New Age Islam
Thu Aug 13 2020, 07:41 AM

Islamic World News ( 5 May 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Muslim Clerics Say Sufism Can Regain the Trust of Hindu Brethren

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bangladesh has sounded the first official call to induct countries with large Muslim populations, like India, as observers to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, a club which has only Muslim majority countries as its members.

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Muslim Clerics Say Sufism Can Regain the Trust of Hindu Brethren

Make India Observer in Forum of Islamic Nations: Bangladesh

Pakistan Minorities Being Persecuted By Islamic Terrorists

Muslim World League Chief Talks Path to Moderate, Tolerant Islamic World

People in Al-Bab Start Strike against Turkish Forces' Atrocities

 

India

Muslim Clerics Say Sufism Can Regain the Trust of Hindu Brethren

Saudi Reforms Wind Yet To Impress Indian Clerics

Kerala CM Has a Word of Caution for Muslims

Namaz should be offered inside mosques: Haryana CM Khattar

Love Jihad is a Result of Late Marriages, Says BJP MLA Gopal Parmar

Congress MLA asks Saudi govt to reduce Umrah airfare, visa fees

Maulanas support removal of Jinnah’s portrait from AMU; Muslim Mahasangh chief announces Rs 1 lakh reward

J&K: Five terrorists killed in encounter in Shopian

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South Asia

Make India Observer in Forum of Islamic Nations: Bangladesh

Afghan Forces Kill At Least 31 Taliban Militants in Ghazni

OIC Foreign Ministers Discuss Plight of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims

President: Dhaka to work with Riyadh to root out terrorism

Rohingya will be safe in areas 'designated' for them

Afghan forces thwart deadly roadside bombing plot in Kabul

Taliban suffer heavy casualties in Ghazni operations: Gen. Radmanish

District governor among 5 killed, wounded in Paktia car bombing

Afghan forces retake northern district from Taliban

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Pakistan

Pakistan Minorities Being Persecuted By Islamic Terrorists

Pakistani Military Seeks Better Relations with India, Says Report

Hafiz Saeed moves Pak court against withdrawal of his security

Pakistan army chief confirms death sentences for 11 Taliban terrorists

Attacks on Hazara community ‘foreign-funded’, says Ahsan Iqbal

Devotees reach Sehwan to commemorate 766th Urs of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar

Arrangements made for repatriation of 54 Pakistani prisoners in US

‘TTP activists collecting funds, recruiting youngsters in Malir’

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Arab World

Muslim World League Chief Talks Path to Moderate, Tolerant Islamic World

Once The Syrian War Is Over, Qatar Could Become an Empire Once More

Infighting Erupts among US-Backed Militants in Eastern Syria

Iraq Journalist Who Threw Shoes at Bush Stands For Parliament

Turkish Army Jailing, Torturing Hundreds of Civilians in Syria's Afrin

Syrian Army Frees 70 Percent of ISIL-Held Regions in Southern Damascus Province

US Sends More Military Equipment to Kurdish Regions in Northeastern Syria

Second Group of Terrorists Leave Southern Damascus for Northern Syria

Official Dismisses Qatar's Partnership in Reconstruction of Syria

Syrian Army Advancing in Depth of ISIL Positions in Southern Damascus

Iraqi air force strike targets ISIS commanders’ position inside Syria

Polling begins in Lebanon’s first parliamentary election in 9 years

Bahrainis condemn crackdown against Shia scholars

Rewriting the script: Effat students win star role in Saudi film industry

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Mideast

People in Al-Bab Start Strike against Turkish Forces' Atrocities

KSA-Led Airstrikes Kill 8 Civilians In Yemen

Hamas blames Israel for Gaza blast that killed six gunmen

Iran’s Rouhani criticizes ban on Telegram messaging app as undemocratic

Clashes erupt between Yemeni army and Houthis in Saada

Saudi envoy: Houthi militia wants to impose Hezbollah-style regime in Yemen

Turki Al Malki: Iran-backed Houthis pose a serious threat to region

Yemeni ballistic missile destroys Saudi positions in Asir: TV

Four Turkish opposition parties form parliamentary coalition

Explosion kills at least six Palestinians in Gaza Strip

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Southeast Asia

PAS Man: Amend Islamic Law to Avoid Indira Gandhi Cases

Battleground Kelantan: People are losing faith with the ‘Party of God’

Indonesia To Host Pakistani, Afghan Scholars For Peace Conference

Malaysia's tense vote fuels damaging ethnic 'brain drain'

Philippines checking reported killing of extremist leader

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Europe

Morocco Tackling Jihadist Returnees: Anti-Terror Chief

France Proposes New Mechanism to Assign Blame for Chemical Attacks

Russia detains five Daesh members, foils planned attacks

Court grants campaigners appeal against ruling on UK arms sales to Saudi

Germany hosts over 2,500 Syrian refugees from Turkey

Iran nuke deal on table as Boris Johnson heads to Washington

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Africa

Libyan Army Advances in Darnah in Preparation to Free It Completely

Tunisians to vote in first free municipal elections amid economic gloom

Seven killed in northeastern Nigerian blast

I won’t stop negotiating for Boko Haram – Mama Boko Haram

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North America

Trump Administration Hired Israeli Intel Firm to Discredit Ex-Officials Iran Nuclear Deal: Report

Pompeo defends ‘muscular’ US diplomacy on North Korea and Iran

How Trump’s expected exit from Iran nuclear deal may play out

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/muslim-clerics-say-sufism-can-regain-the-trust-of-hindu-brethren/d/115157

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Muslim Clerics Say Sufism Can Regain the Trust Of Hindu Brethren

May 5, 2018

In the wake of growing unrest among the Muslims over being branded as anti-national and violent by the Hindu outfits, a meeting of prominent Muslim clerics and community leaders was held in Agra, where this issue was discussed at length.

Addressing the assembled community leaders, Kari Mudassar Ali Qadri said that what the right-wing organizations forget to mention while bashing Muslims over made-up issues is that the Muslims have been in India for centuries and have become completely embedded in the Indian culture and traditions in this time.

To think of Muslims as aliens on this land is a crime against humanity and a denial of the illustrious history of India, he said.

He further said that the Sufi ideology, which is an amalgamation of Islam with the mystical traditions of India, could be an effective tool to spread social harmony and culture in the country due to the inbuilt peace and pluralism at its core.

He said that a Sufi always seeks union with god who is the creator and only 'One'. Thus, a Sufi devotes all his love to seek his love.

Agreeing to this argument, Sufi Bundan Miyan said that Sufism is a needle weaving the social fabric of India with inclusive syncretic values provided by saints like Moinuddin Chishti, Nizamuddin Auliya, Khwaja Bakhtiyar Kaki and others. Qawwalis, Naats and other forms of Sufi music have strengthened harmony and brotherhood between Hindus and Muslims besides intermixing in the marginalized masses in India, he said.

The ideology with vibrating spirituality and love without religious confinements counters fundamentalism and radicalization in any form, he added.

A former police officer and community leader Ashfaq Ahmed added that considering various dimensions and contributions of Sufi ideology to the composite culture and social harmony within a historical perspective, its value, love and potential bulwarking the multi-cultural society in India could not be undermined.

He said that the spread of Sufi messages, music etc. could counter successfully the conflict-ridden societies and the violence emanating from the rigid religious dogmas and misinterpreted edicts.

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/muslim-clerics-say-sufism-can-regain-the-trust-of-hindu-brethren-1227382-2018-05-05

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Make India Observer In Forum Of Islamic Nations: Bangladesh

Indrani Bagchi

May 6, 2018

NEW DELHI: In a move likely to displease Pakistan, Bangladesh has sounded the first official call to induct countries with large Muslim populations, like India, as observers to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, a club which has only Muslim majority countries as its members.

At a meeting of OIC foreign ministers in Dhaka on Saturday, Bangladesh minister Abul Hasan Mahmood Ali called for reforms in the organisation that can pave the way for countries like India, which are not Muslim majority, to get an observer seat in the OIC.

Though Pakistan is unlikely to welcome the proposal as it uses the forum to regularly target India, the list of likely candidates also includes its “all-weather” ally China and Bangladesh has also put forward the “inclusion” argument to say that large Muslim populations should not be denied a say at the OIC. Muslims in India constitute 10% of the global adherents of the faith.

Egypt, with a population of 92 million, is 5% of the global Muslim population. In terms of Muslims as a percentage of the global population, India ranks third after Indonesia and Pakistan. Ali said, “A number of countries, not OIC members, have a large number of Muslims as their citizens. The Muslims may be minority in those countries, but in terms of number they often exceed the total population of many OIC member countries.”

“There is a need to build bridges with those non-OIC countries so that a large number of Muslim populations do not remain untouched by the good work of OIC. That is why reforms and restructuring is critical for OIC,” the Bangladesh foreign minister said. Calling for reforms of the organisation to make it more contemporary, Ali said, “We need to rethink our work, method and process of functioning to cater to the needs of the current era and beyond.”

Bangladesh’s suggestion received support of the OIC secretary general. This is not the first time there has been a call to bring countries like India into the ambit of the OIC, but Pakistan has always held a veto position. In the past decade, however, India’s relations with the Islamic world have undergone aconsiderable transformation.

Former Saudi ruler Abdullah had, in 2006, proposed that India become an observer in OIC. But that did not go anywhere. In the 1990s, Pakistan has used the OIC to hit out at India on J&K. As recently as September 2017, India refuted egregious comments on J&K by Pakistan at the UN. Pakistan was speaking on behalf of the OIC.

“The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation has no locus standi on India’s internal affairs, we strongly advise the OIC to refrain from making such references in future,” India said. The OIC statements mean less these days because a number of OIC countries privately dissociate themselves from the grouping, considering it more of an irritant.

This has prevented India from engaging more meaningfully with the organisation even though India has fairly robust relations with most member states.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/bangladesh-wants-indias-entry-in-oic-as-observer/articleshow/64044678.cms

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Pakistan Minorities Being Persecuted By Islamic Terrorists

05th May 2018

QUETTA: Minorities in Pakistan are facing persecution by the state and non-state actors, says Dr.Iftikhar Ayaz, Ambassador of the UK-based Universal Peace Federation.

Recently, members of the Hazara community were targeted in a sectarian attack in Quetta, capital of Pakistan's Balochistan province.

In Pakistan, targeted killings of minorities have continued as are they being attacked by Taliban, Islamic State, and other Sunni Muslim militant groups for their religious beliefs. Hazaras, whose population is around half a million in and around Quetta are a mainly Shi'ite Muslims.

Another community which has been facing persecution in Pakistan is Ahmadiyya.

Since, Pakistan is home to the largest population of Ahmadis in the world, they have been facing persecution by Muslim fundamentalists, who consider them as non-Muslims.

Dr. Iftikhar Ayaz, ambassador of Universal Peace Federation, Ahmadiyya Community said, "The important point to understand is that the Human Rights Charter assures every human being the freedom of religion. Which is very important and it must be respected by all states and regimes and also the countries. It is no use of emphasizing trying to pressurize people in trying to accept one faith and reject the other".

He added, "The World would not accept it, and Ahmedia community is a peaceful community everywhere in the world and one of the fundamental teachings of the Ahmedia community is to remain loyal to the government of the day."

Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan is facing discrimination since 1984, when the then President of Pakistan Muhammad Ziz-ul-Haq brought Ordinance XX in the Constitution.

The legislation restricted the religious freedom of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, prohibited the reading and writing of the Quran and building mosques.

It also prohibits calling themselves Muslim and threatened prison terms for any individual who in any manner whatsoever outages the religious feelings of Muslims.

"In 1984, Zia (Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq) came and he said this is not enough, we have to paralyze and cripple the Ahmedis, so that they cannot even move, so he came up with the Ordinance twenty. He also added Article 298B, under which an Ahmadi can be imprisoned for three years or fined fifty thousand rupees", said Dr. Ayaz.

A majority of people facing blasphemy charges are from the Ahmadia community.

The Lahore based Center for Social Justice estimated that at least 1,472 people have been charged with blasphemy from 1987 to 2016. Of the 730 Muslims charges, 501 were Ahmadis.

Dr. Iftikhar Ayaz said, "The Blasphemy laws, as I told you, if I said that I am an Ahmadi and I am a Muslim, then that is Blasphemy, and I could be hanged and nearly 53 of our Ahmadies have been charged under the Blasphemy laws and lot of them have been locked in black cells waiting for their deaths".

Pakistan has forever, been an intolerant country, especially for the religious minorities, whether they are, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians or even the Ahmadiyyas.

This is worst human rights violations which the international community needs to review.

http://www.newindianexpress.com/world/2018/may/05/pakistan-minorities-being-persecuted-by-islamic-terrorists-1810705.html

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Muslim World League chief talks path to moderate, tolerant Islamic world

5 May 2018

The head f the Saudi-based Muslim World League, Dr. Mohammad Alissa, discussed the path toward a moderate and tolerant Islam in a US think tank discussion this week.

In a conversation with the Washington Institute’s Executive Director Robert Satloff, Dr. Alissa discussed his vision for Islamic world's future.

The discussion can be watched in full below.

Alissa has previously highlighted the need to abide by effective dialogue.

He has said that the world today complains about the lack of understanding of God’s will in religious, intellectual, cultural and civilizational diversity, as well as the lack of understanding of the importance of coexistence among each other, as a basic rule for peace and harmony among mankind.

He has also previously ointed out that religious and intellectual conflict and the resultant extremism and counter-extremism are not solely the responsibility of those who are mentally kidnapped, as they are merely a herd controlled by wolves.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2018/05/05/Muslim-World-League-chief-talks-path-to-moderate-tolerant-Islamic-world-.html

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People in Al-Bab Start Strike against Turkish Forces' Atrocities

May 05, 2018

Al-Bab citizens went on a general strike after gunmen of Firqa al-Hamzah, affiliated to the Ankara-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA), stormed al-Hekmah and al-Salam hospitals in the town and arrested a medical staff.

In the meantime, field sources in Afrin, another town in Aleppo under the Ankara forces' control, reported that Karim al-Makhlaf nom de guerre Abu Balal al-Dahlah, a commander of the FSA-affiliated Jeish al-Sharqiyah, was assassinated by unknown gunmen in the town of Jandaris South-West of Afrin region.

The sources further said that the Ankara-backed militants are still looting people's assets and arresting them illegally in the Afrin region, North-West of Aleppo province.

A Kurdish media outlet reported earlier today that the Turkish Army has arrested a sum of 3,000 civilians in Afrin ever since it occupied the city in Northwestern Aleppo and transferred them to different locations.

Hawar news quoted well-informed sources in Shih region in Afrin as reporting that the army has taken into captivity a sum of 3,000 civilians in several villages in Shih and transferred them to the village of Mirkan in Mobata region.

Hawar news further said that some of the jailed civilians have been transferred to the village of Qarmitlaq and some others have been sent to Turkey to be kept in detention centers there.

It further said that the captured civilians have been tortured severely by the army and its allied militants, adding that the Turkish soldiers have been shooting around blindfolded captives to scare them.

In the meantime, a local source on Bolboleh region said that the Ankara-backed militants have forced villagers in Khalika to leave their houses to replace them with almost 2,000 militants and their family members that had left Douma region in Damascus province under an evacuation agreement with the Syrian Army.

The source further said that the Ankara-backed militants have been forcing men and women in the villages of Shirwa and Bolboleh region to carry out hard jobs, including digging trenches and cooking food and serving the militants.   

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970215000952

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India

 

Saudi Reforms Wind Yet To Impress Indian Clerics

May 5, 2018

‘Indian clerics and scholars are unimpressed, yet observant of the changes happening in Saudi Arabia’.

while the winds of “reform” are blowing across the Saudi desert making headlines every day, Islamic clerics, scholars and academicians in India are unimpressed yet observant of the undergoing changes in the historically conservative society of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).

In the recent past, KSA’s crown prince Mohammad-bin-Salman has gained steady admirers for his “progressive” initiatives for Saudi women and culture, his action-oriented approach to curb corruption and initiatives to rein in extremism. Nonetheless, Muslim thinkers in India are not impressed and do not see these changes as “reforms”, let alone consider it as a beginning for “Islamic reformation” to counter religious extremism that has gripped Islam worldwide.

Dr Tahir Mahmood, former chairman of the National Minorities Commission and member of the Law Commission of India, told The Sunday Guardian, “These are not reforms and this is no reformation of Islam. This is restoration of Islam to the religion it was meant to be which until now was distorted by the Saudis. Changes like banning polygamy or making divorce formal could have been considered as reforms. But as much as we welcome the end of the ban on women driving, we cannot call these reforms.”

Salim Engineer, General Secretary of Jamaat-e-Islami-Hind, told The Sunday Guardian: “Reforms are required in laws made by humans; ‘deen’ does not require reforms. What deen requires is ‘Ijtehad’. Ijtehad means implementation of the scripture addressing the needs of the prevailing circumstances. So as far as the question of reforms in KSA stands, it looks to me that whatever is happening there is a consequence of their internal matters. It has nothing to do with reformation of Islam.”

