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Islamic World News (20 Jul 2019 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Moderate Islam a Good Fit for Indonesia: Ma'ruf Amin







Moderate Islam a Good Fit for Indonesia: Ma'ruf Amin

Saudi Arabia Defends Letter Backing China’s Xinjiang Policy

Army Chief’s Hours Long Meeting with Ulema, Minister on Madrassa Reforms

US to Press Imran Khan to Take 'Irreversible Action' Against Terrorists, Facilitate Taliban Talks

U.S. Places Sanctions on Int'l Network Involved In Iran Nuclear Program

Ilhan Omar Says She Will Continue To Be a ‘Nightmare’ For Trump

Hindu Couple Rescues Muslim Man From 'Jai Shri Ram' Miscreants in Maharashtra

Blacklist Fear Forces Pakistan To Shut 20 Terror Camps In PoK

Archaeologists Find Mosque, In the Bedouin Town of Israel, From When Islam Arrived In Holy Land

Right-Wing Extremism Is A Growing Worry In Germany After Series Of Attacks

 

Southeast Asia

Moderate Islam a Good Fit for Indonesia: Ma'ruf Amin

Saudi Arabia Defends Letter Backing China’s Xinjiang Policy

Ensuring every child has access to education

Govt mulls whether FPI worthy of permit extension

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Pakistan

Army Chief’s Hours Long Meeting with Ulema, Minister on Madrassa Reforms

US to Press Imran Khan to Take 'Irreversible Action' Against Terrorists, Facilitate Taliban Talks

During meeting with Imran Khan, Trump to seek Shakil Afridi's release from Pak jail

Pakistan's next 'double game': 'Marriage with China, affair with US'

US stalls Turkey’s fighter helicopter sale to Pakistan

Pakistan Court Dismisses Fake Deed Case Against PML-N Leader Maryam Nawaz

Pence urges Pakistan to release professor accused of blasphemy

First-ever election underway in merged tribal districts for 16 KP assembly seats

NAB launches money laundering probe against Maryam

Minister wants speedy trial, death for child abusers

Pakistan categorically rejects ‘baseless accusations’ amid fresh terror wave in Afghanistan

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North America

U.S. Places Sanctions on Int'l Network Involved In Iran Nuclear Program

Ilhan Omar Says She Will Continue To Be a ‘Nightmare’ For Trump

Trump Slams Omar, Calls Her Remarks ‘Disgrace To’ US

Treasury Department bureaucrats risk jumpstarting Islamic State resurgence

King Salman OK's deployment of 500 US troops in Saudi Arabia

Pompeo: US needs Iran to 'come to the table' for talks

US allies in Middle East turning their back on Trump: Analyst

US congresswomen get support from Arab Knesset member

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India

Hindu Couple Rescues Muslim Man From 'Jai Shri Ram' Miscreants in Maharashtra

Blacklist Fear Forces Pakistan To Shut 20 Terror Camps In PoK

Tamil Nadu-based radical module busted last week, inspired by global jihadi groups

‘Un-Islamic’ flags: Supreme Court seeks Centre’s reply

J&K: PDP leader’s security officer shot by militants in Anantnag

Deported terror suspects linked to IS, al-Qaeda, SIMI: National Investigation Agency

Supreme Court fixes 9-month deadline for ruling in Babri case

16 Tamil Nadu men were planning terror attacks, through knives, vehicles and poison: NIA

Tamil Nadu: NIA raids homes of 14 youths arrested in ‘Ansarulla’ terror case

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Mideast

Archaeologists Find Mosque, In the Bedouin Town of Israel, From When Islam Arrived In Holy Land

Any military aggression against Iran will drag entire Mideast into chaos: Nasrallah

Israeli forces wound nearly 100 Gazan protesters

Gibraltar Extends Detention of Iranian Tanker for a Month

As Iran-U.S. Tensions Rise, Hezbollah Readies for War with Israel

Iran says seized British tanker now at Bandar Abbas port, crew to remain onboard

US vows to shoot down any Iran drones that fly too closely to its ships

Arab Coalition begins operation targeting military positions in Yemen’s Sanaa

Meeting between top Bahraini, Israeli diplomats betrayal of Palestine: Hamas

Turkish jets pound Iraqi Kurdistan after Turkish diplomat killed in armed attack

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Europe

Right-Wing Extremism Is A Growing Worry In Germany After Series Of Attacks

Netherlands liable for Muslim deaths at Srebrenica: Dutch Supreme Court

Britain’s interior minister warns inflammatory political debate is fuelling extremism

Trio sentenced to death for beheading backpackers in ISIS-inspired slayings

How far-right groups use Britain’s extremism definition to argue they aren’t extremist

German police raid apartments at centre of suspected ISIS plot

EU to send $1.6B for refugees in Turkey under deal

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South Asia

Bangladesh Calls for Financial Sanctions on Myanmar, as Country Pushes for Rohingya Repatriation

Casualties Toll In Kabul Bombing Rises To Over 40, Taliban Blamed For The Incident

Taliban to talk to Swedish NGO after Afghan clinic closures

Taliban Raid Afghan Provincial Police Headquarters

14 Taliban militants killed in security operations in Afghanistan

8 Taliban militants killed, detained; weapons, explosives destroyed in Special Forces raids

Guided artillery strike kill, wound dozens of Taliban militants in Uruzgan province

Eight killed in bomb blast outside Kabul University

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Africa

Moroccan Al Qaeda Leader, Ali Maychou. Added to US Global Terrorist List

Army Commander, 20 Soldiers Killed By Boko Haram In Yobe

Nigerians Demand Release Of Prominent Cleric Zakzaky

3 Sentenced to Death for Killing Scandinavian Hikers in Morocco

Libya’s Mitiga airport resumes air traffic following an air strike

Friday talks with Sudan army rulers postponed: protest leaders

Nigeria: 6 aid workers missing in Boko Haram attack

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Arab World

Argentina Designates Hezbollah Terrorist Group on 25th Anniversary of Bombing

8 IS militants killed, 4 wounded in anti-IS attacks in Iraq

ISIL’s Oil Minister Killed in Clashes with Iraq’s Intelligence Forces in Eastern Syria

Aleppo: Turkish Army, Allied Militants Continue Plundering Artifacts in Afrin Region

Idlib: Tens of Foreign Terrorists Killed, 5 Militant Centers Destroyed in Russian-Syrian Airstrikes

US sanctions two leaders of Iranian-linked militias in Iraq

ISIS claims suicide bombing that killed 2 in Egypt’s Sinai

Unidentified drones attack Hashd al-Sha’abi base in Iraq’s Salahudin Province: Reports

Saudi crown prince stuck in Yemeni 'quagmire', seeking US help: NY Times report

Egypt: At least 20 killed in airstrikes in northern Sinai

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/moderate-islam-a-good-fit-for-indonesia--ma-ruf-amin/d/119250

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Moderate Islam a Good Fit for Indonesia: Ma'ruf Amin

JULY 17, 2019

Jakarta. Vice President Ma’ruf Amin, who is also the chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council, said on Wednesday that moderate Islam is the best version of Islam for Indonesia.

"[We need an] Islam that's rahmatan lil alamin, that's a blessing for all concerned," Ma'ruf said at a seminar organized by the Indonesian Mosque Council in Jakarta.

He said Indonesia needs a brand of moderate Islam that is dynamic, self-aware and does not play down problems.

A moderate Islam should be neither too literal in its interpretation of the Quran nor too liberal.

"Being too literal means you only allow on interpretation, while being too liberal means you interpret too much," he said.

Ma'ruf also said that Islamic preachers should never incite resentment or hatred in the community.

"What ulemas like us must do is build a Muslim brotherhood, a national brotherhood and then a brotherhood of humanity," Ma'ruf said.

The seminar was attended by prominent figures from Indonesia's two biggest Muslim organizations, the Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, including celebrity preacher Quraish Shihab who also spoke at the event.

On Sunday, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and Ma'ruf had promised to fight off creeping religious intolerance in Indonesia during an event to launch the president's much-lauded new five-point vision for Indonesia.

https://jakartaglobe.id/context/moderate-islam-a-good-fit-for-indonesia-maruf-amin

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Saudi Arabia defends letter backing China’s Xinjiang policy

July 19, 2019

UNITED NATIONS: Saudi Arabia on Thursday defended signing a letter along with 36 other countries in support of China’s policies in its western region of Xinjiang, where the United Nations says at least 1 million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims have been detained.

China has been widely condemned for setting up detention complexes in remote Xinjiang.

It describes them as “education training centres” helping to stamp out extremism and give people new skills.

Last week nearly two dozen nations at the UN Human Rights Council wrote a letter calling on China to halt its mass detention.

In response, Saudi Arabia, Russia and 35 other states wrote a letter commending what they called China’s remarkable achievements in the field of human rights.

When asked about Saudi’s support for the letter, Saudi UN Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi told reporters in New York that the “letter talks about China’s developmental work, that’s all it talks about, it does not address anything else.”

“Nobody can be more concerned about the status of Muslims anywhere in the world than Saudi Arabia,” he said. “What we have said in that letter is that we support the developmental policies of China that have lifted people out of poverty.”

A copy of the letter, seen by Reuters, said security had returned to Xinjiang and the fundamental human rights of people of all ethnic groups there had been safeguarded.

“Faced with the grave challenge of terrorism and extremism, China has undertaken a series of counter-terrorism and deradicalisation measures in Xinjiang, including setting up vocational education and training centres,” the letter read.

Human Rights Watch UN Director Louis Charbonneau said Al-Mouallimi’s characterisation of the letter was “a slap in the face of Muslims being persecuted in China, inaccurate to the point of absurdity.”

Earlier this month the United States and Germany slammed China during a closed-door UN Security Council meeting over the detention centres.

In response, China told diplomats them they had no right to raise the issue in the Security Council as it was an internal matter for his country.

In June the United States, Britain and other western countries objected to a visit by the UN counterterrorism chief to Xinjiang, concerned the visit would validate China’s argument that it was tackling terrorism.

US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan spoke with UN Secretary-General António Guterres ahead of the trip to convey Washington’s concerns because “Beijing continues to paint its repressive campaign against Uighurs and other Muslims as legitimate counterterrorism efforts when it is not.”

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/world/2019/07/19/saudi-arabia-defends-letter-backing-chinas-xinjiang-policy/

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Army chief’s hours long meeting with Ulema, minister on Madrassa reforms

Ansar Abbasi

July 18, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The government claims to have achieved significant progress in the Madrassa Reform Programme under which the religious schools without getting under government’s control will be registered besides imparting compulsory subjects like English, Maths etc to offer chain of careers to the students of these institutions.

Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood told The News he wanted to announce in a press conference on Wednesday the significant progress achieved so far but because of the Kulbushan case decision, he had to postpone his interaction with the media on this important issue. To a question, Shafqat Mehmood confirmed that a group of top Islamic scholars (ulema) of the country also had a meeting with Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Tuesday night to discuss the issue of madrassa reforms. Shafqat Mehmood was also present in the meeting, held at GHQ.

Mufti Muhammad Naeem of Jamia Binoria, who was present in the GHQ meeting, told The News that the Army Chief was very positive and accommodating on the subject of madrassa reforms to the satisfaction of Ulema and the madrassa boards. Mufti Naeem said the Army Chief told the participants that the effort is to mainstream the religious schools to different careers for the students of madaris like other students of ordinary schools.

Mufti Naeem said the Army Chief told the Ulema that he would personally ensure what the government is doing will not adversely affect the madaris, which will remain independent to continue with their religious education system. The COAS, Mufti Naeem said, only asked for the introduction of compulsory subjects like English, Maths, Pak Studies etc in Madaris so that every student of the religious schools besides getting his religious degree could also appear for Federal Board exam and get certificate of Matric and FA and FSc. In this way, the meeting was told that the students of madaris would have more career paths and they could join defence forces, become doctors, engineers etc.

Gen Bajwa, according to Mufti Naeem, also assured the Ulema that the government’s reform programme in no manner will compromise the independence of the madaris. Mufti Naeem said the Army Chief’s meeting, which started at 5:00pm and continued till 12:00 am, with ulema was encouraging and positive. When The News contacted Minister for Education Shafqat Mehmood, he confirmed that last night the Army Chief chaired a meeting on the subject. The minister said that there is a significant progress in Madrassa Reform Programme. He explained that it has been decided that all Madaris will be registered. These madaris, he said, will not be under the Ministry of Education but will be affiliated with the ministry. He said that the Ministry of Education will set up its 12 regional offices in different parts of the country to facilitate the registration of the madaris. He insisted that the government is not “taking over” madaris but said those madaris, which will not be registered will be closed down. Similarly, he said the madaris, which will be found involved in spreading hatred and sectarianism will also lose their registration and would be closed down as well.

The second aspect of the Madrassa Reform Programme, he said is the introduction of compulsory subjects like english, Pakistan Studies, maths etc to enable the students of religious schools to appear for Federal Board’s Matric, FSC, FA exams. Shafqat Mehmood said this particular initiative will open variety of career choices for the madrassa students as well. The minister added the regional offices of the education ministry will facilitate the madrassa not only in their registration but will also extend help in other matters like the issuance of visas for their foreign students. He said depending on the availability of funding, the government will also financially assist these madaris in hiring teachers for compulsory subjects.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/499867-army-chief-s-hours-long-meeting-with-ulema-minister-on-madrassa-reforms

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US to Press Imran Khan to Take 'Irreversible Action' Against Terrorists, Facilitate Taliban Talks

July 20, 2019

Washington: The United States would press Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is slated to meet President Donald Trump next week, to take irreversible action against terrorist and militant groups, and to facilitate peace talks with the Taliban for an intra-Afghan dialogue, the White House said Friday.

Khan, the 66-year-old cricketer-turned politician, is scheduled to meet Trump at his Oval Office on Monday, the first by a Pakistani leader in nearly four years, the last one being that of Nawaz Sharif in October 2015.

He is travelling to the US at an invitation by Trump and the Administration is preparing to give him a warm welcome which includes a traditional welcome at the White House, one-on-one meeting at the Oval Office and a working luncheon in the presence of several of his Cabinet colleagues and leaders from the Pentagon.

However, ahead of the visit, a senior administration official ruled out lifting suspension of security aid to Pakistan unless it sees sustained, decisive and irreversible action against terrorist and militant groups.

"As you know, we suspended security assistance to Pakistan in January 2018. And as of now, there's no change to that policy," the official said in response to a question.

"The purpose of the visit is to press for concrete cooperation from Pakistan to advance the Afghanistan peace process, and to encourage Pakistan to deepen and sustain its recent effort to crack down on terrorist and militants within its territory," the senior administration official told reporters during a conference call.

The official noted that by extending the invitation to Khan to visit the White House, the US also want to send a message to Pakistan that the "door is open to repairing relations" and building an enduring partnership if Pakistan "changes its policies" with regard to terrorists and militants.

From the US perspective, the President will be most interested in encouraging Pakistan to assist in the Afghanistan peace process. "We're hoping that the discussions are productive," the official said.

Prime Minister Khan's visit is an opportunity to incentivise Pakistan to use the full leverage and influence on the Taliban to advance the peace process in Afghanistan.

"We are calling on Pakistan for assistance in moving the peace process forward," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"We do appreciate the initial steps that Pakistan has taken to facilitate this effort. We are reaching a critical juncture in the peace process. We are asking Pakistan to pressure the Taliban into a permanent ceasefire and participation in intra-Afghan negotiations that would include the Afghan government," the official said.

Asserting that the security assistance to Pakistan continues to be suspended, the official said there has been only minor exceptions for assistance that is directly beneficial to US security.

"By and large that security assistance is still suspended. We will consider changing that suspension on certain items if Pakistan meets our security concerns both in Afghanistan, and with regard to some of the externally focus groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed. But as of now, there was no change to that suspension and security systems," the official said.

Given the history of Pakistani cooperation with these unhelpful groups, the United States is "not under any illusion", that the initial steps that have been taken thus far, the administration is not taking them at face value.

"We are monitoring the situation. We will wait and see if the steps are made irreversible and sustainable," the official said, adding that the Trump Administration has "not made a final evaluation" on whether that's the case."But we also see that this visit could incentivize Pakistan to continue down the path that they have started.

They've facilitated contacts to Taliban and met some of our requests with regards to the Afghan peace process. We're at a critical juncture and we need to see more cooperation from Pakistan. They need to use their full leverage in this endeavour. And so we see this visit as an opportunity to encourage them to do more," the official said.

Discussions with Pakistan will also include potential cooperation on trade, energy and women's issues. "We want to send that message that the doors are open," said the official.

During the meeting, the White House will encourage Pakistan to "create" opportunity for enhancing regional economic development and connectivity.

"For example, we would encourage Pakistan the ease restrictions on trade transcending Pakistan between India and Afghanistan. And we think this would be a very positive step and will demonstrate Pakistan's commitment to a peaceful, prosperous South Asia," the official said.

On his maiden visit to the US, Khan will be welcomed by Trump at the White House. The visit will focus on strengthening cooperation between the two countries to bring peace, stability and economic prosperity to the region, the official said.

The two leaders will discuss a range of issues, including counterterrorism, defence, energy and trade, the official added.

Prominent among those present from the US side would include Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin; Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Acting Secretary of Defense Richard Spencer and Chairman of Joint Chief of Staff General Joseph Dunford.

https://www.news18.com/news/world/us-to-press-imran-khan-to-take-irreversible-action-against-terrorists-facilitate-taliban-talks-2238527.html

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U.S. Places Sanctions On Int'l Network Involved In Iran Nuclear Program

JULY 18, 2019

WASHINGTON - The United States imposed sanctions on Thursday on five people and an international network of companies the U.S. Treasury said are involved in the procurement of materials for Iran's nuclear program.

They are the first punitive steps by Washington since Tehran announced earlier this month it would increase its levels of enriched uranium that can be used for bomb fuel.

Tehran announced on July 1 that it had amassed more low-enriched uranium than permitted under its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, marking its first major step beyond the terms of the pact since the United States withdrew more than a year ago.

"Treasury is taking action to shut down an Iranian nuclear procurement network that leverages Chinese- and Belgium-based front companies to acquire critical nuclear materials and benefit the regime's malign ambitions," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

"Iran cannot claim benign intent on the world stage while it purchases and stockpiled products for centrifuges," he added.

https://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/US-places-sanctions-on-international-network-involved-in-Iran-nuclear-program-596118

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Ilhan Omar says she will continue to be a ‘nightmare’ for Trump

Jul 19, 2019

Muslim US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar says she isn't backing down in her criticism of President Donald Trump, saying she's going to "continue to be a nightmare to this president because his policies are a nightmare to us."

Omar, a Democratic member of the US House of Representatives, made the comments as she spoke to a crowd of supporters who greeted her on Thursday at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in the state of Minnesota.

The freshman Democratic lawmaker has represented Minnesota's 5th congressional district since January 2019.

“His nightmare is seeing the beautiful mosaic fabric of our country welcome someone like me as their member of Congress,” Omar told her supporters.

“We are going to continue being a nightmare to this president because his policies are a nightmare to us,” she added. "We are not deterred. We are not frightened."

Omar's supporters held signs saying "End racism now" and "I stand with Ilhan." She told them she was not deterred: "We are not frightened. We are ready."

Omar was born in Somalia and immigrated to the US as a refugee in 1995 when she was a child. She became a US citizen in 2000 at age 17.

Omar has been targeted this week by Trump who has questioned her patriotism.

Trump triggered a firestorm this week after he tweeted that the four progressive members of the US House of Representatives, known as “the squad,” should “go back” where they came from, even though all are US citizens and three are US-born.

The other three members of the so-called squad are Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

Trump stepped up his vilification of four liberal female lawmakers as “un-American” at a raucous rally on Wednesday, in Greenville, North Carolina. As Trump recounted past comments by Omar, the crowd began chanting: “Send her back!”

