New Age Islam
Thu Oct 22 2020, 04:52 AM

Islamic World News ( 20 Jul 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Jaipur’s Sanskrit School, Students Studying Here Belong to the Muslim Community, Teaches Sanskrit ‘Shlokas’ And Quranic Verses








Jaipur’s Sanskrit School, Students Studying Here Belong to the Muslim Community, Teaches Sanskrit ‘Shlokas’ And Quranic Verses

Camp in Lucknow to Assist Muslims and SC/ST on How to Procure Firearms, In The Light Of the Recent Mob Lynchings in Different Parts of the Country: Shia Cleric

Shiv Sena Threatens To Perform Puja in Taj Mahal, Administration Steps Up Security

Pakistan Announces Reform in Religious Schools In Apparent Break With Saudi Radicalism

Pakistan Army Unlikely To Change Its Policy of Supporting Non-State Actors: Mohajir Leader

Muslim Countries Joined China In Defending Its Cultural Genocide Of Uighurs. Aren’t They Ashamed?

Moving Moments in the Oval Office as Trump Extends Session to Hear from More Religious Persecution Victims

Greed, Lack of Humanity Blamed For Sale Of Infants In Egypt

 

India

Jaipur’s Sanskrit School, Students Studying Here Belong to the Muslim Community, Teaches Sanskrit ‘Shlokas’ And Quranic Verses

Camp in Lucknow to Assist Muslims and SC/ST on How to Procure Firearms, In The Light Of the Recent Mob Lynchings in Different Parts of the Country: Shia Cleric

Shiv Sena Threatens To Perform Puja In Taj Mahal, Administration Steps Up Security

Time to end the charade around Hafiz Saeed

Fewer stone-pelting cases in Kashmir under central rule

IS’s key recruiter for Kashmir killed in drone strike in Afghanistan

Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen’s residence permit extended by one year

Pak''s J&K obsession confines it to single-issue foreign policy: Salman Khurshid

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Pakistan

Pakistan Announces Reform In Religious Schools In Apparent Break With Saudi Radicalism

Pakistan Army Unlikely To Change Its Policy Of Supporting Non-State Actors: Mohajir Leader

Joint Efforts Stressed To Stop Muslim Bloodshed across the World: Jamaat-e-Islami

Door open to repairing ties, says White House as PM reaches US

PTI Move to Allow Presidents, Governors to Rejoin Politics without Delay

Pakistan covers up for human rights abuses against Muslims in China, say experts

Pakistan Holds First-ever Provincial Polls in Northwest Tribal Areas Bordering Afghanistan

Fazl discusses Senate no-trust, anti-govt strategy with Shahbaz

Despite IHC’s direction video leak judge not sent back to LHC

Freed Ahmadi man apprise Trump about community's persecution in Pak

COAS to visit Pentagon for interaction with top US military officials: DG ISPR

4 policemen martyred in gun, bomb attack in DI Khan

Hafiz Saeed’s arrest not linked to PM’s US visit: Firdous

Govt fed fake news to UK tabloid to malign me, Shahbaz tells court

Border control improved with Pak-Afghan border fence: ISPR

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Southeast Asia

Muslim Countries Joined China In Defending Its Cultural Genocide Of Uighurs. Aren’t They Ashamed?

Islam Neither Indigenous Nor Sole Belief System Of Uygurs: White Paper

IGP on fight against terrorism in Malaysia and why we still need Sosma

Mujahid to table new Islamic administration policy in Cabinet

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North America

Moving Moments in the Oval Office as Trump Extends Session to Hear from More Religious Persecution Victims

US Muslim Congresswoman Introduces Resolution Upholding Right To Boycott Israel

Trump-Khan summit ‘arranged through MBS’

U.S. President Trump meets freed Pakistani Ahmadi

Lockheed awarded $1.48 bln Saudi missile defense contract: Pentagon

US offers $7 million reward for senior Hezbollah agent over 1994 Buenos Aires bombing

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Arab World

Greed, Lack of Humanity Blamed For Sale Of Infants In Egypt

Civilians Block SDF’s Attempt to Construct Military Points along Borders with Hasaka

Egypt’s civil aviation ministry reviewing BA suspension of flights to Cairo

Iraqi Kurdistan arrests Turkish lawmaker’s brother for assassination of diplomat

Saudi Arabia says crew member of Iranian ship sent to Oman

Saudi King Salman approves hosting US troops to enhance security in region

Iraqi Kurdistan detains suspected shooter of Turkish vice consul

Iraqi forces begin 2nd phase of operation against Daesh sleeper cells

Iraqi PM orders investigation into drone attack on Hashd Sha’abi camp

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South Asia

Scores of Taliban militants come under U.S. airstrike after arriving in Shorabak in Land Cruiser vehicles

14 Taliban militants killed, wounded in Afghan, coalition forces operations: Thunder Corps

12 Rohingya refugees stay put at Indo-Bangladesh border in Tripura

Car bomb destroyed, 7 Taliban militants killed in Uruzgan and Paktiya airstrikes

Taliban military chief; Punjabis killed in Ghazni operation, not civilians: MoD

Nearly 500 Taliban militants killed in Faryab in past one month: 209th Shaheen Corps

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Mideast

Palestinians Protest Israeli-Planned Demolitions In West Bank Village

Turkish Leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan Faces New Threat From Former Allies

All 23 crew of seized British-operated tanker are safe: Iranian TV

Iran guards post video of troops rappelling onto British-flagged tanker

Iranian ship repaired in Saudi Arabia heads back to Iran

UK warship tried to prevent Iran from stopping tanker: Revolutionary Guards

Iran says British tanker seized because it collided with Iranian fishing boat

Arab Coalition downs Houthi drone headed toward Abha

Arab Coalition begins operation targeting military positions in Yemen’s Sanaa

Turkish forces ‘neutralize’ several terrorists in eastern Turkey: Defence Ministry

Houthi shell fire wounds at least 2 children in north Yemen

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Europe

Funeral Service Held For 86 Muslims Killed By Serbs

UK ministers drawing up plans to target Iran regime with sanctions: Report

Britain wants to de-escalate tensions with Iran: Hunt

UK voices ‘extreme disappointment’ to Iran over seized tanker

UK foreign office summons Iranian charge d’affaires over tanker seizure

Britain says seizure of two vessels by Iran is unacceptable

UK mulls sanctions as Iran admits seizing British ship as a ‘reciprocal’ move

Greek PM urges 'brave steps' to boost ties with Turkey

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Africa

Last Qaddafi PM freed in Libya for ‘health reasons’

SOS Mediterranee relaunch migrant rescue missions off Libya

Haftar calls on youth to help with battle for Tripoli

4 Turkish citizens abducted in Nigeria

Somali army kills 3 Al-Shabaab militants in southern Somalia

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/jaipur’s-sanskrit-school,-students-studying-here-belong-to-the-muslim-community,-teaches-sanskrit-‘shlokas’-and-quranic-verses/d/119251

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Jaipur’s Sanskrit School, Students Studying Here Belong to the Muslim Community, Teaches Sanskrit ‘Shlokas’ And Quranic Verses

Jul 21, 2019

Setting a distinctive example of communal harmony, a government school in the city’s Bhatta Basti area in Shastri Nagar, teaches students to recite Quran and Sanskrit ‘shlokas’ -- all under one roof.

“This is a Sanskrit School. Students studying here belong to the Muslim community,” Umeed Khan, who played a key role in getting the school set up, told ANI.

Jaipur’s Bhatta Basti is a fabled Muslim dominated area. In the past, the region was reeling under communal disharmony but away from the hotspot, the state-run school is trying to spread harmony among the students here.

The school conducts classes for the students of Cass I to VIII and is run in two shifts where these students are taught lessons in Urdu and the Quran in the morning followed by Sanskrit ‘Shlokas’ in the afternoon.

“These students are motivated by their parents and guardians to study Sanskrit in our school. Parents expect their children to get acquainted with the combined syllabus,” Deepak Sharma, a teacher, told ANI.

Over 400 minority students are studying in this state-run primary school here, who are well-versed in reciting Sanskrit ‘shlokas’ (verses) and the holy lines from the Quran.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/education/this-school-teaches-sanskrit-shlokas-and-quranic-verses-to-muslim-students/story-BjLt7a7DbsWsKroNRLdEuL.html

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Camp in Lucknow to Assist Muslims and SC/ST on How to Procure Firearms, In The Light Of the Recent Mob Lynchings in Different Parts of the Country: Shia Cleric

Jul 21, 2019

Muslims and people belonging to Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) will be apprised about the right to self-defense, and how to apply for a firearm licence, at a camp in Lucknow on July 26, prominent Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawad said at a press conference here on Saturday.

“The camp becomes all the more necessary in the light of the recent mob lynchings in different parts of the country and the Sonbhadra massacre...,” said senior lawyer Mahmood Pracha, who has been invited to oversee the camp. “The purpose of the camp is to assist people on how to complete the necessary formalities required for procuring a firearm licence,” said Jawad. The camp will be held inside the historic Bada Imambara in Old Lucknow.

Pracha, who was present at the press conference, said the Sonbhadra incident would not have occurred if those killed also had legal firearms to defend themselves. “Sonbhadra is a glaring example of this inequality and discrimination in granting firearms licences by our system. While the oppressors or influential class can easily obtain weapons licence, the underprivileged section like the tribals in the Sonbhadra case, don’t even know how to apply for one,” said Pracha, adding that this was precisely the objective of the camp.

After Lucknow, Kolkata would be next place where a camp would be held and very soon similar camps would be held all over the country, he said.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/camp-to-assist-muslims-on-how-to-procure-firearms/story-nenhxJGRo7GtKCiv54TJqO.html

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Shiv Sena threatens to perform puja in Taj Mahal, administration steps up security

July 20, 2019

The Agra administration has agreed to the request of the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) to provide extra security at the Taj Mahal following a threat from Shiv Sena of performing puja inside the mausoleum, IANS reported.

In its letter to the administration, ASI stated that under the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958, performing any kind of religious practice or beginning a new tradition in the protected monument was a violation of the Act.

On July 17, Shiv Sena’s Agra President Veenu Lavania announced that he and his aides would perform “aarti” at the Taj Mahal and dared the police and district administration to stop him.

“Taj Mahal is not a mausoleum but Tejo Mahalaya, a temple of Lord Shiva. We will perform ‘aarti‘ at Tejo Mahalaya on every Monday of ‘sawan’,” Lavania was quoted as saying by IANS.

ASI Superintending Archaeologist of Agra circle, Vasant Swarankar, told IANS that no ‘aarti‘ or ‘puja‘ had ever been performed in the Taj Mahal. “We have requested the district authorities to make proper security arrangements outside the Taj Mahal,” he said.

However, this is not the first time that right-wing groups have announced to perform ‘puja’ inside the monument. Last year, a group of women had performed ‘puja’ inside the mosque in the premises of Taj Mahal to prove that the monument was originally a Shiv temple.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/shiv-sena-threatens-to-hold-puja-in-taj-mahal-agra-administration-steps-up-security-5839279/

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Pakistan announces reform in religious schools in apparent break with Saudi radicalism

Jul 20, 2019

In an apparent detachment from radical teachings promoted by Saudi Arabia, Pakistan has agreed to introduce reforms in its so-called madrassa religious schools and bring the institutions in line with conventional schools by curbing hate speech and extremist narratives.

Pakistan’s Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood announced on Friday that the plan, agreed upon with the country’s clergy, is the latest effort to address longstanding concerns that the roughly 30,000 madrassas in Pakistan provide a haven for extremist teachings.

These institutions, mostly funded by Saudi Arabia, have long been blamed for promoting extremist narratives and are referred to as “nurseries of extremism” in some circles.

Mahmood said the Pakistani government aims to register all madrassas and furnish them with a curriculum based on conventional teaching in such subjects as English, mathematics and science.

“There will be no preaching of hate speech against any religion or sect,” the education minister said. “We will look at their curriculum to see there is no hatred against any sect or faith.”

Mahmood added that the government will be in charge of overseeing their exams and is aiming for a first batch next June.

Facing heavy international pressure to crack down on militant groups operating from Pakistani soil, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced plans earlier this year to “mainstream” the madrassas and stop feeding radicalized youth to armed extremist groups.

Madrassa reforms attempted by previous governments in Islamabad have all failed due to pressure from the clergy.

Back in March, Pakistan -- a deeply religious Muslim-majority society -- launched a crackdown against terrorist groups operating within its territory. The government later announced that 182 religious schools run by banned groups were shuttered and more than 120 people were detained.

Pakistani officials say the crackdown has been long-planned and is not a response to Indian concerns over Kashmir.

Kashmir has been split between India and Pakistan since partition in 1947. Both countries claim all of Kashmir and have fought three wars over the territory.

Indian troops are in constant clashes with armed groups seeking Kashmir’s independence or its merger with Pakistan. India regularly accuses Pakistan of arming and training militants and allowing them across the restive frontier in an attempt to launch attacks. Pakistan strongly denies the allegation.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/07/20/601382/Pakistan-religious-schools-extremist-teachings-madrassas

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Pakistan Army unlikely to change its policy of supporting non-state actors: Mohajir leader

Jul 21, 2019

WASHINGTON: Pakistan's powerful Army is unlikely to change its decades old policy of supporting non-State actors for conducting terrorist activities against its neighbours, a top Mohajir leader said as Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived here for his first meeting with US President Donald Trump.

"It's hard to see a significant shift in the US-Pakistan relationship based on this visit alone. The Pakistani military will have to radically transform its current policy of harbouring and supporting religious extremist elements before Pakistan could expect a significant improvement in relations with the US," Nadeem Nusrat, head of the US-based Voice of Karachi, told .

Representing the Mohajirs based in the US, the Voice of Karachi has planned a series of peaceful protests during Khan's visit against human rights violations by the Pakistani security forces.

Mohajirs are Urdu-speaking people who migrated from India during partition. A large number of Mohajirs reside in Sindh province's urban areas - notably in Karachi, Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas and Sukkur.

Nusrat said that Pakistan, or to be precise, its military establishment, has repeatedly deceived the US by supporting elements that are a threat to American interests and the national security.

"The past US Administrations, for one reason or another, continued to ignore this apparent deception but the current Administration is different. Pakistan now has to demonstrate a meaningful shift in its past policies clearly, or it is likely to face even more financial challenges and growing diplomatic isolation," Nusrat said.

The powerful army, which has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 70 plus years of existence, has hitherto wielded considerable power in the matters of security and foreign policy.

"Pakistani military establishment, which runs Pakistan, has for long treated religious extremist outfits such as Jamat-ud-Dawa, Jaish-e-Mohammad, etc. as national, or security assets. Some experts believe that these outfits are an extension of the Pakistani military. The real question here is: Can Pakistani Military abandon its prized assets such as JuD and the Taliban? The answer is an emphatic no," he said in response to a question.

Nusrat said JuD chief Saeed may be in prison today, but this hasn't happened for the first time. Saeed has been arrested many times in the past, he noted.

He said that if the country's leadership, in particular the generals, want Pakistan to become a respectful, viable, prosperous and progressive state, they will have to admit that Pakistan is not home to its Punjabi population alone.

"They will have to allow every ethnic and religious group in Pakistan - Mohajirs, Balochs, Pashtuns, Hazaras, Gilgitis, Baltistanis, Ahmadis, Shias, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, moderate Muslims - enjoy equal rights and take an equal stake in its affairs. Creating Greater Karachi will be a significant first step in this direction," he said.

