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Islamic World News ( 15 Apr 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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‘Deen Bachao, Desh Bachao’: Clerics Say Threat to Religious Faith Will Endanger National Unity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Ghana, mosques and churches are seen to be compounding the problem of noise pollution, according to a report by Deutsche Welle.

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‘Deen Bachao, Desh Bachao’: Clerics Say Threat to Religious Faith Will Endanger National Unity

Beyond Religion: Muslim Cooperative Society Helps Transform Lives of Hindus, Others

Ghana Asks Mosques to Turn Down the Noise and Use Whatsapp for Call to Prayer

Attack on Quetta Christians Kills Two, Injures Five

Winners and Losers in the US Attack on Syria

 

India

‘Deen Bachao, Desh Bachao’: Clerics Say Threat to Religious Faith Will Endanger National Unity

Beyond Religion: Muslim Cooperative Society Helps Transform Lives of Hindus, Others

‘Islam Doesn’t Allow Mosque to Be Built At Disputed Site’: RSS Leader

Ayodhya dispute: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat says Indian Muslims did not demolish Ram Mandir, vows to 'fight' for it

Pakistan Army chief calls for ‘meaningful dialogue’ to resolve disputes with India

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Africa

Ghana Asks Mosques to Turn Down the Noise and Use Whatsapp for Call to Prayer

‘Jihadi Brides’ Are In Hell after the Death of Their Husbands

Libya’s Haftar not dead, being treated in Paris, LNA says

Several French Soldiers Injured In Latest Mali Attack

UAE ends Somali military training mission as tensions soar

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Pakistan

Attack on Quetta Christians Kills Two, Injures Five

Pakistan Watchdog Says Country Failing On Human Rights

Corrupt leadership has damaged institutions: Sirajul Haq

Pakistan PM invites parties to talks on new provinces in Punjab, Sindh

Afghan, Pakistani forces clash near border, 2 killed

Indian HC wasn’t prevented from meeting Sikh pilgrims: FO

Two security personnel martyred in Afghan cross-border attack

Inayatullah Khan Asghar: The Last of Allama Mashriqi’s Freedom Fighter Sons Passes Away

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North America

Winners and Losers in the US Attack on Syria

The Blue Muslim Wave: American Muslims Launch Political Campaigns; Hope To Deliver ‘Sweet Justice’ To Trump

White House: Trump wants US forces in Syria to come home as quickly as possible

Senior US official briefs Turkey on Syria situation

America has 3 goals in Syria

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South Asia

Bangladesh Rejects Myanmar's Claim of Repatriating Rohingya

Taliban’s Response to President Ghani’s Call for Participation in Elections

Afghan Council to Host Religious Conference to Promote Peace

Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia boost military relationship

Tensions intensify along Durand Line after Afghan and Pak forces clash

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Europe

UK Threatens Further Measures against Syria

French President Says He Convinced Trump to Keep Troops in Syria

Putin predicts global chaos if West hits Syria again

British PM faces backlash for bypassing MPs on Syria

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Arab World

After Ghouta, Syria Army to Target Cradle of Revolt in Daraa

OPCW Inspectors Set To Investigate Site of Douma Chemical Attack

Tensions Intensify Between Saudi-Backed, Turkey-Affiliated Terrorists in Northern Syria

US could not attain any goals from missile strikes on Syria: Nasrallah

Saudi Foreign Minister Accuses Iran of Stoking Sectarian Tensions in Region

Syrian Army Seizes Terrorists' Large Chemical Weapons Workshop in Eastern Ghouta

Syrian Army Continues to Send More Troops, Equipment to Southern Damascus to Face ISIL

Is Syria’s chemical weapons program completely destroyed?

Any military escalation in Syria terrible for Middle East security, stability: Iraq FM

Palestine and Iran: Arab leaders declare their top priorities

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Southeast Asia

Maldivian President Receives Award for Fostering Moderate Islam and Combating Terrorism

RM90 million fund suit: PAS refuses to interrupt legal process

IRF: Malaysia should not be too religious, too secular

Kamarul criticises Perlis mufti over call to reject Hindraf

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Mideast

Larijani: Muslims Will Not Forget 'Betrayal' Of Certain States

4 Islamic Jihad Terrorists Killed In Gaza 'Work Accident'

U.S. pastor faces terror, espionage charges in Turkey

Yemen govt accuses Iran of arming Huthis with drones

Illegal attack on Syria, blatant support for terrorism: Rouhani

Israel uses stun grenade against draft protesters

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

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‘Deen Bachao, Desh Bachao’: Clerics Say Threat to Religious Faith Will Endanger National Unity

16 April 2018

Faizan Ahmad

A sea of skull caps engulfed the spacious Gandhi Maidan here on Sunday when Muslims from different parts of Bihar and other States arrived to take part in the “Deen Bachao, Desh Bachao” (save religion, save nation) conference from where a call for greater unity in the society was aired.

The conference organised by Imarat Shariah, the highest respected religious body having its base in Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal, was bitterly critical of what it alleged Union Government’s interference in the Shariah laws, well-organised communal riots and attempt to impose Uniform Civil Code. “Those involved in the unconstitutional acts should be replied through democratic manner,” the clerics said and the crowd took pledge to save their faith and the country.

Imarat head Maulana Wali Rahmani said the country was passing through a very critical phase nd those enjoying power were involved in spreading terror, hatred and social disorder which has created a reign of fear and uncertainty. “The democracy and judiciary are under threat and courts are being used to impose a particular ideology,” said Rahmani who is also general secretary of All India Muslim Personal Law Board. He alleged that all the institutions in the country were being destroyed and the Muslims, SC, ST and weaker sections were being targeted.

Giving a sermon of bringing greater unity in the Muslim society ignoring petty differences, the cleric made a reference of Bharat bandh by the Dalits and Sikh’s effort to streamline their lives post anti-Sikh riots and asked Muslim to take a lesson from them.

In its resolutions the conference severely condemned the interference in the Sharia laws and called for withdrawal of Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2017 by urging the Government to change its stand. It said the attempts to create fear among Muslims and Dalits and dilution of constitution might pose threat to the unity of the country. It saluted the four Supreme Court judges and said attempt to influence judicial system by the Government would prove fatal for democracy. Another resolution expressed concern over the shattering of social fabric and unending series of communal riots. It alleged that rioters were getting Government patronage and particularly condemned the Governments in UP, Rajasthan, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat for their “partisan” role.

The conference had not invited any politician but all the parties, except BJP, put up their banners and posters. They included RJD, JD (U), Congress, LJP and the top leaders of these parties were prominently projected in the billboards.

http://www.dailypioneer.com/nation/clerics-say-threat-to-religious-faith-will-endanger-national-unity.html

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Beyond Religion: Muslim Cooperative Society Helps Transform Lives of Hindus, Others

April 15, 2018

Kamla Devi, Pankaj Kumar, Geeta Devi and Sanjay Singh, all Hindus, share one thing in common. Their lives have been transformed through "interest-free" loans provided by a Muslim cooperative credit society in Bihar, yet another example how integrated Indian society has always been at the grassroot level.

They are four of nearly 9,000 Hindus -- mostly vendors, small traders, roadside shopkeepers, marginal farmers and women -- who got rid of exploitative moneylenders thanks to interest-free loans by the Al-Khair Cooperative Credit Society Ltd that is based here.

"I used to sell potatoes and onions in a small roadside shop. I was often exploited by moneylenders for a small amount of Rs 2,000 to Rs 5,000 that I needed for my business. But a few years ago, I was surprised when someone informed me of interest-free loans from Al-Khair Society," Kamla, in her mid 40s, told IANS at her shop in Mirshikar Toli here.

She first took a Rs 10,000 loan to run her shop, followed by loans of Rs 20,000 to Rs 50, 000.

"It helped me expand my business from a vendor to a wholesale trader," she said.

Now doing financially well, Kamla managed to fund the education of her two sons, with one getting admission in an engineering college and the other in a B.Ed. college.

Based on the Islamic principle of prohibiting interest, Al Khair Society has provided interest-free loans of more than Rs 50 crore to nearly 20,000 people, mostly those struggling for survival, in the last one decade of its existence.

About half of these beneficiaries are Hindus. Regardless of religion and any other considerations, Al Khair Society has opened new vistas for large sections of marginalised people, skilled and unskilled, from unorganised sectors.

Geeta Devi not only turned her small roadside vegetable shop into a big one; she has opened another vegetable shop for her son.

"Our life has changed after I came into contact with Al Khair Society. It helped us live a life of dignity. For poor people like us, interest-free loans are God's gift and, unlike in regular banks, there are no uncertainties about getting the loan," she said.

Manju Devi, another beneficiary, has been taking a loan of Rs 20,000 to pay the annual school fee of her children for the last five years. Her husband runs a roadside shop.

"I also deposit my daily earnings with Al-Khair Society and repay the loan amount without paying any interest," Kamla said.

Sanjay Singh, another beneficiary of the interest-free loans, said banks have no time for vendors like him and they have no interest in giving out small loans.

"Banks charge interest and there is a lot of paper work involved that only discourages and frustrates the poor," said Sanjay, who used to sell garments on a bicycle. He now owns a small garment shop run by his wife even as he continues to sell clothes on his bicycle.

What attracts people, many of whom are not literate, to Al Khair Society's door is that it involves minimal paper work and a poor-friendly perspective.

"Interest-free loans may be a concept associated with Muslims as Islam prohibits interest as it terms it unjust, but it has a universal appeal and can benefit all, not just Muslims," said Shamim Rizvi, a retired bank officer closely associated with Al Khair Society for nearly a decade.

Unable to get help from banks, these loans help people free themselves from the clutches of moneylenders who charge high interest rates.

Nayiar Fatmi, managing director of Al Khair Society, told IANS that interest-free loans are gaining popularity.

"Even a small amount of five to ten thousand is significant for people who don't have access to banks. Nearly 50 percent of the beneficiaries of interest free loans are Hindus. Most of them use the money for earning livelihoods that empower them," Fatmi said.

Al Khair Society has 13 branches spread across the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi.

"We are planning to open new branches in Kishanganj in Bihar and Ranchi in Jharkhand to reach out to more such people," Fatmi said.

Al Khair Society is a successful example of interest-free microfinance that has brought smiles on faces of thousands of people. It started with merely a small fund and two employees at a small office in Patna. Today it has 100 employees.

The organisation charges a nominal service charge from those who take interest-free loans to pay salaries of its employees, rent of office and other expenditure.

Started by a group of educated Muslims in early 2000 as a small step to help ordinary people, the organisation has seen a tremendous response from all sections of society, irrespective of religion, caste or creed.

(The weekly feature series is part of a positive-journalism project of IANS and the Frank Islam Foundation. Imran Khan can be reached at imran.k@ians.in <mailto:imran.k@ians.in>)

http://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ians/beyond-religion-muslim-cooperative-society-helps-transform-lives-of-hindus-others-ians-special-series-118041500235_1.html

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Ghana Asks Mosques to Turn Down the Noise and Use Whatsapp for Call to Prayer

14 APRIL 2018

By Isaac Kaledzi

Urban Africans contend with a great deal of noise day in and out. In a bid to curb noise pollution, authorities in Ghana want Muslims to use WhatsApp rather than loudspeakers for the call to prayer.

Chaotic traffic, speakers blasting music, street vendors and thousands of people going about their business are typical on the streets of most of Africa's big cities.

But in Ghana, mosques and churches are seen to be compounding the problem of excessive noise.

In the capital Accra, authorities are seeking to deal with the racket caused by these places of worship -- and mosques in particular.

Mosques are being asked to use mobile text or WhatsApp messages to call the Muslim community to prayer.

Reducing 'noise pollution'

"Why is it that time for prayer cannot be transmitted with text message or WhatsApp? So the imam would send WhatsApp messages to everybody," said environment minister Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng.

"I think that will help to reduce the noise. This may be controversial but it's something that we can think about," he told DW.

The government says it is hopeful such a change could contribute to a reduction in excessive noise.

Muslims reject WhatsApp idea

For many Muslims living in the capital, the idea of a mobile call to prayer is more difficult to embrace.

Fadama community mosque imam, Sheik Usan Ahmed, calls Muslims to prayer five times at prescribed times throughout the day. Although he agrees that the level of noise could be reduced, relying on text and WhatsApp messages could also have economic implications, he told DW. "The imam is not paid monthly. Where would he get the money to be doing that? We try to practice what is possible. So the text message or any other message is not a problem. But I don't think it is necessary," Ahmed said.

Other Muslim residents who spoke to DW also rejected the suggestion. "I don't find anything wrong with Muslims waking up at dawn and using the megaphone to call their people to come worship their god because we have Christian churches who use megaphones as well and they also preach at dawn," said Nora Nsiah.

Another Accra resident, Kevin Pratt, also dismissed Frimpong-Boateng's suggestion: "Not everyone is on social media, and not everyone is as literate as he is." The Muslim call to prayer is traditionally supposed to reach as far as possible, Habiba Ali added.

The government has signaled it ultimately intends to enforce laws in order to quiet things down in Ghana.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has long warned of the harmful impact exposure to environmental noise may have on public health. It lists cardiovascular disease, sleep disturbances and cognitive impairment among some of the short and long-term problems people could develop.

http://allafrica.com/stories/201804150001.html

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Attack on Quetta Christians kills two, injures five

Apr 16, 2018

QUETTA: At least two people were killed and five other injured when gunmen opened fire at Christians coming out of a church following a Sunday service in Quetta.

According to initial reports, the incident occurred when people were leaving after attending the Sunday service at a church in Essa Nagri area of the provincial capital.

Quetta DIG Abdur Razzaq Chema said that unidentified attackers riding a motorbike opened fire on the members of the Christian community and managed to flee the scene soon after the incident.

The injured were shifted to the Balochistan Medical Complex (BMC) where at least two people succumbed to their wounds.

Balochistan Chief Minister Mir Abdul Quddus Bizenjo took notice of the incident and directed that the elements involved in the attack should not be spared at any cost.

Home Minister Mir Sarfaraz Bugti expressed sorrow over the incident and also assured action against the culprits.

Meanwhile, a case was registered against unidentified attackers and an investigation was started.

PROTESTS OVER ATTACK:

Following the attack, the community members with the dead bodies staged a protest in the city and blocked roads Barori Road near Golimar Chowk. The protesters said that the government failed to put an end to the attacks on Christians.

Earlier this month, four members of a Christian family travelling in a rickshaw were killed in a firing incident on Quetta’s Shah Zaman road a day after the community celebrated Easter on April 1. The Christian family belonged to Punjab and was visiting relatives in Quetta.

In December last year, nine people were killed and 30 were injured in a suicide attack on the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church on Quetta’s Zarghoon Road.

At least two suicide attackers had struck the Bethel Memorial Church while the Sunday service was ongoing. There were 400 worshipers inside the church when the assault started. The church had been more crowded than usual that day as it was close to Christmas.

Days after the Christians were targeted in the deadly attack, a grieving but defiant congregation marked Christmas amidst tight security arrangements. Commandos were deployed inside and around the church in the southwestern city of Quetta. Snipers were positioned on top of the church, as survivors spoke of their lost loved ones and called for the congregation to be armed, with a quiet, sombre service.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/04/15/attack-on-quetta-christians-kills-one-injures-six/

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Winners and losers in the US attack on Syria

April 14, 2018

US President Donald J Trump's mind took a fourth U-turn in almost as many days on Friday since he began speaking about his decision to withdraw the American forces from Syria and leave it to 'others' to handle the endgame in the conflict.

He swung to the extreme threatening a rain of missiles on Syria, only to back-track a day later to hint there might not be any attack at all, and finally to announce a joint US-UK-France attack on Friday.

