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

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Intel Reports Indicate That Talibani Terrorists Trained by Pakistan Army in Afghanistan Planning to Launch Attacks Jammu And Kashmir

New Age Islam News Bureau

10 Aug 2020

• Sohail Masih When He Was Arrested on Blasphemy Charges in Pakistan for Facebook Post

• Hold ‘Transparent Investigation’ Into Blast, Trump Tells Lebanon

• Build ‘Free and Strong’ Coexistence After Blast, Pope Francis Urges Lebanese People

• Investigators Find Underground Chamber Beneath Beirut Port Wreckage: Reports

• Islamic Jihad Warns Israel Against Escalating Aggression Against Palestinians



• Intel Reports Indicate That Talibani Terrorists Trained by Pakistan Army in Afghanistan Planning to Launch Attacks Jammu And Kashmir

• Complaints Filed Against Assam BJP MLA, Shiladitya Dev, For Calling Muslim Scholar 'Intellectual Jihadi'

• 70-Year Wait for Dalit Christians, Muslims On SC Verdict Over Caste Status

• Adityanath’s Office Refuses To Comment On Reports Of Mosque Trust’s Invite For Library, Hospital Event

• Sunni Board may invite PM Modi, Yogi Adityanath to Ayodhya event

• Pakistani troops fire at border posts along LoC

• 11 of immigrant family from Pakistan found dead, cops suspect suicide pact



• Sohail Masih When He Was Arrested on Blasphemy Charges in Pakistan for Facebook Post

• Clerics to Get Tahaffuz Bill Implemented

• Historic Punjab Mosque’s Manager Suspended for Music Video Shoot in Lahore

• Pakistan FM Qureshi faces criticism at home for slamming Saudi Arabia over Kashmir

• ‘Missing’ middle section of society to get social protection


North America

• Hold ‘Transparent Investigation’ Into Blast, Trump Tells Lebanon

• Two US senators introduce legislation on Arab anti-normalization policies with Israel

• Iran acquiring Chinese weapons and financing will destabilize Middle East: Pompeo

• Will US kill nuclear goals of belligerent Gulf states?



• Build ‘Free and Strong’ Coexistence After Blast, Pope Francis Urges Lebanese People

• Turkey navy operations in eastern Mediterranean ‘extremely worrying’: EU

• UK intensifies Lebanon intervention with additional offer of 'aid' money


Arab world

• Investigators Find Underground Chamber Beneath Beirut Port Wreckage: Reports

• Senior Mufti: Most Iraqi Shiites, Sunnis Ready to Fight for Expelling US

• US Supports Unrest in Lebanon in Hope of Regime Change in Blast-Devastated Beirut

• Death Toll, Number of Injured People Continue to Rise in Lebanon

• Lebanese government on verge of collapse after 3 ministers, 8 MPs resign

• IMF willing to assist, but seeks commitment to reform by Lebanon

• Aid for the Lebanese people ‘not under control of Lebanon govt:’ US official

• Beirut explosion: Lebanese protesters clash with police in second day of demos

• Beirut explosion: EU doubles Lebanon aid to 63 mln euros

• Hezbollah’s continued destructive hegemony raises concerns for all: Saudi FM

• Saudi Arabia sets 10-year jail, SR1mn fine for forced labor and beggary crimes

• Saudi Arabia halts oil supply to Pakistan as rift widens over Kashmir



• Islamic Jihad Warns Israel Against Escalating Aggression Against Palestinians

• Ayatollah Khamenei opens Twitter account in Hindi

• Iran: US Should Account for Supporting, Sheltering Terrorist Groups

• GCC countries unite to seek UN extension of Iran arms embargo

• Israeli warplanes launch fresh airstrike in Gaza

• UN, Saudi to blame if stranded oil tanker explodes: Yemen

• Turkey drives Muslim Brotherhood campaign against Egyptian and Greek maritime demarcation

• Raed Salah warns of Israeli plans against Al-Aqsa


South Asia

• Afghan Assembly Approves Release Of 400 'Hard-Core' Taliban Prisoners

• Taliban says ready for Afghan peace talks after prisoner release

• Second explosion reported in Kabul city in less than 24 hours


Southeast Asia

• Twitterati Outburst Against Former Malaysian PM Mahathir For Raising Kashmir

• A year on, Pakistan calls for Indonesian solidarity on Kashmir

• Confusion in Dewan over 2-state solution in Palestinian-Israeli conflict



• Sudan ‘Regrets’ Tone of US Travel Advisory, Says Foreign Ministry

• Blast rocks military base in Somali capital, at least eight dead

• Six French tourists among eight killed by gunmen in Niger

• Al-Shabaab claims deadly blast at military base in Somali capital Mogadishu

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Intel Reports Indicate That Talibani Terrorists Trained by Pakistan Army in Afghanistan Planning to Launch Attacks Jammu And Kashmir

Jitendra Bahadur Singh

Srinagar, August 10, 2020


Image for Representation


Intel reports have indicated that Talibani terrorists trained by Pakistan Army Special Service Group (SSG) in Afganistan are planning to launch attacks on security establishment and patrolling party in Jammu & Kashmir.

The Intel inputs suggested that the influx of Taliban/Afgan militants in terrorist outfits indicates more threats in the future.

The intelligence bureau report accessed by India Today Group reveals that Pak agency ISI and Army are pushing more Taliban/Afgan and Pathani militants in the Valley to mix-up other terrorist outfits.

The terrorists' new strategy escape from security forces includes limited use of mobile.

According to the inputs the Talibani and Afghani terrorist commanders are using female over ground workers (OGWs) who will be staying in houses of poor people in Jammu and Kashmir.

The report further reveals that the terrorist outfits in the Valley were collaborating with other groups to conduct terrorist attacks and facilitate the infiltration of cadre.

It further reveals the increase of increase in the presence of Talibani/Afghani/Pathani terrorists at the LOC.

The input also says that the Pakistan Army would facilitate the infiltration of 20-25 these trained cadres through the Line of Control and five to six such cadres through India-Nepal border.

Also, there is a significant increase in the movement of terrorists in Naushera sector, Bimber Gali sector, KG sector, Karan sector and Poonchh Sector.


Sohail Masih When He Was Arrested On Blasphemy Charges In Pakistan for Facebook Post

Kamran Chaudhry

August 09, 2020

A discussion on eating sacrificial meat at Eid al-Adha turned potentially deadly for Christian man Sohail Masih when he was arrested on blasphemy charges.

“It is not possible that the blood of goats and bulls can wash away sins. The incident of Miraj is based on a lie,” he posted on Facebook, referring to Lailat al Miraj, also known as the Night of Ascension.

The annual observance marks Prophet Muhammad's nighttime journey from Mecca to al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem from where he ascended into heaven. Masih, not a surname but used to identify a male Pakistani as a Christian, was arrested on Aug. 5.

The same evening, an enraged mob held protests and attacked the police station in Nowshera Virkan in Punjab province. Shouting slogans against Masih, the protesters tore away the door of the police station and exchanged angry words with police officers.

Allama Muhammad Abdul Sattar, worship leader of a mosque, filed a first information report (FIR) with police against Masih, who has been kept in custody for his own safety.

“The culprit shared the post with two people. They visited my madrasa [Islamic seminary] and showed it. Masih mocked the Miraj incident and the sacrifice which is a principle of Islam. Muslims were extremely hurt,” he stated.

Heavy contingents of police were deployed at the Christian settlement of Nowshera Virkan.

According to Khalid Shehzad, a Catholic member of the National Lobbying Delegation, the FIR was registered at 3am.

“The locals held meetings to avoid any clash but the pressure kept mounting. Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, a hardline religious party, targets religious minorities, especially Christians,” the human rights activist told UCA News.

“Their activists outnumber the police, who succumb to pressure and register blasphemy cases. The victim spends his whole life on trial. Semi-literate pastors teach hate.”

Nasir Saeed, director of the Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) UK, a charity dedicated to helping persecuted Christians in Pakistan, said several Christians have been charged with blasphemy for sharing or having blasphemous content on their phones or computers.

“It is difficult to prevent the abuse of social media platforms like WhatsApp when others can easily harass Christians and plant evidence on them even if the [accused] Christian did not directly interact with the content,” he said.

“It is a very worrying situation as the misuse of the blasphemy law continues to rise and instead of taking steps to stop its misuse, the government continues to pass legislation which makes the existing law more stringent. Because of silence and inaction from the government, people are taking the law as a religious duty. Pakistani society has become more and more indolent and I see no future for the religious minorities in Pakistan.”

Consumption of sacrificial meat

Every year as Eid al-approaches, the Catholic Church in Pakistan holds awareness drive in churches and on social media about the consumption of sacrificial meat during the annual Muslim festival.

The “Festival of Sacrifice” is celebrated by Muslims to mark the occasion when Allah appeared to the Prophet Abraham in a dream and asked him to sacrifice his son Ishmael to demonstrate his devotion to the Almighty.

Ignoring the advice of the devil, who tried to tempt Abraham into disobeying Allah by saying he should spare Ishmael, Abraham was about to press ahead with the sacrifice when Allah stopped him and gave him a lamb to kill instead.

Muslims celebrate Eid by feasting on a sacrificed animal, usually a goat or a sheep. The priests condemn those who term the Muslim feast as "the devil's sacrifice." Awareness seminars on cybercrime law are also held for church youth groups.

In 2018, the federal cabinet approved an amendment to the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act aimed at bringing blasphemy and pornography within the ambit of the cybercrime law.

Blasphemy is a sensitive issue in Pakistan, where allegations of insulting Islam can mobilize an entire village. Human rights activists say the law is often employed to settle scores.

Last month Punjab Assembly passed the Punjab Tahaffuz-e-Bunyad-e-Islam (Protection of Foundation of Islam) Bill 2020 under which the printing and publication of objectionable material are prohibited.

Recent cases

On Aug. 4, human rights activist Raza Haider was arrested for blasphemy over a Facebook post in which he wrote an open letter to Prophet Muhammad asking how he could come to people’s dreams and ask them to murder a blasphemer but couldn’t give an antidote to coronavirus. 

On July 29, American citizen Tahir Ahmed Naseem was shot dead inside a courtroom in Peshawar, capital of northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where he was due to attend a hearing on charges of blasphemy.

Naseem was a former member of Pakistan’s minority Ahmadi group, which has been constitutionally declared to be non-Muslim. The gunman told media that he was ordered by Prophet Muhammad in his dreams to kill Naseem because he was an Ahmadi.

Shehzad Ghias Shaikh, a Karachi-based stand-up comedian, is getting death threats for calling the murder a state failure.

“I have literally posted videos of every sect’s Islamic scholar saying there is no place for extrajudicial killings in Islam and still somehow most people cannot even condemn this or say anything against this in Pakistan. If Pakistan is for Muslims, why are we afraid to talk about it? Why are Islamic scholars afraid of saying that killing is wrong?” he asked in a Facebook post.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) is holding a webinar titled “Curbing Freedom of Expression” next week.

“The HRCP is appalled at recent developments that are set to further whittle down space for freedom of intellectual thought, enquiry and expression. There is also ample reason to expect that the new Act by Punjab Assembly will be used to target religious minorities and sects,” the commission stated in a press release.

“Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board has already banned 100 books on ludicrous grounds. Not one of the reasons given by the board’s managing director at a press conference qualifies as rational grounds to censor content, penalize publishers and prevent critical thinking.”

The HRCP is gravely concerned that such measures herald yet tighter restrictions not only on freedom of expression but also on freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. The commission urged the Punjab government to heed its concerns and roll back such measures before they backfire.


Hold ‘Transparent Investigation’ Into Blast, Trump Tells Lebanon

09 August 2020


US President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on August 3, 2020, in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP)


US President Donald Trump on Sunday called for Lebanon to conduct a “full and transparent investigation” into the huge explosion that hit Beirut, and expressed his support for protests demanding reform in the country.

Trump “urged the Government of Lebanon to conduct a full and transparent investigation, in which the United States stands ready to assist,” according to the White House, after he participated in a virtual conference on the international response to the disaster.

“The President called for calm in Lebanon and acknowledged the legitimate calls of peaceful protesters for transparency, reform, and accountability,” the White House added.

