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Islamic World News ( 16 March 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Imam of Attacked New Zealand Mosque Says ‘We Still Love This Country’

New Age Islam News Bureau

16 March 2019

New Zealand mosque attacks: Imam of attacked New Zealand mosque says 'we still love this country'



 Imam of Attacked New Zealand Mosque Says ‘We Still Love This Country’

 Muslims Embraced Us Jews When We Were Slain At Worship. Now We Must Support Them.

 The Maharashtra Muslims Acquitted Of 'Terrorism' After 25 Years

 Another Jamaat-like Crackdown in Kashmir? This Time, Govt Workers Are Also on List

 Trump Factor Stands Out In New Zealand Mosque Massacre

 Trump Denies White Extremism Is Rising Threat Despite New Zealand Terror Attacks

 Islamophobia Post 9/11 Responsible For New Zealand Mosque Attacks: Pak PM

 Indonesian Religious Groups Call For Calm after Terror Attacks on NZ Mosques

 Iran Calls for All-Out Fight against Islamophobia in West amid NZ Attack

 King Salman In Tweet Calls For Combating Hate Speech, Terrorism



 Imam of Attacked New Zealand Mosque Says ‘We Still Love This Country’

 Muslims Embraced Us Jews When We Were Slain At Worship. Now We Must Support Them.

 World reacts with sadness, anger to New Zealand mosque shootings

 New Zealand Muslims Await Word from Mosque Attacks: ‘Everybody Knew Each Other’

 New Zealand mosque attack suspect charged with murder

 Pope voices solidarity with Muslims after New Zealand attacks

 After New Zealand attack France to hike security at houses of faith

 London mosque stands with New Zealand terror victims

 Extremist Brenton Tarrant appears in New Zealand court charged in mosques terror attack, enters no plea

 New Zealand mosque shooter a white nationalist seeking revenge



 The Maharashtra Muslims Acquitted Of 'Terrorism' After 25 Years

 Another Jamaat-like Crackdown in Kashmir? This Time, Govt Workers Are Also on List

 Father, Son from Gujarat Feared Missing in New Zealand’s Christchurch After Mosque Terror Attacks

 3 Crore Muslims And 4 Crore Dalits Missing From Electoral Rolls, Study By Software Wiz Finds

 India, Saudi Arabia Discuss Terror, Increase In Haj Quota And More

 Iran, India Eye Closer Cooperation amid Tensions with Pakistan

 Terror financing: I-T department unearths undisclosed cash and properties worth crores in J&K

 Kartarpur Corridor: India accuses Pakistan of usurping Gurdwara land, double-speak

 France freezes Masood Azhar’s assets, will push to put him on EU list of terrorists


North America

 Trump Factor Stands Out In New Zealand Mosque Massacre

 Trump Denies White Extremism Is Rising Threat Despite New Zealand Terror Attacks

 US Muslims Show Resolve after New Zealand Attacks

 New Zealand attack spurs extra patrols in Canada

 'Don't Abandon Your Mosques,' CAIR Tells Muslims in US

 Ilhan Omar calls for solidarity with Muslims in wake of New Zealand mosque terror attacks

 New Zealand gunman mind-controlled by 9/11 false flag operation: Analyst

 Trump offers condolences to NZ after mosque attacks; perpetrator praises Trump

 US envoy says no timetable for full US withdrawal from Syria



 Islamophobia Post 9/11 Responsible For New Zealand Mosque Attacks: Pak PM

 Pakistani ‘Hero’ who tried to stop Christchurch mosque terrorist succumbs to wounds

 Pakistan, Iran vow to boost counterterrorism cooperation

' Terrorism does not have a religion': Pakistan condemns New Zealand mosque shootings


Southeast Asia

 Indonesian Religious Groups Call For Calm after Terror Attacks on NZ Mosques

 Philippines hopes extremist group ‘neutralized’ after de facto leader killed

 Hate speech net tightens in Malaysia

 Azmin raps Australian senator over NZ attacks remark



 Iran Calls for All-Out Fight against Islamophobia in West amid NZ Attack

 New Zealand Attack Shows Growing Hostility to Islam: Erdoğan

 Palestinians protest Hamas tax hikes for a second day

 Israel strikes ‘100 targets’ in Gaza, Palestinians cancel border protests

 Two rockets fired from Gaza at Tel Aviv area, says Israeli army

 If you 'care' about Yemenis, back Saudi war: Pompeo to senators


Arab World

 King Salman In Tweet Calls For Combating Hate Speech, Terrorism

 Syria Death Toll More Than 370,000 In 8 Years Of War: Monitor

 One of two Saudi victims of NZ terror attack succumbs to injuries

 UAE blocks diplomatic efforts to free 11 Lebanese detainees: Report

 Arab League must re-evaluate Syria membership suspension: Ambassador

 Anti-Daesh Syria force boosted as extremist holdout shrinks


South Asia

 Bangladesh Police Examine IS Threat on Social Media

 3 senior Taliban leaders killed in Kunduz operations

 Two ISIS-K group members killed in Nangarhar airstrike: 201st Silab Corps

 Precision airstrikes destroy Taliban operational centre in Uruzgan

 1 killed, another wounded in a magnetic bomb explosion in Kabul city



 Nigeria school building collapse killed 20 people, says official

 South Africans pray for New Zealand terror victims

 US airstrike in Somalia targets al Shabaab

 Why is Al Shabab making inroads into Kenya?

 Islamic State enforced leadership change in West Africa province, audio reveals

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Imam of attacked New Zealand mosque says ‘we still love this country’

16 March 2019

An imam who was leading prayers at a Christchurch mosque when a terrorist brandishing semi-automatic weapons mowed down his congregation said Saturday that the Muslim community’s love for New Zealand would not be shaken by the massacre.

“We still love this country,” said Ibrahim Abdul Halim, imam of Linwood Mosque, vowing that extremists would “never ever touch our confidence”.

Halim gave a harrowing account of the moment during Friday prayers when gunshots rang out in the mosque, replacing peaceful reflection with screaming, bloodshed and death.

“Everyone laid down on the floor, and some women started crying, some people died immediately,” he said.

But, he said, New Zealand Muslims still felt at home in the south Pacific nation.

“My children live here,” he said, adding, “we are happy”.

He said the majority of New Zealanders “are very keen to support all of us, to give us full solidarity”, describing how strangers exchanged hugs with him on Saturday.

“They start to... give me big hug, and give me more solidarity. This is something very important.”

The attacks on two mosques by a right-wing extremist left 49 people dead.



Muslims Embraced Us Jews When We Were Slain At Worship. Now We Must Support Them.

By Molly Pascal

March 15

Molly Pascal, a writer and a member of the Tree of Life synagogue, lives in Pittsburgh.

When I saw the news from New Zealand Friday, the cracks in my heart widened. Another act of terrorism. Another act of hate. I know something of what the Christchurch community is going through because less than five months ago, my community went through something similar. On Oct. 27, a terrorist murdered 11 members of my synagogue in Pittsburgh.

On Friday, within hours of waking up, the staff at Tree of Life in Pittsburgh convened. Congregants began calling and emailing each other. We needed to organize. We needed to do something, and not merely to help people in New Zealand, but to counter Islamophobia at home. Tree of Life Rabbi Jeffrey Myers shared this plea in an email to the congregation, “I ask you ... to reach out not only to the injured communities, but to your Islamic neighbors as well.”

From our own experience, we know that the hours and days that follow will bring intense bewilderment and grief. Yet, after our shooting, there was something that gave us strength. In that time of pain and fear, another story emerged, one of hope and love. On Oct. 28, I attended a hastily organized memorial service at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in Pittsburgh. Dignitaries and politicians filled the front rows. We listened to the speeches, with their  impassioned messages of support. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto spoke, as did various clergy, representative of many different faiths. At one point, the clergy leaders — Muslim, Jewish, Protestant, Catholic, Presbyterian, Hindu — crowded on the stage together. It was a powerful sight of unity.

One speech stood out for me more than all the others. Wasiullah Mohamed, the executive director of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh, took the stage. He announced that the center had begun raising money to pay for funeral expenses for the victims. He had already raised thousands, and in the coming weeks, the number would skyrocket to hundreds of thousands. Mohamed also made a vow: He pledged that the Pittsburgh Muslim community would stand with the Pittsburgh Jewish community. He and members of his community offered to personally stand guard at the doors of local synagogues, if necessary, to allow Jews safe passage to our places of worship and to accompany us if we felt unsafe running our daily errands.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of these words. Muslims offering to protect Jews? To me, there could be no greater olive branch, no more profound promise of peace.

Six days later, on a Friday evening, the Tree of Life congregation gathered privately in a small chapel at Rodef Shalom, a nearby synagogue, for the first service of Shabbat. As I waited for the service to begin, people I didn’t know filed in. Soon, the row behind me held a half-dozen strangers, the women in traditional abaya and hijab. I looked around and saw many Muslim families like them joining the crowd. When our congregation rose to speak the mourner’s Kaddish, they rose with us. Afterward, we thanked them. They offered us their condolences and invited us to attend a service at the Islamic Center. Salaam, I said. Shalom, they said.

Not long after, Mohamed coordinated an event bringing together survivors from the terrorist attack on the mosque in Quebec with the survivors from Pittsburgh. They all wept together.

Now, in Pittsburgh, signs bearing messages of love and peaceful coexistence dot front yards, construction sites and shop windows. A popular one reads, in English, Spanish and Arabic, “No matter where you’re from, you are welcome here.” Others read, “No place for hate” and “Stronger than hate.” A few local churches have hung banners with the words, “Love all thy neighbors.”

I hope that the bonds between the Pittsburgh Jewish and Islamic communities continue to grow. The Temple Sinai synagogue and Islamic Center of Pittsburgh are co-hosting a Shabbat dinner in Squirrel Hill. And, next month, many Jews will be inviting people of other faiths to our Passover Seders. The 2 for Seder program is a national initiative launched by Marnie Fienberg in honor of her mother-in-law, Joyce Fienberg, one of the victims of the Tree of Life massacre. The hope, according to Marnie Fienberg, is to “build bridges to our neighbors.”

On a Saturday in Pittsburgh, there was one message of hate, but it was followed by millions of love. When my son asked me, “Why do people hate us? Why do people hate Jews?” I was able to point to evidence to the contrary. Let us now do the same for our Muslim brothers and sisters.

We can donate to lessen the burden that lies ahead for the families of the victims. We can reach out with messages of love and support. New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush encouraged Muslims to stay away from mosques; perhaps we can follow Mohamed’s example and make the same offer he did, to put ourselves between our Muslim neighbors and those who might mean them harm. We promise we will continue to work with you in our common fight for the right of people of any faith to worship peacefully. Pittsburgh and Tree of Life stand with the Islamic community of Christchurch in New Zealand.



The Maharashtra Muslims Acquitted Of 'Terrorism' After 25 Years

by Bilal Kuchay

Mar 16, 2019

Bhusawal, Maharashtra - On May 28, 1994, Farukh Ahmad Khan, a tall, slim man, was delivering a lecture to his students in Thane, Maharashtra, when he was told that a police officer was looking for him.

Khan, then 24, wanted to work abroad and had applied for a passport. He thought that the officer's visit was related to his application.

The officer left a message for Khan to visit the local police station. When Khan arrived, he was escorted to the commissioner's office for questioning.

He was asked whether he knew someone named Jamil Khan, and responded that Khan was his cousin.

He was then asked if he knew Ashiq Hussain Khandey, and responded that he didn't know anyone by this name.

Police described Khandey as a "Kashmiri terrorist" and accused Farukh of planning attacks in Maharashtra with him, saying the pair wanted to "spread terrorism".

They then, he claimed, took him into custody and assaulted him.

Khan was unaware that in his hometown of Bhusawal, more than 400km away, police had already picked up Jamil and Yusuf Khan, his cousins.

With them, he became part of a group of Muslim men accused of planning to carry out bomb blasts across the state of Maharashtra, which is home to more than 100 million people, of which Mumbai is the capital.

For weeks, they appeared on the front pages of newspapers, slammed as "terrorists".

Twelve people were accused initially - one accomplice gave evidence to the prosecution and escaped trial.

The eleven suspects - Jamil Ahmed Khan, Mohammed Yunus, Yusuf Khan, Wasim Asif, Ayyub Ismail Khan, Shaikh Shafi, Farukh Ahmad Khan, Abdul Qader Habibi, Syed Ashfaq Mir, Mumtaz Murtuza Mir and Mohammed Haroon Ansari - were accused of sedition and conspiring against the country.

On February 27 this year, after a 25-year battle, they were all acquitted.

Police had initially claimed to have had information that Jamil, a member of now the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), along with his two cousins and other associates, were planning assaults against Hindus to avenge the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition.

Following the demolition of the Babri mosque by Hindu attackers in Ayodhya in December 1992, communal riots erupted in several cities, including Mumbai.

The tense situation worsened when in 1993, bomb blasts in Mumbai killed 257 people and injured hundreds.

As well as the sedition charges against the 11 men, police invoked the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, an anti-terrorism law which was used in India between 1985 and 1995.

After facing court in Bhusawal, the group was remanded in custody where they were allegedly tortured and forced to accept the charges.

"We were accused of harbouring terrorists, criminal conspiracy, planning terror activities and so many other things. We kept saying that we don't know anything and are innocent, but the police kept torturing us," Khan told Al Jazeera.

"The cops would tie our hands by rope behind the body, and stretch our legs in the opposite direction making a 180-degree angle. On several occasions, our hands were tied, and we would be hung upside down.

"After torture, they would ask us to sign on blank papers."

They spent four months in jail before being released on bail by a special court that deals with terror cases in Nashik, a city in Maharashtra.

"We never went to jail again, but we were not free also," said Jamil, earlier the prime suspect.

A life of discrimination

After being stained with the "terrorist" label, life was not easy. Jamil said he was viewed with suspicion, not only by police.

Khan said: "Such was the environment in Bhusawal in 1994, that half of our friends had left the town with fear that police might arrest them as well. Many of our relatives and friends wouldn't even exchange greetings with us. We had become strangers among our own locality."

In the group, three were doctors and two were engineers. Abdul Qader Habibi now has a PhD.

Khan had a diploma in electronics and telecommunication and another in industrial electronics.

"I wanted to work outside for a few years, make some savings and then move back to my city and start something of my own. That is why I had applied for the passport, but this case ruined my life," he told Al Jazeera.

After being accused, he lost his professional job. He now repairs home inverters for a living.

"This case ruined our lives," he said.

Mohammed Yunus, 63, is a doctor by profession and runs a small clinic in his hometown.

"After coming out of the jail on bail, for months people wouldn't visit my clinic. A prefix, TADA, was added to my name," he said, referring to the acronym for the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act.

Though TADA was repealed by the government in 1995, the case stalled because of administrative hurdles.

The Maharashtra government in 2003 claimed that no offence was filed under TADA and recommended dropping proceedings.

But a judge in Nashik rejected the recommendations.

"For years, the court didn't drop the TADA charges despite the state government's recommendations. We then approached the Supreme Court in 2012 appealing that charges under TADA be dropped against us," Jamil told Al Jazeera.

In 2016, they approached Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, a Muslim civil rights group, for legal aid.

After they received legal support, the group approached the Supreme Court again. On this occasion, the court directed the TADA court in Nashik to complete the trial in one year.

The trial began in July 2018.

When TADA court judge SC Khatti acquitted the men, "we cried a lot in the courtroom and hugged each other. It took 25 long years for us to prove that we were innocent", said Jamil.

"It was like Eid here," said Jamil's wife, Rehana. "There was so much happiness."

In December 2016, Innocence Network, which campaigns for the wrongfully prosecuted, released a report calling on the government to pay compensation to victims of wrongful convictions.

Indian officials behind wrongful arrests and prosecution should be held accountable, the report said.

"There is a systematic investigative bias in terror-related cases against certain communities in India," said Manisha Sethi, an author and member of the Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association human rights group.

"Whenever there is a terror attack, the first instinct is to arrest Muslims, which is very sad.

"It's unfortunate that there wasn't any discussion on that report. Unless the police and investigating agencies are made accountable, things won't change."

Muslims in India, according to several recent reports, believe they are unfairly targeted by police.

Arshad Madani, president of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind (Council of Muslim theologians in India) said that within moments of an attack, fingers point towards Muslims.

"Action is not being taken against the officers involved in these bogus cases that have destroyed lives of thousands of innocent Muslims," he told Al Jazeera. "And the reason given is that it would demoralise the police force."

"Are police superior to people? This lack of accountability and denying of justice only shows that no matter to what extent injustices are done to Muslims in India, their perpetrators will not be punished."



Another Jamaat-like Crackdown in Kashmir? This Time, Govt Workers Are Also on List

March 15, 2019

Srinagar: Days after the leadership of the largest socio-religious-political organisation, Jama’at-e-Islami (JeI), were arrested along with other religious and separatist leaders, a second government crackdown seems imminent in Jammu and Kashmir .

“A list of around two hundred militant and Jama’at sympathisers, which includes government officials, has been prepared," sources in state administration revealed, adding that the "militant sympathisers would be arrested soon".

Sources have said that government servants, including some senior officials, have been named in the list and will be removed from their positions.

“These are the people who are working covertly. They not only provide financial and logistical support to the militants, separatists and other anti-national elements but also propagate separatist thought among youth,” a top official, who wished to remain anonymous, said.

Police officials, including the director general of J&K Police, Dilbagh Singh, however, refused to comment about the purported list.

But, sources said that the government has been working on the list from some time now and the move is aimed at “cracking down on the support base of militants and separatists” so that “elections could be held peacefully”.

As per the official source, most of the government employees whose names have figured in the list are teachers.

“We have found a large number of government teachers actively doing subversive activities. They are also trying to propagate this at the place of their work, among colleagues and students,” the official said.

A report has even been compiled with the help of agencies, and local police in which several people have been indicted for spreading “separatist” ideology.

According to officials, the main propagators have been shortlisted.

“This is going to be the second phase of the crackdown on the anti-national elements in Kashmir valley,” the official said.

Apart from government employees, several religious leaders and clerics have also been implicated.

The Jama’at now faces a five-year ban in the state and the government has declared it an “unlawful association”. The group has been charged with being in “close touch” with militant outfits and supporting extremism and militancy in the state and elsewhere.

“JeI is involved in anti-national and subversive activities in the country intended to cause disaffection,” the ban order read.

The government has also said that the group intends to escalate its “subversive” activities, including an “attempt to carve out Islamic state out of the Union of India by destabilising” the law of the land.

The group was aiming to “escalate secessionist movement, support militancy and incite violence”, the government said.

The ban has been widely condemned in the state with two of Kashmir’s major political parties – the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party even holding protest demonstrations against it.

Just last week former Chief Minister and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti led a protest rally with members of her party in Anantnag district against the ban.

“We will protest at the district level and then in every (assembly) segment. We want the ban to be revoked and these elderly people are released.

Also, people should be told what their crime is, what is the charge that they face, what is the evidence on the basis of which they have been jailed,” she said.

An Islamic-political organisation and social conservative movement, Jama’at-e-Islami (JeI) was founded during British India in 1941 by Abul Ala Maududi, an Islamic theologian and socio-political philosopher.

