New Age Islam
Thu Oct 22 2020, 05:28 AM

Islamic World News ( 23 May 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Barelvis, Deobandis to Join Hands and Vote as One to Ensure ‘Proper’ Muslim Representation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: Barelvis, Deobandis to Join Hands and Vote as One to Ensure ‘Proper’ Muslim Representation

 

 

No Threat from ISIS, Patriotism Brimming In Every Indian Muslim: Government

Turkish Camps Turned into Centers for Raping Children, Selling Refugees' Body Organs

Pope Embraces Al-Azhar Imam in Sign of Renewed Relations

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India

Barelvis, Deobandis to Join Hands and Vote as One to Ensure ‘Proper’ Muslim Representation

No Threat from ISIS, Patriotism Brimming In Every Indian Muslim: Government

Islamic State Video Features 11 Indians, Including 2 from Tamil Nadu

PM Modi gifts Iranian Supreme Leader a rare 7th century manuscript of the Holy Quran

Indian Muslim families shrinking fastest: Census report

Government bans travel to Libya as Islamic state takes advantage of civil war

Islamic Banking to Debut in Gujarat

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Mideast

Turkish Camps Turned into Centers for Raping Children, Selling Refugees' Body Organs

Arab Spring 'Inspired Erdogan to Support Islamists' in 4 Muslim Countries

Italy calls for joint action with Turkey in tackling refugee crisis

Israeli emergency authority aims to build relations with Turkish agency amid softening ties

Sultan Nazrin: Islamic Social Finance can address shortages in global humanitarian aid

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Europe

Pope Embraces Al-Azhar Imam in Sign of Renewed Relations

‘Get Ready’ ISIS Announces Plans to Launch Ramadan Attacks On Europe And America

Germany right-wing party AfD walks out of Muslim meeting

Why is Bulgaria making a big fuss about the Niqab?

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Arab World

Iran, India Stress Eradication of All Forms of Terrorism

ISIL Chief Executioner, Commanders Killed in Salahuddin's Sharqat

Yemeni Army Foils Pro-Hadi Forces' Attempt to Advance in Al-Baydha Province

'Al-Nusra Mobilizes 6,000-Strong Force in Aleppo'

Infighting among Terrorists Helps Syrian Army to Advance in Damascus Countryside

Iranian Minister Blames Israel for Deteriorated Health Situation in Palestine

Syrian Army Disbands Terrorist Cell in Damascus

Syria: Senior Terrorist Commander Killed in Clashes with Hezbollah West of Damascus

Syria: Riyadh, Ankara, Doha Attempting to Derail Peace Talks

Syria: ISIL Setting up New Guarding Units in Deir Ezzur to Protect Top Commanders

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South Asia

Taliban Says Mullah Mansoor’s Death Will Not Affect the Group’s Insurgency

'Bangladesh, US to Jointly Fight Terrorism'

Taliban’s shadow governor for Helmand Mullah Manan killed in airstrike

Obama reaffirms US support to strengthen Afghan armed forces

India mulling to deliver more helicopters to Afghanistan

Political clout of Taliban after Mullah Mansoor

Explosion in Kandahar leaves 4 civilians dead, 5 wounded

1,167 militants killed since the start of Shafaq operations, Sediqi says

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Southeast Asia

Islamic States’ Child Fighters Video Is Worrying, Say Experts

Malaysian police keeping close tabs on militant leader

Australian Muslims Explore Indonesia

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North America

Last Of ISIL’s Beheading ‘Beatles’ Identified, Has Canadian Connection

Why the U.S. Killed Mullah Akhtar Mansour in Pakistan—and Why It Matters

Trump’s America Wouldn’t Have Welcomed This Muslim Military Hero

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Pakistan

US ‘Unclear’ Whether Drone Targeted Mansour in Pakistan

Pakistan Summons Us Envoy over Drone Strike inside Its Territory

Afghan Taliban Chief ‘Mansour’ Used Pakistan Airports

Ramazan package scaled down to Rs1.75bn

NA speaker approves 12-member Panamagate inquiry committee

LG representatives to protest outside Imran’s mansion in Islamabad

Five naval officers given death sentence in Pakistan for attack on dockyard

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Africa

Tunisian Islamic Party Re-elects Moderate Leader

U.S. right to arm new Libyan government in fight against Islamic State

Buhari’s Lagos no-show dismays Nigerian business

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/barelvis,-deobandis-to-join-hands-and-vote-as-one-to-ensure-‘proper’-muslim-representation/d/107404

 

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Barelvis, Deobandis to Join Hands and Vote as One to Ensure ‘Proper’ Muslim Representation

May 24, 2016

LUCKNOW: Alarmed by non-representation of Uttar Pradesh Muslims in Parliament, the Barelvi and Deobandi sects of Sunni Muslims, despite their ideological differences, met each other for the first time in Deoband in recent years to try and engineer a "course correction".

Barelvi cleric Tauqeer Raza Khan visited Darul Uloom, Deoband, for a meeting with the Ulema, which set off speculation that the two sects are prepared to dissolve their differences and vote as one to ensure "proper" Muslim representation in legislatures.

While Deobandis follow puritanical Islam, Barelvis have Sufi leanings. For Deobandis, visiting mazars or graves of 'pir' and 'fakir' is unacceptable whereas for Barelvis these are important religio-cultural and spiritual markers.

"The meeting was to resolve differences between the two sects and move together to achieve common goals," said Maulana Raza, a Barelvi who went to Saharanpur to meet a top ulema of the renowned seminary this month. His visit gained salience considering UP elections are less than nine months away.

With 19 per cent Muslim population in UP, the minority vote bank has long been seen as among the most important factors in parliamentary and assembly elections. However, in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, despite the widely believed "block voting" by Muslims, the state failed to send even one Muslim to the Lok Sabha.

Observers believe the LS elections results prompted community clerics to look for a fresh approach towards voting. Barelvis and Deobandis comprise almost 80 per cent of UP's Sunni population. Political differences between the two sects were at play in the 2012 assembly elections when All India Ulema and Mashaik Board (AIUMB) of the Barelvis accused the "secular" political parties of cozying up to only Deobandi Muslims.

"The BJP is yet to win the confidence of Muslims while the Congress is hardly in the game. SP and BSP too have used Muslims as vote-banks. So it's time for the community to realise its worth," said Maulana Raza, the great grandson of Maulana Ahmed Raza Khan, founder of the Barelvi school.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Barelvis-Deobandis-to-join-hands-on-electing-Muslims/articleshow/52409122.cms

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No threat from ISIS, patriotism brimming in every Indian Muslim: Government

May 24, 2016

Following the furore over the ISIS video in which Indian recruits are seen threatening to wage a war in India, the Centre on Tuesday asserted that no amount of threats from terrorists could make any difference whatsoever as every citizen in the country, including Muslims, would stand united against such destructive forces.

“India is a land of peace and prosperity and there is no place here for those who support terrorism. Patriotism is filled in every Muslim in this country. Be it videos or threats, it’s not going to make much of difference,” Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told ANI in Delhi.

He further said that the nation will come together to fight against such forces threatening the peace and sovereignty.

In a latest video released by the ISIS, Indian Jihadis, including Thane engineering student Fahad Tanvir Sheikh, has issued a warning and vowed to avenge the demolition of the Babri Mosque and the purported killing of Muslims across the country.

Four youth from Mumbai’s Kalyan – Aarif Majid, Fahad Tanvir Sheikh, Amaan Tandel and Saheem Tanki – had fled to Iraq in May 2014 to join ISIS. Out of these, Aarif Majid has been taken into custody by the NIA soon after his return from Syria. Shahim Tanki is supposed to have been killed in a bomb attack in Raqqa last year, as claimed by Sheikh in the video. “Our Muslim brothers should come forward to fight the ISIS. Just by criticizing them on paper won’t do. If they (ISIS) speak of raising swords against us then the people of all faiths should take up swords and aptly respond,” Raut added. The ISIS operatives in the video also urge the Muslims in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan region to join their movement to establish an Islamic caliphate. According to a leading national daily, Fahad Tanvir Sheikh is the only individual conclusively identified in the video. Reports state that several still-to-be-identified members in the video could be former members of the Indian Mujahideen. The video also claims that ‘cow-worshipping’ Hindus are responsible for violence against Muslims in many places, including Mumbai, Gujarat, Assam and Moradabad. One of the Jihadis, speaking in English, also gave a stern warning to India and said either accept Islam, pay Jiziya (a medieval tax for non-believers of Islam) or be prepared to be slaughtered. The Jihadis have also launched a tirade against the Indian Muslims for maintaining trade and social relations with the ‘infidels’. They have has also criticised the Muslim politicians and clerics for compromising with a purported tyrannical system responsible for massacring Muslims.

indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/no-threat-from-isis-patriotism-brimming-in-every-indian-muslim-government-2816528/

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Turkish Camps Turned into Centers for Raping Children, Selling Refugees' Body Organs

Tue May 24, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- A prominent Turkish journalist revealed dreadful facts about the Syrian refugee camps in his country that include raping children and selling the refugees' body organs and women.

Yashar Idan, the representative of BirGun newspaper in Ankara, told the Iran-based Arabic-language al-Alam news channel that tens of children have been raped in Nizip camp in Southern Turkey and the body organs of a number of refugees have been sold in the market.

According to Idan, it is a shame for the Turkish government that calls the Nizip camp a role model for other refugee camps that such crimes are committed in there, while these are only the rapists and not the camp's officials who are tried and punished.

BirGun newspaper had earlier this month revealed that 30 Syrian children were raped for months at Nizip and government authorities failed to notice. It came amid reports that Turkey is not a safe country for asylum seekers.

The 30 boys were raped by a cleaner at Nizip Refugee Camp in Antep, from September 2015 until the beginning of 2016.

The rapist, identified only as E.E., has confessed that he lured children between the ages of eight and 12 to have sex with him in return for 2 to 5 Turkish Lira (US$.70-1.80). He is now in pre-trial detention.

In addition to E.E.'s confession, the children were able to describe in detail how they were raped in the toilets of the camp.

The families of eight children have so far come forward with a legal complaint. The rest of the families have not done so amid fears that they would be deported.

But despite the rapes taking place over the course of several months, they were never detected by the Prime Ministry Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), which runs the camp. Instead, the rapes were only revealed after military personnel noticed the perpetrator taking children to the blind spots of cameras.

In response to the revelations, a high-ranking military officer from the camp told BirGün that the AFAD is to blame for the rapes.

“The AFAD is responsible of the camp and for this disaster,” he said.

But the AFAD wasn't the only party unaware of the crimes taking place within the camp, which has a capacity of 14,000 refugees.

The site was praised for its standards last month, during a visit from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, former Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, and various other Turkish government figures.

The shocking news came amid reports of Turkish border control officers abusing and shooting Syrian refugees, prompting Amnesty International and other human rights organizations to say that Turkey isn't a “safe” place for asylum seekers.

But despite any controversy surrounding Turkey's treatment of asylum seekers, the country is host to the largest number of refugees in the world, including 2.7 million Syrian refugees.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950304000668

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Pope embraces Al-Azhar imam in sign of renewed relations

May 23, 2016

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Monday embraced the grand imam of Al-Azhar, the prestigious Sunni Muslim center of learning, reopening an important channel for Catholic-Muslim dialogue after a five-year lull and at a time of increased Islamic extremist attacks on Christians.

As Sheik Ahmed el-Tayyib arrived for his audience in the Apostolic Palace, Francis said that the fact that they were meeting at all was significant.

"The meeting is the message," Francis told the imam.

The meeting came five years after the Cairo-based Al-Azhar froze talks with the Vatican to protest comments by then-Pope Benedict XVI.

Benedict had demanded greater protection for Christians in Egypt after a New Year's bombing on a Coptic Christian church in Alexandria killed 21 people. Since then, Islamic attacks on Christians in the region have only increased, but the Vatican and Al-Azhar nevertheless sought to rekindle ties, with a Vatican delegation visiting Cairo in February and extending the invitation for el-Tayyib to visit.

Francis and el-Tayyib spoke privately for 25 minutes in the pope's private library, bidding each other farewell with an embrace. El-Tayyib and his delegation then had talks with the Vatican cardinal in charge of interreligious dialogue.

The Vatican said the meeting held a "great significance" for Catholic-Muslim dialogue. In a statement, spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said Francis and el-Tayyib discussed the need for "authorities and the faithful of the world's great religions to show a common commitment to peace in the world."

They also discussed the rejection of violence and extremism, and the plight of Christians "in the context of conflicts and tensions in the Mideast and their protection," the statement said.

After the audience, el-Tayyib travels to Paris to open a Muslim-Catholic conference on East-West relations.

The Vatican's relations with Islam hit several bumps during Benedict's papacy. He outraged Muslims with a 2006 speech quoting a Byzantine emperor as saying some of the Prophet Muhammad's teachings were "evil and inhuman." The subsequent suspension of talks with Al-Azhar institutionalized the bad blood.

El-Tayyib, however, sent a message of congratulations to Francis upon his 2013 election and said he hoped for renewed cooperation. Francis responded, and has made clear over the course of his three-year pontificate that relations with Islam are a top priority.

In a recent interview with the French Catholic newspaper La Croix, Francis took a conciliatory line toward Islam, saying "I sometimes dread the tone" when people refer to Europe's "Christian" roots.

"It is true that the idea of conquest is inherent in the soul of Islam," he said. But he added that Christianity, too, had its "triumphalist" undertones. "It is also possible to interpret the objective in Matthew's Gospel, where Jesus sends his disciples to all nations, in terms of the same idea of conquest."

He added that when looking to the causes of Islamic extremism, it is better to "question ourselves about the way in an overly Western model of democracy has been exported."

stripes.com/news/europe/pope-embraces-al-azhar-imam-in-sign-of-renewed-relations-1.411048

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India

Barelvis, Deobandis to Join Hands and Vote as One to Ensure ‘Proper’ Muslim Representation

May 24, 2016

LUCKNOW: Alarmed by non-representation of Uttar Pradesh Muslims in Parliament, the Barelvi and Deobandi sects of Sunni Muslims, despite their ideological differences, met each other for the first time in Deoband in recent years to try and engineer a "course correction".

Barelvi cleric Tauqeer Raza Khan visited Darul Uloom, Deoband, for a meeting with the Ulema, which set off speculation that the two sects are prepared to dissolve their differences and vote as one to ensure "proper" Muslim representation in legislatures.

While Deobandis follow puritanical Islam, Barelvis have Sufi leanings. For Deobandis, visiting mazars or graves of 'pir' and 'fakir' is unacceptable whereas for Barelvis these are important religio-cultural and spiritual markers.

"The meeting was to resolve differences between the two sects and move together to achieve common goals," said Maulana Raza, a Barelvi who went to Saharanpur to meet a top ulema of the renowned seminary this month. His visit gained salience considering UP elections are less than nine months away.

With 19 per cent Muslim population in UP, the minority vote bank has long been seen as among the most important factors in parliamentary and assembly elections. However, in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, despite the widely believed "block voting" by Muslims, the state failed to send even one Muslim to the Lok Sabha.

Observers believe the LS elections results prompted community clerics to look for a fresh approach towards voting. Barelvis and Deobandis comprise almost 80 per cent of UP's Sunni population. Political differences between the two sects were at play in the 2012 assembly elections when All India Ulema and Mashaik Board (AIUMB) of the Barelvis accused the "secular" political parties of cozying up to only Deobandi Muslims.

