New Age Islam
Sat Nov 28 2020, 09:17 PM

Islamic World News ( 18 May 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Islam Has Strict Guidelines for Its Institutions During Pandemic: Grand Mufti of India







• Muslims To Embrace Unusual Eid:  Darul Uloom Deoband, Issued A Fatwa Asking All Muslims To Offer Prayers and Celebrate Eid At Home This Year

• South Africa To Recognise Hindu-Muslim Marriages

• Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Says Muslims Can Perform Eid Al-Fitr Prayer at Home

• Hindus In Pakistan's Sindh Protest Against Forcible Conversions; Lawmaker Demands Inquiry

• Italy Reopens Mosques After Landmark Deal with Muslim Bodies

• Afghanistan Says India One of Biggest Donors in Reconstruction Efforts, Rejects Taliban's Allegations

• Kedah Allows Friday, Eid ul Fitr Prayers with Conditions

• Iranian Parliament Approves Bill to Confront Israel’s Hostile Measures against Peace, Security

• Senegal’s Opening Mosques During Pandemic Divides Muslim Community

• With Mosques Closed, NYC Muslims Find New Ways to Observe Ramadan

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India

• Islam Has Strict Guidelines for Its Institutions During Pandemic: Grand Mufti of India

• Muslims To Embrace Unusual Eid:  Darul Uloom Deoband, Issued A Fatwa Asking All Muslims To Offer Prayers and Celebrate Eid At Home This Year

• After Suspension Of Ramazan Umrah, Doubts Hover On Haj 2020, India Await The Notification From Saudi Ministry Of Haj

• Muslim Vendors Face Boycott In Shivamogga, Citizens’ United MovementUrged The State • Government To Take Suitable Action

• Pak Army shells areas along LoC in Rajouri

• J&K: Probe ordered after ambulance driver allegedly beaten by police in Pulwama

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Africa

• South Africa To Recognise Hindu-Muslim Marriages

• Senegal’s Opening Mosques During Pandemic Divides Muslim Community

• Coronavirus: Sudan airports to remain closed until May 31

• Tunisia relaxes curfew with coronavirus outbreak slowing

• Gulf social media reacts to reports on Qatar links in al-Shabaab hostage release

• Forces allied with Libya’s GNA take control of key base near Tripoli

• Libya’s UN-backed GNA forces destroy Haftar’s air defense system, drone south of Tripoli

• UAE dispatched mercenaries to help rebels in Libya: UN report

• Nigerian army kills 20 Boko Haram insurgents in Borno

• Two Al-Shabaab killed in US drone strike

• Somali governor killed in Al Shabab suicide blast

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Arab world

• Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Says Muslims Can Perform Eid Al-Fitr Prayer at Home

• Coronavirus: Oman Bans All Eid Gatherings, Will Issues Fines, Jail Time for Violators

• ISIS gunmen execute 11 on Syria desert highway

• Coronavirus: Egypt tightens measures during Eid al-Fitr holidays

• ISIS tried to destroy this church, now Muslims and Christians join hands to rebuild

• US sanctions against Syria amid pandemic amount to medical terrorism: Ambassador

• Iraq's Badr org. demands Western diplomats be expelled over unconventional flag

• Israeli troops shoot Syrian shepherd near Lebanese border

• Rocket lands near US Embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone in Iraq

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Pakistan

• Hindus InPakistan's Sindh Protest Against Forcible Conversions; Lawmaker Demands Inquiry

• Clerics announce resumption of congregational prayers at mosques

• Pakistani Ahmadi Leaders Fear Backlash After New Minority Commission Formation

• Two ‘IS militants’ get death on 70 counts in Qalandar shrine suicide blast case

• Soldier martyred, three injured in blast in North Waziristan

• Outage in Pakistan not from company’s end, says Twitter

• PM launches cash scheme for workers affected by pandemic

• Bilawal reminds judiciary of ‘medical realities’ as PTI hails SC order

• PPP should play Pakistan card, not Sindh card: Qureshi

• China welcomes outstanding people, Xi tells Pakistani students

• Pakistan denies its US envoy said India should engage with Taliban

• Pakistan summons senior Indian diplomat over 'ceasefire violations'

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Europe

• Italy Reopens Mosques After Landmark Deal with Muslim Bodies

• Muslims In the UK Have Been Urged to Celebrate the Islamic Festival of Eid At Home

• Turkey condemns pig's-head vandalism of German mosque

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South Asia

• Afghanistan Says India One of Biggest Donors in Reconstruction Efforts, Rejects Taliban's Allegations

• Bangladesh Asks Muslims Not to Offer Open-Air Eid Prayers

• Saleh’s latest remarks regarding Taliban-ISIS links, deadly Kabul attack

• Taliban militants set the bodies of 5 people on fire after shooting them dead

• 20 Taliban militants killed in Ghazni, Paktika and Wardak provinces

• Taliban make a fortune $$$ out of U.S. presence in Afghanistan: Trump

• Seven killed, dozens injured in Taliban attack near Afghan intelligence base

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Southeast Asia

• Kedah Allows Friday, Eid ul FitrPrayers with Conditions

• NSC: Three-quarters of Malays polled say they will celebrate Hari Raya behind closed doors

• Anwar: Now in govt, PAS suddenly quiet when it comes to ‘Islamic agenda’

• Johor exco lodges police report on Facebook post ridiculing permission for Friday prayers

• Lautze Mosque: A symbol of Chinese-Muslim assimilation in Indonesia

• 'Like a robot': Indonesia’s nonbelievers struggle to blend in during Ramadan

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Mideast

• Iranian Parliament Approves Bill to Confront Israel’s Hostile Measures against Peace, Security

• Coronavirus: Erdogan announces Turkish lockdown over Eid al-Fitr holiday

• Iran Warns US against Dire Consequences of Hostile Action against Oil Tankers in Caribbean

• Iran Confirms Fuel Trade with Venezuela, Warns of Any US Mistake

• Iran Planning to Establish Virtual Embassy in Palestine

• Iran’s Judiciary Chief: Massive Intifada in Palestine, Region Underway

• Iran starting to withdraw from Syria: Israel's outgoing defense minister

• President Trump Mideast plan ‘historic,’ peace deals crucial, says Israel FM

• Israeli court finds settler guilty of murder in arson attack on Palestinian family

• Americans will be expelled from Iraq and Syria, says Iran’s Khamenei

• Yemeni economic embargo will affect other countries: Houthi official

• Muslim organization urge global action against Israel annexation plot

• US, other foreign forces must leave Syria, respect its sovereignty: Iran

• Iran, Pakistan, China, Russia support national reconciliation in Afghanistan

• Foreign powers must stop interfering in Iraq affairs: Iran president

• Yemeni army kills Houthis, liberates parts of Sanaa

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North America

• With Mosques Closed, NYC Muslims Find New Ways to Observe Ramadan

• FBI Intelligence Links Saudi Military Student to Al-Qaeda: Attorney General

• FBI phone probe links al-Qaeda to Saudi who killed 3 at Florida base, Barr says

• US House panel chairman says firing of State Dept. inspector may be linked to Saudi arms sale

• Small ceremony held for 37 killed in USS Stark, hit by Iraqi missile in 1987

• US envoy heading to Afghanistan, Qatar to push peace

• US base shooter had 'significant ties' to al-Qaeda

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: https://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/islam-has-strict-guidelines-for-its-institutions-during-pandemic--grand-mufti-of-india/d/121893

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Islam Has Strict Guidelines for Its Institutions During Pandemic: Grand Mufti of India

12 May 2020

Thiruvananthapuram, May 12 (IANS) One of the country’s tallest Islamic scholars, Kanthapuram A. P. Aboobacker Musliyar, is the Grand Mufti of India and President of the Islamic Community of India. Based in Kozhikode in Kerala, the 89-year-old Islamic scholar is widely respected across the world and has good relations with top leaders cutting across political parties and is a widely travelled personality.

In an exclusive interview with IANS, he speaks on various issues. Here are the excerpts:

Q: This is the month of Holy Ramzan, and is generally the month of penance, love and togetherness. However, the Covid19 pandemic has led to a ban on congregations, community prayers and other community movements associated with this holy month. How do you see this?

A: COVID-19 has already deeply affected all spheres of our life. Experts believe that this is one of the greatest challenges humanity has faced in its long history. For a believer, it''s painful to see mosques being closed, especially in the blessed month of Ramadan.

But Islam already has very strict guidelines for the functioning of its institutions in the time of such calamities. Our beloved Prophet himself had alerted us of such events and issued guidelines accordingly. When I checked in the library attached to my office in Jamia Markaz, I saw several books written specifically on this topic, aiming to be alert and the lifestyle to be adopted during the time of calamities. Most of these legal, medical, and historical texts were written centuries ago. The texts written on the basis of experiences of various communities who lived through pandemics are really eye-opening.

Islam is a religion very much doable in isolation and quarantine. One important factor that facilitates this easiness and flexibility in practising religion in isolation is the profound absence of priesthood in Islam.

Q: Lakhs of our countrymen are abroad and the government of India has commenced one of the largest evacuation operations in history. As a person connected with several West Asian countries where a sizeable population of non-resident Keralites lives, what is your opinion on this?

A: As a community that has immensely contributed to the well-being of society and the economy of their homeland, we owe them a debt of extra care. So, one can understand their demand to come back to India. We cannot even think of any other options here, particularly when the whole world is battling a virus. These are the gestures any responsible society and government will show to their fellow countrymen and it is only part of our minimum courtesy towards the ''Pravasis''.

I think we are not very late. We should keep in mind that the current crisis naturally makes one feel to return to one''s place of belonging and be among the loved ones at home. I think that''s how one should see this evacuation operation.

Q: With around 2.5 lakhs of non-resident Keralites expected to come back to the state, don''t you think that it will be a herculean task for the governments -- both at the Central and state levels? Will the governments be able to repatriate and rehabilitate them?

A: Migration has been an indispensable phenomenon throughout human history. If you take a global, open-minded approach towards migration, especially issues faced by migrant labourers, their rehabilitation won''t be a herculean task. For this to happen, both the host and home countries should join hands together, think of working together in solving their issues. This is equally true in the case of internal migrants. The images of stranded migrant labourers in the metropolitan cities of the country and the reports of their deaths in many parts of the country only show how narrow-minded our policies are towards migrant labourers within our own territory. Many of the initiatives taken by states like Kerala are a good beginning in this regard.

Q: Irrespective of religions, state governments across India have taken stringent action against those who have violated government advisories. However, the action taken against the Tablighi Jamaat leaders triggered a heated debate in India and abroad. What''s your take on this?

A: My feeling is that if we go by reports available to us, it would not be fully correct to claim that we took a similar approach and legal action against all the people and collectives who had violated the lockdown regulations. We would be able to overcome these difficulties only through structurally assimilating the idea of equality. Now, let''s consider the issue of Tablighi Jamaat. I personally disagree with many of its ideas and the way of its functioning. I have had dialogues with them many times in the past. But I disagree with the shady campaign that is going on, linking Tablighi Jamaat with the spread of Covid 19 in India. Of course, the Tablighi Jamaat should have been more careful while organising their congregation at a time when numerous instances of Covid-19 spread had already been reported in our country.

As a Muslim collective, it was their religious obligation to do so. At the same time, we shouldn''t ignore the fact that if the Tablighi congregation was allowed to begin and continue at a time when formal restrictions were already in place, then the responsibility should equally be shared by the organizers and the officials who allowed it to happen. Instead, the actions and accusations against Tablighi have turned in part into a vicious vengeance-filled campaign against the entire Muslim community in various parts of the country. There are also reports which indicate that this malicious campaign has turned into physical violence in some areas. This is not how a democratic society deals with contingencies.

Q: There are several reports provided by various Central agencies which confirm that a multitude of foreigners who attended the Tablighi Jamaat Markaz flouted the country''s visa norms. Being a responsible religious institution, is it ideal for Tablighi Jamaat to function in this manner?

A: I am not aware of the exact details of the particular case that you mentioned. If it is as mentioned in your question, then it should be dealt with in the legal framework of our country which has well established provisions and penalties for such infringements. I expect it to be dealt with as such. Everyone has an equal responsibility to respect the law and order of the country. Nobody can stay away from that duty.

Q: How do you see the Pakistani-sponsored Islam phobia propaganda in West Asia against India?

A: First of all, in my view, we need to demarcate between Pakistan-orchestrated propaganda against India and the genuine grievances raised by our countrymen. We need to see what Pakistan does as a part of their foreign policy objectives and this has been going on since 1947. This is an issue which we need to tackle with our proactive foreign policy. But the genuine grievances of our citizens must be dealt with internally within our democratic framework. The dignity of the nation is the pre-eminence of its citizens too. I get many opportunities to represent Indian Muslims in various international forums and I make use of these opportunities to uphold the greatness and tradition of our country. I wish and pray that such opportunities remain in abundance so as to uphold truthfully the traditions and pre-eminence of our country.

Q: Despite the Union government ensuring safety and security of minority communities and extending certain privileges, such as scholarships and other financial aid, there''s an attempt to misguide the Muslim youth. Is this an orchestrated move to misguide the youths?

A: First of all, there is a problem in seeing reservation and scholarships as a privilege. Rather, such attempts are parts of minority rights in this country. Coming to the second part of your question, I don''t think that as a community, Muslim youths in this country can be misguided by anyone. Our historical experiences do not allow us to believe so.

Q: Is there a shift in the leadership of Indian Muslim community from religious supremos like you to the youth, which was evident during anti-CAA campaigns? Do you think this new trend, i.e. the radical youth replacing the mature religious heads, will help the Muslim society in the long run?

A: Basically, this question comes from an assumption that ant-CAA protests were carried out by a particular section of Muslims alone. It''s not true. As a responsible citizen of this country, I see the anti-CAA protests as a rare platform in the history of post-independent India where people from a variety of backgrounds, irrespective of their religion, caste, age and other backgrounds, came together to extend their support to uphold the democratic spirit and constitutional values of this country. It''s true that CAA, which makes religion as criteria for citizenship in this country, may first and foremost affect Muslims. But in the protest against this Act, Muslims were not alone. In many parts of the country elected Chief Ministers led the protests against CAA. I personally had many opportunities to attend such protest gatherings in various parts of the country. Many political observers opined that this was a unique experience in the history of our country. When I got an opportunity to interact with our Prime Minister and Home Minister in their offices in Delhi recently, I personally requested them to take these protests seriously and repeal the controversial provisions in CAA and NRC.

Q: This is the month of Holy Ramzan and Muslims give ''zakath'' or donate. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has called upon all the religious groups to donate to the Chief Minister''s Covid relief fund. Have you as the Grand Mufti of the country called upon the Muslim community to donate to the CM''s Covid Relief Fund?

A: Islam has many institutional mechanisms such as zakath, swadaqa, hadiya etc. to make sure that Muslims do care for people around them. Caring people with illness is considered a very pious act in Islam. It''s a religious obligation for Muslims to donate a certain portion of their wealth each year to charitable causes. Apart from this obligatory order, there is a provision in Islam where people are asked to donate their wealth, in some case entire wealth, that is over and above what is required to provide the essential needs of a person''s family.

I had made a request to Muslims to generously donate from the money reserved for charity activities in Ramadan to the government''s Distress Relief Funds. We know that fighting catastrophes is really an expensive task and governments alone cannot achieve this. They truly require support from other agencies. Muslims have religious obligation to extend such support and I am happy that many of them are doing it very well.

https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/islam-has-strict-guidelines-for-its-institutions-during-pandemic-grand-mufti-ians-interview/1832099

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Muslims To Embrace Unusual Eid:  Darul Uloom Deoband, Issued A Fatwa Asking All Muslims To Offer Prayers and Celebrate Eid At Home This Year

May 19, 2020

NEW DELHI: India’s most influential Islamic seminary, Darul Uloom Deoband, on Monday issued a fatwa asking all Muslims to offer prayers and celebrate Eid at home this year in keeping with the extended national lockdown. Delhi-based author and historian Rana Safvi sees this Eid as a “humanitarian event” rather than a festival. Qari Fazlur Rahman, who leads Eid prayers on Kolkata’s Red Road every year, believes adapting to a new normal doesn’t mean the sanctity of the festival will be lost.

Heading into the last week of Ramzan amid the Covid-19 pandemic, India’s 172 million Muslim population is preparing for — and reconciling itself to — a most unusual Eid bereft of all the usual trappings like huge prayer congregations, ceaseless shopping, social visits and the inviting warmth of an Eid Milan embrace.

Lockdown 4.0: Live updates

On social media groups, messages like “no new clothes, just wear your best clothes” are being circulated among family and friends, urging people to fill the festive void with the spirit of giving. The suggestions range from paying a needy child’s school fee or someone’s rent to helping a lockdown-hit trader revive his business.

In homemaker Suboohi Alvi’s Lucknow home, the special Eid sewaiyan whose aroma fills her kitchen at this time of the year won’t be just for friends and family. “We will make sewaiyan for distribution among those who have gone through much distress in the past two months and can’t afford a decent Eid feast,” she said. In Srinagar, Muzaffar Shah has but one request — the administration should allow mutton shops to open ahead of Eid. “If not anything, a good Eid feast will make up for all that we will miss out on this time,” he said. In the Valley alone, traders usually do Rs 1,200 crore worth of business in the run-up to Eid. “As it is, things have been bad since mid-2019. The pandemic-induced lockdown has blown away the Eid business as well,” said Srinagar trader Ashiq Sheikh.

According to the Lucknow Trade Association, the volume of Eid business lost in the city this Eid would be around Rs 500 crore. In Telengana and AP combined, it is around Rs 2,000 crore, sources said. In the lanes of old Delhi, there is no sign that Eid is less than a week away. No sweets are being sold on the streets and there are no decorations around Jama Masjid.

In Telangana, community leaders and clerics have asked everyone to temper the festive spirit not only because of the lockdown but also out of respect for those whose lives and livelihood have been affected the most.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/amid-fatwa-muslims-to-embrace-unusual-eid/articleshow/75816334.cms

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South Africa To Recognise Hindu-Muslim Marriages

18th May 2020

JOHANNESBURG: The South African government is devising a new policy to change the country's marriage laws, including recognising traditional Hindu and Muslim alliances.

Customary Hindu and Muslim marriages are currently not recognised as having the same legal status as civil marriages as per the country's Marriage Act 25 of 1961, which was enacted in the apartheid-era when only Christian marriages were recognised as being legal.

This has led to serious issues, especially in denying rights to Muslim women in second marriages allowed under the Islamic law.

In order to avoid children born into such a marriage being classified illegitimate, Hindu and Muslim couples had to undergo a second civil marriage in a court of law.

The South African Department of Home Affairs (DHA) explained in a presentation to the Parliament that the legislation which currently regulates marriages in South Africa has been developed without an overarching policy based on the constitutional prescripts of equality, non-discrimination and human dignity.

"Despite all the changes that have been made in the marriage legislation post-1994, there are still serious gaps in the current legislation.

"For instance, the current legislation does not regulate some religious marriages such as the Hindu, Muslim and other customary marriages that are practised in some African or royal families," the DHA said.

"Given the diversity of the South African population, it is virtually impossible to pass legislation governing every single religious or cultural marriage practice.

"It is against this background that the DHA is embarking in the process of developing a marriage policy that will lay a policy foundation for drafting a new single or omnibus legislation," it said.

The DHA said that the policy will be made available for public input during the coming year and for possible approval by the Cabinet by March 2021.

After the democratic order introduced with Nelson Mandela becoming the first democratically-elected President of the country in 1994, an attempt was made to correct this by appointing some Hindu priests and Muslim clerics who conducted Nikaah ceremonies as marriage officers.

They were required to complete the relevant documents at the same time as the traditional marriage and submit them to the Department.

Now the government wants to make things simpler through harmonising the different approaches to traditional marriages, including customary unions in the Black African communities.

https://www.newindianexpress.com/world/2020/may/18/south-africa-to-introduce-changes-to-marriage-laws-recognise-hindu-muslim-alliances-2145065.html

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Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti says Muslims can perform Eid al-Fitr prayer at home

18 May 2020

It is permissible for Muslims to perform the Eid al-Fitr prayer at home since the coronavirus pandemic has forced mosques around the world to close, local media cited Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh as saying on Sunday.

For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.

The prayer can be performed individually or in a group, the Grand Mufti said.

Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan and is expected to begin on May 23, pending the moon sighting.

On the first day of Eid, Muslims should begin the prayer 15 or 30 minutes after sunrise and continue it until the Duha prayer – the voluntary prayer between the obligatory sunrise and noon prayer, Sheikh al-Sheikh said.

In regards to the Zakat al-Fitr, which is the charity that must be given to the poor before the start of Eid, the Grand Mufti said that Muslims can make a donation to reliable organizations.