If former US deputy secretary of state Nicholas Burns, an experienced career diplomat, got the impression that POTUS was playing a video game, it comes as no surprise.

Indeed, the most striking thing about the US strike on Syria is its futility of purpose beyond a symbolic value to impress the domestic constituency that POTUS is a forceful decision-maker, who unlike his predecessor Barack Obama, lays down 'red lines' and follows up.

Actually, it is a cowardly stance.

Trump hastened to strike just hours before the investigation by the team from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was due to begin in Douma -- as if time was running out to act with impunity.

Clearly, Trump felt the compulsion to be seen acting.

He had no authorisation from the United States Congress nor did he secure a mandate from the UN Security Council to launch aggression against a UN member country.

The indignation and outrage in the statement by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will be widely shared by the world community: 'There's an obligation, particularly when dealing with matters of peace and security, to act consistently with the Charter of the United Nations and with international law in general. The UN Charter is very clear on these issues.'

'The Security Council has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. I call on the members of the Security Council to unite and exercise that responsibility. I urge all Member States to show restraint in these dangerous circumstances and to avoid any acts that could escalate the situation and worsen the suffering of the Syrian people.'

Both the constitutionality of Trump's decision and the legality of the US attack under international law is highly questionable.

However, the extenuating fact is that historically domestic public opinion rallies behind POTUS when the US is at war abroad. For Trump's crumbling presidency, that is an over-riding consideration today.

On the other hand, the attack on Syria was carefully choreographed.

Paris has disclosed that Moscow was informed in advance. Indeed, 'deconfliction' proceedures were under discussion between the Pentagon and the Russian defence ministry for the past 2-3 days.

The attack clinically targeted alleged chemical weapon sites in three cities in Syria -- Damascus, Hom and Hama.

No military bases or assets were attacked.

The missiles scrupulously avoided locations where there could be Russian personnel.

Care was taken to avoid 'collateral damage'. In fact, there has been no reported casualty. On the whole, it is as if a riveting fireworks show has been conducted.

The Syrians claim they shot down a fair number of incoming missiles. But like in the Sherlock Holmes story, the dog didn't bark -- not a single move has been reported by Russia to intercept the incoming missiles.

Moscow simply watched a brawl unfold between the US, UK and France on one side and the Syrian regime on the other.

Moscow instead turned on its propaganda apparatus to take the maximum advantage of the senseless, almost bizarre missile attack.

If the OPCW team turns in a 'Nil' report from Douma shortly, Russian propaganda can be trusted to go for Trump's jugular veins.

The US attack will not create any new facts on the ground. The comprehensive victory of President Bashar al-Assad's Syrian regime in the 7-year conflict is becoming an irreversible reality.

Arguably, this could be the last waltz of the Western interventionist powers in Syria who had hoped to overthrow the regime and failed miserably.

In sum, in the absence of a coherent US strategy toward Syria, this latest attack may only stoke the fires of Syrian nationalism.

Russia has spoken of 'serious consequences', without elaborating.

Will Russia escalate the situation? Seems unlikely. It is hard to see a Russian reaction on the ground although Moscow is watchful that the Western strategy ultimately threatens the Russian presence in Syria.

Much depends on the next Western move. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is expected in Ankara on Monday.

In a strongly worded statement, President Vladimir Putin has warned that the 'escalation in Syria is destructive for the entire system of international relations. History will set things right, and Washington already bears the heavy responsibility for the bloody outrage in Yugoslavia, Iraq and Syria.'

Russia proposes to convene an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council 'to discuss the aggressive actions by the US and its allies,' Putin said.

Of course, new regional alignments will become inevitable. Turkey and Israel have backed the US attack.

The Turks' bazaari instincts are legion and President Recep Erdogan senses a historic opportunity to project Turkish power into Syria and realise his 'neo-Ottoman' dream. Trust him to overreach.

Israel is a bit down in the mouth for the moment due to the messy confrontation at the Gaza border; or else, it would have jumped into the fray.

Israel's best bet will be that the US keeps an open-ended military presence in a Syria that is balkanized and weak and is in no position to reclaim the lost territory in the Golan Heights that are under Israeli occupation since 1967.

All eyes are on Iran. But Tehran will not speak its mind.

For the moment, Tehran's eyes are cast on the May 12 deadline when Trump must decide on the sanctions waiver to the July 2015 nuclear deal.

The big question now is whether Trump would tear up the Iran nuclear deal in the present circumstances when the US needs the support of its European allies.

Syria constitutes Iran's defence line. Significantly, even as Trump was ratcheting up rhetoric against Syria, the powerful Iranian statesman Ali Akbar Velayati, advisor to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, landed in Damascus on Wednesday, met President Assad and toured Douma, the alleged site of the chemical attack.

It was a defiant gesture and act of solidarity with Assad.

Tehran has hinted at 'regional consequences.' But Iran's style will be to avoid direct conflict with the US and opt instead to intensify its political work and consolidate its wide networking with various groups on the ground, which systematically keep undermining the US presence in Syria and Iraq.

No doubt, Iran will intensify the politics of 'resistance' against Israel.

The Russia-Iran partnership in Syria is steadily morphing into an alliance, which is in mutual interests.

The defeat of the US-Israeli-Saudi containment strategy against Iran may turn out to be the most significant and enduring outcome of this US attack on Syria.

http://www.rediff.com/news/column/winners-and-losers-in-the-us-attack-on-syria/20180414.htm

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India

 

‘Islam doesn’t allow mosque to be built at disputed site’: RSS leader

Apr 16, 2018

JAIPUR: RSS leader Indresh Kumar, who was in Jaipur on Sunday, said that Islam does not allow its religious sites to be built on similar sites of other faiths or any disputed property.

"According to Islam, mosque cannot be built at any disputed site. Islam also does not allow a religious structure to be named after an individual while Babur named the controversial structure after himself,’’ said Kumar, while addressing a talk on `Truth of Ayodhya, birth place of Ram’ in the city.

``If mosque has to be built it can be built outside Ayodhya and Faizabad," he said.

``The two and a half decade old dispute in Ayodhya is not over `Ram Mandir’ but over the birth place of Lord Rama,’’ he added. The senior RSS leader emphasised that there is only one birth place of the lord. "There are several Ram Temples, but Ayodhya is the only birthplace of Lord Ram and there is no dispute on Ram temple. Like Vatican city is to Christians and Mecca Madina is to Muslims, so is Ayoudhya to us (Hindus)," said Kumar.

Kumar claimed that no evidences of Islam were found during archaeology surveys conducted by the government and court at the disputed site. "However, evidences related to birth place of Lord Ram were evident in the surveys," said Kumar.

Newly elected Rajya Sabha MP Madan Lal Saini said that RSS was working to bring Muslims into mainstream.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/islam-doesnt-allow-mosque-to-be-built-at-disputed-site/articleshow/63776356.cms

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Ayodhya Dispute: RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat Says Indian Muslims Did Not Demolish Ram Mandir, Vows to 'Fight' For It

Apr 16, 2018

MUMBAI: Muslims in India did not demolish the Ram Mandir, said Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat while raking up Ayodhya dispute once again on Sunday.

"The Muslim community in India did not destroy the Ram Mandir. Indian nationals can't do such a thing. Foreign forces destroyed temples here to demoralise Indians," said Bhagwat while speaking at a Viraat Hindu Sammelan at Dahanu in adjoining Palghar district.

Bhagwat further stressed that it is the nation's responsibility to restore the Ram Mandir.

MUMBAI: Muslims in India did not demolish the Ram Mandir, said Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat while raking up Ayodhya dispute once again on Sunday.

"The Muslim community in India did not destroy the Ram Mandir. Indian nationals can't do such a thing. Foreign forces destroyed temples here to demoralise Indians," said Bhagwat while speaking at a Viraat Hindu Sammelan at Dahanu in adjoining Palghar district.

Bhagwat further stressed that it is the nation's responsibility to restore the Ram Mandir.

“The temple in Ayodhya was demolished by those outside India. It is our responsibility to restore what was demolished within the country. The temple should be built where it actually was. We are ready to fight for it,” he added.

"If the Ram Mandir (in Ayodhya) is not rebuilt, the root of our culture will be cut. There is no doubt that the temple will be built at the spot where it was," Bhagwat said.

"But today, we are independent. We have the right to rebuild whatever was destroyed because these were not just temples but the symbols of our identity," he said.

The final hearing in the centuries-old Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute is before the Supreme Court at present. The top court is hearing 13 appeals filed against the 2010 judgment of the Allahabad High Court in four civil suits. The petitions challenge the high court verdict that mandated a three-way division of the disputed site in Ayodhya.

The RSS chief also hit out at opposition parties, blaming them for the recent caste violence in several parts of the country.

Full report at:

http://zeenews.india.com/india/ayodhya-dispute-rss-chief-mohan-bhagwat-says-indian-muslims-did-not-demolish-ram-mandir-vows-to-fight-for-it-2100378.html

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Pakistan Army chief calls for ‘meaningful dialogue’ to resolve disputes with India

April 15, 2018

Taking a new line of approach in the India-Pakistan relations, Pak Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa on Sunday maintained that the peaceful resolution of disputes between the two countries, including the core issue of Kashmir, can be found through comprehensive and meaningful dialogue.

“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,” Bajwa was quoted as saying by PTI. He was speaking during the passing out parade of the Pakistan Military Academy, according to a statement by the Inter-Services Public Relations.

“While such dialogue is no favour to any party, it remains the inevitable precursor to peace across the region. Pakistan remains committed to such a dialogue, but only on the basis of sovereign equality, dignity and honour,” he added.

Bajwa, however, warned that the talks about peace in no sense should be treated as a sign of weakness and said, “this desire for peace must not, in any sense, be construed as a sign of weakness. Our valiant Armed Forces are fully prepared to respond across the full spectrum of threat in a befitting manner.”

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/pakistan-army-chief-gen-qamar-javed-bajwa-calls-for-meaningful-dialogue-to-resolve-disputes-with-india-kashmir-5138485/

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Africa

 

‘Jihadi brides’ are in hell after the death of their husbands

April 16th 2018

Dorcas Ndombolo Kilingo, 40, and her four children are being held captive by Al Shabaab terrorists in Somalia. Ndombolo is among the so-called Jihadi brides who are being subjected to rape, torture, and forced marriage after the death of their terrorist husbands. ALSO READ: US conducts air strike in Somalia, says 3 Al-Shabaab militants killed Ndombolo went to Somalia in early 2013 to join her husband of 11 years, Kennedy Yogan Mwok aka Anwar, a Kenyan who joined the terrorist group to wage war against his country. Ndombolo and her three co-wives were lured to Somalia with promises of a life of bliss.  Born in 1978, Ndombolo studied information technology, French, and German at Unity College of Professional Studies. She went to Karura Forest Primary School and Kasigau Primary School in Taita Taveta, then sat for her KCSE in 1999 at Moi High School, Kasigau. Avoid fake news! Subscribe to the Standard SMS service and receive factual, verified breaking news as it happens. Text the word 'NEWS' to 22840 After college, she was married to Anwar in 2002. Anwar was killed last year during an attack on the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) camp in Kulbiyow. He was a suicide bomber. The Al Shabaab fighters turned against his widows.   Sources indicate that Ndombolo and other women and children are guarded by heavily armed militia. There are plans to marry her off to another Al Shabaab fighter.

Her four children are at risk of being turned into child soldiers for the terror group as Al Shabaab has resorted to using children as many of their fighters have been killed. Other women being held in Somalia have been identified as Shamim Wanjiru Hussein and Zeinabu Rajab Hassan aka Zainabu Muskari. A police report says Anwar’s second wife, Zeinabu, from Busia County’s Namukhoma clan, is in the same deplorable state. Elderly fighter She moved to Somalia to join her husband in 2014 after she was informed that life was better there. According to reports, Zeinabu desperately wants to return home to ensure the safety of her child. Sources indicate that an elderly fighter has been identified to marry her. Some of the so-called Jihadi brides are said to have committed suicide due to their ordeals. ALSO READ: Teachers' exodus from NEP has nothing to do with attacks Another woman in trouble is Shamim Wanjiru Hussein, the widow of Omar Patroba Juma. Shamim was born in 1989 in Dandora, Nairobi, and left for Somalia in January 2015 with her daughter, Faridah. Shamim was first married to Swaleh Kibet, an Al Shabaab operative who was killed in Somalia in 2016. She was inherited by Juma, who travelled to Somalia through Dar es alaam, Tanzania in October 2013. He studied at State House Primary School, Tala High School, and Mbooni Secondary School. He was killed on July 14, 2016 during an attack on a Rapid Deployment Unit camp at Mangai. It is reported that Shamim is currently married to another Al Shabaab fighter and the state of her children is dire. Shamim’s situation is compounded by the fact that she is blind. Despite this, the Al Shabaab terrorists have been tossing her around from one fighter to another. According to officials, she is in such a bad that she has asked her family and associates to help her get out of Somalia. Shamsa was the wife of Ramadhan Abdallah aka Manman, an operative from Majengo. Shamsa also joined her husband in Somalia with the promise of a rosy life, but her life has become a nightmare after her husband was executed by Al Shabaab on allegations of spying for the Kenyan Government. “They all want to come back. They have been calling their families saying they want to come back,” said one official. According to a senior officer at Kenya Defence Forces, the fate of the Kenyans joining Al Shabaab is certain death as they are used as suicide bombers and front line fighters. He adds that many fighters have been killed in the ongoing offensive in Somalia. ALSO READ: Why Kenyans keep police in dark The widows have been neglected by the terrorist group despite the fact that their husbands were killed while fighting for the group, with the numbers rising because the terrorists treat its Kenyan members as dispensable fighters. A recent security report seen by The Standard says Al Shabaab is increasingly sacrificing the so-called Kenyan fighters on the front line at the expense of native Somali fighters or the Ansaars, who are given low-risk assignments. This is because the top echelons in Al Shabaab do not trust Kenyan fighters, who are treated with suspicion and their motives questioned.  Further, Kenyan fighters are prohibited from marrying Somali women ostensibly so as not to dilute the ‘pure Somali pedigree’ with their ‘impure’ lineage and are given less food rations. They are given less time off from the front lines and are sent on suicide missions as a way of eliminating them. They are arrested on flimsy allegations of espionage and face long prison sentences and public executions. AMISOM forces Most Kenyan fighters are deliberately put on the front line in battles with AMISOM forces where their chances of survival are minimal, informed officials and reports indicate. The number of widowed Kenyan women and orphaned children has risen sharply. There are at least 20 known Kenyan widows in Somalia. The report says the ‘Jihadi brides’ are suffering at the hands of the terrorists and that there are documented cases of forced marriages, rape, and torture.

https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2001277043/jihadi-brides-are-in-hell-after-the-death-of-their-husbands

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Libya’s Haftar not dead, being treated in Paris, LNA says

Apr 14, 2018

The office of the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) has denied reports of the death of General Khalifa Haftar, saying he is receiving treatment in Paris and will return to Libya soon.

Ahmed al-Mismari, a spokesman for the LNA, said Saturday that Haftar fell ill while on a visit to Europe, insisting that the Libyan general was now in a stable condition.

“Marshall Haftar felt ill while in Paris, during a visit to several foreign states, and he will return to the homeland soon ... after medical treatment,” said Mismari.

Haftar’s office also issued a statement denying reports in the French media earlier this week that the LNA commander had died after suffering from a health scare in Paris, calling the reports “fake news”.

People in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, had even staged rallies to celebrate Haftar’s death, according to images released by some Libyan media outlets.

However, Mismari said Haftar was receiving normal check-ups in Paris and that he would return to Libya “within a few days”.

