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Islamic World News ( 6 Jul 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Harassed For Not Following Basics of Islam Bihar Muslim Lawyer and Sons Convert to Hinduism

New Age Islam News Bureau

6 Jul 2017

Diversity is under threat in Indonesia as intolerance in government bureaucracy and schools rises.



 Harassed For Not Following Basics of Islam: Bihar Muslim Lawyer, Sons Convert to Hinduism

 Indonesian Public Schools Breeding Intolerance, Says Report

 Daesh Takfiris Shave Their Faces En Masse to Flee Mosul’s Old City

 Dangerous Extremists Locked Up In Britain's First 'Jihadi Jail' To Stop Them Radicalising Other Inmates

 Islamic Laws Vital For Durable Peace in Pakistan: Jammat-i-Islami



 Harassed For Not Following Basics of Islam: Bihar Muslim Lawyer, Sons Convert to Hinduism

 Kerala Muslim Man Challenges HC Decision to Nullify Marriage with Hindu Woman over ISIS Link

 Modi, Netanyahu discuss Israeli-Palestinian peace process

 India, Israel ‘strategic partners’, send strong message on terror

 Twice in 7 days, Iran talks of 'oppressed' Kashmir

 FB post, communal violence leave West Bengal town divided, scarred

 Infiltration down, 92 terrorists killed in J&K this year

 Netanyahu asks Modi about probe into 2012 Israeli Embassy attack


Southeast Asia

 Indonesian Public Schools Breeding Intolerance, Says Report

 Indonesian President’s Son under Investigation for Blasphemy

 Philippines: Muslim-Only ID Card Should Be ‘Rejected Outright’ – Watchdog

 Philippine Militants Behead 2 Vietnamese Hostages

 Another Malaysian IS operative’s death confirmed

 Shariah compliance: Too hard to swallow for non-Muslims?

 Starbucks Indonesia clarifies stance on LGBT rights following recent boycott

 Philippine Troops Arrest Marawi Militants' Main Financier

 Rather than move on, let's learn from divisive Jakarta election

 National Police Chief Calls for Calm after S. Jakarta 'Islamic State Flag' Incident


Arab World

 Daesh Takfiris Shave Their Faces En Masse to Flee Mosul’s Old City

 Iraq PM Fetes ‘Victory’ In Mosul, But Battle Continues

 Ammar Al-Hakim: Referendum in Kurdistan Region to Harm Entire Iraq

 Syrian Army on Verge of Full Liberation of Central Part of Country from Terrorists

 Lebanese security forces bust ISIS cell fronting as a fake football team

 Arab states fighting terrorism: We cannot accept Qatar’s destructive role

 Lebanese forces dismantle Daesh cell disguised as football team

 Whistle-Blower: Saudi Crown Prince Absent in G20 Summit for Fear of Internal Coup

 US Sets up Seven Military Bases in Regions Controlled by Syrian Kurds

 Syrian Soldiers Lay Siege on ISIL's Top Stronghold in Eastern Homs

 Tensions Intensify in Idlib after Reported Clashes among Rival Terrorists

 Key powers thrash out safe zones plan at Syria talks

 After criticism, France’s Macron seeks to reassure Syria opposition



 Dangerous Extremists Locked Up In Britain's First 'Jihadi Jail' To Stop Them Radicalising Other Inmates

 Tajik Police Kill 4 Relatives of Islamic State Warlord

 Austria: Muslim Kindergarten Study Reviewed for Text Changes

 Berlin Liberal Mosque; another Attack on Islam

 Married Teens 'Gave Islamic State Salute', Court Told

 Uzbekistan says won't rejoin Russia-led security bloc



 Islamic Laws Vital For Durable Peace in Pakistan: Jammat-i-Islami

 Minority Hindus in Pakistan's Punjab Told To Vacate Houses

 McCain’s warning reflects changing mood in Washington towards Pakistan

 AG Ausaf to lead Pakistani team in Jadhav case, world court told

 Quetta court grants bail to journalist arrested by FIA over 'anti-state' social media posts

 8 people, including MPA's brother, injured in Quetta gun attack


South Asia

 Mob Kills Rohingya Muslim with Bricks as Violence against Group Intensifies In Burma

 Taliban Deaths Exceeds 60 in Ongoing Operations in Helmand Province

 Lashkar-e-Islam commander Shah Nawaz killed in Nangarhar airstrikes

 Standing with Hindus in Bangladesh

 The Tragedy of Russian Politics in Afghanistan

 Afghanistan reacts at Iranian president’s remarks on construction of water dams

 Pentagon confirms death of US soldier in Helmand province of Afghanistan



 Erdogan Says Loyal To Qatar, Arab States' Demands Unacceptable

 More Turkey-Backed Militants Killed in Northern Syria

 Commander: Iran to Launch Home-Made Version of S-300 Missile Shield by Next Year

 There would be no Iran without Revolutionary Guard, replies Soleimani to Rouhani

 Turkey detains 37 ISIS suspects, Syrian carrying explosives at border



 Libyan Army Recaptures Benghazi from Extremists

 Hundreds of Civilians Killed In C Africa War Crimes

 Libya rocket attack kills five on Tripoli beach

 ICC to rule on South Africa’s failure to arrest Sudan’s Bashir

 5 killed, 25 injured in rocket attack east of Libyan capita

 Truck accident in Central African Republic kills 78

 Insurgency: Two Boko Haram members surrender in Borno

 Kenya: Al-Shabaab attack on police station kills 2


North America

 Quebec Safari Park Defends Religious Freedom Following 'Hateful' Response to Muslim Visit

 US Media Write 449% More News Stories about 'Muslim' Terrorist Attacks than Others

 Muslims want to talk to mayoral candidate Bill Ketron about Islam

 After call with Trump, Egypt’s Sisi says their views on the region ‘in line’

 Canada court upholds $1.7bn ruling against Iran’s terrorism involvement

 US says would consider no-fly zone in Syria if Russia agrees

 Poll: Most Americans Support Trump's Travel Ban

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Harassed For Not Following Basics of Islam: Bihar Muslim Lawyer, Sons Convert to Hinduism

By Santosh Singh

July 6, 2017

Accusing his Muslim neighbours of “harassing” him, a 46-year-old Muslim lawyer has converted to Hinduism in Bihar’s Begusarai district. Mohammed Anwar converted amid Vedic mantras on Tuesday along with his sons — Mohammed Amir, 11, and Mohammed Shabir, 9. He has been renamed Anand Bharti, and his sons have taken the names Aman Bharti and Suman Bharti. Anand said that his wife, Shabnam, would convert later.

“Though I have been living in Pokharia, Begusarai, for over 18 years amid 12 Muslim households in a Muslim-dominated area, a Syed family, which thinks itself as contractor of Islam, has been harassing me for last seven months, sometimes by saying that I hardly offer namaz and at times by leaving bones outside my house,’’ Anand said. “I consider myself a humanist. I have given donation for construction of temples… Such things would irritate Muslim neighbours, who often asked why I do not eat beef and put my sons in a madrasa.’’

Anand said he was forced to convert after about 40 Muslims allegedly threatened him with consequences if he did not follow “basic norms of Islam” on July 2. He said he was not influenced or wooed to convert. “At 46, no one can be able to influence my decision. I had been feeling suffocated by jibes. I have given an affidavit making it clear that I have taken my decision out of my will.’’ Bajrang Dal’s Begusarai district convenor Subham Bhardwaj said Anand announced that he would “renounce Islam” after he called him to protect his life. He added that their “social service’’ has pleased people like Anand.



Indonesian Public Schools Breeding Intolerance, Says Report

July 6, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR: Diversity is under threat in Indonesia as intolerance in government bureaucracy and schools rises.

A special report by The Jakarta Post revealed how intolerance has gripped the country, a phenomenon which also appears to have taken root in Malaysia.

The report said massive propagation of the ultra-conservative brand of Islam had taken place not only in mosques, but also in public domains such as shopping malls, offices, schools and universities.

Most alarming, it said, was the proliferation of intolerance through formal educational institutions, particularly public schools which are not supposed to promote any brand of religion because they run on public funds.

Surprisingly, it found that Islamic schools were generally less conservative than public schools.

It also noted that intolerance was spread by teachers and government-authorised Islamic textbooks.

The Jakarta Post report found the government largely at fault, saying it was not doing enough to put the system back on track.

It said multiple studies by credible organisations, including the religious affairs ministry, had “added credence to the long-held concern that public schools have become fertile ground for religious bigots to sow the seeds of conservatism and intolerance. Many teachers help spread the virus, passing their conservative views to their students”.

“Among students, conservatism has proliferated through extracurricular activities called rohis (Islamic spirituality lectures). Often, rohis speakers preach hatred and the school management turns a blind eye to the toxic practices.

“Interestingly, various surveys have proven that public schools run by the state or private entities are more conservative than Islamic schools. The Ma’arif Institute says this is because the latter are built on solid religious comprehension, while the former rely on less competent theology teachers and are more prone to radical infiltration.”

The Ma’arif Institute had warned about rising intolerance in schools in 2011 and in a study last year, it revealed that a public senior high school in West Java had stopped conducting “an obligatory ceremony that schools across the archipelago hold every Monday because its teachers considered saluting the national flag to be haram (forbidden by God). Instead, the school held a mass Quran recital”.

The report noted that in Aceh, the only province that has formally adopted shariah law, Christian students in the eastern district of Aceh Singkil are required to take lessons on Islam as a prerequisite for final exams.

“This policy is strictly enforced despite the national education law, which guarantees that students nationwide shall receive the morality lessons of their own religious beliefs taught by teachers who embrace the same religion.”

The Jakarta Post report noted that similar concerns had been raised by the Wahid Foundation and the religious affairs ministry.

In their joint studies, made public in February, they found, for instance, that of 1,600 rohis respondents, 33% defined jihad as a holy war against non-Muslims. Also, 60% said they would go on jihad to countries like Syria if they had the chance.

“Thirty-three percent of them believe terrorists like Amrozi, Imam Samudra and others served as role models for good Muslims,” Wahid Foundation programme officer Alamsyah M Djafar was quoted as saying.

“While the phenomenon of radicalising students, especially in senior high school, has become more open and organised, the government has done practically nothing to curb it. Alas, some of its policies are supportive of it,” the Jakarta Post report added.

The report said the Research Centre of the Jakarta State Islamic University (PPIM UIN) found in a recent study that some of the 24 Islamic textbooks published by the education and culture ministry contained intolerant messages.

Teachers are also intolerant, as the PPIM UIN found. A survey it conducted showed that nearly 80% of 500 Islamic morality teachers said they would reject non-Muslim teachers in their schools.

“They also frown upon the presence of other religions’ houses of worship in their neighbourhoods.”

The report quoted the religious affairs ministry’s director-general for Islamic education, Kamaruddin Amin, as saying the government had a hard time dealing with radicalism in many public schools.

He noted that students of minority religions – Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Confucianists – were also subject to discrimination and that only a few schools had their own religion teachers.

The Jakarta Post added that the ministry is developing a new curriculum and new religious textbooks to ensure a more tolerant approach.



Daesh Takfiris shave their faces en masse to flee Mosul’s Old City

Jul 5, 2017

A high-ranking Iraqi military commander says members of the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group are shaving their beards to blend in with civilians as they flee government forces' advance on Mosul's Old City.

“They just shave their beards and walk out. Just yesterday we captured two among a group of women and children,” Lieutenant General Sami al-Aridi of Special Forces told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

He added that hundreds of militants have managed to escape from the Old City, noting that some 300 Daesh extremists remain in the small patch of territory still controlled by them.

The remarks came on the same day that Staff Lieutenant General Abdulwahab al-Saadi, a top commander in Iraq's Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), told Arabic-language al-Forat news agency that Daesh terrorists’ hold on Mosul has shrunk to a 150-square meter area.

He went on to say that there are 100 bombers among the militants remaining in Mosul’s Old City, stressing that 90 percent of the remaining terrorists are foreigners.

Major Ali Mohsen, a member of the CTS, also told Basnews news agency that government forces have taken over 90 percent of al-Midan neighborhood, where Daesh terrorists were running underground detention facilities and stockpiling munitions.

He added that security forces have uncovered an incarceration center, where 40 people were being held in poor and unhealthy conditions.

On Tuesday, security forces liberated the main square and a multi-storey car park in the Bab al-Toub neighborhood of western Mosul and Khuzam Grand Mosque.

They also took control of the Khalid ibn al-Walid street in the Old City of Mosul.

Late on Tuesday, Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi congratulated the armed forces on a "big victory" in Mosul, declaring an end to the Daesh terror group’s self-styled caliphate.

Iraqi army soldiers and volunteer fighters from the Popular Mobilization Units, commonly known by their Arabic name, Hashd al-Sha’abi, have made sweeping gains against Daesh since launching the Mosul operation on October 17, 2016.

The Iraqi forces took control of eastern Mosul in January after 100 days of fighting, and launched the battle in the west on February 19.

An estimated 862,000 people have been displaced from Mosul ever since the battle to retake the city began nine months ago. A total of 195,000 civilians have also returned, mainly to the liberated areas of eastern Mosul.



Dangerous Extremists Locked Up In Britain's First 'Jihadi Jail' To Stop Them Radicalising Other Inmates

6 JULY 2017

Dangerous Muslim extremists have been locked up in Britain's first "jihadi jail" to stop them brainwashing other inmates.

Nearly a dozen terrorists have been jailed in a "separation centre" at HMP Frankland in Durham and isolated from other prisoners.

The "prison within a prison" is designed to reduce that extremists will radicalise other inmates by giving the worst terrorists their own cells, exercise yard and visiting centre.

It will make it easier for the authorities to monitor the extremists and reduce the risk of them plotting atrocities behind bars. They will be subjected to intensive de-radicalisation programmes.

Two other units will open at other maximum-security jails and eventually house a total of 28 of Britain's worst Muslim extremists.

Prisoners likely to be held in the new units include Michael Adebolajo, who murdered soldier Lee Rigby, and failed 21/7 bomber Osman Hussein....



Islamic Laws Vital For Durable Peace in Pakistan: Jammat-i-Islami

July 06, 2017

BAJAUR AGENCY: - Jammat-i-Islami (JI) Chief Sirajul Haq said on Wednesday that implementation of Islamic laws was the best and durable solution to every problem of the people of the country, adding that the JI would continue its efforts to make Pakistan an Islamic state in the true sense.

He stated this while talking to JI leaders and workers during his visit to Bajaur Agency.

The JI chief said that Islamic system was necessary to ensure rule of law and justice with the citizens. He said that JI would further expedite its peaceful struggle to implement Islamic laws in the country through ballot.

About the proposed Fata reforms, the JI leader said that the plan would prove as a game changer for the people of tribal areas.

Siraj said that reforms in the current governance system would ensure durable peace, stability and speedy socio-economic development in Fata. The JI leader flayed the government for delaying the reforms despite majority of people wanted to implement the same without any delay.

He asked the workers to aware the people about significance of reforms package. The JI leader said that those who were opposing the reforms were in fact against the development of tribal areas.

Earlier, on his arrival to the agency, the JI chief was received by officials of local administration and JI leaders and workers. The local administration also hosted a dinner in his honour at the political compound, which was attended by senior officials and JI leaders.

The JI amir also visited the residence of JI Fata chief Haji Sardar Khan in Khaar and offered condolence over his father’s death.





Kerala Muslim man challenges HC decision to nullify marriage with Hindu woman over ISIS link

July 6, 2017

Harish V Nair

The controversial issue of so-called love jihad will finally have its day in India's top court. A Muslim youth from Kerala on Wednesday moved the Supreme Court, challenging a high court order that quashed his marriage with a Hindu woman- who converted to Islam- on a petition filed by her father.

The moot question 27-year-old Shafin Jahan, who worked in the Gulf, raised is whether any court can cancel the marriage between two educated adults who are mentally fit.

Since the BJP government came to power at the Centre in 2014, hardline groups linked to the party in particular have stepped up a campaign against "love jihad" - a term for what they consider to be an Islamist strategy to convert Hindu women through seduction, marriage and money. However, there is another dimension in this specific case.


The Kerala High Court surprisingly observed that 24-year-old medical student Akhila, who adopted the name Hadiya after conversion, could have taken the most important decision of her life only with her parents' involvement.

But it also found merit in her father KM Ashokan's statement that his daughter had been recruited by Islamic State's mission in Syria and Shafin Jahan was "only a stooge who had been assigned to play the role of going through a marriage ceremony".

Most importantly, the high court bench of Justice K Surendra Mohan and Justice Abraham Mathew, noting that "national interest is at stake", on May 25 ordered Kerala's director general of police (DGP) to conduct "comprehensive" investigation into cases of "love jihad" and have incidents of forced conversion probed thoroughly.

The judges emphasised "the existence of an organisational setup functioning behind the scenes in such cases of 'love jihad' and conversions".

"Are there any radical organisations involved, are questions that plague an inquisitive mind. But sadly, there are no answers available in this case," said the court. Previous police investigations have found no evidence of an organised "love jihad".


The judges' observations apparently stemmed from reports of a large number of radicalised youths going missing from several districts of Kerala and ending up in ISIS training camps in Afghanistan and Syria.

The woman's father had told the high court that his daughter had been radicalised by some organisations and they also influenced her to marry a Muslim man so that she is out of the parents' custody forever. He also told the judges that he suspected that there could be a scheme to send her to Syria to work with extremist organisations such as ISIS since the man she married had been working in the Gulf.

Noting that there could be an element of truth in the father's contention, the high court while ordering the custody of Akhila to her parents said, "We further take note of the fact that Shafin Jahan's mother is already in the Gulf. He was working in the Gulf and is desirous of going back. Therefore, left to him, he would have transported Ms Akhila out of the country. Then it would have become impossible to even trace her out had she been taken out of India. There are reports of girls taken out of the country after such conversions, having become untraceable."


Denying the arguments of forcible conversion, the woman had told the HC that she came under the influence of Muslim religion, having heard about the teachings of the faith from her hostel roommates while she was studying homeopathy in Tamil Nadu. She had, therefore, attended a course at Satyasarani and had become Muslim by conversion.

But the HC, disbelieving the woman's story said in the judgment: "It is not normal for a young girl in her early 20s, pursuing a professional course, to abandon her studies and to set out in pursuit of learning an alien faith and religion. The normal youth is indifferent towards religion and religious studies."

