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Islamic World News ( 6 Aug 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Islamic State Executes Dozens of Druze Hostages in Southern Syria

New Age Islam News Bureau

6 Aug 2018

Imran Khan-led party was secretive about the technology plan ahead of the July 25 polls, fearing rivals could copy it. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE



 Islamic State Executes Dozens of Druze Hostages in Southern Syria

 How A Phone App and a Database Served up Imran Khan’s Poll Win

 Why Does PM Modi Refuse to Wear Muslim Skull Caps, Asks Shashi Tharoor

 Religious Scholars Urge Taliban, Government to Declare Permanent Ceasefire

 Kenya, Tanzania Mark Bombings Which Introduced Al-Qaeda


Arab World

 Islamic State Executes Dozens of Druze Hostages in Southern Syria

 Terrorists Hunting Pro-Peace Comrades in Idlib

 Terrorists, Foreign Experts Partner in Plundering Historical Artefacts in Northwestern Syria

 ISIS video allegedly shows hostage from Syria’s Sweida before decapitation

 Syrian regime bombs Islamic State jihadists in southern desert

 Infighting Among Turkey-Backed Militants Reported again in Northern Syria

 Tensions Intensify between US-Backed Militias, Civilians in Northeastern Syria

 Saudi Arabia expels Canadian envoy, recalls its own over 'interference'

 Kurdish Fighters Ready to Join Anti-ISIL Operation in Sweida

 Egypt and Sudan announce launch of joint military talks



 How A Phone App and a Database Served up Imran Khan’s Poll Win

 PTI to Nominate Imran Khan as Prime Minister Today

 After defeat in Pindi, local PML-N leaders want Chaudhry Nisar back

 Fazl vacates residence in Ministers’ Enclave after one-and-a-half decades

 Suspect behind torching of Diamer schools killed in search operation: police

 Alliance with MQM-P out of necessity than choice, says PTI Karachi chief

 Khursheed Shah seeks Akhtar Mengal’s support for NA speaker

 Chilas school attackers trained in Afghanistan



 Why Does PM Modi Refuse to Wear Muslim Skull Caps, Asks Shashi Tharoor

 Muslims in Maharashtra Plan Silent Marches From Pune in September

 Aurangabad Will Host India’s First Skills Varsity for Muslims

 NIA Arrests Two Bengal Residents in Kerala in Bodh Gaya Blast Case

 Tripura's Jamiat Ulama-e Hind Urges State Govt to Take Steps for Peaceful Eid al-Adha

 Uttar Pradesh Govt Wants To Bring Madrasas in Mainstream Education: MoS Mohsin Raza

 Terrorist arrested with 8 grenades in Jammu

 India to Seek Details from Pakistan about Jaish Terrorist Citing 32-Year-Old Commonwealth Pact


South Asia

 Religious Scholars Urge Taliban, Government to Declare Permanent Ceasefire

 Canadian Couple Helps Rohingya Muslims, Raising Global Awareness

 Key Taliban commander, his 6 comrades killed in Takhar operations

 US envoy attacked as protests spread in Bangladesh

 Afghan suicide blast kills three Czech soldiers, Taliban claim responsibility

 Students Pour Into Dhaka’s Streets to Demand Safer Roads

 Suicide attack rocks Jalalabad city, casualties feared

 MoD confirms deployment of US Special Forces in Farah province

 Taliban suffer heavy casualties after attacking Paktia outposts



 Kenya, Tanzania Mark Bombings Which Introduced Al-Qaeda

 At Least 17 Killed In Al-Shabaab Car Bombings in Somalia

 Over 9,400 Nigerians repatriated from Libya

 Imam saved Christians from Muslim gunmen



 Islamist Children Pose Real 'Threat' To Germany, Spy Chief Warns

 With Dreams of Higher Education, the Arab World Looks To Europe

 Sajid Javid accused of 'buying silence' of Windrush citizens

 British hypocrisy breeding more terrorists: Expert


North America

 Hamza Bin Laden Has Married Daughter of Lead 9/11 Hijacker, Say Family

 Iran Revolutionary Guard says it held Gulf drills as US tensions rise

 Pompeo: Sanctions to be enforced until Iran ‘behaves like a normal country’

 US police say 11 children rescued from ‘extremists’ at ‘filthy’ hideout


Southeast Asia

 Indian Muslim Group Wants Senator to Push Minority Rights

 Deputy Speaker: Opposition MPs still harping on racial, religious politics

 Govt to upgrade status of Kafa religious teachers

 More than 200 Indonesians in Islamic University in Madinah



 Deadly Houthi Attack on Hodeidah Hospital ‘A Violation of International Law’

 UAE backs UN talks in Geneva on Yemen, says minister Reem al-Hashimi

 Iran protests resume for 6th day amid violent clashes with security forces

 Saudi Arabia agrees to admit Iranian diplomat to head interests section

 Israel seeks limited ceasefire with Gaza, officials hint

 Israeli aircraft strikes Gaza Strip over ‘arson balloons’: Military

 Gaza-bound activists remain in Israeli custody for 2nd day

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Islamic State executes dozens of Druze hostages in southern Syria

AUG 6, 2018

BEIRUT – The Islamic State jihadist group has executed one of dozens of Druze hostages abducted from Syria’s southern province of Sweida last week, a journalist in the area and a monitor said Sunday.

The killing prompted an offer from the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to exchange captured jihadis for the remaining Druze civilians.

IS went on a rampage in Sweida on July 25, killing more than 250 people — mostly civilians — in the deadliest attack ever to target the mostly government-held province and its Druze religious minority.

The jihadis also kidnapped more than 30 people, most of them women and children, from a village in the province, which had previously remained largely isolated from Syria’s seven-year civil war.

On Thursday, IS killed a 19-year-old male student who was among the hostages, the head of the Sweida24 news website, Nour Radwan, told AFP.

Quoting relatives, Radwan, who was speaking from Sweida, said the young man was taken from the village of Al-Shabki on July 25 along with his mother.

His family received two videos, the first showing him being decapitated and the second of him speaking before being killed as well as images of his body after his death, Radwan said.

Sweida24 posted online part of a second video, seen by AFP, showing a bearded young man who appeared to be sitting on the ground in a landscape of gray rocks.

He is wearing a black T-shirt and tracksuit bottoms, and his hands are tied behind his back.

The video could not be independently verified.

IS has not claimed the kidnappings and did not publish the video on its usual channels.

IS jihadis have lost much of the territory they once controlled in Syria after overrunning large swaths of it in 2014, but they retain a presence in the east of the country and in the country’s vast Badiya desert.

The regime has been fighting in recent weeks to expel IS fighters from a patch of the neighboring province of Daraa.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said the young man’s execution was the first since the kidnappings.

The execution came “after the failure of talks between IS and regime forces over the transfer of IS fighters from the southwest of Daraa province to the Badiya” desert, the Observatory said.

It also follows the execution of 50 IS fighters and civilians in Daraa province earlier in the week at the hands of rebels, according to the monitor, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria.

Stepping in with an offer on Sunday, the SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, told AFP that it was “fully prepared” to exchange jihadis for the Sweida civilians.

“We assure our people in the town of Sweida and the families of the hostages that we are fully prepared for any exchange with Daesh,” SDF spokesman Redur Khalil told AFP, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

“This initiative does not replace Russia’s mediation,” he said.

On Friday, a top Druze religious leader said Syrian regime ally Russia was in talks with the jihadis over the release of those abducted in Sweida.

The Druze, who made up 3 percent of Syria’s population before its war broke out in 2011, follow a secretive faith seen as an offshoot of Islam — but IS sees them as heretics.

Syria expert Khattar Abu Diab said that the kidnappings in Sweida marked a turning point for the minority.

“For this ancestral community, the abduction of women oversteps all red lines,” he said.

“Their reaction will depend on the outcome of negotiations but if all the hostages were killed,” the Druze could directly intervene to expel IS from the desert, he said.

Regime forces have in recent weeks ousted IS from all of the towns and villages in the Yarmouk Basin in the northwest of Daraa province.

Syria’s state media have said regime troops are pursuing the last remaining jihadis who fled to nearby valleys.

In areas it has retaken from rebels and jihadis in recent years, the Russia-backed regime has sometimes negotiated to take back control of land in exchange for the transfer of fighters to other parts of Syria.

During the July 25 attack in Sweida, the jihadis abducted 36 Druze women and children from a village in Sweida’s east, the Observatory said at the time.

Four women had since escaped while two had died, leaving 14 women and 16 children in IS captivity, according to the Observatory.

At the time, another 17 men were unaccounted for, but it was unclear if they were also kidnapped.

Local sources say the abductees’ families have been sent photos and videos of their loved ones via WhatsApp.

The Sweida killing is the first such execution of a kidnapped civilian by IS since the jihadis overran the town of Al-Qaryatain in central Syria for several weeks in October last year, the Observatory said.



How A Phone App and a Database Served up Imran Khan’s Poll Win

AUGUST 6, 2018

ISLAMABAD: A phone app and a database of more than 50 million voters were key weapons in the successful campaign of cricket legend Imran Khan in last month’s general election, though rivals allege Khan also received clandestine aid from military.How Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party used the database and the associated app represents a sea change in the antiquated way in which Pakistan’s biggest parties conduct elections, from pre-poll targeting of voters to on-the-day mobilization of supporters. PTI was secretive about the technology plan ahead of the July 25 poll, fearing rivals could copy it, but several party workers revealed how the app transformed their campaign and gave them an edge.

The phone app proved especially useful in getting supporters to the polls when the government’s own telephone information service giving out polling place locations suffered major problems on the election day, leaving other parties scrambling.

It partly explains why Khan’s party managed to win tight-margin races in the nuclear-armed nation of 208 million people, though Khan’s rivals allege he also benefited from the military’s support – an allegation he staunchly denies.

“It’s had a great impact,” said Amir Mughal, tasked with using the app and database, known as the Constituency Management System (CMS), to elect Asad Umar, a lawmaker who won his seat in Islamabad and will be Khan’s new finance minister.

The small CMS unit led by Mughal, Umar’s personal secretary, was typical of how Khan’s party set up teams in constituencies across Pakistan to mine the database, identifying voters by household, zeroing-in on ‘confirmed’ PTI voters, tagging them on the app, and ensuring they turned out on election day. “Work that would take days of weeks is being completed in one to two hours,” Mughal said in Umar’s office minutes after the polls shut.

Khan’s PTI surpassed expectations to scoop about 115 seats out of 272 elected members of parliament, while the party of ousted and jailed prime minister Nawaz Sharif trailed in second with 64 seats.

Developed by a small tech team, the CMS was a key response to Khan’s bitter complaints after the 2013 poll loss that his party failed to translate mass popularity into votes because it did not know the ‘art of winning elections’.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) ran a more erratic campaign, hurt by divisions within the party and the loss of key leaders who were either disqualified or in case of Sharif and his daughter, jailed.

Weeks before the elections, Khan sent out a video via WhatsApp urging PTI candidates to embrace CMS. “I have seen and experienced how it works and I’m using it in all five constituencies I am contesting,” Khan said in the video message. “The faster you apply this system, the easier your life will become,” Khan added.

Created by former US-based real estate businessman Tariq Din and Shahzad Gul, a tech consultant, the early version of the system was not immediately embraced by PTI. But Umar, the incoming finance minister, and wealthy politician Jahangir Tareen Khan, a close Khan ally, were among the first to see its potential. After the software helped deliver strong results in the 2015 local elections, the party was won over, according to senior PTI officials who work on the CMS software.

For the general election, PTI focused on 150 constituencies it felt it had the best chance of winning. Party workers said they used scanning software to digitise publicly-available electoral voter lists to create the database.

By typing in a voter’s identity card number into the app, PTI workers could see details such as family home address, who else lived in the same household, and where they needed to vote.

It became so crucial to the PTI campaign that when on election day the programme went down for an hour, it triggered some panic in the party’s ranks.

A senior CMS official that WhatsApp messages flooded in when the system ground to a halt under the weight of database searches, which totalled 20 million on the election day. “What the hell is going on?,” inquired one of Khan’s closest allies. This politician then called the CMS team and made his feelings clear, saying, “If the system doesn’t work, we will lose the elections and you guys will be the villains.”

When CMS came back up, Khan’s ally messaged again, “Thank God”.

CMS architects say the system’s power was only partly utilised as there was not enough time to train workers across the country and some politicians resisted using it.

In the run up to election day, PTI workers were also able to print out ‘parchis’, or slips, that voters needed to enter the polling station. PML-N workers had to help voters fill the paper slips with a pen.

In a large nation where illiteracy hovers above 40 percent, that meant PML-N workers had to write out millions of slips for the 12.9 million voters who backed Sharif’s party, stopping those workers from canvassing or doing other vital work. “It’s a paradigm shift,” said another senior CMS operator. “We changed the party, turning social media popularity into reality.”



Why Does PM Modi Refuse to Wear Muslim Skull Caps, Asks Shashi Tharoor

August 6, 2018

Congress Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor has asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi why he categorically refuses to wear Muslim skull caps and the colour green.

Speaking at an event in Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday, Tharoor said, "Why does the PM, who wears all sorts of headgears from across the world, refuse to wear a Muslim skull cap? Why does he refuse to wear the colour green, which in his view is a colour of Muslims and wearing the colour amounts to Muslim appeasement?"

Tharoor was speaking during a seminar titled 'Standing up to hatred: Intolerance and violence in contemporary India'.

In his speech, Tharoor blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and right-wing organisations for the rising cases of cow vigilantism and attacks on minorities.

Blaming the Prime Minister for his silence after such incidents, he said not once has the PM spoken about the acts of cow vigilante groups.

"Not once has the PM spoken immediately after these incidents (attacks on minorities in the name of protecting cows) to assure people that he disapproves of this violence. The perception that then goes out is that if the PM does not speak, he does not mind these things. This emboldens the perpetrators," Tharoor said.

Vivekananda Would Be Attacked If He Was Alive Today

In his address, Tharoor said he is convinced that if Swami Vivekananda was alive today, he would be attacked by right-wing Goondas (thugs).

"I am convinced that if Swami Vivekanda were to come to today's India, he would be the target of these Goondas. They will bring engine oil to throw at his face and will also try to knock him down on the streets because Vivekanda would be saying, respect people. He would say humanity is more important. We are Hindus in the Vivekananda tradition, not in the Savarkar or Golwarker tradition," he said.

This was said in reference to the attacks on social activist Swami Agnivesh by right-wing activist in Jharkhand last month.

Tharoor also criticised the BJP-led central government for its inability to stop the increasing cases of cow vigilantism and attacks on minorities in the country.

