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As Africa Faces More Terrorism, Experts Point to Saudi-Spread of Fundamentalist Islam

New Age Islam News Bureau

21 Jun 2017

Londoners of all faiths show solidarity with Muslim community after a van attack on Muslim worshippers near Finsbury Park mosque



 As Africa Faces More Terrorism, Experts Point to Saudi-Spread of Fundamentalist Islam

 300 Daesh Militants Storm into Philippines School, Take Students Hostages

 King Salman Made His Son His Successor with Almost Unprecedented Powers,  Removing His Nephew as Crown Prince

 ISIS Asks Supporters to Take Revenge of Latest London Mosque Attack

 Islamic Preacher Hasan Akar Arrested For ‘Insulting Atatürk’ 43 Days after Warrant



 As Africa Faces More Terrorism, Experts Point to Saudi-Spread of Fundamentalist Islam

 15 Killed In Al-Shabab-Claimed Car Bomb Blast in Mogadishu

 Ethnic clashes leave 31 dead in Mali

 SA Muslims Must Speak Out More against Terrorism - Durban Deputy Mayor

 More than 120 migrants missing as boat sinks off Libya

 Nigeria: Govt Reacts to Controversy Over Alleged De-Listing of Christian, Islamic Subjects

 Central African Republic: Peace Deal in Doubt As Dozens Die in Central African Republic

 Central African Republic: Government Signs Peace Deal With Rebel Groups


Southeast Asia

 300 Daesh Militants Storm into Philippines School, Take Students Hostages

 Extremist Preacher Barred From Teaching Islam in Singapore; Nine of His Books Banned

 What If Muslims Wanted To End Umno's Rule In M’sia?​​​​​​​

 Patience in the face of adversity a noble virtue, Najib tells Muslims

 Police Round Up 36 Militants During Ramadan Amid Tightened Security


Arab World

 King Salman Made His Son His Successor with Almost Unprecedented Powers, Removing His Nephew as Crown Prince

 ISIL Retreats from 20 Towns West of Raqqa, Hundreds of Terrorists, Senior Commanders Killed

 Egypt kills 12 militants in North Sinai air strike

 Iraq, KSA aim to upgrade diplomatic relations

 US-led coalition downs Iran-made drone in Syria

 Pilot of Jet Downed by US-Led Coalition Rescued by Syrian Army

 Homs: Syrian Army Reinforces Security of Palmyra

 Syrian Jet Downed by US-Led Coalition before Any Operation

 Syrian Army Cuts Terrorists' Links from East to West of Dara'a

 Syrian Army, Air Force Crush ISIL in Deir Ezzur

 US shoots down drone close to Iraqi-Syrian border

 Why are pro-Hezbollah media outlets defending Qatar?



 ISIS Asks Supporters to Take Revenge of Latest London Mosque Attack

 Non-Muslims Offer Roses to Muslim Community in London

 Muslims targeted by violence in wake of ISIS-claimed attacks

 Muslim Labour MP Calls for Ban on ‘Right Wing Extremist Marches’ After Finsbury Attack

 Police question 'troubled' anti-Muslim van attacker

 Troops shoot man after Brussels station blast: police

 Family of London mosque attacker say they are devastated

 Champs-Elysees attacker was supportive of Daesh: Source



 Islamic Preacher Hasan Akar Arrested For ‘Insulting Atatürk’ 43 Days after Warrant

  Israel Starts Work On New Settlement as US Steps up Peace Efforts

Khamenei warns Iraq not to weaken Shi'ite militias

 Israeli soldiers shot dead Palestinian armed with knife

 Iran to respond more decisively to terrorist attacks on its soil: Rouhani

 Terrorism in Middle East part of Israel’s agenda: Iranian president

 More Daesh terrorists arrested in north-western Iran


North America

 US Mulling Expansion of Airstrikes against Pakistan-Based Militants

 U.S. State Department Questions Gulf Motives on Qatar Boycott

 Jury doesn’t need lessons on bin Laden: Lawyer for New Jersey, New York bomb suspect

 By keeping US focus on IS, Trump risks wider Syria war

 Canada: Anti-terror law beefs up cyber threat powers



 BJP’s Presidential Nominee’s ‘Islam, Christianity’ Statement Triggers Nation Vs Notion Row

 Scores of Muslims to Join PM In Lucknow’s Mega Yoga Event

 India arrests 15 for celebrating Pakistan's cricket win

 Two terrorists killed in Kashmir's Baramulla encounter

 Give me life without parole, but not death please: Feroz Khan, convicted in 1993 blasts case

 No threat to Amarnath Yatra: Syed Ali Shah Geelani

 Islam, Christianity alien to India, RSS-trained Kovind had said 7 years ago



 Trump Seen Hardening Line toward Pakistan

 Open To Any Mechanism for Afghan Peace: Pakistan

 Pakistan, Afghan envoys in US trade barbs at Washington moot

 Security forces kill two suspected terrorists in KP


South Asia

 Taliban’s Suicide Bombings Organizer Arrested in Sar-e-Pul: Officials

 Gunmen kill 8 Afghan guards at US base

 Explosion in Kabul city leaves one wounded

 Kabul protesters claim nearly 30 killed, wounded in latest violence

 Modi thanks Ghani for Afghanistan-India air corridor initiative

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




As Africa Faces More Terrorism, Experts Point to Saudi-Spread of Fundamentalist Islam

June 20, 2017


On June 5, Saudi Arabia and its allies, including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing it of funding extremist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic State.

In response, Qatar said it was the victim of a policy of “domination and control” by its larger neighbor and that Saudi Arabia was, in fact, the one responsible for backing extremism.

So what is the truth? Fundamentalist strains of Islam, including Saudi-born Salafism and Wahhabism, form the ideological bedrock for most terror groups. According to a study by Leif Wenar of King’s College London based on the Global Terrorism Database, three out of four terror attacks in the last 10 years have been conducted by people espousing Salafist ideology.

Wenar said Saudi Arabia is the chief exporter of Salafism around the world, spending tens of billions of dollars to build mosques, fund madrasas, finance preachers and offer scholarships to students to study the rigid form of Islam.

The effort is possibly the most expensive ideological campaign in human history, Wenar told VOA.

“Saudi Arabia is not the only factor, of course, in the spread of violent extremism. But for 50 years Saudi Arabia has been funding schools and mosques and radical preachers worldwide who have set down their particular narrow and puritanical version of Islam, which has in many places mutated into the violent extremism we see today,” Wenar said.

Saudi Arabia said it has changed, stating publicly that it wants to take a hard-line stance against radical Islam. In May, it welcomed 50 world leaders to Riyadh to commemorate the opening of a new Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology. It said it has also increased oversight of charitable organizations that may be linked to terrorism.

Ali Shihabi, executive director at the Arabia Foundation, a Washington-based think tank, said that since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011, Saudi Arabia has become a world leader in fighting terror.

“It is extremely, actively involved in police and security measures in the region against terrorism, and it is using its religious establishment now to fight terrorism,” he said. “It is turning this whole infrastructure that it has, this whole religious, what some people even call Wahhabi, infrastructure, into a tool to fight terrorism.”

Shihabi draws a line between the “quiet Salafism” spread by Saudi religious organizations that teach respect for authority and rejects violence and the “revolutionary Salafism” that promotes attacks on authorities and non-believers.

“There's a fundamental disconnect between Salafism as it is practiced in Saudi Arabia and the Salafism that terrorists have used or misused for their own purposes,” Shihabi said.

Exporting religion to Africa

The impact of Saudi Arabia’s support of conservative Islam is felt across the African continent. Hussein Solomon of the University of the Free State in South Africa has studied the phenomenon and said Africa’s traditional Sufi form of Islam has been steadily pushed out of some countries in favour of Salafism.

This has given an ideological backing to terror groups who reject Sufi mysticism and forbid things like secular music, Western-style clothing and women speaking to unrelated men.

In some countries, such as Mali, Salafists have conducted attacks against non-Muslims or Muslims they consider to be heretics.

“We are seeing a tremendous escalation of terrorist attacks,” Solomon told VOA. “We actually are seeing three terrorist attacks per day on the African continent, and [they] are linked directly to Wahhabi ideology.”

Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates offer scholarships to young Africans to attend religious schools in the Gulf states. According to a report by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, the number of East African students enrolled in Gulf state universities has grown from several hundred in 2010 to nearly 10,000 in 2014.

Solomon said he has interviewed parents whose children have returned home from these schools with radically changed, hardline views.

One Malian boy came home and denounced his father for listening to music and smoking cigarettes, and his mother and sisters for not wearing a full hijab. “It caused tremendous ruptures just inside the family,” Solomon said.

Saudi Arabia has also built hundreds of mosques around the continent. Solomon said the divisive form of Islam taught in these mosques has caused tension between Muslims and Christians in areas where they live side-by-side.

“Part of the deal in terms of the construction of the mosques is that the Imam either comes from Saudi Arabia or [is] trained by the Saudis and is given a syllabus in terms of what to say and what to preach, and, of course, this is an ill-effect to a continent like Africa which is multi-ethnic, multi-racial and certainly multi-religious,” he said.

Wenar said he has also reviewed textbooks published in Saudi Arabia that compared Christians and Jews to animals and taught children that they are prohibited from befriending infidels.

“This really is quite an archaic and extreme ideology that the Saudis have been sending, and it seems [that] to check it, we should make the world more aware of what’s going on,” he said.

Fighting extremism

Shihabi said the rise of Islamic extremism in some African countries is not a result of textbooks or what is preached at Saudi-funded mosques. Mainly, he believes, extremists twist religious doctrine to fit their own local, political purposes.

“And people realize that if you want to be a revolutionary today and you want to attract attention, you put on this Islamic cloak, and it gets you much more attention than if you just package yourself as a domestic player with no transnational reach,” he said.

In a recent New York Times story, William McCants, a Brookings Institution scholar, accused Saudi Arabia of being “both the arsonists and the firefighters” when it comes to Islamic extremism.

Shihabi argues that is no longer the case. “Saudi Arabia may have been... an accidental arsonist in ways in the past if part of its ideology was misused, but now it has certainly become a very dedicated fireman, and it’s been doing that for the last fifteen years.”



300 Daesh Militants Storm into Philippines School, Take Students Hostages

June 21, 2017

Several children have been held hostage by the militants

Daesh militants stormed a school in the southern Philippines early on Wednesday and are holding several students hostage, police said, on the same island where fighting between government troops and militants has entered its fifth week.

A police report said about 300 armed men, among them members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), stormed a school in Pigcawayan town in North Cotabato province on Mindanao island and were holding some students captive.

Members of the BIFF were engaged in a gunbattle with the military, Chief Inspector Realan Mamon, the police chief at Pigcawayan, said in a radio interview.

"We can confirm that they occupied a school and there were civilians trapped. We are in the process of determining how many were trapped and their identities," Mamon said.

Pigcawayan is 190 km (120 miles) south of Marawi City, where BIFF militants, along with fighters from other groups allied to Islamic State, have been holed up and fighting the Philippines military since May 23.

Eliseo Garcesa, mayor of Pigcawayan town, told Philippine radio he was still seeking information about possible casualties.

Philippine aircraft and troops launched a renewed push against the militants in Marawi City on Tuesday and a military spokesman said the aim was to clear the area by the weekend Eid festival, although there was no deadline.



King Salman Made His Son His Successor with Almost Unprecedented Powers, Removing His Nephew as Crown Prince

By Stephen Kalin and William Maclean |

DUBAI: Jun 21, 2017, Saudi Arabia's King Salman made his son his successor on Wednesday, removing his nephew as crown prince and giving the 31-year old almost unprecedented powers as the world's leading oil exporter implements transformational reforms.

A royal decree appointed Mohammed bin Salman crown prince and deputy prime minister. He retains defense, oil and other portfolios.

It said Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, a counter-terrorism chief admired in Washington for putting down an al Qaeda campaign of bombings in 2003-06, was relieved of all positions.

Although Mohammed bin Salman's promotion was expected among close circles it came as a surprise at a time the kingdom is facing heightened tensions with Qatar and Iran and is locked in a war in Yemen.

The royal decree said the decision by King Salman to promote his son and consolidate his power was endorsed by 31 out of 34 members of the Allegiance Council, made up of senior members of the ruling Al Saud family.

Always intent on dispelling speculation of internal divisions in the Al Saud ruling dynasty, Saudi television was quick to show that the change in succession was amicable and supported by the family.

Throughout the early morning it aired footage of Mohammed bin Nayef pledging allegiance to the younger Mohammed bin Salman who knelt and kissed his older cousin's hand.

"I am content," Prince Mohammed bin Nayef said. Prince Mohammed bin Salman replied: "We will not give up taking your guidance and advice."

Analysts said the change ends uncertainty over succession and empowers Prince Mohammed bin Salman to move faster with his plan to reduce the kingdom's dependence on oil, which includes the partial privatization of state oil company Aramco.

"The change is a huge boost to the economic reform program...Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) is its architect," said John Sfakianakis, director of the Riyadh-based Gulf Research Center.

Bernard Haykel, professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton, said the king's decision was aimed at avoiding a power struggle between his son and Mohammed bin Nayef by setting the line of succession clearly.

"It’s clearly a transition that has happened smoothly and bloodlessly. Now it's clear, it’s straightforward. That kind of clarity lowers the risk, there’s no question as to who’s going to be in charge."


"Some people were predicting that this would lead to a division in the family and strife and some kind of revolt. I don't see that happening."

A senior Saudi official said the decision was taken due to what he called special circumstances presented to the members of the Allegiance Council. He added that Mohammed bin Nayef supported the decision in a letter sent to the king.

The royal decree did not nominate a new deputy crown prince. The position is relatively new in Saudi Arabia where a king has traditionally chosen his own successor.

As deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman has been responsible for running Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen, dictating an energy policy with global implications and spearheading plans for the kingdom to build an economic future after oil.

That the royal succession in the world's top oil exporter is closely scrutinized only makes the rapidity of Mohammed bin Salman's rise to power, and the speed with which his better known cousins were brushed aside, more astonishing.

The announcement follows 2-1/2 years of already major changes in Saudi Arabia, which stunned allies in 2015 by launching an air war in Yemen, cutting back on lavish subsidies and proposing in 2016 the partial privatization of state oil company Aramco.

Financial analysts said Prince Mohammed’s promotion gave further assurance that key parts of radical reforms to diversify the Saudi economy beyond oil would continue.

"We do not expect to see any major changes to key areas of policy, including economic," said Monica Malik, chief economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank.

Last year Mohammed bin Salman, or "MBS" as he is widely known, announced sweeping changes aimed at ending the kingdom's reliance to oil, part of his campaign to tackle systemic challenges that the kingdom has previously failed to address.


Until his father Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud became Saudi Arabia's seventh king in January 2015, few people outside the kingdom had ever heard of Prince Mohammed.

MBS as he is widely known is now Defense Minister, a role that in Saudi Arabia gives its incumbent command of one of the world's biggest arms budgets and makes him ultimately responsible for Saudi Arabia's military adventure in Yemen.

He also heads the Council for Economic and Development Affairs (CEDA), a group of cabinet ministers who meet weekly and which oversees all elements of policy that touch on the economy or social issues like education, health and housing.

Prince Mohammed chairs the supreme board of Aramco, making him the first member of the ruling family to directly oversee the state oil company, long regarded as the preserve of commoner technocrats.

But perhaps most importantly, he also holds the critical position of gatekeeper to his father, King Salman, who in Saudi Arabia's absolute monarchy retains the final say in any major decision of state.

Outside Saudi Arabia, that rapid advance and the sudden changes to longstanding policies on regional affairs, energy and its economy have prompted unease, adding an unpredictable edge to a kingdom that allies long regarded as a known quantity.

Inside, they have prompted admiration among many younger Saudis who regard his ascent as evidence that their generation is taking a central place in running a country whose patriarchal traditions have for decades made power the province of the old.

Saudi Arabia's stock market surged more than 3 percent in early trade on Wednesday after Prince Mohammed's promotion was announced.

After 70 minutes of active trade, the stock index .TASI was 3.4 percent higher. National Commercial Bank 1180.SE, the biggest listed lender, which is expected to play a major role in funding some of the non-oil industries which Prince Mohammed aims to develop, was the top gainer and soared 10 percent.

Iran, Saudi Arabia's main rival for regional influence, called Prince Mohammed's appointment a "soft coup".

Iran's leadership was critical of comments by Prince Mohammed last month that the "battle" should be taken into Iran.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei labeled the Saudi leadership then as "idiots".

(Reporting by Stephen Kalin, William Maclean, Rania El Gamal, Sylvia Westall, Sami Aboudi, Andrew Torchia, Reem Shamseddine, Angus McDowall; Editing by Samia Nakhoul and Angus MacSwan)



ISIS asks supporters to take revenge of latest London mosque attack

Jun 21, 2017

Isis extremists operating online have used the terror attack outside a mosque in north London to call for more violent assaults on the West, reported The Independent.

One person died and nine were hospitalised after white British suspect Darren Osborne, 47, drove a van into people leaving midnight Ramadan prayers on Monday at the busy mosque next to Finsbury Park station.

Osborne is in custody, and the incident is being investigated by police as a terror attack.

As news of the incident broke, posts from far-right extremists and white supremacists surfaced on Facebook, praising the attacker as a “hero” and “patriot”.

“About time, actually it's past time to start striking back,” one post read. “The muslims are asking for it and your going to get it BIG TIME [sic],” said another, presumably in reference to the recent Westminster, Manchester and London Bridge attacks.

Several civil rights groups have warned that Islamophobic sentiments and hate crimes against the UK’s Muslim population have been on the rise in the past few months in the wake of the Isis atrocities.

While Isis itself is guilty of killing thousands of Muslims, supporters of the jihadists are using the Finsbury Park incident - the most violent manifestation of anti-Muslim hatred in the UK recently - to call for more violence in the West, which they claim is legitimate in the face of Islamophobic attacks. 

“Oh Muslimeen when your brothers took revenge on the crusader nationals for the slaughter they are carrying out on the Muslims, they were shot on site by the the British Police.

“Then how come the Police never shot a Kaafir [non-believer] (sic),” Telegram messages verified by terrorism analyst Michael S Smith read.

“Oh Muslims you need to wake up the war is starting now in your own streets outside your own Masajids [mosques]. Your elders could be killed, your sisters could be attacked,” one such post continued.

Many public figures have pointed out that the Finsbury Park attack has achieved exactly what Isis wants - to spark a ‘clash of civilisations’ between Muslims and non-Muslims.

“These people, these extremists, their aim is to divide our communities, is to spread hatred, fear and division among our communities,” Mohammed Kozbar, Finsbury Park Mosque chairman told the crowd at a vigil in the area on Monday evening.