The Greater Karachi map that he presented includes Karachi, Hyderabad, and all other Mohajir-majority areas, barring Sukkur, which are part of urban Sindh.

"Pakistan will also have to respect its neighbours and their sovereignty. The era of using proxies to cause terror at home and in neighbouring countries to achieve the so-called security objectives is well and truly over. It is now time to establish a deep friendly relationship with Pakistan's all neighbours," he added.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-army-unlikely-to-change-its-policy-of-supporting-non-state-actors-mohajir-leader/articleshow/70313993.cms

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Muslim Countries Joined China In Defending Its Cultural Genocide Of Uighurs. Aren’t They Ashamed?

Jul 21, 2019

AT A SESSION of the U.N. Human Rights Council this month, 22 mostly Western ambassadors joined in a letter expressing concern about China’s mass detentions in the Xinjiang region and calling for “meaningful access” for “independent international observers.” It was another tepid gesture in what has been a weak international effort to respond to Beijing’s campaign of cultural genocide against the Uighur ethnic group and other Muslim minorities.

What was remarkable was what came next. Four days later, countries recruited by Beijing delivered their own letter to the council, signed by 37 ambassadors, which endorsed what it whitewashed as a “counter-terrorism and de-radicalization” operation and claimed that “the fundamental human rights of people of all ethnic groups there are safeguarded.” The signatories included the usual global rogue’s gallery — Cuba, Russia, North Korea, Venezuela. But a dozen Muslim governments also joined in — thereby sanctioning one of the largest assaults on Islam in modern times.

The statement represents a shameful capitulation by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria and other majority-Muslim states that frequently pose as defenders of the faith — especially when it involves condemning Israel. And it offers an augur of what international affairs will look like if the Chinese regime of Xi Jinping realizes its global ambitions: a world where most states meekly submit to Beijing’s dictates and endorse its crimes.

That abuses of historic magnitude are taking place in Xinjiang is now beyond question. According to outside estimates, more than 1 million Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims are being held in concentration camps where they are being forced to learn Chinese and abandon their own languages and religious practices. The children of those detained have been sent to separate camps to be indoctrinated. And the rest of the some 13 million Muslims in the region, which is twice the size of Germany, are subjected to intrusive monitoring by more than 1 million agents, as well as ubiquitous high-tech surveillance systems.

That Muslim nations would condone this record is testimony to Beijing’s ability to leverage its growing economic clout. A few of those that signed, including Pakistan and Tajikistan, are benefiting from billions of dollars in Chinese investments through the “Belt and Road” infrastructure program. Others are hoping for a share. Saudi Arabia, whose U.N. ambassador falsely claimed that the letter only addressed China’s “developmental work,” is desperate for foreign investment.

A few important Muslim countries resisted China’s lobbying and did not sign the letter, including Indonesia, Turkey and Malaysia. But none was brave enough to join in the Western letter, mild though it was. Perhaps they would show more determination if the United States was stronger in denouncing the genocide. But the Trump administration has been inconsistent, at best. On Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, angered by what he said was China’s lobbying of governments not to attend a conference on religious freedom he hosted, called its treatment of the Uighurs the “stain of the century.”

Yet when a Uighur attending the conference spoke about the camps to President Trump, he appeared baffled, asking where in China they were before commenting, “That’s tough stuff.” It’s a short distance from that waffle to the full sellout by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/muslim-countries-joined-china-in-defending-its-cultural-genocide-of-uighurs-arent-they-ashamed/2019/07/20/0a7d62b4-aa3f-11e9-86dd-d7f0e60391e9_story.html?

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Moving Moments in the Oval Office as Trump Extends Session to Hear from More Religious Persecution Victims

07-18-2019

Jenna Browder

WASHINGTON – Victims of religious persecution are rarely heard, but Wednesday dozens of them met with the most powerful leader in the world, inside the White House.

It was an extraordinary and moving scene in the Oval Office as President Trump took the time to listen to the stories from people around the world who have been targeted for their faith.

27 people from 16 countries surrounded the president at his desk Wednesday, many thanking him for what he and his administration are doing to promote and protect religious freedom.

"Thank you, Mr. President, for the opportunity to see you," said one woman from Nigeria. "I escape from Boko Haram."

An Ahmadiyya Muslim from Pakistan recounted his experience of not being allowed to practice his version of Islam in his country.

"I can call myself a Muslim in the United States of America but not in Pakistan. Otherwise I'll be punished," he said through a translator.

As the meeting was supposed to begin wrapping up, Trump insisted he had time to hear more of their stories.

"I don't mind," he said. "We can take a couple more."

One of the most moving came from a Christian woman from Iraq who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

"When ISIS attack us, no one protect us," she told the president. "After 2003, we start to disappear from our area, from our homeland. When ISIS attack us in 2014, they kill six of my brother. They kill my mom. They took me to captivity with my 11 sister-in-law."

Another woman from Iran shared her family's experience.

"My parents are pastors," she said. "They're Christian pastors. They've been arrested – all my family – my father, my mother, my brother. They are free on bail, awaiting the trial and long sentences."

These victims of religious persecution were invited, along with thousands of others, to take part in the Trump administration's initiative to protect and promote religious freedom.

"I was in the room yesterday with thousands and we had thousands that could not get in," said Pastor Paula White, referring to the administration's multi-day Ministerial on International Religious Freedom. "So we thank you President for being the leader, the courageous leader, to stand up not only in our nation but countries all around, for all faith of all people that we should have the practice and the right to practice our religion."

The State Department says 80 percent of people worldwide live in a religiously restricted environment.

"All people from every place on the globe must be permitted to practice their faith openly, in their homes, in their places of worship, in the public square and believe what they want to," said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, addressing the Ministerial Tuesday.

Pompeo will speak at the event again Thursday along with Vice President Mike Pence, another outspoken advocate for religious freedom.

https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/politics/2019/july/moving-moments-in-the-oval-office-as-trump-extends-session-to-hear-from-more-religious-persecution-victims

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Greed, lack of humanity blamed for sale of infants in Egypt

MOHAMED EL-SHAMAA

July 21, 2019

CAIRO: When Egyptian security forces arrested three suspects caught selling a three-hour-old child at a hospital in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, the news shocked the country.

The story began when a page on Facebook, titled Children for Paid Family Adoption, offered the chance to adopt a newborn child in exchange for money.

Police officers posing as interested buyers agreed a fee of 65,000 Egyptian pounds ($4,000) for the girl, payment on delivery.

On July 17, 2019, the day of her birth, the officers went to the hospital to meet the mother, who was accompanied by a man. After the mother and child came out of the operating room, the girl was handed over to the buyer.

Once the mother had been given the money, she and the man were immediately arrested along with the man who had set up the Facebook page, who had been involved in many such sales.

Through Facebook

Security investigations revealed that the Facebook page was launched four months ago; the man responsible was charged with human trafficking, displaying a child for sale and using Facebook to commit the crime. The mother and her husband were charged on similar grounds. The child is being kept in a nursing home under the supervision of the Committee for the Protection of Egyptian Childhood.

“There are many pages on social networking sites that are full of illegal activities, including the sale of human beings, prostitution and the sale of children,” said Ashraf Al-Wardani, a security expert. “Egyptian security must be vigilant against these crimes, It is driven by the desire for quick gain.”

Al-Wardani told Arab News that Egyptian security forces have been busy over the past period of monitoring the activities of terrorists, and neglected the task of tracking illegal activities.

The owner of the Facebook page — who is under arrest — has justified his crime by writing on the page that many parents are deprived of children at a time when a large number of parents are throwing their children onto the street to become street children. He wrote that his role was to help deprived parents adopt children, so protecting them from the dangers of the streets.

Not the first incident

The crime in Alexandria was not the first to rock Egyptian society. The police were informed that there was a place in Al-Shorouq, a suburb of Cairo, where a large number of children were being kept, who were being taken away by families.

Some suspected that the apartment owners were trading those children. When the police arrested the owners the suspicions were proven to be correct.

Investigations revealed that the prices of the sale and purchase vary according to the child’s condition and specifications. Sales range from 200,000 Egyptian pounds down to 30,000 Egyptian pounds.

Punishment and reasons

Zineb Mahmoud, a lawyer and researcher at the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, told Arab News that the law penalizes the sale and purchase of children, and can incur life imprisonment.

Dr. Magda Mustafa, professor of sociology at Ain Shams University, said that economic reasons are behind the parents’ drive to offer their children for sale, amid soaring prices, rising unemployment.

At the same time the main reason is greed and a lack of humanity.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1528526/middle-east

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India

 

Time to end the charade around Hafiz Saeed

Harinder Baweja

Jul 21, 2019

It is time to end the charade around Mumbai attack mastermind and Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) founder, Hafiz Saeed. For too long, both Pakistan and the United States have played games around a man who openly espouses terror and exports his mercenaries to India. His arrest on Wednesday – for the eighth time since 2001 and for the sixth time since the Mumbai terror strike in 2008 – is a sham, just as his previous detentions were. Saeed, who likes to call himself a professor, has been giving open calls for jihad against India and the US and it was quite bemusing to read the tweet posted by President Donald Trump.

“After a ten year search, the so-called “mastermind” of the Mumbai Terror attacks has been arrested in Pakistan. Great pressure has been exerted over the last two years to find him!” Trump tweeted on Wednesday.

There was no need for a search, let alone a 10-year one. Saeed was available, giving Friday sermons by the week and in television studios, all the time. Trump should know that his predecessor Barack Obama even placed a $10 million bounty on Saeed in 2013. The question that Trump needs to answer, if any, is why the bounty has never been executed considering how freely Saeed has been roaming around.

What pressure is Trump talking about? And what exactly does he mean by “so called mastermind”? The 26/11 Mumbai attack was one of the worst terror strikes ever, which killed 166 civilians including six American citizens. David Coleman Headley, a Pakistani-American, had visited Mumbai multiple times to videotape the targets that were eventually chosen for the final attack. Headley’s account, recorded by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and then the National Investigation Agency of India, leaves no doubt whatsoever of Saeed’s role in the planning and execution of the attacks.

The US House Foreign Affairs Committee did well to counter Trump’s comments, saying, “FYI Pakistan wasn’t searching for him for 10 years. He’s been living freely…” The Committee also suggested that Trump hold the applause until Saeed was convicted by the Pakistani authorities.

So, let’s come to Pakistan. Numerous dossiers have been handed over by India to Islamabad and they’ve been called “a piece of fiction” by none other than Pakistan’s foreign secretary. India has called off talks with Pakistan over the issue of terror, but the country’s stand always has been – in the particular instance of Saeed – that he was freed by a court of law.

The fact of the matter is that Pakistan just hasn’t put pen to paper and collected pieces of evidence that lie on its soil. If Saeed has been arrested again – this time on terror financing charges – it is because Prime Minister Imran Khan will shortly be leaving for Washington for a meeting with Trump. Saeed has also been arrested – and the so-called charities run by him have been taken over – because Pakistan has been told in no uncertain terms that it stands the risk of being blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in October.

Pakistan has for long, played the sham game.

This writer visited the headquarters of LeT, which was rechristened as the Jamaat-ud-Dawaah after it had ostensibly been taken over by the Pakistan government but it was clear that it was still in the firm grip of Saeed and Co. The writer was escorted in by Saeed’s son-in-law; not a government functionary. Yes, there was a functionary there but he was pretty much quaking in his boots.

Trump and Khan, shed the charade please. Here are words that ought to be paid heed to. Rejecting Saeed’s plea that his name be removed from the list of terrorists, the United Nation’s Security Council, had this to say in March this year:

“From the reasonable decision by the Pakistani judiciary to lift the petitioner’s (Saeed) house arrest, the petitioner can only deduce that he does not represent a security or terrorist threat to Pakistan… The court did not pronounce on whether the petitioner could pose a terrorist threat outside Pakistan. But if any, the latter seems to be the case.”

Saeed remains a terrorist, one sanctioned by the United Nations, and that is what both Trump and Khan need to understand in its totality and with the seriousness it deserves.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/time-to-end-the-charade-around-hafiz-saeed/story-0heIisdULSD8bQAJOuOn2J.html

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Fewer stone-pelting cases in Kashmir under central rule

Shishir Gupta

Jul 21, 2019

The number of stone-pelting incidents in the Kashmir valley has dipped under direct federal rule compared to the number reported under the two previous political administrations — the Peoples Democratic Party-Bharatiya Janata Party (PDP-BJP) coalition that was in power between 2015 and mid-2018, and the National Conference-Indian National Congress (NC-INC) alliance that stayed in office between 2009 and 2014.

Governor’s rule was imposed in Jammu and Kashmir on June 18, 2018 after the BJP withdrew support to the PDP, forcing chief minister Mehbooba Mufti to resign. A total of 349 stone-pelting cases were registered in the remaining part of last year. Thus far in 2019 (until July 17), there have been 355 incidents of stone-pelting. The state is currently under President’s rule.

According to data reviewed by Hindustan Times, the total number of stone-pelting cases registered under the NC-INC regime between 2009 and 2014 was 2,690 with a spike in 2010, when protests took place against alleged killings by the army in the Macchil sector.

The PDP-BJP government, headed initially by Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and then, after his death, by his daughter Mehbooba Mufti, recorded a high of 4,522 cases against stone-pelters with a huge spike of 2,897 cases in 2016 amid widespread protests over the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant commander Burhan Wani in an encounter with security forces and rising disgruntlement against the PDP for joining hands with the BJP.

The data shows that the average number of daily incidents was the highest under the PDP-BJP government, although the spikes mentioned above had a part to play in that. The average number of daily incidents was the lowest during the NC-INC government between 2009 and 2014 -- when the state went through a period of relative calm before Wani’s killing -- as compared to the periods under the PDP-BJPregime and Governor’s rule.

Data over a decade also suggests that Srinagar, the base of the pro-Pakistan umbrella separatist group Hurriyat Conference, witnesses the most number of instances of stone-pelting. Sopore, a hotbed of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Kashmir and Tehreek-e-Hurriyat activity, Baramulla and Pulwama aren’t far behind.

While militant activity in north Kashmir towns is dominated by the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba, south Kashmir towns like Pulwama, Kulgam and Anantnag are hubs of terrorists from the Hizbul Mujahideen and the Pakistan based Jaish-e-Mohammed. Kupwara, Avantipora, Handwara, Ganderbal and Bandipora are, in general, more peaceful, going by the data.

Senior Jammu and Kashmir police officials believe that the free hand given to security forces under Governor’s and now President’s rule is largely responsible for the decline in the number of stone-pelting incidents, and blame the politicians for being soft on troublemakers. For instance, the PDP-BJP government, at Mehbooba Mufti’s instance, announced an amnesty for first-time stone-pelters.

Avinash Mohanney, a Kashmir expert who spent long years in Kashmir and Pakistan with the Intelligence Bureau, disagrees with such a hypothesis.

“It is wrong to blame politicians for stone-pelting. All governments have taken strong action against stone-pelters. This phenomenon picked up in the 2010 agitation as people were very upset with the Machchil killings of innocents by the Army. Stone-pelting peaked again in 2016 as public was very unhappy with Mehbooba Mufti tying up with the BJP. I am not saying that the {Narendra} Modi government should talk to Hurriyat or Pakistan on Kashmir. All I am saying is that democracy through elections must be restored as soon as possible,” he said.

