New Age Islam
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Islamic World News ( 21 Jun 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

‘Islamist Side’ Issues Death Threats, Berlin ‘Liberal Mosque’ Co-Founder Says

















Men and women pray together at the new liberal Ibn-Rushd-Goethe-Mosque in Berlin, Germany, June 16, 2017 © Hannibal Hanschke / Reuters

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‘Islamist Side’ Issues Death Threats, Berlin ‘Liberal Mosque’ Co-Founder Says

ISIS Blows Up Historic Mosque Where It Declared 'Caliphate' In Mosul

ISIS Supporters Name Malaysia as Its ‘Wilayah’ or Territory

Hindu Families in Rajasthan Villages Close To Indo-Pak Border Fast During Ramzan

US: Nabra Hassanen Slaying Leaves Doubt about Motive in Muslim Community

 

Europe

‘Islamist Side’ Issues Death Threats, Berlin ‘Liberal Mosque’ Co-Founder Says

UN Chief Says Engaged In Paving the Way for Pak-India Dialogue

West Needs Russia’s Help to Fight Isis and Assad Can Stay, France’s Macron Says

UK mosque attack suspect cursed Muslims day before incident

London community shows solidarity after van attack on Muslims

Russian diplomat to become new UN counterterror chief

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Arab World

ISIS Blows Up Historic Mosque Where It Declared 'Caliphate' In Mosul

Whistle-Blower: Saudi King to Leave Power Soon

Trump, New Saudi Crown Prince Share Hardline Views on Iran but Risks Abound

Saudi Princes Warn King Salman against His Son's Succession

Syrian Army Takes Control of Several Areas in Dara'a Province, Kills Senior FSA Commander

Tens of ISIL Terrorists Killed in Failed Attack on Deir Ezzur

Syrian Army Repels Attacks by ISIL, Al-Nusra Front on Homs Countryside

Syrian Army Makes Major Advances near Damascus

Australia says to resume air strikes in Syria after Russia threat

UAE's Mohamed bin Zayed holds talks with French President

Iraqi children face sheer horror, unimaginable violence: UN

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Southeast Asia

ISIS Supporters Name Malaysia as Its ‘Wilayah’ or Territory

Judge Recuses Himself from Hearing SIB’s ‘Allah’ Lawsuit

Indonesia's largest Muslim youth group plans to tackle extremism through humanitarian declaration

China may block India's move on JeM chief in UN once again

Indonesian Islamic sect say they’re ‘denied state IDs’ over their beliefs

New Indonesia law to allow jailing of militant returnees

Philippines Says Islamist Militants Free Hostages After Day-Long Drama

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India

Hindu Families in Rajasthan Villages Close To Indo-Pak Border Fast During Ramzan

Men Held For Sedition after Cheering Pakistan, Families Write To President

Triple Talaq Misunderstood: BJP Muslim Leader

In one fell swoop, India slams Pakistan, as well as UN, US inaction on terror safe havens

Top Hizb ultra among 2 killed in Sopore

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North America

US: Nabra Hassanen Slaying Leaves Doubt about Motive in Muslim Community

FBI Investigating Michigan Airport Stabbing As ‘Terrorism’

$12K stolen from 6 Canadian mosques

Canada: Anti-terror law beefs up cyber threat powers

Afghan army uniforms very expensive, says US watchdog

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Pakistan

Pakistani Clerics Thrash Journalists for Drinking Water during Ramzan Fast

International Yoga Day Celebrated In Pakistan Too

CTD seeks ban on 25 websites spreading ‘terrorism, extremism’

Pakistan tightens business, work visas for Chinese nationals

Forced Conversions Resulting In Mass Exodus of Hindus from Pakistan

Pakistan to stay neutral in Gulf standoff: Aziz

ASF recovers heroin from Bahrain-bound passenger at Islamabad airport

Iran drone shot down inside Pakistan: FO

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South Asia

Sheikh Hasina’s Hate Statues Can Only Weaken Democracy In Bangladesh

Afghanistan and US hold talks regarding the framework of new bilateral cooperation

Haqqani network and Taliban retain freedom of action in Pakistan: US

Taliban release video of American university lecturers, demanding prisoners release

Refurbishment of 53 Blackhawks for the Afghan troops has commenced: Pentagon

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Mideast

Kushner Arrives To Try For Israeli-Palestinian Breakthrough

Turkey Says Liberal German Mosque ´Incompatible´ With Islam

Israel Would Use All Its Strength against Lebanon In Case Of War: Air Force Chief

Iranian Court Sentences 6 ISIL Members to Prison

Israel would go ‘all-out’ if war breaks out again with Lebanon

Saudi leaders, Turkey’s Erdogan discuss efforts to end Qatar crisis

Ankara sends reinforcements for Turkey-backed militants in Syria

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Africa

100 Said Killed As Christian Militia, Muslim Rebels Clash

Returning Nigerian refugees could create new crisis as rainy season starts: UNHCR

Death toll from fresh clashes hits 100 in Central African Republic

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/‘islamist-side’-issues-death-threats,-berlin-‘liberal-mosque’-co-founder-says/d/111640

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‘Islamist side’ issues death threats, Berlin ‘liberal mosque’ co-founder says

21 Jun, 2017

A co-founder of the first “liberal mosque,” which opened in the German capital last week, has faced intimidation, including death threats, she told RT Deutsch.

“Death threats, and other threats… are partly coming from the Islamist side,” Seyran Ates said. She is one of the seven founders of the unusual prayer site, which accepts everyone except those wearing a full face veil, such as a niqab or burka.

Ates, however, who is a women’s rights activist and lawyer, stated that the threats should not stop people’s fight for their values.

“As a civil society, we cannot let ourselves be guided by those who threaten us and who forbid us to do something, [threatening] to otherwise take our lives. It is only when we fight together against this hatred that we can change something.”

Earlier, the co-founder said that even before opening the mosque, she had already received some “very violent and obscene” threats. She even requested police protection at last week’s opening.

Thousands of people have reacted to Ates’ activities on Facebook, as a DW Arabic report about her gained more than a million views within just four days and received almost 16,000 comments. A large portion of the comments condemned the idea of the mosque. “This is not the religion of our prophet,” one comment under the video reads.

“Is this a mosque or a club? A woman who is showing her breasts during praying? And who is serving as an example for all liberal Muslims and [as a female] Imam? Absurd,” another person said.

Muslims need a culture to speak fearlessly to each other, another founder of the mosque and Islamic scholar, Abdel-Hakim Ourghi, told RT Deutsch earlier.

He said that the founders want people of all religions to live together peacefully. Although this path is difficult, it is only a matter of time, he added.

He added that Muslims need a culture in which they can peacefully talk to each other regardless of the branches of Islam they are representing.

The first mosque in Germany offering a place of worship to believers of all Muslim denominations, giving equal rights to male and female worshippers, and friendly to the LGBT community, opened on June 17 in the heart of Berlin.

Entering in niqabs and burkas, which is obligatory for women according to Muslim rules, is prohibited there.

https://www.rt.com/news/393481-liberal-mosque-cofounder-threats/

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ISIS blows up historic mosque where it declared 'caliphate' in Mosul

June 22, 2017

Islamic State militants on Wednesday blew up the Grand al-Nuri Mosque of Mosul and its famous leaning minaret, Iraq's military said in a statement, as Iraqi forces seeking to expel the group from the city closed in on the site.

It was from this medieval mosque three years ago that the militants' leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a self-styled "caliphate" spanning parts of Syria and Iraq.

''Blowing up the al-Hadba minaret and the al-Nuri mosque amounts to an official acknowledgement of defeat,'' Iraqi Prime Minister said in a brief comment on his website.

The Iraqis called the 150-foot (45-metre) leaning minaret Al-Hadba, or "the hunchback." Baghdadi's black flag had flown over it since June 2014.

Islamic State's Amaq news agency accused American aircraft of destroying the mosque, a claim swiftly denied by the U.S.-led coalition fighting the militant group.

"We did not strike in that area," coalition spokesman U.S. Air Force Colonel John Dorrian told Reuters by telephone.

"The responsibility of this devastation is laid firmly at the doorstep of ISIS," U.S. Army Major General Joseph Martin, commander of the coalition's ground component, said in a statement, using an acronym for Islamic State.

The media office for Iraq's military distributed a picture taken from the air that appeared to show the mosque and minaret largely flattened and reduced to rubble among the small houses of the Old City, the historic district where the militants are under siege.

A video seen on social media showed the minaret collapsing vertically in a belch of sand and dust, as a woman lamented in the background, "The minaret, the minaret, the minaret."

The mosque was destroyed as Iraq's elite Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) units, which have been battling their way through Mosul's Old City, got within 50 meters (164 feet) of it, according to an Iraqi military statement.

An Iraqi military spokesman gave the timing of the explosion as 9:35 p.m (1835 GMT).

"This is a crime against the people of Mosul and all of Iraq, and is an example of why this brutal organization must be annihilated," said U.S. Major General Martin.

Iraqi forces said earlier on Wednesday that they had started a push toward the mosque.

''This will not prevent us from removing them, no, killing them not removing them, inside the Old City,'' Lieutenant General Abdul Ghani al-Assadi, senior CTS commander in Mosul, said in a video posted over a messaging app.

The forces on Tuesday had encircled the jihadist group's stronghold in the Old City, the last district under Islamic State control in Mosul.

Baghdadi proclaimed himself "caliph," or ruler of all Muslims, from the mosque's pulpit on July 4, 2014, after the insurgents overran vast swathes of Iraq and Syria.

Baghdadi's speech from the mosque was the first time he revealed himself to the world, and the footage broadcast then is to this day the only video recording of him as "caliph."

MINARET WAS VULNERABLE

Iraqi officials had privately expressed hope that the mosque could be retaken in time for Eid al-Fitr, the festival marking the end of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting. The first day of the Eid falls this year on June 25 or 26 in Iraq.

"The battle for the liberation of Mosul is not yet complete, and we remain focused on supporting the Iraqi Security Forces with that objective in mind," said Martin.

The fall of Mosul would, in effect, mark the end of the Iraqi half of the "caliphate," even though Islamic State would still control territory west and south of the city, the largest over which they held sway in both Iraq and Syria.

Baghdadi has left the fighting in Mosul to local commanders and is believed to be hiding in the border area between Iraq and Syria, according to U.S. and Iraqi military sources.

The mosque was named after Nuruddin alZanki, a noble who fought the early crusaders from a fiefdom that covered territory in modern-day Turkey, Syria and Iraq. It was built in 1172-73, shortly before his death, and housed an Islamic school.

By the time renowned medieval traveler and scholar Ibn Battuta visited two centuries later, the minaret was leaning. The tilt gave the landmark its popular name: the hunchback.

It was built with seven bands of decorative brickwork in complex geometric patterns also found in Persia and Central Asia.

Nabeel Nouriddin, a historian and archaeologist specialising in Mosul and its Nineveh region, said the minaret had not been renovated since 1970, making it particularly vulnerable to blasts even if it was not directly hit.

The Mosque's destruction occurred during the holiest period of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, its final 10 days. The night of Laylat al-Qadr falls during this period, marking when Muslims believe the Quran was revealed to prophet Mohammed.

Islamic State fighters have destroyed many Muslim religious sites, churches and shrines, as well as ancient Assyrian and Roman-era sites in Iraq and in Syria.

The group posted videos online in 2015 showing the destruction of artifacts in the Mosul museum, some of which dated from the 7th century BC. It is also suspected of selling artifacts.

http://nation.com.pk/international/22-Jun-2017/isis-blows-up-historic-mosque-where-it-declared-caliphate-in-mosul

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ISIS Supporters Name Malaysia as Its ‘Wilayah’ or Territory

June 22, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has been identified by supporters of the Islamic State (IS) terror group as part of its “East Asia Wilayah” or territory.

Jasminder Singh, a senior analyst at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, told The Straits Times (ST) he had noticed “chatter on social media” this month singling out specific countries as part of the wilayah.

The other nations identified by the IS as part of this East Asia Wilayah are: Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, southern Thailand, Myanmar and Japan.

“For foreign fighters coming into the region, this gives them an idea of what they will be in for, and what the targets are,” Jasminder was quoted by the ST as saying yesterday.

The report quoted other security analysts as saying this could embolden self-radicalised individuals to carry out attacks here, especially if they were unable to travel to the Middle East to fight.

It is estimated that there are more than 1,000 Southeast Asians fighting with the IS in Iraq and Syria, with another 2,000 to 3,000 camp followers.

Malaysian police have arrested more than a hundred suspected IS militants and supporters over the past couple of years.

In January, Special Branch counter-terrorism division principal assistant director Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay was quoted as saying that 122 suspects had been charged and that police had secured 62 convictions. Also, he said, 38 suspected militants or supporters had been detained under the Prevention of Crime Act and 18 under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

He said police were aware of 60 Malaysians fighting in Syria for Islamic groups.

In February, police arrested six foreigners and one Malaysian suspected of involvement with Islamic terrorist groups.

A grenade attack on a food and beverage outlet in Puchong in June last year wounded eight people, with the IS claiming responsibility for it. It was the first IS attack on Malaysian soil.

The ST report said the terrorism threat facing Singapore was at the highest level in recent years, with the country seeing a steady trickle of self-radicalised individuals.

On Tuesday, the Singapore ministry of home affairs announced that two Singaporean auxiliary police officers were arrested for terrorism-related offences under the Internal Security Act. Last week, the ministry revealed that infant care assistant Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari, 22, had been detained as she had planned to travel to Syria with her child to become a “martyr’s widow”.

The ST report quoted Remy Mahzam, associate research fellow at the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, as saying an indication of the boundaries of a future wilayah could prompt self-radicalised individuals who faced difficulty in travelling to Syria to carry out attacks in the region instead.

Associate Professor Antonio Rappa, who heads the Singapore University of Social Sciences’ management and security studies programme, warned that Singapore should be more worried about attacks by “lone wolves and small groups of terrorists”, who could enter the country from Malaysia or Indonesia.

He told the ST that developments in the region – such as the ongoing attacks by IS militants in Marawi, the Philippines – would “increase the confidence level” of would-be terrorists.

In a paper published last week, Jasminder warned that there was a possibility that IS militants returning from the Middle East could regroup in the Philippines, and that they would tie-up with existing local Islamic militant groups such as the Jemaah Islamiyah in Indonesia and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines.

This, he warned, could lead to increased violence and sectarian conflict in Southeast Asia.

Jasminder said in the paper: “It has become clear that no one state can manage the threat posed by the IS. It will require regional and international cooperation, including the need to get assistance from Turkey and Iraq to send captured local fighters back for charges.

“To begin with, states would need strong legislation to criminalise citizens fighting for terrorist groups, involvement in war or military operations other than for national purpose, and even pledging of loyalty to another state an act of betrayal and crime.”

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2017/06/22/is-supporters-name-malaysia-as-its-wilayah/

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Hindu families in Rajasthan villages close to Indo-Pak border fast during Ramzan

Jun 21 2017

In the times when heighten tensions between India and Pakistan are talked about, villages situated on India-Pakistan border in Rajasthan continue to observe syncretic traditions and spread religious harmony across border.

Many Hindu families living in Barmer and Jaisalmer district situated alongside of 2,500 km Indo-Pak border observe 'roza' fasts during the holy month of Ramzan. Fasts are mostly observed by Meghwal community, who call themselves followers of Pir Pithora, a Rajput saint whose shrine is located in Pakistan’s Sindh province. For an outsider it is hard to differentiate between Muslims and Hindus during Ramzan month. However not making it a compulsion, some observe for a week some for two weeks and some for even five days. They observe roza, and at the time of iftar (opening of fast), they turn their faces towards the west (a symbolic direction for mecca) and offer prayers.