Haftar, a general under former strongman Muammar Gaddafi, became a major figure in Libya’s politics after Gaddafi’s fall and death in 2011. He has consistently opposed a government in Tripoli which is backed by the United Nations. The 75-year-old has been backed by countries to the east of Libya, including Egypt, while governments like Algeria and Tunisia back the internationally recognized government which dominates the western territories of the oil-rich North African country.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/04/14/558480/Libya-Haftar-Paris-medical-treatment

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Several French soldiers injured in latest Mali attack

2018-04-15

Saturday’s attack targeted a French military camp and the UN MINUSMA peacekeeping positions in the northern city of Timbuktu. One UN peacekeeper and 15 jihadist suspects were killed while 7 French soldiers were wounded, according to FRANCE 24 Mali correspondent Anthony Fouchard.

This latest deadly incident follows a string of violent attacks linked to jihadists in Mali this year – including the killing of two French soldiers with Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) on March 3, the killing of 14 Malian soldiers when jihadists overran a Malian army base on January 27, and the killing of four UN peacekeepers and one Malian soldier in an ambush on January 26.

UN peacekeepers ‘shot like hares’

The latest UN report on the situation in Mali says “asymmetric” (terrorist or guerrilla-style) attacks in the country more than doubled in 2017. “There is not a shadow of a doubt that violence has increased over the past year,” affirmed François-Xavier Freland, former FRANCE 24 Mali correspondent and author of “Mali, au-delà du jihad” (“Mali, beyond jihad”).

This uptick in violence has emerged despite concerted international efforts to stabilise the country since jihadist militants exploited a rebellion by Touareg (an ethnic Berber nomadic group) to seize control of Mali’s northern desert regions in 2012. 90% of the population live in the south of the country, where the capital Bamako is located. However, successive Touareg insurrections have made it hard for the central government to maintain its authority in the north since Mali's independence from France in 1960.

A French-led intervention, Operation Serval, mostly drove the rebels out in 2013, after being launched at the request of the Malian government.

However, the jihadist insurgents are still active. The militants are also linked to drug, arms and human trafficking across the Sahel, while large stretches of territory in northern Mali remain out of the control of Malian, French and UN forces.

The UN MINUSMA peacekeeping mission was established in 2013 alongside Operation Serval. Yet 150 of the 11,000-strong MINUSMA force have been killed, making it by far the most dangerous UN peacekeeping mission in the world. MINUSMA troops “are shot like hares,” said Freland.

The underlying problem, he argues, is that the mission’s mandate is strictly to keep the peace; they cannot engage in military offensives: “we need an army of UN peacekeepers who aren’t merely policemen”.

G5 Sahel militaries ‘not up to scratch’?

Unlike MINUSMA peacekeepers, soldiers in Operation Barkhane, which was set up in 2014 as the successor to Operation Serval in Mali, are authorised to use armed force and undertake military operations. That makes Barkhane considerably more effective than MINUSMA, suggested Freland: the French-led mission “hinders the development of the terrorist groups that are trying to create chaos everywhere”.

One such group is the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM), which was formed in March 2017 from the merging of four jihadist groups operating in Mali – Ansar Dine, the Macina Liberation Front, al-Mourabitoun and the Sahel branch of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Peninsula (AQIP). GSIM’s leader is Iyad Ag Ghali, who was a prominent leader of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), the mainstream Tuareg rebel group, before leaving and forming Ansar Dine during the 2012 rebellion.

Barkhane is led by the French military and includes troops from Mali, Chad, Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso – which operate collectively as the G5 Sahel.

Freland believes that although “it’s a good idea to have a pan-African force take responsibility for the Sahel”, the military effectiveness of the five-nation group is doubtful: “Let’s be clear, other than those of Chad and Niger, their militaries aren’t up to scratch. The Mauritanian army is that of an Islamic republic with unclear objectives. The Burkinabe army has shown serious flaws after the various attacks in Ouagadougou. And the Malian army’s right in the middle of a reconstruction process.”

Full report at:

http://www.france24.com/en/20180415-french-soldiers-injured-mali-jihadi-attack-timbuktu-terrorism-touareg-mnla-gsim-aqip

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UAE ends Somali military training mission as tensions soar

Apr 16, 2018

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has decided to end its military training program in Somalia as the ties between the two countries deteriorated following a second security incident in recent days.

On Saturday, an Emirati plane was grounded in the African country for several hours after UAE officials refused to allow the search of suspicious luggage.

“The UAE has decided to disband its military training program in Somalia,” said a government statement run on the UAE’s WAM news agency on Sunday.

The decision was announced after Emirati military trainers were held for hours at Bosaso International Airport in Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Puntland, as they refused to allow security forces to check their suspiciously “heavy” luggage.

In an earlier incident, the Somali federal government had confiscated nearly 10 million dollars from a UAE Royal Jet at Mogadishu International Airport.

“The decision comes in response to Somali security forces’ seizure of a UAE-registered civil aircraft at Mogadishu Airport and confiscation of money destined to pay the soldiers,” WAM said.

The UAE’s statement, however, came only after the Somali government announced it will disband Abu Dhabi’s training mission in the country and “fully take over” the troops trained by the Persian Gulf kingdom.

Somalia’s Defense Minister Mohamed Mursal Abdirahman told state news agency Sonna last week that those troops would be integrated into various units of the national army.

Relations between Somalia and the UAE first soured last June, when Mogadishu refused to take sides with the Saudi regime and the UAE in their diplomatic dispute with Qatar.

Tense Mogadishu-Abu Dhabi ties worsened last month as the UAE reached a military agreement with Somaliland, an autonomous region of Somalia seeking to break away from the mainland.

Under that deal, the UAE builds a military base in Berbera Port and trains the soldiers of the breakaway Somali region. 

Mogadishu censured the agreement as violation of international law.

Somalia’s internationally-backed government is reportedly planning to file a legal complaint against the UAE for setting up the military base in the self-declared Republic of Somaliland.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/04/16/558647/UAE-Somalia-Counterpiracy-Training-Program

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Pakistan

 

Pakistan watchdog says country failing on human rights

Apr 16, 2018

ISLAMABAD: An independent Pakistani watchdog says the country has failed to improve its human rights record over the past year.

The damning report card was issued by the Human Rights Commission on Monday.

It says people continue to disappear in Pakistan, sometimes because they criticize the military and other times because they advocate better relations with neighbor India. It also says the controversial blasphemy law continues to be misused, especially against dissidents, with mere accusations resulting in mob violence.

The group also says that while deaths linked to acts of terrorism declined in 2017, attacks against minorities were on the rise.

This year, the 296-page report was dedicated to one of the commission’s founders, Asma Jahangir, whose death in February generated worldwide outpouring of grief and accolades for the famed activist.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1285461/world

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Corrupt leadership has damaged institutions: Sirajul Haq

APRIL 15, 2018

KARACHI: Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Chief Sirajul Haq on Sunday said that “corrupt leadership” has been damaging the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), Railways and the Steel Mills.

“Corrupt leadership has damaged institutions like PIA, Railways and the Steel Mills. The country consists of 60 percent youth but there is no one to represent them in the National Assembly. JI will cater the needs of youth,” Sirajul Haq said while speaking to the media in Karachi.

He continued that “due to the corrupt system, the youth of Pakistan is setting educational degrees ablaze,” while he also confirmed that JI will issue 50 percent of the party tickets to the youth.

Full report at:

https://dailytimes.com.pk/228393/corrupt-leadership-has-damaged-institutions-sirajul-haq/

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Pakistan PM invites parties to talks on new provinces in Punjab, Sindh

Apr 15, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Amid growing demand for bifurcating Punjab and Sindh provinces, Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has invited all political parties to a dialogue to reach a consensus on the issue of creation of new provinces, according to media reports on Sunday.

The prime minister criticised the setting up of the South Punjab Province Front and the leaders who announced its formation recently. He said that mere holding of press conferences could not create new provinces in Pakistan.

Abbasi said all political parties should hold a dialogue on the issue of creation of new provinces in accordance with the demands of the people of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, Dawn newspaper reported.

He was speaking at a road opening event in Khairpur Daha near Uch Sharif, about 70km from here Bahawalpur city in Punjab province.

Pakistan has four provinces, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan. Punjab is Pakistan's second largest province by area, after Balochistan.

Abbasi said that no political party could ensure the setting up of a new province all by itself because no party could amend the Constitution alone.

All the parties should strive to forge a consensus through dialogue, he said. The formation of new provinces might be in the best interest of the country.

Abbasi referred to the demand for the creation of Hazara province as well as for other federating units in Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. He mentioned the adoption of two resolutions in the Punjab assembly in the last two years, about the restoration of Bahawalpur province and creation of South Punjab province.

It was the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, he said, that had ensured the passage of the two resolutions. The constitutional amendment, however, could not be passed through the efforts of just one party, he said.

Abbasi asked the leaders of the South Punjab Province Front to wait for the people's verdict on the issue, as the general election was approaching fast. As they had parted ways with the PML-N, they should wait for proper mandate from the people.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-pm-invites-parties-to-talks-on-new-provinces-in-punjab-sindh/articleshow/63770930.cms

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Afghan, Pakistani forces clash near border, 2 killed

Apr 15, 2018

KABUL: Afghan troops clashed with Pakistani forces near the disputed border on Sunday, in fighting that killed two Pakistani paramilitaries and wounded five others, officials said.

Pakistan's military said in a statement that the Frontier Corps was carrying out "routine surveillance" along the border when it was "fired upon from the Afghanistan side." It said the paramilitaries showed "maximum restraint" to avoid civilian casualties, and that "military engagement" is underway to defuse the situation.

Col. Abdul Hanan, the acting provincial police chief in Afghanistan's eastern Khost province, said the fighting broke out after Pakistani forces crossed into Afghanistan.

The two countries are separated by the 2,400-kilometer (1,500-mile) Durand Line, which was drawn by British rulers in 1896. Afghanistan does not recognize it as an international border and has objected to new fortifications being built by Pakistan.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/afghan-pakistani-forces-clash-near-border-2-killed/articleshow/63771881.cms

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Indian HC wasn’t prevented from meeting Sikh pilgrims: FO

Apr 16, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office (FO) on Sunday rejected as baseless the Indian allegation that its high commissioner in Islamabad was prevented from meeting the visiting Sikh pilgrims.

Responding to a question regarding the press release issued by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, FO, in a statement, said that it was deeply regrettable that facts in this matter had been completely distorted and misrepresented.

It said that the factual position was that the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) secretary had extended an invitation to the Indian high commissioner to attend the main function of Baisakhi at the Gurdwara Panja Sahib on Saturday.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs promptly processed the matter on Friday and granted the travel permission.

However, in the run-up to the main function, ETPB authorities noticed strong resentment among segments of Sikh pilgrims, gathered there from different parts of the world, protesting the release in India of some film on Baba Guru Nanak Devji.

The FO statement said that considering an emotionally charged environment and the possibility of any untoward situation, the ETPB authorities contacted the Indian High Commission officials and suggested the cancellation of the visit.

The Indian High Commission officials, after due deliberation, agreed to call off the visit in view of the situation. In another rebuttal, FO said that the facts regarding the visits of protocol team on Thursday and Saturday had also been twisted.

The statement said that the matter related to the protocol team’s access on the arrival of the pilgrims at Wagha was expeditiously resolved through the intervention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, the concerned officials of the Indian High Commission chose not to return, even though they were duly notified that the requisite clearance had been granted.

On Saturday, there was no scheduled meeting with pilgrims. On Sunday, the officials of Indian High Commission duly visited Gurdwara Punja Sahib. FO said that it deeply condemned India’s attempt to generate controversy around the visits of Sikh pilgrims and to vitiate the environment of bilateral relations.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/04/15/indian-hc-wasnt-prevented-from-meeting-sikh-pilgrims-fo/

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Two security personnel martyred in Afghan cross-border attack

BY SHAMIM SHAHID

Apr 16, 2018

PESHAWAR: At least two Frontier Corps (FC) personnel deployed on the Pak-Afghan border were martyred and five others injured in an attack from across the border, said an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement on Sunday.

According to tribal sources in Kurram Agency, the attack happened at Lakka Teega area of Lower Kurram Agency, which connects Kurram and North Waziristan agencies of the tribal belt with Khost province of Afghanistan.

The ISPR statement further said that the officials were reviewing fencing arrangements on the border when the incident occurred.

However, the security forces timely responded, the military’s media wing stated. There were no reports regarding losses inflicted to the alleged terrorists.

The tribal sources said that alleged attack occurred early Sunday. Soon after the attack, announcements were made through mosques’ loudspeakers in various villages, situated along the Pak-Afghan border.

In response to the announcements, scores of armed tribesmen from Bangash and other tribes started assembling to support the security personnel, they added.

In earlier reports, the security forces confirmed injuries to three personnel but later the ISPR informed that two personnel were martyred and three injured.

On Friday, Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal had stated that terrorist groups (based in Afghanistan) regularly undertake cross-border raids on our posts.

The spokesman had said further that two Pakistani soldiers lost their lives in cross-border attacks on April 7 and 8, besides injuries to several others.

The army is in the process of fencing the porous Pak-Afghan border in a bid to stem the free-flow of militants.

Kabul, meanwhile, has denounced the fence, which threatens to upset the daily lives of communities who have traditionally paid little mind to the border.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/04/15/two-security-personnel-martyred-in-afghan-cross-border-attack/

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Inayatullah Khan Asghar: The Last of Allama Mashriqi’s Freedom Fighter Sons Passes Away

Nasim Yousaf

In the early hours of April 12, 2018, Allama Mashriqi and Wilayat Begum’s son, Inayatullah Khan Asghar, died. He was 84 years old. He was the last of the unsung freedom fighters from Mashriqi’s family; he was arrested at least twice during the independence movement of the Indian sub-continent (now Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh). During his lifetime, he crossed paths with all levels of society – from the working poor to the upper echelons.

Asghar was born on August 25, 1933 in Lahore. Since his birthday was the same as Mashriqi’s, his parents named him after Mashriqi. In his youth, Asghar was part of his father’s Khaksar Tehrik (founded on August 25, 1930), which fought British rule in the subcontinent until the nation obtained its independence. As a young boy (in the 1940s), Asghar was arrested for parading in Khaksar uniform and promoting his father’s mission. He was sent to a Juvenile jail along with other boys. When the police brought him to court, the Magistrate told Asghar, “I have great respect for Allama Mashriqi and I am freeing you.” Asghar replied, “I will not leave the jail until you release all the other arrested boys.” The Magistrate was impressed at his courage and confidence. Knowing that the jailed boys were not criminals, he ordered their release. Thereafter, some other juveniles also used Mashriqi’s name and sought their release. In 1947, Asghar was once again arrested. Jawaharlal Nehru came to know of Asghar’s arrest and on October 09, 1947, wrote a letter to Vallabhbhai Patel. Below is an extract from Nehru’s letter:

“…I am told that among the Khaksar prisoners there is Allama Mashriqui’s son Asghar Inayatullah, aged eleven years. If this fact is correct, the boy need hardly be kept in prison. His sister is in the Jamia.”

As an adult, Asghar emerged as a handsome and talented individual who was an outstanding communicator. In the 1950s, when he was in his early 20s, he was appointed as Deputy Director in the Government of Punjab in Pakistan. Six months later, he was promoted to Director. His rapid rise did not end there, as a few months later, he was offered an even higher position. Upon learning of this offer to Asghar, one of his colleagues jokingly remarked, “If you continue to be promoted like this, I am worried about Sikander Mirza [who was then in power], whom you could be replacing soon.”

