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Islamic World News (23 Apr 2019 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Islamic State Claims Responsibility, Sri Lanka Bomb Attacks Were Revenge for New Zealand Mosque Killings








Islamic State Claims Responsibility, Sri Lanka Bomb Attacks Were Revenge for New Zealand Mosque Killings

Bangladeshi Sacked Military Officer Sent Cash to Sri Lanka Weeks before the Attack

Malaysia Proves To Be Model of Democracy Post-GE14, Says Foreign Minister

Saudi Arabia: The Al-Zulfi Attackers Are ISIS Members

Saudi Dissident Movement Stresses Continued Resistance against Riyadh

Are Austrian Politicians Responsible For Increased Anti-Muslim Hate Crimes?

Security Tightened In Southern Indian States after Terror Attack in Sri Lanka

Israeli Troops Accused Of Shooting at Handcuffed Palestinian

 

South Asia

Islamic State Claims Responsibility, Sri Lanka Bomb Attacks Were Revenge for New Zealand Mosque Killings

Bangladeshi Sacked Military Officer Sent Cash to Sri Lanka Weeks before the Attack

Pointing a Finger at a Terrorist Group in the Aftermath of the Sri Lanka Blasts

Sri Lanka Islamic Centre Merits Probe: Officials

Afghan forces thwart militants bid to carry out a deadly car bomb attack in Kabul city

U.S. envoy for Afghan peace to travel to Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia and UK

37 militants killed in latest operations of Afghan Special Forces and in airstrikes

Sri Lanka arrests 40 suspects after bombings, toll up to 310

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Southeast Asia

Malaysia Proves To Be Model of Democracy Post-GE14, Says Foreign Minister

China says it consistently opposes unilateral US sanctions on Iran

Joko Widodo Can't Save Indonesia from Extremism

President Jokowi Condemns Sri Lanka Easter Bombings; All Indonesians in the Country Reportedly Safe

Palembang Literary Week showcases Southeast Asia’s oldest printed Quran

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Arab World

Saudi Arabia: The Al-Zulfi Attackers Are ISIS Members

Saudi Dissident Movement Stresses Continued Resistance against Riyadh

US puts up $10 mln reward for Hezbollah information

Saudi Arabia arrests 13 accused of planning terrorist attacks

ISIS claims attack in Saudi Arabia

ISIL Goes on Offensive in Homs Deserts with US-Backed Militants' Help

Iraq says over $60 million in public funds embezzled in Mosul

Saudia cabin crew remain unaccounted for after Sri Lanka attacks

Saudi Arabia arrests 13 accused of planning terrorist attacks

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Europe

Are Austrian Politicians Responsible For Increased Anti-Muslim Hate Crimes?

ISIS funder in Britain celebrated the Sri Lanka attacks

Christianity under Attack? Sri Lanka Church Bombings Stoke Far-Right Anger In The West

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India

Security Tightened In Southern Indian States after Terror Attack in Sri Lanka

10 Indians killed in Sri Lanka serial blasts, says external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj

Kashmiri separatists protest ‘ill-treatment’ of JKLF chief Yasin Malik

US ends waiver but India may continue to buy Iran oil

Foreign secretary Gokhale raises issue of Azhar's listing with China

TN outfit denies links with namesake under lens for Lanka blasts

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Mideast

Israeli Troops Accused Of Shooting at Handcuffed Palestinian

Rouhani: Iran, Pakistan to Deploy Rapid Reaction Force at Borders to Fight Terrorists

Terror groups seek to ‘contaminate’ Iran-Pakistan ties: Ayatollah Khamenei

Houthis warn Saudi Arabia, UAE: Strategic spots within reach

US Iran sanctions amount to aggression against entire world: Nasrallah

Israeli agriculture minister, settlers 'tour' al-Aqsa Mosque compound

Yemeni forces, allies shoot down three Saudi-led reconnaissance drones

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Pakistan

Pakistan Will Rein in Militant Outfits, Imran Assures Iran

Pak SC Rejects Defence Ministry Report in a Case against Former Army, ISI Chiefs

Days after Umar's departure from cabinet, Chinese ambassador praises PTI leader as 'man of integrity'

ECP seeks major changes in legal framework governing electoral processes

12 injured in Nasirabad bomb explosion

PM Imran mixes up historical facts during Iran visit

Iran, Pakistan to form joint anti-terror force: Rouhani

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Africa

Sudan Tensions Escalate After Talks with Military Break Down

Saudi, UAE Pledge $3 Billion Aid to Sudan’s New Junta amid Protests

Eastern Libyan forces to intensify Tripoli offensive

Libya's unity government accuses France of backing ‘criminal’ Haftar

Sudan’s ruling junta warns protesters against blocking roads

Libyan force slows Tripoli push over concerns for civilians

Libyan govt claims control of most of Tripoli airport

Somalia: Al-Shabaab Clashes with Somali and AU Troops in Somalia

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North America

Trump Decides Not To Reissue Iran Oil Waivers When They Expire

US military propping up Daesh in Afghanistan: Report

Sanders demands Congress to override Trump's Yemen resolution veto

US puts up $10m reward for Hezbollah information

US: Khalilzad begins trip to discuss Afghan peace

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/islamic-state-claims-responsibility,-sri-lanka-bomb-attacks-were-revenge-for-new-zealand-mosque-killings/d/118403

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Islamic State Claims Responsibility, Sri Lanka Bomb Attacks Were Revenge for New Zealand Mosque Killings

23 April 2018

Islamic State claims responsibility for Sri Lanka bombings

CAIRO (Reuters) - Islamic State has claimed responsibility for coordinated bombings in Sri Lanka which killed 321 people and injured about 500 others, the group’s AMAQ news agency said on Tuesday.

The group did not give evidence for its claim.

Reporting by Omar Fahmy; Writing by Nadine Awadalla

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

https://in.reuters.com/article/sri-lanka-blasts-claim/islamic-state-claims-responsibility-for-sri-lanka-bombings-idINKCN1RZ0ZQ

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Sri Lanka Bomb Attacks Were Revenge For New Zealand Mosque Killings - Minister

Sanjeev Miglani, Shihar Aneez

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Devastating Easter bombings in Sri Lanka were retaliation for recent deadly attacks on mosques in New Zealand, a Sri Lankan official said on Tuesday, adding that two domestic Islamist groups were believed to have been behind Sunday’s blasts.

No group has claimed responsibility for the coordinated attacks, which officials said were carried out by at least seven suicide bombers, on three churches and four hotels. The toll rose to 321 dead with about 500 people wounded.

“The initial investigation has revealed that this was in retaliation for the New Zealand mosque attack,” junior minister for defence Ruwan Wijewardene told parliament.

He did not elaborate on why authorities believed there was a link to the killing of 50 people at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch during Friday prayers on March 15. A lone gunman carried out those attacks.

Wijewardene said two Sri Lankan Islamist groups - the National Thawheed Jama’ut and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim - were responsible for the blasts early on Sunday during Easter services and as high-end hotels served breakfast.

U.S. intelligence sources said the attacks carried some of the hallmarks of the Islamic State militant group, although they were cautious because it had not claimed responsibility.

Islamic State is usually quick to claim responsibility for, or links to, attacks against foreign targets or religious groups, whether it was involved or not, they said.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told parliament investigators were looking into foreign links.

Earlier on Tuesday, Sri Lankan government and military sources said a Syrian had been detained among 40 people being questioned over the bombs.

“He was arrested after the interrogation of local suspects,” one of the sources said, referring to the unidentified Syrian.

FUNERALS

Tuesday was declared a national day of mourning and the funerals of some of the victims were held, as pressure mounted on the government over why effective action had not been taken in response to a warning this month about a possible attack on churches by the little-known National Thawheed Jama’ut group.

The first six attacks - on three churches and three luxury hotels - came within 20 minutes on Sunday morning.

Two more explosions - at a downmarket hotel and a house in a suburb of the capital, Colombo - came in the early afternoon.

Most of the dead and wounded were Sri Lankans, although government officials said 38 foreigners were killed. That included British, U.S., Australian, Turkish, Indian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch and Portuguese nationals.

The U.N. Children’s Fund said 45 children were among the dead.

Footage on CNN showed what it said was one of the bombers wearing a heavy backpack. The man patted a child on the head before entering the Gothic-style St. Sebastian church in Katuwapitiya, north of Colombo. Dozens were killed there.

The bombs brought a shattering end to a relative calm that had existed in the Buddhist-majority Indian Ocean island since a bitter civil war against mostly Hindu, ethnic Tamil separatists ended 10 years ago, and raised fears of a return to sectarian violence.

Sri Lanka’s 22 million people include minority Christians, Muslims and Hindus. Until now, Christians had largely managed to avoid the worst of the island’s conflict and communal tensions.

The government imposed emergency rule at midnight on Monday, giving police extensive powers to detain and interrogate suspects without court orders.

An overnight curfew has also been imposed since Sunday.

FBI TO HELP

U.S. President Donald Trump called Prime Minister Wickremesinghe on Monday to pledge U.S. support in bringing the perpetrators to justice.

The Washington Post quoted an unidentified law enforcement official as saying Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents were being sent to Sri Lanka to help with the investigation.

The FBI had offered expertise to test evidence and analysts were scouring databases for information, the Post said. Counter-terrorism officials from Britain were also due on Tuesday, a Western diplomat in Colombo said.

The attacks have also underlined concern over fractures in Sri Lanka’s government, and whether the discord prevented action that might have stopped them.

The government received a tip-off from India this month about a possible attack on churches by the National Thawheed Jama’ut.

It was not immediately clear what action, if any, was taken in response. A government minister said on Monday that Wickremesinghe had not been informed about the warning and had been shut out of top security meetings because of a feud with President Maithripala Sirisena.

Sirisena fired Wickremesinghe last year only to be forced to reinstate him under pressure from the Supreme Court. Their relationship is reported to be fraught.

The U.S. State Department said in a travel advisory “terrorist groups” were possibly plotting more attacks in Sri Lanka.

China’s embassy warned its nationals against travelling to Sri Lanka in the near term because of “huge security risks”.

China is a major investor in Sri Lanka. The embassy said one Chinese national was killed, five wounded and five were missing.

Reporting by Sanjeev Miglani; Additional reporting by Ranga Sirilal, Joe Brock, Mark Hosenball and Kieran Murray in WASHINGTON, and Stella Qiu and Ryan Woo in BEIJING; Writing by Robert Birsel; Editing by Michael Perry, Paul Tait and Alex Richardson

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Source; https://in.reuters.com/article/sri-lanka-blasts/sri-lanka-bomb-attacks-were-revenge-for-new-zealand-mosque-killings-minister-idINKCN1RZ06W

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Bangladeshi sacked military officer sent cash to Sri Lanka weeks before the attack

April 23, 2019

Anita Mathur

Following Sunday’s series of jihadist attacks, situation in Sri Lanka already seems to be fluid. While country’s health minister Rajitha Senaratne blamed a little known radical Islamist group named National Thowheeth Jama’ath stating, “There was an international network without which these attacks could not have succeeded”, there are various speculations centering these nefarious attacks. Some analysts even are holding Sri Lankan intelligence agencies responsible for their failure in alerting the government ahead of such incidents. Most importantly, no one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which targeted Roman Catholic churches holding Easter services and high-end hotels favored by foreign tourists. On Monday, officials said the death toll had risen to at least 290, with about 500 others wounded. The Sri Lankan authorities have so far arrested two dozen suspects, but declined to identify them.

Sri Lanka was already alerted of the attack:

At least ten days before attacks, a Middle East based intelligence agency gave security officials a detailed warning of a possible threat to churches by the National Thowheeth Jama’ath. Similar alerts were also echoed by a Western intelligence agency. But the matter was not conveyed even to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremersinghe. Now authorities are investigating the reason behind such dubious behavior of Sri Lankan intelligence agencies.

Commenting on the latest jihadist attacks in Sri Lanka, internationally acclaimed multi-award winning anti-militancy journalist and counter-militancy expert Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury said, “The statement of the Sri Lankan authorities saying local jihadist outfit National Thowheeth Jama’ath has carried out these attacks is not logical. There is no reason for any local extremist group to target churches and the tourists. Instead, there certainly is international links”.

He said, “These attacks are similar to those carried out by Al Qaeda or Islamic State (ISIS). Most importantly, the attackers had a massive plan of attacking many churches and upscale hotels during a high religious holiday. As to the National Thowheeth Jama’ath is actually an anti-Buddhist group. I personally won’t buy the theory of these attacks being carried out by National Thowheeth Jama’ath”.

From a document obtained by this newspaper, it is learnt that the Sri Lankan authorities had issued an advisory on April 11, 2019 alerting the law enforcing agencies to remain vigilant about terrorist attacks.  No action had been taken by any of these law enforcing or security agencies for the sake of ensuring safety and security to the people.

Amount transferred to Sri Lanka from UAE:

Before four months, large sum of money went to Sri Lanka from United Arab Emirates. It was sent by Bangladeshi-born ISIS funder Md. Shahid Uddin Khan, who has been living in the United Kingdom for last few years along with his family. Sitting in Britain, Khans are continuing various forms of jihadist activities. Recently he has established an organization named ‘Astha’ which aims at unseating democratically elected governments in the world and replace those with Caliphate. By now, Md. Shahid Uddin Khan already has expanded his activities in Sweden and the United States through two of his recruits.

According to documents available with various intelligence agencies in Bangladesh, Md. Shahid Uddin Khan hails from a radical Muslim family while his wife Farjana Anjum too hails from a similar family background. This couple’s daughters though are living and being educated in Britain is notoriously radicalized and is working as lone wolves. They have been targeting various individuals and trying to convert them into Islam.

In January this year, Md. Shahid Uddin Khan used illegal channel in transferring an amount equivalent to ninety-two thousand dollars. This amount went from Dubai to Colombo. It may be mentioned here that, last year this newspaper published several reports exposing a secret conspiracy by a conglomerate of several jihadist outfits of staging terrorist attacks in a number of South Asian nations.

According to media reports, Islamic State (ISIS) funder Shahid Uddin Khan, his wife Farjana Anjum and daughters are already under the radar of international media for their direct involvement into jihadist activities. So far they already have formed a network, which spreads up to United States. According to information, Shahid Uddin Khan has his long-time cohort M. Sajjad Hussain and his wife who currently are residing in Texas, United States. Sajjad, being the lapdog of Shahid has been spreading radical Islam and jihadism in the US for a number of years, while Sajjad’s wife, a known high-end sex worker and former mistress of Shahid Uddin Khan are not only helping ISIS in spreading its messages in the US, he (Sajjad) also is collaborating with Shahid in ousting the democratically elected government in Bangladesh through coup. This racket already is targeting Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) and making foul bids in tarnishing the image of the organization.

Md. Shahid Uddin Khan (Army No: BA002428, Course: 8-BMA, Commission Date: 10-06-1983), who along with his wife Farjana Anjum and daughters had smuggled out millions of dollars from Bangladesh and invested in various business ventures in United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom.

In 2009, he invested two million pounds in the United Kingdom in exchange of obtaining immigrant status under Visa Tier 1, vide VAF No. 511702. Later the family had laundered an unknown amount of money and brought that into the United Kingdom.

Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit of Bangladesh Police, based on secret information, raided House No. 184, Road No. 2, Baridhara DOHS in Dhaka, Bangladesh on January 17, 2019. This house is owned by Md. Shahid Uddin Khan and was allegedly used as a warehouse for arms, explosives and propaganda materials of Islamic State (ISIS). During the raid, large volume of weapons, detonator, counterfeit Bangladesh currency notes and jihadist materials of ISIS were recovered by the CTTC unit.

Following this recovery, three separate cases against ISIS-funder Md. Shahid Uddin Khan, his wife Farjana Anjum, daughters and other accomplices were lodged. The cases are: Cantonment PS, Case no 10, Section-6(2)/7/11/12 of Anti Terrorism Act 2009 (amendment 2013); Cantonment PS,  Case no 11, Section-25-A,  Special Power Act 1974; and Cantonment PS, Case no 12, Section-19-A of Arms Act 1878.

Is Britain really an ally in war on terror?

The specific example of the case of ISIS funder Md. Shahid Uddin Khan clearly proves, the United Kingdom not only is inclined in welcoming dirty money and laundered money, but it also has little interest in taking any action against those who are using the British soil for jihadist and criminal activities. Conspiring of unseating any government in the world by sitting in Britain definitely tags the United Kingdom as an abettor to such heinous crimes. Now it is up to the British authorities and lawmakers especially the British Prime Minister Theresa May to initiate legal actions against Md. Shahid Uddin Khan, his wife Farjana Anjum and daughters and immediately deport them to Bangladesh.

https://www.weeklyblitz.net/news/bangladeshi-sacked-military-officer-sent-cash-to-sri-lanka-weeks-before-the-attack/

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Malaysia proves to be model of democracy post-GE14, says foreign minister

22 April 2019

By Hasbullah Awang Chik

PUTRAJAYA, 22 April — Malaysia can become a model of democracy due to the smooth transition of power following the 14th general election (GE14), said Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah.

Saifuddin said after the polls, Malaysia has proven itself to be at par with other nations that are serious in fighting for democracy

“The rise of the rakyat in GE14 shows that it can be done safely and government transitions can happen smoothly as well.

He said when people discuss Islam and democracy, they would bring up countries like Pakistan, Tunisia, Indonesia and Turkey as examples but not Malaysia.

“We say that Malaysia also has experience as an Islamic nation that practices democracy well,” he told the press in conjunction with Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) first-anniversary celebration at Wisma Putra here today.

