New Age Islam
Thu Dec 03 2020, 05:55 AM

Islamic World News ( 7 May 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com)

40 Per Cent of Indonesian University Students Targeted By Radical Religious Ideology, Report Says

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

US Embassy road signs have been installed in Jerusalem al-Quds ahead the upcoming mission s opening based on President Donald Trump’s recognition of the city as Israel’s capital.

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40 Per Cent of Indonesian University Students Targeted By Radical Religious Ideology, Report Says

Muslim Scholars Deplore FGM and Say It Violates Quran, Islamic Law

US Embassy Road Signs Installed In Jerusalem Al-Quds Ahead Of Opening

SC Notice on another Plea against Polygamy among Muslims

Terrorism Decreases in Pakistan, but Religious Fervour Threatens National Unity

 

Southeast Asia

40 Per Cent of Indonesian University Students Targeted By Radical Religious Ideology, Report Says

Agree to These Three and We’ll Vote for You, Say Hindu Leaders

Jakarta Court Rejects Attempt by Hizb ut-Tahrir to Reverse Its Ban

Indonesia offers keys to OIC countries in facing global challenges

Young Filipino Muslims leave for Malaysia peace tour

More Rohingya Refugees Arrive in Indonesia’s Aceh

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Africa

Muslim Scholars Deplore FGM and Say It Violates Quran, Islamic Law

Mali Ripe Territory for ISIS, Local Militias — and They Often Clash

Libya strongman announces offensive to take Derna from ‘terrorists’

Nigeria: 1,000 hostages rescued from Boko Haram

Al-Shabaab claims Dhobley attack on Kenyan military

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Mideast

US Embassy Road Signs Installed In Jerusalem Al-Quds Ahead Of Opening

Tel Aviv Will Assassinate Syria’s Assad If Iran Attacks Israel: Israeli Minister

Secret witness testifies against U.S. pastor in Turkey

Six killed in strikes on Yemen capital

Iran Terms Netanyahu Class-C Showman

King Salman Relief Center aids delivery of WHO oxygen stations to Yemen

Arab coalition strike hits presidential office in Yemen’s Houthi-held capital

Israel creates special Facebook page to sway Iraq’s public opinion: Report

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India

SC Notice on another Plea against Polygamy among Muslims

In Hubli’s Disputed Idgah, A Lesson For Gurugram

Will spare no effort to free abducted Indians, says Afghan foreign minister

J&K: Video of Hizb terrorist Saddam Padder's mother giving gun salute to slain son goes viral

Pakistani militant held in Kupwara tells NIA his aim was to launch attacks on security forces

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Pakistan

Terrorism Decreases in Pakistan, but Religious Fervour Threatens National Unity

Afghan Taliban Lobbying Pakistani Clerics to Avoid Indonesia Moot

UIPM Launches ‘Positive Change in Religious Thought’ Campaign

COAS lauds Sindh Rangers role in establishing peace in Karachi

After Ahsan Iqbal escapes attempted murder, TLP preaches ‘peace’

Five ‘TTP men’ held in Benazir killing case granted bail

Attack on Ahsan result of ‘appeasing’ extremists

Intense heat kills 11 at Lal Shahbaz Qalandar Urs

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Arab World

Lebanon Election: Hezbollah Leader Declares 'Victory'

Iraqi Intelligence Reveals Where ISIS’s Baghdadi Believed to Be Hiding

30 Regime Forces Killed Fighting IS In Syria Capital

How A Saudi Prison Reshapes The Lives Of Former Extremists

Good Muslims Must Strive To Be Good Citizens, Scholars Say

Civilians and rebel fighters start to leave enclave in Syria

Syrian Army Keeps Rolling on Terrorist Centers in Southern Damascus

Turkish Army, Allied Militants Suppress Popular Uprising in Northern Syria

US Navy jets begin sorties against ISIS in Syria from Mediterranean

Militants leaving last strongholds in Syria's Homs, Hama

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South Asia

Islamic Countries Call Rohingya Crisis ‘Ethnic Cleansing’

42 Militants Killed In Latest Airstrikes in Afghanistan

Afghan police foil suicide attack on Kabul blood drive

Rohingya fear India's move to aid repatriation plan

Taliban suffer casualties in artillery and airstrikes in Paktia

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North America

Russians Posed As Islamic State Hackers, Threatened US Military Wives

Scenarios Ahead Of Donald Trump’s Big Reveal On The Iran Nuclear Deal

Trump tweets under spotlight during 9/11 pre-trial hearings on Gitmo

Neocons, Netanyahu want military confrontation with Iran: Ron Paul

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Europe

Moroccan Anti-Terror Chief Says Rabat Putting on Trial Hundreds of ISIS Returnees

UK establishment gangs up on another mainstream Muslim politician

Afghan gunships killed and wounded 107 boys and men in attack last month: UN

French media call into question Qatari official’s real estate dealings in Europe

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/40-per-cent-of-indonesian-university-students-targeted-by-radical-religious-ideology,-report-says/d/115180

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40 per cent of Indonesian university students targeted by radical religious ideology, report says

May 8, 2018

Indonesian universities are being targeted by conservative religious ideology across the country, according to the latest report by Indonesia's State Intelligence Agency.

Last month, Indonesian national intelligence chief Budi Gunawan said in a lecture that 39 per cent of university students in Indonesia had been exposed to radical groups.

Mr Gunawan said 15 Indonesian provinces were classified as high-risk areas and they were now closely monitoring three Indonesian universities.

The intelligence report also finds that 24 per cent of university students and 23.3 per cent of high school students in Indonesia are in favour of supporting jihad to establish an Islamic "caliphate".

The findings have been supported by previous research by other institutions in the country.

The Wahid Foundation, founded by former Indonesian president and Muslim scholar KH Abdurrahman Wahid, did a study on radicalisation in 2017.

It found nearly 60 per cent of high school students who were taking extracurricular activities in Islamic studies said they ready to be part of jihad even if violence was involved.

Radicals seek young people to spread ideology

Bonar Tigor Naipospos, deputy director of the SETARA Institute for Democracy and Peace, said the findings emphasised how vulnerable students in Indonesia were to radicalism.

"Indonesia is experiencing demographic bonuses [the opposite of an aging population] where the largest group of the population is between 16 to 35 years old," Mr Naipospos told the ABC.

He added that higher education institutions should be more proactive in examining whether there were activities that led to radical behaviour.

For example, they could monitor student forums and pay attention to flyers distributed on campuses, he said.

Muhammad Fatih Akmal, a student of the Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University in Jakarta, said he knew some of his fellow classmates had extreme thinking.

"For them, the Quran should only be interpreted and explained by Middle Eastern scholars."

He said the same students were also attending forums held by Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, which is now considered an extremist organisation and had its legal status revoked by the Government.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-05-08/university-students-in-indonesia-exposed-to-radical-groups/9734874

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Muslim Scholars Deplore FGM and Say It Violates Quran, Islamic Law

May 08, 2018

Female genital mutilation violates Islamic law and teachings, Muslim scholars said yesterday.

They asked communities to desist from linking it to their religion. 

The scholars said FGM violates the essence and objective of Islamic law, which protects the welfare of family, dignity, wealth and the mental capacity of an individual.

Speaking in Nairobi, Deputy Chief Kadhi Rashid Ali Omar said FGM should not be condoned. 

Pastoralist communities and some counties in Northeastern, he said, have borrowed the practice from the Egyptian culture and amalgamated it into Islam.

“We haven’t heard any of the late Prophet Muhammad daughters was circumcised,” Omar said

But Prof Omar Al-Bashir from Green International said mutilation and circumcision are worlds apart, with different meanings.

His remarks appeared to suggest that Islam tolerates a mild form of circumcision.

“I do not think it is wise to merge the two words to mean the same thing. When we talk about circumcision, it is seen to be practiced countrywide. Islam is eloquent on that and how it is done and we should not go beyond the limits,” he said.

Asked whether Islam allows circumcision, Omar said, “In this case, what we are talking about is mutilation.”

“Mutilation is on the extreme, but when it comes to circumcision, it is practised across the country. Still, the practice is deeply rooted in culture and eliminating it will be a process.”

The scholars promised to support the government and work with Dayaa Women’s Group in Tana River to conduct civic education on the consequences of FGM.

According to a report by Unicef, 9.3 million women and girls in Kenya, equivalent to 27 per cent, have undergone genital mutilation.

This places Kenya at number 17 among 29 African countries that practice FGM.

Partnership

Last month, the Anti-FGM Board announced it was teaming up with various players to wipe out FGM.  These include the government, the public, private sector, civil society, the media and development partners.

“We want to work together towards a common vision to end the female cut,” Board CEO Benardito Loloju said.

He said the board is coordinating county governments and NGOs in 16 counties where FGM is practised, to synchronise their efforts in eliminating the cut. Loloju said the efforts were a success in Kajiado and would be replicated in 15 counties.

Board director Agnes Leina said even though anti-FGM campaigns have been created by NGOs and other institutions, people from remote areas have not heard of laws barring the practice due to lack of media and other communication channels.

FGM prevalence has greatly reduced since 2011, after a new Act outlawed the practice.

https://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2018/05/08/muslim-scholars-deplore-fgm-and-say-it-violates-Quran-islamic-law_c1754999

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US embassy road signs installed in Jerusalem al-Quds ahead of opening

May 7, 2018

US Embassy road signs have been installed in Jerusalem al-Quds ahead the upcoming mission's opening based on President Donald Trump’s recognition of the city as Israel’s capital.

The black-and-white signs, written in English, Hebrew and Arabic, were installed along roads heading to a US consulate building in the city's southern regions.

The consulate is set to be remodeled as the embassy when it formally opens on May 14.

"This is not a dream. It is reality. I am proud and moved to have hung this morning the first new signs that were prepared for the US Embassy,” said Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on Monday.

"This (embassy) move is not only illegal but will also thwart the achievement of a just and lasting peace between two sovereign and democratic states on the 1967 borders, Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security,” said Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat in a statement released on Monday.

The Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now also slammed the move, stressing that it sabotages any opportunity for peace.

Also on Monday, Paraguay announced that it was planning to relocate its embassy from near Tel Aviv to al-Quds on May 21 or 22.

In March, Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales announced that his country would also move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on May 16.

"Under my instructions, two days after the United States moves its embassy, Guatemala will return and permanently move its embassy to Jerusalem," said Morales.

The Czech Republic, Romania, and Honduras have so far said they would be moving in US footsteps.

At the beginning of the month, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo announced that by no means his country will be moving its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem al-Quds.

On December 6, Trump defied global warnings and said Washington formally recognized al-Quds as the “capital” of Israel and would begin the process of moving its embassy to the occupied city, breaking with decades of American policy.

Trump's declaration has sent shockwaves throughout the Muslim world and even prompted warnings from Washington’s allies in the West that it would bring more chaos to the region.

The United Nations General Assembly on December 21 overwhelmingly voted in favor of a resolution that calls on the US to withdraw its controversial recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as the Israeli capital.

Washington, however, says the diplomatic mission will be relocated from Tel Aviv to al-Quds next month to coincide with the anniversary of the day in 1948 when Israel was proclaimed as an entity after a catastrophic war with Arab nations.

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/05/07/560974/us-embassy-trump-road-signs-alquds

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SC Notice on another Plea against Polygamy among Muslims

May 7, 2018

The Supreme Court today issued notice on a fresh plea by a woman seeking to declare the practices of polygamy and 'nikah halala' among Muslims as unconstitutional.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud sought response from the Centre and others on a plea of Rani alias Sabnam challenging the practice of polygamy and 'nikah halala' in the community. She and her three minor kids were allegedly thrown out of the matrimonial home after her husband had re-married.

The bench after hearing senior lawyer Shekhar Naphade and advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay ordered tagging of her petition with a batch of pleas to be decided by a five-judge Constitution bench.

While polygamy allows a Muslim man to have four wives, 'nikah halala' deals with the process in which a Muslim woman, who wants to re-marry her husband after divorce, has to first marry another person and get a divorce from him after the consummation.

The apex court, on March 26, had referred to a five-judge constitution bench a batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of polygamy and 'nikah halala' among the Muslims.

Rani alias Sabnam, in her petition, referred to the sequence of events in her life and said she had married one Muzammil on February 8, 2010 as per the Shariayat rites and was blessed with two sons and a daughter.

She said her parents spent about Rs five lakh, including gold and silver ornaments as dowry, in her marriage. However, she was later harassed and forced out of the matrimonial home here after her husband re-married.

The woman, who is currently living with her children at the home of in-laws in Bulandshahr town of Uttar Pradesh after neighbours came forward in their support, has moved the top court for declaring these practices as unconstitutional.

"The instant petition raises an important issue of General Public Interest, that is prevalent practice of Polygamy including Nikah-Halala which is unconstitutional and even then the same is prevailing in our country. The said practices which certainly comes within the domain of personal law cannot be immune from judicial review under the constitution," it said.

The plea said that "extra-judicial talaq" amounted to cruelty and be made an offence under section 498A (subjecting a married woman to cruelty) of the IPC. It also sought that the practice of 'nikah halala' be considered as the offence of rape under the IPC.

Union ministries of Woman and Child Welfare, Law and Minority Affairs and National Commission for Woman have been made parties to the litigation.

The top court had on April 23 directed the Centre to respond to a separate plea seeking to declare the provisions of Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) validating the practice of polygamy and 'nikah halala' as unconstitutional. It had also ordered tagging of the petition, filed by Lucknow resident Naish Hasan on the same issue.

Hasan, in the petition, had said the pivotal issue that needed to be answered was whether under a secular Constitution, women, merely by virtue of their religious identity, can be relegated to a status significantly more vulnerable than their counterparts professing other faiths.

The apex court had on March 26 referred a batch of pleas challenging the practice of polygamy and others to the constitution bench.

The bench had considered the submission that an earlier five-judge constitution bench, in its 2017 verdict, had kept open the issue of polygamy and 'nikah halala' while quashing triple talaq.

By a majority of 3:2, a five-judge constitution bench, on August 22 last year, had banned the 1,400 year-old practice of instant 'triple talaq' among Sunni Muslims and set it aside on several grounds including that it was against the basic tenets of the Holy Quran and violated the Islamic law Shariat.

http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/sc-notice-on-another-plea-against-polygamy-among-muslims-118050701087_1.html

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Terrorism decreases in Pakistan, but religious fervour threatens national unity

May 8, 2018

ISLAMABAD: By voting last week to revoke an honour bestowed on the first Pakistani to receive a Nobel Prize in science, Pakistan’s National Assembly opted for political expediency in the face of a fast-rising Muslim group that denounces members of the late physicist’s faith as blasphemers, reported The Washington Post.

Abdus Salam, who died in 1996, was a member of the Ahmadiyya minority sect, and no politician was eager to challenge the Muslim group, known as the Tehreek-e-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYR). So lawmakers decided to take his name off a renowned physics centre.

But on Sunday, when a young member of the movement shot and severely wounded Pakistan’s interior minister at a public gathering, there was immediate condemnation across the political spectrum and a flood of horrified comments on social media.

“This menace of hatred will destroy everything,” tweeted former foreign minister Khawaja Asif. “For God’s sake, we have to work together for our country.” In another tweet, Afrasiab Khattak, a retired senator and a human rights activist, warned, “Weaponising religion is a path to horrible disaster.”

While Pakistani officials claim to have eradicated Islamist extremism and terrorism from their country after years of conflict, a new threat to public order and religious peace has risen in their place. TLYR, which professes the benign agenda of defending Muhammad as the final prophet of Islam, also exhorts followers to violence in that cause and targets members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim sect, called Ahmedis, as dangerous heretics because they believe in a later prophet.

Neither the legislative resolution against Abdus Salam nor the assassination attempt on Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal was openly supported by officials of the movement. But analysts here said there was no doubt that the group’s emotional fervor, widespread appeal to mainstream Sunni Muslims, demonisation of Ahmedis and relentless attacks on political opponents had played a role in both.

And while insulting a long-dead scientist did no actual harm, the close-range attack on Iqbal, who was hospitalised with a gunshot wound in the shoulder, was a terrifying response to his official role in trying to quell a weeks-long sit-in in November by the movement. The 23-year-old attacker said the idea to kill the minister came to him in a dream.

The protest leaders charged that an election law had been stealthily changed to give more political rights to Ahmedis; officials denied this and apologised. But the protests persisted until police were sent to quell them and failed. Later, the army was called in to negotiate and agreed to many of the group’s demands.

“When State surrenders before bunch of extremists and political parties try to exploit” religious causes, “then attacks like #AhsanIqbal happen,” newspaper columnist Mubashir Zaidi said in a tweet Monday. “Now the monster is out.”

The attempt on Iqbal’s life also brought a chilling reminder of the 2011 death of Salman Taseer, who was governor of Punjab province. He was killed by his own bodyguard for criticising the country’s harsh blasphemy laws. The guard was hanged in 2015, but many Muslims viewed him as a martyr to Islam, and the TLYR was created around his example.

