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Islamic World News ( 15 Apr 2022, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Coexistence And Brotherhood: Gujarat Temple Invites 100 Muslims to Break Ramzan Fast, Offer Maghrib Namaz

New Age Islam News Bureau

15 April 2022


Photo: The Munsif Daily


• Celebration Of Anniversaries, Birthdays Not Prohibited In The Qur’an or In The Traditions: Saudi Scholar

• 'Hijab Row' in Bangladesh: Hindu Teacher Accused of Making Student Remove Niqab

• Indonesia's New Sexual Violence Law Recognises Men And Children As Survivors Amid Growing Cases

• Daesh/ISIS 'Beatle' El Shafee Elsheikh Found Guilty On All Counts In US Court



• MNS Leader, Irfan Shaikh Quits Over Raj Thackeray's Pitch For Removal Of Loudspeakers From Mosques

• Madhya Pradesh: Muslim Ex-Cop Thrashed By Police In Riot-Hit Khargone

• Hindutva goon attacks Muslim youth after watching Kashmir Files

• Mumbai: Mira Road Mosque To Lead The Way, Lower Decibel For Azaan

• Hindu Carpenter Takes Up Carving Work For Mosque

• CPM Leader Cries Love Jihad, Kerala Court Disagrees

• No hate words at 'Hindu Vahini' event, cops tell Supreme Court

• 4 LeT terrorists shot; 3 jawans die in accident

• Ban on Islamic preacher Zakir Naik’s foundation upheld by tribunal


Arab World

• Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, China’s President Xi Jinping Discuss Partnership Growth

• Israeli air strikes target sites in Syria’s Damascus countryside: State TV

• US-backed Kurds tighten siege of Syrian army-run enclaves in northeast

• Saudi Arabia, US extend research and science collaboration for 10 more years

• Turkish intelligence nabs PKK terrorist in northern Iraq

• Saudi Arabia condemns sexual violence ‘in all circumstances’: UN envoy


South Asia

• Taliban Bans Wearing Neckties in Schools

• Taliban Denies US Report over Violation of Human Rights

• Taliban takeover disrupted private sector business in Afghanistan

• Taliban hopes to create jobs in Afghanistan with development projects


Southeast Asia

• Suhakam inquiry finds enforced disappearance of pastor, wife ‘involuntary’ but no evidence to show by ‘agents of the state’

• Nurul Izzah: lack of confidence or plotting a new strategy?

• Sarawak churches prepared to welcome congregants this Holy Week, says Association of Churches chairman


North America

• US to Give Russian Helicopters to Ukraine, Originally Procured for Afghanistan

• US denies deal to unfreeze $7B in Iranian funds for prisoner release

• US-based think tank survey reveals perception of EU with Turkish public

• Muslim men say they alarmed police after seeing New York shooter a block away



• Anti-Muslim Danish Politician Rasmus Paludan Planned A Demonstration That Include Burning The Qur’an; Three Police Hurt In Riot

• British teacher jailed in UK for sexually abusing students in UAE

• France's Council of State delays verdict on Pessac Mosque closure

• Azerbaijan, Albania must work to increase trade turnover: Azerbaijani president



• Imran Khan: Pakistan 'Nukes Not Safe' Under Shehbaz Sharif Govt

• ‘Will Always Put Pakistan As A Priority In Our Neighbourhood Diplomacy': China To PM Sharif

• Time has come to hold past government accountable, says Maryam Nawaz

• As Shehbaz Sharif shortlists his Cabinet, Pakistan Army downplays 'foreign conspiracy' angle

• Sense of relief marks opposition’s reaction to ISPR presser

• Two PML-N MPAs held in army officer’s torture case

• Pakistan: Balochistan Governor resigns after Imran Khan-led govt's ouster

• PML-N leader says Nawaz Sharif may return to Pakistan before elections



• Clashes At Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque As Religious Festivals Overlap

• Top Diplomat: Iran Supports Formation of Inclusive Gov't in Afghanistan

• Hamas, Islamic Jihad finance 'resistance' dramas for Ramadan

• Ramadan becomes political battleground in Turkey

• IRGC Qods Force Commander: Zionist Regime Too Little to Confront Iran

• FM: Baghdad Not to Allow Threats Pose to Iran from Iraq

• Israel arrests Palestinian accused of ISIS-inspired knife murders

• Iran urges Iraq against hosting ‘disruptive security presence’



• Lagos APC Fetes Orphans At Easter, Ramadan, Preaches Peace

• Tunisia will raise local fuel prices every month this year

• France’s Le Drian says cooperation with Algeria ‘indispensable’ after crisis

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Coexistence And Brotherhood: Gujarat Temple Invites 100 Muslims to Break Ramzan Fast, Offer Maghrib Namaz


Photo: The Munsif Daily


15th April 2022 

New Delhi: At the 1,200-year-old Varanda Vir Maharaj Mandir in the Dalvana village of Gujarat’s Banaskantha district, Muslim Rozedaars were, for the first time, invited to break their Ramzan fast and offer Maghrib Namaz on April 9.

As many as 100 Muslim residents of the village were invited to the historic temple. Pankaj Thakar, the 55-year-old priest of the temple, said that the people of the village have always believed in coexistence and brotherhood and that, when the dates of Hindu and Muslim festivals overlap (which they often do), villagers of both religions help in each.

According to Thakar, the temple trust and the gam panchayat jointly decided to invite the Muslim residents of the town to the temple this year.

“We arranged for five to six types of fruits, dates and sherbet for over 100 Muslim Rozedaars of our village. I personally welcomed the Maulana sahib of our local mosque,” the Indian Express quoted Thakar as saying.

Another resident of the village, 35-year-old Wasim Khan, echoed Thakar’s sentiment of communal harmony having long-since prevailed in the village. He noted that the Muslim community of Dalvana has worked “shoulder to shoulder” with their “Hindu brothers” in Hindu festivals in the past and said that the gram sabha’s proposal for Muslims to be invited to break their fast at the temple was an “emotional moment” for the community.

The event comes against the backdrop of a surge in reported incidents of communal violence and disharmony across the country, be it the multiple incidents of violence against Muslims on Ram Navami or calls for the socioeconomic boycott of Muslims.

Jignesh Mevani, the MLA from Vadgam, the taluka under which Dalvana falls, acknowledged the charged communal atmosphere of the country, while speaking to the Express. However, he noted that hearing stories, such as this one from the Varanda Vir Maharaj temple, inspire hope for the future.

A similar display of communal harmony took place earlier this month at the Chathangadu Sree Maha Vishnu Temple in Vaniyannur in Kerala’s Malappuram district. The temple organised a mass iftar as part of its annual installation day celebrations, which was attended by over 200 Muslim men, women and children.

As was the case in Dalvana, the temple authorities highlighted the support the Muslim community provides in organising Hindu festivals. Since many from the local Muslim community were unable to take part in the temple’s annual feast held earlier due to Ramzan, the temple authorities decided to hold another for them.

Source: The Wire

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Celebration Of Anniversaries, Birthdays Not Prohibited In The Qur’an or In The Traditions: Saudi Scholar


Dr. Qais Bin Muhammad Al-Sheikh Mubarak


April 15, 2022

RIYADH — Dr. Qais Bin Muhammad Al-Sheikh Mubarak, a former member of Saudi Arabia’s Council of Senior Scholars, has said that there is nothing wrong with a Muslim celebrating any festive occasion such as the birthday of himself or his loved ones.

Similar is the case with the celebration of anniversaries, the occasions of one’s achievements or the achievements of children, obtaining a degree or graduation from university, or other occasions, he said.

According to Al-Mubarak, the basic thing in the above celebrations is that there is permissibility and not a prohibition on the basis of any religious text. He considers the above occasions as part of traditions and customs and they have nothing to do with religious taboos. They are not included among those things that are prohibited through a religious text either in the Qur’an or in the Traditions (hadith) of the Prophet (peace be upon him).

Al-Mubarak pointed out that these do not include in the category of religious rituals where it is not permissible to add or remove anything. This is based on the saying of the Prophet: “Whoever innovates something in this matter of ours (Islam) that is not part of it, will have it rejected.” Therefore, scholars have unanimously agreed to forbid a new ritual of worship that is in excess of the worship stipulated in the Holy Qur’an and the Prophet’s Sunnah, such as adding a sixth obligatory prayer to the five daily prayers, Al-Mubarak said.

He emphasized that there is nothing wrong in taking advantage of any occasions such as the occasions of the Prophet’s Migration (Hijrah) or other occasions for a reminder, direction and guidance for Muslims in their day-to-day life.

Source: Saudi Gazette

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'Hijab Row' in Bangladesh: Hindu Teacher Accused of Making Student Remove Niqab


Representative image of students in Bangladesh. Photo: Scott Wallace/World Bank


Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty

15 Apr 2022

New Delhi: In what seems to be a direct repercussion of the recent hijab row in India on minority Hindus in Bangladesh, a Bengali Hindu teacher in the Sylhet district has been accused of asking a student to remove her niqab (veli) – and thereby commit ‘defamation of Islam’.

According to an April 14 report by Dhaka Tribune, the Hindu teacher employed at the Bhadreswar Nasir Uddin High School and College in Golapganj upazila of Sylhet has been in hiding “for the last one month after being framed in a smear campaign” that started on Facebook. The veil is part of the uniform of the school.

The recent hijab row in Karnataka, ignited in an organised fashion by the Sangh parivar outfits, which also led to a high court order asking Muslim girls and teachers in schools of that state to remove their religious veils and follow the school uniform, has created a ripple across the Muslim world. News reports have also been filed on a video clip purportedly by the terrorist group Al Qaeda chief Ayman Al Zawahiri praising the Muslim college student Muskaan Khan for defending hijab in front of a crowd of right wing hooligans opposing Muslim girls wearing veils to the classes. Muskaan’s father, had, however, termed that praise by Zawahiri “wrong”, stating that he and his family have been residing in India peacefully.

Since March, coinciding with the Karnataka high court order, not just Das but several Bengali Hindu teachers across Bangladesh have been facing “hijab controversies” including assaults on them “on false charges of flogging girls for wearing the hijab”. Some Hindu teachers have been forced to even tender their resignations as per instructions of the school committees.

This is not the first time that the Sangh parivar’s anti-Muslim actions in India have created a swell effect on the Islamic forces in Bangladesh, thereby pushing Bengali Hindus to face the brunt of it. Ameena Mohsin of Dhaka University, in the book Minority Identities and Nation-State, had highlighted that the Hindus had felt most insecure following the Sangh parivar’s campaign against the Babri Masjid in the 1990s.

“For the first time since the independence of Bangladesh in 1971 anti-Hindu riots took place on a national scale first in 1990, then in 1992. In December 1992, reprisals took the form of attacking temples and premises and properties surrounding them as well as puja mandaps all over the country,” Mohsin had pointed out. Those series of riots had forced many Bangladeshi Hindus to flee to India including to Assam through the open border.

Also read: Hijab Ban Verdict Ignores Constitutional Values, Favours ‘Right of Society’ Over the Individual

Though the Narendra Modi government had passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in 2019 to grant them Indian citizenship citing religious persecution, along with some other groups, the move has been widely counted as only a tool to woo Bengali Hindu voters in Bengal, Assam and Tripura to corner their votes in the last few elections. Last week, the Ministry of Home Affairs sought another six months to frame the rules for the implementation of the amendments to the Citizenship Act. This is the fifth time the MHA has asked for such an extension.

According to the Dhaka Tribune report on Das’s case, “The outrage (on social media and among locals against the Hindu teacher) “promoted the authorities (in Golapganj upazila of Sylhet) to form two probe bodies – one under the school governing body and the other by the upazila administration. But the teacher had to flee the area for his safety.”

The newspaper report said, “Several teachers of the institution told Dhaka Tribune that Sunil Chandra (Das) had been framed by a vested quarter.” Das, who has been the acting principal of the over 100-year-old school since 2015, told the newspaper that he hoped “a proper investigation would reveal the truth”.

As per the report, the incident took place on March 15, the day the schools reopened for physical classes after the COVID-19 shutdown. It was also the day the Karnataka high court order upholding the BJP government’s decision to enforce the school uniform without hijab had come.

That day, the school authorities had held special classes for the senior secondary students to help them catch up with their studies before the exams.

“As the mathematics teacher, Amin Uddin, was absent on that day, Sunil Chandra went to take the class. While explaining the importance of oxygen and the use of face masks, he asked the students to take a deep breath. However, a girl objected to remove her niqab to complete the task.

“‘Teachers are like your parents. You can take off the niqab considering me to be your father,’ said Sunil Chandra, according to some students and parents. The girl then accepted the request and took part in the experiment with the class.”

The report further said, “But when she went home and informed her parents about the matter, her mother complained to the governing body president over the phone. On the other hand, her father Abdul Halim posted a status on Facebook seeking justice for the teacher’s treatment of his daughter, sparking outrage among the locals.”

Though the father later updated his Facebook status exonerating the teacher of any wrongdoing after he along with some others teachers visited his house to apologise for any misunderstanding, by then the news had gone viral, triggering fears for Das’s life. “Some people are trying to fish in troubled waters,” a teacher who accompanied Sunil Chandra Das to the students’ home on March 15 evening said.

Union Parishad chairman Shamim Ahmed who headed the five-member probe committee formed by the schools, told Dhaka Tribune, “Some people are making it an issue by mixing lies with truth on Facebook.” On April 10, Ahmed’s team submitted its report to the school authorities but the recommendations are not yet public. School governing body president Masum Chowdhury said that the school is awaiting the findings of the other report.

The newspaper had categorically stated that the recent hijab controversies across Bangladesh had gained a momentum since March, adding, “Such allegations against and assault on Hindu teachers may grow further as a retaliation to the ongoing anti-Muslim campaigns in Karnataka and other states ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).”

Source: The Wire

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Indonesia's New Sexual Violence Law Recognises Men And Children As Survivors Amid Growing Cases


Representational image


12th April 2022

JAKARTA: Indonesia's parliament Tuesday approved a far-reaching law setting punishments for sexual violence after being spurred into action by a recent case in which an Islamic boarding school principal raped and impregnated several students.

The legislation had languished for years amid arguments it has a liberal feminist ideology that contravenes religious and cultural values in the world's biggest Muslim-majority nation. The law recognizes men and children can be victims and survivors of sexual violence.

Indonesia's Criminal Code, a legacy of the Dutch colonial era recognizes only rape and lewd crimes committed by men against women and doesn't have provisions for restitution or other remedies for victims and survivors.

