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Islamic World News ( 21 May 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Danish Politician Says Muslims Stay off Work during Ramadan, Questions Islam’s Compatibility with Modernity


















All mosques should raise national flag said China...- Khabar IndiaTV

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Danish Politician Says Muslims Stay off Work during Ramadan, Questions Islam’s Compatibility with Modernity

All Mosques in China Should Raise National Flag: China Islamic Association

Muslim Tunisians Are Arguing For the Freedom to Eat in Ramadan

US Warns Iran of ‘Strongest Sanctions in History’

AIMPLB Meets Top Law Panel to Discuss Uniform Civil Code

 

Europe

Danish Politician Says Muslims Stay off Work during Ramadan, Questions Islam’s Compatibility with Modernity

After Calls to Change the Quran, Turkey Moves To Ban All Things French

Paraguay President Opens Embassy in Jerusalem

Saudi Arabia strongly condemns attack on church in Russia’s Chechnya republic

Britain undermines Pompeo’s ‘jumbo’ Iran deal: Very, very difficult!

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Southeast Asia

All Mosques in China Should Raise National Flag: China Islamic Association

Muslims Forced To Drink Alcohol and Eat Pork in Chinese Detention Camps, Claims Former Inmate

Ex-212 Leader Reports PKS Party Officials Over Alleged Terrorist Support, Cites Poem Praising Osama Bin Laden

Muslim Convert Mum Has Right to Convert Her Kids, Court Told

Multiple blasts rock 'peace progress' claims in Thai south

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Africa

Muslim Tunisians Are Arguing For the Freedom to Eat in Ramadan

Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia Stress Importance of Implementing UN Plans In Libya

Rights watchdog reports army and jihadist abuses in Burkina Faso

Liberia: Weah Reaffirms Religious Tolerance As Muslims Begin Ramadan

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North America

US Warns Iran of ‘Strongest Sanctions in History’

ISIS Encouraging 'Attacks Right in the Homeland': FBI Tracking 1,000 Active Extremist Cases in All 50 States

Mike Pompeo speech: What are the 12 demands given to Iran?

Taliban Offers ‘Amnesty’ to U.S.-Backed Afghan Forces Who ‘Leave Enemy Ranks’

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India

AIMPLB Meets Top Law Panel to Discuss Uniform Civil Code

Pakistan's Comments On Wanting Peace Will Be Taken Seriously, Says Indian Defence Minister

Man Sent Away To Study Islam Joins LeT

JNU Gives Nod to Starting Course on 'Islamic Terrorism': Professors Divided On Programme Name

MoS, PMO, slams Pak over Ceasefire Violation during Ramzan

Trolling PM Modi for Extending Ramzan Greetings in Urdu Smacks of Bigotry

In bilateral chill, small steps towards thaw, says Indian envoy to Pakistan Ajay Bisaria

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Pakistan

Interfaith Harmony: Sikhs in Peshawar Arrange Iftar

CTD Seizes Huge Cache of Arms, Explosives in Quetta

Pakistan’s Muslims, Christians Welcome News of Nation’s New Cardinal

Hafiz Saeed's MML to drag Pakistan election commission to court for contempt

Nawaz says he never owned London properties

SC questions Asif over benefits he received from UAE employer after becoming minister

JUI-F threatens to block highway between Afghanistan and Pakistan

PTM says TTP video a bid to malign Pashtun movement

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South Asia

Taliban Issue Attack Warning, Ask Kabul Residents to Stay Away From 'Military Centres'

King Salman Centre for Humanitarian Aid and Relief Steps Up Humanitarian Assistance in Myanmar

‘Few signs of progress’ in Afghanistan: Pentagon watchdog

Taliban leader Mullah Din Mohammad and comrades killed in Farah airstrike

Taliban launch large scale attack on Ghazni districts

Five mine clearance workers killed in southern Afghanistan

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Arab World

Is Isis Still Around? Islamic State Leader Is Alive and Plotting A Comeback, Reports Claim

Syrian Army Declares Damascus as 'Completely Secure' After Islamic State Forced To Flee Last Pocket of Resistance

Is Isis Still Around? Islamic State Leader Is Alive and Plotting A Comeback, Reports Claim

Saudi Arabia's Stance on Palestine Has Been Unwavering

Militants in another Region End Battle against Syrian Army

Turkish Army Sends New Military Convoy to Northwestern Syria

Syrian Army Declares Day-Long Humanitarian Ceasefire in Southern Damascus

Northeastern Syria: Militants Continue Plundering Public Assets, Transfer Infrastructures to Turkey

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Mideast

Yemeni Mothers Say Houthis ‘Not Providing Ramadan Meals’ For Abducted Children

Israeli Parliament Debates Bill Promoting Kurdish Statehood

Palestine urges Arab boycott of states moving embassies to Quds

Pompeo says US to impose ‘strongest’ sanctions on Iran

Israel calls in envoys from Spain, Slovenia, Belgium over UN Gaza vote

Arab coalition says more than 85 percent of Yemen has been liberated

World does not accept US deciding for all countries: Iran's Rouhani

Iran denies accusations of aiding Taliban in Afghanistan

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/danish-politician-says-muslims-stay-off-work-during-ramadan,-questions-islam’s-compatibility-with-modernity/d/115323

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Danish Politician Says Muslims Stay off Work during Ramadan, Questions Islam’s Compatibility with Modernity

21 May 2018

A Danish government minister has asserted that Muslims should not work during Ramadan because the month-long daylight fasting period poses safety hazards in some professions and makes the practice “dangerous for us all.”

The integration minister, Inger Støjberg, an immigration hardliner in Denmark’s centre-right government, questioned in a blog post on Monday how “commanding observance to a 1,400-year-old pillar of Islam” was compatible with modern labour markets.

In her post published by Danish tabloid BT, Støjberg cited bus drivers as an example of workers whose performance could be affected by foregoing food and drink during daylight hours of the holy month. She urged all Muslims to take leave from work during Ramadan “to avoid negative consequences for the rest of Danish society.”

The Finnish Muslim Union chair, Pia Jardi, called the minister’s suggestion “a completely absurd idea,” adding: “There’s no information or statistics to show that bus drivers or other Muslim workers would somehow behave dangerously while fasting. In most Muslim countries, stores and businesses continue operating as normally.”

Muslims committed to fasting “have the responsibilities to make sure that they get proper rest,” she said.

Millions of Muslims around the world began observing Ramadan last week. Denmark’s population of 5.7 million includes about 250,000 Muslims.

Støjberg is a member of the conservative Liberal party that alone forms Denmark’s current minority government, led by the prime minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, since 2015. In the past few years, she has become the spokeswoman for the government’s substantial tightening of asylum and immigration rules.

Denmark adopted a law in 2016 requiring newly arrived asylum seekers to hand over valuables such jewellery and gold to help pay for their stays in the country.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/21/danish-politician-inger-stjberg-muslims-ramadan

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All Mosques In China Should Raise National Flag: China Islamic Association

May 21, 2018

BEIJING:  All mosques in China should raise the national flag and study the Chinese Constitution, socialist core values to strengthen their "concept of nation" and carry forward "the spirit of patriotism," state-run China Islamic Association said.

Chinese experts hailed the initiative for seeking to assimilate religion into a socialist society and as progress for religious development.

In a letter published on its website, the association urged nationwide Islamic associations and mosques to raise national flags all the time and in prominent positions.

Associations and mosques should also study the Chinese Constitution, socialist core values and traditional classical Chinese culture, state-run Global Times quoted the letter as saying.

The legal study classes should be offered so that Muslims can conduct religious activities in accordance with the law and correctly understand its relationship with religious doctrine.

According to an official white paper published last month, China has 20 million Muslims mainly comprised of Uygurs of Xinjiang and Hui Muslims of Ningxia.

China has about 35,000 Islamic mosques, according to the White Paper on religions in China.

Resource-rich Xinjiang home for over 10 million Uygurs was restive during the past few years over resistance to migration of Hans from other provinces.

China blamed the growing incidents of violence on the separatist East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM).

Some internet users questioned whether raising a national flag at a religious site was a violation of the principle of separation of politics and religion, the report sad.

Experts said that Chinese law stipulates that politics and religion should not interfere with each other, but the national flag represents the country, not politics and hanging flags does not intervene in the freedom of religious activities, the report said.

https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/all-mosques-in-china-should-raise-national-flag-china-islamic-association-1855385

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Muslim Tunisians Are Arguing For the Freedom to Eat in Ramadan

May 21st, 2018

By Randa Darwish

Jailing someone for eating or drinking in public during Ramadan has always been a debatable topic between conservatives and liberal activists in Arab countries with Muslim majorities.

In Tunisia, campaign “مش بالسيف” or “MouchBessif” which means: “Nothing can be against our will”, was launched by the beginning of Ramadan 2017. Tunisian activists of Association des Libres Penseurs protesting for the right to eat and drink in public during Ramadan.

It all started in May 2017, after the Tunisian authorities arrested five men on the charges of “public indecency” after smoking a cigarette or eating in public during Ramadan.

Tunisia is a the Muslim majority country with a secular orientation, several people demanded the the government to respect their religious freedom, especially as there are no explicit laws in the country require individuals to fast or prevent them from eating in public.

Activists of the “MouchBessif” campaign are calling people to participate in a protest on May 27, 2018, for the second year in a row demanding their right to break their fast as they wish without being jailed or fined.

Since the ousting of President Zayn al-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, Tunisia became known as the most liberal country in the Arab world as the country’s constitution was amended guaranteeing freedom of religion for everyone. In addition to scoring progress on human rights issues, including laws on violence against women, activists in several Arab countries are trying to follow their steps.

On social media, Tunisian users rowed over the campaign using hashtag “مش بالسيف”, with some activists calling for freedom of religion for all individuals:

Translation: “Dear Interior Minister, the country keeps its religion in places of worship not in the streets.”

Other protestors called on authorities to look after the hungry poor people who can’t find food, instead of chasing non-fasters in Ramadan:

Translation: “Look for the hungry before chasing non-fasters during Ramadan”

On the other hand, many conservatives called to respect the holy month of Ramadan:

Translation: “Either nothing pleases Tunisians or they understand freedom wrong, they want to become like French people. Even Christians respect fasting of Muslims and they don’t eat in front of them while you are demanding the cafes and restaurants to open all day!”

An Egyptian user tweeted in support of the campaign wishing they can launch the same campaign in Egypt:

Translation: “Tunisians launched the campaign “MouchBessif” to break their fast during Ramadan in public because of personal freedom. Wishing they could do it here in Egypt.”

https://www.albawaba.com/loop/muslim-tunisians-are-arguing-freedom-eat-ramadan-1134886

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US warns Iran of ‘strongest sanctions in history’

May 22, 2018

WASHINGTON: Secre­tary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday threatened to impose the “strongest sanctions in history” against Iran if it did not accept a sweeping series of US demands, including effectively giving up its nuclear ambitions, curtailing its ballistic missile programme and ending its “expansionist behavior”.

Two weeks after the United States pulled out of an international nuclear deal with Iran, Pompeo spelled out a hardline approach, potentially setting Washington and Tehran on a deeper confrontation course.

“The sting of sanctions will only grow more painful if the regime does not change course from the unacceptable and unproductive path it has chosen for itself and the people of Iran,” Pompeo said in his first major foreign policy speech since becoming secretary of state.

“These will be the strongest sanctions in history by the time we are done,” he added.

Pompeo took aim at Iran’s policy of expanding its influence in the Middle East through support for proxy armed groups in countries such as Syria and Yemen.

He warned that the United States would “crush” Iranian operatives and allies abroad and told Tehran to withdraw all forces under its command from the Syrian civil war where they back President Bashar al Assad.

Iran is unlikely to accede to the US demands.

Pompeo warned that if Iran fully resumed its nuclear programme, Washington would be ready to respond and said the administration would hold companies doing prohibited business in Iran to account.

“Our demands on Iran are not unreasonable: give up your programme,” Pompeo said, “Should they choose to go back, should they begin to enrich, we are fully prepared to respond to that as well,” he said, declining to elaborate.

The speech did not explicitly call for regime change, but the secretary of state repeatedly urged the Iran­ian people not to put up with their leaders, including President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

“At the end of the day the Iranian people will get to make a choice about their leadership. If they make the decision quickly, that would be wonderful, if they choose not to do so we will stay hard at this until we achieve the outcomes I set forward,” said Pompeo.

He laid out 12 demands for Iran and said relief from economic sanctions would only come when Washington had seen tangible shift in Iran’s policies.

He called on Iran to stop uranium enrichment and never to pursue plutonium reprocessing, including closing its heavy water reactor.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1409217/us-warns-iran-of-strongest-sanctions-in-history

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AIMPLB meets top law panel to discuss Uniform Civil Code

May 22, 2018

In the first-ever meeting of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and the Law Commission over the Uniform Civil Code held on Monday, several issues were discussed, including inheritance in the case of abandonment, adoption and death, apart from widow remarriage and child marriage.

For instance, one of the topics under discussion was what happens to the inheritance of a child if the father abandons the family. In this case, while the child has rights over his father's property, the rights are curtailed when it comes to the property of the grandfather. In this regard, the AIMPLB contended that while under Islamic laws, no one is left unattended, the laws do not make any segregation between self-owned and inherited property.

This and nuances under a few other laws under the Uniform Civil Code were discussed by the Law Commission in a meeting on Monday. Issues under adoption and guardianship, remarriage of widows, custody of a child whose father has passed away, and child marriage were other issues that were discussed in the meeting, where the AIMPLB was asked to elaborate on the religion's stand on these matters as part of the Law Commission's consultations.

Both the parties are scheduled to meet after Eid now, where the AIMPLB will bring in references to these laws as per the Quran.

One of the points discussed pertained to the right of a child and a wife if a man abandons them. "Islam does not leave anyone unattended, and so the child has rights to the properties of the father, as well as the grandfather, who has to be the guardian," said AIMPLB member Kamal Faruqui, who was a part of the meeting.

However, the AIMPLB also contended that if guardianship and inheritance issues come up in case the father passes away, then the mother assumes the role of a guardian as well as her parents. "In this case, the child will only be entitled to the father's property and not the grandfather's. The discretion lies with the grandfather," said Faruqui.

Apart from that, AIMPLB contended that widow remarriage is a pious act under Islamic laws, and while she has right to her husband's property, the onus to have her remarried also lies with her parents. As per the discussions, child marriage was also discussed, and the group contended that while child marriage is allowed, there are several conditions attached to it.

Adoption, too, was another issue which was on the agenda. The AIMPLB said that Islam does not recognise adoption, especially in cases where the child's gender is different from those of the prospective parents' biological children. They, however, contended that the parents were within their right to take care of the child, but he or she will not have inheritance rights.

Focus Point

Some of the issues discussed were inheritance in the case of abandonment, adoption and death, apart from widow remarriage and child marriage.

http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-aimplb-meets-top-law-panel-to-discuss-uniform-civil-code-2617487

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Europe

 

After calls to change the Quran, Turkey moves to ban all things French

May 21, 2018

It all started April 21, with news of the Manifesto against the New Anti-Semitism. The declaration, written by Philippe Val, former director of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, was signed by more than 250 intellectuals, artists and politicians, including former French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The manifesto — which calls on theologians to delete Quranic verses that suggest the killing and punishment of Christians, Jews and non-believers — generated strong reactions among Muslims. Although the text does not explain how, the idea was that the abrogation of these parts of the Quran would lead to “French-style Islam.” Muslims in France and around the world reacted to the request by attempting to explain the verses within their historical contexts and dismissed the idea of removing sections as unacceptable.

Turkish reaction to the declaration came May 6, when Omer Celik, minister of EU affairs and chief negotiator for Turkish accession to the EU, posted a series of tweets in Turkish and in English criticizing the manifesto. He claimed the signatories of the document have an ideological affinity with the Islamic State. Turkish presidency spokesman Ibrahim Kalin posted two tweets, the first explaining the declaration and the second stating his view that the Quran cannot be altered and that if the West wants to solve the problem of anti-Semitism, the West should look at itself because the problem originated in Europe.