Omar told reporters at the US Capitol on Wednesday that Trump is "spewing his fascist ideology."

"As much as he's spewing his fascist ideology on stage, telling US citizens to go back because they don't agree with his detrimental policies for our country, we tell people that here in the United States: dissent is patriotic," Omar said.

Trump's attacks have widely been seen as a bid to rally his right-wing base as the 2020 White House race heats up -- at the risk of inflaming racial tensions and deepening partisan divisions in America.

Long before Trump turned up the heat on the four Democratic congresswomen of color, hateful rhetoric and disinformation about lawmakers was lurking online.

Racist, inflammatory and inaccurate content has circulated on far right blogs, news sites and social media accounts about the four female lawmakers since they ran for public office.

With his tweets and harsh comments, Trump has elevated that rhetoric, playing into a conspiratorial feedback loop that reared its head repeatedly during his campaign and presidency.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/07/19/601335/Muslim-US-Congresswoman-Ilhan-Omar-Trump

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Hindu Couple Rescues Muslim Man From 'Jai Shri Ram' Miscreants In Maharashtra

TNN | Jul 19, 2019

AURANGABAD: A Hindu couple came to the rescue of a Muslim man when he was allegedly waylaid, beaten up and forced to chant 'Jai Shri Ram' by a group of 10 unidentified miscreants in Aurangabad on Friday.

The incident occurred at around 12.30am at Hudco Corner area of the city.

Ismail Patel (28), a waiter by profession, was on his way to home when the bike-borne attackers waylaid him, asked questions before assaulting and forcing him to chant the slogan.

The couple after listening to the cries of the man, came out of their home and urged the miscreants to not to harm him. They then took the key of Ismail's motorbike and ensured he proceeded back home safely. When contacted, the couple, fearing a backlash from the miscreants, refused to come on record.

Later in the day, the youth reached a police station and lodged his complaint.

Taking serious note of the issue, deputy commissioner of police (zone-I) Nikesh Khatmode-Patil, crime branch inspector Madhukar Sawant rushed to the police station and obtained first-hand information from the complainant.

The Begumpura police have booked the 10 accused under stringent sections including 153 (A) (spreading communal hatred as well as for un-lawful assembly and rioting).

Aurangabad commissioner of police Chiranjeev Prasad said, “We will not let any sinister plan or conspiracy to succeed especially the ones aimed at creating communal unrest and disharmony.”

The officer also said that clear instructions have been issued to the authorities to deal such elements with iron fist.

Meanwhile, the officer privy to the probe, maintained that they are not only probing the case but are also cross-verifying the chain of events as narrated by the complainant.

Complainant Imran told TOI, “The miscreants after waylaying me, took away my two-wheeler’s key and after asking questions about my identity, started slapping me before they made me chant Jai Shri Ram thrice. Around the same time, one of them kicked me from behind, following which I fell on ground. After hearing my cries for help, the couple came to my rescue.”

He also claimed that one of the miscreants tried to hit him on the head with a stone but the couple prevented him from doing so.

“The suspects, who were showering communally-charged abuses, even misbehaved with the couple for coming to my rescue,” said Ismail.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/aurangabad/aurangabad-hindu-couple-rescues-muslim-man-from-miscreants/articleshow/70296324.cms

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Blacklist fear forces Pakistan to shut 20 terror camps in PoK

by Sushant Singh

July 20, 2019

The fear of being blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in October has forced Pakistan to shut down 20 terror camps inside Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) this year. Moreover, government data shows that there have been no reports of infiltration and cross-border action on the Line of Control (LoC) this summer.

Top intelligence sources told The Indian Express that their inputs suggest shutting down of 20 terror camps from where Pakistan was sending militants across to Kashmir. This has happened before the FATF meeting in the US in June where Pakistan’s grey-listing continued, sources said, and is likely to remain in place until October when a case for blacklisting Pakistan over money-laundering and terror funding will be taken up by the FATF in Paris.

“We have been able to shift the focus from ML (money laundering) to TF (terror funding) in Pakistan’s case in the FATF and we have all seen the results. Pakistan may or may not be blacklisted at Paris but a serious danger of being blacklisted, along with the economic consequences of continued grey-listing, has forced Rawalpindi’s hand,” sources said.

According to sources, the biggest evidence of change in Pakistan on terror camps is the fact that there have been “no reports of infiltration and cross-border action on the LoC”. This is the first time in nearly three decades of militancy in Kashmir that cross-LoC infiltration has come to an absolute halt. Sources also contend that this is bound to have a major impact on the militancy in Kashmir where security forces continue to conduct intensive counter-terrorist operations.

Official documents reviewed by The Indian Express, however, display a certain hesitation in seeing this change from Pakistan as a “permanent change of heart”. An official note on the situation in Kashmir states upfront that there are “some inputs regarding activation of launch pads along the LoC”. It further analyses that “inputs regarding presence of terrorists in launch pads indicate Pakistan’s design to attempt infiltration/ trans-LoC operations”.

They have identified a total of 28 launch pads run by Pakistan across the LoC, both north and south of Pir Panjal ranges, from where infiltration attempts could still be made by Pakistan. Depending on the weather and the snowfall, the period from May to October is seen as conducive for infiltration of militants on the LoC.

Sources said the declining intensity of ceasefire violations on the LoC also points to the changed status of activity from the Pakistan side. “Pakistan seeks a de-escalation along the LoC,” sources assert and that is reflected in the calibre of weapons that are being used in ceasefire violations.

On July 9, The Indian Express reported that of the 181 ceasefire violations on the LoC in June, 175 involved small arms firing. There were only six instances of calibre escalation, all of them south of Pir Panjal ranges and the Indian side suffered one fatal casualty in the action.

Overall, security forces have had 71 fatal casualties and 115 non-fatal casualties in Kashmir this year. Out of 71 dead, there are 15 Army men, 48 troopers of the CAPF and eight J&K policemen.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/pakistan-occupied-kashmir-pok-terror-camps-fatf-blacklist-5838732/

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Archaeologists Find Mosque, In the Bedouin Town of Israel, From When Islam Arrived In Holy Land

July 19, 2019

Archaeologists in Israel have discovered the remains of one of the world's oldest rural mosques, built around the time Islam arrived in the holy land, they said on Thursday.

The Israel Antiquities Authority estimates that the mosque, uncovered ahead of new construction in the Bedouin town of Rahat in the Negev desert, dates back to the 7th to 8th centuries.

There are large mosques known to be from that period in Jerusalem and in Mecca but it is rare to find a house of prayer so ancient whose congregation is likely to have been local farmers, the antiquities authority said.

Excavated at the site were the remains of an open-air mosque -- a rectangular building, about the size of a single-car garage, with a prayer niche facing south towards Mecca.

"This is one of the earliest mosques known from the beginning of the arrival of Islam in Israel, after the Arab conquest of 636 C.E.," said Gideon Avni of the antiquities authority.

"The discovery of the village and the mosque in its vicinity are a significant contribution to the study of the history of the country during this turbulent period."

https://www.thejakartapost.com/life/2019/07/19/archaeologists-find-mosque-from-when-islam-arrived-in-holy-land.html

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Right-wing extremism is a growing worry in Germany after series of attacks

July 18, 2019

By Rachel Elbaum

Andreas Hollstein says he receives at least two death threats a month by mail or by phone. Though they are scary, they don’t compare to the night 18 months ago when a man approached the major of Altena, in the west of Germany, at a kebab shop.

The man asked if he was the mayor and said, "You let me die of thirst and let 200 refugees into Altena," Hollstein recalled at the time. Then the man plunged a knife into Hollstein's neck.

Hollstein, who ended up with a 6-inch gash, had became nationally known during the refugee crisis for welcoming migrants to his city. Authorities believed there was a political motive behind the attack and arrested a suspect.

Since then, Hollstein has been outspoken about the need to tackle right-wing extremism in Germany. Yet last month another politician who spoke out in defense of migrants, Walter Lübcke, was fatally shot in the head on the terrace of his home. A man with far-right views was arrested and confessed, though he later recanted.

Lübcke's death reignited a debate about whether Germany, long praised for confronting the ghosts of its extremist past, is in fact doing enough to combat far-right groups in the 21st century. Like Hollstein and Lübcke, politicians and public figures in Germany who speak out about far-right extremism, migration and anti-Semitism are often on the receiving end of both threats and violence.

According to data released in a report last month by Germany's domestic intelligence agency, there are 12,700 "violence-orientated right-wing extremists" in the country — which is more than half of the number of all right-wing extremists.

"Given the high affinity for carrying weapons in the far-right extremist spectrum, those numbers are extremely worrying," Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said in presenting the report. "The risk of an attack is high."

The issue is especially resonant in Germany, given its Nazi past. In the decades after World War II, West Germany in particular pushed an education program that attempted to confront the country's history, the Holocaust and the need for democracy. Seven decades later, far-right extremism is a topic that many thought had been vanquished, but some experts say that misperception may have led to a more lax approach than is now necessary.

"I think it is because of our Nazi past that people don't want to recognize the threat of the far-right today," said Anetta Kahane, who heads the anti-racism group, the Amadeu Antonio Foundation. "Like an evil child, it reminds society of other evil members of the family."

Though the numbers in the recent report haven’t changed much since last year, the right wing’s slant toward aggression has increased, according to Kahane, who said that she receives attacks daily on social media.

“It is becoming more aggressive because they don’t feel enough resistance by the population or by the government,” Kahane said.

Her foundation has also received bomb threats, a fake anthrax letter and a fake explosive device, and right-wing extremists entered or tried to enter the foundation with video cameras three times, according to the foundation.

“There is a direct relationship between the high amount of hatred online and people who are willing to attack others in real life,” she added.

It was precisely because of an increase in right-wing sentiment in Berlin that Ferat Kocak became active in Die Linke, a left-wing party, in 2016. But because of that activism, he believes he became a target of right-wing extremists: His car was torched in the middle of the night in January 2018 as it sat parked next to his parents’ home, where he lived at the time.

Police said there were two suspects in the attack, but investigations are ongoing and nobody had been charged.

Kocak now regularly receives emails and messages on social media from people telling him “you should have been shot,” and “you should have been burned, too.”

“I am afraid. I can’t sleep at night. When I hear noises in the middle of the night, I get up. I check behind me when I walk on the street. But I won’t stay still, I talk about it,” said Kocak, 40, who now serves as vice speaker of Die Linke in Neukölln, a borough of Berlin.

Though the official figures show that extremist sympathizers comprise a tiny part of the population, Andreas Zick, who studies extremism at the University of Bielefeld, estimates their reach is much deeper thanks to social media sites where others can watch and read about the topic.

“There has been a normalization of right-wing attitudes in society,” said Zick, who studies such attitudes in Germany. “The extreme right wing has been more successful in creating a movement which has strong links into the middle of society.”

Zick and other experts said that normalization has been helped by the presence of the right-wing political party Alternative for Deutschland, or AfD, which has a strong anti-immigrant stance and holds 91 out of 709 seats in the German Parliament. The party has found a strong following, especially in the east.

Last month, Chancellor Angela Merkel's party ruled out any form of cooperation with the AfD, saying its rhetoric had contributed to an atmosphere of hate that encouraged political violence.

In Berlin alone, requests on how to handle threats by right-wing extremists by both individuals and organizations have roughly tripled since 2012-13, according to the organization Mobile Counselling Against Right-Wing Extremism.

“We see that the AfD in Parliament is very confident. That also gives right-wing extremists the confidence to threaten people who stand for democracy and human rights," said Bianca Klose, who leads the organization. "That is a new development."

For Hollstein and other politicians, the antidote to extremism is awareness. They are now pushing for greater openness and education around the issue.

“It’s not enough to make laws, but we need to educate children and parents,” said Mirjam Blumenthal, the leader of the Social Democratic Party in the Neukölln Parliament.

Two years ago, her car was also torched by right-wing extremists. She is unable to speak about more recent incidents because of ongoing police investigations.

“Our democracy is strong. But our democracy is in danger,” Blumenthal said.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/right-wing-extremism-growing-worry-germany-after-series-attacks-n1029906

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Southeast Asia

 

Ensuring every child has access to education

By WAN ROSLILI ABD MAJID

July 19, 2019

George Washington Carver once said,‘education is the key to unlocking the golden door of freedom’.

In many places around the globe, however, children are denied their right to education due to reasons such as unaffordability, living in crises such as wars, natural disasters and epidemics plus inability to meet certain requirements to enrol into the school system.

These barriers exclude 263 million young people from school and deny them the chance to reach their full potential.

Exclusion from school will fuel intergenerational cycles of poverty and disadvantage including socio-economic exploitation and violation of freedom and dignity.

Education as a fundamental right is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and many other international human rights instruments including the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam (CDHRI, 1990).

Interestingly, CDHRI stipulates that,‘every human being has a right to receive both religious and worldly education from the various institutions of teaching, education and guidance, including the family, the school and the university’.

The emphasis on the above rights and obligations goes hand- in-hand with the whole of the Islamic system as Islam emphasises the obligations of parents to provide education which is the right of children. An excellent example of this is found in the words of religious scholar Luqman Hakim related in the Quran where he advised his son to obey his parents unless they commit munkar (go against Allah) to be constant in prayer and to enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong.

The right to education is also one of the key principles underpinning the United Nations Education 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4).

SDG4 aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong opportunities for all.

Though Malaysia has given its commitment to all 17 goals under the United Nations SDG 2030 and in particular SDG4, it has not adopted inclusive universal education. Citizenship is still the basic requirement for enrolment into the national school system.

This fact will definitely vanquish the dreams of thousands of stateless, migrant and refugee children from reaping the benefits of early education.

Based on data presented in Parliament in 2016, there were 290,437 stateless and 34,600 refugee children in Malaysia.

Without elementary education, the children will continue to be vulnerable. In many cases, they were completely denied from enjoying their right to education while in extraordinary situations, various organisations took remarkable effort to realise the children’s dream to be in school.

The establishment of charity schools, or Pusat Pembangunan Minda Insan (PPMI), initiated by HALUAN Sabah, is one such instance of realising children’s school dream. HALUAN is a community- based organisation dealing with an alternative holistic education for vulnerable groups including stateless children in East Sabah. In this regard, the participation of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) is crucial to galvanise the government’s effort in fulfilling the requirements of SDG4.

Since its inception in 2011, there are now 11 PPMIs and another 30 more to be established upon high demand from local communities. HALUAN aims to establish 1,001 PPMIs across Sabah to eradicate illiteracy and minimise school dropout rates.

To help realise these objectives, a group of Muslim professionals and NGOs — MACSA (Malaysian Alliance of Civil Society Organisations) had sent a team of 14 activists, including this writer, to PPMI Kampung Tagupi Laut, Lahad Datu, Sabah.

The programme, named #Tagupi Membaca, was held from Oct 10-13, 2018 and was aimed at delivering 410kg of reading materials and conducting training and English classes. The four-day programme revealed the passion that PPMI’s teaching assistants and students have towards knowledge and education.

No impediment would prevent them from constantly engaging in teaching and learning sessions, be they distance, financial constraint, lack of teaching and learning tools, or inadequate infrastructure. All of these prove that much more concerted efforts need to be conducted to ensure the protection of their basic human right, especially with the announcement by the government in October 2018 to allow stateless children to enrol into mainstream schools.

Thus, PPMI is one possible transit educational centre for those children who are in the process of obtaining the necessary documentation to enable them to enrol into national schools.

Education is an empowering right and an indispensable means of realising the rights of others. It is also an enabler to allow society to grow.

However, children would miss the opportunity to develop into productive and participatory adults if their right to a proper education is taken away.

In conjunction with National Reading Month in July, let us give every child and community the golden opportunity to learn and read, as a literate child makes for an informed adult.The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said,‘He who inaugurated a good practice in Islam which was followed after him (by people) would be assured of reward like the one who followed it, without their rewards being diminished in any respect.

The writer is fellow at centre for the study of syariah,law and politics,Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM)

https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2019/07/505717/ensuring-every-child-has-access-education

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Govt mulls whether FPI worthy of permit extension

July 19, 2019

The government is considering whether or not to extend the mass organization permit for the Islam Defenders Front (FPI), a hard-line group with a controversial track record. Its permit expired last month.

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto, who led a meeting to discuss various national security issues with relevant ministers on Friday, said officials were in the process of evaluating the organization.

“We are evaluating [FPI’s] previous activities, the organization itself as well as its track record [to decide] whether or not the organization is worthy of a permit extension,” Wiranto said after the meeting.

FPI’s mass organization permit expired on June 20. The organization has reportedly submitted documents for a permit extension to the Home Ministry and is in the process of completing all administrative requirements.

The Home Ministry, however, said it would also take into account the opinion of the public and relevant ministries before deciding whether to issue a permit extension.

After its permit expired, calls from members of the public for FPI's disbandment resurfaced, as some highlighted the organization’s controversial track record, such as regular raids, violent tendencies and anti-Pancasila sentiment.

An online petition urging Home Minister Tjahjo Kumolo not to extend FPI’s permit, which was created and published on Change.org by Ira Bisyir, has garnered widespread public support, with more than 485,000 petitioners signing up since it was created on May 6.

FPI leader and firebrand cleric Rizie Shihab, a staunch critic of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, is in self-exile in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, apparently overstaying his multiple-entry visa that expired last year.

According to the Indonesian Embassy in Saudi Arabia, Rizieq was staying in the Middle Eastern country with four other people. Each person is estimated to have incurred Rp 110 million (US$7,099) in fines for overstaying.

Full report at:

https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2019/07/19/govt-mulls-whether-fpi-worthy-of-permit-extension.html

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Pakistan

 

During meeting with Imran Khan, Trump to seek Shakil Afridi's release from Pak jail

Jul 20, 2019

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump, during his meeting next week with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, would seek the release of jailed Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi who helped the CIA track down Osama bin Laden, a senior administration official said Friday.

The two leaders are scheduled to meet at the White House on Monday.

"This is an extremely important issue to the president and the American people. I think Pakistan could demonstrate its leadership role in the region and among the international community by freeing Dr Afridi who remains unjustly imprisoned in Pakistan," a senior administration official told reporters Friday.

Before being elected as the president of the United States Trump had said during his campaign that he will get Afridi freed within two minutes from Pakistan.

Afridi helped the CIA track down al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden in 2011. He was later arrested and is currently serving a jail-term in Pakistan.

In an interview to Voice of America, the lawyer and family of Dr Afridi, expressed hope that Trump and Khan would discuss his release.

"Dr. Afridi can't sleep properly due to harsh conditions and sweltering heat as there is no window in the cell where he is kept. Imran Khan is visiting the US, but if Dr. Afridi remains in pain, then I think the visit won't be a success," his lawyer Qamar Nadeem told the VOA.

The United States has requested Pakistan to free Dr Afridi, the senior administration official told a group of reporters ahead of the Monday meeting between Trump and Khan.

"We have clearly and regularly communicated this to Pakistan at the highest level in public and private and will continue to do so until he is released. Pakistan's leadership will be judged by treatment of Dr Afridi, while he remains in prisons. We are calling on Pakistan to release him," said the senior administration official.

Describing Dr Afridi as a "hero", the senior administration official said that he helped the US capture the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, the worst terrorist incident in history.

"This is something that is of the utmost importance to us. It is likely to come up (during the meeting)," the official said, adding that it remains a very important issue for the US. He has been unjustly imprisoned, the official said.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/during-meeting-with-imran-khan-trump-to-seek-shakil-afridis-release-from-pak-jail/articleshow/70301726.cms

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Pakistan's next 'double game': 'Marriage with China, affair with US'

Jul 20, 2019

WASHINGTON: As Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan gears up for his first high-level visit to the United States, experts believe that Islamabad is playing a 'double game' in managing affairs between Washington and Beijing — the two rival economies.