Along with the Muslim Brotherhood, (Ikhwan al-Muslimin, founded in 1928 Egypt), JeI was the first of its kind to develop "an ideology based on the modern revolutionary conception of Islam.”

The JeI has participated in elections in Jammu and Kashmir from 1971 to 1987. Its seat share, however, remained in the single-digits with the organization even alleging that the polls had been rigged.

The group, which has created a considerable number of schools, orphanages and charitable trusts in the state, has been called out time and again for allegedly harbouring a close association with Kashmiri militants, a claim which they have denied.



Trump factor stands out in New Zealand mosque massacre

Mar 15, 2019

Iran has strongly condemned “inhumane” attacks on two mosques in New Zealand, urging Wellington to immediately find and punish the perpetrators without any consideration.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi on Friday denounced the deadly attacks by an alleged white supremacist - reportedly an admirer of US President Donald Trump - as inhumane and totally brutal.

“Any terrorist attack must be condemned by all states no matter where in the world, by whom, and with what motivation and pretext it is carried out,” Qassemi said.

He also urged governments to prevent racist and Islamophobic movements and ideologies from threatening the security and tranquility of the citizens of states across the world.

His reaction came as political and Islamic leaders expressed their disgust at the massacre and cited rising "Islamophobia" as responsible.

At least one gunman killed 49 people and wounded more than 20 during Friday prayers in New Zealand's worst ever mass shooting, which Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern condemned as terrorism.

The Australian gunman, identified as Brenton Tarrant, broadcast live footage on Facebook of the attack on one mosque in the city of Christchurch, mirroring the carnage played out in video games, after publishing a "manifesto" in which he denounced immigrants, calling them "invaders".

In his manifesto, Tarrant said he saw Trump as “symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.”

The 28-year-old terrorist said he chose to use a gun over other weapons because it would spark a debate around the second amendment.

“With enough pressure the left wing within the United States will seek to abolish the second amendment, and the right wing within the US will see this as an attack on their very freedom and liberty,” Tarrant said.

“This attempted abolishment of rights by the left will result in a dramatic polarization of the people in the United States and eventually a fracturing of the US along cultural and racial lines.

“Eventually, when the white population of the USA realizes the truth of the situation, war will erupt,” he added.

‘Far-right terrorism on rise in US because of Trump’

In a Friday tweet, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif cited Trump’s Islamophobic remarks, and lashed out at the “Western hypocrisy of defending demonization of Muslims as ‘freedom of expression’.”

“Impunity in Western 'democracies' to promote bigotry leads to this: Israeli thugs enter mosque in Palestine to insult Muslims; terrorists in NZ livestream their murder of 49 Muslims. Western hypocrisy of defending demonization of Muslims as 'freedom of expression' MUST end,” he said.

Intercept columnist Mehdi Hasan told CNN Tonight that “far-right terrorism” was on the rise in the United States and blamed President Trump for attacks both in the US and abroad.

“Western government has turned a blind eye to domestic terrorism, to domestic far-right terrorism,” Hasan said.

He went on to say that there were “more attacks, more casualties from domestic terrorist groups - far-right groups - than there are quote-unquote jihadist or Islamist groups.”

According to Hasan, not only was Trump’s rhetoric responsible for attacks in the US, he was also responsible for attacks in other countries.

“You have Muslim victims of terror in New Zealand. I mentioned the attack in Canada -- Quebec City shortly after Trump was inaugurated, there's been attempted attacks and attacks in Minnesota and various places across the US.

"We do need to start taking this seriously. Crimes against minorities, Jewish groups, against Muslim communities, against people of color are on the rise in Britain, across western Europe, United States, Canada, Australia, and now sadly New Zealand,” he said.

“I mean, less than six months ago we know one of his big supporters sent pipe bombs in the mail to dozens of people who Trump had personally attacked and demonized. Who was driving around in a van with pro-Trump imagery and anti-CNN imagery. We know lots of far-right attackers have claimed to be Trump supporters in recent months,” Hasan noted.

“So, this is not just about Trump but about politicians especially on the right taking seriously this problem and really being careful about their language at the very minimum,” he added.



Trump denies white extremism is rising threat despite New Zealand terror attacks

Mar 16, 2019

US President Donald Trump says he doesn’t view white extremism as a rising threat around the world, despite the killing of 49 people at two New Zealand mosques by a white nationalist, attacks that many blamed on the demonization of Muslims by the Trump administration.

Trump made the comments on Friday at the White House after he was asked by a reporter if he thought white nationalism is a growing global threat.

“I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems,” Trump said. “I guess if you look at what happened in New Zealand perhaps that’s a case, I don’t know enough about it yet.”

At least one gunman killed 49 people and wounded more than 20 during Friday prayers in New Zealand's worst ever mass shooting.

The Australian gunman, identified as Brenton Tarrant, broadcast live footage on Facebook of the attack on one mosque in the city of Christchurch, mirroring the carnage played out in video games, after publishing a "manifesto" in which he denounced immigrants, calling them "invaders."

Muslim and civil rights activists have long accused Trump of promoting intolerance with his rhetoric and policies. Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the US during his election campaign.

Experts say the US president’s immigration policies have emboldened far-right groups and white supremacist ideology in the West.

Political and Islamic leaders around the world have expressed disgust at the New Zealand massacre.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called for an emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to discuss the terrorist attack in New Zealand.

“Western hypocrisy of defending demonization of Muslims as ‘freedom of expression’ MUST end,” Zarif said on Twitter. He posted a picture of Trump saying “I think Islam hates us,” during the 2016 US election campaign.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the attack was a result of Muslims being demonized. “Not only the perpetrators, but also politicians & media that fuel the already escalated Islamophobia and hate in the West are equally responsible for this heinous attack,” he tweeted.

Trump has "normalized" Islamophobia

Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim-American civil rights group, said Trump has "normalized" Islamophobia.

"In many white supremacists' attacks on the American-Muslim community, the attackers cite Trump and cite his policies," Awad said at a news conference on Friday in Washington.

"I don't think anyone of us should be surprised that what he says and what he does impacts the attitudes and actions of people, not only at home, but now abroad."



Islamophobia post 9/11 responsible for New Zealand mosque attacks: Pak PM

Mar 15, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday said that increasing "Islamophobia" after the 9/11 terror attacks in the US was responsible for the attack on two mosques in New Zealand that killed at least 49 worshippers.

"Strongly condemning" the terror attack on the mosques in New Zealand, Prime Minister Khan tweeted: “This reaffirms what we have always maintained: that terrorism does not have a religion. Prayers go to the victims and their families."

Shocked and strongly condemn the Christchurch, New Zealand, terrorist attack on mosques. This reaffirms what we hav…

— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) 1552632009000

At least 49 people were killed in attacks on the Al Noor Mosque in central Christchurch and the Linwood Mosque in the city's outer suburb, in what appeared to be the worst attack on Muslims in a western country.

Khan said that increasing Islamophobia after 9/11 was responsible for this act of terror and Muslims were demonised deliberately.

“I blame these increasing terror attacks on the current Islamophobia post-9/11 where Islam & 1.3 bn Muslims have collectively been blamed for any act of terror by a Muslim. This has been done deliberately to also demonise legitimate Muslim political struggles,” he tweeted.

I blame these increasing terror attacks on the current Islamophobia post-9/11 where Islam & 1.3 bn Muslims have col…

— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) 1552632489000

Foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi also condemned the terrorist attack in New Zealand in the strongest terms.

He “expressed condolences over loss of innocent lives in the heinous attack”.

Foreign Office spokesperson Muhammad Faisal tweeted that Pakistan High Commission is in constant touch with the local authorities in New Zealand to ascertain further details on the attacks.



Indonesian religious groups call for calm after terror attacks on NZ mosques

March 15, 2019

Nurul Fitri Ramadhani

Indonesian religious organizations have called on the people of Indonesia, which is home to the world's largest Muslim population, to avoid provocation and refrain from sharing online footage of terrorist attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. 

Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Muhammadiyah and the Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI) condemned the mosque shootings, which left 49 people dead.

The groups also called on the Indonesian government to prevent tensions from escalating as a result of the shootings.

“The government must ensure that the terrorism incidents in New Zealand do not [create tensions] in Indonesia and weaken national unity,” the deputy chairman of Muhammadiyah’s law and human rights division, Maneger Nasution, said.

The PGI asked Indonesians not to share videos of the shootings, saying that doing so would only help the terrorists.

“We hope that Indonesians, wherever they are, are not provoked by the videos and photos that are meant to spread terror,” PGI spokesperson Irma Riana Simanjuntak said.

Footage believed to have been taken by the shooter, identified as Australian Brenton Tarrant, was live-streamed and has been circulating online. The video shows him entering a mosque and methodically killing the people inside. Worshippers, possibly dead or wounded, lay huddled on the floor of the mosque, the video shows.

“Whoever the shooters are, they are the enemies of religions and humanity. They deserve to be severely punished. Local authorities should investigate the perpetrators behind the attacks,” Maneger said.

NU executive Robikin Emhas, meanwhile, called on authorities in New Zealand to investigate the incidents thoroughly.   

“We expect that the authorities can immediately restore the situation so that the people can feel safe again,” he said.



Iran calls for all-out fight against Islamophobia in West amid NZ attack

Mar 15, 2019

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says the Friday massacre of Muslim people in New Zealand once again highlighted the need for an all-out international fight against Islamophobia fueled by certain Western governments.

In a Friday message, the Iranian president condemned the “terrorist and racist” attack on Muslim worshippers, and described the massacre as a “barbaric and painful” incident which broke the hearts of all Muslim people in the world, especially the Iranian nation.

At least one gunman killed 49 people and wounded more than 40 during Friday prayers at two New Zealand mosques in the country's worst ever mass shooting, which Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern condemned as terrorism.

“This barbaric crime, which resulted in the martyrdom and injury of a number of innocent and defenseless worshippers, is another proof of the need for an all-out fight against terrorism and hate-mongering toward other religions and ethnic groups, and the Islamophobia which is common in the West, and unfortunately fueled by certain Western governments,” Rouhani said in his message.

“This crime indicated that terrorism is still among the important issues of the world, and needs an integrated fight and a united approach by all countries against violence and extremism in any part of the world,” he noted.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran is still committed to decisive fight against terrorism and racism, and is sure that, thanks to the unity and solidarity of Muslim people, such blind and aimless plots by the enemies would result in nothing but further disgrace for them,” he added.

Rouhani also called on the international community, particularly Muslim states, to show serious reaction to these anti-human crimes, and “disgrace the overt and covert sponsors of such moves.”

The Australian gunman behind the massacre, identified as Brenton Tarrant, broadcast live footage on Facebook of the attack on one mosque in the city of Christchurch, mirroring the carnage played out in video games, after publishing a "manifesto" in which he denounced immigrants, calling them "invaders".

In his manifesto, Tarrant said he saw US President Donald Trump as “symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.”

In a Friday tweet, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also cited Trump’s Islamophobic remarks, and said the New Zealand attack was a result of “Western hypocrisy of defending demonization of Muslims as ‘freedom of expression’.”

“Impunity in Western 'democracies' to promote bigotry leads to this: Israeli thugs enter mosque in Palestine to insult Muslims; terrorists in NZ livestream their murder of 49 Muslims. Western hypocrisy of defending demonization of Muslims as 'freedom of expression' MUST end,” he said.

Trump urged to condemn New Zealand attack

Despite being known as the source of inspiration for the white supremacist behind the terror attack, Trump has so far refused to denounce the carnage.

Hours after the attack, Trump offered his “warmest sympathy and best wishes” to the people of New Zealand, and said the people died “so senselessly.” He also noted that his country stands by New Zealand for anything it can do.

Donald J. Trump


My warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the Mosques. 49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!


5:11 PM - Mar 15, 2019

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In a later tweet, he said he had a phone conversation with Prime Minister Ardern, during which he once again expressed Washington’s solidarity with Wellington, “and that any assistance the USA can give, we stand by ready to help.”

“We love you New Zealand!” he added.

Donald J. Trump


 • 11h

 Just spoke with Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, regarding the horrific events that have taken place over the past 24 hours. I informed the Prime Minister....

Donald J. Trump


....that we stand in solidarity with New Zealand – and that any assistance the U.S.A. can give, we stand by ready to help. We love you New Zealand!


12:44 AM - Mar 16, 2019

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In reaction, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called on Trump to condemn the shootings as a white supremacist terrorist attack.

CAIR, the largest Muslim advocacy organization in the US, warned against blaming any one person for the shooter’s actions, but pointed to research showing a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment since Trump was elected.

CAIR National Executive Director Nihad said Trump needs to assure Muslims that they are protected and that he will not tolerate violence against their community.

“Mr. Trump, your words matter. Your policies matter. They impact the lives of innocent people at home and globally,” Awad said at a news conference Friday.

'Iranians not surprised'

In another tweet on Friday, the Iranian foreign minister denounced Western states for promoting bigotry against Islam and Muslim people, citing Trump's Muslim ban and France's move to ban Muslim students from wearing Islamic headscarves.

"Iranians are deeply shocked and saddened by Christchurch terror today. But we're not surprised. Banned from travel to the US, and not allowed to abide by our faith if attending French schools, we Iranians know too well what bigotry and hatred of Islam augur. #EndIslamophobiaNow," Zarif said.

Javad Zarif


 Iranians are deeply shocked and saddened by Christchurch terror today.

But we're not surprised.

Banned from travel to the US, and not allowed to abide by our faith if attending French schools, we Iranians know too well what bigotry and hatred of Islam augur.#EndIslamophobiaNow


12:32 AM - Mar 16, 2019

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‘Unprofessional media coverage’

In his Friday message, the Iranian president lashed out at certain Western mainstream media for their “unprofessional” and “inhumane” coverage of the terrorist attack, and described it as another proof of their racist attitude and double-standard policies even towards the lives of human beings.

Earlier in the day, Iranian ambassador to London Hamid Baeidinejad had slammed the Persian service of BBC for refusing to use the term “terrorist attack” in reference to the New Zealand slaughter.

“In BBC Persian’s view, there is only one criterion for describing an attack as a ‘terrorist’ one, and that’s when referring to attacks carried out against the UK; therefore, a knife crime in London is called a ‘terrorist attack’, but the massacre in New Zealand is just an ‘attack’,” he said in a tweet.

The same criticism had been leveled against the British Broadcasting Corporation when it refused to use the term “terrorist attack” in reporting the Daesh and separatists’ terror attacks on Iran.



King Salman in tweet calls for combating hate speech, terrorism

15 March 2019

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman reacting to the attacks on two mosques in New Zealand tweeted that it was a terrorist attack and called on the international community to combat hate speech and terrorism.

The tweet read: “The heinous massacre that targeted worshippers in the mosque in New Zealand is a terrorist act, and it reaffirms the responsibility of the international community in combating hate speech and terrorism that is not condoned by religions or the values of tolerance.”

Earlier, King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had offered their condolences to New Zealand’s Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy and condemned in the strongest terms the terrorist attacks that left at least 49 dead and 20 badly injured in armed assaults on two Christchurch mosques.

King Salman denounced the “heinous criminal act” and expressed heartfelt condolences to the victims’ families, wishing the injured a speedy recovery.

The Saudi Crown Prince in his cable to the Governor-general said he condemned the cowardly act “denounced by all religions, norms and international charters.”

Earlier, Saudi Arabia’s General Secretariat of the Council of Senior Scholars condemned the attacks and said: “We call on the whole world, its countries, as well as its organizations, and its institutions to criminalize all racist rhetoric.”

A gunman broadcast live footage on Facebook of the attack on one mosque in the city of Christchurch, mirroring the carnage played out in video games, after publishing a “manifesto” in which he denounced immigrants, calling them “invaders.”

New Zealand was placed on its highest security threat level, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, adding that four people taken into custody held extremist views but had not been on any police watchlists.





World reacts with sadness, anger to New Zealand mosque shootings

MARCH 15, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) - Leaders and organizations around the world expressed disgust and sorrow at the killing of 49 people in shootings at two New Zealand mosques on Friday, attacks that many blamed on the demonisation of Muslims by the West.

Western leaders from Donald Trump to Angela Merkel expressed solidarity with New Zealanders, deploring what the White House called a “vicious act of hate”.

The response from some Muslim countries went further, blaming politicians and the media for stoking that hatred. The nationalities of the victims included Indian, Pakistani, Malaysian, Indonesian, Egyptian, Bangladeshi, Saudi, Somalian and Turkish, authorities said.

New Zealand police said 49 people were killed and 42 were being treated for wounds, including a four-year-old child. Three people were in custody including one man who has been charged with murder, police said.

“I blame these increasing terror attacks on the current Islamophobia post-9/11 (where) 1.3 billion Muslims have collectively been blamed for any act of terror,” Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan wrote on social media.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the attack was a result of Muslims being demonised. “Not only the perpetrators, but also politicians & media that fuel the already escalated Islamophobia and hate in the West are equally responsible for this heinous attack,” he tweeted.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated “the urgency of working better together globally to counter Islamophobia and eliminate intolerance and violent extremism in all its forms,” a spokesman said.

Hundreds of protesters in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, chanted “Allahu akbar!” (God is Greatest) after Friday prayers.

“We will not let the blood of Muslims go in vain,” said one protester. Members of the Bangladesh national cricket team, in Christchurch for a match against New Zealand, arrived for Friday prayers as the shooting started but were not hurt.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said some of the victims may have been new immigrants or refugees.

“They are us,” she said. “The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not. They have no place in New Zealand.”

Trump, following a phone call with Ardern, said on Twitter: “...I informed the Prime Minister ... that we stand in solidarity with New Zealand - and that any assistance the U.S.A. can give, we stand by ready to help. We love you New Zealand!”

The accused gunman’s manifesto posted online praised Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose”.

Asked by a reporter if he thought white nationalism is a rising threat around the world, Trump said: “I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems. I guess if you look at what happened in New Zealand perhaps that’s a case, I don’t know enough about it yet.”

Trump said he had not seen the gunman’s manifesto.


Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said an Australian national arrested after the attack was an “extremist, right-wing violent terrorist”.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, who is New Zealand’s head of state, said she was “deeply saddened by the appalling events”.

Pope Francis deplored the “senseless acts of violence”.

In a message of condolence sent by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Francis “assures all New Zealanders, and in particular the Muslim community, of his heartfelt solidarity in the wake of these attacks”.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called for an emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the world’s largest Muslim body, to discuss this “horrible crime”, Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported.

“Western hypocrisy of defending demonisation of Muslims as ‘freedom of expression’ MUST end,” Zarif said on Twitter. He posted a picture of U.S. President Donald Trump saying “I think Islam hates us,” during the 2016 U.S. election campaign.

The Palestinian chief peace negotiator, Saeb Erekat, called the attack a “consequence of racist ideologies that continue trying to promote religious wars”.

He compared it to the shooting last October at a synagogue in the U.S. city of Pittsburgh that killed 11 people, deadly attacks on churches in Egypt by Islamic State and an attack by a far-right Israeli gunman on a West Bank mosque in 1994 that killed 29 people.