Quoting a data from the Union Home Ministry, he said that the country has seen 2,920 incidents of communal violence in the last four years alone.

"After the BJP came to power, we have seen a widespread rise in the number of incidents of communal violence," Tharoor said.



Religious scholars urge Taliban, government to declare permanent ceasefire

Aug 05 2018

The Afghan Ulemas, religious scholars, have urged the Afghan government and the Taliban militants group to declare a permanent ceasefire.

The Afghanistan Ulemas Council Chief Mawlavi Qeyamuddin Kashar said the religious scholars have an offer for the declaration of a permanent ceasefire.

Mawlavi Kashaf made the remarks during a gathering in capital Kabul on Saturday.

He said the declaration of a permanent ceasefire by the government and the Taliban group would result into the launch of direct talks for peace between the two sides.

This comes as a Presidential spokesperson, Haroon Chakhansuri had earlier said that there are chances of another ceasefire announcement with the Taliban group during Eid Al-Adha.

Speaking to reporters in Kabul nearly two weeks ago, Chakhansuri further added that signs of interests are seen on all sides, the government and Taliban, to declare another ceasefire during the upcoming.

He said the ceasefire will only be declared based on the decision of the government and demands of the people and religious scholars.

The officials in the Chief Executive Office of the Unity Government had earlier informed regarding the possible announcement of ceasefire with the Taliban group.

The officials in the Chief Executive’s Office had said that the government officials are mulling ceasefire with the Taliban during Eid Al-Adha to show a sign of goodwill to end the ongoing violence in the country.



Kenya, Tanzania mark bombings which introduced Al-Qaeda

August 06, 2018

NAIROBI - Kenya and Tanzania on Tuesday mark 20 years since the devastating US embassy bombings that thrust Al-Qaeda onto the global stage and went on to shape how a generation thinks about personal security.

It was mid-morning on August 7, 1998, when the first massive blast hit the US embassy in downtown Nairobi, followed minutes later by an explosion in Dar es Salaam, killing a total of 224 people and injuring around 5,000 - almost all of them Africans.

With two monster bombs loaded onto the back of trucks and a trail of carnage in east Africa, the world was introduced to Osama bin Laden three years before the September 11 attacks in New York would make him a household name.

“It wasn’t the first time Al-Qaeda had carried out an attack, but in terms of the spectacular, catastrophic nature of the incident, they really announced their entry onto the world stage,” said Martin Kimani, head of Kenya’s National Counter Terrorism Centre.

“When 9/11 happened it was shocking and surprising, but a precedent had been set here in east Africa.”

According to “The Looming Tower”, a Pulitzer Prize-winning book on the rise of Al-Qaeda, bin Laden gave various reasons for targeting the embassies, such as the deployment of American troops to Somalia and a US plan to partition Sudan, where he had lived for five years until being expelled in 1996.

However, author Lawrence Wright concluded that the main goal was to “lure the United States into Afghanistan”.

Boosting Al-Qaeda’s image

This aim was achieved, in the aftermath of the attacks, with the US launching strikes on Sudan and Afghanistan that were “largely seen as ineffective”, said Daniel Byman, a counterterrorism expert at the Brookings Institution.

The strikes led the Taliban in Afghanistan to “embrace the group more closely”, he said, and also boosted the image of a group seen as standing up to the United States in the Muslim world.

Byman said the attack was the first to show that Al-Qaeda “had tremendous reach and it can do sophisticated operations”.

“It showed Al-Qaeda that international terrorism could generate tremendous attention, and not just attention from its adversaries... it was a form of advertising in a way.”

The years since 9/11 have been shaped by the so-called “war on terror” and the proliferation of American military operations - notably in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.

At the same time, Al-Qaeda went on to inspire affiliates around the globe, carrying out attacks across the Middle East as well as from Bali to Madrid, London and Paris. Islamist insurgencies have wreaked havoc in the Sahel, Nigeria and Somalia, and - on several bloody occasions since the 1998 bombings - Kenya. “Kenya itself was not primarily the target but of course we ended up with the majority of fatalities and consequences of that attack,” said Kimani. “We continue to be on the frontlines of this struggle.”

‘Dealing with terrorism’

Two years after Kenya sent troops across the border into Somalia to fight the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab - which had been carrying out attacks on its soil - the group killed 67 people in an attack on the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi in 2013.

Then in 2015, a Shabaab attack on the Garissa University in eastern Kenya left 148 dead.

However, Kimani said counterterrorism efforts by Kenya had proved successful, confining Shabaab attacks to remote areas in recent years as a result of new anti-terror legislation and improved co-ordination between different security forces. He said efforts to build trust with communities where jihadists hide out, and understanding how recruitment happens to nip it in the bud has also been key.

“The threat is still there, believe me, but 20 years later we have become much better at dealing with terrorism than we used to be,” he said.

“Globally terrorism has left a deep, deep social imprint. It has changed the way people think about security. Here in Kenya there are guards at malls and hotels and that is replicated in many parts of the world.”

Kimani said governments need to focus on improving livelihoods and providing basic services to erase the “pockets of desperation” that prove so fruitful for recruitment.

In recent years, attention has swung away from Al-Qaeda to its rival Islamic State (IS) group which formed in 2013, captured swathes of territory and inspired numerous so-called “lone wolf” attacks from afar.

However, experts warn that while IS has since lost its territory and reach, Al-Qaeda has been quietly rebuilding.

“Their ideological ability to be grafted onto local grievances continues to make them a threat,” said Kimani.



Arab World


Terrorists Hunting Pro-Peace Comrades in Idlib

Aug 05, 2018

The eye-witness accounts said that Tahrir al-Sham terrorists deployed in Jabal Turkmen region in Western Idlib arrested and executed a sum of 12 militants who tried to surrender to the army to apply for a government amnesty.

The witnesses went on to say that a large number of Idlib residents intend to accept the Damascus peace offer but Tahrir al-Sham is capturing and executing them to deter any such move.

In the meantime, people in Khan Sheikhoun in Southwestern Idlib staged a demonstration against Tahrir al-Sham, calling for their expulsion from their region, they further said.

Meanwhile, other sources said that people have tried to prevent Tahrir al-Sham from setting up checkpoints in Khan Sheikhoun, "but the terrorists opened fire at protesters and dispersed them".

Militant-affiliated sources said on Saturday that Tahrir al-Sham terrorists embarked on intensifying security measures in Idlib, arresting those people who tried to persuade militants to join the peace agreement with the army to hand over the province to the government forces.

The sources further said that Tahrir al-Sham arrested almost 17 pro-peace people in the town of Khan Sheikhoun and in the village of Madya in Idlib.

The sources went on to say that Tahrir al-Sham has also threatened peace activists in Aleppo province.

They said that militants in a large number of regions in Idlib and Aleppo intend to accept the army's peace plan before the government forces start their large-scale operation.



Terrorists, Foreign Experts Partner in Plundering Historical Artefacts in Northwestern Syria

Aug 05, 2018

The Arabic-language website of Sputnik quoted local sources as reporting that Tahrir al-Sham along with almost twenty foreign experts embarked on carrying out excavations in Sheikh Mansour region near the town of Saraqib in Idlib province, adding that the terrorists have set up a security belt around the excavation site, preventing residents from approaching the site.

It further said that the terrorists have stolen hundreds of historical artifacts from Idlib in recent days, adding that excavation operations have increased after the establishment of the de-escalation zone since the beginning of the last year.

The report said that the town of Sarmada near the border with Turkey has been turned into the main bazaar for trading historical artifacts and weapons.

It went on to say that the looted artifacts have been transferred to Turkey by Tahrir al-Sham and have been sold to the country's traders.

Idlib province comprises of almost 400 historical sites some of them dating back to the fourth millennium BC.  

Local sources said on Tuesday that Tahrir al-Sham members had done excavations at the ancient Girls Palace North of the village of al-Dana, plundering its valuable artifacts.

Full report at:



ISIS video allegedly shows hostage from Syria’s Sweida before decapitation

5 August 2018

ISIS has executed one of dozens of Druze hostages abducted from Syria's southern province of Sweida last month, a Syrian news outlet and a monitor said Sunday.

The terrorist group killed the 19-year-old male student on Thursday after kidnapping more than 30 people, mostly women and children, from a village in Sweida during a deadly rampage on July 25, the head of the Sweida24 news website Nour Radwan said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said it was the first execution since the kidnappings.

Quoting relatives, Radwan said the young man was taken from the village of Al-Shabki on July 25 along with his mother.

Videos of the execution

His family received two videos, the first showing him being decapitated and the second of him speaking before being killed as well as images of his body after his death, Radwan said.

Sweida24 posted online part of a second video, which was seen by AFP, showing a young man who appeared to be sitting on the ground in a rocky landscape.

His is wearing a black T-shirt and his hands are tied behind his back.

The video could not be independently verified.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said it was the first execution since the kidnappings.

On July 25, ISIS carried out a series of attacks in Sweida's provincial capital and several villages that killed more than 250 people, mostly civilians.

It was the deadliest attack ever to target the mostly government-held province and the secretive Druze religious minority that populates it.

During the attack the jihadists abducted 36 Druze women and children from a village in Sweida's east, the Observatory said at the time.

Four women had since escaped while two had died, leaving 14 women and 16 children in ISIS captivity, according to the Observatory.

At the time, another 17 men were unaccounted for but it was unclear if they were also kidnapped.

On Friday, a top Druze religious leader said regime ally Russia was in talks with the jihadists over their release.

Sweida had until last week largely remained isolated from Syria's seven-year conflict.

Full report at:


Syrian regime bombs Islamic State jihadists in southern desert

06th August 2018

BEIRUT: Syrian regime forces bombed on late Sunday a desert area under the control of the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group near the province of Sweida in southern Syria, a war monitor said.

"The bombing and fighting between the regime forces and IS have intensified during the evening and are continuing," said Rami Abdel Rahmane, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

"The regime is advancing to the north and northeast of Sweida", adjacent to the desert zone of the southern province, he told AFP.

This military operation would be "the start of a regime offensive to dislodge IS from this pocket" in the Badiya desert of Sweida, he said, adding that "a major military reinforcement (of regime troops) is massing" in the area.

The fighting comes as Russia failed in its negotiations to free some 30 civilian hostages of the Druze religious minority taken by IS last month. The kidnappings followed a series of coordinated attacks against Sweida province which left more than 250 people dead.

On Sunday, the Observatory and news website Sweida24 announced that IS had decapitated one of the hostages, a 19-year-old male student.

This execution, the first since the abductions, came "after the failure of the negotiations with the regime forces", according to the Observatory.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, an Arab-Kurd alliance which fought against IS with the support of the United States, indicated Sunday that it was ready to exchange with IS captured jihadists for the remaining Druze civilian hostages.

Meanwhile, IS, which has not claimed responsibility for the execution or the kidnappings, has been pounded by multiple offensives in Syria and today controls less than three per cent of the territory.

However, it continues to launch attacks like the bloody strike and kidnappings in Sweida.

Full report at:



Infighting Among Turkey-Backed Militants Reported again in Northern Syria

Aug 05, 2018

Gunmen of two groups, both affiliated to the Turkish troops, exchanged heavy fire in Tadif region near al-Bab in Northeastern Aleppo, leaving a number of casualties on both warring sides.

In the meantime, the Turkish soldiers and allied militants attacked the village of Karzilah in Shirava region in Afrin, looting villagers' assets and transferring them to an unknown destination.

Also, a militant was killed after the Ankara-backed militants fought with the members of a family in al-Ashrafiyeh district in the town of Afrin. 

The Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG) claimed on Saturday that their forces killed 54 Turkish Army soldiers and Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters in July.

According to the YPG’s statement, their forces killed 23 Turkish Army soldiers, including 2 captains and a lieutenant, and 31 Free Syrian Army militants in the Afrin region in Northwestern Aleppo.

The YPG’s report added that they lost eight fighters during their field operations inside the Afrin region.

Since losing the Afrin region in March 2018, the YPG has been continuously conducting hit-and-run attacks against the Free Syrian Army and Turkish military.

Full report at:



Tensions Intensify between US-Backed Militias, Civilians in Northeastern Syria

Aug 05, 2018

The SDF's military police arrested a number of youths in the town of Tal Abdaydh in Northern Raqqa under their forced recruitment plan.

In the meantime, the Kurdish militias seized lands of some of the residents in the village of Huweija Abdi South of Tal Abyadh without mentioning any reason.

Local sources, meanwhile, said that the SDF arrested almost 10 civilians after clashes between the Raqqa city's residents with the SDF.

The measures have angered the local people and attacks by unknown assailants on the SDF bases have increased.

On Wednesday, a number of civilians engaged in heavy fighting with the SDF in Baq al-Rashid district in Raqqa city, leaving a number of people and gunmen injured.

The SDF has put its militants on alert following the clashes.

Full report at:



Saudi Arabia expels Canadian envoy, recalls its own over 'interference'

August 06, 2018

Saudi Arabia said on Monday it was expelling the Canadian ambassador and had recalled its envoy while freezing all new trade, in protest at Ottawa's vigorous calls for the release of jailed activists.

The kingdom gave the Canadian ambassador 24 hours to leave the country, in an abrupt rupture of relations over what it slammed as “interference” in its internal affairs.

The move, which underscores a newly aggressive foreign policy led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, comes after Canada demanded the immediate release of human rights campaigners swept up in a new crackdown.

“The Canadian position is an overt and blatant interference in the internal affairs of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the Saudi foreign ministry tweeted.

“The kingdom announces that it is recalling its ambassador to Canada for consultation. We consider the Canadian ambassador to the kingdom persona non grata and order him to leave within the next 24 hours.”

The ministry also announced “the freezing of all new trade and investment transactions with Canada while retaining its right to take further action”.

Canada last week said it was “gravely concerned” over a new wave of arrests of women and human rights campaigners in the kingdom, including award-winning gender rights activist Samar Badawi.

“We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful #humanrights activists,” the foreign ministry tweeted on Friday.

'Unprecedented crackdown'

Samar was arrested along with fellow campaigner Nassima al-Sadah last week, the latest victims of what Human Rights Watch called an “unprecedented government crackdown on the women's rights movement”.

Samar is a vocal campaigner for blogger Raif Badawi, her brother who was arrested in 2012 and sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for “insulting Islam” in a case that sparked an international outcry.

The latest arrests come weeks after more than a dozen women's rights campaigners were detained and accused of undermining national security and collaborating with enemies of the state. Some have since been released.

The Saudi foreign ministry slammed the Canadian statement, signalling its growing irritation over Western criticism of the kingdom's poor human rights record.