"The BJP is yet to win the confidence of Muslims while the Congress is hardly in the game. SP and BSP too have used Muslims as vote-banks. So it's time for the community to realise its worth," said Maulana Raza, the great grandson of Maulana Ahmed Raza Khan, founder of the Barelvi school.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Barelvis-Deobandis-to-join-hands-on-electing-Muslims/articleshow/52409122.cms

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No threat from ISIS, patriotism brimming in every Indian Muslim: Government

May 24, 2016

Following the furore over the ISIS video in which Indian recruits are seen threatening to wage a war in India, the Centre on Tuesday asserted that no amount of threats from terrorists could make any difference whatsoever as every citizen in the country, including Muslims, would stand united against such destructive forces.

“India is a land of peace and prosperity and there is no place here for those who support terrorism. Patriotism is filled in every Muslim in this country. Be it videos or threats, it’s not going to make much of difference,” Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told ANI in Delhi.

He further said that the nation will come together to fight against such forces threatening the peace and sovereignty.

In a latest video released by the ISIS, Indian Jihadis, including Thane engineering student Fahad Tanvir Sheikh, has issued a warning and vowed to avenge the demolition of the Babri Mosque and the purported killing of Muslims across the country.

Four youth from Mumbai’s Kalyan – Aarif Majid, Fahad Tanvir Sheikh, Amaan Tandel and Saheem Tanki – had fled to Iraq in May 2014 to join ISIS. Out of these, Aarif Majid has been taken into custody by the NIA soon after his return from Syria. Shahim Tanki is supposed to have been killed in a bomb attack in Raqqa last year, as claimed by Sheikh in the video. “Our Muslim brothers should come forward to fight the ISIS. Just by criticizing them on paper won’t do. If they (ISIS) speak of raising swords against us then the people of all faiths should take up swords and aptly respond,” Raut added. The ISIS operatives in the video also urge the Muslims in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan region to join their movement to establish an Islamic caliphate. According to a leading national daily, Fahad Tanvir Sheikh is the only individual conclusively identified in the video. Reports state that several still-to-be-identified members in the video could be former members of the Indian Mujahideen. The video also claims that ‘cow-worshipping’ Hindus are responsible for violence against Muslims in many places, including Mumbai, Gujarat, Assam and Moradabad. One of the Jihadis, speaking in English, also gave a stern warning to India and said either accept Islam, pay Jiziya (a medieval tax for non-believers of Islam) or be prepared to be slaughtered. The Jihadis have also launched a tirade against the Indian Muslims for maintaining trade and social relations with the ‘infidels’. They have has also criticised the Muslim politicians and clerics for compromising with a purported tyrannical system responsible for massacring Muslims.

indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/no-threat-from-isis-patriotism-brimming-in-every-indian-muslim-government-2816528/

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Islamic State Video Features 11 Indians, Including 2 from Tamil Nadu

May 24, 2016

A propaganda video of the Islamic State (IS) that was circulated online last week features at least 11 Indians, including two of Tamil origin, a senior government official said.

The 22-minute Arabic-subtitled video, The Land of Hind: Between Pain and Hope, was distributed on web-based applications such as Telegram and micro-blogging site Twitter on May 19. The video was first released by IS’ al-Barakah Province, its division for al-Hasakah in Homs, Syria, on May 15.

One of the men who feature in the video has been identified as Haja Fakkruddin Usman Ali from Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu.

Haja and his family became citizens of Singapore about six years ago.

In November 2013, Haja, along with his wife and three children, went to Syria to participate in jihad but returned to India as he could not establish any contact with IS operatives there.

In Syria, he is reported to have stayed with some Chechen Mujahideen. On January 22, 2014, Haja left from Chennai for Syria and entered Turkey. He is said to have been active since then.

Another person in the video has been identified as Gul Mohamed Maracachi Maraicar, also from Cuddalore.He is said to be a chief recruiter of IS and was deported from Singapore on February 27, 2014 on charges of radicalising Fakruddin. He later went off the radar in February 2015.

Earlier recording

A senior government official said the video was made at least 10 months ago.

The Hindu had said that four persons in the video were identified as Sajid alias Bada Sajid and Abu Rashid alias Sheikh, both former Indian Mujahideen members from Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh and Fahad Sheikh and Amand Tandel from Kalyan in Maharashtra.

Sajid was one of the six Indians, who had been declared dead by Indian agencies in September 2015.

He had fled the flat in Batla House in Jamia Nagar in Delhi, minutes before it was raided by Special Cell of the Delhi Police in 2008. The identities have not been established conclusively.

thehindu.com/news/national/islamic-state-video-has-11-indians-two-from-tamil-nadu/article8637873.ece

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PM Modi gifts Iranian Supreme Leader a rare 7th century manuscript of the Holy Quran

May 24, 2016

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday gifted Iranian Supreme Leader Sayyid Ali Khamenei a rare 7th Century manuscript of the Holy Quran written in Kufic script and attributed to Prophet’s son-in-law Hazrat Ali.

Modi, who called on Khamenei at his office, gifted the Supreme Leader the specially commissioned reproduction of rare 7th Century manuscript of the Holy Quran attributed to Hazrat Ali, the fourth Islamic caliph and first Shia Imam.

Khamenei, a 76-year-old Shia Grand Ayatollah and two-time former president, has the final say over matters related to Iran’s foreign policy and key issues.

Written in Kufic script, the manuscript is a prized possession of the Ministry of Culture’s at Rampur Raza Library in Uttar Pradesh.

Kufic – developed around the end of the 7th century in Kufa, Iraq – is the oldest calligraphic form of the various Arabic scripts.

PM Modi, the first Indian Prime Minister to visit the Islamic Republic after 15 years on a bilateral visit after Atal Bihari Vajpayee, also gifted President Hassan Rouhani specially commissioned reproductions of Mirza Ghalib’s collection of poetry in Persian.

First published in 1863, Kulliyat-e-Farsi-e-Ghalib is a collection of over 11,000 verses by Ghalib.

The reproduction is from a rare copy of the book’s 1867 edition to which some missing pages have been added from a copy of the 1872 edition from Maulana Azad’s personal collection preserved in the library of Indian Council for Cultural Relations in New Delhi.

Modi also gifted him Sumair Chand’s Persian translation of Ramayana. Translated into Persian in 1715 and copied in 1826, the Ramayana is a rare manuscript and contains over 260 illustrations – possibly the largest number in any hand-written Ramayana manuscript.

Modi’s visit comes months after lifting of international sanctions on Iran following Tehran’s historic nuclear deal with the Western powers over its contentious atomic programme

siasat.com/news/pm-modi-gifts-iranian-supreme-leader-rare-7th-century-manuscript-holy-quran-962251/

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Indian Muslim familes shrinking fastest : Census report

May 23, 2016

New Delhi: According to the data of 2011 census released on Friday the size of Indian families is declining and the steepest decline is recorded among Muslim families. Decline in Muslim family size may have a positive co-relation with rising literacy levels in the community.

An Indian Muslim family breaking fast.

A year ago government had released religion-wise population figures of census 2011.

The latest date reveals that India’s average family size has dropped from 4.67 members in 2001 to 4.45 members in 2011. It translates into a drop of 5.3%.

Among Muslims the average family size fell from 5.61 to 5.15. Bifurcating the data further it was revealed that the drop in family size was 11.1% — for Muslim households headed by men and it was 4.47% among Muslim households headed by women.

The above official census data has trashed the phobic claims of Hindu right wing that Indian Muslims have large families and higher population growth rate due to which the minority community will overtake the majority community numerically.

Right wingers like BJP parliamentarian Sakshi Maharaj and Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s Sadhvi Prachi are known to have strongly advised Hindu women to have four or more children in order to successfully compete with the Muslim population flare-up.

According last year’s population data on basis of religion, Muslim community grew by 24.6% between 2001 and 2011. The population of Muslims in India is 17.22 crore, which makes for 14.2% of India’s total population (121 Crore).  Hindu population is 96.63 crore making for 79.8% of total population.

The  data shows the decline in average size of households from 2001-11 to be 7.44% for Sikh households, 6.47% for Christian households, 5.96% for Buddhist households, 5.5%. for Jain households and 5.02% for Hindu households.

As noted without exception across all religious communities the average household size was higher in male headed households than females headed households.

Female headed households were highest among Christians (17.4%) followed next by Buddhist (15.9%). The lowest percentage of female headed households is in Jain community (11.5%).

The data released on Friday busted the myth of high variability between household sizes in different communities. It showed that all communities had more or less similar average family sizes. The difference in community wise average family size has been narrowed further by continuous drop in population.

The average family size in 2011 was 4.35 among  Hindus, 5.15 among Muslims, 4.05 among Christians, 4 among Sikhs, 4.1 among Buddhist and 4.4 among  Jains.

In 2001 an average Muslim family had 1.03 persons more than an average Hindu family. In 2011 this difference came down to an average Muslim family having just 0.8 persons more than an average Hindu household.

siasat.com/news/indian-muslim-familes-shrinking-fastest-census-report-961616/

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Government bans travel to Libya as Islamic state takes advantage of civil war

24th May 2016

NEW DELHI: The Ministry of External Affairs has banned Indians from travelling to Libya where the terror outfit Islamic State is making a strong push taking advantage of the civil war.

According to a Pentagon report, IS has 5,000 -6,500 terrorists in the country. Besides the 200-km stretch of Libya’s coast, the IS has a strong presence in Sirte and has captured territories in towns such as Nofaliy, Harawa and Ghardabiya.

The ministry said the decision to impose a ban had been notified to all immigration authorities. “In view of the prevailing security situation in Libya, security threats and challenges to the lives of Indian nationals in Libya, the government of India has decided to impose a travel ban on Indian nationals planning to travel to Libya irrespective of the purpose,” the ministry said in a statement.

The Indian embassy in Tripoli, which is operating out of a Tunisian city, has issued several advisories asking Indians to leave Libya.

The embassy last month said that the overall security situation remained fragile and was likely to further deteriorate, including in the conflict zones such as Zawia, Sirte, Derna, Ajdabia, part of Benghazi, among others.

newindianexpress.com/nation/Government-bans-travel-to-Libya-as-Islamic-state-takes-advantage-of-civil-war/2016/05/24/article3447967.ece

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Islamic banking to debut in Gujarat

May 24, 2016

Gandhinagar: Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank (IDB) is set to start its India operations from Gujarat. The international financial institution from Saudi Arabia has chosen Gujarat to set up its first branch in India. The state will also get 30 medical vans as part of IDB's social sector initiatives.

IDB's main objective is to foster the economic development and social progress of member countries as well as the Muslim community in accordance with principles of Shariah (Islamic law). The bank has 56 Islamic countries as its members.

During prime minister Narendra Modi's visit to UAE in April this year, India's EXIM Bank had signed a memorandum of understanding with IDB for a $100 million line-of-credit to facilitate exports to IDB's member countries.

IDB had also signed a $55-million pact with Rashtriya Institute of Skill and Education (RISE) to provide medical care to rural poor in India. IDB will provide 350 fully-equipped medical vans (mobile clinics) to India, 30 of which will be received for the tribal areas of Chhota Udepur, Narmada and Bharuch in Gujarat, in the first phase.

"IDB and its private sector arm, the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), have already met with top officials of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), EXIM Bank and other nationalized banks. They are likely to start their India operations from Gujarat with a branch in Ahmedabad," said Zafar Sareshwala, chancellor, Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU), who had accompanied the PM in Saudi Arabia,.

The bank has also shown keen interest in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) of Gujarat.

"IDB's entry into Gujarat and India is likely to boost long-term private finance from its member countries on a large scale. IDB has also shown keen interest in the SME sector of Gujarat," Sareshwala added.

IDB is executing a project on Wakf properties in different countries. "There are a number of such properties in Gujarat. The properties stand neglected as Wakf Board or the concerned trusts do not have money to maintain these monuments. IDB is keen to finance projects under which these properties can be maintained and redeveloped," he said.

There are various areas and opportunities in India where IDB is planning to work in the future. Other than IDB, the government of Saudi Arabia is planning to set up BPOs for Saudi women with the support of India.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/Islamic-banking-to-debut-in-Gujarat/articleshow/52409350.cms

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Mideast

Turkish Camps Turned into Centers for Raping Children, Selling Refugees' Body Organs

Tue May 24, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- A prominent Turkish journalist revealed dreadful facts about the Syrian refugee camps in his country that include raping children and selling the refugees' body organs and women.

Yashar Idan, the representative of BirGun newspaper in Ankara, told the Iran-based Arabic-language al-Alam news channel that tens of children have been raped in Nizip camp in Southern Turkey and the body organs of a number of refugees have been sold in the market.

According to Idan, it is a shame for the Turkish government that calls the Nizip camp a role model for other refugee camps that such crimes are committed in there, while these are only the rapists and not the camp's officials who are tried and punished.

BirGun newspaper had earlier this month revealed that 30 Syrian children were raped for months at Nizip and government authorities failed to notice. It came amid reports that Turkey is not a safe country for asylum seekers.

The 30 boys were raped by a cleaner at Nizip Refugee Camp in Antep, from September 2015 until the beginning of 2016.

The rapist, identified only as E.E., has confessed that he lured children between the ages of eight and 12 to have sex with him in return for 2 to 5 Turkish Lira (US$.70-1.80). He is now in pre-trial detention.

In addition to E.E.'s confession, the children were able to describe in detail how they were raped in the toilets of the camp.

The families of eight children have so far come forward with a legal complaint. The rest of the families have not done so amid fears that they would be deported.

But despite the rapes taking place over the course of several months, they were never detected by the Prime Ministry Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), which runs the camp. Instead, the rapes were only revealed after military personnel noticed the perpetrator taking children to the blind spots of cameras.

In response to the revelations, a high-ranking military officer from the camp told BirGün that the AFAD is to blame for the rapes.

“The AFAD is responsible of the camp and for this disaster,” he said.

But the AFAD wasn't the only party unaware of the crimes taking place within the camp, which has a capacity of 14,000 refugees.

The site was praised for its standards last month, during a visit from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, former Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, and various other Turkish government figures.

The shocking news came amid reports of Turkish border control officers abusing and shooting Syrian refugees, prompting Amnesty International and other human rights organizations to say that Turkey isn't a “safe” place for asylum seekers.

But despite any controversy surrounding Turkey's treatment of asylum seekers, the country is host to the largest number of refugees in the world, including 2.7 million Syrian refugees.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950304000668

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Arab Spring 'Inspired Erdogan to Support Islamists' in 4 Muslim Countries

23.05.2016

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has continuously been in power in Turkey since 2002. He has won elections six times as president and prime minister. Since the death of Kemal Ataturk, Erdogan is of course the most notable Turkish politician.

The legacy of Ataturk has played an important role in building the modern Turkish state. He built a strong country respected by the Sunni majority as well as the Kurdish and Alevi minorities. In foreign affairs, Turkey was neutral toward the Arab world.

But Erdogan’s policy is totally different, French journalist and author Renaud Girard wrote in an article for Le Figaro.

In domestic affairs, Erdogan has been building an authoritarian presidency. Many analysts underscore that in recent years under Erdogan’s rule Turkey is drifting toward an autocracy from a parliamentarian republic.

Finally, his craving for power forced Ahmet Davutoglu, one of Erdogan’s closest allies, resign as Prime Minister.

"But what is even worse is that Erdogan ruined the principle of nationwide consensus and yielded to the dangerous temptations of nationalism," the author wrote.

Erdogan’s new policy resulted in the termination of a 2013 ceasefire deal with Kurds.

As for foreign affairs, Erdogan is acting like a "new Sultan of the Sunni world," the article read.