One of the strongest reactions came from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. At the May 8 parliamentary meeting of his Justice and Development Party (AKP), Erdogan delivered an angry speech not only against the declaration and its signatories, but also aimed at France and the West generally, calling them “despicable.” To his nonstop cheering fans, the president said:

An impertinent group appeared in France the other day and issued a declaration asking for some verses to be removed from the Quran. It is so obvious that those who say that have no idea what the Quran is, but have they ever read their own book, the Bible? Or the Torah? Or Psalms? If they had read it, they would probably want the Bible to be banned as well. But they never have such a problem. The more we warn Western countries about hostility to Islam, hostility to Turks, xenophobia and racism, the more we get a bad reputation. Hey the West! Look! … The more you attack our holy book, we will not attack yours. But we will knock you down. Who are you to attack our holy scriptures? We know how despicable you are.

Pro-AKP media and commentators promptly joined in, lashing out at France and positioning Erdogan as the protector of Islam. Also, on May 10, the Turkish Council of Higher Education (YOK) announced that 16 new university faculties of French language and literature will not be accepting students. The 19 existing departments will continue with enrollments. News outlets reported that the council justified its decision not simply in response to the manifesto, but also on the basis of reciprocity — that is, the claim that there are no Turkish language and literature studies in France — plus the assertion that the market does not need more graduates from French language departments. The council also announced a ban on establishing additional France language and literature departments.

Frustrated AKP opponents reacted strongly to the council’s action. For example, Sinan Ogan, a former lawmaker from the Nationalist Action Party, tweeted that if Erdogan were actually serious about retaliating against the manifesto as well as French support of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party, he should cancel the agreement he signed with France to buy 25 Airbus planes. Indeed, Erdogan had lashed out at the French government for its support of the Syrian Kurds in March, but then shifted his focus to defending Islam. A sociology professor at a government university told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “Erdogan needs some of the Kurdish vote, so we are witnessing him slowly easing out of ultra-nationalistic rhetoric and into a more Islamist one, struggling to embrace the Kurds.”

Opposition members also pointed to the inaccuracy of the allegation that there are no Turkish language departments in France. In fact, such departments were founded as early as 1795.

A French diplomatic source told Al-Monitor by email, “In Turkey, Francophonie is historically present in education, with a network of around 15 bilingual schools, among them the prestigious Galatasaray High School, whose 150th anniversary is being celebrated this year. Galatasaray University is a Francophone Turkish university and the Institut Français de Turquie, the language and cultural center under the umbrella of the embassy, is active in Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir. Turkish language and Turkish studies are also developed in France. Departments exist in such important higher education institutions as the National Institute for Languages and Oriental Civilizations in Paris, University of Lyon, University of Aix-Marseille and University of Strasbourg. The Turkish language is also taught to 17,000 pupils in the French education system through the ELCO program.” ELCO — Enseignements langues et cultures d'origine, or Teaching of Language and Culture of Origin — was founded in the 1970s to educate immigrants in their native tongues alongside their French educations.

On May 14, the Islamist daily Yeni Akit took things a step further, calling for a “ban on French literature, music and cinema” under the headline “YOK’s Slap to France.” Ibrahim Kiras, senior editor of Karar, a newspaper founded by formerly pro-AKP journalists, shared a photo of the headline and asked whether the government employees who made false statements would be held to account given that the allegations about the Turkish language not being taught in France were false.

Despite the efforts by the government and its media supporters, the public did not buy into the outrage over the manifesto. Conversations with Islamists and conservatives pointed to three reasons. First, Turkish citizens have become desensitized to Erdogan’s outbursts. One senior bureaucrat told Al-Monitor, “The manifesto is Islamophobic, but we [the AKP] have failed to punish our own for ridiculing verses from the Quran. How can we throw stones at non-Muslims?”

Second, the public feels that angry and hateful rhetoric against the West does not benefit them. A member of a prominent Muslim nongovernmental organization took Erdogan to task, telling Al-Monitor, “Scolding the West and calling them names have lost their impact when you [still] go visit these countries and keep playing by their systems. There is no proper policy behind Erdogan’s anger. We have not forgot how he distanced himself from the Mavi Marmara [Gaza] flotilla victims by saying, ‘Whom did they ask before they departed?’” The suggestion that what happened to those on the flotilla was their fault galled Turks.

Third, the government’s refusal to accept new students into French language departments coupled with the false assertion of reciprocity were viewed as counterproductive. Almost 2.5 million students are preparing for the University Entrance Exam in Turkey this year. Fewer than 500,000 will be accepted into four-year colleges. Hence, announcing the closure of departments is not the kind of news that will lead to citizens rejoicing. A number of social media postings said the AKP’s response serves only to punish its own people, validating the Turkish saying that “rancid vinegar damages its own barrel.”

https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/05/turkey-french-akp-grand-plan-punish-paris-1.html

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Paraguay president opens embassy in Jerusalem

May 22, 2018

JERUSALEM - Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes inaugurated his country’s Israel embassy in Jerusalem on Monday, making it the third nation to take the deeply controversial step after the United States and Guatemala.

Cartes and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at the inauguration of the new embassy in a high-tech industrial park in southwest Jerusalem. The Paraguayan leader called it a “historic event”. “This act has profound significance in the sense that it expresses Paraguay’s sincere friendship and full solidarity with Israel,” he said.

Netanyahu said cooperation between the two countries would become “greater”, naming areas such as agriculture, security and technology. “You have not only the support of our government but the profound gratitude of the people of Israel,” Netanyahu said. “We remember our friends.”

Paraguay already supplies some 40 percent of beef consumed in Israel, while Cartes has Israeli bodyguards.

The South American nation of some seven million people follows in the footsteps of the United States, which broke with decades of international consensus when President Donald Trump declared Jerusalem Israel’s capital in December.

Washington followed up on the declaration by moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on May 14, the day that also marked the 70th anniversary of the creation of the state of Israel. The Palestinian leadership has frozen ties with the White House over the moves.

The US embassy opening was accompanied by mass protests and clashes along the Gaza border that saw 62 Palestinians killed by Israeli gunfire.

No Israelis were killed, and there have been international calls for an independent investigation into the deaths.

Israel has rejected such calls, saying its actions are necessary to protect its border and stop Islamist movement Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, from using the protests as cover to carry out violence.

Israel has sought to persuade other countries to follow the White House and move their embassies to Jerusalem from the Tel Aviv area, but so far only Paraguay and Guatemala have done so.

Guatemala opened its new embassy in the same Jerusalem office park as Paraguay’s on May 16.

Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, harshly criticised Paraguay’s decision, saying “moving an embassy to Jerusalem is a widely rejected step”.

“We have witnessed today how the Paraguayan president is an irresponsible political leader by defying international law and the achievement of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East,” he said in a statement.

Jerusalem’s status is perhaps the thorniest issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel considers the entire city its capital, while the Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/22-May-2018/paraguay-president-opens-embassy-in-jerusalem

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Saudi Arabia strongly condemns attack on church in Russia’s Chechnya republic

21 May 2018

Saudi Arabia has strongly condemned the armed attack on a church in the Russian republic of Chechnya that resulted in the killing of a number of people, an official source at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

“The source also offered the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s condolences and sympathies to the families of the victims and to the Government and the people of the Russian Federation, stressing the Kingdom’s absolute rejection of all forms of violence, extremism and terrorism,” a statement on Saudi Press Agency read.

ISIS claimed responsibility for an attack but the extremist group offered no evidence in support of the claim.

Four people attacked the Orthodox church on Saturday, killing two policemen and a churchgoer, Russia’s investigative committee said in a statement. The attackers were killed.

“Islamic State fighters executed an attack on ‘Michael’ Church yesterday in Chechnya’s capital, Grozny,” Amaq said.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2018/05/21/Saudi-Arabia-strongly-condemns-attack-on-church-in-Russia-s-Chechnya-republic.html

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Britain undermines Pompeo’s ‘jumbo’ Iran deal: Very, very difficult!

May 21, 2018

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has questioned the practicality of the tough conditions set by the US for a new “jumbo” Iran deal after the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the multi-national Iran nuclear deal.

Johnson made the statement among journalists in Buenos Aires on the sidelines of the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting on Monday.

He was reacting to a 12-point list of demands formulated by his US counterpart, Mike Pompeo, earlier in the day.

Johnson (pictured above) referred to anti-Iran allegations by some Western countries, suggesting that they could not be incorporated into one single agreement.

“The prospect of a new jumbo Iran treaty is going to be very, very difficult,” Johnson said, according to the Guardian. “I think if you try now to fold all those issues – the ballistic missiles, Iran’s misbehavior, Iran’s disruptive activity in the region and the nuclear question — if you try to fold all those in to a giant negotiation, a new jumbo Iran negotiation, a new treaty — that’s what seems to be envisaged — I don’t see that being very easy to achieve, in anything like a reasonable timetable.”

Pompeo, formerly serving as the CIA chief, had also threatened to impose “the strongest sanctions in history” on Tehran if it does not comply with the new demands.

Johnson lashed out against the new plans, reiterating that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is a good deal as it assures the international community that Iran is not seeking nuclear weapons.

“The advantage of the JCPOA was that it had a very clear objective. It protected the world from an Iranian nuclear bomb, and in return it gave the Iranians some recognizable economic benefits. That was at the core of it. The Americans have walked away from that,” he said.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/05/21/562505/Britain-undermines-Pompeos-jumbo-Iran-deal-Very-very-difficult

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Southeast Asia

 

Muslims forced to drink alcohol and eat pork in Chinese detention camps, claims former inmate

May 21, 2018

A former inmate at one of the ‘re-education camps’ in China has alleged that Muslims detained in the facilities by the Chinese authorities were forced to drink alcohol and eat pork, reported The Independent.

“I was detained without trial or access to a lawyer and forced to disavow my beliefs while praising the Communist Party,” Omir Bekali, one of those detained in the camp, told the publication.

According to Bekali, he was moved to the camp after seven months in prison and contemplated taking his own life after just 20 days at the facility.

Rough estimates suggest that the Chinese government has confined about a million or more Muslims in these camps since spring last year.

China accused of arresting dozens of Muslim women married to Pakistani men

Some have called it “the largest mass incarceration of a minority population in the world today” while a leading historian called it “cultural cleansing”.

Bekali stated that when inmates refused to follow orders, they were made to stand against a wall for five hours at a time. Bekali was punished with solitary confinement, and deprived of food for a whole day, according to his account.

“The psychological pressure is enormous when you have to criticise yourself, denounce your thinking – your own ethnic group,” Bekali told The Independent, who broke down in tears as he described the camp. “I still think about it every night, until the sun rises. I can’t sleep. The thoughts are with me all the time.”

Muslims biggest ethnic minority in China, reveals white paper

Re-education camps are mostly for the ethnic Muslims in the Chinese province of Xinjiang, a province half the size of India.

China considers separatist movements in the area as a threat to the stability of the country, and officials usually avoid commenting on the issue any further.

The internment programme aims to rewire the political thinking of detainees, erase their Islamic beliefs and reshape their very identities. The camps have expanded rapidly over the past year, with almost no judicial process or legal paperwork. Detainees who most vigorously criticise the people and things they love are rewarded, and those who refuse to do so are punished with solitary confinement, beatings and food deprivation.

The recollections of Bekali, a heavyset and quiet 42-year-old, offer what appears to be the most detailed account yet of life inside so-called re-education camps. Rare interviews with three other former internees and a former instructor in other centres corroborated Bekali’s depiction. Most spoke on condition of anonymity to protect their families in China, added the British publication.

Bekali’s case stands out because he was a foreign citizen, from Kazakhstan, who was seized by China’s security agencies and detained for eight months last year without recourse. Although some details are impossible to verify, two Kazakh diplomats confirmed he was held for seven months and then sent for re-education.

China bans children in Muslim county from religious events over break

The detention programme is a hallmark of China’s emboldened state security apparatus and is partly rooted in the ancient Chinese belief in transformation through education – taken once before to terrifying extremes during the mass reform campaigns of Mao Zedong, the Chinese leader sometimes channelled by Xi.

“Cultural cleansing is Beijing’s attempt to find a final solution to the Xinjiang problem,” said James Millward, a China historian at Georgetown University.

Rian Thum, a professor at Loyola University in New Orleans, said China’s re-education system echoed some of the worst human rights violations in history.

“The closest analogue is maybe the Cultural Revolution in that this will leave long-term, psychological effects,” Thum said. “This will create a multigenerational trauma from which many people will never recover.”

However, fragments in state media and journals show the confidence Xinjiang officials hold in methods that they say work well to curb religious extremism. China’s top prosecutor, Zhang Jun, urged Xinjiang’s authorities this month to extensively expand what the government calls the “transformation through education” drive in an “all-out effort” to fight separatism and extremism.

In a June 2017 paper published by a state-run journal, a researcher from Xinjiang’s Communist Party School reported that most of 588 surveyed participants did not know what they had done wrong when they were sent to re-education. But by the time they were released, nearly all – 98.8 per cent– had learned their mistakes, the paper said.

Transformation through education, the researcher concluded, “is a permanent cure”.

A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released earlier this week claimed that Chinese officials were now regularly imposing themselves on families in Xinjiang in “home stays”.

Chinese crackdown in Xinjiang separates Pakistanis from Uighur wives

During the visits, unwilling hosts are allegedly forced to tell authorities about their lives and political views and are subject to indoctrination.

“Muslim families across Xinjiang are now literally eating and sleeping under the watchful eye of the state in their own homes,” said HRW’s Maya Wang, a senior researcher. “The latest drive adds to a whole host of pervasive – and perverse – controls on everyday life in Xinjiang.”

https://tribune.com.pk/story/1715361/9-muslims-forced-drink-alcohol-eat-pork-chinese-detention-camps-claims-former-inmate/

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Ex-212 leader reports PKS party officials over alleged terrorist support, cites poem praising Osama Bin Laden

May. 22, 2018

The Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), like every other political party in Indonesia, officially condemned last week’s horrific terrorist attacks in Indonesia. But the Islam-based opposition party (which holds enough seats in the Parliament that one of its senior officials might well end up being Gerindra chairman Prabowo Subinato’s running mate in the 2019 presidential election) has come under fire from some parties for their alleged support of terrorism and radicalism, the latest accusation coming from a former leader of one of Indonesia’s most prominent Islamist political organizations.

Faizal Assegaf, who was one of the founders of the political action group Presidium Alumni 212 (so named for having attended the massive 2/12 2016 protests against former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama), was kicked out of his own organization earlier this year, and has since been been speaking out against some of his former group’s political allies, most especially PKS. 

Yesterday, Faizal reported three senior PKS officials to the police for defaming him through social media: PKS President Sohibul Iman, former PKS President Anis Matta, PKS executive board chairman Mardani Ali Sera, as well as Deputy House Speaker Fahri Hamzah (who is officially an independent).

Faizal’s report was actually in response to a defamation report filed by the PKS board  of East Java, which was done in response to social media comments Faizal had made about PKS officials in the wake of last week’s suicide bombings in Surabaya, accusing them of having terrorist sympathies and telling the police they should monitor them.

“Initially I wrote a post asking that government and the police to do strict supervision on the PKS offices in East Java, because allegedly cadres and loyalists are exploiting the issue of terrorism, which created fertile grounds for radicalism,” Faizal said yesterday as quoted by Kompas.

That tweet, and many others that followed alleging PKS’ ties to terrorism, led to counter-allegations from PKS officials that Faizal was a liar and eventually an official defamation report against him.

Faizal’s counter-report against the PKS officials says that their accusations that he was a slanderous liar were slanderous lies themselves (yes, the way the Indonesian legal system handles defamation charges is ridiculous) as he had proof of their terrorist sympathies

You can go to Faizal’s Twitter for much more, but one piece of evidence he keeps bringing up is a poem, entitled “Letter For Osama”, that was written by the party’s former president Anis Matta. The poem, which Anis was widely reported to have read in public in November 2001 (i.e. shortly after 9/11) during a fundraiser for the “struggle” in Afghanistan, effusively praises the now-deceased Al Qaeda leader. Here’s a  rough translation of the opening stanza:

Osama,

You never told me

That you wanted to blow up the WTC and Pentagon

Bush also has no proof until now

So I choose to believe

In the love that radiates

Behind the shade of your eyes

In the spirit of protection that is stored

Behind your beard.

And it keeps going from there….

