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Islamic World News ( 28 Apr 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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He Learnt Religion From Wrong People, Happy He’s Dead: Lanka Bomber’s Sister

New Age Islam News Bureau

28 Apr 2019

Madhaniya at her home in Batticaloa. (Express photo: Arun Janardhanan)


 He Learnt Religion From Wrong People, Happy He’s Dead: Lanka Bomber’s Sister

 Muslim Neighbours, Imam Tipped Off Police About IS Hideout In Sri Lanka

 Dissident Figure: Al-Saud's So-Called Reforms Aimed at Deceiving, Plundering People

 Russian Media: Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi Attempting to Cross Syria into Iraq

 French Imam: Islam Must Rebel Against Christianophobia

 Palestinians Will Not Accept US 'Deal of Century' At All: Haniyeh

 US Driver Targeted Family Because They Looked Muslim, Police Say

 Sudan’s Army Chief Tells Al Arabiya: Council Open to Dialogue with All Parties

 IIUM: Beacon of Enlightened Islam or Well-Paying Divinity School?


South Asia

 He Learnt Religion From Wrong People, Happy He’s Dead: Lanka Bomber’s Sister

 Muslim Neighbours, Imam Tipped Off Police About IS Hideout In Sri Lanka

 Bangladesh: Reformist Jamaat-e-Islami Leaders Launch New Political Outfit, 'Jana Akankhyar Bangladesh'

 Bomber involved in Sri Lanka blasts visited India twice in 2017, shows Intel

 Sri Lanka bombings: Tamil medium teacher among 106 suspects held

 Hezb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar boycotts consultative peace Jirga

 30 Taliban militants killed in various operations of Afghan Special Forces and airstrikes

 U.S. envoy for Afghan peace briefs President Ghani regarding his future programs

 8 militants killed, 6 others wounded in Ghor operations: Zafar Corps

 Gun battle in Sri Lanka kills 15, US pulls citizens out

 ISIS claims attack on east coast city of Sri Lanka

 Sri Lanka bans groups suspected to be behind attacks

 Sri Lanka raids terror hideout amid fears of new bombings

 With churches shut after bombs, Sri Lankans hear Mass on TV


Arab World

 Dissident Figure: Al-Saud's So-Called Reforms Aimed at Deceiving, Plundering People

 Russian Media: Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi Attempting to Cross Syria into Iraq

 US Delivers Advanced Weapons to SDF in Eastern Euphrates

 Several Tahrir Al-Sham Terrorists Killed in Popular Uprising in Idlib

 Several People Killed in Deir Ezzur's Popular Protests against US-Backed SDF

 Iraqi Forces Killed, Injured in US-Led Airstrikes in Kirkuk

 Militant attacks kill 17 Syria pro-regime fighters, says Monitor

 Bahrain summons Iraqi diplomat over criticism from Muqtada al-Sadr

 Iraq summons US, Bahrain envoys over 'interventionist, offensive' comments

 Time not ripe for military offensive on militant-held Idlib: Russia

 Terrorist groups kill 17 Syrian government troops in Aleppo



 French Imam: Islam Must Rebel Against Christianophobia

 Russian Student Who Tried To Go To Syria Freed Early


North America

 Palestinians Will Not Accept US 'Deal of Century' At All: Haniyeh

 US Driver Targeted Family Because They Looked Muslim, Police Say

 Elite US Navy SEAL facing war crimes charges for killings in Iraq

 Trump says ‘evil of anti-Semitism’ must be defeated

 US envoy, Ghani push ‘intra-Afghan’ peace talks

 US-led coalition killed over 1600 civilians in Syria's Raqqa: Rights groups

 CENTCOM chief suggests readiness to deter unspecific Iran action



 Sudan’s Army Chief Tells Al Arabiya: Council Open to Dialogue with All Parties

 Sudan’s Military and Opposition Agree in Principle on Joint Council

 Iran Welcomes Nigerian Gov't Permission for Sheikh Zakzaki's Medical Treatment

 Sudan leading opposition figure calls for the continuation of protests

 Air raids on Libya’s capital, say sources

 Leader of outlawed Islamist party to be buried in Algeria

 Boko Haram terrorists overrun army base in NE Nigeria, steal weapons: Sources

 US air strike kills three ISIS militants in Somalia just weeks after group's deputy head was killed


Southeast Asia

 IIUM: Beacon of Enlightened Islam or Well-Paying Divinity School?

 Controversial Muslim preacher Zamri Vinoth nabbed in Perlis for remarks against Hinduism

 PAS-Umno unity seed planted by me and Hadi, says Najib

 Rome Statute is not about LGBT or against Islam, forum told



 Ties with India 'Only Problem' For Peace in Region: Pak PM Imran Khan

 'Why abolish a system you yourself are a product of?' Miandad asks PM Imran

 Khan’s interior minister pick raises questions about ‘new’ Pakistan

 Opposition likely to boycott govt briefing on NAP

 Three Levies men martyred in Waziristan blast

 Musharraf likely to return to Pakistan from Dubai on May 1

 MQM-P to launch struggle for urban Sindh province

 Presidential system will spell doom, says JI chief

 Bomb blast kills 3 Pakistani soldiers near Afghan border



 'Guj IS Suspects Had Links with Lanka Terror Handler’

 Kargil martyr’s father held for terror hoax call

 US doesn’t share info on Pak’s use of F-16, says bilateral issue

 Suspected mastermind of Sri Lanka attacks spent 'substantial time in India': The Hindu



 Iran: Leaving Nuclear Treaty One of ‘Numerous Choices’ After US Sanctions

 Yemen army kills dozens of Houthi militia

 US Central Command Chief says he has ‘resources necessary’ to deter Iran

 Orthodox Christians mark ‘Holy Fire’ Easter ceremony in Jerusalem

 Israel to free two Syrian prisoners in return for soldier’s remains

 Saudi airstrikes leave seven more civilians dead in southern Yemen

 Erdogan pledges to confront opponents in own party after elections loss

 Macron’s ‘Armenia genocide’ remembrance irks Erdogan

 Turkey’s Erdogan vows to confront opponents inside party after vote loss

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




He Learnt Religion From Wrong People, Happy He’s Dead: Lanka Bomber’s Sister

28 Apr 2019

Fueled by Mamata's alleged appeasement politics, BJP is gaining ground in West Bengal

Sixteen members of the family, including seven children and Zahran’s parents, had gone missing three days before the Easter Sunday blasts. Madhaniya told The Sunday Express she knew nothing of the so-called Islamic State, which had allegedly inspired her brother to kill so many people.

“We (Madhaniya and Zahran) stopped talking in 2017 after he started spitting venom in his speeches. He had been a fiery orator on Islam and a crowdpuller at streetcorner meetings from his teenage days. But I couldn’t take it any longer after he started to preach against the government, the national flag, against elections, and against other religions. He brought catastrophe upon our family,” she told The Sunday Express.

Kattankudy is a Muslim-dominated town on Sri Lanka’s eastern coast. Madhaniya and Niyas’s home is situated barely 100 metres from the National Thowheeth Jama’ath masjid, a large two-storey structure with glass walls, the mosque where Zahran was allegedly radicalised. Residents of the area said on Saturday evening that the mosque has been under renovation for over two years.

Her brother, Madhaniya said, had started to claim that his own interpretation of Islam was the only true faith. “He was offensive about other religions, as well as moderate Muslims and Sufis. He would call Sufis drug addicts and smokers. My husband kept away from him as we felt that he was moving in a dangerous direction. The police were already monitoring him,” Madhaniya said.

Even though she had cut off connections with Zahran, she continued to send food to her parents, who stayed with her sister and her family in a nearby street, Madhaniya said. “But they disappeared suddenly on Thursday (April 18). Neighbours told us on Friday that they were not at home. Their phones had been switched off. Then the blasts happened, and we learnt the role Zahran had played,” Madhaniya said.

The whole family, she said, might have “gone together”, leaving only her and Niyas out because she was strongly opposed to “Zahran’s hatred towards the whole world”.

According to Madhaniya, Zahran dropped out of school in Class 6, but retained a strong interest in Islamic studies. He completed a course in Arabic to memorise the Quran, and showed an “unusual interest” in propagating his ideas on Islam. In 2006, he started an Islamic studies centre. “He lost God because he learnt the Hadiths from the wrong people, and he learnt to kill people instead. I should say that I am happy that he is no more,” Madhaniya said.

On some unverified reports that Zahran visited Tamil Nadu, Madhaniya said that in her knowledge, the only foreign trip he had made was to Japan a decade ago. “Someone from Colombo took him to Japan for a month. His job was to give Tamil Muslims there classes on the Quran. After 2017, I doubt he went abroad, because his passport and identification numbers were already with the police by then,” she said.

“He would listen to the Quran alone. He considered everything else a sin, and those who listen to music too were sinners for him. He believed that his interpretation of the religion was the best, and all others were bad. His idea of Islam was not ours,” Madhaniya said.

In March 2017, Zahran and his followers clashed with Sufi Muslims, and he made a provocative speech about moderate Muslims. As the heat on him increased, he fled.

“He was absconding since March 2017 because he was to be arrested. People in the neighbourhood say that he would visit his parents discreetly, in a vehicle with dark windows. He was the victim of the Wahhabi Islam that Sri Lankans who went to Gulf in the 1980s brought back with themselves. Wahhabism has killed our traditional values, and painted moderate Muslims like us as kafirs,” said H M Ameer, secretary of the Sufi Badhariya Masjid, who had contested Zahran’s ideas.

“He challenged and threatened us publicly in meetings. He called us renegades. He ridiculed traditional Islamic practices that we followed. Wahhabi Islam made him a conservative, then an extremist, and finally a terrorist,” said Ameer, who had sent several detailed complaints to the Sri Lankan Defence Ministry and terrorist investigation cells against Zahran.

“The National Towheeth Jama’ath can claim that he was expelled after 2017, but his brother headed it afterward. Now this brother is also missing or killed. He (the brother) would speak about the war in Syria, and tell Muslims that they should all live in the Islamic State,” Ameer said.

At the largely deserted National Towheeth Jama’ath mosque on Saturday, The Sunday Express found two young men who had come for prayers. “We heard of this (the alleged involvement of the National Towheeth Jama’ath in the blasts). I have seen Zahran here many times. We knew that there were problems, but this is a masjid. What is there to fear about a masjid?” one of the two men said.



Muslim neighbours, imam tipped off police about IS hideout in Sri Lanka

28 Apr 2019

Muslim neighbours and the imam of a local mosque had tipped off the security forces about the existence of a safe house taken on rent by the followers of the Islamic State in the Muslim-majority town of Sainthamarudu in Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province, locals said.

In a gun battle between the security forces and terrorists holed up in a van and the safe house, and following three explosions triggered by the holed-up terrorists on Friday night, 15 people, including six men, six women, and three children, were killed. Two suspected terrorists, believed to be suicide bombers, have decamped and a hunt is on for them, police said.


The safe house in question was taken on rent by the followers of a Tawheed Jamaat led by Mohammed Zahran Hashim, who was influenced by the Islamic State.

Zahran was one of the suicide bombers who died in the Easter Sunday attacks on churches and hotels in Colombo.

A woman and a child who were injured in Friday’s incident have been hospitalised. No injuries or casualties have been reported among the security forces.

Four bodies suspected to be that of the suicide bombers have been recovered at the site of explosions and gun battles.

Troops at another town, Nintavur, detected a brand new unregistered van, suspected to be belonging to the National Tawheed Jamaat’s leader, Zahran’s brother-in-law, named Niyas.

Following detection of two ID cards, initial reports confirmed the said van had been bought in Akkaraipattu on cash on Apr 19. .

Meanwhile, during another search operation carried out on Friday evening in Sammanthurai area, army troops recovered IS flags, literature and some other objects from a place, said to be the terrorist organisation’s place for oath-taking.

According to the Military Spokesman, Brigadier Sumith Atapattu, combined troops recovered explosives, detonators, gelignite sticks, acid bottles, IS flags and backdrop, suicide kits, and military uniforms from the safe house in Sammanthurai.

The dead gunmen are yet to be identified and clearing operations are continuing.

A curfew was imposed within Kalmunai, Chavalakadai and Sammanthurai police areas on Friday night until further notice.

Meanwhile, in Erakandy in Trincomalee district, police have arrested a person with 51 water gel explosive sticks and 215 detonators. In Colombo, ruling United National Party Municipal Councillor Noordeen Mohamad Thajuddeen has been arrested for possessing 46 swords.


HM Ameer, head of the Abdul Jawad Ali Waliullah Trust, said that when the security forces rounded up the Sainthamarudu safe house, gunmen in an un-registered van opened fire on them and the security forces returned the fire.

“The Muslims here, including the local mosque head, had completely rejected the extremist propaganda which Zahran’s group had been indulging in since 2017. Local people, including their social leaders and clerics, had complained about the Zahran group’s propaganda that non-Muslims have to be exterminated and that those dying in fights against Kafirs, would go straight to heaven,” Ameer said.

Ameer, who is a key personality among the Sufis of the nearby all-Muslim town of Kathankudy, said: “People had participated in demonstrations against the Zahran’s Tawheed Jamaat and its propaganda. I, along with 12 others, had filed a case against Zahran seeking a ban on his activities in 2017. I had met Ministry of Defence officials in Colombo with recordings of Zahran’s speeches and the literature he had produced. But all to no avail.”

Rifthi Ali, a freelance journalist now in Sammanthurai  said that local people are livid with Zahran’s men for taking a house on rent and working against the interest of the landlord and the entire area.

“Muslims of Sri Lanka consider Zahran and his ilk to be fit to be driven out of Sri Lanka. If there was not such a feeling of discomfort with him, neighbours of the safe house and the local mosque head would not have told the police about the house and its occupants,” Ameer added.

Mohamed Shoib, a political commentator and a media advisor to Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, said that as recently as Jan 3 this year, the All Ceylon Jamiaythul Ulema (ACJU) had complained to the defence ministry about the activities of Zahran’s Tawheed Jamaat, through the good offices of the Governor of the Western Province, Asad Sally. But again to no avail he regretted.

Shoib said 99 percent of Sri Lankan Muslims are “resolutely opposed to terrorism”.

“How can we support them when Islam condemns killing and suicide to be un-Islamic? And here they have children with them,” he added.


On whether the ugly incident in Samanthurai could have been prevented, people this correspondent talked to said while stern action is called for under the circumstances for the security of the people at large, government should see to it that the security forces do not act with impunity.

Hilmy Ahamad, of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka (MCSL) said that the security forces had no option but to storm the safe house.

He pointed out that the tip off was given by peace-loving Muslims.

“However, the new laws should be exercised with caution so that they are not used to harass people in peace time,” Ahmad said.

A well-known human rights activist who is currently on a government committee on missing people, said that while tough measures are needed now to track down the conspirators involved in the Easter Sunday carnage, any law allowing disposal of bodies without an inquest should be rejected.

“It could give rise to disappearances which have been a major problem in Sri Lanka since the 1980s,” the activist who did not want to be named, said.


The liberal think tank, Center for Policy Alternatives (CPA) said in a statement that it “fully appreciates the need for a robust and compelling response from the government in the face of terrorism, so as to reassure and restore public confidence in institutions and a swift return to political, economic, and social normalcy.”

“However, in moments like these, there is a danger of executive overreach, as demonstrated by our own past experience of protracted conflict, and that of other countries facing the threat of terrorism. While constitutional democracies accommodate the need for expanded executive powers in order to cope with emergencies, and accordingly the need for some regulated abridgement of individual liberties and normal checks and balances, it is critical to ensure that emergency powers are not allowed to completely extinguish the balance between freedom and security.”

“In particular, in equipping the state with adequate powers to respond to the threat of terrorism, we emphasise that the following points require serious attention if this is to be done consistently with the democratic values underpinning our Constitution:-

That no ethnic or religious minority is alienated and marginalised through indiscriminate association with any terror groups in conflict with the state, and ensuring proactive measures to maintain communal harmony and safety;

That the exercise of emergency powers does not exceed the limits of the law and the Constitution, which limits have been expanded by the declaration of a state of emergency;

That emergency powers lawfully exercised have the effect of restricting fundamental rights only to the extent permitted by the Constitution and strictly necessary in a democratic society;

That administrative safeguards are in place to prevent or minimise arbitrary, unreasonable, or disproportionate practices, and in particular safeguards against the use of torture or other inhumane treatment;

That attempts are not made to evade necessary judicial and parliamentary oversight over the exercise of emergency powers; and

That all emergency measures are consistent with Sri Lanka’s obligations under international law, and in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Judged against these constitutional standards, the emergency regulations passed by parliament day give cause for concern.

