New Age Islam
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Islamic World News ( 23 Jun 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Muslim Leaders Rubbish NIA Charges: Only A Fool Can Think of Establishing Caliphate in India








Muslim Leaders Rubbish NIA Charges: Only A Fool Can Think of Establishing Caliphate in India

India's Treatment of Muslims Condemned By US Government Report

PAS Ulema Chief Decrees ‘Wajib’ To Collaborate With Others, Bring Pakatan Govt Down

Sudanese Protesters Accept Ethiopian Initiative to End Political Crisis

US In No Place to ‘Make Iran Great Again,’ Trump Base Has ‘No Appetite’ For War

Almost HALF Of Tory Members Want To 'Reduce Muslims Coming To UK', Shock Poll Shows

EU Combats Terrorism on Social Media but Radicalism Endures

Pakistan Looking To Mislead FATF With Criticism Of India?

PEN Bangladesh Urges Authors to Raise Awareness about Rohingya Repatriation

Saudi Arabia’s MoSFA Says Whatever the Palestinians Accept, Everyone Else Will Accept

Iran Says Downing of US Drone Was A ‘Firm Response’, Can Be Repeated

 

India

Muslim Leaders Rubbish NIA Charges: Only A Fool Can Think of Establishing Caliphate in India

India's Treatment of Muslims Condemned By US Government Report

Jharkhand: Muslim man beaten up on suspicion of theft, forced to chant Jai Shree Ram, succumbs to injuries

Pakistan High Commission Diplomats, Pilgrims Visit Hazrat Amir Khusro Shrine In Nizamuddin

If talks are initiated, there will be positive response: Hurriyat responds to J&K Guv

Four militants linked to al-Qaeda affiliate killed in J&K gunfight

Centre may amend laws to allow NIA probe Indian interests abroad

4 ultras of Qaida-inspired group killed in Shopian

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Southeast Asia

PAS Ulema Chief Decrees ‘Wajib’ To Collaborate With Others, Bring Pakatan Govt Down

Hadi: If Taiwan, China Accept Adam Smith, Why Can’t Malaysians Support Islamic Rule?

Aceh Ulema Demand Indonesia Ban Online Battle Game PUBG

The face of Indonesia's moderate Islam nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize

Rights Group: Why Is UKM Involved In Kelantan Orang Asli’s Religious Conversion?

Indonesia urges Myanmar to ensure security in Rakhine

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Africa

Sudanese Protesters Accept Ethiopian Initiative to End Political Crisis

Ethiopia Mosque Ban: 'Our Sacred City Of Aksum Must Be Protected'

Jordanian government censured for possible participation in Bahrain confab

Somali army recaptures ‘strategic’ southern town from Al-Shabaab

11 Chadian soldiers killed in Boko Haram attack: authorities

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North America

US In No Place to ‘Make Iran Great Again,’ Trump Base Has ‘No Appetite’ For War

Bolton Warns Iran to Not Mistake US ‘Prudence’ For ‘Weakness’

Pompeo visiting Saudi, Emirates to seek ‘global coalition’ against Iran

Trump rejects UN request for FBI probe into Khashoggi's murder to save weapons sales

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Europe

Almost HALF Of Tory Members Want To 'Reduce Muslims Coming To UK', Shock Poll Shows

EU Combats Terrorism On Social Media But Radicalism Endures

‘Jihadi Jack’ Claims He Has ‘No Intention Of Blowing Up British People’ If He Returns To UK

Gezi protests: Turkey begins controversial trial of 16 civil society leaders

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Pakistan

Pakistan Looking To Mislead FATF With Criticism Of India?

MoU signed on money laundering, terror financing

Khawaja Asif backs Maryam stance on charter of economy offer

Defence services secured biggest supplementary grant

PML-N wasted $66bn fiscal space: Khusro Bakhtiar

Pakistan, Qatar vow to work for regional peace

Pakistan, EU to ink MoU on ‘strategic plan’, says FM

Qatar seeks workers, security personnel from Pakistan

Terrorist killed, another arrested in DI Khan attack

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South Asia

PEN Bangladesh Urges Authors to Raise Awareness about Rohingya Repatriation

ASEAN Avoids Condemning Myanmar For Rohingya Plight

Internet blackout imposed on Myanmar's restive Rakhine state

Afghan Special Forces Kill 4 ISIS Militants; Detain 14 Others in Kunar Province

11 Taliban militants killed, wounded in Kandahar airstrikes: Atal Corps

Taliban’s IED maker among 13 killed, wounded in Farah and Herat provinces

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Mideast

Saudi Arabia’s MoSFA Says Whatever the Palestinians Accept, Everyone Else Will Accept

Iran Says Downing of US Drone Was A ‘Firm Response’, Can Be Repeated

Netanyahu ready to ‘consider’ long-awaited US peace plan

Greece causes outrage over violation of Muslim community's rights

Turkey's opposition strikes blow to Erdogan with Istanbul mayoral win

Iran says it welcomes any diffusion of tensions in region

Erdogan’s candidate concedes defeat in Istanbul vote

Arab League renews pledge to give Palestinians $100 mln in aid monthly

One killed, eight wounded in fresh Yemeni drone attack on Abha Airport

Israeli settlers attack, seize Palestinian land in West Bank

Turkish forces ‘neutralize’ 58 Kurdish PKK terrorists in northern Iraq: Defence Ministry