In response to Faizal’s report, PKS chairman Mardani Ali Sera denied any charges that his party supported terrorism or radicalism. When asked about Anis Matta’s poem praising Osama Bin Laden, he said he didn’t know about it but was sure there was nothing wrong with it.

“But I am sure that if we see the context, we would understand the meaning of Pak Anis Matta, Islam rahmatan lil alamin (Islam is a religion that brings blessings and welfare to the whole world),” he said today as quoted by Detik.

Full report at:

https://coconuts.co/jakarta/news/ex-212-leader-reports-pks-party-officials-alleged-terrorist-support-cites-poem-praising-osama-bin-laden/

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Muslim convert mum has right to convert her kids, court told

Ho Kit Yen

May 21, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR: A Muslim convert mother has the right to convert her two children to Islam as she is their valid guardian.

Lawyer Sulaiman Abdullah told the High Court today that there is nothing to stop the mother from converting her nine-year-old daughter and five-year-old son to Islam as another civil court had awarded custody of the children to her.

“The two children wanted to be Muslims. Why should we stop them?

“The children testified in court and said they are willing to go to mosque without the mother forcing them, and the daughter said she had decided to wear the tudung,” he said, adding the Shah Alam High Court had granted custody of the siblings to the mother last month.

Sulaiman is representing Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department’s (Jawi) muallaf registrar in a legal challenge filed by a Buddhist father to quash his children’s unilateral conversion to Islam by their mother.

The father is also seeking a declaration that the siblings’ certificates of conversion to Islam are null and void and that they were unlawfully converted.

He claimed that his former wife converted the children to Islam with the intention of getting custody of them.

The names of the former couple and children have been withheld by the court.

Sulaiman also submitted before the court that the muallaf registrar exercised his duty under the Administration of Islamic Laws (Federal Territories) Act in registering the children as Muslims.

“The two children were at Jawi’s office on May 11, 2016 and the officer on duty had explained the meaning of ‘Kalimah Shahadah’ or affirmation of faith to them.”

He said this case was different from the Indira Gandhi case of children being converted to Islam.

Sulaiman said in Indira’s case, her three children were absent before the Perak Islamic Religious Department to recite the affirmation of faith and the conversion was done by her former husband, Ridhuan Abdullah.

K Shanmuga, representing the Buddhist father, maintained that the consent of both father and mother was needed if either of them wanted to convert the children to Islam, based on the Federal Court ruling in Indira’s case.

“In this case, the father was not aware that his children had become Muslims.

Full report at:

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2018/05/21/muslim-convert-mum-has-right-to-convert-her-kids-court-told/

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Multiple blasts rock 'peace progress' claims in Thai south

May 22, 2018

Muslim insurgents detonated more than 20 home-made explosives across Thailand's south, the army said yesterday - in a night of violence that undermined the junta's claims of headway in peace talks with the rebels. The mainly Buddhist kingdom's southern provinces have been plagued by a 14-year fight between ethnic Malay militants and the Thai state that has left nearly 7,000 dead. On Sunday, suspected rebels launched their most sweeping attack in recent months, striking 14 ATM booths, two electricity poles and other public spaces and security posts. No one was killed in the explosions, which went off across the four Muslim-majority provinces bordering Malaysia. Attacks are common during the Muslim fasting period of Ramadan, which began last week.

https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/multiple-blasts-rock-peace-progress-claims-in-thai-south

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Africa

 

Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia stress importance of implementing UN plans in Libya

22 May 2018

The foreign ministers of Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia affirmed in a joint statement the importance of implementing UN plans in Libya and the preservation of the country’s sovereignty, while reiterating their rejection of any foreign interference in Libyan affairs.

The statement was issued following meetings held on Monday in Algiers between Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Tunisian Foreign Minister Khemaies Jhinaoui and Algerian Foreign Minister Abdel-Kader Messahel.

The gathering was part of the framework of regular meetings of the tripartite initiative held continuously between the three states to discuss the latest developments in Libya.

The statement highlighted 11 points on the key topics discussed during the meetings.

The ministers stressed the importance of putting into effect plans presented by the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Libya Ghassan Salama on 10 October 2017.

The statement also called on Libyan political parties to reach a consensus to end the country’s current transitional period and "pave the way for comprehensive national reconciliation."

The three ministers also stressed the importance of the international community’s role in implementing the provisions of the Libyan political agreement signed on 17 December 2015, which aims to end the Libyan crisis and build a unified army and security services to maintain security and combat terrorism.

The statement warned that delays in reaching a solution to the crisis might cause further escalation and violence.

The FMs renewed their warning about the deteriorating living conditions of the Libyan people caused by the country’s instability and political obstruction, and stressed the importance of providing public services to the Libyan citizen.

The ministers also stressed that a political solution to the Libyan crisis must be reached by a consensus of all parties.

The ministers agreed to continue security coordination between the three countries to assess threats posed by terrorist organisations to the security and stability of Libya.

http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/299950/Egypt/Politics-/Algeria,-Egypt,-Tunisia-stress-importance-of-imple.aspx

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Rights watchdog reports army and jihadist abuses in Burkina Faso

21 MAY 2018

Ouagadougou — Security forces in Burkina Faso have carried out extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and other abuses in their campaign against terrorism, Human Rights Watch says.

A 60-page report by the US-based watchdog said Sahel villagers found themselves caught between jihadists, who threatened to kill those who collaborated with the government, and security forces, who expected locals to give them information about insurgents.

Human Rights Watch Report: By Day We Fear the Army, By Night the Jihadists

Human Rights Watch said it had documented the execution-style killings by Islamists of 19 men from 12 villages who had been accused of providing information to the security forces.

On the government’s side, witnesses implicated the security forces in "at least" 14 alleged summary executions and said four other men died in custody from mistreatment.

"Many witnesses described seeing bodies along local roads and footpaths in northern Burkina Faso," the report said. "The majority of victims were last seen in the custody of government security forces."

Northern Burkina Faso has been in the grip of a jihadist insurgency since 2016. Armed groups including al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara have attacked army bases and police posts and carried out a campaign of intimidation against officials and teachers.

The violence has killed scores of people and driven more than 12,000 from their homes. The fatalities include 47 civilians murdered by jihadists in two attacks in the capital, Ouagadougou, during 2016 and 2017.

"The growing insecurity in Burkina Faso has led to terrible crimes by both armed Islamists and state security forces," said Corinne Dufka, HRW’s Sahel director. "The government should follow through on its important commitment to investigate alleged abuses by state forces, and the armed Islamists should stop attacking and threatening civilians." Responding to the accusations, Defence Minister Jean-Claude Bouda said that he was already "aware of certain allegations of abuses" against civilians in counter-terrorism operations.

Full report at:

https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/world/africa/2018-05-21-rights-watchdog-reports-army-and-jihadist-abuses-in-burkina-faso/

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Liberia: Weah Reaffirms Religious Tolerance As Muslims Begin Ramadan

18 MAY 2018

President George Manneh Weah has reaffirmed his government's commitment to religious tolerance and peaceful co-existence between the Islamic Community and other religious groups as Muslims begin the month of Ramadan.

"I am confident that we will all continue to live together in peace and harmony for the betterment of our society," the Liberian leader admonished Muslims at the start of their fast month on Tuesday.

"On the eve of your religious journey, I on behalf of the government and people of Liberia herewith wish all Muslims on the occasion marking the observance of Ramadan in Liberia and the world my heartfelt greetings and would like to wish all of you a blessed Ramadan," President Weah added.

He hoped that Allah will answer their prayers, honor their sacrifices, and grant their heart desires and also pray that they will use this time of fasting and praying to intercede for their leaders and beloved nation for God's guidance as they work collectively for a better and prosperous Liberia.

Full report at:

http://allafrica.com/stories/201805210648.html

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North America

 

ISIS Encouraging 'Attacks Right in the Homeland': FBI Tracking 1,000 Active Extremist Cases in All 50 States

05-21-2018

The FBI says it has 1,000 open cases on radical Islamic extremists operating in all 50 states.

According to the FBI's director Christopher Wray, countering the threat posed by these suspected or potential terrorists is now the agency's top priority.

During congressional testimony last week, lawmakers like Sen. Susan Collins of (R-Maine), wanted to know how the bureau was handling the danger from homegrown extremists, many of whom are inspired by or radicalized over the internet by Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other Islamic terror groups.

"How is the FBI countering that threat?" asked Collins. "It seems to be very difficult to identify these individuals."

"You are exactly right," Mr. Wray told Sen. Collins. "You've put your finger on what I would sort of say is our highest counterterrorism priority at the moment."

"We have about a thousand investigations into exactly the kind of people you are describing, covering all 50 states," Wray told the Collins.

Despite its losses on the battlefields of Syria and Iraq, Wray warns ISIS and other Islamic terror groups remain a series threat to the homeland.

"The good news is the caliphate is crumbling, and that's positive for all of us," Wray said during a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing in December 2017. "The bad news is, ISIS is encouraging some of its recruits and potential recruits to stay where they are and commit attacks right in the homeland."

Wray says those open cases does not even include the bureau's ongoing investigations into Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other domestic terrorism threats.

"What makes it so hard is that there aren't many dots connecting some of these people," Wray said. "They pick soft targets, they use easy to use weapons like IED's, cars, knives, guns and they can make decisions on the spur of the moment."

Security experts say keeping track of so-called "lone wolf" attackers is not always easy.

"We are trying to get better at looking for red flags as to when people are getting radicalized and start to make that switch into potentially mobilizing," Wray told lawmakers.

This isn't just an American problem. Across Europe, Africa, Asia and parts of Middle East, various governments are also dealing with the threat from Muslim radicalization.

"This is something I compare notes with my foreign counterparts on a lot and they have the same challenge, all of our closest allies have the same issue," Wray warned during his testimony.

In April, ISIS released an audio recording urging followers to launch attacks against Arab nations. Security experts say terrorists are constantly changing their tactics to avoid getting caught.

"We face ambitious adversaries who are continuously looking for a point of attack and waiting for us to slip up," David Pekosk, head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), said recently.

Pekosk says the TSA is likewise adjusting its tactics to counter a rapidly changing threat matrix.

"Today we are confronted by a current of less-sophisticated techniques and tactics, where lone wolves, radicalized on the Internet, are using inexpensive, low-tech methods to target civilians," Pekosk said.

On the heels of last weekend's deadly lone wolf terror attacks in France and Indonesia, terrorism experts say its vitally important that the U.S. develop effective strategies to counter the constantly evolving threat posed by lone wolf attackers.

"The possibility that a terrorist group or individual could gain access to WMD or the means to trigger a widespread cyber attack that cripples our major financial systems and critical infrastructure continues to be a major concern," said Carol Rollie Flynn, the former top official at the CIA's National Counterterrorism Center. "

"Preventing these types of attacks is very, very hard because the tools of law enforcement... to detect and pre-empt attacks don't work if the terrorist is not connected in any detectable way to a known terrorist or terrorist group," Rollie added.

On Tuesday, millions of Muslims around the world started their annual 30 days of fasting and prayer during Ramadan.

"Ramadan is a month of receiving divine blessings and abstaining from food and drink," said Mohammad Linkon Mollah, a Muslim university student in Bangladesh.

While the majority of Muslims use the time to grow closer to Allah, terror experts say there's a growing number of Islamic jihadists who also use the month "to engage in acts of violence in the name of Islam."

"Jihadists see Ramadan as an especially auspicious time for attacks, believing that actions taken during Ramadan are somehow nobler, and despite prohibitions on aggression of any kind during the month," said Stratfor, the intelligence group that monitors Islamic threats worldwide. "The Islamic State, al Qaeda and other jihadist groups have all sought to foment attacks during Ramadan with promises of greater rewards in the afterlife."

Stratfor anticipates "an increase in the tempo and intensity of attacks, a trend continuing from the previous two years."

According to SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks terrorist groups online, ISIS claimed responsibility for 300 attacks during Ramadan last year, including last year's attack on a bus of Coptic Christians in Egypt.

That's why one group is urging Christians to also use the month of Ramadan to pray for Muslims.

The international movement known as "30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World" began in 1993 and calls the global Church to make a focused effort to learn about, pray, and reach out to Muslim neighbors.

"While media sound bites about Islamic extremism can too easily incite anger, fear and even hatred towards Muslims, we seek to resist this temptation to generalize, and instead, resolve to respond and pray with the mind and heart of Christ," reads the prayer website.

Meanwhile, Open Doors USA, a group that documents atrocities against religious minorities, is calling for prayer for Christians who live in Muslim-majority countries.

"While here in the US the holiday is beginning to gain mainstream recognition...in other parts of the world it is so widely celebrated, the few who do not adhere to its traditions become the obvious outliers as they don't participate in the fasting or calls to prayer," Open Doors states. "In fact, Christians in predominantly Muslim countries often experience increased persecution during this time."

http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/national-security/2018/may/isis-encouraging-attacks-right-in-the-homeland-fbi-tracking-1-000-active-extremist-cases-in-all-50-states

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Mike Pompeo speech: What are the 12 demands given to Iran?

May 22, 2018

The US secretary of state has set out 12 tough demands for inclusion in a new nuclear treaty with Iran.

The conditions, listed by Mike Pomepo during a speech at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC, on Monday, will require Iran, in his words, to:

Declare to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) a full account of the prior military dimensions of its nuclear programme and permanently and verifiably abandon such work in perpetuity.

Stop enrichment and never pursue plutonium reprocessing, including closing its heavy water reactor.

Provide the IAEA with unqualified access to all sites throughout the entire country.

End its proliferation of ballistic missiles and halt further launching or development of nuclear-capable missile systems.

Release all US citizens as well as citizens of US partners and allies.

End support to Middle East "terrorist" groups, including Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Respect the sovereignty of the Iraqi government and permit the disarming, demobilisation and reintegration of Shia militias.

End its military support for the Houthi rebels and work towards a peaceful, political settlement in Yemen.

Withdraw all forces under Iran's command throughout the entirety of Syria.

End support for the Taliban and other "terrorists" in Afghanistan and the region and cease harbouring senior al-Qaeda leaders.

End the Islamic Revolutionary Guard corps-linked Quds Force's support for "terrorists" and "militant" partners around the world.

Full report at:

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/05/mike-pompeo-speech-12-demands-iran-180521151737787.html

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Taliban Offers ‘Amnesty’ to U.S.-Backed Afghan Forces Who ‘Leave Enemy Ranks’

21 May 2018

Taliban jihadists released a statement last week offering a “life of peace” through “amnesty” to the very same U.S.-backed Afghan National Security Forces (ANDSF) they have massacred for years if it renounces its ranks. The terrorists cited the “very high number of casualties” sustained by the troops as a reason to abandon American support.

The Taliban described the proposal, issued a day after the start of the holy month of Ramadan last Thursday, as a “golden opportunity” for the “feeble” and misguided ANDSF, which includes police and army units.

Taliban narco-jihadists noted that the “amnesty” offer comes with a caveat: the terrorist group will stop targeting “military formations, [the] national army, national police … and all employees” of the Afghan government only if they renounce “the support of the Americans.”

“Leave the support of the Americans and accept the invitation by the Islamic Emirate of a life of peace and honor for you and your families,” the terrorist group declared.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has made “reconciliation” between Kabul and the Taliban a major component of its strategy to end the nearly 17-year war in Afghanistan.

The Trump administration has come out in support of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s most recent peace proposal to the Taliban — an offer of a ceasefire and official recognition as a political group.

In its statement, the Taliban insisted that in its ongoing spring offensive, it is primarily focusing on “the Americans and their foreign allies.” Referring to the ANDSF, the Taliban later added:

You however are turning into Mujahideen targets because you are protecting the foreign invaders and the corrupt regime which they have installed. Since the foreign invaders and their installed corrupt regime are neither in your interest or in the interest of our country nor are they in the interest of your religion and beliefs therefore rescue yourselves and prove your loyalty towards your Lord, beliefs and land by forsaking their ranks. In case you do leave the enemy ranks, the Mujahideen of Islamic Emirate will guarantee protection of your life and wealth through a general amnesty.

Taliban narco-militants announced their proposal on Friday, a day after Afghanistan declared the start of Ramadan, a time when Islamic terrorists believe God especially rewards jihad.

The Taliban is behind the deadliest attack during Ramadan so far this year, which involved killing nine Afghan security forces and wounding seven others on the same day it announced its “amnesty” offer.