In a stunning victory that made political history, the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition became the ruling government after GE14.

PH’s victory ended the rule of Barisan Nasional (BN), which has dominated Malaysian politics for 60-years.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/04/22/malaysia-proves-to-be-model-of-democracy-post-ge14-says-foreign-affairs-min/1745821

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Saudi Arabia: The al-Zulfi attackers are ISIS members

22 April 2019

The official spokesperson of the Presidency of State Security announced on Monday that the four al-Zulfi attackers are ISIS members, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported, publishing full names and national identification numbers of the attackers.

The investigations revealed a place rented by one of the attackers in al-Rayan neighborhood, al-Zulfi province, which was used by the group to plan the attack.

Inside the location, investigators found “what looks like a factory for explosives and explosive belts,” according to SPA.

SPA published a list of the weapons found, which included five explosive belts, 64 locally manufactured hand grenades, two Kalashnikovs, six guns, four bags of organic fertilizers, a telecommunication device, and two laptops.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/04/22/Saudi-Arabia-arrests-13-accused-of-planning-terrorist-attacks.html

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Saudi Dissident Movement Stresses Continued Resistance against Riyadh

Apr 22, 2019

The statement described the Saudi government as a "sponsor of terrorism", stressing that the flames of popular moves against the regime will not die.

"The Saudi regime which rules the Arab Peninsula, introduces itself as a supporter of Islam, while it is a sponsor of terrorism and it shelters terrorists by means of misuing global political support in return for economic resources that it has gained from people's assets and properties," it added.

The statement referred to the Saudi security forces' destruction of al-Mansoureh village in Qatif region, the birthplace of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, the prominent Shiite cleric executed by Riyadh in 2016, saying that if the Saudi regime wants to annihilate the popular resistance, it will face more resistance.

Qatif, situated in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, has been the scene of anti-regime protests since 2011, with demonstrators demanding free speech, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination.

Riyadh has suppressed pro-democracy rallies, but to no avail as protests have intensified since January 2016 when the Al Saud regime executed respected Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.

In 2017, Awamiyah, another Shiite-populated Qatif town, witnessed a deadly military crackdown on protests that were being held against the regime’s attempt to raze the historical Musawara neighborhood.

Saudi rulers claimed the district’s narrow streets served as a hideout for armed men who were behind the attacks on Saudi forces in Eastern Province.

Riyadh then deployed military forces with heavy weapons to the town, while bulldozers escorted by heavily armored military vehicles demolished several houses, businesses and historical sites across the region.

Dozens of civilians were killed during the weeks-long military crackdown. Some 30,000 people also fled the town.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980202000996

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Are Austrian politicians responsible for increased anti-Muslim hate crimes?

Apr 23, 2019

The rise in hate crimes towards Muslims in Austria is part of a broader trend that has real and negative ramifications for their safety in Europe.

The Anti-Muslim Racism Report 2018 shows an increasing number of anti-Muslim incidents in Austria. The main target of these incidents were women. In 2017, a total of 309 incidents had been reported and in 2018, the number of reported events increased by 74 percent, which makes a total of 540 incidents.

Recently in Vienna, Austria, an older woman insulted a young Muslim lady and spat at her afterwards. “That is my country you wh**e!” the old woman shouted. She referred to the Muslim lady as an “animal” and “pig”.

The Muslim lady pointed out that she was born in Austria and that she is not going to leave her home country. The woman responded by shouting that the FPO (the Austrian Freedom Party, which is also part of the coalition government) would throw all of “them” (meaning Muslims) out.

Anti-Muslim racism is a daily problem in Austria and there is a risk that this behaviour is becoming increasingly normalised in the country’s political and social climate.

The Austrian government’s anti-Muslim smear campaign

Austria’s Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, from the Christian Democratic People’s Party (OVP) strongly condemned the incident on Monday. He said: "A disgusting attack that I condemn in the strongest terms. In Austria, we stand for a respectful and peaceful coexistence of all religions!"

That might seem like a statesmanlike act from Kurz, but both he and FPO Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache are taking part in this smear campaign against Islam and its followers.

Their whole election campaign in 2017 was grounded in combatting “political Islam”, a term, which was not even defined or explained.

In public debate, it is striking that concepts and terms (such as Sharia or jihad) based in Islamic tradition are rarely explained. In most cases, words that are not known to the public at large are deliberately deployed to stir up confusion and anxiety in society.

Before using such terms, it is important to clarify them and convey the different views on the subject. The vagueness of the term benefits the very purpose of the Austrian government. It is easier to scapegoat somebody if the problem stays abstract. As a result, the wedge between Muslims and non-Muslims threatens to be driven deeper and deeper as politicians and other protagonists are continue to demonise Islam.

Links to the Christchurch terrorist

The far-right FPO has links with right-wing extremists such as the Identitarian Movement of Austria, which, it was recently revealed, received a significant donation of nearly $1700 from the Christchurch terrorist who attacked two mosques in New Zealand, killing 50 Muslims.

The Christchurch killer had networked internationally with several right-wing extremist groups, but so far, the clearest connection is with Vienna.

The terrorist wrote in his 'manifesto', which he posted online before the attack, that he had donated money to many nationalist groups and associations.

The leader of the Identitarian Movement of Austria, Martin Sellner, claimed he didn’t know that the donation was from the Christchurch assassin, but the link prompted a preliminary investigation into Sellner under Austria’s anti-terrorism laws.

Strache emphasises that his party has nothing to do with the Identitarian Movement, however he has repeatedly shared posts from the movement on his official Facebook page.

Photos from 2015 have also emerged showing Strache and members of the Identitarian Movement at the same table.

Both the chancellor and vice chancellor expressed their sympathy for the victims of Christchurch on the day of the terrorist attack via Twitter.

However, no such post appeared on their Facebook pages, ensuring there was no awkward backlash from their Facebook followers.

The Anti-Muslim Racism Report 2018 also shows that more than 50 percent of the reported anti-Muslim incidents occur online.

It is no secret that the FPO has carried out several anti-Muslim campaigns in the past.

The current Home Secretary Herbert Kickl is famous for using Nazi terminology against migrants and refugees. He also pulls the strings behind several anti-Muslim slogans such as “home instead of Islam.”

The opposition Social Democrats and liberal party JETZT have demanded Kickl’s resignation.

The government is carefully taking steps against Muslims and migrants. Kurz is arguing for the shutdown of Islamic kindergartens, saying they are dangerous. It once again highlights the unequal treatment of those with Islamic faith, compared to the followers of Christianity, Judaism or any other religion.

Islam is the very concern of Kurz and Strache and through the way they deal with Muslims and Islam, it is likely that the discrimination will only increase.

https://www.trtworld.com/opinion/are-austrian-politicians-responsible-for-increased-anti-muslim-hate-crimes-26005

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Security Tightened In Southern Indian States after Terror Attack in Sri Lanka

Apr 22, 2019

NEW DELHI: Security in southern states, particularly in churches and other religious places, has been strengthened following the terrorists attack in Sri Lanka which has left 290 people dead, including eight Indians, and over 500 injured, officials said Monday.

Security has also been stepped up in sensitive locations in major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bengaluru, and Goa, which is a major tourist destination, as a precautionary measure.

Additional security arrangements in churches and other major religious sites in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have been made in the wake of the multiple blasts in Sri Lanka on Sunday, a security official said.

Indian agencies were also believed to have been helping the Sri Lankan investigators in cracking the case, another official said.

Officials were, however, tight-lipped about reports which suggested that an Indian intelligence agency gave Sri Lankan authorities advance intimation about the possible terror attack.

Seven suicide bombers believed to be members of an Islamist extremist group carried out the devastating blasts that tore through churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, killing 290 people and wounding 500 others in the country's worst terror attack.

A state of emergency was declared from midnight Monday after a crucial meeting of the National Security Council chaired by President Maithripala Sirisena.

No group has claimed responsibility for Sunday's attacks, but police have so far arrested 24 people - mostly members of a same group - in connection with the blasts.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/security-tightened-in-southern-states-after-terror-attack-in-sri-lanka/articleshow/68994598.cms

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Israeli troops accused of shooting at handcuffed Palestinian

April 23, 2019

BEIT JALA: A hospitalised Palestinian teen said on Monday he was shot in his thighs by Israeli soldiers while he was handcuffed and blindfolded the latest in what a leading rights group portrayed as a series of unjustified shootings of Palestinians by Israeli soldiers.

The military said it was investigating last week’s incident, which it said took place as Palestinian youths were throwing stones at Israeli soldiers.

Osama Hajahjeh, 16, said he was trying to run from soldiers when he was shot Thursday. He said the incident began after a funeral for a school teacher in his village of Tekoa, who had been hit by a car driven by an Israeli while walking at a busy intersection.

Hajahjeh said school was let out early for students to attend the funeral. After the burial, he said he was tackled by a soldier who jumped out of an olive grove and forced him to the ground. He said his hands were cuffed and his eyes covered with a cloth blindfold.

After the arrest, he said he could hear Palestinian youths shouting at the soldiers, while soldiers yelled back in Arabic and Hebrew.

“I got confused” and stood up, he said. “Immediately, I was shot in my right leg. Then I tried to run, and I was shot in my left leg and fell on the ground,” he said, speaking from his hospital bed in the West Bank town of Beit Jala south of Jerusalem. Doctors said he is in stable condition.

A photo captured by a local photographer shows soldiers appearing to pursue a fleeing Hajahjeh with his eyes covered and hands tied behind his back.

The shooting set off a chaotic scene. Soldiers and Palestinians shouted at each other as the teen lay on the ground. One soldier took off the teen’s belt and used it as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding.

Amateur video shows a masked soldier screaming and pointing a pistol at a group of anguished Palestinians as the teen lies on the ground. Later, a soldier scuffles with residents as another soldier fires into the air. A soldier and two Palestinian men then carry away the teen to medical care.

In a statement, the military said the teen had been arrested after participating in “massive stone throwing” at Israeli forces.

“The detainee was held at a nearby spot and began running away from the force. The soldiers chased him, during which they fired toward his lower abdomen,” it said.

The statement did not say anything about him being blindfolded or cuffed, but said the military offered medical treatment after the shooting and was investigating the event.

Hajahjeh’s father, Ali, said he was thankful a soldier gave his son medical care. But he said his son never should have been shot to begin with. “Only a sick person would shoot a blindfolded boy,” he said.

The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said the incident was the latest in a series of what it called unjustified shootings on Palestinian teens and young men. It says four Palestinians in their late teens or early twenties have been killed in the West Bank since early March.

The army has challenged the Palestinian witness accounts, but also frequently announces investigations into disputed cases.

B’Tselem has long criticised military investigations, saying they rarely result in punishments and alleging they’re used to whitewash abuses by troops.

“Like the previous four cases we investigated, this is an example of Israel’s reckless use of lethal fire, and the fact that the human lives of Palestinians count very little in the eyes of the army,” said Roy Yellin, a spokesman for the group.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1477870/israeli-troops-accused-of-shooting-at-handcuffed-palestinian

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South Asia

 

Pointing a Finger at a Terrorist Group in the Aftermath of the Sri Lanka Blasts

April 22, 2019

• The government on Monday blamed a little-known radical Islamist group for the devastating Easter Sunday suicide bombings that killed more than 300 people. Officials said the group, which had not carried out any serious attacks before, had received help from an international terrorist organization.

• Sri Lanka’s security forces were warned at least 10 days before the bombings that the militant group was planning attacks against churches, but apparently took no action against it, indicating a catastrophic intelligence failure.

• The Sri Lankan police have arrested 24 people in connection with the explosions at hotels and churches. One of the suicide bombers had been arrested just a few months ago, suspected of having vandalized a statue of Buddha.

• A dusk-to-dawn curfew was in effect for a second night on Monday in Colombo, the capital. And major social media and messaging services, including Facebook and WhatsApp, were been blocked by the government to try to curb the spread of misinformation.

Death toll rises to 310

The number killed rose on Tuesday to 310, the police said, adding that about 500 people had also been wounded in the attacks on sites across the country.

The Sri Lankan tourism minister, John Amaratunga, said that at least 39 foreigners were among the dead. Those countries that have confirmed their citizens were killed include Australia, Britain, China, Japan, Portugal and the United States.

Ruwan Gunasekera, a police spokesman, would not reveal how many people had been killed at each location.

The identities of the victims have started to emerge. These are their stories.

More explosions rocked parts of the country on Monday, and while no new casualties were reported, the blasts racked already strained nerves.

In one case, it appeared that a bomb detonated while the police were trying to defuse or move it, near one of the churches that was hit on Sunday. Smaller blasts were reported that may have resulted from the police intentionally detonating suspicious packages.

A warning went unheeded

Ten days before the bombings, a top Sri Lankan police official warned the security services that a radical Islamist group was planning suicide attacks against churches, but no action was taken against the group. It was unclear what other precautions, if any, the security agencies had taken in response to the threat warnings.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said on Sunday that neither he nor his cabinet ministers had been informed of the warning, highlighting the power struggle between him and President Maithripala Sirisena, who is also the defense minister. Late last year, the feud led, for a time, to there being two officials claiming to be the rightful prime minister.

The apparent intelligence failure and the breakdown of communication within the government are likely to prompt political recriminations and attract attention in investigations into the attacks.

At a news conference on Monday, the health minister, Rajitha Senaratne, said there had been a warning as early as April 4, reiterating that the prime minister and his allies had been “completely blind on the situation.” He noted the lack of cooperation within the government, saying that when the prime minister attempted recently to call a security council meeting, members of the panel refused to attend.

An April 11 letter from the police official not only named the group believed to be planning an attack, National Thowheeth Jama’ath, but also named individual members, and even gave addresses where they could be found.

The information came from “foreign intelligence,” the letter said. It did not specify which country had supplied the intelligence, but Indian security officials said they had given it to their Sri Lankan counterparts as early as April 4.

“We must look into why adequate precautions were not taken,” Mr. Wickremesinghe said on Sunday.

An earlier arrest for one attacker

One of the suicide bombers was arrested just a few months ago, Sri Lankan officials disclosed on Monday, on suspicion of having vandalized a statue of Buddha. That is an inflammatory act in a Buddhist-majority nation where strident religiosity, on all sides, seems to be increasing.

The disclosure of the arrest came as Sri Lankan officials squared off over the attacks, and whether more could have been done to try to prevent them. In a government that is no stranger to crisis, the bitter recriminations suggested that a new one may be in the offing.

New details emerged about a confidential security memo on the group believed to be behind the attacks, which was issued 10 days before it struck. The memo appeared to lay it all out: names, addresses, phone numbers, even the times in the middle of the night that one suspect would visit his wife.

Sri Lanka Bombing Maps: What We Know About the Attack Sites

The attacks struck churches, five-star hotels and other sites in multiple cities.

Who are National Thowheeth Jama’ath?

Officials on Monday said a little-known Islamist group that promotes a terrorist ideology in South Asia was responsible for the attacks.

The group, National Thowheeth Jama’ath, had a reputation for vandalizing Buddhist statues but little history of carrying out terrorist attacks.

Rajitha Senaratne, the health minister, called the group “a local organization” and said the suicide bombers appeared to be Sri Lankan citizens. “All are locals,” he said at a news conference on Monday.

But, he added, “there was an international network without which these attacks could not have succeeded.”

In a news release, Mr. Sirisena, the president, said that, according to Sri Lanka’s intelligence agencies, “there are international terrorist organizations behind these incidents.”

No one has publicly claimed responsibility for the bombings.

A forensic analysis of body parts found at six sites determined that seven suicide bombers conducted attacks at three churches and three hotels, according to The Associated Press. Most attacks were carried out by lone bombers, but two men targeted the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo. Two other bombings at a guesthouse and at the suspects’ apparent safe house remain under investigation.

Sri Lanka does not have much history of Islamist terrorism. The country is predominantly Buddhist, with significant Hindu, Muslim and Christian minorities.

From 1983 to 2009, separatists from the Tamil ethnic group, which is mostly Hindu, fought a civil war against the government, dominated by the Sinhalese ethnic majority, most of whom are Buddhist.

The bombs hinted at a worrying level of expertise

Whoever designed the suicide vests used in the blasts showed considerable competence, a fact that is certain to worry law enforcement agencies, said Scott Stewart, vice president for tactical analysis at Stratfor, a geopolitical consulting firm based in Austin, Tex.

When small, homegrown extremist groups use explosives, they often start with a series of failures. Some bombs fail to detonate completely, and others explode early, late, or not at all.

But in the Sri Lanka attack, it appears that all seven suicide vests detonated and did heavy damage, Mr. Stewart said, indicating skill at making bombs and manually activated detonators, and suggesting access to a large supply of military-grade high explosives.

“You don’t do that by accident, so they must have a fairly decent logistics network and funding,” he added.

But Joshua A. Geltzer, a former senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council, said he would not be surprised if a small group had been able to stage the attack without direct help.

“There is so, so much instruction and guidance available on the open internet these days, not to mention whatever is circulating on encrypted chat groups, widely available in terrorist circles if not totally public,” he said.

Unexploded bombs, apparently not designed for suicide attacks, were found in other public places in Sri Lanka. That suggests that the bomb maker (or makers) was less expert at detonation using timers or remote control, Mr. Stewart said.

Searching for an Islamic State Link

In Washington, intelligence and counterterrorism analysts were scrutinizing possible ties between the Islamic State and the attackers, but as of Monday afternoon had not reached any definitive conclusions.

