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Islamic World News ( 22 Jun 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Muttahida Majlis-e-Ulema Warn Against Opening of Liquor Vends Across Kashmir

New Age Islam News Bureau

22 Jun 2020

The Mutahida Majlis-e-Ulema (MMU), an amalgam of all religious sects and socio-religious organisations of the Valley, has warned against opening liquor vends across Kashmir.


• Fatwa on Chinese Goods, Muslim Clerics Urge Community to Stand with Indian Army-Government

• Pakistan’s MQM Party Received Funding from India, Claims Ex-Head of Diplomatic Wing

• France Charges Teens for Death Threats Over Anti-Islam Remarks

• Saudi Arabia Chairs UN Counter-Terrorism Meeting

• Sikh Abducted In Afghanistan, Afghan-American Sikhs Seek India's Support

• Lawmakers Grill Religious Affairs Minister For 'Sudden' Haj Cancellation

• Iran Prayer Imam Says 'Our Missionaries Being Killed' In Latin America



• Muttahida Majlis-e-Ulema Warn Against Opening of Liquor VendsAcross Kashmir

• Fatwa on Chinese Goods, Muslim Clerics Urge Community to Stand with Indian Army-Government

• Pleas in SC against blacklisting of over 3,500 foreigners for alleged Tablighi activities

• Muslim Student Among Petitioners Who Seek Supreme Court Recall Rath Yatra Decision

• Delhi Riots: Bail To School Owner, Court Says No Evidence Of PFI Link

• Army jawan killed as Pakistani troops shell forward areas along LoC, IB in Jammu and Kashmir

• J&K Police: Pak national among 4 militants killed in 2 encounters

• Bail for 26/11 attacks plotter will strain ties with India: US attorney

• Delhi on high alert after reports of terrorists from J&K attempting to enter city



• Pakistan’s MQM Party Received Funding from India, Claims Ex-Head of Diplomatic Wing

• Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Most Popular Foreign Leader In Pakistan: Minister

• Organization of Islamic Cooperation to hold emergency meeting on Jammu and Kashmir

• Pakistan’s local govts disconnected from citizens: UNDP

• Mengal hints at ‘more political changes’ in near future

• Imran lauds boxing legend Muhammad Ali for his exceptional beliefs

• Every Pakistani woman has potential to lead from the front, Bilawal says

• Renowned religious scholar Allama Talib Jauhari passes away

• 2 soldiers killed in militant attack near Afghanistan border: Pakistani military



• France Charges Teens for Death Threats Over Anti-Islam Remarks

• MI5 under fresh scrutiny after latest terror attack

• France brings home 10 Daesh children from Syria

• UK police declare Reading stabbings 'terrorist incident'

• UK: At least 3 killed in 'terror-related' attack

• Iran blasts Europe over opposing end to arms embargo


Arab world

• Saudi Arabia Chairs UN Counter-Terrorism Meeting

• Saudi Arabia Supports Egypt’s ‘Right to Protect Western Borders’ from Terrorism

• Saudi Minister: Security of Egypt, Saudi Arabia ‘indivisible’ amid tensions in Libya

• Egypt’s army, the biggest in Middle East, stands ready amid escalating Libya tensions

• Israeli warplanes fly low over Beirut despite Lebanon's complaint to UN Security Council

• Dissident Saudi video blogger warned by Canadian police he is a target

• Saudi Arabia back in business as coronavirus curfews end


South Asia

• Sikh Abducted In Afghanistan, Afghan-American Sikhs Seek India's Support

• Afghan foreign minister visits Iran amid tensions over migrant deaths

• Afghan healthcare personnel were deliberately attacked: UN

• Bangladeshi Militants Take Advantage of COVID-19 Pandemic

• Afghan Taliban kidnap dozens of civilians amid peace efforts, officials say


Southeast Asia

• Lawmakers Grill Religious Affairs Minister For 'Sudden' Haj Cancellation

• Minister: Non-Muslim wedding ceremonies allowed with max 20 attendance; receptions still prohibited

• Start of construction of Prophet’s museum in Indonesia delayed due to COVID-19



• Iran Prayer Imam Says 'Our Missionaries Being Killed' In Latin America

• IRGC Top Commander: Enemies Not Even Think of Military War against Iran

• Iranian Lawmakers Ask Gov't to Halt Implementation of NPT Additional Protocol

• Iran: France’s Nuclear ICBM Test Violating NPT

• Negotiations with US ‘harmful and forbidden’: Iranian Parliament Speaker

• Yemeni child soldier reveals how Iran-backed Houthis ‘lured’ him into fighting

• UAE-backed separatists stage 'coup' in Yemen’s Socotra: Former official

• Germany, France criticize Israel over West Bank annexation plans

• Palestinians fear Israeli annexation could further limit Dead Sea access



• Extremist Libyan Imam Says GNA Can Kill Captured LNA Soldiers

• Libyan National Army: Will Never Give Up Sirte ToTurkey ‘No Matter the Sacrifice’

• Sudan warns against escalation over Ethiopia controversial Nile dam

• Libya calls Egypt military threat ‘Declaration of war'

• Blasts kill 7 people in southern and central Somalia

• Libya says 190 bodies found in mass graves by Haftar


North America

• US Will Not Quit Region In Response To Iranian Pressure, Says Top US General

• US ‘strongly opposes military escalation’ in Libya, calls for ceasefire, negotiations

• Qatari Emir’s brother accused of murder, sodomy and misconduct in new US lawsuit

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Muttahida Majlis-e-Ulema Warn Against Opening of Liquor Vends Across Kashmir

June 21, 2020

The Muttahida Majlis-e-Ulema (MMU), an amalgam of all religious sects and socio-religious organisations of the Valley, has warned against opening liquor vends across Kashmir.

It has urged the government to “immediately” withdraw the order. The Excise Department, as per an order dated June 26, 2020, has identified 183 new locations — 116 in Jammu and 67 in Kashmir Valley — for the sale of liquor.

Since 1991, in Kashmir, the militant groups had declared a blanket ban on the sale of liquor and its consumption.

In the joint statement, the amalgam headed by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, said, “Any move by the administration to open liquor shops across the length and breadth of the Valley will not be allowed. It will be opposed and resisted”.

“It is mala fide that this government, in the midst of a global pandemic, when all energies are focused on fighting it, is busy bringing ordinances and rules to change the demography of the Muslim majority state. By issuing such orders, the government is hurting our religious sentiments,” the statement alleged.

Citing a June 26, 2017, order issued by the Excise Department stating the government’s plan to set up liquor shops at 67 locations in Kashmir Valley, the MMU said it was “causing grave concern and anguish among the Muslims” of the Valley.

No policy decision taken yet: Finance Department

The Finance Department has not taken any policy decision regarding the issuance of fresh liquor licences in unserved areas. No list of unserved areas has either been considered or approved. No decision will be taken without the participation of stakeholders and due process,” the Directorate of Information & Public Relation, J&K clarified in a tweet on Sunday.


Fatwa on Chinese Goods, Muslim Clerics Urge Community to Stand With Indian Army-Government

June 21, 2020

The All India Tanzeem Ulama-e-Islam, a religious and social organisation headed by five senior clerics, has issued a fatwa to boycott Chinese products in the country. Also Read - Galwan Clash: 'Disinformation No Substitute For Diplomacy', Former PM Manmohan Singh to Modi Govt

The clerics said the community members should stand with the army and government in this hour. Also Read - 'Public Wants That': Union Minister Calls For Voluntary Boycott of Chinese Goods 'to The Extent Possible'

Expressing concern over India-China face-off, National general secretary of All India Tanzeem Ulama-e-Islam, Maulana Shahbuddin Rizvi expressed concern over the India-China face-off and said, “A fatwa has been passed for boycotting Chinese products on a query posted by a Bareilly-based resident. The clerics in the fatwa have condemned the conspiracy of China to encroach upon Indian land and the killing of our brave soldiers.” Also Read - Ladakh Standoff: India, China to Hold Talks This Week, Centre Grants Emergency Financial Power to 3 Forces | Key Points

The panel of five clerics include national president of All India Tanzeem Ulama-e-Islam Mufti Ashfaq Hussain Qadri, Mufti Iqbal Ahmad Misbahi, Mufti Tauqir Ahmad Qadri, Mufti Hashim Raza Khan and Qari Saghir Ahmad Rizvi.


Pakistan’s MQM party received funding from India, claims ex-head of diplomatic wing

June 22, 2020

The former head of the diplomatic wing of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Coordination Committee member Muhammad Anwar has alleged that the party has been receiving funds from the Indian government and he was asked by its leadership to coordinate with Indian contacts to receive the funding.

He denied having anything to do with the murder of Dr Imran Farooq and said that it was Nadeem Nusrat who introduced him to an Indian diplomat in early 90’s. Nusrat, MQM’s former Coordination Committee member, now lives in Washington and runs his own organisation.

Speculations have also existed that the MQM received monies from India’s spy agency RAW (Research & Analysis Wing) but this is for the first time that a former senior office-bearer like Anwar has officially accused MQM of being involved with India’s spy agency over a period of time.

Anwar revealed in an exclusive interview with The News and Geo at his home in Edgware London that "it was sometime in the early 90’s when Nadeem Nusrat came to me and told me that he would like me to meet an Indian diplomat. He asked me to meet the Indian diplomat alone but I refused and told him that he should accompany too. It was at 7 o clock in the evening and it was raining heavily that day. Nadeem Nusrat, on my insistence, went with me to the meeting but stood outside the venue.”

Anwar said he told the Indian diplomat that he will discuss issues with him only in the presence of his senior, Nusrat. The Indian diplomat told Anwar he had instructions only to speak to him and not to anyone else. "I told him that I will not speak to him on my own. After making a call to someone and after about half an hour’s argument, he received permission and then Nusrat joined us too. This is how I got connected.”

Anwar said that it was never his decision to meet Indian diplomats and deal with them. "I confirm that I was obeying orders of the party. I was asked to do what I did and I was connected by MQM with the Indian contacts. I never had any vested interests. We were towing the party line on India.”'

Anwar said that his own colleagues in MQM — Pakistan and UK created a bad impression about him, projected him as the only bad person whereas the reality is that each and every person in the leadership position shared responsibilities and all decisions were taken in consultations with each other.

He said that the MQM-Pakistan leaders were projecting themselves today as holier than thou but he said that the Karachi based leadership was responsible for large-scale killings and destructions in the city. "The so-called civilised leaders that you see on TV these days were the ones who were always offering to Altaf Hussain to inform them who to maim, kill and burn. I am ready to share details with authorities about their deeds. Over the years, they have blamed me only to launder themselves as clean guys. That’s not the case.”

Last week, Anwar was named as absconder, with Altaf Hussain and Iftikhar Hussain, in the Dr Imran Farooq murder case by Islamabad’s Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC).

He said that the judgment quotes Khalid Shamim as saying that in 2005 he called Dr Imran from Dublin and spoke to them both over the speaker and in the same conversation, Anwar allegedly asked him to kill the slain MQM leader.

"It’s ridiculous to say that I was planning Doctor Farooq’s killing on his face during a conversation Farooq was listening to, standing with me. Is this believable? This is a Romeo and Juliet story. This is totally baseless, without any substance.”

Anwar said he has never met Shamim in his life and never had any relation with him of any kind. "How is it possible that I planned the assassination of my senior in his presence, with a stranger on the phone thousands of miles away," he asked.

Anwar blamed former Sindh Governor Ishratul Ibad for spinning theories about his role in the killing. He shared that Ibad told him that Britain’s spy agency, MI6, has shared with him two pictures showing Anwar with the two assassins of Farooq.

Anwar said that MQM has never been against Pakistan. Anwar recalled that Field Marshal Ayub Khan gave his father Tamgha-e-Khidmat in 1967 for his services to the state of Pakistan. In 1971, he said, his father in 1971 did food provision work in North Bengal on General Niazi’s request because all provisions were cut off.

"My father was the only person who supplied food without even billing. He was arrested as a war collaborator and languished in jail and suffered inhumane torture. My father-in-law Syed Ahmed Ashraf was campaigning for Pakistan in 1937 with Muhammad Ali Jinnah. He was Secretary General of All India Muslim League. He was buried in Islamia College. We are not and were not against Pakistan. We were not Indian agents. Whatever our relations with India were, we were towing MQM’s party line.”

Anwar said the late Asma Jahangir called MQM’s office on May 12, 2007 and told the London office that MQM people were involved in killing innocent people and pleaded to the party leadership to stop the carnage in Karachi during Pervez Musharraf’s government.


France charges teens for death threats over anti-Islam remarks

17 Jun 2020

Three teenagers have been charged in France after a high-school girl received death threats for expletive-laden social media remarks about Islam, according to a prosecutor.

The case of 16-year-old Mila - who made her remarks about Islam on an Instagram post that went viral - revived debate in France about freedom of speech, and highlighted deep societal divisions on the topic.

Mila's family was placed under police protection amid the fallout, and she had to change schools.

On Wednesday, Vienne Prosecutor Audrey Quey said three teens - one aged 16 and two aged 17 - have been charged in the case.

Vienne is a city in the Isere department in southeast France where Mila is from.


The 17-year-olds admitted to investigators earlier this month that they had collected Mila's private online data and passed it on to the younger boy.

The two face charges of theft and possession of stolen data and were placed under judicial supervision pending the outcome of the investigation, Quey said in a statement.

One of them was also from Isere, the other from the neighbouring Rhone department.

The 16-year-old, Quey said, was questioned in February and admitted to having distributed Mila's personal online data.

Charges against the boy, who comes from Besancon north of Isere, include possession of stolen goods, electronic harassment, and distributing a third party's personal data. He, too, was placed under supervision.


A fourth person, alleged to have been behind death threats to Mila, was arrested in May, the prosecutor said.

"Investigations are continuing with a view to identifying others behind the threats," said Quey.

In February, French President Emmanuel Macron came out in defence of Mila, saying the right to blaspheme was enshrined in the constitution and that she needed to be protected.

An investigation into possible charges of provoking racial hatred against Mila was abandoned in January.

The controversy came just over five years after gunmen shot dead a group of French cartoonists from the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which had poked fun at the Prophet Mohammed.


Saudi Arabia chairs UN counter-terrorism meeting

June 22, 2020

NEW YORK: Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the UN, on Sunday chaired the 20th meeting — held virtually — of the advisory board of the UN Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT).

The meeting discussed the 2019 annual report and the report on UNCCT's most important projects during the first quarter of 2020.

It reviewed the programs of UNCCT, “supporting member states in the prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration of individuals suspected or convicted of committing terrorist acts, including foreign terrorist fighters and their families.”

The meeting also watched a presentation on UNCCT’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The meeting was attended by the undersecretary-general of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT), Vladimir Voronkov, the director of UNCCT, Jehangir Khan, and a Saudi delegation.

The advisory board is formed by 21 member states. along with the EU as a guest member, and is chaired by Saudi Arabia. The board provides advice to UNCCT, which was established with the help and support of Saudi Arabia.

The centre updates the advisory board on the progress in the implementation of its programs and projects on a quarterly basis.


Sikh abducted in Afghanistan, Afghan-American Sikhs seek India's support

Jun 22, 2020

WASHINGTON DC:: An Afghan Sikh was abducted from the Paktika province in Eastern Afghanistan four days ago, confirmed the Afghan Sikh community living in the United States.

The man identified as Nidhan Singh, hails from Tsamkani district in the Paktika province and was employed as a Gurusewak (helper) at the local Gurudwara.

Post Singh's abduction, the Afghan Sikh community living in the United States has again urged the Government of India to help in the resettlement of the Sikhs living in Afghanistan .

They have appealed to India to make special arrangements under Vande Bharat Mission to provide a safe haven for over 600 Sikhs.

