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Islamic World News ( 13 Apr 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Islamic State Asks Its Followers to Slaughter Muslim Clerics

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Islamic State terror group has issued a list of names of Muslim clerics, calling them “imams of kafir” and asking its followers to kill anyone who disagrees with them - including Islamic leaders. (AP File Photo)

 

ISIS Has Hit List of Western Muslim Leaders

PM Modi Asks Muslim Leaders to Discuss Problems, Reach Out To Help Resolve Issues

ISIS Celebrates ‘Blessed’ Brussels Bombings, Threatens To Damage Western Economies

Pakistan's ISI Funded Deadly Attack on CIA Camp in Afghanistan: US National Security Archive

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Arab World

Islamic State Asks Its Followers to Slaughter Muslim Clerics

ISIS Has Hit List of Western Muslim Leaders

Saudi Arabia’s Religious Police Stripped of Prosecuting Citizens Who Violate Sharia

Lack of Transparency in Saudi Arabia Complicates Human Rights Reporting

Islamic State Destroys Gates of Nineveh near Mosul

Russian Air Force Still Cleansing Palmyra of Terrorists

Tens of Terrorists Killed in Syrian Air Force's Special Operations in Deir Ezzur

Tens of Pro-Hadi Militias Killed in Clashes with Army in Yemen

Iranian FM Reminds Saudis of Tariq Aziz's Fate

Parliamentary polls held in areas under Syrian govt control

Army Source Dismisses Militants' Claims on Seizing Airbase in Damascus

Al-Nusra Front's Attack on Strategic Hilltop Fails after Fierce Clashes

Defense Ministry Delivers 2,000-ton Floating Dock to Iranian Navy

10,000 Syrian Forces on Alert to Start Massive Anti-Terrorism Operations in Aleppo

Report: US Military Advisors Secretly Meet ISIL Leaders

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India

PM Modi Asks Muslim Leaders to Discuss Problems, Reach Out To Help Resolve Issues

Eminent Muslims Meet Indian PM, Modi, Laud His Development Agenda

5000-Strong; Indian Jews Seek Minority Status

Death of Indian: Acting Indian High Commissioner to Take Up Issue With Pakistan

2,100 Indian Sikhs Arrive In Pakistan to Attend Baisakhi Festival

Mobile internet services suspended in Kashmir

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Europe

ISIS Celebrates ‘Blessed’ Brussels Bombings, Threatens To Damage Western Economies

Report Suggests Radical Islamists Infiltrating German Military to Receive Training

29 German soldiers have joined ISIS; army may contain dozens of jihadist sympathizers – report

UN begins round of Syria peace talks in Geneva

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North America

Pakistan's ISI Funded Deadly Attack on CIA Camp in Afghanistan: US National Security Archive

Pakistan Given $13 Billion for War On Terror Since 9/11

Anti-Muslim threats on rise across United States

US urges Taliban to give up threats, talk peace

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South Asia

30 Afghan Local Police Forces Have Reportedly Join Taliban in Afghanistan

15 Afghan Soldiers Martyred As Violence Surges Across the Country

Karzai reacts towards Kerry’s remarks regarding unity government duration

Heavy clashes reported in Dand-e-Ghori area of Baghlan

Taliban Supreme Leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor is not alive: Taliban leaders

Karzai reacts towards Kerry’s remarks regarding unity government duration

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Mideast

Turkey’s Erdoğan Proposes Muslim Cooperation against Terrorism

Ankara, Istanbul, Brussels Tipped Off Ahead Of Terror Attacks: Reports

Amid violence, Israel promotes Arab Muslim police officer

European Parliament warns Turkey on 'backsliding' of democracy

CoE sounds alarm about deteriorating human rights in Turkey

Minister reveals details about giant infrastructure projects in Turkey

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Pakistan

Senators Invoke Islam to Drop ‘Scolding’ From Children Protection Bill

Pakistan, China Air Forces Kick off Shaheen-V Joint Training Exercise

India undermining Gwadar project: Pakistan army chief

Execution of convicted mass murderer deferred

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Southeast Asia

Lawyer of Indonesia Cleric Says His Jail Conditions Inhumane

Understanding Violence against the Left In Indonesia

Philippines workers beheaded by attackers with possible ISIS ties

Philippines rejects Islamic State's claim it killed 100 troops

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Africa

Blast claims three lives in Somalia

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

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Islamic State asks its followers to slaughter Muslim clerics

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

London: ISIS terror group has issued a list of names of Muslim clerics, calling them "imams of kafir" and asking its followers to kill anyone who disagrees with them including Islamic leaders.

In the latest issue of its propaganda magazine Dabiq, the ISIS, also known as Daesh, has singled out those clerics who criticise them and said the "imams of kafir" (leaders of infidels) should be slaughtered.

Muslim clerics across the world, including in Britain and India, have condemned the attacks by ISIS in Europe, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, saying being a Muslim was about peace, not violence.

A number of British Muslim imams have openly condemned the ISIS-inspired attacks in Paris, Brussels, Tunisia, Turkey and the Ivory Coast over the last few months.

In September last year, nearly 1,000 Muslim clerics in India signed a fatwa against ISIS and other terror groups, saying they were "not Islamic organisations".

In a chapter called 'Kill the Imams of kafir in the west', the magazine said: "How can Muslims living in the West who claim to have surrendered themselves to Allah, completely accepting His rule alone, stand idly as these imams of kafir continue to spread their poison from atop their pulpits?

"One must either take the journey to dar-al-Islam, joining the ranks of the mujahid or wage jihad by himself with the resources available to him (knives, guns, explosives, etc.) to kill the crusaders and other disbelievers and apostates, including the imams of kafir, to make an example of them, as all of them are valid ? rather, obligatory ? targets," the Express newspaper reported, citing the magazine.

The group has published a list of names of Imams it has singled out as being "kafir". However, the paper did not disclose their names.

The magazine also identified those behind the Brussels terror attacks and praised them along with their photographs.  PTI

zeenews.india.com/news/world/islamic-state-asks-its-followers-to-slaughter-muslim-clerics_1875889.html

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ISIS Has Hit List of Western Muslim Leaders

April 13, 2016

The latest issue (number 14) of the Islamic State’s propaganda magazine, Dabiq, published April 13, contains a hitlist of Muslim leaders in the West, specifically naming 21. A 22nd (Nihad Awad of the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Council on American Islamic Relations) is pictured, but not named.

Those whom the Islamic State is targeting are listed in a section entitled “Kill the Imams of Kufr (the infidels) in the West.”

It includes leaders from the US, Canada, the UK and Australia.

The list of leaders is very diverse and includes several who are linked to Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, despite the fact that the Islamic State’s ideology is directly descended from that of the Muslim Brotherhood. Indeed the theme of the issue, entitled The Murtadd Brotherhood, is focused on the illegitimacy of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Others on the hit list are Salafi leaders, Sufis or politicians. It even includes one jihadist, Abū Basīr at-Tartūsī.

The section closes with an exhortation to kill these and other unnamed leaders. Dabiq writes:

“One must either take the journey to dār al-Islām, joining the ranks of the mujāhidīn therein, or wage jihād by himself with the resources available to him (knives, guns, explosives, etc.) to kill the cru­saders and other disbelievers and apostates, including the imāms of kufr, to make an example of them, as all of them are valid – rather, obligatory – targets ac­cording to the Sharī’ah, except for those who openly repent from kufr before they are apprehended.”

The list shows the extent of the Islamic State’s adherence to the doctrine of takfir, which enables them to brand any Muslim who does not submit to their authority and hold by their interpretation of Islam a heretic worthy of death.

Clarion Project is reprinting the entire list here:

Hamza Yusuf

Suhaib Webb

Muhammad al-Yaqoubi

Hisham Kabbani

Yasir Qadhi

Bilal Philips

Pierre Vogel

Tawfique Chowdhury

Waleed Basyouni

Abdullah Hakim Quick

Abū Basīr at-Tartūsī

Mohamed Elibiary,

Arif Alikhan,

Rashad Hussain,

Keith Ellison,

Huma Abedin

Muhammad Abdul Bari,

Sayeeda Warsi,

Waqar Azmi,

Sajid Javid,

Ajmal Masroor

Note: Although Nihad Awad's name does not appear in the section, his picture does appear at the beginning of the section. One is therefore led to assume he has also been included on the hitlist.

clarionproject.org/news/isis-names-hit-list-western-muslim-leaders

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PM Modi asks Muslim leaders to discuss problems, reach out to help resolve issues

MANAN KUMAR | Thu, 14 Apr 2016

Making yet another effort to reach out to the Muslims, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday complained to the community leaders for not coming forward to meet him which can resolve several issues and problems.

After meeting prime minister, the delegation consisting of 11 Muslim community leaders and intelligentsia also met union home minister Rajnath Singh who shared their concern of huge trust deficit between the government and the community and the need to bridge it at the earliest.

While some delegates congratulated the prime minister Modi for being conferred the highest civilian award King Abdulaziz Sash award, there were others who raised the issue of increasing fear psychosis among Muslims.

Delegates like Qamar Agha, Qurban Ali and Mufti Aijaz Arshad Qasmi requested the Prime Minister to rein in motormouth leaders of BJP and other right wing organisations to help remove increasing panic.

National Security Advisor Ajit Doval was present in the 40-odd minutes long meeting.

"We went to meet the Prime Minister in our individual capacities and the main idea was that there is a need to talk to the government to explain the concerns which are putting the community on tenterhooks and making it introvert,"said Qurban Ali, a noted scholar.

Qamar Agha, expert in geopolitics of West and Southeast Asia, said, "Our aim was to make the Prime Minister aware of the socio-economic, educational and security issues that Muslims of the country are facing and suggest possible ways to overcome those. We reminded the Modi to put his slogan of Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas in practice."

The delegates also explained to the Prime Minister the need to keep minority status of institutions like Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia and also requested the prime minister to help the Waqf Board free its properties so that the money earned from those could be utilised for empowering the community in the filed of education and employment.

"We asked the prime to give more autonomy and power to the ministry of minority affairs which has not done anything worthwhile so far in the current dispensation. We also stressed on the need to revitalise the multi-sectoral development programme (MSDP) that has been lying defunct to construct schools in minority dominated areas,"said Mufti Aijaz Arshad Qasmi, member, Muslim Personal Law Board and President, Darul Deoband Old Boys Association.

Delegates said Modi was pretty receptive to their observations and assured support of his government in carrying forward the pointers flagged during the meeting.

dnaindia.com/india/report-pm-asks-muslim-leaders-to-reach-out-to-help-resolve-issues-2201879

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ISIS celebrates ‘blessed’ Brussels bombings, threatens to damage Western economies

Big News Network.comThursday 14th April, 2016

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Even as the Islamic State Militant Group (ISIS) continues to issue fresh threats to Europe followed by its brutal Brussels bombings, the militant group is also suffering loss in Syria and Turkey.

Amidst this, ISIS has now released the 14th issue of its propaganda magazine, Dabiq. The extremist group not only names the masterminds behind its recent spate of terrorising acts, including the Paris and Brussels bombings - but knights the attacks, while mourning the loss of the suicide bombers.

In the glossy 68-page magazine, the militant group praised the suicide bombers who blew themselves up at the packed Brussels airport and metro station in March 2016, killing 32 people.

It profiled four of the attackers as “knights” of the group’s violence and celebrated its “blessed” bombings in Brussels.

ISIS wrote in the foreword to the magazine, “Brussels, the heart of Europe, has been struck. The blood of its vitality spilled on the ground, trampled under the feet of the mujahideen. Paris was a warning. Brussels was a reminder. What is yet to come will be more devastating and more bitter.”

Explaining its “well-planned massacre operation on March 22,” ISIS praised brothers Ibrahim and Khalid el-Bakraoui, and Najim Laachraoui who spearheaded the attack. The brothers were said to be the key logisticians in the terror cell that carried out both the Brussels and Paris attacks. Even though the magazine confirmed the findings of Belgian investigators, who had claimed that Laachraoui was a bomb-maker for both the Paris and Brussels attacks, they did not mention anything about Mohamed Abrini.

Abrini was recently nabbed by the investigators in Brussels and is said to have admitted being the ‘Man in the Hat’ spotted in the CCTV footage before the attack.

ISIS meanwhile went on to reveal that Laachraoui had “completed his training” after being injured fighting in Syria.

The group also paid tribute to Mohamed Belkaid, who was shot dead in the Brussels police raid that eventually led to the capture of Salah Abdeslam, who is said to be behind the Paris attacks and a contributor to the Brussels bombings.

The magazine has reportedly added photos of the dead attackers, alongside images of the aftermath of the Brussels attacks, with bloodied victims and the destruction it caused at the airport terminal and the metro station.

It also vowed to continue carrying out global atrocities until all Muslims live under its brutal interpretation of Sharia law.

Adding, “Flames ignited years ago in Iraq have now scorched the battleground of Belgium, soon to spread to the rest of crusader Europe and the West. What is yet to come will be more devastating and more bitter by the permission of Allah. Having heeded the lessons of years spent fighting the harshest of wars in modern times, the soldiers of the Islamic State promise their adversaries dark days of death and destruction in their own lands. Bullets and shrapnel will slash and pierce all those whom Allah’s soldiers reach. Survivors will be scarred physically and mentally, haunted whenever their eyes are closed, whenever they blink. The sounds of sirens will fill the air, preceded by blasts from bombs planted in all the right places.”

The militant group further outlined its intention to damage Western economies and infrastructure and also threatened more attacks on Europe.

The magazine also featured a section on British ISIS hostage John Cantlie revealing captive U.S. journalist James Foley’s final words minutes before he was executed. It said that Foley, who was captured in 2012, turned to his fellow hostage Cantlie and quietly said, “Great, captured on Thanksgiving day, killed on my mom’s birthday,” before being led out.

ISIS further issued a threat to Huma Abedin, a high-profile aide to Hillary Clinton, and to a U.S. Congressman Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn.

The threat was reportedly part of a long article that called extremists to arms, identifying them as “overt crusaders” and “politically active apostates” who “involve themselves in the politics and enforcing laws of the kufr [disbelievers].”

The SITE Intelligence Group added that ISIS has listed Muslims in the West, that it claims should be killed for their work and has named several officials in the U.S., U.K. and around the Western world.

bignewsnetwork.com/news/243139955/isis-celebrates-blessed-brussels-bombings-threatens-to-damage-western-economies

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Pakistan's ISI funded deadly attack on CIA camp in Afghanistan: US National Security Archive

Chidanand Rajghatta | TNN | Apr 14, 2016

WASHINGTON: Talk about biting the hand that feeds. Even as it bilked billions of dollars in aid from the United States, Pakistan is now revealed to have funded the 2009 attack on a CIA camp on its border with Afghanistan that killed seven American agents and contractors and three others.

The explosive disclosure comes in a declassified 2010 cable published by the national security archive, that, despite being redacted in parts, asserts unequivocally that "some funding for Haqqani attacks are still provided by the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, including $200,000 for the December 30, 2009, attack on the CIA facility at Camp Chapman."

The Camp Chapman attack was carried out by Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, a Jordanian doctor and double agent, whom the CIA was trying to use to infiltrate al-Qaida in Pakistan in its hunt for Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri. Instead, he was turned around the Haqqani group, a terrorist proxy for Pakistan's intelligence agency.

