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Islamic World News ( 25 May 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Brave Sikh Cop Saves Muslim Man from Angry Mob Led By VHP Activists

New Age Islam News Bureau

25 May 2018

A video of a Sikh Sub-Inspector saving a Muslim man from being lynched by angry mob led by Hindu activists is being shared widely on social media.



 Brave Sikh Cop Saves Muslim Man from Angry Mob Led By VHP Activists

 US Using Its Lethal Weapon ISIS against Islamic World, Asserts Hafiz Saeed

 London Mosque First To Accept Bitcoin for Zakat

 Authors Hope New Pakatan Harapan Govt Lifts Ban on Books with Differing Views on Islam

 'They Are Our Brothers': Rohingya Refugees Find Rare Welcome in Aceh

 US Envoy Labelled 'A Terrorist' After Posing With Poster of Obliterated Al-Aqsa



 Brave Sikh Cop Saves Muslim Man from Angry Mob Led By VHP Activists

 ‘Nearly 1,700 Will Embrace Islam If Govt’s Indifferent Attitude Continues’: Dalit Outfit, Bhim Sena

 Such A Long Journey — Manuscripts from Timbuktu On Exhibition In Delhi

 The Small-Town Boy Who Became India’s First ISIS Suicide Bomber

 Vatican game seen in Indian archbishop's prayer campaign

 India, Netherlands call for action on terror, name Pakistan-based groups

 Delhi Minorities Commission Issues Notice to JNU On Proposed ‘Islamic Terrorism’ Course

 AMU opposes proposed Islamic Terrorism course in JNU; urges HRD minister to intervene

 Open Your Hearts, Treat Rohingya Children as Your Own: Bollywood Actress Priyanka

 Rohingyas and their sympathisers should leave, says Katiyar after Priyanka Chopra's visit to Bangladesh camp

 Sheikh Hasina to inaugurate Bangladesh Bhavan today, her minister oversees preparations

 ISI agent held for spying on Indian diplomat: Lucknow police



 US Using Its Lethal Weapon ISIS against Islamic World, Asserts Hafiz Saeed

 Sunni Extremists Demolish Mosque Belonging To Ahmadiyya Community in Pakistan

 Pakistan Passes Constitutional Amendment To Merge Tribal Areas Along Afghan Border With Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

 Pakistan passes bill to bring law and order to former Taliban region

 Suicide bombers involved in attack on FC Madadgar centre in Quetta identified as Afghan nationals

 IHC grants time to file reply on Nawaz Sharif’s statement on Mumbai attacks



 London Mosque First To Accept Bitcoin for Zakat

 Pope Francis: Equating Islam with Terrorism ‘Foolish’

 U.S.-Backed Syrian Forces Arrest French Islamic State Leader: SDF

 EU foreign policy chief urges talks over Jerusalem

 Greece gives right of asylum to Turkish putschists

 Ahmadiyya Muslims in Canada condemn destruction of historic mosque in Pakistan


Southeast Asia

 Authors Hope New Pakatan Harapan Govt Lifts Ban on Books with Differing Views on Islam

 Under Jokowi, Conservative Groups Start To Condemn Terrorism

 Dismantling Saudi peace centre fine, but Mat Sabu must keep good ties

 Allow non-Muslim religious clubs at national schools, says academic

 Sustainability from Islamic perspective

 Government is representation of God on earth: State Palace official

 A Year After Extremist Siege, Philippine Families Seek Closure


South Asia

 'They Are Our Brothers': Rohingya Refugees Find Rare Welcome in Aceh

 Why Sheikh Hasina’s Rohingya Advocacy Is Her Insurance Policy for India Visit

 US military strikes Taliban meeting in Afghanistan

 Rohingya need more financial aid to face monsoons: UN

 Pak Ambassador in Kabul confirms Taliban’s contacts with regional countries

 Shaheen Corps confirm Afghan army casualties in Faryab attack

 US wasted billions in failed Afghanistan stabilization program: Report

 Taliban, IS battling for control of rich mineral resources in Afghanistan: report


North America

 US Envoy Labelled 'A Terrorist' After Posing With Poster of Obliterated Al-Aqsa

 Muslim Prison Inmates Fed Pork during Ramadan in US

 Apps and social media helping Calgary Muslims navigate Ramadan 2018

 US House Backs Measure to Clamp Down on Myanmar over Rohingya Rights

 US envoys treated badly in Pakistan, Pompeo tells Congress

 US Iran sanctions take aim at airlines

 US wasted billions in failed Afghan stabilization efforts: official

 U.S.-backed Syrian forces arrest French Islamic State leader: SDF


Arab World

 Lebanese Lawmakers Designate Hariri as PM: Aoun's Office

 Missiles Hit Hezbollah Weapon Depot in Syria’s Homs: Monitor

 Syrian Army Preparing to Fully Cleanse Deir Ezzur from ISIL

 US-Backed SDF Forces Attack Several Villages after Syrian Flag Hoisted in Raqqa

 US-Led Coalition Attacks Syrian Army Positions in Deir Ezzur to Support ISIL

 Syrian Army Repels Tahrir Al-Sham's Offensive in Hama

 Syrian Army Increases Moves in Dara'a, Russia Warns Terrorists

 Army Grants Amnesty to Thousands of Militants in Central Syria

 Syrian monitor: At least 12 killed in presumed US-led strike

 Iraq says suicide bomber kills 7 in northern Baghdad park

 Damascus area residents return home after Daesh purged



 Turkish Army, Ankara-Backed Militants Engage in Infighting in Afrin

 Israeli Court Approves Demolition of Palestinian Village in West Bank

 2 Palestinians wounded in Gaza border clashes die

 Israel plans 2,500 new settler homes in West Bank

 US weighs UN funding cuts after Palestinians join agencies

 In Beijing, Merkel says Germany, China stand by Iran deal

 Nearly 50 more suspects arrested across Turkey over affiliation to Gulen network



 US Airstrike In Somalia Against Al-Shabaab Kills 10 Fighters

 Bomb Blast In Benghazi Claims 7 Lives, Leaves 20 Injured

 Suspected Burkina Faso jihadists 'were planning attack'

 Tanzania: How Standard Chartered Bank embraces the Holy Month

 Somalia: Al-Shabaab Attacks Separate Military Bases in Lower Shabelle Region

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Brave Sikh Cop Saves Muslim Man from Angry Mob Led By VHP Activists

May 25, 2018,

RAMNAGAR: A video of a Sikh Sub-Inspector saving a Muslim man from being lynched by angry mob led by Hindu activists is being shared widely on social media.

As reported by The Lallantop, the incident took place on May 24 when a Muslim boy and a Hindu girl met inside at a famous Girija Temple in Uttarakhand’s Ramnagar.

The couple got surrounded by an aggressive mob who lost their cool upon knowing that both of them belonged to different religions and started heckling the couple.

In the video, the officer, Gagandeep Singh, is seen intervened and confronted the the agitated mob all by himself. He even hugged the Muslim man tightly and kept on shielding him from the blows as they continuously tried to hit.

When Gagandeep refused to hand over the boy fearing he would be lynched by the agitated mob, the group started critisised him.

“Pyaar aa raha hai bohot aapko, kis baat ka pyaar kar rahe ho?”, said a man belonging to the mob.

The crowd yelled at him and later chanted anti-police slogans “Police prashasan murdabad” also.

In-charge of Ramnagar police station Vikram Rathore confirmed the incident and said the mob comprised of members of Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal.

Drkiran Randhawa

on Wednesday

My brother Gagandeep Singh yesterday saved a life of guy in crowd who wanted him to handover that guy to them so that they can punish him themselves ! He is real Sardar who obeys words of our tenth guru Shri Guru Gobind Singh ji , he proved to be real Sikh !! Proud of you brother !! Uttarakhand police !!




US using its lethal weapon ISIS against Islamic world, asserts Hafiz Saeed

May 24, 2018

LAHORE – Ameer Jamaat ud Dawa (JuD) Hafiz Muhammad Saeed has expressed that the militant organisation ISIS was a lethal weapon of the United States which was being used against the Muslims across the world.

Talking to newsmen at a meetup in the city, Saeed observed that media franchises should apprise public of the growing sensitivity of the matter regarding the nefarious designs of US and the duties it assigned to ISIS in war-battered Afghanistan.

The JuD supremo also shared that Pakistan’s geographical location demanded it to cement ties with China and Russia as the Trump administration was levelling misplaced allegations against Pakistan for its defeat in Afghanistan.

Saeed also cast apprehensions that the global powers were targeting Pakistan as they were unable to digest strong Pakistan in any way, adding that Pakistan should protect its national interests.

Claiming that Pakistan was facing a grave threat to its security and geographical integrity, Saeed called for national integration and unity.

Although US denies providing succour to the ISIS, certain international leaders have also cast doubts about Washington’s support to the militant group.

Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai had in April, last year, declared ISIS as a tool of United states.

In another interview, Karzai went a mile more and claimed that US was providing arms to ISIS.

“The US Army helicopters and army bases are being used to provide assistance to ISIS terrorists,” he said while echoing Russian claims of American support to the ISIS terrorists.

What adds weight to the assertions is the release of e-mails by global whistleblower WikiLeaks, suggesting almost the same.

In a leaked email sent on August 17, 2014 by Hillary Clinton to her presidential campaign manager, John Podesta, who was a counsellor to Barack Obama at the time, admitted that Qatar and Saudi Arabia ‘were providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region’.

Interestingly, Saudi-Arabia and Qatar were major donors to the Clinton Foundation, thus posing a serious question mark to the practices of United States.

Furthermore, the United States allegedly warned ISIS of pending attacks and allegedly gave them safe passage from Mosul, Iraq into Syria in order to fuel the Arab Spring protests and to ouster Bashar Al Assad.

Moreover, Wikileaks’ Julian Assange provided historical context for how the ‘CIA created ISIS’ in November 2016, arguing that the organisation was growing under the influence of Washington.



London Mosque First To Accept Bitcoin for Zakat

May 24, 2018

LONDON: The Shacklewell Lane Mosque also known as Masjid Ramadan in Dalston becomes the first mosque in the UK to take Cryptocurrencies for Zakat and Sadaqah donations this Ramadan.

Zakat is one of the pillars of of Islam, which is a commandment to all eligible Muslims to donate at least 2.5% of their wealth to charity.

Religious advisers declared that Bitcoin is acceptable in the eyes of Allah, if it is “transacted in a lawful manner”. Muslims can use two different cryptocurrencies-Bitcoin and Ethereum for their Ramadan donations, known as zakat, or sadaqah.

“Any money or currency is neither halal – permissible – nor haram – impermissible. Guidance is about the value which it represents. If money is transacted in a lawful manner then it is halal,” Zayd al Khair, a religious adviser at the mosque, told ‘The Daily Telegraph’.

Erkin Guney, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Masjid Ramadan, Zayd al Khair, an Islamic advisor at the mosque, and Gurmit Singh, founder of a blockchain business are the people behind this new initiative is hoping to raise at least £10,000 from crypto-currency over Ramadan.

“We are trying to appeal to a wider audience with the new money,” Guney told The Hackney Gazette.

“It’s big in the Islamic world, and we have set up a platform for wealthier Muslims outside our community to support and donate to our mosque.”

The donated money is use to carry out essential repairs at the mosque, assisting Muslim families who are struggling to pay funeral costs, and feeding and offering shelter to the poor.



Authors Hope New Pakatan Harapan Govt Lifts Ban On Books with Differing Views on Islam

May 25, 2018

PETALING JAYA: Authors whose books have been banned by the previous government for ostensibly promoting a view of Islam that is different from official interpretation are hoping the ban can be lifted by the new Pakatan Harapan (PH) government, and to ultimately stop book banning, calling it a form of intellectual repression.

One of them is US-based Turkish writer Mustafa Akyol, who has written extensively on the need for the Muslim world to allow freedom of speech.

A frequent claim by Akyol in his works, that Muslim governments were guilty of denying freedom of speech, played out itself when he was arrested last year by Malaysian religious authorities during a lecture tour to speak about the same subject.

Days later, his book which called for greater freedoms in the Muslim world was banned by the home ministry, adding to a list of thousands of titles which lumps together serious works such as Karen Armstrong’s A History of God and trashy paperbacks bordering on pornography.

“This not a mere personal issue,” Akyol told FMT recently, referring to the ban on his book, “Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case For Liberty”, and its Malay translation.

“I have a bigger problem of books being banned in Muslim societies: It prevents Muslims societies from intellectual maturation,” said the New York Times columnist.

He said his book had merely provided a view from within the Islamic traditions.

“It is an Islamic book: It is a defence of Islam, while arguing for reinterpretation of Islamic jurisprudence on certain issues. Those who disagree with this view should show why it is wrong with reasoned arguments, rather than silencing them.”

Still, he said it did not mean “un-Islamic” works should be banned, including books promoting atheism or “worldviews that Muslims cannot accept”.

“Because Muslims should be able to see un-Islamic ideas so that they can develop counter-arguments. If you instead ban ‘dangerous’ ideas, you end up being intellectually weak,” he said.

Undesirable publications

“Dangerous” was the line of excuse often given by the previous government in banning books, by citing a section under the Printing Presses and Publications Act, defining “undesirable publications” as those “likely to be prejudicial to public order, morality, security, or which is likely to alarm public opinion”.

Many local authors have challenged the government’s ban on their works in court, among them novelist Faisal Tehrani and Muslim activist Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa.

Two books by Farouk, under a series called “Wacana Pemikiran Reformis” (A Discourse on Reformist Thought), to make the case for a radical reform of approaching the Islamic texts, remain banned.

The senior medical lecturer at Monash Malaysia has challenged the ban in court, but said a change in the current government’s policy of book-banning will be more effective in the long run.

“I just hope that this will be academic,” he said, referring to the judicial review he filed in the High Court.

“My biggest hope is that this new government would honour the freedom of expression and celebrate differing views and ideas. And that they would end the anti-intellectual tendency of the previous regime.”

Cynics have in the past cast doubts that this would change, pointing out that book-banning was a practice rampant during the earlier administration of Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

But Faisal, no stranger to book-banning – seven of his works have been deemed as “undesirable” – does not think this is necessarily true.

“During Mahathir’s rule, he did not ban creative works,” said the 44-year-old award-winning novelist, whose novels included one which tackled the sensitive topic of homosexuality among Muslims.

Faisal is also an academic at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, and his revisionist writings of Malay history and culture do not sit well with mainstream scholars.

Speaking to FMT, he said even a novel which had openly insulted Mahathir at the height of the reformasi protests in the late 1990s had not been banned.

“The novel by Shahnon Ahmad was not banned although it was a direct and blatant insult on Mahathir,” he said, referring to the work titled “SHIT” by the late Shahnon, a national laurette who is also Faisal’s former mentor.


The government’s complaints against Faisal’s works are mainly inspired by the views of local conservative Sunni scholars, who say his novels promote Shia Islam, the school of thought labeled “deviant” by Malaysian Islamic authorities.

But not all books should be deemed sensitive to Malaysia’s religious fabric, which has been the result of decades of powers given to Islamic bureaucrats who control an array of Muslim institutions.

A seemingly “harmless” book on the role of Islam in nation-building was also banned, despite its foreword being written by former prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who has supported his successor Najib all along.

The government’s issue with the book, a compilation of essays by experts and former civil servants, could be attributable to the fact that it was published by a group that has constantly criticised the government’s policy on Islam.

G25, representing retired senior civil servants and diplomats, had filed a suit against the previous government over the ban on its book “Breaking the Silence: Voices of Moderation – Islam in a Constitutional Democracy”.

The case is set for August, but with recent developments and the changing of the guards at Putrajaya, the group plans to take its case directly to the government.

“No word from the Ministry of Home Affairs for a decision to lift the ban,” said G25 spokesman Redzuan Kushairi, adding that the new leadership must now live up to its image as a “progressive government”

“They are so far doing the right things, all towards more freedom and a new Malaysia,” he said, adding that it would soon meet with the newly formed Committee on Institutional Reforms.

“We have submitted our collection of papers and proposals in advance,” said Redzuan, a former ambassador to Moscow.

Meanwhile, Akyol is hopeful that the ban on his work will be reviewed and ultimately lifted, adding that the developments have “raised hopes around the whole world”.

“I hope it is time for Malaysia now to save Islam from those who rule in its name,” said Akyol.

“If Malaysia can take this step forward, it will present a great example for the whole Muslim community.”



'They are our brothers': Rohingya refugees find rare welcome in Aceh

25 May 2018

The 79 Rohingya refugees who set off on a boat from Myanmar’s Rakhine state last month were terrified when they were intercepted and redirected by Thailand’s navy. Washing up on the shores of a country they were not expecting seemed, at first, like yet another blow.

They had set off for Malaysia where families and jobs were waiting. Instead they arrived in Indonesia’s Aceh province, on the northern tip of the island of Sumatra.

The deeply conservative Islamic province is home to  and remembered worldwide as the epicentre of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. But it is also one of the only places in the world to openly welcome Rohingya refugees, whom many Acehnese regard as their Muslim brothers and sisters.

The Rohingya, a Muslim minority from Myanmar, have been called the most friendless people on earth. Nearly 700,000 live in refugee camps in Bangladesh after fleeing violence and persecution at home, something the UN has described as having “all the hallmarks of genocide”.

Refugee boats have been turned away from Thailand and Malaysia, but in Aceh arrivals have been met with generous donations and fellowship ever since the first of nine Rohingya vessels washed up in 2015. At least 1,740 Rohingya have landed in Aceh in the past 10 years, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). Nearly all have been from the state of Rakhine.

