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Islamic World News ( 10 May 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Dialogue between India and Taliban is Important: U.S. Envoy for Afghan Peace Zalmay Khalilzad

New Age Islam News Bureau

10 May 2020

• Dialogue between India and Taliban is Important: U.S. Envoy for Afghan Peace Zalmay Khalilzad

• Hand Over Cured 567 Foreign Members of Tablighi Jamaat To Police: Delhi Official

• Taliban Appoints Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob In Military Leadership Following Recent Upheavals

• US Seeks to Solace Saudis After Patriot Pull-out Announcement

• YouTube CEO Writes to PM Imran, Pledges $5 Million To Spread Virus Awareness In Pakistan

• Flash Floods in Iran’s Northern Golestan Province Unearth Human Skeletons Dating to Later Islamic Times

• We Were Recruited in Mosques, trained in Libya – Suspected Terrorists Confess

• New Normal for Muslim For This Year’s Nuzul Quran Celebrations in Malaysia

• Arab Muslim Twins from East Jerusalem Go from Delinquents to Israeli Soldiers

• Portland Muslims Celebrate Ramadan During A Pandemic with Virtual Iftar



• Dialogue between India and Taliban is Important:U.S. Envoy for Afghan Peace Zalmay Khalilzad

• Hand Over Cured 567 Foreign Members of Tablighi Jamaat To Police: Delhi Official


South Asia

• Taliban Appoints Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob In Military Leadership Following Recent Upheavals

• Afghanistan: Deadly clash at Ramadan food donation drive kills six

• Muslim Community Deeply Distressed with Cremation of Muslims Died Of COVID-19 - RishadBathiudeen Writes to President

• Bangladeshi Garments Suppliers Held Hostage by International Clothing Brands, Retailers

• Taliban militants suffer casualties after attacking Afghan forces’ convoy in Balkh

• China see rise in new Covid-19 cases


North America

• US Seeks to Solace Saudis After Patriot Pull-out Announcement

• Isolated with Community: Why Ramadan Social Distancing Echoes Loudly

• Dr Fauci enters ‘modified quarantine’ after contact with White House staffer who tested positive for Covid-19

• Three kids died in New York of illness linked to coronavirus: Cuomo

• Three key US coronavirus officials in self-quarantine after COVID-19 exposure: Reports

• Venezuela issues arrest warrant for 3 in US for role in failed plot



• YouTube CEO Writes to PM Imran, Pledges $5 Million To Spread Virus Awareness In Pakistan

• Pakistanis Crowd Markets as Provinces Ease Coronavirus Lockdown

• Five labourers die after inhaling poisonous gas in well in Panjgur

• Pakistan's fiscal deficit to surge, tax revenue to miss target this year: Hafeez Sheikh

• Inflation In Pakistan During The Holy Month Of Ramadan



• Flash Floods in Iran’s Northern Golestan Province Unearth Human Skeletons Dating to Later Islamic Times

• EU Urged to Sanction Israel Over Plan to Annex Occupied West Bank

• Iran makes own ventilators to make up for sanctions-driven shortage

• Military parade held in Gaza to commemorate Quds Day

• Persian literati celebrate birthday of Imam Hassan (AS)

• Main index at Tehran stocks finally exceeds 1-mln milestone



• We Were Recruited in Mosques, trained in Libya – Suspected Terrorists Confess

• COVID-19: Police warn Ogun pastors, imams against flouting lockdown

• Zimbabwe army on high alert over Islamist threats from Mozambique

• KSrelief Continues Distributing Ramadan Food Baskets in Sudan

• Churches, Mosques Join Food Distribution Efforts


Southeast Asia

• New Normal for Muslim For This Year’s Nuzul Quran Celebrations in Malaysia

• Indonesia’s COVID-19 figures ‘moderate’ compared to ASEAN countries: Minister

• Tegal reports zero COVID-19 cases, thanks to PSBB: Mayor

• Covid-19: 54 new cases, death toll now at 108; new cluster detected at Setia Alam construction site

• Mahathir and Anwar speak as one


Arab world

• Arab Muslim Twins from East Jerusalem Go from Delinquents to Israeli Soldiers

• 295 prisoners released in Oman during first half of Ramadan

• Vodafone makes Ramadan donation to Qatar Charity

• Fujairah Charity Association distributes 150,000 iftar meals in H1 of Ramad

• Coronavirus: One person in Bahrain infects 16 family members during Ramadan gathering

• Egyptian director Tamer Mohsen on his love-hate relationship with Ramadan series



• Portland Muslims Celebrate Ramadan During A Pandemic with Virtual Iftar

• WAMY Distributes More Than (8000) Ramadan Iftar Meals to Fasting People in Senegal

• Mosque Reopen in Germany After Two Months

• Coronavirus: UK PM To Unveil Five-Stage Warning System for Easing Lockdown

• 'People Have Questions to Answer': Pastor Joins Protest Held in Manchester After Man Tasered By Police in Front of Child

• UK To Introduce Two-Week Quarantine for International Travellers to Stop Coronavirus Spread

• Two-week quarantine will cripple us, aviation industry warns Boris Johnson

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Dialogue between India and Taliban is Important: U.S. Envoy for Afghan Peace Zalmay Khalilzad

09 May 2020

The U.S. envoy for Afghan peace Zalmay Khalilzad has said dialogue between India and Taliban is important, emphasizing that India should discuss its concerns on terrorism directly with the Taliban.

Speaking during an interview with The Hindu, Khalilzad said he discussed how India could play a “more active role” in the Afghan reconciliation process during his talks in Delhi on Thursday.

“India is an important force in Afghanistan and it would be appropriate for that [India-Taliban] engagement to take place,” Khallilzad said.

Khalilzad further added that India had a “significant role” in Afghanistan’s development, but paradoxically, doesn’t play a role in the international peace efforts.

“India and Afghanistan have historic ties, and I believe that dialogue between India and the Taliban is important, and it would be important that issues of concern like this [terrorism] are raised directly,” he added.

Responding to concerns regarding terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan, Khalilzad said “Look, our strong position is that there shouldn’t be [terror] sanctuaries on either side of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, and I believe that for peace to come to Afghanistan, there is a need for good relations amongst the neighbours and support for peace.”

I believe that the Pakistani leadership has supported the peace process, and thinks that the time has come for economic strategy, for trade and development and for Afghanistan to become a platform for regional cooperation and connectivity,” he said, adding that “We encourage and support those objectives.”

He also added “India and Afghanistan have historic ties, and I believe that dialogue between India and the Taliban is important, and it would be important that issues of concern like this [terrorism] are raised directly.”


Hand Over Cured 567 Foreign Members Of Tablighi Jamaat To Police: Delhi Official

May 09, 2020

New Delhi: The 567 foreign nationals, who have been lodged in quarantine centres in Delhi after attending a congregation of an Islamic sect in March, should be handed over to the police if they test coronavirus negative, a senior Delhi official said in an order on Saturday.

"567 members of Tablighi Jamaat (in Delhi) are foreigners. Those who have tested negative and are still living in Delhi quarantine centres, must be handed over to the Delhi police as per the Union Home Ministry's order," Delhi's Divisional Commissioner said in an order to his juniors.

Thousands from India and across the world had attended the congregation between March 1-15 at Delhi's Nizamuddin. The gathering turned out to be the biggest cluster in India with hundreds of attendees testing coronavirus positive.

"Total 2,446 Indian members of Tablighi Jamaat have been living in Delhi centres. Those who have tested negative can be released as per protocol or standard operation procedure laid down by the Union Health Ministry," the officer added.

They must be sent to their home states, the officer said, but it must be ensured they go straight to their homes, not to any other place. The social distancing rules and protocols should not be violated.

"Members of the Islamic sect who are residents of Delhi should be issued passes for travel to their homes. They should not be allowed to go anywhere else or allowed to stay in mosques," the officer adds.

Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain last week said over 4,000 Tablighi Jamaat members who have completed mandatory quarantine and show no coronavirus symptoms can go home.

However, the minister also said Delhi Police can take action on those Jamaat members who are named in Delhi Police's ongoing investigation into the "Markaz" Nizamuddin incident in March.

The Union Home Ministry had blacklisted hundreds of foreigners for their involvement in the activities of the religious group.

Legal proceedings would be initiated against all blacklisted Tablighi Jamaat workers under Section 14 of Foreigners Act, which involves misuse of visa, an official had told NDTV last month. States were also asked to take action against them.


Taliban Appoints Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob In Military Leadership Following Recent Upheavals

10 May 2020

The Taliban group has appointed Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, the son of Mullah Mohammad Omar, the founder of the Taliban group, as the new military chief of the group following recent upheavals, involving a spike in attacks against Afghan forces.

The Telegraph reported that senior militant figures confirmed the political reshuffle to check the power of the predecessor of Sardar Ibrahim, the predecessor of Mullah Yaqoob as the movement closes in on negotiations with the Afghan government.

The report further added that Mulla Yaqoob will keep his previous post as deputy to the movement’s overall leader Mulla HaibatullahAkhunzada, but will now also oversee military operations.

Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesperson for the Taliban group, confirmed the appointment but did not elaborate further.

Meanwhile, the Telegraph reported that Ibrahim will remain as Mullah Yaqoob’s deputy.


US seeks to solace Saudis after Patriot pullout announcement

May 9, 2020

The Trump administration has sought to solace Riyadh after announcing the withdrawal of a number of its Patriot surface-to-air missile batteries and troops from Saudi Arabia.

The White House announced that US President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman spoke by phone on Friday, reaffirming “the strong United States-Saudi defense partnership”.

White House spokesman Judd Deere said that the two also discussed “other critical regional and bilateral issues” and “agreed on the importance of stability in global energy markets”.

The telephone call between Trump and Salman came after US media announced the Patriot withdrawal – alongside the pullback of two US fighter jet squadrons - on Thursday.

Speaking to CNBC on Friday, US Special Representative for Iran, Brian Hook sought to reject claims that the measure signaled an abandonment of Riyadh.

“Our mission is not at all changed. We’re standing with our partners and our allies in the region. We’re doing everything we can to protect American interests,” he said.

“Our troop levels go up and down depending on the circumstances, but the mission set is the same. Our mission is not at all changed,” he said.

The Trump administration sent up to 14,000 troops to the region last year, dramatically heightening tensions against Iran, and per request of certain Persian Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia.

The deployments took place after Washington blamed Iran for a string of mysterious attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf and for the Yemeni attack on Saudi Aramco oil facilities last September.

Many US observers have consequently suggested that the recently announced Patriot withdrawal marks a reversal of Washington’s large military buildup against Iran.

In an article published on Thursday, Responsible Statecraft, a US-based think tank, highlighted the confusing nature of the decision given the Trump Administration’s hawkish policies towards Iran.

“While the military characterized the move as part of a planned withdrawal that reflects the view that Iran now poses less of a threat, the news has prompted debate over the timing of the decision,” it wrote.

“To suddenly acknowledge that the Islamic Republic is less of a threat than it was previously portrayed to be appears to undermine the case that hawks like Pompeo and Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook have made,” it added.

Many sources have, however, suggested that the measure is a result of Washington acting on an earlier threat seeking to force Riyadh to reduce oil production as falling oil prices hurt US companies.

Washington’s growing rift with Riyadh over oil production has also been voiced by Trump’s Republican allies in Senate, which had previously sought to pass the Strained Partnership Act.

The rift between Saudi Arabia and the US over oil production comes as Washington has also warned its Persian Gulf allies against shoring up political and economic ties with China.

Washington has long seen its Persian Gulf allies as valuable venues for capital, using their vast oil revenues to invest extensively in US companies, notably in arms purchases.

Trump has also pushed Riyadh, along with other regional allies, to pay for Washington’s “protection” in a number of demeaning statements.

"We protect Saudi Arabia. Would you say they're rich. And I love the King, King Salman. But I said 'King — we're protecting you — you might not be there for two weeks without us — you have to pay for your military,'" Trump said in a speech in 2018.

The derogatory remarks about Saudi Arabia’s military capabilities were later echoed by US senator Lindsey Graham, saying the Saudi military "can't fight [its way] out of a paper bag."

"Let me put it this way — I want to be very blunt with you: If it weren't for the United States, they'd be speaking Farsi in about a week in Saudi Arabia," Graham said.


YouTube CEO writes to PM Imran, pledges $5 million to spread virus awareness in Pakistan

Sanaullah Khan

May 09, 2020

YouTube will give Pakistan $5 million in advertisement grants to spread awareness about the coronavirus, it emerged on Saturday.

