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Islamic World News ( 24 March 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Is Mosque Integral To Islam? Query May Delay Babri Case


New Age Islam News Bureau

24 March 2018

A Kosovo dervish, a follower of Sufism a mystical form of Islam that preaches tolerance and a search for understanding, holds a metal spear that is used during a ceremony marking Nowruz day in the Tekke’s prayer room in the southern Kosovo town of Prizren on Thursday, March 22, 2018. (Visar Kryeziu/Associated Press)



 Is Mosque Integral To Islam? Query May Delay Babri Case

 Rohingya Crisis: ‘It’s Not Ethnic Cleansing. It’s Genocide’

 Saudi Crown Prince: Islam Is a Sensible, Simple Religion That Is Being Hijacked

 Kosovo’s Sufi Dervish Order Celebrates the New Year, Spring

 French Police Kill Gunman in Supermarket Siege That Left 2 Hostages Dead



 Is Mosque Integral To Islam? Query May Delay Babri Case

 NCERT Drops ‘Anti-Muslim’ From Chapter on Gujarat Riots in Class 12 Textbook

 Babri Masjid Case: Mosque Can Be Destroyed, Not Its Significance, Says Petitioner

 Deported Hindus Face Conversion in Pakistan

 3 Rohingya Muslims arrested in Moreh

 2 terrorists killed in an encounter in J&K's Anantnag


South Asia

 Rohingya Crisis: ‘It’s Not Ethnic Cleansing. It’s Genocide’

 US, Saudi Arabia Mull ‘Safe Haven’ For Afghan Taliban

 United Against Religious Violence in Sri Lanka

 Car bomb near stadium kills 12 in Afghanistan's Helmand province, says official

 Taliban cannot win through war and violence, says Atmar


Arab World

 Saudi Crown Prince: Islam Is a Sensible, Simple Religion That Is Being Hijacked

 Air Strikes Hit Ghouta despite Rebel Ceasefire Effort, 37 Killed

 Eastern Ghouta: Hundreds of Terrorists, Family Members Leave Harasta

 Militants in More Regions Endorse Peace Agreement with Syrian Army

 Drums Beat for Syrian Army's Military Operations in Dara'a

 Infighting Reported between Turkish Army, Allied Militants in Northern Aleppo

 Terrorists Engage in Heavy Infighting in Aleppo, Sustain Losses

 Mass Grave of ISIL Victims Discovered in Southeastern Syria


North America

 Kosovo’s Sufi Dervish Order Celebrates the New Year, Spring

 US: Martyred American Muslim Soldier’s Father Appeals against Travel Ban

 New York man convicted of murdering Muslim cleric and assistant

 US’ Mattis urges political solution war in Yemen

 US dismisses charges against 7 Turkish guards

 US should lead nuclear tech in Saudi Arabia, Perry says

 American man gets emotional as he embraces Islam in Oman



 French Police Kill Gunman in Supermarket Siege That Left 2 Hostages Dead

 Merkel Ally Defiant In Row over Islam's Place In Germany

 Islamic State claims deadly French supermarket siege

 Three dead after jihadist goes on shooting rampage in southern France

 Denver Tries Uzbek Refugee on Charges of Wiring Money to ‘Islamic Jihad Union

 Hero French officer who offered himself for a hostage in Trebes siege fighting for his life

 Most beliefs about Muslims in Britain are simply false. This poll proves it



 Terrorism Cases Have Higher Acquittals in KP: Study

 CM Punjab Gifts Three Ambulances to Pakistan Hindu Council

 Pakistan’s only agenda is to ensure regional peace: Aizaz Chaudhry

 Pakistan President accuses India of putting regional peace at stake

 PML-N move to send presidential reference to apex court over contradictory judgements

 Shahbaz urges unity, reconciliation among state institutions



 Saudi Arabia Will Eventually Fail In Yemen Just Like In Syria, Iraq: Houthi

 Turkey Targets 155 People over Suspected Gulen Links

 Turkey flays EU statements on Greece, Cyprus

 Turkey slams ‘unacceptable’ EU stance on Cyprus, Greece

 HRW reveals Turkey’s ‘mass deportation’ of Syrians

 Syrian civilians have started returning to Afrin: Turkish army chief


Southeast Asia

 Malaysian Politicians Exploit Racial Issues, NGO Says in New Report

 Jakarta to improve education in Christian-majority regions

 In Indonesia, a Shadowy Campaign to Stoke Unrest as Elections Loom



 Al-Shabab Bomb Kills 17 in Mogadishu

 State Denies Executions By Police And Blames Al Shabaab

 Boko Haram: UN issues warning on areas freed from sect

 Car bomb blast in Somali capital kills 6 people

 Uganda: Army, Police Seal Off Mosque Over Muslim Wrangles in Bushenyi

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Is Mosque Integral To Islam? Query May Delay Babri Case

Amit Anand Choudhary

Mar 24, 2018

NEW DELHI: Adjudication of the politically sensitive Ayodhya land dispute + case will be delayed as the Supreme Court on Friday said it will first decide whether the apex court’s 1994 decision that a “mosque is not an essential part of Islam” needs to be re-examined by a Constitution bench.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer said it would examine whether a five-judge bench was required to go into the question of whether a mosque was integral to Islam, but they turned down the demand that the 70-year-old legal battle between Hindu and Muslim communities over ownership of the nearly 3 acres of Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi disputed land be also referred to a larger bench.

Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, representing one of the original plaintiffs, M Siddiq, now replaced by his legal heir after his death, said the entire case should be referred to a Constitution bench.

“Why should only one part and not the entire case be referred to a Constitution bench,” he asked. Lawyers appearing for those who have claimed the Ayodhya site for construction of a Ram temple objected to reopening of the ‘Ismail Faruqui case’ of 1994 and said there was no need to refer any issue to a larger bench.

The present three-judge bench should proceed with the Ayodhya dispute case, they contended. However, the bench said it was necessary to examine the plea raised by the Muslim community contending mosque as a place of worship was a fundamental feature of Islam.

“First, we must put the controversy (over whether mosque is essential to Islam) to an end,” said the bench, which had earlier referred to the decades-old legal battle as a mere “land dispute.”

The SC had said in its ‘Ismail Faruqui case’ of 1994, “A mosque is not an essential part of the practice of the religion of Islam and namaz (prayer) by Muslims can be offered anywhere, even in the open. Accordingly, its acquisition is not prohibited by the provisions in the Constitution of India.”

Dhavan, in his two-hour-long argument, contended that the Faruqui case was wrongly decided by the apex court and the verdict contradicted an earlier SC judgment. “A mosque is forever. It does not lose its significance and it remains a place of worship even if it is demolished,” Dhavan said.



Rohingya Crisis: ‘It’s Not Ethnic Cleansing. It’s Genocide’

March 24, 2018

London-based renowned Rohingya rights activist Nay San Lwin, also a regular contributor to Rohingya community blog, speaks with the Dhaka Tribune’s Tarek Mahmud to discuss the issues of racial discrimination against Rohingyas in detail How have Rohingyas faced discrimination in the Rakhine state of Myanmar?

Rohingyas have been subject to racial discrimination since the military coup in 1962.

In 1965, a radio program broadcasted in Rohingya language was shut down.

Then in 1974, the Burmese junta launched ‘Operation Jasmine’, locally known as “Operation Sabae”, through which they confiscated many identity cards from the Rohingyas while they were traveling from one state to another.

1978 saw another large scale operation, ‘Dragon King’, to wipe out Rohingyas, which resulted in more than 250,000 Rohingyas fleeing to Bangladesh. But soon after, although they had been expelled as illegal Bangladeshis, they were repatriated as Rohingyas. Since then, Rohingyas have lost many basic rights. In 1982, Rohingyas became stateless within their own country after the enactment of the new citizenship law. 10 years later in 1992, the military junta imposed severe restrictions against us, forcing us to live in open-air prisons.

Do the Myanmar authorities impose such restrictions only against the Rohingyas? Why has the Myanmar government acted this way?

Myanmar authorities are targeting the Rohingya population specifically because the Rohingyas are confined within one particular area. But they are not only targeting Rohingyas, they are antagonistic against other Muslim minorities across the country as well.

However, there is a difference between the policies concerning Rohingyas and other Muslim minorities. Myanmar’s policy towards the Rohingya is to simply wipe them off Myanmar’s map through genocide. They do not want the Rohingya population in the country. They are very well aware of Rohingyas’ lineage and history, but they still continue to propagate the claim that Rohingyas are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. With the help of this propaganda campaign, the Myanmar government has garnered the support of the Buddhist majority, which made it easier for them to kill thousands of Rohingyas and drive them out to Bangladesh since August 25, 2017.

How do you think the Rohingyas can be repatriated properly?

Firstly, the repatriation agreement should be held up, and the homeland of Rohingyas in the Northern Rakhine state must be protected. Secondly, the United Nations and the international community should oversee the safe repatriation of the Rohingyas back to Rakhine.

Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh will only go back if a safe repatriation process is ensured.

How can the Rohingya diaspora play a role in the repatriation process and in rooting out this racial discrimination?

Rohingya diasporas are trying to help as much as they can, but it is very important that the UN and the international community intervene in the repatriation process.

Most of the countries have agreed with it, with the exception of China and Russia. Aung San Suu Kyi and Senior Gen Min Aung Hlaing need to be produced before the International Criminal Court. Only then will the genocide against Rohingyas stop.

China and Russia are obstacles in the process, but we will not give up. There must be justice for all the atrocities the Myanmar government has been committing for almost four decades.

How is the Rohingya crisis affecting the Asian countries in different arenas such as security, health, migration, and others?

The refugee camps in Bangladesh act as a black market for traffickers. I think, after the monsoon season, many traffickers will try to smuggle genocide survivors residing in Bangladesh. But if the Bangladeshi government is vigilant, this might not occur.

Do you think the Bangladeshi government is tackling the Rohingya crisis in a diplomatic manner? If not, then what do you think Bangladesh should do?

We appreciate the fact that Bangladesh is hosting more than a million Rohingya refugees. I think they are doing their best, but it is also true that we will not like all of their activities since they have to be diplomatic at the same time.

As a result, I think countries like the US, the UK, and organizations like the EU and OIC need to stand beside Bangladesh and pressurize the Myanmar government to accept the demands of the Rohingya survivors.

Bangladesh has to be firm with Myanmar about the repatriation process. It must urge the Myanmar military to stop calling Rohingyas ‘extremist Bangladeshi terrorists’ and start recognizing them as their own citizens.

As Bangladesh is a state party of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, it has the capacity to refer Burmese criminals to the court.

Bangladesh has been suffering the Rohingya crisis for 40 years. The exodus continues to repeat, again and again. The time has come to take strong action against Myanmar so it stops the ongoing genocide.

How has the international community addressed the Rohingya crisis? What more do you think it should do?

The UN has termed Rohingyas as the most persecuted minority since 1992. But no solutions have been provided yet.

Many rights organizations and countries are calling the persecution against the Rohingyas ‘ethnic cleansing’. But this is not the right term. Scholars and experts have called it a genocide. I believe if the international community starts using the correct term, it will help in stopping the genocide, and actions against the Burmese criminals will be taken faster.

The Rohingyas have been displaced by their government several times already. What is the future of the Rohingyas?

In short, if the repatriation of Rohingyas is not protected, if the homeland of Rohingyas in the Northern Rakhine state is not protected, the exodus and genocide will continue. That is why we are demanding the safe return of the Rohingyas back to Myanmar. Myanmar State Chancellor Aung San Suu Kyi has been criticized for her role in the crisis. How far do you think she is responsible? What she can do, now?

As a Nobel peace laureate, she at least has a moral authority and obligation to speak out against any injustice. But unfortunately, she has put her support behind the genocidal campaign against Rohingyas. She has sided with military criminals.

As the de facto leader of Myanmar, she is fully responsible for stopping all atrocities against Rohingyas. The military has claimed that they inform the government about everything, and have to get permission before acting. Since she is not willing to do anything for the Rohingyas, except lying to the international community about the Myanmar military’s actions, she should be brought to the International Criminal Court.

Bringing criminals like her to the International Criminal Court is a huge challenge for us, but we will not stop trying. Aung San Suu Kyi needs to be punished.



Saudi Crown Prince: Islam Is a Sensible, Simple Religion That Is Being Hijacked

24 March 2018

In an interview with the Washington Post, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said this week that Islam was a moderate religion and there those who attempt to hijack it.

“I believe Islam is sensible, Islam is simple, and people are trying to hijack it,” he said. Lengthy discussions with clerics, he said, have been positive and are “why we have more allies in the religious establishment, day by day.”

The crown prince discussed his reform efforts at home, including granting women many rights such as driving and more, stressing that he worked hard to convince the conservatives that such restrictions are not part of the Islamic faith.

He also stressed that the kingdom will announce to the world what it is doing to combat extremism.

He talked about the penetration of extremism in schools and education in the past, stressing is striving to keep extremist ideologies away from the education system.

The prince is currently touring the United States and has already met with President Donald Trump, as well as Congress and defense officials.



Kosovo’s Sufi Dervish order celebrates the new year, spring

March 23, 2018

PRIZREN, Kosovo — For an Islamic dervish order in southern Kosovo, it’s time for the annual celebration to mark the new year, the birthday of the sect’s founder and spring.

That means holding a religious ceremony which includes hypnotic chanting, swaying and the piercing of male members’ cheeks with long metal needles.

Prizren, Kosovo’s medieval and most religiously mixed town, is home to one of the country’s small Sufi Dervish orders, which numbers about 5,000. They are part of the estimated 200,000 Sufis among Kosovo’s roughly 2 million people.

Sufi dervishes in Kosovo celebrated Nowruz or “new year” on Thursday, a celebration also marking the birth of Imam Ali, one of the most revered figures in Islam.

The annual celebration is performed in a place of worship called a tekke. Despite being the official first day of spring, participants, most clad in black shirts covered with a white sleeveless vest and wearing traditional woolen hats, arrived in heavy snow.

A procession of male members of the order wound its way through the streets to enter the tekke, where they formed a semi-circle. Sheikh Adri Hyseini, the leader of the Prizren dervishes, led the group, chanting and swaying, into a trance-like state by reciting ritual chants.

Women are allowed to watch from a balcony above the main hall but do not participate otherwise.