"I have spoken to Sikh Member of Parliament Narinder Singh and he confirmed that officials in the Afghan Government have promised to help and find Nidhan," Paramjit Singh Bedi, chairman of the Afghan Sikh community in New Jersey told ANI.

"Narinder Singh has also reached out to the Taliban leaders and has been assured that all efforts will be made to ensure his release," Bedi further said.

Bedi and other community members will send written appeals to former diplomat and Union civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri, the external affairs minister S Jaishankar and the Indian envoy to the United States Taranjit Singh Sandhu.

Worried for the lives of the Sikh minorities living in Kabul, Jalalabad and Ghazni, the Sikh community has been constantly seeking support from India.

Encouraged by the steps taken in the past by the Indian government, leaders of the Afghan Sikh community have made several appeals to India to accommodate the Sikhs and Hindus from Afghanistan and grant them legal entry with long term residency multiple entry visa.

The community leaders living in the United States said it is imperative to alleviate the dire situation of religious minorities in Afghanistan who look to India as the only safe haven in the region.

In May this year, expressing concerns over the safety and security of religious minorities in Afghanistan, twenty-six US Congressmen urged Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, to take all available steps to facilitate the "safe and expeditious relocation" of members of the Sikh and Hindu communities trapped in the war-hit country.

In the letter dated May 4, Congressman John Garamendi, co-chair of Sikh Caucus, and twenty-five others stated that the Sikh community continues to be under "grave" threat from Islamic State terrorist attacks directed at Sikhs.Once a thriving community of nearly 250,000 people, the Sikh and Hindu community in Afghanistan has endured years of discrimination and violence from extremists, and the community is now estimated to comprise fewer than 100 families across the country, the letter said.


Lawmakers grill religious affairs minister for 'sudden' haj cancellation

June 19, 2020

Ghina Ghaliya

Religious Affairs Minister Fachrul Razi found himself in hot water during a hearing with the House of Representatives on Thursday, as lawmakers on Commission VIII overseeing religious affairs criticized him for not consulting with the House before deciding to cancel the 2020 haj pilgrimage over coronavirus concerns.

The minister announced earlier this month that Indonesia would prevent haj departures to Saudi Arabia this year, a decision that affected hundreds of thousands of would-be pilgrims in the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation. Indonesia has the largest haj pilgrim quota of any country.

John Kennedy Azis of the Golkar Party – a political party in President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's ruling coalition – questioned Fachrul's sudden announcement of the policy on June 2, saying there had been no pressure for the central government to announce it immediately without consulting the legislative body.

"There was no external pressure that we would be fined if we didn’t decide [on haj departures] quickly. Why couldn't you wait for just two days? Why so sudden?" John said, referring to a planned House hearing with the government on the matter scheduled for June 4.

The COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with Saudi Arabia's indefinite suspension of haj and umrah (minor haj), were cited as reasons behind the government's decision to cancel this year's haj departure. Fachrul previously said the conditions had left the government without enough time to prepare visas and protective measures.

Indonesia initially planned to send about 221,000 people on the annual pilgrimage, and nearly 180,000 people had already paid for the journey, Religious Affairs Ministry data shows. The government said the pilgrims would be placed on next year's haj.

Fachrul said at the time of the cancellation that he had communicated with the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) and the House regarding the cancellation, but some lawmakers quickly fired back, saying he had not done so.

John said to Fachrul – a retired military general – that he had made numerous controversial moves as a minister.

The politician cited his past controversial support of a ban on the niqab in government compounds – a statement that Fachrul later backtracked from – and his past announcement of a plan to repatriate 689 people who had joined the Islamic State (IS) movement in the Middle East.

He warned Fachrul that the House could use its interpellation and inquiry rights against him or could write a letter to the President if he continued his controversies. "Don't underestimate us at the House [...] This should be the last [controversial move]."

John also highlighted a plan floated by Aceh to get their own, separate haj quota. The provincial administration was reportedly considering issuing a qanun (regulation) on the matter based on Law No. 44/1999 on Aceh’s special autonomy.

"Regions are trying to apply for haj quotas themselves. If that happens, then where's the government?" he said.

Muhammad Husni of the Gerindra Party said Fachrul had violated Law No. 8/2019 on the haj and umrah, which stipulated that matters related to haj funds should not be decided unilaterally by the government but should include the House.

"Logically speaking, we should decide on the cancellation together. The Minister said that he had coordinated with House Commission VIII but we never knew that," Husni said.

In response to the criticism, Fachrul apologized to the lawmakers during Thursday's hearing, saying the cancellation decision was not made by his ministry but by himself as a minister.

"I personally apologize to the leaders and all members of the House Commission VIII for this incident," said Fachrul.

The minister explained that at that time, he felt obliged to announce the cancellation as soon as possible because it had exceeded the June 1 deadline for the government to announce the year's haj departure date.

Indonesia initially expected Saudi Arabia to announce its final decision on the haj pilgrimage – which attracts millions of Muslims annually from around the world – on May 13. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has plunged the 2020 haj into doubt as Saudi authorities have yet to announce any decision about whether they will accept haj pilgrims this year.

"We needed to quickly give certainty to the pilgrims who had been waiting for the announcement," he said.


Iran Prayer Imam Says 'Our Missionaries Being Killed' In Latin America

June 21, 2020

In unprecedented remarks the Friday Prayer Imam of the city of Shiraz, southern Iran, has claimed that Iranian Shiite cleric-missionaries propagating Islam are being killed in South America.

Speaking at Friday prayers ceremony, June 20, the mid-ranking clergy, Lotfollah Dezhkam, stopped short of going into details but insisted that the Islamic Republic should train more missionaries and deploy them in different countries across the globe.

There have been no reports about any Shiite clerics being killed in Latin America and it is not clear what the Imam was referring to.

Brazil is one of the Islamic Republic's targets for propagating the Twelver-Shiite doctrine, Dezhkam said.

An institute directly supervised by the Islamic Republic Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Al-Mustafa International University (MIU), has in recent years trained an unknown number of Shiite missionaries to promote the faith in Latin America, especially in Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela.

Meanwhile, MIU also takes newly converted Shiites to Iran for religious studies and tours in Qom and Mashhad. Qom and Mashhad are home to important Twelver-Shiite seminaries in Iran, respectively.

During the coronavirus outbreak in Iran, MIU was singled out as the main factor in spreading the virus. MIU hosts hundreds of Chinese Muslims of Uighur ethnic minority who initially spread the deadly virus in the city of Qom south of the Iranian capital city Tehran.

First a medical school dean and later the Sunni Friday Imam of the city of Zahedan, Mawlana Abdol-Hamid announced that the coronavirus had entered Iran through Chinese students linked to MIU.

The revelation led to MIU's denial, accusing the Sunni Friday Prayer Imam of spreading lies.

MIU has so far trained 50,000 students from 122 nations. One teacher and advisor at Al-Mustafa, Mohsen Rabbani, served for decades as the Islamic Republic's top intelligence officer in Latin America and is wanted for his role in the 1994 AMIA terror attack in Buenos Aires, which claimed 85 lives.

Rabbani's top disciple and graduate of Al-Mustafa, Edgardo Ruben Suhail Assad, has established more than twenty Shiite religious centers in Latin America. Al-Mustafa and the Islamic Development Organization closely coordinate their efforts in sending missionaries abroad.




Pleas in SC against blacklisting of over 3,500 foreigners for alleged Tablighi activities

Jun 21, 2020

NEW DELHI: Multiple pleas have been filed in the Supreme Court by foreign nationals, who are presently in India, challenging the Centre's decisions of blacklisting over 3,500 citizens of 35 countries for their alleged involvement in Tablighi Jamaat activities.

Four writ petitions, including one by a Thai national who is seven months pregnant, have challenged the Centre's decision of April 2 by which 960 foreigners were blacklisted and another subsequent decision on June 4 by which over 2,500 foreign nationals were blacklisted for 10 years from travelling to India.

"The impugned decision, by its very unilateral nature, infringes the principle of natural justice, particularly ‘audi alteram partem' by blacklisting the said foreigners present in India without first granting an opportunity of being heard or notice of any form, and resultantly depriving the aggrieved foreign nationals of their right of locomotion and travelling back to the country of their citizenship,” the plea filed by the Thai woman said.

The petitions, filed through advocate Fuzail Ahmad Ayyubi and drafted by advocates Ibad Mushtaq and Ashima Mandla, contended that the en masse blacklisting of over 3,500 foreigners from 35 nations, who are currently in India without affording any opportunity to prima facie defend themselves, is an egregious and blatant violation of Article 21 of the Constitution.

It said that the sudden blacklisting, apart from registration of FIRs against such foreigners, led to the forfeiture of their passports by state authorities, thereby resulting in a complete deprivation of their personal liberty sans procedure established by law.

“The impugned decision, therefore, has been passed arbitrarily against the aggrieved foreign nationals, being devoid of any documentary proof or evidence to substantiate the allegations of alleged Tablighi activities, and in the absence of any opportunity being afforded to defend or to explain, is an affront to not only the right to life and personal liberty, guaranteed under Article 21 but also to the rudimental principles of natural justice”, the plea said.

The Thai woman said that she is in seven months pregnant and having been quarantined in March, like the other petitioners, she was released from quarantine only in late May.

She said she is still at a facility under restricted movements, without the avenue to go back to her home nation and experience the birth of her child with security and dignity, with her loved ones.

“In barely 50 words, the impugned decision as reflected in the press release dated April 2, 2020 has arbitrarily first forfeited the personal liberty of more than 960 foreign nationals, belonging to 35 countries, presently in India, having entered on valid tourist visas, by merely alleging their involvement in ‘Tablighi Jamaat Activities”' despite the guidelines of the Respondent No.1 (MHA (the Ministry of Home Affairs)) placing no bar on attending religious congregations or visiting religious places,” it said.

The plea said that the figure was recently been revised on June 4 and now more than 3,500 foreigners stand blacklisted.

“The Respondent No.1 (MHA) baselessly and arbitrarily passed a blanket ban on the aggrieved foreign nationals under the garb of alleged visa violations pursuant to alleged Tablighi activities, forcing such persons to remain in India under restricted movements,” it said.

The plea added that the decisions are based on an erroneous presumption and have equated the mere act of attending a religious congregation or a religious place of worship on the same footing as with Tablighi work such as preaching religious ideologies, making speeches in religious places and proselytization, negating any intelligible differentiation between the two separate and distinct activities.

The plea sought direction of the courts calling for record and thereby declaring the impugned decision of arbitrary and unilateral blacklisting of 960 foreigners by the MHA and the subsequent blacklisting of around 2,500 foreigners to be in violation of Article 21 and therefore void and unconstitutional.

It also sought direction to MHA and Ministry of External Affairs to remove the said foreigners from the blacklist and reinstate their visas and to facilitate them to return to their respective countries.


Muslim Student Among Petitioners Who Seek Supreme Court Recall Rath Yatra Decision

June 21, 2020

Bhubaneswar: A 19-year-old Muslim student from Odisha's Nayagarh district is among the 21 persons and organisations who have moved the Supreme Court seeking recall of its order staying the historic Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Supreme Court had on June 18 said that in the interest of public health and safety of citizens, this year's rath yatra, which was scheduled for June 23, at Puri in Odisha cannot be allowed and "Lord Jagannath won't forgive us if we allow" it.

The yatra is attended by lakhs of people from across the world.

Aftab Hossen, who moved the court over the rath yatra, is a final-year BA economics student at the Nayagarh Autonomous College and is now being referred to as the second Salabega of the state on social media.

Salabega was a Muslim man and a great devotee of Lord Jagannath.

During the three kilometre yatra from the main shrine to the Gundicha Temple, the lord's chariot stops for a while near the grave of Salabega located on the Grand Road as a mark of respect.

Salabega, who was the son of a Mughal subedar, occupies a special place among the devotional poets of Odisha. He lived in the first half of the 17th century.

Mr Hossen said he has been influenced by Lord Jagannath since his childhood and that his late grandfather Multab Khan was also a devotee.

The 19-year-old has filed an intervention application before the Supreme Court through his advocate PK Mohapatra.

Mr Hossen said his grandfather had constructed a Trinath (Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwar) temple at Itamati in 1960.

He said that he has also read several books on Lord Jagannath and developed devotion towards the "Lord of the Universe". Mr Hossen's father Imdad Hussain, mother Rashida Begum and younger brother Anmol have never opposed him worshipping the idol of Jagannath.

"I have not visited the temple as I am not allowed. I believe that I am a human being and there is one creator in the universe," he said.

Full report at:


Delhi riots: Bail to school owner, court says no evidence of PFI link

by Anand Mohan J

June 22, 2020

Granting bail to the owner of a school who was arrested in connection with the Northeast Delhi riots in February, a Delhi court has observed that the police “chargesheets is bereft of material showing the links of applicant with PFI, Pinjra Tod group and Muslim clerics”.

The court also said “it is prima facie not established that the applicant was present at the spot at the time of incident”.

Faisal Farooq, owner of Rajdhani Public School, was among eight people arrested in a case of rioting outside the school in the Shiv Vihar area on February 24. He has been in jail rebuts Delhi Police on links with PFI, presence at spot

since March 8. Farooq also owns Victoria Public School, and both his schools were damaged in the riots.

In a “brief note” shared by the Delhi Police on June 3 while filing the chargesheet, it was claimed that investigation into the rioting incident had revealed that Farooq had “links with prominent members of Popular Front of India, Pinjra Tod, Jamia Coordination Committee, Hazrat Nizamuddin Markaz and some other fundamental Muslim clerics, including Deoband”.

Police also claimed that it was on Farooq’s instructions that DRP Convent School, the school “adjacent and rival” to Rajdhani, two parking lots, and the Anil Sweets building were “systematically destroyed” by the mob.

Additional Sessions Judge Vinod Yadav, who granted bail to Faisal, noted there are contradictions in witness statements, and the investigating officer (IO) had tried to file a supplementary statement of a prosecution witness “to cover up the deficiency”.

According to the order, the first statement of the witness was “recorded probably” on March 8, in which he claimed to have seen the applicant in front of the gate of Rajdhani Public School around 1.30 pm. “He further claimed to have heard him asking the guard of the school to permit Muslim persons inside the school”. The order states that in his statement recorded by the Metropolitan Magistrate on March 11, “he did not say a word about having seen the applicant at the scene of occurrence or having heard stating anything to the guard of the school”.

The IO then tried to file a supplementary statement “on the same day wherein this witness claimed that he got frightened before the Ld. MM because of which he could not state anything about the applicant”, the order states.

On police allegations that a (gulel) sling was found on the roof of the school, the court, after going through records, noted that it was found 16 days after the incident. The court said that if the presence of the accused could not be established, then the gulel could not be attributed to him.

The police note also stated, “Farooq had visited Deoband just one day before the riots started, that is, on February 23.”

“Evidence of conspiracy is further brought out by the fact that on the day of the riots, that is, on February 24, many children from Muslim families left the school early, along with their parents, during the half-time recess itself,” police had claimed.

Farooq’s lawyers, R K Kochar, Gaurav Kochar and Gaurav Vashist argued before the court that the IPC sections against Farooq cannot be invoked since there was no material on record to substantiate his presence at the spot.

The court said that in none of the CCTV footage is the accused present, and “if it is prima facie noticeable that the accused was not present at the scene of occurrence then naturally, the evidence against him in respect of sections 397/395/436/455 IPC will fall short”.

On police allegations that the accused is “stated to have mobile conversations with one lady… who is stated to be having links with Saiful Islam Law Faculty”, the court observed that she was “in fact a reporter” with a newspaper.