Nine forms of sexual violence are recognized in the law: physical and nonphysical sexual harassment, sexual torture, forced contraception, forced sterilization, forced marriage, sexual slavery, sexual exploitation and cyber sexual harassment.

In addition to acknowledging sexual violence as punishable criminal acts, the law has provisions for protection and recovery for the victims. Of the House's nine political parties, only the conservative Muslim-based Prosperous Justice Party, known as PKS, rejected it as they wanted the bill to prohibit extramarital sex and homosexual relations.

"Our rejection is part of our struggle to fight for the prohibition and punishment of perpetrators of adultery and sexual deviations which are ultimately not include in the bill," said Al Muzzamil Yusuf, a legislator from PKS.

The law was passed a week after an Indonesian high court sentenced an Islamic boarding school principal to death for raping at least 13 students over five years and impregnating some of them. Several girls were 11 and 14 years old and were raped over several years, drawing a public outcry over how he wasn't caught earlier.

President Joko Widodo in January appealed to the House of Representatives to speed up deliberation on the sexual violence bill as it has languished in the legislature since 2016 as critics lambasting lawmakers as having "no sense of crisis". "The protection of sexual violence victims should be our common concern which should be urgently addressed," Widodo said.

Under the new law, perpetrators of electronic-based sexual violence could face up to 4 years imprisonment and a 200 million rupiah (USD 13,920) fine, and up to 6 years and a 300 million rupiah (USD 20,880) if it was carried out with the aim of extorting, coercing, and even deceiving victims.

Perpetrators of sexual exploitation face up to 15 years in prison and fine of 1 billion rupiah (USD 69,600). The law also mandates that a trust fund and recovery services to help victims recover be established and regulated by the government.

The bill was initiated by the National Commission on Violence Against Women in 2012, and calls for it to be fast-tracked followed the shocking gang rape and murder of a 13-year-old schoolgirl by 14 drunken men in Bengkulu in 2016.

It soon stalled due to the resistance from PKS and Islamic groups. The latest draft won majority support when provisions on rape and coerced abortions were removed from the bill to avoid overlapping with proposals to amend the Criminal Code.

Government data showed at least 797 children became sexual violence victims in January alone, or 9.13 per cent of the total child victims in 2021 which reached 8,730, rising 25 per cent from 2020. As of 2020, it recorded 45,069 cases of sexual violence against girls and women since the drafting of the bill in 2012.

Source: New Indian Express

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Daesh/ISIS 'Beatle' El Shafee Elsheikh Found Guilty On All Counts In US Court


Alexanda Kotey (left) and El Shafee Elsheikh were captured by Syrian Kurdish forces


Michael Gabriel Hernandez  



El Shafee Elsheikh, a British man, better known as one of the Daesh/ISIS terror group's "Beatles," was reportedly found guilty Thursday on all eight charges by a jury in the US state of Virginia.

Elsheikh faces a sentence of up to life in prison. He was brought to the US in 2020 alongside fellow "Beatle" Alexanda Amon Kotey after Washington vowed not to pursue the death penalty against the men. Kotey pleaded guilty in September.

Kotey and Elsheikh were captured by the US-backed SDF in northern Syria in 2018.

The federal grand jury concluded after four hours of deliberations that Elsheikh was one of the individuals collectively known as the "Beatles" -- so named because of their British accents, despite Elsheikh maintaining that while he was a Daesh/ISIS fighter his case was one of mistaken identity, according to ABC News.

The group to which Elsheikh belonged was well-known for its cruelty and posted brutal videos online that included the beheadings of several captives.

Elsheikh faced four counts of conspiracy and four other charges related to the kidnapping and murders of four Americans: James Foley, Peter Kassig, Kayla Mueller and Steven Sotloff.

Foley, Kassig and Sotloff were beheaded.

The circumstances of Mueller's death remain unclear but she was reportedly forced into marrying and was repeatedly raped by former Daesh/ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Several prisoners formerly held by the "Beatles" testified during Elsheikh's two-week trial and said the men forced them to fight one another until they passed out as well as other cruelties, according to The Associated Press.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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 MNS Leader, Irfan Shaikh Quits Over Raj Thackeray's Pitch For Removal Of Loudspeakers From Mosques

15th April 2022 

MUMBAI: The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena's state secretary Irfan Shaikh on Thursday said he has quit the party in light of party president Raj Thackeray remaining firm on his pitch for removal of high-decibel loudspeakers from mosques.

In a letter to Thackeray, which he shared on Facebook, Shaikh said he was resigning with "a heavy heart".

"Time has come to say 'Jai Maharashtra' (good bye) if the party, which one worked for and considered as everything, takes a hateful stand against the community one comes from," Shaikh said in the post.

When it was formed, the MNS' view was of engaging in casteless politics, he said.

"Rajsaheb Thackeray was a ray of hope. But we got to see and hear something different during the Gudi Padwa rally," Shaikh said, questioning why the MNS felt the need to follow the forces that "play politics of hate".

In the letter, Shaikh said Thackeray became suspicious about azaan and mosques only after 16 years since he was working with the MNS chief.

Shaikh also wondered why Thackeray hadn't spoken on the issue when he was with him.

"Saheb, you may not be wrong from your end. But we are sensing something serious is going to happen. Please accept the resignation I have tendered," he added.

Thackeray had on April 2 made a strong pitch for removing high-decibel loudspeakers from mosques.

Addressing a rally at Shivaji Park, the MNS chief had also said that if such a step was not taken, loudspeakers would be installed outside mosques to play 'Hanuman Chalisa' at higher volume.

Source: New Indian Express

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Madhya Pradesh: Muslim ex-cop thrashed by police in riot-hit Khargone

14th April 2022

Amidst curfew in Madhya Pradesh’s Khargone following communal riots that broke out during the Ram Navami processions in the state, a retired sub-inspector was thrashed by cops after he stepped out to speak to the media and narrate his ordeal.

Following the riots, houses of the accused rioters were bulldozed and accounts of Muslims being beaten brutally up by police personnel have surfaced on social media.

“Yesterday afternoon, a group of journalists and a team of civilians had come here and we’re asking people about their losses (businesses and vehicles of Muslims were burnt and houses of the alleged rioters were bulldozed by the state). They called me too and share your story,” said the man.

“When I stepped out of my house there were policemen standing in the corner of the lane near the Dharmasala located close by. The locals pointed toward me following which a policeman walked up to me and asked me to get back into my house. When I told him that I was also a police officer he asked me to go to hell and charged his lathi at me,” added the white-bearded man, as he put to display his bruised hands and legs.

In another video that surfaced and has been doing rounds on social media, police officers can be seen brutally thrashing Muslim boys found on the streets of Shankar Nagar, Khargone.

Source: Siasat Daily

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Hindutva goon attacks Muslim youth after watching Kashmir Files

14th April 2022

An 18-year-old Muslim youth was attacked by a Hindutva activist Honappa in the Uttar-Kannada district of Karnataka on Wednesday. The victim was identified as Amanullah Irfan.

The accused, Honappa was on his way back home after watching the controversial movie, The Kashmir Files. The offender is said to have attacked Irfan due to the latter’s Muslim identity.

Based on Irfan’s complaint, the Haliyal police registered an FIR under section 307 (attempt to murder) of the Indian Penal Code and arrested Honappa, reported Maktoob Media.

Both Irfan and Honappa are residents of Tergaon village. Following the attack, Irfan was shifted to a government hospital in the Dharwad district. The Kashmir Files, starring Anupam Kher was released on January 11.

The Vivek Agnihotri-directed movie depicts the violence against Kashmiri Pandits in the 1980s. Scholars and critics of the Hindutva ideology have raised questions about the film for stoking anti-Muslim hatred across the country.

Source: Siasat Daily

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Mumbai: Mira Road mosque to lead the way, lower decibel for azaan

Apr 15, 2022

MUMBAI: Amid raging controversy over the use of loudspeakers for azaan, the Jama Masjid Al Shams at Mira Road will soon set an example by reducing the decibel of loudspeakers to "permissible" level.

The mosque's chief trustee and ex-MLC Muzaffar Hussain said on Thursday that engineers are measuring the sound of loudspeakers during azaan five times a day at his mosque, and the decibel level will be set as per norms. He said he will try to fix the noise level at the permissible decibel (for commercial zone) as per Noise Pollution (Control and Regulation) Rules, 2000, and the Supreme Court's guidelines. "The mosque comes under a commercial zone We will fix the decibel level to permissible limits," said Hussain.

Sumaira Abdulali of Awaz Foundation appreciated the move, but said Hussain's interpretation of the rules was wrong. "If the mosque is located in a residential area, the decibel level will be much lower than permissible for a commercial zone," she said.

Source: Times Of India

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Hindu Carpenter Takes Up Carving Work For Mosque

Apr 15, 2022

Mangaluru: Undeterred by campaigns and moves to polarise communities in the state, when the management of Badriya Jumma Masjid in Pakshikere on the outskirts of the city, wanted to renovate the mosque they decided to use the services of a Hindu carpenter.

They engaged Harish Acharya who is credited with introducing the Indo-Islamic style of wooden carvings at the Badriya Jumma Masjid, Majoor Mallar, in Kaup of Udupi district, about four years ago.

KU Mohammed, president of the Masjid, told TOI: “We were impressed by the wooden carvings at the masjid in Kaup and wanted to renovate our mosque near Mangaluru on similar lines.”

Madhya Pradesh: Why an Indian state is demolishing Muslim homes

The people who would destroy his home came early in the morning, remembers 72-year-old Shaikh Mohammad Rafiq.

A soft-drink seller in India's Madhya Pradesh state, Mr Rafiq and his sons had had a long night. "It's Ramadan, so our business usually picks up later in the evening," he said.

So when the police first arrived at their doorstep on Monday morning, they were all asleep. "But when we heard a loud bang, we realised that someone was breaking the shutters of the gate," he said.

Outside, hundreds of officers backed with bulldozers had surrounded his house - located in a small Muslim neighbourhood in Khargone city - fending off anyone who tried to stop them. By the time they were finished, all that was left was rubble, he said.

"We were so frightened that we did not utter a word - just watched in silence as they took apart everything."

Several Muslim homes and shops are being torn down in Madhya Pradesh in the aftermath of communal violence which broke out on 10 April, the day of the Hindu festival of Ram Navami. Social media is flooded with distressing images of big yellow bulldozers ploughing into neighbourhoods, as weeping families stare helplessly.

This has sparked outrage, with critics calling it a thinly veiled attempt to marginalise India's 200 million Muslims by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP party, which is also in power in Madhya Pradesh. The state government has openly put the blame on them: "If Muslims carry out such attacks, then they should not expect justice," Home Minister Narottam Mishra told NDTV news channel.

It has also raised grave concerns about the "flagrant manner" in which these demolitions have been carried out, with experts saying there is no legal justification for doing this. Some have called it an instance of collective punishment against Muslims.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.

"You are disproportionately punishing people of one community without following any due process. This is not just illegal, but it also sets a dangerous precedent," said Ashhar Warsi, a senior lawyer based in the state's Indore city.

"The message is: If you question or challenge us in any way, we will come for you, we will take your homes, your livelihoods and take you down."

The violence first began when large processions of Hindu devotees marched past Muslim neighbourhoods and mosques, playing incendiary music that called for violence against the minority community. At a few places, some Muslims and Hindu marchers are reported to have thrown stones at each other.

Many Muslims have accused the police of then allowing Hindu mobs to attack them. Videos showing frenzied men brandishing swords and desecrating mosques have shocked the country since Sunday.

Shahbaz Khan, 28, alleged that Hindu devotees broke minarets of a local mosque in Sendhwa city - about 85 miles (137km) from Khargone - and chased Muslims with stones.

But the "real horror" came the next day, when authorities "came out of nowhere" and bulldozed his house, he said.

"My wife and sister wept and begged the police to let us take our things - at least let them take the Koran out of the house - but they didn't listen," he said, speaking from the mosque where he's now taking shelter.

"We are left with nothing, but no-one seems to care. Every time we go to the police station, they shoo us away."

The state government says these demolitions are a form of punishment against those who allegedly participated in stone-throwing and arson. "The houses where the stones have come from will be turned into a pile of stones themselves," Mr Mishra said recently.

Legally, however, the move has been justified on the grounds of unauthorised construction - the police claim they are targeting illegal encroachments of people squatting on public land.

Khargone District Collector Anugraha P said "it's a mix of both".

"Finding out culprits one by one is a time-taking process, so we looked at all the areas where rioting took place and demolished all the illegal constructions to teach rioters a lesson," she explained.

But Mr Rafiq said there were no instances of violence in his neighbourhood. "I even have all my property papers to prove it's not illegal," he added. "But the police came out of nowhere, refused to listen to me and snatched my home."

Experts also question this logic - they say that punishing someone for an alleged crime using laws meant for another makes no sense.

"Legality is being used as a cover - these homes were illegal even before the religious processions. You can't choose to act in retaliation because that is defiance of all due processes," political scientist Rahul Verma, says. "The state is showing a vengeful attitude."

Mr Warsi says that while the state has the power to demolish illegal buildings, there are various steps - serving the owner a notice, giving them a chance to reply or make a court application - that need to be followed before that. The police maintain that they served notices to the alleged encroachers, but at least three families the BBC spoke to denied this.

Moreover, there are other provisions under the state law (the Madhya Pradesh Municipal Corporation Act, 1956), like asking the accused to pay a fine, which authorities could use first, Mr Warsi adds.

"Demolition of property is supposed to be the last resort."

But this is not the first time the Madhya Pradesh government of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has used this method as a way of serving justice. The government has demolished homes of rape accused, gangsters and other criminals in the past.

"What we are witnessing is the kind of politics played in Uttar Pradesh - the so called UP model - is now seen in other states," Mr Verma says. "The aim is to appease the BJP's core Hindutva [hardline Hindu nationalism] vote base."

A saffron-robed Hindu nationalist, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has styled himself as a hardline monk on a mission to eliminate crime in his state. His government routinely demolishes homes of alleged criminals - earning him the moniker of "bulldozer baba" or bulldozer monk.

Of late, supporters of Mr Chouhan too have started calling him "bulldozer mama" or bulldozer uncle.

Both states have also introduced a slew of policies that are dubbed anti-Muslim, including legislation against interfaith love and a controversial law that allows government to recover damaged property from protesters.

Source: BBC

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CPM Leader Cries Love Jihad, Kerala Court Disagrees

K.M. Rakesh  


A Kerala court has allowed an interfaith couple to marry, acknowledging they are adults, after the girl’s family lodged a kidnapping complaint and a CPM leader alleged “love jihad”, deeply embarrassing his party.