Yemeni forces shoot down 3rd Saudi-led spy drone as retaliatory attacks rise

Palestine rejects US economic revival plan as 'illusion'

One dead, several injured in Houthi attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abha Airport

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Arab World

White Helmets Preparing to Film Tahrir Al-Sham's False-Flag Chemical Attacks in Idlib

West Increasing Support for Kurds' Separatist Goals in Eastern Syria

Pompeo visiting Saudi, Emirates to seek ‘global coalition’ against Iran

Aleppo: Civilians Demand Expulsion of Turkish Occupying Forces, Popular Uprising Suppressed in Al-Bab City

Australian ISIS orphans rescued from Syria camp

Syria regime air strikes kill four civilians

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL:  http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/muslim-leaders-rubbish-nia-charges--only-a-fool-can-think-of-establishing-caliphate-in-india/d/118974

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Muslim Leaders Rubbish NIA Charges: Only A Fool Can Think of Establishing Caliphate in India

June 22, 2019

Abdul Bari Masoud

NEW DELHI — Reacting on the charge sheet filed by the National Investigation Agency or NIA against ten suspects arrested in a case involving a “terror module” in Delhi, Hapur and Amroha (Uttar Pradesh) in December last, noted community leaders and activists on Saturday said only a fool can think of establishing caliphate in India. They dismissed the charges as another “cooked up story by the security agencies” as they have done earlier.

On Friday, the NIA filed charges against all the accused in Additional Sessions Judge Ajay Kumar’s court claiming that “all the accused were planning to establish an ISIS caliphate in the country after planning large-scale attacks in and around the National Capital Region.” The court listed the matter for consideration on July 4.

“They had named this module ”Harkat-ul-Harb-E-Islam” (Movement for War of Islam). This group owed its allegiance to ISIS and wanted to establish an ISIS Caliphate in India by resorting to large scale terrorist attacks in and around National Capital Region. The group carried out reconnaissance of some such locations in and around NCR,” the agency told the court.

All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, the umbrella body of leading Muslim organisations, dismissed the charge sheet as yet another “fabricated story” to tarnish the image of the Muslim community in the eyes of Hindu brethren.

Speaking to Caravan Daily, Mushawarat president Navaid Hamid said: “It is another fictional story meant to soil the image of the community and lives of these innocent persons.”

Commenting on the agency’s charges, he said only a foolish person can think of founding caliphate in India or anywhere else.

“It is a cooked up story, a fool only can think of establishing caliphate in India. The past instances showed that there were people in security agencies who fabricated and framed trumpeted terror charges against innocent young persons from the community but they were acquitted by the higher courts of the land.”

Expressing his displeasure over the charges framed by the agency against the accused, he said it is sad that “such cases not only ruin the lives of innocent persons but also create misgivings about the community in the minds of our Hindu brethren”.

He also lambasted the culture of impunity saying those officers, who frame innocents in false terror cases just for the sake of accolades and medals, should be made accountable.  The past experience has repeatedly shown that almost all accused were released by courts finding no evidence against them, he added.

Concurring with his views, noted activist Nadim Khan, who is attached to civil rights group, United Against Hate, said the agency’s claims against all the accused are false and baseless. He rubbished the NIA charges saying that “koi sutli bomb aur chotey chaquon sey khilafat qaim nahi karsakta” (Caliphate cannot be established by making (Sutli) twine bombs and kitchen knives), this is all outlandish.

He argued that in the past all such charges did not stand in the court of law and however, scores of innocents lives were ruined due to security agencies’ false flag and irresponsible attitude.

“It is a fact that 95 per cent terror cases fabricated by security agencies have fallen flat in courts and accused got acquittal honorably but after spending their prime part of life in jails,” he noted.

Reacting to the NIA charges against 10 suspects, A C Michael, former member of Delhi State Minorities Commission said: “If the NIA reports are to be believed it is something to be worried about. Moreover, as some of our country’s political leaders are creating divide among the people on the lines of religion, these are bound to happen as the enemies of our country would like to take advantage of it.”

“We are in urgent need of a leader of Sardar Patel stature who had the guts to tell RSS leadership to behave and to keep them away from politics. They claim to be a social organisation but they are today running the country,” Michael added.

The agency named Mohd Suhail (30), a mufti in a seminary in Amroha, Anas Younus (21), Zubair Malik (22), Rashid Zafar Raq (24), Saqib (26), Absar (24), Said (29), Gufran (25), Faiz (25) and Naim (22) — hailed from Jafarabad in Delhi and Amroha, Hapur and Meerut in Uttar Pradesh as accused in the case who were arrested some six months back.

The agency also filed over 5,000 pages of charge sheet under sections of 120-B (Criminal conspiracy), 121 (Waging war against Government of India), 121A (Punishment for offence under 121 IPC), 122 (Collecting arms with intention of waging war against government of India) of IPC and under various sections of stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Explosives Substances Act and Arms Act.

