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Islamic World News ( 18 May 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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ISIS Posters Threaten Messi, Ronaldo Beheadings at Russia World Cup

New Age Islam News Bureau

18 May 2018

Barcelona's Lionel Messi from Argentina (right), celebrates his goal next to Real's Cristiano Ronaldo, left, during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona in Madrid, Spain. (File photo: AP)



 ISIS Posters Threaten Messi, Ronaldo Beheadings at Russia World Cup

 Hafiz Saeed's Continued Freedom A 'Tremendous Concern': US

 Ayodhya Hearing: Offering Namaz at Mosque May Not Be Essential To Islam, Lawyer Contends

 Almost 90% Seminaries in FATA Affiliated With Wafaqul Madaris Deoband, Registration Report Shows

 Chinese Mass-Indoctrination Camps in Muslim-Majority Xinjiang Evoke Cultural Revolution



 ISIS Posters Threaten Messi, Ronaldo Beheadings at Russia World Cup

 Jews Support Muslims after Anti-Islam Rally In Philadelphia, Amid Middle East Conflict

 Pope appeals for peace in the Holy Land, Middle East

 Bishop takes tougher line on accused terrorist Neil Prakash

 Meet the Muslim princess Zaida, Spanish ancestor of the British royal family

 EU vows to block blow of US Iran sanctions

 EU countries agree Iran deal 'not perfect'

 Hague court looking at Israeli killing of Gazans


North America

 Hafiz Saeed's Continued Freedom A 'Tremendous Concern': US

 Anti-American Cleric’s Power Grows, Upending Pentagon’s Plans for Iraq

 Calgary’s Muslim community helping feed the hungry during Ramadan

 Washington seeks global 'coalition' against Iran regime



 Ayodhya Hearing: Offering Namaz at Mosque May Not Be Essential To Islam, Lawyer Contends

 PM Modi Extends Ramzan Greetings to Citizens: Here Is What He Said

 Meerut: Objection to Muslims Offering Namaz At A Tomb Triggers Clash

 Return home to join mainstream, contest elections: J-K BJP chief to Hizbul chief Syed Salahuddin

 Govt Tells Security Forces Not To Launch Ops in Kashmir for Ramzan, Mehbooba Welcomes ‘Ceasefire’

 Muslim body in India condemn Israeli atrocity on Palestine

 J&K: BSF constable among three killed in Pakistani shelling, PM Modi to visit valley tomorrow



 Almost 90% Seminaries in FATA Affiliated With Wafaqul Madaris Deoband, Registration Report Shows

 Need Stressed To Protect Basic Rights of Minorities

 1 killed, 14 injured in suicide attack in northwest Pakistan

 IHC reserves verdict pertaining to ban on Ramzan transmission, game shows

 Lord Buddha’s holy relics returned back to Pakistan

 Pakistan criticises UNSC over its failure to condemn Gaza violence

 FC personnel foil major terrorist attack in Quetta, all attackers killed

 Pak soldiers offering sacrifices in terror fight: PM


Southeast Asia

 Chinese Mass-Indoctrination Camps in Muslim-Majority Xinjiang Evoke Cultural Revolution

 Ex-MP Fears Return of Mahathir-Anwar Brand of Islam

 Indonesia to replicate edict on suicide bombing

 Brunei's independence tested by China, Saudi and waning oil

 Ahead of Elections, Indonesia Fights ‘Cyber Jihadists’ With Political Agenda

 Uphold moderate Islam, but don’t be too liberal, says Najib’s ex-aide

 Indonesia prosecutors demand death for radical leader over 2016 attacks


South Asia

 Ghani Urges Taliban to Refrain From Violence In Respect Of Holy Ramadan

 Rohingya Refugee Camps: Some 60 Babies Born A Day: UN

 Turkey to aid Rohingya in Ramadan

 With Rohingya gone, Myanmar's ethnic Rakhine seek Muslim-free 'buffer zone'

 Afghan Air Force video shows precision bombings on Taliban positions

 Suicide attack targets Pakistani forces vehicle in Nowshera

 US aid chief calls on Myanmar to end violence against Rohingya Muslims



 Libyan Army Says Terror Leaders ‘Reside In Turkey

 Islamists Are Losing Support In Jordan

 Nigeria, Cameroon forces kill 15 Boko Haram insurgents

 Brazil charges 11 with attempting to recruit minors for Daesh terror attacks



 Rouhani Urges Muslim States to Give 'Firm Response' To Israel's Crimes

 Will New US Sanctions Affect Iran’s Support for Hamas?

 Erdogan hosts Islamic summit to back Palestinians, condemn Israel

 US targets key Hezbollah financing network, and Iranian conduit

 Israeli air raids target Hamas facility in Gaza, Turkey seeks UN motion

 Iran scolds US, Israel for unilateralism on Iran deal, embassy move

 OIC must give due response to Israel’s carnage, Rouhani tells Qatari emir

 Turkey’s CHP presidential candidate warns to shut key US base unless Gulen extradited


Arab World

 Countdown Starts for ISIL's Ultimate Collapse in Southern Damascus

 19 Militants Killed In Egypt’s Anti-Terror Drive in Sinai

 Tensions Increase among Terrorist Groups in Idlib after Tens of ISIL Militants Flee Jails

 3 Terrorist Commanders Killed in Failed Attack against Army Positions in Hama

 Several Civilians Killed in US Airstrikes in Deir Ezzur

 Hasaka: US Conducts Another Heliborne Operations to Rescue Foreign ISIL Commander

 US-Backed SDF Forces Fear Armed Uprising by Civilians in Northern Syria

 US Sends New Military Convoy from Iraq to Eastern Syria

 Syrian Army Wins Back Control over Key ISIL Strongholds in Southern Damascus

 S. Arabia, Turkey's Footprints Found in Eastern Qalamoun of Damascus

 Army Regains Control over Central Syria after 30,000 Terrorists, Family Members Leave

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




ISIS posters threaten Messi, Ronaldo beheadings at Russia World Cup

18 May 2018

The Russian website RT has reported that ISIS threatened to behead football superstars Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi at the Russia 2018 World Cup using doctored posters.

The images, released on encrypted messaging channel Telegram, graphically depict masked terrorists kneeling on the two superstars’ backs and slicing at their necks with blades amid a packed stadium.

The 2018 FIFA World Cup tournament will be held in 12 stadiums located across 11 host cities.

Another poster shows a terrorist in combat fatigues clutching what looks like an explosive, while looking out onto the pitch in another full-capacity stadium.

The ISIS is using these posters to imply a threat to attack the World Cup games.

The latest threat follows another one by ISIS in March 2017 when Messi, the Argentina captain, was shown on his knees wearing an orange Guantanamo Bay-style jumpsuit, often seen worn by victims in the terrorists' execution videos. The backdrop was Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium.

ISIS had followed this up in October with another doctored image of the Barcelona legend to threaten attacks on Russia, says the RT report. Pictures also depicted an exploding World-Cup logo along with threats from ISIS terrorists to come to and fight in the country. Pctures showed Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow and Volgograd Arena in the background – venues for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

The RT report points out that ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics too , an affiliate of insurgent group Ansar al-Sunna had released a video threatening attacks throughout Russia.



Hafiz Saeed's continued freedom a 'tremendous concern': US

May 18, 2018

NEW DELHI: The United States on Friday expressed "tremendous concern" that Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief and 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed continues to operate freely in Pakistan.

"He (Hafiz Saeed) is out in the open, it is a tremendous concern to the US. We have a reward on him, for his arrest," said US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert.

She was responding to a question about ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's admission that Pakistani terrorists or "non-state actors" were responsible for the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack.

Without naming Mumbai attack conspirators Hafiz Saeed and Maulana Masood Azhar's terror outfits -- JuD and Jaish-e-Mohammad -- operating in the country with impunity, Sharif had said: "Militant organisations are active in Pakistan. Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill over 150 people in Mumbai?"

Sharif had questioned why the government and judiciary was unable to complete the Mumbai attacks-related trials that are presently stalled in a Rawalpindi anti-terrorism court.

India blamed the Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) for the 2008 attack on the city of Mumbai which claimed over 160 lives. Pakistan admitted the attacks were planned on its soil but denied any official involvement.

The US also blames LeT for the Mumbai attacks and has offered $10 million for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Hafiz Saeed.

It has on several occasions asked Islamabad to prosecute Saeed "to the fullest extent of law" and strongly condemned the decision to release the US-wanted terrorist from house arrest in November last year.

Earlier in May, Saeed kicked off campaigning for the Milli Muslim League, the political front of the JuD, with an eye on the general elections in Pakistan this year.

The US last month designated the Milli Muslim League as a foreign terrorist organisation, saying the banned LeT members make up MML's leadership and the so-called party openly displays Saeed's likeness in its election banners and literature.



Ayodhya hearing: Offering namaz at mosque may not be essential to Islam, lawyer contends

May 18, 2018

“To offer namaz is an essential practice of Islam, but to offer namaz at a mosque may not necessarily be an essential practice,” senior advocate K Parasaran, appearing for Ram Lalla Virajman, told a bench hearing the Ayodhya land dispute case on Thursday. Parasaran was responding to senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan’s demand that the 1994 decision of the apex court in K M Ismail Faruqui case in which it was held that “a mosque is not an essential part of the practice of the religion of Islam…” and “accordingly, its acquisition is not prohibited by the provisions in the Constitution of India” be referred to a Constitution bench before any decision was taken on the main title suit.

Dhavan contended that the Faruqui verdict, which was “founded on a confusion regarding the application of the essential and/or integral test”, had impacted the September 2010 Allahabad High Court decision in the Ayodhya title suit. The High Court ordered a three-way partition of the 2.77 acres between the three parties to the dispute — Ram Lalla Virajman, Nirmohi Akhara and Sunni Wakf Board. Parasaran submitted that the court’s findings in the Faruqui case were in the limited context of acquisition under the Ayodhya Act.

The order had not made any distinction between places of worship of different religions, he said, pointing out that the judgment had held that all public religious institutions like church, mosque and temple can be validly acquired in exercise of the inherent power of the Sovereign on the principle of eminent domain.

“Assuming without admitting that by a further reference to a larger bench Dr Ismail Faruqui is overruled, nevertheless, in so far as Ayodhya Janmasthan Babri Masjid is concerned, the judgment in Dr Ismail Faruqui will still be binding on the appellants on the principle of finality. See for principle, Explanation to Order 47 Rule 1 of CPC, which states that, ‘The fact that the decision on a question of law on which the judgment of the court is based has been reversed or modified by the subsequent decision of a superior court in any other case, shall not be a ground for the review of such judgment’,” Parasaran said. “Ayodhya was of significance to Hindus because of the belief that Lord Ram was born there,” he said.

Appearing for parties backing the temple, senior advocate C S Vaidyanathan took exception to Dhavan’s contention that there were “questionable aspects” in the Ismail Faruqui judgement. “It is completely unwarranted and inappropriate,” the counsel said. Dhavan said he was withdrawing the expression and it may be read as “controversial questions of law”.



Almost 90% seminaries in FATA affiliated with Wafaqul Madaris Deoband, registration report shows

MAY 18, 2018

ISLAMABAD: In a major boost to counter-extremism measures, the authorities have registered all 795 seminaries in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Frontier Regions of the Khyber-Pukhtunhwa (KP) province.

The process of registration had started under the National Action Plan formed following the Army Public School (APS) attack.

Speaking to Daily Times, Hashim Khan Afridi, the focal person of the Directorate of Education at the FATA Secretariat in Peshawar, said that the registration of seminaries in the region was a huge challenge since a military offensive had been underway against militant outfits. He said that of the 795 registered seminaries, 502 were catering to only male students, 173 to only females and 120 were offering co-education.

According to the annual report of the Directorate of Education, there are 59,991 students enrolled at these facilities in primary and secondary levels. Around three fourth of this student body is male (45,908) and the rest is female (14,083).

Before the current registration exercise, there were 387 religious seminaries in the region, while registration of 229 was incomplete, and 179 did not even apply for registration.

The annual report shows that a major bulk of seminaries in the tribal region are located in the South Waziristan Agency. There are 290 seminaries spread out in the SWA, followed by 130 in Mohmand Agency, 91 in North Waziristan Agency, 62 in Kurram Agency, 56 in Khyber Agency, 49 in Bajaur Agency, and 22 in Orakzai Agency. In Frontier region, Banu has 38 seminaries, Kohat 26, Laki Marwat 14, Dera Ismael Khan, nine, and Tank five, while the frontier region connected with Peshawar has three religious seminaries.

The report further reveals that of the 795 seminaries, almost 90 percent (683) are affiliated with the Wafaq-ul-Madaris Al-Arabia of the Deoband sect, 17 are affiliated with the Tanzeem-ul-Madaris of the Barelvi sect, 11 with Rabtaul-Madaris Al-Islamia of Jamaat Islami, and seven with Wafaq-ul-Madaris Al-Salafia (Ahle-Hadees), and four with Wafaq-ul-Madaris of Ahle-Tash’hih. As many as 73 seminaries have affiliation with no board.

While the process of registration of seminaries was a tough task, it was carried out effectively with joint efforts of the Education Departments in different agencies and the political administration, said Hashim Khan Afridi. He said that with the completion of registration the authorities would now look into reforms in the quality of education imparted at seminaries.

He said that after the National Action Plan various recommendation were discussed to counter radicalisation with the assistance of seminaries’ administrations.

“We have started primary level classes at different seminaries. At least 200 teachers will be appointed at seminaries in the coming months to teach secular subjects to students,” he said, adding that a seminary in Wana area of South Waziristan was already offering education till graduation level. More seminaries would soon be upgraded so that higher level classes could be offered at these facilities as well.

Afridi said that a project to improve infrastructure at seminaries across the region had been started in early 2017 and it continued till the mid of June, adding that the authorities were now working to initiate qualitative reforms in seminaries.

Afridi said that a lack of trust and communication between seminaries’ managements and the government had initially impacted the pace of the registration process, but these issues were soon addressed with the help of confidence building measures.



Chinese mass-indoctrination camps in Muslim-majority Xinjiang evoke Cultural Revolution

May 18, 2018

Since last spring, Chinese authorities in the heavily Muslim region of Xinjiang have imprisoned tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of Muslim Chinese — and even foreign citizens — in mass internment camps.

This detention campaign has swept across Xinjiang in what a US commission on China last month said was "the largest mass incarceration of a minority population in the world today".

Omir Bekali, a Kazakh Muslim, and other former detainees told the Associated Press how they had to disavow their Islamic beliefs, criticise themselves and their loved ones and give thanks to the ruling Communist Party.

When Mr Bekali refused to follow orders each day, he was forced to stand at a wall for five hours at a time.

A week later, he was sent to solitary confinement, where he was deprived of food for 24 hours. After 20 days in the heavily-guarded camp, he wanted to kill himself.

"I still think about it every night, until the sun rises. I can't sleep.

"The thoughts are with me all the time."

Chinese officials have largely avoided commenting on the camps, but some are quoted in state media as saying ideological changes are needed to fight separatism and Islamic extremism.

Radical Muslim Uighurs have killed hundreds in recent years, and China considers the region a threat to peace in a country where the majority is Han Chinese.

Life inside 're-education camps'

The internment program aims to rewire the political thinking of detainees, erase their Islamic beliefs and reshape their very identities.

The camps have expanded rapidly over the past year, with almost no judicial process or legal paperwork.

Detainees who most vigorously criticise the people and things they love are rewarded, and those who refuse to do so are punished with solitary confinement, beatings and food deprivation.

The recollections of Mr Bekali, 42, offer what appears to be the most detailed account yet of life inside so-called re-education camps.

The Associated Press also conducted rare interviews with three other former internees and a former instructor in other centres who corroborated Mr Bekali's depiction.

Most spoke on condition of anonymity to protect their families in China.

Mr Bekali's case stands out because he was a foreign citizen, of Kazakhstan, and was seized by China's security agencies and detained for eight months last year without recourse.

Although some details are impossible to verify, two Kazakh diplomats confirmed he was held for seven months and then sent to re-education.

Beijing's attempts at 'Cultural cleansing'

The detention program is a hallmark of China's emboldened state security apparatus under the deeply-nationalistic, hard-line rule of President Xi Jinping.

It is partly rooted in the ancient Chinese belief in transformation through education — taken once before to terrifying extremes during the mass thought reform campaigns of Mao Zedong, the Chinese leader sometimes channelled by Mr Xi.

Rian Thum, a professor at Loyola University in New Orleans, said China's re-education system echoed some of the worst human rights violations in history.

"The closest analogue is maybe the Cultural Revolution in that this will leave long-term, psychological effects," Thum said. "This will create a multigenerational trauma from which many people will never recover."

Asked to comment on the camps, China's Foreign Ministry said it "had not heard" of the situation.

When asked why non-Chinese had been detained, it said the Chinese Government protected the rights of foreigners in China and they should also be law-abiding.

Chinese officials in Xinjiang did not respond to requests for comment.

However, bits and pieces from state media and journals show the confidence Xinjiang officials hold in methods they say work well to curb religious extremism.

China's top prosecutor, Zhang Jun, urged Xinjiang's authorities this month to extensively expand what the Government calls the "transformation through education" drive in an "all-out effort" to fight separatism and extremism.

Detainees estimated to be at least in the 'tens of thousands'

In a June 2017 paper published by a state-run journal, a researcher from Xinjiang's Communist Party School reported most of 588 surveyed participants did not know what they had done wrong when they were sent to re-education.

But by the time they were released, nearly all — 98.8 per cent — had learned their mistakes, the paper said.

