06 April 2019

6 April: US count of Pak F-16 fighter jets found none missing; India says Abhinandan shot down Jet; Imran Khan says 'BJP's attempt to win polls through war hysteria backfired, US report vindicates Pakistan'

NEWS DIGEST, Afternoon 
06 April 2019: 29 Rajab 1440:Vol: 11, No:169
US count found no Pak F-16s missing: Report questions Indian account of dogfight
A recent American count of Pakistan's F-16 fighter jets found none missing, a top news magazine has reported, citing 2 unnamed "senior US defence officials with direct knowledge of situation". Foreign Policy magazine claims this information "directly contradict[s] the account of Indian Air Force officials" -- that an Indian pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, brought down one of US-made jets during a dogfight in Feb.Pakistan's F-16s were manufactured by Lockheed Martin."One of the senior US defense officials...said that Pakistan invited US to physically count its F-16 planes after the incident as part of an end-user agreement signed when the foreign military sale was finalised," the magazine said.Its report also said it was possible that, "in the heat of combat", Abhinandan "got a lock on Pak F-16, fired, and genuinely believed he scored a hit". - Foreign Policy magazine report said, "India’s claim that one of its fighter pilots shot down a Pak F-16 fighter jet in an aerial battle between 2 nuclear powers in February appears to be wrong. 2 senior US defense officials with direct knowledge of the situation told Foreign Policy that US personnel recently counted Islamabad’s F-16s and found none missing." india today
US count of Pakistan’s F-16 fighter jets found none missing, claims American magazine
'BJP's attempt to win polls through war hysteria backfired': Imran Khan claims us report vindicates Pakistan
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday said a US report which found none of Pakistan’s F-16s “missing” vindicated the country’s stand that it did not use the jets in the aerial dogfight with India on Feb. 27. The finding by US on the ground in Pakistan "directly contradicts" India's claim that its air force shot down an F-16 fighter jet during the offensive. Indian Air Force on Feb.28 displayed pieces of AMRAAM missile, fired by a Pakistani F-16, as evidence to "conclusively" prove that Pakistan deployed US-manufactured F-16 fighter jets during an aerial raid targeting Indian military installations in Kashmir. Pakistan had categorically said that no F-16 fighter jets were used and denied that one of its planes had been downed by IAF.Taking to Twitter, Khan said, “BJP's attempt to win elections through whipping up war hysteria and false claims of downing a Pak F 16 has backfired with US Defence officials also confirming that no F16 was missing from Pakistan's fleet.”news18
Imran Khan cites US report on F-16 to claim BJP trying to win elections with ‘war hysteria’
After US Report on 'No Missing' F-16s, IAF Says Abhinandan Shot Down Jet Inside PoK
New Delhi: Indian Air Force has asserted that Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman had shot down an F-16 Pakistani jet on Feb.27.IAF in a statement said that a day after the Balakot attack, a large force of the Pakistan Air Force, which included F-16s, JF-17s and Mirage III/V aircraft, were picked up by the IAF radars.  “They were intercepted by IAF Su-30 MKI, Mirage-2000 and MiG-21 Bison fighter guided by ground radars and AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System). All attempts of PAF to attack any targets were thwarted by the IAF. During the aerial engagement that followed, one MiG-21 Bison of the IAF shot down one F-16 in Nowshera sector,” the statement read.News18
Centre Lying On Balakot Strikes, Shooting Down Pak F-16: Farooq Abdullah
Srinagar:National Conference president Farooq Abdullah has accused PM Narendra Modi-led government of "lying" to the nation on the Balakot air strike and shooting down of a Pakistani F-16 in a dogfight between Indian Air Force and their  Pak counterpart. Farooq Abdullah, who is contesting the Lok Sabha elections from the Srinagar constituency, said the BJP-led central govt carried out the aerial strike as PM had "failed" in delivering on his promises made during the last general elections in the country.PTI
India’s demand for consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav not appropriate as case is in ICJ: Pakistan
Pakistan has said that India’s demand for consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav is not appropriate at this point as the case is pending in International Court of Justice (ICJ).Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said India has so far not given response to Pakistan’s questions about the passport of Jadhav who was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of “espionage and terrorism” after a closed trial in April 2017. Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman said the case is in ICJ and the question of consular access was “not appropriate at this point”.PTI
On Afghan peace tour, US envoy again skips India tour