Al-Balawi's suicide attack on December 30, 2009 at the Camp Chapman forward post, which the CIA used to gather intelligence for drone attacks in Pakistan, killed ten people, including two female American CIA agents: Jennifer Lynne Matthews, 45, and a mother of three, who commanded the base, and Elizabeth Hanson, 30, a targeting analyst. The attack was memorialized in a movie titled Zero Dark Thirty.

While it has long been known that Pakistan's terrorism sponsorship has claimed the lives of Indian and American civilians and military personnel, the revelations about bankrolling the Camp Chapman attack, kept secret from the public so far, is certain to inflame tensions between the two sides, particularly their military-intelligence outfits. Successive US administrations — particularly the state department led by John Kerry — have long ladled out pabulum that Pakistan is a front-line ally in the war on terror while funneling billions of dollars of aid, despite multiple terrorist attacks across the world originating from Pakistan, including in San Bernardino, New York, and London.

The timing of the attack and the sequence of cables detailing the ISI's role in organizing the attack suggests that the US administration lied to the American public about Pakistan being a frontline ally in the way on terror even as it funneled $ 7.5 billion in US taxpayer money to a country's whose military-intelligence establishment was killing American soldiers and spooks. Then senator John Kerry, who later became secretary of state, took the lead in presenting Pakistan as a worthy ally as he engineering with senator Lugar the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009, which put $ 1.5 billion in US aid into the Pakistani coffers.

The Act, stemming from what is known as the Kerry-Lugar Bill was introduced to Congress on September 24, 2009, and passed into law on October 15, 2010. The ISI-sponsored attack on Camp Chapman occurred on December 30, 2009. By February 6, 2010, the date on the explosive cable detailing the Pakistani role, Washington knew ISI had engineered the attack on the CIA forward post.

"During discussions at an unknown date between Haqqani, Salar, and an unidentified ISID officer or officers, Haqqani and Salar were provided $200,000 to enable the attack on Chapman," the cable relates in an unredacted portion. "Haqqani then provided the money to Salar who then communicated the planning details to Mullawi (Sakh). Sakh then contacted Arghawan Afghan border commander of the Khost Provincial Force.

The cable then goes on to say that Arghawan was promised $100,000 for facilitating the attack by the then unnamed Jordanian national (whose identity came to be known only later), but since Arghawan himself was killed in the attack, Salar kept the $100,000.

Which means, despite knowing Pakistan bankrolled the killing of its personnel, including two female agents who put their lives on line in a remote forward post, Washington still went ahead and rewarded Islamabad with billions of dollars in aid — and has continued to do so to this day with finance and armaments.

The Camp Chapman attack is counted as the second largest single-day loss in the CIA's history, after the 1983 United States Embassy bombing in Beirut, Lebanon, which killed eight CIA officers.

While the cable relating to the Camp Chapman attack does not identify by name the ISI officer who supplied the $200,000, other cables in the collection shows, with names, how deeply the ISI is enmeshed in terrorism. "As of late December 2009, at the end of every month, senior Haqqani network leadership met with ISID in Islamabad," a January 2010 cable states. Identifying Colonel Nasib and Major Daoud as the handlers. "An unknown amount of funding was provided to the Haqqanis for use in unspecified operations during these meetings," it continues. In a subsequent meeting, the cable says, the ISI directorate asked the Haqqanis "to expedite attack preparations and lethality in Afghanistan."

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/Pakistans-ISI-funded-deadly-attack-on-CIA-camp-in-Afghanistan-US-National-Security-Archive/articleshow/51819428.cms

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Arab World

Islamic State asks its followers to slaughter Muslim clerics

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

London: ISIS terror group has issued a list of names of Muslim clerics, calling them "imams of kafir" and asking its followers to kill anyone who disagrees with them including Islamic leaders.

In the latest issue of its propaganda magazine Dabiq, the ISIS, also known as Daesh, has singled out those clerics who criticise them and said the "imams of kafir" (leaders of infidels) should be slaughtered.

Muslim clerics across the world, including in Britain and India, have condemned the attacks by ISIS in Europe, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, saying being a Muslim was about peace, not violence.

A number of British Muslim imams have openly condemned the ISIS-inspired attacks in Paris, Brussels, Tunisia, Turkey and the Ivory Coast over the last few months.

In September last year, nearly 1,000 Muslim clerics in India signed a fatwa against ISIS and other terror groups, saying they were "not Islamic organisations".

In a chapter called 'Kill the Imams of kafir in the west', the magazine said: "How can Muslims living in the West who claim to have surrendered themselves to Allah, completely accepting His rule alone, stand idly as these imams of kafir continue to spread their poison from atop their pulpits?

"One must either take the journey to dar-al-Islam, joining the ranks of the mujahid or wage jihad by himself with the resources available to him (knives, guns, explosives, etc.) to kill the crusaders and other disbelievers and apostates, including the imams of kafir, to make an example of them, as all of them are valid ? rather, obligatory ? targets," the Express newspaper reported, citing the magazine.

The group has published a list of names of Imams it has singled out as being "kafir". However, the paper did not disclose their names.

The magazine also identified those behind the Brussels terror attacks and praised them along with their photographs.  PTI

zeenews.india.com/news/world/islamic-state-asks-its-followers-to-slaughter-muslim-clerics_1875889.html

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ISIS Has Hit List of Western Muslim Leaders

April 13, 2016

The latest issue (number 14) of the Islamic State’s propaganda magazine, Dabiq, published April 13, contains a hitlist of Muslim leaders in the West, specifically naming 21. A 22nd (Nihad Awad of the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Council on American Islamic Relations) is pictured, but not named.

Those whom the Islamic State is targeting are listed in a section entitled “Kill the Imams of Kufr (the infidels) in the West.”

It includes leaders from the US, Canada, the UK and Australia.

The list of leaders is very diverse and includes several who are linked to Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, despite the fact that the Islamic State’s ideology is directly descended from that of the Muslim Brotherhood. Indeed the theme of the issue, entitled The Murtadd Brotherhood, is focused on the illegitimacy of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Others on the hit list are Salafi leaders, Sufis or politicians. It even includes one jihadist, Abū Basīr at-Tartūsī.

The section closes with an exhortation to kill these and other unnamed leaders. Dabiq writes:

“One must either take the journey to dār al-Islām, joining the ranks of the mujāhidīn therein, or wage jihād by himself with the resources available to him (knives, guns, explosives, etc.) to kill the cru­saders and other disbelievers and apostates, including the imāms of kufr, to make an example of them, as all of them are valid – rather, obligatory – targets ac­cording to the Sharī’ah, except for those who openly repent from kufr before they are apprehended.”

The list shows the extent of the Islamic State’s adherence to the doctrine of takfir, which enables them to brand any Muslim who does not submit to their authority and hold by their interpretation of Islam a heretic worthy of death.

Clarion Project is reprinting the entire list here:

Hamza Yusuf

Suhaib Webb

Muhammad al-Yaqoubi

Hisham Kabbani

Yasir Qadhi

Bilal Philips

Pierre Vogel

Tawfique Chowdhury

Waleed Basyouni

Abdullah Hakim Quick

Abū Basīr at-Tartūsī

Mohamed Elibiary,

Arif Alikhan,

Rashad Hussain,

Keith Ellison,

Huma Abedin

Muhammad Abdul Bari,

Sayeeda Warsi,

Waqar Azmi,

Sajid Javid,

Ajmal Masroor

Note: Although Nihad Awad's name does not appear in the section, his picture does appear at the beginning of the section. One is therefore led to assume he has also been included on the hitlist.

clarionproject.org/news/isis-names-hit-list-western-muslim-leaders

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Saudi Arabia’s Religious Police Stripped of Prosecuting Citizens Who Violate Sharia

by Menachem Rephun

Saudi Arabia’s religious police (mutawa) have been stripped of their authority to prosecute citizens for violating Sharia law, various media report.

The new regulations were enacted by the Saudi government on Tuesday, as a response to local criticism of the way the police force carries out its role of defending Sharia law. In February, several members of the religious police were arrested for allegedly assaulting a young woman outside a Riyadh shopping mall. The incident was captured on video and uploaded to YouTube, according to BBC.com. A related incident took place in 2013, when four officers with the religious police were charged with creating a fatal car accident after chasing two brothers who refused to turn down the radio in their car. The officers were later acquitted.

In a statement, the Saudi government described the religious police as “an independent body, which has organizational relations with the prime minister.” The government also suggested that the religious police notify the Anti-Drug Authority of drug related crimes.

“Neither the members nor the heads of the religious police are allowed to arrest and persecute citizens for such crimes,” the government affirmed, “or even to ask suspected people for their IDs. Only the police and the Anti-Drug Authority are allowed to take these measures.”

Although the law restricting the powers of the religious police was approved on Monday, it was not published by the Cabinet until Tuesday. Under the new law, the religious police will be charged with “carrying out the duty of promoting virtue and preventing vice in a gentle and humane way, after the model set in this regard by the Prophet [Muhammad] and his rightful successors.” The religious police will be prohibited from pursuing and arresting suspects, or requesting identification. Suspicious behavior will be reported to regular police and anti-drug units. Islamic social mores, such as banning female driving and completely prohibiting the sale and consumption of alcohol, will continue to be enforced by the religious police.

jpupdates.com/2016/04/13/saudi-arabias-religious-police-stripped-of-prosecuting-citizens-who-violate-sharia/

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Lack of Transparency in Saudi Arabia Complicates Human Rights Reporting

14.04

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Discrimination based on gender, religion, race and ethnicity is widespread in Saudi Arabia, and human trafficking continues to plague Saudi society, according to the State Department.

"Lack of governmental transparency and access made it difficult to assess the magnitude of many reported human rights problems," the report, released on Wednesday, stated.

For example, the report noted that there were no confirmed reports of torture, even though many prisoners were serving sentences based on convictions they claimed were obtained through torture or physical abuse.

The report also said that violence against women remains a problem, with spousal abuse a common occurrence.

In addition, the report documented traditions within Islamic law that the Saudis cite to ban women drivers, limit inheritances due to wives and daughters, and discount female court testimony as worth half that of men.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, accompanied by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

The report, however, credited Saudi authorities with allowing women to run for public office and noted that several females had won positions in elected bodies.

Because Saudi Arabia has no written penal code that lists criminal offenses and recommended punishments, judges were free to determine sentences based on widely varying interpretations of Sharia law, the legal code of Islam, the report concluded.

sputniknews.com/middleeast/20160414/1037970881/saudi-arabia-transparency.html#ixzz45o8wwnoJ

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Islamic State destroys gates of Nineveh near Mosul

April 13, 2016           

BAGHDAD, April 13 (UPI) -- The Islamic State destroyed a 2,000-year-old ancient structure near the Iraqi city of Mosul called the Mashqi Gate, also known as the Gate of God.

The Mashqi Gate in the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh dated back to the 7th century B.C. during the rule of Sennacherib, former king of Assyria. Nineveh was once one of the largest cities in the world and is referenced in the Bible.

The Islamic State reportedly used military equipment to destroy the gate. A source from the British Institute for the Study of Iraq confirmed to The Independent that the gate had been attacked.

The militant Islamist group has made a habit of razing and destroying cities, and ancient cultural icons in the territories it acquires. In the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria, the Islamic State immediately began demolishing ancient ruins considered among the world's most treasured when it seized control in May last year.

The iconic Temple of Bel, the Arch of Triumph and the Temple of Baalshamin were among structures destroyed by the group identified as a terrorist organization by the United States.

The Iraqi government is in the midst of carrying out a long-term offensive to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State.

upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2016/04/13/Islamic-State-destroys-gates-of-Nineveh-near-Mosul/5101460553830/

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Russian Air Force Still Cleansing Palmyra of Terrorists

April 14, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Russian warplanes targeted the ISIL terrorists' positions in regions near the ancient city of Palmyra (Tadmur) in Homs province.

The Russian fighter jets pounded the ISIL gathering centers in al-Bardeh on Thursday.

The Russian bombers also struck several ISIL targets along the Palmyra-Deir Ezzur Highway, killing and wounding a large number of Takfiri terrorists.

Meantime, the Syrian Air Force destroyed the ISIL vehicles, some of them equipped with machineguns, near Quaryatayn in Homs province.

Field reports said that several Takfiri terrorists were killed in the airstrikes.

The Russian defense ministry announced on Wednesday that the country's engineers have cleared around 180 hectares of lands in the ancient city of Palmyra, defusing some 3,000 mines and explosive devices left by ISIL.

“Beginning April 1, over 30 kilometers of roads and more than 182 hectares of land have been cleared of mines, 2,987 explosive objects have been unearthed,” Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said in a teleconference at the National Defense Control Center.

 “Personnel conduct reconnaissance and explosives clearance using high-tech robotic tools,” Shoigu said.

The Russian minister added that Russia’s armed forces have also set up a field hospital in Palmyra to provide additional medical services to the Syrians who return their home in the city of Palmyra.

“The field hospital is equipped with the most advanced medical equipment to operate autonomously for 30 days. If necessary, both the Syrian military and local citizens returning back home in Palmyra can use the medical facility,” Shoigu said.

Syrian forces, backed by the Russian air support, kicked out ISIL terrorists from Palmyra on March 27, an achievement considered a strategic win.

The city had been under ISIL control for more than 10 months, during which the terrorists destroyed a number of unique ancient monuments, including the Arch of Triumph and the iconic 2,000-year-old Bel Temple. The City of Palms has been left partly devastated and ridden with explosive devices.

Russian anti-mine and explosive engineers continue work in Palmyra in order to clear the ancient city of mines and other explosive devices left behind by ISIL.

In average the Russian anti-bomb forces clear 20 hectares of land in Palmyra each day, as the Russian military said yesterday, they defuse or dismantle a total of 117 explosive devices.

ISIL terrorists, while retreating from and leaving Palmyra, planted mines and explosive devices to slow the advance momentum by the Syrian army and its allies, however Russian mine sweepers have been dispatched to the city to dismantle the mines and explosive devices left by terrorists in city as civilians began returning to their homes.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950126000570

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Tens of Terrorists Killed in Syrian Air Force's Special Operations in Deir Ezzur

April 14, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Southern parts of Deir Ezzur province were heavily pounded by the Syrian warplanes on Thursday, leaving scores of ISIL terrorists dead or wounded.

The Syrian Air Force carried out special operations in the Southern parts of Deir Ezzur province, destroying the ISIL's largest training camp in the city of Mohassan.

The heavy airstrikes killed tens of Takfiri terrorists and injured dozens of others, destroying their weapons, equipment and vehicles.

Also, on Wednesday the Syrian fighter jets pounded and destroyed the military centers and headquarters of the ISIL Takfiri terrorists in Deir Ezzur province, inflicting heavy losses and casualties on them.

The ISIL's military positions and headquarters were razed down in al-Roshdiyah, Hosseiniyeh, Sheikh Yassin and Saker regions in the Syrian airstrikes on Wednesday.

Scores of the ISIL terrorists were killed and wounded in the Syrian fighter jets' raids on their positions.

The Takfiri terrorists' military hardware and vehicles were also destroyed in the Syrian warplanes' attacks.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950126000428

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Tens of Pro-Hadi Militias Killed in Clashes with Army in Yemen

14 Apr, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Yemeni army and popular forces inflicted large casualties on militants loyal to the former fugitive President Mansour Hadi in clashes in the 9th region.

