New Age Islam News Bureau
17 May 2018
Indian expat Saji Cheriyan in front of the mosque he has built for workers in Fujairah
• How Terrorist Groups Like ISIS Use Reading Lists to Teach Their Ideology
• Trump’s Surprising Ramadan Message to Muslims
• Religion, Science Can Exist In Their Domains without Clashing: Nuclear Physicist
• Hassan Rouhani Lauds Peaceful Co-Existence of Multiple Faiths in India; Calls Islam Religion of Kindness
• Iran UN Envoy Says Israel's Monday Massacre A Day of Shame for Muslims
• How Terrorist Groups Like ISIS Use Reading Lists to Teach Their Ideology
• Christian Businessman from India Gifts Mosque to Muslim Workers in UAE
• Saudi state security designates 10 Hezbollah leaders as terrorists
• More Senior Terrorist Commanders Killed in Iraqi Forces' Operation
• Kurds Continue Forced Recruitment in Northern Syria
• Egypt president Sisi says in talks with Palestinians, Israel
• Syrian military seizes key swath of land in country’s center
• 8 killed, dozens injured as bomb explosion hits funeral near Iraq's Baghdad
• Trump’s Surprising Ramadan Message to Muslims
• US Has 1,000 Open ISIS Investigations but a Steep Drop in Prosecutions
• US Sanctions Target ‘Hezbollah’ Chief, Deputy, Other Officials and Entities
• Canadian PM Wishes Blessed Ramadan to Muslim Nations
• Weapons meant for US-backed militants handed over to al-Qaeda: Report
• Religion, Science Can Exist In Their Domains without Clashing: Nuclear Physicist
• Pakistan to spearhead OIC campaign against US
• Pakistan army kills militant wanted for slaying 100 Shiites
• Hafiz Saeed is Pak citizen…can join politics if eligible, says Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, DG ISPR of Pakistan
• JUI-F chief calls for referendum on FATA’s merger with KP
• Waziristan tribesmen continue sit-ins
• Establishment forcing people to change political loyalties: Liaquat Baloch
• Colonel martyred, 3 terrorists killed in Killi Almas operation in Balochistan
• ‘Pakistan, Tajikistan have tremendous responsibility towards Afghanistan’
• ATC resumes Mumbai attacks case after Nawaz questions delay
• Hassan Rouhani Lauds Peaceful Co-Existence of Multiple Faiths in India; Calls Islam Religion of Kindness
• Miscreants Leave Burning Cylinder outside Mosque at Udaipur, Rajasthan
• Hindu-Muslim Unity Comes To the Fore Post Violence at Aurangabad, Maharashtra
• New Delhi Responds to Srinagar’s Call, Announces Ramzan Ceasefire
• Pakistan seeks India’s help for conservation, excavation of Mohenjo Daro
• With 2 attacks, terrorists make intentions clear
• J&K truce: With locals taking militancy out of ISI control, Pak may instigate attacks
• Terrorists respond to Centre's unilateral ceasefire by more terror
• Iran UN Envoy Says Israel's Monday Massacre A Day of Shame for Muslims
• Gaza’s Youngest Martyr: 8-Month-Old Laila
• Hamas official says 50 members killed this week on Gaza border
• Terrorists Recruiting Forces in Afrin with Turkey's Backup
• Guatemala Opens Israel Embassy in Jerusalem after US Move
• Merkel: Transatlantic ties must endure dispute about Iran nuclear deal
• Arab League will meet on Thursday to discuss escalating situation in Gaza
• Israeli forces kill two Palestinians near border as Gaza buries dead
• US, Israel ‘inhumane moves’ will bolster Palestinian resistance, Rouhani tells Erdogan
• Iran president raps some Arab, Muslim states for silence on Israel's Gaza crimes
• 10 Afghan Soldiers, 44 Militants Killed In Clashes
• President Ghani Apologizes After Afghan Air Strike Kills 30 Children
• Rohingya Muslims face difficult Ramadan in Bangladesh refugee camps
• Myanmar policeman denies planting documents on Reuters reporters
• New clashes erupt in Farah city in West of Afghanistan
• Former Inmates of China’s Muslim ‘Reeducation’ Camps Tell of Brainwashing, Torture
• Muslim Youth Group Tells Anwar to Finish What He Started
• Freed Leader Anwar to Hold Line on Islamic Extremism
• Pakatan Harapan’s Election Victory Is like Rekindling the Torch for Islam
• Philippines close to approving Islamic autonomous region
• 4 Shot Dead In Attack on Indonesia Police; Officer Killed
• Indonesia hit by new IS attack after suicide bombings
• Young Filipino Muslims leave for Malaysia peace tour
• Public awareness is important to reduce food wastage during Ramadan
• Suicide Bombings: Boko Haram Adopts New Tactics
• Nigeria Denies Attending US Embassy’s Opening Ceremony
• Nigeria: Sultan Declares Thursday Ramadan, Urges Muslims to Begin Fast
• Rwanda: Muslims Urged on Peace, Helping the Needy as Holy Month Begins
• Revealing the Generosity of the UK's Muslim Community during Ramadan
• Thousands in Paris Protest Israeli Killings
• Hundreds show solidarity with Palestine in London
• Macron Announces He Will Launch Islamic Reformation in France, Starting After Ramadan
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
How Terrorist Groups Like ISIS Use Reading Lists to Teach Their Ideology
May 16, 2018
One of the advantages that extremists have over traditional clerical establishments is that they have a different way of reasoning. While today’s extremists tend to use simple and direct reasoning to formulate their religious edicts, traditionalists have to navigate more complex norms and ideas established over centuries.
An extremist typically applies what he views as a clear text to a given situation to reach a conclusion. A ruler who applies manmade laws would be labelled an apostate because, to them, there is a text that says whoever rules through anything other than God’s laws is an apostate.
For a learned cleric, the reasoning is simply absurd, because it overlooks the original meaning of the cited verse in its context as well as the consensus over centuries. For those with no such training, “out of context”, literal and simplistic readings can still be found to be persuasive.
This disconnect between the methodologies of scholars trained in Islamic jurisprudence and extremists who appropriate religious texts to advance their views presents a dilemma. Because an extremist uses a selective and simplistic logic, a traditionalist tends to treat the logic with the disdain of a seasoned scholar. They might produce a general opinion about the “deviated” views but rarely deal with the subject head-on.
This attitude has enabled extremists to continue to produce manuals and books, which established clerics do not bother to read, much less critique. The methodology that extremists use in these works is different from that used by clerics trained in centuries-old institutions. But an extremist’s way of reaching conclusions can still appeal to specific demographics, which is why established clerics’ tendency to merely dismiss extremist views leaves a vacuum and plays into the hands of extremists.
With the passage of time, an extremist religious edict that is left uncriticised could become an accepted view. Suicide bombing is one example. Fatwas produced nearly two decades ago to justify suicide attacks in specific contexts are now much harder to roll back than if they were addressed at the time. Today, the old fatwas are being used as a basis to produce new opinions about whether suicide tactics could be used against certain targets in certain Muslim communities.
One such example is a 579-page document written by a veteran extremist known as Abu Abdullah Al Muhajir. The document, helpfully and for the first time, has been thoroughly examined by analysts at the Quilliam Foundation, a British counter-extremism organisation – an effort that should be replicated by mainstream clerics.
The document, titled the Jurisprudence of Blood, addresses questions that extremists deal with in battlefields and in daily life. In 2016, I identified the author and the book, also known as Questions About the Jurisprudence of Jihad, as one of the top works that influence groups such as ISIS. The book was also one of two “favourite books” by the founder of ISIS, Abu Musab Al Zarqawi. Along with other writings, this document justifies gory violence and indiscriminate killing employed by extremists.
The book is an example of how modern-day terrorists find it necessary to draft their own works to justify and teach their ideology and practices instead of merely relying on existing books of jurisprudence. The reason is that they have a different approach and are highly selective in the way they examine Islamic teachings.
This fact can be discerned easily by examining “reading lists” recommended by extremists, whether ISIS or Al Qaeda before it. Even when titles in these lists include established works, terrorist fighters typically recommend the reading of the original texts not directly but by proxy and recommend an Islamist cleric’s interpretation of the original book.
The document highlighted by the Quilliam Foundation’s analysts has become a basic and foundational text for extremists. Failure to refute it when it first came out means that few will now listen to any arguments attacking the book because its influence has already become too pervasive to track and undo. Radicalised movements have gone beyond it after internalising it.
Take another author known as Sayyid Imam Al Sharif, who wrote a similarly large document titled Comprehensive Guide for Seeking Noble Knowledge. The book is among the most-read by extremists, if not the top read.
Even though the author retracted some of his views from his prison cell in the wake of the 2011 uprising in Egypt, ISIS continued to cite his writings while recognising his “relapse”. The book was identified by a senior Al Qaeda leader in Syria as still the most influential work for recruitment inside prisons.
That extremists continue to use books whose authors abandoned some of their views demonstrates the difficulty of putting the genie back in the bottle once out. Even if the author is no longer regarded as an authority, his work can still be influential on its own because the ideas were not discredited. Extremists sometimes pick specific works of an author whom they consider to be a deviant.
Extremism is still evolving and new groups emerge, based on new realities and circumstances that they face. But collectively, their experience and ideas could slowly build a school of jurisprudence that could stand on its own and turn into fully fledged movements. With time, the failure to seriously understand how they communicate their views and proactively respond to them will create a cumulative extremist culture hardened to criticism from the mainstream.
Trump’s surprising Ramadan message to Muslims
By Michelle Boorstein
May 16, 2018
Offering warm greetings on Ramadan and hosting an iftar meal have been standard White House behavior for decades during the major Muslim holiday — but not during the Trump presidency. That appears to be changing.
Ramadan last year featured a White House holiday statement focusing on terrorism, including President Trump’s comment that the sacred holiday tens of millions observe “strengthens awareness of our shared obligation to reject violence.” The White House and the State Department broke with tradition and didn’t hold a celebratory iftar (the ceremonial break-fast meal each sunset during Ramadan).
But Tuesday, the White House released a statement with a markedly different tone, saying Ramadan “reminds us of the richness Muslims add to the religious tapestry of American life.” The month-long holiday begins this week.
The White House is also exploring working with the State Department to host an iftar in early June, said Ray Mahmood, a prominent Muslim real estate developer who has long been involved in interfaith diplomacy in the D.C. area.
“I think they are doing one, from what we’ve heard,” Mahmood said. Asked about the weight of such a ritual event at a time when the country is experiencing a rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric and actions, and as the White House continues in court to press what candidate Trump called the “Muslim ban,” Mahmood said these steps are significant.
“I think they are very important to the Muslim community. At least they feel the president at the White House is doing this, which shows some tolerance and acceptance,” he said Wednesday.
Deputy White House press secretary Lindsay Walters said Wednesday that the White House had “no update at this time.”
Relations between most Muslim Americans and Trump soured during his candidacy after he proposed banning all Muslims from the United States as a security measure against terrorism. In 2016, he began advocating mosque surveillance, saying that “we have to go and we have to maybe check, respectfully, the mosques.”
Most Republican voters supported Trump’s proposals, but polling this month shows that a majority of Americans think Trump’s policies “have further disadvantaged Muslims,” according to research done in February by AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Why the moves are happening isn’t clear, and the White House wouldn’t comment on that question, but some longtime observers of the way presidents have engaged with Muslim issues noted that last year Stephen K. Bannon was still chief strategist at the White House. Bannon has long sharply criticized Islam in various ways and many considered him hostile to Muslims. Bannon left the White House in August.
“I’d argue there is a sense of urgency that’s more acute because anti-Muslim sentiment has become so mainstream. There is a feeling these types of events are needed even more,” said one of those observers.
The White House is exploring holding a relatively small iftar June 6, with a few dozen people invited, according to some who had heard of the planning. Attendees primarily would be ambassadors from countries with large Muslim populations, and some U.S. Muslim leaders.
Although the Muslim American community is small, its voting power has in recent decades been very concentrated in one party or the other for president. President George W. Bush got 78 percent of the Muslim American vote, but the GOP bond began to nose-dive after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the Iraq War, and the subsequent rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton won huge majorities of Muslim Americans.
Even so, for many, these events that may seem to most Americans like simple social happenings can reflect symbolic and even policy and political implications. Even with wide Muslim American voting support for Obama, for example, some Muslims urged boycotts of Obama’s iftars to protest what they considered improper U.S. surveillance of mosques, and also U.S. support of Israel in its engagement in Gaza.
A former State Department official said that such parties are carried out by protocol officials but that the events’ existence is driven by policymake
Religion, Science Can Exist In Their Domains without Clashing: Nuclear Physicist
May 17, 2018
LAHORE: Renowned nuclear physicist, activist distinguished Forman Christian College professor Professor Pervez Hoodbhoy on Wednesday said that there was no danger to religion from science, and therefore both could exist in their own domains without clashing.
Speaking on “Science and Reason in the Age of Unreason” held at the Centre for Governance and Policy of Information Technology University (ITU), Hoodbhoy said that Ibne Khaldun was the last great Muslim scientist 700 years ago and after him the Muslims never engaged with science as with the beginning of the fourteenth century the Islamic world came under the sway of religious scholars who disregard and disparage science.
He gave a broad historical overview of the development of science in the world and said that Muslims were world leaders in science. “It was led initially by translation efforts, but soon enlightened Caliphs made the Islamic world the centre for the world’s knowledge,” he exclaimed.
He charted the development of science in South Asia by noting that despite the fact the Mughals were very rich and made magnificent buildings, they did not promote the study of science. “The king liked the telescope and used it, but never wondered how it was made,” he said while underscoring the need for curiosity and learning. He also said that Hindus in South Asia excelled in science and especially mathematics was that the Muslims, who were the rulers, were not interested in it, and therefore left it to others. “The fault is our own, we never wanted to engage with science,” he said.
Speaking about the vision and works of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and the Aligarh movement, Professor Hoodbhoy said that Sir Syed showed that one could both be a good Muslim and still be rational as he emphasised that if the realms of religion and science were kept separate then there was no clash between the two.
Discussing the present scenario, he decried the state of science research, learning and teaching in Pakistan and added, “It was not that we never engaged with science as in 1973 our institutions had an excellent group of scientists, but later on science was relegated to the background and pseudo-science and religiously oriented science was promoted.”
“The mixing of science and religion under General Ziaul Haq was the death-knell for the disciple in Pakistan,” he argued. “We need to change our approach to science for it to develop and flourish in Pakistan,” he emphasised.
Professor Hoodbhoy further elaborated the rise of anti-science moments all around the world, especially in the United States and India. “In the US the number of people who believe in evolution is decreasing, while in India people now believe that there was plastic surgery in the Vedic age,” he exclaimed. This lack of scientific approach and rationality, he argued, was the result of rapid sociological and technological change that has led to a certain kind of group thinking and herd mentality.
Hassan Rouhani Lauds Peaceful Co-Existence Of Multiple Faiths In India; Calls Islam Religion Of Kindness
Feb 16, 2018
Hyderabad: Iranian president Hassan Rouhani on Thursday lauded India's cultural diversity, saying multiple faiths and schools of thought co-exist peacefully in the country.
Speaking at a meeting with Muslim intellectuals, scholars and clerics in Hyderabad on Thursday night, Rouhani, who arrived in Hyderabad on a three-day India visit, said Islam is not a religion of violence, but one of moderation.
"Iran wants unity, independence and support for the East. Iran wants fraternity with India. We do not want to have any differences with other countries as well," said Rouhani who is on his first India visit since assuming charge as president in 2013.
The Iranian president lauded India's culture and traditions, and said the country was a "living museum" of religions and schools of thought.
"We see a lot of temples, other places of worship, and they are living in peace. They are having peaceful co-existence," he said.
Muslims, non-Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs are coexisting in peace in India, he said.
However, the West has created fissures between nations, he said.
"The enemies of Islam want to represent Islam as a religion of violence. Islam is not a religion of violence. Islam is a religion of moderation, Islam is a religion of kindness," he said.
Iran believes that there is no military solution to problems which are diplomatic in nature, Rouhani said.
"When a war is imposed, people have no other option but to defend themselves, and those who defend are the true companions and true followers of the almighty God," he said.
"The Western world oppressed and exploited the Eastern world and its resources" and caused tensions and differences to arise between oriental countries, he said.
"When we Muslims (in the past centuries) possessed universities and technologies, and others did not possess (them), we...transferred our teachings and science to them."
"However, when they (West) reached the (same level of progress), they did not (give) the same treatment. They did not provide us with technology fairly and justly," he said.
Calling for unity among Muslims, Rouhani said his country wants to clear the "hurdles" faced by the people of war-torn countries such as Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Yemen are facing.
"We want to clear the hurdles for the people of Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen. The solution is unity and brotherhood in joint effort," he said.
Despite tight security, Rouhani allowed some of those present to click selfies with him after the speech.
Iran Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif also spoke at the event.
The Iranian president is scheduled to visit the famous Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad and offer prayers on Friday. Later, he would be leaving for New Delhi.
Earlier, he arrived in Hyderabad on a special flight from Tehran and was received by Union Minister of State for Power RK Singh and Telangana and Andhra Pradesh Governor ESL Narasimhan along with senior officials of Telanaga government.
Iran UN envoy says Israel's Monday massacre a day of shame for Muslims
May 16, 2018
Iran’s Ambassador to the United Nations Gholamali Khoshroo says Israel's Monday massacre of innocent Palestinians is a "day of shame" for the Muslim world.
Israeli forces killed at least 62 Palestinians during protests near the Gaza fence on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the Nakba Day (the Day of Catastrophe), which coincided this year with the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the occupied city of Jerusalem al-Quds.
"As these crimes and murders were being carried out, (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu and his guests were busy celebrating the illegal relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem al-Quds," Khoshroo said while addressing the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in New York on Wednesday.
He added that the OIC must use its influence to pressure the Israeli regime into ending such atrocities against Palestinians.
While condemning Israel's crimes, Khoshroo blasted Washington for its unconditional support for the Tel Aviv regime, stressing that the US must be held accountable for its actions, especially relocating its embassy to the holy city.
More than 2,700 Palestinians were also wounded as the Israeli forces used snipers, airstrikes, tank fire and tear gas to target the demonstrators.
The occupied territories have witnessed new tensions ever since US President Donald Trump on December 6, 2017, announced Washington's recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s “capital” and said the United States would move the US embassy to the city.
The dramatic decision triggered demonstrations in the occupied Palestinian territories as well as Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq, Morocco and other Muslim countries.
The status of Jerusalem al-Quds is the thorniest issue in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
Christian businessman from India gifts mosque to Muslim workers in UAE
May 16, 2018
A wealthy Christian businessman from India has gifted a USD 3 lakh mosque to hundreds of Muslim workers ahead of Ramzan in the UAE, a media report said on Wednesday.
Saji Cheriyan, 49, who hails from Kerala’s Kayamkulam, built the mosque for Muslim workers living in a worker accommodation that he rented out to 53 companies in Fujairah, Gulf News reported.
He will name the mosque as Mariam, Umm Eisa.
Cheriyan said he decided to build the mosque after he saw workers taking taxis to go to the nearest mosque.
“They have to spend at least 20 dirhams to go to Fujairah city or another industrial area to attend the Juma prayer in a mosque. So, I thought it will make them happy if I build a mosque here next to their accommodation,” he said.
The businessman, who had landed in the UAE in 2003 with just a few hundred dirhams, is gifting the 1.3 million dirham mosque to hundreds of workers this Ramzan, the report said.
The mosque in the East Ville Real Estate complex in Al Hayl Industrial Area can accommodate 250 worshippers at a time, it said.
Facilities for another 700 to pray in the interlocked courtyard of the mosque, which will be shaded by the time it opens, have also been arranged, it said.
The construction began over a year ago. Now the mosque is all set to open with the full support of Awqaf in Fujairah.
“The Awqaf officials were surprised and happy when they got to know I am a Christian who wishes to build a mosque. They have offered me all the support and were ready to offer free electricity and water and other facilities,” Cheriyan said.
However, all that he has accepted from Awqaf are the carpet and sound system for the mosque.
“When word spread about my mosque, many other people also offered cash donations, construction materials like sand and paint. But I have politely refused all those offers as I would like to pay from my pocket for this mosque,” he said.