Asghar left government service for personal reasons and traveled to Europe. During his lifetime, he held various professions - ranging from Government servant to journalist to successful businessman. While in Europe, he launched an industrial magazine entitled Today and Tomorrow. It was published from Netherlands and Norway. The publication promoted joint ventures between Europe and Pakistan and was well admired in Pakistan and abroad. Asghar had a wide range of connections with European manufacturers, industrialists, and businessmen. From Europe, he moved to New York and bought a mansion in an affluent area of Westchester County, where he continued with his business ventures. He held exclusive distributorship rights for the United States and some other countries from prominent corporations in Pakistan.

I also have many personal memories of Asghar. Asghar admired Eastern culture and traditions and enjoyed going to festivals and meeting people at the grassroots level. When he visited from the USA, he used to stay with me (in Pakistan) and immerse himself in cultural activities. For example, we went to the famous Mela Chiragan at the Shalimar Gardens in Lahore, where he tasted all kinds of street food - from chaat to seekh kebabs to dahi barras. Although Asghar lived abroad for years, his heart remained with his own people and land. Eventually, he moved back to Pakistan and lived in Lahore Cantonment and later in Defence Housing Society. He was blessed with caring children (four sons and two daughters) who visited him periodically. As a result of Asghar’s advancing age, about five years ago, his eldest son moved to Pakistan to take care of him. His other children also remained actively involved. His caretaker, Zafar, also looked after him for over 30 years and became like family.

Overall, Inayatullah Khan Asghar lived a full live. His only regret was that Pakistan and India buried the memory and tremendous personal sacrifices and contributions of his father (Allama Mashriqi) to the struggle for freedom of the Indian sub-continent. He lamented that even leading and well-respected historians and media of the East and West did not do justice to his father’s role or portrayed him negatively.

Asghar will be remembered as an incredibly friendly and kind-hearted person. On the night of his death, he was talking (per usual) with his son and daughters (who were visiting him from abroad). He went to bed late at night. At some point in the night, Asghar woke up his children and Zafar. After speaking with them for some time, he again went to sleep and passed away peacefully at about 5:40 am. On April 12, around 8:00 pm, he was laid to rest at the feet of his mother (per his desire) in Miani Sahib Graveyard, the same location where his other family members and the Khaksar martyrs of March 19, 1940 (who gave their lives in the fight for freedom) are buried. His passing was condoled by people from all walks of life. It is sad to think that historians missed the opportunity to document his firsthand accounts and experiences from the freedom movement. With his death, a chapter of South Asian history came to an end.

The author, Nasim Yousaf, is Allama Mashriqi’s son and Inayatullah Khan Asghar’s nephew. Mr. Yousaf has published a book entitled Allama Mashriqi’s Sons & Daughters: British India’s Young Freedom Fighters that includes a piece honoring Asghar’s role in the freedom movement.

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North America

 

 

The Blue Muslim Wave: American Muslims Launch Political Campaigns; Hope To Deliver ‘Sweet Justice’ To Trump

By Abigail Hauslohner

April 15, 2018

SAN DIEGO — Fayaz Nawabi has never met President Trump. But he credits the president with convincing him to run for office.

Nawabi, a 31-year-old candidate for San Diego City Council, supports almost everything that Trump opposes: He is pro-affordable housing, pro-environment, pro-immigrant and pro-refugee. That makes him part of the blue wave of new liberal candidates spurred to run by Trump’s election and policies.

But Nawabi is also part of a notable subset: the blue Muslim wave.

More than 90 American Muslims, nearly all of them Democrats, are running for public office across the country this year. Many are young and politically inexperienced, and most are long shots. But they represent a collective gamble: that voters are so disgusted by America’s least popular president on record that they’re willing to elect members of America’s least popular religious minority group.

Although their number seems small, the candidacies mark an unprecedented rise for the nation’s diverse Muslim community that typically has been underrepresented in American politics.

There are more than 3.3 million Muslims living in the United States, but Muslim Americans hold just two of the 535 seats in Congress. And the Muslim community’s voter participation pales in comparison to the general public’s.

[A year after the Women’s March, new activists take anti-Trump message into midterm elections]

The rise of Muslim candidates coincides with the growth of the predominantly immigrant population and a partisan shift that has played out over a generation. In a 2001 Zogby poll of American Muslims, 42 percent said they voted for Republican George W. Bush in the previous year’s presidential election, while 31 percent said they voted for Democrat Al Gore. By last year, just 8 percent of voting American Muslims in a Pew poll said they voted for Trump, while 78 percent said they voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton.

While Clinton’s campaign never garnered broad enthusiasm from Muslim communities, Trump’s campaign — which called for the monitoring of mosques and a ban on Muslims entering the United States — delivered a jolt on election night that some American Muslims likened to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“It woke everyone up,” Nawabi said.

Now, Muslim candidates are running for a wide range of offices across the country, from local school boards to the U.S. Senate. Some are making their Muslim identity central to their campaigns.

“When you put someone in a corner and they’re in survival mode, they have a tendency to come out and speak more prominently about their beliefs,” said Nawabi, who considers himself an “unapologetic Muslim” who can quote the Koran from memory and moonlights as a “freelance imam.”

In Michigan, where 13 Muslim candidates are running for office, physician Abdul El-Sayed is hoping voters will elect him to be the first Muslim governor in the United States and has used his religion in campaign ads against Republican front-runner Bill Schuette, whom Trump has endorsed.

“Donald Trump and Steve Bannon would love to see a right-wing radical like Bill Schuette elected in Michigan,” reads a Facebook ad for Sayed, who faces a Democratic primary in August. “You know what would be sweet justice? If we elected a 33-year-old Muslim instead of Bill Schuette. Send a message and help elect the first Muslim governor in America.”

A new generation of leaders

A half a century ago, a small population of black Americans embraced Islam as a pathway to political empowerment and civil rights, and today their descendants are members of the U.S. military, police officers, city council members and career civil servants.

But in the immigrant community, the experience is newer. About two-thirds of American Muslims are immigrants or the children of immigrants, and activists say a cultural fear or mistrust of government can accompany those who have fled authoritarian regimes, hindering participation in the political process.

“A lot of people feel like, ‘I’m just going to make my money, put my head down,’” said Nawabi, whose family arrived in San Diego as refugees from Afghanistan when he was a toddler.

They feel political involvement “puts a target on their backs because that’s what it meant where they came from,” he said.

A small number of Muslim and Arab advocacy groups, such as e the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Emgage (formerly called Emerge USA), and the Arab American Institute have spent years training young political activists, tracking rising politicians and running get-out-the-vote campaigns, particularly in immigrant communities after the 9/11 terrorist attacks set off an anti-Muslim and anti-Arab backlash.

But Trump’s policies have intensified the push for political activism in the diverse community. There was the travel ban, which sought to prohibit entry to people from several Muslim-majority countries, as well as refugees. There were Trump’s calls to monitor mosques and his appointments of Cabinet members and political advisers who have disparaged and mocked Muslims. There were the comments and tweets that cast Islam as inherently dangerous and called Muslim patriotism into question.

Emgage, a nonprofit organization geared toward promoting Muslim political engagement, polled registered Muslim voters after the 2016 presidential election and found that 53 percent felt “less safe.”

“But the response has been increased civic participation,” said Wa’el Alzayat, the organization’s chief executive. “I’m one of the people who, looking at the long-term impact of this, is optimistic.”

A sizable generation of American-born Muslims and Arabs are in their 20s and 30s, their school years shaped by 9/11, and their comfort and familiarity in the American political system far surpassing that of their immigrant parents.

“They’re ready,” said James Zogby, a longtime Democratic operative and president of the Arab American Institute, who has provided funding and mentorship to several candidates. “Both communities separately have reached a level of maturation.”

Nawabi, a self-described “typical millennial” and avid surfer, was never interested in politics until Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) captured his attention during the 2016 presidential race. But it was the day after Trump won the election that Nawabi decided he needed to act.

That morning, he walked into the local Islamic school where he was then teaching, imagining how his students’ parents might be “trying to explain to their kids that there’s a bigot, a racist, in the White House.”

But when he got to the classroom, he realized his second-graders were already thinking about it.

“They were talking about where they were going to move now that Trump was president,” said Nawabi. “That really affected me.”

Before long, he had become an assembly district delegate for the California Democratic Party, a win he attributed to his ability to mobilize 200 Muslim voters. He gave sermons at mosques attended by mostly immigrants about the importance of seeing themselves as part of the American political system, and he launched a Muslim American Democratic Club in San Diego.

“The Republican Party has completely thrown our community under the bus,” he said.

He added his name to the ballot for city council.

A flurry of firsts

The call to action among American Muslims has yielded a diverse array of candidates. They include former Obama administration officials and longtime political activists, but also physicians and lawyers, women’s rights advocates, a molecular biologist and a former Planned Parenthood manager.

The flurry of candidacies makes for a lot of potential “firsts.”

Asif Mahmood, a 56-year-old pulmonologist, would be the first Muslim insurance commissioner in California. Deedra Abboud, 45, in Arizona, or Jesse Sbaih, 42, in Nevada, could be the country’s first Muslim senator.

And any one of four Muslim women — Nadia Hashimi, 40, in Maryland; Sameena Mustafa, 47, in Illinois; or Fayrouz Saad, 34, and Rashida Tlaib, 41, in Michigan — could be the first in Congress.

Muslim political activists and community leaders say they’ve noticed more young Muslims showing up to political events ranging from legislative hearings and school board meetings to women’s marches and civil rights rallies.

“I think you see this invigoration of the younger generation who is like, ‘We need to stand up and share our narratives and share our stories. We can’t stand on the sidelines,’” said Abdullah Hammoud, 27, who won election to Michigan’s state legislature in 2016. “There is this fire lit under them. They see their rights being stripped away, day in and day out.”

Several also have dealt with backlash. “Sorry no room for Muslims in our government,” one man wrote last year on Abboud’s campaign Facebook page. Kia Hamadanchy, the 32-year-old son of Iranian immigrants who is running for Congress in Southern California, said he occasionally has to delete online comments, including one that said, “He wants to behead you all.”

Nawabi says a few people have asked him why he has a beard, whether he speaks English and even whether he’s a terrorist.

Still, many Muslim candidates are wearing their religion as a badge of honor.

“As a Muslim immigrant from the great blue state of California, I’m a triple threat to Donald Trump!” Mahmood posted on his campaign website.

“The child of Palestinian immigrants . . . the first female Muslim elected to the Michigan Legislature,” Rashida Tlaib, running for Congress, wrote on hers.

Some candidates and political activists say that even if no Muslim candidate wins a seat this year, the blue Muslim wave still will have accomplished something. The American public will grow more accustomed to seeing Muslim candidates, they say, and Muslim youth will see candidates who look like them or share their values.

Many, they hope, will be inspired.

Under Trump, Zogby said, “Running itself becomes making a statement.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/the-blue-muslim-wave-american-muslims-launch-political-campaigns-hope-to-deliver-sweet-justice-to-trump/2018/04/15/a8794a9c-31cc-11e8-8abc-22a366b72f2d_story.html?utm_term=.9d41fc6f95a2

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White House: Trump wants US forces in Syria to come home as quickly as possible

16 April 2018

President Donald Trump still wants US forces in Syria to return home as soon as possible, the White House said on Sunday, after French President Emmanuel Macron said he had convinced Trump to keep a US presence there for “the long term.”

“The US mission has not changed -- the president has been clear that he wants US forces to come home as quickly as possible,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

“We are determined to completely crush ISIS and create the conditions that will prevent its return. In addition we expect our regional allies and partners to take greater responsibility both militarily and financially for securing the region,” she said.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/04/16/White-House-Trump-wants-US-forces-in-Syria-to-come-home-as-quickly-as-possible.html

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Senior US official briefs Turkey on Syria situation

15 April 2018

Acting U.S. Secretary of State John Sullivan briefed Turkey’s Foreign Undersecretary Umit Yalcin over the phone on Friday on the latest developments in Syria.

In a written statement, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Sullivan also discussed the strikes with Kuwaiti, Czech, and Iraqi foreign ministers on the same day.

The U.S., U.K., and France launched airstrikes on the Assad regime's alleged chemical weapons facilities in Syria earlier on Saturday.

The strikes came after the Assad regime was accused of carrying out a chemical attack in Syria's Douma earlier this month, which killed 78 civilians and injured hundreds of others.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had spoken with his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump over the issue ahead of the airstrikes.

http://www.worldbulletin.net/america-canada/201079/trump-lashes-out-at-ex-fbi-chief

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America has 3 goals in Syria

16 April 2018

The U.S. ambassador to the UN on Sunday laid out three American goals in Syria in the wake of U.S.-led airstrikes targeting the Assad regime. 

“First of all the president made it very clear we cannot have chemical weapons usage anywhere, and we will continue to combat that in any way we need to protect American interests,” Nikki Haley told CBS News' “Face the Nation.”

“Secondly, we want to make sure that they understand that ISIL has to be defeated completely and wholly in a way that we know that we have stabilized the region. And then thirdly we want to make sure that the influence of Iran doesn't take over the area.” 

The U.S. is not looking for war, said Haley.

“That's the last thing the president wanted was war. We were not looking to kill people. That was not something that in our American values we would want to do.

Full report at:

http://www.worldbulletin.net/america-canada/201116/america-has-3-goals-in-syria

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South Asia

 

Bangladesh Rejects Myanmar's Claim of Repatriating Rohingya

April 16, 2018

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Bangladesh on Monday rejected a claim by Myanmar that the Buddhist-majority nation had repatriated the first five among some 700,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees who fled to the neighboring country to escape military-led violence against the minority group.

A Myanmar government statement said Saturday that five members of a family had returned to western Rakhine state from the border area. It said the family was staying temporarily with relatives in Maungdaw town, the administrative center close to the border.

The statement said authorities determined whether they had lived in Myanmar and provided them with a national verification card. The card is a form of ID, but does not mean citizenship — something Rohingya have been denied in Myanmar, where they've faced persecution for decades.

The statement did not say whether any more repatriations were being planned. Bangladesh has given Myanmar a list of more than 8,000 refugees to begin the repatriations, but there have been delays due to a complicated verification process.

On Monday, Bangladesh's home minister, Asaduzzaman Khan, said Myanmar's claim that the family had been "repatriated" was false, noting that the family had never reached Bangladeshi territory.

Khan said Myanmar's move was "nothing but a farce."

"I hope Myanmar will take all the Rohingya families back within the shortest possible time," he said.

Bangladesh's refugee, relief and repatriation commissioner, Abul Kalam, said the Rohingya family involved had never crossed the border.

"By no definition can this be called repatriation. No repatriation has taken place," he said by phone from Cox's Bazar. "Bangladesh is no way part of it."

Cox's Bazar is a district in Bangladesh where camps have been set up to shelter the Rohingya.

Asif Munier, an independent refugee expert who had handled the Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh for years as part of the United Nations, said Myanmar's claim was a public relations stunt.

"They are doing it again and again," he said. "Bangladesh's government and the international community must ask Myanmar for an explanation for this move. While there is a bilateral process going on and international agencies are involved, such a move by Myanmar is again very unfortunate and unexpected."

Myanmar's security forces have been accused of rape, killing, torture and the burning of the homes of Rohingya villagers after insurgents attacked about 30 police outposts on Aug. 25. The United Nations and the United States have described the army crackdown as "ethnic cleansing."

About 700,000 Rohingya Muslims flooded into neighboring Bangladesh to escape the violence.

Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed in December to begin repatriating them in January, but there were concerns among aid workers and Rohingya that they would be forced to return and face unsafe conditions in Myanmar.

On Friday, the U.N. refugee agency and Bangladesh finalized a memorandum of understanding that said the repatriation process must be "safe, voluntary and dignified ... in line with international standards."