Pakistan remains China's closest ally as it is actively aiding, abetting and promoting Beijing's strategic goals and hegemony in the region and the world.

However, Pakistan knows its strategic significance in the region, and hence leaving no stone unturned to convince the United States to gain financial and military assistance.

Taha Siddiqui, a Pakistani journalist living in exile in Paris, said, "Pakistan is going through economic turmoil and is in need of American financial and military assistance. It appears things seem to be on the hold and in review with regards to China's investments inside Pakistan, particularly the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor."

"The Pakistan military chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who is accompanying the Pakistani PM, and is the defacto in-charge of Pakistan, wants to revive and restart the relationship with the US, and Bajwa knows Washington needs Islamabad in case of Afghanistan and if there is any conflict with Iran in the coming days. And therefore Pakistan may once again offer its services as a rental state," he added.

"It also knows that the Americans want to restrict the expansionary footprint of China in the region and therefore Pakistan may go for playing the 'double game' whereby it keeps the US and China both engaged with Islamabad and seeks maximum financial benefit from both, and it can do so because of the geostrategic position it enjoys in the region," Siddiqui said.

The Trump administration appears to believe that the pressure it exerted on Pakistan, in an attempt to soften it over the last year, is what is paying dividends now with the country goading the Taliban — most of whose leaders take shelter in Pakistan — to the negotiating table.

The reality is quite the opposite.

Quick to seize on President Trump's stated desire to withdraw from Afghanistan, Pakistan's decision to facilitate the talks has more to do with its keenness to drive the US out of Afghanistan in order to get the Taliban back in the saddle in Kabul.

Astonishingly, it seems to matter little to Trump that he himself recently accused Pakistan of deceiving Washington over the years by sheltering terrorist proxies such as the Taliban and the Haqqani network, supporting them in carrying out deadly attacks against US troops in Afghanistan. Nor does it matter to him that the Afghan government blames Pakistan, particularly its spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, for keeping the Taliban militarily and politically alive throughout these years.

Junaid Qureshi, the Director of the Amsterdam-based European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) said, "The foreign policy of Pakistan towards the US and China might differ, yet it is fashioned through a balance of power principle, since the destabilised state of Pakistan requires someone to play as a gyroscope that counterweights the tilted scales and establishes an equilibrium."

Nevertheless, it is crucial to note that Pakistan has happened to develop an important and strategic role for itself as it appears that it is a fundamental ingredient for China's rise in the region and beyond, through its provision of alternative energy supplies, transportation routes, and national security.

Yet, it remains to be seen whether the country will succeed in clearing all its woes, considering the rise of extremism in Pakistan and the support to it by the military establishment. There is a growing realisation throughout the world, including in the US, that Pakistan has played a 'double game' for decades.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistans-next-double-game-marriage-with-china-affair-with-us/articleshow/70302036.cms

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US stalls Turkey’s fighter helicopter sale to Pakistan

Jul 20, 2019

The US has stalled the sale of Turkish-made T129 ATAK helicopter gunships to Pakistan, days ahead of the first meeting between PM Imran Khan and President Trump, a media report said on Friday.

Turkey and Pakistan signed a $1.5 billion deal for the Turkish-made helicopter gunships on July 13, 2018. The delivery date of the first helicopter was pushed back after the Pentagon last year “refused” to issue the Turkish firm with an export license for the delivery of the gunships’ CTS800 engines, which was part of the T129 ATAK helicopter, the EurAsian Times reported on Friday.

T129 ATAK ia s multi-role, all-weather attack helicopter. Developed by Turkish Aerospace Industries with partner AgustaWestland, the helicopter is designed for advanced attack and reconnaissance missions in hot and high environments and rough geography in both day and night conditions.

The US’ decision is part of the Trump administration’s move not to provide any security assistance to Pakistan till the time it takes decisive and irreversible actions against terrorist groups. While Turkey is exploring the possibility of engines from other suppliers in Poland and France, the US decision would delay in delivery of T129 ATAK helicopters to Pakistan. The deal was for the delivery of 30 of these helicopters.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/us-stalls-turkeys-fighter-helicopter-sale-to-pakistan/articleshow/70301138.cms

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Pakistan Court Dismisses Fake Deed Case Against PML-N Leader Maryam Nawaz

July 19, 2019

Islamabad: A Pakistani anti-corruption court here on Friday dismissed a plea against jailed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's daughter Maryam Nawaz for allegedly submitting a fake document in the high-profile Avenfield Apartments case.

Maryam, 45, the vice president of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) was accused of providing a fake trust deed during the hearing of the case. The deed was written in Calibri font in 2006 when the font allegedly was not available for public use.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) moved an application before the accountability judge Mohammad Bashir against Maryam for the bogus trust deed.

Bashir after hearing the case reserved the judgment and after a while announced that the case was dismissed.

Maryam was accompanied by her husband, former army captain, Mohmmad Safdar and senior party leaders.

Responding to the judgement on Twitter, she said that the judge and the NAB made a spectacle of them in sheer frustration.

She said the NAB suddenly remembered that after a year the case was decided, it should get her punished in the (fake deed) case.

She was sentenced to seven years in jail in July 2018 in connection with the case that pertains to the ownership of the Sharif family's apartments at Avenfield House, London. The sentence was, however, suspended by the Islamabad High Court.

The case was one of three filed by NAB last year in light of the Supreme Court's verdict against Sharif in the Panama Papers case.

Summons for her in the fake deed case were issued on July 9 days after she posted a video on Twitter of accountability court judge Arshad Malik, saying that he awarded sentence to Sharif in Al-Azizia case on Dec 24, 2018 under pressure.

Sharif, 69, is serving a seven-year prison term at the Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore since December 24, 2018 in the Al-Azizia case.

Maryam was wearing a shirt with a picture of Sharif that read- "Free Nawaz Sharif" when she arrived for the hearing.

A large number of PML-N party workers protested outside the court in support of Maryam. Police arrested some of them for causing unrest.

Talking to the media on her arrival at the court, Maryam condemned the workers' arrest and said the Pakistan government was afraid of her presence in Islamabad.

Full report at:

https://www.news18.com/news/world/pakistan-court-dismisses-fake-deed-case-against-pml-n-leader-maryam-nawaz-2237639.html

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Pence urges Pakistan to release professor accused of blasphemy

July 20, 2019

WASHINGTON: Days ahead of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s July 21-24 visit to Washington, US Vice President Mike Pence urged Islamabad to free Junaid Hafeez, a university teacher arrested on blasphemy charges.

At a religious freedom summit in Washington on Thursday, Mr Pence highlighted the detention of religious dissidents in Eritrea, Mauritania, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. He also asked Saudi authorities to free Raif Badawi, a blogger jailed for 10 years in 2014 for allegedly insulting religious sentiments.

“In Pakistan, Professor Junaid Hafeez remains in solitary confinement on unsubstantiated charges of blasphemy,” Mr Pence said in his address to the summit meeting attended by hundreds of delegates from across the globe. “And in Saudi Arabia, blogger Raif Badawi is still in prison for the alleged crime of “criticising Islam through electronic means.”

Mr Pence said that “all four of these men have stood in defence of religious liberty, in the exercise of their faith, despite unimaginable pressure”.

Assuring the prisoners that the American people stand with them, the US vice president said: “Today, the United States of America calls upon the governments of Eritrea, Mauritania, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia to respect the rights of conscience of these men, and let these men go.”

Mr Pence also criticised Myanmar, China, Iran and Venezuela for their alleged continued violation of human rights.

“We’re also standing up for the persecuted Rohingya people in Burma,” he said. “We cannot ignore the rise of militant Buddhism against Muslim and Christian minorities that’s taken place.”

He noted that a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya people has forced more than 700,000 people to flee across the border to Bangladesh. “And though the United States has repeatedly urged the Burmese government to hold accountable all those responsible, the government has continued to imprison and harass innocent men and women,” he said.

Among the guests invited to the summit was young Rohingya woman who, when just 18, was thrown in jail for being the daughter of a political activist who dared to challenge the old military regime.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1495127

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First-ever election underway in merged tribal districts for 16 KP assembly seats

July 20, 2019

As polling began at 8:00am on Saturday, a total of 2.8 million residents of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s merged tribal districts are expected to exercise their franchise to elect their representatives for 16 general seats of the provincial assembly in the first-ever KP assembly elections.

The Election Commission of Pakistan has set up 1,897 polling stations across the region, previously called Fata. Of them, 554 have been declared highly sensitive and 461 sensitive.

People in many districts started lining up outside polling stations early in the morning and reports from the districts suggest that the polling process started between 8:00am and 8:30am in all districts.

The ECP finalised arrangements for elections on Friday and handed over the relevant materials to the polling staff in their respective areas.

While claiming to have adopted foolproof security for the polls, the government has said 34,497 security personnel have been deployed across the region and they included personnel of the Pakistan Army, police, Frontier Corps, Levies and Khasadar Force.

There are 285 candidates for 16 general seats, including nominees of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl, Awami National Party, Pakistan Peoples Party- Parliamentarians, Jamaat-i-Islami, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Qaumi Watan Party, and independents.

Two women candidates, including Naheed Afridi of the ANP and Malasa of the JI, are contesting election in PK- 106 Khyber-I and PK-109 Kurram-II respectively.

Of the 16 general seats, three are for Bajaur and Khyber tribal districts each and two for Mohmand, Kurram, North Waziristan and South Waziristan tribal districts each, while the former Frontier Regions of Peshawar, Kohat, Bannu, Lakki Marwat, Dera Ismail Khan and Tank jointly have one seat.

Five seats reserved for women and non-Muslims will be filled through proportional representation of seats won by a political party.

Eight candidates are in the running for four seats reserved for women, while there are three contestants for a seat reserved for non-Muslims.

A total of 2.80 million residents, including 1.67 million men and 1.13 million women, will exercise their right to vote.

Of the 1,897 polling stations, 482 are for men and 376 for women, while 1,039 are combined. A total of 5,653 polling booths have been established. They include 3,437 for men and 2,216 for women.

Also, the ECP has deputed 1,897 presiding officers, 5,653 assistant presiding officers and 5,653 polling officers.

While all polling stations are established in the respective constituencies, certain stations of PK-110 Orakzai and PK-112 North Waziristan-II have been set up in the adjoining settled districts for internally displaced persons.

Twenty-three polling stations have been established in Kohat for Mamuzai tribe, 23 in Hangu for Alikhel and Mulakhel tribes of Orakzai Agency, and 13 in Bannu for IDPs of PK-112 North Waziristan.

The ECP has already notified the deployment of the personnel of armed forces and civil armed forces outside every polling station and both outside and inside the highly sensitive polling stations from July 18th to July 21 for helping it conduct elections in a free, fair and transparent manner.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1495174/first-ever-election-underway-in-merged-tribal-districts-for-16-kp-assembly-seats

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NAB launches money laundering probe against Maryam

Zulqernain Tahir

July 20, 2019

LAHORE: As the Islamabad accountability court on Friday rejected a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) application seeking legal proceedings against PML-N Vice-President Maryam Nawaz for using a bogus trust deed in the Avenfield properties case, the anti-graft body initiated another probe against her in money laundering and income beyond means investigation.

The NAB launched another investigation against Maryam Nawaz, her father Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif, her cousins Hamza Shahbaz and Yousuf Abbas, and others for owning the M/s Chaudhry Sugar Mills Ltd.

The bureau for the first time summoned Yousuf Abbas for July 23 directing him to appear before a combined investigation team of the NAB at Thokar Niaz Baig and record his statement.

The NAB has reportedly traced numerous telegraphic transfers (TTs) worth millions of rupees by the Sharif family and the end beneficiaries included Maryam Nawaz and other owners of the Chaudhry Sugar Mills.

“The bureau may send a questionnaire to Ms Nawaz instead of summoning her,” a source told Dawn. He said the money laundering evidence against the owners of the Chaudhry Sugar Mills surfaced during the probe against Shahbaz Sharif and his sons Hamza and Salman in income beyond means and money laundering case.

In the call-up notice to Yousuf Abbas, son of the late Abbas Sharif, the NAB said: “The competent authority has taken the cognizance of offences committed by the owners of the Chaudhry Sugar Mills under the provisions of the NAB Ordinance 1999 and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2010.”

The NAB asked him to “specify the channel through which payment was received for exports, including banking accounts where payment was received, country of export, quality of sugar exported.”

Yousuf Abbas was also asked to provide details of investment/loans given to M/s Shamim Sugar Mills Ltd, all TTs sent and received by him and loan of Rs800 million given to him by various entities as reported in his wealth statement.

Mr Abbas was warned that failing to comply with this notice may entail penal consequences as provided in Section 2 of the NAO 1999.

Meanwhile, the NAB Lahore on Friday wrote to over a dozen commercial banks to freeze more than 150 accounts of Opposition Leader in National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif, his sons Hamza and Salman, his wives, daughters and daughters-in-law.

Earlier, the NAB Lahore had written to the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), director general of the Excise & Taxation Department, the Model Town Housing Society secretary, the Judicial Employees Cooperative Housing Society secretary, the Galliat Development Authority director general and others to get attached all movable and immovable properties of Shahbaz Sharif and his family members.

'Fascist tactics'

Meanwhile, Shahbaz Sharif on Friday presided over a meeting of the party’s provincial parliamentarians and vowed to fight “fascist tactics” of the Imran Khan government against the opposition.

“The multi-party conference of Punjab leadership will be held on Saturday (today) in which it will be decided about holding protest rallies by the participating parties on July 25. We are going to observe July 25 a black day across the country,” PML-N Punjab Information Secretary Azma Bokhari told Dawn after the meeting.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1495033/nab-launches-money-laundering-probe-against-maryam

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Minister wants speedy trial, death for child abusers

July 20, 2019

PESHAWAR: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa minister for law and parliamentary affairs Sultan Mohammad Khan on Friday expressed concern about the growing incidence of child abuse in the province and called for the speedy trial of suspected child abusers and death penalty for those convicted for the heinous crime.

Replying to an identical point of order moved by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Sumaira Shams and Pakistan Peoples Party’s Nighat Yasmin Orakzai, the minister told the provincial assembly that there was a need for legislation to address the issue of child abuse.

He said the incidence of child abuse was on the rise in KP and other parts of the country, so the government should get tough on culprits.

“My personal desire is the speedy trial of and death sentence for people involved in this inhuman act,” he said.

The minister said parents needed education and awareness to protect children from abuse.

The absence of cabinet members from the house marred parliamentary business.

Babar Saleem Swati from the panel of chairmen, who presided over the sitting, kept debate on the questions regarding the defunct Ehtesab Commission (KPEC) and health and local government departments pending due to the absence of the ministers concerned.

Nighat Orakzai, who moved four questions regarding the defunct Ehtesab Commission, didn’t get reply from the government.

The lawmakers sought details of the appointment of the acting director general to the KPEC in 2017, the current status of the DG, assets, expenditure, and number of cases disposed of by the commission.

The relevant department, however, expressed inability to produce the sought-after information.

The MPA complained that the department intentionally didn’t give answer to the questions. The chair asked the minister to ensure the questions are answered in the next sitting of the house.

The cabinet members, including Chief Minister Mahmood Khan, frequently absent themselves from the assembly’s sessions despite the speaker’s orders for them to show up.

When the sitting began on Friday, only two ministers and an adviser to the chief minister were present in the house to respond to the opposition’s questions.

Drawing the chair’s attention to the absence of ministers, Opposition Leader Akram Khan Durrani said on a lighter note: “It seems the government has been contracted to the law minister to give answer to the opposition on behalf of the entire cabinet.”

He, however, said the law minister didn’t have the capacity to do so.

The law minister said under sub-clause 6 of Article 130 of the Constitution, the cabinet would be collectively responsible to the provincial assembly.

He said the relevant ministers couldn’t show up due to official engagements.

Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal MPA Inayatullah Khan said the minister was misinterpreting Article 130 of the Constitution and the assembly’s rules of business.

He said Article 130 of the Constitution didn’t mean that only one minister would come to the assembly or he would be punished for the ‘corrupt practices’ of his colleagues.

The opposition lawmaker said it was the government’s responsibility to ensure the presence of ministers in the house.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1495110/minister-wants-speedy-trial-death-for-child-abusers

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Pakistan categorically rejects ‘baseless accusations’ amid fresh terror wave in Afghanistan

Jul 20, 2019

KARACHI: Islamabad has categorically rejected ‘baseless accusations’ regarding the recent terrorist incidents in Afghanistan.

“The public blame-game is contradictory to the spirit of the understanding between the leadership of the two countries to address issues through close coordination amongst relevant agencies,” Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal said in a tweet on Friday, suggesting that some Afghan officials might have blamed Pakistan without raising the issue at an agreed-upon platform.

Dr Mohammad Faisal

@ForeignOfficePk

#Pakistan rejects baseless accusations concerning recent terrorist incidents in #Afghanistan

The public blame-game is contrary to the spirit of the understanding between leadership of the two countries to address issues through close coordination amongt relevant agencies.

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In the previous month, the leadership of the two neighbouring countries agreed that no public forums will be used to cast accusations or issue hostile statements against each other so that bilateral ties can improve and Afghan peace process can move as planned.

The decision was taken during the visit of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to Islamabad, where he held wide-ranging talks with Prime Minister Imran Khan and the country’s military leadership.

“Pakistan condemns all acts of terrorism in Afghanistan and hopes that both sides would continue working constructively for durable peace in Afghanistan and the region,” the spokesperson said in another tweet.

“Certain elements want to disrupt relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan,” Ahmadzai said in a joint press conference along with Pakistan’s Minister of State for States and Frontier Regions (Safron) Shehryar Afridi in Islamabad earlier in the day.

Dr Mohammad Faisal

@ForeignOfficePk

#Pakistan rejects baseless accusations concerning recent terrorist incidents in #Afghanistan

The public blame-game is contrary to the spirit of the understanding between leadership of the two countries to address issues through close coordination amongt relevant agencies.

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Although he displayed faith in the ongoing reconciliation process in Kabul, in which Pakistan has also extended help and support.

The development comes amid an unending wave of violence across Afghanistan, where civilians are being targetted.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/07/19/pakistan-categorically-rejects-baseless-accusations-amid-fresh-terror-wave-in-afghanistan/

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North America

 

Trump slams Omar, calls her remarks ‘disgrace to’ US

Jul 19, 2019

US President Donald Trump takes fresh aim at congresswoman Ilhan Omar who has said she would "continue to be a nightmare to” him.

Omar, a Democratic member of the US House of Representatives, said Thursday that “his nightmare is seeing the beautiful mosaic fabric of our country welcome someone like me as their member of Congress.”

Trump, who was speaking to reporters on Friday, said what Omar has said was “a disgrace to our country."

"I'm unhappy when a congresswoman goes and says, 'I'm going to be the president's nightmare,'" he added. "She's going to be the president's nightmare. She's lucky to be where she is, let me tell you. And the things that she has said are a disgrace to our country."

Trump triggered a firestorm this week after he had tweeted that the four progressive members of the US House of Representatives, known as “the squad,” should “go back” where they came from, even though all are US citizens and three are US-born.

Omar, one of the four, was born in Somalia and immigrated to the US as a refugee in 1995 when she was a child. She became a US citizen in 2000 at age 17.

The other three members are Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

When asked on Friday that whether the backlash resulting from his comments would impact him politically, he said he did not care.

"I don’t know if it’s good or bad politically. I don’t care," Trump said, "Many people say it's good. I don't know if it's good or bad," he continued.