The coronavirus outbreak has forced mosques around the world to shut their doors to believers to prevent the virus from spreading. Muslims often perform communal prayers in mosques that require them to stand side-by-side.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/coronavirus/2020/05/18/Saudi-Arabia-s-Grand-Mufti-says-Muslims-can-perform-Eid-al-Fitr-prayer-can-at-home.html

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Hindus in Pakistan's Sindh protest against forcible conversions; lawmaker demands inquiry

May 17, 2020

KARACHI: A video shared widely on social media showed Pakistan's Hindu Bheel community members protesting against their alleged forced conversion to Islam by a Muslim group in the interior Sindh province, prompting a Hindu lawmaker to demand an inquiry into the incident.

The Pakistan Hindu Council chief and Tehreek-e-Insaf party lawmaker, Dr Ramesh Vankwani, said the video showed Hindu women and children holding placards and banners and protesting against the Tablighi Jamaat group.

Vankwani said the government's minority council should immediately order an inquiry into the incident as the Hindu community for long had protested against forced conversions in interior Sindh.

Hindus in Sindh province have alleged that the Tablighi Jamaat group tortured them and demolished their properties in villages around Nasurpur area of Matiar in the province.

The video showed some of the protesters shouting that they will prefer to die than leave their religion.

In another video, a Hindu woman is seen protesting that her son has been kidnapped by the Jamaat members. She pleaded them to release her son.

The victims have alleged that when their houses were being demolished they were told that if they want to live there they have to convert to Islam.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has mentioned in its recent reports about the motivated attempts to forcibly convert members of the Hindu and Christian communities.

Hindus form the biggest minority community in Pakistan.

According to official estimates, 75 lakh Hindus live in Pakistan. However, according to the community, over 90 lakh Hindus are living in the country.

Majority of Pakistan's Hindu population is settled in Sindh province where they share culture, traditions and language with their Muslim fellows.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/hindus-in-pakistans-sindh-protest-against-forcible-conversions-lawmaker-demands-inquiry/articleshow/75794225.cms

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Italy reopens mosques after landmark deal with Muslim bodies

MAY 18, 2020

Rome: Signing a landmark agreement with leading Muslim organizations, the Italian government will allow mosques and Islamic centers to reopen as part of an easing of the country’s coronavirus lockdown. Italy will reopen all places of worship, including Catholic churches, from May 18.

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The protocol was signed at an official ceremony in Palazzo Chigi, the prime minister’s office. However, the religious authorities are obligated to enforce sanitary and social distancing.

Ever since the lockdown began on March 9, mosques, prayer rooms and Islamic centers have been shut.

The agreement is viewed as a milestone on the road to full legal recognition and acknowledgement by the state and it is the first official act signed by an Italian government with Muslim representatives in the country.

As reported by the Arab News, the protocol was signed by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese, and representatives of four Islamic organizations — Coreis (Italian Islamic Religious Community), the Great Mosque of Rome, Union of Communities and Islamic Organizations in Italy, and the Italian Islamic Confederation.

The agreement was hailed by the Muslim associations representing the Pakistani, Senegalese and Bengali communities in Italy.

However, Yassine Lafram, president of the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy, told the Italian prime minister that mosques will remain closed for Eid Al-Fitr regardless of the agreement.

Lafram said that it will be painful not to celebrate Eid Al-Fitr together in our prayer room as we do every year, but coronavirus is deadly. “We had better stay vigilant. Hopefully we will get together soon. And we will celebrate life and harmony,” he added.

https://www.siasat.com/italy-reopens-mosques-after-landmark-deal-muslim-bodies-1890608/

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Afghanistan says India one of biggest donors in reconstruction efforts, rejects Taliban's allegations

May 18, 2020

KABUL: India is one of Afghanistan's biggest donor nations in the war-torn country's reconstruction efforts and New Delhi has been supportive of the peace process, the government has asserted.

Rejecting the Afghan Taliban's statement that India has been playing a negative role in the country for the past 40 years, the spokesperson of the ministry of foreign affairs, Gran Hewad, said that Afghanistan's relations with India are within international frameworks and based on mutual respect.

India has been a key stakeholder in the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan. It has been supporting a national peace and reconciliation process which is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan controlled.

Hewad told Radio Azadi that so far India has been cooperating in the development and reconstruction areas and is expected to contribute to the peace process as well.

“India is one of the biggest donor countries and has helped Afghanistan in development and reconstruction areas, we appreciate their cooperation. We expect India and other neighboring countries to play a significant role in Afghan peace process,” Hewad said.

The deputy of Qatar-based Taliban political office, Mula Abas Stanekzai, recently alleged that during the last two decades, India has only cooperated and kept ties with those who are corrupt and have been put in power by foreigners not elected by the Afghan people.

He mentioned that India should cooperate with Afghan peace process.

US Representative for Peace and Reconciliation Zalmai Khalilzad had discussed the Afghan peace with Indian officials and sought their cooperation during his visit to India. Khalilzad was in New Delhi earlier this month.

Afghan political analyst Khalid Sadaat told Radio Azadi that if the Taliban continues to make such remarks, it will hurt Afghanistan's diplomatic ties in the future.

“Taliban should not give themselves this liberty to make country and state-level remarks, as it will have negative consequences for Afghanistan in the future.

“And the other thing is that India and Pakistan are having historical enmity and Pakistan is playing a proxy role in Afghanistan and the Taliban are being accused of playing Pakistan's proxy role in Afghanistan and are backed by Pakistan, I believe these assertions of the Taliban are on Pakistan's demand,” he said.

Saddat further said that considering the peace process, the Taliban should try to foster good relations with all the countries to have their present and future support.

On Monday, Afghanistan's Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Haneef Atmar held a video conference call with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. Both the sides discussed issues of mutual interests including those pertaining to the economic and security cooperation and the Afghan Peace Process.

Meanwhile, India on Sunday welcomed the power-sharing deal between Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah after months of bitter disputes over the results of last year's presidential election that pushed the country into a political crisis.

As per the deal, Ghani will stay as the president while Abdullah will helm the High Council of National Reconciliation (HCNR) which has been mandated to lead future peace talks including with the Taliban.

There have been global concerns over Pakistan's support to the Taliban and other terror groups operating in Afghanistan.

Days before inking of the peace deal between the US and Taliban, India conveyed to the Trump administration that pressure on Pakistan to crack down on terror networks operating from its soil must be kept up.

India's support is guided by the needs and priorities of the government and the people of Afghanistan; activities are undertaken in partnership with the Afghan government; and projects are spread across Afghanistan in a wide range of areas.

The most important symbol of India's assistance in the reconstruction of Afghanistan has been the construction of the multipurpose Afghan India Friendship Dam (AIFD). The project was inaugurated in June 2016. It has an installed capacity of 42 MW and supplies water for irrigating 75,000 hectares of land.

Chabahar Port, located in the Sistan-Baluchistan province in Iran, is an important infrastructure development project being currently undertaken by both India and Iran for enhancing sea-land connectivity with Afghanistan and the Central Asian Region.

India has constructed a 218-km road from Zaranj to Delaram for facilitating the movement of goods and services to the Iranian border. The highway, completed in 2010, connects Iran with the Garland Highway, which links Kabul, Kandahar, Mazar-e-Sharif Herat and Kunduz.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/afghanistan-says-india-one-of-biggest-donors-in-reconstruction-efforts-rejects-talibans-allegations/articleshow/75801199.cms

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Kedah allows Friday, Eid ul Fitr prayers with conditions

18 May 2020

ALOR SETAR, May 18 — Kedah will allow all mosques in the state to perform Friday prayers during the conditional movement control order (CMCO) from May 22 onwards as well as the Eid ul Fitr prayers on 1st Syawal (the first day of Hari Raya Eid ul Fitr) on condition the number of people allowed to attend is limited to 12.

Kedah Mufti Datuk Sheikh Fadzil Awang said that the decision had been consented to by the Sultan of Kedah Al Aminul Karim Sultan Sallehuddin Sultan Badlishah.

“Only 12 people will be allowed in to ensure the standard operating procedure (SOP) set by the National Security Council (NSC) and Health Ministry (MOH) are complied with.

“The Kedah Islamic Religious Affairs Department’s Mosque Management Division will ensure that the one-meter social distancing between each member of the congregation is adhered to, while everyone is required to perform their ablution at home (before coming to the mosque) and to bring their own prayer mat.

Besides, he said, Friday sermons would be shortened while the duration for the mosques’ gates to be opened between before and after prayer time would also be limited.

“The related SOP will be issued to the 576 mosques across the state soon,” he said.

Sheikh Fadzil hoped that the decision would provide some relief to the Muslim community in the state after seven weeks of not having Friday prayers. — Bernama

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/05/18/kedah-allows-friday-Eid ul Fitr-prayers-with-conditions/1867328

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Iranian Parliament Approves Bill to Confront Israel’s Hostile Measures against Peace, Security

May 18, 2020

The generalities of the double-urgency plan were approved by all Iranian legislators present in an open session of the legislative body without any opposition.

The parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission had on Saturday prepared and approved the bill on “confronting the hostile acts of the Zionist regime against peace and security”.

“Based on the first article of the bill, all Iranian bodies are required to use the country’s regional and international capacities to confront the Zionist regime’s measures, specially its warmongering and terrorist moves, siege (of Gaza), settlement construction, displacing the Palestinian people and occupation of countries’ lands, including Golan,” Rapporteur of the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Seyed Hossein Naqavi Hosseini told FNA on Saturday.

He added that the plan also underlines support for Quds city as the Palestinian capital and the Palestinian people.

Naqavi Hosseini said that based on the approval, any cooperation or spying for the Zionist regime is equal to enmity towards God and corruption on earth and activities of the Israeli software platforms in Iran and using its hardware and software products is forbidden.

He noted that another article of the plan requires the foreign ministry to pursue the referendum in the Palestinian territories which has been registered at the UN too.

The new bill also bans transferring the goods produced by the Israeli companies via the Iranian territories as well as participation of the Israeli nationals and firms in the exhibitions held inside Iran.

The plan was approved on the eve of the International Quds Day on May 22.

The International Quds Day is an annual event opposing Israel's occupation of Beitul-Muqaddas. Anti-Zionist rallies and demonstrations are held on the last Friday of Ramadan in Muslim and Arab countries around the world, specially in Iran, as well as a large number of non-Muslim states.

The International Quds Day was started by the late Founder of the Islamic Republic, Imam Khomeini, in 1979 as a way of expressing solidarity with the Palestinians and underscoring importance of the holy Quds to Muslims.

Due to the outbreak of coronavirus in Iran, the International Quds Day will be commemorated differently without holding gatherings and rallies.

Earlier this month, an official with the Coordination Council of Islamic Propagation Organization said Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei will deliver a speech on the occasion of the International Quds Day corresponding with May 22.

https://en.farsnews.ir/newstext.aspx?nn=13990229000263

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Senegal’s Opening Mosques During Pandemic Divides Muslim Community

May 18, 2020

DAKAR - Senegal’s controversial decision to reopen mosques as the Muslim-majority country is still battling the coronavirus pandemic has split the religious community.

Senegal has about 2,500 confirmed infections and at least 25 deaths from COVID-19. While some Muslims have welcomed being able to pray at the mosque during the last week of the holy month of Ramadan, others worry it’s too soon and the decision may put worshippers at greater risk of infection. 

Senegal’s allowing mosques to reopen for the final week of Ramadan was welcomed by thousands of worshippers at the Massalikul Jinaan mosque for Friday prayers.   

But while requirements for social distancing and sanitary measures remain in place during the pandemic, not all of Senegal’s Muslims are keen to return to group prayer.    

Adja Fama Lo is in charge of the women’s prayer room at the mosque.

Many people are afraid of the disease, she said. They are afraid to come. At hat hour, the mosque was usually full, she ays. Now they are coming back step by step. She said those who are not afraid will come, those who are afraid will stay at home. 

Many Muslims, like 26-year-old programmer Fily Baye, prefer to continue praying at home to reduce the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19.     

For him, group worship — for Ramadan and until the coronavirus is under control — needs to remain online.      

Baye said it is a way that makes it possible to spend Ramadan safely. It also brings a dose of spirituality.

By being alone, he said, it is true that it is a bit complicated and that people experience difficult things. But spiritually speaking, he said, it's a time that allows us to refocus on ourselves.  

Many Imams chose not to reopen mosques out of concern for controlling crowds.

Ahmadou Kante is imam of Mosue Point E in Dakar.  

They prefer to be careful, he said, and that by the end of Ramadan they will see how it evolves and what other receivers of worshippers are telling them. Kante said if they are told that there is a decline[in cases], that the dynamic is not on the rise, they could satisfy this religious demand of a few believers to resume the public prayers.

Senegal’s Catholic churches have also chosen to keep their doors closed while the pandemic continues.

Meanwhile, all believers — whether at home or the mosque — are praying for a swift end to the coronavirus pandemic.  

https://www.voanews.com/covid-19-pandemic/senegals-opening-mosques-during-pandemic-divides-muslim-community

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With mosques closed, NYC Muslims find new ways to observe Ramadan

by Samira Sadeque

May 19, 2020

New York City - Hani Hajir has cooked his entire life. Watching his customers eat at the halal restaurant he owns in Brooklyn is what brings him joy. But the current coronavirus pandemic lockdown has robbed him of this simple pleasure for more than a month.

He closed shop on March 30, less than two weeks after New York City shut down to contain the spread of the virus. Hajir was worried that he would be exposed to the disease, given that he was the one who interacted with customers the most. Moreover, the business took a hit given the neighbourhood is primarily made of factories and warehouses - a workforce that has all but disappeared since the pandemic began.

Hajir said he had become depressed under the lockdown. He is not alone. Muslim community leaders in New York City said the lack of community activities and inability to pray and break fast together during the holy month of Ramadan has hit the community hard.

But Hajir, like many Muslims across the United States, has found new ways to observe Ramadan, including practising community and charity despite the lockdowns and quarantines.

Hajir has teamed up with the Muslim Community Center (MCC) in Brooklyn to provide food to homeless individuals.

Hajir prepares food in his restaurant every day to give to MCC for deliveries. Mohammed Bahi, director of MCC, then brings the meals to a location in Manhattan to share them with the members from the homeless community.

Even though the MCC has been involved with feeding the homeless community since 2014, Bahi said that this time the spirit is different. MCC has seen nearly double the number of people who normally show up during their Ramadan food drives.

Jeff Perrington, who has previously experienced homelessness and currently works as a liaison for the MCC and the homeless community, agrees that the number of those seeking food assistance this year is on the rise.

"Things have gotten more catastrophic," he said. In April, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio shared concerns that food insecurity in the city had doubled during the pandemic, with the city's homeless population especially vulnerable.

MCC's food drive for the homeless community runs about six blocks in Manhattan, according to Perrington, with volunteers making sure social distancing measures are in place. MCC's initiative also provides masks, gloves, sanitisers as well as other hygiene products.

A new 'tool' to strengthen faith

Beyond serving the community, the initiative also offers the volunteers some respite from being in the confines of their home.

New York City is home to approximately 768,767 Muslims, scattered across all five boroughs.

For many who attend the MCC, Bahi said the mosque, now temporarily closed, was the "number-one tool" for them to strengthen their faith and beliefs, especially during Ramadan.

"We lost that tool, [and] everyone is going around trying to replace it, and we thought this is the best way [to do so]," Bahi said.

MCC's initiative also has support from other organisers and facilities, namely the Asiyah Women's Shelter, the only domestic violence shelter in New York geared towards Muslim women that is under the umbrella of Muslims Giving Back, a volunteer-run group that's a part of MCC.

Dania Darwish, the executive director of Asiyah, said volunteering with these activities provides the centre's residents with an opportunity for a mental break from the circumstances they're processing. They assist with preparing and packaging the meals that Bahi carries to Manhattan every night.

Many of the survivors at the centre, she says, were very close to their families, and not being together at this time has made the current isolation particularly challenging.

But they're now using this volunteer opportunity to fill the absence, while also giving back to the community, she said.

'A time for action'

Other initiatives have also popped up across the city. The New York Police Department Muslim Officers Society says every year they organise a massive iftar celebration for the community at the police headquarters.

Given that that is not possible this year, they are now organising a troop of four halal food carts that are providing free meals to New Yorkers between 5pm and 8pm.

Adeel Rana, president of the society, estimates that there are about 1,000 people who show up to the carts every day.

Three of the carts are stationed in specific neighbourhoods across the city, while one does rotations.

The meals are served during the time of iftar, but Rana said they are open to everyone. "When you serve our community, it means you're serving anybody that also belongs in our community," he said.

The food carts belong to Zakarya Khan, who owns a halal restaurant, Gyro King, that operates through different carts and branches in the city.

As soon as the shutdown began, Khan had to close out the carts, and those that ran the carts were suddenly unemployed.

The initiative to offer free meals is now helping fill this gap, as well, as Khan immediately hired back those who were working the cart shift.

"This is a time of help, this is a time of sympathy, compassion, but this is also the time of action," he told Al Jazeera.

As for Bahi, he said the volunteer work is helping people recreate the idea of praying together - just in a different way.

"The feeling we're getting is really reminiscing about being inside a mosque and praying together," he said. "Instead of us praying together standing feet to feet, shoulder to shoulder, we're feeding the homeless together feet to feet, shoulder to shoulder."

https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/mosques-closed-nyc-muslims-find-ways-observe-ramadan-200518171405932.html

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India

 

After Suspension Of Ramazan Umrah, Doubts Hover On Haj 2020, India Await The Notification From Saudi Ministry Of Haj

May 18, 2020

MUMBAI: With Umrah already suspended, now doubts hang over the annual Haj pilgrimage too. A huge crowd of pilgrims go for Umrah in the holy month of Ramazan (last year there were around 25 lakh).But this year Ramazan which is ending on May 24 came in the middle of the coronavirus scare and Umrah was suspended even before the lockdown in India began on March 24.

Now Haj 2020 scheduled for July too may get cancelled even as tour operators and Haj Committee of India await the notification from Saudi Ministry of Haj.

"At least 25 lakh pilgrims used to perform Umrah in Ramazan every year. Out of them, five lakh were from India. Around 1000 would go for Ramazan Umrah through my agency alone," said Yusuf Ahmed Kherada of Al Khalid Tour and Travels, a leading Haj and Umrah tour operator. He added that it is unlikely that Haj 2020 will be conducted given the upheavals the pandemic has created. Hotels and transport services in Saudi Arabia are paid in advance. The amounts paid in advance to the hotels for Umrah tours that got cancelled are stuck, said Kherada.

Chief executive officer (CEO) of the Haj committee of India MA Khan said he is keeping his fingers crossed as there is no clear message so far from the Saudi government whether Haj will take place this year. "We had scheduled the first Haj flight for June 20. We are awaiting the final notification from Saudi government about whether Haj would be conducted this year or not," said Khan. He added that a lot of logistics go into conducting the massive congregation of pilgrims. India sends two lakh Haj pilgrims.

The pilgrims who had planned to go for Haj this year are also worried. "Both my husband and I are senior citizens. Our number didn't come in the last three years. This year we had planned to go with our son and daughter-in-law. But now coronavirus seems to be depriving us of the opportunity this year too," said homemaker Sajida Rashid Khan.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/covid-19-after-suspension-of-ramazan-umrah-doubts-hover-on-haj-2020/articleshow/75811744.cms

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Muslim Vendors Face Boycott In Shivamogga, Citizens’ United Movement Urged The State Government To Take Suitable Action

19th May 2020

SHIVAMOGGA: Citizens’ United Movement, a citizens forum in the district, has urged the state government to take suitable action against people targeting the Muslim community by accusing it of spreading coronavirus. It alleged that vegetable and fruit vendors belonging to the Muslim community are being boycotted by a few citizens. The forum alleged that due to the stigma against Muslims, people are not buying vegetables and fruits from them, affecting the business to a great deal. “Don’t judge the whole community based on a few people,” a forum member said.

Shahraj Muzayidd Siddiki of the forum said that recently nine Tablighi Jamaat attendees from Ahmedabad had arrived to the district. “They cooperated with the district administration and were put in quarantine. Still, some people are targeting Muslims on social media and are trying to spread hatred towards the community. Even a few elected representatives of the district are passing objectional remarks,” he alleged.

Siddiki has asked his community members in the district to avoid buying clothes for Ramzan as most of them have to be brought from Surat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra, which have been categorised as Covid hotspots of the country. He said that purchasing clothes from these places may be used as another reason for people to criticise the community.

https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/karnataka/2020/may/19/muslim-vendors-face-boycott-in-shivamogga-2145112.html

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Pak Army shells areas along LoC in Rajouri

May 19, 2020

JAMMU: The Pakistan Army on Tuesday shelled forward areas along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir's Rajouri district, drawing retaliation from the Indian Army, a defence spokesperson said.

This is second ceasefire violation by the Pakistan Army in the last 12 hours along the LoC in Rajouri and Poonch districts.

"At about 0730 hours today, Pakistan Army initiated unprovoked ceasefire violation by small arm firing and mortar shelling along LoC in Sunderbani sector", the spokesperson said, adding the Indian Army retaliated befittingly.

The cross-border shelling between the two sides was going on when last reports were received, the spokesperson said.

There was no immediate report of any casualty during the Pakistani shelling.

