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A Madrasa Where 'Allah-u-Akbar' and 'Jai Hanuman' Resonate Together

New Age Islam News Bureau

24 May 2018

A handmade Quran made with silk fabric at the Turquoise Mountain Foundation in Mourad Khani, in the old city section of Kabul. (AFP)



 A Madrasa Where 'Allah-u-Akbar' and 'Jai Hanuman' Resonate Together

 610 Pages, 38 Artists and Two Years Later, Rare Silk Quran to Help Afghanistan’s Cultural Heritage

 Despite Bombs, Indonesia Pushes On With Moderate Islam

 US Presence in Iraq Amounts to Occupation: Sadr's Adviser

 Tel Aviv Will Be Bombarded If Israeli Aggression on Gaza Continues: Islamic Jihad

 ‘Haley, the Palestinian Blood Is On Your Hands’



 A Madrasa Where 'Allah-u-Akbar' and 'Jai Hanuman' Resonate Together

 Slain Terror Chief Awlaki’s Malayalam Subtitled Videos Worry Intelligence Wing

 Humanity Over Religious Customs: A Man from Bihar Broke Ramadan Fast To Donate Blood to Thalassemic Child

 Security for Jews, Synagogue At Mattanchery Upped On Intelligence Alert

 Cook bugged Indian diplomat’s house in Pakistan, gave info to ISI

 Minor among 5 killed in Pak shelling; 80,000 flee homes in Jammu, 3,000 moved to relief camps

 JNU initiating course on ‘Islamic Terrorism’? University professors say report fake, Delhi Minorities panel issues notice


South Asia

 610 Pages, 38 Artists and Two Years Later, Rare Silk Quran to Help Afghanistan’s Cultural Heritage

 Bangladesh Committed To Development of Muslim Ummah: HC

 Heavy artillery strikes pound Taliban positions in Ghazni

 Local Taliban leaders among 6 killed in AAF airstrikes in Kunduz


Southeast Asia

 Despite Bombs, Indonesia Pushes On With Moderate Islam

 Mindanao Religious Leaders Unite Against Violent Extremism

 Military caught unprepared in battle with terrorists

 A year after extremist siege, Philippine families seek closure

 Malaysia’s ex-leader Najib Razak questioned again in corruption scandal


Arab World

 US Presence in Iraq Amounts to Occupation: Sadr's Adviser

 Infighting Intensifies among Turkey-Backed Militants in Northern Syria

 Bombing Kills 7, Injures 16 In North Of Iraqi Capital

 Terrorists' Bases Destroyed in Syrian Army Fire in Hama Province

 UN chief urges Lebanon’s Hezbollah to halt military activity

 Syrian official rejects US demand for Iranian, Hezbollah troop withdrawal



 Tel Aviv Will Be Bombarded If Israeli Aggression on Gaza Continues: Islamic Jihad

 Palestine Join Two UN Agencies, Chemical Weapons Treaty

 At OIC, Muslim Nations Condemn Israel and U.S., Call For Unity

 Turkey's Muslim-Friendly Holidays Find a Modest Place in the Sun

 Israeli minister says US may soon recognise Israel’s hold on Golan

 Coalition destroys Houthi speedboats targeting Red Sea ships

 Yemeni army liberates govt compound in Houthi militia stronghold

 Turkey issues arrest warrants for 109 over affiliation to Gulen network


North America

 ‘Haley, the Palestinian Blood Is On Your Hands’

 The U.S. Considered Declaring Russia a Sponsor of Terror

 Alaska Jail Sued For Feeding Muslims Pork, Starving Them In Ramadan

 Iran's leader: US pullout from nuclear deal leaves Trump 'lost in history'

 US envoy's picture sparks outrage among Palestinians



 Anything You Want - Except Gay Rights, Uzbekistan Tells UN

 Ramadan Tent Project Host Open Iftar for British Public

 Washington's Iran strategy reinforces conservatives, endangers region: France

 Ambassador participates in forum on Russia-Islamic World cooperation

 Islamic State supporter called for Prince George terror attack, court told

 Germany to US: Europe united on preserving Iran deal

 Russia says US demands unacceptable for Iran, vows to help maintain JCPOA



 Pakistan's Nawaz Sharif Says Intelligence Chief Asked Him to Resign In 2004: Remarks May Further Fray Tense Civil-Military Ties

 Pakistan Ready to Work with Regional Countries to Eliminate Terrorism: Tehmina Janjua

 Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors voices concern at curbs on media freedom

 No one can stop MQM if it decides to pursue south Sindh: Farooq Sattar

 PML-N govt breaks chains of terrorism, energy crisis; restore peace, economy

 Basic facilities more important for Fata than merger: PM

 JUI-F workers block road against Fata-KP merger

 Pakistan hosts its first 3-day SCO anti-terrorism meeting in Islamabad

 Pakistan being blamed for US failures in Afghanistan, says Hafiz Saeed

 FC Balochistan thwart terror attempt, recover huge hoard of weapons



 Charity Accuses Nigerian Troops of Abusing ‘Boko Haram Wives’

 Nigeria: 'Buhari Must Wake Up' Bishops Say After Church Attack

 Islamic State Claims Bombing In Libya That Killed 2

 Haftar forces in Libya tighten noose on Derna jihadists

 Salame risks Libyan division to serve West's interests: sources

 Decades of war ruined Somalia but it is now picking the pieces

 Nigeria Says 14.8M People Affected By Boko Haram

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




A Madrasa Where 'Allah-u-Akbar' and 'Jai Hanuman' Resonate Together

Qazi Faraz Ahmad

May 24, 2018

Lucknow: Overcoming the harsh summer sun, Reena Verma and her students arrive at a Madrasa in Uttar Pradesh’s Barabanki district. Despite the heat, the gleaming faces sit in a tin-roof room memorising today’s Sanskrit lessons.

Al-Husain Public School is certainly a breakaway from the stereotyped image of Madrasas as “outdated” and a “centre for radicalization”.

Situated in Belwa hamlet of Kothi area of the district, Al-Husain Madrasa has become an example to peaceful co-existence for the locals despite recent communal flare-ups in the state.

As you enter the Madrasa, you can hear to the chants of 'Allah-Hu-Akbar' and 'Jai Hanuman Gyan Gun Sagar'. Students of Al-Husain school are encouraged to learn both Arabic and Sanskrit at the same time.

A place which is usually seen as centre of Islamic religious studies has students and teachers from both Hindu and Muslim communities.

The aim behind this initiative was to make children learn about their own faith as well as each-others’ beliefs in order to develop a sense of brotherhood respect for each other, says the school’s founder.

Thirty-two year old Qazi Furqan Akhtar, who is a graduate in journalism studies from Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia, left his job to establish the Madrasa in his hometown in 2015.

It all happened on one fine day when Furqan returned to his village and realised that his hometown lacked a proper educational institution. After much thought, he decided to start a Madrasa named Al-Husain Public School.

Speaking to News18 exclusively, Qazi Furqan says, “There is a very big misconception that Madrasa is only for Muslim students and it is a place for religious studies only. Well ‘Madrasa’ is an Arabic word which means school, I don’t know why people have established it with a particular religion. My motive is to change the thinking of our society and that is why our main focus is to impart knowledge from both Hindu and Muslim religious books along with imparting modern education from books in English and Hindi language as well.”

"People who are spreading hatred and violence in the name of religion have no knowledge about their religion. No religion in this world teaches you to spread violence and hatred, all the religions just teach one language and that is of love and peace. I want that kids should have proper knowledge and understanding about their religion and also must have knowledge about other faiths at the same time. Then only they will develop a sense of respect for all the religions," added Furqan.

Reena Verma, who teaches to the students at this Madrasa, says that there is absolute no difference here because of religion.

“There might be differences in our society due to religion, but here in Madrasa religion does not matter at all. All the subjects are taught to students here properly and many parents of the students here have also said that there wards are having absolutely no trouble here,” she says.

Furqan’s decision to include teachings of both faiths received flak initially. But everybody realised his dedication and gave up their opposition, he said.

“My motive was to work for the society and to impart education. A lot of people opposed my idea in the beginning, but gradually everyone came in my support. Seeing both Hindu and Muslim students under one roof learning about each other’s faith is my biggest achievement and give me an immense sense of satisfaction,” says Furqan before he gets busy in the preparations for the evening Iftar.



610 pages, 38 artists and two years later, rare silk Quran to help Afghanistan’s cultural heritage

May 23, 2018

One of the only Qurans ever made from silk fabric has been completed in Afghanistan -- a feat its creators hope will help preserve the country’s centuries-old tradition of calligraphy.

Each of the Islamic holy book’s 610 pages was produced by hand in a painstaking process that took a team of 38 calligraphers and artists specialising in miniatures nearly two years to finish.

Bound in goat leather and weighing 8.6 kilograms (19 pounds), the Quran was produced by Afghan artisans, many of them trained at British foundation Turquoise Mountain in Kabul.

“Our intention was to ensure that calligraphy does not die out in this country -- writing is part of our culture,” Khwaja Qamaruddin Chishti, a 66-year-old master calligrapher, told AFP in a cramped office inside Turquoise Mountain’s labyrinthine mud-brick and wood-panelled complex.

With the Quran considered a sacred text, calligraphy is highly venerated in Islam and Islamic art.

“When it comes to art we cannot put a price on it. God has entrusted us with this work (the Quran)... and this means more to us than the financial aspect,” Chishti continued.

Using a bamboo or reed ink pen, Chishti and his fellow calligraphers spent up to two days carefully copying Quranic verses onto a single page -- sometimes longer if they made a mistake and had to start again.

They used the Naskh script, a calligraphic style developed in early Islam to replace Kufic because it was easier to read and write.

The decoration around the script, known as illumination, was more time-consuming, each page taking more than a week to complete.

A team of artists used paint made from natural materials, including ground lapis, gold and bronze, to recreate the delicate patterns popular during the Timurid dynasty in the 15th and 16th centuries in the western city of Herat.

“All the colours we have used are from nature,” Mohammad Tamim Sahibzada, a master miniature artist who was responsible for creating the vibrant colours used in the Quran, told AFP.

Sahibzada said working on silk fabric for the first time was challenging. The locally sourced material -- all 305 metres (1,000 feet) of it -- was treated in a solution made from the dried seeds of ispaghula, or psyllium, to stop the ink from spreading.

‘Very rare’

Turquoise Mountain began work in 2006 in Kabul with the aim of preserving ancient Afghan craftsmanship, including ceramics, carpentry and calligraphy.

It hopes the silk Quran will generate demand for more handmade Islamic religious texts that could create employment for its artisans and help finance the institute.

“We will show it to other Islamic countries to see if it is possible to create job opportunities for graduates to work on another Quran,” said Abdul Waheed Khalili, the organisation’s Afghan director.

For now it will be kept in a specially made hand-carved walnut wooden box to protect its delicate pages from the elements at Turquoise Mountain’s offices, which are in the restored Murad Khani, a historic commercial and residential area in Kabul’s oldest district.

There Turquoise Mountain has trained thousands of artisans with the support of Britain’s Prince Charles, the British Council, and USAID.

“The copying of the Quran onto silk is very rare,” country director Nathan Stroupe told AFP.

He said the project has been “an amazing way to train our students at an incredibly high level in a very traditional type of work”.

“If a Saudi prince or a book collector in London... was interested in it, we would be thinking in the $100,000 to $200,000 (price) range,” he added.



Despite bombs, Indonesia pushes on with moderate Islam

May 23, 2018

Suicide bombers struck again in Indonesia earlier this month, but the country pushed on with an exercise in soft power, promoting the essentially moderate and tolerant variety of Islam for which it is known, and which the bombers were forcefully rejecting.

Attacks on churches and a police station in the nation's second city, Surabaya, claimed a total of at least 25 lives. There was particular concern that the bombers were entire families — husbands, wives and children as young as eight.

The attacks followed a riot by terrorist prisoners and a 36-hour hostage drama at the Police Mobile Brigade headquarters in Depok, near Jakarta, a week earlier in which five police officers and one terrorist inmate were killed.

But while the mounting death toll brought a stark reminder that jihadist fanaticism is alive and well in Indonesia, the government and major Muslim organizations were involved in initiatives to promote a very different style of Islam, in the hope of influencing the wider global community and spreading the word that Islam is not a religion of violence.

The Indonesian actors behind the push were supported by allies in the form of two leading figures, the Great Imam of the Al Azhar Mosque in Cairo, Ahman Muhammad Ath-Thayeb, and Syekh Dr. Sholeh bin Abdullah bin Khumaid, the Imam of Mecca's Haram Mosque.

The presence of these leading theologians at what was titled the High-Level Consultation of the World's Muslim Scholars (HLC-WMS) from May 1-3 gave significant weight to the attempt to promote wasatiyyat Islam — Arabic for "Islamic middle way" — as a global movement to challenge extreme interpretations of the faith.

President Joko Widodo, opening the conference, stated that, "we wish to demonstrate to the world that Islam is a religion that is a blessing to all creation." Such a religion needed to be down to earth and be capable of inspiring leaders, religious teachers, youth and other groups, he said.

Din Syamsuddin, a prominent Muslim leader and the special envoy of Widodo for dialogue and cooperation between religions and civilizations, said the meeting was tasked with promoting a moderate form of Islam that was relevant to the current critical state of the world.

"We hope to achieve a level of intellectual legitimacy for the thought of Indonesia and for the position of Indonesia in contributing the forms of Islam wasatiyyat. One of many aspects of this country is the culture of consultation."

Al Azhar's Thayeb said it was hoped the meeting would produce a working framework to promote "middle-way" Islam to all members of the faith. Such a framework was required in order for all members of the Muslim faith to adopt moderate forms of the religion, for which there was a pressing need.

As if predicting the bombings that were soon to follow in Surabaya, Thayeb said he was saddened by the number of people who insisted that only they were right, a position that endangered relations between groups. "They consider members of other groups to be kafir [unbelievers]. This has never happened before," he said.

In a separate dialogue at the headquarters of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) on May 2, Thayeb again repeated his conviction that "middle-way" Islam was an antidote for the divisive state of the religion at the moment, where social media had accentuated differences and sparked hatred.

"There are many groups within Islam. Don't fight together or accuse other people of being kafir or insist that you are right and everyone else is wrong to the point that it is halal to kill you. The reason why Muslims are killing each other is their stupidity in understanding Islam," he stated.

The Haram Mosque's Sholeh bin Abdullah, the special representative of Saudi King Salman to the conference, stressed in a visit to the NU headquarters that moderate Islam was that taught by the Prophet Muhammad.

"Its characteristics are the choice of the right words, peacefulness and avoidance of violence. There are a number of groups that prioritize violence but there are very few in Saudi Arabia," he said, adding however that because they made more noise, they tended to drown out the majority of moderate followers of the faith.

The government followed that success with a new round of peace talks on Afghanistan starting on May 11, with some 60 religious leaders coming from both the embattled South Asian state and neighboring Pakistan.

While the Taliban has said it does not recognize the talks, they added to pressure for a peaceful solution to the long-running war, with Jakarta insisting that the ulemas carry significant weight in determining the direction of the Afghan conflict.

"Middle-way" Islam represents the third incarnation of a series of moves by Indonesian scholars to contest radical interpretations of the faith. Beginning with Islam Nusantara (Islam of the archipelago) that morphed in just a few years into "humanitarian" Islam and now into its new form.

The changes in name to some degree reflect initial confusion that Indonesian scholars were trying to export Indonesian cultural forms of the religion, when what they were saying was that Islam should be allowed to reflect the predominant culture wherever it was.

Under whatever name, this reflects a direct challenge to the Salafi view of Islam as a religion fixed in stone that must keep strictly to the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad.

In the Indonesian context, it also opposes the increasing "Arabization" of society and defends the right of Indonesian Muslims to maintain their traditional styles of dress and behavior. "Islam is not identical with being Arabic," former NU head and then president of Indonesia the late Abdurrahman Wahid is reputed to have stated.

Indonesia's efforts to promote its credentials as a model for other Muslim states will not produce results overnight. Traditionally its scholars have been seen as lightweight compared to those from Cairo and Baghdad.

The government's support for the "middle-way" initiative, though, shows it is keen to develop the soft power that many believe it deserves as a rising economy that is home to the world's largest Muslim community. 

Keith Loveard is a Jakarta-based journalist who regularly writes for



US presence in Iraq amounts to occupation: Sadr's adviser

May 23, 2018

A senior adviser to Iraqi cleric Seyyed Muqtada al-Sadr tells Press TV that the presence of US troops in Iraq is regarded as occupation.

Diyaa Assadi, who is a senior adviser to Iraqi cleric, al-Sadr said that “the US was still being seen as an occupying country.”

Responding to the presence of American forces, he stressed that US troops would be dealt as occupying force until their full withdrawal from the country. “There are still troops in Iraq,” he said.

Also earlier this year, a senior commander of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), said now that the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group had been defeated in the country, there was no need for the presence of US troops.