In the scope of offences and penalties, the extraordinary powers adversely affecting personal liberty and property, the potential for the imposition of undue and illegitimate restrictions on the freedoms of expression and assembly, and in the absence of effective oversight mechanisms, the regulations can be seen as pushing the boundaries of what is constitutionally permissible.

“We earnestly hope therefore that these powers are exercised with prudence and restraint, and that the current state of emergency is terminated as soon as exigencies permit.”



Dissident Figure: Al-Saud's So-Called Reforms Aimed at Deceiving, Plundering People

Apr 27, 2019

"There is no second political system to the Saudi regime that would allow the West, specially the US, to loot its wealth and seize its freedom, and (Crown Prince) Mohammed bin Salman is just the natural product of the corrupt political system in Saudi Arabia," Abdollah al-Salem was quoted by the Arabic-language Khaleej Online as saying on Saturday.

He said the House of Saud is no more capable of ruling the country, given the chaos, corruption and repeated crises that the Saudi regime cannot manage or resolve.

Al-Salem said that al-Umat al-Islami party believes that the current ruling system will collapse in the near future.

In relevant remarks late last month, three leading Saudi dissident figures in a statement described the policies adopted by bin Salman as destructive to the country and the nation.

The Arabic-language al-Ahd news website reported that Sultan al-Ajami, Fares al-Yami and Jaber al-Mori, three prominent Saudi dissident figures, in a statement against bin Salman condemned his policy of harsh crackdown on critics.

When bin Salman was picked up as the crown prince, there were hopes of political reforms, economic and legal development and campaign against corruption in the judiciary, but none ever happened, they said.

"Our situation is similar to a nation which has been entangled in the hands of a stupid and reckless person who dreads no deed or action. The country and people are moving towards destruction and they are joining the dissident forces outside the country to get rid of bin Salman," the statement released by Marzouq al-Atibi, a dissident Saudi journalist, said.



Russian Media: Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi Attempting to Cross Syria into Iraq

Apr 27, 2019

The Arabic-language service of RT news channel quoted an Iraqi intelligence source as saying that al-Baghdadi is at present hiding in Abu Rajmin mountain near Syria's Palmyra region in Homs province.

He added that the ISIL leader wants to cross the border into Iraq in the next few weeks, noting that he has already made several unsuccessful attempts due to the tight security measures at the border.

The report said captured ISIL terrorists have leaked during interrogations that al-Baghdadi has been left with a small number of Saudi, Tunisian and Iraqi militants who are still loyal to him.

Security experts said al-Baghdadi is likely trying to join the ISIL terrorists who have been transferred by the US from Syria to Iraq.

Iraq's security experts have accused the US army of training hundreds of ISIL terrorists in al-Anbar province after relocating them from Syria to Iraq to prepare them for a new round of insecurity in the country.

"Between 700 to 1,000 ISIL militants are being trained by the US troops in al-Anbar province," the Arabic-language al-Maloumeh news website quoted Manager of Badr Organization in Al-Anbar Province Qusai al-Anbari as saying in March.

He pointed to the special conditions considered for the ISIL militants, and said that the US troops had specified redlines for third parties to avoid approaching the region.

This is while the Arabic-language Arabi Post recently disclosed that the US troops had been intensively training the ISIL terrorists in two military bases of Ain al-Assad and al-Habanieh in al-Anbar province under name of desert ghosts.

The sources said the US army troops had equipped the ISIL terrorists with 200 military and non-military vehicles.



French Imam: Islam must rebel against Christianophobia


Christians in the world, especially Catholics, continue to suffer persecution, terrorist attacks and massacres.  In Syria, Iraq, Egypt and elsewhere they pay the price for wars they never asked for.

The terrorist massacre in Sri Lanka is very significant.  In the world, hatred against Christians continues to increase despite them defending peace, supporting the poor, caring for the sick.  Every year Catholics spend billions to save lives and build schools for needy children.  This has not prevented some from making Christians pay the consequences of the policies of Western countries, which are generally secular.  Neither the Vatican nor the Church has power over these secular countries.  If the place of Christians is important in the texts of Islam (including the Koran), it is time for the Muslim world to ask questions about the rise of Christianophobia within the contemporary Islamist discourse.

The Colombo massacre is not the first and unfortunately it will not be the last, because the Muslim authorities do not want to face extremist terrorist thinking in a courageous and firm manner.  Today the fearful are accomplices.  The reform of Islam will come from the brave.  It is not enough to repeat that Islam is a religion of peace.  Muslims must act if they want to protect Islam from this extremist Islamist minority that kills in the name of hatred.

The silent majority will have no excuse because it will be accused of complicity if it does not declare a holy war against extremism and the hatred that almost dominates the discourse of the imams and Muslim preachers.  Contemporary Islam is closer to hatred and violence than to the notions of human love and brotherhood.  This hateful interpretation produces human bombs that kill everything that is different, including Muslims who don't think like them.  All my condolences to the families of the victims and all my support to the Christians persecuted in all over the world.



Palestinians will not accept US 'deal of century' at all: Haniyeh

Apr 27, 2019

A senior leader of the Hamas resistance movement says Palestinians will never agree to US President Donald Trump’s controversial proposal for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, dubbed “the deal of the century.”

Addressing a national meeting of the leaders of Palestinian political factions in Gaza City on Saturday, Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the Hamas political bureau, stressed that Hamas would make use of all its potential and capabilities to confront the American scheme, calling for unity among Palestinian parties in the face of the plot.

“We are able to achieve national unity and run our Palestinian homeland without much effort if there is great will and genuine intention. Our nation is utterly determined to protect the Palestinian cause. It is steadfast to deal with the deal of the century, no matter what the challenges or sacrifices could be,” Haniyeh pointed out.

He added, “The Palestinian nation will remain in the occupied territories and confront arrogance until we achieve freedom and independence.”

Haniyeh further warned that Washington was determined to liquidate the Palestinian cause through the so-called deal of the century.

He pointed out that the US attempted to completely destroy the Palestinian cause through rejection of Palestinian refugees’ right of return, abolition of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights, giving green light to Israel’s official annexation of settlements in the occupied West Bank, and fomenting political rift between the Palestinian factions based in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Haniyeh underlined that the political agenda of all Israeli parties was based on this ideology: “No to the return of Palestinian refugees, no to the establishment of a Palestinian state and no to al-Quds as the capital of Palestine.”

The senior Palestinian official then said Hamas was ready to enter talks with other Palestinian factions to form a national unity government.

Haniyeh reiterated that Palestinian land belonged only to Palestinians and that they would not give an inch of it to the occupying regime of Israel.

The Hamas official also called on all Palestinians across the world to stand against Washington’s so-called deal of the century.

Haniyeh finally urged all Arab leaders to stop normalization of diplomatic ties with Israel.

Trump’s so-called “peace plan” has been dismissed by Palestinian authorities ahead of its unveiling at the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan and the formation of the new Israeli cabinet, most likely in June.

Speaking in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah on April 16, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh lashed out at Trump’s initiative, asserting that it was “born dead.”

Shtayyeh noted that negotiations with the US were useless in the wake of the country’s relocation of its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem al-Quds, which Palestinians consider the capital city of their future state.



US driver targeted family because they looked Muslim, police say

April 27, 2019

A man who deliberately drove into a crowd of pedestrians in California last week, injuring eight, did so because he thought some of them were Muslims, police said.

The driver was charged with eight counts of attempted murder but is now being investigated for a hate crime after new evidence emerged that he was targeting members of the crowd based on their appearance, according to police in Sunnyvale, near San Francisco.

Police identified the driver as Isaiah Peoples, 34, a town resident who with the US army in Iraq and was honourably discharged in 2006.

"There is new evidence that Peoples intentionally targeted victims based on their race and belief that they were Muslim," Sunnyvale Public Security said.

Jay Boyarsky, the Santa Clara County chief assistant district attorney, said the the new evidence was "appalling and disturbing".

The eight pedestrians injured on Tuesday ranged in age from 9 to 52 and included a father and his son and daughter. The daughter, described as 13-year-old girl of South Asian descent, remains in a coma with severe brain trauma. The nationality and religion of the family have not been released.

A lawyer for the driver said the incident "was clearly the result of a mental disorder", and he would seek psychiatric treatment for his client – who he described as a military veteran possibly suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

Mr Peoples did not enter a plea when he appeared in court on Friday. His next court appearance will be on May 16.



Sudan’s army chief tells Al Arabiya: Council open to dialogue with all parties

27 April 2019

The head of Sudan’s Transitional Military Council told Al Arabiya that there were no disputes with the country’s opposition alliance and said the council was open to “furthering dialogue with all other parties.”

“As long as there is a common will, a positive outcome will be found that will satisfy everyone. There are no conflicts. There is only one goal among all parties,” Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of the Transitional Military Council, told Al Arabiya during a televised interview.

“We in the military council are working transparently and we do not have a definite opinion for now, but we are are keen to consult with all parties,” al-Burhan added.

Sudan’s opposition alliance and the ruling military council said after talks on Saturday that they expected to agree on the formation of a new body to lead the country’s transition from 30 years of autocratic rule by Omar al-Bashir.

Sudan’s Transitional Military Council ousted and arrested al-Bashir on April 11 following months of protests, saying it would rule for up to two years ahead of elections.

Al-Burhan said that the council recognized the Alliance for Freedom and Change had played a major role during the recent mass protests, but stressed on the need to have an open dialogue with all other political parties as well.

During his interview with Al Arabiya, al-Burhan said that ousted former president al-Bashir wanted to use force to crack down on protesters.

“The armed forces were prompted to take this step and intervene to put an end to the suffering of citizens,” the military council leader said.

“The deposed president is now in prison and most of the former regime’s figures are in Kobar Prison and are being dealt with according to the law,” he added.

The Transitional Military Council has dismissed and arrested some former officials, announced anti-corruption measures and promised to give executive authority to a civilian government, but has previously signaled that ultimate authority will remain in its hands.



IIUM: Beacon of enlightened Islam or well-paying divinity school?

Lim Teck Ghee

April 28, 2019

Recently, Prof Tajuddin Rasdi wrote an article on the issue of critical thinking and the role of academia in society titled “Time to close down our 20 public universities?”

His piece was precipitated by the decision of Jais to ban the book “Islam Without Extremism”. It was partially directed in disappointment at International Islamic University (IIUM) which was established to be “the beacon of an enlightened Islam for nation building and co-existence” but which has maintained a deafening silence on the issue and similar controversies. Thus, it was not a spur of the moment commentary.

The substance of the piece is consistent with Tajuddin’s prolific writings during the past decade in which he – one of a very few Malaysian academics – has probed into the quality of our higher education system, the failure of academics to be agents of intellectual and social change, and a host of similar related problem areas.

To date, his commentaries and proposals for reform have failed to elicit much response from his colleagues in academia.

This time around, with its provocative title, it is not surprising that it has drawn a quick response and flak from two academics holding prominent positions in IIUM – the rector of the university and a deputy dean.

In a column titled “Barking up the wrong tree”, Prof Dzulkifli Razak, who professes admiration for “intellectual honesty”, does Tajuddin a disfavour by beginning with the introductory line, “Last week, a ‘professor’ from a private university…”

The use of the single quote by Dzulkifli in referring to Tajuddin’s academic position will be interpreted by readers as mocking or questioning the latter’s credentials.

I hope this is not Dzulkifli’s intention.

To avoid any misunderstanding and in keeping with professional etiquette, it is incumbent on Dzulkifli to arrange for the removal of the single quote punctuation from the online article as well to provide a statement in the print version which corrects the error of fact and to express regret for it.

More important, in refuting the substance of Tajuddin’s commentary, it is essential that Dzulkifli does not brush aside the book ban subject by arguing that “banning of books in Malaysia is not a particularly new phenomenon”.

This “it has happened before and so what” attitude may be typical of the bureaucratic and political authorities. However, the thinking public does not expect it from the head of a divinity school currently ranked, according to its website page, at number 33 in the world for the subject of theology, divinity and religious studies.

In his further response, Dzulkifli could also inform the public in what ways IIUM has contributed to the enlightened discourse and scientific advancement on the many issues that trouble the international community – climate change, the impact of rising sea levels, religious conflict, food and water security, besides the local religious controversies that are rife here.

The concerns with IIUM not only relate to its value added in the field of learning and higher education in Malaysia and the Muslim world.

Billions of ringgit have been poured into IIUM especially from Malaysia since its establishment 36 years ago.

However, the overall ranking of IIUM between 651 and 700 in the QS World University Rankings 2019 – the QS system is based primarily on the criteria of academic reputation, employer reputation and staff productivity and impact and is one of the three most widely referred to university ranking systems in the world – indicates a poor return on investment and a less than stellar quality of human capital and scholarly output.

The second article by Danial Yusof makes the point that IIUM “is not narrow-minded or stuck in a Malay-Sunni-Shafi’i narrative. It works across disciplines with the indigenous, local and foreign, Muslim and non-Muslim, putting our best efforts into what is hopefully a new era of global and civilising Islam”.

That’s reassuring to hear though it appears that these “civilising” efforts appear to have come several decades too late. But better late than never.

According to Yusof, IIUM projects are “covering themes of Islam, sustainability and policy concerns over topics as wide-ranging as indigenous and traditional knowledge, the River of Life and sustainable biosphere, integrated care for older people and schoolchildren, sustainable endowment income, Islamic social finance and the development of a mosque study curriculum, to name a few”.

Impressive sounding but mindset breaking subjects?

What about concerns relating to Zakir Naik, dehijabbing, corruption in Muslim countries, Islamic State, missing religious leaders and the other more contentious issues plaguing our country and other Islamic nations?

Eighteen months from now, members of the public will be interested to know about how much money was spent on these flagship projects initiated by IIUM and the outcome – academic and social.

Publication of a detailed follow-up financial accounting and socio-economic analysis of these projects can help policy-makers and other stakeholders determine if Tajuddin’s concern that academia has isolated itself from the people by pandering to self-interest research for promotion and titles as well as to impress the current set of power holders is with or without foundation.

A final point on Yusof’s rebuke that “someone writing from the outside … is likely to have no proper knowledge of what takes place in the university”.

This assertion is correct.

The onus is on IIUM now to open up to the public on all aspects of the university hitherto couched in mystery, and for its authorities and academic staff to be fully transparent and accountable on all affairs of the university. This also means that they should respond positively and respectfully – not negatively or disdainfully – to criticism wherever this may stem from.



South Asia


Bangladesh: Reformist Jamaat-E-Islami Leaders Launch New Political Outfit, 'Jana Akankhyar Bangladesh'

27 Apr 2019

Ex-Islami Chhatra Shibir chief Monju on Saturday announced the launch of newly-formed 'Jana Akankhyar Bangladesh' in a media briefing.

Monju - a member of Jamaat's central Majlish-e-Shura prior to his expulsion - is serving as the coordinator of the initiative.

He said the initiative is not based on religion. The organisation will have representatives from all communities in Bangladesh.

Five committees have been formed to oversee the organisation's 19-point programme, said Monju, adding, "The committees have already started its activities."

A faction of the Jamaat-e-Islam had called for reforms to the party following the war crimes trials against party leaders over their role in the Liberation War in 1971.

Last year, the party's assistant secretary general Abdur Razzak issued an apology for Jamaat's role in the Liberation War before resigning from the party, adding impetus to the demands for change.

But Monju, who had also sought reformation of the party before his expulsion, said that Razzaq is not involved with the new outfit.

The ruling Awami League also did not provide any assistance with the initiative, he added.

Tajul Islam, the lawyer for Jamaat leaders facing trial for war crimes, also attended the media briefing.

Confirming his affiliation to the organisation, Tajul said he was not involved with Jamaat before but had only defended its leaders in his capacity as a lawyer.



Bomber involved in Sri Lanka blasts visited India twice in 2017, shows Intel

Apr 28, 2019

Indian investigators have found that Mohammad Mubarak Azaan, one of nine suicide attackers involved in the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka, visited India twice in 2017, according to a top intelligence official who didn’t wish to be named.

Azaan is the second Sri Lankan attacker identified by security agencies who travelled to India. The other was Zahran Hashim, leader of the National Thowheeth Jamaath (NTJ) and the alleged head of the attackers.

It is suspected Azaan blew himself up at one of three churches targeted on April 21. Sri Lankan authorities are yet to disclose the names of all the nine bombers. Indian authorities declined to share details about the purpose of Azaan’s visits to India, the people he was in touch with and the places he travelled to during the two trips.