Transformation through education, the researcher concluded, "is a permanent cure".

All-encompassing, data-driven surveillance tracked residents in Xinjiang with around 12 million Muslims, including ethnic Uighurs and Kazakhs.

Viewing a foreign website, taking phone calls from relatives abroad, praying regularly or growing a beard could land one in a political indoctrination camp, or prison, or both.

The new internment system was shrouded in secrecy, with no publicly available data on the numbers of camps or detainees.

The US State Department estimated those being held were "at the very least in the tens of thousands".

A Turkey-based TV station run by Xinjiang exiles said almost 900,000 were detained, citing leaked government documents.





Jews support Muslims after anti-Islam rally in Philadelphia, amid Middle East conflict

May 17, 2018

Confrontations have flared up in the Middle East this month over Trump’s move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, but members of West Philly’s Jewish and Muslim communities are standing solidly in support of one another.

Before entering the Masjid Al-Jamia mosque last Friday, a man handed a card to Rachel Wener, who was standing outside with other members of the Kol Tzedek Synagogue. “Your friendly smile and helpfulness always make a difference,” read the front.

On the inside, one word was repeated in English, Hebrew and Arabic: “Peace.”

This week marks the start of the holy Islamic month of Ramadan. It’s also the 15th week Kol Tzedek has organized in front of Masjid Al-Jamia to show support after a small group of protesters staged an Islamophobic anti-Muslim rally there in February.

Weather notwithstanding, there has been at least one synagogue member stationed between the mosque’s men's and women's entrances every week, with signs bearing messages like, “Jews support our Muslim neighbors.”

The synagogue consulted mosque leaders and the West Philly Coalition Against Islamophobia before organizing the weekly gatherings, members said.

On Friday, Wener and her colleagues greeted worshippers entering the mosque with “As-Salaam-Alaikum” (“Peace be unto you”). “Wa-Alaikum-Salaam,” Masid Al-Jamia members responded (“And unto you peace”).

Others nodded, smiled, shook hands with the supporters or simply thanked them. One brought out water bottles and strawberries to share.

“People really, really appreciate the affirmative sign that they’re welcome and part of the community,” Wener said. “That’s both very gratifying and also a really sad comment on how Islamophobic American society is right now.”

Peaceful response

Shuja Moore, director at Masjid Al-Jamia, said West Philly and the city overall is very supportive of Islam — making the incident in February more shocking.

“We basically knew that responding would be the worst reaction,” Moore said. “We as a community decided just to basically you know ignore and just … have our services. It seemed as though they were trying to provoke us to do something, but fortunately we have enough patience to just bypass it.”

He added that the mosque completely supports and appreciates the synagogue’s efforts.

Jon Argaman, a member of Kol Tzedek, said he froze when he walked past the mosque in February and saw the Islamophobic protest. Then he immediately alerted others at the synagogue, asking how they should respond.

By the time he’d mobilized members to come out, several community residents had already arrived, telling the anti-Muslim protesters their views did not reflect West Philadelphia.

The synagogue decided to hold the weekly protests as an ongoing sign of visible support. The effort falls under Kol Tzedek’s Muslim solidarity committee, one of four social-justice focused groups that the synagogue formed in November 2016.

Combating a rise in xenophobia

Those committees were developed specifically because xenophobia has increased in the U.S. since the 2016 presidential election, said Zoey Cohen, the synagogue’s co-chair of justice and action work.

Hate crimes in the U.S. have increased for two consecutive years, according to the FBI’s 2016 report on hate crimes, its most recent. The number of anti-Muslim hate groups in the U.S. tripled in 2016, and 114 of these groups are currently operating, per the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Cohen added that social justice work is integral to many people’s faith at Kol Tzedek — which translates to “voice of justice.”

“It was felt that this is an important stance for us Jewish Americans to take to support … another religious minority that is being targeted in ways Jews have been targeted in the past,” she added. “Being able to stand in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters just felt like a very powerful thing to do.”

The current events in Israel and Palestine will have no impact on Kol Tzedek’s actions, Cohen said.

Wener, chair of the Muslim solidarity committee, said the group also organized an interfaith iftar dinner — the breaking of the daily fast during Ramadan — last year, but the weekly protests are its most consistent effort.

The protests have been a symbol of not just the synagogue’s support, but also of the West Philly community overall.

Amy Cohen, who practices at Kol Tzedek, said the protests helped her connect with fellow parents at the Penn Alexander School, who she has greeted before they enter the mosque. Lee Garner, a Quaker, joined Kol Tzedek on Friday for the first time, as a supportive community resident.

Any person — no matter their differences — is welcome to join the weekly event, Wener said. But they all must share one commonality: support of the Muslim community.

“America is not a Christian country,” she added. “That’s something we very strongly believe. It’s a country for every religion and for the free exercise of all religions. This is something we stand up for.”



Pope appeals for peace in the Holy Land, Middle East

May 18, 2018

Pope Francis on Wednesday once more expressed his deep concern at the worsening violence in the Middle East.

“I am very concerned at the escalation of tension in the Holy Land and in the Middle East, and the spiral of violence that is moving away further from the path of peace, dialogue and negotiation,” he said at the end of his general audience in Rome’s St. Peter’s Square.

“I express my great sorrow for the dead and wounded and with prayer and affection I am close to all who suffer,” he said speaking in Italian.

“I repeat that the use of violence can never lead to peace,” he said, stressing that “war begets war, violence begets violence.”

The Holy Father thus called on all parties concerned and the international community to renew their commitment to ensure that dialogue, justice and peace prevail.

The Pope then recited the “Hail Mary” prayer, inviting all to join him in praying to Mary, Queen of Peace.

Pope wishes Muslims for Ramadan

Full report at:



Bishop takes tougher line on accused terrorist Neil Prakash

May 18, 2018

The government will move to reinstate tough economic sanctions against accused Australian Islamic State terrorist Neil Prakash, making it a crime to aid or assist him in any way, just weeks before a Turkish court is due to decide the former Melbourne man’s fate.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will announce today that Prakash will remain the subject of strict fin­ancial sanctions for a further three years. The sanctions make it an offence to use or deal with Prakash’s assets, or make those assets available to him.

Prakash arrived in Syria in 2013 and quickly became one of the most prominent Australian fighter with Islamic State, operating under the nom de guerre “Abu Khalid al-Cambodi’’.

The son of Cambodian and ­Fijian migrants, Prakash turned his back on his Buddhist roots and became a recruiter and terrorist attack planner for Islamic State.

A statement by Ms Bishop outlining the reasons for the sanctions says he is alleged to “have sought to commission violent terrorist acts, including in Australia’’.

“It is also alleged that he exploited social media to spread ­violent extremism and to recruit others, including young women and girls, to travel to Syria and Iraq to join ISIL,’’ the Foreign Minister’s statement said.

Prakash was arrested by Turkish authorities in October 2016 as he crossed the border from Syria. Australian and US intelligence agencies had tracked him as he moved across Iraq and Syria.

He narrowly survived a US bombing raid in May 2016 — a strike that authorities claimed at the time had killed him. In fact, he was merely wounded.

Travelling under a false name, he tried to steal into Turkey, ostensibly to continue the jihad outside of Syria and Iraq. Privately, however, Australian authorities believed he had tired of the fight.

A judge in the southern town of Killis, near where Prakash was caught, is expected to make a ruling on whether he will be tried in Turkey or returned to Melbourne.

Full report at:



Meet the Muslim princess Zaida, Spanish ancestor of the British royal family

May 17, 2018

Zaida, a Muslim princess living in 11th-century Seville, is one of the most extraordinary ancestors of the British royal family. Zaida’s bloodline reached the English shores through her engagement to Alfonso VI, king of León-Castile. From their offspring descended Isabel Pérez of Castile, who in the 14th century was sent to England to marry the Earl of Cambridge, Richard of Conisburgh.

Their son, Richard, Duke of York, led a rebellion against King Henry VI which developed into the Wars of the Roses. Richard’s second son Edward took the throne in 1461. Thus the legacy of Islamic Spain – better known as al-Andalus – found its way into the Plantagenet royal court.

This lineage has been of recent interest both in the UK and in the Middle East, as it purportedly proves a family relationship between Queen Elizabeth II and the Prophet Muhammad himself. Respected experts and commentators such as Burke’s Peerage and Ali Gomaa, the former Grand Mufti of Egypt, have suggested that Zaida was the offspring of al-Muʿtamid, ruler of Seville and a descendant of the daughter of the Prophet, Fāima and her husband ʿĀlī.

As a member of the Hashemite family, the descendants of Fāima and ʿĀlī, the Queen would count as relatives, among others, the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, or the Aga Khan IV, Prince Shah Karim Al Hussaini, a close friend of the current Royal family.

Sadly, the theory of the Queen’s Hashemite lineage is too good to be true. The mysteries surrounding Zaida’s origins, the key to the puzzle, make it hard to sustain her potential right to rule over the realm of Islam.

Be that as it may, there are valuable lessons to be learned from the Queen’s Spanish ancestor. The story of the marriage union between Zaida and Alfonso VI not only raises questions about race, ethnicity and cultural belonging, but also adds nuance to explanations of the contact between Islam and the Christian West.

A number of recent books and articles have presented the contact between “Las Tres Culturas” – as the Abrahamic faiths are commonly referred to in Spain – in one of two mutually exclusive ways. Spain was either a land of tolerance, better known as “convivencia”, or it was a theatre of war and inter-religious conflict. In fact, Zaida and Alfonso VI lived in a world which allowed little reflection on these modern debates.

Zaida enjoyed the many luxuries of the court of the ʿAbbādid dynasty of Seville through her marriage to al-Fath al-Maʾn, the son of the emir al-Muʿtamid. While the accepted story is that Zaida was the daughter of the emir, recent studies have shown she most likely was an outsider, who gained access into the family’s inner circle through this marriage. By the 1040s, the ʿAbbādids supplanted Cordoba as the most prominent in al-Andalus.

This was a momentous change, since Islamic Spain had been ruled by the Umayyad dynasty for about 300 years. Under the rule of Zaida’s father-in-law, al-Muʿtamid, Seville experienced a “golden age” of culture, attracting famous poets from all corners of the Islamic Mediterranean, including Ibn Hamdis, and even al-Muʿtamid himself.

Zaida’s capture

In 1091, Seville was captured by the Almoravid troops of Yūsuf b. Tāshfīn, and the emir al-Muʿtamid was exiled to Aghmat, near Marrakech, in Morocco, where he would die soon after, lamenting his own failures in his last poems. As Zaida fled from the disastrous Almoravid siege, in which her husband al-Maʾmūn was killed, her fate appeared sealed. In her hurried exit seeking refuge north of Seville, the princess was taken into captivity and sent to the Castilian court in Toledo, where she would find a new life.

Her future husband, Alfonso VI, had long been a thorn in the side of al-Muʿtamid, particularly after May 1085, when the Castilian ruler seized the bustling city of Toledo from the local Muslim dynasty. Alfonso VI’s conquest of Toledo was a serious blow to the hegemony of al-Andalus in Iberian politics, causing panic among the different emirs of al-Andalus and fuelling the arrival of the Almoravids north of the Straits of Gibraltar.

Alfonso VI aspired to become the sole ruler of the Iberian Peninsula, including the Islamic territories. According to the 13th-century Tunisian chronicler, Ibn al-Kardabūs, the arrogant Castilian ruler even started to fashion himself as the “Emperor of the Two Religions”. In this context, the decision to welcome Zaida at the Castilian court – instead of sending her to Morocco to her relatives in exile – and Alfonso’s sexual relationship with the Muslim princess, was not as a sign of coexistence, but a confident statement of power.

Conversion to Christianity

Zaida’s position at the court was as poorly understood by Christian contemporaries in Spain as it is today. Some texts refer to her as a concubine; in fact, according to Pelayo, the famous bishop of Oviedo, Zaida was “nearly his wife”. And if the presence of the Muslim princess at court might have been a touchy subject in itself, Alfonso VI’s decision to make Zaida his legitimate spouse was even more perplexing.

The birth of Sancho, Alfonso VI’s only son, was the determining factor. Zaida then converted to Christianity, taking the same name, Isabel, later used by her famous descendant. Zaida’s bedroom, which had been so important in her rise to royal favour, also saw her fall. The princess died giving birth to one of the other two children she conceived with Alfonso VI while acting as Queen consort.

Full report at:



EU vows to block blow of US Iran sanctions

May 18, 2018

SOFIA - The EU said Thursday it will begin moves to block the effect of US sanctions on Iran as efforts to preserve the nuclear deal with Tehran deepened a transatlantic rift.

The decision came as Russia and China took some of their most concrete moves yet to extend their economic influence in Iran, in the face of renewed US efforts to choke off Tehran.

US President Donald Trump last week controversially pulled Washington out of the 2015 international deal with Iran that placed limits on its nuclear programme in return for easing economic sanctions.

European companies that invested in Iran after the deal are already taking fright, with French energy giant Total warning it could pull out, and Danish shipping giant Maersk and German insurer Allianz also saying they plan to wind down activities there.

After EU leaders discussed Iran at a meeting in Bulgaria, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said the bloc would start measures on Friday to ease the effect of the US sanctions on European companies.

“We will begin the ‘blocking statute’ process, which aims to neutralise the extraterritorial effects of US sanctions in the EU. We must do it and we will do it tomorrow morning at 10:30,” Juncker said at the summit in Sofia.

The “blocking statute” is a 1996 regulation originally created to get around Washington’s trade embargo on Cuba, which prohibits EU companies and courts from complying with specific foreign sanction laws, and says no foreign court judgments based on these laws have any effect in the European Union.

However, the Cuba row was settled politically, so the blocking regulation’s effectiveness was never put to the test, and its value may lie more as a bargaining chip with Washington.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday that EU countries agreed the Iran nuclear deal was “not perfect” but insisted it should be preserved, after the US withdrawal threw the accord into doubt.

EU leaders meeting in Sofia have backed a “united” approach to keeping the deal alive after US President Donald Trump pulled out and reimposed sanctions, complaining the accord did nothing to stop Iran’s ballistic missile programme or interference in Middle East conflicts. “Everyone in the European Union shares the view that the agreement is not perfect, but that we should remain in this agreement and conduct further negotiations with Iran on the basis of other issues such as the ballistic missile programme,” Merkel said as she arrived for the summit.

French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday that one reason for the efforts to prop up the Iran deal is “so that our businesses can remain” in Iran.

The EU leaders pledged at the meeting to keep a united front against Trump, whose decisions to pull out of the Iran deal and to impose trade tariffs on Europe have triggered the worst transatlantic crisis since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

EU President Donald Tusk renewed attacks on Trump at the summit Thursday, suggesting that the US administration was now as unpredictable as Iran’s regime.

“The real geopolitical problem is not when you have an unpredictable opponent or enemy, the problem is if your closest friend is unpredictable. It’s not a joke now,” Tusk told a news conference with Juncker.

Tusk on Wednesday had slammed Trump’s “capricious assertiveness”, comparing him to Europe’s traditional adversaries Russia and China, and saying Trump’s approach had left the EU with “no illusions” that it could rely on anyone else.

China, Russia and EU members Britain, France and Germany were also signatories of the Iran nuclear accord, and have said they will stick to the deal if Tehran respects its terms.

Beijing and Moscow have also stepped up efforts to save the deal.

On Thursday, a Russian-led trade bloc signed an interim trade deal with Iran and signalled plans to negotiate a free trade zone.

In the Kazakh capital Astana, the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union trade bloc signed an interim trade deal with Iran that lowers tariffs on hundreds of goods.

Russian firms have less to lose from bucking US sanctions. Many major Russian companies are already operating under tightening US sanctions over Moscow’s seizure of Crimea and its role in the Ukraine crisis.

Meanwhile, Iran’s oil minister said that Chinese state-owned oil company CNPC was ready to replace Total on a major gas field project in Iran.

Beijing also signalled that it intends to continue “normal and transparent practical cooperation with Iran”.

The US says its sanctions apply to any transactions that are conducted in dollars, which are used in most international transactions, in particular in trading of crude oil.

But China has for years been working to increase trade using its currency and in March a yuan-denominated oil contract was launched in Shanghai.

Trump’s withdrawal from the deal is now likely to boost China’s influence in the region, a European diplomatic source warned.

Full report at:



EU countries agree Iran deal 'not perfect'

17 May 2018

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday that EU countries agreed the Iran nuclear deal was "not perfect" but insisted it should be preserved, after the US withdrawal threw the accord into doubt.

"Everyone in the European Union shares the view that the agreement is not perfect, but that we should remain in this agreement and conduct further negotiations with Iran on the basis of other issues such as the ballistic missile programme," Merkel said as she arrived for the summit.

French President Emmanuel Macron said the bloc was working to keep the existing agreement alive "so that our businesses can remain" in Iran.

This effort would run alongside work to "pursue negotiations on a vital broader agreement," Macron said.

"The 2015 agreement needs to be completed by a nuclear agreement beyond 2025, an agreement on ballistic activities and (Iran's) regional presence," Macron said.

Tehran has warned it is prepared to resume "industrial-scale" uranium enrichment "without any restrictions" unless Europe can provide solid guarantees that it can maintain the economic benefits it gained from the nuclear agreement despite Washington reimposing sanctions.

EU experts have begun work drawing up measures to shield the deal from US sanctions, focusing on nine key issues including ensuring Iran can sell its oil and gas products and have access to international finance.

Full report at:



Hague court looking at Israeli killing of Gazans

17 May 2018

The International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague is looking into whether it should try Israel’s martyring of over 60 unarmed civilians along the Gaza Strip, said a source with the court on Thursday.