Most of the clergymen that this paper spoke to did not want to indulge in the subject, saying that this does not concern them. The general perception around crown prince Salman’s efforts to modernise Saudi society is that of confusion mixed with condescend—confusion over the dramatic shift of the Saudi’s endorsement of the values that were so vehemently opposed until now aggravated by the said differences of opinion between the crown prince and his father King Salman. The clerics’ tone is condescending because they do not approve of the concentration of power by a single family.

Arif Mohammad Khan, former Union Cabinet Minister and an avid religious thinker and writer on Islamic issues, said, “Islam is not about getting things done forcefully, be it marriage, divorce, conversions or taking over countries. The Saudis were never telling you the real Islam. It is unfortunate that historically, Islam has been clutched by an imperial ethos and what is happening today which is being referred to as ‘reform’, is no reform at all. Islam does not require to be reformed, but it requires to be practised.”

Clerics in India do not see KSA’s social changes as a reformation of Islam, rather as an indicator of a Prince who is taking a lot of heat from the United States and Israel, suggesting that if the geo-political realities of KSA would not have come under duress, then the kingdom would not have gone about “reforming” its mannerisms.  A cleric affiliated with a popular Jamaat based in New Delhi, who did not want to be identified, said, “These so-called reforms are not being seen as a sign of a strong ruler. The media in the West has been applauding the Prince for being progressive and bold enough to be willing to bring change, but we understand that KSA’s reality today is different. Also, allowing women to drive, attend soccer matches have nothing to do with Islam. These were restrictions imposed by their own society; religion had no role to play in it. Islam never said that women cannot drive.”

The reforms are also being seen as the regime’s way to stay in power. Salim explained, “True Islam stands for the best man as the ruler. Family rule or dictatorship is not Islam’s way. Though the Prince did good in weeding out corrupt officials from his government, he also concentrated a lot of power in his own hands by eliminating members of his own family. Because of these overlapping interests, I feel that though his actions might have positive implications, the nature of his decisions and the general opinion about him here is not sanguine, which is why whatever happens in KSA will be spoken about in sceptic tones here.”

Arif further underlined the economic realities of contemporary Saudi society that resulted in making way for these sociological changes. Blessed with oil and, hence a lot of wealth, young Saudis were sent to study abroad and now after two generations of well-educated citizens, the regime also needs to provide them with jobs and financial stability in times of collapsing oil prices.

As to what repercussions these social changes are going to bring to Muslims in India and elsewhere across the world, Arif said, “Wait for another 10-15 years, there is going to be a drastic change in the psyche of Indian Muslims. Until 1987, there was no protest or movement against triple talaq, but today there are people who are speaking against it publicly. Things have already changed. Those times are gone when people in India did not bother reading the Quran with a translation and only went to a Mullah for advice. The concentration of authority on religious matters and misuse of this power cannot last for long.”

Mahmood said, “Saudi Arabia is not our Vatican or Harmandir Saheb. We have no reason to be inspired or influenced by them. Islam has multiple schools of thought, the one that KSA has followed so far, the Hanabali school of thought, is the most conservative one. On the other hand, in India you will not find a single Hanabali believer. The reason KSA became the seat of Islam is because they got control of Mecca at the time KSA was being founded with the assistance of the British.”

https://www.sundayguardianlive.com/news/saudi-reforms-wind-yet-impress-indian-clerics

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Kerala CM Has a Word of Caution for Muslims

MAY 06, 2018

Asks them to be vigilant against communal forces who support violence in the name of religion

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has exhorted the Muslim community to be vigilant against communal forces who instigate the faithful to take up violence in the name of religion. Inaugurating a two-day Kerala Umara Conference organised by the Kerala Muslim Jamaath here on Saturday, he said communal elements employed religious texts as tools to propagate hatred.

“Our youth should not fall prey to the insidious propaganda of communal forces. The Kerala Police has proved that the violence unleashed by some groups recently following the Kathua rape had been done deliberately to foment trouble,” he said.

Chaos would have erupted in the State had not the police acted on time. Kerala could take pride in upholding the values of secularism and pluralism. The country saw a group communalising the abduction, rape, and murder of an eight-year-old girl of Jammu with lawyers and elected representatives even supporting the accused in the heinous crime.

Praise for government

The reaction of the Chief Minister was in response to All India Sunni Jamiyyathul Ulama general secretary Kanthapuram A.P. Aboobacker Musliyar, who, in his presidential address, showered praise on the government for arresting those involved in the rape and murder of a Latvian tourist in Thiruvananthapuram last month.

His presence at the conference of leaders of local mahal committees and Muslim leaders of different organisations and NRIs units also assumed significance in the wake of the Sunni unity talks and the Musliyar going hammer and tongs against the Salafis and the growth of radical groups.

Mr. Vijayan pointed out that all religious texts spoke about the love for humanity. The Koran advocated compassion and brotherhood. But some people intentionally misused religious texts to spread hatred and violence.

Full report at:

http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Thiruvananthapuram/cm-has-a-word-of-caution-for-muslims/article23790712.ece

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Namaz should be offered inside mosques: Haryana CM Khattar

May 6, 2018

NEW DELHI: Responding to the recent incidents of Hindutva outfits disrupting Friday prayers in Gurugram, Haryana chief minister on Sunday said that Muslims should offer namaz inside mosques and eidgahs.

"It is our duty to maintain law and order. There has been an increase in offering namaz in open. Namaz should be read in mosques or eidgahs rather than public spaces," Khattar was quoted as saying by ANI.

Last Friday, prayers were disrupted in several areas of Gurugram by Hindutva outfits.

Unprecedented scenes were observed from all around the city as mob shouting "Jai Shri Ram" and "Bangladesh Wapas Jao" (go back to Bangladesh) interrupted the congregations.

The disruptions were witnessed in busy areas like Iffco Chowk, Udyog Vihar, Leisure Valley Park and Mall Mile on MG Road.

At a park opposite Candor Techspace, a group of corporate executives prayed amid heavy security cover.

Six persons were arrested after an FIR was filed at the Sector 53 police station for allegedly disrupting the Muslim prayers at an open ground in Sector 53 and threatening those offering prayers.

Following the filing of the FIR, a protest march under the banner of the Sanyukt Hindu Sangharsh Samiti was taken out to demand cancellation of an FIR against six youths on the charge of disrupting 'namaz' on government land.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/namaz-should-be-offered-inside-mosques-haryana-cm-khattar/articleshow/64049164.cms

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Love Jihad is a Result of Late Marriages, Says BJP MLA Gopal Parmar

May 5, 2018

New Delhi, May 5: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Gopal Parmar on Saturday sparked a new controversy by saying that late marriages lead to incidents like love jihad. Talking to a news agency, ANI, he said, “Earlier, children were married in their childhood in the villages. Because of which mindset of that person used to be safe. But today if someone’s marriage is not done at the right time, then he wanders which leads to the incidents like love jihad.

Recently, many incidents of love jihad were reported and one of the popular which had made headlines happened in Kerala. Hadiya, a homoeopathic doctor, had converted to Islam after her marriage with Shafin Jahan. Her parents alleged that she was duped into the marriage and converted to Islam under a conspiracy. The Kerala High Court had sent her with her parents– KM Asokan and Ponamma–after annulling her marriage. The matter had come to fore when Jahan had challenged the Kerala High Court’s order annulling his marriage with Hadiya and sending her to her parents’ custody. On November 27, 2017, the apex court had freed Hadiya from her parents’ custody and sent her to college to pursue studies, even as she had pleaded that she should be allowed to go with her husband.  (Also Read: Hadiya to Continue Her Studies Under Hindu Name)

The apex court had on January 23 made it clear that the NIA cannot probe the marital status of Hadiya and Jahan.

Full report at:

http://www.india.com/news/india/bjp-mla-gopal-parmar-sparks-controversy-says-late-marriages-lead-to-incidents-like-love-jihad-3036925/

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Congress MLA asks Saudi govt to reduce Umrah airfare, visa fees

May 5, 2018

MUMBAI: Senior Congress leader Mohammed Arif Naseem Khan has written a letter to the Saudi Arabian Consul General asking the Saudi government to reduce airfare and visa fees for Muslim pilgrims travelling to perform Umrah.

Khan, who has been Maharashtra Minority Affairs minister in the past, in his letter mentioned that the Saudi government had hiked airfare for the economy class from Rs 35,000 to Rs 52,000 and had fixed visa charges, for second time pilgrims, at Rs 35,000. "Both airfare and visa fees directly affect Indian pilgrims as majority of them are either poor or are from the the middle income group," Khan said in his letter.

"Indian Muslims are disheartened at having to bear an extra amount of approximately Rs 68,000. Due to this, several pilgrims may not be able to perform one of the holy rituals of Islam," Khan said.

Khan urged the Saudi Arabian government to seriously consider the request of Indian Muslims.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/congress-mla-asks-saudi-govt-to-reduce-umrah-airfare-visa-fees/articleshow/64040825.cms

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Maulanas support removal of Jinnah’s portrait from AMU; Muslim Mahasangh chief announces Rs 1 lakh reward

05th May 2018

LUCKNOW: In the wake of AMU row, a few prominent Muslim clerics and community leaders on Saturday came out in open against the presence of Jinnah’s portrait on AMU campus and sought its immediate removal.

Chairman, Islamic Centre of India and member, All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), Maulana Khalid Rashid Phirangi Mahli condemned Jinnah and claimed that the Muslims of India had nothing to do with him. “Jinnah’s portrait should be removed from the walls of AMUSU hall,” he said while talking to media persons in Kanpur on Saturday.

The cleric of Lucknow Idgah, however, chose to disagree with the manner the protest against the portrait was spearheaded. He claimed that those who wanted its removal should have taken the proper channel and approached the V-C.

Voicing his concern against political interference in educational institutions, the Maulana demanded closure of ‘Jinnah House’ in Mumbai as it was maintained by the government.

He also suggested that all the buildings and roads in the name of British rulers should be changed, However, he could not stop himself from terming the ongoing controversy as a deliberate attempt to

divert people’s attention from basic issues in the wake of upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha elections in the country.

Another Muslim leader, Maulana Mehmood Madani, head, Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind had endorsed the demands for removing the portrait from the AMUSU hall, saying that the Indian Muslims had long back rejected him, his ideology and the partition of India and Pakistan.

Full report at:

http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2018/may/05/maulanas-support-removal-of-jinnahs-portrait-from-amu-muslim-mahasangh-chief-announces-rs-1-lakh-r-1810542.html

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J&K: Five terrorists killed in encounter in Shopian

May 6, 2018

NEW DELHI: Five terrorists were killed in an encounter with security forces in Jammu and Kashmir's Shopian, according to J&K Police.

"Encounter concluded at Badigam, Zainpora in Shopian, 5 bodies of terrorists recovered," said SP Vaid, Director General of Police, Jammu & Kashmir.

Top Hizbul Mujahideen commander Saddam Padder is also believed to be among the slain terrorists but police officials said it can only be confirmed after ascertaining the identity of the slain terrorists.

A Kashmir University assistant professor, Mohammad Rafi Bhat, who went missing on Friday, is also believed to be among those who were killed.

Bhat was a contractual assistant professor in the Sociology department of the university. A resident of Chundina area of central Kashmir's Ganderbal district, Bhat, it now appears, had joined the terrorist ranks.

Following information of his presence along with the other terrorists, the police brought his family from Ganderbal to persuade him to surrender, according to Inspector General of Police (IGP), Kashmir, S P Pani.

Protests had rocked the university yesterday over his disappearance, following which the university's vice chancellor met the protesting students and assured them that all efforts would be made to trace the missing professor.

The vice-chancellor had also written to the Director General of Police, requesting him that all efforts be made to trace Bhat's whereabouts.

The encounter broke out after security forces launched cordon and search operation in Badigam village in Zainapora area of the south Kashmir district following specific information about the presence of militants in the area. Two security personnel were also injured in the encounter.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/jk-five-terrorists-killed-in-encounter-in-shopian/articleshow/64049257.cms

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South Asia

 

Afghan forces kill at least 31 Taliban militants in Ghazni

May 5, 2018

At least 31 Taliban militants have been killed during clashes with Afghan security forces in the central province of Ghazni.

Afghan officials said Saturday that the gunfights took place in Andar district on Friday while the military was on a mission to protect a key highway.

Two civilians were also killed and four others were injured when a mortar shell struck a home in the district, about 153 kilometers southwest of the capital Kabul.

Mohammad Arif Noori, spokesman for the provincial governor, said the militants were trying to take control of an arterial road and had attacked many security checkpoints.

Noori said security forces managed to push the militants back "from the areas near Ghazni-Paktika highway, but the road is still closed due to serious damages caused by the Taliban."

Separately, two militants were killed when explosives went off on a highway in Ghazni.

Three weeks ago, Taliban militants captured Khwaja Omari district in Ghazni, killing its administrator along with at least 14 other people and burning down the district’s headquarters.

Last month, Taliban announced the official start of their annual spring raids, seen across the crisis-hit country recently as warmer weather has set in.

The escalation in attacks by Taliban showed the group was barely interested in an offer of peace talks made by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Taliban made no mention of the offer that came in February, showing that the group may even intensify its devastating campaign across Afghanistan.

The US-backed Afghan government is under pressure on multiple fronts this year as it prepares to hold long-delayed legislative elections even as its security forces struggle to get the upper hand on the battlefield and prevent civilian casualties.

Airstrikes by US warplanes have also significantly increased in recent months against the purported positions of Taliban and other militant outfits, including the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group, in the country.

US-led forces invaded Afghanistan and toppled a ruling Taliban regime some 17 years ago. That ongoing war has failed to bring stability to the country despite the presence of thousands of foreign forces.

A recent survey found that the militants were active in two-thirds of the country and were fully controlling four percent of it.

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/05/05/560737/Afghanistan-Ghazni-Taliban

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OIC foreign ministers discuss plight of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims

May 5, 2018

Foreign ministers of Muslim countries have gathered in Bangladesh to discuss the plight of Myanmar's Rohingya refugees as a main theme of the 45th session of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers.

The ministers stressed during the meeting, which kicked off in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka on Saturday, that there was a need for taking strong action against the government of Myanmar over a crackdown that has displaced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya from their homes in the western state of Rakhine.

Around 700,000 refugees have fled Rakhine into Bangladesh since Myanmar launched the crackdown in August last year. The refugees have reported killings, rapes and arson by members of the Myanmar military and Buddhist mobs. Most of the refugees are still unwilling to return to Rakhine, fearing they might come under renewed attacks. The government of Myanmar has refused to offer firm guarantees that a repatriation process agreed with Bangladesh would not unravel.

Opening the OIC meeting, Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali said Muslim countries had to show more solidarity with Rohingya refugees by pressuring the government of Myanmar to facilitate their return to Rakhine.

"In the OIC we should take strong action manifesting solidarity with them and strengthen efforts in persuading the government of Myanmar to take urgent measures for the sustainable return of Rohingyas to their homeland in Rakhine state,” said Ali.

The United Nations High Commission for Human Rights has designated Myanmar’s crackdown against the Rohingya as a textbook example of "ethnic cleansing" while it suspects that the military and Buddhist mobs may have committed acts of genocide against the Muslims.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, who attended the OIC meeting as a guest, said the international community had a duty to hold into account those responsible for the crimes against the Muslims.

“... we must pledge to hold the perpetrators of these crimes to account. We must work to establish a clear pathway towards the accountability for atrocities and human right violations committed in Rakhine state,” said Freeland.

The crackdown in Rakhine started after a group of Rohingya fighters claimed attacks on police and border posts in the region. Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said those attacks added a fresh fuel to a campaign to depict Muslims as "terrorists," adding that Muslim nations should try to reverse that course.

“This must not be acceptable because Islam is a religion of peace and we believe in peace. We don't want for some few people to defame this holy religion,” said Hasina during the OIC meeting.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/05/05/560727/OIC-meeting-Rohingya-plight

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President: Dhaka to work with Riyadh to root out terrorism

May 05, 2018

President Hamid highly appreciated the efforts of Saudi King to establish the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) in Riyadh

President M Abdul Hamid has said Bangladesh is firm to work with the world community to fight against extremism and terrorism as the country always shows zero tolerance to this menace.

“There is no room of terrorism in Islam . . . Bangladesh will work together with Saudi government to root out the terrorism,” he said as Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir called on him at the Bangabhaban Saturday afternoon.

President Hamid highly appreciated the efforts of Saudi King to establish the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) in Riyadh, where Bangladesh joined the alliance as founding member, president’s Press Secretary Joynal Abedin told BSS.

Noting that the existing bilateral relations between Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia are excellent, Abdul Hamid said the current relationship would strengthen further in days to come.

He thanked the Saudi government for opening up their job market for Bangladesh workers in all categories and sought cooperation for expanding bilateral trade and investment between two brotherly Muslim countries.

In the meeting, the Saudi foreign minister lauded the socio-economic development of Bangladesh during the tenure of the present government.

He said: “As a development partner of Bangladesh, the all-out cooperation and assistance of the Saudi government will continue in the upcoming days.”