However, one of the accused’s relatives said they still had not received the copy of the charge sheet and even the FIR copy. Dismissing all the charges, he told Caravan Daily that they would react after seeing the charge sheet. The relative did not want to disclose his identity expressing the hope that all 10 youths would be acquitted soon as they are all innocent’.

Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind led by Maulana Mahmood Madani has been providing legal help to the accused, most of them belonging to poor families.

https://caravandaily.com/muslim-leaders-rubbish-nia-charges-only-a-fool-can-think-of-establishing-caliphate-in-india/

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India's treatment of Muslims condemned by US government report

Zamira Rahim

June 24, 2019

The US government has said that anti-Muslim violence is continuing in India, in its annual report on international religious freedom.

A state department report noted that mob attacks in the country occurred throughout 2018 and contained allegations of law enforcement involvement in the violence.

“Mob attacks by violent extremist Hindu groups against minority communities, especially Muslims, continued throughout the year amid rumours that the victims had traded or killed cows for beef,” the document noted.

The report said authorities “often protected perpetrators from prosecution” and that attacks “included allegations of involvement by law enforcement personnel”.

“There were reports of religiously motivated killings, assaults, riots, discrimination, vandalism and actions restricting the right of individuals to practice their religious beliefs,” the document added.

Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, has faced longstanding accusations of marginalising India’s Muslim and Christian communities.

Despite the controversy surrounding him, the 68-year-old was returned to power for a second term in a resounding May 2019 election victory.

Mr Modi, who leads the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), won particularly strong support from his Hindu nationalist base.

But he is regarded with wariness by many of the country’s 180 million Muslims, with the US report noting that senior BJP officials made “inflammatory speeches against minority communities”.

The document also discusses the rape and murder of Asifa Bano, an eight-year-old girl who was killed in January 2018.

Her death, which allegedly involved police officers, prompted widespread protests across the nation.

“Jammu and Kashmir police arrested eight men, including four police personnel, in connection with the kidnapping, gang rape, and killing of an eight-year-old girl,” the report said.

“The men allegedly kidnapped the victim, took her to a nearby temple, and raped and killed her in an effort to drive her nomadic Muslim community out of the area.”

Also among the Modi administration’s policies are proposals to “rename Indian cities with Muslim provenance,” the report said.

“Most notably this includes the renaming of Allahabad to Prayagraj. Activists said these proposals were designed to erase Muslim contributions to Indian history and has led to increased communal tensions.”

On Sunday, the Modi administration issued a sharp rejection of the US government’s findings.

“India is proud of its secular credentials, its status as the largest democracy and a pluralistic society with a longstanding commitment to tolerance and inclusion,” a government spokesperson said.

“We see no locus standi [right to bring action] for a foreign entity to pronounce on the state of our citizens’ constitutionally protected rights.”

Discussing Mr Modi’s second electoral victory in May 2019, Ajay Mehra, a political scientist, said: “They will be able to say that minorities are just that, we are the majority, and what we say goes.”

Mr Mehra is currently working on a book about the prime ministers of India.

“If they say nobody should eat beef, nobody will eat beef. If they say there should be no cow slaughter, then it will be so,” he told The Independent.

“And if they say that cities with Muslim names must change, then they will.”

Mike Pompeo is expected to visit India on Tuesday as the US seeks greater strategic ties with India.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/india-muslims-mob-attacks-us-report-state-department-narendra-modi-a8970911.html

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PAS Ulema chief decrees ‘wajib’ to collaborate with others, bring Pakatan govt down

23 June 2019

BY JERRY CHOONG

KUANTAN, June 23 — It is “wajib” or obligatory for PAS members to collaborate with others to take the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration down, the Islamist party’s new Ulema wing chief Nik Muhd Zawawi Salleh has ruled today.

The Islamic scholar also said that nobody in PAS can dispute the fact that Malaysia is multi-ethnic and governing the country requires cooperation with other parties including former rivals Umno.

“God willing, we accept this fact. And we must also acknowledge the fact that there is no political strategy where any single party can rule individually. It must co-operate with others,” he said in his closing speech during the final day of PAS’ Muktamar or annual congress.

“And in the fight of PAS against Pakatan Harapan, it is ‘wajib’. To bring down the current government, it is ‘wajib’.

“In this issue, we cannot be at odds. We move forward, don’t look back,” he added.

He also told members that any judgment on tahaluf and ta’awun siyasi — Arabic terms referring to political consensus and cooperation — with former rivals Umno should come from top to bottom, to ensure a clear target for the party.

He stressed that as an Islamic movement, PAS must co-operate with other political parties.

“I do not wish to be calculative with these parties, for if I do then who will we work with? Surely we cannot work with Parti Amanah, or DAP?

“We still have other friends, and I am thankful that they represent all the races in Malaysia,” Zawawi said, adding it meant PAS will have an easier time approaching all communities and make them understand the party’s struggle.

He was especially appreciative of MIC, saying the Indian-based party was the first to approach PAS, even before Umno.

“They wanted to be with us, and we as an Islamic movement will accept anyone in with open arms.