On the first day of Ramadan, U.S. Gen. John Nicholson, the top commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, praised the ANDSF as “the true heroes … who continue to sacrifice and put their lives on the line to protect” the nation.

Gen. Nicholson urged the Taliban to embrace Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s recent peace offer.

The ANDSF took the lead of security operations in its own country near the end of 2014 when the United States declared an end to America’s combat mission.

Afghan security forces have born the brunt of the casualties since then. The Taliban has been responsible for most ANDSF and civilian casualties.

Notwithstanding capability lapses, the Afghan security forces have shown a will to defend their country as demonstrated by the historic number of deaths and injuries they have suffered in recent years.

The U.S. military has “classified” casualty data for the ANDSF in recent months, according to the U.S. Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a watchdog agency.

Citing some of the latest data available, SIGAR reported last year, “More than twice as many ANDSF members were killed in the single year of 2016 than U.S. forces in Afghanistan have lost since 2001.”

Taliban terrorists tried to capitalize on the high number of casualties that the group itself has generated, declaring in its statement:

Due to the very high number of casualties being suffered by the Kabul administration police and other forces (forecasted to increase even further) … the Islamic Emirate [Taliban] … declares a general amnesty to all military formations, national army, national police … and all employees of the regime to safeguard their lives and wealth.

Taliban terrorists also cited Trump’s decision to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as a reason the ANDSF and Kabul employees should turn their backs on American support, describing the move as the “most hate-filled move yet against Islam and Muslim.”

The Taliban’s “amnesty” offer also comes at a time when the Afghan National Police (ANP) has suffered a sharp decline of 24,841 officers over the last year, bringing the total manpower as of the end of January to 129,156, SIGAR revealed.

ANDSF troops have also been facing a “severe problem” involving insider attacks in which the Afghan personnel “are attacked from within their own ranks, often by an insurgent infiltrator,” the inspector general reported.

Full report at:

http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2018/05/21/taliban-offers-amnesty-u-s-backed-afghan-forces-leave-enemy-ranks/

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India

 

Pakistan's comments on wanting peace will be taken seriously, says Indian defence minister

May 21, 2018

India's Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said that India will take any "comment on wanting peace" by Pakistani officials "seriously", The Times of India reported on Monday.

Sitharaman, while talking to Indian media on the sidelines of a seminar in New Delhi today, said that: "Any comment on wanting peace will definitely be taken seriously."

The Indian minister was referring to Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa's remarks made in April where he called for "comprehensive and meaningful dialogue" between both countries to look for a peaceful solution to the Kashmir dispute.

While addressing a passing out parade ceremony, Gen Bajwa had expressed Pakistan's "complete political and moral support" for the people of Kashmir who are fighting for their "basic right of self-determination". He added that while "such dialogue is no favour to any party" it is the only way to ensure peace across the region.

"It is our sincere belief that the route to peaceful resolution of Pak-India disputes — including the core issue of Kashmir — runs through comprehensive and meaningful dialogue," he had said, adding: "Pakistan remains committed to such a dialogue, but only on the basis of sovereign equality, dignity and honour."

When asked if the Indian army would stand by the government's announcement of a ceasefire in India-held Kashmir during Ramazan, Sitharaman claimed that the defence ministry will "fully honour the policy which the Home Ministry on behalf of the government of India announced".

The above statement come days after a skirmish along the Working Boundary that resulted in the death of at least four civilians. The Pakistan Foreign Office had said that the violations took place in Pukhlian, Cahprar, Harpal, Charwah and Shakargarh sectors.

Last week, the Indian home ministry had announced that government troops in held Kashmir had been asked to stop counter-insurgency operations during the Muslim fasting month of Ramazan so that it can be observed “in a peaceful environment".

https://www.dawn.com/news/1409109

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Man sent away to study Islam joins LeT

Sneha Agrawal

May 22, 2018

A suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative Mohammad Amir came in touch with the extremist groups in Pakistan when his father sent him to study Islam and to get rid of his drug abuse problem.

The NIA revealed his journey as a terror operative in the chargesheet it recently filed in the Delhi court. The federal investigative agency claimed that in 2014 Amir joined Daura-e-Suffa on the recommendation of Qari Ameen, who is an alleged well-known recruiter and fundraiser for Let.

Mohammad Amir was arrested by the security forces in November last year from Handwara area of North Kashmir during an intensive search operation. He along with three others had illegally infiltrated into Indian Territory from Pakistan along with weapons to carry out attacks.

Full report at:

https://www.indiatoday.in/mail-today/story/man-sent-away-to-study-islam-joins-let-1238448-2018-05-22

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JNU Gives Nod to Starting Course on 'Islamic Terrorism': Professors Divided On Programme Name

May 20, 2018

With increasing violence across the country on religious grounds, perhaps it’s high time a course of religious terrorism got the nod from a prestigious varsity so that academics can study process of terrorism.

A Centre for National Security Studies might soon come up at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) under which there would be a course on 'Islamic Terrorism'.

This announcement has come as per a proposal recently "passed" by the JNU Academic Council, a professor who attended the meeting said yesterday.

'COURSE IS COMMUNAL IN NATURE'

Many members of the Academic Council opposed the proposal to impart courses on 'Islamic Terrorism', arguing that it was communal in nature, said Sudhir K Suthar, a special invitee to the 145th meeting of the Council.

"The chair passed the proposal and said the objections would be considered (later)," Suthar said.

"There was a debate on the issue in the meeting with many members supporting it too, saying that it was a globally accepted phenomenon and majority of the cases (of terrorism) were associated with the religion," another Academic Council member, who was present in the meeting, said.

As per an Indian Express report, the professors pointed out that though 'International Terrorism' is offered as a course in many varsities across the world, this would be the first time that terrorism is directly being linked to a religion and that too, in an academic programme.

The draft of the proposal was prepared by a four-member committee headed by Ajay Kumar Dubey, a professor of the Centre for African Studies.

"Report was circulated for feedback and discussion," Dubey told PTI.

'ISLAMIST' RATHER THAN 'ISLAMIC'

"Islamist Terrorism is a widely accepted term and a globally accepted phenomenon. It is used for those who use Islam for a particular objective," Council member Aswini Mahapatra said while suggesting that the name be changed to 'Islamist Terrorism' rather than 'Islamic Terrorism’ according to Indian Express.

"In India, it's basically Islamist terror, whether it is J&K or Kerala, so in Indian context, the topic needs to be studied," Mahapatra said.

OPPOSITION FROM JNU STUDENTS' UNION

"In a deeply problematic and shocking move the JNU VC also allowed the tabling of a course/topic on 'Islamic Terrorism' under the Centre for National Security Studies." said JNU Students Union president Geeta Kumari.

"This grotesque propaganda of Islamophobia in the name of academic courses is deeply problematic. It seems the RSS-BJP's election propaganda material will be prepared through these courses rather than studying the nature of terrorism in general," she added.

CENTRE FOR NATIONAL SECURITY STUDIES TO FOCUS ON RESEARCH ACTIVITIES

According to the proposal by the varsity, in the first five years, the centre will only focus on research activities.

"The centre may have only MPhil and PhD students (initially). After five years, the centre may start MA programme." said the proposal.

"In the first year, two professors, two associate professors and four assistant professors may be recruited to give the centre a good and visible shape," the proposal added.

OTHER COURSES UNDER NATIONAL SECURITY STUDIES

A Special Centre for National Security Studies was proposed to be set up during the 145th academic council meeting on Friday, which was attended by about 100 of the 110 members. Among the courses planned under the centre was one on 'Islamic terrorism'.

Full report at:

https://www.indiatoday.in/education-today/news/story/jnu-starting-programme-on-islamic-terrorism-html-1237281-2018-05-20

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MoS, PMO, slams Pak over Ceasefire Violation during Ramzan

May 21, 2018

New Delhi [India], May 21 (ANI): Hitting out at Pakistan for multiple ceasefire violations this month, Minister of State (MoS) in the Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh on Monday said those indulging in firing prove that they have less faith in Ramzan, Islam and Holy Quran.

“Those who are indulging in firing from across the border has proved to the entire world that they have the least of faith in Ramzan, Islam and Holy Quran. This is the country which calls itself Pakistan and is indulging in most ‘Napaak’ activity during Ramzan,” Singh told ANI.

Earlier today, Pakistan violated ceasefire in Arnia sector of Jammu. Pakistan also opened small-arms firing in Ramgarh sector of Samba district last night.

On May 18, Pakistan violated ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) in RS Pura and Arnia sectors of Jammu and Kashmir killing a total of five people including one Border Security Force (BSF) jawan and four civilians.

It is to be noted that the Centre recently ordered to suspend the security operations against terrorist in the state during the holy month of Ramzan.

However, the ministry clarified that the security forces “reserve the right to retaliate if attacked or if essential to protect the lives of innocent people.”

Full report at:

http://www.india.com/news/agencies/jitendra-singh-slams-pak-over-ceasefire-violation-during-ramzan-3066260/

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Trolling PM Modi for Extending Ramzan Greetings in Urdu Smacks of Bigotry

May 21, 2018

NEW DELHI: Last week Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted people on the start of the holy month of Ramzan.

The Prime Minister first tweeted his greetings in Urdu and later in English. He also posted a sound clip of his last 'Mann ki Baat' programme in which he had extended his greetings in advance.

He said that the holy month stood for the virtues of harmony, kindness and charity.

However, the message got lost on many trolls, with many attacking him for tweeting in Urdu.

Here’s what these trolls had to say and why their bigotry needs to be called out.

The Prime Minister of India can tweet in any language and wish members of any community.

Those who take offence at this are being bigoted. Viewing the PM’s tweet with a religious lens is being short-sighted.

In fact, the PM is rightly reaching out to all communities in their own languages.

Urdu is one of the 22 official languages recognised in the eighth schedule of the Constitution of India. To suggest that Urdu is only a language of Muslims is wrong. Urdu is a common language spoken in large swathes of Northern India and not just by Muslims alone.

Even if Urdu was only a language of the Muslims, there is nothing wrong in the PM using it to communicate. We cannot discriminate against any community, religion or language as Indians.

Would all those Hindu poets, lyricists, etc who have mastery over Urdu, cease to be Hindus just because they use the Urdu language?

Trolls would do well to stop decoding everything through the prism of religion.

Every religion teaches tolerance and respect for all. Voters are not going to decide whether to vote for BJP or not based on a tweet by PM in Urdu.

When trolls have exhausted all expletives in their dictionary, they resort to abusive language and ask misleading counter-questions. More often than not, they end up exposing their own factual inaccuracies while doing so.

For instance, the PM has tweeted on many occasions previously in Sanskrit. Even the phrase that PM often invokes in his speeches to symbolise Indian universalism -- Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam -- is in Sanskrit.

And even if he hadn’t tweeted in Sanskrit, it should not matter. There are roughly 6,500 spoken languages in the world today. Of these, India has about 1600 languages (22 recognised officially) and dialects.

The PM cannot possibly now tweet in all these languages to prove that he respects them all.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/viral-news/trolling-pm-modi-for-extending-ramzan-greetings-in-urdu-smacks-of-bigotry/articleshow/64255758.cms

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In bilateral chill, small steps towards thaw, says Indian envoy to Pakistan Ajay Bisaria

May 22, 2018

by Sushant Singh

Although there have been no official announcements about a positive movement on India-Pakistan relations, there are signs that both sides are looking at “windows of diplomatic opportunity to move forward”. The steps taken include exchange of prisoners and progress on other bilateral agreements, besides meeting of Indus Water Commission and scheduled meetings of Coast Guard teams.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Indian High Commissioner to Islamabad Ajay Bisaria delineated this thaw.

“We have in recent months been working on small steps forward, particularly on the humanitarian side, to build an atmosphere of trust between the countries,” he said. “One of these steps we have proposed is the exchange of all prisoners, particularly those in the vulnerable category (women, seniors and the mentally challenged). We have had some traction this year, including on agreements to exchange medical delegations and resuming the institutional mechanism of the Joint Judicial Committee, which will inspect jails and accelerate the process of repatriation of prisoners.”

“Whether it should be a grand reconciliation or small steps, we have to take the first steps. That will take us forward,” Major General Asif Ghafoor, DG ISPR and spokesperson for Pakistan military told a group of visiting South Asian journalists in Islamabad recently.

“There have been other signs of positivity,” said Bisaria. “The permanent Indus Water Commission had a meeting in New Delhi, to frankly exchange views on difficult water issues. We were successful in resolving the vexed issue of harassment of diplomats, which has dogged us for several years. There are meetings in the offing at the operational level: of Coast Guard teams, delegations to discuss exchange of fishing boats. All these steps add to the general level of trust, prepare us for the bigger moves.”

Major General Ghafoor echoed that sentiment: “Issues between India and Pakistan can only be resolved through dialogue; positive engagement based on trust can take us forward. If we continue to be dictated by history, we will continue to make mistakes.”

Official sources in Delhi told The Indian Express that they are closely watching the unfolding events in Pakistan, which includes the ongoing tussle between former PM Nawaz Sharif and the Pak Army, the forthcoming elections and the outcome after the results. The unilateral announcement by the government of a ceasefire for the period of Ramzan in Kashmir is likely to send the right signal to Pakistan, sources assessed.

“We have to see how this circus plays out (in Pakistan), but we will be ready to move at a very short notice. There will be a window of diplomatic opportunity to take small steps and move forward,” sources said.

Sources, however, refused to specify or elaborate on the steps that can be initiated by the two sides. About the dominant view in both capitals that political leadership in Delhi will not be keen to move before 2019 general elections, sources said that “it would be a self-defeating and dangerous proposition to make”.

These steps would nevertheless signal another shift in the BJP government’s flip-flop policy towards Pakistan, since Narendra Modi became PM in 2014. It has fluctuated between personal engagement with Pakistan, from Modi landing at Lahore in 2016 and inviting Pakistan intelligence agencies to Pathankot air base after a terror attack, to stalling the SAARC summit and taking a proactive stance on the LoC.

While a new civilian government is expected to be in place in Islamabad by August, the Pakistan Army has made it clear that it will have a say in the country’s policy towards India. “Pakistan Army will sit with the civilian government and as is the system in all countries, governments do no act without inputs from security forces. Pakistan is no exception,” Major General Ghafoor said.

Sources in Delhi dismiss it as an “internal matter” of Pakistan, wherein they will deal with whoever is in the government. They stress the multiple rounds of talks between the NSAs of two countries to highlight their policy for engagement. As reported by The Indian Express, the two NSAs had secretly met at Bangkok on December 26 last year, even as tensions rose between the two countries following the treated of arrested retired naval officer, Kulbhushan Jadhav’s family in Islamabad.

About his experience in Pakistan for the past eight months as the High Commissioner, Bisaria said: “It has been a fascinating learning for me, dealing with this complex relationship, with all its myriad surprises. I came with a mandate of positivity, to build bridges and to restore some trust, despite the larger difficult issues of dealing with terrorism and LoC violations. We have succeeded in initiating or continuing several conversations at the level of the High Commission and have, in place, an effective working relationship with the Pak Foreign Office.”

“We have successfully dealt, through quiet, calm and persistent diplomacy, with the issue of harassment of diplomats. We hope to go about our business of building bridges in Islamabad and creating a positive context for future initiatives,” he added.

The harassment of officials of Indian High Commission in Islamabad started on February 15, with a raid by the ISI on the residential complex of the High Commission which was nearing completion. When the Pakistani side did not relent for two weeks, New Delhi retaliated. By end of March, quiet diplomacy had started between the two sides which led to a statement by both the foreign ministries on March 30 that they will abide by the 1992 “Code of Conduct” for treatment of Diplomatic/Consular personnel in India and Pakistan.

Meanwhile, the Indian High Commission is hoping to shortly move into its new residential complex in Islamabad which would make their harassment more unlikely. The complex was inaugurated on April 2 and some personnel of the High Commission have already moved in there.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-pakistan-relations-exchange-of-prisoners-indus-water-commission-ajay-bisaria-5186022/

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Pakistan

 

Interfaith harmony: Sikhs in Peshawar arrange Iftar

Javed Aziz Khan

May 21, 2018

PESHAWAR: In a bid to promote interfaith harmony, the Sikh community is arranging Iftar at various places in the provincial capital where the Muslims are served with food.