“We all have harmony in this area, and these people try to divide us, but we tell them that we will not let you do that.”

The attack on Muslim worshippers in Finsbury Park is the third major incident for the capital’s emergency services in less than a month, following the London Bridge attack which killed 8 and the Grenfell Tower disaster, in which at least 79 people are missing.



Islamic preacher Hasan Akar arrested for ‘insulting Atatürk’ 43 days after warrant

Jun 21, 2017

Hasan Akar, an Islamic preacher who has been charged for posting videos online insulting Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, has been arrested by an Istanbul court, 43 days after his arrest warrant was issued.

Prosecutor Ertuğrul Sarıyar had issued the warrant on May 11, demanding up to 7.5 years of jail time, Doğan News Agency has reported.

The Bakırköy Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation into Akar on charges of “insulting the memory of Atatürk” and “inciting hatred and hostility among the public” due to his comments about Atatürk’s mother. He surrendered himself to the Bakırköy courthouse on June 20.

Akar had also claimed “Atatürk was an illegitimate child” in his online videos, triggering an angry reaction among many Turks.

An indictment had previously been prepared for two historians, Mustafa Armağan and Süleyman Yeşilyurt, over their comments about Atatürk on a TV program.

On May 31, the Bakırköy Chief Prosecutor’s Office pressed charges against Armağan, the editor-in-chief of “Derin Tarih” (Deep History) for “insulting the memory of Atatürk” in an article in the May issue of the magazine. The indictment filed against him sought from 1.5 to 4.5 years of jail time.

Armağan denied he had insulted Atatürk’s memory, indicating he had included quotes from books and newspaper interviews in his article series. The May issue in question included an essay on “Latife Hanım,” Atatürk’s wife from 1923 to 1925.

An investigation was also launched into 68-year-old Süleyman Yeşilyurt by the Bakırköy Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, after the historian had claimed in a TV broadcast that one of Atatürk’s foster children, Afet İnan, was actually his illegitimate wife.

Yeşilyurt, who was arrested on May 12 for “insulting” Atatürk on the program, was released by the Istanbul court on June 1, state-run Anadolu Agency has reported.





15 killed in Al-Shabab-claimed car bomb blast in Mogadishu

20 June 2017

MOGADISHU: At least 15 people are dead after a suicide car bomber posing as a milk delivery van detonated at a district headquarters in Somalia’s capital, police said Tuesday.

The death toll may rise, as some were badly hurt in the explosion at Wadajir district headquarters in Mogadishu, Capt. Mohamed Hussein told The Associated Press.

Most of the dead were civilians, Hussein said. Aamin Ambulance service said it had transported 18 wounded, seven of them women. Two of the eight bodies it transported were women, it said.

The Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab extremist group quickly claimed responsibility for the attack via its Shahada News Agency, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist groups.

At the blast scene, debris was burning and bricks and body parts were scattered among destroyed cars. One man was pulled alive from under a large stone after a wall fell on him in the explosion.

Weeping women stood nearby, anxiously waiting for news about loved ones.

The blast comes less than a week after Al-Shabab gunmen carried out an overnight siege on a popular restaurant in the Somali capital, killing at least 31 people.

The Somalia-based Al-Shabab often targets high-profile areas of Mogadishu, including hotels, military checkpoints and areas near the presidential palace. It has vowed to step up attacks after the recently elected government launched a new military offensive against it.

Al-Shabab last year became the deadliest extremist group in Africa, with more than 4,200 people killed in 2016, according to the Washington-based Africa Center for Strategic Studies.

The extremist group also faces a new military push from the US after President Donald Trump approved expanded operations, including airstrikes, against Al-Shabab.



Ethnic clashes leave 31 dead in Mali

Jun 20, 2017

Thirty-one people were killed over the weekend in central Mali as ethnic groups clashed over land in a zone where the state is near-absent and extremists roam freely.

Nomadic Fulani people and farmers from the Dogon ethnic group have engaged in tit-for-tat violence sparked by Fulanis grazing their cattle on Dogon land.

Dogons also accuse Fulanis in the area of colluding with cleric Amadou Koufa, whose extremist group recently joined an extremist alliance with links to al-Qaeda.

The Malian army confirmed "31 dead, (comprising) 27 Fulanis and four Dogons," along with nine more injured, in a statement released Monday night.

The army said it had spoken with mayors, village chiefs and imams to persuade them to halt the violence in Mopti region.

But a local official in the area said the absence of the government in the area had created a vacuum where extremists were thriving.

A resident of the area described a "revenge attack" by Dogons against two Fulani villages, following the widely reported murder of a Dogon in a fight last week.

Increased availability of arms from Libya has contributed to intercommunal violence in Mali, experts say, while drought has forced herders into areas traditionally cultivated by farmers.

Full report at:



SA Muslims must speak out more against terrorism - Durban Deputy Mayor


Durban- eThekwini’s deputy mayor Fawzia Peer has called on Muslims in South Africa to be more vocal in their condemnation of terrorism.

ddressing an inter-faith function by the Turkish organisation, Turquoise Harmony Institute in Durban, Peer said there was a need for serious introspection and dialogue on terrorism and the role of Muslims in speaking out against this.

“How do Muslims extend their hand of friendship to people of other faiths when terrorism today defines a Muslim?  The absence of Muslim communities vociferous responsiveness to and initiating conversation, especially in South Africa, over the issue of so-called Islamic terrorism may lead to a misguided belief that the silence of Muslims on this critical matter is actually consent,” said Peer.

Terrorism, said Peer, was not a religion and affected people of all faiths across the world, including Muslims.

“As deputy mayor of our beautiful city and chairperson of the city council’s security and emergency cluster, I have also commenced with the task of terror risk analysis to determine the level of threat we face in our city.  We must be proactive and understand what risks we face so that we can prepare accordingly,” announced Peer.

This follows a recent bomb attack on a Durban family which left several people seriously maimed. The bomb was delivered by a courier to their residence packaged as a gift with flowers for the target, 47-year-old Saleem Khan who was not home at the time. Instead, the package was opened by his 22-year-old son who remains in hospital with critical brain injuries. Khan’s daughter-in-law and mother were also injured but are said to be recovering well.

Khan told Media24 he suspected the attacker to be a former close family friend who may have become disgruntled as a result of a business deal.

The case has shocked both investigators and the public due to the high level of sophistication and organisation in making of the bomb.

Full report at:



More than 120 migrants missing as boat sinks off Libya

20 June 2017

At least 126 people are missing after a boat carrying migrants sank off the Libyan coast, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Tuesday.

Four migrants were rescued by Libyan fishermen, IOM spokesman Flavio Di Giacomo said on Twitter.

Survivors said boat sank after its motor was stolen by human traffickers, according to Giacomo.

Most of the refugees on the boat were Nigerian and Sudanese.

The UN Migration Agency said 44,209 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2017, through May 3. The vast majority have arrived in Italy, followed by arrivals in Greece, Cyprus and Spain.

Full report at:



Nigeria: Govt Reacts to Controversy Over Alleged De-Listing of Christian, Islamic Subjects

20 JUNE 2017

By Azeezat Adedigba

The Nigerian government has reacted to controversy over alleged removal of key religious subjects from the country's education curriculum.

In an interview with PREMIUM TIMES Monday, the acting Executive Secretary of Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC), Kate Nwufo, denied claims that Christian Religious Studies and Islamic Studies had been removed from the curriculum, or were now studied as a single subject.

"We have developed a curriculum on Religion and National Values to expose pupils to see relationship between moral values - which entails religion, social values - and civic values," Mrs. Nwufo said.

She said the NERDC developed the curriculum in partnership with the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission.

The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, the country's largest Christian body, had told PREMIUM TIMES that CRS, specifically, had been dropped from the latest curriculum, leaving only Islamic studies.

"If you look at the curriculum, you will see that the religious subjects were removed for unknown reasons," President of CAN, Samson Ayokunle, told PREMIUM TIMES by phone Monday.

The cleric said CRK was merged with civic studies, saying that was not good for the country.

He linked growing criminal activities in the country to a lack of early religious education for children.

"Criminal activities are growing at an alarming rate all over the country," he said. "Just last week, we saw somebody's son that was arrested in Lagos for his notorious kidnapping offences," Mr. Ayokunle said in reference to the arrest of the notorious kidnapper, Chukwudi Onwuamadike, a.k.a., Evans.

He said the latest curriculum had been in the making for more than two decades before education authorities began tampering with religious studies.

"Especially in Ilorin, there is no CRS in the time table of the concluded examination," he said.

But Mrs. Nwufo strongly denied the allegations and said the Christian leaders were dissipating their energy on unfounded claims.

"People especially leaders should be careful of the information peddle around and take their time to make findings," Mrs. Nwufo said.

"We live in a sensitive society therefore we should come together and not destabilise the country as it will affect everybody, we should avoid escalating issues."

New curriculum

Copies of the curriculum she gave to PREMIUM TIMES showed that Christian Religious Studies remains part of the curriculum along with Islamic Studies.

The curriculum was designed for Basic Education; Primary 1-3, 4-6 and JSS 1-3 and merely created an omnibus subject head called Religion and National Values. Under it are the following subjects:

1. Civic Education

2. Social Studies

3. Christian Religious Knowledge

4. Islamic Studies, and

5. Security Education.



Central African Republic: Peace Deal in Doubt As Dozens Die in Central African Republic

21 JUNE 2017

Close to 50 people have been killed after fresh fighting broke out in a small town in the Central African Republic. On Monday, the government signed its latest peace deal with 13 armed groups.

Eyewitnesses described seeing dozens of bodies lying in the streets of Bria, a town that lies in the center of the violence-ravaged country, after clashes broke out at dawn on Tuesday. The Reuters news agency put the death toll at 50, citing the town's mayor.

"I can say there are around 50 dead. There are 42 bodies that were taken to the hospital. There are also bodies in the neighborhoods that have not been picked up yet," Mayor Maurice Belikoussou said.

Agence France-Presse quoted a humanitarian source as saying that more than 40 people were killed. Both agencies said dozens more were injured.

No escape from violence

The clashes broke out near a camp housing people who had been forced to flee previous bouts of violence, according to the country's UN peacekeeping mission, MINUSCA.

The latest violence, between mostly-Muslim rebels and Christian anti-balaka fighters, came a day after the government of the Central African Republic signed a peace deal with 13 of 14 rival armed groups, following five days of negotiations in Rome.

The deal, brokered by a Roman Catholic peace group, called for an immediate ceasefire following more than five years of conflict, which began after a disputed election in 2011.

Monday's peace deal also granted political representation to each faction in exchange for an end to attacks and blockades.

Group leader killed

One of the groups, the Popular Front for the Rebirth of the Central African Republic (FPRC) admitted it had taken part in Tuesday's fighting.

"We signed the agreement, but we have to defend ourselves - we can't allow an attack to happen without reacting," said FPRC spokesman Djamil Babanani.

The latest fighting followed the killing of FPRC leader Hamad Issa in Bria on Saturday, several sources told AFP.

Last month, an upsurge in clashes between the rival factions left around 300 people dead, hundreds more wounded, and more than 10,000 others displaced.

Since 2013, thousands have died and a fifth of Central Africans have fled their homes after mainly Muslim Seleka rebels ousted President Francois Bozize, provoking a backlash from Christian anti-balaka militias.

Monday's peace deal is just one of a series of agreements aimed at putting an end to the conflict. But despite being lauded by the office of President Faustin-Archange Touadera, many of his political opponents doubt whether the ceasefire will hold.

UN peacekeeping missions in Africa

DR Congo: UN's largest mission

Since 1999, the UN has been trying to pacify the eastern region of the DR Congo. The mission known as MONUSCO has nearly 20,000 soldiers and an annual budget of $1.4 billion (1.3 billion euros). Despite being the largest and most expensive mission of the United Nations, violence in the country continues.

Darfur: Powerless against violence

UNAMID is a joint mission of the African Union and the UN in Sudan's volatile Darfur region. Observers consider the mission a failure. "The UN Security Council should work harder

Sudan: Turning a blind eye to fighting?

Since the beginning of South Sudan's civil war in 2013, nearly 4 million people have been displaced according to the UN. Some of them are being sheltered in UN compounds. But when clashes between government forces and rebels broke out in the capital Juba in July 2016, the blue helmets failed to effectively intervene. Later, the Kenyan UNMISS commander was sacked by former UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

Mali: The most dangerous UN mission in the world

UN peacekeepers in Mali are monitoring compliance with the peace agreement between the government and an alliance of Tuareg-led rebels. But Islamist terrorist groups such as AQIM continue to carry out attacks making MINUSMA one of the UN's most dangerous military intervention in the world. Germany has deployed more than 700 soldiers as well as helicopters.

CAR: Sexual abuse scandals making headlines

MINUSCA, the UN's mission in Central Africa Republic has not helped to improve the image of the United Nations in Africa. French troops have been accused of sexually abusing children by the Code Blue Campaign. Three years on, victims haven't got any help from the UN. Since 2014, 10,000 soldiers and 1,800 police officers have been deployed. Violence in the country has receded but tensions remain.

Western Sahara: Hope for lasting peace

The UN mission in the Westsahara known as MINURSO has been active since 1991. MINURSO is there to monitor the armistice between Morocco and the rebels of the "Frente Polisario" who are fighting for the independence of the Western Sahara. In 2016, Morocco which has occupied this territory since 1976, dismissed 84 MINURSO staff after being angered by a statement from the UN Secretary-General.

Ivory Coast: Peaceful end of a mission

The UN mission in Ivory Coast fulfilled its objectives on June 30, 2016 after 14 years. Since 2016, the troops have been gradually withdrawn. Former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said this was a "turning point for the United Nations and the Ivory Coast." But only after the full withdrawal will it be clearly known whether or not the mission was successful on a long-term basis.

Liberia: Mission accomplished

The UN deployment in Liberia is - as in neighboring Ivory Coast - will soon be history. The soldiers are leaving by mid-2017. Since the end of the 14-year civil war, UNMIL has ensured stability in Liberia and helped build a functioning state. Liberia's government now wants to provide security for itself. The country is still struggling with the consequences of a devastating Ebola epidemic.

Sudan: Ethiopians as peace promoters?

The UNISFA soldiers are patrolling the disputed oil-rich region of Abyei. Sudan and South Sudan both claim to be rightful owners of this territory located between the two countries. More than 4,000 blue helmets from Ethiopia are deployed. Ethiopia is the world's second largest peace-keeping contributor. At the same time, the Ethiopian army is accused of human rights violations back home.

Somalia: Future model AU mission?

Full report at:



Central African Republic: Government Signs Peace Deal With Rebel Groups

19 JUNE 2017

The government of the Central African Republic (CAR) has signed an "immediate ceasefire" deal with rebel groups at a meeting in Italy's capital, Rome, aimed at ending violence in the strife-torn country.

Under Monday's accord, armed groups will be given representation in the political arena in exchange for an end to attacks and blockades, and their members will be brought into the country's armed forces.

"We commit to the immediate implementation by political-military groups of a country-wide ceasefire, to be monitored by the international community, as a fundamental step on the way to definitive peace," the deal read.

"The government undertakes to ensure military groups are represented at all levels" and are "recognised as part of the reconstruction efforts", it said.

The rebel groups pledged to ensure "the free movement of people and goods by removing illegal barriers as an immediate consequence of the ceasefire".

The accord was mediated by the Roman Catholic Sant Egidio peace group, and calls for an immediate end to hostilities and the recognition of legitimate authorities following the last elections.

The country, one of the poorest in the world, has been plagued by inter-religious and inter-communal conflict since 2013 between the mainly Muslim Seleka rebels and the Christian Anti-Balaka militia that started after the overthrow of leader Francois Bozize.

History of instability

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres voiced concern this month over the "widespread instability" and attacks on UN troops in the CAR, after a month of renewed violence which forced tens of thousands to flee conflict-ravaged areas.

In May this year, the UN's refugee agency said that there were more than 500,000 internally displaced persons in the country.

In fact, CAR has enjoyed little stability since gaining its independence from France in 1960.

Five years later President David Dacko was overthrown by Jean-Bedel Bokassa, who took charge in January 1966 and crowned himself emperor in 1977 in a wildly extravagant ceremony that made waves around the world.

The French drove Bokassa out on September 20, 1979, while he was on a visit to Libya. Dacko was reinstated, but two years later forced to hand power over to senior military officers.

A multi-party system was unveiled in 1991, but then three mutinies in 1996-97 were followed by a failed coup in 2001.

Bozize, a former military chief, rebelled and took over in 2003. Several more rebellions followed and France intervened with help from Chadian soldiers in November 2006 to recapture towns in the north that had fallen to rebel forces.

Bozize was re-elected in 2011, though the vote was marred by fraud; he was overthrown in March 2013 by mostly Muslim rebels from the Seleka coalition, who were in turn overthrown a year later by a military intervention led by the former colonial ruler.

Those events sparked the bloodiest sectarian violence in the country's history as mainly Christian militias sought revenge against their Muslim rivals.


The CAR is rich in natural resources, including diamonds, uranium, timber, gold and oil.

However, the chronic crises have greatly harmed key sectors, and economic activity now comprises mainly subsistence agriculture.

Almost 70 percent of the country's 4.8 million inhabitants live in poverty, and in 2015 the World Bank estimated per capita income at $330, making it one of the world's poorest countries.

Administrations have been paralysed by the unrest, and the customs, tax and public treasury services are unable to collect funds needed to pay salaries and pensions.

Gross domestic product plunged by 36 percent amid the unrest in 2013 but managed to expand by a slight one percent in 2014.

In March, the country came in last of 155 nations surveyed in the annual World Happiness Report.

Full report at:



Southeast Asia


Extremist preacher barred from teaching Islam in Singapore; nine of his books banned

JUN 20, 2017

SINGAPORE - An extremist preacher has been barred from teaching Islam in Singapore, and nine publications he authored have been banned.

Singaporean Rasul Dahri made statements in videos and books that were "exclusivist in nature and dangerous in that they promote enmity, strife and potentially violence not only towards Muslims but also other religious communities and the state," the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) said in a statement on Tuesday (June 20).

The action against Mr Rasul comes amid calls by religious and political leaders for Singaporeans to be wary of extremist teachings and ideology after recent arrests of Singaporeans for terrorism-related offences.

Muis denounced Mr Rasul's teachings saying they are "totally unsuited for Singapore's multi-cultural society and may lead to extremism in religious thought and practice".

It urged Muslims to beware of "problematic teachings", adding that they do not in any way represent the views of Muslims in Singapore.

Mr Rasul, who is said to have taught the Singapore leader of terrorist network Jemaah Islamiyah, opposes democracy and advocates for the establishment of an Islamic state.