“That is why we stress upon tahaluf and ta’awun, for all of it is for the sake of Islam and for the racial harmony that God has blessed our country with,” Nik Zawawi said.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/06/23/pas-Ulema-chief-decrees-wajib-to-collaborate-with-others-bring-pakatan-govt/1764759

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Sudanese protesters accept Ethiopian initiative to end political crisis

Jun 23, 2019

Sudanese protest leaders have agreed with a proposal set forth by Ethiopian mediators aiming to end the months-long unrest in the African country.

A coalition of political groups representing the protesters announced that they had accepted the proposed plan suggested by mediators sent by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

One of the protest leaders, Madani Abbas Madani, confirmed that the proposal calls for a civilian-majority governing body.

"We think that our acceptance of the proposal is a major leap towards meeting the goals of the revolution, which are freedom, peace and justice," protest leader Babiker Faisal told reporters in a brief statement.

"It will put the country on the right track to create the transitional period that would usher in sustainable democracy."

Media reports said the Ethiopian mediators' proposal suggests creating a 15-member transitional body comprised of eight civilians and seven members of the military to run the country.

The ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC) has yet to announce its acceptance of the proposal.

In April, after weeks of street protests, the TMC detained ousted ruler Omar al-Bashir in an effective coup against his 30-year rule.

In May, negotiations between the TMC and protest leaders on the structure of the governing-body of the transitional government broke down.

On June 3, a deadly raid on a long-running protest camp outside army headquarters in Khartoum left multiple people dead, mounting international pressure on the junta to end the deadlock.

In previous talks, protest leaders and the generals had agreed on a three-year transition period and forming a 300-member parliament, with two-third lawmakers from the protest movement.

Breaking the stalemate

Ethiopia initiated mediation to resolve the political crisis days after the deadly crackdown on the protest camp in Khartoum.

Experts believe Saudi Arabia has been playing a detrimental role in Sudan, exasperating the crisis.

A Sudanese military expert revealed that the Saudis "gave green light" for the deadly crackdown on protesters in Khartoum.

The brutal raid on the long-lasting protest camp outside Sudan’s Defense Ministry in Khartoum, which left scores of people dead, had been discussed during recent visits to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates by Sudan's military ruler General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, according to the expert who spoke on condition of anonymity to the Middle East Eye.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/06/23/599205/Sudanese-Protesters-Ethiopia-Proposal-Saudi-Arabia

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US in no place to ‘make Iran great again,’ Trump base has ‘no appetite’ for war

Jun 24, 2019

There is a “clear divide” in the Trump administration in how to deal with Iran in the wake of the downing of a US drone violating the country’s airspace while the US president’s base remains against war with the Islamic Republic, an analyst says.

“It’s becoming evident that there is a clear divide within the Trump administration, that neocons continue to manipulate the administrative function… pushing him to the brink of war,” with Iran, Rodney Martin told Press TV Sunday.

But US President Donald Trump “backs down because he knows his political base; the base who elected him… has absolutely no appetite and is absolutely against any more wars in the Middle East,” said the Arizona-based analyst.

As he hopes to be reelected in 2020 presidential election, if the US commander in chief launches a war against Iran , “that would probably be the first time that he would see a decline in his political support.”

Martin further described as “charade,” attempts by neocons to force Trump into military engagement against Iran and to continue economic terrorism in the form of sanctions,” based on false accusations that Iran is developing nuclear bombs.

Trump said Saturday that he was imposing new sanctions on Tehran to "make Iran great again."

“The United States cannot make Iran great again. Iran has been a great country for centuries before the United States was even created,” he noted. “Iran has been quite well in spite of US sanctions.”

Tehran has time and again asserted that it does not seek war with the US, yet stands ready to defend its interests in the region.

Martin also noted that Iran was “wholly correct” to shoot down an American spy drone, which ignored the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC)'s repeated warnings and intruded into the country’s airspace.

He further slammed “the false narratives and intellectual dishonesty of American administrations going back to the [Ronald] Reagan administration.”

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/06/24/599270/Trump-base-has-no-appetite-for-war-with-Iran

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Almost HALF Of Tory Members Want To 'Reduce Muslims Coming To UK', Shock Poll Shows

24 JUN 2019

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have been challenged to tackle Tory Islamophobia after a shocking poll revealed the extent of anti-Muslim sentiment in the party.

Almost half of Tory party members (40%) believe the Government should "lower the number of Muslims entering Britain," according to the survey.

The results of the YouGov poll for Hope Not Hate also show more than two thirds of those questioned (67%) believe the lie that parts of Britain operate under Sharia law.

The poll shows 45% also believe the falsehood, bolstered by Donald Trump, that there are "no go" areas for non-Muslims in the UK.

And it shows 39% believe "Islamist terrorists reflect a widespread hostility to Britain amongst the Muslim community".

The 160,000 Tory members are the sole electorate who'll decide between Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson to choose the next Prime Minister.

Matthew McGregor, Hope Not Hate’s campaigns director said: “From the grassroots to the great offices of state, Conservative members buy into racist myths, with almost half unwilling to have a Muslim Prime Minister – and only 8% being proud to have one – and most denying that there’s even an issue to confront.”

In an open letter to both candidates, Hope Not Hate have demanded they publicly acknowledge the problem and set up an independent investigation to tackle it.