Pakistan’s uncertain leadership situation has added fuel to the combustible mix of religion and politics as the Muslim-majority nation heads toward national elections later this year. The most bizarre aspect concerns the contradictory roles played by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his son-in-law, Safdar Awan. Sharif was ousted by the Supreme Court last year after facing corruption charges.

It was Sharif, then a popular premier, who decided 16 months ago to honour Abdus Salam by naming a physics centre at the prestigious Quaid-e-Azam University after him. Human rights groups hailed the gesture as a hopeful turning point in the history of discrimination and violent attacks against Ahmedis in Pakistan.

“The government should be congratulated for correcting a historic injustice,” Pervez Hoodbhoy, a physics professor and rights activist, said at the time. Now, he added, perhaps Pakistan is “ready to move ahead in science, irrespective of faith. It will help soften Pakistan’s image” as “intolerant and terrorist”.

But one of the most outspoken critics of the honour was Awan, the husband of Sharif’s daughter Maryam. Last year, Awan gave a vituperative speech against Ahmedis in Parliament, and he sponsored the resolution to remove Abdus Salam’s name from the building and give the honour instead to 12-century Byzantine astronomer Abu al-Fath Abd al-Rahman al-Khazini.

Some Pakistani commentators said Awan had come under political pressure from the TLYR. Others suggested that he was playing a good cop/bad cop role to appease the group and help the sagging fortunes of the Sharif family’s political party, the Pakistan Muslim League-N, which will face stiff competition in the upcoming polls.

But the shooting of Iqbal, a well-liked and longtime aide to Sharif and the Muslim League, seemed to eclipse party politics and bring the potential dangers of fomenting religious hatred into sharp national focus. While the TLYR has galvanized fervent support from Muslims across the country, the attack has also aroused popular concern that the group may have gone too far.

Among Ahmedis, already accustomed to being ostracised and misunderstood, there is a growing sense that their place in Pakistani society is even more perilous — and that the increasing influence of the Movement in Service to the Prophet is making antagonism to Ahmedis an unprecedented litmus test for millions of mainstream Muslims.

“The fight against Ahmedis has become a struggle for the soul of the country,” Ahmad Usman, a photographer and journalist based in Pakistan, wrote in the online Naya Daur Media. “The good Pakistani and the good Muslim [are] increasingly defined by their hatred of Ahmedis.”

Abdus Salam and others like him “are exactly the kind of heroes Pakistan needs”, Usman added. But when public life is infected by the “virus of hatred, they are not the heroes the country deserves”.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/05/08/terrorism-decreases-in-pakistan-but-religious-fervour-threatens-national-unity/

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Southeast Asia

 

Agree to these three and we’ll vote for you, say Hindu leaders

May 7, 2018

KLANG: Hindu leaders in the country have made three demands they said the elected government should implement within 30 days after the May 9 polls.

World Hindu Council Malaysia president V.K. Regu called for formal Hindu religious education to replace the moral class in all Tamil-type national schools.

The other bodies are the Malaysia Hindu Sangam, Malaysia Hindu Sevai Sangam and Malaysian Hindu Youth Council.

“We see this as an effective method to address the issue of violence and social problems among Indian youths,” Regu told Bernama after attending a talk on the Malaysian Hindu agenda last night.

He also urged the government to look into establishing vocational education-based Tamil secondary schools to address the issue of dropouts among Indian students from the secondary schools.

“As for the third demand, we want the employment rate of 7% involving Indians at every level of staffing in all government and government-linked companies.

“The Hindu community commits itself to supporting and voting for the political party that includes these three demands in their election manifesto for GE14,” he said.

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2018/05/07/agree-to-these-three-and-well-vote-for-you-say-hindu-leaders/

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Jakarta court rejects attempt by Hizb ut-Tahrir to reverse its ban

7 May 2018

A legal attempt by the Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir to overturn a decision that saw it outlawed in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country has been rejected by an Indonesian court.

Reading the verdict at Jakarta state administrative court, the head judge, Tri Cahya Indra Permana, said the lawsuit was “rejected in full”.

Hizb ut-Tahrir was banned in Indonesia on the basis of a 2017 presidential decree that gives the government powers to disband groups deemed a threat to national unity.

The ruling on Monday upheld that decision, with the judicial panel stating that the government had acted according to procedure and Hizb ut-Tahrir runs counter to Indonesia’s state ideology.

The Islamic group,  that had an estimated 10,000 members in Indonesia before it was dissolved, supports the establishment of a global caliphate.

Under heavy guard from police and military personnel, hundreds of hardline supporters dressed in white skullcaps gathered outside the courtroom, where they conducted a mass prayer before the verdict was announced.

Ismail Yusanto, a former Hizb ut-Tahrir Indonesia spokesman, said it would appeal.

“If we accept, that means accepting injustice, that we allow injustice and we accept that preaching our ideals is wrong. Are you willing to let the teachings of Islam be blamed?” Yusanto was quoted as saying by CNN Indonesia.

The ruling is a clear political victory for the administration of Joko Widodo, but there are doubts that it will help curb radicalism.

Todd Elliott, a political analyst at Concord Consulting, said: “There is no guarantee that former members of HTI [Hizb ut-Tahrir Indonesia] are simply going to give up their extremist beliefs now that their former group is outlawed. There is a plethora of other hardline Islamist groups.”

Hizb ut-Tahrir was one of several Islamic groups involved in mass rallies that led to the  of the former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, better known as Ahok, on charges of blasphemy last year.

Elliott said the group, which has been banned in several other countries, was an easier target than some Indonesian organisations that have a demonstrated pattern of violence.

Full report at:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/07/indonesia-jakarta-court-rejects-hizb-ut-tahrir-attempt-to-reverse-ban

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Indonesia offers keys to OIC countries in facing global challenges

May 8, 2018

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Indonesian government has offered keys to OIC countries in addressing global challenges during the 45th Ministerial Conference of Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

"In order to be able to solve the global issues, OIC should improve the management and organizational decision-making process," Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia A.M. Fachir stated in a press statement on Monday.

He also offered a solution to some challenges faced by the Islamic world.

In the field of politics and security, Indonesia has proposed the establishment of Contact Group on Peace and Conflict Resolution as a common forum to identify and formulate ways to address security and peace challenges.

In the economic and social aspect, he conveyed Indonesia`s initiative in the construction of vaccine and biotechnology products development center for OIC countries.

He added that the effort is important to realize the self-sufficiency of cheap vaccine procurement for OIC countries.

In addition, the Indonesian government has also invited OIC member countries to conduct research and development cooperation through the establishment of a center for excellence that could be located in Indonesia.

In the context of OIC cultural cooperation, the Indonesian government has successfully submitted a resolution during the High-Level Consultation of World Muslim Scholars on Wasatiyyah Islam, which was held in Bogor, West Java province, from May 1 to 3, 2018.

The meeting has resulted in the resolution of Bogor Message on the principle of moderation for the promotion of peace, tolerance, and harmonious life in the Islamic and interfaith world.

The resolution also focuses on the development of a fair, prosperous, peaceful, and open society that is in accordance with Islamic values.

On the occasion, OIC member states expressed appreciation for the implementation of the Islamic Wasatiyyah meeting in Indonesia.

Furthermore, Fachir also invited OIC member countries to cooperate with the spirit of Islamic brotherhood in overcoming various humanitarian problems in Palestine, Myanmar, Yemen, and Syria.

The Indonesia government has conveyed a constructive view on the issue of Rohingya refugees in the special session of the meeting. On the occasion, the Indonesian government underscored the importance of addressing the crisis thoroughly and encouraging the settlement of the root cause in two ways, namely through constructive approaches with the Myanmar government and the provision of assistance for economic development in Myanmar, particularly in Rakhine State.

The 45th OIC Ministerial Conference was opened by the Prime Minister of Bangladesh and was attended by 56 OIC member states.

The conference has resulted in the Dhaka Declaration and several important decisions related to the Palestinian issues.

Full report at:

https://en.antaranews.com/news/115633/indonesia-offers-keys-to-oic-countries-in-facing-global-challenges

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Young Filipino Muslims leave for Malaysia peace tour

May 8, 2018

A group of young people from the southern Philippines has traveled to Malaysia for a tour aimed at building confidence "to counter terrorism" in the region.

The Philippine military sponsored the trip of 50 predominantly Muslim youth leaders from Mindanao "to expose them to a predominantly Muslim society that is peaceful and progressive."

Maj. Gen. Roseller Murillo, who helped organize the trip, said it is designed to make young people become "a force for positive and political change."

Most participants come from provinces near the city of Marawi, which was occupied by Islamic State-inspired gunmen last year.

"This is very important especially for those from Marawi," said Murillo. The military official challenged the young Muslims to see what happened to Marawi "as an opportunity to change."

"Even if we were hurt and our lives destroyed, let us rise up," Murillo told them in a send-off message on May 6.

He said the program, which is in cooperation with the Malaysian government, will promote among young Muslims "peace, harmony and good governance in their communities."

During the tour, participants will get the chance to "stimulate social exchanges" between and among communities of various faiths.

"Malaysia is a modern society — they all unite against terrorism. Whatever good practices you may learn on your tour, you apply it here when you come back," Murillo told the youth leaders.

He said the Philippine military "recognizes the significance of engaging the youth as social actors and helping them become more effective change-makers."

Overcoming the trauma of war

Khalid Macalipot, a 21-year-old Islamic studies student at Marawi's Mindanao State University, hoped the trip to Malaysia would help him overcome the trauma of the conflict.

Macalipot's family fled Marawi when the conflict erupted in May last year.

"I want to bring to Malaysia the culture of the people of Marawi and show the world that despite the war the Maranao people are peace-loving people," said Macalipot.

Jamilnur Sarip, head of the student governing body at the university, said he wants to see how people in Malaysia live peacefully and harmoniously.

"Malaysia is considered an Islamic country but the synergy and solidarity are strong while in Marawi there is hatred between Muslims and non-Muslims," the youth leader said.

Love Leah Abi-abi, a 20-year-old non-Muslim who joined the group, said she is excited to learn more about fostering tolerance, acceptance and coexistence, especially among young people.

"This is an opportunity to understand another culture," she said, adding that understanding among peoples is key to fighting terrorism.

Threats of terror in Southeast Asia

During this year's annual Association of Southeast Asian Nations leaders' summit, Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warned of the "very real" threat of terror attacks in the region.

He cited attacks in Indonesia in 2016 by so-called Islamic State fighters and the attack in Marawi last year as proof of the growing influence of terror groups.

"We need to be resilient to both conventional threats and also non-conventional threats such as terrorism," he said.

In recent months, several foreign fighters, some believed to be Malaysian nationals, were among those killed in clashes between terrorist gunmen and Philippine soldiers in Mindanao.

Full report at:

https://www.ucanews.com/news/young-filipino-muslims-leave-for-malaysia-peace-tour/82235

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More Rohingya Refugees Arrive in Indonesia’s Aceh

May 07, 2018

JAKARTA —

Two boats carrying Rohingya refugees from Myanmar’s Rakhine State have landed in Indonesia’s westernmost province of Aceh, evidence of the ongoing exodus of what has been called the world’s most persecuted minority. Due to Aceh’s location, at the tip of Sumatra island and across the Andaman Sea from Myanmar, the province has received nine different sets of seaborne Rohingya refugees within the last decade.

“There’s a big difference now, in 2018,” said Mariam Khokhar, who heads the Medan office of the International Organization for Migration, which has provided humanitarian assistance to all nine instances of Rohingya arrivals in Aceh. “They used to get access to bigger boats, but now there great desperation and the Rohingya are using smaller boats to get out.”

Aceh is now something of an old hand with Rohingya arrivals, even though Indonesia is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and does not formally recognize or assist refugees on a national level. In 2015, Acehnese people, who are among the most conservative Muslims in all of Indonesia, made headlines for their warm embrace of their fellow Muslim Rohingya refugees.

This month, the IOM is working with the Aceh local government to house and assist the 84 new Rohingya arrivals.

“The vice governor of Aceh who said if they come to Aceh we will assist them, we believe in the dignity of people and things like that. So indeed the local govenment and the local people have been amazing,” said Khokhar.

Rohingya in Indonesia

The Rohingya are an ethnic Muslim group in Buddhist-majority Myanmar. The Rohingya refugee crisis peaked in 2016 when an offensive strike by a Rohingya militant group led to a brutal crackdown by the Myanmar military. Over 600,000 people have fled Rakhine state, most of them crossing the land border on foot to Bangladesh.

Those who choose to leave on boats often head for Malaysia, where refugees can find work as laborers.

All the seaborne arrivals in Indonesia have occurred between January and May, when the seas are calm enough to support the journey.

“That's a total of about 1,750 people. The structures are in place for local government to respond to these and for us to assist if we are called upon to do so,” said Paul Dillon, a project manager at IOM Indonesia. In contrast, there are an estimated 90,000-100,000 Rohingya refugees currently in Malaysia.

"So when things have been relatively stable in the Rakhine the departures tend to go down," said Dillon, whereas they rise when there is instability. "This is a feature of forced migration everywhere on the planet...All of the [recent] movements of people were preceded by periods of instability in the Rakhine state." (slightly condensed the quotes here)

Khokhar said that sixty-six percent of the most recent arrivals are categorized as "vulnerable," which means they are unaccompanied minors, single mothers, or single females.

Long-term solution remains elusive

Aceh’s social services office works with the IOM to provide humanitarian relief.

They were first housed in a government facility in Bireuen Regency and are now being moved to a more permanent camp in Langsa. They are not being encouraged to continue on to Malaysia, although Khokhar said a few will likely try to go anyway.

The IOM has also helped previous Rohingya arrivals in Aceh to voluntarily return to Bangladesh or to be processed for resettlement in Western countries, including the United States.

Aceh is the only Indonesian province to have full sharia, or Islamic law, and implementation there includes public floggings and vigilante moral police. The Acehnese people have always been uniquely conservative and they fought for decades to be their own state, separate from Indonesia, only giving up when the province was devastated by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. Aceh was proverbially the first place in the Malay archipelago to have residents become Muslims, when Muslim traders came to Sumatra as early as the 13th century.

Perhaps because of their strong Muslim identity, the Acehnese have, for several years now, been uniquely hospitable to Rohingya refugees. At the forefront are the local fishermen who rescue them from boats.

“The Acehnese adat [customary law] is very strong and obliges fishermen to save any life that is at risk at sea. These were the principles used by Acehnese fisherman to say we can stand up against national law cause our law is higher,” explained Lilliane Fan, of the nonprofit Geutanyoe Foundation, in 2015.

Of course, the 84 new refugees in Aceh are a minuscule fraction of the hundreds of thousands of refugees worldwide. “The 650,000 Rohingya in Bangladesh are the elephant in the room,” said Dillon.

Full report at:

https://www.voanews.com/a/more-rohingya-refugees-arrive-in-indonesia-s-aceh/4382673.html

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Africa

 

Mali ripe territory for ISIS, local militias — and they often clash

May 7, 2018

BAMAKO, Mali — A militia in Mali claims it found the vehicle used by four American soldiers killed in an ambush by Islamist militants in neighboring Niger last fall. The discovery indicates how fighters linked to the Islamic State likely traveled between the two countries.

As the militia of ethnic Tuareg soldiers discuss how to return the vehicle to U.S. authorities, the Islamic State is pushing deeper into this poor, West African country and raising fears of more violence.

Mali's minister of foreign affairs, Tiéman Hubert Coulibaly, said he was concerned that the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, would redeploy to Africa as the U.S-led coalition quashes the terrorist group in Iraq and Syria.

"The current momentum in the Middle East can have consequences for the stability of Mali" and the surrounding region here, Coulibaly said.

Mali already has an active chapter of al-Qaeda, which drove a car bomb into a military base near Timbuktu on April 14, killing a United Nations peacekeeper and wounding seven French soldiers.

"Three days don’t go by without hearing the news of an assassination by the terrorists,” said Hamady Touré, a commercial spice salesman. “The worst thing is that vehicles carrying civilians drive on explosive devices that the terrorists place.”

Those concerns mount despite an international response to the terrorist threat in Mali. The U.N. sent 15,000 peacekeepers to Mali five years ago. France has 4,000 troops in this former French colony. Five nearby countries — Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger — created a joint force of 5,000 troops to secure their borders against militants.

The Tuareg militia that claims it found the Americans’ four-wheel-drive Toyota in March also said it is an important defense against ISIS.

“The main target of these armed terrorists is none other than the local authorities and religious leaders,” said Fahad Almahmoud, a Tuareg militia spokesman.

The Tuareg soldiers are now allies of Mali’s government, but until three years ago they fought against the regime for an independent country.

