Sudan opposition calls for 'uprising’ in cities, towns

                             KHARTOUM (AA) – Sudanese opposition parties and professional associations on Friday called for a weeklong “uprising” next week in towns and cities across the country to demand the resignation of President Omar al-Bashir.</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>In a joint statement, the Nidaa al-Sudan Coalition, the Forces of National Consensus, the Sudanese Professional Association, and the Assembly of Opposition Unionists called for weeklong demonstrations -- starting Sunday – “in Khartoum and other cities and towns”.</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>The statement went on to urge the Sudanese people to continue demonstrating “until this regime is overthrown”.</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>Sudan has been rocked by protests since mid-December, with demonstrators decrying the government’s seeming inability to rein in rampant inflation and acute commodity shortages.</p>  <p><br>

On Wednesday, police announced the launch of investigations after three protesters were killed in Omdurman, Sudan’s second largest city.

The authorities say that a total of 22 people have been killed in the unrest so far, while opposition groups put the number at more than 40.

Bangladesh: PM Hasina wins violence-marred elections

                     By SM Najmus Sakib</p>    <p>DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) - Bangladesh premier Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League party won parliamentary elections on Sunday after opposition rejected the polls, according to unofficial results. </p>    <p>The unofficial results reported by local TV networks shows that the ruling party-led alliance won 281 out of 299 seats securing a third consecutive victory for Hasina, who has been governing the country since 2008. </p>    <p>Out of the 293 results announced, Hasin’s Awami League got 259 seats and its ally Jatya Party secured 22 seats in the national parliament while the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) won only 6 seats. </p>    <p>To form a government in Bangladesh, a party needs 151 seats in the 350-seat parliament. 300 members of the parliament are elected directly by popular vote while 50 seats are reserved for women. </p>    <p>Following the day-long voting, the BNP-led main opposition alliance rejected the elections, claiming nationwide vote-rigging, a charge the government denies. </p>    <p>In a statement hours after the polls closed, Kamal Hossain, head of the opposition National Alliance (Jatiyo Oikyafront), told reporters the election was a “mockery” and demanded the commission cancel it.</p>  <p>Hossain said their candidates in 100 out of 298 constituencies across the country pulled out the election, citing various irregularities, including vote-rigging and capturing of polling stations by ruling Awami League party members and supporters.</p>  <p>Over 50 candidates of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, all 25 candidates of its ally Jamaat-e-Islami party, and some other independent candidates were among those who boycotted the election, citing mass vote-stuffing and a “controlled election” allegedly by the government.</p>  <p>Some other small opposition parties, including the Islami Andolan Bangladesh and left-leaning Ganosamhati Andolon, also boycotted the election in the middle of the day-long voting.</p>  <p>Voting officially ended at 4 p.m. local time (1000GMT), amid deadly clashes across the country which left at least 17 dead and more than 60 injured.</p>  <p>The election commission and ruling party rejected the vote-rigging and election violence reports, saying the elections were mostly peaceful, fair, and non-violent nationwide.</p>  <p> 

Sudan detains opposition figures amid calls to protest

            <p>KHARTOUM (AA) - At least 13 opposition figures were arrested on Friday amid renewed calls for popular protests against the country’s worsening economic situation, Sudan’s opposition National Consensus Forces (NCF) has said.</p>  <p>The spate of detentions comes in advance of expected calls by the NCF for the unification of Sudanese opposition groups against the regime of President Omar al-Bashir, the NCF said in a statement.</p>  <p>An umbrella group of various opposition parties, the NCF includes the Sudanese Communist Party and the Baath Party, among others.</p>  <p>Meanwhile, calls have mounted to hold countrywide demonstrations following Friday prayers.</p>  <p>On Thursday, Khartoum announced that at least 19 people had been killed in Sudan -- and more than 400 injured -- since protests erupted on Dec. 19.</p> 

Syrian opposition reinforces front line with YPG/PPK

            By Omer Koparan 

AZAZ, Syria (AA) – The Syrian armed opposition in the Euphrates Shield Operation area has sent military reinforcements to the front line along with YPG/PKK-held area in eastern Syria, according to an opposition official on Monday.

The Hamza Division, which is a member of the Turkey-backed Free Syria Army (FSA), dispatched fighters and armored vehicles to the border line between YPG/PKK-occupied areas and regime-held areas, Abu Yazan, an FSA commanding officer, told Anadolu Agency.

He said the troops will take up important tasks during a highly anticipated Turkish military operation in the northern city of Manbij.

