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Investigators inspect a truck following a shooting incident in New York on Oct 31. Eight people were killed and numerous others injured in New York when a suspect (inset)Saipov plowed a vehicle into a bike and pedestrian path in Lower Manhattan, and struck another vehicle on Halloween, police said. (AFP)

NEW YORK, Nov 1, (Agencies): An Uzbek immigrant suspected of killing eight people in New York City followed plans laid out by the militant Islamic State group and planned the attack weeks in advance, US investigators said on Wednesday. Police said they had interviewed Sayfullo Saipov, 29, who was shot and arrested by police moments after the rampage in lower Manhattan on Tuesday, in which a rental truck was driven down a riverfront bike path.

“It appears that Mr Saipov had been planning this for a number of weeks,” New York Deputy Police Commissioner John Miller told a news conference. “He did this in the name of ISIS (Islamic State) and along with other items recovered at the scene were some notes that indicate that,” said Miller. “He appears to have followed almost exactly the instructions that ISIS has put out on its social media channels to its followers.”

In Kuwait, His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah on Wednesday sent a cable to US President Donald Trump expressing condolences and sympathy over the victims of Manhattan terrorist attack that killed eight people and wounded dozens others.

His Highness expressed condemnation of this criminal act, which targeted lives of innocent, breaching divine laws and human values. His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah both sent similar cables to the American president. No Kuwaiti was hurt after a truck rammed into crowds in southern Manhattan Tuesday, Kuwait’s delegation to the United Nations has assured. In a press statement to KUNA, the delegation stated that initial contacts with local authorities indicated that so far, no Kuwaiti was among the victims of the attack. For their safety, the delegation urged nationals in New York to stay away from the attack scene and to follow the instructions of relevant local authorities.

In case of emergency, nationals are also advised to contact the delegation on the following numbers: +16462622882 and +16466515230. The attack was the deadliest on New York City since Sept 11, 2001, when suicide hijackers crashed two jetliners into the World Trade Center, killing more than 2,600 people. A further 12 people were injured, some critically, in Tuesday’s attack. Similar assaults using vehicles as weapons took place in Spain in August and in France and Germany last year.

The suspect allegedly swerved the pickup onto a path filled with pedestrians and bicyclists on a sunny autumn afternoon, mowing down people in his path before slamming into the side of a school bus. He then exited the vehicle brandishing what turned out to be a paint-ball gun and a pellet gun before a police officer shot him in the abdomen. The suspect underwent surgery for gunshot wounds at Bellevue Hospital, where he has been interviewed by police, Miller said. Saipov reportedly lived in Paterson, New Jersey, a one-time industrial hub about 25 miles (40 kms) northwest of lower Manhattan. He had rented the pickup from a Home Depot Inc hardware store which was located in Passaic, just south of Paterson. US Senator Lindsey Graham urged authorities to treat Saipov as an enemy combatant, a move that would allow investigators to question the man without him having a lawyer present. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that Saipov had been radicalized while living in the United States. “He is a depraved coward, is what he is, and he was associated with ISIS, and he was radicalized domestically,” Cuomo said in an interview with CNN.

The majority of the 18 Islamic Stateinspired attacks carried out in the United States since September 2014 were the work of attackers who developed radical views while living in the United States, said Alexander Meleagrou- Hitchens, research director at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism. Six victims were pronounced dead at the scene and two more at a nearby hospital, Police Commissioner James O’Neill said. Five of the dead were Argentine tourists, visiting New York as part of a group of friends celebrating the 30th anniversary of their high school graduation, the government there said. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said police will be out in force to protect the city’s marathon on Sunday, one of the world’s top road races, which draws some 51,000 runners from around the globe.

