New Age Islam
Thu Aug 13 2020, 06:40 AM

Islamic World News ( 3 Jun 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

A Muslim Soldier Was Dismissed From Indian Army After He Refused To Shave Beard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: Hafiz Saeed-led JuD has recently set up a ‘Sharia Court’ to hand out easy and swift justice in Pakistan’s Punjab Province

 

Sharif Govt Powerless As Banned Terror Group Runs Parallel Courts in Pakistan

‘Pakistan Did Not Take Substantial Action against the Afghan Taliban’ or Haqqani Network: State Department

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India

A Muslim Soldier Was Dismissed From Indian Army After He Refused To Shave Beard

A Study in the NCR Shows Search for a House Is Longer and More Arduous For a Muslim Tenant

NIA Files Charge Sheet against Alleged Islamic State Recruiter

AIMPLB against Ban on Triple Talaq

As Muslims Who Grew Up In Hindu-Dominated India, They Appreciate America’s Religious Freedoms

Modi tweets in Dari and Pashto as he arrives in Herat to inaugurate Salma Dam

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Pakistan

Sharif Govt Powerless As Banned Terror Group Runs Parallel Courts in Pakistan

Security Personnel Kill Four Suspected Militants in Quetta

Pakistan key counterterrorism partner in 2015: US report

PTI councillor, three ANP workers killed in armed clash

Hundreds of Afghan vehicles enter Pakistan as restrictions relaxed

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North America

‘Pakistan Did Not Take Substantial Action against the Afghan Taliban’ or Haqqani Network: State Department

US Now Hitting Islamic State Targets from Mediterranean Sea

Analysis: State Department identifies Gulf shortcomings on counterterrorism efforts

From Donald Trump to African Sheikhs, Mourning Ali’s Death on Social Media

U.S.-backed fighters advance to cut off Islamic State, win tacit Turkish support

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Arab World

Syrian Army Starts Fresh Military Operation to Win Back Raqqa

Bomb Blast Kills, Wounds 9 People in A’our Area East of Baghdad

Iraqi Army Blitzes Southern Fallujah

Iraqi Army Arrests ISIL Prominent Sniper in Saqalawiya North of Fallujah

Lavrov: US Asks Russia Not to Target Al-Qaeda Branch in Syria

Russian Air Force Inflicts Heavy Losses on Terrorists in Southern Aleppo

Israeli Forces Open Fire on Farmers in Gaza

Four Ceasefire Violations Reported in Syria in Past 24 Hours

Russian Military Delivers Four Tons of Humanitarian Aid to Syria's Dara'a

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Mideast

Israel Wards Off Antiquity Looters High Above the Dead Sea

A Group in Germany Conspiring Against Turkey, Says Erdoğan

Books and trains share journey in Istanbul's Haydarpaşa station

Turkish negotiator with Israel reassigned

Long road ends: 3 Minnesotans guilty of plotting to join ISIS

Israel releases detained Palestinian MP

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Europe

England, Waled And Northern Ireland Schools Say Muslim Students 'Should Break Ramadan Fast' To Avoid Bad Grades

Officials say 499 Islamic extremists pose threat in Germany

ISIS stoking fears about refugees to destabilise Europe, says police chief

Watch Britain First leader get owned by Muslim lecturer

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Southeast Asia

Philippine Troops Seize Islamic Militant Camp

Nations Struggle To Craft New Mideast Peace Strategy

Indonesian Muslim hard-liners hold anti-communist protest

ARMM’s Darul Ifta’ sets moon sighting for Ramadan on Sunday

New Ma Ba Tha School teaches children to ‘protect race and religion’

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Africa

Why Mali Is the Deadliest Nation for UN Peacekeepers

3 Somali-Americans Found Guilty of Trying to Join Islamic State

Ankara Plans to Open Embassies in All African Countries - Turkish President

French soldiers disciplined over abuse in Central African Republic

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North America

‘Pakistan Did Not Take Substantial Action against the Afghan Taliban’ or Haqqani Network: State Department

US Now Hitting Islamic State Targets from Mediterranean Sea

Analysis: State Department identifies Gulf shortcomings on counterterrorism efforts

From Donald Trump to African Sheikhs, Mourning Ali’s Death on Social Media

U.S.-backed fighters advance to cut off Islamic State, win tacit Turkish support

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South Asia

Rohingya Census Raises Relocation Fears

17 kidnapped passengers released in northern Sar-e-Pul province

Bangladesh saw rise in attacks

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/a-muslim-soldier-was-dismissed-from-indian-army-after-he-refused-to-shave-beard/d/107533

 

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A Muslim Soldier Was Dismissed From Indian Army After He Refused To Shave Beard

Jun 3 2016

After a great deal of legal dispute, a Muslim soldier who insisted on growing beard on religious grounds has been dismissed by the Indian Army and termed him ‘An Undesirable Soldier’.  His dismissal was upheld by the Kochi bench of Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) recently.

The Muslim soldier is identified as Maktumhusen, 34, and he is from Dharwad in Karnataka. He was a sepoy in the Army Medical Corps for nearly 10 years and sought permission from his  Commanding Officer (CO) to have a beard on religious grounds.

The tribunal dismissed his plea that he had the right to grow a beard under Article 25 of the Constitution on religious freedom, which concerns religious freedom, just like Sikhs. The  tribunal said that having a beard was not among the fundamental tenets of Islam.

“The Army is a disciplined force and denominational differences among its members based on religion, caste etc. cannot be permitted. The practice of wearing a beard claimed on the  basis of religion by the applicant which goes against Regulation 665 of the Defence Service Regulations, is not conducive to the discipline of the Force,” it said.

Tribunal Rules:

Sikhs are permitted to keep a well-maintained beard and untrimmed hair across the Services. But the Army, Navy, and the Air force have differing rules. The Army allows non-Sikhs,  especially in certain regiments, to sport a temporary beard.

The Air Force does not allow display of religious symbols on duty or at parades. But Muslims who had a beard at the time of enrolment before January 1, 2002, can keep it. The Navy  allows its personnel to change their appearance. But the CO’s permission is mandatory. Medical grounds grant exemption from the rules.

allindiaroundup.com/news/muslim-soldier-was-dismissed-from-indian-army/

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Sharif govt powerless as banned terror group runs parallel courts in Pakistan

JUNE 4, 2016

Jamaatul Daawa (JuD), a Pakistan-based militant organization active in India and Afghanistan, is running a parallel judicial system from its headquarters in Lahore.

JuD’s self-appointed judges and their aides keep sending summons to citizens to dispense what it calls speedy justice among people in the light of Islamic laws.

A banned organization nationally and a terrorist organization internationally, the JuD is being led by Hafiz Mohammad Saeed designated by UN as the most wanted terrorist. It was Saeed  who founded the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT).

The November 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, which killed 165 innocent people, were blamed on the LeT which is considered to be the military wing of the JuD.

Run by ‘qazis’ (judges), who are assisted by ‘khadmeens’ (court assistants), these courts (‘Darul Qaza’ or Shariah Court) mostly deal with civil cases involving property and monetary  disputes. The complaints are addressed to Saeed who refers them to the qazis.

The JuD justifies the setting up of these courts by describing them as ‘arbitration panels’ where people come voluntarily for resolution of their disputes. But it remains silent on whythese courts issue ‘summons’ backed by the threat of stringent action to the accused, although such action is the domain of the state.

A Lahore-based property dealer, Khalid Saeed, who moved the Lahore High Court (LHC) against a summon issued to him by the self-styled Darul Qaza, was kidnapped by two bearded  men on June 1, severely tortured and threatened for not appearing before the so-called court.

The qazi (judge) of Darul Qaza had summoned him to its headquarters at Chauburji area in Lahore to defend himself against the allegations leveled in the complaint. Khalid had been  summoned on the complaint of his former partner in a property business, alleging misuse of his investment.

But instead of obeying the order, Khalid approached the LHC, challenging the JuD court summons.

“I was heading to the high court on my motorcycle on June 1 when two bearded men intercepted me. They took me to a nearby graveyard on gun point where they subjected me to severe torture and reprimanded me for not appearing before JuD court”, Khalid in a weak voice, lying on a hospital bed, with blood marks on his clothes.

He had apparently underestimated the might of the JuD, for which he had to pay a heavy price, although the LHC had already ordered Punjab home secretary to look into the matter  and decide it strictly in accordance with the law.

The kidnappers of Khalid had threatened him with dire consequences if he did not withdraw the case against the JuD court. Now he thinking whether to withdraw the case.

JuD spokesman Yahya Mujahid defended the ‘Shariah Court’ saying it was not a “parallel judicial system” but an “arbitration court”, which decides disputes with the consent of the  parties. He added that offering arbitration to confronting parties is not illegal. However, he could not justify issuance of summons carrying a “warning of strict action” in case of non- compliance.

The JuD is the first extremist group to have established a ‘Shariah Court’ in Punjab although many such courts operated by pro-Taliban extremist groups had been functioning in the Kyber  Pakhtaunkhawa province.

With the prime objective of establishing an Islamic state in South Asia and uniting all Muslim majority regions in countries that surround Pakistan, the LeT was launched by Saeed in the  Kunar province of Afghanistan in 1989 with the backing of the state-run Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Two decades later, the Lashkar is considered to be one of the most effective jihadi groups operating in Jammu and Kashmir and involved in guerilla activities, largely due to its  extraordinary growth in size, enormous resources as well as fame.

Interestingly, despite being declared a terrorist organisation by US State Department and placed on the terror watch list of the Pakistan government, the JuD has been enjoying  considerable freedom in Pakistan to raise funds and recruit cadres.

Its banners can be seen in urban and rural areas of Punjab urging young boys to enroll themselves with Jamaatul Daawa and Lashkar-e-Toiba for waging war against “infidels”. The banners usually carry the telephone numbers of the area offices so that they can contact local agents of the group.

The prospects of fre education, food and lodging they offer are a big attraction in rural Pakistani society where people live in extreme poverty. And the JuD leadership knows how to  exploit the situation.

The LeT and the JuD activists can be seen outside mosques in the rural areas of Punjab, distributing pamphlets and periodicals preaching the virtues of jihad in the Indian Kashmir,  Palestine, Chechnya, Kosovo and Eritrea and vowing to hoist the flag of Islam in Washington, Tel Aviv and New Delhi.

Also the donation boxes of JuD which had disappeared soon after the 2008 Mumbai attacks and a subsequent government swoop against the group are back on public places as well as  mosques across Pakistan. However, most of the funds still come in the form of anonymous donations being sent directly to JuD accounts from various parts of the world.

Western media reports say the JuD uses all these funds to run dozens of training camps for LeT militants along the LoC, being the front organisation of the LeT.

In its 2008 annual report on global terrorism, the US State Department said that after being outlawed, the LeT and Saeed continued to spread ideology advocating terrorism, and virulent

rhetoric condemning the United States, India, Israel, and other perceived enemies.

The report noted that senior al-Qaeda commander Abu Zubaida was captured from a LeT safe house in Faisalabad on March 28, 2002.

“This suggested that some LeT members were facilitating the movement of al-Qaeda members in Pakistan”, the US State Department report had added.

As things stand, it seems those jihadi elements that are not targeting the state of Pakistan, or had targeted the “enemy states” in the past, are still being given preferential treatment by  the security establishment for obvious reasons.

The release on bail of the prime accused in the Mumbai terror attacks, the LeT’s chief operational commander, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, and the unbridled freedom enjoyed by Saeed to pursue his extremist jihadi agenda indicate that the country’s counter-terrorism reaction following the Peshawar school carnage is still limited to domestic terrorism.

Jihadis, who are active in the neighboring states, will continue to be treated as ‘good’ Taliban. As a result, the organizational network of the JuD continues to survive and thrive across Pakistan.

Most terrorism experts in Pakistan believe that the LeT has proven to be a success story thanks to the support by the country’s establishment which uses the group to advance its so- called geo-strategic agenda in the region. Since its inception, the group has managed to attract thousands of committed young men into its fold.

LeT uses its impressive organizational network which includes schools, social service groups and religious publications to create a passion for jihad among youth.

Saeed is more amenable to the ISI than leaders of other jihadi outfits as he would readily agree to wage a “controlled jihad” in Kashmir whenever he is asked to do. Similarly, LeT is  perceived to be more dedicated to the cause of Kashmir’s liberation and hence more useful as it has the largest Pakistani component compared with other jihadi cadres.

As the Muridke headquarters of the JuD became the focus of media attention in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks, JuD leadership shifted its base to Jamia Qadissiya Mosque in  Lahore near Chauburji area which is also being used to run the parallel judicial system in the form of Darul Qaza.

The intensity of the JuD’s growing unlawful activities were highlighted by the English newspaper, The Nation in its June 2 editorial titled “JuD’s Violent Extremism.”

“The illegal activities of JuD keep piling up and the government keeps ignoring them, perhaps in sympathy to their cause, perhaps out of fear. The ruling PML-N led by Prime Minister  Nawaz Sharif had promised it would never bow its head to religious extremism after the Army Public School attack in Peshawar, yet here is extremism running amok in their stronghold,  and they stand powerless.

“As for the real court – the mighty third pillar of the state – it is time for them to establish their authority and hand down harsh sentences to the JuD goons. No one will believe in the  legitimacy of the judiciary if there are a group of uneducated clerics defying its authority a few kilometers away from the Lahore High Court. Just as no one will believe Punjab Chief  Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s overzealous speeches and punching of tables if he shies away from the real fight.”

Interestingly, three dozen Punjab police commandos are providing security to Saeed under the instruction of  Shahbaz Sharif after the US offered a reward of $10 million in April 2012 to  anyone giving information leading to Saeed’s arrest.

Instead of keeping a low profile, Saeed, during a conference in Rawalpindi on April 4, 2012, dared the US to carry out a military raid against him like the one that killed Osama bin Laden.

“I am not hiding in caves and mountains. I am very much here in Rawalpindi. The Americans seriously lack information. Don’t they know where I go, where I live and what I do,” he  asked.

He had simply shrugged off the American action against him, stating: “Catch me if you can”.

atimes.com/2016/06/sharif-govt-powerless-as-banned-terror-group-runs-parallel-courts-in-pakistan/

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‘Pakistan did not take substantial action against the Afghan Taliban’ or Haqqani Network: State Department

June 3, 2016

The US Department of State said “Pakistan did not take substantial action against the Afghan Taliban or HQN [Haqqani Network]” and has done little to deter home-grown jihadist groups  such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad. The US government continues to provide nearly $800 million in financial aid despite Pakistan’s historical and continuing support for  jihadist groups that are actively fighting US troops in Afghanistan and plotting terrorist attacks across the globe.

The Department of State noted Pakistan’s unwillingness to deal with its preferred jihadist groups in the newly released Country Reports on Terrorism 2015.

“Afghanistan, in particular, continued to experience aggressive and coordinated attacks by the Afghan Taliban, including the Haqqani Network (HQN), and other insurgent and terrorist  groups,” the State report says. “A number of these attacks were planned and launched from safe havens in Pakistan.”

After noting the military and government target jihadist groups such as the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan that continue to launch deadly attacks against the state and civilian  institutions, State says that Pakistan has done little to deal with jihadist groups fighting in Afghanistan.

“Pakistan did not take substantial action against the Afghan Taliban or HQN, or substantially limit their ability to threaten US interests in Afghanistan,” State notes.

“Pakistan has also not taken sufficient action against other externally-focused groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), which continued to operate, train,  organize, and fundraise in Pakistan,” State continues.

Additionally, while Pakistan “reportedly banned media coverage of US- and UN-designated terrorist organizations such as Jamaat-u-Dawa (JuD) and the Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation (FiF), both of which are aliases of Lashkar-e-Taiba … the government did not otherwise constrain those groups’ fundraising activities.”

Hafiz Saeed, the leader of LeT/JuD/FiF, who is also a UN-designated terrorist “was able to make frequent public appearances in support of the organization’s objectives,” without  Pakistan raising a finger to stop him.

Also, State points out the “slow pace of trial proceedings” for the accused in the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, which was plotted and executed from Pakistan. Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi,  Lashkar-e-Taiba’s operational planner of the deadly Mumbai assault, has been freed from detention.

“Lakhvi was released from prison on bail in April 2015 and the Government of Pakistan reports he remained under house arrest at the end of 2015,” State reports. However, Pakistan has  placed other terrorist leaders, such as Hafiz Saeed, under house arrest in the past, but this has done nothing to constrain their activities.

Despite State’s criticism of Pakistan, the department said the country “remained a critical counterterrorism partner in 2015.”

Additionally, State says that Pakistan continues to receive large sums of “Foreign Assistance.” While the amount of aid has decreased over the past three years, US continues to give  Pakistan hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Pakistan received $1.237 billion in total foreign assistance in 2013 (including $280 million in military aid), $853 million in 2014 ($270 million in military aid), and $787 million in 2015 ($265 million in military aid).

longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/06/pakistan-did-not-take-substantial-action-against-the-afghan-taliban-or-haqqani-network-state-department.php? utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+LongWarJournalSiteWide+%28The+Long+War+Journal+%28Site-Wide%29%29

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India

A Muslim Soldier Was Dismissed From Indian Army After He Refused To Shave Beard

Jun 3 2016

After a great deal of legal dispute, a Muslim soldier who insisted on growing beard on religious grounds has been dismissed by the Indian Army and termed him ‘An Undesirable Soldier’.  His dismissal was upheld by the Kochi bench of Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) recently.

