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Authorities in Pakistan Claim Islamic State (IS) Terrorist Group’s Recruitment Cell Busted in Lahore

The detainees were recruiting young men to send them illegally to Syria via Afghanistan and Iran, the two immediate neighbors of Pakistan sharing long porous frontiers

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FILE - Pakistani suspects allegedly associated with the Islamic State group, wait to appear in an anti-terrorism court in Gujranwala, Pakistan, Dec. 29, 2015. On Thursday, authorities in Pakistan announced they captured a group of eight militants operating a recruitment cell. VOA

Authorities in Pakistan say they have captured a group of eight militants operating a recruitment cell in the country at the behest of the Syrian-based Islamic State terrorist group.

Counterterrorism forces in an overnight operation arrested the men in Lahore, the second-largest Pakistani city and capital of the populous Punjab province, said an official announcement Thursday.

It added that authorities also seized mobile phones, laptops and IS propaganda material.

IS launched its operation in the region in early 2015 after establishing bases in remote eastern border areas of Afghanistan. Click To Tweet

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The detainees were recruiting young men to send them illegally to Syria via Afghanistan and Iran, the two immediate neighbors of Pakistan sharing long porous frontiers.

FILE _ Pakistani students shout slogans against the Islamic State group holding a banner that reads "down with Islamic State rally," in Islamabad, Nov. 20, 2014. VOA
FILE _ Pakistani students shout slogans against the Islamic State group holding a banner that reads “down with Islamic State rally,” in Islamabad, Nov. 20, 2014. VOA

The counterterrorism department says the suspects have told interrogators they have already dispatched an unspecified number of fighters and were readying to send a fresh group.

Pakistani officials say that they have arrested hundreds of IS operatives from different cities within the past two years, but they insist the Middle Eastern group has no organized presence in Pakistan.

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IS claimed responsibility for last week’s bomb blast at a Sufi shrine in a remote district in Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan province. The violence left more than 50 people dead and wounded scores of others.

In late October, three IS suicide bombers raided a police training center in Quetta, the provincial capital, killing at least 60 recruits and wounding more than 100 more.

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IS launched its operation in the region in early 2015 after establishing bases in remote eastern border areas of Afghanistan.

The group calls Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of Iran as its so-called Islamic State of Khorasan Province and allegedly take orders from leaders in Syria. (VOA)

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Indian Farmers reason behind Smog in Pakistan

Smog in Pakistan has affected the health of people but also caused road accidents.

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Indian Farmers causing smog in Pakistan
Indian Farmers causing smog in Pakistan. wikimedia commons
  • Pakistani officials have said that stubble burning by Indian farmers has caused a thick blanket of smog in Punjab province which led to smog in Pakistan as well.

The officials with Environment Protection Department of Punjab province told Xinhua news agency on Saturday night that the smog is causing various diseases and the provincial government is taking measures to control the situation.

The department’s minister Zakia Shah Nawaz Khan said that the smog engulfed the province for the last two weeks, and is feared to continue for the coming week.

She added that the smoke from the Indian farms moved at a velocity of 7 to 8 km per hour towards Punjab province.

Also Read: Restrictions on Freedom of Expression: Pakistani Journalists Struggle with Growing Threats from Government and Militants alike

Local experts said that the total Air Quality Index in the provincial capital of Lahore is 357 whereas the maximum limit should be around 100, adding that if the situation was not controlled, the level is feared to exceed 500 soon.

Syed Mubashir Hussain, an official of the environment department said that the provincial government has banned stubble burning across the province and violators were being arrested.

A total of 197 First Information Reports have been filed against violators and 65 people have been arrested due to stubble burning and solid waste burning.

Some 175 pollution-causing units have been stopped. About 15,718 smoke emitting vehicles have been confiscated, and a total of 43 lakh Pakistani rupees (about $43,000) fine has been imposed, Hussain told Xinhua.

Apart from this, brick kilns using substandard fuel and running their units without emission control devices like wet scrubbers, electrostatic precipitators and fly ash arrestors have also been closed, he added.

Smog in Pakistan has not only affected the health of people but also caused road accidents. According to local media reports, at least 18 people have been killed and 45 others injured in separate fog-related accidents across the province.

Air traffic was also affected due to smog-caused low visibility. Six domestic flights from various airports have been suspended due to smog in Pakistan, spokesperson of Pakistan International Airlines said in a statement.

The Met office said that smog will disappear after rains or heavy winds, but there was no possibility of any of it in the next 48 hours.( 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)