In a letter written to Prime Minister Imran Khan, a copy of which is available with, YouTube Chief Executive Officer Susan Wojcicki outlined the work "Google and YouTube have been doing to support Pakistan's citizens and businesses through this difficult time".

The letter stated that the tech companies are helping local authorities in the country spread information about the coronavirus through information panels and alerts. Google has also launched a microsite which will appear when anyone searches for coronavirus. The website draws its content from the government's Covid-19 portal, it added.

The online platforms are also combating misinformation and online abuse by showing authoritative sources in top results. "We will continue to quickly remove videos ... that discourage people from seeking medical treatment or claim harmful substances have health benefits," the letter read.

Outlining resources for learning and working from home amid the coronavirus pandemic, the letter said that Google has created Grow with Google Pakistan — containing resources for "all kinds of remote workers" and Teach from Home — containing resources for educators. It has also created other learning resources for children and professionals.

The letter added that Google was also publishing community mobility reports, using data collected through Google Maps. "We hope that the reports [on movement] can help public health officials in Pakistan, and governments elsewhere respond to the coronavirus," it said.

The letter also offered cooperation with the Pakistani government in creating a "credible and globally consistent digital policy and regulatory framework".

Prime Minister Imran met with the YouTube CEO in January this year on the sidelines of the 50th World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

The two leaders held discussions on utilising digital platforms for building Pakistan’s image. The Pakistani entourage also discussed the possibilities of promoting tourism, education and attracting investment through digital platforms.

After the meeting, Tania Aidrus, head of Digital Pakistan, said on Twitter that in the “great meeting”, the two sides discussed efforts to support the thriving content creator community in Pakistan and how the country could work with YouTube to promote responsible digital journalism.


Flash Floods in Iran’s Northern Golestan Province Unearth Human Skeletons Dating to Later Islamic Times

May 9, 2020

TEHRAN – Two human skeletons, which have newly been discovered in Iran’s northern Golestan Province, are estimated to date from the later Islamic times, CHTN reported on Friday.

The burial method indicates that these two skeletons belong to the late Islamic period, which is consistent with previous archeological studies in this cemetery, and according to the burial culture of the Islamic period, there were no objects in the graves, the report added.

The human remains were brought to light after rounds of rainstorms partly washed the soil away from margins of an ancient commentary nearing the village of QarahTappeh, in Torkaman county, Golestan province.

“Over the last few days, the remains of two human skeletons have emerged, which according to archeological observations of this department is the result of several factors, including the widening of Gorgan-Turkmen road in the past years which leveled the edges of Agha-Imam Islamic cemetery; last year’s floods in the province that caused gigantic volumes of water entering this area; and recent rains that caused further erosion of the soil.”

In 2016, geophysical surveys and archaeological soundings for demarcating a protective core and buffer zone for the sites of Qara-Tappeh and Sagzabad resulted in the discovery of a vast graveyard to the east of Qara-Tappeh, west, and south of TappehQabrestan estimated to date back to the late Iron II-early Iron III period.


We were recruited in Mosques, trained in Libya – Suspected terrorists confess

10 May 2020 

Nine members of the high profile terrorist group, Jama’atuAnsarulMuslimeenafiiBilaa dis Sudan, responsible for the kidnap of expatriates and influential personalities in northern Nigeria, have revealed how they were recruited from mosques and trained in Libya.

The suspects arrested by the Inspector–General of Police, Intellignece Response Team (IRT), led by DCP Abba Kyari, were reportedly fished out of their hideouts in Kaduna, Kano and Katsina States.

A top source in IRT disclosed that the daredevil gunmen were hunted down in a decoy operation spearheaded by Kyari. According to the suspects, the terrorist group, whose membership spreads across the northern states and many African countries, presents itself as an Islamic group fighting a just cause, but after accepting membership, recruits are presented with the sad reality of being members of a criminal gang.

A top police source at Louis Edet House, who was part of the team that intercepted the suspects, said the gang’ operation base is at BirninGwari Bush.

The source revealed that the gang was responsible for the kidnap of two expatriates, Zaid Alas from Jordan and IsahJabour a Syrian, both working with Traicta Ltd, Shiroro, Niger State, in December 2019, and only released their captive after collected N120m ransom.

The terrorist gang led Dogo Gide and Mahmud, both on the run, were also responsible for the kidnap for ransom of some employees of Mothercat Construction Company, as well as MagajinGarin Daura in Katsina State.

The arrested suspects were: Aminu Mustapha (alias China), 23; Aminu Saidu (alias Dawud), 26; Aminu Shuaibu (alias Abu Mus’an), 33; Ishak Khalid (alias Uztaz), 30; Yusuf Abubakar (alias AY), 24; Awal Umar Tela, 34; Abubakar Isah Muhammad (alias Khalifa Abu Aisara), 25; Shuaibu Ahmadu, 25 and Abubakar Mustafa (alias Osama), 32.

It was learnt the suspects were helping IRT operatives to track and arrest other gang members still at large, especially their leaders and armourer, one Aliyu Sokoto and Mus’ab, who sent threat email to Triacta Ltd, and negotiated with the company’s managing director, on how N50m will be paid to them yearly to stop kidnapping the company’s expatriates.

“A total of 204 rounds of AK47 Live ammunitions, military uniforms, operational vehicles including a Volkswagen Golf car, drugs and foodstuff meant to be conveyed to their gang members in the bush, and charms were recovered from the suspects. Investigation continues. Serious efforts are in progress to arrest the remaining members,” the source revealed

One of the suspects speaking on how he became a gang member, Shuaibu, from Kastina, said he was brainwashed into believing it was an Islamic group, with a good cause. Shuaibu, trained to treat sick and injured gang members, said he was promised financial benefit, which was what enticed him.

“Sometime in 2015 that I met one Mamoud in the mosque and after each prayer, we hang out to discuss about life. He told me about Ansarul and the financial gain in being a member, aside travelling to Libya.”

Shuaibu, who was sent to Libiya to assist members of the Ansarul group fighting against the then Libyan government, said he earned N50,000 every three months as wage for his contribution to the battle in Libya.


New Normal for Muslim For This Year’s Nuzul Quran Celebrations in Malaysia

10 May 2020

KUALA LUMPUR, May 10 — The celebrations for Nuzul Al-Quran this year, 1441 Hijrah, sees the new normal for Muslims amid the test of Covid-19 which has hit the world since last December.

In line with the movement control order (MCO), there are no gatherings in mosques and surau for Muslims to recite the Quran but many families are doing this in their homes as well as online in groups under the guidance of religious teachers.

The size of the celebration is irrelevant as Muslims go back to the Quran to remember the historical events and lessons taught by Prophet Muhammad as a guide to their daily lives.

According to the Chief Imam of the National Mosque, Ehsan Mohd Hosni, the most important thing is for Muslims to understand the significance of the event (Nuzul Quran) and to study the Holy Book.

“The best way for us to observe Nuzul Quran is to improve our relationship with the Quran, especially in the reading and practices. If we were previously distant from it, this is the best time to get closer to it.

In today’s era of information technology, the Internet and smartphone applications have made it easier to for Muslims to connect for online Quran sessions.

Ehsan, 48, said there are many verses in the Quran relating to daily lives, with emphasis on observing Allah’s laws and the teachings of the Prophet.

“The best example now is the Covid-19 pandemic which led to the Malaysian government imposing the MCO and now the conditional movement control order (CMCO) for the good of the people,” he said, adding that under Islamic law, the government rules on the basis of the people’s situation while the people have to obey the government which has made the best decisions for all.

Meanwhile, senior lecturer in the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM)’s Department of Syariah and Economics, Mohd Shahid Mohd Noh said Nuzul Al-Quran is a good time for Muslims to look at improving themselves, especially when faced with tests like the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Allah is testing us with Covid-19 which is part of the series of pandemics which have hit mankind. We should work to improve ourselves, especially when we have trangressed Allah’s laws,” he said.


Arab Muslim twins from East Jerusalem go from delinquents to Israeli soldiers

9 May 2020

Only a few years ago, Fares and Firas Muhammad, Muslim Arab twins from East Jerusalem, had juvenile rap sheets and seemed destined for a life of petty crime and delinquency.

Today both are star members of the Israel Defense Forces’ storied Golani Brigade, and Fares is now training to become a squad commander.

The two brothers’ incredible story was shared on Channel 12 Friday night, chronicling their rise from teen malcontents to proud and highly regarded troopers in Israel’s combat forces.

The boys’ parents divorced when they were two years old and their father has been out of the picture since. As young children they were at one point in a Jewish preschool. When they were 10, their mother escaped with them from her abusive second husband and entered a battered women’s shelter. The two then moved between boarding schools and spent much of their childhoods on the streets of Haifa.

“There were lots of run-ins with police… lots of violence,” Fares said. “I got into trouble with friends, we brawled a lot. Stole a lot. The crime world had an appeal for me. I don’t know. I liked the action there, that moment when you’re in the thrill of doing something forbidden.”

“We went into the gas station with masks,” Fares said. “One of us had a fake gun. [After] a bit of shouting and intimidation, we took the cash register and ran.”

A judge then ordered Fares sent to an institution that changed his life — the Nirim Youth Village for at-risk teens, located north of Haifa.

Established by alumni of the elite Shayetet 13 command unit, the village focuses on wilderness therapy, rehabilitation work through extreme experiences in nature in which teens develop survival and navigation skills.

Councilors recalled that Fares initially encountered racism from other teens, with some even threatening to leave over his presence.

“Why are you bringing a terrorist here?” Idan Friedman said, summing up the attitudes asserted by other teens. They expressed “all the stigmas, everything a teen that comes to Nirim, with all the prejudices and all the brainwashing they’ve gone through, knows. For them an Arab was a terrorist and shouldn’t be here.”

It was not easy going with Fares. He initially showed very violent tendencies and intimidated others at the village. After 18 months, when management believed he had made progress, a knife was discovered under his mattress.

“I don’t know that I would have pulled it out and threatened anyone with it,” he recalled. “But in my mind, with the pattern of criminality, in the criminal mind — you need that knife there, so that you’re always ready.”

He was suspended, but councilors weren’t ready to give up on him yet. Friedman suggested that he hike the Israel National Trail route — which stretches from Eilat in the south to Kibbutz Dan in the north. He did, for seven weeks, with changing councilors joining him for stretches along the way.

“On the way you’re walking with yourself for company,” he said. “Your disconnected from everyone, you don’t have a phone. You look to your right and hear your thoughts, you look to your left and hear your thoughts. Wherever you go all you hear is yourself talking to yourself. A lot of questions about yourself come up: ‘Do I really want to keep behaving like that?'”

Coming up on 18, and with his experiences in survival comradeship ingrained in him, Fares decided he wanted to enlist. As an Arab, it wasn’t something he was at all obligated to do.

Israel’s Arabs make up some 20 percent of the population, but only about 1% of them serve in the army. Among Israel’s minorities, members of the Druze community regularly serve in the military, and Bedouin soldiers are relatively common as well.

Non-Bedouin Arabs are far more rare in the army, with service often carrying intense social stigma. Even when they do serve, most who enlist are Christian Arabs rather than Muslim.

This stands to reason; most Arab Israelis view themselves as members of the Palestinian people. Israel’s enemies are largely Arab, Muslim or both — whether Lebanese, Syrian, Iranian or Palestinian. And a significant chunk of the military’s work comprises policing the Palestinian territories in the West Bank.

Asked why he had decided to enlist, Fares said this was “the question of questions” but that, in the end, it was about appreciation for what the country had done for him.

“My life hasn’t been easy since childhood, and in the end it was the state that helped my mom, you see,” he said. “Whether it’s the welfare institutions, the boarding schools I went to… So for me it’s gratitude. And also, I live in this country, I love this country.”

While Fares was having his experiences in Nirim, Firas continued to get into trouble and spent a few months in a detention institution. He said a heart-to-heart with his mother one day, after she’d bailed him out of prison yet again, set him on a better trajectory. Sitting in the car, both began crying and Firas promised her he was going to change.

“Enough with the bullshit,” he recalled thinking to himself. “How long can it go on? To see my mom come to court every time, with me in handcuffs. It’s not fun. It’s seriously humiliating. It’s etched into my mind.”

Firas said when he showed up at the IDF draft office as a Muslim Arab with a history of crime and violence, he was sent in for a talk with a mental health officer.

“He told me ‘Look I don’t see you being in combat, but you can be in combat support,'” Firas recalled. “I looked at him and said, ‘Listen, I can totally do combat. I’m a super combat soldier. I really want to be in combat, I’ll give anything you want, just let me be in combat.”

