Nigeria: 22 students killed in road mishap in Kano

– Incident takes place in northwestern Kano state
By Rafiu Ajakaye

LAGOS, Nigeria (AA) – At least 22 students were killed in a road mishap in Nigeria’s northwestern Kano state‎ on Tuesday, police said. Students were from Government Secondary School Misau in Bauchi State.

“A bus carrying school students collided with a truck that resulted in the deaths of 22 students, who were going on excursion,” Kano police spokesman Musa Magaji Majiya told Anadolu Agency by phone.

He said some other persons also sustained injuries in the accident.

Majiya quoted eyewitnesses as saying that both vehicles were dodging a pothole on the road when they collided.

Public Relations Officer of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) Kano State Command, Kabir Daura, said the accident occurred at Tsaida village in Gaya local government area of Kano state at about 11am,

Among the 22 dead students are 12 boys and 10 girls, whose bodies had been deposited at General Hospital Gaya.

 Others sustained injuries.

Locals said the incident has raised tension in the area but the police spokesman said security operatives were already deployed to maintain order.

Road mishaps are routine on Nigerian roads, blamed on poor road infrastructure and excessive speed by drivers.

Additional news by The Muslim News.

[Map of Nigeria by CIA on Public Domain]

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UN warns of escalating violence in Yemen

By Fatih Erel


GENEVA (AA): The UN human rights chief on Monday warned about the escalating violence and the increasing civilian casualties in Yemen, where nearly 6,000 civilians have been killed in the three-year conflict.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement on Monday that the conflict in the city of Taizz in particular was “not just escalating but inescapable” for the civilians there.

“The upsurge in fighting in the south-western Governorate of Taizz is of particular concern. Civilians are under fire on all sides, as Houthi and affiliated forces carry out sniper attacks and indiscriminate shelling, and the Saudi-led Coalition continues to conduct airstrikes,” he said.

Twenty-seven people were killed and 76 injured in Yemen between Feb. 1 and 8, more than double the confirmed number of civilian casualties from the previous week, Hussein warned.

“The actual figures are likely to be higher. Most of the casualties were attributed almost equally to the warring parties 48 to the Coalition, and 51 to the Houthi forces. Two were killed by drones, one by Al Qaeda, and in one case the perpetrator is unknown,” he added.

Since March 2015, 5,974 civilians have been killed and 9,493 civilians injured, the UN human rights office noted.

Yemeni Nobel Peace laureate Tawakkol Karman has called for an end to what she says is a military occupation of her country by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in an exclusive interview with the Reuters news agency.

An outspoken rights advocate and activist with Yemenâs Islah party, Karman won the prize in 2011 after camping out in a tent for months in pro-democracy protests that eventually forced Yemen’s longtime leader Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down.

A Saudi-led military coalition joined the Yemen conflict after Houthi rebels seized much of the country in late 2014 and eventually drove the government into exile in Saudi Arabia.

“The Saudi-Emirati occupation … betrayed the Yemenis and sold them out, exploiting the coup of the Houthi militia backed by Iran on the legitimate government, to exercise an ugly occupation and greater influence”, Karman told Reuters by phone in an interview from her base in Istanbul, Turkey.

Additional report from Reuters

[Archive Photo: Saudi-led bombing of vocational high school at Badan district of Ibb, Yemen on 14 August 2016. Photographer: Adel Alsharaee/AA]

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Netherlands: Mosque comes under attack in Drachten town

By Abdullah Asiran


DRACHTEN, Netherlands (AA): A mosque in northern Drachten town has come under an arson attack, according to the manager of Islamic Center Drachten Foundation on Sunday.

The mosque, visited mostly by Moroccan-origin people, is operated by the foundation.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, foundation manager Khalid Bennaceur said: “Community members who came to pray in the morning said they smelled turpentine inside the mosque.

“Later, when we came for noon prayer, we realized that there were burn marks on the wall and windows had been broken at the back side of the mosque.”

The attack took place at around 4 a.m. (0300 GMT).

He added that a person was seen breaking the back window of the mosque and running away after the fire.