“Using the phrase 'immediately release' in the Canadian statement is very unfortunate, reprehensible, and unacceptable in relations between states,” the ministry tweeted.

Prince Mohammed, heir to the region's most powerful throne, has introduced a string of reforms such as lifting a decades-long ban on women drivers in a bid to overhaul the kingdom's austere image as it prepares for a post-oil era.

But the 32-year-old has simultaneously pursued a hawkish foreign policy — including leading a blockade of neighbouring Qatar and a bombing campaign against Huthi rebels in Yemen — while cracking down on dissent at home.

'Serious concern'

“The rupture in Saudi diplomatic relations with Canada reinforces how the 'new' Saudi Arabia that Mohammed bin Salman is putting together is in no mood to tolerate any form of criticism of its handling of domestic affairs,” said Kristian Ulrichsen, a fellow at Rice University's Baker Institute in the United States.

In April, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his “serious concern” over the continued jailing of Badawi to Saudi King Salman.

Badawi's wife Ensaf Haidar has been granted asylum by Canada, where she is raising their three children now aged 14, 13 and 10 as a single mother.

Riyadh's expulsion of the Canadian ambassador was meant to send a strong message to other critical Western governments, observers say.

“Canada is easier to cut ties with than the rest,” Bessma Momani, a professor at Canada's University of Waterloo, told AFP.

Full report at:



Kurdish Fighters Ready to Join Anti-ISIL Operation in Sweida

Aug 05, 2018

YPG Chief Commander Siban Hamou said in an interview with Asharaq al-Awsat daily that his forces are ready to take part in the liberation operation of Sweida.

In the meantime, local sources reported that the Syrian Army has dispatched a large number of forces to Northeastern Sweida.

They further said that the army men have been deployed in the villages on the rims of Sweida's Badiyeh (desert) that is under ISIL's control, adding that the army seems to soon kick off anti-terrorism operation in the region. 

ISIL kicked off heavy attacks on residential areas in Sweida in late July, killing 265 civilians and wounding tens more, including women and children.  

On Saturday, the army dispatched a long convoy, including a large number of soldiers and heavy military hardware, to Northeastern Sweida to defeat the remaining pockets of the ISIL terrorists in Eastern Badiyeh.

In the meantime, the army aircraft pounded the positions and movements of the terrorists in Sweida's Badiyeh, inflicting major losses on them.

Full report at:



Egypt and Sudan announce launch of joint military talks

6 August 2018

The Sudan defense ministry announced last night the launch of joint military talks between Sudan and Egypt, which are in their fifth round.

A statement issued by the ministry did not mention the duration of these talks or the end date.

Egypt's chief of staff, General Mohamed Farid, is expected to arrive in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum on Monday.





PTI to nominate Imran Khan as prime minister today

August 06, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) parliamentary committee meets here on Monday (today) to nominate party chairman Imran Khan as prime minister.

The parliamentary committee is also expected to decide the names of federal cabinet members in the meeting to be chaired by Mr Khan. The PTI chief had earlier decided to keep his federal cabinet small with an initial strength of 15 to 20 federal ministers.

“The meeting will endorse the nomination of Imran Khan as next prime minister of the country,” PTI spokesman Fawad Chaudhry confirmed to Dawn when contacted on Sunday.

Asked if the names of cabinet members would also be announced on Monday, the spokesman said the committee was likely to finalise the names of the cabinet members.

PTI sources said the party was also considering one federal ministry for the Muttahida Qaumi Move­ment-Pakistan (MQM-P) after the party with its six MNAs-elect inked an agreement with the PTI to support its government at the Centre.

Besides, it was learnt that the PTI leadership was considering the names of Aleem Khan, Fawad Chaudhry, Dr Yasmin Rashid and Sibtain Khan for the slot of Punjab chief minister.

For the office of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister, former CM Pervez Khattak and another PTI leader Atif Khan are said to be strong candidates.

Pervez Elahi, vice president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, was being considered for the position of Punjab Assembly speaker after the PML-Q decided to become PTI’s ally both at the Centre and in Punjab.

Govt formation

The PTI spokesman on Sunday claimed that the number of the party’s members in the National Assem­bly had reached 174 and 186 in the Punjab Assembly.

With 174 seats at the Centre and 186 in Punjab, the PTI was in a comfortable position to form its federal and provincial governments, he said.

He added that four seats of Balochistan National Party (BNP) had not been included in the 174 seats so far. “I have not included BNP seats in the figure of 174, because our negotiations with the party are still in progress. So far the BNP has not officially announced its support to the PTI,” he added.

The PTI spokesman claimed that the party would easily form its government at the Centre and two provinces, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab.

Responding to a question about PTI’s decision to go into an appeal against the Lahore High Court (LHC) decision for recounting of votes in the Lahore (NA-131) constituency, the spokesman said the court has no right to order for the recount, as it was the responsibility of the ECP. The court had stopped the ECP from issuing notification of Imran’s victory against PML-N’s Khawaja Saad Rafique’s and ordered recounting of votes.

The PTI spokesman said vote recount was under way in 48 constituencies, which was the highest number of constituencies where the ECP had started recounting votes in the electoral history of Pakistan.

The spokesman said the PTI wanted finality of the election results. It was for this reason that the decision was made to challenge the high court’s decision of recounting, he said. In this constituency, he added, Mr Khan had defeated Mr Rafique by a few hundred votes.

Maleeha meets Imran

Earlier, Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Maleeha Lodhi met the PTI chief at his Banigala residence on Sunday and congratulated him on his party’s performance in the recent elections.

Japanese ambassador, the British envoy and other foreign dignitaries had also visited the PTI chief in recent days. The envoys of China, Saudi Arabia and the UAE had called on the PTI chairman since his party emerged as the winner of the July 25 polls. Besides Afghan president, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also telephoned Imran Khan to congratulate him over his party’s victory.



After defeat in Pindi, local PML-N leaders want Chaudhry Nisar back

Aamir Yasin

August 06, 2018

RAWALPINDI: After its defeat in the elections in the Rawalpindi district, local PML-N leaders and workers have started efforts to end differences between the party leadership and former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.

A senior leader of the PML-N told Dawn that the local leaders and workers wanted to unite the party as due to the internal differences it lost many seats in the district.

He said efforts were being made to arrange a meeting between the PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif and Chaudhry Nisar at Adiala Jail. “But before arranging the meeting, it is necessary to get permission from Mr Sharif.” He said the party workers and local leaders were of the view that there was a need to bring back Chaudhry Nisar to the party because his leadership qualities always helped the local leaders to handle complicated issues in the Potohar region.

“The local leaders were headless in the 2018 elections and failed to launch an effective campaign and all the candidates worked separately in their constituencies. Chaudhry Tanveer Khan is senior among the local leaders but he is not capable of handling many issues,” he said.

“The results of the two constituencies in the 2018 elections showed that had the votes bagged by Chaudhry Nisar as an independent and the PML-N candidates were combined, the party would not have lost the elections.”

He said the PML-N wanted to end its internal differences before the by-elections in NA-60 and NA-59 Rawalpindi.

“The party has two options for NA-59: to get Chaudhry Nisar agree to contest the by-polls on the PML-N ticket and to field Raja Qamarul Islam for the seat again.”

However, he said, people were mostly of the view that Qamarul Islam should not be fielded in the by-election.

He said discussions had started on the issue at the higher level of the party.

He said the workers and local leaders did not accept former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi or PML-N Punjab General Secretary Raja Ashfaq Sarwar to lead the party in the district or at the division level.

Many Union Council chairmen in the district are still loyal to the former interior minister and want him (Chaudhry Nisar) to play his role in the PML-N,” he said, adding they (UC chairmen) had conveyed this to the party leadership,” he said.

When contacted, former PML-N MNA Malik Shakil Awan said the party was united under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif and the local leaders would work as per their directives.

However, he admitted that most of the PML-N workers wanted to end the differences between the party leadership and Chaudhry Nisar as soon as possible.

Full report at:



Fazl vacates residence in Ministers’ Enclave after one-and-a-half decades

August 06, 2018

SLAMABAD: Maulana Fazlur Rehman has vacated his official residence in the Ministers’ Enclave after staying there for more than one-and-a-half decades.

Sources in the Pakistan Public Works Department (Pak-PWD), which maintains Bungalow No. 29 where the Maulana stayed, told Dawn that the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl chief left the house on July 31.

They said that before leaving the official residence, Maulana Fazl paid all dues of the Pak-PWD.

Maulana Fazl was chairman of the Kashmir Committee, who enjoys the status of a federal minister.

It has been learnt that the Maulana has shifted to a farm house of his party’s Senator Talha Mehmood in Chak Shahzad.

Meanwhile, the Capital Development Authority has started renovation of the National Assembly speaker’s residence in the Ministers’ Enclave where PTI chairman Imran Khan will stay after taking the oath as prime minister.

Full report at:



Suspect behind torching of Diamer schools killed in search operation: police

Umar Bacha | Imtiaz Ali Taj

August 05, 2018

The prime suspect believed responsible for the torching of 14 girls' schools over a period of two days in Gilgit-Baltistan's (GB) Diamer district was killed during a search operation in the Tanger area on Sunday, Diamer Police Spokesperson Muhammad Wakeel told Dawn.

Shafiq who has no known association with any organised militant or terrorist outfits, but is referred to as a "militant" and "militant commander" by police officials was one of the suspects behind the brazen arson attacks targeting girls' schools in the Chilas, Darel and Tanger tehsils of Diamer district.

Police began conducted raids in various parts of Diamer last night to track down those responsible for the arson attacks. GB Spokesperson Faizullah Faraq said that 10-12 police parties were involved in the operations.

A police constable was killed and another wounded in a gun battle with armed suspects during a late night raid on Saturday in Tanger. Faraq on Sunday said that 30 people had been arrested during search operations so far.

Police sources said that locals were also taking part in the search operations, and that most 'militants' in the area are locals.

Muhammad Wakeel said that the "militants" in Tanger had been attempting to flee the area but locals had surrounded them, after which Shafiq was killed.

Police sources added that a civilian was injured in an exchange of fire between police and the 'militants'. At least three to four others were also injured during the operations.

GB Spokesman Faizullah Faraq said that miscreants had occupied a road in Tanger and were firing at passing cars.

The car of Sessions Judge Malik Inayat Rehman, who was going from Shatial to attend the funeral of the slain police constable (his cousin) in Tanger, was also fired at as it travelled along the road, his father, former GB Legislative Assembly speaker Muhammad Miskeen told DawnNewsTV.

Although the car was badly damaged, the judge escaped unharmed, Miskeen said, adding that the judge had not been alerted to the security threat by police.

Locals in the area sought the assistant commissioner's permission to fight the miscreants, but were not given the go ahead to do so.

Meanwhile, Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Gohar Nafees said that a suicide jacket, grenades and an array of arms were recovered from a suspected terrorist's house in Chilas.

DIG Nafees said a heavy contingent of security forces had been deployed in Darel, and that the search operation would continue in Diamer until "terrorism was eliminated".

GB Information Minister Shams Mir said that a team of forensic experts from Islamabad had arrived in GB to investigate the arson attacks. Mir said that the experts are part of a joint investigation team constituted to probe the incidents and track down those responsible.

Police reports links attacks to past incidents

During a meeting on Saturday of GB ministers from Diamer, the home secretary, IG Police, government spokesman, district administration, intelligence and law enforcement agencies officials and elders of the district in Chilas, it was decided that the search operation would be extended, and that locals had assured the administration of their cooperation with police.

Sources privy to the meeting had said that the names of 20 suspects had been given to the local jirga with the demand for their immediate surrender.

The police later submitted to the chief minister an initial report linking the latest episodes of school torchings with past attacks on girls’ schools in the area.

The report stated the incident was the continuation of the past incidents in which girls’ schools had been attacked with an objective to bar them from getting education.

Schools torched

In 2004, half a dozen girls’ schools had been torched in one go. Girls’ schools were also targeted by extremist forces in 2011 and 2015.

Some traditions and extremism are main reasons for local resistance to female education in the district, which has the lowest literacy rate in Gilgit-Baltistan.

According to Alif Ailaan’s Pakistan District Education Rankings 2017, GB received a score of 63.18, getting fourth position in the list of eight Pakistan territories with respect to quality of education.

However, Diamer is the lowest-ranking district in terms of quality of education, with a score of 36.37, and among the 10 lowest-ranking districts in Pakistan.

There are 244 government schools in the district, about 83 per cent of which are primary level, 10.6pc middle schools and 6pc high schools. There are no higher secondary schools in the district. Of the government schools, 156 are for boys and 88 are for girls, according to Alif Ailaan.

Full report at:



Alliance with MQM-P out of necessity than choice, says PTI Karachi chief

Aug 6, 2018

KARACHI: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Karachi President Firdaus Shamim Naqvi on Sunday said that the alliance with Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) was made due to certain necessities.

Addressing a press conference, Naqvi said that he stands by on his accusations levelled against the MQM-P and the party went into alliance with them because they had not enough party votes to elect Imran Khan as leader of the house in the National Assembly.

“MQM-P lost because of Mayor Waseem Akhtar,” Naqvi said. “They (MQM) didn’t fulfil promises made to the nation.”

The PTI leader said that members of Pak Sarzameen Party, All Pakistan Muslim League and MQM are joining the party fold, but added that he is ensuring that the new entrants don’t hold criminal background.

“We can’t afford to include criminal elements in the party,” Naqvi added.

Faisal Sabzwari, a central of MQM-P, in his reaction to Naqvi’s statement said that the working relationship between the two parties will be affected by such statements. “We will put forward the statements before PTI leadership and will ask them about the compulsions,” he said.

Separately, MQM leader Farooq Sattar chose to reserve his answer when he was asked about his absence in the meeting of party leaders with Imran Khan at Bani Gala.

“This question should be asked from Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui. I believe that MQM members should not take ministries,” he said.


Earlier in the same day, MQM-P leader and Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar said that his party had no other choice but to join hands with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) as the other parties, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), had already been tested by the people.

Mayor Akhtar said, “The problems of the city are no more a political issue, rather it has now become a human issue.” “The country is heading to a disaster, therefore, all political parties and organisations must think about Karachi’s problems,” he added.

The MQM-P leader claimed, “I am playing the role of a bridge between the provincial and the federal government.”

Full report at:



Khursheed Shah seeks Akhtar Mengal’s support for NA speaker

Aug 6, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) Leader Syed Khursheed Shah on Sunday contacted Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) Chief Akhtar Mengal, seeking support for the election of National Assembly (NA) speaker.

Mengal replied that he is coming to Islamabad next week and will give a response after consulting with the party leaders.