Shafin Jahan's petition in SC filed through his lawyer Haris Beeran says the high court erred in equating the marriage to a case of "love jihad".

"The woman had converted on her own will to the faith of Islam, not for marrying the petitioner. It was after she had met with Shafin Jahan online and then they both decided to marry," it says.



Modi, Netanyahu discuss Israeli-Palestinian peace process

Jul 5, 2017

JERUSALEM: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday discussed the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and underlined the need for the establishment of a just and durable peace in the region that has been marred by years of conflict.

"We also discussed the situation in West Asia and wider region. It is India's hope that peace, dialogue and restraint will prevail," Prime Minister Modi said after holding wide-ranging talks with his Israeli counterpart on the second day of his landmark visit.

Later, a joint statement issued by the two sides said that both Prime Ministers discussed the developments pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

"They underlined the need for the establishment of a just and durable peace in the region," it said.

The two leaders "reaffirmed their support for an early negotiated solution between the sides based on mutual recognition and security arrangements," it added.

Ahead of his visit, Modi, who is the first Indian prime minister to visit the Jewish state, had said that India believes in a two-state solution in which both Israel and a future Palestinian state coexist peacefully.

India supports all efforts to find an acceptable solution to all the pending issues, including Jerusalem, he had said.

"A final-status agreement should respect the sentiments and address demands of all affected parties," Modi had said.

The two-state solution envisions independent Israeli and Palestinian states coexisting side by side peacefully. The Palestinians see east Jerusalem as their future capital.

During his historic three-day visit, Modi did not travel to Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority, to meet with Palestinian leaders, as is common for visiting foreign dignitaries.

The move is seen as a significant departure from the past when Indian leaders always visited Palestinian territories while visiting Israel.

Modi, however, had met Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in New Delhi in May.

India for the first time has de-linked its relationship with Israel from its traditional support to Palestine. It hopes to leverage its relationship with Israel to attract more investment, and gain from Israeli cutting-edge technology and defence.

Full report at:



India, Israel ‘strategic partners’, send strong message on terror

by Shubhajit Roy

July 6, 2017

“THIS IS a marriage really made in heaven and we are implementing it here on Earth,” declared Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in the golden and indigo-hued ambassador’s hall at the historic King David Hotel here. Modi laughed. Minutes later, India and Israel decided to elevate their relationship to a “strategic partnership”, after negotiations and last-minute changes in the joint statement.

It was apt that the two leaders chose the hotel, where 91 people were killed in a bomb attack in 1946, to flag terrorism in their short statements. “India and Israel live in complex geographies. We are aware of strategic threats to regional peace and stability. India has India, Israel forge ‘strategic partnership’, send strong message on terror suffered first-hand the violence and hatred spread by terror. So has Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu and I agreed to do much more together to protect our strategic interests and also cooperate to combat growing radicalisation and terrorism, including in cyber space,” Modi said in his remarks after the talks.

Stating that the two countries need to cooperate in the field of counter-terrorism, Netanyahu described 26/11 as a “horrible terrorist attack”. He said the two countries are being challenged by “forces of terror” and have agreed to cooperate in countering terrorism. “We also recognise that we are being challenged. We are being challenged by the forces of terror, the forces of terror that seeks to undermine our world, our countries, the peace and stability of our common civilisation, and we have agreed to cooperate in this area as well… This is an expression of our commitment… ours is a partnership to seek good, defend the good, achieve the good. This is indeed a good day,” said the Israeli PM, after three hours of talks and a working lunch. He added that this was a “deeply moving moment for me, both in personal, but also in national and international terms”.

While the joint statement made a categorical reference to terrorism, it did not mention the phrase “cross-border terrorism”. “Recognising that terrorism poses a grave threat to global peace and stability, the two Prime Ministers reiterated their strong commitment to combat it in all its forms and manifestations. They stressed that there can be no justification for acts of terror on any grounds whatsoever. The leaders asserted that strong measures should be taken against terrorists, terror organisations, their networks and all those who encourage, support and finance terrorism, or provide sanctuary to terrorists and terror groups. They also underscored the need to ensure that terrorist organisations do not get access to any WMD or technologies. Both leaders also committed to cooperate for the early adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT),” it said.

Responding to a specific question, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar pointed to the reference to “terrorists, terror organisations, their networks and all those who encourage, support and finance terrorism, or provide sanctuary to terrorists and terror groups”, as an indication of “cross-border terrorism”, and remarked, “sometimes, people like longer sentences”. While the final joint statement included the “strategic partnership” component, there was some last-minute huddle and drama — an indication that negotiations on the formulation went down to the wire.

As officials waited for the two Prime Ministers to make their statements, Jaishankar, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Netanyahu’s military secretary Eliezer Toledano — who was wearing his uniform with a kippah — went into a huddle, along with PMO joint secretary Vinay Kwatra. Moments earlier, Jaishankar, India’s envoy to Israel Pavan Kapoor and Israel’s envoy to India Daniel Carmon chatted. The NSA and the FS also had a separate chat in a corner of the room. After the Prime Ministers arrived and sat on red wooden chairs, when the space cooperation agreements were announced, Netanyahu said, “The sky is not the limit”. The Israeli side later distributed a copy of the joint statement which said, “The historic first-ever visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Israel raised the bilateral relationship to a new level in order to solidify the enduring friendship between their peoples.”

When Jaishankar was told later that contrary to his claims, the joint statement circulated by the Israeli side had no reference to a “strategic partnership”, he expressed surprise. He quickly said that the Indian version was the updated statement. The Indian side, within minutes, distributed the document, which read, “This historic first-ever visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Israel solidified the enduring friendship between their peoples and raised the bilateral relationship to that of a strategic partnership”.

While the two sides kept defence cooperation in the background, and pushed for other issues including water and agriculture, the joint statement talked about defence cooperation in the context of “joint development” and “Make in India”, although Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and other officials said that they would like to see “Make with India”. There was no explicit reference to defence cooperation in Modi and Netanyahu’s statements, but the joint statement reaffirmed the importance of bilateral defence cooperation over the years. It was agreed that “future developments in this sphere should focus on joint development of defence products, including transfer of technology from Israel, with a special emphasis on the ‘Make in India’ initiative.”

Modi was effusive in his praise for Israel, as he called it “extraordinary” and said, “India admires the success of your people in overcoming adversity to advance, innovate and flourish against all odds. In our modern journey, our paths have been different, but our belief in democratic values and economic progress has been a shared pursuit.” This visit, he said, was an occasion to “rejuvenate the bonds of our friendship; to compose a new chapter in our ties; and to jointly venture towards new horizons of engagement.”

The two countries signed seven agreements pertaining to water, space and agriculture. When the two sides were signing one of the agriculture pacts, Netanyahu shook Modi’s hand. During the statements too, they embraced each other, continuing with their bonhomie. “Modi and I look ahead and, at the same time, have our feet firmly on the ground,” said Netanyahu.

“Israel is among the leading nations in the field of innovation, water and agricultural technology. These are also among my priority areas in India’s development. We agreed that efficiency of water and resource use; water conservation and its purification; productivity increases in agriculture are key areas in deepening our bilateral cooperation,” Modi said. The two sides decided to establish a bilateral Technology Innovation Fund worth US$ 40 million for research in industrial development.

Full report at:



Twice in 7 days, Iran talks of 'oppressed' Kashmir

Jul 5, 2017

Shailaja Neelakantan

NEW DELHI: For the second time in a week, Iran's 'supreme leader' Ayatollah Khamenei made comments about Kashmir, urging support for its "oppressed Muslims", reported the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).

Khamenei's timing is noteworthy, as his comments came in the run-up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Israel, which is no friend of Iran's. Further, with India and Iran squabbling over a gas field, and India's tilt toward Riyadh, Indo-Iran ties are suddenly not looking too high on New Delhi's agenda .

In 2010, when Khamenei spoke of Kashmir, India summoned the then acting Iranian Ambassador to register its protest, So far, there has been no statement from New Delhi on Khamenei's latest comments.

Khamenei on Monday urged Iran's judiciary to "express its firm support or opposition" on several Muslim-related issues including "oppressed personalities like (Nigerian Shiite leader) Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky or Muslims of Myanmar and Kashmir", IRNA reported.

Before this, he mentioned Kashmir was during an Eid address on June 26.

"Everyone should openly support people of Yemen, Bahrain and Kashmir," said Khamenei, according to the headline to a news item posted on one of his web sites,

"Conflicts in Yemen, Bahrain, problems in all Islamic countries, are major wounds on the body of Islam. The World of Islam should explicitly support the people of Yemen, and express their disdain against the oppressors who've attacked the people in such horrible ways during the month of Ramadan....The same is true for the people of Bahrain and Kashmir: Our people can back this great movement within the World of Islam," he said.

In 2010, Khamenei called Kashmir a "nation" said it is the "duty" of the world's Muslims to assist it.

Full report at:



FB post, communal violence leave West Bengal town divided, scarred

July 6, 2017


BADURIA IN West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district, and adjoining Basirhat, remained under complete lockdown Wednesday as the state government imposed a curfew after communal violence broke out in the area on Sunday evening. Through the day, police used loudspeakers to request people to maintain calm, even as Internet services were withdrawn and rail links on the Barasat-Hasnabad and Barasat-Bongaon sections of Eastern Railways were disrupted by protesters. At least five local trains were detained at different stations. A motorbike was also set on fire in Basirhat, said police.

There was no deployment of police in Baduria itself, the town in which the communal tension first erupted. Instead, 300 personnel from paramilitary forces were deployed along with RAF and local police in Basirhat, 15 km away, where the violence had spread. Tensions first rose on Sunday evening, after a Facebook post showing “objectionable images’’ linked to the Prophet and Kaaba Sharif in Mecca went viral in Baduria, following which a mob vandalised shops and homes, and set fire to vehicles, triggering retaliatory attacks.

According to police, the Facebook post was put up by a Class XI student, who has since been detained and has denied putting it up. Police sources said the boy claimed during interrogation that he had lost his SIM card. According to police, the 17-year-old lost his mother seven years ago, after which his uncle took him under his care. He has an elder sister, who is married, they said. The family has told police that the boy’s father, a daily-wage labourer who has been accused of killing his wife, has “no influence” on him. On Wednesday, the student’s single-storey home, its walls blackened by fire, stood opposite the 100-year-old Magurkhali Milan Masjid in the Magurkhali area of Baduria – it was locked from outside.

“Since Sunday morning, everyone knew a message was being circulated in the area and had caused communal tension. Yet, the police did nothing to prevent this. They arrived only after the mob had gathered outside the boy’s house. Later, his house was set on fire,” said Kabirul Islam, a neighbour. Suman Sen, another resident, said, “We have always lived peacefully with our Muslim friends here. We have never faced such a situation. Outsiders with a political agenda have come to create trouble… at the time of the incident, I was in hiding in my Muslim neighbour’s home.’’

Neighbours said the accused had become active on Facebook recently along with his friends from the locality, who have since deleted their accounts out of fear. “He was active on Facebook but we never saw anything communal. This was the first time we saw such a picture on his wall. It was a well-edited graphic. I doubt that he created it on his own. He might have circulated it without the intention of sparking violence. A community was hurt, police arrested him, now the violence should end. I don’t think his family will be able to lead a normal life ever,” said a friend of the accused.

Recalling Sunday’s violence, Ashraf Ali Molla, a local resident, said that a group of people first confronted the boy at his home on Sunday at 7 pm. ”There was an altercation and the group left. At 9 pm, police reached the boy’s house to arrest him but he had fled. Later, police found and arrested him. Later, a large number of people barged into his house with sticks at around 11pm. They vandalised the house and set it on fire. I was performing namaz when I saw the mob set the house on fire,” said Molla. ”There was tension in the area and even police were scared to enter. Later, we heard that the mob had also attacked police vehicles as they wanted police to hand over the boy to them,” said Molla.

Amid the tension, residents alleged that inaction by police and the administration’s failure to maintain law and order gave rise to the communal tension. ”We arrested the boy on the same day. People wanted us to hand him over to them. How could we do that? We were attacked, too. About five vehicles parked inside the police station were damaged. Before central forces were deployed, we were trying to convince people to solve the issue amicably,’’ said a local policeman. In Basirhat, tension continued to prevail in Trinmoni, a Muslim-dominated area, and Boro Kali Bari, the adjoining Hindu-dominated area.

”It wasn’t a fight between two communities. It was political violence. On Sunday, two groups clashed in Basirhat, one led by a strongman of the Muslim community in the area who is known to be close to TMC leaders. Another gang was backed by a former BJP leader from the area,” said a doctor in Basirhat. According to local residents, the different political narratives have worsened the situation in the sensitive area. 

Full report at:



Infiltration down, 92 terrorists killed in J&K this year

Bharti Jain

Jul 6, 2017

NEW DELHI: As counter-terror forces mount offensive against terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir, the gains are starting to show. As many as 92 terrorists were killed till July 2 this year, against 79 in the corresponding period of 2016. In fact, the numbers of terrorists killed in counter-insurgency operations so far this year have surpassed the year-wise figures for 2012 and 2013 when UPA was in power at the Centre.

While 72 and 67 terrorists were eliminated in J&K in 2012 and 2013 respectively, the numbers picked up during NDA's tenure, touching 110 in 2014, 108 in 2015 and 150 in 2016. "Terrorists killed till July 2 this year are only slightly less than killings through 2014 and 2015," a senior home ministry official said, attributing the successes to seamless coordination between the Army, central forces, state government and intelligence agencies.

"The forces have been given a free hand to track and intercept the terrorists holed up in the valley, before launching intelligence-based operations with due mapping of the target and how to neutralise terrorists with minimum collateral damage," said a senior home ministry functionary.

The official underlined that among the 92 terrorists killed in J&K till July 2, most of the targets were big and prominent terror operatives.

Infiltration figures also show a decline. As against 371 infiltration cases recorded in 2016, 124 were recorded till May-end this year. "Many of these 124 terrorists have been neutralised since," said a home ministry official.

While terror-related incidents were higher at 168 till July 2 this year as compared to 126 in the corresponding period of 2016, stone-pelting incidents witnessed a dip with 142 incidents till June 2017. In July 2016 alone, there were 820 incidents, though this was largely on account of outbreak of violence after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen leader Burhan Wani on July 8.

The central security establishment feels that better statistics of terror-related violence in J&K, are largely to do with the Centre's strategy to actively engage with the terrorists holed up in the valley with full backing of the state government.

"Not only are pro-active operations being undertaken but the response of the Army and para-military forces to terror attacks against their personnel and installations has improved manifold," said an officer.

Full report at:



Netanyahu asks Modi about probe into 2012 Israeli Embassy attack

Jul 6, 2017

TEL AVIV: Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday asked his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi about the investigation of the 2012 attack on the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi.

According to officials in the Prime Minister's Bureau, Netanyahu asked whether any progress was made in the probe, Israeli daily Haaretz reported.

A joint statement released at the end of the meetings also referred to the issue, the newspaper added.

"The two prime ministers emphasised that there can't be any justification whatsoever to terrorist acts," the statement said.

"The leaders stressed that harsh measures must be taken against terrorists, terror organisations and whoever supports, encourages, finances or shelters them."

According to the statement, Netanyahu and Modi agreed that action must be taken to prevent terror groups from obtaining weapons of mass destruction.

India and Israel decided to scale up their relationship to that of a strategic partnership in the fight against terror, with Modi saying the two countries have "agreed to do much more to protect our strategic interests" and to combat rising radicalization and terrorism including in the cyber-space.

On the second day of the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister, Modi sought to balance New Delhi's traditional ties with Israel's neighbours by saying India hoped that "peace, dialogue and restraint" will prevail in West Asia.

Full report at:



Southeast Asia


Indonesian President’s son under investigation for blasphemy

JULY 06, 2017

Jakarta Police plan to summon Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s youngest son Kaesang Pangarep over a YouTube video.

Indonesian police are investigating an allegation of blasphemy against the youngest son of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

Jakarta Police spokesman Argo Yuwono said on July 6, 2017 that police plan to summon Kaesang Pangarep for questioning after receiving a complaint about a video he uploaded to YouTube in May 2017.

The video entitled “Ask Daddy for a Project” a reference to children of politicians who seek business favours includes criticism of Indonesians who during recent sectarian tensions in the Muslim-majority nation declared they would refuse funeral rites for those who supported non-Muslims as leaders.

Indonesia’s draconian blasphemy law is often used to attack minorities and political foes. The former Governor of Jakarta, a Christian, is serving a two-year prison sentence for blasphemy after being sentenced in May 2017.



Philippines: Muslim-only ID card should be ‘rejected outright’ – watchdog

6th July 2017

PHILIPPINES authorities have been accused of discrimination following a proposal to impose a mandatory identification card system for Muslims in the country’s Central Luzon Region.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said such a policy, announced this week, threatened to single out Muslims in the predominantly Catholic country amid the government’s effort to combat terrorism.

“The IDs could also violate the rights to equal protection of the law, freedom of movement as well as other basic rights,” researcher at HRW’s Asia Division Carlos H. Conde said in a statement on Thursday.

“ID requirements for Muslims should be rejected outright.”

The identification system would be imposed on Central Luzon’s minority Muslim community of 26,000 people.

According to Conde, Central Luzon Police Superintendent Aaron Aquino sought to justify the Muslim-only ID as a means to “identify and weed out undesirable individuals and terrorists.”

The proposal follows the move by authorities in the town of Paniqui, Tarlac province, who have implemented such ID cards. Some local governments now see it as “best practice” that should be emulated by the seven provinces in Central Luzon.

The calls for a Muslim identification system have emerged in light of the ongoing fighting in Marawi City on the southern island of Mindanao between government troops and Islamic State-linked Maute-Abu Sayyaf insurgents.

“The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other human rights treaties to which the Philippines is a party prohibits discrimination based on religion,” Conde said.

“Requiring Muslim-only IDs in response to a perceived failure of Muslims to prevent Islamist fighters from entering Marawi is a form of collective punishment.”

Fighting between security forces and the group erupted in Marawi on May 23 after authorities bungled a raid on what they believed to be the hideout of highly-wanted militant Isnilon Hapilon.