Tiébilé Dramé, an opposition politician, said the government shouldn’t depend on militias and needs to do more. He said more terrorists appear to be moving into Mali despite the international help, so ordinary citizens see little reason to believe in their leaders.

"The fault is the current governance is bad,” Dramé said. “More than 500 schools are closed in the center of the country because of poor security.”

Mali's security situation has been precarious the past several years. In November 2015, heavily armed gunmen stormed the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, the Mali capital, killing 20 people. A year ago, several local extremist groups announced they had banded into a bigger organization affiliated with al-Qaeda.

A U.N. report in March said the militias here have too much power. The report said the Tuaregs and another militia allied with the Malian government conducted extra-judicial executions, made illegal arrests, recruited child soldiers and had other human rights violations in northern Mali.

“It is necessary that both the government and the armed groups investigate serious violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law," said Mongi Hamdi, a U.N. special representative in Mali when the report was published. “This is in the interest of victims’ rights and for the reconciliation and establishment of a lasting peace in Mali.”

In the south, Mali's army and the Dozo — traditional armed hunters who act as an independent defense force — have been accused of similar abuses against the Fulani ethnic community, a Muslim group often loyal to extremists.

"The Malian army is making summary executions of civilians suspected of terrorism,” said Nouhoum Cissé, a member of a Fulani defense organization. When a Fulani appears in the central part of the country, "you can be suspected of terrorism,” he said.

Malians and Fulanis lived together in harmony for centuries but are now poised to kill each other, Cissé said. He said terror attacks have also driven the indigenous Dogon people to create self-defense militias. Dogon and Fulani groups have clashed as a result.

“The question is who benefits from this situation. It does not benefit the Dogon. It does not benefit the Fulani,” Cissé said. “Those who benefit are the terrorist groups.”

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2018/05/07/mali-isis-islamic-state-militias-violence/546985002/

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Libya strongman announces offensive to take Derna from ‘terrorists’

8 May 2018

Strongman Khalifa Haftar announced a military offensive on Monday to take from “terrorists” the city of Derna, the only part of eastern Libya outside his forces’ control.

“The zero hour has struck for the liberation of Derna,” said Haftar, declaring his troops had already started to crush the “bastions of terrorists” in the city.

Dressed in uniform, he was speaking from a military parade in the city of Benghazi in which thousands of soldiers from his self-styled army demonstrated their might.

Marshal Haftar celebrated the fourth anniversary since launching his “anti-terrorist” operation, which saw extremists driven out of Benghazi -- the home of Libya’s 2011 revolution.

His announcement comes two weeks after he returned to Benghazi following a long stay abroad, during which he was hospitalized in Paris.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2018/05/08/Libya-strongman-announces-offensive-to-take-Derna-from-terrorists-.html

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Nigeria: 1,000 hostages rescued from Boko Haram

May 8, 2018

Nigeria's military says it has rescued more than 1,000 people held captive in northeastern Nigeria by the armed group Boko Haram.

Brigadier General Texas Chukwu, army spokesman, announced on Monday evening that the hostages were rescued from four villages in Borno State.

The Multinational Joint Task Force, which comprises Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Benin, helped to secure the release of the captives, mostly women and children.

Some men who had been forced to become Boko Haram fighters were among those rescued, the army said.

Boko Haram has been held responsible for thousands of abductions, especially of young girls and women, during its nine-year armed campaign in Nigeria and surrounding countries.

The group gained international notoriety after its fighters kidnapped 276 schoolgirls in the town of Chibok in April 2014. About 100 girls are still missing.

More than 20,000 people have been killed in the fighting, which has also forced some two million to flee their homes.

Al Jazeera's Ahmed Idris, reporting from Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, explained that the rescued individuals will be taken to hospitals to be treated for wounds and ailments sustained in captivity.

"They will be profiled and de-briefed by security forces before they are rehabilitated and eventually returned to society," Idris said.

"For those who carried arms before, fighting the Nigerian state, they will have to undergo another rehabilitation process being conducted by the Nigerian government in another state ... as part of an operation called Operation Safe Corridor."

Leaders from the countries comprising the Multinational Joint Task Force will be meeting on Tuesday in Maiduguri to discuss the long-term strategy on how to deal with the Boko Haram crisis.

In March, a Boko Haram attack on the northeastern town of Rann left at least two aid workers, a doctor and eight soldiers dead.

In February, the group's fighters attacked another school in the northeastern state of Yobe and seized more than 110 schoolgirls. A month later, the government said 101 had been freed.

Full report at:

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/05/nigeria-1000-hostages-rescued-boko-haram-180507181832376.html

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Al-Shabaab claims Dhobley attack on Kenyan military

May 8, 2018

Al-Shabaab has taken responsibility for the roadside bomb attack that claimed nine Kenyan soldiers on the Kenya-Somalia border on Sunday.

The Somalia-based terrorists claimed the attack killed 15 soldiers, according to US extremism monitor SITE.

KENYATTA

The group also published the claims in a statement shared through its media affiliate Radio Andalus.

The soldiers died after their vehicle, a Toyota Landcruiser, ran over an improvised explosive device (IED) near the Somali town of Dhobley.

The soldiers were in a convoy that was returning to their camp on the outskirts of Dhobley, Lower Jubba region, from Dadaab camp in northern Kenya.

President Kenyatta, while reacting to the attack, on Monday vowed that Kenyan military would stay in Somalia until the Shabaabs are defeated.

"Earlier today, I was appalled and saddened to learn that we had lost nine young patriots to a cowardly terrorist attack in Somalia," he said in a statement.

"These men gave their lives for their country, and for peace; we must, and we will, honour their service, their sacrifice and their valour."

He added: “The mission for which they gave everything  will continue until the evil terrorists of Al Shabaab are defeated, and the people of Somalia are safe once more. We owe victory to the fallen. You may be sure we will win, for we have right and might on our side.

Al-Shabaab is fighting to overthrow the internationally backed government in Mogadishu and install an Islamic caliphate that frowns upon anything associated with the West, including football.

SWAY

An intelligence report released by the Kenyan security agencies in the wake of the blast warned of more attacks and called for vigilance.

“The lull witnessed in the recent past points to AS (Al-Shabaab) planning phase to deploy IED in the upcoming Ramadhan period,” the report says.

“Based on the past experience, AS (Al-Shabaab) deploy IEDs in the theatre by consignments and it’s very likely that similar consignments have been deployed...”

Al-Shabaab declared war on Kenya when Nairobi deployed forces to help stabilise the Horn of Africa nation in 2011.

While they gave up on field combat, the terrorists have been launching sporadic attacks on KDF and African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) convoys and camps.

The group, a member of the Al-Qaeda global terror network, was pushed out of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, in 2011 — and subsequently other towns and cities — by Amisom forces.

Full report at:

https://www.nation.co.ke/news/Al-Shabaab-claims-Dhobley-attack-on-Kenyan-military/1056-4550380-14rlg5az/index.html

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Mideast

 

Tel Aviv will assassinate Syria’s Assad if Iran attacks Israel: Israeli minister

May 7, 2018

An Israeli minister says Tel Aviv could topple the government of Syrian President of Bashar al-Assad in response to any attack by Iran against the occupying regime, hinting that the Syrian leader himself might be targeted for assassination.

“If Assad allows Iran to turn Syria into a military vanguard against us, to attack us from Syrian territory, he should know that would be the end of him, the end of his regime,” said Yuval Steinitz, the minister of national infrastructure, energy and water resources, in an interview with the Hebrew news portal, Ynet, on Monday.

When asked whether his remarks meant the regime might assassinate President Assad, Steinitz, who is also a member of Israel’s ministerial committee on national security affairs, uttered that “his blood would be forfeit.” The Israeli minister, however, appeared to suggest that his comments did not represent Tel Aviv’s policy, adding, “I’m not talking about any concrete proposal.”

A text story of Steinitz’s interview with Ynet had quoted him as explicitly saying that the Israeli regime would murder Assad, but this was not borne out by a video clip of the interview.

Iran, Syria’s strong ally, has been giving Damascus military advisory assistance in its countrywide counter-terrorism battles since a foreign-sponsored militancy unleashed in the Arab country in 2011.

The Iranian government has repeatedly said that only the Syrian people can decide the future of their country and the political fate of their leader, whereas Israel and the Western powers, particularly the US, has been insisting for years that Assad must be ousted from power.

Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria after the 1967 Six-Day War and later occupied it in a move that has never been recognized by the international community. The regime has built dozens of settlements in the area ever since and has used the region to carry out a number of military operations against the Syrian government.

During the past few years, Israel has frequently attacked Syrian military targets in the Golan Heights in what is considered an attempt to prop up terrorist groups that have been suffering heavy defeats against Syrian government forces.

In April 2015, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu officially admitted for the first time that the regime's military had conducted strikes in the Syrian territory.  

Damascus says Israel and its Western and regional allies are aiding Takfiri terrorist groups operating inside the Arab country, while the Tel Aviv regime's military carries out sporadic strikes against Syrian government forces. The Israeli regime has even set up field hospitals to treat wounded militants evacuated from Syria.

Furthermore, the Syrian army has repeatedly seized huge quantities of Israeli-made weapons and advanced military equipment from the foreign-backed militants inside Syria.

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/05/07/560969/Palestine-Israel-Iran-Syria-Assad-assassination

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Secret witness testifies against U.S. pastor in Turkey

May 7, 2018

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A witness testifying anonymously against a U.S. pastor accused of spying and terror-related charges in Turkey claimed Monday that the American helped Kurdish militants and aimed to create a Christian Kurdish state, the country’s state-run news agency reported.

Pastor Andrew Craig Brunson forcefully rejected the claim in the second session of his trial, insisting that he never permitted “politics to enter the church,” the Anadolu Agency reported.

The 50-year-old evangelical pastor from Black Mountain, North Carolina, faces up 35 years in prison in Turkey on charges of “committing crimes on behalf of terror groups without being a member” and “espionage.”

He denies any wrongdoing.

Brunson was arrested in the aftermath of a 2016 coup attempt in Turkey for alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, as well as a network led by U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is blamed by Turkey for the political unrest. Gulen denies any knowledge of the failed coup.

Anadolu said a “secret witness” - described as a former parishioner and codenamed “Serhat” - testified via a long-distance system and claimed that Brunson helped Kurdish militants in various ways, including those fighting in Syria. He also claimed that a Syrian who converted to Christianity had helped Brunson.

Brunson, who has lived in Turkey for decades, forcefully rejected the claims.

Anadolu quoted Brunson as responding: “These accusations are shameful and disgusting. There is not one photograph or tape recording praising the PKK at the (Izmir) Resurrection Church. Our church had several Turkish followers. Our doors were open to everyone. I strived to prevent politics entering the church.”

The case has strained ties between Turkey and the United States. U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted in Brunson’s defense last month, saying: “Pastor Andrew Brunson, a fine gentleman and Christian leader in the United States, is on trial and being persecuted in Turkey for no reason.”

Trump added: “They call him a Spy, but I am more a Spy than he is. Hopefully he will be allowed to come home to his beautiful family where he belongs!”

The Trump administration later warned Turkey that it is considering punitive “consequences” if the NATO ally does not throw out the charges or acquit Brunson.

Brunson served as pastor of Izmir Resurrection Church, a small Protestant congregation, and has lived in Turkey for 23 years.

Prosecutors are seeking a 15-year prison sentence for crimes Brunson is charged with committing in the name of Gulen’s group and the PKK. They want the pastor to serve another 20 years if he also is found guilty of obtaining state secrets for political and military spying purposes, using his religious work as cover.

Full report at:

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/may/7/secret-witness-testifies-against-us-pastor-in-turk/

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Six killed in strikes on Yemen capital

May 08, 2018

SANAA - Two air raids targeted the office of the presidency in Yemen's rebel-held capital Sanaa on Monday, leaving at least six people killed and 30 wounded, a medical source told AFP.

The rebel-run Al-Masirah television blamed the Saudi-led coalition for the raids. Witnesses said the office, used by the Huthi rebel administration and located in the Tahrir district of Sanaa, is normally bustling with employees.

Residents said they heard two powerful explosions hit the building, which is located near a hotel, a bank and shops, and not far from the central bank.

"We were working next door to the presidential offices and heard a plane, and then an explosion," Ahmed Dehashir, a first responder, told AFP at the scene of the attack.

"Some people rushed to the scene and saw the destruction and people caught under the rubble. We tried to dig out the dead and wounded from under the debris, and then there was a second strike," he said.

"There are a lot of people trapped under the rubble," Dehashir added.

The Huthis' Al-Masirah television accused the Saudi-led coalition, which has been fighting the rebels since 2015 to shore up the internationally recognised government, of responsibility for the strikes.

The coalition could not immediately be reached for comment.

The strikes came hours after Saudi Arabia's air defences intercepted two ballistic missiles launched by the Huthis that targeted the south of the kingdom, said coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki.

He said the rockets were launched from northern Yemen toward "populated areas" of Saudi Arabia, but were intercepted overnight without any casualties or damage.

"This hostile act... proves the continued involvement of the Iranian regime in supporting the Huthi militia with qualitative capabilities," Malki added.

Since November of last year, the Iran-backed insurgents have intensified missile attacks into neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi-led coalition launched a military intervention in Yemen in 2015 with the goal of rolling back the Huthis and restoring the internationally-recognised government to power.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/08-May-2018/six-killed-in-strikes-on-yemen-capital

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Iran Terms Netanyahu Class-C Showman

May 07, 2018

"He is a Class-C showman who should struggle to keep his position as a showman and magician whose personality is well known the the world's learned community," Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi told reporters in Tehran on Monday.

He said that Netanyahu resorts to every possible means to accuse others in an attempt to divert the public opinion from his corruptions cases.

Qassemi rejected Netanyahu's allegations against Iran's nuclear program, stressing that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has in several reports endorsed Iran's commitment to its undertakings.

Qassemi's remarks came in response to Netanyahu who earlier delivered a televised address in which he accused Iran of violating the JCPOA, claiming that he is in possession of thousands of documents that show Iran has been pursuing a military nuclear capability.

“That is just not an acceptable situation. They’re not sitting back idly. They’re setting off missiles, which they say are for television purposes. I don’t think so,” he said.

Just minutes after Netanyahu's speech, US President Donald renewed his strong criticism of JCPOA and gave a tacit approval to the Israeli prime minister’s rhetoric.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif blasted Netanyahu for repeating lies about Iran's nuclear activities, saying he is like the boy who cries wolf.

"The boy who can't stop crying wolf is at it again. Undeterred by cartoon fiasco at the United Nations General Assembly. You can only fool some of the people so many times," Zarif wrote on his Twitter account on Monday.

The Iranian foreign minister was referring to Netanyahu's 2012 address to the United Nations in which he unfolded a chart with a cartoon-style drawing of a nuclear bomb, and proceeded to draw on it with a red magic-marker.

"This is a bomb," he said. "This is a fuse."

In a separate tweet, Zarif rejected accusations by Trump and Netanyahu concerning Tehran's pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970217001310

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King Salman Relief Center aids delivery of WHO oxygen stations to Yemen

7 May 2018

The King Salman Humanitarian and Relief Center has supported the World Health Organization (WHO) in the delivery of life-saving oxygen stations to the Yemeni city of Aden, WHO reported this week.

A statement read that the “provision and delivery of 11 oxygen stations” was made possible with the support of the Saudi aid organization.

“A total of seven medical oxygen stations arrived in Aden port and are awaiting installation in targeted hospitals,” it added.

Commenting on the news, Dr. Nevio Zagaria, the WHO Representative in Yemen, said: “The health facilities in Yemen lack the basic necessities and WHO is working hard to ensure that medicines, supplies, fuel, water and equipment like these oxygen stations are sent to priority hospitals.”

To accommodate the incoming oxygen stations, WHO is planning to construct 11 oxygen station houses and will coordinate the complete installation and testing of this life-saving medical equipment, with the support of partners from UAE Red Crescent, OFDA and the World Bank.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2018/05/07/King-Salman-Relief-Center-helps-delivery-of-11-oxygen-stations-to-Yemen-.html

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Arab coalition strike hits presidential office in Yemen’s Houthi-held capital

7 May 2018

An air strike targeted the office of the presidency in Yemen's rebel-held capital Sanaa on Monday.

The strike came hours after Saudi Arabia's air defenses intercepted two ballistic missiles launched by the Houthis that targeted the south of the kingdom, coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki said.

He said the rockets were launched from northern Yemen toward "populated areas" of Saudi Arabia, but were intercepted overnight without any casualties or damage.

"This hostile act... proves the continued involvement of the Iranian regime in supporting the Huthi militia with qualitative capabilities," Malki added.

Since November of last year, the Iran-backed insurgents have intensified missile attacks into neighboring Saudi Arabia.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2018/05/07/Arab-coalition-strike-hits-presidential-office-in-Yemen-s-Houthi-held-capital.html

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Israel creates special Facebook page to sway Iraq’s public opinion: Report

May 7, 2018

Israel’s foreign ministry has launched a Facebook page uniquely dedicated to efforts to sway the public opinion in Iraq in favor of the Tel Aviv regime, a new report says.