“We are concerned about the escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip,” the source told Anadolu Agency, asking not to be named due to restrictions on talking to the media.

Prosecutors are doing preliminary examinations, the source said.

Recent and future developments could be added to the examinations, the source added.

Prosecutors called on all parties to avoid further escalation, the source said.

Fatou Bensuda, the ICC’s chief prosecutor, said last month that she was concerned about disproportionate force used by Israeli soldiers along the Gaza border.

On Monday at least 62 Palestinian demonstrators were martyred and thousands more injured by Israeli armed forces along the Gaza border, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

Thousands of Palestinians had gathered on Gaza Strip’s eastern border to take part in protests marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of Israel -- the Nakba ("Catastrophe") -- and protest the relocation of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Since the Gaza rallies began on March 30, more than 100 Palestinian demonstrators have been martyred by cross-border Israeli army gunfire.

Full report at:



North America


Anti-American Cleric’s Power Grows, Upending Pentagon’s Plans for Iraq

By Helene Cooper and Gardiner Harris

May 17, 2018

WASHINGTON — Over the past four years, American military planning in Iraq has counted on working with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, a moderate Shiite Muslim who has managed to rebuild the country’s army, restore sovereignty and partner with both the United States and Iran to defeat the Islamic State.

But the results of the weekend’s national elections in Iraq have torn the American assumptions asunder.

Huge gains in Parliament were made by a party led by the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr, whose implacable opposition to the presence of United States troops in Iraq was a top reason Washington withdrew its combat forces in 2011.

Now, President Trump and the Pentagon must decide whether the United States can move ahead with plans to leave a residual force of about 4,500 American troops in Iraq after the war against the Islamic State.

The group, also known as ISIS, is largely gone from the areas of Iraq that it occupied as recently as last year. But military planners are all too aware of what happened after the American troops left in 2011, opening space for the Islamic State’s rise as it was fueled by minority Sunnis who were alienated by the ruling Shiite government of Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, then the prime minister.

In 2014, the Islamic State rolled across Iraq, easily defeating the country’s army and controlling much of its northern and western regions. Ensuring that history is not repeated is a top American priority, senior State Department and Pentagon officials said.

For the Trump administration, that means trying to find a way to a working relationship with Mr. Sadr. Administration officials sought this week to focus on positive aspects of the election.

“Not that long ago, ISIS had controlled large swaths of that country,” said Heather Nauert, the State Department’s spokeswoman. “And the fact that they were able to pull off elections that were relatively free of violence is certainly a pretty amazing feat and a testament to the Iraqi people.”

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters that Trump administration officials “stand with the Iraqi people’s decisions.”

“It’s a democratic process at a time when people, many people, doubted that Iraqis could take charge of themselves,” Mr. Mattis said on Tuesday.

As a young man, Mr. Sadr led a Shiite militia that targeted American troops in Iraq. He fled to Iran to study in Qom, a revered Shiite religious center, before returning to Iraq in 2011 as a cleric and strident Iraqi nationalist. Mr. Sadr is not expected to hold elected office in Iraq; rather, his power comes from his pulpit.

Given Iran’s outsize and yearslong influence in internal Iraqi politics, foreign policy experts said the Trump administration might have already made things more complicated for itself in Baghdad.

Mr. Trump’s decision last week to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear accord has frozen relations between Washington and Tehran after a thaw that, among other issues, had helped facilitate an indirect partnering against the Islamic State in Iraq.

Iran now “has no motivation for a leader in Iraq who would be positive toward the United States,” said Vali Nasr, the dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

But Pentagon officials are betting that Iran also does not want to see a return of the Islamic State.

There is widespread agreement among Shiite political blocs, with whom Mr. Sadr would have to ally to form a government, to continue a program backed by international troops to train and equip Iraqi security forces. Trainers include American, Italian and Spanish advisers, with equipment paid for by the United States. And having NATO serve as the public representative for the American-led mission in Iraq could serve as a workaround for Mr. Sadr’s sensitivities, officials say.

Should the Trump administration and a government loyal to Mr. Sadr align, it would not be the first time American troops have had to develop a working relationship with Iraqis who were once considered the enemy. The partnering of United States forces with Sunni insurgents known as Sahwa, or the Awakening, against Al Qaeda in Iraq was a defining turning point in the war more than a decade ago.

But the Pentagon will have its own balancing act to perform back in Washington. Mr. Trump has already expressed his desire to bring American troops home soon from Syria; officials said the president has given the Defense Department six months to wrap up its mission there. Military officials had hoped that an American troop presence in Iraq could keep in contact with allied forces across the border in Syria.

And what would Mr. Trump do if Mr. Sadr again demands an American troop withdrawal from Iraq?

“The Pentagon is already on the clock to get out of Syria,” said Derek Chollet, a former senior Defense Department official in the Obama administration. “Who’s to say what happens in Iraq after?”

Margaret Coker contributed reporting from Baghdad.



Calgary’s Muslim community helping feed the hungry during Ramadan

By MARY GETANEHStarMetro Calgary

Thu., May 17, 2018

CALGARY—As thousands of Muslims around the city begin their fast for Ramadan, a new initiative by the Muslim Council of Calgary (MCC) is hoping to give food to those who are hungry.

The MCC, in collaboration with WeCare Canada, launched the WeCare Pantry on Thursday during the first day of Ramadan.

Ramadan is holy month in the Islamic religion. From dawn to sunset, Muslims abstain from food or drink.

In all four quadrants of the city, an MCC centre will have a pantry stocked up with non-perishable food items that anyone can access.

In the Akram Jomaa Islamic Centre in Calgary’s northeast, three pantries are now almost fully stocked with canned goods, condiments, and cooking oil.

At a ribbon-cutting on Thursday at the centre, Imam Jamal Hammoud said the holy month of Ramadan is a chance for Muslims to focus on their spirituality and also give back to those in need.

“The month of fasting is very important to the Muslim community,” he said. “It’s considered the month of generosity, the month of health, the month of unity and the month of love.”

He said that on average, Akram Jomaa sees about 2,000 to 3,000 visitors a week, although during Ramadan that number goes up.

Leen Yaghi, with WeCare, said that one of the most important things in Islam during fasting is to do good in the community.

“As we fast, we remember the less fortunate and how they fast on a day-to-day basis, not because they want to, but because they don’t have food.”

Yaghi said the organization, which helps low-income families who struggle financially, has seen a rise in demand for its services — but that may not be a true reflection of the need in the city.

“When we looked at the amount of people who came in and the amount of people who need help in the community, in general, there’s a huge difference. A lot of families are shy and not comfortable asking for help.”

She said that the organization already offers food hampers 10 times a year, but that families need to go through an assessment process to qualify.

She believes that process seems daunting to those who feel uncomfortable sharing the fact they are struggling to put food on the table.

Komal Ayub, with MCC, said she’s also noticed that hesitancy to ask for help within the community.

“People don’t want to ask for help because it’s a self-esteem issue. We’ve seen a lot of cases where people don’t have food,” she said. “But it’s important that we have this so that kids can have access to three meals a day.”

Abduljalil Elkadri, MCC chairman, said he expects its pantry program to help many people. He said although the pantries are located within Islamic centres, anyone is welcome to give or take.

“You just have to bring a bag and pick whatever you want. Consistently, it will be refilled by other people,” said Elkadri.

Full report at:



Washington seeks global 'coalition' against Iran regime

May 18, 2018

Washington wants to build a global "coalition" against the Tehran regime and its "destabilizing activities," the State Department said on Thursday, after pulling out from the Iran nuclear accord to the anger of US allies.

The plan is to be detailed on Monday by the top United States diplomat, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in his first major foreign policy address since taking office in April.

"The US will be working hard to put together a coalition," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters.

The aim is to "bring together a lot of countries from around the world with the specific goal of looking at the Iranian regime through a more realistic lens" which would include "all of its destabilizing activities that aren't just a threat to the region but are a threat to the broader world," she said.

Nauert added that the coalition will not be "anti-Iran" because the US stands "firmly behind" the country's people, in contrast to the regime and its "bad actions."

She evoked a comparison with the US-led international coalition against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

Begun in 2014, that coalition now counts as members 75 countries or institutions and intervened militarily against the jihadists, although only a minority of coalition members have conducted most of that military action, which has left the extremists nearly defeated on that battlefield.

Nauert did not say whether the proposed coalition against Iran's regime would have a military component.

She said the State Department received on Monday about 200 foreign diplomats to explain to them President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the nuclear accord, and the next steps.

In a breakthrough that ended a 12-year standoff over Western fears that Iran was developing a nuclear bomb, the administration of former president Barack Obama and other major powers reached the accord with Iran in 2015.

It lifted punishing international sanctions in return for Iran's agreement to freeze its nuclear effort.

Withdrawing from the deal last week, Trump called for a new agreement with deeper restrictions on Iran's nuclear program as well as curbs on its ballistic missiles and its backing for militant groups across the Middle East.

Along with Iran the other signatories of the 2015 deal -- France, Britain, Germany, China and Russia -- strongly criticized the US withdrawal.

On Thursday the European Union said it will begin moves to block the effect of reimposed US sanctions on Iran as efforts to preserve the nuclear deal deepened a transatlantic rift.

Full report at:





PM Modi Extends Ramzan Greetings to Citizens: Here Is What He Said

May 17, 2018

Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended greeting to all citizens and recalled the teachings of Prophet Muhammad as the Islamic month of Ramzan commenced on Thursday.

“Ramzan greetings to everyone. We recall the pious thoughts of Paighambar Mohammad Sahab, who highlighted the importance of harmony, kindness and charity. These are also the virtues the Holy Month of Ramzan stands for,” the prime minister tweeted.

He also shared a two-minute long audio message hailing the path of charity and compassion led by Prophet Mohammad.

Speaking about the significance of the dawn-to-dusk fasting or ‘Roza’, Prime Minister said, “The central aspect of Roza is that when a person is hungry, he understands hunger suffered by others, when he himself is thirsty he understands the thirst suffered by others. This is the occasion to remember the teachings and message of Paighambar Mohammad Sahab. It is our duty to follow his life’s path of equality and brotherhood.”

“He was of the faith that if your possessions are more than what you require, you should give it to someone who needs it, that is why charity holds a significant place in Ramzan,” he added

He also recalled an short anecdote in Islam faith, wherein the Prophet had professed that two foremost superior teachings of the religion were- feeding the poor and the needy, and meeting everyone amiably whether you know them or not.

The Prime Minister concluded his message by saying, “I extend my greetings to all the citizens on the pious month of Ramzan, and I have complete faith that this occasion will inspire all to follow his message of peace and goodwill.”

Beginning today, Muslims around the globe will observe a rigorous month of fasting to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad.

Eid-ul-Fitr will mark the end of Ramzan, on June 14 or June 15, depending upon the visual sightings of the crescent moon.



Meerut: Objection to Muslims offering namaz at a tomb triggers clash


May 18, 2018

Security was tightened at Meerut’s Shastri Nagar area after a clash involving two communities on Wednesday night. The incident happened after BJP-led Hindu groups objected to Muslims offering namaz at a tomb. According to the BJP, the function, held close to the gole mandir in Sector-3, was a first and they did not want a “new tradition” to begin. A Muslim group, however, denied this and said they had often offered namaz there.

Soon after the moon was sighted on Wednesday, marking the beginning of the holy month of Ramzan, many people gathered at the tomb to offer prayers. However, certain Hindu outfits’ members arrived and objected to this. The arguments soon spiralled out of control leading to a clash. People from both sides pelted stones at each other.

The police were informed of the incident and managed to control the ruckus. Two persons were injured in the clash. “No arrests were made in this connection and leaders of both communities have given in writing that they will not begin a new tradition at the tomb which means that the status quo will remain. We have deployed police force in strength as a precautionary measure,” SSP (Meerut) Rajesh Kumar Pandey told The Indian Express.

When contacted, BJP Shastri Nagar traders’ cell general secretary Jatin Chandana said that it was for the first time that “hundreds” had gathered at the tomb, which is located in an area with few Muslims, to offer namaz. “We are not opposed to prayers by any community. But we will not allow any new thing to begin in our area,” he said.

Another BJP leader, an office-bearer in the party’s district unit, Kamal Dutt Sharma compared the situation to Hindus praying at a temple in Chatta Anantram, a Muslim-dominated locality in Meerut. “We never go there to offer prayers. What will be the situation if we go to that that temple in hundreds to perform pooja?” he asked.

Meanwhile, chief of Yuva Sewa Samiti Badar Ali said that members from his community used to visit the Shastri Nagar tomb and offered prayers inside the tomb. “Our Hindu brothers have objected when worshippers assembled outside the tomb in large numbers. Leaders of both the communities have given in writing to the authorities concerned that we will not let anyone vitiate the communal atmosphere of Meerut on such trivial grounds,” said Ali.

Full report at:



Return home to join mainstream, contest elections: J-K BJP chief to Hizbul chief Syed Salahuddin

May 17, 2018

Newly-appointed Jammu and Kashmir BJP chief Ravinder Raina on Thursday asked Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin to shun gun culture and return home in the state to join the mainstream and contest elections.

In his first statement after taking over as the state BJP chief, the 40-year-old also asked young militants from Kashmir to shun weapons and join the mainstream.

“I ask Syed Salahuddin, why you moving from pillar to the post in Pakistan and foreign countries. Return to your home and join the mainstream,” he told reporters here.

“If you (Salahuddin) claim to be the leader of Jammu and Kashmir, return and contest elections in the state through democratic process and prove it”, Raina said.

He also hit out at the chairman of the United Jehad Council, a conglomerate of terrorist outfits operating in Kashmir, for arming youths in the valley leading to bloodshed and violence.

Mohammed Yusuf Shah, better known as Syed Salahuddin, was declared a specially designated global terrorist by the US Department of State in June last year.

The BJP chief said the Centre’s announcement yesterday that security forces would not launch any operations in the state during the month of Ramzan was conditional and not unilateral.

“The first bullet will not be fired from our side (Army). If the first bullet comes from the terrorists, then the guns of Army, paramilitary force and police will not stay silent,” Raina said.

Full report at:



Govt tells security forces not to launch ops in Kashmir for Ramzan, Mehbooba welcomes ‘ceasefire’

May 17, 2018

Security forces in Jammu and Kashmir will halt counter-insurgency operations during the Islamic holy month of Ramzan in the first ceasefire in the troubled state in more than 17 years, the Centre said on Wednesday, accepting a demand made by chief minister Mehbooba Mufti.

“Decision taken to help the peace loving Muslims observe Ramzan in a peaceful environment,” Union home minister Rajnath Singh tweeted on Wednesday, clarifying that security forces reserve the right to retaliate if they are attacked or if it is essential to protect the lives of civilians.

Singh said the decision had been communicated to Mehbooba who, in a Twitter post, said she “wholeheartedly” welcomed the ceasefire and thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Singh.

Soon after the announcement, an encounter broke out between security forces and militants in Shopian district of Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday, the Press Trust of India reported, quoting the police.

The militants opened firing on an Army patrol at Jamnagri in Shopian district, the police said, adding that Army personnel returned fire. No casualties were reported.

The announcement follows an increase in unrest in Kashmir this year. Since the start of the year until April-end, according to government data, around 60 terrorists had been killed in the Valley and 27 among them were locals. Some 29 security force personnel and several civilians have also died.

Forty-eight infiltration attempts by terrorists based in Pakistan had been recorded till the end of last month and half among them were successful.

The Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group rejected the centre’s announcement. In a statement, LeT spokesperson Abdullah Ghazanwi quoted the group’s chief Mehmooad Shah as saying “the statement of India’s interior minister is nothing but a drama. It may be a wish of India and its few sympathizers and nothing else.”

“ … (The) cease-fire is no option and no thought can be given on such compromise,” he said adding “we are in favor of negotiations but the talks of negotiations in presence of armed occupational forces in the region are lies.”

Calls to the separatist leaders (or their spokespersons), including Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Yasin Malik and Syed Ali Geelani did not yield any reaction. Malik said he was driving and dropped the call. Mirwaiz did not pick his phone. Geelani’s spokesperson refused to comment. The trio issued a joint statement later urging people to organise peaceful protests on Friday in solidarity to “our Palestinian brethren”.

Mehbooba convened the all-party meeting earlier this month to discuss the recent unrest in the Kashmir valley. She said after the meeting that the participants had agreed to appeal to the Centre to announce a ceasefire within the state. The month of Ramzan is due to begin on Thursday.

The last time around, it was the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government that had declared non-initiation of combat operations (NICO) in the state which remained in force between November 2000 and May 2001. During that ceasefire, the Srinagar airport came under a militant attack in January 2001.

In a series of tweets on Wednesday, Singh said: “(The) government expects everyone to cooperate in this initiative and help the Muslim brothers & sisters to observe Ramzan peacefully and without any difficulties.” Singh said it was important to isolate the forces that bring a bad name to Islam by resorting to mindless violence and terror.

The centre’s Kashmir interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma termed the ceasefire a “great initiative” by the government ,which must be supported by everyone.

“I urge upon every individual in J&K particularly youth to respond positively by playing an active role in ending violence there. Violence will take us nowhere. Peace must be given a chance. All issues can be resolved through dialogue,” Sharma told HT.

Officials familiar with government discussions on the issue before the announcement said Sharma had been a votary of putting operations against militants on hold during Ramzan but it was always a political call and the government decided to take the gambit.

The army had flagged its concerns last week over the move, saying it could allow terrorists an opportunity to regroup at a time when the security forces have an upper hand in the Valley, but home ministry officials said the army’s concerns had been taken into account before the halt was announced.