Touching upon the recent elections in Iraq, the senior adviser said that Sadr's Sa'iroun (Marchers) political bloc was open to hold talks with all stakeholders and partners except those who could not meet the "requirements and conditions."

He also predicted that the incumbent Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has a "good opportunity" to run for a second term.

Elsewhere in his remarks, he stated that “al-Moqtada has good relationship with Iran.”

“He (al-Moqtada) has said frequently that Iraq is not going to be an enemy to Iran.”

He also blamed some media outlets who were  trying to portray strained ties between Iran and the prominent cleric, saying. “Whatever misconception or statements are released by media, Of course these have been manipulated by media.”

The Conquest Alliance, under former commander of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces Hadi al-Ameri, came second with 47 seats.

The next prime minster will face the huge task of rebuilding a country shattered by the war against Daesh and the US invasion.

Daesh unleashed a campaign of death and destruction in Iraq in 2014, overrunning vast swathes in lightning attacks. Iraqi army soldiers and allied fighters then launched operations to eliminate the terrorist group and retake lost territory.

Last December, Abadi declared the end of the anti-Daesh campaign in the Arab country. The group’s remnants, though, keep staging sporadic attacks across Iraq.



Tel Aviv Will Be Bombarded If Israeli Aggression on Gaza Continues: Islamic Jihad

May 23, 2018

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad resistance movement has warned that it will target Tel Aviv in case the Israeli regime presses ahead with its acts of aggression against the impoverished and besieged Gaza Strip.

Islamic Jihad spokesman Daoud Shihab said on Wednesday that Israel is desperately looking for a military confrontation with the resistance movement as a way out of the current impasse it has faced in the wake of the recent "Great March of Return" protests.

Shihab added that the latest Israeli airstrikes on several sites in the Gaza Strip point to the Tel Aviv regime’s defeat, failure and helplessness in the face of the voice of truth, which is more powerful than the terrorism being waged by Israel.

He stressed that the Islamic Jihad resistance movement is fully prepared for any Israeli military aggression, warning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of his cabinet that Tel Aviv will get bombed if they continue their aggressive policies towards the Gaza Strip and its residents.

“We have the ability to carry out such a thing. We have nothing to lose. No one will then have the right to hold us responsible for the escalation. At that time, Netanyahu will not be able to continue with his deception to justify his failures,” Shihab pointed out.

Earlier on Wednesday, Israeli fighter jets destroyed a Palestinian boat in Gaza seaport that was supposed to welcome an international flotilla hoping to break the decade-long Israeli blockade on the coastal sliver.

Local sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the airstrikes also targeted a military facility of Hamas movement in northern Gaza Strip. There were no reports of casualties in the assaults.

The Israeli military frequently bombs the Gaza Strip, with civilians being the main target of such attacks.

Israel has also launched several wars on the Palestinian coastal sliver, the last of which began in early July 2014. The military aggression, which ended on August 26, 2014, killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians. Over 11,100 others were also wounded in the war.

The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli siege since June 2007. The blockade has caused a decline in the standards of living as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty.

The Israeli regime denies about 1.8 million people in Gaza their basic rights, such as freedom of movement, jobs with proper wages as well as adequate healthcare and education.



‘Haley, The Palestinian Blood Is On Your Hands’

May 24, 2018

A number of protesters interrupted US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley’s speech at the University of Houston this week, accusing her of having the Palestinian blood on her hands and of signing off on genocide in her support for the Zionist regime.

Shortly after Haley started her speech at the university on Tuesday and had just referred to the “very busy few weeks in American foreign policy,” she was cut short by a protester shouting, “Nikki Haley, the blood is on your hands.”

“You continue to sign off on the genocide of a native people,” the protester continued among loud applause and booing.

“Nikki, Nikki can’t you see, you are on a killing spree!” a number of demonstrators shouted. “Haley, Haley, you can’t hide, you sign off on genocide.”

“Nikki, Nikki you will see, Palestine will be free!” the protesters shouted.

Haley had vehemently supported Israel at the United Nations after Israeli troops killed more than 60 Palestinians and injured hundreds others at the Great Return March protests last week.

Haley defended Israel’s “restraint” at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council before walking out of the room when Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour began speaking.

She also cast blame on Hamas and its supporters for the bloodshed. Addressing the UN Security Council, Haley said, “Let's remember that the Hamas terrorist organization has been inciting violence for years, long before the United States decided to move our embassy. This is what is endangering the people of Gaza. Make no mistake, Hamas is pleased with the results from yesterday.”

American political commentator and antiwar activist Richard Becker told Press TV last week that “it’s a truly outrageous and incredible statement coming from the White House and Nikki Haley, of the United Nations, blaming the Palestinians for the massacre that took place yesterday”





Slain terror chief Awlaki’s Malayalam subtitled videos worry Intelligence wing

24th May 2018

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Anwar Al-Awlaki, the US-born Yemeni Islamist militant killed in a drone attack in Yemen in  September 2011, has remained a deeply divisive figure even seven years on since his death. His powerful sermons - he spoke fluent English after being raised in the US state of New Mexico - were instrumental in swaying the minds of the would-be ‘jehadis’.

Now though, Awlaki’s  videos have sparked concern in Kerala which has been battling a new wave of radicalised youth. The Intelligence wing has unearthed footage of Awlaki’s speech with Malayalam subtitles during the probe into the recruitment of the so-called Islamic State(IS) operatives. This is also the first time the agencies here have stumbled on Awlaki’s videos.

Though the agencies are yet to establish from which part of the world the videos were uploaded to the Internet, they suspect it was done in West Asia. However, the sophisticated technology being used by the people propagating the videos has prevented the  investigating agencies from tracking down their location.

“We believe it was done in West Asia. But we are not sure because with proxy servers, one can hide their real location,” said top-placed intelligence sources.

The sources also disclosed if the assumption of the probe agencies on the subtitled videos being uploaded from West Asia is indeed proved correct,  then the videos are meant for  indoctrinating the average Keralite working in the region. “The educated ones don’t need Malayalam subtitled videos. So we assume these videos were made to target the ordinary labourers among the expats,” sources said.

Intelligence sleuths said Awlaki’s fluency in English has been a major factor for his popularity among educated folks. But with his sermons being subtitled, the threat of radicalisation grows manifold, they said.

Equally worrying is the spread of online jehadi literature. Earlier, it was al-Qaeda’s ‘Inspire’ online magazine and later when the IS came along, ‘Dabiq’ replaced ‘Inspire’.  However, a senior intelligence officer said reading extremist literature doesn’t necessarily mean the reader has to become radicalised. “That’s not the case. Even the Kerala High Court has observed watching a video shouldn’t be adduced as evidence for extremist links. The problem arises when those who shouldn’t be reading such literature subscribe to it,” he said.



Humanity over religious customs: A man from Bihar broke Ramadan fast to donate blood to thalassemic child

May 23, 2018

In the wake of the communal tensions and uprising that are raising their ugly heads every now and then in India, this story of a man from Bihar is what we all need to hear today. Jawed Alam, a Muslim, donated his blood by breaking his Ramadan fast, to save the life of a child suffering from thalassemia. It is a fatal condition which requires the patient to transfuse blood every three to four weeks. He gave his blood to eight-year-old Rajesh Kumar in Gopalganj district, a district health official as quoted by the IANS. The little boy, who had complained of weakness and uneasiness, required immediate blood transfusion. His father, who had travelled some 200 kms from the Kuchaikote area, was losing hope as his son’s condition deteriorated.

On seeing Kumar’s condition, Anwar Hussain, the sweeper and cleaner at Sadar hospital where he was admitted, requested his friend Alam to help. “When my friend Anwar requested me to donate blood to a seriously ill thalassemia patient, I politely informed him that I was observing Ramzan fast. But he convinced me to arrive and consulted doctors. At first even the doctors refused my offer as I was fasting,” he said. But after he broke his fast, consumed fruit juice and some solids, the doctors allowed him to donate blood. “My religion teaches me to help a fellow human first, so I broke my fast and donated blood to save little Rajesh. Islam preaches that humanity is bigger than everything,” said Alam.

Full report at:



Security for Jews, Synagogue at Mattanchery upped on intelligence alert

24th May 2018

By Ajay Kanth

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Jews and the Synagogue at Mattanchery in Kerala have been under security cover ever since the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.But, of late, the Kerala Police have beefed up its surveillance to a new level after intelligence inputs revealed possible Islamic State (IS) ‘lone wolf’ attacks on Jews in India.

Intelligence agencies sounded an alert in this regard after the Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) unearthed the modus operandi of two suspected IS operatives, nabbed last year, who had planned to target Jews in India.The ATS had also filed a chargesheet claiming the accused persons - Mohammad Kasim Stimberwala and Ubed Ahmed Mirza – had planned attacks on the Jewish community.According to intelligence officers, though the probe revealed the attack was planned on Jews in Mumbai, the possibility of Jews in Kochi being targeted cannot be ruled out.

“It’s a fact there are only a handful of Jews in Kochi. They could be soft target for the IS terrorists. International reports have already made it clear the IS is after Jews,” said an intelligence officer.

State police chief Loknath Behera said the police were taking necessary measures to ensure the safety of Jews in the state.

“Threat to the Jewish community from terrorists has been evident after the Mumbai terror attack. We have put in place appropriate security measures at Mattanchery,” Behera told Express.In the chargesheet, the Gujarat ATS claimed both the suspected IS operatives were highly radicalised by Islamic State and had done recce of some Jewish settlements in the country.

Full report at:



Cook bugged Indian diplomat’s house in Pakistan, gave info to ISI

Piyush Rai and Prem Punetha

May 24, 2018

PITHORAGARH /LUCKNOW: A native of Pithoragarh in Uttarakhand, who worked as a cook at the house of an Indian diplomat in Pakistan for nearly two years, was arrested on Tuesday night for allegedly working for Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) and leaking classified information in exchange of money.

Ramesh Singh, 35, was arrested from his house in Pithoragarh’s Garali village in a joint operation by UP’s Anti-Terror Squad (ATS), military intelligence and Uttarakhand police. Singh worked with an Indian defence attaché and bugged his house with the help of ISI to get sensitive information, police said. His elder brother worked with the Indian Army.

Singh was produced in Pithoragarh court on Wednesday from where he was taken to Lucknow on transit remand. UP ATS IG Asim Arun said Uttarakhand DGP had sought their help in the case a few months ago and directorate of military intelligence was also roped in.

Sources said Singh was into farming when a relative approached him with the offer of a job of cook in Pakistan. He then worked as a domestic help from mid-2015 to September 2017 at the residence of an Indian defence attaché in Pakistan.

Singh then came in contact with ISI, which offered him money against classified information from the diplomat’s house. The source said that Singh shared a diary and some documents of the diplomat with the ISI.

Full report at:



Minor among 5 killed in Pak shelling; 80,000 flee homes in Jammu, 3,000 moved to relief camps

Sanjay Khajuria

May 24, 2018

JAMMU: Five people, including a child, were killed and nine others injured in Pakistani shelling and firing along the International Border (IB) in Jammu, Kathua and Samba districts on Wednesday, drawing massive public protests in the region. Unrelenting shelling by Pakistan has forced at least 80,000 villagers from three districts to flee their homes. At least 3,000 of them have been accommodated in relief camps.

Pakistan has been aggressively attacking Indian troops and civilians in villages along the border in Jammu region for the last nine consecutive days, in complete violation of the 2003 ceasefire agreement. Over 700 border skirmishes were reported this year, with more than 44 people, including 18 jawans, dead and dozens injured. The toll in the ongoing confrontation on the border has risen to 12, including two children, leading to escalation in tension between the two hostile neighbours.

Ten-year-old Krishan Lal Sharma was playing with his elder brother on Wednesday when a Pakistani mortar shell exploded inside their house in Samba sector of Jammu. He died on the spot.

Rangers too badly hit, claims BSF

He died on the spot while his mother is being treated at a hospital. Two civilians were killed and six injured in the shelling and firing in Samba that started at 9am, a senior police officer said. One of the injured succumbed to his injuries on way to hospital, he said. A civilian was killed in R S Pura sector and another who was injured in Arnia sector later succumbed to his injuries.

A wife of an Army jawan and their two-year-old son and daughter were preparing to flee their home when a shell ripped through the roof and exploded in their bedroom. The family including eight others were moved to GMC hospital for serious injuries on Wednesday. Over 50 shelling victims were moved to hospital in the last one week, hospital sources said. On Tuesday, 20 civilians were injured in Pakistani shelling.

A senior BSF official said Pakistani Rangers suffered several casualties too. Infuriated by the civilian casualties, villagers in Samba, Kathua and Jammu lashed out at the BJP government. Many complained that the government had failed to provide community and family bunkers, which were promised to them. The border residents protested before BJP MLA Kuldeep Raj, who had gone to see the injured in the hospital.

Full report at:



JNU initiating course on ‘Islamic Terrorism’? University professors say report fake, Delhi Minorities panel issues notice

May 23, 2018

The Delhi Minorities Commission (DMC) on Tuesday issued a notice to the Registrar of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) seeking to know the reason behind the reported introduction of a new course on ‘Islamic terrorism’. The commission has also sought details about the areas to be covered under this subject.

Taking suo moto cognisance of the media reports, the DMC chairman Zafarul Islam Khan has asked the varsity authority to explain the circumstances based on which the university decided to initiate the course on “Islamic terror”.

Controversy broke out when a PTI report claimed that in a meeting held on May 18, the Jawaharlal Nehru University’s (JNU) Academic Council had passed a proposal to set up a Centre for National Security Studies (CNSS) under which there would be a subject on “Islamic terrorism”.

“Has the current administration of the JNU considered the implications of introducing this subject in the campus on its students and on the broader society outside?” the DMC questioned JNU officials, reports PTI. The DMC also asked the varsity to provide details of the council’s meeting and the details of members who attended it. The Commission asked the Registrar to file the details by June 5.

“Please provide a full list of the members of the Academic Council, marking those who were present during the meeting where the above proposal was adopted. Since there is a report that ‘many members’ of the council objected to the introduction of this subject, was there any voting and if so what was the result, and please provide a copy of the minutes of the said meeting where the subject was discussed and approved,” the notice said, reports Indian Express.

The said course has been opposed by a section of students and as well as teachers. “In a deeply problematic and shocking move, the JNU V-C also allowed the tabling of a course/topic on ‘Islamic terrorism’ under the Centre for National Security Studies,” JNU Students Union president Geeta Kumari told PTI.

However, a report by cited AISF president Syed Valiullah Khadr as syaing that there was no proposal of a course on ‘Islamic Terrorism’ at the said meeting. “There was no proposal on an ‘Islamist terrorism’ course during the meeting; there was just a discussion about having the concept of ‘Islamist terrorism’ in CNSS, and there is a big difference between a course and a concept. The idea was also opposed by some members and has been put on hold,” Sudhir K Sudhar, a member of the JNU Teachers’ Association told Firstpost.

“There is no plan to introduce a course on Islamist terrorism under the CNSS. I don’t know why PTI published this news; I have always denied the news; it’s completely fake, ” professor Ajay Dubey, who heads the committee in charge of setting up the CNSS, told Firstpost.

Meanwhile, Maulana Mahmood Madani, General Secretary of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind has also condemned the varsity’s decision. In a letter to the JNU Vice-Chancellor, Madani asked him to reconsider the proposal. “Labelling any religion with such epithet as terrorism is the ultimate insult and as such it is most abominable and condemnable,” Madani told The Hindu.

Full report at:



South Asia


Bangladesh committed to development of Muslim Ummah: HC

May 24, 2018

Bangladesh High Commission in Islamabad hosted an iftar-dinner at Hotel Marriott in the Capital tonight on 22 May 2018.

Bangladesh High Commissioner to Pakistan Tarik Ahsan received the guests and exchanged pleasantries with them.In a welcome speech, the High Commissioner remarked that, during Ramadan, Muslimsgo through a training ofself-restraint, humility and compassion, and, if the practice of these qualities continues throughout the year, the societywill be elevated to a higher level of morality and humanity.

Speaking of Bangladesh’s commitment to development of Muslim Ummah through enhanced cooperation, he referred to the successful holding of the 45thCouncil of Foreign Ministers of OIC in Dhaka in earlier this month under thetheme ‘Islamic Values for Sustainable Peace, Solidarity and Development’.

A special Munajat was offered,before the iftar,seeking divine blessings for peace, unity, progress and prosperity of Bangladesh and the Muslim Ummah.

The iftar-dinner was attended, among others, byFederal Minister for Law and Justice of PakistanChaudhryMahmood Bashir Virk, Membersof National Assembly Isphanyar M. Bhandara and MarviMemon, Former Federal Minister & Senator Nisar A. Memon, Former Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Nawabzada Malik Amad Khan and Special Secretary of Ministry of Foreign AffairsShah M. Jamal.

Besides, Ambassadors/High Commissioners, diplomats/Defence Advisors from diplomatic missions, politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen, journalists, elite of the society, officials of Bangladesh High Commission, Bangladesh expatriates and Bangladesh defence officials attending training in Pakistan attended the iftar-dinneralong with their spouses.