Police had also said that Farooq had conversations with four other people, but the court noted that one of them was an advocate, another a local MLA whose children study in the same school, and the third person was the applicant’s cousin.

“Admittedly, the IO has not collected the call detail record of the above named persons. Except bald allegation, there is no material to substantiate that the applicant had conversed with the aforesaid persons in relation to communal riots. When the IO was confronted in this regard, then he stated that further investigation on the aspect of terror funding is underway… in the chargesheet there is hardly any material to substantiate the allegation of terror funding…,” the order read.

Full report at:


Army jawan killed as Pakistani troops shell forward areas along LoC, IB in Jammu and Kashmir

June 22, 2020

An Army jawan was killed on Monday as Pakistani troops opened fire and lobbed mortar shells at forward areas along the Line of Control (LoC) and the International Border (IB) in Jammu and Kashmir, officials said.

The heavy Pakistani firing and shelling were reported along the LoC in Poonch district’s Krishna Ghati sector and Rajouri’s Nowshera sector, and along the IB in Kathua district, the officials said.

An Army jawan, guarding a forward post, was critically injured after being hit by cross-border shelling in Nowshera sector, they said, adding that he succumbed to his injuries later.

He is the fourth Army personnel to be killed in Pakistani firing along the LoC in Rajouri and Poonch this month. Two soldiers were killed in Pakistani firing in Rajouri district on June 4 and 10, while another soldier fell to cross-border firing in Poonch on June 14.

There has been a spurt in Pakistani shelling along the border in Jammu and Kashmir this year with over 2,027 cases of violation of a ceasefire agreement being reported till June 10.

Earlier, a defence spokesman said, “At about 0330 hours today, Pak army initiated unprovoked ceasefire violation by firing of small arms and intense shelling with mortars along LoC in Krishnagati Sector in Poonch district,” a defense spokesman said.

“Again at about 0530 hours Pak army initiated unprovoked ceasefire violation in Nowshera sector, district Rajouri,” he said.

The Indian Army is retaliating befittingly, he said.

Along the International Border, Pakistani Rangers engaged in heavy firing on forward posts and villages in the Karol Matrai area of Hiranagar sector in Kathua district, an official said.

Full report at:


J&K Police: Pak national among 4 militants killed in 2 encounters

by Adil Akhzer

June 22, 2020

FOUR MILITANTS, including a Pakistani national, have been killed in two encounters in Srinagar and Kulgam, according to police.

“A total of two operations have taken place in the Valley in the last 24 hours. In Srinagar, three militants were killed on Sunday and they were all locals. In Kulgam, a foreign terrorist, JeM Commander Tayab Waleed, was killed. In both the operations, there was no collateral damage,” IGP Kashmir Vijay Kumar told The Indian Express on Sunday.

A cordon and search operation was launched in the Zadibal area of Srinagar, leading to a gunbattle on Sunday morning, in which three militants affiliated to the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) and Islamic State Jammu and Kashmir (ISJK) were killed.

Internet services were suspended in Srinagar district before the encounter.

“The hiding terrorists were repeatedly appealed to surrender through family members and community members of the area but they instead started firing indiscriminately upon the search party, which was retaliated leading to an encounter,” J&K police spokesperson said. “All the killed terrorists were affiliated with proscribed terror outfit HM/ ISJK.”

The three militants were identified as Srinagar resident Shakoor Farooq Langoo, Shahid Ahmad Bhat of Bijbehara’s Semthan and Mohsin from Srinagar’s Anchar, police said in the evening. Mohsin was missing since May 26, police sources said.

A Pakistani national was killed and two militants managed to escape during another encounter in Kulgam on Saturday, police sources said.

“The killed terrorist was identified as Tayab Waleed @ Imran Bhai @ Gazi Baba, a Pakistani national affiliated with proscribed terror outfit JeM. According to police records he was operational commander of JeM and was an expert in making IEDs besides being a sharpshooter,” the police spokesperson said.

Police said they have recovered a US-made M4 carbine from the encounter site.

Full report at:


Bail for 26/11 attacks plotter will strain ties with India: US attorney

June 21, 2020

Describing 26/11 convict Tahawwur Rana, a Pakistani-origin Canadian businessman as a flight risk, the US has opposed his release on bail, arguing that if he were to flee to Canada, he may escape the possibility of a death sentence in India.

Given the stakes, allowance of bail in any amount would not guarantee Rana’s presence in court. Granting bail would invite the possibility of embarrassing the United States in the conduct of its foreign affairs, straining its relationship with India, Assistant US Attorney John J Lulejian told a federal court in Los Angeles last week.

Rana, 59, who was released from jail on compassionate ground after testing positive for the COVID-19, was rearrested in Los Angeles on June 10 following an extradition request by India, where he is a declared fugitive.

On Friday, US District Judge Jacqueline Chooljian of the Central District of California scheduled his bond hearing for June 30. His attorney has been asked to submit his plea by June 22 and the federal government’s response is due by June 26.

In his submission on behalf of the US government, Lulejian urged the Los Angeles court that Rana be not released pending resolution of the extradition proceeding against him to India.

Moreover, to protect the US ability to meet its treaty obligations to India, the US attorney also requested the court to notify the parties within a reasonable time in advance of any contemplated release order.

Asserting that Rana is a flight risk, and arguing that his escape to Canada would jeopardize his extradition to India, the US attorney said the court “should detain” him without bond.

India seeks his arrest on a number of offences, including the conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit forgery for the purpose of cheating, and murder under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Rana, the US attorney said, is sought for his role in 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

The complaint details how Rana and his co-conspirator, David Headley, conspired with Lashkar-e-Taiba, which carried out the attacks that killed 166 people and injured hundreds more.

Lulejian argued that if Rana is extradited to India and the Indian courts convict him of the charges of conspiracy to commit murder and/or murder, he faces the possibility of the death penalty or life imprisonment.

In light of these serious penalties, Rana has every incentive to flee the US to a country that does not have an extradition treaty with India or a country that may not extradite him without assurances from India that it will not seek the death penalty, he told the court.

According to the extradition treaty between Canada and India, extradition may be refused when the offence for which extradition is requested is punishable with death under the laws of the requesting state and the laws of the requested state do not provide such punishment for the conduct constituting the offence, unless India assures Canada that the death penalty shall not be executed, if imposed.

Thus, if Rana were to flee to Canada, he may escape the possibility of being sentenced to death for his alleged role in facilitating the murder of 166 men, women and children. Rana should not be given the opportunity to potentially create such a result, which would be an affront to the victims and their families, as well as the Indian legal system,”said the US attorney.

In addition to being a flight risk, Rana, a convicted terrorist, poses a danger to the community, the US attorney said.

As detailed above, a federal jury convicted him of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism in Denmark and to Lashkar-e-Taiba.

The fact that Rana conspired with Headley and members of a terrorist organization, knowing what would happen, demonstrates his lack of respect for human life, Lulejian argued.

At Rana’s trial in Chicago, the US presented evidence that but for the intervention of law enforcement aganecies, attackers were planning to storm the Jyllands Posten facility in Copenhagen, take hostages, behead innocent employees of the newspaper, throw their heads to the street below, and set up a stronghold fight to the death with Danish forces.

Further, Headley testified at trial that after Rana, who provided him the cover to conduct surveillance of Mumbai, learned that Lashkar-e-Taiba mercilessly slaughtered approximately 166 men, women and children in that city, he praised the attacks, stating that the victims deserved it, he informed the Los Angeles court.

If India convicts Rana of the charges of conspiracy to commit murder and/or murder, he does not face a sentence of years, but instead a potential life sentence or the death penalty. Thus, the justification used for shortening Rana’s sentence is not applicable in the instant case where the penalties are more significant, the attorney said.

Asserting that Rana poses threat to the community if released on bail, the US attorney said in the years since the attacks in Mumbai and the plans to attack the Danish newspaper, he has never publicly expressed remorse for his conduct, disavowed his actions, or his association with Lashkar-e-Taiba, which remains an active terrorist organization.

Full report at:


Delhi on high alert after reports of terrorists from J&K attempting to enter city

Jun 22, 2020

NEW DELHI: Delhi Police forces have been put on high alert after intelligence reports about the possibility of four to five terrorists from Jammu and Kashmir attempting to enter the national capital with an intention to carry out a terror attack.

Intelligence agencies have alerted police that the terrorists are likely to enter Delhi via road using a bus, car or taxi. Delhi Police has been kept on high alert and an alert has also been issued at all bus stations and railway stations.

All the District Deputy Commissioners of Police (DCP), Special Cell, crime branch and other units of Delhi have been placed on the alert.

Full report at:




Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Most Popular Foreign Leader In Pakistan: Minister


June 20, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is the most popular foreign leader in Pakistan as he has taken bilateral relations to a new height, Pakistani Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said in an exclusive interview with Arab News.

“Ever since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman took charge, he has taken the bilateral relationship to a totally different level,” the minister said.

During his visit to Pakistan in February 2019, the crown prince told Prime Minister Imran Khan: “Consider me an ambassador of Pakistan in Saudi Arabia.”

Chaudhry said the visit “was truly remarkable and memorable. Prime Minister Imran Khan hasn’t visited any other country more than Saudi Arabia, and similarly the crown prince himself visited Pakistan with a large delegation.”

The two countries have always enjoyed historic and diverse relations despite recurring changes in Pakistan’s political landscape.

Every Pakistani government has enjoyed close ties with the Kingdom, Chaudhry said, adding: “It’s a people-to-people relationship, and Pakistanis have a huge regard for Saudi Arabia.”

He said Saudi Arabia has stood with Pakistan through thick and thin, adding: “In all our challenges, the first country we’ve looked toward is Saudi Arabia, and the Kingdom was always there to help us. You can imagine from this the kind of respect both countries have for each other.”

Praising the crown prince’s Vision 2030, Chaudhry said the plan is not only beneficial for the Kingdom but for the entire Muslim world.

“Vision 2030 has two dimensions. One is the domestic policy of Saudi Arabia and another dimension is the Muslim world, as to how we can shun the perception of extremism,” the minister said, adding that the concept of Vision 2030 is based on education, knowledge, innovation, technology and science.

“It’s about the cultural change that the crown prince wants to bring not only in Saudi Arabia but for the whole Muslim population, which indeed is a way forward,” Chaudhry said.

“Pakistan really respects Vision 2030, and I believe it’s actually a forward-looking agenda for Muslims all over the world,” he added.

“In Pakistan, we’ve been through a tormenting war against extremism, where we’ve suffered greatly. No one can understand better than us the importance of getting rid of extremism. We need a cultural change and adaptation of the modern world, especially in science and technology. These are obviously fundamental elements for progress and that’s demonstrated in Vision 2030.”

During Chaudhry’s visit to Saudi Arabia last year, he met the crown prince and discussed cooperation in science and technology.

Chaudhry said amid the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a huge opportunity for the two countries to partner with each other.

“Pakistan has done wonders in the manufacturing of medical and protective equipment. We’d like Saudi investment and cooperation in this regard to further expand our capacity to manufacture medical equipment,” he added.

Chaudhry expressed hope for an enhancement of bilateral cooperation in science and technology after the pandemic, especially precision agriculture, which uses satellites and drones to manage crops.

“We’re way ahead than most other countries in precision agriculture, so we’d like to share our experience with Saudi Arabia,” he said.


Organization of Islamic Cooperation to hold emergency meeting on Jammu and Kashmir

June 22, 2020

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir will hold an emergency meeting via videoconference on Monday to discuss the latest situation in the disputed territory.

The online meet will bring together the foreign ministers of the Jammu And Kashmir Contact Group member states: Azerbaijan, Niger, Pakistan Saudi Arabia and Turkey, the OIC said in a statement.

“The meeting is part of a series of continuous Jammu And Kashmir Contact Group meetings to address the issue,” OIC Secretary General Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen was quoted as saying.

The OIC, founded in 1967 and consists of 67 countries, is the collective voice of the Muslim world to ensure and safeguard their economic and political interests.

Kashmir is held by India and Pakistan in parts but claimed by both in full. A small sliver of the region is also controlled by China.

Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars -- in 1948, 1965, and 1971. Two of them have been over Kashmir.

Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against the Indian rule for independence or unification with neighboring Pakistan.

According to several human rights organizations, thousands of people have been killed in the conflict since 1989.

On Aug. 5, 2019 the Indian government revoked Article 370 and other related provisions from its Constitution, scrapping the country’s only Muslim-majority state with its autonomy. It was also split into two federally administered territories.

Full report at:


Pakistan’s local govts disconnected from citizens: UNDP


June 22, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) says that local governments around the world are at the forefront of the current Covid-19 crisis, but in Pakistan these institutions are to an extent disconnected from its citizens and “saddled with a governance style which is top down, reactive and authoritative”.

This has led to the weakening of the essential state-society social contract leading to marginalisation, group grievances and conflict and social resilience in the country, UNDP says in its first ‘Covid-19 — Pakistan Socio-economic Impact Assessment and Response Plan’.

Despite efforts to provide an adequate response to the pandemic in Pakistan, results remain poor. Traders and businessmen are dissatisfied by the federal government’s unilateral decisions affecting their businesses. Similarly, the medical health professionals are highlighting the unavailability of PPE (personal protective equipment) and the lack of an efficient system of testing and tracking.

The poorer segments of the population are worried as they have lost their livelihoods, with many people relying on daily wages. As the pandemic has hit almost every segment of society and in the absence of a consensus on the strategy to adopt, frustration, insecurity and uncertainty are widespread, the report says.

The UNDP report, released on weekend, says that the Covid-19 crisis is threatening social cohesion within countries, as its impact reaches deep into our society, on the behaviour of individuals, and affects well-being and mental health. Conversely, Pakistan offers a very productive avenue for further integration and assimilation of the relation between social cohesion and community resilience.

“Political engagement and social dialogue, community empowerment and participation, and governance and rule of law — these three together determine the state-citizen relationship, which eventually determines the implementation of the government’s response to such a crisis,” according to the report.

One among many challenges is the lack of coordination, direction, and availability of accessible information on the pandemic at the local level. In absence of a coordination mechanism and platforms, the relief and emergency response efforts remain ineffective and lead to duplication and the waste of resources, the UNDP report says.

Elected local governments would have been effective not only in implementing federal and provincial decisions but in their localisation, due to the trust they enjoy within the population. In the past, the state-society disconnect in Pakistan’s case has often been filled by violent extremist organised actors who have exploited these grievances and the neglect and lack of state support in times of crises to win support among vulnerable groups.

It is believed that the presence of elected local governments would have created an effective bridge between the government and the population, defusing the current situation in which the citizens have been losing trust in governmental decisions.

In line with global practices, the local governments in Pakistan do have a constitutional mandate to become active stakeholders in emergency and epidemic or pandemic situation like Covid-19. One of their common functions is to “assist in provision of relief in the event of any fire, flood, hailstorm, earthquake, epidemic or other natural calamity and assist relevant authorities in relief activities;” and in “emergency planning and relief”.

In short, currently elected local governments are not present in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Balochistan, while functional local governments are present only in Sindh and Islamabad Capital Territory to abide by their constitutional role. In the three provinces the local governments were rolled back by the provincial governments in 2019.

In the absence of local governments in three provinces, the district administrations, provincial institutions like relief departments and provincial disaster management authorities or PDMAs are implementing the decisions, policies and orders of both the federal and provincial governments related to health, security and relief measures in respective jurisdictions.

The current crisis requires clarity on who is doing what and who is making decisions and controlling resources. This will enable the local governments to develop their responses in line with national priorities.

Although there is a national disaster management plan, the pandemic highlights that local governments also need strong emergency management systems like District Disaster Management Authorities that can identify vulnerable segments and respond to challenges quickly. Local governments need their own adequate revenue, or smooth central transfers to mobilise funds quickly, report emphasised.