Following the announcement, army officials, monitoring the Kashmir situation, said the government had made it clear that the security forces had the right to retaliate if attacked and also to protect civilians. They added that the army would carry out fewer cordon and search operations (CASO) and search and destroy operations (CADO) for the one-month period.

“Road opening parties and area sanitisation operations will continue as convoys have to move,” said a senior officer who did not wish to be named.

The union home ministry , in a detailed statement, said unity in diversity was India’s unique strength and all religions and communities have always received full respect in India.

“The holy month of Ramzan is commencing from tomorrow, which is observed by Muslims all over the world. It is a matter of regret that over the last few years, terrorists have indulged in large scale bloodshed not only in India but also in other parts of the World, even during this holy month. This has caused immense suffering to peace loving Muslims adhering to the true tenets of Islam. People belonging to other communities have also suffered,” said the ministry.

The statement said the government had been trying to create an environment free of terror and violence to enable Muslims to observe Ramzan peacefully.

Full report at:



Muslim body in India condemn Israeli atrocity on Palestine

May 17, 2018

New Delhi: All India Muslim Majlis Mushavirat has expressed concern over Israeli attacks on innocent and armless Palestinians which killed 58 Palestinians and left thousands injured.

President All India Muslim Majlis Mushavirat Naveed Hamed strongly condemned the use of explosive material on innocent citizens including children. He demanded that killings of Palestinians by Israel should be immediately stopped.

He said Jerusalem is the holy city of Muslims where Muslims first Qibla and the 3rd holiest masjid is located. US one-sided decision to shift its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and declare Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is not only against international values but is also the violation of UN resolution.



J&K: BSF constable among three killed in Pakistani shelling, PM Modi to visit valley tomorrow

by Arun Sharma

May 18, 2018

Just a day before the scheduled visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Jammu & Kashmir, a BSF constable and a couple were among three people killed, as Pakistani Rangers continued targeting forward Indian posts and civilian areas with mortar shells and small arms fire along the international border on Friday. Six others including a security forces personnel were also injured in the Pakistani shelling.

The shelling from across the border in R S Pura and Arnia sectors started around 3 am. The troubles had started along the international border in Bobbiyan area of Hiranagar sector in wee hours of Tuesday when BSF foiled an infiltration attempt by militants from Pakistan side. A BSF jawan was killed in the unprovoked ceasefire violation by Pakistan Rangers who opened fire to provide cover to militants.

The three people killed in the Pakistani shelling on Friday were identified as Constable Sitaram Upadhayay from Jharkhand, Tarsem Lal, and his wife Manjit, both residents of Chandu Chak in R S Pura. The injured included ASI Desraj, Farooq Din of Jora Farm, Payara Lal of Shamka, and Seema Devi of Nai Basti, along with Harbans Lal and Raman Gupta, both from Trewa in Arnia sector.

Full report at:





Need stressed to protect basic rights of minorities

MAY 18, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Law Barrister Zafarullah Khan has stressed the need for protecting the basic rights of minorities in the country in accordance with the teachings of Holy Quran and Sunnah.

“Islam ensures the rights of minorities. Meesaq-e-Madina was the first written charter which guaranteed the rights of minorities,” he told a symposium titled ‘Paigham-e-Pakistan: A Consensus Declaration by Ulema and its Importance for a Peaceful Pakistan’, organized by the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII).

Zafarullah said Islam teaches equality as far as basic rights of a citizen are concerned. “Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in His teachings has laid special emphasis on the rights of minorities in a Muslim society. And, as Muslims, we are accountable for this before Allah Almighty,” he said.

He stressed the need to join hands as a nation to put Pakistan on the road to development and prosperity. On Paigham-e-Pakistan, he said the initiative will go a long way in promoting a positive image of Pakistan in the outer world. He said the initiative also lays focus on the rights of minorities, adding that the minorities in Pakistan are entitled to an equitable treatment according to the constitution of Pakistan and the teachings of our religion.

Zafarullah said the CII was a constitutional organization. He said reputable religious scholars should be made part of the organization. He also called for early appointment of new members of the council.

CII Chairman Dr Qibla Ayaz said Paigham-e-Pakistan was a consensus document prepared in consultation with ulema from all the schools of thought. “The Grand Mufti of Egypt has also endorsed it. Several countries of the world have appreciated the initiative and have expressed desire to benefit from it,” he said.

On the occasion, Volume 11 of the CII’s journal ‘Ijtehad’ was also launched.

Islamic Research Institute Director General Dr Ziaul Haq, Rector International Islamic University Islamabad Dr Masoom Yasinzai, council members, professors, intellectuals and students of various universities also attended the event.



1 killed, 14 injured in suicide attack in northwest Pakistan

May 17, 2018

PESHWAR: A suicide bomber riding a bike rammed his two-wheeler into a Frontier Corps (FC) vehicle in northwest Pakistan on Thursday, killing at least one civilian and wounding 14 others, including four soldiers, police said.

The bomber blew himself up near the forces' vehicle on Mall Road near Kachehri Chowk in Nowshera district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, District Police Officer Shahzad Nadeem Bukhari said.

Rescue teams and security officials have reached the site of the explosion.

The Army said only four troops were injured in the blast and there was no casualty on part of the army troops.

The injured have been shifted to Combined Military Hospital, Nowshera.

"12 of the 14 injured have been shifted to CMH Nowshera and two to DHQ Hospital. The condition of four injured was stated to be critical," he said.

The official told the media that the FC vehicle was on way to Peshawar from Rawalpindi with six personnel including an officer when it was targeted.

The body of the suicide bomber was recovered by police.

Bukhari said around five kg explosives was used in the blast.

Full report at:



IHC reserves verdict pertaining to ban on Ramzan transmission, game shows

May 18, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday reserved verdict in the case pertaining to ban on special Ramzan transmission and morning and lottery shows for violating the regularity authority’s act.

The appeal was filed by PBA and a private TV channel. A two-member bench led by IHC judge justice Amir Farooq heard the case.

Barrister Ali Zafar appeared in the court on behalf of Pakistan Broadcasting Association (PBA) and took a stance that freedom of speech is everyone’s fundamental right.

During the hearing, the court ordered all TV channels to broadcast the Islamic call to Prayer (Adhan) five times a day. The court also imposed a ban on the broadcast of foreign content, lottery and morning shows and other entertainment programs.

During the hearing, Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani sought whether Pakistan has imposed a ban on Indian and other foreign content. Subsequently, Justice Amir Farooq sought about PEMRA censorship policy regarding foreign content.

Ali Zafar informed the court that all TV channels have their own censor boards for their commercial and other contents. Zafar further informed the court the regularity authority has established limitations regarding TV content and all channels broadcast their content within the PEMRA set parameters.

Full report at:



Lord Buddha’s holy relics returned back to Pakistan

May 18, 2018

COLOMBO: The most sacred relics of Lord Buddha from Taxila were taken back to Pakistan today after the conclusion of a three-week long exposition at various locations in Sri Lanka.

Minister of Sustainable Development, Wildlife and Regional Development, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, high government officials and diplomats from Pakistan High Commission were present at the Bandaranaike International Airport to see-off the Relics.

The sanctified Relics were sent by the Government of Pakistan on a special request of Sri Lanka in connection with the Annual Buddha Rashmi National Vesak Festival. During the exposition in Sri Lanka, millions of devotees paid their respects and homage to these Sacred Relics, excavated from Taxila, Pakistan.

The exposition of the Relics commenced on 29th April 2018 by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickramasinghe, amidst a large gathering of Buddhist clergy, scholars, Ministers, Parliamentarians and high-level government functionaries at Temple Trees.

During the exposition, the Holy Relics were exhibited in different temples at Colombo, Wellampitiya, Kalutara, Galle, Matara, Kurunegalla, Anuradhapura and Kandy where hundreds of thousands of devotees visited the relics daily and performed religious rituals.

These Relics were originally discovered near the Dharmarajika stupa, the earliest and largest Buddhist complex at Taxila, Pakistan which was built in the 3rd century BC in order to house the Holy Relics of the Lord Buddha by the famous Mauryan king Asoka who was also known as Dharmaraja for his services to Buddhism.

Full report at:



Pakistan criticises UNSC over its failure to condemn Gaza violence

May 18, 2018

UNITED NATIONS: Pakistan has expressed support to any Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) initiative that is being put forward to ease the difficulties of the Palestinians and has criticised the failure of the UN Security Council (UNSC) to condemn the deadly violence by Israeli troops in Gaza against the Palestinians.

During an emergency meeting of the OIC ambassadors held at the United Nations, Pakistan’s permanent representative Maleeha Lodhi stated that one country has blocked the unanimous call of the other 14 members in the Security Council, to issue a statement merely calling for an independent investigation into the incidents.

Maleeha said, “The US action to shift its Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is a violation of the international law and contravention of the UN Charter’s prohibition of the forcible acquisition of territory.”

It had further been reported that Pakistan will observe “Palestine Solidarity Day” on May 18.

Earlier, PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi directed the day to be observed across the country. “The government and the people of Pakistan would continue supporting their Palestinian brethren and present their case at every forum,” a statement said quoting the prime minister.

The day is aimed to demonstrate complete solidarity with the Palestinians in wake of Israeli troops killing dozens of Palestinians during clashes and protests along the Gaza border against the US embassy opening in Jerusalem on Monday – the conflict’s bloodiest day in years.

Full report at:



FC personnel foil major terrorist attack in Quetta, all attackers killed

MAY 18, 2018

QUETTA: Frontier Corps personnel foiled a major terror bid at the at the Frontier Corps Help Centre in Quetta on Thursday.

The Inter-Services Public Intelligence (ISPR) revealed that five suicide bombers travelling in an explosive laden vehicle tried to the enter the help centre, but were killed by alert FC soldiers.

Four FC fighters, moreover, suffered bullet wounds.

The ISPR statement read,

“An explosive and ammunition laden vehicle with 5 SBs (suicide bombers) tried to enter Help centre. Vigilant FC soldiers fired at terrorists and stopped their entry. All terrorists killed.”

The health centre is in fact located in a residential area, and had the attack been successful, it could have led to tremendous loss of life.

The attack, moreover, seemed to be in response to the operation security forces launched a day prior to the terror bid against the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in Kili Almas.

The ISPR also revealed that all attackers could possibly be Afghans.

Home Minister Sarfraz Bugti, meanwhile, lauded the FC’s bravery and said, “Our forces fought against terrorists like lions,” he said.

Punjab’s Inspector General Arif Nawaz has also declared a ‘Code Red’ in the province over possible retaliatory strikes in response to the military operation in Kili Almas.

Thursday’s abortive attempt in Quetta, moreover, is the second terror strike the country witnessed on Thursday.

Full report at:



Pak soldiers offering sacrifices in terror fight: PM

May 18, 2018

ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi Thursday said that Pakistani soldiers had been paying the price of freedom with blood offering supreme sacrifice in fight on terrorism.

In a message of condolence to the family of Colonel Sohail Abid who was martyred in an operation against terrorists in Balochistan, he said: “our valiant forces will not rest till last trace of terrorist elements is wiped out from country soil.” PM Abbasi said entire nation is united than ever against the coward enemy.

Meanwhile, former President Asif Ali Zardari also expressed his profound grief and sorrow over the martyrdom of Colonel Abid and paid him tributes. In a statement, he said that soldiers who defended their country from enemies were heroes of the nation.

Zardari said the Bhutto family and Pakistan People’s Party salute the young soldiers who were always ready to protect the country.

Full report at:



Southeast Asia


Ex-MP fears return of Mahathir-Anwar brand of Islam

Sheith Khidhir Bin Abu Bakar

May 18, 2018

PETALING JAYA: Former MP Tawfik Ismail has voiced concern that the renewed partnership of Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim may see them resuming their promotion of what he alleges is a stifling brand of Islam.

Speaking to FMT, he said the Malaysian Muslim Youth Movement (Abim) had erred when it called on Anwar to continue pursuing his vision of a democratic Islam.

He said “Islamofacism” was what Mahathir and Anwar had practised in the 1980s and 1990s when they were prime minister and deputy prime minister.

On Wednesday, Abim president Mohamad Raimi Abdul Rahim told FMT that Anwar was among the first Muslim leaders to articulate the idea of Islam’s relevance in a plural society and the compatibility of its tenets with democratic ideals.

Tawfik, who served as MP for Sungai Benut between 1986 and 1990, said Raimi was wrong to suggest that Anwar’s version of Islam was desirable, alleging that Malaysia was still suffering the effects of the Mahathir-Anwar team’s attempt to out-Islamise PAS.

“Mahathir and Anwar went too far with their Penerapan Nilai Nilai Islam,” he said. “It was twisted. They set up institutions like the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) and Biro Tata Negara, which intruded into private lives and turned personal sins into crimes.

“This killed creativity and free thinking in the Malays and created a dependence on certain individuals.”

He said any attempt to present Islamic principles as values that could be adopted by all should be kept at the state level.

“Abim should sell its idea to the various states. That’s where religion belongs.

“We have religions other than Islam practised in the federation. We have MPs from different faiths. Therefore, in the interest of harmony, the federal government should be secular, governing fairly for all.”

Tawfik questioned what DAP and Pakatan Harapan (PH) component parties in East Malaysia had to say about the direction Islam took under Mahathir and Anwar.

“When they brought Mahathir into PH, did they forget that Islamofacism was a feature of the Mahathir-Anwar administration?”

He also rejected the argument put forth by Muslim groups that Islamisation would affect only Muslims.

“My argument is: why impose apartheid using religion as a disguise? Religious zealotry is the main factor holding back Malays from reaching their true potential.”

Meanwhile, activist lawyer Nik Elin Rashid noted that Mahathir had in a recent blog post stated that there would be a fresh look at Islam based on the Quran and selected hadiths.

“I hope it means there will be less reliance on juristic interpretations that have hindered progressive nationalism and unity in a multicultural society, and that the focus will be on forging inter-religious understanding,” she said.



Indonesia to replicate edict on suicide bombing

By Sehrish Wasif

May 17, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Indonesia has expressed its willingness to replicate ‘Paigam-e-Pakistan’ in order to deal with the problem of militancy in its backyard.

Last year, more than 1800 religious scholars representing all schools of thoughts in Pakistan issued a fatwa or religious decree that declared suicide bombings un-Islamic.

Indonesia hit by new Islamic State attack after deadly bombings

Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) Chairman Dr Qibla Ayaz while addressing the participants of a launching ceremony of magazine Ijtehad announced Indonesia’s willingness followed by symposium on the importance of Paigam-e-Pakistan on Wednesday at the CII office.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Law Barrister Zafarullah Khan delivered a lecture on the significance of Paigam-e-Pakistan for the Muslim world particularly for Pakistan.

Dr Ayaz informed the participants that the Indonesian president and their ulema highly appreciated Paigam-e-Pakistan narrative in a joint declaration of ulema of Afghanistan-Pakistan-Indonesia on peace and stability in Afghanistan held earlier this month in Jakarta.

Later talking to The Express Tribune, Dr Ayaz said that earlier this year, an Indonesian delegation comprising its national security officials expressed keen interest in this decree and announced that their country will also develop one such Fatwa. They wanted to benefit from the one chalked-out by Pakistan, he said.

“The main objective behind this fatwa is to improve Pakistan’s image across the globe and tell the world that Muslim world strongly condemns terrorism especially suicide bombing and believes in spreading religious harmony,” he added.

Meanwhile, this year Imam-e-Kaaba and the Grand Mufti of Egypt Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam had fully endorsed Paigham-e-Pakistan during their visit to Pakistan.

Dr Ayaz said that Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal has given Rs400 million as endowment for nine seerat chairs to be established in various universities. The chairs will be studying different themes of seerat of last Prophet (PBUH) including global peace, women rights, sustainable development and inter-religious discourse.

Indonesia women face daily swim for clean water

Earlier, Barrister Zafarullah Khan shed light on the importance of promoting religious and interfaith harmony. He added that there is no place of religious intolerance in Islam.

Full report at:



Brunei's independence tested by China, Saudi and waning oil

May 17, 2018

Oil wealth has delivered much for Brunei, guaranteeing high standards of living and economic independence, which has enabled the tiny sultanate to pursue it's own political and religious agenda.

But that independence is being challenged by dwindling oil reserves with oil and gas production expected to run out within the next 20 years prompting Brunei's ruler, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, to initiate economic reforms and seek foreign investment.

Reports have emerged that China has pumped as much as US$6 billion into the enclave while the American Enterprise Institute's China Global investment tracker put that figure at $4.1 billion. More is coming from Saudi Arabia, enormous figures for Bolkiah whose subjects number just 440,000.

This has led to speculation that in return Brunei will remain quiet on the maritime dispute in the South China Sea and is prepared to bend towards Saudi, and Wahabi, interpretations of Shariah often cited for inflaming jihads.

Brunei tilts towards China

Chinese expansionism into the South China Sea, known as the East Sea in Hanoi and the West Philippines Sea in Manila, has undermined unity within the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), split by Cambodia and Laos support for Beijing.

Brunei staked its claim in the disputed sea in 1984 over maritime features that include Bombay Castle, Louisa Reef, Owen Shoal, and Rifleman Bank, which are located within its 200 kilometre Exclusive Economic Zone (EEC).

Its only physical claim is Louisa Reef, in the Spratly chain, which is also claimed by China and Vietnam. Both have maintained a military presence in the area where Brunei, which traditionally remains quiet on contentious issues, does not.

But it has held the potential to punch above its political weight and position itself as a voice of reason where it counts; in the diplomatic arena where the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia are at odds with Chinese maritime ambitions.

