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‘We don’t want war’ — Iran says On Concerns about potential conflict with US

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By — Reuters

DUBAI — Iran’s top diplomat on Saturday dismissed the possibility of war erupting in the region, saying Tehran did not want a conflict and that no country had the “illusion it can confront Iran,” the state news agency IRNA reported.
Tensions between Washington and Tehran have increased in recent days, raising concerns about a potential U.S.-Iran conflict. Earlier this week the United States pulled some diplomatic staff from its Baghdad embassy following attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf.
“There will be no war because neither do we want a war, nor has anyone the idea or illusion it can confront Iran in the region,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told IRNA before ending a visit to Beijing.
President Donald Trump has bolstered economic sanctions and built up U.S. military presence in the region, accusing Iran of threats to U.S. troops and interests. 
Tehran has described those steps as “psychological warfare” and a “political game.”
“The fact is that Trump has officially said and reiterated again that he does not want a war, but people around him are pushing for war on the pretext that they want to make America stronger against Iran,” Zarif said.
He told Reuters last month that Trump could be lured into a conflict by the likes of U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, an ardent Iran hawk.
Regional Tensions
In a sign of the heightened tension across the region, ExxonMobil evacuated foreign staff from an oilfield in neighboring Iraq after days of saber rattling between Washington and Tehran.
Elsewhere in the Gulf, Bahrain warned its citizens against traveling to Iraq or Iran due to “unstable conditions.” 
In Washington, officials urged U.S. commercial airliners flying over the waters of the Gulf and the Gulf of Oman to exercise caution.
A Norwegian insurers’ report seen by Reuters said Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards were “highly likely” to have facilitated the attacks last Sunday on four tankers including two Saudi ships off Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates.
In Tehran, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards named a new head of the force’s intelligence unit on Saturday, the Fars news agency reported.
Iranian officials have denied involvement in the tanker attacks, saying Tehran’s enemies carried them out to lay the groundwork for war against Iran.
U.S. officials, however, are concerned that Tehran may have passed naval combat expertise onto proxy forces in the region. Following the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions, a senior Iranian maritime official said Iran had adopted new tactics and new destinations in shipping its oil exports.
Iranian crude oil exports have fallen in May to 500,000 barrels per day or lower, according to tanker data and industry sources, after the United States tightened the screws on Iran’s main source of income.

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US capital locks down as security threats mount

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The center of Washington was in lockdown Thursday as more than 20,000 armed National Guard troops were mobilized following the deadly assault on the Capitol and the threat of more violence at the presidential inauguration of Joe Biden.
Police Chief Robert Contee said the US capital was facing “a major security threat” after supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol building a week ago in a violent bid to block Biden’s confirmation that left five people dead.
A day after Trump was impeached in Congress for allegedly supporting the assault, more barriers were being erected and razor wire laid as part of precautions ahead of the January 20 ceremony.
Most of downtown Washington was off-limits to traffic, drawing comparisons to Baghdad’s high-security “Green Zone.”
The Secret Service, in charge of security, was weighing an unprecedented shutdown of the entire National Mall, the grassy spread where hundreds of thousands traditionally gather to celebrate the inauguration of a new president.
Security officials are warning that armed extremist Trump supporters, possibly carrying explosives, pose a threat to Washington as well as state capitals over the coming week.
“We are seeing an extensive amount of concerning online chatter,” FBI Director Chris Wray told Vice President Mike Pence in a televised briefing.
“We’re concerned about the potential for violence at multiple protest rallies planned here in DC and state capitol buildings around the country in the days to come, that could bring armed individuals within close proximity to government buildings and officials,” he said.
– ‘Stay alert’ –
In steps not seen since after the September 11, 2001 national alerts, an internal FBI bulletin warned that an armed group planned to “storm” government offices in all 50 states to protest Biden, ABC News reported.
“The FBI received information about an identified armed group intending to travel to Washington, DC on 16 January,” the bulletin added.
The New York Times reported that the FBI has told police departments around the country to stay alert for extremist activity and pass on intelligence.
Political figures boosted their own personal security, as Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser revealed she has received death threats.
Peter Meijer, one of 10 House Republicans who voted with Democrats on Wednesday to impeach Trump for supporting “insurrection,” said he and other lawmakers were taking precautions like acquiring body armor.
“I have colleagues who are now traveling with armed escorts out of the fear for their safety,” he told MSNBC. “Our expectation is that someone may try to kill us.”
The potential threat was underscored earlier this week with the discovery that one of those arrested for taking part in the January 6 attack on the Capitol had the kind of weapons and ammunition one might use for an assassination.
-‘Stay home’-
Court documents said Cleveland Grover Meredith had two guns, one with a telescopic sight, and around 1,000 rounds.
Another man was arrested with four guns and 11 Molotov cocktails in his truck.
Police are still searching for a man who planted two pipe bombs near the Capitol on January 6.
On Tuesday police in Chicago arrested a man who weeks ago phoned in threats against Biden.
Worries were heightened when The Washington Post reported that dozens of people on an FBI terrorist watch list were in Washington for the pro-Trump rallies on January 6.
For the upcoming week Washington officials have urged people to stay home rather than celebrate the inauguration.
Downtown hotels were closing their doors, and Airbnb has canceled reservations in the days around the event.
Airlines were tightening security, with Delta announcing that legally armed travelers formerly allowed to check their guns at security would not even be allowed to do that on flights to Washington.
In several states, National Guard were also called out to prepare security for January 16-20.
Washington State, Michigan and others said they were concerned about possible far-right violence.
AFP