Amichai Taub, a religious soldier who is in the squad commander course with Fares, said: “At first I thought there’d be some gaps between us, after all we come from very different worlds. But with time you realize Fares is a fantastic person. Fares will give his life for everyone and everyone will give their lives for Fares.”

Firas is also very popular. His company commander, Lt. Yair Yehud, said he was one of his most dedicated soldiers. “With any physical act, Firas is always first. He’s very well liked.”

Their choices have been less popular with their family. Though Fares said no one had approached him personally, words had been exchanged with their mother.

After years in and out of institutions and courts, the twins feel the service is their path to acceptance in mainstream Israeli society.

The brothers get along well and have been supportive of each other throughout the process, though Firas said Fares tends to lord his first-born status over him. He did after all, emerge into the world five full minutes earlier.

“When someone wants to ride shotgun in the car [I get a] ‘Hey, hey, five minutes,’ you know?” he laughed. “Five minutes means something to him. But it’s fine, I let him have it.”

In an emotional moment for the two, Fares recently surprised Firas, joining him on a leg of his beret march, a lengthy hike soldiers complete at the end of their training to receive their unit’s signature beret.

Firas Muhammad (left) gets emotional as twin brother Fares joins him for a leg of his beret march in the IDF’s Golani Brigade (Channel 12 screenshot)

Asked if it wasn’t difficult for him to be part of “the occupying power” in the West Bank, he said “I took that into account [when joining]. But you say to yourself ‘I chose to do this and that’s how it is.'”

He added that when his unit goes out for arrests in the city, he covers his face, as he has some distant relatives in Hebron and prefers not to enter into confrontations.

Firas Muhammad, a Muslim Arab serving in the IDF’s Golani Brigade, stands watch in the West Bank city of Hebron (Channel 12 screenshot)

“Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes you say to yourself ‘I could have been just like them. If my mom hadn’t put me in a Jewish preschool I should have been like them… But I’m happy that my mom did it. Otherwise I don’t know where I’d be today.”


Portland Muslims celebrate Ramadan during a pandemic with virtual iftar

May 09, 2020

In any other time, Oregon’s Muslims would be breaking their daily fast throughout Ramadan with their community during a meal known as an iftar.

Instead, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community will host an interfaith virtual iftar over Zoom at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Guest speakers will include U.S. Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, Portland Police Chief Jami Resch and faith leaders from local Jewish and Christian churches. Attendees of all faiths are welcome.

Visitors can register to join the Zoom event, “Virtual Reflections on the Power of Prayer During the Pandemic,” at

“It’s definitely a new experience for us to pull this together,” said Harris Zafar, the national spokesperson for Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA who is based in Portland.

In past years, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has hosted weekly iftar open houses throughout Ramadan as part of an “Open Mosque” drive. The event would include a call to prayer, guest speakers and a potluck dinner.

Ramadan is a month-long fast observed by most of the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims. It commemorates the first revelation Muhammad received from the archangel Gabriel.

“That’s what this fast is all about," he said. "I actually try to experience the hunger, because it’s meant to be a reminder of this is what it feels like to be hungry and thirsty, and to think of people who have no choice but to be hungry and thirsty.”

During the month of Ramadan, many Muslims fast without food or water while the sun is up. Zafar has his morning meal at about 4:30 a.m. While many people are spending their days at home binging television and eating too many snacks, Zafar has given up both.

“It does provide clarity because you’re not anxiously awaiting something … so your mind tends to focus on something else and that could be work, your prayers, your family, something that’s more important," he said.

On Thursday, Gov. Kate Brown said religious groups of fewer than 25 people would be permitted to meet if they follow social distancing measures.

It’s too soon to say exactly how Eid al-Fitr will be celebrated, Zafar said, but "it does seem more and more likely that we won’t be able to celebrate as we normally would,” he said.


South Asia 

Afghanistan: Deadly clash at Ramadan food donation drive kills six

May 10, 2020

Two policemen and four other people were killed in Afghanistan on Saturday after a deadly clash at a public food donation in central Ghor province, officials said.

Hundreds of people had gathered outside the governor's office in the provincial capital Firozkoh, where a Qatari group was distributing aid.

Some of those who had queued up to receive aid staged a protest against what they saw as "unjust distribution of food items to poor families," Abdul Rahman Akshan, the deputy head of Ghor's provincial council told AFP.

He said that many protesters tried to barge into the governor's office, leading to clashes between them and police present at the site.

"Four civilians, including an employee of a local radio and two policemen were killed," he said, adding that 19 people were also wounded.

The interior ministry confirmed the death toll in a statement, saying "some illegal armed men in the mob attacked the government building", which prompted police to fire into the air to disperse the crowd.

Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh said the attack was "shocking" and announced that the "government was seriously investigating the incident" in a Facebook post.

But the chief of the Afghanistan Human Rights Commission Shaharzad Akbar wrote on Twitter that there were "worrying reports of police firing at protesters in Ghor".

Afghanistan is also battling a growing coronavirus outbreak that has exacerbated problems with food access in the impoverished country.

In recent weeks authorities have distributed bread in Kabul and other parts of the country since the government imposed a lockdown.


Muslim Community deeply distressed with cremation of Muslims died of COVID-19 - RishadBathiudeen writes to President

May 10, 2020

May 10, Colombo: In an open letter to Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, former and Minister and the Leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) RishadBathiudeen expressed the Muslim community’s distress with the cremation of Muslims died of COVID-19 and requested the President reconsider the decision.

“The Muslim Community is deeply distressed with the continued cremation of Muslims affected by the Corona virus,” Bathiudeen said pointing out that the government continues to cremate Muslims who die without any regard to the objections of the family and Muslim religious leaders.

The former parliamentarian explained that it is incumbent upon the living Muslims to dispose the body of a dead Muslim according to their religious rites and burial is the only option prescribed in Islam.

Recalling that at the party leaders meeting held with the Prime Minister they requested for the appointment of an expert committee of medical professionals to study the burial option from a scientific and ethical point of view, Bathiudeen requested the President to amend the Gazette and guidelines incorporating burial also as an approved form of disposal.

I thank you for your strong leadership in coordinating the challenges faced by the COVID 19 pandemic. We grateful appreciate the yeomen service rendered by frontline Medical, Nursing, Armed services and government staff who are risking their lives to save lives “He who saves a life is as if he has saved all of mankind – Al-Quran 5:32<./b>

Your Excellency, needless to say, more than 180 countries around the world and the World Health Organization as per their interim guidelines dated 24.03.2020 on 'Infection Prevention and Control for the Safe Management of a Dead Body in the Context of COVID 19' that recommends burial and cremation of the Corona dead. Thousands of Corona dead are buried in mass graves in countries like the USA. UK, Italy, Spain, Australia, Singapore Hong Kong etc. Sri Lanka through a Gazette notification on April 11th, 2020 has banned the burial of Muslims affected by COVID 19.

It should be noted that at the party leaders meeting held with the Hon. Prime Minister, we requested for the appointment of an expert committee of medical professionals to study the burial option from a scientific and ethical point of view. We would be pleased to nominate any number of well-recognized medical professionals to this committee. The Government Medical Officer’s Association (GMOA) too in writing requested the Director General, Health Services to set up such a committee.

Your Excellency, it is incumbent upon the living Muslims to dispose the body of a dead Muslim as per our religious rites. Among them, burial is the only option prescribed in Islam.. It is forbidden for us to cremate our dead. We are expected to take utmost care and sensitivity in even bathing the dead.

<''Breaking A Muslim's Bones When He Is Dead Is Tantamount To Breaking Them When He Is Alive'' This Hadeeth is authentic and has been ascribed both to the Prophet (PBUH) and to one of the Companions. As such there is no permissibility to burn the corpse of a dead Muslim.

Many including me have brought this to the attention of Your Excellency and the government during the earlier stages of Covid-19. The government continues to cremate Muslims who die without any regard to the objections of the family and Muslim religious leaders.

As Your Excellency is aware, the bidy of a Muslim Lady, aged 52 from Modara was cremated yesterday by the Government Officials claiming it to be a COVID 19 death but later evidence proved otherwise. The Muslims are greatly traumatized and worried about the fate of our sick.

Honoring the dead and disposing their bodies as per the beliefs and traditions is the least respect and honour that can be bestowed upon the deceased. The Gazette notification of 11/4/2020 banning burials is scientifically and ethically flawed. This forms of discriminatory action by the government has no basis as the entire world is permitting burials.

Hence, I humbly request Your Excellency to amend the Gazette and guidelines incorporating burial also as an approved form of disposal.


Bangladeshi garments suppliers held hostage by international clothing brands, retailers

May 10, 2020

Star Online Report

As the coronavirus sweeps across the globe, one if its aftermaths is being felt in Bangladesh's readymade garments sector, the largest foreign currency earner in the country.

Local suppliers allege being held hostage by clothing brands, which are forcing manufacturers to sell their wares at a lesser than agreed upon price.

Mostafiz Uddin, a denim supplier in Bangladesh, told Forbes that he was forced to accept a 30 percent discount on a large order of jeans already completed and shipped for Burton Meanswear, incurring a loss.

The renegotiation comes at a time when he is already owed $10 million in total from a number of his buyers, including Peacocks and Global Brands Group, which produces wholesale products for Jones New York, and Arcadia Group, which owns a number of retailers, including Topshop, Topman, and Burton Menswear.

This is just one of many stories of clothing companies demanding steep discounts and withholding payments for completed goods from their suppliers in Bangladeshi factories.

At a time when countries are easing lockdowns and the apparel industry is scrambling to make up for lost sales, brands are continuing to pass on their financial burdens onto factories in garment-making countries as a feasible way to save their flailing businesses.

The Forbes report cites new estimates by The Daily Star, which show factories across Bangladesh are owed a staggering $5 billion for mostly shipped and completed orders, equivalent to 15 percent of the country's net apparel export.

Although some clothing companies say they would pay their suppliers, when and how much the brands agree to pay would make the difference between survival and closing up shop, according to reports.

Over two dozen local suppliers revealed that clothing companies are demanding up to 50 percent discounts on already shipped goods and six-month delays in payment for completed orders. They are also refusing to pay for orders until after the products are sold in stores, and based only on a percentage of sales, which could mean factories not getting any money until the end of the year, The Daily Star reported earlier.

Syed Ashfaqul Haque, executive editor of The Daily Star, warned that mass layoffs have begun and increasing social unrest is just around the corner, as the factories are operating without cash.

"They won't be able to pay workers, if these payments are not released right away," he told Forbes via WhatsApp, adding that he foresees more demonstrations and increasing violence if factories are unable to pay wages and bonuses to garment workers ahead of upcoming the Eid holiday, on the weekend of May 23.

Mentioning that most suppliers in Bangladesh are fearful of speaking out against their buyers, especially big brands, Haque said, "I talked with over two-dozen factories. All of those were asked to stay 'shut-up' [by brands] if they want to continue business."

Meanwhile, a 4.1 million-person workforce engaged in Bangladesh's RMG sector is at risk of going under in the coming days, with unpaid bills piling up for the factories and months of slow to no work ahead of them.

Mostafiz Uddin told Forbes he fears that he has been blacklisted from future business with his clients since he had named the brands and described in detail what's happening to his factory and to others.

And the environment has become such that the suppliers are being coerced or have no choice but to accept some money over no money as the brands renegotiate the terms.

A number of large companies, besides those supplied by Mostafiz Uddin, including Primark, Bestseller, Walmart (Asda), Under Armour, Kohl's, Ross Dress for Less, Urban Outfitters, and Gap Inc. (Old Navy, Athleta, Banana Republic), among others, have so far cancelled orders or renegotiated payment terms to demand discounts and payment delays, revealed a brand tracker regularly updated by the Worker Rights Consortium.

Gap Inc., a major buyer in Bangladesh, cancelled orders through the fall in April and is now asking for 10 percent discounts on shipped goods, a local supplier in Bangladesh told Forbes seeking anonymity.

Contacted, a representative sent a statement to Forbes saying the company is "identifying those products we can sell in the short-term, those we can store now to sell later, and those orders we need to cancel." 

"We're running out of time, and these brands are forcing factories out of business by asking for discounts and renegotiating terms on original contracts," said Ayesha Barenblat, founder and CEO of Remake, a consumer activist group, when speaking to Forbes.

Remake and other such groups are pressuring companies through its #PayUp social media campaign to keep their original purchase order terms, including paying in full and on time, the Forbes report added.

According to labour rights experts, it may be a way for buyers trying to cover up putting pressure on factories by renegotiating with individual suppliers.

Mark Anner, director of the Penn State Center for Global Workers' Rights, told Forbes that a better approach for the buyers is to make one clear, public commitment to pay in full for all liabilities for in production and completed orders.