The Muslim soldier is identified as Maktumhusen, 34, and he is from Dharwad in Karnataka. He was a sepoy in the Army Medical Corps for nearly 10 years and sought permission from his  Commanding Officer (CO) to have a beard on religious grounds.

The tribunal dismissed his plea that he had the right to grow a beard under Article 25 of the Constitution on religious freedom, which concerns religious freedom, just like Sikhs. The  tribunal said that having a beard was not among the fundamental tenets of Islam.

“The Army is a disciplined force and denominational differences among its members based on religion, caste etc. cannot be permitted. The practice of wearing a beard claimed on the  basis of religion by the applicant which goes against Regulation 665 of the Defence Service Regulations, is not conducive to the discipline of the Force,” it said.

Tribunal Rules:

Sikhs are permitted to keep a well-maintained beard and untrimmed hair across the Services. But the Army, Navy, and the Air force have differing rules. The Army allows non-Sikhs,  especially in certain regiments, to sport a temporary beard.

The Air Force does not allow display of religious symbols on duty or at parades. But Muslims who had a beard at the time of enrolment before January 1, 2002, can keep it. The Navy  allows its personnel to change their appearance. But the CO’s permission is mandatory. Medical grounds grant exemption from the rules.

allindiaroundup.com/news/muslim-soldier-was-dismissed-from-indian-army/

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A Study in the NCR Shows Search for a House Is Longer and More Arduous For a Muslim Tenant

Jun 4, 2016

Earlier this month, this newspaper reported that a Muslim IAS aspirant in Pune resorted to a “Hindu” pseudonym to overcome the difficulty of obtaining paying-guest accommodation.  Keen followers of the news from India, like us, recognise this as an example of periodic reports from cities across the country about the difficulties facing middle-class Muslims (not to mention the occasional film star) in the rental or property market.

This should disturb anyone who believes that people’s access to important things like housing, schooling, or jobs should not be determined by things over which they have no control,  such as which community they were born into. At the same time, however, economists know that proving the existence of systematic discrimination in any market — whether housing or  labour — requires more than anecdotes. How can we be sure that it was someone’s religion (or caste) rather than, say, whether they seemed a reliable tenant, that was behind the  denial of housing in any one instance? And even if we were to concede that there was discrimination in a specific case, how widespread is this sort of thing?

Answering such questions is difficult. Ideally, we would want to see how landlords treat two tenants, identical in every respect except the dimension we care about (for example, their  religion), as they apply to the same properties in exactly the same way. We wouldn’t want them to differ, for example, in the kind of job they had, or how they dressed, or what they  said when they applied for a flat. If we could do this repeatedly, we could say with some confidence that any differences we observe between how landlords treat our two tenants are  driven by the one difference between our two applicants — their religion.

These stringent conditions are unlikely to be met with real people. However, we can come close by using what are known as “audit experiments”, where researchers send identical  applications to a large number of advertisements, and track the responses. This allows for measurement of systematic discrimination: what happens on average rather than in any  individual case. This is what we decided to do for the National Capital Region rental market.

Last summer, we set up names, email addresses and phone numbers for four fictitious potential tenants: one upper-caste Hindu, one OBC, one SC, and one Muslim. Over the course of several months, we applied to a wide cross-section of flats offered for rent in Delhi and its surrounding suburbs, Noida and Gurgaon through an online property portal. Because we were  simply submitting expressions of interest through the portal, all that a landlord saw was the applicant’s name, phone number, and email address. We chose names for our fictitious tenants to clearly signal their religion and caste. Every landlord we selected received four applications — one from each of our fictitious tenants. Then we tracked landlord response rates to our fictitious tenants.

About 35 per cent of the landlords call back the upper-caste Hindu applicants but only 22 per cent contact our fictitious Muslim applicants — in other words, upper-castes received  responses from more than one-and-a-half times as many landlords. Another way of looking at these results is that a Muslim applicant needs to apply for around 45 flats before he can  expect to hear from 10 landlords, an upper-caste Hindu applicant needs to only apply for 29 flats to have the same number of landlords contact him.

These are big differences. Even an upper caste Hindu tenant has to search for a while to find a suitable property. But Muslim tenants face a real possibility of none or very few callbacks.  They would have to search for much longer, and compromise on location, price and quality. When supply is tight, as it often is, this could mean having to wait months to find a suitable  place.

There appears to be some good news — we don’t find discrimination against OBC and SC applicants. Unfortunately, we are not confident about this finding. Our method relies on landlords figuring out what “group” a potential tenant belongs to based on his name. While we are sure that almost all landlords recognise a Muslim name, we are not sure that they recognise SC  names as readily.

A callback from a landlord does not mean a flat is being offered. So, it is possible that the extent of differential treatment is quite different when it comes to looking at whether  someone actually gets a flat (it could be worse). Also, just because we studied the market in the Delhi region doesn’t mean similar things don’t happen elsewhere. Indeed, this is a global  problem — researchers have used similar methods in many European countries, and the United States government actually carries out similar studies in all large cities regularly in order to understand how bad the problem is and whether it’s getting better or worse.

What drives this discrimination against Muslim tenants? Certainly, blatant bias is one possibility. It could also be that vegetarian landlords are reluctant to rent to non-vegetarian tenants. In that case, people from traditionally meat-eating castes or regions may also be finding it harder to rent a flat. It’s also possible that landlords are making some guesses about people’s  reliability as tenants based on their names — perhaps, they believe, rightly or wrongly, that a Muslim applicant is likely to earn less or be less well-educated than an upper-caste Hindu.  We are currently exploring these ideas in an ongoing research.

We suspect that our results will simply evoke a sense of frustrated resignation for people — whether Muslims, single women, or people from the Northeast — who have been at the  receiving end of discrimination. But hopefully, this research helps those who have not experienced discrimination in the housing market to get a sense of what those who have must feel like when their calls go unanswered or when a flat that was available just an hour ago mysteriously turns out to have been “rented” when they call — something they suspect is because of who they are rather than anything they have control over.

indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/muslim-delhi-rooms-on-rent-for-muslim-tenents-united-nation-ncr-homeowners-2833237/

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NIA files charge sheet against alleged Islamic State recruiter

Jun 03, 2016

The NIA on Friday filed a charge sheet in a case pertaining to banned terror outfit IS outlining the modus oprandi of a 23-year-old alleged operative in identifying, radicalising, recruiting  and sending Indians to join the terrorists in Syria and Iraq.

The probe report, filed before district judge Amar Nath, refers in detail to the role of accused Naser Packeer who was working as a web and graphics designer in Dubai.

The National Investigation Agency, which has arrayed over 22 persons as witnesses, has also made his father Packeer Mohammad a prosecution witness.

“In furtherance to its larger conspiracy under its leadership, members of terror groups Islamic State (IS) or Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL)...,  in connivance with a few resident, and non-resident Indians have been indulging in identification, redicalization, recruitment, training and finally transfer of Indian youths to countries like Syria, Lybia, Iraq for terror acts.

“For that purpose, members of the above terror groups have been using different channels/services available on internet, telephone and one to one meeting,” the charge sheet said.

The sources said that the charge sheet, which was filed in court during an in-chamber proceeding, alleged that Naser, who hails from Tamil Nadu and was arrested in December last year, was involved in a conspiracy to recruit Muslim youths in India to join IS and shift them to Iraq and Syria to carry out terror attacks and wage war in India.

The charge sheet further said that the accused, who did B Tech from a Chennai college before leaving for Dubai in 2014, used several internet based websites including Twitter,

WhatsApp and Youtube to spread the base of terror organisation in India and the world.

It also said that the assistance of USA through Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty and internet giants like Google and Twitter was sought in the investigation against the accused.

hindustantimes.com/india-news/nia-files-charge-sheet-against-alleged-islamic-state-recruiter/story-B00iUsw15ejAQO7fGeIlNJ.html

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AIMPLB against ban on triple talaq

Jun 4, 2016

NEW DELHI: The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) on Friday fielded its women members to reject the growing demand of women organisations for scrapping of the provision  of 'triple talaq' and the organisation slammed the move as a conspiracy to impose a uniform civil code (UCC).

AIMPLB women members hit out at the BJP-led NDA government saying the "hype over demand for scrapping of the provision for "triple talaq" was a bid to facilitate a UCC and the Board will not tolerate any interference in Muslim personal law. Those Muslims who did not wish to follow the same were free to marry under the Special Marriages Act.

AIMPLB executive member Dr Asma Zehra attacked those seeking scrapping of triple talaq saying, "Some letter head organisations and women andolans have presented false concocted  data in their survey re port, in which it is shown that 92% of Muslim women are in favour of ban on triple talaq and amendments in the Muslim personal law. It is also presented that  50,000 men and women have signed a petition to the National Commission for Women to abolish the Muslim code for divorce. We strongly condemn such a survey."

The AIMPLB statement went on to add that "these fringe groups and andolans have no credibility amongst Muslim masses". Referring to Shayara Bano and Afreen Rehman who have filed petitions in the Supreme Court against the provision of triple talaq, the AIMPLB put forth the argument that the lower and higher judiciary is already burdened with large number of cases and average time of disposal is 4 to 8 years.

"These cases may take years. In contrast the Muslim personal law has simple and more successful way of solving family disputes," the Board members assert in their statement.

Zehra went on to say that "All those persons who want change are free to follow the civil code of the country. They can get married under the Special Marriages Act." She went on to say  that "the allegation of gen der bias is repeatedly raised to attack Islam and Muslims. It is portrayed that Islamic Law is anti women and cruel. This is not true. In fact, Islam guarantees  equal rights to both men and women." She went on to explain that "In Islam, talaq (divorce) is an unpleasant and discouraged act. If both the partners fail to reconcile, then divorce is a  safe exit for unsuccessful marriages.The methodology and procedure of divorce is clearly explained in Quran and Hadith."

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/AIMPLB-against-ban-on-triple-talaq/articleshow/52580657.cms

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As Muslims who grew up in Hindu-dominated India, they appreciate America’s religious freedoms

JUNE 3, 2016

Her friends love pasta. She makes curry.

“But that’s about it,” Munira Motorwala said of the differences between her family and others.Munira, 53, who prefers T-shirts and jeans while reading her morning paper, lives in a Kendall home with her husband, daughter and son. Mementos from New York and a tropical painting adorn the living room, where a fist-sized replica of the Taj Mahal, an homage to her Indian roots, sits above the TV.

The fridge is covered in family photos: son Aarif, a 19-year-old dean’s list rising junior at the University of Miami, in a white graduation cap and robe from his preschool days; 14-year-old  daughter Sana sitting atop a bale of hay for Halloween from her elementary school days.

Munira has a bachelor’s degree in business and economics from India and a bachelor’s in business administration from Florida International University. She had worked as an editorial  assistant in India, but chose to stay home with her children when her son was born.

“I fell in love with my kids,” she said.

Her husband, Safder, is a pharmacy operations supervisor at Baptist Health South Florida’s Homestead Hospital, where he has worked since graduating from college. He moved from India to Miami in 1990 to fulfill his pharmacy school prerequisite at Miami Dade College. A year and a half later, he attended Massachusetts College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences in Boston,  where he earned his bachelor’s of science in pharmacy.

miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article81636077.html

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Modi tweets in Dari and Pashto as he arrives in Herat to inaugurate Salma Dam

Sat Jun 04 2016

The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted in Dari and Pashto languages to confirm his arrival in Herat province of Afghanistan for the inauguration of Salma Dam.

In his Twitter post, Modi said “I arrived in historic Herat province, will inaugurate the Salma Dam and meet President Ghani.”

A spokesman for India’s External Affairs Ministry Vikas Swarup also tweeted “Beginning with Afghanistan. PM @narendramodi arrives in Herat to launch the Afghan India Friendship Dam.”

The government of Afghanistan has renamed the name of Salma dam to Afghan-India friendship dam earlier this year in a sign to show appreciation to the robust investment by India in reconstruction of the dam.

Built on Harirod river, the dam is expected to produce 42 megawatt of electricity and will irrigate around 75,000 hectares of agricultural land.

India has played a crucial role by participating in the rebuilding of Afghanistan following the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.

Since 2002, the Government of India has committed USD 2 billion dollars to the socio-economic rebuilding of the Afghan state and society in accordance with the development priorities of the Government and the people of Afghanistan.

khaama.com/modi-tweets-in-dari-and-pashto-as-he-arrives-in-herat-to-inaugurate-salma-dam-01161

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Pakistan

Sharif govt powerless as banned terror group runs parallel courts in Pakistan

JUNE 4, 2016

Jamaatul Daawa (JuD), a Pakistan-based militant organization active in India and Afghanistan, is running a parallel judicial system from its headquarters in Lahore.

JuD’s self-appointed judges and their aides keep sending summons to citizens to dispense what it calls speedy justice among people in the light of Islamic laws.

A banned organization nationally and a terrorist organization internationally, the JuD is being led by Hafiz Mohammad Saeed designated by UN as the most wanted terrorist. It was Saeed  who founded the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT).

The November 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, which killed 165 innocent people, were blamed on the LeT which is considered to be the military wing of the JuD.

Run by ‘qazis’ (judges), who are assisted by ‘khadmeens’ (court assistants), these courts (‘Darul Qaza’ or Shariah Court) mostly deal with civil cases involving property and monetary  disputes. The complaints are addressed to Saeed who refers them to the qazis.

The JuD justifies the setting up of these courts by describing them as ‘arbitration panels’ where people come voluntarily for resolution of their disputes. But it remains silent on whythese courts issue ‘summons’ backed by the threat of stringent action to the accused, although such action is the domain of the state.

A Lahore-based property dealer, Khalid Saeed, who moved the Lahore High Court (LHC) against a summon issued to him by the self-styled Darul Qaza, was kidnapped by two bearded  men on June 1, severely tortured and threatened for not appearing before the so-called court.

The qazi (judge) of Darul Qaza had summoned him to its headquarters at Chauburji area in Lahore to defend himself against the allegations leveled in the complaint. Khalid had been  summoned on the complaint of his former partner in a property business, alleging misuse of his investment.

But instead of obeying the order, Khalid approached the LHC, challenging the JuD court summons.

“I was heading to the high court on my motorcycle on June 1 when two bearded men intercepted me. They took me to a nearby graveyard on gun point where they subjected me to severe torture and reprimanded me for not appearing before JuD court”, Khalid in a weak voice, lying on a hospital bed, with blood marks on his clothes.

He had apparently underestimated the might of the JuD, for which he had to pay a heavy price, although the LHC had already ordered Punjab home secretary to look into the matter  and decide it strictly in accordance with the law.

The kidnappers of Khalid had threatened him with dire consequences if he did not withdraw the case against the JuD court. Now he thinking whether to withdraw the case.

JuD spokesman Yahya Mujahid defended the ‘Shariah Court’ saying it was not a “parallel judicial system” but an “arbitration court”, which decides disputes with the consent of the  parties. He added that offering arbitration to confronting parties is not illegal. However, he could not justify issuance of summons carrying a “warning of strict action” in case of non- compliance.

The JuD is the first extremist group to have established a ‘Shariah Court’ in Punjab although many such courts operated by pro-Taliban extremist groups had been functioning in the Kyber  Pakhtaunkhawa province.

With the prime objective of establishing an Islamic state in South Asia and uniting all Muslim majority regions in countries that surround Pakistan, the LeT was launched by Saeed in the  Kunar province of Afghanistan in 1989 with the backing of the state-run Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Two decades later, the Lashkar is considered to be one of the most effective jihadi groups operating in Jammu and Kashmir and involved in guerilla activities, largely due to its  extraordinary growth in size, enormous resources as well as fame.

Interestingly, despite being declared a terrorist organisation by US State Department and placed on the terror watch list of the Pakistan government, the JuD has been enjoying  considerable freedom in Pakistan to raise funds and recruit cadres.

Its banners can be seen in urban and rural areas of Punjab urging young boys to enroll themselves with Jamaatul Daawa and Lashkar-e-Toiba for waging war against “infidels”. The banners usually carry the telephone numbers of the area offices so that they can contact local agents of the group.

The prospects of fre education, food and lodging they offer are a big attraction in rural Pakistani society where people live in extreme poverty. And the JuD leadership knows how to  exploit the situation.

The LeT and the JuD activists can be seen outside mosques in the rural areas of Punjab, distributing pamphlets and periodicals preaching the virtues of jihad in the Indian Kashmir,  Palestine, Chechnya, Kosovo and Eritrea and vowing to hoist the flag of Islam in Washington, Tel Aviv and New Delhi.

Also the donation boxes of JuD which had disappeared soon after the 2008 Mumbai attacks and a subsequent government swoop against the group are back on public places as well as  mosques across Pakistan. However, most of the funds still come in the form of anonymous donations being sent directly to JuD accounts from various parts of the world.

Western media reports say the JuD uses all these funds to run dozens of training camps for LeT militants along the LoC, being the front organisation of the LeT.