Pakistan had on Monday night opened fire and shelled mortars along the LoC in Gulpur sector of Poonch.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/pak-army-shells-areas-along-loc-in-rajouri/articleshow/75818980.cms

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J&K: Probe ordered after ambulance driver allegedly beaten by police in Pulwama

May 19, 2020

The administration in South Kashmir’s Pulwama ordered an probe after an ambulance driver of the health department was allegedly beaten up by police personnel in Pulwama district of South Kashmir on Sunday night.

As per the order issued by the District Magistrate Pulwama Raghav Langer, Altaf Khan Additional District Magistrate Pulwama has been designated as the Inquiry Officer and will submit a report in a week.

“As per the communication received from District Magistrate Shopian….one Tariq Ahmad… was allegedly beaten up by Policemen at the naka point…,” the order reads. The order further said, “Now, therefore Mr. Altaf Ahmad Khan…is hereby designated as Inquiry officer who shall conduct an inquiry into the incident and shall furnish his conclusion within a week time positively.”

Officials said that ambulance driver Tariq Ahmad from Shopian was sent to nearby Pulwama to pick up two people who were put under administrative quarantine. The driver alleged that he was stopped at a checkpoint by police personnel in Pulwama and was beaten up.

“He had to pick up two people from Pulwama. The driver told us that there was a naka in the area and he was asked to take another route. There was probably an altercation and he said he was beaten by the police present there. He has suffered soft issue injuries,” Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Shopian, Dr. Ramesh Kumar told The Indian Express.

He said the matter was taken up with the local authorities and a complaint has been submitted as well.

Day after the incident, ambulance drivers in Shopian staged a protest against the Pulwama police.

Speaking with The Indian Express, Tariq Ahmad said he was sent to Pulwama to pick two quarantined people. “After I picked one, I reached to the circuit road, where policemen were present. They told me to take another route, and road in closed. But after I saw a vehicle coming from the same road, which they told me is closed, I again requested to please allow me to go. They told me to take alternative route. When I objected to it, one policeman came and hit me with stick. I was beaten,” he said. “I contacted seniors and even my brother who is in police department,” added Ahmad.

Superintendent of Police, Pulwama Ashish Mishra didn’t respond to calls and message sent by The Indian Express. Calls to DM Langer also went unanswered.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/jk-probe-ordered-after-ambulance-driver-allegedly-beaten-by-police-in-pulwama-6416842/

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Africa

 

Coronavirus: Sudan airports to remain closed until May 31

18 May 2020

Sudan will keep its airports closed for both internal and international commercial passenger flights until May 31, the state news agency SUNA said on Sunday, extending a shutdown that began in March due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The airport will remain open only for flights for cargo, humanitarian aid, oil organizations’ workers and evacuating foreigners.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/coronavirus/2020/05/18/Coronavirus-Sudan-airports-to-remain-closed-until-May-31.html

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Tunisia relaxes curfew with coronavirus outbreak slowing

14 May 2020

Tunisia has announced a reduction of its nightly curfew hours, state media reported on Wednesday, after three consecutive days without recording any new coronavirus cases and as the government relaxes a general lockdown.

The North African democracy imposed the curfew in March, aiming to slow the spread of the virus by keeping people at home, combined with a lockdown that shuttered all but key shops and services.

President Kais Saied has cut the curfew hours to 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. instead of 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., state news agency TAP reported, 10 days after the start of a gradual reopening of the bureaucracy and economy.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

It follows the government’s announcement that no new coronavirus cases have been recorded for three days in a row, with 1,032 confirmed cases in total and 45 deaths.

Senior health and hospital officials in different parts of the country told Reuters there were very few coronavirus patients still in care, indicating that the reduction in the number of new cases is not down to a lack of testing.

However, government officials have warned of a possible second wave and kept in place many restrictions on movement including the closure of schools, mosques, cafes and restaurants.

Tunisia has only 500 intensive care beds equipped with ventilators and the government said at the start of the outbreak that the health system would struggle to cope with more than 5,000 cases.

City and town centers have become far busier since the lockdown was relaxed to allow a wider range of shops to open, with crowded markets and even busy public beaches.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/coronavirus/2020/05/14/Tunisia-relaxes-curfew-with-coronavirus-outbreak-slowing.html

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Gulf social media reacts to reports on Qatar links in al-Shabaab hostage release

18 May 2020

Users in the Arab Gulf region reacted to the reports of Qatari involvement in the recent hostage release of Italian volunteer Silvia Romano after her captivity by al-Shabaab, pointing to Doha’s track record of facilitating finance of terror groups.

Romano, an Italian aid worker kidnapped 18 months ago in East Africa, landed in Rome last Sunday a day after being freed. She was found in Somalia, some 30 km outside the capital, Mogadishu, and was released thanks to efforts by an “external intelligence agency,” Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said at the time.

After her release, Turkish security sources said Romano was rescued after a joint effort by Turkey’s MIT intelligence agency and Italian and Somalian government authorities.

While reports of who between the Italian Qatari government actually paid the ransom for Romano’s release are still unconfirmed, Somalia’s former head of intelligence told Al Arabiya that Doha may be linked directly al-Shabaab in the Italian’s release.

Abdullahi Mohamed Ali, who is the former director of the Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA), said the allegations of Qatari ties to al-Shabaab were “nothing new.”

“Qatar has strong relations and extensive contacts with the al-Shabaab movement, and it is known that the current head of Somali intelligence is the main man of Qatar in Somalia. No other country in the world has exclusive access and special relationship with the al-Shabaab movement except Qatar,” Ali, commonly also known as Sanbalolshe, told Al Arabiya.

“The Qatari government has a political rapprochement Ideology with the regime currently ruling in Somalia, and the Somali government uses Qatari money to implement Qatar's plans against its opponents in the region and strike their interests,” he added.

Reactions to Romano’s release

One of the many reactions to Romano’s release was Kuwaiti professor Abdullah al-Shayji’s tweets describing his surprise at the Italian media’s negative response to the released detainee, who had converted to Islam during her captivity.

“In November 2018, the Somali al-Shabaab group kidnapped a #SilviaRomano Italian young woman working as a volunteer for a relief organization in #Kenya. They treated her with respect. She converted to Islam and changed her name to Aisha. The Turkish Intelligence contributed to her release – she arrived in Italy – the press attacked her and questioned her Islam! # Islamophobia and #Racism!” al-Shayji tweeted.

Al-Shayji, who appears regularly on Qatari-owned Al Jazeera Media Network as an on-air analyst, received several criticisms following his tweet.

“First: The Somali al-Shabaab is a terrorist group, which is the branch of al-Qaeda in Somalia, and it appeared in conjunction with the terrorist organization ISIS and bears the same slogan. Second: The phrase ‘they treated her with respect’ is polishing a terrorist group. Third: Turkish mediation is evidence of Turkey's support and financing for the group and the close link between them,” twitter user @sara369q8 wrote.

“Yesterday, in Somalia, Turkish intelligence freed a hostage from the Somali terrorist movement Al-Shabab … Action film.. !! In Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, Qatar pays hundreds of millions to free "hostages" .. !! Financing terrorism through the guise of hostages is a Qatari and Turkish specialty!” twitter user Abdullah al-Mutairi wrote.

Last summer, allegations of Qatari complicity in an extremist attack in Somalia caused an outcry after an audio recording obtained by the New York Times showed Khalifa Kayed al-Muhanadi – a businessman linked to the Qatari emir – telling Qatari ambassador Hassan bin Hamza Hashem that “our friends were behind the last bombings.” Al-Muhanadi was referring to a suicide bombing in Bosaso in northern Somalia which wounded at least eight people last May.

Nervana Mahmoud

@Nervana_1

Listening with horror at this intercepted call between #Qatar’s agent and Qatar’s Ambassador to Somalia:

We know who is behind the bombings ... Violence is beneficial as it will make the #Emiratis run away from there..

How low Qatar can go ?

Embedded video

343

1:30 AM - Jul 26, 2019

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566 people are talking about this

Qatar’s track-record of playing the mediator role between governments and terrorist groups across the world in countries like Iraq and Syria has landed the country in hot water over the years with accusations that its policy of paying ransom to terrorist groups is an indirect method of terror financing.

American journalist Theo Padnos, an American journalist who was abducted in Syria by al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front militants in 2012, spoke to Al Arabiya in 2018 on how Qatar’s efforts to secure his release in 2014 left him with concerns over the Gulf state’s funding of terrorism.

Padnos said he was left with the impression that the process of hostage-taking and paying ransom money was a way in which Qatar was able to fund Nusra Front indirectly.

“During my imprisonment, I learned that there were negotiations between members of Nusra Front and a Qatari ambassador … I came out with the impression that hostage-taking and paying ransom to release the hostages is a way for Qatar to fund Nusra Front,” Padnos said at the time.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/05/18/Gulf-social-media-reacts-to-reports-on-Qatar-links-in-al-Shabaab-hostage-release.html

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Forces allied with Libya’s GNA take control of key base near Tripoli

18 May 2020

Forces allied with Libya’s internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) have wrested control of a key military base on the outskirts of the capital Tripoli from renegade General Khalifa Haftar.

Pro- and anti-Haftar media, citing reliable military sources, reported on Monday that the forces with the GNA took the Watiya air base, about 125 kilometers southwest of Tripoli.

Footage posted on social media appeared to show the GNA forces driving down runways at the base unhindered.

The base has been an important strategic foothold for forces loyal to the eastern-based Haftar, who launched an offensive to capture Tripoli in April 2019.

The GNA forces have already pushed back against their rivals in recent weeks. Last month, they captured towns on the west coast of Tripoli.

Since 2014, two rival seats of power have emerged in Libya, namely the GNA of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, and another one based in the eastern city of Tobruk, supported militarily by rebel forces collectively known as the ‘Libyan National Army’ (LNA) under Haftar’s command.

The military commander, who lived in the United States for years, is supported by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Jordan.

Despite fierce fighting, Haftar has so far failed to achieve his objective of ousting the Tripoli government and the offensive has stalled outside the city. Reports say more than 1,000 people have to date been killed in the violence.

Turkey also signed a treaty with the GNA in November last year, and, in return for Libyan permission to access Mediterranean gas fields, has been supplying military support to the GNA.

Various international attempts to bring about peace between the two warring sides have also failed.

Haftar can still use a second airbase, Mitiga, to mount deadly assaults on Tripoli. Strikes from there continued against the capital on Monday.

Many of these assaults are killing civilians and destroying hospital facilities at a time when the country is trying to contain the new coronavirus outbreak.

According to the United Nations, seven health centers in Libya have been struck a dozen times since the beginning of this year.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/05/18/625609/Libya-GNA-base-Tripoli-

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Libya’s UN-backed GNA forces destroy Haftar’s air defense system, drone south of Tripoli

17 May 2020

Libya’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) says its forces have managed to shut down another air defense system and shoot down a drone belonging rebels loyal to renegade General Khalifa Haftar southwest of capital Tripoli.

In a statement on Sunday, the GNA's military spokesman Colonel Mohammed Qanunu announced the news, saying the airstrikes against Haftar's rebels were carried out at their positions in the Watiya airbase.

The official, whose statement was carried by Turkey’s state Anadolu news agency, explained that the GNA forces destroyed a Pantsir type air defense system and a Wing Loong II type combat drone, both supplied by the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Qanunu added that two arms depot at the airbase were also targeted by the Libyan army, a day after the troops destroyed the first UAE-supplied Pantsir system.

Since 2014, two rival seats of power have emerged in Libya, namely the internationally-recognized GNA, and another one based in the eastern city of Tobruk, supported militarily by rebel forces collectively known as the so-called Libyan National Army (LNA) under Haftar’s command.

The military commander, who lived in the United States for years, is supported by the UAE, Egypt and Jordan, and launched a deadly offensive to capture Tripoli, the seat of the GNA, in April last year.

Despite fierce fighting, Haftar has so far failed to achieve his objective of ousting the Tripoli government and the offensive has stalled outside the city. Reports say that more than 1,000 have to date been killed in the violence.

Various international attempts to bring about peace between the two warring sides have also failed.

Watiya is viewed as a key airbase in Libya and is second only to Mitiga Airport. It was seized by Haftar's rebels in August 2014 and has been used the strongman's headquarters for operation ever since.

The Sunday strikes were part of an ongoing operation to cut supplies to militias loyal to Haftar, who has intensified attacks on civilians since early this month the as the GNA forces recently gained advantage and inflicted significant losses on his LNA.

Libya plunged into chaos in 2011 when a popular uprising and a NATO intervention led to the ouster, and later killing, of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/05/17/625553/Libya-GNA

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UAE dispatched mercenaries to help rebels in Libya: UN report

17 May 2020

A confidential report by the United Nations says two private military companies based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have sent foreign mercenaries to support Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar in his offensive to seize the country’s capital Tripoli.

The report, which was prepared by a UN Panel of Experts and accessed by the American news outlet Bloomberg, said that the foreign mercenaries were affiliated with the Dubai-based firms of Lancaster 6 DMCC and Opus Capital Asset Limited FZE — both registered at free zones in the UAE.

The team of around 20 mercenaries, mostly holding British, American, French, Australian, and South African passports, arrived in Libya in June 2019 as part of a “well funded private military company operation” to support Haftar’s offensive against the Libyan government, according to the UN report.

However, after arriving in Libya in late June, the group of mercenaries led by a South African national named Steve Lodge “abruptly pulled out.” UN investigators said in the report that they were unable to determine the reason for the team’s withdrawal.

Two diplomats who spoke to Bloomberg said the report was shared with the UN Security Council’s (UNSC) sanctions committee in February and that the two military firms supplied “Haftar’s forces with helicopters, drones, and cyber capabilities through a complex web of shell companies.”

The diplomats said the mercenaries “promised a sophisticated operation that could interdict arms shipments from Turkey to the government of Tripoli using vessels and helicopters.”

“The report found that six former military helicopters were acquired and sent to Libya for the project in what it described as non-compliance with a UN resolution for an arms embargo on Libya,” Bloomberg said.

Al Jazeera revealed in a report last month that a high-ranking Emirati delegation had visited Sudan to recruit militants to fight against the internationally-recognized government in Tripoli.

Libya has been in chaos since 2011, when a popular uprising and a NATO intervention led to the ouster of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Since 2014, two rival seats of power have emerged in Libya, namely the internationally-recognized government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, and another group based in the eastern city of Tobruk, supported militarily by Haftar’s rebels.

The strongman, who is primarily supported by the UAE, Egypt, and Jordan, launched a deadly offensive to capture Tripoli, the seat of the government, in April last year. His forces have been bogged down on the city’s outskirts.

According to the UN, hundreds of people have been killed and more than 200,000 have been displaced as a result of the offensive.

Government forces, backed by Turkey, recently liberated several towns that had been occupied by the rebels in the northwest. Haftar’s rebels have been intensifying a pushback by escalating attacks on civilians in the capital.

Libyan official calls for cutting UAE ties

Meanwhile, a member of Libya’s Presidential Council has called for severing relations with Abu Dhabi.

In a letter to the Tripoli-based government on Friday, Mohamed Amaria Zayed censured the UAE as an “aggressor” and said “maintaining silence to the crimes of this state would mean abandoning the blood of the martyrs.”

Zayed called on Libya’s Presidential Council to “take the step to halt the Libyan bloodshed and violation of [Libya]’s border by this state.”

The UAE has over the past months been conducting drone strikes against government positions and in support of the rebels.

Moreover, a flight-tracking data provider revealed last month that the UAE had sent more than 100 shipments of arms to Libya by air since mid-January, despite a UN arms embargo on the war-torn country.

Zayed also urged the Libyan authorities “to pursue the UAE at international courts” and to deal with the Persian Gulf state as an “enemy.”

“It is proven beyond doubt that the UAE is involved in shedding Libyan blood, violating the country’s sovereignty by occupying part of its land, establishing military bases, violating our airspace, and carrying out airstrikes with the aim of killing Libyan citizens,” he said.

Shelling kills 2 at Tripoli

Separately, Tripoli’s emergency services said on Saturday that shelling by rebel forces under the command of Haftar had killed two people at a displaced people’s shelter in the Libyan capital.

“The shelling caused a fire at the shelter in Fornaj district, located near a frontline and home to people forced from their homes after earlier bouts of fighting,” said Usama Ali, a spokesman for Tripoli’s emergency and ambulance services.

Ali said the emergency services were attempting to evacuate the shelter and relocating people elsewhere.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/05/17/625515/Libya-UAE-dispatch-mercenaries-UN

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Nigerian army kills 20 Boko Haram insurgents in Borno

18.05.2020

Nigerian troops have killed 20 insurgents of the Boko Haram/the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) militant groups in Borno state, an NGO official announced on Monday.

“Troops killed 20 #BokoHaram/#ISWAP insurgents near Baga town, Borno state, yesterday 17 May, #Nigerian military reports,” Nnamdi Obasi from International Crisis Group (ICG) said on Twitter.

“Defence spokesman Maj Gen John Enenche says troops captured 6 AK-47 rifles, 520 rounds of ammunition and hand grenades, with 9 soldiers wounded but none lost,” he added.

Boko Haram launched a bloody insurgency in 2009 in northeastern Nigeria but later spread its atrocities to neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, prompting a military response.

More than 30,000 people have been killed and nearly 3 million displaced in a decade of Boko Haram's terrorist activities in Nigeria, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Violence committed by Boko Haram has affected some 26 million people in the Lake Chad region and displaced 2.6 million others, according to the UN Refugee Agency.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/nigerian-army-kills-20-boko-haram-insurgents-in-borno/1844941

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Two Al-Shabaab killed in US drone strike

May 18, 2020

The US Africa Command (Africom) has killed two Al-Shabaab members in an airstrike in Qunyo Barrow, Lower Shabelle.

The airstrike which happened yesterday, was conducted jointly with Somali forces and with the blessing and of the federal government.

“The U.S. support to our Somali partners is and will remain strong,” said the director of Africom operations, Maj. Gen. William Gayler.

“The command’s initial assessment concluded this airstrike killed two (2) terrorists.

“U.S. Africa Command currently assesses no civilians were injured or killed as a result of this airstrike,” an Africom statement said.

A statement issued by the federal government on the operation gave similar details, saying Somali commandos led the operation.

Africom has been carrying out regular airstrikes against Al-Shabaab across Somalia in the past two years, although analysts have question their effectiveness.

https://www.somaliaffairs.com/news/two-al-shabaab-killed-in-us-drone-strike/

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Somali governor killed in Al Shabab suicide blast

May 19, 2020

A Somali governor and three bodyguards were killed in a suicide attack claimed by the Al Shabab militant group in the regional capital of Galkayo on Sunday, a security official said.

The attacker rammed a scooter taxi into a car carrying Ahmed Muse Nur, the governor of the north-central Mudug province, and his security detail before detonating an explosive device, official Muse Ahmed told AFP.

A witness named Bile Mohamed described the attack in a phone call with AFP, saying: "Everyone in the vehicle including the governor and his driver died, there was smoke and fire all everywhere."

Muse Ahmed confirmed the toll of four and added: "There are other casualties but the details are still being investigated."

In late March, the governor of Puntland, a neighbouring semi-autonomous province, was killed in similar circumstances.

Al Shabab, a militant group waging a deadly insurgency in Somalia, claimed responsibility for that attack as well.

On Sunday, it posted a statement on a pro-Shabab website that said: "The governor of the apostate administration in the Mudug region was killed in a martyrdom operation in Galkayo today."

Galkayo lies around 600 kilometres (375 miles) north of Somalia's capital Mogadishu, straddling the border of two self-proclaimed semi-autonomous states –– Puntland and Galmutug, which includes Mudug.

The city has been rocked by fighting between forces from both regions and also by rival clans in the northern and southern parts of the town.

Al Shabab, an Al Qaeda affiliate, was driven out of Mogadishu in 2011 and lost most of its strongholds, but still controls vast swathes of the countryside.

Its militants have vowed to overthrow the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu and have carried out numerous attacks in the capital.

https://www.trtworld.com/africa/somali-governor-killed-in-al-shabab-suicide-blast-36392

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Arab world

 

Coronavirus: Oman bans all Eid gatherings, will issues fines, jail time for violators

18 May 2020

All social gatherings relating to Eid al-Fitr have been banned in Oman and violators will be fined or jailed, the country’s Supreme Committee for Dealing with COVID-19 announced on Monday.

For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.

Eid prayers, livestock auctions, family visits, and group celebrations will be prohibited during the holiday as part of efforts to curb the coronavirus outbreak, the committee added.

The Royal Oman Police has been authorized to monitor the public’s compliance and issue fines or jail penalties for violations, according to the committee.

The amount violators will have to pay and the jail time was not specified.

Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, is expected to begin on May 22, pending the moon sighting.

Muslims usually celebrate the holiday by performing communal prayers after sunrise and spending the day

with family and friends. However, the coronavirus pandemic has forced mosques around the world to shut their doors and governments to call for social distancing measures.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/coronavirus/2020/05/18/Coronavirus-Oman-bans-all-Eid-gatherings-will-issues-fines-jail-time-for-violators.html

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ISIS gunmen execute 11 on Syria desert highway

18 May 2020

The ISIS extremist group gunmen executed 11 people, all but one of them pro-regime fighters, in two attacks on a desert highway in eastern Syria, a war monitor said on Monday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the bodies of seven members of a pro-regime militia were found at dawn on the highway linking Deir Ezzor to Damascus.