Police have begun an investigation into the incident, he added

[Map of The Netherlands by Alphathon/Creative Commons]

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Palestine: Israel tortures 60 pct of detained Palestinian minors

By Amjad al-Nabhan


RAMALLAH (AA): Sixty percent of Palestinian children detained at Israeli prisons get subjected to physical and psychological torture, Palestinian Society Prisoners Club said Sunday.

In a statement, the nongovernmental organization said minors were being exposed to “physical and psychological torture through several ways, including detention during late hours of the night and by beatings.”

Minors were also being subjected to “threats and confessions were being extracted from them under duress; they are kept for hours without food or drink and are subjected to interrogation for long periods; they also face direct insults and obscene words thrown at them.”

The statement included three testimonies from three children who were being held at the Ofer Prison in the West Bank.

Mustafa al-Badan, 17, Faisal al-Shaer, 16, and Ahmed al-Shalalda, 15, said in their testimonies that they were abused during detention and interrogation at the hands of Israeli officials.

Israel currently has around 6,500 Palestinian prisoners, including 350 children.

[Archive Photo:  Hundreds of Palestinians march demanding release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails in Bethlehem on 17 April 2017. Photographer: Mamoun Wazwaz/AA]

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Lebanon to report Israel’s airspace violation at UN

By Furkan Guldemir


BEIRUT, Lebanon (AA): Lebanon on Saturday decided to file a complaint against Israel at the UN Security Council for violating the country’s airspace, according to the country’s presidency. Israel has been violating Lebanese airspace regularly for years.The UN Security Council has taken no action against Israel in the past.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun spoke to Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri over the phone about Israel’s violation of Lebanese airspace during its air operation in Syria, a presidential statement said.

The statement also said the Defense Ministry and Presidency of General Staff submitted reports on Israel’s violations to the Presidency; Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil is expected to raise the issue at the UN Security Council.

Later on Saturday, fragments of rockets, which Israel had used in airstrikes in Syria, landed on the Lebanese territory, according to an Anadolu Agency correspondent on the ground. [See Photograph]

Some fragments landed in the rural area of Ser Ain town of eastern Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley. Shrapnel pieces also reportedly landed in Ali en-Nahri town.

No casualties were reported.

Earlier on Saturday, Israeli army shot down allegedly  an Iranian drone launched from Syria and struck a number of Iranian targets in the war-torn country, according to the Israeli military.

Iran has rejected as “ridiculous” claims by Israeli that it had intercepted an Iranian drone launched from Syria, stressing the Islamic Republic’s military advisory presence in the Arab country is at the request of Syria’s “constitutional and legitimate” government.

“Claims about the flight of an Iranian drone … are too ridiculous to be addressed because the Islamic Republic of Iran has advisory presence in Syria at the request of the country’s legitimate and constitutional government,” Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said on Saturday.

Later the Israeli military said an Israeli fighter aircraft crashed in northern Israel following a raid in Syria.

One of the pilots, the army said, had been seriously wounded as a result of an emergency evacuation from his F-16 jet that came under Syrian fire.

Additional report by The Muslim News

[Photo:  A tailpiece of a rocket, belonging to an Israeli fighter jet, which was shot down as it was carrying out airstrikes in Syria, is seen in Kaukaba village of the Hasbaya District of southern Lebanon’s Nabatieh Governorate on February 10, 2018. Photograph: Ali Abdo/AA]

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India: Militants storm into Indian Army camp in Kashmir

By Zahid Rafiq


SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir, India, (AA): Militants on Saturday stormed into an army camp in Indian-held Jammu Kashmir, killing at least two soldiers and wounding six others, local media and police sources said.

A gun-battle continues as Indian Army brings in heavy reinforcements. The government has issued an alert in the entire region.

Indian media reported three or four militants entered the heavily fortified Sunjwan Army camp in Jammu area of the disputed region at 5 a.m. local time (2330GMT Friday).

The militants entered the army officer’s family quarters and an operation is underway, the reports said, adding that soldiers including an officer had been killed.

Sources in the police confirmed the death of two soldiers and said that at least six others have been wounded.

The attack comes a day after the occupied valley observed the fifth death anniversary of Afzal Guru, who was hanged by Indian authorities for an alleged attack on the parliament.

Indian officials are not yet officially commenting on the ongoing gunfight.

âI don’t feel it is fit to comment on it since the operation is still underway. But be assured that our forces and personnel are doing their duty,” Home Minister Rajnath Singh told reporters in New Delhi, according to local media.

Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.

The two countries have fought three wars — in 1948, 1965 and 1971 — since they were partitioned in 1947, two of which were fought over Kashmir.

Also in Siachen glacier in northern Kashmir, Indian and Pakistani troops have fought intermittently since 1984. A cease-fire came into effect in 2003.

Kashmiri resistance groups in Jammu Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or for unification with neighboring Pakistan.

More than 70,000 people have reportedly been killed in the conflict since 1989. India maintains more than half a million troops in the disputed region.

[Archive Photo: Paramilitary soldiers in Pampore near Srinagar on 21 February 2016. Photographer: Faisal Khan/AA]

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Weekly Report on Israeli Human Rights violations in Occupied Palestinian Territory (1-7 Feb)

Gaza, (The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights):


Weekly Report On Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (01- 07 February 2018)

Israeli forces continue systematic crimes in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt)


Two Palestinian civilians were killed in peaceful protests that did not pose any threat to the Israeli soldiers’ life.

Israeli forces killed Ahmed Jarar in a crime of extra-judicial execution.

75 Palestinian civilians, including 17 children, were wounded in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

43 of them were hit with live bullets, 27 were hit with rubber bullets, and 5 were hit with tear gas canisters.

Israeli forces conducted 74 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank andŇ similar ones into Jerusalem.

103 civilians, including 18 children and a woman, were arrested.

20 of them, including 6 children, were arrested in Jerusalem.

Two sheds for grazing sheep were demolished during Israeli forces’ military campaigns in Jenin.

Israeli warplanes targeted a training site in the southern Gaza Strip, but no casualties were reported.

15 shooting incidents targeting the Palestinian fishing boats off the Gaza Strip Shore, but no casualties were reported.

Israeli authorities continued their settlement activities in the West Bank.

An under-construction house was demolished in Nablus and 4 tents were uprooted and confiscated in Tubas.

Settlers caused damage to 5 cars and wounded 2 Palestinian civilians.

Israeli authorities continued to create a Jewish majority in occupied East Jerusalem.

A house was demolished in Silwan village and classrooms in Abu Nawar Bedouin Community.

Israeli forces turned the West Bank into cantons and continued to impose the illegal closure on the Gaza Strip for the 11th consecutive year.

Dozens of temporary checkpoints were established in the West Bank and others were re-established to obstruct the movement of Palestinian civilians.

6 Palestinian civilians, including 4 children, were arrested at the checkpoints in the West Bank.



During the reporting period, Israeli forces killed 3 Palestinians in the West Bank; 2 of them were killed in peaceful protests while the third was killed in a new crime of extra-judicial execution.

The Israeli forces also wounded 75 Palestinian civilians, including 17 children, in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Forty three of them were hit with live bullets, 27 were hit with rubber bullets and 5 were hit with tear gas canisters

In the Gaza Strip as well, the Israeli forces continued to chase Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Sea, target border areas and carry out airstrikes against military sites belonging to the Palestinian Armed Groups.

In the West Bank, in a peaceful protest that did not pose any threat to the soldiers’ life, on Saturday, 03 February񎧢, Israeli forces killed an 18-year-old Palestinian civilian and wounded 7 others, including 4 children. This happened when Israeli forces moved into Burqin village, west of Jenin, as part of their on-going military operation, which started on 18 January 2018, to search for Ahmed Naser Jarar (22). Ahmed is accused of killing an Israeli Rabbi on 09 January 2018 near “Hafat Gilead” settlement, southwest of Nablus. During the aforementioned operation, the Israeli forces demolished 2 sheds built of tin plates and bricks on an area of 260 square meters and used for grazing sheep. Those 2 sheds belonged to Mustafa and Hasan ‘Atiq.

On Tuesday, 06 February 2018, in a peaceful protest that did not pose any threat to the soldiers€™ life, Israeli forces killed a Palestinian civilian in Nablus and wounded 19 others, including 5 children. Ten of them were hit with live bullets, 8 civilians were hit with rubber bullets, and one civilian was hit with a tear gas canister to the face. Doctors in the city hospitals classified the injuries of 4 civilians as serious. This crime was committed when the SIraeli forces moved into the city and surrounded houses belonging to ‘Asif Family to arrest ‘Abdel Karim âAasi (19) who is accused of killing Rabbi Itmar Bin Gal near “Arayel” settlement, north of Salfit, on 05 February 2018. Meanwhile, dozens of Palestinian youngsters and children gathered to throw stones and empty bottles at the soldiers. The clashes continued until the early dawn.