Security officials of both countries have said Hashim visited India in 2017 and remained in the country for a few months, during which his activities attracted the attention of security agencies.

The April 21 attacks on three churches and three luxury hotels killed more than 250 people, including 11 Indian nationals, and injured 500. Fifteen people, including three suicide bombers, died during a raid by Sri Lankan security forces on Friday night and nearly 100 people have been detained in the island nation.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the bombings and released a video that showed Hashim and seven other men pledging allegiance to IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. An Indian official, who didn’t want to be named, said Hashim was also associated with the Tamil Nadu Towheed Jamaat (TNTJ). The TNTJ has not been found to be involved in any terror activities.

Hashim, a second official said, broke away from TNTJ to form the NTJ and started preaching a violent form of Islam in Sri Lanka. Investigators suspect this is when he might have come in contact with IS leaders.

The second official said Sri Lanka has traced the movement of at least three senior IS members who entered the island from West Asian countries in 2018.

Indian investigators have found Hashim visited Malappuram in Kerala and Coimbatore, Tiruchirappalli, Tirunelveli, Vellore and Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu. He is also suspected to have been involved in a smuggling racket between Ramanathapuram on India’s eastern coast and Kalpitiya on the north-western coast of Sri Lanka. “The probe is at an initial stage but we have found the travel records of Azaan and Hashim which confirm they travelled from Sri Lanka to India,” said an officer. Agencies are in touch with Sri Lanka to get more details on Azaan.

As first reported by HT, Hashim was instrumental in radicalising seven alleged IS activists in a Coimbatore module, according to the findings of a probe by the NIA. The agency found several videos featuring Hashim in the electronic devices of the suspects in Coimbatore, who were arrested last September. An analysis of these video led investigators to believe Hashim was planning “something big” in Sri Lanka. On the basis of this information from NIA, Indian authorities alerted their Sri Lankan counterparts about possible attacks on April 4.

Officials said several Sri Lanka IS operatives were also in touch with Indian suspects in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.



Sri Lanka bombings: Tamil medium teacher among 106 suspects held

Apr 28, 2019

A total of 106 suspects, including a Tamil medium teacher and a school principal, have been arrested in Sri Lanka in connection with the Easter Sunday blasts, police said Sunday, even as the Islamic State claimed the three militants who blew themselves up during a raid in the Eastern province were its members.



Hezb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar boycotts consultative peace Jirga

27 Apr 2019

The leader of Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has boycotted the upcoming consultative peace Jirga (assembly of leaders) as a various prominent political leaders have already boycotted the gathering, citing it as a move by the government to lobby for the upcoming presidential elections rather raising voices for reconciliation.

Sources close to Hekmatyar have confirmed that the leader of Hezb-e-Islami will not participate in the gathering.

In the meantime, reports indicate that that Mohammad Karim Khalili has also boycotted the consultative peace Jirga.

Full report at:



30 Taliban militants killed in various operations of Afghan Special Forces and airstrikes

27 Apr 2019

At least thirty Taliban militants were killed in various operations of the Afghan Special Forces and airstrikes which were conducted in different provinces over the past 24 hours.

The military sources announced Saturday that the Afghan Special Forces conducted an operation in Tarin Kot district of Uruzgan province killing 11 Taliban fighters and arresting 5 others while 2 other militants were killed during the airstrikes in the same province.

The sources further added that the Afghan Special Forces conducted an operation in Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand and destroyed over 30 pounds of homemade explosives along with 1 Kg of opium.

The Afghan Special Forces conducted an operation in Khanwar district of Logar province killing 1 Taliban fighter, the sources said, adding that the Afghan Special forces conducted a similar operation in Tamek wa Jaldak district of Zabul province along Highway 1 and destroyed 1 roadside bomb, preventing an attack against innocent civilians.

According to the sources, the Afghan Special Forces conducted another operation in Andar district of Ghazni province killing 3 Taliban fighters while another Taliban militant was killed in a similar operation in HIsarak district of Nangarhar province.

Full report at:



U.S. envoy for Afghan peace briefs President Ghani regarding his future programs

28 Apr 2019

The U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad has briefed President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani regarding his future trips and programs for Afghan reconciliation process.

The Office of the President, ARG Palace, in a statement said Ambassador Khalilzad met with President Ghani on Saturday evening.

The statement further added that the two sides once again emphasized on revival of intra-Afghan dialogue, calling it an important step for the launch of direct Afghan-led talks between Taliban and government.

Full report at:



8 militants killed, 6 others wounded in Ghor operations: Zafar Corps

28 Apr 2019

At least eight militants were killed and six others were wounded in joint air and ground operations which were conducted in North-western Ghor province.

The 207th Zafar Corps in a statement said the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces conducted operations with the close air support of coalition forces in Dolaina district of Ghor province.

The statement further added that eight militants were killed and six others were wounded during the operations and a vehicle and together with six motorcycles were destroyed.

The anti-government armed militants including Taliban have not commented regarding the operations so far.

Full report at:



Gun battle in Sri Lanka kills 15, US pulls citizens out

April 27, 2019

The bodies of 15 people, including six children, were discovered at the site of a fierce overnight gun battle on the east coast of Sri Lanka, a military spokesman said on Saturday, six days after suicide bombers killed more than 250 people on the island.

The shootout between troops and suspected Islamist militants erupted on Friday evening in Sainthamaruthu in Ampara district, to the south of the town of Batticaloa, site of one of the Easter Sunday blasts at three churches and four luxury hotels.

A police spokesman said that three suspected suicide bombers were among the 15 dead after the shootout.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for last Sunday's attacks, all but one of which were in the capital, Colombo. The government has said they were carried out by nine well-educated Sri Lankans, eight of whom have been identified.

Authorities have warned there could be more attacks targeting religious centres following the bombings, which shattered the relative calm that Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka had enjoyed since a civil war against mostly-Hindu ethnic Tamil separatists ended a decade ago.

The US State Department, warning that terrorist groups were continuing to plot attacks, urged citizens to reconsider travel to Sri Lanka.

It ordered the departure from the country of all school-age family members of US government employees and also authorised non-emergency employees to leave, it said in a statement.

Britain has also warned its nationals to avoid travelling to Sri Lanka unless absolutely necessary.


The east coast battle broke out when troops heading towards a suspected militant safe house were repulsed by three explosions and gunfire, military spokesman Sumith Atapattu said.

"Troops retaliated and raided the safe house where a large cache of explosives had been stored," he said in a statement.

He said the militants were suspected members of the domestic Islamist group National Towheed Jama'at (NTJ), which has been blamed for last Sunday's attacks.

Bomb-making materials, dozens of gelignite sticks and thousands of ball bearings were found in a search of a separate house in the same area along with Islamic State banners and uniforms, the military said.

Police said on Friday they were trying to track down 140 people they believe have links with Islamic State.

Sri Lanka's president said on Friday some Sri Lankan youths had been involved with Islamic State since 2013 and that there were links between drug trafficking and Islamic State.

"There is a close relationship between religious extremism and illegal drug trade. Our efforts to eradicate the drugs menace from the country could have advanced the ISIS attack," said President Maithripala Sirisena.

Nearly 10,000 soldiers have been deployed across the Indian Ocean island state to carry out searches and provide security for religious centres, the military said.

Authorities have so far focused their investigations on international links to two domestic groups they believe carried out the attacks, NTJ and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim.

They have detained at least 76 people, including foreigners from Syria and Egypt, in their investigations so far. Twenty were arrested in the past 24 hours alone, they said.

In a separate raid on a mosque in Colombo, a suspect was arrested and a haul of 40 swords and kris knives were seized from under the bed of the chief cleric, police said.


Islamic State provided no evidence to back its claim that it was behind last Sunday's blasts. If true, it would be one of the worst attacks carried out by the group outside Iraq and Syria.

The extremist group released a video on Tuesday showing eight men, all but one with their faces covered, standing under a black Islamic State flag and declaring their loyalty to its leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

Muslims were urged to pray at home on Friday after the State Intelligence Services warned of possible car bomb attacks, amid fears of retaliatory violence. Many have fled their homes amid bomb scares, lockdowns and security sweeps.

Archbishop of Colombo Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith told reporters he had seen an internal security document warning of further attacks on churches and said there would be no Catholic masses this Sunday anywhere on the island.

Officials have acknowledged a major lapse in not widely sharing intelligence warnings from India of possible attacks.

President Sirisena said on Friday that top defence and police chiefs had not shared information with him about the impending attacks.

He blamed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's government for weakening the intelligence system by focusing on prosecution of military officers over alleged war crimes during a decades-long civil war with Tamil separatists that ended in 2009.

Sirisena fired Wickremesinghe in October over political differences, only to reinstate him weeks later under pressure from the Supreme Court. But a rift remains between factions aligned to the prime minister and president, sources say.

Sri Lanka's 22 million people include minority Christians, Muslims and Hindus. Until now, Christians had largely managed to avoid the worst of the island's conflict and communal tensions.

Most of the victims of the Easter Sunday suicide bombings were Sri Lankans, although authorities said at least 40 foreigners were also killed, many of them tourists sitting down to breakfast at top-end hotels when the bombers struck.

Full report at:



ISIS claims attack on east coast city of Sri Lanka

28 April 2019

The ISIS extremist group claimed on Saturday that three of its members clashed with Sri Lankan police for several hours before detonating their explosive vests on them in the east coast city of Kalmunai late on Friday, the militant group’s news agency Amaq said.

The group said 17 policemen were killed or injured in the attack.

The group did not give evidence for its claim.

Earlier on Saturday, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said in a statement that at least 15 people, including six children, were killed when suicide bombers blew themselves up when cornered by security forces in eastern Sri Lanka.

Full report at:



Sri Lanka bans groups suspected to be behind attacks

27 April 2019

Sri Lanka’s president on Saturday outlawed two groups suspected to be behind the suicide bombings on churches and hotels while the wife and child of the suspected ringleader were wounded during a military raid in a safe house, his family and police said.

The National Thawheedh Jamaath (NTJ) and Jamathei Millathu Ibrahim were banned under his emergency powers, President Maithripala Sirisena said in a statement, nearly a week after the Easter Sunday attacks that killed more than 250 people.

Authorities could not act earlier to ban the two little known groups because the law required them to show firm evidence against them, officials said.

Police believe the suspected mastermind of the bombings, Mohamed Hashim Mohamed Zahran, led either the NTJ or a splinter group. Less is known about Jamathei Millathu Ibrahim, whose members are also believed to have played a role in the bombings.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Nearly 10,000 soldiers have been deployed across the island to carry out searches and boost security since the bombings in three churches and four hotels, most of which were in the capital Colombo.

Security forces have detained 100 people, including foreigners from Syria and Egypt, police said.

A gun battle erupted on Friday evening during a raid on a safe house in Sainthamaruthu in Ampara district on the island’s east coast, killing at least 15 people including three people with suicide vests and six children, a military spokesman said.

The wounded included the wife and a daughter of Zahran, his family said.

“Yes, the wife and daughter were injured in the attack,” said Mohamed Hashim Mathaniya, sister of Zahran. “I was asked to come to identify them but I am not sure I can go,” she told Reuters from the town of Kattankudy in the east where Zahran was originally based.

Full report at:



Sri Lanka raids terror hideout amid fears of new bombings

Apr 27, 2019

Fifteen people, including six children, have been killed during a gun battle between Sri Lanka police and suspected militants, nearly a week after at least 250 people lost their lives in a string of bombings.

The new deaths came as police, backed by military forces, raided a house in the town of Sainthamaruthu in eastern Sri Lanka on Friday night, sparking an hour-long gun battle.

Local authorities said Saturday three men blew themselves up during the raid, killing three women and six children who were caught in the crossfire.

“Three other men, also believed to be suicide bombers, were found dead outside the house," police said.

Police were investigating the victims' possible relationship to the gunmen.

The clashes came hours after police raided a nearby location where they believed militants recorded a video pledge of allegiance to Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi before carrying out the Easter Sunday bombings.

The terrorist group had released footage of eight men whom it said had carried out the attacks last week. Sri Lankan officials said they were investigating the clip.

Police said they seized a large cache of explosives, 100,000 ball bearings and uniforms and flags similar to those worn by the men in the video.

The raid was part of a large-scale operation that has been launched in the aftermath of eight apparently coordinated blasts that hit churches and luxury hotels in the capital, Colombo, and the cities of Negombo and Batticaloa and left the country and the world in a great shock on Easter Sunday.

The government blames a small group, known as National Tawheed Jamath (NTJ), for the Sunday bombings but the group has not claimed responsibility.

The eastern cities of Kalmunai, Chavalakade and Sammanthurai remain under extended curfew until further notice, police said.

President Maithripala Sirisena announced a "major search operation" in the country on Friday, saying, "Every household in the country will be checked."

"The lists of permanent residents of every house will be established to ensure no unknown persons could live anywhere,” he said at a news conference.

The heightened tensions have put the South Asian country on edge as the leaders are under scrutiny over accusations that they failed to prevent the carnage despite security warnings that they had received several days ahead of the attacks.

The president blames the government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe for weakening the security.

The prime minister, who had earlier charged that he did not receive the warnings, blamed the attacks on a "breakdown of communication."

According to government sources, opposing factions aligned to the prime minister and the president often refuse to communicate with each other and blame any setbacks on their opponents.

The prime minister took to Twitter on Friday and apologized for the failure.

“We take collective responsibility and apologies to our fellow citizens for our failure to protect victims of these tragic events," he wrote.

The archbishop of Colombo Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, however, said he felt "betrayed" by the government's failure to act on the warnings.

Sri Lanka has a population of about 22 million people, 70 percent of whom are Buddhist, 13 percent Hindu, 10 percent Muslim, and seven percent Christian, according to the country’s 2012 census.

Fears of more violence have caused many people, including in Muslim communities, to leave their homes as intelligence services warned of more possible attacks.

Police forces were deployed around mosques on Friday as the community leaders called on Muslims to avoid going to mosques.

At least 700 refugees from a persecuted Islamic sect are in hiding after fleeing their homes in the Sri Lankan port city of Negombo, British daily the Guardian reported.

"A group of around 500 Muslims are being sheltered in one city, which the Guardian is not naming," the paper said.

Full report at:



With churches shut after bombs, Sri Lankans hear Mass on TV

Apr 28, 2019

AMPARA: Sri Lanka's Catholics on Sunday awoke to celebrate Mass in their homes by a televised broadcast as churches across the island nation shut over fears of militant attacks, a week after the Islamic State-claimed Easter suicide bombings killed over 250 people.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo, delivered a homily before members of the clergy gathered in a small chapel at his Colombo residence — an extraordinary measure underlining the fear still gripping this nation of 21 million people.

The US Embassy in Colombo has warned against attending any service at a place of worship this weekend.

In the eastern district of Ampara on Sunday, where a gunfight and explosions left 15 people dead the previous day, soldiers guarded St. Mary Magdalen's Church, where a sign on the gate said the church and the school would be closed until May 6. A nearby mosque also had soldiers stationed outside.

At the YMCA, a group of young girls held Sunday school near a portrait of Christ. Sajith Liyanage, a 51-year-old Catholic, said he remained worried and would watch Mass on TV.

"We can't understand what the situation is right now," Liyanage said.

At Ampara's weekly Sunday market, police officers walked explosive-sniffing dogs past ripe-yellow bananas, pineapples and coconuts. Officers also searched women's bags and pushed aside brown fallen leaves, checking the grounds for any bombs.

NM Saman Bandarah, a pineapple seller, stood back as the police dog passed. He said he was glad to see the officers but said everyone remained nervous.

"There are no people coming to buy," he said.

The Islamic State group, meanwhile, claimed three of the militants who blew themselves up during a bloody police raid in Ampara linked to the Easter bombings.

In a statement carried by the extremists' Aamaq news agency, IS identified the bombers by their noms du guerre as Abu Hammad, Abu Sufyan and Abu al-Qa'qa. It said they opened fire with automatic weapons and "after exhausting their ammunition, detonated ... their explosive belts."

Sri Lanka's military said the gunfight Friday night near the town of Sammanthurai left 15 dead, including six children, when militants opened fire and set off explosives in suicide bombings as security forces closed in on their safe house.

IS falsely claimed their militants killed 17 "disbelievers" in the attack. The militants often exaggerate their claims.

The IS report carried a photograph of two men before an IS flag, one carrying a Chinese variant of the Kalashnikov rifle like the one found at the scene, another smiling.