Source: Arab Times

مقامی میڈیا کے مطابق پولیس نے گذشتہ ہفتے ایک فلسطینی شخص کو اس وقت گرفتار کر لیا جب انھوں نے فیس بک پر عربی زبان میں گڈ مارننگ لکھا تاہم ترجمے کی غلطی کی وجہ سے عبرانی زبان میں اسے ان پر حملہ کرناپڑھا گیا۔


اسرائیلی پولیس نے تصدیق کی ہے کہ تعمیراتی ورکر کو اشتعال دلانے کے شبہے میں کچھ دیر کے لیے حراست میں رکھا گیا تاہم ترجمے کی غلطی معلوم ہونے پر اسے رہا کر دیا گیا۔


اخبار دی ٹائمز آف اسرائیل کے مطابق مقامی عربی زبان میں کسی کا خیر مقدم کرنے اور کسی کو کوسنے کے لیے جو الفاظ ہیں ان میں صرف ایک ہی حرف کا فرق ہے۔اطلاعات کے مطابق مذکورہ فلسطینی شخص کی گرفتاری سے پہلے کسی عربی زبان بولنے والے اہلکار سے مشورہ نہیں کیا گیا اور صرف فیس بک کے خودکار ترجمے پر ہی انحصار کیا گیا۔ فیس بک پر مذکورہ پوسٹ کو ڈیلیٹ کر دیا گیا ہے۔ 

US President Donald Trump speaks during a briefing on hurricane recovery efforts with Texas Gov Greg Abbott (second from left), on Oct 25 in Dallas. (AP)

WASHINGTON, Oct 26, (Agencies): The House has approved bipartisan legislation to slap new sanctions on Iran for its pursuit of long-range ballistic missiles without derailing the 2015 international nuclear accord that President Donald Trump has threatened to unravel. The bill passed Thursday 423-2.

The bill, sponsored by Reps Ed Royce and Eliot Engel, requires the Trump administration to identify for sanctions the companies and individuals inside and outside of Iran that provide support to Tehran’s ballistic missile programs. Royce, a California Republican, is the Foreign Affairs Committee chairman. Engel, who is from New York, is the panel’s top Democrat. Both opposed the nuclear agreement when it was forged two years ago, but neither lawmaker wants the deal ditched now.

Lawmakers are aiming to hold Iran accountable for what they say is reckless, destabilizing behavior. The House also approved bipartisan legislation Wednesday to block the flow of illicit money to Iran-backed Hezbollah militants and to sanction the group for using civilians as human shields as lawmakers took aim at what they called Tehran’s leading terrorist proxy. The measures were approved by voice vote.

The bill targeting Hezbollah’s finances, sponsored by Reps Ed Royce and Eliot Engel, directs the Trump administration to sanction the people and businesses engaged in fundraising and recruitment activities for the group.

Hezbollah is a member of Lebanon’s coalition government and the House measure touched off alarms in Beirut, where officials feared major damage might be done to the country’s banking sector if the bill is signed into law.

But Joseph Torbey, head of the Association of Banks in Lebanon, told reporters earlier this week that US officials have reassured a Lebanese banking delegation that visited Washington recthe sanctions won’t target Lebanese banks as long as they abide by American regulations. Washington considers Hezbollah a terrorist organization and has previously imposed sanctions on the group and its top commanders.

The expected new sanctions come at a time when the Trump administration is increasing pressure on Iran, Hezbollah’s main backer that has been supplying the group with weapons and money for more than three decades. Legislation sponsored by Reps Mike Gallagher, R-Wis, and Tom Suozzi, D-NY, calls on the president to push for the UN Security Council to impose international sanctions against Hezbollah for the group’s use of civilians as human shields. A separate House resolution that also passed Wednesday urges the European Union to designate Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization.

The measure says the EU in 2013 gave only the terrorist designation to the group’s so-called “military wing.” Hezbollah “continues to conduct illicit narco-trafficking, money laundering, and weapons trafficking throughout Europe,” according to the resolution. “These critical measures will impose new sanctions to crack down on Hezbollah’s financing, and hold it accountable for its acts of death and destruction,” Royce said.

