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Liwa Fatemiyoun fighters during the Palmyra offensive (December 2016). Wikimedia Commons

In its search for a way to counter the radical core of the Taliban, which threatens to fill the power vacuum left by departing US and NATO troops, India may find that many of its interests coincide with that of the Fatemiyoun militia an Iran backed group that has operated in the badlands of Syria and Iraq.

Who are the Fatemiyoun militia and how can they be important to India?

The Fatemiyoun militia or the Fatemiyoun division is a rabidly anti-ISIS force, which has mainly cut its teeth in Syria. In turn, it has played an important role in preventing the Islamic State or Daesh from establishing their Caliphate in Syria, with Raqqa as its capital.

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The Afghan Hazara community in exile, who have been trained with cutting-edge precision by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) of Iran form the Fatemiyoun militia’s core.

An opinion piece in Tolo News, an Afghan media outlet, reveals that the Fatemiyoun Division, also known as Liwa-e-Fatemiyoun, has been active in Syria since 2013/14. Afghan refugees living in Iran are the feedstock of the force. At its peak, Fatemiyoun Division commanded around 20,000 troops. An estimated 50,000 fighters of the force were deployed during the nine-year conflict in Syria.

Liwa Fatemiyoun fighters with Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani during the Syrian Desert campaign (May–July 2017). Wikimedia Commons

With the decline in fighting in Syria and Iraq or SyRaq, a large number of the fighters now find themselves positioned in Afghanistan, especially to protect the Shia Hazara community, which had been in the crosshairs of the Taliban when it overran the country in the mid-nineties.

In an interview with Tolo news Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif advocated that if the Afghan government wants, the Fatemiyoun militia fighters can be deployed to combat Daesh anywhere in the country. “They are the best forces with a military background in the fight against Daesh. The Afghan government, if willing, can regroup them for the fight against Daesh and for the fight against terrorism and for the protection of Afghanistan security,” he observed.

Apart from the Fatemiyoun militia, the Iranians appear to have activated their sleeper cells in the Hazara community, with the flatlands of the Bamian plateau as their stronghold. For instance, on April 13, Zulfiqar Omid, a Hazara activist, and politician, announced setting up a “resistance front” in the province of Daikundi, in central Afghanistan. Close to the Iranian border with Herat in Afghanistan, veteran warlord Ismael Khan is also parading his forces in anticipation of a confrontation with the Taliban following the pullout by western troops.

ISIL tank in Raqqa. Wikimedia Commons

With Daesh as the common factor, key interests of India, the Afghan government, and the Iran-backed militia converge. Just like the Fatemiyoun division, India’s animosity towards the Pakistan-backed Daesh in Afghanistan runs deep and is intense.

India’s hostility towards the Islamic State in Afghanistan peaked after Daesh targeted a Sikh temple in Kabul in March last year. The Hindustan Times reported in the aftermath of the attack that the Afghan security forces had arrested 37 members of the so-called Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) terrorist module that had targeted a Kabul gurdwara. These arrests were made after Afghan forces caught Aslam Farooqui, the Pakistani national who led the terror group ISKP known to have strong links with Pakistan’s ISI that carries out off-the-shelf jihad at its instance.

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ISKP chief Aslam Farooqui, also known as Abdullah Orakzai, had been the former commander of the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba with direct links to the ISI.

Analysts point out that with a power vacuum likely to develop in Afghanistan, the time had arrived for India, Iran, and Russia — three countries firmly opposed to surrendering before the Taliban to start re-bonding as a trilateral grouping, as had been done in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks. “In fact, Iran could revive the axis of Iran, Russia, and India to support a second national resistance against the Taliban if Afghanistan plunges into a civil war,” says Tamim Asey, a former Afghan deputy defense minister, as quoted by Radio Free Europe. (IANS/KB)


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Indian astronomers have found an active galaxy in a very bright state with 10 times more X-ray emission than normal

Indian astronomers have found an active galaxy in a very bright state with 10 times more X-ray emission than normal, equivalent to more than 10 trillion of the sun, and located five billion light years away that could help probe how particles behave under intense gravity and acceleration to the speed of light.

It could help study the role of strong gravity and acceleration of matter in the formation, interaction and evolution of galaxies in the early universe.

Every galaxy in the universe is believed to host a supermassive black hole at its centre. In some galaxies, the black hole is actively devouring a large amount of material and shooting a jet of plasma almost at the speed of light towards us. These are called blazars.

OJ 287 belongs to a class of blazars known as BL Lacertae objects which show very rapid and large amplitude flux variations but barely discernible emission line features.

This class of sources emit in the whole electromagnetic spectrum, a rather uncommon phenomenon which requires extreme physical conditions. Hence, a study of such sources tells us about the behaviour of matter in an extreme gravitational field where it is difficult for light to escape from the vicinity of the black hole.

Astronomers at Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences, an autonomous institute of the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, have been monitoring one such black hole system named 'OJ 287' since 2015. This source shows a repeated optical brightness enhancement almost every 12 years.

"The repeated optical enhancement makes OJ 287 very intriguing as this class of sources does not show any repeating features in flux variations. The repeated optical enhancement made the researchers believe that the system hosts a binary black hole," said a release from the Ministry of Science and Technology.

In 2020, the source was very bright at optical and X-ray bands with X-ray flux more than 10 times the normal (non-active phase) flux. This flare was very different as it was not expected in models proposed for this source and thus, indicated a more complex system and physical conditions.

Investigating the extreme brightness shown by OJ 287 at optical and X-ray bands, astronomers led by Pankaj Kushwaha and Alok C. Gupta reported the source in a completely new spectral state.

The team argued that this change of state holds clues to the researcher's quest to understand how matter behaves in very strong gravity and how it accelerates the particle to almost the speed of light -- a feat that is out of the scope of even the most advanced CERN accelerator.

The research published in 'The Astrophysical Journal' tracked the details of changes in optical to the X-ray emission spectrum of the source with time from 2017 to 2020 -- after the second brightest X-ray flare of the source. It revealed how the source gradually started to change its spectral behaviour from mid-2018 to the new spectral state in 2020.

The study included data recorded by the ground-based facility operated by Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, operated Mount Abu observing facility in near infra-red bands and the space-based NASA's satellites -- the Niels Gherel Swift satellite at optical, UV and X-rays with gamma ray data from the Fermi satellite, the release added. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: Science, NASA, Satellites, Black Hole, Gravity, India

Photo by Flickr

Tospread awareness about the significance of reading, Rachna Kalra, who hails from Gurugram (Haryana), started the Silent Book Club in the year 2019.

Who doesn't like reading, and that, too, reading along the company of mother nature? Well, this book club is truly a fantasy turned to reality.

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Ninety-eight per cent of Indian travellers say they want to stay in a sustainable accommodation in the coming year.

A Travel Sustainable badge, provides highly coveted information to travellers all over the world looking to make more sustainable travel choices. has launched the Travel Sustainable Badge, a first of its kind in the industry, designed to be applicable to a wide range of property types, from apartments, B&Bs, and vacation homes to hotels, resorts, and even treehouses, and adaptable to local realities and considerations.

Ninety-eight per cent of Indian travellers say they want to stay in a sustainable accommodation in the coming year, and with more than 28 million listings on, the company sees a huge opportunity to highlight more of the impactful efforts its partners are making to create more sustainable experiences, making it easier for travellers to find a sustainable way to stay.

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