Reporter AM

Australian firms have signed military contracts to provide weapons to Saudi Arabia, despite the regime’s ongoing war in Yemen that has killed over 12,000 people since March 2015.

The Australian Department of Defense has secured four contracts to export weapons to Riyadh in the past year and Canberra has led the push for more arms sales.

Australian Defense Industry Minister Christopher Pyne visited Riyadh in December to promote military equipment to Saudi officials.

"The minister received a very positive reception, as did the business representatives who visited," a spokeswoman for Pyne said.

Pyne, who reports to the Minister for Defense, is refusing to release details of the approved military sales, citing commercial-in-confidence rules.

Sarah Phillips, a University of Sydney researcher told the Sydney Morning Herald that Saudi Arabia has used brutal tactics in Yemen and its airstrikes have been "reckless," hitting funerals and hospitals at times.

Asked about Australian military exports to Saudi Arabia, Phillips said: "I would find that deeply concerning, with the ways in which previous assistance from other Western nations has been used upon the civilian population."

DEOBANDI SCHOLAR ARRESTED ON RAPE CHARGES

Published in Asia
Saturday, 25 March 2017 13:19

A deobandi cleric was arrested in an alleged rape case on Saturday in Deoband area of Saharanpur district. The woman — in her twenties and a resident of Jind district in Haryana — in her complaint against Maulana Masood Madni, who is in his forties, said that he raped her on the pretext of performing a “ritual” which could help her bear children. Police have sent the woman for medical examination to confirm rape. The accused, meanwhile, was produced before court and sent to jail.
Senior Superintenent of Police (SSP) of the area, Luv Kumar, said Madni is the brother of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind general secretary Maulana Mehmood Madni.
Security has been tightened in Deoband to maintain law and order following the arrest of Masood Madni. “The woman has alleged that she had been to a mazar (a place of worship) in Deoband seeking divine help
for a child. She said she has been married for six years. She allegedly met a person at the mazar who suggested that she meet with Maulana Masood Madni, and referred to him as a “spiritual doctor” who may help her conceive. The woman and her husband approached Madni and shared their numbers too,” said the SSP.
On Friday, according to the complaint, Madni called the woman for some ritual to his house in Deoband and asked her to come alone. “The woman alleged that she was administered a sedative and then raped. We have lodged an FIR under IPC Section 376 (rape) against the accused,” added the SSP.

London attacker former teacher in Saudi Arabia: Report

Published in Saudi Arab
Saturday, 25 March 2017 12:57

The man who carried out a deadly car ramming and stabbing attack near the UK Houses of Parliament was a former English teacher working at the institution controlling Saudi Arabia’s civil aviation, a report says.

Citing a copy of Khalid Masood’s CV, Britain’s The Sun daily made the revelation in a report published on Friday.

Masood, who reportedly received his first conviction in 1983 at the age of 19, was found guilty in a string of other criminal cases until 2003, a year before he gained a TESOL certificate that allowed him to take up teaching positions in the Saudi city of Yanbu in 2005 and subsequently at Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) in Jeddah.

Five months after his return to the UK in spring 2009, he started working as a “senior English teacher” at a TEFL college in Luton.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s embassy in London has confirmed that the London terror attacker was in the Middle Eastern country three times.

Khalid Masood taught English in Saudi Arabia from November 2005 to November 2006 and again from April 2008 to April 2009, said a Saudi embassy statement released late Friday.

The embassy also said in a statement on its Twitter account on Friday that during his time in the Arab country, “Masood did not appear on the security services' radar and does not have a criminal record in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia."

The UN has called on Iran, Russia and Turkey to convene a fresh round of peace talks between Damascus and opposition groups in Astana, Kazakhstan, to bring the situation on the ground under control amid increasing militant attempts to break into the heart of the Syrian capital in defiance of a countrywide truce.

The United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura was speaking Friday on the sidelines of the fifth round of Syria peace talks in the Swiss city of Geneva.

“Hence our expectations and the strong suggestion to the guarantors of the Astana process are that they do retake situation in hand, and that hopefully there will be new Astana meeting as soon as possible in order to control the situation, which at the moment is worrisome,” he said.
Since the beginning of this year, Iran, Russia and Turkey have mediated three rounds of peace negotiations between the Syrian government and opposition groups in Astana.