Muis said he claims democracy, one of the fundamental governing principles of Singapore, is not part of Islam.

He also advocated for Islamic extremism, calling on Muslims to establish an Islamic state through armed struggle, or jihad, and Islamic call, or da'wah, and denigrated Jews by "labelling them as people who accept terrorism as part of their culture".

In addition, said Muis, Mr Rasul "also persistently denounced established religious rituals practised by Muslim scholars worldwide and declared those who practise it as deviating from his own mistaken view of what is 'the real Islam'".

It added that this was why his application to be a religious leader here, under the mandatory Asatizah Recognition Scheme (ARS), was rejected.

Nine of his books that are banned contain extremist religious views that denigrate other religious.

The Ministry of Communications and Information said Mr Rasul's books are prohibited under the Undesirable Publications Act.

This means it is an offence to distribute and own the books, and people who have copies must hand them over to the police. Those found guilty can be fined, imprisoned or both.

Malaysia's National Fatwa Council and the Pahang Islamic Religious Department had also banned seven of Mr Rasul's books in the past.

Malay-language daily Berita Harian reported that he was arrested in Malaysia last year for the third time.

He was said to be active in the Klang Valley and Johor for several years, and Mas Selamat Kastari, who headed the Singapore cell of the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist network, was reported to have attended his classes in Johor between 1987 and 1989.

Minister for Information and Communications Yaacob Ibrahim said in a statement that Mr Rasul has, through his radical teachings, betrayed the values of multi-culturalism and multi-racialism that are key to Singapore society.

"We will not allow his radical teachings and his extremist ideology to take root in Singapore. We will do whatever we can, with security agencies as well as community organisations such as the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore to safeguard our community against extremism," said Dr Yaacob, who is also Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli warned that such extreme and exclusive and views would "inevitably sow divisions and disharmony in our country".

He added that the recent arrests of radicalised individuals in Singapore drive home the importance of the Muslim community watching out for each other.

"We cannot allow strident or extreme teachings of Islam to take root here. To my Muslim brothers and sisters, I must emphasise the importance of seeking Islamic knowledge from the right sources and have confidence in the guidance by our Mufti and Muis," he said.

The Ministry of Home Affairs on Tuesday said two Singaporean auxiliary police officers have been arrested for terrorism-related offences under the Internal Security Act (ISA). A week ago a 22-year-old infant care assistant became the first Singaporean woman to be detained for radicalism.

Muis reminded Muslims in Singapore to seek religious education from accredited teachers.

Since the start of this year, all Islamic teachers who want to teach in Singapore must be endorsed by the ARS. Those who fail to get accredited and still teach may face penalties.

Muis encouraged people who encounter individuals teaching and preaching ideas like Mr Rasul's to report them to Muis at 6359 1199 or the Asatizah Recognition Board at 6604 8568.

The list of banned books by Mr Rasul are:

1. Setiap Bid'ah Menyesatkan

Publisher: Perniagaan Jahabersa, Taman Kempas, Johor Bahru, 1997

2. Hukum Mengenai Rokok & Mencukur Janggut

Publisher: Perniagaan Jahabersa, Taman Kempas, Johor Bahru, 1997

3. Salah Faham Dr. Harun Din Dalam Persoalan: Bid'ah & Percanggahannya (Edisi Baru)

Publisher: Perniagaan Jahabersa, Taman Kempas, Johor Bahru, 1998

4. Siri 1: Bahaya Tariqat Sufi / Tasawuf Terhadap Masyarakat

Publisher: Perniagaan Jahabersa, Taman Kempas, Johor Bahru, 1998

5. Siri 2: Imam Syafie (Rahimahullah) Mengharamkan Kenduri Arwah, Tahlilan, Yasinan dan Selamatan

Publisher: Perniagaan Jahabersa, Taman Kempas, Johor Bahru, 2001

6. Siri 5: Kebatilan dan Kemungkaran Berzanji & Perayaan Maulid Nabi (Sallallahu 'Alaihi Wa-Sallam)

Publisher: Perniagaan Jahabersa, Taman Kempas, Johor Bahru, 2001

7. Siri 7: Amalan-amalan Bid'ah Pada Bulan Sya'ban

Publisher: Perniagaan Jahabersa, Taman Kempas, Johor Bahru, 2002

8. Tauhid Hakimiyah & Khawarij: Punca Demonstrasi, Pemberontakan, Pecah-belah dan Pengkafiran

Publisher: Syarikat Ummul Qura Enterprise, Majidi Baru, Johor Bahru, 2012

9. Demokrasi, Pilihanraya & Mengundi: Satu Kajian Menurut Al-Quran & AsSunnah

Publisher: Syarikat Ummul Qura Enterprise, Majidi Baru, Johor Bahru, 2013



What if Muslims wanted to end Umno's rule in M’sia?

Jun 21, 2017

Maybe it is just me, but sometimes I want the opposition to win the upcoming general elections not because of the corruption or systemic racism or bureaucratic incompetency but rather because I won’t have to read the dumbest most embarrassing comments coming out the ruling coalition, like the ones most often spewed by Umno information chief Annuar Musa.

In Muslim-led countries, Muslim politicians have this go-to strategy whenever they are in trouble. That is, blame Uncle Sam. When Muslim potentates’ stolen loot is intercepted by interested parties - blame Uncle Sam. When they have been caught with their pants around their ankles - blame Uncle Sam. When they mismanage their economies - blame Uncle Sam. When domestic insurgencies erupt because of tyrannical rule - blame Uncle Sam.

Why would the US, much less its Department of Justice (DOJ), want to destabilise a “moderate” Muslim country like Malaysia? When I say “moderate Muslim country”, I mean a country where there is no public beheadings, hands chopped off at the drop of a hat and women not allowed to do anything without the consent of men. They already have Saudi Arabia for that and are quite content not to have another despotic Islamic state to deal with.

Talking about the propensity of Muslim potentates to demonise groups in lieu of accepting responsibility for their failings, there is an extremely depressing passage (because it all sounds too familiar) in Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s book ‘Infidel’ about how Jews are blamed for everything in Saudi Arabia -

“In Saudi Arabia, everything bad was the fault of the Jews. When the air conditioner broke or suddenly the tap stopped running, the Saudi women next door used to say the Jews did it. The children next door were taught to pray for the health of their parents and the destruction of the Jews. Later, when we went to school, our teachers lamented at length all the evil things Jews had done and planned to do against Muslims. When they were gossiping, the women next door used to say, ‘She's ugly, she's disobedient, she's a whore - she's sleeping with a Jew.’ Jews were like djinns, I decided. I had never met a Jew. (Neither had these Saudis.)”

As you can see whenever the manure hits the fan, so-called enlightened Muslim politicians are quick to look for scapegoats instead of taking the bull by its horns. The real issue that is plaguing Umno is not that Muslim rule would be displaced here in Malaysia, but Umno/Muslim rule is in jeopardy.

Full report at:



Patience in the face of adversity a noble virtue, Najib tells Muslims

June 21, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR, June 21 — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib  Razak today called on Muslims to continue exercising patience through all trials and tribulations although Ramadan is coming to an end.

He said trials in life were a test to gauge ones patience and faith, and fasting during the holy month was one way to build up the virtue of patience.

“Bearing hunger and thirst, feeling what it’s like for those who are underprivileged requires a high level of patience, and the same goes for performing supplementary prayers throughout Ramadan.

“Imagine how glorious could be the virtue of patience, when there are 43 verses explaining about it in the Quran,” he said on his blog post at

Najib, who also cited Prophet Muhammad’s struggle in fighting for Islam, said despite the many challenges, abuses and resistance faced by the prophet, it was because of  patience that Islam was successfully spread to the people.

Full report at:



Police Round Up 36 Militants During Ramadan Amid Tightened Security

Jun 21, 2017

Jakarta. Security officers have arrested 36 suspected terrorists across the country since last month's suicide bomb attack in East Jakarta as police tighten security to prevent terror attacks during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Many of the men arrested were members of extremist group Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD). Not all of them were connected to the Islamic State-linked Kampung Melayu attack but police said on Tuesday (20/06) some of them had planned to launch more attacks.

"We've strengthened preventive measures during Ramadan," National Police Chief Gen. Tito Karnavian said at his office in Jakarta. "We've immediately taken action once there's an indication of terror attacks."

Arrests were made in Bandung in West Java, Banten, Malang in East Java, Surabaya, Temanggung and Kendal in Central Java, Jambi, Medan in North Sumatra and Bima in West Nusa Tenggara.

Police arrested two suspected JAD members in Bima on Saturday who they said had planned a bomb attack on a police station in Wahom on Sunday.

"The men who were arrested were in possession of firearms and bombs. Some of the bombs, like the ones in Bima, were ready to be set off," Tito said. "The people arrested in Malang and Surabaya were also members of JAD," he added.

JAD is believed to be uniting scattered terror cells sympathetic to the Islamic State which have sprouted across the country and claim Aman Abdurrahman, an influential radical cleric now serving a prison term for terrorism, as their leader.

Aman is currently serving his nine-year sentence at Nusakambangan Prison Island, just off Cilacap in Central Java.

He is believed to be the mastermind behind the bomb-and-shoot attack in Central Jakarta in January last year that killed four people.

Six months later, an attack on a police station in Solo, Central Java, on the last day of Ramadan injured an officer and killed the suicide bomber.

Aman will be freed by the end of 2018, but police are currently finishing up an investigation to prove his involvement in other terror attacks across Indonesia.

Full report at:



Arab World


ISIL Retreats from 20 Towns West of Raqqa, Hundreds of Terrorists, Senior Commanders Killed

Jun 20, 2017

The army units regained full control of al-Issawi, Kharbeh al-Mitaha, al-Sayan, Zahreh Anbaj, Kharbeh Alawi al-Dakhil, Banr Anbaj, Shareh Anbaj, Tal Qalib, Banr Qalib, Jub Afabous, Jub Mushrefeh Anbaj, Tal al-Atafeh, Rajm al-Houreh, Rajm al-Safieh, Banr al-Daran and Far al-Ada.

Meantime, a military source confirmed that the army has seized tens of towns and farms after killing hundreds of ISIL terrorists.

"A number of ISIL military commanders, including Zib al-Jariyat nom de guerre Abu Mohajan, Aqirbat emir Abu Riyaz al-Rayan and ISIL's logistics emir known as Abdellah Mohammad Abu Rayaq Tunisi were killed in clashes with the army troops," the source added.

He went on to say that the army also managed to destroy over 200 cars, 17 military vehicles, 10 artillery units and 9 missile-launchers.

In a relevant development on Monday, the Syrian army captured the key town of Resafa after fierce clashes with the terrorists in Western Raqqa, forcing a large number of the terrorists to retreat from their positions towards other areas in the province.

Syrian soldiers managed to liberate the important town and the crossroads of Resafa in Southwestern Raqqa.

A military source, meantime, announced that Damascus troops are currently defusing the mines and bombs planted by the ISIL terrorists in the town.

Now that they have captured Resafa, Army troops are able to secure the path to Deir Ezzur as Resafa is the junction of the roads from Raqqa city and Deir Ezzur province.

The source also disclosed that following the recent advances made the Syrian troops which resulted in recapturing Resafa, the Kurdish militants will not be able to move towards the key energy zones from the direction of Southern al-Tabbaqa.

Earlier on Monday, the Syrian army troops continued their advances in Raqqa province and managed to regain control of several new regions and get closer to one of ISIL's most important military bases West of Raqqa.

The army troops managed to liberate Al-Aysawi village in fierce clashes with ISIL militants, and then launched an attack on Jaydeen which resulted in recapturing the strategic village near the key town of Resafa.

The Syrian Army continued its military operations in Raqqa's Western countryside, hitting several points that still are under ISIL's control.

Before recapturing Al-Aysawi and Jaydeen, the Syrian Army had stormed al-Karadi to capture the village, and finally forced the Takfiri terrorists to retreat from another village in the province.

A military source said that the airstrikes by the US-led coalition fighter jets on the Syrian army will not disrupt its anti-ISIL operations in Raqqa, adding that the Syrian army forces are now able to move towards the strategic town of Resafeh from two directions in view of their advances in other areas.

The source also said that several ISIL terrorists have fled Resafeh due to the massive number of the army soldiers that are readying for an imminent operation to recapture the town, adding that there is a high chance for regaining control of the town without facing much resistance from the terrorists.

In a relevant development on Sunday, the Syrian army troops took control of the towns of Banr al-Jaeq, Banr Mousa al-Hendi and Bahr Abu Hamat after fierce clashes with the ISIL terrorists in Western Raqqa.

The government forces also managed to recapture the towns of Mazafeh Awijan Bu Khamis, Banr al-Sadran, Akhu Hadleh, Haj Mofazi, Banr al-Adad, Banr Abu al-Sanabel, Banr al-Amaleh and Rajm al-Amaleh hill West of the strategic city of al-Resafeh.

Also on Sunday, Damascus announced in a statement that the US-led coalition has shot down one of its fighter jets during a mission in Raqqa countryside.

According to the statement, the warplane was carrying out operations against ISIL in the countryside of Raqqa when it was targeted, leading to a crash and the loss of the pilot, who is currently missing.

The Syrian army backed by the country's air force continued its military operation in the Western part of Raqqa, after capturing ISIL's last bastion in Eastern Aleppo and has captured several districts in recent days.

As Washington claims that it fights against the ISIL group, US warships fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles from two warships in the Mediterranean Sea at the Shayrat airfield in Homs province on April 7, following a chemical weapons incident in Idlib province which the Western countries blamed on the Damascus government.

The Syrian government has fiercely denied using or even possessing chemical weapons since the country’s compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention was certified by international observers in 2013, as the world is still waiting for the US and its allies to provide any proof for its claims of Bashar al-Assad government involvement in the alleged chemical attack.

Also on May 18, the US-led coalition struck pro-Bashar Assad forces near al-Tanf in the area of an established de-confliction zone. The coalition air raids occurred near al-Tanf, where US' and British special operations forces have been training militants near the border with Iraq and Jordan.

On June 6, the Pentagon announced the coalition conducted a new strike on pro-Syrian government forces as they entered the de-confliction zone with Russia and posed threat to its personnel. The force comprised of a tank, artillery, anti-aircraft weapons, armed technical vehicles and more than 60 soldiers. At least two Syrian servicemen were killed and more than 15 injured as a result of the attack.

On June 8, the US-led coalition bombed pro-Damascus forces near al-Tanf in the area of a de-confliction zone following an alleged attack by a combat drone resulting in no coalition forces' casualties. This was the third attack by the coalition on Damascus' allies in the area. The coalition targeted a drone and trucks with weapons.

Furthermore, on September 16, US-led coalition aircraft carried out four strikes against the Syrian Army near the Deir Ezzur airport, killing nearly 100 people.



Egypt kills 12 militants in North Sinai air strike

Jun 21, 2017

CAIRO - Egyptian jets bombed a gathering site of Sinai-based Islamist militants, killing 12 and destroying several four-wheel-drive vehicles, the military said on Tuesday.

An Islamist insurgency in the rugged, thinly populated Sinai Peninsula has gained pace since the military overthrew President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s oldest Islamist movement, in 2013 after mass protests against his rule.

The air strikes “resulted in the killing of 12 highly dangerous ... leaders of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis”, the military said in a statement. It did not say when the aerial bombing took place.

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, Egypt’s most active militant group, swore allegiance to Islamic State in 2014 and adopted the name Sinai Province. It is blamed for the killing of hundreds of soldiers and policemen in attacks since then. The group has turned its guns on Egyptian Christians in recent months, killing around 100 in bombings at Coptic churches.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi carried out air strikes on militants in Libya in response to a deadly attack on Coptic Christians last month that left at least 29 killed.

Full report at:



Iraq, KSA aim to upgrade diplomatic relations

Jun 21, 2017

Jeddah - Iraq and Saudi Arabia are setting up a coordination council to upgrade strategic ties, a joint statement said on Tuesday, as part of an attempt to heal troubled relations between the Arab neighbours.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi met with Saudi King Salman a day earlier on the first leg of a Middle East tour that will also include Iran and Kuwait.

Iraq lies on the fault line between Iran and the mostly-Arab world. Deep-running animosity and distrust between the two sides is fueled by sectarian divides.

“The countries agreed to establish a coordination council to upgrade relations to the hoped for strategic level and open new horizons for cooperation in different fields,” said the statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency. It said the two countries had achieved a “quantum leap” in bilateral relations and stressed the importance of further official visits. Saudi Arabia reopened its embassy in Baghdad in 2015 following a 25-year break, and in February Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir made a rare visit to Baghdad.

That has been seen as heralding closer cooperation against Islamic State, which controls territory in Iraq and in Syria and has claimed bombings in Saudi Arabia.

Abadi arrived in Tehran on Tuesday, according to a post on his official Twitter account. Iran, by leveraging its ties with Iraq’s Shias, has emerged as the main power broker in Iraq after the United States withdrew its troops in 2011.

The trip was initially postponed to avoid appearing to take sides in a diplomatic dispute between Qatar and other Arab states including Saudi Arabia. King Salman and Abadi last met in March on the sidelines of an Arab summit. Their countries are the first and second largest OPEC producers and cooperated in November to bring about an agreement to support crude prices.

Meanwhile, Qatar will not negotiate with its neighbours to resolve the Gulf dispute unless they first lift the trade and travel boycott they imposed two weeks ago, its foreign minister said, but added Doha still believed a solution was possible. The United Arab Emirates, which along with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain imposed the measures to isolate Qatar, said the sanctions could last for years unless Doha accepted demands that the Arab powers plan to reveal in coming days.

Qatar has denied accusations by its neighbours that it funds terrorism, foments regional instability or has cosied up to their enemy Iran. The dispute has opened a rift among some of the main US allies in the Middle East, with President Donald Trump backing tough measures against Qatar even as his State Department and Defense Department have sought to remain neutral.

On Monday Qatar held war games with Turkish troops, showing off one of its few remaining strong alliances after two weeks of unprecedented isolation.

Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said Doha was ready to “engage and address” the concerns of other Gulf Arab states in what he described as a proper dialogue with pre-determined principles, but reiterated that sanctions must be lifted first.

“Until now we didn’t see any progress about lifting the blockade, which is the condition for anything to move forward,” Sheikh Mohammed said. The countries that imposed the sanctions have denied that they amount to a blockade.

Sheikh Mohammed said he planned to travel to Washington next week to discuss the economic effect of the “blockade” and its effects on the global fight against terrorism.

“We have a very strong partnership with the US We are partners together in the global coalition of countering terrorism. We have been talking to them since the crisis started,” he said.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said earlier on Monday said that those seeking to isolate Qatar had no intention of backing down unless their demands were met.