Adel bin Ahmed lauded the Bangladesh government for taking time-befitting steps over the Rohingya issue, and that his country would continue its necessary supports for a peaceful end to the crisis.

Full report at:

https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/foreign-affairs/2018/05/05/president-dhaka-work-riyadh-root-terrorism/

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Rohingya will be safe in areas 'designated' for them

May 06, 2018

YANGON - Rohingya refugees who return to Myanmar will be safe as long as they stay in the model villages built for them, the country's army chief has said, renewing fears they will be kept in settlements indefinitely.

Some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Buddhist-majority Myanmar to Bangladesh after the military launched a brutal crackdown on insurgents in August that the US and the UN have called ethnic cleansing.

Myanmar and Bangladesh agreed to repatriate refugees to conflict-hit Rakhine state last year but Rohingya are loathe to come back to a country without guarantees of safety and basic rights such as freedom of movement.

The country's powerful army chief Min Aung Hlaing compounded those fears when speaking to a visiting delegation from the UN Security Council in the capital Naypyidaw on April 30.

"There is no need to be worried about their security if they stay in the areas designated for them," he told the delegation, according to a readout of the meeting posted on Min Aung Hlaing's official Facebook page on Saturday.

He referred to members of the stateless minority as "Bengalis", reflecting a widespread belief in Myanmar that the Rohingya are immigrants from Bangladesh despite a longstanding presence in Rakhine.

The army chief also cast doubt on the allegations raised by refugees in Bangladesh, many of whom shared stories of extrajudicial killings, arson and rape.

"Bengalis will never say that they arrive there happily. They will get sympathy and rights only if they say that they face a lot of hardships and persecution," he reportedly said, adding that the issue was "exaggerated".

The UN has said conditions on the ground are not ripe for the refugees to return, despite Myanmar's insistence that it is ready even as no large-scale repatriation has occurred.

The government has built transit camps that can accommodate tens of thousands of people and a much smaller number of new houses to replace fire-blackened villages where Rohingya used to live.

The minority community has been persecuted in Myanmar for decades and Rohingya have lived in what rights groups have called apartheid-like conditions, with severe restrictions on movement and access to health services.

More than 120,000 Rohingya still reside in camps for internally displaced people in the Rakhine state capital Sittwe as a result of intercommunal violence in 2012 that killed hundreds.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/06-May-2018/rohingya-will-be-safe-in-areas-designated-for-them

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Afghan forces thwart deadly roadside bombing plot in Kabul

May 06 2018

The Afghan security forces have thwarted a plot by the anti-government armed militants to carry out a roadside bomb explosion in capital Kabul.

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officials said Saturday that an improvised explosive device planted on a roadside was discovered and defused in the vicinity of Qarabagh district.

The officials further added that the militants were apparently looking to spark terror by targeting the local residents with the IED in Qarabagh.

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

This comes as the operatives of the Afghan Intelligence, National Directorate of Security (NDS), have foiled deadly attacks plotted by the anti-government armed militants to target Kabul city.

According to a statement released by NDS on Thursday, a group of at least seven militants were arrested in connection to the attack plots.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/afghan-forces-thwart-deadly-roadside-bombing-plot-in-kabul-05083/

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Taliban suffer heavy casualties in Ghazni operations: Gen. Radmanish

May 06 2018

The Afghan defense officials are saying that the Taliban militants have suffered heavy casualties during the operations in southeastern Ghazni province of Afghanistan.

The deputy spokesman for the Ministry of Defense (MoD) Gen. Mohammad Radmanish told reporters a total of 60 militants were killed and 33 others sustained injuries in the past 24 hours.

Gen. Radmanish further added that at least 36 militants were killed during the operations in Andar district of Ghazni while 8 others were killed in Helmand.

He said at least 9 militants including 2 ISIS fighters were killed in Deh Bala and Khogyani district of Nangarhar while 4 militants were killed in Badakhshan and 3 in Uruzgan province.

According to Gen. Radmanish, at least 10 offensive operations are underway in 10 provinces of the country as the Commando forces have carried out 66 operations while 17 airstrikes have also been carried out during the same period.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/taliban-suffer-heavy-casualties-in-ghazni-operations-gen-radmanish-05081/

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District governor among 5 killed, wounded in Paktia car bombing

May 06 2018

At least five people including a district administrative chief/governor were killed or wounded in a car bomb attack in southeastern Paktika province of Afghanistan.

The provincial government media office in a statement said the incident took place on Saturday evening in the vicinity of Gardez city, the provincial capital of Paktia.

The statement further added that a suicide bomber detonated a car packed with explosives targeting the district governor of Ahmadabad Hazrat Mohammad Rodwal.

According to the provincial government, at least two people including a security guard of Rodwal and a civilian were killed and three others were wounded.

The district governor Rodwal was also wounded along with two others in the attack, the statement said, adding that the wounded people have been shifted to the hospital and their health condition has been reported as stable.

No individual or group has so far claimed responsibility behind the attack.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/district-governor-among-5-killed-wounded-in-paktia-car-bombing-05080/

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Afghan forces retake northern district from Taliban

May 6, 2018

Government forces in Afghanistan have retaken the control of a remote district in the country’s northern province of Badakhshan from Taliban militants, officials say.

Provincial police spokesman Sanaullah Rohani made the announcement on Saturday, saying that army and police forces backed by airstrikes had recaptured the Kohistan district, which had fallen to the militants last week after several days of fierce fighting.

“The Taliban suffered heavy casualties, but there is no updated information on the exact number as the area is remote and the telecommunication system weak,” he said.

Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish confirmed the development to Tolo News TV and said the Taliban suffered “heavy losses” in the military operation, adding that the operation will continue until the entire district is cleared of militants.

Taliban militants were also pushed back in the Teshkan district, located to the south of the provincial capital, Fayzabad, where they had taken a number of checkpoints.

Fierce fighting across Afghanistan has intensified in recent weeks with the start of the Taliban’s annual so-called spring offensive.

The escalation in attacks by the Taliban indicates the group is barely interested in an offer of peace talks earlier made by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. The militant group had earlier offered to talk to the United States, which continues to occupy Afghanistan along with other NATO forces since a military invasion in 2001.

That invasion toppled a Taliban regime in place at the time, and the group has refused to recognize the Afghan government since then.

The Afghan government is under pressure on multiple fronts this year as it prepares to hold long-delayed legislative elections even as its security forces struggle to get the upper hand on the battlefield and prevent civilian casualties.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/05/06/560790/Afghanistan-retake-district-Taliban

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Pakistan

 

Pakistani military seeks better relations with India, says report

Anwar Iqbal

May 06, 2018

WASHINGTON: The Pakistani military leadership is reaching out to India because it believes that the way to peace and prosperity is through military cooperation with India, says a new think-tank report.

“Attempts to open a dialogue come against a background of almost weekly exchanges of fire along the Line of Control in Kashmir,” notes the UK-based Royal Unites Services Institute (RUSI), in a report on renewed efforts to reduce tensions between the two neighbours. “Will New Delhi reciprocate?” asks the report, which was released in London this week.

The report notes that “in a historic first last month,” Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa invited Sanjay Vishwasrao, the Indian military attaché, and his team to the Pakistan Day military parade in Islamabad. The move indicates that “ties between the two foes are warming up,” it adds, noting that Gen Bajwa followed this two weeks later by saying that the Pakistan military wanted peace and dialogue with India.

The two countries will also take part in joint military drills in Russia in September, with Chinese participation. Such developments mark a change in attitudes that started when Gen Bajwa became the army chief in November 2016, the report adds.

During a visit to Britain last year, Gen Bajwa addressed a gathering at RUSI and announced that the Pakistan army was “now no more insecure and feels confident of its future” and that he “welcomes Indian participation in Pakistan’s flagship infrastructure project, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)”.

The report points out that both India and Pakistan have tried to forge relationships before as well. In the 1980s, Gen Ziaul Haq, and then Indian prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, became close. Then, retired Gen Pervez Musharraf and Atal Bihari Vajpayee also came close at a 2002 summit in Agra to resolving the Kashmir conflict despite a year-long tense situation on the border. “Approaches by Pakistani generals have been welcomed by some in India, because they are seen to be able to deliver on peace,” RUSI reports.

The report notes that recent military operations in Fata have brought security and stability on the western border, encouraging the Pakistan Army to approach India with the understanding that it will help Pakistan’s upward economic trajectory and allow regional trade flourish. “Gen Hayat’s plan could come to fruition this year,” the report adds.

The report also notes that so far, India has rejected Pakistan’s offer of a transit trade dialogue on Afghan-Indian commerce. “But with a sustained approach by Pakistani officers to India, it could only be a matter of time before Delhi agrees to at least talk to Islamabad,” the report concludes.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1405960/pakistani-military-seeks-better-relations-with-india-says-report

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Hafiz Saeed moves Pak court against withdrawal of his security

May 5, 2018

LAHORE: Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed has filed a petition in the Lahore high court, challenging a provincial government's decision to withdraw his security.

The provincial government of Punjab in Pakistan last month had withdrawn policemen deployed for the security of Jamaat-ud Dawa chief after the Supreme Court directed inspector-generals of Islamabad and all four provinces to take back security escorts from people who are not entitled to it.

The chief justice, however, later directed the top provincial police officials to ensure the provision of security to all those who face genuine security threats

In a petition filed through his counsel Advocate A K Dogar yesterday in the LHC, Saeed said the Punjab government on the pretext of the apex court order has withdrawn his security.

He said the Supreme Court had ordered that the security of those facing life threat should not be withdrawn.

"But the government made a wrong interpretation of the Supreme Court order in my case and has withdrawn my security despite threats to my life," Saeed said.

The founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, who carries a $10 million American bounty for his role in terror activities, accused the government of discrimination in his case.

"I request the court to make it a binding to follow the Supreme Court order in letter and spirit across the board and restore my security," he prayed.

The JuD usually makes an elaborate arrangements for the security of Saeed wherever he goes. Even at home the JuD special squad has been given the task of his security.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/hafiz-saeed-moves-pak-court-against-withdrawal-of-his-securit/articleshow/64045693.cms

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Pakistan army chief confirms death sentences for 11 Taliban terrorists

May 5, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's army chief has confirmed death sentences for 11 "hardcore terrorists" after military courts found them guilty of carrying out multiple attacks that killed 60 civilians and security forces in recent years.

In a statement on Saturday, the military said Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa also approved imprisonment for three people for their involvement in acts of terrorism. It says the 11 convicted Pakistani Taliban had killed 36 civilians and 24 troops in separate attacks in the country.

The trials are closed to the public but defendants are allowed to hire lawyers.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-army-chief-confirms-death-sentences-for-11-taliban-terrorists/articleshow/64039907.cms

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Attacks on Hazara community ‘foreign-funded’, says Ahsan Iqbal

May 6, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Minister of Interior Ahsan Iqbal on Saturday said attacks on minority communities, such as Hazaras, are being organised by “foreign-funded groups” in order to sow seeds of discord in the country.

The enemies of Pakistan are trying to sabotage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) by fomenting terrorism and unrest in the country, he said in a statement.

Taking a jibe at Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan, he said that “a cricket player is giving [government] lectures on development”.

The minister further said developed countries will remain underdeveloped if ‘tactless’ leaders, such as Imran Khan, become leaders. “A nation of 200 million people cannot hand over their fate to him,” he added.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/05/05/attacks-on-hazara-community-foreign-funded-says-ahsan-iqbal/

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Devotees reach Sehwan to commemorate 766th Urs of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar

May 6, 2018

HYDERABAD: Thousands of devotees reached Shewan to commemorate the 766th death anniversary of famous Sufi saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar.

The death anniversary would be observed for three days, starting Saturday. The devotees come prepared for the Urs as some rented the home from the locals while others brought tents to stay.

This is the second Urs of Lal Shahbaz after the deadly suicide attack of February 2017, which killed over 100 and injured many others. The suicide bomber blew himself during Dhamal at the shrine.

Following the blast, the shrine was closed down for the devotees but activities on its premises were restored after some time. Sufi saint’s death anniversary was also observed last year.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/05/05/devotees-reach-sehwan-to-commemorate-766th-urs-of-lal-shahbaz-qalandar/

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Arrangements made for repatriation of 54 Pakistani prisoners in US

BY AHMAD AHMADANI

May 6, 2018

ISLAMABAD: A plan to repatriate 54 Pakistani prisoners languishing in the United States (US) jails has been finalised and a chartered flight carrying Pakistani nationals is scheduled to reach Islamabad on May 15, Pakistan Today has learned.

So far, Washington has decided to deport 54 out of 107 Pakistanis languishing in jails on the charges of terrorism, robbery, breach of immigration laws, sexual harassments, drugs and false citizenship.

A number of parleys of dialogue between the officials of US Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and high-ups of the Ministry of Interior (MOI) in Pakistan and officials of Pakistan Embassy in Washington have been conducted for the repatriation of Pakistanis due to their alleged involvement in different crimes. Also, the US sought verification of 107 Pakistanis from Pakistan’s Embassy at Washington.

Similarly, ICE requested Embassy of Pakistan in Washington to grant permission for a charter flight for the repatriation of Pakistani prisoners. However, nationality verification of 107 suspected Pakistani in the US is still underway as only 30 Pakistani nationals have been verified while a US charter flight is scheduled for May 15, 2018, for repatriation of Pakistanis.

23 out of 30 individuals verified by the MOI have already been issued ETDs (emergency travel document). Remaining seven are also set to be issued ETDs in a couple of days. Most of these individuals were already verified by the respective mission as they possessed NADRA issued citizenship numbers.

“Total number of persons for the charter flight would come to 54 including all verified cases as of now,” said an email message of Saeed Ali, an official of the Pakistan Embassy in Washington. He added that carrying subject nationality verification of thirty suspected Pakistanis in the US.

The ICE has set May 7, 2018, as the last date for the issuance of ETDs as the ICE authorities need some time for preparatory work prior to the departure date, said the documents.

“Foregoing in the view, the Ministry is requested to kindly approach the MOI for expedited verification latest by May 4, 2018 (May 5-6 being weekend) of as many as individuals possible to bring the number of deportees to a reasonable level,” said an email message of Counsellor Political-VI, Embassy of Pakistan, Washington D.C.

These Pakistanis, currently incarcerated in the US prisons, were found guilty from 1996 to February 2018 of various crimes such as terrorism, immigration violations, fraud, false citizenship, sexual assault, sex offence, gambling, drug possession, possession of a weapon, traffic offence and disorderly conduct.

Out of 54 Pakistanis named by the ICE, only one Pakistani, Kashif Nauman, is being deported on terrorism charges, said the documents.

Earlier, ICE presented an official request to the Pakistan Embassy in Washington to grant permission to the ICE to conduct a charter mission for transportation of Pakistani nationals to Islamabad during the week of April 23, 2018. However, delay in the nationality verification of Pakistanis has apparently caused the delay in the deportation.

“We currently have a manifest of 107 subjects to present with final orders of removal that are currently in the identity verification process. ICE respectfully requests the embassy to provide an official response to accept the charter proposal,” the US ICE said in the official request to Pakistan’s embassy.

According to documents, 35 Pakistani nationals are in the US prisons only because of their violations of immigration rules while 11 Pakistanis are in detention due to sexual offences and 18 persons were allegedly involved in the possesion of drug and arms.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/05/05/flight-scheduled-for-repatriation-of-54-pakistani-prisoners-in-us/

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‘TTP activists collecting funds, recruiting youngsters in Malir’

Imtiaz Ali

May 06, 2018

KARACHI: Four suspected militants linked with the banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, whose arrest was shown by the police’s Counter-Terrorism Department on Friday, have made startling disclosures during initial investigation, it emerged on Saturday.

The arrested suspects are Abdul Rauf alias Abu Rizwan and Mohammad Kamran alias Huzaifa, affiliated with the LJ; and Keftan Khan alias Kafayatullah and Mohammad Irshad alias Zakaria linked with the TTP.

According to CTD officials, Abdul Rauf alias Abu Rizwan had also remained a close aide and member of a new outfit called Ansarul Sharia Pakistan (ASP). He hailed from Federal B Area, and got both modern and religious education.

He completed Dars-i-Nizami (religious scholar course) from a seminary in 2009. He told the investigators that he joined Jamaatud Dawa in 2003, whose workers motivated him for jihad. Later on, he got militancy training.

In 2004, he met Shaharyar alias Dr Abdullah Hashmi, one of the ASP ringleaders. Dr Hashmi was recently killed by law enforcers in an ‘encounter’ as it transpired that this outfit was allegedly involved in the attack on Leader of the Opposition in the Sindh Assembly Khwaja Izharul Hasan.

Abdul Rauf told the investigators that Dr Abdullah Hashmi (now killed) and Abdul Karim Sarosh Siddiqi (at large) motivated him for Afghan jihad when they had left Jaish-i-Mohammad.

The CTD officials said that he with Dr Hashmi and Sarosh got militancy training in Afghanistan in 2013. Later on, he started collecting funds.