In a new crime of extra-judicial execution, on Tuesday early morning, 06 February 2018, Israeli forces killed Ahmed Jarar after surrounding an abandoned building where he was fortified in al-Yamoun village, west of Jenin, north of the occupied West Bank. PCHR’s investigations and official statements by Israeli leaders and security services indicate presence of the elements of extra-judicial execution crime. Israeli forces accused Ahmed of killing Rabbi Raziel Shevah near “Havat Gilad” settlement outpost, west of Nablus on 09 January 2018, was killed. Since 18 January 2018, Jenin, its refugee camp and villages were exposed to Israeli wide-scale military campaigns to search for Ahmed Jarar.

On 02 February 썢, two Palestinian civilians were hit with live bullets when Israeli forces moved into al-Murihah village, west of Ya’bud, southwest of Jenin, to disperse a disputd between two Palestinian young men. Thus, the soldiers randomly opened fire at those present in the scene.

On 05 February 2018, a Palestinian child was hit with a bullet to the thigh when Israeli forces moved into Burqin village, west of Jenin, and a number of Palestinian children and youngsters gathered to throw stones and empty bottles at the soldiers.

On 06 February 2018, a 22-year-old Palestinian was hit with a rubber bullet to the right leg when the Israeli forces moved into Qalqiliyah amidst Israeli random firing of rubber- bullets, sound bombs and tear gas canisters.

During the reporting period, the West Bank witnessed protests against the U.S. President’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. During the protests, the Israeli forces used force against the protesters, and the shooting to disperse the protests resulted in the injury of 30 civilians, including 7 children. Twenty were hit with live bullets, 8 were hit with rubber bullets and one was directly hit with a tear gas canister to the body.

In the Gaza Strip, the border areas with Israel witnessed protests against the U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the U.S. Embassy to it. During the protests, the Israeli forces used force against the protestors. Due to opening fire to disperse the protests, 15 Palestinian civilians were wounded, including 3 children. Thirteen civilians were hit with live bullets, one directly with a tear gas canister and one with a rubber-coated metal bullet.

As part of targeting fishermen in the sea, PCHR monitored that the Israeli forces escalated their attacks against fishermen in the Gaza Sea, indicating to the ongoing Israeli policy of targeting their livelihoods. During the reporting period, Israeli gunboats chased Palestinian fishing boats and opened fire at them in 15 shooting incidents, including 10 in Western Soudaniyah Area, west of Jabalia, 4 shooting incidents northwest of Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, and one incident off Deir al-Balah Shore in the central Gaza Strip.

As part of airstrikes, on 02 February 2018, Israeli warplanes launched 4 missiles at a training site belonging to al-Qassam Brigades of Hamas Movement, northwest of Rafah City in the southern Gaza Strip. As a result, the site sustained lot of damage, but no casualties were reported.


During the reporting period, Israeli forces conducted at least 74 military incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank while they conducted 7 incursions into Jerusalem and its suburbs. During those incursions, Israeli forces arrested at least 74 Palestinians, including 12 children and a woman, in the West Bank. Twenty of them, including 6 children, were arrested in Jerusalem and its suburbs. Those incursions happened in light of the cold weather as the Israeli soldiers forced children, women and elderly people to stay outside their houses for hours or locked families in one room preventing them to move in addition to other acts of harassment and use of police dogs in house raids. During the reporting period, PCHR’s fieldworkers documented that Israeli forces raided a house in al-Kafir village, southeast of Jenin, and a police dog attacked a civilian and his wife.

Efforts to create A Jewish Majority in occupied East Jerusalem:

As part of demolitions in favour of the settlement projects, On 04 February 2018, Israeli bulldozers demolished a building consists of 2 rooms used as a primary school by Abu Nawar Bedouin Community residents near “Ma’aleh Adumim” settlement established in al-‘Izariyia village lands, east of the city. It should be noted that around 27 students were studying in the demolished school. it should be noted that Abu Nawar Community is located in area classified A1, which is in the envy of Israeli forces to seize considering it a strategic area that connects the northern and southern West Bank and that’s why it is Geopolitically vital.