Megh Ram Gadhveer, an Associate professor of History at JNVU Jodhpur, who is observing rozas from last three decades told DH, "We are the followers of Saint Pir Pathora who himself was a follower of Baha-ud-Din Zakariya, who is buried in Multan.Some also observe Ramzan because they follow Jaitaan - a muslim female saint who is now buried in Multan." The practice is quite common among refugees who arrived in India during the wars of 1965 and 1971 and are now wide spread in border villages of Godhad Ka Tala, Rabasar, Sata, Sinhania, Bakhasar, Kelnore and many more.

However Gadhveer points out that there is decline in Hindus over the years who observe rozas. "Since we can't force our new generation and the feeling should come within,"he added. Sharaha Ram, a local hindu priest shares, "Observing fasts in Ramzan brings us closer to our Pir who is buried in Sindh. Fasting also helps to cleanseour body and soul. Also the experience is serene to observe both religions closely."

Sociologists call such practices an important part of culture in bringing two religions and countries close. "Nowadays we hear about unfortunate incidence such as cow vigilantism and Lynching especially with reference to Rajasthan. Such rituals are needed to bring down rising intolerance in our society", said Asha Sharma, a sociologist.

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/618567/hindu-families-rajasthan-villages-close.html

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US: Nabra Hassanen Slaying Leaves Doubt about Motive In Muslim Community

Jun 21, 2017

Virginia detectives say the beating death of a teenage Muslim girl appears to have been a case of road rage, but the case has left doubt among Islamic leaders who say it looks too much like a hate crime.

Police say 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen was bludgeoned with a baseball bat early Sunday by a motorist who drove up to about 15 Muslim teenagers as they walked or bicycled along a road.

A funeral service is planned for 1:30 p.m. Wednesday for Hassanen at her northern Virginia mosque, the All Dulles Area Muslim Society. A vigil also is planned for Wednesday in Hassanen’s hometown of Reston, Virginia.

Twenty-year-old Darwin Martinez Torres is being held without bail on a murder charge in the slaying.

The incident is not being investigated as a hate crime.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/us-nabra-hassanen-slaying-leaves-doubt-about-motive-in-muslim-community/story-Ln7pHJGX6YIzR8W41EjM3I.html

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Europe

 

UN chief says engaged in paving the way for Pak-India dialogue

June 22, 2017

UNITED NATIONS - UN chief Antonio Guterres has said he is engaged in bringing about a dialogue between India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue through his meetings with the Prime Ministers of the two countries.

"Why do you think I met three times the Prime Minister of Pakistan and two times the Prime Minister of India," Guterres said with a laughter, responding to a question during a Press briefing here whether he is engaged in bringing about a dialogue between India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir dispute.

"For someone accused of doing nothing, it is quite a number of meetings," the Secretary-General said, referring to criticism that he has been shying away and is reluctant to act to defuse tensions between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir issue.

Guterres, addressing reporters at his first Press conference at the world body’s headquarters since assuming office in January, was asked about the escalating tensions between India and Pakistan along the Line of Control and the ceasefire violations since he assumed office.

Modi and Guterres had met in St Petersburg earlier in June on the sidelines of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum.

During the meeting, Modi had stressed on multilateralism to address global challenges such as terrorism.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the UN chief had met on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum at Davos in January and again this month in Astana on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit.

Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric, when asked at Press briefings about the Secretary General’s response to the situation in Kashmir, has repeatedly said that Guterres is following the situation in the region closely.

Pakistan continuously raises the Kashmir issue at the UN seeking the world body's intervention in the dispute with India. But New Delhi has always maintained that Kashmir is a bilateral issue with Islamabad.

http://nation.com.pk/national/22-Jun-2017/un-chief-says-engaged-in-paving-the-way-for-pak-india-dialogue

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West Needs Russia’s Help to Fight Isis and Assad Can Stay, France’s Macron Says

6/21/17

The recently elected French president said Wednesday he is looking to change his country’s course on Syria drastically and will no longer seek the removal of the war-torn country’s leader. The move comes as tensions between the U.S. and Russia escalate over Syria’s future.

In an interview with eight European newspapers, French President Emmanuel Macron revealed a major departure from the position of previous French administrations on the six-year war in Syria. He said he would abandon efforts to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who faces an insurgency led by various rebel groups backed by the West, Turkey and Arab Gulf states and jihadist groups such as the Islamic State militant group and Al-Qaeda. Macron said Assad, who enjoys support from Russia and Iran, was not the enemy of France and that, with Russia’s support, French foreign policy in Syria would focus on targeting jihadist groups, whose supporters have killed hundreds in France.

“The new perspective that I have had on this subject is that I have not stated that Bashar al-Assad’s departure is a precondition for everything, because nobody has shown me a legitimate successor.” Macron said, according to Reuters.

“My lines are clear: Firstly, a complete fight against all the terrorist groups. They are our enemies,” he added. “We need everybody’s cooperation, especially Russia, to eradicate them.”

Despite having good relations with the Syrian government prior to the war, France had become one of its greatest detractors. Since the 2011 protests that triggered the current crisis in Syria, France has overwhelmingly sided with Assad’s opposition, even as a number of rebel groups became increasingly supportive of or overwhelmed by ultraconservative Sunni Muslim organizations. Among Western leaders, former French President Nicholas Sarkozy was among the foremost supporters of efforts to overthrow Assad and repeatedly called for his resignation over alleged war crimes committed against civilians.

France’s militant anti-Assad stance may have partially stemmed from its attempt to return as a “great power” in the Middle East, to counter the U.S.’s domination of regional foreign policy and to appease majority-Sunni Muslim powers such as Saudi Arabia, according to a 2015 analysis by The Washington Post.

In recent years, however, national security has become a major issue in France. A series of deadly massacres claimed by ISIS and other jihadist supporters have killed more than 230 people since 2015. The country remains in a state of emergency since November 2015, when a series of gun and bomb attacks killed about 130 people in Paris. Macron said earlier this month he sought to end the state of emergency, which broadens authorities’ ability to investigate suspected terrorism, but that he would likely integrate certain, controversial measures such as warrantless house searches and house arrests into standard police code, according to France 24. With domestic tensions high, France has acknowledged the new realities of Syria’s war.

In October 2015, Russia staged a direct military intervention at the request of Assad, whose fatigued military forces had been forced to withdraw from swaths of the country. Since then, the Syrian army and its allies have retaken virtually every population center in the country and were found to have been the most engaged faction against ISIS in April. Earlier that month, President Donald Trump, who had previously made a similar concession to Assad’s rule, accused the Syrian leader of conducting a chemical weapons attack against civilians, allegations vehemently denied by both Damascus and Moscow. Less than 72 hours later, the U.S. bombed a Syrian airbase in response and has created an even wider rift with Russia by shooting down a Syrian fighter jet that local, majority-Kurd forces backed by Washington accused of bombing too close to their positions.

In response to Sunday’s incident, Russia said it would sever a “deconfliction line” used to avoid air incidents with the U.S. and said it would treat any U.S. or allied aircraft as “targets” for Russia’s surface-to-air missile systems. Tensions over the U.S.’s military presence, which has been declared illegal by the Syrian government, have manifested in the country’s south too, where the U.S. has set up a Special Forces camp to train and equip anti-Assad fighters battling ISIS. Pro-government forces advancing east have been struck three times by U.S. forces claiming that they breached a “deconfliction zone” unilaterally established by the U.S. and its allies in southern Syria.

Washington said it’s seeking to re-establish a basic level of communication with Moscow in Syria, where the two sponsor forces practically overlap in the fight to dislodge ISIS from its de facto capital of Raqqa. France is not the only member of the U.S.-led coalition in Syria to adjust its position in light of recent events. Australia announced Sunday it was temporarily ceasing its military activity in Syria after Russia’s threat to coalition aircraft.

Full report at:

http://www.newsweek.com/west-need-russia-help-fight-isis-assad-stay-macron-628119

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UK mosque attack suspect cursed Muslims day before incident

Jun 20, 2017LONDON: A 47-year-old man arrested after a terror attack near a London mosque had been kicked out of a pub 'for cursing Muslims' just a day before the incident, a media report said.

Father-of-four Darren Osborne was arrested by police after a van ploughed into pedestrians outside the Mosque on Seven Sisters Road in Finsbury Park, North London.

One person was killed and 11 others injured in the attack.

The victims were all Muslims and the incident was declared a terror attack on the Muslim population. Witnesses said the driver shouted: "I want to kill all Muslims", before onlookers pinned him to the ground.

Shocked neighbours said Osborne had recently been kicked out by partner Sarah Andrews — and was forced to live in a tent.

Others claim that he was ejected from the town's Hollybush pub on Saturday night for drunkenly cursing Muslims.

"He got chucked out as he was so drunk," The Sun quoted a a regular visitor at the pub as saying.

"He was cursing Muslims and saying he would do some damage," he said.

However, his mother Christine said her son was not a terrorist and had never shown any hatred towards Muslims.

"This is every mother's worst nightmare," she said.

Christine said she screamed in horror after spotting her son in TV footage of the attack.

"As a mum my heart goes out to everyone in Finsbury Park," she said.

Two Muslim neighbours of Osborne said he had never showed any animosity towards them.

Mum-of-six Khadijah Sherazi, a British Islamic convert, moved next door to Osborne six months ago.

"This is a complete shock, I thought he was a normal neighbour, laughing and joking. He fixed my leaky tap the other day," she said.

"He seemed like a good dad, he takes the kids to school and back every day and walks the dogs," she said.

Saleem Naema, who is from Iraq, lives on the same road.

He said: "I couldn't believe when I realised it was him who was accused.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/uk/uk-mosque-attack-suspect-cursed-muslims-day-before-incident/articleshow/59232946.cms

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London community shows solidarity after van attack on Muslims

Jun 21, 2017

Around 200 people of all faiths gathered in front of London’s Finsbury Park Mosque on Tuesday to show solidarity after a van ploughed into worshippers in a suspected attack on a Muslim prayer-gathering during Ramadam.

Representatives of local religious communities stood side by side during a minute’s silence in front of the mosque where the incident took place on Monday night, injuring 11 people, two of them seriously.

The driver, who was seized by worshippers immediately after the attack, has been held by police for preparing or instigating terrorism.

Locals sang together and laid flowers at the mosque, holding up placards which said “Don’t let the racists divide us” and “No to Islamophobia, No to War”.

Faith leaders from different communities took part in a minute’s silence and released a joint statement through police: “We are committed to supporting one another and (...) are determined not to allow this horrible act to divide us.”

They praised Imam Mohammed Mahmoud as an model after he defended the suspect when he was set upon by a group of angry locals following the attack.

Full report at:

http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/london-community-shows-solidarity-after-van-attack-on-muslims/story-zTvjUKSTHE3gs9IafL11kK.html

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Russian diplomat to become new UN counterterror chief

21 June 2017

The United Nations on Wednesday announced the appointment of its first counterterrorism chief, Russian diplomat Vladimir Voronkov.

The new high-level position was created by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to strengthen counterterrorism efforts that had been dispersed among several UN agencies and departments.

“I do believe that we have a problem of coordination of the 38 entities that within the UN deal with counterterrorism, so it makes full sense to have a dedicated office with a responsible (person),” Guterres told a news conference on Tuesday.

Voronkov is Russia’s representative to UN international organizations in Vienna, a position he has held since 2011. He also serves on the board of governors of the UN’s global nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The appointment will raise Russia’s profile in international counterterrorism and at the United Nations, where Voronkov will hold the title of under-secretary-general.

Voronkov “will provide strategic leadership to United Nations counterterrorism efforts, participate in the decision-making process of the United Nations and ensure that the cross-cutting origins and impact of terrorism are reflected in the work of the United Nations,” said UN spokesman Farhan Haq in announcing the appointment.

Born in 1953, Voronkov served as Russian deputy ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) between 2005 and 2008.

He was also posted to the Russian embassy in Poland and was director of the department of European cooperation at the Russian foreign ministry in Moscow, where he began his career in 1989.

A graduate of Moscow State University, Voronkov is fluent in English and Polish.

The UN General Assembly last week approved the creation of the new UN office of counterterrorism.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2017/06/21/Russian-diplomat-to-become-new-UN-counterterror-chief-.html

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Arab World

 

Whistle-Blower: Saudi King to Leave Power Soon

Jun 21, 2017

King Salman will leave power soon after replacing his nephew Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz with his own son, Mohammed bin Salman, Mujtahid wrote on his twitter page on Wednesday.

Noting that the King's new changes have caused wrath in the Saudi Royal family, he said the princes and the royal family are much likely to start disobeying King Salman's orders.

Mujtahid also claimed that US President Donald Trump was aware of King Salman's decision but the US institutions and the European countries are surprised to hear the changes.

King Salman replaced Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz with his own son, Mohammed bin Salman, the deputy crown prince and defense minister.

According to a royal decree, Mohammed bin Salman, 31, was also named deputy prime minister, and shall maintain his post as defense minister, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Wednesday.

Saudi media announced that King Salman has called for a public pledge of allegiance to the new crown prince in the holy city of Mecca on Wednesday night.

The SPA also confirmed that 31 out of 34 members of Saudi Arabia’s succession committee chose Mohammed bin Salman as the crown prince.

Just days ago, the Saudi king stripped Nayef of his powers overseeing criminal investigations and designated a new public prosecution office to function directly under the king’s authority.

In a similar move back in 2015, the Saudi king had appointed his nephew, then deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef as the heir to the throne after removing his own half-brother Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz Al Saud from the position.

Under the new decree, King Salman further relieved Mohammed bin Nayef of his duties as the interior minister. He appointed Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef as the new interior minister and Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Salem as deputy interior minister.

Mohammed Bin Salman is already in charge of a vast portfolio as chief of the House of Saud royal court and chairman of the Council for Economic and Development Affairs, which is tasked with overhauling the country’s economy.

The young prince was little known both at home and abroad before Salman became king in January 2015.

However, King Salman has significantly increased the powers of Mohammed, with observers describing the prince as the real power behind his father’s throne.

The power struggle inside the House of Saud came to light earlier this year when the Saudi king began to overhaul the government and offered positions of influence to a number of family members.

In two royal decrees in April, the Saudi king named two of his other sons, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman and Prince Khaled bin Salman, as state minister for energy affairs and ambassador to the United States, respectively.

Late April, media source disclosed that Mohammad bin Salman has literally bribed the new US administration by paying $56m to Donald Trump.

According to reports, bin Salman is paying off the US to buy its support for finding a grip over the crown.

"Since Uncle Sam's satisfaction is the first step for the Saudi princes to get on the crown, paying off Washington seems to be a taken-for-granted fact," Rami Khalil, a reporter of Naba' news website affiliated to the Saudi dissidents wrote.

He added that since the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) is like a sword over the head of the al-Saud, they have no way out but to bribe the US, noting that the Yemen quagmire is also another reason for Riyadh to seek Washington's support.

Also, a prominent Yemeni analyst said earlier this month that the US has been paid several trillion dollars by Saudi Arabia to protect its crown, adding that Riyadh has recently bribed Washington's support for the Yemen war with $200bln.

"Washington has asked for more money to defend the Saudi regime and Riyadh has recently paid $200bln to the US for the costs of its support for the war in Yemen," Saleh al-Qarshi told FNA.

