New Age Islam News Bureau
18 Jul 2017
An Islamic State banner. There has been an increasing adoption of Islamic State banners and flags by disaffected youngsters of Kashmir during the unrest that followed the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani a year ago.
• Islamic State Supporters Create Kashmir Group to Step up Presence in India, Give Instructions on Nice-Like Attack
• Philippine President Duterte Offers Muslim Self-Rule to Counter Islamic State
• Official: Referendum in Kurdistan Region Not Aimed at Separation
• Pakistan: Christian Teen Missing After Muslims Accuse Him of Blaspheming Muhammad
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
For Details and More Headlines from All Regions, Please click, ‘More’
• Islamic State Supporters Create Kashmir Group to Step up Presence in India, Give Instructions on Nice-Like Attack
• Man Shot On Son’s First Birthday Over ‘Interfaith Marriage’
• Terrorists target army convoy at Bijbehara, J&K
• Army officer shot dead by jawan in Uri sector in Jammu and Kashmir
• Jammu-Kashmir: Army foils infiltration bid in Bandipora, kills two terrorists
• No Letter from Aziz, Ailing PoK Student Appeals for Visa to Sushma Swaraj
• UP ATS to quiz ‘Lashkar operative’ Saleem Khan arrested in Mumbai
• Philippine President Duterte Offers Muslim Self-Rule to Counter Islamic State
• Hindu Woman, Buddhist Husband Raise Three Muslims In Terengganu
• Indonesian Attempts to Curb Hardliners, Terrorists Worry Activists
• Jihotties, lingerie and recipes: Islamic State sympathisers on Telegram
• Gov't in Talks to Restore Access to Telegram
• Israel flouts international convention by closing Al-Aqsa mosque, says minister
• Muslim remark sparks debate over closure of 2 dim sum restaurants
• Official: Referendum in Kurdistan Region Not Aimed at Separation
• Baghdadi Almost Certainly Alive: Kurdish Security Official
• Iraqi Forces Unearth another Mass Grave of Speicher Massacre in Tikrit
• Syria: Jeish Al-Islam Terrorist Group Declares Breakup in Eastern Damascus
• Airstrikes pummel Syria's Raqa as US-backed forces advance on IS
• As IS routed in Iraq, their families fear reprisals
• Syria: Turkish Army's Long Convoys Arrive in Northeastern Aleppo
• ISIL's Command Center in Deir Ezzur Destroyed in Syrian Armed Forces' Attacks
• New photos and details emerge of man accused of killing tourists in Egypt
• Syrian forces continue their gains against Daesh in Raqqah
• King Salman pressured US to ensure Israel reopens Al-Aqsa: Report
• Pakistan: Christian Teen Missing After Muslims Accuse Him of Blaspheming Muhammad
• Eight Militants Killed In New Khyber Operation
• Jamaat-e-Islami Demands Implementation of Islamic Centre Ruling
• Suicide bomber strikes Hayatabad, Frontier Corps' officer martyred
• Chinese delegation interested to invest in Pakistan’s agriculture sector
• Karachi: Protests against Pak brutality erupt, demand for free Sindh raised
• Two FC soldiers martyred in Peshawar suicide attack
• PSP leader shot dead in Karachi
• Expats in Canada See Bangladesh Politics Hurtling Towards Communalism
• Afghan Forces Foil Terrorist Attack Plot by ISIS in Jalalabad City
• Bride killed, 4 others wounded in Kabul firing involving Mohaqiq’s guards
• Taliban accuses UN of political approach in new civilian casualties report
• Afghan MP warns regarding tactical achievements of ISIS in Nangarhar
• Afghan forces retake district in Helmand
• Civilian deaths in war-torn Afghanistan hit new high: UN
• Miscreants using Rohingya camps as safe haven
• Dostum’s office rejects forced diversion of vice president’s plane
• Under Trump, Anti-Muslim Hate Crimes Have Increased At an Alarming Rate
• Muslim Ban: State Dept Expands 'Close Family' Criteria
• Muslim council secretary general 'forced to resign' after attending gay son's wedding
• Black Muslims in Ottawa upset over lack of diversity at Muslim conference
• White House: Trump convinced Iran nuclear agreement is a ‘bad deal’
• US ending laptop ban on Middle Eastern airlines
• Iranian Dissidents Rally in France for the Overthrow of Iran’s Theocracy
• Kremlin Says ‘Contradictory’ Reports on Islamic State Leader Baghdadi’s Death
• Australia creates counter-terror super ministry
• Britain First posts video of confrontation with city Muslims
• Sadiq Khan says a Trump state visit to UK may not be 'appropriate' given how much British people disagree with him
• 15 Yemeni Rebels, 8 Soldiers Killed In Clashes
• Bomb Blast Hits Military Vehicle, Wounds 17 in Southeast Turkey: Army
• Deputy Minister Condemns Saudi-Led Coalition for Demolishing Yemeni Hospitals
• Israeli soldier convicted of manslaughter moved to house arrest
• Houthi event held in Sanaa University sparks uproar
• US must alter its policy of issuing sanctions against other nations: Zarif
• Turkey extends state of emergency for another three moths
• Boko Haram Bomber Kills Eight in Fresh Attack in Nigeria’s Maiduguri
• Thousands Take To Streets to Protest Mauritania Referendum
• Libya’s Fayez al-Sarraj announces political roadmap, calls for polls next year
• MURIC replies Christian leaders, accuses CAN of frustrating teaching of IRK
• Niger: How Jobs Can Help Niger Win the War against Boko Haram
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Islamic State supporters create Kashmir group to step up presence in India, give instructions on Nice-like attack
Jul 18, 2017
Rezaul H Laskar
At a time when the Islamic State is being squeezed out of its strongholds such as Mosul in Iraq, members and supporters of the group have stepped up efforts to gain a toehold in India by creating a group focussed on Jammu and Kashmir.
The group – Ansarul Khilafah Jammu Kashmir – has an active channel on the encrypted messaging service Telegram that is used to disseminate the usual IS propaganda along with manuals for making weapons and planning and carrying out attacks.
In recent weeks, the channel has featured a call to Jammu and Kashmir Police personnel to defy their officers and direct their weapons at the “enemy of Muslims and Islam”. On July 5, the group put out detailed instructions on how IS supporters “on the ground in Kashmir” and “present at the clashes against the Enemies of Islam” could prepare for attacks.
Read more: Playing the ‘oppression’ card: How Islamic State is radicalising youth in India
On Monday, the group put out instructions in Hindi on how attacks could be carried out with large trucks, such as the ones in Nice, France and the German capital Berlin last year, along with potential targets.
The group’s emergence has coincided with the increasing adoption of Islamic State banners and flags by disaffected youngsters of Kashmir during the unrest that followed the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani a year ago.
Indian security officials insist the IS has no real presence in the Kashmir Valley and they also point to the fact that the group has not so far claimed responsibility for an attack anywhere in India. However, they acknowledge the group led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has no dearth of sympathisers, including in Kashmir.
Read more: Kashmiri man’s plan to join Islamic State foiled, deported from Turkey
Amarnath Amarasingam, a senior research fellow at the London-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue who is one of the world’s leading experts in tracking the IS’ online activity, told Hindustan Times the terror group “definitely has an interest in South Asia, and is trying to plant a stronger hold there”.
“Whether it happens is another matter. The interest in Kashmir is very old amongst jihadists, just like their interest in Palestine is old. For them, anywhere they see Muslims suffering is a potential theatre of jihad, a place to send help and fight back,” he said.
Read more: Why Indian Muslims feel shaken and ‘harassed’
There is a precedent of IS-linked terrorists in India forming a group named Ansarul Khilafah (soldiers of the caliphate). Last October, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) busted a group of six men from Kerala’s Kannur district who formed “Ansarul Khilafah Kerala” and were using Telegram to coordinate and plot IS-style attacks. The men, led by Manseed alias Omar al-Hindi, were reportedly radicalised online.
Amarasingam said such groups are “usually a mixture” of IS members based in countries such as Syria and disparate sympathisers. “Some groups definitely have people who are in direct communication with IS operatives in Syria, and they often transfer money, share logistics and tactics, and also communicate attack claims for IS to release. Other groups are strictly made up of fanboys,” he added.
On Sunday, the Telegram channel of Ansarul Khilafah Jammu Kashmir was replete with tributes to Sajad Gilkar, a slain terrorist whose body was wrapped in the IS flag at his funeral in Srinagar on Wednesday. It featured a photo of Gilkar standing before a brick wall with the graffiti “ISIS Town” and described him as a mujahid who lived by the “flag of tawhid” (the doctrine of monotheism that defines Islam) even though say he was linked to Hizbul Mujahideen.
Read more: Wedding on mobile phone: How an IS man courted a medical student from UP
Since the group was created on Telegram on June 2, it has shared among its more than 100 members a number of manuals that provide information on handling weapons commonly used by terrorists, such as AK-47 rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, and on making suicide vests and car bombs. These include the “Open Source Jihad Trainer” and the “Book of Terror”.
Other material shared with the aim of inspiring attacks was footage from high-profile terrorist assaults around the world, including CCTV footage from inside the Taj Hotel during the carnage in Mumbai in November 2008.
In its instructions for IS supporters “on the ground in Kashmir” to organise themselves for attacks, there was a call for uniting all groups under one banner and choosing an ‘ameer’ (leader).
The instructions included assigning tasks among members, including the ‘mujahid’ (fighters), a “medical man” capable of dealing with injuries, “scouts” to carry out assessments before and after attacks, members who could “raise funds without raising attention” and “media man”, who “takes photos or videos of the attack (make sure to blur faces of fellow brothers) and propagate” the material on social media.
In another message posted on July 7, the group called on Jammu and Kashmir Police personnel to “distance yourselves from aiding Kuffar and their agents with Muslim names (CM etc and your officers)” and “declare your disobedience to the commands of the taghut (your leaders and officers)”.
Read more: Kerala man who ‘joined’ Islamic State killed in Afghanistan
It also called on the police not to target terrorists and, using Quranic verses, asked them direct their “weapons at the enemy of Muslims and Islam”.
Amarasingam believes law enforcement should take online communities such as Ansarul Khilafah Jammu and Kashmir “pretty seriously”.
“Sometimes they are small, but that doesn’t mean these groups are not made up of committed followers. If they are already sharing attack logistics and bomb-making materials, it’s only a matter of time before someone takes these tips and carries out something. I would hope that law enforcement has infiltrated these online spaces, but in my experience, that’s not always the case,” he said.
Animesh Roul, executive director of Society for the Study of Peace and Conflict, a New Delhi-based think tank, said there were indications of several fringe groups in Kashmir that “subscribed to the caliphate and its ideals”. There was also the possibility, he said, of Pakistan trying to inject new groups into the Kashmir theatre in the name of IS.
“We don’t know their actual strength…A large coordinated attack needs a lot of planning and that may not be immediate. But we need to be careful as the IS does have sympathisers in India and their ideology is expanding as the group looks to spread elsewhere after the fall of strongholds like Mosul,” Roul said.
Philippine President Duterte offers Muslim self-rule to counter Islamic State
Jul 17, 2017
President Rodrigo Duterte offered self-rule to the Philippines’ Muslim minority on Monday in an attempt to defeat Islamist militants who seized a southern city in the gravest challenge to his year-old rule.
Duterte hopes the promise of autonomy will persuade Filipino Muslims to reject the Islamic State group, whose followers still control parts of Marawi after nearly two months of fighting that had left more than 500 people dead.
Duterte vowed to shepherd through Congress a “Bangsamoro Basic Law” bill jointly written and submitted to him Monday by government officials and the country’s largest Muslim guerrilla group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
“This moment is a significant step forward in our quest to end centuries of hatred, mistrust and injustice that cost and affected the lives of millions of Filipinos,” he said in a speech to MILF leaders and government officials.
Both sides said that giving the mainly Catholic nation’s large and largely impoverished Islamic minority a better choice was crucial to heading off the lure of violent extremism.
“These misguided people have filled the vacuum created by our failure to enact the basic law, and feed into the frustration of our people,” MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim told the same gathering, referring to the Marawi gunmen.
Muslims since the 1970s had waged a decades-old insurgency that claimed more than 100,000 lives in the Mindanao region that includes Marawi.
The MILF signed a peace treaty with Duterte’s predecessor Benigno Aquino in 2014 but Congress refused to pass the self-rule bill -- a key provision of the accord.
Small rebel factions began pledging allegiance to the IS soon afterwards. The Marawi attack on May 23 was their first major action, forcing Duterte to impose martial rule across Mindanao.
The chief government peace negotiator, Irene Santiago, said Manila expects the bill’s passage within a year.
“The next 12 months are full of opportunity but also fraught with so much danger. The dangers are staring us in the face: violent extremism, the source of the crisis in Marawi,” Santiago added.
An Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao has been in place in parts of the south since after a rival faction, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), signed peace with Manila in 1996.
However it had failed to end violence and rebellion.
Santiago said both the MILF and MNLF helped to draft the new self-rule bill giving all sides optimism about its passage.
Duterte is also set to decide within the week whether to extend military rule over Mindanao.
The constitution limits martial rule to 60 days, a safeguard against abuses put in place after the downfall of the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship.
However Congress can authorise an extension.
The military said there were still 60-80 gunmen holed up in about 500 Marawi houses and buildings after weeks of day and night air strikes and artillery pounding.
About 300 civilians also remain trapped in the area and some of them have been taken hostage, the military said.
Official: Referendum in Kurdistan Region Not Aimed at Separation
Jul 17, 2017
"Holding a referendum will not hit a blow to Iraq's independence but it is a negotiation tactic to pressure the central government to act upon its promises for giving advantages to the Kurdistan region," Dabbaq said in a press conference on Sunday.
"The Kurdish leaders want to resolve their problems with the Iraqi government by holding a referendum and the Kurds don’t intend to separate from Iraq and the Kurds prefer to be a part of Iraq," he added.
His remarks came one day after Iraq's Ambassador to Tehran Rajeh Saber Abud al-Mousavi dismissed the Iraqi Kurdistan region's bid to hold an independence referendum as "illegal".
"The Iraqi constitution which was supported by the Iraqi people, including the Kurds and Arabs, 10 years ago, guarantees Iraq's unity and every one should remain committed to it. Holding a referendum is in blatant violation of the law," al-Mousavi said on Saturday.
Stressing the world community's opposition to the independence of the Iraqi Kurdistan region, he said, "The Kurds' move to hold a referendum will push them towards an abyss."
Also earlier this month, Head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) Ammar al-Hakim underlined the necessity for unity among all Iraqi groups and people, and said he sees a referendum for independence in the Kurdistan region as a harmful blow to the entire nation.
"I believe that Iraq's unity is of vital importance because first it has been stated in the country's Constitution and second, the Iraqis' interests depend on this unity and the consequences of distorting this unity will not be limited to a specific region and will start a domino," Hakim told FNA.
"In such conditions, we will endeavor to convince our partners in the Kurdistan region that this decision will harm Kurdistan and the entire Iraq because our power lies in our unity," he added.
Hakim said that he and his colleagues have consulted with certain regional and world states to dissuade the Kurdish officials from holding the referendum, warning that Iraq's welfare and success will be endangered be the move.
Pakistan: Christian Teen Missing After Muslims Accuse Him of Blaspheming Muhammad
Jul 17, 2017
A member of an Islamic extremist group in Pakistan has accused a Christian minor of blasphemy after the boy had an argument with a Muslim, sources said.
Hina Shafaqat, mother of 17-year-old Shahzad Masih, told Morning Star News that her son had been wrongly implicated in the case by a Muslim colleague with whom he had a quarrel 10 days ago, and the family has not been able to locate him since his arrest.
Working as a sweeper at Shamim Riaz Hospital in Dinga town, Gujrat District, Punjab Province for the past nine months, Masih had an altercation with hospital pharmacy employee Ishtiaq Ahmed Jalali, she said. A senior medical officer at the hospital intervened and calmed the quarrel, but "Jalali nurtured a grudge against my son and has now plotted this case against him to settle the score," she said.
"I've raised Shahzad as a devout Roman Catholic - I've never taught my children to hate people belonging to other faiths, which is why I am sure that my son is being wrongly accused of blasphemy," she said. "The police arrested my son on Friday [July 14], and since then we have been trying to locate his whereabouts."
Neither the Dinga police nor the Kharian police said they have him in their custody, she said.
"We have searched so many police stations but have failed to trace him," she said, adding that police were torturing the family mentally by not disclosing her son's location or revealing his well-being.
Masih, the oldest of five children, is the family breadwinner along with his father, a daily wage mason. Shahzad Masih went to school until grade four, after which his family could not afford to further education.
"We, and the family of my brother-in-law Rafaqat, had to relocate to a relative's house on Friday[July 14] to avoid any backlash from the local Muslims, who are being instigated by an Islamist outfit," she said.
More than 30 other Christian families also live in Mohalla Railway Station of Dinga town.
Dinga Police Station House Officer (SHO) Inspector Shahbaz Ahmad dodged questions about facts of the case, telling Morning Star News only, "The accused has committed blasphemy."
The police official did note that a First Information Report (FIR No. 273/17) was registered against Masih under Section 295-C, which calls for death or life imprisonment to those found guilty of blaspheming against Muhammad, the prophet of Islam.