The Sikh community had arranged Iftar for labourers, passersby and shopkeepers in Ramazan last year as well.

Though the Sikhs have yet to obtain a no-objection certificate for security reasons from the departments concerned to arrange Iftar, they have come up with another way to do the noble job.

They are arranging Iftar dinners for the people at various localities in the provincial capital with the help of the local charity organisations.

The hosts welcome the people with a smile and serve them with fruit, cooked food and cold drinks.

Apart from young and old men, the Sikh children can be seen serving the Muslim guests with food.

“We hosted Iftar for 29 days during Ramazan last year. We held Iftar dastarkhwan at three different places in Peshawar, Mardan and other districts,” Baba Gurpal Singh, a leader of the Sikhs, told The News.

He continued that last year they had arranged Iftar at different hospitals, orphanages, schools for physically challenged people and the Central Prison Peshawar.

This year, the Sikh community members have hosted Iftar in Gulbahar and at the Lady Reading Hospital.

“The food items are purchased, cooked and prepared by the Muslims,” added Gurpal Singh. Many have lauded the gesture shown by the Sikh community.

“This is the love the locals have for each other,” said one Ihsanullah, a resident of inner Peshawar city.

He said the Sikhs and Muslims have lived peacefully in Peshawar for years.

A local lawyer Khurshid Khan visited the worship places of Sikhs in the past to clean their shoes in a bid to promote interfaith harmony.

A number of people arrange roadside Iftar in Peshawar and other places all over the country where passers-by, labourers and other people break the fast.

Many young men have arranged Iftar in inner city, Hayatabad, University Road, Saddar Bazaar, Bara Road, Kohat Road, Charsadda Road, Grand Trunk Road and other places where thousands of people are provided food and drinks.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/319550-interfaith-harmony-sikhs-in-peshawar-arrange-iftar

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CTD seizes huge cache of arms, explosives in Quetta

Shams Ullah Durrani

MAY 22, 2018

QUETTA: The Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) Monday raided a hide-out being used as a weapon factory in Kili Barat area of Quetta and confiscated 200kg of explosives, three suicide jackets, detonators, two hand grenades and a huge cache of arms.

It was said that the hide-out was being used as a weapon factory by Balochistan Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) commander Salman Badeni and his accomplices, who were killed in an operation in Killi Almas area of Balochistan last week.

Balochistan Police Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Abdul RazzaqCheema said that the evidence collected during the Killi Almas operation and the Frontier Corps Madadgar Centre crime scene helped in narrowing down the hideout.

He said that the security forces were trying to curb terrorist activities in the province to ensure security of the citizens. Earlier, the DIG visited the family of a prayer leader, who was gunned down in a suspected sectarian attack and offered his condolences to the aggrieved family.

Full report at:

https://dailytimes.com.pk/243078/ctd-seizes-huge-cache-of-arms-explosives-in-quetta/

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Pakistan’s Muslims, Christians welcome news of nation’s new cardinal

By Robin Gomes

May 22, 2018

Muslim politicians and activists in Pakistan have joined Christians in welcoming the news about Pope Francis nominating Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi among 14 new cardinals he will elevate on June 29.

Speaking during his weekly midday “Regina Coeli” prayer on Sunday, the Pontiff stressed that the origins of the new cardinals "express the universality of the Church, which continues to proclaim God's merciful love to all the men and women of the earth".

Pakistan received its first cardinal 45 years ago, when Pope Paul VI made Archbishop Joseph Cordeiro also of Karachi a cardinal in 1973.  Some 24 years after his death in 1994, the predominantly Muslim nation will now have its second cardinal.  

Archbishop Coutts surprised

"I am very surprised at my elevation as cardinal," Archbishop Coutts told UCANEWS. "I am only hearing it from media and friends. I am yet to be officially notified by the Vatican. However, if the news is correct, I will be traveling to the Vatican in June to receive the red hat,” said the 72-year old archbishop, who is very much engaged in initiatives of interfaith harmony.

Archbishop Coutts recently formed the first-ever diocesan commission to promote interfaith harmony and said he often attends programmes, seminars and conferences to encourage people from different religions to live together peacefully.

"Christians who live here should promote a culture of harmony," he said.

Christians rejoice

The minority Christian community of Pakistan expressed its gratitude at the news of the nomination of Archbishop Coutts as cardinal.

"We are truly thrilled. It was long overdue. The Church of Pakistan was depressed because of many years of persecution,” Father Bonnie Mendes, former executive secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops’ Conference (PCBC), told AsiaNews.

Fr. Mendes regarded Archbishop Coutts as “the right man” who has been “a leader for 30 years.”   He said, “He expresses himself in sensitive and considered ways, both in national and international meetings.”

Emmanuel Neno, executive secretary of the PCBC Commission for Catechesis, reflecting the elation of Pakistan’s Christians.  "We are a religious minority, but our voice can be heard well in the universal Church,” “We thank the Holy Father because he takes care of the small Churches,” he said, noting that Archbishop Coutts has served as bishop in half the dioceses of the country, and knows well his people and their concerns.

"This is like a breath of fresh air for us. We have beautiful feelings. The naming of a cardinal from an Islamic country is a matter of great pride,” Father Inayat Bernard of the Sacred Heart Cathedral of Lahore told UCANEWS.

“On behalf of the Holy Father, I congratulate all of you," said the senior priest while addressing an interfaith gathering at Dominican Peace Center in Lahore.

Another priest, Father Pascal Paulus, president of the Major Religious Superiors Leadership Conference of Pakistan said, "All the Christians in Pakistan are grateful and praying for the Holy Father. He truly loves us.”  “We are proud of Joseph Coutts as our leader. The humble pastor is a symbol of Christ in Pakistan. He is a visionary person with knowledge and a good understanding of political matters," the priest told UCANEWS.

Fr. Paulus noted that with a new cardinal issues of human rights in Pakistan will carry more weight and they will have a stronger voice. “The great pastor will boost our morale and will be the reason for progress of the local church," Fr. Paulus added.

Muslims felicitate

Prominent Muslim personalities have also welcomed the news of Pakistan’s second cardinal.

In a post on Twitter, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique wrote: "The nomination of Archbishop Joseph Coutts is very pleasing to the Christian community of Pakistan. He is a pride both for Christians and for our beloved Pakistan. Congratulations to the Christian community.”

Sohail Ahmad Raza, the Muslim director of interfaith relations at Minhaj-ul-Quran International, expressed satisfaction at the choice of  Archbishop Coutts saying, “Now we know that the pope has focused on Pakistan. This is an honor not only for Christians but also for Pakistan."

Dr. Sadia Umer, coordinator of the women's empowerment initiative at United Religions Initiative (URI) Pakistan, a global grassroots interfaith network working for peace and justice, said that the news of Archbishop Coutts represents “a beautiful image” of the country.  The Muslim gynecologist noted that everyone looks at Pakistan with suspicion and accuses its people of being terrorists. “Instead Pope Francis is different. He is truly sincere in inter-religious dialogue and regards us all as human beings,” she said, adding, “For us, the new cardinal is a gift of Ramadan."  

Biography

Archbishop Joseph Coutts was born on July 21, 1945 at Amritsar, India.  He was ordained to the priesthood on Jan. 9, 1971 in Lahore. 

On May 5, 1988, St. John Paul appointed him Coadjutor Bishop of Hyderabad, and was consecrated bishop on September 16, that year.   He succeeded as Bishop of Hyderabad on September 1, 1990.

After the see of Faisalabad fell vacant with bishop John Joseph taking his own life as a protest against anti-Christian bias in Pakistan, St. John Paul II appointed Bishop Coutts to Faisalabad on 27 Jun 1998.

On Jan. 25, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Bishop Coutts the Archbishop of Karachi, after Archbishop Evarist Pinto retired.   He was installed on March 17. 

Full report at:

https://www.vaticannews.va/en/church/news/2018-05/pope-new-cardinals-pakistan-coutts.html

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Hafiz Saeed's MML to drag Pakistan election commission to court for contempt

May 21, 2018

LAHORE: The Milli Muslim League (MML), the political face of Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed's Jammat-ud-Dawah (JuD), on Monday accused Pakistan's election commission of using delaying tactics to register the group as a political party and committing contempt of court.

Saeed has already started campaigning for the MML with an eye on the general elections in Pakistan expected to be held on July 27.

The US last month designated the MML as a foreign terrorist organisation, saying the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) members make up MML's leadership and the so-called party openly displays Saeed's likeness in its election banners and literature.

The MML has not been yet registered by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

"We are going to file a contempt of court petition in the Islamabad High Court against the ECP for using delaying tactics regarding enlisting of MML as a political party as per law," MML President Saifullah Khalid said in a statement today.

Khalid said the ECP's "tactics" are in clear violation of the high court verdict that forwarded the MML application to the ECP for enlisting it as a political entity but it is yet to comply with the orders.

The court in March had set aside the ECP order declining registration of the MML. Justice Aamer Farooq of the IHC bench had referred this matter to the ECP directing the electoral body to pass a speaking order in this matter.

The MML had challenged the October 11 order of the ECP declining registration to the MML as a political party allegedly on the behest of the interior ministry.

The interior ministry had opposed enlisting of the MML as a political party, arguing that it is an offshoot of the JuD of Saeed banned under a UN resolution.

Khalid said the basic law of the country gives the people the right to take part in political process and the ECP can not deny them this fundamental right.

"Despite all odds MML candidates will contest from all constituencies in the upcoming general elections," he said.

"We have decided to assemble people, forge unity among them and create an atmosphere of harmony. We have to serve the country and the nation, protect its ideological and geographical borders and reform its political system. For the purpose MML should be allowed to get registered and take part in forthcoming elections," he said.

Security analyst Muhammad Amir Rana says MML is a JuD political wing and it will be a unique case in the country's history if the political wing of a militant organisation is registered with the ECP as a political party.

"There is still plenty of literature being produced by the JuD against democracy and the constitution. A brief background of the party's anti-democratic ideology and practices can be found in a book Qafila Dawat-o-Jihad, written by Ameer Hamza, a JuD founder," he said.

Rana further said the JuD has the same worldview and anti-democratic attitude that are espoused by international terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and the militant Islamic State group.

The JuD is believed to be the front organisation for the LeT which is responsible for carrying out the Mumbai attack that killed 166 people, including six Americans.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/hafiz-saeeds-mml-to-drag-pakistan-election-commission-to-court-for-contempt/articleshow/64259193.cms

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Nawaz says he never owned London properties

Malik Asad

May 22, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday reiterated his stance that he never owned London properties and also rejected alleged money trail of his son Hussain Nawaz to the apartments.

Testifying before the accountability court in response to the 128 questions put to him, Mr Sharif said he was neither the real/beneficial owner of the Avenfield apartments nor were these his benami properties and this question pertained to Hussain who was declared an absconder.

He also denied any kind of involvement in setting up the Gulf Steel Mills (GSM) in Dubai and said that except for the fact that he had participated in the opening ceremony of GSM in 1974, he never remained involved in any activity related to the mill whether its share-sale agreements or sale proceeds and all these affairs had been looked after by his father. “Since I was not associated with GSM, hence I have no knowledge that how finances were generated for its establishment.”

In his statement before accountability court judge Mohammad Bashir, the PML-N supreme leader alleged that the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) report mentioned selective collection of evidence and selective portions from the statements of witnesses. He criticised the inclusion of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI) in the JIT.

About the ISI and MI nominees in the JIT, Mr Sharif said these appointments were inappropriate with obvious fallout on the JIT proceedings given the civil-military tension that had plagued the country for the last 70 years. He said ISI nominee was the most aggressive member of the JIT whose description was given in an application filed in the Supreme Court.

About JIT head Wajid Zia, Mr Sharif said the former’s bias was even otherwise established from the record and it was evident that he had manoeuvred by engaging his cousin Akhtar Raja as solicitor in London to produce “fabricated evidence”. He alleged that Mr Zia was not working independently but was under the influence of other members of the team.

The former prime minister pointed out that the Supreme Court had on April 20, 2017 constituted the JIT for assistance in adjudication of the constitutional petitions and, therefore, its report was inadmissible, inappropriate and irrelevant in the reference. He said he had been deprived of the right to fair trial as enshrined in Article 10-A of the Constitution.

Mr Sharif said the Supreme Court had directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to prepare references on the basis of material collected by the JIT and not that the report might be treated as evidence. The JIT had collected selected documents from various institutions without details as to who authored these documents and who executed them, he added.

The PML-N supreme leader accused the JIT members of being biased and associated with his rival political parties.

About Bilal Rasool of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, he said the former was a maternal nephew of Mian Mohammad Azhar and his family was an ardent supporter of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) which was evident from the photographs of Mian Azhar’s son Hammad Azhar with Imran Khan at his Banigala residence.

Bilal Rasool’s wife was a very active supporter of the PTI and she had been posting comments on social media in favour of the PTI at a time when her husband was appointed member of the JIT. Mr Rasool himself had been a critic of the PML-N government, Mr Sharif alleged.

About Aamir Aziz, the JIT member from the State Bank of Pakistan, he said the former’s inclusion in the team was received with much scepticism as he had previously conducted an inquiry into the Hudaibya Paper Mills corruption reference on the directives of former military ruler retired Gen Pervez Musharraf.

In 2000, he added, Mr Aziz was working as director inspection banking when he was appointed NAB director by Gen Musharraf. Mr Aziz, he said, was tasked with investigating the Hudaibya reference which had been quashed by a Lahore High Court division bench and recently a Supreme Court bench had also rejected an appeal seeking re-opening of the reference.

About the JIT member from NAB, Irfan Naeem Mangi, the ousted premier said the former’s appointment was under scrutiny by the Supreme Court.

Mr Sharif questioned the legality of the requests for mutual legal assistance written by the JIT to foreign jurisdiction, saying that none of the MLAs had been produced before the accountability court. The statements recorded by the JIT were also inadmissible under the law, he argued.

Mr Sharif said that in his speech in the National Assembly it was his consistent stance that he never remained the real or beneficial owner of the Avenfield properties. “I never held Nielsen and Nescoll’s bearer shares or registered shares certificate. The prosecution has miserably failed to even remotely establish anything to the contrary. There is no credible evidence that the Avenfield apartments ever remained in my possession,” he claimed.

About forensic expert Robert William Radley’s report, Mr Sharif said the former had prepared a biased report in unholy haste.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1409237/nawaz-says-he-never-owned-london-properties

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SC questions Asif over benefits he received from UAE employer after becoming minister

Nasir Iqbal

May 22, 2018

ISLAMABAD: A three-judge Supreme Court bench hearing an appeal of former foreign minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Khawaja Muhammad Asif against his disqualification from holding public office asked on Monday if the appellant as minister had used his influence for getting benefits from his employer in the United Arab Emirates.

The Islamabad High Court had on April 26 disqualified Mr Asif for not disclosing his UAE iqama (work permit) in the nomination papers he submitted for the 2013 general elections.

‘‘What kind of advice Mr Asif offered to his UAE employer?’’ asked Justice Umar Ata Bandial, who headed the SC bench.

Senior counsel Muneer A. Malik, representing Mr Asif, argued that his client’s foreign employment did not fall under the conflict of interest.

Mr Asif mentioned details of his tax returns as well as the wealth reconciliation statement of the last three years in the nomination papers, said the counsel.

Justice Bandial observed that since Mr Asif was an important politician, those who had given him the UAE iqama might have had the obvious purpose of getting some benefits from him. He also noted that the appellant received a substantial increase in the salary after he became minister.

The observation came when the counsel explained before the court that the monthly salary of Mr Asif increased from AED9,000 to AED30,000 in 2014 and to AED50,000 in 2017.

When asked why the appellant’s salary registered a big increase, the counsel said because the advice of his client was making his UAE employer prosperous.

Justice Bandial observed that Mr Asif remitted Rs34 million in 2010 which suggested that he had a foreign capital.

At this, the counsel explained that his client had an original capital of $25,000 invested in a restaurant business.

Until 1980 before joining politics, the counsel said, his client was a non-resident Pakistani and a banker who used to work for the BCCI (Bank of Credit and Commerce International). The counsel emphasised that no law in Pakistan prohibited any legislator from being engaged in an employment.