The Lebanese army said on Sunday that hopes have dwindled of finding survivors at the blast site following days of search-and-rescue operations.

The explosion that hit Beirut’s port devastated large parts of the Lebanese capital, claiming over 150 lives and wounding some 6,000 people.

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Most Lebanese authorities say Tuesday’s explosion was triggered by a fire in a port warehouse, where a shipment of ammonium nitrate, a chemical that can be used as a fertilizer or as an explosive, had languished for years.

World leaders, international organizations and a seething Lebanese public have pressed for an international probe, but President Michel Aoun has said that calls for such an investigation are a “waste of time.”


Build ‘Free and Strong’ Coexistence After Blast, Pope Francis Urges Lebanese People

09 August 2020


Pope Francis addresses followers during his visit at the St. Peter's Cathedral in Rabat, Morocco on 31 March 2019 [Jalal Morchidi/Anadolu Agency]


Pope Francis urged the people of Lebanon on Sunday to work together in the wake of the devastating Beirut port blast to give birth to a new “free and strong” coexistence.

The pope spoke at his weekly address in St. Peter’s Square as some Lebanese called for a sustained uprising to topple their leaders and the country’s top Christian Maronite cleric, whose Church is a Catholic Eastern rite, said the cabinet should resign.

“Last Tuesday’s catastrophe calls everyone, beginning with the Lebanese people, to work together for the common good of this beloved country,” Francis said.

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He said the coexistence of cultures in the county had been made much more fragile by the blast.

“But I am praying that, with God’s help and everyone’s genuine participation, it may be reborn free and strong.”

Lebanon’s fractured politics is vulnerable to foreign interference that has long fueled domestic crises. The Iran-backed Hezbollah group, a close ally of Syria, has fought several wars with Israel and is designated as a terrorist group by the United States and its Gulf allies.

The pope has sent a donation of 250,000 euros to the Church in Lebanon to help victims of the explosion that killed 158 people and injured more than 6,000, destroying parts of the city and compounding months of political and economic meltdown.


Investigators find underground chamber beneath Beirut port wreckage: Reports

10 August 2020

Lebanese families of victims of the Beirut port explosion are holding out hope after investigators and rescue workers found what appears to be an “underground emergency shelter,” according to reports, despite denials by the government of their existence.

According to a report by Sky News’ Alex Crawford, rescue workers scouring the wreckage of Tuesday’s explosion found what seems to look like an underground emergency shelter that may have been built decades ago as a sort of “panic room.”

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“They are praying Ghassan has somehow managed to survive by taking refuge in an underground emergency shelter which was built decades ago as a secure “panic” room in the event of bomb attacks or disasters,” Crawford said in her report.

Ghassan Hasrouty is one of dozens of workers who were at the port on Tuesday when an initial fire led to an explosion due to the storage of more than 2,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate. Hasrouty had worked at the port for more than 38 years as the head of the operations room for a company that managed the silos of corn at the port.

The Lebanese army on Sunday denied the existence of “suspicious tunnels” at the port of Beirut.

Hasrouty’s family believes that he and six of his colleagues are somewhere under the silos and they are holding out hope that they are alive.

They say the rescue response has been too slow and disorganized and that whatever chance there was for finding them alive is being lost.

The family says that despite giving the authorities the exact location of where he was believed to have been at the time of the explosion, the rescue effort did not start until 40 hours later.

“These people who are missing are not just numbers,” says Elie, Hasrouty’s son, told Reuters.

“We need to highlight the mediocrity of management of this disaster, of this situation, how bad it is managed... not to repeat such a horrible disaster and horrible management.”


Islamic Jihad warns Israel against escalating aggression against Palestinians

09 August 2020

The Palestinian resistance movement, Islamic Jihad, has warned the Israeli regime against escalating acts of aggression against Palestinians.

The movement, in a statement released on Sunday, censured the repetition of attacks by Israeli military forces against Palestinians, stating that such heinous behavior projected its ugly image last Friday when Dalia Samoudi, 23, succumbed to her critical wounds sustained from Israeli gunfire during a raid into al-Jaberiyyat neighborhood of the northern occupied West Bank city of Jenin.

The Islamic Jihad said the mother of three was shot as she prepared to feed her baby daughter, and was hit by a bullet which penetrated through her body and left her dead a few hours later.

Indiscriminate Israeli gunfire continues to threaten the lives of Palestinians either at their homes or farmlands, the movement said, and Israeli troops tend to take cover behind barbed wire fencing to fire shots at Palestinians in the eastern flank of the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates announced on Saturday that it will take the cold-blooded murder of Samoudi to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The ministry said in a statement that it was doing the necessary preparations to lodge the crime and its details to the ICC, calling on the international tribunal to open an official investigation into the matter.

“The international community is requested to break its silence and take urgent action to provide adequate protection for our people,” the statement read.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry held the Israeli regime, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, fully responsible for the heinous crime, underlining that such acts of aggression are being committed under the full support of US President Donald Trump’s administration.

The Director of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) Mahmoud al-Sa'adi said Israeli forces opened fire on the ambulance that was trying to reach Samoudi's house, with two bullets penetrating the vehicle, WAFA news agency reported.





Complaints Filed Against Assam BJP MLA, Shiladitya Dev, For Calling Muslim Scholar 'Intellectual Jihadi'

10th August 2020

GUWAHATI: Over half-a-dozen complaints have been filed against controversial Assam BJP MLA Shiladitya Dev by various organisations days after he termed revered scholar Syed Abdul Malik an "intellectual jihadi".

BJP leader and Assam Minority Development Board Chairman Muminul Aowal condemned the statement and demanded a public apology from his party colleague.

The Congress called Dev a "mad person" who should be sent to "mental asylum" for his frequent controversial and communally-sensitive statements.

It also described him as the "Rakhi Sawant of the BJP", in a reference to the Bollywood actor who is known for making controversial remarks.

The Congress' minority department lodged a complaint at the Hatigaon police station in Guwahati on Sunday against Dev and demanded immediate arrest of the legislator from the Hojai constituency.

The Sadou Asom Goria-Moria-Deshi Jatiya Parishad has filed complaints at different police stations in Barpeta, Dhubri and Morigaon districts, while the Sadou Asom Goria Yuva-Chatra Parishad filed a report at Jalukbari police station in Guwahati.

The Asom Songrami Yuva Manch, too, filed a complaint at the Hatigaon police station and demanded strict action against Dev.

"What Shiladitya said, I oppose it and strongly condemned it," BJP leader Aowal said.

"If he does not apologise publicly, then I will always take a strong stand against him."

Former Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi strongly condemned Dev's derogatory remarks against Malik, a highly-respected poet, novelist and short story writer.

Congress Lok Sabha MP Abdul Khaleque termed the BJP MLA a "mad person who should be sent to mental asylum".

Another Congress leader Kamal Kumar Medhi said: "Shiladitya Dev is the Rakhi Sawant of the BJP. The Assamese society should not give him any importance."

Asam Sahitya Sabha president Kuladhar Saikia condemned the "controversial remarks" against Malik, who was also the president of the apex literary body.

Dev had said last Friday that Malik was a poet who was indulging in "intellectual jihad".

He made the remarks while commenting on the recent communal clash in Sonitpur district on the day of the foundation stone-laying of Ram temple.

Cutting across political affiliations, this sparked sharp reactions across the state and many groups burnt effigies of Dev on Sunday.

Last month, Dev had said he would quit the BJP on July 14, alleging neglect and groupism by the leaders, but later he made a U-turn and did not resign.

Dev has been in the news for making controversial statements, mostly targeting one particular community, leading to even registering an FIR at the Silchar police station in 2018 for allegedly making provocative statements to divide Assamese and Bengalis.

A case also was filed in the same year in the court of chief judicial magistrate, Nagaon, against the BJP MLA for his frequent communal remarks on the National Register of Citizens in the state.

Dev had alleged that Hindu refugees were being shown as foreigners, while the names of Bangladeshi Muslims were published in the final NRC.

After unidentified gunmen killed five people in Tinsukia district in November 2018, state BJP president Ranjeet Kumar Dass had said provocative statements by some groups and individuals were to be blamed for the case.

Dass had informed the media that Dev had been warned twice not to make any such statements or else the BJP would write to the parliamentary board for taking action against him.


70-year wait for Dalit Christians, Muslims on SC verdict over caste status

AUGUST 10, 2020

Five days before India celebrates her 73rd anniversary of Independence, Dalit Christians and Muslims will mark a grimmer anniversary of the date when the Presidential (Scheduled Castes) Order was issued on August 10, 1950. A petition challenging that order, which limited SC status to Hindus and was later amended to include Sikhs and Buddhists, is now pending in the Supreme Court.

“We have been denied our constitutional rights for the last seventy years now,” says Franklin Caesar Thomas, a Dalit Christian advocate who has been fighting the case for delinking religion from SC status for the last 16 years. “They claim that the Christian religion does not preach caste and thus we do not need protection from discrimination. I agree that Christianity does not preach caste, but it is Christians who still practice caste and continue to oppress and discriminate those from Dalit communities.”

Born into a Christian family in the Paraiyar community in Tamil Nadu, Mr. Thomas says his grandfather was a butcher involved in the skin trade and faced daily discrimination from fellow villagers. The grandson may have better education and employment, but discrimination remains. “I remember when I had just completed my graduation and visited a grocery shop in my mother’s native place, the Chettiar shop owner threw away my money just because I had touched his hand,” Mr. Thomas recalls, adding that many Dalit Christians are segregated in churches, excluded from burial grounds and shunned in marriage proposals.

Although an engineering graduate, he shifted to law partly as a means of fighting injustice. “We face triple discrimination: from the church itself, the wider society, and the government,” he added.

Beyond personal experience, multiple studies and commissions — including the Mandal and Misra commissions — have recommended that Christians and Muslims from Dalit communities be given SC status as they continue to face discrimination. With SC status, they would be able to avail quota benefits for education, government jobs, and panchayat elections, as well as receive protection under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act), 1989.

“Approximately 70% of the Christian population in India are from Scheduled Caste backgrounds,” says a statement issued by the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) on the 70th anniversary of the order. It notes that although many Dalits embraced Christianity as a “faith affirmation against caste slavery”, they are still identified first by their caste by a large section of the Indian society.

A 2004 writ petition challenging the order, filed by Mr. Thomas and the Centre for Public Interest Litigation, has been joined by a slew of other petitions including a case filed by the National Council of Dalit Christians (NCDC) as recently as January 2020, and is currently being heard by a bench led by Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde.

“Our 70 years of struggle for justice should be supported by all people who believe in equality and democracy. The Supreme Court has a monumental opportunity now to render justice to millions of Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims who continue to suffer from social stigma and the horrors of untouchability,” said NCCI general secretary Asir Ebenezer.


Adityanath’s office refuses to comment on reports of mosque trust’s invite for library, hospital event

Aug 09, 2020

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s office has refused to respond to reports that the Indo Islamic Cultural Foundation, the Trust constituted by the Sunni Waqf Board for the construction of an alternative mosque in Ayodhya instead of Babri Masjid, has decided to invite the chief minister for the inauguration of a hospital, school, library and other public utility facilities on the proposed five-acre mosque complex. The proposed mosque complex will come up at Ayodhya’s Dhannipur village.

A government spokesperson said, “it is not the time to respond to it. It would be inappropriate on our part.”

An advisor to the chief minister said, “It would be inappropriate to comment on something that’s only an idea. Currently, there are divisions in the Muslim community and stakeholders over the utilisation of the land. Let’s wait and watch.”

On Saturday, Athar Hussain, the spokesperson for the Indo Islamic Cultural Foundation had said that the trust would invite the chief minister for the foundation stone laying for various public facilities at the proposed mosque. He had also made it clear that there would be no foundation laying ceremony for the mosque itself as there was no provision for it in the four schools of thought in Islam.

Hussain’s statement came days after CM Adityanath, in an interview to a TV channel on the day of the Ram temple bhoomi pujan on August 5, had said, “No one will invite me, nor will I go.” His response came after he was asked whether he would go for the mosque construction event if invited.

“I am not a party to it (mosque) in any manner. So neither will anyone invite me nor will I go. I know I am not going to get any such invitation. If I get any such invitation, then secularism of many people will be in danger. So I better work silently and send benefits of the government schemes to all without any discrimination,” he had added.