“Qatar will realize that this is a new state of affairs and isolation can last years,” Gargash told reporters in Paris.

“If they want to be isolated because of their perverted view of what their political role is, then let them be isolated. They are still in a phase of denial and anger,” he said, adding that a list of grievances for Qatar to address would be completed in the coming days.

Qatar has relished support from Turkey during the dispute. Its state-funded pan-Arab Al Jazeera news channel showed footage of a column of armored personnel carriers flying the Turkish flag inside the Tariq bin Ziyad military base in Doha.

It reported that additional Turkish troops had arrived in Qatar on Sunday for the exercises, although military sources in the region told Reuters the operation actually involved Turkish troops who were already present rather than new arrivals.

The dispute is a major test for the United States, close allies with both sides and which houses the headquarters of its air power in the Middle East at an air base in Qatar.

Washington has sent mixed signals despite Trump’s firm personal backing for the sanctions. Trump called Qatar a “funder of terrorism at a very high level,” but five days later the Pentagon approved selling Qatar $12 billion of warplanes.

The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Monday that military operations against Islamic State from Qatar were continuing while acknowledging some friction.

“But what I said last week remains true, in that we have continued to be able to operate, even through that friction,” Marine General Joseph Dunford told reporters in Washington.

Qatar, the world’s richest country per capita, has used its wealth over the past decade to exert influence abroad, backing factions in civil wars and revolts across the Middle East. It has said it is now being punished for straying from its neighbours’ backing for authoritarian hereditary and military rulers.

“It is unfortunate that our neighbours have chosen to invest their time and resources in a baseless propaganda campaign,” Sheikh Saif Bin Ahmed al-Thani, director of Qatar’s Government Communications Office, said in a statement on Monday, calling the terrorism accusations a “publicity stunt.”

The Qatar Financial Centre, which administers special rules for foreign-owned companies operating in Qatar, said on Monday it has no plans to take any action against Saudi Arabian, Emirati or Bahraini firms in response to their governments’ sanctions against Doha. “It remains business as usual, and we intend to keep it that way,” its chief executive Yousef al-Jaida said.

Jaida said Qatar’s government was also prepared to support local banks if foreign institutions withdraw deposits from them because of the economic boycott.

Turkey is one of the few powerful countries in the region willing to openly show its support for Qatar. Two days after the sanctions were imposed, its parliament fast-tracked legislation to allow more troops to be deployed to Qatar, where about 90 Turkish soldiers are stationed under a 2014 agreement.

Turkey has said it would deploy 3,000 ground troops at the base, primarily to serve as a venue for joint exercises.

Qatar has only 300,000 citizens enjoying the wealth produced by the world’s largest exports of liquefied natural gas. The rest of its 2.7 million people are foreign migrant workers, mostly manual laborers employed on vast construction projects that have crowned the tiny desert peninsula with skyscrapers as well as stadiums for the 2022 soccer world cup.

The sanctions have disrupted its main routes to import goods by land from Saudi Arabia and by sea from big container ships docked in the United Arab Emirates. But it so far has avoided economic collapse by quickly finding alternative routes, and it said its vast financial reserves would meet any challenges.

Qatar has said the sanctions have also brought personal hardship for its citizens who live in neighbouring countries or have relatives there. The countries that imposed the sanctions gave Qataris two weeks to leave, which expired on Monday.

Thousands of Qataris have been unable to board flights to the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, and cut off from relatives in those countries.

Full report at:



US-led coalition downs Iran-made drone in Syria

Jun 21, 2017

Beirut - A US warplane shot down an Iranian-made drone operated by pro-regime forces in southern Syria early Tuesday, officials said, in the latest incident in rising tensions between the two sides.

It comes days after a US warplane shot down a Syrian government fighter jet in the north of the country, prompting a furious reaction from Russia.

Moscow has now suspended an incident hotline intended to prevent confrontations in Syria’s crowded air space, and warned it could consider US-led coalition planes “targets”. The rising tensions prompted Australia to announce it was suspending its participation in air missions over Syria as part of the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group. In Tuesday’s incident, the US-led coalition said an F-15E Strike Eagle jet destroyed an armed Shahed-129 drone in the early hours of the morning as it neared the Al-Tanaf base along Syria’s eastern border.

“It displayed hostile intent and advanced on Coalition forces,” the statement said.

A US military official told AFP the drone was “on a run toward our folks to drop a munition on them” and was shot down in self-defence. Coalition forces are using the Al-Tanaf base by Syria’s borders with Jordan and Iraq to train anti-jihadist Syrian fighters and stage attacks against IS. But their presence there has led to a series of confrontations with pro-regime forces, including on June 8 when a US plane also downed a drone after it dropped munitions near Al-Tanaf.

That incident followed two others involving US fire against pro-regime forces on the ground as they came close to the garrison.

Tensions have also flared between US forces and the Syrian regime further north, where the coalition is supporting an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters battling to oust IS from the city of Raqa.

On Sunday, a US fighter jet downed a Syrian government warplane for the first time in the country’s conflict south of Raqa, sparking an angry reaction from regime ally Russia.

Moscow said it was suspending an incident hotline set up two years ago and warned that it would consider international aircraft operating in central Syria “aerial targets.”

Washington said it would “work diplomatically and militarily... to reestablish deconfliction” but Moscow continued to take a hard line Tuesday even before the latest incident.

“It is absolutely illegal,” Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said Tuesday of the presence of American forces in Syria.

“There has been neither a Security Council decision, nor a request from the official authorities of the Syrian Arab Republic as a sovereign state,” Russia’s Interfax news reported.

Full report at:



Pilot of Jet Downed by US-Led Coalition Rescued by Syrian Army

Jun 20, 2017

An informed source told Sputnik that "the soldiers of General Suheil al-Hassan (Tiger Forces) discovered and rescued the pilot of the downed aircraft. Now, Col. Ali Fahd is in hospital and nothing threatens his life".

According to the source, the downed Syrian pilot was found around 30 kilometers (17 miles) South of Raqqa. The rescue operation was complicated by the fact that the pilot's landing site was in close proximity to the positions of ISIL group which also searched for the Syrian pilot.

On Sunday, a Syrian fighter jet engaged in operations against the ISIL in Raqqa was downed by the US-led coalition warplane.

Damascus confirmed the report on Sunday, stressing that the US-led coalition has shot down one of its bomber during a mission in Raqqa countryside.

According to the statement, the warplane was carrying out operations against ISIL in the countryside of Raqqa when it was targeted, leading to a crash and the loss of the pilot, who is currently missing.

“This attack comes at a time when the Syrian Arab army and its allies are advancing in the fight against ISIS (ISIL or Daesh) terrorists who are being defeated in the Syrian desert in more ways than one,” the statement read.

The statement stressed that although such attacks seek to undermine the Syrian armed forces’ struggle against terrorism, they will not be deterred in fighting for stability and security in the Syrian Arab Republic.

The downing of the Syrian aircraft was confirmed by an official press statement from Operation Inherent Resolve, the US-led international task force against ISIL, which accused the Damascus government of targeting fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces.

“At 6:43pm, a Syrian regime SU-22 dropped bombs near SDF fighters South of Tabaqa and, in accordance with rules of engagement and collective self-defense of Coalition partnered forces, was immediately shot down by a US F/A-18E Super Hornet,” the statement read.

The statement stressed that its mission is to defeat ISIS (ISIL or Daesh) in Iraq and Syria and that the Coalition does not seek to “fight Syrian regime, Russian, or pro-regime forces partnered with them, but will not hesitate to defend Coalition or partner forces from any threat.”

Russian Defense Ministry also said on Monday that Moscow is halting all interactions with Washington within the framework on the memorandum of incident prevention in Syrian skies.

The Defense Ministry added that Russian missile defense will intercept any aircraft in the area of operations of the Russian Aerospace Forces in Syria.

Washington and Moscow signed the bilateral memorandum of understanding in October 2015 to ensure the safety of flights during combat missions over Syria.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said during an off-camera gaggle on Monday that "Obviously, we're going to do what we can to protect our interests."

Spicer added that the "escalation of hostilities among the many factions that are operating in this region doesn't help anybody" and they hope to de-escalate the situation by keeping lines of communication open with the Russians.

"We will always preserve the right of self-defense," he stressed.

Meanwhile, a Pentagon Spokesperson said Monday that US pilots operating over Syria won't hesitate to defend themselves from Russian threats.

"We do not seek conflict with any party in Syria other than ISIS, but we will not hesitate to defend ourselves or our partners if threatened," Capt. Jeff Davis told Fox News.

Department of Defense Spokesperson Maj. Adrian J.T. Rankine-Galloway also said coalition aircraft would continue conducting "operations throughout Syria, targeting ISIS forces and providing air support for Coalition partner forces on the ground."

"As a result of recent encounters involving pro-Syrian Regime and Russian forces, we have taken prudent measures to re-position aircraft over Syria so as to continue targeting ISIS forces while ensuring the safety of our aircrew given known threats in the battlespace," Rankine-Galloway added in a statement.

It is not the first time that the US-led intervention in Syria has led to standoffs and violence against pro-government forces.

As Washington claims that it fights against the ISIL group, US warships fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles from two warships in the Mediterranean Sea at the Shayrat airfield in Homs province on April 7, following a chemical weapons incident in Idlib province which the Western countries blamed on the Damascus government.

The Syrian government has fiercely denied using or even possessing chemical weapons since the country’s compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention was certified by international observers in 2013, as the world is still waiting for the US and its allies to provide any proof for its claims of Bashar al-Assad government involvement in the alleged chemical attack.

Also on May 18, the US-led coalition struck pro-Bashar Assad forces near al-Tanf in the area of an established de-confliction zone. The coalition air raids occurred near al-Tanf, where US' and British special operations forces have been training militants near the border with Iraq and Jordan.

On June 6, the Pentagon announced the coalition conducted a new strike on pro-Syrian government forces as they entered the de-confliction zone with Russia and posed threat to its personnel. The force comprised of a tank, artillery, anti-aircraft weapons, armed technical vehicles and more than 60 soldiers. At least two Syrian servicemen were killed and more than 15 injured as a result of the attack.

Full report at:



Homs: Syrian Army Reinforces Security of Palmyra

Jun 20, 2017

"The Syrian army managed to seize 112 square kilometers of land in Eastern Palmyra and also won control of Station 3 for pumping oil and Zahr Hamar region in the Southeastern part of Palmyra.

A military source pointed to the Syrian army's advances, and said the soldiers inflicted heavy losses on the ISIL in terms of militants and military equipment.

In a relevant development on Monday, the Syrian army kept the momentum of its march on ISIL positions in Homs, and deployed troops at the entrance of the terrorist group's last stronghold in the Eastern parts of the province.

The army units managed to fully recapture the protected area of Talileh (Mahmieh al-Talileh) East of the ancient city of Palmyra (Tadmur).

Meantime, a military source reiterated that the Syrian soldiers also seized control of the Third power plant in Eastern Palmyra after reinforcing their military positions in Mahmieh al-Talileh region.

The source also underlined that the Third Power Plant is the starting point for Syria's military operations towards al-Sukhnah region.

"The Syrian troops will pave their way to enter Deir Ezzur and break the siege of the city and its airport," he added.

In a relevant development on Sunday, the Syrian army, supported by the air force, continued military operations against the ISIL in Eastern Homs and advanced towards the strategic city of al-Sukhnah after regaining control over several points.

The army forces continued clashes with terrorists after seizing back Arak energy field and retook control of Ba'ar al-Hafneh and Arak dam in the outskirts of Palmyra.

Meantime, the Syrian air force pounded ISIL's positions and moves in the Eastern parts of Arak region, areas near the third station and Western Tayebeh in Palmyra region, destroying several command centers, cars and military equipment.

Also, a military source reported that the Syrian soldiers have taken back control of al-Sukhnah-al-Tabaqah road after stabilizing their position in the entire region of Wahhab in Southern Raqqa.

A military source reported on Friday that the army troops continued to advance against ISIL in Eastern Homs, taking control over more strategic positions and inflicting heavy casualties on the terrorists.

The source said that the army men engaged in a tough battle with ISIL along the road that connects Palmyra city to the town of al-Sukhnah and imposed control over Syriatel towers and MTN tower, adding that fierce clashes are underway between the army soldiers and militants in areas surrounding Ba'ar al-Hafneh and the third station.

Full report at:



Syrian Jet Downed by US-Led Coalition before Any Operation

Jun 20, 2017

Al-Mayadeen news channel quoted informed sources as saying that the Syrian fighter jet's downing happened 15 minutes after it took off and before it started anti-ISIL military operations in al-Rasafah region.

It added that the fighter jet was targeted as it was flying along with the Russian warplanes and they fully monitored the US attack on the Syrian fighter jet.

On Sunday, a Syrian fighter jet engaged in operations against the ISIL in Raqqa was downed by the US-led coalition warplane.

Damascus confirmed the report on Sunday, stressing that the US-led coalition has shot down one of its bomber during a mission in Raqqa countryside.

According to the statement, the warplane was carrying out operations against ISIL in the countryside of Raqqa when it was targeted, leading to a crash and the loss of the pilot, who is currently missing.

“This attack comes at a time when the Syrian Arab army and its allies are advancing in the fight against ISIS (ISIL or Daesh) terrorists who are being defeated in the Syrian desert in more ways than one,” the statement read.

The statement stressed that although such attacks seek to undermine the Syrian armed forces’ struggle against terrorism, they will not be deterred in fighting for stability and security in the Syrian Arab Republic.

The downing of the Syrian aircraft was confirmed by an official press statement from Operation Inherent Resolve, the US-led international task force against ISIL, which accused the Damascus government of targeting fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces.

“At 6:43pm, a Syrian regime SU-22 dropped bombs near SDF fighters South of Tabaqa and, in accordance with rules of engagement and collective self-defense of Coalition partnered forces, was immediately shot down by a US F/A-18E Super Hornet,” the statement read.

The statement stressed that its mission is to defeat ISIS (ISIL or Daesh) in Iraq and Syria and that the Coalition does not seek to “fight Syrian regime, Russian, or pro-regime forces partnered with them, but will not hesitate to defend Coalition or partner forces from any threat.”

Russian Defense Ministry also said on Monday that Moscow is halting all interactions with Washington within the framework on the memorandum of incident prevention in Syrian skies.

The Defense Ministry added that Russian missile defense will intercept any aircraft in the area of operations of the Russian Aerospace Forces in Syria.

Washington and Moscow signed the bilateral memorandum of understanding in October 2015 to ensure the safety of flights during combat missions over Syria.

Meanwhile, a Kurdish political analyst disclosed that Syria's fighter jet downed by the US-led coalition warplanes in Raqqa had not targeted any position of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Raqqa.

"The phrase used by the US shows that the Syrian warplane had not tried to hit the SDF positions and therefore the Damascus government's version of the story about the attacks on ISIL's positions is correct," Member of the Syrian Democratic Council Rizan Hadu said.

He said it is at this point that the US cannot make any lame excuses as it is trying to deteriorate the relations between the Syrian army and the SDF. "This issue will have negative effects on the conditions of Qamishli, Aleppo and Afrin and it will cause the Syrian army and the SDF to enter a marginal war which will be harmful to the war on terrorism.

Hadu also reiterated that Syria has the right to tell all sides that its strategy in fighting terrorism would never allow it to be a Troy horse to allow the US or any other side to use it in order to enter Syria.

It is not the first time that the US-led intervention in Syria has led to standoffs and violence against pro-government forces.

As Washington claims that it fights against the ISIL group, US warships fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles from two warships in the Mediterranean Sea at the Shayrat airfield in Homs province on April 7, following a chemical weapons incident in Idlib province which the Western countries blamed on the Damascus government.

The Syrian government has fiercely denied using or even possessing chemical weapons since the country’s compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention was certified by international observers in 2013, as the world is still waiting for the US and its allies to provide any proof for its claims of Bashar al-Assad government involvement in the alleged chemical attack.

Also on May 18, the US-led coalition struck pro-Bashar Assad forces near al-Tanf in the area of an established de-confliction zone. The coalition air raids occurred near al-Tanf, where US' and British special operations forces have been training militants near the border with Iraq and Jordan.

On June 6, the Pentagon announced the coalition conducted a new strike on pro-Syrian government forces as they entered the de-confliction zone with Russia and posed threat to its personnel. The force comprised of a tank, artillery, anti-aircraft weapons, armed technical vehicles and more than 60 soldiers. At least two Syrian servicemen were killed and more than 15 injured as a result of the attack.

Full report at:



Syrian Army Cuts Terrorists' Links from East to West of Dara'a

Jun 20, 2017

The resumption of the Syrian army's military operation came after the ceasefire in the city ended and the Damascus government and the representatives of the terrorist groups did not reach an agreement.

The Syrian army troops managed to take control of the air defense battalion and Tal al-Sailieh after engaging in fierce clashes with the terrorist groups West of Dara'a Balad.

The Syrian troops also managed to win control over a military road in the Western Customs region and disconnected the Eastern and Western Dara'a.

The Syrian army's artillery and missile units backed up by the country's air force also pounded the terrorists' military positions in Tariq al-Assad and al-Makhim camp.

The Russian Air Force carried out several combat sorties over militants' positions in Dara'a, hitting the strongholds of terrorists in the districts of Dara'a Al-Balad and Tariq Al-Sad.

The developments came as a field commander of the terrorists named Bashar Nazal al-Mosalemeh was killed in al-Monshiyeh district of Dara'a al-Balad.

According to the reports, Syrian Army troops have effectively cut the Takfiri terrorists’ supply line to Dara’a city coming from all militant-held territories West of the Dara'a-Damascus Highway.

In a relevant development on Monday, a senior Syrian legislator underlined the possibility for extending ceasefire in Dara'a, adding that terrorists in several villages and regions in the province have declared preparedness to ink peace agreement with the government.

Jamal Hassan al-Za'abi said that the ceasefire in Dara'a was announced after the Syrian army forces gained major achievements in recent weeks.

He added that the army soldiers have gained great victories against the terrorists in the camp area and Dara'a al-Balad and liberated different regions which forced the militants to ask for ceasefire.

The Syrian MP stressed that after the ceasefire, many regions of Dara'a will join the peace agreement.

He also raised the possibility for extending the ceasefire plan, and said the terrorists violated the plan only three hours after the ceasefire went into effect, but the Syrian army doesn’t intend to respond to them at all.

Za'abi underscored that the Syrian army has decided to control the situation and keep the ceasefire, but the terrorist groups take orders from the foreign sides and are not much loyal to the ceasefire plan.

The Syrian army declared on Saturday ceasefire with the terrorist groups in Dara'a for the next 48 hours.

