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Islamic World News ( 5 Aug 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Al-Qaida Aspires to Gain from Hindu-Muslim Strife in India, Says Europol


New Age Islam News Bureau

6 Aug 2020


• Went to Bhoomi Pujan Of the Ram Temple To Send Message That Muslims Not Against Ram Mandir: Litigant Iqbal Ansari

• Cataclysmic Blast Caused Damage Across Half of Beirut, Left 300,000 Homeless

• Imran Khan Says Pakistan Will Continue to Raise Kashmir Issue at World Stage

• Christians Lead Charge in Bangladesh's Covid-19 Battle

• Sabah Palace Rejects ‘Malicious’ Allegation of Power Abuse

• Ex-Israeli Lawmaker Sparks Outrage After Hailing Beirut Blast As ‘Gift’ From God

• Africa’s COVID-19 Chaos Opens Door for Opportunistic Extremists

 

India

• Al-Qaida Aspires to Gain from Hindu-Muslim Strife in India, Says Europol

• Went to Bhoomi Pujan Of the Ram Temple To Send Message That Muslims Not Against Ram Mandir: Litigant Iqbal Ansari

• To ‘Liberate’ Kashi And Mathura, Mosques Should Give Way To Mandirs, Says Karnataka Minister

• PM Modi: Ram Popular in Muslim Nations Too

• Respect Supreme Court’s order, but mosque demolished illegally: AIMPLB

• Congress slams Owaisi for his tweet against Priyanka Gandhi, says Congress ideology is Hindu-Muslim bhai bhai

• Unease Among Congress Muslim Leaders Amid Party’s High-pitched Welcome For Ram Mandir Bhoomi Pujan

• Archaeologists Who Discovered Remains Of Ram Temple Below Babri Mosque In Ayodhya Not Among Invitees

• Turkey’s tentacles in India go deeper than thought, says new intel warning

• China-backed attempt by Pakistan to discuss Kashmir issue at UNSC fails yet again: Indian diplomat

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Arab world

• Cataclysmic Blast Caused Damage Across Half of Beirut, Left 300,000 Homeless

• Several Staffers of Foreign Embassies Injured in Beirut Explosion

• Beirut explosion: Lebanon’s financial capacity ‘very limited,’ economy minister says

• Beirut blast: 2013 legal note confirms tanker offloaded ammonium nitrate in port

• ‘Crime scene must not be tampered with’ after Beirut blasts: Ex-Lebanon PM Siniora

• Lebanon’s interior minister against international probe into Beirut blasts: Reports

• World Bank offers help in assessing Lebanon's damage after Beirut blasts

• Arab Coalition downs Houthi explosive-laden drone targeting Saudi Arabia: Spokesman

• Six years on, Yazidis in Iraq demand justice for ISIL persecution

• US spy agencies identify suspected undeclared nuclear site near Saudi capital: Report

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Pakistan

• Imran Khan Says Pakistan Will Continue to Raise Kashmir Issue at World Stage

• Hindus celebrate Raksha Bandhan in Pakistan's Peshawar

• Religious parties stress jihad to liberate Kashmir

• UNSC Reviews Kashmir Situation as Protesters Condemn Indian Action

• Pakistan hints at rival Islamic bloc if OIC doesn't meet on Kashmir

• FC soldier martyred, 2 critically injured in separate incidents of violence from Afghan soil: FO

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South Asia

• Christians Lead Charge in Bangladesh's Covid-19 Battle

• 7 civilians killed as Taliban bomb roadside bomb goes off in West of Afghanistan

• Afghan forces kill, wound at least 16 Taliban militants in Ghazni province

• Taliban attacks repulsed in Faryab, at least 11 militants killed, wounded: Shaheen Corps

• More U.S. Troops Will Leave Afghanistan Before the Election, Trump Says

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Southeast Asia

• Sabah Palace Rejects ‘Malicious’ Allegation of Power Abuse

• Man in Medan sentenced to three years in jail for desecrating Quran

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Mideast

• Ex-Israeli Lawmaker Sparks Outrage After Hailing Beirut Blast As ‘Gift’ From God

• Athens Muslims Fear Mosque Delay After Hagia Sophia Conversion

• Lebanon to Receive Iran’s Food, Medical Aids after Catastrophic Blast

• Analyst: US, Israel Beneficiaries of Beirut Explosion

• Israel's Netanyahu warns Hezbollah after Syria attack

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Africa

• Africa’s COVID-19 Chaos Opens Door for Opportunistic Extremists

• Somalia: Al-Shabaab attack kills at least 8 soldiers

• Africa: AU Vows to Intensify Fight Against Al-Shabaab

• Victims of Suspected Boko Haram Attack on Cameroon IDP Camp Need Urgent Help

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North America

• US To Seek Vote on Extending Arms Embargo on Iran at UN, Says Pompeo

• Rashida Tlaib, Muslim US Congresswoman Defeats Establishment Challenger

• US cargo plane lands in Israel in support of the regime's Iron Dome

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Europe

• Pope Francis Calls For International Prayer For Lebanon, Victims Of Blast

• Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II ‘deeply saddened’ by Lebanon blast

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL:  https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/al-qaida-aspires-gain-hindu/d/122560

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Al-Qaida Aspires to Gain from Hindu-Muslim Strife in India, Says Europol

Aug 4 2020

By Sumit Kumar Singh

 

Europol in its annual report on online Jihadist propaganda also stated that the Al-Qaida is collaborating with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA). File photo

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New Delhi, Aug 4 (IANS): The Al-Qaida terror organisation is making an all-out effort to capitalise on the tension between Hindus and Muslims in India using its Urdu platforms, said Europol, an European Union law enforcement cooperation agency.

Europol in its annual report on online Jihadist propaganda also stated that the Al-Qaida is collaborating with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA). It has managed to establish itself in Kashmir, with Kashmiris leading the valley wing, the European Union law enforcement cooperation agency, said.

"Al-Qaida has also focused on denouncing Pakistan's role in Kashmir through targeted Urdu propaganda in which it accuses the Pakistani government of being an apostate of the US and a bunch of traitors who fill their pockets with bribes and illegitimate wealth," the report stated.

The report released last week by the European Union's Internet Referral Unit (EU IRU) at Europol covers the period from January 1 to December 31, 2019, and outlines the major trends and developments in the propaganda of the most prominent Sunni jihadist organisations – the Islamic State (IS) and Al-Qaida – as well as their affiliates and offshoots.

It further identifies the dominant themes exploited by the groups during this period.

The report stated that in a July 9 video titled "Don't forget Kashmir", Ayman al-Zawahiri accused the Pakistani intelligence agencies of providing "crusaders" with information about the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, arresting and killing Al-Qaida and Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan fighters and providing the US with safe houses and secured land routes.

The Al-Qaida in the Indian subcontinent is the youngest affiliate, and is a patchwork of jihadi groups.

Describing Kashmir as "a bleeding wound in our hearts", al-Zawahiri stressed that bellicosity against Kashmir would be interpreted as directed against the entire "umma".

Ayman al-Zawahiri urged Kashmiri mujahidin to focus on targeting the Indian Army and government "so as to bleed the Indian economy".

"AQIS is also endeavouring to capitalise on tensions between Hindus and Muslims through its Urdu-language propaganda," the report stated.

In keeping with Al-Qaida's overall strategy, the subcontinent-wing abstains from attacking non-combatant Buddhists, Christians, and Hindus.

Currently, the Al-Qaida network is present across South Asia, including in Myanmar where it has capitalised on the Rohingya conflict.

The subcontinent wing has also expanded into other countries in the region, such as Bangladesh. This is noteworthy given that Bangladesh has become a sparring arena for Al-Qaida and Islamic State.

Given its geographic disadvantage, Islamic State has relied on online propaganda to propagate its message via the locally-based Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), while the Al-Qaida has focused on collaborating more directly with local jihadi groups, including Harakat al-Jihad al-Islami Bangladesh and Ansarullah Bangla Team, the report stated.

Europol is headquartered at the Hague in Netherlands and provides support and resources to 27 EU member states. Europol also works with many non-EU partner states and international organisations.

https://www.daijiworld.com/news/newsDisplay.aspx?newsID=737546

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Went to Bhoomi Pujan Of the Ram Temple to Send Message That Muslims Not Against Ram Mandir: Litigant Iqbal Ansari

Aug 6, 2020

 

I believe it was Lord Ram's wish that I receive the first invitation, Iqbal Ansari had said

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Q: Your father Hashim Ansari spent his entire life fighting for the Babri mosque. How did you feel after attending the bhoomi pujan of the Ram temple?

A: Yes, my father fought for Babri Masjid and after his death I took over his mantle and was the litigant in the Ayodhya title suit. We were fighting a legal battle. After the Supreme Court verdict, it is our duty to accept the judgment in its spirit. I went to Ramjanmabhoomi to send out a message that Muslims are not against Ram temple.

Q: How do you see the apex court verdict in context of Muslims?

A: The Supreme Court verdict clearly states Muslims did not demolish a temple to build the mosque. Our Hindu brothers are with us and we are with them in their moment of joy.

Q: What did you tell Prime Minister Modi?

A: I wanted to present him a Ram Charitra Manas, but due to the Covid pandemic, he did not accept gifts. We exchanged greetings. The general secretary of Ram Mandir Trust, Champat Rai, accepted the book on his behalf.

Q: What’s there for Muslims post-Ram Temple?

A: Majority Hindus are very tolerant. Ram is their belief and if we respect their faith. There will be no conflict between the two communities after the temple comes up.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/lucknow/went-to-ramjanmabhoomi-to-send-out-message-that-muslims-not-against-ram-mandir-litigant-iqbal-ansari/articleshow/77383106.cms

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Cataclysmic Blast Caused Damage Across Half Of Beirut, Left 300,000 Homeless

06 Aug 2020

 

A woman, who was injured in Tuesday's blast, sits next to her husband outside their damaged grocery store in Beirut on August 5. — Reuters

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BEIRUT: The huge blast in Beirut on Tuesday left 300,000 people homeless and caused damage across half of the city estimated to cost more than $3 billion, its governor said on Wednesday.

“I think there are between 250,000 and 300,000 people who are now without homes,” said Marwan Aboud, adding that the estimated cost of the damage from Tuesday’s explosion was between $3.0 billion and $5.0 billion dollars.

Wife of Dutch ambassador seriously injured

The wife of the Dutch ambassador to Lebanon was seriously injured by a huge blast that took place in Beirut’s port on Tuesday, the Dutch Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

A spokesman said she had been admitted to hospital. He said the blast had caused extensive damage to the Dutch embassy, also wounding four other people connected to it.

‘Bomb of some kind’

President Donald Trump said that US generals had told him that the powerful explosions which rocked Beirut appeared to have been caused by a “bomb of some kind.”

“It looks like a terrible attack,” Trump told reporters at the White House. Asked about Trump’s remarks, a Pentagon spokesman said: “we don’t have anything for you” and “you will have to reach out to the White House for clarification.” Trump offered US assistance to Lebanon.

“It would seem like it, based on the explosion. I met with some of our great generals and they just seemed to feel that it was,” he said. “This was not some kind of a manufacturing explosion type of event. It seems to be, according to them — they would know better than I would — but they seem to think it was an attack. “It was a bomb of some kind, yes.” Lebanese officials have not described the explosions which rocked the capital as an attack.

“Our prayers go out to all the victims and their families,” he said. “The United States stands ready to assist Lebanon.

“We have a very good relationship with the people of Lebanon and we will be there to help.”

Macron to visit city

President Emmanuel Macron will visit Lebanon on Thursday, the first world leader in Beirut after the port blast that wreaked destruction across the capital, as France seeks to provide its former colony with urgent disaster aid.

“I will go to Beirut tomorrow to bring the Lebanese people a message of fraternity and solidarity from the French,” Macron wrote on Twitter. “We will discuss the situation with the political authorities,” he added.

The president’s Elysee Palace office said Macron will “meet all political actors”, including President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Hassan Diab.

Both sides will be hoping the visit goes more smoothly than a trip last month by France’s top diplomat Jean-Yves Le Drian, who scolded Lebanon’s political elite for being too “passive” in the face of an economic crisis compounded by the coronavirus pandemic.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1572875/cataclysmic-blast-caused-damage-across-half-of-beirut-left-300000-homeless

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Imran Khan says Pakistan will continue to raise Kashmir issue at world stage

Aug 5, 2020

 

File photo of Pakistan PM Imran Khan.

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ISLAMABAD: Notwithstanding the unsuccessful attempts made by him to raise the Kashmir issue at the world stage, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday reiterated that his country would continue to raise the matter at all international forums.

Addressing the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir's legislative assembly on the first anniversary of India's decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, 2019, Khan claimed that many world leaders didn't even know what was going on in Kashmir.

Khan said that it was due to his government's efforts that the Kashmir issue was highlighted and now, "the world was taking notice of it".

Significantly, Khan in the past admitted that there has been a "lukewarm response" to the Kashmir issue at the world stage due to what he described as the "commercial interests" of the Western countries in India, which is a big market.

Khan said he personally briefed world leaders including US President Donald Trump, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron about Kashmir.

Pakistan has been unsuccessfully trying to drum up international support against India for withdrawing J&K's special status and bifurcating it into two Union territories.

India has categorically told the international community that the scrapping of Article 370 was its internal matter. It also advised Pakistan to accept the reality and stop all anti-India propaganda.