Groom-to-be M.S. Shejin, a Muslim, is himself a member of CPM youth wing DYFI while Joisna Joseph is a Christian. Her family had, along with other members of the local Christian community at Kodenchery in Kozhikode district, gone to the police after the couple eloped on April 11.

A kidnapping FIR was registered and the couple were summoned to a court in Thamarassery, Kozhikode. Shejin and Joisna told the court and the police they were in love and wanted to live their lives without hindrance.

The court gave the nod for their marriage on Tuesday. The couple have applied to get married under the Special Marriage Act without following either Christian or Muslim rituals. Court approval is not necessary for interfaith marriages, and the matter had come to the court only because of the kidnapping complaint. The couple have clarified that there was never any threat of violence against them.

What was a local issue in Kodenchery, where Christians are a sizeable community, was turned into a state-wide controversy by former MLA and CPM district secretariat member George M. Thomas. He called the alliance an example of “love jihad” — a Right-wing coinage that portrays Muslim men as predators who woo and marry non-Muslim women to convert and radicalise them.

Joisna told reporters her relationship with Shejin had begun a few months ago. “I’m under no pressure to convert. We have an understanding that I shall remain a Christian until my death,” she said.

Thomas’s allegation has put the CPM under tremendous pressure since the party has always maintained that it does not differentiate between people on the ground of religion and has insisted that “love jihad” is a Right-wing myth.

The party’s Kozhikode district secretary, P. Mohanan, on Wednesday claimed Thomas’s use of the term “love jihad” was “a slip of the tongue”.

“He has informed the party that it was a mistake on his part,” Mohanan said.

Mohanan, however, found fault with Shejin for not informing the party about his marriage plans, as all CPM workers are expected to do.

“The party does not see anything unnatural in this marriage, although we feel Shejin should have informed the party,” he said.

Shejin agreed. “The only lapse on my part is that I didn’t inform the party and avoid this unnecessary controversy,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “The local party leadership has assured all support to us.”

Party sources on Thursday told this newspaper the couple had moved to a southern Kerala district where they would stay till the situation calmed down in their hometown.

The CPM local committee held a meeting at Kodenchery on Wednesday to caution party leaders and workers about attempts by the Congress and the BJP to leverage the issue in the future.

The “love jihad” campaign had always been seen as a solely Sangh parivar plank before Bishop Mar Joseph Kallarangatt of Pala Diocese urged Christians last September to protect their youth from “love jihad” and “narcotic jihad”.

“When the goal is to destroy non-Muslims, they use several methods to achieve it. Two such methods are ‘love jihad’ and ‘narcotic jihad’,” the bishop had said, triggering controversy.

On Wednesday, the DYFI launched an online campaign calling the allegation of “love jihad” a “manufactured lie” and describing the controversy surrounding Shejin and Joisna as “unfortunate”.

It congratulated the couple and their “secular marriage” at a time “efforts are on to tighten the grip of religion in every sphere of life including arts and politics”.

Source: Telegraph India

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No hate words at 'Hindu Vahini' event, cops tell Supreme Court

R. Balaji 


Delhi police on Thursday told the Supreme Court the allegation that calls for genocide against Muslims had been sounded at a “Hindu Vahini” event in December had been found “incorrect and absurd” and the matter had been “closed”.

The force, which reports to the Union home ministry, said the video at the heart of the controversy contained no “hate words targeting any particular community” and that the participants at the event had gathered “to save the ethics of their community” and empower their own religion.

A video of the December 19 event that is in the public domain purportedly shows men and women in saffron robes pledging to turn India into a “Hindu Rashtra” and chorusing: “We shall fight; we shall die for and, if necessary, we shall kill.”

Behind them, a wall displays a banner of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, which shares its name with a vigilante group formed two decades ago by current Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath.

Around the same time as the Delhi event, several speakers at a December 17-19 Dharma Sansad in Haridwar had allegedly urged Hindus to pick up weapons against Muslims to establish a “Hindu Rashtra”.

Journalist Qurban Ali and former Allahabad High Court judge Anjana Prakash had moved a joint petition alleging the police in Delhi and Uttarakhand had failed to act following calls for genocide against Muslims at the two events.

On January 12, the bench of Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli had directed the police forces of Delhi and Uttarakhand to file their responses.

On Wednesday, the Uttarakhand government sought time to file a status report on the action taken over the Haridwar event.

Petitioners slammed

On Thursday, the Delhi police appeared to be obliquely accusing the petitioners of “intolerance”.

“Intolerance is as much dangerous to democracy as to the person himself. That the petitioner is trying to draw an incorrect and absurd inference by isolated passages disregarding the main theme and its message,” the sworn affidavit, filed by deputy commissioner of police (Southeast Delhi) Esha Pandey, said.

The police said they had received three complaints against the event, held at an auditorium in Govindpuri.

The first complaint, dated December 25 and lodged by Welfare Party of India president S.Q.R. Illyas, said Suresh Chavhanke, editor-in-chief of the TV channel Sudarshan News, had delivered a hate speech at the event that threatened national integrity.

Three others — Prasant Duvey, Prakhar Dixit and Avan Bansal — lodged a similar complaint on December 27 and later, a man named Faisal Ahmad lodged a third complaint via email, the police said.

All three complaints had been closed on March 24 after an in-depth inquiry, which included evaluating the video and other material evidence, the police said.

“…It was concluded that the alleged speech did not disclose any hate words against a particular community…. No specific words against a particular community or against any community were uttered by the gathering or any other person in that event,” the police said.

Scrutiny of the video revealed “no use of such words which mean or could be interpreted as ‘open calls for genocide of Muslim in order to achieve ethnic cleansing or an open call for murder of an entire community’ in the speech”.

The police said the speech was about empowering one’s religion to prepare itself to face the evils that could endanger its existence, which is not even remotely connected to any call for genocide against people from any particular religion.

“On the examination of the enquiry report, the SHO (station house officer), P.S. (police station) Okhla Industrial Area, concluded that since no cognisable offence was made out, no police action is required into the matter. Hence, no FIR was registered on the basis of the said complaint,” the affidavit said.

It denied the petitioners’ allegation that the police were hand in glove with perpetrators of communal hate as “baseless, imaginary”.

Source: Telegraph India

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4 LeT terrorists shot; 3 jawans die in accident

Apr 15, 2022

SRINAGAR: Four Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists were shot in a cordon-and-search operation by security forces in J&K's Shopian on Thursday before a road accident involving a vehicle ferrying reinforcements to the encounter site inflicted three casualties on the Army too.

The deceased – Subedar Shri Om, Havildar Ram Avtar and sepoy Pawan Gautam — were part of a 44 Rashtriya Rifles team headed from their Chowgam Camp to Badigam village in Zainapora when the Tata Sumo they were in skidded off the road near Kanipora and overturned, a police spokesperson said.

Two of the injured survivors in the accident were shifted to the 92 Base Army Hospital in Srinagar. '

The gunfight between security forces and a group of Lashkar terrorists holed up in Badigam had started in the morning and continued in bursts through the day. While two terrorists were killed in the initial round of action, the rest kept the advancing forces at bay with intermittent firing, officials said.

Two more terrorists were gunned down subsequently as the joint team of the police, Army and CRPF braved a volley of gunfire to cover further ground, officials said. The operation was underway till late evening.

"4 LeT terrorists neutralised in today's encounter. They were active in Shopian and adjacent areas of Pulwama. They were involved in terror crimes, including attacks on migrant labourers," said IGP Vijay Kumar. "A hunt for their associates, including Aijaz of Pulwama, is on. They will be neutralised soon."

Source: Times Of India

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Ban on Islamic preacher Zakir Naik’s foundation upheld by tribunal

Kamaljit Kaur Sandhu

April 15, 2022

A tribunal has upheld the ban on Islamic preacher Zakir Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF). The foundation has been declared an unlawful association by the Ministry of Home Affairs of India.

The Central Government banned the IRF based on the information it received pertaining to the various cases that had been registered against Zakir Naik and other members of the IRF under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code, Information Technology Act and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.

The Central Government found that the IRF, particularly the Founder and President, Zakir Naik, had been encouraging and aiding its followers to promote or attempt to promote, on the grounds of religion, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious communities.

The Centre also observed that despite leaving for Malaysia in 2016, Zakir Naik continued to reach out to his followers, propagate his teachings via videos and posts on social media, promote hatred and ill-will among different religious communities, engage in forcible conversion of youngsters to Islam and had made derogatory statements against the Hindu, Hindu Gods and other religions.

Source: India Today

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Arab World


Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, China’s President Xi Jinping discuss partnership growth

15 April ,2022

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman discussed in a phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping means to enhance the strategic partnership between China and the Kingdom, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Friday.

The two leaders reportedly discussed ways to further the work of the Saudi-Chinese Joint Committee.

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The two sides also “agreed to make more efforts to enhance the partnership and strategic relationship between the two friendly countries,” SPA reported.

The leaders also spoke about the “international situations and issues of common interest,” according to SPA.

Additionally, the Chinese president “praised the Kingdom’s pivotal role in the region” for its efforts to bring peace and stability to Yemen.

The last reported interaction between the two leaders was when Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince sent his condolences to China’s president in memory of victims of the China Eastern Airlines plane crash.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Israeli air strikes target sites in Syria’s Damascus countryside: State TV

15 April ,2022

Israel carried out airstrikes on sites in Syria’s Damascus countryside, state news agency SANA said on Thursday, without reporting any casualties.

“The Israeli enemy launched an aerial assault from the direction of northern occupied Syrian Golan, targeting a number of positions in the western countryside of Damascus,” SANA reported, citing a military source.

The news agency added that air defenses intercepted a number of missiles and there was only material damage with no loss of life.

Explosions were heard in Syria’s capital Damascus, state TV reported earlier.

Source: Al Arabiya

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US-backed Kurds tighten siege of Syrian army-run enclaves in northeast

15 April ,2022

US backed Kurdish-led forces tightened the siege on neighborhoods under the control of the Syrian government in two Kurdish-controlled cities in northeast Syria, officials from both sides said on Thursday.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said they took over about 10 government offices ranging from the local finance, grains and education branches in a zone in the heart of the city of Qamishli.

The grouping of US-backed militias, which is dominated by the Kurdish YPG, also prevented for a sixth consecutive day the entry of wheat and fuel to the other zone in the city of Hasaka under control of Syrian government forces.

Most of the neighborhoods of the two biggest cities in northeastern Syria have been under SDF control since Syrian troops handed control to the Kurds in the early years of the 11-year war to fight mainly Sunni rebels seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

The SDF also closed a highway leading to government-run Qamishli airport, two witnesses said - a crisis that the Kurdish led forces blame on Damascus for besieging the mainly Kurdish inhabited Sheikh Maqsoud district in the northern city of Aleppo since the beginning of the month.

Over 200,000 mainly Kurdish inhabitants live in the area.

Russian-mediated talks failed on Tuesday to defuse the crisis with the YPG insisting that the Syrian army must lift restrictions that have prevented trucks carrying food and wheat to the Aleppo enclave it administers.

“The Syrian regime has been for a while holding back food supplies to Sheikh Maqsoud in an attempt to exert political pressures on the SDF,” said Mohammad Abdul Sattar Ibrahim, a Syrian analyst in touch with Kurdish officials.

Russian forces have, however, consolidated their military foothold in the area where most of Syria’s oil and wheat is produced after Turkish threats prompted the YPG to seek Russia’s help to reinforce frontlines with Turkey-backed rebels.

Syrian officials have accused the SDF of starving people.

“The SDF are preventing entry of wheat, foodstuffs and fuel that are needed to run bakeries and this is adding to the hardship of people in these difficult times,” Ghassan Khalil, the governor of Hasaka told state media.

The YPG and Syrian authorities have for years been tacit allies, with lucrative oil and commercial links between them.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Saudi Arabia, US extend research and science collaboration for 10 more years

15 April ,2022

Saudi Arabia and the US Embassy in Riyadh have signed an agreement that will extend a scientific and technological cooperation agreement between the two countries for an additional 10 years, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Thursday.

The agreement was signed by President Dr. Mounir El-Desouky of King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) and US Chargé d'Affaires Martina Strong.

The amended and extended agreement is expected to improve the research, development, and innovation sector in line with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.

The 10-year cooperation also “contributes to realizing joint goals in research fields for science and technology, and supports partnerships between public and private research institutions to include all spectra of science, engineering and technology,” according to SPA.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Turkish intelligence nabs PKK terrorist in northern Iraq

Ferdi Türkten 


A PKK terrorist was brought to Turkiye after he was nabbed in an operation led by Turkiye's National Intelligence Organization (MIT) in northern Iraq, according to security sources on Thursday.

The MIT initiated efforts to nab the terrorist, Abdulkerim Yilmaz, who has criminal record for aiding the terrorist organization, said the source, who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Saudi Arabia condemns sexual violence ‘in all circumstances’: UN envoy

April 14, 2022

NEW YORK: Saudi Arabia’s representative to the UN has told a high-level Security Council meeting that the Kingdom condemns sexual violence in all circumstances, especially in conflict situations where victims face difficulty accessing legal and justice services.

Mohammed Al-Ateeq said that the world is witnessing an increase in all kinds of crises, and expressed his country’s regret over the victims of multiple forms of sexual violence in conflict areas.

He called on the international community to unite to achieve remedies for victims within their countries’ national systems and bring them full justice.

Al-Ateeq was speaking during a Security Council meeting on women, peace and security that discussed conflict-related sexual violence under the theme “Accountability as prevention — ending cycles of sexual violence in conflict.”

He said: “My country believes in the importance of including the voice of women in vulnerable communities, in all assessments of humanitarian needs, as well as involving them in the design and implementation of humanitarian programs, especially those affected by armed conflicts, in order to reach response plans that meet their actual needs, especially in emergency situations.”

He added: “Our contemporary world is going through many daily accelerating events and successive and overlapping crises, which add a new dimension to the negative impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic on the health, economic and social aspects, and even has clearly affected humanitarian work.”

Al-Ateeq said that these challenges make it imperative for countries to work on developing joint and comprehensive strategies and approaches that strengthen the role of women in responding to these crises, and facilitates their access to services provided to all, particularly women who care for their families, to maintain their ability and resilience.

Based on the important role women play in building societies, the Kingdom follows a specific approach when providing any humanitarian support targeting women and their needs through analyzing UN reports related to women to link them to the humanitarian needs in the affected countries, he said.

The envoy added that Saudi Arabia was keen to communicate with partners in the targeted countries in order to provide humanitarian and relief projects, focusing on alleviating the suffering of women and helping them to live a decent life.