Heavy artillery strikes pound Taliban positions in Ghazni

May 23 2018

The Afghan armed forces pounded the Taliban positions with heavy artillery strikes in response to the group’s coordinated attack on Ajristan district in Ghazni.

The 203rd Thunder Corps of the Afghan Military in the Southeast said the Afghan armed forces in coordination with the other security personnel targeted the Taliban positions with heavy artillery strikes to respond to the Taliban attacks.

The source further added that the Taliban positions were targeted in Ajristan, Deh and Gilan districts as part of the Shaheen-1 operations launched in response to Taliban attacks.

The Thunder Corps also added that at least 27 Taliban insurgents were killed and 15 others sustained injuries during the operations while a rocket launcher, 6 hand grenades, and 6 improvised explosive devices were destroyed.

At least one Afghan soldier also lost his life in the attack and two others were injured, the Thunder Corps added.

This comes as the provincial council and Ghazni lawmakers said that the Taliban insurgents launched coordinated attack on Ajristan and Deh Yak districts sparking fierce clashes on Monday night that lasted until Tuesday morning.

Full report at:



Local Taliban leaders among 6 killed in AAF airstrikes in Kunduz

May 23 2018

At least six militants including two local leaders of the group were killed in a series of airstrikes carried out by the Afghan Air Force in northern Kunduz province of Afghanistan.

The 209th Shaheen Corps of the Afghan Military in the North said the latest airstrikes were carried out in the vicinity of Imam Sahib district.

The source further added that the hideouts of the militants were targeted in Ganjak Joi Begum area of the district and as a result at least two militants were also wounded.

According to Shaheen Corps, the local Taliban leaders killed during the airstrikes have been identified as Qari Shukoor and Qari Halim who were killed along with four of their comrades.

A main compound of the Taliban along with two outposts was also destroyed in the airstrikes, the Shaheen Corps added.

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

Kunduz is among the relatively volatile provinces in North of Afghanistan where Taliban insurgents are actively operating in some of its districts.

Full report at:



Southeast Asia


Mindanao religious leaders unite against violent extremism

May 22, 2018

Religious leaders in Mindanao have declared a unified front against "violent extremism" ahead of the first anniversary of the May 23 attack on the southern Philippine city of Marawi by terrorist gunmen.

The five-month conflict killed more than a thousand people and resulted in the displacement of about 400,000 residents of the predominantly Muslim city and its nearby towns and villages.

A manifesto titled "Marawi and Beyond" declared the "need to restore ... relationships of trust and mutual caring" among the people of Mindanao.

It noted that prior to the conflict in Marawi, local Christian and Muslim communities had harmonious relations.

"We are all against violent extremism," read the manifesto signed by Catholic bishops, clergy, Muslim scholars, and religious leaders.

It said the attraction to join armed groups has been particularly felt among younger Muslims frustrated by a government failure to deliver on its promises.

Among the issues raised by the people of Mindanao was the delay in the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which will establish a new political autonomous region for Muslims.

In a statement, Archbishop Antonio Ledesman of Cagayan de Oro, expressed hope that the anniversary of the Marawi attack can be "a clarion call for both Christians and Muslims to look forward and work together in forging a culture of peace and development."

The prelate hosted a dialogue of 12 Christian and 12 Muslim clerics recently to discuss issues that they wanted to raise with the government.

"Muslim and Christian religious leaders should be united in working for a culture of peace in Mindanao and the rest of the country," the religious leaders said in their statement.

They suggested to the government that displaced Marawi residents be allowed to take part in the reconstruction of their city.

"They have suffered much already in evacuation centers or in cramped quarters with their relatives in neighboring cities," the religious leaders said.

They also asserted the role of learning institutions, especially the madrasahs, or Islamic schools, in promoting "peace education."

"There is a need to look at the long-term solution by transforming the minds and hearts of all stakeholders in Mindanao," said the religious leaders.

On May 23, President Rodrigo Duterte was expected to lead a commemoration event marking the attack on Marawi by offering flowers in honor of the soldiers and policemen who died in the fighting.

The battle, which ended in October, resulted in the death of 974 terrorists, 168 soldiers and policemen, and 47 civilians.

Government forces were still conducting operations to recover unexploded ordnance and improvised explosive devices that might have been left by the terrorists.

About 85 percent of the 24 villages most affected by the fighting have been cleared by authorities.

The National Economic Development Authority announced this week that the rebuilding of Marawi will cost at least US$1 billion, about US$498 million of which will be needed this year.



Military caught unprepared in battle with terrorists

May 24, 2018

MARAWI CITY — The five-month campaign to retake Marawi City from gunmen loyal to the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group last year introduced the Armed Forces of the Philippines to urban warfare, which had caught by surprise even its battle-hardened troops. Military, police and local government officials have admitted they underestimated the strength of what they initially regarded as a group of suspected criminals, led by brothers Omar and Abdullah Maute, whose activities had been confined to their hometown of Butig in Lanao del Sur province.

Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesperson for the provincial government, said the military was caught by surprise because it had always dismissed the Maute group as “just a local, family-based terrorist group [that is] not tied with an international terrorist network.”

Military miscalculation

Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., deputy commander of Joint Task Force Ranao, said that while the military was aware of the Maute group’s plan to seize Marawi, it miscalculated the magnitude of preparations made by the terrorists.

“Looking back, actually we preempted their plan. Their plan was to attack on May 26, which was then the first day of Ramadan,” Brawner said.

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., in an earlier interview, said the government had seen the crisis coming. He said this was the reason a military operation was conducted in Marawi just before the siege.

The Inquirer was the first to report on the operation at an apartment in Barangay Basak Malutlut, which was adjacent to the Lanao del Sur provincial police headquarters, on May 22.

It turned out that the operation’s target was Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, touted to be the “emir” of IS in Southeast Asia and one of the leaders of the siege.

Skirmishes resulting from that operation eventually turned into fierce fighting that saw thousands of soldiers, military hardware and logistics deployed to the city.

“All of a sudden different groups started appearing in the city so we were caught by surprise in the sense that we were not aware that there were so many of them already in Marawi,” Brawner said.

Urban warfare

The siege, he said, made the military realize that soldiers were not ready for “this kind of warfare.”

"We have a unit trained in urban warfare, the Light Reaction Battalion, which saw action in Zamboanga City. But in Marawi, we saw their number was not enough. We deployed more soldiers — Scout Rangers, Special Forces, Marines and [troops] from the Army infantry battalions — but most of them were not trained in [urban warfare],” Brawner said.

Senior Supt. John Guyguyon, who headed the Lanao del Sur police at the height of the siege, said the authorities “underestimated the capability of the enemy.”

“We did not expect it to happen. We were caught by surprise,” Guyguyon, now Zamboanga del Sur provincial police director, told the Inquirer by phone. “Our security was quite lax.”

Rear Adm. Rene Medina, commander of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao that suffered 35 dead and 399 wounded in the battle for Marawi, said the authorities erroneously regarded the Maute group as a mere “criminal group engaged mostly in drug trafficking in Lanao del Sur.”

The then AFP chief of staff, Gen. Eduardo Año, said the siege could have been prevented as he criticized the Maranao  for not sounding off an early warning.

“The fight against terrorism is not just the job of the military and the police,” Año said on the sidelines of the turnover of command at the AFP Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) in September last year.


But Adiong, the spokesperson for the provincial government, said it was “preposterous” to blame the people of Marawi and the Maranao for the crisis.

“I’ll put it in one sentence: We are the victims here,” he said.

“We have witnessed the Zamboanga siege and the Ipil siege. Nobody blamed the civilians of Zamboanga, nobody blamed the residents of Ipil,” he said.

Adiong was referring to the 1995 rampage of the Abu Sayyaf in Ipil town, Zamboanga Sibugay province, during which 53 people, mostly civilians, were killed and the 2013 siege of Zamboanga City by followers of Moro National Liberation Front leader Nur Misuari, where nearly 200 people died.

Adiong said the local government was never complacent. “It’s not that we allowed it but it was more of an underestimation,” he said.

Philippine National Police Director General Oscar Albayalde said the PNP had to strengthen its intelligence gathering after the Marawi siege.

“Intelligence can preempt and prevent a crime from happening,” Albayalde told the Inquirer in Zamboanga City on May 10.

Military rewriting doctrines

Brawner said the military started “rewriting our doctrines” after its experience in Marawi.

“We are reorganizing, we are retooling, reequipping and we are retraining,” he said.

“But as a nation, we saw that we really needed to cooperate with each other so we can defeat this violent extremism,” Brawner said.

He admitted that the threat from the Maute group remained seven months after its defeat. “Its recruitment activities are still going on in towns around Lake Lanao in Lanao del Sur,” he said.

Albayalde agreed. “We knew it would not stop. The threat will always be there and I think that with a vacuum in leadership, they will strive to have a new leader,” he said.

Adiong said defeating violent extremism should involve “civilian participation, taking into account the roles of both . . .  Muslims and non-Muslims.”

Guyguyon said the most important lesson the police learned from the crisis was to give importance to reports from  civilians.

Full report at:



A year after extremist siege, Philippine families seek closure

MAY 23, 2018

MARAWI CITY, Philippines (Reuters) - Mahid Radia’s last glimpse of his parents was when he and his children were fleeing their home amid gunfire, explosions and the howl of airplanes bombing the dens of extremists who had taken over Marawi, the Philippines’ only Islamic city.

The military prevailed over Islamic State-inspired rebels in the country’s biggest and longest battle since World War Two. One year since the fighting began, there is peace in Marawi, but little else.

Radia’s lakeside home is a pile of rubble, like scores of others in the former war zone. His mother and father are still missing, and he yearns for closure.

“Our parents decided to stay home in the belief the fighting would end in days,” said Radia, 31, the eldest of 11 siblings.

“We pray that if they died, their remains were retrieved.”

Hundreds of families are missing relatives since the start of a war that few saw coming, and which could happen again, the government has warned, if Islamic State’s radical ideology spreads among the Muslim minority in the mainly Catholic nation.

About 165 security forces and 47 residents were confirmed killed in the battle for Marawi. But people from Marawi believe the number of civilians killed was far higher.

The official death toll in the five-month war is 1,109, mostly members of a shadowy militant alliance that drew fighters from radical factions of domestic Islamist groups.

It has taken six months to clear hundreds of unexploded bombs and booby traps and for volunteers to sift the debris.

Samples of DNA have been taken from 244 retrieved bodies, prior to their burial in numbered graves. Radia hopes to find his mother and father, but tracing matches is difficult. Relatives have claimed just 11 bodies so far.

The task becomes tougher because the bodies of residents trapped or held captive in the war zone cannot be distinguished from those of slain militants.

“We had instances when we identified the deceased and we coordinated with the relatives, but they did not claim the cadaver,” said Norhanie Marohombsar, the head of the interior ministry in Marawi.

“The relatives fear being tagged as part of the insurgency.”


Authorities and aid workers have different estimates of the number of residents still missing since the fighting ended in October.

Marawi Mayor Majul Gandamra put the number at 50, while the provincial disaster agency says it is 78. International Committee of the Red Cross workers in Marawi estimate 100 families are missing relatives.

Marawi evacuee Malik Manguda struggles to move on with his life because he does not know what happened to his 20-year-old son, Ramos. He has seen a photograph of a dead body that resembles his son, but it’s not enough.

“Many times I am not myself,” said Manguda. “I thought parents are supposed to die ahead of their children.”

About 28,000 families remain displaced and many fear they will have no home to return to. With no money or insurance, some must also tackle issues of proving land ownership.

Residents have taken every opportunity to stake their claims during visits the military has recently begun to allow to the battle zone, lasting just a few hours each.

Names and contact details are spraypainted or etched in charcoal on the blackened skeletons of former homes. Others came prepared with tarpaulins and painted banners.

The military is bent on preventing a repeat of Marawi, but intelligence reports suggest an effort by extremists to start recruiting again. The government has warned against potential attacks on other cities.

The army has held meetings and seminars to warn people to resist radical groups and help the government to stop them.

“Not all local terrorist groups died. There still are remnants,” said Major Jeoffrey Braganza of Joint Task Group Tabang, which is helping Marawi’s recovery effort.

Full report at:



Malaysia’s ex-leader Najib Razak questioned again in corruption scandal

May 24, 2018

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia: Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak arrived at the anti-corruption agency’s office Thursday for more questioning over a massive graft scandal at a state investment fund that he set up.

Najib, who was ousted in a shock defeat in May 9 national elections marked by public anger over the scandal, smiled and waved at reporters before entering the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission building.

He had been questioned there for more than four hours Tuesday, specifically over why 42 million ringgits ($10.6 million) was transferred into his bank account from SRC International, a former unit of the 1MDB fund, using multiple intermediary companies.

That transfer was in addition to some $700 million of 1MDB funds that US investigators say landed in Najib’s bank account. Najib set up 1MDB when he took office in 2009 but it accumulated billions in debts and is being investigated in several countries. The US Justice Department say Najib’s associates stole and laundered $4.5 billion from the fund.

Malaysia’s new anti-graft chief has said Najib, who denies any wrongdoing, could face criminal charges “very soon.”

Xavier Andre Justo, a whistleblower in the 1MDB case who met with new Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad earlier this week, also turned up at the anti-graft agency Thursday just before Najib arrived. He didn’t speak to reporters.

An anti-graft official, who declined to be named as the matter is sensitive, said Justo is assisting a taskforce investigating the 1MDB fiasco but couldn’t give further details.

Najib and his wife were barred from leaving the country after the new government reopened an investigation into the scandal. Police have raided Najib’s home and other properties linked to him, seizing hundreds of expensive designer handbags and luggage stuffed with cash, jewelry and other valuables.

New Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said this week that Najib’s government had conducted “an exercise of deception” over 1MDB and misrepresented the country’s financial situation to parliament.

He said government debt had ballooned to more than 1 trillion ringgits ($251 billion) and that the finance ministry had bailed out 1MDB by paying nearly 7 billion ringgits ($1.76 billion) to service its debts since April 2017, contrary to 1MDB’s claim that the money was from a rationalization exercise. 1MDB officials also told the ministry that the fund is insolvent and unable to repay millions more in debts due this year, Lim said.

In a statement on social media late Wednesday, Najib disputed the government debt figure and accused Lim of issuing “misleading statements.”

“Saying that our debt is now 1 trillion ringgits without giving any details of what you mean will just unsettle the financial markets, alarm the credit rating agencies and investors’ confidence in our institutions,” Najib said.

“While you may want to slander and put all the blame on me to give a perception of a dire financial position to justify why you cannot deliver on your manifesto promises and to massively cut the civil service, you must remember that the country and our people comes first.”

Full report at:



Arab World


Infighting Intensifies among Turkey-Backed Militants in Northern Syria

May 23, 2018

Gunmen of al-Montaser Bellah Brigade, affiliated to the Ankara-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA), engaged in heavy fighting with members of the Turkey-backed Free Police in the main bazaar in the town of al-Ra'ei in al-Bab region in Northern Aleppo, leaving Mahmoud Othman dead and eight more militants injured.

People in al-Bab in Northeastern Aleppo stopped working earlier this month 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 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.

The sources further said that the Ankara-backed militants are still looting people's assets and arresting them illegally in the Afrin region, North-West of Aleppo province.



Bombing kills 7, injures 16 in north of Iraqi capital

May 24, 2018

At least seven people have lost their lives and several others sustained injuries in a bomb attack that struck a Shia district of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, officials say.

Security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a bomber detonated his explosives at the entrance of the Saqlawiyah park in Shoala district in northern Baghdad late on Wednesday, leaving at least seven people dead.

At least 16 people were also wounded in the terrorist attack, which comes just days after the start of the holy month of Ramadan when Iraqi families often stay out late after breaking their daily fast.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Wednesday’s attack, but such assaults bear the hallmarks of those carried out by Takfiri  Daesh terrorists.

Daesh began a terrorist offensive in Iraq in 2014, overrunning territory and brutalizing people there. The Iraqi army and volunteer forces soon launched operations to retake occupied territory and eliminate Daesh.

Full report at:



Terrorists' Bases Destroyed in Syrian Army Fire in Hama Province

May 23, 2018

The artillery and missile units opened heavy fire at Tahrir al-Sham's positions near the village of al-Zakah and the town of al-Latamina, destroying several heavy vehicles and killing or wounding a number of terrorists.

Other artillery and missile units pounded more strongholds of the terrorists in Kafr Zita region in Northern Hama, destroying a position and a volume of military equipment and killing several gunmen.

In the meantime, a unit of the army opened fire at a group of Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at in the village of al-Ankawi in Western al-Ghaab Plain and managed to repel their attack.

A number of Tahrir al-Sham's fighters were killed or wounded and the remaining pockets of them retreated towards Southwestern Idlib.

In a relevant development on Sunday, the Syrian and Russian warplanes carried out a fresh round of combat flights over terrorist-held regions in Northern Hama, destroying militants' positions.