Khan also defended the new political map of Pakistan and said that it was essential to respond to India's decision to include Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan as part of India.

India on Tuesday slammed Pakistan for unveiling a "so-called new political map" which claimed J&K and parts of Gujarat as its territories, asserting that it is a "political absurdity" and these "ridiculous assertions" have neither legal validity nor international credibility.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/imran-khan-says-pakistan-will-continue-to-raise-kashmir-issue-at-world-stage/articleshow/77375055.cms

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Christians lead charge in Bangladesh's Covid-19 battle

Aug 06, 2020

Christians — most of whom are Catholics — are a tiny minority accounting for less than half a percent of Muslim-majority Bangladesh’s more than 160 million people.

But they have been held in high regard for decades for vital contributions to education, healthcare and the nation’s socioeconomic development.

As the country continues to reel from the Covid-19 pandemic, Christians have shown selfless love and dedication in fighting the battle head on both individually and institutionally.

Since the pandemic struck in early March, Christians have been active in various roles — from collecting and distributing donations to the poor and needy as individuals or through parishes, dioceses and charities, or treating patients as dedicated doctors and medical staff.

There are about 280 Christian doctors and about 4,000 Christian nurses in Bangladesh, most of whom have been actively involved in the Covid-19 response, according to Dr. Edward Pallab Rozario, vice-president of the Christian Medical Association of Bangladesh (CMAB).

“These doctors and nurses have taken great risks in serving Covid-19 patients and some of them and their family members have been infected. Yet they were not disheartened and returned to work after recovering,” Rozario, 47, a Catholic, told UCA News.

Rozario himself tested positive for Covid-19 in late April and recovered in May after home quarantining.

“A number of Christian doctors have been offering online and mobile services to patients, and they have encouraged people to stay strong mentally,” he said 

Christian hospitals dedicated for Covid-19

There are 20 hospitals operated by Catholics and Protestants in Bangladesh, according to the CMAB. Additionally, the Catholic Church runs about 70 community clinics, mostly in rural areas. All these health facilities continue to operate and serve people during the pandemic.

Mithushilak Murmu, 49, a prominent Christian writer and researcher, has documented the contribution of Christian hospitals in Bangladesh’s Covid-19 battle.

“Christians might be a small minority but they are a significant minority, which they have demonstrated again during this pandemic. They have dedicated whatever resources they have to be a part of the national battle,” Murmu, 49, an ethnic Santal and Lutheran Christian, told UCA News.

Christian Mission Hospital in the northern city of Rajshahi, established by the Anglican Church of Bangladesh in 1877, dedicated itself to fighting Covid-19 on April 15.

Its administrators handed it over to the state-run Rajshahi Medical College and Hospital, and since then, under the supervision of a 15-member medical team, this famed Christian hospital has been serving Covid-19 patients.

In Chokoria in Cox’s Bazar district in the southeast, the newly renovated Memorial Christian Hospital resumed operating on Feb. 28. The hospital has set up a polymer chain reaction laboratory for Covid-19 testing and established a Covid-19 isolation unit in May with funding from its own sources and local government.

Lutheran Aid to Medicine in Bangladesh (LAMB) Hospital in Parbotipur in Dinajpur district in northern Bangladesh launched a 10-bed Covid-19 intensive care unit in late March.

Meanwhile, the 113-year-old Christian Hospital in Chandraghona in Rangamati district in the southeast has maintained a 24/7 flu corner and special observation room since late March. When necessary, the hospital refers patients to specialized Covid-19 hospitals.

“Christians have been engaged in an undeclared war against Covid-19,” added Murmu, a father of two and program coordinator of National Christian Fellowship of Bangladesh, an alliance of evangelical churches. 

Charities at the forefront

Besides individual, parish level and diocesan-wide donations, dozens of Christian charities have raised funds to support poor and marginalized communities across Bangladesh suffering economically as a result of the pandemic.

Catholic charity Caritas Bangladesh has distributed cash, food and health aid to 44,000 families worth 140 million taka (US$1.72 million) through eight regional offices across the country, according to Ranjon Francis Rozario, Caritas’ assistant executive director.

“The poor, needy and most affected people irrespective of caste, creed and gender have received our support. We have secured funding from existing projects and our donors were generous in offering funds. Catholic schools and colleges have also donated money to support our initiatives,” Rozario told UCA News.

Caritas has worked with government agencies and other charities where it was necessary, he said.

World Vision Bangladesh, a Protestant charity, has offered cash aid to more than 18,000 families and food aid to more than 35,000 households, according to its website.

Another leading Christian charity, the Christian Commission for Development of Bangladesh (CCDB), has assisted 7,000 families, said David Milton, deputy director of the organization.

“At first CCDB staff decided to donate a month’s salary to start the Covid-19 charity and then donors came up with funding. We mostly offered cash handouts, but also food aid where it was necessary,” Milton told UCA News.

“The impacts of the coronavirus will be long-lasting, so we are planning programs and activities to support people effectively in the coming days and weeks.”

Bangladesh recorded its first three Covid-19 cases on March 8. Since then, the virus has infected about 244,020 people and caused the deaths of about 3,234 as of Aug. 4, according to government figures.

https://www.ucanews.com/news/christians-lead-charge-in-bangladeshs-covid-19-battle/89041

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Sabah palace rejects ‘malicious’ allegation of power abuse

August 6, 2020

KOTA KINABALU: The Istana Negeri of Sabah has rejected an allegation by a non-governmental organisation that Sabah Yang Dipertua Negeri Juhar Mahiruddin had abused his power and had accepted an inducement in dissolving the state assembly.

The Sabah governor’s private secretary, Abinan Asli, said that in response to a complaint lodged by the chairman of Gerakan Kuasa Rakyat Malaysia Zulkarnain Mahdar with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission yesterday.

“The Istana Negeri strongly refutes the allegations made by Zulkarnain Mahdar. They are untrue, baseless and had malicious intent,” Abinan told a press conference at Istana Negeri here today.

Abinan explained that Juhar had never received 33 statutory declarations from state assemblymen, as claimed by Zulkarnain, before signing the declaration for the dissolution of the state assembly.

Furthermore, he said the palace never received any official or unofficial request from former Sabah chief minister Musa Aman to have a meeting with Juhar.

Abinan said the palace also never instructed the police to stop Musa and his entourage from entering the palace area on July 30 as the roadblock mounted by the police was meant to avoid untoward incidents.

On July 30, caretaker chief minister Shafie Apdal announced the dissolution of the state assembly to pave the way for a state election, which has to be held within 60 days, after obtaining the consent of the Sabah head of state.

The dissolution saw Musa leading a group of assemblymen to seek an audience with Juhar after claiming that he had secured simple majority support to form a new state government without having to go through a fresh state election.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/08/06/sabah-palace-rejects-malicious-allegation-of-power-abuse/

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Ex-Israeli lawmaker sparks outrage after hailing Beirut blast as ‘gift’ from God

06 August 2020

A former member of the Israeli parliament (Knesset) has expressed glee over a massive blast that the Lebanese capital, describing the tragic incident, which has left many dead or injured and destroyed much of a city, as a “gift” from God for a Jewish festival.

In a post on his Facebook page on Wednesday, far-right Zehut party leader Moshe Feiglin said the devastating explosion was just in time for the so-called “Holiday of Love.”

“Today is Tu B’Av, a day of joy, and a true and huge thank you to G-d and all the geniuses and heroes really (!) who organized for us this wonderful celebration in honor of the day of love,” he wrote. “Marking Tu B'Av holiday, we’ve got a fantastic fireworks show from Beirut’s port.”

Lebanon has been in shock and grief since Tuesday, when the blast flattened the whole port in Beirut and large parts of the city center, turning building into masses of debris and twisted metal.

At least 135 people were killed, about 5,000 wounded, many went missing and up to 300,000 people were rendered homeless. The number of casualties is also expected to rise as search and rescue operations are still ongoing.

The blast appeared to have been caused by a fire, which led to the detonation of a cargo of ammonium nitrate that had been stored at the port for years.

It is not known what sparked the fire. An investigation is underway to determine all dimensions of the incident, with Beirut vowing to bring those responsible to justice.

Feiglin, however, suggested, without evidence, that the blast did not happen accidentally.

“You don’t really believe that this was some messy fuel warehouse, yeah? Do you understand that this hell was supposed to fall on us as a rain of missiles?!” he wrote.

The Israeli politician further compared the blast to one caused by a nuclear bomb, saying that the smoke that billowed into the sky looked similar to a mushroom cloud.

“I have some experience with explosives. The largest explosion I took part in was 2.5 tons of TNT. What we saw yesterday at the Port of Beirut was much bigger. The destructive effect (without the radiation) was like a nuclear bomb,” he wrote.

Feiglin’s remarks about the incident prompted angry reactions on social media, with users blasting him, along with other Israeli figures, for rejoicing over the plight of people the Lebanese people.

Later on Wednesday, the ex-Israeli lawmaker responded to the wave of anger over his comments.

Striking a defiant tone, Feiglin expressed hope in an interview with a local radio station later in the day that the Israeli regime was behind the Beirut blast and claimed that he was allowed to rejoice over the incident.

“If it was us, and I hope it was us, then we should be proud of it, and with that we will create a balance of terror. By avoiding saying it’s us, we are putting ourselves on the dark side of morality,” he said. “We are all allowed to rejoice that it exploded in the port of Beirut and not in Tel Aviv.”

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/08/06/631193/Israel-Moshe-Feiglin-Lebanon-Beirut-blast

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Africa’s COVID-19 Chaos Opens Door for Opportunistic Extremists

By Anita Powell

August 04, 2020

JOHANNESBURG - As a pandemic rages and weakens fragile societies, terrorists lie in wait to pounce on vulnerable people, especially on the African continent, says a top U.S. military commander.  U.S. military officials say their work on the continent has continued unabated, but that extremists are actively seeking every opportunity to gain a foothold, from Senegal to Somalia.

Violent extremist organizations, or VEOs, are seizing on Africa’s coronavirus chaos to advance their goals in vulnerable societies, from Nigeria to Mozambique, says the head of U.S. Special Operations Command Africa, Maj. Gen. Dagvin Anderson.

He spoke to reporters via Zoom video conference from AFRICOM headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany.   

“I do believe the extremists will look to exploit any opportunity they get, and COVID presents those opportunities, because COVID stresses any government. ... we know the governments and the nations of Africa are also feeling that stress, and the VEOs will look to exploit that. I can't tell you exactly how, because that will manifest itself in different ways in each of these countries. But these VEOs are very dynamic and they're very flexible, and they will look to see where those weak points are, where that can be exploited, and they will go after it,” he said.

In West Africa, Islamist extremists have shut down educational systems — Anderson cited more than 3,000 schools shuttered by extremist groups in Mali and Burkina Faso. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Mozambique, they’ve harnessed local grievances to feed their activities. 

And, he said, some of these groups count on foreign assistance from mercenary groups with murky affiliations. The shadowy Wagner Group is thought to be active in as many as 20 African countries, including Mozambique, Libya, Sudan, the Ivory Coast and the Central African Republic. 

Anderson echoed analysts who believe the Wagner Group is closely connected to the Kremlin, a charge the Kremlin has denied.

“Russia is directly engaged with them. I see them as being very corrosive. I see them as being detrimental to what should be a common international threat. Unfortunately, what we see is they're fueling the conflict in Libya. To say that that is a private military contractor, I think, is a bit of a stretch, because they are bringing in weapons systems that we saw recently reported in the press that private companies just don't have access to. Those are state-provided weapons systems.”

Anderson also touched on the recent announcement that U.S. Africa Command headquarters would move out of Germany, to another European nation. He noted that the disruptions of the coronavirus crisis didn’t change or diminish U.S. operations in Africa, and reasoned that a change of headquarters would have little effect on their work.

What worries him more, he said, is the pandemic’s disastrous effect on government services and institutions in Africa. And, he noted, the military’s role is limited, and often too late. 

“We are often the firemen, that if you're calling the firefighters it means the fire has already broken out and that we need to do things to do fire prevention and we need to be able to cut firebreaks to keep that fire from spreading. So while I appreciate everyone's interest in what the military brings, if you're ringing the fire alarm, it's probably a little late. We need to do things ahead of it in order to prevent,” he said.

Right now, the American general said, families and communities across the world face uncertainty and fear  as the coronavirus continues to spread. A military solution alone will not address their needs for food security, schools, decent health care, and basic government services. Some extremist groups say they arose specifically to address those injustices — but, Anderson said, their violent methods are a dead end. 

https://www.voanews.com/africa/africas-covid-19-chaos-opens-door-opportunistic-extremists?utm_source=iterable&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=1415687_

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India

 

To ‘liberate’ Kashi and Mathura, mosques should give way to mandirs, says Karnataka minister

Venkatesha Babu | Edited bySabir Hussain

Aug 05, 2020

K S Eshwarappa, a senior minister in Karnataka declared shortly after the ground breaking ceremony for the Ram temple in Ayodhya that the focus would be next on “liberating” Kashi and Mathura.

Eshwarappa who is the panchayat raj and rural development minister in chief minister B S Yediyurappa’s cabinet was speaking at an event in Shivamogga district where puja and havans were organized to mark the bhoomi pujan in Ayodhya.

“A mark of slavery has been erased. Two more remain at Kashi and Mathura, which need to be (erased) and where the mosques should give way to mandirs.”