Nicholas J. Rasmussen, a former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said the presence of some Sri Lankan fighters in Syria and Iraq raised the prospect of informal connections with members of National Thowheeth Jama’ath still in Sri Lanka.

“It’s hard to imagine an attack of this complexity without some form of organization and support from a group that has done this kind of thing before,” Mr. Rasmussen said in an email.

Lisa Monaco, a former homeland security adviser for President Barack Obama, who also served as assistant attorney general for national security, said that if the attacks in Sri Lanka had been inspired by ISIS, it should serve as a stark reminder to the Trump administration.

“It’s a reminder that we should not mistake the defeat of the physical caliphate — as important as it is through tremendous efforts by both the Obama and Trump administration — we should not mistake the defeat of the physical caliphate with that of the virtual caliphate,” Ms. Monaco said.

“It’s a movement and it, as we’ve seen, can take hold around the world,” Ms. Monaco said. “That’s going to require a partnership with governments and the private sector when it comes to addressing abuse of social media platforms.”

U.S. warns of additional attacks

The State Department said that terrorist groups “continue plotting possible attacks in Sri Lanka” and raised its travel advisory to warn visitors to the country about potential threats.

It said terrorists could attack “with little or no warning,” and listed several potential targets, including tourist spots, transportation centers, markets, malls, government offices, hotels and places of worship.

The travel advisory level was raised to “exercise increased caution,” the second-lowest of four levels. It had previously been at the lowest level, “exercise normal precautions.”

The advisory gave no specific details about any groups that could be planning attacks or about who might be responsible for Sunday’s violence.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia also raised its advisory level and urged travelers on Monday to “reconsider your need” to go to Sri Lanka.

Government responds with a curfew, a social media blackout, and more

Sri Lankan officials took a series of extraordinary steps in an effort to keep control of their shaken country, aiming to prevent further extremist attacks and retaliatory violence.

Mr. Sirisena, the president, said the government had given additional powers to the police and security forces to detain and interrogate people, and for the second day in a row, a curfew was imposed, from 8 p.m. until 4 a.m.

The government temporarily blocked several networks, including Facebook and Instagram. Users also reported being unable to access the messaging services WhatsApp and Viber.

Though Sunday’s attacks have no known link to social media, Sri Lanka has a troubled history with violence incited on the platforms. The ban was an extraordinary step that reflected growing global concerns about social media.

Mr. Sirisena appointed a three-person panel to investigate the bombings, headed by a Supreme Court justice, Vijith Malalgoda.

The president also directed the authorities to increase security around churches and other potential targets. And he declared a national day of mourning on Tuesday.

Religious persecution and conflict rise in Asia

The bombings in Sri Lanka underlined the rise of intolerance and violence across the region, based at least partly on religion and often feeding on government rhetoric.

Perhaps the worst example has been the persecution in Myanmar of the Rohingya Muslim minority by the government and by members of the Buddhist majority, especially since 2016. Thousands of Rohingya have died and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes.

In Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and elsewhere, politicians have increasingly made appeals to sectarian resentment, and tolerated their political allies’ calls for violence.

On Easter Sunday in 2016, a suicide bomber killed more than 70 people in a busy park in Lahore, Pakistan. A splinter group of the Taliban claimed responsibility, saying it had specifically targeted Christians.

Last May, suicide bombers struck three churches in Surabaya, Indonesia, killing 28 people, and in January, two bombs ripped through a cathedral in the Philippines, leaving 20 dead. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for both attacks.

Reporting was contributed by Russell Goldman, Austin Ramzy, Sandra E. Garcia and Eric Schmitt.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/22/world/asia/sri-lanka-bombing-explosion.html

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Sri Lanka Islamic centre merits probe: Officials

Apr 23, 2019

Neeraj Chauhan

An Islamic centre in Sri Lanka that hosted several Islamic State recruits from Kerala before they left for Afghanistan or Syria merits investigation, senior National Investigation Agency officials said on condition of anonymity, although they added that there are no evident links between it and the terror attacks in the island nation on Sunday that killed close to 300 people.

According to the NIA officials, many of these recruits travelled to Sri Lanka and were likely indoctrinated at the Islamic centre there, although they did not specify the name and the location of this centre.

“There must be somebody in Sri Lanka who was indoctrinating Indians who travelled there and was telling them and others about violent Jehad,” said one of the NIA officers.

One of the recruits, Ashfak Majeed from Kasargod, went to Sri Lanka in February 2016 along with his wife Shamsiya and daughter Ayesha; another, Abdul Rashid Abdulla from Kozhikode too left India with his wife Ayisha and daughter Sara for Sri Lanka in 2016; and still another, Palakkad native Bestin Vincent and his wife Merrin went to Sri Lanka in December 2015.

Some of them were converted to Islam at the Zakir Naik-led Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) at Mumbai; the NIA has arrested Arshi Qureshi and chargesheeted him.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/sri-lanka-islamic-centre-merits-probe-officials/story-u86TNrYfFfYt0aMQ3ke86N.html

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Afghan forces thwart militants bid to carry out a deadly car bomb attack in Kabul city

22 Apr 2019

The Afghan security forces have thwarted militants bid to carry out a deadly car bomb attack in Kabul city, the Ministry of Interior announced Monday.

According to a statement released by MoI, the Afghan security forces conducted a targeted raid in Surobi district of Kabul city on Sunday night and confiscated a Vehicle-borne Improvised Explosive Device which the militants wanted to use in a deadly attack in Kabul city.

The statement further added that two rockets, a PKM machine gun, an Ak-47 assault rifle, 350 kgs of Hashish, and some other munitions were also seized during th eoperation.

The anti-government armed militants including Taliban have not commented regarding the operation so far.

This comes as a group of militants launched a coordinated attack targeting the ministry of telecommunications in Kabul city on Saturday which left ten people dead including seven civilians.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/afghan-forces-thwart-militants-bid-to-carry-out-a-deadly-car-bomb-attack-in-kabul-city-03779/

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U.S. envoy for Afghan peace to travel to Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia and UK

23 Apr 2019

The U.S. envoy for Afghan peace Ambassador Khalilzad will travel to Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, and United Kingdom as part of Washington’s ongoing efforts to find a negotiated settlement to the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan.

“Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad will travel to Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, and the United Kingdom April 21 to May 11, as part of the overall effort to facilitate a political settlement that ends the conflict in Afghanistan,” the Department of State said in a statement.

The statement further added “In Kabul, Special Representative Khalilzad will consult with the Afghan government and other Afghans to encourage all parties to work towards intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations to determine a final peace settlement.”

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/u-s-envoy-for-afghan-peace-to-travel-to-afghanistan-india-pakistan-qatar-russia-and-uk-03785/

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37 militants killed in latest operations of Afghan Special Forces and in airstrikes

22 Apr 2019

At least 37 militants were killed in the latest operations of the Afghan Special Forces and airstrikes which were conducted in five provinces of the country.

Informed military sources said Monday that 9 Taliban fighters were killed in an airstrike in Tarinkot city of Uruzgan province.

The sources further added that 9 more militants were killed in separate operations of the Afghan Special Forces and an airstrike which were conducted Paktika province.

The Afghan Special Forces also conducted two separate operations in Ghazni province leaving at least 11 militants dead while 3 more were detained, the sources said.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/37-militants-killed-in-latest-operations-of-afghan-special-forces-and-in-airstrikes-03783/

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Sri Lanka arrests 40 suspects after bombings, toll up to 310

April 23, 2019

As a state of emergency took effect on Tuesday giving the Sri Lankan military war-time powers, police arrested 40 suspects, including the driver of a van allegedly used by suicide bombers involved in deadly Easter bombings and the owner of a house where some of them lived, officials said.

Sri Lanka's president gave the military a wider berth to detain and arrest suspects powers that were used during the 26-year civil war but withdrawn when it ended in 2009.

The death toll from Sunday's attacks rose to 310, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said.

On Tuesday, which President Maithripala Sirisena declared a day of mourning, Sri Lankan authorities planned to brief foreign diplomats and receive assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other foreign intelligence-gathering agencies after officials disclosed Monday that warnings had been received weeks ago of the possibility of an attack by the radical group blamed for the bloodshed.

The six near-simultaneous attacks on three churches and three luxury hotels and three related blasts later on Sunday were the South Asian island nation's deadliest violence in a decade.

The government blocked most social media to curtail false information. Even after an overnight, nationwide curfew was lifted, the streets of central Colombo remained mostly deserted and shops closed as armed soldiers stood guard.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he feared the massacre could unleash instability and he vowed to “vest all necessary powers with the defense forces” to act against those responsible.

In an indication of the tensions, three explosions caused panic but apparently no injuries on Monday as police were defusing bombs inside a van parked near one of the stricken churches. Dozens of detonators were discovered near Colombo's main bus depot, but officials declined to say whether they were linked to the attacks.

At Bandaranaike International Airport outside of Colombo early on Tuesday morning, police walked explosive-sniffing dogs outside as inside cheery video advertisements of gamblers and snorkelers played. At a roadside checkpoint at the airport, security officials checked car trunks and questioned drivers.

The lack of social media access was contributing to the confusion and doing little to reassure residents and visitors that the danger had passed.

International intelligence agencies had warned that the little-known group, National Thowfeek Jamaath, was planning attacks, but word apparently didn't reach the prime minister's office until after the massacre, exposing the continuing political turmoil in the highest levels of the Sri Lankan government.

Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said the warnings started April 4, the defense ministry wrote to the police chief with information that included the group's name and and police wrote April 11 to the heads of security of the judiciary and diplomatic security division.

Sirisena, who was out of the country on Sunday, had ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in October and dissolved the Cabinet. The Supreme Court reversed his actions, but the prime minister has not been allowed into meetings of the Security Council since October, leaving him and his government in the dark about the intelligence.

It was not immediately clear what action, if any, was taken after the threats. Authorities said they knew where the group trained and had safe houses, but did not identify any of the suicide bombers, whose bodies were recovered, or the two dozen other suspects taken into custody.

All the bombers were Sri Lankans, but authorities said they strongly suspected foreign links, Senaratne said.

Also unclear was a motive. The history of Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka, a country of 21 million including large Hindu, Muslim and Christian minorities, is rife with ethnic and sectarian conflict.

In the 26-year civil war, the Tamil Tigers, a powerful rebel army known for using suicide bombers, was finally crushed by the government in 2009 but had little history of targeting Christians. Anti-Muslim bigotry fed by Buddhist nationalists has swept the country recently, but there is no history of Islamic militancy. Its small Christian community has seen only scattered incidents of harassment.

Two of the stricken churches are Catholic and one Protestant. The three hotels and one of the churches, St Anthony's Shrine, are frequented by foreigners. Tourism Minister John Amaratunga said 39 foreigners were killed, although the foreign ministry gave the figure as 31. The reason for the discrepancy wasn't clear, but some victims were dual nationals.

India and Britain have confirmed eight dead each. The US State Department confirmed that at least four Americans dead and several seriously wounded. Others were confirmed to be from Bangladesh, China, France, Japan, the Netherlands, Denmark, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey and Australia.

The scale of the violence recalled the worst days of the civil war, when the Tamil Tigers, from the ethnic Tamil minority, sought independence from the Sinhalese-dominated, majority Buddhist country. The Tamils are Hindu, Muslim and Christian.

The six near-simultaneous blasts were set off Sunday morning at St. Anthony's and the Cinnamon Grand, Shangri-La and Kingsbury hotels in Colombo, as well as the two churches outside Colombo. They collapsed ceilings and blew out windows, killing worshippers and hotel guests, and leaving behind scenes of smoke, soot, blood, broken glass, screams and wailing alarms.

The military confirmed two other related blasts, one near an overpass and another at a guesthouse where two people were killed. A ninth blast, which killed three police officers, was set off by occupants of a safe house trying to evade arrest, authorities said.

A morgue worker in Negombo, outside Colombo, where St Sebastian's Church was targeted, said many bodies were hard to identify because of the blasts. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to the media.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo, said at least 110 of the dead were killed at St Sebastian's, making it the deadliest of the attacks.

Nilantha Lakmal, a businessman who took his family to St Sebastian's for Mass, said they all escaped unharmed, but he remained haunted by images of bodies being taken from the sanctuary.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo, said the attacks could have been thwarted. “We placed our hands on our heads when we came to know that these deaths could have been avoided. Why this was not prevented?” he said.

Syrian detained for questioning over attacks: sources

Sri Lankan police are holding a Syrian national in custody for questioning over the Easter Sunday attacks on churches and hotels, three government and military sources told Reuters on Tuesday.

“The terrorist investigation division of the police arrested a Syrian national following the attacks for interrogation,” a source said.

Two other officials with knowledge of the investigation confirmed the detention. “He was arrested after interrogation of local suspects,” a second source said.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1477893/sri-lanka-arrests-40-suspects-after-bombings-toll-up-to-310

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Southeast Asia

 

China says it consistently opposes unilateral US sanctions on Iran

22 April 2019

China consistently opposes unilateral US sanctions against Iran, the Chinese foreign ministry said on Monday amid reports that Washington is expected to announce that buyers of Iranian oil must halt imports soon or face sanctions.

Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, speaking at a daily news briefing, said China’s bilateral cooperation with Iran was in accordance with the law.

China is a major importer of Iranian oil and was one of eight buyers who were granted a waiver by the United States to continue buying Iranian oil.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/04/22/China-says-consistently-opposes-unilateral-US-sanctions-on-Iran.html

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Joko Widodo Can't Save Indonesia from Extremism

April 22, 2019

by Doug Bandow

Indonesian president Joko Widodo apparently won his electoral rematch with Prabowo Subianto by a solid if not overwhelming margin. That almost certainly is to the benefit of Indonesia and its neighbors.

Subianto is a putative strongman, made an army general by his father-in-law, the late dictator Suharto. Subianto commanded the brutal Special Forces and was cashiered for having kidnapped regime opponents. He sought political support by encouraging Islamic extremism.

Nevertheless, in response Widodo, informally known as Jokowi, abandoned his more liberal views and appealed to the same intolerant forces. Indonesia’s reputation as home to a tolerant Islamic faith continues to erode.

Indeed, Islamic extremism long has existed barely beneath the surface, ready to burst forth. Two decades ago on the main island of Java I joined the group Christian Freedom International in visiting a Bible school which had been destroyed by a mob. Out of fear of further violence, the local authorities refused to grant permission to rebuild. On the same trip I visited the Moluccan Islands, with a larger than average Christian population, which were roiled by more than two years of violent conflict. I met a militia leader who fought to defend Christian villages—and was killed a couple weeks later.

In 2002 Islamists targeted Australians for their nation’s support of America; the bombing killed 202 people on Bali. I stood in front of Jakarta’s JW Marriott in 2003, after it was bombed by Islamic radicals, ironically killing more Indonesian Muslims than Western Christians (the hotel was hit again a few years later). In 2006 I met a pastor’s wife who lost her leg in a bombing at her church outside of Jakarta. During the same trip I talked with members of a church in Kalimantan, which had been destroyed by their neighbors. They were blocked by the local government from rebuilding the church.

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In fact, since 2004 the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has placed Indonesia on its “Tier 2” list for violations of religious liberty. The USCIRF’s latest report noted that “For decades, hardliners and other intolerant groups have had deep connections to and influence on the highest levels of government.” Although advocates of tolerance remain, other elements “have grown more vocal in calling for increasingly conservative interpretations of Islam.”

Indeed, observers see the Arabization of Indonesian Islam, with a rise of Salafism. Moderation and syncretism, accommodating traditional local beliefs, are fading. The New York Times has reported that bureaucrats “steeped in austere Wahhabism draw converts in government prayer halls. Hundreds of Indonesians joined the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. And hundreds of thousands more cheer for the group on social media.”

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Much of the change resulted from Saudi Arabia promoting fundamentalist Wahhabism. Explained the Commission: “Saudi money, such as through the state-owned Saudi Fund for Development, supports Indonesian mosques and schools, and the government provides funds for educational materials and scholarships to study in Saudi Arabia.” One of the most important promoters of intolerance is the Saudi Institute for the Study of Islam and Arabic. It has “nurtured militants linked to terrorist attacks across Southeast Asia” while expanding across Indonesia. Open Doors now ranks Indonesia at number thirty on its World Watch List of the globe’s fifty worst persecutors, according to the New York Times.

Among the problems, reported USCIRF, were regulations which have “politicized the construction of houses of worship and often handed over their fate to the influence of hardliners and other intolerant groups.” Some churches were closed by demonstrators; others were shuttered by local governments despite court decisions affirming that the churches have a legal right to operate. Ahmadis and Shia Muslims also suffered discrimination. The U.S. State Department catalogued a long list of religious liberty violations: imposition of Sharia law, closures of houses of worship, opposition to church construction, forced conversions, violent attacks on churches, blasphemy prosecutions, denial of public services, forced Sunni religious education, discrimination and intimidation.

One of the greatest threats to free religious practice are the blasphemy laws, which are misused in Indonesia, Pakistan and other Muslim nations. The charge is a weapon often deployed against members of minority faiths, with guilt presumed and courts intimidated by demonstrators. Amnesty International counted more than one hundred individuals who were prosecuted between 2005 and 2014. In 2016 a politically motivated case against Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, or Ahok, the Christian governor of Java running for reelection, led to his imprisonment. Fearful over the potential for violence in the case, he abandoned his appeal.