The first round, which took place in January, brought together representatives from the Damascus government and opposition groups for the first time during six years of conflict, paving the way for the resumption of the stalled UN-led negotiations on the Syria crisis.

The trio have agreed on the establishment of a mechanism to support the truce, underlined the importance of maintaining the national sovereignty of Syria, and stressed that there was no military solution to the conflict in the Arab country.

US charges Lebanese businessman with hezbollah links

Published in Lebonan
Saturday, 25 March 2017 12:38

US authorities have charged a Lebanese businessman with dodging sanctions imposed against him over his alleged financial support to the Hezbollah resistance movement, the Department of Justice has announced.

The Justice Department said in a statement that Kassim Tajideen pleaded not guilty in a federal court in Washington, DC, on Friday.

The 62-year-old billionaire businessman will remain in prison until his next hearing, which is scheduled to be held in the coming week, according to the statement.

He was arrested on March 12 in Morocco after an international warrant was issued by Interpol's office in Washington, Reuters reported earlier this week.

American authorities claimed Tajideen operated a big company that did business in commodities across the Middle East and Africa. The United States Treasury Department sanctioned Tajideen in 2009, accusing him of contributed “tens of millions of dollars” to Hezbollah, leaving him shut out from banks with no legal redress.

Tajideen had rejected the accusation and said the news of sanctions in 2009 was a shock.

“I was surprised, as I’d thought America was democratic,” Tajideen said. “A friend called me at midnight to tell me, and woke me up. The next day I saw my lawyer [in Belgium], although he didn’t know exactly what it would mean.”

America’s Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) with the help of US Customs and Border Protection led a two-year investigation that resulted in Tajideen's arrest and indictment, according to the Justice Department.

Israel 'assassinates' senior Hamas official in Gaza

Published in Palestine
Saturday, 25 March 2017 12:21

"Hamas and its (military wing) hold (Israel) and its collaborators responsible for this despicable crime,” Hamas said in a statement on Friday night, hours after gunmen shot dead Mazen Fuqaha.
Israel “knows that the blood of fighters is not spilled in vain and Hamas will know how to act," the statement added.

An Interior Ministry spokesman in the Gaza Strip said Fuqaha, 38, was killed in the enclave’s Tell al-Hama neighborhood, and that an investigation had been launched in to the incident.

Khalil al-Haya, Hamas's deputy chief in the Gaza Strip, also said only Israel would benefit from the death of Fuqaha, who was released along with over 1,000 other Palestinian inmates in a 2011 prison swap deal with Israel.

"This assassination does not serve anybody but the occupiers (Israel); it is of no interest to the other parties," Haya said.

Izzat al-Rishq, another senior Hamas official, said the assassins used silencers when they shot Fuqaha in the head.

An Israeli military spokesperson declined to comment on the shooting in the Palestinian coastal sliver.

Thousands of Palestinians are expected to attend the slain Hamas official’s funeral ceremony on Saturday.

UN deeply concerned over US-led airstrikes on Mosul

Published in Iraq
Saturday, 25 March 2017 11:54

The United Nations has expressed deep concerns over reports that more than 200 people lost their lives in two airstrikes by the US-led coalition purportedly fighting the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul earlier this week.

“The United Nations is profoundly concerned by the reports yesterday of a high number of civilian casualties in al-Jadida in Iraq, a densely populated neighborhood in Mosul. Initial reports indicate hundreds of casualties,” Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the UN Secretary General, told a press conference on Friday.

Haq added that Lise Grande, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, is “stunned by the horrendous loss of life” in the aerial attacks.

Grande urged all parties to the operation in the embattled western Mosul, where Iraqi troops backed by pro-government fighters from Popular Mobilization Units – commonly known by their Arabic name, Hashd al-Sha’abi – are pushing hard to flush out Daesh terrorists, to refrain from “indiscriminate use of firepower” and “do everything possible to protect civilians.”

Iraq's Kurdish-language Rudaw television network reported late on Thursday that 237 people had been killed in US-led coalition airstrikes on a Daesh-held neighborhood in western Mosul.

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