According to the FIR, complainant Nadeem Ahmed - president of the Dinga chapter of Islamist outfit Tehreek Tahafuz-e-Islam Pakistan - alleged that he was sitting in his electronic appliances shop when Ishtiaq Ahmed Jalali came and informed him that Masih had uttered derogatory remarks against Muhammad. Jalali is also a member of Tehreek Tahafuz-e-Islam Pakistan.
"Upon hearing this, we sent a boy to Shahzad Masih's home and asked him to come to the Popular Mobile Shop for clearing the issue," Ahmed alleged in the FIR. "When Masih came there, we asked him about the accusation, to which he again started abusing and cursing the Holy Prophet. Some people who had gathered at the shop by then also witnessed the blasphemy done by Masih."
Ahmed alleged that the Christian boy "managed to escape from the shop."
Inspector Ahmad declined to comment on why he thought Masih had committed blasphemy or if he had admitted to it.
"You know very well I cannot repeat the blasphemous words," he said, avoiding questions as to what could have motivated the Christian to do such a thing. He also did not offer any plausible explanation as to how Masih was able to flee from the scene in the presence of a large number of upset Muslims.
"Talk to the SP, because we just registered the case and forwarded it to him for further action," he said before putting down the phone.
Repeated attempts to reach Superintendent of Police (SP) Maaz Zafar failed as his telephone operator said that the senior official was busy and would return the call later. At this writing, however, Zafar had not contacted Morning Star News.
Attorneys Riaz Anjum and Kashif Naimat from the Pakistan Center for Law and Justice (PCLJ) told Morning Star News from Dinga that they had offered legal and financial assistance to Shahzad Masih's family as he was one of the main providers of income for the family, and his arrest had badly degraded their finances.
"The case is clearly fabricated, because the FIR does not state any motive for Shahzad Masih's alleged blasphemy," Anjum said. "It's very unfortunate that Pakistani police book people in blasphemy cases before even trying to ascertain the facts. Now the boy will be made to suffer in prison like so many other innocent people who have fallen victim to the harsh blasphemy laws."
He said that their investigation had corroborated the account of the Christian family.
"It is true that Masih had a fight with a pharmacy worker over a week ago, and the matter was resolved by a doctor," Anjum said. "Local sources told us that Jalali bore a grudge against Masih, and he had connived with the complainant, Nadeem Ahmad, to settle his personal score with the Christian boy."
Man shot on son’s first birthday over ‘interfaith marriage’
Jul 18, 2017
MEERUT: A 32-year-old man on his way home with a cake for his son's first birthday was shot dead in Muzaffarnagar on Monday, allegedly targeted for his inter-faith marriage in a restive region that hasn't been the same since the 2013 riots.
Naseem Ahmad had married Pinky Kumari in 2015, after threats over their relationship forced the two to elope from their village. They moved to Andhra Pradesh, where the couple had a child. The couple arrived in Muzaffarnagar because Naseem wanted to celebrate their son's first birthday at home.
His grieving relatives said it was a risk he should not have taken.
Eyewitness Mohammad Qadir recalled the murder: "Three men on a bike suddenly blocked the path of Naseem, who was himself riding a motorcycle. They shot him in the chest from close range and escaped as quickly as they had come."
On a complaint filed by Naseem's family, police have lodged an FIR against Pinky's father Rajesh Kumar, her brother Pradeep, and two other unidentified persons. However, no arrests had been made till the filing of this report. Police sources said the murder had triggered communal tension in the region.
Soon after the murder, angry villagers blocked traffic and demanded the immediate arrest of the culprits. Senior cops rushed to the spot in a bid to pacify the crowd, and additional forces were deployed in the area to ensure peace.
Terrorists target army convoy at Bijbehara, J&K
Jul 17, 2017
SRINAGAR: Militants today attacked an army convoy at Bijbehara in Anantnag district of Jammu and Kashmir, an army official said, adding that a man was injured when the forces fired back.
Security forces have cordoned off the area and launched an operation to track down the militants, the official said.
"Terrorists opened fire on the last vehicle of the army convoy near Bijbehara. We retaliated and a man was injured in the incident," he said.
Haji Abdullah (60), a resident of Arwani in Bijbehara, suffered a bullet injury on his left thigh and is undergoing treatment at the Bone and Joint Hospital here, the official said.
Army officer shot dead by jawan in Uri sector in Jammu and Kashmir
Jul 18, 2017
NEW DELHI: An Army officer was shot dead by a jawan in the Uri sector of Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday.
The officer, who was of the rank of 'Major', and the jawan both belong to the Rashtriya Rifles armoured corps. The incident is being called a case of fratricide, which means the killing of a fellow soldier or superior.
More details about the incident are awaited.
In March, replying to a question in the Lok Sabha, minister of state for defence Subhash Bhamre said there were three cases of fratricide reported from the three defense services last year.
Jammu-Kashmir: Army foils infiltration bid in Bandipora, kills two terrorists
July 18, 2017
Two terrorists were killed in an encounter in Bandipora as the Army foiled an infiltration bid near the Line of Control on Tuesday, news agency ANI reported. Around two-three terrorists are believed to be trapped in the area, ANI added. The encounter is still underway.
No Letter from Aziz, Ailing PoK Student Appeals for Visa to Sushma Swaraj
July 18, 2017
Diagnosed with a tumour in the liver, a 24-year-old in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir wants to travel to New Delhi for treatment but is unable to make the journey because Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan Prime Minister’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs, will not write a letter to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad that the youth be granted a medical emergency visa.
Rawalakot resident Osama Ali’s family is appealing to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to revoke the requirement of a letter from Aziz for a medical emergency visa.
On July 10, Swaraj had made such a letter conditional for these visas. She had also slammed Aziz for “not showing the courtesy even to acknowledge” her letter on a visa for the mother of Kulbhushan Jadhav, the Indian sentenced to death by a Pakistan military court on the charge of spying.
Osama has been accepted as a patient by a private hospital in Saket in New Delhi. Doctors at the hospital have told him he needs a liver transplant. But the Pakistan Foreign Affairs Ministry has turned down the family’s plea for a letter from Aziz to the Indian High Commission.
Osama’s father Javed Naz Khan, a lawyer in Rawalakot and a worker of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), said he has no means to get his son treated in Europe or elsewhere. “It’s least expensive in India. I am the unfortunate father who is not able to provide treatment to his son,” he said over phone, breaking down as he narrated how his son was losing weight rapidly.
Khan said he had appealed to Aziz through PoK President Masood Khan. “But the Foreign Ministry said it was not the policy for Aziz Sahib to write the letter. The practice is for the Secretary in charge of the South Asia desk to write a letter, but we have learnt that the Indian High Commission has rejected some visas with these recommendations,” he said.
“I appeal to India to give a medical visa to my son without the letter,” Khan said.
Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Gopal Baglay directed The Indian Express to a series of tweets by Swaraj on July 10 in which she said “all that we require is his (Aziz’s) recommendation for the grant of medical visa to Pakistan nationals”.
In the tweets, Swaraj also referred to the visa application of Avantika Jadhav, who wants to visit Pakistan to meet her son Kulbhushan Jadhav. “I wrote a personal letter to Mr Sartaj Aziz for the grant of her visa to Pakistan. However, Mr Aziz has not shown the courtesy even to acknowledge my letter. But I assure Pakistan nationals seeking medical visa with a recommendation from Mr Sartaj Aziz, we will issue the visa immediately.”
Swaraj expressed “sympathies for all Pakistan nationals seeking medical visa for their treatment in India. I am sure Mr Sartaj Aziz also has consideration for the nationals of his country. I see no reason why should he hesitate to give his recommendation for nationals of his own country.”
Full report at:
UP ATS to quiz ‘Lashkar operative’ Saleem Khan arrested in Mumbai
by Manish Sahu
July 18, 2017
Alleged Lashkar-e-Toiba operative Saleem Khan, from UP’s Fatehpur district, who was caught soon after he landed at Mumbai airport from the UAE on Sunday night, was being brought to Lucknow by the UP ATS. Saleem is an accused in a case and faces the charge of providing money to alleged trained ISI agent Aftab Ali, who was arrested from Faizabad district in May. Saleem had been staying in the UAE for last nine years.
IG, ATS, Asim Kumar Arun said, “Saleem’s name had earlier come to light during questioning of Shareef and Mohammad Kausar, who are facing trial in the case of Rampur CRPF camp attack on December 31, 2007. Shareef and Kausar had reportedly revealed that Saleem too was part of the Lashkar training camp in Muzaffarabad in Pakistan in 2007 where the duo met him.”
Central intelligence agencies had got a lookout notice issued since after his name came to light as being an alleged Lashkar operative. The UP ATS, however, wanted Saleem in a case after they arrested Aftab Alam from his house in Faizabad on May 3. Aftab was accused of sending information about Indian Army movement to the ISI and also being in touch with an officer in Pakistan High Commission in Delhi. Aftab is lodged at Lucknow jail. IG, ATS, said that during questioning, Aftab told the police Saleem used to issue instructions to him from abroad over phone and also sent money in exchange of information. The investigation has found Saleem had sent money to Aftab thrice.
Full report at:
Hindu woman, Buddhist husband raise three Muslims in Terengganu
July 18, 2017
KUALA LUMPUR, July 18 ― A Hindu woman and her Buddhist husband have brought up and ensured that three Muslim children staying in their house adhere to Islamic teachings.
C. Cheniah, a 65-year-old native of Jertih, Terengganu who married a Chinese Buddhist, became the guardian of her Muslim convert sister's three children since they were young, Malay daily Berita Harian reported today.
Cheniah said her sister converted to Islam when she married a policeman, but later separated from him and passed her three Muslim children to her to be cared for.
The three children now aged 20 to 24 have been living with Cheniah for over 23 years, while her sister who lives in Kuala Lumpur frequently visits, she said.
“The life of the Malay society in this city caused me to greatly respect Islam and that is why the three siblings are trained to be close to the teachings of Islam,” she was quoted saying.
Cheniah, who is also nicknamed Mek Nab and reportedly practises Malay culture, said the three siblings have never neglected Islamic teachings such as praying, fasting and studying the Muslims' holy book al-Quran.
“So in our house there are Muslims, Hindu and Buddhist, but the teachings of Islam are still prioritised,” she added, having noted that her Buddhist husband also encouraged the three siblings to be close to Islam.
Norehan Mohd Nor, 24 and the eldest of the three siblings, reportedly felt comfortable living together with her Hindu aunt despite their different religions.
“Besides preparing Malay cuisine for us, she also places emphasis on Islamic teachings for us and will get angry if we neglect to pray and fast,” Norehan was quoted saying.
Indonesian Attempts to Curb Hardliners, Terrorists Worry Activists
July 17, 2017
A raft of recent moves by the Indonesian government to curb the presence of hardliners and terrorists has human rights activists worried.
Last week came a presidential decree banning the hardline group Hizbut Tahrir (HTI), which advocates for a global Islamic caliphate. Then came proposed revisions to the national counterterrorism law that are “overbroad, vague, and would unjustifiably restrict basic rights,” according to Human Rights Watch.
Finally, on Friday, the country banned the encrypted messaging application Telegram, citing its popularity among extremist and radical groups.
Activists say the combination of actions present a considerable threat to Indonesian civil liberties. Some think they constitute a reaction to the visibility of political Islam during the contentious Jakarta gubernatorial election, when hardliner groups showed their power by staging huge rallies in the capital city.
“The awareness was heightened with the anti-Ahok protests,” said Andreas Harsono, of Human Rights Watch. “It was a wake up call.” But now he worries the pendulum may have swung too far in the other direction.
The Indonesian parliament has a year to approve or reject the presidential decree banning HTI, which President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo issued at the behest of 14 Islamic organizations, including Nahdlatul Ulama, the world’s largest Sunni body.
Hizbut Tahrir, founded in 1953, is a “pan-Islamist” group based in London that seeks to create a caliphate of Muslim-majority countries from Morocco to the Philippines. It is already banned in 12 countries, including Germany, Saudi Arabia, and Uzbekistan. The decree comes after months of hints and speculation from the Indonesian police, dating to even before the verdict against Jakarta’s Christian governor Ahok, who was sentenced to two years in jail for blasphemy.
HTI is “intolerant, highly disciplined but non-violent,” according to Sidney Jones of the Institute for Policy Analysis and Conflict.
“It is loathed by moderate members of the two largest Muslim social organizations in Indonesia, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, which have seen it take over many of their schools and mosques,” writes Jones.
Jones said the case against HTI was levied clumsily, using rhetoric of preserving Pancasila, Indonesia’s national political philosophy.
Harsono drew parallels to President Suharto’s presidential decree against the Indonesian Communist Party in 1966, which came on the heels of the infamous anti-communist purge that killed about 500,000 people.
"The Indonesian government’s decision to ban Hizbut Tahrir constitutes a troubling violation of universal rights of freedom of association and expression,” said Harsono.
Counterterrorism law revisions
The effort to revise Indonesia’s counterterrorism laws dates to January 2016, when IS-linked bombings in Jakarta killed eight people, including the four attackers.
The proposed edits would allow the country to revoke citizenship for people suspected of going abroad to join wars or engage in terrorism. It also would criminalize “speech, thought, behavior or writings” linked to “actions which adversely impact other people/communities.”
It’s the second part that concerns many observers.
“The Indonesian government has legitimate concerns about terrorism, but disregarding basic rights will only undermine efforts to address the threat,” said Harsono.
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo linked the amendments with the phenomenon of foreign fighters in the southern Philippines, where security forces are trying to beat back a militant siege.
There are a number of Indonesian nationals among the militant ranks in the city of Marawi.
On Friday, the Indonesian Communications Ministry abruptly announced a ban on Telegram, a mobile messaging app that has become the medium of choice for several extremist groups, including the so-called Islamic State.
The next day, Communications Minister Rudiantara threatened all social media platforms that they too could be blocked if they don’t step up efforts to filter radical content.
That seems unlikely in a country as social-media-proficient as Indonesia.
Still, the government “exceeded its authority” in banning Telegram, said Damar Juniarto, founder of the Digital Democracy Forum. It is ironic, he said, that “Telegram is actually one of the first apps to actively fight online radicalism through internal channels such as @isiswatch.”
Telegram founder Pavel Durov said he has contacted the Ministry of Communications since the ban was announced and is “confident we can efficiently eradicate terrorist propaganda without disrupting the legitimate use of Telegram by millions of Indonesians.”
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Jihotties, lingerie and recipes: Islamic State sympathisers on Telegram
JULY 18 2017
Jakarta: When terrorism analyst Nava Nuraniyah monitored the encrypted chat groups of Islamic State sympathisers on the Telegram app she uncovered something surprising: they were more likely to gossip than plot terror attacks.
On Friday, Indonesia asked internet companies to block web versions of Telegram - which has been dubbed "the app of choice" for Islamic State members and supporters - and threatened to impose a total ban on the messaging app.
But Ms Nuraniyah from the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, says online forums provide a goldmine of information, so it is in the interests of counter-terrorism agencies to monitor rather than ban them.
Between 2015 and 2016, Ms Nuraniyah had access to the encrypted chats of two groups of Islamic State sympathisers in Indonesia on Telegram - one all-male and one all-female - and found both mainly discussed mundane personal matters.
"To give you an illustration as to how personal are their chats, they talk about jihotties - hot jihadis basically - and they have huge online businesses, selling everything from Muslim clothing even lingerie and cooking recipes," she said.
"For the male group the highest ranked topic is about takfir [declaring people to be infidels] … and personal topics are also dominant, recruitment, just general propaganda, copying and pasting stuff and religious discussion."
Telegram secret chat and Amn Mujahid, an encryption app, was more likely to be used for explicit discussions on training and plotting than Telegram groups.
One of the most valuable insights Ms Nuraniyah gleaned from her research into Telegram groups was that many members turned to the online community for a sense of belonging and acceptance.
"In some cases it replaces one's own family, especially when the family is against the decision to join radical groups, it became a support group for newbie extremists."
Ms Nuraniyah also found that there are very few cases of people being recruited entirely online in Indonesia, with extremists still relying heavily on offline study groups for recruitment.
Telegram hit the headlines when it was revealed the Paris attackers who killed 130 people in November 2015 had used the app.
Indonesian Police Chief Tito Karnavian said there were 17 cases in Indonesia where terrorists had used Telegram, including the Starbucks bombing in Central Jakarta in 2016, that led to the death of eight people including four civilians.
Ms Nuraniyah said the use of the internet by extremists was nothing new, with Imam Samudra, one of the perpetrators of the first Bali bombing in 2002, a champion of online jihad.
Twitter and Facebook had taken down the accounts of thousands of extremists since 2014 and the Indonesian government had banned dozens of jihadi websites, which had led to a shift to private chat apps such as Kik, Surespot and Telegram.
Telegram, in particular, had become a favourite for IS supporters, because its founders, the Durov brothers, had defied the Russian government's request to hand over any data.
"As of October 2016, [IS] supporters in Indonesia had established over a hundred public channels and dozens of private groups based on the Telegram app," Ms Nuraniyah wrote in the book Digital Indonesia.
