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Al Jazeera journalists’ trial adjourned for tenth time

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Cairo: An Egyptian court on Sunday adjourned a long-running trial of three Al Jazeera journalists for the tenth time.

The court in Cairo said a verdict in the case would now be delivered on August 29, Al Jazeera reported.

Egyptian Baher Mohamed, Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and Australian Peter Greste were found guilty in June 2014 of aiding the Muslim Brotherhood, which was outlawed in Egypt after the army overthrew president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

Greste and Fahmy received seven years jail term, while Mohamed was given 10 years.

After the announcement that the trial had once again been adjourned, Greste described the situation as “frustrating as hell”.

“Verdict postponed until August 29th The audacity and continuous disrespect to our rights is unprecedented! #FreeAJStaff,” Fahmy tweeted.

Greste has already been deported to Australia under a law allowing the transfer of foreigners on trial to their home countries but he is still being retried in absentia. Fahmy and Mohamed were freed on bail in February after spending more than 400 days in detention.

Fahmy has renounced his Egyptian nationality hoping he too would be deported.

 

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Snapchat blocks Al Jazeera in Saudi Arabia

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Social media platform Snapchat has blocked access to Al Jazeera content in Saudi Arabia
Image: IANS

Riyadh, Sep 18 (IANS) Social media platform Snapchat has blocked access to Al Jazeera content in Saudi Arabia, the media reported on Monday.

The popular photo-sharing app said it was asked by the Saudi authorities to remove the Qatari-backed broadcaster’s Discover Publisher Channel because it violated local laws, reports the BBC.

“We make an effort to comply with local laws in the countries where we operate,” a Snapchat spokesperson said in a statement.

Qatar is in an ongoing dispute with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The four countries cut ties with Qatar earlier this year, accusing the country of supporting terrorism.

After the start of the dispute, Saudi Arabia had also demanded the Qatari government to shut Al Jazeera altogether as one of 13 conditions to remove sanctions against the country.

However, those conditions were later withdrawn. (IANS)

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Islamic State loses territory in Iraq and Syria, Al-Qaida seizes the Opportunity

Islamic State militants lose territory in Iraq and Syria, after being eclipsed for 15 years Al-Qaida seizes the opportunity by leveraging ISIS loses into their gains

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Islamic State. Pixabay

August 04, 2017: As Islamic State militants continue to lose territory in their declared caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria, officials and analysts are expressing concern that al-Qaida is making efforts to turn those losses into gains by itself.

Al-Qaida had been largely eclipsed by IS in recent years, with IS militants grabbing headlines by seizing territory in Iraq and Syria and carrying out attacks in the West. But there are signs that al-Qaida may be reemerging as a regional power.

“Al-Qaida in Syria is using opportunities to seize additional safe havens, to integrate itself into parts of the local population, parts of other forces, and bumping into other forces as well,” said Joshua Geltzer, a former senior director for counterterrorism at the U.S National Security Council.

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Tahrir al-Sham, an offshoot al-Qaida group originally known as the al-Nusra Front, has recently emerged as the most powerful Sunni insurgent faction in Syria after consolidating its control over most of the northwestern province of Idlib.

“Idlib now is a huge problem. It is an al-Qaida safe haven right on the border of Turkey,” Brett McGurk, special presidential envoy for the U.S.-led global coalition to counter IS, said at the Middle East Institute in Washington on Thursday.

McGurk blamed the flow of weapons and foreign fighters into Syria for al-Qaida’s gradual strengthening in Syria.

Measures under way

McGurk added that the U.S.-led coalition intended to work with Turkey to seal the northern Syrian border to prevent more recruits from joining al-Qaida affiliates in the region.

Hailing the progress of the Iraqi forces and the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, McGurk said the coalition’s priority was defeating IS. But now that priority also includes ensuring that foreign fighters do not leave the region to cause trouble elsewhere.

“We do not want any foreign fighters getting out of Iraq and Syria,” he said during a panel discussion at the Middle East Institute on the Trump administration’s counterterrorism policy.

Experts warn that as IS-controlled territory shrinks, the terror group’s foreign fighters will inevitably be drawn to al-Qaida.