He said he has opted for the name Mariam, Umm Eisa (Mary, the Mother of Jesus) for the mosque after an Abu Dhabi mosque was renamed so in 2017.
Cheriyan, an Orthodox Christian by birth, had previously built a church for his parish in Dibba and also keeps the doors of a multipurpose hall in the East Ville Complex for various other groups of Christian believers to pray.
“I have grown up seeing communities living together in utmost harmony. We celebrate all religions’ festivals and I don’t judge or treat people based on religion, caste, colour or nationality. The UAE is another example of communal harmony and tolerance,” he added.
Saudi state security designates 10 Hezbollah leaders as terrorists
16 May 2018
Saudi State Security Presidency has designated 10 Hezbollah commanders on the country’s terrorism list.
The state agency also said on Wednesday that five members of the Hezbollah Shura Council were designated as terrorists.
The decision on Wednesday comes as part of the seven member nations of the Terrorist Financing and Targeting Center (TFTC) which Saudi Arabia co-chairs.
The other TFTC member states – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – designated members of Hezbollah’s Shura Council, the primary decision-making body of Hezbollah.
The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) specifically and jointly together with Gulf partners, designated Hasan Nasrallah, the Secretary General of Hezbollah as a terrorist sponsor.
OFAC and the TFTC nations further designated Naim Qasim, Muhammad Yazbak, Husayn Al- Khalil, and Ibrahim al-Amin al-Sayyid pursuant of a treasury executive order, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism.
In addition, TFTC Member States also designated the following key Hezbollah-affiliated individuals and entities: Talal Hamiyah, Ali Youssef Charara, Spectrum Group, Hasan Ebrahimi, Maher Trading, Hashem Safieddine, Adham Tabaja, Al-Inmaa Group, and Al-Inmaa Engineering and Contracting, all of whom were previously designated by the US
“The TFTC again demonstrated its great value to international security by disrupting Iran and Hezbollah’s destabilizing influence in the region. By targeting Hezbollah’s Shura Council, our nations collectively rejected the false distinction between a so-called ‘Political Wing’ and Hezbollah’s global terrorist plotting,” said US Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin.
“Under the dictates of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), Secretary General and head of the Shura Council Hasan Nasrallah is prolonging the human suffering in Syria, fueling the violence in Iraq and Yemen, putting the Lebanese state and the Lebanese people at risk, and destabilizing the entire region.”
Hezbollah names and entities added to terror list
Nasrallah has been the leader of Hezbollah since 1992. As the Secretary General and head of the Shura Council, Nasrallah is Hezbollah’s highest ranking official, has been the mastermind behind Hezbollah’s ongoing military operations. He exercises direct command over Hezbollah’s military and security apparatus, which includes his deep involvement in Syrian war-related decision making. Nasrallah has stated that Hezbollah’s intervention in the Syrian Civil War markeda completely new phase for the organization, sending military forces abroad to protect its interests.
Qasim is the Deputy Secretary General of Hezbollah. He joined the organization in the early 1980s. Before ascending to his current position, he served as the Deputy President of the Executive Council. Qasim has stated that Hezbollah does not separate its military and political wings. Specifically he has said that Hezbollah “has one single leadership, and its name is the Decision Making Shura Council. It manages the political activity, the fighting activity, the cultural activity, and the social activities...”
Yazbak is one of the original founders of Hezbollah. He is the current leader of the Judicial Council and has overseen a military command in central Lebanon that provides logistical and training support to Hezbollahh. He has supervised training camps and the smuggling of weapons, and hosted experts from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps to train Hezbollah fighters on weapons systems. Yazbak has also managed Hezbollah’s bank accounts.
Khalil serves as Hasan Nasrallah’s political advisor. Previously, he was one of several senior Hezbollah commanders who shared responsibility for the group’s special operations in Europe.
Ibrahim al-Amin al-Sayyid
Al-Sayyid is the head of Hezbollah’s Political Council. He was Hezbollah’s first official spokesperson, and was involved in the formation of Hezbollah.
He is the head of Hezbollah’s External Security Organization (ESO), which maintains organized cells worldwide.
Ali Youssef Charara
He is a member and financier of Hezbollah’s who uses his company , Spectrum Investment Group Holdings SAL as a front to finance Hezbollah’s activities.
Hasan Dehghan Ibrahimi
Is an Iranian who has ties with senior IRGC-QF officials. He has facilitated cash transfer to Hezbollah. He is the manager of Maher Trading and construction Company.
Spectrum Investment Group Holdings SAL
A telecommunication company of which he is the chairman and general manager, located in Beirut, working in the field of exporting and importing as well.
Maher Trading and construction Company
Full report at:
More Senior Terrorist Commanders Killed in Iraqi Forces' Operation
May 16, 2018
The security forces, tipped-off by the country's popular forces of Hashd al-Sha’abi, staged an ambush on a militant hideout in the village of Karhakazan, and killed the terrorists.
The slain terrorists were later identified as Adnan Ahmed Hassan al-Sour nom de guerre Abu Rizwan, who was a senior militant commander in the Riyadh district Southwest of Kirkuk, Shaker Shallal Ousebi, commonly known as Abu Haifa, who was responsible for ISIL's medical affairs, Abu Talha, Abu Haitham and Hassan Ali Thalaj nom de guerre Abu Dhar.
Abu Rizwan was apparently one of the main organizers of ISIL's surprise attack on Hashd al-Sha’abi forces in Saadounia village, Western Huweija, on February 18, when 21 voluntary fighters were killed.
Separately, security forces have uncovered a huge cache of ISIL's munitions in the oil-rich city of Baiji, some 130 miles North of Baghdad.
Iraq's Security Media Center reported on Saturday that five senior ISIL commanders that once participated in occupation operation of the town of Mosul and other regions in al-Anbar province were arrested in the Iraqi troops' operation on Syria's soil near the border with Iraq.
The center further said that the Iraqi forces captured Ferat Velayat (province) security Commander Saddam Omar Yahya al-Jamal nom de guerre Abu Roqiyeh al-Ansari, al-Mayadeen emir (commander) Mohammad Hossen Hazar nom de guerre Abu Seif al-Sha'eiti, Osam Abdul Qadir Ashour al-Zobei nom de guerre Abu Abdul Haq Araghi, Intelligence Commander in Ferat Velayat and Commander in al-Mayadeen region Omar Shahab Hamad al-Karbouli and Ismayeel Alwan Salman nom de guerre Abu Zeid Araghi, an aide to al-Baghdadi in an operation in Syria.
The center further said that the Iraqi forces interrogated the ISIL commanders and discovered the venue a meeting of ISIL commanders.
The Iraqi Air Force later pounded the meeting, killing nearly 40 terrorist commanders.
Full report at:
Kurds Continue Forced Recruitment in Northern Syria
May 16, 2018
Tens of young men in Manbij were arrested by the US-backed Kurdish militias under a forced recruitment plan.
In the meantime, a large number of young men in the village of Bir Khalou in Manbij region and several more at al-Saad and al-Jisr checkpoints were arrested by the Kurdish militias.
No source has thus far reported the exact number of the young men arrested in Manbij.
The Kurdish militias' move have sparked sharp tensions between the gunmen and civilians.
Local sources in Manbij reported last month that the executive council affiliated to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) implemented plans to forcefully recruit forces from the young people in the town and its suburbs.
Based on the plan, if the young people in the region refrain from joining the SDF on their own will, they would be forcefully recruited and would be fined.
Meantime, reports from Raqqa city also said that the Kurdish forces attacked the village of Zanar in Northern Raqqa to detain the defected members who had earlier been forcefully recruited.
Full report at:
Egypt president Sisi says in talks with Palestinians, Israel
17 May 2018
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Wednesday urged Israel and the Palestinians to abstain from further steps that could lead to more Palestinian deaths, following Monday's deadly violence on the Gaza-Israel border.
Israel has come under international pressure after its border forces on Monday killed some 60 Palestinians protesting against the transfer the same day of the US embassy to Jerusalem.
“I hope that this message reaches our Palestinian brothers that self-expression and protest over this decision does not lead them to measures that could lead to more victims,” Sisi said.
“On the other side, I hope that the Israelis understand that the Palestinian reactions towards this issue are legitimate and that they deal with it with extreme care over the lives of Palestinians,” he added.
Speaking in a live youth conference on state TV, Sisi spoke on Egypt’s role in the conflict, stating its previous peace efforts, saying that Egypt was in communication with both sides "so that this bloodshed would stop".
The Egyptian president said he had previously warned that the US embassy move “will have negative implications in the Arab and Muslim public opinion”.
More than 100 Palestinians have been killed in seven weeks of protests, mainly from Israeli sniper fire.
Full report at:
Syrian military seizes key swath of land in country’s center
16 May 2018
Syria’s military said Wednesday it has restored government control over a large area in central Syria, securing a power station, a refinery and a cement factory after uprooting the armed opposition.
With the latest military victory, Syrian government forces secure roads between the country’s three main cities - Damascus, Aleppo and Homs - for the first time since the civil war began in 2011.
The surrender in northern Homs and southern Hama adds to what has been described as one of the largest population shifts in Syria since the conflict began.
Since March, around 200,000 people were forced to relocate to other parts of the country as part of surrender deals after crippling sieges and bombardment by government forces, according to the UN, which says the practice amounts to forced displacement.
More than 30,000 have left northern Homs and southern Hama in the last few days alone, while the majority of the displaced came from the eastern Ghouta suburbs near Damascus.
“The brave armed forces, with support from allies, have completed the clearing of 1,200 square kilometers (463 square miles) in rural Northern Homs and Southern Hama, and have restored security to 65 villages and towns,” said Brig. Gen. Ali Mayhoub, who read the statement on Syrian television Wednesday.
“This achievement is important because the armed terrorism has been uprooted from this vital geographical area in central Syria,” removing threats to Homs refinery, a power station and a cement factory, he said.
The government announcement came after the last batch of rebels and opposition left from the area following a deal reached earlier this month with rebels who were in control for years.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the last of seven batches of displaced left the area Wednesday in a convoy, bringing the total evacuated to 34,500 people, including fighters and civilians, who have departed to other rebel-held areas in northern Syria.
Security forces began deploying in the evacuated towns and villages Tuesday, completing their deployment by raising the flag in Rastan, one of the largest towns in northern rural Homs, and a stronghold for the Syrian opposition for years. The deals were mediated by Russia, the main ally of the Syrian government, which has deployed its military police in the evacuated areas.
“For the first time since 2011, Damascus, its suburbs, Homs and Hama provinces are for the most part controlled by the government, except for small pockets of ISIS militants at the edge of the desert to the east near the Iraqi border and in Yarmouk camp south of Damascus as well as some rebel fighters in northern Hama,” said Rami Abdurrahman, the head of the Observatory.
A small pocket in southern Homs province, near the border with Iraq, is controlled by US-backed rebels.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russian warships will remain on a permanent patrol to react to possible threats emanating from the Syrian civil war. He said the threat of “terrorist attacks” in Syria persists and that Russian warships equipped with Kalibr cruise missiles will remain stationed in the Mediterranean Sea.
Russia launched an air campaign on behalf of President Bashar Assad in 2015, helping to turn the tide of the war in his favor.
Syria’s civil war has killed more than 450,000 people and displaced 11 million from their homes.
In recent months government forces have made major advances around the capital, but are still battling ISIS fighters in southern Damascus.
Full report at:
8 killed, dozens injured as bomb explosion hits funeral near Iraq's Baghdad
May 16, 2018
At least eight people have lost their lives and dozens more sustained injuries when a powerful bomb blast ripped through a funeral near the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad.
Major Hassan Ali, an Interior Ministry official, said the attack took place when a bomber, wearing an explosive belt, detonated himself among many mourners at the funeral tent in Taji area, located some 20 kilometers north of Baghdad.
Ali added that eight people were killed and 31 others injured in the bombing.
Iraqi security forces sealed off the scene after the explosion as ambulances and civilian cars evacuated the fatalities and wounded people to several nearby hospitals and medical centers, he said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Wednesday's deadly attack, but such assaults bear the hallmarks of those carried out by remnants of the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group.
On December 9, 2017, Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared the end of military operations against the Daesh terrorist group in the Arab country.
“Our forces are in complete control of the Iraqi-Syrian border and I therefore announce the end of the war against Daesh,” Abadi told a conference in Baghdad then.
On July 10, Abadi formally declared victory over Daesh extremists in Mosul, which served as the terrorists’ main urban stronghold in the conflict-ridden Arab country.
In the run-up to Mosul's liberation, Iraqi army soldiers and volunteer Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters had made sweeping gains against Daesh.
The Iraqi forces took control of eastern Mosul in January 2017 after 100 days of fighting, and launched the battle in the west on February 19 last year.
Full report at:
US has 1,000 open ISIS investigations but a steep drop in prosecutions
May 16, 2018
(CNN)Despite its losses on the battlefield in Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State remains a grave national security threat, according to the Trump administration and terrorism experts.
That mixed news was brought home just last week. Last Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security extended its warning of homegrown terror threats to the US for the fifth time since December 2015. That was followed on Thursday by a tweet from President Donald Trump touting the reported capture of five top Islamic State commanders in Iraq. Over the weekend, ISIS claimed responsibility for a knife attack in Paris that left one dead and four injured. The perpetrator was killed by police.
FBI Director Christopher Wray described the changing dynamics of the ISIS threat on Capitol Hill in December.
"The good news is the caliphate is crumbling, and that's positive for all of us," Wray said during a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing. "The bad news is, ISIS is encouraging some of its recruits and potential recruits to stay where they are and commit attacks right in the homeland."
Wray said agents are tracking would-be lone wolf Islamic State terrorists en masse, with about 1,000 active ISIS investigations spread across all 50 states. But while the FBI may be pursuing hundreds of ISIS cases, it hasn't been prosecuting radical Islamic extremists at a steady clip this year.
The total number of publicly revealed ISIS indictments or guilty pleas in 2018: four.
The total number of publicly revealed ISIS arrests in 2018: one.
A CNN analysis of court documents and government news releases shows a dramatic drop in ISIS prosecutions in 2018, the longest stretch of quiet since the government designated the Islamic State as a foreign terrorist organization four years ago. CNN reviewed Justice Department news releases and searched federal court records for criminal cases involving material support of a foreign terrorist group.
The Justice Department and the FBI declined to answer a list of detailed questions about ISIS arrests and investigations, instructing CNN to submit a request through the Freedom of Information Act.
The peak year for ISIS prosecutions in the US was 2015, when 57 people were charged with material support or related offenses. Wannabe travelers got apprehended at airports before boarding international flights and domestic plots were foiled by FBI stings. In 2016, the number of prosecutions fell to 34. The decline continued in 2017, with 26 indictments or pleas in ISIS cases.
It's possible that there have been more than four ISIS prosecutions and one arrest in 2018, but the information isn't available to the public.
The FBI doesn't announce the arrest of a terror suspect if agents are still investigating co-conspirators. Court documents often remain sealed until all of the participants in a plot are taken into custody, said Barbara McQuade, a law professor at the University of Michigan and former US attorney.
For instance, in May 2016 a Canadian man named Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy was arrested in New Jersey for plotting a New York City subway bombing and a mass shooting at a concert venue. His indictment was kept under wraps for more than a year while authorities pursued two of his associates overseas. The case was unsealed in October 2017, after the associates were detained in Pakistan and the Philippines.
Several factors may be contributing to the slowdown in prosecutions. The Islamic State's main recruiting tool, its self-declared caliphate, has been reduced to a cluster of towns in the Euphrates River Valley, according to IHS Markit, a global security research firm. Last year, ISIS was defeated in key cities including Raqqa and Mosul. The amount of propaganda released by the terror group plummeted 62% in 2017, IHS Markit reports.
"As ISIS loses that propaganda machine, fewer people are going to be radicalized by it because fewer people are going to pay attention to it," said Jeffrey Ringel, a former FBI special agent and director of the Soufan Group, a security consulting firm.
The ISIS threat still looms, however. Four days after Wray appeared on Capitol Hill last December, an ISIS follower attempted to detonate a pipe bomb at the Port Authority bus terminal in New York, injuring five. Last Halloween, eight people were killed when a driver rammed a rental truck into a crowd on a Manhattan bike path, the deadliest act of terrorism in New York since 9/11.
"Currently, the FBI views ISIS and homegrown violent extremists as the main terrorism threats to the United States," Wray said during the December oversight hearing. "ISIS is relentless and ruthless in its campaign of violence and has aggressively promoted its hateful message, attracting like-minded violent extremists.
"The threats posed by ISIS foreign terrorist fighters, including those recruited from the US, are extremely dynamic. These threats remain the highest priority and create the most serious challenges for the FBI, the US intelligence community, and our foreign, state, and local partners."
Given Wray's testimony that the agency had about 1,000 active ISIS investigations at the end of last year, the dearth of cases in 2018 is noteworthy, according to five terrorism experts.
"It's surprising," said Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham University School of Law. "The question is what does it mean? Does it mean the war on terror has moved beyond ISIS? I think the public is confused. The public is asking, 'Where exactly do we stand?'
"The good news is that maybe the threat is less and that's what we're learning. The bad news: Is the threat less or are we handling it in other ways? We only know what the government decides to tell us."
Ringel said the downward trend in cases proves the ISIS prosecutions have been a powerful deterrent. The conviction rate for ISIS-related cases is close to 100%.
"The US has been very successful in discouraging support of terrorist groups because people realize they're gonna get caught," said Ringel.
There's another way to look at it, according to Michael German, a former FBI special agent and a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice's Liberty and National Security Program.
"If you have a thousand investigations of any group and only a handful of prosecutions, it proves that those investigations aren't properly predicated," said German.
Seamus Hughes, deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, said fewer people are being charged because the investigations are growing more complicated.
"If you look back at the cases, a good majority of them were individuals who got arrested attempting to go to Syria and Iraq, which are easier cases to make because if somebody drives to the airport, that's the trigger for the charge of material support of terrorism," said Hughes. "If you don't have that, it's going to take longer to build a case."
Social media behind increase in investigations
The number of counterterrorism investigations has increased over the past decade, in part because technology provides law enforcement with leads, said Daniel Byman, a senior fellow at the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. Social media enables the FBI to locate suspects. Court records show that many ISIS probes begin with a review of Facebook profiles and Twitter feeds.
It takes time and resources for the FBI to weed through ominous internet posts and determine whether an individual is bloviating for shock value or if they're making true threats that need to be chased down, said Byman.
"You have a lot of people bragging on social media and that comes to the attention of authorities," said Byman. "Ten years ago, that same person might have been bragging to their friends in their bedroom and they wouldn't have come to the attention of authorities. In most cases, it never would have gone further than three guys bragging in their bedroom about how badass they are.
"But occasionally, it does. The FBI's point of view would be, 'Yeah, most of the time it doesn't lead to much but sometimes it does, and we don't want any people to die because we didn't take someone who said, "I want to kill people" seriously.' "
Recent ISIS-related arrests in the US
Akayed Ullah, 27, the man who injured himself wearing a clumsily assembled suicide vest containing a pipe bomb at the Port Authority in December, was indicted on January 10. The six counts include material support and use of a weapon of mass destruction. He's pleaded not guilty.
The other three 2018 ISIS prosecutions involve allegations of domestic terror plots.
Everitt Aaron Jameson, 26, of California, was charged in January after a three-month sting operation with two undercover agents and a paid informant. According to court records, Jameson discussed a Christmas season attack on a popular shopping area in San Francisco but he ultimately backed out, telling an undercover agent, "I also don't think I can do this after all. I've reconsidered."
Although Jameson bailed on the attack, he was arrested after the FBI executed a search warrant and interviewed him. At his home, agents found guns, empty magazines, a letter lauding ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Jameson's last will and testament. Jameson told the agents, according to court documents, that he supported ISIS and would be "happy" if someone else committed an act of domestic terrorism. He was charged with attempted material support and distribution of information related to destructive devices. He initially pleaded not guilty but a change of plea hearing is scheduled for June 4.
Aziz Ihab Sayyed, 23, of Alabama, pleaded guilty in March to attempted material support, admitting that he had purchased bomb-making materials and planned to plant explosive devices at police stations and a military base. His sentencing is set for June 20.