Top home ministry officials also understand that the alienation of the Kashmiri must end, apart from neutralizing terrorists or launching big-ticket schemes. “ Home minister Amit Shah made it very clear to district commissioners in Kashmir during his visit that all 354 central government schemes that touch an average Kashmiri must be implemented in toto. He made it clear that the priority is Kashmiri public — with big infrastructure schemes and counter-terrorism operations going hand in hand,” said a senior home ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/fewer-stone-pelting-cases-in-kashmir-under-central-rule/story-o3sYQTJ6opgq9khy4h6zlM.html

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IS’s key recruiter for Kashmir killed in drone strike in Afghanistan

Jul 21, 2019

A Pakistani commander of the Khorasan wing of Islamic State (IS), who played a key role in efforts to radicalise Kashmiri youngsters to join the terror group, was killed in a drone strike in Afghanistan, people familiar with developments said on Saturday. The death of Huzaifa al-Bakistani in the drone strike in Khogyani district of eastern Nangarhar province on July 18 was confirmed by the media channel of IS. The statement announcing his death claimed he had given “sleepless nights to Indian agencies”. Huzaifa, a well-known online recruiter, was a Pakistani national who joined Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) after completing his engineering degree. He handled LeT’s media department before joining IS, the people cited above said.

He was the son-in-law of ljaz Ahangar alias Abu Usman al-Kashmiri, a resident of Nawakadal in Srinagar who went to Pakistan in 1995 to join jihadi groups. Ahangar worked for Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen (TuM) and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) before joining the Khorasan wing of IS in Afghanistan.

“Huzaifa and Ahangar were the masterminds behind activities of the Islamic State in Jammu and Kashmir (ISJK) and played an instrumental role in radicalising and encouraging Kashmiri youth to join ISJK,” said a person who didn’t want to be identified.

“Huzaifa was also instrumental in the formation of the Wilayyah Hind of IS in May,” the person added.

The people said Huzaifa’s death in Afghanistan established the complicity of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency in sending cadres of Pakistan-based terror groups such as LeT and TuM to join activities of the IS chapters in Jammu and Kashmir and Afghanistan.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/is-s-key-recruiter-for-kashmir-killed-in-attack/story-rmeHtQ6gke99S8goVqPQqL.html

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Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen’s residence permit extended by one year

July 21, 2019

Controversial Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen’s residence permit has been extended for one year by the Union Home Ministry, officials said on Sunday.

Taslima, a citizen of Sweden, has been getting residence permit on a continuous basis since 2004.

A Home Ministry official told PTI that her residence permit has been further extended for one more year till July 2020.

The 56-year-old writer was last week given a three-month residence permit following which she took to Twitter requesting Home Minister Amit Shah for extending it for one year.

“Hon’ble @amitshah ji, I sincerely thank u for extending my residence permit. But I’m surprised it’s only for 3M. I apply for 5yrs but I’ve been getting 1yr extension. Hon’ble Rajnathji assured me I wd get an extension for 50yrs. India is my only home. I’m sure u’ll come to my rescue (sic).

“Everytime i apply for the extension of my Indian residence permit for 5years, i get extension for 1year. This time i applied for the extension for 5years, i get for 3 months only. Hope Honourable Home Minister @HMOIndia will reconsider to extend my residence permit for at least 1year,(sic),” she tweeted on July 17.

Following the extension of the residence permit for one year, Taslima again took to Twitter.

“Twitter is so powerful ! On July16 I tweeted my residence permit wasn’t extended. On July 17 it was extended, but only for 3 months. So many Twitter friends requested MHA to extend it for longer period. It’s extended for 1yr today. Thanks MHA to change decision. Love my Twitter friends,” she said.

Taslima had to leave Bangladesh in 1994 in the wake of a death threat by fundamentalist outfits for her alleged anti-Islamic views. Since then she has been living in exile.

She has also stayed in the US and Europe during the last two decades.

However, on many occasions she had expressed her wish to live in India permanently, especially in Kolkata.

Taslima had also applied for permanent residency in India but no decision has been taken on it by the Home Ministry, another official said.

The writer also had to leave Kolkata in 2007 following violent street protests by a section of Muslims against her works.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/bangladeshi-author-taslima-nasreens-residence-permit-extended-by-one-year-5840086/

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Pak''s J&K obsession confines it to single-issue foreign policy: Salman Khurshid

21 JULY 2019

By Meraj Bhat

New Delhi, Jul 21 Pakistan''s obsession with Jammu and Kashmir has confined it to a single-issue foreign policy, often at considerable cost to itself and to other countries of the region, by stultifying the potential of SAARC, senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid has said.

The former External Affairs Minister says similarly, India''s preoccupation with the threat perception and the possibility of a prolonged and decisive war keeps it self-conscious and distracted from a larger role in the changing world.

In his new book ''Visible Muslim Invisible Citizen - Understanding Islam in Indian Democracy'' published by Rupa Publications, the 66-year old author writes that the legacy of the Partition or the "unfinished agenda" (of Pakistan) is most visible in the simmering conflict in Kashmir.

"Despite strenuous and perverse efforts of the enemy, the protracted conflict remains about Kashmiriyat rather than about Islam," Khurshid notes.

"In many ways, accommodation between the Indian state and the aspirations of the people of the Kashmir Valley might have been possible with some give and take, but for Pakistan believing that they have a role and indeed an expectation of a favourable outcome," he writes.

Elaborating on Kashmir issue and Pakistan''s role, Khurshid said Islamabad cannot be given a veto on New Delhi''s historical aspirations and stretegic concerns.

"It is incumbent that we find peace with our fellow compatriots, no matter how disenchanted they feel. But it is our problem and Pakistan should accept not to interfere openly or in a clandestine manner," Khurshid told .

The Congress leader writes that it is "puzzling" that Pakistan is still unable to accept that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India.

He says it is "surprising" that Pakistan refuses to accept the logic dictated not only by India''s Muslims, but also by the Bengali Muslims of erstwhile East Pakistan.

"Despite Bangladesh, it is puzzling that Pakistan is still unable to accept that J&K is an integral part of India," Khurshid writes.

"For Muslims in the rest of India, J&K means no less than to other Indians, i.e. a critical part of the definition of India. The thought of anything happening to it can only be at the cost of diminishing the idea of India," he asserts.

The book which touches upon a plethora of topics including Sufism, triple talaq and the history of communal violence is essentially about Islam and Muslims, particularly Indian Muslims.

Khurshid attempts to place Islam in the context of modernism, and the Indian Muslim in the perspective of contemporary Indian politics.

Full report at:

https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/paks-jk-obsession-confines-it-to-singleissue-foreign-policy-salman-khurshid/1579578

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Pakistan

 

Joint Efforts Stressed To Stop Muslim Bloodshed across the World: Jamaat-e-Islami

July 20, 2019

LAHORE: Jamaat-e-Islami veteran leader Hafiz Muhammad Idrees has said the biggest challenge before the Muslim rulers was to stop the bloodletting and persecution of Muslims across the world.

Addressing a congregation at Mansoora on Friday, he said this challenge could be effectively met through collective efforts of Muslim rulers who could resolve their bilateral issues through dialogue. He said as long as decisions of Muslim world were made by US and colonial powers, their problems would continue to increase. He said the blood of Muslims was being shed freely in different parts of the world while the Muslim rulers were acting as enemy agents. He alleged the Muslim rulers were only concerned about their stability and not the welfare of their people. Hafiz Idrees said an Islamic revolution could be brought about only by taking the society alongside.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/500975-joint-efforts-stressed-to-stop-muslim-bloodshed

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Door open to repairing ties, says White House as PM reaches US

Anwar Iqbal

July 21, 2019

WASHINGTON: As Prime Minister Imran Khan reached Washington on Saturday on a three-day, official working visit, a senior US administration official indicated that Washington may consider making some “changes to the suspension” of US security assistance to Pakistan if Islamabad readjusts some of its policies.

Briefing journalists on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit, the official also said that by extending an invitation to the Pakistani leader to visit the White House, the United States has sent a message to Islamabad that the “door is open to repairing relations” and building an enduring partnership.

“By and large that security assistance is still suspended,” said the official while responding to a question on the continued suspension of US security assistance to Pakistan. The Trump administration suspended security assistance to Pakistan in January 2018, and this marks the first time a US official has discussed the possibility — even though remote — of removing that suspension if Pakistan takes certain measures.

“We will consider changing that suspension on certain items if Pakistan meets our security concerns both in Afghanistan, and with regard to some of the externally focus groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed,” the official told reporters during a conference call.

But so far, there “has been no change to that suspension and security assistance,” the official added.

The official also said that to avail the opportunity for restoring a close relationship with Washington, Islamabad will have to “change its policies” towards terrorism and militancy.

PM Khan, who began his official engagements soon after his arrival, goes to the White House on July 22 for an extensive three-hour visit, which includes a one-on-one meeting with President Donald Trump and two meetings and a working lunch with the president’s team.

Besides President Trump, the US team will include Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Acting Secretary of Defence Richard Spencer and Chairman of Joint Chief of Staff General Joseph Dunford.

The prime minister’s team will include Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and other senior civil and military officials.

The senior Trump administration official said that President Trump will be most interested in encouraging Pakistan to assist in the Afghan peace process and he hopes that “the discussions will be productive”.

The White House also sees the visit as an opportunity to incentivise Pakistan to use its leverage on the Taliban to advance the Afghan peace process.

“We see that this visit could incentivise Pakistan to continue down the path that they have started. They’ve facilitated contacts to Taliban and met some of our requests with regards to the Afghan peace process,” the official said.

“We’re at a critical juncture and we need to see more cooperation from Pakistan. They need to use their full leverage in this endeavour. And so, we see this visit as an opportunity to encourage them to do more,” said the official.

Apparently, Afghanistan will be the main item on the US agenda and Washington seems clear that it needs Pakistan’s support to achieve this objective.

“We are calling on Pakistan for assistance in moving the peace process forward,” said the official, adding that the US “appreciates initial steps that Pakistan has taken to facilitate” the US-Taliban talks but at this “critical juncture in the peace process,” it needs more support.

“We are asking Pakistan to pressure the Taliban into a permanent ceasefire and participation in intra-Afghan negotiations that would include the Afghan government,” the official said.

The United States would also ask Pakistan to take irreversible action against terrorist and militant groups, and to facilitate peace talks with the Taliban for an intra-Afghan dialogue, the official added.

The Trump administration is making arrangements for a warm welcome to the prime minister, who will be the first Pakistani leader in four years to meet a US president when he visits the White House.

For the United States, the purpose of the visit “is to press for concrete cooperation from Pakistan to advance the Afghan peace process, and to encourage Pakistan to deepen and sustain its recent effort to crack down on terrorist and militants within its territory,” the official said.

But the official also said that the United States would not take “the initial steps” that Pakistan has so far taken at their “face value”.

“We are monitoring the situation. We will wait and see if the steps are made irreversible and sustainable,” the official said.

Discussions with Pakistan will also include potential cooperation on trade and energy and the White House will encourage Pakistan to “create” opportunity for enhancing regional economic development and connectivity, the official added.

The United States, the official added, would continue to “encourage Pakistan to ease restrictions on transit trade between India and Afghanistan”.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1495301/door-open-to-repairing-ties-says-white-house-as-pm-reaches-us

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PTI move to allow presidents, governors to rejoin politics without delay

July 21, 2019

LAHORE: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) is planning to remove the services of the president of Pakistan and the provincial governors from the Civil Service of Pakistan to allow the incumbents to join political activities soon after relinquishing their office.

Sources say that the federal government is considering amending the Constitution to offer mileage to the political leaders currently serving as president of the country and the governors of four provinces and Gilgit-Baltistan.

The civil servants are required to wait for two years after the end of their tenure before starting any political activity.

Since the PTI government at the Centre will require a two-thirds majority to amend the constitution, sources say it has begun its spadework and is seeking feedback from the respective provinces.

The first move for the amendment in this regard is being made by the Punjab cabinet.

The Punjab government had put up an agenda item, “Amendments in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973,” for the 15th cabinet meeting held at the Chief Minister’s secretariat on Saturday.

Sources said the meeting discussed the issue and gave its consent. Since it had nothing to do with the Punjab government or the cabinet, the sources said, the federal government would be taking up the matter after ensuring two-thirds majority to get the proposed amendment through.

When contacted, Punjab Law Secretary Nazir Ahmad Gajana said the agenda item was pending and that the issue was raised in a private member bill in the Senate and National Assembly.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1495329/pti-move-to-allow-presidents-governors-to-rejoin-politics-without-delay

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Pakistan covers up for human rights abuses against Muslims in China, say experts

Jul 21, 2019

While the United Nations has said that at least one million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims have been detained in China, experts believe that neighbouring Pakistan has turned a blind eye to the human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

China's close ally, Pakistan, is a Muslim country and one of the most powerful members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). However, it has covered up the massive human rights abuses against followers of Islam in Xinjiang.

"I see the main reason...as the implementation of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Obviously, raising the question of the Uighurs domestically as well as internationally is perceived as provoking Beijing, which would have potential negative ramifications for the CPEC implementation," said Dr Siegfried O Wolf, the Director of Research at Brussels-based South Asia Democratic Forum (SADF).

"In this context, we should also expect that the Pakistani leadership does not want to raise the question in order to not stir further anti-Chinese sentiments in the country which are already increasing. This would further deteriorate the security situation of Chinese projects, workers, and companies," he added.

Wolf said that another factor is that Islamabad, especially its all-powerful military, wants to appease Beijing by ignoring the mistreatment of the Muslim communities in China. This helps in shielding the deepening Pakistan-China bilateral ties in security and military-related matters, which find its most visible expression in the delivery of Chinese weapons and military hardware.

Recently, nearly two dozen nations at the UN Human Rights Council wrote a letter, urging China to halt its mass detention.

US Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, also called China's treatment of Uighurs the "stain of the century". The State Department estimates that between 8,00,000 to two million Turkic Muslims, including Uighurs, are being held in internment camps that Beijing has called "re-education" centres.

The issue of Uighurs in Xinjiang is expected to be raised during Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's meeting with the US Secretary of State on Tuesday. Khan will be in the US from July 21 to July 23 on an official visit, during which he is also scheduled to meet US President Donald Trump.

Experts believe that Pakistan is hand-in-glove with China to cover up the massive human rights violations in Xinjiang.

Dusan Vejinovic, a Senior Research Analyst at the European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) said, "The same way that China appears to maintain double standards on combating terrorism, manifested through the years-long postponement of the designation of Masood Azhar as a global terrorist, while simultaneously detaining 'preventatively' Muslims on alleged suspicions of Islamist radicalisation and terrorism, Pakistan follows the model of its patron, by playing a double standard in dealing with issues related to Muslims".

"Pakistan will sell its proxy war in Jammu & Kashmir as Jihad for their Muslim brothers, but totally deny any knowledge of the treatment of Uighurs by China," he added.

Wolf also said that Pakistan will attempt to continue its old tactic of playing a double game during Khan's visit to Washington.

"Until now Pakistan was known for supporting the 'US war against terror' but at the same time, it also supported the Taliban and other insurgent groups in Afghanistan which were fighting against the US troops, their allies and the Afghan government. However, this version of the double game reduces significance among Pakistan security mindset with the reduction of the US troops in the country, the growing strength of the Taliban and the deepening of relations wherein China is substituting US financial aid," Wolf added.