The counsel rejected the allegation that Mr Asif had purposely mentioned ‘business’ as his occupation in the nomination papers in a bid to hide his employment in a UAE firm.

He was of the opinion that having an occupation, business and employment should not attract disqualification under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution.

Lifetime disqualification under this provision was understandable for concealing qualification or having dual nationality, he added.

About not mentioning a bank account with NBAD bank-UAE holding a nominal amount of AED4,700 (approximately Rs130,000) in the nomination papers, the counsel argued that this aspect was not pleaded before the high court. Terming it a bona fide accidental omission, he said the amount in the bank account was so insignificant.

The counsel referred to the observation in the high court in which it was stated that his client had taken a stance which amounted to acknowledging that he had made a false contract with the intent of deceiving the laws of another sovereign state (the UAE).

He argued that the UAE laws had been completely misconstrued by the high court.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1409224/sc-questions-asif-over-benefits-he-received-from-uae-employer-after-becoming-minister

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JUI-F threatens to block highway between Afghanistan and Pakistan

May 21 2018

The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazzl (JUI-F) led by Maulana Fazal Ur Rehman has threatened to block the highway between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The party reportedly issued the warning after the decision by the government of Pakistan to merge Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, according to The Express Tribune.

JUI-F’s Fata chapter Mufti Abdul Shakoor said Sunday Fata’s merger with the K-P “is an international agenda which will not be supported at any cost.”

Speaking during a press conference with JUI-F’s general secretary Mufti Ijaz Shinwari and information secretary Jihad Shah, Mufti Shakoor said the party will stage a protest demonstration at the Pak-Afghan highway in Landi Kotal and a separate one at the Indus Highway in Darra Adam Khel simultaneously against ignoring the will of tribal people and imposing decisions on them against their wishes.

The party’s chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman had earlier announced that the party had decided to part ways with the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) over the implementation of reforms in Fata.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/jui-f-threatens-to-block-highway-between-afghanistan-and-pakistan-05205/

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PTM says TTP video a bid to malign Pashtun movement

May 22, 2018

The Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) has rejected a video circulating on the social media in which a leader of the proscribed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is seen expressing the terror outfit’s support for the Pashtun rights movement, terming it a “failed propaganda launched by alien forces”.

Media reports on Monday linked PTM with the infamous terrorist organisation that has claimed responsibility for carrying out dozens of suicide attacks across the country. The shocking video showed TTP’s South Waziristan deputy chief Azmat Mehsud assuring “full support” to Manzoor Pashteen and PTM. Mehsud also praised the rights movement for criticising the armed forces over the issue of missing persons.

Rejecting the TTP’s “expression of support”, PTM leader Mohsin Dawar tweeted, “It appears as if the alien forces still believe that people are unaware of these propaganda techniques.”

He alleged that particular forces were using ‘good Taliban’ to give statements in PTM’s favour.

Meanwhile, the video also showed TTP’s Mehsud saying, “We are with you against these oppressors [armed forces]. Don’t get tricked or distracted now. We stand behind these friends [PTM] who are raising their voices for prisoners.”

Citing religious sayings, the commander of the banned terror outfit motivated the PTM to continue agitation. He said, “[Pashtun] movement deserves all the reward for raising their voice for our prisoners.”

It is being propagated by various social media accounts that the terror group is siding with the PTM for the release of missing persons that include some alleged TTP militants and facilitators.

“Azmat Mehsud owns his clansman Manzur Mehsud,” one social media user wrote.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/05/21/ptm-refutes-allegations-of-links-with-ttp/

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South Asia

 

Taliban issue attack warning, ask Kabul residents to stay away from 'military centres'

May 21, 2018

The Taliban warned Kabul residents on Monday to avoid “military centres” in the heavily fortified city, saying they are planning more attacks in the Afghan capital where civilians have long borne the brunt of casualties.

The militant group has issued such warnings to civilians before, including during a failed attempt to take the western city of Farah last week, but it is believed to be the first time they have singled out Kabul.

The United Nations has said the capital — where the Islamic State group is also stepping up attacks — is already the deadliest place in the country for civilians.

The Taliban said they were planning more attacks on “the enemy's military and intelligence centres” as part of an annual spring offensive.

“Therefore, to avoid civilian casualties and only cause damage to enemy military, we are asking Kabul residents to keep away... we don't want even a single innocent civilian to be killed,” said a statement published online.

In response, the defence ministry said police and troops are “ready to protect the people with all means possible”, and would not allow the militants to reach their “un-Islamic and inhuman goals”.

The Taliban did not define what was meant by “military and intelligence centres”.

Such targets are difficult to avoid given that the overcrowded city is the heart of the country's intelligence, government and military operations and plagued by traffic jams due to ubiquitous checkpoints and barriers.

“Any attacks or explosions, even a small one, would cause civilian casualties because military installations are located in the centre of the city near people's houses,” political and military analyst Nik Mohammad told AFP.

The Taliban's statement was pure propaganda, he said, adding that if they fight in the cities “you will definitely kill civilians, there is no way to avoid that”.

Top target

The Taliban statement came on Monday as officials in the southern province of Kandahar said the insurgents had killed five mine disposal technicians as they were clearing the area in preparation for a multi-billion dollar gas pipeline.

The Taliban have previously pledged to cooperate with the TAPI pipeline, named after the countries taking part in the project: Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

An insurgent spokesman said they were still investigating the incident.

The Taliban are stepping up their Al Khandaq spring offensive in an apparent rejection of calls to take up the Afghan government's February offer of peace talks.

The group portrays itself as taking care to avoid civilian casualties, but has claimed attacks such as a massive bomb hidden in an ambulance in January.

This went off in a crowded street and killed more than 100 people.

The extremists' chilling ability to hit at the heart of the country despite increased police checks has spotlighted security and intelligence failures, with the government of President Ashraf Ghani coming under increasing pressure to protect civilians.

Kabul is overflowing with returning refugees and internally displaced Afghans fleeing war and seeking jobs and security.

The city is a top target. It accounted for 16 percent of all civilian casualties last year, when 1,831 civilians were killed or wounded nationwide, according to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.

The UN has warned that 2018 could be even deadlier.

https://nation.com.pk/21-May-2018/taliban-issue-attack-warning-ask-kabul-residents-to-stay-away-from-military-centres

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King Salman Centre For Humanitarian Aid And Relief Steps Up Humanitarian Assistance In Myanmar

May 22, 2018

RIYADH: The King Salman Centre for Humanitarian Aid and Relief (KSRelief) has increased humanitarian efforts providing food and medical assistance to the victims of human rights abuses in Myanmar.

Azzam Obaid, a media adviser at KSRelief headquarters in Riyadh, told Arab News on Monday that KSRelief distributed food baskets to needy families in the villages of Arakan province in Myanmar.

Rohingya Muslims, representing the largest percentage of Muslims in Myanmar, live in Rakhine state.

The food basket distribution comes within the framework of humanitarian projects carried out by KSRelief for distressed people in a number of countries including Myanmar.

Dr. Abdullah Al-Moallem, director for health and environment aid at KSRelief, told Arab News that a medical team from the center visited Myanmar and assessed the requirements of the hospital in Yangon, which provides medical services to all in need.

“A specialized medical team by the order of King Salman traveled to Myanmar to provide medical assistance, mainly equipment to the Islamic charity hospital,” said Al-Moallem, adding that the team visited to see the reality on the ground, interact with staff and return an assessment.

KSRelief donated $300,000 to the hospital for the equipment.

The medical team’s visit was coordinated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the Saudi Embassy in Myanmar. KSrelief field teams periodically carry out inspections to follow up on the center’s projects in various beneficiary countries around the world.

The plight of Rohingya Muslims is said to be the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis, with more than 705,000 risking death to leave by sea or on foot since August 2017. They are fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh after the destruction of their homes.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1307176/saudi-arabia

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‘Few signs of progress’ in Afghanistan: Pentagon watchdog

May 22, 2018

Washington/MAIMANA - Upbeat assessments of an improving security situation in Afghanistan do not line up with the facts on the ground, the Pentagon watchdog said Monday, pointing to “few signs of progress” in the war-torn nation.

Top US officials and military commanders insist Afghan security forces are doing a better job of maintaining order, even though the Taliban are staging repeated attacks and the Islamic State group has conducted a series of high-profile suicide blasts. “This quarter, US officials stated that the Taliban was not achieving its objectives and that momentum was shifting in favor of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF),” the Inspector General of the Pentagon’s office said. “However, available metrics showed few signs of progress.”

The top US commander in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, in November said the fight had “turned the corner” and predicted that the Afghan security forces will expand government control of the population from about 64 percent now to 80 percent over two years.

But the inspector general said there had been “little positive change” in the first quarter of 2018, with just 65 percent of the population living in areas under government control or influence.

At the same time, the number of Afghan security force personnel dropped from 331,708 to 313,728 - a figure that is 11 percent below its authorized strength of 352,000.

“This shortfall, at a time when there is an increased emphasis on building the lethality of the ANDSF, renews concerns about recruiting, retention, and casualty rates of the ANDSF and the overall effectiveness of the ANDSF,” the report states.

Afghan forces repel Taliban attack

Afghan security forces have repulsed Taliban attempts to overrun Khawja Sabzposh district in the northern Faryab province, police said Monday.

“A group of Taliban militants launched multi-pronged attacks on security checkpoints in Khawja Sabzposh district late Sunday night, triggering heavy battle which lasted until 4:00 a.m. local time Monday and the militants after suffering casualties fled away,” provincial police spokesman Abdul Karim Yurush told Xinhua.

Gunmen kill 5 demining workers

Five Afghan demining workers were killed and another went missing after they were attacked by gunmen in the country’s southern province of Kandahar on Monday, local police said.

“The incident occurred on Monday morning in Malang Karaiz locality, Maywand district, west of provincial capital Kandahar city. A probe is still on,” Zia Durrani, provincial police spokesman, told Xinhua. The killed were part of a joint team, including demining personnel, which was busy conducting an assessment survey for a gas project, he said.

9 Haqqani militants killed

In Afghan airstrikes

At least nine militants of Haqqani militant group had been killed following airstrikes in Paktika province, eastern Afghanistan, the command of special forces said Monday.

“Afghan Special Operations Forces-related airstrikes targeted militants of Haqqani terrorist network in Sar Hawza district, Paktika province Sunday, killing nine Haqqani gunmen and destroying two motorcycles,” Operational Coordination Group Afghanistan said in a statement.

Afghan forces and the NATO and US-led coalition troops continued the mopping-up operations as spring and summer known as fighting season are drawing near in the mountainous country.

As a Taliban-linked group of militants, the Haqqani network was designated as a terrorist group by the United States in 2012.

Iran denies helps to Taliban

in Afghanistan

Iran’s Foreign Ministry on Monday denied the allegations that it helps a Taliban push in an Afghan province bordering Iran, state TV reported.

The claim is instigated by the US commanders who try to divert public opinion from the real cause of the flare-up in violence, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying.

“The Taliban’s attack on Afghan cities and their recapture by government forces is not a new thing and is not related to good relations between the two neighboring countries,” Qasemi said.

“US commanders who have been unable to establish security in Afghanistan after years of massive military presence and shedding the blood of thousands of innocent people are trying to deflect the public opinion of Afghanistan from the real reasons behind the perpetuation of the war by accusing the Islamic Republic of supporting the Taliban,” he said.

For four decades, Iran has been standing by the government of Afghanistan to defend their sovereignty and independence, he added.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/22-May-2018/-few-signs-of-progress-in-afghanistan-pentagon-watchdog

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Taliban leader Mullah Din Mohammad and comrades killed in Farah airstrike

May 21 2018

A key Taliban local group leader Mullah Din Mohammad and his comrades were killed in an airstrike in western Farah province of Afghanistan.

The Ministry of Defense (MoD) said Mullah Din Mohammad was killed in an airstrike conducted in Posht Rod district of Farah province.

The source further added that a total of four militants including Mullah Din Mohammad and his three comrades were killed in the airstrikes.

Farah is among the relatively volatile provinces in West of Afghanistan where the anti-government armed militant groups are active in some of its remote districts.

Hundreds of Taliban insurgents launched a coordinated attack on Farah city the provincial capital of Farah in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

The Afghan national defense and security forces responded to the attack by launching air and ground operations that lasted until early hours of Wednesday morning.

The Afghan officials said Wednesday that the city has been cleared of the Taliban militants although they did not rule out the presence of the Taliban militants in some parts of the city as well its outskirts.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/taliban-leader-mullah-din-mohammad-and-comrades-killed-in-farah-airstrike-05203/

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Taliban launch large scale attack on Ghazni districts

May 22 2018

The Taliban militants launched a large scale attack on two districts of southeastern Ghazni province amid reports several security personnel have lost their lives during the clashes.

A provincial council member Ahmad Faqiri confirmed the attack and said several security personnel were martyred during the clashes with the Taliban insurgents.

He said the commander of Deh Yak police commandment and the reserved forces commander are among those who have lost their lives in the attack.

The Taliban group claims that the fighters of the group have taken control of the two districts.

However, a lawmaker representing Ghazni province, Arif Rahmani said heavy clashes are underway in the district since the launch of the attack last night.

Rahmani further added that the two districts are on the verge of collapse however he did not confirm the fall of the two districts.

He also confirmed the casualties of the security forces during the clashes with the Taliban insurgents but did not elaborate regarding the exact number.

In the meantime, reports indicate at least 20 security personnel were martyred during the clashes but there are no reports regarding the Taliban casualties.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/taliban-launch-large-scale-attack-on-ghazni-districts-05210/

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Five mine clearance workers killed in southern Afghanistan

May 21, 2018

Unidentified gunmen have killed at least five mine disposal technicians and kidnapped one of the workers in southern Afghanistan's Kandahar province, officials say.

Daoud Ahmadi, a spokesman for the governor of Kandahar province, said the demining team was working in the province’s Maiwand district when attacked early on Monday.

“The victims had told the district governor and district police that they had no problem with Taliban so they would not need any protection,” media outlets quoted Ahmadi as saying.

Sources said that the deminers were clearing an area for the multi-billion-dollar TAPI pipeline project. TAPI is named after the countries participating in the project - Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

The construction work will still have to pass through lawless areas of southern Afghanistan where armed groups with shifting loyalties operate and security is highly uncertain.

The latest attack comes as the Taliban militant group in Afghanistan has announced the start of its so-called spring offensive, saying it will look out for US forces on a “kill or capture” mission.

The US -- under Republican George W. Bush’s presidency -- and its allies invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The offensive removed the Taliban regime from power, but after 17 years insecurity still persists in the country despite the presence of thousands of foreign troops.

After becoming president in 2008, Barack Obama, a Democrat, vowed to end the Afghan war, but he failed to keep his promise.

US President Donald Trump, who has spoken against the Afghan war, has dubbed the 2001 invasion and the following occupation of Afghanistan as "Obama's war."

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/05/21/562462/Afghanistan-Daoud-Ahmadi-Kandahar-Maiwand

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Arab World

 

Is Isis Still Around? Islamic State Leader Is Alive and Plotting A Comeback, Reports Claim

By Cristina Maza

5/21/18

The Islamic State has almost entirely lost control over territory in Iraq and Syria, and rumours claim that the group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is either dead or severely disabled.

Several analysts indicate that ISIS, the Islamic militants who pledged to invade the West and establish an Islamic State based on Sharia law across the globe, has now been relegated to online forums and encrypted messaging apps, through which it urges its followers to carry out lone wolf attacks. In April, the Department of Defense declared that the defeat of ISIS was imminent.

Nevertheless, top U.S. counterintelligence officials suspect that the group’s leader is still alive and plotting the organization’s comeback, according to reports. An Islamic State official arrested by Turkey early this year claimed that the organization’s leader is helping plan school children’s curriculums in Syria in an effort to spread the group’s ideology. And even if the militant was lying, some experts say the group has shifted behind the scenes in the wake of its military defeats in the Middle East, and has simultaneously spread its tentacles to other parts of the globe. 

“It's difficult to say whether or not al-Baghdadi is alive, especially as ISIS has a public relations' incentive to maintain that he is still alive and directing operations. However, to understand the growing threat of ISIS, it is partially immaterial whether or not he is alive and its continued survival in Syria," Harrison Akins, a Middle East security expert at the Howard Baker Center, told Newsweek. "Much of the perceived threat of ISIS has been the adoption of the ISIS mantle by affiliate groups in conflicts around the world, much as groups previously adopted the al Qaeda brand.”