A 60-day period of martial law was declared in Mindanao while seven weeks of fighting has resulted in the evacuation of more than 200,000 people from Marawi. Gun clashes and air strikes have also caused the deaths of over 300 terrorists, nearly a hundred government troops and more than 40 civilians.

In June, President Rodrigo Duterte slammed Marawi’s Muslim leaders as well as those from other parts of Mindanao for allegedly allowing the Islamist fighters to enter the city “and cause trouble.”

Full report at:



Philippine militants behead 2 Vietnamese hostages

July 6, 2017

Manila : Islamist militants have beheaded two Vietnamese sailors held hostage for eight months in the southern Philippines, the military said on Wednesday.

Philippine troops found the remains of the two hostages early Wednesday morning on the island of Basilan, a stronghold of the notorious Abu Sayyaf kidnap-for-ransom group, military spokeswoman Captain Jo-Ann Petinglay said.

"This is a desperate measure of the Abu Sayyaf Group because they see they have no gains from their kidnap-for-ransom activity," Petinglay told AFP.

Vietnam's foreign ministry said it was seeking confirmation from Philippine authorities, and called for heavy punishment for the killers.

"Vietnam strongly condemns all acts of kidnapping and barbarous and inhumane murder, and we are of the opinion that these acts must be heavily punished," spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang told AFP.

Abu Sayyaf, originally a loose network of militants formed in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network, has splintered into factions, with some continuing to engage in banditry and kidnappings.

One faction has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, with members among those holding parts of Marawi, the largely Catholic nation's most important Islamic city.

Militants continue to occupy parts of Marawi despite a US-backed military offensive there that has claimed more than 460 lives and displaced nearly 400,000 people since it began in May.

The two Vietnamese were seized last November along with four other Vietnamese crew members of a vessel that was boarded by the militants off the southern region of Mindanao, the military said.

One of the six crewmen was rescued last month and three remain in captivity, Petinglay said.

Abu Sayyaf militants are holding a total of 22 hostages, including 16 foreigners, according to Petinglay.

The Abu Sayyaf is known to behead its hostages unless ransom payments are made.

Full report at:



Another Malaysian IS operative’s death confirmed

July 6, 2017

PETALING JAYA: The death of another Malaysian fighting for the Islamic State (IS) militant group in the Philippines has been confirmed, one year later, New Straits Times reported.

The conflict in southern Philippines has been long and drawn out over the past few years, and has now peaked with martial law being declared by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in May.

Malaysian Jeknal Adil was understood to have been killed during a battle in Basilan last July but it was not confirmed until recently. He was known to be a “seasoned fighter” and was a Sabahan.

He went by the name Abu Shabah Al Muhajir after joining the Abu Sayyaf terror group, which is affiliated to IS, and was said to be one of two Malaysians to have led the group’s stronghold in Basilan.

His death was narrated in detail by IS propaganda magazine Rumiyah, released last month.

“Abu Shabah” was preparing breakfast for members of his camp when he heard the rumblings of heavy artillery headed their way, the report read.

According to NST, Jeknal and Amin Baco, also from Sabah, left Malaysia in 2010 to join Abu Sayyaf.

They were joined by three more Malaysians, who fled the country in 2014, and together became part of the “Khatiba Muhajrin”, which also comprises fighters from Indonesia and is led another Malaysian, Dr Mahmud Ahmad, who was once a lecturer at Universiti Malaya.

Jeknal’s death was also confirmed by Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter-Terrorism Division principal assistant director, Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, who said intelligence gathered indicated that Jeknal was killed during an ambush by Philippine armed forces.

According to the report, Jeknal received military training at an Abu Sayyaf camp on Jolo island between September 2005 and March 2006.

“He was arrested on March 16, 2006, with another Indonesian militant, and held under the now-defunct Internal Security Act at the Kamunting detention centre. He completed his restriction order on May 10, 2010, and made his way to southern Philippines about six months later,” Ayob told the daily.

Jeknal had reportedly escaped the police dragnet when he returned to Sabah to facilitate the relocation of Amin’s wife and children to Mindanao.

Sources have revealed that Jeknal chose to leave his life in Sabah after failing to obtain a Malaysian identification card.

“Technically, although he is regarded as a Malaysian, he doesn’t have citizenship. He was born in Sabah, but his father was a Filipino and his parents did not register his birth. Without an identification card, it was difficult for him to get a job or get married, so he decided to leave,” NST quoted the source as saying.

PETALING JAYA: The death of another Malaysian fighting for the Islamic State (IS) militant group in the Philippines has been confirmed, one year later, New Straits Times reported. The conflict in southern Philippines has been long and drawn out over the past few years, and has now peaked with martial law being declared by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in May. Malaysian Jeknal Adil was understood to have been killed during a battle in Basilan last July but it was not confirmed until recently. He was known to be a “seasoned fighter” and was a Sabahan. He went by the name Abu Shabah Al Muhajir after joining the Abu Sayyaf terror group, which is affiliated to IS, and was said to be one of two Malaysians to have led the group’s stronghold in Basilan. His death was narrated in detail by IS propaganda magazine Rumiyah, released last month. “Abu Shabah” was preparing breakfast for members of his camp when he heard the rumblings of heavy artillery headed their way, the report read. According to NST, Jeknal and Amin Baco, also from Sabah, left Malaysia in 2010 to join Abu Sayyaf. They were joined by three more Malaysians, who fled the country in 2014, and together became part of the “Khatiba Muhajrin”, which also comprises fighters from Indonesia and is led another Malaysian, Dr Mahmud Ahmad, who was once a lecturer at Universiti Malaya. Jeknal’s death was also confirmed by Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter-Terrorism Division principal assistant director, Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, who said intelligence gathered indicated that Jeknal was killed during an ambush by Philippine armed forces. According to the report, Jeknal received military training at an Abu Sayyaf camp on Jolo island between September 2005 and March 2006. “He was arrested on March 16, 2006, with another Indonesian militant, and held under the now-defunct Internal Security Act at the Kamunting detention centre. He completed his restriction order on May 10, 2010, and made his way to southern Philippines about six months later,” Ayob told the daily.

Full report at:



Shariah compliance: Too hard to swallow for non-Muslims?

Mariam Mokhtar

July 2, 2017

Was the dismissal of an Indian canteen operator from a Penang educational institute, the action of a Little Napoleon, who misinterpreted the rules, or just a simple misunderstanding by ‘Gobi’, the man at the heart of this latest controversy?

Earlier in February, we read the Facebook post entitled the “Voice of an Indian student” detailing the shabby treatment meted-out to an Indian postgraduate student and her friend, by a Universiti Malaya lecturer.

The post went viral, but instead of firm and swift action by the university’s Vice Chancellor (VC) to stamp out racism, the VC passed the buck to a panel of professors, and the students’ complaints went from pillar to post, until the public forgot about this racist attack.

Today, it is the turn of an Indian food seller, called Gobi, who caters to the needs of Indian students at an educational institute in Seberang Perai.

After more than six months of selling Indian food at the premises, Gobi’s services were suddenly terminated. He vented his fury on WhatsApp and Facebook, and uploaded a voice recording of a conversation between himself and one of the institute’s top administrators.

The man informed Gobi that his business was not “shariah compliant”, and that his services were probably terminated because he sold non-halal food.

Despite a petition by the 300 Indian students at the polytechnic, Gobi’s appeal was unsuccessful. Despite pleading with this newly installed administrator that he had not yet broken even with his newly purchased equipment, the administrator’s response was a resolute, “No”.

Many Malaysians are now left wondering if shariah compliance is being used unfairly as the latest tool to discriminate against non-Malays and non-Muslims.

When the authorities wanted to peddle PAS president Hadi Awang’s Amendment to Act-355, we were told that shariah laws would not affect non-Muslim Malaysians.

Theory is one thing, but in real life, shariah laws have encroached upon and will continue to stamp on the rights of the non-Muslims.

The government polytechnic denied the allegations made by Gobi, and has lodged a police report at Bukit Mertajam.

The bumiputeras who lag behind in many fields are now aided by affirmative action policies, so that they can play “catch-up” with their non-Malay Malaysian peers. Education is one such field, although the Ministry of Education denies that Indians are being discriminated against.

Oh to be a fly on the wall, in the office of the Deputy Education minister, P Kamalanathan. The beleaguered man, is also a Central Working Committee (CWC) member of the MIC, the party which claims to represent the rights of Malaysians of Indian extraction.

Kamalanathan is often tasked with solving tricky issues involving discrimination against Indians. Many of them have not been satisfactorily resolved. Lessons have not been learnt, because time and again, the discrimination against the Indians is repeated. Today, the hapless Kamalanathan, is again having to defend the government’s affirmative action policies instead of championing the rights of the Indian community.

So, how will he resolve this Gobi incident? The educational institute insists that it was an administrative reason which led to Gobi’s dismissal. They have not however spelt out what Gobi had done wrong.

So, was a Little Napoleon at work, who misinterpreted some issue? Is Gobi guilty of something more serious to do with food production, or are we going to see another cover-up?

Full report at:



Starbucks Indonesia clarifies stance on LGBT rights following recent boycott

July 5, 2017

Starbucks Indonesia clarified on Wednesday that the company had no affiliation with any political or ideological groups.

The clarification was made after Anwar Abbas, a leader of the country’s second largest Muslim organization Muhammadiyah, called for a boycott against Starbucks, saying that the coffee shop was pro-LGBT after Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced the company's support  for same-sex marriages.

"PT Sari Coffee would like to clarify that it does not affiliate itself with any political or ideological groups," said Fetty Kwartati, a director at PT MAP Boga Adiperkasa, the parent company of PT Sari Coffee.

"[...] We are grateful and proud to have been a part of local communities in Indonesia for 15 years, always maintaining the deepest respect for and adherence to Indonesia's local laws, culture and beliefs," she continued.

Full report at:



Philippine Troops Arrest Marawi Militants' Main Financier

July 6, 2017

Manila. Philippine security forces arrested on Wednesday (05/07) the main financier and logistics supporter of the pro-Islamic State militants who have for weeks been battling government troops for control of a southern town, the army said.

The militants from a faction known as the Maute group, seized the town or Marawi on May 23 and are resisting daily assaults by government forces using aircraft and artillery, and with help from allies the United States and Australia.

The fighting in the largely Muslim town in south of the predominantly Christian Philippines has alarmed neighbors, fearful that Islamic State is bent on gaining a foothold in the region as it loses ground in the Middle East.

Security forces raided a village not far from Marawi and detained three suspects found with ammunition and material for making bombs, an army spokesman, Brig. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, said.

One of those detained was an important supporter of the Maute group who Gapay identified as Monaliza Romato, alias Monay.

The woman is a niece of the matriarch of the Maute clan, whose men-folk lead the Marawi attack. Two of seven Maute brothers, Omar and Abdullah, were educated in the Middle East, and were the main planners of the assault on Marawi, the military has said.

"Monay has replaced her aunt as the main financier and logistic supporter of the militant group," Gapay said in a statement.

"The arrest will adversely affect the logistics support network of the group," he said.

The raid, seizure of weapons and the arrests would also prevent the militants from mounting diversionary attacks, he said.

Replenishing Weapons

More than 400 people have been killed in the fighting in Marawi. Hundreds of thousands have been displaced and about 20 percent of the centre of the town has been destroyed.

On Wednesday, military aircraft dropped bombs on the town while ground forces tried to advance from house to house.

President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law on Mindanao island, where Marawi is located, for 60 days when the fighting erupted and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said there was pressure on the military to defeat the militants before it expires on July 23.

That is also a day before Duterte is due to deliver his annual state of the nation address in Congress.

Lorenzana said the military last week sent an aircraft to the United States to stock up on various bombs and rockets, supplies of which were running out.

US forces are providing Philippine troops with technical assistance for the battle while Australia has sent two surveillance planes.

In another part of Mindanao, soldiers on Tuesday found the beheaded bodies of two Vietnamese sailors abducted a year ago by militants from the Abu Sayyaf group.

Three Vietnamese sailors are still being held by Abu Sayyaf, who, in all, hold 14 foreigners and eight Philippine citizens.

The Abu Sayyaf militants are allied with the Maute group.

Full report at:



Rather than move on, let's learn from divisive Jakarta election

July 5, 2017

Muhammad Sinatra and Dwintha Maya Kartika

In the wake of Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama’s election defeat and subsequent conviction, there is a pressure to “move on” from the chaos stemming from the Jakarta gubernatorial election. The whole episode was indeed an intellectually and emotionally draining experience for the entire nation.

Yet to blatantly dismiss the consequences of this conundrum will eventually damage Indonesian political maturity and social cohesion. The Ahok controversy revealed social fractures which were well-hidden under the facade depicting Indonesia as a tolerant, moderate, and progressive Muslim-majority nation.  

Firstly, the public’s political participation continues to be impaired by the symbolic versus substance dilemma.  The primacy of symbol was exemplified in employment of identity politics as a political weapon and consolidation of power around certain celebrity-like actors.

As long as identity politics remain influential, Ahok’s political overkill will continue to send a discomforting message to any political candidate seeking the approval of constituents with different identities.

The other side of the coin is the excessive adherence to those who campaigned against Ahok and his supporters. For instance, the leader of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) Rizieq Shihab launched an anti-Ahok campaign that was so effective that many were willing to disregard the FPI’s harsh crusade for an Islamist agenda.

The public’s unreasonable identification with the symbols envisaged by political actors will continue to hamper Indonesia’s democratic process, which ideally rests on rationality and critical thinking. This raises questions over the political maturity of a nation that prides itself as a democratic country.

Secondly, the pressure to conform as seen in classic herd behaviour remains a strong force in Indonesia.  Religion was utilized as an instrument when anti-Ahok rallies were mobilized. Muslims who embraced the group’s mentality were awarded with social acceptance by the majority group and also earned their place among the Muslim community that strived to safeguard the religion against a blasphemous governor.

Those who rejected were threatened with ostracization, shaming, and even religious excommunication. The gravity of such punishment leads to self-censorship, explaining the lack of counter-arguments by Muslims in the blasphemy discourse.

A conforming behavior to the anti-Ahok crowd would likely lead one to join future rallies demanding a religious Muslim in public office, if the public fails to assert a more critical approach to the issues raised during the anti-Ahok movement.

Thirdly, the recent swing to conservatives indicates many Indonesian Muslims’ incapability to reconcile religious and national identities. While conservatism in itself is a not a threat to the nation’s integrity, it may serve as a platform for the Islam supremacists, which some quarters are all too happy to pursue at the moment. Not only the demand for pious Muslim politicians and leaders, we now face an uptick trend of the disavowal of Pancasila values in favor of Islamic ideals by social media users.

In pluralistic democracies, compromise is a necessity for society to function. But the recent call for Islam’s dominance in political, economic, and social spheres raises not  only fears among minorities regarding their rights and place in plural Indonesia, but also among multiple Muslim groups with differing approaches to the relationship between religion and state.

Calls for Islamic dominance also turns Islam into a lucrative political currency in  political contests, allowing it to be further exploited by pragmatic actors who don’t  not necessarily follow Islam’s values and ideals, and limiting the expression of any seemingly non-Islamic political system or worldview. This explains the mounting pressure to expunge the values of Pancasila as it places Islam and Muslims on equal footing with other religious groups, therefore denying the primacy of Islam in the public domain.

In conclusion, the controversy around Jakarta gubernatorial election should be a wake-up call to question some of the basic assumptions about how Indonesia is perceived. These include the portrayal of Indonesia as a success story of Islam-democracy reconciliation, the image of a tolerant and harmonious nation, and the image of Indonesia as a progressive Muslim-majority country.

Full report at:



National Police Chief Calls for Calm After S. Jakarta 'Islamic State Flag' Incident

July 6, 2017

Jakarta. National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian has called on the public not to overreact to this week's incident involving an Islamic State flag tied to a fence at the Kebayoran Lama Police station in South Jakarta.

Tito said the flag does not necessarily represent IS.

"It is similar to IS. It is not necessarily [IS]. The text [on the flag] is a general phrase, only resembling that on the IS flag," Tito said in East Jakarta on Wednesday (05/07).

He added that it may be possible that someone other than a terrorist may have attached the flag to the fence.

"We have found several previous cases that were eventually traced back to irresponsible people playing pranks," Tito said.

The police's public relations unit has orders not to report similar incidents to prevent a public outcry.

"I have also instructed my personnel, not to reveal such incidents to the media. It could have been done by irresponsible people making fun," Tito said.

"If it turns out that terrorists had placed [the flag], it means we are following their lead. They want everyone to panic," he added.

A police officer found the flag on Tuesday morning after it was reportedly attached to the fence by an unknown person on a motorcycle, who drove off immediately afterwards.

Full report at:



Arab World


Iraq PM fetes ‘victory’ in Mosul, but battle continues

5 July 2017

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi congratulated the Iraqi people and security forces on winning a “major victory” over militants in Mosul, but fighting in the city continued on Wednesday.

More than eight months since the start of the operation to retake Mosul from ISIS, the militants have gone from fully controlling the city to holding a limited area on its western side.

But security forces have faced tough resistance and a spike in suicide bombings in recent days.

Abadi congratulated the country’s people, security forces and the Shiite religious leadership “on the achievement of this major victory in Mosul” in remarks broadcast Tuesday night.

But in Mosul’s Old City, automatic weapons fire, shelling and air strikes on Wednesday made clear that the final stage of the battle for the city was not yet over.

Iraqi forces launched the operation to retake Mosul on Oct. 17, advancing to the city, recapturing its eastern side and then setting their sights on its smaller but more densely populated west.

Now, ISIS fighters estimated to number in the hundreds are clinging to limited territory in Mosul’s Old City, and security forces are slowly but surely closing in.

Commanders have reported a spike in suicide attacks in recent days, and the Old City’s narrow streets and closely spaced buildings have posed challenges to Iraqi forces and aided the area's beleaguered jihadist defenders.

SIS overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in 2014, but Iraqi forces backed by US-led air strikes have since regained much of the territory they lost.

The recapture of Mosul will not however mark the end of the war against ISIS.

The militant group holds territory elsewhere in Iraq as well as in neighboring Syria, and has been able to carry out attacks in government-held areas.



Ammar Al-Hakim: Referendum in Kurdistan Region to Harm Entire Iraq

Jul 05, 2017

"I believe that Iraq's unity is of vital importance because first it has been stated in the country's Constitution and second, the Iraqis' interests depend on this unity and the consequences of distorting this unity will not be limited to a specific region and will start a domino," Hakim told FNA on Wednesday.