Analysts believe that the measure taken on Sunday is in line with the Israeli regime’s attempts to whitewash its blood-stained image in the Arab world and the continuation of attempts by Tel Aviv to improve relations with some Arab countries in the region.

Unnamed diplomats in Jerusalem al-Quds said the Arabic-language page would serve as “some sort of digital embassy” to Iraq, despite the fact that Israel still formally considers Iraq an enemy state.

According to the diplomats, Israel has in recent months stepped up efforts to reach out to Iraq, alleging that Iraqis are interested in establishing ties with the regime.

Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Post quoted Yonatan Gonen, who heads the Arabic branch in the Israeli foreign ministry’s digital diplomacy division, as claiming that the decision to create a special Facebook page for Iraqis – called “Israel in the Iraqi Dialect” – was aimed at providing the Iraqi audience with more information about Israel.

The ministry’s director general, Yuval Rotem, also claimed that the plan to launch a “digital embassy” for Iraqis was in response to “the growing interest” that the Arab world was showing in Israel.

The latest measure by Israel comes after reports revealing that some Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia, have been taking steps to mend fences with Israel despite the generally heinous image of the Quds-usurping regime among the Arab nations.

In an interview with the Atlantic published on April 2, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman recognized Israel and stressed that Israelis were entitled to their own land.

He said that the kingdom had no problems with Jews and that "there are a lot of interests we share with Israel."

One month earlier, Saudi Arabia had opened its airspace to Air India flights to and from the Israeli-occupied territories, adding concrete evidence to the long-running reports of warming Riyadh-Tel Aviv relations.

An unnamed official with the Palestinian Authority (PA) also revealed in March that top Israeli and Saudi officials had held a series of secret Egypt-brokered meetings in Cairo.

The talks between Israeli and Saudi officials took place at a luxury hotel in Cairo, with Egyptian officials present, dealing with the economic interests of Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, particularly in the Red Sea region, according to the official.

He also warned that the Israel-Saudi détente was harming the Palestinians. 

On Friday, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates participated in the 101st Giro d'Italia cycling competition launched in Israel.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/05/07/560966/Israel-Facebook-Iraq

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India

 

In Hubli’s Disputed Idgah, A Lesson For Gurugram

by Aaron Pereira

May 8, 2018

Gurugram — where right-wing activists are protesting against Muslims holding Namaz offerings in public — could take a lesson from Hubli, where, after witnessing its worst communal riots in 1994, Hindus and Muslims decided not to give in to communally provocative statements made by political leaders.

Back in 1994, Hubli saw its worst Independence Day celebrations. Six people were killed in police firing when right-wing activists, led by Uma Bharti, attempted to forcibly hoist the National Flag at the Idgah Maidan in the heart of the city.

Attempts to hoist the flag since 1992 were thwarted by the then Congress government in the state saying it would lead to communal tensions. In 1994, preempting an attempt to hoist the flag, the government imposed curfew in the state. But Bharti along with some volunteers managed to enter the city and were then arrested about a kilometre away from the venue.

In 1995, the matter was temporarily resolved after the president of Anjuman Islam hoisted the flag at the Maidan. The matter is currently pending in the Supreme Court.

Today, the Idgah is barricaded and there is 24×7 police presence at the site located right next to a statue of Rani Chenamma, the queen of Kittur who led an armed rebellion against the East India Company in 1824.

The last 15-odd years have been relatively peaceful. Following incidents of communal tension in the early 2000s, over rallies by then VHP leader Ashok Singhal, leaders of both the communities have resolved to ensure politics does not ignite hatred.

Farooq, who owns a welding and mechanical workshop in Kamaripet, the then communal hotbed, says he remembers those days very vividly. “There was complete curfew. Six people were killed in police firing. Nobody could step out…”

“But for the last almost two decades, we have ensured there is no communal violence. We vowed to never let such a thing happen again. We are just used by politicians to fulfil political agendas,” Farooq says.

Questioning the current political discourse, he asks why everything is linked to Pakistan. “Why do they keep bringing up Pakistan and Jinnah? Who speaks about him here? He wanted to divide the country. We would have been better of if we weren’t divided, living as one country. There wouldn’t be such a religious divide.”

Closer to the Idgah is Amar, in his late 30s, who agrees with Farooq that certain politicians only look for opportunities to divide and polarise the electorate. “Why do they have to go and chant Bharat Mata Ki Jai and Jai Shri Ram when we are offering Namaz? Can there not be basic respect for other religions anymore? All of this is being politically managed. No person can have so much hatred otherwise.”

Amar has much praise for the then police commissioner KV Gagandeep, who, he says, cracked the whip on communal outfits on both sides that were receiving political funding to cause tensions.

“He was a tough administrator. When he used to conduct raids in the middle of the night, nobody would know where he was going. He would just ask the police force to assemble at a certain hour and then he would drive the vehicle. So nobody could leak any information.”

But for Amar, those years of communal tension cost the youth dearly. “There used to be many textile companies along the route to Karwar. Factories were coming here and people were getting jobs. But following the violence they shut shop and moved elsewhere. The mills are still there now, but left in a dilapidated condition.”

http://indianexpress.com/elections/karnataka-assembly-elections-2018-in-hublis-disputed-idgah-a-lesson-for-gurugram-5167566/

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Will spare no effort to free abducted Indians, says Afghan foreign minister

May 8, 2018

NEW DELHI: The Afghan foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani told the new Indian ambassador to Afghanistan Vinay Kumar that the government would leave no stone unturned to protect and free the Indian engineers abducted by the Taliban on Sunday.

The Afghan foreign ministry said in a statement, “foreign minister Rabbani expressed grief and sorrow over the abduction of Indian engineers in Baghlan province and said that the Afghan security forces will not spare any efforts to protect the physical safety and secure the release of these engineers. He also mentioned that efforts have been initiated through the community elders to help secure their release.”

Vinay Kumar replaced Manpreet Vohra as India’s ambassador to Afghanistan recently.

Rabbani also held a conversation with foreign minister Sushma Swaraj on Sunday evening to assure her that the Afghan government would take all steps to ensure that the engineers are freed soon. “Rabbani in the conversation assured the Indian external affairs minister that the Afghan security forces would not spare any efforts in rescuing and ensuring the security and safety of the engineers.”

Afghan news reports say the authorities in Afghanistan are working with tribal leaders after the abduction was announced on Sunday. Some reports said the engineers were abducted in error, with Taliban militants mistaking them for Indian government officials. But now that it has become an international incident, the Taliban are playing a different tune. In India, the MEA went silent given the “sensitive” nature of the issue.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/will-spare-no-effort-to-free-abducted-indians-says-afghan-foreign-minister/articleshow/64071135.cms

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J&K: Video of Hizb terrorist Saddam Padder's mother giving gun salute to slain son goes viral

May 7, 2018

SRINAGAR: A video surfaced here on Monday purportedly showing the mother of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Saddam Padder, who was among the five terrorists killed in an encounter with security forces yesterday, giving a gun salute to her slain son in Shopian district of Jammu and Kashmir.

The low-quality video surfaced on social media this morning. A pheran-clad woman, believed to be Padder's mother, is seen pulling the trigger of a gun held by a terrorist atop a building in the Heff area of Shopian.

Padder's mother hugged the terrorist, Syed Naveed Mushtaq -- a police deserter who decamped with four rifles from a police post guarding the Food Corporation of India facility in Budgam district last year -- before pulling the trigger of the automatic weapon.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/jk-video-of-hizb-terrorist-saddam-padders-mother-giving-gun-salute-to-slain-son-goes-viral/articleshow/64066095.cms

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Pakistani militant held in Kupwara tells NIA his aim was to launch attacks on security forces

by Mir Ehsan

May 8, 2018

The Pakistani militant who had escaped during an encounter in Kupwara on March 21 and was later arrested has told the NIA that he sneaked into the Valley along with five militants in March and their aim was to launch attacks on security forces. Zabiullah alias Hamzah of Pakistan’s Multan was arrested eight days after the encounter in the forests of Chak Fatah Khan near Halmathpora, where five militants and as many security personnel were killed, and was later handed over to the NIA, which has now taken over the investigation.

An NIA spokesperson said Zabiullah hailed from Multan and was a resident of Bosan Road, Mehmood Kote, Gali no 1, which is near Markaz Ibnul Qasim. “Zabiullah had escaped from the encounter site and was arrested by J&K police on April 6. He was detained and on April 5 was produced before a Jammu NIA special court that remanded him to 10 days NIA custody,” the spokeperson said. Sources said that the militant was unarmed and injured, and could barely walk when he was arrested.

During interrogation, Zabiullah revealed that he had sneaked into India fully armed in March along with five other LeT cadres. Their aim was to carry out large-scale attacks on security forces. “But, before they could carry out any attack, the militants were confronted by the security forces and five of his associates Darda, 22, of Lahore, Shuram, 26, of Multan, Faidullah, 20, of Gujrawalan, Ummar, 19, of Sindh, and Kari, 19, of Peshawar were killed in the encounter,” he said.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/pakistan-militant-kupwara-encounter-nia-5167622/

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Pakistan

 

Afghan Taliban lobbying Pakistani clerics to avoid Indonesia moot

Tahir Khan

MAY 8, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Afghan Taliban are making efforts to convince Pakistani religious scholars to boycott a conference in Indonesia this week.

The conference will also be attended by Afghan and Indonesian clerics to press for peace in Afghanistan.

The conference on May 11 is likely to issue a joint communiqué against violence in Afghanistan that could be an embarrassment for the Afghan insurgents, who are already under pressure to join intra-Afghan dialogue.

The session was earlier scheduled to be held in March but was delayed after the Taliban issued an appeal, urging the clerics to boycott the conference, which they called an “intelligence ploy” by the foreign invaders “as they have faced defeat on the battlefield.” The Taliban had also asked Indonesia not to facilitate such conventions.

As the Indonesian and Afghan officials have now officially confirmed that the conference will take place, Taliban are concerned about the outcome of the religious gathering at a time when they have stepped up attacks following the launch of their spring offensive.

Taliban are alarmed at the possible participation of Pakistani scholars, particularly some who have long been considered as sympathetic to the insurgents’ cause.

Daily Times has seen a Taliban message sent to Pakistani scholars and some other personalities to reach out to the ‘ulema’ and ask them to skip the conference.

The message mentioned names of 22 Pakistani personalities who, the Taliban believe, are likely to join Afghan and Indonesian clerics at the first trilateral meeting of scholars to discuss the impact of violence against Afghans.

“There are several ulema in the list of participants, who have influence on our country and among the Mujahideen (Taliban) and they enjoy good reputation. If they are encouraged to boycott the conference it would be in our interest and their absence will frustrate the conspiracy,” the Taliban massage said.

The Pakistani invitees are mostly those who had delivered a ‘fatwa’ in January this year in which they unanimously declared all forms of terrorism and suicide attacks un-Islamic. The 49-page document, signed by 1,829 clerics from all Islamic schools of thought in the country, was about terrorism in Pakistan only. Afghan president Ashraf Ghani had slammed the edict titled “Paigham-e-Pakistan” or “Pakistan’s Message” and said that Islamic teachings could not be limited to only one country.

Kabul has long been pleading for a joint Pakistan-Afghanistan ‘fatwa’ and the issue has been raised in several meetings including Ghani’s meeting with Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa in Kabul in early October, last year.

Meanwhile, some Pakistani scholars appear to be in a fix on whether or not to attend the conference because of the Taliban’s opposition.

“Our message to the noble scholars is that they avoid participation in such gatherings and do not afford an opportunity to the invading infidels in Afghanistan to misuse their name and participation as means of attaining malicious objectives,” the Taliban said in March.

Pakistan Ulema Council chairman Maulna Tahir Ashrafi confirmed to Daily Times that he had received the invitation, but he would skip the event because of other commitments. He, however, said that clerics associated with his organisation supported peace everywhere in the world.

Daily Times further learnt that Pakistani invitees were involved in consultations to discuss positive and negative aspects of their participation.

The Taliban list contains the names of Maulana Dr Abdul Razaq Sikandar, Mufti Abdul Rahim, Dr Saeed, Sheikh Muhammad Idrees, Mufti Ghulam Rehman, Mufti Aziz ur Rehman Hazarvi, Maulana Taqi Usmani, Sheikh Anwar ul Haq and his son, Mufti Muneeb ur Rehman, Allama Riaz Hussain Najafi, Maualana Tahir Ashrafi, Maulana Zahid Qasmi, Maulana Abdul Malik, Qari Hanif Jalandhry, Dr Qibla Ayaz, Mufti Naeem, Maulana Rafi Usmani, Maulana Fazal ur Rehman Khalil, Prof Sajid Mir, Maualana Yasin Zafar, Dr Munir and Dr Ziaul Haq.

Afghanistan is optimistic that the conference will help in the peace process and could exert pressure on the Taliban to end violence.

Akram Khpalwak, the secretary of the government-sponsored High Peace Council, has said in reported comments that a 20-member delegation of Afghan scholars would take part in the conference, proposed by Indonesian President Joko Widodo in January.

The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) is playing a key role in the meeting. Muhyiddin Junaidi, the head of MUI’s Department of International Relations, said in a statement that Indonesia was chosen to act as a peace mediator, because Afghanistan perceived it as a neutral actor.

Pakistan had welcomed the Indonesian move during the visit to Islamabad of Indonesian President Joko Widodo in January this year.

President Mamnoon Hussain and his Indonesian counterpart had agreed to work together for peace in the war-shattered Afghanistan.

Widodo proposed a joint role of religious scholars of the three nations for peace in Afghanistan. “Pakistan has always played an important role for peace in the neighboring country. Pakistan and Indonesia can jointly promote moderation in the world,” he had stated.

https://dailytimes.com.pk/237350/afghan-taliban-lobbying-pakistani-clerics-to-avoid-indonesia-moot/

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UIPM launches ‘positive change in religious thought’ campaign

May 8, 2018

Zubair Qureshi

With respect to Europe Day celebrated across the globe and in Islamabad too, at the Pakistan National Council of the Arts recently, Universal interfaith Peace Mission (UIPM) also celebrated Europe Day 2018 and organized Euro-Pak Fraternity Reception at Islamabad Hotel.

On this auspicious occasion, UIPM launched a campaign “Positive Change in Religious Thought in Pakistan” campaign with an objective to bring about positive change in mind-set of religious scholars because the organisation feels without creating reconciliation between religious thought and human rights, possibility of promoting interfaith harmony and peace with the country in general and Muslim world in particular is not possible.

Federal Minister for Human Rights Mumtaz Ahmed Tarar presided over the ceremony while Jean-Francois Cautain, Ambassador of the European Union was chief guest. Justice Ali Nawaz Chauhan, Chairman, National Commission for Human Rights, Dr AminehHoti, AllamaSajidNaqvi, Father Jacob Dogra and leaders from different human rights organisations including Dr Naveed, Ms Mehwish Sabah, Ashraf Ali, Mr Owais Malik, Dr Habib, Adeel Umar and JibranMasih Gill and others participated in the event.

Speaking on the occasion, Jean Francois Cautain said he appreciates UIPM effort to mark Europe Day and celebrate it by organising the ceremony and highlighted different aspects of Euro-Pak fraternity. Minister for Human Rights Mumtaz Ahmed Tarar said that UIPM was playing an important role in portraying peace and prosperity in Pakistan and around the world. “And being patron of the organisation he extends all out support to UIPM for launching ‘Positive Change in Religious Thought in Pakistan’ campaign and urged European Union to extend moral support to the organisation for launching this drive from Brussels,” he added.

Earlier in his vote of thanks, UIPM Chairman Allama Dr GR Chishtisaid that there was dual standard of education in Pakistan which was also reflective in Constitution of Pakistan as our Constitution is based on Islamic orders as laid in Quran and Sunnah equal to Islamic Shariah and the International Declaration of Human Rights 1948.

Dr Chishti stressed the need of creating reconciliation between thetwo laws — Islamic Shariah and International Human Rights law — which could not be possible without bringing positive change in the mind-set of religious scholars. This is the reason that there is no progress in implementation and enforcement of human rights generally in the whole Muslim world and especially in Pakistan. He announced that UIPM will launch Positive Change in Religious Thought in Pakistan drive from Brussels, the centre for European Union by contacting moderate religious scholars and community leaders in Europe and holding negotiationswith them and after getting their point of view as how Europe became a success story in the world, the UIPM will try to implement the reflections from Europe in Pakistan through organising conferences seminars and ulema conventions.