The ceremony culminates in the ritual piercing of cheeks, where some of the men pushed a long metal needle through their mouths until it emerges from the other side. The sheikh also initiated a group of young boys into the order by piercing their cheeks.

Kosovo’s Dervish community carries on centuries-old mystical practices, such as self-piercing with needles and knives, as a way to earn salvation and find a path to God.

The Sufi Dervishes of the Rifa’i order, to which Prizren’s dervishes belong, were founded in the 12th century in Basra, Iraq.



French police kill gunman in supermarket siege that left 2 hostages dead

March 23, 2018

PARIS — A gunman who claimed allegiance to the Islamic State was killed by police Friday in a hostage-taking incident at a supermarket in southern France that left two other people dead, authorities said.

The suspect had earlier killed one person while hijacking a car in a nearby town, police said.

Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said elite French forces, who had surrounded the store in the town of Trèbes during an hours-long siege, stormed the supermarket and killed the gunman after hearing shots inside.

The interior ministry identified the suspect as 26-year-old Redouane Lakdim, a petty criminal who was considered radicalized and under police surveillance.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the hostage-taking incident, France 24 reported.

Collomb said Lakdim killed three people in the two separate incidents on Friday. La Dépêche du Midi, the local newspaper, identified the supermarket victims as the store's butcher and a customer.

Investigators believe the suspect earlier hijacked a car after leaving the nearby town of Carcassonne, killing one person in the vehicle.

Collomb says Lakdim then shot at a group of police officers before hiding inside the supermarket.

He said a French police officer who had offered himself up as a hostage swap during the siege was seriously injured.

Collomb said the policeman “volunteered to swap his place with a hostage” at the store and stayed with the armed suspect. He managed to leave his cellphone switched on after the swap, however, establishing a contact with officers outside the supermarket in the standoff.

After claiming allegiance to the Islamic State and shouting "Allahu Akbar" — Arabic for God is the greatest — the gunman, also armed with grenades, began firing and spoke of avenging Syria, BFM-TV reported.

French President Emmanuel Macron said the incident at the Super U store appeared to be a terrorist attack.

France has seen a number of major terrorist attacks in the past few years. The most recent was in Nice in July 2016 when 86 people were mowed down by a truck and killed during Bastille Day festivities.

The French government put into place a state of emergency in 2015, which was lifted in October. Even so, in major tourist centers such as Paris, seeing security patrol in groups of four in the city center is common.

France is part of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.





NCERT Drops ‘Anti-Muslim’ from Chapter on Gujarat Riots in Class 12 Textbook

March 24, 2018

New Delhi: The 2002 Gujarat riots, which were called “anti-Muslim riots” in the previous edition of the NCERT book for class XII, will now be read as just “Gujarat riots”. The revised version of the textbook titled ‘Recent Developments in Indian Politics’ will hit the book shelves next week.

The National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has tweaked the sub-head of a chapter, “Politics in India since Independence” (page 187). Meanwhile, in the same paragraph, the 1984 riots are described as ‘anti-Sikh’, media reports said. The word “Muslim” has been omitted from the first sentence of the passage in the chapter, Hindustan Times reported.

The passage earlier read: “In February-March 2002, large-scale violence against Muslims took place in Gujarat”. In the updated books, it now reads: “In February-March 2002, large-scale violence took place in Gujarat”. The change has been made in a Class 12 textbook published in 2007 when the Congress-led UPA was in power.

NCERT officials said that in the approved syllabus, which is used for preparing the textbooks, the word anti-Muslim doesn’t exist. “The syllabus clearly uses the word Gujarat riots. However, the textbook had included the word “Anti-Muslim’.

When we started the work on updating the books we were informed about it and we have reverted to “Gujarat riots,” said a senior NCERT official on condition of anonymity.

The changes have come weeks after a material on Rajput king Maharana Pratap was introduced and more information on Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji was added in its Class VII history textbook.

According to a report in Indian Express, the previous version of the textbook was criticised by Shiv Sena and Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS), which is based in Maharashtra, for “glorifying Mughal emperors” and “ignoring Hindu kings”.



Babri Masjid case: Mosque can be destroyed, not its significance, says petitioner

March 24, 2018

ASSAILING THE 1994 Constitution bench finding in the Ismail Faruqui case that a mosque “is not an essential part of the practice of the religion of Islam…”, a Muslim petitioner in the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case on Friday told the Supreme Court that the mosque enjoyed a unique place in Islam and its religious significance does not diminish just because it was destroyed.

The Faruqui verdict came on a plea challenging constitutional validity of Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act-1993, under which 67.703 acres were acquired in Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid complex. It held that a mosque “is not an essential part of the practice of the religion of Islam and namaz by Muslims can be offered anywhere, even in open and accordingly, its acquisition is not prohibited by the provisions in the Constitution.”

“I went through Quran and Hadith… They say a mosque is a mosque forever… You cannot say mosque has no unique place… It’s unique to that community… You can destroy a mosque, but you cannot rob it of its religious significance…,” senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for a Muslim petitioner, told a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer.

Justice Bhushan said the judgment said places of worship of all religions could be acquired, not just mosque. Dhavan agreed but said, “it doesn’t seem right to tell them (Muslims) that a mosque built by them has lost significance”.

Senior counsel K Parasharan, appearing for a Hindu petitioner, said these points had already been raised to attack the acquisition of 67.703 acres by the Centre in 1993. He wondered why Dhavan was raising them again when he was not challenging the acquisition.

Dhavan said the judgment says a mosque can be acquired for larger national purpose. “…Is the larger national purpose Ram Janmabhoomi? Is larger national purpose the political agenda of the government or what is stated in the white paper of BJP?,” he asked.

Taking umbrage at the order referring to karsevaks who demolished Babri Masjid as “miscreants”, he recalled that ministers attended rallies in run-up to the demolition. “ This was attempt by prominent Hindus, not all Hindus… this was a strident, calculated, deliberate attempt to destroy a mosque. Unless we accept it, we won’t get the right perspective.” He said the judgement had tried to draw “comparative significance” between places of worship. At this, Justice Bhushan said: “They have compared it in the context of the place that has to be acquired.” Dhavan replied: “No, they have compared Ramjanmabhoomi with a mosque.”

Questioning what constituted essential practice in Islam, Dhavan said the court was right in saying it should be viewed as a title dispute. Only the title and limitation needed to be looked into, he said. Justice Bhushan said the judgment did not say one faith is more important than another. Dhavan replied: “…religion is not just a matter of belief, but is a matter of practice… There’s a fear in the Muslim community that what happened with the (Babri) mosque can happen to any mosque.”

Full report at:



Deported Hindus Face Conversion in Pakistan

Mar 24, 2018

Hindu families living in the Sindh province of Pakistan, near the border with Rajasthan, flock to India to find a safe haven. However, they become shattered as the CID and administration put an obstacle to their India dreams and they are forced to return. Upon going back, they are forced to convert to Islam in order to save their women and family. If they don’t yield, they are subject to severe torture.  

The conversion figures are staggering: Over 500 Hindus are to be converted to Islam in the border village of Matali village of Sindh province on March 25. About one thousand Pakistani migrants came to take shelter in Jodhpur and other parts of Rajasthan in the last two years.

They had come here with the intention of settling here but according to data provided by the CID and the administration in the Rajasthan High Court, 968 Hindu citizens from Pakistan were deported in the last two years.

The most hapless among them is the family of Chandu Bhil. Seeing CID’s attempt to send residents to Pakistan forcibly, he had knocked the high court door and despite a holiday, a special bench of the Rajasthan High Court granted stay on his deportation.

But before that, the CID deported Chandu, his wife Dhami, son Bhagwan, daughter-in-law Dharma, grandson Jairam and granddaughter Kavita by the Thar Express from Jodhpur on August 5, 2017. Just before the court order was carried out, Thar Express reached the border. Now, the family is under pressure to accept Islam. So, many families like Thakur’s, Hamira’s, Bhagwan’s, Bhura’s, Khushal’s, Dharmaram’s, and Nagta’s, who had come to Jodhpur after facing religious and physical discrimination in Pakistan, were deported. In many villages, the Hindu population has started to disappear.

The news of religious conversion is highlighted in Pakistan media also.Hindu Singh Sodha, president of Seemant Lok Sangathan, who fights for Pak immigrants, said Hindus come with big hope but the CID bundles them back to Pakistan to face torture.

This is happening for a long time in villages which are adjacent to Rajasthan. He added that their visas are never extended. The Centre makes rules for the rehabilitation of displaced Hindus, but they are not followed at the district level.

Affected villages

Full report at:



3 Rohingya Muslims arrested in Moreh

Mar 24, 2018

IMPHAL: Three Rohingya migrants were arrested from Manipur's Moreh town bordering Myanmar on Thursday night.

The trio - Narul Hakim (19) , Md Kalimullah (19) and Sabir Ahmad (20) - were nabbed from a parking area. All of them are from Myanmar's violence-hit Rakhine state. Upon interrogation, they disclosed that they were planning to move to Malaysia, said a source.

The three migrants stayed for nearly a month in the Muslim-dominated Lilong area of Manipur's Thoubal district. They were putting up at Moreh for the last 10 days. Following their arrest, police have stepped vigil at the border town.

Full report at:



2 terrorists killed in an encounter in J&K's Anantnag

Mar 24, 2018

NEW DELHI: Security forces gunned down two terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir's Anantnag in an encounter last night, reported ANI.

A cache of arms and ammunition was also recovered from the site of the encounter.

Further details awaited.



South Asia


US, Saudi Arabia mull ‘safe haven’ for Afghan Taliban

March 24, 2018

Washington - The United States has said that Saudi Arabia is willing to help members of Taliban who were interested in reconciliation efforts.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis discussed the issue with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his visit to the Pentagon on Thursday.

The Pentagon said Mattis and the crown prince also discussed Afghanistan, and Riyadh was willing to help members of the Taliban and their families who were interested in reconciliation efforts.

The two leaders also discussed ways Saudi Arabia might be able to offer or facilitate some sort of a “safe haven” to more moderate Taliban members who are prepared to negotiate for peace in Afghanistan, an official said.

Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said after the meeting that Mattis and the prince discussed the issue of what to do with Taliban members open to peace talks.

During a visit to the war-torn country last week, Mattis and other US officials claimed some Taliban elements are open to talking with the Afghan government, after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani unveiled a plan to open peace talks with the insurgents.

“Ensuring that there is a safe haven for those who would want to negotiate a political solution is what they generally talked about,” White told reporters. The prince “was supportive of finding ways to help the reconciliation,” she added. “Not necessarily specifically safe haven but talking about (looking) at ways to help facilitate a political reconciliation for those Taliban members who are willing to talk.”

Saudi Arabia nurtured the Taliban’s rise in the 1990s and was one of only three countries, along with the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan, to recognise the Taliban government.

According to Voice of America (VOA), top Afghan officials see a genuine chance for peace with elements of the Taliban and the Haqqani network.

Afghan officials believe the insurgent leaders who seek to make a deal are being threatened and that some have already been forced to back away following threats to their families. “It’s not a theoretical threat. It is real,” Afghan National Security Adviser Mohammad Haneef Atmar said on March 22 during a visit to Washington for meetings with US officials.

“There are brave leaders who would run the risk,” Atmar said. “They’re asking for a process by which they and their families are protected to engage in peace.”

Atmar described efforts to accommodate these Taliban and Haqqani leaders as sensitive, explaining it has long been standard practice for the families of influential officials to be held in other locations as a sort of collateral. “That is the way they are to be trusted,” he said.

One possible solution could involve Saudi Arabia , which has indicated it is interested in supporting both Afghanistan and the larger US strategy in South Asia.

“They want to be better aligned with us,” Dana White said on Thursday. The extent to which the Saudis are willing to go is not clear, though White said there seemed to be a willingness to at least host talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, if not do more to ensure the safety of Taliban families.

“We haven’t had any positive response from Pakistan as yet, not any change in the policy they are pursuing,” Afghan National Security Adviser Atmar said during a speech on March 22 at the US Institute for Peace. Instead, Atmar accused Pakistan of pressuring, and even attacking, elements of the Afghan Taliban who are willing to negotiate in good faith.

“We do have Taliban leaders who are working for peace now who are wounded, who were attacked in Pakistan,” Atmar said. VOA sought comment from Pakistani officials, who have yet to respond.



KABUL: Russia is supporting and even supplying arms to the Taliban, the head of US forces in Afghanistan has told BBC. In an exclusive interview, Gen John Nicholson said he’d seen “destabilising activity by the Russians”.

He said Russian weapons were smuggled across the Tajik border to the Taliban, but could not say in what quantity. Russia has denied such US allegations in the past, citing a lack of evidence.

But the new claims come at a sensitive time in Russia’s ties with Nato powers.

Britain and Russia are locked in a dispute over claims that Russia was behind an attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter on UK soil using a deadly nerve agent.

“We see a narrative that’s being used that grossly exaggerates the number of Isis [Islamic State group] fighters here,” Gen Nicholson told BBC News. “This narrative then is used as a justification for the Russians to legitimise the actions of Taliban and provide some degree of support to the Taliban.”

“We’ve had stories written by the Taliban that have appeared in the media about financial support provided by the enemy. We’ve had weapons brought to this headquarters and given to us by Afghan leaders and said, this was given by the Russians to the Taliban,” he continued. “We know that the Russians are involved.”

Much of Gen Nicholson’s career has been spent in the conflict in Afghanistan. He narrowly escaped death when his office in the Pentagon was destroyed by one of the 9/11 planes and the US campaign in Afghanistan has shaped his career ever since.

He believes this direct Russian involvement with the Taliban is relatively new. He says Russia has conducted a series of exercises on the Afghan border with Tajikistan. “These are counter terrorism exercises,” says Gen Nicholson, “but we’ve seen the Russian patterns before: they bring in large amounts of equipment and then they leave some of it behind.”

The implication is that these weapons and other equipment are then smuggled across the border and supplied to the Taliban. The general admits it is hard to quantify how much support Russia is actually giving to the Taliban, but senior Afghan police officers and military figures have told BBC that it includes night vision goggles, medium and heavy machine guns as well as small arms. Afghan sources say these weapons are likely to have been used against Afghan forces and the Nato advisers who support them on some combat missions.

When BBC asked Gen Nicholson whether he thought that Russia was fighting a proxy war against America in Afghanistan he didn’t address the question directly. “This activity really picked up in the last 18 to 24 months,” he replied. “Prior to that we had not seen this kind of destabilising activity by Russia here. When you look at the timing it roughly correlates to when things started to heat up in Syria. So it’s interesting to note the timing of the whole thing.”