“My country, represented by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, has contributed to supporting and empowering women at the humanitarian and relief level in various sectors of humanitarian work in areas of disaster and armed conflict, through implementing 788 projects in 79 regions around the world that included more than 109 million women beneficiaries, amounting to more than $520 million,” he said.

Al-Ateeq said that all of these projects aimed to contribute to raising women’s participation in the economy and labor force, building women’s economic capacities, and increasing their participation in education and training programs in countries affected by armed conflicts.

He added that these efforts include providing psychological and social services, protection services from the effects of gender-based violence, and legal services for refugee women.

He referred to the report of the secretary-general on sexual violence in conflict situations for January to December 2021, and said the Saudi delegation supported the content regarding the phenomenon of terrorist and armed groups using sexual violence as a means of destabilizing fragile societies, stressing that the continued armament, and the illicit flow of small arms and light weapons, are among the factors that have fueled widespread and systematic conflict-related sexual violence.

Al-Ateeq highlighted the documented violations and acts of sexual violence against women committed by the Iran-backed Houthi militia in their areas of control in Yemen, and reiterated the importance of taking the necessary measures through the Security Council to address sexual violence in conflicts, and to punish its perpetrators.

He called on the international community, specifically donor countries, to increase efforts to respond to crimes of sexual violence in conflict situations, stressing the urgent need for coordination and strengthening the interconnected approach between humanitarian work, development and peace to ensure comprehensive and sustainable development in which women participate as a fundamental pillar.

He also called on countries to strengthen proactive and preventive measures, activate appropriate awareness programs to address the root causes of sexual violence in conflict situations, and strengthen the leadership role of women in political, security and legal institutions as an important step.

Source: Arab News

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South Asia


Taliban Bans Wearing Neckties in Schools

15 Apr 2022

Educational Directorate of Kabul in an official letter said that students and teachers are no longer allowed to wear neckties in schools.

The spokesperson of the Ministry of Education of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan Aziz Ahmad Rayan confirmed the news and added that wearing ties has completely been banned in schools.

In the letter, all schools in Kabul have been asked to closely observe the Islamic hijab for female students and not to allow ties by students and teachers.

This comes as secondary schools for girls across Afghanistan are yet to be reopened while boys are allowed to attend classes of all levels.

The IEA has recently announced that work on reopening girls’ schools has been closer to being finalized and will reopen schools once the scheme is ready.

Source: Khaama Press

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Taliban Denies US Report over Violation of Human Rights

15 Apr 2022

Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan reacted to the recent report of the US State Department over the violation of human rights in Afghanistan and termed it incorrect.

Deputy Minister of Information and Culture and chief spokesperson of the IEA Zabiullah Mujahid in a series of Twitter posts said human rights in Afghanistan were violated at a time when American “occupiers” killed up to 200 people on daily basis in the country.

“Human rights violate when US occupiers killed 200 people in a day and were bombing their homes and raiding women and children. And on a dark night dragged the people into prison, and kept up to 15000 political prisoners.” Reads a Tweet.

Mujahid added that none of the above is taking place now and all legitimate human rights are guaranteed adding worrying about human rights violations is pointless.

In the meantime, Zabiullah Mujahid also denied the report by the New York Times over the killings of security members of the previous Afghan government by the Taliban.

Source: Khaama Press

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Taliban takeover disrupted private sector business in Afghanistan

14 April, 2022

Kabul [Afghanistan], April 14 (ANI): The takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban caused not only political crisis in the country but also uncertainty in business and unemployment.

The private sectors were “hit hard” as the businesses were halted and put to uncertainty, according to the latest survey conducted by the World Bank, reported The Khaama Press.

According to the survey, small enterprises have been hit hardest with about 38 per cent of them ceasing operations, comparing to 25 per cent among medium and 35 per cent among large businesses in the country.

Weighting the gender of business owners, the survey found that Afghan women have been more vulnerable than men, where 42 per cent of businesses owned by women are temporarily closed compared to 26 per cent firms owned by men, reported The Khaama Press.

Including all the other contributing factors, 82 per cent of the business owners who participated in the survey said the decline in consumer demand is the biggest reason for their bankruptcy.

Due to a shortage in sales, private companies have laid off more than half of their employees on average, rising concern about the unemployment rate in the country.

While the Taliban continues to struggle to layout a stable political framework, many private sectors faced a shortage in consumer’s demand, forcing investors to reduce operations and lay off a huge number of employees within the firm, reported The Khaama Press.

“The majority of surveyed businesses reported a drastic decline in consumer demand for their products and services and have been forced to scale back operations, reduce investments, and lay off employees,” the report said.

“Women employees in surveyed businesses faced more severe job losses than men employees – overall, three-quarters of women workers were laid off from surveyed firms since August 2021,” according to the report.

The finding shows Afghan domestic inputs have become more expensive and yet difficult to obtain due to supplier closure and supply chain disruptions, which all lead to price inflation since the beginning of political uncertainty, reported The Khaama Press.

Moreover, the survey pinpointed that access to imported goods have become difficult because of the ongoing border closures, rising value of the foreign currency and increase in goods prices.

Meanwhile, banking in the country had been mostly affected, with the survey suggesting banks have “increased reliance on cash transactions and informal money transfers,” reported The Khaama Press.

Source: The Print

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Taliban hopes to create jobs in Afghanistan with development projects

April 15, 2022

Afghanistan's Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs on Thursday said that efforts are underway to decrease the rate of unemployment in the troubled country by creating employment opportunities through projects including Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI).

Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Mawlavi Makhdoom Abdul Salam Sadat in a meeting with directors of the ministry said that "employment opportunities will be created through projects including TAPI and Qush Tepae Canal projects", Ariana News reported.

"Efforts are underway to decrease the rate of unemployment and create employment opportunities. [I order] directors of the ministry to try honestly to create employment opportunities," said the ministry's statement, according to Ariana News.

This comes after the unemployed rate in the country spiked considerably after the fall of the previous government and the withdrawal of foreign troops in August last year.

"I was a street vendor, but we face a lack of work; we call on the government to provide employment opportunities," Ariana News quoted Muharram, a resident of Kabul as saying.

"I am not optimistic, but the government should pay attention to the poor people," said Gullam Mohammad, another Kabul resident.

The takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban caused not only a political crisis in the country but also uncertainty in business and unemployment.

The private sectors were "hit hard" as the businesses were halted and put to uncertainty, according to the latest survey conducted by the World Bank, reported Khaama Press.

Source: Business Standard

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Southeast Asia


Suhakam inquiry finds enforced disappearance of pastor, wife ‘involuntary’ but no evidence to show by ‘agents of the state’

15 Apr 2022


KUALA LUMPUR, April 15 ― Malaysian pastor Joshua Hilmy and his Indonesian wife Ruth Hilmy who went missing in 2016 were likely victims of an enforced disappearance due to their religious activities, according to the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam).

However, the three-member panel that led the public inquiry said it found no evidence to show that “agents of the state” were involved in the Hilmys' abduction, unlike in the cases of social activist Amri Che Mat and Pastor Raymond Koh, two news portals reported today.

“The enforced disappearance was carried by person or persons unknown with the acquiescence of the Royal Malaysian Police as the agent of the state.

“However, it is the panel's finding and a balance of probability the disappearance of both Joshua and Ruth are involuntary in nature,” former judge Datuk Seri Mohd Hishamudin Md Yunus who led the three-member panel was quoted as saying by Malaysiakini today.

The news portal also reported Hishamudin linking the couple’s enforced disappearance to Joshua’s proselytisation of Christianity to Muslims in Malaysia as well as sensitive posts on social media.

The Suhakam inquiry panel noted that Joshua was born a Muslim but converted to Christianity in Singapore in 2003.

Malaysiakini reported Hishamudin saying three investigating officers (IO) called to testify in the Suhakam inquiry had refused to divulge documents and further information while “the state” had not provided any information about the disappearances and case progress.

Separately, Free Malaysia Today (FMT) quoted Hishamudin as saying that the Hilmys “involuntary disappearance breached the laws of Malaysia” and added that the authorities had not only failed to investigate the case “diligently and seriously” but had even “hampered the progress”.

“According to Ruth’s brother Imam Sitepu’s testimony, he said the IO told him not to report Ruth’s disappearance to the embassy.

“We are of the view that the IO tried to suppress this case from the knowledge of other agencies and the public,” FMT quoted Hishamudin as saying further.

The Hilmys were reported missing on March 6, 2017 but news reports said they were last seen nearly four months earlier on November 30, 2016.

The other two Suhakam commissioners on the inquiry panel were Jerald Joseph and Madeline Berma.

Source: Malay Mail

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Nurul Izzah: lack of confidence or plotting a new strategy?

Ahimsya Karu

April 15, 2022

PETALING JAYA: Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar’s decision to sit out the coming PKR elections has been perceived as a lack of confidence by a political analyst.

Azmi Hassan of Akademi Nusantara said Nurul Izzah probably thought she did not have a good chance of winning if she were to contest in the elections, but he believed she should at least be going for one of the vice-president’s posts.

Azmi said her prospects of climbing up the PKR leadership ladder would be affected, while party members would find it difficult to look up to her as one of the main leaders when Anwar Ibrahim eventually stepps down as president.

“This is the right time for her to at least be in one of the four vice-president’s seats since her father is still the president. Her father’s influence is good for her,” he told FMT.

“It will be a loss for PKR because she is seen as part of the upcoming, new generation of politicians, not just in PKR but in national politics, similar to Rafizi Ramli or Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman.

“It is a loss for the young generation, too, where they want to see new leaders.”

However, Azmi said the former PKR vice-president could be following in the footsteps of Rafizi, who took a step back from politics in December 2019 and announced his return last month.

“When the time is right, she will come back,” he said, adding that she was “likely to strike” when she had a better chance of winning a post.

On April 12, Nurul Izzah confirmed that she would not be contesting in the upcoming PKR elections, despite being widely touted to be one of Rafizi’s running mates for one of the vice-president’s posts.

PKR vice-president Tian Chua believed that most party members and the general public accepted her rationale for staying away from the party elections.

“A leader could always lead and inspire without necessarily holding a position,” he maintained.

There were many different ways to lead, Tian Chua said, adding that Nurul Izzah could remain influential if she maintained constant contact with the grassroots.

James Chin of the University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute believed the “Reformasi princess” had let down the public by not contesting, as many expected her to make a comeback with Rafizi and lead the reform movement.

Source: Free Malaysia Today

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Sarawak churches prepared to welcome congregants this Holy Week, says Association of Churches chairman

15 Apr 2022

KUCHING, April 15 ― Churches across the state are prepared to welcome congregants during Holy Week after a two-year hiatus, says Association of Churches in Sarawak (ACS) chairman Archbishop Simon Poh.

He said since the Unit for Other Religions (Unifor) removed the congregation cap for non-Muslim houses of worship from April 1, Christians have been returning to church especially from Palm Sunday on April 10.

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week with the Last Supper Commemoration on Holy Thursday followed by Good Friday, Easter midnight Vigil and Easter Sunday.

“All churches are committed to comply with the Unifor standard operating procedures (SOPs) issued on April 1.

“We need to be even more vigilant during Good Friday (today) and Easter masses and services and be prepared for maximum capacity as allowed by Unifor.

“To ensure churches are safe environment for worship on Good Friday, Easter and every Sundays, all our churches are maintaining physical distancing, wearing of face masks, use of hand sanitisers, and scanning of MySejahtera as our safety SOPs,” Poh told The Borneo Post when contacted.

He was confident that the congregation was aware of the need to wear face masks and maintain physical distance in public places and houses of worship.

“We trust churchgoers will naturally keep safety habits as part of Christian social responsibility for the common good of society.”

Some churches with large corridors, foyers or porches may add seats with physical distancing to accommodate more churchgoers during Holy Week.

When asked if a large congregation is expected on Good Friday today, Poh said before the pandemic, some 5,000 churchgoers had congregated, packed shoulder-to-shoulder at St Joseph’s Cathedral here.

“But this would not be possible this year with SOPs such as physical distancing in place,” he said, adding that churches will continue live streaming of masses and services for those unable to be at church.

Poh stated that the threat of infection is still high for the elderly and those with comorbidities as we transition to the endemic phase. He said he has received words of gratitude for online masses from those who are bedridden, ill or convalescing.

“We will continue to do live streams for these special groups of people as well as the many Christians who could not be admitted into the church when full capacities are reached and doors have to be closed,” he assured.

Poh reminded those attending masses or services to follow registration guidelines of their respective churches and adhere with Covid-19 safety SOPs while at church.

Source: Malay Mail

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North America


US to Give Russian Helicopters to Ukraine, Originally Procured for Afghanistan

15 Apr 2022

The United States Defense Department announced that they will give an unused stash of Russian helicopters to Ukraine after Afghanistan fell to the Taliban.

The helicopters are part of the package of military equipment being expedited into Ukraine to be used in the war against Russia.

The 11 Mi-17 “Hip” helicopters built in the Republic of Tatarstan were originally bought to strengthen Afghanistan’s army but will now go to Ukraine.

Pentagon in a statement said that the helicopters will augment the five Mi-17 helicopters already sent to Ukraine.

“These 11 Mi-17s had been earmarked for Afghanistan, they are coming out of our stocks, our inventory, we have them, and we didn’t obviously transfer them to Afghanistan. So, we’re now transferring them to Ukraine.” Said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.

It comes as a number of Afghanistan’s helicopters flown out of the country by Afghan pilots following the collapse of the previous Afghan government are yet to be returned by central Asian countries.

Source: Khaama Press

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US denies deal to unfreeze $7B in Iranian funds for prisoner release

Michael Hernandez 



The US denied Iranian claims that a deal has been reached to unfreeze $7 billion in the Islamic Republic's overseas funds.

An Iranian media report said the deal was part of an agreement to secure the release of Iranian-Americans detained in Iran.

State Department spokesman Ned Price acknowledged the existence of talks concerning the prisoners' release, saying they are running in parallel to ongoing nuclear negotiations and the US is approaching both talks "with the utmost urgency."

But Price maintained all US sanctions remain in place "until and unless we're able to achieve a mutual return to compliance with the" 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

"The fact is, unfortunately, we don't have any breakthrough to announce any information relating to our negotiations," he told reporters. "At this stage, neither of these negotiations has been successfully concluded."

Iran said Monday that by week's end it would receive part of its $7 billion in assets currently frozen by South Korea.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said in Tehran that the necessary framework for unblocking the assets has already been identified and agreed upon.