Sunni Board may invite PM Modi, Yogi Adityanath to Ayodhya event

Aug 09, 2020

The Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board (UPSCWB) has said it would like to invite Prime Minister Narendra Modi and chief minister Yogi Adityanath to lay the foundation stone of the public utility establishments, other than the mosque, on the five-acre land that was allocated to the board. The land at Ayodhya’s Dhannipur village was allocated to the board in compliance with the Supreme Court verdict of November 9 last year in the title dispute case.

The UPSCWB officials said they would soon approach Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to seek an appointment for the foundation-laying ceremony that is likely to be held in September-end or in October.

SM Shoeb, chief executive officer (CEO) of the Sunni Waqf Board, said, “We would like to invite the PM and the UP CM to lay the foundation of establishments of public utility like the community kitchen, hospital, museum, library, etc. The list of invitees would be finalised in the board meeting after a discussion with the other members. It would be a matter of pride for the board if PM joins us for the inaugural programme.”

The CEO made it clear that there was no provision for any groundbreaking ceremony for any mosque in Islam.

“In all schools of thought, no ulema (cleric) has confirmed a provision for any ritual and groundbreaking ceremony for a mosque. Hence, there is no point in organising any such event or inviting anyone for such an event (for the mosque),” said Athar Hussain, spokesperson for the Indo Islamic Cultural Foundation, the trust constituted to oversee construction of the mosque and public utility establishments on the allocated five acres of land. With this comment, he made it clear that the ceremony would only be for the public utility facilities.

“Since we are also providing public utility facilities around the mosque in the Dhannipur area, and those facilities are for the betterment of UP residents, we would be inviting the chief minister also to the inauguration programme, once we have a plan,” said Hussain.

The board may also invite former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and other political and non-political personalities. The list of invitees would be finalised after the board meeting that will be held shortly.

“It was just a week back we got the land papers. The physical possession of the land is expected by the next week. Once we get the possession, we will go for land measurement. Then, we will chalk out the blueprint for the development work to be carried out on the land, which would be followed by the foundation stone laying ceremony of the public utility establishments. It will take a month or so for us to start the work,” said the CEO of the UPSCWB.


Pakistani troops fire at border posts along LoC

Aug 10, 2020

JAMMU: Pakistani troops opened fire on forward posts along the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir on Monday in violation of a ceasefire agreement, a defence spokesman said.

The unprovoked firing from across the border started in the Balakote sector around 10.15 am and was given a befitting response by Indian Army personnel guarding the LoC, the spokesman said.

He said the cross-border firing between the two sides was going on when last reports were received.

However, there was no report of any casualty, the spokesman said.

Officials said Pakistan Army personnel also fired mortar shells targeting Tarkundi village, causing panic among residents.

On Sunday, Pakistani troops resorted to heavy shelling in Mankote, Shahpur, Kirni and Krishna Ghati sectors.


11 of immigrant family from Pakistan found dead, cops suspect suicide pact

Aug 10, 2020

Eleven members of a Hindu family who moved from Pakistan to India in 2015 were found dead on Sunday in a small house located on a farm in Lodata Alavata village of Rajasthan’s Jodhpur district in what the police suspected to be a suicide pact .A family member who slept outside the hut and was alive informed the police.

The dead include a five-year-old girl and two boys, aged 11 and 10. Police found traces of rat poison and a suicide note in the house, causing them to suspect that the 11 had killed themselves. But murder cannot be ruled out, the police said.

“All angles are being investigated,” said Jodhpur (rural) superintendent of police Rahul Barhat.

Barhat said that the lone survivor who slept on the veranda outside the hut, informed the police about the deaths around 10 am on Sunday.

“The survivor told us that when he went into the house on Sunday morning, other members of the family didn’t wake up. He said he called some people and it was found that the 11 people were dead. Kewalram went to the police station to inform about the incident,” the SP said.

The Jodhpur SP and district collector Indrajeet Singh visited the scene. Senior police officials, a dog squad and a forensic science laboratory (FSL) team also reached the house.

The dead belonged to the Bheel community. All of them lived in the single-room house.

“All the deceased are Pakistani immigrants and were living in Jodhpur since 2015 on long-term visa. Migrants of any other country can only apply for citizenship after completing seven years in India. The family had taken a farm on lease from a local and used to do farming on that for their survival. They had many relatives in Jodhpur also,” said Barhat.

The Jodhpur rural SP said that during examination of the spot, traces of rat poison were found. No injury marks or bruises were found on the bodies, the SP said.

“Prima facie it appears that the deceased consumed poisons as traces of rat poison were found from the floor of the house. There is a possibility that someone may had mixed the poison in the dinner of the deceased last night. A suicide note has been also recovered from the spot which indicates abetment. However, the note could have been placed on the spot to distract the police investigation. No injury marks or bruises have been found on the bodies of the deceased,” the police officer said.

The suicide note mentioned financial hardships the family was facing and problems two of the family members were facing from their in-laws. The SP said the suicide note could have been planted at the crime scene to divert police investigation.

The postmortem examination on the victims would be done by a team of doctors at a Jodhpur medical college.





Clerics to get Tahaffuz bill implemented

10 Aug 2020

LAHORE: Clerics belonging to various Sunni schools of thought met here on Sunday to decide the future line of action for ensuring implementation of Tahaffuz Bunyad-e-Islam (protection of foundation of Islam) Bill passed by the Punjab Assembly a fortnight ago.

The participants included Maulana Zahidur Rashidi, Liaquat Baloch, Dr Fareed Paracha, Maulana Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi, Syed Kafeel Bukhari, Hafiz Abdul Gaffar Ropri, Maulan Ilyas Chinioti, Qari Zawwar Bahadur, Hafiz Ibtisam Elahi Zaheer, Hafiz Asad Ubaid and others, while the sitting was hosted by Jamiat Ulema Islam (Samiul Haq) general secretary Maulana Abdur Rauf Farooqi.

Announcing the decisions at a press conference made by the gathering, Maulana Farooqi said the participants welcomed the Clerics to push for passage of the bill and called it a manifestation of the love and devotion of the members of the Punjab Assembly towards the holy personalities of Islam.

It congratulated the provincial government, the speaker of the Punjab Assembly, movers and all those members who voted for the bill and hoped that the same would be enacted into a law at the earliest.

It said that “vicious” attempts have been made by some quarters “in the name of reservations on this Bill” to make the sanctity of holy personalities controversial and termed it an intolerable act.

The meeting said serious scholars of all schools of thought have always expressed positive thoughts and feelings on the sanctity of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and his companions, and that the expression of any negative impression in this regard is not only against the unanimous position of the sanctity of holy persons but also an attempt to escalate sectarian tensions.

“Therefore, this meeting considers it necessary to warn such elements that their activities are not tolerated at any level. The sanctity of holy personalities will be protected and defended at all costs.”

The sitting called for forming a joint platform to defend the bill and empowered Maulan Farooqi to convene a summit of religious parties’ heads for the purpose.

It demanded that concerns of scholars, researchers and publishing houses regarding this bill should be removed and suggested the government to sit with clerics of all schools of thought to take them into confidence on the legislation.

It also demanded that contentious content should be scrutinized by the Muttahida Ulema Board instead of bureaucrats.

The meeting condemned the shooting of a film at the historic Wazir Khan Mosque in Lahore and demanded the government take notice of this incident and bring its perpetrators to book as well as disciplinary action against the officials who had given permission for the shooting.

It criticized the US response to the killing of Tahir Naseem in Peshawar, calling it interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs and urged the authorities to effectively implement the law of protection of the honor of the Prophet (PBUH) to prevent people from taking law into their own hands.


Historic Punjab Mosque’s Manager Suspended For Music Video Shoot In Lahore

10 Aug 2020

LAHORE: The Punjab Auqaf department on Sunday suspended the manager of historic Masjid Wazir Khan after Chief Minister Usman Buzdar took notice of a music video shot on the mosque premises and sought a report from the minister concerned and the department’s secretary.

“The mosque is the holiest place and no one can be allowed to trample upon its sanctity. Whosoever is found responsible will not be spared,” an official handout quoted the chief minister as saying.

Pledging that he would not let the sanctity of the mosque be violated under any circumstances, Chief Minister Buzdar ordered that a comprehensive investigation be undertaken and those responsible for the incident identified.

Actress Saba Qamar and singer Bilal Saeed are facing a storm of criticism after it emerged that they had shot a video inside the historic mosque. Qamar’s name became a top hashtag trend on Twitter after the video went viral a few days ago.

As the Punjab government came under pressure to take action from its political ally the Pakistan Muslim League-Q and clerics, who gathered here in Lahore, Qamar took to Twitter and rejected the criticism.

“Only one sequence was shot in the mosque which was a prologue to the music video featuring a Nikah scene. It was neither shot with any sort of playback music nor has it been edited to the music track,” she tweeted.

Qamar and Saeed are working on the video of a new song, “Qubool hai”. The actress is making her directorial debut with the song.

In another tweet, she said: “The BTS video that’s been circulated on social media was just a circular movement to click stills for the poster of ‘Qubool’, depicting a happily married couple right after their Nikah.”

According to a news report, the shooting took place in the main chambers of the mosque. An Auqaf official said that due to the history of the mosque, people do go there for Nikah ceremonies. “That is why permission was granted for a Nikah shoot,” he said.

Sources said the name of the mosque’s manager, who was suspended over the incident, was Ishtiaq Ahmed.


Pakistan FM Qureshi faces criticism at home for slamming Saudi Arabia over Kashmir

Aug 9, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi's remarks against Saudi Arabia after Riyadh refused to interfere on Kashmir issue, has invited criticism at home.

The differences in their relations surfaced when Pakistan was made to pay back $1 billion to Saudi Arabia. This reflected the fact that Islamabad is gradually losing the support of other Muslim countries.

Recently two Pakistani journalists -- Rauf Klasra and Amir Mateen -- held a discussion on the sudden policy shift of Saudi Arabia towards Pakistan.

While criticising Qureshi for making such statements, Mateen said, "Sometimes Qureshi speaks emotionally. He gets carried away."

As Pakistan, which is in a financial crisis, is dependent on Saudi Arabia, Qureshi should have been cautious of making any statements, he said.

"As we are very much dependent on Saudi Arabia, we should complain only to a limit. Amid such a situation, Qureshi should have been careful because Mohammed bin Salman is young and has impulsive behaviour."

Mateen further said, "It should not have been expected that as Saudi Arabia is a friend of Pakistan so it will automatically be against India's stance on Kashmir. This is not a college but an international arena."

The development comes even as Pakistan has been pushing for the foreign ministers' meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) since India abrogated Article 370, which gave special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.

In a report published by Dawn, a Pakistan diplomatic source confirmed that Saudi Arabia had shown reluctance to accept Islamabad's request for an immediate meeting of OIC foreign ministers' on Kashmir.

After Pakistan failed to gather support from the OIC members on Kashmir on May 22, Prime Minister Imran Khan said, "The reason is that we have no voice and there is a total division amongst (us). We cannot even come together as a whole on the OIC meeting on Kashmir."

Though Pakistan reportedly made attempts to push its narrative of raising the issue of rising Islamophobia in India in its agenda, Maldives, an ally of India, thwarted the move and said, "Isolated statements by motivated people and disinformation campaigns on social media should not be construed as representative of the feelings of 1.3 billion."

Maldives Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Thilmeeza Hussain, said that alleging Islamophobia in the context of India would be factually incorrect.


‘Missing’ middle section of society to get social protection

Amin Ahmed

10 Aug 2020

ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to reform its social safety net in order to include the ‘missing middle’ segment of society, which falls outside the existing safety net programmes and are also excluded from the limited formal systems, it has been learnt.

This reform requires introducing the next generation of interventions that move beyond social assistance and are able to bring a larger segment of population under the social protection umbrella; disrupting some of the traditional social protection delivery systems to make them more responsive and scalable to crisis situations and cater for a larger number of beneficiaries and programmes; and focusing social assistance programmes on safeguarding and rebuilding human capital after the crisis.