Full report at:


Mengal hints at ‘more political changes’ in near future


June 22, 2020

ISLAMABAD: After his second meeting with Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman in as many days, Balochistan National Party (BNP-M) leader Sardar Akhtar Mengal on Sunday hinted at more political changes in the country in the near future.

“In our meeting, we discussed the changes that have already taken place in the country and the changes which are about to come,” said Mr Mengal without elaborating, while talking to reporters after his meeting with the JUI-F chief.

“We can’t show you all the cards,” the BNP-M chief said with a smile when asked about the matters that had come under discussion between the two leaders, leaving the reporters guessing whether they had discussed any possible change at the centre or in Balochistan, where the two parties are together on the opposition benches.

The BNP-M chief, who had last week created political ripples in the country by announcing his party’s decision to quit the PTI-led ruling coalition at the centre, visited the residence of the Maulana in less than 24 hours after his meeting with a two-member government team on Saturday night.

Fazl asks BNP-M chief to contact other PTI allies

Though, the first meeting between the government and Mr Mengal had ended without making any progress, both the sides had agreed to continue talks.

Mr Mengal said he had “personal relations” with Maulana Fazl and the JUI-F and the BNP-M had been sitting together in the opposition in Balochistan.

When asked if the BNP-M had finally decided to become part of the opposition in the parliament, Mr Mengal said talks were still underway. He, however, said his party had now come closer to the opposition parties.

“The day we formally join the opposition, we will show you the real opposition,” said Mr Mengal in an apparent criticism against the two major opposition parties — the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Pakistan Peoples Party.

Mr Mengal said none of his demands was unconstitutional or illegal. “If our demands are unconstitutional and illegitimate, then the state, the government and the state institutions should clearly tell us so that we can see which door of any Pir we should knock at,” the BNP chief said while referring to the six-point agreement his party had reached with the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) at the time of government formation after the 2018 general elections in the country.

Maulana Fazl said the BNP-M’s decision to quit the ruling coalition had rekindled hopes. He was of the view that other coalition partners of the PTI should also follow the BNP-M, saying that these parties should also “stand with the truth”.

The JUI-F chief expressed the hope that Mr Mengal would contact other allies of the PTI and convince them to come out of the ruling coalition by telling them that “this is not the time to support the government.”

The Maulana said with the sinking of economy and due to “bad performance”, the PTI had lost whatever popularity it had.

“The fake prime minister has no realisation that his popularity has also waned with the country’s economy,” he said. He asked the rulers “to admit their failure and resign.”

Mr Mengal and Maulana Fazl had addressed a news conference in Islamabad on Saturday after attending a multi-party conference of the opposition parties in Balochistan hosted by the JUI-F and presented a charter of demands before the government.

Mr Mengal had said the decision to quit the ruling coalition was a party decision which could not be changed by him.

“The decision to go back to the government is not in my hand. It is the decision of my party’s central executive committee and no individual can change it,” he had said.

Full report at:


Imran lauds boxing legend Muhammad Ali for his exceptional beliefs

June 22, 2020

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday paid tribute to world renowned heavy weight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, saying that he was the greatest sportsman owing to his conviction that humans have “a higher purpose of existence”.

“I believe he was the greatest sportsman, not only because he was talented, intelligent & courageous, but because his beliefs went beyond material considerations to a conviction that humans, unlike animals, had a higher purpose of existence” the premier said, in a post on Twitter.

Imran Khan


I believe he was the greatest sportsman, not only because he was talented, intelligent & courageous, but because  his beliefs went beyond material considerations to a conviction that humans, unlike animals, had a higher purpose of existence.

YouTube @YouTube


17:26 - 21 Jun 2020

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The prime minister also tagged a video recording titled “Muhammad Ali’s biggest fight was not in the ring” showing Ali’s professional life, beliefs and different aspects of his journey.

“In standing up for his beliefs in the face of all odds, he sacrificed the best years of his sporting life & lucrative earnings. His strength & courage continue to inspire people across the world even today,” the prime minister added.

Muhammad Ali was a US boxer, philanthropist and social activist and was universally acclaimed as one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century.

He became an Olympic gold medalist in 1960 and the world heavyweight boxing champion in 1964.

Following his suspension for refusing military service, Ali reclaimed the heavyweight title two more times during the 1970s, winning his famed and ferocious bouts against Joe Frazier and George Foreman.

Full report at:


Every Pakistani woman has potential to lead from the front, Bilawal says

June 22, 2020

KARACHI: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Sunday paid homage to Pakistani women, saying that every woman in the country holds the potential to lead from the front like Benazir Bhutto.

“I will tell the women of Pakistan, you all have the potential to become [great leaders like] Benazir Bhutto,” the PPP leader said in a video message on the occasion of the 67th birth anniversary of his mother and former prime minister.

The PPP chairman said that after all the years that have passed since her death in 2007, the nation still remembers Benazir’s exemplary leadership, “who had valiantly fought for democracy in the country for 30 years”.

Bilawal noted that under the leadership of female prime ministers, countries like New Zealand, Germany and Taiwan have impeccably responded to the coronavirus with effective and timely measures.

He said that women leaders around the world have handled public health, the economic fallout, and social impact of the global pandemic much better than most countries.

“We miss Shaheed Benazir Bhutto very much today,” he said.

Touching upon the deceased PPP leader’s contributions to the field of politics, Bilawal said: “Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto had fought against dictators and for the restoration of the Constitution.”

“She [Shaheed Benazir Bhutto] finally gave her life for the protection of Constitution,” he rued.

Full report at:


Renowned religious scholar Allama Talib Jauhari passes away

June 22, 2020

KARACHI: Renowned religious scholar Allama Talib Jauhari passed away in Karachi late on Sunday night, his son Riaz Jauhari confirmed in the wee hours of Monday.

The well-known scholar had been undergoing treatment at a private hospital for several days and was on a ventilator. He was suffering from a heart condition. Riaz Jauhari confirmed his death and said that the body had been shifted to Ancholi Imambargah.

Known for his powerful oratory, Allama Jauhari was not only a religious scholar but also a poet, historian and philosopher as well. He also authored many books.

Allama Jauhari was born in Patna, British India, on August 27, 1938. His father Maulana Muhammad Mustafa Jauhar was a prominent scholar and an Urdu poet known for his exceptional poetry, according to media reports.

Allama Jauhari studied Islamic theology in Najaf, Iraq, under Ayatullah al Uzma Sayyid Abu al-Qasim al-Khoei and late Ayatullah Sayyid Baqir Al Sadr. He was also awarded the Sitara-e-Imtiaz by the government of Pakistan.

Condolences pour in

Various political and religious personalities have expressed deep sorrow and grief over the demise of Allama Jauhari.

Prime Minister Imran Khan sent his message condolence to the bereaved family, paying rich tributes to the late scholar. He expressed grief over the passing of Allama Jauhari and his condolence to the family.

Full report at:


2 soldiers killed in militant attack near Afghanistan border: Pakistani military

Jun 21, 2020

PESHAWAR: Suspected militants ambushed a Pakistani army vehicle in a former Taliban and al-Qaida stronghold near the Afghanistan border, triggering a shootout that killed two soldiers, the army said Sunday.

It said two soldiers were also wounded in Saturday night's attack near the border village of Ghariom in North Waziristan and that troops retaliated and killed one of the attackers in an ensuing exchange of fire.

The army provided no further details and only said troops later cleared a nearby militant compound in North Waziristan, a former tribal region that had served as a militant base until recent years when the Pakistani military said its successive operations there had cleared the area of the Taliban.

Full report at:




MI5 under fresh scrutiny after latest terror attack

21 June 2020

The dust has not yet fully settled on yesterday evening’s terror attack in Reading and the British security service (MI5) has already come under scrutiny over the incident. 

The BBC is quoting security sources as claiming that the suspect, Libyan national Khairi Saadallah, was known to MI5.

According to these security sources, Saadallah, who was granted asylum in the UK, had come to MI5’s attention following a tip off that he harbored intentions to travel to Syria, presumably for terrorist purposes.

Saadallah, 25, attacked and killed three people with a knife in Forbury Gardens in central Reading at 7pm on Saturday, 20 June. 

He injured a further three persons, two of whom have since been discharged from hospital. The third injured person is not believed to have sustained life threatening injuries.

Thames Valley Police said this morning the attack is being treated as terrorism and that Counter Terrorism Policing South East is in charge of the investigation.

MI5 is believed to have briefly investigated the Libyan suspect before swiftly concluding he did not pose a “genuine threat” or an “immediate risk”.

Crucially the security service failed to open a case file on Saadallah which could have made him a target for future investigation.

More broadly, MI5 and the wider British security apparatus are likely to come under fire for reducing the UK’s official terrorism threat level from “severe” to “substantial” in November 2019, thus potentially lowering defenses against attackers.


France brings home 10 Daesh children from Syria

June 22, 2020

PARIS, France: The government said Monday it had brought home 10 French children of fighters overnight from a refugee camp in Syria, the latest in a piecemeal repatriation process since Daesh was ousted from its Syrian base in March 2019.

“France has carried out the return of ten French minors, orphans or humanitarian cases, who were in camps in northeast Syria,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

“These children have been turned over to French judicial authorities, are receiving medical treatment and have been taken in by social services,” it said.

The ministry did not provide details on their parents.

France has now repatriated a total of 28 children from war-torn Syria, where hundreds of its citizens went to fight along Daesh insurgents as they tried to establish a so-called “caliphate.”

Rights groups have urged the government to quickly bring home at least the minors who were brought by their parents to the conflict zone or born there during the years of fighting.

But many of the estimated 300 French children being held in the Kurdish-run camps in Syria are with their mothers of fathers, and France has insisted that French nationals must face local justice.

Critics say this stance exposes the families of French fighters to inhumane treatment and psychological trauma.

The foreign ministry said Monday it had “thanked” Kurdish leaders for their cooperation in an operation carried out “because of the particularly vulnerable situation these children were in, and with the authorizations provided by local authorities.”

Some 12,000 foreigners — 4,000 women and 8,000 children — are being held at three camps for displaced persons in northeast Syria, most at Al-Hol, where aid groups say they suffer malnutrition and disease.

Kurdish officials have called on countries to take back their detained citizens, warning that they do not have the resources to guard prisoners indefinitely.

Full report at:


UK police declare Reading stabbings 'terrorist incident'

Ahmet Gürhan Kartal 



British police on Sunday declared a recent stabbing incident that killed three people in Reading a terrorist incident.

"Counter Terrorism Policing can now confirm that the stabbing incident that happened in Reading last night (20/6), has now been declared a terrorist incident," Thames Valley Police said in a statement.

Officers from Counter Terrorism Policing South East (CTPSE) have been working closely with Thames Valley Police's Major Crime Department throughout the night, it said.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon, Senior National Coordinator for the Counter Terrorism Policing network, has this morning "declared the incident a terrorist incident, and CTPSE will be taking over the investigation," according to the statement.

Local police earlier said a murder investigation had been launched into the incident in which a knife-wielding man killed three people and seriously wounded three others.

Police said a 25-year-old man "was detained at the scene and has been arrested on suspicion of murder."

"We will be working closely with our partners over the coming days and weeks to support the Reading community during this time, as well as with CTPSE as they progress their investigation," said Chief Constable John Campbell of Thames Valley Police.

"Police cordons continue to be in place and are likely to be for some time as CTPSE work further to investigate this incident and establish exactly what happened," he added.

Police last night said they arrived at the scene at around 7.00 p.m. in Reading's Forbury Gardens shortly after a Black Lives Matter protest.

"There is no indication that this incident is linked to the Black Lives Matter protest that took place in Reading today," police said.

"My thoughts are with all of those affected by the appalling incident in Reading and my thanks to the emergency services on the scene," Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote on Twitter.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said she was "deeply concerned to hear reports of an incident in Reading."

Full report at:


UK: At least 3 killed in 'terror-related' attack

Ahmet Gürhan Kartal 



At least three people were killed late Saturday in a "terror-related" stabbing in the English town of Reading, according to local media.

Thames Valley Police said a male suspect is in custody following the attack in Reading’s Forbury Gardens shortly after a Black Lives Matter protest.

“There is no indication that this incident is linked to the Black Lives Matter protest that took place in Reading today,” police said.

Royal Berkshire Hospital said at least two people are being treated in its emergency service with critical wounds. Media reports said 12 people have been stabbed but police did not confirm the number of casualties.

Sky News said the incident is being treated as “terror-related,” citing security sources.

“My thoughts are with all of those affected by the appalling incident in Reading and my thanks to the emergency services on the scene,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote on Twitter.

Home Secretary Priti Patel is “deeply concerned to hear reports of an incident in Reading.”

Full report at:


Iran blasts Europe over opposing end to arms embargo

Handan Kazancı  


Iran on Friday blasted Britain, France, and Germany for their opposition to lifting a UN arms embargo set to expire in October.

“E3 must stop public face-saving & muster the courage to state publicly what they admit privately: their failure to fulfill even own JCPOA [2015 Iran nuclear deal] duties due to total impotence in resisting US bullying,” Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, posted on Twitter.

“Behind facade, E3 are accessories to [US and Israeli leaders] Trump & Netanyahu—& in no position to counsel Iran,” he added.

Earlier on Friday, the foreign ministers of Germany, France, and the UK said after meeting in Berlin that Iran’s nuclear program, its ballistic missile tests and “destabilizing regional activities” remain a serious concern for Europe.

“We recall that the EU embargoes on conventional arms exports and missile technology will remain in force until 2023,” they stressed.

UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which enshrined the 2015 nuclear deal between world powers and Tehran, envisages easing the arms embargo on Iran starting this October.

Earlier this month, the US proposed a draft UN Security resolution to “indefinitely” extend the arms embargo against Iran, but Russia and China signaled their opposition.

In 2015, world powers including the US, China, Russia, France, Germany, and the UK agreed to lift economic sanctions on Iran in return for Tehran agreeing to limit its nuclear activity to civilian purposes.

But in 2018 US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the deal and stepped up pressure on Tehran by reimposing broader sanctions.

Full report at:


Arab world


Saudi Arabia supports Egypt’s ‘right to protect western borders’ from terrorism

21 June 2020

Saudi Arabia says it supports Egypt’s “right to protect its western borders” with Libya from “terrorism,” according to a statement from the Kingdom’s foreign ministry.

“The Kingdom’s government affirms that the security of the Arab Republic of Egypt is an integral part of the security of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the entire Arab nation, and the Kingdom stands with Egypt in its right to defend its borders and people from extremist tendencies and terrorist militias and their supporters in the region,” read the foreign ministry statement.

Saudi Arabia’s announcement of support comes one the same day Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi warned that advances by Turkey-backed forces in Libya could prompt an Egyptian military intervention in the neighboring country.

"Any direct intervention by Egypt has become internationally legitimate, whether under the UN charter on self-defense or based on the sole legitimate authority elected by the Libyan people: the Libyan parliament," Sisi said.

Saudi Arabia said it would support Sisi and Egypt in its “right to protect its western borders from terrorism.”

Egypt’s Sisi launched a political initiative earlier this month, which he called the “Cairo initiative,” in the hopes of paving a path toward normalcy in Libya and warned against using military tactics to resolve the crisis.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia calls on the international community to fulfill its responsibilities and respond to the calls and initiative of His Excellency President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to reach a comprehensive solution that affirms the safety and security of Libyan lands, restore institutions and eliminate terrorism and extremist militias, and put an end to illegal foreign interventions that fuel terrorism in the region,” the Saudi Arabian Foreign Ministry statement concluded.