However, Ahmed Mansoor, a pseudonym for a former Brunei-based journalist, recently wrote that government revenue fell by 70 percent between 2013 and early 2016. Then Brunei signaled what might come as it backed an "important consensus" with Cambodia, Laos and China; that the dispute must not be allowed to affect relations between Beijing and ASEAN.

Revenue falls have also resulted in drastic spending cuts and unemployment is at worrying levels. Writing for publications including the highly reputable Nikkei Asian Review, Mansoor added: "In exchange for US$6 billion of Chinese investment into an oil refinery and local infrastructure, along with promises to boost trade and agricultural cooperation, Brunei has remained silent on Beijing's territorial claims in the South China Sea, refusing to criticise its biggest investor even though it has overlapping claims."

Islamic values

Saudi Arabia has also stepped into the fray, with a historic visit by King Salman bin Abdulaziz aimed at deepening its ties in the Islamic world with shared religious values seen as a cornerstone, underpinning important issues like counter terrorism, in promoting tourism as a major economic pillar, and in serving mutual interests on world oil markets.

Saudi also sees Brunei as a strategic center, which can be used to strengthen its ties with China and its expansion across East Asia following the United States withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Saudi is a keen supporter of Shariah in Brunei, which includes tight controls on other religions. Brunei has previously banned Christmas and requires Christians to provide advanced notice before celebrating festivals.

However, adherence to Shariah has not always been a strong point, even within royal circles. Young princes have too often been spotted in the casinos and fashionable bars of London, and much of the oil wealth has been frittered away.

A London court was once told how Mariam Aziz, a former wife of the sultan lost half-a-million pounds gambling in local casinos. She denied dropping three million pounds in a single gambling spree.

Prince Azim — known as the 'Playboy Prince' — likes to host New Year's Eve parties at places like the five-star Dorchester Hotel with celebrities like Jerry Hall, Sophia Loren and Faye Dunaway. Mariah Carey was once reportedly paid about 900,000 pounds to sing Auld Lang Syne, among other numbers.

But the biggest spender was Prince Jefri Bolkiah, the sultan's elder brother, who dropped $14 billion, indulged himself with a harem of 40 women and had a penchant for erotic wristwatches when in Europe, a far cry from dictates in the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, which is dotted with lavish palaces and expensive royal pomp.

Muzzling the press

Both China and Saudi have sought to control, or at least influence the press in Brunei when it suits them. Reporters Without Borders ranked Brunei in  lowly 153rd spot on its 2018 World Press Freedom Index, noting authorities sometimes intervene.

"But in most cases the repressive legislation, rendered even harsher by the introduction of a very strict version of Shariah, suffices to deter any comments that could be interpreted as blasphemy or criticism of the sultanate. In 2017, several religious leaders called for tougher censorship measures in order to address what they called moral decadence."

Saudi has stepped in when Riyadh has been criticised over issues like the Hajj and oil prices, and Mansoor noted that: "Even critical local press reports were enough to trigger protests from the Chinese embassy, which pressured the government to tighten controls."

The Brunei Times, an English-language newspaper, was forced to disable its reader's comment section on its website and docile, government friendly publications are being further pressured to censor all criticism with existing repressive media laws made all the more restrictive by potential blasphemy or lese-majeste charges.

Any person perceived as a threat to the state can be jailed indefinitely without trial under the Internal Security Act and people complaining on social media have been warned they too could be prosecuted. Sadly, this type of attitude is repeating itself across Southeast Asia, denying people their right to be heard.

Full report at:

Those days might soon be over.



Ahead of Elections, Indonesia Fights ‘Cyber Jihadists’ With Political Agenda

By Ainur Rohmah

May 17, 2018

Indonesia is facing a flood of false information and hate speech on social media. Some of it is spread by groups that hide their political objectives behind matters of religion.

In the past two years, police have arrested members of two groups, Saracen and Muslim Cyber Army (MCA), who were allegedly spreading false news and hate speech. Authorities claimed that Saracen was working on the orders of certain parties to attack their political opponents in return for money, while the MCA spread false news and hate speech to weaken the government.

Some Saracens have been tried. Meanwhile, police have arrested 14 members of the MCA, who were connected through a WhatsApp group called The Family MCA, and are still investigating the mastermind behind it.

On Facebook, several groups associated with the MCA can be found, but it is the MCA News that has the highest number of members, more than 300,000.

“Cyber jihadist” Muhammad Yusril told The Globe Post he had about 300 Facebook accounts to “destroy the religious blasphemers and the government.” He operates under a pseudonym and is also a member of the MCA News.

Yusril has been a member of the group since it was formed in 2008. In the beginning, “cyber jihadists” focused on fighting against accounts that they deemed blasphemous, including those with drawings and jokes insulting Islamic scholars and teachings.

“But the MCA became well known after the Ahok case,” Yusril said.

The Ahok’s case is a legal process involving former Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaya “Ahok” Purnama, a Christian from the Chinese ethnic minority, who was accused of insulting Islam in a speech in 2016.

The case sparked outrage among Indonesia’s conservative Muslims, which led to a series of demonstrations on the streets of the capital and cyber war on social media. After the incident, Ahok lost the Jakarta governor election in 2017 and was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison.

The majority of Indonesians are moderate Muslims, but the pluralistic tradition in the world’s largest Muslim population is now threatened by the growing number of extremist groups.

Yusril said the MCA is still waging cyber war by taking over accounts of “Islam blasphemers” and reporting them to Facebook in order to be suspended. He said his group has a software, which keeps the account alive and allows them to continue destroying and seizing accounts of others.

“We have many accounts, depending on how many accounts we have seized,” he said.

When it comes to running activities, MCA members are divided into two parts, according to Yusril: those who work in teams, such as Saracen and The Family MCA, and “cyber freelancers.”

“I work as a ‘cyber freelancer,’ but the target can be taken from the group,” he said.

Yusril noted that there is no leadership system in the MCA because it is a movement, and its members move on their own accord, without any payment.

“We are tied to a religion-loving soul. If you love Islam, you will know who your friends are,” said Yusril. “We are in all regions [in Indonesia].”

Yet, Yusril’s claims that the MCA is simply defending religion are hard to prove. Over a month, The Globe Post followed the MCA News, and the majority of its member share videos, photos, news, and statements that contain hate speech against the Indonesian government, especially President Joko Widodo.

At the same time, it showed great support for opposition groups such as Gerindra Party, Prosperous Justice Party, and several conservative scholars. Even so, police have not found evidence that certain political parties and figures were behind the MCA.

Some other members of the MCA told The Globe Post that they were acting upon clerics’ commands and under the orders of the leader of the Islamic Defenders’ Front (FPI) Habib Rizieq Shihab in particular, who have urged Muslims to unite and engage in cyber war.

“I feel [I am acting] in line with what the scholars are instructing,” Eyandilia Fitri Ahmad said when asked why she joined the MCA. “I, as a Muslim, also do not want to fail to understand politics, especially ahead of the election.”

In a posting on the MCA group, Eyandilia shared a link titled “Barisan emak-emak militan luncurkan grup whatsapp #2019gantipresiden” (A line of women-militants launches #2019changepresident WhatsApp group), which was greeted enthusiastically by other MCA members in the comment section. When asked about her role in the group, Eyandilia said she was merely promoting it and was not yet a member.

Over the past few weeks, MCA members campaigned for the hashtag #2019gantipresiden (#2019changepresident) to express their desire for President Joko Widodo not to be re-elected in 2019.

Political Motives Mix with Religious Justification

While the MCA has no organizational structure, the roles of the group’s administrators on Facebook are significant, including directing members to report accounts of opponents, filtering incoming uploads in the group to comply with MCA’s policies, and setting rules for interacting on social media.

In various announcements on the MCA group, the administrators also directed members to have the same political stance, especially when it comes to choosing the leader in the elections. Members are also advised to operate using anonymous and false accounts when criticizing the government.

When 14 MCA members were arrested in January, police accused them of spreading news and hate speech to inflame religious and ethnic schisms; fan paranoia around gay men and lesbians, alleged communists and Chinese people; and spread defamatory content to undermine the president. They were also accused of reporting accounts and sending viruses to damage opponents’ electronic devices.

Yusril denied the MCA was spreading the fake news. One of the issues that the MCA propagated was about dozens of cases of preachers’ assaults, which the police found unproven. Instead of defending religion, their motive is driven by politics.

“Based on our investigations, from monitoring social media, we see their motives are more [related] to politics,” Head of Nusantara Task Force Inspector General Gatot Eddy Pramono said in a statement.

The Nusantara Task Force was launched in early 2018 by the government to cool down the political tensions ahead of the local and presidential elections, including countering fake news and hate speech.

Gatot said the growth of the problem could spread fear and panic in the community, creating an impression that authorities have failed to provide security.

“This is able to divide the nation and lead to great social conflict,” he added.

Fake News and Fake Accounts

National Police Cyber Crime Director Brigadier General Fadil Imran told The Globe Post that based on a police investigation, the majority of fake news and hate speech were spread by fake or duplicate accounts on social media.

Facebook defines a duplicate account as one that a user maintains in addition to his or her principal account. Meanwhile, false accounts are divided into two categories: user-misclassified accounts, where users have created personal profiles for a business, organization, or a non-human, such as a pet; and undesirable accounts, which are intentionally made to commit rule violations, such as spamming.

“It is true that the spreading of false news cannot be separated from many social media users who use fake or anonymous accounts,” Imran said. He noted that the number of false accounts in Indonesia has increased ahead of local and presidential elections. “Social media is considered to be one of the instruments to bring down political opponents by spreading false information, slander, black campaign,” Imran added.

Based on Facebook’s financial report for the fourth quarter of 2017, it is estimated that the number of duplicate accounts on its network reaches about 10 percent of the total monthly active users. Meanwhile, the number of false accounts is estimated at around 3 to 4 percent.

In other words, since the number of Facebook’s monthly active users has passed the two billion mark, the number of duplicate accounts has reached 200 million, and false accounts stand at 60 million.

As of January 2018, the number of Facebook’s monthly active users in Indonesia itself has reached 130 million, equal to Brazil, but less than in the United States.

Full report at:



Uphold moderate Islam, but don’t be too liberal, says Najib’s ex-aide

Sheith Khidhir Bin Abu Bakar

May 17, 2018

PETALING JAYA: A former special officer to Najib Razak hopes Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad will promote a more moderate Islam but warns against allowing it to become too liberal.

Fathul Bari Mat Jahaya, an Umno Youth exco member who was once part of Umno’s “Young Ulama” group, said he was hoping for an Islam which rejects liberalism but is also able to open the minds of those deemed to be more conservative.

“We don’t want to be too open to the point that Islam becomes liberal and its fundamentals are forsaken,” he said when asked where he thought Islam would head under Pakatan Harapan (PH).

The word “liberal” is often used by Islamic authorities when criticising PH and civil societies.

Fathul, a graduate from Saudi Arabia and a staunch supporter of Najib’s administrative policies which leaned towards the Middle Eastern country, said apart from inviting Muslims to have open minds, it was also important to adhere to the strictures in the Quran.

“There are limits and red lines,” Fathul said. “We cannot cross them.”

He said there needed to be a balance so that interpretations deemed too conservative will not emerge in a world where information is accessible to the people.

“There have been very positive developments in the West and Asia as far as Islam is concerned. We need to present a moderate Islam which addresses the concerns of both this world and the hereafter.”

Since winning Putrajaya last week, Mahathir has yet to explain his government’s policies regarding Islam.

When asked to comment on rumours that the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) would be abolished, Mahathir said it had not been discussed.

In his first blog post since the election, however, Mahathir said there would be a change in Islamic administration.

Full report at:



Indonesia prosecutors demand death for radical leader over 2016 attacks

May 18, 2018

JAKARTA: Indonesian prosecutors Friday demanded the death penalty for a radical cleric over his role in a 2016 terror attack committed by a group linked to wave of suicide bombings this week.

Dozens of officers from an elite unit were sent to guard the trial of Aman Abdurrahman who is accused of authorizing a gun and suicide attack in the capital Jakarta two years ago that left four attackers and four civilians dead.

They were the first attacks claimed by Daesh in Southeast Asia.

Abdurrahman — considered the de facto head of all Daesh supporters in Indonesia — is also the spiritual leader of local extremist network Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD).

Authorities said JAD was behind the 2016 attack and suicide bombings in Indonesia’s second-biggest city Surabaya this week.

Two families — including a 9 and 12 year old girl — blew themselves up at churches and a police station, killing 13.

Authorities have not charged Abdurrahman, 46, over this week’s attacks.

On Friday, prosecutors called for Abdurrahman to be executed for the 2016 attacks.

“We demand this panel of judges sentence Aman Abdurrahman to death,” lead prosecutor Anita Dewayani, told the South Jakarta district court.

Abdurrahman is already in jail on a separate terror conviction.

The families who committed the suicide bombings knew each other and belonged to the same religious study group, along with third family linked to the attacks.

Full report at:



South Asia


Ghani urges Taliban to refrain from violence in respect of Holy Ramadan

May 17 2018

President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has urged the Taliban group and other militants to respect the Holy Month of Ramadan and refrain from violence.

In a video message released on the occasion of the Holy Month of Ramadan, President Ghani said he expects that the Taliban and other armed militants do not spread chaos and instability for the worshippers during the Holy Month of Ramadan.

The UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Tadamachi Yamamoto also urged the militants to halt fighting.

“I sincerely hope that the observation of Ramadan will provide an opportunity for all communities in Afghanistan to come closer to each other and build bridges peacefully. In the same spirit, I would like to call parties to the conflict to respect this religious obligation and halt the fighting,” Tadamachi said in a statement.

He also added that the United Nations in Afghanistan remains committed to stand with the people of Afghanistan in their quest for a peaceful, united and prosperous Afghanistan.



Rohingya Refugee Camps: Some 60 babies born a day: UN

May 18, 2018

Around 60 babies a day are being born in vast refugee camps in Bangladesh, sheltering hundreds of thousands of mainly Rohingya Muslims who have fled Myanmar, the United Nations children's agency Unicef said on Wednesday.

Nearly 700,000 Rohingya fled to Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh in the past nine months after a Myanmar military crackdown that the United Nations, United States and Britain have denounced as ethnic cleansing. Myanmar has denied that any ethnic cleansing occurred.

Unicef said in a statement that since the crisis began more than 16,000 babies had been born in the camps, of which only about 3,000 were delivered in health facilities.

"Around 60 babies a day are taking their first breath in appalling conditions, away from home, to mothers who have survived displacement, violence, trauma and, at times, rape," said Edouard Beigbeder, Unicef's Representative in Bangladesh.

UN Security Council envoys visited the refugee camps in April.

"It is impossible to know the true number of babies who have been or will be born as a result of sexual violence," Beigbeder said. "It is vital that each and every new and expectant mother and every new-born receive all the help and support they need."

Rohingya insurgent attacks on security posts in Myanmar's Rakhine state last August sparked a military operation that Myanmar has said was legitimate. Last November, Myanmar's military released a report in which it denied all accusations of rape by security forces.

A senior Bangladesh health ministry official, who declined to be named due to sensitivity of the matter, said last week that so far 18,300 pregnant women had been identified in the camps and the rough total estimate was around 25,000, reported Reuters.

In March the United Nations launched an appeal for $951 million to help the Rohingya refugees for the rest of the year, but it is less than 20 percent funded.


Aid workers are scouring the world's largest refugee camp for pregnant Rohingya rape victims, with a rush of births anticipated nine months after Myanmar forces unleashed "a frenzy of sexual violence" against women and girls from the Muslim minority.

Specialists and Rohingya volunteers are racing against time to find women in the giant camp who are thought to be hiding their pregnancies out of shame, as fears grow that newborns could be abandoned and new mothers may die without care in coming weeks.

Tosminara, herself a Rohingya refugee, has spent months coaxing these women out of the shadows, promising discretion.

"We tell them a password they can use when they arrive at the hospital or health post. The guard then sends the woman directly to the right spot," said Tosminara, who goes by one name.

"They often are shy. Sometimes they are afraid to come forward."

The Myanmar army crackdown last August drove roughly 700,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh and the number of pregnancies resulting from rape is not known.

But UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour said there would "inevitably" be a spike in births soon given the "frenzy of sexual violence in August and September last year".

Marcella Kraay of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) also said "a fair number of pregnancies" were expected.

An estimated 48,000 women will give birth in the camps this year. Those who were raped will be delivering imminently, mostly in secret and without medical care on the floors of bamboo shacks overlooking the Bangladesh-Myanmar border.

Rohingya community leader Abdur Rahim said he knew two women personally who were raped by soldiers and due within the month. He had heard rumours of many others in a similar position, he added.

"The Myanmar military raped them. These babies are... evidence of their crimes," he told AFP.


Tosminara says she is trying her best to find these women in the heaving camps. But volunteers must contend with a deep-rooted stigma that keeps many from revealing their ordeal.

"Sometimes neighbours say 'don't do anything, it will humiliate you further'. So they don't want to come," said Nurjahan Mitu, a doctor who trains midwives through a UN Population Fund programme.

Many have sought clinical help to terminate pregnancies -- legal in Bangladesh up to 12 weeks.

Others have resorted to underground options resulting in "complicated, incomplete abortions", said MSF midwife Daniela Sofia.

The UN's Gilmour, who toured the camps in March, said girls as young as 14 were self-inducing abortions.

Sofia, the midwife, assisted a 16-year-old with an abortion after the teenager arrived at her clinic in secret, terrified that her family would find out.

She said the girl was pregnant after being gang-raped by Myanmar soldiers, but had no one to support her through the trauma.