"In such conditions, we will endeavor to convince our partners in the Kurdistan region that this decision will harm Kurdistan and the entire Iraq because our power lies in our unity," he added.

Hakim said that he and his colleagues have consulted with certain regional and world states to dissuade the Kurdish officials from holding the referendum, warning that Iraq's welfare and success will be endangered be the move.

In relevant remarks in June, a prominent Iraqi analyst and a senior advisor to the former Iraqi President Jalal Talibani warned that certain Persian Gulf Arab states have hatched plots against Iraq and provoked Massoud Barzani to hold a referendum for independence.

"Massoud Barzani insists on holding a referendum to grow independent from Iraq and certain (Persian) Gulf littoral states have provoked him," Wafiq al-Samerayee said.

He warned the Arab people in Iraq not to unite with Barzani at all, warning that such a move would be an unforgivable mistake.

Al-Samerayee also warned that the neighboring countries will also show a serious reaction to the Iraqi Kurdistan region's decision for independence.

Iraq's Kurdish region last month announced it would hold a referendum on independence, in a move the central government in Baghdad is likely to oppose strongly.

"I am pleased to announce that the date for the independence referendum has been set for Monday, Sept. 25, 2017," Barzani said on Twitter.

Full report at:



Syrian Army on Verge of Full Liberation of Central Part of Country from Terrorists

Jul 05, 2017

The sources said that following the army's control over Aleppo and its forces' continued advances in Western Raqqa, and Eastern Homs and Hama, its now seems that the central parts of the country will soon be cleaned of terrorists after three and a half years of occupation.

The sources said that the army has stopped its anti-terrorism operation in Northern Hama to prepare the region as a platfom for the liberation operations in the Eastern direction of al-Salamiyah city that has been a main bastion of ISIL and the town of Aqayrabat that is considered a gate to Eastern Homs.

In the meantime, the army men's operation in Homs is underway, while recapturing the town of al-Sukhnah in the Eastern direction of the ancient city of Palmyra will pave the way for entering Deir Ezzur province.

Another military source said that with the liberation of the regions East of al-Salamiyah and recapturing of the remaining regions in Northeastern Homs the army forces will be capable of imposing full control over the central part of the country.

Earlier reports said that the army engaged in fresh round of clashes with ISIL in Humeimeh desert and advanced against terrorists in al-Heil oilfield.

A military source said that the army men's clashes with ISIL in al-Heil oilfield, Northeast of Arak and Southeast of Palmyra city were very fierce.

The source further added that a large number of terrorists were killed or wounded in the clashes.

He went on to say that the army forces seized control over the key heights overlooking al-Heil oilfield and the third power plant that are important positions for military back up.

The source underlined that ISIL's movements and supply lines are now under the control of the army in the Northern direction of the third power station and West of al-Heil oilfield.

Full report at:



Lebanese security forces bust ISIS cell fronting as a fake football team

5 July 2017

Lebanon’s security force arrested an ISIS cell fronting as a fake football team on Wednesday, as well as three Syrian members of the terrorist group in Beirut, Lebanon’s The Daily Star reported.

The three members’ were forming a network operating inside Lebanon in favor of the terrorist organization by recruiting as many young men (Syrians and Lebanese) as possible to form cells affiliated with ISIS.

They began their activities to recruit a number of young men by attracting them under the guise of forming a football team and some sports activities, which were interspersed with religious lessons centered on the ideas of the extremist organization.

Full report at:



Arab states fighting terrorism: We cannot accept Qatar’s destructive role

5 July 2017

Egyptian Foreign Minister Samih Shukri said in a press conference on Wednesday that the four Arab states fighting terrorism “cannot accept Qatar’s destructive role,” adding that the international community must also be responsible in combating terrorism.

Shukri said the situation is no longer about accusing Qatar of supporting terrorism, since there are solid evidence and “witness” accounts on Doha’s complicity.

The minister said the four Arab states have decided to continue their coordination and discussion to consolidate Arab national security. He said discussion with Qatar will continue and an expected meeting will be held in Manama.

“The response the four states got was overall negative and lacked any content. We find it did not provide a basis for Qatar to retreat from its policies,” Shukri said.

Meanwhile, the Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said more upcoming discussions will take place on Qatar and any upcoming measures will be implemented in the right time.

“The boycott will remain,” he said at a news conference in Cairo after meeting with his counterparts from Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates over the crisis.

Asked if GCC will expel Qatar, Bahrain's Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa said it is not the right place to discuss this issue. The Bahraini minister, meanwhile, said the Qatar-backed Muslim Brotherhood must be held accountable for bloodshed in Egypt. Khalifa also said Wednesday’s meeting on Qatar was for coordination and a “clear, studied” decision to be taken later.

UAE’s foreign minister also said there needs to be an international effort to clear the region from those who support terrorism.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt have issued a joint statement on Wednesday morning saying that they have received Qatar’s response via Kuwait after their deadline, detailing their list of demands to Doha expired on Sunday .

“The four countries received Qatar's response through the mediation of Kuwait before the end of the extended period requested by His Highness Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, Amir of Kuwait,” read their joint statement, adding “a joint response will be released in a timely manner.”

Full report at:



Lebanese forces dismantle Daesh cell disguised as football team

Jul 5, 2017

Lebanese security forces have broken up a Daesh-affiliated cell operating under the disguise of a football team but actually planning to carry out acts of terror in the Arab country through recruitment of young men.

The General Directorate of the Lebanese General Security, in a statement released on Wednesday, announced that four Syrian members of the Takfiri group, nationals identified by their initials as B.S., Kh.S., M.Z. and Y.Z., had been recently arrested during a counter-terrorism operation.

The statement noted that the detainees have confessed to links to Daesh, and that B.S has already sent his wife to Syria to join her family, who are also loyalists to the Takfiri militant group.

B.S. then pledged his allegiance to Daesh in front of his wife’s brother Mohammad, who is believed to be a Daesh terrorist in Syria's troubled and militant-held northern city of Raqqah, which has been the de facto capital of the terror network.

He was then put through to Abu Omar al-Shami, who is believed to be a Daesh “immigration officer” in Raqqah.

Having found it rather difficult to move between Syria and Lebanon, members of the terror cell decided to create a Daesh network inside Lebanon. Their goal was to recruit young Lebanese and Syrian men in the hope of forming numerous Daesh sleeper cells across Lebanon.

The suspects are believed to have recruited numerous young men to join them under the pretext that they were starting a football team.

The team’s training sessions, however, were regularly interrupted by religious lessons that focused heavily on indoctrinating the new recruits with Daesh's extremist ideology.

All the four suspects have been referred to the judiciary for further interrogation, and work is underway to arrest the remaining members of the terror network.

Lebanon has often seen the infiltration of Takfiri elements from neighboring Syria into its territory, where they target the civilian population or security forces with bombings.

Daesh terrorists killed at least two Lebanese troops in the 2014 cross-border clashes and took nine other soldiers hostage.

In November 2015, more than 40 people were killed and dozens of others wounded after two bombings, claimed by Daesh, targeted a security post in Bourj el-Barajneh area.

Full report at:



Whistle-Blower: Saudi Crown Prince Absent in G20 Summit for Fear of Internal Coup

Jul 05, 2017

"Mohammed bin Salman, the son of the Saudi king, cannot leave Saudi Arabia for the fear of a coup from inside the al-Saud family, and King Salman is not able to attend the important summit alone due to his mental status," Mujtahid wrote on his twitter page on Wednesday.

He added that the Saudi king got a cold at the end of the holy month of Ramadan and the royal court was forced to cancel his visit to Hamburg after spending hundreds of millions of dollars.

Saudi diplomatic sources announced on Monday that the Saudi will not to attend the G20 summit due to the Persian Gulf crisis related to Qatar.

Minister of Finance Mohammed al-Jadaan will instead go to the summit, scheduled to take place in the Northern German port city of Hamburg on July 7 and 8.

Last week, Mujtahid revealed high tensions in Saudi Arabia, and said a threat of a coup to topple the king and his son is highly likely.

"Moves in the al-Saud family to oust Salman bin Abdulaziz (the Saudi king) have increased by those who support Ahmed bin Abdulaziz (the king's brother) as they are convincing him of taking the leadership in Saudi Arabia," Mujtahid wrote on his twitter page on Sunday.

He added that the princes who have joined the move intend to issue a statement to declare King Salman's incompetency for continued leadership of the country and nullify his recent order that brought his son to the post of the Crown Prince.

Last month, King Salman replaced Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz with his own son, Mohammed bin Salman, the deputy crown prince and defense minister.

According to a royal decree, Mohammed bin Salman, 31, was also named deputy prime minister, and shall maintain his post as defense minister, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

The SPA also confirmed that 31 out of 34 members of Saudi Arabia’s succession committee chose Mohammed bin Salman as the crown prince.

The Saudi king had earlier stripped Nayef of his powers overseeing criminal investigations and designated a new public prosecution office to function directly under the king’s authority.

In a similar move back in 2015, the Saudi king had appointed his nephew, then deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef as the heir to the throne after removing his own half-brother Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz Al Saud from the position.

Under the new decree, King Salman further relieved Mohammed bin Nayef of his duties as the interior minister. He appointed Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef as the new interior minister and Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Salem as deputy interior minister.

Mohammed Bin Salman is already in charge of a vast portfolio as chief of the House of Saud royal court and chairman of the Council for Economic and Development Affairs, which is tasked with overhauling the country’s economy.

The young prince was little known both at home and abroad before Salman became king in January 2015.

However, King Salman has significantly increased the powers of Mohammed, with observers describing the prince as the real power behind his father’s throne.

The power struggle inside the House of Saud came to light earlier this year when the Saudi king began to overhaul the government and offered positions of influence to a number of family members.

In two royal decrees in April, the Saudi king named two of his other sons, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman and Prince Khaled bin Salman, as state minister for energy affairs and ambassador to the United States, respectively.

Late April, media source disclosed that Mohammad bin Salman has literally bribed the new US administration by paying $56m to Donald Trump.

According to reports, bin Salman is paying off the US to buy its support for finding a grip over the crown.

"Since Uncle Sam's satisfaction is the first step for the Saudi princes to get on the crown, paying off Washington seems to be a taken-for-granted fact," Rami Khalil, a reporter of Naba' news website affiliated to the Saudi dissidents wrote.

He added that since the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) is like a sword over the head of the al-Saud, they have no way out but to bribe the US, noting that the Yemen quagmire is also another reason for Riyadh to seek Washington's support.

Also, a prominent Yemeni analyst said early June that the US has been paid several trillion dollars by Saudi Arabia to protect its crown, adding that Riyadh has recently bribed Washington's support for the Yemen war with $200bln.

"Washington has asked for more money to defend the Saudi regime and Riyadh has recently paid $200bln to the US for the costs of its support for the war in Yemen," Saleh al-Qarshi told FNA.

"This is apart from the huge amounts of money that Saudi Arabia pays to the US treasury for protecting its crown," he added.

According to al-Qarshi, former Saudi Intelligence Chief Turki al-Feisal revealed last year that his country has bought the low-profit US treasury bonds to help the US economy.

As the defense minister, Mohammed bin Salman has faced strong international criticism for the bloody military campaign he launched against neighboring Yemen in 2015 amid his rivalry with bin Nayef, the then powerful interior minister.

Saudi Arabia has been striking Yemen since March 2015 to restore power to fugitive president Mansour Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh. The Saudi-led aggression has so far killed at least 14,000 Yemenis, including hundreds of women and children.

The World Health Organization (WHO) in Yemen also announced that more than a thousand Yemenis have died of cholera since April 2017 as Saudi Arabia's deadly campaign prevented the patients from travelling abroad for treatment and blocked the entry of medicine into the war-torn country, continues hitting residential areas across Yemen.

Despite Riyadh's claims that it is bombing the positions of the Ansarullah fighters, Saudi bombers are flattening residential areas and civilian infrastructures.

According to several reports, the Saudi-led air campaign against Yemen has drove the impoverished country towards humanitarian disaster.

Full report at:



US Sets up Seven Military Bases in Regions Controlled by Syrian Kurds

Jul 05, 2017

Siban Hamou was quoted as saying by al-Sharq al-Awsat that the US army has established six military airports and a base on the Eastern bank of the Euphrates River, adding that a modern large airport in Kobani (Ein al-Arab) is the most important one of them.

"The US has set up two airports in Hasaka, one airport in Qamishli, two airports in al-Malekiyeh (Dirik), and one more airport in Tal Abyadh at border with Turkey in addition to a military squad center in the town of Manbij in Northeastern Aleppo," Hamou said.

Hamou went on to say that 1,300 forces of the US-led coalition are deployed in the airports and center.  

Political advisor of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) Abu Yaqoub disclosed days ago that the US-led coalition was to set up a military base for militants in Southwestern Hasaka near the provincial border with Deir Ezzur.

Abu Yaqoub said that the coalition led by the US decided to establish a military base for the militants of al-Maqawir al-Thorah in al-Shadadi region, adding that the coalition's move to relocate al-Maqawir to the new base was aimed at taking control over Deir Ezzur city.

He further said that al-Shadadi was near the oil wells in Deir Ezzur province.

Yaqoub went on to say that the US declared its readiness to transfer 100 al-Maqawi al-Thorah fighters to the new base along with their equipment.

In the meantime, the new base that would be the third, after the two bases of al-Tanf and al-Zakaf  70km away from each other, where al-Maqawir al-Thorah and coalition forces were present.

Two regional intelligence sources disclosed mid-June that the US military moved a new truck-mounted, long-range rocket launcher from Jordan to a US base in al-Tanf in Southeastern Homs, near the Iraqi and Jordanian borders, stepping up its presence in the area.

The sources said the (High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems - HIMARS) had moved into the desert garrison, which saw a buildup in recent weeks as tensions escalate after the US-led coalition struck positions of the Syrian forces to prevent them advancing toward the al-Tanf base.

"They have arrived now in al-Tanf and they are a significant boost to the US military presence there," one senior intelligence source said, without elaborating.

The HIMARS had already been deployed in Northern Syria with US-backed forces battling ISIL militants, he added.

The missile system’s deployment at al-Tanf would give US forces the ability to strike targets within its 300-kilometer range.

Moscow stressed that the United States' military build-up in Southern Syria violates the norms of international law.

"This is an active US build-up of its military presence in the southern regions of sovereign Syria in violation of international law," Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters after the United States transferred two high mobility multiple-launch rocket systems from Jordan to the US special operations forces base at Al-Tanf.

As Washington increased its military movement across the country in recent months, a Syrian fighter jet engaged in operations against the ISIL in Raqqa was downed by the US-led coalition warplane mid June.

It was not the first time that the US-led intervention in Syria led to standoffs and violence against pro-government forces.

As Washington claims that it fights against the ISIL group, US warships fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles from two warships in the Mediterranean Sea at the Shayrat airfield in Homs province on April 7, following a chemical weapons incident in Idlib province which the Western countries blamed on the Damascus government.

 The Syrian government has fiercely denied using or even possessing chemical weapons since the country’s compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention was certified by international observers in 2013, as the world is still waiting for the US and its allies to provide any proof for its claims of Bashar al-Assad government involvement in the alleged chemical attack.

Also on May 18, the US-led coalition struck pro-Bashar Assad forces near al-Tanf in the area of an established de-confliction zone. The coalition air raids occurred near al-Tanf, where US' and British special operations forces had been training militants near the border with Iraq and Jordan.

On June 6, the Pentagon announced the coalition conducted a new strike on pro-Syrian government forces as they entered the de-confliction zone with Russia and posed threat to its personnel. The force comprised of a tank, artillery, anti-aircraft weapons, armed technical vehicles and more than 60 soldiers. At least two Syrian servicemen were killed and more than 15 injured as a result of the attack.

On June 8, the US-led coalition bombed pro-Damascus forces near al-Tanf in the area of a de-confliction zone following an alleged attack by a combat drone resulting in no coalition forces' casualties. This was the third attack by the coalition on Damascus' allies in the area. The coalition targeted a drone and trucks with weapons.

Full report at:



Syrian Soldiers Lay Siege on ISIL's Top Stronghold in Eastern Homs

Jul 05, 2017

The army forces stormed ISIL's defense lines in Badiyeh and laid siege on the terrorists in al-Heil energy field near the strategic town of al-Sukhnah.

The army units managed to lay siege on the terrorists in al-Heil oilfield from the Western, Southern and Southeastern directions of Palmyra city.

A military source said that the army forces have deployed 1km away from al-Heil energy field, adding that al-Heil that is located 40km Northeast of Palmyra and near the key town of al-Sukhnah is the most important and largest base of ISIL in Syria's Badiyeh. 

Relevant reports said on Monday that the army soldiers engaged in fierce clashes with terrorists in the Depth of Syria's Badiyeh near the road that connects the town of Arak to al-Heil oilfield and pushed the terrorists back from several hills overlooking North of the third oil pump station up to Qarah al-Maska hill East of the ancient city of Palmyra (Tadmur).

In the meantime, the army men clashed fiercely with ISIL and captured several heights and a hill overlooking Tal (hill) al-Ramamin West of al-Heil oilfield.

Full report at:



Tensions Intensify in Idlib after Reported Clashes among Rival Terrorists

Jul 05, 2017

The sources reported that Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at has gathered it forces in the town of Harem in Northern Idlib and the town of Abu al-Dhohour in Eastern Idlib to kick off fresh attacks on Ahrar al-Sham's positions.

News websites affiliated to the terrorist groups reported that unknown militants kidnapped Ibrahim Yaseen, one of the commanders of Ahrar al-Sham, and transferred him to the town of Sarmada in Northern Idlib.

The sources also said that unknown raiders also abducted Abu Yusef Choubak, another commander of Ahrar al-Sham, in Idlib.

The websites said Tahrir al-Sham's decision to attack Ahrar al-Sham was made after the abduction of Ahrar commanders and several explosions in Idlib.

Local sources reported in late June that a series of blasts at the positions of Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at and Ahrar al-Sham in Idlib's countryside, adding that the explosions escalated tensions and insecurity across the region.

The sources said that 15 people were killed and several more were wounded in an explosion caused by a bomb-laden car in the Central part of the town of al-Dana.