Trump's attacks have widely been seen as a bid to rally his right-wing base as the 2020 White House race heats up -- at the risk of inflaming racial tensions and deepening partisan divisions in America.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/07/19/601356/US-Donald-Trump-Omar-racist-

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Treasury Department bureaucrats risk jumpstarting Islamic State resurgence

07/18/19

It has now been 21 months since Kurdish forces, backed by U.S. Special Forces and U.S. air support, moved into Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State. Earlier this month, I spoke at a Rojava Centre for Strategic Studies conference in Amudeh, Syria, exploring the Islamic State’s enablers, after which I had the opportunity to visit Raqqa as the local administration’s guest.

To enter Raqqa is to be overwhelmed by destruction. Thousands of former residents remain in tents at a camp alongside the road outside Ayn Issa. Most would like to return to their homes just 45 minutes’ drive away, but Raqqa remains largely destroyed. Driving into town requires passing the shells of apartment buildings stretching miles. Local authorities have given a face lift to Naim Square, where the Islamic State executed prisoners and mounted their heads, and rebranded it Freedom Square. The buildings facing the square, however, remain bombed out.

There are signs of life in the center of town: wedding dresses, children’s toys, and sweets sold in shops surrounded by rubble. Children played soccer in a stadium once used as the Islamic State’s chief prison. Graffiti on the stadium wall cursed the Islamic State and expressed love for Taylor Swift. Unexploded ordnance slows recovery, as workers clear rubble by hand, and tempers are short. The biggest obstacle to Raqqa’s recovery, however, lies in Washington rather than Syria: The U.S. Treasury Department has been sitting on the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) waiver for the Syrian Democratic Council for four years.

Opposition groups in Syria can be an alphabet soup of acronyms but, in short, the Syrian Democratic Council is the umbrella organization for pro-American Syrian Kurdish militias like the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the all-female Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), and the Syrian Democratic Forces.

When I first visited northeastern Syria in January 2014, U.S. diplomats had refused to talk to the Syrian Kurdish opposition out of deference to Turkey. The United States reconsidered its position due to both Kurds’ effectiveness against the Islamic State and Turkey’s double-dealing on terrorism. The United States began talking to the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), the political wing of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in December 2015, and almost immediately, the SDC applied for a U.S. Treasury Department Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) waiver so that they could hire American companies to participate in reconstruction and so that they could spend their own money in the United States. The SDC does not ask for handouts: one of the biggest differences between my most recent trip and my first is that the oil derricks between Qamishli and the Tigris River are now operating but absent a waiver, the SDC cannot legally spend money in the United States or elsewhere.

It is unclear whether inertia or a misguided strategy motivates OFAC to sit for years on the pending SDC waiver: The group is pro-Western and cooperates closely with Washington. The Treasury Department previously granted the Syrian National Council, the political arm of the Free Syrian Army, a waiver even though extremists and terrorists have infiltrated the Free Syrian Army. In contrast, U.S. military members in Syria trust the SDF more than local partners in Iraq or Afghanistan; there has not been a single instance of SDF men or women turning on American mentors.

The Treasury Department’s inaction not only handicaps diplomacy but also undercuts U.S. strategy.

Isolating Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remains a core U.S. interest. The Kurds dislike Assad: He voided citizenship papers Kurds need for school and employment, and imprisoned Kurdish activists. However, given Turkey’s support for Islamist radicals and its anti-Kurdish ethnic cleaning in areas of Syria the Turkish army occupies, Syrian Kurds fear Turkey more. Simply put, Treasury’s failure is pushing pro-American Kurds back toward Assad.

Full report at:

https://thehill.com/opinion/national-security/453525-treasury-department-bureaucrats-risk-jumpstarting-islamic-state

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King Salman OK's deployment of 500 US troops in Saudi Arabia

Jul 20, 2019

Saudi King Salman has approved hosting of hundreds of US troops in the kingdom amid rising tensions in the region between the United States and Iran.

According to the kingdom’s defense ministry, King Salman has given his approval “based on mutual cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the United States of America” and Washington’s “desire to enhance everything that could preserve the security of the region and its stability.”

CNN reported on Thursday that around 500 troops were expected to be dispatched to the Prince Sultan Air Base, located in a desert area east of the Saudi capital Riyadh.

Two US military officials told CNN that a small number of troops and support personnel are already in the air base, with initial preparations being made for a US-made Patriot missile system as well as runway and airfield improvements.

Washington is expected to fly stealth, fifth-generation F-22 jets and other fighters from the air base, the unnamed US officials said.

The kingdom has not hosted US forces since 2003 when they pulled out following the end of the war with Iraq. The US troops were present in Saudi Arabia for 12 years, starting with Operation Desert Storm in 1991, when former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.

At the peak of the Iraq war, 200 US aircraft were stationed at the Prince Sultan air base, which is situated around 80 kilometers south of Riyadh. As many as 2,700 missions a day were also handled by the headquarters in Saudi Arabia.

Since 2015, the US has been supporting a a Saudi-led war against Yemen that seeks to reinstall the impoverished country’s former Riyadh-backed officials. The American patronage has featured aerial refueling, which the US only stopped last year after the Saudi-led coalition grew independent of it, as well as logistical and commando support.

Tens of thousands of Yemenis have lost their lives since the onset of the war, and the country has been pushed close to the edge of outright famine.

A year after the war was launched, Trump made his maiden visit to Saudi Arabia, announcing more than $100 billion in arms sales to the kingdom.

$1.48bn contract for THAAD missile system

Meanwhile, a $1.48 billion contract to build the THAAD missile system for Saudi Arabia has been awarded to Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon said on Friday.

In November 2018, Saudi and American officials signed letters of offer and acceptance formalizing terms for Saudi Arabia’s purchase of 44 THAAD launchers, missiles and related equipment.

In April, a $2.4 billion contract for THAAD interceptor missiles was awarded to Lockheed. some of those missiles are set to be delivered to the kingdom, which is the United States’ largest arms client, with over $129 billion in approved purchases.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/07/20/601366/US-troops-deployment-Saudi-Arabia-salman

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Pompeo: US needs Iran to 'come to the table' for talks

Jul 19, 2019

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calls on Iran to “come to the table” for talks, repeating President Donald Trump's offer that Washington was ready to conduct the negotiations without preconditions.

“The Iranians continue to say they will talk about it, but only if the United States does something. We need them to come to the table, it’s the right way to resolve these challenges,” Pompeo said on Friday.

This comes amid heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran, which started when the US unilaterally withdrew from a multilateral Iran nuclear deal clinched between the Islamic Republic and world powers in 2015, and reimposed sanctions on Iran.

Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif who was in New York to attend the annual gathering of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), had reportedly met with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) on Thursday to discuss the possibility of holding talks between the US and Iran.

On Friday, Trump confirmed he had authorized Paul to talk with Iran, although earlier on Wednesday he denied reports he had permitted the senator to serve as an emissary to Tehran.

Trump also said that he would join the negotiation process if other senators asked him to do so.

“Rand is a friend of mine, and Rand asked me if he could get involved. The answer is yes, and if the other senators ask me to get involved, I’d probably say yes depending on who they were,” Trump told reporters at the White House Friday. “I have many people involved, and Iran is going to work out very nicely. “

Paul has said, “I think there is a possible opening that Iran would sign an agreement,” which “would be a huge breakthrough.”

“I think President Trump is one of the few people who actually could get that deal,” Paul said. “And he will get it because he’s strong, and he is showing maximum pressure, but he is also willing to talk,” he told Fox News on Thursday.

On the same day, the US, however, imposed sanctions on seven companies along with three individuals it claims helped procure materials for Iran’s nuclear program.

That marked the first time Washington imposed sanctions on Iran since Tehran announced it would surpass the uranium stockpile limit set under the Iran nuclear deal.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/07/19/601362/US-Iran-nuclear-talks-

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US allies in Middle East turning their back on Trump: Analyst

Jul 19, 2019

The administration of US President Donald Trump and his allies in the Middle East are unlikely to launch a military strike against Iran, as Washington struggles to win its allies’ support to forge a military alliance against Tehran, says an American political analyst.

“The US is quickly finding all of its allies, including Iraq, are turning their back on the United States,” said Scott Bennett, a former US military psychological warfare officer.

“I think [President] Donald Trump is smart enough to realize that if he is seen as a president trying to start another war, he’ll be very quickly removed from office and will not work in a second term,” Bennett told Press TV on Thursday.

The Trump administration is reportedly preparing to send hundreds of troops to Saudi Arabia amid escalating tensions with Iran and despite growing criticisms of Washington’s military ties with Riyadh over the regime’s gloomy human rights record.

Citing two US defense officials, CNN reported on Thursday that around 500 troops are expected to be dispatched to the Prince Sultan Air Base, located in a desert area east of the Saudi capital of Riyadh.

They said that a small number of troops and support personnel are already in the air base, with initial preparations being made for a US-made Patriot missile system as well as runway and airfield improvements.

The unnamed US officials said that Washington is expected to fly stealth, fifth-generation F-22 jets and other fighters from the air base.

Bennett said America’s military presence in Saudi Arabia is mainly aimed at controlling the kingdom’s vast oil resources.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/07/19/601350/US-troops-forces-Saudi-Arabia-Scott-Bennett

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US congresswomen get support from Arab Knesset member

Abdul Raouf Arnaout

19.07.2019

Facing racially charged attacks by the U.S. president, two U.S. congresswomen on Friday saw a show of support extended by an Arab member of the Israeli Knesset.

In twin letters to Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib posted on Twitter, and quoted by daily of Haaretz, parliamentarian Aida Touma-Sliman expressed “appreciation for your tireless work on behalf of the Palestinian people” and “in light of President Trump’s recent attacks."

Touma-Sliman added that she would do her best to ensure that the duo can visit Palestine in the face of Israel possibly blocking them due to their support for the Palestinian Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Trump kicked off a firestorm on Sunday when, using a racial slur, he told a group of progressive Democratic congresswomen on Twitter to "go back" to the "totally broken and crime infested" countries they come from.

It was later confirmed that he was referring to freshmen Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley.

“When I read of President Trump’s vicious attacks, I was struck by the similarity between his racist incitement and that practiced by his close ally, [Israeli] PM Benjamin Netanyahu,” said Touma-Sliman’s letters to Omar and Tlaib.

She committed to do “whatever is in our power” to enable the two congresswomen's announced visit to the Palestinian territories, proposing in her letters to the congresswomen to meet with "people who are fighting for peace and freedom from within Israel – Palestinians and Jews alike."

She also proposed to share with the two congresswomen "perspective on the occupation, on the discrimination faced by Palestinian citizens within Israel, and on the particular challenges facing Palestinian women."

Both Omar and Tlaib have announced their intention to visit the Palestinian territories soon, without specifying a date.

Netanyahu said on Thursday he will decide whether he will allow Omar and Tliab to enter through Israeli border crossings or not.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry, however, warned that blocking the two congresswomen “would harm Israel's foreign relations,” according to Israeli daily Haaretz.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/us-congresswomen-get-support-from-arab-knesset-member/1536346

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India

 

Tamil Nadu-based radical module busted last week, inspired by global jihadi groups

Jul 19, 2019

NEW DELHI: The 16 arrested members of Tamil Nadu-based radical Islamic outfit ‘Ansarulla’ busted by NIA last week, were inspired by global jihadi groups like Islamic State/Daish, Al Qaida and homegrown terrorist outfit SIMI. Of the 16 accused, 13 were deported from the UAE in two batches, while three were arrested from Nagapattinam and Chennai.

NIA on Thursday said the accused persons — nine of who were arrested on July 13 and the remaining seven on July 15 — had been actively recruiting individuals to strike terror in India and also routinely posting videos and other jihadi propaganda material on social media, exhorting their supporters to conduct terrorist attacks using various methods including the use of explosives, poison, knives and vehicles.

NIA said Ansarulla, comprising allegedly highly-radicalised individuals residing within India and abroad, had conspired and conducted preparations including collecting money to wage war against the government of India with the intention of establishing Islamic rule in India.

NIA was on Thursday granted custody of the 16 arrested accused by the Special NIA Court in Chennai. They will be questioned over the next 8 days on their motive, linkages and plans to perpetrate terror acts in India.

On July 13, NIA had arrested nine accused namely Hassan Ali, native of Nagapattinam; Harish Mohamed hailing from Nagapattinam; Mohamed Ibrahim, native of Nagapattinam; Meeran Ghani, native of Theni; Gulam Nabi Asath, native of Peramballur; Rafi Ahamed, native of Ramanathapuram; Munthasir, native of Ramanathapuram; Umar Barook, native of Thanjavur; and Farook, native of Ramanathapuram.

Subsequently, on July 15, NIA arrested 7 more accused in the case namely Mohamed Sheik Maitheen, native of Madurai; Ahamed Azarudhen, native of Thiruvarur; Toufiq Ahmed, native of Chennai; Mohamed Ibrahim, native of Tirunelveli; Mohammed Afzar, native of Theni; Mohideen Seeni Shahul Hameed, native of Ramanathapuram and Faizal Sharief, native of Ramanathapuram.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/tamil-nadu-based-radical-module-busted-last-week-inspired-by-global-jihadi-groups/articleshow/70297603.cms

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‘Un-Islamic’ flags: Supreme Court seeks Centre’s reply

Jul 20, 2019

The Supreme Court on Friday directed the Centre to respond within two weeks on a plea seeking a ban on hoisting of green flags with a crescent and a star on it at religious places and events across the country.

Uttar Pradesh Shia Waqf Board Chairman, Syed Waseem Rizvi, had filed a plea in the apex court on April 17, last year, seeking to ban hoisting such flags atop buildings and religious places, stating they are “un-Islamic”.

“I hereby appeal to the Supreme Court to immediately ban this green flag. The flag is not related to Islam. It is the flag of Pakistan’s Muslim League,” reads the petition. Rizvi also states that the use of the pre-Independence flag in Muslim areas often becomes a reason for misunderstanding and tensions between the two communities in the region.

“The green flag with crescent and star owes its origins to the erstwhile political party, the All-India Muslim League, which was founded by Nawaz Waqar Ul-Malik and Mohammad Ali Jinnah in 1906 in Dhaka,” said Rizvi. “However, in the present day, it is being used by Indian Muslims as an Islamic flag,” he said.

According to the petition, the flag represents the political parties of Pakistan Muslim League and Pakistan Muslim League (Qaid-e-Azam). It also states that the flag is not connected to Islam and in fact, all the people following the Prophet Muhammad used to represent black or white flags. A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi heard the plea.

Pak Connect

The petitioner, chief of UP Shia Waqf Board, says the ‘flag’ often leads to misunderstanding

Full report at:

https://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-un-islamic-flags-supreme-court-seeks-centre-s-reply-2773862

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J&K: PDP leader’s security officer shot by militants in Anantnag

by Adil Akhzer

July 20, 2019

The Personal Security Officer (PSO) of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader Sajad Mufti was shot dead by militants in Anantnag district on Friday.

Sajad is a relative of PDP president and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti.

Police officials told the The Indian Express that constable Farooq Ahmad of J&K Police, who was posted with Sajad as PSO, was shot dead by militants at a shrine in Bijbehara, Anantnag district, during the afternoon prayers on Friday.

“The policeman was at the gate when unknown men fired at him,” said a police officer in South Kashmir. The militants took his weapon too before fleeing, he added. The PSO was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was declared dead.

“He had a bullet injury on the chest and had already died when brought to the hospital,” Medical Superintendent, Sub District Hospital (SDH) Bijbehara, Dr Showkat said. A police source said Sajad was offering Friday prayers since the last few weeks at the shrine.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/jk-pdp-leaders-security-officer-shot-by-militants-in-anantnag-5838770/

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Deported terror suspects linked to IS, al-Qaeda, SIMI: National Investigation Agency

by Deeptiman Tiwary

July 20, 2019

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Friday identified the 14 terror suspects who were deported recently from the UAE and alleged that they were associated with varied ideologies of the al-Qaeda, the Islamic State (IS), and the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).

The NIA has alleged that they had come together to form a terror group called “Ansarullah”, had allegedly collected funds and made preparations to carry out terror attacks.

It has alleged that the group members were exhorting others to carry out lone-wolf attacks using knives, vehicles or even poison. The 14 suspects were arrested along with two others from Tamil Nadu. They have been remanded in NIA custody for eight days.

According to the agency, the suspects were booked in a case registered on July 9 “based on credible information received that the accused persons, owing allegiance to the proscribed terrorist organisations ISIS/ Daish, Al Qaida and SIMI, while being within and beyond India, had conspired and conducted preparations to wage war against the Government of India by forming a terrorist gang Ansarulla”.

In a statement, the NIA said, “Accused persons have been actively recruiting individuals to strike terror in India and have also been routinely posting videos and other jihadi propaganda material exhorting their supporters to conduct terrorist attacks using various methods, including use of explosives, poison, knives and vehicles, as means of attack.” Sources said the suspects were deported from the UAE in two batches of seven with the first landing on July 13 and the second arriving on July 15. They were taken in a special flight to Chennai, where they were produced in court.

It is suspected that the individuals owing allegiance to SIMI are associated with Wahadat-e-Islami Hind, an Islamic organisation in Tamil Nadu.

The NIA had last Saturday conducted raids at premises associated with three individuals in Tamil Nadu in connection with its probe into activities of Ansarullah. Among them, was Chennai resident Syed Bukhari, who is also the president of Wahadat-e-Islami Hind (WIH).

On Sunday, the agency arrested two others — Hassan Ali and Harish Mohammed, both from Nagapattinum — “based on incriminating facts revealed during searches and subsequent investigations”. They, along with Bukhari, are already accused in the July 9 FIR against Ansarullah.

While WIH has maintained that it is a religious organisation, in interviews to the local media, sources in Tamil Nadu Police said intelligence agencies suspect the organisation was helping fund activities of Ansarullah.

WIH was established in 2009 in Chennai as a religious organisation and soon ran into controversy, with intelligence inputs suggesting its association with SIMI, a proscribed organisation. WIH had denied the allegations.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/deported-terror-suspects-linked-to-is-al-qaeda-simi-national-investigation-agency-5838763/

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Supreme Court fixes 9-month deadline for ruling in Babri case

July 20, 2019

The Supreme Court on Friday fixed a nine-month deadline for completion of trial and pronouncement of judgment in the Babri Masjid demolition case, in which prominent BJP leaders L K Advani and M M Joshi are among the accused.

“Judgment in this case must be delivered maximum within a period of nine months from now,” a bench of Justices R F Nariman and Surya Kant ordered while directing that the tenure of the Special Judge S K Yadav hearing the matter be extended till the judgment is delivered.

Friday’s order means that judgment in the case will have to be delivered before April 19, 2020.

The judge who is set to retire by the end of September this year had written to the court saying that despite best efforts, he would need six more months to conclude the matter.

Following this, the Supreme Court asked the Uttar Pradesh government to inform it about the procedure for extension of service of judges.

Appearing for the state government, Senior Advocate Aishwarya Bhati told the bench on Friday that there was no provision for this in service rules. But the court referred to a rule under which the service of government servants may be extended till the age of 62 years if such extension is required in the greater interest of justice and reasons to be recorded in writing.

The bench said it was invoking its inherent jurisdiction under Article 142 of the Constitution to allow extension of service to the judge only for trial in this case.

It asked the state government to pass necessary orders in consultation with the High Court within four weeks extending the tenure of the judge who is scheduled to retire on September 30.

The court also directed the Chief Secretary to file an affidavit about the steps taken.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/supreme-court-fixes-9-month-deadline-for-ruling-in-babri-case-5838673/

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16 Tamil Nadu men were planning terror attacks, through knives, vehicles and poison: NIA

by Deeptiman Tiwary

July 19, 2019

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) Friday identified the 14 terror suspects, who were deported this week from UAE and alleged that they were associated with varied ideologies of Al Qaeda, Islamic State and Students Islamic Movement of India. Along with the 14 suspects, two others were arrested and have been remanded in NIA custody for eight days. All 16 suspects hail from Tamil Nadu.