‘Taking care of us like parents’

The most recent boat arrival, in the coastal town of Bireuen, population 40,000, came during the weekly Friday prayers a few weeks ahead of Ramadan, the holiest month of the year.

“They are taking care of us like parents take care of their children,” says Mohammad Shobir, a Rohingya man who came with his wife in the boat. “We were very scared when we landed, but these people have given us everything: food, medicine, shelter … we want to express our sincere gratitude to them.”

The refugees are staying in a temporary camp run jointly by the IOM and a local social services agency. After Ramadan they will be moved to more permanent shelter in the city of Langsa.

The first day of Ramadan was bittersweet in the camp.

“We are fed very well here but we don’t taste the food,” says Mohammad Illyas, 24, who left three children behind in an internally displaced persons camp in Rakhine state. “My family doesn’t eat if I don’t work for even one day, so right now I have no idea how they are coping.”

He had hoped to find work in Malaysia, where at least 150,000 Rohingya live. He has no plans to leave now because they are under the care of IOM and the UN and have no way to organise another boat trip.

The Rohingya are not generally welcomed in Malaysia – they have no legal right to work or to formal education – but their sheer numbers mean they can find work in the “grey market”.

Donations pile up

The camp in Bireuen is in an empty government complex of cream and dark green buildings around an open field. There are men’s and women’s dormitories and a mosque where some of the Rohingya work together with local people to conduct their prayers five times a day.

“We take turns singing the azan [Muslim call to prayer] and then the Acehnese lead us in prayer,” says Huzaifa, a 16-year-old boy known as “the imam” because he spent years in a madrasa and is proficient in Qur’anic Arabic.

There is also a health clinic and one large room devoted to donations: towers of instant noodle boxes, egg crates, cooking oil and piles of clothes. The refugees wear donated hijabs and sarongs, and the men have white pecis, the stiff caps common to Muslim men in the region, which were donated by local mosques and charities.

Young Acehnese volunteers appear united in their sense of duty. They variously say they are helping out “because they are our Muslim brothers”; “because my soul felt called to do it”; and “because it’s our duty as Acehnese”.

Saw Myint from the office of the United Nations high commissioner for refugees in Bangkok has been visiting the camp and says the reception given to the Rohingya had been “unique” in the region. “The refugees cry when expressing their gratitude. The Achehnese are very pious, humble, helpful.”

‘I am a survivor too’

Zulfikar is an Acehnese man from the social affairs ministry and is in charge of running the camp. He has been sleeping in the camp and has put all other duties on hold.

“My wife hasn’t seen me in 22 days!” he says cheerfully. “According to our maritime law in Aceh, we don’t ask any arrivals’ religion, race and so forth,” he says. “The most important thing is saving lives, not national law.”

Indonesia does not officially recognise refugees and is not a signatory to the 1945 UN convention.

“I’m a survivor of the [2004 Boxing Day] tsunami too, like many people in Aceh,” adds Zulfikar. Aceh bore the brunt of that tsunami with a death toll of more than 100,000. “We all know what it is like to live through a disaster.”

Absent family

The first fast of Ramadan is broken at 6.45pm. In the afternoon about 40 volunteers cook the evening’s feast: rice, fish, noodles, cucumber salad, beef in a coconut milk curry, fried and spiced eggplant. All the ingredients come from donations.

A Rohingya woman named Fatima Khatu, the fiancee of Mohammad Shobir, cooks a spiced chicken recipe from home called kurar gustu rendi. Some other Rohingya men shake a tamarind tree in the compound to make juice from the pulp.

At sundown everyone gathers , the women and children on one tarp and the men on another. When the evening call to prayer finally sounds they gulp down fruit punch and eat dates, the traditional fast-breaking food, and then polish off a selection of Acehnese sweets, including slabs of jelly and buns stuffed with sweet shredded coconut.

The men pray together on a large, raised platform in rows, while the women retreat to their dormitory building to pray in private.

But beneath the celebration and the relief, anguish remains. “We are glad to have food here,” says Fatima, who left two children behind in Rakhine. “We are very lucky. But nothing else is certain. We don’t know how our families are.”



US Envoy Labelled 'A Terrorist' After Posing With Poster of Obliterated Al-Aqsa

May 25, 2018

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman has come under fire for posing with a doctored aerial photo of Jerusalem al-Quds, which replaced the the al-Aqsa Mosque — Islam’s third holiest site — and the Dome of the Rock, known as al-Haram al-Sharif, with an imaginary temple.

Friedman received the poster as he was visiting Bnei Brak, a city located just east of Tel Aviv, during a tour organized by a radical Jewish organization on Tuesday.

The controversial image soon made the rounds on the social media, prompting widespread fury.

Egypt's Al Azhar, the Sunni Muslim world's foremost religious institution, condemned the move on Thursday, calling it " inappropriate and irresponsible."

In a statement, the organization blasted Friedman and the Israeli organization, Achiya, for continuing "the policy of the Zio-American provocation and damaging the feelings of a billion and a half Muslims around the world."

Referring to the city's status as the capital of a future Palestinian state, the statement stressed that the move "will not change history and al-Quds will remain the capital of the Palestinian people."

Al Azhar made it clear that the al-Aqsa Mosque "will remain in the hearts of Muslims.”

An aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also censured the move, calling Friedman a "settler, terrorist."

US apology?

Wary that the backlash was going to further fuel Palestinian anger over the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem al-Quds, the US diplomatic mission rushed to criticize the move in a statement.

Claiming that Friedman was not aware of the alteration at the time, the US embassy demanded an apology later in the day and said the US supported the status quo at the holy site.

“Ambassador Friedman was not aware of the image thrust in front of him when the photo was taken,” the embassy said in a statement. “He was deeply disappointed that anyone would take advantage of his visit to Bnei Brak to create controversy."

Friedman, who oversaw the much-criticized embassy move last week, tried to contain the damage in a separate statement, saying he was "mortified more than any Palestinian" over the issue.

The Jewish organizers at Achiya also attempted to distance themselves from the matter by issuing an apology to Friedman and downplaying the incident as a “cheap political act” by an employee.

"The employee responsible for that has been identified and [he] has apologized, and we will deal with the issue internally in the organization,” noted the ultra-orthodox NGO.

This is while, Kikar Hashabbat, the Jewish website that first broke the news, identified the presenters of the poster as managers of Achiya, suggesting that the organization was fully aware of what it displayed.

Not the first time

The apologies from the US embassy and Achiya lose more weight when previous attempts by Israeli organizations to gloss over the Muslim holy sites are taken into account.

In June 2016, the Israeli tourism ministry stirred controversy by publishing a Jerusalem al-Quds map that omitted the key Muslim sites and simply referred to the holy sites by their Jewish name, the Temple Mount.

The map also angered Christian communities for failing to mention a number of historic churches in the area.

The Israeli ministry had a similar move in its 2010 version of the map, which blatantly annexed Palestine to Israel and omitted the existence of any Palestinian city.





‘Nearly 1,700 Will Embrace Islam If Govt’s Indifferent Attitude Continues’: Dalit Outfit, Bhim Sena

May 25, 2018

Palanpur: Dalit outfit, Bhim Sena on Thursday said that nearly 1,700 of its members from Tharad, Vav and Suigam talukas of Banaskantha will embrace Islam religion if the state government’s indifferent attitude towards Dalits continued.

They submitted a memorandum in this regard addressed to Gujarat Governor, to the deputy collector here and said that government has failed to check attacks on Dalits in the state.

Talking to TOI, the president of Bhim Sena, Babulal Bhati referred to Una and Shapar episodes and said when assaults on Dalits have become a daily affair and they are treated as untouchables how long can they tolerate. “We are Hindus having faith in Hinduism. But what is the use of our being Hindu. Better we get rid of the centuries-old slavery.” He demanded stringent action not less than life imprisonment to the offender in Una and Shapar case.

Meanwhile, five persons, including sarpach of Samdhi village in Palanpur, were booked for thrashing a Dalit youth Amirbhai Valmiki.

“Police arrested three persons in connection with attack on Amirbhai,” said sub-inspector V R Patel of Gadh police station. He added that two persons including Samdhi sarpanch Verjibhai Khaman were on the run.

Amirbhai was attacked on Wednesday evening after he had a quarrel with his wife and the accused interfered,” said Patel.



Such a Long Journey — Manuscripts from Timbuktu on exhibition in Delhi

by Vandana Kalra

May 24, 2018

Carefully packed, a set of 25 fragile Timbuktu manuscripts has just arrived in Delhi. Curator Khatibur Rahman was concerned about their long journey, covering a distance of over 8,000 km from the Mamma Haidara Memorial Library in Mali to the National Museum in Delhi.

He recollects how the delicate documents undertook their most precarious expedition in 2012. To save them from militant group Ansar Dine, thousands of manuscripts were smuggled from Timbuktu to Bamako a 1,000 km journey through Mali. When terrorists set fire to two libraries in Timbuktu, the world thought that all was lost, only to be told later that only 4,000 manuscripts had been destroyed and the rest were safe. “These are not just the most important collections of written heritage of African literary tradition, but also a valuable source of information for the world,” says Rahman.

Assistant curator (Arabic Manuscripts) at the National Museum, Rahman is curating the exhibition “Taj Mahal Meets Timbuktu” that will open at the National Museum on May 24. In the midst of preparing the plaques and finalising the intricacies of the display, he shares that the manuscripts will be exhibited according to their theme, which covers a wide range — Quranic science, Sufism, Arabic Grammar, good governance, Islamic jurisprudence, arithmetic, agriculture and astronomy, among others. “Unlike the calligraphy we see in this part of the world, the manuscripts are in scripts developed in Africa — Saharan, Maghreb, Essouk and Sudanese,” says Rahman, adding, “It includes an 18th century manuscript that is considered one of the best treatise on science of language. It discusses Arabic lexicography and philology in a lucid manner.”

Proposed last year during Minister of State for External Affairs, MJ Akbar’s official visit to Mali, this is the first major exhibition of the ancient manuscripts of Timbuktu in India, according to Amadou Diallo, Charge d Affaires, Embassy of Mali. Among others, he says, the objectives include “exploring the shared link in the respective histories of Mali and India in which deep oral traditions coexisted with the written word” and “fostering a dynamic exchange with academic, technical and financial partners on effective approaches to cataloguing and management of historical manuscripts and cultural artifacts and their conservation and preservation”.

Dating 14th to 19th century, the manuscripts have a rich history. It is believed that in the early 14th century, African monarch Mansa Musa made a pilgrimage to Mecca and invited several religious scholars to create a new center for Islamic scholarship in Timbuktu. During the following centuries, several scholars attended this institution, producing thousands of manuscripts.

In the following centuries, the knowledge of the manuscripts was lost, as it was not incorporated in education under the colonial rule. The obliviousness even led British historian HR Trevor Roper to famously announce in the ‘30s, “Perhaps in the future, there will be some African history to teach. But, at present there is none: there is only the history of the Europeans in Africa. The rest is darkness”.

While the significance of these documents was realised later, in the more recent years their planned evacuation by librarian Abdel Kader Haidara has generated much interest in both the manuscripts and the very forethought and precision with which they were smuggled out for safekeeping. When Islamic rule was declared in Timbuktu and the rebels began destroying shrines in 2012, Haidara led an operation to hide the documents from institutions into private homes.

Full report at:



The Small-Town Boy Who Became India’s First ISIS Suicide Bomber


24 May, 2018

In less than a decade, Faiyaz Kagzi went from being a B.Ed student in Maharashtra to Lashkar recruiter and finally ended up dying for the ISIS cause in Saudi Arabia.

New Delhi: He was a prolific recruiter for terror outfits, a coveted asset of Pakistan’s ISI, and according to Indian intelligence agencies, the man who trained Abu Jundal, the key handler of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack. But for five years from 2011, Faiyaz Kagzi, a native of Beed in Maharashtra, fell off the radar of intelligence agencies, before his name resurfaced in intel intercepts days before a suicide bombing outside the US Consulate in Jeddah on 4 July 2016 —the attack that killed four Saudi policemen.

Indian investigators now say that the suicide bomber was Kagzi, in his 40s at the time of his death, and he allegedly carried out the attack at the behest of the Islamic State (ISIS).

DNA profiling, which was completed in April this year, has allegedly confirmed that the suicide bomber was indeed the Beed native. His identity was established on the basis of DNA samples that the Maharashtra ATS collected from his family in October 2017. Kagzi reportedly parked his car outside a mosque opposite the consulate and shortly afterwards detonated his device.  It was the first bombing in years to target foreigners in Saudi Arabia.

Kagzi’s death ends a nearly 12-year search for the terror operative, first wanted for a blast at the Kalupur railway station in Ahmedabad in 2006. ThePrint traces his journey — from a B.Ed student in Maharashtra’s Aurangabad to an alleged operative of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), and eventually a Islamic State suicide bomber in Jeddah.

Student, social worker, LeT master recruiter

Kagzi was pursuing a B.Ed degree from Maulana Azad College in Aurangabad in 2003, when he began engaging with youngsters affected by drug addiction. Investigators believe Kagzi used his work as a cover to recruit operatives for the LeT. He allegedly came in touch with members of the terror outfit much earlier, when he was pursuing his B.Sc from Beed.

“During his stay in Aurangabad, he took a room at the Kagzi Darwaza on a rent of Rs 300 a month and started a library for which he bought books through crowd funding. This is how he won the trust of many youngsters,” a source said.

It was also during this time, investigators say, that Kagzi met Jundal and introduced him to key LeT leaders.

“Kagzi indoctrinated Jundal into radical Islam to avenge the killings of Muslims in the 2002 Gujarat riots. A book called Gujrat Ke Jalte Raat Din was given to Jundal, and Kagzi showed him several videos and photos of the riots,” a source said.

Kagzi was given a code name, Ar Salan, by the LeT and was asked to target RSS activists.

Training and fallout

Indian investigators say Kagzi first went to Pakistan some time before 2006 for arms training. At this time, he reportedly told his family members that he was working in Dubai.

It was to impress his handlers that Kagzi and his associates allegedly placed explosives in coach SC-1 of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Karnavati Express on 19 February 2006. The bomb exploded at Kalupur railway station in Ahmedabad, injuring more than 14 people.

It was Jundal who told investigators that Kagzi was praised for the bombing and sent to a safe house in Rawalpindi in Pakistan. After moving there, Kagzi reportedly lay low for a few months and then began working on Jihadi websites.

“Kagzi became a master at recruiting youths through propaganda videos and pages on Facebook,” a source said.

It was at this time that the planning for the Mumbai attacks began. Kagzi was allegedly asked to train Jundal to be the key handler and also one Masood Azhar, from his hometown Beed. The idea was to go to Maharashtra and facilitate the Pakistani suicide bombers there using Marathi.

According to sources, Masood’s inclusion in the suicide squad irked Kagzi as he feared that in case the operation failed, Masood’s presence would lead investigators back to Beed.

“He feared that in case the operatives got caught, investigating agencies would start harassing Masood’s family in India. He also feared that the investigators would eventually reach his family. So, he wanted Masood out,” a source said.

Kagzi reportedly met one Khalid to keep Masood out, but was directed to Mumbai attack mastermind, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi.

“When Kagzi met Lakhvi regarding the issue, he got angry and the two fell out. Lakhvi then vowed not to send any person of Indian origin for an operation in India. Following this tussle, Kagzi left Pakistan,” a source said.

Escape to Saudi, ties to ISIS

Intelligence inputs accessed by agencies suggest it was the ISI that finally facilitated Kagzi’s exit from Pakistan to Saudi.

“There was no way that Kagzi could have left Pakistan on his own. After his tiff with Lakhvi, it was not safe for him to stay on in Pakistan. The ISI helped his move to Saudi. It even arranged for his stay, since it had plans to use him for operations later,” a source said.

In Saudi, Kagzi began teaching at a madarsa and married a Pakistani woman, with whom he had a son. He also completely went off the radar of intelligence agencies. Kagzi resurfaced in intercepts after he came in touch with Jundal, who visited him in Saudi in 2011.

“Jundal was Kagzi’s old friend. Even though Kagzi was no longer working for LeT and Jundal was asked not to be in touch with anyone during his stay there, he contacted Kagzi in June 2011, hiding it from his handler, Muzammil,” a source said.  That month Jundal was arrested in Saudi Arabia and deported to India.

According to sources, it was ISI that facilitated Kagzi’s shift to ISIS. “When operatives of Indian origin die fighting for IS in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, the ISI gets recognised as an able supplier of manpower for IS and thus keeps its channels of coordination with them open,” an investigator explained.

Sources in the investigation agencies say they had shared information of Kagzi’s presence in Saudi with authorities there but could not get him deported.

“Kagzi was a highly motivated operative who had proved to be very useful for the ISI. This is the reason why in 2011, despite Indian authorities passing on the information to Saudi about Kagzi’s presence there, he was not arrested and deported. In fact, the ISI intervened and saved Kagzi through diplomatic channels,” a source said.

Full report at:



Vatican game seen in Indian archbishop's prayer campaign

May 24, 2018

Archbishop Anil Couto of New Delhi has sparked a political controversy after Hindu groups accused him of undermining Indian interests and working with the Vatican to tarnish the government's image.

The prelate launched a year-long prayer campaign May 13 saying India faces a "turbulent political future" that threatens the country's democracy. He asked Catholics in the capital to have special prayers and fast on all Fridays until national elections due in April next year.