"However, Pakistan's military knows very well that Chinese military hardware is not a match until now for US technology and capabilities in the areas of defence production. Furthermore, the top brass of the Pakistani army is also well aware that Chinese support is strictly limited when it comes to an armed confrontation with its arch-rival India. As such, the military looks for a diversification of its supplies for military equipment," he further said.

Full report at:

https://www.dnaindia.com/world/report-pakistan-covers-up-for-human-rights-abuses-against-muslims-in-china-say-experts-2774218

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Pakistan Holds First-ever Provincial Polls in Northwest Tribal Areas Bordering Afghanistan

July 20, 2019

Islamabad: The first-ever provincial elections began on Saturday in Pakistan's erstwhile semi-autonomous tribal region bordering Afghanistan that was once a stronghold of various militant groups like the Taliban and the al-Qaida.

Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) comprising seven districts was merged with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province in May 2018 after a constitutional amendment.

The law set aside 24 seats in the KP assembly for the former FATA region. However, due to administrative reasons elections on those seats were not held with the general polls held in July in the country last year.

According to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), polling began at 8:00 a.m. local time in all the seven tribal districts amid heightened security. As many as 34,497 security personnel have been deployed in the polling booths.

As many as 285 candidates, including two women, are contesting for 16 seats. Another four seats are reserved for women and one for non-Muslim. These seats will be awarded to the political parties on the basis of their share in the 16 contested seats.

The ECP said 2.80 million voters — 1.67 millions of whom are men and 1.13 million women — will exercise their franchise in 1,897 polling stations.

Full report at:

https://www.news18.com/news/world/pakistan-holds-first-ever-provincial-polls-in-northwest-tribal-areas-bordering-afghanistan-2239101.html

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Fazl discusses Senate no-trust, anti-govt strategy with Shahbaz

July 21, 2019

LAHORE: Leader of his own faction of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), Maulana Fazlur Rehman, called on Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) President Shahbaz Sharif, along with his party leaders on Saturday. Both sides discussed prevailing political situation in the country, especially the upcoming no-confidence movement against Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani by the opposition parties. They also discussed the political strategy, evolved by the opposition parties at the multi-party conference (MPC) to counter the government victimisation of the opposition leadership, arrests and cases under the NAB laws.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/501471-fazl-discusses-senate-no-trust-anti-govt-strategy-with-shahbaz

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Despite IHC’s direction video leak judge not sent back to LHC

Malik Asad

July 21, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Law and Justice has not repatriated Mohammad Arshad Malik, the former judge of the Islamabad accountability court who is allegedly involved in the video leak scandal, to his parent department — Lahore High Court (LHC) — despite clear directives of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to this effect.

At present, Mr Malik is working neither under the IHC nor under the LHC. Instead, the law ministry has made him ‘officer on special duty’ with his status ‘awaiting posting’.

Mr Malik as the judge of the accountability court convicted former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the Al-Azizia reference and awarded him seven years in jail.

In the video shown by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Maryam Nawaz during a press conference earlier this month, Mr Malik is seen telling a reported sympathiser of the PML-N that he had given the judgement against Mr Sharif under pressure.

The IHC registrar in a letter to the law ministry stated, “This letter may be treated as consultation of the Hon’ble Chief Justice of this court as required under section 5A(4) of the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999.”

While the law ministry kept the matter pending, Mr Malik has got registered an FIR (first information report) against those who secretly filmed him as well as senior leaders of the PML-N for releasing the video to media.

Meanwhile, the law ministry has stopped the judge of the Control of Narcotics Substances (CNS) court, Lahore, Masood Ahmed from hearing the case of PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah.

The law ministry without consultation with the LHC chief justice stopped the judge from working as special judge CNS on July 12 stating that “reportedly the said judge has issues regarding his impartiality and integrity”.

The law ministry in a letter to the LHC registrar said that “it is therefore, recommended that the matter may be placed before the Hon’ble Chief Justice LHC to immediately retrieve the services of above said judge and nominate another district and sessions judge for appointment as judge in the said court”.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1495330

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Freed Ahmadi man apprise Trump about community's persecution in Pak

Jul 18, 2019

Washington: An Ahmadi man, who was recently released from a Pakistani jail, apprised US President Donald Trump on Wednesday (local time) about the persecution of the community in Pakistan.

"I am from the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. In 1974, we were declared non-Muslims. Our houses were burnt and our shops were looted. I relocated to Rabwah where I had a shop selling books. But, I was given a five-year jail term for selling books and a (Pakistani) Rs 6 lakh fine. I was released after three years," the man said, according to a video tweeted by a Pakistani author and analyst Tarek Fatah.

The man said that while he can call himself a Muslim in the US, he cannot do so in Pakistan for fear of punishment.

"We have never retaliated (against anyone) and have left everything to God. I pray that may God reward you and give you a long life," the man told Trump.

The brief conversation took place as Trump met with victims of religious persecution from various countries at the White House.

The Ahmadiyya or the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at is an Islamic religious movement founded in Punjab, in then British India, near the end of the 19th century. However, Pakistan's Constitution has declared the community as "non-Muslims."

Most of the Ahmadis reside in Rabwah in Punjab province, which is one of the few places in Pakistan having the highest concentration of the community.

The Pakistan Penal Code subjects Ahmadis to severe legal restrictions and officially-sanctioned discrimination, making it criminal for the people of the community to call themselves Muslims, preach, propagate or disseminate materials on their faith, or refer to their houses of worship as mosques.

The Pakistan government applies the anti-terrorism law as an unwarranted pretext to arrest members of the Ahmadiyya community.

Full report at:

https://www.asianage.com/world/americas/180719/freed-ahmadi-man-apprise-trump-about-communitys-persecution-in-pak.html

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COAS to visit Pentagon for interaction with top US military officials: DG ISPR

July 21, 2019

Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa is scheduled to interact with top US military leadership at the Pentagon during a three-day official working visit to Washington, according to Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, Radio Pakistan reported on Sunday.

The DG ISPR, while speaking to the media at the Pakistani embassy in Washington, said that the army chief would also accompany Prime Minister Imran Khan during his meeting with US President Donald Trump on Monday.

Prime Minister Imran, accompanied by COAS Gen Bajwa and Maj Gen Ghafoor, arrived in Washington on Saturday for an official working visit.

Apparently, this is the first time that the country’s top generals will be accompanying the prime minister to a White House meeting with the US president.

Diplomatic sources earlier told Dawn, that Gen Bajwa is expected to meet former acting defence secretary Patrick Shanahan, the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Mark Milley and other senior officials during his visit to Pentagon.

This will be Gen Milley’s first meeting with a foreign military leader since his confirmation on Thursday by the US Senate's Armed Services Committee.

The DG ISPR told the media that the security situation in Pakistan is "far better now", and added that the "sacrifices of [the] Pakistani nation and security forces have started yielding results".

He said that with the erection of a fence along the Pak-Afghan border, border control was much better, and that the fence would help reduce terrorism-related incidents.

The ISPR spokesperson said that the main focus of security forces was the development of Balochistan and the restructuring of areas affected by terrorism in coordination with the civil administration, Radio Pakistan reported.

Gen Ghafoor also briefed the media on the escalation of tensions with India earlier this year as well as the overall security situation of Pakistan.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1495357/coas-to-visit-pentagon-for-interaction-with-top-us-military-officials-dg-ispr

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4 policemen martyred in gun, bomb attack in DI Khan

Zahid Imdad

July 21, 2019

Seven people, including three civilians and four policemen, died in a gun attack targeting a checkpost in Dera Ismail Khan and a subsequent suicide blast at a hospital where the victims of the first attack were shifted.

24 others were injured in the incidents, Dl Khan District Police Officer (DPO) Saleem Riaz said.

The DPO said that at approximately 7:45am on Sunday morning, unidentified gunmen on four motorcycles opened fire on policemen at the Kotla Syedan checkpost, martyring two policemen.

Following the gun attack, a suicide blast took place at the hospital where the victims were shifted, the DPO said. Three civilians were killed and two policemen were martyred in the second attack.

The DPO added that according to an initial probe, the suicide bomber allegedly appeared to be a woman and the attack seemed premeditated.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1495356/4-policemen-martyred-in-gun-bomb-attack-in-di-khan

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Hafiz Saeed’s arrest not linked to PM’s US visit: Firdous

Kalbe Ali

July 21, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan on Saturday said that the arrest of Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed or the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) had nothing to do with the visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to the US.

The trip was aimed at addressing needs of the National Action Plan (NAP), she added.

Addressing a news conference at the Press Information Department, Ms Awan said that the conspiracy hatched by India to include Pakistan in FATF’s blacklist had been foiled by the friends of the country, including China and Malaysia.

“But the arrest of the religio-political leader of a proscribed party was part of the ongoing measures under the National Action Plan,” Dr Awan added.

She said that Prime Minister Khan’s visit to the US along with the army chief and the ISI director general clearly indicated that the civilian and military leaders of the country were on the same page.

“This shows that they are putting the national interest above all things, unlike the past when those in authority used to speak against the national institutions,” she added.

“During his visit to the US, the prime minister will sensitise the international community about sacrifices rendered by Pakistan in bringing peace and stability to the region,” she said, adding that Pakistan had a pivotal role in peace efforts aimed at resolving the conflict in Afghanistan.

The special assistant said this visit had set an example of austerity as the prime minister was travelling in a commercial flight and would stay at the residence of the Pakistan ambassador in the US as opposed to the past when up to $600,000 was spent on a single visit by the ‘aristocrats of the country’.

“Lavish expenditures do not necessarily yield desired results, and Prime Minister Imran Khan is not the kind of person who would take a chit out of his pocket to talk to the US leadership,” said the special assistant.

Dr Awan lambasted the PML-N leadership and called them ‘masters of falsehood’ over a news report circulating on media related to the Punjab forensic lab.

“The Punjab forensic lab is not equipped to deal with such things and the video is fake. The video has been forwarded to the FIA,” she said, adding that the final report would be presented to the Supreme Court by the FIA after it was finalised.

About the attire of Maryam Nawaz on Friday when she appeared in the NAB court, Dr Awan said she had “kept the caricature of Nawaz Sharif close to her feet”.

“Maryam Safdar Awan hinted that there were pressures on his highness Nawaz Sharif to make a deal; this is their way to float the idea of an NRO,” the special assistant said, adding, “But Prime Minister Imran Khan has time and again reiterated that the process of accountability will continue at every cost and there will be no NRO for anyone. Law will take its course in dealing with the corruption cases”.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1495298/hafiz-saeeds-arrest-not-linked-to-pms-us-visit-firdous

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Govt fed fake news to UK tabloid to malign me, Shahbaz tells court

July 21, 2019

LAHORE: An accountability court on Saturday adjourned the hearing of Ramzan Sugar Mills reference without any progress as the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) did not produce Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz in the court.

However, Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif, Hamza’s father, appeared before the court.

When asked about the absence of Mr Hamza, NAB special prosecutor Waris Ali Janjua told the court the suspect was on physical remand in another case of assets beyond means/money laundering and the investigating officer of that case was not informed about the proceedings in the sugar mills case.

He said the NAB would have produced the suspect if the court had directed it.

Mr Hamza’s counsel interrupted and stated that there was a clear direction for the bureau to present the suspect.

The court adjourned the hearing till Aug 1 and instructed the prosecutor to ensure appearance of Mr Hamza next time.

With the permission of the court, Mr Sharif also spoke in his defence and complained about his alleged character assassination at the hands of the government.

He alleged that the government got published a “baseless news” against him in a United Kingdom newspaper. He added the “bogus report” also brought a bad name to Pakistan.

Mr Sharif said the government should have presented evidence before the court if it had anything against him. “To me, misusing earthquake victims fund is like eating carrion,” he added.

In the sugar mills case, the NAB alleged that Mr Sharif, being chief minister of Punjab, approved construction of a drain in Chiniot with a cost of Rs360 million only to benefit Ramzan Sugar Mills owned by his sons Hamza and Salman.

It said the approval of the construction was given on a fake application filed by the then MPA Maulana Rehmatullah showing the drain as a public project. It said public funds were misused for the benefit of family business of the suspects.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1495244/govt-fed-fake-news-to-uk-tabloid-to-malign-me-shahbaz-tells-court

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Border control improved with Pak-Afghan border fence: ISPR

Jul 21, 2019

WASHINGTON:  Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major General Asif Ghafoor has said that army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa will visit Pentagon to have interaction with the military leadership of the United States and other related officials.

He said this walking to media at Pakistan Embassy in Washington, he further said that army chief would be accompanied by Prime Minister Imran Khan during his meeting with President Donald Trump tomorrow.

Asif Ghafoor told due to immense sacrifices of Pakistani nation, the internal security situation has improved drastically and would improve further in coming days.

The DG ISPR said border control was much better after the erection of the security fence along Pak-Afghan border. He said border fence will also help reduce terrorism-related incidents.

Now the main focus of the security forces was the development in Balochistan and restructuring of terrorism affected areas in coordination with the civil administration, he added.

He briefed the media regarding the spike in tensions with India in February early this year and the overall security situation of the country.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/07/21/border-control-improved-with-pak-afghan-border-fence-ispr/

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Southeast Asia

 

Islam neither indigenous nor sole belief system of Uygurs: white paper

2019-07-21

BEIJING, July 21 (Xinhua) -- Islam is neither an indigenous nor the sole belief system of the Uygur people, a white paper said Sunday.

The introduction of Islam into Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in northwest China was related to the emergence of the Arab Empire and the eastward expansion of Islam, said "Historical Matters Concerning Xinjiang" released by China's State Council Information Office.

"The Uighur conversion to Islam was not a voluntary choice made by the common people, but a result of religious wars and imposition by the ruling class, though this fact does not undermine our respect for the Muslims' right to their beliefs," the white paper said.

According to the document, Buddhism was once the predominant religion practiced by the nobility and the common people in the region. Today in Xinjiang, a significant number of people do not follow any religion, and many Uygurs follow religions other than Islam.

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-07/21/c_138244696.htm

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IGP on fight against terrorism in Malaysia and why we still need Sosma

21 July 2019

By G. Prakash

KUALA LUMPUR, July 21 — Inspector-General of Police Datuk Seri Abdul Hamid Bador credits Malaysia’s counter terrorism success to the sharing of information with international counterparts who have more experience in fighting extremist ideologies.

The Counter Terrorism (E8) Division of the Bukit Aman Special Branch department has racked up an impressive number of arrests and stopped planned attacks from happening here.

“We have been watching closely the developments taking place in the Middle East as there had been earlier concerns that the defeat of the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria and Iraq could lead to frustrated fighters who have yet to fulfill their mission to become martyrs,” Abdul Hamid told the Malay Mail.

“The concern is that they would return to their countries of origin like Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines and will conduct their final act in their home country.

“But so far this has not been realised except for maybe the Philippines but that too investigators are not sure if the perpetrators are those returning from that region,” he said, referring to the Middle East.

In March, major news outlets reported that the IS has lost the last pocket of territory in Syria and Iraq which it controlled, bringing a formal end to the caliphate it proclaimed in 2014.

The group controls no territory in Iraq and Syria, attacks are down and the number of foreign fighters it continues to recruit is a fraction of what it was at its height.

But the notorious terrorist group remains a serious, violent threat. Many of its top leaders are still alive and it continues to carry out attacks.

Abdul Hamid said police are always concerned when it comes to terror threats in the country and are constantly vigilant.

“We are constantly monitoring social media and at the same time we have increased the engagement with foreign intelligence organisations, sharing information especially with the experienced ones such as Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and of course our long-time partner Indonesia who has been very cordial with us.