“You may see on a local level al-Qaida affiliates being opportunistic and pulling in ISIS units who kind of feel lost,” Charles Lister, a Syria analyst at the Middle East Institute said, using another acronym for IS. “They [IS militants] don’t have the same kind of grandeur, they don’t have the same powerful leadership, and they don’t have the same powerful brand that they had before.”

Also Read: Al-Qaida Confirms Death of Senior Leader in Syria due to U.S.-led coalition drone strike

IS-al-Qaida alliance?

Led by Jordanian jihadist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, IS was founded as an offshoot of al-Qaida in Iraq in 2004. But as IS gained influence in Iraq and Syria in 2014, the terror group split from al-Qaida, and the two groups engaged in acrimonious and at times bloody competition over the leadership of the jihadist cause. For years, IS has been siphoning off followers of al-Qaida. That trend seems to have begun to reverse.

Iraq’s Vice President Ayad Allawi told Reuters in April that he had information from Iraqi and regional contacts that “the discussion has started now” concerning a “possible alliance” between the two terror groups.

Referring to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, Allawi said, “There are discussions and dialogues between messengers representing Baghdadi and representing Zawahiri.”

While some analysts raise concerns about the possibility of IS and al-Qaida joining hands, others like Charles Lister of the Middle East Institute downplay it, arguing that an ultimate rapprochement between the two groups is unlikely, given the history of animosity and their fundamental differences on “global jihad.”

Lister, however, highlighted that al-Qaida could take an opportunistic approach to draw IS members into its ranks as the terror group faces defeats on several fronts in Iraq and Syria.

Lister said Hamza bin Laden, son of Osama bin Laden, who has recently appeared as a new face of al-Qaida leadership, has been trying to ease tensions with IS in an effort to encourage the merger of IS fighters into al-Qaida.

“Hamza has very purposely, I think, not spoken out against ISIS in all of his recent statements,” Lister said.

Al-Qaida in a blind spot

Experts warn that as the U.S-led coalition is cracking down on IS-controlled territory in Iraq and Syria, it should not allow al-Qaida to move to other areas and operate at ease. They say the group is trying to gain the sympathy of the local Syrian population by showing itself as a moderate alternative to Islamic State.

“We continue to underestimate al-Qaida,” said Jennifer Cafarella, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank. “While al-Qaida in Syria is currently not actively attacking abroad, they have built an army. It has consolidated control in Idlib, and is preparing to do the same underneath the U.S.-Russian cease-fire deal in Daraa to expand that model of first destroying the moderate opposition and then begin installation of al-Qaida governance to transform population over time.”

She said the strategy of the U.S.-led coalition after removing IS from Iraq and Syria needs to shift to the reconstruction of infrastructure destroyed because of war, and that should be coupled with addressing the grievances of Sunni residents who feel marginalized by Iran-backed Shi’ite militias.

“This is a very long war and we haven’t won it yet. These tactical successes are important but can be temporary if we do not set adequate conditions, which is much more than a military requirement,” Cafarella said. (VOA)

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Abducted Al Jazeera photographers freed in Libya

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Tripoli: Two Libyan photographers for Qatari TV channel Al Jazeera were see on Monday, after they were abducted on Sunday by an armed group in the Libyan city of Salahuddin near et fr-Tripoli.

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“We were kidnapped on Sunday by a group of three armed men, a few minutes after leaving the channel’s headquarters in Tripoli,” one of the two photographers told EFE. According to the freed hostages, the abductors stopped them in their car, and then took them to an unknown location. “The kidnappers asked us about our role in the channel and how the work of Al Jazeera develops in Libya,” the photographer explained, noting that they were beaten when they refused to answer questions.

“We were accused of being secret agents of Qatar,” he added. “The assailants told us that they do not want the presence of Al Jazeera in Libya and demanded we leave the channel because it was, in their opinion, behind the fall of the Libyan regime,” the second photographer told EFE. Abductions and murders have been frequent in Libya since the end of 2011, when the Muammar Gaddafi regime was toppled.

(IANS)