On Sunday, a Syrian army officer, two other soldiers and a woman were shot dead, also execution-style, on another stretch of the highway, and their vehicle was seized, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility from the ISIS extremist group on the Telegram messaging service it uses to issue statements.

Since its territorial defeat in Syria in March 2019, ISIS attacks have been restricted to the vast deserts stretching from Deir Ezzor to Homs in the center of the country.

Eleven government soldiers were killed in a May 7 ambush, which the Observatory said was the work of ISIS extremists.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/05/18/ISIS-gunmen-execute-11-on-Syria-desert-highway.html

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Coronavirus: Egypt tightens measures during Eid al-Fitr holidays

17 May 2020

Egypt on Sunday announced a lengthening of its night-time curfew and other measures to prevent large gatherings during Eid al-Fitr holidays marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

“All shops, malls, restaurants, entertainment facilities, beaches and public parks will be closed for six days from May 24-29,” said Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli.

Public transport will be halted and the nationwide curfew in force from 5 pm during that period, he told a Cairo press conference.

Read the latest updates in our dedicated coronavirus section.

During the fasting month of Ramadan, the curfew ran from 9 pm to 6 am.

Eid al-Fitr is normally marked by mass morning prayers, visits of family and friends and large gatherings in public spaces and parks.

Egypt has since late March banned prayer gatherings and suspended air traffic among other steps to slow the spread of coronavirus among the country’s 100 million people.

The health ministry has so far recorded 11,719 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 612 fatalities.

On Sunday, the prestigious Islamic institution of Al Azhar urged worshippers to perform the Eid prayers at home.

Madbouli said the measures will be eased following the week of Eid celebrations and the curfew will start at 8 pm from May 30.

“People will be required to wear face masks in public, closed and crowded places,” he said, adding that violators will face penalties, without elaborating.

Egypt has since early May allowed a gradual resumption of some suspended government services.

On Sunday, the premier said the government will announce relaxed restrictions on some activities including sports and the opening of restaurants with precautionary measures from mid-June.

Restaurants have been closed since late March, offering only delivery and take-away services.

Authorities have been carrying out sweeping disinfection operations at archaeological sites, museums and other sites across the country.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/coronavirus/2020/05/17/Coronavirus-Egypt-tightens-measures-during-Eid-al-Fitr-holidays.html

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ISIS tried to destroy this church, now Muslims and Christians join hands to rebuild

17 May 2020

As many churches around the world face dire financial straits and struggle to survive due to the coronavirus pandemic, one church is rising from the ashes in the most unlikely of places: former ISIS territory.

ISIS, which ruled the Iraqi city of Mosul from 2014 to 2016, damaged or destroyed every church in the city including the “Our Lady of the Hour” Church, also known as Al Saa’a Church.

Established in the 19th century, the Our Lady of the Hour church was the base for the Roman Catholic parish in Northern Iraq and Kurdistan - until ISIS damaged its structure, looted and ransacked its convent, and drove its worshippers out of the area.

Now the historical monument is being rebuilt through a partnership between UNESCO, the United Arab Emirates, and the Roman Catholic Dominican order. Christians and Muslims have joined forces for the initiative, part of UNESCO’s “Revive the Spirit of Mosul” project.

The remnants of the church are evidence of the solid Christian presence the city once had, before ISIS drove out religious minorities under the threat of death.

About 50 Christian families remain in Mosul, according to Father Olivier Poquillon, a Dominican Catholic priest who is overseeing the reconstruction of the church.

Christians have hesitated to return to the city because of the post-war environment.

Many Christians in Iraq are now internally displaced peoples (IDPs) and are “carefully watching what is developing in Mosul and whether it will be possible for them to return home,” said Father Poquillon in an interview with Al Arabiya English, adding that the renovation of a Christian place of worship will be a welcoming sign.

Reviving Mosul

Several key landmarks in Mosul that capture the historic diversity of the city are under reconstruction after being targeted by ISIS. The restoration is bringing citizens from different communities together again, said Poquillon.

The UAE has committed over $50 million to rebuilding the cultural heritage of Mosul, including the Our Lady of the Hour church and the Al Tahera Church of Syriac Catholics. The UAE is the first country in the world to spearhead the reconstruction of Christian churches in Iraq.

Poquillon said reconstruction of the churches would not have been possible without the generous contribution of the UAE, which serves as “a model of engagement for the mutual benefit and full commitment of all in building peace.”

UAE Minister for Culture and Knowledge Development Noura Al Kaabi has expressed hope Christians will return to Mosul and that the city’s repaired sites will be a symbol for the future of the country.

“By rebuilding a fraction of the past, Iraq can shape its future as an inclusive, tolerant and open society, which has always found a tangible manifestation in Mosul’s rich historical sites,” said Al Kaabi during remarks at a UNESCO meeting on October 10.

The UAE is also rebuilding Mosul’s 12th century Al Nuri mosque, which ISIS blew up in 2017.

In rebuilding two churches and one mosque, the project is an example of being united in diversity for mutual benefit in the community, said Poquillon.

Christian homecoming

ISIS didn’t just damage Mosul’s ancient buildings, but also the city’s social fabric and unity.

The return of Mosul’s Christian population depends on many factors other than having a building of worship, including safety, basic facilities, quality education, and economic opportunities.

“Some Christians are already working in Mosul, but the main challenge will be to rebuild trust among peoples and communities. ‘Reviving the Spirit of Mosul’ may play a positive role in that direction,” said Poquillon.

The UNESCO project has so far contracted four Iraqi companies and employed 27 locals to carry out the restoration of the holy sites. It also aims to create training and job opportunities for over 1,000 young people in the city of Mosul and contribute to the local economy by building up cultural tourism.

Especially following COVID-19’s impact on the Iraqi economy, the project will now play a role “in supporting the population in rebuilding the landscape of the city,” according to Poquillon.

This is not the first time Mosul is overcoming destruction, as the city’s position at an ancient crossroads made it subject to violence from many directions, said Poquillon.

“But since antiquity it has always been able to rebuild itself. Let’s hope that this spirit of resilience will prevail and allow peoples of good will to rebuild Mosul together,” he said.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2020/05/17/ISIS-tried-to-destroy-this-church-now-Muslims-and-Christians-join-hands-to-rebuild.html

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US sanctions against Syria amid pandemic amount to medical terrorism: Ambassador

18 May 2020

Syria’s Ambassador to Russia Riad Haddad has condemned as “medical terrorism” the US sanctions against Damascus that hamper medical supplies amid the country’s battle against the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“The United States’ sanctions against Syria are actions running counter to international law. It happens at a time when all the nations have mobilized to combat the coronavirus infection. So, such actions are inhumane,” he told a virtual conference on Monday.

“Syria needs medicines and medical goods besides other means to combat the virus. Being deprived of such assistance, we see a new type of terrorism — medical terrorism — against people because the lack of medicines causes human deaths,” he added.

The diplomat then called on the World Health Organization (WHO) to denounce Washington’s economic restrictions.

The Syrian Health Ministry said in a statement on Sunday that seven new COVID-19 cases had been registered in the war-ravaged country, bringing the overall number of cases to 58.

The ministry added that the new cases were diagnosed in people who had recently returned to Syria from Kuwait.

Syria has so far recorded 36 recoveries and three deaths from COVID-19, according to the statement.

Syria has blamed Western sanctions for its struggling economy.

Earlier this month, Syria’s Ambassador to the United Nations Bashar al-Jaafari also said the unilateral sanctions imposed by the Western countries are hindering Damascus’ efforts to import medicine and other medical supplies to fight the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

“Unilateral coercive economic measures hinder Syria’s ability to meet the basic needs of its people and confront the epidemic of the novel coronavirus,” Jaafari said through the video link at a symposium organized by the Sanctions Kill coalition, which comprises a group of activists working to promote anti-sanctions campaigns, at the time.

Jaafari noted that the sanctions continue to undermine Syria’s public and private health sectors since the punitive measures have affected the country’s banking sector, left it bereft of financial resources, made money transfers difficult and negatively influenced the fields of energy, industry, transport, communications as well as domestic and foreign trade.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on May 4 that the unjust sanctions imposed by the West against Damascus constitute a major obstacle in the way of fighting the pandemic.

He warned that the country could face a “real catastrophe” if coronavirus cases spike and overwhelm health services.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/05/18/625629/US-sanctions-against-Syria-amid-coronavirus-outbreak-amount-to-medical-terrorism-Ambassador

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Iraq's Badr org. demands Western diplomats be expelled over unconventional flag

18 May 2020

The secretary general of Badr Organization, Hadi al-Amiri, has called upon the Baghdad government to expel three “offender” Western ambassadors after a flag, which symbolizes homosexuality, was raised in the Iraqi capital, saying such a move contradicted the religious principles and moral values of the country.

“What the European Union mission, along with the Canadian and British embassies, did with the flag of homosexuals in Baghdad was an outrageous and improper act that violated the customs, traditions and ethics of the Iraqi society. It was also a clear and provocative challenge to the Iraqi laws,” Amiri said in a statement on Sunday as cited by the Arabic-language al-Maalomah news agency.

He added, “In the meantime, it is important to condemn transgressions of religious beliefs and Islamic rules. We urge the Iraqi government to immediately expel the three morally depraved ambassadors.”

Amiri further noted that the decision by the representatives of Canada, the United Kingdom and the European Union blatantly hurt the sanctity of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, and constituted a wanton disregard for the feelings of millions of people.

This came after Iraq’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Sunday to “denounce” the raising of the flag, highlighting it was against “the noble morals of all divine religions.”

“We remind all the missions operating in Iraq to comply with the laws of the country, and to follow diplomatic norms,” the ministry said.

Bashir Hadad, deputy speaker of the Iraqi parliament, also issued a statement, calling the hoisting of the flag a “clear provocation of the feelings of the Iraqi people.”

“We do not allow the hoisting of the homosexual flag on our land […] We have directed the foreign relations, religious affairs, and other relevant committees to take the necessary measures against this behavior,” he said.

The Alliance Towards Reforms parliamentary bloc – better known by its Arabic short form Sairoon and led by Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr – also called the act “unacceptable” and culturally insensitive during Ramadan.

“We refuse and condemn any behavior that contradicts the culture and religion of the Iraq people. We ask the European mission in Iraq to lower the flag,” read a Sairoon statement.

“We are in a blessed and holy month for all Muslims, and the foreign diplomatic missions in Iraq need to take into account the features of Muslim peoples,” it added.

Likewise, many Iraqi people took to social media platforms, arguing the move ran counter to the values of the Iraqi community.

“U must respect the values & traditions of this community. #Hint: when we reject these actions that's not mean we're inhumane,” one user said.

“This is very disrespectful to the culture of Iraqi people and you can’t encourage tolerance by being disrespectful,” one user added.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/05/18/625610/Badr-chief-demands-Western-diplomats%E2%80%99-expulsion-after-LGBT-flag-raised-in-Iraqi-capital

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Israeli troops shoot Syrian shepherd near Lebanese border

18 May 2020

Israeli troops have shot and injured a Syrian shepherd working near the Lebanese border, claiming that he had crossed into the occupied territories.

The Lebanese satellite television station al-Manar reported that the Israeli forces opened fire on the Syrian shepherd working on a farm in the Kfarchouba Hills area, which is on the Lebanese side of the UN-drawn Blue Line.

"A short while ago... troops spotted a suspect who crossed the Blue Line from Lebanon” into Israel, the military said in a statement.

"The suspect was injured from fire and is being evacuated to a hospital … in Israel," it added.

The Lebanese military identified the man as Mohamad Noureddine Abdel al-Azim, a cattle herder and Syrian citizen.

Lebanon said it was following up on the incident in coordination with the UN peacekeepers who patrol the Blue Line. The United Nations marked out the line between Lebanon and Israel in 2000.

Israel and Lebanon are technically at war.

In 2006, Israel launched a 33-day war on Lebanon, in which about 1,200 Lebanese, most of them civilians, lost their lives.

Israel violates Lebanon's airspace on an almost daily basis, claiming the flights serve surveillance purposes.

Lebanon's government, the Hezbollah resistance movement and the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) have repeatedly condemned the overflights, saying they are in clear violation of UN Resolution 1701 and the country's sovereignty.

UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which brokered a ceasefire in the war of aggression Israel launched against Lebanon in 2006, calls on Tel Aviv to respect Beirut's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Israeli settler found guilty of murder in arson attack

In the occupied territories, an Israeli court convicted a Jewish settler of racially motivated murder in a 2015 arson attack that claimed the lives of a Palestinian couple and their baby in the occupied West Bank.

On July 31, 2015, a large fire broke out after settlers threw firebombs and Molotov cocktails into two Palestinian houses in the town of Duma, located 25 km southeast of Nablus, setting them ablaze while their inhabitants were asleep.

The arson attack killed 18-month-old baby, Ali Dawabsheh, and critically wounded his father and mother, Sa’ad and Riham, who later succumbed to their injuries.

The triple conviction of Amiram Ben-Uliel, 25, can result in a potential life prison sentence. He has argued that Israeli investigators obtained false confessions from him under duress.

Ben-Uliel would appeal the verdict at Israel's supreme court, his lawyer said.

Israeli settlers have in recent years carried out various attacks on Palestinian property in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem al-Quds under the “price tag” slogan.

Price tag attacks are acts of vandalism and violence against Palestinians and their property as well as Muslim holy sites.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/05/18/625583/Israel-shoots-Syrian-shepherd-Lebanon-

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Rocket lands near US Embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone in Iraq

19 May 2020

One rocket hit near the US embassy in Baghdad early Tuesday morning, security sources told AFP, the first to land in the high-security zone in weeks.

The blast could be heard across the Iraqi capital and triggered security sirens at the US embassy compound but did not cause casualties, the sources confirmed.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

It follows more than two dozen similar attacks against American interests in Iraq since October that the US has blamed on Iran-backed factions among Iraq’s security forces.

The volleys of rockets, which have killed US, British and Iraqi armed personnel, have severely strained ties between Baghdad and Washington.

Tensions reached boiling point in January when the US killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in a drone strike on Baghdad.

But the US and Iraq have hoped to reset the relationship since Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi took the helm earlier this month, with bilateral talks planned for June.

The negotiations are expected to set a framework for the presence of US troops, which deployed to Iraq in 2014 to lead a coalition fighting back against ISIS.

But the forces are a thorn in the side of Iran and its allies in Iraq, which have insisted they leave the country.

On Sunday, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the US “will not be staying either in Iraq or Syria and must withdraw and will certainly be expelled.”

The US-led coalition has already drawn down its 7,500-strong force in Iraq this year, citing a decreased threat from IS and difficulties training Iraqi forces due to the spread of the coronavirus.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/05/19/Rocket-lands-close-to-US-Embassy-in-Baghdad-s-Green-Zone-in-Iraq.html

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Pakistan

 

Clerics announce resumption of congregational prayers at mosques

Imran Ayub

May 19, 2020

KARACHI: Prominent clerics and noted scholars on Monday announced resumption of five-time congregational prayers at mosques across the country, hoping the government this time would not put any hurdle and saying uncertainty about the end of coronavirus could not stop people from activities of daily life and regular business.

The congregations were banned when the countrywide lockdown was imposed in March to contain the spread of coronavirus. However, with the beginning of Ramazan in April, the government agreed on Taraveeh prayers in an agreement with clerics under the defined standard operating procedures (SOPs) which allowed only limited number of people at mosques.

The fresh announcement by the clerics came in Karachi where some prominent ulema met at Jamia Dar-ul-Uloom Karachi and decided to begin congregational prayers. The meeting expressed the view that nothing was sure about the coronavirus pandemic and in this situation, Muslims couldn’t leave prayers and their rituals out of fear.

“We appeal to the people to avail these last few blessed days of Ramazan,” said a statement issued after the meeting quoting Mufti Taqi Usmani as saying. “It’s time to return to Allah and offer prayers with all sincerity and keenness. No one knows that when this virus would come to an end. So in this situation we cannot quit everything in the name of precaution and fear. It’s time to reopen Masajid and offer congregation prayers.”

Those who met him at Jamia Dar-ul-Uloom Karachi included Qari Mohammad Usman, Maulana Mufti Zubair Ashraf Usmani, Qari Allah Daad, Dr Qasim Mahmood and Qazi Ahsan Ahmed. Mufti Usmani appealed to the people to take all due precautionary measures while offering prayers at mosques.

President Dr Arif Alvi had in April convened a meeting of the governors and ulema from all provinces to discuss proposals about congregational prayers, particularly Taraveeh, during Ramazan. The meeting decided to allow Taraveeh with restrictions, limited people and SOPs. President Alvi had announced that neither the state machinery nor clerics would stop citizens from visiting mosques as almost all demands of the clerics related to holding of Friday prayers, Taraveeh and daily congregational prayers were accepted with the condition of social distancing and other precautionary measures.

In a fresh development, representing the call of clerics from across the country, Mufti Usmani appealed for a formal announcement by the government to lift the ban on congregational prayers and Taraveeh as it would give people some confidence and help remove fear from society.

“We hope for cooperation from the government. The government should also announce lifting the ban on congregational prayers and Taraveeh and advertise this announcement. It would help in removing all those fears and reservations which run high across society,” he said, adding: “In these challenging times, there is a strong need for unity between the government and citizens of the country to make their due contributions.”

https://www.dawn.com/news/1558188/clerics-announce-resumption-of-congregational-prayers-at-mosques

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Pakistani Ahmadi Leaders Fear Backlash After New Minority Commission Formation

By Niala Mohammad

May 18, 2020

WASHINGTON - Leaders of Pakistan’s Ahmadi community fear a recent debate surrounding the group’s Muslim status and potential membership in a newly formed minority commission could put the group’s security at risk. 

Saleem ud Din, the spokesperson for the Ahmadi Jaam’at in Pakistan, alleged that since the founding of the National Commission for Minorities last month, Pakistan’s federal Cabinet ministers and provincial assembly members have used “dangerous” and “inflammatory” remarks, inciting civilian violence against the group. 

Noor-ul-Haq Qadri, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Religious and Inter-faith Harmony Affairs, last week declared that any form of “soft-heartedness” toward the Ahmadis was both un-Islamic and un-patriotic. 

“Whoever shows sympathy or compassion towards [Ahmadis] is neither loyal to Islam nor the state of Pakistan,” Qadri said during a televised interview with local SAMAA TV. 

NCM, a governmental body to promote the rights of non-Muslim minorities, has members including Hindus, Christians, and other minorities. Initially, it was suggested that Ahmadis should get a representation in the commission too. 

Prime Minister Imran Khan rejected that idea after it sparked fierce criticism from powerful Sunni leaders who consider the Ahmadi belief an insult to Islam. 

The community’s members in Pakistan identify as Muslims and believe their leader, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, to be the messiah prophesied in Islam. The belief is considered by many mainstream Muslims as blasphemous and a violation of the Pakistani constitution, which defines a Muslim to be “a person who believes in the finality of the Prophet Muhammad.” 

“One fine morning, I woke up and I was declared a non-Muslim in Pakistan,” ud Din said, referring to the constitutional amendment passed by Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1974 that declared the group to be a non-Muslim minority. 

 “We believe the state has no right to decide someone’s faith,” Ud Din, told VOA. “We do not accept minority status and would never sit on such commissions that designates us forcefully as non-Muslims.” 

To come to a final ruling regarding the controversy, the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab Wednesday unanimously passed a resolution that requires Ahmadis to consent in writing that they do not consider themselves Muslims. The assembly’s members said if the Ahamdis deny such a request, it would not only ban the community from obtaining a seat in the NMC, but also mean it is violating Pakistan’s constitution.

Human rights concerns 

Human rights organizations in the past have repeatedly voiced concerns about the treatment of Ahmadis by Pakistan’s government. The organizations say Ahmadis are prevented from basic religious rights such as disseminating materials about their faith or calling their houses of worship mosques. 

Watchdog Human Rights Watch says the widespread abuse and discrimination against the group is embedded in Pakistani law. 

“The Ahmadis are among the most persecuted communities in Pakistan and to exclude them from a minority rights commission is absurd,” Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said last Friday. “Keeping Ahmadis off the commission shows the extent to which the community faces discrimination every day.” 

 The U.S. Commission on International and Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in its 2020 Annual Report recommended Pakistan to be re-designated as a “country of particular concern” for religious freedom violations due to “the systematic enforcement of blasphemy and anti-Ahmadiyya laws.” In a statement Tuesday, the USCIRF warned against a “surge in anti-Ahmadi hate speech” and “incitement to violence” following the government’s decision to bar them from the newly established commission. 

Blasphemy accusations  

According to Amjad Mahmood-Khan, the spokesperson for the Ahmadi community in the U.S., Ahmadis have been disproportionately arrested under blasphemy laws in Pakistan in recent years.  

He said the group has also faced an increasing trend of sectarian mob violence by radical Sunnis. 