The NIA alleged that they had come together to form a terror group called Ansarulla and the accused had also collected funds and made preparations to carry out terrorist attacks in India, “with the intention of establishing Islamic rule in India.” It further alleged that the group members were exhorting others to carry out lone-wolf attacks using knives, vehicles or even poison.

In a statement, NIA said, “Accused persons have been actively recruiting individuals to strike terror in India and have also been routinely posting videos and other jihadi propaganda material exhorting their supporters to conduct terrorist attacks using various methods including the use of explosives, poison, knives and vehicles, as means of attack.”

NIA further claimed that it has booked the 16 in a case registered on July 9, “based on credible information received that the accused persons, owing allegiance to the proscribed terrorist organizations ISIS/ Daish, Al Qaida and SIMI (Students Islamic Movement of India), while being within and beyond India, had conspired and conducted preparations to wage war against the Government of India by forming a terrorist gang Ansarulla.”

Security establishment sources said the suspects were deported from UAE in two batches of seven with the first who arrived on July 13 and the second on July 15. The apprehended individuals were taken to Chennai in a special flight where they were produced in a court.

The 14 deported from UAE have been identified as Mohamed Ibrahim, 58; Meeran Ghani, 33; Gulam Nabi Asath, 37; Rafi Ahmed, 55; Munthasir, 39; Umar Barook, 48; Farook, 26; Mohamed Sheik Maitheen, 40; Ahamed Azarudhen, 27; Toufiq Ahmed, 27; Mohamed Ibrahim, 36; Mohammed Afzar, 29; Mohideen Seeni Shahul Hameed, 59, and Faizal Sharief, 44.

It is suspected the individuals owing allegiance to SIMI are associated with Wahadat-e-Islami Hind, an Islamic organisation in Tamil Nadu.

Last week, NIA conducted raids at premises of three individuals in Tamil Nadu in connection with its probe into activities of Ansarullah. One among them was Chennai-resident Syed Bukhari, who is also the president of Wahadat-e-Islami Hind.

The agency then put two of the individuals — Hassan Ali and Harish Mohammed — both from Nagapattinum, under arrest “based on incriminating facts revealed during searches and subsequent investigations”. They along with Bukhari are already accused in the July 9 FIR against Ansarullah.

While Wahadat-e-Islami Hind (WIH) has maintained it is a religious organisation with no connection to radical Islam in interviews to local media, sources in Tamil Nadu police said that intelligence agencies suspect the organisation was helping fund activities of Ansarullah. WIH was established in 2009 in Chennai as a religious organisation and soon ran into controversy with intelligence inputs suggesting that it was associated with SIMI, an organisation proscribed by the government. WIH had then denied such allegations.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/16-tn-men-were-planning-terror-attacks-through-knives-vehicles-and-poison-nia/

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Tamil Nadu: NIA raids homes of 14 youths arrested in ‘Ansarulla’ terror case

July 20, 2019

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) Saturday is conducting search operations at various locations across Tamil Nadu. The raids are being held at residences of the 14 youths who were deported from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) last week for their alleged association with terror outfits.

The raids are being carried out in Chennai, Madurai, Tirunelveli and Ramanathapuram district, the police told news agency PTI without divulging further details.

Arun Janardhanan

@arunjei

NIA is conducting searches at 14 locations in TN, which are residences of 14 youth picked up last week for alleged funding for an Islamic terror module in Tamil Nadu  @IndianExpress

239

7:43 AM - Jul 20, 2019

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The 14 accused were allegedly associated with varied ideologies of the al-Qaeda, the Islamic State (IS), and the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).

The accused were arrested earlier this week and remanded to NIA custody till July 25. They had been handed over to India by UAE for allegedly attempting to set up the terror outfit called ‘Ansarulla’. They were brought to Chennai in a special aircraft and were produced before Special Judge Senthur Pandian of the NIA court in Poonamallee.

The court, after hearing NIA’s arguments, had remanded all the accused to the agency’s custody till July 25.

The accused have been identified as Mohamed Ibrahim, 58; Meeran Ghani, 33; Gulam Nabi Asath, 37; Rafi Ahmed, 55; Munthasir, 39; Umar Barook, 48; Farook, 26; Mohamed Sheik Maitheen, 40; Ahamed Azarudhen, 27; Toufiq Ahmed, 27; Mohamed Ibrahim, 36; Mohammed Afzar, 29; Mohideen Seeni Shahul Hameed, 59, and Faizal Sharief, 44.

The NIA alleged that they collected funds and made preparations to carry out terrorist attacks in India “with the intention of establishing Islamic rule in India.” It further alleged that the group members were exhorting others to carry out lone-wolf attacks using knives, vehicles or even poison.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/tamil-nadu-nia-raids-homes-of-14-youths-arrested-in-ansarulla-terror-case-5838895/

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Mideast

 

Any military aggression against Iran will drag entire Mideast into chaos: Nasrallah

Jul 19, 2019

The secretary general of the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement has warned the US that any military aggression against Iran will drag the entire Middle East into disarray, stressing that Washington will definitely not be the one who determines the end of such a scenario.

“As Leader of the Islamic Revolution (Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei) has said, the US is not capable of imposing a military war on Iran. The White House knows that if a war against Iran happens, the entire region will get entangled, and the US will not be the one who finishes it,” Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a meeting with the visiting Iranian parliament speaker’s special advisor on international affairs, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, in Beirut on Friday.

Tensions have been running high between Tehran and Washington since last year, when US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and unleashed the “toughest ever” sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Recently, the US has taken a quasi-warlike posture against Iran and stepped up its provocative military moves in the Middle East, among them the June 20 incursion of an American spy drone into the Iranian borders.

The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) shot down the advanced US-made RQ-4 Global Hawk over Iran’s territorial waters off the coastal province of Hormozgan after the unmanned aircraft breached the country’s airspace on a spying mission.

Nasrallah then described resistance as the sole and most efficient option in the face of the Israeli regime’s crimes, acts of aggression and excessive demands.

He also lauded Iran’s political and democratic plan for a referendum among all historic residents of Palestine, inclusive of Muslims, Christians and Jews, as realistic and logical.

“The occupying Zionists, however, are the most irrational creatures on the earth, and do not understand anything other than the discourse of resistance,” the Hezbollah chief noted.

He further termed Trump’s controversial proposal for “peace” between the Israeli regime and Palestinians, dubbed “the deal of the century,” as hollow, stating that the Zionists are the root cause of corruption and insecurity in the region.

Nasrallah also highlighted that Hezbollah bears no grudge against Jews, warning members of the religious community not to play in the hands of Zionists’ land grab policies.

The Hezbollah secretary general emphasized that the anti-Israel resistance front is now in its best form even though the US and the Israeli regime continue with their fiendish moves in the region.

“Americans are seeking to impede the purge of the last remnants of terrorists in Syria, and are prolonging the (Syrian) crisis through various means in a bid to prevent the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland. They will fail in their interventionist policies in the region though,” Nasrallah concluded.

Amir-Abdollahian, for his part, congratulated Hezbollah’s victory during the 33-day war in July 2006, and discussed latest regional and international developments besides bilateral political and parliamentary relations between Tehran and Beirut with the Hezbollah chief.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/07/19/601344/Entire-Middle-East-will-drag-into-hiatus-in-case-war-waged-on-Iran-Nasrallah

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Israeli forces wound nearly 100 Gazan protesters

Jul 19, 2019

Israeli forces have attacked Palestinians taking part in the weekly “Great March of Return” rallies, injuring 98 Gazan protesters, according to the Gazan Health Ministry.

The Gazan Health Ministry also said that 49 of the injured protesters had sustained bullet wounds from Israeli live fire.

Four paramedics were also among the wounded.

The rallies have been held every week since March 30 last year. The Palestinians demand the right to return of those driven out of their homeland by Israeli aggression.

Israeli troops have killed at least 305 Palestinians since the beginning of the rallies and wounded nearly 18,000 others, according to the Gazan Health Ministry.

In March, a United Nations (UN) fact-finding mission found that Israeli forces committed rights violations during their crackdown against the Palestinian protesters in Gaza that may amount to war crimes.

Gaza has been under Israeli siege since June 2007, which has caused a decline in living standards.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/07/19/601351/Palestine-Israel-forces-wound-97

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Gibraltar Extends Detention of Iranian Tanker for a Month

July 19, 2019

LONDON — Gibraltar was granted the power on Friday to detain Iran's Grace 1 oil tanker for another month, keeping the vessel at the center of a big-power quarrel between Iran and the United States and its allies.

Gibraltar said the Iranian vessel, seized by marines in a daring landing in darkness off the coast of the British territory on July 4, was suspected of smuggling oil to Syria in breach of European Union sanctions.

Iran has repeatedly called for the ship's release, denies the allegation that the tanker was taking oil to Syria in violation of sanctions and says Gibraltar and Britain seized the vessel on the orders of Washington.

"At a private meeting of the Supreme Court on an application by the Attorney General, the Court has extended the period of detention of the vessel, Grace 1, for a further 30 days and has set a new hearing for 15 August 2019," the Gibraltar government said on Friday.

Gibraltar denies that it was ordered to detain the vessel, which was carrying up to 2.1 million barrels of oil, but several diplomatic sources said the United States asked the United Kingdom to seize the vessel.

The vessel is now seen as a pawn in the standoff between the Islamic Republic and the West, with its fate tangled in the diplomatic differences between the EU's big powers and the United States.

"This tanker is important because it is part of the wider tensions between Iran and the United States," said Sanam Vakil, senior research fellow at Chatham House in London.

"The EU 3 – including the UK – are caught in between, trying to save the Iran nuclear deal while also managing pressure from Washington," she said, referring to Germany, France and Britain. "So there is a big divergence of strategy on how to proceed and this tanker is a reflection of those divergences."

Iranian hardliners have repeatedly threatened to seize British shipping in retaliation for what they cast as London's piracy and Britain last week said it had fended off Iranian ships that tried to block a British tanker.

But Britain, which wants to preserve the nuclear deal, has repeatedly indicated it wants a compromise over the tanker.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Britain "would facilitate release" of the Iranian supertanker "if we received guarantees that it would not be going to Syria, following due process" in Gibraltar courts.

On Thursday, Gibraltar's Chief Minister Fabian Picardo held a "constructive and positive" meeting with Iranian officials in London to discuss the tanker.

Full report at:

https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2019/07/19/world/europe/19reuters-mideast-crisis-tanker-gibraltar.html?searchResultPosition=1

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As Iran-U.S. Tensions Rise, Hezbollah Readies for War With Israel

July 19, 2019

BEIRUT—The tranquil winding roads of Lebanon’s mountainous interior are far from the tense waters of the Persian Gulf where President Donald Trump says America came within 10 minutes of war with Iran a few weeks ago. And where, he said on Thursday, the U.S. shot down an Iranian drone. But if fighting ever does begin, these hills and valleys near the border with Israel will quickly be on the front lines. And according to Hezbollah commanders, that moment could be coming soon.

When Trump talked of war, he meant a shooting war in the conventional sense. But for Iran and its allies, it’s Trump’s economic war with its suffocating sanctions that is bringing the region to the brink of armed conflict. The targets of Trump’s weaponized dollar increasingly see resorting to military engagements as the only response left.

Here in Lebanon, Hezbollah’s commanders are close allies and clients of Iran—and they are targeted by U.S. sanctions as well. They warn that if the pressure continues these rugged hills where the Party of God fought bloody guerrilla campaigns to end 15 years of Israeli occupation in 2000 and repel an Israeli invasion in 2006 could erupt once again.

And this time, they say, the combat will be far more devastating.

Hezbollah’s forces, battle-hardened in the Syrian civil war, have begun redeploying toward the Israeli border, not only in Lebanon, but in Syria opposite the Israeli-occupied side of the Golan Heights.

Hezbollah fighters who spoke to The Daily Beast say their organization is hurting from sanctions and ready to initiate hostilities—if and when Tehran deems that necessary.

“The sanctions now have us preparing for dealing with the Israeli front,” says “Commander Samir,” a Hezbollah officer in charge of 800 fighters on Lebanon’s border with Israel. He declines to use his real name because he is not authorized to speak to the media. “We will fire the first shot this time,” he says.

Hezbollah’s military wing has changed fundamentally since its 2012 entrance into the war in Syria to prop up the Assad regime, transforming into a regional fighting force the Shia organization inspired by the Iranian revolution that the U.S. lists as a terrorist group.

When Trump offers the reasons he pulled out of the nuclear deal with Iran last year, precipitating the current crisis, he cites Iran’s support for militias that extend its power and influence across the region as something the U.S. intends to end—with Hezbollah the main target.

But the pressure may actually be consolidating and motivating Iran’s proxies.

Hezbollah is still fighting in Syria while training Iranian allied militias in Iraq and Yemen. The commander says his organization and Iran have moved past their split with Palestinian allies over Syria, where they were on opposite sides of the Syrian revolution as it turned into a bloody regional proxy war, and Iran is once again providing training and support for Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

From a living room overlooking the valleys where he became a veteran, ambushing the Israeli army and melting away into the surrounding hills, Samir says the next war will be nothing like those that came before.

He underscores the importance of Hezbollah’s positions in the Syrian-controlled part of the Golan, giving it the ability to open a second front there against Israel, and boasts about drone capabilities and new anti-aircraft and anti-naval weapons acquired in Syria alongside a more seasoned fighting force.  

“Our wish before the war in Syria was to go and open a front in the Golan but [the Syrian Government] set a red line,” the commander says, describing the limits the pre-war Assad regime placed on Hezbollah activity in its territory. “Now there are no red lines,” he said.

The commander acknowledges a new war would bring vast devastation to Israel and Lebanon, but says the sanctions crippling the Iranian economy and forcing a large reduction in Iran’s financial support for Hezbollah could make this nightmare scenario real.  Already, salaries for Hezbollah fighters have been halved, according to the three fighters The Daily Beast spoke with. But while they are hurting economically, they insist their organization feels strong militarily.   

“The Iranians have said either we all sell oil or no one does,” Commander Samir says definitively, describing Hezbollah’s interests in lockstep with Iran’s. Like the two other fighters that spoke to The Daily Beast, he describes Hezbollah’s concerns in more regional rather than domestic terms, responding to actions of U.S. allies around the Middle East rather than Israeli action on Lebanese soil. 

“If any missile hits Iran, it will be treated like Israel did it,” says the commander,

In spite of the increasing destabilization of the region since the U.S. pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and sanctions started taking hold, the Trump administration has argued that its policy of “maximum pressure” will force Iranian acquiescence.

However, according to Ahmad Moussalli,  a political science professor and specialist in Islamic movements at the American University of Beirut, the financial constraints imposed by Washington are having the opposite effect.

“You find this axis sees itself as fighting for its existence,” says Moussalli referring to Iran and its regional allies and proxies. “So they are going to pull together and strengthen their axis,” he continues, pointing to the way Hezbollah has been increasing overt political influence in Lebanon while allies in Yemen and Iraq have been taking more aggressive action.

“Iran is not going to sit down, take it and destroy itself from within,” Moussalli says. “And the only way for them to react is militarily; they don’t have many other options.” He leaves no doubt that Iran is the power determining regional responses rather than Hezbollah or any other proxy acting on its own initiative.

The eruption of shelling between Israel and Gaza ahead of the Israeli election in May provided some instructive examples of changes in tactics. Commander Samir points to a threat—which was not carried out—by Islamic Jihad to fire missiles at the northern Israeli city of Haifa. The threat was a marked change from recent rhetoric by the Palestinian Islamist faction which had previously taken the public position of “quiet for quiet,” a term used by the Israeli army to describe its claimed intention not to initiate armed hostility. “It was a message from us and Iran,” he brags about the ability to fire at Israel from the south or the north while contending the choice to do so or not is up to Tehran. “Islamic Jihad never shoots before calling the Iranians.”

“Assir,” a seasoned Hezbollah fighter in Syria is back in Lebanon after years of bloody tours in what’s been an unending war. He takes up a nom-de-guerre because Hezbollah fighters are generally not authorized to speak to media. When we meet in Beirut, he says that like the many fighters coming back to Lebanon as Assad consolidates control over much of Syria, he is not being demobilized but rather redeployed south to the Israeli border.  

“People who finish their mission in Syria go to the south,” Assir says, describing how his comrades and he have been given new posts since tensions started rising in the Gulf. “There are some units in Syria but a lot go back to Lebanon or to the Golan. Thousands have come back.”

Military success in Syria has reinforced Assir’s confidence and he points to the tensions in the Strait of Hormuz as the source of the next conflict with Israel. “The commanders talk about if there is a spark in Hormuz, there could be a spark in Lebanon,” recalls Assir.

However, Moussalli sees the prospect for war with Israel, while it looms, probably is not imminent. He doubts that Hezbollah is eager for a war at the moment. He says currently Iran is primarily focused on responding in the Gulf area and Iraq.

“Syria and Lebanon will be engaged in war once Europe or Iran completely pull out of the nuclear agreement,” says Moussalli, arguing war with Israel is still a ways off. “The issue with Israel is a rather big one,” he continues, referring to the costs of the 2006 war. “So yes there is pressure, there is the possibility of war but I don’t think it is near,” he says, believing that if sanctions are relieved the tension will be as well.  But, “are they ready [for war]?” he adds referring to Hezbollah. “Yes they are.”

The second Lebanon War ignited in the wake of Hezbollah seizing two Isralei soldiers and killing three others in a cross border raid in July 2006 and Israel retaliating with a massive artillery and aerial bombardment of Lebanon. Hezbollah in turn fired rockets at northern Israeli cities and Israel launched a ground invasion. The result was the demolition of large swaths of Lebanon, pulverized by Israeli jets, while Israeli soldiers found themselves in an unwinnable quagmire and forced to withdraw from a country for the second time in less than a decade. By the time the shooting ended 1,200 Lebanese – mostly civilians, 45 Israeli civilians and 120 soldiers had been killed. More than a million people in Lebanon, a quarter of the population at the time, were displaced and while there are no official numbers of Hezbollah casualties, the UN estimated that 500 of the Lebanese casualties were Hezbollah fighters.

Moussalli’s assessment of a slower march toward the carnage of an Israeli-Lebanese conflict more devastating than past ones is echoed by “Commander Ayman,” a Hezbollah officer currently based in Beirut who also oversees units fighting in Syria.

“The Americans know the kind of fighters we have, so Hezbollah and Iran have been reminding the world how bad [a war] could be,” notes Ayman.  While confirming there is a strict red line around any attack on Iran, he maintains there is a strong desire to avoid war, suggesting the blusterous talk of imminent conflict with Israel is designed to convince the U.S. to abandon its current strategy.

Israel also doesn’t seem very interested in conflict over Lebanon at the moment. While Netanyahu has pursued a policy of striking Iran and Hezbollah in Syria, he has avoided another war in Lebanon. Even when Hezbollah tunnels into Israel were unmasked in January, there was no action over Lebanon. 

Unlike Israeli wars in Gaza, which have carried low costs to Israeli soldiers and civilians and have pushed the electorate toward Netanyahu, wars in Lebanon have had large military and civilian costs for Israel, often turning the electorate against the government.

When asked if Netanyahu thought that the U.S. sanctions he has actively encouraged could ignite conflict with Hezbollah, the Prime Minister’s Office officially declined to comment. The Israeli military also declined to comment on how it sees the current level of tension on its Lebanese border or if its alert level had changed since Iran started reacting to sanctions, claiming it “is too complex an issue to explain on the phone or in a statement.”

Meanwhile sanctions and rhetoric continue to escalate.

Following the U.S. Treasury Department’s announcement last Tuesday of fresh sanctions targeting Hezbollah members of the Lebanese parliament, threats of annihilation have been hurled back and forth between Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (who, not coincidentally, is fighting for reelection).