Earlier on August 3, BNP-M chief Sardar Akhtar Jan Mengal along with key party members met with Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) President Maulana Fazlur Rehman in Islamabad.

Sources said that matters of mutual interest, election-2018, the current political situation and formation of governments in Balochistan and centre were discussed in the meeting.  Maulana Fazlur Rehman briefed Sardar Akhtar Jan Mengal about the decision made in the all parties conference (APC).

Earlier, the BNP-M chief while questioning the transparency of the July 25 polls had said that the public’s mandate and election results differ in the province.

Full report at:



Chilas school attackers trained in Afghanistan

AUGUST 6, 2018

DIAMER: Gilgit-Baltistan police claimed on Sunday that Chilas school attackers were trained in Afghanistan.

“So far 31 suspects have been arrested over involvement in attacks on schools in the area. Raids are underway in different areas to arrest the rest of the suspects,” IG Gilgit-Baltistan Inspector General of Police Sanaullah Abbasi said.

Police began conducted raids in various parts of Diamer district Saturday night to track down those responsible for the arson attacks. A police constable was killed and another wounded in a gun battle with armed suspects during a late night raid in Tanger area.

The prime suspect believed responsible for the torching of 14 girls schools over a period of two days in Diamer district was also killed during the search operation in the Tanger area, Diamer Police spokespers on Muhammad Wakeel said. Shafiq ? who has no known association with any organised militant or terrorist outfits but is referred to as a ‘militant’ and ‘militant commander’ by police officials ? was one of the suspects behind the brazen arson attacks targeting schools in Chilas, Darel and Tanger tehsils of Diamer district.

Wakeel said that the ‘militants’ in Tanger had been attempting to flee the area but locals surrounded them, after which Shafiq was killed.

“A suicide jacket, hand grenade and arms and ammunition were also seized from Shafiq’s house,” DIG Diamer Division Gohar Nafees said. “Search operations in the area will continue till the elimination of terrorists,” he asserted.

Police sources said that locals were also taking part in the search operations, and that most of the ‘militants’ in the area were locals.

GB local government spokesman Faizullah Faraq said that miscreants had occupied a road in Tanger and were firing at the passing cars. The car of Sessions Judge Malik Inayat Rehman, who was going from Shatial to attend the funeral of the slain police constable (his cousin) in Tanger, was also fired at as it travelled along the road, his father, former GB Legislative Assembly speaker Muhammad Miskeen, said.Although the car was badly damaged, the judge escaped unharmed, he said, adding that the judge had not been alerted to the security threat by police.

GB Information Minister Shams Mir said that a team of forensic experts from Islamabad had arrived in the region to investigate the arson attacks. He said the experts are part of a joint investigation team constituted to probe the incidents and track down those responsible.

Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar has also taken notice of attack on schools and directed the interior secretary and the secretary for Kashmir Affairs and GB governments to submit reports within the next two days.

GB chief minister has ordered the chief secretary to ensure the schools destroyed in the incident are restored to working condition in the next 15 days. According to local government spokesperson Faizullah Faraq, the restoration work will begin soon and the schools will re-open in the last week of August.

In 2004 also, half a dozen girls’ schools had been torched in one go. Girls’ schools were also targeted by extremist forces in 2011 and 2015. Some traditions and extremism are main reasons for local resistance to female education in the district, which has the lowest literacy rate in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Full report at:





Muslims in Maharashtra plan silent marches from Pune in September

Aug 6, 2018

Taking a leaf out from the Maratha Kranti Morchas, which launched the agitation seeking quotas for the dominant Maratha community in 2016, the Muslims in Maharashtra are planning similar silent marches beginning from Pune in September. These 'Muslim Maha Mook Morchas' will press for quotas in education, a law against mob lynching and against the Centre's legislation against triple talaq.

Like the Maratha Kranti Morchas, these silent marches will be led by women and will be leaderless with a core committee deciding on the course of action.

"The morcha for Pune city is likely to be organised on September 9. It will press for quotas for Muslims in jobs and education, a law against mob lynchings, against interference in the Shariat through legislative tools like the anti-triple talaq bill and easing permissions for constructing masjids," said a Morcha core committee member.

"The government is not serious on curbing mob lynchings and union ministers are garlanding those accused of the crime. Despite the Bombay High Court upholding quotas for Muslims in education, the state government is not willing to grant this. We also need speedy permissions to construct masjids as our namaz on the streets is being opposed," he explained.

The core committee member said the silent marches would be shorn of any political leadership. However, politicians could participate in them only as common protestors.

"We are creating an atmosphere for more protests to be held across Maharashtra. There are indications that the community may follow suit elsewhere," he stated.

Another core committee member said they were planning a turnout of 4 lakh in Pune. "We are deliberately holding the march in September as the state is in a flux due to the Maratha protests. We hope things will cool down by then," he explained.

However, Shabbir Ahmed Ansari of the powerful All India Muslim OBC Organisation pointed out that religion-based quotas were unconstitutional and said these demands were political in nature. He added backward Muslims were already covered under categories like OBC, VJNT and ST and stressed their quota needed to be strengthened through easier grant of caste and caste validity certificates sans corruption.

Muslims comprise over 10.6% of Maharashtra's population, the fourth-largest after Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar, with substantial numbers in regions like Mumbai, Marathwada, Vidarbha and North Maharashtra.

In 2014, the erstwhile Congress- NCP government had extended 16% quotas in jobs and education to the dominant Maratha community and also the Muslims (5%). Later, the Bombay high court (HC) had stayed the 16% quotas for Marathas and reservations in jobs for Muslims. However, it did not stay the decision to reserve 5% seats for Muslims in education. The BJP- Shiv government approved a bill for Maratha quotas, but did not cover Muslim



Aurangabad will host India’s first skills varsity for Muslims

Aug 04, 2018

Aurangabad is all set to get the country’s first National Skills and Vocational University for Muslims on 100 acres of land with an initial corpus of Rs 100 crore pledged by the state government.

Initiated by Aurangabad Central MLA Imtiaz Jaleel belonging to the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), and four team members from Pune, this will be the first national university of its kind in the country.

In a letter dated July 19, state finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar directed Aurangabad district collector Uday Choudhari to identify 100 acres of land for this project. The minister also made an announcement in the state assembly on July 10 about the project approval.

AIMIM MLA Jaleel said, “The state government has cancelled the Haj subsidy which resulted in savings of Rs 700 crore for the government. We requested the government that the amount saved must be utilised for the empowerment and development of Muslims through the setting up of the skills university. Three land parcels on the outskirts of Aurangabad will be considered and a final decision on one of the lands will be taken at the earliest,” Jaleel told Hindustan Times.

Saleem Mulla, Maharashtra Wakf Liberation and Protection Task Force president, who is a team member of the Skills University Project said the project was initially planned for Pune. “However, due to litigation-related issues of wakf lands, it was decided to shift it to Aurangabad. The local administration in Aurangabad appears keen to set up the proposed university,” he said.

Mulla said the idea of a skills training university for minorities has been a long-standing demand and the matter was pursued relentlessly under the guidance of Jaleel and former chief commissioner of Income Tax, Akaramul Jabbar Khan. This led to principle approval for the university. This project will help empower the Muslim youth with much-needed skills for employment, he said.

Former chief commissioner of Income Tax Khan said the university is expected to enhance the employability and employment-generation potential of the muslim youth.

Task Force plan for Skills University

•Full-time programmes for about 30,000 students admitted to external, virtual and distance learning courses.

• The task force has chalked out 20 faculties, which will include environmental sciences, social sciences, management studies, interfaith studies, engineering and technology, oriental medicine, paramedical studies, law, education, media studies, music, fine arts, fashion technology and cosmetology, among others.

Full report at:



NIA arrests two Bengal residents in Kerala in Bodh Gaya blast case

Aug 05, 2018

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has arrested two West Bengal residents in Kerala for allegedly planting three improvised explosive devices (IEDs) at the Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya this January, when the Dalai Lama was visiting the Buddhist shrine, officials familiar with the development said.

NIA officials said the initial interrogation of the two suggested that they belonged to Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), a terrorist outfit active in the border areas of India and Bangladesh. Investigators said the IEDs had been planted as revenge for alleged atrocities committed against Rohingyas in Myanmar.

The role of few Bangladeshi nationals is also suspected in the case and the agency is looking for them, the NIA officials added.

“We have arrested Murshidabad resident Abdul Karim and Birbhum native Mustafizur Rehman on charges of placing the IEDs in Bodh Gaya on January 19 this year. They were picked up from one of the Bengali colonies in Malappuram in Kerala. Both the accused are being brought to Patna for a court appearance. We will seek their remand further interrogation,” said a senior NIA official.

“The two people arrested were part of the group of around half-a-dozen JMB men who planted the IEDs. Their associates were involved in the Burdwan incident of 2014, when an accidental blast revealed the presence of a huge JMB network in the border region of Bengal. We have reason to believe that a wanted accused in the Burdwan case is the mastermind of the January Bodh Gaya incident,” said the official, who added that NIA had earlier arrested three other people in the case.

The Mahabodhi temple is one of the holiest places of pilgrimage for Buddhists. It was declared a UNESCO world heritage site. The incident in January was not the first time that militants targeted the temple. In July 2013, more than a dozen IEDs were planted in and around the Mahabodhi temple — 10 went off, causing injuries to five people.

“On January 19, three powerful IEDs with 5-10 kg of explosives were planted in the temple — one of them where food was being cooked. The arrested accused have told us that this area was deliberately chosen because there were gas cylinders there. If the IED had gone off, the cylinders too would have exploded.The second IED was placed at one of the entry gates again to target to those who would have tried to leave the temple after the first blast,” said another NIA official.

But the first IED, kept near the cooking area, caught fire due to a malfunction and was detected. The police was called, and during searches of the temple complex, two more unexploded IEDs were recovered.

Full report at:



Tripura's Jamiat Ulama-e Hind Urges State Govt To Take Steps For Peaceful Eid al-Adha

Aug 06, 2018

Agartala (Tripura) [India], Aug 6 (ANI): Tripura's Jamiat Ulama-e Hind, one of the oldest bodies of the minority Muslim population of the state, appealed to the new ruling BJP-IPFT government to take necessary appropriate measures so that the Muslim population can celebrate the upcoming Eid al-Adha, also called the 'Festival of Sacrifice', without any fear.

Mufti Tayebur Rahaman, president of the Tripura State Jamiat Ulama-e Hind, speaking to reporters in the central mosque Gedu Mia Masjid apprehended that this time during the Eid al-Adha, they may not be able to follow their age-old ritual of slaughtering animals like a cow.

He alleged that after the new BJP-IPFT government came to power in Tripura, the Muslim population is being targeted for their food habit of consuming beef.

Rahaman further said, "A large section of people in Tripura are connected with the business of selling cow, buffalo and goat, but of late it has come to notice that if any vehicle is carrying a cow, it is stopped and checked. Due to all these, they are facing a loss in their business. We are demanding to the government so that necessary steps are taken to stop all these."

According to the Muslim leader, the government has to take advance measures so that sacrifices can be done during Eid al-Adha in a peaceful manner.

Rahaman viewed that food habit is the fundamental right of the Muslim people, but a section is also interfering and it should be stopped.

He also informed, "I along with other members immediately after the new government came to power met the Chief Minister in his official residence, informing him about these issues. The CM assured to look into them."

Full report at:



Uttar Pradesh govt wants to bring Madrasas in mainstream education: MoS Mohsin Raza

August 5, 2018

The Uttar Pradesh government wants to bring Madrasas into the mainstream education system, Minister of State for Minority Affairs Syed Mohsin Raza Naqvi said today. The Uttar Pradesh minister also favoured introducing a “new dress code” for students at Madrasas (Islamic schools) across the country and added that he will take up the issue with the Centre.

However, Raza did not elaborate on what should be the new dress code in these institutes, where students currently wear white kurta-pyjama. He rued that no leader from his community has till date thought about standardising the madrassa system.

“Our government in Uttar Pradesh wants to bring Madrasas in the mainstream education system. And why only in UP, I think all these religious institutions across the country should be brought into mainstream,” he told PTI. Raza said he intends to discuss the issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“I would meet Modiji in this regard and seek his advise on how we can have a formal education system in Madrasas in the country. Regrettably, so far, no Muslim leader has ever thought about standardisation and formalisation of the madrassa education system,” he said.

Last month, Raza had said that the Uttar Pradesh government might “soon propose a new dress code” for madrassa students. However, Cabinet Minister for Minority Welfare, Muslim Waqf and Haj Laxmi Narayan Chaudhary had contradicted Raza, saying that “the government has not formed any new policy” in this regard.

Raza was in the city to take part in the ‘Kajari’ festival organised by an NGO run by Mumbai BJP leader Amarjeet Mishra. The minister said the Yogi Adityanath government is sincerely implementing the vision of ‘sabka saath sabka vikas’ (support of all, development of all) and has made “never before provisions” to uplift minorities in the country’s most populous state.

“Around Rs 4,000 crore was allocated for minority welfare in this year’s budget. This kind of allocation has not been done before. Besides, we have restarted disbursing education loans to minority students, a practice shunned by previous governments.

“We plan to modernise Madrasas and have introduced the NCERT curriculum for them. We want to see a computer in one hand and the Koran in the other hand of madrassa students as envisioned by our prime minister,” he said.

Raza, a member of the Legislative Council, said under Modi’s leadership, the country has embarked on the path of progress. To a query, he sought to downplay talks about a likely alliance between the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh for the next Lok Sabha polls.

Such an alliance will have no impact on the BJP’s electoral prospects, the minister said. “All opposition parties are zero. But as you know addition of only zeroes will never add up to a countable number. Modiji’s model of governance was discussed even in Pakistan. This proved Modiji is a world leader,” Raza said.

He rejected the opposition’s claim of saffronisation of institutions in the state under the BJP rule. “Even the Sun begins the day with saffron colour and ends with the same colour. This energising colour should not be confined with a particular religion,” the minister said.

Full report at:



Terrorist arrested with 8 grenades in Jammu

Aug 6, 2018

JAMMU: A terrorist was arrested and eight grenades recovered from him in Jammu as police foiled a major terror plot to trigger blasts in the winter capital, days ahead of the Independence Day.

Acting on intelligence inputs, police intercepted a bus in Gandhi Nagar area here late last night and arrested a youth from Kashmir who was carrying eight hand grenades, a police officer said.

The militant was identified as Arfan Wani, a resident of Awantipora in Pulwama district of south Kashmir. Eight live hand grenades and Rs 60,000 in cash were recovered from his possession, the officer said.