In its 2008 annual report on global terrorism, the US State Department said that after being outlawed, the LeT and Saeed continued to spread ideology advocating terrorism, and virulent

rhetoric condemning the United States, India, Israel, and other perceived enemies.

The report noted that senior al-Qaeda commander Abu Zubaida was captured from a LeT safe house in Faisalabad on March 28, 2002.

“This suggested that some LeT members were facilitating the movement of al-Qaeda members in Pakistan”, the US State Department report had added.

As things stand, it seems those jihadi elements that are not targeting the state of Pakistan, or had targeted the “enemy states” in the past, are still being given preferential treatment by  the security establishment for obvious reasons.

The release on bail of the prime accused in the Mumbai terror attacks, the LeT’s chief operational commander, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, and the unbridled freedom enjoyed by Saeed to pursue his extremist jihadi agenda indicate that the country’s counter-terrorism reaction following the Peshawar school carnage is still limited to domestic terrorism.

Jihadis, who are active in the neighboring states, will continue to be treated as ‘good’ Taliban. As a result, the organizational network of the JuD continues to survive and thrive across Pakistan.

Most terrorism experts in Pakistan believe that the LeT has proven to be a success story thanks to the support by the country’s establishment which uses the group to advance its so- called geo-strategic agenda in the region. Since its inception, the group has managed to attract thousands of committed young men into its fold.

LeT uses its impressive organizational network which includes schools, social service groups and religious publications to create a passion for jihad among youth.

Saeed is more amenable to the ISI than leaders of other jihadi outfits as he would readily agree to wage a “controlled jihad” in Kashmir whenever he is asked to do. Similarly, LeT is  perceived to be more dedicated to the cause of Kashmir’s liberation and hence more useful as it has the largest Pakistani component compared with other jihadi cadres.

As the Muridke headquarters of the JuD became the focus of media attention in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks, JuD leadership shifted its base to Jamia Qadissiya Mosque in  Lahore near Chauburji area which is also being used to run the parallel judicial system in the form of Darul Qaza.

The intensity of the JuD’s growing unlawful activities were highlighted by the English newspaper, The Nation in its June 2 editorial titled “JuD’s Violent Extremism.”

“The illegal activities of JuD keep piling up and the government keeps ignoring them, perhaps in sympathy to their cause, perhaps out of fear. The ruling PML-N led by Prime Minister  Nawaz Sharif had promised it would never bow its head to religious extremism after the Army Public School attack in Peshawar, yet here is extremism running amok in their stronghold,  and they stand powerless.

“As for the real court – the mighty third pillar of the state – it is time for them to establish their authority and hand down harsh sentences to the JuD goons. No one will believe in the  legitimacy of the judiciary if there are a group of uneducated clerics defying its authority a few kilometers away from the Lahore High Court. Just as no one will believe Punjab Chief  Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s overzealous speeches and punching of tables if he shies away from the real fight.”

Interestingly, three dozen Punjab police commandos are providing security to Saeed under the instruction of  Shahbaz Sharif after the US offered a reward of $10 million in April 2012 to  anyone giving information leading to Saeed’s arrest.

Instead of keeping a low profile, Saeed, during a conference in Rawalpindi on April 4, 2012, dared the US to carry out a military raid against him like the one that killed Osama bin Laden.

“I am not hiding in caves and mountains. I am very much here in Rawalpindi. The Americans seriously lack information. Don’t they know where I go, where I live and what I do,” he  asked.

He had simply shrugged off the American action against him, stating: “Catch me if you can”.

atimes.com/2016/06/sharif-govt-powerless-as-banned-terror-group-runs-parallel-courts-in-pakistan/

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Security personnel kill four suspected militants in Quetta

SYED ALI SHAH

June 3, 2016

Four suspected militants, including a key militant commander, were reportedly killed during an exchange of fire with law enforcement personnel in Quetta's Sariab road area on Friday  evening.

Police said “two policemen were also injured during the exchange of fire that took place near an orchard on Sariab road”.

The exchange of fire took place after the miscreants allegedly opened fire at a police mobile patrolling the area, the police officials said.

Police retaliated timely and security personnel from other law enforcement agencies also joined them in the retaliatory operation against the miscreants — which lasted for around half-an-hour.

“Quetta chief of the defunct Jaish-ul-Islam group, Dr. Omair, was also among the suspects killed in the crossfire.”

Officials of the Anti Terrorist Force were also called in the area to apprehend the miscreants; however, two militants managed to escape unhurt from the spot, police said.

Security officials recovered weapons from the possession of the deceased suspects.

dawn.com/news/1262542/security-personnel-kill-four-suspected-militants-in-quetta

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Pakistan key counterterrorism partner in 2015: US report

June 3, 2016

WASHINGTON: Reintegration of de-radicalised terrorists into society remained a priority in Pakistan during 2015, says an official US report.

The annual US State Department report, released on Thursday afternoon, pointed out that despite various problems in Pakistan’s counterterrorism strategy, the country “remained a  critical counterterrorism partner in 2015”.

Throughout last year, the Pakistani government operated a number of de-radicalisation camps in different parts of the country. The camps offered “corrective religious education,  vocational training, counselling and therapy,” the report added.

The camps followed a discussion module that addressed social issues and included sessions with the students’ families.

The State Department acknowledged that in 2015, Pakistan implemented a National Action Plan (NAP) against terrorism, which seeks to prevent future terrorist attacks on its soil. It  described NAP as a mixture of judicial, law enforcement, military and administrative goals that seek to punish established terrorists, eliminate support for terrorism, and promote the  non-violent coexistence of various sects.

“Also throughout 2015, the Pakistani military continued ground and air operations in North Waziristan and Khyber Agency to eliminate terrorist safe havens and recover illegal weapons  caches,” said the report.

But the State Department also noted that “Pakistan did not take substantial action” against the Afghan Taliban or the Haqqani network in 2015 and did little to deter homegrown jihadi  groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM).

“Afghanistan, in particular, continued to experience aggressive and coordinated attacks by the Afghan Taliban, including the Haqqani network, and other insurgent and terrorist groups,”  the report said. “A number of these attacks were planned and launched from safe havens in Pakistan,” it alleged.

The State Department complained that Pakistan had not taken sufficient action against other externally-focused groups either, such as LeT and JeM which continued to “operate, train,  organise, and fundraise in Pakistan”.

Although Pakistan “banned media coverage of US-and UN-designated terrorist organisations such as Jamaatu Dawa (JuD) and the Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation (FiF), the government did not otherwise constrain those groups’ fundraising activities”.

Hafiz Saeed, the leader of LeT/JuD/FiF, “who is also a UN-designated terrorist, was able to make frequent public appearances in support of the organisations’ objectives,” without  Pakistan government raising a finger to stop him, the report noted.

The report also underlined the “slow pace of trial proceedings” for the accused in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack and noted that the alleged mastermind of these attacks, Zakiur

Rehman Lakhvi was released on bail in April 2015, though he remained under house arrest at the end of 2015.

dawn.com/news/1262665/pakistan-key-counterterrorism-partner-in-2015-us-report

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PTI councillor, three ANP workers killed in armed clash

June 3, 2016

MARDAN: A tehsil councillor of the PTI and three workers of the ANP were killed in an armed clash between members of the two rival political parties in the Khan Kotay area on Friday.

Witnesses and police officials said that supporters of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Awami National Party exchanged gunfire after a dispute over hoisting of a PTI flag turned violent

during a PTI rally in the area.

As a result of the firing, PTI tehsil councillor Mohmand Khan and ANP workers Ikram Babukheil, Qasim and Shah Jehan were killed.

A political rivalry was reported to be going on between the slain PTI tehsil councillor Mohmand Khan and Awami National Party district councillor Sardar Khan since the holding of local  government elections in May last year.

Area people said that both leaders of the rival political parties belonged to Khan Kotay area.

The Hoti police have registered FIRs from both sides and are investigating.

dawn.com/news/1262662/pti-councillor-three-anp-workers-killed-in-armed-clash

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Hundreds of Afghan vehicles enter Pakistan as restrictions relaxed

IBRAHIM SHINWARI

June 3, 2016

LANDI KOTAL: Hundreds of vehicles, either empty or loaded with export items, crossed over from Afghanistan into Pakistan on Friday after Pakistani officials relaxed an order regarding a  bar on travelling without proper travel documents.

Officials said that transporters possessing route permits issued by the Pakistani consul general in Jalalabad or his Afghan counterpart in Peshawar had been allowed to bring trade  merchandise into Pakistan in their vehicles registered in Afghanistan.

Before grant of the temporary relaxation, the chief of the Afghan Transporters Union, Haji Qasim Arab, told Dawn that over 1,000 vehicles had been stranded on the Afghan side of the  Torkham border crossing because their drivers didn’t have the passports and visas required to cross over into Pakistan.

Many Afghans may have crossed the border through less frequented routes

He said the vehicles were mostly loaded with fruits, vegetables, coal and soap stone and were stopped by the Afghan authorities because the drivers didn’t have travel documents other  than temporary route permits issued by officials at either the Pakistan Consulate General in Jalalabad or the Afghanistan Consulate General in Peshawar.

The chairman of a Pakistani transporters association, Haji Azeemullah, said his group had submitted applications to both the local political administration and the Frontier Corps for a  temporary relaxation in the rules regarding travel documents so that the fresh fruits and vegetables in the vehicles could be stopped from going to waste.

Conceding that the Pakistani and Afghan transporters were facing genuine problems, the security and political administration officials granted them temporary permission, enabling over 300 vehicles stranded on the Afghan side of the border crossing to enter Pakistan after Friday prayers.

Meanwhile, border guards and immigration officials at the crossing continued their strict checking of travel documents of all the Afghan nationals aspiring to enter Pakistan on the third day of the restrictions unilaterally imposed by the government of Pakistan. 

Officials of the political administration said that around 1,200 Afghans with valid visas had been allowed to enter Pakistan on a daily basis since June 1.

The officials, however, expressed concerns that the restrictions could encourage the Afghans not possessing valid passports and visas to enter Pakistan through other border crossings and  less frequented routes.

Sources said that hundreds of Afghans were seen entering Pakistan through less frequented routes during the last couple of days.

dawn.com/news/1262663/hundreds-of-afghan-vehicles-enter-pakistan-as-restrictions-relaxed

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North America

‘Pakistan did not take substantial action against the Afghan Taliban’ or Haqqani Network: State Department

June 3, 2016

The US Department of State said “Pakistan did not take substantial action against the Afghan Taliban or HQN [Haqqani Network]” and has done little to deter home-grown jihadist groups  such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad. The US government continues to provide nearly $800 million in financial aid despite Pakistan’s historical and continuing support for  jihadist groups that are actively fighting US troops in Afghanistan and plotting terrorist attacks across the globe.

The Department of State noted Pakistan’s unwillingness to deal with its preferred jihadist groups in the newly released Country Reports on Terrorism 2015.

“Afghanistan, in particular, continued to experience aggressive and coordinated attacks by the Afghan Taliban, including the Haqqani Network (HQN), and other insurgent and terrorist  groups,” the State report says. “A number of these attacks were planned and launched from safe havens in Pakistan.”

After noting the military and government target jihadist groups such as the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan that continue to launch deadly attacks against the state and civilian  institutions, State says that Pakistan has done little to deal with jihadist groups fighting in Afghanistan.

“Pakistan did not take substantial action against the Afghan Taliban or HQN, or substantially limit their ability to threaten US interests in Afghanistan,” State notes.

“Pakistan has also not taken sufficient action against other externally-focused groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), which continued to operate, train,  organize, and fundraise in Pakistan,” State continues.

Additionally, while Pakistan “reportedly banned media coverage of US- and UN-designated terrorist organizations such as Jamaat-u-Dawa (JuD) and the Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation (FiF), both of which are aliases of Lashkar-e-Taiba … the government did not otherwise constrain those groups’ fundraising activities.”

Hafiz Saeed, the leader of LeT/JuD/FiF, who is also a UN-designated terrorist “was able to make frequent public appearances in support of the organization’s objectives,” without  Pakistan raising a finger to stop him.

Also, State points out the “slow pace of trial proceedings” for the accused in the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, which was plotted and executed from Pakistan. Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi,  Lashkar-e-Taiba’s operational planner of the deadly Mumbai assault, has been freed from detention.

“Lakhvi was released from prison on bail in April 2015 and the Government of Pakistan reports he remained under house arrest at the end of 2015,” State reports. However, Pakistan has  placed other terrorist leaders, such as Hafiz Saeed, under house arrest in the past, but this has done nothing to constrain their activities.

Despite State’s criticism of Pakistan, the department said the country “remained a critical counterterrorism partner in 2015.”

Additionally, State says that Pakistan continues to receive large sums of “Foreign Assistance.” While the amount of aid has decreased over the past three years, US continues to give  Pakistan hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Pakistan received $1.237 billion in total foreign assistance in 2013 (including $280 million in military aid), $853 million in 2014 ($270 million in military aid), and $787 million in 2015 ($265 million in military aid).

longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/06/pakistan-did-not-take-substantial-action-against-the-afghan-taliban-or-haqqani-network-state-department.php? utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+LongWarJournalSiteWide+%28The+Long+War+Journal+%28Site-Wide%29%29

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US now hitting Islamic State targets from Mediterranean Sea

Jun 04, 2016

SINGAPORE (AP) — The U.S. Navy's top admiral says the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman has begun launching airstrikes against the Islamic State group from the Mediterranean Sea.

That opens a new direction of attack against the militants in Iraq and Syria.

Adm. John Richardson said in an Associated Press interview Saturday that this unusual arrangement is a demonstration of the flexibility of naval power. The Navy for years positioned its carriers in the Persian Gulf to conduct airstrikes against targets in the Middle East.

The Truman had been in the Gulf but in recent days moved into the eastern Mediterranean and resumed air operations. The Truman eventually will return to its home port at Norfolk,  Virginia, and be replaced in the Gulf by the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.

townhall.com/news/world/2016/06/04/us-now-hitting-islamic-state-targets-from-mediterranean-sea-n2173478

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Analysis: State Department identifies Gulf shortcomings on counterterrorism efforts

June 3, 2016

The State Department issued its annual Country Reports on Terrorism yesterday, and while the document was couched in diplomatic language, it identified significant areas in which  counterterrorism efforts by America’s Gulf allies are coming up short. Indeed, Foggy Bottom implicitly or explicitly flagged Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait for failing to stamp out  terrorist finance within their borders.

Of the three, only Saudi Arabia was commended for taking “serious and effective efforts” against terror funding. Yet in the same paragraph, the report questioned how effective those  efforts have been, confirming that actors in Saudi Arabia continue to fundraise for “regional al-Qa’ida affiliates,” even if such activity now happens illicitly and in secret. The report  particularly noted violent extremist fundraising from Saudi sources over social media as well as efforts to exploit the hajj and umrah pilgrimages for moving cash couriers to finance  terrorism.

The report’s Saudi section also cited the kingdom over religious incitement. For example, it said official Saudi textbooks still contained “derogatory and intolerant” references to Shiite  Muslims and to non-Muslims. (Riyadh had assured US officials the offending passages would be completely excised by 2014 – and before that, by 2008 – but the new report concluded that  the promised revision of the Saudi curriculum still “has not been completely implemented.”)

The report also acknowledged that several privately-funded Saudi television stations continue to broadcast “sectarian hatred and intolerance.” For example, when a Saudi minister tried  to revoke the license of such a channel in the wake of a 2014 bombing by the Islamic State, then-King Abdullah relieved him of duty within hours.

Also that year, Washington’s top official for combating terrorist finance identified Qatar and Kuwait as “permissive jurisdictions” for terrorist fundraising. While Foggy Bottom’s report  noted measures that both states have taken since then, it stopped short of rolling back such criticism.

Instead, the State Department declared that individuals and entities in both countries continued to serve as a source of financial support to terrorist groups, “particularly regional al-Qa’ida affiliates such as the Nusrah Front” in the case of Qatar. As for Kuwait, the report similarly noted that the regime had not taken action last year against a Kuwaiti national under UN sanctions on charges of financing the Nusrah Front.

To Qatar’s credit, the new report indicates that Doha has made “efforts to prosecute” certain terror financiers, closely echoing language attributed to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew  earlier this year. However, this repetition of careful, couched language suggests that Qatar may not have actually pressed charges against any of these individuals, let alone arrested or  convicted them.

In fact, the report reveals that Qatar froze the assets and imposed travel bans on ‘Abd al-Latif al-Kawari and Sa’d al-Ka’bi, two Qatari citizens sanctioned by the UN in Sept. 2015 on  charges of fundraising for al Qaeda or its Syrian branch. However, State’s report does not say whether either Qatari has been arrested, a striking omission given that an American official  reportedly complained last year that Qatar “has not arrested” either Ka’bi or Kawari.