Another arrested LJ militant, Mohammad Kamran alias Huzaifa, originally came from Murree. They got both modern and religious education in Islamabad.

Later on, he studied in two seminaries in Chiniot and Faisalabad where he completed Dars-i-Nizami in 2015. He was motivated by a member of the banned outfit to join militancy when he was studying in Chiniot. In 2013, he got militancy training in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and motivated youngsters for militancy.

He told the investigators that his brother was an employee of an embassy of an important Western country in Islamabad.

The TTP suspect, Keftan Khan, originally hailed from Tank and came to Karachi in 1994. He told the investigators that he was motivated by a local commander of the TTP to join militancy when he visited his native place in 2007. Later on, he got militancy training in Mirali with other militants.

He told the CTD investigators that in 2009, TTP militants shifted their focus from ‘Afghan jihad’ to targeting law enforcers in Pakistan.

Keftan also revealed that there were at least four militants who were generating funds and recruiting youngsters for the TTP in different parts of Malir. One of them was a brother of a TTP ‘commander’ dealing in diesel at Ghaghar Phatak.

Another held TTP militant, Mohammad Irshad, belonged to Mishta in South Waziristan and had shifted to Karachi’s Malir in 1999. He got religious education at different seminaries in the metropolis and completed Dars-i-Nizami course. He told the investigators that he was motivated by a class fellow of his in a seminary to join jihad in 2007, when he was studying in a seminary in Gulshan-i-Iqbal.

In the same year, he with other seminary fellows started watching ‘Jihadi videos’ at Al-Asif Square and volunteered to participate in jihad.

In 2008, he with others visited Makeen in KP where he got militancy training.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1405874/ttp-activists-collecting-funds-recruiting-youngsters-in-malir

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Arab World

 

Once the Syrian war is over, Qatar could become an empire once more

May 6, 2018

Fresh back from Damascus, I was taking my coffee on the Beirut Corniche this week when a neat little Greek warship hove into sight. I picked up my French mandate binoculars – they must have travelled in and out of Beirut many times between 1922 and 1946 – and espied that “F465” was the frigate’s hull number, of which more later. It was stooging along the Lebanese coastline on an utterly useless task and was supposed – along with other naval vessels of the UN force – to be preventing Hezbollah from shipping weapons into Lebanon. That was the whole idea conceived by the UN back in 2006 after the latest Hezbollah-Israeli war which Hezbollah did not win and which Israel definitely lost – and which also finally did for Tony Blair the following year, we might remind ourselves – and which brought yet more international troops to Lebanon.

But for some strange reason, it was assumed back in 2006 that Iran was sending weapons to the Hezbollah across the Mediterranean, even though everyone in Lebanon knows that Iran is to the east of Lebanon and that its weapons have always reached Lebanon via Syria – which, since it is also to the east of Lebanon, makes sense. In any event, now that Syria is playing the civil war role that Lebanon played between 1975 and 1990 – with the Russians, the Americans, the Iranians, the Lebanese Hezbollah, the Iraqis, Afghan militiamen, Isis, Al-Nusrah, Kurds, Turks and Uncle Tom Cobbly all playing their various roles – it might surprise readers to know that it is to yet another country that the Syrians have recently been paying attention.

For some days ago, Bashar al-Assad held a private meeting of Syrian journalists in Damascus and informed them that relations had resumed – at a very low and humble level – between Qatar and Syria. They were not under any circumstances to quote him as saying this, nor to give any presidential credence to the story. But they could mention it in passing, stressing that this was not a resumption of relations, merely two nations maintaining contact. But it makes an intriguing story.

For years ago, nearer the start of the Syrian war, a clutch of nuns were released by their kidnappers in Syria through the joint intervention of Assad, the Emir of Qatar and General Abbas Ibrahim, the doyen of the Lebanese intelligence service. Indeed, the said nuns actually expressed their appreciation to both Assad and the Emir. Rumour had it that a lot of money was paid for their release – so much that, as I have reported before, they must have been the most expensive nuns in the world.

But it is Qatar which we should be thinking about. Qatar is great because it has oil and liquid gas and the al-Jazeera television channel. But it is alone, praying that the Saudis and the Emiratis don’t invade it, a tiny peninsula containing a huge American military base but much abused by Donald Trump himself. Its royal families might be emperors but they have no empire; imagine Britain without India. But if Qatar was to rescue Syria when the war there is over – if its vast wealth could rebuild that ancient land – then Qatar would have an empire for its emperors. Not that Qatar would ever own Syria – far from it, Syrians would fight to stop that – but it would have, as we say in the Middle East, “considerable influence”. It would have power. And a power – with a Mediterranean coastline – that even Saudi Arabia doesn’t have.

Is that what we are seeing the start of right now? Of course, the Russians would also be involved – and let’s remember that the Saudi king was a guest of Putin not that long ago – and perhaps the Iranians, in a marginal way. The idea, by the way, that the Iranians dominate Syria is a myth, much repeated by Benjamin Netanyahu. Nor, I might add, are they terribly popular. On all my travels, I haven’t seen an Iranian on the Syrian front lines for more than a year. Hezbollah, yes. And of course, the Syrian army would play a prominent part in the rebuilding of Syria. If Assad survives – and I’ve yet to meet anyone in Syria who thinks otherwise – then the army will survive.

Not many weeks ago, Syrian television showed troops, tanks, transporters and trucks heading south for the final battle at eastern Ghouta. It was assumed that the purpose was to frighten the remaining Islamists in Ghouta. But the real reason was quite different. The army wanted to find out how quickly it could move 25,000 troops from Aleppo and the north to Damascus and the south. It took just 48 hours. In other words, this is not just a fighting army which has survived. It is a mobile one. Which brings us to another little point that bothers Syria.

Along its border with Israeli-occupied Golan, there are a variety of militias – some of them Islamists – who have a marginally good relationship with Israel. The Israelis have even taken some of their wounded to Israeli hospitals. The Israelis have never bombed them.

They have only bombed the Syrians and the Iranians and Hezbollah. So what, if the war ended, would the Israelis do with this little cul-de sac below Golan? Watch Assad’s soldiers take it back? Or try to set up a Syrian version of the occupation zone which Israel controlled in southern Lebanon from 1982 till 2000?

In other words, would Israel try to take some Syrian territory in the aftermath of the war – and claim that it was necessary to do so to keep the Iranians, the mythic Persian hordes, from the Israeli border? Now there’s a thought, albeit that the wiser generals in the Israeli army would not wish to take on the most ruthless and battle-hardened army in the Middle East – which is the Syrian army.

An interesting thought to ponder as I finished my coffee on the Beirut Corniche this week and padded to my office to look up the name of Greece’s frigate in the Mediterranean. Hull Number F465, it transpires, is a ship named “Themistocles”. So that was the chap I was looking at. Ancient Athenian. Conqueror of the Persians, wasn’t he? –THE INDEPENDENT

https://nation.com.pk/06-May-2018/once-the-syrian-war-is-over-qatar-could-become-an-empire-once-more

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Infighting Erupts among US-Backed Militants in Eastern Syria

May 05, 2018

The SDF fighters, backed up by the US-led coalition air force, stormed the positions of the Special Forces of Ahmad al-Jarba in Abu Humam region on the Eastern bank of the Euphrates River.

Also, local sources said that the SDF's offensive against al-Jarba fighters was unprecedented, adding that the SDF had warned to leak al-Jabra militants' secret information to the coalition to be treated by the US-led forces as ISIL unless they hand over their weapons and surrender.

The sources further said that the SDF and al-Jarba fighters exchanged heavy fire that left a number of injuries on both sides.

The sources said that tensions are also high between the regional tribes and the SDF after the infighting between the SDF and al-Jarba fighters intensified in Eastern Deir Ezzur.

Al-Jarba militant had previously refused to join the SDF in the regions that are under the collation's control.

Field sources reported on Tuesday that battle between the Syrian Army and the SDF was becoming likely as both sides dispatched a large number of forces to Western Deir Ezzur.

The sources said that the army dispatched a large number of soldiers and equipment from Deir Ezzur city to the towns of al-Hosseiniyeh and al-Salehuyeh in Western Deir Ezzur in al-Jazeera region on the Eastern bank of the Euphrates River to reinvigorate its positions.

Meantime, the SDF sent a military convoy, including several vehicles and a number of fighters along with a number of US troops and vehicles, to Western Deir Ezzur, the sources said.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970215000355

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Iraq journalist who threw shoes at Bush stands for parliament

May 06, 2018

BAGHDAD - The Iraqi journalist who grabbed headlines around the world by hurling his shoes at then US president George W. Bush is pitching for a seat in parliament at upcoming elections.

"My ambition is to throw all the thieving politicians in prison, make them regret what they have done and confiscate their wealth," Muntazer al-Zaidi, 39, told AFP ahead of the May 12 vote in his conflict-scarred homeland.

Zaidi shot to prominence in December 2008 when he leapt up at a farewell press conference Bush was holding in Baghdad and flung his shoes at the US leader.

While he narrowly missed hitting the man responsible for launching the invasion of Iraq, Zaidi was later jailed for assaulting a head of state and ended up serving nine months behind bars.

After his release Zaidi sought refuge in Lebanon, where he settled and had a daughter.

The protest against Bush saw him hailed as a hero by many around the Arab world, and he remains unrepentant as he pushes for office.

"I don't regret what I did, on the contrary, I just regret that at that moment I didn't have another pair of shoes," said Zaidi, who is running for an alliance between Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr and communists.

Placed low down on the Marching Towards Reform list in Baghdad, it appears Zaidi has little chance of actually getting elected - but he remains defiant.

"It would not be an honour to have thieves as colleagues, and my objective is to take back money that has been stolen," he said, when asked if he feared becoming like other politicians reviled for graft.

Zaidi explained that he chose to represent Marching Towards Reform as he said it is independent and looking to shatter the country's sectarian divide.

As for his view on US involvement in Iraq - a decade after he took aim at Bush, he remains deeply opposed and wants Washington's troops out of the country.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/06-May-2018/iraq-journalist-who-threw-shoes-at-bush-stands-for-parliament

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Turkish Army Jailing, Torturing Hundreds of Civilians in Syria's Afrin

May 05, 2018

Hawar news quoted well-informed sources in Shih region in Afrin as reporting that the army has taken into captivity a sum of 3,000 civilians in several villages in Shih and transferred them to the village of Mirkan in Mobata region.

Hawar news further said that some of the jailed civilians have been transferred to the village of Qarmitlaq and some others have been sent to Turkey to be kept in detention centers there.

It further said that the captured civilians have been tortured severely by the army and its allied militants, adding that the Turkish soldiers have been shooting around blindfolded captives to scare them.

In the meantime, a local source on Bolboleh region said that the Ankara-backed militants have forced villagers in Khalika to leave their houses to replace them with almost 2,000 militants and their family members that had left Douma region in Damascus province under an evacuation agreement with the Syrian Army.

The source further said that the Ankara-backed militants have been forcing men and women in the villages of Shirwa and Bolboleh region to carry out hard jobs, including digging trenches and cooking food and serving the militants.     

In a relevant development, the London-based pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported last month that the Ankara-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) had started blackmailing civilians and looting their assets in Afrin region in Northwestern Aleppo amid reports on the Turkish Army's move in replacing locals in Afrin with Eastern Ghouta terrorists.

The SOHR said that the FSA militants started stealing and looting properties and assets of local people that are still in Afrin region, adding that the FSA also was seizing assets of people that have left the region after the start of Operation Olive Branch.

The SOHR further said that the FSA also embarked on accusing young people and men of fake crimes to detain and torture them.

It went on to say that the FSA later called for a hefty amount of money as ransom to free the detainees.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970215000758

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Syrian Army Frees 70 Percent of ISIL-Held Regions in Southern Damascus Province

May 05, 2018

The army men continued to storm ISIL's strongholds in several flanks in Hajar al-Aswad region and Yarmouk Camp and managed to advance against them.

Also, the army's artillery and missile units pounded heavily the positions of the remaining pockets of the terrorists in Yarmouk Camp, Hajar al-Aswad and in al-Zobeir area in al-Tazamon neighborhood, inflicting heavy casualties on the militants.

The entire Southern part of Hajar al-Aswad region came under the control of the army after the government forces captured Power Plan and al-Qods School North of Cemetery region.

Almost seventy percent of the terrorist-held regions in the Southern part of Damascus province has been liberated and the army is operating now in the Northern part of Hajar al-Aswad.

Relevant reports said earlier today that the army troops continued their operation in the Southern part of Damascus province and managed to push ISIL back from more areas in Hajar al-Aswad region.

The army men engaged in fierce clashes with the ISIL in a region between al-A'alaf and al-Maqaber and managed to impose control over Hajar al-Aswad Governorship Building, Quneitra Workers Club Building and Power Company in the depth of Hajar al-Aswad region.

Also, the army's artillery and missile units and Air Force pounded ISIL's movements and positions in Hajar al-Aswad and Yarmouk Camp, destroying a main base of the terrorists in Yarmouk and killing the entire terrorists inside.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970215000842

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US Sends More Military Equipment to Kurdish Regions in Northeastern Syria

May 05, 2018

The Lebanese al-Manar TV network reported that the US sent a new military convoy to the Kurdish militants' bases in Tal Beidar region between the towns of Qamishli and Tal Tamr in Northeastern Hasaka.

Al-Manar further said that the convoy, including ten trucks with a large volume of arms and ammunition entered the Kurdish base via Feesh Khabour passageway at Iraq-Syria border.

In the meantime, local sources said that the Kurdish fighters have continued forced equipment in Hasaka province, adding that the militias have detained a number of civilians Southwest of the town of Ra'as al-Ein in Northwestern Hasaka and train them in military camps mostly in the same region.

In a relevant development in late April, the US and France dispatched new military convoys to Hasaka province, an Arab media outlet reported, adding that the American and French forces increased their military movements in the Northeastern part of the war-held country.

Al-Manar TV network reported that a new American military column, including several vehicles, arrived in Hasaka city and later moved toward the town of al-Shadadi in Southern Hasaka.

The network quoted field sources as reporting that the US convoy of armored vehicles moved towards al-Shadadi from a military base North of Khabour Dam.

Al-Manar further said that three military vehicles under French flags entered a Kurdish militia base in al-Aliyeh silos region South of the town of Ra'as al-Ein in Northwestern Hasaka.

Another Arab media also reported earlier today that the US Army has set up a new military base in Hasaka province despite President Donald Trump's claims that Washington is resolved to withdraw forces from Syria.

Moraseloun news website quoted media activists as reporting that the US forces have embarked on setting up a new military bas between the towns of Tal Tamer and Tal Bidar in Hasaka province in Northeastern Syria.

It added that the US plans to set up a military airport near the base.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970215000450

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Second Group of Terrorists Leave Southern Damascus for Northern Syria

May 05, 2018

The sources reported that the second group of militants and their family members, whose total number stood at 2,000, left Yalda, Bebeila and Beit Saham for Northern Syria via Beit Saham passageway on 46 buses.

In the meantime, the army sent several buses to Yalda, Bebeila and Beit Saham to pave the ground for the evacuation of the third group of militants and their family members from the region.

The remaining pockets of militants that do not intend to leave the region can apply for government amnesty after handing over their weapons to the army.   

Relevant report said on Friday that hundreds of militants were preparing to leave three districts in the Southern part of Damascus province under a negotiated withdrawal to secure the last rebel holdouts of Damascus.

The departures come two days after a similar deal was reached to evacuate fighters once linked to al-Qaeda from Yarmouk, a Palestinian camp in Southern Damascus.

Also, Syrian state news agency SANA reported on Thursday that empty buses were entering Babila, Yalda and Beit Saham regions to be filled up with rebels and civilians who would head to militant-held parts of Northern Syria.

"Around 5,000 terrorists and their families are expected to leave, fulfilling an agreement reached on Sunday between the Syrian government and the militant groups," the agency said.

The deal was reached after "negotiations between figures from the three towns on one side, and Russia and Damascus on the other," according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor.

Those rebels who wanted to leave for the North could do so, and those who wanted to stay would abandon their weapons and have their status with the Syrian state regularized.

Beit Saham, Yalda, and Babila had for several years fallen under a "reconciliation" agreement with the Syrian state, meaning they remained in rebel hands but a local ceasefire was enforced.

But after capturing the Eastern Ghouta rebel stronghold outside Damascus last month, the Damascus forces have sought to secure the entirety of the capital and its surroundings with a blend of military operations and negotiated withdrawals.

They first seized control of other "reconciled" towns East of Damascus, then began a military operation against Yarmouk.

The camp was mostly held by ISIL but also had a small presence of fighters from Al-Qaeda's former Syrian affiliate, Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at (Al-Nusra).

Under military pressure, the Al-Nusra fighters agreed to quit Yarmouk with their families earlier this week. The Al-Nusra said late Wednesday the deal saw 141 of its fighters reach northern Syria.