Only 13 large brands and retailers, including global giants H&M, Zara, Nike, Target, VF Corporation, PVH, UNIQLO, and Adidas, have so far committed to pay in full and according to the terms of the original purchase orders.

These commitments by the large brands helped unlock an estimated $600 million owed to the factories in Bangladesh and around $7.5 billion to those across the globe, Anner told Forbes.

The list of brands that have either cancelled orders or asked for discounts and delayed payments is much longer, and Anner said that list may never be known in full, adding that the buyers paying up now will make the difference for suppliers of going out of business or surviving in the coming days.


Taliban militants suffer casualties after attacking Afghan forces’ convoy in Balkh

09 May 2020

The Afghan forces inflicted casualties on Taliban militants after responding to an attack in northern Balkh province of Afghanistan, the Afghan military said.

The 209th Shaheen Corps in a statement said the a convoy of the Afghan forces came under attack as they were patrolling in Sabzikar Village of ChaharBolak district.

The statement further added that the Afghan forces effectively responded to the attack, killing two Taliban militants and wounding one more.

The Afghan forces also arrested one of the assailants and confiscated a rocket launcher, an Ak-47 assault rifle and some munitions following the clash, the statement added.

This comes as Taliban militants have been attempting to escalate attacks against the Afghan forces in various provinces during the recent weeks despite ongoing efforts to find a negotiated political settlement to end the conflict in the country.


China see rise in new Covid-19 cases

10 May 2020

BEIJING: China reported its first double-digit rise in new rises cases in 10 days on Sunday (May 10), saying 14 new cases had been detected, 12 of them domestic infections and two brought from abroad.

Eleven of those domestic cases were in the northeastern province of Jilin and one in Hubei province, whose capital Wuhan is considered to have been the epicentre of the country's pandemic.

Jilin shares a border with North Korea, where the virus situation is unclear but whose vastly inadequate health system has been offered help by China in dealing with any outbreak.

No new virus deaths have been reported in China for almost 1 month and the number of people in treatment for Covid-19 nationwide fell to 148, with another 798 people under isolation and observation as either suspected cases or for having tested positive for the virus while showing no symptoms.

China has reported a total of 4,633 total death 82,901 cases.

The jump in new cases could fuel concerns over how quickly to lift strict social distancing measures and re-open schools and other public institutions. Widely disseminated photos of people socializing in Shanghai’s bar district over the weekend drew some criticism online.

China last reported more than 10 cases in April, with 12, half of them imported. Reports cover the number of new cases recorded over the previous 24 hours.

Having downgraded all counties in districts to low risk from the virus, China has raised one of them, Shulan, in Jilin, after the province on Sunday after it had reported a jump in cases to 11, bringing a tightening of social distancing and quarantine measures.


North America 

Isolated With Community: Why Ramadan Social Distancing Echoes Loudly

May 8, 2020

Rija Siddiqui, MD

Fruit chaat: Most Muslims from South Asian backgrounds know this simple but memorable delicacy that for some reason is only made during the month of Ramadan.

An elevated fruit salad, fruit chaat is a refreshingly cool side dish enjoyed after a 16-hour fast from food or water. Younger generation Muslims tend to prefer this dish on the sweeter side, while many older Muslims prefer it in the traditional sense – spiced with black pepper, salt, and garaam masala.

As I cut fruit two Fridays ago, preparing for the first iftaar of Ramadan, I considered how COVID-19 has interrupted many Muslim traditions.

Mosques remain closed and family gatherings are suspended. Due to the global pandemic, the usual sense of community or ummah, is now solely within a home rather than traversing social circles and extended family.  For the more than 3.4 million American Muslims—for whom practicing Ramadan may already be socially isolating –  social distancing only further exacerbates the isolation.

Like many American Muslims my age, I am a first generation American. My generation endured hatred following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the need to defensively adopt an attitude of apology for others’ actions.

Growing up north of Dallas as a Muslim minority, I also thought it was normal to apologize to my non-Muslim peers that I could not participate in going to the movies at sundown, attending birthday lunches, and outdoor physical activities because they conflicted with my practice of fasting during Ramadan.

Throughout childhood and adolescence, the foundation for my Muslim identity was in my home and the homes of our close family and friends. In these homes, we did not need to apologize for being Muslim. Standing in the mosque, shoulder to shoulder, during taraweeh prayers, I found strength among my community during those 30 nights of Ramadan.

But this Ramadan, there are no gatherings with family or friends or nights in the mosque. My Muslim community is now limited to my home, my husband and 17-month-old son.

To be sure, we can virtually be together, as can all members of all other faiths practicing community in isolation. But as a Muslim in America, the absence of in person community is profound, especially this month.

Unlike residents of Muslim countries, or those living in U.S. cities with a significant Muslim population such as Dearborn, Michigan, most American Muslims do not hear the adhan, or call to prayer five times a day, regularly congregate for prayers, or share meals together on a consistent basis.

Even during Ramadan, most American Muslims continue their normal daily routines of going to work, providing child or elder care, and carrying out their personal and professional responsibilities. While fasting, we still attend mealtime business meetings, school events, and celebratory events.

What makes the month of Ramadan different from our normal practices, are the traditions of gathering as a community, while breaking fast, partaking in charity, praying together, and simply, feeling unified.

As members of a religion that is often misconstrued and misunderstood, Muslims need this communal experience to feel acknowledged and validated.  However, this Ramadan will focus on the individual experience rather than one rooted in community.

It’s not an experience that is completely unfamiliar to American Muslims – like me–who may remember eating their pre-sunrise meal, suhoor, by themselves in a dark college dorm room, careful to not wake up their roommate, or breaking fast at sunset in between tasks to wrap up the workday.

This Ramadan, we can hope that while focusing more on our individual practice as Muslims in this unprecedented time, we may continue to grow stronger as a Muslim community. And for now, my fruit chaat, sweetened, will serve my small family at home.


Dr Fauci enters ‘modified quarantine’ after contact with White House staffer who tested positive for Covid-19

6 hours ago

Richard Hall

Dr Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has entered a “modified quarantine” after coming into contact with a White House staffer who tested positive for the coronavirus, according to CNN.

Dr Fauci, a key member of the White House coronavirus task force, told the news organisation he would work from home and wear a mask for 14 days after making "low risk" contact with the staffer.

A low-risk contact means he "was not in close proximity to the person who tested positive during the time when that person was known to be positive for the virus," CNN's Jake Tapper reported.

Dr Fauci has played a key role in the US government's response to the deadly pandemic, regularly appearing at White House press briefings alongside president Donald Trump to give advice to the nation.

His decision to enter quarantine comes amid a spate of confirmed cases of the coronavirus among people who work at the White House. Katie Miller, a spokesperson for vice president Mike Pence, has also tested positive, as did a military valet to president Trump.

Dr Fauci joins two other members of the coronavirus task force who are already self-quarantining: Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration Commissioner, and Director Robert Redfield, head of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.


Three kids died in New York of illness linked to coronavirus: Cuomo

10 May 2020

Three children in New York have died from an inflammatory disease thought  to be linked to the novel coronavirus, says Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo expressed concern that his state might be entering a new phase of the virus pandemic where children are affected, while previoulsy they had been regarded at low risk for the virus.

New York is up to at least 73 cases of the illness, he said, noting it seems to be similar to Kawasaki disease or toxic shock syndrome, including a persistent fever.

The three children - including a five-year old disclosed on Friday - had tested positive for COVID-19 or related antibodies, indicating a link that was still not fully understood.

“We are not so sure that is the fact anymore. Toddler, elementary school children are presenting symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease or toxic shock-like syndrome,” Cuomo said. “It’s very possible that this has been going on for several weeks and it hasn’t been diagnosed as related to COVID.”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a Coronavirus Briefing At Northwell Feinstein Institute For Medical Research on May 06, 2020 in Manhasset, New York. (AFP photo)

He went on to say that state health officials along with the New York Genome Center and the Rockefeller University will look at whether there is a genetic basis for the syndrome.

They have also been asked by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop national criteria for diagnozing and curing cases.

New York and New Jersey, the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States, account for nearly half of the 77,737 coronavirus-related deaths, according to a Reuters tally.

"With each passing day, we're learning more about this terrible virus, and this potentially new development requires even greater understanding," Dr. Howard Zucker, the state health commissioner, said in a statement.

"We'll devote the resources of the department to research each potential case and share our findings with healthcare providers around the state and country."


Three key US coronavirus officials in self-quarantine after COVID-19 exposure: Reports

10 May 2020

Three key US officials guiding the coronavirus response were in self-quarantine on Saturday after coming into contact with someone who had tested positive for COVID-19, according to spokesmen and media reports.

Anthony Fauci, a high-profile member of the White House coronavirus response team, is considered to be at relatively low risk based on the degree of his exposure, according to a representative for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

Fauci, the 79-year-old NIAID director, has tested negative for COVID-19 and he will continue to be tested regularly, the official said in an emailed statement.

Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Robert Redfield “will be teleworking for the next two weeks” after a “low-risk exposure” on Wednesday to a person at the White House who has the disease, the Washington Post reported on Saturday, citing a spokesman. Redfield is 68 years old.

US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn, who is 60, is in self-quarantine for a couple of weeks after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, an FDA spokesman told Reuters late on Friday.

All three officials were scheduled to testify on Tuesday to a Senate committee looking at steps states and the federal government are taking to reopen businesses and schools, which have been shut in an attempt to control the spread of the highly-contagious virus.

The coronavirus is especially dangerous to the elderly. According to the CDC, eight out of 10 deaths in the United States from COVID-19 have been people 65-years and older.

Hahn immediately took a diagnostic test for the coronavirus and the results were negative, FDA spokesman Michael Felberbaum said in an emailed statement.

“As Dr. Hahn wrote in a note to staff today, he recently came into contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19. Per CDC guidelines, he is now in self-quarantine for the next two weeks,” the FDA spokesman said.

Miller, the wife of one of Trump’s senior advisers, tested positive on Friday, raising alarm about the virus’ potential spread within the White House’s innermost circle.

The diagnosis of Miller, who is married to White House immigration adviser and speech writer Stephen Miller, was revealed by Trump in a meeting with Republican lawmakers on Friday. A valet for Vice President Mike Pence has also tested positive.


Venezuela issues arrest warrant for 3 in US for role in failed plot

10 May 2020

Venezuela’s chief prosecutor has issued arrest warrants for a former US Green Beret and two insurgents living in the United States for their role in a bungled operation intended to topple country’s President Nicolás Maduro from power.

Tarek William Saab announced on Friday that Venezuela will pursue the capture of Jordan Goudreau, a US Special Forces veteran who has claimed responsibility for the subversive action, as well as Juan José Rendón and Sergio Vergara, two US-based advisers to country’s Washington-sponsored opposition leader Juan Guaidó, AP reported Saturday.

“They are living in impunity, in tranquility over there,” Saab said, adding that Venezuela has issued 22 arrest orders linked to attack, but he did not mention Guaido himself.

Moreover, Venezuelan authorities have been insisting that Washington was behind the armed operation, with Saab reminding reporters on Friday that the Trump administration had previously offered a $15 million bounty for Maduro’s arrest, which he underlined opened the door for such attacks.

According to the report, American law enforcement authorities are investigating Goudreau, though it is not yet clear whether he will be charged since US President Donald Trump does not recognize the elected government in Venezuela, making it highly unlikely that his administration would accept any extradition request by Caracas.

The development came just days after an American soldier of fortune captured during the botched attempt to seize President Maduro admitted that his group had plotted to raid the presidential palace in Caracas before abducting him “however necessary.”

An American soldier of fortune captured during a botched attempt to seize Venezuela’s leader claims his group had plotted to raid Nicolas Maduro’s presidential palace.

Airan Berry, 41, was one of two US mercenaries captured by Venezuelan security forces this week after what appears to have been a catastrophically executed attempt to oust Maduro by sneaking into the Central American nation in a pair of weather-beaten fishing boats.

This is while the Trump administration has denied responsibility in the attempted armed plot, which resulted in the arrests of two Americans, Luke Denman and Airan Berry, who were allededly hired by Goudreau’s private firm to participate in the failed assault.

Denman and Berry are both former US Special Forces troops that were deployed to Iraq during American military occupation of the Arab nation that begun in 2003. In video statements aired on Venezuela’s state television, both confessed that they had been hired by Goudreau to train rebel troops in Colombia and target Maduro. Goiudreau has also admitted that they were part of his operation.

