losses, the terror group has adapted its structure and continues to thrive amid regional instability and social-economic inequality
  • The UN’s counterterrorism chief repeated calls for nations to repatriate their citizens from detention camps in Syria to prevent children from being indoctrinated by extremists

NEW YORK: Despite territorial defeats and leadership losses, the threat posed by Daesh has been rising since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to persist, underlining the importance of implementing non-military measures to counter terrorism, the UN said on Tuesday.

Daesh affiliates continue to exploit conflicts and social inequalities to incite unrest and plan terrorist attacks, the organization added. Pandemic-related restrictions and the shift to the digital space have provided the group with opportunities to intensify its recruitment efforts and attract more funding, and for the past year it has increasingly been using drones in attacks, as seen in northern Iraq.

Vladimir Voronkov, the under-secretary-general for counter-terrorism and head of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism, told the Security Council that Daesh’s upward trend has been possible in part as a result of the group’s adoption of a decentralized internal structure based around a “general directorate of provinces” and associated “offices.” These are designed to manage and finance terrorist operations around the globe, from central, southern and western Africa to Europe and Afghanistan, and make it clear that the terror group has long-term goals and aspirations, he added.

“Better understanding and continued monitoring of this structure are indispensable for countering and preventing the threat posed by Daesh,” Voronkov said.

He was speaking during a meeting of the Security Council to discuss the UN secretary-general’s 15th report on the threat posed by Daesh to international peace and security. It states that this threat remains particularly high in conflict zones. However it warns that it might soon spread to more stable areas where the extremist group and its affiliates are trying to “incite fear and project strength” as they constantly work to exploit “security gaps and conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism to recruit and to organize and execute complex attacks.”

The situation, the report adds, is further exacerbated by the downturn in the global economy and rising inflation, together with the measures adopted by governments to address them.

“Resolving the conflicts in which Daesh and its Al-Qaeda forebear thrive is necessary for creating the conditions to bring about their defeat,” said Voronkov.

“But if we are to rid ourselves of this scourge, we must also address the vulnerabilities, social grievances and inequality exploited by the group in the first place, as well as promoting and protecting human rights and the rule of law.”

In Iraq and Syria, Daesh retains its ability to organize complex operations, such as the Jan. 20 attack on Ghwaryan prison in Al-Hasakah, Syria. Voronkov said that up to 10,000 fighters are operating in the area along the border between the two countries, from which the group in April launched a global campaign to avenge senior leaders killed during counterterrorism operations.

Daesh has suffered significant losses among its leadership in both countries, including the death of Maher Al-Agal, the group’s leader in Syria, who was killed by the US military.

Despite these losses, however, the UN report notes that there has been “no significant change of direction for the group or its operations” in Iraq and Syria.

Voronkov also once again highlighted the issue of suspected Daesh fighters from other countries who are being held in detention in northeastern Syria, as well as women and children associated with them, whose circumstances have “further deteriorated.” Dozens of assassinations have been carried out in camps and prisons, he said, and there have been reports of increased violence and killings in Al-Hawl camp.

About 30,000 children being held in northeastern Syria are under the age of 12 and at risk of indoctrination by Daesh, including its “Cubs of the Caliphate” program, according to the UN.

Voronkov emphasized the importance of the voluntary repatriation, prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration of these fighters, and the women and children associated with them, by the authorities in their home countries. He expressed deep concern about the “limited progress” that has been achieved on this front.

“Tens of thousands of individuals, including more than 27,000 children from Iraq and some 60 other countries (who) did not choose to be there (remain) deprived of basic rights and are at a very real risk of radicalization and recruitment,” Voronkov told council members.

“It is imperative that member states urgently consider the long-lasting implications of not taking prompt action to address this dangerous situation.”

The secretary-general’s report also estimated that Daesh controls $25 million in funds and has the ability to funnel money to its affiliates worldwide.

“The diversity of sources, both licit and illicit, that are used by Daesh to finance terrorist activities and exert control over affiliated groups and fighters underlines the importance of sustained efforts to counter the financing of terrorism,” Voronkov added.


Pakistani news channel taken off air, put on notice for inciting ‘revolt’ against army

Pakistani news channel taken off air, put on notice for inciting ‘revolt’ against army
Updated 09 August 2022

Pakistani news channel taken off air, put on notice for inciting ‘revolt’ against army

Pakistani news channel taken off air, put on notice for inciting ‘revolt’ against army
  • In news segment on Monday, hosts and Imran Khan’s chief of staff discussed alleged media cell set up by ruling party to malign ex-PM
  • Shahbaz Gill’s comments tantamount to inciting ‘rank and file of armed forces to revolt,’ electronic media regulator says

 ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s electronic media regulator has issued a show-cause notice to a major private news channel, ARY News, for airing “hateful and seditious” content that the authority said amounted to inciting revolt within the armed forces, a copy of the document shows.

The show-cause notice released late on Monday came hours after officials at ARY News, and an association of internet service providers, said the channel had been taken off air by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority shortly after the channel aired a segment considered critical of the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif as well as the top command of the Pakistan army.