Meanwhile, Israel is willing to resort to military action to ensure Iran never acquires nuclear weapons, the intelligence minister said on Thursday in Japan where he is seeking backing for US President Donald Trump’s tougher line on Tehran.

Trump said on Oct 13 he would not certify Iran is complying with an agreement on curtailing its nuclear programme, signed by his predecessor, Barack Obama, opening a 60-day window for Congress to act to reimpose sanctions. “If international efforts led these days by US President Trump don’t help stop Iran attaining nuclear capabilities, Israel will act militarily by itself,” Intelligence Minister Israel Katz said in an interview in Tokyo. “There are changes that can be made (to the agreement) to ensure that they will never have the ability to have a nuclear weapon.” Israel has taken unilateral action in the past without the consent of its major ally, the United States, including air strikes on a suspected nuclear reactor in Syria in 2007 and in Iraq in 1981.

A strike against Iran, however, would be a risky venture with the potential to provoke a counter strike and roil financial markets. An Israeli threat of military strikes could, nonetheless, galvanize support in the United States for toughening up the nuclear agreement but it could also backfire by encouraging hardliners in Iran and widening a rift between Washington and European allies. So far, none of the other signatories to the deal — Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, Iran and the European Union — has cited serious concerns, leaving the United States isolated.

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK: The CIA has launched a new “hunt and kill” mission in Afghanistan, targeting Taliban militants across the country, the US media reported on Monday.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo said last week that the United States wants to beat the Taliban in the battlefield first to force them to negotiate peace with the government in Kabul. This is also a key component of the policy US President Donald Trump announced in his address to the American nation on Aug 21.

“President (Trump) has made it very clear. We are going to do everything we can … to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table in Afghanistan with the Taliban having zero hope that they can win this thing on the battlefield,” Mr Pompeo told a US think-tank in Washington last week.

The New York Times was the first to report that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is sending small teams of highly experienced officers and contractors to hunt and kill Taliban militants across the country. Other media reports added that these teams will operate with official Afghan forces but may not have official US troops with them.

The reports claim that US President Donald Trump has decided to give CIA an “increasing integral” role in his efforts to end the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan, which is already America’s longest military engagement ever.

The reports noted that while the agency was involved in drone attacks in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, on the ground it primarily focused on combating Al Qaeda and helping the Afghan intelligence service but now Washington has decided to give it a greater role.

The US military, the reports added, would focus on conducting large-scale operations and the CIA’s paramilitary division will perform these “hunt and kill” operations. The agency is already fighting the militant the Islamic State group in Afghanistan.

“The expansion reflects the CIA’s assertive role under its new director, Mike Pompeo, to combat insurgents around the world,” NYT observed.

“The agency is already poised to broaden its program of covert drone strikes into Afghanistan; it had largely been centered on the tribal regions of Pakistan, with occasional strikes in Syria and Yemen,” the newspaper added.

The report also said that the new CIA mission is a tacit acknowledgement that to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table, the United States will need to aggressively fight the insurgents.

In his Aug 21 speech, President Trump also vowed to loosen restrictions on hunting terrorists. “The killers need to know they have nowhere to hide, that no place is beyond the reach of American might and American arms,” he said. “Retribution will be fast and powerful.”

Mr Pompeo not only supported this strategy but also criticized Pakistan for not helping the US in eradicating militancy from the Pak-Afghan region.

In his remarks at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Washington, he urged the Trump administration not to have high-expectations from Pakistan.

“I think, history would indicate that high expectations for the Pakistanis’ willingness to help us in the fight against radical Islamic terrorism, should be set at a very low level,” he said. “Our intelligence would indicate the same, that is, I think, we should have a very real conversation with them about what it is that they are doing and what it is that they could do and about the American expectations for how they would behave.”

The CIA director acknowledged that Pakistan was an important country in a strategically sensitive region and that’s why it could not be ignored.