He said a high-level delegation from a regional country will be visiting Tehran this week to finalize the mechanism for unblocking what he called "significant assets," without mentioning South Korea by name.

Tehran has accused Seoul of freezing more than $7 billion in foreign exchange reserves under US pressure.

Iran has more than $100 billion in assets frozen in several countries, including South Korea, Iraq, Japan, Canada and others.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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US-based think tank survey reveals perception of EU with Turkish public

Busra Nur Cakmak  


The perception of the EU among Turks was revealed Thursday in a survey by a US-based think tank.

“Turkey’s public opinion seems to favor the European Union as the closest partner in dealing with international matters,” said The German Marshall Fund (GMF). “The survey demonstrated people believe the EU's effectiveness for solving global problems compared to other countries or group of countries would lead to better results for humanity. However, this opinion is more pronounced in the 18–24 age group compared to the general population.”

Russia’s war on Ukraine also changed the perception of the Turkish public about Russia, it said.

“Turkish citizens have been less likely to perceive Russia as a partner and more likely to see it as a security threat,” after the start of the war, it said.

When asked about Turkiye's two most important partner countries, 47.2% of respondents said Azerbaijan. The number for Azerbaijan was 46.1% in 2021.

Germany was second with 15.4% as opposed to 13.5% in 2021. Russia was third with 13.8%, compared to 18.6% in 2021.

“When asked about the biggest threat as a country or group of countries against Turkiye's national interests, 58.3% of the respondents as opposed to 60.6% in 2021 mentioned the United States, followed by Russia with 31% as opposed to 19% in 2021, and Israel with 29.4% as opposed to 24% in 2021,” it said.

About 63.5% of respondents said the most important role Turkiye could play in the world is being an economically developed country, as opposed to 65.9% in 2021. A total of 37% said being politically strong – that number was 38.8% last year. And 37.8% said being influential on military matters, compared to 30.6% in 2021.

When asked about which country or group of countries Turkiye should cooperate most closely with on international issues, 33.1% preferred EU countries, 5.6% said Russia, 6.8% noted China and 4.7% listed the US.

“24.6% of the respondents as opposed to 15.9% in 2021 wanted Turkiye to act alone.”

“It was observed that acting together with the EU countries on international problems was explicitly preferred more by the respondents in the 18–24 age group. 44.4% of respondents in this age group wanted to cooperate more closely with the EU countries as opposed to 33.1% in the general population,” according to GMF.

Nearly half of respondents said they trust the EU, 48.3% expressed trust in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and 39.4% said they trusted NATO.

Support for Turkiye’s membership in the EU is higher in the 18-24 age group than in the general population, but the public’s confidence in possible EU membership remains low, according to the data, said GMF.

“Support for the political reforms that Turkiye needs to make for visa liberalization is high and is steadily increasing,” said GMF.

“Although there is a clear tendency towards thinking Turkiye and the EU have conflicting foreign policy interests, plurality of the respondents believe Turkiye and the EU have common interests in Ukraine,” it added.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Muslim men say they alarmed police after seeing New York shooter a block away

Mucahit Oktay  



Muslim young men who caught Frank James, the suspect in the New York City subway shooting, came to the police station to testify on Wednesday.

A young man named Mohammad told the press after leaving the police station that they had seen James in Manhattan's East Village neighborhood with his cousin and friend and that they had informed the police just one block away.

"When we saw this guy, we were like between 70 to 80% sure is it him, or not," he said. "So, we called up the picture… on our phones we saw the picture, so we confirmed between three of us: 'Oh that’s the guy, that’s him, 100% sure that’s him.'"

"So, we were ready to call the police. We saw the two guys from the police department pulling up on the street. So we go to them, we told them: 'Oh, he is like one block away, he is over there wearing a cap, carrying his bag.' And we went with them and catch him right away," he added.

Mohammad's cousin stated that they arrived in Manhattan from New Jersey in their vehicles and noticed the suspect on the street by coincidence, but they preferred to inform the police because they were concerned that there might be a gun in the bag he was carrying.

After the subway attacker suspect James was caught, the Muslim young men who came to the 9th Police Station in the nearby region where he was detained left after a short while, and New York police thanked them.

The man suspected of opening fire in a crowded New York City subway car has been taken into custody and charged with a terror-related offense, officials announced on Wednesday.

James was first identified as a person of interest in the wake of Tuesday's attack in Brooklyn. But authorities upgraded his status to suspect on Wednesday.

Authorities said the suspect donned a gas mask before taking two gas canisters from a bag and opening them, filling a subway car with smoke before opening fire.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Anti-Muslim Danish Politician Rasmus Paludan Planned A Demonstration That Include Burning The Qur’an; Three Police Hurt In Riot

14 Apr 2022

Three police officers have been taken to hospital after a riot broke out in a Swedish town where a demonstration that included a Qur’an burning was planned.

Footage from the scene in the city of Linkoping on Sweden’s east coast showed a car burning and dozens of masked people attacking police cars.

“The mood has been aggressive and there have been attacks against police at the scene,” police spokesperson Asa Willsund told broadcaster SVT on Thursday, adding that things had calmed down after police had backed off.

Two of the officers had minor injuries, but the condition of the third was unknown, police said in a statement, adding that two people had been arrested.

The riot started before a planned demonstration by anti-Muslim Danish politician Rasmus Paludan and his party Stram Kurs (Hard Line) that was meant to include a burning of the Muslim holy book, the Qur’an.

While Stram Kurs had been given permission to hold their demonstration in the Skaggetorp neighbourhood – where more than 50% of inhabitants were born abroad – they were not able to start it as police were dealing with the rioters.

“There are masked individuals at the scene that are throwing rocks at police,” a statement from regional police said, without identifying if they were part of the scheduled protest or counter-protesters.

Videos posted on social media showed young men smashing in windows of police cars and shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest).

Source: The Guardian

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British teacher jailed in UK for sexually abusing students in UAE

14 April ,2022

A British pedophile teacher who “thought he could run away from his crimes by returning to the UK” was sentenced on Tuesday to ten years in prison for abusing two students while he worked in the United Arab Emirates.

Paul Shinn, 49, from London, carried out a campaign of grooming and assault over eight years while he was working at a British school in the Gulf state.

The school removed him from his post in March 2019 after learning of the allegations and reported him to the National Crime Agency (NCA).

Shinn returned to the UK where he was arrested the following month.

He was found guilty of five counts of child sexual abuse by a jury at Kingston Crown Court on January 28, 2022, the NCA reported on Thursday.

An investigation showed that the primary school teacher groomed two children from the ages of eight and nine, gaining their trust and encouraging them to spend time with him through the offers of gifts and trips.

He sexually assaulted his victims several times and took indecent photographs of them.

Shinn also reportedly forced them to watch sex scenes from movies before moving on to pornography, and showing them condoms, according to the NCA.

He was charged with six counts of child sexual abuse under section 72 of the Sexual Offences Act, which allows British nationals to be prosecuted in the UK for abuse committed overseas.

Shinn was found guilty of five counts including sexual assault of a child under 13 (2011-2015), two counts of sexual activity with a child (2016-2019), and two counts of causing a child to watch a sexual act (2010-2017).

The jury were unable to reach a decision on the sixth charge - sexual activity with a child over 13.

“Shinn positioned himself as a caring and trustworthy teacher in order to befriend children and their families. He then abused their trust in the most horrific way – through the systemic grooming and sexual assault of these children over a number of years,” Ian Truby from the National Crime Agency said in a statement.

Source: Al Arabiya

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France's Council of State delays verdict on Pessac Mosque closure

Feiza Ben Mohamed 



France’s Council of State has postponed until next week the verdict in the case of the Pessac Mosque in the Gironde department of southwestern France, which is threatened with closure for allegedly conveying a “Salafist ideology.”

More than 100 faithful gathered to show their support to the mosque.

In a statement to Anadolu Agency, defense lawyer Sefen Guez Guez said after a hearing lasting more than two hours that the Council of State said investigations were still ongoing until next week.

“We will certainly have the decision by the end of next week, particularly in the run-up to the second round of the presidential election,” he said.

He said the Interior Ministry is clear and that it is a question of doing everything to prevent Muslims of Pessac from meeting during this holy month of Ramadan while nothing in this case links the mosque to terrorism claims.

In its decree of March 14, the Gironde department argued that the association Rassemblement des Musulmans de Pessac and its president spread messages on the internet and on social networks such as Facebook and relayed writings from third parties “inciting violence, hatred or discrimination,” encouraging “the commission of acts of terrorism” or “advocating such acts.”

Guez Guez said he already won his case before the administrative court of Bordeaux and hopes it will be the same in Paris.

Several supporters who spoke during a rally organized outside the Council of State pointed in particular to the law against separatism which allows the closure of places of worship and the dissolving of associations.

But Guez Guez stressed that the Ministry of the Interior has “no grounds to reproach the mosque of Pessac.”

The pending verdict will set a precedent and a very clear direction, he said.

He called on other structures that could be subject to administrative closures in the future to challenge the decision, saying the verdicts could be in their favor.

In a statement to Anadolu Agency, Abdourahman Ridouane, the leader of the Pessac Mosque, thanked those who turned up to show their support.

He pointed to the consequences of the law against separatism, of which he considers himself a victim and which he described as a “real threat to rights and freedoms.”

The hearing Wednesday morning followed an appeal challenging the suspension of the order closing the place of worship by the administrative court of Bordeaux.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Azerbaijan, Albania must work to increase trade turnover: Azerbaijani president

Ruslan Rehimov 


BAKU, Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan and Albania must work to increase trade turnover, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said Thursday.

Aliyev received Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, who was paying an official visit, according to a statement by the Azerbaijani Presidency.

Touching on trade relations between the two countries, Aliyev said "we must work to increase our trade turnover. The figure is very small, but there is growth potential."

On energy, Aliyev said "Azerbaijan has been a natural gas exporter to Europe for over a year, and Albania has always supported this initiative."

"High-level representatives of your country have always participated in the Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council meetings and contributed significantly to the implementation of this project.

"Today, the importance of the Southern Gas Corridor and particularly the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) seems clearer," he added.

Emphasizing that cooperation in the field of energy has the potential to grow, Aliyev said: "Our representatives are negotiating to have a wider energy cooperation portfolio. Issues such as natural gas, transit, supply and electricity may be an important part of our agenda."

Rama also expressed his pleasure to be in Azerbaijan after the liberation of Azerbaijan's lands from long-standing occupation.

He emphasized that Albania has always supported and will continue to support Azerbaijan.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Imran Khan: Pakistan 'nukes not safe' under Shehbaz Sharif govt

Apr 15, 2022

ISLAMABD: Pakistani army on Thursday rubbished former prime minister Imran Khan's allegations raising doubts over the country's capability to safeguard its nuclear assets.

During a roadshow in Peshawar on Wednesday, Khan who was ousted after the recent no-confidence motion against his government, questioned whether Pakistan's nuclear weapons were safe in the hands of what he called "robbers" and "thieves", referring to the newly elected Shehbaz Sharif regime.

Meanwhile, addressing a press briefing today, major general Babar Iftikhar, the Director-General (DG) of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR)- the media wing of the Pakistan army- dismissed Khan's allegations stating that Pakistan's nuclear assets do not belong to just one individual.

In an incendiary speech on Wednesday night, Imran Khan had said he wanted to ask the country's establishment if the people who were brought to power as part of a "conspiracy" can safeguard the country's nuclear program.

"The conspiracy under which these people were brought to power, I ask my institutions, is our nuclear program which is in their hands, can they protect it?" Khan said.

The former Prime Minister has been claiming that his ouster was part of a foreign conspiracy hatched by the US, which furious over Khan's Moscow visit on the eve of Russia's invasion of Ukraine had sought to remove Imran Khan so that it could "forgive" Pakistan.

Addressing the US, Khan at the Peshawar rally said, "America, we don't need your apology... who are you to forgive us? You are accustomed to these slaves, these Sharifs, these Zardaris."

"Is the nuclear program safe in the hands of these robbers, whose money is outside?" Imran Khan further said.

Addressing the country's institutions again, he said, "Aren't you putting the safety of Pakistanis in the hands of these thieves, have you no fear of God?"

Pakistan army has rubbished Khan's allegations.

"There is no such threat to our nuclear program and we should not bring it up in our political discussions," DG-ISPIR, Gen Iftikhar said.

"Our program is at such a place that our command and control mechanism, asset security is one of the best in international evaluation," he added.

Meanwhile, Imran Khan in a tweet on Thursday thanked all those who attended his Peshawar rally to "reject the US-initiated regime change" in Pakistan.

Source: Times Of India

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‘Will always put Pakistan as a priority in our neighbourhood diplomacy': China to PM Sharif

Apr 14, 2022

BEIJING: China on Thursday told Pakistan's new Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif that it will always put its “all-weather ally” as a priority in its neighbourhood diplomacy as it praised his commitment to promote the $60 billion CPEC initiative.

Shehbaz met Chinese Embassy's Charge d 'affaires Pang Chunxue in his office on Tuesday during which he stated that his government attaches great importance to developing relations with China and is willing to further strengthen bilateral cooperation in agriculture, science and technology, education and poverty alleviation, according to official media reports here.

Shehbaz said that his government will push forward the construction of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) with greater vigour and efficiency and create a "Pakistan speed" to bring more benefits to the two countries.

Commenting on Shehbaz's meeting with the Chinese diplomat, spokesman of China's Foreign Ministry Zhao Lijian told a media briefing here that “we appreciate the positive comments by Prime Minister Shehbaz”.

“China and Pakistan are all-weather strategic cooperation partners and iron-clad brothers. We will as always put Pakistan as a priority of our neighbourhood diplomacy and to support its efforts to realise revitalisation.

“We will continue to work with the new Pakistani administration to have close communication at different levels and add new impetus into our bilateral cooperation and to build CPEC with high standards in a sustained manner,” he said.

The CPEC, containing a host of infrastructure and energy projects, is being laid between China's Xinjiang province and the Gwadar port in Pakistan's Balochistan province.

China is reported to have spent about $28 billion on different projects so far in which thousands of Chinese personnel are working.

India has protested to China as it is being laid through the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Besides the CPEC projects, China has been aiding Pakistan with loans and debt deferments as its “all-weather ally” continues to face a serious economic crisis.

On March 30, then Pakistan's foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, during his visit to China, said that Beijing has agreed to rollover USD 4.5 billion which was maturing last month.

Since his election, Shehbaz highlighted his priority for CPEC projects, which reportedly faced delays under the previous Imran Khan government.