The letter reads: “There appears to be a serious problem with Islamophobia in the Conservative Party. Evidence compiled by the Muslim Council of Britain and others shows a systemic issue within the party that affects it at every level – from the Cabinet, to council chambers, to the grassroots."

Urging both candidates to make a public commitment to tackling the issue, the letter reads: “This issue will not disappear on its own – it cannot be wished away. Islamophobia in the party can only be rooted out if the party leadership commits to taking concrete action to do so.”

It also calls on the party to agree to and publish a definition of Islamophobia.

Closing the letter, Hope Not Hate chief executive Nick Lowles adds: “It is time for the next leader of the Conservative Party, and this country, to show real leadership and tackle the issue of Islamophobia within your party. HOPE not hate is on hand to be a partner in this work”

The Tory party has been hit by damaging allegations of Islamophobia and has been criticised by senior Muslim Tory politicians for failing to call it out.

The chair of the Conservative Muslim Forum has pledged to rip up his 36-year-old membership of the party if Boris Johnson - who described Muslim women as "bank robbers" and "letter boxes" makes it to No 10.

But the poll shows that just 8% of Tory members think there is a problem with Islamophobia in the party - and a massive 79% don't believe there is a problem at all.

It comes after Home Secretary Sajid Javid got all his leadership rivals to endorse an inquiry into the anti-Muslim racism in the Tory party should they win the contest.

YouGov polled 864 British adults, all Conservative Party members, between June 14 and June 18.

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/almost-half-tory-members-want-16905670

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EU combats terrorism on social media but radicalism endures

23/06/2019

After the horrific New Zealand mosque shootings, the first of which was live streamed on Facebook, the European Union accelerated approval of legislation that requires internet companies to take down terrorist content within an hour of receiving notification from authorities.

By “terrorist content,” the European Union refers to material that “incites or solicits… terrorist offences, provides instructions… or solicits the participation in activities of a terrorist group” as well as content providing guidance on how to make weapons for terrorist purposes.

The text has yet to be further negotiated among lawmakers and EU members before becoming law but so much is known that companies, which systematically and persistently fail to abide by the law, may be sanctioned with up to 4% of their global turnover.

The EU initiative is controversial and has many critics. In its criticism of the legislation, European Digital Rights group argued the text of the law “looks nice” but it “runs the severe risk of undermining freedoms and fundamental rights online without any convincing proof that will achieve its objectives.”

In the same line of argument, more than 40 companies and advocacy groups drafted an open letter in February warning against “content filtering gone awry.” Among other cases, the authors pointed to the Syrian Archive, a civil society organisation preserving evidence of human rights abuses in Syria, whose videos were deleted by YouTube. While the Syrian Archive uploaded the videos to document human rights violations in Syria, technical filters, blind to the context, deleted them as dissemination of extremist materials.

The European Union’s vigilance concerning terrorism and over-vigilance of companies such as YouTube stand in stark contrast to general political radicalism, which is thriving among some of its members.

The Danish daily Berlingske Tidende released a video, produced by Rasmus Paludan, leader of the newly established Stram Kurs (“Hard Line”) party in Denmark. Posing with the Manhattan skyline in the background, Paludan argues:

“Terrorist killing of more than 2,000 people [on September 11, 2001] was perpetrated by Muslims because they [the perpetrators] were Muslims. Because they were good Muslims. Because they were abiding by the Quran and following the words of the Prophet to the letter. This is what Islam is: Killing, humiliation, rape, vandalism and debasing non-Muslims… The best thing of course, is if there is not a single Muslim left on dear [planet] earth. I hope this happens one day, at which point we will have achieved our final goal.”

Paludan’s party doubtlessly represents the fringes of Danish politics and one ought not to pay too much attention to such types but how come YouTube, which feels compelled to censor videos documenting human rights violations in Syria, does not prohibit calls for “final solution” to what the populist right perceives as Europe’s Muslim problem?

https://thearabweekly.com/eu-combats-terrorism-social-media-radicalism-endures

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Pakistan Looking To Mislead FATF With Criticism Of India?

Jun 23, 2019

NEW DELHI: While India has not yet responded officially, or even unofficially, to Pakistan’s allegation that it has politicised the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) process, the government seems to believe Islamabad's criticism is a bit rich given its own outreach to the top political leadership of various countries to prevent Pakistan from being blacklisted by the global watchdog on terror financing.

Reacting to India's statement+ on Saturday calling for verifiable and irreversible action by Pakistan against terrorism, Pakistan had accused India of politicising the FATF deliberations and expressed hope that the members would reject India's "malicious campaign".

India is hoping though that the FATF members will ensure Pakistan implements the FATF Action Plan fully within the September 2019 time limit by taking credible, verifiable, irreversible and sustainable measures to curb terror funding and terrorism emanating from territory under its control, and not use what India sees as a false ploy of politicisation of the FATF process.

India has repeatedly said in the recent past that it won't be fooled by any cosmetic action against terrorism. It has sought to further pile on the pressure on Islamabad by refusing to have any bilateral engagement with the Imran Khan-led government.