 “Pakistani police have destroyed Ahmadi translations of the Qur'an and banned Ahmadi publications, the use of any Islamic terminology on Ahmadi Muslim wedding invitations, the offering of Ahmadi Muslim funeral prayers, and the displaying of the Kalima [the principal creed of a Muslim] on Ahmadi Muslim gravestones,” Mahmood-Khan said. 

Out of Pakistan’s 220 million population, an estimated 4 million are believed to identify as Ahmadi. Many of the community’s followers in recent years have left the country and resettled in the West. 

One of those Ahmadis, Nahel Shams, told VOA that her house in Pakistan was marked with an “infidel” sign to distinguish it from neighboring Sunni houses. 

“It was more hurtful than anything else,” said Shams, 30, who settled in Baltimore, Maryland, after leaving Pakistan in 2012. “Some would not accept my greetings because they consider Ahmadis to be infidels.   

“Others told my friends not to eat at my house because they considered food from an Ahmadi to be forbidden. They told my friend that she should vomit out the food. They would spread rumors that Ahmadis spit in their food before serving it to others,” Shams told VOA. 

Ahmed, another Ahamdi in the diaspora, applied for political asylum in the U.S. in 2012. 

Ahmed, who did not want his real name used to protect his identity, said he was among 23 Ahmadi students tortured and later expelled from Punjab Medical College in Faisalabad in 2008. He told VOA he was falsely charged with tearing down an anti-Ahmadi poster and proselytizing on campus. 

“It was too scary, and the discrimination was on a different level,” he said. 

“No one talked to me or acknowledged me. If I sat down somewhere, people would get up and move away. I was not allowed in the college cafeteria. There was a sign outside of the cafeteria that said, ‘Ahmadis and dogs not allowed,’” he said.  

Discrimination in law 

Some Pakistan observers charge that labeling the Ahmadi community as non-Muslim is a legal challenge, allowing the country’s Sunni hardliners to claim they are implementing the Pakistani constitution by going after the group. 

"Ahmadis have been declared non-Muslim by law, but their faith says they are Muslim,” Farahnaz Ispahani, a senior fellow at the Religious Freedom Institute, told VOA. 

As Sunni Islamist clerics continue to push for their anti-Ahmadi narrative, Ispahani said Prime Minister Khan will likely find himself under international pressure to give the minority more religious rights. 

“I believe the Khan administration wants to pacify critiques from U.S./European partners concerning religious freedom without actually providing rights or justice to the Ahmadi community,” Waris Husain, a Pakistan expert and professor at Howard University School of Law, said.  

https://www.voanews.com/extremism-watch/pakistani-ahmadi-leaders-fear-backlash-after-new-minority-commission-formation

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Two ‘IS militants’ get death on 70 counts in Qalandar shrine suicide blast case

Naeem Sahoutara

May 19, 2020

KARACHI: An antiterrorism court on Monday sentenced two men, said to be associated with the militant Islamic State group, to death in a case pertaining to the 2017 suicide blast at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan that killed around 70 people and wounded dozens of others.

The judge of the Anti-Terrorism Court-XVI found Nadir Ali and Furqan guilty of facilitating suicide bomber Barar Brohi who on Feb 16, 2017 blew himself up at the packed-to-capacity courtyard of the shrine of the Sufi saint.

The court handed them capital punishment on 70 counts (for killing of 70 victims, including women and children) and ordered to pay a collective fine of Rs14 million each (Rs200,000 for each killing) to the state.

It also ordered the convicts to pay a collective fine of Rs14m (Rs200,000 each), as compensation to the legal heirs of victims.

The judge also awarded 10-year imprisonment to each convict for wounding each of 65 people. They were ordered to pay a fine of Rs100,000 for causing injuries to each victim.

Additionally, the convicts were awarded a collective sentence of 24-years each for their involvement in the bomb blast and ordered to pay Rs100,000 fine each.

Nadir Ali was further given life imprisonment for possessing explosives in addition to seven-year imprisonment for possessing illicit weapon and Rs50,000 fine.

However, their death sentences are subject to confirmation by the Sindh High Court. Other sentences of imprisonment would run concurrently.

The case against five alleged absconding accomplices — Saifullah, Abdul Sattar, Aijaz Bangulzai, Zulqarnain Bangulzai and Tanveer — was kept on dormant file until their arrest or surrender.

The court ordered protection of two private witnesses, who voluntarily turned up to testify against the convicts, during the trial leading to their conviction.

Both the convicts, who were produced in court, were remanded to the Karachi central prison to serve out their sentence.

The prosecution recorded testimonies of 29 witnesses, including police officials, who deposed that minutes before the blast three men hugged the suicide bomber and congratulated him on the premises of the shrine before leaving.

In September 2019, the court had indicted the duo for facilitating one of the deadliest attacks targeting a shrine in the country. They pleaded not guilty and had opted to contest the case.

Earlier, in March 2019, the Hyderabad Counter-Terrorism Department had filed a supplementary charge sheet against Furqan, claiming that he and his other alleged accomplices were affiliated with IS.

The investigating officer, Sohail Ahmed Mirza, further mentioned that Furqan had recorded his confessional statement before a judicial magistrate and admitted that he with others had helped the suicide bomber.

The report added that the suspect, a resident of Quetta, and his accomplices had facilitated the attack on a directive of Mufti Hidayatullah, who was reportedly killed in Balochistan.

Nadir Ali alias Murshid, a resident of Kashmore, was arrested in November 2017 and had already been charge-sheeted in the present case.

A supplementary charge sheet said that three absconders were residents of Balochistan and two were from Punjab’s Rajanpur district.

It further said that as per the geofencing report, Furqan was in Sehwan on the day of the incident, adding that evidence was also collected from a guesthouse where he stayed during that period.

In his alleged confessional statement, he said that on the directive of Hidayatullah he came to Sehwan, stayed there for three days to carry out reconnaissance of the shrine, adding that he went back to Quetta and provided the information to Hidayatullah, who handed over a suicide jacket to Barar Brohi and Nadir Ali and sent them to Sehwan, it said.

The statement added that Hidayatullah had also sent Ghulam Mustafa alias Saeen, who was reportedly killed in a shootout in Mastung, Safiullah Mazari, Sattar Mazari, Maqbool, alias Zulqarnain, Ijaz Bangulzai and Tanveer to Sehwan to help the bomber.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1558088/two-is-militants-get-death-on-70-counts-in-qalandar-shrine-suicide-blast-case

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Soldier martyred, three injured in blast in North Waziristan

May 19, 2020

MIRAMSHAH: One soldier was martyred and three others were wounded when an explosive device ripped through a crowded bazaar near Mirali in North Waziristan tribal district on Monday.

Police confirmed the martyrdom of the soldier identified as Amir.

The blast occurred near Nizameia Mosque in Eidek bazaar.

Police said in a statement that at least 14 vehicles parked in the bazaar were damaged by the impact of the explosion.

Security forces were patrolling the main bazaar when the remote-controlled device went off near their vehicle.

Police said that Havaldar Arshad and Sepoys Abdul Manan and Islam Nabi received injuries.

They were taken to a hospital in the area.

After the incident, the Mirali-Miramshah High­way was closed for traffic and forces conducted a search operation.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1558176/soldier-martyred-three-injured-in-blast-in-north-waziristan

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Outage in Pakistan not from company’s end, says Twitter

Ramsha Jahangir

May 19, 2020

KARACHI: While the world observed Telecommunication and Information Society Day on Sunday (May 17), social networking site Twitter was inaccessible to users in Pakistan for almost two hours.

The platform’s website, app and video streaming service Periscope were inaccessible across the country from around 10pm till 1.30am, with news feeds refusing to refresh.

Despite this, #TwitterDown was the top trend in the country, with multiple users using VPNs to report the outage on Twitter.

However, Twitter said the disruption to services in the region was not caused from their end. It said the company had so far not seen any indications of an outage on its server.

Disruption ‘confirmed’

In a report released on Monday, internet blockage observatory NetBlocks in partnership with the Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) confirmed that Twitter, Periscope and Zoom were restricted on multiple internet providers in Pakistan on Sunday evening, commencing approximately from 10.30pm and lasting over an hour.

The global performance data showed that Sunday’s disruption was specific to Pakistan. No widespread user reports of outages were evident in any other country, it said.

Zoom, for instance, was reported to have experienced technical issues worldwide earlier on Sunday, affecting video quality and causing users to drop out of calls. The report said the problems were resolved prior to the onset of the social media disruption in Pakistan.

Traffic monitoring website Down Detector’s live outage map also showed that the outage was only limited to Pakistan.

The bulk of reports from Pakistan described a loss of access to affected services, the report said, adding that other reports had described the “throttling” or slowing of Twitter. The data indicated that backend image and video servers were specifically unavailable during the disruption period.

“The timings confirm that Twitter, Periscope and Zoom were all disrupted in the same time window in Pakistan, and restored at the same moment in a coordinated manner,” the report pointed out.

“Sunday’s disruption of social media and video meeting services in Pakistan is evidenced by multiple datasets and presents a setback for user rights. While citizens remain housebound they are reliant on digital platforms, making it essential that authorities and network operators act transparently and proportionately in keeping with international standards,” Alp Toker, Executive Director of the NetBlocks internet observatory, told Dawn.

On the other hand, ISP providers Storm Fiber and Nayatel told Dawn that they had not received any order from the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) or any other government entity to block Twitter on their networks.

However, they said, access to a website could be restricted at gateway level that connects Pakistan to the global communications network but that was under strict government control.

“Some users accessed Twitter on VPNs last night. That indicates it was blocked specifically for Pakistan,” said an industry source. “The PTA can block/unblock sites or URLs without sending any intimation to all operators since it placed its Web Management System (WMS) online,” the source added.

The PTA did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the matter.

Rights groups demand answers

Meanwhile, digital rights groups have called upon the government to issue an official statement on the matter, clarifying whether Twitter was blocked, and if it was, on what grounds.

The Media Matters for Democracy, in a Twitter thread on Monday, said: “This incident merits clarity on part of the authorities, and we demand transparency from PTA on whether inaccessibility of Twitter in Pakistan was by design and done on orders of the government.”

Usama Khilji, director of Bolo Bhi, urged the government to take notice of the disruption.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1558186/outage-in-pakistan-not-from-companys-end-says-twitter

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PM launches cash scheme for workers affected by pandemic

May 19, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan launched a multi-billion Ehsaas emergency cash programme on Monday for the workers and daily wage earners badly affected by the coronavirus crisis.

The prime minister met many jobless persons and inquired about their problems during the ceremony at the Ehsaas Centre. A stipend of Rs12,000 will be given to each applicant under the emergency programme. The scheme is distinct from the Ehsaas cash programme already in operation under which Rs144 billion was allocated for 12 million families .Over Rs100bn has so far been distributed.

Dr Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation, accompanied the prime minister and briefed him on the programme.

Mr Khan ordered swift and transparent distribution of cash among the deserving workers.

He said the fund was expanding as more and more people were making generous deposits. This will enable a large number of people to benefit from the scheme.

According to the Prime Minister Office, over 3.4 million applications from jobless people have been received through the Ehsaas Labour Portal so far. Moreover, Rs3bn has been mobilised under the PM Covid-19 Fund.

The prime minister has pledged that for each rupee given by a donor, the government will make a contribution of Rs4.

On May 2, Prime Minister Khan had inaugurated the Ehsaas Labour Portal, which enables those who have lost their livelihood due to the Covid-19 crisis to seek cash assistance from the government.

He had also announced that the donations made to the PM Covid-19 Fund would be used to give emergency cash to people who had lost their jobs or means of livelihood. An amount of Rs12,000 will be given to these individuals under the Ehsaas Emergency Cash scheme.

The existing principles and processes that have been deployed for Ehsaas Emergency Cash will be applied for disbursement of the Prime Minister’s Covid-19 donor funds. The process will be strictly regulated and monitored.

Data analytics will be employed for the selection of beneficiaries. The system of identification will be free from human interference and payments will be made after biometric verification, according to the authorities.

The PM Office said that tehsil-level bank disbursement and withdrawal details would be posted on https://www.pass.gov.pk/ecs/uct_all.html .

The tehsil-wise number of beneficiaries, bank disbursement details, accounts credited and the money withdrawn will be posted in real time.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1558190/pm-launches-cash-scheme-for-workers-affected-by-pandemic

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Bilawal reminds judiciary of ‘medical realities’ as PTI hails SC order

Imran Ayub

May 19, 2020

KARACHI: In an apparent reaction to Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed’s directions on Monday that shopping malls across the country be reopened, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari expressed his hopes that the superior judiciary would give judgements “based on facts and medical realities”. The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, on the other hand, welcoming the decision, demanded that the Sindh government allow business round the clock in the last days of Ramazan and resume public transport services banned till Eid holidays.

While expressing his views on social media, Bilawal did not mention his remarks as reaction or comment on the SC verdict, but rather what he was thinking over the challenges posed by the coronavirus.

“Hoping sanity prevails in the highest court of our land,” tweeted Mr Bhutto-Zardari. “I don’t want to believe that the superior judiciary would pass any judgement endangering the health & lives of the people of Pakistan. I’m sure all honorable judges will give judgements based on facts & medical realities. IA (Insha Allah).”

PTI welcomes verdict

Thanking the SC for allowing shopping malls to resume business and lifting the restrictions on major commercial centres, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf demanded that the Sindh government allow business round the clock in the last days of Ramazan and let public transport services, banned till Eid holidays, resume.

The senior leaders of the party in Sindh strongly criticised the PPP government in Sindh for not allowing business even days before Eid celebrations. They also expressed their doubts and reservations over the measures put in place by the provincial government in the name of “standard operating procedures”.

“We are fighting for the rights of the people,” said the PTI Karachi president and Sindh Assembly member Khurram Sher Zaman while speaking at a press conference at the party office called Insaf House.

“Our objective is to bring relief to the people. We are very much grateful to the Chief Justice of Pakistan for his suo motu notice that led to the opening of markets and malls. The governments of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab have already reopened the malls. We demand here in Sindh the markets should be kept open for 24 hours till the last night of Ramazan. Public transport should be opened under the SOPs.”

Flanked by Leader of the Opposition in Sindh Assembly Firdous Shamim Naqvi, PTI’s parliamentary leader Haleem Adil Sheikh and other party colleagues, he questioned the credibility and qualification of the chief minister’s advisers who were devising a strategy for the daily life of the people in Sindh.

“My question is that does threat of the coronavirus emerge after 5pm? Does it only threaten the traders?” He said the closure of petrol stations after certain time was also beyond his understanding.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1558087/bilawal-reminds-judiciary-of-medical-realities-as-pti-hails-sc-order

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PPP should play Pakistan card, not Sindh card: Qureshi

May 19, 2020

MULTAN: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said his party is fully aware of the importance and characteristics of the 18thAmendment and it cannot repeal it even if it wants to as it lacks two-thirds majority in parliament.

Talking to the media here on Monday, the minister claimed the PPP was playing politics on the constitutional amendment by pretending to be a victim of political victimisation.

“I tried to guide Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari that the PPP is a federal party and it should avoid doing politics of provincialism. I remember the occasions when Benazir Bhutto used to snub him. Instead of playing the ‘Sindh card’, the PPP should play Pakistan card. It should do politics in Sindh as it is its right, while we also don’t need a No-Objection Certificate to do politics in [the province] as it is our right too,” he added.

“The federal cabinet is going to approve an agriculture package of Rs65 billion to facilitate the farming community, as it is the only sector which can bring us out of the economic crisis created because of coronavirus,” he added.

To a question regarding the sugar scandal, the foreign minister said Prime Minister Imran Khan was not compromising over the issue, while the inquiry report will be made public soon.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1558121/ppp-should-play-pakistan-card-not-sindh-card-qureshi

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China welcomes outstanding people, Xi tells Pakistani students

May 19, 2020

BEIJING: President Xi Jinping extended welcome to excellent youth from all countries in the world to study in China in his Sunday reply to a letter from all Pakistani students studying in the University of Science and Technology Beijing (USTB).

In his letter, Xi encouraged the students to communicate more with their Chinese peers and join hands with youth from all countries to contribute to promoting people-to-people connectivity and building a community with a shared future for humanity.

The response comes after Pakistani students had earlier thanked him for the support and help they received from the university. The students had expressed their wish to contribute to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) after completing their studies.

“China welcomes outstanding young people from around the world to study in China, and encourages them to promote people-to-people and cultural exchanges between China and their home countries,” said Xi according to state-owned broadcaster CGTN.

Saying that the Chinese government was concerned about the safety and wellbeing of its overseas students, Xi offered to help meet “students’ needs in their daily lives, epidemic prevention and medical care during the COVID-19 pandemic”.

The Chinese government treats foreigners and locals equally, and the focus is on saving lives, he wrote.

There are currently 52 Pakistani students studying at the University of Science and Technology with 49 of them pursuing Ph.D. or post-graduate degrees.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2020/05/18/china-welcomes-outstanding-people-from-across-the-world-xi-tells-pakistani-students-in-beijing/

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Pakistan denies its US envoy said India should engage with Taliban

SAIMA SHABBIR

May 19, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan denied on Sunday that its envoy to Washington had said that India should engage with the Taliban, after Reuters quoted Ambassador Asad Khan in a news report.

On Saturday, a Reuters report headline stated: “India should talk to Taliban if Delhi feels it will bolster peace push,” and attributed the statement to the Pakistani ambassador.

“The ambassador did not say what the news headline implies. Pakistan’s views on India’s role are well known,” Pakistan Foreign Office spokeswoman, Aisha Farooqui, told Arab News.

Pakistan and India have been to war three times since they won independence from the British in 1947. Over the years, Pakistan has gained influence over the Taliban.

“The Pakistani envoy has not said that they (India and the Taliban) should engage. Rather, he was saying it is their (India’s) decision,” Farooqui said. “Even the Taliban have expressed their viewpoint on the subject.”

“This is the time to focus on the earliest commencement of intra-Afghan negotiations rather than dwell on any extraneous issue,” she said.

Earlier, in an interview with the Indian newspaper The Hindu, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad had said an India-Taliban engagement would be “appropriate.”

When asked to respond to the statement, Ambassador Khan told Reuters: “It is for India to respond to that suggestion.”

“If India feels that their engagement is going to help the peace process, then we would defer to their judgment. But it’s not for us to sit in judgment on what they should do or they shouldn’t do,” Reuters further quoted the ambassador.

On Sunday, in a separate interview with Azam, an Afghan media outlet, the Taliban lashed out at New Delhi and accused it of playing a “negative role” in Afghanistan.

Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, deputy head of the Taliban’s political office in Qatar and head of the negotiating team with the US, was quoted as saying: “If the Indian government wants to take positive steps in the Afghan peace process and in rebuilding a new Afghanistan, we are counting on it.”

He went on to say that for 40 years in Afghanistan, India had “played a negative role and maintained economic, military and political ties with a ‘corrupt’ group instead of the nation.”

Pakistan’s former ambassador to Washington, Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhary, told Arab News that New Delhi had no constructive role to play in the Afghanistan peace process.

“India has no political role in Afghanistan. They have played a negative role there to harm Pakistan,” he said. “Americans want to give India some role but it is unlikely that the Taliban will accept it in any capacity.”

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1676751/world

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Pakistan summons senior Indian diplomat over 'ceasefire violations'

May 18, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Monday summoned a senior diplomat from the Indian high commission in Islamabad and registered its protest over the alleged ceasefire violations by the Indian forces along the Line of Control.

The foreign office claimed that the "indiscriminate and unprovoked firing" by the Indian forces on Sunday in Khuiratta Sector resulted in serious injuries to a 37-year-old civilian.

The Indian security forces "along the LoC and the working boundary (WB) have been continuously targeting the civilian populated areas with artillery fire, heavy-caliber mortars and automatic weapons," the FO alleged.

In 2020, India has so far committed 1,081 ceasefire violations, it claimed.

It said that the Indian side was called upon to respect the 2003 ceasefire understanding; investigate this and other such incidents of ceasefire violations and maintain peace along the LoC and the WB.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-summons-senior-indian-diplomat-over-ceasefire-violations/articleshow/75804860.cms

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Europe

 

Muslims In the UK Have Been Urged to Celebrate the Islamic Festival of Eid At Home

May 19, 2020

Muslims in the UK have been urged to celebrate the Islamic festival of Eid at home under lockdown this weekend.

Traditionally the festival at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan is marked with communal prayers in mosques, visits to friends and family.

But the Muslim Council of Britain says people should celebrate virtually due to social-distancing measures brought in during the coronavirus pandemic.

Guidelines for those celebrating have been drawn up by the council.

The special Eid al-Fitr prayers are typically among the best attended of the year, and people also mark the occasion by holding parties.

However, due to the pandemic, mosques have been closed for nine weeks.

Miqdaad Versi, head of public affairs at the MCB - an umbrella organisation of various UK Muslim bodies - says there was "real sadness" at the prospect of not being able to celebrate communally.

"Normally Muslims will be at the mosque, mosques will be thronging with people from the morning and households will not be just be [full] of individuals, but families, extended families and friends all coming together," he said.