UNHCR said it "considers that conditions in Myanmar are not yet conducive for returns to be safe, dignified, and sustainable. The responsibility for creating such conditions remains with the Myanmar authorities, and these must go beyond the preparation of physical infrastructure to facilitate logistical arrangements."

Rohingya Muslims have long been treated as outsiders in Myanmar, even though their families have lived in the country for generations. Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982, effectively rendering them stateless. They are denied freedom of movement and other basic rights.

https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2018-04-16/bangladesh-rejects-myanmars-claim-of-repatriating-rohingya

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Taliban’s response to President Ghani’s call for participation in elections

Apr 16 2018

The Taliban group has responded to President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani’s call for the participation of the group in upcoming elections.

The group issued a statement two days after President Ghani said the Taliban group should participate in the elections by taking into consideration that opportunity available for peace process.

However, Taliban emphasizes that the fight against the foreign forces still has a priority for the group, claiming that all the decisions on political and military level are taken by the foreigners.

The group also claims that only those will reach to power that have already been elected by the Whit House and Pentagon.

Calling the elections a fake and exhibitory process, Taliban also emphasized that the nation should not participate in the parliamentary and district councils elections.

President Ghani on Saturday inaugurated the voter registration process as the parliamentary and district councils elections are scheduled to be held in October this year.

In his speech after the inauguration of the voter registration, President Ghani said the Taliban group should use the opportunity to participate in the elections.

He said the group should return as a political movement by taking into consideration the opportunities available with the announcement of government’s offer for peace process.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/talibans-response-to-president-ghanis-call-for-participation-in-elections-04890/

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Afghan Council to Host Religious Conference to Promote Peace

April 15, 2018

Focusing on Pakistani hardline religious scholars, Afghanistan is in the process of convening an international religious conference in a bid to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in the county, the Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) said.

The HPC told VOA it is very important that Pakistani scholars, who believe the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan is legitimate, participate in the "Grand Religious Conference."

"We are hoping that those Pakistani religious scholars like Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman and Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, who see the war in Afghanistan as legitimate jihad, would participate in the conference," Sayed Ehsan Taheri, Afghan High Peace Council spokesperson, told VOA.

Rehman, who is also a member of country's National Assembly, linked the Afghan Taliban's insurgency to the presence of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, in an effort to justify the Taliban's continued violence in the country.

His Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam religious party is also accused of maintaining links with various militant groups.

Similarly, Haq, who is also known as "Father of the Taliban," openly backs the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.

"Give them just one year, and they will make the whole of Afghanistan happy," Haq said in a 2013 interview with Reuters.

It is believed that Taliban movement was initiated in Darul Uloom Haqqnia, a Pakistani religious school run by Maulana Sami-ul- Haq.

The international religious conference would give the Islamic religious clerics the chance to find common ground in terms of war and peace in Afghanistan.

"Counterterrorism in the region and Afghanistan, and peace and war in Afghanistan, would be the main topics of discussion, based on Islamic principles," Taheri said. "It is not clear yet where the conference will be held."

The Afghan peace council has doubled its efforts to earn Islamic countries' votes to convince the Taliban and its supporters to end the war in Afghanistan after Afghan president Mohammad Ashraf Ghani offered unconditional peace talks to the insurgents.

Expert opinion

Experts are not divided over whether religious scholars can play a constructive role.

"The so-called religious scholars of Islamic states have no authority, including Pakistan. Even if they do participate in such conferences, they will only follow the government's policies," Osman Kakar, a Pakistani politician and Afghanistan expert told VOA. "This problem will persist until countries stop intervention in Afghanistan," he said.

Mohammad Rasool Taheri, a U.S.-based religious scholar, agrees that the Afghan war and peace issue cannot be solved by religious scholars. "I don't think religious scholars can do anything in terms of bringing peace or ending the war in Afghanistan," he added.

Waheed Muzhda, a former member of the insurgent group, said the issue of peace and war in Afghanistan cannot be solved, even by the Afghans, and requires a broader international platform.

"This problem [war and peace in Afghanistan] cannot be solved in Afghanistan until the world powers [involved in Afghanistan] solve their differences on the international level," Muzhda told VOA.

Indonesia peace conference

Jakarta is preparing to host a trilateral conference, where religious scholars from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Indonesia would try to end more than 16 years of war in Afghanistan.

The Afghan High Peace Council said Indonesia and Afghanistan were ready to hold the conference and were waiting for Pakistan to confirm its participation.

The Afghan Taliban has urged scholars to boycott the conference.

On Saturday, during an opening ceremony of voter registration for the upcoming parliamentary election, Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani once again called on the Taliban to join the political arena and participate in the election.

"President Ghani asked the Taliban to act as a political party and participate in the elections, while utilizing the prevailing opportunity and the peace offer," an Afghan presidential palace statement states.

Pressure on Taliban

Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, said last month in Kabul that a religious, diplomatic, military and social approach would be utilized to put pressure on the Taliban.

"There will be religious pressure applied to the Taliban with the ulemas (Islamic scholars) hosted in Indonesia and elsewhere to strip away the religious legitimacy for jihad in Afghanistan," he told reporters in the capital city, Kabul.

Nicholson called the parliamentary election a tool that would socially pressure the Taliban when Afghans vote for leaders later this year.

The Afghan government and the U.S.-led Resolute Support Mission insist the Taliban will never achieve a victory on the battlefield. "So this really is probably their best time to attempt a negotiation, because it's only going to get worse for them," Nicholson added.

The Taliban has yet to respond to the Afghan peace offer.

Full report at:

https://www.voanews.com/a/afghanistan-high-peace-council-religious-conference/4349696.html

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Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia boost military relationship

16 April 2018

DHAKA: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited Saudia Arabia on Sunday to attend the concluding ceremony of a joint military exercise named “Gulf Shield -1” hosted by the Kingdom.

An 18-member Bangladesh Armed Forces delegation has taken part in the month-long joint exercise.

It is for the first time that Bangladesh armed forces are taking part in a joint military exercise in Saudi Arabia.

Apart from Bangladesh and the host Saudi Arabia, 19 other countries have participated in the exercise with a view to increase more military coordination.

The Bangladesh premier was invited by King Salman to witness the concluding ceremony.

“The prime minister will attend the concluding ceremony of the joint military exercise,” said acting Foreign Secretary Khorshed Alam.

Bangladesh enjoys a diversified historic relationship with Saudi Arabia.

“During this visit so far, there is no schedule of any bilateral talks and after the concluding ceremony, the prime minister will fly to the UK to attend the Commonwealth Head of Government Summit,” according to Alam speaking to Arab News.

Earlier in 1990, the Bangladesh military participated in the first Gulf War. “The joining of the Bangladesh military in this joint exercise has a huge significance,” said a renowned security analyst, Maj. Gen. (retired) Abdur Radhid.

“This joint military exercise may initiate a new era of military relationship between Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia and definitely it’s a very bold decision from Bangladesh side,” said Rashid.

Bangladesh's military has a huge prospect to work with Saudi Arabia in different capacity. “Our military can help the Saudi Arabia in maintaining security of VP (Vulnerable Points) and KPI (Key Point Installations) areas as we have earned a very high estimation in global area through the UN Peace Keeping Forces,” commented another security analyst, Major General (ret.) Helal Morshed Khan.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1285231/saudi-arabia

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Tensions intensify along Durand Line after Afghan and Pak forces clash

Apr 15 2018

The officials in tribal regions of Pakistan have confirmed that clashes along the Durand Line have left two Pakistani soldiers wounded.

The officials in Kurram Agency of Pakistan have told the local media outlets that a security post came under fire from the other side of Durand Line from Khost province of Afghanistan.

According to the local officials, the Pakistani forces have started to launch counter attack after coming under fire in Tika area.

Reports indicate that the latest skirmish has resulted to intensifying tensions along the Line as scores of local residents of Kurram Agency have gathered and marching towards the line to support the Pakistani forces.

This comes as the acting provincial police chief Abdul Hanan had earlier confirmed that the clash broke out earlier today and the two sides are still engaged in exchange of fire.

He said the clashes broke out after the Pakistani forces attempted to cross the zero point along the Durand Line and faced resistance from the Afghan forces.

In the meantime, provincial security sources are saying that three people including two military forces of Pakistan were killed and several others were wounded during the clashes.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/tensions-intensify-along-durand-line-after-afghan-and-pak-forces-clash-04886/

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Europe

 

UK threatens further measures against Syria

Apr 15, 2018

Britain’s foreign minister says London will study the “options” with its allies if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad again uses chemical weapons.

“There is no proposal on the table at the moment for further attacks because so far thank heavens the Assad regime have not been so foolish as to launch another chemical weapons attack,” Boris Johnson said on Sunday in an interview with the BBC

Johnson backed UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to join the United States and France to strike chemical weapons facilities in Syria on Saturday, saying it was the right thing to do to deter the further use of chemical weapons.

The Syrian government has rejected claims that it was behind the suspected chemical attack near the capital Damascus on April 7. The attack purportedly took place in the former militant-held town of Douma in Eastern Ghouta.

The American military described that attack as "precision strikes" on three targets in Syria that it falsely claimed to be associated with the country's alleged chemical weapons arsenal, without producing any evidence.

The strike has drawn global outcry since it was carried out before the international chemical weapons watchdog could probe the incident.

Russia said the chemical attack was staged by desperate militants to provoke further intervention in the conflict by the West.

UK opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has sharply criticized May for following the orders of US President Donald Trump in launching missile strikes against Syria, saying “bombs won't save lives or bring about peace.”

Corbyn, a veteran anti-war campaigner, said Saturday that May should have sought approval from the UK Parliament before ordering the attack, which he said could escalate the conflict.

"Britain should be playing a leadership role to bring about a ceasefire in the conflict, not taking instructions from Washington and putting British military personnel in harm's way,” he added.

Corbyn said the only acceptable legal basis to legitimize such a military strike would either have to be self-defense, or the authority of the UN Security Council.

Syria, as well as many other countries and organizations, condemned the brutal attack as a flagrant violation of international law.

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/04/15/558603/UK-Britain-Syria-Johnson-Missile-Attack

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French president says he convinced Trump to keep troops in Syria

Apr 15, 2018

French President Emmanuel Macron has said that he convinced US President Donald Trump to keep troops in Syria.

Macron made the remarks in an interview broadcast by BFM TV, RMC radio and Mediapart on Sunday, where he also defended his country's participation in the joint air strikes on Syria.

"We convinced him it was necessary to remain there...We have complete international legitimacy to act in this framework," he said. "We have three members of the (United Nations) Security Council who have intervened."

The announcement was made several hours after US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said that the US would not pull American troops out of Syria until its goals were accomplished.

Haley listed three goals for the US, ensuring that chemical weapons are not used in any way that pose a risk to American interests, that the Daesh (ISIL) terrorist group is defeated, and that there is a good vantage point to watch what Iran is doing.

Early on Saturday, the US, Britain and France carried out a string of airstrikes against Syria over a suspected chemical weapons attack against the city of Douma, located about 10 kilometers northeast of the capital Damascus.

The Syrian government has rejected claims that it was behind the suspected chemical attack near the capital Damascus on April 7. The attack purportedly took place in the former militant-held town of Douma in Eastern Ghouta.

OPCW experts began Syria mission

Meanwhile, a team of experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons(OPCW) have commenced their investigation into the alleged chemical attack.

The Hague based team arrived in Syria several hours after the joint airstrikes on Syrian soil.

"We will ensure they can work professionally, objectively, impartially and free of any pressure," Assistant Syrian Foreign Minister Ayman Soussan was quoted by the AFP as saying.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/04/15/558632/france-syria-macron-us-strike

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Putin predicts global chaos if West hits Syria again

April 16, 2018

MOSCOW: Russian President Vlad­imir Putin warned on Sunday that further Western attacks on Syria would bring chaos to world affairs, while signs emerged that Moscow and Washington wanted to pull back from the worst crisis in their relations for years.

Putin made his remarks in a telephone conversation with Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani after the United States, France and Britain launched missile strikes on Syria on Saturday over a suspected poison gas attack.

A Kremlin statement said Putin and Rouhani agreed that the Western strikes had damaged the chances of achieving a political resolution in the multi-sided, seven-year conflict that has killed at least half a million people.

“Vladimir Putin, in particular, stressed that if such actions committed in violation of the UN Charter continue, then it will inevitably lead to chaos in international relations,” a Kremlin statement said.

The attacks struck at the heart of Syria’s chemical weapons programme, Washin­gton said, in retaliation for a suspected poison gas attack a week ago. All three participants insisted the strikes were not aimed at toppling President Bashar al-Assad or intervening in the conflict.

The bombings, hailed by US President Donald Trump as a success but denounced by Damascus and its allies as an act of aggression, marked the biggest intervention by Western countries against Assad and ally Russia, whose Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called them “unacceptable and lawless”.

Putin’s comments were published shortly after Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov struck a more conciliatory note by saying Moscow would make every effort to improve political relations with the West.

When asked whether Russia was prepared to work with the proposals of Western countries at the United Nations, Ryabkov told TASS news agency: “We will work calmly, methodically and professionally, using all opportunities to remove the situation from its current extremely dangerous political peak.”

In Damascus, Syria’s deputy foreign minister, Faisal Mekdad, met inspectors from the global chemical weapons watchdog OPCW for about three hours in the presence of Russian officers and a senior Syrian security official.

The inspectors were due to attempt to visit the site of the suspected gas attack in Douma on April 7, which medical relief organisations say killed dozens of people. Moscow condemned the Western states for refusing to wait for OPCW’s findings before attacking.

Russia denounced allegations of a gas attack in Douma and said it was staged by Britain to whip up anti-Russian hysteria.

In an indication that the West, too, would prefer to lower tensions, the United States and Britain both reiterated that their military action on Satu­rday was not aimed at Assad, Putin’s ally, only at his use of chemical weapons.

Speaking to the BBC, Britain’s Fore­ign Secretary (Minister) Boris Johnson said that Western powers had no plans for further missile strikes, though they would assess their options if Damascus used chemical weapons again.

“This is not about regime change... This is not about trying to turn the tide of the conflict in Syria,” he told the BBC, adding that Russia was the only country able to pressure Assad to negotiate an end to the conflict.

Asked about US-Russia relations, US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said ties were “very strained” but that the United States still hoped for a better relationship.

Haley said that the United States would not pull its troops out of Syria until its goals were accomplished.

Speaking on Fox News on Sunday, Haley listed three aims for the United States: ensuring that chemical weapons are not used in any way that poses a risk to US interests, that so-called Islamic State group is defeated and that there is a good vantage point to watch what Iran is doing.

In Damascus, Assad told a group of visiting Russian lawmakers that the Western missile strikes were an act of aggression, Russian news agencies reported.

Syria released video of the wreckage of a bombed-out research lab, but also of Assad arriving at work as usual, with the caption “morning of resilience” and there were no immediate reports of casualties.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1401884/putin-predicts-global-chaos-if-west-hits-syria-again

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British PM faces backlash for bypassing MPs on Syria

15 April 2018

British Prime Minister Theresa May faced a backlash from the domestic opposition after launching military strikes on Syria without consulting parliament.

The shadow of the 2003 invasion of Iraq still lingers in the corridors of Britain's parliament, when MPs backed then-prime minister Tony Blair in joining US military action.

"Bombs won't save lives or bring about peace," said Jeremy Corbyn, the veteran leftist leader of the main opposition Labour Party.

"This legally questionable action risks escalating further... an already devastating conflict.

"Theresa May should have sought parliamentary approval, not trailed after Donald Trump."

Corbyn has written to May seeking assurance that there would be no further bombing raids and urged the government to negotiate a pause in the Syrian civil war.