United against religious violence in Sri Lanka

March 23, 2018

Hapuarachchige Nalani, a Buddhist woman, lives alongside Muslims in Sri Lanka. She is worried about Muslims who were targeted by Buddhist mobs in recent violence in Wattegedara in Kandy district.

She understands the fear felt by her Muslim neighbors and their children, so she is gratified that her Sinhalese friends gave security to Muslims and their properties with the help of the Buddhist temple in Rajawella village.

Many Muslim-owned businesses, shops and houses were set on fire during the violence that erupted after a Sinhalese lorry driver was killed by a group of Muslim men in Kandy.

"We did not have laboring jobs for several days after the attacks," said Nalani, 45. "Sinhalese families suffer without jobs."

Nalani said law enforcement authorities should protect all citizens. She and her Sinhalese neighbors have no animosity toward Muslims and they have lived in peace and harmony for years.

Muslims in neighboring villages were made homeless by two days of riots but her Muslim friends and their properties were protected from mobs in her village.

On March 6, the government declared a 10-day state of emergency after violence that left two people dead.

According to police, 465 houses, vehicles and businesses were destroyed or damaged in the religious violence as Sri Lanka struggles to recover from the civil war (1983-2009) that wreaked immeasurable loss and destruction.

"Buddhist and Muslim children go to school and work together. If they have a Buddhist festival, they invite Muslims. During Sinhalese New Year, all the Muslims come to their house. If anyone gets married — Buddhist or Muslim — everyone comes," Nalani said.

"Muslim and Tamil villagers buy things from Sinhalese shops and Sinhalese buy things from Muslims and Tamils. They used to come to our temple too."

In recent years, hard-line Buddhist groups including Mahasohon Balakaya, Bodu Bala Sena, Sinhala Ravaya and Ravana Balaya have preached hatred as rights activists have warned of a growing wave of religious intolerance and extremism.

Pilhatha Mahanama Thera, chief monk of Rajawella Ranthatipokuna Temple, joined villagers in protecting Muslims during the recent violence.

"We, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and Christians, live together and stand against violence — there is no place for racism," Mahanama Thera told

"I was really disappointed with what occurred. It made a black mark in Sri Lankan history. These mobs came to our area but we all united and did not allow them to enter our village.

"After the incident, Muslim clerics came to our temple and we also visited the damaged mosques and shops. But it would be wrong to accuse the entire Buddhist community for the violent behavior."

Many Muslim families no longer trust the police to protect them but have faith in their Buddhist neighbors.

Thalpotha Sri Dhamma Jothi Thera, chief monk of Balagolla Temple, protected Muslims in Balagolla village.

He took the lead in gathering over 1,000 villagers with the help of Balagolla police officers to protect the lives and properties of Muslims from mob attacks.

"There are 300 Muslim families, 200 Sinhalese families and 150 Tamil families living in Balagolla village," said Jothi Thera.

"We are taking all measures to preserve the rights of all religions and races living in the village. Due to the attacks, not only Muslims but also Sinhalese have been affected. I distributed dry rations to both communities and protected the mosque and houses from the mob attacks."

According to residents, mobs ruled the streets for hours with stones and poles but police dispersed them several times. Many residents said the attackers were politically and racially motivated.

They claimed security forces in some areas did nothing to prevent the attacks.

Full report at:



Car bomb near stadium kills 12 in Afghanistan's Helmand province, says official

Mar 23, 2018

KABUL: An official says 12 people have been killed and 40 others wounded in a car bombing outside a sports stadium in Afghanistan's Helmand province.

Aminullah Abed, the chief of the province's public health department, in Helmand province said the 12 killed and 40 wounded were received at a hospital in Lashkar Gha on Friday.

Full report at:



Taliban cannot win through war and violence, says Atmar

Mar 23 2018

The Afghanistan National Security Advisor Mohammad Atmar called the government’s peace offer to Taliban the best option as he insists that the group cannot win through war and violence.

Atmar made the remarks during his visit to the United States and while speaking during a gathering in the US Institute for Peace.

He said the Afghan government seeks peace through negotiations but warned that the government is also having the strategy for war besides pursuing the peaceful strategy of reconciliation.

According to Atmar, the pressures on the anti-government armed militant and terrorist groups are on the rise after the announcement of the new US strategy for South Asia.

He also added that Afghanistan had major achievements during the past 17 years and hailed the international community including the United States for contribution, support, and sacrifices.

The Office of the National security Council said Mr. Atmar also spoke regarding the illicit opium and drugs smuggling and Taliban’s links to the issue, the regional interest in the fight to eliminate the menace of terrorism, peace deal with Hezb-e-Islami led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and efforts to establish a regional consensus in the fight against terror.

Full report at:



Arab World


Air strikes hit Ghouta despite rebel ceasefire effort, 37 killed

23 March 2018

A cease-fire went into effect Friday after intense government attacks killed at least 37 people in an underground shelter, prompting a rebel group to call for negotiations to evacuate a new section of the besieged eastern Ghouta region near the capital Damascus, rescuers and a rebel spokesman said.

The cease-fire will mean the surrender of the second of three pockets in eastern Ghouta, where rebels have been holding up over the past years. On Thursday, hundreds streamed out of Harasta, the first pocket after a similar negotiated cease-fire and evacuation of armed fighters and civilians.

The Air strikes hit a rebel-held enclave of Syria’s eastern Ghouta region on Friday despite a ceasefire that the rebel group who controlled the area had said would take effect at midnight, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The air strikes hit Ein Terma and Zamalka on Friday morning and pro-government forces had advanced into a large part of the town of Hezzeh after the midnight ceasefire deadline, according to the Britain-based Observatory, a war monitoring group.

On Thursday, a spokesman for rebel group Failaq al-Rahman said the ceasefire had been agreed in principle.

The army’s assault on eastern Ghouta, the last major rebel bastion near the capital, has been one of the most intense in Syria’s seven-year-old war.

The Syrian government and its Russian allies used tactics that had proved successful elsewhere in Syria since Moscow joined the war in 2015: lay siege to an area, bombard it, launch a ground assault and finally offer safe passage out to rebels who agree to leave with their families.

Evacuees reach Idlib

Meanwhile, hundreds of fighters evacuated by the Syrian regime from their Eastern Ghouta bastion arrived in rebel-held Idlib province on Friday, a monitor said.

The buses entered the northwestern province after the evacuations on Thursday from the rebel-held town of Harasta in Eastern Ghouta, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Eastern Ghouta’s rebels still hold only the town of Douma, under the control of Jaish al-Islam, and another pocket that includes Ein Terma, Arbin and Zamalka, under the control of Failaq al-Rahman.

On Thursday, Ahrar al-Sham rebel fighters withdrew from what had been a third rebel-held enclave in eastern Ghouta, the town of Harasta. They were put on government buses and driven to an opposition-held area of northern Syria.

A second group of fighters is expected to leave Harasta on Friday.

The Observatory said air strikes also hit the Jaish al-Islam-controlled town of Douma on Friday and there were clashes on the ground between the rebels and pro-government forces.



Eastern Ghouta: Hundreds of Terrorists, Family Members Leave Harasta

Mar 23, 2018

Army sources reported on Friday that 655 people, including 176 militants, left Harasta for Idlib on 11 buses and surrendered their weapons after an agreement with the army.

They added that Ahrar al-Sham militants have set fire on their weapons and ammunition caches in Harasta before leaving the region.

Also, more than 1,500 terrorists along with their family members left Harasta on Thursday.

Field sources reported on Friday that 413 militants of Ahrar al-Sham terrorist group along with 1,167 family members were evacuated from Harasta and headed to Idlib on 30 buses.

The army will regain full control over Harasta after the terrorists leave the region as others will be granted amnesty by the government.

A sum of 7,128 civilians left the terrorist-held areas in Eastern Ghouta towards safe areas under the army's control through al-Wafedin corridor on Thursday.

Full report at:



Militants in More Regions Endorse Peace Agreement with Syrian Army

Mar 23, 2018

The ministry said in a statement that representatives of the militants in the villages of Batenah and al-Khalediyah have signed the peace agreement with the army.

It added that the total number of towns, regions and villages that have thus far joined the nationwide peace plan stands at 2,450 now.

Relevant reports said earlier this month that that militants in Havayez, al-Huweija and al-Shariyeh regions in Hama province handed over their arms and joined the nationwide reconciliation plan.

Dissident-affiliated websites reported in February that reconciliation talks were underway between Damascus and representatives of militant groups over affiliation of more regions in Eastern Qalamoun region to the nationwide peace plan.

The news websites reported that preliminary agreement was reached for the implementation of a peace plan in Eastern Qalamoun after the representatives of militants, the Syrian Army commanders and a sum of civilians met in the town of al-Rahibeh.

Full report at:



Drums Beat for Syrian Army's Military Operations in Dara'a

Mar 23, 2018

A mid-ranking military officer confirmed to FNA on Friday that the Syrian army has reinforced its positions in the village of al-Tineh in al-Lajah region in Northeastern Dara'a.

He added that the army has set up new positions and reinvigorated its former bases in al-Shaqra region between the two villages of al-Tineh and al-Malzoumeh in Dara'a.

Observers believe that the army's measures are aimed at launching an imminent military operation against the terrorists in Dara'a.

Relevant reports from the province earlier this month said that the terrorist groups in the Southern province of Dara'a intend to go on the offensive to shift the attention of the Syrian army and slow down its advances in Eastern Ghouta of Damascus.

The Arabic-language al-Watan daily quoted Commander of Qowat Shabab al-Sonah Abu Hessam as saying that the Free Syrian Army militants have stormed the Syrian army men in Southern Syria to change the scene in Eastern Ghouta and save their comrades that are losing battles with the government forces.

The daily further said that clashes with the ISIL have weakened the militant groups in Hawz al-Yarmouk in Western Dara'a, adding that the terrorist groups, hence, plan to merge and form a new front.

Full report at:



Infighting Reported between Turkish Army, Allied Militants in Northern Aleppo

Mar 23, 2018

Hawar news reported on Friday that the clashes erupted in the town of A'azaz in Northern Aleppo after the Turkish army announced that it has no decision to attack Tal Raf'at.

Some reports also said that the Turkish army has fired at those who have held protest rallies in A'azaz.

Meantime, the Arabic-language al-Mayadeen news channel reported a dozen casualties during the infighting between the Turkish army and its allied militants.

According to reports, the Syrian army has received control of some regions in Afrin, including Tal Raf'at, from the Kurdish forces.

The Syrian army dispatched a large number of forces and military equipment to Afrin region as the Turkish army and its allied militants intensified attacks against the Kurds South of the town.

Field sources reported on Wednesday that the Turkish army and its affiliated militants have opened a new operational front against the Kurdish militias South of the town of Afrin on Tuesday.

The Ankara-backed militants gained control of the strategic mountain of al-Ahlam and the villages of Basouteh, Ein Dareh, Karzihleh and Qazi Rihleh in clashes with the Kurdish forces in Southern Afrin.

Meantime, field sources reported that the Syrian army has sent tens of its forces and military equipment to the villages of Nobl and al-Zahra near Tal Rafa'at in South of Afrin.

Full report at:



Terrorists Engage in Heavy Infighting in Aleppo, Sustain Losses

Mar 23, 2018

Field sources reported on Friday that a number of militants were killed and held captive during clashes between Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at and Syria's Tahrir Front near Jamiat al-Rahal region in Western Aleppo.

The sources pointed to the clashes between the two sides in several villages and towns in Western Aleppo, including Balenta and Makbelis, and said that Tahrir al-Sham has entered the villages of Batbo, Kafr Nasih, Babkeh, al-Jineh and Abyan.

Meantime, Tahrir al-Sham has sent a large number of military vehicles and equipment to the town of al-Artab in Northern Aleppo.

The developments came after negotiations to stop clashes between Tahrir al-Sham and Syria's Tahrir Front have failed as the two sides blame each other for the failure.

In a relevant development last week, an Arab media outlet reported that  Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) engaged in a fresh round of clashes in Southern Quneitra, leaving several militants from both sides dead or wounded.

Al-Ahd news website reported that gunmen of Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham and two FSA-affiliated Brigades of Farsan al-Janoub and Maqavir al-Jolan exchanged heavy fire in the town of Bariqa in Southeastern Quneitra, leaving three gunmen of Tahrir al-Sham and two FSA gunmen dead.

Full report at:



Mass Grave of ISIL Victims Discovered in Southeastern Syria

Mar 23, 2018

The army forces discovered the mass grave in Deir Ezzur city's Central garden that contains nearly 150 civilians and military men during purging operations on Thursday.

Local sources said the victims have been executed by the ISIL during its rule over the region, adding that signs of torture are still seen on a number of the dead bodies.

In a relevant development in January, a Syrian official said that several mass graves with 10,000 bodies, including one with 4,000, were found in Raqqa city in Northeastern Syria.

The Arabic-language al-Watan daily quoted General Director of the Syrian Forensic Medicine Zaher Hajo as reporting that based on intelligence 10,000 bodies were buried in mass graves in Raqqa.

Full report at:



North America


US: Martyred American Muslim soldier’s father appeals against Travel Ban

March 24, 2018

Washington: Khizr Khan, father of Capt. Humayun Khan who was killed on duty in Iraq, personally appealed to the Supreme Court to strike down President Donald Trump’s travel ban, arguing that it was unconstitutional and “desecrates” his son’s sacrifice, the media reported.

Originally from Pakistan and a Muslim, Khan filed the legal brief on Friday because, in his view, Trump’s travel ban “not only desecrates Humayun Khan’s service and sacrifice as a Muslim- American officer in the US Army, but also violates Khizr Khan’s own constitutional rights”. his attorney, Dan Jackson, wrote in the brief.

The ban places varying levels of restrictions on foreign nationals from eight countries: Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Somalia and Yemen, CNN reported.

Known for his impassioned speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Khizr Khan is also a lawyer.

Capt. Humayun Khan was killed in 2004 when he moved to stop a car containing suicide bombers headed toward his base in Iraq, for which he was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star.

The brief describes the Khan family’s history and the service of Humayun Khan, mentioning as well the DNC speech where Khizr Khan held up a pocket Constitution and emotionally asked Trump if he had read it.