“Our units headed out to contact regions occupied by YPG/PKK terrorists,” Yazan said.

He warned civilians to stay away from YPG/PKK occupied areas.

“We will liberate Manbij by sweeping away terrorists from the area,” he said.

Syrian opposition ready to support Turkish operation

By Esref Musa and Omer Koparan

IDLIB, Syria (AA) – The Syrian military opposition has vowed support for a planned Turkish military operation against the YPG/PKK terrorist group east of the Euphrates River.

Spokesman Ayman al-Asimi said the Syrian opposition was ready to fight against YPG/PKK terrorists who occupy regions east of the Euphrates.

"The [planned Turkish] military operation east of the Euphrates is a continuation of the Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch Operations, which brought safety and stability to the Syrian people,” he said in a statement on social media.

“It is an operation that will maintain the integrity of Syria," he stressed.

Al-Asimi said the YPG/PKK terrorist group was a “source of international terrorist threat” that blocked efforts to reach a political solution to the conflict in Syria.

He went on to call on the international community to take side with the Syrian opposition and Turkey against the terrorist group.

On Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that within days Turkey would launch an operation in Syria, east of the Euphrates, near Turkey’s borders, to clear the region of YPG/PKK terrorists.

That operation would follow two successful Turkish operations since 2016 to foil the formation of a “terror corridor” along Turkey’s border.

In a message to the Syrian Free Army and National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (SMDK), U.S. officials have warned the Syrian opposition against backing the Turkish operation.

"Any participation by the Syrian National Coalition or the Free Syrian Army in any way is an attack on the United States and the Coalition Forces, and it will lead to direct confrontation with Coalition Forces and the United States of America. That will fully destroy the relations between the United States and the Syrian National Coalition and the Free Army," read the message.

"When elephants dance, you must stay away from the dance floor," the U.S. officials said.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU — has been responsible for the deaths of some 40,000 people, including women and children. The YPG is its Syrian branch.

*Ali Murat Alhas contributed to this story from Ankara.

Syria opposition hails Turkish efforts on Idlib deal

By Muhammed Shekh Yusuf and Adham Kako

ISTANBUL (AA) – Nasr Hariri, the head of the opposition Syrian Negotiation Commission (SNC), has hailed Turkish efforts for maintaining the Sochi ceasefire deal on the northwestern Idlib province.

In exclusive statements to Anadolu Agency, Hariri said the Sochi deal has remained standing thanks to Turkey’s efforts.

After a Sept. 17 meeting in Sochi between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, the two sides agreed to set up a demilitarized zone — in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited — in Syria’s Idlib province.

According to the terms of the deal, opposition groups in Idlib will remain in areas in which they are already present, while Russia and Turkey will conduct joint patrols in the area with a view to preventing a resumption of fighting.

Hariri believes that the Sochi deal was an important tool for pressuring the regime and its allies.

"This deal prevented Russia, the regime and Iranians [militia] from fully capturing the Syrian soil by military force and moving away from reaching a political solution," he said.

“With Turkey’s support, the Sochi deal that protects the lives of civilians in Idlib remains standing,” Hariri said.

“While combating terrorist organizations in the region, Turkey also supports a political solution," he said.

  • Political solution

Hariri said negotiations aiming to resolve the 8-year conflict in Syria have so far been fruitless.

"The failure to form a constitutional committee is because Russia is trying to eliminate the UN role,” according to the SNC leader.

"Russia, the Assad regime and allies are trying to undermine the UN role for reaching a political solution,” he said. “By agreeing to engage in dialogue is an attempt by them to cover up the crimes committed by the regime.”

Hariri said Russia has rejected the UN list of nominees, who would have worked with representatives of the regime and opposition to draft a new constitution in Syria.

The chief opposition negotiator said the Syrian opposition is seeking to reach a political solution to the Syrian conflict under the UN umbrella.

Referring to U.S. envoy James Jeffrey's statements, in which he said it was time to "pull the plug" of Astana talks, Hariri said:

"Astana meetings are not an alternative to the Geneva talks, nobody said these meetings were an alternative to Geneva talks.”

“[The Syrian crisis] can't be resolved without an agreement between Russia and the U.S.," he said.

  • YPG/PYD/PKK terrorists

Hariri reiterated his support for the Turkish position on the YPG/PYD/PKK terrorist group.

"PYD is an armed militia group that attempts to achieve its goals through brutal force,” he said.

“They have committed numerous rights violations, massacres, tortures and forced migration of civilians,” he added.

Hariri said the Syrian opposition would not accept the presence of foreign powers that would pose a threat towards neighbors.

Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011 when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.

Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million others displaced, according to UN officials.

*Ali Murat Alhas contributed to this story from Ankara.

UPDATE – Pakistan: Opposition leader arrested in corruption case

UPDATES WITH STATEMENT BY FORMER PM NAWAZ SHARIF, HAMZA SHEHBAZ

By Aamir Latif

KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) – Pakistan’s main opposition leader and three-time chief minister of the country’s largest Punjab province was arrested on Friday by anti-corruption authorities, officials confirmed.

Shehbaz Sharif, the younger brother of three-time Premier Nawaz Sharif, was taken into custody by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in the northeastern city of Lahore in connection with a housing scam, a NAB spokesman told reporters.

Shehbaz, also head of the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) party, is accused of granting illegal contracts to his favorites for the construction of low-cost houses for the poor and middle-class in Punjab — the country’s political power base, and a stronghold of the PML(N).

He will appear in an accountability court on Saturday, the NAB said.

Shehbaz’s arrest came days after the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) warned PML(N) leaders of their arrests and other legal actions.

Quoting unnamed officials, local broadcaster Geo TV reported that Shehbaz had been summoned by NAB officials for investigation but was taken into custody after he allegedly was unable to “satisfy” a three-member investigation team.

Shehbaz's elder Nawaz Sharif has already been disqualified for life, and given a 10-year jail term in a corruption case. However, Islamabad's High Court last month suspended the jail term, and granted bail to the former three-time premier.

Reacting to the arrest, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told reporters in the capital Islamabad: “This is the first step. You will see more arrests in the future with the passage of the accountability process.”

– 'Political victimization'

The PML(N), for its part, rebutted the corruption allegations, calling the arrest “political vendetta” — a contention also supported by several local media outlets and independent analysts.

In a statement, the three-time premier said the PTI government was responsible for the vendetta.

He warned that those who have unleashed this reign of victimization against their political opponents should be ready for the same.

"You better go to that length which you can bear when you are in opposition," Sharif was quoted as saying by Geo News, a local broadcaster.

Hamza Shehbaz, son of Shehbaz Sharif and opposition leader in Punjab assembly, dubbed his father's arrest as a result of "NAB-Niazi nexus", in a reference to Prime Minister Imran Khan whose surname is Niazi.

Established by former military ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf in 2000, the NAB has often been accused of targeting anti-government politicians.

A rare meeting last month between Prime Minister Imran Khan and NAB Chairman Javed Iqbal also raised eyebrows as the first-time premier is also facing an NAB probe over allegedly illegal use of government helicopters.

“The government is taking such steps to rig the forthcoming by-elections,” Rana Sanaullah, a senior parliamentarian and PML(N) leader, told reporters.

“There is neither merit nor any proof in this case. This is mere political victimization,” he said.

The Center-left Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) also condemned Shehbaz’s arrest.

“There should be a court trial instead of media trial. The fashion in which Shehbaz has been arrested is tantamount to humiliating the entire parliament,” said Khursheed Shah, a PPP parliamentarian and former opposition leader.

Several senior bureaucrats have already been arrested by the NAB in the case.

UPDATE – Pakistan: Opposition leader arrested in corruption case

ADDS COMMENTS BY OPPOSITION LEADERS, ANALYSIS, CORRECTS DETAILS OF CHARGES IN PARAGRAPH 3

By Aamir Latif

KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) – Pakistan’s main opposition leader and three-time chief minister of the country’s largest Punjab province was arrested on Friday by anti-corruption authorities, officials confirmed.

Shehbaz Sharif, the younger brother of three-time Premier Nawaz Sharif, was taken into custody by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in the northeastern city of Lahore in connection with a housing scam, a NAB spokesman told reporters.

Shehbaz, also head of the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) party, is accused of granting illegal contracts to his favorites for the construction of low-cost houses for the poor and middle-class in Punjab — the country’s political power base, and a stronghold of the PML(N).

He will appear in an accountability court on Saturday, the NAB said.

Shehbaz’s arrest came days after the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) warned PML(N) leaders of their arrests and other legal actions.

Quoting unnamed officials, local broadcaster Geo TV reported that Shehbaz had been summoned by NAB officials for investigation but was taken into custody after he allegedly was unable to “satisfy” a three-member investigation team.

Shehbaz's elder Nawaz Sharif has already been disqualified for life, and given a 10-year jail term in a corruption case. However, Islamabad's High Court last month suspended the jail term, and granted bail to the former three-time premier.