Bahrun Naim, an Indonesian who joined Islamic State in Syria in late 2014, has become an infamous example of someone who used the app, teaching his Telegram disciples how to make car bombs and hack credit cards.
Ms Nuraniyah said Telegram had an image of a "scary platform" because it was the "Bahrun Naim kind of plotting" that made the news, when her research suggested it was generally used more for gossiping than plotting.
But the bad news, she says, is that social media does enable extremists to expand their networks and resources more cheaply and faster than in the past.
The Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict studied a group of between 50 and 100 radicalised Indonesian maids in Hong Kong, who forged relationships through Telegram and helped internationalise local extremist networks.
Ms Nuraniyah says they developed ties to jihadist groups and clerics in Indonesia, some of whom came to Hong Kong to give sermons and collect donations.
The Medan church attacker, who tried to carry out a suicide bombing last year, was a beneficiary of donations from migrant workers.
With their good English skills and internet access, the radical maids were also able to assist would-be jihadists such as Syahputra, a former police officer who joined IS, to travel to Syria.
Ms Nuraniyah said banning Telegram was just a temporary solution, which if anything makes extremists more creative. "They keep finding new platforms … in other word it makes it harder for police to find their whereabouts," she said.
"Infiltration I think is more realistic and urgent and I believe this is what our security apparatus has been doing here and all over the world."
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Gov't in Talks to Restore Access to Telegram
Jul 18, 2017
Jakarta. The Indonesian government is currently assessing the correct procedure to follow to revoke its partial blocking of encrypted messaging service Telegram after the Russian company's chief executive, Pavel Durov, contacted Communications and Information Technology Minister Rudiantara.
The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology announced on Friday (14/07) that it had blocked Telegram over terrorism-related content, which reportedly aided the planners of several terrorists attacks in the country, including the double suicide bomb attack in Kampung Melayu, East Jakarta, in May.
National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian confirmed that the mobile phone application is used by terrorists to coordinate attacks. He said the perpetrators involved in the stabbing of two police officers at a mosque in Jakarta in June accessed terror-related materials on the app before the attack.
With Telegram's blocking having affected millions of users in Indonesia, Durov quickly approached Rudiantara to offer his cooperation, a reliable source at the ministry said.
"Durov contacted Mr. Rudiantara recently and issued an apology as he realized that our request for them to review negative content [on the platform] was not heeded in a timeous fashion since 2016," ministry spokesman Noor Iza told the Jakarta Globe on Sunday.
"Telegram also reported to us that it has deleted the content we requested and that it was willing to wait for the proper procedures for us to restore access in Indonesia," Iza said.
However, the reactivation of Telegram in Indonesia is not yet a foregone conclusion.
"We're waiting for Rudiantara's decision on whether Telegram will have its access restored," the spokesman said.
The ministry expressed its appreciation for Telegram's fast response and for its apology.
Veryan Khan, director of the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium (TRAC), a digital intelligence repository for political violence and terrorism, said use of the app by Indonesians has been a big concern, especially after the middle of January this year, when the Amaq News Agency, the semi-official news site of the Islamic State extremist group, established a Telegram channel in the country.
"But it's really since the siege of Marawi City, now 55 days ago, that the amount of chatter among Indonesian-speaking IS supporters has been snowballing. It's hard to guess how many Indonesians are involved, but the topics are becoming more serious by the day," Khan told the Jakarta Globe.
What started as mere requests for on-the-ground information from inside Marawi City to be translated into Indonesian, has escalated to items such as long treatises, justifying targets, and images of people undergoing archery training that started to circulate, Khan added.
TRAC was one of the first institutions to identify a major shift in jihadis' communication methods from Twitter to Telegram in September 2015. During that time, TRAC saw tens of thousands of users migrate to Telegram as their first choice for communication.
"Today, it is hard to say, given the vast number of groups that participate all day long in roughly 13 different languages, but a good guess would be 20,000 to 30,000 in total," Khan said.
She added that the main ways to communicate on Telegram are channels, chat rooms, which can contain thousands of participants, and private conversations.
And as the world begins to confront terrorism, their basic need is to communicate to recruit more sympathizers online. Telegram's strong privacy and security are the primary attractions for potential users and the key reason for its widespread adoption.
Many believe jihadists are recruiting and expanding their work space by using the app to disseminate information on their doctrines for achieving their goal to establish a global Islamic caliphate.
The application boasts end-to-end encryption and it contains freely available open-source code. Telegram is so confident of its encryption that it has offered a $300,000 reward to the first person to crack it.
The "self-destruct" option is particularly useful to those who move around a lot and forget passwords or have limited use of the internet for extended periods. There are also privacy settings for each individual account that can either set messages to self-destruct after a certain time, such as "secret chats," or even accounts that self-destruct after a chosen period of inactivity.
In his latest statement, Dubrov said his company is no friend of terrorists and that it has joined the fight against terrorism by closing their channels and groups over the past few years.
Khan said many Telegram accounts are taken down every day, but the sheer number of channels available is hard to fathom for anyone who has never used the platform.
"From supporters creating their own channels and chatrooms, to official media channels run by IS, or AQ [Al Qaeda], or even the Taliban, there are literally thousands of channels, maybe even tens of thousands, at any given time, in multiple languages," said Khan of TRAC.
"Over the past six months, the new trend is to self-shutter a channel and let all your followers know where you are moving before it closes. Some official IS channels like Khilafah News move voluntarily as often as three to four times a day. Their supporters simply move with them, like changing channels on your TV," she said.
Blocking Telegram, is not going to be effective as IS constantly puts out manuals about cybersecurity for its supporters. The easiest way for a supporter to still use Telegram once it is banned is through a virtual private network, or VPN, as these are inexpensive and effectively conceal a user's location.
"I am not sure how many of the Indonesian non-super fans know this, because TRAC has seen a lot of chatter over the upcoming ban from Indonesian supporters who seem increasingly worried that they are going to lose their connection to IS propaganda and communications with like-minded IS supporters in East Asia. And yes, there are plenty of other ways to communicate in secret. It is just that those are all usually one-on-one conversations, not entire chat rooms full of people," she said.
In his apology to Rudiantara, Dubrov said Telegram has been working hard to block any terrorism-related chats. However, Khan believes it is unlikely that Telegram will open its data to any government, as its main claim to fame is privacy.
"Many other governments have asked for a back channel into the application; that has been flatly refused," Khan said.
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Israel flouts international convention by closing Al-Aqsa mosque, says minister
July 17, 2017
KUALA LUMPUR, July 17 – The action of the Israeli military regime in closing the Al-Aqsa Mosque and preventing Palestinian Muslims from entering the mosque has flouted the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights1966 (ICCPR) signed by Israel on October 3, 1991.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom said the action was in violation of Article 18 (1) – (3) of the ICCPR which guarantees freedom of religion to individuals and communities and is a clear contempt of international law.
“The rights of Palestinians are also guaranteed by Article 27 of the Geneva Convention on the need to respect the rights and religious practices of a society,” he said in a statement today.
According to news reports, Israeli police closed the Al-Aqsa Mosque and did not allow Friday prayers to be held there after three Palestinians and two Israeli police were killed in an armed battle in the mosque’s compound.
Jamil Khir said Muslims stood firm in support of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s statement today condemning the Israeli crackdown on the Al-Aqsa Mosque and denying the right of Muslims to perform Friday prayers there, in fact, it was an extreme act which violated international law .
“Israel’s inflammatory act has stirred up the anger of Muslims all over the world as the Al-Aqsa Mosque is the first ‘kiblat’ (direction) in Islam and the third holy mosque for Muslims after Masjidil Haram in Makkah and the Nabawi Mosque in Madinah, Saudi Arabia.
“Al-Aqsa Mosque is actually a symbol of the dignity of Muslims whose purity must be defended and preserved,” he said.
Jamil Khir said any conflict between Israel and Palestine should not involve the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque, thus Malaysia urged Israel to reopen the Al-Aqsa Mosque to restore the right of Muslims to worship.
Israel also needs to stop all forms of oppression against Muslims in Palestine, so Muslims in Malaysia are called upon to pray to Allah SWT to save the Al-Aqsa Mosque from Israel’s cruelty, he said.
Meanwhile, the Perdana Global Peace Foundation today criticised the latest act by the Israeli regime in closing the Al Aqsa Mosque for two days consecutively including the prohibition of the ázan’ or Muslim call for prayers and the Friday prayer at the mosque last week.
In a statement here, the foundation also called on the Malaysian government to take a firm and bold stand to prevent the Israeli regime from tarnishing the sanctity of the Al Aqsa Mosque and contravening international law.
“We remind the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) that its formation was in response to the burning of the Al Aqsa Mosque in 1969, thus the OIC must take a more active and firm stand against what was happening at the mosque,” the statement said.
The foundation also called on the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (JAKIM), the Islamic religious councils and departments to make this Friday (July 21) as a day of unity with Al Aqsa and to prepare a special sermon for the Friday prayers.
Last Friday, three Palestinian youths were killed within the Al Aqsa Mosque compound after being cruelly shot by the Israeli regime for preventing them from entering the mosque.
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Muslim remark sparks debate over closure of 2 dim sum restaurants
July 18, 2017
KUALA LUMPUR: A debate has erupted over the reason given for the closure of two Michelin-starred dim sum restaurants in Malaysia.
Dim Sum Delight Sdn Bhd, the operator of the two Tim Ho Wan restaurants in Malaysia, closed both early this month as they were not profitable. For the financial year ended Dec 31, 2016, Dim Sum Delight incurred a loss of RM895,642.
The local owners were not known to have given any reason for the poor business.
The problem arose however when Mak Kwai Pui, the founder of the Hong Kong-based Tim Ho Wan chain, explained the reason for the poor business to the Hong Kong media.
He had reportedly said that business had been bad because Malaysia’s majority Muslim population did not eat pork.
Traditional dim sum dishes feature pork heavily, and Tim Ho Wan in particular had earned a reputation for its barbecue pork bun.
Mak had also apparently compared running a Chinese restaurant in Malaysia to “operating a sauna business in a remote desert”.
But Malaysian Chinese have taken offence to Mak blaming the Muslim majority population in Malaysia as the reason why he shut down the restaurants. In fact, it has triggered a heated discussion, with many commenting online that it was irresponsible to blame Muslim culture.
Malaysian Chinese journalist Wan Qing was quoted by the Chinese Cross-Border Question and Answer project as saying there was a huge number of dim sum restaurants in Malaysia that were doing well.
“According to reactions from Malaysian netizens on Facebook, the price of Tim Ho Wan is too high, the quality of food is so and so, service is poor and the flavors of the dishes were not localised. These are more likely the main reasons for its failure,” he was quoted as saying.
He was also quoted as saying that the 6.65 million Chinese population in Malaysia was equal to 90% of Hong Kong’s population and it could, therefore, support the Chinese restaurant business.
According to reports, Mak and chef Leung Fai Keung opened the first Tim Ho Wan restaurant in Hong Kong in 2009. The two have since opened more than 40 around the world.
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Baghdadi almost certainly alive: Kurdish security official
Jul 18, 2017
A top Kurdish counter-terrorism official said today he was 99 percent sure that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was alive and located south of the Syrian city of Raqqa, after reports that he had been killed.
"Baghdadi is definitely alive. He is not dead. We have information that he is alive. We believe 99 percent he is alive," Lahur Talabany told Reuters in an interview.
"Don't forget his roots go back to al Qaeda days in Iraq. He was hiding from security services. He knows what he is doing."
Iraqi security forces have ended three years of Islamic State rule in the Iraqi city of Mosul, and the group is under growing pressure in Raqqa - both strongholds in the militants' crumbling self-proclaimed caliphate.
Still, Talabany said ISIS was shifting tactics despite low morale and it would take three or four years to eliminate the group.
After defeat, ISIS would wage an insurgency and resemble al-Qaeda on "steroids", he said.
The future leaders of ISIS were expected to be intelligence officers who served under former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, the men credited with devising the group's strategy.
Iraqi Forces Unearth Another Mass Grave of Speicher Massacre in Tikrit
Jul 17, 2017
Director General of the Iraq's Forensic Medicine Department Zeid Ali Abbas said that a new mass grave of the Iraqi forces has been discovered in camp Speicher, adding that the total number of found bodies from 14 different locations stands at 827.
He further said that the newly-found grave has been found in presidential palaces area in Tikrit near Salahuddin palace, adding that identity of 527 of the victims has been identified.
Ali Abbas went on to say that the total number of unearthed mass graves in the region has reached 15, adding that most of the buried men are student pilots of Speicher airbase that were killed by ISIL terrorists.
On June 12, 2014, ISIL terrorists killed around 1,700 Iraqi air force cadets after kidnapping them from Camp Speicher, a former US base. There were reportedly around 4,000 unarmed cadets in the camp when it came under attack by ISIL militants.
Following the abductions, the attackers took the victims to the complex of presidential palaces and killed them. The terrorists also threw some of the bodies into a river.
An investigation committee later revealed that 57 members of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party aided ISIL terrorists in the massacre.
In late August, Iraqi judiciary officials hung 36 men convicted of involvement in the carnage.
Tikrit was recaptured from ISIL in March 2015. During clean-up operations in the northern part of the city, Iraqi forces found the location of the 2014 carnage.
In a relevant development in early September, Iraqi fighters of pro-government Popular Mobilization Units found three mass graves containing the remains of over two dozen victims of the June 2014 massacre by ISIL terrorists at an air force camp.
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Asadi added that the mass graves contained the remains of more than 30 victims.
Syria: Jeish Al-Islam Terrorist Group Declares Breakup in Eastern Damascus
Jul 17, 2017
Jeish al-Islam's statement said that the terrorist group agrees with the proposal of the Military Council of the Militants in Damascus province for a merger of all militant groups to create a united front to be capable of slowing down the rapid advances of the army troops in the region.
Jeish al-Islam's Spokesman Hamzeh Beiraqdar said in the statement that his forces are ready to cooperate with the proposal that will end crisis among Jeish al-Islam, Faylaq al-Rahman and Al-Nusra Front (also known as Fatah al-Sham Front or the Levant Liberation Board).
Local sources in Eastern Ghouta reported earlier this month that Jeish al-Islam and Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board) engaged in a fresh round of clashes that left nearly 30 militants dead or wounded.
The sources said that 20 fighters of Jeish al-Islam and 9 members of Tahrir al-Sham were killed or wounded in fresh clashes between rival terrorists in several fronts in the town of al-Ash'ari.
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Airstrikes pummel Syria's Raqa as US-backed forces advance on IS
Jul 18, 2017
RAQA - Heavy bombardment and fierce fighting shook the Islamic State group's Syrian stronghold Raqa on Monday, as US-backed forces said they captured a new neighbourhood from entrenched jihadists.
Bursts of gunfire and artillery as well as the thud of Airstrikes conducted by the US-led coalition filled the air in western neighbourhoods of Raqa, on what AFP's correspondent said was the heaviest day of bombardment to date.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, updating an earlier toll, said the Airstrikes killed at least 10 civilians, two of them children.
Thick pillars of black smoke dotted the city skyline, lined with bombed-out concrete homes and the damaged minaret of a mosque.
"Our American friends are bombing with mortars," a fighter from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said after a string of blasts near the front line in western Raqa.
The SDF's Kurdish and Arab fighters have been pressing an operation to capture the jihadist stronghold since last year with coalition air support and the backing of a US Marines artillery battery.
An AFP reporter in Jazra suburb on the western outskirts of the city on Monday saw coalition forces at a joint position with SDF fighters firing artillery in the direction of IS posts deeper inside Raqa.
Regime forces advance
south of Raqa
On another front, Syrian government forces have swept across territory south of Raqa, capturing a string of villages and oilfields from the jihadists, state media said Monday.
"Over the past two days, army units recaptured a number of villages and oilfields in western parts of Deir Ezzor province and southern parts of Raqa," the official news agency SANA said.
The Syrian Observatory said the government advance was backed by heavy Syrian and Russian Airstrikes.
"Regime forces have captured between 1,500 and 1,800 square kilometres (580 and 700 sq miles) in Raqa province over the past 48 hours," Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said. In its separate operation, the SDF has spent several months encircling Raqa and first broke into the northern city in early June.
On Monday, it announced it had captured Al-Yarmuk, a large neighbourhood on the southwestern outskirts of the city.
"The Al-Yarmuk district was liberated yesterday," the SDF's spokeswoman for the Raqa operation, Jihan Sheikh Ahmed, told AFP in Ain Issa, 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of Raqa.
"We are taking steady and sound steps. What is important to us is not speed, but liberating civilians and eliminating Daesh (IS)," she added.
IS first seized Raqa in early 2014, and the city has since become synonymous with the group's most gruesome atrocities. It carried out brutal public beheadings and is thought to have used Raqa as a hub for planning attacks overseas.
Up to 50,000 civilians
The United Nations estimates that up to 50,000 civilians remain trapped in Raqa, down from some 100,000 people at the end of June.
The SDF on its social media accounts said Monday its forces "managed to free about 500 civilians who were trapped inside the Al-Daraiya and Al-Tayar neighbourhoods, as well as 150 others from the Old City" in Raqa.
The Syrian Observatory monitoring group said hundreds of civilians had fled IS-held parts of the city in the past 48 hours towards areas now controlled by the SDF.