Full report at:

That deal was expected to see some 5,000 people leave the two towns, Fua'a and Kafraya.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970215000529

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Official Dismisses Qatar's Partnership in Reconstruction of Syria

May 05, 2018

"Any government which has supported terrorism, played a role in destroying Syria and adopted hostile positions against the Syrian government will not play any role in the country's reconstruction," Deputy Head of the Syrian Parliament's Foreign Relations Committee Ammar al-Assad said on Saturday.

"It is not rational to give a share of the country's reconstruction to Qatar that welcomes hostile actions and attacks on the Syrian government," he added.

His remarks came after Robert Fisk, a famous western journalist, wrote in the British newspaper, Independent, on Thursday that Qatar has resumed ties with Syria and would be given a share in the country's reconstruction.

"For some days ago, Bashar al-Assad held a private meeting of Syrian journalists in Damascus and informed them that relations had resumed – at a very low and humble level – between Qatar and Syria. They were not under any circumstances to quote him as saying this, nor to give any presidential credence to the story. But they could mention it in passing, stressing that this was not a resumption of relations, merely two nations maintaining contact. But it makes an intriguing story," Fisk claimed.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970215000857

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Syrian Army Advancing in Depth of ISIL Positions in Southern Damascus

May 05, 2018

The army men engaged in fierce clashes with the ISIL in a region between al-A'alaf and al-Maqaber and managed to impose control over Hajar al-Aswad Governorship Building, Quneitra Workers Club Building and Power Company in the depth of Hajar al-Aswad region.

Also, the army's artillery and missile units and Air Force pounded ISIL's movements and positions in Hajar al-Aswad and Yarmouk Camp, destroying a main base of the terrorists in Yarmouk and killing the entire terrorists inside.

The army's advances have sped up in Hajar al-Aswad after the government forces managed to cut off militants' supply lines in the region.

In a similar development on Friday the army troops and their Palestinian popular allies stormed ISIL's positions in Yarmouk Camp and Hajar al-Aswad region in the Southern part of Damascus province, inflicting major losses on the terrorists.

The ISIL found themselves on the run at several flanks in both Hajar al-Aswad and Yarmouk Camp following a heavy joint offensive of the Syrian Army and their Palestinian allies.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970215000203

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Iraqi air force strike targets ISIS commanders’ position inside Syria

6 May 2018

The Iraqi air force carried out a new strike on an ISIS position inside Syria, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's office said in a statement on Sunday.

The strike targeted a position used by the commanders of the group, south of the town of Deshaisha, the statement said.

The Iraqi air force has already carried out several air strikes against the group in Syria since last year, with the approval of the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad and the US-led coalition fighting ISIS.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/05/06/Iraqi-air-force-strike-targets-ISIS-position-inside-Syria-.html

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Polling begins in Lebanon’s first parliamentary election in 9 years

6 May 2018

Polling began in Lebanon's parliamentary election on Sunday morning.

It’s the first time the Lebanese are voting for a parliament in nine years. It is also the first time elections are being held since neighboring Syria’s war began in 2011. The vote has been postponed a number of times over security concerns it would ignite tensions among Lebanon’s sects, already heightened by that war.

Lawmakers have haggled over election reform for years, finally passing a new law last summer to replace one in place since 1960.

The law allows expats to vote for the first time. Of 900,000 voters abroad, only 83,000 registered and just over half of them voted last week.

For the first time, women made up nearly 10 percent of the candidates, up from a meager 1.7 percent in 2009. Only four women made it to Lebanon’s 128-seat parliament in the last election, a dismal figure compared to other countries in the region. Also, a record number of civil society activists and independents are running, hoping to at least open a crack in Lebanon’s system.

Complicated law

The new election law is so complex that many have quipped they would rather stay at home because they can’t figure out how their vote will be computed.

The law implements a proportional system that awards seats by the share of vote received, instead of the former winner-takes-all system in each district. It reduces the number of electoral constituencies from 23 to 15, and allows voters to choose both an electoral list and a preferred candidate from that list.

In theory, it should allow candidates beyond traditional power players to win a seat in parliament. But it also preserves the sectarian divvying-up of seats in different districts; Muslims and Christians each get around half, and smaller communities the remainder.

Fresh faces

Many will undoubtedly find fresh faces on their ballots as independent groups attempt to challenge the country’s political elites and establishments.

Among those new names voters in eastern Beirut will read on Sunday will be Ibrahim Mneimneh's, who is the founder of the Kelna Beirut, an off-shoot of the Lebanese grassroots campaign “Beirut Madinati” established in 2016 and contested the municipality elections then.

Back then, his group were part of many independent groups that rose up Lebanon’s 2015 garbage crisis but have split from the others leaving Mneimneh's list to contest against seven other lists in Beirut’s second district.

“We [Kelna Beiru] see the upcoming parliamentary elections as a station to engage with the people and show them our policies. We are encouraging voters to go to the polls as we see this election more like a referendum battle. A political line is needed that is in opposition to the establishment and out list represents the second voice needed in Beirut; a dissenting voice that believes in the application of the constitution and any vote for Kelna Beirut is a vote toward this approach,” Mneimneh told Al Arabiya.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/05/06/Lebanon-votes-for-a-parliament-in-first-time-in-nine-years.html

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Bahrainis condemn crackdown against Shia scholars

May 5, 2018

Bahrainis have rallied near the capital Manama, condemning the ruling Al Khalifah regime’s crackdown on Shia scholars, including prominent cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim.

The march was held in the village of Abu Saiba on Friday, with the protesters carrying a huge banner portraying the cleric, the spiritual leader of the country's Shia majority.

Sheikh Qassim was stripped of his nationality two years ago after being convicted of illegal collection of funds and money laundering as well as inciting violence.

The ageing cleric was hospitalized over his deteriorating health last month.

The prominent cleric has been a vocal supporter of the peaceful protesters, who have been demanding that the Manama regime stop its discrimination and violent practices against the Shias since 2011.

The Friday’s protests also called for the release of Sheikh Ali Salman, secretary general of al-Wefaq, the country’s biggest opposition group, which was dissolved by the authorities after the uprising.

The 52-year-old cleric has also been convicted of inciting unrest, and has been in jail on a nine-year prison sentence since late 2014.

The Manama regime has been pressing ahead with its heavy-handed crackdown on political dissidents since 2011. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to assist Bahrain in its crackdown.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/05/05/560679/Bahrain-protest-Abu-Saiba-Manama-Sheikh-Isa-Qassim

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Rewriting the script: Effat students win star role in Saudi film industry

May 06, 2018

JEDDAH: Effat University will play a leading role in building the filmmaking industry in Saudi Arabia, said Dr. Mohammed Ghazala, the university’s Visual and Digital Production Department chairman.

The department was established in 2013, when cinemas were still banned in the Kingdom. It offers courses in production, screenwriting, animation and interactive media. The first students graduated last year.

Effat University’s President Dr. Haifa Jamal Al-Lail told Arab News the department was established to interact with the global and regional community mainly through social media.

“Social media received a lot of attention with the rise of Arab Spring, and since then Arabs have had a growing presence on social media channels,” Ghazala said.

“Arab countries accepted social media platforms as an influencing factor in the lives of people, and now social media plays a critical role in Arab countries.”

Ghazala said the department was the first in Saudi Arabia to offer cinematic arts studies.

“Our instructors come from different areas of the world, such as the US, Korea, Malaysia, Jordan, and Egypt,” he said.

“With tremendous efforts, we were able to make a new method and style to deal with cinematic products, and allow students to express their dreams, hopes, challenges, fears and thoughts via film.”

Princess Lulwah Al-Faisal, vice chair of the Board of Trustees and general supervisor of Effat University, and Dr. Haifa Jamal Al-Lail, made an academic visit to USC School of Cinematic Arts at the University of the West, in western California, in 2012, where they saw the importance of having a visual and digital production department.

They signed an agreement with the USC School of Cinematic Arts and worked with the Saudi Ministry of higher education to introduce the program at Effat University in September 2013.

“During the past five years, we have developed the curricula with massive assistance and academic support from USC, one of the best film schools in the world. New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts has been annually reviewing the department’s curricula since 2016,” Ghazala said.

“We have faced a lot of new challenges for a university, students and staff in the Kingdom.”

“We had a new curricula that needed to be developed when there were no cinemas, no professionals (particularly female professionals), and no academic schools in this particular field,” he said.

More than 75 percent of the department’s graduates are working in areas such as local television, while other students had begun startups.

The department made a number of strategic partnerships to support students.

“Our strategic partnership with the General Authority for Audiovisual Media helped us to find actors and actresses. We also will have an agreement to allow our students to do their internship in the largest media production city in the region, in Cairo.”

The department will take part in the Cannes Film Festival in mid-May at the invitation of Saudi Film Council, sending the first-ever Saudi official delegation, Ghazalah said.

The Kingdom hopes to open at least 300 cinemas and develop a solid film industry by 2030. This will create 30,000 jobs and add value to the economy.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1297316/saudi-arabia

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Mideast

 

KSA-led airstrikes kill 8 civilians in Yemen

May 6, 2018

SANAA - At least eight civilians were killed on Saturday in Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in Yemen's provinces of Saada and Hodeidah, Yemeni provincial security officials said.

In the northern province of Saada, which borders Saudi Arabia, airstrikes hit a house and a car in Bakim district, killing at least six, including two women and two children, and injuring three others, a local security official said.

In the Red Sea eastern province of Hodeidah, an airstrike targeted a mango farm in Jarbah area in al-Jarrah district, killing two farmers, a local security official said.

The two officials all spoke on condition of anonymity.

The attacks were the latest in a series of deadly airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition which has been fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen for more than three years.

In April, a coalition airstrike hit a wedding party in the Red Sea province of Hajjah, killing at least 20 and injuring 40 others, mostly women and children.

The Saudi-led coalition started to intervene in the Yemeni conflict in March 2015, in order to support the internationally-recognized President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi against Shiite Houthi rebels.

The rebels have been controlling much of northern Yemen since September 2014, including the capital Sanaa, and forced Hadi and his government to flee to Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia.

The conflict has killed more than 10,000 Yemenis, mostly civilians, and displaced three million others, triggering one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.

https://nation.com.pk/06-May-2018/ksa-led-airstrikes-kill-8-civilians-in-yemen

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Hamas blames Israel for Gaza blast that killed six gunmen

5 May 2018

An explosion in Gaza killed six Hamas gunmen on Saturday, the group said. It blamed the incident on Israel, which declined comment.

A statement from the Palestinian Islamist group’s armed wing called the incident a “deplorable Zionist crime” perpetrated against its fighters.

“During a complicated security and intelligence operation conducted by Qassam Brigades to investigate a serious and a grave security incident conducted by the Zionist enemy against Palestinian resistance, a deplorable crime took place against our Mujahideen in the area of Zawayda in central Gaza Strip,” it said.

Reuters television captured a pillar of smoke rising above the village of Zawayda near the coast of Gaza, far from the border with Israel where tensions have escalated in recent weeks.

The exact circumstances of the blast were unclear and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, provided no further details.

An Israeli military spokesman declined to comment on the incident, although a more junior official had earlier denied the army was involved.

Israel and the West designate Hamas as a terrorist organization.

Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005. But, citing security concerns, Israel maintains a naval blockade of the coastal territory, keeping tight restrictions on the movement of Palestinians and goods across the frontier.

Egypt, battling an Islamist insurgency in neighboring Sinai, keeps its border with Gaza largely closed.

Border protest 

Forty-three Palestinians have been shot and killed by Israeli forces since March 30, when Gazans began weekly protests dubbed “The Great March of Return” along the border with Israel.

Facing international censure over its use of live fire in the protests, Israel says it is protecting its border and takes such action only when protesters, some hurling fire-bombs and trying to plant explosives, come too close.

The protests have seen thousands gather to demand access to their families’ lost homes or lands, now in Israel.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/05/05/Five-dead-in-explosion-in-Gaza-Strip-ministry-witnesses-.html

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Iran’s Rouhani criticizes ban on Telegram messaging app as undemocratic

5 May 2018

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has criticized the ban imposed on popular messaging app Telegram by the conservative-run judiciary, saying the move was “the opposite of democracy”.

Iran blocked Telegram - widely used by Iranians, the state media, politicians and companies - earlier this week to protect national security, state television said, weeks after a similar move by Russia.

Iran had been considering the ban since January when protests over economic grievances erupted in more than 80 cities and later turned into demonstrations against the clerical and security elite.

Some officials said protesters used Telegram to organize rallies, which were ultimately contained by the Revolutionary Guards and their affiliated volunteer Basij militia. The app was temporarily blocked in January.

“Failure to follow legal procedures and the use of force and judicial means is ... the opposite of democracy,” Rouhani, a pragmatic cleric who has advocated expanding social freedoms, said in an Instagram post late on Friday.

“The filtering and blocking of Telegram was not carried out by the government which does not approve of it,” said Rouhani, who has opposed restricting access to social media.

Rouhani's powers are dwarfed by those of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who is close to conservatives and hardliners.

Anti-government unrest 

Iran's Shi'ite clerical rulers are wary of any revival of anti-government unrest should President Donald Trump refuse to extend US sanctions relief on Iran on May 12, a deadline he set for European signatories of Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers to “fix flaws” in the accord.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/05/05/Iran-s-Rouhani-criticizes-ban-on-Telegram-messaging-app-as-undemocratic.html

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Clashes erupt between Yemeni army and Houthis in Saada

5 May 2018

Military confrontations have continued between Yemen’s National Army forces and the Houthi militia in several battle fronts in the northern province of Saada on Saturday.

Military sources confirmed to Al Arabiya that the most violent confrontations took place in east of Saada.

The army forces were supported by Arab Coalition jets.

In the north of Saada province, the fighting continued with the use of various weapons and with the participation of Apache aircraft and coalition artillery on the Bakm front.

According to local residents, the national army with the participation of members of Saada tribes was able to retake several villages in the area of Sobhan and recover a weapons cache belonging to the militia and resulted in the heavy loss of life.

In the eastern front of al-Baidah governorate, Yemeni army forces managed to defeat the Houthi militias in several positions.

The remaining members of the militia fled from their positions, leaving dozens of dead bodies.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2018/05/05/Clashes-erupt-between-Yemeni-army-and-Houthis-in-Saada.html

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Saudi envoy: Houthi militia wants to impose Hezbollah-style regime in Yemen

5 May 2018

Saudi ambassador to Yemen, Mohammed Al Jaber, said this week that the Houthi militia aims to impose a Hezbollah-style regime in the war-torn country.

During a meeting with the Arab Coalition’s Col. Turki al-Maliki in Vienna on Thursday, Al Jaber said elements of the Houthi militia supported by Iran “do not make up even 1-3 percent of the Yemeni people” and yet they want to impose a regime similar to that of Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

The Saudi ambassador has repeatedly pointed out in previous statements that the Houthi militias are implementing in Yemen-Iranian policies aimed at continuing to starve and impoverish the Yemeni people.

He also stressed that the militia looted UN aid funds more than once, and refuses to reach any political settlement, with the aim of exacerbating the humanitarian situation on the ground and using this to play a political card.

"There are 22 sea, air and land ports in Yemen," Al Jaber said. "We are in contact with international organizations to increase imports in Yemen to help the Yemeni people."

Ballistic missiles

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia's permanent representative to the United Nations, Abdullah al-Muallami, condemned the Iranian-supplied Houthi ballistic missiles repeatedly launched towards Saudi Arabia.

In a letter to the UN Security Council and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Muallami also condemned Thursday's attacks on children rehabilitation centers in Yemen. He regretted the UN Security Council's failure to confront the blatant Houthi violations.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2018/05/05/Saudi-envoy-Houthi-militia-wants-to-impose-Hezbollah-style-regime-in-Yemen.html

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Turki Al Malki: Iran-backed Houthis pose a serious threat to region

5 May 2018

The spokesperson of the Arab coalition forces in Yemen, Col. Turki Al-Malki said that Bringing peace and security to Yemen will bring peace and security to Saudi Arabia, the GCC and the region.

Saudi foreign Ministry shared the statement on twitter, on Friday.

Al-Malki said: “The Iranians are taking Yemen as an experimental field for ballistic missiles and drones. They have attacked Abha International Airport with kamikaze tactics with Iranian drones, fast boats threatning the red sea and Bab Al Mandab. They are supporting them with land-cruise missiles right now … they declared it in their media. They launched it against Emirates, however it failed.

So we are facing a threat in the region other than achieving the strategic objective for the Yemeni people and to get back the legitimate government,” he said.

Saudi ambassador to Yemen Mohamed Al-Jaber said that there are 22 sea, air and land ports in Yemen.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2018/05/05/Turki-Al-Malki-Iran-backed-Houthis-are-serious-threat-to-region.html

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Yemeni ballistic missile destroys Saudi positions in Asir: TV

May 6, 2018

The Yemeni army and allied fighters have hit military positions in Saudi Arabia’s Asir region with a ballistic missile and destroyed them, Yemen’s al-Masirah television said on Sunday.

A Zalzal 2 missile was fired at the Ain al-Thwareen base in retaliation for Saudi airstrikes, which hit its target and left an unknown number of casualties, it added. 

Yemeni snipers also killed two Saudi troops at the Haskul military base in Jizan, while army artillery units pommeled the kingdom's military positions in the region, the report said.