"Nobody knew about the rape. Her family were not aware of it," Sofia told AFP.

More than half the Rohingya who have fled into Bangladesh are women and girls.

Children are seen everywhere but adolescent girls are largely invisible, many kept indoors by families concerned for their welfare, experts say.

Experts are concerned that families could forcibly marry off teenage girls to cover up a pregnancy.

Others fear that newborns could be abandoned.

MSF alone treated 311 rape victims -- women and girls aged between nine and 50 -- between August and March but Kraay said this was "the tip of the iceberg".

Full report at:



Turkey to aid Rohingya in Ramadan

17 May 2018

Turkish charitable groups aim to reach thousands of Rohingya in Myanmar and Bangladesh during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) plans to deliver food parcels to 5,000 families living in refugee camps and in villages in Myanmar's Rakhine state.

The agency is also set to set up tents to serve iftars, or fast-breaking meals, for as many as 30,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

TIKA will also supply a separate group of 30,000 people with food parcels that contain salt, sugar, biscuit, persimmon, tea, onion, potato, pepper and chickpea, along with personal care items.

The agency will also establish new shelters for 180 families in Rakhine.

Also, the Turkiye Diyanet Foundation (TDV) -- the charity organization of Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs -- is set to distribute more than 6,000 food packages for Rohingya in Myanmar and provide 5,000 families with iftar meals.

The foundation also plans to deliver 10,000 food packages and serve iftar meals for 13,000 Rohingya in Cox-Bazaar, Bangladesh.

The Turkish Red Crescent Society will give food parcels and personal care products to 2,000 families in Bangladesh on a weekly basis during Ramadan.

The Turkish Red Crescent will also organize two iftar meals in Cox Bazaar.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, some 750,000 Rohingya, mostly children, and women, fled Myanmar when Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community, according to the Amnesty International.

At least 9,000 Rohingya were killed in Rakhine state from Aug. 25 to Sept. 24, according to Doctors Without Borders.

Full report at:



With Rohingya gone, Myanmar's ethnic Rakhine seek Muslim-free 'buffer zone'

March 16, 2018

Buddhist flags hang limply from bamboo poles at the entrance to Koe Tan Kauk, a "model" village for ethnic Rakhine migrants shuttled north to repopulate an area once dominated by Rohingya Muslims.

The new arrivals are moving to parts of Rakhine state mostly "cleared" of its Rohingya residents, whose villages were bulldozed and reduced to muddy stains on a landscape of lush farmland.

The Rakhine migrants, who come from the poor but relatively stable south, are -- for now -- few in number.

But they carry great expectations as the pioneers of a donor-led "Rakhinisation" plan to upend the demography of the once majority-Muslim area.

"We were really afraid of those Kalars and didn't plan to come here," Chit San Eain, a 28-year-old who has moved with her husband and toddler into a basic hut in Koe Tan Kauk tells AFP, using a pejorative term for Muslims.

"But now that they are no longer here, we have the chance to meet again with our relatives who live up here," she added, the ruins of a Rohingya settlement lying a few kilometres away.

Nearly 700,000 Rohingya have been driven from northern Rakhine into Bangladesh since August 25 last year by a Myanmar army offensive against Muslim militants.

Another 300,000 Rohingya were pushed out from the south and centre of Rakhine by army campaigns stretching back to the late 1970s.

The UN has branded last year's military crackdown ethnic cleansing, with a top official saying it carried all the "hallmarks of genocide."

Myanmar vigorously denies the allegations and says refugees are welcome to return.

But so far it has agreed to allow back only 374 of 8,000 refugees whose names have been put forward for the initial phase of repatriation.

Many traumatised Rohingya in Cox's Bazar camps are also refusing to be repatriated to Rakhine -- where holding camps and hostile neighbours await them.

In their absence a blizzard of development projects, government and army-sponsored or privately funded, are transforming northern Rakhine.

Taking space vacated by fleeing Rohingya is an old game in a state seen as the frontline of a Buddhist nation's fight against encroaching Islam.

"The military has been engineering the social landscape of northern Rakhine State so as to dilute the Rohingya population since the early 1990s," says Francis Wade, author of "Myanmar's Enemy Within: Buddhist Violence and the Making of the Muslim 'Other'".

The Muslim minority are denied citizenship and labelled "Bengalis", outsiders who -- the logic runs -- have successfully been pushed back to their country of origin.

In a pattern with echoes of "the Israeli settler project in the West Bank" Buddhist communities then move in, altering the "facts on the ground" gradually rubbing out Muslim rights to the land, he added.

"I'd expect to see more Buddhists settle there over the coming years. And then we'll forget what the area once was, and that process of erasure will be complete."

Rohingya out, Rakhine in

Chit San Ean is the beneficiary of the Ancillary Committee for the Reconstruction of Rakhine National Territory in the Western Frontier (CRR), a private scheme established shortly after the refugee crisis began.

In a zone under a strict army lockdown the resettlement plan could not fly without military consent.

Funded by ethnic Rakhine donors, the CRR's ambition is to establish a "Muslim-dry" buffer zone running the nearly 100 kilometres from state capital Sittwe to Maungdaw town, according to Oo Hla Saw, a Rakhine MP who advises the committee.

"All of this area was under the influence of Muslims. After the military operations, they had to flee... so we have to establish this area with the Rakhine population," he told AFP.

The CRR will fund jobs and homes "so this little population can grow and grow," he added.

It's a trickle so far, with around 64 households -- some 250 people -- moved by the CRR, with 200 more families on a waiting list.

They are among the poorest of the poor, mostly daily wage labourers from Thandwe around 600 kilometres to the south or squatters from Sittwe.

Two village tracts, Koe Tan Kuak near Rathedaung and Inn Din near Maungdaw, have been designated for the scheme so far.

The army concedes the second site was the scene of extrajudicial killings of Rohingya captives as violence engulfed the region last August.

Koe Tan Kauk was a similarly mixed settlement of Buddhist and Muslim homes.

The CRR-sponsored hamlet promises a rudimentary existence.

There is little work, no electricity or running water but donors have gifted each family a $450 shack on stilts, made from plywood and metal sheeting.

New residents hope to eventually own land, a prospect previously beyond their reach in Myanmar's second-poorest state.

Rakhine nationalists say the CRR is a bulwark against Islam and a means to ensure their ethnic group has a say in development projects driven by the Burmese-dominated central state, who they distrust deeply.

"Who should be given priority other than Rakhines in Rakhine State?" explained Than Tun, General Secretary of the CRR.

Cronies and soldiers

For its part, Myanmar's government has enlisted powerful businessmen to rebuild the infrastructure of the battered state.

The army is running other projects including beefing up its security apparatus -- in what appears to be a multi-pronged effort to keep out the Rohingya.

An Amnesty International report this week detailed how roads, helipads and security installations are being built, often on top of razed Rohingya settlements.

They labelled the activity a massive "land grab" that threatens to erase evidence of alleged atrocities, including at Inn Din.

Across northern Rakhine, abandoned land and rice fields have been commandeered by the army in an area with access tightly controlled to media, investigators and most aid groups.

The Rohingya lost their legal status in 1982, under a junta-era Citizenship Law. Now their ancestral lands are being stripped away.

That makes return impossible, according to lawmaker Oo Hla Saw.

"These people want to be recognised as 'Rohingya' ethnicity... to enjoy citizenship, to resettle in their native grounds," he says. "Their demands are unreasonable."

Despite their dangerous new neighbourhood, the arrivals at Koe Tan Kauk say they are there to stay.

Full report at:



Afghan Air Force video shows precision bombings on Taliban positions

May 17 2018

A  new video of the Afghan Air Force shows the compilation of a series of precision airstrikes carried out with the help of the laser-guided bombs.

According to the coalition forces in Afghanistan, the Afghan Air Force pilots have been dropping laser guided bombs on enemy targets throughout the southern half of Afghanistan since March 22, 2018.

This precision strike capability limits the adversaries ability to use densely populated areas for sanctuary and helps to prevent civilian casualties.

The Afghan Air Force for the first time used the bomb to target a Taliban compound in Farah province last month.

“On March 22, the Afghan Air Force tasked the A-29 squadron to destroy a Taliban compound in Farah. The Afghan attack pilots were equipped with both guided and unguided bombs, and elected to employ the GBU-58 laser-guided bomb to avoid collateral damage,” according to a report by Resolute Support Mission.

This comes as efforts are underway to boost the capabilities of the Afghan armed forces, particularly the Air Forces.

Full report at:



Suicide attack targets Pakistani forces vehicle in Nowshera

May 17 2018

A suicide bomber targeted the vehicle of the Pakistani security forces in Nowshera area of the country with preliminary reports indicating at least 15 have been killed or wounded.

The incident took place this afternoon after a suicide bomber detonated his explosives near the vehicle of the Pakistani forces near Nowshera’s Mall Road.

A security official Nadeem Bukhtari has said at least one person was killed and fourteen others have sustained injuries in the attack.

He said the wounded individuals have been shifted to military as well as the civilian hospital but there is no words regarding their health condition.

Another security official has said the vehicle which was targeted in the attack belonged to the Frontier Corps of the Pakistani military.

No individual or group has so far claimed responsibility behind the attack.

Full report at:



US aid chief calls on Myanmar to end violence against Rohingya Muslims

May 17, 2018

The US government's aid chief has called on Myanmar to end violence against members of the persecuted Rohingya Muslim community in the northwestern state of Rakhine.

Mark Green, administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), who is due to meet Myanmar government officials in the capital, Naypyitaw, said he would ask for "free and unhindered humanitarian access throughout the country" as well as access for media to travel freely.

Green made the remarks after he visited Rohingya refugee camps on a three-day visit to neighboring Bangladesh this week.

He told reporters in Dhaka before travelling to Myanmar that the US would provide $44 million in additional aid to help meet the needs of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

"Today, I will fly to Burma and will ask them to end the violence and will also ask them to allow media access,” Green said.

"This humanitarian crisis is a global challenge and our government along with the international community will work together to support Bangladesh," he noted.

The United Nations Security Council earlier called on Myanmar’s government to hold accountable the perpetrators of widespread violence against the Rohingya Muslim minority in the Buddhist-majority country’s northwest over the past year and half.

Myanmar has come under intense criticism since its military launched a deadly crackdown against the Muslim minority in Rakhine in late 2016 in which thousands of the Muslims have been killed.

About 700,000 others have fled to neighboring Bangladesh since August last year, bringing with them horrifying accounts of massacres, gang rape, and arson by Myanmar’s military forces and Buddhist mobs.

The international medics who have examined the refugees have verified that their bodily injuries conform to the accounts of violence, including rape.

Full report at:





Libyan army says terror leaders ‘reside in Turkey

17 May 2018

Libyan army spokesman Ahmed al-Mesmari called on people in Derna to withdraw their sons from the battle the army is fighting against terrorism and said many youth fighting in the ranks of terror groups have been influenced by the calls of terror leaders who reside in luxurious hotels in Turkey.

“Those issuing fatwas (religious edicts) to fight the army in Derna reside in Turkey and push youth to fight in a losing battle,” Mesmari said, noting that the army is steadily advancing towards terrorist strongholds.

He also called on people to not allow terrorists to deploy weapons above rooftops or in the streets because “any sources of gunfire on the armed forces will be targeted.”

According to Mesmari, army forces “are now inside Derna on several axes,” and terror groups which were stationed in al-Zohr al-Homr and al-Heela fled and “got stationed in the mountains but they were expelled and a large number of (their members) was killed.”

Abdel-Karim Sabra, the spokesman for the Omar Mukhtar Operations Room, told Al that the army seized control of new posts in the eastern and southern axes which terror groups had used as bastions considering the protection provided by highlands.

Sabra added that the army now supervises areas that are only a few kilometers away from the center of the city.

Meanwhile, a local source told Al that terror groups began fortifying their new posts inside the city, adding that a dispute erupted between residents in the Shiha neighborhood and armed terrorists because the former refused to allow them to fortify in their neighborhood.

The source added, however, that terror groups managed to position themselves in several other neighborhoods.

A video and footage obtained by Al showed military vehicles destroyed by the shelling and trenches used by terrorists.



Islamists are losing support in Jordan

May 17, 2018

Democratic Party losses in traditional strongholds are stunning, often exposing deep frustration between party and base. Similarly, Republican losses in deep-red districts raise many questions.

In the Middle East, rare Islamist losses in their own strongholds show the failure of Islamist appeals to keep previously reliable supporters. This just happened in Jordan.

During the past two months, Muslim Brotherhood-supported groups got trounced during elections at Jordan University, the flagship university whose student union elections relegated Islamists behind the new Nashama (Gallantry) movement, and the Jordan Engineers Association, the kingdom’s largest professional union whose 150,000 members are now led by the independent Numuw (Growth) bloc.

These losses contradict the prevailing narrative of an Islamist comeback that took hold in 2016, when the Jordanian Brotherhood ended a decade of political boycott. That year, the Brotherhood reentered parliamentary elections and in 2017 contested the first-ever municipal elections. Yet Islamists did not meet expectations of resurgent success. As universities and unions are bellwethers of social change, the JU and JEA losses reveal Islamist influence may be declining.

Our research, including interviews with political activists, suggests disenchantment with Islamism has been years in the making. We have tracked political trends in Jordan since the Arab Spring and see a new wave of mobilization that is youth-driven, highly informal and reform-oriented. Examples such as Nashama and Numuw are also unfazed by identity debates like the Palestinian-tribal divide and suspicious of all parties and ideologies, including Islamism.

The Islamist elephant

The Brotherhood has always been the elephant in the room of those predicting Jordan’s survival. Electoral manipulations marginalize its members in parliament, and state-supported splinter groups and repression undermine its political voice. However, even under authoritarian constraints, civil society was seen as an Islamist citadel.

For decades, scholars tracked how the Brotherhood used its charitable network and ideological pull to command an impressive base of popular support. It outperformed other groups in organizing protests and leading public opinion on everything from Palestinian territories to economic austerity.

Such perceptions of domination in turn fed warnings about political Islam posing an existential threat to the ruling monarchy, which its advocates describe as Washington’s strongest Middle East ally. Today’s narrative of Islamism rising like a phoenix, inflected by years of Salafi-jihadist violence emanating from the so-called Islamic State, thus continues to fuel nervous talk of the Brotherhood destabilizing Jordan despite its historically pro-monarchist stance.

What student politics show

Many political scientists know Jordan University because its researchers help implement the Arab Barometer surveys. However, within student politics, JU is also a microcosm of society. It can be restive, with fee protests and tribal feuding recently agitating its Amman campus. It is also enormous. Of Jordan’s 300,000 university students, nearly 15 percent study at JU. Under its electoral system, students choose their universitywide governing council from closed lists of candidates. Nashama now has nine of the 18 student union seats, compared to the Islamists’ six.

Nashama succeeded with three strategies. First, it provided public services to all regardless of tribal or ideological affiliation, such as recording lectures, mentoring new students and holding forums about controversial topics like the military. It called for students to look beyond identity and interrogate how they could engage national problems like endemic corruption.

Second, Nashama rejected outside patronage. Though their resources paled in comparison to Islamists’ and even Awdeh’s, supported by Palestinian MPs, such independence resonated with many.

Finally, eschewing the hierarchical structures of other groups, Nashama functioned as a horizontal network, putting new members into contact with organizers and relying upon social media as its glue. Whereas competing student groups operate like local franchises of national organizations, Nashama is the inverse — a local entity planning to branch outward across the kingdom.

Riding a youth wave

In the Jordan Engineers Association (JEA) May elections, Numuw ran as a coalition of independents, former leftists, and previously unaffiliated members across multiple rounds in all governorates. It secured seven of the 11 leadership seats including the presidency. This shocked political salons and elicited Islamist accusations of fraud. Our research, however, reveals the same currents here as elsewhere.

First, the Numuw coalition rode on a youth wave. Over 14,000 engineers voted, nearly 3,000 more than the previous election. Many were first-time voters organized into an informal network called Tayyar Thalith (Third Current). They rejected ideological sloganeering reminiscent of political parties, such as promises to liberate Jerusalem, and called for advancing engineering-relevant issues such as employment and entrepreneurship.

Second, Numuw candidates called for voters to look beyond social origin. They espoused a moderate nationalist discourse that questioned the urban-rural, Palestinian-tribal, and Islamist-civic divides that had long dogged JEA disputes.

These strategies worked. While Islamist turnout did not drop far from past levels, victory came from younger first-time voters that mobilized even in Islamist bedrocks like Irbid. Further, many Palestinian members who traditionally sided with Islamists defected to Numuw, explaining they valued professional advancement over political mantras and identity-based posturing.

Islamists are dwindling

The JU and JEA elections are not one-off upsets but part of slowly diffusing trends. Islamists have also lost ground at Hashemite University, Yarmouk University, and Jordan University of Science and Technology. Among other professional unions, the Jordan Bar Association and Teachers Association, likewise, have begun replacing Islamist leaders with new alternatives.

These findings do not mean Jordan is becoming secular — rejecting Islamism is not equivalent to rejecting Islam. Moreover, the Muslim Brotherhood has struggled in many places since 2013 due to authoritarian blowback and the Islamic State’s rise. Yet they do show that Islamism is not the returning juggernaut that prevailing assumptions evoke.

Full report at:



Nigeria, Cameroon forces kill 15 Boko Haram insurgents

17 May 2018

Nigerian and Cameroon forces killed 15 Boko Haram insurgents during gun battles to clear the Lake Chad region of the violent group, officials said on Thursday.