The fighter jets bombed heavily terrorists' positions and movements in al-Latamina and Kafr Zita regions in Northern Hama, destroying a number of vehicles and a large volume of military equipment.

A number of terrorists were killed or wounded in the raid too.

Full report at:



UN chief urges Lebanon’s Hezbollah to halt military activity

24 May 2018

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is calling on Hezbollah not to engage in military activity inside Lebanon and elsewhere in the region, in a report seen by AFP on Wednesday.

“The maintenance by Hezbollah of sizeable and sophisticated military capabilities outside the control of the government of Lebanon remains a matter of grave concern,” Guterres said in a report sent to the Security Council on Friday.

The UN chief called on the Shiite movement “not to engage in any military activity inside or outside Lebanon” in line with a 2004 UN resolution.

The Lebanese government must prevent Hezbollah from “building paramilitary capacity outside the authority of the state,” he said.

The report followed elections this month that saw Hezbollah allies make gains in the Lebanese parliament, cementing the Iran- and Syria-backed movement’s political dominance.

Guterres called on countries in the region that maintain ties with Hezbollah to encourage the armed group to transform into a “solely civilian political party” and to disarm.

Listed as a terror group by the United States, Hezbollah is now fighting in Syria on behalf of government forces and in Iraq alongside paramilitary groups, and is accused of backing Houthi militias in Yemen.

International efforts to contain the group have largely failed, including several rounds of US and European sanctions and a month-long war with Israel in 2006.

Full report at:



Syrian official rejects US demand for Iranian, Hezbollah troop withdrawal

23 May 2018

Syria has dismissed American calls for the withdrawal of Iranian troops and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah from the war-torn country.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mikdad told Russia's Sputnik news agency "this topic is not even on the agenda of discussion, since it concerns the sovereignty of Syria."

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a list of demands this week for a new nuclear deal with Iran, including the pullout of its forces from Syria, where they have provided crucial support to President Bashar Assad's government. Russia is also a key ally of Assad, and has been waging an air campaign in Syria since 2015.

Full report at:





Palestine join two UN agencies, chemical weapons treaty

23 May 2018

The Palestinians have joined two UN agencies and the global convention to halt the spread of chemical weapons, a UN envoy said Wednesday, despite a threat of US funding cuts.

At the United Nations, the Palestinians have the status of a non-member observer state that allows them to seek membership of agencies and become a party to international treaties.

The move will raise the Palestinian profile in international diplomacy and comes amid a rift with the administration of President Donald Trump over its decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Nickolay Mladenov, the UN coordinator for the Middle East, told the Security Council that the Palestinians had joined the Geneva-based UN trade organization UNCTAD, Vienna-based industrial development agency UNIDO and the chemical weapons convention.

“On May 15, Palestine acceded to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and the Convention on the Prohibition, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons,” Mladenov said.

The envoy did not address whether the decision will have an impact on funding from the United States for these agencies and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

The OPCW, UNCTAD and UNIDO rely on voluntary contributions from UN member-states to fund its activities as well as its regular budget.

The United States withdrew some funding for UNESCO when the Palestinians joined the cultural and education agency in 2011 and last year pulled out of the agency altogether.

The Trump administration has also cut funds to the UN Palestinian refugee agency that have left UNRWA struggling to fill a major gap in its education and health programs.



At OIC, Muslim nations condemn Israel and U.S., call for unity

May 22, 2018

ISTANBUL — Muslim nations have condemned Israel and the inauguration of the American embassy in contested Jerusalem as a “provocation and hostility against” the Islamic world, while Turkey’s president called for action, including a peacekeeping force.

A final communique from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation summit in Istanbul “reaffirmed the centrality of the Palestinian cause” after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the rotating term president of the OIC, called an extraordinary summit.

The call came on the heels of a week that has seen Turkey take a leading role in condemning Israeli actions in Gaza — Monday’s killing of 59 Palestinians and wounding of hundreds of others was the deadliest day of cross-border violence in Gaza since a 2014 war between Israel and Hamas. As part of its efforts, the Turkish government organized a massive rally and the OIC summit, in a show of solidarity.

Speaking at the closing of the OIC late Friday, Erdogan said the international community “must stop watching the massacres from the bleachers” as Palestinian youth are killed by “Israeli terror,” proposing an international peacekeeping force.

In its declaration, the OIC said Israel committed “savage crimes” with the backing of Donald Trump’s administration, emboldened by the United States’ decision to recognize Jerusalem.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah criticized the U.S. for becoming “part of the problem and not the solution” and thereby disqualified itself as a peace process mediator by infringing on the Palestinians’ “historic, legal, natural and national rights” with Monday’s embassy move.

The OIC threatened other countries considering following suit, including Guatemala, which has already made the move to Jerusalem, with “political, economic and other measures.”

Iranian President Hasan Rouhani spoke earlier as participants broke their fast for Ramadan, calling the Trump administration a “dangerous threat” to global peace and security. Rouhani said Muslim nations should consider “revising” political and economic ties with the U.S., and called on the international community to “cut ties” with Israel and boycott it through trade.

“If Israel faces a united front of Islamic nations, it will never be able to continue its crimes,” the Iranian president said. He cited the example of the “new and young generation of Palestine who is aware of their rights and has no intention to withdraw or compromise.”

Erdogan also urged member states and others to prevent Israeli products produced in “illegal Israeli settlements” from entering their markets.

Earlier at the summit, the Turkish president likened Israel’s actions in Gaza to the Holocaust, saying: “The children of those who were subjected to all sorts of torture in concentration camps during World War II are now attacking Palestinians with methods that would put Nazis to shame.”

The Islamic organization also told its members to fall in line and “commit to voting for our common cause” of Jerusalem or risk punitive measures. Turkey’s foreign minister had criticized certain members for voting against, abstaining from or not showing up for a United Nations motion in December — some 128 countries overwhelmingly supported the U.N. against Washington’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Before the summit, Erdogan slammed Islamic countries that failed what he termed “the Jerusalem test,” saying “all we Muslims do is condemn” and not unite. Erdogan said Muslim countries were “severe, intolerant and unconscientious” to each other and “toothless and cowardly” to unspecified enemies. He later struck a more conciliatory tone.

Erdogan, along with the Palestinian prime minister, was speaking to hundreds of thousands waving Palestinian and Turkish flags at an Istanbul rally dubbed “Curse Oppression, Support Jerusalem.” He told the rally that the responsibility to defend Jerusalem lay with them as crowds chanted “Chief, take us to Jerusalem.”

Full report at:



Turkey's Muslim-Friendly Holidays Find a Modest Place in the Sun

May 23, 2018

ALANYA, Turkey (Reuters) - Turkey's $26 billion tourism industry has been battered by security fears and political disputes in recent years but one corner of the market is quietly growing - beach holidays for conservative Muslims.

Dozens of hotels and resorts on Turkey's shores, featuring separate pools and beaches for men and women to meet religious strictures on modesty, are attracting families from Turkey, the Middle East and Muslim communities in the West.

While still only accounting for a small fraction of tourists, the market for "halal", or Islamic-compliant, holidays has shrugged off the turmoil and looks set for more growth.

"In the last couple of years there was a boycott of Turkey as a tourism destination but we have seen halal-friendly tourism booming throughout this period," said Ufuk Secgin of, which promotes international Islamic holidays.

"Halal conscious travelers are more resilient. They are not easily scared by headlines," Secgin said, speaking over loud pop music at a men-only pool and water slides in Elvin Deluxe resort.

The total number of tourist arrivals in Turkey dropped by a quarter to a 10-year low in 2016, hit by a failed coup, a wave of bomb attacks and a dispute with Moscow which kept millions of Russians away. It bounced back last year and the government expects 40 million visitors this year.

Secgin's company brought 12,000 tourists in 2015, almost doubling that number in each of the next two years despite turbulence in Turkey. This year it expects 70,000 to come to visit country whose president, Tayyip Erdogan, is a pious Muslim who has brought religion back into mainstream public life.

Only 60 or so hotels and resorts offer halal-friendly breaks, out of many thousands of hotels across Turkey, but a report in November said Turkey has jumped four places to the third most popular destination for Islamic holidays, behind the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia.

In a sign of the popularity of the halal hotels, they were all fully booked in Turkey last year for the Eid al-Fitr holiday which marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, unlike traditional hotels, according to the State of Global Islamic Economy Report prepared by Thomson Reuters and Dinar Standard.

"Noting the consumer demand at the country's 60 halal hotels, Turkish hoteliers have started to diversify away from conventional tourism by focusing on this emerging segment."


In Alanya, a Mediterranean resort known for it wide sandy beaches, halal hotels offer a Muslim prayer rug in every room, pools and beaches separately designated for men and women, and mixed areas of families. Food at the buffet meals is all halal, and alcohol is not served.

At the Wome Deluxe hotel, women-only pools with female security guards and spa staff are shielded from outside view by large panels. Guests can only enter after handing in phones and cameras.

"A couple of years ago, 80-90 percent of our guests were from Turkey. Currently more than 60 percent of our guests are foreign Muslims," said general manager Yusuf Gerceker.

Many of those foreign guests are Muslims from European countries, who say that the rise of right-wing and anti-immigrant sentiment has made them want to take holidays elsewhere. Moves by municipal authorities in France to ban the body-covering burkini swimwear also made them uncomfortable.

"There are prohibited activities for Muslim women in France, we can't go to beaches or swimming pools," Rihab Hassaine said, relaxing beside the covered women-only pool with her friends.

"It is not possible to find this kind of holiday with a Muslim concept over there," Hassaine, from France, said sipping her soda in a bikini at a women's only pool in southern tourist destination of Alanya.

Yavuz Tanriverdi, born and raised in Germany, playing with his children on a mixed beach in Alanya said he came to Turkey because he wanted to fit in.

Full report at:



Israeli minister says US may soon recognise Israel’s hold on Golan

24 May 2018

Israel is pressing the Trump administration to recognize its sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights, an Israeli cabinet minister said on Wednesday, predicting US assent could come within months.

Interviewed by Reuters, Intelligence Minister Israel Katz described endorsement of Israel’s 51-year-old hold on the Golan as the proposal now “topping the agenda” in bilateral diplomatic talks with the United States.

Any such move would be seen as a follow-up on the US exit from the international nuclear deal with Iran, and President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the opening of a new US embassy there this month.

Trump’s moves were hailed by Israel and caused deep concern among major European allies of Washington.

“We meet with Israel on a wide range of issues,” a White House official said, but declined to confirm any of the details provided by Katz about the Golan.

The Golan Heights form a strategic plateau between Israel and Syria of about 1,200 square kilometers (460 square miles).

It was part of Syria until Israel captured it in the 1967 Middle East war. It moved Israeli settlers into the area that it occupied, and annexed the territory in 1981 in a move not recognized internationally.

Once willing to consider returning the Golan for peace with Syria, the Israelis have in recent years argued that the civil war in Syria and the presence there of an Iranian garrison backing Damascus show they need to keep the strategic plateau.

Katz, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet, cast the Golan proposal as a potential extension of the Trump administration’s confrontational tack against perceived regional expansion and aggression by Iran, Israel’s arch-enemy.

“This is the perfect time to make such a move. The most painful response you can give the Iranians is to recognize Israel’s Golan sovereignty - with an American statement, a presidential proclamation, enshrined (in law),” he said.

The message to Tehran, Katz said, would be: “You want to destroy (US ally Israel), to generate attacks (against it)? Look, you got exactly the opposite.”

The matter, raised by Netanyahu in his first White House meeting with President Donald Trump in February 2017, is now under discussion at various levels of the US administration and Congress, Katz said.

“I reckon there is great ripeness and a high probability this will happen,” he said. Asked if such a decision could be made this year, he added: “Yes, give or take a few months.”

Asked about Katz’s comments, a US Embassy official in Israel said: “We don’t as a general policy discuss our diplomatic communications.”

Russia, Damascus’s big-power ally, has long insisted that Syria’s territorial integrity should be restored - a position implicitly requiring an eventual return of the part of the Golan occupied by Israel.

Katz, however, played down any prospect of a blow-up between Moscow and Washington, casting the proposed US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan as a piece of a larger Syria mosaic.


With Syrian President Bashar al-Assad beating back the insurgency against him, now could be the opportunity for Assad and Russia to show the Iranians out, Katz said.

He described the Iranian presence next door as the Netanyahu government’s main concern, by implication offering Assad a chance for immunity from Israel.

“This is a moment of truth for Assad. Does he want to be an Iranian proxy, or not?” Katz said. “If he becomes an Iranian proxy, then sooner or later he’s condemning himself, because Israel is acting against Iran in Syria ... If not, then we have always said we have no interest in getting involved there.”

Russia, Katz said, would respond to a US recognition of Israeli sovereignty on the Golan with declarations that “they won’t do the same and they do not have to support this”.

“But in actuality, from their perspective, if it gives Israel something in the wider Syrian context, what do they care? Assad’s survival is more important to them, as Syria is so weak,” he said. “They want a new, overall re-arrangement.”

Katz suggested that a US move on the Golan could also prod the Palestinians - who have shunned the Trump administration since it announced in December that it would relocate the embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv - to revive peace talks.

The Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their own state, along with the West Bank, also occupied by Israel in the 1967 war - among the geographical disputes that have dogged their diplomatic contacts with Israel.

“They should hurry up and sit down with Israel, because where Israel says it is determined to be, it will be, and it won’t give up, and history is working in our favor,” he said.

Syria tried to regain the Israeli-occupied Golan in the 1973 Middle East war, but the assault was thwarted. The two signed an armistice in 1974 and the land frontier has been relatively quiet since.

Since 1967, about 20,000 Israeli settlers have moved to the Golan, which also borders Jordan. Some 20,000 Druze Muslims also live there. Israel gave the Druze the option of citizenship, though most rejected it.

Full report at:



Coalition destroys Houthi speedboats targeting Red Sea ships

23 May 2018

Fighter jets from the Arab coalition destroyed two Houthi boats militias used to target an oil tanker in the Red Sea on Wednesday.

United Arab Emirates (UAE) state news agency WAM reported that UAE coalition forces had destroyed two boats “which were threatening a commercial oil tanker” in the Red Sea. Two other Houthi boats escaped, it added.

In recent months, Houthi militias resorted to the use of booby-trapped speedboats to target ships and seaports, and planted naval mines in an attempt to stop the safe navigation of ships on the coasts of the Red Sea.

Last month, a Saudi oil tanker was hit off Yemen’s main port city of Hodeidah, suffering limited damage, in what coalition forces said was an attack by the Houthis. The Houthis said they had targeted a coalition warship.



Yemeni army liberates govt compound in Houthi militia stronghold

23 May 2018

Yemeni forces said on Wednesday dawn that they liberated the governmental compound in al-Malaheez in Al-Zahir district in Saada which is the Houthis’ main stronghold in Yemen’s far north.

According to a statement published on the army’s website, army forces raided the compound aided with the Arab coalition’s air force following violent clashes with the Houthis.

A source said the battles inflicted human and material losses on the Houthis, adding that many Houthis fled leaving their weapons behind.

Yemeni forces, supported with the Arab coalition, are close to surrounding the stronghold of the Houthis’ leader in the caves of Marran in the center of Saada as part of the operation to “to cut the head off the snake” that’s ongoing on five fronts.



Turkey issues arrest warrants for 109 over affiliation to Gulen network

May 23, 2018

Turkish prosecutors have issued arrest warrants for more than 100 people on suspicion of affiliation to a movement led by US-based opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom the Ankara government accuses of having masterminded the July 2016 coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

A judicial source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Wednesday that the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued detention warrants for 39 suspects, including 11 former employees of the Ministry of Family and Social Policies, after they were accused of using ByLock, an encrypted messaging application that was allegedly used by Gulen’s supporters for communication.

The source added that police forces have so far detained 13 suspects, and operations are underway to detain the remainder.

Moreover, detention warrants were issued in the central province of Konya for 70 suspects, including 43 serving soldiers.

During the botched putsch, a faction of the Turkish military declared that it had seized control of the country and the government of Erdogan was no more in charge. The attempt was, however, suppressed a few hours later.

Ankara has since accused Gulen of having orchestrated the coup. The opposition figure is also accused of being behind a long-running campaign to topple the government via infiltrating the country’s institutions, particularly the army, police and the judiciary.

Gulen has denounced the “despicable putsch” and reiterated that he had no role in it.

“Accusations against me related to the coup attempt are baseless and politically-motivated slanders,” he said in a statement.

The 77-year-old cleric has also called on Ankara to end its “witch hunt” of his followers, a move he says is aimed at “weeding out anyone it deems disloyal to President Erdogan and his regime.”

Turkish officials have frequently called on their US counterparts to extradite Gulen, but their demands have not been taken heed of.

Turkey, which remains in a state of emergency since the coup, has been engaged in suppressing the media and opposition groups suspected to have played a role in the failed coup.

Tens of thousands of people have been arrested in Turkey on suspicion of having links to Gulen and the failed coup. More than 110,000 others, including military staff, civil servants and journalists, have been sacked or suspended from work over the same accusations.