In the meantime, a bomb-laden vehicle was detonated near al-Dana chechpoint, killing and wounding several people.

Also, another bomb went off at a bazaar in al-Dana.

The sources went on to say that another bomb blast rocked the al-Zabit neighborhood West of Idlib city, while a fifth explosion caused by an explosive-laden motorbike hit the Northern countryside of Idlib.

Another road-side bomb was blown up on the main road to the town of Kafroumeh West of Ma'arat al-Nu'aman, while, another bomb blast killed a number of people in the township of Tal Hadeh in Northern countryside of Idlib.

Full report at:



Key powers thrash out safe zones plan at Syria talks

5 July 2017

Powerbrokers Russia, Iran and Turkey struggled Wednesday to hammer out details on a plan for safe zones in Syria at a fifth round of peace talks in the Kazakh capital Astana.

Moscow and Tehran, which back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and rebel supporter Ankara agreed in May to establish four “de-escalation” zones in a potential breakthrough towards calming a war that has claimed an estimated 320,000 lives since March 2011.

While fighting dropped off in the weeks after the deal, it has ratcheted up in some areas since, and the international players have yet to finalize the boundaries of the zones or determine who will police them.

In a bid to thrash out the details of the plan, participants were holding a string of closed-door meetings for a second day in Astana, with a joint session bringing together all players, including representatives of the Syria regime and rebels, expected later Wednesday.

Rebel representatives at the talks were tight-lipped about progress, with one delegation member telling AFP only that “bilateral discussions are ongoing”.

But a source close to the Syrian rebel delegation told AFP that Turkey, Russia and Iran had “prepared seven documents to help implement a ceasefire in Syria and deploy ground forces in predetermined zones.”

The documents would not be signed this round but would probably be adopted at a conference next week in Tehran, the source said.

The source added that Iran had been proposed as a potential monitor for the de-escalation zone in the central province of Homs but that rebels would refuse any role for Tehran’s forces there.

Turkish and Russian forces are likely to be deployed in the northern de-escalation zone’s “buffer territory, separating the opposition and regime” in parts of Idlib and neighbouring Aleppo provinces, the source said.

‘Essentially’ agreed

Moscow’s negotiator Alexander Lavrentiev insisted late Tuesday that the borders of two zones -- in rebel-held parts of Homs and around Eastern Ghouta close to Damascus -- were “essentially” agreed.

But there were “still questions” about the safe zone meant to cover the Idlib province on the Turkish border and “some reservations” about another one across swathes of southern Syria, he said.

If requested Russia could send military police to patrol buffer zones between the government and rebel armies, he said, and foreign peacekeeping forces could be deployed within weeks once a deal is signed.

Russia has argued the agreement will provide moderate rebels with security and help focus attacks against jihadist groups such as Fateh al-Sham and ISIS.

Syria’s conflict evolved from a bloody crackdown on protests in 2011 into to a devastating war that has drawn in world powers, including Russia and a US-led international coalition.

Russia has been pushing the talks in Astana since the start of the year as it seeks to pacify Syria after its game-changing intervention on the side of Assad.

Full report at:



After criticism, France’s Macron seeks to reassure Syria opposition

5 July 2017

France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron, sought to reassure opponents of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday after provoking concern among rebel groups by saying that he saw no legitimate successor to Assad.

Former president Francois Hollande had backed the Syrian opposition, demanding the six-year conflict be resolved through a political transition that would eventually see Assad replaced.

Macron, a centrist elected in May, said last month he no longer considered Assad’s departure a pre-condition for a negotiated settlement to the conflict, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven more than 11 million from their homes.

While he described Assad as an enemy of the Syrian people, Macron said Paris’ priority was fighting terrorist groups and ensuring Syria did not become a failed state. He also questioned the opposition’s credibility.

Hailed by some in France as a pragmatic stance to advance negotiations, the comments also caused unease among the Syrian opposition, former officials and humanitarian groups.

Macron on Wednesday appeared to try to refine his comments after speaking to Riad Hijab, head of the Riyadh-based High Negotiations Committee, which represents a group of military and political opponents at UN-mediated talks between Syria’s warring parties in Geneva.

In a statement, the presidency said Macron had confirmed to Hijab that France supported the HNC in the Syrian peace talks being held under UN auspices.

“The president assured Mr Hijab of his will to engage fully and personally to achieve an inclusive political solution in the Geneva framework,” the French presidency said.

Macron’s comments on June 21 echoed Russia’s stance that there is no viable alternative to Assad. The French leader has sought closer co-operation with Russia and French diplomats say he wants to develop a “spirit of trust”, notably on Syria.

Hijab’s office said that he had, in their conversation on Tuesday, reminded Macron that Assad had “lost legitimacy after being repeatedly responsible for using chemical weapons against his own people.”

“Assad’s presence in office helps spread chaos, strengthens the role of terrorist organizations, creates more sectarian militias, and fuels sectarian discrimination and hatred,” Hijab’s office said in a statement.

Full report at:





Tajik police kill 4 relatives of Islamic State warlord

July 6, 2017

Dushanbe: Tajik police killed four relatives of a former elite police force commander who defected to Islamic State two years ago, two security sources told Reuters on Wednesday, during a raid on a house near the Afghan border.

The United States last August offered up to $3 million (£2.3 million) for information about Colonel Gulmurod Khalimov, whom it trained in counter-terrorism before he joined Islamic State.

Washington has described Khalimov as "a key leader" of Islamic State, which has seized parts of Syria and Iraq and staged or inspired deadly militant attacks around the world. According to the security sources, police suspected that some of Khalimov's relatives were also linked to the militant group and were about to cross the border into Afghanistan. When police raided a house in the Ibrat village in southern Tajikistan late on Tuesday, the suspects resisted and wounded at least one policeman, the sources said.

Police killed two of Khalimov's brothers and two of his nephews, and detained several people.

Tajikistan's interior ministry confirmed that one of its officers had received a knife wound, but had no further comments.

In April, Tajik security forces detained Khalimov's eldest son, Bekhruz, 18, who they said had planned to join his father.

Thousands of people from the predominantly Muslim ex-Soviet region of Central Asia have joined Islamic State and several men have been detained this year over a bombing of the metro in Russia's St Petersburg as well as a truck attack in Stockholm.



Austria: Muslim kindergarten study reviewed for text changes

By George Jahn

July 5, 2017

VIENNA — A study commissioned by an Austrian government minister critical of Vienna’s Muslim-run kindergartens has ignited a political fight between the minister’s party and rivals seizing on allegations that his staff rewrote parts of the study to make it more negative.

The study’s author, a professor at the University of Vienna, says he would never allow his work to be changed, while Foreign and Integration Minister Sebastian Kurz has indirectly denied the allegations.

But the alleged tampering reported by Austrian media was serious enough for the university to announce the study was under review for evidence of possible manipulation.

The incident also has injected a potential note of volatility in Austria’s national election scheduled for October. Kurz’s chance to become Austria’s next chancellor could hinge on the outcome of the university’s review.

Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern — a Social Democrat whose greatest challenge to re-election is Kurz’s conservative People’s Party — said Wednesday that the matter needs to be investigated but he doesn’t believe the minister was personally involved in any wrongdoing.

Officials of Vienna’s Social Democratic and Green coalition government indirectly targeted in the report were less charitable. Social Democratic Mayor Michael Haeupl on Wednesday described the study as “forged” and said Kurz was responsible “as the chief” of his ministry.

The telegenic 30-year old has vaulted his party from third to first place in popularity polls with increasingly tough messages on migrants and integration.

The People’s Party last month granted Kurz unprecedented authority to pick parliamentary candidates and senior party officials and to run the election campaign.

Kurz has responded only indirectly to the text-altering allegations, saying the study “carries ... the handwriting” of University of Vienna Islam expert Ednan Aslan, its author.

Aslan himself says he backs the report “to the last period.”

In first reporting the allegations, the monthly Falter magazine juxtaposed several texts it said showed willful changes to the original wording to reflect negatively on kindergartens run by Muslims.

One section purportedly written by Aslan originally said Muslim parents look for “values like respect, tolerance, individuality of the child ... love, warmth and security, independence and transparent rules” in such kindergartens.

The magazine reported that the text was rewritten at the ministry to say parents consider “the transmission of Islamic values of paramount importance” for their children in Muslim-run kindergartens.

Full report at:



Berlin Liberal Mosque; Another Attack on Islam

July 6, 2017

Seyran Ateş introduced the first Friday prayers, on June 16, 2017, at Berlin’s Ibn Rushd-Goethe Mosque, which she helped to establish.

Ateş, a Turkish-born lawyer and women’s rights campaigner has vowed to press on with her project even though the institution has been issued with a fatwa from Egypt and attacked by religious authorities in Turkey and other parts of the world.

Men and women pray side-by-side, and there's a female imam who doesn't even wear a headscarf. For many in the Islamic world, these things are inconceivable.

While the organizers claim tht Sunnis, Shiites, Alawits and even members of the LGTBQ community - all are welcome at the Friday prayer service at the Ibn Rushd-Goethe Mosque in Berlin, they hold services inside the St. Johannis Church in the area of Moabit.

That is while many Muslims around the world believe that the Ibn Rushd-Goethe Mosque in Berlin is disgusting and sinful, and it disrespects the key elements and principles of the Islamic faith.

LGBT Mosque

Members of the LGBT community, which is typically frowned upon by Muslims, will also have a place inside the mosque.

The mosque was created with the claim of unifying men, women, Shiites, Sunnies, straight men, gay men and otherwise alike.

“Our goal is to offer a place to worship to all people that do not feel at home in the existing mosques, to women that seek equal rights [with men], to homosexuals and primarily to all separate [Muslim] denominations: Alawites, Sunnis, and Shias,” Ateş stated, according to RT.

Women do not need to wear full-face veils or burqas, a tradition that is otherwise common for Muslim women all across the globe when they attend prayers at the mosque.

“Fundamentally, the mosque’s door is open for everyone, with one exception: No one will come in with a niqab or burqa,”  Ateş told Spiegel magazine.

“Allahu akbar,” chanted a female voice, uttering the Arabic expression “God Is Great,” as a woman with two-toned hair issued the Muslim call to prayer. In another major break with tradition, men and women — typically segregated during worship — heeded the call by sitting side by side on the carpeted floor.

Ateş, the self-proclaimed Muslim feminist, then stepped onto the cream-colored carpet and delivered a stirring sermon. Two imams — a woman and a man — later took turns leading the Friday prayers in Arabic. The service ended with the congregation joining two visiting rabbis in singing a Hebrew song of friendship.

Feminist Islam

Inside the red-brick building that now houses the German capital’s newest and perhaps most unusual mosque, Seyran Ateş is staging a feminist revolution of the Muslim faith, Anthony Faiola and Stephanie Kirchner wrote in Washington Post.

According to the US daily, toxic ills like radicalization, Ateş and her supporters argue, have a potentially easy fix: the introduction of a modern, even feminist brand of the faith.

Condemnation by Religious Centers

Several Islamic centers including the leadding Shiite center, Islamic Center of Hamburg, Egypt’s Dar al-Ifta al-Masriyyah, Egypt’s al-Azhar university and Turkey’s main Muslim authority, Diyanet condemned establishment of the Berlin’s liberal mosque.

Ayatollah Ramezani, Head of the Islamic European Union of Shiite Scholars and Theologians who is also Imam of Islamic Center of Hamburg said in reaction to establishment of Ibn Rushd-Goethe mosque that it is deriding Islamic teachings.

He noted that Mosque in Islam is a holy place and people should respect the Islamic teachings (Sharia law) during their presence and praying there.

One can not deviate Islamic teachings under the pretext of fighting extremism, the religious scholar noted.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s Dar al-Ifta al-Masriyyah, a state-run Islamic institution assigned to issue religious edicts, issued a statement in June declaring that the Ibn Rushd-Goethe mosque’s practice of men and women praying side by side was incompatible with Islam, while the legal department of Egypt’s al-Azhar university reacted to news from Berlin with a fatwa on the foundation of liberal mosques per se.

"In prayer, gender segregation cannot be lifted," Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah declared.

The proximity between men and women in the mosque is not allowed, as it clearly violates Sharia law, according to the office.

Turkey’s main Muslim authority, Diyanet, said the new mosque’s practices “do not align with Islam’s fundamental resources, principles of worship, methodology or experience of more than 14 centuries, and are experiments aimed at nothing more than depraving and ruining religion”.

Burhan Kesici, chairman of the Islamic Council for the Federal Republic of Germany, dismissed Ateş’s house of worship as a fad.

“We’re observing this and are wondering ... how what is happening there is supposed to be rooted in Islam at all,” he said.

He added, “Of course women are equal. That there’s a separation in religious practice doesn’t mean that they’re not equal. I’m curious how long this congregation will last. ... It seems a random conglomerate of different Islam critics.”

Public Reaction

Ateş, the founder of liberal mosque says she has received about 3,000 hate emails per day, and more than 100 death threats since the mosque launched. Germany’s National Criminal Police Office (LKA) is now offering an unusual level of protection to her.

The media in Islamic world has also criticized establishment of the mosque.

The pro-government Turkish newspaper Sabah called it "absurd" that services took place inside a church and Daily Pakistan criticized the fact that women took part in prayer services unveiled.

Men and uncovered women praying together, and presided over by a female imam on top of it? For some in the Muslim world, that's simply going too far.

"They're creating a new religion, that's not Islamic," commented one Deutsche Welle user. "These people are not following the religion of our prophet. They have no conception of the religion. What idiocy," commented another.

"Our article drew quite an impassioned response," said Tarek Anegay, who works in Deutsche Welle Arabic's social media department.

Many users were outraged by what they saw as a contradiction of Islamic doctrine,” said Anegay.

Full report at:



Married Teens 'Gave Islamic State Salute', Court Told

6th Jul 2017

A YOUNG married couple took selfies of themselves giving the one-finger IS salute with their faces covered, a Sydney magistrate has been told.

Prosecutor Nicholas Robinson QC also said the husband had saved a document on his phone showing "places on the body vulnerable to stab wounds" upon which the artist had splashed blood images.

Alo-Bridget Namoa and Sameh Bayda, both 20, are facing a committal hearing in the Downing Centre Local Court today on terror-related charges including conspiring to do an act in preparation for a terrorist attack.

Sameh Bayda, 20, charged with three counts of collecting terrorist-related documents.

Bayda is charged with three counts of collecting terrorist-related documents while Namoa has been charged with one count of possessing a hunting knife connected with terrorism and collecting terrorist-related documents.

The pair have also been charged with conspiring to do an act in preparation for a terrorist attack.

At a previous court appearance police allege that before their arrest Namoa sent a text to Bayda saying they were a "jihadi Bonnie and Clyde".

Namoa is of Pacific Islander decent and converted from Catholicism to Islam after meeting her husband.

Full report at:



Uzbekistan says won't rejoin Russia-led security bloc

Jul 5, 2017

Uzbekistan has no plans to rejoin a post-Soviet security bloc led by Russia, Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov said on Wednesday, indicating the country's policy would remain the same despite a leadership change.

A former Soviet republic of 31 million, run by strongman president Islam Karimov from 1989 until his death last September, Uzbekistan has had a rocky relationship with Moscow, and by extension the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO).

It suspended its membership in the bloc between 1999 and 2006 and then quit it altogether in 2012.

Following Karimov's death from a stroke and pledges by his successor, former prime minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev, to develop a strategic partnership with Russia, some have wondered whether Tashkent would rejoin the military alliance.

But, answering a question about it in a televised interview on Wednesday, Kamilov said, "The question of renewing our CSTO membership is not on the agenda ... There are no plans to discuss or review this matter in the future."

Russia has used the CSTO, along with the Eurasian Economic Union, another regional bloc focused on trade, to project influence across most of the former Soviet Union. It regards Central Asia as an area of strategic interest.

Full report at:





Minority Hindus in Pakistan's Punjab told to vacate houses

July 6, 2017

Lahore: The minority Hindu community in Pakistan, it seems, continues to face discrimination, prejudice and intolerance.

Recently, dozens of Hindu families living in Haroonabad area of Bahawalnagar district in Pakistan`s Punjab province were asked to vacate their homes by June 28.

According to a report in The Nation, a notification was forwarded to residents of Chak 72/4R, asking them to vacate their homes immediately.

"You people have been living here at Jarnali Sarak (The Grand Trunk Road) illegally for a long time and it has been notified on June 13, 2017 that these houses will be vacated because you are illegal occupants of this property," The Nation quoted the notification, as saying.

"In other case the government property will be vacated with government`s force," the notification further said.

Minority Hindus make up more than one per cent of Pakistan`s 180 million-strong population, and have been facing discrimination in an Islamic-dominant Pakistan since the partition of the Indian subcontinent in August 1947.

It is alleged that this coercive removal of Hindus is being done under pressure from the owners of a housing scheme who want to build the front gate by demolishing the houses of Hindus, who have been living there for the last three decades.

Protest demonstrations against the notification and the local administration have been going on. The Punjab government has been asked to stop the local administration from getting the houses vacated.

Residents have claimed that there is an under hand agreement between the local administration and the owners of the housing society on this matter.

Pakistan Muslim League (Zia) and Bahawalnagar-IV MNA Ijaz-ul-Haq has said he will look into the matter and provide complete assistance to people.

Society of Hindu Balmiki Mandar (SHBM) president (Haroonabad) Harbans Lal Sultani said 69 Hindu families have been living on government designated land called `Jurnaili Murabba` since 1987 on the written orders of the then Bahawalnagar commissioner.

He added that allotment of five marlas to each Hindu family was completed when the Pakistan People`s Party was in power 1995.



McCain’s warning reflects changing mood in Washington towards Pakistan

Anwar Iqbal

Jul 06, 2017

WASHINGTON: US Senator John McCain’s warning that if Pakistan does not stop supporting the Haqqani network, the United States should change its ‘behaviour’ towards the Pakistani nation reflects the changing mood in Washington towards a country once considered a close ally.

Senator McCain, who was in Islamabad recently before flying over to Kabul, said he had conveyed this message to Pakistan’s civilian and military leaders as well.

“We have made it very clear that we expect they [Pakistan] will cooperate with us, particularly against the Haqqani network and against terrorist organisations,” he said at a news briefing on Tuesday in Kabul.