The minister who is also a former president of the Karnataka unit of the BJP said that all efforts should be carried out to ensure that other marks of slavery (ghulamgiri) are erased to build a strong India.

Congress spokesperson B L Shankar refused to comment on the remarks of Eshwarappa saying “We don’t know whether this is the official stance of BJP as a party or Eshwarappa’s personal stance. If the BJP takes a stand on this, then only we will comment on the matter.”

Incidentally, the Congress has also welcomed the bhoomi pujan in Ayodhya but has said the issue should be used to unite and not divide people. KPCC President D K Shivakumar had declared on Tuesday that ‘Lord Ram is in the hearts of all Congressmen.”

Earlier Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered prayers and laid the foundation stone for a grand temple at the site believed to be Lord Ram’s birthplace in Ayodhya.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/to-liberate-kashi-and-mathura-mosques-should-give-way-to-mandirs-says-karnataka-minister/story-a9QCdlTwEhRC7QGzmIslkI.html

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PM Modi: Ram popular in Muslim nations too

Aug 6, 2020

In his Ayodhya speech, PM Modi sought to contradict the depiction of Ram in certain quarters as a phenomenon confined to Hindus of the Hindi belt and as a patriarchal figure.

He referred to versions of Ramayan in all Indian languages, including one written by Guru Gobind Singh, as well as the popularity of the epic in Indonesia, home to the single largest concentration of Muslims; Malaysia, another predominantly Muslim country; as well as Ajmer, the site of a revered Sufi shrine besides the Muslim-majority Union Territory of Lakshadweep. "Ram belongs to all, Ram lives in all," he said.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/pm-modi-ram-popular-in-muslim-nations-too/articleshow/77383067.cms

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Respect Supreme Court’s order, but mosque demolished illegally: AIMPLB

Aug 06, 2020

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), a key Muslim party in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit, said on Wednesday that the Ram temple ground-breaking ceremony wouldn’t change the reality that the 16th century mosque was illegally demolished even as another litigant in the suit held out hope for communal amity.

AIMPLB secretary Zafaryab Jilani said that, for the board, the land on which the Babri Masjid was demolished on December 6, 1992, would continue to be mosque land.

“We are quiet because we had said that we would respect the law of the land and go by the court’s verdict. The SC verdict came on November 9, but it’s also a fact that the Supreme Court had held that Babri mosque was illegally demolished and that it was a shameful act and the same view was repeated on November 9,” Jilani said.

He was referring to the November 2019 judgment of the top court on the title suit that cleared the way for the Ram temple. “As far as we are concerned, we also didn’t agree with the Prime Minister and the chief minister participating in the event,” Jilani said.

But another litigant – Iqbal Ansari, the only one among three Muslim invitees who attended the event – said he respected the top court’s judgment and that the dispute was over. “Lord Ram belongs to everyone. Ram temple will also bring overall development to Ayodhya,” he added.

In Ayodhya, a section of Muslims said they were ready to leave behind decades of communal strife and move forward.

Athar Jamal, a 25-year-old student at the city’s Saket PG Degree College, said his generation yearned for development. “Now, with construction of Ram temple, I think big companies will also set up their offices in Ayodhya, generating job opportunities for youth.”

Another local resident, Amzad Ali, hoped the temple will usher in opportunities for him to start his own business. “I want to do my own business. In the coming days, Ayodhya will witness a lot of activity,” said Ali.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/respect-sc-order-but-mosque-demolished-illegally-aimplb/story-oOnXGfrDjv9WzVGn2nxHSK.html

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Congress slams Owaisi for his tweet against Priyanka Gandhi, says Congress ideology is Hindu-Muslim bhai bhai

Aug 5, 2020

HYDERABAD: The Congress has lambasted Hyderabad MP and AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi for his tweet against Priyanka Gandhi over her support to the bhoomi pujan ceremony of Ram temple in Ayodhya.

All India Congress Committee secretary V Hanumanth Rao on Wednesday said Owaisi is craving for political mileage and is not able to tolerate Hindu-Muslim unity as communal he hears that communal harmony would weaken his leadership.

Owaisi in a tweet had slammed AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi for supporting the Bhoomi Pujan for Ram Temple in Ayodhya and saying that the event would celebrate national unity.

Owaisi had tweeted that: “Glad that they are not pretending anymore. It's okay if they want to embrace this extremist ideology of Hindutva but why all this hollow talk about brotherhood? Don't be shy, please be proud of your party's contributions to the movement that demolished our Babri Masjid.” The Congress veteran said Owaisi’s remarks are ridiculous and objectionable. What all Priyanka Gandhi tweeted was that Lord was for the welfare of everyone in the society which is a matter of national integrity.

“I strongly condemn Owaisi’s comment against Priyanka Gandhi. Congress party has always stood for national integrity. There Is no need for Asaduddin Owaisi to doubt the credentials the Congress. Owaisi does not have moral right to criticise either Congress or our leader Priyanka Gandhi,” Hanumanth Rao said.

The Congress veteran sought to remind Owaisi that Iqbal Ansari who had stood for reconstruction of Babri masjid was given the first invite for Ram mandir bhumi pujan and he accepted it also. The Congress will abide by the Supreme Court verdict on the Babri Masjid reconstruction at Ayodhya and our ideology will always be Hindu-Musiim Bhal Bhai,” Hanumanth Rao said.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/congress-slams-owaisi-for-his-tweet-against-priyanka-gandhi-says-congress-ideology-is-hindu-muslim-bhai-bhai/articleshow/77375524.cms

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Unease Among Congress Muslim Leaders Amid Party’s High-pitched Welcome For Ram Mandir Bhoomi Pujan

Puneet Nicholas Yadav

05 August 2020

With a majority of their party colleagues, including Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, waxing eloquent in welcoming the bhoomi pujan of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, Muslim leaders of the Congress party are faced with a political predicament. They can join the celebratory brouhaha citing its inevitability given an enabling Supreme Court verdict but, in doing so, run the risk of adding insult to the injury that their community is already nursing under an electorally dominant BJP’s majoritarian politics. Else, they can demand complete implementation of the same Supreme Court verdict that also decreed five acres of land in Ayodhya be given to the Sunni Waqf Board for the purpose of building a mosque as restitution and expeditious completion of the nearly three-decade-old criminal proceedings against BJP-RSS leaders for their alleged role in razing the Babri Masjid. But choosing such a path would undoubtedly push the Congress to a corner, giving the BJP-RSS a chance to accuse the rival of being anti-Hindu.

The response of the Congress party, or at least a substantial chunk of its leaders, to bhoomi pujan presently seems indistinguishable from the euphoria in the BJP. Former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath led a recital of Hanuman Chalisa a day ahead of the religious gala in Ayodhya and exhorted his supporters across the state to join in virtually. Nath is also reportedly sending silver bricks to be used in the construction of the Ram Mandir and believes the late Rajiv Gandhi, who as the Prime Minister in 1989 allowed the temple’s shilanyas, would be “very happy today”.

Nath’s colleague and Congress Rajya Sabha MP Digvijaya Singh too welcomed the bhoomi pujan claiming “it is what Rajiv Gandhi also wanted”. Sundry other Hindu leaders of the Congress have expressed similar views. Though shorn of the overtly Hindu tenor, Rahul and Priyanka too have joined in to chant praises of Lord Ram while subtly reminding Hindutva flag bearers that the Hindu god stood for compassion, brotherhood, unity and syncretism. Rahul refrained from expressly mentioning the Ram Mandir in his statement and instead claimed that Lord Ram can ‘never embody hate, cruelty or injustice’. Congress sources tell Outlook that the party is even considering a high-pitched campaign in UP, under Priyanka Gandhi’s leadership, to “propagate the real message of Lord Ram and convince the people that the BJP’s Hindutva agenda is, in reality, a polar opposite of what Ram and Hinduism stand for”. Priyanka’s message welcoming the Ram Mandir bhoomi pujan as a moment to make a fresh start for inclusion and tolerance is to be read in this light, say sources.

Yet, for the Muslims in the Congress, or indeed those who do not wish to align with this forceful expression of Hindu appeasement, the prevailing fervor over the Ram Mandir presents them a fait accompli; forcing them into quiet submission and acceptance of the now cemented claim of the Hindu majority to Ayodhya. Discordant notes, if any, must be carefully drafted, lest they attract the wrath of the BJP’s formidable cadre or even the disparaging gaze of their own colleagues in the Congress.

Former Union minister Salman Khurshid has been among the few Muslim leaders of the Congress to tweet on the Ram Mandir bhoomi pujan. “The temple-mosque dispute was resolved by the Supreme Court and accepted by the people. The temple is welcome but it must be remembered that the court has also ordered construction of a mosque. The Prime Minister must support both…” Khurshid tells Outlook that his tweet was based on a plain understanding of the apex court’s judgment on the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmbhoomi title dispute. He added that the dispute had gone on for decades and that though what the court finally gave was “approximate justice and not absolute justice, the verdict has to now be accepted by all and used as a way to move forward by putting the bitterness of the dispute behind.” However, Khurshid added that the ideal way of implementing the verdict would have been to “simultaneously begin work on the Ram Mandir and the mosque, in the true spirit of both secularism and the SC verdict, so that while we celebrate the bhoomi pujan for a temple which represents faith for the Hindus, we could also celebrate the construction of a mosque that has been ordered as restitution for the demolition of the Babri Masjid which represents the deep sentiments of the Muslims”.

While Khurshid hopes that the construction of the Ram Mandir and a mosque in Ayodhya will pave the way for a much needed reconciliation between communities, there are others in his party who believe that the BJP-led governments at the Centre and in UP are deliberately delaying the implementation of the SC verdict to its full extent “only to humiliate the Muslims further”.

“With our overzealous messages for the Ram Mandir, we are only becoming a party to this humiliation… we should have remained steadfast on our secular ideology and insisted that work on the temple and mosque should begin simultaneously. We are still fighting a pandemic, there was no hurry to build the temple right away; it could have waited and this time could have been utilised to complete the process of handing over land to the Sunni Waqf Board for a mosque,” says a Muslim leader of the Congress from UP, requesting anonymity.

Congress secretary and MLA from Bihar, Shakeel Ahmed Khan, tells Outlook, “History is a witness to injustice and patience… whatever we do today becomes a matter of historical record in the future. Time will determine how good or bad our actions of today really were, both for ourselves and for the country. If we want real justice for all concerned, why should we hesitate in demanding that the SC verdict be implemented in letter and spirit?”

Khan’s views are echoed by party’s Lok Sabha MP, Mohammed Jawaid, who believes the “politics and atmosphere of hate and religious intolerance that the BJP has created over the past six years has forced votaries of secularism to constantly weigh the electoral implications of their statements… if we demand a mosque as per the SC verdict while also welcoming the Ram Mandir, our message will be read selectively and the BJP will tell people that the Congress is opposing the temple despite a judgment from the court. What do we do then?”

So, is the burden of secularism only to be shouldered by religious minorities? Khurshid tells Outlook, “in an ideal situation, speaking as a principle, the answer is a definite no but then we have to be pragmatic and see the times we are living in. In these times, I personally feel, if Muslims have to shoulder the responsibility of secularism alone for some time to help build a better India, we must do so happily because it is in the service and best interest of the country.”

https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/india-news-unease-among-congress-muslim-leaders-amid-partys-high-pitched-welcome-for-ram-mandir-bhoomi-pujan/358039

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Archaeologists Who Discovered Remains Of Ram Temple Below Babri Mosque In Ayodhya Not Among Invitees

Jeevan Prakash Sharma

05 August 2020

A group of nine archaeologists, who excavated the Ram Janmabhoomi site at Ayodhya for five years (1975-1979) and discovered ample evidence of a Ram temple below the Babri Mosque, have not been invited to the Ram Janmabhoomi Shilanyas (foundation stone laying) ceremony of a grand Ram temple at Ayodhya on August 5.

“No, I have not been invited. So far as I know, none of the surviving members is part of the ceremony,” RK Chaturvedi, one of the team members, said, adding “nevertheless, we are extremely happy that our hard work has borne fruit at last.”

Led by the renowned archaeologist, BB Lal, the group in the 1970s had decided to carry out a thorough exploration at various places that feature in Ramayana.

This included Ayodhya, the capital of Rama, Shringaverpu where Rama had crossed the Ganga on his southward journey, Bhardwaj Ashram and Chitrakut where he halted during the journey, Bithur where Valmiki used to live, Parihar where Sita was abandoned and so on.

The project, termed as Archaeology of the Ramayana Sites, was inaugurated on March 31, 1975, by the then Union Education Minister S Nurul Hasan and the inaugural function was presided over by the then Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh HN Bahuguna.

Out of the nine-member team, five archaeologists - Prof BB Lal, Dr KP Nautiyal, SK Shrivastava, RK Chaturvedi, KM Asthana – were from Jiwaji University.

While the other three -- Mahdava N Katti, LM Wahal, MS Mani -- were from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), one member, Hem Raj, had represented the Department of Archaeology, UP government.

“I am still in touch with Prof Lal and Hem Raj. While two of the team are no more, I don’t know the whereabouts of rest,” Chaturvedi said.

Besides them, twelve students of the School of Archaeology were also part of the exercise. The only Muslim face in the project was K. K. Muhammed, who was a student then and later became regional director for the Northern Region in the ASI.