Ideologically, Erdogan is a supporter of the Sunni Muslim organization Muslim Brotherhood. This means that the Turkish president should believe in the concepts of national sovereignty and political activism. But actually Erdogan believes that no secular law can be superior to Sharia rules.

"Erdogan is obsessed with the idea of reviving the Ottoman Empire. His dream is to have Turkey as the leader of the Muslim world," Girard wrote.

This dream has affected Turkey’s foreign policy. Between 2002 and 2010, Turkey had normal relations with its neighbors. Ankara had good ties with Syria, Russia and Iran. However, the Arab Spring prompted Erdogan to political adventurism. He began supporting Islamists in countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Syria.

"But this policy has failed. In none of those countries have Islamists managed to come to power," the author wrote.

The EU should keep a cool head in bargaining with Ankara over the migrant crisis.

sputniknews.com/middleeast/20160523/1040089194/erdogan-turkey-policy.html

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Italy calls for joint action with Turkey in tackling refugee crisis

Tue May 24, 2016

Italy has proposed tackling the challenges of various aspects of the refugee crisis together with Turkey in order to achieve a comprehensive and lasting solution to the issue.

“I think that here in the oriental part of the Mediterranean and on our side – the western part of the Mediterranean – only by confronting the challenges together can we find a solution [to the refugee crisis],” Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Mario Giro told the Hürriyet Daily News on the sidelines of the U.N. World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul on May 23. “We are doing [working] alone, Turkey is [working] alone but this is not the future.”

Giro said the cooperation between the two sides also needed to be established as other factors causing people to migrate apart from war and conflict – such as climate change and a state’s economic situation – were to continue for many more years and that these problems needed to be confronted in the long run.

“Also because apart from the war in Syria, the other causes of migration, climate change and economic migration, will continue and we will have to confront structural problem for decades,” Giro said.

Giro said Italy had currently been abandoned in its fight against the wave of migrants coming especially from Libya.

“We are proposing a migration compact to the European Union in order to confront the humanitarian crisis and the refugee and migration crisis in a comprehensive way,” Giro said. “That means not only the urgency response but also the big investments in order to fill in the gap of the quickness of the influx and the slowness of the development.”

Stating that Italy had already doubled its humanitarian aid in 2016, Giro said they were continuing to increase their financial budget to meet this end, and also pledged to double their contribution to the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Giro said the EU needed to hold a comprehensive discussion with Turkey and open Chapters 23 and 24 of Turkey’s EU bid, adding that the Turkey-EU deal was not a question of exchange in which one side gives a visa waiver in exchange for curbing refugee flow.

“It’s not a question of exchange. We have to engage seriously with Turkey,” said Giro. “That is why we need to seriously engage all the chapters we can as soon as possible.”

hurriyetdailynews.com/italy-calls-for-joint-action-with-turkey-in-tackling-refugee-crisis.aspx?pageID=238&nID=99561&NewsCatID=351

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Israeli emergency authority aims to build relations with Turkish agency amid softening ties

Tue May 24, 2016

The Israeli National Emergency Management Authority is aiming to establish official relations with Turkey’s national relief agency, the director of the Israeli organization Jacob Wimisberg has said, amid recent moves in both countries to mend ties that have been tense for six years.

Speaking on the sidelines of the United Nations World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) in Istanbul on May 23, Wimisberg, the director of the Cooperation and Assistance Division of the Israeli National Emergency Management Authority, said they wanted to form relations with Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD).

He added that they met with representatives of AFAD in Geneva at a U.N. convention on crisis management in February, while just a few weeks ago “the person in charge of the Israel Embassy in Ankara met with head of AFAD,” Wimisberg told the Hürriyet Daily News on May 23.

“Our desire is to get in contact and build a relationship with this professional agency and we would like to extend this kind of relationship,” he added.

Relations between Turkey and Israel came to a halt after the deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in May 2010, during which 10 Turkish citizens were killed.

The two countries launched talks in 2015 in order to restoretense ties and Israeli Consul-General in Istanbul Shai Cohen said on May 11 that the parties were “very close to reaching a final deal.”

Wimisberg said they initially wanted to share knowledge of the mutual capabilities of each of the national relief teams and thus build a more effective partnership.

“We aim to collaborate in the exchange of knowledge, training, expertise and best practice,” he added.

hurriyetdailynews.com/israeli-emergency-authority-aims-to-build-relations-with-turkish-agency-amid-softening-ties.aspx?pageID=238&nID=99572&NewsCatID=510

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Sultan Nazrin: Islamic Social Finance can address shortages in global humanitarian aid

uesday, 24 May 2016

PETALING JAYA: Social and faith-based financing is one of the ways to address global shortages in humanitarian aid, says Perak Ruler Sultan Nazrin Shah (pic).

He said that this type of financing, such as Islamic Social Finance, can add to the funds needed to aid countries made vulnerable by conflicts and poverty.

“We are all too aware that the gap in humanitarian funding is an alarming and growing one.

“The United Nations still fell short of US$7.5bil last year,” he said in his opening address at the special session on Islamic Social Finance at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey on Monday.

He added that in today’s US$78tril global economy “it is unacceptable that anybody should die or live without dignity because we (the global community) cannot find the resources required to help people in need”.

He pointed out the importance of Islamic Social Finance mechanisms, which Muslims donate to annually as a way to help those in need.

“We need to recognise the crucial difference that these emerging donors can make to humanitarian financing, and we believe in the importance of expanding their numbers while at the same time protecting the fundamental principles of humanitarian aid and good governance,” he said.

Sultan Nazrin added that helping in humanitarian aid is not only morally correct, but was also an investment that everyone can make for global stability.

“Our different faiths teach us the importance of compassion and of one common shared humanity.

“Even the current work of secular humanitarian organisations is often inspired by the ethos of religion and spirituality, which in turn has inspired a culture of sustainable development,” he said.

He noted that it was important that the world find innovative methods to finance humanitarian aid.

“If we aim to build resilience for equitable growth and achieve the aspirations of Agenda 2030 in the Sustainable Development Goals, then better approaches are needed to support those who have been truly left behind, caught in continual crises and recurrent disasters.

“Failure to find new solutions to build resilience – not only for countries and people in crisis, but also for those like Turkey here who bear the burden of hosting the displaced – would bring regression, not development,” he said.

thestar.com.my/news/nation/2016/05/24/sultan-islamic-social-finance-humanitarian-aid/

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Europe

Pope embraces Al-Azhar imam in sign of renewed relations

May 23, 2016

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Monday embraced the grand imam of Al-Azhar, the prestigious Sunni Muslim center of learning, reopening an important channel for Catholic-Muslim dialogue after a five-year lull and at a time of increased Islamic extremist attacks on Christians.

As Sheik Ahmed el-Tayyib arrived for his audience in the Apostolic Palace, Francis said that the fact that they were meeting at all was significant.

"The meeting is the message," Francis told the imam.

The meeting came five years after the Cairo-based Al-Azhar froze talks with the Vatican to protest comments by then-Pope Benedict XVI.

Benedict had demanded greater protection for Christians in Egypt after a New Year's bombing on a Coptic Christian church in Alexandria killed 21 people. Since then, Islamic attacks on Christians in the region have only increased, but the Vatican and Al-Azhar nevertheless sought to rekindle ties, with a Vatican delegation visiting Cairo in February and extending the invitation for el-Tayyib to visit.

Francis and el-Tayyib spoke privately for 25 minutes in the pope's private library, bidding each other farewell with an embrace. El-Tayyib and his delegation then had talks with the Vatican cardinal in charge of interreligious dialogue.

The Vatican said the meeting held a "great significance" for Catholic-Muslim dialogue. In a statement, spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said Francis and el-Tayyib discussed the need for "authorities and the faithful of the world's great religions to show a common commitment to peace in the world."

They also discussed the rejection of violence and extremism, and the plight of Christians "in the context of conflicts and tensions in the Mideast and their protection," the statement said.

After the audience, el-Tayyib travels to Paris to open a Muslim-Catholic conference on East-West relations.

The Vatican's relations with Islam hit several bumps during Benedict's papacy. He outraged Muslims with a 2006 speech quoting a Byzantine emperor as saying some of the Prophet Muhammad's teachings were "evil and inhuman." The subsequent suspension of talks with Al-Azhar institutionalized the bad blood.

El-Tayyib, however, sent a message of congratulations to Francis upon his 2013 election and said he hoped for renewed cooperation. Francis responded, and has made clear over the course of his three-year pontificate that relations with Islam are a top priority.

In a recent interview with the French Catholic newspaper La Croix, Francis took a conciliatory line toward Islam, saying "I sometimes dread the tone" when people refer to Europe's "Christian" roots.

"It is true that the idea of conquest is inherent in the soul of Islam," he said. But he added that Christianity, too, had its "triumphalist" undertones. "It is also possible to interpret the objective in Matthew's Gospel, where Jesus sends his disciples to all nations, in terms of the same idea of conquest."

He added that when looking to the causes of Islamic extremism, it is better to "question ourselves about the way in an overly Western model of democracy has been exported."

stripes.com/news/europe/pope-embraces-al-azhar-imam-in-sign-of-renewed-relations-1.411048

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‘Get ready’ ISIS announce plans to launch Ramadan attacks on Europe and America

Mon, May 23, 2016

The chilling message said Ramadan, which begins four days before Euro 2016 next month, will be marked by a series of bloody attacks across the world.

Jews and Christians were particularly singled out as targets for lone wolf attacks during the holiday, which takes place from June 6 to July 5.

The extremist group’s spokesperson Abu Mohamed al-Adnani said: “Ramadan, the month of conquest and jihad. Get prepared, be ready to make it a month of calamity everywhere for the non-believers, especially for the fighters and supporters of the caliphate in Europe and America.

“The smallest action you do in their heartland is better and more enduring to us than what you would if you were with us.

"If one of you hoped to reach the Islamic State, we wish we were in your place to punish the Crusaders day and night.”

The rambling, 31-minute audio message also made reference to the recent loss of territory and key cities in Iraq and Syria.

al-Adnani said: “Will we be defeated if we lose Mosul, or Sirte, or Raqa, or all the cities, and go back to how we were before?

“No. Defeat is only losing the desire and the will to fight.”

Jihadi expert Aymenn al-Tamimi said the statement showed ISIS was aware of morale dropping among its fighters.

He said: “It would appear IS is more clearly acknowledging its limitations in holding territory while stressing the idea of living on despite losses.”

Coalition forces have reclaimed 40 per cent of jihadi heartland in Iraq and another 10 per cent in Syria.

Researchers said ISIS, also known as Dash, had also lost 40 per cent of its income.

Colonel Steve Warren, the Baghdad-based spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, the US military operation against ISIS, said earlier this year: “Daesh hasn't won a battle since May [2015], and we kill a leader nearly every 3 days. They are weakening, but the battle is not over."

The message, which was posted on Saturday night, made no reference to EgyptAir flight MS804, which crashed into the Mediterranean Sea last week.

express.co.uk/news/world/672933/ISIS-daesh-ramadan-attacks-europe-america

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Germany right-wing party AfD walks out of Muslim meeting

23 May 2016

Its leader Frauke Petry said the Muslim council refused to retract a comparison between the party and the Nazis.

Earlier this month, the AfD adopted an anti-Islam policy.

Attacks with a far-right motivation reached a 15-year high in 2015, the German government said on Monday.

Aiman Mayzek, the head of the Muslim council, initiated the meeting which took place in a hotel room in Berlin but lasted for less than an hour before ending acrimoniously.

He said after the meeting that the AfD had been unwilling to discuss the anti-Islam policy and preferred to "dictate" how the Muslim council should deal with animal slaughter and how mosques should be built.

He said it was clear the AfD would continue to "follow the path of populism, defamation and prejudice".

Last week, the party joined forces with the Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West (Pegida) protest group for the first time, to protest against the building of a mosque in the city of Erfurt.

Eurosceptic message

After the AfD voted that Islam "did not belong to Germany", Mr Mayzek said publicly that it was a party "from the Third Reich".

Ms Petry of the AfD said that she was personally offended by the Nazi comparison and that she and other delegates had "asked politely several times" for the comparison to be retracted.

She said that, without that retraction, the meeting was unable to "achieve what we considered the aim of the discussion", which was "how to work with the differing values of a still politicised Islam and a secular society".

The AfD was started three years ago with a Eurosceptic message and has attracted voters who are angered by an influx of migrants and by Chancellor Angela Merkel's pro-refugee approach.

Figures out on Monday show a steep rise in the number of right-wing extremist crimes in Germany. There were 23,000 attacks in 2015, an increase of 35% from the year before.

These include instances of racist or anti-Semitic graffiti but also violent attacks. In some cases, refugee housing was firebombed, flooded or burnt down, while in others, migrants were targeted.

Germany took in more than a million asylum seekers in 2015 and although the number of incomers has dropped substantially, their integration is still a controversial political topic.

More on AfD

Founded in 2013 by Bernd Lucke, Alexander Gauland and Konrad Adam to oppose German-backed bailouts for poorer southern European countries

Mr Lucke, seen as a moderate, wanted Germany out of the euro but his colleagues were unhappy that he wanted to focus exclusively on euro-related issues

He quit the party in early July 2015, arguing it was becoming increasingly xenophobic

Right-winger Frauke Petry replaced him as party leader

It became the first anti-euro party to win seats in a German regional parliament, receiving almost 10% of the vote in the eastern German state of Saxony in 2014, and went on to win seats in four other states' parliaments in 2014 and 2015

The party had seven MEPs elected in the 2014 European elections (including Mr Lucke), but only two remain party members

AfD was part of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, like the UK's Conservatives, but one of its two MEPs has been expelled from the group over comments on shooting refugees

At the start of May, AfD members adopted an explicitly anti-Islam policy, declaring that the religion was "not part of Germany" and calling for a ban on minarets, the call to prayer and the full-face veil.

bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-36362210

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Why is Bulgaria making a big fuss about the niqab?

24 May 2016

Belgium, France and Latvia have already done so but Bulgaria's example stems from the small, southern city of Pazardjik, which has just imposed its own "burka ban", as local media dubbed it. The burka, which covers the eyes, has never been seen in Bulgaria.

The face veil is not considered traditional dress for Bulgaria's Muslims, who make up 10% of the country's 7.1 million population.

The vast majority are indigenous communities of ethnic Turks, Roma and Pomaks (Bulgarian-speaking Muslims). In fact, women who have been spotted wearing it in the past two to three years are almost all members of a small Salafist, Roma community in Pazardjik.

The community has been at the centre of controversy and media attention after one of its preachers, Ahmed Musa, was put on trial three times for spreading "religious hatred". Locals say Musa was born Christian but 20 years ago converted to Islam; he adopted more conservative views after travelling to the West.

Only 4% of Pazardjik's 70,000 population is Muslim and only a fraction of that number follow Ahmed Musa. Yet the presence of about two dozen women wearing the niqab in the city created unease in the local administration.

"The main things that motivated and catalysed this [ban] were the terrorist attacks that happened in European countries and the increasing flow of migrants who entered the country in the past few years," explained Rumen Kozhuharov, the head of the municipality.

The police had already issued a citation to one woman, he said, for wearing a face veil in the streets of the "Iztok" quarter, a mixed Christian and Muslim Roma neighbourhood where the Abu Bakir mosque of the conservative community was built 10 years ago.

A week after the ban came into place no women were to be seen wearing the niqab in the streets of the neighbourhood. Local people were reluctant to comment, saying they distrusted journalists because of the persistent visits of TV crews and their "biased" portrayal of their community.

