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Suicide Bomber Strikes Outside Afghan Supreme Court

Feb. 7, 2017 :  KABUL, Afghanistan A suicide bomber on foot struck at the gates of Afghanistan’s Supreme Court in Kabul, killing 21 people and wounding 41 others, security officials said, breaking several weeks of calm in the capital. The blast targeted court employees leaving their offices for the day , said Najib Danish, a spokesman for the interior ministry. Nine of the dead were women, the health ministry said. It was the first major attack to strike Kabul in almost a month, since the group claimed a twin suicide bombing that killed 32 people near Parliament. Last year, the militants again overran the northern city of Kunduz for several days and threatened several other provincial capitals.Some 8,400 U.S. troops remain permanently stationed in Afghanistan to train and support Afghan forces and conduct independent counterterrorism operations.

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At least 45 people are killed in bombing at popular car market in Baghdad

February 16 :  BAGHDAD : A ministry spokesman said the bomb was placed in a parked car at the market in the Bayaa neighborhood, between Baghdad International Airport and the Tigris River. The Islamic State asserted responsibility in a brief statement circulated on social media. The attack was at least the third bombing in the capital in as many days, and it appeared to be aimed at diverting the government as it prepares an offensive to drive the Islamic State from the northern city of Mosul, the militants’ last major stronghold in Iraq.

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Battle for Mosul : Iraqi forces advance near key area in city’s west

Iraqi Forces Reach Key Mosul Bridge

Iraqi forces battling Islamic State militants reached a key bridge in the city of Mosul, as they pushed forward with their week-old offensive to clear IS from the western side of the city.  Officials said pro-government forces were in control of a section of what is known as the fourth bridge, or the southernmost bridge across the Tigris River. Fighting in Mosul has badly damaged or destroyed all of the bridges, and restoring access across the river will allow the army to move troops and supplies. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi congratulated the armed forces on their victories against “defeated Daesh terrorist gangs,” using an Arabic name for ISIS. “We will exert the utmost effort to rescue the civilians and protect them, provide safe corridors for their exit, receive and (transfer) them to the safe camps.” Abadi said in a statement from his media office.

The International Rescue Committee warned this part of the operation could be the “most dangerous phase” for civilians as Iraqi troops seek to secure densely populated areas amid ISIS resistance. “This will be a terrifying moment for the 750,000 people still in the west of the city, and there is a real danger that the battle will be raging around them for weeks and possibly months to come,” said Jason Kajer, the Iraq acting country director for the humanitarian group. “Everything must be done to keep civilians out of the firing line, and as Iraqi forces reach individual neighborhoods, people must be given the opportunity to escape the city safely.”Full control of Mosul airport : The airport was largely destroyed by ISIS forces since its seizure in 2014.

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Car bomb near Syria town captured from IS kills 35 people

24 Feb: A car bomb of the militant Islamic State (IS) group on a security checkpoint controlled by Turkey-backed Syrian rebels in a village near Syria’s Al-Bab has killed 35 civilians and six rebels, sources in the region said. The attack was carried out in Sousian, northwest of Al-Bab and wounded many others, the sources said. The Turkey-backed rebels on Thursday drove IS from Al-Bab, the jihadist group’s last significant stronghold in northwest Syria, along with the two smaller neighbouring towns of Qabasin and Al-Bezah, after weeks of street fighting.

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A year ago, Israel, Jordan and Egypt secretly met for peace: report

JERUSALEM: (19 Feb, 2017): Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met secretly a year ago with the leaders of Egypt and Jordan in a failed attempt by the Obama administration to convene a wider regional summit on Israeli-Palestinian peace, Israel’s Haaretz daily said.  A spokesman for Netanyahu did not respond to requests by Reuters via telephone and email to comment on the report. No immediate comment was available from Egypt or Jordan. Kerry launched his final peacemaking bid after US-backed talks between the two sides collapsed in 2014 over issues that included Israeli settlement-building in the occupied territories and Palestinian refusal to accept Israel’s demand to recognise it as a Jewish state.   Courtesy: Reuters

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Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, blind firebrand Islamist cleric has died

Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, the blind firebrand Islamist cleric behind the World Trade Center bombing in 1993, has died in federal prison, he was 78. Abdel-Rahman, an Egyptian radical who maintained a global following even while imprisoned for more than two decades, died Saturday morning at Butner Federal Medical Center in North Carolina, where he was serving a life sentence.  Known as “The Blind Sheikh,” Abdel-Rahman lost his eyesight when he was 10 months old. By the time he was 11 years old, he had memorized the Braille version of the Qur’an and was sent to an Islamic boarding school. He went on to study at Cairo University’s School of Theology and later earned a doctorate in from Al-Azhar University in Cairo. Abdel-Rahman went on to become one of the country’s most prominent and outspoken Muslim clerics to denounce Egypt’s secularism.

