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ISIS looks at Bangladesh as a platform to capture India and Myanmar

ISIS has expressed several times that Hindu India is at its radar for attack and conversion

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ISIS looks at Bangladesh as a launching pad to attack India.

April 15, 2016: The Islamic State (IS or ISIS) militant group says it wants to use Bangladesh as a launching pad to gain a foothold in neighboring Hindu-majority India and Buddhist-dominated Myanmar.

The plan was revealed by the alleged chief of ISIS in Bangladesh, named as Sheikh Abu Ibrahim al-Hanif, in an interview with the IS mouthpiece magazine, Dabiq.

Bangladesh

It was immediately dismissed by Bangladesh’s Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan, who insisted that IS has no presence in his country and that the South Asian nation would never allow IS to use it as a base to expand its influence in the region.

The IS had claimed responsibility for a series of killings and attacks of bloggers, writers, foreigners and non-Sunni Muslim minorities.

Khan said however that some local militants had been using the “IS brand to add value to their names.”

‘Stepping-Stone’

In his interview, al-Hanif said that Bangladesh was “an important region” for the IS and its “global jihad” due to its “strategic geographic position.”

“[Bangladesh] is located on the eastern side of India, whereas the [Pakistan-Afghanistan region] is located on its western side,” he noted.

He said an ISIS base in Bangladesh “will facilitate performing guerrilla attacks inside India simultaneously from both sides.”

“Also, jihad in [Bangladesh] is a stepping-stone for jihad in Burma [Myanmar].”

Commenting on the report, Minister Khan said Bangladesh “will in no way allow the people with alien ideology [to] develop bases here to attack other countries; that will not happen.”

“I want to say unambiguously that IS has no presence in Bangladesh,” he told reporters. “May be a handful of [local] people may subscribe to the IS views.”

Bangladesh media gave wide coverage of al-Hanif’s interview.

This is second time the IS magazine featured the group’s strategy in Bangladesh. Late last year, it published a five-page report detailing its expansion plan in the Muslim-majority nation.

“This time an elaborate plan about Bangladesh has been written; this is significant,” Syed Mahfuzul Haque Marzan, a teacher of criminology at Dhaka University, told BenarNews.

The IS threat, he warned, should not be taken “lightly in any way,” calling for “more in-depth investigation.”

A former senior Bangladesh military officer, Air Commander Ishfaq Elahi Chowdhury, said IS would not be able to use the country as a staging post against India and Myanmar, citing close counterterrorism cooperation among the countries.

‘Fertile Ground’

Both IS and the terror group Al-Qaeda are competing for expansion in Bangladesh, a nation of 160 million Muslims, according to Singapore-based counterterrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna.

“IS and Al-Qaeda leaders consider Bangladesh as a fertile ground for recruitment,” said Gunaratna, a BenarNews columnist who heads the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

“Although Bangladesh has been uncompromising in its approach to fight both IS and al Qaeda, these two groups have developed a presence on Bangladesh soil. They have recently killed both Bangladeshis and foreigners.”

Indian officials were not immediately available for comment on the IS plan.

But a former Indian army officer and defense analyst, Major General Satbir Singh, told BenarNews that the government should devise “a proper defense policy with regards to terror organizations like the ISIS.”

“We need to have a secured security environment for achieving peaceful development and national integration. That environment can be achieved only if we have good, actionable intelligence and coordinated response of all security agencies together,” he said.

Akash Vashishtha in New Delhi contributed to this report. (BenarNews)

 

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UN Report on Rohingya Hunger Crisis Suspended on Order of Myanmar Government

The current crisis began on August 25 when Rohingya insurgents attacked police checkpoints on Myanmar's Rakhine state and killed 12 security personnel.

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Rohingya refugees collect aid supplies including food and medicine, sent from Malaysia, at Kutupalang Unregistered Refugee Camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, Feb. 15, 2017, VOA

United Nations, October 17, 2017: The UN food aid agency withdrew a critical report revealing desperate hunger among the Rohingya Muslim minority after the Myanmar government ordered it to be taken down, the media reported on Tuesday.

The July assessment by the World Food Programme (WFP) warned that more than 80,000 children under the age of five were “wasting” – a potentially fatal condition of rapid weight loss, reports the Guardian.

The six-page document has since been replaced with a statement saying Myanmar and WFP were “collaborating on a revised version”.

That process would involve “representatives from various ministries, and will respond to the need for a common approach” that was in line with “WFP’s future cooperation with the government”.

When asked why the July report was removed, the WFP said it was withdrawn from the website “following a request by the government to conduct a joint review”, the Guardian reported.

In a statement, the agency said: “The WFP stands by its original assessment, which was conducted jointly with local authorities in Rakhine state… However WFP recognises that in a dynamic and evolving situation, it is important to coordinate closely with all partners, including the government.”

Meanwhile, the UN’s most senior official in the country is scheduled to leave at the end of the month amid allegations she suppressed another report and also attempted to shut down public advocacy on Rohingya suffering.

The current crisis began on August 25 when Rohingya insurgents attacked police checkpoints on Myanmar’s Rakhine state and killed 12 security personnel.

