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21-Year-Old Indian American Sentenced to Prison in Chicago for helping Islamic State (ISIS) Terror Organisation

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Indian Muslims in Kolkata are seen condemning Islamic State as an enemy of Islam and Muslims, in Kolkata, India, Dec. 5, 2015. (Photo - S. Azizur Rahman/VOA)

New York, Nov 20, 2016: An Indian American man who tried to go to Syria with his teenaged brother and sister to join the Islamic State terror organisation has been sentenced in Chicago to 40 months in prison.

Mohammed Hazra Khan, 21, became on Friday the first person of Indian origin to be convicted and sentenced in the US for Islamic State connections.

The sentencing hits the news just after the victory of Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump, who had called for intensive investigation of Muslim immigrants and, controversially, suggesting that if necessary their immigration should be stopped temporarily till a mechanism for heightened scrutiny was in place.

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Federal Judge John J. Tharp sentenced Khan, who had admitted in court last year to the charges of providing support to the Islamic State and trying to go abroad to join it, Mary B. McCord, the Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security, said in a statement.

The judge in the Northern Illinois federal court also ordered that for 20 years after his release, Khan should undergo intensive supervision that includes “violent extremism counselling” and a mental health treatment programme, she added.

Khan was arrested by anti-terrorism officers two years ago while trying to leave the US from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, she said. He was 19 years old at the time of his arrest.

Khan’s brother, who was 16 years old in 2014, and sister, who was 17, were also stopped at the airport but did not face any charges and were let go after officials questioned them.

Khan is an American citizen born here. But his family had immigrated from India and lived in the Chicago area, The Chicago Tribune reported quoting his lawyer Thomas Anthony Durkin.

In a Tribune picture taken outside the courtroom, Khan’s mother, Zarine, was seen wearing a hijab and his father, Shafi, a long beard. The newspaper said that Khan wore a skullcap inside the court.

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ABCNews reported that last year, his mother had publicly asked IS leaders to “leave our children alone” and asserted: “The venom spewed by these groups and the violence committed by them find no support in the Quran and are completely at odds with our Islamic faith.”

Durkin told the judge that Khan did not intend to wage a jihad against the US but was naive and only wanted to join an Islamic caliphate and live according to Muslim doctrine, according to the Tribune.

Tharp did not buy the argument. The Tribune reported that the judge said: “Mr. Khan set off to join and aid a terrorist organization that believes it is appropriate, indeed believes it is holy, to kill anyone who disagrees with its religious dogma.”

Tharp referred to the behaviour of the Islamic State and told Khan that “instead of a public beheading, you have been given a public trial,” ABCNews reported.

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Khan could have been sentenced to 15 years, but the prosecutors asked for only five years because he had cooperated in other prosecutions and the judge gave the even more lenient sentence of 40 months.

With the two years he spent in custody and remission for good behaviour, he would eligible to be free to join college next year, ABCNews said.

The Tribune said that according to prosecutors, Khan helped with investigations against an Islamic State fighter and recruiters and had also offered to testify against a British Islamic State recruiter, Mizanur Rahman. (IANS)

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Gurbir S Grewal nominated to be the next attorney general of New Jersey, US

Gurbir S Grewal has been nominated to be the next attorney general of US and would be the first Sikh to assume the top state law enforcement position in United States

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Gurbir S Grewal nominated to be the next attorney general of US.
Gurbir S Grewal nominated to be the next attorney general of US. Facebook
  • Gurbir S Grewal is nominated to be the next attorney general of New Jersey, US
  • He would be the first Sikh to assume the top state law enforcement position

In a historic first, a distinguished Sikh public prosecutor “who has experienced hate and intolerance first-hand” has been nominated to be the next attorney general of the US state of New Jersey.

If Gurbir S. Grewal’s nomination by Democrat Governor-elect Phil Murphy is approved by the State Senate early next year, he will be the first Sikh to assume the top state law enforcement position in the United States and the second Indian-American, after Kamala Harris, who held the position in California before her election to the US Senate.

Announcing the nomination in the state capital, Trenton, on Tuesday, Murphy said: “In light of all that is being thrown at us by the president, we need an attorney general unafraid to join our fellow states in using the law to protect all New Jersey residents.”

Grewal, 44, is the prosecutor of Bergen County, an important district across the river from New York city. He was appointed to by the current Republican Governor Chris Christie and that is likely to mute any opposition the senate.

Symbolic of the public acceptance of minorities despite scattered incidents of bigotry, two Sikhs were elected mayors last month, Ravi Bhalla in Hoboken, New Jersey, and Preet Didbal in Yuba City, California.

Vin Gopal, who became the first Indian-American to be elected to the New Jersey State Senate last month, said that Grewal is someone “not only eminently qualified, but who will bring a perspective to the office that is diverse and long-overdue.”

After Murphy made the announcement, Grewal said: “I wanted to give back to a country that has given us and other immigrant families like us so much.”