Published in Dawn, October 24th, 2017

BAGHDAD: The Iraqi government dismissed a call from US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for Iranian-backed paramilitary units that helped Baghdad defeat Islamic State and capture the Kurdish-held city of Kirkuk to end operations in Iraq.

The paramilitary units have been expanding their reach to northern Iraq, supporting government forces which seized the Kurdish-held city of Kirkuk one week ago in a lightning advance in retaliation for a referendum on independence.

Iraqi forces are deploying tanks and artillery just south of a Kurdish-operated oil pipeline that crosses into Turkey, a Kurdish security official said, the latest in a series of Iranian-backed operations against the Kurds.

Speaking after a meeting on Sunday with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, Tillerson said it was time for the Iraqi Popular Mobilisation forces and their Iranian advisers to “go home”.

Washington is concerned Iran will use its expanded presence in Iraq and in Syria to expand its influence in the region. But Abadi showed unwillingness to meet Tillerson’s demand.

“No party has the right to interfere in Iraqi matters,” a statement from his office read. It did not cite the prime minister himself but a “source” close to him.

Predominantly Shia Iran and its Sunni rival Saudi Arabia are locked in a proxy war for influence in the Middle East.

The international battle against the militant Islamic State group in northern Iraq since 2014 saw the United States and Iran effectively fighting on the same side, with both supporting the Iraqi government against the militants.

Washington has 5,000 troops in Iraq, and provided air support, training and weapons to Iraqi government forces, even as Iran armed, trained and advised the Shia paramilitaries which often fought alongside the army.

But the latest twist in the Iraq conflict, pitting the central government against the Kurds, is trickier for US policymakers. Washington still supports the central government but has also been allied to the Kurds for decades.

Iran exhibited its sway over Baghdad’s policies during tensions over a referendum last month in which the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region voted to secede from Iraq against Baghdad’s wishes, Kurdish officials say.

Baghdad responded to the vote by seizing the oil city of Kirkuk, which the Kurds see as the heart of any future homeland.

Major-General Qassem Soleimani, commander of foreign operations for Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, repeatedly warned Kurdish leaders to withdraw from Kirkuk or face an onslaught by Iraqi forces and allied Iranian-backed fighters, Kurdish officials briefed on the meetings said.

Iraq’s Sunni neighbours, including Saudi Arabia, share Washington’s concerns over Shia power Iran’s influence in Iraq, where the population is predominantly Shia.

The office of Abadi, himself a Shia, said the paramilitary forces were under the authority of the Iraqi government. “Popular Mobilisation are Iraqi patriots,” it said in the statement.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also rejected Tillerson’s statement.

The paramilitaries could not go home because “they are at home” already, he was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA.

Published in Dawn, October 24th, 2017

WASHINGTON: The widow of a fallen soldier reproached President Donald Trump on Monday over his condolence call last week, saying she was angered by his tone and that he couldn’t remember her husband’s name. Trump quickly responded on Twitter that he’d been “very respectful” and spoke the name “without hesitation.”

Monday’s harsh exchange was the latest in an ongoing dispute over how Trump responded to the deaths of four service members in the African nation of Niger.

Myeshia Johnson, La David Johnson’s widow, spoke on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” It was her first interview after a Democratic congresswoman accused Trump of being callous in the call by telling the widow that her husband “knew what he signed up for.”

Johnson confirmed Wilson’s account, saying the congresswoman was a longtime friend who was with the family in the car when Trump called on Tuesday and listened on speakerphone. She said she had asked for the call to be put on speakerphone so relatives with her could hear.


“The president said that he knew what he signed up for but it hurts anyway,” Johnson said. She added: “The only way he could remember my husband’s name was he told me he had my husband’s report in front of him and that’s when he actually said La David.” Trump, who had accused Rep. Frederica Wilson of fabricating the statement, fired back on Twitter, saying: “I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!” But Johnson offered a different version.