The British, US and French bombings on Saturday followed an alleged chemical weapons attack on the rebel-held town of Douma on April 7.

May's government has insisted the punitive strikes were legal, releasing a statement that said they were aimed at alleviating the "extreme humanitarian suffering" of the Syrian people by reducing the chemical weapons capabilities of President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

"The UK is permitted under international law, on an exceptional basis, to take measures in order to alleviate overwhelming humanitarian suffering," the statement said.

It added that it believed the Syrian government had committed a "war crime and a crime against humanity" with chemical weapons use and that attempts to find a unified international approach through the United Nations had been blocked by Damascus-ally Moscow.

May will face questions from MPs on Monday, when parliament reconvenes after a break.

Stop the War, a pacifist coalition once chaired by Corbyn, has called a demonstration outside the British parliament on Monday to protest against the strikes.

Full report at:

http://www.worldbulletin.net/europe/201094/british-pm-faces-backlash-for-bypassing-mps-on-syria

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Arab World

 

After Ghouta, Syria army to target cradle of revolt in Daraa

April 16, 2018

BEIRUT - The capture of Eastern Ghouta is a significant milestone for Syria's regime and paves the way for government troops to shift south to where the seven-year uprising first began: Daraa.

After securing the capital from deadly rockets that once rained in from its suburbs, President Bashar al-Assad now has forces ready to redeploy elsewhere in the war-ravaged country. The Islamists and jihadists that hold the northwest province of Idlib remain a threat, but analysts say Assad's priority will likely be the southern province of Daraa, where protests against his rule first broke out in 2011.

After losing swathes of territory to rebels, Syria's army has regained control of more than 55 percent of the country with crucial help from its ally Russia, according to analyst Fabrice Balanche. Its most recent victory is in Ghouta: the onetime rebel bastion that has now been neutralised after a blistering air and ground assault and the Russia-brokered evacuation of thousands of rebels and civilians. "The liberation of Eastern Ghouta means lifting the security and military threat posed to Damascus," said Bassam Abou Abdallah, who heads the Damascus Centre for Strategic Studies. "After Ghouta, it's likely the Syrian government will head south -- the current situation in Daraa must be finished off," he told AFP.

The regime said it had retaken Eastern Ghouta on Saturday after a nearly two-month assault that killed more than 1,700 civilians and the evacuation deals that saw rebels and civilians bussed up to northern Syria.

'REAL PROBLEM' OF DARAA

With Ghouta now taken care of, the only risk posed to Damascus stems from a few southern districts still held by the Islamic State group, including the Yarmuk Palestinian camp. Al-Watan newspaper, which is close to the government, said the army will seek to "finish off" those districts, but analysts believe the regime's real interest lies elsewhere.

"Maintaining some IS pockets serves the regime's narrative in order to reconquer the rest of Syrian territory," said Julien Theron, a professor at the Paris Institute of Political Studies.

He said the regime could redeploy troops to reinforce other fronts against rebels, including Daraa which he described as a "real problem". The vast Daraa province lies south of Damascus and also shares borders with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Non-jihadist rebels, backed by the United States and Jordan, hold nearly three-quarters of it and parts of the provincial capital, also called Daraa. "The regime has been focusing on Daraa province for a long time, trying to break through rebel territory to reach the city," said Theron. "Rebels control Syria's southern border, which has undermined the regime's image of being the master of its own territory," he added.

Retaking the Nasib border crossing with Jordan, held by rebels since 2015, is a particular prize as it could bring financial rewards for a cash-strapped regime. In the past, the crossing has been a key transit point for trade between Syria, Jordan and the countries of the Gulf.

GHOUTA 'LESSON' FOR REBELS

But analysts also say Assad's regime will have to avoid any escalation with Israel. "The areas in the south of Syria are particularly sensitive because they are located between Damascus on the one hand, and the Jordanian and Israeli borders on the other," analyst Sam Heller said. "Any military action could affect the national security of the three countries," said the researcher at the International Crisis Group.

Thomas Pierret, a Syria specialist at the University of Edinburgh, said Daraa was the obvious next step for the regime after Ghouta, over Idlib. "Daraa is probably more urgent for economic reasons and reopening trade with Jordan."

Assad has repeatedly pledged to recapture "every inch" of Syrian territory lost to armed groups since 2011.  And while Idlib is surely in his sights, analysts said the province's complex dynamics could put it further down his priority list.

Idlib is held by an array of rebel, Islamist, and jihadist forces that have at various times united or fought each other in battles for influence. Taking such forces head-on could prove too costly for Assad's army, said Theron. Furthermore, Idlib lies on the border with Turkey and has been the subject of negotiations between Ankara and Moscow, said Heller.  "Until further notice, Idlib is not one of the Damascus regime's goals, as it is hostage to global political calculations more than military ones," said Heller. "Idlib's fate is linked to what is happening behind the scenes in the agreements between Turkey and Russia," he told AFP.

From Damascus, Abou Abdallah said he expected the same tactic used to seize Ghouta will apply to reconquer Daraa and Idlib: "military pressure to reach a settlement, or settlement without military pressure". Ghouta's "fall at that speed should be a lesson to both Idlib in the north and Daraa in the south."

https://nation.com.pk/16-Apr-2018/after-ghouta-syria-army-to-target-cradle-of-revolt-in-daraa

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OPCW inspectors set to investigate site of Douma chemical attack

15 Apr 2018

UN chemical weapons investigators were set on Sunday to begin examining the scene of a chemical attack in the Syrian city of Douma, which had prompted the joint US, French and British strikes against military installations and chemical weapons facilities near the capital, Damascus.

The arrival of the delegation from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) came as the Syrian military announced that it had “purified” the region of eastern Ghouta, of which Douma is a part, after a two-month campaign that killed nearly 2,000 civilians, following years of siege.

“Units of our brave armed forces, and auxiliary and allied forces, completed the purification of eastern Ghouta, including all its towns and villages, of armed terrorist organisations,” the general command statement said. The regime of Bashar al-Assad refers to all forces opposed to it as terrorists.

The OPCW had said it would continue to deploy to Damascus despite the strikes on the Syrian regime’s installations in the early hours of Saturday morning. “The fact-finding team arrived in Damascus on Saturday and is due to go to Douma on Sunday,” said Ayman Soussan, Syria’s deputy foreign minister.

The OPCW mission will arrive in Douma eight days after the chemical attack, and days after the area fell to the control of Russian military and Syrian government forces. That delay, along with the possibility of the tampering of evidence by the forces accused of perpetrating the attack, raises doubts about what the OPCW’s inspectors might be able to discover.

Russia and Syria had invited the OPCW to investigate the attack in Douma, which they had hoped would stave off the threat of retaliation by the west.

The chemical attack in Douma had been the final stroke in a prolonged bombardment aimed at crushing the rebellion in eastern Ghouta, the last stronghold near Damascus of rebels fighting Assad’s regime. The campaign had drawn fierce condemnation from western diplomats and UN officials, with one describing it as a “monstrous annihilation”.

The attack killed at least 42 people and refocused global attention on the violence in Syria, provoking a pledge of retaliation from Donald Trump. But the retaliatory strikes did little to perturb the Assad regime or its forces, which on Sunday resumed its bombing of regions in central Syria.

“It’s good that there was a response, but the pressure needs to continue,” said one medic who treated the chemical attack victims in Douma. “It doesn’t have to be military, with bombings, but the pressure must continue until the killing stops in all Syria. In the end, everybody wants peace in the entire area, nobody wants the killing, wars, bombing and forced displacement that we suffered to continue.”

State media in Syria have portrayed the strikes by western powers, which the Pentagon said targeted military and chemical weapons facilities, as a “tripartite aggression” – a phrase meant to evoke the campaign by Britain, France and Israel against Egypt during the 1956 Suez crisis.

Washington, London and Paris are due on Monday to table a UN resolution calling for an independent investigation into chemical attacks in Syria that would identify the perpetrators of such atrocities, an idea that Moscow has long been opposed to.

The chemical attack was followed in quick succession by a deal in which the local rebel group, Jaish al-Islam, agreed to leave the city, along with the forced exile of thousands of civilians who did not wish to live under Assad’s rule.

Full report at:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/15/opcw-inspectors-set-to-investigate-site-of-douma-chemical-attack

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Tensions Intensify Between Saudi-Backed, Turkey-Affiliated Terrorists in Northern Syria

Apr 15, 2018

Commanders of the Euphrates Shield forces told Jeish al-Islam openly that they can reside only in refugee camps readied for them.

The Ankara-backed militants do not believe in Jeish al-Islam's ideas and policies, do not allow the Saudi-backed groups to move in the region freely, to work or even to be a member of the Euphrates Shield.

Following the bans by the Turkey-backed militants fresh tensions have started between the two groups.

Although, a number of Jeish al-Islam militants had previously joined the Turkey-affiliated militant groups to participate in the military operation against the Syrian Army in Northern and Northeastern Aleppo, Turkey has now placed a ban on Jeish al-Islam's partnership in any operation in Northern Syrian due to its affiliation to Saudi Arabia.   

On Wednesday , the Turkish-backed militant groups seized weapons of the Saudi-backed militants of Jeish al-Islam that withdrew from the town of Douma in Eastern Ghouta as soon as they arrived in regions under the Ankara-backed militants' control.

The Turkish army ordered its allied militants to seize the personal weapons of the Saudi-backed Jeish al-Islam terrorists that have recently left Douma and arrived in regions that are under the control of the Euphrates Shield forces in Northern Syria.

Several convoys of Jeish al-Islam militants arrived in Northern Syria within the framework of an evacuation agreement with the Syrian Army.

A wave of anger and disappointment has been reported among Jeish al-Islam militants after the Ankara-backed forces seized their weapons.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970126000612

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US could not attain any goals from missile strikes on Syria: Nasrallah

Apr 15, 2018

The secretary general of the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement says the United States and its allies, Britain and France, could not achieve any goals from the recent missile strikes on conflict-ridden Syria.

Addressing his supporters via a televised speech from the Lebanese capital city of Beirut on Sunday evening, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah stated that these assaults were meant to break the will of the Syrian nation and government forces, but instead increased their resilience and steadfastness.

“If this attack was aimed at raising the morale of armed groups, it actually frustrated them!’ the Hezbollah chief pointed out.

He further noted that Washington and its allies would repeat such a military aggression in case Syrian army forces and allied fighters from popular defense groups score victories against Takfiri militant groups.

“American soldiers are aware of the fact any ground operation in Syria would not be an easy task to undertake; and this is why they are avoiding it,” Nasrallah highlighted.

He stated that the United States, Britain and France rushed to launch missile strikes against Syria because they knew their claims of a chemical weapons attack against the city of Douma, located about 10 kilometers northeast of the capital Damascus, were groundless.

“They wanted to finish off the scenario before international chemical weapons experts could reach the alleged site,” the Hezbollah secretary general said.

Early on Saturday, the US, Britain and France carried out a string of airstrikes against Syria over a suspected chemical attack against Douma.

Washington and its allies blamed Damascus for the Douma attack, an allegation rejected by the Syrian government. 

Pentagon said in a statement that at least 58 missiles had struck Shayrat airbase in the western Syrian city of Homs. An unnamed US official said Tomahawk missiles were used in the strikes.

The United Kingdom's Royal Air Force said four Tornado GR4s fighter jets joined the operation, while France said it had deployed Mirage and Rafale fighter jets.

Russian General Staff spokesman General Sergei Rudskoy, however, said Syrian air defense systems had intercepted at least 71 cruise missiles fired during the US-led aggression.

Speaking at a news conference in Moscow on Saturday, Rudskoy said at least 103 cruise missiles, including Tomahawks, had been fired into a number of targets in Syria.

“Russia has fully restored the air defense system of Syria, and it continues to improve it over the last six months,” he said.

Hezbollah has slammed the aerial attacks on Syria as “a flagrant violation of the country’s sovereignty.”

"The war that America is waging against Syria, against the people of the region and resistance and liberation movements, will not realize its goals," it said in a statement on Saturday.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/04/15/558617/US-could-not-attain-any-goals-out-f-missile-strikes-on-Syria-Nasrallah

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Saudi Foreign Minister Accuses Iran of Stoking Sectarian Tensions in Region

15 April, 2018

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir condemned on Sunday Iran for its meddling in the Arab region.

He said at the conclusion of the 29th Arab League summit in Dhahran: “Iran is seeking to create sectarian strife in the region.”

He accused it of supplying terrorist militias with ballistic missiles and it “must be held accountable.”

Moreover, he said that Tehran is aspiring to take control of the Islamic world, which is “unacceptable.”

Asked why the dispute with Qatar was not addressed at the Arab summit, Jubeir said: “This is a very small issue.”

Doha knows that the solution to the dispute “lies in its own hands. It should stop living in denial,” stressed the Saudi minister.

Full report at:

https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1238491/saudi-foreign-minister-accuses-iran-stoking-sectarian-tensions-region

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Syrian Army Seizes Terrorists' Large Chemical Weapons Workshop in Eastern Ghouta

Apr 15, 2018

The army men continued mop-up operation in Aftaris region in Eastern Ghouta and discovered a large workshop with an advanced laboratory for making chemical weapons in an area that was once terrorists' positions.

A large volume of poisonous and chemical materials, including chlorine and safety uniforms were discovered in the workshop.

Also, a large number of missiles, artillery and mortar shells and bombs were found in the workshop.

Earlier this month, the sources said that the army found a long tunnel in the town of Ein Terma in Eastern Ghouta, adding that the tunnel was a several-kilometer-long path with two branches to Zmelka region at its Northern side and Jobar region at its Western side.

In the meantime, other units of the army found a 3-km long tunnel between the regions of Arbin, Ein Terma, Zmelka and Jobar that was used by the terrorists for their vehicle movements.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970126000987

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Syrian Army Continues to Send More Troops, Equipment to Southern Damascus to Face ISIL

Apr 15, 2018

The army forwarded hundreds of fresh soldiers, several tanks, military vehicles and heavy weapons to Hajireh region near Hajar al-Aswad region that is the most important base of ISIL in the Southern countryside of Damascus city.

The army has been reinvigorating its military power in Southern Damascus in the last two week to lay siege on the entire ISIL-held regions and launch a large-scale operation against terrorists.

The army is to purge Southern Damascus of terrorists after ending its current operation in Eastern Ghouta.

Security sources said the army's Southern Damascus operation has been delayed due to the Saturday missile attacks of the US, UK and France on the country.

The ISIL terrorists, emboldened by the US-led airstrikes against the Syrian army positions on Saturday morning, attacked the military bases of the army in Southern Damascus.

Field sources reported on Saturday that the ISIL terrorists attacked the army positions West of al-Qadam district in Southern Damascus.

They noted that the offensive was launched immediately after the US-led coalition's missile strikes against the Syrian army positions, adding that the Syrian army units repulsed the terrorists' attack after clashes.

The Syrian army sent a large number of forces and military equipment to Southern Damascus to launch imminent operations in the region to purge the ISIL terrorists from occupied areas.

The US, France and the UK launched a series of strikes on Syria on Saturday in retaliation for the alleged chemical attack by the Syrian government in the town of Douma. The assault came hours before the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) team was scheduled to arrive in Douma to determine whether chemical weapons had indeed been used there.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970126000909

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Is Syria’s chemical weapons program completely destroyed?

15 April 2018

Western powers said on Saturday their missile attacks struck at the heart of Syria’s chemical weapons program, but the restrained assault appeared unlikely to halt Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s progress in the 7-year-old civil war.