To India, Pakistan's position is meant to deflect attention and evade scrutiny of its poor compliance of global standards on AML/CFT (anti-money laundering/ combating financial terrorism) and hoodwink the global community.

The main reason why India sees Pakistan's statement as a red herring thrown into the FATF process is the campaign by its foreign minister S M Qureshi to seek support from countries like China, Malaysia, Turkey and Russia to prevent Pakistan's blacklisting.

The government seems to have closely followed recent reports in Pakistani media which show that Pakistani leadership has approached political leadership of the FATF member countries at the highest level to seek their support. This, in India's understanding, is clearly politicising the technical process of the FATF.

Qureshi was said to have visited many FATF member countries before the Orlando plenary. He also made statements about how he was using diplomacy to overcome the technical deficiencies pointed out by FATF.

These attempts to garner support for Pakistan are seen by India as politicization of the FATF process, a bogey apparently meant to evade scrutiny of its poor compliance of global standards on AML/CFT since 2010.

At its Orlando meet last week, the FATF had strongly urged Pakistan to swiftly complete its action plan by October 2019 when the last set of action plan items are set to expire. "Otherwise, the FATF will decide the next step at that time for insufficient progress," it warned, suggesting that Pakistan could face blacklisting finally.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-looking-to-mislead-fatf-with-criticism-of-india/articleshow/69918080.cms

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PEN Bangladesh urges authors to raise awareness about Rohingya repatriation

June 23rd, 2019

Marking the World Refugee Day, PEN Bangladesh urged Bangladeshi authors and poets to raise their voice about the urgent need for repatriation of the Rohingya refugees at a program at the organization’s office in Dhanmondi, Dhaka, on June 20.

The speakers requested the government to come up with alternative solutions to this trans-border issue.

PEN Bangladesh Secretary General Mohammad Moheuddin, Executive Member Shamim Reza and Acting Samakal Editor Mustafiz Shafi, among others, were present at the program.

“Is it possible to repatriate the Rohingya refugees? How long would that take? These questions are being discussed these days. I think we have to find out alternative ways to deal with this,” said Mustafiz Shafi. “I want to encourage the authors here. I want to engage those associated with PEN with this cause. Why wouldn’t we be able to put pressure on Myanmar? Why wouldn’t the United Nations Security Council be on our side?”

Only a government to government diplomacy will not suffice in this situation, he added.

“Why aren’t we highlighting the plights of the Rohingya community to other friendly Muslim nations or to the OIC?” Mustafiz Shafi stressed. 

Poet Shamim Reza said, “If we do not speak up from every possible sector, from every diplomatic quarter, this problem won’t be solved.”

“The Muslim countries can help us here. If we do not keep on bringing this issue up to the international platform, the Rohingya population will increase up to 15 lakhs within two years,” he added. 

Referring to the 84th Pen International Congress held in Pune, India, in September 2018, Secretary General Mohammad Moheuddin said, “PEN Bangladesh highlighted to representatives from all over the world the human rights violations faced by the Rohingyas. In this year’s Congress, this subject is supposed to be accepted as a resolution.”

PEN Bangladesh Vice President Ahmed Reza, Joint Secretary Lovely Bashar and former diplomat M Muzaharul Hoque, among others, also spoke at the event.

https://www.dhakatribune.com/magazine/arts-letters/2019/06/23/pen-bangladesh-urges-authors-to-raise-awareness-about-rohingya-repatriation

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Saudi Arabia’s MoSFA Says Whatever the Palestinians Accept, Everyone Else Will Accept

24 June 2019

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir said on Sunday that improving the Palestinians’ situation should be welcomed but that addressing the political process in resolving the conflict with Israel is “extremely important.”

Al-Jubeir was responding to questions from broadcaster France 24 about US proposals for economic development as part of the Middle East peace process.

“I think anything that improves the situation of the Palestinian people is something that should be welcomed. Now having said that the political process is extremely important,” he said in an interview.

“The Palestinians are the ones who have the ultimate decision in this, because it’s their issue and so whatever the Palestinians accept I believe everybody else will accept,” he added.

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs said Riyadh continued to support a political process based on an independent Palestinian state along the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/06/24/Al-Jubeir-says-whatever-the-Palestinians-accept-everyone-else-will-accept.html

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Iran says downing of US drone was a ‘firm response’, can be repeated

24 June 2019

Iran on Monday described its shooting down of a US drone in the Gulf last week as a “firm response” to the United States and warned it could be repeated.

“Everyone saw the downing of the unmanned drone,” navy commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi was quoted as saying by the Tasnim News Agency. “I can assure you that this firm response can be repeated, and the enemy knows it.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/06/24/Iran-says-downing-of-U-S-drone-was-a-firm-response-can-be-repeated.html

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India

 

Jharkhand: Muslim man beaten up on suspicion of theft, forced to chant Jai Shree Ram, succumbs to injuries

June 23, 2019

A Muslim man was attacked by a mob in Kharsawan district of Jharkhand on the suspicion of theft on June 18. He was beaten up mercilessly for over 18 hours before being handed over to the police. He succumbed to his injuries at a local hospital on June 22. The victim has been identified as 24-year-old Tabrez Ansari.