On 07 February 2018, Israeli bulldozers demolioshed a house belonging to the family of ‘Ali Mahmoud Hmeidat in ‘Ein al-Lawzeh neighbourhood in Silwan village, south of Jerusalem’s Old City, under the pretext of non-licensing. The house was built in 2006 on an area of 140 square meters and comprised of 3 rooms, living room, kitchen and bathrooms. The abovementioned civilian, his wife and 6 children lived in the house.

Settlement activities, Demolitions, and Settlers’ Attacks against Palestinian civilians and their Property:

As part of house demolitions, on 01 February 2018, Israeli forces demolished in al-Hemarah Area, east of Beit Dajen village, east of Nablus, an under-construction house comprised of one floor and built on an area of 100 square meters under the pretext of non-licensing. The house belongs to Diyab Hussain ‘Ali Rajeh, from Balatah Camp, east of Nablus.

On 05 February 2018, Israeli forces leveled and confiscated a 500–meter water pipeline, which feeds 100 dunums planted with watermelon in ‘Ain al-Sakout area in the Northern Jordan Valley, east of Tubas. On the same day, Israeli forces uprooted and confiscated 4 tents for grazing sheep and 20 fodders in the Kherbet Um al-Jamal area near the abovementioned area.

As part of siraeli settlers’ attacks against Palestintina civilians and their property, on 01 February 20Dz, a group of Israeli settlers from “Yitzhar” Settlement established in the northern side of ‘Oreef village lands, south of Nablus, placed rocks on a road connecting between ‘Oreef and ‘Asirah al-Qabaliyia villages. The Israeli settlers also set ambushes for Palestinians between olive trees to throw stones at their vehicles. As a result, ‘Abdel Rahman Shahada’s car sustained damage.

On 03 February 2018, a group of Israeli settlers from “Beit Ayin” settlement established on Palestinian civilians lands, northwest of Beit Ummer, north of Hebron, attacked a number of farmers with stones in their lands in Khelit al-Kutlah area and insulted them. They also attacked shepherds in the vicinity of Qawawis village, east of Yata, south of Hebron, with stones. As a result, the farmers and shepherds were forced to leave both areas.

On 05 February 2018, following the killing of an Israeli settler near Arail” settlement in Salfit, dozens of Israeli settlers gathered along Hawarah-Za’tarah Streets and “Yitzhar” bypass road, south of Nablus. The Israeli settlers carried out riots in the area and threw stones at Palestinian civilians™ vehicles. As a result, the windshield of a car belonging to Khaled Khandaqji (55), who was driving back from Nablus, sustained damage.

On the same day, Israeli settlers threw stones at Palestinian civilians’ vehicles. As a result, a stone hit a vehicle carrying 3 Palestinian civilians from Balatah Camp, east of Nablus. One of the passengers was hit with a stone to the head and then taken via an Israeli ambulance to Benslon Hospital in Israel.

On 06 February 2018, a group of Israeli settlers gathered in the vicinity of Hawarah checkpoint, south of Nablus. They also threw stones at Palestinian civilians’ vehicles. As a result, a car’s windshield belonging to Bassam Mahmoud €˜As’ous was broken.

[Palestine: Palestinian refugees protest against U.S. move to cut funding for the Palestinian Authority (PA) and UN refugee agency UNRWA in front of the Cabinet Building in Ramallah, West Bank on January 30, 2018. Photographer: Issam Rimawi/AA]


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US: US-led coalition attacks Syrian Govt forces east of Euphrates

By Safvan Allahverdi


WASHINGTON (AA): Syrian pro-Govt forces Wednesday attacked the terrorist PYD/PKK-led SDF on the east of the Euphrates River deconfliction line in Syria, the Pentagon announced Thursday.

â€Syrian pro-regime forces moved in a battalion-sized unit formation, supported by artillery, tanks, multiple-launch rocket systems,” Pentagon Spokesperson Dana White told reporters in a press briefing, claiming that “20 to 30” artillery and tank rounds landed within 500 meters of the SDF (PYD/PKK) headquarters location.