“I heard him stumbling on trying to remember my husband’s name and that’s what hurt me the most, because if my husband is out here fighting for our country and he risked his life for our country why can’t you remember his name,” she said. “And that’s what made me upset and cry even more because my husband was an awesome soldier.”

The conflict drew criticism from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who said on “The View” Monday: “we should not be fighting about a brave American who lost his life.” Johnson also said she has received little information about her husband’s death and complained she has not been able to see his body.

Published in Dawn, October 24th, 2017

DOHA, Qatar, Oct 21, (Agencies): As US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visits the Middle East this weekend, he’ll hope to achieve something that has eluded top American diplomats for a generation: sealing a new alliance between Saudi Arabia and Iraq that would shut the doors of the Arab world to neighboring Iran.

While the United States strives to heal the rift between the Gulf Arab states and Qatar, and resolve civil wars in Yemen and Syria, Tillerson is the Trump administration’s point man on an even more ambitious and perhaps even less likely geopolitical gambit. US officials see a new axis that unites Riyadh and Baghdad as central to countering Iran’s growing influence from the Arabian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea, particularly as the Iraqi government struggles to rebuild recently liberated Islamic State strongholds and confronts a newly assertive Kurdish independence movement.

History, religion and lots of politics stand in Tillerson’s way. He arrived in Riyadh on Saturday and planned to visit Qatar on Monday. The effort to wean Iraq from Iran and bond it to Saudi Arabia isn’t new, but US officials are optimistically pointing to a surer footing they believe they’ve seen in recent months.

They’re hoping to push the improved relations into a more advanced phase Sunday when Tillerson participates in the inaugural meeting of the Saudi Arabia- Iraq Coordination Committee in Riyadh. Tillerson will seek Saudi financial generosity and political support for Iraq, its embattled northern neighbor.

Two US officials said Tillerson hopes the oil-rich Saudis will contribute to the massive reconstruction projects needed to restore pre- IS life in Iraqi cities such as Mosul and lend their backing to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al- Abadi. He is treading delicately among a host of powerful countries on Iraq’s borders which are increasingly trying to shape the future of the ethnically and religiously divided nation.

The officials briefed reporters on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly preview Tillerson’s plans. Shiite-majority Iraq and Sunni- led Saudi Arabia, estranged for decades after Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, have tried in recent years to bridge their differences.

Nevertheless, the relationship is still plagued by suspicion. Saudi Arabia reopened its embassy in Baghdad in 2015 after a quarter-century, and earlier this year unblocked long closed border crossings. But the emergence of arch-Saudi rival Iran as a power player in Iraq continues to gnaw at Riyadh and Washington.

Iran’s reported intervention in Iraq’s semi-autonomous northern Kurdish region, following last month’s much criticized vote for independence in a referendum, has deepened the unease. President Donald Trump wants to see “a stable Iraq, but a stable Iraq that is not aligned with Iran,” H.R. McMaster, his national security adviser, said this past week. He suggested Saudi Arabia could play a pivotal role. The US view is that the alternative may mean more conflict in Iraq, which endured years of insurgency after the US-led 2003 invasion and ethnic warfare when the Islamic State group rampaged across the country in 2014.

“Iran is very good at pitting communities against each other,” McMaster said Thursday at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “This is something they share with groups like ISIS, with al-Qaeda. They pit communities against each other because they use tribal and ethnic and sectarian conflicts to gain influence by portraying themselves as a patron or protector of one of the parties in the conflict and then they use that invitation to come in and to help to advance their agenda and, in Iran’s case, I think is a hegemonic design.”

Trump and his national security team have framed much of the Middle East security agenda around counteracting Iran, which they see as a malign influence that poses an existential threat to Israel and other American allies and partners in the region. They also accuse Iran of menacing the United States and its interests at home and elsewhere in the world. Shortly after taking office, Tillerson identified improving Saudi-Iraqi ties as a priority in the administration’s broader policy to confront and contain Iran. Officials say he has devoted himself to the effort.

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