Police and other security agencies are alert in the wake of intelligence inputs that the Kashmiri terrorists of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), and Hizbul Mujahideen plan to carry out terror strikes in Jammu and New Delhi on the occasion of Independence Day on August 15.

Full report at:



India to seek details from Pakistan about Jaish terrorist citing 32-year-old Commonwealth pact

Aug 05, 2018

India plans to invoke a 32-year-old Commonwealth pact to seek details from Pakistan about the 2018 Sunjawan Army camp terror attack mastermind Mufti Waqas, a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) militant who was killed by security forces in March this year, according to officials.

The move is also expected to help India in making a fresh appeal to the United Nations to get the JeM and its chief Maulana Masood Azhar banned under the Security Council resolution 1267. China has blocked previous moves by India seeking a ban on JeM and Azhar.

According to officials in the Union Home and external affairs ministries, the relevant papers were being readied to send a request to Pakistan under the Commonwealth pact for international cooperation in criminal matters, under which commonwealth nations are bound to provide mutual legal assistance on such issues, they said.

The agreement was originally adopted by Commonwealth law ministers at their meeting at Harare in Zimbabwe in 1986. Citing this pact, India will seek details from Pakistan about Mufti Waqas, who was killed in an encounter in March this year with security forces at Awantipura in South Kashmir, the officials said.

The details include phone numbers dialled by Waqas before and after the terror attack on the Sunjawan Army camp on February 10 in which six soldiers, one civilian and three terrorists were killed.

Citing amendments made to the Harare agreement during the meeting of law ministers in 2011 at Sydney in Australia, India will, if necessary, also seek details of the recording of statements of possible witnesses through video calls, they said.

In 2011, Commonwealth law ministers adopted amendments to the Harare pact envisaging cooperation in some new provisions that related to the interception of telecommunications and postal items, covert electronic surveillance, use of live video links in the course of investigations and judicial procedures and asset recovery.

Waqas, a Pakistani national who had infiltrated into the Kashmir Valley in 2017, was the operational commander of JeM. Besides being the mastermind of the Sunjawan Army camp attack, Waqas was also behind the suicide attack on a CRPF camp in South Kashmir’s Lethpora on the intervening night of December 30 and December 31 last year.

According to officials, he was functioning as the operational commander of the terror outfit and had even despatched fidayeens or suicide bombers from Tral in South Kashmir to Jammu. It was then that the fidayeens had carried out their strike on the Army camp in Sunjawan.

Full report at:



South Asia


Canadian couple helps Rohingya Muslims, raising global awareness

Aug 6, 2018

For years, Rohingya Muslims have been the target of communal violence in mainly Buddhist Myanmar, which has denied citizenship to the Muslims since 1982. The Rohingya trace their presence in Rakhine back centuries, but most people in majority-Buddhist Myanmar consider them to be unwanted Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh.

The mass killings of Rohingya Muslims escalated in recent years, and they've fled for their lives, seeking refuge in Bangladesh. However, Rohingya Muslims are not only running for their lives: According to reports, Rohingya women are raped even in front of their children. And the most tragic part is that six out of every 10 refugees are children according to UNICEF.

While the U.N. has described the systematic violence by Myanmar against Rohingya Muslims as possible genocide and ethnic cleansing and calls on the international community to take measures against the "visible genocide" facing Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, not many states have taken action to protect Rohingya refugees except for a handful of states spearheaded by Turkey.

Helping hand to the Rohingya from Canada

In the darkest hour for Rohingya Muslims, a couple from Canada rolled up their sleeves to do whatever they can for these helpless people whom the world has turned its back on. They try to raise awareness of the Rohingya issue as much as they can with interviews they give to news agencies from around the world.

Fozia and Tahir Alvi are Muslims living in Canada who traveled all the way to Bangladesh to volunteer for Rohingya Muslims living in the refugee camp. The couple spent two weeks among Rohingya Muslims, which was long enough for the Rohingya issue to take a place in their hearts.

Being a family doctor, Fozia Alvi, who was born and raised in Pakistan and lived in the U.S. and Canada, went to Bangladesh to tend to pregnant Rohingya women.

"But what I saw there really shocked and horrified me," said Fozia during her trip to Turkey with her husband.

"The conditions that they are living in were unbelievable."

However, it was not the conditions of Rohingya refugees that shook Fozia to the core: It was the great number of Rohingya children.

"About more than 50 percent of the refugees in Bangladesh camps are children under the age of 16. Some of them witnessed their parents' throats cut. Lots of teenagers were pregnant as they were raped in Myanmar before being able to flee. And now, they were struggling with how to take care of themselves and their babies," said Fozia, describing the difficulties Rohingya refugees face in camps.

But there are vital problems that Rohingya Muslims have to face in refugee camps. It has been reported that due to malnutrition and lack of clean water, children and even adults in refugee camps have fallen ill, and it is feared that an epidemic might break out.

Building camps for the Rohingya refugees

While Fozia tended to the sick, Tahir, her husband, helped build accommodations for refugees in camps.

Tahir Alvi is an engineer who has been living in Canada for the last 20 years. He is currently the president of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), based in Canada, which offers assistance to Muslims in North America as well as relief to Muslims around the world who are in need of help.

As a member of ICNA's relief team, Tahir travels the world to bring a helping hand to those who have been hit by a disaster of nature or men.

After traveling to Bangladesh, Tahir and the relief team helped to build accommodations for refugees.

"At that time it was almost 200,000 people there in the camp," said Tahir, but it is clear in his eyes that he is worried about the people he helped. "I do not know how many are alive now. They don't have any medical facility there or proper food, etc. The Myanmar government is waiting for them to die."

Turkey, always there for the Rohingya

When asked about Turkey's efforts for Rohingya Muslims, Fozia and Tahir agreed on one thing: No other country helped these people who are massacred in front of the world than Turkey.

"Rohingya Muslims are the most persecuted community in the world right now, and they have suffered oppression for more than 40 years", said Fozia, continuing: "And now, their citizenships were stripped away, and they have fled Myanmar after three years of horror. It's a systematic massacre that these people are facing, and nobody is offering to help and actually do something."

However, what Turkey has done and continue to do for Rohingya Muslims is inspiring for Fozia.

"President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for a long time is an icon not only to me but to all Muslim ummah. When the whole world turned their back on the Rohingya issue, it was President Erdoğan, the Turkish government and the people of Turkey who stood up for them. Erdoğan with First Lady Emine Erdoğan, the only first lady that visited the refugee camps, working hard to raise awareness for the Rohingya cause," said Fozia.

In fact, that is why they came to Turkey. Since the Rohingya cause is close to her heart, Fozia wanted to come to Turkey. For Fozia, other Muslim countries are not doing enough to raise awareness and actually do something to stop the systematic genocide that the Rohingya are facing.

If the whole Muslim ummah, including my home country Pakistan, does half of what President Erdoğan spearheaded for Rohingya, this issue will be solved within minutes," Fozia added.

Humanity in question in Myanmar

Tahir thinks if Muslim countries could unite and stand as one in the international arena, things would have gone in a different way.

"But right now, Turkey is our only hope to solve the Rohingya issue. If President Erdoğan raises enough awareness among other Muslim countries, I believe the Muslim ummah will follow him to solve the problems of the Rohingya," said Tahir.

Tahir strongly emphasizes that what the Myanmar government is doing to the Rohingya people is nothing but genocide. In fact, the report published by the U.N. supports his idea.

"History is not only for books. It is here so that we can learn from the mistakes of the past," said Tahir. Back in the day, when the German Nazis were discriminating and putting Jews in concentration camps, it was happening in front of the eyes of the world, and it did not trigger other European countries to take action until the Nazis occupied Poland.

"A massacre is happening in front of our eyes, and we cannot stop it. When time passes, we will compare these refugee camps where Rohingya people are living, as they have no choice with Auschwitz and the massacre that the Rohingya had to live with to the Holocaust. But it will be too late."

While speaking, Tahir put his finger on an important point: The Rohingya people are not only the issue of Islam, but the entire world.

"This is an issue for humanity. This is clear genocide," said Tahir helplessly.



Key Taliban commander, his 6 comrades killed in Takhar operations

Aug 06 2018

A key commander of the Taliban group and his six comrades were killed during the operations in northeastern Takhar province of Afghanistan.

The 209th Shaheen Corps of the Afghan Military in the North said the Taliban commander Mullah Ajmal and his comrades were killed in Baharak district.

According to a statement released by Shaheen Corps, the operations were conducted in the vicinity of Anbar Koh area of the district.

The anti-government armed militant groups including Taliban militants have not commented regarding the report so far.

This comes as Shaheen Corps said Saturday that three Taliban militants were killed and five others sustained injuries during the clashes wiht the Afghan forces in this district.

Takhar has been among the relatively calm provinces in northeastern parts of Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime.

Full report at:



US envoy attacked as protests spread in Bangladesh

August 06, 2018

DHAKA - The motorcade carrying the US Ambassador to Bangladesh was attacked by a group of armed men in the country's capital Dhaka on Sunday as protests by young students took a violent turn.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urged students to go home as police fired tear gas at teenage protesters during an eighth day of unprecedented demonstrations over road safety which have paralysed parts of Dhaka.

Students in their tens of thousands have brought parts of the capital to a standstill since two teenagers were killed by a speeding bus.

The unrest quickly spread beyond the capital. Authorities have shut down mobile internet services across swathes of the country, officials and local media said.

On Saturday the protests took a violent turn in Dhaka's Jigatala neighbourhood, with more than 100 people injured as police fired rubber bullets at demonstrators. On Saturday, US ambassador Bernicat's vehicle was set upon by a mob. "As she was leaving about 11pm and getting into her car, a group attacked her car," said rights activist Badiul Alam Majumder, who was hosting the ambassador for dinner.

The US embassy confirmed an official vehicle "was attacked by a group of armed adult men" but the envoy and her team departed unharmed.

The violence continued Sunday with police firing tear gas into a large crowd marching toward an office of the ruling Awami League party, an AFP correspondent said. Dozens of protesters were attacked by people alleged to be ruling party activists, some armed with machetes, in Dhaka's Dhanmondi neighbourhood.

Twelve were treated at Dhaka Medical Colleague Hospital, police inspector Bacchu Mia told AFP.

A photographer for an international news organisation was among those beaten.

Hasina warned Sunday that a "third party" could sabotage the protests and put the safety of demonstrators at risk. "That's why I request all guardians and parents to keep their children at home. Whatever they have done is enough," the prime minister said from her office. Hasina's warning came as protesters marched towards the scene of Saturday's clashes chanting "We want justice!"

Police denied they fired rubber bullets or tear gas at the protesters Saturday. However hospital staff said dozens of people had been injured, some seriously, and injuries were consistent with rubber bullets. The Awami League has denied that its officials beat up students.

The country's biggest-circulation newspaper Prothom Alo said 3G and 4G internet services have been shut down for 24 hours since late Saturday, shortly after the violence broke out.

Social media has been filled with comments from Bangladeshis unable to access the internet via their phones, although wireless and wired networks appear to be unhindered.

The Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission said it would comment later Sunday. A senior telecoms official who asked for anonymity said: "The BTRC has slowed down the internet at the order of the government."

The move may be an attempt to limit the ability of students to mobilise or express growing online anger at how the government has handled the protests, hours after police and unidentified men wielding sticks and stones clashed with students.

Images and photos of the attacks on students allegedly by ruling party activists have flooded social media, prompting renewed anger.

Bangladesh's transport sector is widely seen as corrupt, unregulated and dangerous. As news of the teenagers' deaths spread rapidly on social media they became a catalyst for an outpouring of anger against the government.

Hasina's government has ruled Bangladesh since 2009, but in recent months it has been shaken by separate mass protests demanding an end to a decades-old system of discriminatory civil service recruitment.  Several powerful ministers have pleaded with students to return to their classes, amid fears the unprecedented teen anger could spark widespread anti-government protests before a general election due later this year. But their pleas have had little effect.

An insensitive comment by Shajahan Khan, a government minister with ties to powerful transport unions, fuelled the flames last week. Khan questioned why there was such an uproar over the two Dhaka children but no reaction when 33 people were killed in an Indian bus crash the day before. There have been widespread social media demands for the minister's resignation despite his subsequent apology.

High schools were shut on Thursday as officials promised students their demands for road safety reforms would be considered.

Full report at:



Afghan suicide blast kills three Czech soldiers, Taliban claim responsibility

August 05, 2018

KABUL: A suicide bombing claimed by the Taliban killed three Czech soldiers on patrol in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, the deadliest assault on NATO troops for many months.

"Three Resolute Support service members were killed by a suicide bomber during a combined, dismounted patrol with Afghan forces in eastern Afghanistan," NATO´s Resolute Support mission said in a statement.

In Prague, the military said the dead soldiers were Czech.

A US member of the patrol and two Afghan soldiers were wounded, NATO added.

The attack by a lone bomber on foot happened at 6am in the city of Charikar in Parwan province 60 kilometres (37 miles) north of Kabul, said provincial governor´s spokesman Wahida Shahkar.

The Taliban in a statement claimed responsibility, saying they killed or wounded eight American soldiers in a "tactical explosion".

The Czech army said in a statement that three of its soldiers, a staff sergeant and two corporals, were killed in the explosion.

"The tragic death of our three soldiers has struck me deeply, and I wish to express my deepest condolences to their families," said Defence Minister Lubomir Metnar.

Thirteen Czech soldiers have now been killed in Afghanistan.

The NATO force largely ended its combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014 and pulled out the bulk of its troops. A 16,000-strong residual force remains for training and counter-terrorism operations.

Of these, the US accounts for 13,000 soldiers, about 2,000 of whom are assigned to anti-terror combat missions.

Last month a US soldier was killed and two others wounded in an "apparent insider attack" in southern Afghanistan.

Casualties among the NATO forces have fallen dramatically since most were withdrawn from combat. But the Taliban and the Daesh group have recently stepped up their attacks against government and civilian targets.

On Friday two suicide bombers dressed as women struck a mosque in Gardez, the capital of Paktia province, while it was crowded with worshippers for weekly prayers. Thirty-five were killed and more than 90 wounded.

The burqa-clad attackers shot at the mosque´s security guards before opening fire on worshippers and then detonating their explosives.

Full report at:



Students Pour Into Dhaka’s Streets to Demand Safer Roads

By Julfikar Ali Manik and Maria Abi-Habib

Aug. 5, 2018

DHAKA, Bangladesh — Thousands of students paralyzed parts of Bangladesh’s capital on Sunday to protest the country’s abysmal road safety conditions. Teenagers dressed in school uniforms erected checkpoints across the city, forcing the police and government ministers to observe traffic laws that are otherwise poorly enforced.