"Whenever there is a lull in the fighting, they leave towards areas held by the SDF," Observatory head Abdel Rahman said.
The Britain-based monitoring group estimates the US-backed force currently holds around 35 percent of Raqa.
It said the SDF held the western portion of Al-Yarmuk district but that it had not fully captured the district and heavy fighting was continuing.
More than 330,000 people have lost their lives in Syria since the country's multi-party conflict broke out with anti-government protests in March 2011.
EU sanctions 16 more Syrians over chemical attacks
The European Union on Monday imposed sanctions against 16 more high-ranking military Syrian officials and scientists over chemical weapons attacks on civilians, a statement said.
The move by the bloc’s foreign ministers brings to 255 people now facing a travel ban and an assets freeze over President Bashar al-Assad’s violent crackdown on civilians during a five-year civil war. “The EU added these 16 persons for their role in the development and use of chemical weapons against the civilian population,” an EU statement said.
The EU will release the names of those hit by the sanctions on Tuesday, it said.
The UN’s chemical watchdog, the OPCW, last month concluded that sarin was used as a chemical weapon in the April 4 attack in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhun that killed at least 87 people including children.
The sanctions decision “shows the resolve of the UK and the rest of our friends in Europe in dealing with those who are responsible for chemical weapons attacks,” British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told reporters just before the decision was announced.
Syria is already subject to an oil embargo, restrictions on certain investments, a freeze of the assets of the Syrian central bank held in the EU, as well as export restrictions.
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As IS routed in Iraq, their families fear reprisals
BARTELLA: Their husbands, sons and brothers are dead, but the women and children Islamic State militants left behind will live to pay the price for their actions.
As Islamic State’s days of ruling over vast swathes of Iraq come to an end, questions are emerging about what to do with their families.
For now, many of them are effectively imprisoned in a rubbish strewn encampment east of Mosul, where the last people to be displaced from the city have been taken.
“All the men were killed,” said 62 year-old Umm Hamoudi, who fled the Midan district last week with 21 members of her family — all women and children.
Her husband, an Islamic State member, was wounded in the fighting for the Old City. They tried to carry him off the battlefield but he was too heavy, so they said goodbye and left him there to die.
Displaced civilians are returning home to rebuild their lives, but those who suffered three years of extreme violence and privation under Islamic State say the militants’ relatives have no place among them.
Leaflets threatening militants’ families have appeared in areas retaken from Islamic State, and vigilantes have thrown grenades at their homes.
“Revenge is not a cure,” said Ali Iskander, the head of the Bartella district where the camp is located. “These families should undergo rehabilitation courses”
Local authorities in Mosul recently issued a decree to exile Islamic State families to camps so they can be rehabilitated ideologically.
But rights groups say collective punishment undermines the prospects for reconciliation after Islamic State, and risks fostering a generation of outcasts with no stake in Iraq.
“If we isolate them, how will we bring them back into the fold of the nation?” said a local official visiting the camp on Saturday. “They will become Daesh”.
Umm Hamoudi’s daughter was only 14 years old when her father married her off to an Islamic State militant.
He too was killed around one year ago while the girl was pregnant with her first child, who lay sleeping on the floor of the tent, oblivious to the stigma that will likely cloud the rest of his life.
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ISIL's Command Center in Deir Ezzur Destroyed in Syrian Armed Forces' Attacks
Jul 17, 2017
The army's artillery units pounded ISIL's concentration centers in Panorama base, the neighborhood of al-Hamidiyeh and the village of al-Baqaliyeh in the Western outskirts of Deir Ezzur, inflicting major losses on the terrorists.
In the meantime, the army aircraft launched heavy bombing on ISIL's strongholds and movements in water resources hill, Panorama base, the two neighborhoods of al-Roshdiyeh and al-Kanamat, Tamin Brigade base and al-Maqaber (cemetery) region in the Southern outskirts of Deir Ezzur city, killing and wounding a large number of terrorists and destroying one of the main command centers of them in the village of al-Hassan in Western countryside of Deir Ezzur.
Relevant reports said on Sunday that the Russian and Syrian fighter jets carried out a fresh round of joint combat flights over ISIL's positions and movements in Syria's Badiyeh (desert), inflicting major losses on the terrorist group's supply lines.
The warplanes launched repeated bombing strikes on ISIL's concentration centers in Tamin Brigade base, Tal (hill) Aloush and al-Maqaber (cemetery) region in the Southern outskirts of Deir Ezzur city.
The fighter jets targeted ISIL's movements in the villages and regions of al-Hassan, al-Janineh, Ayyash, al-Baqaliyeh, old airport, Fishery passageway, in the hills near the water resources, Panorama base and the two neighborhoods of al-Roshdiyeh and al-Kanamat.
Meantime, the Syrian Air Force pounded ISIL's movements East of the town of Ithriya in Eastern Hama, in Humeimeh region East of al-Kadir in Eastern Homs, West of al-Fahdi power plant, in al-Ramaylan oilfield, Rajoum hill and South of al-Zamleh in Southern Raqqa.
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New photos and details emerge of man accused of killing tourists in Egypt
17 July 2017
Al Arabiya received new pictures and details published for the first time about the tourist-stabbing incident in Hurghada, Egypt, which resulted in the death of two German tourists and the injury of four others.
In the details, the accused, Abdul Rahman Abu Qora arrived in Hurghada on Friday morning, the day the incident occurred and toured the city during the daytime. He then bought the knife used in the incident from a shop near the Zahabia hotel, and went to the nearby public beach and from there infiltrated the resort and carried out his crime.
Investigations conducted by the security services showed that he graduated from the Faculty of Commerce, Al-Azhar University, from the city of Qaleen, Kafr el-Sheikh province, and has no criminal records, political or terrorist activity.
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Syrian forces continue their gains against Daesh in Raqqah
Jul 17, 2017
The Syrian army has regained control of an oilfield in Raqqah after killing all of its occupying Daesh terrorists as part of their operations to fully liberate the country from extremism.
According a military source on Monday, the al-Deilaa oilfield, located in the province’s southwestern countryside, was liberated following heavy clashes with the Takfiri terrorists.
The source added that three car bombs were also neutralized during the operations.
On Saturday, Syrian government forces managed to seize back oilfields in Raqqah and in the eastern province of Dayr al-Zawr from the terrorists.
Dozens of terrorists were also killed and wounded as government soldiers engaged in fierce clashes with the Takfiris while attempting to retake the oilfields.
Also on Monday, Syrian forces successfully destroyed a 33-meter long Daesh tunnel complex in Dayr al-Zawr’s al-Jabieleh neighborhood that the terrorists were using as a hideout.
The four-floor tunnel system was destroyed after the Syrian air force carried out several airstrikes against the terrorists in the province.
Artillery strikes were also launched against Daesh positions and ammunition depots in the villages of Ayash, al-Jneina, al-Husseiniyeh, al-Tharda junction, al-Panorama, Huweijit Saqr.
Meanwhile, the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are engaged in severe clashes with the Daesh in Raqqah.
Noting that its forces have reached the center of the city, the SDF said that 11 of its troops have been killed since clashes erupted on Sunday.
Backed by a US-led coalition that purports to be fighting Daesh, SDF fighters first broke into Raqqah on June 6.The fighters have been engaged in fierce fighting with Daesh as they push closer in on the city center.
The SDF, made up of an alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters, is supported by the US-led coalition with artillery and airstrikes, much to the dismay of Turkey.
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King Salman pressured US to ensure Israel reopens Al-Aqsa: Report
18 July 2017
JEDDAH: Saudi King Salman is said to have personally intervened with top US officials to ensure the reopening of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
According to a report in Elaph online portal, the king spoke with top US officials seeking the holy mosque’s reopening.
The report quotes a senior source as saying that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised US officials that he had decided to restore the status quo at the mosque which is what the Muslim world and the residents of Jerusalem have been demanding.
According to Elaph, Netanyahu has invited Saudi officials to visit Al-Aqsa Mosque and to assess first-hand the situation on the ground.
Arab News has sought a response from the White House in order to confirm the report.
Meanwhile, the Saudi Cabinet expressed deep concern over the closure of Al-Aqsa Mosque by Israeli occupation authorities.
It constituted a flagrant offense to Muslim sentiments around the world, said the Saudi Cabinet.
Such an act is a dangerous development that will further complicate the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, it added.
King Salman chaired the Cabinet session on Monday at Al-Salaam Palace in Jeddah.
The Cabinet called on the international community to shoulder its responsibility and put an end to such practices.
Muslims heeded calls Monday not to enter the holy site and protested outside after Israeli authorities installed metal detectors at entrances to the compound.
Palestinians view the new security measures as Israel asserting further control over the holy site.
The Waqf, Jordan’s Islamic authority that manages religious affairs at the site, was outraged over the metal detectors.
The Waqf, together with other Islamic groups, issued a statement Monday calling on Muslims “to reject and boycott all the Israeli aggression measures, including changing the historical status quo including imposing the metal detectors.”
They called on the faithful “not to enter the mosque through” the detectors.
The statement said that “if the metal detectors continue to be imposed, we call upon the people to pray in front of the gates of the mosque and in the streets of Jerusalem.”
The Haram Al-Sharif compound was largely empty on Monday apart from tourists and Jewish visitors, with Muslims again praying and protesting outside the site instead of entering through the metal detectors.
Several hundred people could be seen praying outside two different entrances to the site around midday on Monday.
There were protests after the prayer, with crowds shouting: “Aqsa mosque, we sacrifice our souls and our blood.” Police later sought to move them back.
“We will not break the solidarity of the people,” said Jamal Abdallah, a Palestinian who now lives in the US state of Arizona and was planning to visit Al-Aqsa, but changed his mind when he was told of the situation.
Israel installed the metal detectors after an attack on Friday near the holy site that saw three people open fire on Israeli police.
They then fled to the compound, where they were shot dead by security forces.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took the decision to install the metal detectors and cameras following a meeting with security officials Saturday. He also spoke by phone with Jordan’s King Abdallah Saturday night.
The king condemned the attack, but also called on Netanyahu to reopen the Al-Aqsa compound and stressed the need to “avoid any escalation at the site.”
Full report at:
Eight militants killed in new Khyber operation
July 18, 2017
LANDI KOTAL: Security forces claimed to have killed at least eight suspected militants and injured three others in air strikes on their hideouts on the first day of Operation Khyber-IV in the mountainous region of Rajgal in Tirah valley near the Afghan border on Monday.
Official sources said that several hideouts of the banned Lashkar-i-Islam (LI) and the militant Islamic State (IS) group were targeted during the daylong shelling.
Residents in nearby areas said they saw military helicopters approaching Rajgal in the morning and also heard heavy artillery shelling.
They said that deployment of additional forces to surrounding areas started back in June as a prelude to the operation.
Pakistan Air Force planes also participated in the strikes along with military helicopters at the LI and IS bases in Pakdara, Naray Naw, Sattar Kalay and Khairaba areas of Rajgal.
Claims about human and material losses made by security forces could not be independently verified as journalists had no access to the region vacated by its Kukikhel inhabitants after the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and LI occupied the Rajgal heights and surrounding areas in 2011.
The LI, in a telephonic contact with the media, refuted official claims about the presence of members of the IS in the region and claimed that it was the sole occupant of the Rajgal region since 2011.
It said that Operation Khyber-IV would be resisted.
The LI refuted earlier official claims about its taking refuge in the bordering region of the Nangarhar province in Afghanistan and insisted that they had never vacated their bases in Rajgal which were camouflaged by thick forests and high cliffs.
Jamaat-e-Islami Demands Implementation of Islamic Centre Ruling
July 18, 2017
KARACHI - Jamaat-e-Islam (JI) Karachi chief Engr Hafiz Naeem ur Rehman Monday wrote a letter to Mayor Karachi Waseem Akhtar, demanding him to get the Apex Court decision on Markaz-e-Islami implemented in letter and spirit.
In the letter, the JI leader also demanded of the mayor to take strict action against those employees who played a nefarious role in transforming the centre into a cinema house. He said that the transformation was a sheer violation of the bylaws set by the city government for the centre. He shed light in detail on the establishment and the purpose of this centre. He also recalled his meeting with the mayor during which both the leaders had talked about the matter. The JI leader assured the mayor for the complete support of his party on the issue.
It is pertinent to mention here that, a cinema was established in Islamic Centre by Cinepax Company’s contractor after the building was handed over to him by the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC). The activity to convert the hall into a cinema was highlighted by Jamaat-e-Islami Karachi Chief Engr Hafiz Naeem-ur-Rehman, who wrote a letter to Chief Justice of Pakistan. The CJP took notice of the issue. After subsequent hearing, the court in on July 7, ordered the restoration of actual status of the building and directed action against the private contractor and KMC officials involved in converting the building into a cinema.
Suicide bomber strikes Hayatabad, Frontier Corps' officer martyred
Syed Ali Shah | Ali Akbar
July 17, 2017
At least two Frontier Corps (FC) personnel, an officer and his gunman, were martyred in a suicide blast in Peshawar's Hayatabad area on Monday morning, a senior police official said.
SSP (operations) Sajjad Khan told DawnNews that two security personnel, Major Jamal Sheran and his gunman Zahir Shah, were martyred in the explosion.
SSP Khan said 10-12 kilogrammes of explosives were used by the bomber, who was reportedly riding a Honda CG125 bike.
However, in a statement issued later in the day, the Inter-Services Public Relations said, "A motorcycle-borne suicide bomber hit an FC vehicle on routine patrolling duty in Hayatabad, Peshawar, in which Maj Jamal Sheran embraced shahadat while four soldiers were injured."
SP Cantonment Peshawar Imran Malik said that nine people, including two security personnel, were also injured in the explosion, which occurred near the Bagh-e-Naran Chowk in Hayatabad.
According to the SP, the suicide attacker riding a motorcycle targeted the FC convoy when it was travelling from its camp in Hayatabad to the headquarters in Qila Bala Hisar. The vehicle was moving when the blast occurred, he said.
The outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement sent to media outlets by its spokesman.
Two vehicles that were part of the convoy were damaged in the blast. Security personnel cordoned off the area after the explosion as rescue services shifted the injured to Hayatabad Medical Complex.
At least one FC personnel was also martyred in a suspected suicide blast in Balochistan's Chaman area near the Pak-Afghan border on Monday.
The suicide blast targeted the Talab Checkpost, security officials said.
The attacks come a day after Pakistan Army announced a fresh operation in Khyber Agency’s Rajgal Valley to "forestall entry" of the militant Islamic State (IS) group from across the border.
Full report at:
Chinese delegation interested to invest in Pakistan’s agriculture sector
July 17, 2017
A delegation of Chinese entrepreneurs led by Lee of Ministry of Commerce, China visited Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) on Monday and showed interest to make investment in Pakistan’s agriculture sector to produce silk worms, mulberries and many other agro products.
Speaking at the occasion, Lee said that Chinese entrepreneurs were looking for suitable land to set up an agriculture farm in the first phase and in the second phase they would set up a factory in Pakistan to produce silk.
He said their investment was likely to create 30,000 new jobs in Pakistan. He was of the opinion that the establishment of silk factory in Pakistan would make it self-sufficient in silk production and it will not have to import silk from China.
The Chinese delegation discussed many possibilities of investment in local agriculture sector as they considered Pakistan a potential country for business and investment in this sector.
Speaking at the occasion, ICCI President Khalid Iqbal Malik said that Pakistan was an agricultural country and it offered huge investment opportunities to foreign investors in various sectors of agriculture including crops, seeds and tree farming, livestock, dairy farming, milk processing.
He stressed that Chinese investors should bring in latest machinery and technology in agriculture sector that would help in improving Pakistan’s agricultural productivity and enhance its per acre yield.
He said by investing in Pakistan, Chinese investors could export agricultural products to Middle East, Central Asia, Europe, Afghanistan and many other countries.
Full report at:
Karachi: Protests against Pak brutality erupt, demand for free Sindh raised
July 18, 2017
Hundreds of activists of the Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz (JSMM), a banned Sindhi organisation in Pakistan, recently participated in a march in Hyderabad to demand independence for Sindh province and the release of Sindhi political activists abducted and enforced disappeared by the Pakistani Army and its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) wing.
The massive rally commenced from Sindh University (Old Campus) and ended at the District Press Club, Hyderabad.
Protestors carried banners and placards that demanded total independence for Sindh and urged the United Nations, international community and human rights organisations to take immediate notice of what they called Pakistani occupation of the province, and acts of Fascism, state torture, atrocities, besides exploitation of the region's rich natural resources.
Chanting slogans against Pakistani occupation, exploitation and brutality enthusiastically, the protesters questioned the authorities over enforced disappearances and killings of Sindhi freedom activists.
JSMM central coordination committee leader Asif Juno addressed the participants at the Hyderabad Press Club even as contingents of police and Pakistan Rangers tried to stop the march by unleashing a heavy baton charge and firing of teargas shells. More than 100 JSMM activists were arrested.
Exiled JSMM Chairman Shafi Burfat condemned the use of force and torture against the activists.