Full report at:



Syrian Army, Air Force Crush ISIL in Deir Ezzur

Jun 20, 2017

The Syrian army troops launched heavy artillery attacks on ISIL's military positions and movements in the Surrounding areas of Panorama school, around Tal al-Barouk (al-Barouk hilltop), Ayash village, al-Tharda mountain and near Deir Ezzur military airport which resulted in the destruction of several ISIL military bases and death of several terrorists.

Meantime, the Syrian fighter jets pounded the military bases and movements of the ISIL in al-Hamidiyeh, Panorama and the two villages of al-Baqilieh and Ayash which resulted in the death and injury of a number of ISIL terrorists and destruction of their military vehicles.

The Syrian fighter jets also pounded ISIL's military positions in Huweiqa Qateh, Mahala al-Mohandesin and al-Jafreh, inflicting heavy casualties and losses on ISIL terrorists.

In a relevant development on Monday, the Syrian army backed by the country's air force inflicted heavy losses on the ISIL by hitting their military positions and movements in Deir Ezzur.

The Syrian army's missile and artillery units heavily pounded the ISIL's military positions in the surrounding areas of Panorama, Tal Borouk, Deir Ezzur airport, al-Tharda, Huweiqa and the village of Ayash, killing a number of the ISIL terrorists and destroying their military vehicles and equipment.

The Syrian army units stationed in Deir Ezzur military airport also managed to destroy the military vehicles of the terrorists and seized a military vehicle.

The Syrian air force also struck the ISIL's military positions in Hatleh village and the surrounding areas of Deir Ezzur, and destroyed their military vehicles.

In a relevant development on Sunday, it was reported that the ISIL terrorist group has been disintegrated by the Syrian army's intensified military advances in Deir Ezzur and also its massive advances in Homs province.

The Syrian army heavily pounded the concentration centers, military positions and movements of the ISIL in al-Tharda, Wadi al-Tharda, Huweiqa Qateh, old airport region, al-Mavared district and the village of al-Jafreh which resulted in the destruction of a number of command centers and death of several terrorists, including senior commanders.

The army units also engaged in fierce clashes with terrorists who had attacked the government positions in the surrounding areas of al-Roshdiyeh and Tal Borouk in the Western countryside of Deir Ezzur and managed to foil the terrorists' attack, killing a large number of them.

"After recapturing Arak energy field, the Syrian army troops moved towards al-Sukhnah region, ISIL's most important bastion in the Eastern countryside of Homs in a bid to move towards Deir Ezzur in a later stage," a military source said.

"The end of the ISIL will be through the Deir Ezzur direction, because this city is the main center of the battle with the terrorist group in Eastern Syria and it acts as a strategic loop that links Iraq to Syria," the source went on to say.

On Thursday, the Syrian army troops continued their advances against ISIL in Eastern Homs and recaptured Arak energy field on Thursday, moving towards the strategic town of al-Sukhnah along the main road to the terrorist-held city of Deir Ezzur.

The army soldiers that had earlier taken full control over Arak triangle engaged in heavy fighting with ISIL and pushed them away from Arak oilfield East of the city of Palmyra.

Full report at:



US shoots down drone close to Iraqi-Syrian border

20 June 2017

The US led coalition said on Tuesday it had shot down an armed pro-Syrian drone that had been advancing on its forces near a garrison close to the border with Iraq in southeastern Syria.

In a statement, US forces said the drone was shot at after it “displayed hostile intent and advanced on coalition forces.”

The location was close to where another “pro-regime UAV” drone, which Western intelligence sources said was Iranian, was shot down on June 8 after dropping bombs near coalition forces, the statement said.



Why are pro-Hezbollah media outlets defending Qatar?

20 June 2017

Hezbollah's media in Lebanon have stopped all its outlets of newspapers and channels specifically Al-Manar and Al-Aalam Iranian channels, in addition to Al-Akhbar, Al-Binaa and Al-Ahed, from attacking Qatar after Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain revealed common relations between Doha and the ayatollah regime in Tehran.

One of the results of these relations was the secret meeting with Qassim Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards, along with the nearly billion-dollar deal for the release of 26 Qatari nationals in Iraq. The agreement came as part of a regional deal related to the evacuation of the people from four towns besieged in Syria, which is called the agreement of the four cities in Syria, as per which the displacement of thousands of rural Damascus to the countryside Idlib and vice versa.

The evacuation of Idlib residents in areas besieged by the Syrian regime forces in the countryside of Damascus and others surrounded by Islamist factions was done in exchange of one Qatari condition: which was to release a number of Sheikhs kidnapped by the Iraqi “Hezbollah Brigades” militias.

EXPLAINER: Reasons why Saudi, UAE, Bahrain, Yemen and Egypt severed ties with Qatar

Contrary to what these media claimed to be hostile to Qatar, the voice of the opposition media rose to the side of Hezbollah militants and organizations to defend Qatar and Turkey, following the announcement by Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain of severing all diplomatic and commercial ties with Qatar, as well as the closure of land and sea ports “to protect its security against the dangers of terrorism and extremism”.

Full report at:





Non-Muslims offer roses to Muslim community in London

June 21, 2017

LONDON: With the belief that an attack on one religion is an attack on all religions, Londoners living near the Finsbury Park mosque gathered with roses for a vigil following a van attack targeting Muslims in the area.

Hundreds of non-Muslims were at or near the mosque handing flowers to Muslim worshippers as they entered the mosque to pray, according to a BBC report.

The report said the “sea of roses – pink, yellow, white and red – symbolised multicultural London.”

Jews, Christians and people of other faiths gave roses to the Muslims, and these were accepted by them, despite many still recovering from a tragedy just hours earlier.

One man died and 11 people were injured when Darren Osborne, 47, is said to have rammed a van into a crowd of Muslim worshippers about 12:30am on Monday.

Witnesses said the driver shouted “I want to kill all Muslims”, as onlookers pinned him to the ground. An imam and other men are said to have prevented the crowd from killing him. Osborne was later arrested.

The report quoted a Muslim woman Muhubo Barre as saying that Finsbury Park mosque had gone through “difficult times” under the radical cleric, Abu Hamza, from 1997 to 2004, but that tensions with people in the neighbourhood had evaporated in recent years. One of Hamza’s henchmen, Omar Bakri Mohammed, later went on to head the al-Qaeda-affiliated group, al-Muhajiroun.

According to the report, last weekend, a Jewish woman rabbi, Shulamit Ambalu, had been a guest at the mosque for Iftar, the breaking of the fast after nightfall during Ramadan. It was a multifaith Iftar.

The BBC reporter asked an orthodox Jew, Hananja Fisher, who was at the vigil what had brought him there, and, pointing to his eyes, replied: “My tears. This is all too familiar to us Jews, such attacks.” Barre’s eldest son, Ayub, 24, was quoted as saying: “I didn’t feel being Muslim in Finsbury Park, in London, was ever an issue. I believe as a community we’ll get through this.” Meanwhile, The Independent reported that leaders of various religions were joined by Metropolitan police commissioner Cressida Dick at the vigil. It quoted Mohammed Kozbar, the chairman of the Finsbury Park mosque, as saying: “Yesterday we all experienced a horrific attack on our families, on our freedom, on our dignity. A man, a father of six children, being killed in cold blood and many injured by an extremist, by a terrorist. “These people, these extremists, their aim is to divide our communities, is to spread hatred, fear and division among our communities. “We all have harmony in this area, and these people try to divide us, but we tell them that ‘We will not let you do that’.” The Bishop of Stepney Adrian Newman, who also spoke to the crowd, said: “An attack on one faith is an attack on us all.” Rabbi Herschel Gluck was quoted by The Independent as saying: “An attack on the Muslim community is an attack on every single citizen in Great Britain, because we are one nation, under one god, living together, working together, cooperating together in this country.”



Muslims targeted by violence in wake of ISIS-claimed attacks

Jun 20, 2017

LONDON: The attack on Muslim worshippers outside a London mosque+ on Monday follows a rising wave of violence and harassment directed against Muslims across Britain and around the world.

This month alone, a Muslim woman wearing a head scarf told police in Lancashire her car was struck by a bag of vomit. Worshippers at the Omar Faruque mosque in Cambridge found strips of ham attached to their vehicles. Several Muslim families have reported receiving letters warning, "You are no longer welcome in this country." Scores say they have been spat on.

Across Britain, Muslims say they are being targeted by a wave of animosity and violence simply because of the way they dress and worship, and because they share a religion hijacked by bloodthirsty extremists like the Islamic State group, which was quick to claim responsibility for recent attacks in Britain and elsewhere. In Monday's attack, a man plowed a van into a crowd of worshippers, injuring at least nine people — a tactic used in the recent attacks on Westminster and London bridges.

London's Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, said Monday's assault outside two mosques during the holy month of Ramadan was clearly "an attack on Muslims."

"We are easy targets because of the way we dress and when we pray," said Hassan Ali, a 34-year-old resident of Finsbury Park, a north London neighborhood that is home to a large Muslim population and where the attack occurred. "But every time there is an attack here or elsewhere, we are blamed. When we are attacked, people look away."

Since the wave of IS-inspired terror attacks in Britain, there has been a five-fold increase of hate crimes against Muslims. Tensions have also been running high since Britain's decision to leave the European Union, a vote that was largely driven by anti-immigrant rhetoric — a message that was further reinforced by some of Britain's right-leaning tabloids and spread by populist European politicians promising to stem immigration and tackle terrorism associated with IS.

"I feel unsafe," said Emma Salem, a 15-year-old Muslim who lives in the neighborhood targeted on Monday.

Such attacks against Muslims have been on a worldwide increase. In January, a white nationalist opened fire on an Islamic cultural center in Quebec City, Canada, killing six people and wounding nearly 20. In the same month, the Islamic Center of Lake Travis in Austin, Texas, was destroyed by a fire in what authorities called a hate crime and another mosque was burned to the ground. Last year, nearly 100 mosques were attacked in Germany and dozens across Europe have been targeted by arsonists this year.

Stirring tension plays an important part in Islamic State and al-Qaida propaganda, as well as propaganda by right-leaning political groups.

Brendan Cox, the widower of the slain British parliamentarian Jo Cox+ , said both the far-right and Islamic extremists are propelled by polarization.

"Far-right fascists and Islamic terrorists are driven by the same hatred of difference, same ideology of supremacy & use of same tactics," he wrote on Twitter.

The Islamic State group and al-Qaida have targeted Muslims living in the West, repeatedly saying they will never be fully accepted members in a society of "unbelievers."

The idea has been to sow mistrust and drive both sides to the extremes. In the case of IS, the propaganda has gone even further, warning Muslims that if they failed to either join the fight in defense of the extremists' self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria or carry out attacks in their home countries, they themselves were complicit in a system of oppression against Muslims.

Islamic State supporters used Monday's attack to fuel more tensions by noting that the attacker, identified as 47-year-old Darren Osborne, was not shot to death, unlike the London Bridge attackers+ . "Muslims. you need to wake up, the war is starting now in your own streets," the message went on, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.

"Muslims are repeatedly being used as a political football and pieces in a propaganda campaign," said Mohammed Shafiq, head of the Ramadhan Foundation. "The rampant rise in Islamophobia has been perpetuated by right-wing newspapers and outlets. This has led to an atmosphere where it is acceptable to harass and ostracize Muslims. The Muslim community is constantly demonized."

Residents of Finsbury Park said they were angry that the police seemed slow to call Monday's incident a "terror attack." They also expressed frustration that attacks on the Muslim community have received little coverage or sympathy.

"There has been an outpouring of sympathy for all the recent terror attacks but hardly a whisper on this attack," said 23-year-old Ali Habib, who described how the white van swerve into a crowd of worshippers gathered outside a mosque following evening prayers. "People are both scared and angry. Parents are scared to send their children to evening prayers."

Full report at:



Muslim Labour MP Calls for Ban on ‘Right Wing Extremist Marches’ After Finsbury Attack

20 Jun 2017

Labour MP Rushanara Ali has called for marches by extremist groups be banned – but only singled out right wing demonstrators in her call for legislation.

The Labour Member of Parliament for Bethnal Green and Bow made the comments Monday evening during an appearance on Sky News. Ms. Ali referred specifically to the English Defence League and the far right group Britain First saying that demonstrations from both groups should be banned in London.

Ali said that the government needed to “redouble their efforts” when it came to tackling extremism.

“We have seen over the years many marches here in the East End and around the country by organisations like the English Defence League and more recently by British [Britain] First,” she said.

Without naming names Ali said that certain individuals were stoking up hatred. Earlier Monday evening, UK political blogger Guido Fawkes singled out EDL founder Tommy Robinson, comparing him to Islamic hate preacher Anjem Choudary who is currently in prison for links to Islamic radicals.

Ali continued: “We also need to make sure the government takes firm action against extremists and ban marches where they are willfully and deliberately trying to provoke hate and intolerance in our country.”

She then added she had heard the EDL had plans to hold a march in London and called the move “unacceptable” and said the government needed to  “get a grip” and ensure that no right wing marches could take place.

Ms. Ali has had a seat in parliament since 2010 and has occupied several shadow cabinet posts. In 2014, she was one of 43 MPs to reject the government’s proposal to conduct airstrikes on Islamic State positions in Iraq resigning from her shadow cabinet post in order to be able to abstain from the vote.

Despite saying she rejects extremist marches, Ali did not mention the anti0Israel al-Quds Day march which occurred over the weekend in which marchers brandished the flags of Hezbollah, considered a terrorist organisation in much of the world.

Earlier in the day on Monday, the BBC chose to interview Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of the so-called Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC), who organised the al-Quds Day march and has alleged links to Hezbollah.

Shadjareh blamed right-wing political commentators like Douglas Murray, Katie Hopkins, and Maajid Nawaz for “bombarding our society with hatred” toward the Muslim community and putting out “Islamophobic” rhetoric.

Full report at:



Police question 'troubled' anti-Muslim van attacker

Jun 21, 2017

London  - Police on Tuesday questioned a man suspected of deliberately mowing down Muslims in London, as the interior minister said Britain was "bruised but not broken" by a series of terror attacks.

Britain was coming to terms with the aftermath of its fourth bloody assault in three months following Monday's van attack on worshippers leaving the Finsbury Park Mosque in north London. The string of attacks had "bruised but not broken the heart of this great nation", Home Secretary Amber Rudd said.

The family of Darren Osborne, the man suspected of deliberately driving into the Muslim group, said he was "troubled", describing his action as "sheer madness". Osborne, 47, a father of four from Cardiff, was arrested.

Police believe the suspect acted alone and searches were being conducted at a residential address in the Welsh capital.

Police are treating the incident as a terror attack and British Prime Minister Theresa May described it as "sickening", vowing Monday to fight extremism in all its forms. The attack raised fears of retaliation against Muslims after a series of deadly assaults in Britain by Islamist extremists.

One man who was already receiving first aid at the time died following the assault, while nine people were taken to hospital and two others were treated for minor injuries. "I'm sorry that my brother has been that troubled that it has taken him to this level of troubledness," said the suspect's sister Nicola Osborne. "He has just been troubled for a long time."

His mother Christine, 72, said she screamed when she saw her son in television footage. "My son is no terrorist - he's just a man with problems," The Sun newspaper quoted her as saying.

In a statement on behalf of his family, his nephew Ellis Osborne, 26, said: "We are massively shocked. "Our hearts go out to the people who have been injured."

His uncle was "not a racist", he said. "It's madness. It is obviously sheer madness."

Londoners bearing flowers and messages of solidarity gathered late Monday at the scene of the attack, some carrying signs reading "United Against All Terror".

Another vigil is planned for Tuesday. The van driver was pinned down by locals before being shielded from retaliatory violence by an imam and detained by police.

The man suspected of driving the van was arrested on suspicion of "the commission, preparation or instigation of terrorism including murder and attempted murder", police said.

London police chief Cressida Dick said the incident was "quite clearly an attack on Muslims" and promised a stepped-up police presence near mosques as the holy month of Ramadan draws to a close.

Rudd said Muslims needed to feel safe in Britain and the government was working to tackle all forms of hate crime and extremism.

"Indicative figures suggest that over half of those who experience hate because of their religion are Muslim. Any hate crime is unacceptable but this stark figure is something we will not shy away from," she wrote in The Guardian newspaper.

"We stand with the Muslim community - you are not alone, we share your pain and we will not let you down."

One victim of Monday's attack has no memory of what happened, according to a nephew who did not wish to be identified.

"He is bleeding out of his ear, but in general his health was stable," he said after visiting his uncle Hamza Sharif in hospital.

"He has a fracture in his skull - but they still don't know why the bleeding from his ear is not stopping yet," the Somali-born man said.

Sharif "does not remember anything" of the attack and kept asking "what was wrong".

The three previous terror attacks in recent months were all Islamist-inspired.

A car and knife attack on March 22 in London killed four pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and a police officer guarding the British parliament.

Full report at:



Troops shoot man after Brussels station blast: police

Jun 21, 2017

Belgian troops patrolling Brussels Central Station "neutralized" a person after a small explosion on Tuesday, a police spokesman said, adding that there were no other casualties and the situation was under control.

Witnesses said La Grande Place was cleared in seconds,  while others took pictures of a fire in the nearby Central Station. 

Belgian media have reported a man wearing a explosive belt has been "neutralised" by police. "There were no other casualties and the situation was under control," said a policeman

"At the moment, the police are in numbers at the station and everything is under control."

Het Laatste Nieuws tabloid newspaper quoted what it said were witnesses saying a man shouted "Allahu Akbar" in Arabic before a small explosion. Soldiers ran toward the spot, saw wires protruding from the man's clothes, and shot him. That account could not be independently confirmed.

Arnaud Reyman, spokesman for rail network operator Infrabel confirmed the station was evacuated. 

He said, "There was panic in the station and on the tracks after an incident."

Bart Crols, a spokesman for the SNCN railway company, confirmed all rail traffic in the city has been suspended after witnesses tweeted a picture of a fire at Central Station.

Soldiers, firefighters, armoured trucks and police were pictured outside the station after it was evacuated.

Federal police have confirmed the blasts and say soldiers opened fire on man.

One witness said he was 'lucky to be alive' after something that sounded like a 'bomb' allegedly went off near him.

Ludoivic Hampton wrote: 'When you're walking through central station and something that looked and sounded like a bomb goes off 30 metres away from you.

'I'm lucky to be alive.'

Broadcaster RTL quoted Fires Services spokesman Pierre Meys confirming that some kind of an explosion had happened in the city's Central station on Tuesday. Meys could not say what had caused the blast.

He could only confirm that firefighters were at the scene.