Meanwhile, Saudi warplanes bombed parts of Sa’ada, Hudaydah, and Hajjah provinces in northern Yemen.

In Sa’ada, five members of a family were killed after Saudi aircraft bombed a residence in the Baqim district.

Two more civilians were killed in Saudi air raids in al-Jarahi district in Hudaydah, while there was no immediate word on possible casualties in Hajjah which has been bombed 10 times over the past 24 hours.

Yemeni forces have stepped up their response to Saudi airstrikes with game-changer missile attacks which have become a major headache for the kingdom and its supporters.

On Thursday, the New York Times reported that about a dozen commandos with the US Army Special Forces, known as the Green Berets, had been deployed to Saudi Arabia’s southern border regions with the aim of countering Yemeni missiles.

The deployment came following reports that Patriot interceptors supplied by the US to Saudi Arabia were increasingly failing against missiles fired by Houthi fighters.

The secretive US mission, according to the report, is aimed at helping Saudi forces locate Yemeni missile launch sites and destroy the missile supplies of the Houthi movement.

Saudi Arabia has been bombing Yemen since 2015 and punishing it with a crippling blockade on Yemeni ports, airports and borders crossings, which has restricted food, aid and vital supplies from entering the impoverished country.

Fissures in Saudi-led coalition

The UAE was the first country to join the Saudi war against Yemen but fissures have emerged in their alliance recently as each side has been trying to carve out a zone of influence in the territories they seize. 

On Friday, a delegation of Saudi officials visited Yemen’s Socotra Island in the Indian Ocean after the UAE deployed troops and tanks there against the will of a regime supported by Riyadh.

The deployment came amid widening divisions between forces loyal to the UAE and those supporting former Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi. Both camps are based in southern Yemen and mostly in Aden where they have clashed several times.

Hadi's loyalists have accused Emirati forces of providing support to those seeking a separation of Yemen's southern territories from the north of the country.

In Socotra, reports have said the UAE was seeking to illegally exploit the island's pristine natural resources and turn it into a permanent military outpost-cum-holiday resort.

Socotra, located near Somalia in the Gulf of Aden, is protected by the UN cultural agency UNESCO, meaning that even the Yemeni government is unable to interfere in the natural habitats and places of natural beauty.

Reports have suggested that the UAE has been actively cementing its presence in Socotra since the very beginning of the Saudi-led war on Yemen.

Videos posted on social media purportedly show residents of Socotra angrily reacting to the new Emirati deployment.

On Saturday, the foreign ministry of Yemen's Supreme Political Council - the de facto administration based in the capital Sana'a - denounced the UAE's troop deployment to Socotra.

"The island’s occupation betrays the goal and nature of the occupation by the Saudi-led Arab coalition’s forces,” said a source at the ministry who asked not to be named.

“The invading countries are trying to impose their control on the southern Yemen areas and islands,” he added.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/05/06/560773/Yemen-Saudi-Arabia-counterattack-Asir-UAE-Socotra

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Four Turkish opposition parties form parliamentary coalition

May 5, 2018

Four Turkish opposition parties have announced the forming of a coalition in an attempt to challenge Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan party in the upcoming national election.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party's (CHP) Bulent Tezcan made the announcement of the formation of the “nation alliance” on Saturday. 

Tezcan party is teaming-up with the nationalist Good Party, the Felicity Party and the Democrat Party in an attempt to weaken the Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP).

All four parties have put forward their own candidates for the presidential elections to run against Erdogan, but will run as an alliance for the parliamentary election, which is to held on the same day as the presidential elections.

Tezcan added that the parliamentary candidates from the Democrat Party would run under the Good Party. The small party also announced that it would back the Good Party leader and presidential candidate Meral Aksener.

The alliance will bring together "different lifestyles and political opinions” under democratic principles for stability and security in Turkey, read a statement released by the alliance.

Meanwhile, the presidential candidate for Turkey's main opposition has called for the release of the pro-Kurdish opposition's detained candidate, calling on Erdogan to "let us race like men" in upcoming election.

On Friday, the Republican People's Party (CHP) nominated Muharrem Ince as their presidential election candidate, while the pro-Kurdish Peoples Democratic Party (HDP) nominated its jailed former leader Selahattin Demirtas.

"The HDP are also children of this nation, the AKP are also children of this country ... Don't keep Demirtas in jail. Come, let's race like men," said Ince.

Earlier in the day, Demirtas dismissed the likelihood of a free and fair election under the current state of emergency in the country.

"Demonstrations are banned, talking is banned, criticizing the government is banned, even defending peace is considered terror propaganda," he said.

"It is impossible for there to be fair elections in such an environment," he added.

The 45-year-old politician was a candidate against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling AK Party (AKP) in the August 2014 presidential election and led the HDP into parliament for the first time in the June 2015 vote.

The politician was arrested in November 2016 in a crackdown that followed the July 2016 coup attempt and was put on trial in several cases, especially on charges of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militant group. Turkish prosecutors have called for an imprisonment term of up to 142 years for him.

Turkey will hold snap presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24, previously slated to be held next year. Erdogan started campaigning for his re-election on Saturday, saying he would certainly win the vote.

The election is planned to be held under the state of emergency that has been in place since a failed coup attempt.

Under the state of emergency, Turkey has been engaged in suppressing the media and opposition groups suspected to have played a role in the failed coup.

Tens of thousands of people have been arrested across the country and over 140,000 others, including military staff, civil servants and journalists, have been sacked or suspended from work over the same accusations.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/05/05/560749/turkey-coalition-parliamentary-election

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Explosion kills at least six Palestinians in Gaza Strip

May 5, 2018

At least six members of the Palestinian Hamas resistance movement have been killed and six others injured in an explosion that rocked the Gaza Strip.

The Health Ministry in Gaza said that the explosion took place on Saturday in Dayr al-Balah, a city located in the central Gaza Strip.

The injured and the bodies of the deceased were transferred to a hospital following the blast, the ministry added.

The reason for the explosion is still unknown.

The explosion comes amid an escalation of violence in the enclave in which nearly 50 Palestinian protesters have lost their lives in clashes with Israeli forces since March 30.

Apart from the fatalities, more than 5,500 Palestinians have been injured since Israel began responding to the popular protests with lethal force.

The Palestinian rally, known as the “Great March of Return,” will last until May 15, which coincides with the 70th anniversary of Nakba Day (Day of Catastrophe), when Israel was created. Every year on May 15, Palestinians all over the world hold demonstrations to commemorate the day, which marks the anniversary of the forcible eviction of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homeland by Israelis in 1948.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/05/05/560746/Palestine-gaza-explosion

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Southeast Asia

 

PAS Man: Amend Islamic Law to Avoid Indira Gandhi Cases

Durie Rainer Fong

May 5, 2018

KOTA KINABALU: A PAS lawyer running for a state seat in Sabah wants state Islamic family laws to be amended, to avoid controversies such as the M Indira Gandhi case involving unilateral conversion of children.

Hamid Ismail, who is contesting the Tanjung Aru seat, said Indira’s case could have been settled amicably if the shariah court in Perak had not made any orders relating to the children from the civil marriage.

In January, the Federal Court set aside the unilateral conversion of Indira’s three children to Islam after ruling that the consent of both parents was required for any conversion of non-Muslim children.

The court also decreed that only the civil court would decide on such matters.

Hamid said the Sabah Islamic Family Law Enactment should be reviewed in view of amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act last year, to avoid clashes of jurisdiction between the civil court and Shariah court in Sabah.

“Why am I bringing this issue? I want the cases like Indira Gandhi and other appeals to never occur in Sabah,” he said.

Hamid said religious tension had been raised after the Federal Court, in a landmark ruling, decided in Indira’s favour.

He said the clash between state and federal laws occurred in Section 46(2) of the Sabah enactment by which a converted spouse could apply to the shariah court for dissolution of his civil marriage and related orders.

However the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act already provided that a non-Muslim couple, where one spouse had converted to Islam, could petition the civil court for the dissolution of the marriage, either separately or together.

Hamid pointed out that state law would be null and void under the Federal Constitution if it was inconsistent with federal law.

”I want to protect Islam and improve the shariah court in Sabah. This is part of my efforts to do so. I am sure all parties desire a harmonious inter-relation between shariah and civil laws.”

Edward Yong Oi Fah (BN) seeks re-election to Tanjung Aru. Besides Hamid, the other challengers are Noraiza Mohamed Noor of Parti Harapan Rakyat; Chong Wei Leung (Anak Negeri);and Wong Hong Jun (Parti Warisan

Sabah).

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2018/05/05/pas-man-amend-islamic-law-to-avoid-indira-gandhi-cases/

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Battleground Kelantan: People are losing faith with the ‘Party of God’ 

6 MAY, 2018

KOTA BARU - For 28 years, Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) has been practically synonymous with Kelantan, but amid internal turmoil after the death of spiritual leader Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat in 2015 and unhappiness about an economy that is stuck in neutral, a once-unthinkable prospect in this north-eastern state appears close to becoming reality: People are losing faith in the so-called “party of God”.

While the defections of key leaders since Datuk Nik Aziz’s death in 2015 have led to questions about whether the party will ever be the force it once was, discontent over bread and butter issues poses the biggest threat to PAS’ primacy in Kelantan.

The mood of residents at a recent Barisan Nasional (BN) rally is indicative of PAS’ flagging fortunes.

While stalls selling grilled hotdogs and Red Bull mixed with lemon added to a generally festive air in the early evening, the mood turned serious once United Malays National Organisation (Umno) Kota Baru leader Muhd Fatmi Che Salleh opened proceedings with a plea to the crowd to give BN a chance to bring change and development to Kelantan when they vote on May 9.

Standing at the back of the field, 43-year-old mechanic Haron Samat nodded in agreement. He will be casting his vote for Umno instead of PAS, a party he has supported for the last two decades.

"We have not seen progress like other states in Malaysia. PAS keeps talking about upholding Islamic principles, but Islam also allows modernisation," he said. "I don't want future generations to live in our current state."

Under PAS’ rule, upholding Islamic principles takes precedence over economic development. While residents of the state initially accepted that bargain, unhappiness over rising costs of living and the lack of infrastructure and efficient services has led many to reconsider their position.

PROGRESS AND PIETY

As he watched his grandchildren play a few steps away from his wooden house, retired teacher Nooraddin Mohamed, 67, grew agitated as he talked about the lack of development in Kelantan, expressing concern for future generations.

Initially embracing the Islamic vision and values of PAS, he thought that the party would be able to marry both progress and piety. But instead, Kelantan has lagged behind other states in Malaysia, he added.

“They keep talking about Islamic principles and rule of law. They think they're the party of God,” said Mr Nooraddin. “Yes, Islamic principles are important, but we need to eat, too, and our children need good education. BN has the power to make changes." Decaying infrastructure and inefficient delivery of services such as waste management has led to rising anger.

Kelantan under PAS “is now recognised a developmental failure”, said Dr Ooi Kee Beng, executive director of the Penang Institute, a think tank.

Within the Chempaka constituency, which was previously helmed by Datuk Nik Aziz and about half an hour away from the capital city of Kota Baru, bridges linking one village to the other are made of wood.

Just 10 minutes walk away from Datuk Nik Aziz's house in the village of Pulau Melaka, a three-storey unfinished building lies covered in moss.

Abandoned construction projects could also be seen within semi-urban constituencies such as Tanjong Mas, located within the Kota Baru.

Potholes are a permanent feature on roads, especially in rural areas, and residents complain that street lights within the villages are practically non-existent. 

The crumbling state of affairs has proven to be a burr in the saddle of the man-in-the-street in Kelantan, forcing him to evaluate what has gone wrong.

Business owner Syawal Abdullah, 35, is among them. He is undecided about who will get his vote come May 9, but he is certain it will not be PAS.

The party has not provided any concrete plans for how it will create jobs and improve livelihoods, he said.

“It is time for change. We cannot remain backward forever,” said Mr Syawal.

Civil servant Azmi Salleh, 45, noted that there have been times when the rubbish outside his home has not been cleared for a week. "When I asked why they're not efficient, the workers just shrugged," he added.

Food stall vendor Azizah Abdullah, 58, said that the state government has not improved the drainage system to ease flooding, which has been a perennial problem.

"Yes, heavy rain is something we cannot control. But they can do something about the drains. If you notice, there are no drains by the roadside," she added.

Politically, PAS has also been found wanting, observers note.

Executive director of independent research firm Hisomudin Bakar said voters are also of the view that the Islamic party “has failed to act as a check on BN”.

He added: “It did not voice people’s concerns on issues, including corruption and the rising cost of living.”

To be sure, there are still some voters, like farmer Mohd Zulkifli Husaain, who think that PAS’ “fight to uphold Islamic principles” outweighs bread and butter issues.

“Its fundamentals are based on the Holy Quran and Prophet Muhammad’s teachings, and we need that to be good human beings. God willing, PAS will not fall,” he said. “But if it does fall, I’m sure it will win in the afterlife.”

INTERNAL TURMOIL REFLECTS INSTABILITY

PAS’ dwindling status as a political powerhouse has its roots in 2015.

When Datuk Nik Aziz died after an unsuccessful battle with prostate cancer, infighting between the hardline, or ulama, faction of the party and moderates broke into the open, leading to the defections of key leaders, who went on to form Parti Amanah Negara, which is now part of the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition.

The most recent prominent defection was that of Nik Omar Nik Abdul Aziz's, the eldest son and second child of Datuk Nik Aziz. On Nomination Day last Saturday (April 28), he created shockwaves when he announced his candidacy under Amanah, while still being a PAS member.

Some Kelantan residents have expressed concerns about whether PAS, already ineffective in administering the state, could run aground if more defections occur.

A Kelantan resident who wanted to be known only as Mr Ishak said he quit PAS as a member one week ago.

“The leadership is not as strong as when Datuk Nik Aziz was at the helm,” he said.

“If key leaders, good leaders, continue to leave the party, they have to deal with the internal squabbles. So how can they focus on being an efficient state government?””

PAS’ troubles have left its opponents licking their chops.

BN has tried to knock the party off its perch in the past six general elections without success, but has made some inroads this time around.

In the 2008 polls, Umno secured only six of the 45 state seats, but this rose to 12 in the 2013 election. Umno also won five parliamentary seats that year, up from two previously.

Mr Mohd Alwi Che Ahmad, BN secretary in Kelantan, admitted that disunity in the ruling coalition had hampered its chances of victory over the last three decades, citing various examples, such as the dispute between former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Umno stalwart Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah in the 1990s.

That was followed by the controversial sacking of Mr Anwar Ibrahim, which left the country and Umno divided. Dr Mahathir then turned on his chosen successor, Abdullah Badawi, after the latter became prime minister.

"In Kelantan - when one party is split, the other party will win," said Mr Mohd Alwi, adding that PAS managed to capitalise on Umno’s internal disputes. 

Now, the tables have turned on PAS, said BN chairman in Kelantan and incumbent Minister for International Trade and Industry Mustapa Mohamed.

He added that BN Kelantan is now more united, with decisions made based on consensus.

With its opponent weakened, BN leaders have repeatedly said that this year’s election is the best chance the coalition has had in three decades to wrest back Kelantan.

To entice voters, BN’s manifesto for Kelantan is “more generous” this time round, said Mr Mustapa. It includes pledges to lower land taxes and upgrade the state’s infrastructure by building more housing projects, a massive railway project called East Coast Rail Link, and a new stadium.

Some voters are already swayed. Food vendor Azizah Haji Abdullah, 58, will be switching allegiance from PAS to BN, as she feels the latter has the power and financial muscle to effect change.

“I have had enough of empty promises. Yes, sometimes BN might not deliver, but you can see it is pushing for developments in other states like Johor,” she added.

Umno, though, is not the only threat to PAS in Kelantan.

With 14 parliament and 45 state legislative assembly seats up for grabs, the state will witness its fiercest election ever as almost all – save for two state legislative assembly seats – will be multi-cornered fights.

Both the ruling coalition and PAS party are contesting all state legislative assembly and parliamentary seats. Meanwhile, PH is contesting 43 state legislative assembly and 14 parliamentary seats.

Amanah, which is contesting five parliamentary and 23 state legislative assembly seats under the PH banner, has sought to portray itself as  a progressive party able to marry economic development and multiculturalism without compromising its Islamic core tenets.

Speaking to TODAY, party vice-president Husam Musa said that Amanah “is fighting for the vision of Datuk Nik Aziz, which is to support a government formed by a coalition of parties and adopt a multiracial and Islamic approach that is contextual.”

By cozying up to Umno, the current PAS leadership, he added, has departed from Datuk Nik Aziz's mission to topple the ruling coalition at any cost.

"Now, it has become a spoiler for the opposition. If Datuk Nik Aziz were alive, he would be furious," said Mr Husam, who was formerly the PAS strongman’s political secretary.

Amanah could appeal to PAS supporters who want progress while upholding Islamic principles at the same time, said the Penang Institute’s Dr Ooi.