ISIS also has a small base in Afghanistan, where it has taken credit for several deadly attacks in the country’s capital Kabul. ISIS-affiliated groups are also increasingly operating in Africa. On Monday, the group took credit for an attack on a vehicle carrying Egypt’s security forces in the Sinai Peninsula. And although ISIS does sometimes take credit for attacks it did not carry out, there is ample evidence that groups loosely affiliated with ISIS continue to operate around the world. Most recently, prosecutors in Brazil charged 11 people with trying to operate an ISIS cell in the South American nation.

“These ISIS groups, such as the ones in Somalia, Afghanistan, or the Philippines, are factions that have splintered from pre-existing groups such as Al Shabaab, the Taliban, and Abu Sayyaf. As these groups grew out of their own conflict environment, it is difficult to say what control or influence the leadership of ISIS in Syria has over them,” Akins added.

One of the most recent reports from Iraqi officials suggested that al-Baghdadi is alive in Syria’s Jazeera desert and was wounded in airstrikes. He is one of the world’s most wanted individuals, and the U.S. is offering a $25 million reward that could lead to his capture.

http://www.newsweek.com/isis-still-around-islamic-state-leader-alive-and-secretly-plotting-comeback-937600

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Syrian Army declares Damascus as 'completely secure' after Islamic State forced to flee last pocket of resistance

May 22, 2018

Damascus: Syria's army declared on Monday it is in complete control of Damascus and its outskirts after a devastating battle that forced Islamic State group jihadists to flee their last pocket of resistance in the capital.

It marked a major milestone in the protracted war, which began in 2011 and saw parts of Damascus fall to armed rebels the following year.

In recent months, President Bashar al-Assad has used a blend of military pressure and negotiated withdrawals to steadily flush rebels out of territory around Damascus.

But as a small Islamic State holdout remained in the capital's south, troops and allied Palestinian militia launched an offensive last month to recapture the area covering the Palestinian camp of Yarmuk and adjacent districts of Qadam, Tadamun and Hajar al-Aswad.

On Monday, the army declared it had ousted Islamic State from that zone, sealing its control of the capital.

"The Syrian army announces today that Damascus, its outskirts and surrounding towns are completely secure," it said in a statement carried on official media.

"The wheel of our progress on the battlefield will not stop until all Syrian land is purified."

Standing on Route 30, a main street in the Palestinian camp of Yarmuk, a Lieutenant Mohsen Ismail, 22, sighed: "This was the last battle in Damascus. I'm extremely happy."

"Damascus will go back to the way it was. We'll forget the days of shelling and blood — this victory will help us forget it all," he said, while some soldiers fired their weapons in the air in celebration.

Hours after the army's announcement, black clouds of smoke still hung in the air and some small fires were still raging in the abandoned neighbourhoods.

Evacuations shrouded in secrecy

Weeks of fierce combat subsided at the weekend when a ceasefire allowed for group withdrawals, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said.

"The evacuations are over, after 32 buses took 1,600 people including Islamic State fighters and their relatives out of southern Damascus on Sunday and Monday," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

They were heading east towards Syria's Badiya, the vast stretch of desert where Islamic State still holds tiny slivers of territory.

After the final departure around midday on Monday, Syrian troops entered Yarmuk for combing operations, said the Britain-based monitor.

Yarmuk was the largest Palestinian camp in Syria and was put under crippling government siege in 2012 — making it one of the longest besiegements of Syria's war.

Attacks by Syria's government, as well as rebel and jihadist infighting, have ravaged the district for years.

Islamic State overran it in 2015, and the thriving 160,000-strong population dwindled further to just several hundred.

The evacuations from Yarmuk were shrouded in secrecy and took place under the cover of darkness with no media present.

The government has denied reaching a deal with Islamic State, but did say a brief ceasefire had allowed one convoy of women and children to leave the pocket in southern Damascus overnight.

A military source close to the regime said the deal had been reached through negotiations with the government and its ally Russia.

"They left in small batches at night," the source said.

"The largest group went towards Syria's Badiya, because the Americans did not agree to let them enter pockets east of the Euphrates where the Syrian Democratic Forces are present."

Trucks, not buses

The SDF has been waging its own offensive against Islamic State for several years, ousting the jihadists from Syria's north and east with air support from the US-led coalition.

It is currently closing in on a string of Islamic State-held villages east of the winding Euphrates river, near the border with Iraq.

The US-led coalition told AFP on Monday it was aware of the reported evacuations from Yarmuk and was "monitoring the situation".

Last year, Islamic State fighters and relatives were evacuated from an area on the Lebanese-Syrian border under a deal between Islamic State and Hezbollah, the regime's powerful Lebanese ally.

The deal enraged the US-led coalition, which sent aircraft to shadow the convoy and conducted bombing raids to block it from reaching Islamic State-held territory. Those strikes killed several dozen Islamic State fighters.

A resident of Yarmuk who was evacuated on Monday said Islamic State fighters had tried to take precautions.

"The last group of fighters left on trucks, not on buses. They requested this out of fear the buses would be targeted," the resident said.

Before launching its anti-Islamic State push in Yarmuk, Syria's government cleared out other rebels from the area with military drives and evacuation deals.

More than 1,000 Islamist fighters and civilians left Qadam in March for opposition territory in northern Syria.

The following month, Assad's forces began the assault specifically targeting Islamic State.

Full report at:

https://www.firstpost.com/world/syrian-army-declares-damascus-as-completely-secure-after-islamic-state-forced-to-flee-last-pocket-of-resistance-4477703.html

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Is Isis Still Around? Islamic State Leader Is Alive and Plotting A Comeback, Reports Claim

BY CRISTINA MAZA

5/21/18

The Islamic State has almost entirely lost control over territory in Iraq and Syria, and rumors claim that the group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is either dead or severely disabled.

Several analysts indicate that ISIS, the Islamic militants who pledged to invade the West and establish an Islamic State based on Sharia law across the globe, has now been relegated to online forums and encrypted messaging apps, through which it urges its followers to carry out lone wolf attacks. In April, the Department of Defense declared that the defeat of ISIS was imminent.

Nevertheless, top U.S. counterintelligence officials suspect that the group’s leader is still alive and plotting the organization’s comeback, according to reports. An Islamic State official arrested by Turkey early this year claimed that the organization’s leader is helping plan school children’s curriculums in Syria in an effort to spread the group’s ideology. And even if the militant was lying, some experts say the group has shifted behind the scenes in the wake of its military defeats in the Middle East, and has simultaneously spread its tentacles to other parts of the globe. 

“It's difficult to say whether or not al-Baghdadi is alive, especially as ISIS has a public relations' incentive to maintain that he is still alive and directing operations. However, to understand the growing threat of ISIS, it is partially immaterial whether or not he is alive and its continued survival in Syria," Harrison Akins, a Middle East security expert at the Howard Baker Center, told Newsweek. "Much of the perceived threat of ISIS has been the adoption of the ISIS mantle by affiliate groups in conflicts around the world, much as groups previously adopted the al Qaeda brand.”

ISIS also has a small base in Afghanistan, where it has taken credit for several deadly attacks in the country’s capital Kabul. ISIS-affiliated groups are also increasingly operating in Africa. On Monday, the group took credit for an attack on a vehicle carrying Egypt’s security forces in the Sinai Peninsula. And although ISIS does sometimes take credit for attacks it did not carry out, there is ample evidence that groups loosely affiliated with ISIS continue to operate around the world. Most recently, prosecutors in Brazil charged 11 people with trying to operate an ISIS cell in the South American nation.

“These ISIS groups, such as the ones in Somalia, Afghanistan, or the Philippines, are factions that have splintered from pre-existing groups such as Al Shabaab, the Taliban, and Abu Sayyaf. As these groups grew out of their own conflict environment, it is difficult to say what control or influence the leadership of ISIS in Syria has over them,” Akins added.

Full report at:

http://www.newsweek.com/isis-still-around-islamic-state-leader-alive-and-secretly-plotting-comeback-937600

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Saudi Arabia's stance on Palestine has been unwavering

May 22, 2018

Saudi Arabia’s stance toward the Palestinian cause has remained unchanged since 1935 London Conference, known as the Round Table Conference.

The Palestinian cause has always been the Saudi leadership’s concern and received attention throughout history.

Following are brief points showing the Kingdom’s steadfast stance toward the Palestinian cause throughout history.

In 1929, the late King Abdulaziz supported the Palestinian people against occupation despite the severe economic crisis Saudi Arabia was facing at that time.

The late King Abdulaziz sent an urgent donation of £500 to the Palestinian people. The donation was handed over to the Chairman of the Supreme Islamic Council in Palestine Muhammad Amin Al-Husseini, along with a message saying: “We were deeply saddened by the painful events.”

In 1937, when the project to divide Palestine was issued and was approved by the Peel Commission, formally known as the Palestine Royal Commission, the late King Abdulaziz told the British Minister Plenipotentiary in Jeddah: “There is no sincere Arab who will accept partition. If you are told that some individuals in an Arab country agree to partition, believe me the majority of the people in that country do not approve of this.”

In 1935, the late King Abdulaziz sent the Crown Prince to Palestine to see the condition of the Palestinian people following their uprisings. During the visit, the late King Saud (the Crown Prince at that time) said: “The sons of the Palestinian people are our sons and kinsfolk. We have a duty toward their cause which we will fulfill.”

In 1937, King Abdulaziz sent King Faisal (Minister of Foreign Affairs at that time) to Palestine to support the Palestinians. In Palestine, he said: “My father, King Abdulaziz, has sent me on this mission and I am happy for two reasons: First, I am happy to visit Al-Aqsa Mosque and pray in it, and second, I am happy to meet these revolutionaries to reassure them that their efforts will not be futile.”

In 1976, speaking to the press, the late King Khalid said: “As you know, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is working seriously and sincerely with all its potential to support the Arab-Islamic right in Palestine and liberate Al-Quds. In this regard, the Kingdom spares no efforts and will not. We in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are looking forward to supporting other Muslim countries, as the third holy mosque is a right of the Muslim Ummah. It should be liberated from the clutches of Zionism.”

In a speech before Haj delegations in 1984, the late King Fahd said: “The call of Al-Quds is still resounding in our ears. The enemy is still continuing its inhuman acts and tyranny, bloodletting, killing of the innocent and wreaking havoc.”

In 2006, the late King Abdullah said: “The region will not witness calm and stability unless the enemy recognizes legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination, the return to their country and to establish their state on their usurped land. These rights are non-negotiable nor are they debatable.”

In 2018 in the 29th Arab Summit, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman said: “I would like to announce naming the summit as ‘Al-Quds Summit’ so that all far and near should know that Palestine and its people are in the hearts and minds of the Arabs and Muslims.”

In 2014 during the inauguration of foreign ministers’ conference of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member countries in Jeddah, the late Prince Saud Al-Faisal, minister of foreign affairs, said: “The Kingdom considers the Palestinian cause as its first cause. The OIC represents the Ummah, their conscience, speaks on their behalf and expresses their will and determination. The Executive Committee is holding its second meeting in a month to discuss how to repulse the flagrant Israeli aggression against our kinsfolk in the Gaza Strip. This brutal aggression is going on day and night by air, land and sea and for a whole month now to massacre the Palestinians. It is targeting civilians, especially women and children, who are more than half the victims.”

In 2018, Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir reaffirmed: “The Kingdom’s stance on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is steadfast. The solution to this conflict is based on the international references and the Arab peace initiative. It culminates with the establishment of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

Following are brief points showing the Kingdom’s constant stance toward the Palestinian cause throughout history.

The Kingdom’s steadfast stance toward the Palestinian cause throughout history:

In 1943, the Kingdom established its consulate general in Jerusalem, Palestine, so as to facilitate communication with the Palestinian people and provide support for their just cause.

In 1945, the late King Abdulaziz sent a letter to US President Franklin D. Roosevelt explaining the Palestinian cause. This letter contributed to changing the stance of the Roosevelt Administration, leading to his pledge not to recognize the state of Israel. This letter is considered to be among the strongest letters in the history of defending the Palestinians’ rights.

In June 1967, the popular donation campaign in the Kingdom managed to collect over SR16 million at that time.

In December 1968, two religious edicts were issued by the Kingdom’s Grand Mufti at that time Sheikh Muhammad Bin Ibrahim and after him by the late Sheikh Abdulaziz Bin Baz. The two edicts made it permissible to pay Zakat to the Popular Committees for Assisting the Palestinian People.

In 1969, the Chairman of the Popular Committee for Supporting the Palestinian People, Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz, in his status at that time as Chairman of the Popular Committee, issued an open letter calling on Saudis to donate 1 percent of their salaries for the care of the families of the Palestinian martyrs. The call received an overwhelming response from government employees.

In 1969, the Kingdom’s efforts led to convening a meeting for Arab and Muslim countries in Rabat, Morocco. It was agreed to establish the Organization of the Islamic Conference (the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) at present). It has as its members 57 Arab and Islamic countries. The principles for defending the Muslims’ honor and dignity, represented by Jerusalem (Al-Quds) and the Dome of the Rock were presented. This was an attempt to find a common ground among all the Muslims.

The Popular Committee for Supporting the Palestinians in Riyadh under the chairmanship of Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz, in his status at that time as Chairman of the Popular Committee, set up an “honor register” through which individuals, businessmen and companies gave their commitment to provide regular monthly or annual donations to the account of the Popular Committee. The objective was to increase the revenues and donations to the popular committee.

The Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI) gave a 10 percent donation commitment.

In 1982 following the Israeli invasion of South Lebanon, the popular donation campaigns managed to collect over SR108 million.

In 1988, Prince Salman, in his status as Chairman of the Popular Committee for Assisting the Palestinian People, issued a second appeal calling for donations to support the brave Palestinian uprising (Intifada) and increasing the revenues of the committee in general. The total proceeds from the donations exceeded SR160 million.

In 1988, Prince Salman, in his capacity at that time as Chairman of the Popular Committee for Assisting the Palestinian People, stressed that the Kingdom has never ever taken a stance supporting the Palestinian cause in order to be thanked and valued for these steps that are based on principles.

The Palestinian cause is not merely an international issue, but a basic and central cause for the Kingdom.

In 1989, when he was the Emir of Riyadh region, King Salman opened the Palestinian Embassy building in Riyadh and raised the Palestinian.

In 1997, the late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat decorated King Salman with the “Al-Quds Star Medal” in appreciation for his extraordinary personal efforts to support the Palestinian people.

During the inauguration of the OIC Foreign Ministers Conference in 2014, the late Prince Saud Al-Faisal, minister of foreign affairs announced the allocation of SR300 million, as directed by the late King Abdullah to provide medical help to the Palestinians.

During the 28th Arab Summit at the Dead Sea in 2017, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman stressed that we should not be too preoccupied with our regional events to be distracted from reaffirming to the world the centrality of the Palestinian cause for the Ummah.

In 2017, following President Donald Trump’s decision on the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the Kingdom expressed deep regret and stressed that it had warned earlier about the “serious” consequences of such an unjustified and irresponsible step.

In 2018, the Saudi royal court issued a statement saying: “The government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia hopes that the US Administration would reconsider this measure and align itself with the international will in enabling the Palestinian people regain their legitimate rights.

Full report at:

http://www.saudigazette.com.sa/article/535304/World/Mena/Saudi-Arabias-stance-on-Palestine-has-been-unwavering

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Militants in Another Region End Battle against Syrian Army

May 21, 2018

The ministry said that representatives of militants in the village of Nahaj in Dara'a province handed over their weapons to relevant officials and joined peace agreement with the army.

The statement further said that total number of regions, towns, settlements and villages that have thus far joined nationwide reconciliation plan stands at 2,513.

The Arabic-language al-Watan daily reported earlier today that the army has started granting amnesty to the militants that have laid down arms and applied for government pardoning in al-Rastan, Talbiseh, al-Za'aferaniyeh, Ezzeddeen, Dara al-Kabireh and Taldou in Northern and Northwestern Homs.