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Nigeria: Fulani massacre people daily but Miyetti Allah not designated a terrorist group — Kanu

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Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra – a separatist group in eastern Nigeria, has berated the Nigerian government for failing to designate Miyetti Allah as a terrorist group.

Despite the daily killings by Fulani herders, the Federal Government of Nigeria has ignored appeals from Nigerians seeking the designation of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association – a group focused on promoting the welfare of Fulani herders, as a terrorist group.
“We are in a country where the Fulani massacre people on a daily basis. They were called terrorists and later insurgents and now they are called bandits. But these are Fulani herders killing people. Nobody has ever designated Miyetti Allah as a terrorist group,” Kanu said while speaking at the ‘2nd Never Again Conference: 51 Years After Nigerian-Biafra Civil War’ organised by an Igbo think-tank, Nzuko Umunna, and monitored the Nigerian PUNCH Newspaper.
The leader of the separatist group, whose group has been designated as a terrorist group by the Nigerian government led by President Muhammadu Buhari but not accepted by the international community, further claimed that Nigeria’s oft-called unity is a deception.

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Catholic Bishop Kukah risks assassination following threats from Nigerian Muslims groups

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A Nigerian bishop of the Catholic diocese of Sokoto, Matthew Hassan Kukah, faces assassination as another Islamic group threatens him.

Bishop Kukah had received threats from Muslim groups and officials in Nigeria after a homily in which he criticized the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari whom he accused of nepotism, and also referred to the worsening insecurity in the country.
The Muslim Solidarity Forum asked the cleric to apologize for what they called “malicious vituperations against Islam and Muslims” and to vacate Sokoto immediately.
The group claims that Bishop Kukah systematically attacks Muhammadu Buhari, who is a Muslim, and other Muslims at all times.
“In February 2020, he (Kukah) shamelessly staged a demonstration in the heart of Sokoto over the killing of a single Christian priest, presumably, by the Boko Haram insurgents, but did not consider hundreds of Muslims, Fulani herders that were mercilessly killed by the Christian militia in Taraba state in 2018,” the Islamic group said in a statement by its acting chairman, Professor Isa Maishanu.
Meanwhile, well-meaning Nigerians and activists have condemned attacks by Muslim groups on Kukah, describing the order asking him to leave Sokoto as a serious threat that could lead to his assassination.
The Nigerian government has yet to release any statement regarding the new threat.

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