In a speech last Friday marking the 13th anniversary of the 2006 war with Israel, Nasrallah gloated about expanded military capabilities and threatened that another war would “bring Israel to the brink of extinction.” Netanyahu responded on Sunday by threatening to deal Lebanon and Hezbollah “a crushing military blow” if Hezbollah attacks.

On Monday, European signatories to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal, gathered in Brussels to try to salvage the agreement that the US pulled out of in 2018. The Europeans hope to find enticements that will encourage Iran to stay in the deal.

During his address, Nasrallah claimed that he didn’t intend to start a war with Israel. Those sentiments were reiterated by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in an interview with CNN in New York on Wednesday where Zarif stated that Iran will not start a war but will defend itself. 

The sheer destruction a new conflict between Hezbollah and Israel would unleash on Lebanon leads Moussalli to call it a “madness war.” While Hezbollah’s exact intentions are unclear, the border between Israel and Lebanon was much quieter before U.S. sanctions put Iran and its allies on this collision course.

Full report at:

https://news.yahoo.com/iran-u-tensions-rise-hezbollah-084513779.html

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Iran says seized British tanker now at Bandar Abbas port, crew to remain onboard

20 July 2019

The British-flagged tanker Stena Impero was in an accident with a fishing boat before being detained on Friday, Iran’s Fars news agency reported on Saturday, quoting an official.

Iran says all 23 crew seized on the tanker are now at Bandar Abbas port and will remain on the vessel until the end of an investigation, according to Fars.

“It got involved in an accident with an Iranian fishing boat... When the boat sent a distress call, the British-flagged ship ignored it,” said the head of Ports and Maritime Organisation in southern Hormozgan province, Allahmorad Afifipour.

“The tanker is now at Iran’s Bandar Abbas port and all of its 23 crew members will remain on the ship until the probe is over.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/07/20/Iran-says-seized-British-tanker-now-at-Bandar-Abbas-port.html

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US vows to shoot down any Iran drones that fly too closely to its ships

19 July 2019

The United States will destroy any Iranian drones that fly too closely to its ships and has “clear evidence” that it shot down such a drone on Thursday, a senior Trump administration official said on Friday.

“If they fly too close to our ships, they’ll continue to be shot down,” the official told reporters at a briefing.

Iran on Friday denied President Donald Trump’s claim that a US warship destroyed an Iranian drone near the Arabian Gulf in another escalation of tensions between the two countries less than a month after Trump nearly launched an airstrike.

The Iranian military said all its drones had returned safely to their bases and denied there was any confrontation with a US vessel the previous day.

The country’s Revolutionary Guard said on its website it would release before-and-after images from the drone — it did not say when — to prove it was not destroyed.

“We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else,” tweeted Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/07/19/US-vows-to-shoot-down-any-Iran-drones-that-fly-too-closely-to-its-ships.html

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Arab Coalition begins operation targeting military positions in Yemen’s Sanaa

20 July 2019

The Arab Coalition in Yemen said it started an operation to target military positions in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, according to state TV early on Saturday.

The targets included air defense sites and ballistic missile depots, it added.

The coalition said that it advised civilians to avoid going near the target areas.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/07/20/Arab-Coalition-begins-operation-targeting-military-positions-in-Yemen-s-Sanaa.html

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Meeting between top Bahraini, Israeli diplomats betrayal of Palestine: Hamas

Jul 19, 2019

The Palestinian Hamas resistance movement has strongly censured Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifah for holding a public meeting with his Israeli counterpart, Israel Katz, in the United States, describing the meeting as “a betrayal” of the Palestinian cause.

“The intimate picture of the Bahraini foreign minister with his counterpart from the occupying regime (of Israel) reflects the involvement of some Arab regimes in Zionism,” Hamas Spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri wrote in a post published on his official Twitter page on Friday.

“Such meetings are a betrayal of al-Quds and Palestine, and will not succeed in falsifying the nation’s awareness and pushing it towards abandoning Palestine and normalization of ties with the Occupation,” he added.

‘Unforgivable sin’

Meanwhile, Bahrain’s main opposition group also condemned the encounter as “shameful” and “an unforgivable sin,” adding that the ruling regime in Manama “no longer has any legitimacy.”

The al-Wefaq National Islamic Society said in a statement on Friday that Manama’s increasingly cozy relationship with Tel Aviv “does not honor” the Bahraini people and their views.

It also expressed regret that media outlets as well as some political, social and religious forces in Bahrain have lauded the Manama regime’s sins and defended them blindly.

Speaking in an interview with English-language The Times of Israel daily newspaper on the sidelines of the US-led economic workshop in Manama on June 26, the top Bahraini diplomat recognized Israel’s “right to existence,” saying the regime was “there to stay, of course.”

“Who did we offer peace to [with] the [Arab] Peace Initiative? We offered it to … Israel…. We want better relations with it, and we want peace with it,” Khalifah added.

He pointed to the Arab Peace Initiative as the blueprint for normalization of diplomatic relations with Israel, terming the Tel Aviv regime’s rejection of the plan as a “missed opportunity.”

The Arab Peace Initiative, proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2002, calls on Israel to agree to a two-state solution along the 1967 lines and a “just” solution to the Palestinian refugee issue. The initiative has been repeatedly endorsed by the Arab League in 2002, 2007, and 2017.

The Bahraini foreign minister further encouraged Israel to approach Arab leaders about issues of concern regarding the proposal.

“Come and talk to us. Talk to us about it. Say, guys, you have a good initiative, but we have one thing that worries us,” he said.

The so-called Peace to Prosperity workshop was held in Bahrain on June 25 and 26.

It apparently sought to advance the economic aspects of President Donald Trump’s controversial proposal for “peace” between the Israeli regime and Palestinians, dubbed “the deal of the century.”

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/07/19/601336/Meeting-between-top-Bahraini-Israeli-diplomats-betrayal-of-Palestine-Hamas

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Turkish jets pound Iraqi Kurdistan after Turkish diplomat killed in armed attack

Jul 19, 2019

Turkish fighter jets have launched airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq’s northern semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, two days after a Turkish diplomat was killed in an armed attack on a restaurant in the area.

“Following the evil attack in Erbil, we have launched the most comprehensive air operation on Qandil and dealt a heavy blow to the (Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)) terror organization,” Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said in a statement.

Turkish consulate employee Osman Köse was killed on July 17, when attackers made their move while the Turkish diplomats asked for check at HuQQabaz, a popular restaurant in an upscale and high-security area only a five-minute drive from the Turkish mission on the airport road in Erbil – the seat of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

One of the attackers directly targeted the Turkish diplomat at close range, firing a gun with a silencer. Meanwhile, the other attacker began to shoot towards two Iraqi customers. One of them died immediately and the other died in the hospital.

The Turkish defense chief further said targets such as “armaments positions, lodgings, shelters and caves belonging to terrorists” were destroyed.

“Our fight against terror will continue with increasing determination until the last terrorist is neutralized and the blood of our martyrs will be avenged,” Akar noted.

PKK militants regularly clash with Turkish forces in the Kurdish-dominated southeast of Turkey attached to northern Iraq.

Turkey, along with the European Union and the United States, has declared the PKK a terrorist group and banned it. The militant group has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region since 1984.

A shaky ceasefire between the PKK and the Turkish government collapsed in July 2015. Attacks on Turkish security forces have soared ever since.

Over the past few months, Turkish ground and air forces have been carrying out operations against PKK positions in the country as well as in northern Iraq and neighboring Syria.

More than 40,000 people have been killed during the three-decade conflict between Turkey and the autonomy-seeking militant group.

Gunman behind Erbil attack identified

Furthermore, KRG authorities said on Thursday that they had identified one of the gunmen involved in the deadly armed attack in Erbil.

Police shared a photo of the alleged attacker, identified as Mazlum Dag (shown in the picture below), and asked local residents to help turn him in.

The report came as Dersim Dag, one of Mazlum Dag’s brothers, is a lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), which the Turkish government accuses of affiliation to the PKK.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/07/19/601327/Turkish-jets-pound-Iraqi-Kurdistan-after-Turkish-killed-in-armed-attack

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Europe

 

Netherlands liable for Muslim deaths at Srebrenica: Dutch Supreme Court

Callum Paton

July 19, 2019

The Netherland’s highest court has upheld a ruling holding the country partially liable for the deaths of Muslim men at Srebrenica in 1995, where 8,000 were massacred by Bosnian Serb forces.

The Dutch Supreme court said on Friday that Dutch troops, acting as UN peacekeepers, had a 10 per cent liability in the in the deaths of 350 Bosnian Muslims after they were expelled from a United Nations base nearby the staging ground for the grisly massacre, the worst mass murder in Europe since World War Two.

The ruling could set a crucial precedent establishing the liability of national governments for the actions of their troops while in UN peacekeeping roles. The Associated Press reported that the ruling, the final chapter in years of legal wrangling and appeals, has been the longest running-legal battle by the launched by the families of the victims of Srebrenica.

In its ruling, the supreme court in The Hague said the Dutch peace keepers had evacuated men from their base near Srebrenica in the knowledge that they "were in serious jeopardy of being abused and murdered".

The men were a portion of 5,000 Muslim residents who sought refuge at the UN peacekeeping base in July 1995 as the area fell under the sway of Gen Ratko Mladic’s Bosnian forces. Dubbed the “Butcher of Bosnia,” the former army chief was sentenced in 2017 to life imprisonment for his role in the killings.

The families of the victims, The Mothers of Srebrenica, were unequivocal in their condemnation of the Dutch as the ruling was upheld. "They are responsible and they will always have a stain," Munira Subasic, one of the relatives who brought the case, said. "We know what happened we don't need this court to tell us,” she added.

Though the ruling has not specified exactly what monetary damages should now be paid to the families, the decision by the court will mean the survivors are likely to receive thousands of euros from the Dutch government.

In a statement in response the Dutch government has said it accepts its partial liability in accordance with the ruling. The government accepts the verdict of the Supreme Court", the Defence ministry said. "The state thereby accepts liability for the damages as determined by the Supreme Court," it added in a statement on Friday.

By upholding the ruling, the supreme court has once again ignored the protests of the Dutch government, which has said repeatedly that its troops, outnumbered and lightly armed, had been sent on an impossible mission in Bosnia.

Referring to a 2017 judgement in which the Hague Court of Appeal had ruled the Dutch were 30 per cent liable for the 350 deaths, the country’s Advocate General had issued a non-binding advisory calling the decision irrational.

In 2002, a report into the Srebrenica massacre that blamed the Dutch government and senior military officials for their roles prompted a mass resignation by the Dutch government.

The long-running case has related specifically how Mladic’s forces were able to pick out men as they left the Dutch base, essentially selecting them for murder. Bosnian Serb forces trucked off thousands of Muslim men after taking control of Srebrenica, killing them and then disposing of their bodies in hastily dug graves.

In March of this year former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic was sentenced to life imprisonment for his role in the massacre and war crimes in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s. He had evaded authorities for 13 years before his capture.

https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/netherlands-liable-for-muslim-deaths-at-srebrenica-dutch-supreme-court-1.888180

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Britain’s interior minister warns inflammatory political debate is fuelling extremism

Claire Corkery

July 19, 2019

Britain’s home secretary Sajid Javid has called on leaders to “moderate their language” to tackle extremism and cited as an example President Donald Trump’s Twitter tirade against US congresswomen.

Mr Javid, who is from an immigrant background, said on Friday “myths about immigration” must be confronted.

Mr Trump was accused of racism this week after he told four Democratic congresswomen to “go back” to the countries they “originally came from”.

In an apparent reference to the President’s comments, Mr Javid said: "I know what it's like to be told to go back to where I came from."

Mr Javid, whose position in government could be changed next week under the new prime minister, said extremists use immigration as a “proxy for race”, stoking up fear about immigrants.

"Anyone can challenge the myths," he said in a speech titled Confronting Extremism Together. "So tell your friends, shout it loud and proud: people from minority backgrounds did not steal our jobs, they're not terrorists, that there is no global 'Zionist conspiracy'."

Mr Javid’s comments come after 150 parliamentarians signed a statement condemning Mr Trump for his “outright racist” remarks against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib.

Britain’s outgoing prime minister Theresa May described the President’s words as “completely unacceptable” but stopped short of branding him racist.

A survey conducted by Britain’s Independent Commission for Countering Extremism, set up in the wake of the 2017 Manchester Bombing that killed 22 mostly young concert goers, revealed that 52 per cent of those polled had personal experience of extremism.

“I was shocked that more than half of the respondents have witnessed extremism in some way, and that two-fifths of them said they’d seen it in their local area,” the Commission’s lead Sara Khan said.

An academic paper published alongside the statistical report warned that the far-right now had “widespread public support”.

Joe Mulhall, senior Researcher, at Hope not Hate, said far-right demonstrations, including protests organised by anti-Muslim activist Tommy Robinson, were attracting the largest number of supporters since the 1930s.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/britain-s-interior-minister-warns-inflammatory-political-debate-is-fuelling-extremism-1.888159

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Trio sentenced to death for beheading backpackers in ISIS-inspired slayings

By Jackie Salo

July 18, 2019

Three jihadists were sentenced to death in Morocco for butchering two female Scandinavian backpackers in an ISIS-inspired execution.

Ringleader Abdessamad Ejjoud, Younes Ouaziyad and Rachid Afatti were convicted of terror charges Thursday in the trial over the grisly slaughterings back in December.

Maren Ueland, 28, and Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, were fatally wounded Dec. 17 in a tent on a Christmas camping trip near Mount Toubkal, one of Morocco’s highest peaks.

Prosecutors allege that Ejjoud, 25, and Ouaziyad, 27, beheaded the hikers while Afatti, 33, recorded the slayings on his phone. All three men pledged allegiance to ISIS in a video before the murders.

The trio was sentenced along with 20 other accomplices who received jail terms ranging from five to 30 years.

Khalid El Fataoui, the lawyer for Vesterager’s family, said he was “100 percent satisfied” with the verdicts.

Full report at:

https://nypost.com/2019/07/18/trio-sentenced-to-death-for-beheading-backpackers-in-isis-inspired-slayings/

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How far-right groups use Britain’s extremism definition to argue they aren’t extremist

July 19, 2019

The government’s definition of extremism is so unfit for purpose that far-right groups with clearly dangerous ideology are using it to “prove” that they are not extremist.

I’ve written about this in a new study published by the Commission for Countering Extremism as part of a wider set of research aimed at improving understanding about far-right extremism in Britain.

The government defines extremism as the:

Vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs … calls for the death of members of our armed forces (are also) extremist.

My own research on the definition looks at how it was used by groups such as National Action, which gained notoriety in December 2016 when it became the first far-right group in the UK to be proscribed, or banned under terrorism legislation. This made it a criminal offence to be a member of the group, organise meetings and wear clothing or symbols linked to it.

National Action was a youth-focused group that adhered to an extremely traditional interpretation of National Socialism. Routinely glorifying Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich, the group spoke about the need to undertake a “white jihad” as a means of establishing a “white homeland” in the UK. While National Action are easy to mock given the headlines that have accompanied recent successful convictions – the Miss Hitler beauty competition, naming a baby Adolf and having swastika-shaped cookie cutters – doing so undermines the group’s very real commitment to enact extreme violence. Not only had the group begun stockpiling weapons but they had also begun planning to use them, evident in plots to kill the Labour MP Rosie Cooper.

Even though National Action adhered to an extremist ideology and its members engaged in extremist activities, the government had to resort to using terrorism-related legislation to ban the group. This is despite the government stating in both the 2015 and 2016 Queen’s speeches that it would introduce a counter-extremism bill in order to criminalise “extremist activity”, the current definition of which is far too broad to be suitable for legislation – a point the former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation made earlier in 2019. This means that no group can be banned for extremism under current law.

Picking apart the extremism definition

The targeting groups and individuals by National Action on the basis of their “race”, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity and disability – all of which are key components of traditional National Socialism – did not contravene the definition’s quite bizarre requirement to only show respect and tolerance towards different faiths and beliefs. The definition doesn’t deem being intolerant on the basis of race, ethnicity and so on as being extremist.

It’s highly unlikely than anyone within today’s British far right would openly state that they were against “democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty”. On the contrary, many including Britain First, the Democratic Football Lads Alliance and Tommy Robinson can be seen to actively espouse – albeit with some caveats – a commitment to Britain and its values as a means of distancing themselves from Muslims in particular. A number of far-right figures and groups claim to defend various liberal and civil rights including free speech and gender equality.

The weakness of the government’s extremism definition was actually addressed by National Action prior to its proscription. It stated on its website at the time that:

Despite there being a bunch of legislation existing against it nobody seems to know what extremism actually ‘is’ … An extremist is somebody who uses or encourages illegal violence or terrorism to achieve their goals.

While some National Action members clearly had a propensity to use illegal violence or terrorism to achieve their ideological goals, its rebuttal of the government’s extremism definition highlights just how little clarity the definition provides on what is invariably a subjective and contextual concept. Nor does the definition make any specific reference to violence, thereby conflating both violent and non-violent forms of extremism.

The problem of fundamental British values

Central to the problem is the government’s insistence on using “fundamental British values” to define extremism: these are the democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.

They first appeared in the Coalition government’s review of Prevent – the UK’s counter-terrorism strategy – in 2011. But at this time, the overwhelming focus of the government’s approach to counter-terrorism and subsequently counter-extremism was on forms of that were Islamist and inspired by Islamic State. While the threat posed by the far right is thankfully now being taken seriously, the same was not true when the definition of extremism – or fundamental British values – were conceived. This is part of the reason why the existing definition fails to take into account of the broad spectrum of extremism.

Full report at:

https://theconversation.com/how-far-right-groups-use-britains-extremism-definition-to-argue-they-arent-extremist-120375

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German police raid apartments at centre of suspected ISIS plot

Callum Paton

July 18, 2019

In a series of dawn raids on Thursday, German police searched apartments linked to a ring of suspected extremists inspired by ISIS, detaining six people.

The German newspaper Bild reported the raids on the addresses in Dueren and Cologne, western Germany. It said knives and baseball bats, 20 mobile phones, a number of external hard drives and three laptops were seized.

Police in Cologne said they launched the raids against the alleged terrorists because of suspicions they were planning an attack and in hope of gaining concrete evidence of a plot.

Cologne police chief Uwe Jacob said he was “confident that we will soon be able to substantiate our threat assessment”.

The security forces took action when the principal suspect, a German-Lebanese Muslim convert known as Wael C, 30, who had made a number of attempts to join ISIS, moved into the Dueren apartment with another extremist, according to the Associated Press.

This second man, identified as Timo R, was also known to have sworn allegiance to ISIS.

Wael C, originally from Berlin, worked as a temporary imam at the now-banned Fussilet 33 Mosque Association.

The organisation, a known focal point for extremists, was closed by Germany’s interior ministry over its links to ISIS.

Anis Amri, responsible for the December 2016 lorry attack on a Christmas market in Berlin that killed 12, had visited the mosque.

Though Wael C had reportedly been known to police for years, he had recently been recorded as saying he was “planning to ascend to the highest level of paradise”.

It was believed that by this he meant he was planning a suicide attack.

From the apartment in Dueren, where Wael C was living with Timo R, police were led to a construction site in Cologne.

The five-floor building, which includes retail spaces on the ground floor, was searched by bomb detection dogs.

There are indications that the canine units may have uncovered explosives at this location.

Two employees were detained at the construction site.

Police are confident there are links between the two men and the wider terrorist circle.

“We also went to work, to a larger construction site in the centre of Cologne,” state security spokesman Michael Esser said.

“We interviewed all employees. In this context, we found that the two people worked only a small area,” he said.

Police emphasised that none of the men under investigation have been arrested.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/german-police-raid-apartments-at-centre-of-suspected-isis-plot-1.887942

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EU to send $1.6B for refugees in Turkey under deal

Diyar Güldoğan 

19.07.2019

The European Commission on Friday adopted a new set of assistance measures worth €1.41 billion (nearly $1.6 billion), ensuring EU support to refugees and host communities in Turkey.