A statement by Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah, which has been accused by the United States of terrorism, said in part: “Hezbollah warns against the tendency of extremism against Muslims and foreigners and against the politics of hate that the United States nourishes in the world, rather than religious values that advocate tolerance, dialogue and acceptance of the other.”


German Chancellor Merkel mourned “with the New Zealanders for their fellow citizens who were attacked and murdered out of racist hatred while peacefully praying in their mosques”. Her foreign minister, Heiko Maas, said: “When people are murdered solely because of their religion, this is an attack on us all.”

Sadiq Khan, the first Muslim mayor of London, said Londoners stood shoulder to shoulder with the people of Christchurch. He also pointed his finger at those who promote religious hatred:

“When the flames of hatred are fanned, when people are demonised because of their faith, when people’s fears are played on rather than addressed, the consequences are deadly, as we have seen so sadly today,” he said.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said the attack brought back memories of the 2011 attack by anti-Muslim extremist Anders Breivik that killed 77 people: “It shows that extremism is nurtured and that it lives in many places.”

Al-Azhar University, Egypt’s 1,000-year-old seat of Sunni Islamic learning, called the attack “a dangerous indicator of the dire consequences of escalating hate speech, xenophobia and the spread of Islamophobia”.



New Zealand Muslims Await Word From Mosque Attacks: ‘Everybody Knew Each Other’

March 15, 2019

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — They arrived in New Zealand from across the Middle East and Asia, forming a tightly bound community of Muslims whose roots stretch to the mid-19th century. In recent years, migrants came to attend universities, open restaurants or to escape wars in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

It felt as if everyone knew everyone. Mosques were not for Pakistanis or Somalis or Bangladeshis, but for anyone in town.

So when a gunman stormed two mosques in the city of Christchurch during Friday Prayer, killing 49 people, the news moved quickly through New Zealand’s nearly 50,000 Muslims and the wider Islamic world.

Throughout the Middle East, Asia and Oceania, families frantically sought visas so they could race to the bed sides of the injured. And they tried to get someone in New Zealand to answer their calls.

“Nobody’s answering their phones,” said Nasreen Hanif, a spokeswoman for the Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand, which is based in Auckland, an 85-minute flight from Christchurch.

“We don’t know if they’re at the hospital or out of reach,” she said. “Some have posted that they are safe, but others have not.”

She said one set of parents was waiting to hear from their son.

“They were supposed to have lunch with him after prayers,” she said.

Muslim leaders in New Zealand said mosques across the country, including the two that were attacked, tended to attract a multiethnic group of worshipers. Early reports suggested that those injured and killed reflected these diverse congregations.

Among the dozens recorded as missing were people from Egypt, Syria, India, Kuwait, Jordan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia, according to a site managed by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Reports filtered in from ethnic and national groups across the globe.

At least one Palestinian was killed and several others injured, according to the Palestine Liberation Organization’s ambassador to Australia and New Zealand. Two Malaysians were being treated for injuries, Malaysian officials said, and nine people of Indian nationality or origin were missing, the Indian government said on Twitter.


Forty-nine people were killed in shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday. Officials said a 28-year-old man has been charged with murder.CreditCreditMatthew Abbott for The New York Times

An official from Syrian Solidarity New Zealand told a local news outlet that a father was among those killed, and one family had a child missing and another in serious condition in the hospital. “They escaped death and torture in Syria, to come to New Zealand, and be killed here,” the official, Ali Akil, said.

Local news reports in Hyderabad, India, identified one of those shot as Ahmed Jehangir, who had lived for 12 years in New Zealand, where he owns a restaurant.

His brother told The News Minute, an Indian news site, that two of Mr. Jehangir’s friends were killed and that he was “struggling for his life.”

Mr. Jehangir’s family, hoping to help Mr. Jehangir’s wife and two small children, were trying to get to New Zealand as quickly as possible, the article said.

Another family in Hyderabad was waiting to hear about Farhaj Ashan, who, according to The News Minute, had last been heard from before leaving for Al Noor Mosque, one of the two where the attacks took place.

A software engineer living in Christchurch with his wife, 3-year-old daughter and 6-month-old son, Mr. Ashan had gone to New Zealand for a master’s degree at the University of Auckland in 2010, and stayed, the news site reported.

“Everyone has come back, but not my son,” Mr. Ashan’s father, Mohammad Sayeeduddin, 68, told The News Minute.

The Pakistan Association of New Zealand circulated on its Facebook page a form to be used by people looking for loved ones, asking for details like eye color and any distinguishing birthmarks or scars. The group listed six members of the Pakistani community it said were missing.

Muslim leaders across New Zealand stressed that the attacks were out of character for the country.

“Muslims have been in New Zealand for a long time, and Muslims have never had any issues in New Zealand,” said Ibrar Sheikh, the secretary of Al Mustafa Jamia Masjid, a mosque in Auckland.

“Just because one or two individuals have taken this stand, it doesn’t mean there is an attack on people living in New Zealand,” he said.

He added that the mosques attacked in Christchurch were, like most in New Zealand, “a United Nations” of ethnicities.

The first Muslims to arrive in the country were members of a British-Indian family who landed in Christchurch in 1854.

Larger-scale Muslim immigration began in the 1970s, with the arrival of families and students from the Pacific islands. The region of Canterbury, which includes Christchurch, has been an area of steady growth.

Abdullah Drury, a scholar who completed a history of Muslim migration in New Zealand two years ago, said the Muslim population in Canterbury grew enough that by 1977, a formal association could be registered and organized.

The group set up the first Muslim place of prayer on New Zealand’s South Island in Christchurch three years later.

Muslim immigration accelerated in the 1990s and 2000s with arrivals from war-torn countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 2013 census counted a national population of more than 4.2 million people, including more than 46,000 people who identified as Muslim, up nearly 30 percent from 2006.

Research shows that the majority of Muslims in New Zealand are Sunni, with a large Shia minority and some Ahmadi Muslims.

Now, said Ms. Hanif of the Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand, a close community must become even closer: Both mosques that were attacked on Friday had already reached out to ask for help with funeral arrangements.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand noted that many of the victims were immigrants.

“For many this may not have been the place they were born,” she said. “For many, New Zealand was their choice, the place that they chose to come to and committed themselves to, the place they chose to raise their families.”

Ms. Ardern said New Zealand was a haven from hatred, racism or extremism, and that is why it had become a target.

“We were chosen for the very fact that we are none of these things,” she said. “Because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion, a home for those who share our values, refuge for those who need it. Those values will not and cannot be shaken by this attack.”

Full report at:



New Zealand mosque attack suspect charged with murder

March 16, 2019

A right-wing extremist, who filmed himself on a rampage that left 49 mosque-goers dead in New Zealand, was charged with murder after appearing before court on Saturday.

Australian-born 28-year-old Brenton Tarrant stood in the dock wearing handcuffs and a white prison smock, as the judge read a single murder charge against him. A raft of further charges were expected.

The former fitness instructor and self-professed fascist occasionally turned to look at media present in court during the brief hearing that the public were excluded from for security reasons.

Also read: NZ mosque attack is further confirmation of rising Islamophobia and racism

Flanked by armed police he flashed an upside-down “okay” signal, a symbol used by white power groups across the globe. He did not request bail and was taken into custody until his next court appearance which is scheduled for April 5.

Two other people remain in custody, although their link to the attack is not clear. One man, 18-year-old Daniel Burrough, has been charged with incitement.

Another person who was earlier arrested was said to be a member of the public carrying a firearm who was trying to help.

A short distance away, 39 people were being treated in hospital for gunshot wounds and other injuries inflicted in the massacre. They included a two-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl, who is in critical condition.

Doctors at Christchurch hospital said they worked through the night in 12 operating theatres to do what they could to save the survivors.

For many, the road to recovery will require multiple surgical procedures and many survivors said the mental scars may never fully heal.

The attack on the Al Noor and Linwood mosques has been labelled terrorism by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and is thought to be the deadliest attack directed against Muslims in the West in modern times.

Outside the court, the son of 71-year-old Afghan victim Daoud Nabi demanded justice for his late father, who believed New Zealand to be a “slice of paradise".

"It's outrageous, the feeling is outrageous," he said. "It's beyond imagination."

Ardern said the victims came from across the Muslim world, with Turkey, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia among the countries rendering consular assistance.

One Saudi citizen and two Jordanians were among the dead, while five Pakistani citizens were missing.

Grief and shock

The attack has prompted an outpouring of grief and deep shock in this usually peaceful and hospitable country, which prides itself on welcoming refugees fleeing violence or persecution.

Although shops were shuttered and many decided to stay at home, Christchurch residents piled bouquets of flowers at a makeshift memorial near the Al Noor mosque, many accompanied with handwritten letters laden with sadness and disbelief.

“I am so sorry that you were not safe here. Our hearts are breaking for your loss,” read one of the notes marked with a string of x-kisses.

Ardern, who arrived in Christchurch Saturday, said the shooter was not on any watchlist and did not have a criminal record.

“The offender was in possession of a gun licence” obtained in November 2017, and he started purchasing the weapons the following month, she said.

Two semi-automatic weapons, two shotguns and lever-action gun were used in the attacks.

Two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were found in a car and neutralised by the military, while police raided a home in the southern city of Dunedin, where Ardern said the suspect was based.

“While work is being done as to the chain of events that led to both the holding of this gun licence and the possession of these weapons, I can tell you one thing right now — our gun laws will change,” she said.

The suspect documented his radicalisation and two years of preparations in a lengthy, meandering and conspiracy filled far-right “manifesto”.

He live-streamed footage of himself going room-to-room, victim to victim, shooting the wounded from close range as they struggled to crawl away in the main Christchurch mosque.

Thirty-six minutes after the police received the first call, Tarrant was in custody.

Commissioner Mike Bush hailed the “absolute bravery” of both police and members of the public “who put themselves in harm's way” to apprehend the suspect.

“Their intervention may very likely have saved further lives.”

'Horrible massacre'

Tributes to the victims poured in from around the world.

US President Donald Trump condemned the "horrible massacre” in which “innocent people have so senselessly died", but denied that the problem of right-wing extremism was widespread.

Speaking in Sydney, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the gunman as "an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist".

New South Wales police commissioner Mick Fuller said police had visited Tarrant's childhood home in the town of Grafton, north of Sydney, and spoken to family members as part of their investigation.

The attack has prompted searching questions about whether right-wing extremism has been treated with enough seriousness by Western governments.

Ali Soufan, a former high-ranking Federal Bureau of Investigation counter-terrorism agent, said the threat needs to be treated with the same seriousness as religious violence.

“We are in the midst of a surge of right-wing terrorism that has been metastasising in plain sight while generating only a muted response from domestic counter-terrorism authorities,” he said.

Ardern said she would be reviewing events leading up to the attack to see how the suspect went unnoticed by authorities.

Full report at:



Pope voices solidarity with Muslims after New Zealand attacks

March 15, 2019

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis assured “all New Zealanders, and in particular the Muslim community, of his heartfelt solidarity,” after Friday’s attacks on two mosques which left 49 people dead.

The pope was “deeply saddened to learn of the injury and loss of life caused by the senseless acts of violence,” Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin said in a telegram.



After New Zealand attack France to hike security at houses of faith

Yusuf Ozcan


France will tighten security at places of worship in the wake of Friday's deadly mosque attacks in New Zealand, said the country’s interior minster.

"As a precaution, I immediately called on our governors to take the utmost caution and asked them to improve security in places of worship,” Christophe Castaner said late Friday on Twitter.

Castaner also called for solidarity with the people of New Zealand following “the odious terrorist attack in Christchurch” which left at least 49 dead and over 40 injured.

“My first thoughts are with the relatives and families of the victims whose sentiments and sadness we share,” he added.

Separately, Ahmet Ogras, head of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, also condemned the attacks, adding: “This vile tragedy once again demonstrates that Islamophobia is an evil that must be fought relentlessly.”

Earlier Friday gunmen opened fire on worshippers at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Full report at:



London mosque stands with New Zealand terror victims

Muhammad Mussa  



An influential London mosque expressed solidarity Friday with the victims of terrorist attacks in New Zealand that killed 49 Muslim worshippers. 

“The congregation of the East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre expresses its utter shock and sympathy in the wake of the terrorist atrocity in New Zealand today, where scores of Muslim worshippers were killed by right-wing extremists inside two mosques,” a statement from the mosque said. 

The attacks “came in the wake of rising global Islamophobia that has been legitimized by certain sections of the media, politicians and far-right groups” it added. 

The East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre, one of the largest in the UK, held a solidarity gathering after Friday prayers that featured guest speakers such as London Mayor Sadiq Khan, the Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, and Harun Khan, head of the Muslim Council of Britain. 

“We stand here together today in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in New Zealand,” Khan said at the gathering.

“The best solidarity shown is that our diversity is a strength. We may be more than 11,000 miles away from Christchurch in New Zealand, but we feel the ripples of hatred, we feel the ripples of fear and we feel the ripples of sorrow for our brothers and sisters in Christchurch.”

Khan also made it clear that there should be no mistake or illusion in knowing that what happened in New Zealand was a terrorist attack where innocent men, women and children were deliberately targeted due to the sole fact they were Muslims and the houses of worship they congregated in were mosques.

“There are some people who demonize and dehumanize people because of the faith they follow and there are some people who, rather than address people’s fears, play on them: You have a role to play in radicalizing people to become terrorists. And that is why we in London demonstrate that our diversity is a strength, not a weakness” he said.

Harun Khan of the MCB sent prayers and condolences to the families of the victims, calling the attack “the most deadliest” in recent times. He also called on the government to intensify efforts in protecting mosques and Muslim communities and urged British Muslims to stand united and strong and not give in to fear and prejudice. 

On Friday afternoon, far-right terrorists massacred 49 Muslim worshippers and injured another 48 as they prepared for Friday prayers at Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre.

One of the shooters -- Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old born in Australia, who livestreamed the incident on social media -- has been arrested and charged with murder and three other suspects have been remanded in custody. 

Full report at:



Extremist Brenton Tarrant appears in New Zealand court charged in mosques terror attack, enters no plea

March 16, 2019

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand: Brenton Tarrant, 28, entered no plea when he appeared on Saturday morning in a Christchurch court charged with murder after a terrorist attack on two mosques in the city.

Dressed in a white prison tunic, handcuffed and flanked by two police officers, Tarrant stood passively in the dock. At one point he gazed around at the courtroom, which was packed with media.

The judge had cleared members of the public from the court for safety reasons. Tarrant said nothing, entered no plea to the charge and did not apply to have his name withheld.

He appeared in court a day after the shootings at the Masjid Al Noor and Linwood Masjid mosques. At least 49 people were killed, while dozens more were injured.

Judge Paul Kellar said although Tarrant was facing only one murder charge, it was "reasonable to assume there will be other charges”. 

The attack led to an outpouring of grief and shock that a white-supremacist fanatic could carry out a terrorist attack on such a scale in a country widely regarded as one of the world's most peaceful.

World leaders and religious figures expressed their sorrow at the killing, which targeted women, children and men as they prayed in their place of worship. The shock was exacerbated by the fact Tarrant livestreamed his actions from a camera mounted to his helmet, sparking anger at social media platforms and the length of time it took them to remove the videos.

The attack was the worst ever peacetime mass killing in New Zealand and the country raised its security threat level to the highest.

Police said three people were in custody. "Our investigations are in their early stages and we will be looking closely to build a picture of any of the individuals involved and all of their activities prior to this horrific event," Police Commissioner Mike Bush said.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Saturday promised to reform the country's gun laws. She said the main perpetrator used five weapons during his rampage, including two semi-automatic weapons and two shotguns, which he was legally licensed to own.

"I can tell you one thing right now, our gun laws will change," Ardern told reporters.

The man facing murder charges was an Australian citizen who had spent a lot of time travelling overseas and spent time only sporadically in New Zealand, Ardern said.

None of those arrested had a criminal history or was on any watchlist in New Zealand or Australia.

Among the wounded, two were in a critical condition, including a four-year-old child.

There was a heavy police presence at the hospital where families of the wounded had gathered. Funerals were planned on Saturday for some of the victims, several of whom were born overseas.

A Saudi man, Mohsin Al-Mozaini was among the dead, AlArabiya reported.

King Salman described the attack as a "heinous massacre" that "underlines the responsibility of the international community to confront the rhetoric of hatred and terrorism."

One man who said he was at the Al Noor mosque told media the gunman burst into the mosque as worshippers were kneeling for prayers.

"He had a big gun...He came and started shooting everyone in the mosque, everywhere," said the man, Ahmad Al-Mahmoud. He said he and others escaped by breaking through a glass door.

Facebook said it had deleted the gunman's accounts "shortly after the livestream commenced" after being alerted by police. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube all said they had taken steps to remove copies of the videos.

Ardern said she had asked authorities to look into whether there was any activity on social media or elsewhere ahead of the attack that should have triggered a response.

City on edge

Christchurch is a city of about 400,000 residents, still recovering from a massive earthquake in 2011 that killed 187 people.

A noisy generator raring from a construction site next to the Christchurch Justice Precinct was a stark and irritating reminder of those tragic events, as media and members of the public gathered awaiting Tarrant’s court appearance.

Full report at:



New Zealand mosque shooter a white nationalist seeking revenge

March 15, 2019

SYDNEY: The gunman behind at least one of the mosque shootings in New Zealand that left 49 people dead on Friday tried to make a few things clear in the manifesto he left behind: He is a 28-year-old Australian white nationalist who hates immigrants. He was set off by attacks in Europe that were perpetrated by Muslims. He wanted revenge, and he wanted to create fear.

He also, quite clearly, wanted attention.

Though he claimed not to covet fame, the gunman — whose name was not immediately released by police — left behind a 74-page document posted on social media under the name Brenton Tarrant in which he said he hoped to survive the attack to better spread his ideas in the media.

He also livestreamed to the world in graphic detail his assault on the worshippers at Christchurch’s Al Noor Mosque.

That rampage killed at least 49 people, while an attack on a second mosque in the city not long after killed several more. Police did not say whether the same person was responsible for both shootings.

While his manifesto and video were an obvious and contemptuous ploy for infamy, they do contain important clues for a public trying to understand why anyone would target dozens of innocent people who were simply spending an afternoon engaged in prayer.

There could be no more perplexing a setting for a mass slaughter than New Zealand, a nation so placid and so isolated from the mass shootings that plague the US that even police officers rarely carry guns.

Yet the gunman himself highlighted New Zealand’s remoteness as a reason he chose it. He wrote that an attack in New Zealand would show that no place on earth was safe and that even a country as far away as New Zealand is subject to mass immigration.

He said he grew up in a working-class Australian family, had a typical childhood and was a poor student. A woman who said she was a colleague of his when he worked as a personal trainer in the Australian city of Grafton said she was shocked by the allegations against him.

“I can’t ... believe that somebody I’ve probably had daily dealings with and had shared conversations and interacted with would be able of something to this extreme,” Tracey Gray told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Beyond his white nationalistic ideals, he also considers himself an environmentalist and a fascist who believes China is the nation that most aligns with his political and social values. He has contempt for the wealthiest 1 percent. And he singled out American conservative commentator Candace Owens as the person who had influenced him the most.