Jokowi won international backing for his perceived liberalism. Indeed, in the 2014 race he was attacked for his relative liberalism: “the opposition camp harped on about Jokowi’s secular approach as a weakness, arguing that he was not devout enough and spreading rumors that he was a closet Christian,” reported the Economist. Widodo made a pilgrimage to Mecca two days before the election to demonstrate his supposed devotion.

His government was expected to be an advocate of religious tolerance. After taking office, however, he quickly abandoned any liberal instincts. Australian National University’s Marcus Mietzner complained that instead of defending pluralism, the president “tried to adopt many of the Islamist themes—and the minorities were the main victims of that move.” Most dramatically, Jokowi remained silent in the persecution of his former deputy, even praying with demonstrators demanding that Ahok be tried.

The 2019 election was a replay of the earlier contest. Widodo benefited from general economic growth, but he could not count on reelection. The high hopes which greeted his first term had ebbed. His progress in fighting corruption was limited; economic investment and reform lagged; the military’s influence had grown; he had undermined free speech by targeting critics; and Islamic radicalism had advanced. Indeed, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Joshua Kurlantzick argued that “Jokowi’s image as a clean politician has been dented by the arrest of one of his political allies allegedly for accepting bribes. The president seems to be ignoring graft by major figures who are willing to support him—and who also stand in the way of real reform of the political system.”

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Of course, he was not the first alleged reformer to fall short in that way, basking in the support those whose influence he once promised to curtail. “Perhaps the biggest reversal has been Jokowi’s seemingly effortless embrace of conservative Islam,” noted the Economist. The Western-educated son of a Christian, Subianto ran as a nationalist, populist, and Islamist. By making religion a top issue, he sharply divided the electorate along religious grounds. The president responded in kind.

Kurlantzick noted that “Jokowi has simultaneously embraced some harder-line positions and policies, designed to appeal to more conservative voters—moves that could further entrench the power of Islamist ideas and actors.” Again, candidate Widodo made a last-minute Hajj to Saudi Arabia. He chose as his running mate Ma’ruf Amin, a hard-line Islamist who until his resignation last September headed the nation’s largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama. Amin was a strong advocate for limiting religious liberty, and even issued a fatwa against Santa hats. More significantly, he testified against Ahok in the latter’s blasphemy prosecution.

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Jokowi won this election by a larger percentage of the vote but carried fewer provinces, as voters polarized along religious lines. He now owes Amin and the conservative Nahdlatul Ulama. Amin is seventy-six years old, so he is an unlikely successor to Jokowi. However, the campaign energized Islamists, who gathered at Subianto’s Jakarta home after hearing of his likely loss. The so-called 212 Movement, which demanded Ahok’s imprisonment, rallied in the capital over Easter weekend. Future protests are possible to further demands to ban alcohol, criminalize gay sex, and impose Shariah law.

The continuing rise in Islamic extremism is likely to affect Widodo’s second-term policies. Worse, it presages a further decline in Indonesia’s religious liberty. Noted Andreas Harsono of Human Rights Watch, “We should be very concerned, because both sides in the campaign have now made human rights and democracy decline.” And Widodo has proved that he is a man of neither principle nor courage, making him unlikely to defend his country from Islamist subversion.

Full report at:

https://nationalinterest.org/blog/skeptics/joko-widodo-cant-save-indonesia-extremism-53697

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President Jokowi Condemns Sri Lanka Easter Bombings; All Indonesians in the Country Reportedly Safe

APRIL 22, 2019

Jakarta. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has condemned Sunday's suicide bombings in Sri Lanka, which claimed the lives of nearly 300 people, most of them Christians.

"Indonesia strongly condemns the bomb attacks in several places in Sri Lanka today. On behalf of the people of Indonesia, I also convey our deepest condolences to the government of Sri Lanka and the families of all the victims," the president tweeted on Sunday evening, according to Bey Machmudi, spokesman for the Presidential Secretariat.

Three of the six attacks, which occurred during Easter services on Sunday morning, were on churches – St. Sebastian's Church in Negombo, St. Anthony's Shrine in Kochchikade and Zion Church in the eastern city of Batticaloa – while bombs also exploded at the Shangri-La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury hotels in the capital, Colombo.

The Sri Lankan government has confirmed that all the attacks were carried by suicide bombers and blamed local jihadist group, National Thowheed Jamaath, for the violence, the BBC reported.

Another bomb exploded on a street near a church in Colombo on Monday.

Due to security concerns, the State Security Council has imposed a curfew from 8 p.m. local time on Monday until 4 a.m. on Tuesday. Social media access has also been blocked in the country.

At least 24 people have been arrested, while police found explosive devices in several locations, including near Bandaranaike International Airport. Three police officers were killed by explosions in two separate raids in Colombo.

By Monday evening, the death toll had risen to 290, including foreigners, while more than 500 people have been injured.

Sri Lanka is home to about 1.5 million Christians, mostly Catholics. The majority religion is Buddhism, followed by Hinduism (12.6 percent) and Islam (9.7 percent), according to the country's 2012 census.

The Indonesian government said all 374 of its citizens in the South Asian country are safe. One Indonesian was at the Shangri-La Hotel when the explosion occurred.

British newspaper The Sun quoted terror expert Rita Katz as saying that Islamic State supporters "have boasted that the series of attacks were revenge for the New Zealand mosque massacre and the US-backed military campaign in Syria."

Full report at:

https://jakartaglobe.id/context/president-jokowi-condemns-sri-lanka-easter-bombings-all-indonesians-in-the-country-reportedly-safe

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Palembang Literary Week showcases Southeast Asia’s oldest printed Quran

April 23, 2019 

A literary exhibition in Palembang, South Sumatra, showcases classic works of literature spanning from the earliest history of the region, as well as archipelagic Indonesia as a whole.

The oldest printed Quran in Southeast Asia, alongside several ancient manuscripts, became the centerpiece of the exhibition, dubbed Palembang Literary Week, which will run until Sunday at the Palembang Grand Mosque.

Throughout the week, visitors will be able to trace the region’s literary history from the days of the once-gargantuan Sriwijaya Empire, right up to the post-independence era of early Indonesia.

Rare literary artifacts such as a two-century-old handwritten European letter, sabak (an early writing instrument made out of stone) and ancient stone inscriptions are among the highlights of the exhibition.

A Quran that was printed in August 1848, soon after the establishment of the first lithography-based printing house in the region under the Dutch occupation, also drew public attention, as literary experts have declared it the oldest printed Quran in Southeast Asia.

Palembang-based literature expert, Ahmad Subhan, said the extensive collection showcased at the exhibition proved that the provincial capital had experienced massive cultural shifts over the course of centuries.

“Islam historians from Bayt Al-Quran Indonesia have considered the 1848 edition to be the first and the oldest known copy of a printed Quran in Southeast Asia,” Subhan told The Jakarta Post.

He went on to say that the oldest Quran was proof that Palembang had been one of the world’s earliest adopters of the printing technology.

Full report at:

https://www.thejakartapost.com/life/2019/04/23/palembang-literary-week-showcases-southeast-asias-oldest-printed-quran.html

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Arab World

 

US puts up $10 mln reward for Hezbollah information

22 April 2019

The United States is offering a $10 million reward for information that can help disrupt the finances of the Lebanese Hezbollah movement.

The State Department said it would give the money to anyone who provides intelligence that allows the United States to disrupt Hezbollah in key ways.

The areas include information on Hezbollah’s donors, on financial institutions that assist its transactions and on businesses controlled by the movement.

President Donald Trump’s administration has put a top priority on reducing the influence of Iran, the primary backer of Hezbollah.

The State Department listed three alleged Hezbollah financiers as examples of activities it was seeking to stop, with one, Ali Youssef Charara, allegedly funding the group by investing millions of dollars from Hezbollah in the telecommunications industry in West Africa.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has pointed to a recent appeal by Hezbollah for donations as a sign of US success in curbing Iran.

On a visit last month to Beirut, Pompeo urged Lebanon to counter the “dark ambitions” of Iran and Hezbollah but was rebuffed by Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, who said Hezbollah was not a terrorist group and enjoyed a wide base.

The United States has vowed for decades to fight Shiite militants in Lebanon, with memories still bitter over the 1983 attack on a military barracks in Beirut that killed 241 Americans.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/04/22/US-puts-up-10-mln-reward-for-Hezbollah-information.html

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Saudi Arabia arrests 13 accused of planning terrorist attacks

22 April 2019

The spokesperson of the Saudi Presidency of State Security said that 13 people were arrested as a result of finding plans to execute criminal acts that were targeting the Kingdom’s security, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Monday.

The statement published by SPA included the names of the 13 arrested men, in addition to their National ID numbers.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/04/22/Saudi-Arabia-arrests-13-accused-of-planning-terrorist-attacks.html

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ISIS claims attack in Saudi Arabia

22 April 2019

ISIS extremist group says it was behind an attack Sunday on a Saudi security building in al-Zulfi, a suburb around 250 km north of the capital Riyadh, in which all four gunmen were killed and three security officers were wounded.

Al Arabiya sources said the Saudi authorities foiled an attempted terrorist attack on the General Directorate of Investigation’s Center in al-Zulfi. The attackers carried machine guns, bombs, and Molotov cocktails.

The ISIS-linked Aamaq news agency released a video Monday of the four alleged “martyrdom-seekers” behind the attack.

It’s unclear when the footage was filmed.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/04/22/ISIS-says-it-s-behind-attack-in-Saudi-Arabia.html

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ISIL Goes on Offensive in Homs Deserts with US-Backed Militants' Help

Apr 22, 2019

The Syrian Army troops engaged in fierce clashes with the ISIL terrorists who intended to penetrate into military points in al-Sukhna Desert in Eastern Homs, battlefield sources in Eastern Homs said.

The sources said several ISIL terrorists were killed after their vehicles came under strike by the Syrian Air Force.

The Arabic-language al-Watan newspaper also reported that the ISIL terrorists, who have exited al-Baqouz town under an agreement with the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), launched several attacks on the Syrian Army's military positions in Badiyeh from Jabal Abu Rajmin in Northeastern Palmyra to Eastern Deir Ezzur.

The Arabic-language service of Russia Today (RT) also pointed to the reemergence of the ISIL in al-Tanf region in Eastern Homs and the terrorists' attacks on the Syrian Army's military points, and quoted local sources as saying that an operation is underway to relocate terrorists to this region.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), meantime, announced that the ISIL's activities in Badiyeh region of Homs and the terrorist groups' attacks on the Syrian Army in the region have increased after the US-led coalition declared the ISIL's defeat in Eastern Euphrates.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980202000681

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Iraq says over $60 million in public funds embezzled in Mosul

Apr 22, 2019

Iraq's anti-corruption body has accused officials in the northern province of Nineveh of embezzling more than $60 million in public funds, saying the crime was committed after the governor was sacked last month.

According to a statement by the anti-corruption Integrity Commission on Monday, officials from Nineveh, of which Mosul is the capital, had stolen a total of $64 million in public funds.

It added that of this huge sum, nearly $40 million had been allocated to rebuild Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, which was ravaged by the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group.

Daesh had turned Mosul to its de facto capital in the country from mid-2014 to July 2017, when the city was finally liberated from the grips of the terror outfit, following several months of fierce fighting.

The statement added that the embezzlement occurred in the aftermath of a ferry sinking in the province in March that claimed the lives of more than 100 people.

The tragic incident prompted the parliament to unanimously fire Governor Nawfel Akoub, who has since been on the run, thought to be hiding out in Irbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region.

The statement did not accuse the governor directly, but said the accused officials were “close to Akoub.”

It added that 14 officials had been arrested earlier this month after the anti-corruption body’s investigation found that “checks and wire transfers of public funds had been made out to the personal accounts of senior officials.”

Of the missing money, “just six million dollars” were recovered by the government, a commission member told AFP.

The Iraqi parliament has been probing accusations of massive corruption among officials in the province, and their results came out amid public anger over the ferry sinking.

Graft is reported to be endemic across the Arab country, which ranks among the world’s worst offenders in Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/04/22/594100/Iraq-Mosul-Nineveh-embezzlement-Akoub-Daesh-Mosul

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Saudia cabin crew remain unaccounted for after Sri Lanka attacks

April 22, 2019

DUBAI: Two cabin crew of the national airline Saudia remain unaccounted for in Sri Lanka, according to a spokesman.

One crew member was injured following the Easter Sunday attacks which killed at least 290 people and injured 500, but the location of two others was unknown.

“As a result of the tragic events that took place in Colombo, Sri Lanka this morning there are SAUDIA crew members that are reportedly unaccounted for,” a statement released by the airline after the attacks on Sunday read.

The two members, that remain missing, have not been named but they are both Saudi Arabian nationals.

No details have been released of where the two were at the time of the blasts.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1486171/saudi-arabia

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Saudi Arabia arrests 13 accused of planning terrorist attacks

April 22, 2019

RIYADH: Thirteen people were arrested after finding plans to execute criminal acts that were targeting the Kingdom’s security, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Monday.

The statement published by SPA included the names of the 13 men arrested, in addition to their civil ID numbers.

The spokesperson for the Saudi Presidency of State Security said explosive belts were found during a raid on the house of the Zulfi attackers.

Four heavily armed attackers were killed in a failed terrorist attack claimed by Daesh on an Interior Ministry building in Zulfi, north of Riyadh on Sunday.

The four terrorists that were killed belonged to Daesh.

The Presidency of State Security released the identities of the four attackers: Abdullah Hamoud Al-Hamoud, Abdullah Ibrahim Al-Mansour, Samer Abdulaziz Al-Madid and Salman Abdulaziz Al-Madid.

Saudi authorities discovered a house in Al-Rayyan neighborhood in Zulfi governorate, rented by Abdullah Al-Hamoud, one of the four perpetrators, where they found what resembled to be a factory for manufacturing explosives and explosive belts.

A total of five explosive belts were found, four of which were worn by the perpetrators, and another inside a car. The belts contain detonating keys and grenades with shrapnel-like screws.

Authorities also seized 64 homemade grenades, 61 pipe fittings, of which nine were being processed as pipe bombs, three mobile phones, three pressure cookers ready for detonation, two Kalashnikov machine guns, six pistols, and other various weapons.

They also found four bags (74,900 kg) containing organic fertilizers, along with sets of laboratory glass containers, a number of plastic containers, a package of liquid chemical containers, sulfur-fiber cartons, a homemade explosive detonator and a set of screws that were equipped with shrapnel.

Authorities also seized a set of ATM cards, two national identity cards, SR 228, a number of publications and CD-ROMs with content related to terrorist organization.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1486241/saudi-arabia

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Europe

 

ISIS funder in Britain celebrated the Sri Lanka attacks

April 22, 2019

Mustafa Ali Noor

Islamic State (ISIS) funder Shahid Uddin Khan, his wife Farjana Anjum and daughters are already under the radar of international media for their direct involvement into jihadist activities. So far they already have formed a network, which spreads up to United States. According to information, Shahid Uddin Khan has his long-time cohort M. Sajjad Hussain and his wife who currently are residing in Texas, United States. Sajjad, being the lapdog of Shahid has been spreading radical Islam and jihadism in the US for a number of years, while Sajjad’s wife, a known high-end sex worker and former mistress of Shahid Uddin Khan are not only helping ISIS in spreading its messages in the US, he (Sajjad) also is collaborating with Shahid in ousting the democratically elected government in Bangladesh through coup. This racket already is targeting Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) and making foul bids in tarnishing the image of the organization.

Meanwhile, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary said, “The United States condemns in the strongest terms the outrageous terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka that have claimed so many precious lives on this Easter Sunday. Our heartfelt condolences go out to the families of the more than 200 killed and hundreds of others wounded.

“We stand with the Sri Lankan government and people as they bring to justice the perpetrators of these despicable and senseless acts,” the statement concluded.

President Donald Trump in a statement said, “The United States offers heartfelt condolences to the great people of Sri Lanka. We stand ready to help!”

Celebration by ISIS-jihadist in Briitain

According to information, on hearing the news about jihadist attack in Sri Lanka, ISIS funder Shahid Uddin Khan and his wife Farjana Anjum made several long-distance phone calls to their cohorts and jihadist contacts in the world and expressing joy at the Colombo blasts.

https://www.weeklyblitz.net/news/isis-funder-in-britain-celebrated-the-sri-lanka-attacks/

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Christianity under attack? Sri Lanka church bombings stoke far-right anger in the West.

By Adam Taylor and

Rick Noack

April 22, 2019

Sunday’s bombings in Sri Lanka marked the country’s deadliest violence in a decade, leaving 290 dead and more than 500 injured. But the attacks, which targeted a religious minority in a predominantly Buddhist country, also resonated abroad — especially in Europe.

To some, it was further proof that Christians in many parts of the world are under attack. Several churches were targeted in Sunday’s bombing attacks, along with hotels and a banquet hall. At one Catholic church in Negombo, more than 100 people were killed. The attack took place on Easter, one of the most important dates on the Christian calendar.

“My thoughts are once again with the persecuted Christians around the world,” Marine Le Pen, president of France’s far-right National Rally party, wrote in a tweet on Monday. Those who died on Sunday were “targeted for their faith,” she added.

Le Pen, like some other European far-right leaders, had initially offered only vague condolences to victims of the bombings on Sunday. However, after Sri Lankan officials blamed a local Muslim militant group, National Thowheed Jamaath, for the attack on Monday, European far-right groups and activists began to describe the attacks in specifically religious terms.

Regional branches and sites associated with Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party framed the Sri Lankan bloodshed as an attack “against us Christians,” even though the party officially claims to be open to members of all religions, including Jews and Muslims.