Reacting to the arrest, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told reporters in the capital Islamabad: “This is the first step. You will see more arrests in the future with the passage of the accountability process.”

– 'Political victimization'

The PML(N), for its part, rebutted the corruption allegations, calling the arrest “political victimization” — a contention also supported by several local media outlets and independent analysts.

Established by former military ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf in 2000, the NAB has often been accused of targeting anti-government politicians.

A rare meeting last month between Prime Minister Imran Khan and NAB Chairman Javed Iqbal also raised eyebrows as the first-time premier is also facing an NAB probe over allegedly illegal use of government helicopters.

“The government is taking such steps to rig the forthcoming by-elections,” Rana Sanaullah, a senior parliamentarian and PML(N) leader, told reporters.

“There is neither merit nor any proof in this case. This is mere political victimization,” he said.

The Center-left Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) also condemned Shehbaz’s arrest.

“There should be a court trial instead of media trial. The fashion in which Shehbaz has been arrested is tantamount to humiliating the entire parliament,” said Khursheed Shah, a PPP parliamentarian and former opposition leader.

Several senior bureaucrats have already been arrested by the NAB in the case.

Syrian opposition welcomes Turkey-Russia deal on Idlib

By Omer Koparan and Burak Karacaoglu

IDLIB, Syria (AA) – The largest armed opposition group in Syria, the National Liberation Front (NLF), announced its support to the agreement between Turkey and Russia regarding northwestern Idlib province.

In a written statement issued via their social media accounts, the NLF said: "We thank the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his hard efforts and persistent work on preventing this war."

Underscoring that the outcome of the Sochi discussions was an "obvious victory for the Turkish diplomacy", the statement further added that the group "will not give up on its goal to overthrow [Bashar al-]Assad regime."

"We announce our full cooperation with the Turkish ally in their efforts […] We will be also aware and cautious for any treachery by the Russians, the [Assad] regime and the Iranians," the statement said.

On Monday, Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin agreed in in Russia's coastal city of Sochi to establish a demilitarized zone in Idlib.

Ankara and Moscow signed a memorandum of understanding calling for the stabilization of the situation in Idlib's de-escalation zone.

Located near the Turkish border, Idlib is home to more than 3 million Syrians, many of whom fled to other cities following attacks by Assad regime forces.

Last month, the regime announced plans to launch a major military offensive in Idlib, which is controlled by various armed opposition groups.

But, the UN warned that such an offensive would lead to the "worst humanitarian catastrophe in the 21st century".

INFOGRAPHICS – Moderate opposition in Syria's Idlib braces for attack

By Selen Temizer, Burak Karacaoglu and Esref Musa

IDLIB, Syria (AA) – As the world braces for the Assad regime to attack Idlib, Syria’s last opposition stronghold, more than 70,000 fighters remain determined to defend the city.

Moderate Syrian opposition groups are the main force now controlling Idlib. And it is these groups that plan to defend the city against a looming attack by the regime and its allies.

The moderate opposition, along with the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham group, currently share control of Idlib’s de-escalation zone, in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

Last month, 14 moderate opposition factions unified under a single umbrella group dubbed the National Liberation Front (NLF).

The new group includes factions of the Sham Legion; the Jaysh al-Nasr; the Free Idlib Army; the First Coast Division; the Second Coast Division; the First Division; the Second Army; the Elite Army; the Martyrs of Daraya al-Salam; the Hourya Brigade; Brigade 23; the Syrian Liberation Front; the Jaysh al-Ahrar; and the Suqour al-Sham Brigades.

The NLF, which maintains a presence in Idlib and Hama provinces and can field some 70,000 fighters, constitutes the primary force fighting the Assad regime.

An Anadolu Agency correspondent based in the region said the Syrian opposition had reinforced its positions — on all fronts — in anticipation of an expected regime assault.

Apart from the opposition, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, another powerful force in the region, was drawn up from about 25,000 fighters after the Nusra Front was disbanded last year.

Recent months have seen the group’s ranks shrink as a several factions operating under its umbrella disbanded.

Several thousand of these fighters later formed a new group dubbed “Guardians of the Religion”, which is known to be affiliated with al-Qaeda.

Since Sept. 1, at least 30 civilians have been killed in Idlib and Hama — and dozens injured — by airstrikes and attacks by regime and Russian warplanes, according to the White Helmets civil defense agency.

The Syrian regime recently announced plans to launch a major military offensive in Idlib, which remains under the control of various armed opposition groups.

Last week, the UN warned that such an offensive would likely lead to the “worst humanitarian catastrophe of the 21st century”.