"So from a religious perspective, that's really difficult. Every single year people get dressed up and go to the mosque and take part in this really important, obligatory for some, part of the faith. And that just won't be possible."

Situation 'unthinkable'

Qari Muhammad Asim, senior imam at the Makkah Masjid in Leeds and chair of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board, said it was the first time in British Muslim history that there will no Eid prayer.

"This is something that was unthinkable six months ago, but today unthinkable has become reality," he said.

"The Eid prayer is something that people look forward to all day long," he said.

"This is extremely challenging and distressing for us. We have had to make a lot of spiritual sacrifices during Ramadan and that will continue on the day of celebration."

Ramadan, the Islamic holy month, is a special time for nearly two billion Muslims all over the world.

In a normal year, it is a time of communal prayer and of daytime fasting from all food and drink. It is also accompanied by night-time feasting and acts of generosity and charity as Muslims reaffirm their faith in God.

Sajjad Amin, from the Khizra Mosque in Cheetham Hill, north Manchester, said that while the prospect of Eid al-Fitr under lockdown "will be difficult, it was probably harder not going to the mosque during Ramadan".

He said: "It is something we have all done since we were children - whether going to the mosque during the evening to break the fast, or for the regular prayers. All that has been taken away from us.

"So although it is a big disappointment for Eid to be under lockdown, it is something we have gone through with Ramadan. It is difficult but we're kind of used to it."

The MCB has issued separate guidance for Muslims living in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales reflecting the different government advice in each nation. But across Britain, Muslims have been asked to celebrate virtually and share the traditional gifts by posting them in advance.

MCB secretary general, Harun Khan, said: "Whilst Eid away from the mosques and from our loved ones is unprecedented and will be a source of great sadness in communities across the country, Muslim communities will adapt and find the best way to still celebrate this holy day whilst aligning to the latest guidance."

At the beginning of Ramadan, Health Secretary Matt Hancock thanked the British Muslim community for suspending congregational worship and abiding by the lockdown.

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-52716535

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Turkey condemns pig's-head vandalism of German mosque

Dilara Hamit  

18.05.2020

An Islamophobic incident in which a pig’s head was mounted onto the door of mosque in southern Germany drew condemnation from Turkey on Monday.

"Racism&Islamophobia still continue in Europe even during Holy Ramadan & pandemic. Desecration of our mosque in Germany is the latest example," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted.

"The symbol used in this heinous attack illustrates this sick mindset. Perpetrators should be apprehended immediately," he said.

The incident took place Saturday at the Fatih Mosque in the city of Vaihingen, run by the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs.

The incident took place around midnight and was recorded by surveillance cameras. Two people are said to be involved in the act.

Germany has witnessed growing Islamophobia and hatred toward migrants in recent years triggered by far-right parties exploiting fears over refugees and terrorism.

Last year similarly a pig's head and blood were placed on the grounds of a mosque in Monchengladbach, and a pig's head and hooves were left at the site of a planned mosque in Rostock.

A country of over 80 million people, Germany has the second-largest Muslim population in Western Europe after France. Among the country’s nearly 4.7 million Muslims, 3 million are of Turkish origin.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/turkey-condemns-pigs-head-vandalism-of-german-mosque/1845027

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South Asia

 

Bangladesh asks Muslims not to offer open-air Eid prayers

15 May 2020

The religious affairs ministry in a notice on Thursday also issued some health safety guidance and threatened legal action if they are not complied with.

“Muslim devotees have been advised to avoid open-air Eid congregations considering the current state of coronavirus pandemic in Bangladesh and around the globe. We would like to request worshippers to offer Eid-ul-Fitr prayers at nearby mosques,” the ministry said in the statement.

The government imposed some restrictions on congregational prayers at mosques on Apr 6 after the first coronavirus case detected in Bangladesh. The number of people allowed to pray at mosques, including the imam, muezzin and other officials, has also been limited during Ramadan.

Bangladesh decided to allow Muslims again to attend congregational prayers in mosques under a set of safety protocols from May 7.

The mosque authorities and devotees must comply with those safety protocols as well to hold Eid congregations, the religious affairs ministry said.

The mosque can hold more than one Eid congregations as open-air prayers are not allowed this year, it added.

The safety protocols are:

In keeping with the hygiene rules to reduce the risk of contagion, mosques are not allowed to use common carpets for prayers while devotees are required to carry individual prayer mats from home.

The places of worship must be cleaned with disinfectants before every prayer session – five times a day. Mosques must also install hand-washing facilities equipped with soap and water or provide hand sanitiser at the entrances.

Devotees must perform their ablutions at home and wash their hands with soap for at least 20 seconds.

Worshippers must wear masks to the mosques while maintaining a space of at least three feet between each other when they line up for the prayers.

Children, the elderly, any sick person or those engaged in treating the sick will not be allowed to take part in congregations.

To ensure protection, the mosque authorities must follow the advices issued by the government’s health services, local administration and security forces.

Worshippers cannot hug or shake hands to exchange Eid greetings once the congregation ends.

The imam and other officials have also been urged to offer prayers for protection from the coronavirus pandemic.

Failure to comply with these guidelines will be met with legal action, the ministry warned.

https://bdnews24.com/bangladesh/2020/05/14/bangladesh-asks-muslims-not-to-offer-open-air-eid-prayers

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Saleh’s latest remarks regarding Taliban-ISIS links, deadly Kabul attack

17 May 2020

The First Vice President of Afghanistan Amrullah Saleh said the confessions of the detained ISIS leaders leave no room for illusions regarding Taliban and ISIS, apparently gesturing that there is no distinction between the two groups.

Speaking during a gathering in Nangarhar province, Saleh said certain ‘strangers’ claim that a specific group carried out the attacks in Kabul and Nangarhar on Tuesday.

However, Saleh said the confessions of Aslam Farooqi and Abu Omar, the two top leaders of ISIS, leave no room for any question regarding the Taliban and ISIS.

Saleh accused the Taliban group for the deadly attack on maternity ward in Kabul city, emphasizing that the group would not be able to seize power by force.

He also added that Taliban inked a peace deal with the foreigners but the group is still killing the Afghans.

This comes as Taliban rejected the involvement of the group in the two deadly attacks in Kabul and Nangarhar provinces.

The group on Friday issued a statement demanding a transparent and impartial investigations into the deadly attacks in Kabul and Nangarhar provinces.

The group condemned the two attacks in strong words and blamed the ‘criminal and malicious elements affiliated with the Afghan government’ for being involved in the two attacks.

“The Islamic Emirate strongly condemned both attacks and clarified that these attacks were the work of criminal and malicious elements who are seeking to attain their malicious objectives by killing defenseless human beings,” the group said in a statement.

The statement further added “The Islamic Emirate once again clarifies that it had no hand in the Dashti Barchi incident, considers it a vile, inhumane and an un-Islamic act and shares the grief of the families of martyrs and wounded of this tragedy.”

The Afghan government earlier ordered the Afghan forces to resume offensive operations against the militants, blaming the Taliban and ISIS groups for targeting the civilians, women and infants.

Dozens of people including many security personnel, women and newborn children were killed after the militants carried out a series of attacks in Kabul, Nangarhar and Laghman provinces during the course of the week.

https://www.khaama.com/salehs-latest-remarks-regarding-taliban-isis-links-deadly-kabul-attack-08830/

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Taliban militants set the bodies of 5 people on fire after shooting them dead

18 May 2020

The Ministry of Interior (MoI) said the Taliban militants set the bodies of five people on fire after shooting them dead in South-eastern Ghazni province.

According to a statement released by MoI, the Taliban militants killed the five people including three civilians and two policemen in Qayaq Valley of Jaghatoo district.

The statement further added that the victims were travelling in a vehicle when they were targeted by Taliban militants and their dead bodies were set on fire inside the car.

The interior ministry condemned the act as extremely brutal and against the humanity.

The Taliban group has not commented regarding the incident so far.

https://www.khaama.com/taliban-militants-set-the-bodies-of-5-people-on-fire-after-shooting-them-dead-08839/

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20 Taliban militants killed in Ghazni, Paktika and Wardak provinces

19 May 2020

The security forces killed at least 11 Taliban militants during the operations in Ghazni, Paktika and Wardak provinces, the Afghan military said.

The 203rd Thunder Corps in a statement said the security forces conducted an operation in Nani area of Ghazni city as Taliban militants were planning to launch an attack.

The statement further added that the security forces killed 2 Taliban militants during the operation and wounded 3 others.

The security forces killed 2 Taliban militants and wounded 3 others during a similar operation in Wazikhwa district tof Paktika province, the 203rd Thunder Corps added.

Meanwhile, the security forces conducted an airstrike in Syedabad district of Wardak province kiling 7 Taliban militants and wounding at last 3 others, the 203rd Thunder Corps said, adding that the airstrike also destroyed 5 motorcycles and some weapons and munitions.

https://www.khaama.com/20-taliban-militants-killed-in-ghazni-paktika-and-wardak-provinces-08842/

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Taliban make a fortune $$$ out of U.S. presence in Afghanistan: Trump

19 May 2020

The U.S. President Donald Trump has said the Taliban group is making a fortune out of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, claiming that the leadership of the group is mixed about even wanting the U.S. out of Afghanistan.

“Could someone please explain to them that we have been there for 19 years,” Trump wrote. “The Taliban is mixed about even wanting us out. They make a fortune $$$ out of having us stay, and except at the beginning, we never really fought to win,” Trump was quoted as saying in a report by Washington Post.

Trump further added “We are more of a police force than the mighty military that we are, especially now as rebuilt. No, I am not acting impulsively!”

This comes as the U.S. and Taliban signed a peace deal late in February this year with an aim to pave the way for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan as well as the launch of intra-Afghan talks in a bid to end the conflict in the country.

Counter-terrorism assurances, reduction in violence or ceasefire, intra-Afghan talks and troops withdrawal were among the key issues the U.S. and Taliban representatives held extensive talks ahead of signing the peace deal.

Meanwhile, the Afghan officials blame the Taliban group for expanding its ties with the terrorist groups, specifically Al Qaeda and ISIS group following the signing of the peace deal with Washington.

The Afghan officials also blamed Taliban for coordinating with Al Qaeda and ISIS to conduct the recently deadly attacks, including the raid on maternity ward in Kabul city.

https://www.khaama.com/taliban-make-a-fortune-out-of-u-s-presence-in-afghanistan-trump-08841/

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Seven killed, dozens injured in Taliban attack near Afghan intelligence base

18 May 2020

Taliban fighters detonated a car bomb on Monday near an Afghan intelligence agency installation in the central province of Ghazni, killing at least seven people and wounding 40, officials and the Taliban insurgents said.

The blast, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan when tens of thousands of Afghans are fasting, is the latest in a spate of violence across the country despite a peace accord signed between the United States and Taliban in February.

The interior ministry in Kabul and provincial officials in Ghazni confirmed the attack.

“Around 4:30 a.m., a base of the National Security (NDS) forces in Ghazni was targeted by a car bomb,” said a police official, adding that seven people died at the blast site and 40 injured were taken to a military hospital.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said fighters of the extremist group were responsible for the attack in Ghazni, which has been the scene of many large-scale attacks by the Taliban in recent years against both Afghan and foreign forces.

Last week five civilians were killed and 40 people, including six soldiers, were wounded in a Taliban truck bomb blast targeting an army office in the neighboring province of Paktia.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2020/05/18/Seven-killed-dozens-injured-in-Taliban-attack-near-Afghan-intelligence-base.html

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Southeast Asia

 

NSC: Three-quarters of Malays polled say they will celebrate Hari Raya behind closed doors

18 May 2020

BY SYED JAYMAL ZAHIID

PUTRAJAYA, May 18 — The National Security Council expressed optimism today that public health safety can be maintained come Eid ul Fitr despite the threat of new coronavirus infections, based on its survey that found most Malays are against opening up their doors to visitors.

Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob revealed today that three-quarters of respondents from the government public survey remained guarded about Covid-19, even as the deadly outbreak appeared to have abated over the last two weeks.

Ismail said 74 per cent of those polled had indicated unwillingness to celebrate the country’s biggest festivity with people outside their own household, while 20 per cent said they would visit relatives. Another six per cent said they would open their homes to neighbours.

“If this is the trend then hopefully I think we don’t need to worry too much,” he said at the council’s daily Covid-19 briefing.

But even if just 20 per cent of respondents said they would open their doors for visits by relatives, the number would still amount to a few million.

Ethnic Malays, who are by legal default Muslims, form close to 70 per cent of the country’s 33 million population.

Unlike other Muslim-majority countries, Eid ul Fitr is culturally a much bigger celebration here. It has become customary for close and extended families to visit each other, a practice that often extends for an entire month.

And with most restrictions enforced under the movement control order now lifted, there is concern that increased movement during the Hari Raya celebrations, expected to start this Sunday, could spark a new surge of infections.

Some public health experts have already called on the authorities to lock the country down again and prohibit any celebration apart from those from within the same household.

But the Ministry of Health is banking on the public to practice self-discipline.

Health Director General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, the official leading the government’s fight against Covid-19, himself had discouraged people from celebrating and telling them to stay home.

Still, the NSC had decided that families could still celebrate for a day, and that no more than 20 family members can be in one place at a time.

Today, the senior minister said he “hoped” those wanting to visit relatives during Hari Raya would refrain from doing so and emulate the majority.

“If 74 per cent said they would just celebrate with family members within the same household and not opening their homes even to extended family members, that is what we actually hoped for,” he said.

“I just hope the 20 and six per cent would do the same.”

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/05/18/nsc-two-third-malays-polled-say-they-will-celebrate-hari-raya-behind-closed/1867299

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Anwar: Now in govt, PAS suddenly quiet when it comes to ‘Islamic agenda’

05 May 2020

BY AZRIL ANNUAR

KUALA LUMPUR, May 5 — Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has chided Islamist party PAS today for seemingly cutting down its intense criticism on issues involving Islam the moment it gets to join the federal government.

The PKR president said PAS leaders have largely chosen to stay silent on many issues pertaining to the so-called Islamic agenda, or are related to the faith, comparing to when it was in the Opposition against the Pakatan Harapan government.

“You have to ask PAS leaders but as far as we can see yes, [their leaders are silent]. Golf clubs can open, the same with gambling outlets such as Sports Toto and alcohol factories that were allowed to operate [for a while],” Anwar said in a Facebook Live session.

“Meanwhile schools remain closed, the same goes with religious activities in mosques and there’s no strong [Islamic] voice opposing this or raising it up. This includes on drunk driving; this requires us to amend the law.

“That’s why Parliament must convene, but their voices have become mute,” he added, replying to a question from user Zawawi Mughni.

When he was asked by another user whether or not PAS’ apparent timidity is a victory for rivals-turned-ally MCA, the Port Dickson MP suggested that Muslims can instead raise up any issues themselves, rather than relying on PAS.

PAS is now in an ad hoc alliance with former enemies Umno in Barisan Nasional, and former PH member Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia to form the Perikatan Nasional administration.

Three of its MPs were appointed as ministers, with president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang appointed a minister-level special envoy to the Middle East.

When it was in the opposition, PAS had stridently opposed PH on matters involving Islam, including participating in several mega rallies with Islamist coalition Ummah.

Both PAS and Ummah have largely stayed in the background since.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/05/05/anwar-now-in-govt-pas-suddenly-quiet-when-it-comes-to-islamic-agenda/1863284

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Johor exco lodges police report on Facebook post ridiculing permission for Friday prayers

16 May 2020

KULAI, May 16 — Johor Islamic Religious Affairs Committee chairman Tosrin Jarvanthi today lodged a police report in relation to the viral statement uploaded by an individual on Facebook ridiculing the permission to allow a 12-person congregation to perform the Friday prayers in this state.

The state executive councillor (exco) filed the report at the Kulai District Police Headquarters here at 9am this morning. Kulai police chief Supt Tok Beng Yeow confirmed receiving the report.

When met by reporters after filing the report, Tosrin said the individual’s action disrespected the sanctity of Islam and violated the order issued by the Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar.

“It is in contempt of Islam and a violation to the order decreed by the Johor Sultan because the 12-person congregation was approved by His Highness and was decided by the Johor Islamic Affairs Fatwa Committee.

“It feels like this decision is looked upon as trivial and people are ready to make judgements without thinking about the consequences,” he said, adding that he hoped for an immediate investigation and stern action against the individual.

The Facebook posting has been made viral since it was alledgely uploaded by the individual on May 13.

On Wednesday, Tosrin had notified that the state is allowing 12-person Fridays prayers in mosques and suraus, starting yesterday and throughout the Conditioned movement control order period. — Bernama

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/05/16/johor-exco-lodges-police-report-on-facebook-post-ridiculing-permission-for/1866712

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Lautze Mosque: A symbol of Chinese-Muslim assimilation in Indonesia

May 12, 2020

JAKARTA: The bright red, yellow and green temple-like exterior of the Lautze Mosque in Jakarta’s Chinatown could be mistaken for a Chinese home.

However, the distinctive structure of the mosque reaffirms its role as a good example of how Indonesians of Chinese descent blended in with their predominantly indigenous Muslim neighbors.

“Many mistook the mosque for a Chinese temple, so two years ago, we put up signs bearing the name of the mosque,” Imam Naga Kunadi told Arab News.

The three-story mosque is part of a row of buildings in a busy trading area along Lautze Street, after which the mosque is named, in Central Jakarta. Because of its location, the mosque only opens during the day.

“In Ramadan, we usually open every Saturday, starting at Asr time, because we have a specific type of congregation — many of the members live far from the mosque. We would provide iftar and hold taraweeh prayers. But we cannot do that this year as we have to close due to the large-scale social restrictions in this time of coronavirus,” Kunadi said.

Kunadi, whose Chinese name is Qiu Xue Long, said the mosque would still operate in a subdued manner for alms collection and distribution, or to assist those wishing to convert to Islam, and that mosque officials would act in compliance with social distancing measures.

The mosque was established in 1991 by the Haji Abdul Karim Oei Foundation, named after a Chinese-Indonesian Muslim nationalist, the late Abdul Karim Oei Tjeng Hien.

It aimed to facilitate the assimilation of the ethnic Chinese community and indigenous Muslims, especially in cases where ethnic Chinese people wished to embrace Islam.

“We understand the specific needs of Chinese mualaf (convert). We understand what they go through because we’ve experienced it before,” said Kunadi, who converted to Islam in 2002.

The original mosque occupied a shophouse and, a few years later was expanded after acquiring an adjacent building to accommodate 300 congregation members.

“The Chinese-style exterior is also to show that we still maintain our Chinese heritage even though we converted to Islam,” Kunadi said.

Muhammad Ali Karim Oei, son of Oei Sr., told Arab News the facade was designed to make the mosque more welcoming for ethnic Chinese people wishing to come inside and ask about Islam.

“They are free to ask anything and learn about Islam here, even some burning questions they may be reluctant to ask in other mosques. It is another reason we chose the name Lautze — a Chinese word for teacher,” Oei Jr. said.

The mosque has seen more than 1,000 Chinese-Indonesians embrace Islam. In addition to making an ethnic Chinese person part of the country’s Muslim majority, it also makes the person a double minority for being a Muslim minority in an already small ethnic group. Its reputation as a nonjudgmental place for Chinese-Indonesians who want to study Islam, and for the new converts, as well as other Chinese Muslims to observe the faith, led to the establishment of Lautze Mosque 2 in Bandung, West Java in 1997.

“There was a need for a mosque that accommodates the growing number of Chinese-Indonesian Muslims in the city. They felt like there was still a gap when they pray in regular mosques. People would look at them differently, even though they are already part of the Muslim brethren,” Hernawan Mahfudz, an official from Lautze Mosque 2 Foundation told Arab News.

To make them feel more at home, congregation members are encouraged to address each other as “koko” and “cici,” the Chinese words for brother and sister.

Like its Jakarta predecessor, the mosque maintains the Chinese-style facade accentuated by a row of Chinese red lanterns. The ground floor serves as the prayer hall for 200 people while the upper floor serves as a shelter for the mualafs who might be experiencing hardship as a result of their conversion.

Despite the mosque closures, Mahfudz said they would still keep the Ramadan tradition alive even without the communal gatherings.“We still provide iftar meals every day but instead of having them at the mosque, we distribute the meals directly to the beneficiaries. We also conduct group Qur’an recitations and sermons using videoconferencing applications,” he said.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1673381/world

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'Like a robot': Indonesia’s nonbelievers struggle to blend in during Ramadan

Ramadani Saputra

May 19, 2020

The presence of agnostics and atheists is not often felt in conservative Indonesia, where society largely defines itself along religious lines.

Widespread belief in traditional family values stokes fear in nonbelievers that they will be rejected by close relatives for their perspectives and often prevents them from speaking their minds.

As Muslims across the Indonesian archipelago celebrate Ramadan, nonbelievers are having a hard time blending in, feeling the weight of familial and social expectations amid a lack of space and mobility under COVID-19 social restrictions.