PAS is not taking the threats lightly. To sway voters, it has proposed abolishing the Goods and Services Tax (GST) – a key source of unhappiness for many Malaysians – as well as exempting first-time car buyers from excise duties as well as providing them with interest-free loans.

It also wants to write-off existing loans under the Higher Education Loan Fund.

PAS’ Kelantan secretary, Mr Che Abdullah Mat Nawi, told TODAY that the party is confident of retaining the state, and insists that it is as formidable as it has ever been.

Saying that its message has been consistent from the start, he added: “We believe that Islam is the solution to address challenges in the state. We have a responsibility to the people to ensure there is a clean government, but we also have a responsibility to God. And we need to uphold Islamic principles.”

A key deciding factor in the election may well turn out to be out-of-state Kelantan voters, who form 15 per cent of the voting population here.

"They play a key role in deciding who forms the state government, whether it will still remain under PAS, or if a new party will helm it," said the Ilham Centre’s Mr Hisomudin.

Observers say the final result is unpredictable, but they are certain PAS is a weakened collossus, and will be run close, if not defeated.

Technician Afzainaizam Mohd, 43, who lives in the constituency of Chempaka – previously helmed by Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz and about half an hour away from the capital city of Kota Baru – has no doubt about what needs to be done.

Full report at:

https://www.todayonline.com/malaysian-ge/battleground-kelantan-people-are-losing-faith-party-god

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Indonesia to host Pakistani, Afghan scholars for peace conference

May 05, 2018

JAKARTA: Indonesia will host a meeting of “ulema” (Islamic scholars) from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Indonesia next week in an effort to support the Afghan peace process, the country’s Vice President Jusuf Kalla announced on Thursday.

In a concluding speech at a three-day gathering of international Muslim scholars, Kalla said Indonesia could play a role in building peace in Afghanistan by hosting the meeting on May 11. It was scheduled to be held in March in Jakarta but was delayed after a call from the Taliban to boycott it.

“We hope to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan, we still have a problem there,” Kalla said.

The plan to hold the meetings of the ulema from Indonesia, Pakistan and Afghanistan arose after a delegation from the Afghan High Peace Council led by its chairman Karim Khalili visited Indonesia in November. The council had asked Indonesia to support the peace process in Afghanistan through the ulema’s role.

The plan was further discussed when Kalla visited Kabul in late February to attend the Kabul Process conference, where he was the guest of honor.

“The people will listen to the ulema and they have trust in fatwas that the ulema issued,” Kalla said.

Afghan cleric Fazal Ghani Kakar, who was one of the participants in the conference, confirmed that the meeting will take place and that he has been invited to attend.

Kakar, who is the former chairman of Afghanistan’s Nahdlatul Ulama, said that the meeting would be timely because there was an urgent need to find resolution to the problem in Afghanistan, which he said was suffering from radicalism and extreme interpretation of Islam.

“The core issue will be how to build trust between the Afghan and Pakistan ulema because both sides have their own influence on the warring factions in Afghanistan,” Kakar told journalists at the vice presidential palace.

“This will be the first round and we hope this will open the gate for further discussion,” Kakar said.

He said that he had high hopes for the meeting because “most of the extreme ideas are coming from the Pakistani side, so sitting with the Pakistani ulema is the first step together to reach a better solution.”

He said that there would be at least five ulema from Afghanistan attending, and ulema from the Taliban were expected to come because the political faction of the Taliban has expressed interest in joining the meeting.

“We are very thankful for Indonesia; it has always played its role in brokering peace within the country, and in neighboring countries. We are looking forward to this being a good step for Afghanistan,” Kakar said.

Rifqi Muna, a foreign policy researcher at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, told Arab News that there was a lot that Indonesia could share from its experience as a Muslim-majority country with a stable democracy that has had its own share of seccesionist and communal conflicts.

“We are not lecturing them, but there are best practices experiences that we can share, so it is necessary for Indonesia to take part in pushing for peace process in conflict-torn countries,” Muna said.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1297156/world

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Malaysia's tense vote fuels damaging ethnic 'brain drain'

May 6, 2018

Malaysia's racially divisive elections are fanning resentment among minorities, and risk escalating a "brain drain" of disillusioned ethnic Chinese and Indians in an exodus experts say is hurting the nation's economic ambitions.

About 60 percent of Malaysia's 32 million people are Muslim Malays but the country is also home to large minorities, with about a quarter of the population ethnic Chinese and a substantial number ethnic Indian.

The Barisan Nasional coalition, which has been in power since independence from Britain in 1957, has long promoted affirmative-action policies that confer Malays and other indigenous groups with many advantages, including access to cheaper housing and priority in government jobs.

The programme, introduced in the 1970s after deadly race riots, was aimed at helping the poorer Malays catch up with the wealthier, more business-savvy Chinese and has been credited with creating a Muslim middle class and maintaining racial harmony.

But it has also been blamed for fuelling resentment among ethnic minority groups and encouraging their better-educated members to move abroad.

Some young members of the Chinese and Indian communities say they feel like second-class citizens in their own country, and that staying in Malaysia would likely limit their career opportunities as they hit ethnic glass ceilings.

Gabey Goh, a 34-year-old marketing executive, is one of many Malaysian Chinese who have headed to neighbouring Singapore, which is predominantly ethnic Chinese, more affluent, and which she regards as having a more merit-based culture.

"I was never very comfortable, and I never agreed and I don't agree, with the affirmative action policy," said Goh, who left Malaysia more than three years ago.

"There's too much anger, too much of a divide."

In the run-up to Wednesday's general election, Prime Minister Najib Razak has been accused of amplifying racial tensions as he scrambles to shore up his Malay voter base with moves that may further alienate minorities.

Analysts say electoral boundaries have been redrawn along racial lines, creating constituencies dominated by Malays.

Najib has also warned that an opposition victory would be a "nightmare" for the country's Muslims.

Speaking in December at the annual assembly of his ruling party, he said that if the opposition wins, "the bumiputras will be cast aside, insulted and damned, and left destitute in our own country".

"Bumiputra", or "sons of the soil", is the term for Malays and other indigenous groups.

Toxic atmosphere

While Najib is expected to win at the polls, he faces a tough opponent in veteran politician Mahathir Mohamad, a staunch Malay nationalist who led the country for 22 years and has come out of retirement to join forces with the opposition.

A scandal surrounding state fund 1MDB -- founded by Najib and allegedly looted by senior fund officials and their associates -- and the challenge from Mahathir has only pushed the premier to further focus on his Muslim base.

Tian Chua, vice-president of opposition group the People's Justice Party, said Najib's approach would worsen relations among Malaysia's different ethnic groups.

"It is not helping people to feel they are part of larger society," he told AFP.

The World Bank has estimated that at least one million Malaysians have left to live abroad since independence, threatening the country's competitiveness.

"The migration of talent across borders touches the core of Malaysia’s aspiration to become a high-income nation. Human capital is the bedrock of the high-income economy," it said in a 2011 report.

"Brain drain does not appear to square with this objective: Malaysia needs talent, but talent seems to be leaving," said study which is still seen as the most authoritative on the subject.

In such a toxic atmosphere, Neeta Ravi -- originally from Malaysia's ethnic Indian community -- is glad she is not around for the election. She left her homeland in the 1990s and settled in Canada.

"We felt that while we had the opportunity, we would go somewhere where we were treated on the same level,” the 63-year-old told AFP, using a pseudonym as she still has family in Malaysia.

The said her family preferred a place "with no first-class, or second-class citizens" while back at home her son would have needed better grades to get into the same university course as a Malay boy.

There is little sign the situation is improving. Goh said that inquiries from friends about life in Singapore have only increased in the past year.

And many of those who have left say they will not return while affirmative action remains in place.

Full report at:

http://www.thejakartapost.com/seasia/2018/05/06/malaysias-tense-vote-fuels-damaging-ethnic-brain-drain.html

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Philippines checking reported killing of extremist leader

5 May 2018

The Philippine military said Saturday it is checking intelligence reports that a commander of the Abu Sayyaf extremist group has died after being wounded in an artillery strike in the south.

Brig Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said that if the reported killing of Yassir Igasan in southern Sulu province turns out to be true, it would add to a leadership crisis within the Abu Sayyaf. The brutal group has lost many commanders to combat and surrenders in recent years.

The military received intelligence that Igasan was seriously wounded in the leg by artillery fire in the hinterlands of Sulu’s Patikul town in October and then died later, Sobejana said.

Some of Igasan’s men, who have surrendered, have told the military that Igasan has not been seen nor appeared in meetings in recent months, said a military intelligence officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of a lack of authority to speak about the terrorism issues.

Igasan is one of about half a dozen factional leaders of the Abu Sayyaf but is distinguished because of his connections to Middle East-based militant groups and ability to speak Arabic. Igasan, who was educated either in Libya or Jordan, has been regarded as a candidate to be the next regional leader of the ISIS group, Philippine security officials say.

The group's previous leader, Isnilon Hapilon, who was killed in the final battle in southern Marawi city last year. The city was seized by ISIS group-linked militants on May 23 and troops quelled the disastrous insurrection after five months.

Emerging in the late 1980s as an offshoot of the decades-long Muslim separatist rebellion in the south, the Abu Sayyaf lost its top commanders early in combat and descended on a bloody path toward terrorism and criminality.

The United States and the Philippines have blacklisted the Abu Sayyaf as a terrorist organization for bombings, ransom kidnappings and beheadings.

Despite battle setbacks, the small but violent group remains a key security threat.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2018/05/05/Philippines-checking-reported-killing-of-extremist-leader.html

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Europe

 

Morocco tackling jihadist returnees: Anti-terror chief

May 06, 2018

SALE - Morocco is working hard to detain and place on trial citizens who have returned home after fighting for the Islamic State group, the country's anti-terror chief has told AFP.

"We have arrested and brought to justice more than 200 returnees," Abdelhak Khiam, director of the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations (BCIJ), said in an interview.

He said the suspects were serving sentences ranging from 10 to 15 years in prison. Legislation passed in 2015 allows police to arrest and interrogate returnees before transferring them to the judiciary, he said. In 2015, an estimated 1,600 Moroccans had joined the ranks of jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria.

"Some died in suicide operations or were shot by (international anti-IS) coalition forces," Khiam said.

"Others fled to other countries."

The North African kingdom has largely been spared jihadist violence since deadly 2003 bombings in Casablanca killed 33 people.

But jihadists of Moroccan origin have been involved in numerous attacks in recent years in France, Belgium and Spain.

Khiam blamed a "problem of religious guidance" in European countries and said "terrorism has no nationality".

Morocco's security efforts have been coupled with major religious reforms, Khiam said.

"This approach based on religious mentoring is important," he added.

Since the Casablanca attacks, Moroccan legislation has been strengthened and dozens of people have been handed prison sentences on terrorism charges.

Authorities regularly announce the dismantlement of "terrorist cells", although such announcements have fallen from 21 in 2015 to nine in 2017.

Khiam also praised the role of international cooperation, saying Morocco's security services had prevented attacks in seven European countries.

But he admitted there may be "gaps" and urged authorities to inform "countries of origin" in cases where dual citizens are suspected of preparing attacks.

He also warned that the vast Sahel region on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert had become a "fertile ground" for jihadist groups and was "a time bomb".

He voiced concern over the links between criminal networks and "terrorist movements" funded by crime.

Insurgents remain active across the Sahel and have been linked to drug, arms and migrant trafficking as well as jihadist attacks.

https://nation.com.pk/06-May-2018/morocco-tackling-jihadist-returnees-anti-terror-chief

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France proposes new mechanism to assign blame for chemical attacks

5 May 2018

Western powers are weighing a French proposal to create a new mechanism at the world’s chemical weapons watchdog that would enable it to assign blame for attacks with banned munitions, diplomatic sources told Reuters.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague currently only determines whether such attacks have taken place, not who carried them out.

A new mechanism could fulfil that role, which had been carried out since 2015 by a joint United Nations-OPCW investigation in Syria until its renewal was vetoed by Russia in November.

“On Syria everything is blocked at the UN Security Council and in general we are seeing repeated and systematic flouting of multilateral frameworks, including proliferation of chemical weapons,” said a senior French diplomat.

“We need a mechanism to apportion blame. Salisbury was a step too far.”

Creating a global mechanism for accountability is also seen as important due to a rising number of incidents with nerve agent since they were banned two decades ago under an international treaty.

Recent use includes the assassination with VX of Kim Jong Nam, half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, in Kuala Lumpur airport in February 2017 and the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal, a 66-year-old former Russian double agent, and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia, with a Novichok nerve agent in March in Salisbury, England. They both survived.

But the French proposal is also likely to meet resistance from Russia, Iran and others. Decisions at the OPCW are usually put to a vote by the 41-seat executive council, where 27 votes are needed to pass. Recent initiatives at the OPCW to condemn Syria for using chemical weapons have not garnered enough support.

Deadlock

The alternative is to go to the OPCW’s full 192-seat conference of states, which can intervene to ensure compliance with the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, which has been violated repeatedly by the use of sarin, chlorine and sulphur mustard gas in Syria, as well as the attacks in England and Malaysia.

French President Emmanuel Macron discussed the new OPCW mechanism with the head of the OPCW, Ahmet Uzumcu, during a visit to the Netherlands in March. France is working with its close allies on the details of how the system would work, another source said.

The UN Security Council has been deadlocked over how to replace the UN-OPCW inquiry. In April the Security Council voted on and failed to adopt rival US and Russian proposals to set up new inquiries into chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

France, the United States and Britain then circulated a new draft resolution that aims to establish a new independent inquiry into who is responsible. However, Russia has said there was no point in establishing a new inquiry because the United States and its allies had already acted as judge and executioner. Talks on the Western draft have stalled.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2018/05/05/France-proposes-new-mechanism-to-assign-blame-for-chemical-attacks.html

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Russia detains five Daesh members, foils planned attacks

May 5, 2018

Russia’s main intelligence agency says it has detained five members of a terror cell run by the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group while they were planning to carry out attacks in several regions across the country.

In a statement, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) said the suspects were apprehended on May 3-4 in the city of Yaroslavl, northeast of Moscow. The terrorists possessed weapons and home-made explosives.

"The Russian Federal Security Service detained five members of the Daesh terrorist cell, who had been plotting terrorist acts on the territory of a number of Russian regions," the statement said.

"During the searches, we confiscated an arsenal of improvised explosive devices, firearms and ammunition from the detainees," it added.

The Russian law enforcement agency, citing inspection officers involved in the operation, said that "the coordination of preparations for the terrorist attacks was also carried out from abroad.” It declined to provide further details regarding the claim.

Russian authorities said criminal proceedings had been launched on the case.

The Russian security service has thwarted a number of terrorist attacks in Russia recently. Back in March, a terror plot by a Daesh-affiliated cell was foiled in the southwestern region of Saratov.

In January, the FSB forces also neutralized a Daesh member who planned a terror attack during a local election in the western region of Nizhny Novgorod.

The FSB said in December last year that it had foiled terrorist plots targeting New Year’s festivities and presidential election events in Russia. It has also increased security measures ahead of this summer’s FIFA World Cup in Russia.

Moscow and other cities still remain major targets for Daesh as the terrorist group has vowed to continue launching attacks in retaliation for Russia’s assistance to Syria, which has proved helpful in purging the Takfiri terrorist group and other militants from much of the Syrian territory.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/05/05/560687/Russia-FSB-Daesh-Takfiri-terrorist-group-attacks-Yaroslavl

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Court grants campaigners appeal against ruling on UK arms sales to Saudi

May 5, 2018

Activists campaigning to stop British arms sales to Saudi Arabia to prevent their use in Yemen have been granted an appeal against a High Court ruling allowing the UK to continue selling weapons to Riyadh.

Last July, the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) sought a High Court order to block export licenses for British-made fighter jets, bombs and other munitions it said were being used by Saudi forces in the war in Yemen. However, the court decided that the licenses were not unlawful.

Responding to the attempt by CAAT to overturn last summer’s verdict, the Court of Appeal said Friday the British government should “not grant a license if there is a clear risk that the items might be used in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarian law.”

Campaigners will now be able to challenge the High Court decision that the government had not acted unlawfully or irrationally in refusing to block export licenses for sale and transfer of arms and military equipment to Saudi Arabia.

An activist with CAAT said his group believed the arms sales are immoral.

"The Saudi-led bombardment of Yemen has killed thousands of people and created one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the world," Andrew Smith said after Friday's judgment.

"Despite this, the Saudi regime has been armed and supported every step of the way by successive UK governments. We believe that these arms sales are immoral, and are confident that the Court of Appeal will agree that they are unlawful."

Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies launched a war on Yemen in March 2015 to reinstall its former Riyadh-allied government. The military aggression has so far killed over 13,600 Yemenis.

The issue of Britain's arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and its support for the Saudi aggression in Yemen, has become more controversial as the war has created the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

The conflict has displaced more than 2 million people and caused a cholera epidemic that has infected about 1 million people. The United Nations says food shortages have created the world’s worst famine in Yemen.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has defended her government’s weapons exports to Saudi Arabia, saying all such sales are strictly regulated.