Full report at:



Family of London mosque attacker say they are devastated

Jun 21, 2017

The vehicle swerved into the group of worshippers, mainly of North and West African origin, after they left prayers in the early hours of Monday at the Muslim Welfare House and the nearby Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, one of the biggest in Britain, injuring 11.

Police said it was clearly targeted at Muslims and Prime Minister Theresa May described it as a "sickening" terrorist attack.

A 47-year-old man was restrained by locals at the scene and police later arrested him on suspicion of attempted murder and terrorism offences. He is still being questioned by detectives.

The suspect was named by British media as Darren Osborne, 47, a father-of-four, who lived in the Welsh capital Cardiff. In a statement given to local media on behalf of his family, his nephew Ellis Osborne said: "We are massively shocked; it's unbelievable, it still hasn't really sunk in.

"We are devastated for the families; our hearts go out to the people who have been injured. It's madness. It is obviously shear madness."

The incident at Finsbury Park was the fourth attack in Britain since March and the third to involve a vehicle deliberately driven at pedestrians. The previous attacks had been blamed on Islamist extremists.

The latest attack comes at a tumultuous time for the government with Britain starting complex divorce talks with the European Union and May negotiating with a small Northern Irish party to stay in power after losing her parliamentary majority in a snap election that backfired.

An imam from the Muslim Welfare House who stepped in to protect the driver from the angry crowd after the incident was hailed as a hero in British newspapers on Tuesday.

"We found that a group of people quickly started to collect around him ... and some tried to hit him either with kicks or punches," Mohammed Mahmoud told reporters. "By God's grace we managed to surround him and to protect him from any harm."

Security Minister Ben Wallace said the man was not known to the security services and police said they believed he was acting alone.

Full report at:



Champs-Elysees attacker was supportive of Daesh: Source

Jun 20, 2017

A source close to French investigators has revealed that the man responsible for a recent attack on police forces in Paris was supportive of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.

The source said on Tuesday that Adam Djaziri, who rammed his car into a police van in Paris' Champs-Elysees avenue a day earlier, had expressed his support for Daesh in a letter of allegiance to the leader of the terrorist group.

The source said Djaziri had addressed the letter to his brother-in-law by which he had pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the notorious leader of Daesh who is believed to be ruling the group somewhere in Iraq or Syria.

Djaziri, 31, had been on a French watch list since 2015. He was killed on the scene of the attack in Champs Elysees. Police found handguns and a Kalashnikov-style assault rifle in his car. A later search carried out in his house also led to the discovery of a weapons stash.

Djaziri wrote the letter long before he carried out the attack in Paris. He claimed in the letter that he was amassing weapons to pose himself as a shooting enthusiast so that no one could know about his "double game." The father of the attacker, who was detained after the attack on Monday, said his son practiced shooting as a sport. Other sources close to the probe said Djaziri had registered nine weapons including pistols and an assault rifle.

Full report at:





Israel starts work on new settlement as US steps up peace efforts

Jun 21, 2017

JERUSALEM - Israel broke ground on Tuesday on its first new settlement in the occupied West Bank for two decades, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, announcing the symbolic move on the eve of a peace mission by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner.

"Work began today on-site, as I promised, to establish the new settlement," Netanyahu wrote on his Twitter feed, which included a photograph of mechanical equipment digging into a rocky field.

He was referring to the construction of Amichai, which will house some 300 settlers evicted in February from the Amona outpost after Israel's Supreme Court ruled their homes had been built illegally on privately-owned Palestinian land.

By highlighting the earth-moving work - no date has been announced for actual housing construction - Netanyahu appeared to suggest he believed he had little to fear from US President Donald Trump's administration over settlement building that has drawn Palestinian and international condemnation.

During a meeting at the White House in February, Trump asked Netanyahu to "hold back on settlements for a little bit", a request seen as part of an effort to build trust with the Palestinians ahead of a renewed push for peace.

The White House said on Sunday that Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, would arrive in Israel on Wednesday and that he and Jason Greenblatt, a top US national security aide who preceded him on Monday, would meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, called the ground-breaking "a grave escalation and an attempt to foil efforts by the American administration to revive negotiations", especially (before) the arrival of the US envoys".

Kushner and Greenblatt will sound out both sides "about their priorities and potential next steps" as part of Trump's attempt to revive peace talks that collapsed in 2014, a White House official said.

But the official said any peace deal "will take time" and likely require "many visits by both Mr. Kushner and Mr. Greenblatt" to the region.

Palestinians regard settlements, around 200 of which have been built over the past 50 years on occupied land that they seek for a state, as obstacles to a viable and contiguous country. Around 400,000 Israelis now live in West Bank settlements, among around 2.8 million Palestinians.

When Trump visited Jerusalem on May 22-23, he studiously avoided any mention of settlements, at least in public.

Israel decided in March to build Amichai, which means "My People Live", and in recent weeks it has approved plans for more than 3,000 settler homes elsewhere in the West Bank.

Most countries view settlements that Israel has built on land captured in the June 1967 Middle East war as illegal. Israel disputes that, citing biblical, historical and political links to the West Bank, as well as security interests.

The Palestinians want an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with its capital in East Jerusalem, and also claim historical and political links to the land.

Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and the territory is now ruled by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas.



Khamenei warns Iraq not to weaken Shi'ite militias

Jun 21, 2017

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Tuesday against any measures that could weaken the Tehran-backed Shi'ite paramilitary groups, saying such actions would endanger Baghdad's stability.

At a meeting in Tehran, Khamenei said the Shi'ite militias were Iraq's main forces pushing back Sunni jihadist groups, and Baghdad should not trust the United States in the fight against the Islamic State, Iranian state media reported.

The Shi'ite militias, known as Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) helped Baghdad defend the country against the Islamic State militant group when Iraqi military and police divisions deserted en masse in 2014.

Since then, the Iran-backed militias, estimated to comprise more than 60,000 fighters, have continued to attack the Islamic State, also known as Daesh, which has declared a Caliphate across swathes of Iraq and Syria.

But Sunnis in areas freed from Islamic State control say the Shi'ite militias have carried out looting, abductions and murder.

Some Arab leaders in northern Iraq have asked for the PMF to be dissolved or expelled from their Sunni-majority provinces.

"The Daesh is retreating from Iraq and that is thanks to the government’s trust in these young devoted forces," Khamenei told Abadi in Tehran.

"The Americans are against Popular Forces because they want Iraq to lose its main source of strength," he added.

U.S.-backed Iraqi forces have also dislodged Islamic State from Iraqi cities the militants captured, and are about to fully capture Mosul, which used to be their de facto capital in the country.


Abadi met Khamenei a day after his visit to Saudi Arabia, Iran's regional rival, in a Middle Eastern tour that will also include Kuwait.[nL8N1JH2LO]

Iraq lies on the faultline between Shi'ite Iran and the mostly Sunni Arab world. Deep-running animosity and distrust between the two sides is fueled by sectarian divides.

Abadi belongs to the Dawa party, a Shi'ite group with close ties to Iran. But he has managed relations with the Sunnis better than his predecessor, Nuri al-Maliki, and also improved Baghdad's ties with Saudi Arabia.

Khamenei asked Abadi not to trust the Americans in their fight against the Islamic State, as "they and their regional allies (Saudi Arabia) have created Daesh with their money and do not wish to fully eliminate them" in Iraq.

He said Iran was against the presence of American forces in Iraq under any circumstance including training Iraqi forces.

"We should remain vigilant of the Americans and not trust them. The Americans and their followers are against Iraq's independence, unity and identity," Khamenei said.

Khamenei also reiterated Iran's disagreement with any measure that threatened the territorial integrity of Iraq and divides the country.

Full report at:



Israeli soldiers shot dead Palestinian armed with knife

20 June 2017

A Palestinian attempted to stab Israeli soldiers in the occupied West Bank Tuesday before being shot dead, the army said.

A military statement said that the incident occurred near Qalandia, north of Jerusalem.

“An assailant armed with a knife attempted to stab (Israeli) forces operating on a road,” it said. “Forces fired towards the attacker.”

An army spokeswoman later confirmed the attacker’s death to AFP, as did the Palestinian health ministry in a statement without naming him.

A wave of unrest that broke out in October 2015 has claimed the lives of 273 Palestinians, 42 Israelis, two Americans, two Jordanians, an Eritrean, a Sudanese and a Briton, according to an AFP tally.

Israeli authorities say most of the Palestinians killed were carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks.

Full report at:



Iran to respond more decisively to terrorist attacks on its soil: Rouhani

Jun 20, 2017

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has stressed that the Islamic Republic will respond "more decisively" to any future terrorist attack on Iran's soil.

Rouhani made the remarks in a ceremony on Tuesday in reference to Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) firing six medium-range ground-to-ground missiles at Daesh bases in Syria’s Dayr al-Zawr on Sunday in retaliation for twin terrorist attacks in the Iranian capital Tehran, which killed 17 people and injured over 50 others. 

He added that the IRGC’s move to fire missiles toward Daesh positions in Syria was not made by one person or military component.

“If we decide to target a location with missiles, this decision falls within the field of national security,” said Rouhani.

“Such decisions are made by the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC),” he added.

Rouhani, the chairman of the SNSC, said the body had in response to the terrorist attacks in Tehran given wider authority to the country's Armed Forces than the missile raid on Daesh in Syria.

Earlier in the day, the IRGC announced that at least 65 Daesh terrorists, including several high-ranking intelligence commanders, were killed in Iran's missile attack.

Noting that Iran’s policies in relation to the region and global affairs have not changed, Iran’s president stressed that if any group tries to attack the country and harm the Islamic Republic they will receive a “decisive answer.”

Stressing that the recent attacks in Tehran were not the first attempts made by terrorists on Iranian soil, Rouhani added that Iran’s intelligence Ministry and Armed Forces have reacted accordingly to the recent attacks and have been able to foil tens of such attacks in the past.

Full report at:



Terrorism in Middle East part of Israel’s agenda: Iranian president

Jun 20, 2017

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has described the terrorist operations across the Middle East as part of Israel’s agenda, warning that anti-terror campaigns in the region should not divert attentions from the Palestinian crisis.

Rouhani made the remarks at a Tuesday meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is visiting Tehran at the head of a high-ranking delegation.

“Fighting against terrorism should not overshadow the issue of al-Quds and the threat of the Zionist regime (Israel) in the region,” he pointed out.

Elsewhere, Rouhani congratulated the Iraqi government and nation over the liberation of Mosul from the hands of Daesh Takfiri terrorists and said, “The liberation of Mosul is a symbol for putting an end to terrorism and it is a victory celebration for Iran, Iraq, Syria and all the regional countries fighting the grave issue of terrorism.”

The president underlined the importance of safeguarding the territorial integrity of all regional countries and denounced any measure aimed at undermining the unity and sovereignty of Iraq as “unacceptable.”

The Iranian chief executive also called for the expansion of Iran-Iraq ties in all areas.

Abadi, for his part, called for the promotion of Tehran-Baghdad relations in all spheres, particularly in fighting terrorism.

He noted that Daesh terrorists know no boundaries and urged all the countries to cooperate in fighting against such a common threat.

Abadi’s one-day visit to Iran came after his visit to Saudi Arabia. The Iraqi premier will then visit Kuwait on the third leg of his regional tour.

The visit comes as Iraqi government forces continue more territorial gains in the militant-held Old City of Mosul as they continue their operations to push Daesh terrorists out of their last urban stronghold in the Arab country.

The Iraqi forces took control of eastern Mosul in January after 100 days of fighting, and launched the battle in the west on February 19.

Full report at:



More Daesh terrorists arrested in northwestern Iran

Jun 20, 2017

An Iranian lawmaker says 40 Daesh terrorists have been arrested in the country’s northwestern province of West Azarbaijan in continuation of the Islamic Republic’s measures to fight terrorism.

Nader Qazipour told ISNA on Tuesday that the terrorists were arrested in the province’s cities of Piranshahr, Sardasht, Mahabad, Bukan and Takab.

He added that the terrorists intended to carry out acts of terror inside Iran in the holy month of Ramadan, but they were identified and arrested before making any move.

The Iranian lawmaker added that a large number of weapons and explosives have been discovered and seized from the terrorists.

On June 7, gunmen mounted almost simultaneous assaults on Iran’s Parliament and the Mausoleum of the late Founder of the Islamic Republic Imam Khomeini. The Daesh Takfiri terrorist group claimed responsibility for the assaults. The attacks killed 17 people and injured over 50 others.

Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) fired six medium-range ground-to-ground ballistic missiles into Daesh bases in Syria’s Dayr al-Zawr on Sunday in retaliation for the twin terrorist attacks in Tehran.

Full report at:



North America


US mulling expansion of airstrikes against Pakistan-based militants

Jun 21 2017

The President Donald Trump’s administration is mulling to expand airstrikes against the militant groups based in Pakistan as part its approach to harden stance against the country, it has been reported.

According to Reuters quoting informed US officials, the Trump administration appears ready to harden its approach toward Pakistan to crack down on Pakistan-based militants launching attacks in neighbouring Afghanistan, U.S. officials tell Reuters.

The officials speaking on the condition of anonymity further added that the potential responses being discussed include expanding U.S. drone strikes, redirecting or withholding some aid to Pakistan and perhaps eventually downgrading Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally.

This comes as the Afghan officials have long been criticizing Pakistan for remaining reckless to act against the militant groups using its soil for planning and coordinating attacks in Afghanistan.

According to the Afghan officials, the leadership councils of the Taliban and the notorious Haqqani terrorist network are based in the key cities of Pakistan from where they plan and launch attacks in Afghanistan.

The Afghan intelligence said earlier this month that the deadly attacks near the German embassy and the coordinated suicide attack on funeral were plotted by the Haqqani terrorist network based in Pakistan.



U.S. State Department questions Gulf motives on Qatar boycott

Jun 21, 2017

The U.S. State Department bluntly questioned on Tuesday the motives of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for their boycott of Doha, saying it was "mystified" the Gulf states had not released their grievances over Qatar.

In Washington's strongest language yet on the Gulf dispute, the State Department said the more time goes by, "the more doubt is raised about the actions taken by Saudi Arabia and the UAE."

"At this point, we are left with one simple question: Were the actions really about their concerns regarding Qatar's alleged support for terrorism or were they about the long-simmering grievances between and among the GCC countries," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, referring to the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.

The State Department's comments came in contrast to the language taken by U.S. President Donald Trump who has accused Qatar of being a "high level" sponsor of terrorism.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar are key American allies. The fact the State Department bluntly questioned Riyadh and Abu Dhabi's actions in public suggests Washington was keen for the parties to end the dispute.

"We've said to the parties involved: Let's finish this. Let's get this going," Nauert said.

Qatar hosts a vital U.S. military base, Al Udeid, in which more than 11,000 U.S. and coalition forces are deployed or assigned to and from which more than 100 aircraft operate.

The United Arab Emirates, which along with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain imposed the measures to isolate Qatar, has said the sanctions could last for years unless Doha accepted demands that the Arab powers plan to reveal in coming days.

The State Department, headed by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, was encouraging "all sides to de-escalate tensions and engage in constructive dialogue."

Qatar's foreign minister said Doha would not negotiate with its neighbors to resolve the Gulf dispute unless they first lift the trade and travel boycott they imposed two weeks ago. He added that Doha still believed a solution was possible.

"Now that it has been more than two weeks since the embargo started, we are mystified that the Gulf states have not released to the public nor to the Qataris the details about the claims that they are making toward Qatar," Nauert added.

There was no immediate comment from Riyadh or Abu Dhabi.

Qatar has denied accusations by its neighbors that it funds terrorism, foments regional instability or has cozied up to their enemy Iran.

The dispute has opened a rift among some of the main U.S. allies in the Middle East. Since the dispute erupted, U.S. President Donald Trump has taken a tougher stance against Qatar, while the State Department had sought to remain neutral.

Nauert said Tillerson had three phone calls and two in-person meetings with the Saudi foreign minister. Tillerson also spoke by phone three times with Qatar's foreign minister and with the Qatari emir.

The UAE's ambassador to the United States said last week a list of demands for Qatar was being compiled and would soon be handed to the United States.

He said they would broadly address the three areas of support for terrorism, meddling in the internal affairs of these countries and attacks through Qatari-owned media platforms.

Full report at:



Jury doesn’t need lessons on bin Laden: Lawyer for New Jersey, New York bomb suspect

Jun 21, 2017

NEW YORK: American jurors no longer need to be schooled about al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden and other significant icons of the terrorism world, a lawyer for a man accused of plotting bomb attacks in New Jersey and New York that injured 30 people told a judge on Tuesday.

Assistant federal defender Sabrina Shroff cited bin Laden and others as she argued for the exclusion of the government’s terrorism expert from the trial this fall of Ahmad Khan Rahimi.

“I think everybody knows who bin Laden is, or was,” Shroff said of the leader of al-Qaida during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, who was killed in a May 2011 raid on his compound in Pakistan by U.S. special forces.

She said prosecutors wanted to use the terrorism expert “to add on to the indictment this gloss of terrorism.”

“They want to inject that into a case that is already volatile enough,” she said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Shawn Crowley said the terrorism expert was necessary in part to explain references Rahimi made in an eight-page document that the defendant had included in a notebook he kept.

Crowley said the document shows that he started studying terrorist propaganda in 2012 and within a couple of years was learning to create the kind of bombs he used last September.

“It’s the defendant’s claims of responsibility, telling the world, telling the United States government ... what he did and why he did it,” Crowley said.

Rahimi, a 29-year-old Afghanistan-born U.S. citizen, has pleaded not guilty to detonating a pipe bomb near a charity run in Seaside Park, New Jersey, and planting two pressure cooker bombs in Manhattan on Sept. 17.

The Seaside Park bomb didn’t hurt anyone. One of the Manhattan bombs didn’t explode, but the other detonated in the Chelsea neighborhood, causing the injuries.

Rahimi’s trial is scheduled to start days after the anniversary of his arrest, which came two days after the bombings when he was severely injured during a shootout with police outside a bar in Linden, New Jersey.

Full report at:



By keeping US focus on IS, Trump risks wider Syria war

Jun 21, 2017

Phil Stewart and Jonathan Landay

President Donald Trump has ordered stepped-up military operations against Islamic State and delegated more authority to his generals, but without a comprehensive Syria strategy, his approach risks further confrontation with Syria, Iran and even Russia, according to US officials and analysts.

While the US military’s shootdown of a Syrian jet on Sunday was a rarity in modern warfare, the first in 18 years, it was not an isolated incident.

The United States has taken a series of actions over the past three months demonstrating its willingness to carry out strikes, mostly in self-defense, against Syrian government forces and their backers, including Iran.

In April, Trump ordered cruise missile strikes against a Syrian airfield from which Washington said a deadly chemical weapons attack was launched. Since then, the United States has repeatedly struck Iranian-backed militia and last week even shot down a drone threatening US-led coalition forces.