Saudi Minister: Security of Egypt, Saudi Arabia ‘indivisible’ amid tensions in Libya

22 June 2020

The security of Egypt and Saudi Arabia is “indivisible”, Saudi Minister of State for African Affairs Ambassador Ahmed Kattan said on Sunday.

“The strong statement issued by Saudi Arabia regarding the statements of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi about Libya reflects the strength and resilience of the Saudi-Egyptian relations. Indeed, Egypt’s security is an integral part of the Kingdom’s security, and the Kingdom’s security is an integral part of Egypt’s security,” Kattan said on Twitter.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Tensions have been escalating in Libya and between the countries which back the two warring parties in it, the Libyan National Army (LNA), commanded by Khalifa Haftar and the Government of National Accord (GNA), led by Fayez al-Serraj.

Turkey, which backs the GNA, has also been ramping up its military intervention in Libya recently.

On Saturday, Sisi said that his country has a legitimate right to intervene in Libya and ordered the army to be prepared to carry out missions if necessary.

He said: “Any direct intervention from the Egyptian state has now acquired international legitimacy,” adding that Egypt had received “direct threats” from “terrorist militias and mercenaries” supported by foreign countries.

Earlier in June, Egypt had called for a ceasefire in Libya, Sisi added that Egypt has always been reluctant to intervene in Libya but “the situation now is different.”

“If some people think that they can cross the Sirte-Jufra frontline, this is a red line for us,” he said.

After, Sisi’s speech, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement of support to Egypt and affirmed is solidarity with it in all the measures it takes to safeguard its security.

The ministry also added: “The Kingdom stands with Egypt in its right to defend its borders and people from extremism and terrorist militias and their supporters in the region.”

“The Kingdom calls on the international community to shoulder its responsibilities and respond to the calls and initiative of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to reach a comprehensive solution that confirms the safety and security of Libyan territory restore institutions and eliminate terrorism and extremist militias, and put an end to illegal foreign interventions that fuel terrorism in the region.”

Foreign Ministry 🇸🇦


• 21h

Replying to @KSAmofaEN

#Statement | The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia reaffirms that the security of the Arab Republic of #Egypt is an integral part of the security of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the entire Arab nation

Foreign Ministry 🇸🇦


#Statement | The Kingdom stands with #Egypt in its right to defend its borders and people from extremism and terrorist militias and their supporters in the region


3:33 PM - Jun 21, 2020

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Egypt’s army, the biggest in Middle East, stands ready amid escalating Libya tensions

21 June 2020

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ordered his army on Saturday to stand ready carry out any mission outside the country, if necessary, amid high tensions over Turkey's intervention in Libya, Reuters reported.

Earlier this year, the Global Firepower (GFP) 2020 index ranked the Egyptian army as the strongest in the Middle East region, overtaking the Turkish army.

Al-Sisi's comments come amid worsening conditions in next-door Libya, where Egypt backs the forces of the Libyan National Army in the country's ongoing civil war.

The LNA has recently lost ground to the UN-recognized Government of National Accord, backed by Turkey, which has refused to accept the Egyptian-brokered Cairo Initiative ceasefire deal.

On Sunday, Egypt’s foreign minister told Al Arabiya that any threat to Egyptian or Arab security will receive a response.

Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri said Egypt is coordinating with regional and international powers active in Libya, stressing that a “military solution is the last option for Egypt to defend its security.”

“We refuse Turkey’s attempt to expand in Libya,” Shukri told Al Arabiya. “Ankara’s expansion in Syria, Iraq and Libya is in violation of international legitimacy.”

The foreign minister also said that Egypt is coordinating with Tunisia and Algeria and the countries have a “shared vision” for Libya.

“The time has come for serious efforts to stabilize Libya,” Shukri said.

The Egyptian army’s ranking in the GFP 2020 index takes into consideration manpower, airpower, land forces and natural resources in addition to others.

Egypt is ranked 9 out of 138 out of the global countries considered for the annual GFP review, according to its website. Both Egypt and Turkey are considered regional powers, according to the index, in addition to 13 other countries including Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Israel.

Earlier this month, Egypt called for a ceasefire in Libya as part of an initiative that also proposed an elected leadership council for the country.

Full report at:


Israeli warplanes fly low over Beirut despite Lebanon's complaint to UN Security Council

21 June 2020

Israeli fighter jets have once against violated Lebanon’s airspace and flew at low altitudes over the capital Beirut, irrespective of a recent complaint by Lebanese authorities to the United Nations Security Council about the Tel Aviv regime’s infringement on the Arab country’s sovereignty.

The state-run National News Agency reported that the aircraft circled over several neighborhoods of Beirut on Sunday, causing many Beirut residents to take to social media platforms to voice their irritation.

Beirut residents say the Israeli overflights were much louder and longer in duration this time compared to previous ones.

“Just another Sunday afternoon in Beirut enjoying the sound of Israeli fighter jets,” one user wrote on Twitter.

Israeli warplanes also flew over the towns and cities of Tyre, Sidon, Hasbaya, Arkoub, Mount Hermon, the occupied Shebaa Farms and Golan Heights at low altitudes.

The jets carried out mock raids over Nabatieh city and Iqlim al-Tuffah region in southern Lebanon.

Late on June 4, Israeli jets used Lebanese airspace to conduct an attack on a military facility on the outskirts of Masyaf, located about 45 kilometers (27 miles) west of the central Syrian city of Hama.

Syria’s official news agency SANA reported back then that the country’s air defenses had intercepted and shot down a number of Israeli missiles before they reached their targets.

SANA, citing an unnamed military source, added the airstrikes caused material damage in the targeted area but left no casualties.

The development took place just a day after Prime Minister Hassan Diab declared that there had been over 1,000 Israeli violations of Lebanon’s sovereignty within the past five months alone.

Earlier this month, Lebanese President Michel Aoun condemned Israel’s increasing incursions into Lebanese airspace during a meeting with the UN's top official in Lebanon, Jan Kubis.

Aoun denounced the overflights as a clear violation of UN Resolution 1701.

Back on April 2, Lebanon lodged a complaint to the United Nation against the Tel Aviv regime for violating the country's airspace after Israeli military aircraft carried out airstrikes on multiple targets in Syria’s central province of Homs.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants has filed a complaint before the UN Security Council in New York over the dangerous Israeli violation of Lebanese sovereignty, after three Israeli aircraft bombed Syrian sites from the Lebanese airspace, which represented a threat to Lebanese civilians,” the ministry said in a statement at the time.

The Lebanese foreign ministry then urged the Security Council to “put a permanent end to the Israeli violations,” noting that “Israel violates the Lebanese aerial, maritime and territorial sovereignty on a daily basis.”

Israel violates Lebanon's airspace on an almost daily basis, claiming the flights serve surveillance purposes.

Lebanon's government, the Hezbollah resistance movement and the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) have repeatedly condemned the overflights, saying they are in clear violation of UN Resolution 1701 and the country's sovereignty.

UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which brokered a ceasefire in the war of aggression Israel launched against Lebanon in 2006, calls on Tel Aviv to respect Beirut's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Full report at:


Dissident Saudi video blogger warned by Canadian police he is a target

21 June 2020

Canadian police have warned Saudi Arabian dissident video blogger and activist, Omar Abdulaziz, who is living in exile in Montreal, that he is a “potential target” of officials back home and that he needs to take precautions to protect himself.

Abdulaziz, who had a close association and worked with Jamal Khashoggi, the murdered Saudi dissident and well-known journalist for the Washington Post newspaper, told the British daily newspaper Guardian that he believed he was facing a threat to his safety, and that the Canadian officials had credible information about a possible plan to harm him.

“[The Canadian authorities] received some information regarding my situation that I might be a potential target,” Abdulaziz said.

He added, “MbS [Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman] and his group or – I don’t know – his team, they want to harm me. They want to do something, but I don’t know whether it’s assassination, kidnapping, I don’t know – but something not OK for sure.”

Abdulaziz said it was the first time that he had directly been called by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), which is the country’s federal police force.

“They asked me, ‘What do you think about it?’ I said, ‘I’m happy,’” Abdulaziz told the Guardian, laughing. “I feel that I’m doing something. You know, if you’re not doing anything that bothers MbS, that means you’re not working very well.”

The Saudi dissident said he believed that such alleged threats emanated from the ultra-conservative kingdom as a way to stifle dissent, but that he would continue to challenge the ruling Riyadh regime.

“I don’t want to tell you that I’m scared. I’m not, honestly. But you have to take some precautions to be ready,” Abdulaziz pointed out.

An attorney for the Saudi dissident confirmed the account.

“In his previous contacts with the Canadian government, he was always informed about the general threats and risks to him, but this time it is different,” Alaa Mahajna said.

He added, “The warning about serious threats to his life was different this time. It was formal and conveyed with a clear sense of urgency and advice to take precautions. It felt more credible and more concrete.”

Abdulaziz highlighted that he still felt safe in Canada despite the recent threat.

“At the end of the day, I’m fine. I’m OK here in Canada. I hope that they’re not going to do anything stupid,” the Saudi activist said.

Abdulaziz has spoken publicly about his campaign against the Saudi regime’s propaganda and its use of internet trolls on Twitter.

Last year, he wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post and said he believed the Riyadh regime’s “coordinated campaign of harassment” was related to his work to combat Saudi trolls on Twitter, which he and Khashoggi called “electronic bees.”

Abdulaziz and Khashoggi had been reportedly seeking to mobilize an army of volunteers to counter the trolls, before the Washington Post columnist was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2, 2018.

“That all changed with the rise of MbS. Saudi Twitter gradually morphed into a propaganda platform, with the government deploying trolls and pressuring influencers to amplify its messages,” Abdulaziz wrote in the op-ed.

“More than 30 influencers told me that the Saudi government blackmailed them with material obtained by hacking their phones. They were given two options: Tweet propaganda or have your private content, including pictures, released on Twitter.” the video blogger and activist, who has nearly half a million Twitter followers, wrote in the Post last year.

Meanwhile, the son of another Saudi exile living in Canada has expressed concern that his father, Saad Aljabri, could be targeted by Saudi agents in the North American country.

“There have been genuine concerns about attempts to induce harm,” Khalid Aljabri said in a recent interview with the Globe and Mail newspaper.

Canadian authorities have voiced concern about the arrest and detention of Saad al-Jabri’s two adult children in Saudi Arabia, who have not been heard of since they disappeared from their home in March.

Jabri used to serve as a high-profile member of the Saudi intelligence service, and a right-hand man to former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef.

Bin Nayef was relieved of all positions by the royal decree of King Salman on June 21, 2017.

Full report at:


Saudi Arabia back in business as coronavirus curfews end

June 21, 2020

RIYADH/JEDDAH: The Kingdom’s streets came back to life on Sunday after a months-long lockdown ended, with people breathing a (cautious) sigh of relief and resuming their everyday activities.

Saudi Arabia went into lockdown on March 21 and its three-phase unlock strategy started on May 28.

Protocols and preventive measures, such as social distancing, have been put in place as commercial activity resumes across the country. Restaurants and cafes have reopened again for indoor trade. Gyms, barbershops and beauty salons are also welcoming back clients.

The traffic movement in major cities was normal with no irregular traffic jams, according to residents. Although there was a noticeable increase in the numbers of people and children at malls and shopping centers, these places were significantly less crowded than the period before the outbreak. Shoppers adhered to social distancing and safety instructions.

Jeddah’s Corniche witnessed more visitors than it had done in previous weeks, but while people stuck to safety instructions their numbers were much less than usual.

Saja Al-Humayani said there was noticeable street congestion in the area where she went to work. “I am glad the restrictions are finally over,” she told Arab News. “I want to go to many places other than work, but I have to be cautious about my choice of time and place and I will have to organize them on a priority basis.”

Abrar Azzouz was eager to go out but, as the only person who left the house on a regular basis, she had to be careful and responsible for the sake of her family’s safety.

“I was in Al-Tahliyah today, and I could see that cafes and restaurants were busy since the early morning,” Azzouz told Arab News.

In Riyadh, product design director Mariam Al-Hazmi believed that people had become more aware and ready for this phase of the unlock. “I feel that restaurants and malls are not essential as much as going to work and working out in gyms,” she told Arab News. “I also don’t think social gatherings are necessary especially these days and, if it is a must, people should apply social distancing even in their homes. No need to greet with kisses and hugs.”

Al-Hazmi hoped that people would be more understanding about refraining from physical greetings in order to help curb the spread of coronavirus, insisting that a phone call to elderly loved ones was enough to ensure their safety too.

Alyaa Al-Shammari, who owns a women’s tailoring shop in Riyadh, was excited about reopening her doors. “During the curfew phase our businesses were struggling because of a lack of customers,” she told Arab News. “We were exposed to many difficulties resulting in a disruption in the payment of rent, bills, and salaries of employees.”

Al-Shammari was expecting customers to come back during this phase of the unlock, but she was also taking steps to ensure the health and safety of her employees and clients.

“We will certainly follow the instructions of the Ministry of Commerce and apply precautionary measures,” she added. “We have provided all the necessary protective supplies and disinfectants, cleaning the area and tools daily. Moreover, we will welcome no more than three customers and receive orders with prior reservations only. Employees are obligated to use protective tools such as masks, gloves, and sanitize their hands constantly, and warning them not to touch the customers directly, and to adhere to the cleanliness of the place continuously.”

Restaurant owner Arwa Al-Tuwaijri said that even though the last few months had been hard for everyone, and not just entrepreneurs, people were optimistic about the next phase. “I now see how people are eager to return back to their normal lives and go to restaurants and coffee shops,” she told Arab News. “People have missed the small details in their daily lives like passing by their favorite coffee shop or having lunch in their favorite restaurant. I expect that the previous phases increased awareness among the people and even for us as restaurant owners in terms of constantly checking that procedures are followed, taking the necessary precautions, and reading the protocols issued by the Ministry of Health, and applying them.”

There are thorough ministerial guidelines for everyone to follow during this new phase, and violators face a fine when they are caught not following protocols. Residents are also encouraged to voice their concerns, file complaints and report any violations through apps.

Al-Tuwaijri was keen to provide the required measures like thermometers, face masks and gloves to both employees and customers.

“At the entrance of the restaurant there will be one employee who will check the temperature of customers and also remind people who experience symptoms that they should take responsibility and stay at home,” she said. “We are committed to the protocol of disinfecting bathrooms as recommended by the Ministry of Health every two hours and periodically change face masks, as well as provide hand sanitizers for employees and customers. Customers will also have the option of eating with paper plates, forks, spoons, and cups.”

While many people have voiced their excitement about going back to their normal everyday lives, some remain hesitant and vigilant, opting to stay indoors for the time being and continue hunkering down although they are also relieved about being able to go out freely if needed. One of these people is Muna Abdullah, who has no plans to venture outside for leisure purposes at the moment.

She commutes daily to work and back and has seen no difference between how it was before the curfew and now. “It seems we are truly back to normal,” she told Arab News. “I did not notice any unusual overcrowding compared to life before movement restrictions.”

Salma Hussain also said she would not leave the house yet, except to go to the supermarket or resume her postponed medical appointments. “I’ll possibly do some limited family visits too, but I won’t go to restaurants or shopping before another month passes,” she told Arab News.

Deema Al-Sehli, a project design manager based in Riyadh, supported the idea of ending the curfew and people picking up their normal everyday activities because the country had taken all the necessary measures for months. It was now time for people to take responsibility to protect themselves and others, she said.

“To be honest I think there is a problem of awareness and commitment from all segments of society, which is scary,” she told Arab News. “I’m not expecting to go anywhere for the two upcoming weeks until I see the number of cases decrease and see how aware people are. I admit that I have a fear, facing the move to going back to normal life. I don’t fear getting infected as much as the fear of harming my family.”