Also, security of thousands of Chinese personnel working in the host of CPEC projects remained a concern for China in view of attacks at different places.

Ahead of his China visit two months ago, Khan had approved a USD 11.6 million in compensation for the families of Chinese engineers who were killed and wounded in a terrorist attack last year at the Dasu Dam hydropower project.

Thirteen people, including nine Chinese, were killed in a bomb attack on a bus carrying Chinese engineers at Dasu hydropower project in Pakistan last year.

Before his visit to Beijing, Khan had also ordered the removal of bureaucratic obstacles delaying CPEC projects to address the criticism of the Chinese investors.

As Khan was set to lose the no-confidence motion moved by the united Opposition led by Shehbaz on April 10, the Chinese official media projected that the “all-weather ties” between the two countries would get better under him than during Khan's government.

China had reservations on Khan as he was a critic of the CPEC when he was in the Opposition though he later became its big admirer after he became Prime Minister.

Commenting on Shehbaz's election, Liu Zongyi, secretary-general of the Research Centre for China-South Asia Cooperation at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, told state-run Global Times earlier that Shehbaz promised to vigorously promote CPEC in a speech after winning the election on Monday.

Shehbaz had previously spoken highly of the CPEC several times, calling it an ambitious blueprint to transform Pakistan into a major emerging economy so that the less developed parts of the country could enjoy the dividends of development, Liu said.

Long Xingchun, a senior research fellow at the Academy of Regional and Global Governance of the Beijing Foreign Studies University, said Shehbaz spoke of the construction of the CPEC in his victory speech, which showed that he intended to safeguard the China-Pakistan friendly cooperation and stabilise Pakistan's economy.

Source: Times Of India

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Time has come to hold past government accountable, says Maryam Nawaz

Apr 14, 2022,

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) Vice-President Maryam Nawaz has said that the time has come to hold the past government accountable.

After the press conference of the Director-General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (DG-ISPR) today, PML-N Vice President criticised Imran Khan and his government and said that each lie of Imran Khan has been exposed today, ARY News reported.

Taking to Twitter, Maryam Nawaz said that Imran Khan has played a dangerous game and also used National Security Committee for his conspiracy drama.

PML-N Vice-President alleged that the previous government had sought establishment to grant National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) and lied before the nation that the Pakistan Army had given him some political options.

"Time has come to hold your every lie accountable. The condemnable attempts to play with national security to stay in power should be held accountable. You should face it now and you should not run away like every time as this nation will not let you do this," according to ARY News citing Maryam Nawaz's tweet.

Earlier in the day, DG-ISPR held a press conference where Director General (DG)-ISPR Babar Iftikhar rejected "foreign conspiracy" allegations of Imran Khan to topple his government, as well as the involvement of the Army in any way in the no-confidence motion.

Referring to Pakistan's National Security Council (NSC) meeting, in which the alleged "threat letter" received from the Pakistani embassy in the US was discussed days before the vote on the no-confidence motion, DG-ISPR Iftikhar said that although the contents of the meeting were confidential, however, the statement that was released after the meeting, nowhere mentioned the term "conspiracy".

"The words used are in front of you ... as I said ... the words used are clear. Is there any word such as conspiracy used in it? I think not," Babar said at a press conference telecasted on Geo News.

He went on to say that Inter Sevices Intelligence (ISI) had done its investigation on the alleged letter when it arrived and thereby gave its inputs to the NSC.

DG-ISPR Babar Iftikhar addressed a multitude of questions on the recent political events and related topics, as well as declared that Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa was not involved in any deal with Imran Khan's Opposition and that he did not seek an extension.

This statement was issued after the 79th Formation Commanders' Conference held at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi.
Source: Times Of India

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As Shehbaz Sharif shortlists his Cabinet, Pakistan Army downplays 'foreign conspiracy' angle

15th April 2022

ISLAMABAD: The newly-elected Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has decided to add 12 National Assembly members of Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and seven members of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) to his federal cabinet, a local media reported citing sources.

PPP member Raja Pervez Ashraf is the candidate for National Assembly Speaker after the Speaker Asad Qaiser decided to resign from his post on late Saturday while someone from Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F (JUI-F) might become the Deputy Speaker as Qasim Suri is currently facing no-confidence motion, Geo News reported citing sources.

PM Sharif became the Prime minister on April 11, following the ouster of Imran Khan through a no-confidence motion, with this Khan became the first PM to be removed through the democratic process.

According to sources, JUI-F will get three ministries and a state minister portfolio while, Muttahida Qaumi Movement - Pakistan (MQM-P) will get the governorship of Sindh, PPP will get Punjab and JUI-F will get Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and BNP-M will get the governorship of Balochistan, Geo News reported.

Meanwhile, PM Sharif has sought the support of MQM-P in the National Assembly (NA) speaker election.

According to Ary News, a meeting was held by Sharif with MQM-P leaders during his visit to Karachi. It was attended by Amir Khan, Aminul Haque, Farogh Naseem, Nasreen Jalil and others.

MQM-P was a key ally of the alliance led by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and its switching sides to the opposition parties led to the fall of the Imran Khan government.

Sharif vowed that the promises made to the MQM-P leaders will be fulfilled. He urged coordinated efforts between the Centre and the province for the development of Sindh. Sharif also assured MQM-P of its inclusion in the consultative process for the development of Sindh.

Sharif thanked the MQM-P for supporting the opposition parties in the no-trust motion against the former premier. He individually thanked the lawmakers who cast their votes in the NA, said the sources.

He also expressed hope that MQM-P would continue to support the government in the upcoming elections for the NA speaker, reported Ary News.

Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, leader of MQM-P and a member of the National Assembly of Pakistan said he hopes for a resolution of issues in Karachi and urban parts of the Sindh.

Pakistan High Court on Thursday ordered the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to decide on the foreign funding case against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) within a month.

The Islamabad High Court Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani directed the ECP to decide the pending complaint within a "period of next 30 days by all means, after hearing the parties in accordance with the law," Dawn newspaper reported.

Justice Kayani said that if PTI received the funding from any prohibited sources then it would affect its status, including the chairman so it becomes important to dig out the truth.

"If any foreign funding has been received contrary to law and mandate of the Constitution, the petitioner has to face the music," the court judgement said.

It pointed out that the Supreme Court had not restricted the ECP in adopting any method to find out the truth regarding the foreign funding case, according to Dawn.

The foreign funding case is pending since November 14, 2014, and it was filed by PTI founding member Akbar S Babar who had alleged that there are some financial irregularities in the PTI's funding from Pakistan and abroad.

On January 4 this year, the ECP's scrutiny committee submitted its report on the PTI's foreign funding case after 95 hearings. The ECP's committee was formed in March 2018.

The report was based on eight volumes of records collected through the State Bank of Pakistan, proved that the PTI leaders had committed the violations of funding laws by allowing the collection of millions of dollars and billions of Pakistani Rupees without any source and details from foreigners, as per reported by Dawn.

Other than this, Justice Kayani also rejected the request to prevent giving access to case records to PTI's Babar and a request to remove him from the case proceedings.

This comes after PTI filed the petition in Islamabad High Court, challenging the ECP's decision of rejecting the above-mentioned plea of the party which was filed on January 25 and 31.

"The claim submitted by the petitioner (PTI) is not maintainable as petitioner itself is not able to demonstrate any of his legitimate rights when [it] itself is in agreement that respondent No 2 (Babar) can participate in the proceedings to the extent of information which he has provided to the scrutiny committee or the ECP, therefore, this petition is not based upon bona fide, rather filed with specific motive, just to stop respondent No 2 Akbar Sher Babar to participate in the proceedings, which has already been settled by this court in the previous proceedings," the court order was quoted as saying by Dawn.

"No restriction could be imposed upon ECP to adopt any process of inquiry, investigation, scrutiny to reach out the mandate of assigned duty in terms of Article 17(3)," the order added.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Army said on Thursday that the word "conspiracy" was not used in a statement issued after a high-level meeting of the National Security Committee convened last month to discuss a controversial letter, which according to then prime minister Imran Khan threatened to topple his government.

Khan, 69, became the first prime minister in Pakistan who was removed through a no-trust vote on April 9 - a move he alleged was the outcome of a 'foreign conspiracy' orchestrated by the US.

In order to prove this, Khan quoted an internal communication by the Pakistan ambassador in the US who in a cable sent to the Foreign Office mentioned his meeting with a US official who allegedly said that Khan was a hurdle in ties with Pakistan.

Khan used a high-level National Security Committee (NSC), attended by the high command of armed forces, to peddle the theory that the letter was authentic and its content approved by the army chief and others.

Military spokesman Major General Babar Iftikhar in a press conference said on Thursday that the word "conspiracy" was not used in the statement issued after the NSC meeting.

"As far as military response about the NSC meeting is considered, that stance in that meeting was fully given, and then a statement was issued, which clearly says what was concluded in that meeting," he said.

"The words used are in front of you, as I said the words used are clear. Is there any word such as conspiracy used in it? I think not," he said.

The spokesman added that the cipher from the Pakistan ambassador to the US was also received by the spy agency ISI and it briefed the NSC based on that cable.

He said that the minutes of the NSC meeting can be declassified if the government decides.

Talking about the demarche issued to the US, Maj Gen Iftikhar said that such protests were launched not just on conspiracies but for many reasons.

"In this case it was given for undiplomatic language and is equal to interference," he said.

The clarification came as Khan has been trying to build a narrative that he was a victim of international conspiracy and his party has demanded a probe by the Supreme Court.

The remarks by the army spokesman may be a setback for Khan and company as he is going around the country to address rallies to force the government to hold fresh elections.

Source: New Indian Express

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Sense of relief marks opposition’s reaction to ISPR presser

Amir Wasim

April 15, 2022

ISLAMABAD: Terming the news conference of the military spokesman a “breath of fresh air for democracy”, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has said that it is the responsibility not only of every institution but also every Pakistani to support democracy, Constitution and the rule of law.

“The parliament, judiciary and establishment’s transition from controversial to constitutional role will not be easy. The answer to all of Pakistanis’ problems is democracy, democracy and more democracy. If we continue on this path, no power on earth can stop Pakistan’s progress,” tweeted Mr Bhutto-Zardari while commenting on the press conference of Director General of Inter-Service Public Relations (ISPR) Major-General Babar Iftikhar here on Thursday.

In his news conference, the DG ISPR declared that the word “conspiracy” had not been used in the statement issued after the March 31 meeting of the National Security Committee.

The military spokesman also said the minutes of the NSC meeting could be declassified if the government decided. He also reiterated the army’s stance that it had nothing to do with politics.

Bilawal sees democracy as answer to all problems; ex-PM sought NRO, says Maryam

In a statement, PPP Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar said that the military spokesman’s press conference had exposed Mr Khan’s false claim and the narrative by categorically stating that the word “conspiracy” had not been mentioned in the statement issued by the NSC meeting and a demand of bases had also not been made by the US.

“Imran Khan blatantly lied that opposition leaders had approached him though the COAS. Today, the DG ISPR has revealed that it was Imran Khan who had approached the army chief for help,” the PPP senator said.

He said Mr Khan should publicly apologise for his lies and attempts to drag security institutions into political matters.

Meanwhile, commenting on Mr Khan’s speech at the Peshawar public meeting on Wednesday, PPP Senator Raza Rabbani said the real conspiracy against Pakistan was the systematic dismantling of institutions functioning under the Constitution.

He said the attack on the judicial organ of the state was unjustified and uncalled for in the circumstances. He said a situation had arisen where constitutional functionaries had been violating the Constitution and the working of the parliament had been paralysed.

Mr Rabbani regretted that the parliament over the past three years had been made redundant as legislation used to be done through ordinances and the parliament was kept in the dark with reference to all major decisions and agreements.

He said that media was also subject to harassment, intimidation, removal from assignments and worst press censorship and the security apparatus was being subjected to ridicule.

Central information secretary of the PPP and MNA Shazia Marri in her separate statement said it was strange that a person who had collected donations from Jews and Indians was talking about the foreign conspiracy behind his ouster.

She said the PTI leaders’ statements against national institutions showed they were working on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s agenda.

Ms Marri said it was the responsibility of the Supreme Court to uphold the Constitution and Mr Khan was deviating from acting upon the Constitution due to which the courts had to be opened late in the night.

She said Mr Khan would be responsible if Pakistanis were expelled from the US and Europe.

Maryam Nawaz

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) vice president Maryam Nawaz through her Twitter account, while addressing Imran Khan, said that today his lies had been exposed.

“You (Imran) played a dangerous game to cling to power. Serious forums like the NSC were used for conspiracy theories. Fake slogan of ‘absolutely not’ was raised for the bases which had never been demanded,” she said in a series of tweets.

Ms Nawaz said that it had been proved that Mr Khan had “pleaded before the establishment for NRO”.

Source: Dawn

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Two PML-N MPAs held in army officer’s torture case

April 15, 2022

LAHORE: The Garden Town police on Thursday arrested PML-N MPAs Khwaja Salman Rafique and Hafiz Nauman a day after their guards tortured an army officer.

The MPAs were arrested when they appeared in the Garden Town police station to join the investigation of the case lodged against four suspected attackers.

Acting CCPO Shahzada Sultan confirmed to Dawn the arrest of the MPAs. He said they visited the police station and offered arrest in the case.

Another police officer said both the MPAs had claimed that they were directed by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to join the police investigation.

There were also reports that the police had mentioned names of the PML-N leaders in the supplementary statement of the complainant of the FIR. The FIR was lodged by retired Maj Mohammad Rashid, the father of Maj Haris who, he alleged, was attacked by the unidentified persons on Ferozepur Road following a minor dispute when the vehicles of both sides collided. He said the suspects tortured his son with iron rods, injured him and fled the scene.

Video clips went viral on social media showing the men hitting the army officer with an iron rod. The clips showed the officer lying unconscious on the road and the suspects abusing him and hurling life threats.

Earlier, the CCPO claimed the attackers were arrested. Mr Sultan told media persons that those arrested were guards of Salman Rafiq who was not present on the occasion.

He said senior police officers had been assigned the task to oversee the investigation. While dispelling impression of any favour to the suspects, he said instructions had been issued to have them punished through court.

Mr Sultan said the clash between the two sides occurred when their vehicles collided. He said the suspects used iron rods and injured the officer. As people gathered there, he said, the attackers fled and police acted swiftly and arrested them.

Salman Rafique told the media that he had condemned the attack and handed over his employees to police shortly after the incident. He said he would visit the house of the injured officer to inquire after him.