Hindu groups reacted angrily and said the archbishop's statement was politically motivated.

Leaders of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said the prayer campaign was designed to turn Catholic voters against his party, which is seen as working to make India a nation of Hindu dominance.

BJP spokesman Sambit Patra told some Christian leaders in a television debate that by "raking up these issues [of discrimination against Christians] you are crucifying the truth about India."

Rakesh Sinha, an ideologue from influential Hindu group Rashtryia Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), said: "This is a direct attack by the church on Indian secularism and democracy, and this is a direct intervention by the Vatican as these bishops are appointed by the pope. Their accountability is not to India but to the pope."

He told the TV debate that the prayer appeal was "only a part of activities of Vatican design to project the Modi government in a poor light."

Sinha said the church's dwindling funds from overseas were the reason behind its opposition to the government. Before Modi came to power in May 2014, "there was an easy flow of money from overseas and church-affiliated bodies received money for varied reasons but used most of it for religious conversions."

"They [Christians] want a government to be made so that their conversion business flourishes," Sinha told ANI news channel. "Missionaries meddling in politics are giving a bad name to Indian Christians."

RSS works as the umbrella organization and mentor of Hindu groups that want to make India a Hindu-only nation. Its members are accused of violently opposing Christian missioners and conversion activities.

Shaina N.C., another BJP spokesperson, told that Archbishop Couto was not being fair in making such remarks against the government.

He said the archbishop and other Christian leaders need to be told that ever since the Modi government came to power, there has not been a single incident of rioting or anti-Christian or even anti-Muslim violence in the country.

Published data shows Shaina's claims are incorrect. According to Christian groups, attacks against Christians rose after Modi came to power and have spiralled in recent years.

There were 736 attacks recorded against Christians in 2017 against 348 in 2016, according to data from Persecution Relief, an ecumenical forum that records Christian persecution in India and helps victims.

Amid reports of increasing attacks against Christians, Modi himself in February 2015 told a Christian conference in New Delhi that his government would act against such crimes.

Delhi Archdiocesan spokesman Father Savarimuthu Sankar said the "prayers are part of Christian life and it has nothing to do with politics."

The archbishop "of course mentioned the background" for which he sought the prayers. "Media reports are enough to understand how violently people were attacked" in the name of religion-related issues, he said.

Full report at:



India, Netherlands call for action on terror, name Pakistan-based groups

May 25, 2018

Calling for early adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) in the United Nations as an instrument for a global alliance of nations against terrorism, India and the Netherlands on Thursday asked all countries to work towards rooting out terror networks, disrupting their financing channels and halting cross-border movement of terrorists.

After the bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte, a joint statement named Pakistan-based terror outfits Jaish-e-Mohammed, Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Toiba along with al-Qaida and IS which are threatening peace and security in South Asia and Europe.

“The leaders called upon all countries to work towards rooting out terrorist safe havens and infrastructure, disrupting terrorist networks and their financing channels, and halting cross-border movement of terrorists including foreign fighters,” the statement said. The Netherlands also reaffirmed its strong support to building consensus among members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group for India’s bid for membership of grouping, the statement added.

In his statement, Modi said there is huge scope for ramping up trade ties between the two countries and talked about economic reforms being undertaken by his government to promote growth. “I am strongly committed towards economic reforms,” he said. After the talks, Rutte signed the framework agreement for the International Solar Alliance, making the Netherlands the 64th country to be part of the India-promoted initiative.

Reflecting the growing strategic trust between the two countries, the leaders also noted the progress made by both sides in finalising the text of the agreement on mutual protection of classified information in the field of defence. On trade, the two leaders underlined the significant role the Netherlands can play as India’s “Gateway to Europe”. “Both sides also agreed to consider putting in place a reciprocal fast track mechanism to resolve issues confronted by businesses and to promote greater two-way bilateral investments,” said the joint statement.

Full report at:



Delhi minorities commission issues notice to JNU on proposed ‘Islamic terrorism’ course

May 22, 2018

The Delhi Minorities Commission on Tuesday issued a notice to the registrar of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) seeking to know the reason behind a varsity proposal to start a course on ‘Islamic terrorism’.

Taking suo motu cognisance of reports about the proposed course, the Commission has asked the registrar to explain on what basis the course on “Islamic terror” is being started by the university, said Zafarul Islam Khan, the commission’s chairman.

The JNU Academic Council “passed” a proposal to set up a Centre for National Security Studies under which there would be a course on “Islamic terrorism”, said a professor who attended the meeting said last week. JNUSU in a statement on May 18 had alleged that during the 145th Academic Council (AC) meeting held the same day, the JNU V-C allowed the “tabling of a course on ‘Islamic Terrorism’ under the proposed National Security Studies special centre.”

According to the committee’s report, shared with Hindustan Times by JNUSU joint secretary Shubhanshu Singh, the panel was formed to finalise modalities, after it was decided to establish such a centre. HTcould not independently verify the report.

The report lists ‘Islamic Terrorism’ as a key area of work for the centre, rather than a course (as claimed by JNUSU), along with over 20 other areas, which include ‘Insurgency’, ‘Naxalism’, and ‘Military Modernisation of China and Pakistan’.

The DMC has asked the JNU administration to reply whether there is any concept paper or proposal to include a course on “Islamic Terror” in the proposed “Centre for National Security Studies”, and demanded a copy of it.

“Has the current administration of the JNU considered the implications of introducing this subject in the campus on its students and on the broader society outside?,” the Commission has questioned.

It has also sought details of the proposed course and areas covered by it, methodology, reference books and works to be followed, experts who will teach and undertake research on the subject.

The commission has also asked the JNU to provide minutes of the Academic Council meeting and the list of members who attended it. The JNU administration has been asked to file its reply to these questions by June 5, Khan said.

Ajay Dubey, the chairperson of the committee which submitted its report , did not confirm nor deny the plans for the centre last week, but said, “Terrorism and religion are not linked. There is no proposal for a course on Islamic terrorism.”

“Islamic terrorism is going to be just one of the focus areas for research at the centre. Whether it exists or not, only research can tell,” said Amita Singh, acting chairperson of the Centre for the Study of Law & Governance, had said.

The proposed course has been opposed by sections of teachers and students at the JNU.

Full report at:



AMU opposes proposed Islamic Terrorism course in JNU; urges HRD minister to intervene

Anuja Jaiswal

May 24, 2018

AGRA: The Students Union of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) has opposed Jawaharlal Nehru University's (JNU) proposal to start a course on “Islamic Terrorism” in the varsity. It has written to Union HRD minister Prakash Javadekar and urged him to intervene to roll back the course “in the larger interest of the nation and society”.

In a letter, addressed to HRD minister Prakash Javadekar, president of students union Maskoor Ahmad Usmani said that it is extremely disgusting and shocking to see how one of the most prestigious universities of India is hell bent to give a religious colour to terrorism; it perhaps reflects their deep-rooted agenda to malign a specific religion.

The letter reads, “The recent controversy around introduction of a course on Islamic Terrorism in JNU should ideally be looked at by situating it in the larger context of how universities as spaces are to function in the times we live in. The very title of the course clearly informs us how appallingly distances the intent is from the essential spirit of the university”.

It further reads that there have also been sincere attempts at unfolding the genealogy of terrorism or emergence of radical outfits in the modern world so as to ensure that the consumers of terrorism coverage do not absolve other agents who are also to be held accountable for the part they have played in disturbing peace and harmony in many parts of the world.

Talking to TOI, Usmani said that terrorism or terrorists have no religion. By starting a course on “Islam terrorism”, the entire community was being branded as terrorists, he said.

“Today JNU is planning to introduce this course, tomorrow some other central universities will follow suit,” he said, adding that it’s ironical that while there are no funds available for regular courses, such “divisive” courses are being started.

Incidentally, Delhi Minority Commission has already issued a notice to the registrar of JNU asking him to explain the reasons for introducing this course.

Full report at:



Open Your Hearts, Treat Rohingya Children as Your Own: Bollywood Actress Priyanka

May 24, 2018

Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra today called upon the world communities to come forward extending all-out assistance to the Rohingya women and children living in vulnerable camps in Cox's Bazar of Bangladesh.

"Open your hearts with compassion. Please be sympathetic and treat these children as your own," Priyanka, also the Unicef Goodwill Ambassador, made the call while addressing a press conference at a hotel in Dhaka this evening.

Wrapping up her four-day visit at different Rohingya refugee camps in Cox's Bazar, Priyanka said there is no space for the Rohingya people. "The world will have to take the responsibility of the Rohingya children," she urged the global community.

Learn from Bangladesh how to stand by distressed humanity

Unicef Goodwill Ambassador and Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra today said the world should learn from Bangladesh how to stand beside the distressed humanity.

She also appreciated Bangladesh, particularly Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, for taking the burden of giving shelter to more than one million displaced Rohingyas in Bangladesh, who fled persecution in Rakhine state of Myanmar, UNB reports.

The Bollywood star came up with the appreciation during a courtesy call on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her Gono Bhaban  residence in the afternoon.

PM's additional press secretary Nazrul Islam said Priyanka Chopra shared some experiences of visiting the Rohingya camps in Ukhiya for the last three days, particularly the sufferings of the children, with the Prime Minister.

"I found one kind of healing inside the Rohingya children," the Bollywood star said giving an example of her experience of visiting the Rohingya camps last year.

"Earlier, when I visited the Rohingya camps I asked the children to draw a picture, and they responded with drawing pictures of arms, gunfire and mortar shells from roving helicopters. But this time when I told them to do the same, they drew pictures of sun, animals and nature," she said.

"It's a testimony of their inside healing and it could be possible due to your motherly shelter and security," Priyanka told the Prime Minister.

PM's sister Sheikh Rehana and family members were present.

Mentioning about the hazardous situation for the children in the camps, Priyanka, on behalf of Unicef, called upon the international community to extend all-out support to the Rohingya people.

Priyanka told the Prime Minister that she was concerned about the possibility of a 'generation loss' of a particular ethnicity as a large number of children have no access to education as they are passing their days roaming around.

"The children might have gone astray and even become extremists if they're deprived of the opportunity of having education," she apprehended.

Sheikh Hasina said her government has given shelter to the Rohingyas solely on humanitarian ground as the people of Bangladesh had experienced the same situation in 1971.

She recalled her refugee life abroad after the killing of her parents in 1975 saying, "Those incidents taught us to stand beside humanity during their bad time."

Hasina said her government has been making efforts to give the Rohaingyas all the support, but it is not possible for the government alone to mitigate their sufferings.

Unicef and other international agencies should come forward with more support, she said.

Pointing out the government's initiative to relocate the Rohingyas to a safe zone at Bhasanchar, the Prime Minister said they will be able to live there in a better environment.

The cyclone-shelters like centers have been constructed there with various facilities, she said adding that they will have education and health support as well as job opportunities, the Prime Minister said.

About the healthcare facilities extended by the government to the Rohingyas, the Prime Minister said her government has taken steps for vaccination in the shelter camps and all the government and private hospitals and clinics have been asked to provide medical services to the Rohingyas as much as possible.

Mentioning about the signing of an agreement with Myanmar for the repatriation of the Rohingyas to their homeland, Hasina said unfortunately Myanmar authorities are not working according to the deal.

Full report at:



Rohingyas and their sympathisers should leave, says Katiyar after Priyanka Chopra's visit to Bangladesh camp

May 24, 2018

NEW DELHI : Rohingyas should not live in India and neither should those who sympathise with them, BJP leader Vinay Katiyar said on Thursday, days after Bollywood actor Priyanka Chopra visited Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh.

The actor, a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, visited the refugee camps in Cox's Bazar on Monday and described the crisis as "horrific". The 35-year-old actor also urged people to help the affected children.

"VIPs should not visit there (Rohingya refugee camps). This sends out a wrong message. Priyanka ji should not have gone there. These people (VIPs) should avoid going there. Rohingya Muslims should not live here and nor should those who sympathise with them," Katiyar said.

He added that Rohingya Muslims had killed thousands of Hindus and humiliated their daughters so they should be sent out of the country.

According to the United Nations, nearly 3,00,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar's Rakhine state to go to Bangladesh after a fresh wave of violence erupted when militants attacked police posts. The Rohingyas allege that the military and Rakhine Buddhists responded with a brutal campaign against them.

Full report at:



Sheikh Hasina to inaugurate Bangladesh Bhavan today, her minister oversees preparations

by Santanu Chowdhury

May 25, 2018

Bangladesh culture minister Asaduzzaman Noor on Thursday oversaw preparations ahead of Bangladesh Bhavan’s inauguration at Visva Bharati University. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina would inaugurate the bhavan during her visit to the campus for the university’s convocation on Friday.

A replica of ‘Padma Boat’, which Rabindranath Tagore used during his frequent visits across undivided Bengal, would be exhibited at the bhavan’s ground floor museum. It will be among several displayed things at the museum that Tagore had used in now what is Bangladesh.

“We cannot imagine either West Bengal or Bangladesh without Rabindranath Tagore. He was our inspiration from the language movement (against the imposition of Urdu in erstwhile East Pakistan) to the liberation war (against Pakistan it triggered),’’ he said.

He said the bhavan will be dedicated to Tagore’s memory and his Bangladesh connection. “…some of his finest works were created in places such as Shilaidaha, Kusthia, Patisar, and Shahzadpur, which are now in Bangladesh,” Noor told The Indian Express.

Graphic designer Tarik Sujat said the museum has been divided into four zones. “Zone I is dedicated to the pre-historic period of undivided Bengal. Zone II will chronicle phases of the language movement. Zone III will bring alive memories of our liberation war. Zone IV will educate visitors about Rabindra in Bangladesh,’’ he said. He said they have got artifacts for the museum from Bangladesh’s archaeological department and photographs from their collection.

Full report at:



ISI agent held for spying on Indian diplomat: Lucknow police

May 25, 2018

Police on Thursday said alleged ISI agent Ramesh Singh has confessed to having spied on an Indian diplomat posted in Islamabad since 2015 and also conveying information on Army positions in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand to his Pakistani handlers since his return to India last year.

Ramesh Singh was arrested in a joint operation by Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), J&K unit of the Military Intelligence and the Uttarakhand police on Wednesday from Pithoragarh in Uttarakhand. At the time of filing this report, he was expected to reach Lucknow on late Thursday night on transit remand. He would be produced before court Friday.

“In 2015, this person (Ramesh Singh) had gone to Islamabad to work as a domestic help at the house of an Indian diplomat. There he came in contact with some ISI men and started working for them. He bugged the house of the diplomat and his communication devices like mobile phone and tablet,” said ADG (Law and Order) Anand Kumar.





Sunni Extremists Demolish Mosque Belonging To Ahmadiyya Community In Pakistan

May 24, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Sunni extremists in Pakistan have demolished a historical mosque belonging to the Ahmadiyya community in Punjab province, the latest attack on the minority group in the Muslim-majority country.

A persecuted minority sect, the Ahmadiyya community was declared non-Muslims in Pakistan through a constitutional amendment in 1974 during the tenure of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

The latest mob attack took place in Sialkot last night.

As the local municipal administration started demolishing a private property of an Ahmadiyya follower, about 600 miscreants demolished the nearby mosque later.

Ahmadiyya spokesman Saleemuddin said in a statement that the mob launched the attack at about 11PM and it continued till 3AM (local time).

"The place of worship and the house that has been demolished by the mob in Sialkot have great historical significance for members of the Ahmadiyya community all over the world," he said.

The police kept on watching the vandalism and did nothing to prevent the attackers, Saleemuddin alleged, adding that it shows the state institutions have surrendered before the elements that are exploiting in the name of religion in order to fulfil their vested interests.

"Ahmadiyya places of worship have been under attack in the past as well, and so far not even a single culprit has been brought to justice," Saleemuddin alleged.

Ahmadiyya people are not allowed to call their place of worship as mosques.

Former president General Ziaul Haq had made it a punishable offence for Ahmadiyyas to call themselves Muslims or to refer to their faith as Islam.

The community is also banned from preaching as well as from travelling to Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage. They are also not allowed to publish any material propagating their faith.

Members of the community in Pakistan have often been targeted, including in terror attacks.



Pakistan passes constitutional amendment to merge tribal areas along Afghan border with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

May 24, 2018

Islamabad: In a historic move, Pakistan's National Assembly on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a key constitutional amendment to merge the restive tribal region along the Afghan border with the northwestern province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, bringing an end to a 150-year-old British-era arrangement.

After months of delays following disagreements between coalition partners and the opposition over its clauses, Law Minister Mahmood Bashir Virk on Thursday tabled the 31st Amendment Bill 2017 to merge Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

The amendment was passed with a 229-1 vote in the house of 342, as the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was supported by Pakistan People's Party (PPP), Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) and Jamat-e-Islami.

Dawar Kundi from the PTI was the lone dissenting vote who opposed the bill.

Two allies of the government including Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) staged a walkout.

The bill amends several Articles of the Constitution including Article 1 that defines the territory of the Pakistani federation.

The number of seats of parliament will decrease once the bill is passed. Senate seats will reduce from 104 to 96 members and the number of seats in the National Assembly will be cut to 336 from 342, as FATA will no longer have separate representation.

The bill will be sent to Senate, the upper house, which is expected to pass it before the end of the week. After this, the bill will be presented to the president who will sign it to become part of the Constitution.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi who played a key role in bringing consensus to pass the amendment said in his address to the lawmakers that it was joint effort by all parties, which will "change the 150-year-old system in the tribal areas."