“We have been brotherly with these countries in our joint effort in tackling this issue,” he said.

‘Don't take away Sosma’

Abdul Hamid said terror networks feared Malaysia's Internal Security Act (ISA).

“For them, they knew ISA is the end for them... that's how it was. But now that ISA is history, we have this powerful legislation the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma) 2012, which helps us.

“I want to share with the public... if Sosma is taken away from us, it means you take away our 'guns' to fight terrorists... the public should be educated about this,” he said.

Abdul Hamid said such laws allow the police to act, not to wait until a threat is in the advance stage.

“We know our limits. I for one would not allow the police to use torture tactics, I have made it very strict to my men in the counter terrorism department.

“That is why I have made it clear that there must always be CCTVs in interrogation rooms and everywhere else. I always remind my men to not tackle this issue by torturing the subjects as that will make it worse.

“We will not implement torture tactics to illicit confessions,” he said.

Abdul Hamid said the terror suspects are misled on ideology and it is important for the authorities to use experts from religious departments to reason with them.

Terror threat is real, Malaysians must not be complacent

The top cop also reminded Malaysians that the threat of terrorism is not something that can be taken lightly.

“There are people who take it for granted, sometimes not appreciative or complacent that it’s not going to happen here. At times they have been unfair to us. We have spent a lot of time and energy to ensure it (attacks) doesn't happen here.

“We need the public to be aware and we need their co-operation so that they can continue providing tip-offs of any suspicious behaviour,” he said,

Abdul Hamid said in many instances the police were able to prevent an attack from happening at the final stage.

“We want the public to know about this so they can help, that is why I go to the press and talk about all this,” he said.

Police monitoring 'wolf pack' terrorism

Abdul Hamid said police are also closely monitoring terrorist activities by lone wolves and "wolf packs.”

He said in contrast to IS, these terrorists have no network or links with militant cells and move in small groups of six to seven members.

“We have to continue monitoring and ensure we can abort attacks before the militants can launch them.

“So far we have been successful in singling them out,” he said adding that such threats are the reason why the police has always empowered the E8 division.

Abdul Hamid said he had also recently briefed the Council of Rulers about the fight against terrorism.

“The Council of Rulers is also very concerned about it and I have told the Rulers that police will continue to engage with the Islamic Development Department of Malaysia (Jakim) to educate the public against extremist ideologies.”

Rohingyas easy target for international terrorist groups

Abdul Hamid said there is a concern that Rohingyas in the country might become an easy target for terrorist organisations and the police are closely monitoring the situation.

During a recent crackdown against terror cells, four Rohingya suspects were detained; two of them had planned to assassinate four VIPs and launch large-scale attacks on non-Muslim houses of worship, as well as entertainment centres in the Klang Valley.

“We have to understand they have been suppressed just like the Palestinians, we have to understand their predicament, there will be a small number of them... the frustrated ones who will resort to subscribing to terrorism but the majority are not.

“When you talk about Rohingyas, there have been concerns raised by Bangladeshi intelligence and we are sharing information with them.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/07/21/igp-on-fight-against-terrorism-in-malaysia-and-why-we-still-need-sosma/1773377

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Mujahid to table new Islamic administration policy in Cabinet

July 20, 2019

MELAKA: A working paper will be tabled at a Cabinet meeting soon on the concept of “Rahmatan Lil Alamin” (mercy to all creation) as a new policy of Islamic administration in Malaysia.

Mujahid Yusof Rawa, minister for Islamic affairs in the Prime Minister’s Department, said that the proposal paper was now in the final stage of drafting.

‘’The journey to carry the Rahmatan Lil Alamin concept based on Maqasid Syariah (goals or objectives of shariah) is no mere empty talk but it is set to be turned into an official policy of the Islamic administration in the country soon,’’ he said.

Earlier today, he presented a working paper on The Idea of Rahmah (Divine Mercy) in New Malaysia at a convention of religious scholars (Nunji 2019) in Ayer Keroh.

Mujahid has previously explained that the concept of Rahmatan Lil Alamin was a major approach which was brought by the government towards creating a nation of divine mercy.

A working paper had been approved by the Islamic National Council for Islamic Religious Affairs on March 14 at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Mujahid said the Nunji conference, which was started four years ago, was a platform aimed at reinvigorating the thinking of Muslims so as not to be too rigid and stiff.

‘’Nunji’s role is as an input in moulding today’s society by using the Islamic narrative under the ‘Rahmatan Lil Alamin’ and ‘Maqasid Syariah’ concepts brought by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government,’’ he said.

The one-day convention also presented renowned figures to explain to the people about the “Maqasid Syariah” concept.

‘’Maqasid Syariah must be popularised so that the public understands that doing something for national development, doing something for national well-being and also national peace are also the rules of religion brought by Islam,’’ he said.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2019/07/20/mujahid-to-table-new-islamic-administration-policy-in-cabinet/

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North America

 

US Muslim Congresswoman introduces resolution upholding right to boycott Israel

Jul 20, 2019

Muslim US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has introduced a resolution that seeks to protect the right to engage in boycotts against Israel, despite efforts by federal, state and locals officials to pass various anti-boycott measures.

Omar, a Democratic member of the US House of Representatives, proposed the resolution earlier this week in a bid to push back against US laws banning the Israel boycotts.

The text of the measure affirms the right of Americans to organize boycotts of foreign countries. While the resolution doesn’t explicitly name Israel or the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, she told media outlets that the resolution concerns Israel.

“We are introducing a resolution … to really speak about the American values that support and believe in our ability to exercise our First Amendment rights in regard to boycotting,” Omar told Al-Monitor.

Resolution 496 was introduced with two cosponsors, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and John Lewis of Georgia.

Omar’s decision to introduce the measure shows she is not intimidated by President Donald Trump’s recent racist attacks on her and other women of color lawmakers, including his accusations that they are anti-Semitic and anti-Israel.

“It affirms the right of all activists and people of conscience to advocate for human rights through boycotts against systems of oppression,” Hind Awwad, spokesperson for the Palestinian BDS National Committee said.

The BDS boycott campaign against Israel began in July 2005 by 171 Palestinian organizations, which calls for "various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law.”

Omar's pro-boycott resolution was introduced at the same time that Congress was advancing a nonbinding bipartisan resolution to condemn BDS.

The move is the latest in a series of measures in US state and federal legislatures to sideline or criminalize the anti-racist BDS campaign.

On Wednesday, during a debate on the bipartisan anti-BDS resolution, Omar challenged the measure, saying lawmakers “cannot condemn nonviolent means,” adding that Israel’s occupation must end.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/07/20/601425/US-Congress-Resolution-Omar-Ilhan

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Trump-Khan summit ‘arranged through MBS’

July 21, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan’s invitation to visit the US and meet President Donald Trump was arranged through direct assistance from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, two senior officials said on Saturday.

Khan will arrive in Washington on Saturday ahead of a meeting with Trump that Pakistan hopes will help to restore trust and attract much-needed foreign investment.

When asked if Crown Prince Salman had played an “instrumental role” in paving the way for the Khan-Trump meeting, a senior Pakistani foreign office official said “absolutely.”

He declined to give further details and requested anonymity as he is not the official spokesman of the Foreign Ministry.

A senior member of Khan’s Cabinet also confirmed the role of the crown prince in setting up the meeting, saying that he had used his personal friendship with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, to help arrange the meeting.

Kushner’s friendship and support for Crown Prince Salman has been one of the most important bonds that has helped draw Trump into the embrace of Saudi Arabia as one of his most important international allies. Now the friendship seems to have come in handy for Pakistan, a longtime Saudi ally itself.

The now-jailed former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, was the last Pakistani head of state to visit the US in October 2015. Since then, relations have soured and last year Trump cut off hundreds of millions of dollars in security aid to Pakistan, accusing Islamabad of offering “nothing but lies and deceit” while giving safe haven to terrorists, a charge Pakistan vehemently rejected.

In February this year, however, Trump said that the US had developed a “much better” relationship with Pakistan. Recently, attempts to placate the other side have been made by both governments, with Pakistan arresting the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, Hafiz Saeed, who has for years had a $10 million US bounty on his head.

The US also recently added the separatist Balochistan Liberation Army to its list of terror groups, honoring a long-time request by Islamabad, which has been fighting the group in the southwestern Balochistan province for decades.

On Saturday, Khan leads a high-level delegation to Washington, which includes ministers of his Cabinet, commerce adviser, financial advisers, the foreign minister and, in a first, the country’s powerful army chief, head of intelligence and military spokesperson.

“The purpose of Khan’s visit is to take Pak-America relations out of the cold storage (they) have been in and request the US to reimburse the $800 million owed to the Coalition Support Funds to Pakistan,” the defense analyst and retired air marshal, Abid Rao, told Arab News.

He said that Khan would emphasize that Pakistan was not interested in aid but would like to “develop trade with the US which mutually benefits and serves each other’s interests, an economic partnership.”

“This meeting and its conclusion is very important for Pakistan’s image internationally and for the US,” Rao said. “Today, Iran is a threat, the Gulf oil flow is under threat ... and the US is trying to pull out from Afghanistan ... Pakistan has solutions and suggestions.” 

Defense expert, Group Captain Sultan Hali, said that Khan would set the record straight during his meeting with Trump, especially on the core issue of Afghanistan. With a powerful delegation accompanying Khan, decisions, suggestions and agreements would be made “right then and there without seeking approvals from back home.”

“He should be able to look Trump in the eye and speak without worrying,” Hali said, stressing that Khan must build his “personal reputation with Trump.”

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1528406/world

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U.S. President Trump meets freed Pakistani Ahmadi

July 18, 2019

U.S. President Trump on Wednesday met with a Pakistani Ahmadi man who spent three years in prison for his Ahmadiyya beliefs.

Pakistanis Abdul Shukoor and Shaan Taseer were two of the 27 participants in the Oval Office meeting with President Trump. During the brief interaction 83 year old Abdul Shukoor prayed for President Trump and said:

“I pray that may Allah reward you, protect you and give you a long life”

“I can call myself a Muslim in the United States but not in Pakistan, otherwise I will be punished”

“We (Ahmadis) were declared non-Muslim in 1974, our shops and houses were looted and many houses were burnt down, I then relocated to Rabwah along with kids, where I had a shop selling books, and was given a 5 year sentence and a 600,000 PKR fine, now I have been released after three years”

Responding to Shukoor’s comments President Trump said:

“So you see the world is a tough place, and we are making strides and we are making some good strides”

Full report at:

https://www.rabwah.net/u-s-president-trump-meets-freed-pakistani-ahmadi/

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Lockheed awarded $1.48 bln Saudi missile defense contract: Pentagon

20 July 2019

Lockheed Martin was awarded a $1.48 billion contract to build the THAAD missile defense system for Saudi Arabia, bringing the total value of the deal to $5.36 billion, the Pentagon said on Friday.

The new contract was a modification to a previously awarded agreement to produce the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense interceptor for Saudi Arabia, the Pentagon said.

In November 2018, Saudi and US officials signed letters of offer and acceptance formalizing terms for Saudi Arabia’s purchase of 44 THAAD launchers, missiles and related equipment.

In April Lockheed was awarded a $2.4 billion contract for THAAD interceptor missiles, some of which are slated to be delivered to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The latest contract is for interceptor support items.

Lockheed Martin, the biggest US arms maker, builds and integrates the THAAD system, which is designed to shoot down short-, medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/07/20/Lockheed-awarded-1-48-bln-Saudi-missile-defense-contract-Pentagon.html

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US offers $7 million reward for senior Hezbollah agent over 1994 Buenos Aires bombing

July 20, 2019

The United States has issued a $7 million reward for any information leading to the location of an agent for the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah believed to have masterminded the deadly 1994 bombing of a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires.

The reward is to find alleged perpetrator Salman Raouf Salman and it included new sanctions on him, in tandem with Argentina's announcement that it was designating Hezbollah as a terrorist group.

"We are targeting Salman Raouf Salman, who coordinated a devastating attack in Buenos Aires, Argentina against the largest Jewish center in South America 25 years ago and has directed terrorist operations in the Western Hemisphere for Hezbollah ever since," said Sigal Mandelker, the US Treasury's under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

The designation coincided with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visit to Argentina as he sought to unite Latin American nations against the militants.

Twenty-five years since the bombing in which 85 people died, no one has been brought to trial and the case has been bogged down in Argentina amid allegations of political interference and high-level corruption.

Iran and Hezbollah both deny responsibility for the attack. Hezbollah was also accused of carrying out a deadly attack two years earlier against the Israeli embassy.

The United States is encouraging Latin American countries to follow its lead in aggressively designating groups or individuals as terrorists, as demonstrated by Argentina's action.

"In the face of a global threat like Hezbollah, it is every sovereign nation's obligation and responsibility to comply with sanctions designed to keep all of us safe," Mr Pompeo said as he opened the talks with fellow ministers.

"Solidarity is the antidote to the terror threat," he said.

Argentina's Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie said that the Hezbollah designation would allow the country to freeze the group's assets and ban the entry of its members.

Mr Pompeo said he expected "many" Latin American countries to follow Argentina's lead on Hezbollah, although none immediately announced they would do so.

The US Treasury Department said Salman, also known as Salman Al Reda, masterminded the 1994 attack and "has directed terrorist operations in the Western Hemisphere for Hezbollah ever since."

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/the-americas/us-offers-7-million-reward-for-senior-hezbollah-agent-over-1994-buenos-aires-bombing-1.888484

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Arab World

 

Civilians Block SDF’s Attempt to Construct Military Points along Borders with Hasaka

Jul 20, 2019

The Al-Khabour news website reported that the residents of the town of Tal Arqam to South of Ra’as al-Ain border region in Hasaka and near the border with Turkey engaged in fierce clashes with the a number of SDF militias who were intending to turn Tal Arqam town into a military stronghold by sending heavy military equipment to that region.

It noted that the civilians prevented the SDF from building military positions and drove them out of the town.

Meantime, the SDF also sent massive military convoy comprising a large number of military vehicles and Kurdish militias to the region.

The SDF has reinforced its military presence along border regions as the Turkish Army started sending troops to conduct military operations against Kurdish militias in Northeastern Syria.

In a relevant development last Saturday, the US Army had forwarded hundreds of trucks containing logistics and military equipment to the Syrian province of Hasaka over the past three days months after it declared an end to the fight against ISIL.

The Kurdish-language Xeber24 reported that the 200 US trucks carrying military equipment, logistics, military vehicles, oil tankers and covered trucks arrived in US-backed forces’ military base in Hasaka province through Simalka crossing from US bases in Iraq.

It noted that the US military convoys have arrived in a military base controlled by the US-backed forces in Tal al-Bidar region of Hasaka province.

The Xeber24, meantime, reported that about 250 US military trucks carrying military and logistical support had arrived in Tal al-Bidar Military Base last week.

The US sends convoys of military trucks to the Kurdish-controlled areas in Eastern Syria while the US and its allied Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have claimed that the military operations in Eastern Euphrates have come to an end.

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980429000733

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Egypt’s civil aviation ministry reviewing BA suspension of flights to Cairo

21 July 2019

An official source at Egypt’s Ministry of Civil Aviation said the recent decision by British Airways to suspend its flights to Cairo for a week starting on Saturday was not issued by the British Department for Transport nor Britain’s Foreign Office.