Gregory Lepsky, 20, of New Jersey, was arrested in 2017 after he stabbed his dog with a combat knife and cut his arm. As detailed in a criminal complaint, he said the animal was "dirty" according to his interpretation of Islam.
While in police custody, he told medical personnel that he was communicating with ISIS members on Facebook and he wanted to set off a pressure cooker bomb in New York City. Searches of his computer and phone revealed Islamic State propaganda, anti-Semitic cartoons, photos of Lepsky holding guns and an al Qaeda magazine article titled "How to Build a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom." A pressure cooker was found in his bedroom closet. After a psychiatric evaluation was submitted to the court, Lepsky pleaded guilty in March to attempted material support.
The one ISIS arrest for 2018 involved an American suspect who was extradited to the US. Bernard Augustine, 21, of California, returned from Tunisia in February and was charged in a criminal complaint with attempted material support. Augustine, who traveled overseas in 2016, allegedly intended to join ISIS in Libya. He was sent back to the United States after serving more than a year in a Tunisian prison. Augustine has not yet been indicted and is engaged in plea negotiations, according to a spokesman for the US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York.
In an unusual case, a Virginia man who was under investigation for possible ISIS support pleaded guilty to receipt of child pornography after investigators found thousands of images on his phone, including pictures of infants being sexually abused. Sean Andrew Duncan, 22, admitted last month that he had received child pornography and obstructed justice but he was not charged with material support. Sentencing is set for July 6.
There was also one high-profile arrest of a juvenile. The FBI participated in the investigation of a Texas high school student, Matin Azizi-Yarand, 17, who told two informants and an undercover agent that he wanted to carry out a mass shooting at a suburban mall in the name of ISIS. Azizi-Yarand was arrested on May 1 and is being held at the local county jail. Calls to his attorneys were not returned.
Because he is a juvenile under federal law, Azizi-Yarand will not be prosecuted by the US Justice Department, according to US Attorney Joseph D. Brown. Instead, the local district attorney's office has charged him with solicitation of capital murder and making a terroristic threat. In the Texas criminal justice system, he can be tried as an adult.
The Azizi-Yarand case illustrates how individuals can have mixed motives. Although the teen frequently praised ISIS, he also discussed the Columbine and Parkland school shootings, according to court documents.
"There are going to be individuals who want to commit violent acts and then they talk about ISIS when they do so, and you have to look at that with a grain of salt," said Hughes, of George Washington University.
The Pulse nightclub massacre was the deadliest ISIS-related attack on American soil but the terror group had a minimal role in the shooting, said Byman, of the Brookings Institution. Although the gunman, Omar Mateen, claimed he killed 49 people for the Islamic State, he wasn't a devout follower of the group. He had previously boasted that he was associated with Hezbollah and al Qaeda, according to the FBI. Hezbollah and al Qaeda are diametrically opposed to each other, as one is Shiite Muslim and the other is Sunni. ISIS is fighting both groups.
During the attack, Mateen called 911 and told the dispatcher he had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. He was later killed by police.
"The Pulse nightclub attack had loose connections at best to the Islamic State," said Byman. "It's a guy who's more in the loser school shooter category of attacker than in the master ISIS terrorist type. The nightclub isn't an ISIS-directed target. It's not like he attacked US military forces going off to Syria. If you take out that one attack, our understanding of the group really changes. The group has had real problems doing attacks in the United States. There have been some, but there's a big difference between the United States and Europe."
Between 2014 and 2017, there were five ISIS-orchestrated attacks in Europe with a combined death toll of 188, according to the New America Foundation. In addition, 123 people were killed in 29 attacks that were inspired -- but not planned -- by ISIS.
ISIS has not planned a US attack, but inspired many
The Islamic State has not had a direct role in planning or carrying out any attacks in the United States, according to New America, but there have been seven lethal ISIS-inspired attacks over the past four years. The combined death toll from the attacks is 82, including the 49 people killed in Orlando and the 14 victims of the December 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, California.
An estimated 3,922 to 4,294 foreign fighters made the journey from Europe to Iraq and Syria, the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism reported in 2016. In comparison, about 250 to 300 people traveled or attempted to travel from the United States to ISIS territory, according to a 2018 study by the GWU Program on Extremism.
So far, a dozen of those fighters have come back to the US and just one of them was plotting a domestic attack, GWU reports. Nine of the 12 returnees are in police custody while the other three have yet to face criminal charges.
The returnee risk is far greater in Europe, said Ringel, of the Soufan Group.
"Europe has a bigger problem because it's easier to travel back into Europe from Syria and Iraq," said Ringel. "They don't have the same laws to prosecute these individuals. The government may know that you traveled to that area but they may need definitive proof that you were a fighter or that you had done some acts of violence before they can arrest you. In the United States, we don't need that because material support to a foreign terrorist organization is enough to get you arrested."
The ISIS prosecutions began during the Obama years. In 2014, al-Baghdadi declared the caliphate and the terror group launched a social media campaign to lure recruits, encouraging individuals to join the fight in Iraq and Syria or commit acts of violent jihad at home.
The "1,000 active investigations" stat may include the remnants of old cases, said Hughes. In May 2016, then-FBI Director James Comey estimated the agency had more than 1,000 active terror cases. Wray's investigations could have been inherited from Comey, said Hughes.
Agents may be wary of closing cases on questionable individuals, Ringel said. The Pulse shooting was a wake-up call, he said. The FBI had investigated Mateen for nearly a year, looking into possible ties to terrorists overseas, but had closed its file on him in 2014. It was later revealed that Mateen's father worked for the FBI as an informant.
Mateen isn't the first attacker who had been on the FBI's radar. The agency was investigating the perpetrators of the Garland, Texas, Mohammed cartoon contest shooting in 2015. According to court documents, an undercover agent traveled to the contest with the two gunmen and helped them stake out the location. Both of the shooters were killed by police outside the event.
Traditionally, before agents end an inquiry, they will interview the suspect, said Ringel.
"If the person is ranting and raving but doesn't act on it, a supervisor may say, 'If this guy doesn't do anything in the next three months, by the next review, we're gonna go out and interview him,' " said Ringel. "Nobody wants to close a case early and miss it. With Mateen, they had surveillance on him. They had sources into him, listening to him, and at the end of the day, the FBI said, 'I think this guy is just a blowhard.' They couldn't see he was going to go operational. Because of that, a lot of offices are very reluctant to close a case if there's a possibility that this person may act."
The FBI's counterterrorism/counterintelligence budget is about $3.5 billion annually, with a workforce of more than 12,000 employees. There are three kinds of counterterrorism investigations, according to the FBI's Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide:
An assessment, the lowest level, is just following up on a tip or a social media post. It may involve an internet search, a phone call and limited surveillance.
A preliminary investigation allows for more time and tools. Informants can wear wires to record conversations and undercover agents may enter the mix.
A full investigation opens the door to 24/7 surveillance and court-ordered wiretaps, according to Hughes.
In CNN's FOIA request, we asked the FBI to break down the 1,000 active ISIS investigations into those three categories: assessments, preliminary investigations and full investigations.
"If you have a thousand full field investigations, that's a lot of manpower," said Hughes. "If 90% are assessments and 10% are full field, that's a different discussion. An assessment means you're doing a Google search. A full field investigation means you're running sources. There's completely different dynamics depending on how you look at the word 'investigations.'"
There have been 130 individuals prosecuted for ISIS-related offenses since 2014, according to CNN's analysis. More than half of those charged allegedly tried to travel abroad or send money/supplies to the terror group. Just 36% of prosecutions involved domestic plots. The rest of the arrestees -- nearly 10% -- were charged with obstruction of justice. Of all the cases, 62% were the result of undercover sting operations.
"These sting operations are digging at the bottom of the barrel," said German, of the Brennan Center for Justice. "They're going after people who are gullible enough to join a group and people who are stupid enough to put 'I love ISIS' on their Twitter feed. Most normal people know they probably shouldn't say, 'I am part of the mafia' over Twitter or 'I just robbed a bank.' "
'Agressive panhandler' or terror risk?
Consider the strange case of Emanuel Lutchman, a man from Rochester, New York, who allegedly planned a New Year's Eve machete attack at a local bar at the end of 2015. The owner of the bar said Lutchman loitered around the establishment and asked patrons for money but wasn't considered a security threat.
"I would call him an aggressive panhandler," the bar owner told the Democrat & Chronicle.
Lutchman had converted to Islam while serving time for robbery, and in 2015 he was posting messages on social media in support of ISIS, according to court documents. He found contact info for a person purporting to be an ISIS member in Syria and asked how to get to the caliphate. The person replied that Lutchman needed to prove himself first with an act of jihad in the US. Lutchman said he couldn't afford to purchase weapons for a sophisticated operation. The contact instructed him to kill "nonbelievers" on New Year's Eve in a populated area.
Lutchman discussed these communications with three paid informants pretending to be ISIS recruits, asking them to help him plan and fund a knife attack. He initially said a friend was going to lend him a machete but his friend declined to give the item to him. It all ended with a fateful trip to Walmart, where one of the informants gave Lutchman $40 to purchase a machete, ski masks, duct tape, ammonia, zip ties (for hostages) and latex gloves.
He was arrested the next day by members of the Rochester Joint Terrorism Task Force. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. His attorneys have filed an appeal, arguing that Lutchman suffers from mental illness and he should serve no more than 10 years behind bars. Litigation is ongoing in the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals.
"That's not the type of person that American counterterrorism forces need to be worried about," said German. "Do the cops need to worry about him? Yeah."
German said that many of the people arrested as Islamic State terrorists are troubled loners who may be a public safety threat but depicting them as a risk to national security is giving them and ISIS too much credit.
"You're talking about people who are very marginalized, very angry, and on their way to go hurt somebody they bring a flag with them so that they can present themselves as justified in what they're doing," said German. "They're people who say, 'I'm not just a homicidal maniac. I'm a freedom fighter.' They're not people who have deep ties to the conflict in Syria."
Three of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern US history have occurred over the past year. ISIS circulated a claim that the gunman who killed 58 concertgoers in Las Vegas was a supporter, but no evidence emerged establishing a link. Similarly, investigations into the massacres in Parkland, Florida, and Sutherland Springs, Texas, have turned up no connections to radical Islamist ideology.
"The active shooter of any ilk is much more front and center in terms of the public mind and public sense of safety or lack thereof," said Greenberg, of the Fordham University School of Law. "There's a wave of violence, youth violence, an attraction to this active shooter scenario that is disturbing.
"Our first ISIS report said that there's no ethnic group, there's no country, there's nothing that is a profile of these individuals. They're part of a larger trend towards violence. It is comforting to name something to make it seem smaller and narrower than it is."
US Sanctions Target ‘Hezbollah’ Chief, Deputy, Other Officials and Entities
16 May, 2018
The US Treasury Department announced on Wednesday fresh sanctions on the Iran-backed Lebanese “Hezbollah” party. The sanctions target Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, his deputy Naim Qassem and other figures and entities.
The sanctions were imposed by the Treasury and seven-member nations of the Terrorist Financing and Targeting Center (TFTC) that is co-chaired by Saudi Arabia and is comprised of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The move comes a week after US President Donald Trump announced his country’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and that he would be re-imposing sanctions on Tehran.
“The TFTC took significant actions to disrupt an Iranian-backed terrorist group by designating the senior leadership of Lebanese ‘Hezbollah’,” said the Treasury in a statement.
The sanctions target “Hezbollah’s” Shura Council, the party’s primary decision-making body.
Besides Nasrallah and Qassem, the sanctions also target Mohammead Yazbeck, Hussein al- Khalil, and Ibrahim al-Amin al-Sayyed for their terrorism links, said the Treasury.
Talal Hamiyah, Ali Youssef Charara, Spectrum Group, Hasan Ebrahimi, Maher Trading, Hashem Safieddine, Adham Tabaja, Al-Inmaa Group, and Al-Inmaa Engineering and Contracting, all of whom were previously designated by the US, were also included in the latest sanctions.
“By targeting ‘Hezbollah’s’ Shura Council, our nations collectively rejected the false distinction between a so-called ‘Political Wing’ and ‘Hezbollah’s’ global terrorist plotting,” said Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin.
“Under the dictates of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF), Secretary General and head of the Shura Council Hassan Nasrallah is prolonging the human suffering in Syria, fueling the violence in Iraq and Yemen, putting the Lebanese state and the Lebanese people at risk, and destabilizing the entire region.”
The Shura Council is “Hezbollah’s” supreme decision-making body responsible for religious, military, and strategic matters and asserts control over administrative, planning, and policy-making authorities
Nasrallah was designated for acting for or on behalf of “Hezbollah”, which he has led since 1992. As the Secretary General and head of the Shura Council, Nasrallah is Hezbollah’s highest-ranking official and exercises direct command over Hezbollah’s military and security apparatus as its supreme commander, including its involvement in the war in Syria.
Yazbeck is one of “Hezbollah’s” original founders. He is the current leader of the Judicial Council and has overseen a military command in central Lebanon that provides logistical and training support to “Hezbollah”. He has supervised training camps and the smuggling of weapons, and hosted experts from Iran’s IRGC to train “Hezbollah” fighters on weapons systems. He has also managed “Hezbollah’s” bank accounts.
Khalil, Nasrallah’s political advisor, was one of several senior “Hezbollah” commanders who shared responsibility for the group’s special operations in Europe.
Full report at:
Canadian PM wishes blessed Ramadan to Muslim nations
MAY 16, 2018
OTTAWA: Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and wife on Wednesday wished a peaceful and blessed Ramadan to Muslims across the world.
In a Twitter message, Justin Trudeau and his wife wished Muslim a peaceful and blessed month Ramadan.
He said that the Muslim will observe basic values of generosity, thankfulness and mercy in the month of Ramadan.
Justin Trudeau said in his message that people gather together in mosques and houses for prayers and that the month reminds us to keep others’ priorities upfront.
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Weapons meant for US-backed militants handed over to al-Qaeda: Report
May 16, 2018
US military equipment and ammunition, sent to Syria as part of a failed effort to arm “moderate” forces to battle Daesh, were instead handed over to an al-Qaeda group in the country, according to a report.
“I communicated with al-Qaeda’s branch, Al Nusra, to protect and safely escort me and my soldiers for two hours from North Aleppo to West Aleppo,” Maj. Anas Ibrahim Obaid, who said he brokered the deal, told Fox News from his home in the western Aleppo area.
“In exchange, I gave them five pickup trucks and ammunition,” said the man, who is better known on the battlefield as Abu Zayd.
The US issued those trucks and ammo to him in 2015 under the administration of former President Barack Obama, as part of a $500 million program to "train and equip" a new "ideologically moderate" force to fight Daesh terrorists.
Zayd said the program, one of at least two designed to funnel arms to rebel groups in Syria, was rigged with inconsistencies and incompetency.
Zayd, who said he defected from the Syrian Army to the opposition in 2012, said that in order to be included in the program, he had to show proof of association with a group that had fought Daesh.
After receiving training in Turkey, the first group of 54 trained militants crossed back to Syria in July 2015 where they were almost instantly ambushed by al-Nusra terrorists, who kidnapped several of them and stole their US-issued weapons.
Zayd said he was part of a second batch to be dispatched into Syria, but this time without proper firepower.
The US trainers "wanted us to go into Syria without weapons because of the ambush, and said we could get the weapons inside instead. This was crazy,” Zayd recalled. “We refused.”
After the weapons issue was worked out, the militants began their journey to Syria on September 19, but were stopped by Turkish border guards, who found something else in their bags: Syrian government flags, rather than the flags of militants.
Zayd said militants charged back to their base in Turkey, demanding answers and US trainers took the blame for the “flag mistake.” He added that the following day the militants continued back to Syria.
Zayd said his group of 72 shrank to just 25, adding, like other militants, he became quickly fed up with the program and decided to go back to his hometown in western Aleppo but that meant he would have to move through al-Nusra territory. That is when he called the al-Qaeda-affiliated leaders and made the arrangement to give them the five US-issued trucks and scores of ammunition, in exchange for free passage and an armed escort home.
“The Americans were so angry when they found out, they cut my salary,” Zayd said nonchalantly. “But this was our only option through their territory to get home without getting killed.”
Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The Syrian government says the US, Israeli regime and their regional allies are aiding terrorist groups that are wreaking havoc in the country.
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Pakistan to spearhead OIC campaign against US
May 17, 2018
ISLAMABAD- Pakistan will spearhead the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s campaign against the United States’ controversial move to shift its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that the government aimed to raise voice against the US’ controversial decision and the Israeli aggression at all levels and put pressure on the aggressors to end defiance.
One official said: “Together with Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia, Pakistan will launch a full-fledged campaign to denounce the US action and Israel’s aggression.”
He added: “Pakistan, as the sole Muslim-majority nuclear power, will play its role for the rights of the Muslims. Being a super power does not mean, the US should not listen to the rest of the world.”
This week, White House officials opened the US embassy in Jerusalem, handing Israel a long-sought victory but touching off fresh clashes from outraged Palestinians. The ceremony was attended by President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump. The move capped Trump’s pledge to shift the US embassy from Tel Aviv to offer recognition to Israel’s claim of Jerusalem as its capital.
Trump’s European allies did not welcome the move saying this could deal a serious blow to peace efforts between Israelis and Palestinians. Clashes broke out between Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters in Jerusalem as the embassy was opened. Dozens of the protesting Palestinians have been killed so far by the occupant Israeli forces.
The Arab League also called a crisis meeting and the 57-nation OIC called it an “attack on the historical, legal, natural and national rights of the Palestinian people.”
In February Trump had announced the US will officially move the embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in May. Trump had maintained in December 2017 that he was recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and would move the embassy there from Tel Aviv.
In January, Vice President Mike Pence had told the Israeli parliament that the embassy move would take place in 2019 but the Trump administration changed the schedule.
Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a controversial decision as the eastern part of the city - home to some of the holiest ancient sites in Judaism, Christianity and Islam - is also claimed by Palestinians as the capital of a future state.
President Trump’s decision provoked protests in the Muslim world. The OIC session in December last year had condemned the decision while the UNGA voted 128-9 to reject the plan. Only nine states, including the US and Israel, voted in favour of Washington. The other countries which supported the US were Togo, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Marshall Islands, Guatemala and Honduras.
The US is Israel’s key ally and provides more than $3 billion annually in defence aid. Erstwhile President Barack Obama was ‘frustrated’ with Israel’s new settlements but Trump took a U-turn. Washington’s move came as Pakistan and the US are going through the historic dip in ties.
Amid the tension with the US, Pakistan is making efforts to make the OIC a ‘mini-United Nations’ transforming it into a more effective organization that can help resolve the issues of the Muslim-majority countries.
Hours after the Washington embassy was opened in Jerusalem, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildrim telephoned Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and extended invitation to participation in the Extraordinary Session of the OIC convened by Turkey on May 18 in Istanbul. The Extraordinary Session of the OIC was summoned on the situation arising from the massacre of Palestinians by Israeli forces.
In the UN yesterday, Pakistan strongly condemned Israel’s acts of state terrorism in Gaza, the terrorist attacks in Indonesia, Afghanistan and France. Pakistan’s permanent envoy to the UN Maleeha Lodhi called for addressing internal and external factors of extremist ideologies in different countries and regions.
Pakistan is also set to observe ‘Palestine Solidarity Day’ on May 18 on the directives Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. Special rallies and gatherings will be organised to express solidarity with the oppressed people of Palestine and to condemn Israel’s state terrorism in Gaza.
Another official at the foreign ministry said Pakistan had been in contact with key members of the OIC after the shifting of the US embassy to Jerusalem for a joint stand on the issue.
“We (the OIC member countries) have a joint stand on the Palestine issue and the Israeli aggression. We can only pressure the US and Israel through unity. We have been seeking unity among the Muslims. There is unanimity among the Muslims on this (Palestine) issue. Our case is very strong,” he said.
Defence analyst Major General Aijaz Awan (Retd) said the US was protecting the interests of Israel at all levels. “The US has a one-point agenda of control the oil reserves of the Middle East. They (the US) want to do this through Israel,” he said.