The United States, France and Britain launched 105 missiles overnight in retaliation for a suspected poison gas attack in Syria a week ago, targeting what the Pentagon said were three chemical weapons facilities, including a research and development center in Damascus’ Barzeh district and two installations near Homs.

The bombing was the biggest intervention by Western countries against Assad and his superpower ally Russia, but the three countries said the strikes were limited to Syria’s chemical weapons capabilities and not aimed at toppling Assad or intervening in the civil war.

The air attack, denounced by Damascus and its allies as an illegal act of aggression, was unlikely to alter the course of a multisided war that has killed at least half a million people. US President Donald Trump called the operation a success.

He proclaimed on Twitter: “Mission accomplished,” echoing former President George W. Bush, whose use of the same phrase in 2003 to describe the US invasion of Iraq was widely ridiculed as violence there dragged on for years.

“We believe that by hitting Barzeh, in particular, we’ve attacked the heart of the Syrian chemicals weapon program,” US Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie said at the Pentagon.

However, McKenzie acknowledged elements of the program remain and he could not guarantee that Syria would be unable to conduct a chemical attack in the future.

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council that Trump told her that if Syria uses poisonous gas again, “The United States is locked and loaded.”

The Western countries said the strikes were aimed at preventing more Syrian chemical weapons attacks after a suspected poison gas attack in Douma on April 7 killed up to 75 people. They blame Assad’s government for the attack.

In Washington, a senior administration official said on Saturday that “while the available information is much greater on the chlorine use, we do have significant information that also points to sarin use” in the attack.

Speaking at a summit in Peru, US Vice President Mike Pence seemed less sure of the use of sarin, saying that Washington may well determine that it was used along with chlorine.

Assad ‘resilience’

Ten hours after the missiles hit, smoke was still rising from the remains of five destroyed buildings of the Syrian Scientific Research Center in Barzeh, where a Syrian employee said medical components were developed. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Syria released video of the wreckage of a bombed-out research lab, but also of Assad arriving at work as usual, with the caption “Morning of resilience”.

Late on Saturday Syria time, a large explosion was heard in a Syrian government-controlled area in a rural region south of Aleppo, according to the Britain-based war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Observatory said the cause of the explosion was unknown, as well as its target.

Russian and Iranian military help over the past three years has allowed Assad to crush the rebel threat to topple him. The United States, Britain and France have all participated in the Syrian conflict for years, arming rebels, bombing ISIS fighters and deploying troops on the ground to fight that group. But they have refrained from targeting Assad’s government, apart from a volley of US missiles last year.

Although the Western countries have all said for seven years that Assad must leave power, they held back in the past from striking his government, lacking a wider strategy to defeat him.

Syria and its allies also made clear that they considered the attack a one-off, unlikely to do meaningful harm to Assad. A senior official in a regional alliance that backs Damascus told Reuters the sites that were targeted had been evacuated days ago thanks to a warning from Russia.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the strikes were “unacceptable and lawless.” Syrian state media called them a “flagrant violation of international law,” while Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called it a crime and the Western leaders criminals.

Russia had promised to respond to any attack on its ally, but the Pentagon said no Russian air defense systems were used. Syria fired 40 unguided surface-to-air missiles - but only after the Western strikes had ended, the Pentagon said.

“We are confident that all of our missiles reached their targets,” McKenzie said. British Prime Minister Theresa May described the strike as “limited and targeted,” with no intention of toppling Assad or intervening more widely in the war.

Washington described the strike targets as a center near Damascus for the research, development, production and testing of chemical and biological weapons; a chemical weapons storage site near the city of Homs; and another site near Homs that stored chemical weapons equipment and housed a command post.

The Pentagon said there had been chemical weapons agents at one of the targets, and that the strikes had significantly crippled Syria’s ability to produce such weapons. Trump spoke to May and French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss results of the strikes, the leaders’ offices said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged all Security Council members to exercise restraint and avoid escalation in Syria, but said allegations of chemical weapons use demand an investigation.

In Sydney, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull urged Russia to drop its “pretense” that Syria was not behind the chemical attack on Douma and use its influence to force the Assad government to destroy its chemical weapons.

“Russia has used its position as a member of the United Nations Security Council to veto resolutions designed to ensure that this chemical weapons crime is thoroughly investigated and cannot be repeated,” he told a news conference on Sunday.

“It should stop all the denial and the pretense that it wasn’t an action by the Syrian government and ensure that the chemical weapons are destroyed, that the ability of the regime to use chemical weapons is eliminated and that this type of criminal conduct does not occur again.”

Weapons inspections

Inspectors from the global chemical weapons watchdog OPCW were due to try to visit Douma on Saturday to inspect the site of the suspected gas attack. Moscow condemned the Western states for refusing to wait for their findings.

Russia, whose relations with the West have deteriorated to levels of Cold War-era hostility, has denied any gas attack took place in Douma and even accused Britain of staging it to whip up anti-Russian hysteria. The Western countries took precautions to avoid unexpected conflict with Russia. French Defence Minister Florence Parly said Russians was warned beforehand to avert conflict.

Dmitry Belik, a Russian member of parliament who was in Damascus and witnessed the strikes, told Reuters: “The attack was more of a psychological nature rather than practical. Luckily there are no substantial losses or damages.”

In Douma, site of the suspected gas attack, the last buses were due on Saturday to transport out rebels and their families who agreed to surrender the town, state TV reported. That effectively ends all resistance in the suburbs of Damascus known

as eastern Ghouta, marking one of the biggest victories for Assad’s government of the war.

The Western assault involved more missiles than a US attack last year but struck targets limited to Syria’s chemical weapons facilities. The US intervention last year had effectively no impact on the war.

Syria agreed in 2013 to give up its chemical weapons after a nerve gas attack killed hundreds of people in Douma.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/04/15/Is-Syria-s-chemical-weapons-program-completely-destroyed-.html

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Any military escalation in Syria terrible for Middle East security, stability: Iraq FM

Apr 15, 2018

Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari has warned of the huge dangers of a military escalation in Syria, stating that any further act of aggression against the conflict-plagued Arab country will undermine security and stability in the Middle East region.

Speaking in a telephone conversation with Acting US Secretary of State John Sullivan on Sunday, Jaafari stressed the need for a political solution to the ongoing Syrian conflict, noting that the Syrian people must determine their own destiny.

The top Iraqi diplomat emphasized Baghdad government’s strong opposition to the production and use of chemical weapons, stating that Iraq has been a victim of such armament.

“Any escalation in Syria will negatively affect the security and stability of the region as a whole, and will give terrorism the opportunity to re-emerge following its defeat in Iraq and its decline in Syria.

“The threat of terrorism threatens all countries of the world, and that the courage for peace is more important than the courage for war,” Jaafari said.

Sullivan, for his part, alleged that the US-led airstrikes on Syria targeted three facilities for chemical weapons, and that Washington sought to avoid civilian casualties.

Early on Saturday, the US, Britain and France carried out a string of airstrikes against Syria over a suspected chemical weapons attack against the city of Douma, located about 10 kilometers northeast of the capital Damascus.

Washington and its allies blamed Damascus for the Douma attack, an allegation rejected by the Syrian government. 

Pentagon said in a statement that at least 58 missiles had struck Shayrat airbase in the western Syrian city of Homs. An unnamed US official said Tomahawk missiles were used in the strikes.

The United Kingdom's Royal Air Force said four Tornado GR4s fighter jets joined in the operation, while France said it had deployed Mirage and Rafale fighter jets.

Russian General Staff spokesman General Sergei Rudskoy, however, said Syrian air defense systems had intercepted at least 71 cruise missiles fired during the US-led aggression.

Speaking at a news conference in Moscow on Saturday, Rudskoy said at least 103 cruise missiles, including Tomahawks, had been fired into a number of targets in Syria.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/04/15/558622/Any-military-escalation-in-Syria-terrible-for-Middle-East-security-stability-Iraq-FM

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Palestine and Iran: Arab leaders declare their top priorities

16 April 2018

DHAHRAN, Saudi Arabia: Leaders gathered at the Arab summit stressed the centrality of the Palestinian cause and their support for the Palestinian people in their struggle to have an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The leaders also stressed the importance of uniting Arab efforts in the fight against terrorism and to confront Iran’s expansionist ambitions in the Arab region.

In his opening remarks, King Salman named the current Arab League Summit the “Jerusalem Summit” in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

He also announced the dedication of $50 million to UNRWA and $150 million to the Islamic Endowment Support Program in Jerusalem, saying: “The Palestinian issue will remain our top issue until all Palestinians get their legal right to establish an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.

“As we reiterate our condemnation and rejection of the American administration’s decision concerning Jerusalem, we commend the international consensus that rejects it, and we affirm that East Jerusalem is an inalienable part of the Palestinian territory.

“On Yemen, we affirm our commitment to Yemen’s unity, sovereignty, independence, security and territorial integrity.

“We hold the terrorist Iranian-allied Houthi militants fully responsible for the continuous war and suffering in Yemen. We welcome the UN’s statement that denounced the launching of the 119 Iranian-made ballistic missiles by the Houthi militants toward Saudi cities, three of which were targeting Makkah, proving to the international community once again the dangers of Iranian behavior in the region, its violation of the principles of international law and its disrespect of the values, ethics and principles of good neighborliness, and we call for a decisive UN position on this issue.”

King Salman added: “One of the most serious challenges facing our world today is the challenge of terrorism that has allied with extremism and sectarianism to produce internal conflicts that have affected many Arab countries. We renew our strong condemnation of Iran’s terrorist acts in the Arab region and reject its blatant interference in the affairs of Arab countries.

“Based on our belief that the Arab national security is an integral and indivisible system, we have presented you with an initiative to deal with the challenges facing the Arab countries under the title ‘Strengthening Arab National Security to Face Common Challenges,’ stressing the importance of developing the Arab League and its system.”

Jordan’s King Abdullah II said his country made every effort during its presidency of the Arab Summit, and in coordination with Arab leaders, to face the historical challenges of the Arab nation and harness all possibilities and international relations to serve the just causes of our Arab nation, especially the Palestinian cause and Holy Jerusalem.

King Abdullah praised the “positive developments and the victory that the Iraqi brothers achieved against Daesh terrorist organization ... we emphasize the need to complement the military victory with a political process that involves all components of the brotherly Iraqi people.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for the adoption and support of the peace plan he put forward last February in the UN Security Council, which is based on the Arab initiative. It calls for convening an international peace conference in 2018 and for the admission of the State of Palestine as a full member of the UN.

Abbas added: “The current US administration broke international laws by its decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and has made itself a party to the conflict instead of a mediator for its solution, making talk of a US peace plan untenable.”

Abbas stressed that the Palestinian side never refused to engage in negotiations and that “it responded to all the initiatives that were presented, and worked with the international quartet and all successive US administrations down to the current one. We met with President Trump several times and waited [for the current administration] to present its plan for peace, but its recent decision constituted a major setback which was rejected by the majority of the world.”

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi affirmed absolute confidence in the wisdom of King Salman in supporting the joint Arab action mechanism, stressing that some regional countries are trying to establish areas of influence in the Arab countries.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1285356/saudi-arabia

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Southeast Asia

 

Maldivian President receives award for fostering moderate Islam and combating terrorism

4/15/2018

(MENAFN - NewsIn.Asia) Male, April 15 (newsin.asia): The International Moderation Forum has given the Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen, an award for fostering moderate Islam and fighting radicalism and terrorism.

The award was given at the President's Office on Sunday.

The International Moderation Forum promotes the true message of Islam based on humanity, and advocates combating the global scourge of terrorism, through a moderate Islamic vision, a statement from the President's office said.

Speaking at the function, President Yameen said that the Award adds incentive to bolster his efforts in counter-terrorism, and in the enhancement of moderation in the preaching and practice of Islam in the Maldives.

Yameen said that Maldivians have reasons to unite to face the common threat to the Ummah today, and to counter debilitating forces from within and outside that tarnish the good name and true teaching of Islam.

The Ummah should unite to resist those framing Islam as a cult-like deity that espouses violent revolts, the President said.

He noted that the Maldives has made enormous strides in implementing substantial measures to foil radical thought, terrorism and violent extremism.

He spoke about the establishment of the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) in 2016, and the enactment of the Prevention of Terrorism Act in 2016 as notable milestones.

Yameen said that it is the world leaders' ethical responsibility to enhance the power of moderation and tolerance in the Islamic world.

'We have a duty to help our Muslim brothers and sisters who are displaced around the world. He made this statement while speaking at the ceremony held this afternoon, to confer the Award of Recognition to President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, from the International Moderation Forum. The ceremony was held at the President's Office.

.Speaking at the function, President Yameen said that the Award adds incentive to bolster his current efforts in counter-terrorism, and in the enhancement of moderation in the preaching and practice of Islam in the Maldives.

Yameen highlighted that the Maldivians have reasons to unite to face the common threat to the Ummah today, and to counter debilitating forces from within and outside that tarnish the good name and true teaching of Islam.

The Ummah should unite to resist those framing Islam as a cult-like deity that espouses violent revolts.

Previous recipients of the Award of Recognition by the International Moderation Forum include, the late King of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz and Former President of Mauritania, H.E. Mohamed Wildhu Abdulaziz.

http://menafn.com/1096735411/Maldivian-President-receives-award-for-fostering-moderate-Islam-and-combating-terrorism

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RM90 million fund suit: PAS refuses to interrupt legal process

April 15, 2018

KUANTAN: PAS leadership’s move in not making any clarification on the allegation that the party had received funds of RM90 million from Umno was because the party does not wish to interrupt the legal process involving the party’s lawsuit at the London High Court.

PAS vice-president Nik Amar Nik Abdullah said the decision was made upon advice from the party’s lawyers as the lawsuit filed by party president Abdul Hadi Awang against Sarawak Report was scheduled for trial on April 30.

He said, so far, those who made the allegation had not been able to provide any evidence that PAS had received the money, allegedly given by Prime Minister Najib Razak to gain support from the party.

“We are contesting all Umno seats … why would Umno give us money to fight them?

“Wouldn’t that be ridiculous?” he said at the “You Ask, PAS Answers” talk here last night.

Meanwhile, Pahang PAS commissioner Rosli Jabar confirmed that no outside candidate would be brought in to represent the party in the state in the upcoming general election.

Full report at:

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2018/04/15/rm90-million-fund-suit-pas-refuses-to-interrupt-legal-process/

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IRF: Malaysia should not be too religious, too secular

Minderjeet Kaur

April 14, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR: Vocal Muslim activist Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa has called for religious neutrality in governing Malaysia, saying there should be a balance between religion and secularism.

But Farouk, who heads the Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF), said religious neutrality did not mean Islamic principles were irrelevant in formulating laws and public policies.

He said it was also not a call to impose a secular state as was done by Mustafa Kemal in Turkey, or by the Ba’ath regimes in Syria and Iraq.

“Such authoritarian efforts are not only doomed to fail as it has to be maintained by force, but are also objectionable as they go against Islamic principles,” he told a forum to discuss Malaysia’s direction after the coming general election.

Farouk said religious neutrality would protect individual freedom.

Citing Muslim women’s dress, he said the state should not have any say in the matter, including whether a Muslim woman should wear the hijab.

He said this was not the case in Kelantan ruled by PAS.

“The state wants to interpret what is Islamic and enforce it on others,” he added.

Farouk also questioned those who call for the implementation of shariah, saying they were wrong to regard it as divine law.

“In actual sense, it is the interpretation of the ulama,” he said, adding that there were Muslim scholars out to replicate events that took place 1,400 years ago in Medina, where the Prophet established a Muslim community.