A girl and a woman survived the explosion but were critically injured and being treated at a hospital, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said.

Photographs taken by The Associated Press show the charred remains of one child and the body of another wearing a green T-shirt with the words "good boy" written on the back. The bodies of an adult woman and man were found after the explosion with their clothes burned off.

The military said security forces had recovered explosives, detonators, "suicide kits," military uniforms and IS flags during the raids in the area.

Gunasekara said officers acting on information from intelligence officials also found 150 sticks of blasting gelatin and 100,000 small metal balls, as well as a van and clothing suspected of being used by those involved in the Easter attacks on three churches and three luxury hotels that left more than 250 people dead and hundreds injured — the bloodies assault linked to the IS in South Asia.

The government on Saturday formally banned two extremist groups purportedly connected to the attacks, allowing officials to confiscate their property, presidential spokesman Dharmasri Ekanayake said.

The government, crippled from a long political crisis between the president and prime minister last year, promised swift action to capture militants still at large. President Maithripala Sirisena said about 140 people had been identified as having links to the IS.

A "major search operation has been undertaken," Sirisena said. "Every household in the country will be checked."

Police confirmed that the leader of the local militant group blamed for the attack, Mohamed Zahran, died in the suicide bombing at the Shangri-La Hotel, one of six hotels and churches attacked. Zahran appeared in an IS video claiming responsibility for the coordinated assault, and authorities in both Sri Lanka and Australia confirmed links between IS and the attack.

Full report at:



Arab World


US Delivers Advanced Weapons to SDF in Eastern Euphrates

Apr 27, 2019

The pro-militant Arabic-language Al-Khabor news agency quoted informed sources as saying that the US-led coalition has delivered new military and logistical supports through Simalka crossing to its allied Kurdish fighters in Eastern Syria.

It noted that the said military shipment included advanced missiles, US air defense systems, Israeli anti-Tank Spike missiles, shoulder-mounted surface-to-air Stinger missiles and drones.

The advanced weapons delivered to the Kurdish fighters were transferred to a clandestine depot near Ramilan Airbase in Hasaka province which is guarded by the US marine forces and Kurdish fighters.

In a relevant development last week, the media reports said that the US dispatched a large number of trucks packed with new military aids to the SDF in Eastern and Northeastern Syria.

A US military convoy comprising 30 trucks loaded with weapons, military and logistic equipment has arrived in Ain al-Arab Airport in Northeastern Aleppo, pro-militant al-Khabor news website reported.

Al-Khabor, meantime, said that the SDF has discharged four weapons depots in Tal Bidar, Ramilan, al-Shadadi and al-Malekieh in Hasaka province and sent their weapons to arms depots in Ra'as al-Ain in Northern Hasaka, Tal Abyaz in Northern Raqqa and Ain al-Arab in Aleppo as well as al-Amar energy zone in Eastern Deir Ezzur.

It noted that the Kurdish forces' move comes as part of their plan to confront an imminent military offensive by the Turkish Army and its allied militants in Eastern Euphrates.

The Turkish-language Anatoly news agency also reported that hundreds of trucks carrying US-made military equipment have been sent for the SDF-controlled areas in Deir Ezzur.

It also noted that a large number of weapons and military equipment have been sent to the US-controlled al-Omar oil zone which is now under the US control, adding that a large number of vehicles and drilling machinery have also been sent to SDF-controlled towns.

In a relevant development earlier this month, media reports revealed that Washington has dispatched new military aid to the SDF in Eastern Euphrates after declaring an end in the war on ISIL.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported on Saturday that the US-led coalition has sent new military convoys, including tens of trucks carrying military aid and logistical equipment, from Iraqi Kurdistan region to areas occupied by the SDF in Eastern Euphrates.

It added that over 810 trucks, carrying military and logistic equipment of the US-led coalition have arrived in Eastern Euphrates.

Last month, Washington-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria declared their final victory over the ISIL terrorist group, ending bloody battle against the group that once held territory spanning a third of Syria and Iraq.

The US Defense Department also announced that the Islamic State no longer holds any territory in Syria, according to former White House Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders.

In December 2018, US President Donald Trump declared the ISIL terrorist group defeated in Syria and announced American troop pullout from the country but gave no timeline. The surprise announcement resulted in the resignation of Secretary of Defense James Mattis, US anti-IS coalition envoy Brett McGurk and Pentagon Chief of staff Rear Admiral Kevin Sweeney who disapproved of the American president's decision.

But, Trump confirmed that 400 US soldiers will remain in the war-torn country indefinitely.

Notably, the US troops have been operating in Syria as part of an international coalition for about five years without the permission of Syrian authorities or the UN Security Council. The United States has, in particular, supported the Kurdish-led militia controlling the territories to the East of the Euphrates and opposing the Syrian government.



Several Tahrir Al-Sham Terrorists Killed in Popular Uprising in Idlib

Apr 27, 2019

The Kurdish-language Hawar news quoted local sources in Idlib province as saying on Saturday that clashes between residents of the village of Farwan in Southeastern Idlib and Tahrir al-Sham killed 12 militants and destroyed their military vehicles.

They added that the clashes erupted after Tahrir al-Sham terrorists attacked the village to capture a number of residents but they faced people's resistance.

The report said that Tahrir al-Sham sent more militants and military equipment to the village after the death of its members.

In a relevant development in the same province last Wednesday, a large number of terrorists were killed and injured in a massive explosion at the headquarters of Tahrir al-Sham West of Idlib.

A bomb-laden vehicle was exploded in the city of Jisr al-Shoghour in Western Idlib, killing and injuring at least 40 terrorists, pro-militant sources said.

The sources said that at least 15 militants were killed and 27 others wounded, including a number of terrorists.

Full report at:



Several People Killed in Deir Ezzur's Popular Protests against US-Backed SDF

Apr 27, 2019

Hundreds of residents of al-Zaman town and the city of al-Basira in Eastern Deir Ezzur continued their protests against the SDF for the third day in the row, the Arabic-language media quoted battlefield sources as saying.

The sources said that the civilians called for exit of SDF fighters by closing the roads leading to these regions.

Meantime, it was reported that at least three civilians were killed and several others were wounded in SDF's shootout at protesters.

People in Eastern Deir Ezzur have taken to the streets to protest at the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, and forced SDF militants and commanders out of the region.

Local sources in Eastern Deir Ezzur reported on Thursday that masses of people in the villages and towns of Mahimideh, al-Hisan, Safirah al-Tahtani, Safirah al-Foqani, al-Wasiah, al-Mawilah, al-Hasin, Qaribah, al-Azabah and al-Basirah in Eastern Deir Ezzur took part in anti-SDF rallies in the past two days.

They added that the protest rallies were held after increased insecurity, murder, detentions, kidnapping of civilians and hoarding oil by the SDF forces, noting that the protestors closed the main roads of these regions, including Deir Ezzur-Raqqa road in al-Jazeera region.

The sources said that the residents also expelled from the region a number of SDF commanders and forces who had come for talks.

People in Deir Ezzur are widening protests against the Syrian Democratic Forces deployment in the region after the US-backed militants arrested and killed tens of civilians in their jails, media reports said on Monday.

People in the town of Sweidan Jezira in Southeastern Deir Ezzur blocked the roads leading to the region and asked for the expulsion of the SDF fighters.

The sources also pointed to the anger of residents of Eastern Deir Ezzur after the death of a civilian under SDF torture, and said that a large number of Syrians have been shot dead or killed under SDF torture in prisons in recent months while many others are in SDF's jails under different accusations.

Meantime, the SDF forces have imposed curfew in several towns and villages, including al-Sovar, Hajin, al-Basira, Zabiyan and Gharanij.

Full report at:



Iraqi Forces Killed, Injured in US-Led Airstrikes in Kirkuk

Apr 27, 2019

The US warplanes struck the Iraqi troops, while they were conducting heliborne operations in Idleb village in al-Riyadh region of Kirkuk, the Arabic-language media outlets reported.

It noted that at least one Iraqi soldier was killed and two others were injured in the US airstrikes.

Meantime, Iraq's Asaeb Ahl al-Haq movement condemned the US-led airstrikes on Iraqi forces, and called for swift exit of the foreign forces from Iraq.

Iraq's joint military operations command also said that a fact-finding committee has been formed to review the US airstrikes against Iraqi troops.

In a relevant development in early March, Iraq's popular resistance forces condemned US sanctions on Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba and called for measures to oust American troops from the country.

The US designated Nujaba --- an Islamic movement whose crucial aid to the national army resulted in the defeat of Daesh in Iraq in late 2017 --- a terrorist group and imposed sanctions on it, presstv reported.

The decision has drawn angry reactions from Iraqis. Popular anti-terror groups Kata’ib Hezbollah and Asaib Ahl al-Haq issued statements, calling for resistance against US presence in the region.

Kata’ib Hezbollah's statement said the ban was a response to numerous US defeats in the region. It added that Washington is seeking to weaken the Iraqi resistance against the occupation as it digs its heels in Iraq.

Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq highlighted what it described Washington's hypocrisy in sanctioning the anti-terror group while allying itself with Saudi Arabia and Israel.

"We believe the American criteria for terrorism are not only usually wrong but are actually quite the opposite," it noted.

Full report at:



Militant attacks kill 17 Syria pro-regime fighters, says Monitor

27 April 2019

Attacks by two extremist groups killed at least 17 Syrian government troops and militiamen in the northern province of Aleppo early on Saturday, a war monitor said.

Thirty others were wounded in the assaults by Al-Qaeda's former Syria branch, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, and its ally Hurras al-Deen, which remains affiliated to the global militant network, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.



Bahrain summons Iraqi diplomat over criticism from Muqtada al-Sadr

28 April 2019

Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry summoned the deputy charge d’affaires of the embassy of Iraq on Monday to denounce a recent statement made by Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr against the Kingdom.

“A statement issued by Muqtada al-Sadr represents an unacceptable offense against the Kingdom of Bahrain and its leadership. It is a blatant interference in the affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain, a clear violation of the principles of international law and constitutes an abuse of the nature of relations between the Kingdom of Bahrain and the Republic of Iraq,” a statement from the foreign ministry read.

Full report at:



Iraq summons US, Bahrain envoys over 'interventionist, offensive' comments

Apr 28, 2019

Iraq has summoned the envoys of Bahrain and the United States to protest their insulting and meddlesome comments about the Arab state’s domestic affairs and relations with neighboring Iran.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmad al-Sahaf told Iraq’s al-Sumaria News TV channel on Saturday night that Foreign Minister Mohamed Ali al-Hakim had issued the order to summon the American chargé d’affaires as well as the Bahraini ambassador to Baghdad.

Baghdad is angry over a tweet recently posted by Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifah, in which he insulted Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose Sairoon (Alliance Towards Reform) bloc holds the highest number of seats in the parliament.

The top Bahraini diplomat also lashed out at Sadr for blaming the political crisis in the Persian Gulf kingdom on the Al Khalifah rulers, calling the Iraqi politician a “fool” and a “dog” disguised as a man and claiming that Iran “controls” Iraq.

In a statement, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry condemned the “offensive” remarks and called for an official apology from the Manama regime.

The comments “are totally unacceptable in diplomatic practice. They also harm Iraq, its sovereignty and independence, especially when the Bahraini minister speaks of Iraq being under the control of neighboring Iran,” read the statement.

“Everyone must know their limits, abide by facts and have diplomatic qualifications. Today, Iraq is recovering and strengthening, and will not accept any interference in its affairs, nor will it accept any abuse of its national and religious symbols,” it added.

‘US must respect Iraq’s ties with neighbors’

Separately on Saturday, Iraq called in the American chargé d’affaires after the US Embassy in Baghdad posted messages on its Facebook page criticizing Iranian authorities.

The Iraqi Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the posts “represented a violation of diplomatic norms and international rules governing the operation of missions in host countries.”

It also requested that the US diplomatic mission delete its posts and refrain from releasing messages that run contrary to the Iraqi Constitution and its foreign policy.

“Iraq adopts a policy based on the basic principles that its territory is not a corridor or a platform for harming neighboring countries or friendly countries ... whether by means of media, economy, commerce, military or security,” it said.

Full report at:



Time not ripe for military offensive on militant-held Idlib: Russia

Apr 27, 2019

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has not ruled out a situation where Syrian forces, backed by Russian air power, would launch a full-scale assault against terrorists in Syria's northern province of Idlib.

Speaking to reporters in the Chinese capital, Beijing, on Saturday, Putin said time was not ripe for such a military operation due to the presence of civilians in parts of the militant-held province.

Such an operation, he said, “is not expedient now" and the security of civilians needs to be taken into account.

"I don't rule it (a full-scale assault) out, but right now we and our Syrian friends consider that to be inadvisable given this humanitarian element," Putin said.

He said Moscow and Damascus would continue their fight against terrorism and that any militants who tried to break out of Idlib, something he said happened from time to time, were bombed.

Idlib, located in northwestern Syria, remains the only large area in the hands of anti-Damascus militants after government forces -- backed by Iran and Russia -- managed to undo militant gains across the country and bring back almost all of Syrian soil under government control.

Around 90,000 militants are estimated to be holed up in Idlib, which has a population of some three million.

Last September, Russia and Turkey, a backer of a number of militant groups in Syria, inked a buffer zone agreement in Idlib, which put on hold a massive government liberation operation in the region, situated near the Turkish border.

However, a few months later, the so-called Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a Takfiri militant alliance dominated by al-Nusra Front terrorists, swept through towns and villages in Idlib.

Meanwhile, Turkey has been trying to avert a Syrian offensive against the city near its borders.

On Friday, Syria’s Permanent Representative to the UN Bashar al-Ja’fari accused Turkey’s intelligence services of supporting HTS t terrorist group, saying Ankara’s move was “another form of terrorism”.

According to Ja’fari, Turkey has provided terrorists in Idlib with dozens of shells charged with toxic chemicals for use against the Syrian army and civilians.

"There is a great amount of chemical weapons in stock in Idlib. They will be put to use if Syria and its allies try to regain control of Idlib by military means,” he said.

Full report at:



Terrorist groups kill 17 Syrian government troops in Aleppo

Apr 27, 2019

Reports say at least 17 Syrian government forces have been killed in attacks by foreign-backed terrorists in northern Aleppo province.

The attacks were launched shortly after midnight on Saturday by two al-Qaeda-linked terror groups, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and Hurras al-Deen, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

Thirty other Syrian soldiers were injured. The attacks were repelled and several terrorists killed after Russian aircraft pounded their positions in the area.

The terrorist attacks were in violation of a previously agreed buffer zone, which separated Syrian government troops from the Takfiri terrorists.

Under the agreement, which was signed between Russia and Turkey last year, Takfiri groups had to withdraw from the area.

Despite Turkey’s pledge to implement the deal, the Takfiri groups have never complied with the agreement and periodically launched attacks against Syrian troops from the buffer zone.

Saturday’s raids took place as Turkey has set up patrols and bases in the province on the pretext of monitoring the agreement.

Speaking on Friday, Syria’s UN envoy Bashar al-Ja’afari slammed Ankara for failing to implement the demilitarization zone agreement.

“The Sochi agreement clearly stipulated that Turkey’s side was committed to the withdrawal of the terrorists groups to a behind a buffer of 20km,” he said.

“What Turkey’s delegation says is not applied on the ground,” Ja’afari added.

Determined to fight terrorism

Last week, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stressed his government’s determination to ultimately eliminate terrorist groups in the country.

The president called for the removal of any "obstacles" blocking the full implementation of the demilitarization deal.

Seeking to further progress negotiations aimed at ending the conflict in the war-torn country, delegates from Iran, Russia and Turkey held a two-day summit in Kazakhstan's capital Nur-Sultan on Thursday.

The talks, which are collectively referred to as the Astana peace process, have so far helped significantly reduce violence in the Arab country by establishing the de-escalation zones agreement. They have also paved the way for the formation of a Constitutional Committee.

Following the summit, Tehran and Moscow discussed further cooperation in countering terrorist forces in the region.

Despite significant progress in the fight against the foreign-backed terrorists, more than 60 Syrian soldiers were killed in a number of attacks last week.

The Daesh Takfiri terrorists assaulted government-held parts of central and eastern Syria, where American military presence has prevented Syrian forces from completely defeating the group.

The Daesh terrorists have commonly used US presence in the region as a cover to attack Syrian and allied forces.

American forces are currently deployed in the Kurdish-controlled regions of Syria on the pretext of protecting Kurdish forces in the region and fighting Daesh.