New Delhi: US special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, has again skipped India during a multi-nation tour to brief leaders about his talks with the Taliban, creating an impression in some quarters that he is keeping New Delhi out of the loop. Khalilzad recently held a marathon round of talks with the Taliban leadership in Qatar, during which the two sides finalised a draft agreement on US troop withdrawal and assurances that Afghan soil would not be used by any terror group.On Friday, Khalilzad met Pakistan foreign secretary Tehmina Janjua and foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.During his tour, from March 25 to April 10, Khalilzad is travelling to Afghanistan, UK, Belgium, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Jordan and Qatar. US state department said this is “part of the overall effort to facilitate a peace process that brings all Afghan parties together in inclusive intra-Afghan negotiations”.HT
Pre-poll survey: 3-fifths rate economic situation as ‘average’ or ‘bad’
Unemployment has been reported by respondents as a key economic concern in CSDS-Lokniti-Hindu-Tiranga TV-Dainik Bhaskar Pre-Poll Survey in 19 States between March 24 and 31, reflecting the indications of an economic slowdown and farm distress across the country. On the assessment of the state of the economy, 33% of the respondents rated it as “so-so” and 25% rated it as “bad,” while 34% termed it “good” or “very good.” 34% number is up from 26% in Jan.2018 and is also much higher than 19% who described the economy to be in good shape in May 2014 before Modi government came to power.While two in every three of those who see the economy as being in a good situation were found to be in favour of giving BJP govt another term, this reduced to 46% among those who rated the economic situation “so-so.”But only 36% among the latter did not favour the regime to return to power.Over half of respondents reported that they found it difficult to make both ends meet with their total household income, but this number has reduced from 2-thirds of the respondents in Lokniti survey in May 2018. When the respondents were asked whether employment opportunities under Modi govt had increased or decreased during the last five years, close to half (46%) said they had gone down and one in every 4 (25%) were of the opinion that they had increased.In May 2014, one-third (33%) had reported a decrease in employment opportunities under UPA and one-fifth (19%) had reported an increase.thehindu
Christian Michel to court: Never named anybody, ED has leaked the chargesheet
Christian Michel James, an alleged middleman and an accused in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal case, told a Delhi court Friday that he had “never named anybody” during his questioning by the Enforcement Directorate, and that the agency had leaked details of its supplementary chargesheet to the media before sharing it with him.On his application, Special Judge Arvind Kumar issued notice to ED and sought a response by Saturday.for people and that is all he did. He never named anybody in his statement before the agency, which is being leaked to the media.” indian express
JNU sedition case: Chargesheet filed in ‘hasty, secretive manner’, Delhi govt tells court
Delhi Police filed the chargesheet in the 2016 JNU sedition case in a “hasty” and “secretive manner”, the Delhi government informed a court Friday, adding it will take over a month to decide whether to grant sanction to prosecute ex JNU students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar and others in the case.AAP government made the submission to Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Deepak Sherawat. It accused the police of filing chargesheet without obtaining the required sanction from the competent authority. DCP of Special Cell of Delhi Police, Pramod Kushwaha, had told the court that the agency has already sent a request to the Delhi government seeking sanction and added sanction was an administrative action and the charge sheet can be filed without that.The court had on Wednesday directed the Delhi government to inform it by when it will decide on the issue of granting sanction to prosecute the accused in the case. Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Sehrawat, however, observed that the “sanction to prosecute must be decided within a time span, which is fairly necessary to do whatever is required to be done to ensure that trial may not be held back for too long”.indian express
MHA removes security cover of 919 ‘undeserving’ persons in J&K
New Delhi:In a clear message to those involved in “anti-national activities”, Ministry of Home Affairs on Friday withdrew security cover of 919 “undeserving” persons in J&K, including 22 separatist leaders, in order to curb the inappropriate use of police resources.As per a notification issued by the Centre, at least 2,768 police personnel and 389 vehicles have been released ahead of Lok Sabha elections. “It was observed by Centre that many undeserving persons managed to get security cover, resulting in the lack of state police resources for the public at large,”notification read.“Accordingly,Union Home Ministry directed the state government that a case by case in-depth review may be taken on merits,” it added.“List of persons whose security cover has been withdrawn by the state government includes 22 separatist leaders, giving a clear message to those who are involved in anti-national activities. It has resulted in the availability of 2,768 police personnel and 389 vehicles,” the statement read.indian express   
Pakistan Announces Release Of 360 Indian Prisoners On Humanitarian Ground
Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal on Friday announced that Pakistan will be releasing 360 Indian prisoners over the month of April, a process which will be carried out in four phases.Faisal said that in the first phase on April 8, 100 prisoners will be released. In the second phase on April 5, another 100 will be released. In the third phase on April 22, another 100 will be released and in the fourth and last phase on April 29, the remaining 60 prisoners will be released, the Dawn reported. Providing details regarding the release, the spokesperson said currently there are 347 Pakistani prisoners in India and 537 Indian prisoners in Pakistan."Pakistan will release 360 Indian prisoners, of which 355 are fishermen and 5 are civilians," he said."It is hoped that India will respond positively to this decision by Pakistan," Faisal said while addressing his weekly briefing to the media in Islamabad.outlookindia
Pakistan to release 100 fishermen next week
Kalyan Singh, Rajiv Kumar must resign immediately after EC indictment: Chidambaram
New Delhi :Congress leader and former finance minister P Chidambaram on Saturday called for the resignation of NITI Aayog chairman Rajiv Kumar and Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh after the Election Commission found remarks made by both violative of Model Code of Conduct.“Governor Kalyan Singh and Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar must resign immediately. After indictment by Election Commission, they have no right to remain in office,” Chidambaram tweeted.On Friday, EC expressed “displeasure” over NITI Aayog vice chairman’s remarks against the Congress’ proposed minimum income scheme ‘NYAY’. Kumar had dismissed Congress’ promise of a minimum income of Rs 72,000 annually to the poorest 20 per cent households, saying the party can “say and do anything to win elections”. Congress president Rahul Gandhi has said that if his party is voted to power, its government would roll out the NYAY scheme.indianexpress
Elections: AAP, Congress alliance almost final, to be announced when Rahul Gandhi is back in Delhi
Congress and AAP seem to have finally set aside their differences and look set to forge an alliance to take on PM Narendra Modi-led BJP for the Lok Sabha elections 2019 and in particular, the contest for the 7 Lok Sabha seats in Delhi. Reports said the declaration of the AAP-Congress alliance is expected to be made public after Rahul Gandhi returns to New Delhi, Congress president is in Uttarakhand on a campaign visit for 2 or 3 days. The agreement came into limelight after the meeting of the senior Congress leader PC Chacko with AAP Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh. Both parties have not made any official comments on the scenario. Earlier, AAP had declared its candidates for 7 Lok Sabha constituencies:  Pankaj Gupta (Chandni Chowk), Dilip Pandey (North East Delhi), Atishi (East Delhi), Brajesh Goel (New Delhi), Gugan Singh (North West Delhi), Raghav Chadha (South Delhi) and Balbir Singh Jakhar from West Delhi. Elections will be held on May 12 in Delhi.A three-point deal is expected between the two parties: 1) AAP seems to have won the Congress around to supporting its stated aim of full statehood to Delhi. 2) AAP is expected to sacrifice a yet-to-be thrashed-out number of seats in Delhi with the Congress giving up a similar amount of seats in Haryana for the sake of the alliance. 3) 2 parties will contest elections individually in Punjab as the Congress alone is way stronger than the AAP to dent BJP-Shiromani Akali Dal alliance.NewsX
Election Commission replaces Kolkata Police Commissioner, three other top officers in Bengal
Election Commission has night removed Anuj Sharma as Kolkata police commissioner and replaced him with Rajesh Kumar, who was the additional director general of police, Pollution Control Board, ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, PTI reported.Sharma was appointed Kolkata police chief in Feb., taking over from Rajeev Kumar who was transferred to Crime Investigation Department. CBI had interrogated Rajeev Kumar in connection with Saradha chit fund scam in
Mamata vs CBI:Agency moves SC to arrest ex Kolkata commissioner Rajeev Kumar in Saradha case
New Delhi: CBI has moved the Supreme Court, seeking arrest and custodial interrogation of former Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar, who was supported by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee during a face-off between the agency and local police in the Saradha chit fund probe. The agency has urged the court to modify its order whereby Kumar was protected from arrest and other coercive action. news18
'Pakistan won't accept repeal of Indian Article 370'
Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal has said that Islamabad will never accept India repealing Article 370 of its Constitution that gives autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir. Faisal made the remark during his weekly press briefing on Friday here, reports Radio Pakistan."Pakistan will never accept the repeal of Article 370 of Indian Constitution... Kashmiri people will also not allow this to happen ever."Besides violating the rights of Kashmiris, it will also contravene relevant UNSC Resolutions," the spokesman said while replying to a question.Article 370 was incorporated in India's Constitution in Oct.1949. It exempts J&K from the country's Constitution, while allowing the state to draft its own.It also gives power to the state legislature to define Jammu and Kashmir's residents and their privileges.In the briefing, Faisal regretted that India postponed the Kartarpur Corridor meeting earlier this week.IANS