One man at the Abu Bakir mosque, who introduced himself only as Agati, told the BBC that the ban was "an affront to the religion", but he refused to elaborate.

Mickey Mouse and the Minions

Ramiz Sali, former head of the Muslim board in Pazardjik, who now works at the city's 350-year-old Ottoman mosque, said that he didn't care whether a woman covered her face or not, but that Islam only required that she wore a headscarf.

The real problems that the Roma neighbourhood faced were high illiteracy and unemployment, he added.

"What terrorism are they talking about when half of the Roma neighbourhood are scavenging rubbish containers?" he said.

After Pazardjik, five major Bulgarian cities, including the capital Sofia, began considering similar bans. By contrast, Plovdiv, Bulgaria's second biggest city, voted against it; its mayor mocked the proposal saying that it would affect only Mickey Mouse and the Minions.

The Grand Mufti's Office in Bulgaria has rejected the face veil ban bill, saying it infringes on the freedom of religion guaranteed by the constitution.

"The far-right populist pseudo-patriotic factions are seeking to gain dirty [political] dividends on the back of Muslims, which is dishonourable given the scale of Islamophobia across the world," said Jalal Faik, the secretary general of the Grand Mufti's Office.

The face veil was not a major issue in Bulgaria until members of the VMRO Party (part of the Patriotic Front) started calling for a ban in late March. It then gained wide support among both the ruling majority and the opposition left.

"[Wearing the face veil] is one of the many steps which lead to radicalisation of the Islamic community in Bulgaria. We shouldn't allow such radicalisation," said VMRO MP Iskren Veselinov.

He says the recent terror attacks in France and Belgium prove that such a ban is necessary.

"France and Belgium started talking about [a ban] 30 years ago, but implemented it only a few years ago, after two generations of Islamists came of age," he added.

According to Dimitar Bechev, visiting fellow at Harvard's Center for European Politics, the face veil ban is part of a political game.

He explained that other members of the ruling coalition, including PM Boyko Borisov's GERB party, were supporting the ban to appease their coalition partner, the PF, while the left backed it because of its staunchly nationalistic attitudes.

"Here is the threat of a vicious circle emerging: nationalists scapegoating Muslims and pushing certain individuals to radicalisation which in turn would fuel more hate speech," he warned.

The face veil ban bill has already been approved by two parliamentary committees, and its supporters expect it to pass before parliament's summer break.

bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-36360764

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Arab World

Iran, India Stress Eradication of All Forms of Terrorism

May 24, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi issued a joint statement on Tuesday, stressing the need for the elimination of all forms of terrorism.

The statement which was issued at the end of Modi's two-day visit to Tehran, underscored the two countries' deep concerns about extremist groups' continued attacks in the region, endangering regional peace, security, stability and development, and called eradication of all types of terrorism and defeating all extremist forces as a necessity.

They also underscored the need for ending all types of supports for the terrorist groups and individuals and sheltering the terrorists, adding that the countries which render support for the militants should be condemned.

Finally, Rouhani and Modi emphasized their will to work out and finalize a Comprehensive Convention against International Terrorism.

In a meeting with Modi in Tehran on Monday, Rouhani had called for further mutual cooperation between Tehran and New Delhi in the war on terrorism and restoration of peace and stability to the region.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran welcomes finding political resolutions to the problems of the regional countries and it favors promotion of peace and stability in the region," President Rouhani said while pointing to the threats posed by the terrorist groups to the regional countries.

Modi, heading a high-ranking delegation, arrived in Tehran on Sunday evening and was officially welcomed by President Rouhani on Monday morning.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950304000746

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ISIL Chief Executioner, Commanders Killed in Salahuddin's Sharqat

May 24, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Iraqi army and volunteer forces (Hashd al-Shaabi) continued their advances in Salahuddin province in Northern Iraq, killing scores of Takfiri terrorists, including two senior ISIL commanders and a chief executioner, in a tough battle with them near the city of al-Sharqat.

Abdullah Abu Maryam, ISIL's chief executioner in Sharqat city, was killed by the Iraqi security forces.

Two other ISIL commanders named Haji Hani and Abu A'esheh who were in charge of the terrorist group's security in Sharqat were also killed in the Iraqi forces' military operations on Tuesday.

On Saturday, masked armed men assassinated a senior ISIL commander in Salahuddin province in Northern Iraq.

Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Anbari and his bodyguard were killed in Sharqat city by gunmen using handguns equipped with silencer, the Arabic-language Sumeria News quoted an unnamed security source as saying.

Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Anbari was in charge of ISIL's security in al-Sharqat city.

Al-Sharqat has been under ISIL's control since June 2014.

In early May, the Iraqi army and popular forces continued their advances in Anbar province in Western Iraq, and killed over half a dozen ISIL terrorists, including one of their most wanted leaders.

Chief commander of the military operations in Anbar Ismail Mahlavi confirmed that senior ISIL commander Shaker Wahib al-Fahdavi has been killed in an Iraqi army operation in the town of Rataba in the Western part of Anbar province.

Mahlavi added that seven other ISIL commanders were also killed in the Iraqi army's operations in Rataba town.

The confirmation by the Iraqi army comes while Fahdavi was reported dead eight times before.

The Iraqi army, meantime, announced that ISIL's war strategist was killed in the village of al-Asouja in Makhmour region in Nineveh province.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950304000848

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Yemeni Army Foils Pro-Hadi Forces' Attempt to Advance in Al-Baydha Province

May 24, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Militias loyal to the former fugitive President Mansour Hadi attempted to advance in al-Baydha province on Tuesday, but were pushed back by the Yemeni army.

The Yemeni army pushed back the pro-Hadi militias from al-Wahbiya region in al-Baydha province in Southwestern Yemen, the Yemeni defense ministry said.

Several pro-Hadi militias were killed in the heavy clashes with the Yemeni army and popular forces.

On Saturday, field commander of the militia group loyal to Mansour Hadi was killed in Aden.

Commander of Saba military camp Mothana al-Rashid was shot dead by unknown assailants in al-Mansoura region in Aden on Friday night.

No group has claimed responsibility for the killing of al-Rashid yet.

The UAE army is responsible for maintaining security of Aden and some other provinces  in Southern Yemen

Last week, at least 13 troops loyal to Mansour Hadi were killed when militants blew up vehicles outside the Southeastern port city of Mukalla.

Several others were injured in the attack claimed by ISIL in the Eastern outskirts of the Hadhramaut provincial capital, which Hadi forces seized last month.

The deadly assault came shortly before Hadi's prime minister Ahmed bin Dagher arrived in Mukalla with several of his ministers on a one-day visit.

One bomber reportedly rammed an explosive-laden vehicle into the gate of a base in the Khalf district, followed immediately by a second who blew up a car in the center of the camp.

The attackers clashed with pro-Hadi forces outside the base immediately after the bombings.

A third bomber targeted the nearby residence of the commander of Hadhramaut's second military region, General Faraj Salmeen, who escaped unharmed.

Yemen has been under military attacks by Saudi Arabia since late March last year. At least 9,600 people, including 4,000 women and children, have been killed, and over 16,000 others injured since the onset of the aggression on Yemen aimed at shoring up Hadi’s former regime and undermining the Ansarullah movement.

Representatives from Ansarullah movement and the Saudi-backed former government began UN-brokered peace talks in Kuwait on April 21.

Both sides are reportedly still addressing ways to consolidate a ceasefire deal that went into effect on April 11, and have yet to reach a political settlement.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950304000874

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'Al-Nusra Mobilizes 6,000-Strong Force in Aleppo'

Tue May 24, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Al-Nusra Front has gathered a force of some 6,000 fighters in preparation for a major offensive in Syria’s Aleppo province, as terrorists and their allies continue to disrupt the fragile US-Russian brokered ceasefire, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

While 59 armed groups have joined the process of reconciliation, which began in February with the introduction of ceasefire, terrorist factions in Syria like ISIL and particularly Al-Nusra Front continue their efforts to regain ground. The city of Aleppo, once a major stronghold of terrorists, remains a hot spot of Al-Nusra Front activities.

“The escalation of the situation in a number of Syrian regions is first of all linked to the goal of the leaders of Al-Nusra Front and factions allied with it to derail the process of reconciliation,” head of the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria, Lt.-Gen. Sergey Kuralenko, said in a statement, RT reported.

“In the Aleppo region, Al-Nusra Front leaders are finishing forming an assault group totaling over 6,000 militants in order to block the government troops in the city with a strike from the East, while in the North they seek to cut off access to the city of Nubl.”

The ceasefire introduced on February 27 does not apply to internationally-recognized terror groups such as ISIL and Al-Nusra Front, which means strikes can be delivered against their outposts.

According to the Center, Al-Nusra is continuing to attack Aleppo using rocket launchers and mortars.

Besides Aleppo, terrorists also revitalized their efforts in the provinces of Lattakia and Hama, in addition to the outskirts of Damascus. In Eastern Ghouta and Damascus’ suburb of Darayya, Al Nusra fighters and groups aligned with them were able to regroup and reinforce their positions. Terrorist fighters have carried out the “replenishment of ammunition, weapons, and are ready to take on the offensive,” said Kuralenko.

The Russian Reconciliation Center proposed the introduction of a 72-hour cease-fire starting Tuesday in areas of Eastern Ghouta and Darayya. At the same time the Russian side called on Washington to use their influence on groups often associated with Al-Nusra Front to flee the area and join the truce, stressing that Russian aircraft will continue to conduct strikes.

 “Once again, we call on the American side to continue to work with moderate opposition units it controls to push them towards joining the ceasefire regime, to provide an exact outline of the areas they control and to pull groups that observe the ceasefire terms out of territories taken by al-Nusra Front and other international terrorist organizations,” Kuralenko said.

On the weekend, a statement by the FSA, signed by nearly 30 rebel groups that operate across Syria, some with close ties to terrorists, said that they will no longer abide by a ceasefire deal unless the Syrian army pulls out from the outskirt of Damascus within 48 hours.

“We consider a press statement of the leaders of opposition groups and groups acting under their names dated May 22, 2016 as an attempt to shift responsibility for violation of the regime of cessation of hostilities onto government troops,” Kuralenko said.

On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry discussed the possibility of joining forces to carry out attacks on militant groups breaking the ceasefire in Syria by phone, reported the Russian Foreign Ministry. No conclusion on the potential joint effort was reached.

Efforts to stabilize hostilities in Syria come as over 100 people died after seven blasts targeted several locations in the coastal towns of Jableh and Tartus, Syria’s Lattakia province. The locations are close to two Russian military facilities: the Khmeimim airbase and the Tartus naval base.

The rise in tensions in Syria follows recent warning by Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura who stated that the next round of talks, penciled in for June, “will be in question” if the ceasefire is suspended. The negotiations became gridlocked in April after the Saudi-backed Syrian opposition withdrew from the negotiations, citing the deteriorating situation in Aleppo.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950304000634

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Infighting Among Terrorists Helps Syrian Army to Advance in Damascus Countryside

Tue May 24, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Battlefield sources underlined that a major part of the advances by the Syrian government forces and their allies in Eastern Ghouta is the result of the rising clashes among the terrorist groups in Eastern Ghouta in Damascus countryside.

"The bloody clashes between Faylaq al-Rahman and Jeish al-Islam in Eastern Ghouta helped the Syrian army and the resistance forces a lot to advance in the area," Colonel Omar Sha'aban told FNA on Tuesday.

He pointed to the Syrian army's advances in Jasrin region of Damascus countryside, and said, "The militants of Faylaq al-Rahman who have voiced their allegiance to Al-Nusra Front and are stationed in Sabqa and Hamouriya have driven out the Jeish al-Islam terrorists from Ghouta and laid siege on them in Douma."

Sha'aban reiterated that the heavy clashes between the two terrorist groups have left over 700 terrorists of Jeish al-Islam dead. Jeish al-Islam also sustained heavy military hardware losses.

On Monday, the Syrian troops destroyed the military positions of Takfiri terrorists in several regions in Douma, Zamalka and Daraya, and killed more than 14 terrorists and destroyed their weapons and munitions.

Also in Damascus province last Tuesday, tens of terrorists were killed in fierce clashes between the Syrian army and the militant groups along the Damascus-Homs highway.

"The Syrian army expanded its control on the Eastern side of the Damascus-Homs Highway in Harasta," sources living in nearby regions said.

"The army took full control over the farms along the road connecting Nour al-Sham school and Douma at the end of the clashes," they added.

Meantime, military sources said tens of dead bodies have been left behind by the terrorist groups, while dozens more have been wounded or captured.

Last Sunday, the Syrian army won back new areas in Marj al-Sultan village in another phase of its growing mop-up operations in Eastern Ghouta in Damascus province.

Dozens of Takfiri terrorists were killed in the military operations as the Syrian soldiers regained control over new areas in Marj al-Sultan village

Prior to the ground operation, the Syrian air force conducted 6 bombing raids over the region. Dozens of Takfiri terrorists were killed in the air force and ground operations

Last Saturday, the army units captured all farms to the North of Marj al-Sultan village and headed for the villages of Harasta al-Qantara and Nuleh.

The Syrian army also destroyed at least three military positions of Takfiri terrorists in the surrounding areas of Marj al-Sultan Airport as the Syrian troops still continue their advances in Eastern Ghouta.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950304000556

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Iranian Minister Blames Israel for Deteriorated Health Situation in Palestine

May 24, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Health Minister Seyed Hassan Qazizadeh Hashemi took Israel responsible for the deteriorating health and hygiene in the occupied Palestinian territories.

"The medical and health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territories, specially the occupied Quds, as well as the occupied Syrian Golan Heights are deteriorating which is the result of the Zionist regime's harmful actions," Qazizadeh Hashemi said, addressing the 69th World Health Assembly meeting in Switzerland on Tuesday.

He also underlined the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)'s concerns about the health conditions in the Palestinian territories and the Golan Heights and Israel's negligence and stonewalling in this regard.

Statistics for 2014 showed that the number of physicians per 1,000 population registered in the Physicians’ Union in the West Bank was 1.3 and 2.2 in the Gaza Strip.

In addition, there were 2.1 nurses per 1,000 population in the West Bank and 4.1 nurses per 1000 population in Gaza Strip. There were 80 hospitals in Palestine in 2014: 50 hospitals in the West Bank and 30 in Gaza Strip.

Also, 97% of drinking water in the Gaza Strip does not meet the World Health Organization (WHO) standards and is also less than the minimum quantities recommended by WHO (100 l/c/d).

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950304000900

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Syrian Army Disbands Terrorist Cell in Damascus

May 24, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Syrian military sources announced on Tuesday that the Army troops, tipped of by intelligence agents, have dismantled a network of terrorist bombers inside the capital city of Damascus.

"Syrian security forces raided an apartment in al-Midan neighborhood South of Damascus and arrested 8 men on charge of planning bombing attacks," the sources said, adding, "Local residents had tipped off the police who in turn were swift to respond."

"Papers were found in the apartment suggesting plans to conduct terrorist attacks deep inside government-held neighborhoods of the Syrian capital," the sources added.

In January 2012, a similar suicide bombing attack in al-Midan neighborhood killed 26; however, the district has since been secured by the Syrian Armed Forces.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950304000805

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Syria: Senior Terrorist Commander Killed in Clashes with Hezbollah West of Damascus

May 24, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Emir of Ahrar al-Sham in al-Zabadani was killed in fierce clashes with the Lebanese Hezbollah Resistance Movement's fighters near the Syria-Lebanon border.