The brief also notes Trump’s comments on the campaign trail that he wanted to institute a “Muslim ban”, a key component of critics’ arguments that the administration’s travel ban is a thinly veiled attempt to target Muslims.

“The taint of discrimination has not been washed away,” the brief argues, saying the latest travel ban and its predecessors all flow from that original idea.

“The message is that Muslims are unwelcome outsider… And that message has been received loud and clear — not only by Muslims like Mr. Khan, but by those who have been denigrating and attacking Muslims with increasing frequency and vehemence since President Trump called for, and then began trying to implement, his unconstitutional Muslim Ban.”

Jackson told CNN on Friday that Khizr Khan felt compelled to weigh in because of the impact of the travel ban on his son’s legacy.

“I don’t know anyone who respects our Constitution more, or has suffered greater loss for its defence, than Mr. Khan and his family,” Jackson said.



New York man convicted of murdering Muslim cleric and assistant

23 Mar 2018

A New York City man was convicted Friday of first-degree murder for the broad daylight killings of a Muslim cleric and his assistant.

A state supreme court jury convicted Oscar Morel, 37, in the fatal shootings of Imam Maulana Akonjee and Thara Uddin, his friend and assistant. The men were shot as they walked home following prayers on August 13 2016.

Richard Brown, district attorney of the borough of Queens, described the killings as “a senseless act of gun violence in the middle of the afternoon, carried out in a close-knit neighborhood filled with families and children.”

Morel, of Brooklyn, was convicted following a nearly three-week-long trial. Jurors deliberated for about a day and found him guilty of one count of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder and one count of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon. He had denied the charges.

He faces life in prison without parole when he is sentenced on April 18.

Some in New York City’s Muslim community called the attack on the two Bangladeshi immigrants a hate crime, but prosecutors said the killer’s motive remained unclear.

Afaf Nasher, the executive director of the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, released a statement on behalf of the victims’ families expressing gratitude for the conviction.

“Maulana and Thara came to this country in search of a better life, instead they found Mr. Morel’s hatred,” the statement said. “Nothing can ever replace what Mr Morel took from us, but this verdict helps show that this city will never accept this sort of heartbreaking violence.”

Prosecutors said Morel approached 55-year-old Akonjee and 64-year-old Uddin from behind as they left the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque and shot them both in the head. The victims were rushed to a hospital, where they died.

Morel was arrested the following day after police connected him to a hit-and-run crash near the shooting scene.

Full report at:



US’ Mattis urges political solution war in Yemen

23 March 2018

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Thursday said urgent steps need to be taken for a political solution to end the civil war in Yemen.

Speaking to Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad Bin Salman at the Pentagon, Mattis said Washington is committed to cooperating with the Saudis and the UN, adding that the appointment of a new UN special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, is an opportunity to accelerate a political solution to resolve the conflict.

"We have been working very hard with the new U.N. envoy to end the fight in Yemen and we believe that Saudi Arabia is part of the solution, they have stood by the United Nations recognized government and we are going to end this war, that is the bottom line," he noted.

"And we are going to end it on positive terms for the people of Yemen but also security for the nations in the peninsula."

The meeting at the Pentagon came after Salman met with President Donald Trump at the White House Tuesday.

Mattis also praised Saudi's humanitarian effort in Yemen, saying that amounts of humanitarian aid that Saudis provide is "critical" to help innocents  civilians who are stuck in the conflict, which has killed more than 10,000 civilians since it started in March 2015.

In a response to Mattis, Salman said Saudi Arabia cooperation with the UN would continue to grow.

Yemen has been wracked by chaos since 2015, when Houthi rebels overran much of the country, including capital Sanaa, forcing the Saudi-backed government to set up an interim capital in the coastal city of Aden.

Full report at:



US dismisses charges against 7 Turkish guards

23 March 2018

The U.S. dismissed charges against the Turkish Presidency’s seven bodyguards over a 2017 brawl in front of the Turkish embassy in Washington, a lawyer said on Thursday.

Gunay Evinch, a lawyer following the case on behalf of Turkey, told Anadolu Agency that arrest warrants for seven guards have been terminated and the case against them was dismissed at an internal meeting on Feb. 14.

On June 15, the U.S. issued arrest warrants for 16 people including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's bodyguards allegedly linked to a brawl outside the Turkish Embassy in Washington during the Turkish president's official visit in May.

Erdogan condemned the indictment. “It is clearly a scandalous sign of how justice works in America,” he had said after the indictment was revealed.

Evinch also said that accusations against four other guards were dropped in November last year, as they were not even at the site.

Full report at:



US should lead nuclear tech in Saudi Arabia, Perry says

23 March 2018

It should be the U.S. leading any nuclear technology energy projects in Saudi Arabia, instead of countries that have no requirement of nonproliferation, the U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said on Thursday.

"Our choices, at this particular point in time, it appears to me either Russia or China is going to be a partner in building civil nuclear capability in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, or the United States," he said.

"I'm very confident that the prior two have no requirements of nonproliferation," Perry told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is in the U.S. for diplomatic relations, told the CBS television channel last week that the Kingdom would develop nuclear weapons if its regional rival Iran does the same.

"Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible," he said March 15 to CBS in an exclusive interview.

Senator Gary Peters, a Democrat from the state of Michigan, also warned Perry that aiding the Riyadh government would not send a proper message to the world.

"I think it would set a horrible precedent to allow Saudi Arabia to begin enriching uranium, and perhaps at higher levels, at the same time we may be getting close to the JCPOA expiring," he said durign the Committee meeting.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that was signed on July 2015 heavily restricted Iran to enrich uranium and put the country under strict monitoring for its nuclear program.

In return, Tehran received relief from western economic sanctions that its vital to revive its economy.

President Donald Trump, however, said numerous times in the past that he could withdraw the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal and reimpose the sanctions on the country.

"If Russia, China are who are going to be chosen to do the civil nuclear projects in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, there will be no oversight," Perry said.

Peters argued that the U.S. should hold Saudi Arabia to the same standards that the U.S. holds every country in the world for nuclear technology.

Full report at:



American man gets emotional as he embraces Islam in Oman

March 23, 2018

OMAN: For the devout, it is an honour to be present at the moment when a person decides to change their faith and enter a new one, according to Khaleej Times.

A video has been going viral on social media platforms when a man, rumoured to be a leader in a US army saying Shahada (prayer of initation into the faith) to a group of witnesses in Oman.

The emotional response has been surfing all over Instagram and Youtube.

The moment seems to be full of emotions for the man who converted. The American man can be seen being visibly moved by the experience with tears flowing down his face.

Full report at:





Merkel ally defiant in row over Islam's place in Germany

MARCH 23, 2018

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said on Friday he would not change his views on Islam, striking a defiant note just two days after Chancellor Angela Merkel put him down for challenging the place of the religion in Germany.

Merkel appointed Seehofer, who leads her conservative Bavarian allies, to her cabinet as interior minister under a coalition deal struck earlier this month. Barely a week into the job, he has already strained the fragile ‘grand coalition’.

“I will not change my politics a jot,” Seehofer told Der Spiegel magazine, which said he was deeply annoyed by Merkel contradicting him.

A week ago, Seehofer told the Bild daily that “Islam does not belong” in Germany, prompting Merkel to say on Wednesday during her first government statement to parliament since starting her fourth term in office: “Islam has become part of Germany.”

Germany is home to some four million Muslims, including many Turks who have lived there for decades as well as migrants and asylum seekers who arrived in the past few years, many fleeing conflicts in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.

Seehofer, who leads the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), has long been a thorn in the chancellor’s side - especially over immigration and the role of migrants in Germany.

But whereas he was not in the last government, he now leads the powerful interior ministry, restyled to include a ‘homeland’ portfolio - a ploy widely seen as being aimed at winning back voters lost to the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD).


Seehofer is concerned that his CSU will lose ground to the AfD in a regional election in October in Bavaria, where refugees flooded across the border during Europe’s 2015 migrant crisis.

The left-leaning Social Democrats, who are partners with the CDU and CSU in the ruling coalition, have accused him of using his new ministerial post to campaign for the Bavarian election.

In his first speech to parliament as interior minister, Seehofer on Friday promised a zero-tolerance approach both to borders being overrun and to hate crimes committed against people of other beliefs.

Seehofer also said that militant Islamists pose a threat to national security and said there should be border controls between neighboring EU states so long as the European Union’s external borders are not controlled effectively.

Seehofer, who during the 2015 refugee crisis repeatedly criticized Merkel’s “open-door” policy for asylum seekers, reaffirmed his plans to curb migration and facilitate deportations of those who have no right to stay.



Islamic State claims deadly French supermarket siege

23 March 2018

A gunman claiming allegiance to the Islamic State group killed three people in a shooting spree and supermarket hostage siege in southwest France on Friday before anti-terror police shot him dead.

Five people were also shot and wounded in France’s first major jihadist attack since October, including a heroic policeman who offered to take the place of hostages being held at the supermarket.

“Our country has suffered an Islamist terrorist attack,” President Emmanuel Macron said in a televised address following the rampage in the medieval town of Carcassonne and nearby Trebes.

The Islamic State group claimed the attack was in response to its call to target Western enemies — as is customary when the assailant has pledged allegiance to the jihadists.

The shootings come as France remains on high alert following a string of deadly attacks that have killed more than 240 people since 2015.

Top anti-terror prosecutor Francois Molins named the gunman as Radouane Lakdim, a 25-year-old who had convictions for carrying a banned weapon and for drug use.

“He had been on a watchlist for his radicalisation and links to the Salafist movement,” Molins told reporters in Carcassonne, adding that Lakdim had been tracked for his online contacts with extremists.

Security sources said Lakdim was born in Taza in northern Morocco and held French nationality. His partner, who lived with him in Carcassonne, has been detained, Molins said.

Lakdim started his rampage in Carcassonne at around 10.30 am (0930 GMT), hijacking a car and shooting the two people inside, Molins said. The passenger was killed, and the driver remains in a critical condition.

Lakdim then shot and wounded a police officer who was out jogging with colleagues before driving to the Super U supermarket in nearby Trebes.

“The attacker entered the store shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest) and saying he was a soldier of the Islamic State, ready to die for Syria,” Molins said.

He further demanded “the release of his brothers” from prison before shooting a supermarket customer and an employee dead.

“I was five metres away from him,” the store’s security guard said, speaking on condition of anonimity.

“He shot at me twice.” Luckily for the security guard, “he shot badly.”

Hero policeman wounded

About 50 people were in the supermarket at the time, and though some people managed to escape, several remained inside.

Senior officer Arnaud Beltrame, 45, offered to take their place while his colleagues negotiated with Lakdim, Molins said.

When the special forces officers heard shots they stormed the store, killing the gunman and recovering Beltrame, who had been “seriously wounded”.

Macron led tributes to the police officer, who has been hailed as a hero.

“He saved lives and honoured his colleagues and his country,” Macron said.

“He is currently fighting for his life and all our thoughts go out to him and his family,” he added.

A Portuguese national was among those killed, the government in Lisbon confirmed.

Tough questions for government

Trebes, a tranquil town of 5,000 people along the famed Canal du Midi, was on lockdown throughout Friday as helicopters swirled overhead and heavily armed and masked police carried out a massive operation in Lakdim’s neighbourhood.

The fact that Lakdim had been monitored as a potential extremist will raise difficult questions for Macron’s government as to how he slipped through the net.

“We had monitored him and did not think he had been radicalised,” Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said of Lakdim after flying to the scene.

“He was already under surveillance when he suddenly decided to act.”

Friday’s violence took place in a part of France still scarred by a killing spree in 2012 in the city of Toulouse and nearby Montauban where another jihadist, Mohamed Merah, shot dead seven people including three Jewish schoolchildren.

That assault marked the first of several big Islamist attacks in France since 2015, including the gun massacre at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, the November 2015 attacks that killed 130 in Paris, and a summer 2016 truck attack during Bastille Day festivities in Nice.

The most recent assault came in October when a Tunisian man stabbed to death two women at Marseille’s railway station, shouting “Allahu Akbar”.

A state of emergency put in place just after the 2015 Paris attacks was lifted last October when Macron’s centrist government passed a new law boosting the powers of security forces.

Full report at:



Three dead after jihadist goes on shooting rampage in southern France

23 March 2018

French police killed a gunman who shot dead at least three people and injured two others in a hostage-taking and shooting spree in southwest France on Friday.

Security forces killed the gunman -- believed to be a Moroccan who was on a watchlist of suspected Islamic extremists -- after he carried out three separate attacks in the medieval town of Carcassonne and nearby Trebes.

"Our country has suffered an Islamist terrorist attack," said President Emmanuel Macron.

The Super U supermarket at Trebes where the shooting took place. Photo Screengrab Google street view

The attacker had began his rampage by hijacking a car in Carcassonne on Friday morning, in which he killed a passenger and injured the driver.

He then shot at a group of policeman, injuring one officer before driving to the supermarket, where he opened fire leaving two dead. He had pledged allegiance to terror group Isis, whose propaganda agency then claimed the attack saying gunman was a "soldier of Islamic State".

A witness reported that the assailant was armed with knives, a gun and grenades and shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest) before going into the


"A man shouted and started firing several times," one shopper at the supermarket told FranceInfo radio station.

"I saw an open door for a refrigerated area and I told people to come to shelter there," she said.

"We were 10 people and we got out by the emergency exit at the back."

It then emerged the gunman still held one shopper hostage inside the store but agreed to release the shopper in exchange for a policeman. Before entering the supermarket the officer had called a colleague and left the call open so his specialist commando officers could hear what was happening inside the store.

Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said that just after 2.30pm specialist commando units launched a raid on the supermarket when they heard shots being fired. The gunman was killed in the assault but the officer who had been exchanged for the hostage was left seriously injured after being shot by the gunman.

President Macron said the lieutenant-colonel was fighting for life and praised his act of courage.

"He saved lives and honored his colleagues and his country," said Macron.

Authorities took the step of evacuating the historic centre of Carcassonne, where pupils were locked in schools and tourists were confined to hotels and shops.

According to reports the gunman had spoken of wanting to "avenge Syria". He had demanded for the release of Salah Abdeslam, the only surviving suspect of the 2015 Paris attacks, who is in jail in France.

He was identified as a 25-year-old French-Moroccan national from Carcassonne named Redouane Lakdim but Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said he was known to police as a drug dealer but not considered a terror threat.