At least 50 pro-Hadi militias were killed in al-Taba al-Hamra region in the Ninth region in heavy clashes with the army and Ansarullah fighters, the Arabic-language media outlets reported.

The military hardware of the pro-Hadi militias were also destroyed in the clashes.

In a relevant development on Wednesday, Saudi warplanes targeted a number of areas across Yemen for the third day since a UN-brokered ceasefire went into force.

Yemen's al-Masirah television network said Saudi jets bombarded the Dhubab district of Ta'izz Province as well as the Sirwah and Jebel Hilan districts of Ma'rib Province.

According to the report, Saudi-backed militants also launched mortar attacks on the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, and in the province of Jawf.

Pro-Saudi forces further carried out missile attacks in the Yemeni provinces of Shabwah, Lahij and Dhale despite the truce that took effect at midnight on Sunday.

The truce was announced by the UN special envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed as a step to calm the situation ahead of negotiations between the warring sides scheduled to be held in Kuwait on April 18.

The Ansarullah movement on Monday recorded 39 violations of the truce by the Saudis and their allies, including attacks in Ta’iz and the Central province of Baida. They said Saudi warplanes also flew sorties over several areas of Yemen.

Saudi officials responded by describing the breaches as “minor,” accusing the Ansarullah of carrying out attacks on forces loyal to Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, Yemen’s resigned president who enjoys support from Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia has been waging a war on Yemen since late March 2015 in a bid to reinstate Hadi and undermine the Ansarullah movement, which took over state matters after Hadi resigned.

Over 9,400 Yemenis, including 4,000 women and children, have lost their lives in the deadly military campaign.

Yemenis, in return, have been carrying out retaliatory attacks on the pro-Saudi forces deployed in the country as well as targets inside Saudi Arabia.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950125001360

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Iranian FM Reminds Saudis of Tariq Aziz's Fate

April 14, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned the Saudi officials against the outcomes of their unconstructive plots and acts against Tehran, reminding them of the fate of former Iraqi Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz who died in prison last year.

Addressing the Tuesday meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation summit in Istanbul, Zarif reacted to the Saudi-backed anti-Iran and anti-Hezbollah paragraphs predicted in the final statement of the OIC summit, and described it against the spirit of Islamic solidarity and in line with the Zionist regime's interests.

He reminded of the instrumental use of the OIC during the Iraqi-imposed war against Iran (1980-1988), and said, "At that time, Mr. Tariq Aziz, the then Iraqi foreign minister, provided the ground for the approval of certain paragraphs against Iran with the support of certain regional states but we didn’t pay any attention to that anti-Iran approach. We should take lessons from the past. See where Tariq Aziz is now."

Zarif also blasted Riyadh and its allies' approach against the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance group, and said, "This act merely gladdens and encourages the Zionist regime."

He stressed the necessity for the OIC to pursue a policy of strengthening unity among the Islamic states.

Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations with Iran on January 3 following demonstrations held in front of its embassy in Tehran and its consulate in Mashhad by angry protesters censuring the Al Saud family for the execution of prominent Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in Riyadh on January 2.

Nimr’s execution caused international outrage and sparked anti-Saudi demonstrations in many other countries.

Riyadh has also been attempting to rock the boat in relations between Iran and other world states and has spared no efforts to pressure Tehran.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950126000197

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Parliamentary polls held in areas under Syrian govt control

April 14th, 2016

DAMASCUS: Syrians went to the polls on Wednesday in areas controlled by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime for parliamentary elections dismissed by the opposition as illegitimate.

The vote coincides with the beginning of a second round of UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva aimed at ending the devastating five-year conflict, with Assad’s future a key sticking point. Around 7,200 polling stations opened at 7am in government-held areas — about a third of the country’s territory where about 60 per cent of the population lives.

They will remain open for 12 hours unless the electoral commission decides to extend the deadline.

Assad’s Baath party, which has controlled the country for more than half a century, is expected to extend its dominance of parliament, although several parties are participating in the polls.

“I voted because this election will decide the country’s future. I hope that the winners will be true to the nation even before being true to the voters,” Yamin al-Homsi, a 37-year old who voted in Damascus, said.

Samer Issa, a taxi driver, said he had “fulfilled his national duty” by casting his vote. “Now, it’s up to the winners to fulfil their promises,” the 58-year-old added.

The presidency published photos of a smiling Assad and his wife Asma casting their ballots in Damascus and speaking to volunteers at the polling station.

The domestic opposition which is tolerated in Damascus last month called for a widespread boycott, accusing the government of using the vote to gain leverage in peace talks.

The High Negotiations Committee, the main opposition body involved in the talks, has branded the election “illegitimate”.

dawn.com/news/1251889/parliamentary-polls-held-in-areas-under-syrian-govt-control

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Army Source Dismisses Militants' Claims on Seizing Airbase in Damascus

April 14th, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- An informed military source strongly rejected rumors spread by the Takfiri terrorists about their victories against the Syrian government forces in al-Dumeir military airbase in Damascus province.

"Such rumors have been spread by the Takfiri terrorists due to the heavy blows that they have sustained from the army across Syria," the source said on Thursday.

"The airbase is under the full control of the Syrian army soldiers," he underlined.

The ISIL launched powerful assault to enter the strategic al-Dumeir military airport, but the Syrian army and popular forces repelled their attempts.

During the weekend, the Syrian Army troops fended off the terrorist groups' attempts to prevail over the government forces' strongholds around the vital al-Dumeir military airport and forced them to retreat from the battlefront.

"Al-Dumeir airbase that is 40 kilometers to the Northeast of Damascus city is under the full control of the Syrian army men," a source in the airbase said.

"The military airport is secure and no terrorist group can approach it," he further added. 

"The terrorist groups left behind scores of the dead or wounded members and fled the battlefield," the commander pointed out.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950126000461

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Al-Nusra Front's Attack on Strategic Hilltop Fails after Fierce Clashes

April 14th, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian army and its allies blocked al-Nusra Front's attack to seize a strategic hilltop in the Northern side of the town of Kinsibba near Turkmen mountain.

The Al-Nusra Front attempted to bypass the Syrian army’s defenses at the strategic mountaintop of Jabal Qal’at, resulting in a series of fierce clashes.

According to a field source, the Syrian army managed to spot the Takfiri terrorists trying to infiltrate Jabal Qal’at in Lattakia province and forced them to retreat from the battlefield after leaving behind scores of the dead or wounded members.

At least 5 militants were killed in the clashes while others retreated towards the Aleppo-Lattakia Highway, the source added.

In a relevant development in Lattakia on Monday, the Syrian army troops thwarted attempts of the terrorist groups, mainly the al-Nusra Front, to break through the government forces' strongholds near Kinsibba.

The Syrian soldiers alongside their popular allies repelled the terrorist groups' attacks on the government forces' checkpoints near Abu Ali and al-Qamua mountains in Kinsibba region, which ended in the killing or wounding of tens of terrorists and destruction of their armored vehicles.

The Syrian army and the National Defense Force further opened heavy fire at those terrorists who fled the battlefield and tried to cross Syria border to Turkey.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950126000341

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Defense Ministry Delivers 2,000-ton Floating Dock to Iranian Navy

April 14th, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- A home-made floating dock, with the capacity of launching 2,000-ton vessels, was delivered to the Navy in Iran's Northern waters in the Caspian Sea.

The giant vessel was delivered to the Navy in a ceremony participated by Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan and Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari on Thursday.

The dock named 'Gilan 2000' is 110 meters in length, 22 meters in width and 11 meters in height and can be applied for launching different types of vessels less than 2,000 tons in weight.

Addressing the ceremony, General Dehqan said that the dock enjoys high level of automation, is highly reliable, uses advanced control and monitoring systems and has proper equipment to repair the vessels in the sea for one month without taking assistance from the coast.

Also, in April 2015, a home-made floating dock, with the capacity of launching 150-ton vessels, was delivered to the Iranian Navy in Iran's waters in the South.

"We can very powerful claim that the know-how for building, repairing and maintaining different types of floating docks which was earlier mastered only by the European countries has become indigenized by the (Iranian) Navy experts," Sayyari said at the time, addressing the ceremony in the Southern port city of Khorramshahr.

"Building different destroyers, missile-launching frigates and warships, logistics warships and submarines to continue and expand the presence of the Islamic Republic of Iran's Navy in free waters is a main plan on the agenda of the Navy in the current (Iranian) year (which started on March 21) to promote this Force's scientific, military and defensive power," he added.

Also, Ekhtelat, the manager of Khorramshahr's Shahid Moussavi ship-building industry, addressed the ceremony, and said the floating dock can be applied for launching different types of vessels less than 150 tons in weight.

Noting that the dock can also be used for relief and rescue missions in the Persian Gulf and the international waters, he announced the country's plans for renovation and launch of a new floating dock with the capacity of launching 800-ton vessels.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950126000281

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10,000 Syrian Forces on Alert to Start Massive Anti-Terrorism Operations in Aleppo

April 14th, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Military sources in the Northern province of Aleppo revealed the army's plans to start massive operations against the remaining Takfiri terrorists with 10,000 operating soldiers.

"The Syrian army has deployed 10,000 soldiers in Aleppo front to begin a large-scale military operation to push the Takfiris back from the remaining villages which are under the terrorists' control," the military source said on Thursday.

Relevant reports on Tuesday said that the commanders of the Syrian Ground and Air Forces, their allies and the Russian military advisors, in a joint meeting, coordinated the last steps of a large-scale operation in Aleppo to liberate the terrorist-held territories as soon as possible, military sources said.

"The Large-scale operation to wipe out the militancy in Aleppo province is expected to start in the next 10 days," the sources said, adding, "Fresh recruits in large groups are heading Aleppo from the coastal province of Lattakia."

Also, on Monday, a report said that the al-Nusra Front terrorist group, for its part, dispatched more troops to Aleppo following the rapid victories of the Syrian Armed Forces in the Northwestern part of the province.

"The al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front have dispatched nearly 350 fresh forces to join the terrorist front near the refugee camp of Handarat and Yarmoun to slow down the rapid advances of the Syrian Army troops and their popular allies in the region in the last two-three days," the sources said.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950126000391

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Report: US Military Advisors Secretly Meet ISIL Leaders

April 14th, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The US military advisors whose mission is to provide military counseling services to the Kurdish popular forces have had secret meetings with the ISIL Takfiri terrorist group, media reports said.

"Seven US military advisors whose job was coordinating joint operations of Iraqi army, Kurdish and volunteer forces have met senior ISIL leaders with the help of local tribes at least twice," Turkey's Yeni Shafaq daily quoted unnamed informed sources as saying on Wednesday.

The newspaper wrote that one of the meetings took place near the city of Mosul on November 7, 2015 with the mediation of Shemr tribe and the second meeting occurred near Haweija region in Kirkuk province on February 3, 2016.

Yeni Shafaq said that the US military servicemen had first asked for help from Tahee tribe, but they refrained from doing so after they found out that Tahee tribe had ties with Ankara and fearing that the Turkish government might find out about it.

The relations between the US and the ISIL dates back to the time when US embassy in Baghdad and the US consulate in Erbil declared that 85 percent of the ISIL terrorists are Iraqis and some of them are former members of Iraq's Ba'ath Party.

In a relevant development in January, military sources disclosed that the elite US Delta Forces are carrying out a clandestine operation in Iraq.

"The CIA is the mastermind of the secret dispatch of the US special forces who are now in Iraq under the name of Delta Force," the Arabic-language media outlets quoted retired Iraqi Army Officer Brigadier General Talal Abdel Rahman al-Hamdani as saying.

He, however, underlined that the number of the US Delta forces is not so high, adding that they are hidden in residential areas among the Iraqi people.

"The Delta forces have been trained to assassinate Iraq's political figures and carry out dangerous military operations," Brigadier General al-Hamdani added.

He did not provide any further details about the US Delta Forces in Iraq.

Meantime, senior Iraqi MP Rasoul al-Tayee called on the Iraqi government to probe into the presence of the US Delta forces in Iraq.

Also earlier today, the Iraqi volunteer forces' commanders lashed out at the US and its regional allies for continuing their military and logistical supports for the ISIL Takfiri terrorists in Iraq.

"Washington is still continuing its military supports for the terrorists in Iraq," Spokesman of Iraq's Ansarullah al-Nujaba Movement Hashem al-Moussavi told FNA on Wednesday.

He reiterated that al-Nujaba Movement forces are collecting documents, photos and videos of supplies airdropped by the US-led coalition forces for the ISIL terrorists in Iraq.

"Our forces have filmed the US aircraft while dropping military aids for the besieged ISIL terrorists," al-Moussavi said.

He reiterated that while the ISIL was losing the battle, they continued fighting the volunteer forces for 48 hours after they received mortar shells and weapons airdropped by the US warplanes.

Meantime, member of Iraq's Seyed al-Shohada battalions' politburo Hassan Abdel Hadi said the Iraqi volunteer forces are concerned about coming under further attacks of the US warplanes in order to prevent their advances in different parts of the ISIL-controlled areas.

"Unfortunately, there are still some people in Iraq who have been deceived by the US-led coalition, while Washington supports the ISIL and is trying to compensate for the damages done to the Takfiri terrorists by the volunteer forces," Abdel Hadi said.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950125001125

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India

PM Modi asks Muslim leaders to discuss problems, reach out to help resolve issues

MANAN KUMAR | Thu, 14 Apr 2016

Making yet another effort to reach out to the Muslims, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday complained to the community leaders for not coming forward to meet him which can resolve several issues and problems.

After meeting prime minister, the delegation consisting of 11 Muslim community leaders and intelligentsia also met union home minister Rajnath Singh who shared their concern of huge trust deficit between the government and the community and the need to bridge it at the earliest.

While some delegates congratulated the prime minister Modi for being conferred the highest civilian award King Abdulaziz Sash award, there were others who raised the issue of increasing fear psychosis among Muslims.

Delegates like Qamar Agha, Qurban Ali and Mufti Aijaz Arshad Qasmi requested the Prime Minister to rein in motormouth leaders of BJP and other right wing organisations to help remove increasing panic.

National Security Advisor Ajit Doval was present in the 40-odd minutes long meeting.

"We went to meet the Prime Minister in our individual capacities and the main idea was that there is a need to talk to the government to explain the concerns which are putting the community on tenterhooks and making it introvert,"said Qurban Ali, a noted scholar.

Qamar Agha, expert in geopolitics of West and Southeast Asia, said, "Our aim was to make the Prime Minister aware of the socio-economic, educational and security issues that Muslims of the country are facing and suggest possible ways to overcome those. We reminded the Modi to put his slogan of Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas in practice."

The delegates also explained to the Prime Minister the need to keep minority status of institutions like Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia and also requested the prime minister to help the Waqf Board free its properties so that the money earned from those could be utilised for empowering the community in the filed of education and employment.

"We asked the prime to give more autonomy and power to the ministry of minority affairs which has not done anything worthwhile so far in the current dispensation. We also stressed on the need to revitalise the multi-sectoral development programme (MSDP) that has been lying defunct to construct schools in minority dominated areas,"said Mufti Aijaz Arshad Qasmi, member, Muslim Personal Law Board and President, Darul Deoband Old Boys Association.