Several videos of the Jharkhand mob lynching have gone viral since the incident. In one of the videos, a man is seen hitting Tabrez Ansari with a wooden stick as the latter begs him to let him go. Another video showed Tabrez being forced to chant "Jai Shri Ram" and "Jai Hanuman".

According to the reports, Tabrez was handed over to the police on June 18 after being beaten up by the mob and was in the judicial custody since that day. He was taken to a hospital on June 22 after his condition worsened.

One of the accused, identified as Pappu Mandal, has been arrested following Tabrez Ansari's death.

Tabrez Ansari worked in Pune as a welder and a labourer and had come to his village in Jharkhand's Kharsawan district to celebrate Eid with his family. His family had also arranged his wedding during his visit.

On the night of June 18, he left his village for Jamshedpur with two men. Aurungzeb Ansari, a Jharkhand-based activist, has claimed that Tabrez was unaware where the two men were taking him. Ansari told HuffPost India that Tabrez was manipulated into going with them.

While the two men fled the scene, the mob caught Tabrez and started beating him up. "Ghar mein ghusega [You will enter the house?]," one of the men is heard asking Tabrez.

Tabrez is, however, heard denying the charges and saying that the two other men did and he was asked to wait near the motorcycle. "I did not know anything," he said. Towards the end of one of the videos, one of the men asks him to chant "Jai Shri Ram" and "Jai Hanuman".

An FIR has been filed in the Jharkhand lynching case and the search for the other accused is on.

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/jharkhand-muslim-man-lynching-jai-shree-ram-jai-hanuman-1554634-2019-06-23

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Pakistan High Commission diplomats, pilgrims visit Hazrat Amir Khusro shrine in Nizamuddin

Jun 23, 2019

NEW DELHI: Pakistani pilgrims, accompanied by Pakistan High Commission diplomats, visited the shrine of Hazrat Amir Khusro here and offered the traditional 'chadar' on behalf of the government and people of that country.

A group of 100 'Pakistani zaireen' is visiting New Delhi to participate in the 715th Urs of Hazrat Amir Khusro, a Paksitan High Commission statement said.

The High Commission's diplomats and the group of Pakistani pilgrims were greeted at the Dargah by 'Sajjadah Nasheen' Dewan Syed Tahir Nizami.

Dewan Moosa Nizami and other members of the Dargah Committee were also present on the occasion, the statement said.

The group also paid their respects at the Dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia, located in the same compound.

The Urs of Hazrat Amir Khusro, a spiritual disciple of Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia, is attended every year by devotees from across the world, including Pakistan.

The visit of Pakistani pilgrims takes place within the framework of the 1974 Pakistan-India Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/pakistan-high-commission-diplomats-pilgrims-visit-hazrat-amir-khusro-shrine-in-nizamuddin/articleshow/69916907.cms

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If talks are initiated, there will be positive response: Hurriyat responds to J&K Guv

by Naveed Iqbal

June 24, 2019

A day after Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik said that Hurriyat leaders were ready for talks with New Delhi, Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said Sunday that if “meaningful” talks are initiated, “there will be a positive response”.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Mirwaiz said that they have always been ready for a meaningful dialogue to resolve the Kashmir issue. “We are convinced that a way out can only be achieved through talking,” he said.

“I can tell you that if meaningful talks are initiated, there will be a positive response. Dialogue is the only way and that is our consistent stand,” he said. “Hurriyat has always been in favour of talks as the means of resolution. We have not said anything new. We have always been saying this. As the most affected party with daily killings of our young, we would naturally want peaceful resolution of the issue.”

He said, “From the time when all parties came together under one umbrella to form Hurriyat, (we) have maintained and reiterated that engagement and dialogue among stakeholders is the best and most peaceful means of resolution of the Kashmir issue and not (use of) force”.

Mirwaiz also said that the “Hurriyat has engaged with both India and Pakistan in the past” and “are always ready to engage”.

His remarks came after Governor Malik, in the presence of Union Minister for Information & Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar and Minister of State in the PMO Jitendra Singh, said at an event in Srinagar Saturday that separatist Hurriyat leaders were ready for talks.

Former Chief Minister and National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah told The Indian Express that they would welcome any initiative to break the deadlock. “The JKNC has been consistently and constantly advocating for a dialogue between the Centre and the various stakeholders in the state. We hope that the solid mandate PM Modi received will encourage him to look at treating J&K differently this time as compared to his first term.”

Stating that the iron fist in the iron glove has only served to further alienation, Abdullah said, “This policy needs to be balanced out with a willingness to engage with those who are willing to talk rather than use violence to address the issue. Though we have seen Governor Malik’s statement and Mirwaiz’s advocacy of dialogue, we’ve seen no indication from the Centre to suggest a change in approach and that is what we will be looking for in the days ahead.”

The PDP, too, supported the move. PDP leader and former member of the Mehbooba Mufti Cabinet, Naeem Akhtar said: “We have always been for dialogue, but it has to be purposeful. An opportunity was lost in 2016 but this is the only way forward, talking to all stakeholders, while J&K’s identity is preserved with regard to special status.”

He also said that with sincerity and Modi’s renewed mandate, “nothing is impossible and the PM can solve this problem once for all. The Constitution of India has enough room to provide not just what is promised but guaranteed”.