ARY News is widely seen as being partial to former premier Imran Khan’s opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, with criticism of the Sharif government’s political and economic policies a regular feature of news bulletins and current affairs shows.

On Monday, the channel aired a segment in which two hosts and chief of staff to Khan, Shahbaz Gill, alleged that Sharif’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz party had activated a “strategic media cell” to malign the PTI and its chairman, and build a public narrative that the party was against Pakistan’s all-powerful army. The outlet had previously also made the accusations in June.

In the segment, Gill advised army officers not to follow orders issued by the top command if they were “against the sentiments of the masses.”

“A beeper of Shahbaz Gill of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf was included who uttered highly hateful and seditious comments which tantamount to incite rank and file of armed forces toward revolt,” PEMRA said in the notice issued to the channel.

“Airing of such content on your news channel shows either weak editorial control on the content or the licensee is intentionally indulged in providing its platform to such individual who intent to spread malice and hatred against the state institutions for their vested interests,” the notice read, saying this was against the country’s constitution.

The notice said the channel had also maligned the government by “egregiously, baselessly and categorically” claiming that it was running a malicious campaign over the crash of an army aviation helicopter last week.

The regulator directed the CEO of the channel to show cause in writing within three days explaining why legal action should not be initiated against the outlet for violating the law and the constitution.

Earlier on Monday evening, ARY News officials said that the channel had been taken off air in a number of cities.

“Just cause we reported a true story #ARYNews gets shut down,” CEO Salman Iqbal said in a Twitter post.

“On the orders of PEMRA, cable operators across Pakistan have started removing ARY News from their cable network. Watch ARY News Live on YouTube,” Ammad Yousaf, the channel’s senior executive vice president, said.

ARY News was reported to still be off air in several cities of Pakistan on Tuesday.

The Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan confirmed to Arab News that the channel’s transmission had been suspended across Pakistan, saying it was done on the instructions of PEMRA.

“We have received verbal instructions from PEMRA about an hour ago to off air ARY News,” Wahaj Siraj, convener ISPAK and co-founder of Nayatel, a major internet service provider, told Arab News. “No reason is given to us to off air the channel, and this is being done almost across Pakistan now.

“We have sent emails to our customers about the development. We don’t know when we will be able to restore the service,” Siraj added. “If we get any revised instructions from PEMRA to restore the service on our network, we’ll be able to do it in 20 to 30 minutes.”

Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb did not respond to calls and text messages seeking comment on whether the government was behind the blockade of ARY.

The development comes in the wake of an online smear campaign against the military and its officers after any army aviation helicopter carrying a senior commander and five others crashed on a mountain during a flood relief operation last Monday, killing all on board.

Following the incident, a social media campaign targeted the victims and included hashtags against the military.

The prime minister called the campaign “horrifying” and said it showed that the minds of young Pakistanis were being poisoned.

The army’s media wing has also condemned the “regretful” social media trends, saying they had caused anguish among families of the victims and sought to tarnish the army’s reputation.

On Sunday, the Federal Investigation Agency said that it was setting up a joint inquiry into the campaign.

Members of the PTI have alleged that Twitter trends and anti-army posts are being pushed by the ruling PMLN, a claim the party denies.

The army has not yet commented on ARY being taken off air.


Traffickers offer migrants, refugees ‘summer sale’ to cross English Channel

Traffickers offer migrants, refugees ‘summer sale’ to cross English Channel
Updated 09 August 2022

Traffickers offer migrants, refugees ‘summer sale’ to cross English Channel

Traffickers offer migrants, refugees ‘summer sale’ to cross English Channel
  • Smugglers use TikTok to advertise trips for as little as £1,500, claiming France will not stop crossings
  • Thousands of Albanians said to be claiming they are victims of slavery to get around UK asylum laws

LONDON: People traffickers smuggling migrants across the English Channel are offering a “summer sale” to people wanting to reach the UK, promising safe passage and that “the French won’t stop you.”

The Daily Mail reported on Tuesday that traffickers are advertising trips across the Channel for as little as £1,500 ($1,815) on social media, with talk of limited intervention from French authorities and unusually good weather contributing to an uptick in numbers attempting the journey.

The UK has seen a steady increase in people making the dangerous Channel crossing over the past year, with many coming from Syria and Iraq, but in particular from Afghanistan, following the Taliban takeover of the country in August 2021.

However, the recent swell is also thought to have been driven by large numbers of Albanians — who made up more than one-third of arrivals by boat in the past six weeks — exploiting a loophole in UK asylum law, claiming that although their country is not at war nor do they face persecution, they are victims of trafficking and slavery.

One advert on TikTok said: “Don’t pay £17,800-£18,000. They are passing by every day, it has never been cheaper.” Another showed a group of people holding an Albanian flag smiling in a dinghy crossing the sea.

The price of a journey by dinghy across the Channel has dropped significantly in the past year after previously costing as much as £20,000 per person.

Competition has helped lower the price, with up to nine gangs now known to be operating trafficking routes by boat from France — and fears abound that the UK’s plans to deport people to Rwanda will make it more difficult to cross in the near future.