The semi-autonomous tribal region was created by British colonisers as a buffer zone to avoid direct conflict with Afghanistan.

It consists of seven districts — Bajaur, Khyber, Kurram, Mohmand, North Waziristan, Orakzai and South Waziristan — which stretch along the border with Afghanistan, and became known in the world due to presence of militants who fled the porous border after US forces invaded Afghanistan post-9/11.

These seven districts are home to some eight million residents, mainly ethnic Pashtuns.

Full report at:



Pakistan passes bill to bring law and order to former Taliban region

25 May 2018

For centuries the north-west corner of Pakistan known as the federally administered tribal areas (Fata) has been known as  – a mountainous bolthole for terrorist groups.

This week, however, Pakistan’s parliament passed a a landmark piece of legislation to abolish the semi-autonomous zone of Fata and bring a court system, police and modern governance to its long-suffering 5 million residents.

Under the legislation passed on Thursday, the neighbouring province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will gradually absorb a region once dubbed the “most dangerous place in the world” by former US president Barack Obama.

Hopes are high that the bill will pass the senate on Friday and – soon after – the provincial assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

“It’s a great day for Pakistan,” said Shahabuddin Khan, a minister of the national assembly from Fata. “The people of Fata are getting their rights for the first time since the 19th century.”

Residents of the region still currently live under draconian Raj-era regulations, which British colonists introduced in an attempt to subdue the region’s restive Pashtun tribes.

Its provisions allow for an entire tribe to be punished for the crimes of one member, and those who cross a district political agent – the political heirs of khaki-jacketed Raj administrators – face abuse and indefinite detention as there is no higher power with which to launch an appeal. Residents are also forced to guard state property.

Earlier versions of the bill had included provisions for the regulations to remain broadly in place for a year while the state built courthouses and police stations to aid the transition. These were not included in the final version, meaning that when Pakistan’s president signs off on it the entire legal system in Fata will change at a stroke.

“This goes much further than we thought was politically possible,” said one western official. “But there’s a risk it might be too abrupt.”

The federal government aims to spend £640m a year until 2028 in order to develop Fata, but will have to negotiate budget cuts with other provinces in order to secure the funds, noted the official.

After the bill’s passage, members of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) celebrated delivering a campaign promise just days before the end of their tenure as a caretaker government takes over in the runup to an election this summer. Imran Khan, the ex-cricket star and leader of the opposition PTI party, attended parliament for the first time in two years to vote as cross-party support drove the long-mooted merger across the line.

But much of the credit for the reform should go to the military, said columnist Mosharraf Zaidi.

Pakistan’s army was repelled from Fata in 2004 after – under US pressure – it sent 80,000 troops into the region to hunt for al-Qaida. The pattern was repeated throughout the decade.

But under operation Zarb-e-Azb, which began in 2014, militants were finally crushed or pushed over the border into Afghanistan. “The military has done a phenomenal job in clearing, now the politicians must hold and build,” said Zaidi.

The planned extension of Pakistan’s constitution into Fata is also “very good news for women”, said Noreen Naseer, a professor of political economy from the region, as it will mean women can inherit and that “rampant ‘honour’ killings” will be classed as crimes.

“Now there is nowhere we can even go and report ‘honour’ killings, the political agents aren’t bothered, they say it is a personal matter for the tribe,” she said.

Activist and resident Niazamuddin Khan said he was “ecstatic” at the reform. “We were born into this struggle. Seeing the dream come true, there’s nothing better,” he said.

Full report at:



Suicide bombers involved in attack on FC Madadgar centre in Quetta identified as Afghan nationals

May 24, 2018

The five suicide bombers involved in the terrorist attack on Frontier Corps' (FC) Madadgar centre in Quetta on May 17 have been identified as Afghan nationals, read an initial investigation and forensic report.

According to the report, the suicide bombers were reportedly affiliated with Afghanistan-based banned outfit Hizbul Ahrar and worked in collaboration with the outlawed Lashkar-i-Jhangvi Balochistan chapter.

The suicide bombers tried to storm inside the FC's Madadgar centre in Quetta's survey 31 area last Thursday. However, the FC personnel deployed at the gate quickly retaliated and killed the suicide bombers. Intense firing between FC personnel and terrorists left residents of the area hostage for almost an hour.

"We feared that the terrorists may enter our homes. I thank God and salute our brave forces who silenced them timely," said a resident of the area, while narrating the events that took place a week ago.

An assistant patrolling officer of the motorway police Muhammad Idrees sacrificed his life that day by stopping one of the suicide bombers. Three FC personnel were also injured in the attack.

The preliminary report suggests that the first suicide bomber detonated at the main gate resulting in severe damage to the gate and boundary wall of the FC sector headquarter. Taking advantage of the initial blast, the remaining four suicide bombers attempted to break in from the broken wall and the gate, the report said.

Full report at:



IHC grants time to file reply on Nawaz Sharif’s statement on Mumbai attacks

May 25, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Islamabad High Court (IHC) has accepted the federation plea to grant more time to it to file a reply regarding the statement of Nawaz Sharif on Mumbai attacks besides adjourning the hearing till 5th June.

A single member bench comprising Justice Amir Farooq of IHC took up the petition filed against the recent statement of Nawaz Sharif on Mumbai attacks for hearing on Thursday.

At the inception of the hearing, the petitioner Rai Tajammal Hussain advocate requested IHC that Lahore High Court (LHC)  imposed a ban on airing of founder of MQM Altaf Husain speeches. Therefore, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) should be stopped to broadcast the speeches of deposed PM and FIA be directed to take action against Nawaz Sharif for his anti state statements.

The petitioner told the court while giving arguments that this is the matter of subversion of the constitution. Nawaz Sharif has committed treason against the country.

Later, the court while accepting the request of Federal Government to grant more time for submitting the reply adjourned the hearing till 5th June.

Full report at:





Pope Francis: Equating Islam with terrorism ‘foolish’


Pope Francis has slammed untrue claims linking Islam with terrorism, according to local media reports Thursday.

According to the ANSA news agency, the pope said the view equating Islam with terrorism is baseless.

"It might be coming out of many people's mouths, but this equation is a lie and it is foolish," he said in an interview.

"The most important role [of religions] is that of promoting a culture of encounter, together in the promotion of true education for responsible behavior that takes care of creation," he added.



U.S.-Backed Syrian Forces Arrest French Islamic State Leader: SDF

May 24, 2018

BEIRUT (REUTERS) - THE U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on Thursday they had arrested a French citizen who headed an Islamic State group in Syria and had been involved in the Paris and Nice attacks in 2015 and 2016.

An SDF statement said the man arrested was Adrien Lionel Kayali and that he was born in 1983 and converted to Islam in 2003. It said Kayali, who also goes by the name of Abu Osama, had been arrested and then released in France in 2010 on suspicion of belonging to terrorist organizations.

French media have reported the captured man's name as French citizen Adrien Guihal, wanted in connection with terrorist activities in France.

SDF media spokesman Mustafa Bali told Reuters Adrien Lionel Kayali and Adrien Guihal were two names for the same man.

French judicial sources told Reuters on Thursday there is an arrest warrant for an Adrien Guihal from 2015, and that he is suspected of having claimed responsibility for attacks in Nice and Magnanville, near Paris, in France in 2016.

The SDF, a alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters led by the Kurdish YPG militia, said it believed Kayali had entered Syria in March 2015 into Islamic State-held territory. The SDF said it captured him in the Raqqa region of northern Syria.

Full report at:



EU foreign policy chief urges talks over Jerusalem

24 May 2018

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on Thursday called for negotiations to determine the status of Jerusalem as she criticized the relocation of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv.

In remarks made during the Europe Business Summit at the Egmont Palace in capital Brussels, Mogherini said Jerusalem should be a capital city of both, Israel and Palestine.

She added: "None of the EU representatives attended the opening ceremony of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. These kinds of things are important in diplomacy."

U.S. President Donald Trump had sparked an international outcry last December when he unilaterally recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital and vowed to relocate Washington’s embassy to the city.

Last week, the U.S. officially relocated its Israel embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, effectively recognizing the latter city as Israel’s capital.

The shift in longstanding U.S. policy on Jerusalem has sparked angry demonstrations in the occupied Palestinian territories and in several Muslim countries.

Full report at:



Greece gives right of asylum to Turkish putschists

24 May 2018

The Greek Council of State decided on Wednesday to provide a right of asylum to former soldiers who had fled Turkey during the defeated coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Greece's supreme administrative court evaluated Greek government's objection to the right of asylum given by the Greek Asylum Commission to Suleyman Ozkaynakci, one of former Turkish soldiers.

The decision set a precedent for the other seven ex-soldiers; their right of asylum was also approved.

A Greek asylum committee last December accepted the petition of Ozkaynakci, but later the Greek government raised objections.

Ozkaynakci was released briefly after being granted asylum but was arrested again in light of the government’s objections.

Ruling on the objection, the Greek Council of State on April 19 ordered his release under strict control until the results of the asylum petitions of all eight suspected coup-plotters are resolved.

The eight former Turkish servicemen fled to Greece a day after the defeated 2016 Turkish coup. They are accused by Turkish authorities of involvement in the coup and being members of the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO).

Full report at:



Ahmadiyya Muslims in Canada condemn destruction of historic mosque in Pakistan

May 24, 2018

HE Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada on Thursday strongly condemned the destruction of a mosque and a historical house in Sialkot, Pakistan, by local municipal officials and a mob of 600 religious extremists.

In a statement, they said: “It is shocking that local police and municipal authorities were present during the attack and destruction of property. Authorities did not take any action to uphold the rule of law and protect the rights of

Ahmadi Muslims. Giving in to pressure from local extremist clerics, the officials from the Municipal Committee of Sialkot City unlawfully demolished a century-old historic house.

“The property is of historical significance to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at. Once the house was demolished, the large mob attacked a mosque adjacent to the demolished house. During the attack, the mob demolished the mosque’s minarets, dome, doors and other parts of the structure. During the demolition of the mosque, the municipal representatives and police supported the attack by not making any efforts to stop the unruly mob.”

Lal Khan Malik, President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada, said: “This attack occurred during the holy month of Ramadan, during which Muslims fast and are taught to increase their worship, humility and service to humanity. It is incomprehensible that the religious extremists and their supporters adopted violence and desecrated a House of God with active support of police and local authorities during the holy month of Ramadan.”

PTI news agency reports:

Islamabad: Sunni extremists in Pakistan have demolished a historical mosque belonging to the Ahmadiyya community in Punjab province, the latest attack on the minority group in the Muslim-majority country.

A persecuted minority sect, the Ahmadiyya community was declared non-Muslims in Pakistan through a constitutional amendment in 1974 during the tenure of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

The latest mob attack took place in Sialkot Wednesday night.

As the local municipal administration started demolishing a private property of an Ahmadiyya follower, about 600 miscreants demolished the nearby mosque later.

Ahmadiyya spokesman Saleemuddin said in a statement that the mob launched the attack at about 11 p.m. and it continued till 3 a.m. (local time).

“The place of worship and the house that has been demolished by the mob in Sialkot have great historical significance for members of the Ahmadiyya community all over the world,” he said.

The police kept on watching the vandalism and did nothing to prevent the attackers, Saleemuddin alleged, adding that it shows the state institutions have surrendered before the elements that are exploiting in the name of religion in order to fulfil their vested interests.

“Ahmadiyya places of worship have been under attack in the past as well, and so far not even a single culprit has been brought to justice,” Saleemuddin alleged.

Ahmadiyya people are not allowed to call their place of worship as mosques.

Former president General Zia ul Haq had made it a punishable offence for Ahmadiyyas to call themselves Muslims or to refer to their faith as Islam.

The community is also banned from preaching as well as from travelling to Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage. They are also not allowed to publish any material propagating their faith.

Full report at:



Southeast Asia


Under Jokowi, conservative groups start to condemn terrorism

By Rizky Alif Alvian

24th May 2018

MOVING away from their past ambiguous stance on violent Islamic extremism, Indonesian conservative Muslim organisations are taking a more assertive position against terrorism under the current government.

For many years, organisations such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), National Movement to Safeguard Indonesian Ulema Council’s Edicts (GNPF-MUI) and Muslim Peoples Forum (FUI) have been associated with religious intolerance and violence. Now they are openly rejecting terrorism.

I argue that the change is part of conservative groups’ strategy to ensure their survival amid increasing pressure against extremist discourse and activities.

The history

FPI, founded a couple of months after the fall of the Soeharto regime in 1998, is notorious for its violent vigilante acts. Allegedly supported by Indonesian security forces, in its early years it organised raids against bars and nightclubs and overtly campaigned to prosecute religious minority groups.

FUI is a coalition of Islamic organisations, including FPI. In 2008, they were involved in an attack on a rally in Jakarta for the rights of religious minority group Ahmadiyah.

HTI, the Indonesian branch of an international organisation that aims to revive a global Islamic caliphate, is opposed to violent tactics. But they spread hate-mongering rhetoric against religious minorities.

The political shift

Following the fall of Soeharto, conservative Muslim organisations could operate under the breeze of a new democracy that promoted freedom of speech. Under Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s administration, conservative Muslims were given more clout.

In 2005, he told the national congress of the Ulema Council that the state wanted “to place [the council] in a central role in matters regarding the Islamic faith”. He also legitimised religious violence by releasing measures against “deviant beliefs”.

However, things have changed under the current administration. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has identified intoleransi (intolerance) as one of Indonesia’s main problems. He has adopted an authoritarian approach in response.

Last year, the government issued a law that allows the government to disband organisations it deems not aligned to the state ideology Pancasila, which supports pluralism. HTI was the first victim of the law.

The political shift has forced conservative Muslim groups to adjust their image and actions – not only to gain public support but also to avoid being banned.

The clash, now and then

The political change has in particular forced the conservative groups to alter their stance towards terrorism. I monitor these changes from Muslim conservative publications like,, and

The changes are evident before and after Jokowi’s presidency.

After the first Bali bombing in 2002, FPI founder Habib Rizieq Shihab resorted to a conspiracy theory. He claimed that the United States engineered the attack to create an image of Indonesia as a “terrorist haven”.

HTI claimed the attacks were engineered to stigmatise Muslims. They came to that conclusion knowing that not a single terrorist attack managed to take down US government establishments.

Similar to HTI, FUI believed that the discourse of the “war on terrorism” was no more than a declaration of war against Muslims. These groups also glorified the perpetrators of terrorist attacks.

When the terrorists behind the first Bali bombing, Amrozi, Muklas and Imam Samudra, were executed in 2008, FPI and FUI declared that they were warriors or mujahid who had died defending Islam (syahid).

FUI secretary-general Muhammad Al-Khaththath described the terrorists as jihadists and said the spirit of their actions needed to be taught to Muslims in Indonesia. FPI and FUI also took a vague stance on Islamic State (IS).

In their official statement, both organisations underlined their support for the establishment of an Islamic state (khilafah Islamiyah) even though they were reluctant to show explicit support for IS.

FUI refused to condemn IS, arguing that growing support for IS in Indonesia was just “a form of regular admiration”.

After Jokowi

In the years since Jokowi came to office, the conservative Muslim organisations seem to be distancing themselves from groups with extreme ideology to create a more peaceful image.

Their recent statements emphasise that the terrorists have deviated from Islamic teachings. Their statements also argue for the importance of maintaining national unity.

After a bomb attack in Kampung Melayu, East Jakarta, in 2017, GNPF-MUI chairman Bachtiar Nasir called it “an act that violates Islamic laws (sharia) and Indonesian Muslims’ consensus”. The previous year, FPI condemned the terrorist attacks in Jakarta as “serious crimes”.

Responding to the terrorist attacks in Surabaya, East Java, in the past week, FPI stressed that “no religion teaches its followers to kill others”.

GNPF chairman Bachtiar Nasir issued a similar statement, saying the attacks “smeared our peaceful Islam that promoted unity and brotherhood”. He said Muslims and people of other faiths should work to preserve national unity.

Image-building strategy

The change in attitude on terrorism is understandable. Being perceived by the public to be supporting violent extremism will make these groups’ position politically fragile.

Additionally, being associated with extremism can provide justification for the government to disband these organisations, as happened to HTI. This will leave their goals to establish a nation ruled by Islamic values in shambles.

Under the current political system, being ambiguous towards terrorist attacks will not help conservative groups create an image that Muslim conservatives stand for peace and national unity.

Therefore, the change in the attitude of Muslim conservative groups towards terrorism is not ideological. It’s a strategic move to survive in Indonesia’s current political landscape.



Dismantling Saudi peace centre fine, but Mat Sabu must keep good ties

Zam Yusa

May 25, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR: The future of a Saudi Arabian-backed counter-terrorism centre promoted by the previous government now hangs in the balance, as new Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu has indicated that the entire project is among those to be reviewed by the new administration.

But the new government must also reconcile any move to call off the establishment of the King Salman Centre for International Peace (KSCIP) with Malaysia’s need to maintain good ties with Saudi Arabia, analysts say.

The Najib Razak government had agreed to allocate a massive plot of land in the administrative capital of Putrajaya for KSCIP, which was announced following the visit by Saudi monarch Salman Abdul Aziz last year.

Since then, the centre’s biggest proponent had been Mohamad’s predecessor Hishammuddin Hussein.

The former defence minister had said the centre was crucial to curbing the spread of extremism and militant ideologies, including by the Islamic State (IS) group.

But critics have questioned the partnership with Saudi Arabia to fight terrorism, highlighting Riyadh’s military and ideological role worldwide.