President Obama has delivered mixed messages on the Gulf states’ role in the fight against terror, praising their cooperation at an April summit in Riyadh shortly after suggesting that  some of them were counterterrorism “free riders” in an interview with the Atlantic. Unfortunately, the State Department seems to confirm that several Gulf states still have quite a distance to go.

longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/06/analysis-state-department-identifies-gulf-shortcomingsoncounterterrorismefforts.php?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+LongWarJournalSiteWide+%28The+Long+War+Journal+%28Site-Wide%29%29

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From Donald Trump to African Sheikhs, Mourning Ali’s Death on Social Media

JUNE 4, 2016

Silicon Valley tech titans. Canadian hockey players. African sheikhs. Muhammad Ali’s athletic might, bold politics and boundless charisma extended his influence far beyond the world of  championship boxing. And as news of his death broke, each of these people — and many more — shared their condolences on social media.

Ali was a three-time world heavyweight boxing champion and many who mourned him online were fellow athletic titans. One of the first to respond to his death was the controversial  boxing champion Mike Tyson.

Ali converted from Christianity to Islam in the 1960s and his death was keenly felt among Muslims in the United States and abroad. On Friday, before Ali died, the Arab-American novelist Saladin Ahmed reflected on his place in Muslim America.

After his death, Ismail Menk, the Grand Mufti of Zimbabwe, the African country’s highest Islamic religious authority, tweeted his condolences to Ali’s family, as did Nazem Kadri, a  Muslim-Canadian hockey player for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Linda Sarsour, a Muslim-American civil rights activist.

As a public speaker, Ali was able to both amuse and inspire, whether in delivering a pointed political critique, or using wit and charm to telegraph his brash self-confidence. Many people  shared some of his well-known sayings on social media.

And, perhaps unsurprisingly, Donald J. Trump, the famously Twitter-friendly presumptive Republican presidential candidate (who has proposed to bar Muslims from entering the United  States), was one of the first people tweet about Ali’s death.

nytimes.com/2016/06/05/sports/from-donald-trump-to-african-sheikhs-mourning-alis-death-on-social-media.html?emc=edit_tnt_20160604&nlid=71783194&tntemail0=y

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U.S.-backed fighters advance to cut off Islamic State, win tacit Turkish support

Fri Jun 3, 2016

NEAR THE EUPHRATES RIVER, northern Syria (Reuters) - U.S.-backed Syrian fighters in a major new offensive against Islamic State vowed on Thursday to cut off the last remaining access  route to the outside world for the self-proclaimed caliphate, and won vital, if tacit, backing from Turkey.

The assault around the Syrian city of Manbij, backed by U.S.-led coalition air strikes and a contingent of American special forces, aims to cut off Islamic State's last 80 km stretch of the  Syrian-Turkish frontier by seizing territory in northern Syria west of the Euphrates River.

If successful, that would achieve a long-standing aim of Washington and amount to one of the biggest strategic defeats inflicted on Islamic State since it proclaimed its rule over all  Muslims from territory in Iraq and Syria two years ago.

"We confirm that this campaign will continue until the liberation of the last inch of the land of Manbij and its rural areas," said a statement read out on the banks of the Euphrates by  Adnan Abu Amjad, a commander of a group called the Manbij Military Council, allied to the U.S.-backed Syria Democratic Forces.

"Oh brave people of Manbij, our forces are coming to liberate you from the shackles of the Daesh terrorist torturers," said the statement, using an acronym for Islamic State also known as ISIS or ISIL.

Washington has been leading an international campaign of air strikes against Islamic State for two years in both Syria and Iraq. It has long been in search of reliable allies on the ground in  Syria, where it also opposes the government of President Bashar al-Assad in a multi-sided civil war that has ground on for five years.

The SDF, set up last year, includes a powerful Syrian Kurdish militia and what Washington says are growing numbers of Arab forces that have been persuaded to join it. It has swept into  villages west of the Euphrates since launching its offensive on Tuesday.

That advance comes as Iraqi army forces have separately begun an assault on the Iraqi city of Falluja, 750 km down the Euphrates at the opposite end of Islamic State's sprawling  caliphate.

The Iraqi troops held their positions without advancing for a third straight day on Thursday, after pouring into the besieged city's southern outskirts on Monday. A Reuters reporting team  in Saqlawiya, a village near Falluja, saw Iraqi Shi'ite militia fighters in control of a complex of well-fortified trenches and tunnels captured from Islamic State.

In other separate campaigns, Iraqi Kurds have also been advancing in villages near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, and Russian-backed forces of the Syrian government have fought Islamic State in other parts of Syria. The fighting amounts to some of the biggest pushes against the militants by their disparate enemies across a variety of fronts.

TURKISH SUPPORT

Washington hopes the assault near Manbij will be a turning point in the two-year conflict by choking off Islamic State's last major link to the outside world. The militants have used the  frontier for years to receive supplies and manpower, and more recently to send back fighters for attacks in Europe.

"We know that there is external plotting from Manbij city... against the homelands of Europe, Turkey, all good friends and allies of ours, and the United States as well," U.S. Defense  Secretary Ash Carter said.

Of the SDF fighters, he said: "This is a capable force. They are doing all the things we can always do with able and motivated local forces to fight ISIL."

Washington's ultimate goals are to drive Islamic State from its main bases: Raqqa in eastern Syria and Mosul in northern Iraq, to bring about the collapse of its control.

Kurdish fighters allied to Washington have already captured much of northeast Syria near the Turkish border, but their advance west of the Euphrates to close off the frontier once and  for all was limited by strong opposition from U.S. ally Turkey, which considers the Kurdish YPG its enemies.

However, Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan signalled his apparent tacit support for the latest advance on Thursday, saying he had been informed that most of the fighters involved  would be Arabs rather than Kurds.

Turkish military sources said Turkey had shelled Islamic State positions across the border at Azaz, west of where the advance was taking place, killing five militants. Medical charity  Medicins sans Frontieres says 100,000 people are trapped near Azaz and in peril as the battle lines draw near.

A Kurdish source, speaking on condition of anonymity to Reuters in Beirut, predicted the Syrian militias would reach Islamic State-held Manbij within days, after advancing to within 10  km (6 miles) of the town.

It was too early to say how the battle for Manbij would go, the source said, but added that IS defences on the west bank of the Euphrates River had collapsed at the start of the  campaign.

However, Naser Haj Mansour, an adviser to the SDF general command, told Reuters Islamic State was still putting up a fight: "In general, the progress is at a good pace and performance,  keeping in mind that Daesh still has the capability to fight."

FALLUJA ASSAULT PAUSED

In Iraq, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the assault on Falluja 11 days ago, veering from the strategy sought by Washington which wants its Iraqi allies to concentrate on Islamic  State's de facto Iraqi capital Mosul.

Falluja, where U.S. forces fought the biggest battles of their 2003-2011 occupation of Iraq, has long been a bastion for Sunni Muslim insurgents and was the first Iraqi city where Islamic  State raised its flag in 2014 before storming through the north and west of the country.

It is just an hour's drive from Baghdad, and seizing it would give the government control of the main population centres of the fertile Euphrates valley west of the capital for the first  time in more than two years. But the mission in potentially hostile Sunni territory is also fraught with risk.

Abadi repeated calls on Thursday for Iraq's fractious politicians to unite behind the army in its advance on Falluja. On Wednesday he announced a pause in the advance to reduce the  threat to civilians still trapped in the city.

Although most of Falluja's population has fled, the United Nations has expressed deep concern over the fate of tens of thousands of civilians still there, including hundreds of families held  by Islamic State fighters as human shields in the city centre.

U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said 4,380 people had fled Falluja so far during the offensive and it was searching for places for them in camps. It estimates 10,000 families could be  displaced during the assault.

Abadi, a member of Iraq's Shi'ite majority, is trying to hold together a coalition government in the midst of popular protests against an entrenched political class. An operation in Falluja  that harms Sunni Muslim civilians could further alienate Sunnis, but he has decided he must act there to protect Baghdad from suicide bombers who have escalated attacks in the capital.

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Arab World

Syrian Army Starts Fresh Military Operation to Win Back Raqqa

JUNE 4, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian army started new military operations to seize back the ISIL-controlled city of Raqqa, media reports said on Saturday.

The Syrian army kicked off the new operation to take control of the city of Taqaba first and then move towards Raqqa city, the Arabic-language Al-Akbar newspaper reported.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have also announced that they are planning to launch an operation to seize back Raqqa.

The army and its allies began the offensive by artillery attacks, supported by airstrikes, against the Eastern parts of Raqqa which host the main strongholds of the ISIL terrorists.

Field sources said that the operations are aimed at taking full control of Raqqa province concurrently with the Syrian Democratic Forces' advance in the Northern borders of the province.

On Thursday, the field sources said that the Syrian forces have started the operations from Ithriya region which links Aleppo to Hama, a strategic area which separates the Syrian army  and the ISIL's positions.

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Bomb Blast Kills, Wounds 9 People in A’our Area East of Baghdad

JUNE 4, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Nine people were either killed or injured in a bomb blast East of Baghdad, a source in the Iraq's Ministry of Interior said.

“An improvised explosive device went off near shops in the area of A’our, East of Baghdad, resulting in the death of two persons and wounding seven others,” the source said in a  statement, Iraqi News reported.

“A security force rushed to the scene and transferred the injured to a nearby hospital for medical treatment and the two dead bodies to the forensic medicine authority, while imposed a security cordon around the area of the incident and prevented approaching it.”

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Iraqi Army Blitzes Southern Fallujah

Sat Jun 04, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Iraqi Army, backed by the popular forces of Hashd Al-Sha’abi and Federal Police, continued their large-scale Fallujah offensive, striking ISIL terrorists in Southern  districts of the city, Iraqi Military said on Saturday.

Iraqi Ministry of Defense said in a statement that the army and their allies are pushing North from Al-Nuaimiya towards the Al-Shohada District of Fallujah, Al Masdar report.

The battle goal is further advance of the government forces in the area and if the ISIL terrorists are unable to maintain their last line of defense in Al-Nuaimiya, the Iraqi Army and their popular committees will be able to push back ISIL terrorists further Northward in the area.

Earlier reports show that Iraqi special forces alongside the popular troops continued their offensive against the ISIL terrorists on the outskirts of Fallujah as part of their assault to fully  liberate the city, and the pro-government forces made significant advances in Saqlawiyah region, Northwest of Fallujah, during an operation to regain control of the area from the ISIL  terrorists.

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Iraqi Army Arrests ISIL Prominent Sniper in Saqalawiya North of Fallujah

JUNE 4, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iraqi security forces arrested the most prominent ISIL sniper during a battle near al-Saqalawiya in Anbar Province, a security source in Baghdad Operations Command said.

“Iraqi security forces was able to arrest the most prominent ISIL sniper, known as Falah Ibrahim al-Turkawi, during a security operation that was carried out near al-Saqalawiya North of the city of Fallujah,” the source said in a brief statement, Iraqi News reported.

“The security forces have taken the detainee to the troops at the rear lines in order to conduct the necessary investigations,” the source added.

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Lavrov: US Asks Russia Not to Target Al-Qaeda Branch in Syria

JUNE 4, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Washington has asked Moscow not to conduct airstrikes against al-Nusra Front, which is Al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, for fear that members of the “moderate opposition”  could also be hit, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reported.

“The US are telling us not to hit al-Nusra Front, because there are also ‘normal’ opposition groups on those territories,” Lavrov said in an interview with local Russian media that was  published on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website, RT reported.

The Russian minister also stressed that “such opposition groups should leave terrorist positions,” adding that “we have long agreed on that.” Russia first set a deadline for the “moderate” opposition to leave territories occupied by al-Nusra Front extremists, but then agreed to give them more time to withdraw.

In the interview, Lavrov said that Russia believes that taking specific and more effective measures to fight the ISIL and al-Nusra Front terrorist groups should be the top priority for Russia and the US if the Syrian crisis is to be resolved.

“It is important to provide humanitarian access to the settlements blocked by one side or another, to secure the ceasefire and to prevent its violation, as well as to launch the political  process… but, as important as these goals are, terrorism is our common threat, and there should be no doubt about that,” he said, adding that, in the meantime, al-Nusra Front has been attempting to merge with other armed opposition groups.

Lavrov also said that the political process in Syria is being held back by radical opposition groups that refuse to come to the negotiating table and set preconditions for peace talks. He  added that it is important to set aside these demands and focus on the fight against terrorism.

The minister also emphasized that Russia and the US are involved in a close and intensive dialog on Syria that includes regular telephone calls between Lavrov and his US counterpart,  John Kerry, and a video-conference channel set up between the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria located at the Hmeimim airbase in Latakia and the US base in the Jordanian capital of Amman, as well as a joint US-Russian center in Geneva.

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Russian Air Force Inflicts Heavy Losses on Terrorists in Southern Aleppo

JUNE 4, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Russian fighter jets struck heavily the Takfiri terrorists' positions in Southern Aleppo.

The terrorists' positions came under Russian airstrikes in the strategic town of Al-Hadher in Southern Aleppo.

A video footage taken in the Southern part of Aleppo showed the Russian fighter jets delivering a series of powerful airstrikes on the terrorists' positions the village of Khalsah.

In addition to the airstrikes over southern Aleppo, the Russian air force struck the Al-Nusra Front’s positions in the ‘Anadan Plains, killing a large number of militants.

Earlier on Saturday, the Syrian army and popular forces continued their advances in the Southern part of Aleppo, and managed to capture new areas.

The army units are now in full control of the village of Zeitan, Burnah, and Hummayra in Southern Aleppo province.

The recaptured villages were under the control of Al-Nusra Front, Faylaq Al-Sham, and Ahrar Al-Sham movement.

On Friday, the Syrian fighter jets and artillery units opened heavy fire at the strongholds of the terrorist groups in Northern Aleppo, battlefield sources said, adding that the militants'  military-logistic movements came to a halt following the attacks.

The Syrian warplanes carried out several combat flights over the terrorist centers in Hraytan and Castello road and targeted them badly, while the Syrian artillery units shelled the  terrorist positions massively.

In the meantime, the Syrian army troops ended the fire control of the terrorist groups over a road connecting al-Atfaiyeh square to al-Hamdaniyeh neighborhood in Aleppo city's districts.

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Israeli Forces Open Fire on Farmers in Gaza

JUNE 4, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Israeli forces on Saturday opened fire at farmers and shepherds east of Khan Yunis in southern Gaza Strip.

Witnesses said Israeli forces deployed near a school in the village of Khuzaa opened fire at a group of Palestinians with no one was harmed, Ma'an reported.

On a near daily basis, the Israeli army fires "warning shots" on Palestinian fisherman, farmers, and shepherds entering the Israeli-enforced “buffer zone,” implemented after Israel imposed  a blockade on the Gaza Strip a decade ago.

Due to the high frequency of the attacks, live fire often goes unreported.

While Israel typically cites security concerns when targeting Palestinian agricultural areas, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights has reported in the past that fishermen are often  targeted when they pose no threat.

Approximately 35 percent of Palestinian agricultural land in Gaza is inaccessible without high personal risk, according to the center.

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20 Escape Bahraini Prison, Manhunt Underway

JUNE 4, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Bahraini regime forces launched a manhunt for 20 inmates following a jail break at a prison on the island of Muharraq, where the Persian Gulf nation’s main airport is  located.

Local authorities offered no details on whether the prisoners who escaped Friday were common criminals or political activists imprisoned for taking part in anti-regime demonstrations, presstv reported.

Reporting on the incident, Bahraini state newspaper, Akhbar al-Khaleej said “around 20 prisoners” had escaped from the al-Hadd detention center near the Muharraq dry dock Saturday evening.

“They managed to seize a bus and get away after assaulting warders and police and wounding several of them,” added the official daily.

It further reported that police forces set up roadblocks on the causeways linking Muharraq to Bahrain’s main island, where the capital Manama is located.

This is while the Bahraini Interior Ministry later stated that police officers had recaptured some of the escapees without elaborating on how many of them remained at large.

Since February 14, 2011, thousands of anti-regime protesters have held numerous protest rallies on an almost daily basis in the tiny oil-rich nation, calling for the Al Khalifa family to  relinquish power.

In March of that year, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to the country to assist the Bahraini government in its brutal crackdown on the peaceful  protests.

Scores of people have been killed and hundreds of others injured or arrested during the crackdown.

Amnesty International and many other international rights organizations have frequently censured the Bahraini regime over the “rampant” human rights abuses against opposition activists and anti-regime protesters.

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Four Ceasefire Violations Reported in Syria in Past 24 Hours

JUNE 4, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The ceasefire regime in Syria was generally observed in most of Syria’s provinces, with four violations reported in the provinces of Damascus in the past day, the Russian center for reconciliation in Syria said.

"Groups of the Jaysh al-Islam organization which aligns itself with the opposition shelled from mortars Syrian government troops’ position in the settlements of Arbil and Harasta ands  helled Damascus’s district Jobar twice," said the center, TASS reported.

No air strikes were delivered by the Russian air group and the Syrian air force at armed opposition group which have declared cessation of hostilities and referred their coordinates to  the Russian or US reconciliation centers, according to the bulletin.

Groups constituting the international terrorist organization al-Nusra Front are continuing provocation aimed at disrupt the regime of cessation of hostilities, as follows from the bulletin.

During the day, they conducted fire from multiple missile launcher systems and mortars at the settlement of Handarat, Aleppo’s districts of Sheikh Maqsood, Al-Mukhafaza, al-Zahra and  the al-Nairab airport.