It resulted in over half a million Rohingya fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh, many alleging that the Myanmar Army conducted a counter-offensive that included mass killings and rapes.(IANS)

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Syrian Militia: End Is Near for Islamic State in Raqqa

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Smoke rises near the stadium where the Islamic State militants are holed up after an airstrike by coalition forces at the frontline, in Raqqa, Syria. voa

Islamic State is on the verge of defeat in Syria’s Raqqa and the city may finally be cleared of the jihadists Saturday or Sunday, the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia told Reuters Saturday.

The U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State said around 100 of the jihadist group’s fighters had surrendered in Raqqa in the last 24 hours and had been “removed from the city,” but it still expected difficult fighting “in the days ahead.”

It did not say how the fighters had been removed or where the fighters had been taken.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said remaining Islamic State fighters were being transported out of Raqqa by bus under a deal between Islamic State, the U.S.-led coalition and the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is dominated by the YPG. There was no immediate comment on that report from the coalition or the SDF.

Fighting since June

Civilians who escaped from Islamic State
Civilians who escaped from Islamic State militants rest at a mosque in Raqqa, Syria. voa

The SDF, backed by coalition airstrikes and special forces, has been battling since June to oust Islamic State from Raqqa city, formerly its de facto capital in Syria and a base of operations where it planned attacks against the West.

The final defeat of Islamic State at Raqqa will be a major milestone in efforts to roll back the group’s self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq, where earlier this year the group was driven from the city of Mosul.

“The battles are continuing in Raqqa city. Daesh (Islamic State) is on the verge of being finished. Today or tomorrow the city may be liberated,” YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud told Reuters by telephone.

In emailed comments to Reuters, coalition spokesman Ryan Dillon said about 100 Islamic State fighters had surrendered in Raqqa in the last 24 hours and were “removed from the city,” without giving further details.

“We still expect difficult fighting in the days ahead and will not set a time for when we think (Islamic State) will be completely defeated in Raqqa,” he said, adding that around 85 percent of Raqqa had been liberated as of Oct. 13.

Some civilians escape

Around 1,500 civilians had been able to safely make it to SDF lines within the last week, he added.

Omar Alloush, a member of a civilian council set up to run Raqqa, told Reuters late Friday that efforts were under way to secure the release of civilians and “a possible way to expel terrorist elements from Raqqa province,” without giving further details.

An activist group that reports on Raqqa, Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, said on its Facebook page Saturday that dozens of buses had entered Raqqa city overnight, having traveled from the northern Raqqa countryside.

The Observatory said Syrian Islamic State fighters and their families had left the city, and buses had arrived to evacuate remaining foreign fighters and their families. It did not say where they would be taken.

During the more than six-year Syrian war, the arrival of buses in a conflict zone has often signaled an evacuation of combatants and civilians.

The campaign against Islamic State in Syria is now focused on its last major foothold in the country, the eastern province of Deir el-Zour, which neighbors Iraq.
Islamic State is facing separate offensives in Deir el-Zour by the SDF on one hand, and Syrian government forces supported by Iranian-backed militia and Russian airstrikes on the other. (VOA)

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India Demands Data on UN Staff Misconduct, Use of Immunity

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India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about misconduct by UN staff. Flickr

United Nations, Oct 7: In an attempt to break the wall of silence around the crimes and UN staff misconduct and those on its assignments, India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about such cases and the immunity invoked against prosecutions.

Yedla Umasankar, the legal advisor in India’s UN Mission, touched a raw nerve here by criticising the UN on Friday for not vigorously following up allegations of serious wrongdoing by its employees who enjoy the equivalent of diplomatic immunity, a prized possession of its staff.

“It appears that the UN system itself may be reluctant to waive immunity even for serious misconduct carried out by its personnel while serving on its missions, so that such cases can be prosecuted by the host governments,” he told the General Assembly’s committee on legal affairs.

“Even a few of such instances or allegations of crimes committed by UN personnel is highly damaging for the image and credibility of the United Nations system and its work around the world,” he added.

His statement also touched on the practice of some countries that protect their wrongdoers at the UN.

Umasankar demanded that secretariat disclose how many cases of serious misconduct by UN personnel were registered and the number of cases where the UN refused to waive immunity to allow their prosecution.

He also wanted to know in how many cases the host country wanted the immunity waived so it can prosecute those accused; the number of times the UN asked the host country or the country that sent them to prosecute them; how many times it consulted countries before waiver of the immunity of their personnel and how many of them refused UN’s request to waive their citizens’ immunity.

The information he wanted does not cover the diplomats sent by member countries to represent them at UN bodies and enjoy diplomatic immunity with the nations hosting the UN facilities.

After scores of serious allegations of sexual misconduct by peacekeepers, especially exploitation of children, the UN vowed to uphold a policy of zero tolerance and began publishing data on such cases in peacekeeping operations including how they were dealt with.

Starting with the year 2015, it began identifying the nationalities of those accused.

However, it has not made public a roster detailing all the allegations and proven cases of serious misconduct across the entire UN.

While the focus has been on sexual exploitation and abuse reported on peacekeeping operations, Umasankar said that “at a broader level, the issue of accountability has remained elusive in some cases”.

He attributed it to “the complexities of legal aspects relating to sovereignty and jurisdiction”, the immunity or privileges that may be necessary for UN operations, and the capability or willingness of countries to investigate and prosecute the accused.

He noted that the UN itself cannot make criminal prosecutions.

While Indian laws has provisions for dealing with crimes committed abroad by its citizens, not all countries have them, he said.

Those countries should be encouraged and helped to implement such measures, he added. (IANS)