“If they don’t change their behaviour, maybe we should change our behaviour towards Pakistan as a nation.”

According to some Pakistani sources, the terse statement came even though during a briefing by top military officials Mr McCain and his team were repeatedly informed that Pakistan had severed its links with members of the Haqqani network. They added that if any militants were found inside Pakistan they would be arrested and prosecuted.

Meanwhile, it is not just the United States which talks about forcing Pakistan to change its Afghan policy. In a recent statement, Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg issued a sterner warning. “It is absolutely unacceptable that a country provides sanctuary to terrorist groups which are responsible for terrorist attacks inside another country.”

A recent Pentagon report — which describes Pakistan as “the most influential external actor” in Afghanistan — explains that this new emphasis on Pakistan stems from a realisation that there can neither be peace nor stability in Afghanistan if Islamabad does not support the efforts to do so.

Senator McCain, a former Republican presidential candidate who now heads the Senate Armed Services Committee, also underlined a point that is often missing from such statements: despite recent successes, the United States is not winning this war, at least not yet.

“None of us would say that we are on a course to success here in Afghanistan,” he said at a news briefing at Nato-coalition headquarters. “That needs to change and quickly.”

The Pentagon report — “Enhancing security and stability in Afghanistan” — was presented to Senator McCain and his fellow lawmakers before they flew to the Pak-Afghan region and it too blames Pakistan for this lack of success, at least partly.

“Militant groups, including Taliban and Haqqani senior leadership, retained safe havens inside Pakistani territory. Sustained Pakistani efforts to disrupt active Haqqani network threats were not observed during the reporting period (Dec 1, 2016, through May 31, 2017),” says the report.

“The United States continues to be clear with Pakistan about steps it should take to improve the security environment and deny safe havens to terrorist and extremist groups,” the report adds.

Senator McCain, who has always been friendly to Pakistan, also expressed his desire to stay engaged with Islamabad in his statements in Pakistan and Afghanistan, a point that was also stressed in the Pentagon report.

The United States, Mr McCain said, was counting on Pakistan’s support to eliminate militancy, in particular the Haqqani network.

The Pentagon report, however, also explains why Pakistan continues to support certain militant groups, arguing that concerns about India’s growing influence in Afghanistan prevents Pakistan from playing a positive role in that country.

“Pakistan is the most influential external actor affecting Afghan stability and the outcome of both the US and Nato missions” there, says the Pentagon study, which also acknowledges that during the reporting period, Pakistan contributed operational support to a combined US and Afghan operation to combat the Khorasan chapter of the militant Islamic State group.

The US and Nato-led operation Resolute Mission continues to facilitate meetings between Afghanistan and Pakistan through its Tripartite Joint Operations Centre, the report adds.

The Pentagon points out that “Pakistan views the outcome of Afghanistan to be in its vital national interest and thus remains driven by its India-centric regional policy objectives”. And because of this “Afghan-oriented militant groups, including the Taliban and Haqqani network, retain freedom of action inside Pakistani territory and benefit from support from elements of the Pakistani government”.

Diplomatic observers in Washington say that since President Donald Trump has given to his defence secretary the authority to decide the size of US military presence in Afghanistan, the Pentagon report will also influence the new Afghan strategy that the White House Security Council is working on.

The new policy, expected later this month, is likely to focus on the relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan and terrorist networks throughout the region.

Reports in the US media suggest that US National Security Adviser Gen H.R. McMaster and his team, tasked with making the new strategy, are also reviewing US-Pakistan relations and may suggest some radical changes.

The team may accept the Pentagon’s request for a more aggressive role in Afghanistan, such as once again authorising the military to target both Taliban and Haqqani network fighters. This may include authorising US aircraft to pursue fleeing militants into Pakistan.

Besides seeking more powers for the military, the Pentagon also wants Washington to use its relations with both Pakistan and Afghanistan to improve ties between the neighbours.

Full report at:



AG Ausaf to lead Pakistani team in Jadhav case, world court told

Nasir Iqbal

Jul 06, 2017

ISLAMABAD: The Inter­national Court of Justice (ICJ) seized with an Indian complaint relating to the conviction of its spy Kulbhushan Jadhav has been formally communicated that Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf will act as agent of Pakistan in the case.

A communication issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has informed the ICJ registrar at Peace Palace, The Hague, that Mr Ausaf would be the agent for Pakistan in the case whereas Foreign Affairs Director General Dr Mohammad Faisal would continue to act as co-agent.

The term “agent” is described as a top functionary of the government who leads a delegation to represent Pakistan and usually opens arguments or presents a framework followed by the legal team in the ICJ. This also means that all future exchanges or information between Pakistan and the ICJ will be made through the AG office.

Soon after a meeting between ICJ President Ronny Abraham and delegations of Pakistan and India on June 8 in the Netherlands, Mr Ausaf had informed the world court about Pakistan’s intention to appoint an ad hoc judge to the ICJ bench for all proceedings, including the substantive hearing in the Jadhav case.

The world court had on May 18 through an interim ruling stayed the execution of the Indian spy.

Commander Jadhav, who was captured in Balochistan in March last year, had confessed to his association with India’s spy agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and his involvement in espionage and fomenting terrorism in Pakistan. The Field General Court Martial sentenced him to death which was confirmed by Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa on April 10 this year.

The military court of appeal has already rejected Jadhav’s appeal against the death penalty. He later filed a mercy petition with the army chief which is under consideration.

Meanwhile, the AG office is busy in documentation of the case and collection of instances of atrocities and human right violations being committed by India in held Kashmir.

Full report at:



Quetta court grants bail to journalist arrested by FIA over 'anti-state' social media posts

Syed Ali Shah

July 6, 2017

A Quetta court on Wednesday granted bail to journalist Zafarullah Achakzai, arrested by Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for allegedly writing against national security institutions on social media.

Achakzai, who was working for Qudrat, a Quetta-based daily, had been arrested by the FIA on June 25 under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016. He was later remanded to FIA custody for six days.

The FIA on Wednesday produced Achakzai before Ayesha Kakar, a judicial magistrate in Quetta, who granted bail against a Rs80,000 bond, an official of the agency told

Achakzai is reportedly the first journalist to be arrested by the FIA in Balochistan for criticising law enforcement agencies. His arrest was condemned by journalists and social activists across the country, who had demanded his immediate release.

Full report at:



8 people, including MPA's brother, injured in Quetta gun attack

Syed Ali Shah

July 6, 2017

At least eight people including a brother of the serving member of the Balochistan provincial assembly, Manzoor Kakar, were injured during an exchange of fire at Quetta's Jinnah Road on Wednesday evening.

Police officials said the firing took place between two armed groups as a result of a property dispute. Naseer Kakar, the brother of MPA Manzoor Kakar who belongs to ruling coalition partner Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) was driving his brother's car when his vehicle was attacked.

The injured were rushed to Civil Hospital Quetta for medical treatment where the doctors described the condition of one of the injured persons as serious.

Later police arrested Naseer Kakar along with his guards.

"My vehicle was attacked but I was not inside the vehicle", Manzoor Kakar told DawnNews. He said his brother was also injured as result of the firing.

Full report at:



South Asia


Mob Kills Rohingya Muslim with Bricks as Violence against Group Intensifies In Burma

July 6, 2017

A policeman in Burma fled the scene of a deadly mob attack on Rohingya Muslims that has put the troubled western state of Rakhine on edge, two police officials said on Wednesday.

A group of Rakhine Buddhists threw bricks at Rohingya men in the state capital of Sittwe on Tuesday, killing one - identified as Maung Nu, also known as Monir Ahmad, 55 - the office of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi said in a statement.

Two police officers told Reuters an unarmed junior policeman was with the Muslim men at the time of the attack but was unable to protect them from the mob.

“We questioned the young policeman. He said he tried to stop them but he wasn't able to and ran away back to the police station,” said Colonel Myo Thu Soe, spokesman for the home affairs ministry in the capital, Naypyitaw.

No one had been arrested for the attack, but an investigation was going on, he said.

Rakhine State has seen the most serious religious violence in predominantly Buddhist Burma since the military began to end its decades of strict rule, with hundreds of Rohingya Muslims killed and more than 140,000 people displaced there in communal unrest in 2012.

Suu Kyi, who came to power last year as part of the transition from military rule, has emphasised the importance of the rule of law in solving conflict between Buddhists and minority Muslims.

Tension has been running high in the state since an army crackdown in response to Rohingya insurgent attacks in October, but Sittwe has not seen a repeat of the communal clashes of 2012.

On Tuesday, seven Muslim men had travelled into Sittwe from a camp on its outskirts housing people displaced in 2012. They got into an argument with a Buddhist ethnic Rakhine man over the purchase of a boat, attracting the attention of residents who began to attack them.

“The people didn'€™t attack the police because he's the same race,” said Lieutenant Colonel Win Naung of Sittwe district police.

Burma does not recognise the more than 1 million Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine as citizens. Many in Burma consider the them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Myo Thu Soe said the policeman on the scene was unarmed and inexperienced and unable to protect the Rohingya men.

Despite the fact they had a police escort, Myo Thu Soe said the Muslim men were not authorised to travel to the area.

Since the 2012 violence the city's Muslims have been confined to camps or a single city ward, unable to travel freely without a police escort.



Taliban deaths exceeds 60 in ongoing operations in Helmand province

Jul 05 2017

The death toll of the Taliban insurgents has exceeded 60 as the counter-terrorism and clearance operations are underway in southern Helmand province.

The local security officials are saying that the operations are currently being conducted in the vicinity of Nawa district, which were launched 48 hours ago.

Provincial police chief Abdul Ghafar Safi told reporters that four airstrikes were conducted in different areas of Nawa in the past 48 hours.

He said at least 62 insurgents have been killed during the operations so far, including some of their important commanders and around 40 more have been wounded.

Safi further added that the operations are being conducted with the support of the foreign forces based in the country, who are mainly providing air support to the Afghan troops and Special Forces on the ground.

The Helmand police chief also added that vast swaths of Loy Kali, Zhar Sahib, Mir Salim, and Ainak Kali have been cleared from the presence of the Taliban insurgents.

According to Safi, besides suffer loss of lives, dozens of vehicles and weapons belonging to the Taliban insurgents were also destroyed.

Full report at:



Lashkar-e-Islam commander Shah Nawaz killed in Nangarhar airstrikes

Jul 06 2017

A commander of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Islam group has been killed in the airstrikes conducted in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

The provincial police commandment said a total of five militants were killed in the airstrikes conducted on Wednesday evening and late night of the same day.

According to a statement by Nangarhar police, at least four foreign insurgents including the Lashkar-e-Islam commander identified as Shah Nawaz were among those killed.

The statement further added that the first airstrike was carried out around the evening time in Spin Zhari area of Nazian district, leaving the Lashkar-e-Islam commander Shah Nawaz dead.

The second airstrike was carried out late on Wednesday night in the vicinity of Mia Baba area of Haska Mina district, leaving four ISIS militants dead, including three foreign insurgents.

The local security officials are saying that the local residents in the two districts and the security personnel did not suffer any casualties during the operations.

Nangarhar is among the relatively calm provinces in eastern Afghanistan but the anti-government armed militant groups have recently increased their insurgency activities in some parts of the province during the recent years.

This comes as an anti-ISIS operation is underway in Nangarhar to eliminate the presence of ISIS affiliates in this province.

Full report at:



Standing with Hindus in Bangladesh

By Rachel Avraham

July 5, 2017

Hindus in Bangladesh have been intensely persecuted in recent years. As Americans, we should stand in solidarity with them and to support them in obtaining minority rights within the land of their birth.

Americans always pride themselves on having a society that supports freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and minority rights. In the United States, Jews, Muslims, Christians and members of numerous other faiths live side by side in peace and harmony. Unfortunately, not all members of minority groups are lucky enough to enjoy these basic human rights. We have a responsibility to stand in solidarity with minority groups who are persecuted across the globe because it is an American value to support religious freedom. This is why I call upon Americans to support the Hindu community in Bangladesh.

In recent years within Bangladesh, radical Islam has been on the ascent and the Hindu community within the country has borne the brunt of this horrific reality. Hindus make up around 9.5 percent of the Bangladeshi population, but some analysts fear that if the present situation continues, in about 20 years there will be almost no Hindus left. There are many cases of Hindu women being raped, kidnapped and being forced to convert to Islam. Hindu temples are being demolished and Hindu gods are routinely desecrated.

Lands and assets belonging to Hindus are being seized. According to various reports, as of January 2015, at least 431,000 people continue to be displaced as a result of past conflicts and the ongoing violence within the country. Many of these internally displaced Bangladeshis are either Hindus or Buddhists. According to the International Displacement Monitoring Center, Bangladesh’s ethnic and religious minority groups are disproportionally affected by the country’s displacement crisis. A significant portion of displaced Bangladeshis live in the Chittagong Hill Tracts region, an area that contains millions of Hindus and Buddhists who chose not to migrate to India during the 1947 partition. About 280,000 people have been displaced by intercommunal violence alone in this region since 1973.

But what is worse is that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government encourages this wanton and brutal violence against the minorities within Bangladesh. “Bangladesh’s religious minorities have been facing attacks since the 2014 national election,” the Christian Conference of Asia reported. “During the elections, minority-dominated villages were the worst attacked places, where individuals and groups looted and burned properties and residences owned by members of the Hindu, Christian and Buddhist religions in different parts of the country.” During that period of time, armed gangs displaced 5,000 families and left hundreds dead. None of the perpetrators were punished.

Since 2014, the violence has not stopped. “Different forms of violence are reported against the minority communities in Bangladesh in several national newspapers,” Shipan Kumer Basu, head of the Hindu Struggle Committee, noted. “It is important to stress that many more incidents occur that go unreported especially in the rural areas. Additionally, violence against women is generally not made public due to cultural and social taboos. My appeal to the international community is that both of the major parties of Bangladesh have maligned and pressured the minorities, the BNP a bit less than the present ruling Awami League. The voting rights of the minorities has been systematically diminished. Therefore, they don’t have a say in the government. Unless the minorities are empowered, the torture and subduing of minority groups won’t stop.”

Given this brutal reality for the Hindus and other minority communities within Bangladesh, the U.S. government should do more to apply pressure upon the Bangladeshi regime to improve its human rights record and to encourage fresh elections to be held under international supervision. This is the only way to improve the plight of the minorities within the country. As Americans, we should not sit idly by and ignore these atrocities against the minority communities because the lack of religious freedom and human rights in one location in the world is likely to spread to other places.

As Elie Wiesel proclaimed, “Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion or political views, that place at that moment must become the center of the universe. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” The visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Israel represents a further strengthening of the ties between the Hindu and the Jewish people. These two ancient peoples have increased bonds with one another due to their shared history of persecution in Muslim lands, their joint struggle against radical Islam and their strong commitment to intellectual achievements, democracy and human rights. Given this, it also fitting for the world’s oldest democracy to join in an alliance with the only democracy in the Middle East and the world’s largest democracy in order to support Hindu rights within Bangladesh.

Full report at:



The Tragedy of Russian Politics in Afghanistan

Jul 06 2017

By: Sabera Azizi

On June 6, the Afghan government hosted the Kabul Process, a one-day meeting regarding peace in Afghanistan. The conference included representatives from 27 countries, the United Nations, the European Union, and NATO. In the conference, Moscow stated its commitment to promoting stability in Afghanistan. However, its policy has been the exact opposite. Russia supports the Taliban to undermine U.S. efforts in stabilizing Afghanistan.

Moscow’s policy has angered political circles in Kabul. At a gathering that marked the 25th anniversary of 8 Saur, Abdul Rab Rasul Sayyaf warned Russia not to interfere in Afghanistan’s affairs. Sayyaf’s remarks were directed at Moscow’s support for the Taliban. He told Moscow not to repeat past mistakes. The crowd cheered as he said, “It is enough that you fought this tough land once and you left bleeding with your head broken into pieces.” His message was clear to Moscow. Do not pick a fight with us by supporting the Taliban.

Russia’s support for the Taliban stems from its fear of the U.S., its traditional rival, exerting greater influence in the region.  Moscow supports the Taliban to counter and challenge the United States’ influence and efforts in Afghanistan. For Moscow, the Taliban is simply an “Afghan movement” that has abandoned its international agenda. However, this notion is false. The Taliban actively recruits terrorists from neighboring countries. Siegfried O. Wolf, Director of Research at the South Asia Democratic Forum, told Deutsche Welle that “besides Arabs, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis (including Rohingya refugees from Myanmar recruited in Bangladesh), militants from Central Asia and China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region are joining the Taliban in northern Afghanistan.”

Last year, Russia announced its decision to not cooperate with the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. Russia said it would not participate in any talks led by the United States. Zamir Kabulov, Putin’s special envoy to Afghanistan, said “Honestly speaking, we’re already tired of joining anything Washington starts…We won’t join the useless events, and we’ve already told the Americans.”

Kabulov also called the American bases in Afghanistan disturbing and intolerable. In an interview with a Turkish state-run news agency, Anadolu Agency, he said  “Of course; why should it not be disturbing for anybody? Why in Afghanistan? Where is Afghanistan and where is America!? If we did something like that in Mexico, would it not be disturbing for America? In Cuba, we have already experienced and we know the outcome. I think it is old fashioned. Why are they doing that after all this 15-year-old anti-terror rhetoric in Afghanistan? They stupidly try to say that it is for training. Come on! You are not talking to stupid or foolish people. We know the reasons [for the ongoing U.S. military presence in Afghanistan]. Russia will never tolerate this.”

Moscow’s support for the Taliban is shortsighted. The Taliban has been fighting the Afghan government long before foreign troops came to Afghanistan. In 1993, Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence Agency (ISI) orchestrated the Taliban movement. The Taliban is submitted to the will of Pakistan. Pakistan created the terrorist group as a proxy force to exert greater influence in the region. According to Peter Tomsen, former U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan, Pakistan seeks to use the Taliban to, “forge a broader Islamist bloc of Pakistan, Kashmir, Afghanistan, and eventually Central Asia to balance India, Pakistan’s traditional rival.” The Taliban’s agenda is to use Afghanistan as a starting point to expand to the Central Asian republics. That agenda could threaten the pro-Russian governments in Central Asia and Russia’s influence in the region should they be successful in Afghanistan. While Moscow’s support for the Taliban will help it achieve its perceived interests in undermining the United States’ efforts in Afghanistan, in the long term it will be disastrous for both Russia and Afghanistan.