The ‘missing middle’ of social protection in Pakistan is largely composed of people engaged in the informal sector who are vulnerable to shocks due to limited savings and assets. This group is not eligible for the existing safety net programmes targeted to the very poor (bottom 20 per cent) not covered by formal social insurance, including formal pensions, which have a very low coverage of 2.3pc, according to details of the proposed reform.

The recent ‘2020 Labour Expert Group Report’ recommended that social protection should be extended to this group, in line with ‘Ehsas’ provisions. However, Pakistan’s high levels of informality imply this ‘missing middle’ covers most workers, and given its severe fiscal constraints, coverage will undoubtedly have to be expanded gradually. This results area will, therefore, help the government identify this group and develop suitable innovative hybrid social assistance-social insurance programmes to help reduce their vulnerability to systematic and idiosyncratic shocks.

Government says reform will be made in its social safety net

The government is seeking World Bank assistance for the ‘Pakistan Crisis-Resilient Social Protection’ (CRISP) project which aims to advance the country’s social protection system to make it an adaptive, crisis-resilient system and move towards the next generation of programmes beyond social assistance.

The World Bank assistance for the $600 million project will be in the amount of $300 million and will span fiscal years 2021-24.

The programme intends to achieve this by introducing positive disruptions to the existing safety net and delivery systems, introducing new reform directions, and consolidating recent gains.

More specifically, the project will support the next generation of social protection interventions targeting the ‘missing middle’ by testing innovative hybrid social assistance-social insurance mechanisms and promote medium-to long-term mitigation of Covid impacts by prioritising the human capital accumulation among the youngest in the early recovery phase.

Covid-19 laid bare coverage gaps and rigidities in the social protection system, which if corrected would enable a more effective crisis response and build resilience to future crises.

These issues had been identified before the Covid-19 outbreak, but were highlighted by the crisis as limiting the extent of the response.



North America


Two US senators introduce legislation on Arab anti-normalization policies with Israel

07 August 2020

Two United States senators have introduced legislation on Thursday that would require the State Department to provide an accounting of countries that punish individuals for engaging with Israel.

According to the bill, co-sponsored by senators Cory Booker and Rob Portman, the Secretary of State will be required to “submit to Congress an annual report regarding instances of Arab government retribution toward citizens and residents who engage in people-to-people relations with Israel.”

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The bill, titled “Strengthening Reporting of Actions Taken Against the Normalization of Relations with Israel Act of 2020,” includes a provision stating that longstanding US policy has encouraged Arab League states to normalize their relations with Israel but the states maintained an official boycott of Israeli companies and Israeli-made goods since the founding of Israel.

The Arab League formally boycotted Jewish businesses in 1945 and was extended the boycott to direct trade “between all Arab countries and Zionist entities in Palestine,” to weaken the Jewish industry in Palestine and deter Jewish immigration to the region.


Iran acquiring Chinese weapons and financing will destabilize Middle East: Pompeo

09 August 2020

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Saturday that should China arm and finance Iran, it would destabilize the Middle East.

“China’s entry into Iran will destabilize the Middle East. Iran remains the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, and to have access to weapons systems and commerce and money flowing from the Chinese Communist Party only compounds that risk for that region,” the state department cited Pompeo as saying in a tweet.

Iran has a long history of arming and financially supporting its network of proxies – Shia militias across the Middle East – to further its influence in the region.

Pompeo had said on Wednesday that the United Nations Security Council will vote this week on the US bid to extend an international arms embargo on Iran, which is currently set to expire on October 18.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft had told Al Arabiya in July that if the arms embargo on Iran isn't extended, Tehran will supply its proxies in the region with even more weapons.

She said that would not only jeopardize the safety of countries in the Middle East but also the American forces in the region

The draft resolution needs at least nine votes in favor to force Russia and China to use their vetoes, which Moscow and Beijing have signaled they will do.

China has traditionally played little role in Middle East conflicts or diplomacy, despite relying on the region for oil, with Iran its fourth largest supplier last year, but has been trying to raise its profile, especially in the Arab world.

China has offered an economic lifeline to Iran since 2018, when US President Donald Trump pulled Washington out from the 2015 nuclear deal and re-imposed sanctions on Tehran.


Will US kill nuclear goals of belligerent Gulf states?

Vakkas Doğantekin  


Nuclear proliferation is bigger than global warming, the US president said in an interview this week amid reports the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia are taking solid steps to go nuclear.

"If we can do something with Russia in terms of nuclear proliferation, which is a very big problem. A much bigger problem than global warming in terms of the real world, that would be a great thing," Donald Trump stressed in an interview with Axios.

According to a statement on the website of China Atomic Energy Authority (CNNC), "Beijing Research Institute of Chemical Engineering and Metallurgy signed a collaborative agreement regarding research on uranium extraction from seawater with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology on July 15."

"Chinese and Saudi experts will conduct a two-year-long investigation into uranium extraction from seawater, according to the agreement. It’s another milestone for CNNC and Saudi Arabia, following after a human resources training program and a uranium exploration project," it said.

Despite a categorical denial from the Arab kingdom that it pursues nuclear weapons, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pledged in 2018 that “Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.”

Democratic US Senator Chris Murphy lost no time slamming Saudi Arabia's major deal with China.

“We do nuclear technology deals with countries so that they will commit to the Gold Standard and a working relationship with the U.S.. The Saudis are trying to have it both ways, and we can’t allow them to get away with that,” said Murphy, as cited by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on Tuesday.

According to the report by the WSJ, the Saudi-China deal is part of a program to extract uranium yellowcake from uranium ore, which is a crucial first step for later enrichment to obtain a nuclear weapon. Uranium mining is usually of no concern to world governments and watchdogs, but its enrichment raises immediate concerns.

Will and should the US State Department, Pentagon and the Trump administration be on the same page in opposing nuclear armament of two belligerent Gulf states amid escalating tensions in the Middle East? Saudi Arabia, in particular, goes further in rubbing salt in the wound of its American allies by cooperating with China at a time when the Trump administration has designated the Asian country as its biggest rival and enemy in the 21st century.

Taking into consideration the rash decisions of the UAE and Saudi crown prince in the region and beyond, can they be trusted with nuclear capabilities?

Experts say no

Atlantic Council Senior Fellow Matthew Bryza told Anadolu Agency it has for decades been the policy of the US government, regardless of who was president, to oppose any country acquiring nuclear weapons since the UK and France acquired nuclear arsenals.

"This policy remains valid with regard to both Saudi Arabia and UAE," according to the former US diplomat and White House official.

"Congress can try to legislate mandatory sanctions against Saudi Arabia, as it did in the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA)," he said, yet noting that "any such legislation is unlikely to be approved in the Republican-controlled Senate" because of Trump's "aversion to pressuring Saudi Arabia."

"I don’t think there will be any such sanctions from the Trump administration," he said.

Kuwait University professor Dr. Bader Al-Saif told Anadolu Agency that a "nuclear-free Middle East would go a long way in reducing tensions and establishing peace and stability."

"The US is one of many parties and should not be running the show. Instead, UN efforts should be focused on ridding the region from this deadly weapon starting with Israel," he asserted.

The UAE has been "more transparent than the Israelis, Iranians, or Saudis in their intents thus far," he said.

"We also know that Saudi Arabia has noted that it will go nuclear if Iran does, which reminds us of the India-Pakistan case. To avoid all of this, the international community should redirect its efforts toward the already established non-peaceful program like Israel or the aspiring program like Iran," he added.

Luke Coffey, Director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation in Washington told Anadolu Agency that he is a strong believer in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and these countries should not get a nuclear weapons capability.

"This is why it is important that the United States and the international community leads an effort that prevents Iran from ever becoming a nuclear weapons power," Coffey said.

"The only reason why some countries in the region are hinting that they would like to have nuclear weapons is because they believe that the international community is not serious about stopping Tehran," he added.

Dr. Ali Bakeer, an Ankara-based political analyst, told Anadolu Agency it will "intensify the nuclear race in one of the most volatile and unstable regions in the world and this will increase the instability and makes the possibility of nuclear catastrophe even bigger in the region."

"It will also convince these regimes that they will not be held accountable for their repression and malicious regional activities which will make things even worse for their people and for the people of the region," he added.

An Arab-American businessman who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, said "these two crown princes want nukes because they lose all their unjustified wars in the region and worry about the future of their oppressive regimes."

"Our Saudi and Emirati brothers and sisters deserve better people," he added.

US Congress concerned

Lawmakers from both parties in the US Congress have been concerned about Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaigns in Yemen, which is on the brink of famine, and the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, an eminent Washington Post journalist killed and dismembered by Saudi operatives in the Kingdom's consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

Last week, the House Intelligence Committee requested a report from the administration about Saudi efforts to develop a nuclear program with any other country other than the US -- an indication of growing suspicion.

“Where is the transparency? If you claim your program is peaceful, why not show what you have?” Olli Heinonen, former deputy director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told the WSJ.

So far, the US president, in return for large sums of petro-dollars from Saudi Arabia and UAE, did not mind using his executive authority to allow those two crown princes to get away with grave human rights violations and alleged war crimes in Yemen, Libya and beyond.

However, time will tell whether intending to go nuclear at stone's throw away from Israel in cooperation with China is the straw that breaks the camel's back.





Turkey navy operations in eastern Mediterranean ‘extremely worrying’: EU

09 August 2020

Turkey’s resumed search for oil and gas in the eastern Mediterranean is “extremely worrying,” the EU said on Sunday after Greece and Egypt set up an exclusive economic zone in the region.

“Latest naval mobilizations in eastern Mediterranean... will lead to a greater antagonism and distrust,” foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said, calling the development “extremely worrying.”

“Maritime boundaries must be defined through dialogue and negotiations, not through unilateral actions and mobilization of naval forces,” Borrell said in a statement.

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The discovery of vast gas reserves in the region in recent years has sparked a prospecting scramble by Greece, Turkey and Egypt as well as Cyprus and Israel.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Ankara’s resumption of operations on Friday, accusing arch-foe Greece of failing to keep its promises.

His comments came a day after Athens and Cairo signed an agreement to set up an exclusive economic zone in the region.

On Sunday, Borrell said “disputes must be solved in accordance with international law,” adding that Brussels was “committed to help solving such disputes and disagreements in this area of vital security interest.”

He added: “The present course of action will not serve the interests either of the European Union, or of Turkey. We have to work together for the security in the Mediterranean.”

The deal between Greece and Egypt aimed to establish maritime boundaries between the two countries and appeared to be a direct response to a similar accord reached last November between Turkey and the internationally recognized government controlling the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

The agreement considerably enlarged Turkey’s maritime territory and drew accusations from several countries, led by Greece, that Ankara was trying to assert its dominance in the region.


UK intensifies Lebanon intervention with additional offer of 'aid' money

09 August 2020

The UK is set to escalate its involvement in Lebanon following the Beirut port explosion on August 04 which devastated large swathes of the Lebanese capital.

Taking to Twitter, Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, pledged £20 million in aid to Lebanon ostensibly to “help the most vulnerable”.

According to the government, the funds will be directly allocated to those “injured and displaced by the explosion” by providing “access to food and medicine as well as other urgent supplies”.

The latest offer of aid is on top of the £5 million so-called “emergency relief effort” which the UK pledged immediately after the explosion which killed nearly 160 people, injured more than 5,000 and left up to 300,000 people homeless.

In the immediate aftermath of the explosion the UK also announced it will send the Royal Navy survey ship HMS Enterprise to the port of Beirut as part of a “wide-ranging package of military support”. 

The British government’s decision to escalate its involvement in Lebanon comes in the wake of French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Beirut on August 06 where he blatantly interfered in Lebanon’s internal affairs by calling for the overhaul of the country’s political system.

As part of a broader effort to enhance Britain’s profile in Lebanon, Johnson spoke with the Lebanese President, Michel Aoun, in a phone call yesterday (August 08) where he reportedly said the UK would “stand by the country [Lebanon] in its hour of need”.



Arab world


Senior Mufti: Most Iraqi Shiites, Sunnis Ready to Fight for Expelling US

Aug 09, 2020

"8 out of 10 Shiites are ready for resistance and prepared for expelling the American forces, and many sides, including (prominent Shiite leader) Seyed Muqtada Sadr support our resistance," Sheikh Mahdi al-Samida'ei was quoted by the Arabic-language al-Ma'aloumeh news website on Sunday.