More than 200 al-Nusra terrorists illegally crossed the Syrian-Turkish border near the settlement of Beisun and attacked positions of the Syrian government army. A considerable  concentration of about 1,000 al-Nusra Front gunmen was seen near the settlement of Binnish in the province of Idlib.

Terrorist groups have cars armed with heavy machineguns and up to 25 multiple missile launcher systems. According to local residents, terrorists seize food products from locals and are heading towards the settlement of Khan Touman in the province of Aleppo.

A ceasefire regime brokered by Russia and the United States on February 22 officially came into effect in Syria at midnight Damascus time on February 27. This does not cover terrorist  groups such as ISIL and al-Nusra Front, both outlawed in Russia, and other groups recognized as terrorist by the United Nations Security Council.

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Russian Military Delivers Four Tons of Humanitarian Aid to Syria's Dara'a

Sat Jun 04, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Russian servicemen delivered some four metric tons of humanitarian aid to the Southwestern Syrian province of Dara'a, a spokesman for the Russian Center for Syrian  Reconciliation at Hmeimim airbase said Saturday.

"Russian troops delivered the humanitarian aid to residents and refugees of the settlement of Toobne, located in the province of Dara'a," Col. Stanislav Ivanov said, Sputnik reported.

He added that humanitarian activities in war-torn Syria contributed to the settlement of the conflict in the Middle Eastern nation.

Syria has been mired in civil war since 2011, with government forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad fighting numerous militant groups.

A US-Russia-brokered ceasefire came into force across Syria on February 27, but it does not apply to internationally terrorist organizations active in the country such as ISIL.

The settlement of Toobne, which is located about one mile from line of contact between militants and pro-government forces, has been a target for terrorists' shelling attacks. However after the truce came into effect, the bombardments of Toobne have almost ended, according to local authorities.

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Mideast

Israel wards off antiquity looters high above the Dead Sea

JUNE 4, 2016

It may be the world’s most unusual anti-theft operation, set in a cave high above a desert canyon, with the blue of the Dead Sea visible in the distance.

Israeli authorities have been at work at the site, believed to have been used by ancient refugees, seeking to rescue important archaeological remains, possibly including the next Dead Sea Scrolls.

The aim is to do so before the artifacts are looted, which is a real threat that has occurred in the past.

That means deploying teams of archaeologists and ragtag bands of volunteers who descend about 80 meters down a cliff with the help of ropes to what is known as the Cave of the  Skulls, with the Tzeelim Canyon plunging below.

Some then crawl inside the recesses of the limestone cave on their hands and knees, headlamps shining in the darkness, and scoop rocks and dirt into buckets that are carried back to the entrance.

Standing close to the ledge, the stunning view of the canyon and Dead Sea behind them, volunteers sift the buckets’ contents, so far finding items such as pieces of jawbone, ancient  rope, a piece of carved wood and a potentially important piece of papyrus.

“Beats going to work,” said one volunteer, 39-year-old electrical engineer Guy Raveh, as he knelt in a narrow passageway and shoveled dirt into a bucket.

“This is the allowance I got from home from the wife and the kids,” the father of four boys from the Israeli village of Mevo Beitar said.

Hai Ashkenazi, a 46-year-old finishing up his archaeology Ph.D. at Tel Aviv University, held a just discovered carved stick which may be as old as the Chalcolithic Age.

“For me, it’s fascinating to hold something people used 6,000 years ago,” he said, standing near the cave entrance and overseeing the squad of volunteers, thick clouds of dirt forming in  the air due to buckets being emptied.

The project at the cave in the Judean Desert began three weeks ago, with the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) hoping to extend it to more locations.

The Cave of the Skulls, given the name because seven ancient skulls were found there around 1960, has been singled out because it has been the site of looting in the past.

It is one of the numerous caves in the Dead Sea area, with many of what have come to be known as the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered further north in the area of Qumran, in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli archaeologists believe the Cave of the Skulls was used by Jewish refugees during the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans around 70 AD, as well as during  the Bar Kokhba revolt of Jews against the Romans around 65 years later.

It was also used by humans in earlier eras, and the cave’s dry, cool conditions mean that the remnants inside have been well-preserved, said Amir Ganor, head of the IAA’s robbery  prevention unit.

In 2009, during an undercover operation, Israeli authorities discovered that a looted papyrus with Hebrew writing, a form of contract believed to date back to the years following the Bar  Kokhba revolt or possibly before, was for sale on the black market.

It was being sold for $2 million, the authority says, and undercover agents were able to pose as buyers, eventually carrying out arrests and seizing the papyrus.

The papyrus was said to have been taken from the Tzeelim Canyon, and investigators will now determine whether the piece of papyrus found during the new project is linked.

Later, in 2014, investigators received firm proof of looting at the Cave of the Skulls when robbers were photographed entering it.

They were caught with a comb dating to the Roman era, around 2,000 years ago, and an arrow from the Neolithic period, around 8,000 years old.

“Theft of antiquities is a common phenomenon in Israel,” Ganor said. “Every year, around 150 thieves are caught, who rob the antiquities sites.”

There are hopes that a history-altering find like the Dead Sea Scrolls will be located at the Cave of the Skulls, but anything that sheds light on the past is welcomed by those managing  the project.

In November, Israel is planning to publish part of another letter on papyrus found in the desert, said Ganor, who could not give out further details.

The collection of volunteers who have camped out for three days at a time near the cave runs the gamut from scholars to young people looking for adventure who responded to calls for  help on Facebook.

“For us, this is a vacation for nerds,” said Martin Abegg, a 66-year-old Canadian professor and Dead Sea Scrolls scholar.

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A group in Germany conspiring against Turkey, says Erdoğan

JUNE 4, 2016

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has accused a “German ecole” of spearheading a conspiracy against Turkey that also involves the country’s media.

While responding to questions over a June 2 vote in the German parliament, the Bundestag, that declared the 1915 killing of Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire as  “genocide,” Erdoğan said the ruling “has no importance.”

Turkey has vowed to take action Germany over the vote, but has not yet specified their response.

“I have already said that the stance of some sections in Germany against Turkey is unacceptable. This ecole is pursuing some operations against Turkey. The German media is active in this issue. We have to examine all these matters well,” he said during a trip to Africa.

Erdoğan has previously criticized Germany, particularly during the 2013 Gezi incidents, in which he accused German organizations of supporting the protests.

The German Parliament has approved the motion concerning the 1915 incidents. You have said, “We should decrease problems; increase friends.” Following the last development in

Germany, how will that be possible?

What is important is whether the intention and the effort are in this direction. There is nothing to do if the other side is insisting on not being friends even though your intentions and efforts are for this. We will expend efforts to maximize our friends; however, those who act adversely will lose an important friend of theirs. Why am I saying an important friend?  Because we have more than 3 million people there. They have a very serious potential in the German economy. Well, the notes of the parliamentary debates, the speeches have not  reached me yet. We will make an evaluation over these notes. As a matter of fact, that decision reached by the German Parliament does not count for anything.

With such a decision, is the Germany that perpetrated the Holocaust looking for a partner for itself?

There is no resemblance between the Holocaust and the 1915 events. The judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) about the 1915 incidents is absolutely clear. In the  ECHR decision, it is clearly stated that the Armenian position was not the objective truth with absolute certainty and it could be freely debated; those views that question the Armenian

position were absolutely under the protection of freedom of expression, and that there is no resemblance with the 1915 incidents and the Holocaust. These judgements are also legally  binding. The ECHR is openly and clearly saying these.

Is it possible to interpret the German parliament’s decision as a counter-step against Turkey’s refugee policy?

Matters such as the Readmission Agreement and visa-free travel are matters concerning the EU. Our stance on these matters is known. I also explained this to Chancellor [Angela] Merkel  during the World Humanitarian Summit. The two matters mentioned should be conducted simultaneously. If not done simultaneously, then we may not take the necessary step. In other  words, the fact that the Readmission Agreement has been approved by the cabinet and the parliament does not mean that this business is over. It has to be separately approved by the  Directorate General of Migration Management.

What kind of steps will Turkey take against the decision approved in the German parliament?

The decision of the German parliament bodes no good. First, we should make the necessary evaluations. It does not suit us to cut off our nose to spite our face.

Could there be economic sanctions against Germany?

It is too early to say; but there is an interesting thing here. There is a superior mind here also. Why would that be? Can you imagine, there is one rejection vote, one abstention vote and there are those who have not participated in the voting? Was this a national issue to this extent for the Germans? Last year was the centennial of the 1915 incidents. Why was such a  motion not voted on last year but voted on this year? These are thought-provoking things indeed. Such an instruction must have come from the superior mind that they took such a step. Now I am wondering: How will the German officials be able to, after such a decision, face me in person and our prime minister?

How do you evaluate Merkel’s lack of participation in the vote?

In the phone call a couple of days ago, she told me she would do her best. I have been in politics for 40 years. I fail to understand how the parliamentary group cannot be convinced. I  wish she had participated and cast her vote.

Will the point Turkey-Germany relations have reached negatively affect Turkey-EU talks?

This matter should be regarded as an issue related to Germany. It would not be correct to regard it as a Turkey-EU matter. The EU instance should be evaluated separately.

Recently, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said: “We are very close to a deal. There will be talks held in a European country next week.” Could you elaborate?

The talks with Israel have been going on for a long time. I was thinking that talks would conclude by the end of May. But there has been a delay due to certain developments. Now,  relevant officials are following up. Our conditions on this matter are an apology, compensation [for the 2010 Mavi Marmara massacre] and the lifting of the embargo to Gaza. Following an apology and compensation, we are waiting for the clearance on how the embargo will be lifted. As you know, there is an energy problem in Gaza. Similarly there is a water problem.

There are also hospitals, schools and issues about construction materials related to them. The Israel side agrees on the transport of food, construction material, et cetera to Gaza through  Turkey. We had suggested solving the energy issue with a ship docking at Ashdod port, but it was not suitable for that ship. They suggested a different solution. We told them, “That  could also work; it is no problem for us.” For the solution to the water problem, we suggested drilling or processing seawater. They said, “No problem.” Of course, the distribution  systems of all these will also be built. All of these things are being worked on. Of source, it is also important how the new government will act regarding these matters. How will this  situation be affected with [Avigdor] Lieberman appointed to the Defense Ministry? Did Netanyahu talk about these matters with Lieberman when he formed the government? In the talks to be conducted, I guess these matters will also be discussed.

You have been frequently using an expression nowadays about the Syrian topic. You were saying, “If the U.S. does not meet its commitments, then we will take matters into our hands.” What do you mean by this?

We should be conducting joint moves with the U.S. as NATO allies both in Syria and in Iraq. For instance, why did we go to Afghanistan? We went upon the invitation of the U.S. as a  NATO member country, right? Moreover, we are among the four or five countries that continue to remain there. The same happened in Iraq. But in Iraq, for instance our presence in Bashiqa was made an issue. We went to Bashiqa to fight DAESH [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - ISIL]. This was after speaking with the central administration and the regional  administrators. We have done this to help our brothers there in their fight against the terror organization. I have told all of this to Mr. [Barack] Obama. I told him there has to be joint  acts. This is valid for Syria also. Their chief of General Staff and our chief of General Staff met. Talks are advancing positively. Lately there have been talks held on the removing DAESH  from Manbij. There are about 2,500 Arabs in the Syrian Democratic Forces. It is being said that 450 YPG [People’s Defense Units] members are logistically supporting them. We have  related our sensitivities and our determination as Turkey to our interlocutors. We do not want to experience a new problem in northern Syria. Our colleagues are meeting their U.S.  counterparts during intense discussions. If needed, we will take matters into our hands.

What are the latest developments around Manbij?

According to the information that has reached us, 12 villages have been taken from DAESH. The advance is continuing with each passing day. However, Manbij does not belong to Kurds;  it is a place where Arabs live. It would not be logical for Kurds to settle there. There is the east and west of the Tishrin Dam. We do not want the YPG to cross to the west. The U.S., on  the other hand, is saying that even if they crossed for logistics, they will return. We are observing whether that will be so. But that place belongs to Arabs anyway. Thus, the Arabs also would not allow any adverse development.

Both Russian leader Vladimir Putin and yourself have issued positive statements on Turkey-Russia relations. However, other Russian officials are mentioning different things about Putin’s stance. How do you evaluate this?

I am of the opinion that Putin’s statements should be taken into account.

Can we positively evaluate yours and Putin’s statements in terms of the future of the two countries?

I don’t think it is right to have a negative stance. Good politics should be based on opening the way of relations between two big countries like Russia and Turkey, not blocking them.

Thus, it is not correct to mention demands that would not happen. Everybody knows what has happened. The violations of our airspace were an issue we had been talking about  beforehand. The incident happened as a result of planes of undetermined identity violating our airspace and not responding to our warnings. We believe that Turkey-Russia relations  should not be sacrificed for such an incident.

With the new government, it seems the presidential system will be a top matter of debate. Is it the presidential system or a president affiliated to a political party? Which one is more  probable?

There are certain priorities in the road map of parliament. They are telling me that the internal regulations should absolutely be changed. As a matter of fact, it was among my targets in the last five to six years of my term as prime minister, but while solving other issues, we were not able to change the internal regulations. I guess it will be changed at the first  opportunity. Several incidents that have occurred in parliament stem from this internal regulation. There are times when 40 or 50 people use more time than 316 people do. Of course, everybody will have the right to speak but this should be within a logical procedure. Of course, I do not know what the attitude of the main opposition party and other parties will be on this matter. The presidential system and the party-affiliated president are actually not that different.

Is your final target the presidential system rather than a party-affiliated president?

As I said, it does not differ too much. This matter is not that black and white. They are not that far apart from each other. The whole issue is, for instance, how we are going to fill the  content of the system of a party-affiliated president. What is important is filling the content in a just way, within the scope of the rules of a democratic state, of the rule of law.

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Books and trains share journey in Istanbul's Haydarpaşa station

JUNE 4, 2016

Both books and trains represent acts of traveling from a departure point to a destination, says a poet attending Istanbul's book fair held for the first time at the city's historic Haydarpaşa  Railway Station.

"Right over there is the history itself: Haydarpaşa train station - the place that has been the topic of literature and art many times," says Sezai Sarıoğlu, an author and poet.

Sitting in front of a carriage of an old train, Sarıoğlu says the railway station is "now an authentic place where history comes together with the contemporary."

He is one of over 500 authors and poets at the fair organized by the municipality of Kadıköy, a district on Istanbul's Asian side.    

The five-day fair, which started on June 1, will host nearly 100 publishing houses on the railway platforms.       

The event is expected to bring together thousands of book lovers with their favorite authors.     

"This meeting is so meaningful," says Aleksis Kambures, 33, from Greece. "Because, trains are means of transportation that take people away to different places, just like books, which  also take people to distant lands."       

Kambures has been living in Istanbul for six years and working as a volunteer at a publishing house.       

"It is rare to see a book fair held in such a historic place," he says.       

Inside a passenger car are seven-year-old students from a primary school, each, in a seat, reading a book.       

"I love reading, and I love trains," says Zeynep Özturk, adding she has traveled by train many times before, or was it with the subway..?       

"I wish the idea had been thought of much earlier," sighs Ufuk Kaan Altın, author and one of the founders of Mylos - a boutique publishing house in Istanbul.     

"Journey is one of the main themes in literature; both physical and inner. We can see the two here," he says.       

Complaining that most of the other book fairs have practically become strictly commercial venues, the author hopes that the event at Haydarpaşa will become tradition.    

Sarıoğlu agrees, saying book fairs organized in large culture centers are "modern and industrial" and not warm enough in terms of atmosphere, thus limiting interactions with the readers.  

"There should be a poetical side to the venue. We can see it here at Haydarpaşa."       

A middle aged housewife, Ayla Güçlü, points out that the fair being at the railway station is good "also because it is located in the center” of the city.       

"Haydarpaşa can be protected with cultural events like this," she says opposing any possible plans of turning the historic place into a hotel or other.       

Haydarpaşa was built 106 years ago during the reign of Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II. It has long stood as the symbolic gateway to the city on the Asian side near the Bosphorus.       

In 2010, a fire severely damaged the central and northern parts of the station's roof. Restoration of the building immediately followed.       

The station, operated by the General Directorate of Turkish State Railways, was then closed in January 2012 to allow for the construction of a high-speed line between Istanbul and  Ankara.       

Since then, there have been claims that the historic building -- in an area of around 92,000 square meters -- will be turned into a luxury hotel, or a shopping mall.       

Locals have repeatedly reiterated that any restoration project that includes additional construction to the historical building would be denied.       

They do not want the new projects to harm the historic nature of the building.       

"Now, the abandoned station is home to one of the best activities in the city," says university student Nazlı Badak, 23.       

"You feel completely free here with the trains and books in the open air - unlike the boring nature of indoor activities."       

The book fair will be open until June 5 between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m.

There is no entrance fee.

hurriyetdailynews.com/books-and-trains-share-journey-in-istanbuls-haydarpasa-station--.aspx?pageID=238&nID=100087&NewsCatID=386

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Turkish negotiator with Israel reassigned

JUNE 4, 2016

Feridun Sinirlioglu, Turkey’s deputy foreign minister who was in charge of reconciliation talks between Turkey and Israel in recent years, has been removed from office, Channel 2 News  reported Friday.