It was later announced that KSCIP would be based in Putrajaya, in a complex sitting on 16 hectares of land, which would take two years to complete.

The decision did not sit well with the then-opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH), the coalition now in power, and Mohamad’s own party Amanah has been among its most vocal opponents.

Unnecessary quarrels

In his first press conference since taking over the ministry, Mohamad, popularly known as Mat Sabu, indicated that the centre would be reviewed after consultation with Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

A senior analyst welcomed the move.

“I think the minister’s instincts are correct – while expressing reservations about KSCIP, he has asked the ministry of defence for more information about the centre before making a final decision,” said Shahriman Lockman from the Kuala Lumpur-based Institute of Strategic and International Studies.

“Ultimately, I think the minister will find that it’s not in Malaysia’s interest to proceed with KSCIP.”

He also questioned having a centre with “so much Saudi money and influence”, saying it could drag Malaysia into “quarrels that are not ours or of our making”.

“Saudi Arabia is in the midst of an intense geopolitical rivalry with Iran, which has had the effect of widening the schism between Sunni and Shia Muslims throughout the world.

“What’s happening in Yemen and Syria are, to some extent, a symptom of Saudi-Iranian rivalry. Would it be possible for KSCIP to avoid taking sides, even though Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has emphasised that Malaysia should remain neutral and non-aligned?” he asked.

Shahriman said it would be easy to call off the plan as KSCIP was still in its infancy with only a skeletal staff.

But he said one challenge for Mat Sabu would be to maintain Malaysia’s good relations with Saudi Arabia in the process.

“Whether we like it or not, whatever we think of them, Saudi Arabia is a major player in the Muslim world and in the Middle East.

“Their administration of the haj makes it crucial for Muslim-majority countries to get along with them.”

Not compatible

Shahriman said Malaysia and Saudi Arabia have different world views and therefore different approaches to countering violent extremism.

“I do not see how the two countries can effectively work together against violent extremism given such differences.”

Among the players in KSCIP are the defence ministries of both countries, and the Muslim World League (MWL), an organisation heavily funded by Riyadh over the decades, which has carried out activities to promote Saudi Arabia’s Islamic image abroad.

MWL has a history of promoting Wahhabism, or Salafism, as its proponents prefer to call it. Wahhabism is a controversial strand of Islam based on a literal interpretation of Islamic texts, which has been closely linked to many of its more militant offshoots including the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and more recently the IS.

An Australian security analyst, however, said it was too early to criticise KSCIP.

Patrick Blanning said the method of countering violent extremism, or CVE, was replicated to varying degrees throughout the Western world.

“So it’s difficult to criticise it in isolation without criticising the entire concept of CVE,” Blannin told FMT.

“If it delivers on expectations, then great, but it’s difficult to say without clear metrics for success or return on investment.

Full report at:



Allow non-Muslim religious clubs at national schools, says academic

Minderjeet Kaur

May 25, 2018

PETALING JAYA: An academic has urged new Education Minister Maszlee Malik to improve the popularity of national schools by not only having adequate proportions of non-Malay teachers there but also letting non-Muslim pupils attend their own religious classes.

Tajuddin Rasdi, a professor at UCSI University, said attempts should be made to broaden the horizons of teachers and students of all faiths, with efforts to expose them to each other’s cultures.

In line with this, he added, Islamic religious teachers should also be retrained to change their attitudes to allow more openness and interaction with other faiths.

He said presently, Muslim students attended Islamic studies classes while others were given moral studies.

“I studied in a Chinese school and it had a Buddhist club. Pupils learned the teachings from the club and these were not part of (regular) classes. This could also be looked into ,” he said.

“But we have Muslims who are frightened of Christianity,” he told FMT.

“We are frightened because we don’t know (about other religions). Unfortunately, religious scholars have been saying you should not know.”

Tajuddin said Chinese and Tamil language classes should also be held in national schools.

While both vernacular and religious schools were important, he added, it was crucial for students to mix with those of other races.

“We should not hear people saying they have never stepped into a church before. Why not? We share a heritage,” he said.

“If we have the idea of isolating ourselves, we will not be a great country.”

Tajuddin said it might take about 10 years to have a good balance of teachers from different races and backgrounds.

For now, he said, the education ministry should undertake immediate measures to encourage students from different streams to mingle with one another.

For example, a student who attends a Chinese school should spend at least one week or 40 hours in a national school nearby as part of an integration programme.

Students could also visit mosques, churches and temples, he added.

“A real initiative would also be to retrain teachers to pass on the skills of integration to students.”

Tajuddin said teachers and students needed to know that differences among people contribute to the country’s strength.

Full report at:



Sustainability from Islamic perspective


May 25, 2018

WE know that moderation (wasatiyyah) is a major Islamic principle and way of life by the clear affirmation of the Quran. In an address to the Muslim community, the Quran conveys God Almighty’s vision of this Ummah as a community of the middle path (ummatan wasatan) to make moderation, therefore as a guide and conduct of their earthy life (al-Baqarah, 2:143).

Moderation has not only much to say about the personal conduct of individuals and the community’s collective ethos, but also on the use of the earth’s resources and care for its natural environment. The substance of this teaching is elsewhere endorsed in the Quran where the text speaks of balance (al-mizan) in the creation of this earth and the terrestrial universe, all of which have been created in a state of grand natural equilibrium, “so weigh all things fairly and do not disturb the (God-ordained) balance.” (al-Rahman, 55:7).

Three other concepts of relevance to sustainability conveyed in the Quran, are firstly, humankind’s assignment as the trustees and vicegerents (Khalifah) of God on earth to act as bearers of a mission and responsibility to establish a just socio-economic order therein (al-Baqarah, 2:30). The utilisation of earth’s natural resources such as land, water, air, fire (energy), forests, and oceans are considered the right and joint property of the people. Since humankind is God’s vicegerent on earth, they should take every precaution to ensure the rights and interests of its other inhabitants, including the animals and birds, are fulfilled, not only of this but also of future generations.

The second and still related concept is that of ‘building the earth’ (i’mar al-ard), also known as ‘umran’, or building of a humane civilisation on earth, which has been expounded in much detail by Muslim scholars, notably the Andalusian scholar, ‘Abd al-Rahman Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406 CE) and others. Justice and being good to others (al-’adl wa’l- ihsan), which are essential to a humane civilisation, envisage not only the general wellbeing of the present but also of the future generation.

The third aspect of relevance to sustainability in the Quran is the avoidance of prodigality (Israf, al-A’raf, 7:31) and extravagance (al-tabdhir, al-Isra’, 17-27). The two are basically synonymous, yet a technical distinction has been drawn between them. Israf signifies prodigality and wasteful use of what is otherwise permissible, such as one who consumes food in excess, or uses water wastefully, even for purposes of cleanliness and ablution.

Tabdhir on the other hand is spending on that which is unlawful in the first place, such as the purchase of drugs and gambling tools. With regard to the former, the text says that “God does not love the prodigals — al-musrifun,” and in reference to the latter, that they are the “the devils’ brethren,” both of which expressions signify primarily moral and behavioural aspects of human conduct, but can be the subject of legal action if they amount to manifest harm (darar).

The lawful government is then authorised, under the concept of public interest (maslahah), and just policy (siyasah ‘adilah) to impose restrictions on that which may be permissible, and also to elevate to a prohibition what is reprehensible (makruh) in the shariah. The Islamic legal maxim-cum-hadith that ‘harm may not be inflicted nor reciprocated [in the name of] Islam would in principle authorise the individual and the community to take legal action against persons and organisations, even states, that are guilty of environmental damage and destruction.

The Prophet of Islam has added his voice to say with regard, for instance, to greening the earth that “anyone who plants a tree, no human nor any of God’s creatures will eat from it without it being reckoned as charity from him.”

In another widely quoted hadith, the Prophet has said that even if one hour remained before the final hour and one has a palm-shoot in his hand, he should plant it.

In yet another hadith report, Abu Barzah once asked the Prophet: “Teach me something so that I may derive benefit from it.”

He said, “Remove the trash away from the walkways of the Muslims.”

Muslim leaders, such as the first caliph Abu Baker, advised their troops that when engaged in war with the enemy forces, they must not chop down trees nor destroy agriculture, nor kill an animal, unless it be for essential human needs.

In another hadith, the Prophet has also said that anyone who “kills a sparrow in vain, God Almighty will take him to task for it in the Day of Judgment.”

Islamic teachings are also emphatic on cleanliness in both personal hygiene and the enhancement of beauty. With regard to the former, the Quran says that “God loves those who insist on cleanliness — al-mutatahhirin (al-Baqarah, 2:222), and the latter is the subject of a renowned hadith, which declares succinctly that “cleanliness is one half of the faith”.

Full report at:



Government is representation of God on earth: State Palace official

May 24, 2018

A former critic of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo who now works at the State Palace claims that Muslims must not insult the government as it is “a representation of God on earth.”

Ali Mochtar Ngabalin, who joined the Golkar Party after failing to clinch the leadership of the Islamist Crescent Star Party (PBB) in 2010, said the government needed strong support, particularly from the Muslim community as the largest religious group.

He said: “The government, from a religious perspective, should not be slandered [or] insulted. According to the Quran, the Gospel, the Torah and the Psalms, the government is a representation of God on earth.”

Ali, who is also known as a Muslim preacher, was a member of Prabowo Subianto’s campaign team during the 2014 presidential election, during which he urged God to side with Prabowo and give him victory.

He was recently appointed as an expert staffer for political communication and information dissemination at the office of Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko. According to media reports, Ali claimed to have been tasked with serving as a "government mouthpiece" and combating fake news about the government.

His appointment to the Presidential Office is widely seen as an attempt by Jokowi to mend relations between the President and Muslim constituents in urban areas, many of whom are believed to be susceptible to a barrage of fake news about Jokowi and his administration.

Jokowi is seeking re-election in the 2019 election and is likely to face Prabowo for a second time.

Ali seemed to confirm this, saying his background as chairman of the Coordinating Body of Indonesian Muslim Preachers (Bakomubin) and former chairman of the Coordinating Body of Mosque Youth would help him in his new position at the State Palace.

Full report at:



A Year After Extremist Siege, Philippine Families Seek Closure

May 24, 2018

Marawi City, Philippines. Mahid Radia's last glimpse of his parents was when he and his children were fleeing their home amid gunfire, explosions and the howl of airplanes bombing the dens of extremists who had taken over Marawi, the Philippines' only Islamic city.

The military prevailed over Islamic State-inspired rebels in the country's biggest and longest battle since World War II. One year since the fighting began, there is peace in Marawi, but little else.

Radia's lakeside home is a pile of rubble, like scores of others in the former war zone. His mother and father are still missing, and he yearns for closure.

"Our parents decided to stay home in the belief the fighting would end in days," said Radia, 31, the eldest of 11 siblings.

"We pray that if they died, their remains were retrieved."

Hundreds of families are missing relatives since the start of a war that few saw coming, and which could happen again, the government has warned, if Islamic State's radical ideology spreads among the Muslim minority in the mainly Catholic nation.

About 165 security force members and 47 residents were confirmed killed in the battle for Marawi. But people from Marawi believe the number of civilians killed was far higher.

The official death toll in the five-month war is 1,109, mostly members of a shadowy militant alliance that drew fighters from radical factions of domestic Islamist groups.

It has taken six months to clear hundreds of unexploded bombs and booby traps and for volunteers to sift the debris.

Samples of DNA have been taken from 244 retrieved bodies, prior to their burial in numbered graves. Radia hopes to find his mother and father, but tracing matches is difficult. Relatives have claimed just 11 bodies so far.

The task becomes tougher because the bodies of residents trapped or held captive in the war zone cannot be distinguished from those of slain militants.

"We had instances when we identified the deceased and we coordinated with the relatives, but they did not claim the cadaver," said Norhanie Marohombsar, the head of the Interior Ministry in Marawi.

"The relatives fear being tagged as part of the insurgency."

Struggle to Move On

Authorities and aid workers have different estimates of the number of residents still missing since the fighting ended in October.

Marawi Mayor Majul Gandamra put the number at 50, while the provincial disaster agency says it is 78. International Committee of the Red Cross workers in Marawi estimate 100 families are missing relatives.

Marawi evacuee Malik Manguda struggles to move on with his life because he does not know what happened to his 20-year-old son, Ramos. He has seen a photograph of a dead body that resembles his son, but it's not enough.

"Many times I am not myself," Manguda said. "I thought parents are supposed to die ahead of their children."

About 28,000 families remain displaced and many fear they will have no home to return to. With no money or insurance, some must also tackle issues of proving land ownership.

Residents have taken every opportunity to stake their claims during visits the military has recently begun to allow to the battle zone, lasting just a few hours each.

Names and contact details are spraypainted or etched in charcoal on the blackened skeletons of former homes. Others came prepared with tarpaulins and painted banners.

The military is bent on preventing a repeat of Marawi, but intelligence reports suggest an effort by extremists to start recruiting again. The government has warned against potential attacks on other cities.

The army has held meetings and seminars to warn people to resist radical groups and help the government to stop them.

Full report at:



South Asia


Why Sheikh Hasina’s Rohingya advocacy is her insurance policy for India visit

24 May 2018

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s unflinching support for Rohingya Muslims will pay her rich dividends in West Bengal - the adjoining Indian state with a Muslim population of over 27 percent - where the Bangladeshi premier will spend two packed days this week.

Hasina is scheduled to land in Calcutta, capital of West Bengal, on Friday morning to attend the convocation of Visva BharatiUniversity, founded by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, in Shantiniketan, accompanied by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Hasina will also inaugurate Bangladesh Bhawan in the university campus with Modi.

On Saturday, the visiting premier will be conferred a DLitt degree at the Kazi Nazrul Islam University, named after Bangladesh’s national poet, on the outskirts of the industrial city of Asansole in West Bardhaman district.

Government officials told Al Arabiya that protests and demonstrations by West Bengal Muslims would have inevitably marred the Bangladeshi premier’s visit if she had had not relentlessly championed the Rohingya cause since August 2017 - a principled stand which might even land her the Nobel Peace Prize next year.

“The visit will be trouble-free as Hasina has emerged as the savior of Rohingya Muslims which will shield her from criticism or condemnation by fellow Muslims at this juncture”, an Indian intelligence officer said. “Otherwise we would have had our hands full protecting her.”

Seething anger

Officials’ assessment is based on the seething anger displayed by hundreds of thousands of Urdu and Bengali-speaking Muslims in West Bengal since 2014 against Hasina’s Awami League government for conducting the trial of Jamaat and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leaders for 1971 war crimes and hanging them one by one for collaborating with Pakistan.

Calcutta witnessed some of the biggest demonstrations in South Asia against the imprisonment and execution of Jamaat leaders. Significantly, West Bengal Muslims did not participate in processions taken out in Calcutta in support of the Awami League-led Shahbagh movement in Bangladeshdemanding capital punishment for torture, rape and murder during the Independence War.

The aversion of West Bengal Muslims for all things Bangladeshi came to the fore in 2015 when Pakistani and Bangladeshi cricketers clashed in Calcutta’s Eden Gardens. The predominantly Muslim spectators in the stadium rooted for Pakistanis and booed Bangladeshis.

Teesta water

Significantly, when Mamata Banerjee bluntly told Hasina in Delhi in April 2017 that there was no question of sharing the waters of the River Teesta with Bangladesh, Muslims in West Bengal were even more happy than their Hindu brethren because of their anger at the executions and Shahbagh movement.

Ahead of Hasina’s April 2017 visit, Mohammad Qamruzzaman, general secretary of the All Bengal Minority Youth Federation (ABMYF), suddenly demanded the removal of Mujibur Rahman’s bust from Maulana Azad College’s Baker Hostel in Calcutta. Rahman, also known as Bongobondhu, is Hasina’s father who fought for Bangladesh’s liberation from Pakistan before he was assassinated.

But this time around, there is a consensus among Muslim outfits like ABMYF, Jamaat-e-Ulemai Hind, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and the West Bengal chapter of All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat which earlier led pro-Jamaat demonstrations, not to organize protests against Hasina’s visit.

A top West Bengal Muslim leader told Al Arabiya: “We appreciate Hasina’s decision o throw open Bangladesh to Rohingya Muslims who have nowhere else to go. She is hosting almost one million Muslim refugees despite the combined machinations of Myanmar, China, Russia and India.”

“Moreover she is visiting our state in the holy month of Ramzan and will be fasting according to the tenets of Islam. Hence there is no question of showing her black flags and shouting ‘Go Back’, but we might still submit a memorandum to stop the harassment of Jamaat cadres by government agencies in Bangladesh.”



US military strikes Taliban meeting in Afghanistan

May 25, 2018

KABUL - The US forces in Afghanistan targeted a meeting of Taliban leaders in Musa Qala district of the restive southern Helmand province on Thursday, said a statement of US Forces-Afghanistan released here.

“Task Force-Southwest, under US Forces-Afghanistan authorities, confirmed a ground-based rocket artillery strike using the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, against a command and control node for high-level Taliban leaders in Musa Qala district, May 24,” the statement said.

Musa Qala district is the main bastion of Taliban militants in the troubled and poppy growing Helmand province.

“The structure was a known meeting location for prominent Taliban leaders, where they planned and facilitated attacks against Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, who are supporting election security in the area,” the statement further said.

Without providing details on possible casualties on the Taliban fighters, the statement noted, “Strikes like this one not only degrade Taliban operations, but also give our partners the ability to maintain continuous pressure against a weakened enemy.”