Full report at:



North America


The U.S. considered declaring Russia a sponsor of terror

May 23, 2018

The attempt to kill a former Russian spy in England bore an ominous signature: The assailants used a lethal nerve agent of a type developed in the Soviet Union, and British investigators quickly concluded that only the Kremlin could have carried out such a sophisticated hit.

Soon after the March attack, Rex Tillerson, then the U.S. secretary of state, ordered State Department officials to outline the case for designating Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism under U.S. law. Experts in the department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism began to assemble what they thought was a strong case.

But almost as quickly as the review began — within about two days — the secretary of state’s office sent new instructions to drop the initiative, according to State Department officials familiar with the episode.

“There are a lot of issues that we have to work on together with Russia,” a U.S. official said. “Designating them would interfere with our ability to do that.”

The State Department’s reluctance to impose the terror designation was not a product of Trump administration sympathy for Russian President Vladimir Putin, U.S. officials say. Rather, it reflected an ambivalent and at times contradictory policy toward Russia on terrorism issues that stretches back more than a dozen years, American intelligence officials and foreign-policy experts said.

Even as Washington has grown more concerned about an array of Russian security threats, it has continued to seek Moscow’s cooperation in combating terrorism. Although the approach has yielded few victories against the Islamist militants that the two countries vowed to fight after 9/11, advocates of the policy argue that it has been one of the few areas of common ground in which cooperation remains possible during a period of increasing confrontation.

“Russia is clearly a bad actor on the world stage,” said David McKean, a former director of policy planning at the State Department. “But terrorism is an area where we have to keep trying to talk to them. They can either play a negative role or not play a negative role — or occasionally play a positive role.”

Yet, as Tillerson’s order for the review suggested, the calculus in Washington has begun to shift. Throughout the civil war in Syria, Russia has strengthened its backing for the regimes in Damascus and Teheran, which Washington has long accused of supporting terrorism, and their ally Hezbollah, an officially designated terrorist group. Russia has intervened more directly in Afghanistan, Pentagon officials have said, shipping arms to the Taliban with little apparent regard for the geopolitical consequences. And the Kremlin has methodically pursued its enemies overseas, ordering a series of assassination attempts in Europe, Turkey and the Middle East, national security officials said.

As the evidence of Russian support for terrorism has grown, the Putin regime’s campaign of cyberattacks and other subversion in the United States, Europe and elsewhere has raised new questions about the utility and viability of narrow efforts at cooperation on issues such as counterterrorism.

The enemy is us

“We assume the Russians are like us, and if we would just do a better job of explaining ourselves, they would come around and be allies on counterterrorism,” said John Sipher, a former deputy chief of Russian operations at the CIA. “Russia has been more consistent. They have seen us, not terrorism, as the main enemy all along.”

In the case of the former Russian spy poisoned in the English town of Salisbury, Sergei Skripal, the Trump administration eventually joined Britain and other allies in retaliating for the attack. Washington and its allies expelled scores of Russian diplomats and imposed financial sanctions on oligarchs and political leaders.

To formally name Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, however, would represent a more significant step. The State Department’s list, which now includes North Korea, Iran, Syria and Sudan, reflects a formal determination that a foreign government has repeatedly supported acts of international terrorism. (Secretary Tillerson was fired days after he ordered up the aborted review, apparently for reasons that were unrelated. His replacement, Mike Pompeo, has not commented publicly on the prospect of such a designation.)

Under a process first implemented in 1979, the designation results in sanctions barring the country from U.S. foreign aid, arms sales and various forms of commerce. It also restricts U.S. trade and diplomatic contact with nations that do business with countries on the list.

But both Republican and Democratic administrations have wielded the State Department’s terrorism sanctions primarily against countries where the United States has limited interests. Washington has used the tool far more sparingly against powerful nations like Russia, where U.S. relationships include substantial competing equities.

In November, for example, the Trump administration aggressively pushed through the designation of North Korea as a sponsor of terrorism, despite what officials in the State Department and other experts considered a relatively weak evidentiary case.

“Russia much more neatly meets the definition of a state sponsor than North Korea does,” said a national security official familiar with the issue.

The Trump administration cited a series of complaints against North Korea, including the mistreatment of an American college student who died after being released from North Korean custody. But the primary new evidence of repeated support for terrorism was an act that some officials and experts consider insufficient: the 2017 assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s half-brother at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

Pakistan spared

“I am delighted to see us get tough with North Korea,” said Daniel Byman, a professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. “I’d rather we chose another label.”

Pakistan, by contrast, has been spared from inclusion on the State Department list despite what U.S. officials say is a well-documented history of funding, training and protecting terrorist groups including the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba. Even after U.S. counterterror agencies have directly implicated Pakistani intelligence officials in such flagrant activity as the 2008 terror attacks that killed 166 people — six of them Americans — in Mumbai, the U.S. government has continued to treat Pakistan as an indispensable, if untrustworthy, partner.

Russian leaders have bristled at the idea that they might qualify for inclusion on the terror-sponsors list. Particularly since the 9/11 attacks, the Putin government has cast Russia as a Christian bulwark against the threat of Islamist militancy. Putin was the first foreign leader to call President George W. Bush to express his sympathies after the attacks. As the Bush Administration scrambled to strike back against al-Qaida, the Kremlin provided diplomatic and logistical support for the U.S. military’s operations in Afghanistan.

Russian security forces also worked with Western counterparts to track threats related to Chechnya. And Moscow avoided criticizing the Americans’ use of brutal interrogation methods and secret detentions, despite years of U.S. human rights criticism of Russia’s own counterterror operations.

From the start, however, some U.S. intelligence experts warned that Moscow played by different rules. Sipher, the former deputy chief of Russian operations, recalled his reaction after learning that the then-CIA director, George Tenet, had told Bush that Russia would be a key ally in the new war on terrorism.

“Tenet asked us to put together a paper on how the Russians were going to help us,” Sipher recalled. “We were dumbfounded. We said someone needs to tell the president they are NOT going to be an ally. They are not going to help on counterterrorism.”

It was not long before signs of Russian duplicity began to surface, Sipher recalled. In the mid-2000s, the CIA learned that Russia had given its allies in Central Asia a database of suspected extremists that included the names of some CIA undercover officers.

“When our officers showed up in certain countries at the airport, they were handcuffed because we popped up on the list as terrorists,” Sipher said.

In what some U.S. intelligence veterans see as a reflection of Putin’s background as a career officer in the Soviet KGB, Russia has mixed fierce tactics against Islamist militants in Chechnya with cooptation and collusion, officials said.

Mysterious bombings

Russian opposition leaders and journalists have accused the Kremlin’s security forces of masterminding a string of mysterious bombings in Russia in 1999. About 300 civilians were killed in the explosions at apartment buildings. The attacks, which the government blamed on Chechen militants, helped then-Prime Minister Putin bolster his standing ahead of the presidential election he won in 2000.

The U.S. case against Russia as a sponsor of terrorism has grown substantially over the past decade, national security officials said.

As Islamist militants began moving into Syria in 2012 to join that country’s civil war, law enforcement agencies in Europe arrested scores of would-be jihadists. By contrast, U.S. officials have said, Russia’s principal internal security agency, the FSB, appeared to encourage militants from predominantly Muslim regions like Dagestan to go to Syria ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. The FSB carried out this activity to reduce the threat at home during the Winter Games, according to U.S. officials, despite the fact that such militants were likely to join the Islamic State’s fight against the Syrian government, a close Russian ally.

“There must have been senior approval,” said Michael Carpenter, who served as National Security Council director for Russia during the Obama administration. “There was facilitation, payment, passports. There were hundreds, at a minimum, who went to Syria during this period.”

There have been more direct examples of state-sponsored violence in the pursuit of Chechen rebel leaders and other Kremlin enemies far beyond Russia’s borders, U.S. officials said. Russian spies have been convicted of or accused of murdering suspected Islamist extremists in Dubai, Qatar and Turkey, according to officials, court verdicts and published reports.

Drone strike killings

Both the United States and Israel have often killed suspected terrorists overseas, notably in drone strikes conducted by the Pentagon or the CIA. But Russia has targeted its own exiled political dissidents with growing frequency — an action that would qualify as terrorism under U.S. law if there is an intent to intimidate a group of people.

In the Skripal case in England, Carpenter said, the seemingly obvious signature of the nerve agent used to try to kill the exiled Russian spy on March 4 was integral to the plot. “I think the Russians planned it as a hit that would lead everyone to think the Kremlin was behind it, and that would spread a chill among former spies,” he said. “Is it terrorism? Yes. It targets that population of former Russian spies and dissidents and sends a message to stop cooperating with the West.”

Russia had convicted Skripal of working as a British double agent, but released him from prison and sent him to Britain in a spy swap in 2010. The former military intelligence officer, 66, had lived quietly for eight years in the riverfront town of Salisbury until, British officials say, suspected Russian agents smeared the nerve agent Novichok on the handle of his front door.

Skripal was in critical condition for weeks before his health began to improve. On Friday, he was released from the hospital. Authorities moved him to a secret location to continue his recovery. The other two victims — his 33-year-old daughter and a British police officer — were released from the hospital weeks ago.

Prime Minister Theresa May has said that only Russia had the weapon, motive and operational experience to carry out the plot, an assertion that U.S. intelligence officials have endorsed. Because the Russian state tightly controls access to Novichok, American intelligence officers think the order to use it had to have come from high-level officials, a U.S. intelligence official said.

Russian leaders have denied any involvement in the case, and have even accused the British security services of staging the attack themselves in order to frame Russia. After the director of the MI5 domestic intelligence service said last week that the Kremlin was at risk of becoming an “isolated pariah,” the Russian embassy in London declared: “This shows to what lengths London is prepared to go in order to keep the Western bloc in the UK-led confrontation with Russia.”

The Skripal attack recalled the 2006 assassination in London of Alexander Litvinenko, a former FSB officer who had also worked with Western intelligence services. After fleeing to London in 2000, Litvinenko had publicly accused Putin of plotting the 1999 bombings in Russia, among other crimes. He was killed by two Russian operatives who poisoned his tea with polonium-210, a rare radioactive substance produced by a Russian military laboratory. A British court convicted the two Russians in absentia, but one of them, Andrei Lugovoy, a retired KGB officer, received a medal from Putin and was elected to the Russian parliament.

A dozen other suspicious deaths in Britain — the victims were Russian expatriates or Britons linked to them — drew less attention over the past 15 years. In the aftermath of the Skripal attack, however, British authorities said they would reexamine those cases, which prominently include the death of Boris Berezovsky, an exiled Russian oligarch and enemy of Putin who was initially ruled to have committed suicide in 2013.

When Tillerson ordered the review of Russia’s record on terrorism in March, State Department experts examined a history of Russian-sponsored violent activity in neighboring Ukraine as a key element of a case for designation.

In 2004, an anti-Putin presidential candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, blamed Russian operatives for trying to kill him with dioxin. The poison badly disfigured Yushchenko, but he survived and won the Ukrainian election. In another case last October, Ukraine’s attorney general accused the Russian FSB of teaming with a politically connected gangster to assassinate a fugitive Russian legislator in Kiev.

One of the most serious elements of the case against Russia, U.S. officials said, may be the government’s alleged involvement in the shoot-down of a Malaysia Airlines flight by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014. A Russian-made missile killed all 298 people aboard and was part of a wave of separatist bombings and other violence against civilians blamed on Russia after its forces occupied the Crimea region.

“It is the current Russian regime that provided the missiles, the launcher, the software, the training, and perhaps even the triggerman to shoot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17,” Carpenter testified before a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee in November.

U.S. military commanders have also accused Russia of increasing support for the Taliban. Although the Afghan insurgency originated with the Islamic militant fighters who battled the Soviets during their occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, Russian forces have provided funding and small arms to the Taliban as part of an effort to undermine U.S. policy in the region, Pentagon officials have said.

A push from Congress

Amid calls for stronger retaliation against Russia for the Skripal case and its meddling in the 2016 elections, some members of Congress have pushed the Trump administration to consider designating Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. Even if the case seems strong, U.S. officials say the action would imperil remaining lines of communication with Moscow and create legal problems for the United States in dealing with nations that do business with Russia.

The Trump administration recognizes Russia’s record, officials said, but senior intelligence officials have emphasized their continued support for a better counterterrorism partnership with the Putin regime.

U.S. intelligence agencies went so far as to extend a highly unusual invitation to Russian spy chiefs, which resulted in a meeting between the sides in January to discuss counterterrorism cooperation. The directors of the FSB and the SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence service, held talks in Washington with the then-CIA director, Pompeo, and the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats. The Americans reminded the spy chiefs that the CIA had relayed a lead that foiled a terrorist plot in Saint Petersburg in December, but the Russians have so far declined to share any comparable intelligence, a U.S. intelligence official said.

“The intelligence agencies want to have a channel open to the Russians,” the official said. “Historically, at times of political tensions, the spy services have been able to de-escalate while presidents like Putin are playing to domestic audiences. It’s important to keep that back channel.”

Critics of the meetings took a less optimistic view, saying the U.S. intelligence community sent a message that it is not serious about confronting Russia’s aggressive conduct. The Salisbury attack just weeks later underscored the futility of the outreach effort, those experts said.

“These are the guys behind the interference campaign in the U.S. elections, the guys directing Russian operations in Syria and Ukraine and ordering hits like the one on Skripal,” Carpenter said of the meetings. “Words escape me to express how bad it was.”



Alaska jail sued for feeding Muslims pork, starving them in Ramadan

May 23, 2018

Muslim inmates at a jail in the US state of Alaska are being “starved” and given pork products during Ramadan, a new lawsuit claims.

For one thing, Muslim prisoners are given food with substantially lower calories compared to other inmates, said the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in the federal lawsuit filed on Wednesday.

“Officials at the Anchorage Correctional Complex have provided Muslim inmates with less than half the calories they require -- as little as 500 calories on some days – which amounts to a starvation diet.”

#CAIR Lawsuit: Alaska Muslim prisoners being given meager food, pork products during Ramadan

A nonprofit that advocates for the civil rights of...

— CAIR National (@CAIRNational) May 23, 2018

Muslims observing the holy month eat and drink only between sundown and sunrise, but the inmates fall victim to discriminatory behavior from authorities who deny them Halal meals.

This is while officials at the prison are constitutionally forbidden from “compelling inmates to choose between their faith and food.”

“We hope that a court will do what Anchorage Correctional Complex officials will not: ensure that Muslim inmates are not starved or forced to violate the principles of their faith during the holy month of Ramadan,” Lena Masri, the national litigation director for CAIR, said in a statement.

The Alaska Department of Corrections has not yet commented on the lawsuit.

Full report at:



Iran's leader: US pullout from nuclear deal leaves Trump 'lost in history'

23 May 2018

Iran’s supreme leader has said that American objections over the 2015 nuclear deal were a pretext for regime change, vowing that the US was bound to fail like “the famous cat in the Tom and Jerry” cartoon.

Speaking two days after the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, threatened Iran with “the strongest sanctions in history”, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday that Iran could restart the nuclear activities it halted under the agreement if Europe failed to safeguard the agreement after the US pulled out.

“Since the beginning of the revolution till today, the US has committed all kinds of animosity to hit the Islamic Republic … All these actions are aimed at ‘overthrowing’ the Islamic Republic,” said the 78-year-old Ayatollah, the man with ultimate power in Iran, who was speaking before senior officials to mark the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

“You can compare the Islamic Republic now to 40 years ago, and see that it is moving forward with various capabilities. So, all their plots have failed … just like the famous cat from the Tom and Jerry cartoon.”

Pompeo, in his speech on Monday aimed at laying out the Trump administration’s policy on Iran, had said that the US would not separate negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme from other issues like regional conflicts and missile development. He also laid down 12 conditions for Iran, including putting an end to launches of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles and withdrawing all forces under Iranian command from Syria.

Khamenei compared Donald Trump to his predecessors, particularly George W Bush, “the other neocons, and [Ronald] Reagan”, saying that he “will be lost in history”. The ayatollah told Iranian officials that Tehran “cannot interact” with the US government because it does not stick to its commitments.

He was hinting at Trump’s decision earlier this month to pull the US out of the landmark nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), struck between Iran and the world’s six major powers in Vienna in 2015.

He said: “[The Americans] threatened [us] and went against their commitments. This is an answer to all those who, repeatedly, over time asked me: ‘Why don’t we negotiate with the US, or why don’t we develop relations with the US?’”

Khamenei said the US had previously squandered chances of rapprochement with Iran during the presidency of the former reformist president Mohammad Khatami, when George W Bush labeled Tehran part of the “axis of evil”.

Since the US withdrew from the deal, the Europeans have been scrambling to salvage the agreement, even taking measures to nullify the effect of Trump imposing sanctions on any non-US firm that continues to do business with Iran.