He added that the Sunnis are also more prepared, compared to 2003 (when the US attacked Iraq), to fight against the US military presence, noting that they can also supply weapons from different countries now.

The Iraqi parliament has passed and approved a plan to expel foreign troops from its soil on January 6, 2019, two days after the assassination of the late Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, Deputy Chairman of al-Hashd al-Shaabi Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis and their companions in a US military terrorist attack near Baghdad airport.

Senior lawmakers in Iraq have reiterated time and again that withdrawal of foreign forces from the country is necessary based on the law approved by the parliament.

"The approval to expel the foreign forces has been ratified and the former government was committed to it and it has turned into an imperative law," Ahmad al-Assadi, the chairman of al-Sanad al-Watani faction in the parliament, was quoted by the Arabic-language al-Ahd news website as saying in June.

No talks will be held to prolong deployment of foreign forces in Iraq, he underlined.


US Supports Unrest in Lebanon in Hope of Regime Change in Blast-Devastated Beirut

Aug 09, 2020

Thousands of people gathered at Martyrs' Square in Central Beirut on Saturday, demanding the government to resign after the horrific explosion on Tuesday that killed and wounded thousands. Amid clashing with riot police, violent protesters stormed several government buildings in the city, breaching the Foreign Ministry, the Economy Ministry and the Ministry of Water and Energy premises.

Demonstrators threw rocks and projectiles at the officers, who responded by employing tear gas. The Lebanese Army was also deployed in Beirut later to help police restore order.

The number of injuries climbed to at least 500, according to the emergency medical services cited by Al-Manar TV. Authorities announced that 70 security officers were injured and at least one them died in clashes.

Even though, rallies and violence continue in several US cities over the police killing of George Floyd, and the US police and federal agents brutality against peacefull demonstrations has gone to the extreme in recent months, the US embassy in Beirut wade into the crisis in Lebanon on Saturday, voicing its support for the citizens’ “right to peaceful protest”.

"The Lebanese people have suffered too much and deserve to have leaders who listen to them and change course to respond to popular demands for transparency and accountability," the embassy said, and added, "We support them in their right to peaceful protest, and encourage all involved to refrain from violence."

The violent protests came as a large part of the city lies in ruins, with many victims still feared trapped under the rubble, Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab noted that he was going to request an early parliamentary election as the only way to resolve the crisis.

While rallies over the dire economic conditions in Lebanon were underway before the incident, the Beirut tragedy came to be a ploy for the anti-government camp.

Terrifying footage showed a huge mushroom cloud of fire and smoke covering much of Beirut’s port area, blowing out windows and destroying buildings in the neighborhood, as a warehouse at the Beirut docks caught fire on Tuesday afternoon. Photos on social media showed many buildings in the area damaged or destroyed, leaving residents covered in glass and blood.

Several smaller explosions were heard before the bigger one occurred and turned the city’s streets into a debris-strewn wasteland.

The incident has killed 158 people and sent 6,000 to the hospital with various injuries from the devastating shockwave. The explosion left 300,000 homeless, as vast part of the city has been fallen into ruin.

Lebanese rescue workers and army soldiers are struggling to remove huge items of debris in search for possible survivors at Beirut's port. The Lebanese Red Cross believes there are still tens of people missing.

Health Minister Hamad Hassan blamed the explosion on a fireworks accident, ordering all hospitals in Beirut to prepare for the victims of the incident.

Lebanese General Security Director Abbas Ibrahim also dismissed rumors of Israeli involvement, noting that a large cache of highly explosive sodium nitrate was stored at the site, after being confiscated off a ship several months ago. But he did not explain how the fire has started.

On Friday, Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun stated an investigation into the Beirut port explosion was looking at whether it was the result of external interference, in addition to simple negligence or an accident.

Aoun also noted no colonial power can return to Lebanon, following a trip by French President Emmanuel Macron to disaster-stricken Beirut that sparked outrage among the Lebanese.

The Lebanon’s president also rejected calls for an international probe into the incident.

Speaking in a televised speech on Friday, Secretary General of Hezbollah Seyed Hassan Nasrallah strongly denied claims that the resistance movement had any weapons stored at the warehouse prior to the explosion, adding that those accusations aimed to incite the Lebanese people against the resistance group.

He stressed that that the investigation will soon "reveal the truth" behind the deadly blast.


Death Toll, Number of Injured People Continue to Rise in Lebanon

Aug 09, 2020

The death toll from Tuesday's catastrophic explosion has risen to 158, the Lebanese Health Ministry media office said.

The number of people injured exceeds 6,000 and 21 are still reported missing, it added.

The explosion left 300,000 homeless, as vast part of the city has been fallen into ruin. Red Cross volunteers at the scene of the explosion declared they expect the death toll to rise.

Lebanese rescue workers and army soldiers are struggling to remove huge items of debris in search for possible survivors at Beirut's port. The Lebanese Red Cross believes there are still tens of people missing, most of who were working at Beirut's port.

After the explosion rocked the capital city of Beirut on Tuesday, the Lebanese government decided to put all officials who oversaw storage and security there since 2014 under house arrest, until investigations are complete.

On Friday, Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun stated an investigation into the Beirut port explosion was looking at whether it was the result of external interference, in addition to simple negligence or an accident.

Aoun also noted no colonial power can return to Lebanon, following a trip by French President Emmanuel Macron to disaster-stricken Beirut that sparked outrage among the Lebanese.

The president also rejected calls for an international probe into the incident.

Speaking in a televised speech on Friday, Secretary General of Hezbollah Seyed Hassan Nasrallah strongly denied claims that the resistance movement had any weapons stored at the warehouse prior to the explosion, adding that those accusations aimed to incite the Lebanese people against the resistance group.

He stressed that that the investigation will soon "reveal the truth" behind the deadly blast.

Nasrallah said those responsible for the deadly disaster had to be held to account regardless of their affiliations, stressing that the probe should have neither political nor sectarian motives.

Terrifying footage showed a huge mushroom cloud of fire and smoke covering much of Beirut’s port area, blowing out windows and destroying buildings in the neighborhood, as a warehouse at the Beirut docks caught fire on Tuesday afternoon.

Photos on social media showed many buildings in the area damaged or destroyed, leaving residents covered in glass and blood.

Several smaller explosions were heard before the bigger one occurred and turned the city’s streets into a debris-strewn wasteland.

The health minister blamed the explosion on a fireworks accident, ordering all hospitals in Beirut to prepare for the victims of the incident.

Head of the Lebanese Red Cross George Kettaneh also stated that hundreds of injured people were taken to hospital for treatment, while some still remain trapped in their homes.

The Health Ministry announced all Beirut hospitals are overcrowded with those injured in the incident and can no more accommodate anyone.

Yet, the Health Minister told Lebanon's LBC News that hundreds are feared dead and thousands have been wounded in the blast. He added that the death toll now stands at over 158.

The Lebanese Red Cross also declared that over 6,000 people have been wounded in the incident, while the numbers are still expected to rise. It added that over 158 dead bodies have been collected from the scene of the incident so far.

Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud called it a "national catastrophe" and the prime minister declared a day of mourning.

“It resembles to what happened in Japan, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That’s what [it] reminds me of. In my life, I haven’t seen destruction on this scale," Abboud added.

Badri Zaher, Director General of the Lebanese Customs House, declared that dozens of tons of nitrate had exploded in the port of Beirut.

Lebanese General Security Director Abbas Ibrahim also dismissed rumors of Israeli involvement, noting that a large cache of highly explosive sodium nitrate was stored at the site, after being confiscated off a ship several months ago. But he did not explain how the fire has started.

Early reports claimed a short-circuit has likely sparked fire at the warehouse where the huge sodium nitrate cargo was kept and fire later spread to an adjacent warehouse where a huge cargo of fireworks was stored.

Yet, there is still no official report on the exact cause of the blast, a UN spokesperson told reporters that his organization is still unsure whether the explosion was "an accidental or man-made act".

The Israeli Defense Force has denied responsibility for the massive explosions in Beirut. Hezbollah has also denied the blasts were the result of a rocket attack.



Lebanese government on verge of collapse after 3 ministers, 8 MPs resign

09 August 2020

Lebanon’s government is on the verge of collapsing after the resignation of more ministers from Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government, along with several MPs and an ambassador.

Diab’s government, which was formed by Hezbollah and its allies, was dubbed as one-sided from the outset.

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Following the Beirut explosions last Tuesday, thousands of Lebanese took to the streets demanding the downfall of the entire ruling elite, including parliament and the government.

Diab’s foreign minister, Nassif Hitti, submitted his resignation before the deadly blasts, and shortly after the explosions, Lebanon’s ambassador to Jordan resigned along with several MPs.

On Sunday, Diab pleaded with ministers not to resign but it appears that his calls were ignored.

Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad and Environment Minister Demianos Kattar resigned and more are expected during the week.

Kattar's resignation came late Sunday, with the minister saying the political system was “old and it had missed many opportunities” to reform.

More than a third of the ministers must resign for the government to collapse. In this case, it will continue in its caretaker capacity until a new government is formed. There are 20 ministers in Diab’s government.

Nevertheless, a Hezbollah minister said that the government was “staying put.”

“We will not resign,” Industry Minister Imad Hoballah told reporters Sunday.

But Labor Minister Lamia Yammine was more skeptical and said that no decision had been made on resignations yet.

If Diab’s efforts succeed in salvaging his government, MPs are widely expected to withdraw their vote of confidence for the government.

Eight MPs have announced or submitted their resignations so far. This includes two from Walid Joumblatt’s Progressive Socialist Party, all three Kataeb Party MPs, two from President Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, and another independent MP.

Future MP Dima Jamali has also said she will submit her resignation on Monday but MPs from former PM Saad Hariri’s party said that this was Jamali’s personal choice.

But Jamali told Al Arabiya English that, “Yes, there is talk about the rest of the bloc resigning.”

Jamali said she informed Hariri of her decision and that he was understanding.

There are 128 seats in Lebanon’s parliament.

Parliament speaker Nabih Berri called for a general session on Thursday to discuss the Beirut explosions and question government officials.

Lebanon’s Ambassador to Jordan Tracy Chamoun also announced her resignation on live TV, citing the theft and corruption present in the Lebanese state. She called on all ambassadors to follow suit and not to give legitimacy to the political elite.


IMF willing to assist, but seeks commitment to reform by Lebanon

10 August 2020

The International Monetary Fund said on Sunday it was willing to redouble efforts to help Lebanon after the devastating blast that hit Beirut, but said all of the country’s institutions needed to show willingness to carry out reforms.

In a statement to an emergency donor conference for Lebanon, the IMF’s managing director, Kristalina Georgieva, laid out reforms expected, including steps to restore the solvency of public finances and the soundness of the financial system, and temporary safeguards to avoid continued capital outflows.

Even before the massive explosion that killed 158 people and destroyed swathes of Beirut on Tuesday, a financial crisis had led Lebanon to enter negotiations with the IMF in May after it defaulted on its foreign currency debt. Those talks were put on hold in the absence of reforms.

“We are ready to redouble our efforts. But we need unity of purpose in Lebanon — we need all institutions to come together determined to carry out much needed reforms,” Georgieva said.

“Commitment to these reforms will unlock billions of dollars for the benefit of the Lebanese people. This is the moment for the country’s policymakers to act decisively. We stand ready to help,” she said.

Georgieva also called on Lebanon to take steps to reduce the protracted losses in many state-owned enterprises and expand a social safety net to protect the country’s most vulnerable people.

Lebanon’s financial crisis came to a head in October as capital inflows slowed and protests erupted over corruption and bad governance.

Sunday’s donor conference raised pledges worth nearly 253 million euros ($298 million) for immediate humanitarian relief after the blast, the French presidency said, adding that those commitments would not be conditional on political or institutional reform.

Pledges were also made for longer-term support that would depend on changes by the authorities.


Aid for the Lebanese people ‘not under control of Lebanon govt:’ US official

09 August 2020

US aid will go to the Lebanese residents and will “not be under the control of the Lebanese government,” a senior US official said Sunday.