Fate led Jefry – who asked to be referred to with a pseudonym to protect his privacy – to spend Ramadan with his family in Riau this year. Jefry describes himself as an agnostic and has been living away from his family for the past couple of years attending university in Jakarta.

“Days before [Jakarta] implemented PSBB [large-scale social restrictions], I was asked to go back to attend a relative’s wedding. When the situation got worse, my parents wouldn’t let me go back to Jakarta,” he told The Jakarta Post last week.

Living with his extended family has been stressful for Jefry, especially as there are more than five other people under the same roof.

Because no one in the family knows that he is agnostic, he has participated in religious rituals, mainly out of fear that his parents would scold him if he refused.

“I performed the rituals just like a robot. It’s just a formality for me. I do it because I still have respect for my parents,” said the 26-year-old with a chuckle.

“Even though I am like this, I still care about them.”

Coming from a conservative religious family, Jefry said he had been secretly exploring the limits of his belief since junior high school. After he left his hometown for university, he was exposed to a number of diverse experiences and religious attitudes.

He eventually reached a point where he no longer believed in the teachings he was raised with. He stopped praying soon thereafter.

“I studied a lot until I was able to come to the conclusion that there is a higher being or power that governs us, but I also believe that religion is a man-made construct created with a certain agenda in mind,” he said.

No one knows how many nonbelievers there are in Indonesia, but some estimates have put the figures in the extreme minority. Many remain closeted for most of their lives.

In Muslim-majority Indonesia, where freedom of religious belief is supposed to be guaranteed and the state is officially pluralist, Indonesians are still expected to officially subscribe to one of six approved religions (and more recently to “native faiths”), while other religious minorities still regularly face discrimination.

Nonbelievers, who don’t fit any of the government’s categories, can end up in prison or face persecution, as any rejection of religion is frowned upon.

But not all nonbelievers choose to abandon their religious identities completely.

In a 2017 interview with Vox about his book The Atheist Muslim, Pakistan-born author Ali Rizvi said that many nonbelievers still retained an element of religion in their lives, noting how he himself, a self-professed free thinker, still enjoyed Idul Fitri and breaking fast during Ramadan with his family.

“I think all of us have the right to believe what we want, and we must respect that right, but that doesn't necessarily mean we have to respect the beliefs themselves,” Rizvi said.

“I think we should be able to enjoy some of these rituals without the burden of belief.”

For Doni, who also asked to use a pseudonym, there is much more leeway when it comes to dealing with his religious duties during Ramadan.

His bedroom has become a safe place for him to create the illusion that he is fasting and praying to appease his family.

“I store some food in my bedroom, which I eat in the afternoon. And since everyone prays in their own rooms, I just pretend to have performed ablutions and then go back inside [my room] without actually praying,” said the 32-year-old social media manager.

He said he left behind all religious practices three years ago.

His family, however, has become increasingly religious over the past few years, especially after being introduced to the Salafi movement, an ultra-conservative Sunni group, many of whose adherents consider more moderate Muslims infidels.

Doni said it would be almost impossible to admit to his family that he was a nonbeliever.

To keep his secret safe, Doni tries to mind his attitude at home. The real challenge, he said, was to keep his mouth shut when the topic of belief was raised in family discussions.

“I am naturally a debater. Whenever it comes up, I avoid it like the plague because I’m afraid I might say something that will reveal how I don’t believe in religion anymore,” he said.

https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/05/18/like-a-robot-indonesias-nonbelievers-struggle-to-blend-in-during-ramadan.html

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Mideast

 

Coronavirus: Erdogan announces Turkish lockdown over Eid al-Fitr holiday

18 May 2020

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that a four-day lockdown starting on May 23 would be imposed nationwide as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus during the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

The holiday marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan and Turks usually gather with family and friends to celebrate, sometimes travelling to different towns or cities.

The lockdown, which will bar most people from leaving home, is the broadest so far in Turkey, where previous lockdowns have been imposed in 31 or fewer cities.

Visit our dedicated coronavirus site here for all the latest updates.

Confirmed cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, rose to 150,593 on Monday, with 1,158 people diagnosed in the last 24 hours, Turkish health ministry data showed. The death toll stands at 4,171.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting, Erdogan also said schools would only reopen fully with the new academic year in September.

The education ministry said distance learning - via the internet or television - would continue until June 19, the last day of the current academic year.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Turkey has started taking steps to ease lockdown measures aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus as the number of daily cases has declined from a peak in April.

Erdogan said mosques would begin allowing mass prayers for midday and afternoon prayers as of May 29. He also said the house arrest period for prisoners who were released as part of coronavirus measures had been extended for two months.

Turkey has conducted more than 1.6 million tests for the coronavirus since the outbreak began.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/coronavirus/2020/05/18/Coronavirus-Erdogan-announces-Turkish-lockdown-over-Eid-al-Fitr-holiday.html

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Iran Warns US against Dire Consequences of Hostile Action against Oil Tankers in Caribbean

May 18, 2020

“What the Americans have said about our oil tankers is illegal and if they make a move, they will face Iran’s reaction,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi told reporters via a video conference today.

He noted that Iran has given the necessary advice to the Americans via the Swiss embassy, which represents the US interests in Tehran, and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has also written a letter to the UN chief in this regard, expressing the hope that Washington does not make any “stupid” move.

“Free trade among independent states is a legitimate issue. The US in Trump era is disturbing the global order and is after global anarchism,” Mousavi said.

Reuters had quoted a senior official in President Donald Trump’s administration as saying on Thursday that the United States is considering measures it could take in response to Iran’s shipment of fuel to Venezuela.

“...we’re looking at measures that can be taken,” the official added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Informed sources told Nour News website, close to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), that the US has sent four of its combat warships along with Boeing P-8 Poseidon fighters to the Caribbean.

In response to the US threats, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to caution over likely US menace against Iranian oil tankers in the Caribbean, stressing that America would be responsible for ensuing consequences.

Zarif described the US' provocative threats as piracy and a big threat to world peace and security, stressing that the US must stop bullying in the world and respect the rule of the international law, especially freedom of shipping in high seas.

Calling the US government responsible for the repercussions of any illegal move, the top diplomat underlined Iran's right to take necessary measures to counter these threats.

Furthermore, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi summoned Swiss ambassador, urging him to convey Iran's serious warning on any likely threats by the US against Iranian tankers.

He said any threat against Iranian oil tankers would be instantly responded with a decisive response by Iran, and that the US government would be responsible for all consequences.

The Swiss envoy also announced that he would immediately convey the matter to US officials.

On Sunday, Iranian Government Spokesman Ali Rabiyee blasted the US interference in trade exchange between Iran and Venezuela, and stressed that Iran will not hesitate to sell its oil.

“Iran and Venezuela are two sovereign states. Besides conducting trade and business activity with other countries, Iran has commercial exchanges with Venezuela, too,” Rabiyee said.

He pointed to some reports released in the recent weeks on the trade exchanges between Tehran and Caracas, and added, “Iran sells goods to Venezuela and buys goods in exchange. This trade is none of anybody’s business.”

The government spokesman further said, “We will not hesitate to sell our oil in global markets”.

https://en.farsnews.ir/newstext.aspx?nn=13990229000787

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Iran Confirms Fuel Trade with Venezuela, Warns of Any US Mistake

May 18, 2020

“Iran has sent the gasoline tankers at the demand of Venezuelan government. No state is duty-bound to implement the US-desired sanctions,” Rabiyee told reporters in Tehran on Monday.

He called on the international society to show reaction to the US illegal warnings about its imminent action against the Iranian oil tankers in the international waters, and said, “The US has a record of piracy.”

“It is still soon to speak about the reactions, but we consider all options and hope that the Americans will not make any mistake,” Rabiyee said.

Reuters had quoted a senior official in President Donald Trump’s administration as saying on Thursday that the United States is considering measures it could take in response to Iran’s shipment of fuel to Venezuela.

“...and we’re looking at measures that can be taken,” the official added, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Informed sources told Nour News website, close to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), that the US has sent four of its combat warships along with Boeing P-8 Poseidon fighters to the Caribbean.

In response to the US threats, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to caution over likely US menace against Iranian oil tankers in the Caribbean, stressing that America would be responsible for ensuing consequences.

Zarif described the US' provocative threats as piracy and a big threat to world peace and security, stressing that the US must stop bullying in the world and respect the rule of the international law, especially freedom of shipping in high seas.

Calling the US government responsible for the repercussions of any illegal move, the top diplomat underlined Iran's right to take necessary measures to counter these threats.

Furthermore, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi summoned Swiss ambassador, urging him to convey Iran's serious warning on any likely threats by the US against Iranian tankers.

He said any threat against Iranian oil tankers would be instantly responded with a decisive response by Iran, and that the US government would be responsible for all consequences.

The Swiss envoy also announced that he would immediately convey the matter to US officials.

On Sunday, Rabiyee had also blasted the US interference in trade exchange between Iran and Venezuela, and stressed that Iran will not hesitate to sell its oil.

“Iran and Venezuela are two sovereign states. Besides conducting trade and business activity with other countries, Iran has commercial exchanges with Venezuela, too,” Rabiyee said.

He pointed to some reports released in the recent weeks on the trade exchanges between Tehran and Caracas, and added, “Iran sells goods to Venezuela and buys goods in exchange. This trade is none of anybody’s business.”

The government spokesman further said, “We will not hesitate to sell our oil in global markets”.

https://en.farsnews.ir/newstext.aspx?nn=13990229000806

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Iran Planning to Establish Virtual Embassy in Palestine

May 18, 2020

“The foreign ministry is required to make necessary arrangements to form the Islamic Republic of Iran’s virtual embassy or consulate (in Palestine) and submit the results for approval to the cabinet,” one of the paragraphs of the bill to ‘confront Israel’s hostile acts against the peace and security’ said.

“The foreign ministry is required to adopt necessary measures (to this end) in consultations with other countries,” it added.

The Iranian parliament in its meeting on Monday unanimously approved the generalities of a bill to confront the hostile acts of the Zionist regime against peace and security.

The parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission had on Saturday prepared and approved the bill on “confronting the hostile acts of the Zionist regime against peace and security”.

“Based on the first article of the plan, all Iranian bodies are required to use the country’s regional and international capacities to confront the Zionist regime’s measures, specially its warmongering and terrorist moves, siege (of Gaza), settlement construction, displacing the Palestinian people and occupation of countries’ lands, including Golan,” Rapporteur of the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Seyed Hossein Naqavi Hosseini told FNA on Saturday.

He added that the plan also underlines support for Quds city as the Palestinian capital and the Palestinian people.

Naqavi Hosseini said that based on the approval, any cooperation or spying for the Zionist regime is equal to enmity towards God and corruption on earth and activities of the Israeli software platforms in Iran and using its hardware and software products is forbidden.

He noted that another article of the plan requires the foreign ministry to pursue the referendum in the Palestinian territories which has been registered at the UN too.

The new bill also bans transferring the goods produced by the Israeli companies via the Iranian territories as well as participation of the Israeli nationals and firms in the exhibitions held inside Iran.

The plan was approved on the eve of the International Quds Day on May 22.

The International Quds Day is an annual event opposing Israel's occupation of Beitul-Muqaddas. Anti-Zionist rallies and demonstrations are held on the last Friday of Ramadan in Muslim and Arab countries around the world, specially in Iran, as well as a large number of non-Muslim states.

The International Quds Day was started by the late Founder of the Islamic Republic, Imam Khomeini, in 1979 as a way of expressing solidarity with the Palestinians and underscoring importance of the holy Quds to Muslims.

Due to the outbreak of coronavirus in Iran, the International Quds Day will be commemorated differently without holding gatherings and rallies.

Earlier this month, an official with the Coordination Council of Islamic Propagation Organization said Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei will deliver a speech on the occasion of the International Quds Day corresponding with May 22.

https://en.farsnews.ir/newstext.aspx?nn=13990229000417

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Iran’s Judiciary Chief: Massive Intifada in Palestine, Region Underway

May 18, 2020

“Freedom of the holy Quds is still the Islamic Ummah’s priority. Today, after 72 years of the miseries brought by the Zionist regime and its violation of deals and crimes against the Palestinian, Lebanese and other regional countries’ people, they are after implementation of the disgraceful Deal of the Century Plot,” Rayeesi said, addressing a meeting of the Judiciary officials in Tehran on Monday.

He described the plot to annex the West Bank to the lands occupied by Israel as a prelude to implement the Deal of the Century plan.

“The US and the Zionist regime will never succeed in implementation of the plan and a more massive Intifada compared to the past (Intifadas) will be triggered in Palestine and even across the region,” Rayeesi said.

His remarks came after the Iranian parliament in its meeting on Monday unanimously approved the generalities of a bill to confront the hostile acts of the Zionist regime against peace and security.

The parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission had on Saturday prepared and approved the bill on “confronting the hostile acts of the Zionist regime against peace and security”.

“Based on the first article of the plan, all Iranian bodies are required to use the country’s regional and international capacities to confront the Zionist regime’s measures, specially its warmongering and terrorist moves, siege (of Gaza), settlement construction, displacing the Palestinian people and occupation of countries’ lands, including Golan,” Rapporteur of the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Seyed Hossein Naqavi Hosseini told FNA on Saturday.

He added that the plan also underlines support for Quds city as the Palestinian capital and the Palestinian people.

Naqavi Hosseini said that based on the approval, any cooperation or spying for the Zionist regime is equal to enmity towards God and corruption on earth and activities of the Israeli software platforms in Iran and using its hardware and software products is forbidden.

He noted that another article of the plan requires the foreign ministry to pursue the referendum in the Palestinian territories which has been registered at the UN too.

The new bill also bans transferring the goods produced by the Israeli companies via the Iranian territories as well as participation of the Israeli nationals and firms in the exhibitions held inside Iran.

It also requires the government to pave the ground for the establishment of a virtual embassy in Palestine.

“The foreign ministry is required to make necessary arrangements to form the Islamic Republic of Iran’s virtual embassy or consulate (in Palestine) and submit the results for approval to the cabinet,” one of the paragraphs of the bill said.

“The foreign ministry is required to adopt necessary measures (to this end) in consultations with other countries,” it added.

The plan was approved on the eve of the International Quds Day on May 22.

The International Quds Day is an annual event opposing Israel's occupation of Beitul-Muqaddas. Anti-Zionist rallies and demonstrations are held on the last Friday of Ramadan in Muslim and Arab countries around the world, specially in Iran, as well as a large number of non-Muslim states.

The International Quds Day was started by the late Founder of the Islamic Republic, Imam Khomeini, in 1979 as a way of expressing solidarity with the Palestinians and underscoring importance of the holy Quds to Muslims.

Due to the outbreak of coronavirus in Iran, the International Quds Day will be commemorated differently without holding gatherings and rallies.

Earlier this month, an official with the Coordination Council of Islamic Propagation Organization said Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei will deliver a speech on the occasion of the International Quds Day corresponding with May 22.

https://en.farsnews.ir/newstext.aspx?nn=13990229001003

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Iran starting to withdraw from Syria: Israel's outgoing defense minister

18 May 2020

Iran has begun withdrawing its forces from Syria, Israel’s outgoing defense minister said on Monday, without offering any evidence to support his assertion.

Naftali Bennett also urged his successor, Benny Gantz, to maintain pressure on Iran, adding that the trend might otherwise reverse.

Iran, Israel’s archenemy in the Middle East, has been a key supporter, along with Russia, of President Bashar al-Assad during Syria’s civil war, sending military advisers as well as material and regional Shia militias that it backs.

Israel, which monitors neighboring Syria intensively, has carried out hundreds of air strikes in Syria targeting suspected arms and troop movements by Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas it sponsors.

“Iran is significantly reducing the scope of its forces in Syria and even evacuating a number of bases,” said Bennett in his valedictory address.

“Though Iran has begun the withdrawal process from Syria, we need to complete the work. It’s in reach.”

It was not immediately possible to get official Iranian or Syrian reaction to Bennett’s comments.

Israeli officials have suggested in the past that Israel’s military operations were showing signs of success.

Iran, which is struggling economically under the burden of US sanctions and has also been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, has repeatedly said its military presence in Syria is at the invitation of Assad’s government and that it will remain in Syria as long as its help is needed.

A senior aide to Iran’s foreign minister, Ali-Ashgar Khaji, reiterated on Saturday that Tehran would continue working closely with the Assad government and Russia to combat terrorism and find a political solution to the Syrian crisis, Iran’s ISNA news agency reported.

Bennett held the position of Israeli defense minister for about half a year.

His successor, Gantz, a former armed forces chief and leader of the centrist Blue and White Party, has formed a unity government with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which took office on Sunday.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/05/18/Iran-starting-to-withdraw-from-Syria-Israel-s-outgoing-defense-minister.html

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President Trump Mideast plan ‘historic,’ peace deals crucial, says Israel FM

18 May 2020

Israel’s new foreign minister said on Monday that US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace proposal offered a “historic opportunity” but that regional peace deals must be maintained during its implementation.

Gabi Ashkenazi, who became Israel’s top diplomat when a new unity government was sworn in on Sunday, made the comments at a transition ceremony in Jerusalem.

“The plan will be promoted responsibly and in coordination with the United States, while maintaining peace agreements and the strategic interests of Israel,” Ashkenazi said according to a copy of his remarks seen by AFP.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, in comments shortly before his new government was sworn in, that it was time for Israel to annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Such settlements, home to some 400,000 Jews in the West Bank, are considered illegal under international law.

Annexing those communities is a key provision of the Trump plan, which has been rejected by the Palestinians and criticized by much of the international community.

Ashkenazi is a political ally of former Netanyahu rival Benny Gantz, the alternate prime minister and defense minister in the new unity government.

The foreign minister did not specifically mention annexation in praising Trump’s plan, which also calls for the creation of a Palestinian state with a capital outside of Jerusalem.

The Trump plan also gives a green light from Washington for Israel to annex the strategically crucial Jordan Valley, an area on the border with Jordan that accounts for roughly 30 percent of the West Bank.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II, speaking to German magazine Der Spiegel days ago, said: “If Israel really annexes the West Bank in July, it would lead to a massive conflict with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.”

Jordan and Egypt are the two countries in the Arab world that have signed peace treaties with Israel.

Referencing to those deals, Ashkenazi said “peace with our neighbors is also a strategic asset and we must safeguard it.”

Under the terms of the coalition deal agreed by Netanyahu and the centrist Gantz, the unity government can begin action to implement Trump’s plan from July 1.

The European Union has said it was considering various diplomatic actions to stop unilateral Israeli annexations in the West Bank.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/05/18/President-Trump-plan-historic-peace-deals-crucial-says-Israel-FM-Ashkenazi.html

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Israeli court finds settler guilty of murder in arson attack on Palestinian family

18 May 2020

An Israeli court found a Jewish settler guilty of racially motivated murder on Monday in a 2015 arson attack that killed a Palestinian couple and their baby in the occupied West Bank.

The triple conviction of Amiram Ben-Uliel, 25, by Lod District Court carries a potential life prison sentence.

He has argued that Israeli investigators forced him to make a false confession to the attack on the Dawabsheh family’s home in the village of Duma.

A lawyer for Ben-Uliel said on Monday that he would appeal the verdict at Israel’s Supreme Court.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/05/18/Israeli-court-finds-settler-guilty-of-murder-in-arson-attack-on-Palestinian-family-.html

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Americans will be expelled from Iraq and Syria, says Iran’s Khamenei

17 May 2020

Americans will be expelled from Iraq and Syria, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said on Sunday, renewing Iran’s demand for US troops to be withdrawn from the Middle East.

Iran almost got into a full-blown conflict with the United States when a US drone strike killed top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on January 3, prompting Tehran to retaliate with a missile barrage against a US base in Iraq days later.

Khamenei said Americans’ actions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria had led to them being hated, according to a transcript of a speech to students published on his website.

“The Americans won’t stay in Iraq and Syria and will be expelled,” Khamenei said.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Last month, President Donald Trump said he had instructed the US Navy to fire on any Iranian ships that harass it at sea, but said later he was not changing the military’s rules of engagement.

After Trump’s statement, the head of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, Major General Hossein Salami, said that the Islamic Republic would destroy US warships if its security is threatened in the Gulf.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/05/17/Americans-will-be-expelled-from-Iraq-and-Syria-says-Iran-s-Khamenei.html

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Yemeni economic embargo will affect other countries: Houthi official

18 May 2020

Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement has once again censured the economic pressure as well as naval and air blockade imposed by the Saudi-led coalition.

In a Twitter post on Monday, the spokesman for Ansarullah, Mohammed Abdul-Salam, accused the United states and its regional allies of blocking food and medicine deliveries.

"The forces of aggression continue to tighten their blockade by closing Sana'a airport, seizing ships, and resorting to several arbitrary measures, imagining that with economic aggression they will achieve what they failed with military aggression."

Abdul-Salam said the embargo and other means of economic pressure being exerted by the Saudis and their Western backers will have a negative impact on the entire region as well.

محمدعبدالسلام

@abdusalamsalah

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In an exclusive interview with Iran Press news agency in Tehran in early May, Yemen’s Ambassador to Iran Ibrahim Mohammed al-Dailami said his country does not need international aid and can fend for itself in case the naval and air blockade is lifted.