Delegates said Modi was pretty receptive to their observations and assured support of his government in carrying forward the pointers flagged during the meeting.

dnaindia.com/india/report-pm-asks-muslim-leaders-to-reach-out-to-help-resolve-issues-2201879

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Eminent Muslims meet Indian PM, Modi, laud his development agenda

IANS

New Delhi, April 13 (IANS) A delegation of eminent Muslims called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday and appreciated his Saudi Arabia visit and development agenda, an official statement said.

The members of the delegation included Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawwad, expert on International Islamic Affairs Kamar Agha, and journalist Shahid Siddiqui among others.

The members of the delegation congratulated the prime minister on his recent successful visit to Saudi Arabia, and said the people in West Asia, Central Asia and North Africa, especially the youth, are extremely impressed with the development agenda of the prime minister.

The delegation also praised the prime minister's development agenda and his successful implementation record, the statement said.

Modi thanked the delegation, and reiterated his commitment to development, laying special stress on education, and especially on education of girl child.

The prime minister expressed hope that the Muslim community in India will be able to derive huge benefit from the welfare schemes initiated by the National Democratic Alliance government, such as the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, and Mudra Yojana.

ianslive.in/index.php?param=news/Eminent_Muslims_meet_Modi_laud_his_development_agenda-506630/TopStory/30

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5000-strong; Indian Jews seek minority status

IANS | New Delhi | 13 April, 2016

The Indian Jewish community has reiterated its demand for recognition as a minority community in the country. The community has moved an application with the Union Minority Affairs Ministry to this effect, official sources said.

“We have received a request from the Jewish community to be notified as a minority community. We have forwarded their request to the concerned department,” said an official.

Currently, there are around 5,000 Jewish Indian nationals, living in various parts of the country. The majority—around 4,000— live in and around Mumbai.

At present, there are six notified minority communities in India, namely the Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, Parsis and Jains.

“Jews have been part of the Indian society for 2,300 years now. But post Independence, we have not been recognised as a minority,” said Rabbi Ezekiel Isaac Malekar, the head of the Jewish community in Delhi.

“If we get the official recognition as a minority community, a lot of things would become easier for us. For example, it would become easier for us to register our marriages, which are currently registered under special categories,” he said.

“We would also be able to set up our own educational institutes and practise and promote our culture,” Malekar said.

thestatesman.com/news/latest-headlines/indian-jews-approach-government-for-minority-status/136116.html#r8QdjIhCLUek1o5X.99

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Death of Indian: Acting Indian high commissioner to take up issue with Pakistan

PTI | Apr 13, 2016

NEW DELHI: India on Wednesday asked its acting high commissioner in Islamabad to seek a meeting with the Pakistan Foreign Office in connection with the death of an Indian under mysterious circumstances in a jail there.

The envoy has also been instructed to seek early transfer of the mortal remains of Kirpal Singh, who was found dead in his cell in a Lahore Jail where he was languishing for over 20 years in connection with a serial blasts case there.

"On Kirpal Singh, our acting high commissioner in Islamabad has been instructed to seek a meeting at the highest possible level in Pakistan Foreign Office this forenoon to seek early transportation of Singh's mortal remains.

"He will also seek official information on the cause of the death and postmortem report etc," external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swaroop said.

50-year-old Kirpal Singh was languishing in a Pakistani jail for nearly 25 years on spying charges and was found dead in his cell on Monday under mysterious circumstances.

Kirpal Singh had allegedly crossed Wagah border into Pakistan in 1992 and was arrested. He was subsequently sentenced to death in a serial bomb blasts case in Pakistan's Punjab province.

Kirpal, who hailed from Gurdaspur, was reportedly acquitted of bomb blast charges by the Lahore High Court but his death sentence could not be commuted due to unknown reasons.

Jagir Kaur, Kirpal's sister, earlier said the family could not raise voice for his release due to financial constraints and no politician came forward to plead his case.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/Death-of-Indian-Acting-Indian-high-commissioner-to-take-up-issue-with-Pakistan/articleshow/51805915.cms

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2,100 Indian Sikhs arrive in Pakistan to attend Baisakhi festival

PTI | Apr 13, 2016

LAHORE: More than 2,100 Indian Sikhs arrived here on Tuesday to take part in Baisakhi Festival at Gurdwara Hasan Abdal in Rawalpindi district of Pakistan's Punjab province.

"More than 2,100 Sikh Yatrees arrived here today via Wagah Border on three special trains," Evacuee Trust Property Board spokesman Amir Hashmi said.

He said special measures have been adopted to provide security to them.

"The Rangers and Elite Force have been engaged to provide security to the Sikh pilgrims," he said.

In the wake of bombing at a Lahore park which left 75 people dead, the government has taken "extra-ordinary" security measures for the visiting Sikhs.

Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbhandik Committee caretaker president Tara Singh and ETPB chairman Siddiqul Farooq received the yatress at the Wagah border.

The yatrees were presented with langar (food) at the railway station.

Soon after the arrival, the Indian Sikhs left for Hasanabdal to participate in 10-day Besakhi festivities starting tomorrow.

The main event will be held on April 14.

The Indian Sikhs would also visit Gurdwara Janamesthan Nankana Sahib, Gurdwara Sacha Soda in Farooqabad, Gurdawara Kartarpur Narowal and Gurdwara Dera Sahib Lahore.

They will leave for their home on April 21.

Talking to reporters, Sikh leader Sardar Manmohan Singh Khalsa stressed for people-to-people contacts between the two countries and demanded lifting of visa curbs for the purpose.

He said: "We receive enormous love at the land of Baba Gurunanak. People are extremely hospitable here."

He said the people of India were saddened by terror attacks on Peshawar school and Lahore park.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/2100-Indian-Sikhs-arrive-in-Pakistan-to-attend-Baisakhi-festival/articleshow/51804582.cms

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Mobile internet services suspended in Kashmir

PTI | Apr 14, 2016

SRINAGAR: Curfew-like restrictions continued for the second day in parts of Kashmir and mobile internet services were on Thursday suspended in some areas as tension prevailed in the valley following killing of four persons in action by security forces during violent protests since Tuesday.

Strict restrictions have been imposed in Kupwara town, Kralgund, Handwara, Magam and Langate areas in north Kashmir to maintain law and order, a police official said.

He said the restrictions were imposed following death of three persons during protests against alleged molestation of a girl by a soldier in Handwara town on Tuesday. Another youth was killed in Drugmulla area of Kupwara during protests against the Handwara incident on Wednesday.

J&K firing: Handwara girl says no soldier molested her, accuses local youth of harassment

Restrictions also continue in six police station areas of Srinagar city where sporadic incidents of stone-pelting were reported through the day yesterday, the official said.

He said the affected police station areas include Safakadal, Maharajgunj, Khanyar, Nowhatta, Rainawari and Maisuma.

Normal life remained affected in the valley due to a strike call by separatist groups. Markets remained closed while public transport was off the roads due to the strike.

Authorities have suspended mobile internet services in north Kashmir areas to curb the menace of rumour mongering, the official said.

Although the situation in most of the valley has been peaceful so far, isolated cases of stone-pelting have been reported from some parts including south Kashmir's Kulgam town, he said.

They should also quote that the girl herself has cl... Read MoreSanjeev Kumar Vyas

A cab driver was injured in a stone-pelting incident in Kulgam, the official said.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Mobile-internet-services-suspended-in-Kashmir/articleshow/51821525.cms

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Europe

ISIS celebrates ‘blessed’ Brussels bombings, threatens to damage Western economies

Big News Network.comThursday 14th April, 2016

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Even as the Islamic State Militant Group (ISIS) continues to issue fresh threats to Europe followed by its brutal Brussels bombings, the militant group is also suffering loss in Syria and Turkey.

Amidst this, ISIS has now released the 14th issue of its propaganda magazine, Dabiq. The extremist group not only names the masterminds behind its recent spate of terrorising acts, including the Paris and Brussels bombings - but knights the attacks, while mourning the loss of the suicide bombers.

In the glossy 68-page magazine, the militant group praised the suicide bombers who blew themselves up at the packed Brussels airport and metro station in March 2016, killing 32 people.

It profiled four of the attackers as “knights” of the group’s violence and celebrated its “blessed” bombings in Brussels.

ISIS wrote in the foreword to the magazine, “Brussels, the heart of Europe, has been struck. The blood of its vitality spilled on the ground, trampled under the feet of the mujahideen. Paris was a warning. Brussels was a reminder. What is yet to come will be more devastating and more bitter.”

Explaining its “well-planned massacre operation on March 22,” ISIS praised brothers Ibrahim and Khalid el-Bakraoui, and Najim Laachraoui who spearheaded the attack. The brothers were said to be the key logisticians in the terror cell that carried out both the Brussels and Paris attacks. Even though the magazine confirmed the findings of Belgian investigators, who had claimed that Laachraoui was a bomb-maker for both the Paris and Brussels attacks, they did not mention anything about Mohamed Abrini.

Abrini was recently nabbed by the investigators in Brussels and is said to have admitted being the ‘Man in the Hat’ spotted in the CCTV footage before the attack.

ISIS meanwhile went on to reveal that Laachraoui had “completed his training” after being injured fighting in Syria.

The group also paid tribute to Mohamed Belkaid, who was shot dead in the Brussels police raid that eventually led to the capture of Salah Abdeslam, who is said to be behind the Paris attacks and a contributor to the Brussels bombings.

The magazine has reportedly added photos of the dead attackers, alongside images of the aftermath of the Brussels attacks, with bloodied victims and the destruction it caused at the airport terminal and the metro station.

It also vowed to continue carrying out global atrocities until all Muslims live under its brutal interpretation of Sharia law.

Adding, “Flames ignited years ago in Iraq have now scorched the battleground of Belgium, soon to spread to the rest of crusader Europe and the West. What is yet to come will be more devastating and more bitter by the permission of Allah. Having heeded the lessons of years spent fighting the harshest of wars in modern times, the soldiers of the Islamic State promise their adversaries dark days of death and destruction in their own lands. Bullets and shrapnel will slash and pierce all those whom Allah’s soldiers reach. Survivors will be scarred physically and mentally, haunted whenever their eyes are closed, whenever they blink. The sounds of sirens will fill the air, preceded by blasts from bombs planted in all the right places.”

The militant group further outlined its intention to damage Western economies and infrastructure and also threatened more attacks on Europe.

The magazine also featured a section on British ISIS hostage John Cantlie revealing captive U.S. journalist James Foley’s final words minutes before he was executed. It said that Foley, who was captured in 2012, turned to his fellow hostage Cantlie and quietly said, “Great, captured on Thanksgiving day, killed on my mom’s birthday,” before being led out.

ISIS further issued a threat to Huma Abedin, a high-profile aide to Hillary Clinton, and to a U.S. Congressman Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn.

The threat was reportedly part of a long article that called extremists to arms, identifying them as “overt crusaders” and “politically active apostates” who “involve themselves in the politics and enforcing laws of the kufr [disbelievers].”

The SITE Intelligence Group added that ISIS has listed Muslims in the West, that it claims should be killed for their work and has named several officials in the U.S., U.K. and around the Western world.

bignewsnetwork.com/news/243139955/isis-celebrates-blessed-brussels-bombings-threatens-to-damage-western-economies

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Report Suggests Radical Islamists Infiltrating German Military to Receive Training

Posted on: April 13, 2016

A growing number of Islamist radicals are infiltrating Germany’s military, the Bundeswehr, with an estimated 30 former soldiers later joining international terrorist organizations, reports German press agency DPA International.

Germany’s military counterintelligence service (MAD) says 65 active soldiers are under investigation for suspected Islamist tendencies. Since 2007, 22 soldiers designated as Islamists have been discharged or left the military. Moreover, 29 former soldiers have left for Syria and Iraq to join Islamist terrorist organizations.

“We perceive a risk that the Bundeswehr may be used as a training ground for potentially violent Islamists,” says MAD leader Christof Gramm.

German intelligence believes that the Islamic State is actively recruiting operatives with a military background. Moreover, Germany’s Ministry of Defense expressed concern that no background checks are required for soldiers in unclassified positions.

Right Side News covers issues the mainstream news doesn’t.

“Like all armies, the Bundeswehr can be attractive to Islamists seeking weapons training…,” Hans-Peter Bartels, the parliamentary commissioner for the military, told the DPA. Bartels added that Islamists in the German army pose “a real danger that needs to be taken seriously.”

Following the January 2015 Paris attacks targeting the Charlie Hebdo satirical publication, Gramm became increasingly concerned since the terrorists appeared to have professional military training.

“It would be negligent of a MAD president not to ask what would happen if a Bundeswehr-trained Islamist did something like this, and we had failed to notice anything,” Gramm said.

In one case, a German convert to Islam, called Sascha B for anonymity, gradually began exhibiting signs of increased religiosity and extremism. He began growing his beard, wearing Middle Eastern attire, and even going AWOL at times.

Sascha B eventually refused to train reservists after soldiers in his unit were deployed to Afghanistan. He justified his position by arguing that weapons could be used against other Muslims. During interrogation by MAD officials, Sascha B proclaimed that sharia law should override Germany’s constitution.

Several prominent examples of Islamist infiltration within the U.S. military also have caused immense concern.

A Muslim army soldier killed two comrades and injured 14 others after throwing a live grenade in a tent in Kuwait prior to the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. In 2009, U.S. Army major and psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hassan shot and killed 13 people at Fort Hood because he believed that no Muslim could faithfully serve in the U.S. military.

Hassan exhibited signs of increased radicalism for a significant period of time prior to the terrorist attack. “It’s getting harder and harder for Muslims in the service to morally justify being in a military that seems constantly engaged against fellow Muslims,” Hasan said during a 2007 presentation at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Three years later, Army Pvt. Naser Jason Abdo was arrested for planning an attack on a popular restaurant frequented by Fort Hood troops. He plotted to set off an explosives device in the restaurant, then shoot and kill as many survivors as possible.

When his mother asked her son why he would commit the terrorist attack, Abdo replied: “The reason is religion, Mom.”

rightsidenews.com/world/islamic-terrorism/report-suggests-radical-islamists-infiltrating-german-military-to-receive-training/

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29 German soldiers have joined ISIS, army may contain dozens of jihadist sympathizers – report

13 Apr, 2016

German counter-intelligence believes that at least 29 former soldiers from the country have left to join Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. An internal report also revealed that 65 active soldiers are being investigated for alleged jihadist sympathies.

The report was undertaken by the German military counter intelligence service (MAD), which was seen by the DPA news agency. The documents show that at least 29 former German soldiers have fled to the Middle East to join Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

Social Democratic Party (SPD) MP Hans-Peter Bartels, who is responsible for oversight of the army, said on Tuesday that “Islamism isn't the main problem of the Bundeswehr (German Army), however, he did mention that “it represents a real danger that we have to take seriously.”

As many as 22 soldiers have been identified within the Germany Army of being Islamists since 2007, with 17 being sacked. The remaining five had reached the end of their service when the investigation had been concluded.

According to DPA, MAD has investigated a total of 320 suspected cases of Islamism since 2007.

Alarmed by the revelations, the German Defense Ministry now wants MAD to take greater steps to ensure that jihadists are not infiltrating the German Army. This will include every prospective soldier being investigated for links to anti-Constitutional movements. However, this would need the law to be changed.

At present, only those joining sensitive areas of the military have had to undergo background checks, while ordinary soldiers have not had to go through any vetting process.