As many Saudi residents face the challenge of returning back to pre-lockdown life, the underlying message is that the pandemic is not over and the threat of a surge is on the minds of many.

Full report at:


South Asia


Afghan foreign minister visits Iran amid tensions over migrant deaths

Jun 21, 2020

TEHRAN: Afghanistan's interim foreign minister met with his Iranian counterpart on Sunday in Tehran as tensions persist between the two neighbours after the deaths in May of Afghan migrants at the border.

Iran's state news agency IRNA published a photo ON Sunday of the meeting between Afghanistan's Mohammad Hanif Atmar and Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, both wearing face masks.

The two-day visit aims to discuss "recent unfortunate events (and) find solutions to avoid them happening again", Afghanistan's foreign ministry said on Saturday on Twitter, without elaborating.

Atmar heads "a high-level delegation including Afghan political, economic and security officials", IRNA said, citing a statement from the Iranian foreign ministry released earlier.

The visit follows controversy over the deaths in May of several Afghan migrants who were allegedly forced into a river by Iranian border guards and drowned.

Afghan officials claim the migrants died while they were illegally crossing into neighbouring Iran from Herat province.

Eighteen bodies, some bearing signs of torture and beatings, were recovered from the Harirud river, while other migrants were reported missing, in an incident that sparked anger and protests in Afghanistan.

One Afghan official said 55 migrants were forced into the river.

Iranian authorities have dismissed the claims, saying the incident occurred inside Afghanistan's territory.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani ordered an investigation into the drownings, a move welcomed by the United States, at a time of heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran.

The meeting also comes after an incident earlier this month in the central Iranian city of Yazd in which three Afghans died and several others were injured after a car chase with police, Iranian media reported.

According to one Iranian official, the driver of the vehicle "defied police instructions and failed to stop at a checkpoint".

According to UN refugee agency UNHCR, around 3.5 million Afghans, including almost a million refugees, live in Iran.

Full report at:


Afghan healthcare personnel were deliberately attacked: UN

June 22, 2020

KABUL: The United Nations on Sunday released a special report expressing concerns over what it called recent deliberate attacks against healthcare workers and facilities in Afghanistan during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, or UNAMA, said it documented 12 incidents of deliberate acts of violence between March 11 to May 23.

The report said eight of the incidents were carried out by Taliban insurgents while three incidents were attributed to Afghan security forces. The most horrific attack, on a maternity ward last month at a Kabul hospital that killed 24 people, remains unsolved.

At a time when an urgent humanitarian response was required to protect every life in Afghanistan, both the Taliban and Afghan national security forces carried out deliberate acts of violence that undermined healthcare operations, said Deborah Lyons, the Secretary General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, and head of UNAMA. There is no excuse for such actions; the safety and well-being of the civilian population must be a priority.

Afghanistan has 28,833 confirmed coronavirus cases with 581 deaths. Though international aid organisations monitoring the pandemics spread in the country say the numbers are much higher because of a lack of access and testing capabilities.

Following the attack on the Kabul maternity hospital, Doctors Without Borders decided last week to end its operations in Kabul. The international charity, also known by its French acronym MSF, said it would keep its other programmes in Afghanistan running, but did not go into details.

The attack at the maternity hospital set off an hours-long shootout with Afghan police and also left more than a dozen people wounded. The hospital in Dashti Barchi, a mostly Shiite neighborhood, was the Geneva-based groups only project in the Afghan capital.

The Taliban promptly denied involvement in the May 12 attack, whose victims included two infants, nurses and several young mothers. The United States said it bore all the hallmarks of the militant Islamic State group’s affiliate in Afghanistan and that the attack targeted the country’s minority Shias in a neighbourhood of Kabul that IS militants have repeatedly attacked in the past.

Full report at:


Bangladeshi Militants Take Advantage of COVID-19 Pandemic


Islamic militant groups have been “more active” in spreading their violent ideology online during the coronavirus pandemic, Bangladesh officials said, adding that authorities had arrested scores of suspected extremists since March.

The Ansar Al Islam group in particular, an affiliate of al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), is using COVID-19 to its advantage through activities over the internet, according to police and analysts, who said other extremists groups were active as well during the public health crisis.

“Suppressing militancy is one of our focused areas – this is true that militants have been more active online to propagate their extremist ideology during the pandemic. Ansar Al Islam is one of the militant outfits very active online,” Lt. Col. Md Sarwar Bin Kashem, a director and spokesman for the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), an elite police unit, told BenarNews.

Authorities had blamed Ansar – also known as Ansarrullah Bangla Team or ABT – for a string of machete-killings that targeted secular bloggers and others in Bangladesh in 2015 and 2016.

“We regularly monitor the online activities of the militants. Between March 1 and June 10, we arrested 66 militants including some from Ansar Al Islam,” he said but did not release details on the charges filed against the suspects.

Another police official and analysts said extremists were creating fake online accounts to spread their ideology while exploiting the pandemic.

“Ansar Al Islam, Neo-JMB, Hizbut Tahrir and JMB are active online,” Saiful Islam, a deputy commissioner of the Bangladeshi police’s counter-terrorism and transnational crimes unit, told BenarNews.

Neo-JMB is a pro-Islamic State breakaway faction of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), a local militant group.

In July 2016, Neo-JMB members carried out an overnight siege at the Holey Artisan Bakery, an upscale café in Dhaka’s diplomatic quarter, where 20 hostages were killed by militants who wielded machetes. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, but government officials have since insisted that IS has no presence in Bangladesh.

COVID-19: ‘A curse from Allah’

The extremists were using religion to recruit potential militants, Kashem and a security expert said.

“Disguising themselves as common pious people, they have been spreading that Allah has sent the coronavirus,” Kashem said.

A security analyst, retired Maj. Gen. Abdur Rashid, said Bangladeshis who were forced to remain in their homes during the pandemic have been spending more time online.

“The militants have targeted people to mold them in their favor,” Rashid told BenarNews.

“The coronavirus has brought back poverty and there is no medicine or vaccine so people have been more fearful of Allah,” he said. “The militants have been exploiting the pandemic, terming the coronavirus a curse from Allah.”

According to another security analyst, Sakhawat Hossain, “currently, Ansar Al Islam has been in the organizing stage.”

“ABT could be the potential security threat as the law enforcers have been engaged in fighting COVID-19,” Hossain, a retired brigadier general, told BenarNews.

Ansar Al Islam had been more successful than other groups – Neo-JMB in particular – because of its previous militant actions, he said.

“The Neo-JBM follows the policy of expansion through creating panic among people while Ansar Al Islam organizes in a very premeditated way without creating panic,” Hossain said.

The analyst noted that ABT was responsible for an April 2017 double-murder that took the life of LGBTQ activist Xulhaz Mannan and another man, as well as a series of gruesome killings of secular bloggers and publishers during the previous two years. These included the February 2015 slaying of Avijit Roy, a dual U.S.-Bangladeshi citizen, as he and his wife were leaving a book fair in Dhaka.

“Frankly speaking, many of the common Muslim people had little sympathy for LGBT activists. We have not seen any sharp public reaction about the murders,” Hossain told BenarNews about Ansar Al Islam.

“Several ministers publicly told the government they would not tolerate any defamation of Islam by anyone. Even some ministers said homosexuality is a punishable offense in Bangladesh,” he said.

In contrast, in the wake of the massacre at the Holey Artisan Bakery, police and RAB officers carried out raids that resulted in the deaths of nearly 100 suspected militants, including some who blew themselves up to avoid arrest, officials said.

“This massacre created panic among people no doubt, and people wanted the security forces to destroy them. Nobody in Bangladesh had any sympathy for Neo-JMB or IS,” Hossain said. “So, the police and other forces crushed them with an iron hand and the network and leaderships of Neo-JMB and old JMB were destroyed.”

100,000 cases

The militant efforts online are occurring as the nation and its law enforcers are combating the coronavirus.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Bangladesh broke the 100,000 mark on Thursday.

Police have not been spared, according to spokesman Sohel Rana, who said more than 8,200 officers were infected and 27 had died.

M. Maniruzzaman, an additional deputy inspector general at the police’s anti-terrorism unit, said police could battle the pandemic and militant activities at the same time.

“Of course, the police have been involved in fighting COVID-19. But we are not sitting idle,” he told BenarNews.

“Bangladesh police are a very professional and organized force now and have been working to foil any attempts by the militants. Even, during the pandemic, we arrested many militants,” he said.

Full report at:


Afghan Taliban kidnap dozens of civilians amid peace efforts, officials say

June 21, 2020

KABUL: Taliban militants kidnapped about 60 civilians in central Afghanistan over the past week, officials said on Sunday, with more than half still being held amid efforts by the United States and other foreign powers to start peace talks.

The Taliban took the hostages in the central province of Daikundi after a women escaped a Taliban-controlled village in a neighboring province, according to the provincial deputy governor, Mohammad Ali Uruzgani.

Some 26, including women and children, had been released and tribal elders were mediating to free the remaining civilians, Uruzgani added.

A Taliban spokesman denied kidnapping the civilians.

The militants, fighting to re-introduce strict Islamic law after their 2001 ouster from power, signed a troop withdrawal agreement with the United States in February, which was designed to pave the way for peace talks with the Afghan government.

But violence has ramped up since the agreement and discord over the release of Taliban prisoners has hampered progress on formal talks.

Underscoring the tension, a spokesman for the national security council said the Taliban had killed more than 40 civilians around the country in the past week.

“The Taliban have failed to deliver on promises of reducing violence against the Afghan people and working for peace,” spokesman Javid Faisal said on Twitter.

The UN mission in Afghanistan released a report on Sunday raising concerns about 15 attacks on health workers and health care facilities during the coronavirus pandemic, attributing responsibility for the majority of them to the Taliban.

Full report at:


Southeast Asia


Minister: Non-Muslim wedding ceremonies allowed with max 20 attendance; receptions still prohibited

Sunday, 21 Jun 2020


KUALA LUMPUR, June 21 — Wedding ceremonies for non-Muslims can now be held, Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced today.

Ismail Sabri said the decision was applicable to wedding ceremonies for non-Muslims at houses of worship and non-Muslim religious associations that involve assistant registrar of marriages appointed under Section 28 of the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act.

“This wedding ceremony cannot exceed 20 individuals (including the Assistant Registrar of marriages) and is subject to the capacity of the House of Worship or the Non-Muslim Religious Association and social distancing.

“Wedding ceremonies have to comply with the SOP set by the National Security Council and the Health Ministry of Malaysia,” he said in a statement here.

“Wedding reception events are still not allowed to be held,” he added.

Previously on May 21, the National Unity Ministry had announced that all non-Muslim wedding ceremonies held in house of worships have been postponed to July 31.

On June 3, Ismail Sabri had said non-Muslim couples were allowed to register their marriage since the conditional movement control order (CMCO) began on May 4, with only four people allowed to be present, namely the bride, groom and two witnesses.

Malaysia is currently under the recovery movement control order (RMCO) since June 10, a phase that is more relaxed and with less restrictions and which will run until August 31.


Start of construction of Prophet’s museum in Indonesia delayed due to COVID-19

22 JUN 2020

JAKARTA – The construction of the Museum of the Life of the Prophet and Islamic Civilization in Jakarta is temporarily halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic but will resume in the third quarter of 2020, Syafruddin, Vice Chairperson of the Indonesia Mosque Council (DMI) told Salaam Gateway.

DMI and the Saudi Arabia’s Muslim World League on September 30 last year signed a memorandum of understanding to develop a new branch of the museum dedicated to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in Indonesia. The two parties inaugurated MWL’s branch museum in Ancol, Jakarta, by laying the foundation stone in February 26 this year. The 18-month construction period was planned to start in March.

“The timeline (for the project) has been pushed forward due to social distancing to limit the spread of COVID-19. But MWL has shown strong commitment to this project and gave serious, special attention since it’s the first branch museum outside Saudi Arabia,” said Syafruddin.

“Since the government has already introduced the “new normal” policy, we’ll soon meet to discuss again with the Secretary General of the Muslim World League, Muhammad bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, about strategic steps to continue the construction process. Hopefully we can resume the activity in the third quarter,” he added.

Indonesia is the first country outside Saudi Arabia to be selected as home for the MWL’s branch museum.

Unlike the museum in Makkah that features the prophet’s original artefacts or the one in Madinah that holds international exhibitions and houses conference halls, the Jakarta branch has an emphasis on lush gardens.

“We already provided 60,000 square meters in Ancol and we’re mapping its allocation. Actually we have other locations as alternatives such as the Universitas Islam International Indonesia campus in Depok, Al Markaz Al Islami in Makasar, BSD Tangerang but we agreed that it’s the most strategic and reachable location for tourists. This museum will be named Assalamu alaika Ya Rasulallah and the development will be fully funded by MWL,” said Syafruddin.

1 hectare will be used for buildings such as sections that narrate the details of the Prophet's biography and Islamic civilization, technical figures of Makkah and Madinah in the time of the Prophet, the architecture of the two holy mosques to the present day, and a miniature of the most important landmarks in Makkah and Madinah.

In addition to pictures, there will be explanations through interactive screens and the use of other technologies such as 3D holographic display, and augmented reality.

Syafruddin expects the museum to attract many visitors, especially millennials.

“We expect at least 6 million visitors will come to this site each year. Imagine all the legacy from Prophet Muhammad around the world you can see. In the last 13 years, MWL has collected scripts, manuscripts, artefacts, all things related to him, and digitalised it,” Syafruddin said.

Full report at:




IRGC Top Commander: Enemies Not Even Think of Military War against Iran

Jun 21, 2020

"Military war against us is no (more) desirable to the enemies, and the reason why it is not the enemy's prescribed choice for political gains lies in our preparedness, defense power and credibility of this power," General Salami said, addressing a ceremony in Tehran on Sunday.

Elsewhere, he referred to the recent incidents in the western societies, and said that one may not find a direct relationship between the incidents in the West and the Islamic Revolution, but the reality is that the Islamic Revolution is known across the world and has even inspired the US society.

In relevant remarks in October, Lieutenant Commander of the IRGC Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi underlined that Iran's deterrence power has dissuaded enemies, including the US, from launching military war against the country.

"The enemies have understood that the military option against Iran yields no result," Rear Admiral Fadavi said, addressing a forum in Tehran.

He added that the enemies are today attempting to hit a blow at the resistance groups and spread panic to prevent the Islamic Republic move towards its causes, "although they have gained no result, but failure".

Rear Admiral Fadavi said that the US does not spare any attempt to annihilate the Islamic Republic if it can but it has failed against the Islamic Republic's power and might.

He referred to the downing of a US spy plane over Iran's territorial waters, and said the fact that Washington thanked Tehran after the latter didn't shoot down the US P8 aircraft with 35 on board shows the peak of their weakness and desperation against the Islamic Revolution and the Iranian nation.

The IRGC Aerospace Force shot down an American spy drone over the territorial waters of Iran near the Strait of Hormuz at dawn on June 20.


Iranian Lawmakers Ask Gov't to Halt Implementation of NPT Additional Protocol

Jun 21, 2020

“The Islamic Republic of Iran, as a country that has had the highest level of cooperation and transparency with the IAEA in 50 years of NPT, considers IAEA Board of Governor’s resolution as an excessive demand,” read a statement signed by 240 legislators on Sunday.

Iran has implemented the Additional Protocol voluntarily beyond its commitments, noted the MPs, adding that during the past five years, IAEA has had the toughest inspections on Iranian cites based on the protocol.

Appreciating the stance of those states who have voted against this scandal (IAEA draft resolution), lawmakers noted that this non-binding resolution is a sign of a dominating culture that rules over the IAEA.

European governments’ pressure for the ‘so-called preservation’ of the JCPOA indicates that they have had an unconstructive view towards the Iranian people’s rights and have assumed the JCPOA as a tool to pursue their own objectives, the statement added.