Full report at:





Russian student who tried to go to Syria freed early

27 April 2019

Russia on Saturday released a former student convicted for trying to enter Syria in a high profile 2016 case after she was granted parole this month.

Varvara Karaulova was freed from prison in Vologda, a city around 450 kilometers northeast of Moscow, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

She was released a year and 10 months early.

A military court sentenced Karaulova to four-and-a-half years in prison in 2016 for trying to enter Syria after falling in love with an ISIS militant.

She was detained a year earlier after she tried to cross into Syria from Turkey while still a philosophy undergraduate at the renowned Moscow State University.

This month a court ruled she posed no threat to society and should be released earlier.

Karaulova’s case shocked Russia in 2016, as the then 21-year-old wept in court and said her attempt to cross in Syria was “all a mistake.”

It was also widely covered by state media.

Karaulova was charged with preparing to participate in a terrorist organisation, but pleaded not guilty, saying she was motivated by love for a Russian extremist fighting in Syria.

She met him online while still a teenager and they wrote to each other for three years without meeting.

In 2014, he went to Syria and told her he was fighting for ISIS. Karaulova converted to Islam and began wearing a hijab.

She disappeared without warning in May 2015, prompting a frantic search by her parents. They found that she had flown to Turkey and travelled to the border with other women hoping to join men fighting for ISIS.

Turkish border guards detained the group and she was forced to fly back to Russia with her father.

Thousands of people from the former USSR have travelled to Syria to fight with extremists, according to Russian President Vladimir Putin, since Moscow intervened on the side of the Damascus regime in 2015.

Karaulova’s case was particularly unusual in Russia since her family is not Muslim.



North America


Elite US Navy SEAL facing war crimes charges for killings in Iraq

April 28, 2019

LOS ANGELES: Stabbing a teenage prisoner to death, picking off a young girl and an old man with a sniper rifle and firing a heavy machine gun into a residential area: these are some of the charges facing an elite US Navy SEAL on trial for war crimes while deployed in Iraq.

Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, a decorated 39-year-old veteran of combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, is still a hero in the eyes of many Americans and the rightwing Fox News channel — and his case may even become a factor in next year’s presidential elections.

Around 40 Republican members of Congress have written an open letter demanding Gallagher — who denies the charges against him — be set free until he stands trial. One has even called on President Donald Trump to step in and have the case dismissed.

Trump has weighed in on the case on Twitter, saying that he had intervened to ensure that Gallagher — who was nominated for the Silver Star for his service — “will soon be moved to less restrictive confinement while he awaits his day in court.”

Trump said the move was made “in honor of his past service to our Country.”

Gallagher, a platoon commander of SEAL Team 7, will face a military tribunal at a Navy base in San Diego on May 28. He was arrested last September and has been held at the base ever since.

Reported by his own men

He was arrested after men under his command in the elite Navy unit were so horrified by his actions that they complained to their superiors, but were warned that their accusations could damage their careers, according to reports in The Navy Times and The New York Times this week.

Gallagher now faces charges of premeditated murder, attempted murder and obstruction of justice. He could be sentenced to life in prison if found guilty.

The crimes he stands accused of were committed in 2017 during a deployment in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. US special forces were fighting alongside Iraqi troops to take back parts of the town from Daesh group fighters.

His lawyer did not respond to an AFP request for comment.

Disturbing behavior

According to testimony at a preliminary hearing last November, members of Gallagher’s Alpha platoon were so disturbed by his behavior that they tampered with his sniper rifle to make it less accurate, and would fire warning shots to make civilians flee before he could open fire on them.

“They said they spent more time protecting civilians than they did fighting Daesh,” Special Agent Joe Warpinski of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service told the military court.

Their chief allegedly boasted about the number of people he had killed, including women, according to The New York Times.

In May 2017, Iraqi troops captured a wounded teenage Daesh fighter who appeared to be around 15 years old.

Two members of the SEAL team said that as a medic was treating the fighter’s wounds, Gallagher stepped up without a word and stabbed the prisoner in the neck and side several times.

He then posed for a photo holding up the teenager’s head in one hand and the knife in the other, the two SEALs said. He went on to stand over the youth’s body and perform a re-enlistment ceremony while another member of the team held up a US flag, they said.

According to the charge sheet, soldiers from his unit tried on several occasions to alert their superiors about the alleged war crimes, but without success. Seven of them said they were told they could face retaliation if they went public with the case, but finally managed to bring their concerns to a higher-ranking officer.

Gallagher’s commanding officer, Lt. Jacob Portier, reportedly posed in the photo with the dead teenager and is himself facing charges for failing to report the crimes and for destroying evidence.

Navy prosecutor Chris Czaplak said Gallagher had “handed Daesh propaganda manna from heaven” by deciding to “act like the monster the terrorists accuse us of being.”



Trump says ‘evil of anti-Semitism’ must be defeated

28 April 2019

US President Donald Trump on Saturday said the country stood in solidarity with the Jewish community after a gunman opened fire at a synagogue in California, killing one and injuring three as worshippers marked the final day of Passover.

“Tonight, America’s heart is with the victims of the horrific synagogue shooting in California, just happened,” he told supporters at a rally in Wisconsin.

“Our entire nation mourns the loss of life, prays for the wounded and stands in solidarity with the Jewish community. We forcefully condemn the evil of anti-Semitism and hate which must be defeated.”

The shooting in the town of Poway, north of San Diego, came exactly six months after a white supremacist killed 11 people at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue - the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in US history.

The suspect was identified by police as 19-year-old John Earnest.

In an open letter which was reviewed by AFP, Earnest spoke about his desire to defend white lineage.

Full report at:



US envoy, Ghani push ‘intra-Afghan’ peace talks

27 April 2019

The United States and Afghanistan stressed the need for “intra-Afghan dialogue” when US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani held talks on Saturday, a palace statement said.

Their meeting came during a marathon multi-country tour by Khalilzad, who is to visit Qatar – the usual venue for talks with the Taliban.

“Dr. Khalilzad briefed the president and other government officials about his trips and future plans for peace,” a palace statement said.

“Both sides once again emphasized an intra-Afghan dialogue between the Afghan government and the Taliban, led by the Afghan government.”

US President Donald Trump is eager to reach a solution to end his country’s longest-ever war, which dislodged the Taliban following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

Before Khalilzad embarked on his tour, the State Department said that in Doha, the Qatari capital, he will “press forward on negotiations with the Taliban to reach a consensus on core national security issues, and urge their participation in an inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue.”

Despite several rounds of talks with Khalilzad, the Taliban have refused to negotiate with Ghani’s internationally recognized government.

Full report at:



US-led coalition killed over 1600 civilians in Syria's Raqqa: Rights groups

Apr 28, 2019

The US-led military coalition to purportedly fight the Daesh (ISIL) terrorists in Syria, has killed more than 1,600 civilians in the country’s northern city of Raqqa during months of airstrikes that led to eviction of the foreign-backed militants, two UK-based rights groups said, noting that the figure reflects hundreds more than the number claimed by the mainly Western coalition.

Amnesty International (AI) and Airwars declared in a joint statement on Thursday that the new toll figure was obtained after the "most comprehensive investigation into civilian deaths in a modern conflict," AP reported Friday.

This is while the US-led military force claimed last month that only 1,257 civilians were killed in their bombardments of Daesh targets over four years in both Syria and Iraq.

"We continue to employ thorough and deliberate targeting and strike processes to minimize the impact of our operations on civilian populations and infrastructure," the coalition stated.

A rival, US-backed Syrian terrorist group captured Raqqa in October 2017 after a four-month battle.

Meanwhile, the United Nations estimates that more than 10,000 buildings, or 80 percent of the city, were destroyed during the campaign.

"Coalition forces razed Raqqa, but they cannot erase the truth. Amnesty International and Airwars call upon the Coalition forces to end their denial about the shocking scale of civilian deaths and destruction caused by their offensive in Raqqa," the two groups said in their latest statement.

In June of last year, another AI report estimated that hundreds of civilians were killed in Raqqa, while the Airwars emphasized that it has evidence of 1,400 fatalities.

The statement said AI’s innovative "Strike Trackers" project also identified when each of the more than 11,000 destroyed buildings in Raqqa was hit. More than 3,000 digital activists in 124 countries took part, analyzing a total of more than 2 million satellite image frames, it added.

Full report at:



CENTCOM chief suggests readiness to deter unspecific Iran action

Apr 28, 2019

Commander of US Central Command (CENTCOM) has reportedly implied his forces possess essential resources to deter what he claimed as “dangerous” actions by Iran, further insisting on “long-term presence” of US forces in Iraq.

“I believe we’ll have the resources necessary to deter Iran from taking actions that will be dangerous,” said General Kenneth McKenzie on Saturday, as quoted by Sky News Arabia, based in the Persian Gulf kingdom of United Arab Emirates (UAE). “We will be able to respond effectively,” he added during a visit to the Persian Gulf region without pointing to a specific threat.

“We’re gonna continue to reach out to our partners and friends in the region to ensure that we make common cause against the threat of Iran,” McKenzie was further quoted as saying by the local TV network, partly owned by the Saudi-allied  Abu Dhabi Emirate ruling family.

The development came amid rising tensions between Washington and Tehran after the hawkish administration of US President Donald Trump took the extraordinary step earlier this month of labeling a key part of Iranian military forces – the Islamic Revolution’s Guards Corps (IRGC) -- as “a foreign terrorist organization.”

The move sparked global outrage with many countries slamming it as unreasonable. Critics within the US have also warned the Trump administration about potential consequences of the move for American troops stationed throughout the Middle East region.

Following Trump’s move to blacklist the IRGC, Iran reciprocated the bizarre measure by designating the CENTCOM -- the portion of the US military responsible for protecting American interests in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa -- as a terrorist organization.

Senior IRGC commander Brigadier General Hossein Salami reacted to Trump’s blacklisting of the elite force by blasting the move as a “foolish” decision, insisting that the US itself was a major sponsor of terrorism that has persistently supported torture around the globe while making deceptive claims about safeguarding “democracy.”

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif further responded to the US move by warning the United Nations that Washington and its "puppet regimes" bear full responsibility for Trump’s “dangerous” decision.

The warning was communicated in separate letters to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the Security Council, insisting that the move violated all sorts of international boundaries.

US aims for 'long-term presence' in Iraq

Meanwhile, the CENTCOM commander also expressed confidence that American military forces are going to maintain “a long term presence in Iraq focused on the counter-terror mission,” without elaborating.

The remarks came despite heavy criticism recently expressed by high-level Iraqi officials and community leaders against remarks by the US president and other senior officials about plans to use Iraq’s territory to undermine rising Iranian influence in the country and the region.

'Long-term' US troop withdrawal from Syria

McKenzie further pointed to planned reduction of US forces in Syria, noting that it would be done cautiously, according to the report by Sky News Arabia.

Full report at:





Sudan’s military and opposition agree in principle on joint council

28 April 2019

Sudan’s military rulers and an opposition coalition have agreed in principle on the formation of a joint transitional council, but not on the share of seats, two sources said on Saturday.

The two sides were holding their first formal discussions as opposition groups and protesters push for a rapid handover to civilian rule following the ouster of former President Omar al-Bashir earlier this month.

Earlier, the joint committee representing Sudan’s military leadership and the Alliance for Freedom and Change, which brings together grassroots organizers with opposition and rebel groups, held its first meeting to discuss their demand for civilian rule.

The protesters have kept up the pressure on the military, continuing their round-the-clock sit-in outside army headquarters and mobilizing tens of thousands last Thursday for a “million-strong” march for civilian rule.



Iran Welcomes Nigerian Gov't Permission for Sheikh Zakzaki's Medical Treatment

Apr 27, 2019

A delegation of expert doctors and consultants led by Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) conducted an initial study into the health conditions of the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Sheikh Zakzaky, and his wife, Zinat, earlier this week.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi welcomed the development, and expressed the hope that after full treatment of Sheikh Zakzaki and his wife inside or outside Nigeria, the trend of constructive interaction and talks between the Islamic Movement and the Nigerian government would lead to the resolution of problems and full freedom of the Shiite leader.

Sheikh Zakzaki and his wife have been held in detention by the federal government since 2015. They are standing trial over allegations of culpable homicide, unlawful assembly and disruption of public peace, among others.

This initial report by medical personnel reportedly highlighted the need for urgent examinations into their health which the team hopes will be carried out in next couple of days.

Full report at:



Sudan leading opposition figure calls for the continuation of protests

27 April 2019

Sudan’s leading opposition figure and former prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi called on Saturday for the continuation of the sit-in until all the people’s goals are met.

In a press conference in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, al-Mahdi said: “We call for the continuation of the sit-in until all the people’s goals are met.”

He called on the protest leaders to deal with the Transitional Military Council “with wisdom and not with anger.”

Al-Mahdi, Sudan’s last democratically elected premier, also expressed appreciation for the Transitional Military Council’s respect for the opposition’s role, saying: “We seek to agree with the military council on the constitutional declaration.”

He added that ousted president Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s National Congress Party (NCP) and its allies must be stripped of the illegal privileges.

Al-Mahdi: Sudan risks counter coup without deal on transition

On Thursday, al-Mahdi warned that Sudan could face a counter coup if military rulers and the opposition do not reach agreement on a handover of power to civilians.

He said hardliners in the NCP and its allies in the army would try to exploit the uncertainty to seize power.

“For them to attempt a counter coup is most probable. All the time they are conspiring,” Mahdi, 83, said in an interview with Reuters at his sprawling villa surrounded by gardens in the capital Khartoum.

“The whole group is well versed in conspiracy. The conspiratorial mind is ingrained in them.”

Former prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi, who studied at Britain’s Oxford University, was himself overthrown in a bloodless coup by al-Bashir in 1989.

Al-Mahdi predicted that Sudan’s generals would relinquish power if the current stalemate were broken.

“I think their intentions are good,” he said of the senior army officers who overthrew al-Bashir on April 11, three decades after he himself seized power, and then formed the TMC.

“They are not interested in a military government,” he said, an outcome which the African Union has said would be unacceptable.

The spokesman for Sudan’s ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC) said later on Thursday it would retain “sovereign authority only” while civilians hold the post of prime minister and head all government ministries.

The generals have offered some concessions, sacking some officials, announcing the arrest of others, including two of al-Bashir’s brothers, and ordering steps to curb fraud.

But they have insisted that, while they are willing to accept a civilian transitional government, ultimate authority will remain in their hands until elections are held up to two years from now.

Al-Mahdi’s moderate Islamic Umma party is engaged in the negotiations. Asked if he was interested in ruling Sudan now, al-Mahdi said: “I will not take part in government until and unless we have elections.”

As two bodyguards stood by, he reflected on the turbulent history of Sudan under al-Bashir including multiple armed rebellions, economic crises and allegations of war crimes in Darfur, al-Mahdi recalled what he said was the day that the Islamist Bashir began leading Sudan to failure.

“I was praying at home. Dawn prayers. And they surrounded my house,” he said of the 1989 coup which took him completely by surprise. “I think they wanted to kill me. To capture me and pretend I had tried to escape or resisted,” he added.

After al-Mahdi was initially jailed, he said he was taken to a what he described as a ghost house. Three men confronted him.

“You can save yourself if you record here that democracy has failed,” he quoted them as saying.

He added: “They wanted me to give legitimacy to their coup.”

He refused. “They took me back to an execution cell.” For the next two years he was jailed and put under house arrest.

Al-Mahdi said he had met with intelligence chief Salah Gosh and acting NCP chairman Ahmed Haroun on April 10, the day before al-Bashir was ousted, after they asked to see him.

The two men threatened to use force to disperse a protester sit-in outside the Defense Ministry, he said. Al-Mahdi said he told them he would join the sit-in to help protect the protesters.

“At this point Haroun said, ‘You will not find them because they will be crushed,’” said al-Mahdi.

Reuters could not independently verify this account. Gosh could not be reached for comment, while Haroun was arrested and jailed after al-Bashir’s removal.

Full report at:



Air raids on Libya’s capital, say sources

28 April 2019

Air raids were carried out Saturday night on the Libyan capital Tripoli, according to AFP journalists and residents who heard loud explosions.

The exact locations of the strikes were not known, but the roar of airplanes over the city was accompanied by heavy explosions between 11.00 pm and midnight.

“We are hearing sustained, uninterrupted fire” from machine guns and anti-aircraft guns “and occasional air strikes, but we do not know where exactly,” a resident of west Tripoli told AFP.

“On Facebook, users are saying that you must leave your house if you live near a barracks or a place where armed groups have taken position,” she added.