While Prof Lal was the first among them who wrote in the '90s about the archaeological evidence of Rama temple below the Babri Mosque in one of the publications, it was Muhammed who brought out the fact in the national media by writing an article in the Indian Express on December 15, 1990.

“Thus my statement, that there was temple remains below the Babri mosque, published in Indian Express on 15.12.1990, fell like the second bombshell on the arguments of Aligarh and JNU historians. It naturally unleashed a political storm and completely silenced the Marxists as they could not challenge it,” Muhammed writes in his book, Main Hoon Bhartiya, published in 2018.

His seniors threatened to suspend him from service as a government servant was not supposed to go in public with his or her view on such a sensitive issue. However, later, he was let off with a transfer from Madras to Goa.

Ashok Pandey, who was among those 12 students, had spent a few months at the excavation sites as part of their archaeological training.

“I don’t know who is invited and who isn’t. I don’t have anything to say on this,” Pandey said.

A section of presently serving archaeologists say that all those who had participated in the excavation are so old that even if they are invited, they might not be able to attend.

“Having said that, I think they should have been at least sent an invitation as a mark of respect for their invaluable contribution,” a senior archaeologist said, requesting anonymity.

The second excavation, which was carried out in 2003 under the leadership of renowned archaeologist BR Mani, conclusively proved the existence of the temple at the place of Babri mosque. However, none of the team members received any invitation for the Bhoomi Pujan.

https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/india-news-archaeologists-who-discovered-remains-of-ram-temple-below-babri-mosque-in-ayodhya-not-among-invitees/358016

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Turkey’s tentacles in India go deeper than thought, says new intel warning

Shishir Gupta

Aug 06, 2020

The Turkish foreign ministry on Wednesday criticised India’s decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status in August last year, asserting that it did not contribute to peace and stability in the region. India had, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government in Ankara said, “further complicated the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and not served peace and stability in the region”. It also called for dialogue between India and Pakistan.

The Turkish statement has been seen to have been issued in coordination with Imran Khan’s government in Pakistan, the only country other than Xi Jinping’s China to have put out a statement on the first anniversary of Jammu and Kashmir’s new status in the Indian constitution. Erdoğan’s government did not make any reference to Pakistan’s new map that had been issued just hours earlier that counts Indian territories as its own.

New Delhi isn’t surprised. In the past, Erdoğan has gone out of his way to echo Imran Khan on Kashmir. Like in February this year, Erdoğan’s speech in the Pakistan National Assembly during his visit to Islamabad compared the “struggle of Kashmiris” with the Ottoman Empire’s fight during World War I.

But this isn’t all that Ankara has been doing. An intelligence report on the role played by fronts for the Turkish government last month accused Ankara of efforts to radicalise Indian Muslims and recruit fundamentalists. Turkey had emerged as the “the hub of anti-India activities” next only to Pakistan.

A second report handed over to national security planners over the past week said fronts for the Turkish government or the outfits it supports - some of them directly linked to Erdogan and his family - appeared to have made deeper inroads in India than assessed earlier. Much of this effort is directed via three sectors: Turkish state media, educational institutes and the nonprofit sector, or NGOs.

The intelligence assessment identified individuals and groups, some of them also suspected to be in touch with Pakistan’s ISI, who had been lured to work with entities in Turkey that had strong links with the Erdogan regime.

In particular, the report listed organisations that had started accelerating what it described as “lucrative scholarships” to Indians to study in Turkey.

“Turkey has been providing lucrative scholarships and running exchange programmes for Indian Kashmiri and Muslim students to study in Turkey through state-sponsored NGOs. Once the students land in Turkey, they are approached and taken over by the Pakistan proxies operating there,” the report said.

The list of outfits that sponsor the scholarships is long, the report said. It includes Turkey Youth Foundation (TUGVA), Presidency of Turks Abroad and Related Communities (YTB), Turkish Airlines, Yunnus Emre Institute (YEI), Turkey’s Diyanet Foundation (TDF) and Turkist Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA).

“Most of these organisations have direct connections with the Turkish government, President Erdogan or his family,” a counter-terror official said.

The TUGVA, which functions under Erdogan’s son Bilal’s patronage, has developed strong links within India by establishing connections with Islamic outfits in India including Jamaat-e-Islamic Organisation’s student wing, Student Islamic Organisation, the report said.

The intel report also accused the Turkish Embassy in Delhi of forging alliances with Indian NGOs, pointing that Indian activists who serve Ankara’s agenda are increasingly being sent to Turkey on exposure trips and encouraged to speak against India. Some of the Turkish organisations that have been used to launch coordinated attacks on India are its International Humanitarian Relief Foundation, the TDF (which also funds scholarships) and Pak-Turkey Cultural Association.

The TDF is part of the religious directorate of Turkey, now deployed with Erdogan supporters, and tasked to build Erdogan’s image as the tallest leader of the Muslim community by championing the Islamic cause where it suits Erdogan’’s ambitions.

And Turkey’s authoritarian leader for 18 years has many.

The most prominent has been to lead the Muslim world, building on Turkey’s imperial Ottoman past. The Ottoman sultans doubled as the caliphs of the Muslim world. Erdogan and his supporters believe they can revive the Ottoman Empire’s former glory that collapsed nearly a century back, and its peak in the 1500s ruled over much of Southeastern Europe, west Asia, and North Africa’s coastal strip.

Erdogan’s effort to expand its influence among South Asian Muslims comes against the backdrop of his pitch to challenge Saudi Arabia’s dominance in the Islamic world and offering a conservative Turkey with Ottoman traditions as a model for Islamic nations to follow.

It is a narrative that works well for Imran Khan in the Indian subcontinent, particularly given India’s recent success in deepening its ties with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. In April, Pakistan’s public broadcaster started airing Turkey’s television series, Ertugrul Gazi, which is loosely based on the story of the 13th century Muslim Oghuz Turk leader Ertugrul, whose son Osman Ghazi is considered to be the founder of the Ottoman Empire.

The series dubbed in Urdu, promoted by Imran Khan in Pakistan just as it was supported by Erdogan in Turkey, depicts the bravery of Muslim Oghuz Turks fighting the Mongol, Christians and Byzantines, glorifies the Ottoman Empire and is seen as a key part of Turkey’s “soft power” influence in the Muslim world.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/erdogan-s-turkey-working-on-imran-khan-s-script-funds-fronts-to-hurt-india-intel/story-2n8taLmj0IO2pG3M5K2ALJ.html

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China-backed attempt by Pakistan to discuss Kashmir issue at UNSC fails yet again: Indian diplomat

Aug 6, 2020

UNITED NATIONS: Pakistan's attempt to internationalise the Kashmir issue through the United Nations has again "come to naught", after a UN Security Council meeting, convened by China to discuss the matter, ended without any outcome, a top Indian diplomat said on Thursday.

India's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador T S Tirumurti said that many other members of the Security Council underlined that Jammu and Kashmir was a bilateral matter between India and Pakistan and also stressed on the importance of the Simla Agreement.

"The attempt of Pakistan to internationalise this issue through the United Nations has again come to naught," Tirumurti told PTI.

"Another attempt by Pakistan fails! In today's meeting of UN Security Council (UNSC) which was closed, informal, not recorded, and without any outcome, almost all countries underlined that J&K was bilateral issue & did not deserve time and attention of Council," Tirumurti tweeted.

China, Pakistan's 'all-weather ally', called for a discussion on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir in the Security Council under 'Any Other Business' on Wednesday, when India marked the first anniversary of ending special status to Jammu and Kashmir and its bifurcation into two union territories--Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

Sources told PTI that the US took the lead, and many other council members also joined and made it clear that the Kashmir issue was not a matter for the UN body to discuss and is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan.

Pakistan has been unsuccessfully trying to drum up international support against India for withdrawing Jammu and Kashmir's special status and bifurcating it into two Union territories.

India has categorically told the international community that the scrapping of Article 370 was its internal matter. It also advised Pakistan to accept reality and stop all anti-India propaganda.

In January this year, China, on behalf of Pakistan, had made a similar attempt to raise the Kashmir issue under "other matters" during closed consultations in the Security Council Consultations Room. Then too, China stood alone in the Pakistani corner to get the Security Council to focus on the Kashmir issue.

The January attempt had failed as other member countries felt that Kashmir was a bilateral matter between India and Pakistan.

Earlier on Wednesday, Tirumurti told PTI that contrary to what Pakistan may claim, Islamabad has not been successful in trying to put Jammu and Kashmir on the UN agenda.

"Frankly, the attempt by Pakistan to try and internationalise, what is a bilateral issue, is nothing new. A lie repeated a hundred times will not become truth," he said.

He said that contrary to what Foreign Minister of Pakistan Shah Mahmood Qureshi has asserted, there has been "no formal meeting of the Security Council on the India-Pakistan issue even once for the past 55 years, let alone three times!"

Tirumurti said what had come up earlier was in a closed-door completely informal meeting under what is called ‘Any Other Business'.

"This is a category where literally any item could be brought for discussion by anyone. Even China, being a permanent member, had to face discussion on Hong Kong in the Security Council under AOB earlier this May. These meetings have no records, and there is no outcome,” he said.

India had on Wednesday slammed China for describing the reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir in 2019 as "illegal and invalid", and advised Beijing not to comment on the internal affairs of other nations.

In a sharp reaction to China's comments on the first anniversary of India's decision on Jammu and Kashmir, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said China has no locus standi on the matter.

"We have noted the comments of the Chinese MFA spokesperson on the Indian Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The Chinese side has no locus standi whatsoever on this matter and is advised not to comment on the internal affairs of other nations," Srivastava said, replying to a question on China's comments that any unilateral change to the status quo of Jammu and Kashmir was illegal and invalid.

In New York on Wednesday, the spokesperson of China's Permanent Mission to the United Nations said on the Security Council's discussion on Kashmir that Chinese Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun pointed out that "India and Pakistan are both China's friendly neighbours and big developing countries at a critical stage of development".

"China is committed to growing friendly relations with both countries and calls on the two countries to focus on national development, set store by peace and stability in South Asia, properly handle historical grievances, abandon the zero-sum thinking, avoid unilateral actions, resolve disputes peacefully through dialogue and consultation, and jointly uphold peace and stability of the region," the official said.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/china-backed-attempt-by-pakistan-to-discuss-kashmir-issue-at-unsc-fails-yet-again-indian-diplomat/articleshow/77386389.cms

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Arab world

 

Several Staffers of Foreign Embassies Injured in Beirut Explosion

Aug 05, 2020

Staff at the UK embassy in Beirut suffered injuries in the huge blast that rocked the Lebanese capital on Tuesday. A Foreign Office spokesperson said that a small number of staff sustained non-life threatening injuries in the explosion and are receiving medical attention where necessary.

Members of staff at Germany’s embassy in Beirut were also hurt in the explosion, the country’s foreign ministry confirmed. ‘We’re shocked by the photos from Beirut. Colleagues at our embassy are also among the wounded,’ the embassy said in a message on Twitter.

Five staffers of the Dutch Embassy in Lebanon were injured in the dramatic explosion in the port of Beirut, Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said.

According to Dutch media reports, only one of all those wounded sustained serious injuries.

At least one Australian was killed and the Australian embassy in Beirut "considerably" damaged by a huge blast in Lebanon's capital.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia's embassy had been "impacted significantly" by the explosion that sent shockwaves across the city, shattering windows, blowing in doors, over-turning cars and smashing masonry.

Meantime, two Filipinos were killed in powerful explosions that hit the Port of Beirut in Lebanon, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed Wednesday.

In an online briefing, DFA Undersecretary Sarah Arriola disclosed that the two additional Filipinos injured were seafarers aboard a ship that was docked 400 meters away from the explosion’s location.

The two seafarers are among the 13 who jumped from their ship after the explosion took place, Arriola said.

A Chinese national sustained a slight injury after a massive explosion rocked the Lebanese capital of Beirut, the Chinese Embassy in the country said on Wednesday.

An Indonesian citizen was also injured in the huge explosions in Lebanon's capital of Beirut, the Indonesian Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

According to the ministry, the Indonesian embassy in Beirut has managed to contact the victim who is now in a stable condition and able to communicate.

Meantime, the UN said Tuesday that "several" of its employees were injured when the massive explosion rocked Lebanon’s capital,. 

Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for Secretary General Antonio Guterres, did not specify the number of injured personnel or in what capacity they work for the UN. But the international body runs myriad programs in the Mediterranean country, including refugee aid and a peacekeeping force in the country's South.

A massive explosion rocked the Lebanese capital of Beirut on Tuesday, killing at least 100 people, wounding over 5,000 more, and smashing a vast area.

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

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

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

In addition to local authorities, more than 30 Red Cross teams are responding at the scene of the blast.

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

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

Hotel Dieu Hospital in Beirut reported it was treating more than 500 injuries and was not able to receive more. Tens of injured needed operations, the hospital said appealing for blood donations. Rizq Hospital also said that it has admitted 400 wounded people.

The health ministry said all Beirut hospitals are overcrowded with those injured in the incident and can no more accommodate anyone.

Yet, the health minister told Lebanon's LBC News that hundreds are feared dead and thousands have been wounded in the blast. He added that the death toll now stands at over 100.

The Lebanese Red Cross also declared that over 5,000 people have been wounded in the incident, while the numbers are still expected to rise. It added that over 100 dead bodies have been collected from the scene of the incident so far.

Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud called it a "national catastrophe" and Prime Minister Hassan Diab declared a day of mourning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://en.farsnews.ir/newstext.aspx?nn=13990515000729

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Beirut explosion: Lebanon’s financial capacity ‘very limited,’ economy minister says

06 August 2020

The Lebanese state and central bank have “very limited” financial capacity to confront the impact of the port warehouse explosion that devastated Beirut without foreign aid, its economy minister said on Thursday.

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

“The capacity of the state is very limited, and so is that of the central bank and the banks. We're not swimming in dollars,” Raoul Nehme said in TV comments to Sky News Arabia.

He said many countries were rushing to help and damages were in the billions of dollars.

He said working with the International Monetary Fund was the only way out for Lebanon, which was already wrestling with a dollar crunch and financial meltdown before Tuesday's blast.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/08/06/Beirut-explosion-Lebanon-s-financial-capacity-very-limited-economy-minister-says-.html

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Beirut blast: 2013 legal note confirms tanker offloaded ammonium nitrate in port

06 August 2020

Explosive material that may have been the cause of the devastating blast in Beirut on Tuesday had been stored in the port since 2013 after a tanker was impounded there, according to a verified legal note circulating online.

Authorities have pointed to large quantities of the highly explosive ammonium nitrate as the cause of the massive blast that killed over 135 people and injured thousands in Lebanon's capital on Tuesday, but observers have asked where this material came from and why it was being stored in such large quantities so close to densely populated central Beirut.

Based on a verified legal note from a Lebanese law firm, one theory has emerged that the blast was caused by 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that was offloaded by a Moldovan-flagged tanker in 2013 and had been kept in the port ever since.

Lebanese law firm Baroudi & Associates drafted the note after issuing three arrest orders against the Rhosus tanker, which was impounded by Lebanese authorities in November 2013 and subsequently offloaded the ammonium nitrate in Beirut port.

The letter, dated sometime in 2015 and posted online by two lawyers from the firm acting on behalf of “various creditors,” detailed what happened to the Rhosus after its Ukrainian crew and Russian owner abandoned the vessel off Beirut.

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

“On 23/9/2013, m/v Rhosus, flying the Moldovian flag, sailed from BatumiPort, Georgia heading to Biera in Mozambique carrying 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate in bulk. En route, the vessel faced technical problems forcing the Master to enter Beirut Port. Upon inspection of the vessel by Port State Control, the vessel was forbidden from sailing. Most crew except the Master and four crew members were repatriated and shortly afterwards the vessel was abandoned by her owners after charterers and cargo concern lost interest in the cargo. The vessel quickly ran out of stores, bunker and provisions,” read the legal note published by the lawyers identified as Charbel Dagher and Christine Maksoud.

The legal note in question has been verified by Al Arabiya English after its initial publication in a newsletter published in October 2015 by ShipArrested.com, a website that identifies itself as an extensive network that facilitates the fast and efficient arrest or release of ships with coverage in over 1,000 ports around the globe.

“Various creditors came forward with claims against her. Our firm acting on instruction of these creditors obtained three arrest orders against the vessel. Efforts to get in touch with the owners, charterers and cargo owners to obtain payment failed,” both Dagher and Maksoud said in their legal note after the ship was impounded by authorities.

A heatmap of the “Rhosus” cargo vessel that reportedly offloaded the 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate at Beirut Port in 2013 showed its past routes across the several countries in the Mediterranean prior to its abandonment in the Lebanese capital a year later, according to ship tracking service Marine Traffic.

According to the legal note, both Lebanese lawyers Dagher and Maksoud attested that Beirut port authorities had discharged the cargo of ammonium nitrate onto the port's warehouses.

“The vessel and cargo remain to date in port awaiting auctioning and/or proper disposal,” Dagher and Maksoud wrote in the conclusion of the letter released in 2015.

Al Arabiya English could not independently verify whether the 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that was offloaded by the Rhosus in 2013 or 2014 was behind the devastating explosions on Tuesday at Beirut port from hanger 12.

According to information provided by Marine Traffic, the last recorded location of the Rhosus was located at Mediterranean at position 33° 54' 18.036" N, 35° 30' 55.512" E as more than six years ago on August 7, 2014. The GPS coordinates placed the Rhosus docked exactly opposite the hanger which exploded on Tuesday at Beirut port.

While the Rhosus sailed under the Moldovan flag, it was actually owned by a Russian man named by Igor Grechushkin and was manned by a crew of both Russians and Ukrainians. According to an investigation by the Globe and Mail newspaper, Grechushkin’s known address was placed in Cyprus. The Siberian Times, Grechushkin still lives in Limassol, Cyprus, with the newspaper posting reportedly exclusive images of him.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/08/06/Lebanese-2013-legal-note-confirms-Rhosus-tanker-offloaded-ammonium-nitrate-in-Beirut.html

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‘Crime scene must not be tampered with’ after Beirut blasts: Ex-Lebanon PM Siniora

06 August 2020

Authorities must work together to ensure the scene of the crime is maintained and not tampered with, says former Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora after meeting with former Lebanese premiers a day after the deadly blast that rocked Beirut.

“The presidents call on all the agencies in the port to work together directly on the scene of this crime and to be careful not to tamper with it,” Siniora was quoted as saying on his official website.

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

Sources confirmed to Al Arabiya overnight that the Hezbollah terrorist group had sent several of its members down to the port following the deadly explosion that has so far killed at least 135 people and injured 5,000 others.

Former Prime Ministers Saad Hariri, Najib Mikati, Fouad Siniora and Tammam Salam met earlier on Wednesday and said that it was necessary for an investigative committee from the United Nations or the Arab League to be formed with “transparent” and “independent” judges.

US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that nobody can say whether a devastating explosion in Beirut could have been caused by an attack, casting doubt on investigators who have blamed negligence for the warehouse blast.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/08/06/-Crime-scene-must-not-be-tampered-with-after-Beirut-blasts-Ex-Lebanon-PM-Siniora.html

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Lebanon’s interior minister against international probe into Beirut blasts: Reports

06 August 2020

Lebanon’s interior minister has expressed his objections to an international team joining local investigations into the Beirut explosions, according to local media outlets, adding that a “full and transparent probe would take five days.”

“The investigation of the port explosion will be transparent, take 5 days, and any officials involved will be held accountable,” Lebanese Interior Minister Mohammed Fehmi was quoted as saying by state broadcaster LBC news channel.

“The high explosives that were in block 12 were ammonium nitrate and you have to ask customs why they are there. At least 80 percent of the fire has now been controlled at Beirut Port,” Fehmi added later on Wednesday.

Fehmi’s reported statements contradicted those made by Lebanon's four previous prime ministers on Wednesday who called for a UN-backed or Arab League-backed investigative committee to probe the Beirut blasts that killed more than 130 and injured more than 5,000.

Prosecutors in France said they have opened an investigation after 21 French citizens were wounded in the devastating blast at the port in the Lebanese capital Beirut, the Paris prosecutor said.

The prosecutors opened a probe into “involuntary injury” using their jurisdiction to investigate acts committed abroad, Paris prosecutor Remy Heintz said in a statement.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/08/06/Lebanon-s-interior-minister-against-international-probe-into-Beirut-blasts-Reports.html

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World Bank offers help in assessing Lebanon's damage after Beirut blasts

05 August 2020

The World Bank Group said on Wednesday it stands ready to assess Lebanon's damage and needs after a devastating Beirut port explosion and work with the country's partners to mobilize public and private financing for reconstruction and recovery.

The World Bank said in a statement that it "would be also willing to reprogram existing resources and explore additional financing to support rebuilding lives and livelihoods of people impacted by this disaster."

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

Two planeloads of French rescue workers and aid headed to Beirut and French President Emmanuel Macron was to arrive Thursday to offer support for the former protectorate. The countries retain close political and economic ties.

Several planes of medical equipment and supplies from Greece, Kuwait and elsewhere arrived at Beirut’s international airport. The EU planned to send firefighters with vehicles, dogs and equipment designed to find people trapped in debris.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/08/06/World-Bank-offers-help-in-assessing-Lebanon-s-damage-after-Beirut-blasts.html

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Arab Coalition downs Houthi explosive-laden drone targeting Saudi Arabia: Spokesman

06 August 2020

The Arab Coalition downed an explosive-laden drone launched by the Iran-backed Houthi militia toward Saudi Arabia on Thursday, the coalition spokesperson said, according to official Saudi Press Agency.

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

Arab Coalition Spokesperson Colonel Turki al-Maliki said that the Iran-backed Houthi militia continues to breach the Stockholm agreement and the cease fire agreement in Yemen's Hudaydah. He also said the militia continues to use the Hudaydah governorate as a place for launching terrorist operations using ballistic missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles and explosive remote-controlled boats and drones.

“This represents a real threat to regional and international security and undermines political efforts to make the Stockholm Agreement succeed,” al-Maliki said according to SPA.

He confirmed that the Arab Coalition continues to take and implement appropriate measures to deal with these “hostile and terrorist” acts in accordance with international humanitarian law and its customary rules.

In March, the Royal Saudi Air Defense Forces intercepted and destroyed two ballistic missiles launched by the Houthi militia in Yemen toward civilian targets in the cities of Riyadh and Jazan.

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabian Military Industries said it was working on developing a new counter-drone system to protect the Kingdom's vital infrastructure and military bases.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/08/06/Arab-Coalition-downs-Houthi-explosive-laden-drone-targeting-Saudi-Arabia-Spokesman-.html

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Six years on, Yazidis in Iraq demand justice for ISIL persecution

4 Aug 2020

A couple of hundred people gathered in Iraq's Sinjar to remember the ISIL (ISIS) massacre and enslavement of the Yazidi people in August of 2014.

During the ceremony on Tuesday, the audience watched a play and listened to the testimonies of the survivors.

"It has been six years that we repeat this play and this ceremony but in vain. If it had led to anything then at least my brothers, my father and my uncle would be with us. We don't know anything about them. We don't know if they are alive or dead," said Badriya Faisal, a survivor.

The Yazidis are an ethnoreligious minority numbering approximately 550,000 in their heartland of northwest Iraq before ISIL swept through the rugged region in 2014. Their belief combines elements of several ancient Middle Eastern religions.

ISIL, which considers the Yazidis heretics, slaughtered thousands of Yazidi men and abducted women and girls. Yazidi children were forcibly converted to Islam, taught Arabic and banned from speaking their native Kurdish.

After the ISIL fighters were chased out of Yazidi areas in 2015 by the Iraqi army and the US-led military coalition, little has been done to heal the wounds or secure the minority group against a possible resurgence.

Hundreds remain missing and dozens of mass graves - more than 70 - have not yet been exhumed.

"Our mass graves are still as they were. They haven't been opened, and there are still people in the hands of ISIL and they have not been liberated, even after six years," said Nishtiman Khalaf, an activist.

Many children who were raised under ISIL and indoctrinated in the group's ideology are believed to still be  living in camps in Syria.

More than 400,000 Yazidis are living in displacement while control and administration of the Sinjar region remain disputed between the Iraqi politicians.

According to Hussein Qaidi, head of the Office for Yazidi Abductees Affairs, more than 6,400 Yazidi men, women, and children were kidnapped when ISIL took control of the city of Mosul in June 2014.

Nearly 3,500 people were rescued but 2,800 others are still in captivity, said the group.

Sinjar, in Iraq's northwestern Nineveh province and near the border with Syria, remains largely empty.

The ISIL fighters destroyed villages and religious sites, lined men up and shot them before kidnapping thousands of women and children and trading them in modern day chattel slavery.

"I don't believe there will be a reconciliation without justice because those who committed the crimes were people from the area specifically," said a Yazidi man at the commemoration.

The United Nations has called the attacks an act of genocide against the minority group.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/08/years-yazidis-iraq-demand-justice-isil-persecution-200804111313014.html?utm_source=iterable&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=1415687_

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US spy agencies identify suspected undeclared nuclear site near Saudi capital: Report

06 August 2020

American intelligence agencies have reportedly spotted what appears to be an undeclared nuclear site near Saudi Arabia’s capital city of Riyadh, scrutinizing attempts by the kingdom to process uranium and move toward the development of atomic bombs.

The New York Times reported on Wednesday that the agencies had in recent weeks circulated a classified analysis about Saudi attempts to build up its ability to produce nuclear fuel that could potentially lead to the development of nuclear weapons.

The study shows “a newly completed structure near a solar-panel production area near Riyadh, the Saudi capital, that some government analysts and outside experts suspect could be one of a number of undeclared nuclear sites,” the report said.

The site is situated in a secluded desert area not too far from the Saudi town of al-Uyaynah, located 30 kilometers northwest of Riyadh, and its Solar Village.

“The analysis has raised alarms that there might be secret Saudi-Chinese efforts to process raw uranium into a form that could later be enriched into weapons fuel, according to American officials,” the report added.

A day earlier, an article in The Wall Street Journal said that Western officials were concerned about a desert site in northwestern Saudi Arabia just south of the town of al-Ula.

It was part of a program with the Chinese to extract uranium yellowcake from uranium ore, according to the article.

Frank Pabian, a former satellite image analyst at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, said the desert site appears to be a small mill for turning uranium ore into yellowcake as it has a checkpoint, high security fences, a large building about 150 feet on a side and ponds for the collection of uranium waste.

Last week, the US House Intelligence Committee included a provision in the intelligence budget authorization bill requiring the administration to submit a report about Saudi efforts since 2015 to develop a nuclear program.