"He was known by the police for petty crimes, we had monitored him and did not think he had been radicalised," Collomb said after arriving at the scene of the hostage-taking in the town of Trebes, near Carcassonne.

"He was already under surveillance when he suddenly decided to act," he said.

According to numerous reports the gunman shouted "Allahu Akbar" as he opened fire. Specialist counter-terrorist prosecutors in Paris have opened an investigation meaning they are treating the incident as a terror attack.

Hundreds of police surrounded the building as helicopters hovered overhead.

"One witness named Karim, 55, told France info radio: "I heard shots fired around 11:10am. At that moment there were only a few gendarmes (military police) around but now there are between 200 to 300.

"The whole area is in lockdown and we are going to be moved away by the gendarmes."

Another witness who worked at a nearby garage said: "There are gendarmes in front of the supermarket. We are locked in the garage with around 50 people. We are waiting."

Local authorities tweeted that the area was out-of-bounds to the public.

According to reports the policeman who was shot in Carcassonne was part of a group of unarmed CRS police based in Marseille who were jogging at the time they were targeted by a gunman.

The policeman who was shot is in a stable condition and his life is not at risk, according to reports in the French press.

It is believed the gunman initially tried to run them over in a vehicle before opening fire.

"They threw themselves to the floor but one of them was hit in the shoulder," a source told France Info radio.

A state of emergency put in place just after the Paris attacks was finally lifted in October last year, but soldiers continue to patrol major tourist sites and transport hubs under an anti-terror mission.

If the link to Islamic State is confirmed, the hostage-taking would be the first deadly attack in France since October, when two young women were stabbed to death outside Marseille's main train station.

The area of southwest France where Friday's shootings took place has been scarred by Islamic extremism before.

Full report at:



Denver Tries Uzbek Refugee on Charges of Wiring Money to ‘Islamic Jihad Union

23 Mar 2018

The trial for a refugee from Uzbekistan charged with providing material support to a terrorist organization by wiring money to the “Islamic Jihad Union” (IJU) began in Denver, Colorado, on Thursday.

Prosecutors claim Bahktiyor Jumaev developed a closeness with fellow Uzbek Jamshid Muhtorov when the pair shared an apartment and that the two men discussed joining the IJU through phone calls and emails by using code words such as “wedding” to describe jihad.

“It’s a crime to send money or property to a terrorist organization,” said prosecutor Gregory Holloway at a courthouse in Denver. “That’s why we’re here.”

In 2011, prosecutors say Jumaev sent $300 to Jamshid Muhtorov and later admitted to FBI agents that he knew it was going towards the IJU.

However, Jumaev’s attorney David Barry Savitz argued that the FBI illegally extracted a false confession from him by arresting him after a night’s work and interrogating him for three hours.

He went on to claim that his client merely intended to pay back Muhtorov for a $500 bond required to get Jumaev out of jail and was not related to the IJU.

“He considered himself trapped. He was scared. He was exhausted,” Savitz said in his opening statement. “It was strictly intended to pay his debt and has nothing to do with the IJU.”

The FBI’s tough questioning allegedly reminded Jumaev of an experience he had in 1999 where Uzbekistan National Security agents questioned him before severely beating him.

In January, Jumaev’s lawyers asked a judge not to allow the prosecution to show jurors a video showing the beheading of FBI agents found on Muhtorov’s computer.

“There is no evidence that Mr. Jumaev viewed any or most of the Muhtorov electronic evidence, particularly the most violent ones,” the motion read.

Muhtorov was first arrested before boarding a flight in Chicago back in 2012 and is currently being tried separately. He has already served five years in jail without trial, and a decision last year to release him on bail was eventually reversed by a federal judge.

The men are two of a number Uzbek migrants charged with terrorism-related offenses in the past year. Last August, 22-year-old Uzbek-American Abror Habibo pled guilty to charges of agreeing to fund terrorist activity, after buying another man a plane ticket to Syria in order to join the Islamic State.

Full report at:



Hero French officer who offered himself for a hostage in Trebes siege fighting for his life

24 March 2018

Arnaud Beltrame, 45, was among a group of officers who rushed to the scene in the town of Trebes in southwest France Friday after the attacker, who claimed allegiance to the Islamic State group, stormed a supermarket and fired at shoppers and staff.

Beltrane offered to take the place of a woman the gunman had taken hostage and was shot and wounded before anti-terror police moved in to kill the attacker and end the siege.

Macron led tributes to the police officer, who has been hailed as a hero.

“He saved lives and honoured his colleagues and his country,” he said.

“He is currently fighting for his life and all our thoughts go out to him and his family,” he added.

The assailant, identified as 25-year-old Radouane Lakdim, killed three people and wounded five others in France’s first major jihadist attack since October.

“Our country has suffered an Islamist terrorist attack,” Macron said in a televised address following the rampage in the medieval town of Carcassonne and nearby Trebes.

The Islamic State group claimed the attack was in response to its call to target Western enemies — as is customary when the assailant has pledged allegiance to the jihadists.

The shootings come as France remains on high alert following a string of deadly attacks that have killed more than 240 people since 2015.

Top anti-terror prosecutor Francois Molins said the gunman had convictions for carrying a banned weapon and for drug use.

“He had been on a watchlist for his radicalisation and links to the Salafist movement,” Molins told reporters in Carcassonne, adding that Lakdim had been tracked for his online contacts with extremists.

Security sources said Lakdim was born in Taza in northern Morocco and held French nationality. His partner, who lived with him in Carcassonne, has been detained, Molins said.

Lakdim started his rampage in Carcassonne at around 10:30 am (0930 GMT), hijacking a car and shooting the two people inside, Molins said. The passenger was killed, and the driver remains in a critical condition.

Lakdim then shot and wounded a police officer who was out jogging with colleagues before driving to nearby Trebes where he burst into the Super U supermarket.

“The attacker entered the store shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest) and saying he was a soldier of the Islamic State, ready to die for Syria,” Molins said.

He further demanded “the release of his brothers” from prison before shooting a supermarket customer and an employee dead.

“I was five metres away from him,” the store’s security guard said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“He shot at me twice.” Luckily for the security guard, “he shot badly.”

– Hero policeman wounded –

About 50 people were in the supermarket at the time, and though some people managed to escape, several remained inside.

Senior officer Beltrame offered to take the place of a woman Lakdim was using as a human shield while his colleagues negotiated with the gunman, Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said.

The officer “left his telephone on the table” to allow police who had surrounded the building to listen in, Collomb said.

When special forces heard shots they stormed the store, killing the gunman and recovering Beltrame, who had been seriously wounded.

– Tough questions for government –

Trebes, a sleepy town of 5,000 people along the Canal du Midi, was on lockdown throughout Friday as helicopters swirled overhead and heavily armed and masked police carried out a massive operation in Lakdim’s neighbourhood.

The fact that Lakdim had been monitored as a potential extremist will raise difficult questions for Macron’s government as to how he slipped through the net.

“We had monitored him and did not think he had been radicalised,” Interior Minister Collomb said after flying to the scene.

“He was already under surveillance when he suddenly decided to act.”

In Paris, the Eiffel Tower dimmed its lights at midnight in a mark of respect for the victims and a minute’s silence was held at the Stade de France before a football match between France and Colombia.

Friday’s violence took place in a part of France still scarred by a killing spree in 2012 in the city of Toulouse and nearby Montauban where another jihadist, Mohamed Merah, shot dead seven people including three Jewish schoolchildren.

That assault marked the first of several big Islamist attacks in France since 2015, including the massacre at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, the November 2015 attacks that killed 130 in Paris, and a summer 2016 truck attack during Bastille Day festivities in Nice.

The most recent assault came in October when a Tunisian man stabbed to death two women at Marseille’s railway station, shouting “Allahu Akbar”.

Full report at:



Most beliefs about Muslims in Britain are simply false. This poll proves it

23 March 2018

Browse through the newspapers. Read the best-selling books. Absorb government documents. Listen to politicians. They will tell you that Islam is the enemy. They will tell you that Muslims constitute an existential threat to the West.

They will say Muslims are against British values. They don't accept democracy, free speech and British justice.

Fifth column?

Many of Britain's most respected mainstream writers insist that British Muslims are a Fifth Column, hell-bent on abolishing democracy and establishing an Islamic state ruled by Sharia law.

Here's Charles Moore, biographer of Margaret Thatcher and former editor of the Daily Telegraph: "We have in our midst millions of people who have a different belief about the nature of society itself." "This fact," writes Moore, "makes us resist the Islamisation of Europe."

And here's our most distinguished Conservative philosopher Sir Roger Scruton: "To offer toleration to those gripped by animosity to your way of life is to open the door to destruction."

Meet Niall Ferguson, one of our greatest living historians: "Europe has allowed its defences to crumble."

So it was rather baffling to attend this week's launch of the Ipsos Mori survey of research on Muslims in Britain. Scrupulously researched, this document was concerned with real facts and scrupulous observation. Its report presented a different picture of British Muslims than you will find in the newspapers and the think tank reports.

A panel of experts stressed to an audience of academics and researchers that there is far more that unites than divides Muslims and other Britons.

Muslims in Britain feel profoundly British. Rather more so indeed than non-Muslims. They are more likely to vote than other Britons, and they feel happier with the way democracy works. And more involved.

Britishness and Muslim identity

Consider this: some 55 per cent of Muslims compared to 44 per cent of non-Muslims show positive feelings towards at least one political party. Muslims value education far more than non-Muslims. More than half say that their education is an important part of their identity, compared to only 35 per cent of Christians

Contrary to the stereotype, Muslims are not chauvinist. More Muslim parents want their daughters than sons to get degrees. Around 30 per cent more Muslim than non-Muslim parents intend their children to go to university.

Muslims throw themselves into typically British traditions. Three-quarters send Christmas cards, three in five give Christmas presents and half at least sometimes wear a poppy for Remembrance Day.

Contrary to popular myths about Muslim ghettos, most live in ethnically mixed areas. British Muslims are more likely than British Christians to have friends of different faiths. Indeed 45 per cent of Muslims under 24 say at least half of their friends are from ethnic groups other than their own. And to them Britishness is entirely compatible with their Muslim identity.

The more Muslims feel in common with other Muslims, the more they also feel they have in common with non-Muslim Britons.

All these findings confirm the impression I have gained from meeting thousands of Muslims from all round Britain over the last few years. It doesn't surprise me that Muslims should cherish our democratic freedoms more than other Britons. Many have fled dictatorships and theocracies and know far too well what oppression feels like.

Of course it is true there are differences. But many of them are of a kind which Conservative thinkers and writers like Sir Roger Scruton and Charles Moore (both them my intellectual heroes) would normally profess to approve.

Remarkable pace of adaptation

Muslims think more in terms of their families than as individuals. Muslim children are more likely than young non-Muslims to live with both their mother and father, for example (77 percent of Muslims 13-14 year olds, against 63 percent for non-Muslims, have their natural father as a member of the household).

Perhaps this is because Muslims defy the trend towards an ever more secular society. More than half of Muslims say they pray five times a day; 94 per cent say religion is extremely or very important to them.

It is true that this deep religious sense is often accompanied by social conservatism, just as it is in other mainstream religions. Almost half of Muslim men and a third of Muslim women say a wife must always obey her husband. More than half (52 per cent) think homosexuality should be illegal.

According to government ministers, this is now evidence of "extremis"' and hostility to "British values". But as the Ipsos Mori report points out, these were attitudes held by the majority of Britons until just a few decades ago.

Bear in mind that almost half (45 percent) of Muslims are brought up in households where the first language is not English. This makes the pace of adaptation remarkable. Muslims remain behind the population as a whole in terms of education, but the gap is narrowing.

Young Muslims hold noticeably different values to their parents. They are more politically active, they volunteer more, are more educated and socially liberal – 28 per cent of 18-to-24s think homosexuality should be legal compared to 18 per cent of all British Muslims.

A new era of understanding

But young Muslims also feel more aggrieved by prejudice, especially young graduates – as of 2010, 36 percent of 18-to-24s felt discriminated against. A quarter of all Muslims worry about physical harassment and one in five say harassment is a very or fairly big problem for them. This is serious.

Here's one final thought. Only one newspaper – the Guardian, to its great credit – bothered to report the Ipsos Mori report. Most Britons learn about Muslims from reading the newspapers or from the mouths of politicians like Michael Gove or Nigel Farage.

So it's not surprising that most Britons have a warped view of Islam and Muslims. For example, most Britons think that around 15 percent of the population is Muslim, while the real figure is just under 5 percent.

Ipsos Mori shows that most beliefs about Muslims in Britain are simply false. Fake news of the type that the likes of Donald Trump and his vicious allies - like Britain First - exploit for their hideous ends.

Full report at:





Terrorism cases have higher acquittals in KP: study

Sadia Qasim Shah

March 24, 2018

PESHAWAR: A case study has given a glimpse into lacunas in the police, prosecution and judicial systems, which result in higher acquittals or fewer convictions in terrorism cases in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Titled ‘Understanding Counter Terrorism and Response’ and done by the experts’ committee under Pakistan’s Action to Counter Terrorism project, the study examined around 20 terror cases decided by anti-terrorism courts in the province during the last five years.

The committee identified the challenges facing the anti-terrorism criminal justice system and recommended the strengthening of the collective response to them.

The analysis of some 20 cases, including many involving the killing of civilians, showed that most terrorism cases were not sufficiently supported by evidence and therefore, majority of them even failed to make it to the anti-terrorism courts.

Of the 500 cases registered in 2016 under anti-terrorism laws, 316 were recommended for discharge at the stage of prosecution – in a joint decision by the police and the prosecution, while only 184 made their way to the trial, said the study’s report.

“This means only 37 per cent of the terrorism cases were actually termed fit for trial and judged by the anti-terrorism courts in 2016,” it said hinting at the low rate of such cases submitted for trial.

The conviction rate in terrorism cases increased in the last three years but it is still extremely low in KP i.e. just 28 per cent in 2016, while acquittals happened in more than half of the cases in 2016.

“Usually, the police are the first responder in such incidents. They lack capacity and even facilities to scientifically collect evidence. How one could expect the proving of the terrorism charges by an investigation officer, who has just intermediate qualification,” said an official of the prosecution department.

He believed that it was important to have a trained and highly qualified or trained police officer to collect evidence, which was the basis of the entire case.