Money laundering case: Zakir Naik's 'aide' granted bail
Mumbai:A special court here Friday granted bail to Abdul Sathak, an aide of Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, arrested for allegedly helping the latter with money laundering. Special PMLA court judge MS Azmi granted bail to Sathak on a surety of Rs 5,00,000.Sathak, a jeweller, was arrested last month under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).He is accused of helping Naik by transferring "funds of dubious origin from UAE to facilitate production and broadcasting of incriminating videos for spreading communal hatred and radicalisation of a particular community".While granting bail,the court laid down certain conditions, like he shall make himself available for probe as and when called by the investigating officer. Also, he must not leave India without the permission of the court and surrender his passport with the ED, Mumbai, within a week.In his bail plea, Sathak said that there was nothing to show that he "acquired or dealt with any property" obtained through crime. He also claimed to be suffering from myasthenia gravis, a long-term neuromuscular disease. ED has alleged that Sathak sent about Rs 50 crore to Naik, which the latter illegally routed and laundered. PTI
Jaggi Vasudev calls Muslim student at LSE 'Taliban', issues apology after furore
Jaggi Vasudev claimed the video of a private conversation was ‘mischievously edited’, and that he used word ‘Taliban’ to mean ‘an ardent student’. During an interaction with students at the London School of Economics on March 31, spiritual leader Jaggi Vasudev described a Muslim student named Bilal bin Saqib as Taliban. Video clip of the interaction was shared widely on social media, forcing Vasudev to issue a clarification and an apology for the same.“He is a proper Talibaniya,” Vasudev said to Saqib during their conversation. Vasudev was at the LSE to participate in a programme titled “Youth and Truth:Unplug with Sadhguru”, organised by the students’ union. Union issued a statement soon after the video surfaced, referring to Sadhguru’s comments and views as Islamophobic. “If the comments were made in jest, this does not lessen their impact –words still offend,” the statement read. In a video statement, Vasudev said he had “no intention to abuse or insult” Bilal. He also added that the video clip of his interaction with Bilal was “mischievously edited”, an allegation that has been denied by the organisers of the event. Vasudev also claimed that he had used word “Taliban” to mean “ardent student”
NIA files charge sheet against 4 Kashmiri students
New Delhi: NIA has filed a charge sheet against 4 Kashmiri students, including the cousin of Zakir Musa — who leads Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind (AGH).Musa’s cousin Yasir Rafiq Bhat and two others – Zahid Gulzar and Mohammad Idris Shah, all residents of Awantipora in Kashmir valley, were arrested in Oct.last year with a cache of arms and explosives – including one AK-56 rifle, 2 magazines with 27 live rounds and 1kg explosive powder, from a hostel room of CT Group of Institutions in Jalandhar, Punjab.Later, their associate– Ghulam Mohammad Bhat, who was studying in another institute in Punjab,was also arrested.According to NIA spokesperson Alok Mittal, “It was found that the arrested accused were cadres of Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind (AGH), a Kashmir-based organisation with a pan-Islamic ideology...”.All 4 have been charged under UAPA.HT
Controversy in Kashmir as BJP advertisement sheds saffron for green
Jammu :In a bid to counter the regional parties in the valley, BJP has shed its saffron colour and adopted in its advertisements the green that is generally associated with Islam.The move has triggered a controversy with various political parties and leading politicians accusing BJP of “double standards” to exploit religious sentiments of the Muslims.The controversy began when BJP candidate for the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat Khalid Jehangir’s poll advertisement in newspapers had the green colour instead of BJP’s saffron. The advertisement also carried a picture of Prime Minister Narendera Modi with slogans of development below his photo.Other political parties, including the PDP and certain other hardline candidates, were using green colour in their election publicity material. PDP’s official flag has the green colour.The first to point out BJP’s changed election strategy in Kashmir was Haseeb Drabu, who was finance minister in the PDP-BJP govt.the statesman
LK Advani: BJP founder in veiled criticism of Modi
One of the founders of India's governing BJP, LK Advani, has written a blog post that is being seen as a veiled critique of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.In the post, the 91-year-old says that "the essence of Indian democracy is respect for diversity and freedom of expression".He continues: "Right from its inception, the BJP has never regarded those who disagree with us politically as our 'enemies', but only as our adversaries. Similarly, in our conception of Indian nationalism, we have never regarded those who disagree with us politically as 'anti-national'."Modi and his supporters have frequently painted BJP opponents as anti-national and often suggest that they are working with Pakistan.The blog, our reporter says, appears to be a direct attack on Modi and BJP President Amit Shah.BBC