The issue has provoked heated debate in parliament, with the main opposition Labour Party accusing the government of being complicit in civilian deaths in Yemen.

"It cannot be right that the government is colluding in what the United Nations says is evidence of war crimes," Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told parliament in March.

Britain sells billions of pounds worth of arms to Saudi Arabia, by far its largest weapons buyer. There was a sharp increase last year in licenses that critics such as shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry described as being completed “behind closed doors, and shrouded in secrecy.”

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/05/05/560667/Court-allows-review-over-UK-arms-sales-to-Saudi

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Germany hosts over 2,500 Syrian refugees from Turkey

05 May 2018

Germany has ranked first in hosting Syrian refugees from Turkey in 2017, with more than 2,500 people settling in the European nation, according to Turkish migration authority data.

The Directorate General of Migration Authority data revealed that Germany tops the list with 2,733 Syrians living there under temporary protection.

Holland ranked second with 2,128 Syrians, followed by the U.S., which allowed settlement for 1,064 Syrians.

In Finland, 845 Syrians settled and 790 others were now in France.

According to the report, 12,000 people left Turkey to settle down in other countries in 2017.

Full report at:

http://www.worldbulletin.net/europe/201758/germany-hosts-over-2500-syrian-refugees-from-turkey

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Iran nuke deal on table as Boris Johnson heads to Washington

6 May 2018

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson will on Sunday begin a two-day visit to Washington, with the Iran nuclear deal, Syria and North Korea on top of the agenda, the Foreign Office said.

Johnson will meet US Vice President Mike Pence, National Security Advisor John Bolton and Congressional foreign policy leaders.

"On so many of the world's foreign policy challenges the UK and US are in lockstep," said Johnson, highlighting the joint responses to Russian provocations, North Korea and Syria.

"The UK, US, and European partners are also united in our effort to tackle the kind of Iranian behaviour that makes the Middle East region less secure -- its cyber activities, its support for groups like Hezbollah, and its dangerous missile programme," he added.

Britain remains committed the nuclear deal Iran signed with world powers in 2015, but US President Donald Trump has threatened to abandon the agreement when it comes up for renewal on May 12, calling it "insane".

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/05/06/Iran-nuke-deal-on-table-as-Boris-Johnson-heads-to-Washington-.html

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Africa

 

Libyan army advances in Darnah in preparation to free it completely

5 May 2018

The Libyan army began to mobilize more troops around the town of Darnah in eastern Libya, in preparation for launching a large-scale military operation to free it completely from terrorist groups loyal to al-Qaeda organization, one day after it seized control of important sites that were under the control of extremists.

The Public Information Office of the General Command said in a statement that "the army is advancing steadily to liberate Darnah, and that soon the armed forces will enter the city, after the eradication of all the terrorists."

The operations room of Omar al-Mukhtar, which is under the general command of the army announced on Thursday, the control of a number of strategic sites, which were taken by the militant elements of the "Shura Council in Darnah," a place of concentration, the most important of which is "Abu Salim Mosque in the area of Sidi Aziz."

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/05/05/Libyan-army-advances-in-Darnah-in-preparation-to-free-it-completely.html

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Tunisians to vote in first free municipal elections amid economic gloom

5 May 2018

Tunisians vote on Sunday in their first free municipal elections, another step in the north African country’s difficult democratic transition that has become marred by disappointment over a lack of jobs and economic opportunities.

Tunisia has been hailed as the only democratic success of the Arab Spring because it toppled a long-serving autocrat - Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, in 2011 - without triggering major violence or civil war, or a reversion to authoritarian rule.

But enthusiasm for democratic change has long given way to anger over stubbornly low living standards, which have driven some Tunisians to make the dangerous sea crossing to Europe in search of work or have prompted a few to turn to militant Islam.

“We need jobs, jobs. That’s what we expect,” said a worker who gave his name as Khaled, in Ben Arous, an industrial town of 88,000 people just south of the capital Tunis.

But despite the economic gloom, some Tunisians see the municipal elections as a long-overdue opportunity to improve struggling public services and tackle local problems - in the case of Ben Arous poor street lighting and bad driving.

“Every year six or seven people die in road accidents (here),” said Salma Douri, an activist, adding that she wanted a state-funded campaign to raise drivers’ awareness of the dangers of speeding.

Challenge

The main challenge will be to match voters’ expectations with local budgets in a country where - typically for former French colonies - the central government makes the main decisions about how and where money gets spent.

A new law envisages some decision-making being gradually devolved to the local level, though it remains unclear how it will work in practice.

“The citizens want from us a cleaner Mohamedina, more beautification and jobs,” said Amel Besrour, an independent candidate running on the list of the Islamist Ennahda party in the Ben Arous district of Mohamedina.

The two main parties, Ennahda and the secular Nidaa Tounes which together form the national government, are expected to dominate the municipal elections.

Islamists and secular forces have fought over the country’s direction since 2011 but agreed under mediation of labour unions on a power-sharing deal in 2014.

Western donors want to provide funds for councils to start projects from day one. This comes on top of billions of dollars in loans from the International Monetary Fund and various countries to help plug a budget deficit caused by political turmoil and one of the world’s highest public sector bills.

The local elections are being actively supported by foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which are trying to help Tunisians build democracy from the grassroots.

Ben Arous is home to the Centre for Democracy, Citizenship and Development, set up by German’s Hanns Seidel Foundation.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2018/05/05/Tunisians-to-vote-in-first-free-municipal-elections-amid-economic-gloom.html

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Seven killed in northeastern Nigerian blast

05 May 2018

Three suspected female suicide bombers and four civilians were killed in northeastern Maiduguri city late Thursday night, according to the country's relief agency Friday.

“Last night at around 11 p.m. local time, three teenaged female suicide bombers tried to infiltrate Mainari Shuwa [suburb in Molai] and were instantly spotted.

“But they detonated their explosive vests to avoid arrest. Seven people died, including four civilians,” Bashir Garga, regional coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), told Anadolu Agency Friday afternoon.

Seven others were also injured in the blasts in an area that is at a short distance from Maiduguri, the heartbeat of the nine-year insurgency.

Garga said the incident suggested possible infiltration of the area by Boko Haram and called for vigilance by locals.

Boko Haram armed group has been trying to enter Maiduguri in the past months but they were often overpowered by the Nigerian troops.

Full report at:

http://www.worldbulletin.net/africa/201770/seven-killed-in-northeastern-nigerian-blast

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I won’t stop negotiating for Boko Haram – Mama Boko Haram

May 5, 2018

The Chief Executive Officer of Complete Care Foundation and Human Right Lawyer and Boko Haram  mediator, Barr.  Hajiya Aisha Wakil a.k.a Mama Boko Haram has said she will not stop negotiating for peace with the Boko Haram insurgents in the bush.

The human right lawyer also disclosed that the Boko Haram who she calls her children will soon; all return home and surrender for peace.

Speaking at the commissioning of her multi-million naira office complex and  fund raising of her NGO in Maiduguri on Saturday, Barr. Wakil disclosed that the Boko Haram  insurgents were willing to give up their arms, assuring that they will soon return home.

“All my sons in the bush will come home and surrender for peace,” she said. She assured that she continues to support efforts to return peace to the troubled state.

“I will not stop from negotiating for Boko Haram to be granted amnesty and to be accepted by the people in the society. These are our own children and we cannot throw them away. We must accept them back if they decide to return home”, Barr. Wakil said.

She said her foundation; Complete Care and Aid foundation was established to care for the affected victims of insurgency including orphans and displaced and the vulnerable children, adding that her NGO is also intervening in  the area of education, health care and psycho-social support.

Full report at:

http://thenationonlineng.net/i-wont-stop-negotiating-for-boko-haram-mama-boko-haram/

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North America

 

Trump administration hired Israeli intel firm to discredit ex-officials Iran nuclear deal: Report

May 6, 2018

Aides to US President Donald Trump have reportedly hired an Israeli private intelligence agency to devise a “dirty ops” campaign against key Obama administration officials who helped negotiate the Iran nuclear deal in a scheme to discredit the agreement.

Trump administration officials contacted private investigators in May of last year, directing them to “get dirt” on former deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl, the deputy assistant to former President Barack Obama, as part of an elaborate scheme to undermine the deal, UK-based The Observer newspaper revealed in a report on Saturday.

The extraordinary development comes days before Trump’s May 12 deadline to either scrap or continue to abide by the international pact regarding Iran’s civilian nuclear program.

“These are extraordinary and appalling allegations but which also illustrate a high level of desperation by Trump and [Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu, not so much to discredit the deal but to undermine those around it,” said former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

Officials linked to Trump’s team contacted Israeli intelligence elements days after the US president visited Tel Aviv a year ago. Trump then made a pledge to Netanyahu that Iran would never have nuclear weapons – despite the fact that Tehran has always maintained that it is principally and categorically opposed to development and use of nuclear arms.

The British newspaper further cited a source familiar with details of the “dirty tricks campaign” as saying that “the idea was that people acting for Trump would discredit those who were pivotal in selling the deal, making it easier to pull out of it.”

The Israeli investigators in the “dirty ops” mission were to look at Rhodes' and Kahl's personal relationships with Iran-friendly lobbyists, and to determine whether they had benefited personally or politically from the nuclear deal.

Rhodes slammed the the scheme by the Trump administration as "chillingly authoritarian" in a statement to the British newspaper.

“I was not aware, though sadly am not surprised. I would say that digging up dirt on someone for carrying out their professional responsibilities in their positions as White House officials is a chillingly authoritarian thing to do," he said.

A spokesman for the White House’s national security council offered “no comment” when contacted about the revelation.

Trump has repeatedly signaled his intention to scrap the Iran deal, denouncing it as “the worst deal ever.” In a January speech, he accused his predecessor of having “curried favor" with the Iranian government so as to "push through the disastrously flawed Iran nuclear deal.”

The development comes days after Netanyahu again accused Iran of continuing to hide and expand its nuclear weapons know-how after the 2015 deal, in what was widely regarded as a scripted, publicity presentation to further pressure the Trump administration to reject the nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

During the televised show, Netanyahu claimed that the Israeli regime possessed a wide array of “new and conclusive proof” of purported Iranian violations.

Last month, French President Emmanuel Macron visited the White House for an official state visit, during which he tried to persuade Trump to remain in the agreement. Following the visit, Macron told reporters that he still expects Trump to exit the deal.

“My view — I don’t know what your president will decide — is that he will get rid of this deal on his own, for domestic reasons,” said the French president.

The European Union, France, the United Kingdom, and Germany have expressed support for the deal in the wake of the Israeli claims.

Iran has on numerous occasions asserted that its nuclear program is merely peaceful and not meant to make nukes.

This is while Israel is widely thought to possess hundreds of nuclear nuclear warheads and refuses to either allow inspections of its nuclear facilities or join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/05/06/560760/US-Trump-administration-Israeli-intelligence-firm-Iran-nuclear-deal-Obama-administration-officials

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Pompeo defends ‘muscular’ US diplomacy on North Korea and Iran

5 May 2018

New US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday defended the "muscular diplomacy" practiced by President Donald Trump as a way to solve thorny global issues "peacefully, without ever firing a shot."

Speaking before of a group of American diplomats at the State Department, Pompeo outlined his vision for US foreign policy at a time of "many challenges."

"These times are turbulent. The demands are for strong leadership. It is essential that our team does that, and counter the threats that we face with courage and strength," he said.

"Fortunately, we have a president who believes in muscular diplomacy as well, one that makes full use of the instruments of national power to advance, first and foremost, vital American interests and values."

The hawkish Pompeo had promised a more "vicious" intelligence operation when he took over as chief of the Central Intelligence Agency last year, making unapologetically menacing statements toward North Korea and Iran.

On Friday, he explained his view that a firm diplomatic hand "increases our chances of solving problems peacefully without ever firing a shot."

As an example, he cited the "enormous diplomatic effort to continue to keep the pressure on North Korea and bring them to the negotiating table, to a place where we can successfully eliminate the threat from Kim Jong Un's nuclear arsenal."

Pompeo met Kim over Easter weekend in Pyongyang, ahead of an expected summit between the North Korean leader and Trump, who said Friday that a date and location would be announced soon.

In the Middle East, where Pompeo traveled on his first trip abroad, he said "strong diplomatic efforts" were needed "to prevent Iran's destabilizing behavior in Syria, in Yemen, and across the region."

In a week, Trump is expected to decide whether the US should remain in the nuclear deal reached with Tehran. The Republican leader has threatened to withdraw from the multinational accord.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/05/05/Pompeo-defends-muscular-US-diplomacy-on-North-Korea-and-Iran-.html

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How Trump’s expected exit from Iran nuclear deal may play out

5 May 2018

It's not as simple as just saying "we're out" of the Iran nuclear deal.

If President Donald Trump follows through on his threat to pull the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal on May 12, the rest of the world will be thrust into uncharted territory, forced to navigate a complex web of U.S. sanctions that were lifted under the landmark accord but would ostensibly be put back in place.

Would Trump re-impose sanctions on those who do business with Iran? How quickly? And would Europe follow suit? How would Iran respond? And what happens to Iran's pre-existing obligations to allow nuclear inspections?

"It's going to be very complicated," said Ama Adams, who advises clients on international sanctions compliance at the law firm Ropes & Gray. "There are lots of opportunities to trip up and make mistakes. It's going to be a period of a lot of activity and flurry."

A look at possible scenarios for what stays and goes if Trump exits the accord:

US sanctions

Under the 2015 deal, the United States issued waivers to longstanding sanctions punishing Iran for its nuclear program. Iran, in turn, restricted its program and allowed more inspections.

Trump has essentially two options for re-imposing sanctions.

On May 12, he faces a deadline on whether to renew the waivers that eased one basket of sanctions: those on Iran's central bank, intended to hit Iranian oil exports. Another basket of sanctions waivers are up for renewal on July 11, focusing on more than 400 specific Iranian companies, individuals and business sectors.

One of Trump's options, being called "the nuclear option" by some experts, would re-impose all the sanctions at once - even those not scheduled for renewal until July. That would put the U.S. in immediate violation of the deal's terms, which say sanctions remain lifted as long as Iran is complying with its terms. So far, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.'s nuclear monitoring agency, has said Iran is complying, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo agrees.

A second option: re-imposing only the central bank sanctions. That would start a 180-day clock in which companies or countries would be expected to reduce their purchases of oil from Iran. Those that don't would ultimately be penalized by Washington.

Why not restore all the sanctions at once? Proponents of doing it piece by piece say it would give the U.S. more leverage to bring about a "fix" to the deal so that Trump could stay in after all. Trump has long said the deal needed to be strengthened or abandoned, but efforts with European allies to strengthen it haven't yet succeeded. With sanctions about to kick in again in 180 days, there might be enough pressure on the Iranians, the Europeans and other members of the deal to give in to Trump's demands, proponents say.

But supporters of the nuclear deal say that's not a viable option because the U.S., by starting the 180-day clock, would have already breached the deal. And as soon as Trump announces sanctions will be coming back, companies will immediately start shutting down their business with Iran. That means Iran would suffer from lost business and could decide to walk away from the deal itself.

Adams, the sanctions attorney, said some companies have already started winding down business in anticipation that Trump may re-impose sanctions.

The rest of the world

What would Europe do? Germany, France and the U.K. have suggested they have no intention of leaving the deal, even if the U.S. withdraws. But it might not matter much. The global financial system is so interconnected and so tied to New York that it would be almost impossible for anyone anywhere in the world to continue their business with Iran without risk of violating U.S. sanctions. For example, Europe businesses owned or controlled by American parent companies would breach the sanctions if they didn't cut off Iran.

It's a major dilemma for European businesses, made even more complicated if the European Union decides to invoke a measure put in place in the 1990s to counter the U.S. embargo on Cuba. The EU can use those regulations to prohibit European companies from complying with some U.S. sanctions. That puts businesses in the position of choosing whether to defy the United States or the EU.

Iran's response

Iran's leaders have been coy, although Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told The Associated Press last week Iran would "most likely" abandon the deal if Trump withdraws. Yet the key question is whether Iran would resume nuclear activities, such as enrichment and processing, beyond the limits that were imposed by the deal - and how aggressively.

How would the world even know? If the deal collapses, Iran would no longer be bound by the rigorous inspections regime by the IAEA that it agreed to in the deal. That regime included the so-called Additional Protocol, which expanded the IAEA's access to sites in Iran, including giving inspectors insight into all parts of the nuclear fuel cycle, access on short notice to all buildings at an acknowledged nuclear site, and the right to obtain samples from military sites.

Even without the nuclear deal, Iran would still be required to allow a more limited regime of inspections required by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which Iran has signed. But it's unclear how rigorously Iran would comply. After all, alleged cheating and delay tactics by Iran were a major concern prior to the 2015 deal. And Iranian officials haven't explicitly ruled out the possibility that if Trump blows up the nuclear deal, Iran may also leave the Nonproliferation Treaty.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2018/05/05/ANALYSIS-How-will-Trump-s-expected-exit-from-Iran-nuclear-deal-may-play-out.html

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