According to a statement released from the Commission, the program will focus on the areas of health, protection, socio-economic support, and municipal infrastructure.

"The new measures are part of the second tranche of the Facility for Refugees in Turkey, bringing the total amount already allocated to €5.6 billion out of €6 billion since 2016, with the remaining balance due to be allocated over the summer," it read.

In March 2016, EU and Turkey reached an agreement to take stricter measures against human smugglers and discourage irregular migration through the Aegean Sea, and improve the conditions of Syrian refugees in Turkey, with the EU vowing €6 billion ($6.8 billion) to help Turkey care for millions of refugees hosted in the country.

With this new allocation of funds, the EU continues to deliver its support committed to Turkey, which hosts the largest group of refugees in the world, Commissioner Johannes Hahn was quoted in the statement as saying.

Turkey currently hosts more than 4 million refugees, including 3.6 million Syrians, more than any other country in the world. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan previously said that Ankara has spent over $37 billion for the Syrians alone.

The EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey was set up in 2015 in response to the European Council's call for significant additional funding to support Syrian refugees in Turkey, according to the statement.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/eu-to-send-16b-for-refugees-in-turkey-under-deal/1536270

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South Asia

 

Bangladesh Calls for Financial Sanctions on Myanmar, as Country Pushes for Rohingya Repatriation

By Anis Ahmed, Leslie Bonilla

July 19, 2019

WASHINGTON - Bangladesh wants Myanmar to repatriate the nearly 1 million Rohingya refugees who have fled genocide, and a top Bangladeshi official wants international financial sanctions to back it up.

Much of the Muslim-majority ethnic group has fled to Bangladesh after Myanmar’s latest brutal crackdown in 2017, which included mass killings, sexual assaults and arson. The military has justified its crackdown, which involved mass killings, gang rapes and widespread arson, as a way of eradicating Rohingya insurgents.

Foreign Minister Abul Kalam Abdul Momen called Wednesday for the international community to place concerted financial pressure on Myanmar in an interview with VOA Bangla. More than 900,000 Rohingya live in camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district, straining local facilities and services. Refugees are vulnerable to monsoon-induced flooding and landslides.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has begun calling for repatriation, telling a French ambassador Wednesday, “How long will we bear the burden? The sooner the Rohingyas are repatriated, the better it will be for all.”

Momen said that in the past, Myanmar had fulfilled agreements to repatriate Rohingya refugees, taking back “most of” the 250,000 that fled in 1992.

“We believed this time they would take them back, because they assured us [they would],” the Bangladeshi foreign minister said. “But, they have not created a conducive environment in Myanmar, so that these people feel secure if they go back.”

Despite his acknowledgement of still-dangerous conditions in Myanmar, Momen told VOA the pressure to repatriate should be backed up by international financial sanctions.

The U.S. sanctioned Myanmar’s commander-in-chief and three of its highest generals for “gross human rights violations” Tuesday, but the measure only blocked them from entering the U.S.

As targets, Momen pointed to the Myanmar military junta’s involvement in the sale of precious gemstones, Singapore’s administration of the country’s main banking system and heavy Japanese investment.

“If [the] United States takes the lead and asks all its friends and followers to put some restrictions on Myanmar, put pressure on Myanmar, they have the muscle. They have the leverage,” he said.

The minister told VOA that Bangladesh would “definitely welcome” a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump.

China and Russia, two of Myanmar’s more powerful allies, also could hold some sway, Momen suggested.

Both countries, however, have boycotted U.N. talks on the Rohingya crisis. In 2018, China advocated slashing the proposed budget for addressing the refugee crisis, reducing by half the original number of nearly $30 million. China’s proposal didn’t go through, but the country continues resisting talk of sanctioning Myanmar for its treatment of Rohingya people.

Could that change? Bangladesh asked China to encourage Myanmar’s repatriation of the Rohingya refugees, said Momen, and China “assured us they’ll do it.”

The Rohingya have faced decades of systemic violence and discrimination in Myanmar, which sees the group as illegal migrants from Bangladesh. A 1982 citizenship law didn’t include them as one of 135 recognized indigenous groups, effectively rendering the population of 1.1 million Rohingya stateless — one of the largest such communities in the world.

In addition to periodic violent ethnic cleansing campaigns, Myanmar’s government has denied the Rohingya access to everyday services such as education, healthcare and freedom of movement.

https://www.voanews.com/south-central-asia/bangladesh-calls-financial-sanctions-myanmar-country-pushes-rohingya

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Casualties toll in Kabul bombing rises to over 40, Taliban blamed for the incident

20 Jul 2019

The casualties’ toll from yesterday’s explosion in Kabul city has climbed to 41 as security officials blame Taliban for the deadly incident.

Nasrat Rahimi, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior said preliminary reports indicate the Taliban group was behind the explosion.

Rahimi further added that Taliban group usually denies involvement in bombings which claim civilian lives.

Meanwhile, officials in the Ministry of Public Health say the explosion killed 8 civilians and wounded 33 others.

The explosion took place close to Kabul University earlier on Friday.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/casualties-toll-in-kabul-bombing-rises-to-over-40-taliban-blamed-for-the-incident-03986/

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Taliban to talk to Swedish NGO after Afghan clinic closures

By Amir Shah

July 18, 2019

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban said they would hold talks Thursday with representatives of a Swedish non-profit group after threats by the insurgents forced the organization to close 42 clinics it runs in eastern Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Taliban fighters in southern Kandahar province attacked police headquarters, killing at least 10 people and wounding dozens more, officials said.

The closures of the facilities run by the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan in Taliban-controlled areas of Maidan Wardak province are expected to affect almost 6,000 people. The clinics in government controlled parts of the province remain open.

The closures came after Afghan forces last week raided a clinic run by the NGO, in pursuit of the Taliban. Two staffers died in the raid.

On Wednesday, Sonny Mansson, the group’s director, told The Associated Press that the Taliban threatened the NGO’s staff by saying that if they do not close the facilities, “it would have consequences for themselves and their families.”

The talks are meant “to resolve the situation” in Maidan Wardak province, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, though he offered no details on where and how the meeting would take place.

Also on Thursday, the Swedish committee was organizing a meeting of aid groups working in the country to take a united stand and demand protection of civilians from all sides in Afghanistan’s nearly 18-year-long war.

“We would like to send a clear message that protection of civilians and aid workers should be prioritized by all parties to the conflict,” the NGO said in a statement, expressing concerns over violations in international humanitarian law and the “increase in attacks on citizens, health care and education facilities.”

Also on Thursday, in southern Kandahar province, a suicide attacker detonated his explosives-laden vehicle outside provincial police headquarters, said provincial council member Mohammad Yousuf Yunosi. Immediately after the explosion several other attackers opened fire on security guards with small arms.

Jamal Naser Barikzai, spokesman for the chief of police, said at least 10 people were killed and at least 80 wounded in the attack. He said two police were among the dead and four insurgents were also killed.

Witnesses described a powerful explosion that shook the neighborhood, shattering windows in nearby buildings.

Qari Yousf Ahmadi, spokesman for the Taliban, later claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement.

Full report at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/taliban-to-talk-to-swedish-ngo-after-afghan-clinic-closures/2019/07/18/b4ec1d7e-a929-11e9-8733-48c87235f396_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.1395e49b11c9

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14 Taliban militants killed in security operations in Afghanistan

July 18 2019

Fourteen Taliban militants were killed in separate security operations by Afghan and coalition forces in Ghazni and central Logar provinces in central and eastern Afghanistan.

The 203rd Thunder Corps in a statement said the Afghan artillery units conducted strikes against Taliban positions in Nogha area of Ghazni city. The statement further added that the artillery strikes killed four Taliban militants and wounded three others. Furthermore, the Afghan Air Force conducted airstrikes in Rawza area of Ghazni city killing four Taliban militants, Afghan (Khaama Press) Agency reported.

The 203rd Thunder Corps also added that the Afghan forces killed three Taliban militants and wounded two others in Khwaja Omari district of Ghazni.

Full report at:

https://www.gulf-times.com/story/636856/14-Taliban-militants-killed-in-security-operations

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8 Taliban militants killed, detained; weapons, explosives destroyed in Special Forces raids

20 Jul 2019

The Afghan Special Forces killed a Taliban militant and arrested 7 others during the latest operations conducted in the past 24 hours.

The informed military sources said Saturday that the Special Forces conducted an operation in Tagab district of Kapisa and destroyed a small weapons cache.

The sources further added that the Afghan Special Forces conducted a similar operation in Kabul city and detained 1 Taliban fighter.

Furthermore, the sources said the Special Forces conducted a raid in Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand, killed 1 Taliban fighter and destroyed 1 IED.

Meanwhile, the officials said the Special Forces conducted a raid in Qal’ah-ye Zal district of Kunduz and detained 1 Taliban fighter.

The Afghan Special Forces also conducted an operation in Chahar Bolak district of Balkh and detained 5 Taliban fighters.

The Afghan Special Forces conducted another raid in Khas Uruzgan district of Uruzgan and destroyed 300 lbs Home Made Explosives, 6 Rocket Propelled Grenades and a weapons cache.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/8-taliban-militants-killed-detained-weapons-explosives-destroyed-in-special-forces-raids-03987/

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Guided artillery strike kill, wound dozens of Taliban militants in Uruzgan province

20 Jul 2019

A guided artillery strike killed or wounded dozens of Taliban militants in southern Uruzgan province of Afghanistan, the Afghan military said.

The 205th Atal Corps in a statement said the security forces targeted the militants in Khas Uruzan district using guided artillery.

The statement further added that the strike killed 24 Taliban militants and woudned 17 others.

Furthermore, the 205th Atal Corps said the strike also destroyed the weapons, ammunition and explosives of the militants.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/guided-artillery-strike-kill-wound-dozens-of-taliban-militants-in-uruzgan-province-03984/

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Eight killed in bomb blast outside Kabul University

Jul 19, 2019

At least eight people have been killed and 33 others injured in a bomb blast near a gate to the campus of Kabul University in the Afghan capital.

The explosion, caused by a sticky bomb, took place on Friday, according to officials.

Sticky bombs are a common threat in Kabul, where militants often stick explosives to the bottom of vehicles.

Kabul police spokesman Faramarz Firdaws said a second bomb was defused near the explosion site.

No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack.

The incident took place just hours after Taliban militants killed at least 12 and injured over 80 when they set off two car bombs outside the police headquarters in the city of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan on Thursday.

Iran condemns blasts

Later on Friday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman condemned the terrorist attacks on the police headquarters in Kandahar and the Kabul University.

Seyyed Abbas Mousavi also expressed sympathy with Afghanistan’s government and people, especially the families of the victims.

He expressed confidence that the Afghan government and people “and all the ethnic, political, and religious groups in the country... will continue on the path to restore peace and security in Afghanistan.”

The US and its allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001. While the invasion ended the Taliban’s rule in the country, it has failed to eliminate the militant group. Some 18 years on, Washington is seeking truce with the militants as they have boosted their campaign of violence across the country.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/07/19/601323/Afghanistan-Kabul-University-sticky-bomb

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Africa

 

Moroccan Al Qaeda Leader, Ali Maychou. Added to US Global Terrorist List

By Margot Eliason -

Jul 18, 2019

Rabat – Ali Maychou holds a leadership role with Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), a West-African militant jihadist group designated by the US as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), and as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) in September 2018.

JNIM was formed by a merger of three existing terrorist organizations in 2017. At the time of its creation, the group pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda, the Islamist organization founded by Osama bin Laden.

According to a press release by the US Department of State, Maychou has held a leadership role with JNIM since its inception. He claimed responsibility for an attack on a military camp that housed Malian Armed Forces in Gao, Mali, and has had a role in operational activities of JNIM.

On July 16, the US Department of State listed Maychou as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. The department also designated Malien Bah Ag Moussa for his involvement with JNIM.

The designation imposes sanctions on “foreign persons determined to have committed, or pose a serious risk of committing, acts of terrorism that threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States.”

As a result of the designation, “all property subject to U.S. jurisdiction in which Maychou has any interest is blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with Maychou.” It, therefore, denies Maychou access to the US financial system.

According to US think-tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), JNIM’s ultimate goal is for Mali and the surrounding region to be ruled under Shariah law. The group seeks to incite the West African Muslim community to “remove oppression” and expel non-Muslim “occupiers,” CSIS adds.

JNIM has claimed responsibility for dozens of deadly attacks in Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso.

In March 2018, the group claimed responsibility for an attack targeting a number of locations in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, including the French Embassy and national military headquarters.

The attack left 16 people dead, including eight gunmen, Mauritanian news agency Alakhbar reported.

https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2019/07/278552/moroccan-al-qaeda-leader-added-to-us-global-terrorist-list/

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Army Commander, 20 Soldiers Killed By Boko Haram In Yobe

JUL 18, 2019

An army commander and at least 20 soldiers have been killed in an ambush by Boko Haram insurgents in Yobe State, TheCable reports.

The troops were ambushed on their way from Borogozo in Yobe where the headquarters of the army’s 29 task force brigade to Benisheikh in Yobe, where they have a forward operating base (FOB).

A military source in sector 2 headquarters of operation Lafiya Dole told TheCable that the incident happened around 6pm on Wednesday.

“They were on their way to Benisheikh when they ran into the enemy. The commander of that brigade, a colonel, and about 20 soldiers were killed,” he said.

Reinforcement was reportedly sent to the town and it was confirmed that the brigade commander had been killed.

Among the bodies reportedly identified was that of a captain and four soldiers. Their bodies have since been moved to the 7 division hospital in Maiduguri, Borno state capital.

Sources said one of the soldiers who escaped the ambush has returned to the base in Benisheikh.

In June, at least 28 soldiers were reportedly killed while the insurgents ransacked a military base in Gajiram, Nganzai local government area of Borno.

Full report at:

http://saharareporters.com/2019/07/18/army-commander-20-soldiers-killed-boko-haram-yobe

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Nigerians demand release of prominent cleric Zakzaky

Jul 19, 2019

The supporters of Muslim cleric Sheikh Ibrahim al-Zakzaky have staged several rallies across Nigeria, demanding his immediate release citing his worsening health condition.

The protesters on Friday condemned the continued detention of ailing Zakzaky, the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN).

Social media activists released photos, shown below, of the rally held in Katsina State.

Sheikh Zakzaky, who is in his mid-60s, lost his left eyesight in a 2015 raid by security forces that left more than 300 of his followers and three of his sons dead. His wife also sustained serious wounds.

Earlier on Friday, a new photo, obtained by Press TV (seen below), showed Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife at an unidentified location.

The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC), based in London, said earlier this month that the cleric’s health condition had further deteriorated, since he was reportedly poisoned in prison.

The cleric’s son, Mohammad, told Press TV on July 6 that his father was in dire need of medical treatment, as “large and dangerous quantities of lead and cadmium have been found in his blood.” He said that the authorities intended to murder his father since they refuse to take any measures.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/07/19/601346/Nigeria-Zakzaky-protests

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3 Sentenced to Death for Killing Scandinavian Hikers in Morocco

By Aida Alami

July 18, 2019

Three men accused of the murder of two Scandinavian hikers in the Atlas Mountains last year have been sentenced to death, an antiterrorism court in Morocco decided on Thursday.

Maren Ueland, 28, of Norway and Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, of Denmark, were discovered dead at their campsite in a remote part of the Atlas Mountains in December 2018 with wounds to their necks. The incident was labeled by Moroccan authorities as a terror attack after some of the men involved pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

The men were tried under an antiterrorism law and were the main defendants in a case that put two dozen suspects on trial over the women’s deaths last year.

Following a seven-month trial, Abdessamad Al Joud, Younes Ouziad and Rachid Afati were sentenced to death, while a fourth man, Abderahman Khayali, was handed a life sentence, according to Moroccan state television.

Twenty others were handed sentences ranging from five to 30 years, in the killings of the two European tourists. Both women had been studying in Norway to become tour guides. Their bodies were found at a site that often is the starting point for treks to Mount Toubkal, North Africa’s highest peak.

Some of the men involved in the murders had recorded a video in which they pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, and the women’s attackers had also posted grisly videos on social media of their murder.

In a gruesome clip, posted on social media shortly after the attack, one of the victims could be heard screaming while a man cut her neck with a knife.

Hours before the ruling, in a room packed with national and international news outlets and the victims’ families, some of the killers asked mercy from God but none expressed remorse, according to local news reports. Others vowed they were innocent of the charges against them.

Last week, Helle Jespersen, the mother of Ms. Jespersen, urged the court to give the accused the death sentence for their role in her daughter’s death, according to Agence France-Presse.

Full report at:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/18/world/africa/scandinavian-hikers-morocco.html

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Libya’s Mitiga airport resumes air traffic following an air strike

19 July 2019

Air space re-opened at the Libyan capital’s only functioning airport, Mitiga, on Thursday after it was halted following an air strike, according to a post on the Mitiga airport authority’s Facebook page.

The airport authority said carrier companies would begin shortly to receive passengers to complete the rest of their re-scheduled flights for the day.

An airplane coming from Egypt’s Alexandria airport to Mitiga was redirected earlier Thursday to Misrata international airport, which serves Libya’s Mediterranean coastal city of Misrata, after Mitiga’s air space shut down, according to the authority’s Facebook page.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2019/07/19/Libya-s-Mitiga-airport-resumes-air-traffic-following-an-air-strike.html

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Friday talks with Sudan army rulers postponed: protest leaders

July 19, 2019

KHARTOUM: Sudanese protest leaders told AFP Friday talks with the country’s army rulers have been postponed, just days after the two sides signed a power sharing deal.

“The talks have been postponed,” said prominent protest leader Omar Al-Digeir.

“We need more internal consultation to reach a united vision,” he added, with no new date set for negotiations to resume.

Another protest leader, Siddig Youssef, also confirmed the talks had been suspended.

On Wednesday, the two sides initialled a “Political Declaration” that aims to form a joint civilian-military ruling body, which in turn would install an overall transitional civilian administration for a period of 39 months.

At Friday’s talks the two sides were to finalize a “Constitutional Declaration” to thrash out crucial remaining issues.

They include whether to give immunity to generals accused of being behind violence against protesters, the formation of a transitional parliament and the role of paramilitaries.

However, protest leaders said that the three rebel groups that are part of the umbrella protest movement had expressed reservations over Wednesday’s deal.

“I’m going to Addis Ababa to meet the Sudan Revolutionary Front to get their opinion,” Digeir said, referring to the rebel groups currently based in Ethiopia.

“They are not happy with” the agreement signed with army leaders, Youssef said.

The groups had been fighting government forces for years in the war-torn regions of Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

Sources close to negotiations told AFP that these groups have demanded that the “Constitutional Declaration” specify that peace negotiations in the three conflict zones would be a top priority for the new transitional government.

Once such a peace deal is finalized, sources said the rebel groups want their representatives to be part of the transitional government.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1527951/middle-east

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Nigeria: 6 aid workers missing in Boko Haram attack

Olarewaju Kola 

19.07.2019

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria

Six humanitarian aid workers are missing after terror group Boko Haram ambushed their vehicle in Borno State in northeastern Nigeria.

The driver of the vehicle is reported to have been killed while aid workers are suspected to have been kidnapped by the group pledging allegiance to Daesh, a statement issued by the Action Against Hunger (AAH), an international humanitarian organization, said on Friday.

Country Director of the AAH, Shashwat Saraf, said a convoy carrying humanitarian workers to Damasak, head town of the Mobbar local government area along the Lake Chad area, was ambushed by the Daesh affiliated group on Thursday.

"One of the drivers was killed, while one staff member, two drivers and three health workers are missing," he said.