Advani's remarks 'reality check' on Modi govt: Mayawati
'Vote Against BJP And Its Allies, Vote For Love': Over 600 Theatre Artists Release Statement
Over 600 theatre artists from across the country have signed a statement calling on fellow citizens not to vote for BJP and its allies in the upcoming general elections. The signatories include Naseeruddin Shah, Ratna Pathak Shah, and names like Anurag Kashyap, Konkona Sen Sharma, Lillete Dubey and Manav Kaul who are also known for their work in Bollywood.The statement comes days after a letter signed by 103 filmmakers on the website artistuniteindia in which they called on people to not vote for the BJP.In their statement, the theatre artists call on citizens to vote for love, compassion, equality and social justice and call for an end to hatred that “has seeped into our daily fabric.” They say BJP “has given free rein to Hindutva goons to indulge in the politics of hate and violence.”Referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the statement says, “The man who was portrayed as the saviour of the nation 5 years ago has destroyed the livelihoods of millions through his policies.”huffingtonpost
In Western UP, Battle to Win Over Minorities Hinges on Parties’ Ability to Woo Majority Voters.
Saharanpur/Kairana: In western UP, political parties are pulling all punches to woo minority voters as it braces for the first phase of polling on April 11. “I know I am getting 2.5 lakh Hindu votes from the Brahmins, Kashyaps and Jats,” Harinder Malik, Congress’s candidate from Kairana, tells a gathering. Malik is addressing people in forecourt of Liyaqat Pradhan’s house in Butrada village on the Meerut-Shamli highway. “Mulayam Singh has given his blessings to Narendra Modi to become the prime minister. I now have to fight against the BJP,” he says. Like several other politicians in western UP, Malik has learnt the ropes from ex PM Choudhary Charan Singh.Malik’s speech in Butrada is a reflection of a keen contest for Muslim votes between SP-BSP-RLD alliance and the Congress on some seats of western UP. Ironically, the chances to win over the minorities may depend on just one factor: the ability to get votes from the majority community.The campaign narrative on these lines is driven by the belief that minorities, which constitute almost one-third of the total electorate in some of the constituencies going to polls on April 11, will back the party seen to be as a strong challenge to BJP.This is evident from Kairana, where BJP’s Pradeep Choudhary is contesting against Malik and SP’s Tabassum Hasan. Hasan, who was fielded as a joint candidate of the opposition on an RLD ticket, had won last year’s bypoll.In 2019, the elections in Kairana could well be determined by whether Congress’s Malik is able to wean away votes from majority community and whether this would lead to a section of the minorities choosing to back Malik instead of Hasan.In the adjoining Saharanpur seat, Congress has reposed its faith in Imran Masood who lost the last Lok Sabha elections by a margin of less than 70,000 votes. Dalits and Muslims together in Saharanpur constitute almost half of total electorate.The ongoing debate within minority community is whether to support Congress’ Imran Masood or BSP’s Fazlur Rehman. Rehman is a gathbandhan candidate supported by the SP and RLD.news18
UPSC releases CSE results: Here’s the list of 28 Muslim candidates who clear the exam
New Delhi: UPSC announced the final ranks based on the results of the written part of Civil Services Examination, 2018 held by UPSC in Sept-Oct, 2018 and the interviews for Personality Test held in Feb-March, 2019.A total number of 759 candidates have been recommended for appointment in Indian Administrative Service, Indian Foreign Service, Indian Police Service and Central Services.It may be mentioned that Junaid Ahmed who was preparing for the examination with the help of the Zakat Foundation got all India third rank. Out of the total candidates who cleared the examination, 28 are Muslims.siasat
PM Asked to Take Action Against Central Vigilance Commissioner for Caste Discrimination
New Delhi:Central Vigilance Commissioner K.V. Chowdary has been accused of “casteist, vindictive and malicious discrimination” by the additional chief secretary of Tamil Nadu, Jagmohan Singh Raju. A notice has been sent to PMO in this regard by Raju’s counsel, Prashant Bhushan.The notice also refers to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), which comes under PM Narendra Modi, abdicating its responsibility of implementing the recommendations of National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) and the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. Bhushan wrote to the PMO that both the NCSC and ministry had directed that action be taken against officials responsible for the victimisation of IAS officer Raju, who has had an “unblemished and illustrious career” of over 33 years.The notice further stated that there seems to be a wide disconnect between Modi’s stated commitment to the welfare of the Scheduled Castes and response of DoPT under his overall charge when it comes to welfare of a community member. This, it said, was apparent from the fact that no action was against CVC despite the NCSC holding him up for acts of malice towards the SC officer. The recommendation was made by NCSC on Dec.9, 2016.thewire