He said "Sindh has remained an independent country for ages. It was an independent country since the year 1843 when British imperialism invaded and subjugated it and gifted it to its loyal Punjabi mercenaries in 1947 to keep a hold of Indian Ocean waters. The independence movement of Sindh has been struggling for the restoration of its historic nationally independent identity. Today, Sindh is under theocratic fascist Punjabi occupation in Pakistan in the name of Islam. The Sindhi independence movement is fighting its case on diplomatic and international fronts effectively and the sacrifices, painstaking struggle and voice is gaining international acknowledgement for the historic, ideological and practical perspectives of the 'Sindh Case' in front of the international community and the entire civilised world today."
"And, that's why Pakistani theocratic, fascist military establishment, army, its savage agency ISI and Rangers (paramilitary forces) have imposed a ban on the JSMM and are practising ruthless barbaric torture against Sindhi political activists by abducting, enforced disappearing, torturing and killing them," he added.
The JSMM Chairman condemned what he called the state torture of protesters, describing it as "an open violation of the right to freedom of expression and speech".
He appealed to the international community to take immediate notice of the army instigated action against what he described as Sindhi political activists.
He said, "Sindhi political activists are being hunted, persecuted, abducted, enforced disappeared and killed, and even if someone raises his or her voice to appeal to the international community to take action against these Pakistani atrocities, he or she too is tortured, arrested, abducted, enforced disappeared and then killed."
He added, "The state is rapidly depoliticising Sindhi society, banning secular political organisations, right to freedom of speech and expression; imprisoning, abducting, torturing, enforced disappearing and killing the secular political activists and sponsoring a wide web of theocratic extremist Jihadi madrassahs (Islamic Religious Schools) throughout Sindh to radicalise secular Sindhi society. Tens of thousands of JSMM and JSQM activists have been abducted and enforced disappeared by the Pakistani Rangers, Army and the ISI."
He appealed to the UNO, USA, Germany, UK, France, India and the entire international community to "take immediate notice of Pakistani atrocities and support the independence of Sindh."
"Pakistan is the epicentre of Islamic terrorism, a nuclear proliferator, a graveyard of UN's Charter of Human Rights, theocratic Fascism, murderer of historic nations chained in its forced federation, and if the world wants attainment of global peace and annihilation of Islamic terrorism it must have to stop Pakistan and disintegrate it." he added.
Last month, the World Sindhi Congress (WSC) passed an important resolution in which it has called upon Pakistan to end all acts of exploitation against the indigenous Sindhi and other minorities.
Presenting a resolution on the abysmal human rights situation in Sindh and Balochistan before the media, World Sindhi Congress Representative Gul Sanai highlighted the atrocities and discrepancies being faced by Sindhi Hindus and other minorities in Pakistan.
Full report at:
Two FC soldiers martyred in Peshawar suicide attack
PESHAWAR: A suicide bomber struck a vehicle carrying paramilitary troops in northwest on Monday, martyring two soldiers and wounding eight other people in an attack claimed by the Taliban.
The attack on the Frontier Corps (FC) took place in the upscale Hayatabad area of Peshawar.
The blast came a day after the Pakistani military said it had launched a fresh ground operation in a valley in the northwest, part of an offensive that began last November to clear the militancy-racked area.
Local senior police official Imran Malik, who gave the death toll, said four civilians were among the eight injured.
The Frontier Corps, which is part of the army, specialises in operations along the border with Afghanistan.
Another senior police official, Sajjad Khan, confirmed the attack and casualties, which the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed in a statement.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the attack, directing authorities to hunt down the perpetrators and adding they deserve ‘no mercy’.
Another FC man was martyred in a separate blast near FC check-post in Chaman area of Balochistan province on Monday. Another FC soldier was injured in the blast.
At least four suspected terrorists were killed during Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad in Zhob town of Balochistan.
A Frontier Corps (FC) post in Qamar Din Karez area was attacked with rockets and machine gun fires. FC officials retaliated, which resulted in an exchange of fire. Four suspected terrorists were killed in response by the troops, according to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).
Separately, police arrested two terrorist suspects and seized explosives, detonators, safety fuses and dynamite in Swabi on Monday. Swabi DSP said that explosives, 200 detonators, 150 metres of safety fuse wire and 67 dynamites were seized during search of a rickshaw in suburbs of the city. Two suspects on board were arrested during the action.
Full report at:
PSP leader shot dead in Karachi
KARACHI: A local leader of the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) was shot dead while another wounded critically in a ‘targeted’ attack in Orangi Town on Monday.
The incident took place when the victims were sitting outside a shop near Qazzafi Chowk in Orangi Town. Police officials and witnesses said that at least two armed men riding a motorcycle came close to them, shot at them indiscriminately and escaped.
Police said they were shot in their heads and one of them - identified as Abdul Majeed alias Nadeem Mullah - died on the spot while his companion was shifted to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital in critical condition.
Police and Rangers reached the site and collected the evidence. Police have found empty shells of 9mm pistols from the crime scene.
Expats in Canada see Bangladesh politics hurtling towards communalism
Some Bangladeshi expatriates in Canada believe that the post-Hasina government will be a ‘communal one’ since both the major parties in Bangladesh are pampering the ‘fundamentalist forces’ to stay in power.
They also believe the country’s politics is now in a quagmire that will suck society and like landslides, the people will see ‘socialslides’ in future.
They find no difference between two major political parties as the BNP hobnobs with Jamaat-e-Islami and the Awami League panders to Hifazat-e Islam.
The Progressive Democratic Initiative, Canada, or PDI organised the roundtable for an open discussion on ‘contemporary Bangladesh’ in Toronto which has the largest Bangladeshi expatriate community.
The PDI was floated in 2014 as a progressive and pro-liberation platform of the expatriate Bangladeshis in Canada.
Around 20 of the 60 participants took part in the discussion that covered politics, economy, education, environment, social security, law and order, social change and expatriates’ contributions.
Azizul Malik chaired the meeting moderated by PDI Coordinator Mahbub Alam. The discussion continued for about three and a half hours at the Hope United church auditorium on Sunday evening (Monday morning Dhaka time) at the Main Street area of Toronto.
A petition for deportation of Noor Chowdhury, a self-confessed and convicted killer of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was signed by the participants at the roundtable. The memorandum would be submitted to the MPs of Canadian Parliament.
The participants ranged from engineers to cultural activists, university professors to politicians, environmentalists to bankers and freedom fighters to former Awami League leaders.
Questions were raised about the relevance or effectiveness of the meeting at a place located over 12,000 km away from Bangladesh.
Most of the participants believe that they got involved in PDI out of deep-rooted ties with their motherland and patriotism. They want to convey the message to the ruling party leaders so that they can take the right decision for the next generation.
Moreover, Bangladeshi expats from across the world are the largest contributor to the country’s economy.
Biddut Ranjan Dey, a joint- coordinator of the PDI, made the opening remarks.
He said, “Nothing is going right in the country. What have we gained using religion in politics – youths are being radicalised and innocent people getting killed.”
“In four and a half decades, our achievement is very little,” he said adding, “the social disparity has widened and black money has ruled the economy.”
PDI wants pro-liberation forces to run Bangladesh as a truly democratic country, he added.
Former DUCSU assistant general secretary Nasir Ud Duza told the roundtable that Bangladesh was heading for a ‘social catastrophe’ with unabated corruption, rising number of rape incidents and growing communalism.
“Like landslides, we are going to have social-slides,” he said, adding “today’s situation has developed from many years of undemocratic practice in the country.”
Using economic data, he said that "95 percent of the country’s resources are owned by 5 percent rich people. Parliament has 69 percent of the MPs who were businessmen.”
“Even after corruption and pillage of fund, the government has allocated Tk 20 billion to state-run banks. It would encourage more corruption.”
Giving a vivid description from anti-Ershad movement to today’s scenario, he said, “Bangladesh’s politics is in a quagmire. We have to come out of it.”
Freedom fighter Mohammad Elias Meah said, “Bangladesh has veered far away from the spirits of the independence war. We are also moved away from 1972 Constitution.”
“Fundamentalism is on the rise, and post-Hasina Bangladesh will become a communal country,” he said, and many in attendance nodded in agreement.
“We want that only pro-liberation forces should be allowed to do politics in Bangladesh – be as the opposition or the ruling party.”
Cultural activist Reza Aniruddha said: “Apparently, the Awami League tried to pursue all-inclusive politics. That’s why the cosiness with Hifazat.”
“Then what’s the difference? The BNP is with Jamaat, Awami League with Hifazat,” he questioned.
Among others, Kazi Zahir Uddin, Farzana Azim Sheulee, Shoumen Saha, Dr Arunendu Bhoumik, Niranjan Roy, Ferdous Azfar Ahmed, Solaiman Atul Robin, Dr AK Ahmed Kamal, Faizul Karim, Shibu Chowdhury, Nani Gopal Devnath and Omar Hayat spoke at the roundtable.
Afghan forces foil terrorist attack plot by ISIS in Jalalabad city
Jul 17 2017
The Afghan security forces have foiled an attack by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group in eastern Nangarhar province.
According to the local security officials, the terror group was looking to carry out an attack in Jalalabad city, the provincial capital of Nangarhar.
The commander of the 7th brigade of the public order police forces Gen. Nasir Ahmad Sapai said a suspect terrorist who was looking to transport weapons to Jalalabad city for the possible attack, was arrested by the security forces.
He said the suspect was arrested in Sari Kala area of Chaparhar district as he was trying to transport a PKM heavy machine gun to Jalalabad city.
Gen. Sapai further added that the machine gun was placed inside a hatchback vehicle as the militant was looking to transport it to Jalalabad city where the ISIS militants could use it for the attack.
He also added that the detained militant is in custody of the security forces and an investigation is underway in this regard.
Full report at:
Bride killed, 4 others wounded in Kabul firing involving Mohaqiq’s guards
Jul 17 2017
A bride was killed and four others were wounded after the security guards of the second deputy chief executive Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq opened fire in mistake.
The incident took place late on Sunday night in the vicinity of west of Kabul and close to the residence of Haji Mohaqiq.
Sources in the ministry of interior confirmed that the security guards of Haji Mohaqiq responded to the celebratory gun fire of the wedding participants who were crossing the area.
The sources further added that the incident took place around 1 am local time after Mohaqiq’s guards responded to the fire, mistaking the wedding participants as the assailants.
The officials are saying that the health condition of those wounded in the attack is satisfactory and an investigation is still underway in this regard.
The incident takes place as the security in capital Kabul and other key cities of the country are on high alert.
Full report at:
Taliban accuses UN of political approach in new civilian casualties report
Jul 18 2017
The Taliban militants group in Afghanistan accused the United Nations of adopting a political approach in its latest report regarding the civilian casualties.
The group’s spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid in a statement has claimed that the group is paying more attention to prevent civilian casualties than any other time, accusing the Afghan and US forces of incurring the most civilian casualties and remaining reckless regarding the lives of the civilians.
The statement further added that the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan has attempted and adopted political approach while preparing the new report.
This comes as the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released its latest civilian casualties report in Afghanistan on Tuesday, showing a two percent increase in civilian deaths as compared to the same period last year.
UNAMA said extreme harm to civilians continued amid a worsening toll from suicide attacks, and a greater impact on women and children.
According to the latest report, a total of 1,662 civilian deaths were confirmed between 1 January and 30 June – an increase of two per cent on the same period last year, citing the figures from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
Full report at:
Afghan MP warns regarding tactical achievements of ISIS in Nangarhar
Jul 17 2017
An Afghan lawmaker has warned regarding the tactical achievements of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.
Haji Zahir Qadir, representing Nangarhar in the Lower House of the Parliament, Wolesi Jirga, made the claims during the general session of the parliament today.
He said the loyalists of the terror group are attempting to further expand their influence in Nangarhar and are tactically moving forward to gain grounds.
He also accused the government and security institutions of lying regarding the successes against the terror group.
In the meantime, Qadir warned that large rallies and demonstrations will take place and the main highway between Kabul and Jalalabad will be closed by them if the government fails to take immediate actions to restrict the activities of the terror group.
Nangarhar is among the relatively calm provinces but the anti-government armed insurgent groups have increased their activities in some of its districts during the recent years as they attempt to expand their insurgency in this province and other key eastern provinces of the country.
In the meantime, both the Afghan and US forces are busy conducting counter-terrorism operations against the terror group in Nangarhar and other parts of the country.
Full report at:
Afghan forces retake district in Helmand
Jul 18, 2017
KABUL - Afghan security forces backed by US air strikes have retaken a southern district from the Taliban as part of a drive to weaken the insurgents’ hold on Helmand province and push them back from around its capital, Lashkar Gah, officials said on Monday.
A two-day offensive, supported by numerous air strikes from US F-16 fighters and Apache helicopters, launched on Saturday saw security forces take the district center of Nawa, to the south of Lashkar Gah, officials said.
More than 50 fighters were killed and vehicles and equipment were destroyed, said defense ministry spokesman General Dawlat Waziri. Over 100 improvised explosive devices were also disabled, Task Force Southwest, the US Marine Corps-led training and assistance mission in Helmand said in a statement.
The operation, which comes as the United States weighs sending more troops to Afghanistan, will continue with security forces moving further south along the main road to the town of Garmsir, officials said.
The recapture of Nawa district, which lifted a serious threat to transport links into Lashkar Gah, reflects renewed focus by Afghan forces and their US advisers on Helmand, an insurgent heartland that is source of much of the world’s illegal opium. “Nawa is a major north-south route for transportation, so as people travel north, they would typically travel through Nawa. From that perspective it’s a very significant geographic location,” said Col. David Gibbs, the Task Force Southwest officer in charge of police training and assistance.
The operation also removed a threat to civilian aircraft landing in Bost Airfield, just outside Lashkar Gah.
The Taliban, fighting to re-establish strict Islamic rule in Afghanistan and drive out international forces backing the government in Kabul, control large stretches of the province and have targeted Lashkar Gah.
Full report at:
Civilian deaths in war-torn Afghanistan hit new high: UN
Jul 18, 2017
KABUL: The people of war-torn Afghanistan continue to bear the brunt of the grinding conflict with civilian deaths at their worst since records began, the United Nations said Monday.
In the first half of the year, 1,662 civilians were killed and more than 3,500 injured with deaths in the capital Kabul accounting for nearly 20 percent of the toll, according to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) report.
The majority of the victims were killed by anti-government forces - including the resurgent Taliban and in attacks claimed by the Islamic State, the report said, underscoring spiralling insecurity in the country nearly 16 years after the US invasion.
The UN has documented civilian casualties in the war-ravaged country since 2009.
The first six months of the year have seen a significant rise in the number of civilian lives lost in highly coordinated attacks involving more than one perpetrator, with 259 killed and 892 injured - a 15 percent increase on the same period last year.
Many of those deaths happened in a single attack in Kabul in late May when a truck bomb exploded during the morning rush hour, killing more than 150 people and injuring hundreds.
UNAMA put the civilian death toll at 92, saying it was the deadliest incident to hit the country since 2001.
The UN’s special envoy to Afghanistan Tadamichi Yamamoto said the human cost of the conflict remains ‘far too high’. “The continued use of indiscriminate, disproportionate and illegal improvised explosive devices is particularly appalling and must immediately stop,” he added in a statement.
The bloody toll of the first six months of 2017 has unsettled the government of President Ashraf Ghani, who has come under increasing pressure since the May attack in Kabul. Protests and deadly street clashes hit the Afghan capital in the wake of the May attack as people incensed by security failures called for his government’s resignation.
Women and children have borne the brunt of the increase in civilian casualties, with UNAMA blaming the use of IEDs and aerial operations in populated areas for the jump.
A total of 174 women were killed and 462 injured - an overall rise in casualties of 23 percent on last year - while 436 children were killed in the same period, representing a nine percent increase.
Save the Children expressed alarm at the heavy toll - a third of all civilian deaths - on the country’s youth. “It’s extremely concerning to see the number of children killed and injured by conflict increasing, reflecting the growing danger faced by young Afghans,” the charity’s Afghanistan country director David Skinner said in a statement.
The UNAMA report said that nearly half of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces have seen an increase in civilian deaths in the first six months of the year, mainly due to the rise in attacks by anti-government forces across the country. “The statistics in this report, horrifying though they are, can never fully convey the sheer human suffering of the people of Afghanistan,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.
“Many Afghan civilians are suffering psychological trauma, having lost family and friends, and are living in fear knowing the risks they face as they go about their daily lives.”
The ground offensives by Afghan security forces are the second leading cause of civilian casualties, though UNAMA said there had been a 10 percent decrease compared to the same period in 2016. NATO’s combat mission in Afghanistan ended three years ago, handing sole responsibility to the country’s security forces.
Back in May, the office of the US government’s Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction described casualties among the security forces themselves as ‘shockingly high’.
In the first two months of the year, 807 troops from the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces were killed with 1,320 injured.
Full report at:
Miscreants using Rohingya camps as safe haven
July 17, 2017
The dominance of the militants in the camps is still prevalent
Miscreants are now using the Rohingya camps as a safe to carryi out violent activities.
The peace in the camps is being disrupted due to turf wars among various groups. This is happening mainly because some miscreants, who have come into Bangladesh from Myanmar’s Arakan state, have established their dominance by forming alliance with local groups.