“Rs620 is still the entire expenditure for the investigation. How you can expect a quality investigation with it,” he said talking about different factors affecting the collection of evidence and quality of investigation.

Another official wondered if a witness had no security, how he or she could expect that the crimes would be proved.

He said after a terrorist blew himself up, it was hard to collect scientific evidence.

“Our investigation is very weak. We need good forensic laboratories. Our investigators are not law graduate or highly qualified and so, such basis of a case is weak one and difficult to prove a case,” he said.

According to the report, of the 1,100 investigation officers, only 37 are presently working with counter terrorism department, who lack interviewing skills and often fail to connect the accused to his or her accomplice and they do not make sufficient use of modern investigation techniques, including collection of forensic evidence from crime scene.

The report also adds that at the time of registration of First Information Report in terrorism cases, the suspect is not known to the police neither are witnesses identified and hence, paradoxically, this often results in weakened cases.

The police, prosecution and judges working on anti-terrorism cases lack a sound appreciation of confession as it is seen by all as most conclusive evidence but in practice, it is very common that the accused changes or deny their confession at the stage of trial. The confessions should not prevent investigators from finding another fragments of evidence to strengthen the case, suggested the committee, which analysed the cases.

It also said even in the anti-terrorism courts, the case writing should improve.

The committee called for immurement in the wording of the arguments from both sides, the differentiation of cases between anti-terrorism and ordinary, the decisiveness of the relief, the sentencing parameters and the status of absconders – when pronouncing judgment against the accused.

The study’s report recommended to train the police personnel working on counter terrorism on efficient crime scene management in terrorism cases, prevent contamination of crime scenes, post-terrorist incidents, train the police in evidence collection, guide the stakeholders in interpretation of investigative techniques and reports of judicial proceedings and maintaining records starting from FIR.

The report also recommended the strengthening of the supervision of police investigators in terrorism cases and improvement of the judgment writing in anti-terrorism cases to increase the understanding of verdicts.



CM Punjab gifts three ambulances to Pakistan Hindu Council

March 24, 2018

Chief Minister Punjab Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif has gifted three ambulances to Pakistan Hindu Council, reported Radio Pakistan.

On behalf of the Chief Minister, Provincial Minister Primary & Secondary Health Khawaja Imran Nazir handed over the keys of the ambulances to President Pakistan Hindu Council and Member of National Assembly, Ramesh Kumar, in Lahore.

On this occasion, Khawaja Imran Nazir said that gifting of three ambulances to the Pakistan Hindu Council reflected the hospitality and goodwill of the Chief Minister Punjab for the people of Sindh especially for poor Hindu community of Thar.



Pakistan’s only agenda is to ensure regional peace: Aizaz Chaudhry

Mar 24, 2018

WASHINGTON: Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry on Saturday stated that Pak-US share multi-faceted relations and that Pakistan’s only agenda is ensuring regional peace.

While speaking to a private news outlet, he said that Pakistan is willing to work with all US officials including John Bolton, who is currently the national security adviser-designate of the US.

“Pakistan and US share a multi-faceted relation, it cannot be weighed in dollars.We are willing to work with all officials with an open mind and open heart”, the ambassador stated.

He further added,“We want peace in Pakistan and peace in Afghanistan. We want Pakistan’s relationship with the US to strengthen. We will keep this agenda in front of him [Bolton] as well.”

He remarked that the efforts against terrorism have been a result of collaborative effort with the US. “We will continue to take steps to curb terrorism.”

Full report at:



Pakistan President accuses India of putting regional peace at stake

Mar 23, 2018

Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain on Friday accused India of ceasefire violations and human rights abuses, saying New Delhi’s actions have put regional peace at stake.

He also raked up the Kashmir issue at the “Pakistan Day” joint military parade in Islamabad.

Pakistan Day commemorates the passing of the famous Lahore Resolution on March 23, 1940, when the All-India Muslim League demanded a separate homeland for the Muslims of British India. On this day in 1956, Pakistan became the world’s first Islamic republic.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena was the ‘Guest of Honour’. He was received by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi at the parade ground in Islamabad.

Indian deputy high commissioner J P Singh was also seen seated among the foreign diplomats invited to witness the parade.

Referring to cross-border ceasefire violations President Mamnoon accused India of gross human rights violations in Kashmir.

“With these actions, Pakistan’s neighbour has put the regional peace at stake,” he said.

Calling upon for an immediate and peaceful resolution of the struggle of Kashmiri people, the President said, “The only solution to the dispute of Kashmir is to provide the right of self-determination to Kashmiris, and Pakistan will continue to play its role in this regard.”

He said that Pakistan was ready to extend a hand of co-operation to the regional countries, but “taking it as a weakness will be a dangerous mistake”.

Mamnoon also said that the global scenario has changed, and now countries could not be coerced to tow the line of one particular country.

Cautioning against exploitation, suppression of nations and interference into the internal affairs of any country by another nation, he said “Pakistan’s foreign policy was about achieving permanent peace in the world and is based on non-interference into internal issues of other countries”.

He said that Pakistan had been playing a vital role for the global peace and rendering commendable services from the UN platform for it.

On the issue of Afghanistan, Mamnoon said that Pakistan would continue playing its role for peaceful resolution of the Afghan issue.

“Pakistan had always played a historic role in the peaceful settlement of Afghan issue and for the stability of the Afghanistan government.”

He also stressed that efforts to curb terrorism should continue so that achievements made so far could be further strengthened.

Meanwhile, Abbasi, in his message, said that “We cannot succeed without upholding the rule of law and supremacy of the Constitution.”

The special performance by the Jordan military band was the highlight of the day in which troops from Turkey and UAE also participated.

Contingents from the Pakistan’s Army, Air Force, Navy, Frontier Corps and Pakistan Rangers participated in a march-past.

Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan led a fly-past as a salute to the president and later joined the guests at the parade ground.

The other who witnessed the event include Pakistan’s Defence Minister Khurrum Dastagir, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Navy Chief Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi and Chairman Joint Chief of Staff Committee Zubair Mehmood Hayat.

Pakistan Day parade resumed in 2015 after a gap of seven years. It was suspended due to threat of militancy.

Earlier, the day began with a 31-gun salute in Islamabad and 21-gun salute in the provincial capitals.

Full report at:



PML-N move to send presidential reference to apex court over contradictory judgements

Malik Asad

March 24, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has decided in principle to request President Mamnoon Hussain to seek the opinion of the Supreme Court full bench on two ‘contradictory’ judgements including the one that removed Nawaz Sharif from the Prime Minister office.

Legal minds in the PML-N told Dawn on Friday that the issue had already been discussed with the party’s supreme leadership. During the discussion, the two ‘contradictory’ judgements were identified, they said, adding that at least two members of the SC bench that gave Panamagate verdict were also part of another bench that handed down judgement in a dispute between the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).

Earlier on April 2, 2011, the Supreme Court had been approached by the then president Asif Ali Zardari under its advisory jurisdiction to seek an opinion on revisiting the death sentence awarded to former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto through a presidential reference under Article 186 of the Constitution.

Article 186 of the Constitution related to Advisor Jurisdiction says: “If, at any time, the President considers that it is desirable to obtain the opinion of the Supreme Court on any question of law which he considers of public importance, he may refer the question to the Supreme Court for consideration.”

In the judgement of July 28, 2017 the SC bench comprising Justice Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh and Justice Ijazul Ahsan relied upon dictionary definitions to substantiate that Mr Sharif was dishonest as he did not declare the receivable salary in his assets declaration.

The bench observed that since Mr Sharif did not declare his receivable salary as an asset therefore, the court disqualified him to hold the Prime Minister office. Later, the apex court also disqualified him from heading his party.

According to the SC bench, the receivable salary is also an asset. It observed: “The word asset has not been defined in the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1976, (ROPA) therefore, its ordinary meaning has to be considered for the purposes of this case.” Subsequently, the bench relied upon Black’s Law Dictionary as well as Business Dictionaries to substantiate the case against the former prime minister.

Three months after Mr Sharif’s disqualification, a three-member bench comprising Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Ijazul Ahsan (both also on the Panamagate bench) and Justice Qazi Faez Isa passed another judgement passed in a dispute between the SECP and SBP. While deciding this case on Oct 27, 2017, the SC bench declared that the “reference to the dictionaries by judges, without first examining the statutory provision and its context, was inappropriate. Such an approach may result in incorporating into the legislation something which it did not contain, and what the legislature did not intend”.

The judgement added: “Judges should not create liability by interpretative techniques. It will be apt to quote Lord Diplock “it endangers continued public confidence in the political impartiality of the judiciary which is essential to the continuance of the rule of law, if judges, under the guise of interpretation, provide their own preferred amendments to statues which experience of their operation has shown to have had consequences that members of the court before whom the matter comes consider to be injurious to the public interest.”

Sources in the PML-N said that there was a proper law for the definition of receivable salary — Income Tax Ordinance (ITO) 2001, which is considered very comprehensive not only in Pakistan and but was also quoted abroad. Under the said law, Mr Sharif was not required to declare “receivable” salary in his nomination papers or any other declaration or had shown it as “asset”, the sources explained.

As per Section 12 of the ITO 2001, salary is an amount received by an employee in a tax year.

The Oct 27 judgement in the dispute between the SECP and the SBP has been reported in All-Pakistan Legal Decision, commonly known as “PLD”, in 2018.

As there is no right to appeal against the matters which the apex court entertain under Article 184/3 of the Constitution and under suo motu jurisdiction, a presidential reference would be sent to the apex court under Article 186 of the Constitution in order to resolve the issue, the sources said.

Barrister Jahangir Jadoon, a senior member of PML-N Lawyers Forum, when reached said that this particular issue had been discussed with the party’s supreme leader Nawaz Sharif. It was decided that the lawyers’ forum would send a request to President Hussain in this regard.

Full report at:



Shahbaz urges unity, reconciliation among state institutions

March 24, 2018

LAHORE: Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has appealed to politicians, generals and judges to sit together for the sake of the country and build a new Pakistan.

He was addressing the inauguration ceremony of Punjab Tianjin University of Technology (PTUT) on its campus in Township through videolink from London on Friday.

The chief minister said confrontation between institutions should be addressed through reconciliation. “We should have to eliminate internal differences, opposition and baseless confrontation,” he said, adding that all institutions should work together for the betterment of the country.

He said this was not the time to shed tears over mistakes committed in the past, but lesson should be learnt from those mistakes. State institutions should work intelligently to end differences with each other.

“Respect and rights of parliament should not be violated. Supreme Court judges were respectable and they had the right to interpret the Constitution,” he said, adding that the armed forces were working for national defence and their services towards eliminating terrorism were unforgettable.

Shahbaz said that technology-based education was the need of the hour and would change the destiny of the nation. He said they had achieved a milestone by establishing this technology university. He thanked the Chinese government, university syndicate, educational experts of Punjab and his team members who worked hard for setting up of PTUT.

He claimed that the Punjab government had taken unprecedented steps during the last 10 years for improving the education sector and establishment of PTUT was a part of those efforts. Establishment of modern educational institutions was an important development towards transforming Pakistan according to the ideals of Iqbal and Jinnah.

Chinese Consul General in Lahore Long Dingbin, acting Vice Chancellor Dr Fazal Ahmad and Project Director Mufti Hashim also addressed the gathering. Provincial ministers Sheikh Allauddin and Rana Mashhood Ahmad, Punjab Information Technology Board Chairman Dr Umar Saif, the chief secretary, provincial secretaries and heads of Chinese institutions also attended the meeting. Later, visitors were presented with shields and souvenirs.

Full report at:

The university session started on March 19.





Saudi Arabia will eventually fail in Yemen just like in Syria, Iraq: Houthi

Mar 23, 2018

Leader of Yemen's Houthi Ansarullah movement Abdul Malik Badreddin al-Houthi has stressed that Saudi Arabia will finally fail in its all-out military aggression against its conflict-ridden southern neighbor as it failed in Syria and Yemen.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Lebanon’s Arabic-language al-Akhbar daily newspaper published on Friday, Houthi said Saudi Arabia's policies in Yemen are doomed to failure, stressing that the Riyadh regime has not shied away from killing thousands of women and children, targeting crowded markets and social events such as weddings and bombing densely populated neighborhoods, schools and mosques in order to realize its goal of occupying the entire Yemeni soil.

He added that the Yemeni media outlets have sought to expose the extent of the tragedy and horror that the Saudi-led military aggression haunts Yemen and its nation.

The Houthi leader went on to say that the unjust economic siege against Yemen is also aimed at limiting the movement of ordinary people, including patients who are in need of medical treatment abroad, restricting humanitarian supplies, devaluation of local currency, drying up the salaries of civil servants, starving the Yemeni people and destroying factories plus service facilities.

“The Yemeni people have however remained steadfast, and managed to confront all forms of aggression much to the surprise of Saudi-led forces, which though the Yemeni people would surrenders within weeks after the military campaign,” he pointed out.

Houthi said, “Saudi Arabia is now in the midst of unprecedented attrition as its political, economic, security and military problems continue to deteriorate."

The Ansarullah chief said Saudi Arabia is being used "like a milking cow" by Americans, emphasizing that US President Donald Trump has been more successful than his predecessor Barack Obama to get money out of the Riyadh regime.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Houthi pointed to Yemen’s missile capabilities, underlining that the main goal is to reach the level of deterrence.

“Our missiles can now reach the heart of enemy areas. They have reached Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. Above all, they have penetrated the US-made air defense systems which they heavily depend on. Our Burkan-2 (Volcano-2) ballistic missiles have reached al-Yamamah Palace in Riyadh and go even longer,” he commented.

Houthi said Yemen's resigned president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, and a number of his administration members are currently being incarcerated inside Saudi Arabia.

About 14,000 people have been killed since the onset of Saudi Arabia’s military campaign against Yemen in March 2015. Much of the Arabian Peninsula country's infrastructure, including hospitals, schools and factories, has been reduced to rubble due to the war.

The United Nations says a record 22.2 million people are in need of food aid, including 8.4 million threatened by severe hunger.

A high-ranking UN aid official recently warned against the “catastrophic” living conditions in Yemen, stating that there is a growing risk of famine and cholera there.

“After three years of conflict, conditions in Yemen are catastrophic,” John Ging, UN director of aid operations, told the UN Security Council on February 27.

He added, “People's lives have continued unraveling. Conflict has escalated since November driving an estimated 100,000 people from their homes.”