Taliban outfit has yet to make comments.

Established in 2009, US Forces-Afghanistan is a US-led mission that directs and enables US military operations in support of Resolute Support, NATO’s train, advise and assist mission, as well as is to sustain campaign momentum in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, unknown armed militants gunned down two security personnel in the eastern Ghazni province on Wednesday, provincial government spokesman Aref Nuri said Thursday.

Unknown militants, according to the official, opened fire on a police patrol in Kalasabz locality outside Ghazni city, the capital of eastern Ghazni province, on Wednesday evening, killing two constables and injuring two others.

Full report at:



Rohingya need more financial aid to face monsoons: UN

May 25, 2018

A top UN official on Thursday urged greater financial support as monsoon season approaches some one million Rohingya Muslims taking shelter in refugee camps in Bangladesh.

“We expect the international community to step up and increase their monetary contribution,” Natalia Kanem, UN under-secretary general, told a press conference in the capital Dhaka capping her four-day visit to Bangladesh on the Rohingya issue.

The UN in March appealed for $950 million in humanitarian assistance for the some one million Rohingya and 300,000 locals affected by the refugee influx, she said.

Only 17 percent of the money has so far been received, said Kanem, also head of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

'Treat Rohingya children as your own'

Separately, Indian actress and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Priyanka Chopra said the world could learn from Bangladesh how to better respond to humanitarian crises.

She made the remarks during a courtesy call on Bangladeshi Premier Sheikh Hasina following her four-day visit to Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar.

"The world should learn from Bangladesh," a Prime Ministry spokesman quoted Chopra as saying, reported state-run Bangladesh Sangbad Sanstha (BSS) news agency.

The Bollywood celebrity praised Bangladesh for sheltering a million forcibly displaced Rohingya from Myanmar, additional press secretary Nazrul Islam told reporters.

"The world will have to take the responsibility of the Rohingya children," she said.

"Open your hearts with compassion. Please be sympathetic and treat these children as your own," Priyanka told a separate press conference.

She also said she feared a "lost generation" as many of the Rohingya children have no access to proper education and other basic facilities.

Fleeing crackdown

Since Aug. 25, 2017, some 750,000 Rohingya, mostly children and women, have fled to bordering Bangladesh after Myanmar forces began a crackdown on the minority Muslim community, according to Amnesty International.

At least 9,000 Rohingya were killed in Myanmar's Rakhine state from Aug. 25 to Sept. 24, 2017, according to Doctors Without Borders.

In a report published last December, the global humanitarian group said the deaths of 71.7 percent or 6,700 Rohingya were caused by violence. They include 730 children below the age of 5.

Turkey has been at the forefront of providing aid to Rohingya refugees, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has raised the issue at the UN.

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

Full report at:



Pak Ambassador in Kabul confirms Taliban’s contacts with regional countries

May 24 2018

The Pakistani Ambassador to Afghanistan Zahid Nasrullah Khan has confirmed that the Taliban group has good contacts with the regional countries as he admits that Pakistan has limited influence over the group.

Khan made the remarks during an interview with The Diplomat and in response to a question regarding President Ghani’s offer to Taliban for peace and the influence of Pakistan to encourage the group for participation in peace talks.

“We have communicated this to the international community, including the U.S., that one thing needs to be understood: the Afghan character is very independent. Even when the Soviets withdrew in 1989, and we had a lot of influence with the mujahideen because we stood with them in that proxy war, they never listened to us and they were never able to reach any agreement. Then, the second instance was when Mullah Omar was in power and 9/11 happened. Pakistan was the [only] country that was recognizing that government, even the UAE and Saudi Arabia had stepped back, but he never listened to us,” the Pakistani Ambassador said.

“So yes, we have influence, but limited influence. You cannot expect Pakistan to guarantee that they will listen to us – they may not listen to us. And also within the regional environment there are now also other countries with which Taliban have good contacts, their leadership especially,” he added.

This comes as the Afghan and US officials have long been insisting that the Taliban receives support from Russia and Iran apart from Pakistan.

Following a coordinated Taliban attack on Farah city, the Afghan defense minister said on Saturday that the recent violence in Farah province has links with the management of the water resources, apparently pointing towards Iran’s concerns regarding the management of water resources flowing from Afghanistan.

The US Department of Defense or Pentagon officials had earlier said that they are not ruling out the involvement of Iran in a major offensive carried out by the Taliban militants in western Farah city of Afghanistan.

Full report at:



Shaheen Corps confirm Afghan army casualties in Faryab attack

May 24 2018

The 209th Shaheen Corps of the Afghan Military in the North has confirmed the casualties of the Afghan armed forces in an overnight attack by the Taliban militants in northern Faryabn province.

The Shaheen Corps in a statement confirmed that the Taliban insurgents launched a coordinated attack on Gulzar and Gulzar-1 check posts in Sherin Tagab district late on Wednesday night.

The source further added that the Afghan forces responded to the Taliban attack but three soldiers lost their lives during the clash and at least five others were wounded.

According to Shaheen, at least three M16 rifles and a check post have fallen into the hands of the Taliban insurgents.

In the meantime, the Shaheen Corps says at least five Taliban insurgents were also killed and seven others were wounded during the clashes.

The Shaheen Corps says additional forces have been deployed in the area to suppress the Taliban insurgents.

On the other hand, reports emerging from the area suggest that 12 Afghan soldiers have lost their lives during the clash and a number of others have sustained injuries.

Full report at:



US wasted billions in failed Afghanistan stabilization program: Report

May 24, 2018

A US government watchdog has found that the United States wasted billions of dollars, purportedly trying to stabilize fragile parts of Afghanistan over the past 17 years.

The assessment has been made by Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko who presented a report in Washington on Thursday. 

"Despite some heroic efforts to stabilize insecure and contested areas in Afghanistan between 2002 and 2017, the program mostly failed," Sopko said.

Sopko went on to say that Washington had set unrealistic expectations for itself and overestimated its ability to build government institutions.

"This happened for a number of reasons, including the establishment of a set of unrealistic expectations about what could be achieved in just a few years' time."

The report also found that the US military pressured aid groups to build infrastructure in areas that were still being contested by the Taliban, leading to the failure of many projects.

"Opportunities for corruption and elite capture abounded, making many of those projects far more harmful than helpful," the report stated.

The SIGAR analysis noted that successes in stabilizing Afghan districts rarely lasted longer than the physical presence of coalition troops.

"Under immense pressure to quickly stabilize insecure districts, US government agencies spent far too much money, far too quickly, in a country woefully unprepared to absorb it," SIGAR noted.

Thursday’s report finds that bad strategies and policies in Afghanistan have led to billions wasted, more than 2,200 US troops killed and a dysfunctional country left behind.

The damning report found that much of the $4.7 billion spent on programs to stabilize areas cleared of insurgents has been largely wasted.

The US government has also appropriated about $126 billion purportedly set aside for rebuilding the country, most of it to train and equip security forces.

The huge flows of money into the impoverished country had the opposite effect of what was intended, the report said. Instead of bolstering the local government, the gusher of cash flooded the country with money that could not be spent fast enough.

“The large sums of stabilization dollars the United States devoted to Afghanistan in search of quick gains often exacerbated conflicts, enabled corruption, and bolstered support for insurgents,” the document stated.

“By fueling corruption and the population’s disillusionment with its government, the coalition undermined the very government it sought to legitimize and drove support for the insurgency.”

The US and its allies invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The offensive removed the Taliban regime from power, but after 17 years insecurity still persists in the country despite the presence of thousands of foreign troops.

After becoming president in 2008, Barack Obama vowed to end the US war in Afghanistan but failed to keep his promise.

Full report at:



Taliban, IS battling for control of rich mineral resources in Afghanistan: report

May 25, 2018

Satellite images reveal extensive mining operations not far from the site of a 2017 US airstrike in the Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan—an attack most Americans remember only because of the nightmarish nickname of the weapon employed: The “Mother of All Bombs.” The 20,000-pound GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast, or MOAB, was detonated above a massive tunnel complex as a group of suspected insurgents reportedly hid within.

According to an exhaustive report published Tuesday by Global Witness, an international conflict watchdog, the Islamic State in Afghanistan (ISKP) and the Taliban are presently battling for control of the country’s rich mineral resources in the Nangarhar province, with local communities caught in the crossfire. The report, titled, “At Any Price, We Will Take the Mines,” details how Afghan conflict minerals such as talc are mined by armed groups, including the Islamic State; delivered to Pakistan for exportation; and eventually find their way into consumer products sold in Western nations—predominately, the United States.

Talc, talcum, or soapstone, aka “baby powder,” is used in a wide variety of products, including cosmetics and oil-based paints. You can find it in dried foods and bubble gum. It’s used in papermaking and recycling; in pharmaceuticals and the production of rubber, ceramics, and olive oil.

More than 35 per cent of the talc imported from the US comes from Pakistan, though it’s no secret where most of it originates. “Large quantities of crude talc are mined in Afghanistan before being milled in and exported from Pakistan,” notes a January 2017 US Geological Survey report.

“Military action in itself is only a vehicle, and can be deeply damaging if it is done badly.”

According to Global Witness, a vast amount of the talc extracted by armed groups from Afghan mountains is exported to the United States by way of Pakistan, and a majority of the minerals are transported by truck through the government-held territory. The border crossing at Torkham, which has a considerable military presence on both sides and is used by US-led NATO forces to import supplies into landlocked Afghanistan, is reportedly a primary passage.

Peshawar, which sits along the entrance to the Khyber Pass—a historic Silk Road route—is a top destination for the trucks.

The Taliban alone is estimated to rake in roughly $300 million a year from the minerals mined in Afghanistan, including talc, though it’s difficult to say what percentage finds its way into Western markets.

“Of the revenue that’s coming from Afghan talc, you can say that a significant portion is ultimately coming from US and European consumers,” said Nick Donovan, campaign director at Global Witness. Pinpointing which specific companies are using particular shipments that ultimately benefited armed groups, however, is virtually impossible.

Global Witness’s sources, whose names the group withheld out of concern of retaliation against them, likened the trade to a “mafia system,” wherein the illegal extraction is protected by provincial authorities often with the support of the people, both of whom can benefit financially from the arrangement.

The minerals extracted from mines controlled by the Taliban and Islamic State militants almost all end up on the international market, from Italy to Australia and China, the report found. Pakistan remains America’s largest single source of talc, and Global Witness estimates that at least 20 per cent of those exports likely benefit armed groups.

In a 2016 report, Global Witness identified lapis luzuli, a blue stone found almost exclusively in Afghanistan’s Kokcha River valley, as a “conflict mineral,” a term denoting extracted natural resources in war zones, profits from which fuel human rights abuses, perpetuate destruction and death, and are in some cases obtained through slave labour.

The report paints US military intervention in particular as a disastrous recourse, as there would be little to no local support for American companies or NATO forces that attempted, in colonialist fashion, to seize control of the mines. Rather, it recommends empowering local communities by giving them a stake in legal mining operations.

It freely admits, however, a number of acutely distressing challenges: These communities could never stand up to Islamic State forces, and other tribal and social conflicts in the region make cooperation difficult to achieve.

“Three key elements are needed: a viable channel for fair redistribution; transparency and monitoring at a local level; and in some cases community ownership or legalized artisanal production,” the report says.

As for the Afghanistan government, blocking the transfer of minerals mined by armed groups is a recommended first step. But while it is important that the government generate revenue, the report says, the communities themselves should own and operate the mines—not Western corporations.

Last year, President Trump, reportedly prodded by President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan, had considered the nation’s vast mineral wealth as a reason to continue the war, which is now in its 16th year. “To the victor belong the spoils,” he said.

Motivations aside, some of Trump’s top advisers and close associates only stand to profit from continued US military involvement in the region; namely, Stephen Feinberg, the CEO of Cerberus Capital, which owns DynCorp, a major military contractor; and Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater and brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who is close to the Trump family and has proposed plans to privatize the war by embedding US mercenaries within the Afghan National Security Forces.

Full report at:



North America


Muslim Prison Inmates Fed Pork during Ramadan In US

May 25, 2018

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - A federal judge granted a restraining order on Thursday (May 24) forcing prison guards in Alaska to stop giving Muslim inmates pork as they break their fasts during Ramadan, rights campaigners said.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) filed a lawsuit on Tuesday claiming Anchorage Correctional Complex had violated constitutional prohibitions against "cruel and unusual punishment".

CAIR said the US District Court for Alaska had granted its request for an emergency temporary order requiring guards to provide adequate meals in accordance with government health guidelines.

"CAIR has reported an unprecedented spike in bigotry targeting American Muslims and members of other minority groups since the election of Donald Trump as President," the Washington-based organisation said in a statement.

Muslims are currently marking the holy month of Ramadan, fasting from dawn until sunset, which means going without food for around 18 hours in Anchorage.

Inmates observing the festival are given rations equating to 1,100 calories a day at most, according to the complaint, far short of the recommended daily amount of around 2,500 calories for men.

The packages contain food made of pork, which is forbidden in Islam, rendering the actual nutritional value of the meals even more inadequate.

CAIR said the treatment contravened the Religious Land Use and Institutionalised Persons Act and violated First and 14th Amendment rights to equal protection and free exercise of religion.

The suit seeks a "balanced nutritional diet" for inmates, as well as policy changes and compensatory and punitive damages.

The Alaska corrections department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Ramadan began on May 16 in the United States and will end on or around June 15.



Apps and social media helping Calgary Muslims navigate Ramadan 2018

May 24, 2018

Muslims in Calgary are turning to their mobile devices to help organize their busiest time of the year: the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

There are more Ramadan-related apps than ever available to download, along with Calgary-based Facebook groups and pages that provide hyper-local resources and information for local Muslims.

During Ramadan, Muslims don't eat or drink between dawn and sunset. It's a time for spiritual reflection, prayer and spending time with family and friends while connecting with the community and helping those in need.

Social media can help provide all kinds of information and answers to a long list of questions throughout the month.

"When will Ramadan start? When will I break my fast? When will I start my fast? When is the prayer time? When is Ramadan finishing?" said Abid Khan, who helps manage a Facebook group for Calgary's Pakistani community and uses Ramadan apps himself.

"It's so easy now, everything came to my cellphone," said Khan, who remembers not so long ago when it wasn't quite as easy to stay informed.

"Before social media, we had to call the Imam of the mosque and ask him what is happening, or we have to watch TV or listen to radio. Back home, we had to go to the mosque ourselves to find out what is happening," Khan said. "Now we have so many good apps."

"I use an app called Isalam, an Arabic app, and it has prayer times and what time we will break our fast and the duration of each fast over the next 30 days. It tells me almost everything about Ramadan," Khan said.

There are apps to help children and adults know, learn and memorize different duas, or personal prayers. Apps like Muslim Pro keep people updated on fasting times and recommend nearby mosques and restaurants for when it comes to breaking the fast each night.

Other prayer-based apps like Quran Majeed help users read the Quran while they are on the move with different languages and verse-by-verse recitations. In the spirit of Ramadan, other apps allow you to make donations, with some helping to feed Syrian refugees.

Apps tailored to Ramadan

Apps like Lose It track your weight and calorie intake during Ramadan and allow users who are fasting to keep on top of nutritional information. There are also apps similar to Skip The Dishes, offering a culinary lifeline to those without the time or skills to cook, linking users to restaurants where they can access their favourite iftar meals.

Iftar is the evening meal Muslims eat at sunset to break their daily fast. Fasting is one of Islam's five pillars, along with faith, prayer, charity and making a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca, in Saudi Arabia.

"We know from social media how we have to fast, where we have to go, where are our mosques, where we have to go for musallahs [open spaces for praying], how many iftar parties there are in our city," said Junaid Bahadur Khan.

"I use social media a lot to look for where I have to go for iftar parties in Calgary because there are a lot of parties during Ramadan. Ramadan is about getting together, having family dinners every day and you have to talk to other people, if someone needs anything. It's about sharing, caring and getting together, and I use social media to get together," said Khan.

Khan says social media is also helping non-Muslims learn more about Muslims and Islam at this time of year, helping demystify Ramadan.

"Now you can talk to people and even experience and observe what they are doing. You know people are fasting, what they are doing, what they have to do and how they're interacting with each other," said Khan.

Full report at:



US House Backs Measure to Clamp Down on Myanmar Over Rohingya Rights

May 25, 2018

Washington. Members of the US House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday (22/05) in favor of legislation to pressure Myanmar, also known as Burma, to improve its record on human rights.

Lawmakers voted 382-30 to approve the measure as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, a massive defense policy bill that is one of the few pieces of legislation passed by the US Congress every year.

Nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled into Bangladesh from Myanmar since August to escape a military crackdown, launched in response to Rohingya insurgent attacks. Refugees have reported murder, rape and arson by Myanmar troops.

Washington has called the army response "ethnic cleansing," which Myanmar has denied, saying its security forces were conducting a legitimate counter-insurgency operation against "Bengali terrorists."

If included in a final version of the NDAA, typically passed by the House and Senate later in the year, the measure would, among other things, bar US security assistance or cooperation with Myanmar's military or security forces until they have made progress on human rights.

It also would impose sanctions on current or former senior Myanmar military officials who perpetrated or were responsible for serious human rights abuses.

The amendment was introduced by Representative Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Full report at:



US envoys treated badly in Pakistan, Pompeo tells Congress

Anwar Iqbal

May 25, 2018

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has informed the Congress that American officials are treated badly in Pakistan, adding that Washington released “far fewer funds” to Pakistan in 2018 and may give even less next year.