“Just like other fighting forces, the Bundeswehr can be attractive for Islamists who want to acquire weapons training,” Bartels said. “But to my knowledge there is so far no systematic push by Islamist organizations to infiltrate the army.”

German domestic intelligence has also warned that there is a threat of future attacks in German cities from newly arrived migrants, amid fears that newly-arrived migrants are being radicalized.

“We see the security situation as very serious, though we have no immediate intelligence on planned attacks in Germany,” the head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Hans-Georg Maassen, told Die Welt newspaper in a comprehensive interview released on Sunday. His office acts as Germany’s main counter-intelligence and homeland security agency reporting to the Interior Ministry.

“IS is willing to carry out attacks on Germany and German interests,” he said, adding that in IS propaganda German cities are placed next to Paris, London and Brussels – all previous targets of large terror attacks.

The homeland security chief said airports and railway stations, as well as large-scale public events such as open air fests, were the most likely targets for potential attacks. In addition, Maassen stressed that “we’ve seen many times that those [German nationals] who returned from Syria had links to planning attacks in Germany.”

A recent study conducted by the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT) and published on April 1 says that between 720 and 760 Germans are believed to have traveled to join IS

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UN begins round of Syria peace talks in Geneva

Reuters | Apr 13, 2016

GENEVA: UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura began a new round of Syria talks on Wednesday by meeting members of the main opposition High Negotiations Committee in Geneva.

De Mistura and the HNC delegates appeared grim-faced and tense as they began the session, remaining silent while a Reuters camerawoman filmed the opening moments of the session.

A Syrian government delegation is expected to arrive on Friday.

The previous round ended on March 24 with de Mistura promising to hone in on the divisive question of Syria's political transition when the warring parties returned to Geneva.

Since then he has met officials in Moscow, Damascus and Tehran to gather opinions about the way forward, while Syria's partial ceasefire has been tested by a flare up in fighting and Syria's government has held a parliamentary election which it called a show of support for President Bashar al-Assad.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/europe/UN-begins-round-of-Syria-peace-talks-in-Geneva/articleshow/51816070.cms?

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North America

Pakistan's ISI funded deadly attack on CIA camp in Afghanistan: US National Security Archive

Chidanand Rajghatta | TNN | Apr 14, 2016

WASHINGTON: Talk about biting the hand that feeds. Even as it bilked billions of dollars in aid from the United States, Pakistan is now revealed to have funded the 2009 attack on a CIA camp on its border with Afghanistan that killed seven American agents and contractors and three others.

The explosive disclosure comes in a declassified 2010 cable published by the national security archive, that, despite being redacted in parts, asserts unequivocally that "some funding for Haqqani attacks are still provided by the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, including $200,000 for the December 30, 2009, attack on the CIA facility at Camp Chapman."

The Camp Chapman attack was carried out by Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, a Jordanian doctor and double agent, whom the CIA was trying to use to infiltrate al-Qaida in Pakistan in its hunt for Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri. Instead, he was turned around the Haqqani group, a terrorist proxy for Pakistan's intelligence agency.

Al-Balawi's suicide attack on December 30, 2009 at the Camp Chapman forward post, which the CIA used to gather intelligence for drone attacks in Pakistan, killed ten people, including two female American CIA agents: Jennifer Lynne Matthews, 45, and a mother of three, who commanded the base, and Elizabeth Hanson, 30, a targeting analyst. The attack was memorialized in a movie titled Zero Dark Thirty.

While it has long been known that Pakistan's terrorism sponsorship has claimed the lives of Indian and American civilians and military personnel, the revelations about bankrolling the Camp Chapman attack, kept secret from the public so far, is certain to inflame tensions between the two sides, particularly their military-intelligence outfits. Successive US administrations — particularly the state department led by John Kerry — have long ladled out pabulum that Pakistan is a front-line ally in the war on terror while funneling billions of dollars of aid, despite multiple terrorist attacks across the world originating from Pakistan, including in San Bernardino, New York, and London.

The timing of the attack and the sequence of cables detailing the ISI's role in organizing the attack suggests that the US administration lied to the American public about Pakistan being a frontline ally in the way on terror even as it funneled $ 7.5 billion in US taxpayer money to a country's whose military-intelligence establishment was killing American soldiers and spooks. Then senator John Kerry, who later became secretary of state, took the lead in presenting Pakistan as a worthy ally as he engineering with senator Lugar the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009, which put $ 1.5 billion in US aid into the Pakistani coffers.

The Act, stemming from what is known as the Kerry-Lugar Bill was introduced to Congress on September 24, 2009, and passed into law on October 15, 2010. The ISI-sponsored attack on Camp Chapman occurred on December 30, 2009. By February 6, 2010, the date on the explosive cable detailing the Pakistani role, Washington knew ISI had engineered the attack on the CIA forward post.

"During discussions at an unknown date between Haqqani, Salar, and an unidentified ISID officer or officers, Haqqani and Salar were provided $200,000 to enable the attack on Chapman," the cable relates in an unredacted portion. "Haqqani then provided the money to Salar who then communicated the planning details to Mullawi (Sakh). Sakh then contacted Arghawan Afghan border commander of the Khost Provincial Force.

The cable then goes on to say that Arghawan was promised $100,000 for facilitating the attack by the then unnamed Jordanian national (whose identity came to be known only later), but since Arghawan himself was killed in the attack, Salar kept the $100,000.

Which means, despite knowing Pakistan bankrolled the killing of its personnel, including two female agents who put their lives on line in a remote forward post, Washington still went ahead and rewarded Islamabad with billions of dollars in aid — and has continued to do so to this day with finance and armaments.

The Camp Chapman attack is counted as the second largest single-day loss in the CIA's history, after the 1983 United States Embassy bombing in Beirut, Lebanon, which killed eight CIA officers.

While the cable relating to the Camp Chapman attack does not identify by name the ISI officer who supplied the $200,000, other cables in the collection shows, with names, how deeply the ISI is enmeshed in terrorism. "As of late December 2009, at the end of every month, senior Haqqani network leadership met with ISID in Islamabad," a January 2010 cable states. Identifying Colonel Nasib and Major Daoud as the handlers. "An unknown amount of funding was provided to the Haqqanis for use in unspecified operations during these meetings," it continues. In a subsequent meeting, the cable says, the ISI directorate asked the Haqqanis "to expedite attack preparations and lethality in Afghanistan."

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/Pakistans-ISI-funded-deadly-attack-on-CIA-camp-in-Afghanistan-US-National-Security-Archive/articleshow/51819428.cms

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Pakistan given $13 billion for war on terror since 9/11

PTI | Apr 14, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan received at least $13 billion from the US since the September 11, 2001 attacks for logistic and other support in the war against terrorism, the country's parliament was told.

This was stated by defence secretary Alam Khattak while briefing the Senate committee on defence here on Wednesday.

Khattak said that his country got "USD 13 billion under the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) since 9/11", while another USD 200 million is due to be reimbursed by the US.

He said that 40 per cent of the amount received was allocated to civil government while 60 per cent was given to the armed forces.

The CSF is going to end on September 30 this year with the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/Pakistan-given-13-billion-for-war-on-terror-since-9/11/articleshow/51822991.cms

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Anti-Muslim threats on rise across United States

Apr 14, 2016

LOS ANGELES: United States (US) Attorneys, the top prosecutors from 11 US states including California and Colorado, are increasingly concerned by more frequent anti-Muslim threats, the Justice Department said Wednesday.

The department said that local authorities and community members across the US would hold town meeting-style discussions "to address backlash against Muslim, Arab, Sikh and South Asian Americans following the tragic terrorist attacks in Brussels, Paris and San Bernardino."

"There is no place for intolerance in our country," Attorney General Loretta Lynch said.

"In the weeks and months ahead, the Department of Justice will continue to work with local law enforcement partners and community leaders to defend the safety and the dignity of all our people."

The incidents have included a man who pleaded guilty to opening fire outside a mosque in Connecticut, and another man who threatened to bomb two mosques and shoot worshippers, among many others.

Since the September 11 attacks, the Justice Department has investigated more than 1,000 cases of threats or violence against people from or believed to be from certain communities.

"These events underscore our ongoing commitment to safeguard the civil rights of every American including Muslim, Arab, Sikh and South Asian Americans, who are so often the targets of threats on the basis of their appearance or religion," Lynch said.

dawn.com/news/1252045/anti-muslim-threats-on-rise-across-united-states

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US urges Taliban to give up threats, talk peace

April 14th, 2016

WASHINGTON: The United States responded on Wednesday to an Afghan Taliban threat to resume their spring offensive by re-emphasising the need for continuing the peace process.

“This conflict is not going to be resolved on the battlefield,” said US State Department spokesman Mark Toner while responding to the Taliban’s threat.

The Taliban announced earlier this week that they were going to launch a spring offensive and promised large-scale attacks across Afghanistan.

The US official told a news briefing that the announcement came as no surprise to them as the Taliban always made such declarations before the spring fighting season.

“This pledge to begin the spring fighting season just underscores the need for the start of a peace process, and a peace process that’s Afghan-led and Afghan-owned,” Mr Toner said. “That was a central message of the Secretary (of State) when he visited there this past week.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry made an unannounced visit to Kabul last week where he urged President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah to set aside their differences and work together, as not doing so could paralyse the country.

Later, the Taliban announced that Secretary Kerry was the target of a rocket that struck the Afghan capital Kabul on Saturday night. The attack came within an hour after Mr Kerry had left Afghanistan.

Asked if these attacks indicated that the Afghan peace process had met a dead-end, Mr Toner said the Taliban had undergone some leadership changes and that’s why they had been unresponsive to this effort to get these peace talks going.

“That only underscores, frankly, the urgency going forward,” he added. “The ball is in their respective court. The government of Afghanistan has said it would be ready to hold these peace talks.”

Asked if the spring offensive would cause the United States to step up its assistance to the Afghan government, Mr Toner said: “We are preparing, as we have been, to assist the government in defending against the Taliban. Working through... coalition forces, we have been working with Afghan forces on the ground to improve their capability, their ability to fight and push back.”

dawn.com/news/1251894/us-urges-taliban-to-give-up-threats-talk-peace

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South Asia

30 Afghan Local Police Forces Have Reportedly Join Taliban In Afghanistan

By Khaama Press - Thu Apr 14 2016

At least 30 Afghan Local Police (ALP) soldiers have reportedly joined the Taliban ranks in northern Baghlan province of Afghanistan.

Sources have said the ALP forces have joined the Taliban ranks in Dand-e-Ghori district where heavy clashes have been reported among the Taliban and Afghan security forces.

The sources speaking on the condition of anonymity said the ALP forces have also taken with them 25 weapons.

The Taliban militants group has commented regarding the report so far which comes as local officials have said the Taliban insurgents have launched coordinated attack on Dand-e-Ghori.

According to the earlier reports, the Taliban insurgents have managed to take control of certain areas in Dand-e-Ghori which is located close to Pul-e-Khumri city, the provincial capital of Baghlan province.

The provincial police chief, General Mohammad Ewaz Naziri, said clashes continued between the militants and Afghan forces but he did not confirm the fall of area to the Taliban militants.

The Afghan forces retook full control of Dand-e-Ghori from Taliban insurgents earlier last months which followed weeks after the area was in control of the militants.

The security situation in Baghlan has sharply deteriorated amid rampant Taliban-led insurgency across the country, including northern provinces.

khaama.com/30-alp-forces-have-reportedly-join-taliban-in-north-of-afghanistan-0658

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15 Afghan soldiers martyred as violence surges across the country

By Khaama Press - Thu Apr 14 2016

Afghan soldiers casualtiesAt least 15 Afghan soldiers lost their lives during the counter-terrorism operations being conducted across the country amid surging violence.

The Ministry of Defense (MoD) said the soldiers were martyred in the past 24 hours as they were suppressing the anti-government armed militants.

“The Afghan National Army (ANA) forces are prepared for all kinds of devotion and with all force to maintain security and comfort for the people of Afghanistan,” a statement by MoD said, adding that 15 Afghan soldiers were martyred during counter-terrorism operations against the internal and foreign terrorists.

According to a statement by MoD at least 110 militants were killed and 124 others were wounded as a result of the clearance operations in the past 24 hours.

The statement further added that the operations were conducted in Jawzjan, Kunar, Baghlan, Badghis, Badakhshan, Ghazni, Paktika, Maidan Wrdak, Kandahar, Zabul, Sar-e-Pul and Helmand provinces.

There has been a sharp rise in the casualties of the Afghan national security forces since they took full control of the security responsibilities from the coalition forces at the start of last year.

According to the earlier estimates by security officials, the Afghan army deaths stood at 4 service members daily on average which is mainly caused due to improvised explosive device (IED) attacks.

The Afghan forces have increased counter-terrorism operations to suppress the anti-government armed militant groups who are preparing to step up attacks as they announced their spring offensive earlier this week.

khaama.com/15-afghan-soldiers-martyred-as-violence-surges-across-the-country-0657

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Karzai reacts towards Kerry’s remarks regarding unity government duration

By Khaama Press - Thu Apr 14 2016

KarzaiThe former Afghan President Hamid Karzai has warned that the US interference in internal affairs of Afghanistan is not acceptable, pointing towards Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks regarding National Unity Government duration.

In his speech during a gathering in Kabul, the former President said Kerry’s remarks regarding the Government of National Unity are a clear interference in internal affairs of the country.

He said continued US interference in Afghanistan’s affairs is not tolerable, emphasizing that the Afghan people supports US presence in the country provided that the national interests of the country are not compromised.

Karzai said no foreigner will be allowed to practice the national sovereignty of Afghanistan and urged the United States not to play with the sovereignty of Afghanistan.

He also insisted that peace and stability in Afghanistan will be possible only if the United State and Pakistan act honestly towards the Afghan peace process.

This comes as a number of political leaders reacted towards Kerry’s remarks regarding the continuation of the government of national unity after he suggested that the term of the government will not expire after two years.

The former Interior Minister Mohammad Omar Daudzai, acting provincial governor Ata Mohammad Noor and some lawmakers criticized the announcement by Kerry regarding the term of the government.

However, Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah said he is surprised with reactions regarding the remarks, saying the agreement for the formation of National Unity Government was one of the most important agreements concluded in the political history of the country.

Abdullah further added that certain politicians became recently became aware regarding the agreement as the politicians involved in the politics of the country should have reviewed it long ago.

Kerry said Saturday that “There is no end to this agreement at the end of two years or in six months from now. This agreement ends – this is an agreement for a unity government, the duration of which is five years.”

Kerry further added that the agreement did mention the effort to try to have the potential of a Loya Jirga at some point within two years, saying ‘That was a goal’.

khaama.com/karzai-reacts-towards-kerrys-remarks-regarding-unity-government-duration-0656

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Heavy clashes reported in Dand-e-Ghori area of Baghlan

By Khaama Press - Thu Apr 14 2016

Afghan forcesHeavy clashes have been reported in Dand-e-Ghori area of northern Baghlan province more than a month after the Afghan forces cleared the area of Taliban militants.

According to the local security officials, the Taliban insurgents have launched coordinated attack on the area from different positions and gun battle is underway between the Afghan forces and the militants.

Earlier reports emerging from the area suggested that certain parts of Dand-e-Ghori have been seized by the Taliban insurgents.

However, the provincial police chief, General Mohammad Ewaz Naziri, said clashes continued between the militants and Afghan forces but he did not confirm the fall of area to the Taliban militants.