Ziad Abu Hamid, the notorious field commander of Ahrar al-Sham, was killed in the Hezbollah fighters' offensive on the terrorist group's command center.

In relevant development in the province last week, the Syrian Army troops and the Lebanese Hezbollah fighters carried out a joint assault against al-Nusra Front's strongholds in Western Qalamoun along the Syria-Lebanon border, inflicting major losses on the terrorists.

The Syrian soldiers and their Lebanese allies penetrated into the al-Nusra Front's lines of defense in Serghaya village and then targeted the terrorists' positions inside Serghaya, while the Syrian army targeted the terrorist group's gatherings at Jaroud Jarajeer and Jaroud Qarah border-crossings.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950304000757

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Syria: Riyadh, Ankara, Doha Attempting to Derail Peace Talks

Tue May 24, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Foreign Ministry sent letters to the UN chief and the Security Council, condemning the attacks in the cities of Jableh and Tartus in Lattakia, claiming they aimed to derail the Syrian peace talks.

"These terrorist attacks constitute a dangerous escalation on the part of the regimes of hatred and radicalism in Riyadh, Ankara and Doha, and are directed at derailing efforts to save lives of Syrians, derailing the Geneva talks and the cessation of hostilities," SANA reported.

Earlier, seven blasts hit the Mediterranean coastal cities of Jableh and Tartus, killing more than 100 people, according to local police. ISIL has reportedly taken responsibility for the attacks.

The latest round of Syrian peace talks in Geneva took place on April 13-27. The next round of talks will begin on May 30 in the Swiss city of Montreux.

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

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

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950304000711

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Syria: ISIL Setting up New Guarding Units in Deir Ezzur to Protect Top Commanders

Tue May 24, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The ISIL has recently managed to establish the Caliphate Special Units to upgrade the security of its top commanders in battlefield and in air attacks, informed sources said.

"The ISIL, in a new directive, ordered the local youngsters in the occupied regions in Deir Ezzur province to join the newly-established units," the sources said, adding, "The local people previously were banned to join such units."

"The fresh recruits have to be trained in a special camp in Badiyeh al-Mayadeen with non-Syrian experienced military trainers," the sources said, adding, "The trainees with learn in the camp how to use anti-aircraft weapons, how to act after air attacks, how to protect their positions under the attacks and how to save the lives of their top commanders in the battlefields."

"The training will last for two months, and trainees should be under-30 young men," the sources added.

Reports said earlier today that the ISIL movements and evacuation of its forces and military hardware from Raqqa and their deployment to Deir Ezzur and the oil-rich regions of Syria have strengthened the possibility of collusion between the terrorists and Western meddlers in Syria war.

"The ISIL has been transferring a large number of its forces and their heavy military equipment to the energy-rich regions in the Eastern Syria, mainly in Deir Ezzur and Eastern Homs, to save its revenues from smuggling of oil and gas," the sources said, adding, "The ISIL had previously made such decisions, including retreating from al-Houl and al-Shadadi in Hasaka where the terrorist group left the battlefields without any resistance against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)."

"The ISIL decision to leave capital of the self-proclaimed Caliphate for the SDF fighters and their American backers without resistance is in line with the US policy in Syria which opposes the Syrian government forces' rule and control over the country's energy-rich regions in Deir Ezzur and Homs," the sources added.

"The ISIL has thus far transferred 12 Hummer vehicles from Raqqa to Albu Kamal in Deir Ezzur and has deployed several US-made Abrams artilleries to the village of al-Hosseiniyeh Northwestern of Deir Ezzur," they added.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950304000648

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South Asia

Taliban says Mullah Mansoor’s death will not affect the group’s insurgency

Tue May 24 2016

The Taliban militants group in Afghanistan has said the death of its leader will not have any affect on the group’s insurgency.

The group issued a statement following the confirmation of Mullah Akhtar Mansoor’s death in a US airstrike in Pakistan.

The statement said the campaign by the Taliban militants is not for a single person which would end or become weak by his death.

The statement further added that the group’s insurgency is aimed at implementing Sharia in the country and there will be no affect in their fight even if Mullah Mansoor has been killed.

Admitting that the death of its leaders is a major harm to the group, the statement said their death will spark more revolution.

The death of Mullah Akhtar Mansoor was officially confirmed by the US President Barack Obama, Afghan government, and Afghan security institutions.

Obama said the death of Mansoor was an “important milestone” in efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan.

“We have removed the leader of an organization that has continued to plot against and unleash attacks on American and Coalition forces, to wage war against the Afghan people, and align itself with extremist groups like al Qa’ida,” he added.

The Afghan government said Mullah Mansoor sought refuge in the stranger’s soil and was repeatedly committing deception, concealing facts, killing innocent people and terrorizing people as well as smuggling drugs and preventing Afghanistan to gain development by emphasizing on continued war in the country.

It also added that the supporters of Mullah Mansoor were sparing no efforts in committing atrocities against the noble and Muslim people of Afghanistan.

khaama.com/taliban-says-mullah-mansoors-death-will-not-affect-the-groups-insurgency-01048

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'Bangladesh, US to jointly fight terrorism'

Mon May 23 2016

Bangladesh will face the threat of terrorism and violent extremism jointly with the United States in the backdrop of the growing interest of Washington to have a concrete partnership with Dhaka to tackle the global menace.

“We always say that terrorism is a global threat. This is not only Bangladesh specific. The threat is more or less under the control of our security and intelligence forces. We want to face it unitedly [with the US],” Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told the Dhaka Tribune.

After the recent attacks and killings of foreigners, bloggers, publishers, teachers and the religious community, the US has sent a number of delegations to discuss the security issue and assess the situation in Bangladesh.

After the killing of US government staff Xulhaz Mannan in Dhaka, Secretary of State John Kerry had a telephone conversation with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Kerry also sent State Department Assistant Secretary Nisha Desai Biswal to Dhaka followed by his deputy William Todd, who came to Bangladesh on May 12 and left on May 18.

Todd’s delgation had a series of meetings with officials of the home and foreign ministries and the police to understand what Bangladesh needs to face counter terrorism and violent extremism.

Todd visited Dhaka last November following the killing of two foreign nationals, and another operational-level security team in January.

State Department Civilian Security Undersecretary Sarah Sewall and Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Alan Bersin visited Dhaka in March.

Home Minister Kamal said Bangladesh shared a “need list” with the US to tackle the threat.

Police need modern technology to counter cyber crime, training to increase capacity, and information to curb terrorism and violent extremism, the minister said.

“We requested for these things and let’s see what Washington gives us,” he added.

A senior government official, seeking anonymity, said Xulhaz’s killing changed the whole scenario. Police have done an assessment of their needs and provided the list to Washington, which is a very significant development for forging cooperation with the US.

He said Xulhaz was an employee of the US government and very close to the ruling class of Bangladesh, and even then he was killed by the extremists.

The US embassy felt shaky after the murder and sought extra security for their officials and the government has bolstered security for them, he said.

The upcoming partnership dialogue at the foreign secretary level will be held in Washington on June 24 and 25, and the security issue will get priority, the official said.

Another senior government official said the biggest fear of the US is the rise of a fundamentalist force in Bangladesh.

“It is the last thing they want to see in Bangladesh, which is considered a moderate and tolerant Muslim country,” he said.

After the killing of Xulhaz, US Ambassador Marcia Bernicat said in April on CNN: “What’s been happening here is not at all characteristic of Bangladesh.”

Bangladesh is also closely working with India to fight terrorism and violent extremism.

“This is an issue which is of direct concern to us as neighbours and we are in touch and we work closely bilaterally and closely together on those matters,” Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said while in Dhaka early this month.

Subscribing the same view, Bangladesh Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque said both of them discussed eliminating terrorism and extremism.

“For this, we are working bilaterally, regionally and internationally,” he said.

dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2016/may/24/bangladesh-us-jointly-fight-terrorism

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Taliban’s shadow governor for Helmand Mullah Manan killed in airstrike

Tue May 24 2016

The Taliban shadow governor for southern Helmand province has been killed in airstrike in the restive Marjah district, local security officials said.

The airstrike was carried out late on Sunday night targeting the Mullah Manan and his fighters in the vicinity of Marjah district.

Provincial security chief Gen. Agha Noor Kentoz said Muallah Manan was initially injured in the attack and later died of his wounds.

He said the airstrike was carried out as part of Khanjar operations which were launched six days ago in Marjah to suppress the insurgency activities of the Taliban militants.

The Taliban militants group has not commented regarding the report so far.

This comes as at least 8 militants were killed during an attack on the Taliban prison in Marjah district earlier.

The Ministry of Defense said 7 militants were also arrested an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) manufacturing factory was destroyed along with a vehicle and two motorcycles belonging to the militants.

At least 19 hostages were also released from the prison belonging to the Taliban militants during the raid, MoD added.

khaama.com/talibans-shadow-governor-for-helmand-mullah-manan-killed-in-airstrike-01050

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Obama reaffirms US support to strengthen Afghan armed forces

Mon May 23 2016

The US President Barack Obama reaffirmed the United States support to strengthen the Afghan armed forces and the Afghan government.

In an statement released following the confirmation of Taliban Chief Mullah Akhtar Mansoor’s death, Obama said “As an enduring partner of the Afghan people, the United States will continue to help strengthen Afghan security forces and support President Ghani and the National Unity Government in their efforts to forge the peace and progress that Afghans deserve.”

Obama further added “We will continue taking action against extremist networks that target the United States.”

He also added that the United States will work on shared objectives with Pakistan, where terrorists that threaten all our nations must be denied safe haven.

“After so many years of conflict, today gives the people of Afghanistan and the region a chance at a different, better future,” Obama added.

Obama said Mansoor rejected efforts by the Afghan government to seriously engage in peace talks and end the violence that has taken the lives of countless innocent Afghan men, women and children.

“The Taliban should seize the opportunity to pursue the only real path for ending this long conflict – joining the Afghan government in a reconciliation process that leads to lasting peace and stability,” he added.

khaama.com/obama-reaffirms-us-support-to-strengthen-afghan-armed-forces-01047

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India mulling to deliver more helicopters to Afghanistan

Tue May 24 2016

The government of India is mulling to deliver more helicopters to Afghanistan in a bid to help boost the airpower of the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces.

The Office of the President in a statement said the issue was discussed during a meeting between President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The statement further added President Ghani thanked India’s support and cooperation with Afghanistan, specifically in delivery Mi-25 gunship helicopters and urged the Indian leadership to further assist the Afghan forces.

In response, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the relevant security sector in the Indian government has been instructed to seek ways for the delivery of more helicopters to Afghanistan.

President Ghani also hailed the Indian government for supporting Afghanistan in implementation of key infrastructure projects, including the Salma dam.

He also pointed towards the construction of the Afghan Parliament Building by India and said such projects will further boost bilateral ties between the two nations.

Afghanistan received three of the four Mi-25 gunship helicopters from India late in the month of December last year and days before the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Kabul.

The decision for the delivery of Mi-25 gunship helicopters was concluded during the recent visit of Afghan National Security Adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar to New Delhi.

India has remained one of the key donors for the reconstruction of Afghanistan following the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.

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

khaama.com/india-mulling-to-deliver-more-helicopters-to-afghanistan-01054

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Political clout of Taliban after Mullah Mansoor

Tue May 24 2016

The Afghan government confirmed that Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour has been killed in a US air strike in a remote border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Mansour assumed the leadership of the militant organization in July 2015 soon after the whistleblowers revealed that the Taliban’s spiritual leader, Mullah Omar, had actually died two years ago.

Mansoor was born in 1965 in the southern province of Kandahar and served as civil aviation minister during the Taliban’s regime in Afghanistan.

The death of Mullah Mansoor is certainly a major blow to the Taliban.

Leadership struggle

Without an iota of doubt, Mansoor was gradually tightening his control on the Taliban movement by attracting other leading Taliban members, including a son and a brother the deceased spiritual leader and by carrying massive attacks on Afghan security forces.

The vacuum created by the death of Mansoor will once again trigger a leadership struggle. The selection of a new Taliban leader will be disputed, with rival groups in the Taliban ranks lobbying for their own leader and Pakistan struggling to appoint their own man. The leadership struggle is not only among the Taliban splinter groups but also with the Pakistani military establishment, who struggle to unify Taliban under one roof.

The fierce competition for the leadership of Taliban will be among Sarajuddin Haqqani, a close ally of Mullah Mansoor and a key commander of the Haqqani network, and Mullah Abdullah Rasool, the rival of Mullah Mansoor, who openly opposed Mullah Mansoor’s selection.

Sarajuddin Haqqani, who became one of two deputy Taliban commanders last year, has the highest chance of becoming the new leader of Taliban because he has been in charge of the day-to-day military operations of Taliban since last year and maintains close contacts with many senior Taliban commanders. Haqqani was also very instrumental in reconciling differences amongst Taliban commanders and bringing the spiritual leader’s family to the Taliban fold. Haqqani has been trying to reconcile splinter groups of Taliban who refused to accept Mansour’s leadership since last year and actively worked in integrating his militant group, known as the Haqqani Network. In addition, Pakistan will most likely support Haqqani as he remains the most reliable partner of the Pakistani military establishment.  Evidence suggests that Pakistan continues to support the Haqqani network. Helping the network has not only ensured its survival but has also enhanced its ability to launch attacks inside Afghanistan

On the other hand, Mullah Rasool’s chances of succeeding Mullah Mansoor is minimal to none since his Taliban faction has suffered some shocking battlefield defeats in southern Afghanistan at the hands of Mullah Mansoor. Many of his key supporters died alongside many of his men in a battle with the Taliban’s main group. Mullah Rasool is no longer a strong man among the Taliban.

Mullah Omar’s son, Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, and brother, Mullah Abdul Manan, who recently secured senior positions within the Taliban ranks could also be in the reckoning.

The peace talks

The faith of the peace talks will depend on who will replaces Mullah Mansoor and how the Taliban will manage to come under one command. For now, the talks, which opened with a meeting on July 7, 2015 appeared to be off while the Taliban discussed their future. The Afghan government should get ready for fierce battle in coming months if Haqqani takes over Mullah Mansoor’s position. Haqqani, who has a $5 million US bounty on his head, has appeared as the most dangerous warlord among the Taliban insurgent groups. The hopes of peace talks may collapse and bloodshed may increase if Haqqani becomes the successor of Mullah Mansoor.

khaama.com/political-clout-of-taliban-after-mullah-mansoor-01052

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Explosion in Kandahar leaves 4 civilians dead, 5 wounded

Tue May 24 2016

At least four civilians were killed and five others were wounded in an explosion in southern Kandahar province of Afghanistan, local officials said.

The incident took place around 7 am local time in the vicinity of Shahwali Kot district targeting a vehicle of the civilians.

Provincial governor’s spokesman Samim Khpolwak said a passenger mini van struck an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) planted by the militants.

He said an investigation is underway regarding the incident and there are fears that the death toll would rise.

No group including the Taliban militants has so far claimed responsibility behind the incident.

The Taliban insurgents and militants belonging to the other insurgent groups are frequently using Improvised Explosive Device (IED) as the weapon of their choice to target the security forces.

The IEDs are the main contributors to the casualties of the Afghan security forces but are also considered as a key factor in growing civilian casualties.

At least 11 civilians belonging to a same family were killed in a similar attack in northern Baghlan province of Afghanistan last week.

khaama.com/explosion-in-kandahar-leaves-4-civilians-dead-5-wounded-01051

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1,167 militants killed since the start of Shafaq operations, Sediqi says

Mon May 23 2016

At least 1,167 militants have been killed since the start of Shafaq military operations to suppress the insurgency activities of the anti-government armed militant groups, the Ministry of Interior (MoI) said.