White said that SDF, supported by the coalition, responded to the pro-regime forces with a combination of air and artillery strikes, and the action was taken as “self-defense”.

“Pro-regime vehicles and personnel, who were turned around and headed back west, were not targeted,” she said, noting that the U.S. does not seek a conflict with the Bashar al-Assad regime.

“Any action that takes away from our ongoing operations to defeat ISIS is a distraction,†she added.

The U.S. media reported that more than ጤ pro-Syrian Govt soldiers were killed during the attack. However, White did not provide any detail about the casualties.

Additionally, she said Coalition officials alerted Russian officials of the SDF presence via the deconfliction line in advance of the attack and the deconfliction process served its purpose.

€œCoalition officials were in regular communication with Russian counterparts before, during and after the attack,” she continued. “Russian officials assured coalition officials they would not engage coalition forces in the vicinity.”

Forces of the US-led “international coalition” have targeted popular forces that were fighting Daesh (ISIS) terrorists and Qasad groups in Deir Ezzor countryside in an attempt to support terrorism, reported Syrian news agency SANA.

SANA’s reporter in Deir Ezzor said that forces of the US-led coalition on Wednesday midnight attacked popular forces that were fighting Daesh terrorist organization and Qasad groups between the villages of Khsham and al-Tabyia in Deir Ezzor northeastern countryside, leaving scores of persons killed and others injured.

During the attack, one SDF soldier was wounded, and there were no coalition casualties, according to White.

Russian Defense Ministry said, “The coalition forces’ aggression showed once again that the real objective of the illegal presence of the US forces in Syria is not actually fighting against Daesh (ISIS) rather it is to seize and take over the economic assets that belong to the Syrian Arab Republic.”

The U.S. has long resisted Turkish criticisms of its support for the SDF, led by the terrorist PYD/PKK, contending that the group is a “reliable ally” in its fight against Daesh.

Turkey has pointed to the PYD/PKK as the Syrian offshoot of the terrorist PKK, that has taken 40,000 lives in a 30-year terrorist campaign in Turkey.

Additional report by The Muslim News

[Archive Photo: US-led coalition war crafts seen attacking Daesh near Turkmen-Barik village of Cobanbey in Jarabulus, Aleppo on 2 October 2016. Photographer: Huseyin Nasir/AA]

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Bulgaria: Bulgarian Govt blocks restoration of historical mosques

By Ihvan Radoykov


SOFIA, Bulgaria (AA): A total of 27 Ottoman-era mosques in Bulgaria are awaiting restoration, as their minarets, walls and doors have either collapsed or suffered considerable damage.

But local Muslim authorities complain that Bulgarian officials are not allowing restoration due to the mosques no longer having minarets, leading them to be declared “historic sites.”

Bulgaria has a number of mosques, historical Turkish baths (hamams), and other historical remains needing restoration.

Due to their being surrounded by archaeological sites, some of the mosques have been declared “historic sites,” impeding their restoration and use by worshippers, according to the Grand Mufti’s Office in Bulgaria.

The office said they have been pressing ahead legally for restoration of the mosques for many years.

Included on the list are the Fatih Mehmed Mosque, located in the western city of Kyustendil, the Karaca Pasha Mosque in the southern town of Gotze Delchev, and the Ibrahim Pasha Mosque in the town of Razgrad.

Bureaucratic hurdles

Mustafa Izbishtali, the mufti of Sofia, told Anadolu Agency that the mosques’ maintenance is growing more difficult due to bureaucratic hurdles.

Officials have blocked restoration of the Fatih Sultan Mehmed Mosque in Kyustendil, built in 1531, for 30 years, said Izbishtali.

“The lead plating on the dome of the mosque was stolen years ago and sold to scrap collectors. The highly valuable rugs in the mosques also vanished after being stolen and sold,” he said.

œThe city administration is making all efforts to wipe away the remains of Muslims in Kyustendil. They’re waiting for the mosque’s minaret to collapse by keeping it shut. The Kyustendil Municipality wants to wash away the traces of Islam.”

Izbishtali said the mentality of the authorities can be summed up as, œIf it has a minaret it’s a mosque, if not then it€™s a museum, adding that out of at least 11 Ottoman mosques in the city of Kyustendil alone, there are only two mosques open for worship and two others closed to worship.