The decision to raise the issue of mistreatment of US officials in Pakistan during a public hearing at the House Foreign Affairs Committee indicates that Islamabad’s once close relationship with Washington has almost ended and Pakistan is now treated as an adversary.

“My officers, our state department officers are being treated badly as well, folks working in the embassies and councils [and] in other places are not being treated well by the Pakistani government either,” said Mr Pompeo during a debate on the US State Department’s budget requests for the next fiscal year.

While the discussion focused on Iran, North Korea and other urgent issues, Congressman Brad Sherman, a California Democrat, brought Pakistan into the debate, saying: “As to Pakistan, it is a country of great importance to us and…I hope the state department would do public diplomacy in the Sindhi language and I hope that you would reach out to the leaders of Pakistan about the disappearances in Sindh and the forced disappearances [in other areas].”

Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican, later noted that the Trump administration’s budget request for the next year had no increase for Pakistan. “I don’t see any reason whatsoever to give the government of Pakistan any money…in terms of our foreign aid until Dr [Shakil] Afridi, the man who helped us bring justice to Osama bin Laden [is released],” he said.

“Our Pakistani friends have proven their friendship by keeping them in a dungeon in Afghanistan,” he added with a sarcastic note.

Secretary Pompeo informed him that the administration had “released far fewer funds” in 2018 than in the previous year. “The remainder of the funds available are under review. My guess is that that number will be smaller still,” he said.

He said that in his previous role as the head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), he “worked diligently [but] unsuccessfully” on the issue of Dr Afridi. “Please be aware that it’s at my heart and I know it’s important and we can do that. We can achieve that outcome,” he added.

Congressman Rohrabacher, who, like Mr Sherman, often works with Pakistani dissident groups in Washington, went back to the issue of forced disappearances.

“And it’s getting worse in Pakistan. These people in Karachi and the Sindhis and the others, they’re now facing these, you know, people who are killing their leaders or killing their people who believe in certain things that are different than the radical Islamic philosophy of some of the people in the Pakistani government,” he said.

Secretary Pompeo raised the issue of mistreatment of US officials in Pakistan while responding to Mr Rohrabacher’s remarks, claiming that Pakistan was meting out a similar treatment of American diplomats as well.

It is “a real problem that we need to take the measure of also,” he said.

Earlier this month, the United States ordered Pakistani diplomats in Washington to remain within a 25-mile radius of the city, indicating that it was in retaliation for similar restrictions on US diplomats in Islamabad and other Pakistani cities.

Thomas Suozzi, a New York Democrat, asked the secretary who would be his main point person on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Full report at:



US Iran sanctions take aim at airlines

May 25, 2018

WASHINGTON - The US ramped up sanctions on Iran Thursday, targeting several airlines it said were linked to the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

The US Treasury placed on its blacklist nine individuals and entities in Iran and Turkey for obtaining aircraft parts, including restricted US-made parts, and supporting the operations of Mahan Air, Caspian Air, Meraj Air, and Pouya Air.

The nine were labelled “Specially Designated Global Terrorists” for their support of the four carriers, which are all already under US sanctions. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that, by helping the four, “they extend a lifeline to the IRGC-QF and enable the Iranian regime to transport weapons, fighters, and money to its proxies, including Hezbollah, and to prop up the brutal Assad regime” in Syria. “Countries and companies around the world should take note of the risks associated with granting landing rights and providing aviation services to the airlines used by Iran to export terrorism throughout the region.”

Full report at:



US wasted billions in failed Afghan stabilization efforts: official

May 24, 2018

WASHINGTON - The United States wasted billions of dollars trying to stabilize fragile parts of Afghanistan from 2001-2017 and some efforts caused more harm than good, a US government watchdog said Thursday.

A report by the office of the Special Inspector for Afghanistan Reconstruction found that Washington had set unrealistic expectations for itself after the US-led invasion in 2001 and overestimated its ability to build and reform government institutions.

"Despite some heroic efforts to stabilize insecure and contested areas in Afghanistan between 2002 and 2017, the program mostly failed," Special Inspector General John Sopko said as he presented the report in Washington.

"This happened for a number of reasons, including the establishment of a set of unrealistic expectations about what could be achieved in just a few years' time."

The report found that the military pressured aid groups to build schools and infrastructure in areas that were still being contested by the Taliban, leading to the failure of many projects.

"Opportunities for corruption and elite capture abounded, making many of those projects far more harmful than helpful," the document states.

The SIGAR analysis found that Washington had set expectations and programs not properly tailored for Afghanistan, and noted that successes in stabilizing Afghan districts rarely lasted longer than the physical presence of coalition troops and civilians.

Full report at:



U.S.-backed Syrian forces arrest French Islamic State leader: SDF

MAY 24, 2018

BEIRUT (Reuters) - The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on Thursday they had arrested a French citizen who headed an Islamic State group in Syria and had been involved in the Paris and Nice attacks in 2015 and 2016.

An SDF statement said the man arrested was Adrien Lionel Kayali and that he was born in 1983 and converted to Islam in 2003. It said Kayali, who also goes by the name of Abu Osama, had been arrested and then released in France in 2010 on suspicion of belonging to terrorist organizations.

French media have reported the captured man’s name as French citizen Adrien Guihal, wanted in connection with terrorist activities in France.

SDF media spokesman Mustafa Bali told Reuters Adrien Lionel Kayali and Adrien Guihal were two names for the same man.

French judicial sources told Reuters on Thursday there is an arrest warrant for an Adrien Guihal from 2015, and that he is suspected of having claimed responsibility for attacks in Nice and Magnanville, near Paris, in France in 2016.

The SDF, a alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters led by the Kurdish YPG militia, said it believed Kayali had entered Syria in March 2015 into Islamic State-held territory. The SDF said it captured him in the Raqqa region of northern Syria.

Full report at:



Arab World


Lebanese lawmakers designate Hariri as PM: Aoun's office

May 24, 2018

The office of Lebanon’s president says a majority of lawmakers in parliament have endorsed Sa’ad al-Hariri, designating the Western-backed politician as prime minister for a third time.

The office of Michel Aoun said in a statement on Thursday that Hariri had won the backing of 111 out of 128 members of Lebanon’s new parliament during official consultations with the president earlier in the day.

Lebanon’s post of prime minister is reserved for a Sunni Muslim politician. Despite losing more than a third of his MPs in a May 6 election, Hariri was still the leading Sunni figure and a clear frontrunner for the post.

Local media said Hariri would swiftly launch negotiations with other parties on forming a coalition government.

The Lebanese Hezbollah resistant movement had named nobody for the post.

However, Mohammed Raad, head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc, said after meeting Aoun that the movement would cooperate “positively” with whoever was designated.

Hezbollah as well as groups and individuals affiliated to it won 70 seats in the 128-member legislature.

An anti-Hezbollah alliance led by Hariri and supported by Saudi Arabia had won a majority in the Lebanese parliament in 2009, but it has since disintegrated.

Hariri acknowledged his bloc’s defeat in the elections and vowed that he would cooperate with all political factions in order to fulfill the wishes of the Lebanese people who “voted for security and stability of Lebanon.”

In remarks after Aoun designated him to be prime minister, Hariri said that the new national unity government he has been tasked to form must commit to the state’s policy of staying out of regional conflicts.

Lebanon’s Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said on Thursday the consultations on forming the new government would take place on Monday.



Missiles hit Hezbollah weapon depot in Syria’s Homs: monitor

May 24, 2018

DAMASCUS: Missiles hit a weapons depot on Thursday belonging to the Lebanese Hezbollah movement at Syria’s Dabaa military air base in the central province of Homs, a monitor said.

“Six missiles were fired at the Dabaa military airport and surrounding area in the western sector of Homs province, targeting Lebanese Hezbollah weapons depots,” Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP.

“The missiles would have been fired by Israel,” he added.

A source close to the Lebanese-Syrian border told AFP that planes had flown over Lebanese airspace and “some people are still expecting new strikes.”

Israeli planes often use Lebanese airspace to conduct raids in Syria.

Syria’s official SANA news agency confirmed the air base had been targeted, but said air defenses had intercepted the missiles.

“One of our military airports was the target of missiles intercepted by our anti-aircraft defenses,” SANA said, citing a military source.

There were no casualties immediately reported, but SANA reported explosions in the area.

Hezbollah, backed by Iran, fights in Syria alongside President Bashar Assad’s forces.

Tensions are high in Syria after several Israeli bombing raids in recent weeks on regime positions, as well as on military instillations reportedly used by government ally Iran.

Full report at:



Syrian Army Preparing to Fully Cleanse Deir Ezzur from ISIL

May 24, 2018

The sources reported that the Syrian army has sent a large number of its forces and military equipment from Damascus, Hama, Aleppo and Homs to Syria's Badiyeh region in Eastern Deir Ezzur.

They added that the development came after ISIL's recent attacks against the Syrian army positions, stressing that the army intends to launch massive operations to fully cleanse the ISIL remnants from the region.

The Syrian army has recently repelled several attacks by the ISIL terrorists against the Badiyehs (deserts) of Al-Bu Kamal and al-Mayadeen in Eastern Deir Ezzur.

Relevant reports said on Wednesday that the Syrian army troops engaged in fierce clashes with ISIL in a desert-like region between Western Deir Ezzur and Eastern Homs and fended off terrorists' heavy offensive, killing or wounding a large number of the gunmen.

The army men exchanged fire with ISIL after the terrorists tired to break through the government forces' positions in Badiyeh near the town of al-Mayadeen and another Badiyeh near the villages in the Northern countryside of the town of Albu Kamal in Southeastern Deir Ezzur near the border with Iraq, and managed to repel the terrorists' heavy offensives.

Terrorists suffered tens of casualties in the failed attacks.

In the meantime, other units of the army clashed with the ISIL near an army positions near Oweiraz Dam Southeast of T3 Station in Southeastern Badiyeh of Homs, repelling the terrorists' attack after killing and injuring a large number of them.

Full report at:



US-Backed SDF Forces Attack Several Villages after Syrian Flag Hoisted in Raqqa

May 24, 2018

Local sources in Western Raqqa reported on Thursday that people hoisted the Syrian flag in several villages and towns in the region on Wednesday, provoking the Kurdish SDF forces to attack the villages of Kadiran, al-Salhabiat, A'ayouj, al-Jayef, al-Adnaniyeh and al-Mansoureh in Western Raqqa and the two first and second districts in the town of al-Tabaqah.

The SDF fighters also detained a large number of civilians during the raids and seized the cell phones of most of the young people in the villages of Fatih, A'ayouj and al-Mansoureh.

Meantime, reports said that tens of young people in the second district of al-Tabaqah held rallies to protest at the Kurdish gunmen's forced recruitment in the region.

In a relevant development on Tuesday, a large number of people in Eastern and Northern Raqqa demonstrated against the forced recruitment of young men by the predominately Kurdish US-backed SDF in Northern and Western Raqqa.

The SDF embarked on arresting fifty young men in the villages of al-Karama, Hara Balasem and Hamra Boweita in Eastern Raqqa and in the town of Ein Issa in Northern Raqqa under a recruitment plan.

The SDF move angered villagers in al-Karama that took to the village's main street and demonstrated against the Kurdish militias. 

Full report at:



US-Led Coalition Attacks Syrian Army Positions in Deir Ezzur to Support ISIL

May 24, 2018

The Arabic-language website of SANA news agency quoted the sources as saying that the US warplanes have bombed a number of the Syrian army positions between Albu Kamal and Hamimeh.

Other reports also said that the US-led coalition has pounded 2 positions of the army in Syria's Badiyeh (desert) region near the T2 station.

They added that the airstrikes were staged as the ISIL terrorists are recruiting their forces, noting that the attacks inflicted damage on a number of structures.

The airstrikes were launched in less than 24 hours after the army units repelled the ISIL terrorists' offensives on several military points in Badiyeh al-Mayadeen in Deir Ezzur, killing several militants, including foreign terrorists, and wounding a number of others.

In a relevant development on Wednesday, the Syrian army troops engaged in fierce clashes with the ISIL in a desert-like region between Western Deir Ezzur and Eastern Homs and fended off terrorists' heavy offensive, killing or wounding a large number of the gunmen.

The army men exchanged fire with ISIL after the terrorists tired to break through the government forces' positions in Badiyeh near the town of al-Mayadeen and another Badiyeh near the villages in the Northern countryside of the town of Albu Kamal in Southeastern Deir Ezzur near the border with Iraq, and managed to repel the terrorists' heavy offensives.

Terrorists suffered tens of casualties in the failed attacks.

In the meantime, other units of the army clashed with the ISIL near an army positions near Oweiraz Dam Southeast of T3 Station in Southeastern Badiyeh of Homs, repelling the terrorists' attack after killing and injuring a large number of them.

Full report at:



Syrian Army Repels Tahrir Al-Sham's Offensive in Hama

May 24, 2018

The army units engaged in heavy clashes with the terrorists who intended to enter Moharedah region in Northwestern Hama from the village of al-Zalaqiyat on Thursday.

Meantime, the artillery and missile units of the Syrian army fiercely pounded Tahrir al-Sham's moves in areas of clashes as well as the town of al-Latamineh al-Zakat and the nearby areas.

Field sources said that the army has succeeded in repulsing militants' offensive, adding that during the clashes a number of terrorists were killed and wounded and several of their military vehicles were destroyed.

They noted that other terrorists were forced to flee the scene.

The Syrian army's artillery and missile units launched a heavy shelling attack on the positions of Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at in Northern Hama on Wednesday, damaging their strongholds and inflicting a number of casualties on the militants.

The artillery and missile units opened heavy fire at Tahrir al-Sham's positions near the village of al-Zakah and the town of al-Latamina, destroying several heavy vehicles and killing or wounding a number of terrorists.

Other artillery and missile units pounded more strongholds of the terrorists in Kafr Zita region in Northern Hama, destroying a position and a volume of military equipment and killing several gunmen.

In the meantime, a unit of the army opened fire at a group of Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at in the village of al-Ankawi in Western al-Ghaab Plain and managed to repel their attack.

Full report at:



Syrian Army Increases Moves in Dara'a, Russia Warns Terrorists

May 24, 2018

The sources reported that a military convoy of the Syrian army has been sent to its bases in Brigade 9 of Dara'a in Southern Syria on Wednesday.

They noted that the convoy has returned to its base after the army gained control over all regions in Damascus, adding that the army units have recently increased their military moves in Northern Dara'a.

Humeimim airbase announced in its official website that ending the de-escalation agreement is inevitable as ISIL and the al-Nusra Front (also known as Fatah al-Sham Front or the Levant Liberation Board) terrorists are deployed in Southern Syria.

It added that if the Russian-Syrian negotiations to implement the peace agreement in Dara'a fail, the military operations will start to cleanse the region.

Military sources in Damascus reported on Wednesday that a Syrian-Russian reconciliation delegation was forwarded to Dara'a province to offer the militants to lay down their arms and join the peace agreement with the Syrian Army.

The sources said that the reconciliation delegation has been sent to the towns of Nahij and Mohaja to call on the militants to end battle with the army and endorse the peace agreement.

The sources further said that if the militants reject the peace offer the army will launch military operation against them.

Also, the sources said that the army has sent a long convoy of military equipment and thousands of fresh forces to Azra base in Dara'a.

Full report at:



Army Grants Amnesty to Thousands of Militants in Central Syria

May 24, 2018

The Arabic-language al-Watan daily quoted informed sources in Homs province as saying on Thursday that 8,000 militants have gone to the peace committees in the towns of al-Rastan, Talbiseh, Taldou, al-Za'aferaneh, Ezzeddin and al-Dar al-Kabireh so far to receive amnesty since the start of the implementation of the second paragraph of the reconciliation agreement in Northern and Northwestern Homs.

Meantime, 500 militants who opposed certain paragraphs of the agreement declared that they will leave the region towards Jarabulus.

The sources also said that a number of family members of the terrorists in Jarabulus and Idlib who had left Homs before have called on the government officials to grant them amnesty to return to Central Syria after experiencing difficulties and mistreatment in Idlib.

Al-Watan had also reported on Monday that almost 3,000 militants that had laid down arms received government amnesty in Northern Homs after all other militants who had turned down the government's peace offer were expelled from the region.

It reported that the army has started granting amnesty to the militants that have laid down arms and applied for government pardoning in al-Rastan, Talbiseh, al-Za'aferaniyeh, Ezzeddeen, Dara al-Kabireh and Taldou in Northern and Northwestern Homs.

It further said that almost 3,000 militants have registered at peace committees in Northern and Northwestern Homs to receive government amnesty.

Full report at:



Syrian monitor: At least 12 killed in presumed US-led strike

24 May 2018

A Syria war-monitoring group says at least 12 pro-government fighters were killed in airstrikes the previous night in the country’s east.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says none of the fatalities were Syrian nationals but foreign fighters.

Syria’s government forces have relied on support from the Lebanese militant Hezbollah group and also regional militias organized by Iran to wage war on rebels and Islamic State militants.

In Damascus, government media reported early on Thursday that international coalition aircraft struck Syrian army positions near the front lines with ISIS in eastern Syria.

The Observatory says the US-led coalition was likely behind the strikes but the Pentagon said it had “no information to substantiate those reports.”



Iraq says suicide bomber kills 7 in northern Baghdad park

24 May 2018

A suicide bomber blew himself up late Wednesday at a crowded park in Iraq’s capital, killing at least seven people in the first such attack in Baghdad since the start a week ago of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, security officials said.