One smuggler using a TikTok account called @franc_gomone_angli1 told an undercover reporter from The Sun posing as a migrant that the UK’s Rwanda policy had been canceled, and that the country would put asylum seekers up in hotels.

“The French won’t stop you. On the contrary, they will escort you safely until you reach the UK water border,” he said.

“I can give you a number of a solicitor (in the UK) I have used for my relatives. They have managed to secure documentation (permission to stay) for half the Albanians in London.”

He added: “Three months ago one boy was kept in detention for a month, then he was freed by his solicitor. All others I have talked to after they arrived were sent to hotels, then they disappeared. They went to their relatives.”

The former director-general of the UK Border Force, Tony Smith, told the Telegraph: “It may be the business model is struggling to handle new markets like Albania, and may have to do a bit more of this sales pitch to encourage more people to do it.”

On Monday, 150 migrants, including young children and a baby, were rescued in the Channel. More than 500 people reached the UK by dinghy over the weekend, with the total for the year climbing above 18,000. At least 28,526 crossed in 2021, up from 8,404 the year before.

Natalie Elphicke, Conservative MP for Dover, which bears the brunt of the influx, told the Mail: “It’s clear many Albanians coming to the UK in small boats are not fleeing war or persecution — they are economic migrants. 

“This is blatant criminality, and it underlines the urgency of getting on with Rwanda and similar schemes.”

Tom Hunt, Conservative MP for Ipswich, said: “It’s so critical that the government gets on and introduces the Rwanda scheme.

“We need to bring this farce to a close. Legislation to bring the Rwanda scheme to fruition should be top of the in-tray when Parliament gets back after summer recess.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel said in a statement: “No one should question this government’s determination to break the gangs’ business model.

“Social media posts promoting illegal crossings are totally unacceptable. We are looking at reforming the system we use to identify victims of modern slavery, so that we can support genuine victims while making sure that the system is not misused.”

 


Kashmiri calligrapher’s 500-meter Qur’an sets record amid hopes for Middle East visit

Kashmiri calligrapher’s 500-meter Qur’an sets record amid hopes for Middle East visit
Updated 09 August 2022

Kashmiri calligrapher’s 500-meter Qur’an sets record amid hopes for Middle East visit

Kashmiri calligrapher’s 500-meter Qur’an sets record amid hopes for Middle East visit
  • Mustafa Jameel spent seven months completing the copy on a single scroll of paper
  • He was recognized for his work by the Lincoln Book of Records in late May

NEW DELHI: When Mustafa Jameel began to study Arabic calligraphy in 2016, he practiced it to improve his handwriting — an effort that six years later resulted in a record-winning Qur’anic manuscript, and stirred the young calligrapher’s hope to display it in the Middle East.

Born in Gurez Valley, in the northern Bandipora district of Indian-administered Kashmir, Jameel completed his work earlier this year. In late May, the 27-year-old was registered by India’s Lincoln Book of Records in New Delhi for the “new world record for the first time in the world to write the Holy Qur’an on a 14.5 inch and 500-meter scroll paper.”

In Muslim societies, calligraphy is not only the art of properly forming written characters. Known as khatt (line) in Arabic, it signifies “the art of the line.” This art has not only been written in Arabic, but also numerous other languages that have adopted the same alphabet following the spread of Islam, including Persian, Urdu, Ottoman Turkish, and even old Malay.

There are a variety of graphic styles which calligraphy masters have developed throughout the ages. The oldest script used for copying the Qur’an is Kufic, a square and angular script which by the 11th century went out of general use, replaced by Naskh — a cursive style which until today remains one of the most popular scripts in the Arab world.

Naskh is also the style that Jameel used in his manuscript, which he learned by observing the work others had produced.

While calligraphers usually follow an established master, there have been countless exceptions to the rule, as many practitioners have learnt the artform through repetition and consistency.

“I learnt calligraphy by myself. I am self-taught,” Jameel told Arab News. “I am a first-generation calligraphist. There is no one in my family who is involved in calligraphy.”

He focused on the art after failing in his secondary high school exam. After a year of laborious study, he noticed his writing improving and focused all his efforts on copying the Qur’an.

“Then in 2021 the idea came into my mind that I can do this work properly, and if Allah has given me this talent, I should do the work of (copying) the Qur’an in a proper and professional manner. Then I thought that I should prepare the Qur’an in a single paper,” Jameel said.

The kind of paper he needed was not available in Kashmir, so he went to New Delhi and after finding the right scroll began to copy the scripture. The whole project was financed with the help of his relatives.

“I finished the whole project in Delhi,” he said. “It took seven months to finish and get the work laminated,” he said.

After he made headlines in India, now Jameel’s dream is to show his work abroad, especially in the Middle East, where the art of calligraphy is where the art of Islamic calligraphy is known and recognized.

“I would like to exhibit it in Dubai, where such creativity gets appreciated,” he said. “There is a museum in Madinah, and if I get an opportunity to exhibit my work there, I would love to do that.”

The most important appreciation, however, he has already won by making his family proud.

“When I could not clear my math in 10th standard, my family was very upset and lost hope in me. They would say that I would not do anything in life. But now they understand that Allah sends all individuals with different talents to this world,” he said. “My family is very happy now.”