“Our humanitarian aid will reach the Lebanese residents and Lebanese people, who are the ones in need of it. And [this aid] will not be under the control of the Lebanese government,” US Agency for International Development (USAID) acting administrator John Barsa told Al Hurra.

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Al Arabiya English first reported that Barsa would visit Beirut after large parts of the Lebanese capital were demolished in the explosions at the Port of Beirut last Tuesday.

Barsa confirmed his trip to Al Hurra.

Medical assistance will also arrive in Beirut during Barsa’s trip. He revealed that this aid would go to several hospitals, including Rizk Hospital, which is part of the Lebanese American University. Assistance will also be delivered to the American University of Beirut – Medical Center (AUBMC).

Barsa said Sunday that Washington was listening and hearing the voice of the Lebanese people who have been demanding an end to rampant corruption and government that listens to their demands.

Protesters took the streets over the weekend, venting their frustration at the country’s ruling elite.

Clashes between protesters and security forces led to deaths and injuries across Beirut.


Beirut explosion: Lebanese protesters clash with police in second day of demos

09 August 2020

Protesters hurl stones at police blocking a road near Lebanon’s parliament in the second day of demonstrations against the government in anger over the deadly port explosion less than a week ago, according to a Reuters reporter.

A Reuters correspondent said hundreds were converging on amain square where thousands of Lebanese protested on Saturday against a political elite they blame for the country's economic and political woes.

"We want to destroy and kill the government. They gave us no jobs nor rights," said Nissan Ghrawi, a 19-year old unemployed demonstrator.


Beirut explosion: EU doubles Lebanon aid to 63 mln euros

09 August 2020

The European Commission on Sunday added another 30 million euros to the 33 million already announced to help Lebanon after last week’s deadly explosion in Beirut.

The latest funding was to “help address the immediate needs of those affected by the deadly explosion in Beirut on 4 August,” said a Commission statement.

“As needs rise we are providing humanitarian support to hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable people,” commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic said in the statement.

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Commission President von der Leyen put up 33 million euros funding in a phone call Thursday with the Lebanese President Michel Aoun.

The new funding will be channelled to UN agencies, NGOs and international organizations and will be strictly monitored, the statement added.

Lenarcic thanked the EU member states who had already made individual contributions to Lebanon - in the form of money, aid, or teams of specialists to help on the ground.

The Commission’s announcement Sunday came as French President Emmanuel Macron hosted an emergency aid conference for Lebanon following last Tuesday’s devastating blast in Beirut.

The UN says $117 million euros will be needed over the next three months for the emergency response.


Hezbollah’s continued destructive hegemony raises concerns for all: Saudi FM

09 August 2020

The continued destructive hegemony of the terrorist organization Hezbollah raises concern for everyone, said Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Sunday.

“The continued destructive hegemony of the terrorist organization Hezbollah raises concern for all of us. We all know the proven precedents for this organization’s use of explosive materials and their storage among civilians in several Arab, European and American countries,” Prince Faisal bin Farhan said in his address as part of the emergency donors conference for Lebanon hosted by France.

At least 158 people were killed and more than 6,000 others were injured in the capital on Tuesday when a warehouse storing 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate exploded after catching on fire.

World leaders pledged emergency relief on Sunday to help Lebanon after last week's massive blast destroyed swathes of Beirut and piled more pressure on the country's debt-laden economy.

At the beginning of his address to the conference, the Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister offered the Kingdom’s condolences and sympathy to the people of Lebanon, expressing his gratitude to Lebanon's friends in France and the world for their participation at the donor conference.

“We in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia stand with our brothers in Lebanon, stress the importance of conducting a transparent and impartial international investigation to find out the causes of this terrible explosion and the victims and destruction that it left behind. The brotherly Lebanese people have the right to live in their country in safety and respect. Lebanon is in dire need of comprehensive and urgent political and economic reform to ensure that this terrible disaster will not recur,” Prince Faisal said.



Saudi Arabia sets 10-year jail, SR1mn fine for forced labor and beggary crimes

10 August 2020

Saudi Arabia’s Public Prosecution has clarified that forced labor and beggary are crimes related to human trafficking and are punishable by a maximum of 10-year imprisonment or a financial penalty of a maximum of SR1 million or both.

“This is according to Articles II and III of the Law on Combating Human Trafficking Crimes,” the Kingdom’s Public Prosecutor’s office said in a statement carried by Saudi Press Agency (SPA) on Saturday.

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"The Kingdom is harnessing all its human and material potentials to achieve this lofty and noble goal," the statement added.

According to the Saudi Gazette, among the measures taken by Saudi Arabia in human trafficking-related crimes included enacting legislation and laws regulating the rights and duties of expatriates and workers, enacting penal laws ensuring the protection of any person from falling victim to the crime of “trafficking in persons”, and determining deterrent punishment for those committing these crimes.


Saudi Arabia halts oil supply to Pakistan as rift widens over Kashmir

09 August 2020

Saudi Arabia has suspended the supply of oil to Pakistan as the latter complains about Riyadh’s foot-dragging on a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) to address India’s contentious measures in Muslim-majority Kashmir region.

In 2018, Pakistan borrowed a $6.2 billion loan from Saudi Arabia that included a provision, under which Riyadh granted Islamabad $3.2 billion worth of oil a year on deferred payments.

On Saturday, Pakistani media reported that the provision expired two months ago and that Saudi Arabia did not renew it.

Instead, the reports said, Islamabad prematurely returned a $1 billion Saudi loan, four months ahead of the repayment period.

Saturday’s reports came a few days after Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi threatened that if the OIC, headed by Saudi Arabia, did not convene a foreign ministers’ meeting on Kashmir, Prime Minister Imran Khan would hold it on his own with his allies among the Islamic countries.

"For one year we have been requesting the OIC to call a council of foreign ministers meeting on Palestine and Kashmir issues where Muslims are facing atrocities while India demolished the 300-year-old Babri mosque and are building a Ram Temple but the OIC remains silent. But why?" Qureshi told local television station ARY News late Wednesday.

The remarks came on the same day Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid a foundation stone for the construction of a Hindu temple at the site of the 16th-century Babri Mosque in the city of Ayodhya.

It was the latest anti-Muslim measure taken by Modi’s right-wing government. Last August, it revoked Article 370 of the Indian constitution, effectively ending Kashmir’s 70-year semi-autonomous status and bifurcating it into two “union territories” under the central government’s direct control.

The OIC, which is based in the Saudi city of Jeddah, is the second largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations, with the membership of 57 states.

In December 2019, the Malaysian capital city of Kuala Lumpur hosted a summit, where leaders from Islamic countries discussed topics confronting the Muslims globally, including the Kashmir issue.

Saudi Arabia shunned the meeting and the regime’s media projected it as a challenge to the OIC. Pakistan also skipped the event upon a request from Riyadh.

Qureshi said Wednesday Pakistan did not attend the Kuala Lumpur summit on Saudi request and now Pakistani Muslims are demanding Riyadh to “play a leading role on the Kashmir issue.”

“Today Pakistanis, who are always ready to sacrifice their lives for Mecca and Madina, need Saudi to play a leading role on the Kashmir issue. If they will not play their role, then i will ask Prime Minister Imran Khan to go ahead with or without Saudi Arabia," he added. “We have our own sensitivities. You have to realize this. Persian Gulf countries should understand this.”

Later, Pakistan’s Foreign Office stressed that Qureshi’s statement was a reflection of people’s aspirations and expectations from the OIC to raise the Kashmir issue internationally.

“In this regard, our efforts will continue and we hope there will be further forward movement,” outgoing Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said, noting that Pakistan was a founding member of the OIC and had longstanding fraternal relations with the organization’s member states.





Ayatollah Khamenei opens Twitter account in Hindi

10 August 2020

Leader of Iran's Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has opened an official Twitter account in Hindi.

At the time of writing this item, the new account had more than 2,000 followers. Two tweets have been posted by the account so far.

Ayatollah Khamenei has Twitter accounts in other languages, including Persian, Arabic, Urdu, French, Spanish, Russian and English.

Iran is India’s third oil supplier, with Indian companies importing 12.5 million tonnes of crude from the Islamic Republic in the period running from April 2017 to October 2018.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Iran in May 2016, the first by an Indian person in that capacity in 15 years.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani also paid a visit to India in February 2018 at the official invitation of Modi.

During his visit to India, Rouhani was accompanied by a political and economic delegation, including Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and a number of representatives from the Iranian private sector.


Iran: US Should Account for Supporting, Sheltering Terrorist Groups

Aug 09, 2020

"The US government should account to the international community for providing shelter, residence, communication tools and satellite TVs, financial backup, freedom for overt actions and advocacy for terrorist groups and terrorist acts," Baharvand said in an interview with the Persian-language Etemad newspaper on Sunday.

He added that the US adopts such irresponsible measures not only against Iran but also against China, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Iraq and many other countries.

"The international community should make the US accountable for its illegal acts and stop this boring silence," Baharvand said.

In relevant remarks earlier this week, Iran's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Majid Takht-e Ravanchi also strongly denounced the US for fostering the terrorist group ‘Tondar’ (Thunder), adding that Washington should be held responsible for complicity with countless terrorist operations in the country.

Takht-e Ravanchi, in a letter to the United Nations Secretary, General Antonio Guterres, complained over the US support for terrorist group ‘Tondar’ whose ringleader Jamshid Sharmahd has recently been arrested by the security forces of Iran.

Iran announced on August 1 that it had captured the ringleader of a US-based Tondar (Thunder) terrorist group, Jamshid Sharmahd.

Sharmahd, who guided the armed and sabotage acts against Iran from the US, was arrested in complicated operations by the Iranian security forces and is now in the hands of the country’s intelligence ministry, a statement by the ministry said.

Tondar, or the Kingdom Assembly of Iran, also known as Soldiers of the Kingdom Assembly of Iran, is an armed terrorist royalist group seeking to overthrow the ruling government and restore the monarchy in Iran.

Tondar claimed responsiblity for the 2008 Shiraz explosion at the Hosseynieh Seyed al-Shohada in which 14 people, including children, were killed and 215 others were injured.

Mohammad-Reza Ali Zamani and Arash Rahmanipour, accused of being members of the terrorist group, were arrested and tried for the bombing. In January 2010, they were executed for waging war against God and attempting to overthrow the Islamic Republic.

Tondar had also plotted for several other terrorist acts in Iran in recent years, including blowing up Sivand dam in Shiraz, detonating cyanide bombs at Tehran book exhibition and explosion of bombs during general ceremonies at late Imam Khomeini’s shrine. All these terrorist plots were foiled by the Iranian security forces.


GCC countries unite to seek UN extension of Iran arms embargo

10 August 2020

The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has asked the United Nations to extend an international arms embargo on Iran, a move pushed strongly by the United States.

The secretariat of the GCC, made up of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia, said in a statement on Sunday that Iran's continued interference in neighboring countries made an extension necessary.

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The arms embargo on Iran is currently set to end on Oct. 18 under Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which Washington quit in 2018.

The request, in a letter to the United Nations, is a show of unity from the GCC. In mid-2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt severed political, trade, and transport ties with Qatar over accusations it had been supporting terrorism and cozying up to Iran.

"It is inappropriate to lift restrictions on the supply of weapons from and to Iran until Iran gives up its destabilizing activities in the region and stops supplying terrorist and sectarian organizations with weapons," a statement from GCC Secretary General Nayef Falah Mubarak al-Hajraf said.

If the United States is unsuccessful in extending the embargo, it has threatened to trigger a return of all UN sanctions on Iran under a process agreed in the 2015 deal.

The US-drafted resolution needs at least nine votes in favor to force Russia and China to use their vetoes, which Moscow and Beijing have signaled they will do. Some diplomats question whether Washington can even secure those nine, however.


Israeli warplanes launch fresh airstrike in Gaza

10 August 2020

The Israeli military's warplanes have launched a fresh air raid against the positions of the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas in the northern parts of the besieged Gaza Strip.

The latest attack was carried out on Sunday night after two small fires that started hours earlier in southern parts of the occupied territories due to explosive-laden balloons sent from Gaza.

The Israeli military says the air raid which targeted a Hamas observation post was in response to the balloons, which it blames on the Palestinian resistance movement.