Rendón, meanwhile, has acknowledged giving Goudreau $50,000 to cover some expenses and said that he and Vergara signed an agreement with the three-time Bronze Star recipient.

According to the report, Goudreau has further presented what he said is an audio recording made on a hidden cellphone in which Guaidó can be heard greeting the US veteran soldier via video conference.

Trump, however, claimed during an interview with Fox News Channel on Friday that he “didn’t know too much” about the subversive attack and again denied any US government involvement.

This is while Venezuelan President Maduro insisted days ago that there is evidence Trump “personally ordered” the military raid against him, arguing that Washington swiftly cut remaining ties with Caracas thereafter.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says there is evidence his American counterpart Donald Trump “personally ordered” the recent incursion attempt.

Maduro made the comments in an interview with a Uruguayan news outlet on Thursday evening, saying the evidence would soon reveal Trump himself was behind the “covert operation” last weekend, during which two US security contractors were detained and eight armed locals were killed.



Pakistanis crowd markets as provinces ease coronavirus lockdown

May 09, 2020

People across Pakistan crowded markets on Saturday after a nationwide coronavirus lockdown was eased, despite the country recording its second-highest daily infection toll.

The government has allowed businesses to reopen in phases from the weekend, citing the economic havoc the virus restrictions have wreaked on citizens.

In Rawalpindi, thousands of shoppers were preparing for EidulFitr, with many flouting social distancing rules and advice to wear masks.

In Karachi, shopkeepers set out their wares of shoes, clothes, bangles and fabrics, while in the capital Islamabad shoppers stood in tightly-packed queues as they waited for stores to open.

“Eid is approaching,” he said. “We have to buy new garments for our children. It's the responsibility of people to comply with rules and wear safety gear.”

“We are happy with this decision but at the same time I have a fear in my heart that if this disease spreads it could be devastating. People here are not taking preventative measures.”

Information Minister Shibli Faraz warned earlier in the day that the lockdown on businesses would be reimposed if safety guidelines were not followed, after authorities reported more than 1,700 new cases in the past 24 hours.

The easing comes as many across the country have openly ignored restrictions on gatherings in public during the past month, especially during the evenings as people observe Ramazan.

Schools will remain closed until mid-July however, while there are no immediate plans to restart public transportation or domestic flights.


Five labourers die after inhaling poisonous gas in well in Panjgur

May 10, 2020

GWADAR: Five labourers died after inhaling poisonous gas in a well in the Khuda-i-Abadan area of Panjgur on Saturday.

Police said that two labourers went inside a well for cleaning it. Poisonous gas had accumulated in the well and the two labourers fell unconscious. The four other labourers immediately went inside the well to rescue them, but they also fell unconscious.

After receiving information about the incident, a police party rushed to the site and with the help of rescue workers took the six labourers out of the well. They were taken to the district hospital in Panjgur where doctors pronounced five of them dead. One unconscious labourer was admitted in the hospital.


Pakistan's fiscal deficit to surge, tax revenue to miss target this year: Hafeez Sheikh

May 09, 2020

Pakistan’s fiscal deficit will surge to nine per cent in the ongoing fiscal year, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh said on Friday, as the economy reels from the fallout of the coronavirus crisis.

With the national tally of confirmed cases of Covid-19 rising to 28,551 and 623 deaths being reported, the government has announced it will start lifting the countrywide lockdown from Saturday (today) in a bid to restart economic activity.

Fear of an economic meltdown is said to be the main reason behind ending the shutdown at a time when the country’s curve, or rate of infections, is edging up sharply.

“The expectation of the deficit we had prior to the coronavirus was 7.6pc. Now, after corona, we think the deficit will touch 8pc plus and that it might be 9pc,” said Sheikh.

In an interview with Reuters at his office in Islamabad, Sheikh said the country will also miss a tax revenue target that had recently been downwardly revised and agreed to with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which gave the country a three-year, $6 billion bailout last year.

The government is set to collect Rs3.9 trillion ($24.54bn) in taxes, 19pc below the downwardly revised target of Rs4.8tr ($30.20bn), he said.

The IMF also gave Pakistan a $1.386bn rapid financing package last month to tackle balance-of-payment problems amid economic fallout from the virus.

The country’s economy is now projected to contract 1pc to 1.5pc in the ongoing fiscal year, Sheikh added, officially corroborating earlier IMF estimates of the extent of the effect of the pandemic on the economy.

The government was targeting growth of 2.4pc in fiscal year 2019-20 as it struggled to restructure the economy, which was suffering from yawning current account and fiscal deficits and depleting foreign reserves.

“Revenue has taken a hit. Exports have taken a hit. Remittances have taken a hit, and, above all, our people are suffering,” Sheikh said.

Analysts say support in term of swift loans, aid and debt relief from development partners, friendly states, financial institutions and G20 countries is likely to create a fiscal space for Pakistan to keep its economy afloat.

The adviser said Islamabad had applied for debt relief that had been offered by the G20 to over 70 countries, adding that it will defer a payment of around $1.8bn for Pakistan for one year.

“World Bank and Asian Development Bank are giving us special packages,” he said, terming it a great breather. “If the creditors are not knocking on your door right now then you can use this period to try and divert that money into more pressing needs at home,” he added.

“The first goal is to prevent the corona from affecting our citizens too badly or affecting our economy too badly,” he said, adding he would do his best to try to secure maximum funds for a cash handout to the poor. “We have to try to keep our industry moving especially on the export side.”

The government has already introduced several packages to bail out business and industry, including over a trillion rupee ($6.31bn) stimulus to help revive the coronavirus-hit economy and the cash handout to nearly 12 million families.

Although no one knows how long the coronavirus crisis is going to last, Sheikh said his government would try to slash the fiscal deficit in the next budget as well as cut expenditures, which could be anywhere including defence.


Inflation In Pakistan During The Holy Month Of Ramadan

May 10, 2020

By Mehwish Khan*

Ramadan is considered one of the holiest months in the Islamic calendar for Muslims all over the world. As for as Pakistan is concerned, it has always been a tradition that whenever Ramadan comes the inflation rate also increases.

With the advent of Ramadan, the inflation rate is increased by 14.56 percent within the country. Two types of Muslims throughout the country wait anxiously for this month. For one type of people, it brings happiness and blessings and for another type, it brings a massive amount of money. But it becomes a curse for the poor people when prices of the edible items touch the sky. While this month of Ramadan becomes blessings for the business community and hoarders that take as much benefit as they can. As 2020 had already remained the most challenging year of the twenty-first century because of the pandemic outbreak throughout the world. Almost every country has been victim Covid-19 where thousands of people are dying every day due to this deadly Virus. Because of this pandemic, the people of Pakistan are facing a dual challenge such as unemployment and increasing inflation.

In Pakistan, this hazardous disease of inflation is increasing the poverty day by day. In PTI Government 18 million more people fall into poverty, it is reported that more than 39.9 per cent population of Pakistan lives below the poverty line. In this hard and difficult situation, the people have been frustrated. Besides, more than half of the poor people are homeless, many of them have not even their place to live rather they live on rent. But unfortunately, in this miserable condition, they cannot afford to buy their own house.

The government says that they are providing the funds to the poor as well as Ramadan relief Packages but still no relief have been given. Not any proper funds are given to real deserving and poor people. If according to governments that it has given the funds then the question rises that will these little funds can beat these higher prices? This is one more remarkable stain on the government of Pakistan that would be highlighted in history. In this tough time instead of being a pillar for the public, the government has left poor people helpless even giving them a tough time by increasing the inflation. It is a painful truth that Muslims are sucking the blood of other Muslim brothers including government has been parasite for the public.

In other non-Muslim Countries such as Canada, United States of America, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany; the prices of food items, groceries, clothes, households and other demanded and consumed accessories reduce to less than half in respect of their holy events or festivals. But sadly opposite is happening in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, in our country, profiteers see these holy events as the source of income. There is no check and balance system.

This non-serious attitude of the Pakistani government has led people to beg for survival. But the only government could not be blamed, it is the collective responsibility of worthy people to take care of needy ones. Everyone complains about poor governance and rising inflation but no one talks about their responsibility. Have we ever been thought about our poor neighbours before having dinner? Have we ever noticed those little children without clothes wondering on the roads when we pass by them on our luxurious vehicles and went for shopping with our family? Instead of spending a lot of money on clothes or unnecessary things we should take a glance at those who even cannot fulfill their basic needs. So not much but do little things for others, spread little happiness on the faces of those who have remained deprived of it for many years.

It is also the religious duty of all the Muslims who meet the necessary criteria of wealth to give Zakat. Though paying Zakat purifies, increases and blesses the remainder of wealth, it is for better when it is the month of Ramadan. Allah says: “it is right of the poor on the wealth of the rich”. Bring some change in ourselves and let its shine reflect the society. Until the Government does something on this issue we all have to hold each other’s up.



EU urged to sanction Israel over plan to annex occupied West Bank

09 May 2020

A network of pro-Palestinian European groups has called on the European Union to slap sanctions on Israel over its controversial proposal to annex much of the occupied West Bank, saying the move is part of the regime’s ongoing ethnic cleansing, apartheid and colonization policies.

The European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine (ECCP), in a letter addressed to the EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, on Saturday, said “immediate actions, including sanctions, need to be taken” to confront Israel’s unilateral land grab and annexation plans.

The Brussels-based group then urged the EU to take “concrete measures,” arguing that the 27-member bloc has means at its disposal to punish Israel’s violations.

The ECCP called for the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, and the exclusion of Israel from EU Framework Programs, funded by European taxpayers’ money, as some of possible punitive measures.

“This is not the first time that Israel has tried to illegally annex parts of territories it occupies. Israel already annexed occupied East Jerusalem (al-Quds) in 1967 and Syria’s Golan Heights in 1981 in gross violation of the international law,” the letter read.

“While Gaza has been strangled by a 13-year blockade and repeated military invasions in the West Bank, Palestinians struggle with a brutal occupation, expulsion, dispossession, arbitrary arrests and house demolitions among other things,” it continued.

The ECCP also urged Borrell to stand by his February statement in which he warned Israel that “steps towards annexation, if implemented, could not pass unchallenged.”

“Under international law, the EU as a whole and each of its member states have the mandatory obligation to ban trade with Israel’s illegal settlements, as allowing such entities to trade freely and profit from the Occupation violates duties of non-recognition of and non-assistance to serious breaches of international law. The current situation cannot be allowed to continue if the EU is serious about its commitments to human rights and the rule of law,” the letter noted.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has already condemned the Israeli plan to annex the occupied West Bank, saying the move will shut the door on possible "peace negotiations" with the Palestinians.

Guterres made the remarks in a recent meeting with the Arab Group delegation, including Oman, the Arab League and Palestinian officials earlier this week, denouncing Israeli settlements and the looming annexation plan as illegal.

He noted that the annexation proposal will “effectively end the [so-called] two-state solution and close the door on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.”


Iran makes own ventilators to make up for sanctions-driven shortage

09 May 2020

Iran has unveiled its first domestically-built ventilator. This comes as Iran cannot get its hands on medical equipment due to the US sanctions against the country.

The US medical sanctions have blocked Tehran's access to foreign-supplied ventilators, which are vital for treating COVID-19 patients with severe respiratory problems. But this is not the end for the patients in Iran. An Iranian company has done the impossible by producing an all-Iranian ventilator.

Hospitals in Iran have so far lived on previously imported ventilators to respond to COVID-19. But as another coronavirus peak is expected to hit the country in September, Iran may run short of ventilators.

Pooyandegan-e Raahe Saadat, which is the producer of the Iranian ventilator, says it will do its best to make up for the shortage. The Iranian company says its products are on par with their foreign rivals. It says some 50 countries have already filed requests to buy their ventilators.

Iran is one of the world’s worst-hit countries. The US sanctions prevent Iran from buying any medical equipment, even the most basic ones, such as protective items. The Trump administration, however, continues to ignore calls by the world leaders to exempt Iran's medical sector from the list of its sanctions.

Iranian engineers in here live the saying that necessity is the mother of invention. They say the current pandemic has led them towards a direction of self-sufficiency in the medical sector, helping them to fill the vacuum created by the bans, and above all, to save the lives of thousands of people.


Military parade held in Gaza to commemorate Quds Day

09 May 2020

On Friday, Abu Ali Mustafa brigades, affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, organized a military parade in Rafah city in the south of the Gaza Strip to commemorate the annual Quds Day.

Resistance forces carried flags of Palestinian officials and resistance figures, including Iran's top commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, who was assassinated by the US earlier this year.