Local party branches in the city of Solingen and eastern Germany lashed out at journalists for initially refraining to establish a link to Islamist terrorism. Some far-right groups claimed hypocrisy and double standards, arguing that attacks on Christians failed to receive the same response as attacks on Muslims.

Social media accounts that appeared to be associated with supporters of far-right groups drew connections to the Christchurch attacks, arguing that shooting sprees at two mosques in New Zealand were condemned as anti-Muslim attacks early on, whereas governments and media outlets were more cautious in the case of Sri Lanka.

Katie Hopkins, a British writer and provocateur, complained on Twitter that American liberal figures such as former president Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were not using the word “Christian” to describe those killed in the church bombings. She argued that Sadiq Khan, the Muslim mayor of London, had stepped up police patrols at British mosques after the Christchurch attack.

But after Sri Lanka, Khan offered “thoughts & prayers,” Hopkins wrote, echoing the much-criticized language of American politicians after mass shootings.

American far-right activists offered their own responses. “Followers of Jesus worldwide are being killed and otherwise terribly persecuted every day,” Frank Gaffney, a former Reagan administration aide now best known for his anti-Muslim rhetoric, said on his radio show. “All too often, their losses go unremarked.”

Similar sentiments were stated on a page on Reddit devoted to support for President Trump, with multiple posts criticizing Obama and Clinton for using the phrase “Easter worshipers” rather than Christians.

The theme of Christianity under attack has been a recurring one for many activists in the United States and Europe. Gaffney drew criticism for linking a devastating fire at Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral last week to attacks on “Christian houses of worship” in France and what he suggested was a Muslim-led campaign against Christianity.

French government statistics do show hundreds of incidents of vandalism against churches last year, although the vast majority of acts were minor. Officials later confirmed that the fire that destroyed Notre Dame was accidental.

The Sri Lankan government has responded cautiously to Sunday’s attack, initially refusing to speculate about the perpetrators and shutting down social media in an apparent bid to quell conspiracy theories. Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne told reporters on Monday that National Thowheed Jamaath was responsible and that it may have been working with a foreign network.

But no group has come forward to claim the attacks yet. In contrast, after the Christchurch attack, suspected perpetrator Brenton Tarrant was quickly caught alive; he left a lengthy manifesto explicitly outlining his far-right, anti-Muslim motives for the shootings, a document that circulated within hours of the attack.

Less than 8 percent of Sri Lankans are Christian, with the vast majority of them Roman Catholic; 12.6 percent are Hindu, and 9.7 percent are Muslim, while the remaining majority are Buddhist, according to the country’s 2012 census. The civil war that wreaked havoc in Sri Lanka for decades before finally ending in 2009 was based generally around nationalism and ethnic identity rather than religion.

Although Christian minorities are targeted around the world, analysts say that the vast majority of terrorism victims globally are Muslims. But Gerard Batten, the current leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, argued Monday that Western officials pay less attention to Christian deaths because they worry about how Muslims would react.

Full report at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2019/04/22/christianity-under-attack-sri-lanka-church-bombings-stoke-far-right-anger-west/

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India

 

10 Indians killed in Sri Lanka serial blasts, says external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj

Apr 23, 2019

Ten Indians were killed in the serial blasts that Sri Lanka on Sunday, says India’s external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted on Tuesday. The toll from the deadly suicide bomb attacks in Sri Lanka rose to 310, with several people dying of their injuries overnight, according to a police spokesman.

“Regret to confirm the deaths of two more Indian nationals Mr. A Maregowda and Mr. H Puttaraju in the blasts in Sri Lanka on Sunday, taking the total number of Indian deaths in the tragedy to 10 as of now,” Sushma Swaraj tweeted.

Around 500 people were wounded in the blasts, police spokesperson Ruwan Gunasekera said in a statement. He added that 40 people were now under arrest in connection with the attacks, which Sri Lanka’s government has blamed on a previously little-known local Islamist group, National Thowheeth Jama’ath.

Sri Lankans woke to emergency law on Tuesday as authorities searched for those behind suicide bomb attacks. The president’s office declared that emergency law would come into effect from midnight, giving police extensive powers to detain and interrogate suspects without court orders. An overnight curfew was also put into effect.

The declaration came after nerves were frayed even further in the seaside capital Colombo when explosives went off on Monday near one of the churches hit in Sunday’s attacks while bomb squad officers were working to defuse a device.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/10-indians-killed-in-sri-lanka-serial-blasts-says-external-affairs-minister-sushma-swaraj/story-swjfxFAAitnMrAxVJsN5YN.html

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Kashmiri separatists protest ‘ill-treatment’ of JKLF chief Yasin Malik

Apr 23, 2019

Kashmiri separatists on Monday called for a shutdown a day later against the “ill-treatment meted out to the ailing” incarcerated Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Force (JKLF) chief, Yasin Malik, while former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti demanded his immediate release for proper medical treatment.

In a statement, separatists Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and the JKLF called for protests across the Valley saying Malik’s health was deteriorating under custody in New Delhi.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested Malik on April 9 in connection with a case related to alleged terror funding in Kashmir. The Centre also banned JKLF last month.

“NIA’s high-handedness has… forced senior resistance leader Muhammad Yasin Malik to go on hunger strike and today his hunger strike has entered the 12th day. The life of ailing Yasin Malik, who is admitted to the RML Hospital in Delhi, is in danger and rulers and their agencies are busy playing with his life,” the statement said.

Mufti said Malik needed proper medical treatment as his “life is in danger”. She referred to Bharatiya Janata Party’s Lok Sabha candidate from Bhopal, Pragya Thakur, and said she has been out on bail and is fighting the national elections while Malik is very ill and his life “is in danger” behind bars. “My appeal to the government is that he [Malik] should be immediately released so that he gets treatment. God forbid, if something bad happens to him, the outcome would be catastrophic,” she said.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/kashmiri-separatists-protest-ill-treatment-of-jklf-chief-yasin-malik/story-uVlRokwph5ODu8sWGGYdTI.html

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US ends waiver but India may continue to buy Iran oil

Apr 23, 2019

The United States on Monday said it will stop in May all waivers that allow eight nations, including India, to buy Iranian oil without facing sanctions, triggering a rise in global crude prices and a slump in Indian markets.

The decision, taken by US President Donald Trump to pressure Tehran to give up its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes, sent oil prices to their highest in 2019, though the White House said it was working with top oil exporter Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to ensure the market is “adequately supplied”.

“President Donald J Trump has decided not to reissue Significant Reduction Exceptions [SREs - as the waivers are called] when they expire in early May,” the White House said in a statement. “This decision is intended to bring Iran’s oil exports to zero, denying the regime its principal source of revenue.”

India was among eight countries granted waivers from the secondary impact of sanctions for six months to taper their import of Iranian crude to zero. The others were China, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, Taiwan, Italy and Greece. Since November, three of the eight — Italy, Greece and Taiwan — have stopped importing oil from Iran. The others have not, and have lobbied for the waivers to be extended.

“Any nation or entity interacting with Iran should do its diligence and err on the side of caution. The risks are simply not going to be worth the benefits,” US secretary of state Mike Pompeo told a news briefing.

People familiar with developments said the Indian government was studying the implications of the US decision and would make a “statement at an appropriate time”.

Government officials, who asked not to be named, said Indian companies are unlikely to completely halt imports from Iran.

“Even in past, despite US sanctions, Indian refiners continued to import crude oil from Iran, although in a reduced quantity,” one of those officials said.

The people cited above said the absence of a formal reaction from the external affairs ministry was an indication that India was looking at the possibility of finding some sort of workaround by engaging with the US within the next few days.

“It won’t be an easy choice but a nuanced way out has to be found to see us through,” a person said. “A strong reaction at this stage would have closed our options. For the US, Iran is a bigger enemy than India is a friend.”

Countries or companies found in violation of the US curbs will run the risk of secondary sanctions, which would block them from the US financial system. They would also be prevented from trading with the US and conducting US dollar transactions with other countries.

US officials did not specify if Iranian crude buyers will be hit with sanctions on May 3 and after for receiving oil shipments already paid for in advance.

The waiver from sanctions for Iran’s Chabahar port, which is being developed by India for trading with Afghanistan and Central Asia, will remain in place. The Trump administration had exempted it in November — calling it an “exception” — citing the “close relationship” with India.

India will also be watching out in early May for a notification regarding removal from a zero-tariff US import scheme, the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP).

In the last decade, India’s oil imports from Iran first dropped in 2012-13 due to sanctions by the European Union (EU) and the US. After two fiscals, they were ramped up from the 12-13 million tonne range to 27.2 MT in 2016-17. In the financial year that ended on March 31, India imported 23.5 MT.

India purchased on an average 620,00 barrels per day in May 2018, going up from 320,000 in 2011. Ahead of the Trump administration’s snapping back sanctions in October 2018, it was buying 354,000 barrels a day, which dropped to 285,000 this February, according to a compilation of data by the Congressional Research Service, a non-partisan body that conducts studies and prepares briefs for lawmakers.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/us-ends-waiver-but-india-may-continue-to-buy-iran-oil/story-QIEqhQmV4zDX6lnTkcpmoL.html

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Foreign secretary Gokhale raises issue of Azhar's listing with China

Apr 22, 2019

NEW DELHI/BEIJING: India has raised with China the issue of banning of Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar by the UN with foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale during his meeting on Monday in Beijing with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi emphasising that both countries should be sensitive to each other's concerns+ .

India has shared with China all evidence of terror activities of JeM and its leader Azhar, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in response to a question whether listing of Azhar was raised during Gokhale's ongoing China visit.

"It is now for the 1267 Sanctions Committee and other authorised bodies of the UN to take a decision on the listing of Azhar as a global terrorist. India will continue to pursue all available avenues to ensure that terrorist leaders who are involved in heinous attacks on our citizens are brought to justice," Kumar said.

Apart from Wang, Gokhale met a number of Chinese leaders, officials said.

"The issue was discussed", a source said when asked whether Gokhale raised the issue of Azhar during his meetings.

Gokhale on Monday held talks with Wang and reviewed the progress of bilateral ties post- Wuhan summit, emphasising that both countries should be sensitive to each other's concerns.

In his opening remarks, Gokhale said both sides were making efforts to implement the understandings reached at last year's informal summit at Wuhan between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

"As your excellency said we will work together with the Chinese side to deepen understanding to strengthen trust to implement the decisions that are taken by the leaders and to do it in a manner in which we are sensitive to each other's concerns," he said.

China blocked Azhar's designation for the fourth-time recently+ , stalling efforts by the US, the UK and France to designate him as a global terrorist.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/foreign-secretary-gokhale-raises-issue-of-azhars-listing-with-china/articleshow/68992161.cms

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TN outfit denies links with namesake under lens for Lanka blasts

Apr 23, 2019

CHENNAI: With the Sri Lanka-based National Thawheed Jamaat coming under the terror scanner in the wake of the serial blasts in Sri Lanka, its namesake, the Tamil Nadu Thawheed Jamaat (TNTJ) has been dragged into the media spotlight. The Muslim outfit's general secretary E Mohammed told TOI in Chennai that it was an apolitical Islamic organisation and had nothing to do with NTJ.

The TNTJ has, however, collaborated with Sri Lankan Thawheed Jamaat (SLTJ), a different outfit, in several social campaigns, preaching 'true Islam' and the concept of 'Thawheed' (monotheism). Founded in Tamil Nadu in 2003, it has thrown itself into social work and charitable activities

including blood donation and disaster relief. "We have collaborated with TNTJ in social causes and strongly campaigned against terror," said SLTJ president Abdul Gaffar Hisham from Colombo.

Denying that his outfit has come under scrutiny in the wake of the serial blasts, Hisham said, "None of our members have been picked up for questioning nor arrested so far." There are several Muslim outfits in Sri Lanka including the All Ceylon Thawheed Jamaat, Ceylon Thawheed Jamaat besides the NTJ. "The confusion has risen because of the inclusion of 'Thawheed' in the names of these organisations. But the similarity ends there," he said.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/tn-outfit-denies-links-with-namesake-under-lens-for-lanka-blasts/articleshow/68999084.cms

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Mideast

 

Rouhani: Iran, Pakistan to Deploy Rapid Reaction Force at Borders to Fight Terrorists

Apr 22, 2019

"Unfortunately, we have witnessed tensions at the two countries' border by terrorists in recent months. Of course, we are happy that the Pakistani side has clearly declared as terrorist the grouplets which carry out terrorist activities and will confront them," President Rouhani said in a joint press conference with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in Tehran on Monday.

"The two sides agreed to increase border security cooperation, the border guards and intelligence forces, and form a rapid reaction force at the border to confront terrorism," he added.

President Rouhani underlined Tehran and Islamabad's determination to further broaden relations, saying, "No third country is capable of affecting the two countries' brotherly ties."

He emphasized Iran's preparedness to meet Pakistan's oil and gas needs and adopt necessary measures to link the Peace Gas Pipeline to Pakistan, adding, "We have stated our readiness to increase electricity exports to Pakistan up to 10 times."

President Rouhani noted that he and Imran Khan also discussed regional issues, expansion of relations to establish stability and security in Afghanistan and the region, the United States' wrong moves, specially with regard to Quds, Golan Heights and insult to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps by its designation as a "terrorist organization".

The highly important decision by the two leaders to deploy rapid reaction forces along common borders came in the aftermath of a deadly terrorist attack against the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) in February.

Jeish al-Adl, a Pakistan-based radical Wahhabi terrorist group staging cross border attacks into Southeastern Iran from South-West Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the February 13 attack against the IRGC members in Iran which killed 27 personnel.

The group has bases in Southwestern Pakistan and started operations nearly 6 years ago after recruiting the remnants of Jundullah notorious terrorist group and reorganizing them. Iran had captured leaders of Jundullah notorious Wahhabi terrorist group and dismantled the terrorist organization years earlier.

The terror attack has stirred fury among Iranian officials, specially the military brass. On February 19, Military Aide to the Iranian Supreme Leader Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi lashed out at Pakistani Intelligence service’s backing for terrorists, advising Islamabad and its intelligence apparatuses that Saudi Arabia is not a reliable partner.

Speaking in Iranian central city of Isfahan, General Safavi said that the Pakistani government and its intelligence service had to respond to the Iranian nation and government, holding Islamabad responsible for the recent terrorist attack in Sistan and Baluchistan.

Meantime, General Safavi reiterated that Iran wanted to have good relations with its neighbors as it believed that insecurity in the region only served the interests of the United States and Zionists who had gathered in Warsaw conference, but vowed that Iran and the IRGC would give a "crushing and proper response in due time to the provocateurs and puppet perpetrators of the terrorist attack against the IRGC".

Also on February 16, former Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari warned Riyadh and Abu Dhabi of Iran's revenge for the terrorist attack, and blasted Pakistan for supporting the terrorist groups which act against Tehran.

"The traitor governments of Saudi Arabia and the UAE should know that the Islamic Republic of Iran's patience has run out and the Islamic Republic will not tolerate your secret supports for the Takfiri grouplets. We will take revenge for our martyrs from the UAE and Saudi governments and want the president to give us more free hands than the past for retaliatory operations," General Jafari said in the Central city of Isfahan, addressing the burial ceremony of the IRGC personnel killed in the terrorist attack.

He said that the Saudi and UAE intelligence agencies were clearly hatching different plots to foment insecurity in Southeastern Iran in addition to the US and Israeli plots to create insecurity and conduct assassination operations, noting that Iran has reliable intel in this regard.

General Jafari also asked the Pakistani army and intelligence body why their country was sheltering Takfiri groups, including Jeish al-Adl which has claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack, and noted, "We believe this silence is kind of support for this grouplet and the Pakistani intelligence organization should account for it."

"Pakistan should also know that it should pay the cost for the Pakistani intelligence organization's support for Jeish al-Zolm (as Jeish al-Adl is called in Iran) from now on and this price will not doubt be very heavy for them," he added.

"Undoubtedly, the Pakistani security organization knows the hideout of the grouplets but it has kept mum," General Jafari said.

Also on February 21, Commander of the IRGC Quds Force Major General Qassem Soleimani warned the Islamabad government to stop cross-border attacks by the terrorists based in neighboring Pakistan.

"We have always offered Pakistan help in the region, but I have this question from the Pakistani government: where are you heading to? You have caused unrest along borders with all your neighbors and do you have any other neighbor left that you want to stir insecurity for," General Soleimani said, addressing a ceremony in the Northern Iranian city of Babol in Mazandaran province.

Addressing the Pakistani government, General Soleimani asked, "Are you, who have atomic bombs, unable to destroy a terrorist group with several hundred members in the region? How many of your own people have been killed in different terrorist operations? We do not want your condolences, how could your condolence help the people of Iran?"

General Soleimani went on to say, "I tell the Pakistani people that the Saudi cash has influenced Pakistan and they want to destroy Pakistan with such measures."

He warned that the Pakistani Army should not let several billion dollars of "a Saudi criminal" burn alive Muslims on a bus and finance other terrorist operations in the region, and said, "I ask the Pakistani government what has been left for Pakistan?"

"I warn you not to test Iran and anyone who has tested Iran has received firm response. We are speaking to Pakistan with a friendly tone and we are telling that country not to allow their borders to become a source of insecurity for the neighboring countries; anyone who has made this plot for Pakistan is seeking to disintegrate that country, the Islamic Republic of Iran will take revenge of its martyrs from those mercenaries who have committed this crime no matter where they are in the world," General Soleimani added. "We will punish this wicked group in any part of the world and we will not allow the blood of our youth to be shed in the country and cleaned (and forgotten) easily."