General Awan said there was no need to shift US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “This is a sheer conspiracy hatched by US to create unrest in the region. UN is a worst example of dictatorship. The veto power countries also reject the resolutions that are in their interest. The Muslims must get united under the OIC,” he added.
Pakistan army kills militant wanted for slaying 100 Shiites
May 17, 2018
QUETTA, Pakistan: Pakistan’s military says security forces have raided a militant hideout, triggering a shootout in which an intelligence officer and a notorious militant wanted for over 100 deaths of minority Shiites were killed along with two other suspects.
The military says Wednesday’s raid was carried out on a tip in Killi Almas village near Quetta, the capital of troubled Baluchistan province. It says three militants were killed, including Salman Badeni, a provincial commander of the sectarian Lashkar-e-Jhangvi group.
It says a military intelligence officer also died during the intense firefight.
Full report at:
Hafiz Saeed is Pak citizen…can join politics if eligible, says Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, DG ISPR of Pakistan
by Sushant Singh
May 17, 2018
Major General Asif Ghafoor is Pakistan’s Director General of Inter Service Public Relations (ISPR), the media and public relations arm of its armed forces, since December 2016. A representative of the official view for the Pakistan Army, his statements are closely watched, both domestically and internationally. Some of his Twitter updates have caused political storm in Pakistan. Major General Ghafoor spoke to the Indian Express in Islamabad on the sidelines of an interaction with media representatives from South Asian countries. Excerpts from the interview:
What is the current status of the Indo-Pak relations, particularly in the context of increasing tensions and firing along the Line of Control (LoC)?
The ceasefire between the two armies on the LoC is at the DGMO-level (Director General of Military Operations level) since 2003. From 2003 to 2016, there were very few ceasefire violations, but in 2017 alone the ceasefire violations have been more than that recorded in the past 10 years. In 2017, there were 1,813 violations, while the number in 2018, so far, is 1,321, and we are not even halfway through the year.
The ceasefire violations by Indian Army are not against Pakistan Army, but against the civilian population on our side. We have lost hundreds of innocent civilian lives in these violations. We can’t respond in the same coin — one, for humanitarian reasons, and two, because the civilian population on the other side is Kashmiri Muslim. It is our compulsion to respond only at the Indian Army posts.
The two DGMOs must reach an understanding as both sides need to bring the temperature down. The real reason, if I may say it candidly, is that India has failed to control the uprising in Kashmir, post the ‘shahadat’ of Burhan Wani. Indian Army is trying to put Pakistani forces under pressure thinking that they are providing physical support to the Kashmiri youth, which is not the case. They think that by keeping the LoC hot, the tensions in Kashmir will somehow go down.
What is going on with Hafiz Saeed in Pakistan? He, despite UN strictures, seems to be free again.
Hafiz Saeed, you see, is under custody or confinement as possible according to the law in Pakistan. There is no evidence against him and has been discharged by the courts. We have held him under the NPO, but there has been no evidence from the Indian side against him.
Will Jamaat-ud-Dawa become a political party?
Hafiz Saeed is a citizen of Pakistan and anything he does, other than violence, is good. There is a process in Pakistan for anyone to participate in politics. The Election Commission of Pakistan has its rules and laws. If he (Hafiz) fulfills all those requirements that is for the ECP to decide. Please don’t forget that there are, if I am not wrong, nearly 200 political parties in Pakistan and more than 160 of them have never won a single seat in an election. I will leave it at that.
Pakistan-US relations are floundering again. The US Defence Attache in Pakistan was stopped at the airport from leaving the country over the weekend. Are you worried?
With the US, we have a history of the relationship, which includes many ups and downs. Between any two states, there are convergences and divergences. Our attempt is to increase convergences and reduce divergences. Pakistan has been a front-line ally of the US in its war on terror. The USA’s success in defeating al Qaeda has been only because of Pakistani support. But Pakistan cannot do anything inside Afghanistan. No one is more willing to see US succeed in counter-terror operations inside Afghanistan than Pakistan. Even though the relationship is under stress, the strategic lines of communication for US forces inside Afghanistan remain open from Pakistan.
The Pakistan Army is often accused of institutional overreach and not allowing democracy to take deep roots. Where do you stand on that, considering what happened to then PM Nawaz Sharif, where your tweet caused a storm?
(Laughs) My tweet. it is a domestic issue. It happened in the past. As far as civilian supremacy is concerned, this is the third democratically-elected government which is in place. Parliamentary elections are going to take place shortly and a new democratically-elected government will come in. All decisions are taken by the civilian government. National Security Committee meetings are held frequently, and you can see the record on that. There have been many security challenges over the decade, and there are areas of overlap, but at the end of the day, it is the civilian leadership which takes the decisions. The army gives advise as in any other state.
Please tell me who appoints the Army chief, the Navy chief and the Air chief in Pakistan. It is not the army, it is the civilian government. Who rules the country as per the Constitution? The civilian government.
Any message for India?
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JUI-F chief calls for referendum on FATA’s merger with KP
May 17, 2018
ISLAMABAD: Jamiat-Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazl ur Rehman Wednesday called for holding referendum in the Federally Administrative Tribal Areas (FATA) for its merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
No legislation could be carried out under Article 247 of the Constitution regarding changing status of the tribal areas, he said speaking on a point of order in the National Assembly.
The JUI-F leader said that referring bill regarding FATA reforms to the Committee of Law and Justice was not only illegal, but also against the parliamentary norms. The reforms bill was first referred to the NA body on States and Frontier Regions but was later transferred to the Law and Justice Committee.
He alleged that the government did not fulfill the promises it had made with his party. They were assured that a bill to extend jurisdiction of superior courts to FATA would be passed while no other matter would be taken up. Now, other matters were being brought to the House, he added.
Maluana Fazl said the merger of FATA with KP would affect the country’s internal and external situation.
He appreciated the government efforts to change economic priorities of the country in the budget. He, however, alleged that efforts were being made to pass some legislation at the end of government’s tenure, which was contrary to the Constitution and Pakistan’s ideology.
He was of the view that legislation contrary to ‘Quran and Sunnah’ could not be done as per the Constitution
He alleged that currently, there was foreign pressure over the national economy, defence, politics and parliament.
He said war against terrorism was being fought for the last 15 years in the country.”His party has reservations over its operational procedure, but agreed in the larger national interest,” he added.
Responding to the points raised by Maulana Fazl, Qaumi Watan Party chief Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao said FATA’s merger in KP would help initiate a new era of development in the area. He said a committee set up by the august house visited all agencies and tribal areas, and presented its report in October 2016.
He said the committee proposed three possible options, including a separate province, merger or status quo in FATA. Threadbare discussion was also carried out in this House about FATA in which all political parties participated, he added.
He said the prime minister had also promised that the government would complete the reforms process and credit of which would go to it. His party had no pressure regarding FATA’s merger. A few people wanted to maintain status quo, while majority was in favour of FATA’s merger with KP, he added.
He said there was a proper mechanism to amend the Constitution, expressing the hope that FATA would become part of KP and it would have representation in the provincial assembly.
Bilal ur Rehman, MNA from FATA, said instead of FATA’s merger, the government should first fulfill its promises regarding its development, and rehabilitation of internally displaced people.
Azra Fazal of Pakistan Peoples Party said the government should fulfill its commitments about FATA. The development process in FATA should continue after its merger with KP, he added.
Ali Muhammad Khan of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf said all the political parties, including Pakistan Muslim League-N, were in favour of FATA’s merger and urged Maulana Fazl Mehmood Khan Achakzai not to oppose the move.
Sahibzada Tariqullah of Jamaat-i-Islami said the process for FATA’s merger was in the final stage and it would be completed very soon.
Shaikh Salahuddin of Muttahida Qaumi Movement underlined the need for revoking the black law of FCR from FATA, besides providing education and health facilities to the tribal people.
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Waziristan tribesmen continue sit-ins
May 17, 2018
WANA/MIRAMSHAH: Tribal people continued their sit-ins at Angoor Adda in South Waziristan Agency and Mirali town of North Waziristan Agency for the fourth consecutive day on Wednesday, demanding to reopen a border crossing point and curb targeted killings. Reports said that tribesmen organised a dharna at Angoor Adda, a border crossing point between Pakistan and Afghanistan, protesting closure of the point for over a week.
The tribesmen continued their protest despite local authorities declared a curfew in the border area.
The protesters demanded of the authorities to reopen the crossing point to facilitate movement of the tribes on both sides of the Pak-Afghan border.
Sources said that the entry point was closed for cross-border movement of civilians after a blast in Angoor Adda over a week ago. Security has been tightened in the area.
“At least 1,200 people are taking part in the protest,” according to a local.
On the other hand, hundreds of tribesmen, who have started a protest against surge in targeted killings and bomb blasts in North Waziristan Agency, continued their sit-in at Mirali Town for the fourth consecutive day.
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Establishment forcing people to change political loyalties: Liaquat Baloch
May 17, 2018
PESHAWAR: Mutahidda Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) general secretary Liaquat Baloch has said that establishment should give up its past practices of pressurising people for changing political loyalties ahead of general elections.
“Like past, our establishment is forcing people before the upcoming elections to change their loyalties and join a specific political party,” he told a press conference here on Wednesday.
Mr Baloch said that establishment had been doing that practice for the last seven decades. He said that establishment had created Convention League to facilitate victory of Field Marshal Ayub Khan. He added that Gen Ziaul Haq and Gen Pervez Musharraf also followed their predecessors’ policies.
“As general elections are around the corner, our establishment is forcing people to change loyalties and join a specific political party,” said Mr Baloch. He said that such tactics did not serve national interest. He urged judiciary and Election Commission of Pakistan to ensure free and fair polls in the country.
Flanked by JUI-F general secretary Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri and other central leaders of the five-party alliance, Mr Baloch asked prime minister and leader of opposition to announce name of the caretaker prime minister at the earliest to avoid confusion.
When asked about former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s demand for formation of a national commission in light of the recent treason allegations against him, the MMA leader said that a person, who had served as prime minister three times, should be very careful in giving statements on sensitive issues.
He condemned brutalities of Israeli forces against Palestinians in West Bank and killing of 60 protesters in the firing.
He also blasted US President Trump for opening embassy in Jerusalem.
He appreciated the stance of Turkey for calling back its ambassador from Israel and summoning conference of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to discuss the atrocities of Israeli forces.
Mr Baloch said that such matters needed proper investigations to fix responsibilities. Responding to another question, he said that MMA was in contact with other religious-political parties to make them part of the alliance.
He was confident that MMA would perform well in the next elections and would bag maximum seats.
Mr Baloch said that the alliance would submit application with ECP for allotment of book to it as election symbol. He said that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was more important for MMA in the next elections and the alliance would run very aggressive campaign during and after holy month of Ramazan.
He said that MMA would organise Quran conferences and Iftar parties during Ramazan. After Eid, he said, MMA would hold rallies in Peshawar, Karachi, Quetta and other major cities while train march to Karachi would also be organised. He said that unity among religious parties had worried secular forces.
Mr Baloch said that organisational structure of MMA was completed in Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab.
Full report at:
Colonel martyred, 3 terrorists killed in Killi Almas operation in Balochistan
May 17, 2018
Security forces intercepted and killed a 'high-value target' of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) said to be involved in the killings of over 100 members of the Hazara community as well as police personnel, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) reported early Thursday.
Col Sohail Abid of Military Intelligence was martyred in the gunfight. Four other soldiers were injured, two of whom are said to be in critical condition.
"Security forces conducted an intelligence-based operation in Killi Almas area of Balochistan on pointation from apprehended high-value target about the presence of suicide bombers along with other terrorists in hideouts," ISPR reported
According to the statement, three terrorists — two suicide bombers and one high-value target identified as Salman Badeni — were killed after an intense gun battle.
The two suicide bombers were of Afghani nationality, ISPR said. One injured militant is in military custody.
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‘Pakistan, Tajikistan have tremendous responsibility towards Afghanistan’
BY SHAH NAWAZ MOHAL
May 17, 2018
ISLAMABAD: Muslim world needs to focus its utmost attention to countering terrorism, preventing violent extremism and radicalisation by strengthening regional cooperation and taking necessary steps to counter the challenges of terrorism and extremism, said Ambassador of Tajikistan to Pakistan HE Sherali Jononov in a briefing here on Wednesday where he talked about the outcomes International High-Level Conference ‘Countering Terrorism and Preventing Violent Extremism’ held in Dushanbe on May 04, 2018.
The government of the Republic of Tajikistan in close collaboration with the UN, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the European Union and a number of partner countries convened and issued a joint declaration pointing out the root causes of extremism and how to rid the world of terrorism and radicalisation.
Shedding light on the current international and regional situation, trends of contemporary security issues, the President of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon in his keynote speech called for coordinated efforts in combating security threats in order to maintain peace and stability.
During the Dushanbe Conference participants discussed priorities for interaction in the field of international and regional security, addressed the issues related to the status and perspectives of cooperation between the countries and international organisations, underlined the importance of consolidation and acceleration of our efforts to counter security threats, particularly terrorism, extremism and radicalism.
Conference participants drew attention to the need to extend legal base for further development of counter-terrorism cooperation, strengthening efforts in identification and preemption of cross-border terrorist activity, acceleration of collaboration in the fight against cybercrime and capacity-building of the countries.
The inseparable link between regional security and the situation in Afghanistan was stressed. In this connection, the participants of the conference expressed their interest to further develop cooperation across the spectrum of issues pertaining to strengthening security in Afghanistan.
“The history and harrowing experience of many countries, including Tajikistan witnessed that only cooperation and joint actions will make it possible to win in the fight against evil forces and global threats. However, sadly so far the International community has not unanimous position on definitions of terrorism and extremism,” the ambassador stressed.
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ATC resumes Mumbai attacks case after Nawaz questions delay
May 17, 2018
ISLAMABAD: An anti-terrorism court on Wednesday summoned the last two Pakistani prosecution witnesses and directed government officials to submit details regarding the availability of 27 Indian witnesses in the next hearing “so as to conclude the trial expeditiously”, as it resumed the hearing of the 2008 Mumbai attacks case.
The Mumbai attacks reemerged in headlines recently after ousted premier Nawaz Sharif on Saturday, in a controversial interview with a local English daily, had asked: “Why can’t we complete the trial?”
The case is being tried in the ATC since 2009.
On Wednesday, Dera Ghazi Khan District Police Officer Sohail Habib Tajik recorded his statement before ATC Judge Shahrukh Arjumand. The statements of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Additional Director General Wajid Zia and another official, Zahid Akhter, are pending. The prosecutors sought adjournment in the hearing due to other engagements, to which the court ordered Akhter to appear in the next hearing, while Zia was summoned on May 23. The prosecution completed the testimonies of 68 Pakistani witnesses last year.
The court “observed with concern that since January 2016 upon the request of the prosecution, government functionaries sitting at the helm of affairs were directed repeatedly for producing 27 Indian nationals so as to give evidence in the case, but till date no serious and final response has been given by the government”. “Now the case is in the final stages and only statements of two Pakistani officials have to be recorded, therefore, notice be served upon DG FIA, secretary of Interior and secretary for Foreign Affairs for submitting their final and concrete response in the court qua the availability of 27 Indian nationals so as to conclude the trial expeditiously,” the court order stated.
“The response of said three senior government representatives duly signed by them personally shall reach this court till next date,” it added.
The Pakistani government had contacted Indian authorities in Jan 2016, asking them to send the witnesses to Pakistan to testify against the Mumbai attacks suspects, including the alleged mastermind. Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, and the other suspects — Abdul Wajid, Mazhar Iqbal, Hammad Amin Sadiq, Shahid Jameel Riaz, Jamil Ahmed and Younus Anjum — are being tried by the ATC in Islamabad since 2009. In August last year, the FIA also arrested Sufyan Zafar, the alleged financier of the attack.
The lone surviving attacker, Kasab, was caught injured and was executed by India in 2012 before he could record his statement in front of Pakistani investigators.
In September 2016, India finally agreed to share the material evidence. At the time of the attacks, Lakhvi was believed to be the operational head of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) that has been accused by India of carrying out the attacks in India’s financial hub. Lakhvi along with Zarar Shah was allegedly the key planner of the attack that killed 166 people.
Though a prime suspect in the case, the Lahore High Court had released Lakhvi on post-arrest bail in 2015 after he furnished Rs2 million in surety bonds. The Indian government lodged a strong protest over his release, however, the Pakistani authorities asked India to provide incriminating evidence against him so that he can be held in jail and tried effectively.
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Miscreants Leave Burning Cylinder outside Mosque at Udaipur, Rajasthan
May 17, 2018
UDAIPUR: A day before the commencement of the holy month of Ramadan, some miscreants tried to create a commotion outside a mosque at the Chetak Circle in the wee hours of Wednesday. Few men, who came in a car, fled after abandoning a burning gas cylinder outside the masjid gate. Luckily, the Bohra community people who had risen for ‘Sehri’ witnessed the incident and immediately reported to police. The fire fighters arrived in time and thus an explosion was averted.
The incident is quite shocking as the mosque is situated on one of the busiest streets in the heart of the city, with the police station located just around 100 meters away. There were a few cars parked on the road sides and eyewitnesses said if the cylinder had exploded, the flames would have spread in a larger area and caused great damage.
The entire incident was caught on a CCTV and the police have taken the footage to identify the miscreants and know their intention behind the act. The incident has triggered panic and anger among the Muslim community which alleged that authorities are taking the act in a casual manner and have not even registered a case against anyone.
The incident took place around three am when some men arrived at the Paltan Masjid at Chetak Circle and left a burning cylinder on the main road. The members of the Anjuman Talimul Islam Committee met SP Rajendra Prasad Goyal and gave a memorandum demanding stringent and swift action. The Sadar of Paltan Masjid Riyaz Hussain said such an act is highly condemnable which perhaps was aimed to terrorise the community men ahead of the holy Ramadan month.
“It is really unfortunate that miscreants have no fear of the police and they dared to make an explosion so as to frighten the community ahead of Ramadan. The area which is under 24 hours watch and vigil of the policemen, seems not to be so safe,” Sadar Khalil Mohammad of Anjuman Talimul Islam society said.
The office bearers also said that the authorities are taking it quite casually and if they do not arrest the guilty in three days, the community would hold protests. “There are over 50 cameras installed on the street between Hathipole and Chetak Circle however, police have not been able to identify anybody in the case so far,” Riyaz Hussain informed. Meanwhile, SP Rajendra Prasad Goyal said that the incident was not too ‘serious’ and perhaps committed by some mentally sick person with no profound intentions. He also said that the gas cylinder was empty and the fire was superficial.
Hindu-Muslim Unity Comes To the Fore Post Violence at Aurangabad, Maharashtra
May 16, 2018
Aurangabad: The recent violence has left a trail of destruction but also brought to the fore Hindu-Muslim unity, thus sending a strong message to communal elements that they will not succeed in their evil designs.
The camaraderie is evident from the fact that members of both communities have come out to help each other in resurrecting small and big business establishments that were either looted or burnt by rioters on Friday night.
Over 60 shops, several houses and a large number of two- and four-wheelers were either damaged or burnt by the rioters. The traders have estimated losses to the tune of over Rs 100 crore while losses to other assets are yet to be estimated.
Irshad Ahmed’s second generation runs an electrical and electronics shop in the Hindu-dominated Raja Bazaar area. It was looted and torched during the night-long frenzy. However, the residents have come forward to help him restart the business.
Sunil Choudhari, a resident of the locality, said, “It is very unfortunate for us that we could not save the shop. We are, however, firm on helping Irshad start afresh.”
Irshad said it was his father who had taken the shop on rent about four decades ago and Friday’s communal violence shattered the family, which has four shops in the area. “All the shops were not only looted but also torched by the rioters.”
In different parts of the city, several NGOs and individuals were found coming forward to help the victims of the communal violence, irrespective of their religious beliefs.
Jamiat-e-Ulma-e-Hind representatives surveyed different areas on Tuesday and vowed to provide financial assistance to the victims of the violence, irrespective of their religious affiliations.
Aurangabad Central MLA Imtiaz Jaleel said that he, with the help of his friends, acquaintances and relatives would ensure re-stablishing the business of the shops that were targeted during the violence.