Full report at:

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2018/04/14/irf-malaysia-should-not-be-too-religious-too-secular/

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Kamarul criticises Perlis mufti over call to reject Hindraf

Robin Augustin

April 16, 2018

PETALING JAYA: Analyst Kamarul Zaman Yusoff says Perlis mufti Asri Zainul Abidin has overstepped his duties as a religious figure, following Asri’s call for voters to reject Hindraf candidates.

Saying Asri’s comments were “outside” his duties as a mufti, the Universiti Utara Malaysia lecturer reminded Asri not to campaign for or against any political party.

“It was improper and unwise for Asri to say that,” Kamarul said.

Asri, in a recent Facebook post, had urged voters to reject Hindraf’s candidates at the coming polls, following the pressure group’s alliance with opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan (PH).

Calling Hindraf a threat to the nation and religion, Asri said: “Whichever party makes them a candidate, that party is a threat to the peace that the country has had all this long.”

Asri has been on the warpath with Hindraf over the Indian rights group’s opposition to controversial preacher Zakir Naik.

Hindraf had previously requested to contest two parliamentary and four state seats on either a PKR or DAP ticket.

Kamarul said Asri should refrain from commenting on politics, especially since the Perlis Islamic Religious Department had barred mosques from being used for political purposes or campaigning in the coming election.

“As the mufti, he should have set a good example.”

However, he said he did not think Asri’s comments would have much impact on the Malay voters.

DAP’s Zaid Ibrahim also came to Hindraf’s defence, saying it was not a threat to the nation’s security or Islam.

“I think Asri is getting personal. His personal animosity is clouding his judgement.”

He said Asri knew Hindraf was supporting former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

“I don’t know why, but maybe Asri doesn’t want Mahathir to win. By asking voters to reject Hindraf, he is indirectly asking them to reject Mahathir.”

Full report at:

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2018/04/16/kamarul-criticises-perlis-mufti-over-call-to-reject-hindraf/

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Mideast

 

Larijani: Muslims will not forget 'betrayal' of certain states

Apr 15, 2018

Iran's Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani has blasted certain Muslim countries for supporting a recent coordinated missile attack on Syria, saying their "betrayal" will not be forgotten.

The "brutal attack" by the US, Britain and France was a violation of all international regulations, Larijani said, expressing dismay that some Muslim states joined Israel to support it.

"Is it not ignominious and shameful for them that on the day of Maba'ath which is the day of Muslim unity, these countries stood with the leaders of blasphemy and the Zionists and declared their betrayal with great joy?" the speaker asked.

Maba'ath marks the descent of Allah's divine commandment through Archangel Gabriel to Prophet Muhammad, formally entrusting him the universal mission of Islam. Muslims mark the event with prayers and supplication to the Almighty as thanksgiving.

Saudi Arabia, along with Bahrain and Qatar, were among a few Muslim countries which joined Israel and the West to express full support for the strikes on Syria.

The attack also came ahead of the annual Arab League summit in the Saudi city of Dhahran where leaders of the 22-member bloc gather on Sunday amid deep divisions among members.

While Saudi Arabia and Qatar remain locked in a months-long diplomatic standoff, President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as the so-called capital of Israel and his plan to move the US embassy to the occupied city has been weighing down on the summit.

However, the early Saturday attack cast further shadow over the gathering given that the Syria war, the most complex of the region's conflicts, is already the main point of contention pitting Riyadh against other Arab League members.

Iraq on Saturday called on Arab leaders to "take a clear position" about Syria at the summit, saying the airstrikes carried out by the US, France and Britain  could give terrorism an opportunity to expand in the region. 

Larijani said, "The countries that continuously claim to be calling for Islamic unity and human rights at international conventions, have one hand behind the scenes in supporting terrorists and with the other they are offering their resources to the leaders of blasphemy to attack Islamic nations."

The speaker was apparently referring to a slew of deals that came out of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's visit to the US earlier this month and those signed during Trump's visit to the kingdom last May.

"The Saudis' initiative in offering their national resources to the Americans in the most shameless way exhorted them (the US) to bomb Syria in order to supposedly change the equation and restore the terrorists' haven," Larijani said.

The speaker further said Western claims that the Syrian government was using chemical weapons were without any credibility.

"This pretext cannot have any credibility and the main issue should be sought somewhere else in the recent developments in Syria," he said, citing recent army victories in the Damascus suburbs of Eastern Ghouta.

"For years, with the help of major countries and some rogue regimes, the Damascus suburb had been turned into a den for terrorists who made Damascus insecure with advanced weapons," he said.

"The Syrian army's recent cleansing of the area which the countries supporting the terrorists could not believe to happen in such a relatively short time" prompted them to carry out the attack, Larijani said.

"Over the past 6-7 years, such adventurist moves have always existed but they have failed each and every time. However, the betrayal of certain Muslim countries in such a dirty game of politics will be etched in the memory of the faithful masses," he added

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/04/15/558563/Iran-Syria-Ali-Larijani

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4 Islamic Jihad terrorists killed in Gaza 'work accident'

Apr 16, 2018

The Islamic Jihad terrorist group said four of its members were killed Saturday in a "work accident" in the southern Gaza Strip along the border with Israel.

The explosion struck a three-wheeled vehicle near one of the five protest camps Palestinians have set up along the volatile Gaza-Israel border in recent weeks.

The group said in a statement that it was "mourning its fighters who were martyred during preparations."

The group usually uses these terms to refer to casualties caused by the accidental detonation of weapons or explosives meant to be used in attacks against Israel.

The Gaza Health Ministry confirmed four fatalities in the incident. Medics at the scene in the Rafah area said the explosion was caused by Israel, but an Israeli military spokesman said the army was not involved.

"Contrary to reports currently circulating, I can tell you that the IDF is not aware of any IDF fire in the area surrounding Rafah," the spokesman said.

The blast came one day after a mass gathering along the border area in which thousands of Palestinians rioted, some burning tires and Israeli flags. The event was part of weekly mass protests on the border organized by Hamas, the rulers of Gaza.

Israel has accused Hamas and other terrorist groups of using the "March of Return" protests as a cover for attacks against Israel, and says its snipers have only targeted "main instigators."

One rioter was killed Friday, bringing the death toll to at least 30 over the last two weeks, with more than 1,500 wounded by Israeli fire since March 30. The IDF has identified at least 10 of those killed as known terrorists.

Hamas leaders have sent mixed signals about whether they plan an eventual mass breach of the border fence. The protests are to culminate in a large rally on May 15, the 70th anniversary of Israel's establishment.

Full report at:

http://www.israelhayom.com/2018/04/15/four-islamic-jihad-terrorists-killed-in-gaza-work-accident/

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U.S. pastor faces terror, espionage charges in Turkey

April 15, 2018

IZMIR, Turkey — An American pastor imprisoned in Turkey is going on trial for alleged terror ties and spying in a case that has increased tensions between Washington and Ankara.

Andrew Craig Brunson, a 50-year-old evangelical pastor from North Carolina, is facing up to 35 years in prison on charges of “committing crimes on behalf of terror groups without being a member” and “espionage.” The trial begins Monday in western Izmir province.

Brunson was arrested in December 2016 for alleged links to both an outlawed Kurdish insurgent group and the network of the U.S.-based Muslim cleric who Turkey blames for a masterminding a failed military coup that year. The cleric, Fethullah Gulen, denies the claim.

Brunson, who has lived in Turkey for 23 years, has denied all allegations, saying that he solely worked as a pastor.

The Turkish government has clearly linked Brunson’s case with its determination to force the U.S. to extradite Gulen - and some see the pastor as a diplomatic pawn.

The American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative Christian group in the U.S., has called Brunson a “hostage of the Turkish government.” A petition has garnered more than half a million signatures, claiming that the case was putting Christianity on trial.

Brunson’s lawyer, Ismail Cem Halavurt, told The Associated Press on Sunday he expects the pastor’s acquittal, arguing that the “weak” indictment lacked sufficient evidence to make the case hold up in court.

American officials have repeatedly requested that Brunson be released - President Donald Trump himself asked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to have his government “expeditiously” return the pastor to the U.S.

But Erdogan fired back at Washington, demanding that the U.S. first return Gulen.

“You give him to us and we’ll give you this one,” he said, referring to Brunson.

Turkey has submitted an extradition request to the U.S. for Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania, but so far it not been granted. That has created festering frustration in the Turkish government, which has hunted down tens of thousands of alleged Gulen supporters and either imprisoned them or fired them from government jobs.

Brunson has served as the pastor of Izmir Resurrection Church with a small Protestant congregation. He was first detained in October 2016 with his wife, Norine Brunson, who was later released.

Brunson’s lawyer said he was healthy but “demoralized” after being stuck behind bars, having missed his daughter’s engagement and another child’s graduation.

The Izmir prosecutor’s indictment against Brunson claims he was in contact with top-level executives of Gulen’s network and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. Both are designated terror groups in Turkey. Brunson is accused of acting in “parallel and coordinated fashion” with them, aiming to “divide” the country.

“We think we can debunk these claims tomorrow,” Brunson’s lawyer said.

The prosecutor also accuses Brunson of espionage, saying Brunson acted “as an agent of unconventional warfare,” gathering intelligence with religious work as his cover. The indictment - based on the testimonies of witnesses, including three secret ones, and alleged digital evidence - claims the pastor worked to convert Kurds to Christianity to sow discord.

Halavurt called the use of secret witnesses a “serious wound” in Turkey’s legal system that has contributed to Brunson’s suffering, and he argues that the spying accusation is “completely baseless.”

Full report at:

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/apr/15/andrew-brunson-us-pastor-faces-terror-espionage-ch/

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Yemen govt accuses Iran of arming Huthis with drones

April 15, 2018

ADEN : The Yemeni government on Saturday accused Iran of supplying Shiite Huthi rebels with drones used for cross-border attacks into Saudi Arabia.

Riyadh said Wednesday it had shot down two drones in the south of the kingdom as well as intercepting ballistic missiles fired from rebel-held parts of Yemen, the latest in a series of similar incidents. The Saudi-backed government said in a statement Saturday that the drones are “made in Iran”.

It added that Yemen’s military did not possess such aircraft and it was “impossible to manufacture them locally”. Iran backs the Huthis, who seized the capital Sanaa in 2014, prompting a Saudi-led military coalition to intervene against the rebels the following year. But Tehran has repeatedly denied arming the rebels, which would violate a United Nations weapons embargo slapped on Yemen in 2015. Riyadh said its air defences between Wednesday and Friday intercepted five ballistic missiles and two drones launched from rebel-held northern Yemen.

Saudi Arabia in March 2015 launched a coalition of Arab states fighting to roll back the Huthi rebels in Yemen and restore the country’s internationally-recognised government to power.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/15-Apr-2018/yemen-govt-accuses-iran-of-arming-huthis-with-drones

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Illegal attack on Syria, blatant support for terrorism: Rouhani

Apr 14, 2018

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has denounced recent airstrikes by the United States, Britain and France against Syria, saying such attacks run counter to the principles of international law and are considered a blatant support for terrorism.

"At a time that terrorists are suffering a defeat in Syria on a daily basis, such aggressive act certainly means support for these defeated groups," Rouhani said in a telephone conversation with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Saturday.

The US, Britain and France launched airstrikes against multiple places in Syria early Saturday following US President Donald Trump's order despite international warnings against further escalation of the situation in the Arab country and across the Middle East.

The US-led military coalition has accused the Syrian government of having allegedly attacked the militant-held town of Douma in the Eastern Ghouta region on April 7 and claimed that the Saturday air strikes had been aimed at deterring Syria's further use of chemical weapons.

The Iranian president further emphasized that the airstrikes were not "a blatant act of aggression against the Syrian soil" only but a military offensive against the stability of the entire region.

He added that the three countries' act of aggression against the Syrian government and nation was a practical move to strengthen terrorism in the region and emphasized that undermining a country's national sovereignty was tantamount to creating regional instability.

Rouhani vowed that the Islamic Republic would continue to stand by the Syrian government and nation and urged respect for the Arab country's territorial integrity.

"Iran will continue its activity in all international circles, particularly in cooperation with Russia and Turkey, to help achieve peace and stability in the region and in Syria," the Iranian chief executive pointed out.

He once again expressed Iran's opposition to any move aimed at changing Syria's geographical borders, saying, "As we have repeatedly emphasized, the presence of any foreign forces in Syria without its government's permission is against international regulations and is a violation of Syria’s territory."

Rouhani said no foreign power can make decisions about the future of Syria, adding, "The country's people are the main decision-makers and the Islamic Republic of Iran will stand by the Syrian government and nation."

Assad, for his part, said the missile attacks would have no impact on the Syrian government and people, adding that they would continue to counter terrorists.

The Syrian president added that London, Paris and Washington carried out the airstrikes after they failed to achieve their goals through political means and emphasized that the strikes brought them no military achievements.

The Russian military said Saturday that the US, Britain and France fired 103 cruise missiles, including Tomahawk, at Syria but that Syrian air defense systems managed to intercept 71 of them.

"All together, 103 cruise missiles were deployed. Seventy-one cruise missiles were intercepted," senior military officer Sergei Rudskoi said at a briefing in Moscow.

US-led military attack on Syria aims to support terrorists: Zarif

Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the "unilateral” military aggression against Syria before the launch of an investigation into last week’s alleged chemical attack near Damascus clearly showed that the US was making up excuses to disturb the peace process in the region and support terrorists.

In a phone call with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem on Saturday, Zarif condemned the "criminal and illegal" attacks and hailed resistance of the Arab country's people.

Iran ready to send medical aid to Syria

Iran's Health Minister Hassan Qazizadeh Hashemi expressed the country's readiness to dispatch medical aid to Syria if needed.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/04/14/558490/Rouhani-Assad-Zarif-Muallem-US-Britain-France

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Israel uses stun grenade against draft protesters

Apr 16, 2018

Israeli forces have fired stun grenades and clashed violently with protesters rallying against conscription in the army.

Israeli authorities describe the protesters as "ultra-Orthodox extremists" who are against military draft, arguing that their so-called religious endeavors do the regime as much service.

Conscription is mandatory for both men and women in Israel, which is in a continuous war with regional countries and clashes with Palestinians in the occupied territories.

"Several hundred ultra-Orthodox extremists" joined the Sunday rally outside an enlistment office in Jerusalem al-Quds, The Jerusalem Post reported. The demonstration came after it became known that the military police sought to arrest a girl, who was being held in the office, it added.

"Police used stun grenades and water cannon against rioters," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP. A police statement said four officers were slightly injured in scuffles.

The protesters even object to reporting to the military. Previous rallies have seen scenes of exceptional violence, with the police tussling with the participants and dragging those blocking roads forcibly away.

The organizers vowed during one protest to “fight in every way the edict that has felled thousands in the spiritual ruin” of the Israeli military.

Last month, "ultra-Orthodox" politicians threatened to leave the ranks of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling coalition unless a law was passed preventing the conservative youths from conscription.

The crisis was resolved with a compromise, in which Netanyahu promised to give coalition MPs freedom on how to vote on a future bill on draft exemptions.

Draft-dodging is not a new phenomenon in Israel whose occupation and settlement expansion policies are a cause for continuous conflict with the Palestinians.

However, the human toll and the vague and shifting military objectives of the Israeli regime are spurring many among a new generation of Israeli soldiers to question orders.

Last year, 63 draft age youngsters from around Israel sent a letter Thursday to Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, declaring their refusal to enlist in the army due to their belief that it serves to oppress the Palestinian people.

"The military carries out a racist government policy that violates basic human rights and imposes one version of law for Israelis and another for Palestinians–on the same territory," wrote the draft refuseniks.

In the letter, they accused the regime of instigating the Israeli population against Palestinians and Arab citizens.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/04/16/558648/Israel-ultraOrthodox-Jerusalem-Army

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