They said police and emergency workers intercepted the bomber as he entered the park in Shoala, a mainly Shiite district in northern Baghdad, but he managed to set off his bomb before being caught.

At least 16 people were wounded in the attack, which the officials said could have claimed many more victims if the bomber had gotten himself deeper into the park before blowing himself up.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Baghdad’s parks, outdoor eateries, cafes and commercial areas are usually packed during Ramadan starting shortly after sunset until the small hours of the next day when Muslims eat their last meal before they begin their daily dawn-to-sunset fast.

Ramadan this year fell in the summer, making the fast particularly grueling given the season’s typically high temperatures in Iraq. Muslims refrain from drink, food and sex from dawn to sunset during Ramadan, which began in Iraq on May 17.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing, which bore the hallmarks of the Islamic State extremist group. Iraq has been plagued by nearly daily attacks blamed on militants for most of the 15 years since the 2003 US invasion of Iraq.

Baghdad, a favorite target, has seen a dramatic drop in the number of attacks blamed on militants since the government declared victory over the IS group in December. That ended more than three years of war in which security forces backed by a US-led coalition drove IS fighters out of large swaths of territory once held by the group.

Full report at:



Damascus area residents return home after Daesh purged

May 24, 2018

Government troops raises the Syrian flag over buildings in the Hajar al-Aswad district south of the capital Damascus. The strategic area was retaken from Daesh Takfiri terrorists several days ago. As our correspondent Zahra al-Derzi reports, residents who’d fled Hajar al-Aswad long before are now returning to check on their homes.





Turkish Army, Ankara-Backed Militants Engage in Infighting in Afrin

May 24, 2018

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Thursday that members of a militant group called 'Olive Branch' engaged in armed clashes with Ahrar al-Sharqiyeh fighters, who are mostly from Deir Ezzur province, leading to injury of a number of gunmen on both sides.

It added that immediately after the clashes, the Turkish police and Ahrar al-Sharqiyeh militants also engaged in infighting, making the former send more forces and military equipment to Afrin.

According to the report, the terrorists in Afrin are on alert now as sporadic clashes are still witnessed in the region.

In a relevant development last week, two Ankara-backed militant groups engaged in fierce clashes in Afrin region over distribution of assets they looted form local civilians' houses and shops.

Ahrar al-Sham and al-Shamiyeh Front, both backed up by the Turkish army, exchanged heavy fire in Afrin over the distribution of the assets they had stolen from locals' houses.

The infighting left a number of casualties on both warring sides.

In the meantime, the Kurdish-language Hawar news reported that Ahrar al-Sham terrorists stormed the village of Karzileh in Shirawa region and captured almost 200 young and middle-aged men and kept them in the village's school.



Israeli court approves demolition of Palestinian village in West Bank

24 May 2018

Israel’s supreme court ruled on Thursday in favor of demolishing a Palestinian Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank, despite a campaign by European governments to save it.

Campaigners said the hearing had been the final appeal open to the village of Khan al-Ahmar, located close to several Israeli settlements east of Jerusalem.

It was unclear when the demolition of the village home to around 180 residents would take place.

In its ruling, the court said it found “no reason to intervene in the decision of the minister of defence to implement the demolition orders issued against the illegal structures in Khan al-Ahmar.”

The residents would be relocated elsewhere, it added, in a move critics say amounts to forcible transfer.

The court ruled that the village was built without the relevant building permits.

Such permits are nearly impossible to obtain for Palestinians in Israeli-controlled areas of the West Bank.

“This verdict takes away the absolute minimal protection the Bedouin communities received until recently from the court”, Shlomo Lecker, the lawyer representing the village, said in a statement.

“By any standard of international humanitarian law, the verdict is an approval by the Israeli court of a crime against humanity.”

The decision was likely to be met with anger by European governments, who had been fighting to save the village.

Last week the head of the British consulate-general in Jerusalem visited the village and said in a video clip published online that the planned demolition was a “matter of great concern for the UK and indeed for the European Union.”

Earlier on Thursday,  Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced 2,500 new settlement units in the West Bank.

Full report at:



2 Palestinians wounded in Gaza border clashes die

25 May 2018

Two Palestinians wounded in clashes with Israeli troops on the Gaza border died on Thursday of their wounds, Palestinian health officials in Gaza and the West Bank said.

The health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip said that Ahmed Qutoosh, 23, was shot by soldiers “several days ago” east of Bureij, in the central Gaza Strip, without giving further details.

In the West Bank city of Hebron, medical officials told AFP that 21-year-old Mohanad Abu Tahun had been wounded in the Gaza clashes and transferred to the city's Al-Ahli Hospital on Wednesday.

They did not say on which date he was shot.

He was one of many Gaza casualties moved out of the coastal territory for treatment after the bloody border clashes left hospitals there overwhelmed.

Violence peaked on May 14, with at least 62 Palestinians killed by Israeli gunfire when thousands of Palestinians protested as the US officially moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Tensions between Israel and Gaza have spiraled since March 30, when Palestinians began protesting for the right to return to the homes their families fled or were expelled from in 1948, during the war surrounding the creation of Israel.

A total of at least 121 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since then, according to Palestinian medical officials.

No Israelis have been killed during that time.

Israel says its actions are necessary to defend the border and stop mass infiltrations from the territory.

Full report at:



Israel plans 2,500 new settler homes in West Bank

24 May 2018

Israel’s defense minister said on Thursday he plans to seek approval next week for the construction of some 2,500 new homes in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Avigdor Lieberman, writing on Twitter, said a regional planning board would be asked to designate 1,400 of the housing units for immediate construction.

Settlements are one of the most heated issues in efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, frozen since 2014.

Palestinians want the West Bank for a future state, along with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Most countries consider settlements that Israel has built in territory it captured in the 1967 Middle East war to be illegal.

Israel disputes that its settlements are illegal and says their future should be determined in peace talks with the Palestinians.

“We will promote building in all of Judea and Samaria, from the north to south, in small communities and in large ones,” Lieberman wrote, using the Biblical names for the West Bank.

There was no immediate comment from Palestinian officials, who have long argued that Israeli settlements could deny them a viable and contiguous country.

Full report at:



US weighs UN funding cuts after Palestinians join agencies

24 May 2018

The United States is considering whether to cut funding to two UN agencies and the chemical weapons watchdog after the Palestinians joined the organizations, a US official said Wednesday.

In a move aimed at boosting their international profile, the Palestinians have joined the UN trade development organization UNCTAD, industrial development agency UNIDO and the Chemical Weapons Convention which is upheld by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

US legislation bars funding for UN agencies or affiliates that grant membership to Palestine, which has the status of a non-member observer state at the United Nations.

“It has been the consistent position of the United States that efforts by the Palestinians to join international organizations are premature and counterproductive,” a US official said.

“We will review the application of US legislative restrictions related to Palestinian membership in certain UN agencies and organizations,” the official added.

The Palestinian move comes amid a rift with President Donald Trump’s administration over its decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The Palestinians want to make East Jerusalem the capital of their promised future state.

US pressure

Nickolay Mladenov, the UN coordinator for the Middle East, told the Security Council that the Palestinians had joined Geneva-based UNCTAD, Vienna-based UNIDO and the Chemical Weapons Convention last week.

The United States withdrew in 1996 from UNIDO, a little-known agency that promotes “inclusive and sustainable industrial development,” according to its website.

The OPCW and UNCTAD rely on voluntary contributions from UN member-states to fund its activities as well as regular funding for its budget.

The United States withdrew some funding for UNESCO when the Palestinians joined the cultural and education agency in 2011 and last year pulled out of the agency altogether.

The Trump administration has also cut funds to the UN Palestinian refugee agency, leaving UNRWA struggling to fill a major budget gap for its education and health programs.

The Palestinians angered Israel when they became a state-party to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2015.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki this week met with the ICC chief prosecutor to push for an investigation of Israeli war crimes after more than 60 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in Gaza, the worst violence since the 2014 war.

Full report at:



In Beijing, Merkel says Germany, China stand by Iran deal

May 24, 2018

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says Berlin and Beijing, both signatories to the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, are standing by the multilateral accord after Washington’s withdrawal.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the deal is officially called, “is far from ideal but other options are even less stable,” Merkel said during a joint press conference with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing on Thursday.

“That is why we will continue to respect this agreement,” she added.

Germany and China have both decried US President Donald Trump’s decision to walk away from the JCPOA and are trying to find ways to protect the companies doing business with Iran from American sanctions.

Angela Merkel further highlighted Beijing’s future role to fill in the trade vacuum after the re-imposition of economic bans against Iran.

“Sanctions will likely lead some European companies to pull out of Iran,” she added.

On May 8, Trump announced Washington's pullout from the Iran nuclear deal, vowing to reinstate nuclear sanctions on Iran and impose “the highest level” of economic bans on the Islamic Republic.

In a recent speech that laid out the Trump administration’s new strategy on Iran, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened Iran with the “strongest sanctions in history” if it does not comply with a list of 12 US demands.

Iran has said it would make a decision on its future role in the JCPOA in the coming weeks following negotiations with the other signatories of the agreement.

Tehran also wants the European parties to give assurances that Iran’s interests would still be protected under a deal without the US.

In the first measure to protect the deal, the European Commission activated last week the Blocking Statute to neutralize the effect of US bans on Iran. The law, which was adopted in 1996, makes it illegal for any European Union company to comply with US sanctions.

Full report at:



Nearly 50 more suspects arrested across Turkey over affiliation to Gulen network

May 24, 2018

Turkish police forces have arrested 49 people on suspicion of affiliation to a movement led by the US-based opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom the Ankara government accuses of having masterminded the July 2016 coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

A judicial source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Thursday that twelve suspects, sought by arrest warrants, were detained in the western provinces of Izmir and Canakkale, the eastern province of Van and the capital Ankara.

The source added that 22 suspects, including serving army personnel, were rounded up by police in the southern province of Adana.

Additionally, 14 former police officers and one teacher were arrested over their alleged links to the Gulen movement in the central province of Tokat.

During the botched putsch, a faction of the Turkish military declared that it had seized control of the country and the government of Erdogan was no more in charge. The attempt was, however, suppressed a few hours later.

Ankara has since accused Gulen of having orchestrated the coup. The opposition figure is also accused of being behind a long-running campaign to topple the government via infiltrating the country’s institutions, particularly the army, police and the judiciary.

Gulen has denounced the “despicable putsch” and reiterated that he had no role in it.

“Accusations against me related to the coup attempt are baseless and politically-motivated slanders,” he said in a statement.

The 77-year-old cleric has also called on Ankara to end its “witch hunt” of his followers, a move he says is aimed at “weeding out anyone it deems disloyal to President Erdogan and his regime.”

Turkish officials have frequently called on their US counterparts to extradite Gulen, but their demands have not been taken heed of.

Turkey, which remains in a state of emergency since the coup, has been engaged in suppressing the media and opposition groups suspected to have played a role in the failed coup.

Tens of thousands of people have been arrested in Turkey on suspicion of having links to Gulen and the failed coup. More than 110,000 others, including military staff, civil servants and journalists, have been sacked or suspended from work over the same accusations.

Full report at:





US airstrike in Somalia against al-Shabaab kills 10 fighters


The US military says it has carried out an airstrike outside Somalia's capital that killed 10 extremists.

The US Africa Command says it has carried out 14 such airstrikes so far this year against the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab extremist group, which continues to hold some rural areas of the Horn of Africa nation.

Dozens of US airstrikes were carried out last year after the Trump administration approved expanded military operations against al-Shabaab, which was blamed for an October truck bombing in Mogadishu that killed more than 500 people.

The new statement says the US military assesses that no civilians were killed in Wednesday's strike about 24km southwest of Mogadishu. The US has faced accusations in recent months of killing civilians in joint operations with Somali forces against al-Shabaab.



Bomb blast in Benghazi claims 7 lives, leaves 20 injured

MAY 25, 2018

At least seven people were killed and around twenty others injured late Thursday in a car bomb attack in the centre of Benghazi in eastern Libya, a local security official told AFP.

The bomb exploded close to the Tibesti hotel on a busy road where many people go to celebrate during the month of Ramadan, the official said, adding that the victims were civilians.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack but the Libyan official blamed the assault on “terrorist sleeper cells who want to send a message that Benghazi is not safe”.

Libya has been rocked by chaos since a 2011 uprising which toppled and killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi, with two rival authorities and multiple militias vying for control of the oil-rich country.

Military strongman Khalifa Haftar in July announced the “total liberation” of Benghazi, three years after his forces launched a military operation to seize the city from extremists who had made it a stronghold following the revolution.

But clashes and attacks in the city have continued, including against diplomatic facilities and security forces.

Almost 40 people were killed following a double car bomb attack in front of a mosque in January. In February, another attack left one person dead and nearly 150 wounded, also in front of a mosque.

Haftar supports a parliament based in the far east of Libya, while a rival United Nations-backed unity government in the western capital Tripoli has struggled to assert its authority outside the west of the country.

Earlier this month Haftar returned to Benghazi after a two-week stint in a Paris hospital to launch a new anti-extremist offensive.

Presenting himself as the scourge of militancy, he announced the start of a military campaign to retake the eastern city of Derna from extremists.

The city is the only part of eastern Libya to remain out of the control of Haftar´s Libyan National Army, which has the backing of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

It is currently held by the Mujahideen Shura Council of Derna, a ragtag collection of militias that includes Al-Qaeda and is hostile to both Haftar and the Daesh group.

Haftar was also celebrating the fourth anniversary of his ongoing anti-jihadist “Dignity” operation, initially launched in 2014 to retake Benghazi after it fell to hardline militias.

Separately, a suicide attack in early May claimed by the Daesh group against the headquarters of the electoral commission in Tripoli killed more than a dozen people.

Full report at:



Suspected Burkina Faso jihadists 'were planning attack'


Three suspected jihadists who were killed in a pre-dawn raid by Burkina Faso security forces had been "planning an attack" in the capital Ouagadougou, the country's prosecutor said on Wednesday.

The militants, along with a fourth who was captured, were tracked down to a house in Ouagadougou on Tuesday.

"It has been established that they were planning an attack in the capital in June against key targets," said prosecutor Maiza Sereme.

The militants also had "a link" with a brazen attack in March on Burkina's armed forces headquarters and the French embassy.

Two number plates which matched those of mopeds used in the attack were found in the house, she added.

In Tuesday's operation, a member of a gendarmerie assault unit died of his wounds and six other people - four gendarmes and two neighbours - were injured, the defence ministry said.

Police found six assault rifles, explosives and detonators, French and Burkinabe military clothing, mobile phones and SIM cards, and a notebook with writing in Arabic, it added.

Security Minister Clement Sawadogo said Tuesday's raid had targeted "suspected terrorists with a connection to the March 2 attacks."

The inhabitants of the house had "an arsenal which they used to fight back against our men... it's clear that they really were terrorists equipped to carry out missions," Sawadogo said.

Burkina Faso is in the grip of a three-year-old jihadist insurgency that has killed scores of people and driven thousands from their homes.

Ouagadougou has come under attack three times, mostly recently on March 2, when jihadists attacked the military headquarters and French embassy in a coordinated operation claimed by the so-called Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM).

Eight soldiers and eight assailants were killed, and 61 soldiers and 24 civilians were injured, according to an official toll released three days later.

The anti-terror operation came eight days after the assassination of the prefect - the state's paramount representative at local level - in Oursi, a town in the far north near the Mali frontier.

Last month, the authorities in the eastern and northern border regions arrested around 100 people and seized explosives.

In the previous attacks in Ouagadougou, in January 2016, jihadists attacked the city's Splendid Hotel and a cafe, leaving 30 dead, around half of them foreign nationals.

Full report at:



Tanzania: How Standard Chartered Bank embraces the Holy Month

24 MAY 2018

Dar es Salaam. Standard Chartered Bank Has Come Up With Friendly Practices for Its Employees Currently Observing the Holly Month of Ramadhan.

The was disclosed on Tuesday, May 24, during an Iftar hosted by the bank for its clients and attended by the Chief Sheikh and Mufti of Tanzania, Mr Abubakary Zubeiry, diplomats and other stakeholders.

Speaking during the event, the bank's Chief Executive Officer, Mr Sanjay Rughani, said the bank has already introduced various changes in execution of its day-to-day duties to ensure that the staff who are fasting are accommodated.

"The bank now has stopped various events, which include serving meals in the office and meetings that exceed 4:30pm. The bank has stopped departmental parties or bank related social events during this holy month," he said.

Speaking during the same occasion, the Mufti likened Ramadhan with a college, which shapes Muslims and entire community.

"Ramadhan teaches people about piety, loyalty and trust. The lessons taught to people during this month should be practiced in the coming 11 months of the year," he said.

Full report at:



Somalia: Al-Shabaab Attacks Separate Military Bases in Lower Shabelle Region

24 MAY 2018

The Al Qaeda-allied Al-Shabaab militants have launched well-organized overnight attacks on several Somali military bases in the country's southern volatile Lower Shabelle region.

The first attack took place in Bula-Mareer village after the armed fighters raided a key army outpost, sparking a heavy gunfight that raged on for several hours during the night.

Similarly, the militants staged another assault against Somali government troops manning a base in Km-50 area in the same region. It's not clear the figures of the casualties yet.

Since the holy month of Ramadan started last week, Al Shabaab has intensified attacks in the country, mainly in Mogadishu and nearby areas to topple the UN-backed government.




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