The protests in Dhaka, the capital, have entered their second week with no signs of abating, with demonstrators demanding justice after two students were killed and 12 others wounded when a bus plowed into a bus stop on July 29.

The driver had lost control of his vehicle while racing another bus to pick up passengers, a common occurrence in Bangladesh, where dozens of poorly regulated private transportation companies vie for customers. Nearly 7,400 people died in traffic accidents across Bangladesh last year, with 16,100 others injured.

The protests intensified on Sunday when university students joined the middle and high school students who have led the movement so far. The newcomers joined in solidarity after a pro-government student union joined the police’s ranks and clashed with protesters on Saturday, wounding dozens.

That violence continued on Sunday, when the student union returned to the streets to support the police, who used tear gas and batons to subdue protesters. Armed with scraps of metal and thick, gnarled tree branches, pro-government student protesters attacked and wounded five photojournalists, including a photographer from The Associated Press. At least 200 people have been wounded in the protests.

The demonstrations have been leaderless so far, with students gathering at their schools or universities in the morning before funneling out onto the street to block roads and erect makeshift checkpoints around their respective institutions. Bus operators across the country shut down long-distance routes this week in response.

On some days the protests have attracted up to 15,000 students, with parents leaving work to join their children and restaurants offering free food to demonstrators.

The students’ ability to organize and to enforce poorly obeyed laws has embarrassed the governing party, the Awami League, as it heads into elections in December.

Students responsible for checkpoints have forced the police and government officials to provide driver’s licenses and car registration. They have also helped ease street congestion by forcing Dhaka’s drivers — notorious for driving on the wrong side of the road or skipping traffic lines — to obey laws.

“If children like us can establish discipline in traffic management, why can’t the traffic police do it?” said Tameem Dari Khan, who recently graduated from high school and is waiting to attend university. “It’s because they get bribes. They are not interested to check properly, so they can get some illegal benefit.”

On Thursday, students asked a police sergeant on a motorcycle to show his license, which he refused to do. When the sergeant slapped a young boy, the students attacked him and set fire to his motorcycle.

Despite that episode, most interactions at student-run checkpoints have been peaceful. A government minister traveling in his motorcade was stopped at a checkpoint last week, and was then forced to ride with his security detail after his chauffeur failed to produce a driver’s license. Students have turned over unlicensed drivers to the police.

Although the government was reluctant to use violence at the start of the protests, the police’s violent turn this weekend may encourage more students to come out, observers said. The governing party has also blamed the opposition for stoking protests.

On Sunday, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan praised the patience displayed by the police, but added that law enforcement officers would not continue to “sit idle and watch.”

“We will go for tough action if the limit is crossed,” he said.

For many, the protests are about much more than the country’s hazardous road conditions. They also symbolize the poor governance and corruption across Bangladesh.

The student movement has demanded that the death penalty be imposed on the driver who careered into the bus stop at full speed on July 29, and that the government enforce more rigorous traffic laws.

Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan mocked the protesters during a news conference last week. Pointing out that a recent bus crash in neighboring India had killed 30 passengers, he said that “they don’t complain about it as we do.”

Mr. Khan is also the head of Bangladesh’s powerful transportation lobby, which activists say is a conflict of interest.

The transportation sector has long operated above the law, with powerful officials either owning private bus companies or relying on its workers for political support. By bribing officials, transportation companies obtain driver’s licenses for employees, who are often first-time drivers. They also bribe the police to get out of deadly accidents or allow their decrepit buses to continue along commuter routes.

“The transportation sector is absolutely corrupt,” said Iftekharuzzaman, who goes by one name and is the executive director of Transparency International, Bangladesh.

Internet speeds for mobile phones were also lowered over the weekend, preventing protesters from uploading pictures and video of their demonstrations to social media or the messaging service WhatsApp.

The student protesters accused the government of blocking free speech. But the telecommunication minister, Mustafa Jabbar, said in an interview that a technical issue had prevented mobile providers from offering faster connections.

Other officials said the mobile internet speeds had been purposefully slowed after rumors that the Awami League party detained, killed and raped several demonstrators at one of their offices in Dhaka.

The rumors quickly spread on social media and escalated violence across the capital on Saturday afternoon, culminating when several thousand students marched on the Awami League office. But they found no evidence that protesters had been unlawfully detained there and publicly denounced the rumors as false, tamping down protesters’ rage.

“I think mobile operators’ problems have come as blessings for all of us — otherwise we would get more rumors by now,” said Mr. Jabbar, the telecommunications minister.

If the government is behind the move to slow the country’s internet, Bangladesh would be the third South Asian country in recent months that has tried to harness the power of social media to prevent violent protests from escalating.

Full report at:



Suicide attack rocks Jalalabad city, casualties feared

Aug 05 2018

A suicide attack rocked Jalalabad city, the provincial capital of eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

The provincial government media office in a statement said an Afghan army soldier, Mohammad Omar, identified and grabbed a suicide bomber during a search which resulted into an explosion.

The statement further added that the brave act of the Afghan army soldier resulted into prevention of further casualties to the people in the area.

However, the provincial government said at least five people including four army soldiers sustained injuries in the explosion.

Earlier reports indicated that  the incident has taken place close to an army outpost close to Puli Behsud area and as a result at least one person has been killed and three others have sustained injuries.

Full report at:



MoD confirms deployment of US Special Forces in Farah province

Aug 05 2018

Officials in the Ministry of Defense of Afghanistan confirmed the deployment of the Special Forces of the US Military in western Farah province of Afghanistan.

MoD spokesman Gen. Mohammad Radmanish said the US Special Forces have been deployed in support of the Afghan National Defense and Security forces to assist with the training of the Afghan armed forces.

He did not disclose further information in this regard and it is yet not clear how many soldiers have been deployed in Farah province.

In the meantime, Gen. Radmanish said the US Special Forces will train the Afghan armed forces on how to use the new weapons.

He also added that the US Special Forces have been deployed as part of the train, advise, and assist mission and will not participate in combat operations.

Reports regarding the deployment of US Special Forces in Farah province emerge amid growing insurgency activities by the Taliban militants in this province.

Full report at:



Taliban suffer heavy casualties after attacking Paktia outposts

Aug 05 2018

The Taliban militants suffered heavy casualties after attacking the outposts of the Afghan security forces in southeastern Paktia province of Afghanistan.

According to the local officials, at least 23 Taliban militants were killed and four security personnel lost their lives during the heavy clashes.

The provincial government media office in a statement confirmed that the incident took place in Laja Mangal district the province.

The statement further added that 23 militants were killed and at least eight others were wounded during the clashes while the dead bodies of a number of militants are left in the area.

According to the provincial government, the clashes erupted after a number of Taliban militants launched coordinated attacks on security outposts late on Saturday night.

The attack was repulsed after additional forces of the Special Forces Kandak, border forces, and police forces were deployed in the area.

According to the officials, at least four security personnel also lost their lives during the clashes with the Taliban militants.

The Taliban militants have fled from the area and the security situation of the district is normal now, the provincial government added.

Full report at:





At least 17 killed in al-Shabaab car bombings in Somalia

Aug 6, 2018

A car bomb exploded along the main street of Somalia's capital Mogadishu on Sunday, killing at least five people and wounding several others, authorities said.

Police said a car bomb parked in front of a restaurant at the busy street of Maka al Mukaram had exploded.

The front of the restaurant had been destroyed, blood stained the floor and chairs had been strewn around by the blast.

"A car bomb exploded at a parking in front (of) a restaurant," Major Abdullahi Hussein, a police officer, told Reuters.

Militant group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack on a website sympathetic to their cause.

It was the second fatal attack al-Shabaab claimed on Sunday, bringing the day's death toll to 17, excluding their own fighters.

Earlier at least 12 people were killed in a suicide car bombing southwest of Mogadishu. The attack hit the Afgoye district, claiming the lives of seven civilians and five police offers, police officer Ali Hassan told dpa. At least 14 others were wounded.

"The blast sent thick and dark smoke into the sky from the site of the explosion, a security checkpoint inside Afgoye," eyewitness Nuradiin Jama said.

Afgoye is an agricultural town located 30 kilometers (18 miles) southwest of Mogadishu.

In a separate incident, security forces killed two militants in Mogadishu's Hodan district. Al-Shabaab said the two militants were members of their group.

Al-Shabaab has stepped up attacks on high-profile targets in southern Somalia in recent weeks

Somalia has been convulsed by violence since 1991. Al-Shabaab is fighting to dislodge a Western-backed government protected by African Union-mandated peacekeepers.



Over 9,400 Nigerians repatriated from Libya

06 August 2018

Nigeria has repatriated at least 9,438 of its nationals trapped in Libya while efforts are ongoing to bring back everyone willing to return to their country, according to an official involved in the repatriation process.

“So far, about 9,438 migrants have been repatriated from Libya in collaboration and support of the International Migration Organization (IOM),” Abike Dabiri-Erewa, a presidential aide on foreign relations and diaspora, said in a statement late Sunday.

“Those that were brought back are being profiled and enrolled in various technical and vocational training centers with relevant agencies and nongovernmental organizations,” she added.

The official said the repatriation, ordered by the president, began shortly after footages emerged on the Internet of some of the migrants narrating their ordeals in the war-torn North African country and urging the Nigerian government to bring them home. Dabiri-Erewa said the Nigerian mission in Tripoli has traced another 116 of its nationals to a detention center in Zawiya and has now processed their repatriation to the country.

“Regrettably, she said 24 of them have refused to come back insisting they must get to Europe,” she said, appealing once again to “Nigerian youths to avail themselves the opportunities abound in the country as against risking their lives to search for a non-existing and deadly greener pastures abroad.”

Full report at:



Imam saved Christians from Muslim gunmen

02 July 2018

They were fleeing from a neighbouring village - a mainly Christian community.

They say they came under attack from about 300 well-armed men who started shooting sporadically and burning down their homes.

Some of those who managed to escape ran towards the mainly Muslim neighbourhood nearby where the imam lived, arriving over the next hour.

The cleric immediately came to their aid, hiding in total 262 men, women and children in his home and mosque.

"I first took the women to my personal house to hide them. Then I took the men to the mosque," the imam said.

We have blurred the faces of the imam and the villages, for their own safety.

This was the latest wave of violence to hit Nigeria's central region where farming communities and nomadic cattle herders often clash - usually over access to land and grazing rights.

Full report at:





Islamist children pose real 'threat' to Germany, spy chief warns

Aug 6, 2018

Children from Islamist households in Germany represent a "not insignificant potential threat," the head of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany's domestic intelligence service, Hans-Georg Maassen said Monday.

In a new report cited by the Funke media group, the BfV said there were signs the "radicalization of minors and young adults" was becoming more likely and happening faster and earlier.

The BfV document estimated that some 300 children in Germany were affected. Children in some of these families are "educated from birth with an extremist world view that legitimizes violence against others and degrades those who aren't part of their group," the report said. 

It expressed concerns about families who had traveled to war zones in the Middle East, as well as those who had remained in Germany.

Maassen warned that what he described as the ongoing jihadist socialization of children was "alarming" and would pose a significant challenge to authorities in the coming years.

Monitoring minors

The BfV findings have led to calls from politicians in Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) to drop the age limit for surveillance candidates to under 14.

"This is not about criminalizing people under the age of 14, but about warding off significant threats to our country, like Islamic terrorism, which also targets children," CDU politician Patrick Sensburg told the Funke media group.

Stephan Mayer, the interior affairs spokesman for the CDU's Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), said such a measure would also be for the protection of the children affected, adding that some of the individuals who traveled to crisis regions in Syria and Iraq to join jihad were very young.

Herbert Reul, the CDU Interior Minister of the western state of North-Rhine Westphalia, said authorities needed appropriate "instruments to be able to deal with traumatized and violent returnees under the age of 14."



With dreams of higher education, the Arab world looks to Europe

August 06, 2018

LONDON: Graduating from high school in Syria in 2010, Mohammed Chaikh set his sights on Europe to pursue the “independence and opportunities” afforded by an overseas education. “I wanted a new experience, a new life,” said the 26-year old mechanical engineering student, who is now in his fourth year at RWTH Aachen University in Germany.

At the time, few of his friends applied to international institutions - “most wanted to stay in Syria,” he said. But within a year, war had broken out and since then “almost everyone has changed their mind.”

The conflict in Syria has forced vast numbers out of education and encouraged those who can afford it to apply overseas but students from the war-torn country are part of a long tradition of Arab youth pursuing higher learning in the West. Despite efforts by Middle East governments to enhance the education landscape at home, many young people still see completing their studies in the US or Europe as a necessary stepping stone to a successful career.

“Degrees from European and other Western countries tend to be more valued,” said 21-year-old Seif Farid, who is doing an engineering degree at the University of Surrey in the UK. Studying abroad is seen as “something prestigious” in his native Egypt and employers look favourably on those with a Western education,

In the past, Middle East governments have facilitated overseas study opportunities via grants and funds, such as the $6 billion King Abdullah Scholarship Program (KASP), which has supported hundreds of thousands of Saudi students through degree courses in over 30 countries around the world and the Kuwait Excellence Scholarships for Arab Students in France.

“The idea is to enhance the social and economic development of Arab countries,” said professor Ishaq Al-Qutub, president of Arab Student Aid International, which has branches in the USA, Palestine and Dubai and provides loans for up to 200 high-achieving students a year, most of them from low-income countries across the Arab world, including Iraq, Palestine, Morocco and Sudan.

Priority is given to those studying applied sciences as subjects where the skills shortage is considered to be most acute in MENA countries.

Applicants must repay the loan within five years of completing their studies and sign a statement saying they will return to their home country. “They take the knowledge, the experience, the know-how and return back with the wealth of this knowledge,” Al-Qutub said.

“This way we can bridge the gap between the Arab countries and other industrialised and advanced nations,” he added.

More recently, a push to promote education in the region has attempted to stem the brain drain by improving the education landscape locally and encouraging the brightest minds to pursue higher learning at home.

Foreign university franchises offering up a Sorbonne or NYU education in Abu Dhabi and a degree from the Middlesex or Heriot Watt University branch campuses in Dubai, have helped build the reputation of emerging higher education hubs in the UAE, attracting students from across the region and further afield to study in the Gulf.

But for many MENA students, the tradition of travelling abroad to complete their education in the West remains a rite of passage, personally as well as academically.

Mohammed Chaikh’s brother and father studied in Germany, a family tradition he was keen to continue, even though it meant loading containers and working at a paint factory between lectures to support his studies.