The Afghan forces retook full control of Dand-e-Ghori from Taliban insurgents ealier last months which followed weeks after the area was in control of the militants.

The Afghan forces launched clearance operations against the Taliban militants in Dand-e-Ghori district late in the month of January.

The operations were launched amid concerns that the group was creating safe havens and preparing for the summer offensive by continuing to the procurement and training of insurgents.

Several power lines were also damaged as the operations kicked off, cutting the power supply to capital Kabul for several weeks before the technical staff managed to reconnect the lines.

khaama.com/heavy-clashes-reported-in-dand-e-ghori-area-of-baghlan-0655

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Taliban Supreme Leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor is not alive: Taliban leaders

By Khaama Press - Thu Apr 14 2016

A dissident commander of the Taliban group has claimed that the group’s newly-appointed Supreme Leader Mullah Akhtar is not alive.

The Taliban commander loyal to Mullah Mohammad Rasool has released a video message saying the Taliban group leaders should pledge allegiance to Mullah Rasool.

Security sources privy of the development have confirmed that two Taliban commanders have pledged allegiance to Mullah Rasool together with their 200 fighters.

The officials speaking on the condition of anonymity further added that the Taliban commanders have also announced they will no more support Mullah Mansoor.

A commander of the dissident Taliban is seen calling on other militants to remain careful regarding the conspiracies of Pakistan.

Another Taliban fighter appearing in the video says that Muslims are taken towards wrong direction by certain circles, accusing Pakistan for spreading propaganda.

He calls on Taliban fighters not to listen to Pakistan and remain careful regarding the individuals working for Pakistan, calling them servants and slaves of Pakistan.

This comes as earlier reports suggested that Mullah Akhtar Mansoor was critically wounded during an infighting and later succumbed to his injuries.

The infighting among the Taliban leaders intensified following the appointment of Mullah Mansoor as the successor of Mullah Omar whose death was confirmed last year.

Mullah Mansoor is no more alive

Over 200 Taliban militants were killed and scores of others were wounded after the supporters of Mullah Akhtar Mansoor and Mullah Mohammad Rasool engaged in a week long infighting in Shindand district of Herat province last month.

taliban com

The sides of were also accused of war crimes including attacks on civilians and horrific summary executions of each others supporters during the infighting.

khaama.com/taliban-supreme-leader-mullah-akhtar-mansoor-is-not-alive-taliban-leaders-0654

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Karzai reacts towards Kerry’s remarks regarding unity government duration

By Khaama Press - Thu Apr 14 2016

The former Afghan President Hamid Karzai has warned that the US interference in internal affairs of Afghanistan is not acceptable, pointing towards Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks regarding National Unity Government duration.

In his speech during a gathering in Kabul, the former President said Kerry’s remarks regarding the Government of National Unity are a clear interference in internal affairs of the country.

He said continued US interference in Afghanistan’s affairs is not tolerable, emphasizing that the Afghan people supports US presence in the country provided that the national interests of the country are not compromised.

Karzai said no foreigner will be allowed to practice the national sovereignty of Afghanistan and urged the United States not to play with the sovereignty of Afghanistan.

He also insisted that peace and stability in Afghanistan will be possible only if the United State and Pakistan act honestly towards the Afghan peace process.

This comes as a number of political leaders reacted towards Kerry’s remarks regarding the continuation of the government of national unity after he suggested that the term of the government will not expire after two years.

The former Interior Minister Mohammad Omar Daudzai, acting provincial governor Ata Mohammad Noor and some lawmakers criticized the announcement by Kerry regarding the term of the government.

However, Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah said he is surprised with reactions regarding the remarks, saying the agreement for the formation of National Unity Government was one of the most important agreements concluded in the political history of the country.

Abdullah further added that certain politicians became recently became aware regarding the agreement as the politicians involved in the politics of the country should have reviewed it long ago.

Kerry said Saturday that “There is no end to this agreement at the end of two years or in six months from now. This agreement ends – this is an agreement for a unity government, the duration of which is five years.”

Kerry further added that the agreement did mention the effort to try to have the potential of a Loya Jirga at some point within two years, saying ‘That was a goal’.

khaama.com/karzai-reacts-towards-kerrys-remarks-regarding-unity-government-duration-0656

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Mideast

Turkey’s Erdoğan proposes Muslim cooperation against terrorism

Apr 14, 2016

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on April 14 proposed a body within the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to solidify and institutionalize cooperation against terrorism.       

“Once again, I call on the international bodies to review their approaches to terrorist organizations. It is necessary to conduct operations against terror organizations on the ground, while there should [also] be efforts to target those organizations’ financial and human resources,” Erdoğan said in his opening speech at the 13th Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit in Istanbul.       

“For that, international cooperation is vital. Establishing a body that would solidify and institutionalize cooperation against terror within the OIC is the right step to take,” he added.       

Turkey is hosting the OIC summit for the first time since the body’s inception in 1969.       

Turkey will take over the bloc’s chair for the next two years during the summit, which is being held under the theme “Unity and Solidarity for Justice and Peace.”       

The two-day summit is set to strengthen unity and solidarity between Muslim countries in the fight against terrorism.       

Erdoğan thanked member countries for helping support the establishment of the OIC’s new police cooperation and coordination center in Istanbul.       

Saying that terror was one of the gravest problems facing the Islamic world, Erdoğan decried the devastation in Afghanistan, where hundreds of thousands Muslims were killed and millions of others were mistreated by al-Qaeda.       

“Now Daesh, [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - ISIL] which controls certain places in Iraq and Syria and tries to get control of Libya, serves the same dirty plans. We see Boko Haram and al-Shabaab, which conduct terror attacks in Africa, in the same category. Apart from a few attacks for show, all these terror organizations oppress and harm all Muslims,” Erdoğan stressed.       

The Turkish president maintained that these terror organizations do not represent Islam. “Our religion is a religion of peace and compromise,” he added.       

During his talks, the Turkish leader also supported a Saudi-backed alliance to fight against terror and said the alliance should turn into an operational body.    

Erdoğan also said the Islamic world should deal with terror and other crises themselves instead of waiting for “other powers to intervene.”       

“We need to intervene and solve. When we don’t, others intervene,” he said, adding that if the alliance becomes active, a new era will open in front of Muslim countries.       

The president also stressed that Muslims need to overcome “the instigation of sectarianism.”       

“My religion is neither Sunni nor Shia. My religion is Islam,” said Erdoğan.

hurriyetdailynews.com/turkeys-erdogan-proposes-muslim-cooperation-against-terrorism.aspx?pageID=238&nID=97798&NewsCatID=338

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Ankara, Istanbul, Brussels tipped off ahead of terror attacks: Reports

April/14/2016

Security authorities in Turkey and Belgium were warned by Turkey’s Counter-terrorism Department (TEM) of imminent Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) attacks before both countries were hit with explosions on January and March. Meanwhile, a separate report by Turkish daily Cumhuriyet has claimed that intelligence units in Ankara were tipped off about a bomb attack 25 days before twin blasts hit the capital on Oct. 10, 2015.

“People with links to Daesh [ISIL] will stage attacks in Turkey and Belgium on 2016 and they might use hotels or customer relations personnel to this end,” stated a Dec. 23 warning by TEM, before ISIL hit Istanbul’s historic Sultanahmet Square on Jan. 12, touristic İstiklal Avenue on March 19, and Brussels on March 22.

In a separate report, TEM also warned about ongoing exploratory investigations by Yunus Durmaz, the so-called “emir” of the jihadist group who is on Turkey’s red list for “wanted terrorists” with a 4 million-lira reward offered to intelligence leading to his capture. The report also included information on four ISIL militants - code named Talip, Furkan, Cuma and Memiş - who allegedly infiltrated into Turkish territory in preparation for a terror attack.

Meanwhile, a second report in daily Cumhuriyet on April 13 published the findings of a preliminary report investigating the Oct. 10 bombing in Ankara that killed 103 people, including two suicide bombers. The report suggested that Turkey’s intelligence units were tipped off about imminent suicide bomb attacks targeting rallies 25 days before the explosion, but an intelligence officer did not convey the key information to his superiors due to “neglect or other motivations,” thus inhibiting further security measures.

The inspector’s report published by Cumhuriyet states that Anti-Terror C Unit Commander Hüseyin Özgür Gür received an intelligence report on Sept. 14, 2015, which claimed that ISIL would target rallies with “more than one suicide bomber.” Gür failed to report this information to his superior, Anti-Terror Unit Head Hakan Duman.

“The aforementioned individual did not convey this information to his superior, the anti-terror unit head, and prevented his superiors from evaluating whether there is a need to cancel the rally, due to neglect or other motives,” the report stated. It added that Gür had conveyed “far less important information” to relevant authorities in the anti-terror unit.

The Feb. 25 report prepared by chief civil inspectors Özcan Bademci and Turen Ergün and chief police inspectors Ayhan Acet and Ertan Kara, also accuses Ankara’s then Chief of Police Kadri Kartal of failing to take the necessary safety measures despite blasts that had recently hit the southeastern province of Diyarbakır and the Suruç district of Şanlıurfa province. Both attacks in the southeast had targeted civilians close to the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). 

Inspectors said police teams and the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) had sent a total of 62 intelligence reports over the 10 months leading to the Oct. 10 explosion, and the last report even included the name of Ankara suicide bomber Yunus Alagöz.

A request by the inspectors to launch investigations against Kartal, Gür, Duman, former intelligence department deputy chief and state security department deputy chief was rejected by the Ankara Governor’s Office. In addition, the chief public prosecutor decided not to exercise his right to object, instead filing a motion to dismiss the case.

Two suicide bombers detonated themselves on 10:04 a.m. on Oct. 10, 2015 in front of the Ankara main train station, where thousands of people had gathered for a peace rally a few weeks before the snap election on Nov. 1.

Meanwhile, Cumhuriyet also published a second report on April 12, detailing a confidential document issued by the police chief of the northeastern province of Kars, Faruk Karaduman, warning of ISIL attacks targeting touristic spots, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), the HDP, and leftist organizations.

In an e-mail dated Oct. 28, 2015, Karaduman warned district police chiefs of ISIL sleeper cells in 70 Turkish provinces and asked for measures to be taken against possible ISIL attacks.

hurriyetdailynews.com/ankara-istanbul-brussels-tipped-off-ahead-of-terror-attacks-reports.aspx?pageID=238&nID=97782&NewsCatID=341

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Amid violence, Israel promotes Arab Muslim police officer

AP | Apr 14, 2016

TEL AVIV: Israel promoted an Arab police officer to deputy commissioner on Wednesday, making him the highest-ranking Muslim ever to serve in the force at a time when authorities are battling a wave of attacks by Palestinians that has frayed relations between Jews and Arabs.

In his new position, the 59-year-old Gamal Hakroosh faces an uphill battle overseeing policing in Arab communities, where residents are deeply suspicious of Israeli police. Many Israeli Arabs feel their community is discriminated against and stigmatized, and often view Israeli police with hostility and fear.

Israel's Arab minority, which makes up a fifth of the country's population of 8 million, has long had a fraught relationship with the Jewish majority. They hold full citizenship rights, but some Israelis, including top politicians, question their loyalty because they often side with their Palestinian brethren. The Israeli Arabs are generally poorer and less educated than Jews and suffer from discrimination and sub-standard public services.

In turn, a lack of effective policing in Arab communities — where crime is rampant and often left unchecked by police — has fueled tensions further. Arabs often accuse the police of being indifferent to Arab crime so long as the Jewish population is not affected.

With Hakroosh's promotion, and the approval this week by Israel's cabinet of a plan to step up law enforcement in Arab areas, Israel is hoping to change that perception.

"To this day, we did not grant the Arab sector equal law enforcement services. In everything related to the police, we did not act with due equality," Israeli public security minister Gilad Erdan said at the Tel Aviv ceremony for Hakroosh on Wednesday.

Israel plans to add police stations and hundreds of officers to serve Arab communities over the next five years. It has also recently announced a landmark billion-dollar budget intended to improve the living conditions of the Arab community.

Hakroosh hails from Kafr Kana, an Arab town in northern Israel that experienced violent demonstrations in late 2014 after a local man was shot and killed by police. He joined the police force in 1978, serving as station chief in a number of cities.

As deputy commissioner, one rank below the national police chief, he is now the highest-ranking Arab in the force. At least one Arab Druse officer has held the same rank, but Arab Muslims generally are less integrated into Israel's security forces and those who do serve are often viewed as traitors.

Hakroosh beamed as he received his rank in a packed auditorium at Tel Aviv's police headquarters. In the crowd, Arab village leaders, some wearing traditional Arab headdresses, dotted a sea of light blue police uniforms. Flanked by his family, he embraced Erdan, the minister, and police chief Roni Alsheich as the audience burst into applause.

"The police's job is to serve the people and among the people is the Arab citizen, the Arab Israeli citizen, and he deserves service," Hakroosh told Associated Press. "He deserves that the police stand beside him."

Hakroosh's promotion is likely to spark opposition, not least because he will have jurisdiction over east Jerusalem, an area that has been a focal point for unrest during the seven month-long wave of violence that has killed 28 Israelis, two Americans and 188 Palestinians, the majority of which Israel says were attackers.

East Jerusalem's Arab inhabitants were granted residency status after Israel captured the area in the 1967 Mideast war but largely have not sought citizenship.

In a possible sign of the challenges Hakroosh faces, Arab members of the Israeli Knesset were absent from the ceremony.

"This won't change anything," said Salah al-Yassini, an Arab resident of east Jerusalem.

While most of the attackers during the current round of violence have been Palestinians from east Jerusalem or the West Bank, some Arab Israelis have also participated in the violence.

Most notable was a New Year's Day attack by 31-year-old Nashat Milhem, who opened fire on a Tel Aviv bar, killing two people and later an Arab taxi driver. Milhem fled, sparking a week-long manhunt that ended when he was killed in a shootout with Israeli forces in his hometown.

Tensions were then compounded by remarks by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who demanded a crackdown to impose law and order on Arab towns.

Also, most Arab citizens remember Netanyahu's election day comments last year, when he galvanized his hawkish supporters by warning that "Arab voters are going in droves to the polls." The comments drew accusations of racism and international condemnation. Netanyahu later apologized.

Amnon Be'eri-Sulitzeanu, the co-director of The Abraham Fund, a group that promotes co-existence, called Hakroosh's promotion a "historic" achievement, but one that must be met by a broader change of approach by police.

"The most important thing is to build more trust with the Arab population," he said. "Every police force in the world ... needs trust to provide security."

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/Amid-violence-Israel-promotes-Arab-Muslim-police-officer/articleshow/51820568.cms

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European Parliament warns Turkey on 'backsliding' of democracy

April/14/2016

The European Parliament sent a stern warning to EU membership candidate Turkey on April 14, accusing its government of "backsliding" on democracy and the rule of law.

The parliament "is deeply concerned" that Ankara is violating criteria needed to join the European Union "in the light of the backsliding on respect for democracy and rule of law inside Turkey," a resolution approved by MEPs said.

Reviving Turkey's languishing EU membership bid was a key pledge by European leaders in return for Ankara's help in stopping the huge flow of migrants and refugees heading to Europe, mostly from war-torn Syria.

The non-binding resolution passed with 375 votes in favour and 177 votes against.