Ging further noted that cholera has infected 1.1 million people in Yemen since last April, and a new outbreak of diphtheria has occurred in the war-ravaged Arab country since 1982.



Turkey targets 155 people over suspected Gulen links

Mar 23, 2018

Turkey has launched new operations to arrest 155 suspected followers of Fethullah Gulen, a US-based cleric whom Ankara blames for the failed 2016 coup.

Turkey witnessed a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, when a faction of the military declared that the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was no more in charge of the country. However, over the course of some two days, the putsch was suppressed. Almost 250 people were killed and nearly 2,200 others wounded in the abortive coup. Gulen has denied charges of having masterminded the coup.

According to Istanbul police, arrest warrants were issued on Friday for 55 employees of Isik Publications, a publishing company that printed Gulen's books, in 13 provinces.

Meanwhile, state-run Anadolu news agency reported that warrants were also issued for 38 former police officers in six provinces for their alleged links to Gulen's network. Twenty-four had been arrested, it said.

The news agency further said police also targeted 62 executives of five labor unions in a third operation spread across seven provinces, adding 38 people had been detained.

The labor unions were part of Aksiyon Is Confederation, an association of unions that the government closed over suspected links to the Gulen network.

The new wave of arrests comes despite a UN call for an end to the state of emergency in place in the country since the failed coup that led to "human rights violations", including the arrest of 160,000 people and dismissal of nearly the same number of civil servants.

President Erdogan declared a three-month state of emergency after the coup attempt in July 2016, and has so far extended it for six times.

Turkey's Foreign Ministry slammed the UN report, saying it was filled with unfounded allegations.

Full report at:



Turkey flays EU statements on Greece, Cyprus

March 24, 2018

ANKARA - Turkey on Friday condemned as unacceptable statements by EU leaders bitterly critical of Ankara’s policies towards bloc members Cyprus and Greece, raising tensions days ahead of a key summit.

“The statement that was issued contained unacceptable comments against our country that serve the interests of Greece and the Greek Cypriots,” foreign ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy told reporters in response to Thursday’s EU statement.

EU President Donald Tusk and Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker are due on Monday to hold talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Bulgarian city of Varna.

Aksoy complained said the EU had backed Athens and Nicosia simply because they are members, “without considering whether they are right”. “The EU has lost its objectivity on the Cyprus issue,” he said.

The statement by the 28 European Union members meeting in Brussels condemned Turkey’s “illegal actions” towards Greece and Cyprus after Ankara’s arrest of two Greek soldiers and its promise to prevent the internationally-recognised Greek Cypriot government from exploring for oil and gas.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied the northern third of the island in response to a Greek military junta-sponsored coup.

While Greek-majority Republic of Cyprus is internationally recognised, the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is recognised only by Ankara.

Erdogan has warned foreign energy companies not to “overstep the mark” after Turkey’s warships blocked an Italian drilling vessel of energy giant ENI off Cyprus in February.

The Greek soldiers were arrested on March 2 for entering a military zone in the northern Turkish province of Edirne and have now been remanded in custody ahead of trial.

“The legal process continues. We expect the EU council to avoid statements which represent interference in the judiciary,” Aksoy said.

The summit between Erdogan and the EU chiefs is seen as crucial in setting up the future framework of Turkey’s relationship with the bloc.

Turkey had sought to join the EU for over half a century but membership talks hit the buffers over the crackdown imposed in the wake of the 2016 failed coup.

Some EU leaders have suggested membership is no longer realistic and a pragmatic partnership forged instead.

Full report at:



Turkey slams ‘unacceptable’ EU stance on Cyprus, Greece

Mar 23, 2018

Turkey on Friday condemned as unacceptable statements by EU leaders bitterly critical of Ankara's policies towards bloc members Cyprus and Greece, raising tensions days ahead of a key summit.

"The statement that was issued contained unacceptable comments against our country that serve the interests of Greece and the Greek Cypriots," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy told reporters in response to Thursday's EU statement.

EU President Donald Tusk and Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker are due on Monday to hold talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Bulgarian city of Varna.

Aksoy complained that the EU had backed Athens and Nicosia simply because they are members, "without considering whether they are right".

"The EU has lost its objectivity on the Cyprus issue," he said.

The statement by the 28 European Union members meeting in Brussels condemned Turkey's "illegal actions" towards Greece and Cyprus after Ankara's arrest of two Greek soldiers and its promise to prevent the internationally-recognized Greek Cypriot government from exploring for oil and gas.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied the northern third of the island in response to a Greek military junta-sponsored coup.

While Greek-majority Republic of Cyprus is internationally recognized, the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is recognized only by Ankara.

Erdogan has warned foreign energy companies not to "overstep the mark" after Turkey's warships blocked an Italian drilling vessel of energy giant ENI off Cyprus in February.

The Greek soldiers were arrested on March 2 for entering a military zone in the northern Turkish province of Edirne and have now been remanded in custody ahead of trial.

"The legal process continues. We expect the EU council to avoid statements which represent interference in the judiciary," Aksoy said.

The summit between Erdogan and the EU chiefs is seen as crucial in setting up the future framework of Turkey's relationship with the bloc.

Turkey had sought to join the EU for over half a century but membership talks hit the buffers over the crackdown imposed in the wake of the 2016 failed coup.

Some EU leaders have suggested membership is no longer realistic and a pragmatic partnership forged instead.

Full report at:



HRW reveals Turkey’s ‘mass deportation’ of Syrians

Mar 23, 2018

Human Right Watch (HRW) says Turkish forces routinely stop and send back groups comprising hundreds or thousands of displaced Syrians, opening fire on them on many occasions.

In a Thursday report, the New York-based body said the pattern was being witnessed since at least last December. The externally-displaced Syrians are then forced to return to the violence-ravaged province of Idlib, which holds large concentrations of Takfiri terrorists, it said.

As many as 1.3 million other Syrians are already stranded in the northwestern Syrian province.

The organization said Turkey had started preventing Syrian asylum seekers from even legally crossing its border since at least mid-2015.

The report was based on interviews with 21 Syrians, who had recounted how the forces would repeatedly block their entry into Turkey.

Another 35 Syrians told the HRW that they would not try to escape Idlib for fear of being shot by the border guards.

Nine Syrians interviewed described a total of 10 shooting incidents between last September and this March, in which, they said, 14 people were killed and 18 others injured.

EU complicity

The HRW said Turkey’s anti-refugee measures “has been reinforced by a controversial EU-Turkey March 2016 migration agreement to curb refugee and migration flows to the European Union.”

It urged the EU to “instead be working with Turkey to keep its borders open to refugees, providing financial support for Turkey’s refugee efforts, and sharing responsibility by stepping up resettlement of refugees from Turkey.”

Full report at:



Syrian civilians have started returning to Afrin: Turkish army chief

March 23 2018

Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar said on March 22 that civilians have begun returning to areas cleared of People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants in Afrin in northwestern Syria, which Turkey on March 18 declared control over amid its ongoing “Operation Olive Branch.”

According to a statement from the General Staff, Akar said the main goal of the operation was to ensure the safe and peaceful return of civilians who had “faced persecution and oppression of the terror group,” referring to the YPG.

The remarks came during his visit to military units, command centers and headquarters in the southern border provinces of Hatay and Kilis.

He was accompanied by Turkish Land Forces Commander Gen. Yaşar Güler, Air Forces Commander Gen. Hasan Kücükakyüz, Naval Forces Commander Adm. Adnan Özbal and 2nd Army Commander Lt. Gen. Metin Temel.

The Turkish military has been collaborating with public institutions to provide medical services and other support to the civilians, Akar said.

He added that 157 military personnel who were injured in Afrin voluntarily returned to the battlefield after receiving treatment in hospitals.

The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey’s rights based on international law, U.N. Security Council resolutions, its self-defense rights under the U.N. charter, and respect for Syria’s territorial integrity, he said.

According to the General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region as well as to “protect Syrians from the oppression and cruelty of terrorists.”

Full report at:



Southeast Asia


Malaysian Politicians Exploit Racial Issues, NGO Says in New Report


Politicians in Malaysia are exploiting racial issues to jockey for seats in an upcoming general election, a local human rights group warned this week in a rare report on racial discrimination in the multi-ethnic country.

Pusat Komas blamed the government of Prime Minister Najib Razak for the problem, saying it had reneged on its promises to promote national unity and social cohesion in the country.

“In fact, racism has become more pronounced and is being increasingly used as a tool to divide and rule,” the NGO said in the report released in conjunction with the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21.

Pusat Komas, which aims to promote and enhance unity through the use of popular media, said incidences of racial discrimination in Malaysia had increased last year based on news reports.

“As the 14th General Elections is around the corner, numerous politicians from all sides, have resorted to the usage of racial politics to win the political support of the people,” it said.

Ruling, opposition parties deny playing race card

Malays and other indigenous groups account for nearly 70 percent of Malaysia’s population of 31 million, with ethnic Chinese making up 23 percent and ethnic Indians and others the remainder.

Most of the Malaysian political parties are race-based, including Najib’s United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the linchpin of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.

UMNO has denied exploiting racial issues.

“UMNO does not survive on racial issues despite the fact the party relies heavily on the support of the Malays,” Annuar Musa, UMNO’s information chief, told BenarNews on Friday.

“The core of the party’s struggle is for the benefit of the Malays, but the party still looks into the needs of the non-Malays that are part of the various ethnic groups in the country,” he said.

But ethnic minorities have complained about a lack of educational and business opportunities, saying that a government affirmative-action policy in favor of ethnic Malays had marginalized them.

Among other BN component parties are the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), both of which cater to the ethnic Chinese and Indian population.

The key opposition Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) party, led by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, is Malay-based and he has made it clear that racial politics are here to stay.

“The sophisticated and highly educated urban people may believe that racial politics are not in keeping with the times,” Mahathir, the former president of UMNO, said in a blog post soon after setting up the party in 2016.

“But on the ground it is different. For the rural people who largely are poor, race is not only important but they believe (it) is essential for their well-being. UMNO’s popularity is because it is a racial party.”

Among the other opposition parties are the predominantly Chinese Democratic Action Party (DAP) and Malay Muslim-based Parti Islam Se Malaysia (PAS).

Liew Chin Tong, the head of the DAP in southern Johor state, rejected any notion that his party played the race card.

"DAP has always championed the principles of accepting all Malaysians, including Sabahans and Sarawakians,” he said referring to the people of the east Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, on Borneo, that joined Malaysia in 1963.

“Racial politics is never part of DAP, we fight for all Malaysians irrespective or race, religion and color,” Liew told BenarNews.

Religious extremism on rise

The Pusat Komas report mentioned “a rise in religious extremism” in Malaysia and said it had “led to discriminatory actions that have impeded the rights of Malaysians from different ethnic groups.

“Though the discriminatory actions may stem from a religious perspective, the intersectionality between religious and racial discrimination is apparent in these cases,” it said. “This new trend is not only worrying but it highlights the inherent danger of the overreach of bureaucratic Islamic institution[s].”

Islam is the official religion of Malaysia, which has sizable Buddhist, Christian and Hindu communities.

The Pusat Komas report also highlighted several positive examples where initiatives were taken to promote national unity and social cohesion, including by high-level politicians, sultans, commercial bodies, youth groups, sportsmen, military, religious authorities and even a beauty company.

“This clearly shows the power of ordinary citizens to stop racism and racist remarks in time and prevent the spread of hatred before it would severely damage the social fabric,” said Rita Izsak-Ndiaye, a member of the panel that monitors the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).

Malaysia was among a handful of countries which did not sign and ratify the ICERD, Ndiaye, a former U.N. Special Rapporteur on minority issues, said in a foreword to the Pusat Komas report.

“Joining the other 179 State Parties who have already done so is not only important because it signifies an important pledge toward eliminating racial discrimination, but comes with very concrete benefits,” she said.



Jakarta to improve education in Christian-majority regions

March 23, 2018

Indonesia will focus on improving the quality of education provided in three eastern, Christian-led provinces in cooperation with local churches, Minister of Education and Culture Muhadjir Effendy said.

Papua, West Papua and East Nusa Tenggara consistently rank at the bottom of the table in terms of education among the country's 34 provinces.

"We still face huge challenges, especially in [improving] public schools. But I am optimistic that working more closely with the church will make the government's job in this area easier," Effendy said on March 21 during a meeting with the National Council of Catholic Education (MNPK).

The MNPK, a work unit of the Bishops' Conference, is responsible for 5,000 Catholic schools across the country.

Effendy lavished praise on the quality of education at Catholic schools, adding he wants to see what can be taken and applied in public schools.

"There are many best practices in Catholic schools that can be adopted by other schools," he said.

The three provinces have much work to do before they can compete with other parts of the country in education quality, but Catholic schools including seminaries are generally considered a cut above.

Effendy said he visited the three provinces to discuss ways of effecting change with local government officials. They cited problems related to facilities, teachers and school management, he added.

The government raised the education budget for the three provinces this year and is likely to continue doing so to improve school facilities and install better-qualified teachers and principals, the minister said.

For East Nusa Tenggara, the government has set aside US$66 million this year, a more than fivefold increase from the US$10.9 million granted in 2017 to give students a more comprehensive education.

Effendy said the MNPK will help to organize teacher training programs and the government will support funding.

"I came to the conclusion the government cannot walk alone, so we decided to invite the private sector to participate, especially the church," he said.

Father Vinsensius Darmin Mbula, chairman of the MNPK, welcomed the plan.

"Our commitment is to help the government with its programs," he said.

These efforts will be bolstered by the establishment of teacher-training centers in some areas in eastern Indonesia, he added.

"We will select the teachers who will become facilitators," he said, adding the government must continue to work with the church in order to maximize results.

"Funding for public schools is quite high but the results have been minimal," he said.

Robertus Ombe, a resident of Benteng Jawa in East Manggarai district, East Nusa Tenggara said he hoped the government would pour in the necessary resources to make the scheme a success.

Full report at:



In Indonesia, a Shadowy Campaign to Stoke Unrest as Elections Loom

March 23, 2018

Bandung. A spate of mysterious attacks on Islamic clerics, schools and mosques in Indonesia in recent weeks has ramped up tensions as the world's most populous Muslim-majority country heads into provincial elections and a presidential poll next year.

Intelligence and Islamic officials believe that political forces are behind what they describe as a shadowy "black campaign" designed to whip up fear that Islam itself is under siege under the leadership of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo.