In a statement published online, an official source from the Egyptian Ministry of Civil Aviation said that authorities are coordinating with the British Embassy in Egypt. The source also said that Egyptian authorities are currently reviewing British Airways’ decision to suspend its flights to Cairo.

Egypt’s Ministry of Civil Aviation said it will be increasing the capacity of EgyptAir flights to London in the meantime and that it is allocating a new Boeing 787 Dreamliner to launch an additional flight starting on Sunday to London’s Heathrow Airport during this period.

British Airways suspended flights to Cairo for seven days starting on Saturday as a precaution to allow for an assessment of security there, the airline said in a statement.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/07/21/Egypt-s-civil-aviation-ministry-reviewing-BA-suspension-of-flights-to-Cairo.html

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Iraqi Kurdistan arrests Turkish lawmaker’s brother for assassination of diplomat

20 July 2019

Security services in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region said on Saturday they had arrested the brother of a lawmaker serving in the Turkish parliament for the assassination of a Turkish diplomat in the Iraqi Kurdish regional capital Erbil.

The diplomat was one of at least two people shot dead on Wednesday when a gunman opened fire in a restaurant where Turkish diplomats were dining.

“The Kurdistan Region announced on Saturday the arrest of the man who planned the assassination of a Turkish diplomat in a restaurant in Erbil, less than a week after the attack,” the Asayish internal security service said in a statement.

It did not name the suspect but said “reports indicated” that his sister served as a Kurdish lawmaker in the Turkish parliament. A separate statement from another Iraqi Kurdish security force, the Counter Terrorism Department, gave the suspect’s name as Mazlum Dag.

Turkey’s pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) later confirmed that the man who had been arrested was the brother of one of its lawmakers, Dersim Dag.

It said it strongly condemned the attack on the diplomat, and said “using the attack as a reason to make one of our lawmakers a target through the name of her brother is a provocation and unacceptable”.

Political violence is comparatively rare in Erbil, capital of Iraq’s semi-autonomous northern Kurdish region, which has been spared the civil war and ethnic strife that hit the rest of Iraq since the US-led invasion of 2003.

The shooter fled in a car driven by an accomplice, two Kurdish security officials and a witness said.

The attack took place weeks after Turkey launched a new military offensive against Kurdish separatist militants based in northern Iraq.

Ankara’s main enemy in Iraq is the PKK group, which has based fighters in the mountainous border region, north of Erbil, during a decades-long insurgency in southeastern Turkey.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/07/20/Iraqi-Kurdish-security-arrest-man-behind-shooting-Turkish-diplomat-.html

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Saudi Arabia says crew member of Iranian ship sent to Oman

20 July 2019

Saudi Arabia said on Saturday it had sent a crew member of an Iranian ship, previously evacuated for medical reasons from a ship off the Yemeni port of Hodeidah, to Oman.

The Iranian citizen was sent to Oman at Tehran’s request after receiving necessary medical treatment in Saudi Arabia, a source in the foreign ministry was quoted as saying by state news agency SPA.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/07/20/Saudi-Arabia-says-crew-member-of-Iranian-ship-sent-to-Oman-SPA.html

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Saudi King Salman approves hosting US troops to enhance security in region

20 July 2019

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz approved hosting US forces in the Kingdom to boost regional security and stability, the state news agency (SPA) reported on Friday.

The US Defense Department confirmed the move in a statement, saying it would deploy troops and resources to Saudi Arabia to “provide an additional deterrent” in the face of “emergent, credible threats.”

An official in the Saudi Ministry of Defense said the decision aims “to increase joint cooperation in defense of regional security and stability and to preserve its peace,” according to SPA.

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🇸🇦🇺🇸 | @KingSalman has approved hosting US Armed Forces to increase joint cooperation in defense of regional security and stability and to preserve its peace

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The gesture comes amid rising tensions between Washington and Tehran in the Gulf.

On Friday, Iran said it had seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, but denied Washington’s assertion that the US Navy had downed an Iranian drone nearby earlier this week.

Relations between Washington and Tehran worsened last year when President Donald Trump abandoned a 2015 nuclear deal between world powers and Iran.

Under the pact, Iran agreed to restrict nuclear work, long seen by the West as a cover for developing nuclear weapons, in return for lifting sanctions. But sanctions have since been re-imposed, badly hurting Iran’s economy.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/07/20/King-Salman-approves-hosting-US-troops-to-enhance-security-in-the-region-.html

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Iraqi Kurdistan detains suspected shooter of Turkish vice consul

Jul 20, 2019

Security services of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region say they have detained the suspected gunman in the assassination of a Turkish diplomat in the regional capital Erbil earlier this week.

The terror attack was carried out on Wednesday, when a gunman opened fire with two pistols on a group of Turkish diplomats in a restaurant in Erbil, killing Turkish Vice Consul Osman Kose and two Iraqi nationals, before fleeing in a car driven by an accomplice.

“The main perpetrator responsible for the Erbil restaurant shooting on July 17 has now been arrested by the counter-terrorism unit of Kurdistan Region, following a large-scale search operation,” said the Kurdistan Regional Government in a statement on Saturday.

It further identified the man as “Mazlum Dag,” a 27-year-old from Turkey's Diyarbakir region.

According to Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu news agency, Mazlum’s brother, Dersim, is a pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) deputy for Diyarbakir.

The HDP, Turkey’s second largest opposition group, is repeatedly accused by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of having alleged links to the country’s outlawed separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region since 1984.

The HDP has already “strongly” condemned the Erbil attack, calling it an “absolutely unacceptable provocation attempt.” It has also denounced the accusation that one of its deputies was “designated as a target because of his brother”, without mentioning any names.

There has been no immediate claim of responsibility for the deadly attack.

PKK militants regularly clash with Turkish forces in the Kurdish-dominated southeast of Turkey attached to northern Iraq.

Turkey, along with the European Union and the United States, has declared the PKK a terrorist group and banned it. The militant group has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region since 1984.

A shaky ceasefire between the PKK and the Turkish government collapsed in July 2015. Attacks on Turkish security forces have soared ever since.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/07/20/601433/Iraq-Kurdistan-KRG-Erbil-Mazlum-Dag-Osman-Kose

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Iraqi forces begin 2nd phase of operation against Daesh sleeper cells

Jul 20, 2019

Iraqi military forces have launched the second phase of a major operation to hunt down the remnants of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group north of the capital Baghdad and surrounding areas.

“Under the guidance of the Commander-In-Chief of Iraqi forces (Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi), supervision of the Joint Operations Command (JOC), and following successful realization of goals defined in the first phase of the Will of Victory Operation, the second phase was launched at dawn on Saturday,” the second-in-command of the JOC, Lieutenant General Abdul Amir Rasheed Yarallah, said in a in a statement.

The statement added that the second phase aims to “to beef up security and stability in areas north of Baghdad and surrounding areas in the provinces of Diyala, Salahuddin and Anbar.”

It said that units from the Baghdad Operations Command, command operations from Diyala, Samarra and Anbar, the Federal Police Command, rapid response teams, voluntary Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters and the special forces regiment of the Operations Department of the Chief of Staff of the Army as well as the Special Task Force of the Directorate of Military Intelligence are participating in the offensive.

The statement further noted that the offensive is supported by fighter jets from the Iraqi Air Force and the US-led coalition purportedly fighting Daesh.

Iraq's army and the voluntary forces began the first phase of the Will of Victory Operation early on July 7, the military said in a statement, adding that the operation would last several days and was aimed at securing the province of Anbar and the central and northern regions of Salahuddin and Nineveh.

“We press on the hands of our heroic forces that will achieve victory with the will of its heroes against the gangs of Daesh,” Abdul-Mahdi said.

“May God protect you and make you victorious,” he added.

Former Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi declared the end of military operations against Daesh in the country on December 9, 2017.

On July 10 that year, he had formally declared victory over Daesh in Mosul, which served as the terrorists’ main urban stronghold in Iraq.

In the run-up to Mosul's liberation, Iraqi army soldiers and volunteer Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters had made sweeping gains against Daesh.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/07/20/601417/Iraqi-forces-begin-2nd-phase-of-operation-against-Daesh-sleeper-cells

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Iraqi PM orders investigation into drone attack on Hashd Sha’abi camp

Jul 20, 2019

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi has ordered a probe into an attack by an unmanned aircraft on a base belonging to fighters from pro-government Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), better known by the Arabic name Hashd al-Sha’abi, in Salahuddin Province.

Abdul-Mahdi, also the commander-in-chief of Iraqi forces, issued a directive “to form a fact-finding committee composed of the Joint Operations Command (JOC), representatives of the Air Force Command, Air Defense Command and Hashd al-Sha’abi to investigate what really happened at Martyrs Camp.”

Arabic-language al-Ahad TV television network reported on Friday that a drone had dropped explosives onto the base near the town of Amerli, located about 170 kilometers north of the capital Baghdad, in the early hours of the day, killing at last one PMU fighter and injuring four others.

Video footage broadcast by Iraqi channels showed a blaze burning at the site and plumes of thick smoke billowing. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

Moreover, the Iraqi al-Etejah television network reported that an American B350 reconnaissance plane had flown over the area a few days earlier.

Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters played a major role in the liberation of Daesh-held areas to the south, northeast and north of Baghdad, ever since the terrorists launched an offensive in the country in June 2014.

Iraq has repeatedly condemned allegations of sectarian nature against the voluntary force.

The Iraqi parliament on November 26, 2016 approved a law giving full legal status to Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters.

It recognized the PMU as part of the national armed forces, placed the volunteer fighters under the command of the prime minister, and granted them the right to receive salaries and pensions like the regular army and police forces.

Former Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi declared the end of military operations against Daesh in the Arab country on December 9, 2017.

On July 10 that year, he had formally declared victory over Daesh in Mosul, which served as the terrorists’ main urban stronghold in Iraq.

In the run-up to Mosul's liberation, Iraqi army soldiers and Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters had made sweeping gains against the terrorist group.

Iraqi forces took control of eastern Mosul in January 2017 after 100 days of fighting, and launched the battle in the west on February 19 last year.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/07/20/601408/Iraqi-PM-orders-investigation-into-drone-attack-on-Hashd-Shaabi-camp

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South Asia

 

Scores of Taliban militants come under U.S. airstrike after arriving in Shorabak in Land Cruiser vehicles

21 Jul 2019

The U.S. forces conducted an airstrike targeting a large gathering of Taliban militants in Shorabak district of Kandahar.

The Kandahar Police Chief Gen. Tadin Khan Achakzai said the U.S. forces targeted the militants shortly after they arrived in their compounds.

Gen. Tadin Khan further added that the militants arrived in Gulistan Valley of Shorabak in Land Cruiser vehicles to visit their headquarters.

Furthermore, Gen. Tadin Khan said the airstrike killed 27 Taliban militants and wounded 18 others.

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

https://www.khaama.com/scores-of-taliban-militants-come-under-u-s-airstrike-after-arriving-in-shorabak-in-land-cruiser-vehicles-03997/

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14 Taliban militants killed, wounded in Afghan, coalition forces operations: Thunder Corps

20 Jul 2019

The Afghan and coalition forces killed or wounded 14 Taliban militants during the operations which were conducted in Paktiya and Ghazni provinces.

The 203rd Thunder Corps in a statement said the coalition forces conducted an airstrike in Sahak area of Zurmat district in Paktiay province killing 2 Taliban militants.

The statement further added that the airstrike also destroyed a bike a Vehicle-borne Improvised Explosive Device.

Furthermore, the 203rd Thunder Corps said the coalition forces conducted an airstrike in Juri area of Aab Band district in Ghazni province killing 7 Taliban militants.

The 203rd Thunder Corps also added that the Afghan forces killed a militant and wounded 3 others during an operation in Khwaja Omari district of Ghazni.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/14-taliban-militants-killed-wounded-in-afghan-coalition-forces-operations-thunder-corps-03992/

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12 Rohingya refugees stay put at Indo-Bangladesh border in Tripura

20th July 2019

AGARTALA: At least 12 Rohingya Muslim refugees, including five children and two women, who tried to enter India from Bangladesh, have refused to leave the Zero Line along the India-Bangladesh border in Tripura for the past three days, Border Security Force (BSF) official said on Saturday.

"The 12 refugees tried to enter India from Bangladesh through the Boxanagar border in western Tripura on Thursday. But our troopers stopped them from infiltrating into India," a BSF official said.

"Later that day, a commandant level meeting was held between the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) in which the latter agreed to take back the refugees, but the group has refused to leave the Zero Line," the official said. The BSF official said that the refugees are carrying identity cards issued by the Bangladeshi authorities. "They are the inmates of Rohingya refugee camp in Chittagong," he said.

Earlier this week too, Tripura police arrested two Rohingya men from Rajnagar area near the India-Bangladesh international border.

According to the BSF and the police, over 250 Rohingya Muslims have been detained during the past one year in Tripura, southern Assam and Mizoram after they fled the Rohingya refugee camps in Chittagong in southeast Bangladesh.

Following a wave of violence in Myanmar's Rakhine province in 2017, over 7,38,000 Rohingya Muslims took refuge in Cox's Bazar in southeastern Bangladesh. Refugees from these camps have, on and off, entered the north eastern states of India.

Full report at:

http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2019/jul/20/12-rohingya-refugees-stay-put-at-indo-bangladesh-border-in-tripura-2006890.html

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Car bomb destroyed, 7 Taliban militants killed in Uruzgan and Paktiya airstrikes

20 Jul 2019

The security forces carried out a series of airstrikes in twoprovinces in the past 24 hours killing at least 7 militants.

The military officials said Saturday that the airstrikes also destroyed a car bomb.

The officials further added that an airstrike in Khas Uruzgan district killed 1 Taliban fighter.

Furthermore, the officials said an airstrike in Gardez district of Paktiya killed 2 Taliban fighters.

A similar airstrike in Zurmat district of Paktiya destroyed 1 vehicle that had been turned into an IED.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/car-bomb-destroyed-7-taliban-militants-killed-in-uruzgan-and-paktiya-airstrikes-03988/

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Taliban military chief; Punjabis killed in Ghazni operation, not civilians: MoD

20 Jul 2019

The Ministry of Defense rejected Taliban claims regarding civilian casualties in Ghazni operations, emphasizing that the security forces killed Taliban’s military commission chief in the raid.

The Ministry of Defense in a statement said Taliban claims regarding civilinan casualties in Nawa district of Ghazni is a lie.

The statement further added that the security forces killed Taliban’s military commission in the raid.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Defense said three Pakistanis hailing from Punjab province of Pakistan and 10 other militants were also killed during the operation.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/taliban-military-chief-punjabis-killed-in-ghazni-operation-not-civilians-mod-03996/

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Nearly 500 Taliban militants killed in Faryab in past one month: 209th Shaheen Corps

20 Jul 2019

The Afghan security forces have killed nearly 500 Taliban militants during their operations in northern Faryab province.

The 209th Shaheen Corps in a statement said the security forces killed the militants in various districts of Faryab in past one month.

The statement further added that the security forces conducted several planned operations, night raids and targeted airstrikes during the period.

Furthermore, the 209th Shaheen Corps said the security forces targeted the militants in Ghormach, Khwaja Sabzposh, Sherin Tagab, Pashtunkot, Bulchiragh, Dawlatabad and Andkoi districts.

The 209th Shaheen Corps also added that the security forces killed 481 militants and wounded 273 others including 13 of their commanders.