The EU has faced accusations of selling out its principles by offering to speed up Turkey's EU membership process in exchange for help on the migrant crisis.

But EU officials said they would hold Turkey to EU press freedom and other standards in the accession talks amid increasing worries over President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's tightened grip on power in the country.

"The EU should not be trading away values for an uncertain outcome," said Marietje Schaake, a Dutch MEP from the ALDE liberal group.

"While we must work with Turkey to ensure refugees are properly sheltered, we must do so on its own merits, and not mix it with accession," she said.

The vote comes days after Erdoğan lashed out at Europe for giving Turkey "lessons in democracy".

hurriyetdailynews.com/european-parliament-warns-turkey-on-backsliding-of-democracy-----.aspx?pageID=238&nID=97813&NewsCatID=510

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CoE sounds alarm about deteriorating human rights in Turkey

April/14/2016

Europe’s human rights commissioner has rung alarm bells over human rights abuses during Turkey’s ongoing counter-terrorism operations, particularly in the southeast, while portraying a gloomy picture of freedom of expression and judicial independence.

“Respect for human rights has deteriorated at an alarming speed in recent months in the context of Turkey’s fight against terrorism,” Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe commissioner for human rights, said April 14 at a press conference in Ankara at the end of a nine-day visit to Istanbul, Diyarbakır and Ankara.

Turkey has the right and duty to fight terrorism, with the commissioner unequivocally condemning all terrorist actions and violence targeting Turkish citizens and the state, including by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

“However, Turkey must avoid straying from human rights and the principles of the rule of law in this fight,” he said.

According to Muižnieks, the most striking feature of anti-terrorism operations since August 2015 has been the round-the-clock, open-ended and increasingly long curfews declared in entire neighborhoods or cities in Southeast Anatolia.

“I have serious doubts about the legality of these curfews, a question yet to be examined by the Venice Commission, Turkey’s Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights. An administrative decision based on a law that does not even mention the word ‘curfew’ is a very weak basis on which to impose such drastic restrictions of basic human rights, for a huge population and for months on end,” he said.

Another crucial issue concerning anti-terrorism operations is proportionality, Muižnieks said.

“While visiting the site of the murder of Tahir Elçi in Sur [in Diyarbakır], I had a glimpse of the shocking scale of destruction in some of these zones. The government informed me that 50 terrorists were killed during the operations in Sur, yet at least 20,000 people were displaced, countless buildings were destroyed, and many civilians have undoubtedly suffered greatly because of terrorists and collateral damage,” he said.

The commissioner stressed that the Turkish state had the duty to conduct effective investigations into all lives lost during the operations, including civilians and security forces, but also suspected terrorists.

“Unfortunately, I have heard allegations of serious shortcomings in these investigations, notably concerning the identification and interrogation of security personnel, and the collection of all evidence before the operation zones are cleared, he said, noting that he had been reassured that the Turkish authorities were taking allegations of racist and degrading behavior by security forces very seriously, and urged them to ensure that disciplinary and judicial investigations also cover this aspect.

“It is clear that the damages suffered by the local population are huge, and the authorities must without any delay ensure fair compensation,” said the commissioner.

Regarding plans for emergency expropriation in certain affected areas, members of the local population voiced fears that they were going to be doubly punished, whereas the authorities assured the commissioner that the only purpose was to speed up assistance, he said.

“Expropriation is not compensation, the authorities need to engage in a dialogue with all stakeholders and explain their intentions more clearly,” said the commissioner.

Long-standing problems concerning freedom of expression, arising from Turkish legislation and the practice of the judiciary, have also been severely exacerbated in this tense environment, he said.

“For example, the Academics for Peace have been subjected to both disciplinary and criminal proceedings for a statement calling for an end to violence, which in my opinion falls within the boundaries of free speech, whether one agrees or disagrees with their message,” said the commissioner.

Recourse to an overly wide notion of terrorism to punish non-violent statements and criminalization of any message merely coinciding with the perceived interests of a terrorist organization were not new in Turkey, but the scale had become alarming, he said.

A similar exponential increase concerned the offence of insulting the president of the republic, which accounted for 1,845 criminal proceedings, Muižnieks said. “I have not encountered such abusive application of a similar provision in any of the other 46 member states of the Council of Europe, including those where insulting the president is still considered a separate criminal offence.”

The commissioner also pointed to the huge increase in the number of blocked websites since his predecessor’s visit in 2011, and to the fact that Turkey holds the world record for Twitter takedown requests.

Referring to a meeting with daily Cumhuriyet’s editor-in-chief, Can Dündar, during the visit, the commissioner stated that treating the publication of true information of genuine public interest as a form of espionage was “simply a threat to journalism as a profession.”

The takeover of newspapers and TV stations by trustees was also a very dangerous precedent, according to Muižnieks. “By law, these trustees are supposed to safeguard assets, but they changed editorial policy, causing the loss of readership and ruining the market value of the companies. This is an extremely worrying precedent which has already done irreparable harm to media freedom and pluralism in Turkey, even before a final court judgment.”

According to the commissioner, the intolerance of the executive and the judiciary to legitimate criticism had led to a very palpable chilling effect and self-censorship, and reduced the scope of democratic discussion in the country.

A striking feature was the fact that many of these problematic measures had been taken by “criminal judges of peace,” he said.

“While I intend to examine more closely the practice of these judicial formations, which were supposed to improve the protection of human rights in criminal proceedings, there are strong indications that they may be having exactly the opposite effect. They seem to have caused many violations in their own right,” said the commissioner.

He also shared the concerns of other Council of Europe bodies, the Venice Commission and the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), that the fight against an alleged terrorist organization within the judiciary may have weakened its independence. “The Turkish president’s recent statement about the Constitutional Court, as well as other statements by politicians, has also damaged public trust in the independence of the judiciary.”

Finally, the commissioner raised the issue of human rights defenders and lawyers, mentioning in particular stigmatizing rhetoric, smear campaigns and ongoing investigations against them.

“In a context where there is a lot of misinformation, manipulation and conflicting opinions, in particular as to what happened during the curfews, a transparent judicial process which relies on human rights defenders is the main hope for establishing the truth and obtaining redress,” he said.

Muižnieks also said recent political attacks against NGOs, merely for writing reports, were a very disturbing development.

hurriyetdailynews.com/coe-sounds-alarm-about-deteriorating-human-rights-in-turkey.aspx?pageID=238&nID=97810&NewsCatID=339

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Minister reveals details about giant infrastructure projects in Turkey

April/14/2016

Transportation, Maritime Affairs and Communication Minister Binali Yıldırım has updated the status of a number of giant infrastructure projects across Turkey, noting these projects will make a great contribution to the country’s economy in an exclusive interview with daily Hürriyet.

In Turkey, a total of seven mega projects are currently under construction, including: Istanbul’s third airport; the third bridge over the Bosphorus Strait; a new highway which will connect commercial Istanbul with the Aegean resort of İzmir and also includes the world’s fourth longest suspension bridge over İzmit Bay; the Eurasia Tunnel, which is an underground road tunnel linking Istanbul’s European and Asian sides; the Gebze-Halkalı commuter train link in Istanbul; the Ovit tunnel in Northeastern Anatolia; and the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway.

“These projects will make a huge social and economic contribution to Turkey. They have already achieved this, as these ongoing projects have created around 8.6 billion Turkish Liras [$3 billion] for the economy and created more than 65,500 jobs. A majority of the employed people are composed of qualified workers and office staff in addition to more than 2,100 engineers,” said Yıldırım.

He noted these projects would create much more employment, as well as other social and economic bonuses when they are completed.

“The third airport of Istanbul alone will create around 210,000 jobs when it is opened,” he added.

Turkey has invested around 253 billion liras ($90 billion) into major transportation and communications projects in the last 13 years, according to the minister.

“We have been paying attention to the preservation of natural and historical richness,” he added. “We built 37 viaducts at Atatürk Airport, Istanbul’s third airport, the third bridge over the Bosphorus and the İzmit Bay Bridge in a bid to preserve ecological and historical assets there.”

Istanbul’s third airport

The Cengiz-Kolin-Limak-Mapa-Kalyon Consortium, a joint venture of Turkish companies, won a tender for the third Istanbul airport in May 2013, promising to pay the state 22.1 billion euros, plus taxes, over 25 years starting in 2017. The project, which is expected to cost with all investments and annual rent around 33 billion euros, is the largest project in the country so far. The first part of the airport with two landing fields and one terminal is planned to open in 2018 to serve 90 million passengers. The airport is expected to become one of the biggest in the world when it is completed and serve 150 million passengers. Around 1.5 billion euros has been invested in the project so far and around 13,000 people are now working on the project, including subcontractors, according to the latest data.

Third Bosphorus bridge

Istanbul’s third Bosphorus bridge, which was named for Ottoman Sultan Yavuz the Grim or Yavuz Sultan Selim, was designed as a “hybrid bridge” in shape. The bridge will have eight road lanes as well as two rail tracks. The third bridge is expected to be about 1.4 kilometers in length and 59 meters in width, making the bridge the widest in the world when it is completed. The bridge tower is 322 meters tall, constituting another world record. It will stretch over 2 kilometers with about 1.4 kilometers spanning over water, and will also be the longest suspension bridge in the world carrying a rail system.

According to the latest data, the project has created around 6,000 jobs and the construction activities have added an annual 1.75 billion liras ($611 million) to the economy.

The Istanbul-İzmir highway

As a part of the Istanbul-İzmir Highway project, the İzmit Bay Bridge will be the fourth largest in the world by the length of its central span. The bridge is planned to open in May, and it will shorten the time to travel to the other side of the bay drastically. The project’s cost is at around $6.3 billion and has created 7,918 jobs, according to the latest data.

Gebze-Halkalı commuter train links

The renovated train links which will connect Istanbul’s outskirts on the European side with those on the Asian side are expected to be completed in 2018. The 1-billion-euro project has created jobs for 829 people and made around 500 million liras ($175 million) for the economy.

Eurasia Tunnel

The two continents will be connected by a 3.34-km-long tunnel under the sea in Istanbul in the framework of the project, which is also dubbed the Istanbul Straight Road Crossing Project. The total distance of the tunnel will be 14.6 km when it is opened by the end of 2016. The expected fuel saving with the tunnel is around 38 million liters annually. The project, for which 1,800 people are employed, will also decrease carbon emissions by 82,000 tons a year, said the data.

Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway

This will be the third largest project, which was made jointly by Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, after two leading energy pipeline projects. When the railway project is completed, the line will be able to carry a total of 1 million passengers and 6.5 million tons of cargo. The capacity of the railway is expected to increase to 3 million passengers and 17 million tons of cargo by 2034. The project has created 8,237 jobs and made a contribution of around 988 million liras ($345 million) to the economy so far.

Ovit Tunnel

The construction of a new highway tunnel in the northeastern region of Turkey, which is planned to be one of longest tunnels in the world, is invigorating the commercial prospects of local businessmen, both regionally and internationally. The tunnel is set to cut through Ovit Mountain, which is located between İkizdere, a district in the northwestern province of Rize, and the eastern province of Erzurum’s İspir distrcit. The dual-tubed project will eventually exceed 14.7 kilometers, including the linking roads around it. Some 600 people are working on the project, for which some 719 million liras ($251 million) has been invested so far.

hurriyetdailynews.com/minister-reveals-details-about-giant-infrastructure-projects-in-turkey-.aspx?pageID=238&nID=97809&NewsCatID=345

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Pakistan

Senators invoke Islam to drop ‘scolding’ from children protection bill

April 14th, 2016

ISLAMABAD: After the Women’s Protection Bill, legislation on protecting children against violence has also met with strong religious objections in the Senate.

PML-N Senator Muhammad Javed Abbasi found the Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Bill 2016 “against the spirit of Islam” when the Senate Standing Committee on Interior and Narcotics took it up for discussion on Wednesday. He demanded that religious scholars must be consulted to make it according to the teachings of Islam.

Though senators belonging to PPP and the Awami National Party (ANP) did not share the view, they nevertheless considered the bill to be against parents and said the bill needed to be amended.

Related: Religious parties stall women protection bills again

MQM senators on the other hand suggested that “instead of looking towards religious scholars for everything, the committee should take decisions.”

Eventually, the committee suggested the mover of the bill, PPP Senator Saleem Mandviwalla , rephrase the it, removing the word ‘scolding’ because it will damage the social structure of the society.

In its present form, the bill opposes corporal or physical punishment to children up to the age of 18 years. It says that a child cannot be punished by hitting (smacking, slapping, spanking), with a whip, stick, belt, shoe, wooden spoon, etc.

Related: Law adopted to provide protection to children

It also disallows punishment by pulling hair or boxing ears, forcing a child to stay in uncomfortable positions, scolding or forced ingestion, for example forcing a child to swallow hot spices or washing a child’s mouth with soap.

A child can lodge a complaint with a magistrate if punished in such a way.

Members of the Senate committee agreed that there should be no physical punishment but objected to the word ‘scolding’.

While briefing the committee, Sen. Mandviwalla said he had moved the bill to ensure the safety of children at homes, educational institutions and during juvenile justice so that their confidence and personality are not shattered.

“These sorts of bills have been passed in Punjab and Sindh but the federal government has not legislated in this field at all,” he said.

PML-N Senator Muhammad Javed Abbasi strongly reacted to the contents of the bill, however.

“According to bill, a father can be arrested just for giving an angry look to his children,” he said. “Islam, on the other hand says ‘be strict with your children if they don’t offer prayers.’So, the bill is not practical and against the spirit of Islam,” he said.

Similarly, school teachers have to be strict with students to discipline them. “But [teachers] should not be allowed to mete out physical punishment,” Senator Abbasi conceded.

“We cannot countenance parents standing in the courts because of their children’s complaints. All activities inside a house should be excluded from the bill. Juvenile law is already there to deal with other situations,” he said.

“I suggest that the opinion of religious scholars should be sought because the bill proposes punishment to parents on the complaint of their children,” he added.

The Senate Committee’s Chairman, Senator Rehman Malik of PPP agreed that the law should not be very harsh for parents because a child can inform police even if a father stops his child from going out because it is cold outside.

“A child can also be used by mother or father going through a divorce,” the former interior minister said, suggesting all law secretaries be called to discuss the bill.

“This is not a big deal. We have all been slapped and punished a little by our parents,” he said. “But if the bill is passed in its present form, the rights of children will surpass those of their parents’.”

Barrister Muhammad Ali Saif, who belongs to MQM, said the bill was “fine” except for the word ‘scolding’. “Unfortunately, we invoke Islam whenever we want to stop something,” he said.

Senator Tahir Mashhadi of MQM also found the bill “implementable” but said ‘scolding’ was offensive.

“Islam, however, should not be brought into it. There is no need to send the matter to any Islamic council. We can decide such issues ourselves,” he said.

Related: Violence kills a child after every five minutes: Unicef

Senator Shahi Syed of ANP suggested that instead of making new laws efforts should be made to implement already existing ones. “No father wants to beat his children,” he said.

Senator Mandviwalla said the law he is proposing would cover children employed as domestic helpers, but his colleague Senator Rehman Malik reminded him that child labour was already banned.

dawn.com/news/1251955/senators-invoke-islam-to-drop-scolding-from-children-protection-bill

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Pakistan, China air forces kick off Shaheen-V joint training exercise

Apr 14, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and China began their fifth joint air exercise, Shaheen-V, at an operational base in Pakistan, a Pakistan Air Force (PAF) spokesman told DawnNews on Thursday.