The blockade has severely restricted the flow of food, fuel, and medicine to Yemeni civilians in violation of international humanitarian law.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched the devastating war on Yemen in March 2015 in order to bring former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power and crush Ansarullah.

More than half of Yemen’s hospitals and clinics have been destroyed or closed during the war by the Saudi-led coalition, which is supported militarily by the United States, Britain and other Western countries.

According to the UN’s top aid official, Mark Lowcock, civilian casualties have risen every month since January.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/05/18/625626/Yemen-embargo-

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Muslim organization urge global action against Israel annexation plot

18 May 2020

An international organization of Muslim scholars has called on the international community and the Muslim world in particular to stand against Israel’s scheme to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.

In a statement, Ali al-Qaradaghi, the secretary-general of the Qatar-based International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), lambasted the administration of President Donald Trump of the United States for supporting Israel in its annexation plans.

He also held Washington responsible for what he described as Tel Aviv's aggressive practices, the Palestinian Information Center reported on Monday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is facing a number of criminal indictments, has time and again announced that he would start plans for annexing more areas in the occupied West Bank on July 1, in accordance with Trump’s peace scheme, further infuriating Palestinians.

The American president officially unveiled his scheme, the so-called deal of the century, in January at the White House with Netanyahu on his side, while Palestinian representatives were not invited.

The proposal gives in to Israel’s demands while creating a Palestinian state with limited control over its own security and borders, enshrining the occupied Jerusalem al-Quds as “Israel’s undivided capital” and allowing the regime to annex settlements in the West Bank and the Jordan Valley.

Trump's highly provocative scheme, which further denies the right of return for Palestinian refugees to their homeland, is also in complete disregard of UN Security Council resolutions and rejected by the vast majority of the international community.

Palestinian officials have already threatened to sever bilateral agreements with Tel Aviv if it goes ahead with the annexation that will definitely undermine the two-state solution. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has already said that the US proposal “belongs to the dustbin of history.”

They say that the scheme allows the Tel Aviv regime to annex 30 to 40 percent of the West Bank, including the whole East Jerusalem al-Quds, which Palestinians view as the capital of their future independent state.

Elsewhere in his remarks on Monday, Qaradaghi warned that the Israel is currently exploiting the world’s preoccupation with the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the total US support for its action and the Arab nation’s impotence and silence to advance its land-grabbing plots in Palestine.

The IUMS chief also praised all the countries that support the Palestinian cause, particularly those that voiced their opposition to Israel’s expansionist projects.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/05/18/625617/Israel-annexation

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US, other foreign forces must leave Syria, respect its sovereignty: Iran

18 May 2020

Iran’s permanent ambassador to the United Nations says the US must end its illegal occupation of Syria and stop shielding terrorist groups under the mask of fighting terrorism.

Majid Takht Ravanchi made the remarks in a Monday address to a virtual meeting of United Nations Security Council dubbed “Middle East: Syria – Political".

“Sovereignty, political independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria must be fully respected by all, and accordingly, all foreign forces whose presence is not permitted by the Syrian Government must leave the Syrian territory,” the Iranian diplomat said.

“In this regard, the living example is the occupation of certain parts of Syria by the US forces who continue to support and shield terrorist groups under the mask of combatting terrorism,” he went on to say.

He further rejected any separatist agendas as well as “any and all attempts to create new realities on the ground, including through illegitimate self-rule initiatives.”

Takht Ravanchi slammed the “illegal” occupation of Syria’s Golan Heights by Israel, and said the recognition by the US of its annexation to Israel is null and void.

“Condemning such unlawful irresponsible act, we stress that Golan is and will remain a part and parcel of the Syrian territory,” he added.

Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria after the 1967 Six-Day War and later occupied it in a move that has never been recognized by the international community. However, in a highly provocative move on March 25 last year US President Donald Trump signed a proclamation recognizing Israel's "sovereignty" over the Syrian territory.

Damascus strongly condemned the move and called it a "blatant attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity" of Syria.

Since the onset of the occupation, Tel Aviv has been building dozens of settlements in the region and has used it to carry out a number of military operations against the Arab country.

In his Monday speech, Takht Ravanchi also condemned Israel’s aggressions against Syria as a “gross violation of international law and the UN Charter”, stressing that the Syrian Government has a sovereign right to decide how and when to exercise its inherent right to individual or collective self-defense.

“Such aggressions must come to an end,” he urged.

Israel frequently attacks military targets inside Syria in what is considered as an attempt to prop up foreign-backed Takfiri terrorist groups that have been suffering heavy defeats against Syrian government forces.

The Damascus government has several times complained to the UN about Israel’s illegal strikes on Syria.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/05/18/625641/US-Syria-Iran-Majid-Takht-Ravanchi

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Iran, Pakistan, China, Russia support national reconciliation in Afghanistan

18 May 2020

Senior diplomats from Iran, Pakistan, China and Russia have thrown their weight behind a power-sharing deal in Afghanistan signed between leaders of the country's two main political factions, expressing hope that the important step would speed up intra-Afghan talks.

Special representatives of Iran, Pakistan, China and Russia for Afghanistan affairs held a virtual meeting on Monday, during which they discussed the latest developments and the process of peace and reconciliation in the war-ravaged country.

In a statement, they expressed their support for the peace process in Afghanistan led by the country's officials and emphasized that inclusive intra-Afghan talks would be the only way to ensure national reconciliation and end long-lasting conflicts.

The four countries' diplomats called on all groups and parties in Afghanistan to prepare the ground for immediate opening of dialog among Afghans.

It is expected that the peace and reconciliation process would pave the way for the return of Afghan refugees to their homeland, the statement read.

It also called on the international community to support a timely and respectful repatriation of Afghan refugees.

The four countries' statement came a day after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, a former official and a rival to the incumbent president, signed a power-sharing deal in a bid to put an end to a months-long feud that plunged the country into a political crisis.

"The Political Agreement between President Ghani and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah has just been signed. Dr. Abdullah will lead the National Reconciliation High Council and members of his team will be included in the cabinet," said Sediq Sediqqi, Ghani’s spokesman, on Twitter on Sunday.

When, after delays over disputed votes, the results of the September 2019 contested presidential election were announced in February by Afghanistan's election commission and Ghani was declared the winner, Abdullah rejected the results, proclaiming himself to be the president-elect.

The 59-year-old politician, who served as the chief executive officer of the outgoing administration under an earlier power-sharing deal, then held a parallel swearing-in ceremony in the same day that Ghani held his in March, at a time when the US was trying to hammer out a peace deal with the Taliban militant group to end the 19-year Afghan war.  

In phone calls to Ghani and Abdullah on Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that the Islamic Republic welcomes the progress made in the national reconciliation process among all political groups in Afghanistan.

During his talks with Afghan political leaders, Zarif assured them that the Islamic Republic is ready to consolidate unity among all groups in Afghanistan.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/05/18/625613/Ghani-Abdullah-Iran-China-Russia-Pakistan-agreement

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Foreign powers must stop interfering in Iraq affairs: Iran president

18 May 2020

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani says the Islamic Republic supports Iraq’s sovereignty, stressing that foreign powers must stop interfering in the country’s internal affairs.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran, as always, will stand by the Iraqi government and nation, supports Iraq’s sovereignty and calls for non-interference of foreign powers in the fate of this country’s nation and government,” Rouhani said in a phone call with his Iraqi counterpart, Barham Salih, on Monday.

Expressing satisfaction about the formation of the new cabinet in Iraq and its approval by the country’s lawmakers, Rouhani said, "Iraq’s political stability is of significance to the region, and certainly this process will be a prelude to the restoration of Iraq’s prominent role in the region.”

He noted that regional countries are currently struggling with many problems such as the plunge in oil prices, the coronavirus pandemic, security challenges, and, above all, the US interference in their internal affairs, adding that the solution lies in the development of ties.

"The expansion of all-out relations and cooperation among friendly governments and nations can help them overcome these problems," the Iranian president said.

Stability, security in Iraq requires cooperation from neighbors: Salih

The Iraqi president, for his part, highlighted the significance of political relations between Tehran and Baghdad, saying that Iraq requires cooperation from friendly and neighboring countries, particularly Iran, to maintain its stability and security.

Salih slammed as destructive the acts of interference by foreign powers in the region, emphasizing that outsiders must stop meddling in the domestic affairs of regional states as the Middle East cannot tolerate any new crises.

Outlining political measures taken to bring various Iraqi groups, parties and tribes together to make the election of a new prime minister possible, Salih said,"Ensuring Iraq’s sovereignty is an undeniable necessity, which must be taken into account when making decisions about the country's future."

The Iraqi president stressed that "Foreign powers must have no part in determining fate of his country."

The Iraqi president in February appointed Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi as the new prime minister after political parties in parliament failed to name a candidate in two months since former premier Adel Abdul-Mahdi stepped down in the wake of anti-government protests.

In March last year, Rouhani paid an official visit to Baghdad on a trip aimed at solidifying strategic ties despite US efforts to keep the two neighbors apart and curb Iran's influence in the region.

“Strengthening ties between Tehran and Baghdad works to the benefit of both countries and we won’t let this positive path towards progress slow down to a halt,” Rouhani said during a joint news conference at the time.

In a meeting with the Iraqi president and his accompanying delegation in Tehran in November 2018, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei slammed foreign meddling in Iraq, saying the Arab country must stand firm against its enemies.

"The way to overcome problems and counter ill-wishers' plots is to preserve national unity in Iraq, properly distinguish friends from foes, stand up to the brazen enemy, rely on youths and maintain and strengthen links with the [clerical] sources [of emulation]," the Leader said.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/05/18/625603/Rouhani-Barham-Salih-US-interference-phone-Iran-Iraq

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Yemeni army kills Houthis, liberates parts of Sanaa

May 19, 2020

DUBAI: More than 20 Houthis were killed and others wounded in clashes with the Yemeni army East of Sanaa, state news agency SPA reported.

The army regained control of multiple areas in the province after fighting the militia in response to the their attack on civilians’ homes in west of Marib.

A military source said the armed forces were able to liberate a number of strategic areas in the Najd Al-Ataq front in the Naham directorate, and the mountains of Bahrah and Manama.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1676801/middle-east

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FBI intelligence links Saudi military student to al-Qaeda: Attorney General

19 May 2020

The FBI cracked the iPhone encryption of the Royal Saudi Air Force trainee who killed three American sailors in a December attack at a naval base in Florida, and found evidence linking him to al-Qaeda, Attorney General William Barr said on Monday.

The shooter, Second Lieutenant Mohammed Saeed al-Shamrani, 21, also wounded eight people before being killed by law enforcement during the December 6, 2019, attack. He was on the base as part of a US Navy training program designed to foster links with foreign allies.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

The Justice Department succeeded in unlocking the encryption on the shooter's iPhone after Apple Inc declined to do so, Barr told reporters on a conference call. Apple later disputed his version, saying it cooperated to the extent that its technology allowed.

“The information from the phone has already proved invaluable,” Barr said.

Barr called on Congress to act forcing Apple and other tech companies to help law enforcement agencies get through encryption during criminal investigations.

“Apple's decision has dangerous consequences,” Barr said. “Many of the technology companies that advocate most loudly for warrant-proof encryption... are at the same time willing to accommodate authoritarian regimes.”

Apple defended its practice. “It is because we take our responsibility to national security so seriously that we do not believe in the creation of a backdoor — one which will make every device vulnerable to bad actors,” Apple said in a statement. “There is no such thing as a backdoor just for the good guys, and the American people do not have to choose between weakening encryption and effective investigations.”

In February, an audio recording purporting to be from the terrorist group al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack but provided no evidence.

Prior to the shooting spree, the shooter had posted criticism of US wars and quoted slain al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on social media.

“The Pensacola attack was actually the brutal culmination of years of planning,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Monday, adding that evidence showed al-Shamrani had been radicalized by 2015.

Barr has said the Saudi government did not have any advanced warnings of the shooting.

The Saudi Embassy in Washington said in a statement it welcomed the recovery of intelligence from al-Shamrani's phone and it was continuing to provide full support to the investigation.

“The Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia reiterates its sincerest condolences to the American people on the tragedy that unfolded in December at Pensacola, Forida, and welcomes the announcement by US law authorities of the recovery of critical intelligence from the assailant’s telephones,” the Embassy’s statement said.

“Saudi Arabia will continue to use every means at our disposal to counter the men, mindset and money of terrorist that enables AQAP and others to recruit followers and threaten communities, or even entire nations.”

The Embassy also said terrorists have previously attacked the Kingdom’s people, military and “even Islam’s holiest sites in Mecca and Medina.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/05/19/FBI-intelligence-links-Saudi-military-student-to-al-Qaeda-Attorney-General.html

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FBI phone probe links al-Qaeda to Saudi who killed 3 at Florida base, Barr says

18 May 2020

The FBI cracked the iPhone encryption of the Royal Saudi Air Force trainee who killed three American sailors in a December attack at a naval base in Florida, and found evidence linking him to al-Qaeda, Attorney General William Barr said on Monday.

The shooter, Second Lieutenant Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, 21, also wounded eight people before being killed by law enforcement during the Dec. 6, 2019 attack. He was on the base as part of a US Navy training program designed to foster links with foreign allies.

The Justice Department succeeded in unlocking the encryption on the shooter's iPhone after Apple Inc declined to do so, Barr told reporters on a conference call. Apple later disputed his version, saying it cooperated to the extent that its technology allowed.

"The information from the phone has already proved invaluable," Barr said.

Barr called on Congress to take action forcing Apple and other tech companies to help law enforcement agencies get through encryption during criminal investigations.

"Apple's decision has dangerous consequences," Barr said. "Many of the technology companies that advocate most loudly for warrant-proof encryption...are at the same time willing to accommodate authoritarian regimes."

Apple said: "It is because we take our responsibility to national security so seriously that we do not believe in the creation of a backdoor — one which will make every device vulnerable to bad actors," Apple said in a statement.

"There is no such thing as a backdoor just for the good guys, and the American people do not have to choose between weakening encryption and effective investigations."

In February, an audio recording purporting to be from the terrorist group al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed responsibility for the attack, but provided no evidence.

Prior to the shooting spree, the shooter posted criticism of US wars and quoted al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on social media.

"The Pensacola attack was actually the brutal culmination of years of planning," FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Monday, adding that evidence showed Alshamrani had been radicalized by 2015.

Saudi Arabia in January withdrew its remaining 21 cadets from the US military training program and brought them home, after the Justice Department's investigation revealed some had accessed child pornography or had social media accounts containing extremist or anti-American content.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/05/18/625637/FBI-William-Barr-Florida-naval-base-Saudi-Arabia-

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US House panel chairman says firing of State Dept. inspector may be linked to Saudi arms sale

18 May 2020

The chairman of a US congressional committee has accused President Donald Trump of firing a State Department inspector general because he was investigating Trump’s “phony” declaration of a national emergency last year to push for a controversial arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Eliot Engel made the accusation on Monday, which was first reported by the Washington Post.

Trump informed the planned removal of Inspector General Steve Linick in a letter to Congress on Friday. Linick was the fourth government inspector general that Trump has fired in recent weeks.

Congressional aides had also said that Linick was investigating whether Secretary of State Mike Pompeo misused government resources by asking a political appointee to perform personal tasks for himself and his wife.

Engel announced on Saturday he and Senator Bob Menendez were launching an investigation of Linick’s firing.

“I have learned that there may be another reason for Linick’s firing. His office was investigating - at my request - Trump’s phony declaration of an emergency so he could send weapons to Saudi Arabia,” Engel said in a statement.

“We don’t have the full picture yet, but it’s troubling that Secretary (Mike) Pompeo wanted Mr. Linick pushed out before this work could be completed. The administration should comply with the probe I launched with Senator Menendez and turn over all the records requested from the Department by Friday,” Engel said.

Trump enraged many members of Congress last May, including some of his fellow Republicans as well as Democrats, by declaring a national emergency related to tensions with Iran in order to avoid a congressional examination of an $8 billion  military sale to Saudi Arabia.

The House and Senate both passed resolutions to block the sales, but Trump vetoed them, and there was not enough support in the Republican-led Senate to override his veto.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/05/18/625627/'Firing-of-State-Dept.-inspector-may-be-linked-to-Saudi-arms-sale'

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Small ceremony held for 37 killed in USS Stark, hit by Iraqi missile in 1987

17 May 2020

The US Navy has held a small ceremony to commemorate the 37 personnel killed after the USS Stark was hit by Iraqi missiles in 1987.

The ceremony took place on Sunday at Naval Station Mayport, Florida, where a bell was rung for each American crew member lost in the Iraqi attack, which also injured 21 others.

The USS Stark was patrolling off the Saudi Arabian coast of the Persian Gulf, when the attack happened on May 17, 1987.

Then-Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who had already started a war with neighboring Iran, had to apologize claiming that USS Stark had been mistaken for an Iranian tanker.

Then-US President Ronald Reagan also delivered a eulogy at Mayport on May 22, 1987.

Reagan later condoned his ally, Saddam Hussein, and even blamed Iran for the attack.

"We've never considered them [Iraq's military] hostile at all,” he said, claiming that, "the villain in the piece is Iran.”

In 2003, then-US President George Bush proved Reagan wrong by invading Iraq, still ruled by the regime of Saddam Hussein, over claims that it possesses weapons of mass destruction.

Thirty-three years after the incident, the US continues raising tensions in the Persian Gulf by maintaining a military presence that not only destabilizes the West Asia region but also endangers more American lives.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/05/17/625563/US-commemorates-37-killed-in-Iraq-attack-on-USS-Stark-incident

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US envoy heading to Afghanistan, Qatar to push peace

Michael Hernandez  

18.05.2020

WASHINGTON

US President Donald Trump's envoy to end the Afghan conflict is heading to the war-torn country and Qatar to push the Afghan government and Taliban to make progress on ending the conflict, the State Department announced Monday.

Zalmay Khalilzad departed on Sunday and will discuss with Taliban representatives in Doha a pact the US brokered with the hardline group to reduce violence "and press for steps necessary to commence intra-Afghan negotiations, including a significant reduction of violence."

When he arrives in Kabul, Khalilzad will speak with senior government officials about steps they can "take to make intra-Afghan negotiations begin as soon as possible," the department added.

"The United States remains committed to supporting the desire of the Afghan people and the international community for a political settlement that ends the 40-year conflict and ensures Afghanistan never again serves as a platform for international terrorism," the department said.

But in a sign of the uphill battle ahead of him, the Afghan government earlier Monday blamed the Taliban for “blatantly violating” terms of their peace deal with the US, which was signed in February.

In addition to carrying out attacks that killed 420 civilians and wounded 906 others, Intelligence chief Brig. Gen. Ahmad Zia Siraj accused the group of having close ties with foreign terrorist groups such as al-Qaida, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Islamic Movement of Eastern Turkistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba and others.

Army chief Gen. Bismillah Waziri, who spoke alongside Siraj, said Afghan forces have commenced offensives across the country on the orders of President Mohammed Ashraf Ghani.

The Taliban on Monday claimed a truck bombing in Ghazni city that killed five people.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/us-envoy-heading-to-afghanistan-qatar-to-push-peace/1845572

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US base shooter had 'significant ties' to al-Qaeda

Michael Hernandez  

18.05.2020

WASHINGTON

The Saudi military officer who fatally shot three US sailors and seriously injured eight other individuals on a naval base in Florida had "significant ties" to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), top law enforcement officials announced Monday.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said information obtained from Royal Saudi Air Force officer Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani's cellphones indicates he was radicalized at least as far back as 2015.

"The Pensacola attack was actually the brutal culmination of years of planning and preparation by a longtime AQAP associate," Wray told reporters during a virtual press briefing, further saying Alshamrani had been "connecting and associating with a number of dangerous AQAP operatives" since 2015.

Alshamrani attempted to destroy both of his phones during a shootout that ultimately led to his death, Wray said, but the bureau was able to obtain information off them following a four month effort to unlock the devices. That information was then used to carry out an operation against one of his associates.

Wray and Attorney General William Barr said the operation targeted "overseas AQAP operative" Abdullah al-Maliki, but gave sparse details other than saying it took place recently in Yemen.

Asked what kind of relationship Alshamrani had with the US-designated terrorist organization, Wray said he was "certainly more than just inspired," and was "sharing plans and tactics with them."

The Dec. 6 shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola ended when Alshamrani was fatally shot by sheriff's deputies. The US moved in January to cancel training for 21 Saudi Arabian air cadets and sent them back to their home country as the investigation into the shooting continued.

The US determined that nearly all of the 21 trainees had “jihadi or anti-American content” in their social media feeds, while 15 of them “had had some kind of contact with child pornography”, mostly “cases posted in a chat room by someone else or received over social media," Barr said at the time.

Alshamrani's phones had been locked, but Wray and Barr said the FBI was able to break the encryption independently of Apple, who they said refused to cooperate with their efforts.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/us-base-shooter-had-significant-ties-to-al-qaeda/1845346

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