Full report at:

https://pakobserver.net/uipm-launches-positive-change-in-religious-thought-campaign/

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COAS lauds Sindh Rangers role in establishing peace in Karachi

May 8, 2018

KARACHI: Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa appreciated the role of Sindh Rangers and other law enforcement agencies in establishing peace in the provincial metropolis during his visit to the Corps Headquarters Karachi on Monday, according to an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement.

The army’s media wing said that the army chief received a briefing on the security situation in the province.

General Bajwa lauded the efforts being put by the security institution in reviving economic activities in Karachi by taking concrete actions against criminals.

The operation against criminal elements in Pakistan’s commercial hub was initiated in September 2013 after the federal cabinet empowered Sindh Rangers to initiate and lead targeted operations with the support of the police. Since then, the Rangers have extended their powers every few months before the expiry date.

Sindh Chief Minister (CM) Murad Ali Shah termed the Karachi operation as the “world’s best-targeted operation”.

Murad said that under the National Action Plan (NAP) in the province, around 1,028,218 criminals were caught while 1,258 were killed by security forces in different operations.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/05/07/coas-lauds-sindh-rangers-role-in-establishing-peace-in-karachi/

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After Ahsan Iqbal escapes attempted murder, TLP preaches ‘peace’

BY UMAIR SOHAIL

May 8, 2018

LAHORE: After the highly condemnable attempted murder of Federal Minister for Interior Ahsan Iqbal and disclosure of the assassin as Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) affiliate, the religious outfit distanced itself from the attacker by preaching messages of peace and non-violence, Pakistan Today has observed.

In the heat of the moment, a hashtag #TLPPeacefulOrg was introduced on Twitter that has been used in over a hundred tweets since Sunday. A number of TLP leaders, including Rizvi himself, stuck to their keyboards and gave full coverage to the hashtag on all social media platforms.

Interestingly, the rather stagnant Twitter handle of Rizvi became actively involved in promoting the trend.

Quotations by Rizvi, that promote peace and love among Muslims, were shared by select users. One such tweet said, “Only the brave men and women can bring peace to the world, not by practicing war but by practicing nonviolence. #TLPPeacefulOrg Khadim Rizvi.”

Tweets promoting TLP as a peaceful political front have mushroomed since a day after the attack. In some posts, the users are also busy separating the incident from the murder of Salman Taseer, a former Governor of Punjab and PPP leader who was assassinated in the capital by his own bodyguard Mumtaz Qadri owing to disagreement with Taseer’s position on the country’s blasphemy law.

The TLP had quickly read the situation on Sunday when reports of the assassination attempt on Iqbal that spread like wildfire on local as well as international media. Even before the attack’s initial report declared the attacker’s affiliation with TLP, the party “strictly condemned the attack” to distance itself from the assailant in its press statement, however, declared the situation a failure of the security agencies.

“If government cannot provide security to a federal minister then how can the general public consider itself safe,” TLP chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi asked.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/05/07/after-ahsan-iqbal-escapes-attempted-murder-tlp-preaches-peace/

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Five ‘TTP men’ held in Benazir killing case granted bail

Mohammad Asghar

May 08, 2018

RAWALPINDI: The five suspected Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) members who had been arrested for conspiring to assassinate Pakistan Peoples Party chairperson and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007 were granted bail on surety bonds worth Rs500,000 each on Monday.

A two-member Rawal­pindi bench of the Lahore High Court comprising Justice Mirza Waqas and Justice Sardar Serfraz granted bail to the TTP suspects — Abdul Rashid, Aitzaz Shah, Rafaqat Hussain, Husnain Gul and Sher Zaman — who were shifted to the Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore from the Adiala jail on Nov 28, 2017.

Ms Bhutto was assassinated in a gun-and-bomb attack after her election rally in Liaquat Bagh on Dec 27, 2007. For her assassination, the then government of Gen Pervez Musharraf had blamed TTP chief Baituallah Mehsud, who later denied any involvement in her killing.

When the Punjab prison authorities were contacted, the officials said they had not received the court orders for the release on bail of the five TTP suspects from the Kot Lakhpat jail.

However, an official of the prison department said the release orders were likely to be received on Tuesday or Wednesday. He added that the provincial government could extend their detention as the Punjab government had the legal authority to do so.

On Monday, the two-member LHC bench accepted the plea of the father of Aitzaz Shah, one of the five suspects, who said he had nothing left to pay fee to his lawyers. The court ordered their release on submission of surety bonds worth Rs 500,000 by each suspect.

The bench further directed the authorities concerned to ensure their presence at every hearing of the case.

Earlier, an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Rawalpindi in its Aug 31, 2017 verdict acquitted the five TTP suspects and handed down 17-year jail terms to two police officers for criminal negligence in ordering the hosing down of the crime-scene and their failure to provide security to Ms Bhutto. The ATC also declared retired Gen Pervez Musharraf an absconder in the case.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1406274/five-ttp-men-held-in-benazir-killing-case-granted-bail

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Attack on Ahsan result of ‘appeasing’ extremists

NOKHAIZ SAHI

May 08, 2018

ISLAMABAD  -  In an allusion to the ‘confession’ of the suspect who attacked Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has said that the incident was the result of appeasing the Faizabad protesters.

“It [attack] is the result of distributing Rs1,000 each to the supporters of a religiously fanatic group,” he said on Monday while talking to the media outside the accountability court.

The suspect arrested immediately after the shooting has shown his affiliation with Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYR), and initial investigation show he is a member of the religious organisation.

The suspect however did not say the group or any of its leaders had tasked him to target the minister, while the TLYR has condemned the attack stating that it believes in a peaceful struggle.

Though Nawaz also did not blame the organisation directly but he criticised the culture of religious violence it has bred over last few years.

Expressing his concern over the murder attempt on Ahsan, the PML-N ‘Quaid’ said it was not an ordinary issue that a sitting interior minister was targeted.

“If cash is distributed among such extremist elements, such results could not be ruled out. The people of Pakistan want to know why the cash was distributed among the religiously fanatic mob,” he remarked.

Led by a firebrand cleric, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the TLYR spearheaded a weeks-long protest in November last year in Islamabad over the changes, pertaining to finality of prophethood, to an oath in the elections law.

The government called the changes a result of clerical error and the parliament had already undone those when the protest was held – almost a year after the issue surfaced.

After some violent episodes across the country, the protest at Faizabad interchange was called off after the army brokered an agreement, making the government to virtually surrender to the demands of demonstrators. The returning protesters were also handed cash by the army.

This making a mockery of the state and its authority invited criticism and the Supreme Court took a suo motu on the apparent illegality of the whole affair.

Commenting on security operations against terrorism and extremism, Nawaz Sharif said that the PPP government initiated the Swat operation which proved a milestone while the operation Zarb-e-Azb was started by the PML-N government and being the prime minister he had announced to start the operation against terrorism in the parliament.

The ex-PM also revealed that he had talked to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to do away with NAB law but “he [Abbasi] could not take a decision as everyone would think I want it so because of my case in the NAB”.

“The government will look into the NAB law once the accountability court handed down the judgment in my case,” he said.

“If the NAB [has] failed to find out any solid evidence against us, they should allow us to bring some new allegations against the Sharif family,” Nawaz said mockingly.

During last eight months of trial, the NAB has failed to find any solid evidence of corruption against them, he added.

He also said that the NAB case was nothing but a message for him.

On the appointment of Supreme Court judges, Sharif said that if lawyers have staged demonstrations against the appointment of the apex court judges, “this is their right”.

“It’s very painful that Chief Justice Saqib Nisar hands down judgments by striking down of the law,” he said.

Nawaz said it was necessary that the mechanism for the appointment of judges should be revamped. The mechanism of the Supreme Judicial Council should also be changed, he held.

“[In the current system] only the political leadership has to undergo accountability in the country,” the former prime minister said. After an election win in 2018, a new system [of accountability and judges’ appointment] will be introduced in the country.

He announced to transform the judges’ appointment system with the transformation of the Supreme Judicial Council.

The ousted PM said that the detractors of the PML-N, despite relentless attempts, have not been able to break the loyalty of the party parliamentarians.

Nawaz, while talking about the prevalent political and administrative culture, said that the people were the real owner of the country but they have been treated like tenants for the last 70 years.

“But now is the time to do away with it,” he said, expressing optimism that nation’s future was now bright and buoyant.

He said that the public had realised that they were the owner of the country and not tenants and from now onwards all the decisions will have to be made in the public interest.

The ousted premier also said that the people of Pakistan have rejected the July 28 judgment of Supreme Court that disqualified him.

Earlier, Sharif said that the chief justice should also take notice of the statement of the “chosen one”, Imran Khan, for his remarks about the 2013 general election.

Court hearing

Meanwhile, the ousted premier appeared before the NAB court in the Avenfield properties reference while Maryam Nawaz and Cap (r) Safdar submitted an application seeking exemption from the day’s hearing.

NAB Prosecutor and witness Imran Dogar informed the court that an inquiry report of the case was finalized on September 6, 2017. He also informed the court that he did not know who pinned additional pages in volume-4 of the JIT report and he has no information who added these pages and what was the date when these pages were added in the draft of the JIT report.

Dogar informed the court that the statement of Additional Director NAB Rana Muhammad Ali was not recorded. The entire investigation was made part of the record to the extent of allegations.

Dogar also said that according to the statement of Raja Akhtar, it was not in his knowledge who brought sealed pamphlets of Nelson, Nescol and Comber’s verified declaration.

He said that Raja Akhtar did not mention who brought reports of Robert Ridley from London to Pakistan.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/08-May-2018/attack-on-ahsan-result-of-appeasing-extremists

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Intense heat kills 11 at Lal Shahbaz Qalandar Urs

May 8, 2018

SEHWAN: The third and final day of the of the 766th death anniversary of Sufi saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar was marked by intense heat which led to the death of 11 people.

According to the Sehwan Edhi centre in-charge Mairaj Qureshi, 11 bodies were brought to the centre and the causes of all their deaths were associated with a heart attack due to the heat.

Mairaj added that out of the 11, eight deceased have been turned over to their relatives while the three unidentified bodies have been buried. The deceased belonged to Faisalabad, Chichawatni, Multan, Bahawalpur, Samundri, Jhang and Vehari.

Surprisingly, on the other hand, Jamshoro Deputy Commissioner Fareedudin Mustafa has denied that any deaths have occurred.

Every year thousands of devotees flock down to Sehwan Sharif to commemorate the death anniversary of the Sufi saint.

The visitors come prepared to stay in the city throughout the urs (death anniversary commemoration) with some renting houses from locals, while others carry tents with them for their sojourn.

Lal Shahbaz Qalandar’s urs is held at Sehwan on the 18 of Shaaban, the eighth month of the Muslim calendar.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/05/07/intense-heat-kills-11-at-lal-shahbaz-qalandar-urs/

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Arab World

 

Lebanon election: Hezbollah leader declares 'victory'

7 May 2018

Hezbollah's leader says the Iran-backed militant Shia group and its allies have achieved "victory" in Lebanon's first parliamentary elections since 2009.

Although the official results have not been announced, Hassan Nasrallah said their gains guaranteed the protection of the "resistance" against Israel.

Sunni Prime Minister Saad Hariri said his Western-backed Future Movement had lost a third of its seats.

Mr Hariri is still expected to be asked to form a new unity government.

But analysts said he would emerge a weaker figure, and be even less able to exert influence over Hezbollah than he was in the past.

A power-sharing system stipulates that the prime minister should be a Sunni Muslim, the speaker of parliament a Shia and the president a Maronite Christian.

n a televised address a day after the elections, Hassan Nasrallah declared what he called a "great political and moral victory for the resistance option that protects the sovereignty of the country".

He did not say how many seats his group and its allies had secured, but said the aim of their election campaign had been "achieved and accomplished".

Reuters news agency said a tally based on preliminary results showed Hezbollah and its allies had won at least 67 of the 128 seats in parliament. But the number of Hezbollah MPs was little changed at around 13.

Formed as a resistance movement during the Israeli occupation of Lebanon in the early 1980s, Hezbollah is today a political, military and social organisation that wields considerable power in the country.

It is designated a terrorist group by Western states and Israel, with which it fought a war in 2006, and several of its members are accused of being behind the 2005 assassination of Mr Hariri's father Rafik - himself a former Lebanese prime minister.

Mr Hariri said his party had ended up with 21 seats, down from 33 nine years ago.

"We had hoped for a better result, it's true. And we were hoping for a wider bloc, with a higher Shia and Christian representation, that's also true," he added. "But everyone could see that the Future Movement was facing a project to eliminate it from political life."

Despite the results, Mr Hariri pledged to "to participate in securing political stability and to improve the lives of all the Lebanese".

An Israeli minister said the election results meant Lebanon and Hezbollah were indistinguishable.

"The state of Israel will not differentiate between the sovereign state of Lebanon and Hezbollah, and will view Lebanon as responsible for any action from within its territory," Naftali Bennett wrote on Twitter.

Lebanon should have held elections in 2013, but MPs extended their terms several times because parties could not agree on a new electoral law.

The new law redrew constituency boundaries and changed the system from first past the post to proportional representation in an attempt to encourage voting.

However, turnout among the 3.6 million eligible voters was only 49.2% on Sunday, down from 54% nine years ago.

Mr Hariri blamed the reduced turnout on the complexities of the new electoral law. "The problem with this election: a lot of people didn't understand it," he said.

The elections were also the first since the start of a civil war in Syria in 2011.

More than a million refugees have fled to Lebanon since then, swelling the population by 25% and overwhelming public services.

Hezbollah has also sent thousands of its fighters to Syria to support forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in battles against predominantly Sunni rebel forces and the jihadist group Islamic State (IS).

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-44027973

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Iraqi intelligence reveals where ISIS’s Baghdadi believed to be hiding

8 May 2018

Iraqi officials speaking to Fox News on Sunday said that ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is still at large, and is being actively hunted.

“The last information we have is he is in Al-Hajin in Syria, 18 miles from the border in Deir ez-Zor province,” Abu Ali al-Basri, director-general of the intelligence and counter-terrorism office at the Iraqi Ministry of Interior, told Fox News.

According to Basri, reports of Baghdadi’s whereabouts are new, and being used to carry out a “multi-force raid” involving Russian, Syrian and Iranian forces.

Iraqi Defense Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool confirmed to Fox that Baghdadi is thought to be alive, and that he may be located in the border area east of the Euphrates River, possibly in the town of al-Shadaddah in al-Hasakah province in northeast Syria.

“It’s not difficult for him to hide in the Syrian desert,” the officer said.

The Iraqi air force has stepped up its attacks against ISIS targets in Syria in recent days.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/05/08/Iraqi-intelligence-reveals-where-ISIS-s-Baghdadi-believed-to-be-hiding.html

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30 regime forces killed fighting IS in Syria capital

May 08, 2018

BEIRUT - More than 30 Syrian government troops have been killed in a southern district of the capital in a fierce counter-offensive by Islamic State group fighters, a monitor said Monday. Regime forces are seeking to end IS's years-long foothold in the Palestinian camp of Yarmuk and neighbouring district of Hajar al-Aswad, both in southern Damascus. Last week, troops managed to sever a route linking the two areas, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said, but IS launched a fightback at the weekend and successfully reopened it. "Their hit-and-run operations have continued since then, killing a total of 31 regime forces, mostly in ambushes," said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based Observatory. "The regime has since been advancing slowly, taking some positions and buildings, but there hasn't been any strategic advance since Saturday," he told AFP. Regime troops control 60 percent of Hajar al-Aswad, while IS still holds more than 80 percent of Yarmuk. Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad were pounding both districts with air strikes and shelling on Monday, Abdel Rahman said.

Since the start of the offensive in mid-April, more than 150 regime forces have been killed, as well as 120 IS fighters, the Observatory said.

Another 47 civilians also died in the fighting.

Yarmuk was once a thriving Palestinian camp that was home to around 160,000 people but only a few hundred are expected to still remain.

Syria's government besieged the camp in 2012, and IS overran large swathes of it three years later.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/08-May-2018/30-regime-forces-killed-fighting-is-in-syria-capital

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How a Saudi prison reshapes the lives of former extremists

7 May 2018

It is hard to believe that a former extremist can ever recover from a life of violence and terror.

The Al Ha’ir prison located west of Riyadh jails high-security prisoners linked to terrorism-related charges.

Under the Time Management Program for Detainees, inmates are provided an opportunity to abandon their extremist ideology and instead redirect their focus on self-improvement and talent development.

While some foster their inner artists, others spend their time in gardening and in construction. Participating in such daily activities eases their path to reform and redirects them towards a regular life.

The prison also runs more intense programs designed for hardline extremists. A team of full-time psychologists, and even religious clerics, are appointed to counter the inmate’s radical thoughts.

The idea is to rehabilitate them back into the mainstream, preventing the tendency of an inmate to revert to extremism.

Saudi Arabia is looking beyond arresting extremists and just locking them in an isolated prison cell. The main aim now is to strive for long-term cognitive and behavioral changes among inmates leading to a complete repudiation of violence.