The provision obliged the US government to include in its report an assessment of “the state of nuclear cooperation between Saudi Arabia and any other country other than the United States, such as the People’s Republic of China or the Russian Federation.”

The US State Department has not commented on the reported intelligence findings.

The US opposes “the spread of enrichment and reprocessing” and attaches “great importance” to continued compliance by the Saudis to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), it said in a statement to the New York Times.

The State Department also urged Riyadh to conclude an agreement with Washington “with strong nonproliferation protections that will enable Saudi and US nuclear industries to cooperate.”

Last year, a document, titled “Updates on Saudi National Atomic Energy Project” and posted by the Vienne-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), detailed a plan for building nuclear reactors as well as fueling them through the “localization” of uranium production.

The kingdom was looking for uranium deposits in more than 10,000 square miles of its territory and had teamed up with Jordan to make yellowcake, according to the report.

“The IAEA is unhappy with Saudi Arabia because they refuse to communicate about their existing program and where it is going,” said Robert Kelley, a former inspector for the UN nuclear watchdog.

Saudi Arabia’s attempts to speed up its nuclear and missile projects have raised fears that it aims to acquire nuclear weapons. Observers believe that a nuclear Saudi Arabia — where warmongers are currently at the helm — could pose a serious security threat to the Middle East region.

Riyadh has so far turned a deaf ear to calls by the IAEA to implement proportionate safeguards and an inspection regime that would prevent possible deviation towards nukes.

In March 2018, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said Riyadh would quickly go for nuclear bomb Iran does so.

Iran has repeatedly enunciated its nuclear program as exclusively civilian, subject to the most intensive UN supervisions ever.

Tehran signed a nuclear agreement with six world countries, which forged close cooperation between Iran and the IAEA, but the US severely undermined the pact by abandoning it in May 2018.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/08/06/631204/US-spy-Saudi-Arabia-nuclear-site-Riyadh

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Pakistan

 

Hindus celebrate Raksha Bandhan in Pakistan's Peshawar

Aug 5, 2020

PESHAWAR: Members of the minority Hindu community in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province have celebrated the festival of Raksha Bandhan with simplicity amidst restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

A small group of people attended a programme held at Peshawar cantonment's Kali Bari temple where women tied the Rakhi around the wrist of their brothers in the presence of Wilson Wazir, a Christian Member of the Provincial Assembly (MPA).

The majority of people celebrated the festival at their homes due to the coronavirus fear.

Wazir, the first member of the minority community from the tribal districts in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, said that all the festivals will be celebrated with enthusiasm once the coronavirus pandemic is over.

The coronavirus has killed at least 6,014 people and infected 281,136 others in Pakistan. At least 254,286 people have fully recovered while 872 are in critical condition.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/hindus-celebrate-raksha-bandhan-in-pakistans-peshawar/articleshow/77370912.cms

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Religious parties stress jihad to liberate Kashmir

Asim Hussain

August 6, 2020

LAHORE:Leaders of religious parties have stressed that jihad is the only way to liberate Kashmir from illegal Indian occupation and no amount of protests, resolutions and appeals to the UN and world community would help the Kashmir cause.

This was the central argument of the speeches at the rallies and seminars held by various religio-political parties to mark Kashmir suppression day here on Wednesday. The central leader of JUP, Qari Zawwar Bahadur, said it was a pity that Muslims have continued to pin their hopes with those global institutions and leaderships who had been responsible for all the injustices and suffering meted out to them particularly in Kashmir, Palestine, Chechnya, Bosnia, etc. He said jihad was the only way to liberate Kashmir from Indian occupation as the so-called civilised world had badly failed to acknowledge the Kashmiris’ sufferings after it had been under indefinite curfew and become the world’s largest open air prison for the last one year, he said while addressing a seminar at Jamia Al Marks Islami.

It was also addressed by other leaders including Hafiz Naseer Noorani, Mufti Tasadduq Hussain, Rasheed Rizvi, Maulana Arshad Mehr, Maulana Salim Awan, Mufti Jamil Rizvi, Maulana Shaukat Ali, Maulana Mohammad Azam, Hafiz Liaqat Ali and others.

Lahore president of Markazi Jamiat Ahle Hadith, Hafiz Babar Farooq Rahimi led a protest rally on Ravi Road, marching from Niaz Chowk to Data Darbar, chanting slogans against India, UN and other global human rights groups for allowing the continued genocide of Kashmiris. Addressing the participants, Babar Farooq Rahimi and other leaders warned that only jihad was the viable solution to liberate Kashmir, and urged Pakistan army to play its role and use its remarkable combat abilities and matchless fighting spirit to liberate Kashmir from Indian occupation.

Tanzim Islami Information secretary Mirza Ayub Beg praised the inclusion of entire Kashmir as its territory in a newly modified map, calling it a big step in the right direction. Addressing a meeting, he regretted that entire world remained silent on such a prodigious crime committed by India, by annexing Kashmir into its main land in stark violation of UN resolutions calling Kashmir a disputed territory and binding Delhi to give right to self-determination to them. He warned if Kashmiris were not given their fundamental rights, the flames of war will engulf and severely burn this entire region.

Trade leader and president of Hadia Haleema centre Urdu Bazaar Sarwar Asim has lauded the government for conferring veteran Kashmiri freedom fighter and symbol of Kashmiri liberation struggle for the last six decades, Syed Ali Gilani, with country’s highest civilian honour “Nishan-e-Pakistan”.

Addressing a meeting, he demanded that other leaders of Hurriyet Conference should be conferred with Pakistani honours and warned that Kashmir could only be liberated by Jihad since all political, diplomatic and moral efforts to move the world community to solve this issue like they had solved East Timor, south Sudan, sanctions on Iran and North Korea had badly failed.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/696668-religious-parties-stress-jihad-to-liberate-kashmir

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UNSC Reviews Kashmir Situation as Protesters Condemn Indian Action

Anwar Iqbal

06 Aug 2020

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council (UNSC) held an urgent meeting on Wednesday to review the situation arising out of the Aug 5, 2019, siege of Kashmir by India.

The closed-door, 15-member meeting was held at the request of Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, diplomatic sources told Dawn.

“This 3rd meeting in a year by the UN Security Council serves as a stark repudiation to the Indian claim that Jammu and Kashmir is an internal matter,” Mr Qureshi said in a tweet after the meeting. “It further reaffirms the validity of UN resolutions on the Kashmiri’s right to self-determination through an impartial plebiscite.”

China, which is a permanent member of the Security Council, played a key role in arranging this meeting to underline the international community’s concerns on the atrocities India was committing in the occupied valley. All 15 members participated in the debate. Ambassador Dian Triansyah Djani of Indonesia, which holds the council’s presidency for August, presided the meeting.

“Today, as the world witnesses one year of India’s illegal occupation of Kashmir, Pakistan welcomes meeting the UNSC meeting. This is a mark of the international community’s and UNSC members’ solidarity with the Kashmiri people who are facing a savage military siege,” the foreign minister said.

The meeting showed that India’s gross human rights violations and crimes against humanity in the occupied Jammu and Kashmir remained a grave concern for the international community. He said: “Pakistan is thankful to all members of the UN Security Council, especially China, for the support in organising today’s meeting.”

Mr Qureshi pointed out that India’s illegal and unilateral actions of Aug 5, 2019 sought to change the globally recognised disputed status of the region. India, he said, was also trying to alter the demography of a Muslim majority region.

“Despite Indian lobbying attempts, today’s deliberations reflect the international community’s grave concern for peace, security & human rights in the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.

As the council debated the illegal Indian action, Kashmiris from both sides of the LoC protested outside the UN headquarters against Indian atrocities in the occupied lands.

They urged the world body to send a delegation to Kashmir to review the situation and to prepare a report for the UN Security Council.

They also chanted slogans, urging India to withdraw all illegal actions it has taken since Aug 5, 2019 and to let the people of Kashmir decide their fate.

US-based Kashmiri groups are also holding candle-light vigil at Times Square on Wednesday evening to highlight the sufferings of eight million Kashmiris.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1572879/unsc-reviews-kashmir-situation-as-protesters-condemn-indian-action

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Pakistan hints at rival Islamic bloc if OIC doesn't meet on Kashmir

August 06, 2020

Pakistan's foreign minister warned on Wednesday that if the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) did not convene a meeting of its Council of Foreign Ministers on Jammu and Kashmir, Islamabad would call a separate meeting of Muslim nations.

Speaking on a talk show on ARY News, Shah Mehmood Qureshi was quoted by Dawn as saying, “I am once again respectfully telling OIC that a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers is our expectation. If you cannot convene it, then I’ll be compelled to ask Prime Minister Imran Khan to call a meeting of the Islamic countries that are ready to stand with us on the issue of Kashmir and support the oppressed Kashmiris.”

Qureshi made the comments on a day when Pakistan's federal and provincial governments marked one year of the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir by holding various protest events. Pakistan had been seeking international pressure on India ever since August last year, with little success.

"Pakistan has been pushing for the foreign ministers’ meeting of the 57-member bloc of Muslim countries, which is the second-largest intergovernmental body after the UN, since India annexed occupied Kashmir last August," Dawn reported.

Responding to a question on the talk show, Qureshi declared Pakistan "could not wait any further" on the issue of a meeting of Islamic nations. Qureshi had previously claimed a meeting of OIC foreign ministers was needed to send a clear message from the Ummah (community of Muslims) on the Kashmir issue.

Saudi Arabia, considered to be one of the most influential members of the OIC, had been reluctant to support Pakistan's call for a meeting of OIC foreign ministers. In December last year, Imran dropped out of a meeting of Islamic nations organised in Kuala Lumpur by then Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad. The leaders of Iran, Turkey and Qatar attended the meeting, which was touted as being an 'alternative' to the Saudi-dominated OIC. At the time, there were reports that Imran dropped out owing to pressure from Saudi Arabia.

On Wednesday, Qureshi acknowledged Imran skipped the Kuala Lumpur summit on Saudi Arabia's request and added "Pakistani Muslims are demanding of Riyadh to show leadership on the issue [of Kashmir]”.

“We have our own sensitivities. You have to realise this. Gulf countries should understand this,” Qureshi was quoted as saying by Dawn.

In June this year, a contact group of the OIC discussed the Kashmir issue, leading to criticism from India, which asserted the grouping had "no locus standi on matters strictly internal to the country".

In March 2019, Qureshi boycotted a meeting of OIC foreign ministers after India's then external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj was guest of honour at the organisation's summit in Abu Dhabi.

https://www.theweek.in/news/world/2020/08/06/pakistan-hints-at-rival-islamic-bloc-if-oic-doesnt-meet-on-kashmir.html

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FC soldier martyred, 2 critically injured in separate incidents of violence from Afghan soil: FO

Naveed Siddiqui

06 Aug 2020

A Frontier Corps soldier was martyred while two others were critically injured in separate incidents of violence against Pakistan Army posts by terrorists and Afghan Border Police from across the border, the Foreign Office said in a statement late Wednesday.

A press release dated August 5 said "terrorists operating from Afghanistan" resorted to firing mortar and heavy weapons at Pakistan posts in the Binshahi Sector, Dir, on Wednesday afternoon.

In the evening, it added, Afghan Border Police Posts also engaged Pakistan's border troops.

Condemning the "unprovoked aggressive action" by Afghan forces, the Foreign Office said that the incident took place on the same day the Afghan Army was requested to hold a border flag meeting at Binshahi in order to "discuss cross border fire issues".

The statement also condemned the "evident support provided to the terrorists" by the neighbouring country, noting that such acts were "detrimental" to the cooperation mechanism between the countries.

"Pakistan reiterates its determination to firmly respond to orchestrated terrorist attacks from across the border," the statement concluded.

The incident comes a week after a clash between an unruly mob and security forces at the Friendship Gate border crossing in Chaman resulting in casualties on both sides of the border. Both countries had blamed the other for the agitation.

The Foreign Office said Pakistani troops had responded to firing by the Afghan forces. “Pakistani Force did not open fire first and responded in self-defence only,” the FO said, rejecting Afghan allegation of firing at the civilian population.

Meanwhile, Information Minister Senator Shibli Faraz said certain people had tried to cross the Chaman border forcibly and at the same time gunshots were fired from the Afghan side.

The incident took place after an unruly mob attacked the Frontier Corps offices and a quarantine centre at the Chaman border crossing following a protest over restrictions on pedestrian crossing because of Covid-19 pandemic. Four people were killed and at least 20 were injured in the clash.

Afghan authorities had claimed 15 people were killed on their side of the border in Spin Boldak due to the shelling.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1572926/fc-soldier-martyred-2-critically-injured-in-separate-incidents-of-violence-from-afghan-soil-fo

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South Asia

 

7 civilians killed as Taliban bomb roadside bomb goes off in West of Afghanistan

06 Aug 2020

A roadside bomb planted by Taliban militants went off in western Nimroz province of Afghanistan, killing at least seven civilians, the local authorities said.

Bahram Khel, the acting spokesperson for the provincial government, confirmed that the incident took place in Khash Rod district.

He said a vehicle carrying civilians struck a roadside bomb planted by Taliban militants in Khash Rod district on Wednesday.

Bahram Khel further added that the explosion killed 7 civilians and wounded another one.

The Taliban group has not commented regarding the incident so far.