He said the organization was deeply saddened by the attack on his colleagues, who are providing life-saving assistance to individuals and families, affected by the humanitarian crisis caused by a decade of Boko Haram violence in the region.

United Nations Humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, said the humanitarian community in Nigeria was deeply disturbed by the incident.

Kallo said the continuous insecurity in the region has prevented aid workers from accessing many communities. He expressed concern at the safety of aid workers.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/nigeria-6-aid-workers-missing-in-boko-haram-attack/1536595

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Arab World

 

Argentina Designates Hezbollah Terrorist Group on 25th Anniversary of Bombing

By Daniel Politi

July 18, 2019

Leer en español

BUENOS AIRES — Argentina designated Hezbollah a terrorist organization on Thursday and ordered a freeze on the financial assets of the group, which has been blamed for two terrorist attacks in the country.

The move coincided with the 25th anniversary of one of those attacks, the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, the Argentine capital, which killed 85 people and wounded more than 300 in one of the deadliest anti-Semitic crimes since World War II.

The terrorist designation of Hezbollah, a political and military group supported by Iran, came a day before a whirlwind visit by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He was participating in a regional counterterrorism conference in Buenos Aires and taking part in a commemoration of the victims of the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Aid Association community center.

Argentina’s move came as the Treasury Department in Washington announced sanctions on a senior Hezbollah operative it said had planned the 1994 bombing. A Treasury statement said the operative, Salman Raouf Salman, had “directed terrorist operations in the Western Hemisphere for Hezbollah ever since.” It offered a $7 million reward for information on his whereabouts.

Mr. Pompeo’s trip comes at a time when “the U.S.-Iran policy has been isolated in Europe and found little support among traditional partners, so the State Department is looking for unusual allies to tighten the screws on Iran,” said Benjamin Gedan, an Argentina expert at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

“Argentina can help the United States tell a compelling story of Iran’s support for terrorism,” Mr. Gedan added.

Since coming into office in December 2015, President Mauricio Macri of Argentina has made it a priority to improve relations with the United States.

Yet the government was not just receiving pressure from abroad when it came to the terrorist designation of Hezbollah, which holds ministerial posts in its base country, Lebanon.

Ariel Eichbaum, the president of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Aid Association, celebrated the Hezbollah designation as “a concrete step in the fight against terrorism in the region.”

He spoke at a memorial service shortly after sirens sounded at 9:53 a.m. on Thursday to mark the moment of the attack a quarter century ago.

Argentina added Hezbollah to a new, publicly available registry of entities or people who could be tied with terrorists, a list based on information provided by the United Nations, by the country’s judiciary and by the Financial Information Unit, or UIF, Argentina’s anti-money laundering organization.

Hezbollah “continues to represent a current and present threat to national security and the integrity in the Argentine Republic’s financial economic order,” the UIF said in explaining its inclusion of the group in the new registry.

“This is a very useful tool that reinforces our legal framework to prevent future actions related to terrorism and its financing,” Justice Minister Germán Garavano said. He also said the move has a “symbolic value,” considering that Argentina’s judiciary has also accused members of Hezbollah and the Iranian government of taking part in the community center attack as well as a 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires that killed more than 20 people.

There are currently five Interpol red alerts for Iranian citizens and three for Lebanese citizens that the Argentine courts have accused of taking part in the community center attack. Iran has long denied any involvement.

A quarter century after the attack, the Argentine judiciary has yet to criminally convict anyone for carrying out the assault. Earlier this year, eight people, including a former federal judge and a former head of the intelligence services, were convicted of taking part in a cover-up to obstruct the investigation into the 1994 bombing.

Last year, the Financial Information Unit ordered the freezing of the assets of the so-called Barakat Clan, which is considered the most direct connection with Hezbollah in the region. The clan operates from the porous tri-border region where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet, an area seen as a hub for illegal activity, including terrorism financing.

The United States Treasury Department has said the head of the clan, Assad Ahmad Barakat, “has long served as a treasurer” for Hezbollah.

“For decades, Hezbollah has taken advantage of the loosely regulated region to raise money and plan possible attacks,” Nathan A. Sales, the State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism, said at a forum last week in Washington. “We assess that some of the planning for the AMIA bombing took place there,” he added referring to the community center attack.

But Seth Jones, a terrorism expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said that while Hezbollah has long been involved in the drug trade in the region, “When it comes to Latin America, I don’t see a stepped up Hezbollah threat.”

He added of the designation and the freezing of assets: “I don’t think it gets you a lot. It’s more of a political step than a financial one, or one that will weaken it from a paramilitary perspective.”

Correction: July 19, 2019

Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated the number of Interpol red alerts issued for Iranian and Lebanese citizens. There are currently five for Iranian citizens and three for Lebanese citizens, not four for Iranians and one for a Lebanese citizen.

Michael Crowley contributed reporting from Washington.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/18/world/americas/argentina-hezbollah-terrorist-group.html

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8 IS militants killed, 4 wounded in anti-IS attacks in Iraq

2019-07-18

BAGHDAD, July 18 (Xinhua) -- A total of eight Islamic State (IS) militants were killed on Thursday in an airstrike by the U.S.-led international coalition aircraft in the northern Iraqi province of Nineveh and an ambush by security forces in the eastern Diyala province.

In the northern Nineveh province, the U.S.-led coalition aircraft acted on intelligence reports from Nineveh's Operations Command and carried out an airstrike on an IS hideout in al-Baaj area near the border with Syria, a statement by the media office of the Joint Operations Command (JOC) said.

The airstrike resulted in the killing of six IS militants and the destruction of the hideout, the statement said.

Separately in Diyala, a joint force from the Iraqi army and paramilitary Hashd Shaabi members killed two IS militants and wounded four others in an ambush between at a rural area near the city of Jalawla, 135 km northeast of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, the JOC said in a separate statement.

Despite repeated military operations in Diyala, some IS militants are still hiding in some rugged areas near the border with Iran, and in the sprawling areas extending from the western part of the province to the Himreen mountain range in the northern part of the province.

The security situation in Iraq was dramatically improved after Iraqi security forces fully defeated the extremist IS militants across the country late in 2017.

Full report at:

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-07/18/c_138238215.htm

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ISIL’s Oil Minister Killed in Clashes with Iraq’s Intelligence Forces in Eastern Syria

Jul 19, 2019

Iraqi Security Expert Fazel Abu Raghif wrote on his Twitter page that Iraq’s intelligence forces have managed to kill Abu Hessan in their military operation in Deir Ezzur.

He said that ISIL has now lost all channels and ways to supply financial aid and finance ISIL commanders, including founder of ISIL’s financial system Mohammad Jubeir al-Rawi and the terrorist group’s finance minister.

Abu Hessan was in charge of the largest financial supply system of the terrorists, financing the group through trading oil and oil products.

In a relevant development earlier in July, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in a statement declared the killing of a notorious terrorist named Sabet Sobhi Fahad al-Ahmad who was ISIL’s economic mastermind.

Full report at:

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980428000583

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Aleppo: Turkish Army, Allied Militants Continue Plundering Artifacts in Afrin Region

Jul 19, 2019

The Kurdish-language Hawar News Website reported that the Turkish Army and its allied militants have plundered 144 archeological sites in Afrin in Northwestern Aleppo and transferred the looted artifacts to Turkey.

It also noted that a sum of 39 ancient hills in different towns and areas of Afrin have been excavated and destroyed by the Turkish Army and its allied militants, and said, nearly all ancient sites of the region have been not just looted, but annihilated. Meantime, a sum of at least 16,000 Syrian artifacts, most of them from Afrin, are kept at Turkish museums.

In a relevant development earlier this month, a government cultural official said that Turkey is helping the militants in excavation of historical and ancient sites in the Ankara-controlled occupied areas in Northern Syria as the terrorists have transferred tens of thousands of artifacts to Turkey.

The Arabic-language al-Watan newspaper quoted Director-General of Syria’s Museums and Ancient Sites Mahmoud Hamoud as saying that according to reliable intelligence, Turkish officials along with their allied militants have started excavations for artefacts in most of the regions and ancient hills of Afrin, including Tal Borj Abdalou, Tal Ain Dareh, Tal Jandaris and Nabi Hora which are thousands of years old.

Hamoud noted that the terrorists have plundered about 75,000 artifacts from Syrian museums, including museums in Idlib and Raqqa, and said that a sum of 25,000 artefacts of Syria have so far been smuggled into Turkey so far.

The Syrian official also said that over 1 million Syrian artifacts have been stolen by terrorists from different regions.

In a relevant development this month, media reports said that the Turkish Army and Ankara-backed militants were continuing to plunder the infrastructures and artifacts in Afrin region in Northwestern Aleppo.

Hawar News website quoted local sources in Afrin as saying that the Turkish Army and its allied militants in overnight excavations have plundered the archeological works on the hills of the town of Kamrouk in Mobata region in Afrin in Northwestern Aleppo. The sources noted that the Turkish Army and its allied militants transfer the stolen artifacts from different regions of Afrin to Turkey.

Meantime, the Ankara-backed terrorists still continue their killings and plundering of civilians' properties and they also abduct people to blackmail their families.

In a relevant development in April, the Kurdish-language media reported that the Turkish Army had strengthened its military positions in areas under its control in Afrin and set up another military base for Jeish al-Islam terrorists there.

The Kurdish-language Hawar News quoted local sources in Afrin as saying that the Ankara Army is presently setting up 3-meter walls in the surrounding areas of its command centers in the villages of Afrin region, specially in the villages bordering al-Shahba region.

The report pointed to an attempt by the Turkish Army to destroy people's houses, administrative buildings, schools and water reservoirs North of Jalbareh village in Shirwa, and said that the occupying army intends to set a new military base in the same region.

Meantime, informed sources reported that the Turkish troops are establishing a command center and a camp for Jeish al-Islam terrorists near Kawa al-Haddad Square.

Full report at:

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980428000545

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Idlib: Tens of Foreign Terrorists Killed, 5 Militant Centers Destroyed in Russian-Syrian Airstrikes

Jul 19, 2019

The Arabic-language website of the Russian Sputnik news agency quoted a military source as saying that the Russian and Syrian fighter jets in a joint nightly military operation pounded 20 times the military positions and movements of the Turkistani Party terrorist group in the city of Jisr al-Shoghour in Southwestern Idlib.

The source noted that five centers of the terrorists were destroyed during the attack and at least 40 terrorists were killed and wounded.

Meantime, the Syrian Army troops engaged in fierce clashes with the terrorists in al-Sarmanieh region near Jisr al-Shoghour in Southwestern Idlib.

In a relevant development on Wednesday, a sum of 6 command centers and an arms depot as well as military equipment of Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board or the Al-Nusra Front) had been destroyed in joint airstrikes by Russian and Syrian air forces in Hama and Idlib provinces.

The Arabic-language website of the Russian Sputnik News Agency quoted a military source as saying that the Russian and Syrian fighter jets in their continued raids pounded the terrorist groups' military positions in the towns of Khan Sheikhoun, Tarmala, Kafar Ain and the surroundings of Jisr al-Shoghour in Southern and Southwestern Idlib as well as the towns of al-Hawijeh and al-Hawash in Northwestern Hama.

The source noted that during the attacks, six command posts of Tahrir al-Sham and Turkistani Party terrorists as well as an arms depot and military base of Chechen terrorists were destroyed.

In a relevant development on Saturday, the Syrian and Russian air forces conducted several joint military operations against the terrorists’ military positions and command centers in Northern Hama and Southern Idlib, inflicting heavy losses on the militants.

The Arabic-language website of Russian Sputnik news agency quoted a military source as saying that the Russian and Syrian fighter jets attacked the military positions of Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay’at and Islamic Turkistani Party terrorist groups several times in Khan Sheikhoun, Ariha, Ma’aret al-Numan and Jisr al-Shoghour in Western Idlib and their centers inside the city of Idlib.

The source reiterated that several command centers of Tahrir al-Sham and Turkistani Party terrorists were destroyed during the attack and over 100 foreign terrorists were killed and tens more were wounded.

He also noted that the joint airstrikes on the military positions of Tahrir al-Sham and Jeish al-Izzaeh in Kafar Zita and al-Latamineh in Northern Hama left several command centers, operation room, gatherings and military operations destroyed.

Full report at:

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980428000526

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US sanctions two leaders of Iranian-linked militias in Iraq

19 July 2019

The US added two leaders of Iranian-linked militias in Iraq to its sanctions list on Thursday, designating them under the Magnitsky Act as “perpetrators of serious human rights abuse and corruption.”

Rayan al-Kildani and Waad Qado both lead militias part of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) with close ties to Iran.

Al-Kildani, the leader of the 50th “Babylon” Brigade, is accused by the US of “serious human rights abuse.”

Based in Iraq’s northwestern Ninewa Province, the 50th Brigade is accused by the US Treasury of looting, extortion and intimidation of the local population, making it “the primary impediment to the return of internally displaced persons to the Ninewa Plain.”

The US Treasury alleges that al-Kildani can be seen cutting the ear off a handcuffed detainee in a video that circulated in May, 2018.

Qado, the leader of the 30th Brigade, is accused of commanding the brigade while it conducted similar human rights abuses including extortion, kidnapping, and rape.

Both al-Kildani and Qado are members of ethnic minorities: al-Kildani is a Christian, while Qado is a member of the Shabak minority who live around Mosul.

Both their militias operate as part of the PMUs, the Shiite-majority militias formed in 2015.

Although the PMUs are officially led by the Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi, deputy commander Jamal Jaafar al-Ibrahimi, known by his nom de guerre Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, is widely seen as the real leader. Al-Mohandes heads the Kata’ib Hezbollah militia, which has been recently accused of carrying out a drone attack on Saudi Arabia and has close ties with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Alongside al-Kildani and Qado, two former governors of Iraqi provinces were also sanctioned for corruption.

Nawfal Hammadi al-Sultan, the former governor Ninewa Province, and Ahmed al-Jubouri, the former governor of Salah al-Din province, both received sanctions for corruption and bribery.

“The United States is taking action against four individuals in Iraq implicated in serious human rights abuse or corruption,” said Sigal Mandelker, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/07/19/US-sanctions-two-leaders-of-Iranian-linked-militias-in-Iraq.html

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ISIS claims suicide bombing that killed 2 in Egypt’s Sinai

19 July 2019

ISIS has claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed two people, including a civilian, and wounded three in Egypt’s restive northern Sinai Peninsula.

The militant group says in a statement on an ISIS-affiliate website that an ISIS militant named Abu Omar El-Seedy had detonated his explosive-laden vest near a military checkpoint at dawn on Thursday.

Egyptian security officials had said the bomber targeted an armored vehicle near the local market of the northern Sinai town of Sheikh Zuweid, killing a soldier and a civilian and wounding three soldiers.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/07/19/ISIS-claims-suicide-bombing-that-killed-2-in-Egypt-s-Sinai.html

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Unidentified drones attack Hashd al-Sha’abi base in Iraq’s Salahudin Province: Reports

Jul 19, 2019

Unidentified drones have reportedly attacked a base belonging to Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMU) in the Arab country’s Salahudin Province.

The attack killed one PMU member and injured another four, Iraq’s al-Ahad television network reported on Friday.

Footage later released by Iraqi media from the assault’s aftermath showed a large flame in what was reportedly a PMU base near the town of Amerli.

It is yet unclear who orchestrated the operation.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi al-Etejah television network reported that an American B350 reconnaissance plane had flown over the region a few days earlier.

The PMU — better known as Hashd al-Sha’abi — was formed by popular volunteer forces in 2014 after the Daesh Takfiri terror group launched a campaign of bloodshed and destruction against the nation.

It joined forces with the national army and effectively contributed to its anti-terror operations. The combined push, which was reinforced by Iraq’s allies, including Iran, ultimately led to Daesh’s expulsion in late 2017.

The Iraqi parliament on November 26, 2016 approved a law giving full legal status to Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters. Last March, the then prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, to order the PMU’s formal inclusion in the Arab country’s army.

The order would grant the PMU many of the same rights as members of the military, but it is yet to be fully implemented.

Earlier this month, Abadi’s successor, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, issued a decree, calling for the PMU’s full integration in the Iraqi military.

The attack on the Hashd al-Sha’abi base comes as the United States has sought to pressure Baghdad against the PMU.

Washington has often labeled Iraqi units operating under the PMU organization as being “Iran-led terrorists groups,” a claim denied by the Iraqi officials.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/07/19/601326/PMU-unidentified-drones

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Saudi crown prince stuck in Yemeni 'quagmire', seeking US help: NY Times report

Jul 19, 2019

Facing growing international and domestic pressure, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's military campaign in Yemen has further pushed Riyadh to plead for Washington's assistance, according to a report.

Despite waging a prolonged four-year war on Yemen, the Saudi-led coalition has failed to achieve its announced objective of installing an allied government and defeating the Houthi Ansarullah movement in the country, The New York Times cited various analysts as saying.

The frustrated Saudis have, however, turned to additional US support in hopes of achieving a breakthrough, according to unnamed diplomats informed on the matter.

The US already provides the Saudis with weapons and logistical support. Riyadh is seeking additional intelligence assistance and possibly the deployment of American special forces teams and advisers in Yemen, according to diplomats.

Despite being emboldened by the US President Donald Trump's hawkish administration, Riyadh is, however, disgruntled with Washington's hesitation to provide the additional assistance.  

“Why haven’t the Americans carried out a single operation to help?” asked Mustafa Alani, a scholar at the Saudi-backed Gulf Research Center who is close to the royal court.

Washington's reluctance comes as the US congress has pushed to limit US assistance in the Saudi military campaign following the gruesome killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a diplomatic mission in Turkey in October last year.

On Thursday, the US House of Representatives voted to pass resolutions that block certain arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

US President Donald Trump has, nonetheless, strongly defended arm sales to the oil-rich kingdom. The president has vowed to veto any resolution banning the sales.

Decreasing Options

Facing an ever-decreasing set of options in Yemen, the Saudis "don’t have the luxury of walking out of Yemen,” believes Farea al-Muslimi, chairman of the Sana'a Center for Strategic Studies, a research institute in the Yemeni capital.

Washington-based AGS Institute analyst Kristin Smith Diwan also believes bin Salman's failure to finish the war, which was largely touted as the young crown prince's "personal investment", hurts his "credibility as a successful leader".

“Not many people in Saudi Arabia feel this is a wise investment for the future,” she said.

The hastily withdrawal of Saudi Arabia's most prominent ally, the United Arab Emirates, which was made public last past month, has also prompted many experts to further question whether the kingdom's is able to continue the war on its own.

Known to be more efficient than the Saudis at commanding ground troops, the UAE helped maintain a fragile network of mercenaries and tribal militia to fight for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen's southern regions. 

Speaking last week, an official of the Saudi Embassy in Washington said that the kingdom would rely more on "Yemeni allies" following the Emirati drawdown.

However, experts believe that rivalries within different militia factions competing over the void left by Emirati forces, coupled with Saudi Arabia's lacking political appeal to militia south of the country, may lead to an ultimate collapse of the coalition's tribal forces.

According to the New York Times report, some Western and United Nations diplomats hope that the Emirati withdrawal, along with mounting international frustration over the war's impact on civilians, may pressure the crown prince to negotiate a deal with the Houthis.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/07/19/601314/MBS-Yemen-Quagmire

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Egypt: At least 20 killed in airstrikes in northern Sinai

July 19, 2019

EL-ARISH: Egyptian security officials say airstrikes targeting militants are underway in the restive northern Sinai Peninsula, killing at least 20 insurgents.

Officials said that Egypt's air force on Friday hit more than 100 mountainous hideouts of militant groups in the city of El-Arish and the small town of Bir Al-Abd. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

The airstrikes come on the heels of a suicide bombing attack that left two killed, including a soldier and a civilian Thursday in the northern Sinai town of Sheikh Zuweid.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1528021/middle-east

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