These incidents, however, are tactical, not part of any US strategy in Syria, analysts said.

Both the administration of former President Barack Obama and Trump’s have focused exclusively on defeating Islamic State, but with the militants’ self-proclaimed caliphate shrinking, US-backed and Syrian-backed forces appear to be competing for territory. “There isn’t an over-arching US strategy driving this,” said Charles Lister of the Middle East Institute.

“This is just the result of tactical decisions by a commander on the ground whose only focus is a specific theater in Syria. He is acting to protect his assets ... This is purely a series of tactical decisions that are creating a series of very serious strategic consequences.”

Russia and Iran both support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s civil war.

The larger problem, the officials and analysts said, is that Trump and his national security team have not advanced a long-term political strategy for Syria’s future.

Like Obama, Trump has focused on Islamic State, leaving for later the question of Assad’s fate and the region’s mangled alliances.

“We have never had a coherent Syrian strategy,” said one US official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “We oppose Assad, but our main enemy is ISIS, which also opposes Assad. Our most capable allies are the (Kurdish) peshmerga, but Turkey, who is a NATO ally and host to an airbase that is central to our efforts, considers the Kurds enemies.”

Jennifer Cafarella, of the Institute for the Study of War, said the US strikes are unlikely to deter Assad and his backers.

“The absence of a civilian-led US strategy in Syria and the narrow US military focus on ISIS will continue to provide an open invite for the pro-Assad regime coalition to extend and escalate,” Cafarella said.

A White House spokesman did not respond to calls and an email seeking comment. A senior White House official said: “The strategy for Syria is to defeat ISIS and first and foremost achievement of a de-escalation of the conflict so we can work toward a political resolution. We’re not close to that, but that’s the strategy.”


Russia reacted angrily to the US shootdown of the Syrian jet, which the Pentagon said was dropping bombs near the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, a mixed Kurdish-Arab militia fighting Islamic State.

Moscow said it would treat US-led coalition aircraft flying west of the River Euphrates in Syria as potential targets and track them with missile systems and military aircraft. It stopped short of saying it would shoot them down.

The White House said on Monday that coalition forces fighting Islamic State militants in Syria would retain the right to self-defense, and said the United States would work to keep lines of communication open with Russia.

In another complication, Iran on Sunday launched ballistic missile strikes at Islamic State targets in eastern Syria, the first time it has carried out such an action.

US intelligence analysts quickly concluded that Iran fired the missiles mostly in retaliation for a pair of Islamic State attacks earlier this month on Iran’s parliament building and the tomb of the Islamic Republic’s founder.

A second US official said the use of ballistic missiles may also have been intended as a signal that Iran remains committed to supporting Assad and a reminder that US forces and bases in the region are within reach of Iranian missiles and ground forces.

As it tries to craft a Syria strategy, the Trump administration is divided between those who consider Islamic State the primary enemy and some officials who think the war in Syria is part of an existential struggle between the United States and its Gulf allies on the one hand and Iran on the other, said a third US official, who has participated in government deliberations on Syria.

Some Trump appointees saw Iran’s missile strike as an illustration of Tehran’s regional ambitions, which they have argued make it an existential enemy, according to the three US officials.

Full report at:



Canada: Anti-terror law beefs up cyber threat powers

21 June 2017

New anti-terror laws introduced Tuesday include a beefed-up security force that would be able to launch cyber attacks against terrorist groups and other governments.

Currently, the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) does not have the power to act outside Canadian government networks to combat cyber threats, Global News reported.

It is just one measure in the new legislation that is designed to protect the privacy rights of Canadians while enhancing national security, the government said on its website.

The changes come after the federal government solicited opinions from the public.

“Canadians were clear in the consultation that they expect their rights and freedoms to be protected at the same time as their security,” Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said in a written statement. “The measures introduced today reflect that expectation and strengthen Canada’s ability to address evolving threats.”

The legislation creates the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency that will oversee Canada’s security and intelligence services to ensure citizen’s rights are protected from unnecessary harassment under the banner of terror investigations.

The legislation also more clearly defines “terrorist propaganda” – a vague term coined in legislation passed by the previous Conservative government.

Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan said the new powers for the CSE improves its ability to fight cyber threats and is of particular importance.

“CSE operates in a rapidly changing technological world,” he said in a written statement. “The proposed CSE Act will maintain CSE’s ability to provide the Government of Canada with essential intelligence necessary to protect Canadians and will help strengthen our national cyber defenses, while at the same time increasing transparency, accountability and oversight of these activities.”

Full report at:





BJP’s Presidential Nominee’s ‘Islam, Christianity’ Statement Triggers Nation Vs Notion Row

Jun 20, 2017

Did BJP’s presidential nominee Ram Nath Kovind in 2010 say “Islam and Christianity are alien to the nation”? Or was he misquoted and meant “notion”?

“Nation” and “notion” were buzzing on Twitter after a March 2010 report by news agency IANS on Kovind’s views on reservation was dug up after the BJP announced on Monday that he will contest the presidential election.

Kovind was a BJP spokesperson on March 26, 2010 when he commented on the Ranganath Misra commission report that recommends 15% quota in government jobs for socially and economically backward sections among religious and linguistic minorities in India.

The Misra report had recommended 10% quotas for Muslims and 5% for other minorities in government jobs and favoured SC status for Dalits of all religions.

“No, that is not possible,” said Kovind. “Including Muslims and Christians in the Scheduled Castes category will be unconstitutional,” IANS quoted him as saying at a press conference in Delhi.

Kovind was asked how Sikh Dalits were given quota in the same category. “Islam and Christianity are alien to the nation,” he reportedly said according to IANS.

But on Tuesday some Twitter users said Kovind, who is a Dalit leader and the former president of the BJP’s Dalit Morcha, had been misquoted.



Scores of Muslims to join PM in Lucknow’s mega yoga event

JUNE 20, 2017

At least 300 Muslim men and women will be participating in the International Yoga Day celebrations in Lucknow.

Scores of Muslim men and women will participate in the mega International Yoga Day event here on Wednesday, performing along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi various yoga asanas at the sprawling Ramabai Ambedkar Maidan.

“At least 300 Muslim men and women will be participating in the International Yoga Day celebrations along with Modi.

This will be undoubtedly a historic moment in the life of each and every member of our organisation, as they would share precious 80-minute period with the Prime Minister,” Raees Khan, the incharge of Muslim Rashtriya Manch for UP and Uttarakhand, said.

Spokesperson of the All India Shia Personal Law Board Maulana Yasoob Abbas, when contacted, said, “Several students of Shia PG College will be going to Ramabai Ambedkar Maidan to participate in the Yoga Day event. Apart from this, parallel sessions will be held on the college campus. We will make efforts to ensure that yoga sessions are held on a daily basis in the college.”

On March 29, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, while addressing the three-day UP Yoga Mahotsava in Lucknow, had said that Surya Namaskar was similar to namaz (prayers) offered by Muslims and those opposing the yogic exercise wanted to divide the society on religious lines.

Mr. Adityanath, who had in the past lashed out at a section of Muslims for terming the practice of surya namaskar as “un-Islamic”, said the sun salutation was a beautiful example of religious harmony.

“The namaz offered by Muslims resembles different postures and asanas of surya namaskar including pranayama. What a beautiful example of harmony (between two religions). But some bhogis who do not believe in yoga, indulged in dividing the society on lines of caste, creed, religion and region among others,” he said.

“All asanas (postures) in surya namaskar, pranayama activities are similar to the way namaz is offered by our Muslim brothers. But nobody ever tried to bring them together because few people were interested only in bhoga not yoga,” he said.

“Before 2014, even talking about Yoga was considered communal. But things changed after Modi took steps to make Yoga popular across the world,” he said.

Lauding the Prime Minister for making yoga a global phenomenon, Mr. Adityanath had said, “PM Modi deserves all the credit for the global recognition which yoga has got.”

Full report at:



India arrests 15 for celebrating Pakistan's cricket win

Jun 21, 2017

Police in central India have arrested 15 Muslim men and charged them with sedition - punishable by life in prison - for celebrating Pakistan's victory over India in the Champions Trophy cricket final.

The men, aged 19 to 35, were arrested in central Madhya Pradesh state's Burhanpur district after locals complained that they shouted pro-Pakistan slogans and lit firecrackers after the match ended on Sunday night.

"We received a complaint from a local Hindu man who accused them of celebrating after India lost the match," Burhanpur police chief Raja Ram Parihar told the AFP news agency.

The accused have also been charged with criminal conspiracy, the officer said, adding the celebrations continued for hours in the sensitive locality. The village where the incident took place has a 60 percent Muslim population.

The men were presented before a court on Tuesday and sent to jail pending trial.

In India, sedition is an offence which may result in the surrender of passports, ineligibility for government jobs, and even life imprisonment.

Heartbreak for Indian fans

South Asian neighbours India and Pakistan have a history of hostile relations - and have a famous rivalry on the cricket pitch as well.

Cricket fans in both countries have been arrested in the past for supporting the rival teams or players.

Around 60 students from India were arrested on sedition charges after they were accused of celebrating Pakistan's victory over India in 2014.

Last year, a Pakistani man was arrested for waving an Indian flag after his idol, Indian batsman Virat Kohli, made a match-winning century.

Millions of cricket fans in both countries avidly follow the proceedings on the cricket pitch, which often turn into tightly contested matches.

But on Sunday, Pakistan beat India convincingly to lift the Champions Trophy title in London, resulting in heartbreak for Indian fans.

Al Jazeera’s Lee Wellings, reporting from the final at the Oval stadium in the UK capital, said that only a few people saw this result coming.

Full report at:



Two terrorists killed in Kashmir's Baramulla encounter

Jun 21, 2017

SRINAGAR: Two terrorists were killed on Wednesday in an encounter with security forces in Rafiabad area of Kashmir's Baramulla district, an Army official said.

The terrorists were holed up inside a house in Pazalpora village in Sopore township of the district.

The Army official said two weapons were seized and operations were still on in the area.

Following intelligence inputs about the presence of terrorists, security forces had launched a cordon and search operation last night.

A police official said the search operation was halted for the night but the forces maintained the cordon to stop them from escaping.

Full report at:



Give me life without parole, but not death please: Feroz Khan, convicted in 1993 blasts case

Jun 20, 2017

MUMBAI: "I don't belong here'' said Feroz Khan before completely choking up and pleading against being granted death sentence. "I don't want death. Give me life sentence. Mere ko sazaye maut nahi dena. ( don't give me the death sentence),'' said the 50 year old convicted for conspiring to cause the March 12, 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts. "Don't give me any furlough or parole -leaves from jail—but just not death. But I want my children to know that I am alive,'' he said plaintively on Tuesday before special Tada judge G A Sanap.

Advocate Wahab Khan, for Feroz, called on the convict to present evidence to prove mitigating circumstances in order to soften the sentence. Special prosecutor Deepak Salvi for Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had on Monday said he seek the "extreme possible sentence'' against all accused.

Salvi is likely to cross examine Feroz on Tuesday and court has issued summons to two others who Feroz has sought as his witnesses. They are Gautam Sore a murder convict and Vikrant Deshmukh an undertrial, housed in Taloja prison, with him. Their testimony is meant to demonstrate mitigating circumstances in Feroz's favour.

Feroz took to the witness stand after a brief discussion on whether the prosecution or defence should begin their submissions first. Sudeep Pasbola, defence counsel for Abu Salem said the CBI has to go first. Salvi said he was ready to begin his submissions on Tuesday.

A 12th standard pass who did not get to graduate, Feroz presented certificates of courses he completed while in jail in Human Rights, Arabic and on M K Gandhi. Feroz stated that at the time of arrest he was 40 years old and had a daughter and a son, who are now 11 and 9 years old respectively.

"My children know that I exist somewhere and that one day their father will come back to them.''

On grounds of mitigating circumstance, Feroz told court that his wife, children and parents were all dependent on him. "At the time of arrest," Feroz said, "I was heavily in debt". He said that after his arrest, his parents had "no means of income" as his "father got a pension of 6000 to 7000 rupees" and his mother took to stitching clothes to earn an insufficient livelihood. After the arrest his "wife got the job doing henna embroidery" to support the family. His parents lived alone and could not answer society as to why Feroz was incarcerated. Consequently, they were "outcast" and most of Feroz's "close relatives slowly distanced themselves" from his family and him.

In his seven and a half years of imprisonment, Feroz's diabetes aggravated to Type II and his eyesight and bone density were affected, both of which the judge pointed out were normal consequences of aging. While in jail, Feroz eventually took up the job of teaching other inmates English and taught "8 to 10 inmates until now". He also "wrote applications for other inmates to be submitted to court," he said, requesting for bail or acquittal depending on the conditions. In the process he "helped 4 to 5 people" live a better life by supporting them and advising them in jail. He elucidated this by presenting an example of a young man of about 20 from a "respected family'' arrested for molestation charge while on a Mumbai-Goa flight; "He was crying, he did not belong there ... He confided in me and said he made a mistake ... I consoled him and informed his parents who came from Goa and met me in court. For one or two months I tried to pacify him, then gave him a bail application on which he was released. I told him to apologize to the girl and her parents," Feroz recounted, at some length.

Replying to Wahab, Feroz said that he was in Mumbai when Babri Masjid was demolished, the riots that followed and the blasts of 1993. He relied on his confession too to seek a lesser punishment. The confession became a point of discussion where the judge said "why he made the confession is not my is a proved confession now.'' "please consider that I had expressed repentance in it,'' said Feroz. "The confession relied by court against me shows remorse for commission of crime.'' Feroz returned to his initial stance, denying that he was Feroz and at one point said, "I have to save my skin". After digressing and trying to rebut the evidence against him, asked to stick to mitigating circumstances, he said said, "I refused to go from Dubai to Pakistan for arms training, nor did I go to see them off at the airport". He said, "I wasn't at the meetings in Persian Darbar. The meeting—held to be a conspiracy meeting--was attended Salim, Mohammed Dossa, Mechanic Chacha and others.''

Feroz furthered the evidence stating that he had submitted an application to court for becoming an approver with "remorse and repentance". He also said, "I did not participate in the destruction of weapons". In either case, Feroz gave the names of all those who attended the respective meetings.

Full report at:



No threat to Amarnath Yatra: Syed Ali Shah Geelani

June 21, 2017

At a time when 200 companies of security personnel are set to be deployed in Kashmir for the upcoming Amarnath Yatra, Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani has said that there is no threat to the yatra and stressed that “pilgrims are our guests”.

Owing to a rise in militancy-related incidents, security agencies decided to increase arrangements for the yatra, a route of which passes through south Kashmir. Geelani said a misinformation campaign had been launched against the people of Kashmir. “Pilgrims are our guests,” he said. “People in Kashmir have always been friendly with yatris. Kashmiri people have never been against any religion, but are only fighting for their legitimate rights.’’



Islam, Christianity alien to India, RSS-trained Kovind had said 7 years ago

June 20, 2017         

"Islam and Christianity are alien" to India, NDAs Presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind said seven years ago when he was just appointed a BJP spokesperson.

Kovind, then a little known BJP leader, addressed a press conference at the BJP headquarters here on March 26, 2010, sought that the Justice Ranganath Misra Commission, which had recommended inclusion of Muslim and Christian converts among the Scheduled Castes, be "scrapped" and called the move "unconstitutional".

Asked then by an IANS correspondent as to how Sikh Dalits could enjoy the quota privilege in the same category, he responded, "Islam and Christianity are alien to the nation."

A Supreme Court ruling on March 25 that year had upheld the Andhra Pradesh government's decision to allow four per cent job quota for backward Muslims.

The proposed reservation for backward Muslims was a burning issue then as the National Commission on Religious and Linguistic Minorities, headed by Justice Misra, former Chief Justice of India, had in a report recommended that backward Muslim and Christian converts should be accorded Scheduled Castes status and given a quota.

Kovind, an RSS loyalist who worked for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, said the Misra Committee recommendations were not possible to implement.

"Including Muslims and Christians in the Scheduled Castes category will be unconstitutional," the lawyer-turned-politician said.

Dalit quota privilege in the country is presently only for Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists. And the then Congress-led government had flirted with the idea of extending the reservation to Dalit Christians and Muslims under the Scheduled Castes category. But this triggered a vociferous opposition from the BJP.

Kovind also did not agree that convert Dalit Christians and Muslims were educationally backward and said it was a "very well-known" fact that they get a better education in convent schools.

"The educational level of Scheduled Castes children remains much lower than that of convert Muslims. The children of converts will grab a major share of reservation in government jobs. They would become eligible to contest elections on seats reserved for Scheduled Castes. This would encourage conversion and fatally destroy the fabric of the Indian society," he said.

"Their special interest is not in getting reservations in government jobs, they want Scheduled Castes category reservation to contest elections from village panchayats to the Lok Sabha. As they know, they cannot be eligible to contest elections on reserved seats under backward class reservation," he said.

The BJP government has already made its mind obvious about the Misra panel report with Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thawar Chand Gehlot saying if its recommendations were implemented, it would "weaken the Hindu religion".

"Granting Scheduled Castes status to those belonging to minority communities will encourage conversion and weaken the Hindu religion. There is also no such provision in the Constitution," Gehlot said.

Full report at:





Trump seen hardening line toward Pakistan

June 21, 2017

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump's administration appears ready to harden its approach toward Pakistan to crack down on Pakistan-based militants launching attacks in neighbouring Afghanistan, US officials tell Reuters.

Potential Trump administration responses being discussed include expanding US drone strikes, redirecting or withholding some aid to Pakistan and perhaps eventually downgrading Pakistan's status as a major non-NATO ally, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Some US officials, however, are skeptical of the prospects for success, arguing that years of previous US efforts to curb Pakistan's support for militant groups have failed, and that already strengthening US ties to India, Pakistan's arch-enemy, undermine chances of a breakthrough with Islamabad.

US officials say they seek greater cooperation with Pakistan, not a rupture in ties, once the administration finishes a regional review of the strategy guiding the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan. Precise actions have yet to be decided.

The White House and Pentagon declined to comment on the review before its completion. Pakistan's embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"The United States and Pakistan continue to partner on a range of national security issues," Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump said.

But the discussions alone suggest a shift toward a more assertive approach to address safe havens in Pakistan that have been blamed for in part helping turn Afghanistan's war into an intractable conflict.

Experts on America's longest war argue that militant safe havens in Pakistan have allowed Taliban-linked insurgents a place to plot deadly strikes in Afghanistan and regroup after ground offensives.

Although long mindful of Pakistan, the Trump administration in recent weeks has put more emphasis on the relationship with Islamabad in discussions as it hammers out a regional strategy to be presented to Trump by mid-July, nearly six months after he took office, one official said.