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980202000820

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Terror groups seek to ‘contaminate’ Iran-Pakistan ties: Ayatollah Khamenei

Apr 22, 2019

The Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei says terrorist groups backed by enemies of Iran and Pakistan seek to cause tension in the two countries' relations, adding that mutual relations must be bolstered in spite of the enemies’ will.

Ayatollah Khamenei made the remarks in a Monday meeting with the visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and his accompanying delegation in Tehran.

“Terrorist groups, which sow insecurity along borders, are fed with the enemies’ money and weapons and one of the goals sought through anti-security measures along Iran's border with Pakistan is to contaminate the two countries’ relations,” the Leader noted.

Ayatollah Khamenei continued by emphasizing that good relations between Tehran and Islamabad are beneficial to both sides, “but these relations have serious enemies, which despite their will, cooperation and contacts [between Iran and Pakistan] must be strengthening in various sectors.”

Explaining about the historical backdrop of the two countries’ relations, the Leader noted that the Indian subcontinent reached the acme of its progress and dignity under the rule of Muslims.

“The biggest blow dealt to this important region by the British colonialists was to annihilate the prominent Islamic civilization that existed there,” Ayatollah Khamenei stated.

During the meeting, which was attended by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the Pakistani premier explained about his negotiations in Tehran, saying, “Many problems were solved through these negotiations and Pakistani ministers held good talks with their Iranian counterparts.”

Khan stated that there are certain hands at work to prevent Tehran and Islamabad from getting close, adding, “We try to make relations between the two countries stronger than before and we will maintain continuous contacts with the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Confirming the Leader’s remarks on India, the Pakistani prime minister said the British colonialists plundered all the wealth of India, destroyed its education system and made India the crown jewel of their colonial rule.

Earlier in the day, the Pakistani premier held talks and attended a joint press conference with the Iranian president.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/04/22/594085/Khamenei-Imran-Khan-Iran-Pakistan-Leader

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Houthis warn Saudi Arabia, UAE: Strategic spots within reach

Apr 22, 2019

Yemen’s popular Houthi Ansarullah movement, which defends the country against a Saudi-led invasion, says it can hit “strategic targets” in the kingdom and its closest regional ally, unless the invaders observe a UN-brokered ceasefire.

"Our missiles are capable of reaching [the Saudi capital] Riyadh," Abdul Malik al-Houthi, the group's leader, told Yemen’s al-Masirah television network on Monday.

The invasion, led by Saudi Arabia and participated by many of its allies, including the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, has been seeking to restore Yemen’s former Riyadh-backed officials since 2015.

Al-Houthi said the group’s missiles can possibly even be flown “beyond Riyadh, to Dubai and [the Emirati capital] Abu Dhabi.”

Last December, the United Nations mediated talks between the Houthis and the former officials in Sweden. The negotiations led to establishment of a ceasefire in the coastal city of al-Hudaidah, the port of entry for most of Yemen’s imports.

The Houthis have, time and again, complained about repeated violation of the deal by the invading forces and their mercenaries.

According to a December 2018 report by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, the Saudi-led war has claimed the lives of over 60,000 Yemenis since January 2016.

The war has also turned Yemen into the site of the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis by pushing it close to the edge of outright famine.

"It is possible to target strategic, vital, sensitive, and influential targets in the event of any escalation in al-Hudaidah," the Houthi leader warned.

The Houthis and their allied forces launch back-to-back retaliatory strikes against the southwestern Saudi regions of Jizan, Asir, and Najran.

Last July, the combined forces fired a domestically-designed and -developed ballistic missile at a strategic economic target in Jizan in retaliation for the ongoing war. Houthi fighters also fired two ballistic missiles at a facility belonging to Saudi Arabia’s Aramco oil giant in Jizan last April.

"We are able to strongly shake the Emirati economy," al-Houthi further cautioned in his televised remarks.

Last September, Yemen’s army and its allies staged a tit-for-tat drone strike on Dubai International Airport.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/04/22/594108/Yemen-warns-Saudi-Arabia-UAE-target-Riyadh-Dubai-Abu-Dhabi

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US Iran sanctions amount to aggression against entire world: Nasrallah

Apr 22, 2019

The secretary general of the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement has denounced US economic sanctions against Iran, describing the punitive measures as “an act of aggression” against all world nations.

“US efforts to increase economic pressure on Iran, especially its pledge to drive the country’s oil exports to zero, will have negative repercussions and will affect the entire world, including the US itself,” Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said as he addressed his supporters via a televised speech broadcast live from the Lebanese capital Beirut on Monday evening.

He then called on world nations to stand up against “US arrogance,” pointing out, "The tyrannical US government has no respect whatsoever for international law and regulations.”

Nasrallah also lashed out at Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for following in US footsteps and joining Washington’s economic pressure campaign against Iran.

The Hezbollah chief also roundly rejected media allegations that the Israeli regime is planning to launch a surprise war against Lebanon this summer.

“There is very little likelihood that Israel would launch another war on Lebanon. The Israeli army is not prepared for any aggression against the country. I personally don’t think such a thing would happen,” Nasrallah highlighted.

The Hezbollah chief also dismissed claims of infighting between Russian and Iranian forces in Syria’s eastern province of Dayr al-Zawr as well as the northern province of Aleppo, stating that Saudi-owned al-Arabia television news network has “disseminated such lies.”

“Saudi-backed media outlets are spreading lies and fallacies about Hezbollah, Iran and the region to a large extent,” Nasrallah said.

The Hezbollah secretary general then slammed Saudi Arabia and the UAE for spreading terrorism and chaos in countries like Yemen, Sudan and Libya.

Nasrallah also blamed Wahhabism for the emergence of regional terrorism and Takfiri terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and Daesh.

Wahhabism is the radical ideology dominating Saudi Arabia, freely preached by government-backed clerics there, and inspiring terrorists worldwide. Daesh and other Takfiri terror groups use the ideology to declare people of other faiths as “infidels” and then kill them.

“There are many agents in the Middle East, who are pushing for sectarian strife to serve the interest of the Zionist regime (of Israel). All those seeking to colonize the region will only raise public awareness,” the Hezbollah chief said.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Nasrallah touched upon the economic crisis in Lebanon, demanding greater cooperation and unity among Lebanese political factions.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/04/22/594092/US-sanctions-against-Iran-amount-to-aggression-against-entire-world-Nasrallah

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Israeli agriculture minister, settlers 'tour' al-Aqsa Mosque compound

Apr 22, 2019

On another day of provocative action in the occupied Old City of Jerusalem al-Quds, the Israeli minister of agriculture and rural development, Uri Ariel, along with dozens of settlers have toured the al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

The Palestinian Ma’an news agency, citing the spokesman for the Islamic Waqf (Endowment) organization, Firas al-Dibs, said right-wing Ariel, together with at least 170 extremist settlers, entered the holy site to celebrate the third day of the Jewish holiday of Passover, also known as Pesach, on Monday.

Dibs said the minister and his company were being escorted by heavily-armed Israeli soldiers and police, adding that they performed prayers and religious rituals during their time at the compound, which sits just above the Western Wall plaza and houses both the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosques.

On Sunday, a total of nearly 167 Israeli settlers, under the full protection of soldiers, entered the compound through the Moroccan Gate in the early hours of the day and throughout the afternoon, performing Jewish religious rituals there.

Locals say Israeli settlers routinely “raid” the sacred compound via the Gate, tour the site, and leave through the Chain Gate.

Israelis regard the site as their most holy place as it is located where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood.

Visiting al-Aqsa by Jews is permitted, but according to an agreement signed between the Tel Aviv regime and Jordan, which is the custodian of the holy sites at the compound, after Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem al-Quds in 1967, non-Muslim worship at the compound is strictly prohibited.

Palestinians say Israelis attempt to change the status quo of the al-Aqsa compound, the third holiest site in Islam.

The number of Israeli lawmakers who enter the sacred compound has increased since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided in July 2018 to allow such visits once every three months.

Many members of the Knesset, or the Israeli parliament, are right-wing extremists who support the demolition of the Islamic site in order to build a Jewish temple in its place.

On Monday, Israeli forces also sealed off the Ibrahimi Mosque in al-Khalil (Hebron) in an attempt to bar Muslim worshipers from entering the site, paving the way for Israeli settlers to enter the site and perform prayers and rituals on the third day of the Passover.

Ma’an reported that Israeli forces were heavily deployed around the holy site, which was split into a synagogue, known to Jews as the Cave of Patriarchs, and a mosque after American -born Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 Palestinians inside the mosque in 1994. Since then, Muslim worshipers have been prevented from having access to the site during Jewish holidays.

The occupied Palestinian territories have witnessed a new round of tensions ever since US President Donald Trump announced a unilateral decision in December 2017 to recognize Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s “capital” and relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the occupied city.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/04/22/594072/Israel-settlers-Aqsa

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Yemeni forces, allies shoot down three Saudi-led reconnaissance drones

Apr 22, 2019

Yemeni army forces, supported by allied fighters from Popular Committees, have intercepted and targeted three unmanned aerial vehicles belonging to the Saudi-led military coalition, as they were flying in the skies over the country’s western coastal province of Hudaydah and the kingdom’s southwestern border region of Najran.

Yemen’s Arabic-language al-Masirah television network, citing an unnamed Yemeni military source, reported that Yemeni air defense forces and their allies shot down two drones on Monday afternoon, as they were on reconnaissance mission over Kilo 16 district in Hudaydah.

Earlier in the day, Yemeni troops and fighters from Popular Committees brought down an unmanned aerial vehicle as it was flying over the Boqa' desert area of Najran, located 844 kilometers south of the Saudi capital Riyadh.

The developments came only a day after Yemeni forces and their allies intercepted and targeted a drone in the skies over the same Saudi region.

A Yemeni military official, requesting not to be named, said the drone was struck as it was on a mission over Wadi Al Abu Jabbareh area in Najran.

Last week, the media bureau of Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement announced in a statement that Yemeni air defense forces and their allies had shot down a Chinese-built medium-altitude and long-endurance Wing Loong drone with a surface-to-air missile.

The statement issued on April 19 added that the drone was struck as it was on a surveillance mission over Bani Muadh area in the Sahar district of Yemen’s northwestern province of Sa’ada. It was armed with air-to-surface weapons.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015 with the goal of bringing the government of former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power and crushing the Houthi Ansarullah movement.

According to a December 2018 report by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, the Saudi-led war has claimed the lives of over 60,000 Yemenis since January 2016.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/04/22/594068/Yemeni-forces-allies-shoot-down-three-Saudiled-reconnaissance-drones

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Pakistan

 

Pakistan will rein in militant outfits, Imran assures Iran

Apr 23, 2019

TEHRAN: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan agreed on Monday to set up a joint border “rapid reaction force” to counter terrorism, as the latter reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to not allow misuse of its territory by militant groups.

The understanding came at a meeting between the two leaders in Tehran. Prime Minister Imran is on an official two-day visit to Iran, his first visit to the country since assuming the office.

Addressing a joint press conference later, the Iranian president said it was unfortunate that the two countries had witnessed tensions in the border areas in the recent past, where the terrorists had perpetrated their nefarious acts.

He said that during the talks, both sides reaffirmed their commitment to peace and security in the entire region.

Addressing reporters, Prime Minister Imran said that Pakistan has resolved not to allow any militant group to operate from its soil.

“We have been facing [impact] of terrorism since long. In Pakistan, we have suffered more terrorism than probably any other country. In the past [few years] we have lost around 70,000 people. Full appreciation must be made for our security agencies, with the way they tackled terrorism in Pakistan,” the premier said.

“We are committed to not let it happen again. We will not allow any militant group to operate from our soil. We will not allow our soil to be used by anyone against anyone.”

“I felt that the issue of terrorism was going to increase differences between Pakistan and Iran. So it’s very important that we [resolve] this issue,” he added.

On the ongoing peace talks in Afghanistan, Prime Minister Imran said peace in the war-ravaged country was in the interests of both Pakistan and Iran.

“We will cooperate with each other in helping bring a political settlement in Afghanistan,” he said.

“Without justice, there is no peace. Huge injustice is being done to the Palestinian people. Israel’s decision to occupy Bolan and make Jerusalem its capital is against international norms. Similarly, atrocities being done to the Kashmiris are condemnable,” the premier added.

He stressed that peace and stability in the region could only come from dialogue, not military might. “We hope there will be a peaceful political settlement in Kashmir.”

Recalling his visit to Iran while he was still studying, Prime Minister Imran said he appreciated how Iran has become a very egalitarian society.

“This should be appreciated. This is what the Iranian Revolution did. This is what we envision as Naya Pakistan. We want to see the divide between the rich and the poor in Pakistan reduce, like it has reduced in Iran,” the premier noted.

On a lighter note, he remarked, “If the British had not colonised the subcontinent, we wouldn’t be needing an interpreter because all of us would be speaking Persian, [which had long been the court language in the subcontinent].”

Iranian President Rouhani said his country is ready to meet the oil and gas requirements of Pakistan, adding that Iran has already taken measures to construct a gas pipeline to the Pakistani border.

He said Iran is also ready to increase exports of electricity to Pakistan.

Emphasising that “no third country can harm the brotherly and close relations between the two countries”, Rouhani said the two sides agreed to bolster their trade and economic relations and to set up a barter committee so that goods and other items could be exchanged.

The president said Iran is also interested in establishing links between Gwadar and Chahbhar ports in order to strengthen the bilateral trade relations.

The two sides also signed a memorandum of understanding for cooperation in the health sector.

Prime Minister Imran and Iranian President Rouhani also held talks at the Saadabad presidential palace in Tehran earlier in the day.

The two leaders discussed bilateral relations, regional issues and ways and means to further bolster their relations in diverse fields.

Prime Minister Imran was also presented with an official welcome upon his arrival at the Saadabad Palace.

On Sunday, the prime minister landed at Mehrabad Airport of the Iranian capital city along with a high-level delegation, he was received by Iranian Health Minister Dr Saeed Namaki, a statement issued by the PM’s Office said. A smartly turned out contingent presented a static salute to the prime minister.

This is his maiden visit to Iran after assuming office in August last year. The prime minister was initially scheduled to visit Iran in January, but the visit was postponed at the eleventh hour because of unexplained reasons.

PM Imran’s visit comes after the Ormara massacre in which 14 people were killed by terrorists in Balochistan’s Ormara. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that the terrorists had come from Iran. He also said that the Ormara attack won’t affect the premier’s Iran visit.

“As much as 20 terrorists backed by Iran-based militant organisation clad in camouflage uniform of the Frontier Corps (FC) entered Pakistan from Iran and conducted an attack,” he added.

Pakistan also shared actionable evidence with Iran and asked the neighbouring country to act against elements involved in the attack

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/04/22/pakistan-iran-to-establish-joint-rapid-reaction-force-to-tackle-cross-border-terrorism/

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Pak SC rejects defence ministry report in a case against former Army, ISI chiefs

Apr 22, 2019

ISALMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Monday rejected a report submitted by the ministry of defence in a case about the involvement of former army and ISI chiefs in financial scams aimed at rigging 1990 elections to keep former slain Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto out of power.

In 1996, the late air chief marshal Asghar Khan had filed a petition in the top court, claiming that former army chief Aslam Beg, ex-ISI chief Lt Gen (retired) Asad Durrani and former president Ghulam Ishaq Khan had hatched a conspiracy to ensure Bhutto’s defeat in the 1990 elections.

During Monday’s hearing, the defence ministry submitted a report, saying that it had constituted a court of inquiry, which had recorded the statements of six witnesses and examined all proof associated with the case. It added that efforts were being made to bring the matter to its logical end as per the rules and regulations.

Justice Azmat Saeed, heading the three-member bench, asked: “During the inquiry, were the witnesses asked about the person through whom the money was offered?” The attorney general responded, “No”. Justice Saeed directed the defence ministry to submit a complete report again, adding the report will be examined if statements of the witnesses that were recorded under oath are true.

FIA also submitted a report, saying that it could not find enough proof or evidence to take the case forward. FIA authorities said they were unable to proceed due to lack of substantial evidence. The investigation body again recommended the closure of the Asghar Khan case for lack of evidence.

According to the petition, the two senior army officers and then-president had doled out Rs 140 million to several politicians, including former PM Nawaz Sharif, to rig the polls against Bhutto. A political alliance consisting of nine parties including the Pakistan Muslim League and Jamaat-e-Islami, had won the election, with Nawaz Sharif elected as prime minister. The alliance, known as the Islamic Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI), was allegedly formed and funded by the accused in the case.

In October 2012, the SC had issued a 141-page verdict, ordering legal proceedings against Beg and Durrani, directing the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to initiate a transparent investigation and subsequent trial if sufficient evidence was found against the former army officers. In December 2018, FIA had recommended to the apex court to close the files, citing lack of evidence. Following FIA’s suggestion, the court had notified Asghar Khan’s heirs but the family had opposed the closure of the case.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pak-sc-rejects-defence-ministry-report-in-a-case-against-former-army-isi-chiefs/articleshow/68997266.cms

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Days after Umar's departure from cabinet, Chinese ambassador praises PTI leader as 'man of integrity'

April 22, 2019

Days after Asad Umar's departure as finance minister, Chinese ambassador to Pakistan Lijian Zhao praised the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf stalwart on Twitter as a "man of integrity" who "dares to speak the truth".