Taliban militants and other insurgents often use roadside bombs to target the security forces but the majority of such attacks inflict casualties on ordinary civilians.

https://www.khaama.com/7-civilians-killed-as-taliban-bomb-roadside-bomb-goes-off-in-west-of-afghanistan-09006/

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Afghan forces kill, wound at least 16 Taliban militants in Ghazni province

06 Aug 2020

The Afghan forces killed or wounded at least 16 militants of the Taliban group in South-eastern Ghazni province of Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) said.

According to a statement released by MoD, the Taliban militants were planning to lauch attacks against the Afghan forces on Ghazni-Kandahar Highway in Gilan district and Arzoo area located in the outskirts of Ghazni city.

The statement further added that the security forces killed 6 Taliban militants and wounded at least 6 others by conducting operations to prevent the Taliban attack on Ghazni-Kandahar highway.

The security forces also killed 4 Taliban militants during a similar operation which they conducted in Arzoo area located in the outskirts of Ghazni city, the statement added.

The Ministry of Defense also added that the security forces also destroyed some weapons and munitions belonging to Taliban militants.

The Taliban group has not commented regarding the operations so far.

https://www.khaama.com/afghan-forces-kill-wound-at-least-16-taliban-militants-in-ghazni-province-09004/

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Taliban attacks repulsed in Faryab, at least 11 militants killed, wounded: Shaheen Corps

05 Aug 2020

The Afghan forces forces foiled Taliban attacks in Dawlatbad and Garziwan districts of northern Faryab province, killing or wounding at least 11 militants.

The 209th Shaheen Corps in a statement said a group of Taliban militants were planning to launch attacks in Shashpar Village of Dawlatabad and in the vicinity of the capital of Garziwan district on Tuesday.

The statement further added that the security forces took pre-emptive steps with the support of the Air Forces.

The security forces killed at least 4 Taliban militants during the operations and wounded at least 7 others, the 209th Shaheen Corps added in its statement.

According to 209th Shaheen Corps, a key Taliban figure who was responsible for collecting Zakat was among those killed during the operations.

The Taliban group has not commented regarding the operations so far.

https://www.khaama.com/taliban-attacks-repulsed-in-faryab-at-least-11-militants-killed-wounded-shaheen-corps-09002/

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More U.S. Troops Will Leave Afghanistan Before the Election, Trump Says

By Thomas Gibbons-Neff

Aug. 4, 2020

President Trump said that there would be fewer than 5,000 American troops in Afghanistan by Election Day in November, signaling that the United States would continue to withdraw troops from the country despite limited progress toward the start of peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

“We’re going down to 4,000, we’re negotiating right now,” Mr. Trump said in an interview with Axios that was filmed on July 28 and released in full Monday night.

The president’s statement seems to undercut U.S. diplomats’ repeated assertions that any further troop reductions in Afghanistan would be based on the Taliban’s commitment to the Feb. 29 peace agreement signed with the United States. After the signing, the U.S. military is supposed to completely withdraw from Afghanistan in 14 months, a move that senior military officials have called “aspirational.”

Mr. Trump’s drive to pull U.S. forces from war zones, especially Afghanistan, has often put the White House at loggerheads with the State Department, as American negotiators and military officials have tried to keep an already shaky peace process on track.

In the interview, Mr. Trump called the U.S. involvement in the Middle East “the single biggest mistake in the history of our country.”

Democrats’ Milwaukee convention will be entirely virtual, and Joe Biden and others will stay away.

The agreement with the Taliban “calls for additional conditions-based troop withdrawals as the peace process evolves,” Maj. Rob Lodewick, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement. “The president’s direction on the issue has been clear, and the department is moving to effectively implement that guidance in consultation with Congress and in close coordination with our NATO and partner nations.”

The Taliban continues to attack Afghan troops, and the United States military has bombed the insurgent group dozens of times in their defense since the agreement. The American-led mission has refused to publicly acknowledge the strikes. The Taliban have agreed not to attack American and NATO coalition forces, but Afghan forces continue to be targeted despite hopes that there would be a reduction in violence after the deal.

This summer, the Pentagon prepared several options for further troop reductions, including a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan before Election Day, a move that would most likely abandon any hope of a U.S.-moderated peace settlement in the country.

Senior military officials had anticipated a politically motivated decision by Mr. Trump, much like his moves to pull troops out of Syria.

The president’s decision to move to about 5,000 troops from 8,600 was the Pentagon’s preferred option of those proposed, defense officials said. The effect of the coronavirus pandemic has already greatly restricted U.S. military operations in the country, making some troops already deployed there next to useless because many of their roles require in-person training with Afghan forces.

As part of the February agreement, the U.S. military cut its numbers in Afghanistan to about 8,600 from 12,000 and closed several bases. Negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban were supposed to start months ago but have been held up over a prisoner exchange between the two sides.

Also part of the deal is a public declaration from the Taliban to denounce and split from Al Qaeda, the terrorist group responsible for the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and a longtime ally of the insurgent group. There has been little indication that has changed after the agreement, according to military officials.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke on Monday with the Taliban’s chief negotiator, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, regarding the prisoner exchange, Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban spokesman, said on Twitter.

Both sides “emphasized that the release of the remaining prisoners are essential for commencement of intra-Afghan negotiations,” Mr. Shaheen said.

The U.S.-Taliban deal called for the Afghan government to free 5,000 Taliban prisoners in exchange for 1,000 Taliban-held members of the Afghan security forces. While the Taliban has released the Afghan prisoners, Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, has been reluctant to release 400 Taliban prisoners accused of serious crimes.

On Sunday, militants stormed a prison in eastern Afghanistan, leaving 29 people dead. The attack, in the waning hours of a brief cease-fire between the Taliban and the Afghan government, was claimed by the Islamic State affiliate in the country.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/04/world/asia/us-troops-afghanistan.html?utm_source=iterable&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=1415687_

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Southeast Asia

 

Man in Medan sentenced to three years in jail for desecrating Quran

Apriadi Gunawan

August 5, 2020

A panel of judges at the Medan District Court in North Sumatra has handed down a three-year imprisonment for a 44-year-old man after finding him guilty of blasphemy for having desecrated the Quran at a mosque earlier this year.

"[We] sentence defendant Doni Irawan Malay to three years in prison," presiding judge Tengku Oyong said while reading out the verdict on Tuesday.

The punishment was one year lighter than the prosecutor's demand, as the court said the defendant had behaved politely during the trial.

Doni was charged under Article 156 of the Criminal Code on religious defamation.

Both the defendant and prosecutor Nur Ainun accepted the verdict.

In the previous hearings, prosecutors said Doni had committed a blasphemous act by tearing out pages from the Quran he took from Al-Mashum Mosque in Medan Kota district on Feb. 13.

"The defendant removed the cover from the Quran, threw it into a garbage bin inside the ablution room and then proceeded to tear out pages from the Quran with both of his hands."

They said Doni then exited the mosque and threw the ripped Quran pages onto the streets before running away. He was later caught by locals and reported to Medan Kota Police.

In 2018, the Medan District Court had also sentenced police officer Brig. Tommy Daniel Patar Hutabarat to 16 months in prison for shredding and dumping copies of the Quran into the gutter. He, too, was found guilty of blasphemy and charged under Article 156 of the Criminal Code. (vny)

https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/08/05/man-in-medan-sentenced-to-three-years-in-jail-for-desecrating-quran.html

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Mideast

 

Athens Muslims fear mosque delay after Hagia Sophia conversion

August 6, 2020

ATHENS: After Turkey turned Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia museum back to a mosque, Muslims in Athens fear their own official place of worship, delayed for over a decade, will be held back again.

The project to open a state-sanctioned mosque in Athens, the only European capital that does not have one, was launched in 2007.

But it immediately ran into strong opposition from the influential Orthodox Church, as well as from nationalist groups.

“I think after this incident, it might be even more difficult to open the official mosque that we have awaited for 10 years,” says Imam Atta-ul Naseer, who runs a makeshift mosque in a central Athens apartment.

An architectural marvel of the 6th century, the Hagia Sophia Byzantine basilica was converted into a mosque in 1453 after the capture of Constantinople by the Ottomans.

In 1934, the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, turned the monument into a museum as a symbol of secular Turkey.

But in July, a top Turkey court ruled that Hagia Sophia could be reconverted into a mosque.

‘A mosque is a mosque’

“I think a mosque should remain a mosque. It should not become a church or whatever. Just as Christians expect Hagia Sophia to remain a church, Muslims expect the same,” says Imam Naseer.

The official mosque in Athens, without a minaret and under the supervision of the Greek state, is expected to open by the end of autumn in the industrial district of Elaionas, northeast of Athens.

But in the meantime, to meet the requirements of a Muslim community of nearly 300,000 people, numerous makeshift mosques, in apartments, basements and even sheds, have been created in past years.

Naseer believes that historic Ottoman mosques in Athens, like the one on the central Monastiraki square which has been transformed into a museum, could have served as a place of worship for Muslims.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has himself proposed this to Greek leaders in the past.

But the subject is delicate in a country which was occupied by the Ottoman Empire for centuries, before regaining its independence in the 19th century.

Anti-Turkish sentiment

In Greece, anti-Turkish sentiment remains strong and the current tension between the two countries over migration and energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean reinforces this animosity.

“In Greek hearts, the Muslim is still associated with the Turkish invader”, notes Naseer.

Living in Greece for the past seven years, the Pakistan-born imam has faced racism and sometimes even violence by neo-Nazi militants.

“But in general, Christians and Muslims live together peacefully,” he says.

In an attempt to regulate the makeshift mosques, the Greek state sets strict operational rules.

Operators must register the name of the religious representative and his background, the number of regular worshippers and the establishment’s sources of income.

The prayer hall must also meet safety standards, which include having a fire alarm, sanitary facilities and an emergency exit.

“The procedures are complicated and take time. Few mosques have obtained permits from the ministry,” Naseer says.

In the Pakistani quarter of Athens, a green door stands out in a shopping lane: the entrance to the Al Jabbar Mosque.

Bangladeshi Imam Abu Bakr proudly points to the coveted ministry document, pasted on a wall.

“Since 2017, we have been operating legally,” he says.

“The official mosque that the Greek state wants to open is far from the centre of Athens where many Muslim refugees live and can only accommodate 350 people anyway.”

“Unofficial mosques that become legal, like ours, will therefore remain necessary to Muslims who wish to practise their faith in Athens,” Abu Bakr notes.

The only mosques dating from the Ottoman era that are currently operating in Greece are located in the border region with Turkey, in Thrace, where a Turkish minority of 150,000 people live.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/world/2020/08/06/athens-muslims-fear-mosque-delay-after-hagia-sophia-conversion/

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Lebanon to Receive Iran’s Food, Medical Aids after Catastrophic Blast

Aug 05, 2020

Iran’s first aid cargo arrived in Beirut hours after the deadly incident on Tuesday and two more cargos will arrive in Beirut later on Wednesday, Nasiri said.

He added that a 22-member medical team, comprising general practitioners, orthopedists, anesthesiologists, operating room specialists, pediatricians, neurologists, nurses and field hospital experts, will also leave Iran for Lebanon later on Wednesday.

A Rapid Deployment Hospital (RHD) will also be set up by the team in Beirut, he stressed.

In a phone contact with Chairman of Iran’s IRSC Karim Hemmati, the head of Lebanon’s Red Cross George Kettaneh said his country needs Iran’s humanitarian help.

Kettaneh thanked Tehran offer of aid to Lebanon.

Earlier, Hemmati had expressed Tehran’s readiness to assist Beirut over its deadly explosion.

Following the deadly explosion in Beirut, which killed and injured a large number of Lebanese people, Hemmati in a message to the Chief of the Red Cross of Lebanon expressed his sympathy with the people of this country and announced Iran’s readiness to assist Beirut.

Also, Iranian Parliament’s Health Commission voiced its readiness to dispatch medical aid to Lebanon after a deadly explosion rocked the Lebanese capital of Beirut.

In a message on Wednesday, the Parliament’s Health and Treatment Commission expressed deepest condolences and sympathy to the honorable people, parliament and government of Lebanon and the Hezbollah Resistance Movement, and announced its readiness to send medical and humanitarian aid to the country.

“Undoubtedly, Lebanon is at the front line of the Islamic Resistance in the world and the Middle East, and by the grace of God, who said in Holy Quran ‘the land of Paradise is inherited by My righteous servants,’ Beirut will become beautiful and prosperous again by the righteous servants of God,” the message added.

A massive explosion rocked the Lebanese capital of Beirut on Tuesday, killing over 100 people, wounding over 5,000 others, and smashing a vast area.

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

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

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

In addition to local authorities, more than 30 Red Cross teams are responding at the scene of the blast.

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

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

Hotel Dieu Hospital in Beirut reported it was treating more than 500 injuries and was not able to receive more. Tens of injured needed operations, the hospital said appealing for blood donations. Rizq Hospital also said that it has admitted 400 wounded people.

The health ministry said all Beirut hospitals are overcrowded with those injured in the incident and can no more accommodate anyone.

Yet, the health minister told Lebanon's LBC News that hundreds are feared dead and thousands have been wounded in the blast. He added that the death toll now stands at over 100.

The Lebanese Red Cross also declared that over 5,000 people have been wounded in the incident, while the numbers are still expected to rise. It added that over 100 dead bodies have been collected from the scene of the incident so far.

Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud called it a "national catastrophe" and Prime Minister Hassan Diab declared a day of mourning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://en.farsnews.ir/newstext.aspx?nn=13990515000769

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Analyst: US, Israel Beneficiaries of Beirut Explosion

Aug 05, 2020

“At present, the Americans and the Zionist regime are the most beneficiaries, specially after one of Hezbollah forces was martyred in Israel’s bombings in the past few weeks and Israel feared Hezbollah’s harsh revenge,” Seyed Reza Sadr al-Hosseini told FNA on Wednesday.

“It seems that the Zionist regime benefits from the explosion in short term as it may delay Hezbollah’s retaliation,” he added.

Sadr al-Hosseini said that the US and Israel were in the past few years after increasing economic and security pressures on Lebanon to foment unrests and prevent internal integrity in the country.

A massive explosion rocked the Lebanese capital of Beirut on Tuesday, killing at least 100 people, wounding over 5,000 more, and smashing a vast area.

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

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

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

In addition to local authorities, more than 30 Red Cross teams are responding at the scene of the blast.

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

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

Hotel Dieu Hospital in Beirut reported it was treating more than 500 injuries and was not able to receive more. Tens of injured needed operations, the hospital said appealing for blood donations. Rizq Hospital also said that it has admitted 400 wounded people.

The health ministry said all Beirut hospitals are overcrowded with those injured in the incident and can no more accommodate anyone.

Yet, the health minister told Lebanon's LBC News that hundreds are feared dead and thousands have been wounded in the blast. He added that the death toll now stands at over 100.

The Lebanese Red Cross also declared that over 5,000 people have been wounded in the incident, while the numbers are still expected to rise. It added that over 100 dead bodies have been collected from the scene of the incident so far.

Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud called it a "national catastrophe" and Prime Minister Hassan Diab declared a day of mourning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://en.farsnews.ir/newstext.aspx?nn=13990515000868

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Israel's Netanyahu warns Hezbollah after Syria attack

4 Aug 2020

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged a tough response to any threats against Israel after it struck Syrian military targets in retaliation for an attempted attack in the occupied Golan Heights.

"We hit a cell and now we hit the dispatchers. We will do what is necessary in order to defend ourselves," he said on Tuesday during a tour of a military facility in central Israel.

"These are not vain words; they have the weight of the State of Israel and the (military) behind them and this should be taken seriously," the veteran premier added.

Israel launched air raids on military targets in southern Syria late on Monday. The army said it was retaliating after an attempt to lay explosives in the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967.

Syrian state-run news agency Sana said Israeli helicopters attacked Syrian army positions near Quneitra in the south but caused only material damage. It also said air defences had gone into action near the Syrian capital.

Several Israeli media outlets reported that Monday's actions were in response to an increased threat from the Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah, which has a significant presence in Syria.

Increased tensions

Tensions have risen in recent weeks along the Israel-Syria frontier after a fighter belonging to the Iran-backed Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah was killed in an apparent Israeli air attack on the outskirts of Damascus two weeks ago.

Israel has since boosted the number of forces on its northern frontier, where it borders Lebanon and Syria.

Hezbollah chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah promised revenge, although Israeli commentators have said he seems eager to avoid a major escalation as Lebanon struggles with its internal problems.

Last week, Israel also said it thwarted an infiltration attempt from Lebanon by Hezbollah fighters, setting off one of the heaviest exchanges of fire along the volatile Israel-Lebanon frontier since a 2006 war between the bitter enemies.

Since 2011, Israel has launched hundreds of attacks in Syria, targeting government troops and allied Iranian and Hezbollah forces and vowing to end Iran's military presence in Syria.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/08/israel-netanyahu-warns-hezbollah-syria-attack-200804134620711.html?utm_source=iterable&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=1415687_

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Africa

 

Somalia: Al-Shabaab attack kills at least 8 soldiers

Mohammed Dhaysane  

05.08.2020

MOGADISHU, Somalia

At least eight Somali government soldiers were killed and several wounded on Wednesday when al-Shabaab terrorists attacked a military base in the southwestern Bay province.

Somali government spokesman Ismail Mukhtar Oronjo told Anadolu Agency over the phone that al-Shabaab terrorists attacked a Somali national army base in Daynuney.

When a company of soldiers came under attack by al-Shabaab terrorists on Wednesday, a commander was among those killed, Oronjo said.

After the attack, a military vehicle carrying reinforcements was targeted in a roadside blast, wounding several soldiers, he added.

Ali Ibrahim, a military official, told Anadolu Agency that more than six al-Shabaab fighters were also killed during fierce fighting with the Somali army.

Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack via the internet.

Daynuney is a small town located 25 kilometers (15 miles) from Baidoa, the state’s administrative capital.

Al-Shabaab was behind a 2017 truck-bomb attack in the capital Mogadishu that took some 600 lives, the worst attack in the Horn of Africa country’s history.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/somalia-al-shabaab-attack-kills-at-least-8-soldiers/1932801

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Africa: AU Vows to Intensify Fight Against Al-Shabaab

4 AUGUST 2020

Ugandan soldiers, operating under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), advanced towards Buurhkaba from their former position in the town of Leego alongside members of the Somali National Army (SNA). The purpose of such an advance is to eventually open up the road from Mogadishu to Baidoa and connect the two citys currently under AMISOM's control. AU UN IST PHOTO / TOBIN JONES.

The African Union Mission in Somalia said troops will continue to intensify fight against al-Shabab despite reducing troop numbers early this year and the disruptions brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Richard Otto, contingent commander of Sector 1 troops, said the reduction of troop numbers by 1,000 spread across all the five troop-contributing countries had not affected operations in his area of responsibility.

"I have troops who were supposed to rotate out but have not because of this situation. Most of the countries have restricted their airspaces and border posts, but this is aimed at protecting and controlling the spread of the (COVID-19) disease from other countries.

My troops have been informed and they are aware. It has not affected their morale," Otto said in a statement issued on Saturday evening.

Since December 2017, The AU mission has been reducing its troop numbers in line with relevant UN Security Council decisions. Ugandan troops are in charge of Sector 1, which includes the Lower Shabelle region and Mogadishu.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sector 1 has had to put on hold the rotation of its troops both in and out of the mission but Otto noted that this has not affected operations or dampened the morale of the troops.

Otto said that al-Shabab has been weakened and has now resorted to using improvised explosive devices and shelling mortars, which have often landed in population centers and caused harm to innocent civilians following a string of defeats.

Otto said that a key factor in the fight against al-Shabab has been the increasing capabilities of the Somali National Army as seen by the SNA's capacity to fight and hold ground.

Otto said counter-offensive operations that resulted in the capture of major bridge towns, especially of Janaale, in the Lower Shabelle region of Somalia early this year had dealt a huge blow to al-Shabab, denying the militants freedom of movement and operation, and seriously curtailing their ability to wage war.

https://allafrica.com/stories/202008050206.html

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Victims of Suspected Boko Haram Attack on Cameroon IDP Camp Need Urgent Help

By Lisa Schlein

August 05, 2020

GENEVA - The United Nations refugee agency says victims of a suspected Boko Haram terror attack on an IDP camp in Cameroon’s Far North region remain unprotected and in need of urgent help.  At least 18 people were killed and 11 others injured.

The camp housing 800 internally displaced people was attacked early Sunday. Militant jihadists reportedly threw a grenade into the compound while people were sleeping.

The U.N. refugee agency says it is outraged by this brutal, unprovoked attack and condemns it in the strongest terms.  UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch tells VOA that Nigeria-based terror group Boko Haram is suspected of being behind the attack.

“In Cameroon, since early this year, more than 87 attacks have been recorded, which are attributed to Boko Haram.  It has affected millions of people in the region and only in this area of Cameroon, there are more than 320,000 people displaced,” he said.

Map of Nguetchewe, Cameroon

This latest attack near the village of Nguetchewe follows an upsurge of violence in Cameroon’s Far North Region, including looting and kidnapping.  Civilians in this area, which covers Chad and north-east Nigeria, have been at the mercy of Boko Haram and other armed groups for years.

Baloch says the attack on the IDP camp has caused some 1,500 people, including terrified residents of the hosting village, to flee to a nearby town for safety.  He says the UNHCR is sending an emergency mission to assess the situation and evaluate the protection and health needs of those affected.

“Against the backdrop of growing insecurity, UNHCR anticipates enhanced protection, shelter, water and sanitation will be needed as the country responds to the COVID-19 pandemic… Access a uge issue for humanitarians in this region in terms of providing humanitarian support," said Baloch.

The U.N. says Boko Haram violence in the Lake Chad Basin region has cost the lives of 30,000 people, displaced more than three million and forced nearly 300,000 Nigerians to seek refuge in neighboring countries.

https://www.voanews.com/africa/victims-suspected-boko-haram-attack-cameroon-idp-camp-need-urgent-help

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North America

 

US To Seek Vote on Extending Arms Embargo on Iran at UN, Says Pompeo

06 August 2020

The United Nations Security Council will vote next week on a US bid to extend an international arms embargo on Iran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday, despite the warnings of some diplomats that the measure lacks support.

The arms embargo on Iran is currently set to end on October 18 under Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which US President Donald Trump’s administration quit in 2018.

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

“The United States will put forward a resolution in the Security Council to extend the arms embargo on Iran,” Pompeo told reporters. “The proposal we put forward is eminently reasonable. One way or another we will do the right thing. We will ensure that the arms embargo is extended.”

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

Such a move would kill the deal, touted as a way to suspend Tehran’s suspected drive to develop nuclear weapons. Washington argues it can trigger the sanctions because a Security Council resolution still names it as a participant.

Iran has breached parts of the nuclear deal in response to the US withdrawal and Washington’s reimposition of sanctions.

“For as long as Iran is allowed to enrich, we’re going to be having this discussion -- how close is Iran to a nuclear breakout? ... We need to restore the UN Security Council standard of no enrichment,” US Iran envoy Brian Hook told the Aspen Security Forum, held virtually, earlier on Wednesday.

Iran denies it is seeking to build a nuclear bomb.

Diplomats say Washington would face a tough, messy battle if it tries to trigger a return to sanctions.

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

The United States would have to submit a complaint to the council, which would then have to vote within 30 days on a resolution to continue Iran’s sanctions relief. If such a resolution is not put forward by the deadline, sanctions would be reimposed -- what is known as a snapback.

Some diplomats have suggested the United States will submit its complaint by the end of August to ensure the 30 days ends in September, before Russia takes the monthly rotating council presidency in October.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/08/06/US-may-move-UN-to-extend-an-arms-embargo-on-Iran-says-Pompeo.html

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US cargo plane lands in Israel in support of the regime's Iron Dome

05 August 2020

US Army Futures Command has confirmed that a cargo plane has landed in Israel to support the regime's so-called Iron Dome system.

The Antonov An 225 arrived at Israel’s Ben-Gurion international airport on Monday evening, carrying US military trucks to be equipped with Iron Dome air system.

“The Iron Dome system will be used to defend US military troops against a wide range of ballistic and aerial threats,” the Israeli military said.

The measure followed the purchase of two Iron Dome batteries last year.

“The Iron Dome will be assessed and experimented [with] as a system that is currently available to protect deployed US military service members against a wide variety of indirect fire threats and aerial threats,” the US army said at the time.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has hailed the US decision as a “great achievement for Israel” and “further proof of our solid bond with the US.”

American firm Raytheon Technologies and Israeli-based Rafael Advanced Defense Systems have reportedly formed a joint venture to build the Iron Dome missile system in the United States.

The Iron Dome has been co-developed by American company Raytheon and Israeli firm Rafael. It is partly manufactured in the United States. It is claimed to be capable of detecting, assessing and intercepting a variety of shorter-range targets such as rockets, artillery and mortars.

The system was originally developed to counter small rockets that Hamas and other Palestinian resistance groups fired into Israeli occupied territories in retaliation for the regime's crimes against Palestinians. However, it has proven largely ineffective in serving that purpose.

Ever since US President Donald Trump appeared in office, Israel has increased not just grabbing land but also its militarization to further destabilize the region.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/08/05/631170/US-cargo-plane-lands-in-Israel-in-support-of-Iron-Dome

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Europe

 

Pope Francis calls for international prayer for Lebanon, victims of blast

05 August 2020

Pope Francis called for the international community to pray for Lebanon and the victims of the powerful warehouse explosion that shook the capital Beirut, during his general audience on Wednesday (August 5).

“Let’s pray for the victims and their families and let’s pray for Lebanon, so that with the commitment of all its social, political and religious components, it can confront such a tragic and painful moment, and, with the help of the international community, overcome the grave crisis it is going through,” he said.

Tuesday’s (August 4) blast at port warehouses storing highly explosive material killed 100 people and injured nearly 4,000 in a toll that officials expected to rise.

It was the most powerful in years in Beirut, already reeling from an economic crisis and a surge in coronavirus infections.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2020/08/05/Pope-Francis-calls-for-international-prayer-for-Lebanon-victims-of-blast.html

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Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II ‘deeply saddened’ by Lebanon blast

05 August 2020

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II said in a message of condolence to the Lebanese president on Wednesday that she was “deeply saddened” by the huge blast in the capital Beirut that killed at least 100 people.

“Prince Philip and I were deeply saddened by news. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those who have been injured or lost their lives, and all those whose homes and livelihoods have been affected,” said the message released by Buckingham Palace.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/08/05/Britain-s-Queen-Elizabeth-II-deeply-saddened-by-Lebanon-blast-.html

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