A statement by Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, spokesman of the counter-insurgency operation in the country’s troubled northeast, said a joint operation of Nigerian and Cameroonian forces in the southern Lake Chad Basin region on Wednesday engaged Boko Haram militants in fierce battle at various locations. The troops also recovered an arms cache, he said.

"Combined troops of Operation Lafiya Dole and the Cameroonian Defence Forces have killed 15 Boko Haram insurgents in separate encounters in Southern Lake Chad Basin," Nwachukwu said.

He said the military troops "dislodged the insurgents from their hideouts after a fierce battle."

Four men, 33 women, and 16 child hostages were also rescued from the insurgents' camp, Nwachukwu said.

He said the military has started interviewing the rescued hostages before taking them to camps for displaced persons.

Boko Haram has recently stepped up attacks on communities, including suicide bombings in the northeast.

On Tuesday, a male suicide bomber suspected to be Boko Haram detonated explosives near Maiduguri, northeastern Nigeria, killing five local security volunteers.

The attack came when the military announced a major offensive against the insurgents called Operation Last Hold to clear Boko Haram from the Lake Chad Basin area and return those displaced by the nearly nine-year conflict to their homes to start farming and fishing.

Full report at:



Brazil charges 11 with attempting to recruit minors for Daesh terror attacks

May 18, 2018

Brazilian prosecutors have announced charges against eleven people, who were accused of trying to establish a terror group inside the country and recruiting militants to send to Syria.

Federal prosecutor's office in Goias state in central Brazil said those charged were responsible for promoting the Daesh terrorist group through social media and by sharing materials via WhatsApp and Facebook.

It said they were also attempting to recruit “minors to take part in terrorist acts on national soil.”

According to a court filing, one of the accused used a chat group called "Caliphate of the Brazilian State" to suggest copying last year’s London Bridge attack. The suspect also discussed plans to carry out attacks during carnival in Rio de Janeiro or in Salvador de Bahia to kill as many people as possible, said the document.

Two of those charged are being held in a maximum-security prison and five others, arrested since October, were freed pending trial, said the prosecutor's office.

Police also said they found homemade weapons in the house of one of the suspects, who used another chat group to discuss an attack using the explosives.

It was the second Daesh-affiliated group dismantled by the Latin American country in two years.

Before the 2016 Rio Olympics, police arrested members of a group, which was plotting to carry out attacks during the games. Back then, a court sentenced eight people to up to 15 years in prison. None of the supposed plots were ever carried out.

The Brazilian government said the group was “absolutely amateur” whose members were in contact via messaging apps but did not know each other personally.

Full report at:





Rouhani urges Muslim states to give 'firm response' to Israel's crimes

May 17, 2018

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has called on the Muslim countries to give a "firm response" to Israel's recent bloody military crackdown on mass protests in the Gaza Strip.

In a phone conversation with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani on Thursday, Rouhani pointed to the upcoming meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul and said, "At the Istanbul summit, the Islamic countries must give a firm response to the oppression and crimes against the Palestinian people."

Rouhani also slammed the recent relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem al-Quds as a "provocative" move.

Israeli forces killed at least 62 Palestinians during protests near the Gaza fence on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the Nakba Day (Day of Catastrophe), which coincided with Washington’s embassy relocation from Tel Aviv to occupied Jerusalem al-Quds.

More than 2,700 Palestinians were also wounded as the Israeli forces used snipers, airstrikes, tank fire and tear gas to target the demonstrators.

Iran to stand by Qatar

Rouhani also pointed to the ongoing embargo of Qatar by the Saudi-led quartet of Arab countries and said, "The Islamic Republic of Iran considers sanctions on the Qatari nation and government an inappropriate and unjust measure and welcomes the promotion of ties and cooperation with Qatar as a friend and neighboring state."

Last June, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, and the UAE imposed a land, naval and air blockade on import-dependent Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism - an allegation strongly denied by Doha.

The Saudi-led quartet presented Qatar with a list of steep demands and gave it an ultimatum to comply with them or face consequences.

Doha, however, refused to meet the demands and stressed that it would not abandon its independent foreign policy.

Rouhani expressed Iran's solidarity with the Qatari nation and government and welcomed the idea of establishing a joint cooperation commission to promote bilateral relations in all areas.

The president further underlined the importance of dialogue as the only way for the settlement of disputes. "Iran is always prepared to discuss regional issues with the Persian Gulf states. However, some countries assume that they should choose a way other than dialogue," he said.

"No power or superpower can be a substitute for good cooperation among the neighbors in the region," he added.

The Qatari emir, for his part, lauded "friendly and brotherly" ties between Tehran and Doha and expressed gratitude to Iran over its "constructive position" on his country's standoff with Saudi Arabia.

Sheikh Tamim also slammed the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem al-Quds and Israel's massacre of protesters in Gaza. He said the OIC summit in Istanbul will serve as a suitable opportunity to discuss the regional issues.



Will new US sanctions affect Iran’s support for Hamas?

Ahmad Abu Amer

May 17, 2018

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on May 8 and the new sanctions imposed on Iran on May 10 have raised questions about their impact on Iran’s military and financial support for Palestinian factions, specifically Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.

Iran resumed support for Hamas and Islamic Jihad in May 2017. This support had been suspended at the end of 2015 as the two movements opted for impartiality in the conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

Reuters on Jan. 2 cited Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, chief of General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, as saying in reference to the Iranian support, “In recent months, investment in the Palestinian arena has also been growing out of a desire to influence it — with an increase in the (annual) funding in the Gaza Strip for (militant groups) Hamas and the Islamic Jihad to $100 million.”

The Saudi Asharq al-Awsat newspaper reported May 25, 2016, that Iran gives the Islamic Jihad an annual sum of $70 million.

Hussein Sheikh al-Islam, an adviser to the Iranian foreign minister, told Al-Monitor that Iran’s decision to support the Palestinian resistance is strategic and cannot be revoked. He said, “Iran’s goal is to strengthen the resistance axis on the Palestinian territories, in Syria and Lebanon in the face of the US-Israeli axis.”

Islam said Iran’s relations with the Palestinian resistance factions, specifically Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, is developing with time.

Hamas’ representative in Tehran, Khaled al-Qaddumi, told Al-Monitor, “Iran is a strategic ally that has supported the Palestinian cause for years and has stood by the Palestinian people and the resistance as much as possible.”

He underlined that Hamas and the Palestinian resistance, as well as Iran and the entire Arab and Muslim world, are facing a common enemy — Israel.

Qaddumi said Iran has resumed its support for Hamas, the Palestinian people and the resistance on the military, political, diplomatic and financial levels. He said that countries providing aid to the Palestinian people feel a duty toward Palestine and Jerusalem, and that Hamas is well aware these countries can face tough circumstances at times.

Qaddumi said the policy of US President Donald Trump’s administration is taking an escalatory turn against the Middle East.

Islamic Jihad spokesman Daoud Chehab told Al-Monitor that Iran has long been subject to US sanctions, mainly because of its support for the Palestinian cause and its refusal to build ties with Israel.

He said, “Iranian officials stated that they are committed to backing the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian people’s struggle, and that this support will not depend on lifting or imposing sanctions on Iran.”

Chehab added, “Israel is fully invested in using Iran’s stances vis-a-vis the Palestinian cause as grounds to spar with the country. Israel does not want anyone to sympathize with the Palestinians who are the victims of its terrorism.”

Iranian member of parliament Mojtaba Rahmandoust told Al-Monitor that the new US sanctions will not affect Iran’s support for the Palestinian factions, saying the Iranian leadership will boost its support for the groups and for all movements facing Israel in the Arab region.

He added, “In the years preceding the signing of the JCPOA with the West in 2015, Iran faced a boycott and blockade from several countries. But its financial, military and political support for the resistance and the Palestinian people, as well as the other resistance movements in the region such as Hezbollah, remained unwavering.”

Rahmandoust condemned Trump’s attack on Iran; in a press conference, Trump announced the US withdrawal from the JCPOA and accused Iran of supporting Hamas and Hezbollah. The Iranian legislator said, “We support resistance movements seeking to regain their lands from Israel. The United States, on the contrary, supports Israel, which is occupying the Palestinian territories and threatening Arab and Muslim countries.”

US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt tweeted Feb. 4, “Imagine what the people of Gaza could do with the $100 million Iran gives Hamas annually that Hamas uses for weapons and tunnels to attack Israel!”

Akram Atallah, political analyst and journalist for Palestinian newspaper Al-Ayyam, told Al-Monitor that Iran’s support for the Palestinian factions will be affected by the new US sanctions. He said the extent of this impact, however, depends on whether other Western and European countries follow suit.

Atallah said tightening sanctions on Iran will harm the Iranian economy and will affect its support for its allies and resistance movements in the region. Consequently, the growth of the military capacities of these movements might slow down.

Political analyst Hadi Burhani, a professor of Palestinian Studies at the University of Tehran, told Al-Monitor, “The US sanctions might affect the Iranian economy, but at the same time Iran is ready to face them by coordinating with other European countries that are committed to the JCPOA.”

Burhani said that supporting the Palestinian resistance factions tops Iran’s priorities and that it is unlikely that this support will dwindle under the new US sanctions.

He said Iran is focusing on unifying the efforts of the movements facing Israel in the Arab region to confront the colonial threat of the United States and Israel causing the tragedies of the Arab people.

Iran will most likely keep supporting the Palestinian factions, even if the new US sanctions might have a slight impact. Meanwhile, military escalation between Iran and Israel in Syria on May 10 and Iran’s need for these movements to stand by its side in any future military confrontation guarantee its ongoing support further.

Full report at:



Erdogan hosts Islamic summit to back Palestinians, condemn Israel

May 18, 2018

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday hosts for the second time in half a year a summit of the world’s main pan-Islamic group seeking to show solidarity with the Palestinians and condemn Israel after its deadly shootings of Gaza protesters.

Erdogan has reacted with unbridled fury to the killing by Israeli forces on Monday of 60 Palestinians on the Gaza border, accusing Israel of “genocide” and being run as an “apartheid state”.

His comments sparked a diplomatic crisis between Turkey and Israel and Erdogan has also called a mass demonstration expected to rally hundreds of thousands of people Friday to protest Israel’s actions towards the Palestinians.

Erdogan has already hosted an extraordinary meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), in December last year, to denounce US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

He has already vowed that Friday’s summit should send a “strong message to the world” over Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

However, as in the 2017 meeting, disputes between the OIC’s key players — notably between Sunni kingpin Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran — may prevent the adoption of any measures going beyond harsh rhetoric.

Riyadh — which appears to have softened its stance on Israel as the influence of powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has grown — and its allies fear alienating the United States with tough measures against Israel.

Saudi’s chief foreign policy preoccupation, shared with Israel, is ensuring US backing to contain Iran which both Riyadh and the Jewish state see as the main threat to regional peace.

– ‘Dragged into chaos’ –

After only declaring his intention to hold the event on Monday, Erdogan has managed to build up an impressive guest list at short notice in intense phone diplomacy.

Jordanian King Abdullah II will be present although the Palestinians will be represented by prime minister Rami Hamdallah and not president Mahmud Abbas who this week had surgery on his ear.

From the Gulf, Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah is expected as is Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani of Qatar, Turkey’s main regional ally.

As in the November 2017 meeting, a controversial guest will be Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted on charges of genocide and war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Egypt and Saudi Arabia distrust Turkey’s support for Islamist movements like the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, complicating any effort to take concrete measures against Israel.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir will be at the Istanbul summit. The Saudi level of representation is higher than at the November meeting.

Erdogan has long craved a role as a Muslim leader within the entire Islamic world, rarely holding back with tirades against Israel even though Ankara has diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.

“If the silence on Israel’s tyranny continues, the world will rapidly be dragged into a chaos where banditry prevails,” Erdogan said Wednesday.

– ‘Stop the oppression’ –

Tensions with Israel and hosting such a meeting also does Erdogan no harm with his core supporters as Turkey heads to presidential and parliamentary polls on June 24.

In a diplomatic crisis threatening a 2016 deal that allowed the resumption of full ties, Turkey has ordered the Israeli ambassador to leave for an unspecified period of time.

Turkey had already withdrawn its Tel Aviv ambassador for consultations while Israel ordered the Turkish consul in Jerusalem to leave, also for an unspecified period of time.

Erdogan has engaged in a bitter Twitter spat with Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu who he accused of having “the blood of Palestinians” on his hands.

The rally expected just before the summit is set to take place at the vast Yenikapi meeting area which is favoured by Erdogan for election rallies and has capacity for a million people.

Full report at:



US targets key Hezbollah financing network, and Iranian conduit

18 May 2018

The United States sought to further choke off funding sources for Iranian-backed Hezbollah on Thursday, sanctioning one of its financiers and its representative to Iran, as well as five entities based in Europe, West Africa and the Middle East.

It imposed sanctions on Hezbollah’s financier, Mohammad Ibrahim Bazzi, and its representative to Iran, Abdallah Safi Al-Din, the Treasury Department said in a statement.

The department said it had also blacklisted Belgian energy services conglomerate Global Trading Group; Gambia-based petroleum and petroleum products company Euro African Group; and Lebanon-based Africa Middle East Investment Holding, Premier Investment Group SAL Offshore and import-export group Car Escort Services.

“The savage and depraved acts of one of Hezbollah’s most prominent financiers cannot be tolerated,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

“This administration will expose and disrupt Hezbollah and Iranian terror networks at every turn, including those with ties to the Central Bank of Iran," he said.

The sanctions are among a slew of new and additional ones aimed at Iran and Hezbollah since US President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal last week.

In one of the biggest moves aimed at tightening the noose on Iran’s overseas operations and its elite revolutionary guards, the US Treasury sanctioned Iran’s central bank governor, Valiollah Seif, earlier this week.

On Wednesday, the United States, backed by Gulf States, imposed additional sanctions on Hezbollah’s top two leaders, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and Naim Qassem.

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Israeli air raids target Hamas facility in Gaza, Turkey seeks UN motion

17 May 2018

Israel said Thursday it launched an overnight air raid on a Hamas facility in Gaza, after gunfire from the territory targeted its soldiers and damaged a building.

In a statement, the Israeli Defense Forces said, “the Israeli army struck targets belonging to Hamas in the northern Gaza Strip, including terrorist infrastructure and weapons-making facilities.”

On Wednesday, Israeli tanks fired at three Hamas positions after shots from Gaza were fired at Israeli soldiers and bullets from a heavy machinegun hit a house in the town of Sderot. The exchanges of fire came after weeks of mass protests and clashes on the Gaza border, which peaked on Monday when more than 60 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces.

During the war surrounding Israel’s creation in 1948, more than 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes. Israel and militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008. According to the Associated Press, the Palestinian health ministry says a man was moderately wounded by shrapnel, but didn’t say whether he was inside a militant site or nearby.

Turkey seeks UN motion

Meanwhile, Turkey has said it wants the United Nations General Assembly to pass a motion regarding Jerusalem, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday, as the discomfort over Palestinians killed in Gaza by Israeli forces grows.

Speaking in an interview to state-broadcaster TRT Haber, Cavusoglu also said that an independent commission needs to prepare a report on the violence in Gaza and that Israel needs to stand in the face of law.

Full report at:



Iran scolds US, Israel for unilateralism on Iran deal, embassy move

May 18, 2018

Iran says unilateral policies like the ones regularly adopted by the United States and Israel are detrimental to world peace and indicate a push towards replacing the rule of law with the "rule of power."

"Unilateral measures, either in the form of illegal recourse to war, occupation, aggression or denying the sovereignty of member states or waiving the immunity of states under an unsubstantiated legal doctrine, are obvious manifestations of the rule of power, not the rule of law," Gholamali Khoshroo, Iran's ambassador to the UN, told a Security Council meeting on Thursday.

Khoshroo said US President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and his recent decision to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem al-Quds, which was followed by a deadly crackdown on Palestinian protesters, were two glaring examples of such "internationally wrongful acts."

Iran nuclear deal

Earlier this month, Trump pulled out his country from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 group -- the US, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany -- over claims that it did not curb Iran's missile program and its regional influence.

The decision violated a UNSC resolution that endorsed the deal, and went against numerous confirmations by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of Iran's compliance with the accord.

Khoshroo said the decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and to re-impose all nuclear-related sanctions against Tehran was yet another "material breach" of the deal by Washington.

Previous violations included "bad faith nominal implementation, undue delays, new sanctions and designations, derogatory anti-JCPOA statements, refusal to issue necessary licenses particularly in the last 16 months as well as systematic and concerted efforts to sabotage the deal by actively dissuading others to do business with Iran," the Iranian envoy added.

Khoshroo said Trump's move "is a regress to the failed and disastrous era of unilateralism, and encourages illegality."

'Illegal' embassy move

The Iranian envoy, who was addressing a UNSC open debate titled “Upholding International Law Within the Context of the Maintenance of International Peace and Security”, said Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu basically "ridiculed" international law by moving the US diplomatic mission to Jerusalem al-Quds earlier this week.

"On May 14, Netanyahu and his guests celebrated the illegal move of the US embassy to Jerusalem al-Quds, violating and ridiculing international law as well as many UN resolutions regarding the situation of Jerusalem and inalienable rights of the Palestinians," he argued.

Referring to the Israeli military's massacre of more than 60 people who protested the move in Gaza on the same day, Khoshroo called for an end to the Israeli regime's "total impunity" in carrying out such acts.

The move, Khoshroo said, was a "shameful violation" of the international human rights law.

Full report at:



OIC must give due response to Israel’s carnage, Rouhani tells Qatari emir

May 17, 2018

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has once again censured Israel’s recent massacre of Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip, calling on Muslim nations to give “a due response” to the regime’s latest crime.