"This is apart from the huge amounts of money that Saudi Arabia pays to the US treasury for protecting its crown," he added.

According to al-Qarshi, former Saudi Intelligence Chief Turki al-Feisal revealed last year that his country has bought the low-profit US treasury bonds to help the US economy.

As the defense minister, Mohammed bin Salman has faced strong international criticism for the bloody military campaign he launched against neighboring Yemen in 2015 amid his rivalry with bin Nayef, the then powerful interior minister.

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 14,000 Yemenis, including hundreds of women and children.

The World Health Organization (WHO) in Yemen also announced that more than a thousand Yemenis have died of cholera since April 2017 as Saudi Arabia's deadly campaign prevented the patients from travelling abroad for treatment and blocked the entry of medicine into the war-torn country, continues hitting residential areas across Yemen.

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 WHO now classifies Yemen as one of the worst humanitarian emergencies in the world alongside Syria, South Sudan, Nigeria and Iraq.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960331000852

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Trump, new Saudi crown prince share hardline views on Iran but risks abound

June 22, 2017

Saudi Arabia's new crown prince and likely next king shares U.S. President Donald Trump's hawkish view of Iran, but a more confrontational approach toward Tehran carries a risk of escalation in an unstable region, current and former U.S. officials said.

Iran will almost certainly respond to a more aggressive posture by the United States and its chief Sunni Arab ally in battlefields where Riyadh and Tehran are engaged in a regional tussle for influence.

Saudi King Salman made his son Mohammed bin Salman next in line to the throne on Wednesday, handing the 31-year-old sweeping powers, in a succession shake-up.

Prince Mohammed, widely referred to as "MbS," has ruled out any dialogue with arch rival Iran and pledged to protect his conservative kingdom from what he called Tehran's efforts to dominate the Muslim world.

In the first meeting between Trump and MbS at the White House in March, the two leaders noted the importance of "confronting Iran's destabilizing regional activities."

But that could have unintended consequences, said some current and former U.S. administration officials.

The greatest danger for the Trump administration, a longtime U.S. government expert on Middle East affairs said, was for the United States to be dragged deeper into the Sunni-Shi’ite conflict playing out across the Middle East, a danger that could be compounded by Trump’s delegation of responsibility for military decisions to the Pentagon.

If the administration gives U.S. commanders greater authority to respond to Iranian air and naval provocations in the Gulf and Strait of Hormuz, things could easily spiral out of control, the official said.

U.S.-backed forces fighting in Syria are also in close proximity with Iranian-backed forces supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. U.S. military jets twice this month shot down Iranian-made drones threatening U.S. and coalition forces in southeastern Syria. The United States also supports the Saudi-led coalition's war in Yemen through refueling, logistics and limited intelligence assistance.

"If we were to witness an incident at sea between an Iranian and a U.S. vessel in the Gulf, at a time of immense distrust and zero communication, how likely is it that the confrontation would be defused rather than exacerbated?" said Rob Malley, vice president for policy at the International Crisis Group.

"If there's a more bellicose attitude towards Iran, Iran is likely to respond," said Malley, a former senior adviser on Middle East affairs under President Barack Obama.

Eric Pelofsky, who dealt with Middle East issues at the White House under Obama, said the administration had "labored pretty hard to avoid a direct clash between Saudi Arabia and Iran on the high seas," in part because it would expand the Yemen conflict and there were questions "about what the outcome of such an encounter might be."

But Luke Coffey, director of the Foreign Policy Center at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, doubted Iran would retaliate in a major way.

"Iran has very limited ability or options to retaliate against U.S. forces in the region without suffering an overwhelming U.S. response," Coffey said.

"I think Tehran knows this so they will stick to low-level tactics like harassing U.S. ships in the Gulf. This will be just enough to be annoying but not enough to be considered 'retaliating,'" he said.

CLOSE RELATIONSHIP

MbS was the driving force behind the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen against Iran-allied Houthi rebels, launched in March 2015. He also appears to have orchestrated this month's breach with neighbor Qatar, which was accused by Riyadh and three other Arab states of cozying up to Iran, funding terrorism or fomenting regional instability. Qatar denies the allegations.

"There’s a danger that his foreign policy instincts, that do tend to be aggressive, especially toward Iran, but also toward Sunni extremism, might end up distracting from what he wants to get done economically," said a former Obama administration official, referring to "Vision 2030," MbS's signature economic and social reform agenda.

Malley, who has met MbS, said his attitude toward Iran "stems from his strongly felt conviction that for too long the kingdom has been a punching bag, a passive witness to Iranian action, true or assumed, in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia's own eastern province."

"His view is that Saudi Arabia absorbed those blows and now there's no reason to absorb them anymore," Malley said.

That dovetails neatly with Trump who has said Iran promotes evil and is a key source of funding and support for militant groups. MbS has also developed a close relationship with Trump's influential son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who at 36 is close in age to him.

MbS's "desire to confront or even defeat Iran has appeal in the White House, where the crown prince has done an admirable job forging a relationship with the Kushners, who are of his generation," said the U.S. official.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/22-Jun-2017/trump-new-saudi-crown-prince-share-hardline-views-on-iran-but-risks-abound

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Saudi Princes Warn King Salman against His Son's Succession

Jun 21, 2017

The petition that comes in the backdrop of widening differences in the Saudi royal family shows that they had protested at King Salman and his decision to dethrone bin Nayef to replace him with bin Salman.

The Arabic-language Al-Ahd news website released the documents related to the petition, and reported that the petition was sent from the office of Prince Muqrin bin Abdolaziz, the former crown prince, last December, and was signed by 21 princes.

According to the report, the princes had strongly warned the King against any such replacement of the heir to the throne.

Based on the report, the princes who opposed bin Salman's succession to the post of the crown prince declared in the petition that their intel shows that Mohammed bin Salman plans to become the de facto king if appointed as the next in line to the throne. The princes believed that the move would simply shatter the Saudi royal family and create an ambiguous future for the family. 

The Saudi king replaced Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz with his own son, Mohammed bin Salman, the deputy crown prince and defense minister.

According to a royal decree, Mohammed bin Salman, 31, was also named deputy prime minister, and shall maintain his post as defense minister, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Wednesday.

Saudi media announced that King Salman has called for a public pledge of allegiance to the new crown prince in the holy city of Mecca on Wednesday night.

The SPA also confirmed that 31 out of 34 members of Saudi Arabia’s succession committee chose Mohammed bin Salman as the crown prince.

Just days ago, the Saudi king stripped Nayef of his powers overseeing criminal investigations and designated a new public prosecution office to function directly under the king’s authority.

In a similar move back in 2015, the Saudi king had appointed his nephew, then deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef as the heir to the throne after removing his own half-brother Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz Al Saud from the position.

Under the new decree, King Salman further relieved Mohammed bin Nayef of his duties as the interior minister. He appointed Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef as the new interior minister and Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Salem as deputy interior minister.

Mohammed Bin Salman is already in charge of a vast portfolio as chief of the House of Saud royal court and chairman of the Council for Economic and Development Affairs, which is tasked with overhauling the country’s economy.

The young prince was little known both at home and abroad before Salman became king in January 2015.

However, King Salman has significantly increased the powers of Mohammed, with observers describing the prince as the real power behind his father’s throne.

The power struggle inside the House of Saud came to light earlier this year when the Saudi king began to overhaul the government and offered positions of influence to a number of family members.

In two royal decrees in April, the Saudi king named two of his other sons, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman and Prince Khaled bin Salman, as state minister for energy affairs and ambassador to the United States, respectively.

Late April, media source disclosed that Mohammad bin Salman has literally bribed the new US administration by paying $56m to Donald Trump.

According to reports, bin Salman is paying off the US to buy its support for finding a grip over the crown.

"Since Uncle Sam's satisfaction is the first step for the Saudi princes to get on the crown, paying off Washington seems to be a taken-for-granted fact," Rami Khalil, a reporter of Naba' news website affiliated to the Saudi dissidents wrote.

He added that since the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) is like a sword over the head of the al-Saud, they have no way out but to bribe the US, noting that the Yemen quagmire is also another reason for Riyadh to seek Washington's support.

Also, a prominent Yemeni analyst said earlier this month that the US has been paid several trillion dollars by Saudi Arabia to protect its crown, adding that Riyadh has recently bribed Washington's support for the Yemen war with $200bln.

"Washington has asked for more money to defend the Saudi regime and Riyadh has recently paid $200bln to the US for the costs of its support for the war in Yemen," Saleh al-Qarshi told FNA.

"This is apart from the huge amounts of money that Saudi Arabia pays to the US treasury for protecting its crown," he added.

According to al-Qarshi, former Saudi Intelligence Chief Turki al-Feisal revealed last year that his country has bought the low-profit US treasury bonds to help the US economy.

As the defense minister, Mohammed bin Salman has faced strong international criticism for the bloody military campaign he launched against neighboring Yemen in 2015 amid his rivalry with bin Nayef, the then powerful interior minister.

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 14,000 Yemenis, including hundreds of women and children.

The World Health Organization (WHO) in Yemen also announced that more than a thousand Yemenis have died of cholera since April 2017 as Saudi Arabia's deadly campaign prevented the patients from travelling abroad for treatment and blocked the entry of medicine into the war-torn country, continues hitting residential areas across Yemen.

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.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960331001205

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Syrian Army Takes Control of Several Areas in Dara'a Province, Kills Senior FSA Commander

Jun 21, 2017

The army units advanced deep into the Dara'a Al-Balad camp and captured the school complex and gas station of the camp after heavy clashes with Al-Nusra Front (also known as Fatah al-Sham Front or the Levant Liberation Board) terrorists.

Meantime, the Syrian air force also heavily pounded the terrorists' military positions in Dara'a al-Balad and al-Atisheh.

Commander of Tahrir Houran Brigade affiliated to the Free Syrian Army Issa al-Mosalemeh was killed in clashes with the army.

A military source pointed to the Syrian army's strategic advances in Dara'a and dominance over the air defense battalion and Tal al-Thalileh, and said that if the Syrian army reinforces its positions in these two areas and advances towards the borders with Jordan, it will be able to disconnect the Western and Northwestern parts of Dara'a from the Eastern and Northeastern parts of the province and lay siege on the terrorists from every direction.

The source also said that if the Syrian army reinforces its positions at the air defense battalion, Dara'a al-Balad and al-Monshiyeh will also be liberated.

The Syrian army resumed its military operations against the terrorist groups in Dara'a and made considerable advances by cutting the link between the militants in the Eastern and Western parts of the city on Tuesday.

The resumption of the Syrian army's military operation came after the ceasefire in the city ended and the Damascus government and the representatives of the terrorist groups did not reach an agreement.

The Syrian army troops managed to take control of the air defense battalion and Tal al-Sailieh after engaging in fierce clashes with the terrorist groups West of Dara'a Balad.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960331001181

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Tens of ISIL Terrorists Killed in Failed Attack on Deir Ezzur

Jun 21, 2017

The army units engaged in fierce clashes with the terrorists who had attacked the government forces' military positions in areas near al-Jabileh, Qata al-Talmieh and near al-Maqaber (cemetery) region.

The Syrian army killed 11 terrorists and injured some others during the clashes.

The Syrian army's artillery units also pounded ISIL's military positions around Tal al-Sonouf, Altim Oilfield and the two districts of al-Huweiqa and al-Amal, killing and injuring a number of terrorists.

Meantime, the Syrian air force also launched heavy attacks on ISIL's military positions in Huweiqa Qateh and al-Sana'e and al-Hamidiyeh districts as well as the areas surrounding al-Tamin brigade which resulted in the destruction of three military vehicles and death of tens of ISIL terrorists.

In a relevant development on Tuesday, the Syrian army backed by the country's air force heavily pounded ISIL's military positions and movements in Deir Ezzur, destroying the terrorist group's military bases.

The Syrian army troops launched heavy artillery attacks on ISIL's military positions and movements in the Surrounding areas of Panorama school, around Tal al-Barouk (al-Barouk hilltop), Ayash village, al-Tharda mountain and near Deir Ezzur military airport which resulted in the destruction of several ISIL military bases and death of several terrorists.

Meantime, the Syrian fighter jets pounded the military bases and movements of the ISIL in al-Hamidiyeh, Panorama and the two villages of al-Baqilieh and Ayash which resulted in the death and injury of a number of ISIL terrorists and destruction of their military vehicles.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960331001127

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Syrian Army Repels Attacks by ISIL, Al-Nusra Front on Homs Countryside

Jun 21, 2017

The Syrian army units engaged in heavy clashes with ISIL terrorists who were trying to penetrate into areas near Ain al-Dananir village and West of al-Moshrefeh town from Ain Hossein Jonoubi village Northeast of Homs and foiled their attacks.

The Syrian government troops killed most of the invaders and forced the rest of them to flee the scene.

On the other hand, other Syrian army troops engaged in heavy clashes with Al-Nusra Front terrorists near the two villages of Marimien and Qarmes in al-Holeh region in the Northwestern part of Homs. The Al-Nusra Front terrorists had attacked the government troops' military positions in areas near al-Houleh region.

Meantime, the Syrian army's artillery and missile units also pounded the Al-Nusran Front's military positions in the same region, killing and injuring a number of terrorists as well as destroying their military vehicles.

The Syrian air force also hit hard areas under the Al-Nusra Front's control in the village of Kafr Laha, Al-Tayyeba Qarbi and Tal Zahab in the outskirts of al-Houleh, inflicting heavy losses on them.

In a relevant development on Monday, the Syrian army kept momentum of its march on ISIL positions in Homs, and deployed troops at the entrance of the terrorist group's last stronghold in the Eastern parts of the province.

The army units managed to fully recapture the protected area of Talileh (Mahmieh al-Talileh) East of the ancient city of Palmyra (Tadmur).

Meantime, a military source reiterated that the Syrian soldiers also seized control of the Third power plant in Eastern Palmyra after reinforcing their military positions in Mahmieh al-Talileh region.

The source also underlined that the Third Power Plant is the starting point for Syria's military operations towards al-Sukhnah region.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960331001065

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Syrian Army Makes Major Advances Near Damascus

Jun 21, 2017

The Syrian army engaged in heavy clashes with the terrorists after taking control of Banr al-Qasab region in Southeastern Damascus and managed to take control of Um Jadian, Rasm al-Abdeh, Shalil, Zofreh and Areh al-Sarikhi from the direction of Rasm al-Sabiheh North of Um Jadian.

The Syrian army troops clashed with the terrorists and took control of Tal Maryam, Matr al-Qasa, Kuh al-Bir, Kharbeh al-Qasab from the second direction coming from Tal Al-Rabieh Northwest of Banr al-Qasb.

From the third direction, the Syrian soldiers clashed with terrorists from the direction of Western Tal al-Rabieh West of Banr al-Qasb and took control of Sahl al-Zanibeh/Zaynabieh plain and al-Nahdin hilltops.

In a relevant development on Tuesday, the Syrian army engaged in clashes with the terrorists in the Eastern Ghouta of Damascus and regained control of several points after militants violated the ceasefire.

The terrorists stationed in Ain Tarma and the adjacent farms in Eastern Ghouta targeted al-Dokhaniyeh region near Damascus with mortars, killing and wounding several civilians.

In response, the army forces attacked the terrorists' positions in Jobar, Ain Tarma and Arabayn in Eastern Damascus with artillery and missile fire and retook control of certain regions between Jobar and al-Kabas bridge by advancing through the Ain Tarma front.

Meantime, the army troops recaptured Be'r al-Qasab region in Southeastern Damascus after clashes with the terrorists.