Zhao shared a clip of an interview Umar gave to Stephen Sackur on BBC News' programme Hard Talk in December last year, in which the then finance minister had chastised Western leaders for criticising Pakistan's relationship with Saudi Arabia and China.

In response to a question regarding the Trump administration's reservations over a bailout package by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to Pakistan, Umar had suggested that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo "should worry about his China debt problem". Pompeo had earlier warned that the US will not allow the Fund to lend Pakistan money which may be used to repay debts to China.

"USA is the largest debtor in the world to China; they owe $1.3 trillion [to China]," Umar had told Sackur. "What [does] Pakistan owe to China? Less than 10 per cent of Pakistan's foreign debt is owned by the Chinese, 90 per cent is non-Chinese."

He had further questioned the "sudden" interest in Pakistan's lenders, saying that the question had never been raised in the past even though the country had sought IMF's assistance 12 times in the past 30 years.

Umar, in response to Ambassador Lijian's praise, thanked the ambassador and lauded China for proving wrong its critics that had long predicted the failure of its economic model.

"For years we have heard them say that the Chinese model was wrong and bound to fail. We are proud that China has proven them wrong," Umar tweeted.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1477717/days-after-umars-departure-from-cabinet-chinese-ambassador-praises-pti-leader-as-man-of-integrity

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ECP seeks major changes in legal framework governing electoral processes

Iftikhar A. Khan

April 23, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan has sought significant changes in the legal framework governing electoral processes in view of enormous challenges the ECP faced during the conduct of the 2018 general elections.

A detailed post-election review report on the 2018 general elections was launched on Monday at a ceremony during which ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad also answered questions of reporters.

Other senior officials of the ECP were also present in the ceremony.

In the report, the ECP highlights achievements made and challenges faced by it during different stages of the election, including delimitation, revision of electoral rolls, appointment of polling staff, printing of ballot papers and introduction of new technology meant for swift transmission of election results.

The post-election review is part of the annual report for 2018.

The report describes as a foremost challenge the provision of inaccurate maps to delimitation committees by revenue departments. “Accuracy of maps was a pre-requisite for error free delimitation. In some cases, maps corresponded neither to revenue record nor the census record. Therefore, the Committee repeatedly returned maps to Revenue Departments / local administrations for necessary rectification,” the report reads.

Review report on 2018 general elections launched

It says the inconsistencies in revenue record also posed a challenge. There were some serious inconsistencies between revenue record and maps provided by the district administration. “For instance, in some cases the district administration for its convenience divided the area of a large patwar circle among two or more parts, without any notification,” it reads.

The ECP in its report has suggested amendment in Article 51 of the Constitution to provide that fresh delimitation be carried out not later than one year before the completion of the term of the respective assembly. It says the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) should prepare digitised maps showing details of locations and legends to avoid overlapping and chance of missing out any area. It says the provincial governments should provide maps strictly in accordance with the notified administrative units for delimitation exercises.

It asks the federal government to take immediate steps for official publication of census reports so that the delimitation for local government elections could be timely carried out.

In the chapter on electoral rolls, the ECP says the process was exceptionally challenging as the PBS provided the requisite data in December 2017 — six months after the expected timeline. It says the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) mentioned incomplete addresses in the national identity cards of citizens, which were reflected in electoral rolls, making it difficult for the verifying officials to locate such voters and even allocation of an appropriate census block code.

It says that non-issuance of NICs to women voters was the prime reason for the gap between male and female voters (over 12.5 million now). The federal government has been asked to issue direction to Nadra for increasing registration of women, persons with disabilities (PWDs), minorities and transgender persons by removing existing challenges and barriers. Directions may also be issued to authorities concerned to simplify processes for PWDs to obtain disability certificate and issuance of NIC with disability logo by Nadra. The federal government may direct Nadra to obtain accurate address of the applicant while filling of form for registration / issuance of NIC.

Sanctity and secrecy of voters

It has been proposed that sections 41 (2) and 79 (3) of the Elections Act may be omitted to preserve sanctity and secrecy of voters. Under these sections candidates and polling agents can obtain hard and searchable soft copy of the final electoral rolls with photographs of voters, including women.

The report recommends that Section 210 of the Elections Act, 2017 be amended to provide the opening of an exclusive account in the name of enlisted political parties and all transactions should be made from the same account and no party fund will be deposited in the account of an individual in any case.

It also suggests amendment in Section 202 of the Elections Act, 2017 to provide that the list of 2,000 members provided by political parties for enlistment shall consist of 20 per cent (400) women members. It also seeks amendment in Section 216 to set a cut-off date for allocation of election symbols to political parties.

“Necessary legislation may be made in the law providing for significant penalty on such political parties whose election symbols are withheld by the Commission for non-compliance of Section 208 (intra party elections) and 210 (submission of assets and liabilities with the Commission)”, the report suggests. It also seeks an amendment in the law to bar withdrawal of a party ticket awarded to a candidate on general seats after submission to the returning officer concerned.

Pointing out that appointment of separate returning officers for national and provincial assemblies created problems in finalisation of polling stations and appointment of polling staff, it recommends necessary amendment in the Act to provide for appointment of one RO for one National Assembly and its corresponding Provincial Assembly constituencies as per past practice. “In such case the number of AROs may be increased to facilitate the ROs”, it says.

The report recommends appointment of experienced officers as ROs and their exemption from their routine office work after issuance of election schedule till conclusion of results.

Observing that there was a general lack of interest and unwillingness for performing election duty; due to heavy administrative responsibility, hardships and the potential of political coercion against a meagre amount of financial benefit, it proposes that the electoral staff be assigned duties nearest to their residences with increased financial incentives.

Referring to the gigantic task of printing millions of ballot papers, it has been recommended that time for holding elections be extended from 60 to 90 days and printing of non-sensitive material be allowed from local open market as the printing capacity of government presses is insufficient.

“Section 71(4) of the Elections Act, 2017 may be appropriately amended to provide for “Paper with security feature” instead of “watermark paper” so that the paper with security feature may be manufactured within the country,” the report reads. It also suggests amendment in the Act to provide for name box in Form A for writing name of the candidate in Urdu as per NIC.

RTS controversy

The report finds a sketchy mention of the Result Transmission System (RTS) controversy that hit headlines soon after the electoral exercise was over and says RTS was 3G / 4G supported software which required availability of internet connectivity (3G / 4G) at 100 per cent polling stations. “Since 3G /4G density was available only at 60 per cent of areas of the country as per PTA, implementation of RTS at all the polling stations was a great challenge for the Commission”, it says.

It says arrangement of mobile devices for use in RTS across the country at more than 85,000 polling stations was a great challenge which involved huge public money. “Training on RTS to presiding officers and Sr. APOs, being non-tech savvy due to generation gap, was also a challenge”, it reads.

The report recommends that introduction of new technology should not be mandatory under the law until it becomes foolproof and practicable in the field.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1477842/ecp-seeks-major-changes-in-legal-framework-governing-electoral-processes

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12 injured in Nasirabad bomb explosion

Ali Jan Mangi

April 23, 2019

DERA MURAD JAMALI: At least 12 people, including two officials of the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD), were injured in a bomb explosion in Nasirabad district on Monday night.

Police said that the explosive device was planted in a motorcycle parked at a bus stand on Quetta-Karachi National Highway.

The explosive device went off when a vehicle of CTD reached there.

“The target of the blast was CTD officials who were travelling in an official vehicle,” a senior police official said.

Soon after the blast, police and Frontier Corps personnel reached there and took the injured to the district hospital in Dera Murad Jamali.

Three seriously injured people were sent to Larkana for treatment.

The blast was so powerful that it was heard several kilometres away from its site.

Many pushcarts of vegetable and a rickshaw caught fire after the blast.

Windowpanes of nearby buildings and shops were smashed due to the impact of the explosion.

Police identified some of the injured as Abdul Ghani Jonejo, Nisar Ahmed Pand­rani, Shah Nawaz, Ghulam Sarwar, Mohamm­ad Yaqoob, Mir Mohammad Jamali, Khadim Rind and Ali Mengal.

The identity of four injured could not be ascertained.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1477843/12-injured-in-nasirabad-bomb-explosion

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PM Imran mixes up historical facts during Iran visit

Prime Minister Imran Khan, while addressing a joint press conference with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during his visit to the neighbouring country, mixed up historical facts.

While giving an example of how two countries set up joint industries at the border region to improve economic ties after the war, he mentioned Germany and Japan instead of Germany and France.

 Embedded video

Sidrah Memon

@SidrahMemon1

Germany & Japan are 5,500 miles apart but Imran Khan says Germany and Japan created joint industries on their border region after World War II. Inalillahe Wa Inna Ealahi Rajioon Naya Pakistan

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He said, “The more trade you have with each other your ties automatically become stronger…Germany and Japan killed millions of their civilians until after the Second World War when they both decided to have joint industries on their border regions.”

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/04/23/pm-imran-mixes-up-historical-facts-during-iran-visit/

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Iran, Pakistan to form joint anti-terror force: Rouhani

Apr 22, 2019

Iran and Pakistan have agreed to form a joint force to eliminate terrorist groups as Prime Minister Imran Khan began his first visit to Tehran with a pledge not to join any coalition against the Islamic Republic. 

Rouhani announced the agreement on Monday after talks with Prime Minister Khan whose first visit to Tehran is hoped to start a new chapter in historic relations between the neighbors.

“We agreed to step up security cooperation between the two countries and their respective border security and intelligence forces while also forming a joint rapid reaction force on the shared borders to fight terrorism,” Rouhani said after a closed-door meeting with Khan.

The sensitive issue of border security was expected to dominate the conversation between Iranian and Pakistani officials.

Ahead of Khan’s visit, families of several Iranian border guards killed by terror groups wrote to the Pakistani leader and asked him to take swift action against groups freely crossing into Iran from Pakistan.

Iran had in the past urged Pakistan to address the issue, even offering to launch a joint military and intelligence operation to locate and eliminate terrorists in Pakistani territories.

In their latest attack, Pakistan-based terrorists killed over 40 members of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) by ramming an explosive-laden car into their bus in southeastern Iran in February.

“Unfortunately, over the past few months we witnessed some tensions caused by some terrorists who acted savagely,” President Rouhani said at a joint news conference with Prime Minister Khan on Monday.

“We are glad that the Pakistani side now recognizes groups with such inhumane conduct as terrorist and treats them as such.”

‘No country can affect Tehran-Islamabad ties’

Rouhani said that his meeting with Prime Minister Khan marked a new milestone in mutual ties, adding Iran and Pakistan would continue to maintain their close ties despite outside pressures.

“Both sides agree that no third country whatsoever can affect the friendly and brotherly ties that exist between Iran and Pakistan,” he said, adding that Khan had officially invited him for a visit to Islamabad.

According to Rouhani, they also agreed on the need for both sides to expand joint efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan.

Other security issues discussed in the meeting included US President Donald Trump’s recent designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organization and his recognition of Syria’s occupied Golan Heights as Israeli territory, Rouhani noted.

Addressing reports about Saudi and US pressure on Pakistan to join an Arab-Israeli front against Iran in the region, Rouhani said PM Khan had assured him that Pakistan “has never joined and will never join any coalition.”

Iran ready to supply oil, gas and electricity to Pakistan

Rouhani said Iran was ready to supply oil and gas to Pakistan and increase electricity exports to the country by ten-fold.

He also said Tehran was interested in expanding trade between Iran’s Chabahar and Pakistan’s Gawader ports by connecting them with a railway.

The president noted that Iran, Turkey and Pakistan as co-founders of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) could increase economic cooperation by connecting their railway systems. This, he said, would open a corridor from Europe to China.

Earlier in the day, Rouhani extended a formal welcome to Khan, whose historic visit to Tehran has been viewed as a major step towards opening a new era in relations between the two neighbors.

Khan and his high-profile delegation touched down in Tehran on Sunday night after a brief stop in the northeastern city of Mashhad, where the premier paid a visit to the holy shrine of Imam Reza (AS), the 8th Shia Imam.

Rouhani led the welcome ceremony for Khan at the at Sa’adabad Complex, which was also attended by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad JavadZarif, Minister of Road and Industry Mohammad Eslami and a few other high-ranking members of the cabinet.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/04/22/594038/Rouahni-Khan-Pakistan-Iran

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Africa

 

Sudan tensions escalate after talks with military break down

22 April 2019

Tensions are rising in Sudan after talks broke down between protesters and the country’s military rulers who earlier in April ousted President Omar al-Bashir after months of street protests against his rule.

Large crowds lit up the night sky with their cellphones, singing and chanting as protest leaders delivered fiery speeches in the capital, Khartoum, on Sunday night.

The protest organizers - the Sudanese Professionals Association - said they suspended talks with the ruling military council because it failed to meet their demands for an immediate transfer to a civilian government.

The protesters fear the military intends to cling to power or put another general in charge.

Qurashi Diefallah, a protester, said they’re disappointed because the army is “just an extension of the regime which stole 30 years from us.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/04/22/Sudan-tensions-escalate-after-talks-with-military-break-down.html

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Saudi, UAE pledge $3 billion aid to Sudan’s new junta amid protests

Apr 22, 2019

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have announced a joint package of aid worth $3 billion for Sudan, where military leaders seized power from President Omar al-Bashir last week.

The two Persian Gulf Arab countries said in a statement carried by their state news agencies on Sunday that they would deposit some $500 million in Sudan’s central bank.

The Saudi Press Agency claimed that the aid was intended to strengthen Sudan's financial position, ease the pressure on the Sudanese pound and increase stability in the exchange rate.

However, the package is being viewed as an attempt to prop up Sudan's military rulers who are facing mounting pressure from protesters to cede power to a civilian government.

The protesters, who remain camped out near the Defense Ministry in Khartoum since Bashir was ousted on April 11, have demonstrated in large numbers over the past three days, pressing for a rapid transition to a civilian rule.

Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been courting Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who was sworn in on Friday as the head of ruling junta, the Transitional Military Council (TMC).

Burhan said on Sunday the military council is committed to transferring power to a civilian body, but protesters are frustrated with the junta dragging its feet on its implementation.

A coalition of protesters and opposition groups said the TMC is not serious about handing over power to civilians, describing the council as an "extension of the old regime".

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have ties with Burhan and his deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, through their participation in the kingdom's protracted war on Yemen.

The two countries have expressed support for measures taken by the Transitional Military Council following Bashir’s ouster.

Last week, Burhan praised Sudan’s distinguished relations with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the official SUNA news agency reported.

Burhan met with a joint delegation from Riyadh and Abu Dhabi last week, and received a verbal message from their leaders.

Analysts warn that both Riyadh and Abu Dhabi are striving to influence the transition process by backing the military council.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE had cultivated close ties with Bashir prior to his ouster and were reportedly exhorting him to forge relations with Israel.

However, as Bashir's position became precarious, the head of Mossad met with his Sudanese counterpart in Germany as part of a secret plan by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE to oust him, London-based Middle East Eye reported in March.

In January, Bashir lamented that he had fallen for advice from unknown parties to normalize ties with Israel in order to ensure stability in his country, but had seen the situation spiral out of hand.

Sudan, under Bashir, had forged close relations with Saudi Arabia in recent years after renouncing ties with Iran.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/04/22/594043/UAE-Saudi-Arabia-Sudan-ruling-junta

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Eastern Libyan forces to intensify Tripoli offensive

23 April 2019

Eastern Libyan forces said on Monday they would intensify an assault on

Tripoli, the capital in the west of the country that is held by the internationally recognized government, as the death toll in a battle now in its third week rose to 254.

The Libyan National Army (LNA) force loyal to commander Khalifa Haftar allied to a parallel government in the east headed by PM Fayez al-Serraj has launched an offensive but has been unable to breach the southern defenses of the city.

Forces loyal to Tripoli drove back the LNA in recent days to the southern suburb of Ain Zara, the main scene of fighting, Reuters reporters visiting the area said, even though the LNA said it had launched air strikes on military sites in the capital.

LNA spokesman Ahmed Mismari denied there had been a retreat but said an advance by LNA forces had slowed because of the dense population in the areas where fighting was taking place.

He told reporters that the LNA was calling in reservists to open new fronts on Tripoli and said it would use artillery and infantry in the next days. He gave no details.

Monday was quieter on the main frontline south of the capital with less shelling than in previous days, residents said. Bad weather made air strikes impossible, Mismari said.

Shelling could be still be heard even in central Tripoli 11 km (7 miles) from the frontline and smoke billowed from one spot in southern Tripoli, a Reuters reporter said.

The death toll since the start of fighting has reached 254, while 1,228 people have been wounded, the World Health Organization said. More than 32,000 people have been displaced, the UN humanitarian agency added.

The latest flare-up in Libya, which has been mired in chaos since dictator Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in 2011, threatens to disrupt oil flows, foment migration across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe and allow extremists to exploit the power vacuum.

If a ceasefire was called as demanded by the United Nations, the LNA would have gained a considerable amount of territory, as they still control much of the area south of Tripoli including a forward base in Gharyan, a mountainous town about 80 km south of Tripoli.

UN Envoy Ghassan Salame left the heavily-fortified compound in Tripoli to travel abroad for a few days to “hold meetings in a number of cities to seek to stop the war in Libya,” a UN spokesman said, without giving details.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2019/04/23/Eastern-Libyan-forces-to-intensify-Tripoli-offensive.html

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Libya's unity government accuses France of backing ‘criminal’ Haftar

Apr 22, 2019

Libya's internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) has accused France of backing renegade General Khalifa Haftar as his forces press ahead with an offensive on the capital Tripoli.