In a tweet, Owens responded by saying that if the media portrayed her as the inspiration for the attack, it had better hire lawyers.

Throughout the manifesto, the theme he returns to most often is conflict between people of European descent and Muslims, often framing it in terms of the Crusades.

He wrote that the episode that pushed him toward violence took place in 2017 while he was touring through Western Europe. That was when an Uzbek man drove a truck into a crowd of people in Stockholm, killing five. The Australian was particularly enraged by the death of an 11-year-old Swedish girl in the attack.

He said his desire for violence grew when he arrived in France, where he became enraged by the sight of immigrants in the cities and towns he visited.

And so he began to plot his attack. Three months ago, he started planning to target Christchurch. He claimed not to be a direct member of any organization or group, though he said he has donated to many nationalist groups. He also claimed he contacted an anti-immigration group called the reborn Knights Templar and got the blessing of Anders Breivik for the attack.

Breivik is a right-wing Norwegian extremist who killed 77 people in Oslo and a nearby island in 2011. Breivik’s lawyer Oeystein Storrvik told Norway’s VG newspaper that his client, who is in prison, has “very limited contacts with the surrounding world, so it seems very unlikely that he has had contact” with the New Zealand gunman.

The gunman had a long wish list for what he hoped the attack would achieve. He hoped it would reduce immigration by intimidating immigrants. He hoped to drive a wedge between NATO and the Turkish people. He hoped to further polarize and destabilize the West. And he hoped to create more conflict over gun laws in the US, thus leading to a civil war that would ultimately result in a separation of races.

Though he claimed not to be a Nazi, in the video he livestreamed of the shooting the number 14 is seen on his rifle. That may be a reference to the “14 Words,” a white supremacist slogan attributed in part to Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. He also used the symbol of the Schwarze Sonne, or black sun, which “has become synonymous with myriad far-right groups who traffic in neo-Nazi,” according to the center.

His victims, he wrote, were chosen because he saw them as invaders who would replace the white race. He predicted he would feel no remorse for their deaths. And in the video he livestreamed of his shooting, no remorse can be seen or heard. Instead, he simply says: “Let’s get this party started.”

Then he picks up his gun, storms into the mosque, and cuts down one innocent life after another.

Full report at:





Father, son from Gujarat feared missing in New Zealand’s Christchurch after mosque terror attacks

Mar 16, 2019

Two men, both from the same family in Gujarat, are feared missing in New Zealand following the deadly terror attacks at two mosques in Christchurch in which 49 people have been reported dead.

The father-son duo of Arif and Rameez Vohra had attended Friday prayers at the Al Noor mosque, where the attack took place, family members said after failing to get in touch with them.

Worried after not hearing from them, the family has now sought External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s help in the matter.

Mohsin Vohra, the brother of Arif Vohra told ANI: “My nephew Rameez Vohra has been living in Christchurch for the last seven to eight years. My brother Arif and his wife Rukhsana went to New Zealand 25 days ago because Rameez’s wife Khushboo gave birth and he had gone there to take care of the infant.”

Mohsin added: “Rameez and Arif went to Al Noor mosque for the Friday prayers when the firing began. After that, there has been no news about their whereabouts. We have not got any update on their condition.”

Echoing similar sentiments, Saifil Vohra, another brother of Arif, said there was no update about his nephew and brother since the terror attacks took place in Christchurch.

“There is no update about my brother Arif Vohra and my nephew Rameez Vohra. I do not know whether they returned from the mosque safely or not. I was in contact with them yesterday (before the shooting). I request the Indian government to give us an update soon,” Saifil told ANI.

In the worst ever terror attack in New Zealand, multiple gunmen carried out indiscriminate shootings at two mosques in Christchurch during the Friday prayers, leaving 49 people dead and at least 48 wounded, besides giving a scare to the Bangladesh cricket team which had a narrow escape.

Using automatic weapons, the gunmen, four of who were initially taken into custody, launched a “well-planned” attack on the mosques when devotees had assembled for the weekly prayers.

Several guns have been recovered from both mosques, while, two explosive devices were found on two vehicles at the scene, one of which was defused, the police confirmed.

According to the police, 41 people were killed at Al Noor mosque and seven at Linwood mosque while one injured died in a hospital.

A 28-year-old suspect, identified as Brenton Harrison Tarrant appeared before a Christchurch court on Saturday on murder charges connected with Friday’s terror attacks in Christchurch. He was remanded in custody without plea until April 5.

The terror attack suspect, who live-streamed for about 17 minutes his rampage through two mosques, is an Australian-born citizen and is a resident of Dunedin, situated around 360 km south of Christchurch.

At least nine Indian nationals or people of Indian origin are feared missing in New Zealand following the deadly terror attacks at two mosques in Christchurch which killed 49 people, unofficial sources said.

Swaraj condemned the dastardly terror attack and put out the helpline numbers of the Indian High Commission in New Zealand tagging High Commissioner Sanjiv Kohli for Indians requiring assistance. “Any Indian requiring assistance should contact Indian High Commission in New Zealand on 021803899 or 021850033” she said.



3 crore Muslims and 4 crore Dalits missing from electoral rolls, study by software wiz finds

March 15, 2019

Khalid Saifullah, the founder of the Missing Voter App and CEO of the Hyderabad based RayLabs undertook a study and found that 15 per cent of all voters and 25 per cent Muslims are not present on the electoral list. Therefore approximately 12.7 crores of all voters and three crore Muslims will not be able to vote in the May 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

According to 38-year-old software wiz Khalid Saifullah, almost 3 crore Muslims out of 11 crore eligible voters in the country are missing from the electoral rolls. 

Saifullah, the founder of the Missing Voter App and CEO of the Hyderabad based RayLabs undertook a study to find out how many Muslim and Dalit voters existed or were missing from the voting list. He found that 15 per cent of all voters and 25 per cent Muslims are not present on the electoral list. Therefore approximately 12.7 crores of all voters and three crore Muslims will not be able to vote in the May 2019 Lok Sabha elections. His study also found that 4 crore Dalits out of some 20 crore eligible Dalit voters were missing from the rolls.

At the 3rd National Leadership Summit 2019, India Islamic Cultural Centre, New Delhi, he spoke about why the names had gone missing and how his app could bridge the gap.

He said that he first noticed the discrepancy when lakhs of Muslim names were missing from the voter’s list depriving them of their right to vote in the last parliamentary elections held in 2014. He studied the state of Gujarat where lakhs of Muslims were reportedly unable to vote as their name was not on the electoral list. A huge proportion of Muslim voters were missing in 16 Assembly Constituencies of Gujarat where BJP won with a margin of fewer than 3000 Votes.

He acted upon this information and decided to launch the Missing Voter’s app. This free mobile App has the details of all the street names of constituencies, the number of households on each street and the number of voters in each household. The App can be used to identify missing voters, do a household survey and apply for a new voter id online. It is possible to download the Missing Voters App from the Google play store or after giving a missed call on 8099 683 683.

He claims that the process to make a new voter id is simpler than that on the ECI website and he noticed that many politicians were misusing the Form 7 to remove voters from the lists. He Data mined of 800 Assembly Constituencies and has identified 1.6 Crore Missing Voter Households, which is about 40 lakh Muslims so far with the help of the app. They now have more than 9000 volunteers registered on the App and 25,000 new Voter Ids applied through App.

They have even seen success due to the app. In the state elections in Karnataka, data showed that 18 lakh Muslim names were missing. Some 12,000 volunteers registered to enrol more voters. Up to 12 Lakh new voters were enrolled in a fresh drive over three weeks.

Registering so many voters would have a definite impact on the final result. He added that there were three reasons for the present scenario including the political conspiracy related to form 7, the vulnerability and helplessness of Muslims and Dalits and the ignorance on the part of literate people.

He also designed Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP’s) HateHatao App, to fight hate and can be used by anyone with an Android smartphone.

As the Uttarakhand gears up to go to Lok Sabha polls in a single phase on April 11, a survey conducted by Chetna Andolan, spanned across Dharampur, Raipur and Mussoorie in January has revealed that about 12-13 per cent of the total electorate could have been disenfranchised. It also revealed that about 90 per cent names missing from the voter list are of the Dalit and Muslim voters.

Muslim voters missing across the country

“If you are a Muslim in Uttar Pradesh with four voters in your family, chances are that only three will get to exercise their right to a franchise granted by Article 326 of the Constitution. The fourth person’s name would either be missing or excluded from the electoral rolls,” The Hindu Frontline reported.

“In Tamil Nadu, too, every fourth Muslim person’s name is found missing from electoral rolls. The situation in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh and Telangana is not any better; nor in Gujarat and Karnataka, from where the first voices were heard about Muslim names missing from electoral rolls. Incidentally, the number of Muslim voters has declined over the years, giving rise to fears about discrimination, political exclusion, total elimination and so on. In Karnataka, the names of 6.6 million people were reportedly missing from the electoral list; later, about 1.2 million were re-enlisted. The names of members of other communities also go missing, but the figures are significantly higher for Muslims—15 per cent for other communities and 25 per cent for Muslims,” the report said.

Abusaleh Shariff of the U.S.-India Policy Institute, Washington, who is also the founder of the Centre for Research and Debates in Development Policy (CRDDP), New Delhi, in the report said, “There is a huge exclusion of Indians at large from the electoral rolls, but the exclusion of Muslims is higher. It threatens to make a mockery of our democracy. It is estimated that there is an exclusion of 150 to 180 million Indians from the electoral process. It is like excluding a whole country or even a hundred small nations. That in itself is a disgrace to India. For Muslims, I would say, in up to 50 per cent of the households in a State, there is at least one person who does not have a vote though he/she is otherwise eligible. Though we started with Karnataka, the pilot work is on in Gujarat, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. The trend is similar in all States. It is a cause for concern.” The percentage of people left out of the electoral process, ranging between 15 and 25 per cent, becomes extremely significant when one sees that in any Assembly election, a third of the seats are decided by margins of less than 2,000 votes.”

Why is it that more Muslim names are left out than those from other communities? “There can be many reasons. One is not getting into the politics of it, but the exclusion could be because the people at the block level may not be doing their job well. There are cultural and linguistic differences. For instance, not many block level officers can spell a name like Zebunissa. There can be many spellings for names. Also, many Muslims give their ages in Urdu rather than English. Thus, discrepancies creep in age data at the time of enrolment itself,” says Shariff. He does agree that there is a strong possibility of a systemic bias against Muslims which, at times, even leads to the exclusion of the entire community or a locality from a constituency.”

21 million women voters missing

Voters from across the country have gone missing from electoral rolls and the number is higher for women. A staggering 21 million women are missing from electoral rolls across the country.

Three states - Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan - accounted for more than half of the missing female voters. Southern states such as Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu fare better, BBC reported.

According to the BBC report, analysts say that the missing women voters translate into 38,000 missing women voters on average in every constituency in India. In places like Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous and a key bellwether state, the figure swells to 80,000 missing women in every seat.

Full report at:



India, Saudi Arabia discuss terror, increase in Haj quota and more

Geeta Mohan

March 12, 2019

Saudi state minister for foreign affairs, Adel al-Jubeir, was in New Delhi on a day-long visit on Monday (March 11) for bilateral talks with external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj.

Calling it a 'follow up' visit after Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia had visited India last month, the two sides held discussions not the entire gamut of bilateral relations.

A source told India Today TV that Pakistan came up during talks in the context of 'crossborder terrorism'. Saudi Arabia has been one of the countries that called both India and Pakistan after the Balakot strike by India and condemned the Pulwama attack carried out by Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM).

The statement by Ministry of External Affairs said, "The EAM reiterated that an immediate irreversible and verifiable action to dismantle terror infrastructure is essential to fight the menace of terror. It was agreed to set up the Strategic Partnership Council at the earliest."

The two sides also decided to increase the Haj quota to 2,00,000. India highly 'appreciated' the 'Royal pardon' to 850 Indian prisoners. Before the bilateral talks, the Saudi minister called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to convey the greetings of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

PM Modi expressed gratitude for the support extended to India after Pulwama terror attack. "The Prime Minister thanked the leadership of Saudi Arabia for expressing full solidarity with India in the fight against terror in all forms and manifestations", it said.

The Saudi minister briefed PM Modi on the follow up of the outcomes of the visit of the Crown Prince in February 2019. "Both the countries have taken significant steps including to boost trade and investment and to achieve $100 billion investment from Saudi Arabia into India, which was announced during the visit of the Crown Prince", said the MEA statement.

Full report at:



Iran, India Eye Closer Cooperation amid Tensions with Pakistan

Mahmoud Pargoo

March 15, 2019

Two separate terrorist attacks in Iran and India last month - both perpetrated by Pakistan-based Islamist groups - have accelerated the ongoing convergence of Tehran and New Delhi. The first attack took place Feb. 13 in Iran’s Zahedan province, claiming the lives of 27 members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. On Feb. 14, in Kashmir's Pulwama, a suicide car bomb killed 40 members of the Central Reserve Police Forces. The attack in India was attributed to Jaish-e-Mohammed, and the Iranian attack to Jaish ul-Adl.

On Feb. 16, Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi met with India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and both agreed “on close cooperation to combat terrorism in the region,” per Araghchi’s tweet. But is Tehran really considering shifting its foreign policy in the subcontinent to ally with India against Pakistan? And will Iran side with India over Pakistan on the Kashmir issue and wider security issues?

Iran and Pakistan’s relationship has historically been quite warm. Iran was the first country to recognize Pakistan as an independent country in 1947, and the shah of Iran was the first head of state to pay an official visit to the newly established Pakistan in 1950. The cordial relationship was partly based on “belonging to the same stock, having a common heritage and sharing the same ideals,” in the shah’s words, but also “because of political wisdom,” or geopolitics. This political wisdom was embodied in CENTO, the anti-Soviet military alliance, comprising Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and the United Kingdom in the late 1950s. Iran also provided vital military support to Pakistan in both Indo-Pakistani wars of 1965 and 1971.

Surprisingly, both countries' politics underwent an Islamization during the late 1970s: In Pakistan, Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq took power in 1978, only a few months before the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Though Islam was understood to be a uniting factor in Iran-Pakistan relations before the revolution, it became a divisive force once Zia made his country a sanctuary of the Saudi-financed madrassa movement, which was vehemently anti-Shiite and anti-Iran. Despite Iran's support of the mujahedeen against the Soviet Union, it backed different groups than Pakistan. After the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan, tensions between Iran and Pakistan skyrocketed, as the Taliban killed dozens of Iranian citizens, including diplomats, in 1998 in Mazar-i-Sharif. The plight of Pakistan's Shiites, including widespread discrimination, has always been a cause of divergence between Iran and Pakistan.

Presently, Pakistan — in pursuit of much-needed cash and in tandem with its Sunni ideology — has chosen to get closer to Saudi Arabia in areas that Iran perceives as strategic threats. Saudi oil company Aramco has agreed to build a multibillion-dollar refinery in Gwadar Port, about 105 miles east of Iran's Chabahar Port. Pakistan has also opened the Reko Diq gold and copper mines, less than sixty miles from the Iranian border, to Saudi investment. Both projects have sounded alarm bells in Tehran, as they are located in the lawless province of Baluchistan in Pakistan. Iran is concerned that Saudi Arabia might use these projects as bases to destabilize Iran, in which case it would also jeopardize the future development of the India-backed Chabahar port.

Chabahar provides India access to Afghanistan and Central Asia without passing through Pakistan. Thus, at least on this strategic issue, Iran and India naturally stand together against the destabilizing influence of Saudi-backed militias within Pakistan.

On Feb. 27, Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, chairman of Iran's parliamentary national security commission, warned that Pakistan’s inability or unwillingness to crack down on terrorists responsible for the attack on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps might prompt Iran to boost security cooperation with India, which could isolate Pakistan. On March 7, Falahatpisheh welcomed Pakistan’s designation of Jaish-e-Mohammed as a terrorist group, but he also repeated his warning. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the elite Quds Force, ascribed the attack to the influence of Saudi money in Pakistan, and promised to get revenge on the terrorists.

Recent statements are in line with Tehran's gradual change in perceptions on the issue of Kashmir, viewing it more as a Sunni rather than an Islamic issue. Even many Indian Shiites do not support the Kashmir insurgency and prefer to live under the banner of Delhi rather than Islamabad. A prominent Indian Shiite leader, Maulana Kalbe Jawad, once said, “There is no place where Shiite Muslims are safe except Iran and India.” Kalbe Jawad warned of a “growing Wahhabi influence from Saudi Arabia.” Thus, it should not come as a surprise that some Shiite communities side with India over Pakistan in the recent tensions in Kashmir.

Full report at:



Terror financing: I-T department unearths undisclosed cash and properties worth crores in J&K

Mar 15, 2019

NEW DELHI: In a major crackdown on terror financing, the Income Tax Department on Friday said it has unearthed undisclosed cash, jewellery and property papers worth several crores in Jammu and Kashmir.

Search operations were conducted at five locations in Kashmir valley and a few places in Jammu on Thursday, the department said in a statement.

"These actions are part of the department's continued drive against use of black money by disruptive elements in the state. The operations also send a message of deterrence and obviation to those intending to vitiate the democratic process of free and fair elections," it said.

The tax department further said one operation was against a prominent Line of Control (LOC) trader who apparently used proxies to conduct large cross-LoC trade in the past six years.

"Large undisclosed profit earned by him has been diverted to allegedly suspect elements in the Valley. During the action, documents of transactions in the names of some of the proxies were found. Investigations are in progress to determine the clandestine cross-LoC trade conducted by the tax evader through the Custodian of the Trade Facilitation Centre, Srinagar," it said.

The tax department also said the preliminary results of the search operation are extremely encouraging. In the aggregate, undisclosed cash of Rs 1.44 crore and unaccounted jewellery worth Rs 2.48 crore have been seized.

The documentary evidence collected and examined so far shows undeclared property transactions of more than Rs 41 crore, primarily in the Kashmir valley and concealed financial transactions of nearly Rs 17 crore.

A number of hard disks have also been seized that prima facie corroborate the evidence found in the seized documents, the department said.

The department also covered a hotelier and a retailer of liquor in the Kashmir valley.

Full report at:



Kartarpur Corridor: India accuses Pakistan of usurping gurdwara land, double-speak

by Rahul Tripathi

March 16, 2019

A day after the first meeting between India and Pakistan on the development of Kartarpur corridor, New Delhi accused Islamabad of “surreptitiously usurping” land belonging to the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara in the name of developing the corridor.

Official sources said the Indian delegation has lodged a strong protest with their Pakistan counterparts against the “rampant encroachment” on the land belonging to the Sikh shrine.

The encroached land was donated to Kartarpur Sahib by the late Maharaja Ranjeet Singh and others.

India also accused Pakistan of “double-speak” after the latter objected to most of the Indian proposals. “Pakistan has lived up to its old reputation of making false promises, making tall claims and delivering nothing. Its double-speak on the Kartarpur Sahib corridor has been exposed in the first meeting itself at Attari on Thursday,” said a senior government official, who was part of the deliberation.

“Lands owned by the gurdwara have been surreptitiously usurped by the government of Pakistan in the name of developing the corridor. A strident demand was made by India for restoration of these lands to the holy gurdwara urgently, keeping in view the strong sentiments on the issue within India,” the official said.