Sediq Sediqi, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, told reporters that the operations were launched two months and are still being conducted against the armed militants.

He said at least 465 militants were also wounded and at least 154 others were arrested during the operations across the country.

Sediqi further added that the Afghan security forces have increased pressures against the armed insurgents which comes as the Taliban group lost their leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor that could have a negative impact on the morale of the group’s fighters.

According to Sediqi, at least 711 operations have been conducted across the country since the operations were launched late in the month of March.

He said the operations are mainly aimed at targeting the senior leaders of the anti-government armed militants and the key regions under the focus of the opoerations are northern Baghlan, northeastern Badakhshan and eastern Nangarhar province.

Sediqi also added that the Minister of Interior recently visited the sourthern provinces to coordinate the military operations in a bid to improve the situation of the southern provinces, specifically the southern Helmand province.

He said the Minister of Interior has instructed the Afghan police forces to use all force to suppress the insurgency activities of the Taliban militants.

khaama.com/1167-militants-killed-since-the-start-of-shafaq-operations-sediqi-says-01046

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Southeast Asia

Islamic States’s child fighters video is worrying, say experts

24 MAY, 2016

SINGAPORE: Terror experts say the latest propaganda video by the Islamic State (IS) showing child fighters from Malaysia and Indonesia firing guns, burning passports and denouncing their citizenships is very disturbing.

Government officials are equally concerned about the IS threat and its intentions in the region.

TODAY reported Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen as writing on Facebook: “Many of them (the children) should be in school getting a proper education to ensure a bright future.

“Instead they spend their days in training camps, indoctrinated to hate their fellow countrymen in Malaysia and Indonesia, burn their passports as a sign of their allegiance to terror groups like Isis (IS), and drilled to kill innocent lives.”

The report quoted Dr Ng as describing the clip – which named Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand as countries which “created trouble” and “damaged” Islamic beliefs – as the first IS video that targeted South-east Asia explicitly. He expects more to come.

The video, titled The Generation of Epic Battles, was released by IS last week.

Narrated in Arabic with subtitles in Bahasa Indonesia, it shows crowds of children clad in combat uniform and headscarves firing weapons and undergoing drills. They are also told to wrestle with one another. Individual children pledge to wage jihad against those who have “changed the laws of God”.

Malaysian Zainuri Kamaruddin, who leads the Malay-speaking IS arm Katibah Nusantara and is wanted by the Malaysian authorities, is also featured in the video. He leads the child fighters in tossing their passports into a bonfire.

Speaking in Malay, he says the “cubs of the caliphate” are preparing themselves to “become the fighters of tomorrow”.

He adds: “To all the governments of Indonesia and Malaysia, we are not your citizens and we rid ourselves of your passport. But know that we will come back with the strength of a mighty force that you cannot fathom, that you cannot defeat. We will now burn these passports as a symbol of our liberation.”

TODAY quoted Nur Diyanah Anwar, a research analyst at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies’ (RSIS) Centre of Excellence for National Security, as saying there had been a recent surge in propaganda materials from IS that had been translated into regional languages such as Malay and Bahasa Indonesia.

“It is clear that IS is placing great focus on Southeast Asia,” she said.

Videos centered on children were a timely reminder that IS operated a “multigenerational campaign” that targeted everyone in society, including children and women, Professor Rohan Gunaratna, who heads the RSIS International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, was quoted as saying.

National University of Singapore political scientist Bilveer Singh was quoted by TODAY as saying the act of burning passports was symbolic of IS followers severing ties with their home countries.

freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2016/05/24/islamic-statess-child-fighters-video-is-worrying-say-experts/

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Malaysian police keeping close tabs on militant leader

24 MAY, 2016

Malaysian police are keeping close tabs on militant leader Zainuri Kamaruddin, who is reportedly leading dozens of Malaysian and Indonesian Islamic State (Isis) fighters in Syria and is in a video claiming that the terror group has declared war on Malaysia.

“We know where he is and are monitoring his movements,” Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told the Malaysian media yesterday.

According to the purported Isis propaganda video, Mr Zainuri declared that he and those under him were part of a “righteous army” and that Isis fighters will one day bring the fight to Malaysia and Indonesia.

Mr Zainuri is well-known among Malaysian police. He was formerly a leader with the now defunct Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia, a terror group with links to the Taliban and was fighting to create an Islamic state comprising Malaysia, Indonesia and the Southern Philippines.

According to the New Straits Times, he had been jailed previously for possession of firearms and explosives. He left Malaysia for Syria in April 2014 to join Isis.

Mr Zahid said yesterday that the Malaysian authorities will continue to monitor the movement of suspected militants whether they are within the country or abroad.

“The existing laws such as the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 will ensure that those involved in terrorism do not get away scot-free,” he said in reference to the legislation, which deals with national security and public safety.

He also said the federal police Special Branch Counter Terrorism Unit will also monitor social media for postings related to terrorism.

The Malaysian authorities have been on high security alert after several militants launched an attack in Jakarta on Jan 14, and the police have foiled plans by individuals aiming to blow up strategic targets across the country.

Since January last year, Malaysia has arrested at least 160 people on suspicion of being involved in militant activities.

todayonline.com/world/malaysian-police-keeping-close-tabs-militant-leader

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Australian Muslims Explore Indonesia

24 MAY, 2016

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - A delegation of five young Australian Muslims are travelling around Java to experience firsthand Indonesia's religious tolerance and diversity, the Australian Embassy here said on its official website.

The five participants of the Muslim Exchange program reflect Australia's multicultural diversity and include two men and three women from Melbourne and Sydney who work in refugee advocacy, community development and youth services.

During the two-week program (May 16-28, 2016), the group will meet Islamic organisations, community leaders, pesantren, academics and the media in Jakarta, Bandung and Yogyakarta.

Their program includes cultural and interfaith experiences such as attending Waisak celebrations at Borobudur Temple, visiting a Catholic Cathedral and Hindu Temple, as well as visiting Rumah Cemara, an organisation that supports people living with HIV/AIDS.

The program will allow the group to gain a better understanding of the role of religion in Indonesia and have the chance to share their views about how Islam contributes to diverse, democratic and tolerant societies such as Australia and Indonesia.

This year, ten Indonesian Muslim delegates have made a reciprocal visit to Australia as part of the program. They were selected from around 500 applicants.

The Muslim Exchange Program was established in 2002 by the Australia-Indonesia Institute and is organised in partnership with Paramadina University. The Institute, which supports friendship and promotes understanding between Australians and Indonesians through projects in interfaith, education, youth, civil society, media, sport and the arts.

en.tempo.co/read/news/2016/05/24/199773588/Australian-Muslims-Explore-Indonesia

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North America

Last of ISIL’s beheading ‘Beatles’ identified, has Canadian connection

05/24/2016

The last member of the group of British jailers who supervised the torture and killing of Western hostages held by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has been identified as a 27-year-old Londoner who traveled to Syria in 2012.

El Shafee Elsheikh, a British citizen whose family fled Sudan in the 1990s, was one of four jailors dubbed ‘The Beatles’ by their prisoners because of their British accents. The cohort’s most prominent figure was Mohammed Emwazi, better known as “Jihadi John, whose videotaped beheadings of American and British hostages became a global emblem of ISIL’s brutality.

Emwazi, 27, was killed last year in a U.S drone strike in Syria. The other Beatles who have been identified include Alex Kotey, whose whereabouts are unknown, and Aine Davis, who was arrested last year in Turkey.

Former hostages said the Londoners subjected them to repeated beatings, waterboarding and mock executions. A number of Western European hostages were released after their governments paid ransoms. It’s not clear whether Elsheikh is the guard known as Ringo or George, whom the hostages considered the group’s leader and the most vicious of the four.

Elsheikh was identified through a joint Post and BuzzFeed News investigation. His name was confirmed by a former U.S. counterterrorism official and other people familiar with British nationals in Syria, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

The FBI declined to comment.

news.nationalpost.com/news/how-a-british-citizen-became-one-of-the-most-notorious-members-of-isis

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WHY THE U.S. KILLED MULLAH AKHTAR MANSOUR IN PAKISTAN—AND WHY IT MATTERS

5/23/16

PESHAWAR, Pakistan/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama approved the drone strike that killed Mullah Akhtar Mansour because the Taliban leader was overseeing plans for new attacks on American targets in Kabul, the Afghan capital, U.S. officials said on Monday.

While the Taliban have yet to confirm the death of their leader Saturday in a remote area in Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan, senior members of the insurgency's leadership council met to begin choosing Mansour's successor.

Two senior members of the movement also said Pakistani authorities had delivered Mansour's badly burned remains for burial in the western city of Quetta. Pakistani officials, however, denied handing over a body.

U.S. forces targeted Mansour because he was plotting attacks that posed "specific imminent threats" to U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, said Navy Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, later specified that the Taliban were planning new attacks against "our interests and our people in Kabul." He did not elaborate.

But the administration hopes Mansour's death will have a long-term impact by pushing the Taliban to end its refusal to engage in peace negotiations with Kabul and "choose the path to reconciliation," the official said.

He expressed hope that the death of Mansour will convince Pakistan to live up to its "rhetoric" and deny safe haven to the Taliban. American intelligence and military officials have long said the Pakistani military supports elements of the insurgency.

But the Taliban's direction is hard to predict and hinges largely on what happens in the leadership contest and in fighting over the summer season.

Mansour's death cleared "an obstacle to reconciliation," said one U.S. intelligence official, also speaking on condition of anonymity. "But it's not clear if it clears the path for reconciliation."

A second U.S. intelligence official was more pessimistic.

"It’s at least equally likely that killing Mansour will destroy any chance to get the Taliban into negotiations with the (Afghan) government, not that there ever was much of one," said the second official, who specializes in South Asia and also spoke on the condition of anonymity.

"His successor could be even more loathe to negotiate."

NO SHIFT IN U.S. STRATEGY

Obama confirmed Mansour's death while on a three-day visit to Vietnam, calling it "an important milestone."

"The Taliban should seize the opportunity to pursue the only real path for ending this long conflict - joining the Afghan government in a reconciliation process that leads to lasting peace and stability," Obama said.

He stressed that the operation against Mansour was not a shift in U.S. strategy in Afghanistan or a return to active engagement in fighting, following the end of the international coalition's main combat mission in 2014.

The U.S. now has 9,800 troops in Afghanistan, and a decision is expected later this year on whether to stick with a timetable that would see their numbers cut to 5,500 by the start of 2017.

Pentagon spokesman Davis said the drone strike that killed Mansour was carried out under U.S. rules of engagement that permit the military to conduct defensive strikes. He said it was the first time to his knowledge that U.S. forces had attacked inside Pakistan under that rule. Previous strikes there were done under U.S. rules on counterterrorism.

Pakistani authorities have said the attack was a violation of the country's sovereignty, and an official from the foreign ministry told the U.S. ambassador in Islamabad that the attack could "adversely impact" peace talks. U.S. military officials said they had discussed their interest in Mansour with Pakistan.

Reaction from Islamabad was otherwise relatively muted, and a number of questions remained over what happened.

An undamaged Pakistani passport in the name of Wali Muhammad, which Pakistani authorities said contained a visa for Iran, was recovered next to the burned-out car at the scene of the attack and is believed to have belonged to Mansour.

The Taliban have set up a 10-member commission to try to establish how Mansour was targeted by the U.S. drones, sources within the group said.

They said he had crossed into Pakistan from Iran, where he had been holding meetings with Iranian officials and Taliban leaders located there.

According to Taliban officials, the movement has set up offices in Iran, which Mansour used to visit. But the U.S. intelligence officials questioned that account, saying they have seen little credible evidence of close ties between the Sunni Muslim extremist Taliban and Shiite Iran.

A spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry was quoted on state media denying that such an individual had crossed the border from Iran to Pakistan at the time in question.

LEADERSHIP 'VERY CAREFUL'

Although some individual Taliban members have said that Mansour was killed, the group's leadership, keenly aware of the need to limit splits, has not issued its own confirmation, concentrating instead on naming a successor.

"The leadership is being very careful because one wrong step could divide the group into many parties like former mujahideen," said one Taliban official from the eastern province of Nangarhar, referring to guerrilla leaders who fought the Soviets in the 1980s before splitting into warring factions.

Mansour's number two, Sirajuddin Haqqani, leader of the militant network blamed for a series of high-profile attacks in Kabul, and Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, son of the movement's late founder Mullah Mohammad Omar, are among the main contenders.

Yaqoob initially opposed Mansour's claim to the leadership when his father's death was belatedly made public last year. Choosing a member of Mullah Omar's family would be a means of building consensus, but one of the Taliban officials said Yaqoob was reluctant to take over.

Serious divisions emerged last year when it was confirmed that Mullah Omar had been dead for two years, leaving his deputy Mansour in effective charge of the movement and open to accusations he deceived his commanders.

Haqqani had the backing of Pakistan, while Yaqoob had support among members of the Afghan Taliban, one member of the leadership council, or shura, said.

newsweek.com/mullah-akhtar-mansour-obama-pakistan-drones-taliban-462854

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Trump’s America Wouldn’t Have Welcomed This Muslim Military Hero

05/24/2016

Nearly 6,000 members of the U.S. military self-identify as Muslim, according to the Pentagon. Their next commander-in-chief could be a man who has called for a blanket ban on all people of their faith from entering the U.S.

Here, in his own words, is the story of how one immigrant — who happens to be Muslim — joined the U.S. Army, fought overseas, became a citizen, won a Bronze Star, and is now worried about the possibility of raising his children in a country where Donald Trump is president. 

Hanif Sangi and his wife Kanwal live in Elliott City, Maryland, with their three children. Sangi works for the federal government as an engineer.

I came to the United States in 1999 from Pakistan and my first thought was, “How can I serve this great country?” In 2000, as many migrants to this country have done, I joined the United States military. I served in the U.S Army’s 1st Cavalry Division and in the Army’s elite Special Forces.

When I was deployed into harm’s way and my family remained stateside, I was diligent to honor the flag and American values, to preserve our way of life and our constitutional freedoms. America’s enemies were my enemies, and still are.

My jihad (struggle) was to stand up for my faith and the citizens of this great nation.

I am personally offended by those who attempt to further their personal or political agenda by mischaracterizing my religion.

My name is Hanif Sangi, and I am an American, an immigrant, a Muslim, a U.S Army veteran who served in combat, and a recipient of the Bronze Star for heroism.

‘The best decision I ever made.’

Pakistan is a different society. You need to know somebody to get a job. There’s a lot of corruption going on. When I graduated from the prestigious Mehran University of Engineering and Technology in Jamshoro, I had a very hard time finding a job. And I was poor. My father was poor. We didn’t know anybody and we had no money. I decided I needed to go. I needed to leave this country.

We didn’t have cell phones or Internet then, but I was looking at a newspaper and it said that the U.S. green card lottery was the best option.

So I was just having tea together with college friends one day, and I received big packet in mail from the national visa center in D.C. I had never received such a big package before, so I knew it was something that should be exciting. It had a green letter inside.

I started screaming! It said, “Congratulations! You have been randomly selected for the visa lottery” out of millions of people. That was a big big deal for me. I still have that copy in my file, the original envelope and everything.

Coming to the U.S. was the best decision I ever made.

I had never gone anywhere outside of Pakistan. It was my first time here. I arrived in New York and had a connecting flight to LA. Of course it was a new land, a new country, a new language. I’d never had any interaction with Americans except for the visa interview at the embassy. It was a moment of excitement, coming to the land of opportunity. I was very happy, very excited to be here.