The Syrian air force also pounded several positions of the terrorists in Jobar district of Eastern Damascus.

The Syrian army last week sent hundreds of reinforcements to Damascus province as security sources disclosed that the government troops are preparing for sensitive and massive military operations near the capital city.

"The Syrian army intends to kick off a large-scale military operation soon to recapture Jobar district from terrorists," a security source said.

The source went on to say that Damascus is in the final stage of preparations to dispatch troops and military equipment to the vital front while the missile and artillery units of the Syrian army are continuously targeting the terrorists' defense lines in the region.

"Jobar is highly important for the Damascus government because by recapturing this region, the terrorists will no longer be able to hit the capital city with their rockets and mortar shells.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960331000559

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Australia says to resume air strikes in Syria after Russia threat

22 June 2017

Australia said on Thursday it would resume air strikes into Syria, ending a two-day suspension implemented after the downing of a Syrian military aircraft triggered a Russian threat against Washington-led coalition planes.

Russia said on Monday it would treat US-led coalition aircraft flying west of the River Euphrates in Syria as potential targets and track them with missile systems and military aircraft, but stopped short of saying it would shoot them down.

As a result of the threat, Australia said on Tuesday it would suspend its military campaign.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/06/22/Australia-says-to-resume-air-strikes-in-Syria-after-Russia-threat.html

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UAE's Mohamed bin Zayed holds talks with French President

21 June 2017

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, on Wednesday met with President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, to discuss bilateral relations and the latest regional and international developments.

Sheikh Mohamed is on a two-day visit to the French capital, Paris.

Sheikh Mohamed conveyed the greetings of President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to the President Macron, reiterating his congratulations to the President and the people of France on the successful election.

Mohamed said that the UAE attaches special importance to relations with France, and continually works to develop these ties across all fields, as they represent a distinctive example of friendly cooperation between states based on understanding, mutual respect and common interests.

Closer cooperation

The French President welcomed Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed to Paris, and hoped that this visit will contribute to closer cooperation between the two countries, and continuing discussions on regional and international issues of mutual concern.

The meeting was also attended by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, and Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2017/06/21/Mohamed-bin-Zayed-holds-talks-with-French-President.html

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Iraqi children face sheer horror, unimaginable violence: UN

Jun 22, 2017

The UN warns against the extremely horrible conditions of Iraqi children as Daesh terrorists resort to more brutal tactics to save their last foothold in the country, saying children, particularly those in Mosul, are dying and suffering amid one of the “most brutal wars in history.”

“Across Iraq, children continue to witness sheer horror and unimaginable violence,” the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) said in a Thursday statement.

“They have been killed, injured, abducted and forced to shoot and kill in one of the most brutal wars in recent history,” it added.

The statement, prepared by UNICEF’s representative in Iraq Peter Hawkins, noted that Daesh terrorists deliberately target and kill children in Mosul to punish families and deter them from fleeing.

“They are using children as a weapon of war to prevent people from fleeing,” the statement said. “This just highlights how indiscriminate and catastrophic this war is.”

According to the report, 1,075 Iraqi children have been killed and 1,130 wounded or maimed since Daesh occupied nearly a third of Iraq in 2014. Over the past six months alone, 152 children were killed and 255 others injured, it added.

Meanwhile, over 4,650 children have become separated from their families.

Iraqi children have also been forced to take part in violence as Daesh and other armed groups have recruited at least 231 children under the age of 18, the report added.

UNICEF’s report said that over one million children have had their educations put on hold as a result of either militant rule or displacement.

“The country’s future security and economic strength is determined by what is happening to its children today,” the report said.

Last October, Iraqi army forces launched a massive operation to liberate Mosul and they are currently close to recapture the entire city, which served as their de facto capital of Daesh in Iraq.

The battle is estimated to have killed and injured thousands of civilians and displaced over 850,000 people. On the city’s west, entire blocks have been flattened by clashes and airstrikes.

Taking back the Old City of Mosul, a densely populated warren of narrow alleyways on the western side of Mosul, is crucial to recapturing the whole of the northern city.

Full report at:

http://217.218.67.231/Detail/2017/06/22/526117/Iraq-Mosul-UN-UNICEF-children

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Southeast Asia

 

Judge recuses himself from hearing SIB’s ‘Allah’ lawsuit

Ho Kit Yen

June 22, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR: A High Court judge today recused himself from hearing the lawsuit by Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) against the home ministry over the church’s right to use the word “Allah”.

Church’s lawyer Annou Xavier said that Justice Kamaluddin Md Said recused himself from hearing the lawsuit as he was the former senior federal counsel in another case that involved the use of “Allah”.

“He represented the government at the High Court for the case by the Titular Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur against the home minister in 2009,” Annou said, referring to the highly publicised case of the Catholic church’s challenge against the home minister’s decision to ban the use of the word “Allah” in the church’s publication, Herald.

Senior federal counsel Shamsul Bolhassan also confirmed the details of Justice Kamaluddin’s recusal.

The Catholic church won the challenge at the High Court on December 31, 2009 to quash the minister’s ban and uphold their right to use the “Allah” word.

However, the Court of Appeal overturned the decision on October 2013, ruling the government’s ban as valid.

The Catholic church failed to obtain leave to appeal at the Federal Court in January 2015.

Annou said the SIB case will be mentioned before the deputy registrar on July 6.

Previously, SIB president Rev Jerry Dusing filed an application to cross examine home ministry official Barkhiya Shahiruddin on how the government came to the conclusion that the word “Allah” could cause public disorder and confusion among Muslims.

SIB and Dusing filed the lawsuit on Dec 10, 2007, after three boxes of Malay-language Christian educational books that contained the word “Allah” were seized by the customs department at the then Low-Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) in Sepang in August 2007.

The books were returned to SIB in January 2008.

SIB, however, is seeking a declaration that it has the constitutional right to use the word in publications and for educational purposes.

The home minister had previously refused the importation of four titles of the publications.

Dusing said they want a clear resolution in the matter as the ruling would be a major issue for the SIB to address as Christians from Sabah and Sarawak, where SIB was founded, had always been using the word in their prayers, sermons, education and songs.

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2017/06/22/judge-recuses-himself-from-hearing-sibs-allah-lawsuit/

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Indonesia's largest Muslim youth group plans to tackle extremism through humanitarian declaration

21 Jun 2017

KUALA LUMPUR: An Indonesian doctor on Sumatra island and a teenager in Jakarta fled from their homes last month in fear of vigilantes from the radical Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) who threatened and harassed them.

A video of the 15-year-old male being surrounded and slapped by FPI members went viral online. Indonesian police have said the teen and his family are now in a “safe place”.

Both the teenager and the female doctor had posted comments on Facebook on FPI’s leader, Habib Rizeiq Shihab, who is wanted by police in a pornography case. Rizieq had fled Indonesia for Saudi Arabia to avoid being questioned by the authorities.

“If (Rizieq’s) innocent, why run? Doesn’t he have 300 lawyers and 7 million supporters by his side? Don’t run away, bib (Habib),” Dr Fiera Lovita wrote on her Facebook page, according to Indonesian online media Liputan6.

Rizieq’s followers were outraged and accused her of insulting Islam. They threatened to kill, stone and burn her alive, Dr Fiera was quoted as saying by Liputan6.

Dr Fiera has since fled her hometown in Solok, West Sumatra for Jakarta.

However, her passage to Jakarta was guarded by members of Indonesia’s largest Muslim youth organization, Gerakan Pemuda Ansor (GP Ansor). It is the youth wing of the country’s largest moderate Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), which has around 50 million followers.

“NU is the only organisation in this country right now who cares about NKRI (Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia), the minorities,“ a Jakarta resident, who declined to be named, told Channel NewsAsia.

“NU is the only one doing something to counter the radicals,” said the resident, referring to pro-Islamic State groups wanting to set up an Islamic caliphate in Indonesia.

ANSOR'S DECLARATION ON HUMANITARIAN ISLAM

Dr Fiera’s case came just days after Ansor held a congress to call for a re-examination of Islamic text to adapt it to modern civilization. It also issued a Declaration on Humanitarian Islam last month in Jombang, East Java.

“Civil discord, acts of terrorism, rebellion and outright warfare - all pursued in the name of Islam - will continue to plague Muslims and threaten humanity at large, until these issues are openly acknowledged and resolved,” Ansor said during the declaration.

Ansor’s move comes in the wake of rising intolerance and extremism in the country which has long been the face of moderate Islam.

One prominent case showcasing the trend is the jailing of Jakarta’s first ethnic Chinese Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama - also known as Ahok - for blasphemy, raising concerns that extremists are gaining an upperhand.

“This (Declaration of Humanitarian Islam) came about because of the rise of groups of people who claim monopoly over what is the 'truth' that is reflected in their attitude of playing the judge, intimidating and stepping on the dignity of others,” Yaqut Qoumas, the head of Ansor, told Channel NewsAsia.

According to Yaqut, lack of firm action from the government and police have served to embolden such groups.

“If they (government and police) are firm, I am sure they will not dare to commit acts that overstep legal boundaries,” Yaqut added.

Asked whether the declaration will help to reduce and prevent extremism, he said: “The Declaration on Humanitarian Islam will help. It does not just stop with a declaration but we are pushing for concrete action, calling for the religious clergy to re-contextualise Islamic Orthodoxy to adapt to modern times.”

GLOBAL MOVEMENT TO SPREAD HUMANITARIAN ISLAM

The 22-page Declaration on Humanitarian Islam provides a strategic road map for a coordinated, long-term effort to address issues in the Islamic world.

Key elements in the strategy include a new theological discourse to recontextualise Islamic teachings for the modern era, the development and adoption of new educational curricula throughout the Islamic world and ensuring that grassroots movements build societal consensus and political will.

“Our goal is to develop an international network leading to the emergence of a global movement which shall be dedicated to the well-being of humanity as a whole - and to the fostering of a truly global civilisation inspired by 'humanitarian Islam', likened to Islam rahmatan li al-‘alamin, which serves as a blessing for all creation,” said Ansor.

Ansor’s initiative raises the question - will it gain support within and outside of Indonesia for it to become mainstream?

Analysts believe that Ansor and its parent NU could face many challenges as Indonesia is seldom seen as a major player in the Islamic world, despite being the most populous Muslim nation.

“I think this initiative is very noble in its intent but I am doubtful that it will have much impact outside NU circles in Indonesia, not to mention the broader Muslim world,” said Associate Professor Grey Fealy from the Australian National University.

“Overseas, NU and Indonesian Islam have little influence, sadly. There have been lots of attempts to gain a higher profile for Indonesian Islamic thinking but with little success. Many in the Middle East and South Asia think of Indonesia as being on the periphery,” Assoc Prof Fealy added.

Assistant Professor James Hoesterey from Emory University, who attended the Ansor congress, welcomed the declaration but also admitted it faces many challenges.

“I think this is an interesting, and generally positive, development in NU and GP Ansor’s attempts to articulate a conceptual and theological model that makes room for local traditions and national attachments,” said Asst Prof Hoesterey.

“Unfortunately, Indonesia continues to suffer from a lack of leverage when it comes to religious authority on a global scale. I cannot imagine the global forum in which Ansor can recalibrate political theology more globally,” he added.

“The most recent 22-page document is a start, yet the hard work of actually articulating the theology has yet to be done. Indeed, that is what they are calling for. However, even if the theological argument is sound, on-the-ground political realities make the cause of moderate Islam much more daunting,” he said.

“In terms of the extent to which the wider world will recognize NU as the voice of moderate Islam, NU would have to change the positions of several senior ulamas (clerics) who have expressed intolerant views of Shias, Ahmadiyahs, and LGBT communities,” he said.

“Whether right or wrong, much of the wider Western world would want to see greater tolerance towards such communities before championing NU as the model for moderate Islam.”

While the conservative clerics of NU are in the minority, they nevertheless have made headlines as they are vocal in their views. NU has in the past protected the Ahmadiyahs in East Java when they were attacked by radicals who view them as apostates.

Within Indonesia, Ansor’s initiative has the support of one prominent and influential Muslim activist - Alissa Wahid, the great grand-daughter of NU’s founder Hasyim Asy’ari. Her father, Abdurrahman Wahid, led NU for 15 years before stepping down in 1999 when he was elected as the country’s president.

Full report at:

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/indonesia-s-largest-muslim-youth-group-plans-to-tackle-extremism-8965488?view=DEFAULT

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China may block India's move on JeM chief in UN once again

June 22, 2017

China may once again block the Indian ban move against Jesh-e-Muhammad (JeM) Chief Maulana Masood Azhar in United Nations.

According to Hindustan Times, China hinted yesterday at blocking a UN ban on Pakistan-based JeM leader Masood Azhar once again, saying that disagreements continue to prevail in the UN Committee related to terrorism issues in this particular case.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang’s comments came in response to a question on the Azhar issue ahead of its review by the 1267 Committee of the UN next month.

“We have talked about our position many times. We believe that the principles of objectivity and professionalism and justice shall be upheld,” Geng told media briefing in Beijing.

Geng was responding to a question whether there can be a forward movement over China’s repeated technical holds to block India’s move to get a UN ban on Azhar.

“At present, some members have disagreement over the listing matter. And China stands ready to remain in coordination and communication with the relevant parties on this issue,” he said.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/21-Jun-2017/china-may-block-india-s-move-on-jem-chief-in-un-once-again

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Indonesian Islamic sect say they’re ‘denied state IDs’ over their beliefs

Reuters | June 22, 2017

JAKARTA: Members of an Indonesian Islamic sect have issued a complaint that their human rights were breached by a local government refusing to issue them state ID cards unless they renounce their belief, a rights group said on Wednesday.

The Ahmadiyah identify themselves as Muslims, but believe another prophet followed the Prophet Mohammed, who founded Islam. Many mainstream Muslims and hardline groups accuse the sect and other Muslim minorities of apostasy.

A mob of 1,000 people beat to death three Ahmadis in an unprovoked attack in a village in Banten province, west of Jakarta, in 2011 and activists say the group continues to face discrimination.

Indonesia’s reputation for tolerance has come under renewed scrutiny since Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian, was sentenced last month to two years in prison for blasphemy in a trial that came after mass Islamist-led rallies and raised religious tensions to the highest in years.

Sixteen people from the village of Manislor in West Java, representing 1,400 members of the sect, told the ombudsman on Tuesday that their lives had been damaged by not having IDs for five years, said Syamsul Alam Agus, executive secretary of One Justice Foundation, a nonprofit organization.

Some were unable to register their marriages, Agus said, adding in one case an Ahmadi was refused treatment at a hospital because of a lack of ID.

According to Agus, in order to obtain ID documents, Ahmadis had to sign a form stating they were Muslims while reading the Shahada, an Islamic creed declaring belief in the oneness of God and Muhammad as God’s prophet.

“Not giving an electronic ID card to Manislor’s Ahmadiyah followers is not only a violation of human rights, but also breaking the law,” Agus said.

Indonesia requires a person to state their religion on official ID cards.

The ombudsman felt there had been maladministration at the local Kuningan government where Manislor is located, but had not formally issued any recommendation, said Ahmad Su’adi, an ombudsman official, adding that “the state cannot force people” to denounce or join a religion.

The Kuningan government could not be reached for comment on Wednesday, but in a June 2016 post on its website, the head of the Kuningan regency, Acep Purnama, defended its refusal to hand out identity documents to followers of Ahmadiyah and an animist belief, Sunda Wiwitan.

“We are not discriminating or being intolerant… But this is an issue of principle that has to be resolved together and must be accepted by all Kuningan people. This isn’t about majority or minority,” he was quoted as saying.