Some detainees worry that their extremist past will forever taunt their reputation within society even after rehabilitation. But the pragmatic reform strategy adopted at the Ha’ir prison has proven to be effective beyond the life behind bars.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2018/05/07/Saudi-main-prison-reshapes-lives-of-former-extremists.html

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Good Muslims must strive to be good citizens, scholars say

May 7, 2018

Abu Dhabi: Good Muslims are citizens actively engaged in their community for the betterment of their fellow citizens who take pride in where they live and strive to make it a better place, scholars and academics said on the eve of an international conference in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.

The two-day ‘International Conference on Muslim Minorities: Opportunities and Challenges’ will explore how around 500 million Muslims working and living outside the Islamic world can be good Muslims while making a positive contribution to the society they live in.

“The conference aims at spreading the culture of peace and tolerance between adherents of religions and cultures, and contributing to safeguarding the children of Muslim minorities against violence and extremism and defending the rights of these religious and cultural minorities according to international conventions and treaties,” said Dr Ali Rashid Al Nuaimi, chairman of the Supreme Committee of the conference.

Dr James J. Zogby, president of Arab American Institute, told Gulf News that the history of Arab and Muslim Americans in this century has been a mixture of negative and positive experiences, with the positives in ascendancy.

“We have had rights violated by national and local law enforcement agencies. We have endured discrimination and hate crimes from some elements of society. And we have seen some political leaders have used us as bait to snare votes from a frightened public,” Dr Zogby, who has a doctorate in comparative religion and lives and works in the US, said. He has more than 40 years of work experience throughout the Arab world.

He added at the same time, we have seen a record number of prosecutions of those who have committed hate crimes against and an outpouring of support and protection from an impressive array of civic groups (religious, ethnic, and political). And we have seen courageous political leaders not only come to our defense, but to also take unprecedented steps to elevate, promote, and celebrate our contributions to America.

Dr Zogby suggested in a democratic society based on constitutionally guaranteed rights, the role of law enforcement ought to be to help secure these rights for all citizens. “However, for decades this has not been always been the case for Arab Americans and American Muslims. The record of law enforcement has been mixed,” he said.

Dr Zogby said although the immediate backlash of September 11th was harsh, negative perceptions held by Americans of Arab and Muslim Americans are not solely the result of this singular tragedy. “We had been victims of the American school systems poor education about the Middle East and the religion of Islam, media promoted negative stereotypes, and the deliberate efforts made by organisations which were hostile to us and our goals.

Dr Zogby is optimistic about the future. “Dangers remain and work must still be done. But although our communities continue to face instances of discrimination, exclusion from political participation, and harassment even from the highest levels of government, it is important to recognize that this is being offset by strong support from other political leaders, by a host of supportive communities, by the effective work being done by our own organizations, and by a growing public awareness that we and our rights must be protected,” he said.

Abaas YunasAbaas Yunas, head of the Abu Dhabi-based Tabah Foundation’s Futures Initiative, a think-tank working to promote moderate Islamic discourse, echoed these sentiments and said most Muslims in the West are citizens of those countries.

“Many are now second or third generation. As with any community, there are a diverse range of experiences for them and every country differs to the other. The diversity within the Muslim community is immense too and this adds to the variety of experiences. in general though, the experiences are positive,” Yunas said.

He explained when you’re able to look away from the media and social media platforms, and focus on the day-to-day experiences of Muslims you find that they are no different to their fellow citizens in their hopes, concerns and aspirations. One positive element of the experience of Muslim minorities is the freedom to practice their religion.

“The same issues which face Muslim minorities face other minorities - discrimination, the rise of nationalism and xenophobia, identity politics and so on. What is important in such a time is the need to work towards alliances of common good that are not restricted to people of the same religion or ethnicity. Many Muslims are proud citizens of their towns and cities and just like others, they want to see good for them,” Yunas said.

Professor Akbar Ahmad, author, poet and playwright, who currently serves as the Ibn Khaldoun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington, DC, said the holy Quran very emphatically speaks of all humanity as being a part of the same divine order.

Prof Ahmad, who has been named “the world’s leading authority on contemporary Islam” by the BBC, added it is worth reflecting on such Quranic verses as, “We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another.” The last address of the Prophet (PBUH) at Mt Arafat states, “All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action.” Unless we begin to understand and carry out these important messages, we will continue to live in a world rattled by incessant violence.

Prof Ahmad suggested the most urgent step to address these challenges is to increase understanding of the other. “Governments should work to convene conferences and meetings to allow for majorities and minorities to engage in dialogue and learn about one another. They should also seek to facilitate outreach between the communities through the media, so that the wider populace can better understand minority populations and minority populations can better understand the majority population. Studies, books, and films about majority and minority communities should also be commissioned, as knowledge and understanding are some of the most important principles for building lasting bridges. A lot of this violence we are seeing comes from sheer ignorance.

On Muslim minorities’ future in Islam and in the communities of their residence, Prof Ahmad said if these challenges faced by Muslim minorities encourage them to perform better in school, to be more competitive in the economy and in society, and to participate in the growth of their nation, even given their minority status, then this predicament is not entirely a bad thing in the end.

Full report at:

https://gulfnews.com/news/uae/society/good-muslims-must-strive-to-be-good-citizens-scholars-say-1.2217963

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Civilians and rebel fighters start to leave enclave in Syria

MAY 8, 2018

Rebel fighters and civilians began leaving an area in central Syria on Monday, state media said, under yet another negotiated withdrawal that will see regime forces expand their control.

Opposition fighters agreed with regime forces and their allies to a ceasefire deal last week for parts of Syria’s central provinces of Hama and Homs, including the rebel towns of Talbisseh, Rastan, and Houla.

Under the deal, thousands would leave the area for an opposition-controlled zone in Syria’s north.

State news agency SANA reported on Monday that more than 60 buses carrying hundreds of rebels and their families were ready to depart for the north.

Images by a local photographer showed Syrian adults and children, some carrying luggage, at a departure point where a line of buses waited to transfer them out of Rastan.

Similar evacuation deals typically see the buses gather together at a single collection point before departing together as a convoy.

Syrian state television said the operation would take place over two days.

The rebel fighters are expected to head to the Islamist-controlled province of Idlib in the northwest or the rebel-held town of Jarabulus, in neighbouring Aleppo province.

The deal also provided for the surrender of rebels’ heavy weapons to Syrian troops and allied Russian forces, the return of government institutions to the three towns, and the reopening of a key highway.

That highway runs from the capital Damascus, through Homs, and onto second city Aleppo, in the north. Securing it has been a major target for the regime’s military operations.

The area in Homs was part of a “de-escalation zone” agreed one year ago by opposition supporter Turkey and regime allies Iran and Russia.

The four zones initially saw a reduction in shelling but violence has since escalated.

It is the third such transfer deal for Homs province, after thousands were bussed out in a pair of agreements for the city itself in recent years.

Full report at:

https://dailytimes.com.pk/237454/civilians-and-rebel-fighters-start-to-leave-enclave-in-syria/

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Syrian Army Keeps Rolling on Terrorist Centers in Southern Damascus

May 07, 2018

The army soldiers, backed up by the artillery and missile units, engaged in tough battle with ISIL Northwest of Yarmouk Camp and captured several more buildings.

Also, other units of the army drove ISIL out of several buildings, including the Computer High School and Shafei Mosque Northwest of Hajar al-Aswad region.

In the meantime, the army aircraft conducted a heavy strike on the positions of ISIL's remaining pockets in Hajar al-Aswad and Yarmouk, inflicting major losses on the terrorists.

Earlier repots said that the army men found a network of tunnels under residential buildings in Hajar al-Aswad used by terrorists as hideout for moving arms and ammunition across the region.

The army soldiers, meantime, discovered a large volume of chemical and explosive materials for making bombs in terrorists' positions in the region.

In the meantime, the army forces, backed up by artillery units and warplanes, managed to advance against terrorists in al-Zein neighborhood and reached al-Aroubeh street in al-Taqadom neighborhood after capturing several key points.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970217001243

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Turkish Army, Allied Militants Suppress Popular Uprising in Northern Syria

May 07, 2018

People in the town of al-Bab took to the streets for the second day in a row and protested against the occupation of their region, calling for expulsion of occupiers.

Ahrar al-Sharqiyeh, affiliated to the Turkish army, opened heavy fire at the town by machineguns and RPG rocket-launchers that sparked fierce clashes between the civilians and Ankara-backed militants.

Also, field sources reported that the Turkish army sent a military convoy to al-Bab after Ahrar al-Sharqiyeh militant groups forwarded its gunmen from the town of al-Ra'ei to al-Vaki street in al-Bab.

The sources said that one of the commanders of Ahrar al-Sharqiyeh threatened to set fire at al-Bab if the town's residents do not surrender.

At least 10 people were killed and 40 more were wounded in clashes between al-Bab residents and the Turkey-affiliated militants, the sources said, adding that Abu Leili Tabiyeh, a military commander of Ahrar al-Sharqiyeh, was among the dead.    

In a similar development on Saturday, people in al-Bab in Northeastern Aleppo stopped working to stage a general strike in opposition to cruelty and oppression of the Turkey-backed militants in their town.

Al-Bab citizens went on a general strike after gunmen of Firqa al-Hamzah, affiliated to the Ankara-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA), stormed al-Hekmah and al-Salam hospitals in the town and arrested a medical staff.

In the meantime, field sources in Afrin, another town in Aleppo under the Ankara forces' control, reported that Karim al-Makhlaf nom de guerre Abu Balal al-Dahlah, a commander of the FSA-affiliated Jeish al-Sharqiyah, was assassinated by unknown gunmen in the town of Jandaris South-West of Afrin region.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970217000591

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US Navy jets begin sorties against ISIS in Syria from Mediterranean

8 May 2018

A US naval strike force led by aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman began sorties on May 3 against Islamic State in Syria, continuing missions by a US-led coalition against the militants.

The force joined the US Sixth Fleet on April 18, nearly a week after the United States, Britain and France launched air strikes targeting what Western powers said were Syrian chemical weapons installations.

The Navy said it was a scheduled deployment to support coalition partners, NATO allies and US national security interests.

“We commenced combat operations in support of Operation Inherent Resolve,” Truman’s commanding officer Captain Nicholas Dienna said, referring to the coalition operation launched in 2014 against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

“That operation demonstrates ... our resolve to our partners and allies in the region and our continuing fight to eliminate ISIS and their impact to the region,” he said.

Strike fighter squadrons commenced sorties over Syria from the eastern Mediterranean on May 3, the Navy said in a statement.

The most recent aircraft carrier strike group to operate in the sixth fleet was the USS George H.W. Bush which last conducted combat operations from the eastern Mediterranean Sea in July 2017.

The Truman is capable of carrying 90 aircraft, including F-18 Super Hornet fighter jets. It currently has “60 or so” aircraft on board, Truman’s air department officer Commander Steven Djunaedi said.

Several fighter jets were catapulted in sequence on Friday and Saturday from the Truman’s 4.5-acre flight deck and thundered into the sky, a Reuters witness said.

The strike group includes the cruiser USS Normandy and the destroyers Arleigh Burke, Farragut, Forrest Sherman and Bulkeley.

“Our fundamental job, by our presence even alone, is to increase the security and stability here in this part of the world,” Dienna said.

The Nimitz-class carrier was at the center of the US Navy’s strikes against ISIS in 2016. It returned to its homeport in Norfolk, Virginia, after an extended eight-month deployment.

Officials on board would not say how long its latest deployment was expected to last.

“We’ll be here as long as they need us and we’ll move on when they decide we need to go do something else,” the strike group’s commander Rear Admiral Gene Black said.

The United States, Britain and France have all participated in the Syrian conflict, arming rebels, bombing Islamic State fighters and deploying troops on the ground to fight the group.

April’s intervention was the biggest by Western countries against President Bashar Assad and his ally Russia. The countries said the strikes were limited to Syria’s chemical weapons capabilities and not aimed at toppling Assad or intervening in the civil war.

On Friday, the US Navy said it was re-establishing its Second Fleet, responsible for the northern Atlantic Ocean, amid heightened tensions between Washington and Moscow.

Asked to comment on relations with the Russian navy in the Mediterranean, Dienna said: “We’ve had numerous interactions thus far with the Russians across the Mediterranean.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/05/08/US-Navy-jets-begin-sorties-against-ISIS-in-Syria-from-Mediterranean.html

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Militants leaving last strongholds in Syria's Homs, Hama

May 8, 2018

Takfiri militants are handing over their last strongholds in Syria’s western provinces of Homs and Hama under a Russia-brokered deal with the Damascus government.

The evacuation began on Monday, when the first batch of the militants and their families left the town of Rastan in Homs through a corridor.

On the first day of the evacuation process, which is expected to last a week, more than 800 militants and their families were bused out and transported to militant-held areas in the northern city of Jarablus and the neighboring Province of Idlib.

The outgoing buses are escorted by Russian military police.

The areas in Homs include Rastan as well as the towns of Houla and Talbiseh and the villages around them.

The deal came about on May 2, when militants from several factions of the so-called Free Syrian Army agreed to disarm and return those areas to government control.

The evacuation enables the government to reopen the highway connecting the provincial capitals for the first time since 2011, when foreign-backed militancy broke out in Syria.

“The road linking Homs, Hama and Aleppo will be reopened. Relevant international parties and organizations will also enter the region to restart their work and satisfy the basic needs of the local population and the residents of northern villages,” said Samir Ibrahim, a Syrian army officer.

On the back of similar agreements, the government managed late last month to gradually free the Damascus countryside of Eastern Ghouta, which was once controlled by various militant groups and served as a launch pad for deadly terror attacks against residents of the capital.

The government had initially launched a major Russia-backed military push in February to liberate Eastern Ghouta.

The militants holed up in the suburban area first put up stiff resistance against army advances; however, being no match for the national army, they later capitulated. The government then resorted to withdrawal agreements with the militants in an effort to decrease military operations and protect civilians.

Observers say the militants’ defeat in Eastern Ghouta demoralized their fellows in others areas, prompting them to stop resisting the Syrian army’s liberation operations and agree to evacuation deals.

Such agreements usually give those militants that agree to make peace with the government and lay down arms the option of staying where they are along with their families.

Damascus and Moscow have now focused their efforts on a small enclave south of the capital, which holds a few hundred Daesh terrorists.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/05/08/560993/Syria-Militants-Homs-Hama

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South Asia

 

Islamic countries call Rohingya crisis ‘ethnic cleansing’

May 7, 2018

A grouping of Islamic countries said Myanmar’s treatment of Rohingya Muslims is a “serious and blatant violation of international law” and it is calling for international support in solving the crisis. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation issued a joint statement Sunday at the end of a two-day conference in Bangladesh, which has taken in more than 700,000 Rohingya who have fled violence in Myanmar since August.

The statement said the grouping will continue to work with the U.N. and other global platforms to address the rights violations taking place in Myanmar. The grouping echoed previous international statements saying ethnic cleansing is taking place in Myanmar. Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali said delegates pledged solidarity with his country “in the face of the huge Rohingya influx with its humanitarian and security consequences.”

Security forces in Buddhist-majority Myanmar launched a scorched-earth campaign in late August in response to attacks by a Rohingya insurgent group. Thousands of people are believed to have been killed in the crackdown, which many rights activists believe was a calculated attempt to drive Rohingya from the country.

Rohingya are denied citizenship in Myanmar, where they have long faced persecution. Many in Myanmar see them as illegal migrants from Bangladesh, and deride them as “Bengalis.” Most have long lived in poverty in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, next to Bangladesh.

The hundreds of thousands who fled now live in squalid camps across the border in Bangladesh. The Bangladesh Red Crescent Society estimates that at least 100,000 refugees will be exposed to extreme dangers during the coming monsoon season.

http://indianexpress.com/article/world/islamic-countries-call-rohingya-crisis-ethnic-cleansing/

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42 militants killed in latest airstrikes in Afghanistan

May 08, 2018

KABUL:- At least 42 militants were killed and 24 others wounded in separate airstrikes in Afghanistan within the past 24 hours, the country’s defense ministry said Monday.

In southern Uruzgan province, 18 militants were killed and 14 others wounded after Taliban militants’ positions were targeted on outskirts of provincial capital Tirin Kot city and Dihrawud district.

Nine Taliban were killed and seven others wounded in another similar air raid in Maruf district of Kandahar province.

In addition, 10 militants were killed in strikes in Daychopan district of southern Zabul province. In northern Faryab province, five militants were killed and three others wounded.–Xinhua

https://nation.com.pk/08-May-2018/42-militants-killed-in-latest-airstrikes-in-afghanistan

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Afghan police foil suicide attack on Kabul blood drive

May 08, 2018

KABUL - A suicide bomber targeting a blood drive for victims of recent attacks blew himself up in Kabul on Monday after being spotted by police, officials said, causing no other casualties.