It further said that almost 3,000 militants have registered at peace committees in Northern and Northwestern Homs to receive government amnesty.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970231000797

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Turkish Army Sends New Military Convoy to Northwestern Syria

May 21, 2018

A long convoy of Turkish army vehicles moved towards Southeastern Idlib via Talmans settlement.

The convoy that included several military, armored vehicles and trucks entered al-Sarman region which is home to the sixth truce monitoring point of the Turkish soldiers.

Militant-affiliated sources reported that dispatch of the fresh convoy was aimed at reinvigorating the Turkish forces in the region.

In a similar development on Monday, a long convoy of the Turkish troops, including a hundred military vehicles, left the town of Morek in Northern Hama for Shahshabo region in Western Hama after going through Kafr Naboudeh.

Militant-held websites claimed that the Ankara forces have set up the eleventh truce monitoring point in the village of Qazal in al-Ghaab Plain in Western Hama.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970231000916

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Syrian Army Declares Day-Long Humanitarian Ceasefire in Southern Damascus

May 21, 2018

The army declared a day-long pause in the government forces' operation against ISIL to pave the way for the evacuation of the elderly, women and children trapped in a small part of Hajar al-Aswad that is still under ISIL's control.

The army tightened noose on ISIL after its advances that laid full siege on the terrorist group in a small area North of Hajar al-Aswad.  

In a similar development on Sunday, the army men engaged in tough battles against ISIL North of Hajar al-Aswad and Southern Yarmouk Camp, driving terrorists out of more areas.

In the meantime, a field source reported that fierce clashes are underway between the army soldiers and terrorists in al-Tazamon neighborhood, near Yarmouk Camp and in a region between Hajar al-Aswad and Yarmouk Camp, adding that almost seventy percent of Yarmouk Camp has come under the army's control.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970231000616

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Northeastern Syria: Militants Continue Plundering Public Assets, Transfer Infrastructures to Turkey

May 21, 2018

Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at and Turkistani Party are plundering railway lines and power cables in al-Rouj Plain in Western Idlib.

Local sources reported that the railway was one of the most important communication lines between al-Rouj Plan and Idlib city, adding that the terrorists' move has sparked a wave of anger among the Western Idlib's residents.

The sources further said that the terrorists transfer the stolen infrastructures made of steel and copper to Turkey to sell them in the country's market. 

Media sources said on Sunday that the Ankara-backed militants plundered several old infrastructures of Afrin in Aleppo province as the Turkish army and its allies continue driving out civilians and looting their properties in the town.

Media activists said that the Ankara-backed militants in Afrin detached and stole the old railway of Afrin which linked Qatmeh to Akbas square and was built in 1913.

Also, the Kurdish sources reported that the Olive Branch forces, affiliated to the Turkish army, fully destroyed the tomb of Sheikh Zeid in al-Zeidiyeh district in Afrin and looted the ancient artifacts inside.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970231000541

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Mideast

 

Yemeni mothers say Houthis ‘not providing Ramadan meals’ for abducted children

22 May 2018

The Mothers of Abductees Association in Hodeidah, west of Yemen, held a protest on Monday to demand the release of their abducted and forcibly disappeared children in Houthi prisons.

In a statement issued during the protest, the mothers of the abductees accused the Houthis of not providing their children with food and water for the Iftar and Suhoor meals of Ramadan and of “physical elimination” and of violating their dignities.

“Our sons tolerate pain in this scorching heat and bear physical and psychological torture and deliberate negligence of their health conditions every Ramadan,” they said in the statement.

The mothers called on humanitarian and human rights organizations and the UN envoy to Yemen to quickly intervene to release all those kidnapped and forcibly disappeared and demanded resolving their case without setting any conditions or restrictions.

They also held the Houthis responsible for the safety of those kidnapped and held in their prisons and noted that the statute of limitation does not apply to the violations they’re committing as they will be held accountable.

The Houthi militia has kidnapped thousands of activists, journalists and citizens who oppose its project ever since it invaded the capital Sanaa in 2014. Some were killed as a result of the brutal torture while many continue to suffer from human rights’ violations in secret detention centers and prisons in Houthi-held areas.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2018/05/22/Yemeni-mothers-say-Houthis-not-providing-Ramadan-meals-for-abducted-children.html

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Israeli parliament debates bill promoting Kurdish statehood

May 22, 2018

Israel’s parliament (Knesset) has reportedly discussed a bill that explores ways through which the Tel Aviv regime can help the Kurds establish an independent state supportive of the regime within Syria, Iraq and Turkey, where anti-Israel sentiments run high.

The official Israeli radio reported on Monday that the proposal had been submitted to the legislature by two right-wing parties, Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu.

The radio also quoted lawmaker Yoav Kish as saying that in light of recent regional developments, recognizing an independent Kurdish state, which would support the regime in Tel Aviv.

“There is a Kurdish minority in Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. All these countries are hostile to Israel, and certainly adding Iran, which also affects the region. That is why we need to strengthen the Kurds and lead a process that ultimately leads to the establishment of an independent Kurdish state that supports Israel,” he said.

“There is a reason that Israel was the first to publicly congratulate moves toward Kurdish independence in northern Iraq,” Kish added.

Kurdistan held a referendum on the secession from Iraq in September 2017 in defiance of strong criticisms from Baghdad and Iraq’s neighbors, particularly Iran and Turkey as well as the entire international community.

In the lead-up to the vote, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said Tel Aviv supports the “legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to attain a state of its own.”

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/05/22/562534/Israel-Kurd-independence

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Palestine urges Arab boycott of states moving embassies to Quds

May 22, 2018

Palestine has condemned the relocation of the Paraguayan embassy to Jerusalem al-Quds, calling on the Arab world to boycott the countries that follow America’s policy in this regard.

The US moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem al-Quds on May 14.Guatemala was the first to follow suit and inaugurated its own mission there two days later.

Paraguay also opened its mission in the occupied city on Monday, with President Horacio Cartes and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attending the ceremony.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry described the inauguration of the Paraguayan embassy in Jerusalem al-Quds as illegal, an act of aggression against the Palestinian people, a violation of relevant United Nations resolutions, and submission to American and Israeli dictates and bribes.

Additionally, the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) denounced Paraguay’s move and called for an Arab boycott of the states that move their embassies to Jerusalem al-Quds.

Saeb Erekat called the Paraguayan president “an irresponsible political leader” who had defied international law.

“By opening its embassy in Jerusalem, Paraguay is violating United Nations Security Council Resolution 478 as well as the very dignity of the peoples of Latin America that have struggled for freedom and justice against domination and oppression,” Erekat said.

He further noted that the Palestinian Authority is in contact with its allies to take the necessary diplomatic steps against the relocation of the embassies of Paraguay, Guatemala, and the US, to Jerusalem al-Quds.

“We particularly call upon Arab countries that host diplomatic missions of these countries to implement the previous resolutions of the Arab League of 1980, 1990 and 2000 to ‘severing all ties with states that transfer their embassies to Jerusalem or recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,’” the PLO secretary general added.

Earlier this month, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on Latin American states not to copy the contentious US mission transfer to Jerusalem al-Quds during a visit to Venezuela.

The relocation came months after US President Donald Trump announced that Washington was recognizing the occupied city as the “capital” of Israel.

The announcement sparked widespread condemnations and protests both in Palestinian lands and elsewhere in the world.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/05/22/562524/Palestine-Jerusalem-Paraguay

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Pompeo says US to impose ‘strongest’ sanctions on Iran

21 May 2018

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday threatened to impose the “strongest sanctions in history” against Iran if the country’s leadership did not change the course of its foreign and domestic policy.

Weeks after the United States pulled out of an international nuclear deal with Iran, Pompeo spelled out a hardline approach towards the Islamic Republic that included working closely with the Pentagon and regional allies to contain Iran.

Pompeo laid out 12 demands for Iran and said relief from economic sanctions would only come when Washington had seen tangible shifts in Iran’s policies.

Prohibited business

Pompeo said the United States would hold those doing prohibited business in Iran to account. His threat of further sanctions came as European parties to the landmark nuclear deal - France, Britain and Germany - were working to find a way to keep the pact in effect with Iran after Washington’s exit.

Pompeo said Washington would be open to a new treaty and wanted the support of America’s allies. Earlier this month, Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement which he called a “horrible, one-sided deal”, saying it did not address Iran’s ballistic missile activities and check in its regional behavior.

Iran reacts

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s remarks on Iran strategy showed that the United State was after regime change in the Islamic Republic, a senior Iranian official told Reuters on Monday.

“America wants to pressure Iran to surrender and accept their illegal demands ... his remarks showed that America is surely after regime change in Iran,” the official said in reaction to Pompeo’s remarks, in which he said the US would impose the “strongest sanctions in history” against the Iranian leadership.

US cannot decide

Meanwhile, Iran’s president said on Monday that the United States could not decide for Iran after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded sweeping changes in the country’s foreign and nuclear policies, the semi-official ILNA news agency reported.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2018/05/21/Pompeo-says-US-to-impose-strongest-sanctions-on-Iran.html

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Israel calls in envoys from Spain, Slovenia, Belgium over UN Gaza vote

May 21, 2018

The Israeli regime has summoned the ambassadors of Spain, Slovenia and Belgium over their countries’ votes at the United Nations in favor of an international probe into the latest massacre of dozens of Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Spanish Ambassador Manuel Gomez-Acebo and Slovenian envoy Barbara Susnik were summoned on Monday, while Belgian Ambassador Olivier Belle is to be called in the next day, according to a statement released by the Israeli foreign ministry.

The three European countries were among the 29 nations that voted at the UN Human Rights Council on Friday in favor of sending a team of international war crimes investigators to probe the deadly shootings that left more than 60 Palestinian protesters dead and over 2,000 others injured in Gaza.

Only two of the council's 47 members -- the United States and Australia -- voted against the resolution, while 14 abstained, including Britain, Switzerland and Germany.

The text said the team should "investigate all alleged violations and abuses ... in the context of the military assaults on large scale civilian protests that began on 30 March 2018 ... including those that may amount to war crimes."

On March 30, Palestinians marched to the fence separating Gaza from the occupied territories at the start of a six-week protest, dubbed “The Great March of Return,” demanding the right to return for those driven out of their homeland.

The demonstrations turned violent after Israeli forces used tear gas and live fire against the protesters. At least 30 Palestinians were killed in the clashes, according to Gaza's Health Ministry.

The violence further escalated on May 14, when at least 65 Palestinians were killed and more than 2,700 others wounded by Israeli fire along the fence between the Gaza Strip and the occupied territories on the eve of the 70th anniversary of Nakba Day (Day of Catastrophe).

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/05/21/562503/Israel-ambassadors-Spain-Slovenia-Belgium-Gaza-Strip

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Arab coalition says more than 85 percent of Yemen has been liberated

May 22, 2018

The spokesperson of the Arab coalition forces in Yemen, Col. Turki Al-Malki said on Monday that more than 85% of Yemen has been liberated as legitimate forces have advanced on all battle fronts, while confusion has hit Houthi ranks.

Malki said during a press conference that a Turkish ship was recently attacked by missiles in front of the Hodeidah Port and held the Houthis responsible for the attack.

He added that the ship which was targeted from Hodeideh was carrying a load of wheat.

According to Malki, the Houthi militia is holding relief aid intended for the Yemenis during the holy month of Ramadan and continues to use civilians as human shields in fighting fronts after witnessing collapses within its ranks.

An aid center affiliated with the King Salman Relief Center opened in the island of Socotra, Malki also said, adding that a number of towns in Saada were secured and the Yemeni flag was raised there.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2018/05/22/Arab-coalition-says-more-than-85-percent-of-Yemen-has-been-liberated.html

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World does not accept US deciding for all countries: Iran's Rouhani

May 21, 2018

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says the United States cannot make decisions for Iran and other independent countries after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded broad changes in the course of the Islamic Republic's foreign and domestic policy.

"All world countries want independence in their decisions and perhaps Americans are able to advance their agenda in some places through pressure, but logic does not accept them making decisions for the world," Rouhani said on Monday.

"Today, we must help each other more" because the current US administration has regressed to 15 years ago and is repeating the same remarks made by former US president, George W. Bush, in 2003, he added.

The Iranian president emphasized that it is "not acceptable at all" that a man who worked at an espionage service for many years is now making decisions for Iran and other countries after assuming the position of US secretary of state.

"Who are you to decide for Iran and the world?" Rouhani asked.

In his first major foreign policy address since moving to the State Department from the CIA, Pompeo said on Monday that Washington would increase financial pressure on Iran by imposing the "strongest sanctions in history" on the Islamic Republic if Tehran refuses to change the course of its foreign and domestic policy.

"We will apply unprecedented financial pressure on the Iranian regime. The leaders in Tehran should have no doubt about our seriousness," Pompeo said after the United States' move to withdraw from a landmark nuclear agreement Iran signed with major powers in 2015.

US President Donald Trump announced on May 8 that Washington was walking away from the nuclear agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was reached between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - the US, Britain, France, Russia and China - plus Germany.

Trump also said he would reinstate US nuclear sanctions on Iran and impose "the highest level" of economic bans on the Islamic Republic.

Iran has said it would remain in the JCPOA for now, pending negotiations with the other signatories in the coming weeks, before making a final decision on its future role in the agreement. Tehran wants the Europeans to give it clear-cut guarantees about fulfilling their obligations if it remains in the accord.

Later on Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif took to Twitter,  noting that the United States was repeating "the same wrong choices" and would obtain the "same ill rewards."

"US diplomacy sham is merely a regression to old habits: imprisoned by delusions & failed policies – dictated by corrupt Special Interest – it repeats the same wrong choices and will thus reap the same ill rewards. Iran, meanwhile, is working with partners for post-US JCPOA solutions," Zarif wrote in his tweet.

In a letter written to the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on May 10, Zarif said the US president's "unilateral and unlawful" decision to withdraw from the key nuclear agreement and to re-impose nuclear-related sanctions showed "a complete disregard for international law."

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/05/21/562496/Rouhani-Zarif-Mike-Pompeo-Iran-US

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Iran denies accusations of aiding Taliban in Afghanistan

May 21, 2018

Tehran has dismissed accusations that it has been helping a Taliban push in an Afghan province bordering Iran, saying the claim is instigated by US commanders who try to divert public opinion from the real cause of the flare-up in violence.

Fighting has continued in Farah Province on the border with Iran where the insurgents came close to overrunning the provincial capital, prompting its police chief to echo US claims that Iran was supporting the Taliban.

“The Taliban's attack on Afghan cities and their recapture by government forces is not a new thing and is not related to good relations between the two neighboring countries,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said in Tehran Monday.

Taliban fighters with heavy weapons and night-vision equipment fought their way close to the center of the western city of Farah last week.

Local residents had for months warned that the city was vulnerable and the attack threatened a repeat of the Taliban’s capture of the northern city of Kunduz in 2015.

Taliban fighters on Sunday closed in on another district in the Afghan Province of Ghazni, which is far from the Iranian border.

On Saturday, top US commander in Afghanistan General John Nicholson visited Farah. Local officials complain about the failure to protect the city and the province, where the Taliban control many areas.

Qassemi said, “US commanders who have been unable to establish security in Afghanistan after years of massive military presence and shedding the blood of thousands of innocent people are trying to deflect the public opinion of Afghanistan from the real reasons behind the perpetuation of the war by accusing the Islamic Republic of supporting the Taliban.”

“The Islamic Republic of Iran has been standing for nearly four decades alongside the friendly and brotherly government and people of Afghanistan to defend their sovereignty and independence, and the statements made to satisfy outsiders and invaders have no congruity with these friendly relations,” he added.

Some Afghan officials have charged that Iran was ratcheting up its support for the Taliban to disrupt development projects in Afghanistan, including dams which could reduce water flow to Iran.

Afghanistan has unveiled plans to construct 20 new dams, with Herat, Farah and Helmand being the three provinces where a significant number of rivers that flow toward Pakistan and Iran are sourced.

Iran and Afghanistan have been embroiled in water disputes for years, but Qassemi stressed that both countries continue to use “diplomatic channels” to resolve them.

“Linking this issue with Afghanistan's internal affairs does not have any rational, correct and reasonable basis,” he said.

The spokesman also called on warring sides in Afghanistan to resolve their problems through peaceful means.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/05/21/562440/Iran-Afghanistan-United-States-Taliban-Farah

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