Within a span of two months, police have recovered the bodies of three Rohingyas – Ayub Majhi, Md Selim and Md Shafi – from Ukhiya’s Kutupalong camps. Hundreds of other Rohingyas and their representatives were also injured in various incidents.
A group of around twenty miscreants also attacked the chairman of the management committee of an unregistered camp in Kutupalong, Abu Siddique, in broad daylight. They repeatedly stabbed him with the intention of killing him. But when local Rohingyas came to his rescue, the attackers flee the scene. The severe attack left him critically injured. He is now being treated at Chittagong Medical College Hospital.
On June 13, the same group attacked and looted the houses of a local leader, Ayub Majhi, and the refugee, Md Selim, in Block E-1 of an unregistered camp in Kutupalong. The two were also abducted by the criminals.
On June 18, police recovered Selim’s tied-up body from a swamp in Balukhali and on June 25, Ayub’s body was also recovered in the same state.
Similarly, Md Shafi was abducted by unknown miscreants in the early hours, on May 23, from a registered camp in Kutupalong. On May 25, his body was recovered by Ukhiya police from a nearby forest in Modhurchhora. Police could not yet arrest anyone in connection to this murder.
The dominance of such miscreants is still prevalent in the camps.
Local Rohingyas have identified a few of the abductors and murderers from the armed group. They are Korim Ullah, Selim Ullah, Ismail, Md Jaber, Md Nur, Monir Mohammad, Khulla Mia Munna, Selim, Kolimullah, Md Kalu and Md Islam. The attackers have been allegedly working under the militant group Harakah al-Yaqin (HaY), and they are now evading arrest.
Many along with the families of the victims are now living in fear of abduction, said Md Shafi’s brother Md Hazan. He also said that there is “lack of law and order in the camps”.
Due to the recent increasing criminal activities, Majhira, a refugee from Kutupalong camp’s Block-C, is now in hiding in fear of his death. Majhira is one of the many representatives who have resorted to stay in hiding to escape the fatal fate of the three dead people.
Abu Siddique said: “Those of us, who abide by law and order of the country and work for the Rohingyas, are in constant fear after the recent incidents. The criminals are working for Myanmar’s so-called jihadi group Harakah al-Yaqin. Having being failed to extort money and other services from the leaders of the Rohingyas camps, these people are now threatening to abduct or kill us. Many Rohingyas are going in hiding in fear of their security.”
Rajapalong UP chairman Jahangir Kabir Chowdhury refused to make any comment in this regard when this correspondent called him. Instead, he requested the correspondent to meet him in person to talk about the issue.
However, local UP member Bakhtiar Ahmed said: “Many national and international organisations and NGOs are distributing funds from unknown sources without any restrictions in the name of humanity. In response to that, activities of various criminal groups are increasing. Even though, we have given the responsibility of controlling such situations to local administrations and union councils, it has not been effective.”
Cox’s Bazar ASI Md Afruzul Haque Tutul said: “The report about attacks by masked al-Yaqin militants published in international media is unfounded and exaggerated. We have not found any evidence in that regard during our investigation. The murders were carried out in the camps due to internal conflicts. We have deployed extra police in the said camps to counter such situations in the future. Law and order in the camps remains the same.”
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Dostum’s office rejects forced diversion of vice president’s plane
Jul 18 2017
Amid reports that the first vice president General Abdul Rashid Dostum attempted to land in Mazar-e-Sharif airport in Balkh province, his office has rejected the reports as baseless which suggests that the plane of the vice president diverted and prevented to land in the airport.
A statement by released by the office of the vice president states that all reports suggesting that the plane was forcefully diverted are false.
The statement further added that the vice president is still based in Ankara city and no decision has been taken regarding his return in the near future.
The reports released earlier also suggested that the plane of Gen. Dostum was diverted as the Balkh governor Ata Mohammad Noor was waiting to receive him in Mazar-e-Sharif airport.
This comes as Dostum is in Turkey for the treatment with President Ghani earlier saying that the first vice president has left the country after receiving approval and permission from the Attorney General Office.
The Attorney General Office said last week that the case of the first vice president has been referred to the court.
The US embassy Charge d’Affaires had earlier also called for thorough investigation in the torture and sexual abuse case of Ahmad Khan Ishchi involving the first vice president General Abdul Rashid Dostum.
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Under Trump, Anti-Muslim Hate Crimes Have Increased At An Alarming Rate
By Janice Williams
There were more than 940 reports of potential bias incidents involving the targeting of Muslims between April and June, according to a report released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on Monday. Of those, the organization determined 451 stemmed from anti-Muslim bias, which contributed to a 91 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes during the first half of the year as compared to the same time period in 2016.
Nonviolent and nonthreatening instances of harassment accounted for 16 percent of the incidents involving Muslims between April 1 and June 30, while outright hate crimes—in which violence or a physical altercation was involved—accounted for 15 percent. Incidents in which Muslims were inappropriately targeted by the FBI made up 12 percent of cases.
People were targeted at their places of residence in 17 percent of the reports, while 14 percent involved Muslim who were on walking the streets or driving their cars. Another 13 percent faced anti-Muslim bias while flying or traveling by bus or train. About 33 percent of incidents took place at a mosque or Islamic center, and 9 percent occurred at schools.
Of the incidents reported, CAIR identified triggering factors for 358, including a victim’s ethnicity or national origin—32 percent—and preconceived notions of a victim being a Muslim—20 percent. Fifteen percent of incidents were triggered by the presence of a headscarf or hijab. Forty-six percent of the people targeted were from Middle Eastern and North African countries.
Of the number of crimes identified to be based on anti-Muslim bias, the CAIR report said 126 had been investigated by federal agencies between April 1 and June 30.
Although the CAIR report did not cite President Donald Trump’s rhetoric toward Muslims as a factor in the increased anti-Muslim bias in the U.S., a previous report conducted by researchers at California State University’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism found that bias crimes against various minorities and religious groups were up some 20 percent since Trump’s election win in November. The majority of the crimes documented were against Muslims and individuals recognized as belonging to the LGBT community.
On multiple occasions during his campaign, Trump made harsh statements regarding “Islamic terrorists” and promoted a stronger vetting system to identify immigrants with “ties to radical ideology.”
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Muslim Ban: State Dept expands 'close family' criteria
Jul 18, 2017
The State Department on Monday expanded its definition of "close family" to include grandparents and other relatives that constitute a "bona fide" US relationship for visa applicants and refugees from six mainly Muslim nations.
In response to a Hawaii federal judge's order last week, the department instructed US diplomats to consider grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces and first cousins to meet the criteria for applicants from the six countries to receive a US visa.
They had been omitted by the department after the Supreme Court partially upheld the Trump administration's travel ban in June.
Initially, it had included only parents, spouses, fiances, children, adult sons or daughters, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law and siblings. Monday's instructions change that.
"The ruling is effective immediately and we have issued instructions to our embassies and consulates to use the expanded definition when adjudicating visa cases," the department said. Under the rules, applicants from the six countries - Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen - have to prove a bona fide relationship with a person or entity, including a "close familial relationship" in the US to be exempt from the ban.
US District Judge Derrick Watson had ruled on Thursday that excluding grandparents and others defied common sense.
"Common sense, for instance, dictates that close family members be defined to include grandparents," he wrote. "Indeed grandparents are the epitome of close family members."
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Muslim council secretary general 'forced to resign' after attending gay son's wedding
Jul 18, 2017
A mother says she has been forced to resign as secretary general of an Islamic faith organisation after she attended the marriage of her gay son.
Earlier this month, a gay Muslim man named Ali Reza married his partner Paul in Vancouver.
It comes after a couple who had one of the UK's first same-sex marriages involving a Muslim partner received online abuse, some from fellow Muslims.
Ali Reza's family gave their full support and celebrated the wedding, but they soon became the target of public condemnation from leaders of their Shia Ithna-Asheri sect, also known as Khoja.
A petition was started calling for Ali Reza's mother, Siddika, to resign from her position as secretary general of NASIMCO (the Organisation of North American Shia Ithna-Asheri Muslim Communities).
The petition, which received nearly 1,000 signatures, said: "It is indisputable that the Secretary General, [Siddika], took part in the same-sex wedding of her son. The wedding was celebrated openly and proudly, with #AliandPaul2017 hashtag on social media.
"While we believe it is not necessary to extensively or deeply examine the personal lives of the members of NASIMCO, this incident cannot be dismissed as 'the personal lives of [Ali Reza’s] family.'
"Traditionally, a wedding is a public demonstration of a relationship. This sin was not done in private, but rather was publicly celebrated and promoted. It goes against the legitimate majoritarian interpretations of Jaffari fiqh, which NASIMCO must uphold."
It also for the resignation of the organisation's president, Mohammad A Dewji, saying he knew about the wedding in advance but failed to condemn it.
The groom's mother, Siddika, was forced to resign from her position at NASIMCO.
Her resignation notice, sent in the form of an open letter, describes how she came to accept her son's homosexuality and support his marriage to Paul.
She wrote: "For us this is about standing up for Ali’s God given right to live a life that would not be filled with the burden of religious guilt and compounded by communal scorn and societal shame.
"The guilt and the scorn could potentially drown anyone and effect the human character. Many turn to drugs and alcohol (social vices) and some commit suicide."
She added: "We chose not to have that for our son. We wanted him to be the best human being possible.
"When he chose Paul, we agreed to support him to settle down. It has been a painful and challenging journey that only a mother can understand."
Siddika also said: "In moments of darkness, I realised that the only way for Ali to live an authentic life and not have to hide and fear rejection was to give him space to reach his human potential as God’s creation."
In a Tweet, NASIMCO also said its president, Mohamed A Dewji, and vice-president, Sukaina Sumar-Ebrahim, had resigned, though it is unclear whether this is linked to the outcry.
A statement from Mr Dewji posted on 12 July said: "NASIMCO strongly rejects recent allegations that suggest the organisation condones and advocates for behaviour that is considered to be un-Islamic.
"We strive to uphold and promote the values, ideals and practices of the Islamic Shia Ithna-Asheri faith. Any information to the contrary is false and misleading.
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Black Muslims in Ottawa upset over lack of diversity at Muslim conference
Jul 15, 2017
Some black Muslims in Ottawa are upset there are no people from their community speaking at a Muslim conference in the capital on Saturday.
I.Lead is an annual conference put together with the help of various mosques in Ottawa. This year, there are seven speakers — five men and two women — who will address the conference's theme "With hardship comes ease."
However, none of them are black.
Jalil Marhnouj, who helped organize the conference, said several black Muslims were approached to speak but were unavailable.
"Every year, we invite speakers from different backgrounds … and they have attended and sometimes they can't. And this year, some of them couldn't," he said.
Lots of experts to choose from
Chelby Daigle, editor of Muslim Link and the author of a recent report on anti-black racism in Ottawa, said part of the issue is the premise that there are only so many qualified black people available.
"People don't realize that that is a form of discrimination," she said. "It's not intentional, but it shows a lack of understanding of the complexity of the Muslim experience in the city."
Daigle believes there are all types of experts that could have been invited to speak from Ottawa's large black Muslim community and from across the country.
"Ottawa's poet laureate is a black Muslim. The poet laureate right now for Edmonton is a black Muslim. We have Ginella Massa, who's an anchor and who's also a black Muslim. We have CBC journalist Eman Bare who we profiled on Muslim Link, who's an award-winning journalist who also writes for Teen Vogue and helps to run Muslim Girl," Daigle said.
Amran Ali, a Somali-Canadian Muslim woman living in Ottawa, said she was also disappointed at the lack of diversity among speakers.
"I wasn't expecting to see such a limited list," she said.
"Ottawa's Muslim community is diverse. It's made up of different ethnic backgrounds and different socioeconomic backgrounds," Ali said.
"Any event that purports to be an event for the large Muslim community — and in particular Muslim youth — must be a reflection."
Marhnouj said conference organizers are open to hearing suggestions and the conference will be a chance for people to voice their concerns.
"We will listen to them and we will take that into consideration, whatever they come up with, we will act accordingly," he said.
"We work so hard to bring unity to our community and to bring knowledge," he said. "And in the end it's always a human effort and with human efforts there will always be shortcomings."
Intersection of identities
Chelby Daigle thinks having greater diversity at conferences like I.Lead is important because intersecting identities shape people's experiences differently and that needs to be reflected.
"I'm still more likely to face a hate crime because I'm black," Daigle said.
According to Statistics Canada, in 2015 hate crimes targeting blacks declined but they still made up the largest percentage of the total number reported. Meanwhile, the number of police-reported hate crimes against Muslims jumped by 60 per cent.
"If you're experiencing both anti-black racism and Islamophobia as a young person, that's probably having a serious impact on your mental health, your concept of identity [and] where you feel welcomed," Daigle said.
I.Lead isn't the first Muslim-centred conference in Canada that's received criticism from black Muslims.
At the Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference in Toronto in December 2016, American Islamic scholar and president of Zaytuna College, Hamza Yusuf, made comments many participants found dismissed the struggles and work of anti-black racism advocates.
In particular, when asked if Muslim communities should be more supportive of movements like Black Lives Matter, Yusuf said, "There are twice as many whites being shot by police but nobody ever shows those videos. It's the assumption the police are racist and it's not always the case."
Yusuf later apologized for his comments.
Promoting greater diversity and inclusion
Amran Ali believes the key to ensuring greater diversity is reaching out to a broad range of people.
"Because it's about Islam it means it has to be a big umbrella event where all Muslims — those who look like me, those who look like the organizers, those who look like Caucasian folk, Indigenous folks — should see themselves reflected," she said.
"If we're not reflected on the stage where people are talking or lecturing or teaching or inspiring and motivating, then frankly it feels isolating. It makes you feel you don't belong, It makes you feel that you are less than."
Daigle agrees and said diversity, from a business standpoint, makes sense because it attracts a greater number of people. "We often look at [diversity] as a chore. Or we look at it as if we're doing a favour to a community that's complaining. And we need to stop looking at it that way and say, 'no, this will make our event better.'"
Daigle points to Carleton University Muslim Students' Association as an example of a group that has committed to being diverse and inclusive.
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White House: Trump convinced Iran nuclear agreement is a ‘bad deal’
18 July 2017
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will “very shortly” make an announcement on Iran’s nuclear agreement with world powers that President Donald Trump has called a “bad deal,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said on Monday.
Under US law, the State Department must notify Congress every 90 days of Iran’s compliance with the 2015 deal. Monday is the deadline, and a senior US official said last week the administration was very likely to say Iran was adhering to the agreement although Trump has reservations about it.
“The secretary of state will have an announcement very shortly on that deal,” Spicer told reporters. “I think you all know that the president has made very clear that he thought this was a bad deal, a bad deal for the United States.”
US ending laptop ban on Middle Eastern airlines
18 July 2017
The US Transportation Security Administration said on Monday it was lifting a ban on passengers on Saudi Arabian Airlines carrying large electronics like laptops onboard US-bound flights, the last carrier under the restrictions.
In March, US officials imposed restrictions on passengers carrying laptops and other large electronic gear in cabins on nine airlines, most of which were Middle Eastern carriers, to address the potential threat of hidden explosives.
Last month, US officials announced new security requirements for all airlines rather than an expansion of the laptop ban and have been dropping the restrictions from airlines as they boosted security.
A TSA spokesman said the US government had lifted the restrictions at Saudi Arabian Airlines’ main hub in Jeddah at King Abdulaziz International Airport on Monday. US government officials will visit Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport “later this week to confirm compliance there as well,” spokesman James Gregory said.
On Thursday, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a revised directive to airlines around the world in response to requests that it clarify aviation security measures scheduled to begin taking effect later this week.
An airline official briefed on the matter said the directive gave airlines more flexibility and additional time to obtain explosive trace detection equipment. The official was not authorized to discuss sensitive security issues with the media and requested anonymity.
The directive includes technical adjustments, agency officials said, declining to release the text. European airlines have been pushing for changes to meet the new requirements. DHS has said that it could impose new restrictions on laptops if airlines do not make security upgrades.
European and US officials told Reuters that airlines have until July 19, to put in place increased explosive trace detection screening and other measures and 120 days to comply with other security measures, including enhanced screening of airline passengers.
Increased security protocols
The new requirements include enhanced passenger screening at foreign airports, increased security protocols around aircraft and in passenger areas and expanded canine screening. They affect 325,000 airline passengers on about 2,000 commercial flights arriving daily in the United States, on 180 airlines from 280 airports in 105 countries.
A group of airline groups, including the International Air Transport Association, criticized the new requirements in a July 14 letter to US officials saying it is a “fundamental shift away from the risk-based approach” and said it would be “extremely difficult” to “meet the deadlines because of the lack of availability of screening equipment technology and resources.”
TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein defended the new security requirements unveiled in June that were aimed at avoiding expansion of the laptop ban. She said the agency has been working with airlines for months to keep them informed on security issues.
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Iranian dissidents rally in France for the overthrow of Iran’s theocracy
July 17, 2017
VILLEPINTE, France — Thousands of supporters of an Iranian dissident group rallied here Saturday for the overthrow of Tehran’s theocratic regime at an event that featured speeches by several Trump administration allies — including Newt Gingrich and Rudolph W. Giuliani — as well as the former head of Saudi intelligence.