Turning to his three daughters, Kyrpa, Mayher and Mahek, who were with him, he said: “As someone who has experienced hate and intolerance first-hand throughout my life, I wanted to work to ensure we all live in and that the three of you grow up in a fair and just society.”

Grewal added: “I wanted to perhaps also show people that while I and others like me may look different or worship differently, that we, too, are committed to this country.”

Hailing Grewal’s nomination, Rajwant Singh, the co-founder of the National Sikh Campaign, said: “These are exactly the kind of role models our youngsters need to feel proud of being a Sikh and an American.”

“While America could be seen having a very polarized situation politically and yet there are some very shining moments to show that people of all backgrounds can aspire for top positions,” he added.

South Asian Bar Association President Rishi Bagga, said: “The decision to appoint a visible minority as the chief law enforcement officer for New Jersey reflects the diversity of the state and of the US, and is especially important in a time where minorities and immigrants have often felt targeted by law enforcement.”

Attorney General is a very powerful position New Jersey heading the Department of Law and Public Safety, which includes the state police.

Grewal has earlier served as an assistant federal prosecutor in New York and in New Jersey, where he was also the chief of the Economic Crimes Unit.

In the administration of former President Barack Obama, Indian Americans have held senior law positions. Neal Kumar Katyal was an Acting Solicitor General.

Sri Srinivasan, now a federal appeals court judge in Washington, did a stint as the Principal Deputy Solicitor General.

Vanita Gupta was the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General and headed the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

US President Donald Trump has appointed Uttam Dhillon to be his special assistant and associate counsel. (IANS)

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US Backtracks on Iraqi, Kurd Cease-fire Claim

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An Iraqi soldier removes a Kurdish flag from Altun Kupri
An Iraqi soldier removes a Kurdish flag from Altun Kupri on the outskirts of Irbil, Iraq. VOA

Iraq, October 27: The U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State announced Friday morning a cease-fire between Iraqi forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga in Northern Iraq but quickly backtracked on the claim, saying it is not an “official” cease-fire.

Army spokesman Ryan Dillon posted a clarification on Twitter to say “both parties (are) talking with one another,” but that a “cease-fire” had not been reached.

The Iraqi military and the Kurdish minority have been clashing for several weeks after the Iraqi troops moved to secure areas in northern Iraq that had been seized from IS jihadists by Kurdish forces. The Kurdish forces abandoned the land largely without resistance, though low-level clashes have been reported.

Iraqi PM rejects Kurdish offer

The areas Iraqi forces are moving into were mostly under Baghdad’s control in 2014, when Islamic State militants swept into the region. Kurdish Peshmerga and coalition forces recaptured the lands, and the Kurdistan Region has since held them.

The Iraqi leadership said it is retaking the areas to establish federal authority after a Kurdish referendum for independence in September threatened the nation’s unity. More than 92 percent of Kurds in Iraq voted “yes” in a vote Baghdad called illegal, and the international community leaders said was dangerous and ill-timed.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Thursday rejected an offer by Kurdish leaders to freeze the results of their independence referendum in favor of dialogue in order to avoid further conflict.

The Kurdistan Regional Government, in a statement, said the confrontations have hurt both sides and could lead to ongoing bloodshed and social unrest in Iraq.

“Certainly, continued fighting does not lead any side to victory, but it will drive the country towards disarray and chaos, affecting all aspects of life,” the KRG said.

‘Unified Iraq is the only way to go’

Abadi said in a statement his government will accept only the annulment of the referendum and respect for the constitution.

During a briefing Friday morning at the Pentagon, Joint Staff Director Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie Jr. told reporters the U.S. believes “a unified Iraq is the only way to go forward.”

He added, “We’re not helping anyone attack anyone else inside Iraq, either the Kurds or the Iraqis.”(VOA)

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Indians Missing in Mosul: V.K. Singh in Iraq to Co-ordinate Search Opertion

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V.K Singh will co-ordinate search operation for 39 Indian
V.K Singh will co-ordinate search operation for 39 Indians who went Missing in Mosul. IANS

New Delhi, October 27: After the government sought DNA samples from the next of kin of the 39 Indians Missing in Mosul, Iraq three years ago, Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh is again visiting the country to seek an update.

External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveeh Kumar said on Friday that Singh’s visit “is to talk to people”.

“He has met a range of people in Iraq. And also to get an update on the 39 missing Indians in Iraq,” Kumar said in his weekly media briefing here.

He said that on Thursday Singh was in Mosul city where the Indians went missing.

Last week, the families of the 39 Indians were asked to provide their DNA samples but no reason was provided, the kin said.

It was in June 2014 that the 39 Indians, mostly from Punjab, went missing in Mosul town when it was overrun by the Islamic State. Their families continue to hope the men are alive but also fear the worst.

Singh had visited Iraq in July too in this connection.(IANS)