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Starts patrolling in disputed South China Sea

Tensions mount as Washington tests Beijing’s nerve

WASHINGTON: (Feb 18, 2017)  A US aircraft carrier strike group has begun patrolling in the disputed South China Sea despite China’s warning to America against challenging its sovereignty in the area. “We are looking forward to demonstrating those capabilities while building upon existing strong relationships with our allies, partners and friends in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region,” said Rear Adm James Kilby, commander, CSG 1. Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 1, the naval formation in its current shape established in 2009 includes Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, Destroyer Squadron 1’s Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E Meyer, and aircraft from Carrier CVW-2 includes the “Black Knights” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron, the “Blue Hawks” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron, the “Bounty Hunters” of Strike Fighter Squadron, the “Blue Blasters” of VFA-34, the “Kestrels” of VFA-137, the “Golden Dragons” of VFA-192, the “Black Eagles” of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 113, the “Gauntlets” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 136 and the “Providers” of Fleet Logistic Support Squadron.

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China finishing South China Sea buildings that could house missiles – U.S. officials

China, in an early test of U.S. President Donald Trump, has nearly finished building almost two dozen structures on artificial islands in the South China Sea that appear designed to house long-range surface-to-air missiles, two U.S. officials told Reuters. In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Wednesday he was aware of the report, though did not say if China was planning on placing missiles on the reefs. “China carrying out normal construction activities on its own territory, including deploying necessary and appropriate territorial defense facilities, is a normal right under international law for sovereign nations,” he told reporters.

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US resumes its provocative actions in sea

By:Xu Lushan :- The USS Carl Vinson Nimitz-class carrier strike group has begun patrolling the South China Sea, proving the speculation over the past few days was true. On Feb 12, the US Navy Times reported that the United States Navy was planning to dispatch warships to the South China Sea for “freedom of navigation” operations-in a move apparently meant to challenge China’s sovereignty claims over some islands and reefs in those waters. In response to the US Navy’s anticipated provocative move, Chinese Foreign Ministry reiterated China’s indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and adjacent waters. Beijing has consistently respected every country’s right to freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea in accordance with international law, but it firmly opposes any country’s attempt to undermine China’s sovereignty and security. Despite China’s strong opposition, the US Navy announced the nuclear-powered USS Carl Vinson began “routine operations in the South China Sea”. This is the first time after the inauguration of Donald Trump as US president that a US Nimitz-class carrier strike group has sailed into the South China Sea. The author is an associate professor at the PLA Navy’s Dalian Warship College.  ‘Courtesy China Daily’

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13th ECO summit Islamabad 2017

ISLAMABAD (1st March, 2017) – The 13th summit of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) has started in the Pakistani capital Islamabad  to focus on enhanced economic cooperation and regional connectivity. All the ten member states including Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan besides a special representative from China are participating in the summit.

A rousing welcome was given to president of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Iran Hassan Rouhani, Azerbaijan president Ilham Aliyev, President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon and Prime minister of Kyrgyzstan Sooronbay Jeenbekov who reached Islamabad. Minister for States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch, Minister for Defence Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal, Minister for Inter Provincial Coordination Riaz Hussain Pirzada and high officials received the dignitaries at the Noor Khan Airbase.

The theme of the 13th Summit is “Connectivity for Regional Prosperity”, which assumes special significance in the backdrop of monumental project of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The member states will focus on intra-region and inter-regions connectivity in energy, infrastructure, transport and trade sectors. The summit will also adopt Islamabad Declaration and ECO Vision 2025, approved by the council of ministers, envisaging road map for enhanced economic cooperation and connectivity.

“The Summit’s theme, Connectivity for Regional Prosperity, represents our collective vision to build ECO into a community of shared prosperity through greater economic integration and close people-to-people contact,” Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif stated in a press release. He further said: “I have firm conviction that expanded connectivity, enhanced trade and deeper economic cooperation would transform our region into a bastion of progress, prosperity and peace. ECO states are the proud custodians of the Silk Road legacy; and inspired by the Silk Road’s spirit of openness, Pakistan would be more than happy to provide ECO states connectivity through its ports.” Nawaz Sharif mentioned that the ECO region is endowed with abundant energy resources, minerals, agriculture, industry and dynamic human capital. Our common cultural and historical heritage is an even more valuable asset. Synergizing our strengths, we can soon change our region’s destiny. The way forward for us has been laid out in ECO Vision 2025 in the form of pragmatic and tangible organizational targets.

 

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