The International Quds Day is aimed at highlighting the Palestinian cause and drawing attention to the Israeli occupation. Palestinians say despite plots hatched by Israel and the US, Jerusalem al-Quds will be the eternal capital of Palestine.

The annual event is held on the last Friday of the Holy Month of Ramadan. Due to the coronavirus restrictions, however, the parade this year was held two weeks earlier than usual.

Palestinian resistance groups in Gaza stress that they will not sit idly by while Israel continues to commit crimes against Palestinians. They say their efforts will continue until the liberation of Palestine and Jerusalem al-Quds.

Palestinians here say they will resist all the ongoing attempts to Judaize Jerusalem al-Quds and strip the holy city of its Muslim identity. Resistance movements say they will never forget Quds day as it keeps the Palestinian cause alive and honors all those who fought for it.


Persian literati celebrate birthday of Imam Hassan (AS)

May 9, 2020

TEHRAN – A large number of poets and writers from Iran and several Persian-speaking countries celebrated the birthday of Imam Hassan (AS) on Friday night.

The celebration titled “Visiting the Moon” was held in the courtyard of the Art Bureau in Tehran.

Islamic Ideology Dissemination Organization director Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Qomi, Art Bureau director Mohsen Momeni-Sharif and several other cultural officials also attended the celebration.

The celebration used to be held during the annual meeting of the poets and literati with Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei on the eve of the Imam’s birthday on Ramadan 14. However, the meeting was canceled this year over the COVID-19 pandemic.

The poets and writers also recited some of their latest works during this year’s celebration. In addition, the organizers played a recording of last year’s speech by Ayatollah Khamenei during the gathering.

During last year’s meeting, the Leader criticized Persian media and Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) for disregard of the standard language, using “faceless language” and foreign terms and words, and addressed the cultural officials and literati, “Don’t let the Persian language fall into decay and ruin.”


Main index at Tehran stocks finally exceeds 1-mln milestone

09 May 2020

The main index at the Tehran Stock Exchange (TSE), the main stock market in Iran, has exceeded the much-anticipated 1-million-point milestone as trade keeps booming despite concerns raised over a potential bubble in the market.

Figures by the TSE’s website published after late trading on Saturday showed that the benchmark TEDPIX had risen by 4.4 percent compared to the previous day to reach an all-time high of 1,020,913.25 points.

That brought in over 101 trillion rials (nearly $613 million) to the TSE, increasing the total value of the market to more than 38,000 trillion rials (over $230 billion).

A report by the official IRNA news agency said that trade was also booming at the Iran Fara Bourse (IFB), a subsidiary market of the TSE for trading securities and other financial instruments.

It said IFB’s main index gained 364 points compared to the end of the previous session to close at 11,513. It added that a total of 2.395 billion shares worth nearly 4.5 trillion rials (over $272 million) had been traded in the market on Saturday.

Iranian authorities have rejected claims that booming trade in the TSE is not consistent with other economic indicators in the country, including high levels of inflation, and the warnings that a bubble might emerge in the market.

Analyst believe the boom in the Iranian stock market is a sign of growing inclination among people to invest in manufacturing and business schemes in a country where American sanctions have spurred growth in various fields of the economy.



COVID-19: Police warn Ogun pastors, imams against flouting lockdown

May 10, 2020


The Ogun State Police Command has warned pastors and imams in the state against flouting the lockdown order by opening their religious centres for services.

Oyeyemi said the command got the hint that some religious leaders in the state were preparing to open their religious centres  for people to converge in disobedience to both the state and Federal Government orders.

The police spokesman explained that the command would not tolerate any act capable of undermining the determination of the state and federal governments to fight the COVID-19 pandemic to standstill.

The statement read in part, “It has come to the notice of the Ogun State police command that some religious leaders in the state are preparing to open their various religious centres for people to converge in total disobedience to both the state and federal government directives.’’

The command hereby appeal to such religious leaders in both Islamic and Christian faith who may be having such intention to have a change of mind because the security agencies in the state will view such with all seriousness.

He added that the Commissioner of Police, Kenneth Ebrimson, reminded all religious leaders that the ban on social or religious gatherings was still in force.


Zimbabwe army on high alert over Islamist threats from Mozambique

May 9, 2020

GOVERNMENT has placed the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) on high alert amid threats of insurgency and infiltration along the border with Mozambique where Islamist fighters and opposition Renamo militia have escalated attacks against Mozambican targets.

The Zimbabwe Independent reports that as the security situation deteriorates, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has launched a diplomatic offensive to convince Southern African Development Community (Sadc) leaders to consider a joint military operation to assist the neighbouring country in its battle to contain the twin rebellions which have gathered momentum in the past three years.

The Zimbabwean government has deployed elite troops to assist the Mozambican government with strategies on how to track down the insurgents. The soldiers will also conduct reconnaissance, which includes studying the terrain and assessing enemy strength, Government has confirmed.

Although Islamist insurgency has raged in northern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province since 2017, the situation deteriorated in the past month as the jihadist groups continue with mass killings. So far, they have killed nearly 1 000 people and displaced tens of thousands. The Mozambican government recently claimed to have killed 129 militants.

The decision by Mnangagwa — who chairs Sadc’s organ on politics, defence and security — to place troops on high alert follows his meeting last week in Mozambique with President Filipe Nyusi over the rapidly deteriorating situation in that country.

Mnangagwa took the Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, General Phillip Valerio Sibanda, to the meeting.Jihadist violence is ravaging Mozambique’s oil-rich north, while an armed dissident faction of the opposition Renamo has been making sporadic attacks in the central and eastern regions of the country. Attacks by jihadists have escalated in several districts of Cabo Delgado province in the far north.

Press and security reports indicate that the country has relapsed into a virtual civil war, with Islamist fighters killing 52 civilians during a night raid in Xitaxi Village, Muidumbe district, on April 8.

Mozambican security forces, with the help of mercenaries under the command of former Zimbabwean army colonel Lionel Dyck, a Mnangagwa ally, repelled the militants in Muidumbe town, killing 39 of them.

Presidential spokesperson George Charamba, who accompanied Mnangagwa to Mozambique, confirmed the army was on high alert although he dismissed reports that special forces had been secretly deployed in Mozambique.

Charamba said government was mostly worried about the threat posed by the Renamo militia, which has carried out attacks on civilians in central and eastern Mozambique. The militants have disrupted freight on the Mutare-Beira trade corridor which gives Zimbabwe the shortest route to the sea.

Authoritative government and military sources said Nyusi formally requested urgent military back-up from Zimbabwe during the meeting, but Mnangagwa took a cautious approach saying, for now, he would rather help by sending a small band of skilled military trainers who have special skills in tackling insurgency.

Official sources told the Independent the government had actually deployed elite troops to conduct reconnaissance along the expansive borderline two weeks ahead of Mnangagwa’s meeting with Nyusi.

“The military has been monitoring the situation there and they got really worried when the Renamo military junta’s leader Mariano Nhongo claimed they were responsible for an attack on a Chinese-owned timber company which left one worker dead in Matarara camp in Manica province. That is when the reality of the threat hit home and, since then, Zimbabwe’s security forces have been on alert,” a source said.

“So when the President went to Maputo last week, President Nyusi requested military back-up, saying his country was literally under siege and was struggling to cope with the situation. However, the President (Mnangagwa) said he needed to first raise the issue at a meeting of Sadc’s organ on defence and security so that if there is any deployment that is going to take place, it will be under the auspices of the regional bloc.

“However, the military had already sent reconnaissance teams to the borderline about two weeks earlier. Their brief is to carefully study the terrain to identify possible areas where terrorists could infiltrate

through and also alert those living in those areas so that they will be able to report any suspicious movements.” Charamba confirmed that Mnangagwa was communicating with the heads of state of Lesotho and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with a view to setting a date for the Troika’s meeting.

“The security issue is not only limited to Mozambique and Zimbabwe. It has become a major regional security concern and, as such, the President was of the view that the best way to tackle it was to bring it to the attention of Sadc, bearing in mind that he chairs the organ on defence and security,” Charamba said.

He added that the government got gravely worried after receiving reports that Renamo gunmen were targeting the Beira corridor, which comprises a railway line, road and oil pipeline, making it highly strategic to Zimbabwe’s economy.

Charamba said some Zimbabwean haulage trucks have been attacked in recent weeks.“It was important that we discussed two specific security issues. Firstly, there is the issue of Renamo dissidents operating in Manica province as well as in the central regions.

“The greatest traffic on that trade route is Zimbabwean and some of our trucks have been attacked there. So it is a very strategic trade route which links Zimbabwe to the rest of the world. They thus pose a direct threat to Zimbabwe,” Charamba said.

“The second aspect is the situation in the northern region of Mozambique where Islamic fundamentalists are attacking the state. This is worrisome for the whole of Sadc. Their intention is to redraw the geographical boundaries of the entire region without paying attention to traditional boundaries in the same way that the parent terrorist ISIS (Islamic State) organisation is trying to do in the Middle East.

“Their plans also affect Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi and DRC. So after a detailed briefing from President Nyusi, the President’s opinion is that it is a crisis we cannot be indifferent to, which is why he is talking to the heads of state of DRC and Lesotho. The troika meeting is set to take place soon.”

Asked whether or not Mnangagwa is ready to deploy soldiers to Mozambique, Charamba said: “Things haven’t gotten to that yet, but if you are going to use the precedents of other regions, no country is at peace now and this means action will have to be taken. Remember, in Zimbabwe, we have a number of our people who subscribe to that religion and we don’t want them to get radicalised as well. We are monitoring the situation and we have to be careful.”

Zimbabwe National Army spokesman AlphiosMakotore declined to comment, saying: “Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (Nick Mangwana) has already spoken on that matter.”

However, media reports this week suggested that at least 30 elite Zimbabwean troops are currently in Mozambique where they are helping with the training of the country’s military personnel on how to respond to the crisis.


KSrelief Continues Distributing Ramadan Food Baskets in Sudan


Khartoum, May 9, 2020, SPA -- King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) continued yesterday the distribution of Ramadan food baskets in the sisterly Republic of Sudan in cooperation with Alegtinam Human Development Org., where 600 food baskets were distributed in the municipality of Sana and mountain of Moya in Sennar state, benefiting 3600 people.

This comes as part of a project to distribute 38211 food baskets during the blessed month of Ramadan in the Republic of Sudan


Churches, Mosques join food distribution efforts

9th May 2020

By Eddie Ssejjoba

The Inter-religious Council of Uganda (IRCU) has joined government in a countrywide campaign to fundraise and solicit for relief food from their followers and later distribute it to the needy and vulnerable people affected by the country's lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic.

The campaign was recently launched at St. James Church of Uganda, Masajja A-Zone in Makindye Ssabagabo Municipality, Wakiso district. The event was presided over by state minister for disaster preparedness, Musa Ecweru.

It was attended by members of the IRCU, led by the current chairperson, Sheikh Shaban Mubajje, the Mufti of Uganda. Others were Bishop Joshua Lwere, the Overseer of the Pentecostal Churches in Uganda, Pastor Joseph Sserwadda, and others.

Minister Ecweru said President Yoweri Museveni had transformed from being a President to a parent during COVID-19 pandemic, compared to other leaders in the world who he said have instead been hit by panic.

He said Museveni had exhibited good leadership and applauded religious leaders for accepting to work with him which he said had saved lives.

Ecweru said the food the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) was distributing to the public was fit for human consumption after being tested by Uganda National Bureau of Standards before it leaves their stores in Nakawa.

According to Ecweru, by Wednesday last week, his team had given food to about 800,000 people in Kampala and were remaining with 200,000 to hit their target of 1million.

Ecweru, however, said rural Wakiso will not be given food noting they have alternative sources of food but they will stop in urban areas.

Bishop Lwere said their system of food distribution would differ from that of government because they give a full package to every family as opposed to individuals in each family.

Their package, he said, includes milk, maize flour, sugar, beans and soap. He appealed to followers to contribute food and other items through their churches and mosques, which will be surrendered to the National task force on COVID-19 or district task forces and later given out to the needy.

Mufti Mubajje cautioned girls to avoid truck drivers who he said were a big risk as far as coronavirus is concerned.

He said every truck driver should be treated as a potential source of infection until he is tested and proved to be free of COVD-19.

He applauded President Museveni for his wise leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Southeast Asia 

Indonesia’s COVID-19 figures ‘moderate’ compared to ASEAN countries: Minister


May 10, 2020

Coordinating Human Development and Culture Minister Muhadjir Effendy has claimed that Indonesia recorded only a moderate number of COVID-19 cases compared to other ASEAN countries and said the number continued to go down, dismissing Indonesia’s patchy testing capability and the highest death rate in the region.