The resident added: “But we are afraid to go out into the street so late at night.”

Forces loyal to the UN-recognized government of national unity and fighters under commander Khalifa Haftar, have been engaged in battle for three weeks.

Haftar’s forces launched an offensive on April 4 to seize the capital.

After forces loyal to the Tripoli-based government of national unity launched a counter-attack last weekend, the International Committee for the Red Cross warned that residential areas of Tripoli were being turned into battlefields.

At least 278 people have been killed and more than 1,300 wounded in the clashes, according to the World Health Organization.

More than 35,000 people have been forced to flee their homes, according to the United Nations.

Full report at:



Leader of outlawed Islamist party to be buried in Algeria

27 April 2019

Abassi Madani, founder of Algeria’s banned Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), will be buried in the capital Algiers on Saturday days after his death in Qatar where he lived in exile, a security source said.

Madani had called for armed struggle in 1992 after Algeria’s military scrapped the country’s first multi-party parliamentary election which the FIS had won, and pushed for the creation of an Islamic state in the North African nation.

“Abassi Madani will be buried today Saturday in the El Alia cemetery,” in an eastern suburb of the capital near the airport, a security source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

A source close to the family said Madani’s body would arrive from Doha at around 1125 GMT and would be taken to his home in the central Belcourt neighborhood of Algiers before the burial.

Senior FIS figure El Hachemi Sahnouni said Madani could be buried either at the El Alia cemetery or the Sidi Mohamed cemetery close to his home.

Full report at:



Boko Haram terrorists overrun army base in NE Nigeria, steal weapons: Sources

Apr 27, 2019

Members of the Takfiri Boko Haram terrorist group have attacked and overrun an outpost belonging to the Nigerian government troops in the northeastern parts of the African country, stealing weapons before fleeing, military sources say.

Militants of the terror group launched their attack against the outpost at Mararrabar Kimba in the volatile Borno state late on Friday, two unnamed military sources told AFP on Saturday.

The assailants were reportedly driving more than a dozen pickup trucks with heavy machine guns mounted on their top. Terrorists were accompanied by three armored personal carriers stolen from security forces.

The terror convoy, flanked by a fleet of armed men firing from motorbikes, emerged from the woods and sped straight towards the outpost.

“There was a serious gunfight,” one of the sources said, adding, “The troops put up a good fight, but they were outgunned and overwhelmed... unfortunately, the base fell to the terrorists, who took away weapons and fled.”

The base lies some 135 kilometers from the state capital Maiduguri. It was not yet clear whether there were casualties, especially as some troopers reportedly scattered into the woods to escape the attack.

One eyewitness had told the sources that some of stranded soldiers arrived at Biu, a town around 45 kilometers away from the outpost, a number of them wounded.

Full report at:



US air strike kills three ISIS militants in Somalia just weeks after group's deputy head was killed

April 27, 2019

US forces in Africa have carried out an air strike against ISIS targets in Somalia, marking what is believed to be the 32nd air operation of the year just weeks after another raid killed the group’s second-in- command in the country.

The operation killed three ISIS militants on Friday in the Golis Mountains in northern Somalia, said the US Africa Command, Africom. No civilians were killed or wounded, it added.

"This air strike eliminated ISIS-Somalia members staged in a remote location in northern Somalia," said Major General Gregg Olson, Africom's director of operations.

"Removing these extremists impacts ISIS-Somalia's ability to terrorise innocent Somalis in the region and it creates confusion within the terrorist network."

ISIS has a relatively small presence in Somalia compared to the Al Qaeda-linked Al Shebab.

But ISIS has been particularly active in the northern Puntland region, where its fighters have established training camps and depots for weapons coming mainly from nearby Yemen.

Al Shebab, by far the largest radical Islamist group in Somalia, officially integrated into Al Qaeda in 2012. But a small number of its members – about 200 – have defected to ISIS.

That group, based in semi-autonomous Puntland, is led by Abdulqadir Mumin, who in August 2016 was placed by the US State Department on a list of international terrorists.

ISIS in Somalia has been the target of previous air strikes.

Africa Command says its April 14 strike in Somalia killed the group’s second-in-command there, Abdulhakim Dhuqub, who was in charge of the group's attack planning and daily operations.

As of late 2018, Africom put the number of ISIS fighters in Somalia at between 75 and 250 – a small number compared to the estimated 3,000 to 7,000 Al Shebab members.

The US Bureau of Investigative Journalism has documented 32 American air strikes reported by the media and military statements in Somalia in 2019. Official figures report 110 air strikes against militants in the past two years.

This month, the US admitted to civilian casualties for the first time, saying that a woman and a child had been killed in a strike against Al Shabab targets last April. Making the admission, Gen Thomas Waldhauser, head of Africom, said that a "breakdown in reporting" had led commanders to make erroneous statements on civilian deaths. Rights groups have said more civilians have been killed but the US denies the claims.

Full report at:



Southeast Asia


Controversial Muslim preacher Zamri Vinoth nabbed in Perlis for remarks against Hinduism

28 April 2019


KUALA LUMPUR, April 28 — Police today arrested controversial Muslim preacher Muhammad Zamri Vinoth Kalimuthu for investigation following complaints he made statements deemed insulting to Hinduism during a religious lecturer.

Perlis police chief Senior Assistant Commissioner Datuk Noor Mushar Mohamad confirmed the 34-year-old’s arrest in Kangar, Perlis early this morning.

“The suspect is being investigated under Section 298A of the Penal Code as well as Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 for disrupting harmony and transmitting offensive communications,” he said when contacted.

Zamri Vinoth is believed to have been picked up by Perlis’ Criminal Investigations Department serious crimes unit better known as D9 after police received multiple reports against him.

A total of 13 police reports were lodged against Zamri Vinoth yesterday by members of several non-governmental organisations at various police stations across Penang over the last four days.

Seberang Perai Tengah police chief Assistant Commissioner Nik Ros Azhan Nik Abdul Hamid was earlier reported by The Star as saying that the case was being handled by Wangsa Maju police.

A brief video said to show Zamri Vinoth being taken into custody was posted on Facebook this morning by Seberang Perai Municipal City Councillor David Marshel in praise of the police and has since been shared on other social media platforms.

Zamri Vinoth has since restricted access to his Facebook page since his arrest but his Twitter account remained accessible to the public.

Zamri Vinoth, who converted to Islam, is a known follower of controversial Muslim preacher Dr Zakir Naik who is wanted in his native India on money laundering and hate speech charges.

Dr Zakir has been accused of denigrating other faiths and being a threat to Malaysia’s multiethnic and multicultural harmony.

However, Putrajaya has said Dr Zakir who is a Malaysian permanent resident is free to move about in the country as he has not broken any of its laws.



PAS-Umno unity seed planted by me and Hadi, says Najib

Apr 28, 2019

Former Umno president Najib Abdul Razak last night told PAS members that today's 'unification' of the once political rivals had resulted from the seed planted by him and PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang.

He told a ceramah at a PAS premises in Kedah that the PAS-Umno cooperation started with them having discussions about the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (RUU355) and other matters pertaining to Islam in Malaysia.

This happened during the time he was still Umno president and prime minister, according to Najib.

"There are two 'hikmah' (blessings in disguise) from our loss (in the 14th general election).

"First, the people can now compare how it is like to be under Pakatan Harapan rule and the time the country was under Barisan Nasional.

"And second, the unity of the ummah through unification (gabungan) of PAS and Umno," he said to thunderous applause from members of the audience.

"Because I had all this while quietly initiated this with Tok Guru Hadi. He came to my house during the night to discuss about RUU 355, as well as other matters related to the interests of Muslims.

"Today, I am thankful to God that what had been started during my time, has become a reality today," Najib added.

The event called Ceramah Perdana Perpaduan Ummah was the first time that Umno leaders shared the same stage with PAS at the latter's premises.

It saw several other PAS and Umno leaders on the same stage, including PAS spiritual leader Hashim Jasin and Umno supreme council member Mahdzir Khalid, besides local leaders from both parties.

Najib also said PAS and Umno could win the next general election if they maintain the formula.

"We have done the calculation. Tak boleh lari, tak boleh lari (we won't miss).

Full report at:



Rome Statute is not about LGBT or against Islam, forum told

27 April 2019

By Ida Lim

KUALA LUMPUR, April 27 - The Rome Statute is not against Islam and it is unrelated to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, a public forum on the international treaty was told today.

G25 representative Datuk Noor Farida Ariffin noted that there has been attempts by a member of the royalty to provoke the Malays into opposing the government’s accession to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, by using the “three Rs” of “race, religion, royalty”.

“They say it’s against the Agong, Islam and it’s against the Malays. But they have not specified in what way acceding to the Rome Statute is against Islam, Malays or the royalty,” the retired diplomat told a forum that was aired live by news outlet Astro Awani.

“But when they use religion, are they saying that Islam condones heinous crimes like genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of aggression?

“This is a total misrepresentation and an insult to Islam which is a religion of peace, compassion and mercy,” she asked when rebutting arguments used by critics of the Rome Statute.

Noor Farida pointed out that the Muslims’ holy book Al-Quran states that the killing of a person is akin to killing the whole of humanity.

“And if you kill a whole ethnic group like what happens in genocide, are you saying it’s something condoned by Islam?” she said.

Noor Farida called for wider public dialogue on the matter of the Rome Statute, also calling for the government to reverse its decision to withdraw from accepting the treaty.

“But we need to encourage further public discussion and allay any fears or concerns of the public, especially Malays, who are being duped by certain quarters,” she said.

Later when speaking to reporters, Noor Farida said the government needs to educate the public before making any kind of decision on the Rome Statute, to prevent a repeat of the demonstrations “provoked” by the current opposition parties in response to an international treaty against racial discrimination ICERD.

“We need to explain to Malays in particular who are feeling so insecure that it does not impact adversely on them, it does not impact adversely on the royalty,” she added.

Universiti Malaya’s emeritus professor of law Datuk Shad Saleem Faruqi, who was a panellist at the same forum, rebutted the claim that Malaysia’s laws against same-sex intercourse would put the country’s ruler at risk of prosecution in the International Criminal Court if the Rome Statute is acceded to.

“Our King has been advised that criminal prosecution of minorities like the LGBT minorities are grounds for our King’s arrest and prosecution,” he said when arguing this to be an unfounded concern.

Just days before the Malaysian government gave in to pressure to withdraw its accession to the Rome Statute, a paper by four law lecturers was presented in an informal briefing to the Malay rulers.

The executive summary of the paper that was leaked saw the four academics cautioning that the offence of homosexual sex in Malaysia could be categorised as a persecution based on “sexual orientation or gender” under “crime against humanity” in Article 7 of the Rome Statute.

The four academics had in the paper also claimed that the International Criminal Court could launch investigations on the issue and that the “government, Parliament and the Yang di-Pertuan Agong who approved and enacted this law can be held responsible.’’ But Shad Saleem dismissed the idea, saying: “There’s nothing in the Rome Statute about LGBT. The word LGBT, transgender, sexual minority, sexual preferences are nowhere in the Rome Statute.”

Acknowledging that Malaysia’s Section 377A of the Penal Code criminalises intercourse between homosexuals, Shad Saleem said: “But as far as I know, homosexuality is not a crime against humanity.”

Shad Saleem referred to Article 7 of the Rome Statute, where crimes against humanity was defined to cover acts as part of a widespread or systematic attack on civilians, including “persecution” against any group on grounds of “political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender or “other grounds that are universally recognized as impermissible under international law”.

“By the way, how does it define gender? It says very clearly that the term ‘gender’ is to refer to two sexes, ‘male and female’,” he said, alluding to paragraph 3 of Article 7 in the Rome Statute.

He believed that the Rome Statute was drafted in such a way as they wanted to “walk the middle path” when defining “gender” and also setting the requirement of “universally recognised”.

“So there’s no chance of ICC prosecution of Yang di-Pertuan Agong because Malaysia prosecuted some homosexuals,” he concluded.

Among other things, Shad Saleem had also in the forum said that criminalising genocide or crimes against humanity would not in any way “threaten” Islam or the Malays’ special position as provided for in the Federal Constitution.

Critics of the Rome Statute had among other things claimed that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (YDPA) may be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) if Malaysia engages in war crimes as he is the supreme commander of the country’s armed forces.

Full report at:





Ties with India 'only problem' for peace in region: Pak PM Imran Khan

Apr 27, 2019

BEIJING: Pakistan's relationship with India remains the "only problem" for peace and stability in the region, Prime Minister Imran Khan has said and expressed hope of establishing a "civilised relationship" with New Delhi after the Lok Sabha elections are over.

Unless there is peace and stability in region, economic prosperity is difficult for Pakistan, and that is what right now the Pakistan government is working on, Khan who is in China to take part in the 2nd Belt and Road Forum, (BRF) said while addressing China International Cultural Communication Centre here on Friday.

Khan said Pakistan hopes that the political solution in Afghanistan will succeed and the war-ravaged country attains stability.

"Whatever happens in Afghanistan affects the Pakistan's bordering areas. So we are working for a peaceful region. We have decent relationship with Iran and we are trying to strengthen them," he was quoted as saying by state-run APP news agency.

"The only problem right now is our relationship with India. But we are hoping that after the Indian elections, we will again hope to have a civilized relationship with India too," he said.

Since his arrival here on April 25 to take part in the BRF meeting which concluded on Saturday, the cricketer-turned-politician refrained from speaking on India-Pakistan ties which in the last two months have experienced severe strains following the February 14 Pulwama terror attack carried out by the Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e Muhammed which killed 40 CRPF personnel.

His emphasis during the visit appears to be firming up more projects for the $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship project of China's ambitious trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The BRI is Chinese President Xi Jinping's signature global infrastructure policy. First announced in 2013, the project promises to build ports, roads and railways to revive the ancient Silk Road and create new trade corridors linking China to Asia, Africa and Europe.

The BRF forum aims to showcase the progress of the BRI since it began in 2013. The CPEC is opposed by India as it is being laid through the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

In his address at the roundtable meeting of the BRF forum presided by Chinese President Xi Jinping, Khan termed the CPEC as a transformational project which would play an important role in boosting connectivity between the Gwadar Port in Pakistan and Xinjiang region of China.

He also underscored the importance of greater connectivity among the BRI participating countries and proposed four specific areas for particular focus, including digital connectivity, mobility of labour, cultural connectivity and sharing best practices in knowledge and innovation.

To advance these proposals, among other things, Khan also suggested setting up of BRI Tourism Corridor to improve labour skills and mobility and creating multi-lingual digital platforms.

He also mooted cooperation among the BRI countries for poverty alleviation and campaign against corruption. In his speech at the cultural centre, Khan said the BRI had come as a blessing for Pakistan.

"Belt and Road Initiative has given us an opportunity to catch up with other nations. CPEC has provided an opportunity for Pakistan to attract investment not just from China, which is the fastest growing economy in the world now. So obviously, China is a main home from where we hope to invite investors," he said.

Khan also met Managing Director of International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing and reportedly discussed the bailout package.

Pakistan is currently undergoing a severe balance of payment crisis, despite large infusion of investments from China, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

The meeting reviewed the relationship between Pakistan and the IMF.

Khan identified the areas of reform and initiatives being undertaken by his government to stabilise the economy, control inflation and achieve fiscal balance, the APP report said.

The two leaders agreed on the importance of the IMF programme and to work towards an agreement for which a fund's delegation is coming to Islamabad.

The two sides agreed on the need for a social safety net for the vulnerable groups of the society.



'Why abolish a system you yourself are a product of?' Miandad asks PM Imran

April 28, 2019

A day after lashing out at the government for "ruining sports in the country", legendary cricketer Javed Miandad went on the offensive again and asked Prime Minister Imran Khan why he was trying to abolish a system he himself was the product of.

Miandad made those comments flanked by hockey great Islahuddin Siddiqui and squash maestro Jahangir Khan at a press conference in Karachi on Saturday.

"Me, Islahuddin, Jahangir [Khan] and Saleem Jafer, we are all the products of this [departmental] culture," said Miandad, who has been campaigning against Pakistan Cricket Board's (PCB) purported plans to scrap departmental cricket.

"This is the best system. When departmental cricket and sports were active, we were champions in how many sports and how good were we? I can tell you that if it wasn't for PIA, then it is possible the Jahangir Khan may not have been Jahangir Khan."

Miandad addressed his former teammate and incumbent prime minister, Imran Khan, saying: "You played in this system yourself. Did you not play county cricket in England? Do they not pay for playing county cricket? Were we stupid that we played there? We played because of money.