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New Delhi responds to Srinagar’s call, announces Ramzan ceasefire
May 17, 2018
Responding to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s call for a unilateral ceasefire, the Centre Wednesday directed “security forces not to launch operations in Jammu & Kashmir during the holy month of Ramzan” and retaliate only “if attacked or if essential to protect the lives of innocent people”.
The announcement, made three days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Srinagar on May 19, was welcomed by Mehbooba Mufti who told The Indian Express: “Home Minister Rajnath Singh called me, saying the Centre has decided on a ceasefire during the month of Ramzan. It is very good news. I hope everybody supports this initiative.”
Read | Mehbooba Mufti welcomes Centre’s decision, Omar warns militants on being exposed as ‘people’s enemies’
Hoping for a positive response from Pakistan, Mufti said: “I personally thank our Prime Minister Modiji and Home Minister Rajnathji. They showed personal interest in it (ceasefire).
I also thank the political parties and leaders who participated in the all-party meeting and created consensus for the ceasefire. I hope Pakistan will respond positively to this ceasefire so that militants, respecting the holy month of Ramzan, also give a positive response.”
Calling it a “big opportunity” to “halt the cycle of bloodshed”, the Chief Minister hoped “it isn’t squandered”. She said “once there is calm, it will become a beginning for dialogue”.
National Conference leader and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, in a tweet, said: “On the demand of all political parties (except the BJP, which had opposed it), the Centre has announced a unilateral ceasefire. Now if the militants don’t respond in kind, they will stand exposed as the true enemies of the people.”
The separatists did not respond immediately to the Centre’s announcement. “We (Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Yasin Malik) will meet and then react,” Mirwaiz Umar Farooq told The Indian Express.
Meanwhile, militant outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba, in an email statement to a J&K news agency, rejected the ceasefire, saying this is “no option”. In the statement, Lashkar spokesperson Abdullah Ghaznavi quoted outfit chief Mehmood Shah saying the announcement is “nothing but a drama… we will fight to the last blood”.
Earlier, the Ministry of Home Affairs, in a statement, said: “The Centre asks security forces not to launch operations in Jammu & Kashmir during the holy month of Ramzan. Decision taken to help peace-loving Muslims observe Ramzan in a peaceful environment. Union Home Minister has informed the Chief Minister, J&K, of Centre’s decision”
“Security forces to reserve the right to retaliate if attacked or if essential to protect the lives of innocent people. Government expects everyone to cooperate in this initiative and help the Muslim brothers and sisters to observe Ramzan peacefully and without any difficulties. It is important to isolate the forces that bring a bad name to Islam by resorting to mindless violence and terror.”
The last time the Centre announced a unilateral ceasefire during the month of Ramzan was in 2000 when the Vajpayee government was in power.
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Pakistan seeks India’s help for conservation, excavation of Mohenjo Daro
May 17, 2018
Pakistani archaeologists excavating the Harappan site of Mohenjo Daro have sought help from their Indian counterparts for carrying out conservation works and planning future excavations at the site. The site, in present-day Sindh, Pakistan, was likely the world’s largest settlement between 2600 and 1900 BC.
Vice-Chancellor of Pune’s Deccan College and a leading scholar on Harappan civilization, Vasant Shinde was among the few foreign archaeologists who were recently invited to visit Mohenjo Daro. The meet mainly focused on ways to protect the site. “I was the only Indian invitee to Mohanjo Daro… We deliberated on how to protect the site,” said Shinde.
When efforts by Pakistani archaeologists to carry out initial conservation works at Mohenjo Daro failed, the Pakistani team sought suggestions from India. “They (Pakistani archaeologists) wanted to know, if there was any way in which India could help them carry out conservation activities at the site,” Shinde said.
Earlier, the Pakistani side had collaborated with European and American archaeologists. “But, what we now understand is that the methodology developed by the westerners… did not suit the climatic conditions or help excavate the materials used for construction in this part of the world,” Shinde said, adding that this had led to further damages to the historic site.
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With 2 attacks, terrorists make intentions clear
M Saleem Pandit
May 17, 2018
SRINAGAR: In a snub to the Central government’s unilateral suspension of all offensive operations against terrorists in Kashmir, terror outfits dared security forces in at least two gun-battles, blasted a bomb and snatched a service rifle of a constable across the Valley on Wednesday.
A joint team of army’s 23 PARA Commandos, SOG and CRPF launched a cordon-andsearch operation at Jamnagri area of south Kashmir’s Shopian district. As the forces were zeroing in on a specified target, terrorists hiding in the area opened fire which was retaliated by the forces, triggering off a gunfight, sources said.
However, sympathisers rushed to help the terrorists escape from the hide-out, by throwing stones on the security forces who were engaged in the encounter. Four persons were reportedly injured in the clashes. Sources said the terrorists managed to escape from the spot.
Before the announcement of the unilateral ceasefire, a brief exchange of firing took place between security forces and terrorists in Tral forests, a police official said.
Two civilians were injured in a bomb blast near Pincho Mandi in Chatabal area of Srinagar old city on Srinagar highway to Baramulla.
In another incident, two pistol-borne terrorists entered Kashmir University at Hazratbal from Rumi Gate, overpowered the constable on guard duty and snatched his service rifle.
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J&K truce: With locals taking militancy out of ISI control, Pak may instigate attacks
May 17, 2018
NEW DELHI: The Modi government took a political and security gamble on Wednesday with a Ramzan peace initiative in Jammu and Kashmir, asking security forces not to launch anti-terror operations in this period, in an effort to break the cycle of violence and facilitate fasting in a peaceful environment.
The “people-centric” decision came with the important caveat that the armed forces will have the right to retaliate if challenged by terrorists or if such action is essential to protect lives of innocent people. They will also not hold back if a tip-off on the presence of a terrorist at a location is confirmed.
Senior ministry officials said calling the initiative a “ceasefire” was inaccurate, saying that such a term would indicate agreement between two parties while the Ramzan move is a unilateral “suspension of operations”.
These would include cordon-and-search operations (CASO) that have seen nearly 270 terrorists being killed in 2017 and 2018, and have lately become a trigger for local stone-pelting protests.
TOI had reported on May 11 that the central security establishment felt that the peace move suggested by an all-party meeting in J&K led by chief minister Mehbooba Mufti could be doable under certain conditions.
On Wednesday, official sources argued that suspension of pro-active anti-terror operations would not be a concession to terrorists and their overground supporters and separatist leaders.
The initiative is meant to give common masses and right-thinking people of J&K a respite from violence and encourage them to isolate militants, thus breaking the cycle of bloodshed, funerals and recruitment of locals into their ranks,” said an official. The intention is to create some political space after a prolonged “hit hard” policy that had cramped the room for dialogue despite the appointment of a political interlocutor.
The decision could also be seen in the context of suggestions that a peace initiative could have some implications for restarting the stalled engagement with Pakistan. While the foreign policy ramifications are less apparent at the current stage, there has been some speculation over reports that the Pakistan army is more amenable to an engagement and this can open a window of opportunity.
Intelligence sources said that the suspension of operations would mean that security forces will not return fire unless fired on. The initiative is unlikely to cut much ice with terror outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba. With the downsizing of the united jihad council chief Salahuddin by ISI, power passed from Hizbul Mujahideen to LeT but the latter is now in a bind as locals are joining militancy without any assistance from Pakistan by way of arms or training.
The locals are seen to be “very unhappy young men” who have serious issues with the state but at the same time they have no love for Pakistan. This is the key reason why the ISI is also worried that the entire militancy is out of its control in the sense that it is not controlling the flow of events as it might want to. Any attempt to increase attacks by Pakistan-trained militants will be forcibly retaliated and sources said the counter-infiltration grid shall remain active and will foil any attempt by terrorists to sneak across the LoC and international border.
Soon after the Centre approved suspension of operations on Wednesday, home minister Rajnath Singh informed J&K CM Mehbooba Mufti of the decision. The latter took to Twitter to welcome it and thanked PM Narendra Modi and Singh for their “personal intervention”. The decision to suspend counter-terror operations in J&K for a month was taken after factoring in all possibilities, including the likelihood of it coming unstuck due to terrorists who may try to initiate attacks so as to compel security forces to act. “If the terrorists stage a big attack in the days to come, it may be the end of suspension of operations. Every initiative is open to constant review ,” an officer told TOI, when asked why the suspension of operations did not cover Amarnath Yatra.
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Terrorists respond to Centre's unilateral ceasefire by more terror
May 16, 2018
SRINAGAR: In a snub to the Central government’s unilateral suspension of all offensive operations against terrorists in Kashmir, terror outfits dared security forces in at least two gunbattles, blasted a bomb and snatched a service rifle of a constable across the Valley on Wednesday.
A joint team of army's 23 PARA Commandos, SOG and CRPF launched a cordon-and-search operation at Jamnagri area of south Kashmir’s Shopian district. As the forces were zeroing in on a specified target, terrorists hiding in the area opened fire which was retaliated by the forces, triggering off a gunfight, sources said.
However, sympathizers rushed to help the terrorists escape from the hide-out, by throwing stones on the security forces who were engaged in the encounter. Four persons were reportedly injured in the clashes. Sources said the terrorists managed to escape from the spot.
Before the announcement of the unilateral ceasefire, a brief exchange of firing took place between security forces and terrorists in Tral forests, a police official said. Two civilians were injured in a bomb blast near Pincho Mandi in Chatabal area of Srinagar old city on Srinagar highway to Baramulla.
In another incident, two pistol-borne terrorists entered Kashmir University at Hazratbal from Rumi Gate, overpowered the constable on guard duty and snatched his service rifle.
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Gaza’s youngest martyr: 8-month-old Laila
16 May 2018
The hugs and kisses of her eight-month-old baby, Laila, are still fresh in her mother's memory.
But alas, the excessive teargas used by the Israeli army on Monday against unarmed demonstrators near the Gaza-Israel border fence made her daughter’s tender embraces a thing of the past.
At dawn Tuesday, the Palestinian Health Ministry pronounced Laila dead as the result of excessive exposure to teargas.
“The Israeli army deprived me of my life’s first joy,” Maryam al-Ghandour, Laila’s mother, told Anadolu Agency through her tears.
Laila, the grieving mother said, “had been a source of joy in the house; she would smile at anyone who paid attention to her”.
“Israel is fully responsible for Laila’s death, which was caused by Israeli teargas that is internationally banned,” she asserted.
Maryam had decided not to bring her daughter to Monday’s rally near the border fence, instead taking her to her mother’s home on the eastern outskirts of Gaza City.
Later, however, Laila’s uncle took his young niece to the demonstration, in which her grandmother had been participating.
Maryam’s mother, Hayam Omar, said that the Israeli army had used excessive teargas despite the widespread participation by children in the rally.
As the demonstrators were blanketed by teargas (some of which was dropped by Israeli drones from above), Hayam’s son, Ammar, carried Laila in his arms in an effort to protect her from the smoke and teargas.
“But he could not prevent her from inhaling it,” Hayam recalled. “Afterward, I returned to my home in Gaza City’s Sabra district, but Laila’s body had begun turning blue.”
“I rushed her to the hospital, but the doctor there told me she had died due to teargas inhalation,” the grandmother said, visibly shaken.
She went on to demand that the Israeli army be prosecuted for its crimes against peaceful protesters, including children.
On Monday, at least 62 Palestinian demonstrators were martyred and hundreds more injured by Israeli troops deployed along the Gaza-Israel fence.
Monday’s demonstration coincided with Israel’s 70th anniversary -- an event Palestinians refer to as “The Catastrophe” -- and the relocation of Washington’s Israel embassy to Jerusalem, which took place the same day.
Since the Gaza rallies began on Mar. 30, more than 100 Palestinian demonstrators have been martyred by Israeli army gunfire.
On Wednesday, the Geneva-based Euro-Mediterranean Observatory for Human Rights stated that Israeli teargas was composed of substances that can “cause loss of consciousness and may lead to chronic inflammation of the lungs and nervous convulsions”.
Hamas official says 50 members killed this week on Gaza border
May 17, 2018
A senior member of Gaza's Hamas rulers has said that all but a dozen of the 62 Palestinians killed by Israeli fire during Gaza border protests this week were members of the Islamist group.
The remarks made on Wednesday were seized upon by Israel in an attempt to fend off harsh global criticism over the deaths and prove they were orchestrated and led by the Islamist movement Hamas.
Israeli forces killed 60 Palestinians on Monday when tens of thousands of Palestinians had gathered near the border, while smaller numbers approached the fence and sought to break through.
For more than six weeks, marchers have been demanding the right to return to their homes seized by Israel in the 1948 war surrounding the creation of the Jewish state.
Two more Palestinians were killed on Tuesday as Palestinians marked the Nakba, or "catastrophe", commemorating the more than 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were expelled in the war.
The bloodshed continued to draw world attention as violence abated late Wednesday, on the eve of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
Sporadic cross-border fire was a reminder of the situation's unresolved volatility, however.
Pope Francis said he was "very worried" by escalating violence in the Middle East, with Arab foreign ministers set to hold an "extraordinary" meeting Thursday to discuss the situation.
And Hamas strongman Yahya Sinwar warned the movement could return to armed resistance.
Meanwhile Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at the international "silence" over the Gaza killings.
"If the silence on Israel's tyranny continues, the world will rapidly be dragged into a chaos where banditry prevails," he said.
Since border protests and clashes began on March 30, 116 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire across the Gaza Strip.
One Israeli soldier has been reported wounded in that time.
Monday's protests coincided with the transfer of the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which has deeply angered the Palestinians who see the Israeli-annexed eastern sector of the city as the capital of their future state.
‘Establish the facts’
Hamas said it supported the mass mobilisation of protesters, insisting however it was a peaceful civilian initiative.
The Israeli army accuses Hamas of using the cover of the demonstrations to approach and damage the border fence, including laying explosive devices and attacking soldiers, and insists its actions are necessary to defend the border and prevent mass infiltrations.
There have been numerous calls for an independent investigation into the deaths, with Britain, Germany and Switzerland among those supporting such action.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also called for an independent probe Wednesday, saying "it is imperative we establish the facts of what is happening in Gaza".
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said Egypt was in communication with both sides "so that this bloodshed would stop".
A senior member of Hamas said most of the Palestinians killed by Israeli fire during border protests and clashes this week were members of the Islamist group.
"Fifty of the martyrs were Hamas and 12 from the people. How can Hamas reap the fruits if it pays such an expensive price?" said Salah Bardawil.
He did not give further details about whether they were members of the group's armed or political wing, or what they were doing at the time they were killed.
The comments were welcomed by Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus, who said Bardawil had "set the record straight".
"Take his word for it. This was no peaceful protest," he tweeted.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov however rejected the Israeli spokesman's "blasphemous statement" implying the Gaza deaths were of militants.
"I cannot agree with the fact that dozens of peaceful civilians, including children and infants, who were killed in these incidents were terrorists," he said.
Speaking to Al-Jazeera on Wednesday, Hamas's Gaza head Yahya Sinwar warned his movement could return to armed resistance.
"We have sent clear messages to the enemy via many international and regional leaders that if the blockade continues we will not hesitate to use military resistance," he said.
‘Wrong side of history’
Guatemala on Wednesday inaugurated its Israel embassy in Jerusalem, the first country to follow in the footsteps of the United States' controversial move.
Speaking at a reception with Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, Netanyahu said Israel had recorded "similar numbers" to those mentioned by Bardawil.
"Israel will continue to defend itself in all necessary means and not let those who call to destroy us breach our borders and threaten our communities," he said.
The US and Guatemalan embassy moves break with decades of international consensus.
Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat lashed out at Guatemala, saying its government had "chosen to stand on the wrong side of history".
Jerusalem's status is perhaps the thorniest issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the US embassy relocation infuriated the Palestinians.
Israel occupied the West Bank and east Jerusalem in 1967 and later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognised by the international community.
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Terrorists Recruiting Forces in Afrin with Turkey's Backup
May 16, 2018
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Wednesday that Faylaq al-Rahman terrorists who had left Eastern Ghouta after an agreement with the Syrian army are now recruiting militants and accupying Brigade 135 bases in Shera region in Northeastern Afrin which was earlier under the control of Kurds with Turkey's support.
Meantime, informed sources said that Faylaq al-Rahman, commanded by Abdolnasser Shamir, is recruiting and training the members, who were earlier stationed in Eastern Ghouta, in Afrin.
Faylaq al-Rahman pays a monthly 200-dollar salary to anyone who joins the terrorist group.
Earlier, sources had revealed that security control of Afrin is due to be transferred to Faylaq al-Rahman after a series of meetings between the Turkish officials and commanders of the terrorist group.
Relevant reports said on Tuesday that the Ankara-backed militant groups continued blackmailing civilians, expelling them from their residential units and looting their assets in Afrin region in Northwestern Aleppo almost two months after the Turkish troops and allied militants occupied the town of Afrin.
Gunmen of Sultan Murat Brigade, affiliated to Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army, forced villagers in the village of Naza in Shera region to leave their homes.
In the meantime, a field source said that the Ankara-backed militants settled 20 families of Eastern Ghouta terrorists in the village of Kafr Jenah, adding that most of the villagers' assets and properties were looted by the Turkey-backed militants.
The source further said that even electrical cables have been stolen and a school in the village has been damaged by the Ankara forces.
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Guatemala opens Israel embassy in Jerusalem after US move
16 May 2018
Guatemala opened an embassy in Jerusalem on Wednesday, two days after the United States inaugurated its new site in the contested city in a move that infuriated Palestinians and drew international condemnation.
Israeli troops shot dead dozens of Palestinian protesters on the Gaza border on Monday when the high-profile opening of the US Embassy to Israel in Jerusalem by the administration of President Donald Trump raised tension to boiling point after weeks of anti-Israeli demonstrations.
Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended the embassy's opening on Wednesday in an office complex in west Jerusalem.
"It's not a coincidence that Guatemala is opening its embassy in Jerusalem right among the first. You were always among the first. You were the second country to recognize Israel," Netanyahu said at the ceremony, referring to its founding in 1948.
Morales said his country, Israel and the United States "share friendship, courage and loyalty".
Guatemala was one of only a few nations that backed Trump’s decision in December to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and is only the second country to move its embassy to the holy city.Paraguay said it will move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by the end of May.
Trump’s move reversed decades of US policy, upsetting the Arab world and Western allies.
The status of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest obstacles to forging a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, who with broad international backing want East Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, as their capital.
Israel regards all of the city, including the eastern sector it annexed after the 1967 conflict, as its capital. The Trump administration has said the city’s final borders should be decided by the parties.
Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said: "The Guatemalan government has chosen to stand on the wrong side of history, to side with violations of international law and human rights, and to take a hostile step against the Palestinian people and the Arab world."
Most world powers do not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the entire city and says its final status should be set in peace negotiations.
On the day the United States inaugurated its own embassy in Jerusalem, Israeli gunfire killed 60 Palestinians during the Gaza border protests. It was the bloodiest day in the Hamas Islamist-run enclave since a 2014 war with Israel.
Palestinian leaders said by relocating the embassy the United States had created incitement and instability in the region and abrogated its role as a peace mediator.
Palestinians have been demonstrating on the Gaza frontier for the past six weeks, demanding a return to family land or homes lost to Israel when it was founded in the 1948 Middle East war.
On Wednesday, a day after expelling Israel's ambassador in response to the Gaza deaths, Turkey ordered the Israeli consul general in Istanbul to return home.
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Merkel: Transatlantic ties must endure dispute about Iran nuclear deal
16 May 2018
The relationship between Europe and the United States should endure differences such as the diplomatic dispute about Iran’s nuclear program, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday.
“Despite all the difficulties that we have these days, the transatlantic relationship is and remains paramount,” Merkel told lawmakers.
“But these transatlantic relationship also must be able to deal with differences in opinion, especially as we can see these days with the withdrawal of the United States from the nuclear deal with Iran,” Merkel added.
Arab League will meet on Thursday to discuss escalating situation in Gaza
16 May 2018
The Arab League will be holding an urgent meeting on Thursday in light of the escalating situation in Gaza after a request from Saudi Arabia. The meeting will include foreign ministers from all Arab states.
A diplomatic source said that the meeting will tackle the ongoing Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people. The meeting also seeks to confront the “illegal decision” taken by the US to move its embassy to Jerusalem, the source added.