“We’re on the right track. There is a decreasing trend of cases, though not dramatically. I thank all the people who have complied with the government’s COVID-19 precautionary measures,” Muhadjir said during a press briefing on Friday.

The statement came amid the government’s policy to ease travel restrictions and plans to gradually lift social restrictions in June.

On Saturday, Indonesia’s COVID-19 team reported the highest number of new cases in a single day, which was 533, bringing the total to 13,645 cases.

The data, critics and scientists have said, were not accurate because of Indonesia’s low testing capacity, which stood at fewer than 1,600 a day since March 3. As of Saturday noon, Indonesia has tested 108,669 people, which means it has conducted 0.39 tests per 1,000 people, one of the lowest test rates in the world.

Muhadjir considered the total number of confirmed cases “unexceptional” as Indonesia had a population of 273 million compared to the 6 million in Singapore, which recorded 22,460 cases as of Saturday.

He added that the country’s current growth rate of cases was not as extreme as in Europe or North America. According to the graph made by, starting in the fourth week after its first reported cases, the cases number in Indonesia doubles every five to seven days.

“We’re grateful that the exponential growth is not as rapid as predicted. The peak is at 500 cases a day,” he said, adding that the number of fatalities was plateauing as well and that all these data were used by the government as a guide to create policies regarding COVID-19 handling in the near future.

A disease surveillance and biostatistics researcher at the Eijkman-Oxford Clinical Research Unit, Iqbal RidziFahdriElyazar, however, was skeptical about the government’s claims.

“The government is not looking at the right curve, the epi curve. They use analytical tools that are invalid, inaccurate, not trustworthy and don’t met the epidemiological standards in assessing the COVID-19 situation,” Iqbal told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.

According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, an epidemic curve, or epi curve, is a visual display of the onset of illness to assess the distribution of cases over time. An epi curve shows the daily infection rate.

Indonesia had yet to have an epi curve and therefore, any claims of a decline in cases were not based on the right tool. What the government had been displaying was a curve showing the daily cases reported by the authorities, not the onset of infections, Iqbal said. The Health Ministry, he said, should have made epi curves to get a clearer picture of what was happening.

“To determine the onset of infections, a thorough epidemiology study should be done. But because it takes time and is costly, usually experts use other measures, such as the date when symptoms start showing, or the date when samples are taken, because some COVID-19 patients show no symptoms,” Iqbal told the Post.

The infection rate could not be determined by daily reported cases unless the test result came back positive for COVID-19 on the very day the people contracted the virus.

Meanwhile, the government has yet to reveal the average time gap between the sample collection and the test result. Some patients reported they had to wait for their test results for nine to 14 days, Kompas daily reported.

Wide testing is just as important in supporting the epi curve. Indonesia’s testing coverage is still very low with only 0.39 tests per 1000 people, far less than in neighboring Vietnam, which has conducted 2.68 tests per 1000 people, Singapore with 30.02 tests per 1000 people. Authorities in Iceland, meanwhile, have conducted 154.4 tests per 1000 people.

“Therefore, the claim that the peak number of cases is at 500 is groundless. The number of cases reported each day very much depends on the number of tests conducted. More test means more confirmed cases,” said Iqbal.

He criticized the government’s claim about the plateauing trend of the death toll, saying the government was once again departing from the World Health Organization’s protocol, which requires to include the death of patients suspected of being infected with COVID-19 in the number of fatalities.

As of Saturday, the government has reported 959 deaths, but some regions that reported deaths among suspected patients indicated that the toll could be much higher.

The government also failed to mention that the death rate is still high at 7 percent nationwide and 8.8 percent in the capital Jakarta.

“The government needs to immediately release the epi curves of each province, city and regency as the interaction between humans, viruses and the environment are unique in each region. The Health Ministry has all the data needed [to make the epi curve],” Iqbal said.


Tegal reports zero COVID-19 cases, thanks to PSBB: Mayor

May 10, 2020

Large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) in Tegal city, Central Java, which have been implemented for more than two weeks, are being hailed for successfully breaking the COVID-19 transmission chain as the city has not reported any new cases.

“The only COVID-19 patient in Tegal has recovered. Therefore, Tegal is now reporting zero cases of COVID-19,” Tegal Mayor M. Jumaidi said on Thursday.

He also claimed that the number of people under general monitoring (ODP) and patients under surveillance (PDP) for COVID-19 in the city shows had shown a declining trend since the city implemented the PSBB on April 23.

“Residents protested [the restriction] at first. Many still violated the rule by not wearing a mask and gathering outside. But in the second week, they started to show more discipline,” Jumaidi said.

However, he said that his administration was still optimizing the PSBB measures as people from several COVID-19 red zones continued arriving in the city and some mass religious events still took place at several locations.

The city administration has also decided to extend its PSBB period to May 22 to ensure it had successfully ended COVID-19 transmissions.

Central Java Governor GanjarPranowo commended the achievement but urged residents of Tegal to remain vigilant until the pandemic has truly ended and the economy restored.

“It’s hard to maintain discipline,” Ganjar said, adding that community awareness played an important factor in determining the success of the PSBB.

He further pointed out that Tegal city was located next to Tegal, Brebes and Pemalang agencies, which are considered COVID-19 red zones.

“Please, I’m asking Tegal residents to stay at home unless they have a very urgent matter. And when going outside, don’t forget to wear a mask and maintain a physical distance,” the governor said.


Covid-19: 54 new cases, death toll now at 108; new cluster detected at Setia Alam construction site

09 May 2020


PETALING JAYA: Malaysia reported 54 more Covid-19 cases on Saturday (May 9), bringing the total number of Covid-19 infection cases in the country to 6,589.

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said one death was reported on Saturday, bringing the total number of the deaths to 108.

He said that out of the 53 local transmissions, three cases were detected from the clusters and localities placed under the enhanced movement control order (MCO).

Malaysia also discharged 65 more patients on Saturday, which means 4,929 patients have recovered from Covid-19 in Malaysia since the outbreak began.

To date, Dr Noor Hisham said there are 18 patients being treated at intensive care units (ICU) with six of them needing ventilator support.

Meanwhile, Dr Noor Hisham said there were 28 positive cases discovered from the Pedas, Rembau cluster, bringing the total number of cases for that cluster to 88.

From that cluster, 33 are Nepalis, 26 are Bangladeshis, 11 are Indonesians and 11 are from Myanmar. The cause of infection for this cluster is still under investigation.


 Mahathir and Anwar speak as one

10 May 2020

PETALING JAYA: Pakatan Harapan will continue to fight to return the mandate of the people to the right party, say Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in a joint statement.

The PartiPribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) chairman and the PKR president said currently, institutional reforms, rule of law and the economy had been disrupted due to certain parties having their own agendas.

“The mandate of the people has been betrayed and the Pakatan government fell last February when Covid-19 was starting to affect the country.

“We do not recognise this government. Our principles are clear from day one that this government was formed that it is standing without the people’s mandate, ” they said in a statement yesterday to commemorate the anniversary of the day Pakatan won the 14th General Election that toppled Barisan Nasional.

They noted that the current government was not obtained legally through the ballot box in a general election, adding that it was based on greed for positions.

“We do not want to betray the people who had queued hours at voting stations to vote, spent hundreds to fly back to vote, took unpaid leave to come back to change the fate of this country, ” they said.

The two added that two years ago, people from different religions and races had come together to support their effort by, among others, donating, to see the change in the country.

“Two years ago, we did not give up to let the voices of the people be heard. Today is the same. We have long rejected differences, disputes, crisis for the people.

“We are now old, we do not have a lot of time. But the fighting spirit still burns in the souls of young people who dream of reform. The time has come for us to rise up again and to continue to return the mandate of the people to the right party, ” they said.

They also noted that on May 9, the world witnessed history when Malaysia formed a new government that upheld the rule of law, moral values and responsibility, adding that May 9 was also not just an event that remembered the unity between each Malaysian but an event that lifted the fate and the future of the people, as well as to fight injustice in the country.

They also said that when Pakatan ruled, they made sure democracy thrived, adding that the Dewan Rakyat was given a new life; institutional reform and public administration became the heart of the country, the states were given equal attention across political lines and there was freedom of speech.


Arab world 

295 prisoners released in Oman during first half of Ramadan

May 10, 2020

Muscat: In the first half of Ramadan, the FakKurba initiative has managed to arrange for the release of 295 prisoners.

The initiative said in a statement:"Continuous community solidarity with the initiative resulted in release of 160 new cases, bringing the total till date to 295."

"The distribution of new cases at the governorate level is as follows: Al-Batinah North Governorate: 79, Muscat Governorate: 39, South Al Sharqiyah: 25, Al Dakhiliyah Governorate: 9, North Al Sharqiyah: 6 and two prisoners have been released in Musandam Governorate,"the statement issued added.


Vodafone makes Ramadan donation to Qatar Charity

May 10 2020

Vodafone Qatar, as part of its Ramadan giving campaign, has donated QR140,000 to Qatar Charity (QC), which will go towards its food baskets programme helping those in need during Ramadan.

Hundreds of people have been taking part in Vodafone Qatar’s Ramadan giving campaign by participating in daily challenges and quizzes on its new ‘Sawa’ online engagement platform. Every 100 points collected through Vodafone Sawa are equivalent to a QR1 donation, which goes towards supporting a local charity initiative each week, the company has said in a statement.

Khames al-Naimi, chief human resources officer at Vodafone Qatar, said: “As part of our social responsibility, it’s important for us to support charitable work, especially during this holy month. This comes through supporting our long-term partner Qatar Charity, and to be there for people in need this Ramadan, a time for giving and togetherness.

“We thank everyone who participated on our Sawa platform to help us reach our goal this week. We still have more chances to do good together, and we hope more people will join in

and be part of our campaign.”

Mohamed Rashid al-Kaabi, assistant to the CEO in Qatar Charity’s Communication and Resource Development, thanked Vodafone Qatar for its support of Qatar Charity’s Ramadan campaign.

He said, “With this generous contribution from Vodafone Qatar, we will be able to reach more low-income families and workers who cannot meet their daily nutritional needs during the holy month, especially in light of the coronavirus pandemic that has affected their living conditions.”

Vodafone Qatar will be donating to different charity initiatives throughout the month of Ramadan, and next week’s beneficiary will be Qatar Red Crescent Society. The company is using its digital savvy to make the public a part of supporting these charity initiatives. The more points earned by playing on Sawa, the faster Vodafone gets to its charity donation goal each week, the company said.

Every participant will also get the chance to win prizes, with the top three weekly winners picked and awarded at the end of the month of Ramadan. One final winner with the highest score at the end of the competition will win the grand prize of QR25,000, which will also be announced at the end of Ramadan.

Anyone can join the Vodafone Sawa platform via the web and on mobile devices using the link,, and through the My Vodafone app.


Fujairah Charity Association distributes 150,000 iftar meals in H1 of Ramad


FUJAIRAH, 9th May, 2020 (WAM) -- Fujairah Charity Association, FCA, has distributed 150,000 iftar meals in the first half of the Holy Month of Ramadan to workers and underprivileged families in the emirate of Fujairah.

Saeed bin Mohammed Al Raqbani, Chairman of FCA, stated that an average of 10,000 meals was delivered daily to the beneficiaries.

The plan is to deliver 300,000 meals by the end of the fasting month, he said, adding that employees and volunteers strictly adhere to precautionary and preventive measures.

The Ramadan food assistance programme is part of the FCA's mandate to promote values of tolerance, solidarity and compassion during these exceptional circumstances,'' he said.


Coronavirus: One person in Bahrain infects 16 family members during Ramadan gathering

10 May 2020

Sixteen family members in Bahrain contracted coronavirus from one infected relative during a Ramadan iftar gathering, the Ministry of Health announced in a statement on Saturday.

The family members did not comply with precautionary measures including avoiding large gatherings, wearing a mask and social distancing, according to the statement. The infected person spread the contagious disease to all present family members including his parents, siblings as well as several children.

“Awareness is everyone’s responsibility, and guidelines must be adhered to in order to prevent the spread of the virus,” the health ministry said.

The ministry continues its efforts in expanding its testing capacity to maintain everyone’s safety by early detection of cases and contact tracing which preserves the health and safety of all citizens and residents, according to the statement.

The small island Kingdom allowed shops and industrial enterprises to reopen last week as the government eased restrictions implemented to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. Bahrain had shuttered non-essential shops and businesses in late March and barred entry of foreign visitors, but did not impose a curfew, unlike some other Gulf states.