Khamenei said he was pessimistic about the three European countries involved in the nuclear deal, the UK, France and Germany, because, he said, they have proved that on the most sensitive issues they follow the US. “Of course, Europe will not stand in the United States’ way. Let’s be realistic and not count on probabilities,” he said.

He laid down six conditions for Europe if it wants Iran to remain in the agreement, including a halt to objecting to Iran’s missile tests or regional behaviour.

“Europe must guarantee that Iran’s oil will be completely sold. If the US can damage the sale of our oil, we must be able to sell as much oil as we want,” he said. “If the Europeans linger over our demands, Iran has the right to resume its nuclear activities. When we see that the JCPOA was useless, one way forward is to restart those halted activities.”

This week, a group of prominent Iranian and American academics and public figures, including Noam Chomsky and the Iranian actor Taraneh Alidoosti, reached out to the EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, asking her in a public letter to make sure the west delivered on its promises under the agreement.

Full report at:



US envoy's picture sparks outrage among Palestinians

23 May 2018

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman provoked outrage among Palestinians after he was photographed carrying a picture of Haram al-Sharif in which the Jewish Temple is superimposed over the Al-Aqsa mosque.

The picture was initially posted by an Israeli non-governmental organization which the ambassador visited on Tuesday, following which it began circulating on social media.

Saeb Erekat, the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), in a statement, said the smile on the ambassador's face while he receives the picture is self-explanatory.

"How long will these despicable U.S. actions remain without an Arab and Islamic response worthy of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the greatness of the Haram Al-sharif?” Erekat said.

“They are attacking the first Qibla in Islam and turning the conflict into a religious conflict,” he added.

The U.S. Embassy responded to the criticism claiming the ambassador was unaware of the content of the picture.

"Ambassador Friedman was not aware of the image thrust in front of him when the photo was taken,” the statement said.

"The US policy is absolutely clear: we support the status quo on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount,” it added.

On Dec. 6, U.S. President Donald Trump announced his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city.

The shift in the longstanding U.S. policy on Jerusalem sparked angry demonstrations in the occupied Palestinian territories and in several Muslim countries.

Recent protests on the Gaza Strip left 65 Palestinians martyred and thousands of others injured by Israeli gunfire.

Full report at:





Anything you want - except gay rights, Uzbekistan tells UN

May 23, 2018

TASHKENT: Uzbekistan plans to gradually implement hundreds of human rights recommendations from a United Nations council, it said on Wednesday, but it made a point of refusing to decriminalise homosexuality calling it irrelevant to its society.

Human rights groups and bodies routinely criticised the government of the mostly Muslim Central Asian nation over human rights issues under President Islam Karimov who ran the country from 1989 until his death in 2016.

The former Soviet republic of 32 million started re-engaging human rights bodies under the new president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, as it sought to establish closer ties with the West and attract badly needed foreign investment.

Mirziyoyev has overseen the release of several prominent Karimov-era political prisoners and ordered thousands of people to be stricken off a blacklist of potential exremists. In a landmark ruling, an Uzbek court this month set free a dissident journalist charged with anti-government propaganda.

But its refusal to budge on gay rights shows there are limits to the Tashkent government's willingness to accommodate Western standards.

Uzbekistan presented its third human rights report at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva this month, the first one since the leadership change.

"When we went to Geneva to present the report there was not the nervousness that there used to be (before)," Deputy Justice Minister Mahmud Istamov told reporters in Tashkent on Wednesday.

"We went there keeping our heads high this time because of the changes that have occurred over the past one-and-a-half years," he added, referring to Mirziyoyev's presidency.

Another Uzbek official, director of the National Human Rights Centre Akmal Saidov, said Uzbekistan has received over 200 recommendations at the UN council meeting nearly all of which it would gradually implement.

Officials said, in particular, that Tashkent was considering joining the UN convention on torture and would reduce cotton plantations which have long attracted criticism because of the use of forced labour.

The only recommendation Uzbekistan has flatly rejected was that on LGBT rights.

"This is not on our agenda. We have not accepted this recommendation," Istamov said. "This is not a topical subject for us."

Uzbekistan and its neighbour Turkmenistan are the only ex-Soviet nations that have kept in place the Communist-era ban on male homosexual relationships, punishable by prison time.



Ramadan Tent Project host open iftar for British public

24 May 2018

The Ramadan Tent Project (RTP) held its annual Open Iftar event Wednesday which offered members of the British public a free warm meal as well as a chance to converse with Muslims and non-Muslims from all walks of life.

The project’s founder, Omar Salha, kicked off the event by thanking the guests.

“It is a real pleasure to have you all here with us tonight. It is also an honor to host such an event, one that is able to bring us all together in this holy month of Ramadan.” 

Attending the event was Harun Khan, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain.

“It is my first time here at RTP, and I have heard many wonderful stories. They are doing great work. It is a real opportunity for me to be here and to join you guys for iftar tonight. I really hope you enjoy it,” he said.

The Ramadan Tent Project, founded in the UK in 2013, is a social enterprise dedicated to serving the youth and wider community through creating spaces of spirituality, dialogue and empowerment, according to a statement on its website.

RTP began as a community initiative inviting people of all faiths to break their fasts together during the month of Ramadan, the statement said, adding that it “envisages a world in which communities are brought together through the spirit of Ramadan all year round”.

The Open Iftar initiative is a flagship of the Ramadhan Tent Project and is the first global community-led iftar campaign that has hosted similar events for Muslims and non-Muslims alike in seven cities and four continents. 

“The iftar provides a great opportunity for us to come together and to know one another,” an attendee said. “More than offering a free meal, the iftar allows us to engage with one another, and that is what we need more of.”

The initiative was shortlisted in 2016 as one of the 50 most innovative Global Muslim Startups and has attracted figures from a plethora of professional backgrounds.

Full report at:



Washington's Iran strategy reinforces conservatives, endangers region: France

May 23, 2018

PARIS: The US decision to scrap the Iran nuclear deal and implement a tough strategy on the country will strengthen Tehran's hardliners and endanger the region as a whole, France's foreign minister said on Wednesday.

Jean-Yves Le Drian was speaking two days after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington would impose "the strongest sanctions in history" if Iran did not curb its regional influence and limit its ballistic missile programme.

"We disagree with the method because this collection of sanctions, which will be set up against Iran, will not enable dialogue and on the contrary it will reinforce the conservatives and weaken President (Hassan) Rouhani. This posture risks endangering the region more," Le Drian told France Inter radio.

He said Paris shared Washington's concerns over Iran's ballistic missile "frenzy" and regional hegemonic ambitions, but that the 2015 nuclear deal was the best chance of stopping Tehran developing a nuclear bomb.

Deputy foreign ministers of the remaining parties to the accord- Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia- will meet their Iranian counterpart on Friday in Vienna.

The meeting will assess what can be done to keep the deal and circumvent extraterritorial American sanctions that are already impacting foreign business appetite for Iran.

European companies say they are worried about getting caught up in the new US sanctions, given the extent of Washington's global reach, and some have already started pulling out.

Full report at:



Ambassador participates in forum on Russia-Islamic World cooperation


Moscow, May 23 (BNA): The Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the Russian Federation, Ahmed Abdulrahman Al-Saati, participated in a panel discussion entitled "Russia and the Islamic World: Prospects of Economic Cooperation."

The panel discussion was organised by the Russian State Duma's International Affairs Committee.

The Bahraini Ambassador highlighted the promising investment opportunities in the Kingdom of Bahrain and the legal and logistic facilities available to investors, which, he said, qualifies the Kingdom to be a gateway to the Arab region and even to the regions beyond the Arabian Peninsula.

Ambassador Al-Saati pointed to the strategic partnership between the Kingdom of Bahrain and the Russian Federation, which recently chose Manama, the capital of the Kingdom of Bahrain, as a distribution centre for gas, grain and other Russian products in the region.

He highlighted the great development accomplishments achieved by the Kingdom of Bahrain, shed light on its friendly investment environment, and reinforced the historical role of the Kingdom of Bahrain in the international trade movement.

The envoy praised the global financial position which the Kingdom of Bahrain has occupied for more than four decades, and as the capital of Islamic banking, which will contribute to the development of economic and investment cooperation between Russia and the Islamic world through the Kingdom of Bahrain, expressing the Kingdom's readiness to provide its expertise in this field to the Russian Federation.

Al-Saati confirmed the great opportunities for investment in the field of tourism between the Islamic world and the Russian Federation, thanks to the common denominators that link them, which enable them to increase the volume of tourism exchange.

The Bahraini Ambassador expressed his hope that the Russian Federation will provide more facilities in the issuance of visas to achieve this goal, especially since most of the GCC countries, including the Kingdom of Bahrain, grants visas to Russian citizens at the airport upon arrival.

The discussion was attended by a large number of officials, experts and individuals interested in the Russian parliament, media centers and institutions and other non-governmental organizations.

Full report at:



Islamic State supporter called for Prince George terror attack, court told

23 May 2018

An Islamic State supporter encouraged "lone wolf" attackers to target Prince George and inject poison into supermarket ice creams, a court heard.

Husnain Rashid, 32, of Leonard Street in Nelson, Lancashire provided an "e-toolkit for terrorism" over the internet, the prosecution alleges.

He is accused of calling for the prince to be targeted at Thomas's Battersea primary school in south-west London.

Mr Rashid denies six terrorism offences at Woolwich Crown Court.

The jury was told that the former mosque teacher, who also used to work for a tyre business, ran a "prolific" online channel named the "Lone Mujahid".

He is accused of posting a photograph of the four-year-old prince, along with his school's address, a silhouette of a jihad fighter and the message: "Even the royal family will not be left alone."

He also allegedly advised a British terrorist in Syria named Omar Ali Hussain on how to make successful attacks, including bringing down "enemy" aircraft with lasers.

The court heard that Mr Hussain was the main person contacted by the defendant who had himself "made preparations" to fight for Islamic State abroad.

Other alleged targets he suggested included a Halloween Parade in New York and railway stations in Australia.

Prosecutor Annabel Darlow said: "His proposals were indiscriminate and made no distinction between adult and child, between members of fighting forces and civilians.

"His suggestions included injecting poison into supermarket ice creams and targeting Prince George at his first school."

Ms Darlow said Mr Rashid specialised in supporting lone attackers with "every conceivable type of attack" including the use of bombs, chemicals and knives.

He is also accused of distributing the al-Qaeda terror magazine Inspire, and allegedly wanted to travel to Syria to fight in Islamic State territories.

The court heard when police raided his house he "hurled" a phone containing a "treasure trove" of evidence over a wall and into an alleyway.

Mr Rashid denies three counts of engaging in conduct in preparation of terrorist acts, one of encouraging terrorism, two of dissemination of a terrorist publication, and one of failing to comply with a notice under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.

Full report at:



Germany to US: Europe united on preserving Iran deal

May 23, 2018

Europe is still “very, very united” on continuing to support Iran's nuclear deal, says German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

Mass made the remarks on Wednesday during a meeting with US National Security Adviser John Bolton.    

“Europe is very, very united in its position on the nuclear accord with Iran, and that will not change... We don’t want a proliferation of nuclear weapons in our expanded neighborhood,” he said.

Maas noted that European countries share concerns about Iran’s missile program, but believe that such issues should be addressed without undermining the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Mass also met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo where he suggested a four-way meeting with Germany, Britain, France and the United States concerning the deal.

"I think we're far away from a compromise" with the US, Maas noted, adding, "We're pursuing two completely different paths."

Earlier in the day, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei set out conditions for Tehran to stay in the nuclear deal with world powers, including steps by European banks to safeguard trade with Tehran after the US withdrawal from the agreement.

Ayatollah Khamenei added that European powers must protect Iranian oil sales from US pressure and continue buying Iranian crude, and must promise they would not seek new talks on Iran's missile program and regional activities.

In his first major foreign policy address since moving to the State Department from the CIA, Pompeo said on Monday that Washington would increase the financial pressure on Iran by imposing the "strongest sanctions in history" on the Islamic Republic if Tehran refused to change the course of its foreign and domestic policy.

Pompeo also outlined 12 US demands for Iran, including halting its uranium enrichment and closing its heavy water reactor, for any "new deal" with Tehran.

He spoke two weeks after President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the Iran nuclear deal that had lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program.

Trump announced on May 8 that Washington was walking away from the nuclear agreement, which was reached between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- the US, Britain, France, Russia and China -- plus Germany – in 2015.

Full report at:



Russia says US demands unacceptable for Iran, vows to help maintain JCPOA

May 23, 2018

The Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman says new US demands from Iran are totally unacceptable, vowing that Moscow will continue to work towards maintaining the Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

"We are concerned about the fact that the anti-Iranian campaign is on the rise in Washington. It seems that the United States has made a final decision to use the tactics of ultimatums and threats in respect to Iran. It contradicts the spirit of the JCPOA and does not fall within the normal inter-state relations,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a briefing on Wednesday.

“Not only did the US administration withdraw from the agreement in violation of international norms, it is putting forward demands that are a priori unacceptable for Tehran," she added.

In his first major foreign policy address since moving to the State Department from the CIA, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington would increase the financial pressure on Iran by imposing the "strongest sanctions in history" on the Islamic Republic if Tehran refused to change the course of its foreign and domestic policy.

Pompeo also outlined 12 US tough demands for Iran, including halting its uranium enrichment and closing its heavy water reactor, for any "new deal" with Tehran.

The remarks came weeks after US President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of the JCPOA signed between Iran and major powers.

Trump announced on May 8 that Washington was walking away from the nuclear agreement, which was reached between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- the US, Britain, France, Russia and China -- plus Germany – in 2015.

He also said he would reinstate US nuclear sanctions on Iran and impose "the highest level" of economic bans on the Islamic Republic.

The Russian spokesperson said that while the US pulled out of the JCPOA, “other participants in the deal are determined to maintain the agreement, adding, "We will continue working to that end. The important thing is that Tehran also abides by its obligations, as confirmed by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency).”

Zakharova said the fate of the Iran deal would be decoded at a new meeting of the Joint Commission monitoring the implementation of the agreement in Vienna on May 25, which will not include the US for the first time.

The Russian official also once again expressed Moscow’s opposition to unilateral sanctions.

"We have never supported the policy of unilateral sanctions and will never do that as we believe them to be illegal. We are determined to advance our comprehensive cooperation with Iran," Zakharova concluded.

In the wake of Washington’s exit from the deal, European parties to the nuclear pact are working to find a way to keep it in effect.

Full report at:





Pakistan's Nawaz Sharif says intelligence chief asked him to resign in 2004: Remarks may further fray tense civil-military ties

May 24, 2018

Islamabad: Pakistan's former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday accused a former intelligence chief of asking him to resign during opposition protests in 2014, comments likely to further fray tense civil-military relations ahead of general elections.

Sharif's allegations, made in court documents before the three-time premier read them to a news conference, were a rare explicit accusation by the veteran leader of political meddling by the military. In other thinly-veiled remarks aimed at the military, Sharif, who was ousted by the Supreme Court in July, also suggested he was removed from office over his foreign policy stance and refusal to drop a treason case against former army dictator Pervez Musharraf.

Sharif said the 2014 protests organised by opposition figure Imran Khan, which paralysed capital Islamabad for several months, were designed to send him a message that no good would come from pursuing the Musharraf case.

"Those days, a message was sent to me from the chief of an intelligence agency that I should resign, and if that is not possible, I should go on a long leave," Sharif said, without identifying either. "The demand for my resignation or going on long leave was based on this impression that if Nawaz Sharif was removed from the way it wouldn’t be difficult to wrap up the case against Musharraf."

Pakistan has a host of intelligence agencies but in the past the military-run Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency has most often been accused of election meddling. The military, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment, has denied it is behind any political interference in the run-up to the general elections expected in July.

In March, the army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, told a group of journalists the military was a neutral institution and was only concerned with protecting other institutions, according to media leaks of Bajwa’s comments.

Sharif, the founder of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, was removed by the Supreme Court over a small source of undeclared income, and later deemed ineligible to head any political party, but has de facto control of PML-N.

He also faces a jail term of up to 14 years in a corruption trial that he calls a “witch hunt” and politically motivated.

Sharif's confrontational approach has cleaved sharp divisions within PML-N, which has been weakened over the past year, and where many lawmakers would prefer a more conciliatory approach with the military.

On Wednesday, Sharif also suggested he was removed from office because of his foreign policy stance. His government had clashed with the military over control of key issues, especially ties with arch-foe India, the United States and Afghanistan.

“I was becoming a stumbling block in some matters,” he said. “That’s why, removing me from my office, removing from party, disqualifying for lifetime and kicking from the political process was considered the only solution.”



Pakistan ready to work with regional countries to eliminate terrorism: Tehmina Janjua

May 23, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Wednesday said that the terrorism should not be identified with any religion, individual countries or nationalities and offered to work with regional countries to eliminate the menace from the region at a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) also attended by India.

Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua made the remarks while inaugurating a meeting of the Legal Experts Group of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation-Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (SCO-RATS) here.

Experts from the eight SCO member states - China, Kazakhstan, India, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Pakistan - are attending the meeting.