The Arab League is expected to hold a meeting on Wednesday at the level of permanent representatives.
Meanwhile, the people of Gaza mourned the death of some 61 people who were killed on Monday by Israeli forces.
On Monday, tens of thousands of Palestinians rallied near Israel’s border fence to protest a blockade of their territory and the move of the US Embassy to contested Jerusalem that day.
According to the Gaza Health Ministry, more than 2,700 people were injured, including 1,360 by live fire. Of the wounded, 130 are in serious or critical condition.
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Israeli forces kill two Palestinians near border as Gaza buries dead
16 May 2018
Palestinians buried the dead on Tuesday from the bloodiest day in Gaza in years, after Israeli forces killed 60 Palestinians near the Gaza-Israel border during demonstrations against the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.
Israeli forces shot dead two more Palestinians on Tuesday, although protests were quieter than the previous day. It appeared that many protesters had gone to mourning tents rather than back to the scene of Monday’s bloodshed. Mourners marched through the strip, waving Palestinian flags and calling for revenge.
“With souls and blood we redeem you martyrs,” they shouted.
Hundreds marched in the funeral of eight-month-old Leila al-Ghandour, whose body was wrapped in a Palestinian flag.
“Let her stay with me, it is too early for her to go,” her mother cried, pressing the baby’s body to her chest. The family said she died of inhaling tear gas.
At Gaza’s hospitals, families crowded the halls and spilled out of rooms as patients awaited treatment. Bassem Ibrahim, who said he was shot in the leg by Israeli troops, said at one stage he had feared losing the limb because of the delays.
“There are not many doctors. They are unable to see everyone, with all the injuries,” said Ibrahim, 23. “The number was unbelievable and they did not have time.”
On the Israeli side of the border, Israeli sharpshooters took up positions to stop any attempted breach of the fence should demonstrations break out again. Tanks were also deployed.
But if the violence tapered off, it still had a forceful impact internationally, with countries criticizing both the
Israeli use of deadly force and the US decision to open its new embassy at a ceremony attended by President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador, and Israel expelled the Turkish consul-general in Jerusalem. President Tayyip Erdogan exchanged heated words on Twitter with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Palestinians summoned home their representative in Washington, citing the embassy decision.
Netanyahu blamed Hamas for provoking the violence. “They’re pushing civilians - women, children - into the line of fire with a view of getting casualties. We try to minimize casualties.They’re trying to incur casualties in order to put pressure on Israel, which is horrible,” Netanyahu told CBS News
For the past six weeks, Palestinians have been holding Gaza border demonstrations demanding access to family land or homes lost to Israel when it was founded in the 1948 Middle East war. Israel rejects that demand, fearing it would deprive the state of its Jewish majority.
Palestinian medical officials say 107 Gazans have now been killed since the start of the protests and nearly 11,000 people wounded, about 3,500 of them by live fire. Israeli officials dispute those numbers. No Israeli casualties have been reported.
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US, Israel ‘inhumane moves’ will bolster Palestinian resistance, Rouhani tells Erdogan
May 16, 2018
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says the US is wrong to think that it can dent the Palestinian nation’s resistance through supporting the Israeli regime, adding that “provocative moves” by the US and Israel will only further unite Palestinians.
In a phone conversation with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday, Rouhani said that the US move to transfer its embassy to Jerusalem al-Quds was “illegal” and hurt the feelings of Muslims.
Israeli military forces killed over 60 Palestinians and wounded more than 2,700 more on Monday during anti-occupation protests near the fence separating Gaza from the occupied territories, at a time when Israeli and American officials were attending the inauguration of the new US embassy in Jerusalem al-Quds.
Rouhani said that the US government and Israel should be answerable to the killing of people and their provocative acts in the region and added, "Unfortunately, the US president has made miscalculations with respect to regional issues and thinks that through supporting the Zionist regime it can stifle the Palestinian nation’s resistance."
The Iranian president called on Muslim countries to condemn in unison the US and Israel, saying “such criminal acts have made the Palestinian nation more united than ever, and bring to light the true intentions of the United States.”
Rouhani condemned the massacre of the oppressed Palestinians by the Zionist regime on the 70th anniversary of the occupation of Palestine as a major and heartbreaking catastrophe and stressed that “the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) should fulfill their duty to protect the oppressed Palestinians at this critical juncture.”
Erdogan, for his part, said Israel’s killings of Palestinians have been a result of the unwise actions of the US government and encouraged them to commit crimes.
Muslim countries must in a united move express their disapproval of these crimes and pursue the rights of the Palestinian people in international circles, the Turkish president noted.
Erdogan also invited Rouhani to attend an emergency meeting of the OIC in Istanbul.
He stressed that "any peace plan that would fail to address the demands and concerns of the Palestinian people would only increase tensions in the region."
The inauguration ceremony for the American embassy coincided with the anniversary of the day Israel was created in 1948.
The relocation of the US embassy, which has so far drawn international condemnations, was carried out five months after US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem al-Quds as the “capital” of Israel, promising to move the US diplomatic mission from Tel Aviv to the city.
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Iran president raps some Arab, Muslim states for silence on Israel's Gaza crimes
May 16, 2018
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has censured certain Arab and Muslim countries for remaining tight-lipped on the Israeli regime’s latest crimes against Palestinian protesters seeking their right to repatriation.
Speaking at a government meeting on Wednesday, Rouhani expressed regret that certain regional Arab countries have kept silent on Israel’s atrocities, while certain Muslim states have simply chosen to turn a blind eye and some others have even stated that the regime “legitimately defended itself.”
Israeli military forces killed over 60 Palestinians and wounded over 2,700 more on Monday during anti-occupation protests near the fence separating Gaza from the occupied territories, at a time when Israeli and American officials were attending the inauguration of the new US embassy in the occupied Jerusalem al-Quds.
Rouhani argued that legitimate defense is only the right of a country or a nation that owns a land, but that the Zionist regime has no such right to occupied territory.
“On this land, 'legitimate defense by the Zionists' makes no sense," Rouhani said, noting that it is instead the Palestinian nation that is fighting for its land there.
“The Zionist regime and the United States assume that by exercising more pressure, they can deny the Palestinian nation its legitimate right or can separate the world’s Muslims from their [holy] land of al-Quds,” the president said. “They are making a great mistake."
The inauguration ceremony for the American embassy was purposely chosen to coincide with the anniversary of the day Israel was created after a deadly war against Arab nations in 1948.
“The Palestinian people have resisted [Israeli aggression] for 70 years, and will continue to do so,” Rouhani said.
Trump turned ‘Iranophobia into Trumpophobia’
President Rouhani also referred to the international support thrown behind Iran after US President Donald Trump chose for his country to leave the 2015 multi-lateral nuclear deal with Iran last Tuesday.
He said, “Today, Iranophobia, which they (the US) have been spreading to convince the world through false propaganda that Iran is [a source of] threat, has given its place to Trumpophobia.”
This is because all know that Iran is a country, which treads down the path of peace and acts in line with international regulations, he said, noting that “today, the US should come under pressure as a country going against its promises and acting in contravention of regulations.”
It is the United States, rather than Iran, that needs to be accused of wrongdoing, he said.
Rouhani stressed that the entire world, including the United Nations nuclear watchdog, has verified Iran’s commitment to its obligations under the deal, while all are insisting that Washington has acted unwisely and in violation of international rules.
Rouhani finally said some assume that pressure, sanctions and military threats can force the Iranian nation to surrender.
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10 Afghan soldiers, 44 militants killed in clashes
May 17, 2018
GHAZNI - At least 10 Afghan soldiers and 44 Taliban militants have been killed after clashes broke out in four districts of eastern province of Ghazni overnight, an army source said Wednesday.
The clashes started after militants launched a massive coordinated attack against security checkpoints in Andar, Gilan, Zana Khan and Jaghato districts around the provincial capital of Ghanzi city after midnight, Gen Shohuor Gul, commander of army’s 203 Tandar based in the region, told Xinhua.
“The brave army soldiers and police fought back the attackers and the initial information showed that 44 Taliban militants, including two divisional Taliban commanders named Mawlawi Furqan and Abdul Salaam, were killed and eight militants were injured,” Gul added.
“The sporadic clashes continued until Wednesday morning but the security situation was under control of security forces and normality has returned in the districts,” he said.
The Taliban-led insurgency has been on the rampage since the beginning of 2015 when the Afghan security forces assumed full responsibilities of security from the U.S. and NATO troops. The Taliban militants also intensified attacks against security forces across the country after they launched a yearly rebel offensive on April 25.
On Tuesday, at least five civilians, 25 soldiers and nearly 300 militants were killed after Taliban launched a massive attack against Farah city, capital of western Farah province.
Meanwhile, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani apologised Wednesday to the families of civilians, mainly children, killed when the country’s air force sprayed an outdoor religious gathering with rockets and machine gun fire last month.
The April 2 airstrike on a ceremony attended by hundreds of men and boys in Dasht-e-Archi district - a Taliban stronghold in the northern province of Kunduz - left at least 36 people dead including 30 children, a United Nations investigation has shown.
Seventy-one people were wounded, including 51 children, it said, adding that it had “credible information” the tolls could be even higher.
Originally the government and military had said the Afghan Air Force targeted a Taliban base where senior members of the group were planning attacks.
The defence ministry initially denied any civilians had been hurt, then claimed the Taliban had shot them. On Wednesday Ghani met families as well as local elders and apologised, a statement from the presidential palace said. “(T)he difference between evildoers and a legitimate government is that a legitimate government apologises for the mistakes made,” he said, according to the statement.
He also vowed that the government would pay compensation to the families, and build a minaret in memory of the victims as well as a mosque for the region. The statement gave no further details. The UN investigators could not confirm if the casualties were all civilians or whether Taliban leaders had been present at the time of the air strike. They have called for further investigations.
The government has sent two teams to conduct an investigation into the incident but so far neither team has “publicly reported their findings”, the UN said.
Meanwhile, Afghan commandos and the US air force have driven the Taliban to the outskirts of Farah, officials said Wednesday, after a day-long battle to prevent the insurgents from seizing control of the western provincial capital.
The US carried out more drone strikes overnight and the Afghan army is still clearing the city, Afghan and NATO officials said. Shops, offices and schools remain closed, with residents frightened to leave home after hours of heavy fighting. A NATO spokesman warned there could be more fighting Wednesday.
“The Taliban have retreated from the city and positioned their forces in the outskirts,” provincial council member Dadullah Qani told AFP from Farah Wednesday.
Fighting continued late into the night, he said. “The city is still closed as people are in fear.”
With internet and mobile networks patchy, casualty figures were difficult to verify. On Tuesday, the defence ministry said four soldiers and “dozens” of insurgents had been killed.
Reinforcements including special forces were rushed in from Herat and Kandahar as the fighting began late Monday.
Aref Rezaee, a spokesman for the Afghan army’s 207th Corps, said that with their help the Taliban were forced from the city at around midnight, some 24 hours after residents told AFP the initial assault began.
“We have started a clearing operation. (NATO’S) RS (Resolute Support mission) forces are also deployed in Farah airport. They were involved in providing air support,” he said.
A Resolute Support spokesman said the fighting had been “subdued” overnight but was likely to pick up again Wednesday.
“We conduct(ed) a number of additional drone strikes throughout the night and continue to enable the (Afghan military), who remain squarely in the lead,” Lt Col Martin O’Donnell told AFP.
“The 207th Corps commander is leading operations on the ground and the city remains in government control.”
There had been reports that the militants were hiding in homes, meaning that the clearing operation was likely to be slow.
People remained fearful. “I want to open my shop today but they have planted land mines in some parts of the city,” Abdul Samad said.
Afghan forces, their numbers sapped by killings and desertions, have been struggling to hold back the resurgent militant group since the withdrawal of NATO combat forces at the end of 2014.
The assault on Farah is the latest in a series of attempts by the Taliban to capture urban centres. Kunduz, Afghanistan’s fifth largest city, fell briefly to the insurgents in 2015.
Farah province, a remote poppy-growing region that borders Iran, has been the scene of intense fighting in recent years, and there have long been fears that the city of Farah is vulnerable.
The Taliban, along with the Islamic State group, have also stepped up their attacks in the capital Kabul, which the UN says has in recent years become one of the country’s deadliest places for civilians.
President Ghani apologizes after Afghan air strike kills 30 children
16 May 2018
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani apologized Wednesday to the families of civilians, mainly children, killed when the country's air force sprayed an outdoor religious gathering with rockets and machine gun fire last month.
The April 2 airstrike on a ceremony attended by hundreds of men and boys in Dasht-e-Archi district -- a Taliban stronghold in the northern province of Kunduz -- left at least 36 people dead including 30 children, a United Nations investigation has shown. Seventy-one people were wounded, including 51 children, it said, adding that it had “credible information” the tolls could be even higher.
Originally the government and military had said the Afghan Air Force targeted a Taliban base where senior members of the group were planning attacks. The defense ministry initially denied any civilians had been hurt, then claimed the Taliban had shot them.
‘Evildoers’ and legitimate government
On Wednesday Ghani met families as well as local elders and apologized, a statement from the presidential palace said. “(T)he difference between evildoers and a legitimate government is that a legitimate government apologizes for the mistakes made,” he said, according to the statement.
He also vowed that the government would pay compensation to the families, and build a minaret in memory of the victims as well as a mosque for the region. The statement gave no further details.
Full report at:
Rohingya Muslims face difficult Ramadan in Bangladesh refugee camps
MAY 16, 2018
COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh (AFP) - The 12-year-old Rohingya refugee dreamed of Ramadan back in his own village - fish to break the day's fast, gifts from his family and relaxing beneath the trees before evening prayers at the mosque.
But for M.D. Hashim and others like him living in squalor in Bangladesh, the start of the Islamic holy month now serves as a bitter reminder of everything they have lost since being driven from Myanmar in an army crackdown.
"Here, we can't afford gifts and don't have good food... because this is not our country," Hashim told AFP on a barren hillside in Cox's Bazar district.
The United Nations has described the army purge against the persecuted minority as ethnic cleansing, and thousands of Rohingya Muslims were believed to have been slaughtered in the pogrom that began last August.
Nearly 700,000 Rohingya fled the violence for Bangladesh, where they squat in bamboo and tarpaulin shacks on dirt slopes.
While they acknowledge that they were lucky to escape, now, with food and money scarce and temperatures soaring, Ramadan looms as a source of anxiety for many Rohingya.
Sitting inside a plastic tent on a blazing day, Hashim fondly recalled the simple pleasures that made Ramadan the most exciting time of year in his village.
Each night, friends and family would break the fast together with fish and meat dishes cooked just once a year for the Islamic holy month.
New clothes would be offered and sprinkled with traditional perfumes called "attar" to mark the holiday, he said.
"We can't do the same here, because we don't have money. We don't have our own land. We can't earn money because we are not allowed," Hashim said.
The Rohingya are barred from working and more than two dozen military checkpoints restrict them from leaving what has grown into the world's largest refugee camp.
They rely on charities for everything from food and medicine to clothing and housing materials. Hashim must walk over an hour in the searing heat to reach the nearest market.
He said many young Rohingya were also anxious about giving up food and water amid the scorching temperatures in the camp.
In the past, Hashim relished joining his friends for the annual act of devotion, as they were able to rest in the cool shade of trees between their chores.
"We cannot fast here like we did back in Burma (Myanmar), because it's too hot. There are no trees," he told AFP.
"The tarpaulin is hot, and it gets hotter when the sun is beating down. It will be very difficult."
Even so, Hashim is one of the fortunate ones, able to celebrate with his family. Other Rohingya children will spend Ramadan not just away from home, but alone.
Thousands crossed into Bangladesh without parents or family, either separated in the chaos or orphaned by the violence and disease that defined the mass exodus from Myanmar.
"Unfortunately, it will be their first Ramadan to remember for the wrong reasons," Roberta Businaro from Save the Children told AFP in Cox's Bazar.
"They will only have dirt and mud and dust to play with. They will be spending a Ramadan away from their home, from their parents and from their friends."
The Quran exempts the ill, elderly and others who cannot fast from giving up food and water.
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Myanmar policeman denies planting documents on Reuters reporters
A Myanmar policeman told a court on Wednesday he met two Reuters reporters on the night of their arrest in December, but denied giving them secret documents to incriminate them.
His testimony contradicted a previous witness who last week said police had "set up" the pair.
"During my meeting with Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, I didn't take anything from them and I didn't give anything to them," Police Lance Corporal Naing Lin told Judge Ye Lwin, overseeing the hearing at a court in Yangon.
"I went and met with Wa Lone because he called me and requested a meeting. I didn't call Wa Lone and ask him to come meet me," said Naing Lin, who said he met the Reuters reporters over dinner and was not accompanied by any other policeman.
A previous witness, Police Captain Moe Yan Naing, has told the court a police chief ordered Naing Lin and another policeman to give "secret" documents to Wa Lone in an operation to entrap him.
The court in Yangon has been holding hearings since January to decide whether Wa Lone 32, and his Reuters colleague Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, will be charged under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison, for allegedly obtaining confidential documents.
At the time of their arrest, the reporters had been working on an investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys in a village in western Myanmar's Rakhine state. The killings took place during an army crackdown that United Nations agencies say sent nearly 700,000 people fleeing to Bangladesh.
The reporters have told relatives they were arrested almost immediately after being handed some rolled up papers at a restaurant in northern Yangon by two policemen they had not met before, having been invited to meet the officers for dinner.
Naing Lin said Wa Lone called him in December and introduced himself as a Reuters reporter, requesting an interview about his experiences in Rakhine, where Naing Lin's Police Security Battalion 8 was stationed between April and November last year.
During the dinner, Wa Lone asked Naing Lin about the 10 murdered Rohingya, Naing Lin said.
During cross-examination, defence lawyer Than Zaw Aung said phone records show Naing Lin calling Wa Lone three times in the afternoon and the evening of Dec 12, the day the pair were arrested.
Naing Lin said several times he did not call Wa Lone, and insisted it was the reporter who called and initiated the meeting.
Lead prosecutor Kyaw Min Aung declined to comment after the hearing.
Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay was not immediately available for comment. After last week's hearing he said that the courts were independent, and the case would be conducted according to the law.
POLICE WITNESS FIRED
The previous witness, Captain Moe Yan Naing, has told the court that hours before the reporters were arrested, he was taken to the Battalion 8 compound with five other officers who had previously been contacted by Wa Lone, where they were interrogated by the police Special Branch.
When the officer in charge, Brigadier General Tin Ko Ko, found out that one of the six, Naing Lin, had been in contact with Wa Lone but had not met him in person, he ordered Naing Lin to use his phone to arrange a meeting with Wa Lone that evening, according to Moe Yan Naing.
He said Tin Ko Ko instructed Naing Lin to give Wa Lone documents related to Battalion 8 activities in Rakhine "in order to have him arrested".
Since first giving testimony in April, Moe Yan Naing, 47, has been sentenced to a year in jail for violating police discipline. Police have said the sentence was not related to the account he gave in court.
At a news conference on Tuesday, Police Director General Aung Win Oo dismissed Moe Yan Naing's testimony, saying Tin Ko Ko did not know the two reporters and that he did not order them to be set up. Reuters has been unable to contact Tin Ko Ko for comment.
At the end of Wednesday's hearing Police Captain Myo Lwin, the officer in charge of escorting witnesses in custody to court, said Sergeant Khin Maung Lin, who was due to testify next week, had been fired from the police and his whereabouts were unknown. He did not elaborate further.
Both Moe Yan Naing and Naing Lin said Khin Maung Lin was among the six policemen who had had contact with Wa Lone before the arrest.
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New clashes erupt in Farah city in West of Afghanistan
May 17 2018
Clashes have once again erupted among the security forces and the Taliban insurgents in Farah city, the provincial capital of Farah province.
According to the eyewitnesses and the residents of the city, the clashes broke out late on Wednesday night in some key parts of the city.
The local residents are saying that they have heard several sounds of explosions after the Taliban militants attacked some key government compounds including the central prison of Farah.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that three foreign engineers have also lost their lives after a rocket fired by the Taliban insurgents struck their compound.