He said he hoped Turkey would help promote the cause of restoration.

“President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has shown very well how to protect places of worship regardless of which faith it belongs to. The restoration of the Sveti Stefan Church [St. Stephen or Iron Church] in Istanbul is a great example of this,” he said. “If Erdogan doesn’t support this [restoration] then no one will.”

Common cultural heritage

Underlining that mosques in cities such as Kyustendil and Razgrad are a common cultural heritage, the mufti urged Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov to support their restoration.

Izbishtali said the mosques must be restored to be places of worship, not museums, just like the historic Bulgarian church in Istanbul.

Some 4,000 Muslims living near the Greek border in the city of Gotze Delchev are forced to pray at a mosque with a capacity for just 100 people or just outside its walls, according to local clerics.

The Karaca Pasha Mosque, built in the 1400s and left to decay after its dome collapsed in 2011, is also the target for periodic racist attacks.

Aydin Muhammed, the mufti of Blagoevgrad, told Anadolu Agency that the local mosque was closed for worship after the officials claimed there were archeological remains nearby.

Muhammed said: “All governments must protect historical structures regardless of whether they’re Roman, ancient Greek, or Ottoman. Every historical stone has a separate value.”

Underlining that mosques are not only part of Bulgaria but also the entire European Union, he said: “For instance, the Blue Mosque in Turkey doesn’t only belong to Turkey but all Muslims. Similarly, Bulgaria’s Ottoman-era Karaca Pasha Mosque doesn’t only belong to the country but is part of the joint heritage of the entire European Union.â€

He said the EU is not a Christian club and called on all people living in EU states to protect mosques like Karaca Pasha.

Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007, and is its current term president.

Muhammed added that the Muslim community is ready to restore the mosque through their own means and called on politicians to clear bureaucratic hurdles and approach the issue more realistically.

[Photo: Mosque in Chernoochene village, Bulgaria. Photographer:Vassia Atanassova, Spiritiaolder. Public Domain License]

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UN concerned over mounting civilian deaths in Syria

By Safvan Allahverdi


WASHINGTON (AA): The UN expressed grave concern Wednesday over the rising number of civilian deaths in Syria amid the country’s ongoing civil war.

Speaking at a daily press briefing, UN Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq said intense airstrikes and shelling on the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta have reportedly killed dozens of civilians and injured many more over the last 48 hours.

Eastern Ghouta has been under siege for five years and the Bashar al-Assad regime has intensified its onslaught of the city in the past eight months.

Humanitarian access has been completely cut off to its 400,000 residents, making it nearly impossible for food or medicine to get into the district and leaving thousands of patients in need of treatment.

Haq said the UN is also concerned for the safety and protection of two million people living in the city of Idlib, where airstrikes and shelling continue to be reported daily, resulting in civilian deaths and injuries as well as the destruction of civilian infrastructure.

“In the past three days, the UN has received reports of airstrikes across Idlib that resulted in civilian deaths and injuries and damaged medical facilities, schools and other civilian infrastructure,” Haq noted, adding that over 1,2Ǡ schools remain closed due to the ongoing hostilities, impacting thousands of students in the city.

Haq also called for the cessation of hostilities in Idlib, Eastern Ghouta, Afrin and Raqqah for humanitarian access and medical evacuation.

In addition, the UN Security Council (UNSC) is expected to convene sometime to discuss the humanitarian situation in Syria, especially in Eastern Ghouta, on the request of Sweden and Kuwait, who will chair the UNSC for February.

Located in northern Syria near the Turkish border, Idlib province was declared a de-escalation zone according to a cease-fire agreement last May reached in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana.

The Syrian Government, however, has repeatedly violated the deal and has targeted residential areas in opposition-held no-tension zones like Idlib.

Controlled by anti-Government armed groups, the province has been under intense airstrikes for the past two months.

In January alone, 211 civilians were killed and 1,447 wounded.

Syria has been locked in a devastating civil war since March 2011, when the Assad Government cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.

While UN officials say hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict, Government officials say the death toll is closer to 10,000.

[Photo:  Smoke rises after Assad Government carried out land and airstrikes over Duma district of the Eastern Ghouta region of Damascus in Syria on February 07, 2018. Photographer: Ammar Sab/AA]

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