Sam Pitroda questions legitimacy of EVMs under BJP rule
Mumbai:Casting doubt over the functioning of EVMs to be used in the general elections, Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s close aide Sam Pitroda on Friday said that when BJP says that it will win for next 50 years, it makes him worried about the machines.“No one in the world uses the quantity of EVMs that we use in the elections. No one trusts them, including the developed nations. The only country which uses it may be Estonia. There is something wrong with these machines which we have not been able to pin-point. As technical guy, I have to voice honest opinions, even if my colleagues in Congress party ask me not to speak about it,” he said. Mr. Pitroda was speaking at an interactive session with Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha, organised by the All India Professionals’ Congress.thehindu
Shatrughan Sinha joins Congress, fielded from Patna Sahib against BJP's Ravi Shankar Prasad
New Delhi:Actor-turned-politician Shatrughan Sinha joined the Congress on Saturday at the party headquarters in New Delhi.  He was with the BJP till recently.Hours later, the Congress announced his candidature for the Patna Sahib Lok Sabha cinstituency in Bihar to take on Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. Congress general secretary K.C. Venugopal, party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala and in charge of party’s Bihar unit Shaktisinh Gohil welcomed Mr. Sinha into the party fold. Mr. Venugopal termed him the “best politician who was earlier with the wrong party“.PTI
US 'to label Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist group'
United States is expected to designate Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) a "terrorist organisation", Wall Street Journal reported citing unnamed officials.The move would mark the first time Washington formally labels another country's military a "terrorist group".The decision, which critics warn exposes US military and intelligence officials to similar actions by unfriendly governments abroad, is expected to be announced by the US State Department as early as Monday, the officials told the Wall Street Journal. The change of designation has been rumoured for years. Pentagon declined to comment and referred queries to the State Department. The State Department and White House also declined to comment.  Iranian mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a strident Iran critic, has advocated for the change in US policy as part of the Trump administration's tough posture towards Tehran. The announcement would come before the first anniversary of President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of a 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran and to reimpose sanctions that had crippled Iran's economy. The US has already blacklisted dozens of entities and people for their affiliations with the IRGC, but the organisation as a whole is not. Iran has warned of a "crushing" response should the US goes ahead with the designation. aljazeera
Iran threatens to blacklist US army
Iran has threatened to add the US army to its terrorism list if Washington designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist group.  Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, head of Iranian Parliament's Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy, said Tehran would add US army to “the terrorist blacklist alongside Daesh" if the US blacklisted IRGC.  Anadolu Agency
6000 Palestinian kids jailed by Israel since 2015:NGO
At least 6,000 Palestinian children have been detained by Israeli authorities since 2015, according to the Palestinian Prisoners' Association.In a statement issued on Friday to mark Palestinian Children's Day, NGO said 98% of children held had been subjected to psychological and/or physical abuse while in Israeli custody. NGO said dozens of minors were detained by Israeli authorities after first being shot and wounded by Israeli troops.According to Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority's Committee for Prisoners' Affairs, total number of Palestinians currently imprisoned by Israel stands at 5,700, including 48 women and 250 children.aljazeera
Myanmar: UN 'disturbed' over attacks against civilians in Rakhine
UN human rights office has condemned the Myanmar military for "again carrying out attacks" against civilians, expressing deep concerns over an escalation of violence in the country's restive Rakhine State.The western state was the epicentre of a brutal crackdown by Myanmar's security forces in 2017 which forced about 730,000 Rohingya to flee into neighbouring Bangladesh. UN has accused the army of "genocidal intent" in its campaign against the long-persecuted, majority-Muslim ethnic minority, which followed attacks by a Rohingya armed group on police posts in late Aug.2017.More recently, the military has been battling another armed group, the Arakan Army, which draws recruits mostly from the ethnic Rakhine population.On Friday, a spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights voiced concern about attacks on civilians by both sides. Ravina Shamdasani said that there were "credible reports of the killing of civilians, burning of houses, arbitrary arrests, abductions, indiscriminate fire in civilian areas, and damage to cultural property". aljazeera
 Taliban encircles govt compound, kills 12 troops