This comes as the local officials and the ministry of defense said Wednesday that the city has been fully cleared of the Taliban insurgents although they added that the hunt is underway for the remaining militants who may have hidden in some parts of the city as well as its outskirts.
In the meantime, the local residents are saying that the militants may have launched the latest attack from the residential areas close to the government compounds.
According to reports, the militants have attacked the intelligence compound, the police commandment, as well as the central prison.
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Former inmates of China’s Muslim ‘reeducation’ camps tell of brainwashing, torture
By Simon Denyer
BEIJING — Kayrat Samarkand says his only “crime” was being a Muslim who had visited neighboring Kazakhstan. On that basis alone, he was detained by police, aggressively interrogated for three days, then dispatched in November to a “reeducation camp” in China’s western province of Xinjiang for three months.
There, he faced endless brainwashing and humiliation, he said in an interview, was forced to study Communist propaganda for hours every day, and chant slogans giving thanks and wishing long life to President Xi Jinping.
“Those who disobeyed the rules, refused to be on duty, engaged in fights or were late for studies were placed in handcuffs and ankle cuffs for up to 12 hours,” he said. Further disobedience would result in waterboarding or long periods strapped in agony in a metal contraption known as a “tiger chair,” he said, a punishment he said he suffered.
Between several hundred thousand to just over 1 million Muslims have been detained inside China’s mass “reeducation” camps in the restive province of Xinjiang, Adrian Zenz of the European School of Culture and Theology in Korntal, Germany, said in a report released Tuesday. Zenz is a leading authority on the current crackdown in Xinjiang.
In a region of 21 million people, including 11 million Muslims, the number of those he reports to be detained would be a significant proportion of the population, especially of young adult men.
Emerging accounts of the conditions in these camps make for chilling reading.
“China’s pacification drive in Xinjiang is, more than likely, the country’s most intense campaign of coercive social re-engineering since the end of the Cultural Revolution,” Zenz wrote, referring to the chaos unleashed by Mao Zedong in the 1960s.
“The state’s proclaimed ‘war on terror’ in the region is increasingly turning into a war on religion, ethnic languages and other expressions of ethnic identity.”
China has blamed violent attacks in Xinjiang in recent years on Islamic extremists bent on waging holy war on the state, with radical ideas said to be coming from abroad over the Internet and from visits to foreign countries by Uighurs, the region’s predominant ethnic group.
In response, Beijing has turned the entire region into a 21st-century surveillance state, with ubiquitous checkpoints and widespread use of facial recognition technology, and has even forced Muslims to install spyware on their phones that allows the authorities to monitor their activity online, experts say. Long beards and veils have been banned, and overt expression of religious sentiment is likely to cause immediate suspicion.
In an extension of the already pervasive program of human surveillance, more than 1 million Communist Party cadres have been dispatched to spend days on end staying in the homes of (mostly Muslim) families throughout Xinjiang, according to a report by Human Rights Watch released this week, where they carry out political indoctrination, and report back on anything from the extent of religious beliefs to uncleanliness and alcoholism.
“Muslim families across Xinjiang are now literally eating and sleeping under the watchful eye of the state in their own homes,” said Maya Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The latest drive adds to a whole host of pervasive — and perverse — controls on everyday life in Xinjiang.”
But reeducation camps that appear to have opened all across the region have sparked the greatest global concern.
Samarkand said 5,700 people were detained in just one camp in the village of Karamagay, almost all ethnic Kazakhs and Uighurs, and not a single person from China’s Han majority ethnic group. About 200 were suspected of being “religious extremists,” he said, but others had been abroad for work or university, received phone calls from abroad, or simply been seen worshiping at a mosque.
The 30-year-old stayed in a dormitory with 14 other men. After the room was searched every morning, he said, the day began with two hours of study on subjects ranging from “the spirit of the 19th Party Congress,” where Xi expounded his political dogma in a three-hour speech, to China’s policies on minorities and religion. Inmates would sing Communist songs, chant “Long live Xi Jinping” and do military-style training in the afternoon, before writing an account of their day, he said.
His account was corroborated by Omir Bekali, an ethnic Kazakh who was working in a tourism company in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital, until he was arrested by police on a visit to his parents in the village of Shanshan in March 2017. Four days of interrogation, during which he was prevented from sleeping, were followed by seven months in a police cell and 20 days in a reeducation camp in the city of Karamay, he said. He was given no trial, he said, nor granted access to a lawyer.
He described a day that would begin with a flag-raising ceremony at 6:30 a.m. followed by a rendition of one or more “red” songs praising the Communist revolution. After breakfast, inmates would spend 10 minutes thanking the Communist Party and Xi for providing everything for people, from food and drink to their livelihoods.
Inmates had to learn the national anthem and red songs, he said, as well as slogans condemning the “three evil forces” of separatism, extremism and terrorism.
“There were so many things to recite, and if you couldn’t recite them, they wouldn’t allow you to eat, sleep or sit,” he said. “They brainwash you, you must become like a robot. Listen to whatever the party says, listen to the party’s words, follow the party.”
Some inmates committed suicide, he said.
Both men said the food was poor, with meat rare and food poisoning not uncommon. Inmates were sometimes forced to eat pork, forbidden in Islam, as punishment, while Bekali said those accused of being “religious extremists” were also forced to drink alcohol.
Bekali, 42, had emigrated to Kazakhstan in 2006 and become a Kazakh citizen, and said the Kazakh government eventually won his release. Samarkand said he was allowed to leave for Kazakhstan to join his wife and children after having his house and savings, worth about $190,000, confiscated by the government. He was given 500 yuan, equivalent to $80, by police at the border as he departed.
Both men, interviewed by phone, are now in Kazakhstan.
Although the Chinese government has officially denied the existence of these camps, Zenz gathered evidence of 73 government procurement and construction bids valued at more than $100 million, along with public recruitment notices and other documents, pointing to the establishment of camps across the region.
He dates the onset of widespread detentions to March 2017, and a government campaign of “de-extremification” through education. That followed the appointment of Chen Quanguo as party secretary in Xinjiang in August 2016, and his transfer from Tibet, where he oversaw a similar program of intense social control, surveillance and securitization.
Many procurement bids, Zenz noted, mandate the installation of comprehensive security features that turn existing facilities into prisonlike compounds, with walls, security fences, barbed wire, reinforced security doors, surveillance systems, secure access systems, watchtowers, and guard rooms for police.
“While there is no published data on reeducation detainee numbers, information from various sources permit us to estimate internment figures at anywhere between several hundred thousand and just over one million,” Zenz wrote in a report first published by the Jamestown Foundation.
“The latter figure is based on a leaked document from within the region’s public security agencies, and, when extrapolated to all of Xinjiang, could indicate a detention rate of up to 11.5 percent of the region’s adult Uighur and Kazakh population.”
Bekali said he met doctors, lawyers and teachers in the camps, while Radio Free Asia (RFA) has reported that wealthy businessmen, 80-year-olds and even breast-feeding mothers have been among the detainees.
One of the most well-known detainees is a Uighur soccer player, Erfan Hezim, 19, a former member of China’s youth soccer team and now a forward for Chinese Super League team Jiangsu Suning. Hezim, also known by his Chinese name Ye Erfan, was detained in February while visiting his parents in Xinjiang, according to RFA, on the pretext that he had visited foreign countries, although he had reportedly traveled abroad only to train and take part in soccer matches.
Also detained have been dozens of family members of journalists from the Washington-based RFA, who have been at the forefront of reporting on the deepening crackdown in Xinjiang and the reeducation camps. At least two of the affected reporters, both naturalized U.S. citizens, have reason to believe their family members were detained directly because of their reporting, RFA said.
In one report, RFA quoted a Chinese official as justifying the widespread detentions in blunt terms.
“You can’t uproot all the weeds hidden among the crops in the field one by one — you need to spray chemicals to kill them all,” the official was quoted as saying. “Reeducating these people is like spraying chemicals on the crops. That is why it is a general reeducation, not limited to a few people.”
Muslim youth group tells Anwar to finish what he started
Sheith Khidhir Bin Abu Bakar
May 17, 2018
PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Muslim Youth Movement (Abim) has welcomed the royal pardon of Anwar Ibrahim and urged him to resume the pursuit of his vision of a democratic Islam.
Speaking to FMT, Abim president Mohamad Raimi Abdul Rahim claimed that Anwar, one of his predecessors, was among the first Muslim leaders to articulate the idea of Islam’s relevance in a plural society and the compatibility of its tenets with democratic ideals.
He said it was also Anwar who first led the movement aimed at changing Malaysian society into one that is egalitarian and underpinned by civic organisations.
“He made it clear a long time ago that it was important to see Malaysia as a multicultural and multiracial nation united in the pursuit of that ideal,” he said.
“Unfortunately, with his incarceration and the long rule of Barisan Nasional, these aspirations were ignored and Malaysians in fact became more polarised.”
Nevertheless, Raimi added, one could regard Pakatan Harapan’s victory in the recent election as proof of the enduring quality of Anwar’s vision.
“We hope he can now finish the job he started,” he said.
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Freed leader Anwar to hold line on Islamic extremism
May 17, 2018
Anwar Ibrahim has vowed there will be no “compromise” on Islamic extremism and terrorism under Malaysia’s new government and that any push to extend the powers of the country’s sharia courts will be vigorously debated and opposed.
The comments address directly questions that still linger in the minds of some in Malaysia’s Christian, Hindu and Buddhist minorities over whether the country would move to the Islamic right under an Anwar-led administration.
“We should be tough (on Islamic extremism) and act effectively through legislation, whatever necessary action (must be taken),” he told The Australian.
“But we also need to realise that the system allows for the mushrooming of such extreme radical views and we must combat this in the medium and longer term.”
Southeast Asia is facing a rising threat from cross-border terrorism as ISIS militants return from the Middle East battlefields seeking to wage jihad at home.
Mr Anwar said he believed good governance, the eradication of corruption, and freedom to conduct religious activities would “to a large extent control the spread of extreme fanatical orientation which breeds in countries where the system is blatantly corrupt and repressive”.
“I’m not suggesting there is a simplistic solution — that democracy means no terrorism,” he said, pointing to events in neighbouring democratic Indonesia this week. At least 34 people have died since last Wednesday in rolling terror attacks across the country, which included a standoff by convicted terrorist prisoners at a high-security jail outside Jakarta, and a wave of suicide bombings on churches in Surabaya perpetrated by one family using their children to carry explosives.
But, he added, Indonesia had a long way to go in “combating abject poverty and inequality” — factors that could also lead to extremism.
Mr Anwar also addressed an appeal yesterday by Pan Islamic Party leader Hadi Awang for the new Pakatan Harapan coalition government to allow parliamentary debate on his bill seeking an extension of sharia laws and punishments in the country.
“If I was to advise Dr Mahathir (Mohamad, who will remain in power for up to two years before handing over to Mr Anwar) I would say let’s have the debate. You can’t deny him the right to present the bill,” he said.
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Pakatan Harapan’s Election Victory Is like Rekindling the Torch for Islam
By Sheith Khidhir Bin Abu Bakar
May 17, 2018
A US-based scholar has characterised Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) election victory as a source of inspiration for Muslims around the world who believe in Islam’s compatibility with democracy.
Nader Hashemi, who heads the Centre for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver, said the new government was being seen as one that would honour human rights and be uncompromising in its fight against corruption, unlike the administration before it.
“Donald Trump, the House of Saud and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were strong supporters of former Prime Minister Najib Razak,” he said.
“To see him defeated by a group that campaigned on the platform of human rights, anti-corruption and the restoration of democracy is a huge source of inspiration during this moment of darkness for Muslim democratic forces, especially for those in the Middle East who are suffering under the yoke of authoritarian regimes.”
He said PH’s victory came against the backdrop of a global rise of authoritarianism and decline of democracy.
“With respect to the Islamic world, we are facing dark days, punctuated by surrender, defeat and madness. Look at what is happening today to the Palestinians, to the Rohingya, to the people of Syria, Yemen, Egypt and beyond.”
Nader recalled a time in the 1990s when he was living in Canada and was involved with several Muslim student groups.
“The news from Malaysia that we were hearing was that it was an emerging democracy with a strong economy, led by Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim, two Muslim political leaders who believed in the compatibility between Islam and democracy and were seeking to demonstrate this commitment with actual policies.”
He said this was an inspiration to Muslims across the world.
“Remember, this was before the fall of Indonesia’s Muhammad Suharto, before the rise of Mohammad Khatami in Iran, before the rise of the AK Party in Turkey and long before the Arab Spring.”
He said Muslims living in the West at the time were also confronted by powerful and influential voices that made it seem as though Islam and modernity were fundamentally incompatible.
“Around this time, Samuel Huntington published his infamous thesis on the Clash of Civilizations and the notorious Bernard Lewis was publishing books on Islam and Muslims that sought to portray them as threats to humanity.
“Malaysia at this time gave us hope.
“Sadly, after the split between Mahathir and Anwar, Malaysia took an authoritarian turn and the hope was lost.
“But after the bitter experience of Najib’s rule and the result of the recent election, many Muslims are again hopeful that Malaysia might be a source of inspiration for Islamic reform and democracy.”
He said it was important for Malaysians to remember that they should not leave politics to the politicians.
“Malaysian civil society has to hold all politicians, including Mahathir, accountable for their election promises.
“There are two Mahathirs: an authoritarian one and a democratic one. It is the responsibility of the press, intellectuals, political parties, student groups and Islamic reformers, among others, to ensure that he governs democratically and lives up to his promises.”
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Philippines close to approving Islamic autonomous region
May 17, 2018
MANILA -- The Philippines is on track to approve an Islamic autonomous region in the country, taking a step toward ending 50 years of bloody conflict with separatist rebel groups.
Legislation creating such a region on the southern island of Mindanao had been stalled in the Philippine Congress for years. But President Rodrigo Duterte has thrown his weight behind the Bangsamoro Basic Law, saying late last month that he might resign if the measure does not pass by the end of May.
Both houses of the legislature are putting the finishing touches on the bill. Three key committees in the lower house accepted the proposal Tuesday, and the measure looks to become law by May 30, the de facto end of the legislative session.
Establishing a Bangsamoro Autonomous Region would let residents of a predominantly Muslim section of western Mindanao set up an elected government of their choosing, with the power to develop natural resources and levy taxes.
The region's conflict began in 1969, when separatists organized in a rebel force that later spawned the militant Moro Islamic Liberation Front. A full-scale confrontation between rebels and the government erupted around 2000.
More than 100,000 people have died in the fighting over the past five decades, with the region reportedly suffering over $13 billion in economic losses. A lasting peace would help the relatively underdeveloped Mindanao catch up economically to the rest of the Philippines.
The government and rebel groups initially reached a comprehensive peace accord in 2014 under President Benigno Aquino. But violence erupted again the following year, when rebels killed 44 police officers in a firefight, and the Bangsamoro Basic Law stalled in Congress.
As a Mindanao native, Duterte has shown understanding of the Muslim residents' position and an eagerness to get the peace process back on track. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front and other rebels have grown more optimistic that the Basic Law will pass, though legislators who would lose power in such an autonomous region remain prepared to put up a fight.
The rising threat of terrorism makes passage all the more urgent. The Islamic State-inspired Maute group -- a radical offshoot of the Moro front -- laid siege to the city of Marawi in May 2017, eventually killing more than 1,300 people including residents, police and military personnel. Maute drew fighters not only from Mindanao but also from across Southeast Asia as those influenced by IS ideology sought to create a foothold for the extremist group in the region.
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4 shot dead in attack on Indonesia police; officer killed
May 16, 2018
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian police on Wednesday shot dead four sword-wielding men who attacked a police headquarters in Sumatra, killing one officer, the latest in a spate of militant attacks across the Muslim-majority country.
National police spokesman Setyo Wasisto said the men attacked officers after driving a minivan into Riau province’s police headquarters.
He said a fifth man, who drove the vehicle, was arrested trying to escape. One officer, who was hit by the minivan, died and two were injured.
“When the car broke through into the Riau police headquarters, it was blocked by policemen,” Wasisto told a televised news conference. “Then four of the men got out from the car and attacked police.”
Suicide bombings Sunday and Monday in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city, killed 26 people, including 13 attackers. Two families carried out the attacks, using children as young as 7.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the Surabaya attacks. The key figure in the attacks was the head of the Surabaya cell of a network of Indonesian extremists who have aligned themselves with IS.
Riau police said they were looking for a sixth man they believe was connected to Wednesday’s police station attack.
Wasisto identified the group as “members of an IS-affiliated group of NII.” He was referring to Negara Islam Indonesia, also known as Darul Islam, an Islamic group that aims to establish an Islamic state in Indonesia.
Earlier this month, six officers at a high-security detention center on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, were killed by Islamic militant inmates who took control of part of the prison and held hostages until being overwhelmed by police.
The flurry of attacks, and the tactic of using children as suicide bombers, has shocked Indonesians, who fear that IS has inspired a new wave of violent extremism in the country of more than 260 million.
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Indonesia hit by new IS attack after suicide bombings
May 17, 2018
PEKANBARU - Four men who attacked an Indonesian police headquarters with samurai swords were shot dead Wednesday and one officer also died, authorities said, days after a wave of deadly suicide bombings claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group rocked the country.
The assault in the city of Pekanbaru on Sumatra island - also claimed by IS - saw a group ram their minivan into a gate at the station and then attack officers, police said. Days earlier, two families who belonged to the same religious study group staged suicide bombings at churches and a police station in Surabaya on Java island, Indonesia’s second biggest city.
The attacks have put Indonesia on edge - and sparked a string of foreign government travel advisories - as the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country starts the holy fasting month of Ramadan from Thursday.
Four attackers were shot dead at the scene Wednesday and another suspect who fled was later arrested, police said.
One officer was killed by the speeding vehicle and two others were wounded in the incident, they added.
Police said the men belonged to a local extremist group, but not Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), which authorities believe was behind the family suicide bombings. Both groups have pledged allegiance to IS, they said. The bloody violence is putting pressure on lawmakers to pass a stalled security law that would give police more power to take pre-emptive action against terror suspects.
“I’m outraged and very saddened by these acts carried out by cowards - they have no humanity,” said Pebby Magdalena, who joined a demonstration in Jakarta in support of the bill.
Indonesia - which is set to host the Asian Games in just three months and an IMF-World Bank meeting in Bali in October - has long struggled with militancy. Its worst-ever attack was the 2002 Bali bombings that killed more than 200 people, including locals and foreign tourists.
Security forces have arrested hundreds of militants during a sustained crackdown since the Bali bombing.
Most attacks in recent years have been limited to low-level operations against domestic security forces. But on Sunday, a family of six - including girls aged nine and 12 - staged suicide bombings at three churches during morning services in Surabaya, killing 13.
All six bombers died, including the mother who was Indonesia’s first known female suicide bomber. It was also the first time children had been used in such attacks.
A memorial service was held Wednesday for Vincencius Hudojo, 11, and Nathanael Hudojo, 8, two brothers who died after the blast at the Santa Maria Catholic Church on Sunday in Surabaya. Their mother was injured.
Services were also held for Martha Djumani, 54, who was killed in the bombing at a Pentecostal church, just a day after she had got engaged.
“My sister was always caring towards other people and taught her children to be compassionate,” Daud Samari, Djumani’s younger brother, told reporters.
On Monday members of another family blew themselves up at a police station in Surabaya, wounding 10.
The church bombing family were in the same religious study group as the Surabaya police station bombers and a third family believed to be linked to the wave of attacks, authorities said.
The coordinated church attack was a sign local extremist groups are becoming more proficient, and it stirs concerns about an uptick in radicalism as hundreds of Indonesians who flocked to fight alongside IS in the Middle East return home.
“They were better organised... (it) suggests a higher level of capacity than what we have seen in recent years,” said Sidney Jones, director of Jakarta-based Institute of Policy Analysis of Conflict.
Dozens of suspects have been rounded up in raids since Sunday’s attacks, while several militants, including the number two ranking leader of the Surabaya JAD chapter, had been shot and killed, police said.
The church and earlier police station attacks were likely motivated by the arrest of JAD leaders, authorities said.