There were many opportunities here from Pakistani businessmen offering me the chance to be a manager at one of their stores — but money wasn’t my priority. I needed to serve this country in any capacity I could. I needed to learn the language and integrate into society. That was my first priority. I went online to the army website.

In the army, was given time to go to Friday prayers in boot camp. I was given a meal in the middle of the night and exempted from physical fitness training during Ramadan when I was fasting. I never thought that would happen in the army. I have been blessed, yes.

I was trusted in the military. That’s not gonna happen anywhere in world, I believe. I had a Pakistani passport but I was responsible for all the weapons in my unit. To be Pakistani and have someone trust you with this kind of thing, I believe no other country will trust you or give you the opportunity.

I was at Fort Hood in Texas on Sept. 11. We had morning formation every morning. We were driving to that, as part of duty, and listening to the radio. Then throughout the day, everyone was in shock. We were watching TV all day, looking at these horrible pictures all day.

Because of my cultural knowledge, I reached out to the special forces and offered my services. 

I was a regional expert for South Asia. I trained special forces about the culture, about the religion, about the language in Afghanistan and Pakistan. I worked at the U.S. embassy in Islamabad. I assisted the Pakistani military. I served in Afghanistan with the United States Army’s Special Operations Command, completed two short tours. I was involved in multiple operations where we faced the enemy.

I’m not allowed to go into all the details of why I received the Bronze Star for heroism. It was for a special ops detail, a supporting task force, and part of the global war on terrorism team. It was a combat role.

I got my citizenship in 2003 while in the military. A judge held the ceremony in court in San Antonio, Texas. That was a great moment, a very exciting moment. That was the biggest reward for my family. I was looking to sponsor my parents for a green card so they could come and see me and my family. I couldn’t do that as a green card holder, but I could as a U.S. citizen.

I was invited by the White House to President Barack Obama’s first visit to a mosque this February. It was great. We wanted to hear from him. He specifically told everyone, “You are American and Muslim.” Saying that on national media and global media — that the Islamic State and Muslims are not the same — was a big moment for us.

‘Has Mr. Trump put his life in danger to serve this country?’

My parents now come here often. They stay with us, and stay with the kids while we’re at work. When you have Trump telling people, “We will block all Muslims from entering the U.S.,” it would mean I cannot see my dad, I cannot see my mom, even though I served in the military, fought in wars, have a Bronze Star, and now work for the federal government. But I would be unable to meet with my parents because they are Muslim?

We can’t turn on Fox News or our kids will freak out. My son Aariz asked me, “Daddy, Trump just won Florida. He’s getting closer to winning the nomination and chances are increasing for him to be president. He’ll build a wall and kick us out. What are we gonna do?“ I really had no words to reply to him. He may be right. I tell him, “Nothing is going to happen to you.”

We go to the local halal market for groceries and spices and other things. A few weeks ago, somebody vandalized the halal market in Columbia, Maryland, ran a truck into the door at night. So my kids not only hear about Trump, but they also see this kind of thing.

I want to ask Trump: Have you or your children ever done something to serve this country? Done something so our American people can sleep at night? Have you done anything? Have you gone overseas? Name one contribution that you’ve done except making money for yourself. Have you done anything for the American people you can be proud of? All they have done is gone after the money, and built the buildings. Has Mr. Trump put his life in danger to serve this country?

huffingtonpost.com/entry/muslim-soldier-bronze-star-donald-trump_us_573e0835e4b0646cbeec7524?section=india

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Pakistan

US ‘unclear’ whether drone targeted Mansour in Pakistan

May 24th, 2016

WASHINGTON: United States (US) State Department spokesman Mark Toner in a press briefing on Monday denied having knowledge of where exactly Taliban chief Mullah Mansour was eliminated.

Responding to a question regarding which side of the Pak-Afghan border Mansour was targeted on, the spokesman said: “I don’t have any more clarity of where the actual strike took place. What I can say was in that border region. I just can’t say on which side of the border it was.”

When asked whether he was “doubting the claim from Pakistan that it was in their territory,” Toner said:

“The Pakistani government is able to speak on behalf of itself. I’m not going to doubt its claim. I’m just saying the information that we... are willing to share is that it was in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.”

Toner went on to say the US will continue striking terrorists posing threats to US forces.

“We certainly do respect Pakistan’s territorial integrity, but as we’ve said before, we will carry out strikes to remove terrorists who are actively pursuing and planning and directing attacks against US forces,” Toner said.

Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Mansour was killed in a drone attack near Quetta on Saturday, in what was the US’ first-ever drone strike in Balochistan, which has long been a ‘red line’ for Pakistan.

The Pakistani government has condemned drone strikes all along, terming them a violation of territorial sovereignty, and had already conveyed a set of ‘red lines’ to the US in 2010, specifically mentioning attacks in Balochistan as a no-go.

Toner said the US government will continue to talk to Pakistan about “how we can collaborate and cooperate on rooting out these terrorist organisations... which continue to use Pakistan’s territory to carry out attacks”.

The strike, he said, “sends a clear message that those who target our people and the Afghan people are not going to be given a safe haven”, adding that the Taliban’s ‘only option’ is to “pursue a peaceful resolution to the conflict”.

Political motive to attack?

The question of whether the Taliban will cooperate in peace talks after their leader's killing came up during the briefing, to which Toner said: “I think it presents them with a clear choice.”

But when asked whether the US had a political motive behind influencing the talks, he said the primary reason behind the strike was “removing someone who was actively pursuing, planning, carrying out attacks against US and Afghan forces in the region”.

“There’s ways to engage and identify the fact that you’re willing to engage in a peaceful way. And, frankly, Mansour showed absolutely no predilection towards engaging in any kind of peaceful political process.”

Impact on the Taliban

The Taliban has ‘by no means’ been defeated, Toner said. “If you're going to carry out attacks, if you're going to lead attacks against our forces and against Afghanistan’s forces, then you’re going to be targeted and you’re not going to have safe haven,” he said.

The drone strike, he said, sent the message to the Taliban to decide what their future will be and whether they can be part of “a peaceful political future for Afghanistan”.

“There is a path towards that. They can sit down with the Afghan government and begin negotiations and talks. We’ve encouraged that; we support an Afghan-owned, Afghan-led process.”

dawn.com/news/1260360/us-unclear-whether-drone-targeted-mansour-in-pakistan

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Pakistan summons us envoy over drone strike inside its territory

May 24, 2016

Islamabad: Pakistan on Monday summoned US ambassador David Hale to express concern over the drone strike by American forces in Pakistani territory to kill Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour which it said was a “violation of its sovereignty”.

According to a statement by the Foreign Office, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi pointed out to the US envoy that the drone strike was a “violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and a breach of the UN’s Charter that guarantees the inviolability of the territorial integrity of its member states.”

Mr Fatemi also emphasised that “such actions could adversely impact the ongoing efforts by the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) for facilitating peace talks between the Afghan Government and the Taliban.”

The Special Assistant said that Pakistan and the US had been closely coordinating in the fight against the menace of terrorism and that “this cooperation needed to be maintained”.

Mansour, believed to be in his 50s, was killed when a US drone fired on his vehicle in the southwestern Pakistani province of Baluchistan. He had emerged as the successor to Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar, whose 2013 death was only revealed last summer.

siasat.com/news/pakistan-summons-us-envoy-drone-strike-inside-territory-962297/

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Afghan Taliban chief ‘Mansour’ used Pakistan airports

May 24, 2016

Lahore: Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour, who is believed to have been killed in an air strike by the United States in Balochistan, was reportedly a frequent traveller and is said to have used at least two Pakistani airports for his foreign trips over the past nine years.

According to Dawn, Mansour was coming to Quetta from Taftan when his car came under the drone attack, immediately killing him and his driver.

A passport and a computerised national identity card found near the burnt car bore the name of Muhammad Wali. However, it’s suspected that Mansour carried fake travel papers.

According to an investigation agency official, Wali frequently travelled between Karachi and Dubai, and Iran via the Pakistani border town of Taftan.

He had returned to Taftan from Iran on May 21 and was killed the same day around 3 pm by the US drone in the Kochki area of Nushki district.

The official claimed that Wali was a frequent flyer and 70 per cent of his travel originated from Karachi airport; once he flew from Quetta airport.

He started travelling abroad on Mach 12, 2006, and flew to Dubai from Karachi airport. His last travel on March 31, 2015 was also from Karachi to Dubai.

siasat.com/news/afghan-taliban-chief-mansour-used-pakistan-airports-962194/

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Ramazan package scaled down to Rs1.75bn

May 24th, 2016

ISLAMABAD: The Econo­mic Coordination Commit­tee of the cabinet scaled down on Monday the ‘Ramazan Special Package’ to Rs1.75 billion from the Rs3bn allocated in the federal budget.

According to an official statement, a meeting of the ECC presided over by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar approved Rs1.75bn for providing relief to consumers in the holy month as compared to Rs1.5bn given last year.

This is, however, in contrast to budgetary documents laid before parliament. The ‘budget in brief’ provided to parliamentarians in June last year had put the Special Ramazan Pack­age to be spent through the Utility Stores Corporation at Rs3bn during 2014-15 and set the same amount for 2015-16. Both the amounts were approved by parliament.

The package will cover 22 essential items available at USC outlets.

The meeting was informed that the USC was already providing concession on different items since April 27 which would continue in Ramazan.

The relief on different items would range from Rs4 to Rs50. The USC will provide 5-10 per cent discount on more than 1,000 items through arrangements with vendors or reducing its own profit.

The ECC also approved grant of tax exemption under the Gwadar Port Concession Agreement for Operation and Development of Gwadar Port.

The tax holiday shall be provided to the businesses to be established in the free zone for a period of 23 years.

The meeting okayed allocation of 60MMCFD (million cubic feet per day) of additional gas available from Habib Rahi Limestone Reservoir of Mari Gas to Thermal Power Station Guddu, commonly known as Genco-II.

Water and Power Secretary Younus Dhaga briefed the committee on the latest power supply situation as temperatures rose in the country.

He said that as compared to May last year when power generation was 14,100MW, this year generation had been optimised and taken to 16,300MW in the current month, which was the highest-ever production in the month of May.

The finance minister said the government would make available 10,000 additional megawatts to the people by 2018 as promised by the PML-N in its manifesto.

dawn.com/news/1260351/ramazan-package-scaled-down-to-rs175bn

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NA speaker approves 12-member Panamagate inquiry committee

May 24th, 2016

ISLAMABAD: National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq on Tuesday approved a 12-member parliamentary committee that will draft the terms of reference (ToRs) for the proposed Panamagate inquiry commission.

The committee's first meeting will be on Wednesday.

The committee comprises six government ministers and six opposition lawmakers:

Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar

Ports and Shipping Minister Senator Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo

Defence Minister MNA Khawaja Mohammad Asif

IT Minister MNA Anusha Rehman

Housing and Works Minister MNA Akram Khan Durrani

Railways Minister MNA Saad Rafique

Muttahida Qaumi Movement Senator Barrister Muhammad Ali Saif

PPP Senator Aitzaz Ahsan

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf MNA Shah Mehmood Qureshi

Jamaat-i-Islami MNA Sahibzada Tariqullah

Awami National Party Senator Ilyas Ahmed Bilour

PML-Q MNA Tariq Basheer Cheema

The speaker may replace any member of the committee on the request of the leader of the parliamentary party concerned, a notification issued by the NA Secretariat says.

The committee will consider options for inquiring ino issues raised by the Panama Papers including offshore companies, transfer from Pakistan of funds originating from corruption, commission or kickbacks, and written-off bank loans.

It will also determine the priority level of each of the above. The formulation of ToRs and a timeline for submission will be decided by the committee, which must submit a report to Parliament within two weeks.

Panama Papers

The data from the Panama Papers, available on the website of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists — one of around 100 news organisations and 300 journalists that worked on mining the data simultaneously — has revealed the financial wheelings and dealings of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's family, among dozens of others, including world leaders.

According to documents available on the ICIJ website, the PM’s children Maryam, Hassan and Hussain “were owners or had the right to authorise transactions for several companies”.

Maryam is described as “the owner of British Virgin Islands-based firms Nielsen Enterprises Limited and Nescoll Limited, incorporated in 1994 and 1993”.

On one of the documents released by ICIJ, the address listed for Nielsen Enterprises is Saroor Palace in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The document, dated June 2012, describes Maryam Safdar as the ‘beneficial owner’.

According to ICIJ, “Hussain and Maryam signed a document dated June 2007 that was part of a series of transactions in which Deutsche Bank Geneva lent up to $13.8 million to Nescoll, Nielsen and another company, with their London properties as collateral.”

Hassan Nawaz Sharif is described as “the sole director of Hangon Property Holdings Limited incorporated in the British Virgin Islands in February 2007, which acquired Liberia-based firm Cascon Holdings Establishment Limited for about $11.2 million in August 2007”.

But the papers are not necessarily evidence of wrongdoing. According to The Guardian, using offshore structures is entirely legal.

dawn.com/news/1260377/na-speaker-approves-12-member-panamagate-inquiry-committee

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LG representatives to protest outside Imran’s mansion in Islamabad

May 24th, 2016

PESHAWAR: The local government representatives on Monday announced they would begin a movement, Baldiat Bachao Tehreek, to force the provincial government into giving them funds and powers in line with the relevant laws.

They also said nazims and councillors of different political parties would demonstrate outside the mansion of PTI chairman Imran Khan in Islamabad’s Bani Gala area on June 3.

The announcement was made by Shangla district nazim and general secretary of the All District Nazimeen Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Association Niaz Ahmad Khan during a news conference at the Peshawar Press Club.

Mr. Niaz Ahmad, who is also the son of PML-N leader Amir Muqam, said the hostile provincial government had forced the local government’s elected representatives to come onto the streets to claim due funds and powers.

Complain PTI govt denying them funds and powers

He said district nazims would meet today (Tuesday) in the office of Peshawar district nazim to make a strategy for effective Bani Gala protest.

The nazim said there was visible difference in words and actions of Imran Khan, Chief Minister Pervez Khattak and local government minister Inayatullah Khan otherwise local government representatives would have secured funds under the Provincial Finance Commission.

He said the provincial government falsely claimed to have issued Rs43 billion to districts as actually, Rs13 billion had already been given to MPAs.

Mr. Niaz said the PTI leadership had repeatedly asserted lawmakers would have nothing to do with development funds and would focus their attention on legislation, but the grant of money to them had negated those claims.

He said the government had allocated Rs30 billion for districts but the money was later halved, while the funds for village councillors had also been slashed by 70 per cent.

The nazim also complained the government, in an act of sheer injustice, was issuing equal funds to urban and rural areas without considering the requirements of a district.

He said the provincial government was using the Provincial Financial Commission funds to serve own priorities.

“The chief minister, finance minister and local government minister have allocated two per cent of the total provincial budget for schemes in own districts of Nowshera, Dir lower and Dir upper respectively,” he said.

Mr. Niaz said there was a visible difference in the local government law and the rules of business as the powers to write annual confidential reports of the respective officials had been taken away from district nazims.

He said Imran Khan was trying to take credit for holding local government elections in the province but the fact was that the elections took place in line with an order of the Supreme Court.“We will expose the failure of the PTI government,” he said, asking all elected representatives of local government to join the June 3 Bani Gala protest.

BLACK DAY: The representatives of local governments in Mansehra on Monday announced they would observe the first anniversary of the LG system’s introduction in the province as a black day against the government’s move to transfer their powers to bureaucracy by amending the Local Government Act 2013.