Afghan officials say a massive Taliban siege of a government compound and army base in western Badghis province, now in its second day, has killed at least 12 more troops. Friday's fatalities bring the overall casualty toll for the assault in the district of Bala Murghab to at least 32.Many more have been wounded and the area is cut off.Mohammad Nasir Nazari, a provincial council member, said that according to soldiers inside the base, roughly 2,000 Taliban fighters are involved in the attack. He said there are about 600 Afghan troops and members of the security forces inside and they are running out of ammunition, water and food.Abdul Waris Sherzad, a district chief, said the locals are disappointed that NATO forces and the Afghan government have not helped, an assertion the defence ministry disputes. Sherzad said in a statement on Thursday the Taliban had killed 36 members of the government forces and captured several security checkpoints in attacks that began on Wednesday night.More than 30 Taliban fighters were also killed, according to Jamshed Shahabi, spokesman for Badghis' provincial governor.Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi said the group attacked from four directions, capturing five checkpoints.aljazeera
US revokes ICC prosecutor's entry visa over Afghanistan probe
US has revoked the entry visa of Fatou Bensouda, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), in response to her inquiry into possible war crimes by US forces in Afghanistan, her office said."We can confirm that the US authorities have revoked the prosecutor's visa for entry into the US," Bensouda's office told Reuters news agency in an email.It said it understood the move should not affect Bensouda's travel to the US to meet her United Nations obligations.The Netherlands-based ICC is not a UN court, but Bensouda travels regularly to brief the UN Security Council on cases referred to The Hague by the UN body.aljazeera
UN to Libya's Haftar: Halt and de-escalate advance on Tripoli
UNSC and the G7 are calling on troops loyal to Libya's renegade General Khalifa Haftar to "halt" their military advance on Tripoli as clashes near the capital prompted concerns of a wider escalation in the North African country. Militias loyal to the UN-backed government in Tripoli say they captured more than 100 of Haftar's self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA) fighters west of the capital on Friday. Fighting was reported on Friday night into Saturday morning near Tripoli's international airport, about 30km south of the city.After a closed-door emergency meeting, UNSC warned that those responsible for reigniting the conflict would be held to account. UNSC "called on LNA forces to halt all military movements" and "on all forces to de-escalate military activity," said German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen, who holds the council presidency.aljazeera
Algerians rally to demand post-Bouteflika political overhaul
Algerians have once again taken to streets to demand an overhaul of the political system after their pro-democracy movement forced President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign earlier this week after 20 years in power.Tens of thousands of people massed in the capital, Algiers, and marched towards the central post office, a symbol of the peaceful widespread protests that began on Feb.22 in response to 82-year-old Bouteflika's bid to seek a fifth term in now-cancelled elections, earlier scheduled for April 18.Security was higher than usual, with roadblocks preventing buses of protesters from entering the city. One group of demonstrators from the Kabylie region east of Algiers walked 20km after its bus was stopped at a roadblock.It was the seventh straight Friday of protests against a leadership demonstrators perceive as corrupt and repressive but the first since the ailing Bouteflika resigned on Tuesday under pressure from protesters and the powerful army.aljazeera
Mental health test ordered for New Zealand mosque attacks suspect
Christchurch: Australian man accused of murdering 50 people at two New Zealand mosques has been ordered to undergo psychiatric tests.At the brief and sombre hearing in Christchurch on Friday, Justice Cameron Mander ordered Brenton Tarrant, the suspected gunman, to undergo a psychiatric assessment to determine his fitness to stand trial as he appeared by video link from a prison in Auckland.The 28-year-old, a self-confessed white supremacist, sat still with an impassive face during the preliminary hearing, in contrast to his first court appearance when he smirked at the media and appeared to flash a white nationalist hand signal.New Zealand police on Thursday filed 49 counts of murder against Tarrant, bringing the total number of murder charges to 50. He was also charged with 39 counts of attempted murder.  aljazeera
Saudi begins new wave of arrests targeting human rights activists
Saudi Arabia has arrested eight people, including a US citizen, in a new campaign of arrests targeting individuals who support women’s rights and people linked to detained activists.The Associated Press agency quoted a person it described as “well informed” of the arrests –  who spoke anonymously for fear of prosecution – as saying that the individuals were detained on Thursday.These individuals are not seen as frontline activists, according to the agency, but they are writers and advocates who quietly support greater social reform, such as the right of women to drive. AP revealed that among the detainees was Salah Al-Haydar, a Saudi citizen of US nationality, who has a family home in the US but lives with his wife and child in Saudi capital Riyadh. His mother is prominent women’s rights activist Aziza Al-Yusuf, who is being tried and was recently released from prison.middleeastmonitor