The approval of E3-proposed resolution proves that these countries have “once again fallen into the US and Israeli regime’s trap”, dealing another blow to multilateralism, the statement continued.

The Iranian Parliament believes succumbing to such a ‘political blackmailing’ equals to forging a wrong approach in accepting the culture of ‘hegemony’ that will lead to increased structural discrimination in the NPT, the statement further read.

“The Iranian Parliament urges the government to stop voluntary implementation of Additional Protocol and change inspections into offline.”

Lawmakers hoped that the IAEA would revise its ‘wrong and dangerous’ approach towards interaction with Iran and carry out its safeguards regime “independently and professionally not under the influence of political and hostile pressures of some members of the Board of Governors.”

In relevant remarks on Saturday, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi blasted the IAEA Board of Governors' resolution against Tehran which had been proposed by the three European members of the nuclear deal, saying that they have been entrapped in a dangerous game arranged by the US and Israel.

"What has happened at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors is not acceptable to the Islamic Republic of Iran because Iran has had the highest and most transparent cooperation with the Agency and the Board within the framework of the safeguards," Mousavi said.

He said that the resolution has been prepared based on baseless allegations and pretexts against Iran, lambasting the three European states for their bizarre behavior.

"Although they are members of the nuclear deal and are aware of the conditions and the records related to the case, unfortunately they have entered an unconstructive and dangerous game."

Full report at:


Iran: France’s Nuclear ICBM Test Violating NPT

Jun 21, 2020

Iran expresses its concern over the move and believes that the French government must not ignore its international commitments stressed in Article 6 of the NPT and the NPT Review Conferences, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi said on Saturday.

He added that France must fully live up to its international obligations regarding nuclear disarmament.

On June 12, French Ministry of Armed Forces announced the launch of an M51 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) from Le Téméraire, a Triomphant-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine.

“The nuclear-powered Le Téméraire successfully fired an M51 strategic ballistic missile off Finistère,” Defense Minister Florence Parly said in a Twitter post.

In relevant remarks in December 2019, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif lashed out at US and the European trio of the UK, France, and Germany for following a duplicitous foreign policy and turning deaf ear to Israeli nuclear arsenal, as the only owner of such weapons in the region, and at the same time pressing Tehran for its conventional defensive missiles.

"Israel today tested a nuke-missile, aimed at Iran," Zarif tweeted on December 6, 2019.

“E3 [UK, France, and Germany] and US never complain about the only nuclear arsenal in West Asia – armed with missiles actually DESIGNED to be capable of carrying nukes,” he tweeted in reference to Tel Aviv which is the only nuclear armed country of the Middle East.

Full report at:


Negotiations with US ‘harmful and forbidden’: Iranian Parliament Speaker

21 June 2020

Criticizing the UN unclear watchdog IAEA for a recent resolution calling on Iran to stop denying the agency access to two suspected former sites, Iranian Speaker of Parliament Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf said on Sunday Tehran will not allow the agency to “violate its legal frameworks.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-nation Board of Governors passed a resolution on Friday in which it raised pressure on Iran to let inspectors into the sites mentioned in two of its reports because they could still host undeclared nuclear material or traces of it.

The Islamic Republic will not allow the IAEA to “trample Iran’s rights and violate the legal frameworks,” said Ghalibaf.

While the resolution was put forth by Britain, France, and Germany, Ghalibaf accused the US and “the Zionists” of being behind it.

“They are looking to force Iran to enter talks so that maybe they could cover up their internal problems as well as find a way to slow down our progress in the defense and military sector,” the semi-official Mehr news agency quoted him as saying.

“We do not oppose diplomacy and negotiations, but we believe that negotiations with America are strictly harmful and forbidden,” said Ghalibaf.

He added that if Iran was to hold talks with European countries, it must do so with “utmost mistrust.”

“Some major powers and many other countries openly opposed the resolution. We also have information that many of the countries that voted in favor of the resolution did so under heavy American pressure,” Ghalibaf said.

Full report at:


Yemeni child soldier reveals how Iran-backed Houthis ‘lured’ him into fighting

21 June 2020

A Yemeni child revealed in a video that the Iran-backed Houthi militias had “lured” him into fighting, took advantage of his family’s financial circumstances and nearly got him killed on the fronts of Naham, east of the capital Sanaa.

In the video published by the Media Centre of the Yemeni Armed Forces, Abdulsalam al-Jazar said he was tricked by a Houthi leader named Rabih Saleh who had convinced him to attend a course to listen to Quranic verses and religious teachings then he would receive his “Eid gift” at the end.

When the course ended, al-Jazar and other children were instructed to wait for a committee to bring them the monetary gifts they were promised, only to realize there was no committee and the boys were later taken to the fighting fronts in Naham.

The child continued to tell his story on video saying three hours after the boys arrived, the national army had attacked the location and al-Jazar was forced to surrender but 12 other children were killed in the attack.

Al-Jazar, through the published video, called on other children not to believe the Houthi leaders who he described as “traitors” and thieves.

“Go back to your homes and don’t allow the Houthis to deceive you then stab you in the back,” he added.

Full report at:


UAE-backed separatists stage 'coup' in Yemen’s Socotra: Former official

21 June 2020

Yemen's former Saudi-backed government says the militants funded by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have staged “a full-fledged coup" in the strategic island of Socotra.

Yemen’s official news agency quoted an unnamed official of the former government as saying on Saturday that the UAE-backed separatists of the so-called Southern Transitional Council (STC) had "carried out a full-fledged coup that undermined state institutions in the province."

The militants launched an attack with various medium and heavy weapons, targeting state institutions and citizens' properties, and stormed Saudi-backed camps and headquarters, the source said.

The official called on the Saudi-led coalition waging war on Yemen to help "stop the mess" and chaos as a result of the offensive.

A local source told Turkey's state-owned Anadolu Agency that the gunmen of the STC had arrested Colonel Abdel-Rahman al-Zafni, the commander of the Saudi air force camp in Socotra, and transferred him to an unknown location.

On Saturday, STC militants took control of Saudi-backed militant camps in Socotra archipelago, a UNESCO World Heritage site, according to an unnamed security official.

By day's end the separatists had taken control of most of the province from Saudi-sponsored militants. No casualties were reported, said the official.

Socotra Governor Ramzi Mahrous condemned the separatist attacks and called for the immediate release of the province.

'Saudi-led coalition betrayed Yemenis'

He criticized the Saudi-led coalition waging war on Yemen, saying the impoverished country had been betrayed by those who were expected to support it.

"The archipelago, which was of great historical importance, is in complete chaos," he said.

The people of Socotra will never surrender their land, he said, adding that the province would never welcome criminal militants and their supporters.

The violence in Socotra comes after the UAE-backed separatists declared self-rule in Yemen’s south earlier this year and seized control of the city of Aden, sparking fears of fresh chaos in a country already embroiled in five years of conflict.

Last summer, the UAE announced it was ending its role in the conflict. However, observers believe the Persian Gulf Arab country continues to be active through its proxies.

Before its withdrawal, the UAE set up a military base in Socotra, which enjoys a strategic location overlooking a vital international shipping lane.

It also awarded Emirati citizenship to hundreds of residents and has recruited scores of others to help consolidate its grip over the island.

The separatists have long sought southern Yemen to secede.

Recently and after a decision by the UAE to effectively withdraw its forces from Yemen, the group turned its weapons on rival militants loyal to the ex-president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

The infighting has highlighted deepening divisions between Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the two countries that are leading the war on Yemen.

Ties between the two sides have soured over a number of issues, including what the Yemenis view as Abu Dhabi’s intention to occupy Socotra Island and gain dominance over major waterways in the region.

The island was part of Yemen’s eastern province of Hadhramaut but it was introduced as an independent province in a 2013 presidential decree.

Home to some 60,000 people, Socotra sits at the entrance to the Gulf of Aden. The island has a unique ecosystem and been listed by UNESCO as a world natural heritage site.

There are reports that Hadi leased the islands of Socotra and Abd al-Kuri to the UAE for 99 years before resigning and fleeing the country to Riyadh in 2014.

Supported militarily by the United States, Britain, and other Western countries, Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating war on Yemen in March 2015 in order to bring Hadi back to power and crush the Houthi Ansarullah movement.

The invaders have also enforced an all-out aerial, naval, and land blockade on the impoverished country.

The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the war has claimed more than 100,000 lives over the past five years.

More than half of Yemen’s hospitals and clinics have been destroyed or closed at a time when Yemenis are in desperate need of medical supplies to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Warplanes of the Saudi-led coalition have been hovering over the capital Sana'a and other provinces almost constantly since Monday morning, and have targeted several areas around the capital such as al-Nahdain Mountain, Attan Mountain and the Aviation College.

Earth-shattering airstrike hits Sana'a

On Tuesday, residents of Sana'a were left terrified after the coalition fighter jets struck al-Nahdain Mountain in the middle of the capital, the heaviest airstrikes in years.

On Thursday, Yemen's al-Masirah television said 77 airstrikes had targeted several provinces in Yemen in 24 hours, including Sana'a, Sa'ada, Amran, al-Beidha, Hajjah, Marib and al-Jawf.

One of those airstrikes hit a vehicle in Sa'ada province on Monday, killing 13 civilians including four children, sparking international condemnation.

The attack happened the same day as the Saudi-led coalition, which is primarily made up of Saudi and UAE forces, was removed from the UN’s Children and Armed Conflict report’s blacklist for the first time in three years.

Mohammed Abdul-Salam, the spokesman of Yemen's Houthi Ansarullah movement, condemned the UN for removing Riyadh from the blacklist, accusing it of being “an accomplice with the killer.”

The United Nations knows all too well the pain that the coalition has inflicted on children, and “there is no reason that the UN should remove the aggression from the list of shame”, he said.

Full report at:


Germany, France criticize Israel over West Bank annexation plans

21 June 2020

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)

A Palestinian woman who was prevented by Israeli forces to reach his shack built in "area C" , gazes at the Jewish settlement of Susya, south of the West Bank town of Hebron (al-Khalil), on June 19, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

Germany and France have called on Israel to halt its plans to annex large swathes of the occupied West Bank which Palestinians consider as part of their future independent state.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, urged the Tel Aviv regime to renounce its controversial plan.

After meeting with Maas in Berlin, Le Drian said, "Our goal is still to prevent any annexation in violation of international law in the first place."

The French foreign minister stressed that the annexation would increase "instability in the Middle East".

Maas said Israel's annexation plans were "of great concern" to him and Le Drian. The issue, he said, should be brought to the forefront once more.

The pair announced intensive talks between EU partners and neighboring countries such as Jordan.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is facing a number of criminal indictments, has repeatedly said that he would commence cabinet-level discussions for annexing more areas in the West Bank on July 1, in accordance with US President Donald Trump's so-called deal of the century.

The American president officially unveiled his much-condemned Middle East plan in January at the White House with Netanyahu on his side, while Palestinian representatives were not invited.

Back in late 2017, Trump enraged Palestinians by recognizing the whole Jerusalem al-Quds, both its eastern and western parts, as Israel’s “undivided capital,” a highly-provocative move he took in the face of historic Palestinian demands that the city’s eastern part serve as the capital of their future state.

The proposal, which has already been categorically rejected and condemned by Palestinians, largely gives in to Israel’s demands while creating a Palestinian state with limited control over its own security and borders.

It enshrines the occupied Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s “capital” and allows the regime to annex settlements in the West Bank and the Jordan Valley, which Israel occupied in 1967.

'Annex now, as world occupied with coronavirus'

According to the Israeli ministry of intelligence, now is the best time to implement the annexation plan, as Arab countries would not protest the move.

The daily Israel Hayom announced on Friday that it had obtained a copy of a position paper presented to Israeli intelligence minister Eli Cohen which cited the advantages of the annexation.

The annexation “improves the starting conditions of future negotiations with the Palestinians for Israel and crystallizes the cost of Palestinian rejection of peace talks, and therefore could spur [the Palestinians] back to the negotiation table in an effort to halt additional phases," the paper reportedly says.

“After a wave of diplomatic protests, mainly by governments, the annexation won’t rouse the Arab street against the regimes. The absence of agitation in the streets will make it clear to Arab leaders that the Palestinian issue isn’t a threat to them.”

According to the document, the annexation would provide a platform for the Arab regimes to improve ties with Israel without waiting for an Israeli-Palestinian arrangement.

On Thursday, Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi unexpectedly visited the West Bank where he warned against the annexation plans.

"Annexation is unprecedented for the peace process, and it will kill the two-state solution and will destroy all the foundations of the peace process,'" Safadi said after meeting with his Palestinian counterpart in the city of Ramallah.

Full report at:


Palestinians fear Israeli annexation could further limit Dead Sea access

June 21, 2020

DEAD SEA, West Bank: Palestinians are worried their restricted access to the salty waters of the Dead Sea and its mineral-rich beaches could be cut further if Israel annexes land in the occupied West Bank.

Israel, citing support from US President Donald Trump, has announced plans to extend sovereignty over parts of the West Bank — including the Jordan Valley, which partly borders the Dead Sea. Palestinians have voiced outrage at the proposal.

The Dead Sea is a popular destination where bathers float in hypersaline waters and use the nutrient-rich mud on their skin. Its shores border Israel, Jordan and the West Bank.

“This place is a blessing for all Palestinians, but if there will be annexation it will be hard for them to reach here. They may need permits,” said Musa Farah, a lifeguard at one of the small, Israeli-run resorts that dot the Dead Sea’s West Bank coast.

Even some owners of Israeli resorts — set up after Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war — are concerned they could lose customers under the annexation plan.

“My business will be very much affected,” said Dina Dagan, owner of the Biankini Village Resort. “The Israeli government should know that my business depends on the Palestinians who visit here. This place is open for Jews and Arabs.”

During peace talks — stalled since 2014 — the Palestinians have sought to gain some control over part of the Dead Sea coastline and set up resorts, which they see as a potential boon for their economy.

Full report at:

Most countries view Israeli settlements in occupied territory as illegal. Israel rejects this.




Extremist Libyan Imam says GNA can kill captured LNA soldiers

20 June 2020

A Libyan extremist Imam has issued a fatwa that allows the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) to kill prisoners of war from the rival Libyan National Army (LNA).

In his latest video-recorded fatwa, the extremist Libyan Mufti Sadiq al-Ghariani said that LNA soldiers captured in battle should not be treated under Islamic guidelines.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

He also accused them of being more devoted to LNA commander General Khalifa Haftar than they are to God, and compared them to Tartars and Mongols.

He claimed that the LNA supports a Zionist agenda and does not want to create a state that is willing to fight the Zionist entity, he said, in reference to Israel.

Tensions in the country have been rising in recent weeks between rival administrations based in Libya’s capital Tripoli and the east.


Libyan National Army: Will never give up Sirte to Turkey ‘no matter the sacrifice’

21 June 2020

The Libyan National Army (LNA), commanded by Khalifa Haftar, told Al Arabiya on Sunday that it will never leave the coastal city of Sirte to Turkey, “no matter the sacrifice”.

Khaled al-Mahjoub, an LNA official, told Al-Arabiya: "We will not leave Sirte for Turkey, no matter the sacrifices."

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Sirte is a key coastal city in Libya, close to major energy export terminals on the Mediterranean seaboard.

The LNA and the Government of National Accord (GNA) have been fighting for control of Libya, including Sirte. Clashes between both sides over Sirte have intensified since early June.

Turkey, which backs the GNA led by Fayez al-Serraj, has been ramping up its military intervention in Libya. on Saturday, Turkey told AFP that Sirte and Al-Jufra need to be evacuated by Haftar’s forces for a “sustainable ceasefire.”