The announcement was made during the Workers Convention in Mansehra city.

The LG representatives of Mansehra, Oghi and Balakot tehsils both men and women attended the event in large numbers.

“We are not as vulnerable as the government is considering and if our powers granted under the Local Government Act 2013 and snatched through amendments to the law and rules of business are not given back, we will besiege the provincial assembly and Chief Minster’s House in Peshawar,” tehsil nazim Khurram Khan told participants.

The nazim, who organised the event, said members of district, tehsil and village and neighbourhood councils in Mansehra would observe the May 30, the first anniversary of the local government elections, as a black day by holding rallies against the government over denial of powers and funds.

“We will soon make the strategy to reclaim rights,” he said.

The nazim also appealed to the Supreme Court to take a suo motu notice of the matter to ensure corrective measure by the government.

District nazim Sardar Said Ghulam, who was also in attendance, said the government should empower the nazims to post and transfer government officials of BPS-16 or below in their respective districts.

“District nazims from across the province are in constant contact. They will meet in Islamabad soon to finalise future course of action to get back the powers granted under the original LG law,” he said.

The convention later adopted a resolution moved by the Safada village council nazim seeking extension of the tenure of the local governments from four to five years, saying a year has been wasted by local bodies for being without funds and rights.

PROTEST IN SWABI: The local government representatives took out a rally from outside the Khas union council premises to the Karnal Sher Khan Chowk to protest the government’s decision to slash their funding.

The protest’s call was given by the All Councillor Association. President of the association, Taj Nawab, who led the rally, said the government should provide adequate funds to local bodies and withdraw the decision to curtail their funding.

He warned if the demands were not met by May 31, LG members would block the Islamabad-Peshawar Motorway and take out rallies.

dawn.com/news/1260294/lg-representatives-to-protest-outside-imrans-mansion-in-islamabad

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Five naval officers given death sentence in Pakistan for attack on dockyard

May 24, 2016

Islamabad: Five navy officers were given the death sentence by a Navy court in Pakistan for planning to hijack a warship and attacking one of the US Navy's refuel ships in 2014.

Sub-Lieutenant Hammad Ahmed and four other officials were convicted of the naval dockyard attack that took place on 6 September, 2014, Dawn online quoted retired Major Saeed Ahmed, father of Ahmed, as saying.

They were charged with having links with the Islamic State group, mutiny, hatching a conspiracy and carrying weapons to the Karachi dockyard, Saeed said.

Saeed claimed that the naval authorities did not provide his son the right to a fair trial.

"I wrote a letter to the Judge Advocate General (JAG) of the navy on 15 August, 2015, asking him to provide the opportunity of a defence counsel to my son," Saeed said.

"The Navy JAG on 21 September replied that the option of defence counsel would be available at the time of trial."

Saeed was waiting for the commencement of the trial but was recently informed that his son was shifted to the Karachi Central Prison.

He came to know about the capital punishment when he met his son and the other four officials -- Irfanullah, Muhammad Hammad, Arsalan Nazeer and Hashim Naseer -- in the prison.

There was no official word by the Pakistan Navy, he said.

"My son told me that a naval court had awarded death penalty to them after a secret trial," Saeed claimed.

He claimed that the five were made scapegoats as this was not the first time when such security lapses came to light.

firstpost.com/world/five-naval-officers-given-death-sentence-in-pakistan-for-attack-on-dockyard-2796216.html

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Africa

Tunisian Islamic Party Re-elects Moderate Leader

MAY 23, 2016

TUNIS — The leader of Tunisia’s main Islamic political party was re-elected on Monday, winning endorsement for his effort to move the party away from its Islamist roots and stay in tune with the country’s five-year-old democratic revolution.

The leader, Rachid Ghannouchi, a renowned Islamic thinker who spent 22 years in exile during Tunisia’s dictatorship, had tears in his eyes Monday as he embraced his rival in the party vote, which he won with 800 of the 1,058 ballots cast.

The vote, a culmination of a three-day party congress here in Tunis, was a victory for Mr. Ghannouchi, 74, and an important turning point for his party, Ennahda, as it seeks to separate the party’s religious and political activities.

“One of the most important changes we came to was the independence of the political mission and the political party from social and cultural activities,” Mr. Ghannouchi told reporters. “We were not able to achieve this cause before because of a lack of clarity.”

He said the party had matured and the country’s new Constitution — guaranteeing freedom of religion, and calling for a separation of politics from civil society — had made a change in the party’s direction possible.

“The Ennahda millstone works slowly,” he said in Arabic. “It makes the cereals smooth, very smooth, after it grinds the corn.”

Inspired by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the party was founded as the Islamic Tendency Movement in 1981, and later renamed Ennahda, or Renaissance. Thousands of its members were imprisoned or exiled under Tunisia’s authoritarian presidents, Habib Bourguiba and Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

Mr. Ghannouchi returned to Tunisia from Britain in the weeks after the popular uprising that ousted Mr. Ben Ali in 2011 and led Ennahda to victory in 2012 in Tunisia’s first democratic elections.

After that victory, the party struggled to govern Tunisia in the tumultuous period following the revolution as secular opposition to the Islamists grew. They were seen by some to condone a surge of Salafist vigilantism in Tunisia, and popular confidence in the party’s leadership waned amid economic difficulties and rising terrorism.

Mr. Ghannouchi reached an agreement in 2013 with the leading secularist politician, Beji Caid Essebsi, for Ennahda to cede power to a caretaker government before new elections.

The agreement helped usher in a new Constitution.

Though Ennahda was beaten in elections in 2014 by Mr. Essebsi’s party, Nidaa Tounes, Mr. Ghannouchi was widely credited with having secured his party a permanent position in Tunisian politics.

Mr. Essebsi went on to win the presidency in December 2014, and he has remained a close ally of Mr. Ghannouchi, who has never held any public office.

The president attended the opening rally of Ennahda’s party congress in Tunis, standing beside Mr. Ghannouchi and urging thousands of Ennahda supporters to participate in building a sovereign modern society.

“Islam is never in contradiction with democracy,” he said to widespread applause.

Ennahda remains a critical element in the political stability of the country, and has emerged once again with the most seats in Parliament after a breakup this year of the secular Nidaa Tounes party.

Mr. Ghannouchi has repeatedly called on his followers to put national stability and security ahead of party interests, but now Ennahda is evidently looking ahead to municipal elections scheduled for May 2017.

Party members overwhelmingly expressed their support for the motion to separate political affairs of the party from religious and cultural activities, albeit with the understanding that Islam remains the party’s ideological foundation.

“Before we were afraid for our identity,” Mohammad Krad, a party member from the island of Djerba, said as he left the rally last Friday. “Now we have a Constitution that says we are Arab and Muslim, so we do not need restate it in our politics.”

More than 1,000 representatives gathered Saturday for two days of vigorous debate at the congress in the beach resort town of Hammamet.

The decision to separate Ennahda’s religious, cultural and social mission from the party’s political activities had been in the works for a year and a half, and passed with more than 80 percent of the party vote, said Rafik Abdessalem, Ennahda’s head of external relations and Mr. Ghannouchi’s son-in-law.

The topic of greatest debate — and the closest vote — was over whether the party’s executive council should be elected by the congress or appointed by Mr. Ghannouchi and confirmed by the congress. Mr. Ghannouchi eventually won that vote, too.

nytimes.com/2016/05/24/world/africa/tunisia-rachid-ghannouchi-ennahda.html

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U.S. right to arm new Libyan government in fight against Islamic State

MAY 24, 2016

After many years in which a mere mention of the North African country evoked images of chaos, bloodshed and chronic disorder, now this: The fate of a troubled and threatened Libya rests with a fledgling government that arrived en masse by boat from Tunisia just six weeks ago. These leaders do not have backing from the majority in parliament, and they are at odds with a rival government in the east that stakes its own claim on the nation’s cash reserves and lucrative oil industry.

The newcomers take on a land of warring tribal militias, a place from which migrants flee by the thousands in the thin hope of finding refuge and prosperity in Europe. But the new regime’s most dire challenge awaits in Sirte, the central coastal city that has become the Libyan headquarters for the Islamic State. The Sunni militant group has metastasized into North Africa from Syria and Iraq, and envisions Libya as its latest hub from which to spread terror to the West.

It’s not easy to muster much confidence for the new, untested administration, led by Prime Minister Fayez Serraj. But for now, the regime represents the best prospect for stable governance, an easing of tensions and most of all, a bulwark against further advancement by Islamic State.

To that end, Secretary of State John Kerry this week announced an accord with 20 other nations that would lay the groundwork to arm and equip the new Libyan regime in its fight against the terror group.As part of the agreement, the U.S.-led coalition will back the new government’s request to the U.N. for an exemption to the current arms embargo enforced on Libya. That would allow Serraj’s forces to obtain from the West arms and equipment it needs to take the fight to the Islamic State’s stronghold along the central coastline. And, the coalition is prepared to provide ample training to the new government’s security forces.Formed with the U.N.’s help in December, Serraj’s government waited in Tunisia while fighting raged on between rival political factions in the capital, Tripoli. The team traveled to Tripoli in late March — by boat because armed groups imposed an air blockade around the capital.The arms agreement is a good first step toward possibly securing a country torn apart by violence and political dysfunction ever since NATO airstrikes helped rebels depose longtime Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

The coalition of nations behind this effort needs to tread carefully as it details how it will ship large amounts of weapons and bullets into the broken nation. The memory of what happened in Iraq remains fresh; there, vast amounts of U.S.-supplied arms and Humvees used by Iraqi security forces ended up in the hands of Islamic State fighters as they seized their biggest prize, the northern city of Mosul, in June 2014.Those arms helped Islamic State militants breach deep into other parts of northern and western Iraq. While they’ve been routed from major strongholds like the western city of Ramadi, the crucial oil city of Bayji and elsewhere, they continue to cling to Mosul.

Libya is a patchwork of competing tribal clans, militias and extremists. There’s always the risk that an infusion of arms will fall into the wrong hands. With Serraj at his side, Kerry said the U.S. and other coalition nations will balance the new regime’s request for arms with “our call to all states to improve the enforcement of the arms embargo itself in order to prevent arms transfers from taking place to people outside of the (new government’s) authority.”

Translation: We’re holding our breath, but if we can keep Islamic State from overrunning Libya …

Even arms shipments will aggravate some critics who want the Obama administration to further disengage from the region, not delve into its rivalries. Yes, this operation will require close monitoring by the West of the new government’s handling of the arms. Equally important will be the proper vetting of Libyan troops being trained to fight the militants. President Barack Obama’s mission to train and equip anti-Assad rebels in Syria failed terribly, in part because recruits were poorly screened. That failure was a major setback for Obama’s troubled strategy in Syria, and he cannot afford a repeat in Libya.

That said, rallying behind Serraj’s newcomers is the right call.

The U.S. and other nations recently have made sizable gains against Islamic State, reclaiming swaths of territory from the group. But as Islamic State loses ground in Syria and Iraq, Libya becomes much more strategically important to its commanders. Now is the time to undercut Islamic State’s presence in Libya.

As risky as it is to bring arms into Libya’s chaos, it’s riskier to do nothing and allow a dysfunctional Libya to become a launchpad for Islamic State attacks on parts of Africa, Europe and beyond.

thonline.com/ap/commentary/article_d42e49d9-b5d4-5375-af68-dddc62d3a10c.html

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Buhari’s Lagos no-show dismays Nigerian business

MAY 24 2016

LAGOS — At least the taxi drivers of Lagos are happy, even if businessmen in Nigeria’s commercial capital are not.

A year after becoming president, Muhammadu Buhari pulled out of his first official visit to Lagos on Monday, averting citywide gridlock but angering business leaders who say the 73-year-old former military ruler is deaf to their plight.

With Africa’s largest economy now contracting, the foreign exchange market frozen by red tape and a new Niger Delta insurgency sending oil output to a 20-year low, it is a plight that gets worse by the day.

Yet businessmen say Buhari, who swept to power in an election a year ago, remains oblivious and continues to sacrifice short-term growth in pursuit of his long-term dream of overhauling the way Africa’s most populous nation works.

To many, sending Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, a Lagos commercial lawyer, to the meeting in his place — despite thousands of posters welcoming "the People’s President to No1 Africa’s mega city" — is another sign of his disdain.

"It is rather unfortunate that the federal government would raise the expectations of the people... only to cancel the presidential showing, seemingly with no obvious cogent reasons being given," said Yemi Adeleke, director of World Trade Center, a trade and investment agency.

Buhari’s spokesman Garba Shehu said the president, who is based in the capital, Abuja, was forced to postpone his visit after being "faced with scheduling difficulties". Buhari will visit the port city after the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan which ends at the start of July, he added.

Foremost among private sector complaints are foreign exchange curbs initially introduced to protect currency reserves hammered by the decline in the price of oil, but which are now a pillar of Buhari’s vision of a transformed economy.

Shock

In order to keep the naira at 197 to the dollar, the central bank has scuppered the interbank foreign exchange market, blocking access to dollars for anybody not armed with a valid overseas invoice.

Buhari argues that this is about ending speculation, as well as a decades-long cycle of devaluations that has hit ordinary Nigerians in the form of high inflation and discouraged the investment needed to build a serious domestic factory sector.

"It is extraordinarily frustrating for those of us in the business community who supported him that he has chosen to be intransigent about something it seems as if he doesn’t really understand," said Timi Soleye, president of CRYO Gas and Power.

Critics, including the International Monetary Fund, point to a currency trading at almost half its official value on the black market, fuelling expectations of a devaluation that are now so widespread that investment has dried up.

This view received support on Friday, when the National Bureau of Statistics revealed the economy shrank 0.4% in the first quarter, with industry and manufacturing shrinking 5.5% and 7% respectively.

"It is now clear that the adverse effects of the oil price shock have filtered through to the demand side of the economy, and we maintain our view that Abuja’s current policy framework only serves to exacerbate the oil shock," Cape Town-based NKC African Economists said.

"The economy might still find itself on a slightly firmer footing towards year-end, but this will largely depend on Abuja abandoning some of its unconventional economic policies."

"Command and control"

Vice President Osinbajo hinted at changes when he called this month for a "substantial" review of foreign exchange policy, but there are few signs of this filtering down to the Central Bank of Nigeria, which announces its latest monetary policy decision on Tuesday.

Over the last year, Governor Godwin Emefiele’s speeches have chimed closely with Buhari’s views on the economy and currency, and this month the bank explicitly denied an online media report of an imminent devaluation to 290 to the dollar.

One-month deliverable forwards — essentially a view on the currency one month out — hit 245 to the dollar on May 16 after the devaluation report, but have retraced to 224 this week, reflecting a more sober analysis of the chances of a weaker naira.

All but one of 12 analysts polled by Reuters this month said the currency would be devalued, with a median expectation of a 15% weakening — although many were reluctant to be pinned down on the timing.

Analysts also say Buhari’s actions now closely mirror his behaviour as a military ruler in the early 1980s.

Besides sending in soldiers with bullwhips to bring order to chaotic queues at bus-stops, he tried to stimulate domestic manufacturing by banning imports and rebuffed IMF pressure to devalue the currency.

Still locked in a military mindset — he came to power in a coup and left via the same route — diplomats say he is unlikely to respond in a conventional manner to public or political criticism.

"Buhari doesn’t do politics. He does command and control," said one Abuja-based diplomat. "And so far it’s working."

bdlive.co.za/africa/africanbusiness/2016/05/24/buharis-lagos-no-show-dismays-nigerian-business

 

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