Netanyahu: Killing 300 Gaza protesters was ‘wise’ decision
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel used force “wisely” in the Gaza Strip, as Israeli soldiers have killed “more than 300” Palestinians near the eastern fence of the besieged enclave.In an interview with Israel Hayom, Netanyahu said: “More than 300 Palestinians have been killed near the border when they tried to breach the fence and abduct our soldiers. We have used force wisely, and powerfully.”Netanyahu also said that his government’s policy led Hamas, the ruler of the besieged Strip, to suffer the severest economic crisis. “They [Gazans] are in enormous economic distress, and Hamas is in check and wants some quiet so it can stand up to the huge pressure in Gaza,” he said.middleeastmonitor

Ex-Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon : Israel is weak in the face of Hamas
Former Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon has described Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “weak” in the face of Hamas. During a visit to Israeli communities located near the Gaza fence yesterday, he said: “The state of Qatar has recently proposed to transfer the salaries of 23,000 civil employees working with the Hamas govt in Gaza,” Al-Watan Voice reported. He added:“These salaries are worth $10 million. We took the names of all those proposed to receive salaries. Who is thinking of transferring money to Hamas?”He continued: “I see that we became weak. They increased the sum to $15 million and now to $40 million a month. Israel became weak during Netanyahu’s era.”MEMO
UK issues passports without EU label despite Brexit uncertainty
British authorities have begun issuing passports without the European Union insignia on them, the BBC reported on Friday, despite the delay to Brexit.The new passports were first introduced on March 30, a day after the United Kingdom was initially scheduled to leave the 28-member bloc. It is not clear when, or if, the UK will leave the EU. A Home Office spokeswoman told the British broadcaster that delivery centres will continue printing the pre-Brexit EU-UK design until stocks run out "in order … to achieve best value to the taxpayer".aljazeera
Djibouti’s rising debts to expansionist China worry US, France
Inside the carriages on the 10-hour rail journey through land-locked Ethiopia into the tiny Red Sea state of Djibouti, the chirping of mobile phones mingles with a mashup of regional languages and the murmur of the devout at prayer. A woman in a yellow frock trundles past maroon-upholstered seats with her cart: "Coffee! Bunna! Tea! Chai!"At first glance, there's nothing conspicuously Chinese about the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway, but then you spot the train's Chinese driver and a few Chinese passengers huddled on a bunk bed. In fact, says Ilyas Moussa Dawaleh, Djibouti's good-­humored finance minister, "It's all about the 'C.'" The railway wouldn't exist in its current form without a massive infusion of Chinese loans-indeed, most of Djibouti's economy relies on Chinese credit. And the Chinese might not have shown as much interest if it hadn't been for Djibouti's geostrategic location: About a third of all the world's shipping steams past this barren land on the northeast edge of Africa en route to and from the Suez Canal, the Red Sea, and the Indian Ocean. China's bridgehead here is part of its globe-girding "Belt and Road" initiative, an amalgam of economic strategy, foreign policy, and charm offensive that's fueled by a torrent of Chinese money and is designed to rebalance global alliances. And as with dozens of other way stations along this new Silk Road, Djibouti's dalliance with China is raising hackles from Paris to Washington. China has no qualms. "China-Africa cooperation is yielding fruitful results all across Africa, bringing tangible benefits to every aspect of local people's lives," foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a press briefing on March 18. "It is these people who are in the best position to judge the effects of China-Africa cooperation projects."Bloomberg
Thousands march to Sudan army headquarters in Khartoum for first time since protests began
Thousands of protestors reached the Sudanese army headquarters on Saturday for the first time since protests began against President Omar al-Bashir.Footage posted online showed demonstrators chanting "One Army, One People" as protestors gathered outside the army HQ in Khartoum. Organisers called the protests to mark the anniversary of 1985 uprising against ex military dictator Jaafar Nimeiry, who came to power after a military coup in 1969. Protests have rocked Sudan since Dec, with angry crowds accusing Bashir's govt of mismanaging economy that has led to soaring food prices and regular shortages of fuel and foreign currency. On 22 Feb, veteran leader imposed a nationwide state of emergency to quell the protests after an initial crackdown failed to rein in protesters.middleeasteye
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Compiled and edited by Anwarulhaq (Released at: 8:09 PM)


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