"This system was successful in Pakistan. Just ask yourself where was our cricket back then? We had world champions like Jahangir and Jansher because they had the PIA's support."

Miandad, who played under PM Imran in their triumphant 1992 campaign, said "I was expecting from Imran Khan that he would support sports even more [after coming into power]," adding that "there aren't any jobs anyway and then you're also laying off those who have jobs."

"What problem is there if banks pay a million rupees to a player but then he brings in Rs5 million worth of [advertisement benefits]?" he asked. "I am not against regional cricket but it can't work here even if it does worldwide."

Miandad advised the prime minister to listen to the people and reminded him of the many favours he had given to him.

"I ask Imran Khan to ask his own voters who is right on this issue: you or us," he said. "Politicians must be very wary of these things. If you do not listen to the people in a democracy, it will not be good for you or your party. I have never asked the prime minister of anything but I have done a lot of favours."

Miandad rued the state of sports in the country, saying: "The sports infrastructure is in tatters. There are buildings everywhere. There is nothing for sportsmen.

Full report at:



Khan’s interior minister pick raises questions about ‘new’ Pakistan

27 April 2019

Pakistan’s new interior minister, appointed in a major cabinet reshuffle this month by Prime Minister Imran Khan, is a former spy chief and close ally of the country’s last military ruler who has long been accused of deep ties to militant groups.

The appointment of retired Brigadier Ijaz Shah has been heavily criticized by the opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), whose slain former leader Benazir Bhutto regarded him as a deadly enemy.

Some analysts said it suggested Pakistan’s powerful military continued to wield heavy influence over the civilian administration - a persistent allegation since Khan took office eight months ago that both his government and the generals deny.

In an interview with the BBC after his appointment, Shah said: “What power can I give the military as interior minister? I left the army a long time ago, I am a civilian and have participated in elections.”

The prime minister’s office and the information ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

Shah was among four members of the civilian-military establishment named by Bhutto in a letter written to then President Pervez Musharraf months before her assassination as suspects who should be investigated if she was killed.

Many Pakistanis have long suspected that elements of the intelligence agencies colluded with militants in Bhutto’s assassination in a gun and bomb attack in the garrison city of Rawalpindi in December 2007. An investigation at the time blamed an al-Qaeda-allied Pakistani Taliban leader.

“Are you trying to send a message to the world that we have terrorists and the abettors of terrorists in our cabinet?” Bhutto’s son and chairman of the PPP, Bilawal Bhutto, told the country’s parliament this week, referring to Shah’s appointment.

He added: “This cannot happen.”

Shah’s office did not respond to a request for an interview or a list of questions sent by Reuters, but earlier this month then Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told local newspaper Dawn that “he is a clean man” and had been cleared of all allegations against him in a government inquiry.

Spy chief

The sweeping cabinet reshuffle comes as Pakistan is trying to attract foreign investment and present itself as a reformed country. But critics say the inclusion of an “old school” figure such as Shah in the government shows little has changed.

Under Musharraf, who as army chief seized power in a 1999 coup and ruled until 2008, Shah served as head of the military’s leading spy agency in the Punjab province, and was later appointed the head of the civilian Intelligence Bureau.

He oversaw the surrender of wanted militant Omar Saeed Shaikh, who masterminded the kidnapping and killing of Wall Street Journal correspondent Daniel Pearl in 2002.

That contributed to allegations he had been close to Islamist groups based along lawless border with Afghanistan, where Pakistan’s security services have long been accused of playing a double game.

“The biggest controversy is his links with the Afghan jihad and figures like Omar Saeed Sheikh,” author and analyst Ayesha Siddiqa told Reuters, a longstanding critic of Pakistan’s military.

She added: “Looks very much like the army chief’s choice.”

The military did not respond to a request for comment on this article, but in the past has said it does not interfere in politics.

The military has also repeatedly denied allegations levelled by the United States, Afghanistan and others that is has covertly sheltered militants based along its borders.

Under Khan’s government, Islamabad has been trying to convince the outside world that it will not tolerate militants operating from inside Pakistan.

Pakistan currently finds itself on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) “grey list” for inadequately dealing with money laundering and terrorism financing, a designation that makes it harder for the country to access international markets at a time when its economy is stumbling.

Convincing the FATF that it is making sufficient efforts to crack down on militancy will be harder with a controversial figure such as Shah in the cabinet, said PPP Senator Mustafa Khokhar.

Full report at:



Opposition likely to boycott govt briefing on NAP

Amir Wasim

April 28, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The opposition parties may stick to their previous decision of boycotting a briefing on the National Action Plan (NAP) as the government announces its fresh move to hold it on May 2.

Talking to Dawn on Saturday, members of the major opposition parties said they had boycotted the previous such meeting scheduled on March 28 taking a principled position that such a briefing should be given on the floor of the house and that they were unwilling to change their declared stance.

Saying that so far the government has not formally contacted them on its fresh plan to hold the briefing on May 2, the opposition members said it was unlikely that they would change their stance.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who is also the vice chairman of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), had written letters to the parliamentary leaders last month, inviting them to a briefing session on NAP on March 28. However, the government had to cancel the meeting at the last moment when the opposition members refused to participate in it.

Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif, however, after consulting other opposition parties had made it clear through a letter to Mr Qureshi that a briefing was acceptable only if it was given by the prime minister himself on the floor of the parliament.

Before Mr Sharif’s letter, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman had already announced that his party would boycott the briefing as his party had previously rejected NAP.

Newly-appointed federal Minis­ter for Parliamentary Affairs Azam Swati, however, on Thursday informed the Senate that the government would brief the parliamentary leaders on the implementation of NAP on May 2.

When contacted, Opposition Leader in the Senate Raja Zafarul Haq said the minister though had announced the new date for the briefing on the floor of the house, no one from the government had so far contacted them on the issue.

Similarly, parliamentary leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in the National Assembly Syed Naveed Qamar, when contacted, said that he was not in the loop as the announcement had come from the Senate.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb told Dawn that the decision to boycott the briefing had been unanimously taken jointly by all the parties. She said the opposition still wanted the briefing inside the parliament and by Prime Minister Imran Khan himself.

After the announcement by Mr Swati about the government’s fresh move to hold the briefing, PPP stalwart Raza Rabbani, who had previously rejected the idea of a briefing on NAP as insufficient and an attempt to create an elite group within the parliament, once again opposed the move and observed that a joint sitting of parliament should be convened for a briefing on NAP. He noted that if required, it could be an in-camera session.

He stressed it was the constitutional right of every member of parliament to be kept informed on matters of national security and contribute to the formation of policy.

PPP’s parliamentary leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman had regretted that the prime minister chose to outsource a briefing on NAP to his foreign minister.

In his letter to Mr Qureshi, Shahbaz Sharif had stated that the collective opposition believed in inclusive decision-making and promoting a sense of collective ownership of all decisions taken in the national interest.

“It is, therefore, suggested that your proposed briefing be given to the National Assembly so that the country can benefit from the collective wisdom of all parliamentarians, instead of selected parliamentary leaders,” Mr Sharif had written to Mr Qureshi while responding to the latter’s invitation letter to him.

Mr Qureshi in his invitation letter had stated that the meeting of the parliamentary leaders was being convened “to underscore our continued commitment to speedy implementation of NAP, which is clearly in the long-term interest of the people of Pakistan”. Although in the invitation letter there is no mention of the issue of giving extension to military courts, which were set up under NAP to hold trial of civilians charged with terrorism and which completed their two-year term on March 30, a number of opposition members believe that the main purpose of this activity is to seek their consent for giving second extension to these courts.

The opposition parties say they want the government to convene a joint sitting of parliament for briefing on such an important issue. Military courts were established in January 2015 and granted permission to try civilians charged with terrorism after the terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar the previous month. The courts remained non-functional in 2017 from January to March after expiry of the two-year constitutional cover.

Full report at:



Three Levies men martyred in Waziristan blast

April 28, 2019

MIRAMSHAH: Three personnel of the Levies force were martyred and another was injured when an explosive device planted near their check-post went off in Shawa tehsil of North Waziristan tribal district on Saturday.

Officials said the incident occurred in the Malak Shahi area of Mirali subdivision when the security personnel were going to the check-post for duty.

Read more: 'NAP to be implemented at all costs,' says Ali Zaidi

As a result of the explosion, two personnel identified as Ameer Zaman and Abdul Wali died instantly, while a third one, Nambot Khan, succumbed to injuries in the hospital, they said.

Soon after the incident, security forces reached the spot and shifted the dead and the injured to the hospital.

Full report at:



Musharraf likely to return to Pakistan from Dubai on May 1

April 28, 2019

Former president is scheduled to appear in a special court hearing on May 2.

Pakistan's former military dictator Pervez Musharraf, who is facing high treason case, is likely to return to the country on May 1, his lawyer said on Saturday.

A special court indicted General (retd) Musharraf, 75, for high treason in March 2014. He left for Dubai in 2016 to "seek medical treatment" and has not returned since.

Last month, he was admitted to a hospital in Dubai after suffering a reaction from a rare disease for which he is already under treatment.

"Despite his deteriorating medical condition, the former military ruler is determined to appear before the court that had summoned him for the hearing scheduled for May 2," Musharraf's lawyer Salman Safdar told reporters.

"The approval of former president's personal physician had become of upmost importance in the current circumstances, considering his fragile medical condition," Safdar was quoted as saying by the Express News.

However, family sources have confirmed his arrival date, he added.

The Pakistan's Supreme Court, while hearing a plea filed by a lawyer who pointed out that proceedings of the treason case had come to a halt as former president Musharraf had not returned since 2016, on April 1 directed the former military ruler to appear before the special court on May 2.

The three-member bench of the top court headed by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa also warned him that if he fails to turn up then he will lose his right to record a statement under Section 342 of the Code of Criminal Procedures.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government had filed the treason case against Musharraf over the president's imposition of extra-constitutional emergency in November 2007.

The special court declared Musharraf a proclaimed offender and ordered the confiscation of his property owing to his no-show.

Later, on orders of the Supreme Court, Musharraf's passport and national identity card were also cancelled.

Full report at:



MQM-P to launch struggle for urban Sindh province


April 28, 2019

KARACHI: The Mutta­hida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan on Saturday announced that it would launch a struggle for getting an ‘Urban Sindh’ province to end ‘injustices’ meted out to the people of urban areas, particularly Mohajirs, in all spheres of life.

The demand was made at a public meeting held by the MQM-P here at the Bagh-i-Jinnah near the Quaid-i-Azam’s mausoleum through a resolution read out by senior party leader Kanwar Naveed Jameel.

The party wanted to demonstrate its street power by holding a public meeting at the sprawling venue where the then unified MQM led by its founder Altaf Hussain had already made history by holding a women-only rally in 2012.

Judging from the party’s past performance, Saturday’s show was a disappointment al­though a good number of people, including women and children, came to the venue from different parts of the city.

Siddiqui terms PPP’s govt in Sindh racist

Speaking on the occasion, MQM-P convener and federal minister Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui strongly criticised the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and said that its ‘racist government’ had passed a resolution against the MQM in the Sindh Assembly without considering the fact that the province was actually divided into two parts in ’70s when it imposed an urban-rural quota system.

He asked why not the PPP brought a resolution against those who introduced that quota system in Sindh.

Senior party leader Amir Khan said that the MQM-P was not against the provincial autonomy but it was not going to accept provincial hegemony which only caused destruction in Karachi and urban Sindh. “People of Karachi will not become slaves of Larkana,” he declared.

He said that the current Sindh government was an incompetent set-up. “People of Sindh have to rid themselves of feudals and landlords,” he said.

He said that the country was divided into four provinces with a dictatorial decision of Gen Yahya Khan.

Earlier, Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar, Nasreen Jalil, Faisal Subzwari, Khwaja Izharul Hasan and other MQM-P leaders also spoke.

Participants of the public meeting replied in the affirmative when Kanwar Naveed Jameel presented 11 resolutions.

One of the resolutions said that the MQM-P believed that a struggle for creation of an Urban Sindh province should be initiated to end injustices meted out to the people of urban areas, particularly Mohajirs, in all spheres of life.

Accusing what it called the “biased, racist and anti-Karachi” PPP government of providing jobs to non-deserving people on fake domiciles and permanent residence certificates, the MQM-P demanded setting up of a judicial commission that could investigate all recruitments made during the tenure of PPP government.

It also demanded that the provincial government spend 50 per cent of the taxes collected from Karachi on urban areas of the province.

The party demanded that all the civic functions that had been snatched by the PPP-led provincial government be given back to the Karachi Metropolitan Corpor­ation. It warned the K-Electric to stop loadshedding.

Full report at:



Presidential system will spell doom, says JI chief

April 28, 2019

LAHORE: Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) chief Siraj ul Haq has said the country will face chaos if the presidential form of government is imposed on it as in that case it would not be possible to unite all the different nationalities and federating units.

“The presidential system broke the country. General Ayub Khan, Zia-ul-Haq and Pervez Musharraf had complete authority yet the issues of the country were not resolved. The public wants end to poverty, inflation and unemployment and not the presidential system,” he said on Saturday.

Sirajul Haq was addressing a press conference at the JI’s headquarters at Mansura along with the JI Secretary General Liaquat Baloch and central information secretary Qaiser Sharif.

Criticising the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government over its performance, he termed the nine months of the government an accumulation of failures, disappointment and deprivation.

“All political parties gave the government the chance to play freely but the government has failed to deliver. No one feels the need to protest against the PTI government consisting of people from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Musharraf.”

He said the current government is a new edition of the PPP and Musharraf governments, which came into power, he said, owing to the failures and incompetence of former governments.

“The government deserves accolades for proving in nine months that it is incompetent. Not just one or two ministers in the government but the entire lot is incompetent,” he added.

He said Prime Minister Imran Khan earlier raised slogans against unemployment and said he preferred suicide over approaching the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for loans.

“Imran Khan is taking loans from the IMF after accepting their conditions. He has implemented the IMF’s demands even before grant of package,” he said. Haq said the government is presenting loans as good news for the nation, adding that finance minister Asad Umar was removed on directives of the IMF and the World Bank.

The JI chief rejected the proposed tax amnesty scheme saying this amnesty is being given to convert black money into white money. He reminded that the government had promised to bring back the looted wealth through accountability but has failed to bring back even one dollar in 9 months.

Full report at:



Bomb blast kills 3 Pakistani soldiers near Afghan border

April 28, 2019

PESHAWAR, Pakistan: A Pakistani security official says a bomb blast near the Afghan border has killed three security personnel.

Local administration official Rehmat Khan says a paramilitary soldier was wounded in Saturday's blast near a security checkpoint in North Waziristan, which was a longtime stronghold for the Taliban, Al-Qaida and other militant groups. No one claimed responsibility for the attack.

Pakistan claims to have driven out the militants in a series of military operations in recent years, but the region still sees occasional attacks.

Full report at:





'Guj IS suspects had links with Lanka terror handler’

Apr 28, 2019

Even as Sri Lanka uncovers the vast network of terror in the country, investigators in Gujarat have established links between a terror handler in the island nation and two IS suspects who were picked up from Bharuch and Surat in October 2017.

Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) has detailed WhatsApp chats between the two IS suspects, Ubed Mirza and Kasim Stimberwala, and their Lanka-based handler Aadhil Ameez alias Aadhil AX, which took place in 2017.

The conversation among the trio starts with a discussion on the Godhra riots. According to the chargesheet submitted by NIA against Ubed and Kasim, Aadhil claims to be a former soldier of Sri Lanka Special Forces who later trained extensively in Pakistan.

In the chats, the trio talked about an unidentified person, suspected to be an IS operative based in Sri Lanka, ATS sources said.

“Arre Bro...that guy from Sri Lanka..What could he do?” Ubed asks Aadhil, who replies, “He is ready for anything.”

Ubed then inquires if the Sri Lankan person could speak Hindi? Sources said the conversations are attached in the chargesheet filed in April 2018 against Ubed, who was a practising lawyer in Surat, and Kasim, an electrocardiogram (ECG) technician in a Bharuch hospital.

Ubed and Kasim were highly radicalised in the group of IS sympathizers who were in touch through social media and handled by Aadhil. The duo was planning to carry out lone wolf attack on a synagogue in Ahmedabad’s Khadia area before they were nabbed.

“If Taliban was not fighting the US, they would have wiped off India's name from the global map,” Aadhil says in one of the conversation with the duo.