The foiled attack comes exactly a week after a double bombing in the Afghan capital killed 25 people, including AFP chief photographer Shah Marai and eight other journalists. The latest suicide bomber detonated himself after being spotted and shot at by police in Shar-e-Naw park in the heart of Kabul, police spokesman Hashmat Stanikzai told AFP. Stanikzai said the bomber had been trying to reach a temporary blood donation centre that had been set up in the park. "The attacker was killed. There were no other casualties," he added.

Interior minister Wais Barmak, who is facing questioning in parliament over deteriorating security, confirmed police had thwarted the attack.

"The enemy is changing their tactics every day; we are also trying to adapt and change our tactics," Barmak told MPs.

The incident came as the death toll from Sunday's explosion inside a voter registration centre in the eastern province of Khost rose to 17 people, a health official told AFP.

Another 36 were wounded, he added.

The bomb had been placed in a tent being used to register voters on the grounds of a mosque, marking the latest attack on preparations for Afghanistan's long-delayed legislative elections.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/08-May-2018/afghan-police-foil-suicide-attack-on-kabul-blood-drive

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Rohingya fear India's move to aid repatriation plan

May 8, 2018

Rohingya Muslim refugees are fretting for their safety as India accelerates its move to repatriate them to Myanmar, the Buddhist-majority nation they began flooding out of last August following widespread violence.

India's external affairs minister, Sushma Swaraj, is set to visit Myanmar from May 10-11 as India is expected to ramp up its assistance in facilitating the return of the refugees from Bangladesh during the trip.

Her visit comes on the heels of a May 1 visit by a delegation from the U.N. Security Council during which they urged Myanmar to improve the security conditions for the return of thousands of refugees, who fled northern Rakhine State after military-led violence.

The U.N. council wants Myanmar and Bangladesh to speed up the repatriation process, which both nations agreed to start in January.

But plans were delayed as Myanmar found that the documents filed by the refugees did not match those agreed by the two countries.

However, the Rohingya in India say they are apprehensive if they are deported as demanded by some Hindu groups in India and Bangladesh.

"The announcements and assurances given the world over to the Rohingya are meaningless unless the Myanmar government treats us as their own people and stops unleashing terror against the community," said Shafeeq-ur- Rahman, a Rohingya living in a refugee camp near New Delhi's Madanpur.

An estimated 700,000 Rohingya have fled their native Rakhine State following violence and discriminatory treatment. The Myanmar government considers them migrants from Bangladesh, where they also face discrimination.

"We left to save our lives and now we are being asked to go back without any assurance from the Myanmar government. Who knows what they will do to us once we return to our homes," Rahman told ucanews.com.

Rahman, who runs a roadside grocery shop in South Delhi's congested Madanpur Khander, came to India via Bangladesh following the August 2017 violence, which he claims was spearheaded by the Myanmar military.

"Who would want to leave their home and live the life of a refugee? We just want our children and our women to be safe. That's why we've taken shelter in various places. We won't go back until our safety is guaranteed," Rahman said.

Myanmar has for years denied the Rohingya citizenship, accusing them of being illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Bangladesh says the Rohingyas are not its nationals.

Around 40,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to India over the past decade, of which 16,500 are registered with the U.N.'s refugee agency.

Taseem-un-Nisa, a Rohingya woman who has been living in India as a refugee for the past two years, told ucanews.com that ethnic persecution is still rampant in her homeland.

"The Myanmar government doesn't even accept us," she said. "For Bangladesh, we're nothing but refugees. If we are sent back to Myanmar, we will be exposed to the same cycle of violence and mayhem, and bloodshed will become the order of the day."

Meanwhile, pro-Hindu groups say India should take steps to deport the Rohingya as soon as possible.

Udhay Chand, head of the pro-Hindu Duggar Pradesh Party, told ucanews.com there "is no reason why India should continue host the refugees."

Chand, an active supporter of the anti-Rohingya campaign in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, said the government has failed to handle the Rohingya issue well by failing to organize refugee camps near the border with Myanmar, as mapped in the guidelines of the U.N. resolution.

"This has allowed refugees to scatter across the entire country, especially in the Jammu region, and they have become a nuisance for everyone," Chand said.

Various Hindu groups have expressed concern the Rohingya are increasing India's security threat as they could be targeted for radicalisation by Islamic terrorists.

The Rakhine crisis has triggered warnings of extremist violence around the region as organizations like Al-Qaeda urge followers to avenge the downtrodden Muslims.

However, for Javaid Ahmad Turabi, a Muslim cleric and general secretary of Tableeb-ul-Haq, the issue merits consideration from humanitarian perspective above all.

"There are women and innocent children living in these refugee camps in India. Come what may, they shouldn't be sent back to a place where they faced persecution of the worst kind," Javaid said.

Full report at:

https://www.ucanews.com/news/rohingya-fear-indias-move-to-aid-repatriation-plan/82226

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Taliban suffer casualties in artillery and airstrikes in Paktia

May 07 2018

At least 14 Taliban insurgents were killed in a series of artillery and airstrikes on the hideouts of the militants in southeastern Paktia province.

The 203rd Thunder Corps in the Southeast said the Afghan military and air forces carried out raids on Taliban positions along the Sharana-Ghazni highway targeting the militants in Chahar Diwal, Rashid Khel, Pir Shahbaz, Shaliz, Zewach, Kalach and Arzoo areas.

The source further added that 14 Taliban insurgents were killed and 13 others sustained injuries during the operations.

In the meantime, the Thunder Corps said at least one militant was killed and five others were wounded during a separate operation in Sabari district of Khost proivnce.

The anti-government armed militant groups including Taliban insurgents have not commented regarding the report so far.

This comes as counter-terrorism operations including airstrikes are underway against the Taliban and other militants in various proivinces of the country.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/taliban-suffer-casualties-in-artillery-and-airstrikes-in-paktia-05096/

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North America

 

Russians posed as Islamic State hackers, threatened US military wives

May 8, 2018

Army wife Angela Ricketts was soaking in a bubble bath in her Colorado home, leafing through a memoir, when a message appeared on her iPhone from hackers threatening to slaughter her family.

“Dear Angela!” the Facebook message read. “Bloody Valentine’s Day!”

“We know everything about you, your husband and your children,” the message continued, claiming that the hackers operating under the flag of Islamic State militants had penetrated her computer and her phone. “We’re much closer than you can even imagine.”

Ricketts was one of five military wives who received death threats from the self-styled CyberCaliphate on the morning of Feb. 10, 2015. The warnings led to days of anguished media coverage of Islamic State militants’ online reach.

Except it wasn’t IS.

The Associated Press has found evidence that the women were targeted not by jihadists but by the same Russian hacking group that intervened in the American election and exposed the emails of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign chairman, John Podesta.

The brazen false flag is a case study in the difficulty of assigning blame in a world where hackers routinely borrow one another’s identities to throw investigators off track. The operation’s attempt to hype the threat of radical Islam also presaged the inflammatory messages pushed by internet trolls during the US presidential race.

Links between CyberCaliphate and the Russian hackers — typically nicknamed Fancy Bear or APT28 — have been documented previously. On both sides of the Atlantic, the consensus is that the two groups are closely related.

But that consensus never filtered through to the women involved, many of whom were convinced they had been targeted by Islamic State sympathizers right up until the AP contacted them.

“Never in a million years did I think that it was the Russians,” said Ricketts, an author and advocate for veterans and military families. She called the revelation “mind blowing.”

“It feels so hilarious and insidious at the same time.”

‘Completely new ground’

As Ricketts scrambled out of the tub to show the threat to her husband, nearly identical messages reached Lori Volkman, a deputy prosecutor based in Oregon who had won fame as a blogger after her husband deployed to the Middle East; Ashley Broadway-Mack, based in the Washington, DC, area and head of an association for gay and lesbian military family members; and Amy Bushatz, an Alaska-based journalist who covers spouse and family issues for Military.com.

Liz Snell, the wife of a US Marine, was at her husband’s retirement ceremony in California when her phone rang. The Twitter account of her charity, Military Spouses of Strength, had been hacked. It was broadcasting public threats not only to herself and the other spouses, but also to their families and then-first lady Michelle Obama.

Snell flew home to Michigan from the ceremony, took her children and checked into a Comfort Inn for two nights.

“Any time somebody threatens your family, Mama Bear comes out,” she said.

The women determined they had all received the same threats. They were also all quoted in a CNN piece about the hacking of a military Twitter feed by CyberCaliphate only a few weeks earlier. In it, they had struck a defiant tone and suspected that CyberCaliphate decided to single them out for retaliation.

“Fear is exactly what — at the time — we perceived ISIS wanted from military families,” said Volkman, using another term for the Islamic State group.

Volkman was quoted in half a dozen media outlets; Bushatz wrote an article describing what happened; Ricketts, interviewed as part of a Fox News segment devoted to the menace of radical Islam, told TV host Greta Van Susteren that the nature of the threat was changing.

“Military families are prepared to deal with violence that’s directed toward our soldiers,” she said. “But having it directed toward us is just complete new ground.”

‘We might be surprised’

A few weeks after the spouses were threatened, on April 9, 2015, the signal of French broadcaster TV5 Monde went dead.

The station’s network of routers and switches had been knocked out and its internal messaging system disabled. Pasted across the station’s website and Facebook page was the keffiyeh-clad logo of CyberCaliphate.

The cyberattack shocked France, coming on the heels of jihadist massacres at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket that left 17 dead. French leaders decried what they saw as another blow to the country’s media. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said evidence suggested the broadcaster was the victim of an act of terror.

But Guillaume Poupard, the chief of France’s cybersecurity agency, pointedly declined to endorse the minister’s comments when quizzed about them the day after the hack.

“We should be very prudent about the origin of the attack,” he told French radio. “We might be surprised.”

Government experts poring over the station’s stricken servers eventually vindicated Poupard’s caution, finding evidence they said pointed not to the Middle East but to Moscow.

Speaking to the AP last year, Poupard said the attack “resembles a lot what we call collectively APT28.”

Russian officials in Washington and in Moscow did not respond to questions seeking comment. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied masterminding hacks against Western targets.

‘The media played right into it’

Proof that the military wives were targeted by Russian hackers is laid out in a digital hit list provided to the AP by the cybersecurity company Secureworks last year. The AP has previously used the list of 4,700 Gmail addresses to outline the group’s espionage campaign against journalists , defense contractors and US officials . More recent AP research has found that Fancy Bear, which Secureworks dubs “Iron Twilight,” was actively trying to break into the military wives’ mailboxes around the time that CyberCaliphate struck.

Lee Foster, a manager with cybersecurity company FireEye, said the repeated overlap between Russian hackers and CyberCaliphate made it all but certain that the groups were linked.

“Just think of your basic probabilities,” he said.

CyberCaliphate faded from view after the TV5 Monde hack, but the over-the-top threats issued by the gang of make-believe militants found an echo in the anti-Muslim sentiment whipped up by a St. Petersburg troll farm _ an organization whose operations were laid bare by a U.S. special prosecutor’s indictment earlier this year.

The trolls — Russian employees paid to seed American social media with disinformation — often hyped the threat of Islamic State militants to the United States. A few months before CyberCaliphate first won attention by hijacking various media organizations’ Twitter accounts, for example, the trolls were spreading false rumors about an Islamic State attack in Louisiana and a counterfeit video appearing to show an American soldier firing into a Quran .

The AP has found no link between CyberCaliphate and the St. Petersburg trolls, but their aims appeared to be the same: keep tension at a boil and radical Islam in the headlines.

By that measure, CyberCaliphate’s targeting of media outlets like TV5 Monde and the military spouses succeeded handily.

Ricketts, the author, said that by planting threats with some of the most vocal members of the military community, CyberCaliphate guaranteed maximum press coverage.

“Not only did we play right into their hands by freaking out, but the media played right into it,” she said. “We reacted in a way that was probably exactly what they were hoping for.”

http://indianexpress.com/article/world/russians-posed-as-islamic-state-hackers-threatened-us-military-wives-5167729/

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Scenarios ahead of Donald Trump’s big reveal on the Iran nuclear deal

8 May 2018

President Donald Trump is preparing to tell the world whether he plans to follow through on his threat to pull out of the landmark nuclear accord with Iran and almost surely ensure its collapse. There are no signs that European allies enlisted to "fix" the deal had persuaded him to preserve it.

In a burst of last-minute diplomacy, punctuated by a visit by Britain's top diplomat, the deal's European members gave in to many of Trump's demands, according to officials, diplomats and others briefed on the negotiations. Yet they still left convinced he is likely to re-impose sanctions and walk away from the deal he has lambasted since his days as a presidential candidate.

As they braced for an expected withdrawal Tuesday, US officials were dusting off plans for how to sell a pullout to the public and explain its complex ramifications to the global financial world, said the officials and others, who weren't authorized to speak ahead of an announcement and requested anonymity.

Building up anticipation for the big reveal, Trump announced on Twitter he would disclose his decision at 2 p.m., with an announcement set for the Diplomatic Room of the White House.

With uncharacteristic discipline, he kept the decision confined to a small group within the White House National Security Council, leaving even many his aides guessing what he had decided.

An immense web of sanctions, written agreements and staggered deadlines make up the 2015 nuclear deal struck by the US, Iran and world powers. So Trump effectively has several pathways to pull the United States out of the deal by reneging on its commitments.

Scenarios

Under the most likely scenario, Trump will allow sanctions on Iran's central bank - intended to target its oil exports - to kick back in, rather than waiving them once again on Saturday, the next deadline for renewal, said the individuals briefed on Trump's deliberations.

Then the Trump administration would give those who are doing business with Iran a six-month grace period to wind down business and avoid running afoul of those sanctions.

Depending on how Trump sells it - either as an irreversible US pullout, or one final chance to save it - the deal could ostensibly be strengthened during those six months in a last-ditch effort to persuade Trump to change his mind. The first 15 months of Trump's presidency have been filled with many such "last chances" for the Iran deal in which he's punted the decision for another few months, and then another.

Other US sanctions don't require a decision until later, including those on specific Iranian businesses, sectors and individuals that will snap back into place in July unless Trump signs another waiver. A move on Tuesday to restore those penalties ahead of the deadline would be the most aggressive move Trump could take to close the door to staying in the deal.

Even Trump's secretary of state and the UN agency that monitors nuclear compliance agree that Iran, so far, has lived up to its side of the deal. But the deal's critics, such as Israel, the Gulf Arab states and many Republicans, say it's a giveaway to Tehran that ultimately paves the path to a nuclear-armed Iran several years in the future.

Iran, for its part, has been coy in predicting its response to a Trump withdrawal. For weeks, Iran's foreign minister had been saying that a re-imposition of US sanctions would render the deal null and void, leaving Tehran little choice but to abandon it as well. But on Monday, President Hassan Rouhani said Iran could stick with it if the European Union, whose economies do far more business with Iran than the US, offers guarantees that Iran would keep benefiting.

It is far from clear that Europe can credibly provide that assurance.

Even with the deal in place, Iran complained constantly that European banks and businesses were staying away out of fear they'd be punished by the United States. The global financial system is so interconnected and so dependent on New York that it's nearly impossible to conduct business that doesn't touch the US financial system. That gives Trump incredible leverage if he threatens that anyone doing business with Iran will be cut off from the United States.

For the Europeans, a Trump withdrawal would also constitute dispiriting proof that trying to appease the mercurial American president is an exercise for naught.

The three EU members of the deal - Britain, France and Germany - were insistent from the start that the deal could not be re-opened. After all, it was the US that brokered the agreement in 2015 and rallied the world behind it. But all that was under President Barack Obama, whose global legacy Trump has worked to chip away at since taking office.

So the Europeans reluctantly backed down, only slightly at first, agreeing to discuss an "add-on" agreement that wouldn't change the underlying nuclear deal, but would add new restrictions on Iran to address what Trump had identified as its shortcomings. Trump wanted to deter Iran's ballistic missile program and other destabilizing actions in the region. He also wanted more rigorous nuclear inspections and to extend the deal's restrictions on Iranian enrichment and reprocessing, rather than let them phase out after about a decade.

Negotiating an add-on agreement, rather than revising the existing deal, had the added benefit of not requiring the formal consent of Iran or the other remaining members: Russia and China. The idea was that even if they balked at the West's impositions, Iran would be likely to comply anyway so as to keep enjoying lucrative sanctions relief.

Although the US and the Europeans made progress on ballistic missiles and inspections, there were disagreements over extending the life of the deal and over how to trigger additional penalties if Iran were found violating the new restrictions, US officials and European diplomats have said. The Europeans agreed to yet more concessions in the final days of negotiating ahead of Trump's decision, the officials added.