Meanwhile, the 209th Shaheen Corps said the security forces also arrested 56 militants during the same operations.

However, the 209th Shaheen Corps has not commented regarding the security personnel casualties.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/nearly-500-taliban-militants-killed-in-faryab-in-past-one-month-209th-shaheen-corps-03994/

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Mideast

 

Palestinians protest Israeli-planned demolitions in West Bank village

Jul 21, 2019

Dozens of Palestinians have protested a pending mass demolition plan by Israel against a village located in East Jerusalem al-Quds in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The protest was held by around 50 Palestinians at the village of Sur Baher on Saturday.

The Associated Press cited witnesses as saying that Israeli forces arrived and used tear gas canisters and stun grenades to disperse the protesters.

A wall that the Israeli regime has been building since 2000 under the pretext of keeping out the Palestinians regularly protesting the regime’s occupation and aggression runs through the village.

The regime alleges that 10 Palestinian-owned buildings have been built too close to the barrier and is set to tear them down.

In June, Israel’s supreme court rejected a petition by the owners to cancel the demolitions. A deadline for the residents to abandon the houses expired on Friday.

“I don’t have any other place to live. I don’t have an alternative,” Reuters cited Ismail Obeideh, a father of six and the owner of one of the houses, as saying.

Israel claims that the owners had failed to obtain “building permits” from the regime.

Obeideh and the other Sur Baher residents, however, say they did not need Israeli permission to build their homes because they had received approvals from the Palestinian Authority, which is tasked with running the West Bank’s affairs.

The United Nations (UN), which recognizes al-Quds as occupied territory, has urged Israel to halt the demolitions.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/07/21/601457/Palestine-West-Bank-village-demolition-Israel-Sur-Baher

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Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan faces new threat from former allies

July 20, 2019

ANKARA: Following losses in key cities this year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan now risks losing more voters as former allies stick their head above the parapet and appear to be on the verge of creating new parties.

Former prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu and ex-economy minister Ali Babacan have both made statements this month criticizing Turkey’s current trajectory under Erdogan.

Rumors have swirled in Ankara for months that Babacan and Davutoglu may establish their own political parties to challenge the Islamic-rooted AKP that has dominated Turkish politics this century.

On July 8, Babacan, who is credited with overseeing Turkey’s economic boom during the AKP’s first decade in power, dealt the first blow when he resigned from the party.

He claimed Turkey needed a “new vision” and cited “deep differences” over policy, hinting a new party — or “new effort” — was “inevitable.”

With double-digit inflation, slower growth and a weakened lira, many hope Babacan will be the answer to Turkey’s economic woes and an alternative to Erdogan.

Ten days after Babacan, Davutoglu gave an interview broadcast live online in which he appeared to suggest he would be ready to set up a new party.

Erdogan has downplayed the threat but also warned Babacan against splitting the “ummah” — using the Arabic word for the Muslim community.

Experts say the president will not quietly accept these challenges.

“Erdogan is likely to combat any threat he sees to his personalized rule,” said Lisel Hintz, assistant professor of international relations at Johns Hopkins University.

She pointed to the jailing of Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtas who had vehemently opposed Erdogan, and the ongoing trials of civil society leaders and AKP opponents.

Turkey has been to the polls eight times in just five years, but now any new party will have potentially until the next elections in 2023 to create momentum and attract voters.

When he announced he was standing down as prime minister in 2016 after two years, Davutoglu vowed never to criticize Erdogan in public.

That promise lay in tatters this week as he spoke online for three hours, saying he would remain within the AKP for now, but that: “If there is no other option, a (new) party must be set up.”

For now, it appears unlikely that Davutoglu will join forces with other splitters from the AKP, having been a fairly divisive figure himself in the past.

However, there have been reports that former president and co-founder of the AKP, Abdullah Gul, could act as an “honorary chairman” to a party led by Babacan.

It had been mooted that Gul would run against Erdogan in last year’s presidential elections, but he never came forward.

Erdogan criticized Babacan after his resignation, saying they disagreed over many issues, including interest rates, which the president controversially believes must be kept low to reduce inflation.

When asked if he was disappointed by Babacan, Davutoglu and Gul, Erdogan responded with evident exasperation: “For the love of Allah, should this question be asked? If one is not disappointed with them, who would one be disappointed with?”

But he said previous MPs had left the party and been largely forgotten.

The AKP came to power after the Turkish economy suffered a severe financial crisis in 2001, and needed an International Monetary Fund loan to emerge from the embers.

Eighteen years later, Turkey is again in an economic slump.

Inflation is at 15.7 percent; the rate of unemployment is 13 percent while the economy contracted by 2.6 percent in the first quarter of 2019.

According to Hintz, the success of any party launched by Babacan will “likely depend on the extent to which it offers concrete plans for tackling Turkey’s economic problems and social divides.”

She added that Babacan had a “shot at galvanizing Turkey’s center-right, particularly given widespread disillusion surrounding the personal enrichment of AKP leaders while Turkey’s economy slides further toward crisis.”

Erdogan and the AKP, set up in 2001, have won every general election since coming to power in 2002.

But after 25 years of the AKP and its predecessors running Istanbul, the country’s economic powerhouse is now in the hands of the opposition, despite a controversial push by the ruling party to order a re-run of the vote.

Erdogan still commands widespread loyalty, particularly in the provinces, said Emre Erdogan, professor of political science at Istanbul Bilgi University, and no relation to the president.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1528306/middle-east

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All 23 crew of seized British-operated tanker are safe: Iranian TV

21 July 2019

Iran said on Sunday that all 23 crew members of the seized British-flagged Stena Impero tanker were “safe and in good health”, the head of the Ports and Maritime Organization of Iran in Hormozgan Province told state TV.

“All the 23 crew members are aboard the ship are safe and in good health in Bandar Abbas port,” said Allahmorad Afifipour.

Britain has denounced Iran’s seizure of the oil tanker in the Gulf on Friday as a “hostile act,” rejecting Tehran’s explanation that it had seized the vessel because it had been involved in an accident.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/07/21/All-crew-members-of-UK-operated-tanker-safe-and-in-good-health-Iran.html

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Iran guards post video of troops rappelling onto British-flagged tanker

20 July 2019

Iran's Revolutionary Guards posted a video online on Saturday showing speedboats pulling up alongside the detained British-flagged tanker Stena Impero and troops wearing ski masks and carrying machine guns rappelling to its deck from a helicopter.

London wants to de-escalate tensions with Tehran, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Saturday following a meeting of the UK’s emergencies committee over Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged ship in the Gulf.

The meeting “reaffirmed UK desire to de-escalate,” Hunt said, adding that the Stena Impero oil tanker was seized in Omani waters “in clear contravention of international law” in “utterly unacceptable” circumstances.

The seizure came hours after a court in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar said it would extend by 30 days the detention of Grace 1, an Iranian tanker seized two weeks ago in an operation aided by British Royal Marines on allegations of breaching EU sanctions against Syria.

Britain told the United Nations Security Council on Saturday that a British-flagged tanker seized by Iran was approached by Iranian forces when it was in Omani territorial waters and the action “constitutes illegal interference.”

“The ship was exercising the lawful right of transit passage in an international strait as provided for under international law,” Britain’s UN mission wrote to the Security Council.

“International law requires that the right of transit passage shall not be impeded, and therefore the Iranian action constitutes illegal interference.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/07/20/Iran-guards-post-video-of-troops-rappelling-onto-British-flagged-tanker.html

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Iranian ship repaired in Saudi Arabia heads back to Iran

20 July 2019

An Iranian ship which had gone to Jeddah port in Saudi Arabia because of technical problems in May is heading back to Iran, Iran’s ISNA news agency reported on Saturday.

There was no immediate confirmation from Saudi authorities.

The Mehr news agency reported in early July that Saudi officials were not allowing the ship, the Happiness 1, to leave the port because of a dispute over the payment of repair costs.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/07/20/Iranian-ship-repaired-in-Saudi-Arabia-heads-back-to-Iran.html

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UK warship tried to prevent Iran from stopping tanker: Revolutionary Guards

20 July 2019

A British warship escorting the detained UK-flagged tanker Stena Impero tried to prevent Iran's Revolutionary Guards from stopping the ship, Brigadier General Ramezan Sharif, a Guards spokesman, said on Saturday, according to the Fars news agency.

Despite the "resistance and interference" of the British warship, the Revolutionary Guards were able to bring the tanker to the shore, Sharif said.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/07/20/Detained-UK-flagged-tanker-was-escorted-by-a-British-warship-Iran.html

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Iran says British tanker seized because it collided with Iranian fishing boat

20 July 2019

The British-flagged tanker Stena Impero was in an accident with a fishing boat before being detained on Friday, Iran’s Fars news agency reported on Saturday, quoting an official.

Iran says all 23 crew seized on the tanker are now at Bandar Abbas port and will remain on the vessel until the end of an investigation, according to Fars.

“It got involved in an accident with an Iranian fishing boat... When the boat sent a distress call, the British-flagged ship ignored it,” said the head of Ports and Maritime Organisation in southern Hormozgan province, Allahmorad Afifipour.

"The investigation into the cause of the accident has been started today by experts at the headquarters of the Hormozgan province port and maritime (organization)," Allah-Morad Afifipoor, the authority’s director-general, told Fars news agency.

“The tanker is now at Iran’s Bandar Abbas port and all of its 23 crew members will remain on the ship until the probe is over.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/07/20/Iran-says-seized-British-tanker-now-at-Bandar-Abbas-port.html

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Arab Coalition downs Houthi drone headed toward Abha

20 July 2019

The Arab Coalition said it downed a Houthi drone headed toward a civilian area in the Saudi city of Abha on Saturday.

Coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Maliki said that the drone was launched from the Yemeni governorate of Amran. He stressed that  the coalition will take "all measures to paralyze and neutralize all hostile capabilities of the militia within international humanitarian law."

Meanwhile, the Arab Coalition had said earlier that it started an operation to target military positions in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/07/20/Arab-Coalition-downs-Houthi-drone-headed-toward-Abha.html

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Arab Coalition begins operation targeting military positions in Yemen’s Sanaa

20 July 2019

The Arab Coalition in Yemen said it started an operation to target military positions in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, according to state TV early on Saturday.

The targets included air defense sites and ballistic missile depots, it added.

The coalition said that it advised civilians to avoid going near the target areas.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/07/20/Arab-Coalition-begins-operation-targeting-military-positions-in-Yemen-s-Sanaa.html

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Turkish forces ‘neutralize’ several terrorists in eastern Turkey: Defence Ministry

Jul 20, 2019

Turkish security forces have “neutralized” several terrorists, mostly those of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group, during a counter-terrorism operation in the country’s Kurdish-populated eastern province of Tunceli.

Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu news agency, citing a statement by the Turkish Interior Ministry on Saturday, reported that during a July 10 air-assisted operation on the outskirts of the province’s Ovacik district, two PKK terrorists and three members of the underground Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP) were “neutralized.”

The Turkish military generally uses the term "neutralize" to signify that the militants were killed, captured or surrendered.

The statement said that one of the MLKP terrorists was identified as “Seydo”, code-named Taylan Kutlar, in the blue category of the Interior Ministry's wanted list, adding that he had a bounty of one million Turkish lira (around $177,000) on his head.

The ministry’s list is divided into five color-coded categories, with red as the most wanted, followed by blue, green, orange and gray, which is the least wanted.

The other MLKP terrorist was identified as “Pirdogan”, code-named Hidir Calli, who was sought with 300,000 Turkish liras (around $53,000) bounty on his head, it added.

Anadolu also said that in a separate anti-terror operation in Kurdish-populated southeastern province of Diyarbakir on Saturday, at least four other PKK militants were “neutralized.”

PKK militants regularly clash with Turkish forces in the Kurdish-dominated southeast of Turkey attached to northern Iraq.

Turkey, along with the European Union and the United States, has declared the PKK a terrorist group and banned it. The militant group has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region since 1984.

A shaky ceasefire between the PKK and the Turkish government collapsed in July 2015. Attacks on Turkish security forces have soared ever since.

Over the past few months, Turkish ground and air forces have been carrying out operations against PKK positions in the country as well as in northern Iraq and neighboring Syria.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/07/20/601421/Turkey-PKK-terrorists-MLKP-Tunceli-Diyarbakir

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Houthi shell fire wounds at least 2 children in north Yemen

July 21, 2019

Houthi militia shell fire wounded at least two children in Yemen’s northern province of Jawf, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Saturday. 

The attack was caused by a mortar fired by the Houthis in the village of Ghail in western Jawf.

A local Yemeni source said the mortar shell landed on a house, seriously injuring the two children.

The attack comes just a week after the Iran-backed militia attacked the same village and seriously wounded two children and a woman.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1528666/middle-east

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Europe

 

Funeral service held for 86 Muslims killed by Serbs

July 20, 2019

Prijedor, Bosnia-Herzegovina: Several thousand people have attended a funeral service in northwestern Bosnia for 86 Muslims who were slain by Serbs in one of the worst atrocities of the country’s 1992-95 war.

Relatives of the victims, religious leaders and others gathered Saturday at a soccer stadium near the town of Prijedor, standing solemnly behind lines of coffins draped with green cloths in Muslim tradition.

The victims were aged 19 to 61. They were among some 200 Bosnian Muslims and Croats from Prijedor who were executed in Aug. 1992 on a cliff on Mt. Vlasic known as Koricanske Stijene.

The United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has sentenced several ex-Bosnian Serb policemen for the slaughter. More than 3,000 non-Serbs were killed in Prijedor during the war.

https://gulfnews.com/world/europe/funeral-service-held-for-86-muslims-killed-by-serbs-1.65342568

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UK ministers drawing up plans to target Iran regime with sanctions: Report

21 July 2019

British ministers are making plans aimed at targeting Iran with sanctions in the aftermath of the Iranian seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf, the Telegraph newspaper reported.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is expected to announce on Sunday diplomatic and economic measures, including potential asset freezes, as a response to the incident, according to the report.

Britain could push for United Nations and European Union sanctions to be reimposed on Iran after they had been lifted in 2016 following a deal on Iran's nuclear program, the Telegraph reported.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/07/21/UK-ministers-drawing-up-plans-to-target-Iran-regime-with-sanctions-Report.html

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Britain wants to de-escalate tensions with Iran: Hunt

20 July 2019

London wants to de-escalate tensions with Tehran, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Saturday following a meeting of the UK’s emergencies committee over Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged ship in the Gulf.

The meeting “reaffirmed UK desire to de-escalate,” Hunt said, adding that the Stena Impero oil tanker was seized in Omani waters “in clear contravention of international law” in “utterly unacceptable” circumstances.

The seizure came hours after a court in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar said it would extend by 30 days the detention of Grace 1, an Iranian tanker seized two weeks ago in an operation aided by British Royal Marines on allegations of breaching EU sanctions against Syria.

Hunt said that having spoken to his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, Tehran saw the situation as a “tit for tat”.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said.

“Grace 1 was detained legally in Gibraltarian waters because it was carrying oil, against EU sanctions, to Syria, and that’s why the Gibraltarian authorities acted totally with respect to due process and totally within the law.

“Stena Impero was seized in Omani waters in clear contravention of international law. It was then forced to sail into Iran.

“This is totally and utterly unacceptable. It raises very serious questions about the security of British shipping, and indeed international shipping, in the Strait of Hormuz.”

Hunt said parliament would be updated on Monday about what further measures the British government would take.

“Our priority continues to be to find a way to de-escalate the situation,” he said.