The attack came a few hours after Israeli tanks fired shells at Hamas sites in the central parts of the besieged Gaza Strip.

On Sunday afternoon, Israeli tanks fired several rockets toward positions belonging to Palestinian resistance movements in the eastern border area of Deir al-Balah City in central blockaded Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Information Center reported.

The Israeli military claimed in a statement that the aggression displayed after an alleged shooting attack conducted from the blockaded enclave at Israeli troopers stationed in the vicinity of settlement of Kissufim.

No injuries were reported in the Israeli aggression and the alleged shooting attack from Gaza.

The Israeli regime every so often launches strikes against positions in the blockaded enclave, accusing the resistance groups there of launching rockets.

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

Israel has also launched three major wars against the enclave since 2008, killing thousands of Gazans each time and shattering the impoverished territory’s already poor infrastructure.

The crippling blockade has caused a decline in the standard of living as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty in the Gaza Strip.


UN, Saudi to blame if stranded oil tanker explodes: Yemen

10 August 2020

Yemen’s Ansarullah movement has warned that the responsibility for a possible explosion of an oil tanker stranded near the port city of Hudaydah falls on Saudi Arabian aggressors and the United Nations.

The Movement’s spokesman, Mohammed Abdul-Salam, rejected claims by Saudi Arabia and United Nations that Yemeni forces prevent UN teams from visiting the stranded oil tanker.

He said Yemen has repeatedly called for the assessment of the tanker, but the demands have been rejected.

He made the comments in reaction to a warning by a number of UN experts who said the ship may cause a humanitarian crisis or even a massive blast, blaming Ansarullah for it situation.

Abdul-Salam stressed that the UN is in no position to talk about humanity after removing the Saudi-led coalition from its child-killer blacklist.

Abdul-Salam slammed the United Nations for its inaction against years of Saudi bombing and blockade on Yemen.

Earlier, a top Yemeni official had warned that thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive chemical compound which recently caused a massive explosion in Beirut, are being stored in the Yemeni port city of Aden by Saudi-Emirati occupation forces.

The governor of Aden governorate in southern Yemen says the chemical compound has been stored in Aden since three years ago without finding any immediate solution for use or any measure to keep citizens and their belongings away from possible danger.

Salam warned that the amount of ammonium nitrate stored in Aden is almost twice the amount that blew up the Lebanese capital of Beirut on Tuesday.

Yemen’s Al Masirah TV quotes Tariq Salam as saying that the chemicals have been confiscated by the Saudi-led coalition forces and stored in the Aden port, but have been abandoned and now endanger the lives of citizens in case of explosion.

The storage of such a huge ammonium nitrate cargo in Aden port is much more challenging and dangerous than Beirut, as it is being stored close to residential areas, and that Aden is currently a scene of infighting among coalition forces, he said.,-Saudi-to-blame-if-stranded-oil-tanker-explodes-Yemen


Turkey drives Muslim Brotherhood campaign against Egyptian and Greek maritime demarcation


August 09, 2020

CAIRO: Turkey has sought help from the Muslim Brotherhood in Qatar and Ankara for its campaign against the Egyptian and Greek demarcation of their respective maritime borders.

The campaign began when the Turkish Foreign Ministry announced that it considered the agreement between Cairo and Athens “null,” and that the area covered by it fell within the scope of Turkey’s interests, claiming it “violated Libyan maritime borders.”

It also came amid the backdrop of controversial Turkish energy exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean.

“It is surprising that such statements and allegations were made by a party that does not know the agreement and its details,” Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ahmed Hafez, tweeted of Turkey’s stance.

The Turkish statement was followed by a series of attacks from the Muslim Brotherhood on social media, criticizing agreement and accusing Egypt of plotting against Turkey.

Dozens of Brotherhood websites launched from Turkey shared fabricated reports and photos attacking the agreement.

Various experts and officials refuted the allegations made by the sites and social media accounts, which claimed that the agreement between Egypt and Greece to demarcate the borders gave a green light to the Israeli gas pipeline, EastMed, to export gas to Europe through Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete to the mainland.

According to former Egyptian Assistant Foreign Minister Mohamed Hegazy, the reason for Turkey’s anger was that after this deal, as well as the signing of the border demarcation agreement between Greece and Italy, Turkey no longer had a maritime entrance point to Libya in line with the rules of international law.

He added that the UN secretary-general had refused to deposit the maritime agreement that Turkey concluded with the Fayez Al-Sarraj government in Libya, and that Libya’s Parliament had not adopted it.

The agreement between Egypt and Greece comes two months after the latter signed its agreement with Italy regarding the demarcation of the exclusive economic zone between the two countries in the Ionian Sea, in a first step that nullified the agreement between Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Al-Sarraj.

Regional security expert Muhammad Jumaa said in statement to the Masrawy website: “The Turkish allegations are based on its non-recognition of Cyprus and consequently the lack of recognition of its maritime borders. It believes that Cyprus is very close to its borders and recognises its limits of influence in the Mediterranean, so Turkey wants to bypass Cyprus as if it does not exist, as it sees that Libya is 2,000 nautical miles away from it.”

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said that this agreement allowed Egypt and Greece to move forward in maximizing the utilization of the resources available in their exclusive economic zone, especially oil and gas reserves, and opened new horizons for more regional cooperation in the energy field in light of the two countries’ membership in the East Mediterranean Gas Forum.

“The demarcation of the maritime border between Egypt and Greece cancels the agreement of Turkey and the Al-Sarraj government, as it covers some of the areas covered by that agreement. Greece respects international law, unlike Turkey, which is acting in hostility with Egypt,” Clianeth Kyriakides, a professor of security and strategic studies, said.

Under the agreement, Egypt will be able to explore for oil and gas in the western economic zones located on the maritime borders with those of Greece. It will also give the right to Egypt and Greece to search and explore in the eastern Mediterranean, and  strengthen the bilateral relationship between Cairo and Athens.


Raed Salah warns of Israeli plans against Al-Aqsa

Ahmed Asmar


Palestinian resistance icon Sheikh Raed Salah warned Sunday against the dangers that surround Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem from plans by Israeli authorities.

Salah, the head of the Islamic Movement in Israel, was hosted in an online seminar by the Jerusalem Commission of the Ankara Civil Society Platform (ACSP) in Turkey shortly before he begins a 28-month prison sentence on Aug. 16.

He said the Israeli plans began with the occupation of the holy city in June 1967 when the first Israeli assault on the mosque was launched a few days after capturing the city with the destruction of the Mughrabi (Moroccan) quarter adjacent to the Al-Aqsa compound and then setting the mosque on fire in 1969.

He said Israeli assaults since then have continued on a regular basis and are characterized these days by Israeli settlers breaking into Al-Aqsa to perform Talmudic rituals inside Islam’s third holiest mosque.

Sheikh Salah said all political parties in Israel agree on maintaining Israeli control over Jerusalem, noting “there is a consensus on maintaining the occupation of the city in an attempt to isolate Al-Aqsa Mosque and then destroy it.”

Commenting on the role of the Palestinian people -- especially in Jerusalem -- to defend the mosque, he said Palestinians have stood with steadfastness against all Israeli attempts.

Sheikh Salah hailed efforts by Turkey and Malaysia at official and grassroots levels to defend and support Al-Aqsa.

He also stressed the importance of spreading knowledge among Muslims worldwide to keep them aware of what is going on in occupied Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Despite the endless Israeli attacks on Sheikh Salah, he has said on various occasions that he is determined to continue to defend Al-Aqsa.

"Whatever the cost will be, we won’t concede defending Al-Aqsa Mosque," he said.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem, in which Al-Aqsa Mosque is located, during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.

In a move never recognized by the international community, it annexed the entire city in 1980, claiming it as the Jewish state’s “eternal and undivided” capital.

On Nov. 24, 2019, a court charged Salah on several counts, including "incitement to terrorism" and "supporting a banned group," referring to the Islamic Movement in Israel, which was outlawed by the Israeli government in 2015.

Although his sentence was originally set to start in March, it was postponed amid appeals by his defense.

Salah is under house arrest with tightened restrictions. He is banned from communicating with the public except with his close relatives.



South Asia


Afghan assembly approves release of 400 'hard-core' Taliban prisoners

Aug 9, 2020

KABUL: Afghanistan's grand assembly, or Loya Jirga, on Sunday approved the release of 400 "hard-core" Taliban prisoners, paving the way for the beginning of peace talks aimed at ending more than 19 years of war.

"In order to remove an obstacle, allow the start of the peace process and an end of bloodshed, the Loya Jirga approves the release of 400 Taliban," the assembly said in a resolution.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had convened the assembly in the capital Kabul, where some 3,200 Afghan community leaders and politicians gathered amid tight security and concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic to advise the government on whether the prisoners should be freed.

The Taliban militants had insisted they be released as a condition for entering peace talks with the government. With the release, the Afghan government will fulfil its pledge to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners.

Western diplomats said talks between the warring parties will start in Doha this week.

Deliberation around the release of last batch of Taliban prisoners, accused of conducting some of the bloodiest attacks across Afghanistan, had triggered outrage among civilians and rights groups who questioned the morality of the peace process.

But ahead of November elections, US President Donald Trump is determined to fulfil a major campaign promise of ending America's longest war.

The drawdown will bring the number of US troops to "a number less than 5,000" by the end of November, defense secretary Mark Esper said in an interview broadcast on Saturday.

In a February pact allowing for the withdrawal of US troops, Washington and the Taliban agreed on the release of the Taliban prisoners as a condition for the talks with Kabul.


Taliban says ready for Afghan peace talks after prisoner release

10 August 2020

The Taliban said Monday they were ready to hold peace talks with the Afghan government after a contentious prisoner exchange, which authorities said would begin in the next two days.

“Our stance is clear, if the prisoner release is completed, then we are ready for the intra-Afghan talks within a week,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told AFP, adding that the first round of talks will be held in Doha, Qatar.

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Thousands of prominent Afghans on Sunday agreed to the release of hundreds of Taliban prisoners accused of serious offences, overcoming a key hurdle in starting negotiations.

“The Afghan government will start releasing the 400 Taliban prisoners within two days,” National Security Council spokesman Javid Fasial told AFP.

Shaheen said the Taliban delegation would be led by Abbas Stanekzai, who was the group’s chief negotiator in talks with Washington ahead of a landmark withdrawal deal signed in February.

The prisoner exchange was a key part of the February deal, which saw Washington agree to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan in return for a pledge from the Taliban to hold peace talks with the Kabul government.

The long-delayed peace talks pushed by Washington are aimed at ending the almost two decades old conflict in the country that has killed tens of thousands of people.


Second explosion reported in Kabul city in less than 24 hours

10 Aug 2020

A second explosion took place in Kabul city, less than 24 hours after a similar explosion killed or wounded at least 7 people.

Ferdaws Faramurz, a spokesperson for Kabul Police Headquarters, confirmed that an explosion took place in the 9th district of Kabul city earlier today.

Faramurz further added that the explosion took place in Makroryan area of the city at around 8:00 am local time, targeting a Toyota Land Cruiser type vehicle.

He also added that the explosion left at least two people wounded. However, he did not elaborate further whether the victims are civilians or personnel of the government.

No individual or group including Taliban has so far claimed responsibility for the incident.

This comes as a similar explosion killed 2 people and wounded at least 5 others in Company Bazaar area of Kabul city at around 3:40 pm local time on Sunday.



Southeast Asia


Twitterati outburst against former Malaysian PM Mahathir for raising Kashmir

Aug 9, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: Twitterati from across the world has lashed out against the former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad for raising the Kashmir issue in one of his tweets on the first anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370.

He tweeted, "Now that I am no more the Prime Minister, I take it that I can now speak without restrain and address the Kashmir issue without threats of boycotts and such. At Kashmir's one year lockdown since 5th August"!

Now that Iam no more the Prime Minister, I take it that I can now speak without restrain and address the Kashmir is…

— Dr Mahathir Mohamad (@chedetofficial) 1596881548000

Mahathir's comment on Kashmir was criticised by Twitterati who lashed out at him for not speaking about human rights violations against Uyghur Muslims. They also accused him of not raising global concerns over Pakistan sponsored terrorism and human rights violations in Balochistan, Singh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Commenting on Mahathir's tweet, Shoaib Wani said, "Now I can speak freely! if you really mean what you say, can you raise your voice against Uyghur Muslims in China? CCP suppressing our fellow Muslims, millions of men held in detention camps, sterilizing women without their consent, forcing them to disown Islam".