Full report at:

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/world/2017/06/22/indonesian-islamic-sect-say-theyre-denied-state-ids-over-their-beliefs/

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New Indonesia law to allow jailing of militant returnees

June 22, 2017

JAKARTA: Indonesia is set to approve a law allowing authorities to jail for up to 15 years citizens coming home after joining militant groups abroad, lawmakers said on Wednesday.

The tightening of anti-terrorism laws in the world's largest Muslim-majority country comes as concern grows about the spread of influence of Islamic State, and fears it wants a foothold in Southeast Asia as it loses territory in the Middle East.

"The new criminal code adopts the principle of universality, which means that wherever an Indonesian citizen commits a crime, they can be legally processed in Indonesia," said lawmaker Arsul Sani, referring to terrorism.

"They can face up to 15 years in prison," he said.

The legislation was likely to be approved in September, legislators said.

Law enforcement agencies have long complained of their inability to deal with people who have travelled abroad to join Islamic State and then returned home.

Authorities believe Islamic State has thousands of sympathizers in Indonesia.

Hundreds of Indonesian men, women, and children are thought to have travelled to Syria in recent years, and authorities believe about 400 Indonesians have joined Islamic State.

Dozens are believed to have returned to Southeast Asia.

The region, with a population of about 600 million, has suffered occasional militant attacks over the years since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

In particular, the Philippines and Indonesia have seen attacks by militants claiming allegiance to al Qaeda, and more recently to Islamic State.

Government forces in the predominantly Christian Philippines have been battling militants linked to Islamic State in a town in its Muslim-majority south for the past month.

In Indonesia, a suicide bomb attack by Islamic State-inspired militants at a bus station last month killed three police officers.

Indonesia's tightening of its security laws is part of a revision that President Joko Widodo has urged to meet the new danger.

Changes will broaden the definition of terrorism and give police powers to detain suspects without trial for longer.

Full report at:

http://english.astroawani.com/world-news/new-indonesia-law-allow-jailing-militant-returnees-147003

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Philippines Says Islamist Militants Free Hostages After Day-Long Drama

June 22, 2017

Manila. The Philippine military said Islamist militants fled from a primary school in the south on Wednesday (21/06), leaving behind 31 hostages unharmed, including 12 children, after a day-long gunbattle with troops.

There was no word of casualties in the incident at Pigcawayan town, which is about 190 km south of Marawi City, where fighting between government troops and pro-Islamic State militants has entered its fifth week.

"The enemy made a hasty withdrawal, leaving behind 31 hostages, among them 12 youngsters," Brigadier General Restituto Padilla told Reuters.

He said another 20 civilians who were trapped in the area because of the crossfire were also rescued.

Police said about 300 armed men from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) stormed the school early on Wednesday. Padilla, however, said later only about 50 militants were involved.

Military officials were initially not certain if any hostages were taken and whether they included children.

Community leaders in the area were called in to help in negotiations to rescue the hostages, Padilla said.

"It's over ... but we're also on guard because they might carry out other attacks," said Padilla.

Abu Misry Mama, a spokesman for the BIFF, told Reuters that the militants had taken civilians to a safe place, away from any crossfire, and did not intend to hold them hostage.

Asked earlier if they would be freed, Mama said: "Yes. We're not kidnappers."

Both Pigcawayan and Marawi are on the large southern island of Mindanao.

Some members of the BIFF have joined fighters from two more powerful Islamist factions, the Maute group and Abu Sayyaf, who occupied the town of Marawi a month ago and have been battling government forces there since.

But Padilla said the incident at Pigcawayan was not related to the fighting in Marawi. "This has come from a group that has long committed harassment," he said.

The seizure of Marawi and the dogged resistance by the rebels there who have pledged allegiance to Islamic State has alarmed Southeast Asian countries.

Full report at:

http://jakartaglobe.id/international/philippines-says-islamist-militants-free-hostages-day-long-drama/

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India

 

Men Held For Sedition after Cheering Pakistan, Families Write To President

June 22, 2017

By Milind Ghatwai

With 15 men in jail on sedition charges for allegedly raising pro-Pakistan slogans after India’s loss in the Champions Trophy final, and the police looking for four more, fear has engulfed this small village with a large Muslim population.

Demanding a probe by an agency other than the police, relatives of the arrested men on Wednesday wrote to the President, the national and state human rights commissions and national and state minority commissions, among other agencies, saying that the village never witnessed any communal incident in the past.

Many men have fled the village, fearing that the police will knock on their doors at night. “There may have been three or four persons who burst crackers. We don’t know who they are, but the entire community is being branded anti-social and taunted as terrorists,’’ Gulzar Kasam, whose 23-year-old son Aitabar is among those arrested, told The Indian Express on Wednesday.

When the family members visited the Burhanpur court premises Tuesday, they had a tough time as some right-wing activists, advocates and commoners called them names. “They raised slogans like ‘Hindustan Zindabad’. We also said ‘Hindustan Zindabad’ because we love the country,’’ the 62-year-old said, claiming that before Sunday, the police rarely came to the village and that someone had hatched a conspiracy to whip up communal tension.

A majority of those arrested are daily wagers, while some own one or two acres of land. “They have taken innocent youths into custody. Some were held just because they were scared of the police and were trying to run away from them,’’ claimed Musharraf Tadvi, who said his minor son had been arrested.

Most of those arrested are Tadvi Pathans, tribals who converted to Islam.

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/madhya-pradesh-men-held-for-sedition-after-cheering-pakistan-families-write-to-president-4716083/

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Triple Talaq misunderstood: BJP Muslim leader

Jun 21, 2017

VIJAYAWADA: BJP minority morcha national president, Abdul Rasheed Ansari observed that triple talaq is being misunderstood and the present usage of it by Muslims in the country is against the true spirit of Islam.

"When misunderstandings crop up among a couple husband can seek separation. It will take at least three months from first talaq utterance to separation. After the first utterance one has to wait for next moon and then another moon before the second and third utterance. Meanwhile, both can go for reconciliation with religious heads and other elders. But nowadays it is not being followed which is against the true spirit of Islam," Rashid said in Vijayawada on Wednesday.

Talking to reporters, Rashid explained that the BJP led NDA government has launched many innovative schemes to uplift minorities both socially and economically. He pointed that Muslim madrasas are being developed in a scientific manner by including subjects like science and mathematics so that the students will be industry-ready when they pass out of a madarsa.

He reiterated that there was a wrong perception that minorities are not with BJP. "Muslims played a crucial role with a good voting percentage for the BJP's win in the polls held in the northern India though tickets were not given to them due to various reasons. Minorities are with BJP. In Tripura, both Muslims and Christians are looking for a change from the communists' misrule for a long time. They are looking at BJP. Similar thing happened in Assam," added the BJP leader.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/triple-talaq-misunderstood-bjp-muslim-leader/articleshow/59253876.cms

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In one fell swoop, India slams Pakistan, as well as UN, US inaction on terror safe havens

Jun 22, 2017

NEW DELHI: In one fell swoop, and without once mentioning Pakistan or the US, India yesterday came down heavily on both countries, as well as on the UN, for their collective inaction on safe havens for terrorist groups in Pakistan.

However, Syed Akbaruddin, India's envoy at the UN, did make sure he mentioned the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, Al-Qaeda, Daesh, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, in his speech Wednesday at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), on the security situation in Afghanistan.

And, by raising questions about how and why terrorist groups in Afghanistan continue to get away with their agenda of violence, Akbaruddin didn't need to name Pakistan and the US to make absolutely clear whom he was talking about.

"Clearly, the international community is dealing in Afghanistan with an adversary who is not averse to flagrantly violating international humanitarian and human rights laws; an adversary flush with resources, weapons and operational support; an adversary that has access to sanctuaries outside the sovereignty of Afghanistan and operational command of the international forces deployed there; an adversary that sees no reason or incentive to give up violence and participate in the creation of a democratic, united, stable, secure and prosperous state," Akbaruddin said.

Kabul has for long blamed terrorists in Pakistan's safe havens+ for the attacks on Afghanistan. The US has also acknowledged - many times - the existence of such safe havens in Pakistan+ and various state forces' support to them. And yet, US military aid to Pakistan continues.

That's what Akbaruddin was alluding to when he said the situation in Afghanistan "can't change" when participants on the international stage "can't or are unwilling to see" the various state and non-state agencies roiling the situation there.

"This we believe, for a long time, has remained the conundrum that the international community has faced in Afghanistan. The international community's collective inability and unwillingness to see the problem for what it is has inflicted huge costs on the people of Afghanistan," India's UN envoy said.

Akbaruddin held even the UNSC culpable for Afghanistan's security situation.

"While no two conflicts are comparable, one wonders why, despite the worst possible violence witnessed in Afghanistan, this Council doesn't think appropriate to meet more often than at routine quarterly debates on the situation in Afghanistan," said Akbaruddin, taking a jab at one of those very "routine quarterly debates" he was participating in, thus underscoring his message.

Here are some of the questions Akbaruddin raised in his debate on Afghanistan:

- "... where are these anti-Government elements getting their weapons, explosives, training and funding from?

- "Where do they find safe havens and sanctuaries?

- "How is it that these elements have stood up against one of the biggest collective military efforts in the world?

- "How is it that these elements collaborate with the world's most dreadful terrorists in killing and brutalizing the Afghans?"

Akbaruddin further said international bodies must not differentiate between 'good terrorists and 'bad terrorists' or play one group against the other.

"The Taliban, Haqqani Network, Al-Qaeda, Daesh, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad and others of their ilk are all terror organizations, many of them proscribed by the UN. They should be treated like terrorist organizations with no justifications offered for their activities," he said.

India's UN envoy said India, unlike most, is standing with Afghanistan. He mentioned the direct air corridor New Delhi set up between the two countries which became operational earlier this week, "overcoming the obstructions our two countries have faced in connecting and trading with each other."

The obstruction he was referring to is Pakistan.

Akbaruddin made an impassioned plea to the international community to not turn its back on Afghanistan.

"We see a growing tendency of treating violence in Afghanistan as a routine. Brutalities by terrorist and criminal networks are ignored under the label of anti-Government elements or a consequence of a civil and political conflict," he said.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/in-one-fell-swoop-india-slams-pakistan-as-well-as-un-us-inaction-on-terror-safe-havens-there/articleshow/59265165.cms

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Top Hizb ultra among 2 killed in Sopore

Jun 22, 2017

SRINAGAR: Two terrorists, including a top Hizbul Mujahideen commander, were killed in an encounter in Baramulla's Sopore town on Wednesday.

According to sources, the terrorists started shooting at a search party comprising the Army and CRPF before 'Sehri' (pre-dawn meals), forcing them to retaliate. "The holedup militants were asked to surrender through loudspeakers, but they continuously fired upon the joint search party.

Two Hizb militants were killed," a police offiicer said. The terrorists were identified as Basit Ahmad Mir alias Tahir, of Andergam Pattan, and commander Gulzar Ahmad Lone, alias Ibrahim, of Brat, Sopore. Security forces recovered two AK 47 Rifles, five AK magazines, 124 AK rounds, two pouches and a grenade from the encounter site.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/top-hizb-ultra-among-2-killed-in-sopore/articleshow/59261728.cms

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North America

 

FBI investigating Michigan airport stabbing as ‘terrorism’

22 June 2017

The FBI said Wednesday it is investigating the stabbing of a police officer at a Michigan airport on Wednesday morning as an “act of terrorism.”

The suspect, who is in custody and cooperating with investigators, is a Canadian resident in his 50s named Amor Ftouhi, FBI special agent David Gelios told a news conference.

Authorities were conducting joint operations in Canada and the US in the wake of the non-fatal stabbing at Bishop International Airport in Flint, Michigan, Gelios said.

Ftouhi, described by police as having a “hatred for the United States,” is accused of stabbing airport officer Jeff Neville in the neck with a 12-inch knife in the public area of the airport.

The officer was in stable condition after undergoing surgery.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2017/06/22/FBI-investigating-Michigan-airport-stabbing-as-terrorism-.html

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$12K stolen from 6 Canadian mosques

21 June 2017

Canadian police have arrested a male suspect who allegedly stole $CAN12,000 from donation boxes in six mosques in the city of Mississauga, just outside of Toronto, Canadian media reported Tuesday.

Police said the man entered the religious buildings on separate occasions in early to mid-June and either grabbed the boxes containing cash and removed them, or broke into the boxes and pocketed the money.

Director Ez Alwi of Jamia Islamia Canada, established in 1992, said Tuesday that about $3,500 was taken from the mosque donation box.

“This is the first time it has happened,” he said. When arrested, police told the mosque director the suspect had only about $100 in his pocket, so Alwi said it was unlikely the $3,500 would be recovered.

“No, I don’t think so,” he said, adding that the congregation had earlier aided the suspect. “He was hungry… (we) helped him out.”

Alwi said he thought theft was the only motive for the crime.

Police said the suspect entered mosques during open hours, but in two of the six cases, he gained entry after hours.

Full report at:

http://www.worldbulletin.net/america-canada/191023/12k-stolen-from-6-canadian-mosques

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Canada: Anti-terror law beefs up cyber threat powers

21 June 2017

New anti-terror laws introduced Tuesday include a beefed-up security force that would be able to launch cyber attacks against terrorist groups and other governments.

Currently, the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) does not have the power to act outside Canadian government networks to combat cyber threats, Global News reported.

It is just one measure in the new legislation that is designed to protect the privacy rights of Canadians while enhancing national security, the government said on its website.

The changes come after the federal government solicited opinions from the public.

“Canadians were clear in the consultation that they expect their rights and freedoms to be protected at the same time as their security,” Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said in a written statement. “The measures introduced today reflect that expectation and strengthen Canada’s ability to address evolving threats.”

The legislation creates the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency that will oversee Canada’s security and intelligence services to ensure citizen’s rights are protected from unnecessary harassment under the banner of terror investigations.

The legislation also more clearly defines “terrorist propaganda” – a vague term coined in legislation passed by the previous Conservative government.

Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan said the new powers for the CSE improves its ability to fight cyber threats and is of particular importance.

“CSE operates in a rapidly changing technological world,” he said in a written statement. “The proposed CSE Act will maintain CSE’s ability to provide the Government of Canada with essential intelligence necessary to protect Canadians and will help strengthen our national cyber defenses, while at the same time increasing transparency, accountability and oversight of these activities.”

Full report at:

http://www.worldbulletin.net/america-canada/191014/canada-anti-terror-law-beefs-up-cyber-threat-powers

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Afghan army uniforms very expensive, says US watchdog

June 22, 2017

WASHINGTON: The Pentagon wasted millions of dollars buying the Afghan army a woodland camouflage uniform that was apparently chosen on a whim and may have made soldiers easier to spot, a US government watchdog said on Wednesday.

The office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said the Pentagon may have spent as much as $28 million more than necessary when it decided in 2007 to purchase the dark-green camouflage uniforms.

Pentagon officials at the time “ran across” the website of a private company that owned a proprietary camo design and showed these to Afghanistan’s then defence minister, Abdul Rahim Wardak, the SIGAR report said, citing Pentagon officials. He “liked what he saw. He liked the woodland, urban and temperate patterns,” it added.

After further consultation with the Afghan defence ministry, officials decided in 2007 to adopt the camouflage pattern containing a “forest” colour scheme for army uniforms, “despite the fact that forests cover only 2.1 per cent of Afghanistan’s total land area”, SIGAR noted.

That decision resulted in the purchase of 1,364,602 such uniforms and 88,010 extra pairs of pants between November 2008 and January this year.