According to the report, Sinirlioglu will be appointed Turkey’s Ambassador to the United Nations. He has in the past served as Turkish Ambassador to Israel.

It remains unclear what implications, if any, his reassignment will have on the ongoing talks between Israel and Turkey in an attempt to renew ties that were cut after the 2010 Mavi  Marmara incident.

Channel 2 News’ international news editor Arad Nir speculated that the move might be an attempt by Ankara to remove any remaining officials from the government of former Prime  Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who recently stepped down following a row with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Nir noted that that the normalization agreement formulated by the Israeli negotiating team and the Turkish negotiating team headed by Sinirlioglu was presented to Prime Minister  Binyamin Netanyahu, who is expected to approve it.

The 2010 Marmara incident which led to the cutting of ties involved a Turkish flotilla trying to breach the naval blockade on Gaza. The main ship, later found not to be carrying  humanitarian goods despite its claims, refused orders to turn around and forced IDF soldiers to board it where they were attacked and wounded by Islamists armed with knives and metal  bars. The soldiers were forced to open fire to defend themselves, killing ten.

Under pressure from President Barack Obama, Netanyahu apologized to Turkey over the incident, and last December Israel reportedly agreed to pay $20 million in compensation to the families of the Islamists.

Talks have stalled, however, over Gaza - and after Turkey reportedly demanded Israel lift its import and export restrictions on the Hamas terror stronghold.

On Monday, Netanyahu told a delegation of visiting U.S. congressmen that an agreement on reconciliation with Turkey is very close.

Sources said Netanyahu was very optimistic about relations with Turkey, repeating his statements on the matter three times during the meeting.

And on Thursday, Housing Minister Yoav Gallant (Kulanu) said that "Israel and Turkey are nearing an agreement.”

“This agreement is essential to the national security of Israel, and has far-reaching economic significance. Israel has many enemies, we do not need more enemies. Turkey is one of the  major Muslim countries in the region alongside Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iran,” he added.

israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/213243#.V1KsKjV97IU

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Long road ends: 3 Minnesotans guilty of plotting to join ISIS

Jun 3, 2016

When the conspiracy began in 2014, when the plan to leave the country was discussed, the men were teenagers, barely out of high school, and had rudimentary knowledge of the Islamic  religion.

So the men set out to understand more about their faith. They met in groups, discussed the life of the Prophet Muhammad and the history of the Sahaba, the Prophet's companions.

Their cause slowly progressed into discussions about jihad and the Syrian conflict. The web of Somali-American friends, many who were born in the United States and had difficulty  communicating in Somali with their parents, suddenly found themselves thinking about traveling to Syria to join ISIS.

Between 2014 and 2015, the government arrested nine of those men and charged them with serious terrorism-related charges. Six pled guilty to plotting to join ISIS.

Guled Omar, 21; Abdirahman Daud, 22; and Mohamed Farah, 22, however, took their cases to a Twin Cities jury in a trial that drew worldwide interest and opened a window onto ISIS'  sophisticated propaganda and recruiting techniques.

On Friday, after a 17-day trial and several days of deliberations, 12 white jurors — seven women and five men — found the three men guilty of plotting to join ISIS and commit murder  overseas.

Family members sobbed upon hearing the verdicts. Plotting to commit murder overseas is a charge that carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. The three men were taken into  custody by U.S. marshals.

Farah hugged his attorney Murad Mohammad and waved to his family before he was taken into custody. Daud's mother wiped tears from her eyes with her scarf and abruptly exited the  courtroom. Omar's mother sat in the courtroom throughout the proceeding, her face wet with tears as she heard the word "guilty" again and again.

A sentencing date has not been set. Community activist Sadik Warfa said an appeal is planned.

The verdict was read amid heavy security around the Minneapolis federal courthouse. Court was remarkably quiet prior to the verdict with people whispering and journalists checking  their phones and getting notepads ready.

The convictions were the culmination of more than two years of federal investigation into the activities of the conspiracy.

This was the first time individuals facing ISIS-related charges were tried in Minnesota, home to one of the largest clusters of ISIS defendants in the nation.

A year prior to their arrests in 2015, three of the men's friends suddenly disappeared from their homes. They ended up in Syria and took up arms for the terrorist group ISIS.

The FBI was alarmed.

As agents began investigating the men who were left behind in Minnesota, a group of Somali-Americans, some who were childhood friends, were devising ways to evade authorities.

They met at parks, Somali malls, restaurants, at the gym and mosques. They watched the latest ISIS propaganda videos. The killing and suffering of Muslim children and women in Syria  touched them. Some applied for expedited passports; others were stopped at airports.

Many of those friends went to the same school, played pickup basketball games together and later worked at the same UPS facility in Mendota Heights.

The men knew they were the "hot boys on the block," as one of them put it, meaning they were under the scrutiny of the FBI.

The first phase of the conspiracy started in the spring of 2014, when the men exchanged messages with Hanad Mohallim, a young man who left the Twin Cities on March 9, 2014, at age 18, and went to become one of the first Minnesotans to leave for Syria to fight for the terrorist group ISIS. He later died there.

Inspired by Mohallim's departure, the group began discussing how to leave the country for Syria and ways to finance their travels. The meetings included Omar, Farah and Daud.

In May of 2014, their friend Abdullahi Yusuf, who has since pleaded guilty, attempted to fly out of the the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. FBI agents, who were awaiting him at the airport, prevented him from flying to Turkey. But a day later, a second man in the group, Abdi Nur, successfully left and ended up in Syria.

That same month, when he was 19, Omar, Yusuf Jama and the eventual informant Abdirahman Bashir planned to drive to California. Omar withdrew $5,000 from his college financial aid account to finance travel to Syria.

But after Omar placed his luggage in the rental vehicle, a family member confronted him and the group was forced to abandoned their travel plans.

Jama successfully left the country on June 9, 2014, flying out of New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport after taking a Greyhound bus from Minneapolis. He became the third 

man in the group to join ISIS.

In the fall of 2014, four men in the group, including Farah, tried to duplicate Jama's trick. They took a Greyhound bus from Minneapolis to New York on Nov. 8, 2014. When they arrived  at JFK, FBI agents were there waiting for them. They stopped the four friends from boarding international flights. None of the men was arrested at the time.

That same day, Omar again tried to travel from Minneapolis to San Diego but was stopped at the airport and not allowed to board the plane.

Abdirahman Bashir, who was part of the group, was beginning to get worried.

During the last phase of the conspiracy, as the FBI intensified its surveillance in early 2015, Bashir decided to cooperate with the government as authorities zeroed in on the group. Using  a hidden microphone, he began to secretly record conversations of his friends. A California native, his friends called him "Cali."

"I stopped being radical," Bashir said. "I started listening to my father and uncle. A lot of scholars say everything ISIS is doing is wrong."

Just months before the men were arrested in April 2015, Bashir told the group he had a contact who could provide fake passports for travel to Syria.

In April 2015 with the help of Bashir, Farah and Daud drove to San Diego to obtain those fake passports, and were soon arrested there. Adnan Farah, Omar, Abdurahman and Musse were  also arrested on the same day in Minneapolis as part of the joint terrorism task force investigation, bringing to eight the number of men arrested since 2014. The ninth man, Abdirizak Warsame, was arrested in December 2015.

Throughout the trial, the government extensively used recordings made by Bashir, which prosecutors said provided a "fly-on-the-wall view of this conspiracy."

"These three defendants convict themselves with the words that come out of their own mouths," said U.S. Assistant Attorney John Docherty.

Omar, Farah and Daud "participated wholeheartedly" in the three phases of the conspiracy, which started in the spring of 2014 and culminated with the arrest last year of the six men,  Docherty told jurors.

But families of the men insisted their sons were innocent and never intended to harm their country. During the trial, their defense attorneys portrayed the young men as talkers but not  doers — teens caught on tape slamming America and talking big about fighting in Syria but nothing more.

When prosecutors, for example, played portions of secretly recorded tapes where Omar threatened to kill Turkish security officials he called "freaking pigs," Omar told the court his  words were only youthful boasts intended to impress his friends.

"I was trying to sound like a big, bad guy who knows what he's doing," he told the court. "We all boast. Everyone wants to sound more tough."

The case divided Minnesota's Somali-American community. Some leaders argued that the government was overreaching in its anti-terrorism efforts, arresting impressionable young Muslim men who recently graduated from high schools and never left the United States. None of the men on trial has previously committed a crime.

Many in the Twin Cities Somali community were shocked at the magnitude of the arrests and charges. Mothers said they hadn't slept for days after their sons were arrested. The  community came under scrutiny from law enforcement and the media.

Divisions between families of defendants and government witnesses boiled over publicly during the trial as witnesses testified against former friends.

Two mothers of witnesses were accused of being "spies" after their sons gave lengthy testimonies about their involvement in the conspiracy.

During the course of the trial, security at the court was beefed up. Court security lined up families of defendants before they are allowed to enter the courtroom. Homeland Security  guards wearing bulletproof vests with K-9 dogs roamed the main entrance of the court building.

U.S. Attorney for Minnesota Andrew Luger on Friday applauded the jury and verdicts.

"There were repeated attempts (to go to Syria) even after acquiring deep knowledge of the brutality" of ISIS, he told reporters after the verdict was read. "They knew exactly what they  were doing, becoming terrorists bound and determined to kill" for ISIS.

Luger said there are community leaders outside the courthouse who reject that there's terror recruiting "in our own backyards." ISIS, he added, continues to reach out "to our youth with  a powerful and false message. This is no time for people to stick their heads in the sand."

Warfa said later in the day the family and community were grieving.

"Young men have been arrested for a crime we believe is set up. That's what the community believes. But now we have to respect," Warfa added. "In America, we have a system. We  may disagree with the system, but the court has rendered a verdict."

mprnews.org/story/2016/06/03/long-road-ends-3-minnesota-men-guilty-isis-charges

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Israel releases detained Palestinian MP

JUNE 4, 2016

Ramallah: Israel on Friday released a Palestinian MP after detaining her for 14 months Khalida Jarrar, a top figure of the leftist Palestinian Front for Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), was  released at a military checkpoint near the northern West Bank city of Tulkarem, where crowds welcomed her and moved with her to her home in Ramallah. Israeli forces arrested Jarrar in April 2015 from her home in Ramallah. She was transferred to administrative detention for six months and later was sentenced to 15 months in jail. Jarrar only served 14 months of her  sentence. IANS

US should not be trusted, says Ayatollah Tehran: Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said today that the US was Tehran's "enemy" and should not be trusted.  Despite Iran's fulfilment of its obligations pertaining to the nuclear deal, the US has failed to live up to its commitments, Khamenei said.  "If any political trend (group) trusts the US, it will commit a grave mistake," he said.  Khamenei made the  remarks in a ceremony held to commemorate the 27th death anniversary of the founder of the Islamic republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, reports said. IANS

Celebrity biographer Wendy Leigh dies in London

London: The prolific celebrity biographer Wendy Leigh died in London on Friday. She was 65. Her agent Dan Strone at Trident Media Group said today that she died in a fall from her  riverside apartment in London on Sunday. She was known for her books about David Bowie, John F Kennedy Jr., Arnold Schwarzenegger, Grace Kelly and other major figures. British  media commentator Roy Greenslade said on his blog that Leigh had a popular touch. "She moved on from sex manuals to write a series of celebrity biographies, most of which  antagonized her subjects. But they were always scrupulously researched and full of interesting psychological insights," he said of Leigh. He described Leigh as a longtime friend and said she was intelligent, uninhibited, and perpetually smiling.

tribuneindia.com/news/world/israel-releases-detained-palestinian-mp/246479.html

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Europe

England, Waled And Northern Ireland Schools Say Muslim Students 'Should Break Ramadan Fast' To Avoid Bad Grades

3 JUNE 2016

Hundreds of schools in England, Waled and Northern Ireland have asked parents to allow children to break their Ramadan during exam season after government-backed guidelines raise concerns that their grades could suffer, the Daily Telegraph can reveal.

Ramadan has been gradually moving into the summer exams season in England and this year falls between June 6 and July 5, when many of the summer exams take place, for the first  time in more than three decades.

Heads fear young Muslim students will have health issues as a result of fasting all day during the time of year where the days are longer and their exam results will take a hit as a result.

Earlier this year the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) instructed advice suggesting Muslim students should be allowed to break their Ramadan fast and should be told that extra devotions are "voluntary" and to avoid "all night praying" to prevent tiredness.

It is understood the guidance went to over 3,000 secondary schools across England and potentially hundreds of heads have issued the guidance to parents in the lead to GCSE and A levels exam season which starts next week.

Already Muslim communities and schools in places like Leicester and Nottingham have issued the advice to parents and students and areas in East London where there is a high concentration of Muslim families have followed suit.

It was also revealed that Government officials approved the guidelines before they were sent to schools.

What we don't want is that youngsters be in any way disadvantaged because of their religious beliefs Malcolm Trobe

A Government official told the Daily Telegraph: "On issues like this we fully back heads and trust their professional judgement." The source confirmed officials are also worried about the adverse impact Ramadan could have on academic performance.

Schools are rushing to issue guidelines to minimise any potential damaged in exam results, which are crucial not only for youngsters but also for an institution's position in national league tables.

One school in East London wrote to parents: "We are aware that many of our Muslim students will begin observing Ramadan in June and that this is a very significant time of year.

"In school, as always, there is provision for students to use our Prayer Room and/or study in our Learning Resource Centre during their lunch time.

"The summer term remains a time when we focus on learning and achievement and we will, of course, expect students to maintain a full and active part in their lessons and wider academy life.

"We hope that, if you are allowing your daughter to fast, you will talk with her about how to best manage her full commitment to her learning and her religious observance."

Exam season is very difficult

Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary at ASCL, said:  "[Exams season] is a very difficult time for youngsters and Ramadan overlaps with examining time which is why we have discussed this with Muslim clerics and were able to put out guidance.

"We can't be prescriptive in any way. We are not telling youngsters what they should be doing.

"All we are doing all we are doing is producing guidance around the potential choices that people have and our advice has been guided by a wider discussion with Muslim clerics.

Mr Trobe said experts have advised there is scope for "some relaxation" when it comes to fasting. He explained: "The advice that we received from Muslim clerics indicates that there can be some relaxation on fasting, people can make up the fasting time at a later date outside from Ramadan.

"But the key thing is that these are decisions that will have to be made by the young person in consultation with their parents and their imam."

Worries over grades

He conceded many heads are worried about the negative impact Ramadan will have on grades.

"The concern is that youngsters may not be fully fit and at their most able to complete the exams if they have had a time when they are fasting and of course in Ramadan they are fasting every day.

"What we don't want is that youngsters be in any way disadvantaged because of their religious beliefs."

telegraph.co.uk/education/2016/06/03/schools-say-muslim-students-should-break-ramadan-fast-to-avoid-b/

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Officials say 499 Islamic extremists pose threat in Germany

June 3, 2016

BERLIN — Authorities in Germany are monitoring almost 500 Islamic extremists they believe pose a potential security threat, officials said Friday, a day after the arrest of three men  suspected of planning to carry out an attack in the country for the Islamic State group.

The men — identified only as Syrian citizens Hamza C., 27; Mahood B., 25; and Abd Arahman A. K., 31 — were arrested in three separate locations across Germany following a tip from a  fourth suspect who had approached French authorities earlier this year.

While Germany hasn't suffered mass-casualty attacks by Islamic extremists of the type seen in France and Belgium over recent months, authorities say the country is a target and the risk  of attacks is high.

"It's definitely too soon for a fundamental reassessment in light of what happened yesterday," Interior Ministry spokesman Johannes Dimroth said, adding that authorities will have to  await the outcome of prosecutors' investigation.

All three of those arrested in Germany were living in refugee shelters, adding to concerns that IS might be sending fighters to Germany disguised as asylum-seekers. Almost 1.1 million  people were registered as asylum-seekers in Germany last year, many of them fleeing war and persecution in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Dimroth said authorities had received regular tips about possible Islamic extremists coming to Germany as asylum-seekers and were systematically checking those reports. He didn't say  how many of the 499 Islamic extremists under observation by state and federal police were asylum-seekers.

Federal prosecutors say the men who were arrested intended to carry out an attack in the western city of Duesseldorf though they had no concrete plans.

German weekly Der Spiegel reported Friday that the plot was to involve a total of 10 attackers, of whom two were to detonate suicide vests. The magazine didn't provide a source for that information, which it said French authorities received from Saleh A., a 25-year-old Syrian in custody in France. None of the suspects' surnames were given due to German privacy  rules.

Authorities spent months quietly tracking the three men before swooping Thursday because one of the suspects planned to travel to southern Europe, Der Spiegel reported.

Overall in Germany, Justice Ministry spokesman Philip Scholz said federal prosecutors are currently conducting nearly 120 investigations involving over 180 suspects in connection with  terrorism offences.

Wolfgang Bosbach, a senior member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's party, warned Friday against placing all refugees under suspicion.