Mursaleen Farooq tweeted in his comment, "Three million Uighurs are suffering and are forced to live on the feet of Chinese Han. They can't practice Islam, why don't you say a word about them?"

"If you really want to be the voice of people, be the voice of innocent Uyghur Muslims of #China, Millions of innocent #Uyghur held in concentration camps for BEING MUSLIM! China is forcing them to disown Islam by any means possible", tweeted Suleman Rashid in his comment.

Jay Gohil tweeted, "You don't have guts to speak about Uyghur Muslim, u don't have guts to speak what is happening in Balochistan. You don't have guts to speak about terrorism in Pakistan. Yes you are also part of it."

@chedetofficial You don't have guts to speak about uighur muslim, u don't have guts speak what is happening in Balo…

— Jay 🇮🇳 (@jaygohil13_) 1596896853000

Mahathir Mohamad, who remained the fourth and seventh Prime Minister of Malaysia also tweeted, "I offer no apology for what I had said though I am sorry that it had affected our palm oil export to India. I don't know if that is a high price to pay for speaking out against such injustices".

Mahathir's remarks on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the abrogation of Kashmir's special status had caused a diplomatic row with India.

In January this year, India had imposed new curbs on imports of palm oil, effectively banning imports of refined palm oil from Malaysia, the world's second-biggest producer and exporter of palm oil after Indonesia.


A year on, Pakistan calls for Indonesian solidarity on Kashmir

August 7, 2020

The Pakistan mission in Indonesia has called on the government to support the South Asian country in its stance in the conflict over Jammu and Kashmir with India.

On Aug. 5 last year, India revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir that had permitted a degree of autonomy to the state. India also turned the single state into two union territories (UTs) in a development that followed decades of complicated relations following the partition of British India into India and Pakistan in 1947, when the colony won its independence from the United Kingdom.

“Jammu and Kashmir remains an internationally recognized dispute and the longest dispute ever at the United Nations with almost a dozen UNSC [United Nations Security Councils] resolutions seeking a plebiscite to determine of the wishes of the Kashmiris for a final settlement,” Pakistan charge d'affaires in Jakarta Sajjad Haider Khan said in a statement on Wednesday.

Khan pointed to India's decision to revoke the state’s special status as a violation of both international law and United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions.

He also stressed that articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution permitted Jammu and Kashmir its own constitution and special autonomy status.

During the 1947 partition, Muslim-majority Kashmir was expected to become part of Pakistan, but the territory’s then-Hindu ruler, Hari Singh, sought to be independent.

Following an invasion of Muslim tribesmen from Pakistan, Singh hastily acceded to India in return for its help against the invaders. The decision led to war and years of tension between India and Pakistan, even after the UN-sponsored ceasefire in 1949.

Since India's unilateral action over the disputed territory last year, Pakistan has accused the country of human rights violations in the “most militarized zone” in the world, and the two nuclear powers have continued to trade barbs on various international forums.

India has imposed a communication blackout on Jammu and Kashmir, restricting information access to and from the territory. India has reportedly arrested journalists for reporting from the area.

When asked about Indian policy on the territory, Indian Ambassador to Indonesia Pradeep Kumar Rawat said that Delhi had taken a series of policies to develop the state, including those that guaranteed basic rights, strengthened grassroots democracy and boosted economic self-reliance.

He added that the Indian government had also provided 50 new educational institutions and a variety of scholarship schemes.

"Decades of cross-border terrorism and gaps in governance which resulted in resentment needs fresh air of peace and development," the ambassador said in a written statement obtained by The Jakarta Post.

Rawat went on to defend the abrogation of Article 370, calling it a vision “for development, enhanced governance, and socioeconomic justice for disadvantaged sections of the population”.

On Wednesday, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno L.P. Marsudi spoke with her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmoud Qureshi by phone to exchange Idul Adha greetings. The two foreign ministers also discussed the developments in Jammu and Kashmir.

At a press briefing on Friday, Retno said that Indonesia, in its capacity as the UNSC president in August 2020, had acknowledged Pakistan's request to raise the Jammu and Kashmir issue at the council.

The minister reiterated, however, that Indonesia would maintain impartiality over the issue, because "India and Pakistan are both friends of Indonesia".

"I also convey that both sides have to work to control the COVID-19 outbreak in Jammu and Kashmir, as well as put forward dialogue and negotiation for conflict resolution [that] gives special attention and priority to the people's safety, regardless of their background," Retno said.

Indonesia has largely maintained a neutral stance on the issue, given its good ties with both nations. At the height of the tensions in 2019, Retno called on the two countries to employ dialogue and consultation to bridge their differences.


Confusion in Dewan over 2-state solution in Palestinian-Israeli conflict

Minderjeet Kaur

August 10, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: There was confusion in the Dewan Rakyat today over the question of whether PAS accepts the government’s stand on a two-state solution in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Maszlee Malik (Ind-Simpang Renggam ) said Special Envoy to the Middle East Abdul Hadi Awang, who is also the PAS president, had rejected the two-state solution.

“But the foreign affairs ministry agrees to the two-state solution with Baitulmaqdis as the capital.

“Is the special envoy following the stand of the government or is he (sticking) with his previous stand to reject the two-state solution, which is also the stand of PAS,” Maszlee asked during the debate on the royal address today.

Special functions minister Mohd Redzuan Md Yusof replied that any decision on the two-state solution by the government will be discussed with Hadi, who is also the Marang MP.

“For now, our stand is still consistent, that is to reject the two-state solution. That is not a decision but we are discussing (the issue) and may bring it up to Parliament for debate,” he said.

Hearing this, Maszlee said he was confused over the differing statements by Redzuan and the foreign affairs ministry, but Redzuan said they were in the midst of “making a decision”.

Deputy speaker Rashid Hanson then asked Foreign Affairs Minister Hishammuddin Hussein if he had any additional statement to make over the issue.

Hishammuddin clarified that the ministry’s stand was clear. He said it supported the two-state solution, which was also the stand taken by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

The BN Sembrong MP clarified that PAS’ stand on the matter was taken before Hadi was appointed special envoy to the Middle East.

“I have also discussed with Hadi … the matter was (first) raised when PAS was still not in the government. It will be discussed at the PAS party level,” he said.

However, Maszlee maintained that the ministers’ statements were confusing because Hishammuddin had said he had discussed the issue with PAS and it had changed its stand before joining the government, whereas Redzuan had said it was still under discussion with the Islamist party.





Sudan ‘regrets’ tone of US travel advisory, says foreign ministry

08 August 2020

Sudan said Saturday it “regrets” the tone of the latest US State Department advisory against travel to the country, saying it does not take into account changes of the post-Bashir era.

“The ministry calls on its counterpart to show caution when warning its citizens to reconsider travel to Sudan,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

It stressed “the great change brought about by the glorious revolution of December 2018” that led to longtime leader Omar al-Bashir’s ouster, saying Khartoum “regrets” the wording of Thursday’s advisory.

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The country was now one of “political stability, free demonstrations, and protection of human life and the rights of Sudanese citizens, with peace negotiations underway with armed struggle movements.”

In a standard advisory, the State Department called on US citizens to “reconsider travel to Sudan due to COVID-19... crime, terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping and armed conflict.”

“Members of known terrorist groups continue to be in Sudan and could pose a threat,” it said.

“Demonstrations can occur with no warning,” although recent protests had been “peaceful with no police response.”

In contrast, Sudan’s government this week welcomed remarks from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that he would like to delist Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Pompeo has repeatedly indicated Washington hopes to remove the designation, which dents investment in Sudan, but disputes have arisen on compensation over the 1998 bombings of two US embassies in Africa.

Al-Bashir had welcomed al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and Sudan was accused of aiding extremists who blew up the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 224 people.

Sudan’s new government has agreed to a compensation package but a dispute has arisen over higher payments to Americans than to Africans.


Blast rocks military base in Somali capital, at least eight dead

08 August 2020

A huge blast rocked a military base in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, near a stadium on Saturday, killing at least eight people and injuring 14, emergency workers said, and the al-Shabab Takfiri terrorist group claimed responsibility.

Soldiers opened fire after the explosion which sent clouds of smoke into the sky, said Halima Abdisalan, a mother of three who lives near the area.

“We ran indoors in fear,” she told Reuters. “Soon I could see a military pickup speeding and carrying many soldiers covered with blood. I do not know if they were all dead or injured.”

Army officer Major Abdullahi Mohamud said it was an attack. “It must be a suicide car bomb, I am now transporting casualties,” he said.

Claiming responsibility for the incident, the military operations spokesman of the al-Shabab group, Abdiasis Abu Musab, said, “We conducted a successful martyrdom operation on a major apostate military base in Mogadishu.”

“The enemy suffered many casualties and wounded, military vehicles destroyed.”

Somalia has been embroiled in deadly violence since 1991, when clan warlords overthrew leader Siad Barre and then turned on each other.

Al-Shabab has been fighting to overthrow the internationally-recognized central government since 2008.


Six French tourists among eight killed by gunmen in Niger

09 August 2020

Six French tourists and their local guide and driver were killed Sunday by gunmen riding motorcycles in an area of southwestern Niger that is home to the last West African giraffes, officials said.

It is believed to be the first such attack on tourists in the area, a popular attraction in the former French colony thanks to its unique population of West African or Niger giraffes.

"There are eight dead: two Nigeriens including a guide and a driver, while the other six are French," the governor of the Tillaberi region told AFP.

"We are managing the situation, we will give more information later," Tidjani Ibrahim Katiella said, without indicating who was behind the attack.

A source close to the environmental services said the assault took place at around 11:30 am (1030 GMT) six kilometers (four miles) east of the town of Koure, which is an hour's drive from the capital Niamey.

"Most of the victims were shot... We found a magazine emptied of its cartridges at the scene," the source told AFP.

"We do not know the identity of the attackers but they came on motorcycles through the bush and waited for the arrival of the tourists."

The source added that the tourists' vehicle belonged to the French humanitarian organization ACTED.

Grisly pictures seen by AFP of the scene showed bodies lying near a torched off-road vehicle, which had bullet holes in its rear window.

Around 20 years ago, a small herd of West African giraffes, a subspecies distinguished by its lighter color, found a safe haven from poachers and predators in the Koure area.

Today they number in their hundreds and are a key tourist attraction, enjoying the protection of local people and conservation groups.

However, the Tillaberi region is in a hugely unstable location, near the borders of Mali and Burkina Faso.

The region has become a hideout for Sahel militant groups.

The use of motorcycles has been totally banned since January in an attempt to curb the movements of such militants.


Al-Shabaab claims deadly blast at military base in Somali capital Mogadishu


At least seven people were killed when a car bomb exploded at an army base in the Somali capital Mogadishu on Saturday, military and emergency services said.

The attack, claimed by the Al-Shabaab militant group, targeted a compound near Somalia's national stadium where soldiers from the Somali National Army (SNA) are stationed.

"There was a heavy blast at the 27th brigade camp. A vehicle loaded with explosives rammed the entrance and there are casualties. Seven people died and more than ten others were wounded," Mohamed Abdirahman, a lieutenant in the SNA, told AFP.

Aamin Ambulance, the country's only free ambulance service, said in a statement that eight people died and 14 others were wounded in the blast.

The blast sent shockwaves through the city and a cloud of smoke overhead. Windows were blown out in buildings nearby.

Witnesses said the vehicle passed by a checkpoint before a huge explosion erupted near the military camp.

Suleyman Hassan, a witness, said a minivan loaded with explosives detonated just outside the entrance.

"There are casualties, and some vehicles are burning. We can see clouds of smoke," he said.

Other witnesses also reported seeing ambulances taking away the dead and wounded from the site.

Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement.

Somalia has suffered near-continuous conflict for almost 30 years, while the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu has been fighting Al-Shabaab Islamic insurgents since 2008.

Bombings and other terrorist attacks are common in Mogadishu, although few have been recorded in recent months.




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