The proprietary design meant the uniforms cost about 40 per cent more than non-proprietary camouflage.

The highly critical SIGAR report also says officials ordered the uniforms without conducting any formal testing or evaluation.

“As a result, neither [the US Department of Defence] nor the Afghan government knows whether the ANA [Afghan National Army] uniform is appropriate to the Afghan environment, or whether it actually hinders their operations by providing a more clearly visible target to the enemy,” SIGAR said.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/22-Jun-2017/afghan-army-uniforms-very-expensive-says-us-watchdog

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Pakistan

 

Pakistani clerics thrash journalists for drinking water during Ramzan fast

June 21, 2017

The crew of a news TV channel in Pakistan’s Islamabad was beaten up by Muslim clerics at a mosque and their camera equipment also broken. Their crime — a crew member allegedly drank water inside the mosque during fasting hours. Currently, the Islamic month of Ramzan is under way during which Muslims abstain from food and water from dawn to dusk.

A report in The Express Tribune on Wednesday said the crew was of Pakistan’s Din News channel that had come to cover an event. The cameraman named Rashid Azeem visited the nearby Haqqania Masjid to offer afternoon prayers.

The report said Rashid was performing ablution in the mosque when the cleric confronted him. He questioned why Rashid wasn’t fasting during Ramzan and drinking water instead. After both got into a spat, Rashid’s crew members came to the mosque to his rescue and this led to a commotion.

Rashid said the crew took out their cameras to record outside the mosque and it enraged the clerics and students. They thrashed Rashid and broke his camera.

The report said the clerics allegedly prevented other journalists who were in the vicinity to not shoot the scene. It cited eyewitnesses saying the clerics, after taking photographs of the Din News crew members, threw stones at their news van.

The news crew escaped from the location and took refuge at the nearby Margalla police station and filed a complaint. Two clerics from the mosque went to the police and admitted that they broke the camera of the crew. They said the squabble began when they tried to stop the crew from drinking water during fasting hours.

“They were not observing fast and I tried to stop them,” head cleric Israrullah told Margalla SHO Ilyas Mekin, according to The Express Tribune report. He told the police that after the commotion inside the mosque the crew went to offer prayers and he went outside to the market and upon returning found the lot beating his brother.

“When my brother stopped them, they manhandled him and started beating him. When I saw this I took their camera and smashed it,” he said.

The crew refused the clerics’ claim that they drank water and said that the clerics were not in the right to assault them and smash their equipment. Both the crew and the clerics have filed complaints against each other. Around 10 unidentified suspects were booked on the TV crew’s complaint on counts of issuing threats, damage to property and wrongful confinement.

The report cited officials as saying that both sides can be booked–the clerics for assault and the crew for breaking the Ramzan sanctity law. Pakistan has a Ramzan sanctity law called the Ehteram-e-Ramzan Ordinance which, among other things, bars eating or drinking food, water or any edible consumable in public during Ramzan fasting hours. The law carries a punitive element as well which entails a monetary fine as well as imprisonment for up to three months.

http://indianexpress.com/article/pakistan/ramadan-ramzan-ramazan-2017-pakistani-clerics-thrash-journalists-for-drinking-water-during-ramzan-fasting-hours-4714779/

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International Yoga Day Celebrated In Pakistan Too

June 22, 2017

Organisers plan for a bigger event after Ramzan.

The third International Yoga Day was celebrated in Pakistan too but on a muted scale. The organisers said a much bigger event will follow after Ramzan ends.

Pakistani yoga guru Shamshad Haider, who runs over 50 clubs across the country, said in a telephonic interview from Islamabad: “Due to Ramdan and people preparing for Eid, we could not organise a big event this year.”

“We have routine sessions in all our clubs today but after Eid we are preparing for a much larger event in Rawalpindi,” Haider said.. He said his team expected more than 1,000 people to take part.

The Indian High Commission also organised a yoga camp in Islamabad on Sunday, attended by India’s envoy Gautam Bambawale and other diplomats.

Asked about the Pakistan government not celebrating the yoga day, Mr. Haider, founder of Yoga Pakistan and Way of Nature, says his clubs have people from all religions.

“It (government) never stopped us from doing yoga. It has granted us permission to hold yoga camps on its land and has also allowed us to promote yoga.”

Yogi Haider — as he is widely known — said he doesn’t want any help from the government or the Indian High Commission to hold events.

Born in Pakistani Punjab, Mr. Haider, unlike many Muslims, is emphatic that yoga has nothing to do with Hindu religion.

“Yoga helps to gain mental stability, peace, balanced living. It teaches us discipline which is vital in Islam and all religions.”

Last year, on the second International Day of Yoga, Mr. Haider did yogic asanas along with 20,000 yoga students across Pakistan —— but minus media publicity.

Mr. Haider and his 100 trainers have quietly succeeded in attracting tens of thousands of Pakistanis to yoga, achieving a feat that once seemed near impossible.

“Yoga belongs to humanity in the form of a pure science and is not the sole entity of India,” he said.

Among the over 50 yoga clubs in Pakistan, Mr. Haider oversees the major ones in Islamabad, Lahore and Rawalpindi.

Even some Islamic clerics come to him to learn and practise yoga and meditation.

Mr. Haider says his inspiration and role model was S.N. Goenka, the Myanmar-born master of Vipassana meditation.

“He taught me meditation when I travelled to India. That changed my life. After that I started yoga sessions in Pakistan. He was my hero.”

Full report at:

http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/international-yoga-day-celebrated-in-pakistan/article19114804.ece

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CTD seeks ban on 25 websites spreading ‘terrorism, extremism’

June 22, 2017

KARACHI: The Counter-Terrorism Department of Sindh police has prepared a consolidated list of websites, web pages and social media accounts spreading extremism and terrorism, it emerged on Wednesday.

The CTD has written a letter to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, Federal Investigation Agency and other authorities for closing/banning of such websites, web pages and social media accounts to foil the designs of banned militant organisations.

“We have identified 25 such websites, which were involved in spreading religious and ethnic extremism and terrorism,” said Additional IG Dr Sanaullah Abbasi heading the CTD.

He said the CTD had sent a list of 25 sites with the recommendation that they should be banned by the PTA. These sites were linked with banned organisations or promoting radical thought, he added.

Although not all the websites were spreading terror, they were promoting radical thought and it was the assessment of the CTD that such sites often acted as ‘entry sites’ for individuals who were easily influenced to join extremist groups, he added.

Dr Abbasi said on the CTD’s recommendations, the relevant authorities had banned some websites including those which ‘misrepresented’ the teachings of the Holy Quran, condemned those religious scholars who did not support the extremist point of view, and were actively promoting intolerance by pronouncing controversial decrees.

The officer said there were certain social media pages on Facebook which were glorifying Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and other extremist groups. Such pages must be banned, he added.

Radicalisation on a massive scale

Dr Abbasi was of the opinion that indoctrination and radicalisation of youths, both male and female, was being done on a massive scale through the internet. “Internet has provided [them] space for radicalisation,” apprehended the CTD chief. This had been previously done in the Western countries and at present the extremist outfits were focusing on the radicalisation of youths in Pakistan, he added.

However, the officer agreed that dissemination of such content might continue even if those pages were shut down. For this reason, there was a need for a “continuous struggle” against extremism and terrorism to purge the society of all such elements, he added.

The CTD said ‘Umar Media’ was the account of banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan. A video was broadcasted by Fazlullah Khorasani in which he had given the task to militants for attacks in the cities of Pakistan. It was pointed out that in one such post the TTP claimed responsibility for an attack on the army in Lahore. Fazlullah had claimed that the TTP had been planning such an attack for some time.

According to CTD data of such social media accounts, a Facebook ID account has been opened with the name of ‘Samma News’. This was used to create a page “Liwa Zainebiyoun” by a contingent of Pakistani Shia fighters in Syria. The CTD apprehended that it could emerge as a sectarian militant group.

Another website active in the name of Jaishul Adl had claimed the responsibility for an attack in which nine Iranian border guards were killed and two others were wounded during patrolling along the Pakistan-Iran border on April 26, 2017.

Another Facebook account was of Pashtunistan Liberation Army-PLA, created by Umar Daud Khattak. It claimed to have launched an ‘armed struggle against Pakistan’, as it was posing “provocative activities” against the state. It appeared to be a new militant organisation advocating the creation of a separate state of ‘Pashtunistan’, said the CTD.

The CTD said that one website, which was allegedly related to a mosque in Bahawalpur, was spreading messages about so-called jihad.

Another website was involved in spreading the message ‘Shariat ya Shahadat’.

The CTD said that many people had contacted them through messages for joining ‘jihad’.

Fighters in Syria

Meanwhile, SSP CTD Omer Shahid Hamid told Dawn that many people from Pakistan, including Karachi, had gone to fight in Syria belonging to both Sunni and Shia communities. There were reports that some families might have returned from Syria and Iraq but their assessment was that active fighters would not return before an end to the conflict in Syria. The case of Afghan war indicated that the jihadi elements returned to their countries after the end of the conflict there, he added.

Therefore, he said, it was their apprehension that sectarianism might increase in Pakistan after the return of these fighters belonging to both sects.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1341033/ctd-seeks-ban-on-25-websites-spreading-terrorism-extremism

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Pakistan tightens business, work visas for Chinese nationals

Jun 22, 2017,

NEW DELHI: Pakistan has announced new rules to tighten visa issuance - especially business and work visas - for Chinese nationals, reported Pakistani media.

Pakistan's interior ministry announced these new visa rules for those from China on Wednesday, a week after it said the two Chinese nationals recently killed in Balochistan+ were "preaching" Christianity illegally and in violation of their business visas. The tightening comes in the form of extra layers of security, through requirements like endorsed letters from chambers of commerce, as well as through clearances required even from Chinese authorities, in some cases.

Chinese nationals seeking business visas for Pakistan would have to show an invitation from a body recognized by Pakistani missions in China, Dawn wrote. That invitation has to then be certified and endorsed by a recognised chambers of commerce and industry. Further, Chinese nationals will need a letter from commercial attaches and other designated officers of Pakistan who are posted abroad for the promotion of business activities, the Nation reported.

The ministry also decided to become stricter on long-term visa extensions for Chinese citizens already in Pakistan. The powers of regional passport offices to grant visa extensions are to be immediately withdrawn. All cases of extension to business visas will now be dealt with at Pakistan's immigration headquarters in Islamabad.

In addition, Pakistani embassies and missions in China would be authorised to issue only one-year multiple-entry work visas for Chinese nationals coming to Pakistan to work on projects. Even those will be issued only after the Pakistani mission receives security clearance from Chinese authorities.

On June 8, ISIS claimed responsibility for the killing of the two Chinese nationals+ who had been abducted in Balochistan's Quetta on May 24.

Last week, Islamabad said the murdered duo were preachers working for a South Korean Christian organization. The abductees "were engaged in preaching under the garb of learning Urdu from a Korean national", Pakistan's interior ministry said.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/pakistan-tightens-business-work-visas-for-chinese-nationals/articleshow/59263525.cms

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Forced conversions resulting in mass exodus of Hindus from Pakistan

June 21, 2017

The population of Hindus in Pakistan has declined drastically from about 23 per cent in 1947 to only 6 per cent now due to forced conversions, oppression and suppression in the Islamic nation the Nation reported. The minority Hindu girls are being abducted, forcibly converted and married to Muslims and thus the minority community, which was once a major society in Pakistan has been reduced to the margins.

The majority of the Hindu population is settled in Sindh and the province has witnessed a rise in crimes targeting the religious minority. Hindu girls are specifically targeted to convert them to Islam, The newspaper reported. There have been many instances when Hindus belonging to lower castes are being forcibly converted while upper-caste Hindus complain of their traders being kidnapped for ransom.

Pakistan was born with the promise that everyone was free to practice their religion and would be guaranteed basic rights but Hindus have been denied even the freedom to live with respect. According to a report by Movement for Solidarity and Peace, 1000 non-Muslim girls are converted to Islam every year in Pakistan and in Sindh, the ratio is 20 or more girls per month.

“A number of Muslim MNAs, he said, have mocked Hindus for worshiping cows. In their mindless hate-spewing, they ignore the fact that four million Hindus live in Pakistan and their derogatory words hurt the religious sentiments of the local Hindu community. Perhaps, they too need to be sensitised and educated that all Hindus are not Indians and all Indians are not Hindus. India has over 200 million Muslims and other minority groups as well, ” the Dawn had reported earlier.

In the 1998 Census the Hindu population was found to be 2,443,614. Hindus are found in all provinces of Pakistan but are mostly concentrated in Sindh. They speak a variety of languages such as Sindhi, Seraiki, Aer, Dhatki, Gera, Goaria, Gurgula, Jandavra, Kabutra, Koli, Loarki, Marwari, Sansi, Vaghri and Gujarati, according to wikipedia, The atrocities by the Pakistani government and the stern conditions of the Sharia Law has resulted into the migration of 5000 Hindu families from Pakistan to India per year.

Full report at:

http://www.financialexpress.com/world-news/forced-conversions-resulting-in-mass-exodus-of-hindus-from-pakistan/729213/

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Pakistan to stay neutral in Gulf standoff: Aziz

June 22, 2017

ISLAMABAD - Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz yesterday said since former army chief Gen Raheel Sharif was leading the Saudi-led military coalition against terrorism in an individual capacity, he could not be summoned back.

Briefing the Senate standing committee here, Aziz said Pakistan was not taking sides in the Gulf crisis. “Pakistan will pursue a neutral policy on the Gulf crisis and try its level best for reconciliation among brotherly Muslim countries. Raheel Sharif was not sent by the government to lead the alliance, so he cannot be asked to return,” he said.

The meeting was aimed to discuss the ongoing diplomatic rift in the Middle East that began after Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Yemen and the Maldives severed diplomatic ties with Qatar.

Pakistan People’s Party Senator Kareem Khawaja earlier suggested that General Raheel Sharif should be asked to return so that Pakistan could play a neutral role.

Aziz said Sharif, who retired as the army chief last year, was not a government nominee for the job, but was working in his personal capacity.

This month, Pakistan said it had deployed no troops in Qatar amid the oil-rich country’s standoff with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.

Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said some false reports appeared to be part of a malicious campaign aimed at creating misunderstanding between Pakistan and Muslim countries in the Gulf. The reports said Pakistan had decided to send military contingent to Qatar following Turkey who sent troops to the state.

There were claims that Pakistan could send up to 20,000 soldiers to Qatar.

This came after Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terror networks. Pakistan did not follow the friendly countries as it also had close ties with Qatar. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has personal ties with both the Saudi and Qatari royal families. Nawaz Sharif has also launched a campaign to settle the Saudi-Qatar row through talks.

The Saudi-Qatari row comes at a time when Pakistan is going through tensions with India, Iran and Afghanistan.

The government had allowed Raheel Sharif to command a Saudi Arabia-led military alliance of 39 Muslim majority states. The alliance was formed by Saudi Arabia in December 2015 with its headquarters in Riyadh. Iran had objected to the formation of the alliance, fearing it was a Sunni-alliance rather than a Muslim alliance. Considering Iran’s objections, Pakistan had also delayed giving approval to Gen Raheel Sharif for several months.

Sartaj Aziz told the Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee that General Sharif was not sent to Saudi Arabia by the government in an official capacity. He said the parliamentary resolution on the Saudi Arabia-Yemen issue passed in April 2015 was the central point of Pakistan’s policy on the issue.