Pakistan wanted to restrict the duration of Kartarpur agreement to two years despite India making it clear that it is executing long-lasting facilities at the border by spending Rs 190 crore.

“Against the hype created by the Pakistan government and the Pakistan media, its actual offer during the talks turned out to be farcical and mere tokenism. There is a sea of difference between what Pakistan, including Prime Minister Imran Khan, had announced, and in what they offered at the Attari meeting. Clearly, Pakistan is not interested in providing Indian pilgrims easy access to Kartarpur Sahib,” the official said.

While India is executing a passenger terminal building for visit of over 5,000 pilgrims daily and over 15,000 pilgrims on special occasions, Pakistan has limited it to 700 pilgrims per day. Further, Pakistan did not agree to the Indian demand of allowing daily visits of pilgrims and has restricted it to “visiting days” which will be specified by it. It did not agree to permit travel of devotees on foot or as individuals, and has insisted on movement of groups of 15 and by vehicle, another official said.

Despite having assured visa-free passage to Kartarpur Sahib, Pakistan has now brought in, through the back door, the requirement of issuance of special permits by them to pilgrims, that also at a fee, which is “outrageous and defeats” the very purpose of the corridor, the official said. Pakistan has restricted the corridor facility to only Indian passport holders and excluded the large number of Overseas Citizens of India card holder devotees, the official said, adding that Pakistan is pretending to be blind to the fact that Guru Nanak Dev holds universal appeal, including the large Indian diaspora.

Responding to Indian media reports, Pakistan government sources said, “India is in no position to object on any land or its allotment and its use in the Pakistani territory…Every country has the right to decide how a religious corridor within its territory would operate and we take no dictations…The corridor is strictly for Indian citizens in light of the proposal by Pakistan tabled in 1992, if other nationalities want to visit, they can legally obtain a Pakistani visa….”

“…(there is) a sea of difference between the Indian attitude which we saw at Attari and what we are now witnessing through this fictitious leaks. We understand that the Indian government is doing hard to serve its domestic audience,” sources said

It may be recalled that when India and Pakistan signed a pact in 1974 to facilitate visit of their pilgrims to the shrines located in each other’s territories, Kartarpur Sahib was not included despite repeated Indian requests. Pakistan has so far resisted all attempts to include Kartarpur in the 1974 MoU, the official said. As per that agreement, there are 15 shrines in Pakistan and seven in India where each other’s pilgrims can visit, a top government official said.

Full report at:



France freezes Masood Azhar’s assets, will push to put him on EU list of terrorists

by Shubhajit Roy

March 16, 2019

Two days after China put a technical hold on the listing of Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar at the United Nations Security Council, France took the lead in imposing national sanctions on the terrorist responsible for attacks in Pulwama, Pathankot and Parliament House. Paris also said it will ask other European countries to include Azhar’s name in the European Union’s list of terrorists.

“France has decided to sanction Masood Azhar at the national level by freezing his assets in application of the Monetary and Financial Code. A joint decree of the Ministries of the Interior, and Economy and Finance was published today in the Official Gazette,” a statement issued by the three French ministries said.

France had taken the lead, along with the US and UK, to put “maximum pressure” on China to not object to the listing proposal moved by the P-3 countries. But Beijing put a hold on the proposal, and bought time for six months, extendable by another three months.

“We will raise this issue with our European partners with a view to including Masood Azhar on the European Union list of persons, groups and entities involved in terrorist acts, based on this decree,” the statement said.

Leading the effort, France asserted that it has always been by India’s side in the fight against terrorism. France along with the US and the UK had moved a proposal in the UN Security Council to designate the JeM chief as a “global terrorist”.

“A deadly attack took place in Pulwama on February 14, 2019, claiming over 40 victims from the Indian police forces. The Jaish-e-Mohammed, which the United Nations has deemed to be a terrorist organisation since 2001, has claimed responsibility for this attack,” the French government’s statement said. “France has always been and always will be by India’s side in the fight against terrorism,” it said.

The French had played a key role in getting the condemnation statement by the UNSC, which had named JeM for the attack in J&K.

Sources said the idea is to gather as much global support and build international opinion in favour of listing by putting Azhar on the national list of terrorists. “If such actions can be taken by the major countries of the world, which supported the proposal to list Azhar, that would give a strong message and put pressure on Beijing,” sources told The Indian Express.

Sources said Delhi is talking to major partners like the UK and other strategic partners to put Azhar on the national lists of terrorists and JeM on the terrorist groups list, and build international pressure. The proposal had 13 co-sponsors at the UNSC Resolution 1267 sanctions committee.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj Friday said the leaders who term China’s blocking of banning JeM chief Masood Azhar at the UN a “diplomatic failure” must see that India was alone when the move was first made in 2009 under UPA rule, while it has worldwide support in 2019.

Taking to Twitter, Swaraj said: “The proposal has been mooted four times. In 2009, India under the UPA government was the lone proposer. In 2016, India’s proposal was co-sponsored by US, France and UK. In 2017, US, UK and France moved the proposal.”

“In 2019, the proposal was moved by US, France and UK and supported by 14 of the 15 UN Security Council members and also co-sponsored by Australia, Bangladesh, Italy and Japan — non-members of the Security Council,” she said in a series of tweets.

Full report at:



North America


US Muslims show resolve after New Zealand attacks

Umar Farooq  



The Islamic Center of Washington D.C. was overflowing with Muslims for Friday prayers, showing strength in numbers, despite safety concerns after a gunman killed dozens of worshippers at two mosques in New Zealand.

The prayer hall was filled but the room was roaring with silence as worshippers sat solemnly in anticipation for the imam’s sermon.

The talk was held after the gunman opened fire on worshippers during Friday prayers at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, leaving at least 49 people dead. The shooter posted a manifesto prior to the attack, spewing anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric and showing support for U.S. President Donald Trump.

The Islamic center's director, Abdullah Khouj, delivered his speech, calling for peace and condemning violence and hate. Khouj recited a verse from the Quran well known to the Muslim community.

“Whoever kills a person, unless in retribution for murder or spreading corruption in the land, it is as if he kills all mankind, while if anyone saves a life it is as if he saves the lives of all mankind,” he recited from Islam’s holy text.

Police were present with squad cars posted outside the Washington mosque, and officers remained in the prayer hall, checking to make sure there was no potential security threat.

Despite concerns in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in the U.S., Muslims were not deterred in their faith and showed that in times of tragedy, strength must be shown.

“Do not be afraid and do not abandon your mosques. Not today. Not ever,” Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council of American-Islamic Relations, said Friday.

Some Muslims were ready to take matters into their own hands – even if it meant brining weapons into the sanctuary of the mosque.

“I think Muslims should take the steps to arm themselves, because the Second Amendment specifically is there to protect our rights, to our fundamental right to life,” Karim el-Sayed said. “I think it is crucial that Muslims in the US take the necessary steps to legally arm themselves, form security groups to patrol the masjids.”

But Mustafa Alam had a slightly different perspective.

“We shouldn't be fearful, but we should always just be bold and strong and just follow our faith and live well with others. That's all we have to do. Nothing like this should intimidate us, it should strengthen us to be better people,” Mustafa Alam, a recent medical school graduate, told Anadolu Agency.

Alam said Muslims need to show love to fight hate.

"Mercy is always greater, and that's the way we should deal with that. With a lot of mercy with a lot of love, and when we do that that's how we demonstrate and show what it means of our faith,” he said. “Hopefully, this love and compassion overrides the hate that others may show.



New Zealand attack spurs extra patrols in Canada

Barry Ellsworth  


Canadian police in the Toronto area and Ottawa stepped up security at mosques following the deadly New Zealand shootings that killed at least 49 Muslims. 

“In response to the attacks in New Zealand, we will have a heightened police presence in the community, focusing on places of worship – especially mosques,” said Toronto police spokesperson Caroline de Kloet.

In the wake of the shootings, the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) issued a press release recommending a three-point plan of action, including a review of security measures before Friday’s prayers, and extra vigilance regarding suspicious activities around mosques.

The council also “strongly encourage eligible mosques and Islamic institutions to apply for the next round of security funding this June through the federal government’s "Communities at Risk – Security Infrastructure Program."

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau added his voice of sympathy to that of other world leaders. 

“Canadians across the country were appalled to wake up to news of the terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, that killed and injured so many people, including children,” Trudeau said in a statement.

“Far too often, Muslims suffer unimaginable loss and pain in the places where they should feel safest.”

Trudeau also mentioned that Canadians well remembered the pain following the senseless attack on a Quebec mosque in January 2017 that saw six worshipers killed by Alexandre Bissonnette. Bissonnette received a 40-year sentence but prosecutors are appealing that decision, asking for a longer sentence.

Gunmen opened fire on worshippers during Friday prayers at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, with one of the shooters livestreaming the incident on social media. The footage has since been removed from social media platforms.

Full report at:



'Don't abandon your mosques,' CAIR tells Muslims in US

Umar Farooq 



The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) urged Muslims Friday to come together in unity and solidarity after 49 worshippers were gunned down at two mosques in New Zealand during Friday prayer services.

“Do not be afraid and do not abandon your mosques. Not today. Not ever,” said CAIR’s Executive Director Nihad Awad.

Awad spoke at a news conference, saying there are 3,000 mosques across the United States with millions of Muslims attending Friday prayers.

“They have very legitimate fears, and they are being told to be afraid by white supremacists and political leaders who believe in white supremacy,” he said.

Gunmen opened fire on worshippers during Friday prayers at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, with one of the shooters livestreaming the incident on social media. The footage has since been removed from social media platforms.

Four suspects -- three men and one woman -- have been detained so far, and multiple explosive devices were defused, according to multiple reports citing the New Zealand police and its commissioner, Mike Bush.

The leader of CAIR also called out U.S. President Donald Trump, saying he is partially to blame for the terrorist attacks.

Awad delivered a message to Trump, criticizing his rhetoric over the past two years in which he has explicitly said that “Islam hates us”.

One of the suspects in the attack released a 74-page manifesto prior to the shooting in which he said that Trump is “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose”.

Full report at:



Ilhan Omar calls for solidarity with Muslims in wake of New Zealand mosque terror attacks

March 15, 2019

Washington (CNN)Democratic freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, one of the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress, said on Friday that "love trumps hate" and urged solidarity with Muslims in the wake of a deadly terror attack at two mosques in New Zealand.

Democratic freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who shares the historic distinction along with Omar, expressed outrage over the attacks in a statement on Friday, saying, "This morning I tried to hold back tears as I hugged my two brown, Muslim boys a little tighter and longer. The painful loss of life based on hate makes me so angry."

Speaking to reporters in Washington, Omar called the hate-filled terror attacks "devastating," saying she had woken up on Friday morning to the news.

At least 49 people were killed and 20 seriously injured in mass shootings at two mosques in the city of Christchurch.

Omar referenced the fact that Friday is the Muslim community's holy day of the week, a day when the faithful attend services at mosques, and said she hopes Muslims will continue to attend the Friday prayer service known as jumah.

"Today is the day that Muslims around the world go to the mosque to observe their jumah prayers," Omar said, adding, "I know that there was a call for people to not go and I said to people that is what the terrorists want us to do. That is a win for them. So we must face that hate and terror with love and compassion and not only should Muslims be going to jumah today, everyone should join them in solidarity."

Tlaib, in the statement released by her office, also referenced jumah, saying, "Today, is Jumu'ah (Friday) prayer for Muslims across our nation, and as each one kneels to worship Allah (yes, it means God), I pray that they are protected and can find some kind of peace. I hope that our children don't become numb to this, and that this is not their new normal."

Tlaib added, "I am so angry at those who follow the 'white supremacy' agenda in my own country that sends a signal across the world that massacres like this is some kind of call to action." She also said, "From Charleston, to Pittsburgh, Texas, Oak Creek, New Zealand and many places in between, white supremacists are targeting places of worship to push their violent, racist and terrorist agenda."

The New Zealand attack was unleashed at lunchtime local time on Friday, when mosques were full of worshippers.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described it as a terrorist attack, saying it was perpetrated by suspects with "extremist views" who had no place in her country or the wider world. It was one of New Zealand's "darkest days," she said in a news conference.

Omar said, "We have to make sure that we are resilient, loving and that we are creating an environment that recognizes all of our worth."

Full report at:



New Zealand gunman mind-controlled by 9/11 false flag operation: Analyst

Mar 16, 2019

The gunman, who killed 49 people and wounded more than 40 during Friday prayers at two New Zealand mosques, has been mind-controlled by the 9/11 attacks false flag operation designed by Israel, a political analyst says.

The incident was the country's worst ever mass shooting, which Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern condemned as terrorism.

The Australian gunman behind the massacre, identified as Brenton Tarrant, broadcast live footage on Facebook of the attack on one mosque in the city of Christchurch, mirroring the carnage played out in video games, after publishing a "manifesto" in which he denounced immigrants, calling them "invaders".

In his manifesto, Tarrant said he saw US President Donald Trump as “symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.”

“I think it is interesting that this gunman is lionizing Trump at the same moment that Trump himself is surrounded by the Zionist neo-conservative wing of power in the West that actually created this entire clash of civilizations with their false flag mind-controlled operation of September 11, 2001 that was designed to inculcate inter-generational Islamophobia ,” Kevin Barrett, an author, journalist and radio host with a Ph.D. in Islamic and Arabic Studies, told Press TV on Friday.

“This gunman probably is one of the many many millions of people who have been mind-controlled by the September 11 false flag operation and subsequent false flag operations to hate Islam and this, of course, has led to a genocide of Muslims around the world.”

“This relatively small number of Muslims falling victim to this seemingly crazy terrorist are really part of the same group of 32 million Muslims who have fallen to the Zionist 9/11 triggered anti-Islam genocide,” he opined.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called on Trump to condemn the shootings as a white supremacist terrorist attack.

Full report at:



Trump offers condolences to NZ after mosque attacks; perpetrator praises Trump

Mar 15, 2019

Donald Trump has described as a "horrible massacre" the deadly terrorist attacks on Muslim mosques in New Zealand, amid reports that the perpetrator -- a white supremacist -- is an admirer of the US president.

In a tweet on Friday, Trump expressed his condolences to the people of New Zealand after shootings at two mosques in the city of Christchurch had earlier in the day left at least 49 people dead and several others injured.

"My warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the Mosques. 49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The US stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!" Trump tweeted.

Donald J. Trump


My warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the Mosques. 49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!


5:11 PM - Mar 15, 2019

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In a separate statement, the White House lashed out at the shootings but stopped short of mentioning specifically that the assault took place at a mosque or that Muslims were killed.

"The United States strongly condemns the attack in Christchurch. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families," White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in the statement.

"We stand in solidarity with the people of New Zealand and their government against this vicious act of hate," she added.

The attacks were conducted on two mosques in New Zealand's Christchurch during Friday prayers, claiming the lives of 49 worshipers and wounding more than 20 others.

Forty-one people were killed at the al Noor mosque on Deans Avenue, said Mike Bush, New Zealand's Police Commissioner. Seven people died at the Linwood mosque on Linwood Avenue, and one person died from their injuries in the hospital.

Security officials in New Zealand said four people had been detained following the shooting, including one Australian.

The Australian gunman, identified as Brenton Tarrant, had broadcast on Facebook live footage of the attack on one of the mosques and published a "manifesto" in which he denounced immigrants, calling them "invaders.”

In his manifesto, Tarrant praised Trump and said he saw the US president as “symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.”

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern condemned the incident as an act of terrorism, saying at a press conference on Friday that the suspects held "extremist views" and had no place in New Zealand or the world.

Full report at:



US envoy says no timetable for full US withdrawal from Syria

15 March 2019

ISIS extremist group is down to its last few hundred fighters and less than a square kilometer of land in a battle for its final Syrian stronghold, although it may have 15,000-20,000 armed adherents in Syria and Iraq US envoy James Jeffrey said on Friday. “We are just about finished with the campaign along the Euphrates to defeat the last territorial holdings of the ‘caliphate’. They’re down to a few hundred fighters and less than a square kilometer of land,” said Jeffrey, the US Special Representative for Syria Engagement and Special Envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.

Jeffrey said the United States was helping the Syrian Democratic Forces in Syria to secure ISIS prisoners but was also launching a campaign to get countries to take back foreign fighters and their families, to prosecute or re-educate them.

“We believe that there’s between 15,000 and 20,000 Daesh armed adherents active, although many are in sleeper cells, in Syria and in Iraq,” Jeffrey said, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.

Speaking to reporters on a video call after attending a Syria humanitarian conference in Brussels, Jeffrey said the struggle to defeat ISIS ideology would go on and there was no timetable for a full US withdrawal from Syria.

Some troops would be pulled out but a contingent would stay in northeastern Syria, backed by coalition partners and control of air space, to continue the fight and prevent a destabilizing vacuum developing.

The United States would also maintain a force at al-Tanf close to the Iraqi and Jordanian borders to bolster local forces against ISIS.

With a smaller force and much less combat after the territorial defeat of ISIS in Syria, US costs would be far less, Jeffrey said.

Full report at:





Pakistani ‘Hero’ who tried to stop Christchurch mosque terrorist succumbs to wounds

MARCH 16, 2019

The deceased was initially injured, when he attempted to stop the terrorist. He was shifted to hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.

Late Naeem Rashid along with his son went to offer Friday prayers, when a terrorist opened fire and killed 49 people. Naeem Rashid hailed from Abbottabad. His son Talha Naeem also died in the attack at Al Noor Mosque.

Dr Mohammad Faisal


Update on New Zealand terrorism incident - 4 Pakistanis injured and being treated in hospitals - 5 Pakistanis are missing. Identities are being authenticated in consultation with local authorities.


7:50 PM - Mar 15, 2019

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According to the Pakistani Foreign Office, four Pakistani’s were injured and five are missing. The search for those missing was ongoing.

Dr Mohammad Faisal


Terrorism in #NewZealand: One Pakistani injured identified as Muhammad Amin Nasir, DOB: 01-10-1951, from Hafizabad. He is in ICU and remains in critical comdition. #pakistanagainstterror


9:59 AM - Mar 16, 2019

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The foreign office tweeted “One Pakistani injured identified as Muhammad Amin Nasir, from Hafizabad”



Pakistan, Iran vow to boost counterterrorism cooperation

Baqir Sajjad Syed

March 16, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Iran on Friday renewed their resolve to intensify their cooperation in counterterrorism and other aspects of bilateral relationship.

This was the upshot of a telephonic conversation between Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua and Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araghchi. The telephonic contact followed last week’s conversation between Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Hassan Rouhani in which the two leaders had agreed to “closer cooperation among the two [countries’] intelligence agencies in combating terrorism”.

Although there was no formal statement, both Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman and Mr Aragchi tweeted about the telephonic conversation.

FO spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal tweeted: “FS Tehmina Janjua spoke to Iran’s DFM Araghchi. Issues of mutual interest were discussed. The two agreed to strengthen bilateral cooperation in all areas. FS Janjua illustrated Pakistan’s continued desire for peace and de-escalation of tensions in the region.”