"We've never really fully articulated what our strategy towards Pakistan is. The strategy will more clearly say what we want from Pakistan specifically," the US official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Other US officials warn of divisions within the government about the right approach and question whether any mix of carrots and sticks can get Islamabad to change its behaviour. At the end of the day, Washington needs a partner, even if an imperfect one, in nuclear-armed Pakistan, they say.

Without more pressure on militants within Pakistan who target Afghanistan, experts say additional US troop deployments will fail to meet their ultimate objective: to pressure the Taliban to eventually negotiate peace.

"I believe there will be a much harder US line on Pakistan going forward than there has been in the past," Hamdullah Mohib, the Afghan ambassador to the US, told Reuters, without citing specific measures under review.

"What Pakistan says is that we are already doing a lot and that our plate is already full," a senior Pakistani government source told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The source doubted the Trump administration would press too hard, saying: "They don’t want to push Pakistan to abandon their war against terrorism."

Pakistani officials point towards the toll militancy has taken on the country. Since 2003, almost 22,000 civilians and nearly 7,000 Pakistani security forces have been killed as a result of militancy, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, which tracks violence.

Experts say Pakistan's policy towards Afghanistan is also driven in part by fears that India will gain influence in Afghanistan.

Some US officials and experts on the region scoff at the non-NATO ally title. "Pakistan is not an ally. It’s not North Korea or Iran. But it’s not an ally," said Bruce Riedel, a Pakistan expert at the Brookings Institution.

But yanking the title would be seen by Pakistan as a major blow.

"The Pakistanis would take that very seriously because it would be a slap at their honour," said a former US official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Lisa Curtis, senior director for South and Central Asia at the National Security Council, co-authored a report with Husain Haqani, Pakistan's former ambassador to Washington, in which they recommended the Trump administration warn Pakistan the status could be revoked in six months.

"Thinking of Pakistan as an ally will continue to create problems for the next administration as it did for the last one," said the February report.

It was unclear how seriously the Trump administration was considering the proposal.

The growing danger to Afghanistan from suspected Pakistan-based militants was underscored by a devastating May 31 truck bomb that killed more than 80 people and wounded 460 in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul.

Washington believes the strikes appeared to be the work of the Haqqani network, US officials told Reuters.

US frustration over the Haqqani's presence in Pakistan has been building for years. The United States designated the Haqqani network as a terrorist organisation in 2012. US Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, then the top US military officer, told Congress in 2011 that the Haqqani network was a "veritable arm" of the ISI.

The potential US pivot to a more assertive approach would be sharply different than the approach taken at the start of the Obama administration, when US officials sought to court Pakistani leaders, including Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani.

David Sedney, who served as Obama's deputy assistant secretary of defence for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia from 2009 to 2013, said the attempt to turn Islamabad into a strategic partner was a ‘disaster’. "It didn't affect Pakistan's behaviour one bit. In fact, I would argue it made Pakistan's behaviour worse," Sedney said.

Pakistan has received more than $33 billion in US assistance since 2002, including more than $14 billion in so-called Coalition Support Funds (CSF), a US Defence Department programme to reimburse allies that have incurred costs in supporting counter-insurgency operations.

It is an important form of foreign currency for the nuclear-armed country and one that is getting particularly close scrutiny during the Trump administration review.

Last year, the Pentagon decided not to pay Pakistan $300 million in CSF funding after then-US Secretary of Defence Ash Carter declined to sign authorisation that Pakistan was taking adequate action against the Haqqani network.

US officials said the Trump administration was discussing withholding at least some assistance to Pakistan.

Curtis' report also singled out the aid as a target. But US aid cuts could cede even more influence to China, which already has committed nearly $60 billion in investments in Pakistan.

Another option under review is broadening a drone campaign to penetrate deeper into Pakistan to target Haqqani fighters and other militants blamed for attacks in Afghanistan, US officials and a Pakistan expert said.

"Now the Americans (will be) saying, you aren't taking out our enemies, so therefore we are taking them out ourselves," the Pakistan expert, who declined to be identified, said.

Pakistan's army chief of staff last week criticised "unilateral actions" such as drone strikes as "counterproductive and against (the) spirit of ongoing cooperation and intelligence sharing being diligently undertaken by Pakistan".



Open to any mechanism for Afghan peace: Pakistan

June 21, 2017

WASHINGTON - Pakistan's Ambassador to the United States Aizaz Chaudhry has said that Islamabad was open to any mechanism that could bring peace to Afghanistan.

He said that "Pakistan is open to any mechanism that may work for bringing peace in Afghanistan and the entire region".

The Ambassador expressed these views during a candid discussion arranged by Washington-based think-tank Indus, also featuring Afghanistan's Ambassador to the United States, Dr. Hamdullah Mohib.

Aizaz Chaudhry reaffirmed Pakistan's strong commitment that it will not allow its soil to be used by any militant group against any country, including Afghanistan.

"If Afghanistan is stable, Pakistan is the biggest beneficiary."

The dialogue between the two Ambassadors was arranged by Indus think-tank during which the two top diplomats discussed their countries' common interest and the challenge to their important bilateral relationship.

The think-tank noted on its website that a strengthened relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan was of critical concern to the future of both countries and to their region's peace, stability and prosperity.

The issue was also important for American strategic interest, it said.

The Ambassador emphasised that the tendency to shift blame on Pakistan for everything by Afghanistan, should be discouraged.

Aizaz Chaudhry underscored that Pakistan and Afghanistan need to cooperate with each other in order to defeat the common enemy - terrorism - for bringing peace and stability to the region.

Speaking on the occasion, the Afghan Ambassador stated that the terrorism was not a bilateral issue between Pakistan and Afghanistan, but a global issue and that all the countries need to address this menace.

He also admitted that conflict in Afghanistan is far beyond Pak-Afghanistan region and involves many international players and forces and requires a comprehensive political solution for lasting peace.

Later, talking to APP after the discussion, Ambassador Aizaz Chaudhry stated that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during a meeting with his Afghan counterpart on the sidelines of SCO summit in Astana earlier this month, emphasised the same point that blame-game should end.

The Ambassador said that Pakistan has never accused anyone without concrete proof. He said whenever cross-border involvement was found in terrorist incidents in the country, Pakistan presented proof of that.

Referring to the ongoing operation Radd ul Fasaad, Aizaz Chaudhry said that Pakistan itself was taking steps to improve the law and order and eliminate the menace of terrorism from its soil.

Responding to a question, he said that Pakistan is for an Afghan-owned, Afghan-led reconciliation process and, if in that process Pakistan can facilitate, "we are ready to do that."

To a question about a media report on a policy review being conducted by the US State Department on Pakistan, the Ambassador clarified that any new administration when takes charge, forms its own policy. "This is a routine review and is not Pakistan-specific," he added.

Full report at:



Pakistan, Afghan envoys in US trade barbs at Washington moot

Anwar Iqbal

Jun 21, 2017

WASHINGTON: Afghanis­tan cannot blame Pakistan for all its ills, as terrorist attacks happening there originate in that country, says Ambassador Aizaz Chaudhry, Islamabad’s envoy in Washington.

His Afghan counterpart Hamdullah Mohib argues that Afghanistan is not alone in blaming Pakistan; other neighbours, including Iran, also accuse it of interfering in their internal affairs. “Only the fish (of the Arabian Sea) do not because fish do not complain.”

The two ambassadors met on Monday afternoon in a dialogue on ‘Pakistan & Afghanistan relations, diplomacy & security challenges’, organised by a Washington-based think-tank, Indus, at Carnegie Endowment.

While Ambassador Chaudhry stressed the need for a dialogue, reviving the quadrilateral peace process and seeking a political solution to the Afghan conflict, Mr Mohib was not in a reconciliatory mood.

He not only accused Pakistan of stirring troubles in Afghanistan but also asked other nations, like China and the United States, not to give weapons to it. “One day, those weapons will be used against you,” he warned.

He was obviously emboldened by media reports that the Trump administration was ready to harden its approach toward Pakistan to crack down on militants who use their alleged hideouts in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas for launching attacks into Afghanistan.

Washington’s options

One report claimed that National Security Adviser Gen H.R. McMaster had told Pakistani officials that the US could attack targets inside Pakistan if American hostages held by the Afghan Haqqani militants were killed.

Reports in the US media claimed that the Trump administration was considering various options, which included expanding drone strikes, redirecting or withholding some aid and eventually downgrading Pakistan’s status as a major non-Nato ally.

But there are elements within the US administration that oppose taking such tough measures against Pakistan.

They argue that America’s close ties with India are already pushing Pakistan away and such harsh measures would further reduce Washington’s influence in Islamabad.

Whether motivated by these reports or other factors, the Afghan ambassador minced no words in attacking Pakistan in the dialogue.

“Military grade explosive were used in last month’s truck-bomb attack in Kabul” that killed more than 90 people, he said. “Those are not produced in ungoverned spaces of Afghanistan.”

Ambassador Mohib said that there were several “real issues” in working with Pakistan.

“We must work with Pakistan, yes. Which Pakistan? The one occupied by the military or the civil government?” he asked.

“Policies are made by the military. We are talking about today’s military that has a liberal mindset and uses extremism as tool for foreign policy. This new generation trained by Dawa institutes of Zia. We are seriously concerned about that generation.”

Ambassador Chaudhry began politely, expressing Pakistan’s desire to stay engaged with Afghanistan. “Time and history has shown that when Afghanistan was unstable, instability came to Pakistan as well,” he said.

“We have a genuine interest in a stable and prosperous Afghanistan.”

Mr Chaudhry said the Pakistani economy had stabilised and the country did not want to jeopardise that by seeking instability in Afghanistan.

He said that after the Tora Bora bombing in Afghanistan, militants came to the northern parts of Pakistan, but it had eliminated them from those areas at a huge cost, as 6,000 Pakistani soldiers had laid down their lives in those operations.

“Now peace has been restored and the economy is getting better. Investments are coming. These gains are at risk if Afghanistan does not become stable,” he said.

Kabul govt control

Ambassador Chaudhry pointed out that the government in Kabul did not have control over the entire country and militants were using those areas for carrying out their activities, such as the militant Islamic State (IS) group in Nangarhar, which was a matter of concern for Pakistan. “We are ready to contribute to peace in Afghanistan in whatever way possible,” he said.

“Glad to see the Pakistani economy picking up. So is the Afghan economy,” said Ambassador Mohib, but alleged that the global heroin trade was a third of the Pakistan economy and human trafficking and smuggling also contributed to it.

“We are at threat from these criminals who are threatening to take over,” he said. “No dialogue will succeed unless we are candid. We know what our objectives are. We don’t know what are Pakistan’s objectives.”

Mr Mohib said Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had “invested huge political capital” in ties with Pakistan but now he stated that Pakistan was engaged in an undeclared war.

“Nothing new, we have heard this mantra for the last few years,” Ambassador Chaudhry responded. “But we decided not to engage in blame game. It will not help any country.”

Full report at:

He urged both countries to devise a mechanism to coordinate efforts to defeat terrorism.



Security forces kill two suspected terrorists in KP

Jun 21, 2017

Two suspected terrorists were killed in an exchange of fire with security forces when they attempted to raid a checkpost near Tank in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) press release said Tuesday.

The 'terrorists' fired at security forces at the checkpost located 12 kilometres north of the city of Tank in Dewana Baba Ziarat.

The attack was successfully repelled when the Pakistani forces engaged in retaliatory firing and killed the attackers, the ISPR said. The attack is part of the military's recent counter-terror operation, Radd-ul-Fasaad.

In separate incidents, the Punjab Rangers, along with the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) of Police and intelligence agencies, arrested seven suspects from the areas of Mandi Bahauddin and Nilore, Islamabad, the ISPR said.

The suspects were apprehended and were found to be in possession of illegal weapons and ammunition.

The raids were part of Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad, ISPR said.

Operation Raddul Fasaad

The Pakistan Army had launched Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad earlier this year following a spate of terror attacks in the country, which claimed more than a hundred lives and left hundreds of others injured.

The operation seeks to eliminate the "residual/latent threat of terrorism", consolidating the gains made in other military operations, and further ensuring the security of Pakistan's borders.

Full report at:



South Asia


Taliban’s suicide bombings organizer arrested in Sar-e-Pul: officials

Jun 20 2017

A key Taliban group member who was trained for the suicide attacks was arrested by the security forces in northern Sar-e-Pul province of Afghanistan, the local officials said Monday.

The detained Taliban group has been identified as Ahmad Khurshid who is a fresh graduate of a training center where militants are trained for the suicide attacks and bombings.

The provincial government media office in a statement said Khurshid had recently graduated from the training camp located in Suzma Qala district and was sent to Sancharak district for the attacks.

The statement further added that Khurshid was arrested on Sunday night while supervising a coordinated attack on security posts and other government compounds.

At least one Taliban insurgent was also killed during the clashes and four others were wounded, the statement added.

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

Sar-e-Pul is among the relatively calm provinces in northern Afghanistan but the anti-government armed militant groups are active in some of its districts and often conduct insurgency activities.



Gunmen kill 8 Afghan guards at US base

June 21, 2017

Kabul - Taliban gunmen have killed eight Afghan guards working at the largest American base in Afghanistan, officials said Tuesday, as the US appears set to boost its troop presence in the country.

The guards were ambushed near Bagram base north of Kabul as they were driving home in a convoy late Monday, said district governor Abdul Shakoor Quddusi.

“They were all local residents serving as guards at Bagram,” he said, adding that two other guards were wounded.

“In the past, there were attacks on Bagram air base’s Afghan employees individually, but this is the first time that armed forces target them in a group,” said Quddusi.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which came as the insurgents intensify their nationwide spring offensive against Western and government targets.

“I offer our deepest condolences to the families, and friends of these brave Afghan citizens,” Brigadier General Patrick Donahoe, US commander of Bagram Airfield, said in a statement.

“We will always remember the sacrifice of these determined men and are forever grateful for their service.”

Washington is soon expected to announce an increase in the US military deployment to bolster Afghan forces, who are struggling to contain the insurgency. American military commanders in Afghanistan have requested thousands of extra boots on the ground.

US troops in Afghanistan now number about 8,400, and there are another 5,000 from NATO allies, a far cry from the US presence of more than 100,000 six years ago. They mainly serve as trainers and advisers. Bagram, around 50 kilometres north of Kabul, houses the largest contingent of US soldiers in the country.

The assault comes after seven American soldiers were wounded Saturday when an Afghan soldier opened fire at them inside a northern military base, the second “insider” attack in a week.

Analysts say such attacks are expected to increase this year as US troops engage with the Afghan military to double the size of its special forces, considered to be effective in the fight against insurgents. The Afghan conflict is the longest in American history, with US-led forces at war since the Taliban regime was ousted in 2001.


Kabul authorities Tuesday demolished a sit-in camp erected to protest spiralling insecurity, triggering street clashes that left at least one demonstrator dead in the latest bout of violence to shake the city.

Tensions have been high in Kabul since a truck bomb on May 31 killed more than 150 people and wounded hundreds in the fortified diplomatic quarter, the deadliest attack in the Afghan capital since 2001.

People enraged by rising insecurity had established a protest tent near the bombing site, demanding the resignation of President Ashraf Ghani’s government. Authorities moved in unannounced after midnight Tuesday to mow down the tent, prompting a backlash from protesters as police responded with live rounds.

“In this unfortunate incident ... one person was killed and six wounded,” said Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, pledging an investigation. “These kinds of incidents damage the trust between the government and the people.”

But protest organisers claimed two demonstrators were killed and 12 were detained by authorities. “We assure the people that despite this barbaric attack by the government and this grave crime against humanity we will continue our civil movement,” the organisers said in a statement.

The latest violence comes after four people were killed when protesters clashed with police in days after the truck bombing, prompting officials to beat them back with live rounds fired into the air, tear gas and water cannon.

Protesters had set up at least six sit-in camps around Kabul after those clashes. They took down most of them after an agreement with the government, but had refused to leave the tent near the bombing site despite insurgent threats looming over the city.

Much of Kabul is effectively on lockdown, with many streets blocked with shipping containers and armoured vehicles, but that had not stopped dozens from joining the sit-ins.

Full report at:



Explosion in Kabul city leaves one wounded

Jun 21 2017

An explosion took place in Kabul city earlier today with the security officials saying at least one person was wounded.

The Ministry of Interior (MoI) spokesman Najib Danish confirmed the incident and said preliminary reports indicate one person was wounded in the explosion.

He said the blast took place in the vicinity of the 15th police district of the city after a magnetic bomb planted in a vehicle went off.

No group or individual has so far claimed responsibility behind the incident.

This comes as the anti-government armed militant groups have been attempting to carry out attacks in key cities of the country, including capital Kabul during the recent months.

At least five people were killed and nearly ten others were wounded in a suicide attack in Kabul city last week.

The incident took place late on Thursday night after two suicide bombers attempted to enter the mosque and detonate explosives among the prayer participants.

Full report at:



Kabul protesters claim nearly 30 killed, wounded in latest violence

Jun 20 2017

The protesters in Kabul claim that nearly thirty people were killed or wounded during the latest violence between the protesters and security forces.

The members of the movement ‘Resurrection for Change’ involved in the sit-ins against the government, claimed that two of the protesters were killed and 27 others were wounded during the latest clash.

They also claimed that eleven protesters were taken away by the security forces in an attempt to remove the tent from the downtown Kabul and at least one of the protesters was run over by the vehicle.

This comes as the Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah earlier confirmed the death of at least one protester during the violence with the security forces.

He promised that the last night’s incident will be thoroughly investigated by the government as he urged the security forces to practice restraint while dealing with such incidents.

The tents in Kabul were set up after the protests in Kabul turned violent earlier this month and several people were killed or wounded during the clashes.

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Modi thanks Ghani for Afghanistan-India air corridor initiative

Jun 20 2017

The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi thanked the Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani for the initiative to launch the Afghanistan-India air corridor.

Modi expressed optimisms regarding the inauguration of the air corridor as he welcomed the arrival of the first flight to New Delhi from Kabul.

In a twitter post, Modi said “Happy to welcome the first Air Freight Corridor flight from Kabul.”

“Direct connectivity between India and Afghanistan will usher prosperity. I thank President @ashrafghani for the initiative,” he said in another twitter post in his official twitter account.

The first flight carrying cargo of around 62 tons left Kabul airport on Monday evening and was welcomed by the Indian officials, including the Indian external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj who visited the New Delhi airport to receive the first plane as part of the air corridor program between Kabul and New Delhi.

According to the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries officials, the first flight transported cargo worth $11 million, mainly consisting of medicinal herbs.

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