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Planning strikes since 2009, angry over bias: Key accused in IS plot

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New Delhi: The key accused in the alleged Islamic State module busted by NIA last week, Mufti Suhail, has told interrogators that he was planning “jihadist activities” since 2009 due to what he called “persecution of Muslims in India” but did not have the wherewithal to carry out attacks, sources said.

This is significant given that the Islamic State, although first set up as an Al Qaeda affiliate way back in 2006, hit international headlines only in 2014 when it seized territories in Syria and Iraq.

The 29-year-old Islamic preacher, who was arrested by NIA last week from his home in Jaffrabad, Delhi, told interrogators that he had been hurt by events such as the Babri Masjid demolition and believed that Muslims were discriminated against in the country. He has pointed this out as one of the reasons why Muslims do not get jobs in the country, sources said.

 

“Suhail is highly radicalised and justifies his actions. He said he had been motivated because Muslims suffer injustice in the country. He was earlier attracted to Al Qaeda and Taliban but could never approach any of them. With Islamic State recruiting online, he found a handler who guided him through his latest adventure,” an investigator said.

The officer said that Suhail appeared to be the most “motivated” in the group. “He alone was in touch with this online handler who guided him to carry out attacks in India. He, in turn, gathered friends and acquaintances who are in the age group of 20-30,” the officer said.

Investigators pointed out that this was unlike some other IS-affiliated groups busted by NIA in the past few years. “Most of those arrested earlier had plans to go to Syria or Iraq. Suhail’s concern, however, is largely India,” an investigator said.

According to the NIA, a few months ago, Suhail assumed the online identity of Abu Basir al Khurasani to trawl the Net for content related to Islamic State. He soon met an online entity named Abu Malik Peshawari on Facebook. In due course, NIA claimed, Peshawari convinced Suhail to carry out attacks in the name of the Islamic State and also became his guide. This handler is suspected to be in Afghanistan. Suhail hails from Amroha where his father was engaged in religious studies but he has hardly lived there. Over the past one and a half months, however, he began living in his ancestral home in the Moullan Mohalla of Amroha town. NIA sources said he moved there primarily to build his group which has several members from Amroha.

“He was looking to rent a place in the town to hold meetings and assemble bombs since he could not have done it at his ancestral home which is a joint family property,” the officer said.

After graduating in religious studies, which included a brief stint at the Deoband seminary, Suhail was teaching at various madrassas. He has told investigators that he was attracted to pan-Islamic ideologies of various groups and believed Muslims were persecuted across the globe.

“He talks at length about the Russian invasion of Afghanistan followed by the American assault. He has also expressed concern about Chechnya strife and the Palestinian struggle. He has said that the only solution to all these problems is establishing Islamic rule under Sharia law,” the officer said.


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International

Imran Khan reshuffles cabinet amidst mounting criticism over govt performance

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Islamabad: Prime Minister Imran Khan reshuffled his Cabinet amidst mounting criticism at the lackluster performance of the government.

The key ministry of interior was assigned to former ISI officer, Brig (retd) Ijaz Shah who was recently appointed as minister for parliamentary affairs.

He was a confidant of former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf. Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto reportedly named him among three people who were a threat to her life.

 

Shah was elected as a member of Parliament in last year elections.

Azam Swati, who stepped down last year as minister of science and technology for allegedly using his influence over police to register a case against a poor family, made a comeback and appointed as minister for parliamentary affairs.

Among other changes, information minister Fawad Chaudhry was made minister for science and technology and petroleum minister Ghulam Sarwar made minister for aviation.

Mohammad Mian Soomro would cease to hold portfolio of aviation and would be just the minister for privatisation. Minister of State for Interior and Shehryar Afridi was shifted and appointed as Minister of State for States and Frontier Regions.

Dr Zafarullah Mirza was appointed as Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on National Health Services in place of Amir Kiani who was sacked.

Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan was appointed as Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information and Nadeem Babar appointed as SAPM on Petroleum Division.

The Prime Minister has not appointed a new finance minister and instead planning to appoint an advisor on finance. Several names were making rounds for the key post. Those being discussed included Dr Abdul Hafiz Sheikh, Dr Hafiz Pasha and Shaukat Tareen. It is the first major reshuffle in the Cabinet since Khan became the prime minister eight months ago.

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213 died in Libya clashes, says WHO

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Washington: A total of 213 people have been killed and 1,009 others injured in the fighting between the UN-backed Libyan government and the east-based Army in and around the capital Tripoli so far, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.

“Tripoli toll is now 213 dead and 1,009 wounded. WHO medical teams continue assisting surgical staff at local hospitals,” WHO tweeted.

“Two more ambulances have been damaged. WHO calls on all parties in Libya to protect civilians, health workers and health facilities,” the agency said.

 

The Army, led by Khalifa Haftar, has been leading a military campaign since early April to take over Tripoli where the UN-backed government is based.

Libya has been struggling to make a democratic transition amid insecurity and chaos ever since the fall of former leader Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011.

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Peace talks postponed after Taliban object to size of Afghan delegation

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KABUL: A meeting between the Taliban and Afghan politicians and civil society aimed at ending more than 17 years of war in Afghanistan has been postponed, officials and diplomats said on Thursday, citing Taliban objections to the size of the Afghan delegation.
The talks were set to begin in Doha, but a senior government official in Kabul said “the gathering has been called off for now and details were being reworked.”
Afghan delegates scheduled to fly to the Qatari capital on Thursday were told the trip was postponed and new dates were being discussed, a western diplomat in Kabul said.
“The government will have to change the composition of the delegation to make this meeting happen,” the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said leaders of the hardline Islamist group were uncomfortable with the size of the Afghan delegation and its composition.
“Presence of some participants was completely against the list of what was agreed upon,” Mujahid said, adding that the delegation included Afghans working for the government.
The Taliban have repeatedly refused to meet President Ashraf Ghani’s government, which they call a puppet regime, but have held several rounds of peace talks with US officials.
Ghani said on Wednesday the 250-member Afghan delegation included some government officials attending in a personal capacity. But the group did not include some of the most powerful figures in Afghan politics, who are reluctant to join forces with Ghani ahead of presidential elections due in September.
A senior government official said Afghan-to-Afghan peace talks are in jeopardy.
The talks between Afghan and Taliban officials at the same table for the first time have been considered a significant first step towards finding a negotiated end to Afghanistan’s protracted war.
The senior official said negotiations went awry after President Ashraf Ghani opposed a list of participants announced by the Qatar government, which is sponsoring the talks. The list of 243 people was announced by Qatar on Thursday.
The list differs in part from Ghani’s list of 250 people, according to the senior government official.

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