In a late night media talk, injured army officer’s lawyer Barrister Mian Ali Ashfaq said the complainant had submitted a supplementary statement to police and demanded an impartial inquiry into the case while determining the role of Khwaja Salman Rafique and Hafiz Nauman.

He said the family had no personal grudge against both MPAs and just wanted to investigate their role in the incident of inhuman torture on the army officer. He said it was the responsibility of the police to get the CCTV footage and have the forensic analysis of the mobile phones of the suspects.

Source: Dawn

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Pakistan: Balochistan Governor resigns after Imran Khan-led govt's ouster

April 14, 2022

After the ouster of Imran Khan as Pakistan's Prime Minister, Balochistan Governor Syed Zahoor Ahmed Agha, who hails from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), on Wednesday resigned from his post, local media reported.

Ahmed submitted his resignation to President Dr Arif Alvi, The Express Tribune reported.

"I would continue to play my role for the development of the country and nation," Agha said in a statement after tendering his resignation.

The outgoing governor belongs to Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

Ahmed was appointed as the Governor on July 7 last year after the resignation of Justice (retd) Amanullah Khan Yaseenzai, The Express Tribune reported.

Meanwhile, despite several attempts by the PTI government to block the no-confidence motion in the National Assembly, Prime Minister Imran Khan was voted out of power as he lost the trust vote mandated by the Supreme Court's ruling.

As many as 174 members voted in favour of the motion in the 342-member House while members of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) were absent during the voting.

Imran Khan has become the first Prime Minister of Pakistan to lose a no-trust vote in the National Assembly. Notably, no Prime Minister has completed a full five-year tenure in Pakistan so far, according to reports.

Source: Business Standard

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PML-N leader says Nawaz Sharif may return to Pakistan before elections

Apr 14, 2022

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) leader Talal Chaudhry on Wednesday said that former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is expected to return to Pakistan before the elections, reported local media.

The cases filed against Nawaz Sharif were politically motivated and some people were imposed as the rulers by using the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), ARY News quoted PML-N leader Talal Chaudhry as saying during its news programme.

Noting the importance of Nawaz Sharif in the party, Chaudhry claimed that the former Prime Minister will lead the campaign in Pakistan whenever the country goes to the polls.

The PML-N leader said that the fresh elections could not be held within the next five to six months, adding that the delay in polls will increase the burden on the party.

Ensuring that collective decisions will be taken in a coalition government, he said that the decision regarding the fresh elections will be taken after consulting the coalition partners, reported the media outlet.

Earlier on Tuesday, Pakistan premier Shehbaz Sharif had directed the interior ministry to issue a diplomatic passport to Nawaz Sharif.

Pakistan embassy in London was directed to issue diplomatic passports to former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and former Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, reported ARY News.

Source: Times Of India

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Clashes at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque as religious festivals overlap

by Guillaume Lavallee

April 15, 2022

Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli police clashed at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound Friday with at least 20 wounded, medics said, in the first face-off in the area since the start of Ramadan.

Israeli police said that before dawn on Friday "dozens of masked men" marched into Al-Aqsa chanting and setting off fireworks before crowds hurled stones towards the Western Wall -- considered the holiest site where Jews can pray.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said so far "20 wounded have been taken to hospitals in Jerusalem in connection with the ongoing clashes", adding that "there are still wounded at the site".

Israeli police said three officers were hurt.

Witnesses said Palestinian protesters threw stones at Israeli security forces, who fired rubber-coated bullets towards some of them.

An AFP photographer said more than 100 Palestinians were seen hurling projectiles towards the Israeli security forces.

The latest clashes come after three tense weeks of deadly violence in Israel and the occupied West Bank, and as the Jewish festival of Passover and Christian Easter overlap with Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting.

Al-Aqsa is Islam's third holiest site. Jews refer to it as the Temple Mount, referencing two temples said to have stood there in antiquity.

The compound is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, falling within Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

- 'Violent riot' -

Israeli police said that on Friday, dozens of masked men "marched into Al-Aqsa mosque at 04:00... chanting inciting messages and setting off fireworks" and collecting "stones, wooden planks and large objects, which were then used in a violent riot".

"Despite these actions, police forces waited until the prayer was over," a statement said.

"Crowds then began to hurl rocks in the direction of the Western Wall... and as the violence surged, police were forced to enter the grounds surrounding the Mosque," it said, adding police "did not enter the mosque."

Before Ramadan began this month, Israel and Jordan, which serves as custodian of holy places in east Jerusalem, stepped up talks in an effort to avoid a repeat of last year's violence.

Last year during the Muslim month of fasting, clashes that flared in Jerusalem, including between Israeli forces and Palestinians visiting Al-Aqsa, led to 11 days of devastating conflict between Israel and the Gaza Strip's Islamist rulers Hamas.

- Spiralling violence -

Israel has poured additional forces into the West Bank and is reinforcing its wall and fence barrier with the occupied territory after four deadly attacks in the Jewish state that have mostly killed civilians in the past three weeks.

Friday's clashes also come as the Jewish festival of Passover and Christian Easter are beginning -- a rare overlap of holy events for the three monotheistic faiths

A total of 14 people have been killed in the attacks since March 22, including a shooting spree in Bnei Brak, an Orthodox Jewish city in greater Tel Aviv, carried out by a Palestinian attacker from Jenin.

Twenty-one Palestinians have been killed in that time, including assailants who targeted Israelis, according to an AFP tally.

On Thursday Israel announced it would block crossings from the West Bank and Gaza Strip into Israel from Friday afternoon through Saturday, the first two nights of the week-long Passover festival, and potentially keep the crossings closed for the rest of the holiday.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has given Israeli forces a free hand to "defeat terror" in the territory which Israel has occupied since the 1967 Six-Day War, warning that there would "not be limits" for the campaign.

Some of the attacks in Israel were carried out by Arab citizens of Israel linked to or inspired by the Islamic State group, others by Palestinians, and cheered by militant groups including Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Source: Al Monitor

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Top Diplomat: Iran Supports Formation of Inclusive Gov't in Afghanistan


Amir Abdollahian made the remarks in a meeting with his Iraqi counterpart Fuad Hussein in Tehran on Wednesday, during which the two sides discussed a range of bilateral and regional issues.

The chief Iranian diplomat further said that he and Hussein discussed the latest developments in Afghanistan.

“We support the formation of an inclusive government with the participation of all ethnic groups in Afghanistan,” he said.

Also, he continued, “We consider the recognition of the governing body of Afghanistan to be conditional on the formation of an inclusive government in the country.”

He then pointed to the recent attacks on Iran’s embassy in Kabul and the country’s consulate in the western Afghan city of Herat, saying the Taliban-led governing body has clearly stated its condemnation of the attacks.

“Today, a large number of Afghan people and political groups appeared in front of the missions of the Islamic Republic of Iran and gave flowers to our staff, trying to show that the common enemies of Iran and Afghanistan will not be able to hatch plots with the aim of causing problems and insecurity on common borders and bilateral relations,” Amir Abdollahian added.

Hundreds of Afghans gathered on Wednesday in front of the Iranian embassy in Kabul, where they shouted “no to seditionists” and “unity! unity!” while hailing the brotherly relationship between the Iranians and Afghans.

While no one was hurt during the attacks, which came amid resurfaced allegations of systemic mistreatment of Afghan refugees in Iran, Tehran called for legal actions against the attackers, stating that Afghanistan’s acting Taliban government is responsible for protecting foreign diplomatic missions.

In his Wednesday meeting, Amir Abdollahian also highlighted Iraq’s regional role, and said, “We thanked the Iraqi government for its role in building regional understanding.”

“We also stressed the importance of regional dialog and welcomed the Iraqi government’s efforts to resume the Iranian-Saudi dialogue,” he said, referring to Baghdad-hosted talks between Tehran and Riyadh to mend ties severed in 2016.

Amir Abdollahian also touched upon the crisis in Yemen, and said, "We agreed on welcoming the ceasefire in Yemen and the importance of Yemeni-Yemeni talks and the lifting of the inhumane siege."

“We believe that under a lasting ceasefire, lifting of the inhumane siege, and a dialog between all Yemeni parties without any foreign interference, the Yemeni people will be able to make the best decision about their destiny,” he added.

On April 2, a two-month UN-brokered ceasefire went into effect between the warring sides in Yemen, halting all offensive military operations and lifting the Saudi-led siege.

UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg called on Wednesday for “serious engagement” to uphold the war-torn country’s truce, saying while the truce is “broadly holding, we need to be mindful of the challenges too”.

Leading a regional military coalition, consisting of the UAE and some other Arab states, Riyadh waged the war on Yemen in March 2015 to bring back to power the former Yemeni regime and crush the Ansarullah resistance movement.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Hamas, Islamic Jihad finance 'resistance' dramas for Ramadan

Entsar Abu Jahal

April 15, 2022

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The armed factions in the Palestinian territories are the parties that are in charge of producing TV series in the Gaza Strip, which are in general of poor quality amid a lack of funding. Despite this, they insist on being present in the TV scene during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, during which Arab series compete for audiences and viewer ratings.

These productions have now become limited to pro-resistance drama. Producers claim that this is the Palestinian reality and they need to present it to the world through arts, which is nothing but a representation of the people's lives.

The Islamist Hamas movement began producing pro-resistance drama series more than four years ago. It has focused in its series on the resistance against Israel. The latest example is “Qabdat al-Ahrar” ("Fist of the Free") series, which is currently being broadcast on its media platforms and TV channels that are close to its political orientation.

The head of Hamas’ artistic production department, Muhammad al-Thuraya, told Al-Monitor that the series speaks of the psychological warfare and technological tactics used by the Palestinian resistance in the face of the Israeli forces, specifically the Israeli Sayeret Matkal unit that infiltrated into the Gaza Strip in 2018. Back then, the armed factions foiled the infiltration attempt with a firefight that wounded a number of the unit’s members before escaping to Israel.

The series also showcases military facts about the Palestinian armed factions during the latest Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip, in May 2021, he added.

Thuraya said that the reason why the series is aired during Ramadan is that the Arab TV audiences increase during this month. Ramadan is considered a month of victory and resistance in Islam, making it necessary to promote the idea of the Palestinian people’s resistance and steadfastness, he added.

Commenting on the hurdles of the series’ production, he said the equipment they use is at least a decade old. It is difficult to buy new equipment due to high prices or unavailability in the local market. He also pointed to the actors’ poor experience, which forces them to repeat the scene several times.

Thuraya noted that 400,000 people watched the series’ episodes that have aired so far on six local and Arab channels. He said that the pro-resistance drama produced in Gaza has faced promotion difficulties, as on a daily basis YouTube and Facebook delete about 10 pages on which the series’ episodes are posted. He added, “These companies consider that this production incites violence against Israel.”

He said that the leading actor was paid less than $3,000 because of the limited budget Hamas allocates for arts production.

Thuraya added that the focus on pro-resistance drama aims to show that Israel is behind all of the social, economic and human sufferings of the Palestinian people.

Islamic Jihad’s TV channel Al-Quds al-Youm produced for Ramadan a series titled “Sharat al-Nasr” ("Badge of Victory"), which tells the story of the six prisoners who escaped from the Israeli Gilboa prison in 2021.

The series is the Islamic Jihad’s second pro-resistance production. The first one was “Milad al-Fajr” ("Birth at Dawn"), whose first season aired in 2021. It depicts the story of a prison break of Islamic Jihad’s inmates from Gaza’s central prison during the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip.

Hossam Abu Dan, director of "Sharat al-Nasr," told Al-Monitor that they contacted the prisoners who escaped last year through the prisoners’ institutions and lawyers, to obtain information and include them in the series, particularly on how they dug the tunnel, escaped and roamed outside the prison walls until they were rearrested, as well as the difficult circumstances in the prison.

He said, “The world needs to hear the true Palestinian narrative about the prisoners’ jailbreak in a humanitarian way as part of the drama, and away from the Israeli media that keeps lots of information undisclosed.”

Abu Dan explained that the series is aired on 15 local Islamic and Arab satellite channels, in addition to social media, stressing that the channels are only broadcasting the series without purchasing it from the production company. He continued, “Our goal is to promote the Palestinian cause, not to obtain money.”

He noted that more than 500,000 people have been watching the series, pointing out that YouTube banned episode four under the pretext that the series belongs to a terrorist organization. He explained that the series’ main plot is included in episode four.

Abu Dan said that Palestinian productions are being fiercely fought on social media, expressing hope to find a platform that supports Palestinian productions without causing obstacles to their promotion and broadcast. He pointed out that the production cost of a series in Gaza does not exceed 10% of one filmed elsewhere in the Arab world.

He noted that season two of "Milad al-Fajr" was supposed to be produced, but the prisoner's jailbreak issue last year prompted them to postpone it until Ramadan next year.

Commenting on the techniques used in the production of the series, Abu Dan stressed that there is a huge lack of capabilities in Gaza, in terms of equipment and technical staff, but that they are trying to overcome this problem as much as possible. “There is no media production city in Gaza that would facilitate the filming of scenes. That is why we sometimes have to film in the citizens’ homes,” he added.

Mohammed Sawwaf, CEO of the Gaza-based Alef Multimedia production company, told Al-Monitor that the pro-resistance drama began developing four years ago in the Gaza Strip. He noted that the key hurdles include financial support and difficulty in promoting drama series, as it is only aired on local or pro-resistance Arab channels.

He said, “Limiting drama production to the factions prevents these productions from reaching new audiences. Sometimes a certain point of view is being imposed during production, according to those who are funding it.”

Sawwaf pointed to the poor scriptwriting of the pro-resistance drama productions, which makes the plot weak, as well as the technical staff’s poor capabilities. In addition, he said, there are no full-time actors in Gaza, where there is a lack of specialized institutes.

He considered the pro-resistance drama as a lab to sharpen Palestinian arts skills in future productions and explained that it is a way to mobilize the international community and bring sympathy and support to the Palestinian resistance. He noted that the series is making it seem that 90% of Palestinians carry a weapon, which is a mistake producers need to review.

Commenting on the coordination between production companies of pro-resistance drama, he stressed that each party wants to present its orientation and its fighters’ success story. He added that the Islamic Jihad’s production focused on the escape of its prisoners from Gilboa prison because the inmates are affiliated with it, while Hamas’ production focused on the failed Israeli operation because those who stopped Sayeret Matkal belonged to Hamas.

Source: Al Monitor

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Ramadan becomes political battleground in Turkey

Pinar Tremblay

April 14, 2022

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visits different households during the holy month of Ramadan. This year, the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) special focus is on the youth, as the youth vote for the AKP has been on a steady decline.