When Saudi Arabia launched a military operation against Yemen in 2015, the parliament adopted the resolution unanimously, proposing Pakistan “should maintain neutrality in the conflict so as to be able to play a proactive diplomatic role to end the crisis.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Senator Shibli Faraz pointed out that if General Sharif was asked to return to Pakistan, relations with Saudi Arabia would be negatively affected.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/editors-picks/22-Jun-2017/pakistan-to-stay-neutral-in-gulf-standoff-aziz

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ASF recovers heroin from Bahrain-bound passenger at Islamabad airport

June 22, 2017

The Airport Security Force (ASF) on Thursday foiled an attempt to smuggle drugs to Bahrain, seizing one kilogramme of heroin from a passenger travelling from the Benazir Bhutto International Airport in Islamabad.

According to the ASF, the drugs were recovered from the passenger's luggage during a security check-in for Gulf Air 771 at the Islamabad airport.

The passenger, a resident of Mardan, was handed over to the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF).

An official told DawnNews that Shah was later shifted to the ANF police station in Rawalpindi, where a case was registered against him and an investigation initiated.

The ASF added that it was possible Shah was working as part of an organised group to smuggle drugs abroad.

The incident follows a spiralling number of cases of narcotics being recovered from flights originating from Pakistan.

Last month, 20kg of heroin were recovered from a PIA London-bound flight before it departed from Islamabad Airport.

The drugs were recovered from flight 785 during a scheduled inspection.

A week before that, in a similar drug bust, British officials had found a "quantity of heroin" on the same flight, but in a different aircraft, after it landed at London's Heathrow Airport.

British authorities had detained five members of the crew after the bust on charges of smuggling and money laundering.

In an attempt to curb drug trafficking via the national carrier, a body was formed to unearth an “organised gang” believed to be involved in smuggling narcotics out of the country.

The Central Operational Committee (COC), headed by the Civil Aviation Authority director general, was also tasked with ensuring foolproof security at all airports across the country. It comprises experts from the ASF, ANF, Customs and PIA.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1341061/asf-recovers-heroin-from-bahrain-bound-passenger-at-islamabad-airport

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Iran drone shot down inside Pakistan: FO

June 22, 2017

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan shot down an Iranian Unmanned Aerial Vehicle in Panjgur sector on the Pak-Iran border, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

The drone was hit by Pakistan Air Force as it was unidentified and was flying at around 3-4 kilometres inside Pakistani territory, said a foreign ministry statement.

“Pakistan has already shared the information about striking down of this drone with the Iranian authorities indicating that the drone was struck down by our security forces as it was unmarked and there was no prior information about its flight,” it said.

Pakistan and Iran are going through a tense phase of bilateral ties as Tehran blames Islamabad of providing shelter to terrorists. Pakistan rejects the allegations. Recently, Iran even threatened to strike inside Pakistan to target terrorists.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/national/22-Jun-2017/iran-drone-shot-down-inside-pakistan-fo

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South Asia

 

Sheikh Hasina’s hate statues can only weaken democracy in Bangladesh

Srinath Raghavan

Jun 21, 2017

Earlier this week, the Bangladesh government made a curious announcement. The minister for liberation war affairs told parliament that the government would build a ‘hate statue’. This statue would “express hatred towards Razakars, Al-Badrs, Al-Shams and other collaborators of the Pakistan army [during the Liberation War of 1971].” This would certainly be a first in the commemoration of mass atrocities anywhere in the world. And it is indicative of the political corner in which the government finds itself.

A few weeks ago, the Sheikh Hasina government was caught in a controversy over another statue. Hefazat-i-Islam, a fundamentalist network of madrasas, had protested the installation in the Supreme Court of a statue of a blindfolded lady holding a sword in one hand and the scales of justice in the other. Hefazat claimed that this was tantamount to idolatry and sought the removal of the statue. When the government caved in, a large group of students quickly mobilised in protest. Although it cracked down on the protestors, the government also ordered the reinstallation of the statue in the Supreme Court’s premises — now tucked in a discrete corner.

The government’s original decision to remove the statue was aimed at currying favour with conservative Muslims ahead of the next general elections. Hasina called the statue “ridiculous” — whether on aesthetic or political grounds was left unsaid. The reinstallation of the statue was an attempt to burnish its credentials with the liberals. The proposed ‘hate statue’ seems yet another attempt to assuage the concerns of the Awami League’s core constituency about the government’s commitment to the country’s founding vision of nationalism.

Hasina has resorted to such balancing acts earlier — most notably on the question of secularism in Bangladesh’s constitution. The original constitution of Bangladesh, which came into existence in 1972, was a remarkable document for its time. It proclaimed four guiding principles for the new state: Democracy, nationalism, socialism and secularism.

The notion that the State should be secular met with the approval of various sections of the polity. The tiny Islamist minority that believed otherwise had been discredited by its role in opposing the country’s independence. So their views carried no weight in the making of the constitution.

Things began to change with the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975 and the following period of military rule. The 5th Amendment was moved in 1979, during the reign of General Zia-ur Rahman. It sought to impart constitutional legitimacy to the military dictatorships that followed Mujib’s assassination. Among other things, Zia expunged secularism from the principles of state policy enumerated in the constitution, and deleted Article 12 which proscribed religious parties. The removal of this article paved the way for the entry of the Jamaat-i-Islami into the political arena. It is not surprising that Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party — now led by his wife — embraced the Jamaat in 2001.

In August 2005, the Bangladesh high court ruled that the 5th Amendment was unconstitutional. The BNP and the Jamaat challenged this verdict. On July 28, 2010, the Supreme Court of Bangladesh dismissed their petitions and upheld the high court’s ruling. What is more, it explicitly criticised the omission of secularism under the 5th Amendment as a step that “destroyed one of the basis of our struggle for freedom and also changed the basic character of the Republic”.

The government took years to give effect to the Supreme Court’s ruling. Eventually, the 15th Amendment passed in 2015 made Bangladesh a secular country with Islam as the state religion. This muddled compromise was Sheikh Hasina’s way of striking a balance between the religious sentiments of Bangladesh’s Muslim majority and the historic mantle of the liberation war claimed by the Awami League.

But there have been escalating demands from the conservative Islamist critics of the government. The Hefazat wanted the government to prove its Muslim credentials by removing poems from school textbooks that were pronounced as ‘atheist’. The Hasina government quietly complied. It has also declared that degrees issued by the madrasas will be deemed equivalent to a master’s degree from a state university.

More worrying is the government’s reluctance to uphold the rule of law, especially over freedom of expression. This has certainly emboldened Islamist outfits — an ironic outcome given Hasina’s desire to crush the Jamaat. Still more problematic is the government’s attempt to silence the political Opposition by using every trick in the book. In so doing it has struck a blow to democracy. Building ‘hate’ statues to stoke chauvinism will deepen the damage already done.

Srinath Raghavan is senior fellow, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi

http://www.hindustantimes.com/columns/sheikh-hasina-s-hate-statues-can-only-weaken-democracy-in-bangladesh/story-LLz5gSaB41AmXgDoYNBPZP.html

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Afghanistan and US hold talks regarding the framework of new bilateral cooperation

Jun 22 2017

The top Afghan and US officials have held talks regarding the framework of the new bilateral cooperation between Kabul and Washington.

The Office of the National Security Council (ONSC) in a statement said Afghanistan’s national security adviser and his US counterpart General Herbert McMaster discussed the current situation through a video conference on Wednesday evening.

The statement further added that the two sides held talks regarding the political and security situation of the country and the region.

Reaffirming the support of US and the American people to the Afghan nation, Gen. McMaster said Washington is committed to a long term support to Afghanistan.

According to ONSC, the two sides also discussed the agenda and other issues related to the meeting between the countries which is expected to be held in the near future.

The two sides also reached to some agreements in this regard, the statement said, adding that Mr. Atmar his American counterpart discussed the framework of the new political and security cooperation between the two countries.

Full report at:

http://www.khaama.com/afghanistan-and-us-hold-talks-regarding-the-framework-of-new-bilateral-cooperation-03001

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Haqqani network and Taliban retain freedom of action in Pakistan: US

Jun 22 2017

The United States Department of Defense says the notorious Haqqani terrorist network and the Taliban group retains freedom of action in Pakistan.

“Pakistan is the most influential external actor affecting Afghan stability and the outcome of both the USFOR-A and the RS missions,” according to a new Pentagon report on Afghanistan.

The report further added that Pakistan views the outcome of Afghanistan to be in its vital national interest and thus remains driven by its India-centric regional policy objectives.

“Afghan oriented militant groups, including the Taliban and Haqqani Network, retain freedom of action inside Pakistani territory and benefit from support from elements of the Pakistani Government,” the report said.

Pentagon also added “Although Pakistani military operations have disrupted some militant sanctuaries, certain extremist groups—such as the Taliban and the Haqqani Network—were able to relocate and continue to operate in and from Pakistan. The United States continues to convey to Pakistan at all levels the importance of taking action against all terrorist and extremist groups.”

Haqqani network was formed in the late 1970s by Jalaluddin Haqqani. The group is allied with al-Qaida and the Afghan Taliban and cooperates with other terrorist organizations in the region.

The US Department of State designated the HQN as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on September 7, 2012.

Full report at:

http://www.khaama.com/haqqani-network-and-taliban-retain-freedom-of-action-in-pakistan-us-03000

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Taliban release video of American university lecturers, demanding prisoners release

Jun 22 2017

The Taliban insurgents group in Afghanistan released a new video of the kidnapped American University lecturers late on Wednesday.

The video shows the two lecturers, Kevin King and Timothy Weeks, making pleas to the authorities for their release.

According to the abducted university lecturers, the Taliban group demands the release of their prisoners from Bagram and Pul-e-Charkhi prisons in exchange for their release.

The video was published late on Wednesday and was apparently recorded on 16th June, weeks after reports emerged suggesting that the Afghan government is mulling to execute Taliban and Haqqani network prisoners in response to the deadly Kabul attacks.

No further details were given regarding the prisoners of the Taliban group, their number, and identities but among the several key Taliban and Haqqani network prisoners being kept in the jails, is Anas Haqqani, a close relative of the Haqqani network leader who was captured long ago by the Afghan security forces.

The two lecturers were abducted in the month of August last year by gunmen who had disguised themselves in military uniforms.

Full report at:

http://www.khaama.com/taliban-release-video-of-american-university-lecturers-demanding-prisoners-release-02999

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Refurbishment of 53 Blackhawks for the Afghan troops has commenced: Pentagon

Jun 21 2017

The United States Department of Defense has said the refurbishment work of 53 UH-60 or Blackhawk helicopters for the Afghan security forces has commenced.

According to a new Pentagon report on Afghanistan “Under the ANDSF Road Map, the SMW will also expand to provide additional helicopter crews, consolidate the PC-12 aircraft into a new fixed-wing kandak, and create an aviation support kandak.”

The report further added that Afghan Air Force will have more than double the size of its fleet by 2023 as a result.

“This reporting period, construction began on the first two of six additional A-29s for the AAF, refurbishment commenced on the first 53 of a planned 159 UH-60As, and funding was allocated for AC-208 light-attack aircraft and 30 additional MD-530 helicopters,” the report said.

It also added that the pilot, maintainer, and support personnel changes will be made within the authorized tashkil level of 195,000 for the ANA.

This comes as efforts are underway by the Afghan government and the international allies of Afghanistan to increase the air power of the Afghan security forces.

The commander of the United States Central Command General Joseph L. Votel requested the US Congress to approve the budget for the Afghan forces Blackhawk program.

In his statement before the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier in March this year, Gen. Votel informed regarding the significant capability gaps in Afghan Air Force, saying “Going forward, transitioning from Russian to U.S. airframes will ensure Afghan forces have a more sustainable fleet that is interoperable with U.S. forces and will enhance the Afghans’ ability to operate independently of coalition forces. The U.S. government is considering a critical AAF initiative to replace the unsustainable Russian-manufactured aircraft fleet and make up for combat losses in Afghan transport helicopters by providing U.S. UH-60s.”

Full report at:

http://www.khaama.com/refurbishment-of-53-blackhawk-for-the-afghan-troops-has-commenced-pentagon-02998

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Mideast

 

Kushner arrives to try for Israeli-Palestinian breakthrough

21 June 2017

President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and chief Middle East adviser, Jared Kushner, arrived in the region on Wednesday for a daylong visit aimed at restarting long-dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Kushner was to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Trump has tasked Kushner with the ambitious goal of laying the groundwork for what he calls the “ultimate deal.” Deep divisions remain, however, clouding the chances of a significant breakthrough.

This month marked the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Mideast war - a seminal event in which Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians claim these territories for their future independent state.

After two decades of failed US-led peace efforts, Palestinian statehood seems distant. Envoy Jason Greenblatt has already made several visits.

Even before his meetings, Kushner faced a new crisis.

On the eve of his arrival, Israel broke ground on a new West Bank settlement for residents of an illegally built outpost that was dismantled in February under orders from the Supreme Court.

Netanyahu had vowed to compensate the residents of Amona with a new settlement, built on a nearby site in the northern West Bank.

“The people of Amona really appreciate his efforts and the efforts from his office in fulfilling this commitment that started to come alive to create this new community,” said Avichai Boaron, a spokesman for the settlers.

The move has infuriated the Palestinians, who say all settlements are illegal obstacles to peace. Trump has asked Israel to show “restraint” in its settlement construction.

“This is the way Netanyahu is meeting Trump’s envoys,” said Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian official. “The real question here is will the administration of Trump tell Israel that it is enough and they have to stop immediately all settlement activities, or they will accept this Israeli provocation?”

Kushner did not speak to reporters ahead of his talks Wednesday, and Israeli security agents blocked AP cameramen from filming the arrival of his convoy. In one case, a cameraman was ordered to leave a sidewalk outside the government compound that houses Netanyahu’s office, and in other case, a cameraman was ordered to delete his memory card of all images of the prime minister’s office.

Once on the ground, Kushner immediately paid a condolence visit to the family of a young female Israeli police officer who was killed by Palestinian attackers over the weekend near Jerusalem’s Old City. Kushner said Trump asked him to personally convey the condolences of the American people.

Three Palestinian attackers armed with an automatic weapon and knives assaulted officers on duty near the Old City in two locations on Friday evening.

Police said Staff Sgt. Maj. Hadas Malka, 23, was rushing to respond to the initial attack nearby when a Palestinian assaulted her with a knife. Malka wrestled with the man for several seconds as he stabbed her multiple times before other officers saw what was happening and opened fire, killing him, police said. She later died of her wounds in hospital.

Thousands attended her funeral Saturday night. Netanyahu visited her grieving family on Sunday and called Malka “everybody’s daughter and everybody’s hero.” He also criticized Abbas for not condemning the attack.

It was the latest incident in a wave of Palestinian attacks that began in September 2015. Since then, Palestinian assailants have killed 43 Israelis, two visiting Americans and a British student, mainly in stabbing attacks. Some 250 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire during the same period, most of them identified as attackers by Israel.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/06/21/Kushner-arrives-to-try-for-Israeli-Palestinian-breakthrough.html

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Turkey says liberal German mosque ´incompatible´ with Islam

June 21, 2017

ISTANBUL: Turkey´s religious affairs agency has expressed distaste over a new mosque in Berlin where men and women mingle freely, saying it was incompatible with the principles of Islam.

Diyanet, which oversees religious activity in Turkey, said that such ideas were in line with projects led by the group of Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey blames for the July 15 failed coup.

Men and women pray side by side at the mosque that opened earlier this month in Berlin, which has female imams and where Muslims of all sects of the faith are welcome to worship together.