Mr Araghchi tweeted: “Today I spoke with Tehmina Janjua, foreign secretary of Pakistan, over phone. Iran and Pakistan are close neighbours and friends. We agreed to strengthen our cooperation in all fields including fighting terrorism. Iran calls for de-escalation and peaceful resolution of Pakistan-India conflict.”

Relations between Pakistan and Iran turned lukewarm after the PTI government took office last year amidst an aggravating financial crisis and had to turn towards rich Arab states for financial help. However, recent terrorist incidents — the attack on an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps bus last month in Sistan-Baluchestan and the kidnapping of Iranian border guards in October — worsened the situation. Last-minute cancellation of PM Khan’s visit to Iran planned for January did not help resolve the matters either.

Iranian envoy

Iran’s Ambassador to Pakistan Mehdi Honardoost, while speaking on ‘Pak-Iran Relations: Current scenario and future prospects’ at the Islamabad Policy Institute (IPI), has called for putting counterterrorism cooperation at the top of Pak-Iran bilateral agenda.

“Iran and Pakistan are victims of terrorism. This concern should be at the top of the agenda of negotiations and consultations between the relevant authorities,” he said.

Mr Honardoost said the “hand of a third party” was evident in recent terrorism incidents in areas near Pak-Iran border. About the “third party”, he said it was the “one that was not easy with brotherly and friendly ties between Pakistan and Iran” and was also involved with patronising “extremism and terrorism”.

He said he was confident that Pakistan and Iran would together foil the sinister designs of “the third party”.

Speaking about the recent telephonic conversation between Prime Minister Khan and President Rouhani, the ambassador said the two leaders had reaffirmed their pledge to cooperate for border security. He said Iran was having good communication with Pakistan on all issues and the two countries were exploring new areas of cooperation.

About Saudi Arabia’s planned investment in Gwadar, Mr Honardoost said Iran was not concerned about “constructive engagement” of any country with Pakistan. “We expect solidarity, cooperation, and interaction between Pakistan and other Muslim countries to improve.” He, however, emphasised that it was Pakistan’s obligation as a responsible country that “the cooperation is not misused against any other country”.

The ambassador spoke about trade and economic cooperation between Pakistan and Iran. Emphasising the importance of completion of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project, he said it could “provide the foundation for revival of Pakistan’s economy” by strengthening Pakistan’s energy security and ending power shortages. “We are waiting for Pakistan to move on the project,” he added.

He reiterated that Pakistan’s Gwadar and Iran’s Chahbahar ports “were not rival ports”, and instead had a “sisterhood relationship”.

The ambassador said a passenger and goods ferry service between Karachi and Chahbahar was being negotiated. “The inauguration of ferry service and initiation of supply of electricity to Gwadar from Iran would be the best way to celebrate the sisterhood of two ports,” he added.

Full report at:



'Terrorism does not have a religion': Pakistan condemns New Zealand mosque shootings

March 15, 2019

President Arif Alvi, Prime Minister Imran Khan and other politicians strongly condemned Friday's terrorist attack on two mosques in New Zealand, which killed 40 people and injured more than 20.

"Shocked and grieved to learn about the horrific massacre in Christchurch mosque," said President Alvi. "My prayers for the victims [...] Hate, once unleashed is difficult to stop. Difficult times."

"Shocked and strongly condemn the Christchurch, New Zealand, terrorist attack on mosques," said the premier on Twitter. "This reaffirms what we have always maintained: that terrorism does not have a religion. Prayers go to the victims and their families." "I blame these increasing terror attacks on the current Islamophobia post-9/11 where Islam & 1.3 billion Muslims have collectively been blamed for any act of terror by a Muslim," he went on to say. "This has been done deliberately to also demonise legitimate Muslim political struggles."

New Zealand police took three men and a woman into custody after the shootings, which shocked people across the nation of 5 million people.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi condemned "in the strongest terms the tragic terrorist attack", shared the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "FM has expressed condolences over loss of innocent lives in the heinous attack."

In a separate tweet, Qureshi said the ministry was trying to ascertain whether any Pakistanis are among the victims.

Terming the incident "barbaric, violent act of terrorism", PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said the "rise in white supremacist & Islamophobic attacks" was "unfortunate".

The mosques — Masjid al Noor in central Christchurch and the other one in suburban Linwood — were packed with worshippers, and members of the Bangladesh cricket team were arriving when the shooter opened fire.

Members of the Bangladesh cricket team, including batsman Tamim Iqbal, described on social media their narrow escape from the mass shooting.

"Glad to hear the team is safe. Hope everyone else is safe also," said Finance Minister Asad Umar, replying to Iqbal. "Terrorists destroying the peace of the world must be fought wherever they are and whichever religion they belong to."

An unverified video has emerged on social media that was reportedly recorded by the Australian attacker during the shooting. New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has urged people not to share the video of the attack as well as the manifesto of the alleged shooter, which alludes to anti-immigrant sentiment.

Activist and lawyer Jibran Nasir, referring to the video, said "innocent lives reduced to a political statement, shot like a video game and killed in the house of worship. If this is not terrorism, what is?"

PPP Senator Sherry Rehman called it "plain horrific, Islamophobic, anti-Muslim terrorism", saying: "It is certainly not a shooting or simple act of violence as many Western media reports couch it as."

Condemning the "heinous terrorist attack", MNA Mohsin Dawar said the incident must be thoroughly investigated.

Zulfi Bukhari, the prime minister's special assistant on overseas Pakistanis and human resource development, extended "prayers of the Pakistani nation to victims of the devastating #NewZealand attack".

"Terrorism is a global issue and we stand with the people of NZ to combat it," he added.

Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari, while calling it a "condemnable act of terrorism", lashed out at the International Cricket Council (ICC) in a series of tweets, questioning if the authority would suspend cricket in New Zealand and "use the same yardstick they used for Pakistan to stop international cricket".

It is pertinent to mention that ICC, however, had not 'suspended' international cricket in Pakistan following the attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore in 2009.

Full report at:



Southeast Asia


Philippines hopes extremist group ‘neutralized’ after de facto leader killed

March 16, 2019

MANILA: The Philippine military believes it may have “neutralized” the remnants of an alliance of pro-Daesh extremists, after the suspected death of the group’s de facto leader during clashes last week.

Forensic tests were being carried out to determine if one of four rebels killed on Thursday was Abu Dar, who security forces believe has led Dawla Islamiya, an alliance of pro-Daesh fighters, foreign and Filipino, drawn from armed groups in the volatile Mindanao region.

Four soldiers were also killed during the fighting in Lanao del Sur province, which Daesh claimed responsibility for on the mobile messaging service Telegram.

Regional army commander, Col. Romeo Brawner, told ABS-CBN News that the death of Abu Dar would mean Dawla Islamiya had been “neutralized.”

Dawla Islamiya in 2017 occupied southern Marawi City for five months before its core leaders were reported killed by the military in air strikes and street battles, among them Isnilon Hapilon, Islamic State’s anointed “emir” in Southeast Asia. Abu Dar was seen in seized video footage sitting beside Hapilon.

If confirmed, his death would represent rare progress at a time of heightened alert across the predominantly Muslim areas of Mindanao, where a church attack by suspected suicide bombers in January killed 22 people and wounded more than 100, just days after a local referendum on autonomy returned an overwhelming “yes” vote.

Daesh claimed responsibility for the church bombings, which the government believes were carried out by its supporters from another Mindanao group, Abu Sayyaf, which has a long history of criminal and extremist activity.



Hate speech net tightens in Malaysia

March 15, 2019

Alister Cogia, 22, was sentenced to almost 11 years in jail last week for a posting he made on Facebook deemed demeaning to Muslims in Malaysia.

He is not alone. Malaysian police are also investigating three others for making insulting comments about Islam.

On March 12, a 52-year-old man was arrested for making comments on social media deemed offensive to Hindus. The previous day, a court in Kuala Lumpur sentenced a jobless man to seven months’ jail and fined him RM10,000 (US$2,450) for insulting Islam in a Facebook post last month.

Prominent lawyer Latheefa Koya, executive director of the NGO Lawyers for Liberty, has called for a review of Cogia’s sentence.

“[It’s] shocking and unprecedented that the court passed a sentence of 10 years jail over an offence like this. He had pleaded guilty, which should have been taken into account. Ten years consecutively is disproportionate and must be reviewed.

“This breaches the rule of law,” Koya posted on her Twitter account.

Others said the jail sentence should serve as a lesson to others to stop fanning racial and religious hatred.

If the sentence stands, Cogia will have spent a third of his life in jail by the time he is due for release in 2030.

The crackdown follows a spate of polarizing discussions and comments on social media about religious views and tenets, which Muslim groups, eager to impose their ethos in the multi-cultural country, say are provocations.

They had threatened "bloodshed" if the authorities had failed to act.

It is a time-worn warning. Since the ouster of disgraced former prime minister Najib Razak and his Barisan National coalition government — led by the long-ruling United Malay National Organization (UMNO) — last May, race and religion have taken on an added edge in Malaysian politics.

Segments of the Malay population, which had supported the previous government, believe Malaysia's non-Muslim ethnic Chinese and Indians are in the ascendancy and that they are about to lose their special status.

UMNO and the hard-line Islamic party PAS have gleefully exploited misgivings about a perceived loss of identity among especially conservative Malays and Muslims and won two consecutive local elections this year on the back of this unease.

Observers believe that the political defeats suffered by the new government and rising racial and religious chauvinism has heightened fear they are losing religious credibility and prompted the crackdown.

The minister in charge of religious affairs Mujahid Yusof Rawa set in motion the tough action against religious disparagement by announcing the formation of a special government unit to monitor insults against Islam.

He said the unit would "accept any complaints about insults towards the Prophet and Islam, and immediately report them to the police".

Police claim they have received over 900 complaints of religious slurs so far and all are being investigated under the Penal Code and the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.

“The public is advised not to misuse social media or any communications network by uploading or sharing any form of provocation which touches on religious and racial sensitivities," police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun said in a statement on March 5.

“The act of challenging and insulting the beliefs or religion of any community, which can create racial tension among the multi-cultural people of this country, must stop immediately,” he said.

Critics however see the investigations and prison sentences as having a chilling effect on religious discussions.

They also note that when Muslims insulted other ethnic minorities senior politicians in the previous government cheered them on.

A notorious example was when former Home Affairs minister Hishammuddin Hussein held a press conference to support Muslims who demonstrated against the construction of a Hindu temple in their neighborhood. The protesters paraded a severed, bloodied cow's head in the street, then spat and stomped on it. This was an offense to Malaysia's Hindus, who consider the cow a sacred animal.

As former law minister Zaid Ibrahim puts it in a sardonic Twitter posting: "When someone insulted Islam/the Holy Prophet, he gets 10 years' jail. But when a Muslim preacher insulted other religions, he gets to be a permanent resident."

It is a reference to the controversial Muslim preacher Zakir Naik, banned from entering the UK for making statements supportive of terrorists including Osama Bin Laden, who was given permanent residency in Malaysia by the previous government.

The stunning prison sentence handed down to Cogia has given Malaysians still celebrating the ouster of a corrupt government pause to consider their freedoms, especially the right to speak freely as well as the responsibility and consequences that come with it.

Full report at:



Azmin raps Australian senator over NZ attacks remark

15 March 2019

KUALA LUMPUR, March 15 — Australian Senator Fraser Anning’s statement blaming the mass shootings in Christchurch on immigration and Islam is utterly contemptible and illogical, said Minister of Economic Affairs Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali.

He said while others are mourning and expressing sympathy for the families and loved ones of the victims of this heinous hate crime, Senator Anning’s remarks were highly insensitive as well as totally unwarranted and racist.

“Rather than demonstrating empathy and compassion, he has chosen instead to vent his racist prejudice and hatred against Islam and Muslims by blaming the victims instead of the criminal perpetrators,” he said in a statement today.

The Washington Post reported that Senator Anning in a written statement said the real cause of bloodshed on New Zealand streets today is the immigration programme which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place.

Mohamed Azmin therefore called on all Malaysians and all right-minded people to condemn in no uncertain terms the Senator and his remarks.

Two Malaysians were injured in the shootings at the Al-Noor Mosque and Linwood Mosque and are under treatment in hospital.

Full report at:





New Zealand attack shows growing hostility to Islam: Erdoğan

March 15 2019

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on March 15 condemned the deadly attack on two mosques in New Zealand, saying it illustrated the growing hostility towards Islam “idly” watched by the world.

“With this attack, hostility towards Islam, that the world has been idly watching and even encouraging for some time, has gone beyond individual harassment to reach the level of mass killing,” Erdogan said at the funeral of a former Turkish minister.

Turkish media reported the so-called manifesto of the attacker contained specific references to Turkey and ridding the famed Hagia Sophia in Istanbul of its minarets.

Now a museum, the building was once a church before being turned into a mosque during the Ottoman empire. Also, a photo of the rifle the attacker used shows “Vienna 1683” written on it, which marks the date of the second siege of Vienna by the Ottoman Empire.

Also on the rifles, crawled in English and several Eastern European languages were the names of numerous historical military figures- many of them Europeans involved in fighting the Ottoman forces in the 15th and 16th centuries.

“It is clear that the understanding represented by the killer that also targets our country, our people and myself, has started to take over Western societies like cancer.”

The Turkish leader, who often criticizes Islamophobic attitudes, called for the West to act to prevent similar attacks.

“If measures are not taken right away, news of other disasters will follow this one. I am calling on the world, in particular, the West, to take quick measures,” he said.

In another speech, during an election rally in the southeastern Gaziantep province on March 15 Erdoğan said: “As Muslims, we will never come to heel and never come down to the level of these cowards.”

Erdogan added that Turkey will continue to take the same stance “whenever innocents die. “He also said that three Turkish citizens have been wounded in the attack, none of them carry life-threatening injuries.

His spokesman Ibrahim Kalın called it a “fascist” attack that “shows how anti-Muslim rhetoric and hatred leads to murderous acts. The world must break its silence over Islamophobic hatred.”



Palestinians protest Hamas tax hikes for a second day

16 March 2019

Hundreds of Palestinians have gathered in Gaza for a second day to protest against tax hikes by Hamas authorities that have made life even harder in the blockaded territory.

In the central town of Deir al-Balah, demonstrators burned tires and blocked roads on Friday. Witnesses, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, say Hamas forces beat and arrested dozens, including local journalists and activists.

There was no immediate comment from Hamas.

Hamas violently dispersed larger protests held on Thursday in several parts of Gaza.

An Israeli and Egyptian blockade imposed after Hamas seized power in 2007, along with three wars with Israel, has devastated the local economy.

Full report at:



Israel strikes ‘100 targets’ in Gaza, Palestinians cancel border protests

15 March 2019

Israeli military aircraft bombed Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip early on Friday, hours after two rockets were launched at Tel Aviv in the first such attack since a 2014 war.

Following the overnight exchanges, sirens sounded again in Israeli border towns after dawn broke.

The Israeli military said its Iron Dome defense system intercepted all but one of six more missiles that were fired at Israel.

In a statement, the Israeli military said it had struck “approximately 100 military targets” belonging to Hamas, the Islamist militant group which controls Gaza.

The statement included photographs of several sites the military said it targeted, including what it called the headquarters of Hamas’s West Bank operations, a rocket manufacturing site, and a naval post which it described as a weapons depot.

Reuters was unable to immediately verify the claims.

Palestinian news media reported strikes throughout Gaza, from Rafah in the south to the north of the densely populated coastal strip that is home to two million Palestinians.

Some of the buildings targeted had been evacuated as a precaution, as Hamas had expected an Israeli response.

Health ministry officials in Gaza said two people, a man and a woman, were wounded when their house was damaged in Rafah in the early morning.

Witnesses said powerful explosions from the air strikes rocked buildings in Gaza and lit the skies over targeted sites.

Gaza border protests called off

Meanwhile, weekly protests along the Gaza-Israel border were called off Friday following the military escalation in the territory, organizers announced.

“In keeping with the public interest, the commission has decided to exceptionally postpone its activities scheduled for this day,” the body which organizes the protests said in a statement, according to AFP.

Protests will resume in the coming weeks, with particular preparation for the one-year anniversary of their beginning on March 30, it said.

If not Hams, who?

On Thursday night, the sirens howled farther north, in Tel Aviv, Israel’s commercial capital, set off by what the military said were two incoming, longer-range rockets from Gaza.

That salvo caused no casualties or damage, missing built-up areas. But it rattled Israeli nerves ahead of an April 9 election in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking a fifth term on the strength of his national security credentials.

Explosions were heard in Tel Aviv and witnesses said interceptor missiles had detonated - although the military said no rockets were shot down.

It was the first such attack on the city since the 2014 Gaza war between Hamas and Israel. There have been several smaller rounds of fighting since, reined in by Egyptian and UN mediation.

“This was basically a surprise,” military spokesman Brigadier-General Ronen Manelis told Israel Radio on Thursday.

Manelis said Israel did not yet know who had carried out the rocket launches. But another Israeli military spokesman laid the blame on Hamas on Friday.

“Hamas carried out the rocket fire against Tel Aviv yesterday evening,” Lieutenant-Colonel Avichay Adraee said.

Hamas denied involvement, saying the launches took place as its leaders met Egyptian delegates about efforts to secure a long-term ceasefire with Israel.

Israeli analysts speculated that Palestinian militants opposed to any deal between Hamas and Israel were behind the rocket attacks.

Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees, two smaller Gaza armed factions, also denied responsibility.

On Friday, Islamic Jihad’s armed wing said in a statement that it had put its fighters on full alert to respond to Israeli attacks.

Washington chimes in

The latest flare-up drew a US statement of support for Israel.

“Hamas and other terror orgs in Gaza continue to fail their people day after day & drag Gaza further & further down by constantly choosing violence,” Jason Greenblatt, the White House’s Middle East envoy, said on Twitter. “This method will never work. Ever!”

Naftali Bennett, a right-wing member of Netanyahu’s security Cabinet whose party is competing against the veteran prime minister’s for votes in the coming election, demanded that Israel resume its assassination of Hamas chiefs.

“The time has come to defeat Hamas once and for all,” he said on Thursday night.

Netanyahu also faced pressure from the center-left opposition, whose leading candidate, former General Benny Gantz, said: “Only aggressive, harsh action will restore the deterrence that has eroded” under the prime minister’s watch.

Tensions have been high for the past year along the Israel-Gaza frontier, as violent protests by Palestinians near Israel’s border fence have often provoked the Israeli military into a lethal response.

At least 255 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since March 2018, the majority shot during border demonstrations and clashes.

Full report at:



Two rockets fired from Gaza at Tel Aviv area, says Israeli army

15 March 2019

Two rockets were fired from Gaza toward the greater Tel Aviv district on Thursday night, the Israeli army said, without giving further information.

The Israeli foreign ministry posted a video of what it said was Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system shooting down one of the incoming rockets "over the Tel Aviv area".

The video showed two outgoing missiles climbing into the sky above high-rise buildings as sirens wail in the background.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai told public television one of the Gaza rockets “apparently fell into the sea, the other hit somewhere but not in Tel Aviv.”

There were no immediate reports of any casualties or damage.

The station said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also defense minister, was convening an emergency security meeting at the defense ministry in Tel Aviv.