But he told public broadcaster rbb-Inforadio it was important to know exactly who was coming to Germany.

stripes.com/news/europe/officials-say-499-islamic-extremists-pose-threat-in-germany-1.412935

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ISIS stoking fears about refugees to destabilise Europe, says police chief

Jun 3, 2016

Rainer Wendt, chairman of the German Police Union, says the terror organisation, which has its roots in Syria and Iraq, has employed a strategy specifically aimed at discrediting the  reputation of law-abiding asylum seekers.

He claimed ISIS had enough money to send their own fighters into Europe and would not need to rely on radicalised refugees to carry out attacks on the West.

The senior German politician said: "It is not necessary. ISIS has a lot of money and could use other measures."

Germany has seen record numbers of refugees enter the country over the last 12 months.

The police chief's appeal for calm follows reports security agencies foiled a planned attack by ISIS in Düsseldorf.

Three Syrians were arrested on suspicion of planning a Mumbai-style attack on the west German city.

The men had been directly "commissioned" by ISIS to launch suicide bombings in the city of Dusseldorf, prosecutors said.

The terror plot was foiled after one of the suspects gave information to police in France in February this year.

A statement from the German federal prosecutor's office said suspects named as Hamza C, 27, Mahood B, 25 and Abd Arahman AK, 31, had been detained.

The three were arrested in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia, Brandenburg and Baden-Wuerttemberg, and their homes were searched.

Another 25-year-old man, Saleh A, is already in custody in France and is subject to a new arrest warrant issued on Wednesday.

It is not clear if this is the same Saleh Abdeslam in custody in France on charges relating to the Paris attacks last November.

Regional home secretary for the North Rhine-Westphalia region, Ralf Jäger, said: "Obviously there were Mumbai-like plans to carry out attacks at many different points with the use of  explosives.

"But the plans had not yet reached the stage of being concrete enough to be carried out, since information about the plans were circulated early on and we were able to act on them.

"Security measures in Germany and in NRW are already of a very high standard, but of course, such an incident will make it necessary to recheck every measure but we also shouldn't let  these people intimidate us and influence our way of life."

express.co.uk/news/world/676592/Islamic-State-stoking-refugee-fears-Germany-claims-police-chief

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Watch Britain First leader get owned by Muslim lecturer

Saturday 4 Jun 2016

That was the claim he made when confronted by a Muslim lecturer.

A video was posted online by Riaz Khan, who approached the far-right party boss in Leicester last weekend.

Khan later put the footage on Facebook, writing: ‘Every time I answered his question with a bit of logic he diverted and went into another topic.

‘At the end I gave him my number and asked him to sit with me and a few others to have some form of dialogue as violence isn’t the solution.

‘I hope he takes up the offer.’

In the video, Golding stated: ‘I’m against Islam because I’ve read the Quran.’

Khan responded incredulously: ‘What, totally?’

In the badly-shot video, Golding said: ‘Yeah, I’m against the religion and the principles, not the people. You’re against Christianity.’

The lecturer pointed out that he is not.

The Britain First leader also claimed to have been ‘run out of town’ when he visited East London with a British flag.

Khan said: ‘Oh come on, you stood outside a mosque three weeks on the trot shouting and swearing.’

He also rubbished Golding’s claims that Muslims had not demonstrated against terrorist atrocities.

metro.co.uk/2016/06/04/watch-britain-first-leader-get-owned-by-muslim-lecturer-5923338/

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Southeast Asia

Philippine troops seize Islamic militant camp

Jun. 04, 2016

BUTIG, Philippines: Philippine troops captured an Islamic militant training camp after a 10-day battle, officials said, as part of operations to clear insurgents from a remote jungle region.

The offensive against the Maute group, one of several Filipino Muslim armed organisations which have pledged allegiance to ISIS, left four soldiers dead and 15 others wounded, a  Philippine military commander told an AFP photographer at the scene.

Surrounded by swamps and a lowland tropical rainforest in the small, Muslim-populated farming town of Butig, more than 800 kilometers (500 miles) south of Manila, the camp's structures were riddled with large bullet holes that soldiers said were caused by machine gun fire used to flush out the militants.

Soldiers said they killed dozens of militants, but there was no sign of dead bodies when the military allowed journalists into the area Friday.

Unexploded improvised explosive devices, a grenade launcher, a rebel uniform and a black ISIS flag were all that were left in the wooden huts and concrete-reinforced trenches, which  were used by the gunmen, army Colonel Roseller Murillo said.

"The Maute group is believed to be on the run and in hiding, (but) the military will fully enforce the law if they initiate other terrorist activities in the area," he told AFP.

The offensive was launched after the militants moved back into territory that the military secured during clashes in February, they said.

Once described by the military as a small-time extortion gang, the Maute group attacked a remote army outpost in Butig in February, triggering a week of fighting that the military said  left six soldiers and at least 12 militants dead.

The group, believed to have fewer than 100 fighters, blew up power transmission towers and abducted and beheaded two employees of a local sawmill in April.

Murillo said the latest military offensive began on May 24. The fighting displaced about 2,000 residents, according to the military.

The southern Philippines has been plagued by a Muslim separatist insurgency for over four decades, with the conflict leaving more than 120,000 dead.

dailystar.com.lb/News/World/2016/Jun-04/355266-philippine-troops-seize-islamic-militant-camp.ashx

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Nations struggle to craft new Mideast peace strategy

Jun. 04, 2016

PARIS (AP) - Nations struggled Friday to craft a viable new strategy for Mideast peace, failing to agree on a French proposal for an international conference that would bring together  Israel and the Palestinians. Diplomats nevertheless vowed to reinvigorate a peace process that has been all but dead for two years.

The gathering in Paris of top diplomats from the United States and more than two dozen Western and Arab countries ended with a call for "fully ending the Israeli occupation," a  rhetorical shift from what Washington has previously endorsed.

But it wasn't immediately clear if the shift meant a new focus and participants couldn't outline how they might achieve that goal. As for the proposed peace mediation conference, they only welcomed the "prospect" of such an event later this year. Israel has fiercely opposed it; the U.S. hasn't been supportive, either. Neither Israeli nor Palestinian officials were present  for Friday's talks.

"A negotiated two-state solution is the only way to achieve an enduring peace, with two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security," a joint communique said. It called the status quo unsustainable and said "actions on the ground, in particular continued acts of violence and ongoing settlement activity, are dangerously imperiling the prospects for a two-state solution."

France said it felt compelled to bring world and regional powers together at a time when Mideast peace appears further away than ever.

While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledges to pursue peace, his increasingly hardline government and its strained relationship with much of the international community  makes that seem less likely. At the same time, Palestinian leaders won't engage in direct talks while Jewish settlement construction continues in territories they hope to include in their  state.

And with the Middle East occupied by crises such as Syria's civil war and fighting the Islamic State, global attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has withered - despite months of  deadly unrest. Palestinian attacks have killed 28 Israelis and two Americans since September. About 200 Palestinians have been killed in that time. Israel says most were attackers and  Israeli forces killed the rest in clashes.

The vague reference to a future international peace conference suggests the idea was rebuffed in private discussions among lower-level aides before French President Francois Hollande, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Friday. For years, statements by the international Quartet of mediators - the U.S., Russia, the European  Union and United Nations - ended with similar language about a future gathering in Russia "at an appropriate time." That time never arrived.

Asked about a conference, Kerry told reporters: "I have no idea yet." But he emphasized that right now, "we need to find some immediate kinds of steps on the ground that will make a  difference."

In his opening remarks, Holland allowed that "we cannot substitute for the parties." Still, he said his country's initiative could provide guarantees "that the peace will be solid, sustainable  and under international supervision."

As a first step, working groups will meet in the coming weeks to develop economic and security incentives for both sides, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told reporters  afterward.

The final communique's other wrinkle was its reference to "fully" ending Israel's occupation. That is subtly different than past papers supported by the U.S., even if President Barack  Obama and other officials have used the term "occupation" and urged Israel to relinquish control over most of the territories it conquered in the 1967 Mideast War in a peace deal. This  land includes the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Kerry himself led the last meaningful peace push, nine months of mainly indirect talks that collapsed in April 2014.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has welcomed France's efforts, having long grown frustrated with Washington's two-decade domination over peace efforts. Palestinians see the U.S. heavily favoring Israel and want an effort with more world powers involved, like last year's Iran nuclear diplomacy.

Still, Foreign Minister Riad Malki expressed disappointment.

"We were expecting timelines for the negotiations," he said, also lamenting the lack of demand to halt settlements.

Netanyahu is defiantly opposed to the French initiative. He says a deal can only be reached in direct negotiations. However, he has expressed openness to elements of a 2002 Arab peace  proposal that offered Israel recognition throughout the Muslim world after a deal with the Palestinians.

Peace isn't possible through "imposition," David Keyes, Netanyahu's spokesman, said Friday.

"If you have a dispute about your home," he said, "you don't fly to another continent and invite 30 people around the world to solve that conflict."

Karin Laub in Amman, Jordan, and Ian Deitch in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

hawaiinewsnow.com/story/32129856/leaders-call-for-talks-on-fully-ending-israeli-occupation

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Indonesian Muslim hard-liners hold anti-communist protest

June 3, 2016

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — About a thousand members of hard-line Islamic groups marched Friday in Indonesia’s capital to denounce a government plan for an investigation into anti- communist massacres in 1965, saying it would help revive communism in the world’s most populous Muslim nation.

Researchers estimate the military and religious groups killed a half million people in attacks on suspected communists and sympathizers that ushered in the 32-year rule of dictator  Suharto.

The protesters, organized by several groups including the Islamic Defenders Front, known by its acronym FPI, rallied peacefully outside the tightly guarded presidential palace, in a sign of  the deep divisions within Indonesia over what rights groups say was one of the worst atrocities of the last century.

FPI has a long record of vandalizing nightspots, hurling stones at Western embassies and attacking rival religious groups. The vast majority of Muslims in the nation of 250 million practice moderate Islam.

The Seattle Mariners’ Nelson Cruz celebrates after he hit a home run in the fourth inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park in San Diego on Thursday, June 2, 2016. (Hayne  Palmour IV/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS)Seattle sports world reacts as Mariners explode for 14 runs in two innings to erase 10-run deficit

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The demonstrators shouted “Crush communists, down with PKI,” referring to the outlawed Indonesian Communist Party, and called on President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to stop his  support for the investigation.

Banners and signs carried by the marchers read “Save Indonesia from communists” and “Don’t say sorry to PKI.”

Some retired army generals were among the participants.

“We have conveyed our demands to the government: Don’t apologize to PKI, it will help revive communism in this nation,” said Kivlan Zein, one of the retired generals.

In Indonesia, widely accepted accounts of the era gloss over the deaths, and descendants of Communist Party members are stigmatized and face legal discrimination that prevents them  from holding government jobs.

In April, the government convened an unprecedented discussion of the massacres that brought together survivors and representatives of the military. It led Jokowi to order officials to start documenting the locations of mass graves of the victims.

The government announced last month it would investigate a list of 122 alleged mass grave compiled by victims’ advocacy groups.

The killing began in October 1965, shortly after Suharto, an unknown major general at the time, blamed the deaths of several right-wing generals on an alleged coup attempt by members of the Communist Party, which was then the largest outside the Soviet Union and China with 3 million members.

seattletimes.com/nation-world/indonesian-muslim-hard-liners-hold-anti-communist-protest/

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ARMM’s Darul Ifta’ sets moon sighting for Ramadan on Sunday

June 3 2016

COTABATO CITY (ARMM BPI / 03 June) — The Regional Darul Ifta’ in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (RDI-ARMM) has set a moon sighting across the region on Sunday, June 5, to  confirm the start of Ramadan this year.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Hijri calendar where Muslims are obliged to fast from dawn until sunset. It is considered to be the holiest month in Islam.

Alim Abdulmuhmin Mujahid, RDI-ARMM executive director, said they have provided a set of Newtonian reflector telescope to each of their five provincial offices in the region and to the  Darul Ifta’ and Ulama of Zamboanga Peninsula to aid in the moon sighting.

He added that they’ve also designated focal persons for the moon sighting in Maguindano, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, and are in close coordination with associates in  theneighboring countries of Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Thailand and Singapore.

Mujahid said the sighting of the crescent moon marks the start of the month of fasting.

He said they want to resolve the usual disagreement that Muslims in different parts of the country have regarding the start and end of Ramadan.

The RDI-ARMM had earlier organized a convention of Muslim leaders, scholars, and legal experts and representatives of Muslim organizations across the country on May 24 in Zamboanga City to discuss matters about Ramadan.

Mujahid said Ramadan is a “revival of faith, strengthening of relationship with Allah, and of respect and generosity.”

“Ramadan presents us a meaningful message. This revives our imaan (Islamic faith), strengthens our relationship with Allah, and restores broken ties with our relatives,” he said.

Mujahid added it is the “time to reflect upon our deeds in the past months, and a time to ask forgiveness.”

The RDI-ARMM has distributed a calendar that indicates prayer time this Ramadan in each of the ARMM provinces.

“The Ramadan prayer time calendar was calculated accurately per municipality based on the formula given to us by the PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical  Services Administration),” Mujahid said.

Meanwhile, the ARMM is organizing a series of month-long activities to highlight the observance of the Holy Month of Ramadan in the region.

The activities, which will be held in the region’s seat in Cotabato City and in the provinces, include provincial and regional Qur’an memorization contest, Islamic symposia, cultural  presentation, free Iftar (fast-breaking), and nightly events sponsored by different ARMM line agencies.

A Ramadan Fair, considered the most popular annual multi-product consumer exhibition in the region, will also open on June 6 at the ARMM compound in Cotabato City.

In 2015, 40 food exhibitors and 20 non-food exhibitors showcased some of the best goods and products from the five provinces.

mindanews.com/top-stories/2016/06/03/armms-darul-ifta-sets-moon-sighting-for-ramadan-on-sunday/

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New Ma Ba Tha school teaches children to ‘protect race and religion’

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Buddhist monks of the nationalist Ma Ba Tha movement have opened a private high school on the outskirts of Yangon this week, where they said they will provide free education for  children and teach them to “protect race and religion” of Myanmar.

Mahaw Thadar High School in Hlegu Township has enrolled around 150 children for Grade 9 and will accept more students for Grades 10 and 11 next year, said Ashin Panya Vara, the monk who founded the school.

“I expect these school children will become decent citizens of our country and will protect and safeguard our race and religion,” he told Myanmar Now in an interview at the new  facility.

He said the teaching would follow the standard high school curriculum, but also include religious and literature programs taught by monks that will build children’s morals and Buddhist devotion.

At the school’s opening on Wednesday, the monk gave a one-hour speech to children and staff on “morality and code of conduct as citizens.”

The influential Ma Ba Tha movement and several associated nationalist organisations are accused of spreading hate speech and fanning communal violence against Myanmar’s Muslim  minority in recent years with claims that Islam is threatening Buddhism.

The group recently held protests to demand that the new National League for Democracy government implements harsh government policies towards the stateless Rohingya Muslims in  Rakhine State and that foreign embassies refrain from using the term Rohingya.

Asked whether these views would be impressed upon the young minds of the students, Ashin Panya Vara, one of the Mabatha leaders, said, “We will not make any comment on other  religions, but will talk about the knowledge of our own religion.”

‘Children need this mindset from childhood’

Headmaster Hla Tun, who oversees eight teachers, was also evasive when asked about teaching Ma Ba Tha’s divisive message. “I just consider the development of talented children,  rather than political or nationalist inspiration,” he said.

“Although the monks from Ma Ba Tha set up the school, we are responsible for both teaching and administrative roles. The school is not intended for only religious motivation,” he said.

Cho Thar Khaing, a 25-year-old primary school teacher from Theinzayat Township in Mon State, added, “The monks are better trainers for nationalist inspiration - children need this  mindset from childhood.”

The new school bears the name of the young Buddha-to-be, Mahaw Thadar, and was built on 5 acres of land. It has a brand-new, five-storey building and two extensions where students  receive free meals and lodging. It is registered as a private high school without enrolment fees and outstanding students will be supported to continue higher education.

“We had a dream to contribute to the education sector of the country long before, but we could only establish it this school year,” said Ashin Panya Vara.

An agricultural resources company named Maha Myaing donated the land and the buildings were paid for by gold mining company Amyotha Kyipwa Toetat Yay, or National Prosperity  Company, which has financed many of Ma Ba Tha’s activities.

Khin Htay Kyi, 46, a mother from Mandalay Region’s Yamethin Township, said she had enrolled her son because the monks could give him a good foundation for his future. “I want my child to have a successful life through religious practices and nationalist inspiration,” she said.

Her son Thu Htet Oo, 13, said he was happy to be at the school and rolled of its mantra: “I want to become a citizen who can protect and safeguard his race and religion.”

Ma Ba Tha rose to prominence during democratic transition in recent years and received supported from the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party for a controversial package of four ‘Race and Religion’ laws last year that are seen as discriminating against Muslims.

In turn, the monks called on voters to support the USDP in the November elections, an effort that failed to resonate with the public.

mizzima.com/news-domestic/new-ma-ba-tha-school-teaches-children-%E2%80%98protect-race-and-religion%E2%80%99

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Africa

Why Mali Is the Deadliest Nation for UN Peacekeepers

June 3, 2016

Mali has become the deadliest nation for United Nations peacekeepers.