In November, Turkey signed a military cooperation pact with the GNA. The two parties also signed a maritime demarcation deal, which gives Ankara exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean.

The maritime deal was rejected as “illegal” by many Mediterranean countries such Greece and Cyprus.

In early in June, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that his country’s support for the GNA “will increasingly continue.”

Turkey’s intervention in Libya would give it a foothold in the natural-resources-rich Middle East, where its international ties to many countries are strained.

This is especially significant for Egypt, since it shares a long border with Libya, backs Haftar’s LNA and its relationship with Turkey has been tense for years.

On Saturday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said that his country has a legitimate right to intervene in Libya and ordered the army to be prepared to carry out missions if necessary.

He said: “Any direct intervention from the Egyptian state has now acquired international legitimacy,” adding that Egypt had received “direct threats” from “terrorist militias and mercenaries” supported by foreign countries.

Earlier in June, Egypt had called for a ceasefire in Libya, however, in his recent speech Sisi said that Egypt has always been reluctant to intervene in Libya but “the situation now is different.”

Full report at:


Sudan warns against escalation over Ethiopia controversial Nile dam

22 June 2020

Sudan on Sunday warned against escalation and urged further negotiations with Egypt and Ethiopia over Addis Ababa’s controversial dam on the Nile.

Tensions are running high between the three countries after recent talks failed to produce a deal on the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

“We do not want escalation. Negotiations are the only solution,” Sudan’s irrigation and water resources minister, Yasser Abbas, told reporters on Sunday.

“Signing an agreement is a prerequisite for us before filling the dam. Sudan has the right to demand it,” he said.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Ethiopia has declared plans to start filling the dam next month, regardless of whether a deal has been reached.

Egypt, which views the massive hydro-electric barrage as an existential threat, on Friday urged the United Nations Security Council to intervene in the dispute, citing Ethiopia’s “non-positive stances.”

On Saturday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said in a televised address that his country had remained committed to a political solution.

“When we resorted to the Security Council... it stemmed from our keenness to take the diplomatic and political path until the end,” he said.

Cairo fears the dam could severely reduce its water supply from the Nile, which provides nearly 97 percent of Egypt’s freshwater needs.

Addis Ababa says the dam is indispensable for its development and insists Egypt’s water share will not be affected.

The Nile is a lifeline supplying both water and electricity to the 10 countries it traverses.

Full report at:


Libya calls Egypt military threat ‘Declaration of war'

Monday, 22 June 2020

Libya's UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) has condemned Egypt's warning of military intervention in Libya, terming it a "declaration of war".

"This is a hostile act, direct interference and amounts to a declaration of war," the Tripoli-based GNA said in a statement on Sunday.

For the Libyan state, "interference in its internal affairs, attacks on its sovereignty, whether by declarations... like those of the Egyptian president or by support for putschists, militias and mercenaries, is unacceptable," the GNA said.

The GNA called on the international community to "assume its responsibilities with regard to this escalation".

The comments came in reaction to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who warned on Saturday that if pro-GNA forces advanced on the strategic city of Sirte – 450km (280 miles) east of Tripoli - it could provoke a "direct" intervention by Cairo.

During a tour of an airbase near Egypt's 1,200km-long (746 miles) western border with Libya, Sisi ordered his army to be ready to carry out any mission inside or outside the country to protect its national security amid tensions over Turkey's intervention in Libya.

In reaction to the Egyptian president's threat, the Libyan army had described Sisi's comments as "a clear declaration of war and a blatant interference" in Libyan affairs.

Full report at:'


Blasts kill 7 people in southern and central Somalia

June 22, 2020

MOGADISHU: At least seven people have died in two separate bomb attacks in southern and central Somalia in the last 24 hours, police and military officers said on Sunday.

In the first incident, two bombs planted in front of the house of a military official in Wanlaweyn town, 90 km northwest of the capital Mogadishu, exploded late on Saturday, killing four people, including soldiers and civilians.

No group has claimed responsibility. Such attacks are commonplace in Somalia, where militant organisation Al-Shabab have been waging a 12-year campaign to topple the central government.

“First we heard a blast at the house. The military officer was absent by then. Guards and residents came to find out what caused the blast and then a second blast went off,” Mohamed Nur, a police officer, told Reuters from Wanlaweyn on Sunday.

In the second incident, three militants in a car carried out a suicide bomb attack at a military checkpoint in Bacadweyn town in central Somalia’s Galmudug state on Sunday.

Soldiers shot at the vehicle after its occupants ignored orders to stop. Three soldiers died and two others were wounded, according to Maj. Abdullahi Ahmed, a military officer in the nearby town of Galkayo.

Al-Shabaab, which wants to establish its own rule in Somalia, could not be reached for comment. Residents of Bacadweyn, about 180 km to south east of Galkayo, said they were afraid the attackers belonged al Shabaab.

Full report at:


Libya says 190 bodies found in mass graves by Haftar


The Libyan army said Saturday 190 corpses have been found in mass graves south of Tripoli and the city of Tarhuna since June 5.

In a statement, the army said 106 bodies, including children and women, were found with signs of torture inside a hospital morgue in Tarhuna on June 5.

A further 37 bodies were found in another hospital in the city, of which 14 corpses were identified, the military said.

According to the statement, 15 additional bodies were found in Qasr bin Ghashir area, south of Tripoli. The military said those bodies belonged to persons kidnapped by militia of warlord Khalifa Haftar.

The remains of 14 unidentified people were also found south of Tripoli on June 6 while 15 bodies were discovered in a well and a mass grave near Tarhuna on June 8-10, the army said.

On June 11, the army said three more bodies were found in a mass grave in the same city.

Earlier this week, the Libyan army said it was awaiting a UN report that exposes "crimes and genocides" committed by Haftar's militia in Tarhuna.

The Libyan army recently inflicted heavy blows on Haftar and liberated Tripoli and Tarhuna, in addition to other strategic locations, including Al-Watiya airbase, from his militias.

Full report at:


North America


US will not quit region in response to Iranian pressure, says top US General

20 June 2020

A top American military official said that the US will not quit the region in response to Iranian pressure despite “irresponsible and outrageous provocations” from the Iranian regime.

“We, the US, don't seek conflict with Iran, and neither does Saudi Arabia, neither does the UAE, or any of our other partners and allies in the region. We never have ... The United States and our GCC partners in particular … have repeatedly responded to serious Iranian, irresponsible and outrageous provocations with a measured and defensive posture that has generally tried to lower tensions.”

General Kenneth F. McKenzie, Commander of the United States Central Command, was speaking on Thursday during an online seminar organized by the Aspen Security Forum.

The US Central Command oversees US operations in Africa, Central and South Asia, and the Middle East.

Gen. McKenzie said Iranian provocations and escalatory action are designed to create instability in the region, but that Tehran has misjudged American resolve.

“We're not going to quit the region in response to Iranian pressure. While Iran may own the early steps of the escalatory ladder because the US is attempting to avoid conflict, Iran needs to understand that the US clearly owns the final steps in any escalatory ladder,” he said.

A timeline of Iranian attacks

Gen. McKenzie gave detailed examples of Iranian actions in the region and how the US presence has helped counter those threats each time.

In May of 2019, Iran had loaded cruise missiles onto a dhow in what was almost certainly intended to be a covert platform to conduct a deniable attack.

The US prevented that attack by continuously monitoring the movement of the vessel until Iran abandoned their plans.

“Because they don't like it when their plans are exposed to sunlight when they actually have to be responsible for what they contemplate doing,” said Gen. McKenzie.

“And this particular case, our measured actions, prevented an attack and certainly contributed to a reduction of tensions.”

Later in May and June of 2019, commandos from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) attacked commercial tankers docked in the UAE and at sea in the Gulf of Oman.

The US assembled an eight nation international coalition – the International Maritime Security Construct, or IMSC – to provide around the clock maritime and reconnaissance presence close to the Strait of Hormuz.

The general said that since the IMSC's founding, there have not been any Iranian attacks on maritime shipping in the area, nor any serious confrontations with Iranian maritime forces in the area of the Strait of Hormuz.

“We think this is because our presence makes deniable attacks less likely to succeed. So they've chosen not to try.”

He emphasized that “the exposure of Iranian activities is a powerful tool and it's a non-kinetic and a de-escalatory tool that we routinely employ. A clear result of the IMSC has been a result of the drawdown in tensions.”

He pointed to the Iranian downing of a US drone in June 2019, around the Strait of Hormuz, as another example of the US showing “tremendous restraint.”

“We added additional defensive systems to the region and additional reconnaissance assets to closely watch Iran. Again, the United States avoided escalation and met provocation with firm but measured resolve,” he added.

Iran’s attacks on Saudi Arabia

Gen. McKenzie said that both the US and Saudi Arabia had taken a “measured defensive approach” in response to Iran’s attacks on oil refineries in the Kingdom.

“We called for an international response to protect the region from future ballistic missile and UAV attacks. We added additional defensive systems into the kingdom, radar other platforms, as did our international partners,” he explained.

Gen. McKenzie added that the US had advised Saudi Arabia on how to prevent future attacks. “You can never rule out a potential future Iranian attack,” he said, pointing out “that there have been no additional attacks since the radar and defensive systems [were put in].”

Gene. McKenzie argued that these actions “made it more difficult for Iran to conduct similar attacks in the future. And we also had the opportunity to advance regional security. … it also lowered tensions.”

US has shown restraint in Iraq: Gen. McKenzie

Gen. McKenzie also said that the US has shown restraint in its conflict with Iran in Iraq.

He explained that the US only decided to kill Iranian general Qasem Soleimani after Iranian-backed militias repeatedly attacked Iraqi bases that hosted US service members.

“We enhanced our defensive posture and we explicitly warned the Iranians to cease the attacks. Only when a US contractor was killed and we had evidence that Iran was orchestrating these attacks on Iraqi bases and plotting additional attacks, then we took action to strike both the Iranian backed militias and the mastermind of the Iranian backed attacks,” he said.

The general also pointed out that when Iran’s counterstrike killed no US service members at al-Assad or Erbil in January 2020, the US took steps to break the cycle of escalation by not responding to Iran's ballistic missile attack.

“…I think it's clear that we've repeatedly sought to avoid conflict. We continue to take actions that reduce tensions. We've repeatedly taken a measured defensive approach,” he said.

Gen. McKenzie drew a contrast between this “measured” approach and Iran’s provocations, saying that it was a “myth” that the US had ratcheted up tensions.

He pointed to Iran’s continued supply of weapons to the Iranian-backed Houthi militia in Yemen as further evidence of Tehran’s destabilizing activities.

“While the Iranian medical system was in many ways overwhelmed by the COVID-19 outbreak and medical supplies have run short, the Houthis, for example, have continued to be supplied with the best weapons the Iranians can produce,” said Gen. McKenzie.

“The Houthis have a significant COVID problem of their own, the Iranians have not, to my knowledge, provided any medical assistance to their proxy for that fight with the virus,” he added.


US ‘strongly opposes military escalation’ in Libya, calls for ceasefire, negotiations

22 June 2020

The United States opposes military escalation in Libya and calls for a ceasefire and for parties to negotiate, the US National Security Council said on Monday.

“The United States strongly opposes military escalation in Libya – on all sides. We urge parties to commit to a ceasefire and resume negotiations immediately. We must build on progress made through the UN’s 5+5 talks, the Cairo Initiative, and the Berlin process.”

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Clashes between the two main warring parties in Libya, the Libyan National Army (LNA), commanded by Khalifa Haftar and the Government of National Accord (GNA), led by Fayez al-Serraj, have intensified.

And tensions between the countries backing the different sides of the civil conflict have also risen.

On Saturday, Egypt warned that it may resort to military intervention in Libya to protect its national security.

There have been several initiatives over the years to restore order in the country which crumbled in 2011 after toppling of dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Since then, the unrest and the conflict has displaced hundreds of thousands of Libyans and killed thousands more.

The latest peace initiative was the “Cairo Initiative,” put forth by Egypt on June 6. The initiative included a ceasefire, talks in Geneva, election of a leadership council, disbanding of militias and exit of all foreign fighters from Libya.

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Qatari Emir’s brother accused of murder, sodomy and misconduct in new US lawsuit

21 June 2020

Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad al-Thani, the brother of Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim, is being accused of ordering his staff to murder US citizens on American soil, of sexual assault on a male prostitute and of killing his wife’s driver in Doha, according to a new lawsuit.

The 137-page federal civil lawsuit filed on Tuesday, a copy of which was obtained by Al Arabiya English, was filed by six plaintiffs in Massachusetts following an earlier lawsuit by two of the Americans last August in Florida.

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The six plaintiffs are all former staffers of Sheikh Khalid, 33, who worked for him in various roles either through his car racing team or directly with him as a nurse.

Murder, sodomy accusations

Terry Hope, one of the plaintiffs who worked for Sheikh Khalid’s Al Anabi Racing team, made several accusations including the Qatari’s request he commit murder on his behalf.

Hope said he witnessed Sheikh Khalid beat his wife’s chauffeur to death with the assistance of the Emiri Guard in an al-Thani royal family desert camp compound outside of Doha.

“This is what happens when you cross me. This is my world … Everyone has their breaking point. I’ll find yours … If you ever want to get into my inner circle, you will have to show your loyalty,” Hope accused Sheikh Khalid of saying.

Hope also alleged that he was forced to watch Sheikh Khalid, Jason Sharpe who is one of the Qatari Sheikh’s employees, and another friend Sheikh Khalid’s “commit an act of sodomy against a male prostitute with a billiard stick.”

Being monitored by elder brother Sheikh Tamim

Hope also accused Sheikh Khalid of soliciting his knowledge of software to obtain access to files belonging to his brother, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, and other members of Bahrain and the UAE’s royal families.

“Defendant Khalid then attempted to use Plaintiff Hope’s knowledge of software to obtain access to the files of Defendant Khalid’s brother, who is now the Emir of Qatar but was the Deputy Emir of Qatar at the time, royal family members of Dubai and Bahrain, and private citizens of Dubai and Bahrain. Plaintiff Hope refused,” the complaint in the lawsuit read.

The lawsuit also alleged that Sheikh Khalid had been paranoid he was being monitored by his brother, Emir Sheikh Tamim, and had sought Hope’s help to debug his personal home in 2010 before his elder sibling had been appointed ruler.

“In March 2010, Defendant Khalid requested that Plaintiff Hope return to Qatar, who had just returned to the United States after the conclusion of the Qatar racing season, to assist Defendant Khalid with debugging his personal residence; Defendant Khalid believed his brother, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Deputy Emir of Qatar at the time, was watching him or listening to his conversations,” read the complaint.

Sexual misconduct

Initially filed by two of the plaintiffs – security guard Mathew Pittard and medic Mathew Allende – last July 23 in a US federal court in Florida, the same lawsuit against Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad al-Thani also alleges he attempted to enlist an American security staffer to murder two people and ordered him to hold another American captive.

The lawsuit also includes complaints from a second plaintiff who says he was held captive in a compound and threatened with a gun while working as a medic for the Sheikh.

The second plaintiff Allende added that he needed surgery for the injuries he received after being forced to scale a 5.4-meter perimeter wall to escape. The plaintiff escaped after Sheikh Khalid refused him a day off in approximately three weeks and then threatened him with a gun.

In the new lawsuit filed on Tuesday, Jason Mollenbrink alleged that Sheikh Khalid exposed his penis and demanded that he show him his. Mollenbrink was employed as a licensed, registered nurse by Sheikh Khalid from approximately May 2018 to March 2019.

All six plaintiffs, who are represented by attorney Rebecca Castaneda, are seeking damages from Sheikh Khalid and are demanding a jury trial on all causes of action in their lawsuit.

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