Hamas denies responsibility 

Meanwhile, Hamas denied responsibility for rockets fired into Israel, saying the attack took place as it held truce talks with Egyptian mediators.

The Hamas armed wing said in a statement it was “not responsible for the firing of the rockets tonight towards the enemy. They were fired as a meeting was underway between the leadership of the Hamas movement and the Egyptian security delegation over the understandings regarding the Gaza Strip.”

In October 2018 a rocket fired by Palestinians in Gaza fell into the sea off Tel Aviv and another hit the southern city of Beersheba.

In response to the October fire, Israel struck 20 targets in Gaza, killing one Palestinian, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Full report at:



If you 'care' about Yemenis, back Saudi war: Pompeo to senators

Mar 16, 2019

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has rebuked senators for passing a resolution to end Washington’s support for the Saudi war on Yemen, saying they should back Riyadh if they "truly care about Yemeni lives."

In comments to the media in Washington on Friday, Pompeo claimed the vote showed that American senators do not care about the Yemeni people.

"If you truly care about Yemeni lives, you'd support the Saudi-led effort to prevent Yemen from turning into a puppet state of ... Iran," he said.

On Wednesday, the Republican-led Senate approved the resolution to halt US military assistance for the Saudi offensive against Yemen by a 54 to 46 tally.

The measure now heads to the Democrat-led House of Representatives, where it is expected to pass.

A similar resolution to end US support for the Saudi war on Yemen passed the Senate in December, but it was not taken up under the then-Republican-controlled House. For the resolution to reach the president’s desk, it will have to go back to the House for approval.

The US provides intelligence sharing, logistics support and other training to the Saudi-led coalition, which has been waging the war on Yemen since March 2015. It also previously helped with mid-air refueling for warplanes operated by Riyadh and its allies, but that assistance ended last November.

Senator Bernie Sanders, a co-sponsor of the resolution, said, "The bottom line is that the United States should not be supporting a catastrophic war led by a despotic regime with a dangerous and irresponsible foreign policy."

Pompeo, however, said the Trump administration believes that suspending the US role would not end the Yemen conflict.

“We all want to improve the dire humanitarian situation. But the Trump administration fundamentally disagrees that curbing our assistance to the Saudi-led coalition is the way to achieve these goals," he said.

Pompeo also argued that the way to “alleviate the Yemeni people’s suffering isn’t to prolong the conflict by handicapping our partners in the fight, but by giving the Saudi-led coalition the support needed to defeat Houthi Ansarullah fighters.

Saudi Arabia and its partners launched the war in an attempt to reinstall Riyadh-allied former regime and crush the Houthis, who have been running state affairs in the absence of an effective government.

The Western-backed aggression against Yemen, coupled with a naval blockade, has destroyed the country's infrastructure and led to famine as well as a cholera outbreak.

Full report at:



Arab World


Syria death toll more than 370,000 in 8 years of war: monitor

March 15, 2019

BEIRUT: Eight years of war in Syria have left more than 370,000 people dead including 112,000 civilians, a monitor said Friday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of sources across the country, said more than 21,000 children and 13,000 women were among the dead.

The conflict flared after unprecedented anti-government protests in the southern city of Daraa on March 15, 2011.

Demonstrations spread across Syria and were brutally suppressed by the regime, triggering a multi-front armed conflict that has drawn in foreign powers and militant groups.

The Britain-based Observatory's last casualty toll on the Syrian conflict, issued in September, stood at more than 360,000 dead.

Over 125,000 Syrian government soldiers and pro-regime fighters figured in the latest toll, the monitoring group said.

It said other fighters, including rebels and Kurds, accounted for 67,000 of those killed.

Almost 66,000 were militants, mainly from the Daesh group and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), dominated by Al-Qaeda's former affiliate in Syria.

The devastating conflict has displaced or sent into exile around 13 million Syrians, causing billions of dollars-worth of destruction.

With the support of powerful allies Russia and Iran, President Bashar al-Assad has won his war for political survival but his country is fractured and cash-strapped.

Having reversed rebel gains with a massive Russian intervention, Assad now controls almost two-thirds of Syria's territory.

But key areas remain beyond regime control, including a swathe of the oil-rich northeast held by Kurdish-led fighters.

Washington backs the Syrian Democratic Forces, which are spearheading an anti-Daesh campaign, which is drawing to a close near the Iraqi border.

Idlib in northwestern Syria, held by HTS, is protected by a ceasefire deal between Ankara and Moscow which has seen Turkish troops deployed to the area.

Syria's conflict is estimated to have set its economy back three decades, destroying infrastructure and paralysing the production of electricity and oil.

Assad, however, has regained control of key commercial arteries and started a tentative comeback on the Arab diplomatic scene.

Several countries have called for Syria to be reintegrated into the Arab League, from which it was suspended as the death toll from the uprising mounted in 2011.



One of two Saudi victims of NZ terror attack succumbs to injuries

15 March 2019

One of two Saudi victims of terror attacks in New Zealand on Friday has died, his family confirmed to Al Arabiya.

With his death, the toll in New Zealand has risen to 50.

The second injured Saudi citizen, 19-year-old Aseel Ansari has narrated on how he managed to escape from the carnage in Christchurch.

The gunman saw Ansari and began shooting in his direction and hit him in the knee, but he “managed to jump to a house next to the mosque.”

Earlier, the embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in New Zealand had issued statements confirming that the two citizens were being treated at a hospital for their wounds.

The embassy called on all its citizens in Christchurch to follow instructions issued by local authorities to stay indoors until further notice.

The Saudi embassy said in a statement on Twitter: “The Embassy expresses its regret and sorrow at the painful terrorist attack that took place today in Christchurch and offers sincere condolences to the deceased and wishes for the speedy recovery of the injured.”

The embassy added that embassy staff was assigned to visit the Saudi wounded in the hospital and help them psychologically and to take care of their condition. “The embassy is in constant contact with the New Zealand authorities to find out the latest developments regarding their condition.”

After it was earlier reported that a gunman opened fire at a mosque killing many worshippers and forcing the city of Christchurch into lockdown, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, “It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack.”

“From what we know, it does appear to have been well planned.” Two explosive devices attached to suspect vehicles have now been found and they have been disarmed,” she added.

Full report at:



UAE blocks diplomatic efforts to free 11 Lebanese detainees: Report

Mar 15, 2019

The United Arab Emirates has denied Lebanon’s embassy officials the right to meet with 11 Lebanese citizens arrested in the Persian Gulf state over ties to the resistance movement Hezbollah, a media report says.

According to a report by Al-Akhbar, the UAE is blocking diplomatic efforts to secure the release of these Lebanese nationals, who are in prison for two separate cases.

In the first case, three Lebanese citizens Ali Hassan al-Mubdar, Abdullah Hani Abdullah, and Ahmad al-Makkawi have been jailed since 2015 on charge of disclosing the UAE government’s “secrets” to Hezbollah.

In a video message in October 2018, al-Makkawi said he had been severely tortured by UAE officials, and called for an international probe into the issue.

However, the Lebanese embassy’s request to meet the detainees in Abu Dhabi’s Al Wathba Prison was rejected by authorities, who said such a meeting needed the prosecutor’s permission.

The prosecutor in January rejected the Lebanese embassy’s second request for a meeting, citing “national security” concerns.

In the second case, the UAE claims the eight Lebanese citizens have engaged in establishment of a Hezbollah “cell” in the Persian Gulf country.

The eight detainees have been imprisoned since February 2018, and the Lebanese government has failed to receive any information about their conditions.

During the past few years, Emirati officials have in numerous cases arrested, tried, and imprisoned individuals from Lebanon and other Arab states on charge of being linked to the Hezbollah resistance group, a key part of Lebanon's politics.

Full report at:



Arab League must re-evaluate Syria membership suspension: Ambassador

Mar 15, 2019

Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdel Karim Ali says his country must return to the Arab League, calling on the 22-member regional organization to reconsider "its wrong decision to suspend Syria's membership.”

“The Arab League needs Syria because it cannot function well without it. The organization has violated its charter by suspending Syria's membership in the organization,” Arabic-language online newspaper Elnashra quoted Ali as saying on Friday.

He added that the Arab League made this decision under pressure from the United States and Europe.

“It has become clear that many Arab countries noticed that they have an interest to resume their diplomatic ties with Syria and to return the country to the organization,” Ali said.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said on February 3 that his country will eventually return to the Arab League, stressing that the Damascus government will never surrender to blackmail or accept conditions for the restoration of its membership to the regional organization.

“Those who are trying to ignore Syria or to impose conditions for its return to the Arab League will not succeed, since Syria will not surrender to blackmail and is not primarily concerned with anything other than its domestic problems,” Mekdad said.

He added that certain anti-Syria decisions are being made by some Arab states on the instructions of extra-regional powers.

The Arab League suspended Syria's membership in November 2011, citing alleged crackdown by Damascus on opposition protests. Syria denounced the move as "illegal and a violation of the organization’s charter.”

The issue of possible restoration of Syria’s membership in the Arab League comes especially after a recent move by some Arab countries to re-open their embassies in Damascus.

Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry announced in a statement on December 28, 2018 that work at the kingdom’s embassy in the Syrian Arab Republic was going on while the embassy of the Syrian Arab Republic to Bahrain was carrying out its duties and flights connecting the two countries were operational without interruption.

The United Arab Emirates had earlier officially reopened its embassy in Damascus.

The Emirati Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said the reopening of its embassy “reaffirms the keenness of the United Arab Emirates to restore relations between the two friendly countries to their normal course.”

Full report at:



Anti-Daesh Syria Force Boosted As Extremist Holdout Shrinks

March 15, 2019

SOUSA, Syria: US-backed forces consolidated their positions around Daesh’s last redoubt in eastern Syria Friday as the country’s devastating conflict entered its ninth year with more than 370,000 dead.

All that remains of a once sprawling proto-state that the Daesh extremists declared in 2014 is a battered riverside camp in the village of Baghouz near the Iraqi border.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and warplanes of a US-led coalition backing them, have rained fire on the enclave since Sunday, blitzing thousands of Daesh members into surrender.

The Kurdish-led force said “1,300 terrorists and their families” gave themselves up on Thursday alone as its fighters slowed their advance to allow them to exit the enclave.

AFP correspondents on the ground said Thursday night was relatively calm apart from limited air strikes, as the SDF said its fighters were consolidating their positions after extremist counter-attacks and foiled suicide bombings.

The force was “consolidating and rotating its troops,” an SDF spokesman told AFP.

“There are still women and children who want to surrender, so we are obliged to slow down operations,” Jiaker Amed said in the neighboring village of Sousa.

“Operations risk being slowed again today to allow more departures of jihadists and their families,” Amed said, but he was unable to give an estimate for the number of people left inside Baghouz.

“Those left are strongly attached to the (extremists’) ideology,” he said. “There are a lot of suicide bombers but there are also families and children.”

Since the months-old SDF offensive resumed on March 10, 3,000 IS suspected members have surrendered, according to the SDF.

A total of about 60,000 people have streamed out of Daesh-held territory since December, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says, a tenth of them suspected extremists.

The exodus has sparked a humanitarian crisis in Kurdish-held camps for the displaced, where women and children have arrived exhausted after weeks of siege.

These include the wives and children of alleged foreign extremists, hundreds of whom are being held by the Kurdish forces.

The International Rescue Committee says 120 people — mainly young children — have died on their way to the camp or after arrival.

Eight years of war in Syria have left more than 370,000 people dead including 112,000 civilians, the Syrian Observatory said, raising its last toll of over 360,000 issued in September.

The Britain-based monitoring group, which has a network of sources across Syria, said that more than 21,000 children and 13,000 women were among the dead.

The conflict flared after unprecedented anti-government protests in the southern city of Daraa on March 15, 2011.

Demonstrations spread across Syria and were brutally suppressed by the regime, triggering a multi-front armed conflict that has drawn in foreign powers and militant groups.

Over 125,000 Syrian government soldiers and pro-regime fighters figure in the latest death toll, the Observatory said.

It said other fighters, including rebels and Kurds, accounted for 67,000 of those killed.

Almost 66,000 were extremists, mainly from Daesh and Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), dominated by Al-Qaeda’s former affiliate in Syria.

The devastating conflict has displaced or sent into exile around 13 million Syrians, and cost almost $400 billion in damages, according to the United Nations.

With the support of powerful allies Russia and Iran, President Bashar Assad has won his war for political survival but his country is fractured and cash-strapped.

Having reversed rebel gains with a massive Russian intervention, Assad now controls almost two-thirds of Syria’s territory.

But key areas remain beyond regime control, including a swathe of the oil-rich northeast held by the SDF.

Idlib in northwestern Syria, held by HTS, is protected by a cease-fire deal between Ankara and Moscow which has seen Turkish troops deployed to the area.

Syria’s conflict is estimated to have set its economy back three decades, destroying infrastructure and paralysing the production of electricity and oil.

Assad, however, has regained control of key commercial arteries and started a tentative comeback on the Arab diplomatic scene.

Full report at:



South Asia


Bangladesh Police Examine IS Threat on Social Media

Mar 16, 2019

The Dhaka Metropolitan Police counter terrorism and transnational crime unit officials have said that they are examining the threat messages from ‘Islamic State’.

‘We are not ignoring it rather have started working soon after getting information about it,’ unit deputy commissioner Saiful Islam told New Age on Thursday, adding that they started collecting information about the threat.

On telegram channel At-Tamkin Media on March 11, the IS leader Abu Muhammad Al-Bengali urged youths living in ‘Dawlatul Islam of Bangla’ to ‘regroup and communicate with their representative in Bangladesh’.

Referring to a number of verses from Qur’an, he also urged their ‘sympathisers’ to work in small groups and carry out attacks with cars or knives.

The message also urged their members and supporters not to be afraid of security agencies, despite the onslaught of arrests and torture.

‘We got the information two days ago,’ said Saiful, adding, ‘we have heard the name of Abu Muhammad Al-Bengali but his message seems new.’

Another official at the counter terrorism unit said that they were working on it and enhancing their intelligence work.

Home minister Asaduzzaman Khan in a function in Rawjan upazila of Chattogram on Thursday said that with the help of the people, Bangladesh now was free from extremism.

Bangladesh-origin Swedish journalist and extremism researcher Tasneem Khalil in his tweet stated the latest message did not name the representative of the Khilafah in Bangladesh.

‘These are all concrete calls for action that show ISIS is trying to regroup and launch new attacks in Bangladesh, esp. attacks targeting security forces and government officials,’ he stated.

Tasneem also considered that it was ‘a clear call for lone-wolf attacks on “taghut” (secular state) targets using cars and knives.’

Since September 2015, the Islamic State reportedly claimed series of attacks on secular writers, leaders of religious minorities, international aid worker and finally the attack on up-scale restaurant Holey Artisan in the capital’s Gulshan on July 1, 2016. Twenty-nine people including 17 foreigners and five suspects were killed in 12-hours standoff.

The government, however, ruled out the presence of the representatives of the Islamic State rather branded them as a faction of banned local extremist group Jamaatul Mujaheedin Bangladesh.



3 senior Taliban leaders killed in Kunduz operations

15 Mar 2019

Three senior leaders of Taliban group have been killed during the joint operations of Afghan army and Afghan intelligence forces in northern Kunduz province.

The 209th Shaheen Corps in a statement said the Afghan army and intelligence forces conducted joint operations in Kunduz province leaving at least 9 militants dead including three of their senior leaders.

The statement further added that the three senior Taliban leaders who were killed during the operations have been identified as Qari Ghias, Haji Lala, and Shahabuddin.

According to 209th Shaheen Corps, the operations were conducted in Jamal, Shakhat, and Taloka areas of the province.

At least three other militants including two of their local commanders, Mullah Haidari and Qari Sami, were wounded during the operations.

Full report at:



Two ISIS-K group members killed in Nangarhar airstrike: 201st Silab Corps

16 Mar 2019

At least two group members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Khurasan (ISIS-K) were killed in an airstrike which was conducted in eastern Nangarhar province.

The 201st Silab Corps of the Afghan Military in the East in a statement said the airstrike was carried out late on Friday afternoon in the vicinity of Khogyani district.

The anti-government armed militant groups including ISIS Khurasan sympathizers have not commented regarding the airstrike so far.

Nangarhar is among the relatively calm provinces in the East but the anti-government armed elements including Taliban and ISIS Khurasan militants are active in some of its remote districts.

Full report at:



Precision airstrikes destroy Taliban operational centre in Uruzgan

16 Mar 2019

An operational center of Taliban was destroyed in multiple precision airstrikes which were carried out in Tarinkot city, the provincial capital of Uruzgan province.

“Nine Taliban fighters were killed and one militant operations center destroyed by airstrikes in Tarin Kot district, Uruzgan province, March 15, 2019,” informed military sources said Saturday.

The sources further added “After multiple hours of monitoring and tracking Taliban fighters entering a building known for staging and planning future attacks against Afghan civilians, the building was destroyed by multiple precision airstrikes.”

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

Full report at:



1 killed, another wounded in a magnetic bomb explosion in Kabul city

16 Mar 2019

At least two people were killed or wounded in an explosion triggered by a magnetic bomb in Kabul city earlier this morning, the security officials said.

Basir Mujahid, a spokesman for Kabul Police Commandment, said the incident took place in the vicinity of Kote Sangi area located in 5th police district of the city.

Mujahid further added that the magnetic bomb was planted in a private Toyota Corolla type vehicle which went off at around 8:20am local time today.

He said the blast left the driver of the vehicle dead while another individual was wounded in the explosion.

No individual or group has so far claimed responsibility for the explosion.

Full report at:





Nigeria school building collapse killed 20 people, says official

15 March 2019

The collapse of a building housing a school in the Nigerian city of Lagos on Wednesday killed 20 people, while 45 others survived, the Lagos state health commissioner said on Friday.

There were no details of how many children were among the dead, but 10 children and four adults were still receiving medical aid, commissioner Jide Idris said in a statement.

Building collapses are all too common in Nigeria, where new construction often goes up without regulatory oversight.

The collapse comes as President Muhammadu Buhari, newly elected to a second term, tries to improve groaning, inefficient infrastructure in Africa’s most populous nation.



South Africans pray for New Zealand terror victims

Hassan Isilow  



Thousands of Muslims in South Africa held special funeral prayers Friday for the victims of the New Zealand terrorist attacks which claimed 49 lives.

“More than 6,000 people gathered today at our mosque in Gatesville, Cape Town to perform the special funeral prayers in absentia for the victims. The mood was very somber,” Sataar Parker, chairman of Masjidul Quds, told Anadolu Agency by phone.

He said worshippers prayed for those who perished to be granted a high abode in the hereafter.

“We also prayed for a speedy recovery for the injured. We are worried how many people will continue to die, because the figures are continuing to rise.”

Parker appealed to Muslims and South Africans in general to always rise above the levels of hatred and embrace values of love, respect and human dignity.

Hundreds of worshippers also gathered at the Claremont Main Road Mosque in Cape Town, where they offered special funeral prayers for the victims.

“Our prayers go out to the victims and their families. We pray that those who were killed be granted salvation in the hereafter and a speedy and full recovery for those maimed,” Imam Rashied Omar said in a statement forwarded to Anadolu Agency.