It was not clear what led Trump, whose aides hadn't expected him to make a decision until week's end, to declare Monday he was ready to render judgment on the deal's fate. But on Twitter, he targeted former Secretary of State John Kerry, who led Obama's efforts to broker the deal and has been making the case publicly and privately for its survival.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/05/08/Scenarios-ahead-of-Trump-s-big-reveal-on-the-Iran-nuclear-deal.html

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Trump tweets under spotlight during 9/11 pre-trial hearings on Gitmo

7 May 2018

The latest pre-trial hearing for the five men accused of planning 9/11 came to a close this Friday, with defense attorneys putting special focus on the ways in which US government continues to delay the progression of the trial.

Pre-trial arguments have been going on for over six years; and each of the accused has been in American custody for more than 15 years.

In the midst of several dense legal motions and hours of detailed litigation, a somewhat unexpected issue came to the forefront of the proceedings: US President Donald Trump’s twitter account.

During Thursday’s open court session, the defense team of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (alleged to have pitched the 9/11 attacks to Osama Bin Laden himself), argued that Trump’s inflammatory tweets and comments create unlawful influence in court.

Lead defense attorney for Mohammed, David Nevin, urged the military judge that aggravated remarks from the president make the trial process inherently unfair.

“There are a lot of people trying to influence this military commission,” Nevin told the judge, “in this case, it's the President.”

Nevin referred to comments made by the US President following the October 2017 truck attack in New York City. The President, Nevins explained, allegedly criticized the current process in place for trying alleged terrorists as too slow and too lenient.

Unlawful influence

This is not the first time that Nevin has urged the judge to consider the effects of unlawful influence in the war court. Additionally, Trump has made several speculative comments on Guantanamo and the war on terror since entering office.

Back in March of 2017, the White House even had to issue a correction on one of Trump’s tweets regarding Guantanamo. The President had claimed that 122 detainees released during the Obama administration had returned to the battlefield.

In fact, only 8 Obama-era releases had allegedly re-engaged. Meanwhile, 113 Bush-era Guantanamo releases had re-engaged, according to a concurrent report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Death penalty

Nevin went on to argue that the case should be dismissed altogether, due to the inherent inability of the war court to proceed without influence. If nothing else, Nevin argued, the death penalty should be taken off the table.

In addition to Trump comments regarding Guantanamo, Nevin also cited one of Trump’s remarks criticizing the war court system, the US Office of Military Commissions, as an institution.

The military commission’s judge presiding over this case, Army Colonel James Pohl, did not take kindly to this criticism. When prosecution attorney Bob Swann took the stand on behalf of the United States, Judge Pohl seemed unconvinced.

President defended

Swann defended Trump’s comments, saying that although the President’s criticism of another military commissions judge was inappropriate, not much can be done about it.

“There are going to be other comments made after today,” Swann said, “I’m convinced of that. That’s just the way things [are].”

“Do we have to accept that, though?” Judge Pohl snapped back, cutting Swann off mid-sentence.

“How do we stop it, sir?” Swann urged, “That’s the question.”

“Oh, I got ways to stop it,” Judge Pohl said somewhat facetiously, causing both the courtroom and the observation gallery to erupt in laughter.

The back and forth continued for a few minutes as Judge Pohl urged Swann to focus on the legal implications at hand. However, as with most arguments in the military commissions, this one ended in uncertainty.

Judge’s job

Judge Pohl told Swann that regardless of how many comments Trump makes, it is the judge’s job to ensure that the court proceedings remain fair and without unlawful influence. It will likely be months before the judge makes any ruling on the influence of Trump’s comments.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others on trial in this case are currently detained at Guantanamo Bay, accused of plotting the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. The joint trial is currently in its sixth year of the preliminary pre-trial stage.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/perspective/features/2018/05/07/Trump-tweets-under-spotlight-during-9-11-pre-trial-hearings-on-Gitmo.html

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Neocons, Netanyahu want military confrontation with Iran: Ron Paul

May 8, 2018

The American neoconservative and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu don’t want to see another nuclear sanctions waiver for Iran, because they want military confrontation with the Islamic Republic, former US congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul says.

In a tweet on Monday, US President Donald Trump said he will announce whether Washington will pull out of the Iran nuclear deal on Tuesday afternoon.

Trump has threatened to withdraw from the nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). It was signed between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China – plus Germany in July 2015.

“Some of the people are cheering him [Trump] on. The neocons in this country are cheering him, of course, because they don’t want to see another waiver. They want confrontation. As a matter of fact, their best foreign ally is Netanyahu,” Dr. Paul, a three-time American presidential candidate said in an interview on Monday,

“Netanyahu last week was bombastic himself, and trying to present the case and declare how evil Iran was with statistics that were outdated, but he was caught at it. I think he should have been embarrassed by it. But he’s back out again. He urged it. We got to confront them," he stated.

"I don’t think he said ‘let’s go to war,’ but that’s what his policy is. He is willing to confront them militarily right now, and they’re a lot of people in this country and a lot of people in the administration,” the analyst added.

The US is to formally decide on the issue on May 12 as European allies of the United States, particularly the UK, are reportedly trying to convince the president to stay in the deal backed by five other world powers.

The European Union, France, the United Kingdom, and Germany have expressed support for the deal in the wake of new anti-Iran claims by Israel.

Iran has on numerous occasions asserted that its nuclear program is merely peaceful and not meant to make nukes.

‘Trump doesn’t work on consistent patterns’

Dr. Paul said that "sorting this all out is difficult because Trump doesn’t work on consistent patterns. Who would have ever thought two months ago that there would be a possible peace treaty between North and South Korea? So who knows what’s happening. But right now this looks very difficult for him to come up with an in-between answer.”

“But I think that’s what he would have to do. But he has a lot of people in opposition to him, like the Europeans. I think everybody who has signed the agreement, they don’t want him to stop it,” he stated.

“I don’t think he has the option of saying ‘well, we are tired of this; we’re going to get out of this international organization, and nobody will notice and we’re going to leave,'” he noted. 

“Most people, including Iran, believe if the United States breaks this agreement and walks away that means big trouble. And they will have some ways of retaliating,” he said. 

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/05/08/561000/Neocons-Netanyahu-want-military-confrontation-with-Iran-Ron-Paul

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Europe

 

Moroccan Anti-Terror Chief Says Rabat Putting on Trial Hundreds of ISIS Returnees

May 6th, 2018

Morocco is working to detain and place on trial hundreds of citizens who have returned home after fighting for the Islamic State group, the country's anti-terror chief has told AFP.

"We have arrested and brought to justice more than 200 returnees," Abdelhak Khiam, director of the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations (BCIJ), said in an interview.

Legislation passed in 2015 allows police to arrest and interrogate returnees before transferring them to the judiciary, he said, noting the suspects were serving sentences ranging from 10 to 15 years in prison.

In 2015, an estimated 1,600 Moroccans had joined the ranks of jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria.

"Some died in suicide operations or were shot by (international anti-IS) coalition forces," Khiam said.

"Others fled to other countries."

The North African kingdom has largely been spared jihadist violence since deadly 2003 bombings in Casablanca killed 33 people.

But jihadists of Moroccan origin have been involved in numerous attacks in recent years across Europe, notably France, Belgium and Spain.

Khiam blamed a "problem of religious guidance" in European countries and said "terrorism has no nationality".

Morocco's security efforts have been coupled with major religious reforms, Khiam said.

"This approach based on religious mentoring is important," he added.

Since the Casablanca attacks, Moroccan legislation has been strengthened and dozens of people have been handed prison sentences on terrorism charges.

Authorities regularly announce the dismantlement of "terrorist cells", although such announcements have fallen from 21 in 2015 to nine in 2017.

Khiam also praised the role of international cooperation, saying Morocco's security services had prevented attacks in seven European countries.

But he admitted there may be "gaps" and urged authorities to inform "countries of origin" in cases where dual citizens are suspected of preparing attacks.

He also warned that the vast Sahel region on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert had become a "fertile ground" for jihadist groups and was "a time bomb".

He voiced concern over the links between criminal networks and "terrorist movements" funded by crime.

Insurgents remain active across the Sahel and have been linked to drug, arms and migrant trafficking as well as jihadist attacks.

Terror funding

Last month, French President Emmanuel Macron warned that militants "use all contemporary forms of financing" in an address at the closing of a two-day conference on combating the funding of terror groups at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which brought together around 80 ministers and 500 experts.

"We have to cut off terrorism at its roots: it feeds on human trafficking, drugs and weapons. There's always an underlying economy," said Macron, urging global "transparency and mobilisation."

"We have to cross to a new stage in the fight against Daesh and al-Qaeda,” he said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State militant group.

A French presidential official briefing journalists ahead of the terror funding conference this week said that IS income was estimated at about one billion dollars (820 million euros) a year between 2014-2016.

Most of this was from local taxation, oil revenues and looting, with far smaller amounts flowing in from overseas donors.

IS swept across large parts of Syria and neighbouring Iraq in 2014, declaring a cross-border "caliphate" in areas they controlled.

Syrian and Iraqi forces have since driven IS from nearly all the territory it once held, except for a small presence in the remote desert areas along the border.

But French officials are concerned that the money has been transferred out of Syria and Iraq and could be used to rebuild the organisation.

"It has been moved since, at least in part. It's probably somewhere," the official said on condition of anonymity. "These groups are very skilful in using sophisticated techniques to move financial resources around."

https://www.albawaba.com/news/moroccan-anti-terror-chief-says-rabat-putting-trial-hundreds-isis-returnees-1126914

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UK establishment gangs up on another mainstream Muslim politician

7 May 2018

It's been exactly two years since the Conservative Party joined forces with the big battalions of the British media establishment in an attempt to destroy Sadiq Khan as the Labour candidate for mayor of London.

It was one of the nastiest political campaigns I have ever witnessed, because the campaign against Khan was based around the fact that he was a Muslim.

Now, we are seeing another concerted attempt to take down a mainstream Muslim politician. In this week's Jewish Chronicle, journalist John Ware smears Sayeeda Warsi for her connections with the Muslim advocacy organisation Mend.

Who can speak for Muslims?

Ware writes that Warsi "seems to have held Mend rather too close for comfort, inviting the conclusion that she is either very confused or that she is at heart more Mend than mainstream".

Within hours of Ware's article being published, others were joining in. Zac Goldsmith, who has yet to apologise for the campaign against Sadiq Khan, tweeted Ware’s article approvingly.

Then Maajid Nawaz, chairman of the Quilliam foundation, entered the fray, accusing Warsi of using claims of Islamophobia to shield herself from legitimate criticism.

It’s easy to see what is going on here. We are seeing a sustained attempt to determine which politicians can speak for Muslims and which can’t.

Welcome to the world of senator Joe McCarthy, with John Ware playing the role of Witchfinder General. His central charge against Warsi is that she is too close to Mend, and has given them some advice about how they should rebrand themselves. Ware is implying that there is something suspicious about this.

I can't agree. I've followed Warsi’s career enough to know that Ware has been selective and unfair in his treatment of her.

'The Whitehall friend'

If he’s going to highlight her relationship with Mend, he should also mention her connections with other Muslim organisations. But he doesn’t mention that she’s worked with the Quilliam foundation, which supports the government’s counter-extremism strategy.

And Ware surely ought also to have mentioned that as minister for faith and communities, she was instrumental in setting up Nisa-Nashim, a network of Jewish and Muslim women that calls itself the largest of its kind in Europe.

As a government minister, Warsi also engaged heavily with Christian organisations, leading the largest-ever ministerial delegation to the Vatican.

Ware left his readers in ignorance of all of this. Nor did he inform them that when she stepped down from government, the Catholic newspaper The Tablet published a leader praising her for “tireless” interfaith work, calling her “the Whitehall friend” church leaders could go to, and saying: “Her resignation leaves a hole at the heart of government and it is difficult to see how Mr Cameron can fill it.”

As for Muslims, she has always felt she ought to meet every part of the community, not just some.

This seems to me to be a defensible course of action, and one that has enabled her to be one of the most outspoken critics of homophobia, anti-Semitism and sectarianism, without being accused of being a government stooge.

A false dichotomy

Ware also said he was puzzled by Warsi's criticism of the new extremism commissioner, Sara Khan, as a "mouthpiece for the Home Office". He asks: "Why would Warsi oppose anyone who stood for human rights and female empowerment in the face of brutal theocratic extremism - with or without government assistance?"

There's a false dichotomy at work here, once again making out that Warsi is somehow against human rights and female empowerment.

Yet Warsi criticised Khan's appointment for specific reasons: that she does not have the trust of the Muslim community, and is perceived, for solid reasons, as being too close to the government.

And she was by no means alone in making this criticism: 100 Muslim organisations signed a petition calling for Khan’s appointment to be revoked. The Labour MP for Bradford West, Naz Shah, said Khan "does not accept the concerns in the community". The Muslim Council of Britain said the appointment would be seen as "a move to placate those small sections of society who see Muslims as foreign, alien, rather than as equal citizens in this country".

Other Muslim groups - including some of the most mainstream, such as the Muslim Women’s Collective - are also concerned that Khan’s unwavering support for Prevent will make it difficult for her to build bridges with Muslims.

One-sided attack

And it is not just Muslims who are concerned. Labour’s shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, has said Khan's "seems to be a very ill-advised appointment".

Ware appears to be suggesting that Warsi’s criticism of Khan’s appointment lies far outside the mainstream. He calls it a “puzzle”. Clearly it is not.

Of course, there is no reason why a journalist such as Ware should not attack Warsi. But I believe his failure to highlight her work across religious communities created the false impression among readers of the Jewish Chronicle that Warsi is a sectarian figure. Such a one-sided attack ironically runs the risk of stoking the very religious divisions that Ware claims to be so concerned about.

Unfortunately, this is not the first attack on Warsi. She is constantly being sniped at.

On the right of British politics, journalist Douglas Murray is one of the most contemptuous. He has called her the "enemy at the table". Another is former Daily Telegraph editor and biographer of Margaret Thatcher Charles Moore, who dismissed her as “self-publicising” and “sectarian”.

And earlier this year, former army officer Richard Kemp's smear in the Jewish News that Warsi has excused the crimes of the Islamic State (IS) led to the newspaper paying her £20,000 ($27,000) in libel damages.

Focus on Islamophobia

As a proud female Muslim politician with her own views, Warsi seems to attract suspicion. As I wrote last year, she has been subjected to relentless vitriol from within the Conservative Party.

This persecution comes at a time when attention is beginning to turn to Islamophobia within the Conservative Party. Last weekend, Warsi herself claimed that there is an Islamophobic incident within the party almost every week. Evidence from the last several weeks confirms this.

Full report at:

http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/uk-establishment-gangs-another-mainstream-muslim-politician-756056566

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Afghan gunships killed and wounded 107 boys and men in attack last month: UN

May 07, 2018

Rockets and heavy machines guns fired from Afghan government helicopters killed and wounded at least 107 boys and men attending a religious ceremony near the northern city of Kunduz last month, according to a United Nations report on Monday.

Last month, villagers in Dasht-i Archi district of Kunduz said dozens of people including many children had been killed in an attack on a religious ceremony, prompting the UN to launch an investigation.

https://nation.com.pk/07-May-2018/afghan-gunships-killed-and-wounded-107-boys-and-men-in-attack-last-month-un

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French media call into question Qatari official’s real estate dealings in Europe

7 May 2018

French media outlets have raised questions regarding properties acquired by Qatar’s Attorney General and Chairman of Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption Center (ROLACC), Ali bin Futtais al-Marri.

Those questions were raised after Le Point said that Al Marri has a relatively long list of expensive properties across Europe that are difficult to be explained in relativity to his official income. According to one report, the Qatari official bought “himself a three-story mansion at 86 Avenue d’Iéna, just a stone’s throw from the Arc de Triomphe, for 9.6 million euros in October 2013.

The capital of real estate company IENA 86 is divided into 100 shares, which are owned by Marri (98 shares) and by two of his sons, Hamad Ali, born in 2002 (1 share), and Tameem Ali, born in 2013 (1 share),” wrote Le Point.

Now Mediapart is saying that the IENA company has accounts at the National Bank Of Kuwait, specifically its branch at the Champs Elysees. In addition, his Swiss company also holds accounts in the Geneva branch of same bank.

It added that these revelations pose a number of questions. The first that comes to mind, and “most obvious” is: Where did the funds come from which allowed the Qatar’s Attorney General to become a prestigious real estate owner?

Another question raised focused on the choice of using a Kuwaiti bank when the Qatar National Bank, located at 65 avenue d'Iéna, just a stone's throw away from the mansion in question.

Would Ali Bin Fetais al-Marri perhaps not wish his employer, Qatar, to be aware of his real estate acquisitions?

In February, Le Point, one of the top five national magazines in France, called into questions Qatari Attorney-General al-Marri’s status as a minister and official focused on anti-corruption cases given doubts raised regarding the source of his own wealth.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2018/05/07/French-media-call-into-question-Qatari-official-s-real-estate-dealings-in-Europe.html

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