In one town near the capital, Jakarta, a mosque manager was stabbed and a religious scholar received an anonymous letter warning that 10 clerics would be killed. Videos of what police say are fake attacks on Muslim clerics and schools have also been distributed on social media, heightening a mood of unease.

The attacks on the heavily populated island of Java have come as hardline Muslim groups press for a more conservative society and decry moderate politicians, posing a threat to Indonesia's reputation for tolerance and the democracy it won with the downfall of authoritarian President Suharto in 1998.

Indeed, there are echoes today of the panics stirred up by Suharto, which typically involved attacks on religious figures and institutions and sometimes a communist scare to discredit politicians.

Elections are due across the country in June for dozens of governors, district heads and mayors. Analysts see those polls as an opening skirmish before 2019's battle for the presidency.

Ridwan Kamil, mayor of the city of Bandung and frontrunner to become governor of West Java province, says he has been hounded for months by hoax stories online that questioned the strength of his Islamic faith.

"If you are not a Muslim, they will label you an infidel. If you are Muslim, they will label you not Islamic enough," Kamil said of his opponents in an interview with Reuters, declining to identify them.

"They're trying to send a message ... that the country is not safe, that the government is failing, that we need to replace the existing government. Who gets the benefit? Whoever challenges Jokowi," he said, referring to President Widodo, whom he supports for re-election, by his nickname.

A Campaign to Sow Discord

The potency of religion as a swing factor in elections was graphically illustrated last year when the popular governor of Jakarta, Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic-Chinese Christian and close ally of Jokowi, lost his bid for re-election after being accused of insulting the Koran.

An online video of him speaking had been edited to make it seem that he was criticizing the Koran when in fact he was sniping at people who use a passage of Islam's holy book to warn Muslims against voting for non-Muslims.

Ahok's ouster was spearheaded by the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), a hardline group that organized huge protests against him in late 2016. He was later jailed for blasphemy.

Reuters investigations into the recent attacks in Java showed that the FPI has been involved in stoking the tensions.

National Police chief Tito Karnavian says the wave of violence has not been "massive or systematic," and he blames online activists for "spicing up" anxiety among Muslims. There have only been three actual assaults and about 42 fake attacks were promoted online, he said.

Even so, intelligence officials, Islamic leaders and politicians say there is a concerted effort to sow discord through vandalism and threats to Islamic leaders, schools and mosques, reinforced through social media. Intelligence agency chief Budi Gunawan described it as a "rampant black campaign."

A leader of the Islamic Union, a mainstream organization known as Persis, was killed in the early hours of Feb. 1 by a man wielding an iron bar. Senior Persis leaders told Reuters that 22 of the group's schools, mosques and teachers had been vandalized or received abusive phone calls since that incident.

Someone, said Persis deputy chairman Jeje Zaenudin, is trying to "provoke a reaction."

Mahmud Syaltout, deputy secretary general of the youth wing of Indonesia's largest Muslim group, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), said NU schools and mosques have been targeted.

One man who was caught vandalizing a mosque in East Java appeared to be healthy and feigning madness, he said.

Jokowi's chief of staff, retired military chief Moeldoko, told local media someone was playing "old games," noting that deploying mentally ill people to create unrest was a tactic that harked back to the Suharto era.

Red Scare

Pressed by Jokowi, the NU and another moderate Islamic group, Muhammadiyah, have stepped up grassroots efforts to combat fundamentalist movements. According to a recent survey, nearly 20 percent of high school and university students support the establishment of an caliphate rather than a secular state.

On social media, much of the blame for the recent attacks has been laid on "communists" who - critics say have been allowed to flourish under Jokowi and his left-leaning Indonesia Democratic Party-Struggle.

The government and independent analysts have said there is no credible evidence of a revival of Indonesia's outlawed communist party (PKI), once the world's second-largest. The party was decimated after soldiers and Islamic vigilantes slaughtered - according to some estimates - at least 500,000 alleged leftists and their families in 1965.

Even so, Islamists, ultra-nationalists and elements of the military frequently warn of a resurgence. Analysts see the fomenting of a "red scare" as partly aimed at Jokowi, a reformist and moderate who has often been falsely labelled by enemies as a descendant of communists.

Earlier this year, a homeless man, suspected of planning to attack a cleric at an Islamic boarding school in West Java, was beaten and accused of being a communist.

The man was accosted by students as he paced up and down a lane by their school near the town of Bogor around 3 a.m. on Feb. 10, said Mahmud Mukhlis, one of the students.

A pin was found inside the vagrant's bag that a local cadre of the FPI Islamic group declared was "a symbol of the PKI," Mukhlis said. The pin, viewed by Reuters, was in fact a name tag from a high school emblazoned with an eagle, Indonesia's national symbol.

Members of FPI filmed the assault and shared the video on social media, said Mukhlis.

Slamet Maarif, a spokesman for FPI, did not deny his group was behind the video. He said it needed to be proven that the homeless man's "communist" plot was a hoax, and described the incident as evidence of "an awakening" of the communist party.

"The government should be following up, and not accusing the people of spreading a hoax," Slamet said.

Muslim Cyber Army

Police have arrested about 20 members of a network of online activists for spreading fake news about attacks on religious figures across Java.

Known as the Muslim Cyber Army (MCA), the network was formed after the government shut down some of FPI's websites and social media accounts following anti-Purnama demonstrations in 2016.

Police say they are investigating who funds and directs the MCA. FPI leaders have frequently praised the network, and have urged police to stop harassing it.

For a decade, West Java province has been ruled by a coalition of nationalist and conservative Islamic parties that support Prabowo Subianto, a former Suharto-era special forces commander who lost the 2014 presidential election to Jokowi.

In that contest, Jokowi was buffeted by an online smear campaign that he came from a family of communists and had Chinese ancestry. Warnings of a communist comeback are often linked to a surge in Chinese investment and workers in Indonesia, part of Jokowi's drive to revamp the country's crumbling infrastructure.

Prabowo is expected to again challenge Jokowi, a moderate reformer currently riding high in opinion polls, in next year’s election.

Prabowo was buoyed by the victory of a candidate he backed in last year's Jakarta governor election, but his Gerindra party's contestant to become governor in West Java is well behind Ridwan in opinion surveys.

Gerindra's deputy secretary general, Ahmad Reza Patria, said the party had no links to the "vile and extraordinary acts" in Java. Prabowo has not commented publicly on the incidents.

Bandung Mayor Ridwan said he has stepped up security patrols in his city following the wave of attacks, but he is in no doubt that they are politically motivated.

Full report at:





Al-Shabab bomb kills 17 in Mogadishu

MARCH 23, 2018

No fewer than 17 people were killed and eight others injured in an explosion on Thursday outside a popular hotel in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Internal Security, Abdiaziz Ali Ibrahim, told the media that the wounded were being treated at the city’s hospitals.

“Seventeen people died including a young girl, some workers and persons having tea at roadside teashops popularly known as bibiito,” said Mr Ibrahim. He said a tricycle taxi, locally known as bajaaj, may have been used for the explosion. The blast occurred opposite one of Mogadishu’s oldest lodges, the Weheliye Hotel, along the busy Maka al-Mukarrama Avenue. The jihadist Al-Shabaab group claimed responsibility. The group carries out frequent attacks in Mogadishu as it seeks to overthrow the internationally recognised Somali government. In October last year, al Shabaab killed more than 500 people in the deadliest attack at a busy intersection in Mogadishu. Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen, more commonly known as al-Shabaab, is a jihadist fundamentalist group based in East Africa. Founded in 2006, the jihadists In 2012, it pledged allegiance to the militant Islamist organization Al-Qaeda. It emerged as the radical youth wing of Somalia’s now-defunct Union of Islamic Courts, which controlled Mogadishu in 2006, before being forced out by Ethiopian forces. There are numerous reports of foreign jihadists going to Somalia to help al-Shabab, from neighbouring countries, as well as the US and Europe. It is banned as a terrorist group by both the US and the UK and is believed to have between 7,000 and 9,000 fighters. Al-Shabab advocates the Saudi-inspired Wahhabi version of Islam, while most Somalis are Sufis. It has imposed a strict version of Sharia in areas under its control, including stoning to death women accused of adultery and amputating the hands of thieves.



State denies executions by police and blames al Shabaab

Mar. 24, 2018

Claims of extrajudicial executions in Garsen are malicious, Tana River county commissioner Oning’oi ole Sossio has said. The Muslims for Human Rights had claimed that KDF officers in the county have executed residents. KDF are in the area as part of the al Shabaab fighting mission. Muhuri accused them of killing residents on suspicion that they were terrorists. Speaking in Hola on Friday, Sossio said those killed, especially pastoralists, were gunned down by al Shabaab terrorists.



Boko Haram: UN issues warning on areas freed from sect

March 23, 2018

By Wale Odunsi

UN Deputy Secretary-General, Ms Amina Mohammed has said the areas of Lake Chad Basin that have been freed from the grip of Boko Haram must be manned by security operatives.

Mohammed, in an address to the Security Council yesterday, also called for efforts to rebuild the lives of women and girls that had suffered in the hands of the terrorist group.

She said recent joint efforts by the four of the affected countries-Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger – had resulted in “considerable progress” in the fight against the extremists.

Mohammed, speaking via videoconference from Liberia where she participated in celebrations to mark the end of the UN peacekeeping mission, noted the liberation of hostages as well as territorial gains.

However, she reported that Boko Haram had stepped up the use of women and girls as suicide bombings.

“It is now key to stabilise the areas that have been reclaimed, and that we seize the opportunity to really promote sustainable development,” she said.

Mohamed was joined by Mohammed Bila, a representative of the Lake Chad Basin Commission based in N’Djamena, and Senior Conflict Adviser at Adelphi, Chitra Nagarajan.

They painted a picture of the factors behind people’s suffering in the Lake Chad Basin and driving some to terrorism one year after the Council adopted its first resolution on the activities of Boko Haram in the region.

Mohammed stressed the need to incorporate human rights and gender dimensions into activities aimed at countering terrorism or preventing violent extremism.

She said the increase in Boko Haram’s use of women and girls as suicide bombers could be due to lack of women security officers who could search other women at checkpoints.

Full report at:



Car bomb blast in Somali capital kills 6 people

23 March 2018

At least six people were killed and more than 21 wounded when a car bomb exploded on the busiest street in Somalia’s capital Thursday, according to emergency services and local officials.

The main ambulance service in Mogadishu confirmed the death toll in a statement posted on Twitter.

"Aamin Ambulance crew near Weheliye Hotel to rescue and evacuate injured civilians after VBIED denoted at Maka Mukarama Street,” said the tweet, using the acronym for vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices.

“As of now death toll reaches six and 21 injured civilians."

"The car bomb attack took place near the Weheliye Hotel, we don't know yet what the real target was," Sgt. Adan Abdulle, a police officer said.

He added that casualties could rise as the attack happened during rush hour.

Weheliye Hotel is located in central Mogadishu along Maka Al-Mukarama Street, the busiest street in the capital.

Local media also reported that at least 14 people were killed in the blast.

Somali-based al-Qaeda affiliated group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack on the Internet.

Full report at:



Uganda: Army, Police Seal Off Mosque Over Muslim Wrangles in Bushenyi

22 MARCH 2018

By Felix Ainebyoona & Alfred Tumushabe

Bushenyi — Army and police have been deployed at Basajjabalaba Mosque in Bushenyi-Ishaka municipality for five days now following disagreements among the Muslims in the area.

Bushenyi District Police Commander (DPC) Mr Ronald Rutaro said police backed up by the army last Sunday, moved to secure property and lives of people after a group of Muslims attacked the mosque last week.

"We got information that a group of Muslims had attacked Ishaka-Basajjabalaba mosque with pangas; we went there and did a search and we were able to recover pangas and spears. We decided to deploy for the security of the area," Mr Rutaro said on Wednesday.

A section of Muslims are opposed to leadership the of the District Kadhi Mubarak Kateinama. They accuse him of poor management and misusing mosque property including finances, buildings and land.

Police say it is the group opposed to the Kadhi that invaded the mosque. "A day before the invasion, a gang of over 70 people moved through Bushenyi town with pangas protesting against the district Kadhi; we have arrested three with their pangas," said Mr Rutaro.

Though the Mufti of Uganda, Sheikh Shaban Ramadhan Mubajje has intervened in the matter, Mr Rutaro said police also are investigating the conflict and that deployment will remain until the situation returns to normal.

Hajji Umaru Muhanguzi, a councilor for Igara County in the Muslim Supreme Council, who is among those opposed to Sheik Kateinama's leadership said on Thursday that the Khadi has neglected his roles. "In administration of the area, Kadhi is not available yet this is a full time job. There is no progress in activities and work because he is not around. We have had only two Muslim District Council meetings in the last seven years when we should have been meeting quarterly," said Hajji Muhanguzi.

He added, "There should be a budget and work plan but these are not there. Islam in the area has lost meaning."

Mr Muhanguzi said the Muslims gave business tycoon Hassan Basajjabalaba land to establish personal projects on an understanding that he in turn constructs for them commercial buildings for income generation but he has never fulfilled this, and the district Khadhi is siding with him.

"On one of the (pieces of) land (Basjjabalaba was given) he has a parking yard and some buildings but he has never built for Muslims as promised. The Kadhi is on his side and we are saying why does he want Muslims to lose?" he said.

Muslims have not prayed from the mosque since security took control.

"Let them open the mosque and police remain to keep law and order as the issues are being resolved. There is no need for army," said Hajji Muhanguzi.

Sheik Kateinama however denied the allegations against him. "These are mere accusations, they are not true. We (Kateinama and his opponents) met Mufti in Kampala over these issues and an investigation is being conducted," said Sheik Kateinama.

He added that the impasse started last month. On February 16 while they were in Isingiro district attending a seminar, a group of Tabliq Muslims from different parts of the district went at night and took over operations of the mosque and the office of District Kadhi. He added that police did not help much when they reported the matter on February 17. Mr Kateinama said that instead of protecting the mosque from wrong elements, police offered them protection and that caused insecurity in the area.

"Since February 16, the mosque had been under threat by the people who are known to the security as bad elements who are training rebels.

Army have been deployed to help us to protect the place because it had become insecure for us since there are some people who were threatening to tie themselves with bombs so that they can explode with it at the mosque," said Mr Kateinama.

Full report at:




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