He remembers the excitement he felt on his first day. “It was the first time I’d ever been abroad from Syria,” he said.

University culture in Germany was far removed from the experiences described by his friends back in Syria, even before the war made completing their courses impossible for many.

“Student life there is really different,” said Chaikh who initially struggled to learn German and form friendships with other students but soon adapted. “Now I don’t really need to make (social) plans, I just go for a walk along the street and bump into so many people I know.”

Germany, along with the UK and France, are among the most popular choices for Middle East students in Europe.

Heidelberg University in Germany, which currently has around 260 students from the MENA region, said that medicine is a particularly popular choice for overseas Arab students applying to the institution, which is one of the world’s oldest universities.

But with arts scenes being given a broader platform to flourish across the region, more Middle East students are now applying to Western institutions for social sciences and creative courses.

Shereen Zumot, a 32-year old Jordanian actress, was recently awarded a prestigious Chevening scholarship to do a masters in Performance Making at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Zumot, who has previously performed at the Edinburgh Fringe festival in Scotland and worked as associate director on a successful UK production called Queens of Syria, which featured performances by 13 refugee women, chose the UK over New York to pursue the next phase of her theatrical studies.

“It’s always been my dream to study in London; it’s where the good theatre is,” she said.

While the US has witnessed a decline in its student intake from the Middle East, with a notable decrease in UAE and Saudi nationals - due partly to President Trump’s controversial travel ban against seven Muslim-majority countries - the UK has reported a notable rise in students from the region.

Applications from Saudi Arabia increased by 10 percent in 2018, marking an increase for the first time in several years, according to Ucas, the body that processes applications to UK universities.

Figures showed that the trend is mirrored across the region, with applicants from Jordan up 16 percent from 2017, Oman and Kuwait, both up 7 percent and Lebanon and Morocco increasing by 25 percent each.

A spokesperson for the British Council in London said that the UK’s multicultural environment and “established international communities from all over the world” allows students from all background to feel at home.

The UK is also a more affordable study destination than both the US and Australia, she said, thanks partly to the short, flexible courses on offer.

The weaker pound in the wake of Brexit negotiations has also had a bearing on reducing the costs of a British education for foreign nationals.

For Farid, it would have taken up to five years to complete an engineering degree in Cairo, compared to three years in the UK, but he’s since discovered other advantages to studying abroad. “The high number of different nationalities present at UK universities is something I didn’t expect and I like this because it gives you the opportunity to learn about new cultures from around the world.”

Full report at:



Sajid Javid accused of 'buying silence' of Windrush citizens

5 Aug 2018

Sajid Javid has been accused of trying to “buy the silence” of the Windrush generation by imposing non-disclosure agreements on citizens in return for fast-track compensation payments.

Labour claimed the home secretary had broken his promise to “do right” by those migrants from across the Commonwealth who were caught up in the scandal because they had problems proving their status.

The Guardian revealed last month that several Windrush citizens had been paid some compensation by the Home Office, but then asked to sign an NDA, to the concern of others still waiting for assistance.

Over the weekend the Independent reported others had been put in similar positions in return for speedy payments.

The home secretary told MPs last month that a new compensation scheme for Windrush-era migrants would not involve gagging clauses. “No one will be asked to sign any kind of non-disclosure agreement or anything like that,” he said.

But just days earlier, on 13 July, he had written to the home affairs select committee (HASC) to say that payments had already been made through other routes in some cases and an NDA could have been used.

“Where we consider that the department has erred, we will seek to reduce any further distress for the claimant by making an offer of compensation, rather than continue through a lengthy legal challenge,” he said.

“I can confirm that Windrush generation cases are sometimes addressed through this route … Whilst there is no requirement, settlement offers are sometimes accompanied by confidentiality clauses, depending on individual circumstances.”

Diane Abbott said the NDAs showed that the Windrush generation continued to be failed by the government. “The home secretary promised to ‘do right’ by our fellow citizens from the Windrush generation, yet it appears he has gone back on his word.

“The Home Office must not attempt to buy the silence of citizens who have been so shockingly wronged and had their rights so gravely infringed in return for compensation that they are entitled to,” the shadow home secretary said.

“It is totally unacceptable for the Home Office to impose non-disclosure agreements and gag those who have suffered at the hands of the hostile environment in order to cover up the true scale of the Windrush scandal.

“The Home Office must compensate all those who have suffered without further delay and without any form of non-disclosure agreement.”

Javid committed to providing financial redress for those caught up in the scandal by appointing a lawyer and son of Windrush parents to oversee the design of the compensation scheme.

Among those affected are people forced out of work, in some cases for years, and unable to claim welfare support, as well as individuals wrongfully detained and in some cases deported.

Victims could have their compensation capped under government proposals announced last month to ensure no individual receives a “disproportionately” high payment from the public purse.

The use of NDAs was described as “totally unacceptable” by Labour MP David Lammy, who has campaigned on behalf of Windrush victims, while the chair of the select committee, Yvette Cooper, called on Javid to explain why he appeared to have gone back on his word.

“The home secretary has assured us that the Home Office will be transparent over Windrush – but using NDAs to hide things that have gone wrong cannot be justified. We will continue to pursue this,” she said.

A spokesman for the Home Office said: “The case referred to in the letter to the HASC predated the Windrush compensation scheme.

Full report at:



British hypocrisy breeding more terrorists: Expert

Aug 5, 2018

An expert says massive hypocrisy in dealing with the Daesh terrorist group  and a huge failure to involve young people in the UK society is to blame for a surge in terrorist motives among the youth in Britain.

In an interview with the Press TV on Sunday, Rodney Shakespeare, a political commentator from London, said that Britain’s dual policy of cracking down on Daehs recruits in the country while supporting governments that helped the terrorist group to emerge was a main reason why it was facing more plots for terrorist attacks over the past years.

“ ... firstly a huge amount of hypocrisy in respect of Daesh internationally because there you see we support the philosophical source of Daesh which Saudi Arabia and the financial source of Daesh which is Saudi Arabia,” said Shakespeare, adding that the British government not only supporting those who created Daesh but also helped the destruction of Iraq and Libya which created the circumstances for creation of Daesh.

The expert said a second reason for the radicalization of youth in Britain was the failure of the British society to involve them in a genuine way so that they could feel loyalty to the place they live in.

“This is a sad story manifesting the British hypocrisy pointing to a huge failure in respect of our ability to generally involve young people in society in such a away as that they feel loyalty to it and don’t want to go destroying absolutely any place when they can get entry carrying some sort of device or explosive weapon,” said Shakespeare.

On Friday, UK authorities handed down a life sentence to a teenager over links to the Daesh terrorist group and alleged plots to carry out attacks in the capital London.

Full report at:



North America


Hamza bin Laden has married daughter of lead 9/11 hijacker, say family

5 Aug 2018

Hamza bin Laden, the son of the late al-Qaida leader, has married the daughter of Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker in the 9/11 terror attacks, according to his family.

The union was confirmed by Osama bin Laden’s half-brothers . Ahmad and Hassan al-Attas said they believed Hamza had taken a senior position within al-Qaida and was aiming to avenge the death of his father, shot dead during a US military raid in Pakistan . Hamza bin Laden is the son of one of Osama bin Laden’s three surviving wives, Khairiah Sabar, who was living with her husband in a compound in Abbottabad, near a large Pakistani military base, when he was killed. He has since made public statements urging followers to wage war on Washington, London, Paris and Tel Aviv and is seen as a deputy to the terrorist group’s current leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

“We have heard he has married the daughter of Mohammed Atta,” said Ahmad al-Attas. “We’re not sure where he is, but it could be Afghanistan.”

Western intelligence agencies have been increasingly focusing on the whereabouts of Hamza bin Laden over the past two years, seeing him as more likely than anyone else to galvanise followers. His marriage to the daughter of Atta, an Egyptian national, appears to confirm that the 9/11 alumni remains a central hub of al-Qaida and that the organisation itself continues to be organised around Osama bin Laden’s legacy.

Another of Bin Laden’s sons, Khalid, was killed in the US raid in Abbottabad. A third, Saad, was killed in a drone strike in Afghanistan in 2009. Letters purportedly written by Osama bin Laden and seized from the compound suggested he was grooming Hamza to replace him, partly to avenge the death of Saad.

Bin Laden’s wives and surviving children have returned to Saudi Arabia, where they were given refuge by the former crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef. The women and children remain in close contact with Bin Laden’s mother, Alia Ghanem, who told the Guardian in an interview that she remained in regular touch with surviving family members.

“When we thought everyone was over this, next thing I knew was Hamza saying I am going to avenge my father,” said Hassan al-Attas. “I don’t want to go through that again.

“If Hamza was in front of me now, I would tell him: God guide you. Think twice about what you are doing. Don’t retake the steps of your father. You are entering really negative and horrible parts of your soul.”

The family claimed they did not have any contact with Osama bin Laden from 1999 until his death in 2011. They said they had not heard from Hamza bin Laden nor received any messages from him.

In recognition of his apparent status within al-Qaida, the US government labelled him a specially designated global terrorist in January 2017, meaning his assets could be blocked and anyone who dealt with him faced arrest.



Iran Revolutionary Guard says it held Gulf drills as US tensions rise

5 August 2018

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards confirmed on Sunday it had held war games in the Gulf over the past several days, saying they were aimed at “confronting possible threats” by enemies, the state news state news agency IRNA reported.

US officials told Reuters on Thursday that the United States believed Iran had started carrying out naval exercises in the Gulf, apparently moving up the timing of annual drills amid heightened tensions with Washington.

“This exercise was conducted with the aim of controlling and safeguarding the safety of the international waterway and within the framework of the program of the Guards’ annual military exercises,” Guards spokesman Ramezan Sharif said, according to IRNA.

The US military’s Central Command on Wednesday confirmed it has seen increased Iranian naval activity. The activity extended to the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic waterway for oil shipments the Revolutionary Guards have threatened to block.

Guards commander Mohammad Ali Jafari “expressed satisfaction over the successful conduct of the Guards naval exercise, emphasizing the need to maintain and enhance defense readiness and the security of the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz and to confront threats and potential adventurous acts of enemies,” IRNA quoted Sharif as saying.

One US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said possibly more than 100 vessels were involved in the drills, including small boats.

US officials, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the drills appeared designed to send a message to Washington, which is intensifying its economic and diplomatic pressure on Tehran but so far stopping short of using the US military to more aggressively counter Iran and its proxies.

Iran has been furious over US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of an international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program and re-impose sanctions on Tehran. Senior Iranian officials have warned the country would not easily yield to a renewed US campaign to strangle Iran’s vital oil exports.

But Iran did not appear interested in drawing attention to the drills. Iranian authorities had not commented on them earlier and several officials contacted by Reuters this week had declined to comment.

Last month, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei backed President Hassan Rouhani’s suggestion that Iran may block Gulf oil exports if its own exports are stopped.

Full report at:



Pompeo: Sanctions to be enforced until Iran ‘behaves like a normal country’

6 August 2018

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed Sunday that the United States would "enforce the sanctions" it is reimposing after President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear pact.

As of 0401 GMT Tuesday, the Iran government can no longer buy US banknotes and broad sanctions will be slapped on Iranian industries, including its rug exports.

Pompeo told journalists that heaping pressure on Tehran was meant to "push back against Iranian malign activity," saying Iranians "are unhappy with the failure of their own leadership to deliver the economic promises that their leadership promised them."

Pompeo told reporters on his way home from a three-nation trip to South East Asia that the Trump administration is open to looking beyond sanctions but adds that would "require enormous change" from Tehran.

He said President Donald Trump is intent on getting Iran to "behave like a normal country."

US sanctions had been eased by the Obama administration under the terms of the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Trump decided in May to withdraw from the accord.



US police say 11 children rescued from ‘extremists’ at ‘filthy’ hideout

August 06, 2018

LOS ANGELES: Police say 11 children ages one to 15 were rescued in the US state of New Mexico after officers raided a makeshift compound occupied by armed “extremists.”

Two men were arrested after police found them and the children in what one officer called “the saddest living conditions and poverty I have seen,” as part of the operation connected to a months-long search for an abducted three-year-old, according to New Mexico’s Taos County sheriff’s office.

The investigation kicked off late last year on the opposite side of the country in Jonesboro, Georgia, where 39-year-old Siraj WahHajj of the state’s Clayton County was accused of kidnapping his toddler — who was ultimately not found.

The boy’s mother told police her child, who she said suffered from seizures along with development and cognitive delays, went to the park with his father WahHajj last December and never returned.

On August 2, Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe of Taos County in New Mexico issued a search warrant describing “a makeshift compound surrounded by tires and an earthen berm” in a subdivision, where WahHajj along with adult Lucas Morten were thought to be.

The FBI had provided information and surveillance on the spot but “didn’t feel there was enough probable cause to get on the property,” Hogrefe said.

“That all changed for me when a message was forwarded to us from a Georgia Detective that we reasonably believed came from someone at the compound — the message sent to a third party simply said in part ‘we are starving and need food and water,’” the sheriff said in a statement.

“I absolutely knew that we couldn’t wait on another agency to step up and we had to go check this out as soon as possible.”

The sheriff described planning “a tactical approach for our own safety because we had learned the occupants were most likely heavily armed and considered extremist of the Muslim belief.”

On the morning of August 3, a dozen officers kicked off the “all day” operation, discovering the two men with an AR-15 rifle, five loaded 30-round magazines and four loaded pistols, including one in WahHajj’s pocket.

The men at first refused to follow verbal direction, police said, who added the raid went without major incident or injuries.

Morten was charged with harboring a fugitive and WahHajj was booked without bond on his Georgia warrant for child abduction.

Full report at:



Southeast Asia


Indian Muslim group wants senator to push minority rights

05 August 2018

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 5 — A group comprising mostly Indian Muslims urged the government today to appoint a senator to champion minority rights.

The Malaysia Muslim People Coalition (Irimm) headed by Amir Amsaa Alla Pitchay, who used to be president of the pro-Barisan Nasional (BN) Malaysian Indian Muslim Congress (Kimma), also declared their support for the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government.

“We (Irimm) do not have any senatorship to highlight or voice our grievances from the grassroots through to the ministry level,” said Irimm president Amir Amsaa Alla Pitchay.

“This kind of things is where PH has to engage and appoint a person in every state to help the community,” he added.

Irimm, with just over 5,000 members nationwide, was formed in 2012 to champion the cause and help Muslim-minority communities in the country.

Amir Amsaa said he hopes that with the support of the PH government, more large scale events and welfare programmes can be organised and executed by Irimm.