India's presence at the meeting assumes significance since it had boycotted the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit here in 2016 citing continuing support to cross-border terrorism from Pakistan.

"We now look forward to working with regional countries under the umbrella of SCO to effectively eliminate terrorism from our region. Pakistan fully supports and welcomes the efforts of SCO-RATS in the fight against 'three evils' of terrorism, extremism and separatism," Janjua said.

She said Pakistan is cognizant of the threats posed by terrorism, separatism and extremism to the region and beyond.

Janjua said Pakistan lost thousands of its citizens and security personnel, with many more injured. It also suffered economic losses of over USD 120 billion.

"But neither the human nor the financial losses have diminished my country's resolve to fight this menace. Through our comprehensive efforts, over the past several years, supported by a firm domestic political consensus, we have been able to turn the tide," she said.

She said that terrorism cannot and should not be identified with any religion, individual countries or nationalities.

Janjua said the SCO holds special significance for Pakistan.

"We take pride in becoming a full member of the SCO last year - an organisation that offers a unique new model of inter-state cooperation for peace, security, connectivity and sustainable development," she said.

Janjua said SCO holds tremendous potential for connectivity, trade, energy and economic development. It can lead to progress and prosperity for the entire region.

She said Pakistan with over 200 million people offers the SCO enormous opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation.

"Pakistan's historical and cultural ties, as well as strong economic and strategic links with the SCO members, can act as an enabler in realizing the SCO's vision," she said.

Janjua said Pakistan as new member would continue to complement these efforts.

"We support SCO consensus that as we engage in the fight against terrorism, we must respect the norms and principles of international law, UN Charter and shun 'double standards'," she said.

She said Pakistan strongly believed that SCO-RATs is an ideal forum for exchange of views and best practices on countering terrorism and extremism.

Full report at:



Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors voices concern at curbs on media freedom

May 24, 2018

KARACHI: Arif Nizami and Dr Jabbar Khattak, the president and the secretary general respectively of the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE), have expressed concern over curbs on freedom of expression, especially attempts by certain elements to hamper distribution of newspapers and electronic media transmissions.

“These attempts constitute an attack on freedom of expression and the concept of a free media,” the CPNE office-bearers said in a joint statement. “The CPNE will never compromise on freedom of media.”

Mr Nizami and Dr Khattak said governmental and non-governmental, political as well as non-political and religious organisations were responsible for the attacks on media freedom.

The CPNE leaders said media houses and journalists had always handled threats like abductions, arrests and even murders with stoicism, but the present “criminal threats are so cruel” that no media house or journalist could even dare complain about it.

Restrictions on reporting posed a grave challenge to newspapers and news channels, Mr Nizami and Dr Khattak said. “Intolerance on the part of politicians and aggressive statements discourage journalists from carrying out their professional duties.”

Full report at:



No one can stop MQM if it decides to pursue south Sindh: Farooq Sattar

May 23, 2018

Leader of Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) Farooq Sattar on Wednesday said that if the party decides to demand south Sindh, no one will be able to stand in their way.

Addressing the media outside the Parliament house, the MQM-P head said Chief Minister of Sindh, Murad Ali Shah, hurt the sentiments of the Muhajirs on the Sindh Assembly floor and that the party condemns the CM’s speech.

JSPM merges with PTI on promise of south Punjab province

In a vocal outburst yesterday, CM Shah said that he condemned those who advocated for a separate province in Sindh. “The leader of opposition sent a paper from 1962 which championed the formation of a separate province in Sindh. I very strongly oppose such ideas and anybody who still gives it a second thought needs to get rid of it.”

“He delivered a hate speech on the entire Mohajir community which has met violation and strict reaction in various parts of the province. However, we are instructing our members to be patient,” said Sattar. Taking a jibe at the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader, Sattar said that Karachi’s heatwave seems to have taken its toll on Shah.

The MQM-P leader demanded Shah’s apology within 48 hours and warned of a protest after the Namaz-e-Taraweeh if the apology isn’t tendered.

Sattar further said that Shah’s predecessors opposed the formation of Pakistan, while the PPP sowed the seeds of a Muhajir province with their attitude. With the language and quota system, the foundation of Sindh division was laid in 1972 while the lands of Karachi and its resources are being looted.

On April 11, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) Vice President Shah Mehmood Qureshi in a tweet expressed his party’s support for a separate province of South Punjab. The tweet came before the Junoobi Punjab Sooba Mahaz (JPSM) lawmakers joined the party. MNAs and MPAs deflected from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) joined PTI to pursue their ideology.

The party leader expressed his support saying that PTI supports the creation of a separate province of South Punjab and the bifurcation of Punjab on administrative grounds.

PML-N’s south Punjab defectors to join PTI

Earlier this week on Monday, eight legislators parted ways with the ruling party and also announced launching a mass movement for the sole purpose of making South Punjab a separate province.

Full report at:



PML-N govt breaks chains of terrorism, energy crisis; restore peace, economy

May 24, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Defence Engineer Khurram Dastagir Khan on Wednesday said that Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), government had broken the chains of terrorism for restoring peace and economy in Pakistan besides addressed the problem of energy.

Increasing growth rate of Pakistan would help strengthen diplomacy and institutions, he said while talking to a news channel.

Political stability and continuity in the democratic system was imperative to achieve higher growth rate for the country, he said adding that PML-N government following the vision of Nawaz Sharif was working for ‘civilian supremacy’ and ‘sanctity of vote’.

The people of Karachi had been facing target killing, extortion, and terrorism like situation, he said adding that PML-N government with the help of Army had addressed the problem of this big city and made it peaceful. The investors were visiting to this part of the country due to peaceful environment, he added.

Khurram Dastagir said that present government had seriously worked on Neelum-Jhelum and Tarbella IV and made these projects functional in a short period of time. He added PML-N government had acquired the land for Diamer-Bhasha dam and that the project would be completed in near future for meeting the demand of energy.

To a question about PTI’s 100 days plan, he said PTI was not capable to streamline the system in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa.

Commenting on India’s Kishan-Ganga project , he said Pakistan had expressed concerns with world bank (WB). Foreign Minister Khurram Dastagir said Pakistan wanted dialogue with India on mutual respect, for progress and prosperity of the people of both the region.

Full report at:



Basic facilities more important for Fata than merger: PM

Ibrahim Shinwari

May 24, 2018

LANDI KOTAL: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has said that provision of basic facilities to the people of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) was more important than merging the region with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Addressing a tribal gathering at Jamrud sub-division of Khyber Agency on Wednesday after inaugurating a 132kv grid station, he said that better education and health facilities, road infrastructure, gas and electricity and all other basic facilities enjoyed by the residents of major cities of Pakistan was also a basic legal and constitutional right of the people of Fata.

“These are our initial targets and priorities for which the federal government is trying to explore and provide financial resources and we have made estimates of Rs100 billion for the overall development of Fata,” he added.

The prime minister informed the tribal gathering that hectic consultations were under way with all the parliamentary parties to find a consensus on the Fata reforms process that he said was a continuous process and could not be completed in a day or two.

He said that his government was aware of the fact that different people have different opinions about the proposed merger plan and thus the parliament would do what was in the greater interest of Pakistan and the people of Fata.

Mr Abbasi reminded the tribal gathering that both houses of parliament had already passed the bill regarding extension of jurisdiction of both the Supreme Court and Peshawar High Court and people of Fata would have the right of appeal to the superior judiciary once a judicial and police system was established in the region.

He said that the financial powers of the political administration had also been considerably curtailed with the abolition of Agency Development Fund and the Rahdari system which was an additional financial burden on the people of Fata and was grossly misused by the political administrations.

He said that all the political parties were united in the government desire to initiate massive development in Fata prior to practically implementing the merger plan. “The implementation of this huge development plan will be initiated during the next financial year,” he added.

Earlier, the prime minister inaugurated the 132kv Jamrud grid station which was completed at a cost of Rs786 million.

Mr Abbasi urged the tri­besmen to help in curtailing the Tribal Areas Elec­tricity Supply Company’s losses so that duration of loadshedding could also be reduced.

He was told on the occasion that apart from improving the power supply system in Khyber Agency, the new grid station would also help generate more employment opportunities.

Full report at:



JUI-F workers block road against Fata-KP merger

May 23, 2018

LANDI KOTAL: A handful of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F supporters on Tuesday blocked the Peshawar-Torkham highway here against the federal government’s plan to merge tribal areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Holding party flags and banners inscribed with anti-merger slogans, the protesters also chanted against the federal government and the political forces supporting the merger plan. Traffic on the main road remained suspended for nearly two hours.

Fata Grand Alliance leaders Malak Khan Marjan, a few local pro-administration elders and Khyber Bazaar Union president Gul Afridi were also present.

JUI-F Fata leader Mufti Ejaz, while addressing the protesters, said the merger plan was not acceptable to his party as it was devised without taking majority of the tribesmen into confidence. He warned of serious repercussions if the plan was implemented in haste.

Another JUI-F leader from Jamrud, Said Kabeer Afridi, alleged that the merger plan was a foreign agenda which his party had rejected.

Full report at:



Pakistan hosts its first 3-day SCO anti-terrorism meeting in Islamabad

May 24, 2018

Pakistan is hosting three-day Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure Legal Experts meeting in Islamabad on Wednesday, reported Radio Pakistan.

This is the first ever SCO meeting being held in Pakistan since becoming a member of SCO in June last year.

Legal experts from the eight member states, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, India, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Pakistan, as well as representatives of the SCO and Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure Executive Committee will participate in the meeting. They will discuss terrorist threats facing the region and ways and means to enhance counter-terrorism cooperation between SCO member states.

In a statement, Foreign Office said Pakistan supports SCO’s efforts for regional cooperation in fighting terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crimes.

It says Pakistan is ready to share experiences in tackling the menace of terrorism.

Addressing the opening ceremony, Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua shared Pakistan’s experiences in tackling the issue of terrorism in the country. “Pakistan has faced losses of billions in the war against terrorism, and we are ready to cooperate with SCO members in combating this threat,” she said.

Full report at:



Pakistan being blamed for US failures in Afghanistan, says Hafiz Saeed

May 24, 2018

HYDERABAD: Milli Muslim League (MML) Chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed said that Pakistan was being blamed by the United States (US) for its own failures in Afghanistan.

“Daesh is a dangerous weapon created by the US which it is using against the Islamic world,” claimed Saeed.

The MML chief also warned that if the Kashmir cause was abandoned, Pakistan would have to face increasingly difficult challenges.

“Our rulers should take their own decisions in the larger interest of the nation and the country instead of looking towards foreign forces,” Saeed also said.

He further said, “We will have to determine our role in this current scenario.”



FC Balochistan thwart terror attempt, recover huge hoard of weapons

MAY 24, 2018

QUETTA: The Frontier Corps (FC) of Balochistan on Wednesday conducted an operation in different areas of the province. As a result of these operations, huge stock of weapons was recovered and many terror attempts were foiled.

According to sources, the operations were carried out on intelligence-based information in Garar, Nullah and Mastung areas of Balochistan.

An FC Balochistan spokesperson stated that during the operation, five rocket launchers, two 107 MM missiles and hundreds of bullets were recovered.





Charity accuses Nigerian troops of abusing ‘Boko Haram wives’

24 MAY 2018

The use of British troops to train Nigerian forces must be reviewed after it emerged soldiers are subjecting women and girls escaping from Boko Haram to “vile abuse”, according to a report published on Thursday.

Nigerian security forces have carried out “systematic patterns of violence and abuse” against the young women and children they claim to have rescued, alleges Amnesty International.

Women told Amnesty they were raped in exchange for food and thousands of people, including children, have starved to death in camps set up by the Nigerian army after they were freed.

But the human rights charity also blames British forces for not doing enough to protect women and girls.

“If it turns out that British troops have been training or supporting any of the units involved in these crimes, a UK investigation must immediately take place and British military training to those units should be suspended” said Oliver Feeley-Sprague, Amnesty UK’s military, security and policing programme director.

“This evidence must serve as an urgent warning to the UK government and the British forces currently training and supporting a military that is using its power to horrifically abuse the very people it’s meant to be protecting”, he warned.

The report, entitled ‘They betrayed us’, is the result of a two-year investigation and interviews with more than 250 people. It examines what happened to the hundreds of thousands of people, especially women, who fled or were forced from areas controlled by Boko Haram.

In some cases, the abuse appears to be part of a pattern of persecution of anyone perceived to have a connection to Boko Haram. Women reported being beaten and called “Boko Haram wives” by the security officials when they complained about their treatment. The report says women and girls were selected for soldiers to abuse. Women reported they were too afraid to refuse demands for sex.

“It is absolutely shocking that people who had already suffered so much under Boko Haram have been condemned to further horrendous abuse by the Nigerian military,” said Osai Ojigho, director of Amnesty International Nigeria.

Nigeria is Africa's most populous country with around 180 million people and its second largest economy. Trade with the UK is worth £4 billion a year. The Department for International Development’s aid budget for Nigeria was £225 million last year.

However, conflict blights the oil-rich delta region and there is a violent Islamist insurgency in the north-east of the country. The Foreign Office warns that the risk of terrorist kidnaps is high and advises visitors to avoid places where there are political or other large public gatherings.

Theresa May met with President Buhari of Nigeria at Downing Street in April, where she reiterated the two countries’ “close and longstanding” defence and security cooperation. The Prime Minister said she was saddened so many girls had been affected by the security situation in Nigeria.

Around 70 British military personnel train Nigerian forces in leadership and general infantry skills. They provide specific training to combat gender-based violence.

A Government spokesperson said: "The military training and assistance to the Armed Forces of Nigeria has consistently emphasised the importance of adherence to internationally recognised Rules of Engagement, as well as the importance of International Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.”

Boko Haram is an Islamist terrorist group operating in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger. The group has been fighting a nine-year insurgency to establish a sharia state and remove western influence from the country. It pledged allegiance to Isil in 2015.

In March Boko Haram used small arms, anti-aircraft weapons and rocket propelled grenades to attack a military base. Nine members of the Nigerian security forces and three UN personnel were killed.

In February three suicide bombers detonated devices at a fish market in the town of Konduga. Nineteen civilians were killed and over 70 others wounded.

Boko Haram kidnapped around 300 girls from their school in the north-western town of Chibok in 2014, as they gathered to take exams. The militants objected to them receiving education, claiming it corrupted Muslim values. Some girls managed to escape and around 100 were controversially freed last year in exchange for five militants commanders, in negotiations brokered by the International Committee of the Red Cross.



Nigeria: 'Buhari Must Wake Up' Bishops Say After Church Attack

23 MAY 2018

Nationwide protests were held this week in Nigeria to mark the funeral of two priests and 17 church members in Benue State. The government must do more to protect the people, Nigeria's Catholic bishops say.

Felicia Tabo slowly makes her way through the crowds of people. "I came all the way from Abuja," Tabo says, pushing her way closer to the altar to see the white coffins of the two priests and 17 church members who were killed by gunmen on April 24, 2018. "I heard [the news] after morning Mass. They announced it in the church and I almost fainted. What I've been hearing from foreign countries, happened in my own country," she says in disbelief. "So I said, let me come down and witness it." Her journey to the funeral service in Gwer in Benue State took five hours.

Like Tabo, tens of thousands of Nigerians followed the call of the Catholic bishops. They held services and protest marches all over the country.

The attack on the church was the latest in a series of clashes between farmers and herders in the region that have left hundred of people dead over the past few months. The murder of priests and church members was blamed on herders belonging to the Fulani ethnic group. In retaliation to the church attack, 11 people were killed.

'Where are we safe?'

Makurdi, the provincial capital of Benue State, saw the largest protests. State governor Samuel Ortom and Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo also paid their respects to the victims of the attack. The recurring attacks have, however, made people very skeptical of the government's efforts to address insecurity. Last month, Nigerian lawmakers even called on President Muhammadu Buhari to appear before parliament to explain how he intends to address the crisis. "If we aren't even safe in the places where we pray, how can we feel safe anywhere else?" asked Cardinal John Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja, in his sermon.

The memorial services and the protests are the church's strongest criticism of the Nigerian government to date. "[President Buhari] should wake up to his responsibilities. He was elected as a president for the people of this country, not for any particular group, not for any tribe," said Wilfried Chikpa Anagbe, bishop of the Makurdi diocese, where the attack took place. "He is the president of Nigeria as a nation with about 200 million people, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, pagans."

Church no longer behind the government

Without the support of the Catholic Church, the government could lose one of the most influential bodies in the country. While there are no recent figures on membership numbers, especially in comparison to the growing membership of free churches, some bishops are still seen as important moral authorities by Nigerians of various Christian denominations as well as by some Muslims.

"The Nigerian church has supported Buhari firmly. When he came we agreed with him on his war against corruption and indiscipline." said Bishop Anagbe. Since 2015, when Buhari came into office, he had regular meetings with the religious authorities. "When he started deviating, we said this will not work. In February this year, the administrative board met him and gave him all the proposals." Things need to change immediately, the bishops told him. After the killing of the priests, some senior church members even called for Buhari's resignation.