In 2015, Russia publically announced that it has ties with the Taliban. Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said that the contact between Moscow and the Taliban is for intelligence-sharing and information exchange regarding the fight against ISIS. Last year, Russian ambassador to Afghanistan, Alexander Mantytskiy, told  the Afghan parliament that Russia and the Taliban have a shared interest in fighting ISIS. According to Mantytskiy, ISIS wants to use the Northern provinces of Afghanistan as a starting point to expand its influence to Russia. Although the U.S. backed Afghan government is a much larger force that is fighting ISIS, Moscow isn’t cooperating with Kabul to fight ISIS. Should Russia consider ISIS a threat, it would be more suitable to cooperate with a stronger force, the Afghan government, and not the Taliban. A senior Afghan official on the condition of anonymity told the New York Times, “Bilaterally, we have struggled to convince the Russians on certain issues because they increasingly see us only as part of this larger game with the United States.” Russia refuses to cooperate with the Afghan government’s counterterrorism efforts because it’s backed by Washington.

Furthermore, Moscow has given political legitimacy to the Taliban. Instead of referring to the Taliban as a terrorist group, Kabulov called the Taliban a “real political armed force.” In March, he also said that Russia shares the Taliban’s demand for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan. He further stated that the Taliban’s demands are legitimate and suggested that no neighboring countries in the region want the United States’ presence in Afghanistan.

Moscow views the Taliban as a legitimate security provider instead of Kabul, the host government of its political offices. Last year, Mantytskiy said, “ we have ties to the Taliban to ensure the security of our political offices, consulates, and the security of Central Asia.” His statement suggests that Moscow made an agreement with the Taliban to ensure the security of its offices.

Although Moscow denies arming the Taliban, there is mounting evidence that proves otherwise. Moscow has been supporting the Taliban in contested provinces. Ghulam Farooq Sangari, the police chief of Uruzgan province, told Voice of America that, “Eleven Russians, including two women, dressed in doctor’s uniforms and guarded by four armed Taliban, along with an Afghan translator, have been spotted in various parts of the province… they have been enticing people against the government, providing training and teaching how to assemble land mines.” Similarly, in Kunduz, another highly contested province, Afghan security officials told 1tvnews, that “Russia provides weapons and military equipment for Taliban fighters in Dasht-e-Archi, Imam Sahib, Qalai Zal and Kalbat districts of Kunduz province via Tajikistan.” In Helmand, another volatile province, Moscow provided the Taliban with a mobile clinic to treat its injured fighters. In Farah province, security officials said that Russian weapons and night vision binoculars contributed to the fall of 13 security posts to the Taliban.

Moscow’s lack of a grand strategy in Central Asia is apparent in its policy of supporting the Taliban. Mikhail Zygar, a Russian journalist and author of All the Kremlin’s Men, notes that “It is logic that Putin-era Russia lacks.”  The Western media depicts Putin as a master strategist. However, Zygar refutes that. Putin’s policies are reactionary, based on his fear of the West. Putin’s goal is to disrupt political or economic activities of states that are perceived as hostile. In Afghanistan, he does that via the Taliban. Putin views the U.S. backed government in Kabul as hostile.

Moscow’s hostility towards a Kabul that is interested in maintaining ties with Washington dates back to the 1970s.

Two years before the Soviet invasion, Daud Khan’s relationship with Moscow deteriorated. In Daud Khan’s last meeting to Moscow, Leonid Brezhnev requested that Daud Khan gets rid of the Western experts in the northern provinces of Afghanistan. Daud Khan viewed Brezhnev’s request as an interference in Afghanistan’s affairs.  He refused and said, “Afghanistan shall remain poor, if necessary, but free in its acts and decision.” He ended the meeting abruptly and said, “We will never allow you to dictate to us how to run our country and whom to employ in Afghanistan.” Daud Khan’s refusal to fulfill Brezhnev’s demand angered Moscow. The Soviets were furious that Daud Khan was keen on maintaining contact with the West.

After that meeting, Moscow united the two bitter factions of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), a political party that was supported by Moscow, in preparation for the coup against Daud Khan. On April 28, 1978, Soviet planes flew over Arg, the Afghan presidential palace. The Soviets bombarded the presidential palace and overthrew Daud Khan’s regime. Moscow installed Nur Mohammad Taraki as the president of Afghanistan.

Three days after the Coup, Moscow instructed Taraki to hide the communist nature of the government. Moscow feared a backlash from the Afghan population if Taraki would have announced his decision to join the Soviet bloc. Moscow’s policy was shortsighted. The Kremlin opted to gain immediate influence in Kabul by bringing the weak PDPA party in power instead of continuing to work with Daud Khan, a popular president, for a long-term strategy of cooperation.

Full report at:



Afghanistan reacts at Iranian president’s remarks on construction of water dams

Jul 06 2017

The Afghan government reacted towards the remarks of the Iranian President regarding the construction of water dams where he had expressed concerns that such projects will have a negative impact on the country.

A presidential spokesman Najibullah Azad quoted by RFE/RL said no one has the right to create barriers on the way of the Afghan government and nation to use their natural resources, specifically the water.

Azad further added that the Afghan nation has taken very less advantage of its waters in the past, insisting that such projects to properly use the waters for the interest of the nation, are a priority for the Afghan government.

He said the Afghan government can only suggest that whoever make remarks in this regard, should think about what they want to say.

The Iranian President Rouhani made the remarks during an international conference being held for three days in Tehran, the capital of Iran, saying “Dam construction in Afghanistan and Sistan-Baluchestan Province (in Iran) play a role in the desiccation of rivers.”.

Rouhani further added that “People will be forced to leave their homes; civilizations will be destroyed.”

This comes as President Ghani earlier said the neighboring countries of Afghanistan should not be concerned regarding the construction of water dams and networks in the country.

President Ghani made the remarks during the 4th national conference on the development of water resources development in Afghanistan earlier in March this year, saying “Water is for the benefit of our people and the region. Our guidance principle is to stand for our people’s rights.”

Full report at:



Pentagon confirms death of US soldier in Helmand province of Afghanistan

Jul 05 2017

The United States Department of Defense (DOD) or Pentagon has confirmed the death of a US soldier in southern Helmand province of Afghanistan.

According to a statement by Pentagon “The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Freedom Sentinel.”

The statement further added “Pfc. Hansen B. Kirkpatrick, 19, of Wasilla, Alaska, died July 3, in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, from wounds received during an indirect fire attack. The incident is under investigation.”

“He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas,” Pentagon added.

Helmand is among the relatively volatile provinces in southern Afghanistan where the Taliban insurgents are actively operating in its various districts and often carry out insurgency activities.

The local security officials said Tuesday that more 60 Taliban insurgents were killed during the counter-terrorism and clearance operations in this province since Sunday.

Provincial police chief Abdul Ghafar Safi told reporters that four airstrikes were conducted in different areas of Nawa in the past 48 hours.

He said at least 62 insurgents have been killed during the operations so far, including some of their important commanders and around 40 more have been wounded.

Full report at:





Erdogan says loyal to Qatar, Arab states' demands unacceptable

July 6, 2017

President Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday reaffirmed Turkey's support for Qatar in its dispute with four other Arab states, saying their demands against the tiny Gulf nation were unacceptable.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism and allying with regional foe Iran, charges Doha denies, and have cut diplomatic and commercial ties.

At a meeting in Cairo on Wednesday the four nations' foreign ministers refrained from slapping further sanctions on Qatar but voiced disappointment at Doha's failure to comply with their 13 demands after the expiry of the deadline.

"When it comes to this list of 13 items ... it's not acceptable under any circumstances," Erdogan said in an interview with France 24 television.

Some of the terms were tantamount to "stripping" Qatar of its statehood, he added.

Among their demands is for Qatar to end an accord under which Turkey maintains a military base in the Gulf state.

"We remain loyal to our agreement with Qatar. If it requests us to leave, we will not stay where we are not wanted," he said through an interpreter, adding there had been no such request.

Turkey, the most powerful regional country to stand by Qatar, has sent 100 cargo planes with supplies since its neighbors cut air and sea links. It has also rushed through legislation to send more troops to the military base in Doha.

Two contingents of Turkish troops with columns of armored vehicles have arrived since the crisis erupted on June 5.


Erdogan, who was speaking ahead of the G20 leaders summit in Hamburg later this week, also took a swipe at the United States saying its arming of "terrorist" Kurdish groups would backfire and that it would be impossible for Washington to recover heavy weapons as it has promised to do so.

He also said Ankara was ready to carry out ground operations in northern Syria against Kurdish forces if it felt threatened.

The head of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia said on Wednesday that Turkish military deployments near Kurdish-held areas of northwestern Syria amounted to a "declaration of war" which could trigger clashes within days.

"If there is a threat against us, our troops will conduct any operations with the Free Syria Army on the ground," Erdogan said when asked whether Turkey was prepared to intervene against the Kurds.

Elsewhere in Syria, Erdogan said he was optimistic on the implementation of de-escalation zones that are under discussion in the Kazakh capital Astana with Russia and Iran. He said he would discuss the next steps with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G20 summit in Germany.

Erdogan added that he hoped the Astana talks would pave the way for political negotiations under U.N. auspices in Geneva, but said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had no future in the country. Russia and Iran are both allies of Assad.

"Of course he has to leave," Erdogan said. "Those who want Assad to remain are still going after their interests in Syria."



More Turkey-Backed Militants Killed in Northern Syria

Jul 05, 2017

An arms and ammunition depot of the militants affiliated to the Turkish army blew up in the town of Mare'a this afternoon, leaving 14 militants dead and several more wounded.

In relevant developments in the province on Tuesday, the Turkey-backed militants' mortar and artillery units shelled heavily the villages and towns of al-Shahba, Tal Rifat and Sheikh Issa, causing the Kurdish forces to launch retaliatory attacks on militants' positions in the town of Mare'a.

The Kurdish fighters also targeted a vehicle of the militants carrying Jeish al-Thowar militants along the road connecting Azaz to Mare'a, killing 13 militants.

In the meantime, artillery and mortar units of the Turkey-backed militant groups started to shell the villages of Tal Madhiq, Um Hawsh and Harbel from their positions in the village of Kaljabrin and the center of Azaz. 

A commander of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) affiliated to the Turkish army said that the FSA and the Turkish Armed Forces might soon launch a joint operation against the Kurdish military units in the Syrian city of Afrin soon.

The commander of the Syrian opposition said that the operation will have several stages.

"At the first stage, we plan to capture the city of Tal Rifat as well as the local airbase, and then we plan to begin with the siege of Afrin, which is under the control of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) forces. Our goal is not to enter the territory of Afrin, but rather to clear the territories located near the Turkish border from the YPG," the commander said.

"We have been getting ready for the operation for 2 months; the last preparations are now underway," he added.

Around 20,000 militants of the FSA and Turkish troops will participate in the new military operation in the Northwestern Syrian Afrin region, which is under control of the YPG.

"The operation can start at any moment. The Turkish forces are stationed in Mare'a, Azaz and in the North of Idlib. Only those FSA units which were previously involved in the Euphrates Shield will take part in the upcoming operation. The US-backed FSA militants won't participate in the fighting in the Afrin area. We don't trust them, as they can pass information on to the Kurdish self-defense units," the FSA commander said.

Nuri Mehmud, an official representative of the YPG, said earlier that the group will defend its territory if there is an attack on Afrin from Turkey.

A well-informed local source in Northern Aleppo reported on Monday that thousands of militants affiliated to the Turkish Army were to kick off an imminent large-scale operation codenamed Seif al-Forat (the Euphrates Sword) in Afrin region.

The source reported that the FSA, backed up by the Turkish soldiers, were ready to carry out a large-scale operation in Afrin region with over 20,000 fighters.

Full report at:



Commander: Iran to Launch Home-Made Version of S-300 Missile Shield by Next Year

Jul 05, 2017

"Bavar 373 will be tested by the end of this year and will join the country's integrated defense system by the next year," General Esmayeeli told reporters in Tehran on Wednesday.

He also said that Iran has deployed the Russian S-300 missile defense shield and is using the system.

Iranian Deputy Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami announced in February that Iran is forcefully working on Bavar (Belief) 373.

"Steady work efforts are being made on Bavar 373 missile system and a number of tests have been carried out on this system, and these tests will continue until the date of delivery," General Hatami said.

Asked if the Iranian air defense shield has been tested against incoming ballistic missiles, the deputy minister said all defensive projects, including development of this missile system are moving ahead in accordance to their approved plans.

Iran designed and developed its own version of the S-300 missile shield after the Russians shrugged off delivery of their advanced missile defense system to Iran on the pretext of the UN Security Council sanctions.

The Iranian version has superior features over the original Russian model as it enjoys increased mobility, agility and reduced launch-preparation time.

Iranian commanders had earlier said that Bavar 373 is similar to its original Russian model and traces and intercepts high-altitude targets.

After the removal of sanctions, Russia delivered S-300 air defense systems to Iran under the existing contract.

In relevant remarks last August, General Esmayeeli said that "the radar and missile defense system, Bavar-373, is a powerful and fully indigenous supplement for the S-300 defense system which will be put into operation soon".

"The S-300 and Bavar-373 systems will be highly lethal for the enemy," he added.

Full report at:



There would be no Iran without Revolutionary Guard, replies Soleimani to Rouhani

5 July 2017

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard attacked Iranian president Hassan Rouhani following his latest criticism of the semi-military power over the economy.

Qasem Soleimani, head of the Quds Force, said that no one has the right to weaken nor attack the Revolutionary Guard. According to the news agency Mizan, Soleimani stressed on the importance of the Revolutionary Guard, in a speech on Tuesday addressing fighters of the of Iran-Iraq war in the 80s, and their role in keeping the country from harm’s way.

Economy under military’s mercy 

The Iranian president had criticized the Revolutionary Guard’s intervention in the country’s economy in a speech last week.

“The economy is under the country’s military power’s mercy,” he said.

Rouhani stressed that “the economy, weapons and media are in the hands of the military and no one can compete with them.”

This is in addition to his criticism during his election campaign in May, when he demanded the Revolutionary Guard to take care of military and security affairs on the border, accusing them of terrorizing investors and negatively impacting Iran’s economy. “The Revolutionary Guard’s intervention in the economy was to protect the revolution,” said Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard in response to Rouhani’s criticism.

Jafari considered the Revolutionary Guard’s economic activities to be within the framework of reconstruction, building, ending the economic dependence of Iran and strengthening the military force in the face of the “ambitions of arrogant powers,” as he put it.

The  commander-in-chief of the Revolutionary Guard wants to increase military spending and fast forward development of the controversial missile program, pointing out that “any country that does not possess weapons will be humiliated by the enemies and, therefore, forced to surrender.”

Opposing views  

Rouhani’s projects collide with the concept of the national economic self-reliance.

Full report at:



Turkey detains 37 ISIS suspects, Syrian carrying explosives at border

5 July 2017

Turkish police detained 37 ISIS suspects in anti-terror operations in provinces across Turkey, media said on Wednesday, while officials said another suspect was held carrying more than 5 kg (11 lb.) of explosives at the border with Syria.

The governor's office in the southern province of Hatay said the Syrian citizen was caught on Tuesday trying to cross illegally into Turkey from Syria with 5.25 kilograms of TNT and nine detonators.

Police detained 25 people in simultaneous raids in nine provinces including Istanbul overnight, targeting ISIS suspects who had been on a security watchlist for the past four months, the private Dogan news agency reported.

In a separate set of operations, police detained 12 individuals, 2 of them children, in southern Adana province with suspected links to the ISIS overnight, Dogan said, adding that one of them was an 12-year-old Indonesian girl.

Full report at:





Libyan Army recaptures Benghazi from extremists

5 July 2017

The Libyan Army announced on Wednesday that it has recaptured the city of Benghazi from extremist groups, Al Arabiya News Channel reported.

“Benghazi was conclusively cleared of extremists,” the privately-owned Libya Al-Hadath TV quoted the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) as saying on its Facebook page on Wednesday.

The announcement came just days after the LNA said its forces used artillery and tanks in an attack on the last remaining strongholds of militant groups in the Sabri and central neighborhoods in Benghazi.

On 24 June, the LNA announced it had taken control of the Souq al-Hout neighborhood, another former militant stronghold.

The LNA has fought against militants from the al-Qaeda-linked Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council (BRSC) in the city for more than three years, with Sabri district proving to be particularly difficult to recapture.



Hundreds of civilians killed in C Africa war crimes

July 6, 2017

Libreville :  Armed groups in the Central African Republic have killed hundreds of civilians in an unfettered spree of bloodletting, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Wednesday.

The group issued a 92-page report ahead of the impending opening of a Special Criminal Court, a new judicial body that will probe rights violations in the country since 2003.

Investigators found evidence of more than 560 civilian deaths and the destruction of more than 4,200 homes by militias since late 2014, HRW said.

But this was likely to be just a small fraction of the total crimes that had been committed, it cautioned.

The killings had occurred "with wholesale impunity," the watchdog said.

"Over the past two years, hundreds of witnesses told us of brazen war crimes committed by Seleka and anti-balaka fighters across the centre and eastern part of the Central African Republic," HRW researcher Lewis Mudge said.

"The lack of justice for these crimes has left fighters free to terrorise civilians at will, and fuelled ongoing revenge attacks."

One of the world's poorest nations, CAR was pitched into a civil war between Muslim and Christian militias in 2013, unleashed when President Francois Bozize was overthrown by a coalition of Muslim-majority rebel groups called the Seleka.

They in turn were ousted by a military intervention led by former colonial ruler France.

Those events sparked the bloodiest sectarian violence in the country's history as mainly Christian militias sought revenge.

Christians, who account for about 80 percent of the population, organised vigilante units dubbed "anti-balaka", a reference to the machetes used by the rebels.

The HRW evidence adds to a UN report issued on May 30 that covers crimes committed in the country from 2003 to 2015.

In it, the United Nations documented "appalling" crimes by the army, armed groups and international forces.

It put forward evidence of gang rape, sexual slavery, the torching of entire villages and possibly genocide.

The SCC is a hybrid court embedded in the country's legal system but incorporating national and international judges.