The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, or MINUSMA, is now the bloodiest active peacekeeping expedition in the world, with 60 soldiers killed so far  according to the UN since the missin began in 2013.

Al Qaeda-affiliated fighters fired rockets at a MINUSMA camp in the northern city of Gao on Tuesday, killing a Chinese peacekeeper and seriously injuring three others, reports said. Al  Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the group's North Africa chapter, issued a statement saying its al-Murabitoon battalion engaged in a clash with "Crusader occupation forces," according to  the SITE Intelligence Group.

The problem the UN soldiers face is that in the West African country they aren't really keeping the peace; hostilities are still going on, and Western nations led by France are actively fighting Muslim armed groups in the region as well.

"They are peacekeepers in what is generally not a peacekeeping mission," said Andrew Lebovich, a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. "It is still an active  insurgency."

The goal of MINUSMA's 12,700 peacekeepers is to stabilize the country while French troops combat jihadists who took over an uprising of Tuaregs, Berber-speaking nomads who in 2012  declared an independent state in the Sahara Desert, in the country's north, under the name of Azawad.

Al Qaeda uses its attacks not only to strike against the French and international troops — even though UN forces do not fight insurgents — but to advertise its presence in the country and

potentially recruit Malians who might be considering joining the global jihad, John Karlsrud, senior research fellow at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, said.

"With an international peacekeeping force in Mali, it makes what you do much more visible," Karlsrud said. "It's almost like a rallying tool."

Tuesday's violence wasn't isolated. It came on the heels of attacks on Sunday that resulted in five dead peacekeepers near Mopti and a May 19 incident when five Chadian soldiers hit a  landmine and then died under fire from another Islamist militant group, Ansar Dine.

In 2014, after beating back an Islamist advance, the 3,000-strong French force — which is not part of MINUSMA — then shifted its focus to keeping down the rebellion in the north and  rooting out Al Qaeda and other cells that were still staging attacks.

Despite those efforts, the jihadists remain resilient. The French had driven extremists out of Gao in 2013, for example. Today, they and others appear to be working smarter, potentially  with the help of informants throughout the country, said Lebovich.

"For about the past year and a half there has been an escalation in the pace of the attacks and in some cases the violence of the attacks," he said. "Their coordination is improving. Their tactics are improving. They are initiating them in accordance with what clearly seems to be better intelligence on where Malian and UN and even French forces are moving."

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has asked the Security Council to send another 2,500 troops to the UN peacekeeping mission, according to Reuters, which obtained a copy  of Ban's report on the matter. The council is slated to renew the mission at the end of the month.

According to Lebovich, MINUSMA could use better equipment or supplies, but Ban's proposal may not change much.

"It would have to be a part of a sustained effort to essentially conduct a low level anti-insurgency in Mali," he said. But UN peacekeeping missions aren't designed to take sides and target specific actors in a conflict: "How can you have a UN peacekeeping mission that is also tasked with conducting a counterinsurgency?"

Rebel forces like the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad at least temporarily renounced their claims to an independent state, and oppose the jihadists who are still seeking  to overthrow the government in Bamako, led by President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

But the government has failed to give northern communities the autonomy or funding they have requested to boost their shattered economy, Lebovich said. A few thousand more troops  wouldn't change the frustration that has been mounting as a result.

"There is a somewhat widespread opinion that something needs to change," he said. "There are people who think the only way to get something from the state in Mali is to take up arms.  That is something that does not bode well for the future of Mali. I desperately hope that I'm wrong."

news.vice.com/article/why-mali-is-the-deadliest-nation-for-un-peacekeepers

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3 Somali-Americans Found Guilty of Trying to Join Islamic State

JUNE 3, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS — Three Somali-American friends were found guilty on Friday of federal charges that they tried to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State, a plan that prosecutors said  unfolded through propaganda videos and social media exchanges, and while they played basketball and paintball.

The verdicts against the three men — Guled Omar, 21; Abdirahman Daud, 22; and Mohamed Farah, 22 — came after an emotional 17-day trial in which onetime friends from Minnesota’s  large Somali community testified against one another, family members squabbled in the hallways and spectators were occasionally ejected from the courtroom.

On Friday, the three defendants — who had all pleaded not guilty — sat impassively in dark suits as a court clerk began to read a litany of “guilty” verdicts, the most serious being  conspiracy to commit murder overseas. They were also convicted of conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist organization.

The sobs of family members broke the silence. One woman, weeping, rushed from the courtroom, and others used their colorful head scarves to wipe their eyes and cover their faces. As the three men were led from the courtroom, Mr. Farah waved to the relatives and supporters in the gallery.

The convictions capped an investigation that began in 2014 and has led to six other young men pleading guilty to terrorism charges, and once again shined a harsh light on radicalization  among young men in the country’s largest Somali community. Law-enforcement authorities have said that more than 20 young men from Minnesota have left to join the Shabab militant  group in Somalia and that more than 15 have tried or succeeded in leaving to join the Islamic State.

At a news conference, United States Attorney Andrew M. Luger called the case “one of the most important trials” in recent years, one that illuminated the problem of terrorism recruiting “in our own backyard.”

“They were not misled by a friend or tricked into becoming terrorists,” Mr. Luger said. “Rather, they made a deeply personal decision. They wanted to fight for a brutal terrorist  organization, kill innocent people and destroy their families in the process.”

Federal officials also rejected criticisms of one of their witnesses, a friend of the men named Abdirahman Bashir, who worked as a paid informant for federal investigators and provided  hours of audio recordings of the defendants. At one point, when they were planning to reach Syria by first crossing into Mexico, one defendant said he wanted to “spit on America” at  the border crossing, according to Minnesota Public Radio.

Some Somali community members and relatives of the defendants have criticized Mr. Bashir’s role, suggesting the defendants were entrapped. Prosecutors rejected that claim. “This  conspiracy began back in 2014,” Mr. Luger said. “The informant Bashir did not work with the government until early 2015. These people have been long involved with this conspiracy.”

Prosecutors accused the men of being part of a larger group who met to plot ways to get to Syria. In his closing arguments, the assistant United States attorney, John Docherty, said the  three were “exceptionally persistent” and “exceptionally violent.”

A lawyer for Mr. Daud, Bruce Nestor, suggested that an appeal could be filed.

The verdict was not much of a surprise to Burhan Mohumed, 26, a friend of the defendants who had been banned from the courthouse by the judge. He called the process “purely  political.”

“I left a little hope that they wouldn’t be convicted on a conspiracy to murder charge,” he said. “I didn’t think they had enough evidence to convict them on that. I think that was an  overreach.”

During the trial, the defense argued that the three young men had been manipulated by the F.B.I.’s informant, and attacked the credibility of the members of the group who earlier  pleaded guilty and testified for the government. In addition to the six who have pleaded guilty to various charges, a seventh man charged is believed to be in Syria.

Outside the courtroom, Omar Jamal, a Somali community activist, worried that the Somali community would find little solace or justice in guilty verdicts handed down by an all-white  jury that was shown violent Islamic State propaganda videos.

“This decision will reinforce the perception in the community that the system is rigged,” Mr. Jamal said.

But after the verdicts were read, Judge Michael J. Davis thanked the jury, saying, “You have come back with a fair and just verdict.” As the jurors left the courtroom, the three young  men looked toward the gallery at a row of female relatives.

He laid out the details for sentencing, engaging in a brief colloquy with each defendant. They would be able to read pre-sentencing reports, he said, before being sentenced.

“Do you understand what the verdicts were?” Judge Davis asked Mr. Farah.

“Yes sir,” Mr. Farah responded quietly.

“Do you have any questions of me?”

“Not at this time sir.”

nytimes.com/2016/06/04/us/somali-americans-verdict-minneapolis-isis.html

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Ankara Plans to Open Embassies in All African Countries - Turkish President

03.06.2016

Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey intends to open its embassies in all 54 African countries.

ANKARA (Sputnik) – Turkey intends to open its embassies in all 54 African countries, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday.

"Thirteen or fourteen years ago, our embassies worked in 12 African countries, now there are 39 of them. Our goal is to open embassies in all 54 African countries. Embassies should not  be located in the rented premises so we started to buy [land]," Erdogan said at the opening ceremony of a Turkish embassy in Somalia, as quoted by the NTV channel.

The Turkish president arrived in Somalia after visiting Uganda and Kenya, where he pledged to improve security and economic ties between East Africa and Turkey.

sputniknews.com/africa/20160603/1040737470/ankara-africa-embassies.html

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French soldiers disciplined over abuse in Central African Republic

Saturday 04 June 2016

There are currently three investigations under way into allegations that French troops in the country sexually abused children, but the latest case does not relate to sexual acts, a ministry  source said, without giving further details.

The five are accused of physically abusing two Central Africans at a military outpost in the capital Bangui in 2014, according to the Ouest-France newspaper.

"In view of the gravity of the facts, the five soldiers have been suspended," the ministry said, adding: "Simultaneously disciplinary action has been launched ... as a precursor to their  eviction from the military."

France launched the Sangaris military operation in 2013 in its desperately poor and chronically restive former colony after the outbreak of inter-communal violence between Muslim and Christian militias that has killed thousands.

The mission is due to end in December this year, after a progressive draw-down.

rte.ie/news/2016/0604/793330-france-central-african-republic/

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South Asia

Rohingya census raises relocation fears

June 04, 2016

COX'S BAZAR • Bangladesh's government began its first census of undocumented Rohingya refugees on Thursday, setting off fears that it might lead to a mass relocation or forcible  repatriation of the refugees to Myanmar.

The Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic group in western Myanmar described by the United Nations (UN) as the most persecuted minority in the world, have crossed the border in waves over  several decades.

About 32,000 are sheltered in camps administered by the UN, but hundreds of thousands more live undocumented in squalid, makeshift camps or are scattered around south-east  Bangladesh, vulnerable to human traffickers and exploited as cheap labour.

The population has swelled since 2012, when anti-Muslim riots started taking place with renewed frequency in Myanmar.

The Bangladeshi authorities say the camps are hubs of criminality. Last year, some officials expressed support for a plan to move thousands of refugees to a remote island in the Bay of

Bengal that is inundated with water during monsoon season, a notion that was met with anger by the UN and then quietly shelved.

In 2013, concerned about swift population growth among the Rohingya, a government team recommended that the UN provide rations for no more than two children per family, and that  the group's movements be limited to within 4km of the border with Myanmar.

In 2014, the law minister decreed that officials should no longer register Rohingya marriages. Stories of Rohingya getting picked up by the security forces and being forced to return to  Myanmar are common.

As census-takers fanned out through Cox's Bazar, the tin doors of many shacks were marked with the letters CUMN, for "census of the undocumented Myanmar nationals". Residents  expressed hope that the headcount would lift them out of limbo, as well as concern that it could instead lead them to an abrupt return to Myanmar.

"We're floating people," said Ms Nuur Samon, an undocumented Rohingya woman who lives in one of the shacks a few hours north of the camps.

"If the government wants to make us move, what can we do about it? Nothing," she added. "But, at least, take us somewhere where we can have a community, where we can build  schools, where we can have a madrasah.

"We'd like to go back to Myanmar - once it's safe."

Mr Alamgir Hossen, the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics official in charge of the project, said estimates of the Rohingya population varied so widely - from 300,000 to 500,000 - that a  census was necessary. Preliminary surveys have already turned up a previously unknown Rohingya community in Patuakhali district much farther to the north-west, dispelling assumptions that the ethnic group is present only near the Myanmar border.

"At first, we thought they'd hide from us," Mr Hossen said. "We were surprised with how open they were with us. People we were surveying would call their neighbours and tell them to  give us their information."

Mr Dudu Mia, a member of the management committee of the makeshift Leda camp, said he encouraged his community to participate in the census, highlighting the appeal of  documentation that could pave the way for resettlement in other countries.

straitstimes.com/asia/south-asia/rohingya-census-raises-relocation-fears

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17 kidnapped passengers released in northern Sar-e-Pul province

Sat Jun 04 2016

At least 17 passengers kidnapped by the Taliban insurgents have been released in northern Sar-e-Pul province of Afghanistan with the mediation of local tribal elders.

Provincial governor’s spokesman Zabiullah Amani confirmed that the passengers were released late on Thursday night by the Taliban insurgents.

At least 24 passengers were initially abducted by the Taliban insurgents on Wednesday in Da Murda area but 8 of them were later released which included women and children.

The Taliban insurgents kept 17 of them as hostages until they were rescued by the local tribal elders.

The passengers in Sar-e-Pul were abducted days after the Taliban insurgents kidnapped at least 185 passengers from an highway in northern Kunduz province.

The majority of the passengers were released after they were interrogated by the Taliban insurgents and at least 17 of them were killed on charges of working for the Afghan security  institutions.

The Taliban group claimed responsibility behind the kidnapping in Kunduz and said they took the members of security forces in their custody.

khaama.com/17-kidnapped-passengers-released-in-northern-sar-e-pul-province-01157

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Bangladesh saw rise in attacks

June 04, 2016

The US state department has said although the number of terrorist attacks around the world declined last year, terror incidents went up significantly in Bangladesh.

“In 2015, Bangladesh experienced an increase in terrorist attacks against religious minorities and government installations and for the first time, transnational groups have claimed  responsibility for these attacks,” according to US Country Report on Terrorism 2015.

Justin Siberell, acting coordinator for counterterrorism at the department, on Thursday presented the annual report. It said attacks dropped by 13 percent compared with 2014 across the world, while fatalities caused by terrorist activity declined by 14 percent.

Transnational groups such as ISIL and al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) claimed several attacks in Bangladesh, targeting foreigners, religious minorities, police, secular bloggers and publishers, stated the report.

Despite these claims, the Bangladesh government attributed recent extremist violence to the political opposition and local terrorists.

The government articulated a “zero-tolerance” policy towards terrorism and remained committed to counterterrorism cooperation, but the country experienced a significant increase in violent extremist activity in 2015 compared to 2014, the report pointed out.

Bangladesh's criminal justice system continued to make progress in fully implementing the Anti-Terrorism Act. The government forces reportedly arrested numerous “members of ISIL” and of domestic terrorist groups, including suspected supporters of Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and Ansarullah Bangla Team, said the state department.

The country cooperated with the US to further strengthen control of its borders and land, sea, and air ports of entry. It continued to participate in the Department's anti-terrorism  assistance program and received counterterrorism training for law enforcement officers in areas such as crisis response, explosive ordnance disposal and aviation security, it added.

28,300 DIED LAST YEAR

Data compiled by the University of Maryland for the state department showed there were 11,774 terrorist attacks worldwide during the year, in which more than 28,300 people died and roughly 35,300 others were wounded.

The drop was due to fewer attacks in Iraq, Pakistan and Nigeria, Siberell told a special briefing in Washington DC.

“Terrorist attacks and deaths increased in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, the Philippines, Syria and Turkey,” he added.

Terrorist outfits used social media to spread their radical ideologies and solicit followers from Bangladesh.

An article titled “The Revival of Jihad in Bengal” appeared in the November 2015 edition of the ISIL online magazine Dabiq, outlining the outfit's activities in Bangladesh and plans for  future attacks.

The ISIL claimed nine attacks, including the murder of an Italian NGO worker (September 28), a Japanese aid worker (October 3), and an attack on an Italian priest (November 18), read  the report.

The outfit reportedly was behind an attack on a Shia Ashura procession (October 24) that killed one person and injured nearly 100; an attack on a police checkpoint (November 4) killing a police officer; and a December 25 suicide attack on an Ahmadiyya Muslim Community mosque.

The AQIS claimed attacks on February 26, March 30, May 12, August 7, and October 31 that resulted in the murders of four bloggers and a publisher, including an American citizen, stated the report.

The Bangladesh government insisted that ISIL didn't have an operational presence in the country and attributed the ISIL-claimed attacks to domestic elements.

Additionally, there was an unclaimed December 18 attack using crude explosives at two mosques on a naval base in Chittagong, as well as threats and small scale attacks against Christians, Hindus, and minority Muslim groups.

In each of the terrorist incidents claimed by the AQIS, attackers used machetes. The attacks claimed in the name of ISIL involved a variety of weapons: machetes, pistols and crude  explosives. In the case of the attack on the Ahmadiyya mosque, a suicide vest was used, said the state department.

In February, Bangladesh participated in the White House Summit to Counter Violent Extremism and follow-on summits. It also joined the Saudi-led Islamic counterterrorism alliance announced in December last year.

The country formed the Community Support Mechanism (CSM) last year under the Global Fund for Community Engagement and Resilience (GCERF), a public-private global fund to support  local, grassroots efforts to counter violent extremism.

The report said the terrorism finance provisions of Bangladesh's anti-terrorism act prohibit the provision, receipt and collection of money, services and material support where “there  are reasonable grounds to believe that the same has been used or may be used for any purpose by a terrorist entity.”

The religious affairs ministry and the National Committee on Militancy Resistance and Prevention worked with imams and religious scholars to build public awareness against terrorism.

According to the report, the police last year began developing a plan to engage religious leaders in the fight against violent extremism by helping to counter terrorist propaganda with  appropriate scripture-based messages.

thedailystar.net/frontpage/bangladesh-saw-rise-attacks-1234156

 

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