AKP officials have been organizing fast-breaking iftar and suhoor (the meal before sunrise) gatherings with various youth groups. Since 2016, Erdogan has advised AKP officials to refrain from attending extravagant gatherings during Ramadan. This year, ruling party heavyweights publicly warned its members to avoid joining lavish iftar and suhoor meals through a memorandum amid the country’s staggering economic turmoil.

Yet a suhoor gathering held on April 7 in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeastern city of Agri set off a public uproar. Agri, which lies along the Turkish border of Iran, is known as one of the poorest cities in Turkey.

The suhoor gathering in Agri organized by the AKP youth branch has gone viral after Halil Ibrahim Selcuk, head of AKP’s youth branch in Agri, posted a video of the gathering on social media.

The video angered various segments of society. Pious Muslims, for example, questioned the authenticity of the video as they couldn’t believe that the AKP would organize a suhoor gathering where young men and women would sit together, eating and singing with live music playing.

The rest questioned who funded the gathering and why live music was allowed as bars and clubs around the country are not allowed to play live music after midnight. The video shows bowls full of honey, cheese, olives, eggs — all the basic goods whose prices have skyrocketed in the last couple of months, reaching a forbidden sum for lower- and middle-class citizens who have to wait in long lines just to save a few Turkish liras on bread.

Opposition groups criticized the images on social media, comparing the lavish gathering to suhoor meals served at college dorms.

As criticism on private chat groups and social media soared, a prominent AKP member openly asked the chair to delete his tweet. Mehmet Metiner, a former AKP lawmaker and a columnist for pro-government daily Yeni Safak, wrote, “Our Agri youth branch chairman, who shared this post (referring to the now-deleted video of the suhoor), would you please delete it immediately?” Metiner was not critical of the gathering for its lavish style, but he was upset that it was shared with the public. Both tweets were deleted shortly thereafter.

A senior AKP member speaking on the condition of anonymity explained to Al-Monitor the reason why the tweet was deleted: “There is a threshold for patience. Celebration videos such as that suhoor can trigger social unrest.”

But deleting the tweet did not help, forcing the AKP's Agri Mayor Savci Sayan to turn the tables by arguing that the criticism leveled at the lavish gathering amounted to discrimination against the Kurdish youth. Sayan also said the gathering brought together 600-700 students and cost only 21,000 Turkish liras (around $1,400). Yet Sayan’s statements also failed to calm angry voices.

On April 8, Mahir Unal, a deputy head of the AKP, fanned the flames further when he paid a visit to a home shared by college students with cameras in tow. Walking into the kitchen and checking the stove, Unal was surprised to see sujuk (dry fermented Turkish sausage) included in the meal, arguing that the sujuk was refuting the opposition circles' complaints of the high cost of living. Unal said, “Look, they have sujuk here. Weren’t they just complaining [about living expenses]?”

His remarks unleashed angry outbursts on social media, with people asking if it would be acceptable for students to eat just stale bread.

Ramadan usually marks harmony, sharing and caring for each other, so why did things become so contentious in Turkey?

Abdullah Aydogan, a political scientist and data analyst, told Al-Monitor, “Due to their disconnect with the realities of the population in general and youth in particular, these PR projects frequently end up with unexpected outcomes from an AKP perspective. For example, the extravagant suhoor organization in Agri received a big backlash. Rightfully, many young voters who have been struggling to cope with the rising prices criticized the event.”

Regarding Unal’s reaction to sujuk at the student dinner, Aydogan said, “In Anatolian culture, people tend to treat their guests with the utmost generosity. Particularly when people host guests that they think are special, they often serve food that they couldn’t afford at regular times. Making fun of the food he was served and the student’s comments on the household economy is a big disappointment. But also with those comments, he confirms that sujuk became such a hard-to-afford food for ordinary people.”

Source: Al Monitor

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IRGC Qods Force Commander: Zionist Regime Too Little to Confront Iran


“If an act of aggression is carried out against the interests of the Islamic establishment anywhere in the world, we will respond with seriousness,” General Qa'ani said on Thursday.

The senior commander reminded the regime of the IRGC’s forceful air raid on secret bases of Israel’s Mossad spy agency in Iraq’s Kurdistan region.

“In Erbil, many people who lived next to you did not know [the attacked site] was your base, but you had been under our surveillance,” he said, addressing the Zionists.

The IRGC strike in March targeted “strategic center of Zionist conspiracy and evil” in Erbil in response to an Israeli airstrike on the Syrian capital of Damascus, in which two officers of Iran’s elite force lost their lives.

The attack targeted 10 Israeli operatives, killing three of them and leaving seven others wounded.

“Therefore, wherever we identify [an Israeli threat], we will definitely confront the Zionist regime harshly. They are too small to confront us,” General Qa'ani said.

He added that Iran has supported and will continue to support any group that fights the Israeli regime, emphasizing that the annihilation of the Tel Aviv regime is gaining ground.

With a shaky government at work in Tel Aviv, which is already on the verge of collapse, the downfall of the regime would surely be accelerated, the IRGC Qods Force commander pointed out.

He noted that Iran knows where and when it should confront the Israeli regime.

“If have certain reservations, that concerns ourselves and has nothing to do with [concerns] over your power,” he said, referring to the Israelis.

The IRGC Qods Force commander paid tribute to the Palestinians who lost their lives in the fight against the Israeli regime and said, “Resistance has now spread across the world.”

General Qa’ani pledged Iran's support for all Muslims anywhere in the world in their battle against oppressive powers.

The senior IRGC commander also advised the “unwise” Saudi officials that they must realize they have been defeated in the war on Yemen despite by all the means they possessed, saying, “This war is not one that benefits them.”

He was echoing an advice by Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei to Saudi officials.

General Qa’ani slammed Saudi Arabia’s crimes in Yemen, including the destruction of the impoverished country's infrastructures, and said, “We have conclusive and definitive evidence of Saudi crimes.”

Ayatollah Khamenei on Tuesday praised the Yemeni people’s bravery in countering the Saudi-led aggression, while advising Saudi Arabia to end a war it well knows it cannot win.

Source: Fars News Agency

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FM: Baghdad Not to Allow Threats Pose to Iran from Iraq


Iraq will not allow its soil be a source of threat against neighboring countries, as the security of Iran and Iraq are interdependent, Hussein said in a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir Abdollahian in Tehran.

He also said that Baghdad would continue its constructive role in establishing peace and strengthening dialogue in the region.

During the meeting, the two foreign ministers discussed bilateral ties, regional developments, and other issues, including the situation in Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, and Ukraine.

Amir Abdollahian, for his part, underscored facilitating business exchange in border crosses, seamless transit between Iran and Iraq, and the finalization of Basrah-Shalamcheh railway that connects the two countries.

He urged facilitating Iranian passengers’ travel to Iraqi holy cities through ground routes.

Amir Abdollahian also stated that Iran cannot accept being threatened by the US, the Israeli regime, and terrorist and separatist elements via its own borders.

The comments came weeks after scores of ballistic missiles hit secret Mossad bases in Erbil in March, reportedly leaving several Israeli operatives dead.

Citing security sources, Iraq’s Sabereen News reported that two Mossad training centers were targeted by ballistic missiles.

Al-Mayadeen said a Mossad base on the Masif-Saladin street in Erbil was “fully razed to the ground and a number of Israeli mercenaries were killed or injured”.

In a relevant development last week, Iranian lawmakers in a statement voiced support for the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps' strong and eye-catching attack on the Zionist regime of Israel.

"The Iranian parliament supports the strong action taken to target the Zionist regime’s center of plot and evil through the IRGC precision missiles with pinpoint accuracy," the parliamentarians said via the statement at the end of their open session.

According to the Iranian parliament's statement, the IRGC has a good record in the fight against terrorism and the advisory presence in regional countries.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Israel arrests Palestinian accused of ISIS-inspired knife murders

14 April ,2022

Israeli police and the Shin Bet internal security service Thursday said they had arrested a Palestinian alleged ISIS supporter accused of two deadly knife attacks in the past three years.

Wassim Isaid, 34, from Hebron in the occupied West Bank, has been held since last month and a prosecutor’s statement was filed against him Thursday, with an indictment expected soon, the police and Shin Bet said in a joint statement.

The security services charged that his alleged crimes “stemmed from his support for the ideology of ISIS, to which he had previously sworn allegiance.”

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The police and Shin Bet said their case against Isaid meant that they had solved two murder cases and another case of attempted murder.

The latest was the killing of Moldovan citizen Ivan Tarnovsky and the serious wounding of a compatriot in their Jerusalem home on March 21 this year.

Previously, an Israeli couple, Yehuda and Tamar Kaduri, were killed in their Jerusalem home on January 13, 2019.

Isaid was further accused of a knife attack that wounded an Israeli teenager in the same city on January 12, 2019.

Hours after allegedly killing Tarnovsky, the suspect was arrested by border police while trying to cross a fence that is part of the separation barrier with the West Bank, the statement said.

At the time “a knife was seized in the suspect’s possession,” and the investigation has since then “linked the terrorist to the attacks.”

Isaid has previously been imprisoned by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority since 2015.

He was jailed by Israel for “activity in an ISIS network” which planned attacks and he later spent time in administrative detention for “incitement and membership in a hostile organization,” according to the statement.

The timeline provided by police said the suspect committed the attacks during brief gaps when he was out of custody.

Only relatively small numbers of Palestinians joined ISIS before the group’s final territorial defeat in Syria in 2019, but Israel has recently suffered attacks by local ISIS supporters.

Israel has suffered two deadly attacks which were claimed or inspired by ISIS in recent weeks.

In March, two Israeli-Arab gunmen identified by Israeli intelligence as ISIS operatives killed two police officers in the city of Hadera.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Iran urges Iraq against hosting ‘disruptive security presence’

14 April ,2022

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi warned neighboring Iraq on Thursday not to allow its soil to be used for activities that disrupt Iran’s security, his office said.

His comments follow accusations by Iran last month that Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region had hosted a “strategic center” used by Tehran’s arch enemy Israel.

“The president emphasized that Iran strongly expects neighboring countries, especially Iraq, not to allow any presence that is disruptive to the security of the Islamic republic,” a statement by Raisi’s office said.

The president accused Iraq’s Kurdistan region of “negligence,” adding that Iran is closely monitoring the movements of Israel and will not allow it to endanger the security of the region through any country, including Iraq.

The Iranian president made the remarks in Tehran during a meeting with visiting Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein.

Iraq’s top diplomat pledged that his country will not be a base for actions against Iran’s security, the statement added.

“We are ready for extensive cooperation, including in the field of security, to prevent any threat to the interests of Iran,” Fuad said, according to Raisi’s office.

Last month, Iran targeted the northern Iraqi city of Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region, with a dozen ballistic missiles that lightly wounded two civilians.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards confirmed at the time that they fired the projectiles and targeted a “strategic center” used by Israel.

Erbil governor Oumid Khouchnaw dismissed as “baseless” any notion of Israeli sites in and around Erbil, saying “there are no Israeli sites in the region.”

The Iraqi foreign ministry condemned the attack and summoned Iran’s ambassador to protest the strikes.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Lagos APC fetes orphans at Easter, Ramadan, preaches peace

15 April 2022  

The Lagos State Chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) yesterday, presented gift items to 14 orphanage homes across the three senatorial districts in commemoration of the Easter celebration and Ramadan season.

The party’s State Chairman, Cornelius Ojelabi, who said the gesture was to complement the efforts of the state government, urged Lagosians to maintain peace be law-abiding and eschew social vices that could cause unrest in the state.

On his part, the State Co-ordinator of Association of Orphanages and Home Operators, Alhaji Ganiyu Dosunmu, expressed appreciation to the party and assured that the gift items would serve their purposes.

MEANWHILE, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Lagos State Command yesterday, said it had deployed 2,000 officers and men to ensure adequate security and protection of critical national assets and infrastructure in the state during the Easter celebrations.

SIMILARLY, Oyo State Police Command has assured residents of the state of adequate security before, during and after the Easter celebrations.

The command’s Public Relations Officer, Adewale Osifeso, gave the assurance in a statement yesterday. Osifeso said the command had taken proactive security measures designed at providing comprehensive and robust security coverage for citizens to forestall any untoward situation.

IN another development, the management of Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC) has appealed to customers not to molest its members of staff.

Source: Guardian Nigeria

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Tunisia will raise local fuel prices every month this year

14 April ,2022

Tunisia will raise local fuel prices every month this year by no less than 3 percent, an official in the energy ministry said on Thursday, which may mean an increase of at least 30 percent by the end of 2022.

Tunisia raised fuel prices by 5 percent on Wednesday, its third hike this year, following a sharp rise in oil prices in an effort to rein in its budget deficit.

The North African country, suffering from its worst financial crisis, is trying to agree on a new financing program with the International Monetary Fund in exchange for unpopular reforms including cuts in fuel and food subsidies.

“The Finance Law says that there will be a monthly increase in fuel prices by 3 percent at least this year,” Afif Mabrouki, an official at the energy ministry, said.

Tunisia’s energy trade deficit in the first two months this year jumped by 62 percent from the same period last year to $357 million, the energy ministry said on Thursday.

Source: Al Arabiya

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France’s Le Drian says cooperation with Algeria ‘indispensable’ after crisis

14 April ,2022

France’s top diplomat Jean-Yves Le Drian said cooperation with Algeria is “indispensable” for regional stability, during a visit to the former French colony.

“We are facing regional challenges, first and foremost terrorism,” he said late Wednesday after meeting his counterpart Ramtane Lamamra and President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.

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“So our cooperation on security and for the stabilization of the region is indispensable in the Mediterranean and in Africa.”

Le Drian stressed the urgency of “the evolution of the situation in the Sahel and the need to relaunch the transition process in Libya.”

France and Algeria have been attempting to improve their ties after a diplomatic crisis.

Algeria had withdrawn its ambassador in October after French President Emmanuel Macron accused Algeria’s “political-military system” of rewriting history and fomenting “hatred towards France.”

Le Drain had visited in December in order to repair the damage and the French ambassador returned in January.

On Wednesday, the foreign minister said Paris and Algiers were working on reviving bilateral relations “essential for each of our two countries and that we wish to maintain over the long term.”

He also said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had “major consequences” for energy in Europe and for food security, including in Algeria.

Algeria is a major exporter of natural gas, which covers over 11 percent of Europe's needs, compared to Russia which makes up about 47 percent.

European countries have been trying to ramp up Algerian exports to reduce their reliance on Russia, but experts say the North African country has limited room for maneuver, partly due to its own soaring domestic needs.

Source: Al Arabiya

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