Egyptian director Tamer Mohsen on his love-hate relationship with Ramadan series

May Abdallah

9 May 2020

Egyptian filmmaker Tamer Mohsen opened up to Al-Ahram Arabic gate In an interview about working on Ramadan television series, from which he draws joy as he copes with their challenges. Mohsen is known for directing award-winning film Ott wa Far (Cat and Mouse), and numerous television series including Taht El-Saytara (Under Control).

When comparing works for television and cinema, he pointed to the environment in which his work will be watched. He said that “in cinema, the viewer watches the film on a big screen in a quiet hall, with a proper sound system, a setting deemed perfect for any filmmaker. When it comes to a television series, you don't really know how the viewers will watch it, and whether it will receive the attention you are expecting.”

He said he received a message from a friend saying she was so interested in the events of the series he directed that she continued watching it on her mobile phone while on the street.

“At first when I realised that she was in fact watching the series on the mobile phone, in the broad daylight, not to say in the sunlight, surrounded by crowds and noises I felt that all my effort poured into the production went in vain. In such viewing conditions, how could she notice the light I used, setting details, shooting angles and many other technicalities which were so important to the series? But then I thought that on the contrary, maybe it was not such a bad thing. After all, she got so involved in the plot and characters, so impatient to continue watching the series, that she did so in those unusual circumstances. It is obvious that the technicalities are there only to support the story, they help the plotline to progress.”

Mohsen explained that "when I work on a television series, I always think about many details outside the plot, often feeling that I’m holding a stopwatch at hand. The pressure to create a big work in six or eight months is enormous, and time is of the essence here. Unfortunately, the director’s choices are sometimes defined by issues beyond creative or technical aspects. Having to toe a specific line can render the implementation process quite uncomfortable.

"But on the other hand, you get to enjoy the whole process, especially once it resonates successfully,” Mohsen added, comparing directing a series to a quest to create a painting in 10 minutes, a mission which involves a lot of pressure. “Yet no matter the circumstances, there is a special kind of pleasure in the whole process.”

At the beginning of his filming career, Mohsen focused on documentary films. Among his known works are Political Crime: The Assassination of Hassan El-Banna (2007), Saad Zaghloul: The Leader And His Shadow (2008), Political Crime: Assassination of Sadat (2009), and The Whale Shark Visit (2013).

In his discussion with Al-Ahram Arabic gate, the director explained that though he enjoyed working on each of these films and learnt a lot in the process, documentaries were never his dream.

Mohsen directed his first feature comedy Ott wa Far in 2015. The film received three awards at the Cairo National Festival for Egyptian Cinema: Best Supporting Actor (Mohamed Farrag), Best Director (Tamer Mohsen) and Best Screenplay (Wahid Hamed).

He worked on Bedoon Zikr Asmaa (Without Mentioning Names) television series in 2013, while his breakthrough in the series field came with Taht El-Saytara, a 2015 drama which unveils the world of drug addiction in Egypt. Then came Hadha El-Masaa (Tonight), a 2017 series.

Tamer Mohsen together with Dhafer L'Abidine and Nelly Karim, on the set of Taht El Saytara television series (Photo: Tamer Mohsen Instagram, 2015)

Though today Mohsen is a well established director of films and television series, he revealed that short films have always been close to his heart. “Unfortunately they do not attract the deserved attention from Arab audiences,” he said.

Mohsen is yet to release NemraEtnein (Number Two), in which he collaborates with other directors. The series stars Amina Khalil, Amr Youssef, Mona Zaki, Nelly Karim, and Ahmed Malek. He is also to release in 2021 TaqatoeToroq (Crossroads) starring Mona Zaki, Amina Khalil, Mohamed Mamdouh, and Sayed Ragab.

Mohsen's repertoire includes directing several television ads, such as the 2018 and 2019 anti-drug and anti-smoking campaigns, all featuring the Egyptian international football player Mohamed Salah, the National Cancer Institute, and Magdi Yacoub Foundation.



WAMY Distributes More Than (8000) Ramadan Iftar Meals to Fasting People in Senegal

May 09, 2020

Dakar, SPA -- The Office of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) in Senegal provided today more than 8,000 Ramadan iftar (breakfast), food baskets and hot meals to the fasting people in Dakar, and a number of suburbs.

The director of WMAY Office in Senegal indicated that the distribution process was launched in the presence of Advisor to the President of the Republic of Senegal, Minister Hassan Job, who appreciated the WAMY's efforts to help the Senegalese people.

It is worth noting that hundreds of poor and needy people, orphans, Qur'anic schools, WAMY's mosques and centers, some local associations and some municipal employees have benefited from the project.

The beneficiaries expressed their gratitude for the generous support of the government and the people of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.


Mosque reopen in Germany after two months

May 9, 2020

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): Mosques in Germany opened their doors to worshippers on Saturday after about two months of closure due to the coronavirus outbreak.

They allowed worshippers in for morning prayers, Anadolu Agency reported.

Wearing masks, using sterilizers and maintaining a 1.5-meter distance from one another are a must for those willing to say prayers at mosques.

Germany has eased restrictions imposed to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Schools, churches, mosques and playgrounds can now gradually reopen provided that they fully observe health protocols.

Germany has reported more than 170,000 coronavirus cases. The disease has killed over 7,500 people in the country.

Globally, the death toll from the disease has risen to 276,000 and the total number of confirmed cases to more than 4 million


Coronavirus: UK PM To Unveil Five-Stage Warning System For Easing Lockdown

10 May 2020

The prime minister will unveil a five-stage coronavirus warning system as part of a gradual easing of the lockdown.

Boris Johnson will also leave behind the old "stay at home" slogan and instead tell people to "stay alert, control the virus and save lives".

A five-stage system administered by a new "joint biosecurity centre" will detect increases in COVID-19 infection rates and judge how strict lockdown measures and social distancing rules should be locally in England.

With the alert levels ranging from green (level one) to red (level five), Mr Johnson is expected to say the nation is close to moving down from level four to three.

The UK's lockdown was introduced on 23 March to try to contain the spread of COVID-19 and, by law, it must be reviewed every three weeks. It was last reviewed on Thursday last week when Downing Street said that no changes have been made.

Mr Johnson will chair a meeting of the emergency Cobra committee today before his pre-recorded address airs at 7pm, with some changes potentially taking effect as early as Monday.

He is expected to tell people who cannot work from home that they can return to their workplaces while following social distancing rules.

Garden centres will be allowed to reopen and the limit of one type of exercise a day is expected be relaxed, while there will likely be tougher fines for those who break the rules.

There are also reports that ministers are planning a 14-day compulsory self-isolation period for people arriving at UK airports from any country apart from the Republic of Ireland.

A larger 50-page document is to be revealed on Monday which will outline how the UK economy will be revived after the virus outbreak forced widespread business closures.

But there is concern that many workers might not be willing to return to work yet, as figures suggest the coronavirus death toll for the UK sits at more than 31,000.

A scientific adviser to the government told The Sunday Times that the UK could still suffer more than 100,000 deaths by the end of the year if the lockdown is relaxed too quickly.

In The Observer, Unison, Unite, the GMB, Usdaw and the Trades Union Congress wrote that workers needed to know that "ministers have listened and that we stay safe and save lives at work too".

Mr Johnson told the Sun On Sunday: "You have very few options on the climb up - but it's on the descent you have to make sure you don't run too fast, lose control and stumble."

Meanwhile, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced a £250m package to boost cycling and walking, warning that some forms of public transport will only be able to run at 10% capacity under social distancing rules.


'People have questions to answer': Pastor joins protest held in Manchester after man Tasered by police in front of child

10 May 2020

Anti-racism campaigners have staged a protest over police use of a Taser on a man in front of his distressed child.

A group of up to 15 people observed Covid-19 social distancing rules as they gathered at a petrol station forecourt in Stretford, Manchester, where the incident took place.

Mobile phone footage widely shared on social media showed an altercation on Wednesday night between a black man and two white police officers.

The man is seen standing next to a marked police car and puts down his crying son before moments later he falls to the ground as a Taser is fired by one of the officers.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham has questioned whether the Taser use was "proportionate or justified" and has demanded an urgent review.

Among the protesters at the event staged by Stand Up to Racism on Saturday were Paul Davidson, a minister at the Church of God of Prophecy.

He said: "I am here because this news has outraged black people nationally. We are obviously keen to find out what the details are and whether there are other circumstances we haven't learned from the immediate clip.

The man who was tasered, Desmond Ziggy Mombeyarara, 34, appeared before magistrates on Friday where he admitted a number of offences including speeding, drink driving, failing to stop and unnecessary travel.

He told the newspaper: "I was saying to the officers, 'Let us calm the situation for the little one because the little one doesn't feel comfortable'. But they were making out like I was using him as a human shield."


UK to introduce two-week quarantine for international travellers to stop coronavirus spread


3The British government has told airlines it will introduce a 14-day quarantine period for most people arriving from abroad to try to avoid a second peak of the coronavirus outbreak, an association representing the airlines says.

Airlines UK, which represents British Airways, easyJet and other UK carriers, said the move required "a credible exit plan" and should be reviewed weekly.

The quarantine plan was first reported by The Times newspaper, which said Prime Minister Boris Johnson would announce on Sunday that passengers arriving at airports and ports, including Britons returning from abroad, would have to self-isolate for a fortnight.

Under measures that are likely to come into force in early June, travellers will have to provide the address at which they will self-isolate on arrival, The Times said.

Airlines UK had previously warned a quarantine would "effectively kill international travel to and from the UK", making it "all but impossible for aviation to resume any time soon".

Derek Provan, chief executive of AGS Airports, which owns and operates several regional British airports, also expressed alarm.

"This measure will have a devastating effect on aviation, tourism and hospitality as inbound visitors will not come to the UK whilst this is in place," he said.

At the start of the global outbreak, Britain asked visitors from hotspots such as the Chinese city of Wuhan and northern Italy to self-isolate on arrival.

But it refused to follow other countries in shutting its borders, saying coronavirus was already in Britain.

If infection rates fall enough to start lifting the lockdown, officials say that putting foreign visitors into quarantine might help stop a new surge.


Two-week quarantine will cripple us, aviation industry warns Boris Johnson

Michael Savage

Sat 9 May 2020

A two-week quarantine period for all travellers arriving in Britain risks devastating an aviation industry already crippled by the Covid-19 outbreak, Boris Johnson is being warned.

It is understood that the 14-day quarantine period will be announced by the prime minister, alongside a slight loosening of the lockdown measures that were introduced to slow the spread of the virus. Mass quarantine upon arrival has not previously been used as part of Britain’s response.

The measure is expected to be introduced within weeks and imposed on all except those coming from Ireland. Passengers will have to give an address for their immediate self-isolation. Fines and deportation will be among the possible punishments for breaching the rules.

There was immediate alarm from some quarters of the aviation sector, which warned that the effect of the measures would not be confined to airlines. “Quarantine would not only have a devastating impact on the UK aviation industry, but also on the wider economy,” said Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association (AOA). “If the government believes quarantine is medically necessary, then it should be applied on a selective basis following the science, there should be a clear exit strategy, and the economic impact on key sectors should be mitigated.

“The government should commit to a weekly review of the quarantine measures and publish the evidence that informs the review’s outcome.”

Others in the industry are demanding to see the details and the science that informed the move. A spokesman for Airlines UK said: “We need to see the detail of what they are proposing. We will be asking for assurances that this decision has been led by the science and that government has a credible exit plan, with weekly reviews to ensure the restrictions are working and still required.”

The bosses of Belfast International Airport have already written to the government asking for clarification. They said they had not been consulted on the plans. A spokeswoman said: “We have written to government asking for clarification and outlining the serious effect this would have not only on our business but also, and more importantly, on the economy of Northern Ireland.”

Gatwick airport said that the impact on the industry meant a sector-specific extension of the job retention scheme, which allows companies to furlough staff while the state pays 80% of their wages, should be introduced. Business rate relief and the waiving of regulation fees are also being demanded.

A Heathrow spokesman said: “Any measures agreed must meet three key tests: they must be medically effective, meet public expectations and be deliverable by airports. Heathrow is more than just an airport, it is the heart that keeps economic blood flowing for this country, and it is vital our industry has the ability to bounce back quickly when the UK is ready to build back Britain together.”

At the Downing Street press conference yesterday, transport secretary Grant Shapps said the aviation industry had “both a short-term problem because people are not flying now and a longer-term recovery issue”. He said both he and chancellor Rishi Sunak had told the sector that conversations about “bespoke” help could be held.

Figures released to Labour MP Stephen Doughty showed that fewer than 300 people arriving in the UK were quarantined in the run-up to coronavirus lockdown on 23 March.




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