The boisterous event, held annually in this town just north of Paris, was organized by the National Council of Resistance of Iran, a France-based group of Iranian exiles that brings dozens of current and former U.S., European and Middle Eastern officials together to speak out in support of regime change in Tehran.
While the Trump administration’s posture on the issue is elusive, Mr. Giuliani drew loud cheers by asserting that the new U.S. president’s view is far different from that of his predecessor, who led world powers to ease sanctions on the Islamic republic with the 2015 Iranian nuclear accord.
Mr. Trump is “laser-focused on the danger of Iran to the freedom of the world,” said Mr. Giuliani, who was perceived by many at the rally to be an emissary for Mr. Trump despite holding no formal Cabinet position in the administration.
Unlike the Obama administration, Mr. Trump “is not in a state of denial” on Iran, the former New York City mayor said.
“Iran must be free,” said Mr. Gingrich, a former House speaker who rallied the crowd by condemning Tehran’s record of human rights abuses.
The two, who were advisers to Mr. Trump’s election campaign, headed a U.S. delegation that included several former Democratic lawmakers as well as three active Republican congressmen — Reps. Ted Poe of Texas, Thomas A. Garrett Jr. of Virginia and Robert Pittenger of North Carolina.
But it was an appearance by Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud, the former longtime Saudi intelligence chief, that may have been the most significant part of the rally.
“I salute you,” said the prince, who was in attendance for the second year in a row. His presence suggested that Saudi Arabia’s Sunni Muslim monarchy openly supports regime change in Iran — the Middle East’s Shiite powerhouse and Riyadh’s main rival.
Prince Turki bin Faisal’s appearance prompted speculation that the Saudis may even have helped finance the rally, although organizers flatly denied that, asserting instead that funding for the National Council of Resistance of Iran comes entirely in the form of donations from Iranians who are disgusted with the government in Tehran…
The rally was a marathon of speeches and musical performances… In attendance were more than a dozen current and former officials from EU nations, including former French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner….
The most aggressive speech came from Maryam Rajavi, leader of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, who condemned the “religious dictatorship” of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and asserted that the regime is run by “executioners” who have imprisoned or killed tens of thousands of opposition figures since coming to power in 1979….
“Overthrow is possible and within reach,” she said. “Iranian society is simmering with discontent, and the international community is finally getting closer to the reality that appeasing the ruling theocracy is misguided.
“The only solution is regime change,” said Mrs. Rajavi, who has led the National Council of Resistance of Iran since its founder — her husband, Massoud Rajavi — went into hiding in 2003.
In an email interview with The Washington Times last year, she said the organization “represent[s] the voice of millions of Iranians who are being oppressed in their country and who seek regime change and the establishment of a democratic, pluralist and non-nuclear government based on the separation of religion and state.”
Supporters of the council say it is the most influential organization on the Iranian opposition landscape.
No one in the Iranian opposition “stands out the way the NCRI stands out” in terms of their “day to day engagement with the Iranian public,” said Ramesh Sepehrrad, a longtime Iranian-American women’s rights activist who works with George Mason University’s School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution.
Ms. Sepehrrad told a panel ahead of the rally that it is difficult to measure the council’s popularity inside Iran because the “regime has made the price very, very high for the Iranian people to express their support” for the movement.
“Thousands of their supporters and their family members have been executed and imprisoned by the regime,” she said.
Shahin Gobadi, a member of the National Council of Resistance of Iran’s foreign affairs committee, said the group has become more active inside Iran over the past year. “People are realizing more and more, especially young people, that regime change is the only answer,” Mr. Gobadi told The Times.
Kremlin says ‘contradictory’ reports on Islamic State leader Baghdadi’s death
Jul 17, 2017
Moscow on Monday said it was struggling to confirm if the leader of the Islamic State group Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead or alive, a month after reporting his possible demise.
The Russian army said in June that it was trying to verify information that its jets killed Baghdadi during a bombing raid near the IS stronghold of Raqa in Syria.
But over a month after the announcement Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russia still had “no more precise information” on Baghdadi’s fate.
“The information coming in is contradictory and is being checked by the relevant agencies,” he said.
Baghdadi, the undisputed leader of global jihadism, has been rumoured wounded or killed a number of times in the past.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitor, said last week it had heard from senior IS leaders in Syria’s Deir Ezzor province that Baghdadi was dead.
But Pentagon chief James Mattis said on Friday that he could not “confirm or deny” if Baghdadi is dead, adding that Washington’s approach was to “assume he’s alive until it’s proven otherwise”.
Baghdadi’s group has earned global notoriety for imposing a hardline form of Islam that has included stonings, beheadings and amputations as it has claimed the creation of a “caliphate” after snatching territory across Syria and Iraq.
The fortunes of its “caliphate” have since turned with massive offensives launched by US-backed forces in Iraq and Syria.
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Australia creates counter-terror super ministry
18 July 2017
Australia has created a super ministry combining its security agencies including the domestic spy service, border force and national police, the country’s prime minister said Tuesday, calling the “historic change” necessary to tackle terrorism.
The new Home Affairs portfolio -- which uses Britain’s Home Office as a template -- will be run by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton in a major shake-up of national security arrangements.
“I am announcing the most significant reform of Australia’s national intelligence and domestic security arrangements and their oversight in more than 40 years,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in Canberra.
“We are taking the best elements of our intelligence and national security community and making them better. As terrorists evolve their methods, we have to evolve our responses.”
Boats from Asia
An office of national intelligence would be set up to help co-ordination between the agencies, with the shake-up concentrating more power in the hands of Dutton, who has been hailed by conservatives for halting the arrival of asylum-seeker boats from Asia.
Canberra lifted the terror threat alert level in September 2014 and introduced new national security laws amid concerns of attacks by individuals inspired by organizations such as ISIS.
Counter-terrorism police have also made a string of arrests since late 2014 across the nation and say they have prevented 12 terror attacks on home soil in the past few years.
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Britain First posts video of confrontation with city Muslims
18 July 2017
A heated confrontation between Britain First’s deputy leader and a Muslim bookseller in Birmingham has been caught on camera.
The seven minute long video featuring Jayda Fransen was shared on the right-wing group’s Facebook page this week.
It is just one of two videos taken of the confrontation on July 13 when the firebrand deputy leader took to Birmingham’s streets to confront Islamic Dawah stallholders.
A small crowd gathers while Ms Fransen approaches the man in traditional Islamic dress outside Waterstones near the Bullring and begins to argue loudly.
A statement accompanying the video read: “Britain First confronts Dawah stall in Birmingham”.
During the exchange, the pair discuss verses from the Quaran about the role of women.
Ms Fransen can be heard telling the stallholder that she knows the purpose of him being there is trying to spread to word of Islam, to which the stallholder replied that he ‘wanted to help people get to paradise’.
Later, after being asked to provide examples for her argument from the Quaran, she told the stallholder that “I find it remarkable that I know your book better than you.”
Birmingham Mail readers left over a hundred comments about another clip from the same debate which showed Ms Fransen telling the man “listen to me, listen to me, while I explain to you.”
Zkhn questioned why Ms Fransen was attacking the man, writing: “What is her problem? I thought in England we are allowed to have freedom of expression...”
Joyce Clayton agreed writing: “Everyone should love this country, it allows freedom of speech, long may it continue to do so.
Anderson disagreed saying: “I doubt these stalls do anything for the city or to promote the city, if anything they enforce the stereotype.”
NoImSpartacus added: “Why not set up a speaker’s corner like they do in Hyde Park, London... New Street is not a nice place for this and drives away tourists who would otherwise spend money.”
Religious stalls are regularly set up on the corner of High Street and New Street near the Bullring.
The far-right group was formed in 2011 by anti-abortion campaigner Jim Dowson and campaigns against multiculturalism, Islam, immigration and abortion.
Their latest visit was one in a long line of visits to the city by the group - most of which have ended in controversy.
Chaos erupted when two hundred Britain First supporters took to the streets to protest and were met by united anti-fascist groups on June 24.
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Sadiq Khan says a Trump state visit to UK may not be 'appropriate' given how much British people disagree with him
18 July 2017
London Mayor Sadiq Khan is “not sure it is appropriate for our government to toll out the red carpet” for Donald Trump.
The US leader was offered a state visit to Britain by Theresa May, seven days after his presidential inauguration, when she became the first foreign leader to visit the White House.
She said she had extended an invitation from the Queen to Trump and his wife, Melania, to make a state visit later in the year and was “delighted that the president has accepted that invitation”.
But Mr Khan, who has clashed with Mr Trump over his decision to bar people from travelling to the US from mainly Muslim countries and the response to the London Bridge terror attack, has questioned whether it takes place.
"State visits are different from a normal visit and at a time when the President of the USA has policies that many in our country disagree with, I am not sure it is appropriate for our government to roll out the red carpet," he told CNN.
He added: "If someone has views that I think can be changed I am ready to play my role.
"If you somehow think it is not possible to be a Muslim and a proud westerner I am happy to disabuse you of that idea, whether you are a reporter for CNN or Donald Trump."
After months of doubt about whether it would take place, amid speculation the US president could have made a surprise stopover after last week’s G20 summit, the government has conceded that the official visit will not take place until 2018.
Donald Trump reportedly told Theresa May he will not make a state visit to the UK until he is guaranteed a "better reception".
The US President asked the Prime Minister to prepare a "warm welcome" before he agrees to set a date, it has been claimed.
"I haven’t had great coverage out there lately, Theresa," Mr Trump told Ms May, according to a transcript of the conversation seen by The Sun.
Ms May replied: "Well, you know what the British press are like."
But Mr Trump added: "I still want to come, but I’m in no rush.
It leaves open the possibility of a low-key visit to London before the end of this year if Trump is in Europe on other business.
After the terror attack on London Bridge last month that left eight people dead, Mr Trump took to Twitter to criticise Mr Khan after he said there was "no reason to be alarmed" by the increased police presence drew an extraordinary rebuke from Trump on Twitter.
"At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is 'no reason to be alarmed!'" Trump tweeted.
Mr Khan responded by saying his remarks had been taken out of context because he had been referring to the enhanced police presence.
But Mr Trump then tweeted: "Pathetic excuse by London Mayor Sadiq Khan who had to think fast on his 'no reason to be alarmed' statement. MSM [mainstream media] is working hard to sell it!"
Full report at:
15 Yemeni rebels, 8 soldiers killed in clashes
Jul 18, 2017
ADEN - At least 15 Yemeni rebels and eight soldiers were killed Monday as government forces attacked insurgent positions in two areas in the southwest of the country, military officials said.
Loyalists attacked Huthi rebels and their allies, renegade troops loyal to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, at Heess, on the road linking the city of Taez with Hodeida port, on the Red Sea coast, officials said. The attack aimed to block the road leading to the rebel-held port, the officials said. The second attack targeted rebels in Al-Hameli area, north of the port of Mokha, which was recaptured by government forces in February as part of a major ongoing offensive to drive rebels from the lengthy Red Sea coastline.
Several soldiers were wounded in the clashes, officials said.
Warplanes from the Saudi-led Arab coalition backed government forces in the attacks, officials said.
The coalition mounted a military operation against the rebels in March 2015 as insurgents closed in on President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi in his southern refuge in Aden forcing him to flee to Riyadh.
Government forces have since recaptured five southern provinces, including the city of Aden, which has become a temporary base for Hadi’s internationally recognised government.
Meanwhile, a suicide bomber rammed on Monday an explosives-laden vehicle into the gate of a military base in the district of Ain Bamaabad, in the southern Shabwa province, a security official said. The attack killed at least three soldiers, the official added.
The World Health Organization estimates that more than 8,000 people have been killed in Yemen’s conflict, most of them civilians, since March 2015. The country has also been hit by a deadly cholera outbreak and is on the edge of famine.
Bomb blast hits military vehicle, wounds 17 in southeast Turkey: army
Jul 18, 2017
DIYARBAKIR: Explosives planted by Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants ripped through a Turkish military vehicle traveling through southeast Turkey on Monday, wounding 17 soldiers, the military said.
The vehicle was passing through the Yuksekova district of Hakkari province, which borders Iran and Iraq, when the blast occurred, the army said, adding the wounded were immediately taken to hospital.
The army initially said four of the wounded were in a serious condition, but a later statement said none of the injuries were serious.
The PKK took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984 and more than 40,000 people, mostly Kurds, have been killed in the conflict. It is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
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Deputy Minister Condemns Saudi-Led Coalition for Demolishing Yemeni Hospitals
Jul 17, 2017
"The enemy fighter jets have launched airstrikes against many Yemeni hospitals and health centers and bombed them, including Abbas hospital in Hajjah province, al-Haidan hospital in Sa'ada and al-Houban hospital in Ta'iz," al-Arajli said on Monday.
Noting that all the hospitals were managed and under the supervision of the Doctors without Borders (MSF), he said, "Bombing the Yemeni citizens and hospitals by the aggressors is considered as a war crime."
Saudi Arabia has been striking Yemen since March 2015 to restore power to fugitive president Mansour Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh. The Saudi-led aggression has so far killed at least 14,100 Yemenis, including hundreds of women and children.
Despite Riyadh's claims that it is bombing the positions of the Ansarullah fighters, Saudi bombers are flattening residential areas and civilian infrastructures.
According to several reports, the Saudi-led air campaign against Yemen has drove the impoverished country towards humanitarian disaster.
Nearly 3.3 million Yemeni people, including 2.1 million children, are currently suffering from acute malnutrition. The Al-Saud aggression has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s facilities and infrastructure, destroying many hospitals, schools, and factories.
The World Health Organization (WHO) now classifies Yemen as one of the worst humanitarian emergencies in the world alongside Syria, South Sudan, Nigeria and Iraq.
The WHO announced that a cholera epidemic has killed over 1,500 people in Yemen since late April as the war-torn country is facing the "world's worst cholera outbreak", warning that as many as 300,000 could get infected by the end of August.
The country's Health Ministry has already announced that 21 of a total 22 Yemeni provinces are threatened by the disease. On mid-May, it also declared a state of emergency in the capital Sana'a in connection with the epidemic.
Full report at:
Israeli soldier convicted of manslaughter moved to house arrest
17 July 2017
An Israeli soldier who shot dead a wounded Palestinian assailant will be placed on house arrest pending his appeal of his manslaughter conviction and 18-month sentence, the army said Monday.
A military court ruled that Elor Azaria will be placed under house arrest on July 20, when his mandatory three-year military service ends, an army spokeswoman said.
The French-Israeli infantry medic has been under “open arrest” confined to his army base.
Military judges are expected to rule on his appeal on July 30, Israeli media reported. His imprisonment has been postponed pending his appeal.
Azaria was convicted in January and sentenced the next month after a trial that deeply divided Israeli society.
The March 2016 shooting in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron was caught on video by a rights group and spread widely online.
It showed Abdul Fatah al-Sharif, 21, lying wounded on the ground, shot along with another Palestinian after stabbing and wounding a soldier, according to the army.
Azaria then shot him in the head without any apparent provocation.
He said he feared Sharif was wearing an explosive belt and could blow himself up, a claim judges rejected.
The trial captivated Israel and highlighted deep divisions in public opinion between those who decry his actions and those who say he was justified.
A number of Israeli politicians have called for him to be pardoned, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
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Houthi event held in Sanaa University sparks uproar
17 July 2017
Sanaa - A sectarian seminar entitled “Al-Sarkha” (The Scream) held by Houthi militias in Sanaa University stirred uproar with many slamming the Houthis for violating the esteemed university to propagate a dangerous sectarian ideology.
According to news reports published by media outlets affiliated with the Houthis, the seminar was held on Sunday to mark the annual memory of “The Scream” which is the Houthis’ slogan.
The seminar was held under the slogan “The Scream Against the Insolent” and was entitled “The Scream and its Influence on the Nation’s Reality and Future.” Deputy Minister of Higher Education in the unrecognized rebels’ government and Houthi commander Abdullah al-Shami attended the event.
Yemeni activists and politicians slammed the Houthis and their ally ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh and accused them of violating the sanctity of Sanaa University to hold a sectarian seminar on “The Scream.”
The slogan “The Scream” reminds the Yemeni people of the Iranian-backed armed gangs’ murder of thousands of Yemenis, instability and evil practices such as tearing apart of the social fabric.
Meanwhile, Khaled al-Rawyshan, a former Yemeni culture minister said: “Is this how Sanaa University ended up? A (place) to hold a seminar about ‘the scream?’ Can you imagine this? What’s happening in Yemen is stranger than fiction.”
Former Houthi leader Ali al-Bakhiti slammed Saleh and the General People's Congress and asked why Saleh and his party agree to the sectarian events held by the Houthis while ignoring the status of Sanaa University.
He also asked what the role of the Minister of Higher Education Hussein Hazeb in the rebels’ cabinet was in all this.
Samia Abdo, a political activist, also spoke out against holding the event at the university and asked: “Who would have imagined that there will come a day when an event like this would be held in the esteemed Sanaa University?”
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US must alter its policy of issuing sanctions against other nations: Zarif
Jul 18, 2017
Washington has to reassess its approach of issuing sanctions against other countries as they are a liability for the US, says Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
During a press conference held in New York with President of the Council on Foreign Relations Richard Haass on Monday, Zarif noted that the US will become the prisoner of its own sanctions if it does not alter is current policies.