In a phone conversation with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on Thursday, Rouhani described Tel Aviv’s carnage of Gazans as a “criminal” act, saying Islamic countries should discuss “a proper response” to the regime's latest bloodshed during the upcoming summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Turkey.

The Israeli military on Monday resorted to snipers, tank fire and live ammunition to break up another Palestinian mass protest near the fence separating Gaza from the occupied territories.

Over 60 Palestinians lost their lives and over 2,700 others were injured during the military crackdown on the anti-occupation demonstration, which was held on the eve of Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe) Day and coincided with the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem al-Quds.

The brutal Israeli response to the protest drew strong condemnation from the international community, the United Nations and leading human rights organizations.

The United States, however, rushed to Israel’s help and blocked two UN Security Council resolutions that would condemn the regime.

Turkey, which holds the rotating presidency of the 57-nation OIC, has called for an emergency meeting of the Muslim body on Friday in the city of Istanbul to coordinate a joint action against the occupying regime.

The Iranian president and the Qatari emir will be among the participants of the Istanbul event.

During the phone talks, Sheikh Tamim, in turn, condemned Israel’s killings in Gaza as well as the transfer of the US embassy to the Israeli-occupied Jerusalem al-Quds.

He said the forthcoming OIC summit could provide a good opportunity for negotiations on regional woes.

Iran to stand by Qatar

Elsewhere in the talks, Rouhani criticized the economic embargo imposed on the Qatari nation by a Saudi-led quartet of states as “wrong” and “unfair,” emphasizing that the Islamic Republic “welcomes further enhancement of relations with Qatar as a neighbor and friendly country.”

Iran has, under various circumstances, stood by the Qatari nation and government and will continue to do so in the future, he added.

The Iranian chief executive described dialog as the sole way to deal with regional disputes.

“Iran has always been prepared for negotiations with the Persian Gulf littoral states over regional issues, but unfortunately, certain states in the region go for other solutions than dialog,” Rouhani said.

He also slammed the US for unilaterally withdrawing from the landmark 2015 nuclear deal earlier this month, expressing satisfaction with the international community’s stance against Washington’s move.

The Qatari monarch, for his part, hailed Iran’s position on the Persian Gulf row that erupted almost a year ago when Saudi Arabia, along with Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, abruptly cut ties with Qatar and imposed an air, sea and land blockade against the country.

He also called for stronger ties between Tehran and Doha in different sectors.

Full report at:



Turkey’s CHP presidential candidate warns to shut key US base unless Gulen extradited

May 17, 2018

Turkey’s presidential candidate of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Muharrem Ince, has threatened to close a major American military base in the country by Christmas unless Washington extradites US-based opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for an abortive 2016 coup.

Ince sent out the warning to the White House about shutting down the base at Incirlik, a military airport located in southern Turkey, in an interview with Turkey’s Fox TV late on Wednesday, saying Washington must “extradite Fethullah Gulen from the United States.”

“If you (the United States) don't hand him back, we will shut down Incirlik and send back US soldiers on December 24 and they can celebrate Christmas with their families,” Ince added, a 54-year-old former physics teacher from the northwestern province of Yalova.

Shortly after the mid-July 2016 coup attempt against the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by a faction of the army, Ankara accused 76-year-old Gulen of being the mastermind and orchestrator of the botched putsch, sending several official requests to Washington to hand over the elderly cleric, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the US since 1999.

Washington, however, has so far declined Ankara’s requests, saying it needs compelling evidence of Gulen’s alleged role in the failed coup to hand him over to the Anatolian country. In response, Ankara has on several occasions threatened that it would revisit its ties with the US if Washington failed to extradite Gulen.

For his part, Gulen has already strongly rejected the charge of having a role in the attempted coup and condemned the putsch, calling on Ankara to end its “witch hunt” of his followers, a move he says is aimed at “weeding out anyone it deems disloyal to President Erdogan and his regime.”

The American base at Incirlik, which reportedly houses a stockpile of dozens of US tactical nuclear weapons, was raided by Turkish authorities after being used by rebel officers during the short-lived coup attempt.

Ince, Known for his fiery and impassioned rhetoric, was unanimously presented by the CHP earlier this month to challenge the incumbent president in the country’s June presidential elections.

However, Ince will have a an uphill struggle to convince voters as he is racing, in a gloves-off approach, against the veteran Erdogan, who has been in power either as prime minister or president since 2003, raising the prospect of a potential bruising political campaign.

The CHP candidate’s comments, however, took some observers by surprise as the secular opposition party has generally been perceived to be more pro-US than Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

A victory for Erdogan would mean extended powers for him based on amendments to Turkey’s constitution approved by voters in a controversial referendum last year. In an unexpected move last month, the Turkish president called the elections more than a year earlier than scheduled, saying his administration was facing numerous legal problems, including economic challenges and the war in Syria, which could be solved only with a more powerful presidency.

Rights campaigners and international organizations have already voiced doubts about the legitimacy of the elections which would come under a renewed state of emergency in Turkey.

Full report at:



Arab World


Countdown Starts for ISIL's Ultimate Collapse in Southern Damascus

May 17, 2018

The army units continued clashes with the ISIL militants in Hajar al-Aswad region in Southern Damascus on Thursday, winning back control of several blocks in the North of Hajar al-Aswad's municipality building.

Meantime, field sources reported that the army forces have gained control of al-Quds Grand Mosque as well as all the nearby neighborhoods to Street 30 in the South of Yarmouk refugee camp.

They added that the terrorists are fleeing from the region towards Yarmouk camp mainly to the East as the army troops marched in areas North of Hajar al-Aswad and broke their defense lines.

Also, the Syrian army's air force and artillery and missile units pounded the remaining positions of the terrorists in Hajar al-Aswad and Yarmouk camp.

Relevant reports said on Wednesday that the Syrian army troops continued to storm ISIL's strongholds in the Southern part of Damascus province and freed over ninety percent of Hajar al-Aswad region.

The army men managed to drive ISIL out of more areas North of Hajar al-Aswad.

Also, a tough battle is now underway between the ISIL and other units of the army in Yarmouk Camp flank.

In the meantime, the army's artillery and missile units and aircraft continued pounding ISIL's movements and positions in Hajar al-Aswad and Yarmouk Camp.

Also, other units of the army discovered a number of ISIL-made tunnels in Hajar al-Aswad and also they found a workshop used by the ISIL to make bombs and arms near Deir Yaseen street.

A large volume explosives and chemicals was found in the workshop.



19 militants killed in Egypt’s anti-terror drive in Sinai

17 May 2018

Egypt’s army said Thursday it killed 19 presumed militants in the Sinai peninsula during a large-scale “anti-terror” operation. Egyptian forces launched operation “Sinai 2018” in February in the peninsula where soldiers and security forces have been battling ISIS.

A military statement said 19 suspected extremists were killed in gun battles with army and security forces in the central and northern Sinai in recent days.

Around 200 militants and at least 33 soldiers have been killed since the operation was launched, according to official figures. President Abdelfatah el-Sisi, on a visit to the Sinai last month, promised residents the operation would be finished “as soon as possible”.

Military statements

According to a Reuters report, the statement said the militants were killed over the past few days. Their deaths bring the total of those killed since the beginning of the operation to at least 296 including 35 military personnel, according to Reuters calculations based on military statements.

Militants in Sinai intensified their attacks after the ousting by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and the military in 2013 of Egypt's first freely elected president, Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Full report at:



Tensions Increase among Terrorist Groups in Idlib after Tens of ISIL Militants Flee Jails

May 17, 2018

Field sources in Idlib reported on Thursday that unknown assailants attacked Ahrar al-Sham prisons in Northern Idlib, freeing nearly 40 ISIL inmates.

After the attack, Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board or the al-Nusra front) accused Ahrar al-Sham of collaboration with the assailants to free the ISIL inmates to gather forces for an attack on Tahrir al-Sham position.

The sources said that tensions have heightened among the terrorists in the region, adding that one of the militants' checkpoints in the town of Ariha in Southern Idlib came under attack with gunfire. A number of terrorists were killed in the incident.

Reports also said that Tahrir al-Sham terrorists have detained a number of Faylaq al-Rahman militants who wanted to move from Idlib to Afrin.

Terrorists had earlier agreed to end clashes after bloody battles in Northern Syria.

In a relevant development on Monday, terrorists' bases and positions suffered major damage in four bomb blasts in different regions across Idlib province, testifying to the grave security situation in militant-held regions in Northwestern Syria.

A bomb-laden vehicle blasted as a vehicle of Jeish al-Nasr was moving on a street in the town of Ma'arah Mesrin in Northern Idlib, killing and wounding a number of militants.

Also, a bomb, planted by unknown assailants in Jeish al-Ahrar's vehicle, went off in the town of Saraqib in Eastern Idlib, killing several terrorists.

A third bomb exploded in the town of Ariha and another one in the town of al-Dana in Northern Idlib, leaving a number of terrorists and civilians dead.

Full report at:



3 Terrorist Commanders Killed in Failed Attack against Army Positions in Hama

May 17, 2018

The army forces on Thursday engaged in heavy clashes with the terrorists who pushed to enter one of the Syrian army's military points in Zalin region in Northern Hama from al-Latamina, and repulsed their attack after killing several militants.

The Syrian army units also launched artillery and missile attacks on terrorists' movements and positions near the battle zone as well as Kafr Zita and al-Latamina, killing a number of terrorists and destroying one of their military vehicles.

Meantime, field sources reported that during the clashes, the army troops killed three notorious terrorist commanders, namely Hissan Mahmoud Aburas, Mohammad al-Hussein and Mostafa al-Ibrahim.

In a relevant development on Tuesday, tens of terrorists were killed or wounded in the Syrian Army troops' operations in Northern and Western Hama.

The army's missile and artillery units shelled terrorists' positions and movements in the village of al-Latamina in Northern Hama after militants launched missile attacks on Mahrada Power Plant.

The artillery and missile units further pounded terrorists' positions and movements in the villages of al-Qahirah and al-Huweija in Western Hama.

Full report at:



Several Civilians Killed in US Airstrikes in Deir Ezzur

May 17, 2018

Local sources in Deir Ezzur province reported on Thursday that the US warplanes attacked the village of al-Souseh in Southeastern Deir Ezzur, killing and wounding several civilians.

Other reports also said that 4 civilians were killed when their car was targeted by the US fighter jets in the Palestine district of al-Souseh.

In a relevant development late in April, nearly a dozen civilians were killed in the US-led coalition fighter jets' attacks in Southeastern Hasaka.

The Arabic-language al-Ahd news website reported that 11 civilians were killed in the US airstrikes against 'ISIL Prison' region in the town of Abu Hamezah in Southeastern Hasaka.

Full report at:



Hasaka: US Conducts Another Heliborne Operations to Rescue Foreign ISIL Commander

May 17, 2018

Local sources in Southeastern Hasaka reported on Thursday that the US forces have conducted the heliborne operation near the town of al-Houl at the borders between Syria and Iraq.

They added that the US forces took one of the ISIL commanders who had entered Hasaka from Iraq in the operation.

In recent weeks, the US forces have conducted several heliborne operations to rescue terrorists from Hasaka.

On Wednesday, the US forces conducted four more airborne operations in Southeastern Hasaka to rescue a number of entrapped ISIL terrorists, a move done repeatedly by the American forces to provide back up for the terrorist group in Eastern Syria.

Four American military helicopters conducted four sorties of heliborne operations in the villages of al-Qeirawan, Haresat Sinjar, al-Ta'ef and aAbu Kabra, evacuating a group of ISIL terrorists to an unknown location.

The US military forces are carrying out airborne operation in ISIL-held regions once in a while.

On Monday, Russia's airbase in Lattakia province, known as Humeimim, complained that Washington supported the ISIL terrorists through the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, as the SDF continues pressures against civilians in Deir Ezzur.

Humeimim announced that it gained field reports disclosing that Washington is indirectly supporting and equipping the ISIL terrorists.

It added that Washington supports the ISIL through its illegally created allies, the SDF forces, who pursued disintegration of Syria.

Full report at:



US-Backed SDF Forces Fear Armed Uprising by Civilians in Northern Syria

May 17, 2018

Local sources in Northern Deir Ezzur reported on Thursday that the SDF forces have detained tens of civilians in the village of Abu al-Naitel.

The development came after a number of unknown assailants attacked the SDF forces in Northern Deir Ezzur, killing and wounding a number of them.

Sources said that the US-backed forces now fear the spread of armed attacks to their positions, adding that they have declared a curfew in the region.

Tensions have heightened between the SDF and civilians after the former increased pressures and launched forced recruitment operations against civilians.

In a relevant development on Tuesday, tens of people in Western Raqqa demonstrated to show their protest against the rule of the Kurdish militias, calling for their expulsion from their region.

Tens of residents in the village of al-Jarniyeh in Western Raqqa took to the main street in the village and protested against the Kurdish militias' forced recruitment and brutal measures.

Full report at:



US Sends New Military Convoy from Iraq to Eastern Syria

May 17, 2018

Field sources reported that a US military convoy moved to Northeastern Hasaka from Iraq on Wednesday.

They added that the convoy consisted of several military vehicles and personnel carriers, noting that it entered Tal Beidar region between Qamishli and the town of Tal Tamar which is occupied by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The sources said that the military equipment will likely be transferred to one of the US bases on Eastern Euphrates.

The American forces are stationed in a military base in Tal Beidar region that hosts helicopter pads and several military bases.

In a relevant development on Wednesday, the US forces conducted four more airborne operations in Southeastern Hasaka to rescue a number of entrapped ISIL terrorists, a move done repeatedly by the American forces to provide back up for the terrorist group in Eastern Syria.

Four American military helicopters conducted four sorties of heliborne operations in the villages of al-Qeirawan, Haresat Sinjar, al-Ta'ef and Abu Kabra, evacuating a group of ISIL terrorists to an unknown location.

Full report at:



Syrian Army Wins Back Control over Key ISIL Strongholds in Southern Damascus

May 17, 2018

The army units continued clashes with the ISIL terrorists North of Hajar al-Aswad in Southern Damascus, and imposed control over several buildings, including prisons, field hospitals and terrorists' command centers.

Field sources said that a large number of ISIL terrorists fled towards Deir Yasin region North of al-Taqaddom district, adding that fierce clashes are underway in the region between the Syrian forces and the ISIL militants.

Meantime, reports said that the Syrian forces have advanced in Tarboush region East of Yarmouk refugee camp during clashes with the terrorists.

The Syrian army is about to accomplish the mission in Hajar al-Aswad after winning control of most strategic regions, the sources said.

In a relevant development on Wednesday, the Syrian army troops continued to storm ISIL's strongholds in the Southern part of Damascus province and freed over ninety percent of Hajar al-Aswad region.

The army men managed to drive ISIL out of more areas North of Hajar al-Aswad.

Also, a tough battle is now underway between the ISIL and other units of the army in Yarmouk Camp flank.

In the meantime, the army's artillery and missile units and aircraft continued pounding ISIL's movements and positions in Hajar al-Aswad and Yarmouk Camp.

Also, other units of the army discovered a number of ISIL-made tunnels in Hajar al-Aswad and also they found a workshop used by the ISIL to make bombs and arms near Deir Yaseen street.

Full report at:



S. Arabia, Turkey's Footprints Found in Eastern Qalamoun of Damascus

May 17, 2018

A field commander confirmed on Thursday that the Syrian army's engineering units have found the weapons and ammunition during the clean-up operations in Eastern Qalamoun which has recently been evacuated by Jeish al-Islam and al-Nusra.

He added that the Syrian army forces discovered several tanks and a large number of missiles, mortars, anti-tank missiles, different types of ammunition, weapons and bombs which had been hidden by the terrorists in their hideouts.

The sources said that the army units also found a large number of drugs as well as Nitrogen chemicals used by militants to make different types of bombs and mortars that all carried with Turkish and Saudi labels.

The commander said the "footprint of Saudi Arabia and Turkey can readily be traced in all the items found in the region".

In a relevant development on Saturday, the Syrian army troops continued their mop-up operation in the newly-freed Yalda, Bebeila and Beit Saham regions in the Southern part of Damascus province and discovered a large depot of terrorists' arms and ammunition, including Israeli weapons.

The army men continued mop-up operation in Yalda, Bebeila and Beit Saham, seizing a large cache of weapons in terrorists' positions.

The Israeli-manufactured mines, bombs, ammunition, rockets, RPG, machineguns and artillery and mortar shells were discovered among the weapons and munitions seized from the terrorists.

Full report at:



Army Regains Control over Central Syria after 30,000 Terrorists, Family Members Leave

May 17, 2018

Field sources reported on Thursday that 30,000 terrorists and their family members left Northern Homs and Southern Hama in the past 10 days after an agreement with the Syrian army.

They added that after the terrorists' full withdrawal from the region, 65 towns and villages were liberated by the army and 1,200sq/km of lands in Central Syria were purged of militants.

The sources said that the liberated region links Central Syria to other provinces, adding that the two dams of al-Rastan and Houleh have also been retaken and security prevails over the vital and strategic infrastructures.

The Syrian Army troops deployed in two more regions in Northern Homs and a region in Southern Hama on Wednesday after the last group of terrorists and their family members left the regions.

The last group of terrorists and their family members whose total number stood at 3,950 left Northern Homs and Southern Hama for Northern Syria via Dar al-Kabireh region.

The army further imposed control over the towns of al-Rastan and Talbiseh in Northern Homs and the village of Hirbnafsa in Southern Hama.

The army's engineering units started to defuse bombs and landmine planted by the terrorists in the newly-freed regions.

Full report at:




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