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Young Filipino Muslims leave for Malaysia peace tour
May 16, 2018
A group of young people from the southern Philippines has traveled to Malaysia for a tour aimed at building confidence "to counter terrorism" in the region.The Philippine military sponsored the trip of 50 predominantly Muslim youth leaders from Mindanao "to expose them to a predominantly Muslim society that is peaceful and progressive."Maj. Gen. Roseller Murillo, who helped organize the trip, said it is designed to make young people become "a force for positive and political change."Most participants come from provinces near the city of Marawi, which was occupied by Islamic State-inspired gunmen last year."This is very important especially for those from Marawi," said Murillo. The military official challenged the young Muslims to see what happened to Marawi "as an opportunity to change.""Even if we were hurt and our lives destroyed, let us rise up," Murillo told them in a send-off message on May 6.He said the program, which is in cooperation with the Malaysian government, will promote among young Muslims "peace, harmony and good governance in their communities."During the tour, participants will get the chance to "stimulate social exchanges" between and among communities of various faiths."Malaysia is a modern society — they all unite against terrorism. Whatever good practices you may learn on your tour, you apply it here when you come back," Murillo told the youth leaders.He said the Philippine military "recognizes the significance of engaging the youth as social actors and helping them become more effective change-makers."
Khalid Macalipot, a 21-year-old Islamic studies student at Marawi's Mindanao State University, hoped the trip to Malaysia would help him overcome the trauma of the conflict.Macalipot's family fled Marawi when the conflict erupted in May last year."I want to bring to Malaysia the culture of the people of Marawi and show the world that despite the war the Maranao people are peace-loving people," said Macalipot.Jamilnur Sarip, head of the student governing body at the university, said he wants to see how people in Malaysia live peacefully and harmoniously."Malaysia is considered an Islamic country but the synergy and solidarity are strong while in Marawi there is hatred between Muslims and non-Muslims," the youth leader said.Love Leah Abi-abi, a 20-year-old non-Muslim who joined the group, said she is excited to learn more about fostering tolerance, acceptance and coexistence, especially among young people.
Public awareness is important to reduce food wastage during Ramadan
May 16, 2018
KUALA LUMPUR: Public awareness on food wastage in the month of Ramadan should be given high attention due to the daily increase in solid waste collection recorded almost every year during the fasting month.
Last year, Alam Flora recorded daily increases in total solid waste collection from 150 tonnes to 200 tonnes per day throughout the month of Ramadan.
The amount include the collection throughout the concession areas under the service of Alam Flora which is in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Pahang.
Alam Flora chief executive officer Datuk Mohd Zain Hassan however said although the number of daily collection recorded had increased, but the overall total collection in the three concession areas recorded a decrease.
Mohd Zain however said overall solid waste collection shows a decreasing trend by the 17th day of Ramadan in 2017 dipping by 1,000 tonnes lower compared to 2016.
“We advise the people to save up some money when they purchase food and do not over-buy them.
“We advise Ramadan bazaar traders not to waste and donate unsold food to welfare homes or those in need.
“The amount of solid waste can be controlled if we replace it with reusable containers, so that we can reduce the usage of plastic bags and polystyrene packs,” he told the New Straits Times Press.
On top of that, Persatuan Pengguna Islam Malaysia urged the citizens to practise meal planning during Ramadan to help curb the growing problem of food wastage in the country.
Its president Datuk Nadzim Johan said people in the country need to realise the real purpose of fasting and plan their meal on the holy month accordingly to avoid food wastage culture.
“We need to ensure the awareness about food wastage should be exposed to the family, every fasting family needs to be smart in controlling the portion of food intake for sahur (pre-dawn meal) and while breaking fast.
“Of course we need to be more responsible of our food spending during Ramadan as food wastage seems to become a yearly culture, which is definitely a terrible situation.
“It’s already clear in Islam that you should not waste and indulge too much in food, but this does not seem to get into the system and is still the practice of some Muslims as food wasting culture is still happening,” he said.
Nadzim also said Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia (JAKIM) and Selangor Islamic Religious Department (JAIS) need to work together with PPIM to spread the awareness on food wastage from the school level.
“Ramadan is a month of discipline and is a very proper time to practise good deeds.
Perhaps, with the help and support from JAKIM and JAIS, the awareness could reach the people starting from the school level.
“We at PPIM have started to apply various initiatives to cope with food wasting issue for the past one month which included campaigns and talk sessions.
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Suicide Bombings: Boko Haram adopts new tactics
May 17, 2018
The Nigerian military says the Tuesday attack that claimed the lives of at least three operatives of the Civillian-JTF in Konduga town of Borno State was possible because Boko Haram used an aged man who disguised as a weak and feeble traveller.
The spokesman of the military operation in the North-east, Operation Lafiya Dole, Onyema Nwachukwu, said members of the Civillian-JTF on a stop and search duty in Konduga were deceived by the old man whom they allowed to inch too close to their post for a check of the content of the bag he was carrying.
It has been a usual practice of the Boko Haram to deploy mostly teenage boys and girls in carrying out suicide bombing attacks.
But unknown to the vigilante members, the aged man was actually a Boko Haram member on a mission to carry out attack in Konduga, a community 35km from Maiduguri.
He detonated the explosive devise contained in the bag, which resulted in killing himself and three of the Civilian-JTF operatives.
“The elderly man pretending to be weak and feeble was being searched by men of the Civilian Joint Task Force, when he detonated a suicide vest contained in a bag he was carrying,” Mr Nwachukwu said.
“Unfortunately three Civilian Joint Task Force members paid the supreme price in the incident. The wounded have been evacuated for medical attention.
“Our hearts go out to those who lost their lives as well as those injured in the callous attack.”
Mr Nwachukwu, an army colonel, said the Konduga incident “points to the variation in the tactics of the Boko Haram terrorists in their uncanny resolve to deceptively infiltrate communities and towns to mindlessly attack vulnerable and soft targets.
“Aside using women and children, the terrorists are now engaging the aged in suicide bombing as witnessed in this recent incident.”
He warned members of the public to cast their net of suspicion beyond looking for dirty and scraggy looking individuals as suspected suicide bombers.
“They (Boko Haram) have also been detected to now appear clean and well dressed to look unsuspicious and enable them gain access to targets marked for suicide attack. Some of the terrorists have also been found to now conceal their suicide vests by wearing it on the thigh rather than the waist to appear less bulky and evade detection when searched.
“In view of these developments, members of the public are please urged to be vigilant and discerning as they go about their normal daily routines and activities.”
Meanwhile, Mr Nwachukwu said a combined force of the Operation Lafiya Dole and the Cameroonian Defence Forces “have killed 15 Boko Haram insurgents in separate encounters in Southern Lake Chad Basin.
“Troops neutralised the insurgents whilst conducting operations to clear remnants of Boko Haram insurgents in the Lake Chad Islands and surrounding villages of northern Borno yesterday.
“Troops dislodged the insurgents from their hideout after a fierce battle, killing 11 insurgents in Gomaran village of Southern Lake Chad Basin.”
“In two other separate encounters with the fleeing insurgents in Firgi and Moula, both in Bama and Dikwa Local Governments Areas of Borno State, troops also ambushed and neutralised 4 Boko Haram insurgents who were fleeing troops ‘ onslaught in the northern fringes.”
He added that the “clearance operations also led to the recovery of one single barrel gun, one Dane gun and one locally made pistol. Other items recovered from the dislodged insurgents include 4 Motorcycles, motorcycle spare parts, 2 tricycles, 6 pumping machines, and 2 power generating sets. Additionally, the valiant troops captured 2 Boko Haram flags, a pair of camouflage uniform, a pair of combat boots, a camera, a bag of mechanical tools and medications.”
“Four men, 33 women and 16 children were rescued by the troops from the insurgents’ hideouts . The rescued hostages are currently being profiled for subsequent hand over to officials of the Internally Displaced Persons Camp for documentation and administering.”
Nigeria denies attending US embassy’s opening ceremony
16 May 2018
Nigeria has denied attending Monday's opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.
“Nigeria didn't attend [the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem],” Bashir Ahmad, a presidential spokesman, tweeted on Tuesday after criticism mount on social media over a media report that suggested Abuja was represented in the ceremony.
“But what was Nigeria really doing at the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem?” tweeted a popular scholar Gimba Kakanda, criticizing the alleged move.
Nigeria has a history of supporting anti-imperialist struggles in Africa and elsewhere, especially in Palestine.
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Nigeria: Sultan Declares Thursday Ramadan, Urges Muslims to Begin Fast
17 MAY 2018
By Mohammed Aminu and Femi Ogbonnikan
The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa'ad Abubakar III, has declared Thursday as the first day of the Ramadan and urged Muslims to commence fast.
Addressing journalists in his palace in Sokoto last night, the monarch said the new moon was sighted in many towns across the country.
According to him, reliable reports of moon sighting were received from Muslim leaders and Islamic across the country which included Sokoto, Maiduguri, Damaturu in Yobe State, Gombe, Dutse in Jigawa State, Zamfara, Minna, Port Harcourt, Bauchi State and so many towns across the country.
He said this sighting was duly verified and authenticated by the state committees and the national moon sighting committee.
"In accordance with Islamic law and our pursuit of obligatory fast as third pillar of Islam. We wish to announce that today Wednesday the 29th day of Shaaban 1439 after Hijra of the prophet Mohammad which is equivalent to May 16, 2018 has marked the end of Shaaban and the beginning of the new month of the Ramadan.
"Consequent upon this, Thursday, May 17, 2018 becomes the first day of Ramadan 1439 after Hijra," he said.
The Sultan to this end, called on Muslims to commence fast accordingly and pray fervently for peace and stability in the country.
He also implored Muslims to live in harmony with people of other faiths irrespective of religious and tribal differences and offer supplications for the leadership to succeed in steering the affairs of this country.
"Muslims should continue to live peacefully with other Nigerians irrespective of tribe and religious differences," the Sultan advised.
The monarch therefore, urged Muslims to rededicate themselves to the worship of God and pray for peace and progress of the country.
Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, Minister of Mines and Steel Development and governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, have urged Muslim faithful in the country to use the period to pray for peace, unity, security, socio-economic development and political stability of the country.
In a statement to mark the commencement of this year's Ramadan, the Speaker also enjoined them to imbibe the spirit of forgiveness, self-discipline, tolerance, righteousness and sympathy for the less privileged in the society which the Ramadan fast teaches and promotes.
While describing Ramadan as a period for spiritual rejuvenation and enrichment, Dogara enjoined Nigerians to devote themselves in the worship of the Almighty and imbibe the lessons of love and peaceful co-existence with one another.
"In the spirit of Ramadan, I want to enjoin Muslims in Nigeria to maximize the spiritual and physical benefits associated with the holy month as well as assimilate the Ramadan's ethical principles of sharing, caring, love, tolerance and piety," he said.
On his part, Amosun admonished Muslim faithful in the state to seize the occasion of the holy month of Ramadan as an opportunity to engage in sober reflection and absolute return to Allah.
The governor called on Muslims not to see the month as one of a mere mandatory prayer, fasting and Iftar meals, but it is for them to use the period to engage in total abstinence, probing soul-searching, sincere repentance and infinite atonement.
In a message signed by the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Adedayo Adeneye, the governor urged the Muslims to submit their spirit, soul and body, in total submission to Allah.
He also enjoined Muslims to remember the nation in fervent prayer, noting that, "this period in our nation calls for our collective and individual prayers for the fulfilment of our aspirations and desires as a country and as citizens."
In the same vein, Fayemi congratulated Muslims in Ekiti State and Nigeria in general as they commence another season of Ramadan.
The minister in a goodwill message to the Muslim Umah, said the Ramadan season offers faithful a unique opportunity to draw closer to the Almighty Allah and deepen relationship with him in total submission to his will.
He, therefore, urged Muslims faithful to use the period to pray for the progress of the country and for peace to reign in all the troubled spots.
Noting that the Ramadan season emphasises piety, discipline, self-control and empathy for the less privileged in society, Fayemi called on all adherents of the Islamic faith to reflect on these lessons during the 30 days fasting period.
"We all must be grateful to Allah for being alive to witness another Ramadan season. It is important to use the opportunity of the fasting to pray and seek the face of Allah for peace and progress of our dear country.
Similarly, governorship aspirant of the APC in Gombe State, Mr. Muhammad Jibrin Barde, has urged all Muslims in Gombe State to pray for peace and progress of the state as the Ramadan fast commences.
Barde in a statement by his media office, urged the Muslim faithful to also pray for the security and unity of the country.
He said it was the duty of all, irrespective of religion, to also pray for the country.
The statement released yesterday read: "Dan Barde salutes all adherents of the Islamic faith in the state and Nigeria at large as they begin this year's Ramadan fast.
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"May Allah grant the prayers of the faithful during Ramadan and reward them bountifully."
Rwanda: Muslims Urged on Peace, Helping the Needy as Holy Month Begins
17 MAY 2018
By Frederic Byumvuhore
As Muslims in Rwanda Thursday join their counterparts in the world to observe the Holy Month of Ramadhan, the Mufti of Rwanda Sheikh Salim Hitimana has urged them to strive for peaceful co-existence with neighbours and support the needy in the community.
Ramadhan is that time of the year when all Muslims abstain from eating and drinking from dawn until sunset for 30 days as they reflect on their faith.
The period ends with Eid-al-fitr, when Muslims gather in different mosques to celebrate with special prayers, hold family get-togethers, among other feasts.
Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam and it is an obligation for all adult Muslims.
In his message, Mufti Hitimana called on Muslims to increase praying hours but importantly show kindness to their neighbours, avoid any activity that can interrupt their prayers, and take care of the needy families.
"It is the period of renewing our faith and the reward from one good deed is multiplied comparing to the ordinary time. Most importantly, in addition to prayers, the period is to be characterised by discipline, humility, visiting the sick and supporting the elderly and poor people," he said.
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Revealing the generosity of the UK's Muslim community during Ramadan
16 May 2018
With Ramadan beginning this week, we wanted to look at the holy month for British Muslims in the latest episode of our series Young, British and Muslim - and a little known aspect about the acts of generosity that happen during this time.
Ramadan is a month when Muslims fast between sunrise and set, which is around 15 hours in the UK. But it's also the month when Muslims collectively donate substantial amounts of money for charity.
According to the Charity Commission, British Muslim charities raise £100 million during the month of Ramadan alone. That's equivalent to each British Muslim donating £371 per year. Compare that to an average of all Britons, who donate £18 per year.
In this episode we hear about the events, iftars and charity initiatives taking place across the country during Ramadan, and how British Muslims came to the aid of others during the Grenfell Tower fire and terror attacks at Manchester Arena and Finsbury Park, which all happened during Ramadan a year ago.
Would relationships between Britain's faith communities be improved if - as one of our guests believes - these acts of charity were better highlighted?
Our guests in the studio with Rageh Omaar are:
Shelina Janmohamed, author of Generation M: Young Muslims Changing the World and and vice-president of Ogilvy Noor, an Islamic branding consultancy
Omar Salha, founder of social enterprise Ramadan Tent Project, which runs an annual Open Iftaar initiative for the homeless and people of all faiths. His organisation helped victims of the Grenfell Tower fire.
Samra Said, manager of Human Appeal charity’s UK projects including poverty, homelessness and emergency responses including the Manchester attack.
We also speak to Mohammed Mahmoud, the imam of the Muslim Welfare House in Finsbury Park. He protected Darren Osborne moments after he attacked Muslim worshippers as they came out of his mosque during Ramadan in June last year. He spoke exclusively to us about what has happened in the year since. You can watch more of that interview here.
And we visit the Outer Hebrides where one man, the local community and national donations have helped build their first ever mosque which has opened just in time for Ramadan.
Watch all episodes of Young, British and Muslim here.
Subscribe to ITV News' YouTube channel to be notified when new episodes of Young, British and Muslim are released. And let us know what you think of the series on Twitter by using #YBMITV
Thousands in Paris protest Israeli killings
17 May 2018
Thousands of people gathered Wednesday evening at Trocadero Square in Paris to support Palestinians and condemn Israel’s deadly assaults at the border of the Gaza Strip.
Groups behind the demonstration demanded in a statement that the Israeli occupiers stop their attacks on Palestinian civilians and urged French President Emmanuel Macron to "sanction" Israel.
Protesters shouted anti-U.S. and anti-Israel slogans as well as messages of solidarity with the Palestinians participating in the Great March of Return.
The crowds carried signs calling for a boycott of Israel saying "Terrorist Israel" and "Stop the Israeli massacres."
Other signs called for "Freedom for Palestine" and "Justice and Freedom for Palestine."
On Monday, at least 62 Palestinian demonstrators were martyred and thousands more injured by Israeli troops deployed along the other side of the border.
Monday’s demonstration coincided with Israel’s 70th anniversary -- an event Palestinians refer to as Al-Nakba (the Catastrophe) -- and the relocation of Washington’s Israel embassy to Jerusalem.
"France must condemn the massacres at Gaza. The Israeli ambassador to Paris must be summoned to the Elysee to explain himself. Peace dies under the blows of [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu," far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon tweeted on Monday.
Former socialist presidential candidate Benoit Hamon called on the European Union and France to recognize the Palestinian state.
Since the Gaza rallies began on March 30, more than 100 Palestinian demonstrators have been martyred by cross-border Israeli army gunfire.
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Hundreds show solidarity with Palestine in London
16 May 2018
Hundreds of people gathered Tuesday in front of the British prime minister’s Downing Street office in London to protest the killing of Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza by Israeli forces.
At the emergency demonstration called by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), Palestinians and activists urged the UK government to condemn the killings.
“Gaza, Stop the Massacre”, “End the Siege”, and “Stop Israeli State Slaughter,” read some of the placards held by protesters.
At least 62 Palestinians were martyred and thousands more injured by Israeli forces along the Gaza border Monday amid protests to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Israel's establishment -- an event Palestinians refer to as the "Nakba" or "the Catastrophe" and to protest the relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The demonstration in London followed a vigil held at Parliament Square for those who lost their lives in Gaza, which some MPs also joined.
Shortly before the demonstration began, Prime Minister Theresa May, speaking at a press conference with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, called for an “independent and transparent” investigation into the loss of life in Gaza and the use of live rounds by Israeli forces.
“Thank you for standing up for the besieged people of Gaza,” the PSC quoted a speaker as saying during the demonstration.
“The siege needs to come to an end! There will never be peace until refugees can go home. There will never be peace without Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.”
“The brutality of the Israeli Army has been laid bare for all to see. We stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine, but words alone are not enough,” Sinn Fein MP Chris Hazzard said at the demonstration.
“The international community cannot continue to stand idly by. Israel must be held to account for its illegal actions,” he said.
“Sinn Fein calls on the Irish government to take a lead internationally on this. There can be no impunity for barbaric state violence directed at peaceful protests.”
Hazzard also urged the Irish government to expel the Israeli ambassador and to move immediately to formally recognize the state of Palestine.
Since the border rallies began on March 30, more than 110 Palestinian demonstrators have been killed by cross-border Israeli gunfire, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.
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Macron Announces He Will Launch Islamic Reformation in France, Starting After Ramadan
17 May 2018
French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to announce a major overhaul to Islam in France following Ramadan including major reforms of Islamic bodies, halal practices, and the training of imams.
The French President is expected to announce his proposals for reform after June 14th, following the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, and is expected to seek major changes in the way mainstream Islam operates in France, BFMTV reports.
According to reports, the French leader is said to have consulted various other heads of state and government during his various trips to North Africa and the Middle East in recent months regarding potential reforms.
The ambitious reforms would likely see major changes to the way mainstream Islam operates in France including changes to the training of imams, foreign funding of mosques, and the removal of the significant foreign influence on Islam within the country.
In order to enact the financial side of the reforms, a new independent funding association is to be created which would oversee money that would go towards funding Islamic pilgrimages or halal products.
Macron will also replace the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), a body created by former president Nicolas Sarkozy, with a new organisation that would better represent French Muslims as Macron claims the CFCM did not represent the “unique voice of Islam in France”.
The reforms come after radical Islamic ideologies have been able to spread widely across the French Muslim community, particularly in troubled migrant populated suburbs such as those surrounding Paris.
Last November, Macron blamed the French state for the rise of Islamism saying, “Radicalisation has taken hold because the French Republic has resigned,” and adding that he would focus on the troubled neighbourhoods in which radical Islam had taken hold.
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