Full report at:



Libya rocket attack kills five on Tripoli beach

July 6, 2017

Tripoli - A rocket hit a beach in Tripoli killing five people, including at least one child, and wounding 25 others, the Libyan health ministry said. The blast Tuesday hit the beach in front of Mitiga airport in the east of the Libyan capital, the ministry statement said. An interior ministry source said there were clashes Tuesday inside the airport perimeter between security forces and an "outlawed" group. The airport was badly damaged during fighting between rival militias in mid-2014. The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, however could not say whether the attack on the civilians was intentional. –AFP

Libya has been wracked by chaos since the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi, with rival authorities and militias battling for control of the oil-rich country.

Full report at:



ICC to rule on South Africa’s failure to arrest Sudan’s Bashir

Jul 6, 2017

Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) will rule on Thursday on whether South Africa violated ICC rules by failing to arrest Sudan's president during a 2015 visit to Johannesburg, in a case that will test international support for the court.

There is an outstanding ICC warrant for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir's arrest on genocide charges, which he denies.

Thursday's ruling will be closely watched for its possible implications for Bashir and other sitting heads of state as well as for the court itself.

If the ICC rules that South Africa's decision to let Bashir go was an act of non-compliance, the court could then either report Pretoria to the United Nations Security Council or to the ICC's own member states. In either case, South Africa would only likely suffer the diplomatic setback of a court reprimand, rather than any further fine or sanction.

It is also possible that the court may accept South Africa's argument that it was not obliged to implement the warrant.

Pretoria has argued that the ICC's warrant for Bashir's arrest was void in the face of a South African law that grants sitting heads of state immunity from prosecution, in line with customary international law.

However, the ICC's statutes explicitly state that sitting heads of states do not have immunity in war crimes cases.

Bashir, who came to power in Sudan in a 1989 military-backed coup, was charged with genocide and crimes against humanity in 2008 over the deaths and persecution of ethnic groups in Darfur Province.

He denies the charges and continues to travel abroad, trailed by human rights activists and shunned by Western diplomats.

Though Sudan is not a member of the ICC, the court has jurisdiction there due to a 2005 Security Council resolution that referred the conflict to The Hague court.

The ICC faces the risk that any action it takes will only underline waning international support for its own existence.

Full report at:



5 killed, 25 injured in rocket attack east of Libyan capita

Jul 5, 2017

A rocket hit a beach in Tripoli killing five people, including at least one child, and wounding 25 others, the Libyan Health Ministry said.

The blast Tuesday hit the beach in front of Mitiga airport in the east of the Libyan capital, the ministry statement said.

An Interior Ministry source said there were clashes Tuesday inside the airport perimeter between security forces and an “outlawed” group. The airport was badly damaged during fighting between rival militias in mid-2014.

The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, however could not say whether the attack on the civilians was intentional.

Libya has been wracked by chaos since the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi, with rival authorities and militias battling for control of the oil-rich country.

Full report at:



Truck accident in Central African Republic kills 78

July 6, 2017

At least 78 people were killed and dozens more were injured when a truck heavily loaded with goods and passengers crashed in the Central African Republic, a doctor said on Wednesday.

The accident occurred on Tuesday around 10 kilometres outside the town of Bambari, around 300 km northeast of the capital Bangui, as the truck was travelling to a weekly market day in the village of Maloum.

"At the moment, we have counted 78 dead and 72 wounded. Some wounded were taken directly to their homes from the accident scene and died there some time after, but most died here," said Chamberlain Bama, chief doctor at the university hospital in Bambari, according to Reuters news agency.

A member of parliament from Bambari said the truck was overloaded and travelling faster than normal.

"They were driving fast to make it to the market on time. That's what probably caused the accident," Amaseka Topi told Reuters.

Most of the people killed were travelling on the back of the lorry, local trader Oumar Tidjani told the DPA news agency.

Decades of neglect have left the landlocked country's road system in ruins and safety regulations are rarely enforced.

Due to lack of other transportation, people in the Central African Republic regularly resort to travelling in overloaded trucks, which are often in a poor condition.

Local resident Hubert Tchenebou told AFP news agency it was not the first time an accident involving an overloaded truck had happened in the area.

"There are police and UN forces (in the area), but they let vehicles pass on which people are perched like birds," said Tchenebou, reached by telephone.

The Central African Republic is racked by violence unleashed after mainly Muslim rebels ousted President Francois Bozize in 2013, provoking a backlash from Christian militias.

Full report at:



Insurgency: Two Boko Haram members surrender in Borno

By Maina Maina

July 5, 2017

Suspected Boko Haram terrorists who recently surrendered to the troops of Operation Lafiya Dole have called on their colleagues to lay down their arms and give peace a chance.

Speaking to newsmen on Wednesday at the theater Command of the Operation Lafiya Dole, one of their leaders (name withheld) said they realized that what they were doing was not in conformity with the teachings of Islam.

He said “we realized that what we were doing is not in conformity with the teachings of Islam.

Southern Senators’ Forum re-emerges, takes stand on agitations for separation

“I call on our colleagues out there in the bushes to come out and lay down their arms, as the Nigerian military will receive them and treat them humanly.”

Parading the suspects, the theater Commander Operation Lafiya Dole, Major General Ibrahim Attahiru said that over 700 suspected Boko Haram terrorists had indicated their intention to surrender, out of which 70 have already came forward.

He stressed that so far they had profiled 57 and brought them down to Maiduguri.

Full report at:



Kenya: Al-Shabaab attack on police station kills 2

06 July 2017

Two police officers were killed on Wednesday in an attack by al-Shabaab militants on a police station in northeastern Kenya that lasted for more than seven hours.

Security Forces in the East African country on Wednesday told local media that the militants attacked and razed the Pandaguo police station in Lamu County along the coastal region at around 5.30 a.m. (0230GMT) battling the Kenyan police and military until around 1pm.

Confirming to Kenya’s Daily Nation that two police officers were killed, a senior security officer who asked not to be named due to restrictions to speaking to the media confirmed that the militants had also destroyed communications equipment in the area. "An unknown number of officers and villagers are missing. Some of the injured have been taken to Witu Hospital," the police officer said, adding that over 200 militants had attacked the police station.

Speaking to journalists in Nairobi, the Police Inspector-General Joseph Boinnet confirmed the attack, adding that additional police officers have been deployed to the region to tighten security.

Numerous schools in Kenya's Lamu County remained closed due to the attack.

Full report at:



North America


Quebec safari park defends religious freedom following 'hateful' response to Muslim visit

July 6, 2017

MONTREAL — A Quebec safari park that welcomed a Muslim community group Sunday and allowed afternoon prayers to be held on its site has become the target of “racist and hateful” comments after a short video of the gathering was posted online.

In a message posted on its Facebook page, Parc Safari in Hemmingford, Que. denounced the intolerant response and said it was “sorry if freedom of religion had offended some people.”

Park president and owner Jean-Pierre Ranger said Wednesday that the online abuse is coming from a minority of Quebecers who don’t understand what happened at his facility.

“Intolerance is a factor that occurs, but it’s a small percentage,” he said in an interview. “In some way, education will eventually bring the level of understanding a little higher, and there will be less stress in our society.”

The task of inter-cultural education does not usually fall to a zoo, but in Quebec flare-ups of intolerance can occur in unlikely places.

The province’s 2007 debate over reasonable accommodation featured outrage over Muslims being served pork-free meals and given prayer space at a maple sugar shack and Hasidic Jews being provided a kosher refrigerator at a pediatric hospital.

On Sunday, the Centre Communautaire Laurentien, part of the Muslim Association of Canada, organized an outing to the Parc Safari to celebrate the end of Ramadan and Canada’s 150th anniversary. The event had initially been scheduled for July 1 but was postponed because of rain.

About 950 people took part, and they were provided a small roped-off section of the park for a picnic. When the time arrived for afternoon prayers, the group used a loudspeaker.

A user going by the name guindon87 posted a 46-second video to YouTube in which people are seen at a distance gathering for prayer and Arabic words are faintly heard coming over a loudspeaker. The poster, whose YouTube contributions include a video describing Montreal activist Jaggi Singh with a racist slur, wrote that the Hemmingford prayers showed “a serious lack of respect for Quebec and Quebecers.”

The video had attracted 45,000 views Wednesday morning and was picked up by TVA news and other media outlets in the province.

Samer Elniz, manager of the Centre Communautaire Laurentien, said he found the reaction to his group’s visit “ bizarre” and particularly troubling because they were there in part to celebrate Canada.

“Personally, I go into public parks and I see Christians conducting a mass, I see baptisms. That doesn’t bother me, even if I am Muslim,” he said. “I like seeing the diversity, seeing people doing as they wish. There are countries where you don’t have those rights.”

The Parc Safari’s Facebook page continued to draw reaction Wednesday, some applauding its defense of religious freedom while others accused it of being a dupe for a proselytizing religion.

Ranger said people should understand that it was a gathering of families, not a religious event. Even when the brief prayer period was held, most of the Muslim community members were elsewhere in the park, he said.

“We do not invite anybody with a political or religious agenda to the park. We invite parents with children to enjoy a family recreational park based on the presentation of animals from four major continents,” he said. In the past, groups from a variety of religious backgrounds have benefited from the same arrangement, and it never caused a problem.

“I’m very hopeful that this is just an incident that allows people to think and come around to realizing that many are victims of propaganda. Let’s try to learn the real facts and be tolerant towards each other, and we’ll walk away from these traumatic years,” Ranger said.



US media write 449% more news stories about 'Muslim' terrorist attacks than others


Data suggests that the U.S. media is playing an active role in making Americans disproportionately afraid of Muslims.

Terror attacks perpetrated by individuals claiming to be Muslim get an average of 449 percent more news stories than attacks perpetrated by non-Muslims, according to research by academics at Georgia State University. This means attacks associated with Muslims get 4.5 times more media coverage than those perpetrated by white supremacists or others.

"This stereotyping reinforces cultural narratives about what and who should be feared," the authors of the study write.

"By covering terrorist attacks by Muslims dramatically more than other incidents, media frame this type of event as more prevalent. Based on these findings, it is no wonder that Americans are so fearful of radical Islamic terrorism," they add.

The researchers analyzed media coverage from CNN and U.S. newspapers from 2011 to 2015, looking at 2,413 news articles. They looked specifically at terror-related news coverage, finding a significantly disproportionate focus on attacks perpetrated by people associating themselves with Islam.

While only 12.4 percent of terror attacks in the five-year period were carried out by individuals associating themselves with Islam, these attacks received 41.4 percent of terror-related media coverage.

In fact, 20 percent of all the U.S' terror-related media coverage focused on the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. The attack was perpetrated by two Chechen-American brothers, allegedly motivated by extremist Islamist beliefs. Three people died as a result of the attack.

Conversely, coverage of a 2012 attack on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, perpetrated by a white man, received just 3.8 percent of terror-related media coverage. Six people were killed in the attack.

Ironically, U.S. President Donald Trump has accused the media of ignoring attacks perpetrated by individuals identifying as Muslims. However, this study shows that his assertion is gravely inaccurate, and the media actually neglect covering terror attacks perpetrated by White supremacists and others not associated with Islam.

"When President Trump asserted that the media does not cover some terrorist attacks enough, it turns out that he was correct,” the researchers say in the report. "However, his assertion that attacks by Muslim perpetrators received less coverage is unsubstantiated."

While Trump and the U.S. media have focused attention on so-called Muslim terrorists, white supremacist terrorists actually pose a major threat to national security, but they are often brushed aside or overlooked.

"Law enforcement agencies in the U.S. consider anti-government violent extremists, not radicalized Muslims, to be the most severe threat of political violence that they face,” the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security reported, according to Newsweek.

Between 2002 and early 2016, individuals associated with white supremacist groups were responsible for more terrorist attacks and more deaths in the U.S. than individuals associating themselves with Islamist extremists.

Full report at:



Muslims want to talk to mayoral candidate Bill Ketron about Islam

July 5, 2017

State Sen. Bill Ketron's positions on Islam and terrorism concern local Muslims about the Murfreesboro Republican's run for Rutherford County mayor.

"I am sending an open invitation to Sen. Ketron to sit with him and answer any questions he has about our faith and educate him about our holy book and practices," said Abdou Kattih, a member of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, who has served on the ICM's Board of Directors.

Kattih's congregation faced opposition and international attention in 2010 after the Rutherford County Regional Planning Commission approved the ICM's plans to build a bigger place of worship off Bradyville Pike.

The ICM has encountered unsuccessful lawsuits to stop the building project and a cemetery for the congregation, vandalism to signs and construction equipment, a bomb threat and politicians complaining about the congregation's plans.

The congregation's First Amendment rights that include freedom of religion have been respected by County Mayor Ernest Burgess, and the ICM hopes Ketron and any other candidate will do the same.

Burgess has announced he'll be running for Ketron's Senate seat and faces competition from state Rep. Dawn White, a fellow Republican from the Murfreesboro area.

Ketron responds to terrorism, Islamic extremists

Ketron has been known to back laws that address terrorism concerns from Islamic extremists, but Muslims have complained about his bills singling them out while they peacefully live out their faith.

As one of President Donald Trump's delegates, Ketron invited Dutch politician Geert Wilders, a friend who's also known for controversial positions about Muslims, to the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

The senator also expressed support for the state filing a lawsuit to block the federal government under Democratic President Barack Obama from resettling Middle East refugees in Tennessee. Since becoming president, Trump has sought limits on accepting refugees and traveling access from six nations that have mostly Muslim populations.

Ketron upset Muslims when he sponsored a bill that initially mentioned "Shariah Law (an Islamic code of ethics that can vary in each country and mosque)" before that language was removed in legislation. The bill made it a state felony to provide material support "for any terrorist group, Muslim Brotherhood, skinheads, neo Nazis," Ketron said during a recent interview.

"There's crazies on both sides of the spectrum, left and right," said Ketron, who also passed a law that required hospitals to report to criminal authorities whenever treatment is necessary to stop bleeding caused by female genital mutilation. "I'm worried about the extremists."

"There's a lot of great Muslims," Ketron said. "One of my best friends is a Muslim, and he came here from Iran. However, most terrorists are Muslim. If they stick truly to the Quran and the books of Shariah, they seek world domination for their religion based on the writings of Muhammad."

Getting to know local Muslims

Kattih and other local Muslims want Ketron, other officials and the public to get to know the ICM congregation better.

"He’s very misinformed about our faith, our community in Middle Tennessee, and our practices as Muslims," said Kattih, a local pharmacist who founded the Murfreesboro Muslim Youth,a group that works with local Christians in helping the homeless, hungry and others in need.  "As a person running for office locally, he should be concerned with representing and serving all constituents equally and respectfully."

Ketron should be examining the "contributions of our Muslim community in the county he's running to represent," said Kattih, a U.S. citizen who grew up in Syria and has lived in Tennessee for 20 years and Rutherford County for 13 years.

"Our community in Rutherford County has been the subject of terror, not the generator of it," said Kattih, whose congregation in Murfreesboro dates back to the early 1980s. "The last thing I ask him to do is attend our Love thy Neighbor Picnic on July 30 at Barfield (Crescent) Park to meet and greet his Muslim constituents."

Full report at:



After call with Trump, Egypt’s Sisi says their views on the region ‘in line’

5 July 2017

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi spoke with US President Donald Trump in a telephone call about the dispute with Qatar, Sisi’s office said on Wednesday.

“The visions of the two presidents on dealing with current regional crises were in line, especially when it comes to reaching political settlements which contribute to regional security and stability,” Sisi’s office said in a statement.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Bahrain have imposed sanctions on Qatar, accusing it of links to terrorism and being an ally of Iran, which Doha denies.

Trump reiterated the need for all countries “to stop terrorist financing and discredit extremist ideology,” the White House said in a statement.

Full report at:



Canada court upholds $1.7bn ruling against Iran’s terrorism involvement

5 July 2017

A Canadian Court of Appeal upheld a $1.7 billion judgment against the government of Iran in favor of American victims of terrorism on Tuesday.

The ruling rejected the state’s immunity and accused Tehran of trying to derail Canada’s Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act.

The victims hold Iran accountable for its support of Hamas and Hezbollah during terror campaigns from the 1980s through to 2002.

“The terrorist attacks out of which the respondents’ US judgments arise are repugnant to civilized society. The fact that a foreign government would engage in the sponsorship of such atrocities is chilling,” wrote Justice C. William Hourigan, on behalf of a panel of concurring judges, according to National Post.

Full report at:



US says would consider no-fly zone in Syria if Russia agrees

6 July 2017

The United States is prepared to discuss with Russia joint efforts to stabilize war-torn Syria, including no-fly zones, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Wednesday.

He added the United States wanted to discuss with Russia the use of on-the-ground ceasefire observers and the coordinated delivery of humanitarian aid to Syrians.

“If our two countries work together to establish stability on the ground, it will lay a foundation for progress on the settlement of Syria’s political future,” Tillerson said in a statement ahead of this week’s Group of 20 summit in Germany.

Tillerson also said Russia had an obligation to prevent the use of chemical weapons by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin are expected to meet on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg this week, and Tillerson said Syria would be a topic of discussion.

Russia is Assad’s major ally and Moscow’s military support has helped the Syrian government turn the tide in a multi-sided war against ISIS and Syrian rebels.

Full report at:



Poll: Most Americans Support Trump's Travel Ban

July 05, 2017

Most American voters approve of President Donald Trump's travel ban on visitors from six Muslim-majority countries, according to a new poll conducted by POLITICO and Morning Consult.

The ban prohibits the issuance of new visas from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days and suspends the refugee resettlement program for 120 days.

The poll found 60-percent of voters support the ban while only 28-percent oppose it.

Most Republican voters, 84 percent, support the ban, while only nine-percent oppose it.

The ban is also popular among independent voters. Fifty-six percent support it, compared to 30-percent who don't.

Just over 40-percent of Democratic voters approve of the ban, while 46-percent are against it.

The poll does not mention the president or his executive orders on immigration. That differs from other polls, most of which have found more opposition to the ban.

An Associated Press-NORC Center poll conducted last month found nearly 60-percent of Americans supported multiple court decisions to block the travel ban.

The Associated Press-NORC Center poll was completed before the Supreme Court's decision last week to allow some aspects of the policy to be implemented while the high court waits to hear the case in the fall.

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