Many mosques across the country also used their Friday sermons to condemn the terrorist attacks and offer special prayers for the dead and injured.

“Our hearts go out to the survivors and the communities in Christchurch currently under citywide lockdown as they mourn the loss of their departed ones killed at places of prayer, the supposed sanctuaries of peace and safety,’’ Moulana Ebrahim Bham secretary general of the Jamiatul Ulama South Africa (Council of Muslim Theologians), said in a statement.

Several worshippers also condemned the incident and called for tolerance.

“As Muslims, we don’t need to pay back for this attack. We should be exemplary by striving to live in peace and harmony with other faith groups,” Abdulkadir Muhammad told Anadolu Agency at the Mayfair Jummah Mosque in Johannesburg.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa also sent a message of condolence to the government and people of New Zealand following the twin terrorist attacks at the Christchurch mosques.

“The Government and the people of South Africa convey their deepest condolences to the families who have lost their loved ones and wish all the injured a speedy recovery,” he said in a statement. 

He said the South African Diplomatic Mission in Wellington has been directed to provide consular assistance and support to any South Africans affected.

On Friday afternoon, far-right terrorists massacred 49 Muslim worshippers and injured another 48 as they prepared for Friday prayers at Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre.

One of the shooters -- Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old born in Australia, who livestreamed the incident on social media -- has been arrested and charged with murder and three other suspects have been remanded in custody.

Full report at:



US airstrike in Somalia targets al Shabaab

15th Mar 2019

US Africa Command conducted what it called a collective self-defence airstrike in the vicinity of Malayle, Lower Juba Region, Somalia, on 13 March in support of the Federal Government of Somalia’s continued efforts to degrade al-Shabaab.

The Command said that Somali National Security Forces (SNSF) were conducting a presence patrol in the region in order to maintain pressure on the al-Shabaab network.  During the mission, militants engaged the SNSF patrol with small arms fire.

This Somali-led mission was designed to increase security along the Lower Juba River Valley. “Somali and African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) forces have made significant gains degrading al-Shabaab influence in the region as part of a coordinated campaign designed to restore stability to the Somali people in Lower Juba.  This mission and airstrike are part of a larger effort to support the SNSF as it increases pressure on the terrorist network,” Africa Command said.

U.S. service members were not present on the ground during the operation. Three militants were killed in the air strike.

Full report at:



Why is Al Shabab making inroads into Kenya?

March 15, 2019

Poverty and hopelessness has driven many Kenyans to cross the border and join the Al Shabab terror group in neighbouring Somalia.

For the past decade, Al Shabab has targeted marginalised communities along East Africa’s Swahili coast who share historical ties through Islamic culture and ancient trade roots.

The terror group also targets vulnerable unemployed young people in Kenya’s underdeveloped North Eastern Province, which borders Somalia and is predominantly inhabited by the Somali community.

The group has also exploited local grievances, attracting impoverished young people across faiths in Kenya who feel the government has failed them.

Khelef Khalifa, a veteran human rights campaigner and Chairman of Mombasa-based Muslims for Human rights (MUHURI) told TRT World that Kenya's raging financial turmoil and erratic economy is "causing unemployment and pushing desperate youth to join militant group, Al Shabaab".

Rampant corruption and a judicial crisis have fuelled the militant recruitments. For decades - even before 2013 when devolution came to effect - resource allocation was skewed which resulted in the marginalisation of some areas. An effect that is still being felt to date.

"The extremists are promising hefty pay for local fighters who have largely remained unemployed or poorly paid," Khalifa said. "They target those below 30 years, Kenya's biggest population and one which has been greatly affected and impacted by unemployment.

Al Shabab is waging most terror onslaughts in Kenya than any other radical faction in the world."

Khalifa also said terror attacks increased when Kenya joined the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) in 2011, sending its troops to 'stabilise' the country. There are several reasons why locals support Al Shabab and the most common ones are unemployment, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearance and political and economic marginalisation.

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Kenya leads other East African countries with the largest number of people who are unemployed. Records show that one in every five Kenyans is unemployed compared to Tanzania where one in every 20 Tanzanians is without a job.

Youth unemployment in Kenya has been described as a ticking time bomb. Three-quarters of the population are under the age of 30.

"Al Shabab came into existence in 2006 as an armed wing of Islamic Courts Union, later splitting into smaller groups," Khalifa said. "At the time, youth unemployment in Kenya was at around 22 percent according to data from Statista – a reputable international firm leading in providing market and consumer statistics. Al Shabab attacks increased with the rate of youth unemployment."

He continued: "Since the group's inception in 2006 to 2017, there has been a 3.40 percent increase in youth unemployment from 22.81 per cent.

"Over this period, there were five deadly terror strikes by Al Shabab-affiliated locals in Coast [Province] alone and dozens of incursions in other parts of the country. With it, hundreds of innocent lives lost, dreams and hopes of many more shuttered, an everlasting trauma."

Many people have taken to social media to express their frustrations about youth unemployment.

Nairobi-based journalist Luke Wasike told TRT World that there's a need to establish government-run institutions "to train the youth on income generating activities and give loans to start business".

"There should be ready markets for graduates since it has been established that terror groups are targeting the educated in the community," he said. "‘Well the youth are driven by poverty and hardship back home, with promise of good money, they decide to join."

Wasike said many have also been "radicalised through social media" and misconstrued Islamic teachings in madrassas.

"More needs to be done at the grassroots level to rehabilitate former fighters and prevent future ones,” he said.

While it’s true that Al Shabab has used social media to recruit young unemployed people, the terror group also uses other ploys to enlist its members. One of them being to lure teenagers with well-paid jobs.

They are taken to training camps, given code names and taught how to make bombs and to wield weapons until they ‘graduate’ and inflict violence upon people and the state.

Al Shabab’s use of Kiswahili and the depiction of Swahili-speakers in its media propaganda are indicative of the insurgent movement’s desire to attract more recruits from East Africa, where Kiswahili, the language of an estimated 35 million people, is widely spoken. Kiswahili, a Bantu language, is a lingua franca in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and parts of southern Somalia.

Al-Shabab took root in Somalia in 2006, when US-backed Ethiopian forces

invaded Mogadishu in an effort to support the federal government, destroying their political rival, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU). The ICU had become increasingly powerful, and popular, by promoting a religiously-inspired interpretation of law and governance. The group has been carrying terror attacks in neighbouring countries especially Kenya.

Why Kenya?

In 2011, Kenya deployed troops to Somalia under Operation Linda Nchi to fight Al Shabab militants in southern Somalia. Kenya says the aim of the operation was to create a buffer zone between Al Shabab-held territories and Kenya. In the process, the Kenyan forces captured the port of Kismayo and quickly joined troops from the African Union Mission (AMISOM) in Somalia in battling Al Shabab.

The capture of Kismayo by Kenyan troops was a hollow victory. Al Shabab reacted with deadly attacks against the police and civilians in Nairobi, Garissa, and other Kenyan towns, most notorious among them the September 21, 2013, assault in Nairobi's prestigious Westgate shopping mall.

Kenyan authorities more often than not respond with blanket arrests of Muslims and indiscriminate crackdowns aimed at ethnic Somalis in the sprawling Eastleigh suburb of Nairobi, which is often referred to as ‘Little Mogadishu’, the coastal town of Mombasa and in the far-flung remote parts of North Eastern Kenya.

The ‘blowback’ from the invasion is now having an impact on Kenya's troubled internal politics, with recent evidence from attacks on the coastal settlement of Mpeketoni suggesting that the Islamists are skillfully exploiting local political divisions to further their agenda.

Al Shabab says its attacks in Kenya are in retaliation to the Kenya Defense Force’s incursion in Somalia. It also justifies them for nebulous reasons associated with international jihad.

Speaking to TRT World, Yusuf Serunkuma, a political expert on the East and Horn of Africa, and a Researcher at Kampala-based Makerere University, said. "The dearth of serious religious/Islamic scholarship in the region has tended to be more dogmatic than discursive. 

"Interestingly, however, the more governments in the region have fought, curtailed and denied Islamic scholarship to flourish, the more a rather dogmatic version is being spread.”

Serunkuma continued: "Terrorist groups tend to reduce Islam to a penal code, which is at the expense of the intellectual, communal, aesthetic, and humane aspirations of the religion. The end result is easy persuasion for young men and women in the region to join the group.  These are views I picked from Somaliland, from someone who almost got recruited but missed out.”

In April 2015, Kenya’s government announced an amnesty for young Kenyans who had gone to neighbouring Somalia to train with the terrorist group, Al Shabab. In a statement, the then-cabinet secretary for interior Joseph Nkaissery urged the repentant to return home and report to their county commissioners, where their cases would be considered. Those found to be eligible for amnesty would receive support to help them reintegrate into society.

Did the reintegration program work?

While the Kenyan government offers amnesty to returnees with the promise of rehabilitation and job offers, more and more youth are crossing the border into neighbouring Somalia to join Al Shabab due fear of reprisals and hopelessness.

Khalifa said the government's integration programme was failing the youth and resulted in the killing of some returnees – mostly from Coast and Northeastern parts of Kenya.

Others are facing stigmatisation and rejection from locals. They are viewed as threats.

"Police have gone after those who might have been in contact with the returnees, forcing them disappear or execute them extra-judicially," he said.

Full report at:



Islamic State enforced leadership change in West Africa province, audio reveals


MARCH 15, 2019

Islamic State’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has apparently imposed a change in the leadership of its West Africa province affiliate, audio recordings have revealed.

ISIS has not yet made a public statement confirming the change of leader, but two recordings indicate the announcement is being disseminated to the network of ISWA fighters based mainly in Nigeria.

Nigerian journalist Ahmad Salkida, who first broke the story on March 4, reported that according to an 18-minute audio recording, ISIS had replaced Abu Mus’ab al-Barnawi with Abu Abdullah Ibn Umar al-Barnawi.

On March 11, Rice University Ph.D. candidate and editor of the “The Boko Haram Reader” Abdulbasit Kassim in a series of tweets published a translation from the local Hausa language of a 6-minute audio recording that confirmed Salkida’s reporting.

Citing “reliable sources,” the regional Multinational Joint Task Force on March 12 said an “internal crisis” led to the leadership change. “Islamic State West Africa Province announced the sack of the former Boko Haram Chief, Abu Mus’ab Al Barnawi and the appointment of Abu Abdullahi Ibn Umar Al Barnawi,” Colonel Timothy Antigha said.

‘The commander of the believers has deposed Abu Mus’ab al-Barnawi’

Kassim told The Defense Post the undated recording he translated was uploaded to private ISWA communications channels on March 6.

“That channel is the secured channel through which ISWAP share its contents with IS and its members,” Kassim said. “The ISWAP channel is for internal communication and it is different from the plethora of public propaganda channels.”

Salkida explained that the 18-minute audio recording in his possession was the same message that was translated by Kassim but in “three local languages for the members of the group.”

Kassim’s translation of the audio makes it clear that the change in leader was imposed by ISIS central. An unidentified speaker who says he is a member of ISWA’s Shura – or consultative – Council says:

“I am announcing to my mujahideen brothers, commanders, and leaders in the Islamic State West African Province that the commander of the believers has deposed Abū Musʿab al-Barnāwī as the Governor.

“He has been replaced by Shaykh Mujahid Abū Abdīllah Idris bin ʿUmar also known as Ibn ʿUmar al-Barnāwī.

“Together with my brothers in the consultative council, we are announcing to you our hearing and obedience of the command from the Commander of the believers and we are giving our full allegiance to the newly chosen Governor imposed on us by the Commander of the believers.

“And we are saying to him, you should lead us on the commands of Allah. We are the people that listen and obey. There is no one that will disobey you among us. Even if anyone disobeys you, we will all converge with you against him as long as you did not command us to disobey Allah.

“Allah can bear witness for our testimony. At this juncture, I am announcing to my brothers in the entire province that they should follow the footsteps of their leaders in the consultative council and give their hearing and obedience to the new Governor. We are praying to God to help and guide him. In the end, I am reminding all my brothers that the deposition and replacement of a Governor in the caliphate is not a new phenomenon that started today.”

The speaker then gives an example of the second caliph, ʿUmar ibn al-Khatāb, who in the seventh century “deposed and replaced great companions of the prophet such as Saʿd ibn Abī Waqqās and Khālid ibn al-Walīd.”

“Today, we are also saying that we hear and we obey the Commander of the believers,” the speaker concludes.

Salkida has said that Abu Musab al-Barnawi himself made the announcement.

ISWA leadership changes

Beyond the kunya “al-Barnawi” indicating he is from Nigeria’s Borno state, very little is known about Umar Al-Barnawi.

His appointment is not the first time ISIS central has replaced an ISWA leader.

After the death of founder Mohammed Yusuf, new leader Abubakar Shekau began Boko Haram’s campaign of extreme violence in earnest, declaring a caliphate in 2014.

Shekau and other senior figures pledged bayat (allegiance) to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in March 2015 and Boko Haram became Islamic State’s West Africa wilayat, or province.

But Shekau’s dictatorial leadership style, ruthless brutality, his definition of what constituted apostasy and use of takfir (excommunication) caused rifts within the group. In August 2016 he was replaced as leader, with ISIS appointing Abu Musab al-Barnawi, Yusuf’s son, as wali, or governor, of the province.

Shekau rejected Barnawi’s appointment, and Boko Haram split into two factions, with Shekau leading one faction and Barnawi the other, but ISIS central only gives formal backing to the Barnawi faction.

Kassim told The Defense Post that he had confirmed via other internal communications within the group that new leader Abu Abdulla Idris is also known as Ba Idrissa, who was first mentioned in August 2016 when Mamman Nur verbally attacked then-leader Abubakar Shekau.

Nur, a high-ranking figure within Boko Haram – and later ISWA – who was close to Barnawi, was killed in August 2018 “because he violated the principles of the group on issues of negotiation and other issues involving his back-channel deals which were deemed inappropriate,” Kassim said.

Nur’s assassination was followed by another. ISWA commander Ali Gaga was killed by his comrades over an alleged plan to turn over hundreds of hostages to the Nigerian military, and, as Georgetown University adjunct professor of Violent Non-State Actors in World Politics Jacob Zenn notes, Nur is believed to have been removed for similar reasons, including potential “peace talks” with the government. ISIS central is believed to have ordered Nur’s killing.

“The circumstances surrounding Nur’s death suggest that the new leader will not follow the placatory approach,” Kassim tweeted.

Omar Mahmood, Senior Researcher at the Institute for Security Studies in Addis Ababa, told The Defense Post that Abu Musab al-Barnawi’s removal had a certain inevitability after Nur’s killing.

“They were seen as very much of the same cloth, so the removal of Nur in some ways made it a matter of time before something happened to Abu Musab al-Barnawi,” Mahmood said, adding that he believes Nur was “very much the power behind the group during the time of the split.”

He also said that the lack of confirmation of the leadership change from ISIS central follows the same pattern as the 2016 change.

“When Nur/Barnawi broke off from Shekau, it really took a few months before IS central announced that publicly,” he said. “It is interesting in this case that the announcement has already been made locally, so it does indeed put pressure on IS central to comment soon, lest it looks like they have little control over their affiliates (which may indeed be the case),” he added.

Kassim highlighted the different conditions for ISIS globally in 2016 versus 2019.

“The status of IS central at the time al-Barnawi was selected and Shekau deposed is completely different from their current status,” Kassim told The Defense Post. “The caliphate has collapsed in Iraq and Syria and the few surviving leaders are on the run.”

“Also, the circumstances that led to al-Barnawi’s deposition is different from Shekau’s deposition,” Kassim said, noting that Shekau was replaced for ideological reasons while Barnawi was not.

But he also noted that during the initial schism that led to Shekau’s deposition, Abu Abdullah Idrissa “queried Shekau’s flawed interpretation of Quranic exegesis.”

Abu Musab al-Barnawi’s fate?

Kassim told The Defense Post that Abu Mus’ab al-Barnawi is unlikely to suffer the same fate as Nur.

“Nothing will happen to Abu Mus’ab,” he said. “He will accept the deposition and continue to serve in the Shura Council of the group. He will not protest like the way Shekau protested in 2016.”

Mahmood was more cautious.

“He likely would’ve seen such a move coming, especially after Nur’s elimination, so I imagine he has some sort of a contingency plan,” he told The Defense Post.

“If there is any sort of strong resistance on his part, I imagine he wouldn’t survive too long, unless he can find some significant backing,” he said. “It is unclear if he has enough support around him to form his own faction.”

Salkida has said that there there are indications of a split within ISWA, something that Kassim earlier noted as a possibility, with some members opposed to increasing criminality reasserting the ideological basis for their jihad.

For now, it appears that Abu Musab al-Barnawi is safe. “Multiple sources insist that Abu Musab is alive and well, and still with #ISWAP despite his abrupt demotion by IS central,” Salkida tweeted on March 4, and on March 15, AFP reported an unnamed source as saying he is “in the custody of the new leadership.”

Whither ISWA?

The question “What’s next for ISWA under its new leader?” is one that remains to be answered.

One long-speculated on possibility is a re-unification of the two Boko Haram factions.

“It is unlikely that Abu Abdullah Idrissa will merge with Shekau,” Kassim tweeted earlier in a thread analyzing the leadership change. “Although both ISWAP and JAS [Shekau’s Boko Haram faction] have shown that they can temporarily halt their hostility and fight against their ‘Greater Enemy,’ they are yet to resolve their ideological differences.”

Kassim said that while attempting to portray an “ideological purity,” ISWA has “gradually been morphing into the Sahelian-type criminal jihadist gang,” arguing that the group lacks a committee of Islamic scholars to train recruits, leading to “a generation of ISWAP fighters who are more committed to combat and who rely on ISIS WhatsApp groups for their daily theological training.”

“I think a merger is still out of the question,” Mahmood told The Defense Post. “There are ideological divides with Shekau that remain unbridged, especially with regards to the determination of who is and is not a civilian.”

“Recent attacks bear this out – Shekau’s faction devastated Rann and pursued fleeing civilians, while around the same time the Barnawi group attacked Baga, but let people leave freely if they wanted to,” Mahmood said.

“Based on the past, there is also just little trust when it comes to Shekau,” he added.

And does the leadership change point to a potentially more violent ISWA, one that shows less compunction about attacking civilian targets?

“ISWAP has always been cautious with its strategy and battlefield tactics against the civilian population,” Mahmood said. “The group pays attention to winning the hearts and minds of the local population who are the citizens in the areas controlled by the group.”

“What we might see with this change of leadership is a firmer grip on the modus operandi of the group from a leader who is considered as a veteran with a less tender approach than the perceived weakness in Abu Mus’ab al-Barnawi,” he added.

Mahmood noted a change in tactics coinciding with Nur’s killing.

“So what has happened since then – a blitzkrieg of assaults on military bases northern Borno, a continued expansion of operations in parts of Yobe and south-central Borno (including around Maiduguri for the first time during the electoral period), and episodic instances of territorial control (at least until security reinforcements arrive), would likely continue,” he said.

But reorienting violence towards the security forces and improving relations with civilians is paying off for ISWA, allowing the group to levy taxes instead of undertaking raids for supplies.

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