Hunt said the Stena Impero must be released, and Britain was “very concerned” about the safety of the 23 crew.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/07/20/Britain-wants-to-de-escalate-tensions-with-Iran-Hunt-.html

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UK voices ‘extreme disappointment’ to Iran over seized tanker

20 July 2019

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he told his Iranian counterpart Saturday of his “extreme disappointment” after Tehran seized a UK-flagged tanker in the Gulf.

In a tweet, Hunt said he had spoken to Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif “and expressed extreme disappointment that having assured me last Sat(urday) Iran wanted to de-escalate situation they have behaved in the opposite way.”

“This has to be about actions not words if we are to find a way through. British shipping must and will be protected,” he said.

The Foreign Office in London said it summoned Iran’s charge d’affaires on Saturday.

The diplomat was called in as European powers urged Iran to release the Stena Impero oil tanker it seized in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday.

The government’s COBRA emergencies committee met late Friday and was expected to meet again on Saturday.

London-based maritime security risk analysts Dryad Global said the “dramatic escalation” by Iran was likely to have been a calculated move.

The interception was “likely to have been a pre-planned operation and intended for use at a time where Iran perceives there to be strategic narrative to be leveraged”, it said.

The maritime experts said Iran was likely targeting what it perceived as the “junior” partner to the United States.

“The UK will be forced to respond, but will find few avenues to do so, both militarily and diplomatically,” the firm said.

EU expresses ‘deep concern’ after Iran seizes tanker

The EU expressed its deep concern on Saturday over the seizure by Iran of a British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, saying it brought risks of deepening tensions.

The seizure of two ships by Iranian authorities “is of deep concern,” said a statement by the EU’s foreign affairs office, which represents the bloc’s 28 member states.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/07/20/UK-voices-extreme-disappointment-to-Iran-over-seized-tanker-.html

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UK foreign office summons Iranian charge d’affaires over tanker seizure

20 July 2019

Britain summoned the Iranian Charge d’Affaires in London after Friday’s seizure of a British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, the British Foreign Office said on Saturday.

The diplomat was called in as European powers urged Iran to release the Stena Impero it seized in the Strait of Hormuz in what Britain earlier called a “dangerous” move.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/07/20/UK-foreign-office-summons-Iranian-charge-d-affaires-over-tanker-seizure.html

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Britain says seizure of two vessels by Iran is unacceptable

20 July 2019

Britain said Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged vessel and a Liberian-flagged vessel in the Strait of Hormuz was unacceptable and called for freedom of navigation in the Gulf.

“I’m extremely concerned by the seizure of two vessels by Iranian authorities in the Strait of Hormuz,” Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said.

“I will shortly attend a COBR (national security) meeting to review what we know and what we can do to swiftly secure the release of the two vessels - a British-flagged vessel and a Liberian-flagged vessel,” he said.

“These seizures are unacceptable. It is essential that freedom of navigation is maintained and that all ships can move safely and freely in the region,” Hunt said.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/07/20/Britain-says-seizure-of-two-vessels-by-Iran-is-unacceptable.html

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UK mulls sanctions as Iran admits seizing British ship as a ‘reciprocal’ move

July 21, 2019

TEHRAN/LONDON: Iran’s seizure of a British oil tanker was a response to Britain’s role in impounding an Iranian supertanker first, senior officials said Saturday, as newly released video of the incident showed Iranian commandos in black ski masks and fatigues rappelling from a helicopter onto the vessel in the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

In a dramatic video released by the Revolutionary Guard, several small Guard boats can be seen surrounding the larger tanker as it moves through the strait. Above, a military helicopter hovers and then several men wearing black masks begin to rappel onto the ship.

The high-quality video was shot with at least two cameras, one from a speed boat-like vessel and one from the chopper, which captured the fatigue-clad men as they prepared to slide down a rope and also took aerial footage of the tanker.

The seizure of the oil tanker Stena Impero has prompted British ministers to consider targeting Iran with sanctions, according to a report of the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is expected to announce on Sunday diplomatic and economic measures, including potential asset freezes, as a response to the incident, according to the report.

London could push for United Nations and European Union sanctions to be reimposed on Iran after they had been lifted in 2016 following a deal on Iran’s nuclear program, the Telegraph reported.

On Saturday, Britain told the United Nations Security Council  that the Stena Impero was approached by Iranian forces when it was in Omani territorial waters and the action “constitutes illegal interference.”

“The ship was exercising the lawful right of transit passage in an international strait as provided for under international law,” Britain’s UN mission wrote to the Security Council. “International law requires that the right of transit passage shall not be impeded, and therefore the Iranian action constitutes illegal interference.”

The letter was also sent to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Hunt said Britain’s response “will be considered but robust.”

In comments on Twitter on Saturday, he said he spoke with Iran’s foreign minister and expressed extreme disappointment that the Iranian diplomat had assured him Iran wanted to de-escalate the situation but “they have behaved in the opposite way.”

Speaking to reporters later Saturday after an emergency government meeting, Hunt said the “totally and utterly unacceptable” interception of the British-flagged Stena Impero “raises very serious questions about the security of British shipping and indeed international shipping” in the Strait of Hormuz.

The free flow of traffic through the Strait of Hormuz is of international importance because one-fifth of all global crude exports passes through the waterway from Mideast exporters to countries around the world. The narrow waterway sits between Iran and Oman.

The Stena Impero was intercepted late Friday by Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard forces. The ship’s owner, Stena Bulk, said the vessel was stopped by “unidentified small crafts and a helicopter” during its transit through the Strait of Hormuz. The vessel was seized with a crew of 23 crew aboard, although none are British nationals.

Hunt said the ship’s seizure shows worrying signs Iran may be choosing a dangerous and destabilizing path. He also defended the British-assisted seizure of Iran’s supertanker two weeks ago as a “legal” move because the vessel was suspected of breaching European Union sanctions on oil shipments to Syria.

Iranian officials “see this as a tit-for-tat situation, following Grace1 being detained in Gibraltar. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Hunt said later Saturday.

The view from Iran was different.

In comments on Twitter on Saturday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif characterized the seizure of Iran’s tanker July 4 as “piracy.” Politician and former Guard commander, Maj. Gen. Mohsen Rezai, wrote that Iran was not seeking conflict, “but we are not going to come up short in reciprocating.”

The spokesman for Iran’s Guardian Council, Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, was also quoted in the semi-official Fars news agency describing Friday’s seizure as a legal “reciprocal action.” The council rarely comments on state matters, but when it does it is seen as a reflection of the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s views. The council works closely with Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters.

The tit-for-tat move by Iran drew condemnation from European signatories to Iran’s nuclear accord with world powers. Germany and France both called on Iran to immediately release the ship and its crew, with Berlin saying the seizure undermines all efforts to find a way out of the current crisis.

Europe has struggled to contain the tensions that stem from President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the US from Iran’s nuclear deal, which had lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for compliance on its nuclear program.

Trump has since re-imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran, including its oil exports, and Iran recently increased uranium enrichment levels beyond limits of the deal in a bid to pressure Europe into finding a workaround the crippling economic sanctions.

Britain, which remains a signatory to the nuclear accord, has figured prominently in rising US tensions with Iran ever since Royal Marines took part in the seizure of the Iranian oil tanker by Gibraltar, a British overseas territory off the southern coast of Spain. Officials there initially said the July 4 seizure happened on orders from the US

Britain has said it would release the vessel, which was carrying more than 2 million barrels of Iranian crude, if Iran could prove it was not breaching EU sanctions. However, a court in Gibraltar just Friday extended the detention of the Panama-flagged Grace 1.

Stena Bulk, the owner of the seized British tanker, said the vessel’s crew members are of Indian, Filipino, Russian and Latvian nationalities. Iranian officials say the crew remain on the tanker.

Britain’s defense secretary Penny Mordaunt told Sky News the takeover was a “hostile act” by Iran. She said a British Royal Navy frigate deployed to help protect shipping in the Strait of Hormuz was roughly 60 minutes from the scene when the Iranians took control of the tanker.

That same frigate had previously warned off Iranian Guard vessels from impeding the passage of a British commercial vessel the navy was escorting through the Strait of Hormuz.

There are concerns that with each new maneuver a misunderstanding or misstep by either side could lead to war. In June, Iran shot down an American drone in the same waterway, and Trump came close to retaliating with airstrikes.

The US has increased its military presence in the Arabian Gulf region in recent weeks. The US will also send more than 500 US troops as well as aircraft and air defense missiles to Iran’s rival, Saudi Arabia.

It marks the first such deployment of US troops to Saudi Arabia since America’s withdrawal from the country in 2003. King Salman approved hosting the American forces “to increase joint cooperation in defense and regional security and stability,” a statement in the state-run Saudi Press Agency said.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1528476/middle-east

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Greek PM urges 'brave steps' to boost ties with Turkey

Furkan Naci Top 

20.07.2019

Newly elected Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Saturday offered to take “brave steps” to boost bilateral relations with Turkey. 

“I call on [Turkish President Recep] Tayyip Erdogan for a mutual approach in which we will take brave steps,” Mitsotakis told the Parliament’s General Assembly meeting.

He said he wanted to proceed in line with international law and refrain from “aggressive rhetoric”.

“We are living together in this geography. Unnecessary tensions and arms race deprive both countries of valuable resources,” he said.

On July 7, Greece’s New Democracy party (ND) led by Mitsotakis scored a clear victory in snap general elections.

Turkish-Greek ties have been at odds especially due to recent developments in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot administration’s unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) also has rights to resources in the area.

Since this spring, Ankara has sent two drilling vessels -- Fatih and most recently Yavuz -- to the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting the rights of Turkey and the TRNC over the resources of the region.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/greek-pm-urges-brave-steps-to-boost-ties-with-turkey/1537308

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Africa

 

Last Qaddafi PM freed in Libya for ‘health reasons’

20 July 2019

Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, Libya’s last prime minister under ousted leader Muammar Qaddafi, has been released from jail for health reasons four years after being sentenced to death, Tripoli’s justice ministry said Saturday.

Mahmoudi, in his 70s, was premier when a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled and killed Qaddafi.

He was handed the death sentence in July 2014 along with eight other Qaddafi-era officials including the leader’s son Seif al-Islam, over their alleged role in a bloody crackdown on protesters.

The justice ministry said Mahmoudi was released “for health reasons” at the recommendation of a medical commission “so that he could be treated at specialized medical centers.”

It gave no further details on the nature of his illness or when he was liberated.

Mahmoudi was arrested in September 2011 as he tried to flee across the border to Tunisia, and was extradited to Libya the following year.

During his detention in Tunisia, he claimed that Libya had financed the 2007 election campaign of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, according to his lawyers.

The French ex-president vehemently denied the allegations, initially made by Seif al-Islam.

But Sarkozy was charged in March 2018 over accusations he accepted millions of euros from Qaddafi.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2019/07/20/Last-Qaddafi-PM-freed-in-Libya-for-health-reasons-.html

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SOS Mediterranee relaunch migrant rescue missions off Libya

21 July 2019

Humanitarian group SOS Mediterranee said Sunday it has relaunched migrant rescue operations off Libya, seven months after it was forced to abandon efforts using its ship Aquarius.

SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) “are back at sea with a new vessel, the Ocean Viking, to conduct search and rescue activities in the central Mediterranean,” it said.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/07/21/SOS-Mediterranee-relaunch-migrant-rescue-missions-off-Libya-.html

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Haftar calls on youth to help with battle for Tripoli

July 20, 2019

CAIRO: The commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) has called on young people in Tripoli to join its offensive to capture the capital from the UN-backed government based there amid warnings from the international community of military escalation and targeting of civilians.

The LNA, led by the eastern commander Khalifa Hafter, reached out via a post published on one of its official Facebook pages on Friday, calling for young people in the city to work with its marching forces to eliminate all militias allied with the Tripoli-based government.

“The decisive hour is not far,” Brig. Gen. Khaled Al-Mahjoub, head of the LNA mobilization department told The Associated Press.

“We are only 5 km away from the capital, our forces are advancing, and they are retracting.”

Libya slid into chaos after the 2011 uprising that toppled Muammar Qaddafi and is now split between rival authorities in the east and west, each backed by various militias. Haftar’s LNA, which is allied with the eastern government, launched an offensive against Tripoli in April but has made little progress amid stiff resistance by militias loosely allied with the government there.

The fighting has killed more than 1,000 people, mostly combatants, according to the World Health Organization.

The Tripoli-based government issued a statement early on Saturday saying it had gathered information suggesting that Haftar’s forces were planning a military escalation in the form of airstrikes against key sites in the capital, including Mitiga International Airport, Tripoli’s only functioning airport.

The UN Support Mission in Libya said on Saturday it was “doing its utmost with all local and foreign actors to avoid military escalation and to ensure protection of civilians from any targeting.”

The government called upon the international community to “halt this aggression” and to stop “the bloodshed of the Libyan people.”

A day earlier, the west-based Parliament released a statement saying that it had gathered other intelligence information of possible airstrikes by Haftar’s allies, including Egypt, the UAE and France. The Parliament did not reveal details and there was no immediate response from the three nations.

“We are getting used to their lies,” said Al-Mahjoub in reference to the UN-backed Government of National Accord. “But we will enter the capital. There is no question about that.”

Claudia Gazzini, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group, cast doubt over the impact of any LNA airstrikes.

If Haftar “is about to launch a more intensified aerial operation, how (is he) going to use these aerial strikes to control Tripoli if he does not have forces on the ground?” said Gazzini, an expert on Libya’s conflict who recently returned to Italy from Tripoli.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1528326/middle-east

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4 Turkish citizens abducted in Nigeria

Gokhan Kavak 

21.07.2019

Four Turkish citizens have been kidnapped in Nigeria, a West African country, a source said on late Saturday.

Turkish citizens were kidnapped by unidentified people in the south Nigerian state of Ilorin at 10.00 p.m. local time (2100 GMT) on Friday, said the source who asked not to be named due to security concerns.

The efforts to rescue the people who were reportedly kidnapped for the ransom are ongoing.

Last week, 10 Turkish sailors were abducted off Nigeria when pirates attacked a Turkish-flagged ship bound to Abidjan city of the Ivory Coast from the Port of Douala in Cameroon.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/4-turkish-citizens-abducted-in-nigeria/1537331

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Somali army kills 3 Al-Shabaab militants in southern Somalia

Jul 21, 2019

Three Al-Shabaab militants were killed on Friday evening in an operation conducted by Somali forces in Awdinle town in the southern region of Bay, an official said on Saturday.

Ibrahim Mohamed Nour, governor of Awdinle town, told journalists that Somali forces launched an attack on Al-Shabaab extremists following a tip-off from the residents saying the militants were forcing Awdinle residents to pay compulsory taxes.

“The operation resulted in the killing of three Al-Shabaab militants and the capture of another one alive. Weapons and ammunitions were also recovered from the militants,” said Nour, adding that the captured militant is under the custody of government forces.

“We heard the sound of gun fight late Friday afternoon and later learnt it was a clash between government forces and Al-Shabaab militants, but we can’t give further details,” Hassan Gelle, a local resident told Xinhua by phone.

The latest military offensive came barely a week after Somali army killed 15 Al-Shabaab militants in an offensive in Wanlaweyn town in Lower Shabelle region.

Full report at:

https://africa.cgtn.com/2019/07/20/somali-army-kills-3-al-shabaab-militants-in-southern-somalia/

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