Zarif went on to stress that imposing sanctions on others countries usually does not yield a positive outcome.
Last month, US Senate voted for a bill to impose new sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile program, alleged support for terrorism, and human rights violations.
Iran’s top diplomat went on to criticize the US and its allies over their refusal to take part in a UN organized summit aimed at banning the use of nuclear weapons.
Earlier in the month, the United States, along with Britain and France, announced that they would never become party to a global treaty that was endorsed by 122 countries at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
Zarif went on to note that Iran would always remain dedicated to its vow over never producing nuclear weapons.
"We believe that nuclear weapons do not augment anybody's security. Our objection to nuclear weapons does not recognize friend or foe. We simply believe that nuclear weapons are unacceptable and -- in our view -- illegal because of their consequences,” he said.
The Iranian foreign minister also noted that despite differences between Iran and Saudi Arabia over the conflicts in Yemen and Syria, he hoped that Tehran and Riyadh could work together towards resolving the issues.
“If we don't agree with each other about the situation in Yemen or about the situation in Syria, we can still work with each other in order to bring those situations to an end. We believe nobody is gaining from the continuation of the conflict in Yemen," he added.
Saudi Arabia has been leading a destructive military campaign against Yemen since March 2015 to reinstate former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and crush the Houthi movement.
The campaign has seriously damaged the country's infrastructure. Local Yemeni sources have put the death toll from the Saudi war at over 12,000, including many women and children.
He warned that a plan by Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region to hold an independence referendum would have negative consequences for the country.
"We believe that the referendum is not the right choice. We believe that it would bring about centrifugal tendencies in Iraq that would be disastrous for the country, and it would not be limited to the Kurdish population,” Zarif said.
The president of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government, Masoud Barzani, announced on Twitter in June that the northern territory would hold an independence referendum on September 25 not only in the three provinces that make up the Kurdish region, but also in the areas that were bone of contention between the Iraqi Kurdistan Region and the central government in Baghdad.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on June 13 that the Kurdish minority's decision to hold an independence referendum was untimely.
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Turkey extends state of emergency for another three moths
Jul 17, 2017
Turkey on Monday extended emergency rule for another three months, almost a year after it was imposed in the wake of last July's failed military coup.
The government asked parliament to extend it for a fourth time and the proposal was approved by the assembly, where President Tayyip Erdogan's AK Party has a comfortable majority.
The extension followed weekend ceremonies to mark the anniversary of the abortive coup in which around 250 people, mostly unarmed civilians, were killed.
Since emergency rule was imposed on July 20 last year, more than 50,000 people have been arrested and 150,000 people have been suspended in a crackdown which Erdogan's opponents say has pushed Turkey on a path to greater authoritarianism.
The government says the purge is necessary to confront security challenges facing Turkey and to root out supporters of the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen who it says was behind the coup attempt. Gulen has denied any involvement.
Speaking at parliament, Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli said the emergency rule had helped create the necessary legal environment to cleanse the state of Gulen's network.
"All of those in the state's high levels have been dismissed, but there are still hidden people," Canikli said.
In a series of public ceremonies to mourn people killed in the coup attempt and celebrate those who thwarted it, Erdogan defiantly stepped up his condemnation of the European Union and said he would bring back the death penalty if parliament approved it.
Ties with the West were strained when European governments voiced alarm at the scale of the crackdown.
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Boko Haram bomber kills eight in fresh attack in Nigeria’s Maiduguri
Jul 17, 2017
A bomb attack has claimed the lives of at least eight people and wounded several others in Nigeria’s troubled northeast, officials say.
The attack was carried out by a suspected female member of the Boko Haram Takfiri terrorist group in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, local Nigerian officials said on Monday.
The head of the Borno state emergency management agency, Ahmed Satomi, said that the female bomber had detonated her explosives at a mosque in the London Ciki area of Maiduguri at about 5:30 a.m. local time (0430 GMT).
"She killed eight people and injured 15 others. The mosque was being guarded by civilian JTF (joint task force) militia during prayers," media outlets quoted Satomi as saying.
"Unknown to them, the girl was being pursued from another part of town by residents who were suspicious of her movement at the time,” he added, noting, "When she approached the mosque, they demanded that she stop to be searched but she suddenly bolted into the mosque and set off her bombs."
Elsewhere in his remarks, Satomi pointed out that three other female bombers were located in Maiduguri at about the same time.
He went onto say that two were killed in Mammanti area as they tried to cross the ditch around the city perimeter. This is while another set off her explosives in the suburb of Simari.
It is the second time in a week that Boko Haram bombers have sought to cause carnage in Maiduguri.
Last Monday, at least 19 people were killed and nearly two dozen others injured when four women set off their bombs in the Molai Kolemari area of the city.
In recent weeks, a number of bomb attacks by suspected members of Boko Haram have taken place in the capital of Borno state and its environs.
Militants have regularly targeted mosques, markets, camps for those displaced by the conflict and other civilians across the troubled region.
In December 2016, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who came to power in 2015 with a pledge to eradicate Boko Haram, announced that the army had “crushed” the terror group by retaking its last key bastion, deep inside the thick Sambisa Forest in Borno. The group has, however, resorted to sporadic shooting and bombing attacks in the northeast of the African country, spreading panic among local residents.
Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a number of deadly terror attacks in Nigeria since the beginning of its militancy in 2009, which has so far claimed the lives of at least 20,000 people and made more than 2.7 million displaced.
The United Nations has warned that areas affected by the Boko Haram militancy face a humanitarian crisis.
Back in February 2016, four nations of the Lake Chad Basin -- Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria --launched a campaign, together with a contingent from Benin, to confront the threat from Boko Haram in the region.
Thousands take to streets to protest Mauritania referendum
16 July 2017
Several thousand Mauritanians took to the streets on Saturday to protest a controversial constitutional referendum due on August 5, according to AFP journalists at the demonstration organized by an opposition coalition.
The “No” coalition is drawn from a broad political spectrum including Islamists and anti-slavery activists in the conservative west African nation, all of whom oppose measures including abolishing the senate and changing the national flag.
Saturday’s march was followed by a rally where speakers denounced President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz for what was termed a “coup d’etat against the constitution.”
Jemil Ould Mansour, head of the Islamic Tewassoul party spearheading the movement against the vote, described the protest’s turnout as “giving the result in advance,” calling it “a clear message to the regime to put an end to this useless venture.”
Senators rejected the abolition of their own chamber in March, apparently to the government’s surprise as a majority are from the ruling party, prompting Aziz to call the referendum.
But the opposition fears that despite Aziz’s claims to the contrary he is laying the groundwork for a third term in power, with his own prime minister saying recently he supported the idea.
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Libya’s Fayez al-Sarraj announces political roadmap, calls for polls next year
17 July 2017
The head of Libya’s UN-backed unity government has announced a new political roadmap for his violence-wracked country, with presidential and parliamentary elections to be held in March 2018.
The Government of National Accord has been struggling to assert its authority since it began work in Tripoli in March 2016, with a rival administration based in the remote east refusing to recognize it.
“Presidential and parliamentary elections will be organized in March 2018,” GNA head Fayez al-Sarraj said in a speech broadcast on television late on Saturday. He said the polls aimed to elect a new president and parliament whose mandate will be of “three years maximum or until the drafting and organization of a referendum for a constitution”.
Sarraj spoke haltingly and sounded tired as he delivered his speech flanked by Libya’s flag and behind him the slogan “Libya, together towards reconciliation and construction”.
He outlined a nine-point roadmap which he said would help shake off years of security problems, division and economic woes, and was aimed at relaunching the Libya Political Agreement. The UN-backed LPA agreed in 2015 by rival Libyan groups paved the way for the creation of the GNA.
Sarraj said the GNA would remain as a caretaker government until after the elections. He said the lack of security in Libya was the most “thorny” issue facing the country, and regretted that his predecessors did not disarm militias after the 2011 revolt.
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MURIC replies Christian leaders, accuses CAN of frustrating teaching of IRK
July 17, 2017
The Muslim Rights Concern, MURIC, on Monday said allegations that Nigeria was being “Islamised” is “false, baseless, deceptive, malicious and provocative.”
A statement by Ishaq Akintola, MURIC’s president, said the organisation rejected the allegation as it had no substance.
MURIC was reacting to a statement by some Christian elders under the aegis of the National Christian Elders Forum, NCEF recently, saying the country was being “Islamised”.
The Christian group, which includes former military generals, also demanded the reversal of an education policy that brings Christian Religious Knowledge and Islamic Religious Knowledge under a new subject called Religion and National Value.
But MURIC said the forum’s attempt to use the CRK and IRK controversy as a launching pad for its “tirades on Muslims” in the country stood logic on its head.
They said both Christian and Muslim leaders asked the Federal Government under ex-President Goodluck Jonathan to make the two subjects compulsory for students who belong to their respective faiths.
“However, we are not surprised at this latest development because Christian leaders are simply behaving to type. They have always been shouting wolves where there is none. Warnings against the ‘Islamisation’ of Nigeria is now an old song and nobody is interested any longer,” the statement said.
MURIC questioned why the new alarm was coming just after the bloody massacre of an entire Fulani Muslim population in Taraba State, saying “NCEF feels frustrated that its plot to ‘Christianise’ Muslim children by using the old deceptive curriculum failed when government introduced a policy which grants religious freedom to all.”
“What is wrong if government makes Christian Religious Knowledge compulsory for Christian students while Islamic Religious Knowledge is also made compulsory for Muslim students? How on earth does that translate to Islamising Nigeria?” it asked.
The organisation also alleged that there was a grand plot by the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, to “divert teachers of IRK to teach other subjects.”
“Senior officials in the Ministry of Education who are Christians are made to compromise their positions. They conspire with CAN to neutralize teachers trained for IRK,” MURIC alleged.
“These teachers are not allowed to teach IRK when employed. They are threatened with dismissal and offered alternative subjects to secure their source of daily bread. Thus CAN creates scarcity of IRK teachers by diverting experts in the field to other subjects. On the other hand, Christian graduates of any subject under the sky are given juicy offers to drop their core areas to teach CRK.
“Our claims are verifiable and we charge the Federal Ministry of Education in particular and the state ministries of education in the South West to launch an investigation into this. Many graduates of Islamic Studies who have been forcefully diverted to teach other subjects are ready to come forward.”
It said the Muslim body would not be cowed by the Christian “general”.
“Otherwise why the assemblage of Christian war veterans in the form of army generals and why the need for the emphasis on the military elements in the group? Why do Christian leaders always mobilize their army generals? This attitude is suggestive of subtle intimidation and coercion,” it said.
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Niger: How Jobs Can Help Niger Win the War Against Boko Haram
17 JULY 2017
By Obi Anyadike
Demobilising ex-combatants as part of a peace deal is hard to do at the best of times. But increasingly - from Kenya to Somalia - it's being tried in the middle of ongoing anti-insurgency conflicts, which adds a whole new level of complication.
Disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration - DDR as it's known - is about reducing the risk of violence reigniting by incentivising peace. A stake in the system is seen as the glue to hold post-conflict deals together.
But reality is often messier. Reintegration is hard, especially when economies are dominated by informal business. The vocational training typically offered churns out thousands of carpenters, when cash and therapy seems a better bet.
Former communities have often been displaced, fragmented, and traumatised by conflict, making reinsertion all the harder.
But increasingly DDR is being employed when there's no peace to keep. It's seen as a useful component in countering violent extremism (CVE) programming, which prioritises conventional development goals rather than the drones and special forces more often associated with the "war on terror".
As such, DDR is now more political than it's ever been. Amnesty schemes and the promise of grants and support to surrendering fighters are used as a way to thin opponents' ranks just as much as regular military operations.
There are other concerns. What is the legal framework to distinguish DDR from plain detention? What are the qualification criteria and human rights safeguards? More broadly still are basic questions over "whether or not the necessary doctrine, resources, finances, and partnerships are in place to deliver effective programming," researchers James Cockayne and Siobhan O'Neil note.
A home-grown initiative
Regardless of the challenges, the Sahelian country of Niger is giving it a go. Since 2015 it has suffered attacks from the jihadist group Boko Haram, effortlessly crossing the border with its giant southern neighbour Nigeria to raid and recruit.
In December last year, the government of Niger launched a deradicalisation and reintegration programme for Boko Haram fighters who quit the battlefield. "We will guarantee them security. We will avoid imprisonment," Interior Minister Mohamed Bazoun said when he announced the initiative in the southern town of Diffa. "We will instruct them and teach them a number of activities."
This home-grown initiative has been enthusiastically taken up by Diffa Governor Mahaman Lawaly Dan Dano, who has enlisted the University of Diffa to provide advice and help build community buy-in for "the repantis", or "the repentant", as they are known.
Currently, more than 150 people are in the programme, including fighters' "wives" and 28 young boys. They were originally kept in Diffa town, but conditions were so poor there was an escape attempt and the group has since been moved west to Goudoumaria, a two-hour drive away, to a camp originally built for refugees.
Their circumstances are now a good deal better. There is water. They are fed regularly, and they even have a small infirmary. But there is not yet any psychosocial support, vocational training, nor are there any schools for the children.
"The main problem is boredom," said the head of the UN children's fund (UNICEF), Viviane Van Steirteghem, who recently visited the camp.
Much yet to do
"The programme is not definitively built," explained Boukari Kassoum, head of the Peace and Development Unit at the University of Diffa. "But it's good that it has begun."
Steirteghem said 12 fully equipped EU-funded vocational training centres will be built in each of Diffa's municipalities, an investment in a deprived region where the first schools didn't arrive until the late 1990s.
A related DDR programme involves the gradual release of some 80 minors captured on both sides of the border and held in detention in the capital, Niamey. They're being returned to so-called "transit and orientation centres" in Diffa, from where they're being returned to their families, with periodic checks made by the authorities.
Steirteghem was guarded over providing further details. "For Niger, this is all relatively new, and extremely sensitive," she told IRIN.
Part of the problem revolves around community acceptance.
Rado Moustapha is the mayor of Goudoumaria, a man you would expect to have a degree of engagement with the deradicalisation programme. But when IRIN visited, he stressed that he was yet to pay a call on the repantis camp, just six kilometres out of town. He clearly regarded the initiative as driven by the ministry of internal affairs and foisted upon Goudoumaria from above.
"I don't know what advantage we will get from it," he told IRIN. For Moustapha, Boko Haram are simply killers. "We don't know what they want - they just slaughter. It's the wrong interpretation of Islam. It's like a revolution by people not brought up correctly who didn't listen to their parents."
Niger versus Nigeria
Southeastern Niger is a Kanuri region, the same ethnic group that in Nigeria form the bulk of Boko Haram. Before the insurgency began in 2009, Mohamed Yusuf, the founder of the group, and his successor, Abubaker Shekau, were familiar figures in Diffa.
But nobody IRIN spoke to believed that affinity for Boko Haram's ideological message - the rejection of Westernisation - amounted to any real reason for recruitment.
Niger is a conservative Islamic country. According to a 2013 Afrobarometer survey, 67 percent of Nigeriens would like to see Sharia adopted in the constitution. But that is a reflection of a yearning for a more just society, an Overseas Development Institute study found.
Multiparty democracy is not rejected: at issue is the system's failings, its seeming privileging of the rich and disempowerment of the poor in Niger.
Akasser al-Fazaz of the NGO SOS-Civisme-Niger is adamant that the factors that have encouraged violent extremism in Nigeria are absent in Niger.
"Political authority in Nigeria is ineffective," he said. "Nigeria is a federation, but Niger is a unitary state and can respond quickly [to threats]. We have laws that forbid hate speech, and the media is regulated."
The motivation, therefore, behind Nigerien youth joining Boko Haram is seen almost exclusively as economic. Diffa is a marginalised region, made poorer still by drought in 2010 and 2011, followed by flooding in 2012 and 2013 that hit the main cash crop: bell peppers. Insecurity has reduced production still further.
"The perception is that people went looking for money," said Kassoum of the University of Diffa. The youth that joined Boko Haram came back with booty, encouraging others to join. Boko Haram then shut the door "and didn't allow anybody back", except as gunmen ready to fight.
The government's counter-insurgency strategy has been a heavy burden. It has cleared communities from the islands in Lake Chad and along the Komadugu Gana River, the border with Nigeria, adding to the toll of 157,000 displaced people.
Aboubaker Issa, a youth leader in Diffa, believes priorities are back to front when it comes to the repantis.
"First, the government should meet those communities that lost everything, living under trees: Meet those people, comfort them, and bring them back to their houses, give them means to resettle," he told IRIN. "After that, the government can turn to the ex-combatants and help them come back to their communities."
Beyond vocational training, it's real jobs people want.
The needs are so dire, "that if the government persists to say that it will integrate Boko Haram members, there isn't a youth that will stay here," said Issa. "They will all join [to benefit from the reintegration package]."
The model that Diffa youth have in mind is the peace deal struck between the government and Tuareg rebels in the north that ended a 2007-2008 insurgency. In response to Tuareg demands for greater inclusion, jobs were provided to ex-fighters.
For Steirteghem, the circumstances of a peace deal and orthodox DDR are very different from the current situation - where an entire region needs support.
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