The main point of conflict with the government is its handling of the crisis between farmers and herders. The latter belong to the Fulani ethnic group. According to Anagbe, this is no longer a simple dispute over grazing and farmland. "We want to know who is behind this. How can a simple herder afford such weapons?" Anagbe asks.

Herders blamed

But the church's message is not welcome everywhere. The Fulani feel stigmatized. Time and again they have been equated with terrorists and the entire ethnic group is being blamed for the attacks. Cattle herders don't want a crisis either, says Shettima Mohammed, secretary of the herders' association Miyetti Allah in Benue State. The problem has become so big, that even a simple Fulani taxi driver who is not part of the conflict can be stigmatized because of his heritage. "He is the first loser. He is the first one who will never get to peace and rest of mind," he adds.

Full report at:



Islamic State Claims Bombing In Libya That Killed 2

May 23, 2018

CAIRO (AP) — The Islamic State group on Wednesday claimed responsibility for a car bombing at a checkpoint in eastern Libya that killed at least two security personnel.

Libyan officials said Tuesday's attack, which left two others wounded, took place at the southern entrance of Ajdabiya, west of Benghazi. The town is controlled by the self-styled Libyan National Army, led by Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter, which forced Islamic militants out in 2016.

The officials said militants attacked another checkpoint in the northeastern town of Awjila, kidnapping a police officer. IS also claimed that attack.

The country is currently split between governments in the east and west. Hifter's LNA is allied with the east-based administration at odds with the United Nations-backed government based in the capital, Tripoli. Alongside the rival administrations, mostly Islamic militias wield considerable influence and control large swathes of territory in the vast North African nation.

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya on Wednesday condemned Tuesday's attacks.

"The upsurge of ISIS-claimed attacks is a serious threat that should not go unnoticed by the Libyan and the international community," the mission said in a statement. ISIS is a common acronym for the Islamic State group.

Separately, Brigadier Gen. Abdul-Hamid al-Werfali, an LNA commander, was killed in clashes with militants in the eastern city of Derna, military spokesman Brigadier Gen. Ahmed al-Mosmari said late Tuesday.

The LNA has surrounded the city of 150,000 people for years and clashes have been ongoing since early April. Hifter announced earlier this month that his forces have launched a military operation aimed at "liberating" Derna from extremist groups who have controlled the coastal city for years.

"After four years of struggle against terrorists, we are close to the liberation of Derna," he said in televised comments on Wednesday.

Full report at:



Haftar forces in Libya tighten noose on Derna jihadists

May 23, 2018

Strongman Khalifa Haftar's self-proclaimed Libyan National Army said today it was tightening the noose on the last jihadist bastion in the country's east after breaking through the suburbs of Derna.

Haftar launched an offensive on May 7 to "liberate" the eastern coastal city, home to about 150,000 people and held by hardline fighters since the fall of Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

"Army forces are steadily advancing on Derna to liberate it from the grip of terrorist groups," LNA spokesman General Ahmad al-Mesmari told AFP.

The LNA carried out "combat missions" and took control of fortified positions at the entrances of the city, he said.

Yesterday, the spokesman announced the death of the head of an LNA special forces unit, without specifying whether there had been other losses among

Haftar's forces since the offensive began.

"The enemy has suffered heavy losses in terms of men and equipment," he added.

In a speech late yesterday, Haftar said the LNA was "near victory", calling on his forces to protect civilians and their property and to treat prisoners well. "We are close... to liberating our country from the last bastion of terrorism," he said.

Rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, have expressed concern over risks to civilians in Derna.

LNA forces have besieged the city for nearly two years, making it difficult for residents to access humanitarian aid.

Derna is held by a ragtag coalition of Islamist and jihadist militias, including groups close to Al-Qaeda, hostile to both Haftar and the Islamic State group. Libya has been wracked by chaos since a 2011 uprising that toppled and killed long-time dictator Kadhafi, with two rival authorities vying for control.

Haftar supports an administration based in the east of the country. A UN-backed unity government based in the capital Tripoli has struggled to assert its authority outside the west.

Full report at:



Salame risks Libyan division to serve West's interests: sources

May. 23, 2018

CAIRO – 23 May 2018: Official Libyan sources criticized the role played by SRSG and UNSMIL head Ghassan Salame through Western organizations that hold meetings in Morocco and Dakar to "polish" the political Islam in Libya in a failed attempt to re-produce the Islamists in the political scene.

They added that Salame was mistaken when he compared Cairo's meetings to unite Libyan parties to the meetings of Dakar and Morocco, which have achieved very little on the ground.

The Libyan sources claimed that Salame cooperates with suspicious French-backed organizations, criticizing his desire to bring Islamists back to the political scene in the coming period. The sources warned that security there could deteriorate further in the absence of any progress towards a political solution.

Some of the Libyan political parties criticized the series of meetings promoted by Salame to try to support the French vision in Libya and serve Paris' interests in the country, referring to Salame's attempts to marginalize in his brief to the UN Security Council yesterday.

Salame has reported to the UN Security Council on the latest situation in Libya, revealing that he had finally given up on attempting to get the conflicting entrenched Libyan parties to amend the stalled Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) signed in the Moroccan town of in December 2015. This had been one of the main pillars of his 2017 Action Plan.

Instead, Salame said that he was now pushing ahead for elections to be held by the end of 2018, subject to proper conditions. He said that there now exists a nationwide call for elections which was confirmed by the initial outcomes of the National Conference events. Salame called on the House of Representatives in consultation with the High State Council to deliver the necessary legislation for elections.

The Libyan sources said that the country is too divided to hold elections and Salame risks partition if it goes ahead with a vote without security guarantees and a national consensus on building a state.

As he mentioned in his March briefing to UNSC, Salame confirmed that he will reveal UNSMIL’s plans to deal with Libya’s militias. He admitted that this plan ‘‘will not unravel armed groups tomorrow but will help the long process begin in earnest.’’

The UNSMIL head also criticized Faiez Serraj for intending to give unlimited powers to the Salafist Special Deterrence Force (Rada) militia which was recently condemned by Reporters Without Frontiers (RSF).

He noted that ‘‘the continued influence of armed groups upon politics and the economy is perilous, and unless resisted is in danger of expanding; as recently shown in a disputed decision by the Government of National Accord to give powers to an armed group, that can only belong to the sovereign state.’’

Meanwhile, Egypt's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sameh Shoukry, along with his Tunisian and Algerian counterparts, took part in a tripartite meeting on Libya, held on Monday in Algeria.

The meeting discussed the holding of a referendum on a new constitution in Libya, and the parliamentary and presidential elections that the United Nations intended to hold before the end of this year.

They also discussed ways to strengthen the efforts to accelerate the peace and reconciliation process between Libyan disputing parties.

Three consultative meetings were already held over the issue of Libya, respectively in Algeria in June 2017, in Egypt in November 2017 and in Tunisia in December 2017.

On the other hand, the Popular National Movement said in a statement on Saturday that the Dakar meetings, that took place last week in the Senegalese capital, included several terrorist factions known for using violence.

The statement revealed that several radical Islamist political figures, affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, attended the meeting and were discussing the country’s future and political situation in an unacceptable way, and that “All of these figures are just using religion again to control the country.”

Furthermore, the statement said that among the factions that attended the Dakar meetings was the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. “This group used to be the backbone of terrorist organizations in Libya,” the statement stressed.

The Libyan Popular National Movement accused the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group of being responsible for all the violence that took place inside the country during the past years; therefore, the Dakar meetings were refused by several political movements and figures, saying that many of the political parties attending the meetings were not “accepted within the political scene anymore,” unless they issue a formal apology to the government.

The meeting which concluded May 13, called all the Libyan political parties to take part in the coming round of talks, set to take place within the coming 60 days.

Since the ouster of long-time Libyan leader Muammar Ghaddafi more than six years ago, the war-torn country has drawn wide international and regional attention, posing a threat to North African and European national security.

Libya, which is struggling to get through the critical political situation that it has been experiencing since 2011, is not only trying to unify its army, but is also longing to revive its political functions by conducting presidential and legislative elections by mid-2018.

Full report at:



Decades of war ruined Somalia but it is now picking the pieces

May. 24, 2018

War. It opens the floodgates of violence and unlimited brutality. The aftermath is death, displacement, shattered social fabric and collapse of governance.

Somalia in Africa is one of the countries that know too well the cost of war.

A booming Somalia descended into anarchy after strongman Siad Barre was overthrown in the 1990s. The armed conflicts pitted warlords and clan militia that led to the collapse of the official state. All institutions shut down, rendering the once-vibrant country a failed state. It defied UN and US intervention.

For about 10 years from 2006, the Union of Islamic Courts had control over Mogadishu until it was ousted by Ethiopian forces with US support. Ethiopia, however, was unable to exert full control, leaving the country and capital a battleground for the then UN-backed government and al Shabaab militants.

The preceding years saw al Shabaab gain control of large swathes of Somalia, including its capital Mogadishu and major sea ports. Piracy bloomed in Gulf of Aden, with the International Maritime Bureau recording over 200 hijackings annually.

The pirates operating in the sea lanes of the horn of Africa hijacked ships, stole cargo and extorted billions in ransoms, which in turn financed anarchy, exploiting the collapsed judicial, law enforcement system and the black market.

But the armed conflict and its effects wasn’t confined to Somalia territory. It was exported to neighbouring countries, with refugees fleeing the war and al Shabaab militia carrying out attacks in Kenya and Uganda. International trade and security also suffered a major blow.


Al Shabaab’s frequent abduction of several foreign tourists and aid workers on Kenyan soil triggered the country to deploy its troops to Somalia in October 2011, under Operation Linda Nchi.

At the time, only Uganda People's Defence Forces was in Somalia, controlling less than 10 per cent of Mogadishu. After Kenya's entry, other neigbouring countries sent in their contingents, which were later merged to operate under the African Union Mission for Somalia (Amisom).

It is now 10 years since the operation began, but what used to be a war-torn country is seeing slow but sure silencing of its guns, with zero incidence of piracy since 2012 after pirates were vanquished.

“This is the first time we are seeing some semblance of development and institutions forming, and now are even we talking about transition,” said Major General Tai Gitaui, Amisom’s deputy force commander for operations and plans.

“Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) war is a war of cowards, which we are seeing much often used by al Shabaab, which means they are losing ground.”

Amisom head Francisco Madeira said the country is moving forward with the help of Amisom forces. “The government that used to operate from Nairobi and later Baidoa now operates not in secrecy or at night but openly in Mogadishu today,” he said, adding that even though al Shabaab sometimes still launches attacks, they were ejected from the city.

He said all regional governments are in operation and in the hands of civilians.

Seated in an ancient building where the Italian governor used to rule Mogadishu is Abdirahman Omar, commonly known as Eng Yarisow, the Benadir Governor and mayor of Mogadishu.

After independence in 1960, Yarisow recalls, his country was among the greatest on the continent and always helped in peacekeeping under then Organisation of Africa Unity, now African Union.

But he was forced to flee at the height of the civil war in 1991. He settled in the UK and built a family and a career. But in 2008, he returned.

He says on his return to Somalia, his family was hesitant and reluctantly wished him good-luck!

“At the moment, no one wanted to work for the government. Looking back 10 years later, though I miss my family and good job I had, I have no regrets,” he said.

“The country is making huge progress thanks to African forces that came to help Somalia in this recovery path. It is a show of PanAfricanism. Without Amisom, we wouldn’t have achieved this progress.”


When Yarisow used to work at the Office of the President, he remembers they would drive through Makkah Mukarram junction very fast to dodge bullets from al Shabaab’s base a hundred metres away.

“Citizens rejected our invites to the villa or any government office. Thinking of working for the government was suicidal, too. Today we are getting many people visiting government offices and every day many are sending their interests to work for government,” he said.

“Over 50 per cent of those who had fled the city to the outskirts are back and have rebuilt their lives. With the help of Amisom, 80 per cent of Somalia is now under the government, and now we can even afford to speak about elections in 2020. This was not possible 10 years ago. Even though we are not yet there, we are on the right track.”

Yarisow said there have been incremental changes in transparency, accountability and governance system, and for the first time, Somali's public financial management system has been accepted by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

This will help it apply for debt relief and in turn attract investments, Yarisow said. He said despite inability to collect taxes, there is considerable growth in all sectors of the economy, as seen in upcoming real estates and the hotel industry.

“This is because our people are entrepreneurial and resilient. That’s why a place al Shabaab has bombed, within a week, a shop will be up and business going on. This is the strength we are banking on to rebuild Somalia, as the public continues to denounce al Shabaab and its ideology in entirety,” he said.

Another sector that has seen exponential growth is education. Before the civil war, there was only one university. It closed and reopened 20 years later. But today, there are over 100 universities, with 50 located in Mogadishu.

The aviation sector has also returned to government control this year, after being under UN control and run from Nairobi since the start of the civil war.

“Our public beaches are also now operational and we are slowly taking back the country to its African riviera status it used to be. Our criminal system is developing but terrorists continue to undermine us, thus lack of witnesses in courts to help in prosecution, leading to collapse of cases,” Yarisow said.

“Terrorists are desperate and are engaging in insurgencies, trying to shutter the people's hope. They have resorted to attacking innocent civilians to earn headlines to show their associates that they still have a foothold here. But these are their end days.”

The mayor said liberalisation of Somalia and its subsequent reconstruction could have been much faster if Amisom was given all the needed logistical support from the UN and the international community.

“If resources similar to those that are being pumped into Iraq and Afghanistan were brought here, the war could have been won long ago. We need logistical enablers,” Yarisow said.

In Dhobley, a football tournament is organised frequently by the Kenya Defence Forces, aimed at promoting the military civilian relations.

“To us this sports is recreation and opportunity to nurture our talents, interact and unite to confront the common enemy. This was not possible when al Shabaab used to control these areas,” Rangers Club team captain Abdirazak Mohamed said.

Full report at:



Nigeria Says 14.8M People Affected By Boko Haram

23 MAY 2018

Nigeria said no fewer than 700 Boko Haram militants have signified their intention to surrender as it told the world the unprecedented humanitarian crisis triggered by the nine year old insurgency in the north east.

Nigeria's Ambassador/Permanent Representative to the UN, Prof. Tijjani Bande, told the UN Security Council that 14.8 million people were affected by the crisis. He said 1.7 million people were internally displaced, with the most adversely affected being children and women.

Bande spoke during an Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflicts.

He assured the international community that 'The Buhari Plan' would bring relief to Northeast Nigeria, currently ravaged by Boko Haram as all efforts were being taken against the insurgency.

The Presidential Committee for North East Initiative developed 'The Buhari Plan' - a framework of action to ensure the rehabilitation of the victims of insurgency and the reconstruction of their communities.

Bande said a robust Social Protection Initiative, and a second National Action Plan to fully implement the provisions of resolution 1325 (2000) had been instituted to protect civilians, particularly women and children from the Boko Haram ravages.

"To that end, the initiatives will also complement the implementation of 'The Buhari Plan', which provides a blueprint for the comprehensive humanitarian relief and socioeconomic stabilisation of the North-East, as well as the return and resettlement of displaced persons.

"We are collaborating with our neighbours, Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin, within the framework of the Multinational Joint Task Force, to defeat the Boko Haram insurgency, which is targeting civilians, particularly women and children," Bande said.

The Buhari Plan' aims to achieve a safe and prosperous Northeast that would be a global model for post-conflict socio-economic recovery and development.

The envoy noted that Nigeria was among the first group of states to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration in Oslo, thereby making a pledge to protect schools during armed conflicts and using and promoting the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict.

Bande said the declaration complemented and strengthened Nigeria's national Safe Schools Initiative established in 2014, as part of the response by the Federal Government to promote safe zones for learning.

He said these initiatives reflected government's commitment to ensuring the security of women and children during armed conflicts and enhancing their active and direct participation in conflict prevention and peacebuilding.

The ambassador said: "It is heartening to note that over a thousand kidnapped women and children have been rescued, and all territories once controlled by the group have been recovered.

"Indeed, our experience in the Lake Chad Region today, is evidence that with determined international collaboration, terrorism can be defeated.

"In addition, the Government of Nigeria has adopted a multinational and multi-agency approach tagged 'Operation Safe Corridor', to effectively handle the de-radicalisation, rehabilitation and reintegration of willing and surrendered Boko Haram members back to the society".

The Nigerian envoy said so far, many insurgents had willingly surrendered to the military, while about 700 others had indicated interest to surrender.

He said Nigeria had taken steps to cater to victims of Boko Haram in the form of rape and other sexual violence against children, abduction of children and other grave violations.

According to him, these steps include providing humanitarian relief, financial, economic, educational and psycho-social support.

"Despite the tremendous efforts being made at the national level, we acknowledge that protecting civilians in conflict situations remains a critical challenge, not only for the United Nations, but also for the entire international community.

"We therefore call for continued collaboration and assistance among the international community to address this issue.

Full report at:




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