The unity government's Interior Minister Fathi Bach Agha said on Monday that the French government was supporting "the criminal Haftar."

The GNA will cut security ties with Paris, Agha said.

The comments triggered surprise in the French embassy and prompted a swift denial of the "unfounded" allegations.

Supporters of the UN-backed GNA say France has blocked resolutions at the UN Security Council, the European Union and other international organizations opposing Haftar's offensive.

Analysts believe Paris sees Haftar and his so-called Libyan National Army (LNA) as a potential stabilizing force in an African country rocked by years of conflict.

Hundreds of Libyans held a protest against France in Tripoli on Friday, sporting trademark yellow vests of French anti-government demonstrators and condemning both France and "war criminal" Haftar.

Libya has been divided between two rival governments, the House of Representatives based in the eastern city of Tobruk and the GNA headed by Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj in Tripoli.

The 75-year-old Haftar, who enjoys the loyalty of a group of armed militia and backing from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, has taken upon himself to protect the government in Tobruk. Armed forces and militia loyal to the GNA have been fighting back.

Haftar launched his deadly campaign on April 4 to invade and conquer Tripoli, the seat of the GNA, resulting in constant fierce fighting on the southern edges of the capital.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the fighting has so far killed at least 205 people and wounded more than 900 others. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) also reported that more than 25,000 people have been displaced by the clashes.

Libya has been the scene of increasing violence since 2011, when former dictator Muammar Gaddafi was toppled from power after an uprising and a NATO military intervention. Gaddafi was killed.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/04/22/594103/Libya-GNA-France-Khalifa-Haftar

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Sudan’s ruling junta warns protesters against blocking roads

Apr 22, 2019

Sudan’s ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC) has warned protesters against blocking the roads leading to the Defense Ministry’s headquarters in Khartoum, where thousands of people have been holding sit-ins for days demanding civilian rule in the African country.

The TMC said in a statement on Monday that all the blockades placed on routes leading the army headquarters – which also hosts the presidential residence – should be removed.

“The roads have to be opened immediately to facilitate the movement of trains, and all means of transport in the capital and other states so as to help movement of essential items,” the military council said in a statement.

“Young people exercising the role of the police and security services in clear violation of the laws and regulations” must stop, it further warned.

The warning came a day after Sudanese protest organizers halted negotiations with the TMC about transferring power to a civilian administration following the ouster longtime president Omar al-Bashir earlier this month.

Sudan’s new military ruler, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, voiced dissatisfaction with the protesters setting up checkpoints and searching those who come to the sit-in.

“It can’t continue like this because security is the responsibility of the state,” Burhan said.

The demonstrators have, however, remained defiant, pledging not to leave the checkpoints they have erected near the roads leading to the protest site in central Khartoum.

“We will carry on manning the checkpoints as usual,” 23-year-old demonstrator Kawthar Hasaballah told AFP. “No one, not even the military council, will remove us from our places.”

TMC, which took over after toppling Bashir to hand power to civilians, has been making efforts to placate protesters who reject the military rule.

Protest leaders have vowed to continue organizing sit-ins and other rallies as part of a widening campaign to confront the junta rulers and push for the transfer of power to a civilian council.

Demonstrators view the ruling military council as similar to the ousted Bashir regime, who was toppled by the army on April 11 following months of demonstrations.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/04/22/594049/Africa-Sudan-Military-Council

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Libyan force slows Tripoli push over concerns for civilians

April 22, 2019

TUNIS, Tunisia: A self-styled Libyan army slowed down its push on the country’s capital over concerns for civilians caught up in the violence as the UN refugee agency said Monday that the fighting for Tripoli has displaced more than 32,000 people.

Fighting erupted on April 5, pitting the self-styled Libyan National Army, led by commander Khalifa Haftar and aligned with a rival government in the east, against militias affiliated with Tripoli’s UN-supported government.

The clashes threaten to ignite a new civil war in Libya on the scale of the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi.

The death toll from this month’s fighting climbed to 254, including combatants and civilians, the World Health Organization said Sunday. At least 34 more people died in the past two days, WHO said; 1,228 were wounded.

Since launching his push, which many see as a power grab for Tripoli, Haftar’s forces have captured the districts of Gharyan and Qasr Bani Ghashi,r along with several smaller towns. They also seized the capital’s shuttered old airport.

Fighting is now underway for control of Ain Zara and Azizyia, two larger towns near Tripoli, and in the Abu Salim district, about 7 kilometers (4 miles) from Tripoli center.

Abdelhadi Lahouij, the top diplomat for the east-based government, told The Associated Press in Tunis on Sunday that Haftar’s push was slowed down because of concerns for civilians in the greater Tripoli area, estimated to number about 3 million.

If the civilians had not been taken into account, the battle would not have lasted even a week, he said.

“The army is today 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) from Tripoli. It controls the (old) airport and the bridge that connects the airport to the city center,” Lahouij said.

He also lauded President Donald Trump’s call to Haftar last week expressing US support for the Libyan commander’s perceived stance against terrorism and Haftar’s role in “securing Libya’s oil resources.”

A White House statement on Friday also said “the two discussed a shared vision for Libya’s transition to a stable, democratic political system.”

Trump’s phone call was a step “in the right direction,” Lahouij said.

Since Gahdafi’s ouster, Libya has slid into chaos, governed by rival authorities in the east and in Tripoli, each backed by various militias and armed groups fighting over resources and territory.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1486371/middle-east

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Libyan govt claims control of most of Tripoli airport

Gulsen Topcu  

23.04.2019

TRIPOLI

Forces belonging to Libya’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) said Monday they had seized control of a large part of Tripoli International Airport.

The development follows clashes with forces loyal to eastern Libya-based commander Khalifa Haftar, Mustafa al-Mecei, the spokesman for the military operation, told Anadolu Agency.

After securing the capital, Tripoli, GNA forces would move towards the points where Haftar's forces were spotted in Libya's western region, Mecei said.

Haftar’s forces claimed earlier this month to have taken full control of Tripoli International Airport.

Since early April, Haftar has been launching a campaign to capture Tripoli, where the GNA is headquartered.

At least 254 people have been killed and hundreds injured in recent clashes on the outskirts of Tripoli, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Saturday.

Libya has remained beset by turmoil since long-serving leader Muammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed in a bloody NATO-backed uprising in 2011.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/libyan-govt-claims-control-of-most-of-tripoli-airport/1460221

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Somalia: Al-Shabaab Clashes With Somali and AU Troops in Somalia

21 APRIL 2019

Al-Shabaab fighters have attacked a government-controlled town in Lower Shabelle region of southern Somalia on Saturday night, local residents said.

The attack near Golweyn area has sparked a heavy gunfight between the militants and Somali government forces backed by the African Union soldiers serving under AMISOM.

Speaking to Radio Shabelle, the commissioner of Golweyn, Mohamed Sheikh Osman confirmed that the Somali and AU troops repulsed the overnight Al-Shabaab attack.

Osman did not give further details about the casualty figures inflicted on both sides.

Full report at:

https://allafrica.com/stories/201904220237.html

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North America

 

Trump decides not to reissue Iran oil waivers when they expire

22 April 2019

US President Donald Trump decided not to reissue Iran oil waivers when they expire in May, a White House statement said.

The statement added that the US, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates “have agreed to take timely action to assure that global demand is met as all Iranian oil is removed from the market.”

The United States announced it would no longer grant sanctions exemptions to Iran's oil customers, potentially punishing allies such as India as it tries to squeeze Tehran's top export.

“This decision is intended to bring Iran's oil exports to zero, denying the regime its principal source of revenue,” the White House said in a statement.

“The Trump administration and our allies are determined to sustain and expand the maximum economic pressure campaign against Iran to end the regime's destabilizing activity threatening the United States, our partners and allies and security in the Middle East,” it said.

Eight governments were initially given six-month reprieves from the unilateral US sanctions on Iran. They include India, which has warm ties with Washington but disagrees on the US insistence that Iran is a threat.

Other countries that will be affected include China and Turkey, opening up new friction in contentious relationships if the United States goes ahead with sanctions over buying Iranian oil.

The others- Greece, Italy, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan- have already heavily reduced their purchases from Iran.

Trump last year withdrew the United States from an accord negotiated by his predecessor, Barack Obama, under which Iran drastically scaled back its nuclear program in return for promises of sanctions relief.

US officials say that they are aiming at choking off Iranian revenue to reduce the clerical regime's regional clout, notably its support for militants groups such as Lebanon's Hezbollah.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/04/22/Trump-decides-not-to-reissue-Iran-oil-waivers-when-they-expire.html

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US military propping up Daesh in Afghanistan: Report

Apr 23, 2019

The United States military has been allowing members of Daesh and their weapons into Afghanistan following the terror group's recent defeats in Syria and Iraq, a new report suggests, raising serious questions about Washington’s future plans for the country.

According to the Monday report by the Economic Times, while Afghanistan’s skies remain under full control of American and NATO forces stationed in the country, sources are claiming that weapons are often being transferred to the country by helicopters that bear no identifying insignia.

The report estimated that around 10,000 members of the Takfiri terrorist group were present in Afghanistan and the number was growing on Washington’s watch.

The suspected ties between Daesh and the US military in Afghanistan is nothing new.

Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s former president, told Al Jazeera in 2017 that the US was colluding with Daesh in Afghanistan and helping it cement its grip on areas in the eastern parts of the country.

“In my view, under the full [US] presence, surveillance, military, political, intelligence, Daesh has emerged,” he said. “And for two years, the Afghan people came, cried loud about their suffering, of violations. Nothing was done.”

Karzai further noted that America specifically used Daesh as an excuse earlier that to drop the largest non-nuclear bomb ever built in Afghanistan.

"And the next day, Daesh takes the next district in Afghanistan," he said. "That proves to us that there is a hand in it and that hand can be no one else but them [the US] in Afghanistan."

On April 11, 2017, the US military dropped the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB), dubbed the "mother of all bombs", on alleged Daesh hideouts in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province, killing nearly a hundred people, whom the US insists were all militants.

Talks with Taliban

Daesh’s rise in Afghanistan comes at a time that the Trump administration is engaged in peace talks with the Taliban militant group, claiming that the war -- which began in 2001 -- has run its course and it is time to bring US troops back home.

Today, around 14,000 US troops remain in Afghanistan, half of them assigned to what Washington insists are counter-terrorism missions.

The Taliban's five-year rule over at least three quarters of Afghanistan came to an end following the 2001 US-led invasion, but 17 years on, the militant group has mounted a comeback over the past three years.

According to an official US report last year, the central government in Kabul is currently controlling a little more than 50 percent of the country, down from 72 percent in 2015.

All of this while the northern parts of the country are turning into a support base for terrorist groups led by the Afghan branches of Daesh, which have been building a stronghold to make another attempt at forming a so-called caliphate --- a dream that was shattered in Syria and Iraq thanks to efforts by the governments of those countries as well as help from Iran and Russia.

Familiar rhetoric

Earlier this month, unnamed US officials warned that Daesh-affiliated terrorists of the so-called ISIS-K group in Afghanistan were preparing to carry out attacks on US mainland, the USA Today reported.

The official further warned that the group was carrying out more deadly strikes in Afghanistan every year.

For example, it mounted six major attacks in the Afghan capital of Kabul in 2016. The number grew to 18 attacks in 2017 and 24 in 2018. The group is on pace to match or exceed that total this year, the official said.

According to the ET, there were also reports that Daesh was trying to use its Afghan bases to destabilize Central Asian countries.

American officials had made similar warnings in the past when the terror group had started its brutal takeover in Iraq and Syria.

Last year, Trump came under bipartisan fire in Washington by announcing his plans to withdraw troops from both Syria and Afghanistan in the wake of Daesh’s defeat.

The opponents claimed while it was true that Daesh had lost almost all territories it once held, it was still capable of carrying out attacks in the West.

'US war on Daesh was cover to undermine Syrian government'

The pressure to halt the decision was so much that Trump was forced to water down his plans of a full withdrawal from Syria to a partial one, where hundreds of troops would stay in the Arab country.

Despite its many claims to fight Daesh and its offshoots in the Middle East region, there is mounting evidence that the US military has been helping the terror group to later on use it as an asset.

This was best seen in Syria, where the US military repeatedly pounded Syrian army forces fighting Daesh and intervened on several occasions to hamper the Syrian government’s offensives to purge the terrorists.

Iran had warned Afghanistan

Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami warned his Afghan counterpart last year that the US was transferring Daesh to Afghanistan to justify its military presence in the Central Asian country.

"Iran has always been concerned about conspiracies hatched by outsiders against the Afghan people and has for many years done its best to ameliorate the suffering of the oppressed people of Afghanistan," he told Tariq Shah Bahrami during a phone call in February last year.

"After heavy blows suffered in these two countries, the US tried to take Daesh out of the scene and transfer it to Afghanistan to justify its presence there through [the group's] shameless crimes," he added.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/04/23/594137/US-military-Afghanistan-war-Taliban-Daesh

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Sanders demands Congress to override Trump's Yemen resolution veto

Apr 22, 2019

Senior United States Senator Bernie Sanders has demanded that Congress overrides President Donald Trump's veto against a congressional resolution that would withdraw US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

“The president’s action is a very serious challenge to congressional authority that demands a response,” Sanders wrote in a letter to fellow senators on Monday.

Sanders's letter comes a week after Trump vetoed the resolution, describing the bill as an "unnecessary," and "dangerous attempt" to weaken his constitutional authorities.

The president also claimed that the attempt by Congress would endanger the lives of American citizens and troops.

The legislation was originally introduced in the Senate and co-sponsored by Sanders, invoking the War Powers resolution, a federal law that gives Congress the power to check the American head of state when committing the country to an armed conflict.

Backers of the resolution argued that US involvement in Yemen violated the constitutional requirement that Congress, not the president, should determine when the country goes to war.

Consequently, Sanders said in his letter on Monday that the passage of the resolution was “long overdue” in reasserting the legislative branch's constitutional authority to declare war.

“The Congress must now act to protect that constitutional responsibility by overriding the president’s veto,” he wrote.

Sanders added that senators who oppose the Yemen resolution should address the matter in the Senate, arguing that overriding Trump's veto was a matter of protecting congressional rights and an objective all senators should support.

“At the end of the day, however, let us agree that it is imperative that Congress reaffirm the power given to us by the Constitution over matters of war,” Sanders continued, “one of the most serious duties we have as members of Congress.”

Washington's support for Riyadh's onslaught on Yemen has faced increased scrutiny in Congress ever since the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul, Turkey in October.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched the devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the aim of bringing the former Saudi-sponsored government back to power.

Last week, the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization tracking casualties in Yemen, announced that the death toll from the Saudi-led war has surpassed 70,000 deaths, with more than 10,000 being killed in the five last months alone.

The war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/04/22/594106/Sanders-override-Trumps-Yemen--veto

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US puts up $10m reward for Hezbollah information

April 23, 2019

WASHINGTON: The US on Monday offered a $10 million reward for information that would disrupt the finances of Lebanon’s Shiite militant movement Hezbollah.

The State Department said it would give the money to anyone who provides intelligence that allows the US to disrupt Hezbollah in key ways.

The areas include information on Hezbollah’s donors, on financial institutions that assist its transactions and on businesses controlled by the movement.

President Donald Trump’s administration has put a top priority on reducing the influence of Iran, the primary backer of Hezbollah.

The State Department listed three alleged Hezbollah financiers as examples of activities it was seeking to stop, with one, Ali Youssef Charara, allegedly funding the group by investing millions of dollars from Hezbollah in the telecommunications industry in West Africa.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has pointed to a recent appeal by Hezbollah for donations as a sign of US success in curbing Iran.

On a visit last month to Beirut, Pompeo urged Lebanon to counter the “dark ambitions” of Iran and Hezbollah but was rebuffed by Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, who said Hezbollah was not a terrorist group and enjoyed a wide base.

The United States has vowed for decades to fight Shiite militants in Lebanon, with memories still bitter over the 1983 attack on a military barracks in Beirut that killed 241 Americans.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1486516/middle-east

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US: Khalilzad begins trip to discuss Afghan peace

Umar Farooq  

22.04.2019

WASHINGTON

The U.S. special representative for Afghan reconciliation is traveling to Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, and the United Kingdom, as a part of Washington's effort to "facilitate a political settlement" in Afghanistan.

"In Kabul, Special Representative [Zalmay] Khalilzad will consult with the Afghan government and other Afghans to encourage all parties to work towards intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations to determine a final peace settlement," the State Department said in a statement.

He will then travel to New Delhi, Islamabad, Moscow and London, where he will work to build support for the Afghan peace process amongst the international community.

He will also be in Doha to help negotiate with the Taliban to urge participation in the peace process.

In February, the Taliban and the U.S. said after a marathon round of talks in Qatar that a draft agreement was reached for the eventual withdrawal of troops and guarantees Afghanistan would not be allowed to turn into hub of terrorism.

Last week, more than 200 Afghan politicians and civil society representatives were set to meet the Taliban in the Qatari capital for what was set to be a momentous development in the political settlement endorsed by Kabul and Washington.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/us-khalilzad-begins-trip-to-discuss-afghan-peace/1460169

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TOTAL COMMENTS:-   1


  • "Sri Lanka Bomb Attacks Were Revenge for New Zealand Mosque Killings"
    Idiotic reasoning! New Zealand Mosque killings were carried out by a white supremacist. Sri Lankan Christians are neither white nor supremacists.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 4/23/2019 10:35:33 AM



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