Supporters of the Berlin mosque said it would allow liberal Muslims to worship freely but in a tough statement Diyanet took a different stance.

It said that the mosque "neglects" the basic principles of Islam and was "incompatible with the worship, knowledge and methodology" accumulated since the faith was founded by the Prophet Mohammed 14 centuries ago.

"It is clear that this has been a project carried out for many years by FETO and other ill-gotten structures for the engineering of religion," it added.

"We are convinced that all fellow believers will keep their distance from such provocations and show wisdom in the face of this," Diyanet said in the statement published late Tuesday.Turkey says that the failed coup was carried out by the Fethullah Terror Group (FETO) led by the US-based Gulen. Gulen denies leading any terror organisation and rejects having any hand in the coup bid.

Diyanet has influence over Muslim worship among the Turkish diaspora through the Ditib organisation controlled by Ankara that manages some 900 mosques or religious communities in Germany. Diyanet sends clerics to work in its mosques.

Earlier this year, a furore erupted when German police raided the homes of four Turkish Muslim clerics working for Ditib suspected of spying for the government on the movement of Gulen.

Full report at:

https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/212079-Turkey-says-liberal-German-mosque-incompatible-with-Islam

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Israel would use all its strength against Lebanon in case of war: air force chief

June 22, 2017

Israel would use all its strength from the start in any new war with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, the chief of the Israeli air force said on Wednesday, sending a firm warning a decade after their last conflict.

At the annual Herzliya security conference near Tel Aviv, Major-General Amir Eshel said qualitative and quantitative improvements in the air force since the 2006 Lebanon war meant it could carry out in just two or three days the same number of bombings it mounted in those 34 days of fighting. "If war breaks out in the north, we have to open with all our strength from the start," he said, pointing to the likelihood of international pressure for a quick ceasefire before Israel can achieve all its strategic goals.

Israeli politicians and generals have spoken often of an intention to hit hard in Lebanon if war breaks out, in an apparent bid to deter Hezbollah. Eshel said in 2014 that another conflict could see Israeli attacks 15 times more devastating for Lebanon than in 2006.

But at the conference, Eshel noted that "many elements busy achieving their goals" in Syria's civil war were interested in preventing any fresh hostilities in Lebanon, where Israel says Hezbollah has built up an arsenal of more than 100,000 rockets.

Since early in the six-year-old Syria war, Hezbollah's energies have been focused on propping up President Bashar al-Assad in alliance with Iran and Russia, throwing thousands of its fighters into battle against Syrian rebels.

But the Shi'ite group has not altered its view of Israel as its foremost enemy, and Israel's military has said it regards Hezbollah in the same way.

CROWDED SKIES

Although Israel has kept to the sidelines of the war in Syria, Israeli aircraft have targeted suspected Iranian arms shipments to Hezbollah, operations complicated by Russian and U.S. air activity in the region.

"The skies of the Middle East are a lot more crowded than before, with lots of players," Eshel said, pointing to the need for the air force to operate "surgically" to avoid "mistakes".

On the other hand, such strikes, he said, also act as a deterrent to Hezbollah, whose missile capabilities could mean that the air force and the rest of the Israeli military will fight any future Lebanon war with their own bases under attack.

Eshel cautioned residents in southern Lebanon, a Hezbollah stronghold, to leave their homes if a new conflict erupts, saying the Iranian-backed group uses civilian homes as "launching bases for missiles and rockets"

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/21-Jun-2017/israel-would-use-all-its-strength-against-lebanon-in-case-of-war-air-force-chief

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Iranian Court Sentences 6 ISIL Members to Prison

Jun 21, 2017

"The ISIL members who had been arrested last year" received their sentences after full investigations, Head of the Southern province of Fars province's Justice Department Ali Alqasi said on Wednesday.

"Two of the key members of the team were each sentenced to 15 years in prison and 4 others each received 10 years in jail," he added.

Alqasi said that they were tried for acting against the national security and membership in Takfiri groups, adding that they were arrested on Tasoua day (anniversary of martyrdom of Shiites' third Imam, Hossein ibn-e Ali) before carrying out any terrorist operations.

The Iranian Intelligence Ministry announced on June 9 that it has captured 41 members of the ISIL terrorist group following the June 7 twin terrorist attacks in Tehran.

"Following a series of sophisticated intelligence operations and with the cooperation of the families of some of the terrorists, 41 elements of the ISIL Takfiri group were identified and arrested before conducting any act of terror," the intelligence ministry said.

It added that the terrorists were detained in the Iranian provinces of Kermanshah, Kordestan, West Azarbaijan and Tehran.

"Many documents and equipment for terrorist operations were also seized from the terrorists," the statement added.

Three unknown male assailants fired several rounds at the guards protecting the parliament building in Tehran on June 7. The assailants opened their way into the parliament's administrative building while shooting at the guards.

Full report at:

The ISIL claimed responsibility for the twin terrorist attacks.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960331000921

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Israel would go ‘all-out’ if war breaks out again with Lebanon

21 June 2017

Israel would use all its strength from the start in any new war with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, the chief of the Israeli air force said on Wednesday, sending a firm warning a decade after their last conflict.

At the annual Herzliya security conference near Tel Aviv, Major-General Amir Eshel said qualitative and quantitative improvements in the air force since the 2006 Lebanon war meant it could carry out in just two or three days the same number of bombings it mounted in those 34 days of fighting.

“If war breaks out in the north, we have to open with all our strength from the start,” he said, pointing to the likelihood of international pressure for a quick ceasefire before Israel can achieve all its strategic goals.

Israeli politicians and generals have spoken often of an intention to hit hard in Lebanon if war breaks out, in an apparent bid to deter Hezbollah. Eshel said in 2014 that another conflict could see Israeli attacks 15 times more devastating for Lebanon than in 2006.

But at the conference, Eshel noted that “many elements busy achieving their goals” in Syria’s civil war were interested in preventing any fresh hostilities in Lebanon, where Israel says Hezbollah has built up an arsenal of more than 100,000 rockets.

Since early in the six-year-old Syria war, Hezbollah’s energies have been focused on propping up President Bashar al-Assad in alliance with Iran and Russia, throwing thousands of its fighters into battle against Syrian rebels.

But the Shi’ite group has not altered its view of Israel as its foremost enemy, and Israel’s military has said it regards Hezbollah in the same way.

Crowded Skies

Although Israel has kept to the sidelines of the war in Syria, Israeli aircraft have targeted suspected Iranian arms shipments to Hezbollah, operations complicated by Russian and U.S. air activity in the region.“The skies of the Middle East are a lot more crowded than before, with lots of players,” Eshel said, pointing to the need for the air force to operate “surgically” to avoid “mistakes”.

On the other hand, such strikes, he said, also act as a deterrent to Hezbollah, whose missile capabilities could mean that the air force and the rest of the Israeli military will fight any future Lebanon war with their own bases under attack.

Eshel cautioned residents in southern Lebanon, a Hezbollah stronghold, to leave their homes if a new conflict erupts, saying the Iranian-backed group uses civilian homes as “launching bases for missiles and rockets.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/06/21/Israel-would-go-all-out-if-war-breaks-out-again-with-Lebanon-air-force-chief.html

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Saudi leaders, Turkey’s Erdogan discuss efforts to end Qatar crisis

22 June 2017

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan spoke by telephone with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and its new Crown Prince and they agreed to increase efforts to end tension related to Qatar, sources from Erdogan’s office said on Thursday.

Turkey has offered strong support to Qatar after Saudi Arabia, Egypt and several other states proclaimed it a supporter of terrorism and cut off all economic and diplomatic ties.

Also read: Turkish FM: King Salman is the only one capable of solving Qatar crisis

Erdogan spoke with the Saudi leaders on Wednesday evening and both sides stressed their determination to strengthen Turkish-Saudi ties, while Erdogan also congratulated Mohammed bin Salman on his promotion to crown prince, the sources said.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2017/06/22/Saudi-leaders-Turkey-s-Erdogan-discuss-efforts-to-end-Qatar-tension.html

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Ankara sends reinforcements for Turkey-backed militants in Syria

Jun 22, 2017

Turkey has deployed military reinforcements, including soldiers, vehicles, and equipment to northern Syria, says a UK-based monitoring group.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday that the Turkish reinforcements had entered Syrian soil over the last 24 hours and headed in the direction of the town of A'zaz, which has been seized by Ankara-backed militants.

The regions to the south of the town are currently in the hands of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).

The observatory said the fresh Turkish deployments are aimed at bolstering Turkish forces who plan to launch an offensive against the YPG which Ankara deems as the Syrian branch of the militant Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been battling to establish an autonomous region inside Turkey since 1984.

"Turkish forces are now inside Syria... the forces are huge reinforcements that have been entering since last night,” said a member of one the militant groups backed by Turkey.

The YPG is currently the dominant force behind the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) currently engaged in operations aimed at liberating Raqqah – Daesh’s remaining stronghold in Syria.

In August 2016, Turkey began a unilateral military intervention in northern Syria, code-named Operation Euphrates Shield, sending tanks and warplanes across the border. Ankara claimed that its military campaign was aimed at pushing Daesh from Turkey's border with Syria and stopping the advance of Kurdish forces, who were themselves fighting Daesh.

Full report at:

http://217.218.67.231/Detail/2017/06/22/526113/turkey-syria-azaz-troop-ypg

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Africa

 

100 said killed as Christian militia, Muslim rebels clash

June 21, 2017

BANGUI, Central African Republic -- The mayor of a Central African Republic (CAR) town says at least 100 people are dead after heavy fighting broke out in the wake of a peace agreement signed this week in Rome.

Bria Mayor Maurice Balekouzou also said Wednesday that several dozen wounded have been brought to the hospital run by aid group Doctors Without Borders.

However, the local Catholic mission says the death toll could be higher because it has been too dangerous for Red Cross teams to recover bodies from the streets.

Wracked by civil war, CAR is a country teetering on the edge of becoming a failed state. As CBS News' Allen Pizzey reported a year and a half ago, half a million of the country's people have become refugees in neighboring nations, and a similar number are huddled in squalid camps inside CAR, dependent on food aid and the protection of U.N. peacekeepers and 900 French troops.

AR has faced fighting since 2013, when predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in Bangui. Anti-Balaka militias, mostly Christians, fought back, resulting in thousands of people killed.

Witnesses say the fighting that left at least 100 dead on Wednesdday took place between the anti-Balaka militia and rebels from the group known as FPRC who were once part of the Seleka movement.

The peace deal signed Monday between nearly all the country's armed groups had called for an immediate cease-fire.

In December 2015, Pope Francis shunned security concerns to ride in an open-top vehicle across what was then the front line in the vicious civil war to visit a mosque in a part of the capital known as PK5; the last Muslim enclave in Bangui.

"Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters," he said after meeting Muslim leaders at the Koudoukou mosque. "Together we must say no to hatred, to revenge and to violence, particularly that violence which is perpetrated in the name of a religion or of God himself."

Gunfire also was reported Tuesday in the towns of Bangassou and Alindao, according to the global non-profit group Doctors Without Borders, which said the security situation "remained extremely volatile."

The peace deal was brokered by the Sant'Egidio Catholic Community, though there was widespread skepticism in CAR, given similar failed efforts in the past.

Ten armed groups and the country's Defense Ministry signed a peace deal in 2015. Another accord, shepherded by the African Union, was signed in 2014. Neither lasted.

"The priority now is a cease-fire," Vlad Monteiro, a spokesman for the U.N. peacekeeping mission said Tuesday. "The armed groups should cease the hostilities and put an end to people's suffering."

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/central-african-republic-christian-anti-balaka-militia-seleka-muslim-rebels/

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Returning Nigerian refugees could create new crisis as rainy season starts: UNHCR

June 22, 2017

Nigerian refugees who fled Islamist militants are returning from Cameroon into a country that is still not equipped to support them, and they risk creating a new humanitarian crisis, the head of the U.N. refugee agency, Filippo Grandi, said on Wednesday.

The UNHCR issued a similar warning last month when about 12,000 refugees returned to the border town of Banki in Borno state, which was already housing 45,000 displaced Nigerians.

Another 889 refugees, mostly children, arrived in Banki on June 17 from Minawao camp in Cameroon, Grandi said.

"The new arrivals - and we hear reports of more refugees seeking to return - put a strain on the few existing services, he said in a statement. "A new emergency, just as the rainy season is starting, has to be avoided at all costs."

"It is my firm view that returns are not sustainable at this time."

Banki, once a thriving town, was razed to the ground by the time the Nigerian army retook it from Boko Haram insurgents in September 2015.

Grandi said the severely overcrowded town could not provide adequate shelter or aid and its water supply and sanitation were "wholly inadequate", creating the risk of disease.

Although Boko Haram attacks have been fewer in recent months, more people are on the move and there are 1.9 million Nigerians displaced across the northeast, the World Food Program (WFP) said in a report last week.

"Insecurity persists in parts of Northeast Nigeria, disrupting food supplies, seriously hindering access to basic services, and limiting agricultural activities, worsening an already dire food security situation," it said.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/21-Jun-2017/returning-nigerian-refugees-could-create-new-crisis-as-rainy-season-starts-unhcr

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Death toll from fresh clashes hits 100 in Central African Republic

Jun 21, 2017

The death toll from a day of fierce clashes between rival factions has increased to around 100 in violence-wracked Central African Republic(CAR).

Security sources and NGOs said some 40 people had been killed with dozens more wounded after shooting erupted early on Tuesday in the central town of Bria, the capital of the northeastern prefecture of Haute-Kotto. 

The town's mayor, Maurice Belikoussou, said, "The death toll will certainly rise. For now it's an estimate and it could be up to 100 dead."

"There are still dead lying in the neighborhoods, in the road and in the bush."

Local lawmaker Arsene Kongbo said, "The warring parties burned villages and neighborhoods of Bria, forcing more of the population out with many fleeing into the bush."

A local Red Cross official said that calm had returned to the town.

The fierce fighting began just hours after Bangui reached a deal with rebel groups on an immediate ceasefire in an agreement brokered by a Catholic group in Rome on Monday

The latest clashes dashed hopes that a ceasefire signed between more than a dozen militias in Rome could succeed in ending a conflict.

Since mid-May, Bria and several other towns such as Bangassou, Alindao and Mobaye have been engulfed by violence.

The UN's humanitarian organisation (OCHA) and the government said the fighting had already killed 300 people, wounded 200 and displaced 100,000 others by the end of the month,

The OCHA figures show that the violence has forced more than 40,000 people out of their homes in Bria alone.

Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, the UN's special representative in Central Africa, has called for an immediate halt to the violence.

"It is vital that the cease-fire agreed upon by the parties comes into force immediately to free the populations and the many regions of the country that are still suffering from armed violence," Onanga-Anyanga said on Wednesday.

"This violence has also forced more than 100,000 people to flee inside the country and more than 20,000 others to seek refuge in the Democratic Republic of Congo," Anyanga added, referring to the overall effect of unrest across CAR since mid-May. "The total number of internally displaced persons has therefore surpassed the 500,000 mark."

Some 13,000 peacekeepers have been deployed to the country by the United Nations as part of the UN peacekeeping mission in CAR (MINUSCA). Civilians say the mission has failed to protect them against armed groups.

Human Rights Watch on Wednesday released a report highlighting the plight of people with disabilities in CAR, saying they had faced violent attacks and were especially vulnerable while trying to flee.

Full report at:

http://217.218.67.231/Detail/2017/06/21/526077/CAR-BriaUN-HRW

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