He added the coalition was in the process of reaching out to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail to arrange a meeting to officiate their support towards PH.

“We hope to have large scale events with the government’s support, as we are also looking to have the support of the ministers to help the causes we are championing,” he said.



Deputy Speaker: Opposition MPs still harping on racial, religious politics

06 August 2018

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 6 — The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Nga Kor Ming, today chided Opposition lawmakers for still resorting to race and religious politics during the 14th Parliament sittings.

In an interview with Malay daily Utusan Malaysia on his new role, Nga expressed his disappointment, particularly with the Opposition lawmakers for employing below the belt tactics when speaking during debates.

“From this aspect, it is disappointing, particularly concerning the opposition bench; many are bringing up old issues while playing the race and religious card, which to me is not healthy,” he was quoted saying.

Acknowledging Islam as the official religion according to the Federal Constitution, Nga added the constitution also allowed for other religions to be freely practised.

“That is why I have advised the MPs and they must understand they elected and supported by voters of several ethnic backgrounds, as not one of the 222 parliamentary seats are made up of 100 per cent of one race, they are all multiracial,” Nga was quoted in the daily.

He then advised the representatives, of which 90 are first time MPs, to debate issues in the House from the perspective of a Malaysian, and not from a narrow point of view.

“They must also understand and be aware if their arguments are based on facts, statistics, or blank rhetoric,” he added, referring to the MPs.

“They must also keep to their promise and oath, and never forget the Parliament is a place from the people, to serve the people, operated by the people,” he added.

Full report at:



Govt to upgrade status of Kafa religious teachers

6 Aug 2018

KUALA LUMPUR: The Government is looking into upgrading the status of Kafa (religious) teachers, including appointing them to permanent posts, says Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Fuziah Salleh.

She said a study on the matter was being conducted by the Islamic Development Department of Malaysia (Jakim), which is the coordinator of the Kafa programme.

“Jakim is conducting a study to upgrade the status of Kafa teachers, among others, to be appointed as permanent staff in the service and we want to ensure the skills of Kafa teachers are upgraded through appropriate courses,” she said at the Dewan Rakyat sitting on Monday.

She was replying to a supplementary question from Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man (PAS-Kubang Kerian) on the Government’s plan to upgrade the status of Kafa contract teachers nationwide.

She said the Pakatan Harapan Government was committed to maintaining a monthly allowance of RM900 and the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) contribution of RM900 per month and EPF contribution of RM117 per month to Kafa teachers as undertaken by the previous government.

However, she said the Government also welcomed the state government's matching grants in efforts to raise the salary of the Kafa teachers.

“Some states provide additional allowances such as Selangor which provides up to RM700 monthly, bringing the total to RM1,717 monthly, while other states also provide additional allowance,” she said.

Replying to a supplementary question from Ahmad Hassan (Warisan-Papar) on Kafa teachers in Sabah who received less than RM900 per month, Fuziah said the matter needed to be reported and investigated as the allocation to the agency responsible in implementing the programme was at the state level.

She said Jakim was the coordinator of the Kafa programme but the operation was conducted by state departments and Yayasan Islam at the state level.

Full report at:



More than 200 Indonesians in Islamic University in Madinah

August 05, 2018

JEDDAH: A delegation from the Union of Teachers of Arabic Language in Indonesia visited the Islamic University in Madinah on Friday to learn about the university’s experience and knowledge of education for Muslim children from all over the world.

The delegation met Dr. Mahmoud Qadah, the university’s vice president for International Cooperation and Knowledge Exchange, who said many Indonesian students graduated from the Islamic University, and some are now teaching in different capacities all across the world.

More than 200 Indonesian students enrolled this year to study at the varsity, which is an unprecedented number from one country throughout the history of the Madinah-based teaching institution.

Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority state and the fourth most populous country in the world. Indonesia is the largest economy in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Full report at:





Deadly Houthi attack on Hodeidah hospital ‘a violation of international law’

5 August 2018

The Comprehensive Humanitarian Assistance Center in Yemen briefed the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Yemen on the recent events in Hodeidah.

It also reviewed the statement issued by Arab Coalition regarding the involvement of the Houthi militia in a deadly attack on civilians on Thursday on a hospital and fish market in Hodeidah.

The Center “expressed its sympathy and deep sorrow for the deaths of innocent civilians in Yemen, stressing the need to spare civilians in all Yemeni governorates the effects of the conflict,” according to a Saudi Press Agency statement on Sunday.

The Center also called for “full compliance with the provisions of international humanitarian law,” saying Houthis were in violation of this following the attack which killed dozens of civilians.

The Center also expressed its condolences to the families and families of the victims, stressing its continued efforts and maximum cooperation to assist the Yemeni people in coordination with the Yemeni government, coalition forces and humanitarian and relief organizations operating in Yemen.

The coalition launched a comprehensive humanitarian operations plan in Yemen on January 22, through which Yemen's humanitarian response plan for 2018 was funded with $1.25 billion from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.

The plan included the establishment of the Comprehensive Humanitarian Assistance Center in Yemen to coordinate humanitarian action in Yemen to communicate and answer the questions and needs of humanitarian organizations working in Yemen and provide support to relief workers.

The plan also included a number of initiatives to improve the humanitarian situation in Yemen and to promote delivery and distribution of aid to cities and the Yemeni governorates, through a number of projects to improve roads and ports.



UAE backs UN talks in Geneva on Yemen, says minister Reem al-Hashimi

5 August 2018

The United Arab Emirates, a partner in the Arab coalition for restoring legitimacy in Yemen, said on Sunday that it backs the UN-brokered talks in Geneva between the country’s warring sides.

The United Nations envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, on Thursday told the Security Council that “a political solution” to end the war in Yemen was “available” and that the two sides would be invited to talks on September 6 in Geneva.

“We have always been in support of the special envoy, we are going to continue to do so,” Emirati Minister of State for International Cooperation Reem al-Hashemi told reporters in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi.

UN-brokered negotiations on Yemen broke down in 2016.

Griffiths told the Security Council that he was “still trying” to negotiate a deal to avoid a full-blown battle for Hodeida, the Red Sea port city that is a key entry point for humanitarian aid.

Full report at:



Iran protests resume for 6th day amid violent clashes with security forces

6 August 2018

Protests renewed in Tehran and several Iranian cities on Sunday evening, marking the sixth consecutive day of protests against the regime’s policies while some violent clashes erupted between protestors and security forces in some cities.

According to videos published by activists, there were protests in the neighborhood of Ekbatan, northwest of Tehran, in other areas like Daneshjoo Park in the center of Tehran, and in the streets of Karagar and Amir Abad in South Tehran.

Protestors in Enghelab Street, in the center of Tehran, were chanting “Death to the Dictator.” A video showed security forces attack protestors while some young men burnt trash bins to obstruct the security forces’ advance.

Violent clashes also erupted between protestors and riot police in the park of Tehran’s theatre, and according to some reports, there were violent clashes between protestors and riot police in Qom and Karaj.

Activists said the government shut down cellular services and cut off the internet in both cities, Qom and Karaj, to prevent citizens from publishing photos of protests and clashes.

Full report at:



Saudi Arabia agrees to admit Iranian diplomat to head interests section

Aug 5, 2018

Saudi Arabia has agreed to issue visa to an Iranian diplomat to head the Islamic Republic's interests section in the kingdom, in a rare move after the two countries broke off relations two years ago.

An informed diplomatic source told IRNA on Sunday that Saudi Arabia had agreed to grant a visa to a diplomat introduced as the caretaker of Iran's interests section.

Following the approval by Saudi Arabia's Foreign Ministry, head of the Oman and Yemen Department at Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mohammad Alibek, has been appointed as the caretaker of the Islamic Republic's interests section in the city of Jeddah, the official Iranian news agency further said.

Observers see the move as a positive diplomatic step in Tehran-Riyadh relations, it added.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said on Saturday that Iran planned to open an interests section in Saudi Arabia.

“Advances have been made in the past two weeks and I believe there are signs that the interests section will open and become operational,” Qassemi added.

Relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia first soured after a deadly human crush during the Hajj rituals in September 2015, when hundreds of Iranian pilgrims among others lost their lives.

Tensions further escalated a few months later following the kingdom's execution of prominent Shia cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.

Riyadh cut off diplomatic ties with Tehran in January 2016 following angry protests in front of its diplomatic premises in the cities of Tehran and Mashhad against the execution.

Ever since breaking its ties with Iran, the kingdom has ramped up its negative rhetoric against the Islamic Republic over its role in the region.

Back in December, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the Islamic Republic could restore its relations with Saudi Arabia should the kingdom end its military aggression on Yemen and cut its friendship with the Tel Aviv regime.

Full report at:



Israel seeks limited ceasefire with Gaza, officials hint

Aug 5, 2018

The Tel Aviv regime may agree to a limited ceasefire with Palestinian resistance groups in the besieged Gaza Strip, Israeli officials have hinted.

An unnamed Israeli official said Sunday that there might be talks focusing on a proposal to ease the blockade of Gaza if the Palestinians calm their side of the fence that separates the occupied territories from the blockaded coastal sliver.

“A complete ceasefire (by the Palestinians) will lead, on Israel’s part, to the reopening of the Kerem Shalom crossing and renewal of the permits given in respect to the fishing zones,” Reuters quoted the official as saying.

The offer would be the focus of later deliberations, the official said, adding that any eventual broader agreement over Gaza would require a guarantee for the return of the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed in the 2014 Israeli war on Gaza. Hamas and other resistance groups have linked their fate to Israel freeing Palestinian security detainees.

Hussam Badran, one senior Hamas official, during a Sunday interview with Gaza radio station said, “Hamas has conducted internal meetings that have not yet ended.”

“The suffering of our people, and the 12-year blockade imposed with no guilt on their part, requires that all Palestinian leaders search for a real solution to this suffering ... without giving concessions when it comes to the known and outstanding positions and rights of our people,” the Hamas official said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier convened his cabinet to possibly approve proposals made by the United Nations (UN) and Egypt for preventing another war on Gaza. The UN and Egypt have not publicly detailed the proposals. They have spoken generally of a need to improve humanitarian conditions in Gaza.

Gaza has seen a surge in tensions since Palestinians launched weekly protests along the fence. In response to the protests, Israel on July 9 tightened the blockade by shuttering Gaza’s main commercial terminal and limiting a Palestinian fishing zone off the enclave. It offered to reverse the measures on Sunday.

The Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who holds sway in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, earlier said any deal risked ending hopes of achieving Palestinian statehood.

“(A deal would bring about a) separation of Gaza from the rest of the homeland and would create a mini-state which will be the graveyard of our national project,” said Munir Al-Ghaghoub, a spokesman for Fatah.

But after a meeting of the representatives of Palestinian factions, including Fatah, Badran said, “There will be no state in Gaza and no state without Gaza.”

Tensions have been running high near the fence since March 30, which marked the start of a series of protests dubbed “The Great March of Return.” Palestinian protesters demand the right to return for those driven out of their homeland.

The clashes in Gaza reached their peak on May 14, the eve of the 70th anniversary of Nakba Day, or the Day of Catastrophe, which coincided this year with Washington's relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to occupied Jerusalem al-Quds.

Full report at:



Israeli aircraft strikes Gaza Strip over ‘arson balloons’: Military

Aug 5, 2018

The Israeli military says its aircraft has conducted airstrikes on the northern parts of the besieged Gaza Strip, claiming it hit targets over “arson balloons.”

According to a brief statement released by the occupying regime’s military on Sunday, the aircraft “fired towards a vehicle that” allegedly served for “launching arson balloons” inside the occupied territories.

It added that the aircraft, a warplane according to some sources and a combat drone according to others, also fired another rocket at a gathering of Palestinians purportedly “launching arson balloons from the northern Gaza Strip into Israel.”

The Gaza Health Ministry confirmed the airstrikes and said that at least four Palestinians had sustained injuries in the aerial aggression.

Flying kites and balloons have become a new mode of resistance since Palestinians began their weekly protests near a fence separating the Gaza Strip from the occupied territories on March 30.

The protests peaked on May 14, when some 40,000 Gazans protested along the fence on the same day that the United States opened its embassy in Jerusalem al-Quds in a provocative move.

Israeli snipers and special troops have shot and killed more than 150 peaceful Palestinian protesters, sparking international outcry over the disproportionate use of force. Nearly 15,000 other Palestinians have sustained injuries, of whom at least 360 are reportedly in critical condition.

Full report at:



Gaza-bound activists remain in Israeli custody for 2nd day

Aug 5, 2018

A dozen pro-Palestine activists, who were arrested by Israeli forces on board a Gaza-bound ship on Saturday, remain in custody of the regime for the second day.

On Saturday, Israeli forces seized the Swedish-flagged vessel "Freedom for Gaza" and took it to the port of Ashdod.

The Israeli army said in a statement that all the 12 activists on board the ship had been taken for "further inquiry."

The detained activists come from Sweden, Germany, Britain, Spain, France and Canada.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli immigration authority said the activists were still in custody and would be put on flights home.

The seized vessel was one of the four ships on the "Freedom Flotilla"  which set sail from Denmark in May to draw the world's attention to the suffering of Palestinians under an inhumane Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip. Two of the ships, however, remained behind after a recent stop in the Italian port of Palermo.

Last Sunday, the Israeli navy seized a Norwegian-flagged boat called “Return” with almost two dozen activists on board. It was also part of the Gaza "Freedom Flotilla," which was taking medical supplies to the coastal enclave.

The International Committee for Breaking the Siege of Gaza announced on Wednesday that the Israeli authorities had begun deporting several of the detained campaigners.

Divina Levrini, a Swedish human rights activist arrested on board the "Return" boat, said that she had been "tortured" while in Givon Prison.

After her deportation to Sweden, she made an interview with the Palestinian Ma'an news agency, demanding international action in the face of "genocide going on by an apartheid regime."

The fresh seizure of Gaza-bound ships follows a number of failed attempts by activists to reach the coastal sliver of land in recent years.

In 2015, a flotilla of four boats bound for Gaza was forcibly redirected to Ashdod by Israeli forces.

Back in May 2010, an Israeli raid on another Gaza-bound aid flotilla, called Mavi Marmara, killed 10 Turkish activists in high seas and sent Ankara-Tel Aviv ties into a tailspin.

The two sides normalized relations in June 2016, but their ties sank to a fresh low in May 2018 after the expelling of envoys amid growing tensions over the killing of dozens of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip at the hands of Israeli forces.

Tensions have been running high near the Gaza fence since March 30, which marked the start of a series of protests, dubbed “The Great March of Return,” demanding the right to return for those driven out of their homeland.

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