"A contingent of People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) comprising combat pilots, air defence controllers and technical ground crew besides a PAF contingent are participating in the exercises," said the PAF spokesman.

The last such exercise between Pakistan and China Shaheen-IV was conducted in Beijing in October, last year. The exercise saw participation of three different types of frontline fighter aircraft belonging to various PAF squadrons for the first time.

"This exercise will enhance bilateral relationship and capability of the air forces of the two friendly neighbours", said Air Commodore Syed Muhammad Ali.

PAF has been a regular participant in a number of international air exercises with various air forces, including the United States Air Force (USAF), Italian Air Force, Turkish Air Force and other allied countries.

The PAF spokesman said Pakistan and China enjoy very close relationship spanning over six decades. The strategic partnership has been further strengthened through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, infrastructure development and routine joint military exercises, he said.

dawn.com/news/1252051/pakistan-china-air-forces-kick-off-shaheen-v-joint-training-exercise

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India undermining Gwadar project: Pakistan army chief

Reuters | Apr 13, 2016

GWADAR: Pakistan's army chief accused longtime regional rival India of seeking to undermine his country's $46 billion project to build an economic corridor to transport goods from China's western regions through the Pakistani deepwater port of Gwadar.

Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif, speaking at a development conference on the impact of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), said the significance of a Pakistan-China economic alliance had "raised eyebrows" in the region.

"In this context, I must highlight that India, our immediate neighbour, has openly challenged this development initiative," Sharif told the conference in Gwadar.

"I would like to make a special reference to Indian intelligence agency RAW that is blatantly involved in destabilising Pakistan. Let me make it clear that we will not allow anyone to create impediments and turbulence in any part of Pakistan. Therefore, it is important for all to leave behind confrontation and focus on cooperation."

Indian officials could not be reached for comment late on Tuesday night.

RAW is India's Research and Analysis Wing, its main external intelligence agency.

Last month, Pakistan said it had detained a suspected Indian spy for RAW in Baluchistan, the southwestern Pakistani province where most of the CPEC is taking shape.

India has confirmed that the man is a former Indian navy official but denied that he is a spy.

Majority Hindu India and mostly Muslim Pakistan, once part of a vast British colonial holding, have fought three wars since they were partitioned upon independence in 1947, leading to a violent separation that has fed decades of mutual suspicion.

Pakistan believes India is supporting a separatist insurgency in resource-rich Baluchistan. It also accuses India of fuelling strife in the city of Karachi. India denies any such meddling.

India has long accused Pakistan of backing militants fighting Indian security forces in its part of the divided Kashmir region, of helping militants launch attacks elsewhere in India and backing the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Pakistan says it only offers diplomatic support to the Muslim people of Kashmir living under what Pakistan says is heavy-handed Indian rule. It denies backing militant attacks in India.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/India-undermining-Gwadar-project-Pakistan-army-chief/articleshow/51810141.cms

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Execution of convicted mass murderer deferred

April 14th, 2016

RAWALPINDI: The execution of a convicted mass murderer has been deferred, while another convicted murderer will be executed at the Central Jail Adiala on Thursday morning, jail authorities have said.

Retired Capt Zaffar Iqbal was awarded the death sentence for killing 11 members of a family in the Ayya Mohallah in Rawalpindi and Sangori village in Mandra on Jan 10, 1994.

He was scheduled to be hanged at Adiala Jail on Thursday, April 14.

Iqbal’s execution has been delayed until April 17, as negotiations between the victim’s relatives and the convict’s for a settlement are ongoing.

The convict’s review petition was rejected by a three member Supreme Court bench in 2008, and his mercy appeal was also rejected by the president. After his mercy appeal was rejected, his relatives were directed to hold their last meeting with Iqbal as his execution was scheduled for Thursday.

Iqbal killed six members of Capt Sarwar Shaheed’s family in Rawalpindi, and then travelled to the Sangori village where he killed another five members of the family.

The Anti-Terrorism (ATC) sentenced him to death, and the Lahore High Court (LHC) later maintained the ATC’s order.

Separately, Mohammad Javaid, a resident of Chontra who was convicted in a murder case will be executed at Adiala Jail. After his death warrants were issued by the relevant court, his relatives held their last meeting with him at the prison on Wednesday.

dawn.com/news/1251954/execution-of-convicted-mass-murderer-deferred

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Southeast Asia

Lawyer of Indonesia cleric says his jail conditions inhumane

April 14, 2016

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — A lawyer for the spiritual leader of the militants who carried out the 2002 Bali bombings is urging Indonesian authorities to end his “inhumane” treatment in prison.

The radical Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Bashir has been confined to a tiny isolation cell on the Nusa Kambangan prison island as part of a broad tightening of security in the wake of the Jan. 14 suicide bombings in the Indonesian capital Jakarta.

Authorities say isolation measures, which are also being applied to other top convicted militants, are needed to stop the ailing 77-year-old Bashir from radicalizing prisoners and to cut him off from extremist networks.

Lawyer Mohammad Mahendradatta said Thursday that Bashir is kept in his 2 square meter (22 square foot) cell for 23 hours a day and sleeps on thin mats over a cement floor without blankets.

He is denied reading materials and personal items, regularly awakened from his sleep because of mosquitos, and consultations with medical staff take place behind barriers.

“The condition of his cell is simply shocking and inhumane treatment against him is causing his health to deteriorate,” Mahendradatta said.

The claim of mistreatment comes amid heightened concerns among the public and rights groups about possible extrajudicial killings following the recent death in custody of an alleged militant.

Police said the militant, known as Siyono, had concealed a handgun and attacked officers. But an autopsy conducted last week at the request of Siyono’s wife and backed by Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s second-largest Muslim group, revealed that the 34-year-old died from trauma to the chest and had no defensive wounds on his body.

The findings prompted Indonesia’s parliament to summon the national police chief and the anti-terrorism agency chief to a hearing next week.

Bashir, known as the spiritual leader of al-Qaida-linked militants behind the Bali bombings that killed 202 people, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2011.

Prosecutors said he was a key player in supporting a militant training camp in Aceh that brought together men from almost every known extremist group in predominantly Muslim Indonesia. A higher court later cut the sentence to nine years.

Akbar Hadi Prabowo, spokesman for the directorate general overseeing prisons, said Bashir has appropriate facilities for an isolation prisoner.

“The information we have is that Bashir is in a state of good health,” he said. “There is no mistreatment against Bashir, he gets proper facilities for the inmate who is placed in isolation.”

Mahendradatta said his assessment of Bashir’s prison conditions was based on recent access by his team of lawyers.

seattletimes.com/nation-world/lawyer-of-indonesia-cleric-says-his-jail-conditions-inhumane/

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Understanding violence against the left in Indonesia

April 14, 2016 1.50pm AEST

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Over the past year, public discussions and gatherings in Indonesia on left-wing ideas and the 1965 anti-communist purge, and even female punk groups have been forced to cancel or move to other venues due to pressure from radical religious groups.

In many cases, venue managers refuse to allow organisers to use their spaces, citing organisers not having permission from the local police. On the pretext of threats from religious vigilantes, police refuse to give permission or guarantee the safety of these events.

Indonesian law does not require organisers to acquire a police permit to hold a public event, but organisers need to inform the police of their plans. However, hardliners often use a 1966 regulation that bans communist and Marxist ideas to shut down public discussions.

These cases show that Indonesia still suffers from the legacy of former president Suharto’s black propaganda against Indonesia’s left. Suharto rose to power following the pogroms against Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) members and sympathisers in 1965.

It also shows that even under Joko Widodo’s presidency, nearly 18 years after Suharto’s authoritarian rule ended, the use of violence and intimidation prevails in Indonesia.

Human rights activists and lawyers have pointed out that the attacks violate rights to freedom of expression guaranteed under Indonesia’s Constitution.

But tackling this issue purely through legal analysis and human rights discourse does not explain why the government has failed to fulfil its obligation to protect its citizens and ensure their freedom.

We should see the problem in context. Indonesia is a capitalist state that uses violence and intimidation exerted by non-state actors against a critical civil society as a means for political and business elites to maintain wealth and power.

Limitations of legal analyses and human rights disource

Legal perspective analyses identify weak law enforcement as the culprit in these attacks.

Human rights discourse, meanwhile, argues the attacks happen due to the state failing to guarantee and protect groups from social persecution. Rights activists also consider this failure to protect to be a human rights violation by omission.

Both argue that strengthening laws and the capacity of law enforcers will solve the problem of non-state violence.

But Indonesia still officially promotes the idea of communism as a threat. In addition to the regulation banning communist and Marxist ideas, the government has yet to acknowledge atrocities in the 1965 massacres.

This emboldens religious and nationalist groups, which were historically involved with the army in the anti-communist purge. Arguing that the state is not responsive in preventing the rise of “neo-communism”, they take the law into their own hands.

Legacy of historical violence

We should not assume vigilante groups are autonomous actors, separated from the state.

Violence against the left was part of the consolidation of state power by Suharto’s New Order regime. The 1965 purge marked the beginning of such consolidation. The army used religious and nationalist groups to carry out a witch-hunt against communists and their sympathisers.

The Indonesian state continues to target the left even in the current democratic period because an organised left concerned with economic redistribution may challenge the interests of political and business elites. Hence violence against the left is a means to maintain power and wealth for Indonesia’s politico-business alliance.

Reproducing the idea of the communist spectre, including through non-state violence, is a means to maintain such situations.

So far, there has been no significant punishment for the attacks by religious hardliners.

State officials share the same belief as hardline groups on the threat of a communist resurrection. Commenting on the International People’s Tribunal on Indonesia’s 1965 violence, Indonesian officials warned the public about the danger of the rise of a new form of communism. Widodo also rejected demands for an apology to the 1965 victims.

Left as a political challenge

Nevertheless, violence against the left in Indonesia should not be perceived as merely a problem of reconciling with the past. It is also not simply about discrimination against leftist groups and their rights to freedom of expression.

The social and political exclusion of the left means Indonesians experience an absence of radical challenge to the capitalist state and corrupt powerful elites.

Suharto was able to sustain his power for more than three decades due to this absence of political opposition. He eliminated the left, depoliticised Islamic organisations and created generations of apolitical citizens.

Even though Suharto is no longer in power, Indonesia has not yet managed to overturn his legacy.

Social activism in Indonesia still tends to be fragmented in term of issues and organisations. Many NGOs are detached from communities because their advocacy is often project-based. The masses in Indonesia largely remain apolitical.

Political parties have a weak social basis too. Money politics and “gangsterism” have become shortcuts to gain votes during election season.

In this kind of situation, people are easily mobilised for short-term and pragmatic purposes, including to attack public gatherings.

As a result, although Indonesians live with the facade of a democratic order, the same social and political circumstances rooted in the old authoritarian order still exist. Civil society is disorganised. Violence prevails. And corruption by political elites proliferates.

theconversation.com/understanding-violence-against-the-left-in-indonesia-57186

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Philippines workers beheaded by attackers with possible ISIS ties

April 13, 2016  Associated Press

Suspected Muslim militants have beheaded two kidnapped sawmill workers while four other captives have been freed in a brutal act in the southern Philippines that appears to have been influenced by the Islamic State group's style of killings, military and police officials said Thursday.

Army Col. Roseller Murillo said police retrieved the bodies of the two workers, who were made to wear orange gowns, in a village in Butig town in Lanao del Sur province on Tuesday.

The six workers were kidnapped by gunmen on April 5 in Butig. Four were released over the weekend after their employer negotiated with their captors, police said.

The kidnappings and beheadings have been blamed on the largely unknown Maute group of militants, who authorities say have ties with Islamic militants from Indonesia and have used black clothing with the symbol of the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

The militants staged a brazen attack on an army outpost in Butig town in February, sparking a major military offensive and days of fighting that killed 24 militants and six soldiers, one of whom was beheaded.

A number of small Muslim militant factions in the south, home of minority Muslims in the largely Roman Catholic Philippines, have expressed support to the Islamic State group on online videos, but the military says there has been no evidence of any direct and active collaborations.

foxnews.com/world/2016/04/13/muslim-militants-behead-2-kidnapped-workers-in-philippines.html

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Philippines rejects Islamic State's claim it killed 100 troops

MANILA | BY MANUEL MOGATO: Apr 14, 2016

The Philippines has dismissed as "purely propaganda" Islamic State's claim that its militants killed scores of government troops in ambushes and said there was no evidence directly linking southern Muslim rebels to the group.

The Philippines has reported 46 people killed in battles this week between troops and rebels from a group known as Abu Sayyaf on the island of Basilan. Fighting raged for a sixth day on Thursday.

SITE Intelligence, a U.S.-based group that tracks online activity of jihadi organizations, reported Islamic State had claimed responsibility for killing nearly 100 Philippine soldiers and had blown up seven trucks transporting them.

Philippine military spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said the Islamic State claim was propaganda and its statement had "many gaps and inconsistencies".

"We lost only 18 soldiers but killed 28 Abu Sayyaf members since fighting began on Saturday. Our troops continued to pursue them and we will not stop until we achieve a decisive victory," Padilla said.

Abu Sayyaf, a small but violent group known for extortion, kidnappings, beheadings and bombings, has posted videos on social media pledging allegiance to Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.

The Philippine group has attracted foreign fighters from Southeast Asia, the Middle East and North Africa to the troubled south of the Philippines, home to a Muslim minority and several Muslim rebel groups in the predominantly Christian country.

But Padilla said there was still no evidence that Islamic State had ties with the Abu Sayyaf.

"We are still looking for proof to make a link," he said. "There is no direct link as far as we know and based on our assessment."

Citing an April 13 statement carried by Islamic State's Amaq news agency, SITE said the group reported only three of its fighters were killed and government forces suffered much heavier casualties.

"With the grace of god we were able to detonate seven trucks carrying soldiers," Islamic State was quoted saying.

The Philippines has pulled out the army unit that engaged the Abu Sayyaf on Saturday, replacing them fresh troops, backed by artillery, tanks and aircraft, in pursuit operations.

The army said it had attacked a rebel stronghold on Basilan led by an insurgent for whom the U.S. State Department has offered a bounty of up to $5 million.

Security experts and some media have criticized the handling of Saturday's initial encounter with the Abu Sayyaf, saying the military has repeatedly underestimated the rebels.

(Reporting by Ali Abdelaty in CAIRO and Manuel Mogato in MANILA; Editing by Martin Petty, Robert Birsel)

reuters.com/article/us-philippines-islamic-state-idUSKCN0XA21K

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Africa

Blast claims three lives in Somalia

April 14th, 2016

MOGADISHU: At least three people were killed and six others wounded in a blast at a busy livestock market in Somalia on Wednesday, a security officer said.

The blast, the latest in a string of attacks in the war-torn Horn of Africa nation, took place in the busy Afgoye district, some 30 kilometres south of the capital Mogadishu.

“Three people died in the blast and six others wounded from what seems to have been a grenade,” said local security official Abdukadir Mohamed. The explosion took place while the market was crowded with traders and farmers selling and buying animals.

“There was chaos, people were running for shelter, several bodies were strewn around — including two soldiers,” said Ahmed Gure, a local resident.

dawn.com/news/1251886/blast-claims-three-lives-in-somalia

 

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