Sources in intelligence agencies said the conversation about the Sri Lanka IS operative was shared with the central agencies in 2018.



Kargil martyr’s father held for terror hoax call

Apr 28, 2019

BENGALURU: A 65-year-old ex-Army truck driver, who is the father of a Kargil war martyr, was arrested on Saturday on charges of making a hoax call to police control room on Friday, claiming major cities in south India, Goa and Maharashtra would be hit by terror attacks.

The accused is Sundar Murthy, a resident of Munivenkateshwara Layout in Avalahalli near Hoskote, Bengaluru Rural. His eldest son, Saravana Perumal, was an Armyman who lost his life during the Kargil war.

The hoax call was made around 5.30pm to police control room, Namma Control. Speaking in Tamil and broken Hindi, the caller had said, “Terror attacks will take place on trains. At least 19 terrorists are holed up in Ramanathapuram, Tamil Nadu.” The call was brought to the notice of DG&IGP Neelamani M Raju, who had alerted her counterparts in other states. In his statement, Murthysaid he was worried about the security in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.



US doesn’t share info on Pak’s use of F-16, says bilateral issue

by Sushant Singh

April 28, 2019

The United States (US) government has declined to share any information with India after New Delhi informed American officials of the use of F-16 fighter jets by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) in its attempted air strike on Indian military installations on February 27.

“Soon after we were informed by the Indian side about Pakistan using F-16 aircraft on February 27, we informed the Indians that we will not be sharing any information on the subject as it is a bilateral matter between the US and Pakistan,” a US official told The Sunday Express on condition of anonymity.

The official said there is an underlying logic to this position which the Indian side appreciates: “If a third country tomorrow wants information about the C130 or C17 or Apaches that the IAF uses, our answer would be the same. It is a bilateral matter between India and the US.”

According to the US official, while India shared inputs which suggested the use of F-16 fighter jets by Pakistan, it has neither presented any evidence nor asked for any inputs about the shooting down of an F-16 by the IAF on February 27. He said the only evidence he has seen was “what was presented in the Indian media”.

To show that Pakistan used the American F-16s, Delhi shared evidence such as call signs associated with PAF F-16s, and specific details of the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air To Air Missile (AMRAAM) used by the intruding fighting falcons. But no AWACS pictures or radar images were shared with the US, for reasons of IAF’s operational security.

The statement was made after reports that the US sold F-16 fighters to Pakistan on the condition that they would be used only in a defensive role, and the PAF had used them for an air strike targeting Indian military installations.

“As regards how to use F-16, in what context (they) were used or not — because at that point of time our entire Air Force was airborne — it remains between Pakistan and the US to see how the MoUs (memorandums of understanding) regarding the use of F-16 have been adhered to or otherwise,” Pakistan DG ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor was quoted as having said.

Full report at:



Suspected mastermind of Sri Lanka attacks spent 'substantial time in India': The Hindu

April 27, 2019

Mohammad Zahran Hashim — the suspected mastermind of the Sri Lankan Easter bombings — spent a "substantial amount of time in south India", The Hindu reported on Friday citing a top source within the Sri Lankan military.

“We are looking into the IS angle. We also suspect that some of those radical youth (suspected bombers) were indoctrinated and trained in India, possibly Tamil Nadu,” revealed the senior military official, who wished to remain anonymous.

While Indian officials did not state that Hashim had travelled to India, they did point out that he had maintained virtual links with youth believed to be of Indian origin, said The Hindu.

Hashim's ties with south India were also confirmed by Hilmy Ahamed, vice-president of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka.

"Hashim had shifted base to southern India," he told AFP, adding that "all his videos have been uploaded from India. He uses boats of smugglers to travel back and forth from southern India."

The militant Islamic State group had claimed responsibility for the terror attacks that left more than 250 dead, and also released a picture showing eight suspected bombers. Among them, the only man seen with his face uncovered is believed to be Hashim.

Hashim was identified by investigators as the leader of the National Thowheed Jamaath, the group believed to have executed the highly coordinated series of explosions last Sunday that saw over 250 people killed. However, it later appeared that he may have broken off from the NTJ and founded another extremist outfit that assisted with the attacks.

Meanwhile, more than a hundred of Hashim's Facebook followers are being scrutinised, said an official on condition of anonymity.

The notion that Hashim made use of "doctrinal videos" in order to likely radicalise youth, first emerged when Indian authorities questioned seven individuals of a group whose leader was found to be a follower of Hashim.

"The men were IS sympathisers and arrested in September 2018 in Coimbatore, on suspicion that they were plotting the assassination of certain political and religious leaders in India," The Hindu said, quoting the official.

Hashim carried out Shangri-La bombing

Although Sri Lankan authorities have yet to officially name any of the nine suicide bombers or suspects, officials confirmed on Friday that Hashim was one of two bombers who executed the blasts at the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo.

"He led the radical group in (the town of) Kattankudy, in Batticaloa district of Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province, and was known for espousing extremist religious ideas, often to the discomfort of many within the community," The Hindu reported.

Full report at:





Iran: Leaving nuclear treaty one of ‘numerous choices’ after US sanctions

28 April 2019

Quitting a treaty designed to stop the spread of nuclear weapons is one of Iran’s “numerous choices” after the United States tightened sanctions on Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was quoted as saying on Sunday by state media.

Washington has decided not to renew exemptions from US sanctions to buyers of Iranian oil, in an effort to cut Iran’s vital oil exports to zero.

“The Islamic Republic’s choices are numerous, and the country’s authorities are considering them,... and leaving NPT (nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) is one of them,” state broadcaster IRIB’s website quoted Zarif as saying.

Meanwhile, Iran’s state television reported on Sunday that Zarif is planning to visit North Korea, without giving the date of the visit.

“The date of this trip will be set and announced soon,” the television quoted Zarif as saying. It gave no further details.

North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho, whose country faces international and US sanctions, visited Iran last August as the United States reintroduced sanctions against the Islamic Republic.



Yemen army kills dozens of Houthi militia

April 27, 2019

DUBAI: The Yemeni army killed at least 70 Houthi militia in Al-Dhale province south of the country, Saudi state agency SPA reported on Friday.

The clashes in Morais district killed a field commander and injured other militants.

Meanwhile, senior diplomats from Saudi Arabia, UAE, Britain and the US met in London to discuss the situation in Yemen.

The Yemen Quartet “agreed on the need for the withdrawal of Houthi militias from the ports and the implementation of the Stockholm Agreement,” Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir.

Full report at:



US Central Command Chief says he has ‘resources necessary’ to deter Iran

28 April 2019

US Central Command Chief General Kenneth McKenzie said on Saturday that the United States would deploy the necessary resources to counter any dangerous actions by Iran, Sky News Arabia reported.

“We’re gonna continue to reach out to our partners and friends in the region to ensure that we make common cause against the threat of Iran,” McKenzie, on an official visit to the Gulf region, was quoted as saying by Sky News Arabia.

“I believe we’ll have the resources necessary to deter Iran from taking actions that will be dangerous,” he said, according to a transcript released by the Abu Dhabi-based channel.

He said: “We will be able to respond effectively.”

Tensions between Tehran and Washington have risen since the Trump administration last year withdrew from an international nuclear deal with Iran and began ratcheting up sanctions.

Earlier this month, the United States blacklisted Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

Washington on Monday demanded buyers of Iranian oil stop purchases by May or face sanctions, ending six months of waivers which allowed Iran’s eight biggest buyers, most of them in Asia, to continue importing limited volumes.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and some senior military commanders have threatened to disrupt oil shipments from Gulf countries if Washington tries to strangle Tehran oil exports.

McKenzie also said a reduction of US troops in Syria would be done cautiously.

“On the long term, we’re gonna reduce our forces in Syria, we recognize that, that’s the guidance in which we are operating.”

“That will be something that we will look at very carefully as we go forward,” the general said.

President Donald Trump had ordered the withdrawal of US troops Syria in December after he said they had defeated ISIS extremist group in Syria.

In February, a senior administration official said the United States will leave about 400 US troops split between two different regions of Syria.

Full report at:



Orthodox Christians mark ‘Holy Fire’ Easter ceremony in Jerusalem

27 April 2019

Huge crowds of pilgrims on Saturday marked the “Holy Fire” ceremony at Christianity’s holiest site in Jerusalem’s Old City on the eve of Orthodox Easter.

Some 10,000 believers holding candles squeezed into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

Thousands more crammed the square outside and surrounding streets to receive the flame, representing the resurrection of Christ, which passed from candle to candle and will be taken back to Orthodox churches worldwide.

The ceremony at the church is the holiest event for Orthodox Christianity.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the rest of the Old City lies in east Jerusalem, occupied and later annexed by Israel following the Six-Day War of 1967.

The Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Roman Catholic denominations share custody of the church.

Full report at:



Israel to free two Syrian prisoners in return for soldier’s remains

27 April 2019

Israel will release two prisoners in return for the remains of an Israeli soldier missing since 1982 which were recovered by Russian special forces in Syria, an Israeli official said.

Russia this month handed over the remains and personal effects of Zachary Baumel, who was 21 when he was declared missing in action along with two other soldiers in the Battle of Sultan Yacoub during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon.

“Israel has decided to release two prisoners as a goodwill gesture,” the Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Saturday, according to Reuters.

The official did not reveal the identities or nationalities of the prisoners.

But Russia, which secured the return of Baumel’s remains from Syria, said they were Syrian.

Baumel went missing during the Sultan Yacoub battle between the Israeli army and Syrian forces during Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon.

Later on Saturday, the Arabic service of Israel’s Kan radio identified the two prisoners as Nashit Ahmed, 35, and Zidan Tawil, 57, the Associated Press reported.

The first was arrested 14 years ago when he was trying to infiltrate an Israeli army base, and the second is a resident of a Golan Heights village who was arrested on drug charges, the radio said, citing security sources.

On Friday, the Russian envoy to Syria, Alexander Lavrentyev said the return of Baumel’s body was not a “unilateral” step.

Full report at:



Saudi airstrikes leave seven more civilians dead in southern Yemen

Apr 27, 2019

At least seven civilians have been killed when Saudi military aircraft carried out airstrikes in Yemen’s southern province of Dhale as the Riyadh regime presses ahead with its atrocious bombardment campaign against its southern neighbor.

Saudi fighter jets conducted aerial assaults against two civilian cars as they were traveling along a road in the al-‘Awd district of the province on Saturday afternoon, an unnamed local source told Yemen’s Arabic-language al-Masirah television network.

The source added that there were women and children among the fatalities.

Earlier in the day, Saudi military aircraft launched airstrikes against residential buildings in the southwestern Yemeni city of Dhamar. There were no immediate reports about possible casualties or the extent of damage caused.

Separately, Yemeni army soldiers and allied fighters from Popular Committees targeted Saudi-backed militiamen loyal to Yemen's former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi at al-Hammad base in Saudi Arabia’s southern border region of Najran, leaving a large number of them dead or injured in the process.

The development came a day after nearly a dozen people were killed as armed clashes erupted between rival Saudi-paid militiamen in Yemen’s southwestern province of Ta’izz.

 A security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said at least 10 people had been killed and dozens of others injured from both sides in the exchange of gunfire.

The official added that many families were forced to evacuate their homes near the site of the fighting amid panic over their lives and safety of their property.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the government of Hadi back to power and crushing the Houthi Ansarullah movement.

According to a December 2018 report by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, the Saudi-led war has claimed the lives of over 60,000 Yemenis since January 2016.

Full report at:



Erdogan pledges to confront opponents in own party after elections loss

Apr 27, 2019

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) suffered shock election defeats in the capital Ankara and commercial hub Istanbul last month, has vowed to confront opponents inside his own party.

"While we're fighting outside, I have to say, we had people doing us wrong from the inside too," said Erdogan, while addressing a gathering of the AKP in the capital Ankara on Saturday.

The March 31 elections saw Turks voting to elect mayors, municipal councils, and other local officials. Erdogan’s AKP secured an overall victory with some 51 percent of the votes.

The ruling party, however, suffered major defeats in the elections, which handed a victory to the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) in the political power base, Ankara and the third-largest city of Izmir.

The city of Istanbul seems to have come out from under the AKP's 25-year rule as the results showed the CHP had narrowly won control of the country's economic, cultural and historic center.

"What is going on in which province, in which district, all that information come to us. We know it all ... For the future of this organization, we will call them to account. We're not going to carry them on our backs," Erdogan said.

The Turkish president said his party would keep up its legal campaign challenging the results and calling for recount.

"Until the last moment, we will continue our legal struggle. It is certain that there is a scam here. We have to get the case resolved, so that we can find peace," he said.

"Although we have won the districts, we will question why we lost the big cities," he said, adding, "We need to focus on what to do and how to evaluate this process, especially in the metropolitan cities".

‘Istanbul mayoral election questionable’

He further raised doubts about the credibility of the elections in Istanbul, saying documents show a very serious organized set-up in the polls.

Erdogan said that his ruling party had succeeded in local elections held last month.

"Every election is an exam, struggle and an opportunity for assessment. We substantially succeeded in the March 31 local elections," said Erdogan.

Elsewhere in his remarks, the Turkish leader said Ankara was determined to continue its fight against terrorist groups in Syria.

Ankara, which has been assisting several militant groups fighting to topple the government of President Bashar al-Assad, has moderated its initial hostility toward Damascus and been working with Iran and Russia to restore peace to Syria within the Astana talks.

He also said that Turkey would take measures to acquire the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system despite US pressures from the United States.

“We will continue taking steps to clear terror swamps in Syria and procure S-400 and similar security entrenchments," he said.

Moscow and Ankara finalized an agreement on the delivery of the S-400 missile systems in December 2017. In April 2018, Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin announced an agreement on expediting the delivery of the missile systems. At the time it was said that the delivery could be made between late 2019 and early 2020.

The deal has drawn concerns among some of Turkey’s NATO allies, particularly the US, who claim the missile batteries are not compatible with those of the military alliance.

Full report at:



Macron’s ‘Armenia genocide’ remembrance irks Erdogan

April 28, 2019

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan upped his war of words on Saturday with French counterpart Emmanuel Macron for creating a day of remembrance for the 1915 Armenian “genocide.”

Macron decided in February to formally to mark the mass killings and forced deportations of Armenians by troops from the Ottoman Empire — which preceded modern-day Turkey and sided with German and Austro-Hungary in World War I.

France on Wednesday held its first “national day of commemoration of the Armenian genocide.”

It was the first major European country to recognize the massacres as genocide in 2001 and Macron has said his decision on a commemoration is designed to show Paris “knows how to look history in the face.”

But Erdogan, who has urged “political novice” Macron to “focus on massacres committed by French troops during the colonial era” on Saturday again denounced the idea.

“Delivering a message to 700,000 Armenians who live in France will not save you, Monsieur Macron,” Erdogan told a gathering of his ruling party in Kizilcahamam, north of Ankara.

“Learn first to be honest in politics — if you are not you cannot win,” said Erdogan, adding he had told Macron his views several times face to face.

Turkish officials have indicated France should look first at its own record, notably in Algeria and its role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Rwanda’s current government accuses Paris of being complicit in the atrocities committed by the majority Hutu community on minority Tutsis.

France has always denied the allegations and Macron announced the creation of a panel of historians and researchers earlier in April which will be tasked with investigating France’s role.

Full report at:



Turkey’s Erdogan vows to confront opponents inside party after vote loss

April 27, 2019

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan vowed on Saturday to confront opponents inside his own party weeks after he suffered shock election defeats in the capital Ankara and commercial hub Istanbul.

Erdogan and his supporters have up to now blamed the losses on electoral fraud by unspecified groups and launched a string of legal challenges against the results.

“While we’re fighting outside, I have to say, we had people doing us wrong from the inside too,” Erdogan said during a speech at an AK Party retreat, without naming any individuals.

“What is going on in which province, in which district, all that information come to us. We know it all ... For the future of this organization, we will call them to account. We’re not going to carry them on our backs.”

The president did not spell out what actions he would take. Authorities have suspended or sacked 150,000 civil servants and military personnel in recent years, accusing many of them of being involved in a failed 2016 military coup.

More than 77,000 people have been jailed pending trial and widespread arrests still regularly happen.

Initial results of the March 31 local election showed the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) won the mayoralty of Ankara and control of Istanbul — which AKP and its Islamist predecessors have dominate for 25 years.

Erdogan said the party would keep up its legal campaign challenging the results and calling for recounts.

“Until the last moment, we will continue our legal struggle. It is certain that there is a scam here. We have to get the case resolved, so that we can find peace,” he said.

Full report at:




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