Jammu and Kashmir People’s Movement president and former bureaucrat Shah Faesal said that this is “very healthy development” and expressed the hope that since the elections are now over, missing conversations can be picked up again.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/jammu-kashmir-hurriyat-mirwaiz-umar-farooq-governor-satya-pal-malik-5796275/

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Four militants linked to al-Qaeda affiliate killed in J&K gunfight

by Adil Akhzer

June 24, 2019

Four militants affiliated to the Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind (AGH) were killed Sunday in a gunfight with security forces in South Kashmir’s Shopian district. The AGH claims to be an affiliate of al-Qaeda.

According to the Jammu and Kashmir Police, the encounter broke out at the Panzar area of Shopian in the morning after security forces launched a cordon and search operation following reports that militants were present in the area.

“During searches, terrorists fired upon the search party. The fire was retaliated leading to an encounter,” said police. In a statement, Colonel Rajesh Kalia, Srinagar-based defence spokesperson, said: “Total four terrorists eliminated… weapons recovered.”

The militants killed in the encounter were identified as Rafi Hassan Mir of Kralchak, Shopian; Suhail Ahmad Bhat of Batmuran, Shopian; Showkat Ahmad Mir of Rajpora in Pulwama; and, Azad Ahmad Khanday of Bamnoo, Pulwama.

Police sources said that the operation took place in an orchard and the gunfight began at around 6 am. “…no collateral damage happened during the encounter,” said police.

In a statement, police said that among the four killed militants, Showkat had a “long history of terror crime records since 2015”. “He was initially part of the proscribed terror outfit HM (Hizbul Mujahideen),” police said, adding that several cases were registered against him.

According to police, Showkat Mir was also instrumental in recruiting “Azad Ahmad, Rafi Hassan and Suhail Ahmad who had recently joined the terrorist fold”. Recently, pictures of Suhail and Rafi holding weapons surfaced on social media in the Valley, which also mentioned that the duo had joined the AGH outfit.

A senior police officer in South Kashmir told The Indian Express that they believe Showkat had shifted to the AGH recently. Last month, Zakir Rashid Bhat, alias Zakir Musa, considered the head of the AGH, was killed in a gunbattle in Pulwama district.

Though AGH’s presence has diminished after Musa’s death, the outfit is trying to attract more young men, said police. “There is a very minimal presence of AGH on the ground. Recently, we saw Suhail and Rafi announcing that they joined Ansar, which is an indication that AGH is trying to recruit more men,” said a police officer.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/shopian-encounter-jammu-kashmir-police-militants-agh-al-qaeda-5796297/

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Centre may amend laws to allow NIA probe Indian interests abroad

June 23, 2019

The government is planning to amend two laws to give more power to the National Investigative Agency (NIA) to probe terrorist acts against Indians and Indian interests abroad, PTI reported.

On Monday, the Union Cabinet will take a decision on amending the two acts — NIA Act and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The amendment would include the power to probe cases of human trafficking and cybercrimes, according to sources.

The Union Home Ministry has been considering amending the two laws since 2017 to give more power to NIA to meet fresh challenges. The amendment bill could be introduced in the Parliament this week during the ongoing Monsoon session.

“The draft bills have been under discussion for the last two years. After deliberations with all the stakeholders, which includes central ministries and state governments, the MHA plans to seek approval from the Union Cabinet before introducing in the upcoming session of Parliament,” a top MHA official had told The Indian Express last year.

An amendment to Schedule 4 of UAPA will allow the probe agency to designate a suspected individual as a terrorist. Currently, only organisations can be declared as ‘terrorist organisations’.

This decision was taken following the reports of youths joining the Islamic State. There are 39 groups in the list of banned terrorist organisations under Section 35 of the UAPA.

The NIA was set up in 2009 in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attack that had claimed the lives of as many as 166 people. The NIA Act empowers the agency to investigate offences under eight special laws, including the UAPA.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/cabinet-to-consider-bill-to-give-more-teeth-to-nia-5796007/

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4 ultras of Qaida-inspired group killed in Shopian

Jun 24, 2019

SRINAGAR: Four terrorists belonging to Ansar Gazwatul Hind, an offshoot of al-Qaida, were killed in an encounter with security forces at Daramdora in Shopian district of south Kashmir on Sunday. According to a police spokesperson, security forces launched a cordon and-search operation in Daramdora following information about the presence of terrorists there.

As the forces were conducting searches, the hiding terrorists fired upon them. The fire was retaliated, leading to the killings. The slain terrorists have been identified as Rafi Hassan Mir, Suhail Ahmad Bhat, Showkat Ahmad Mir and Azad Ahmad Khanday, the spokesperson said. While Showkat had joined militant ranks in 2015, the other three were recently roped in.

“Showkat was instrumental in recruiting Azad, Rafi and Suhail. He was initially associated with Hizbul Mujahideen,” he said. The slain terrorists had of late joined Ansar Gazwatul Hind according to police sources.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/4-ultras-of-qaida-inspired-group-killed-in-shopian/articleshow/69920001.cms

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Southeast Asia

 

Hadi: If Taiwan, China accept Adam Smith, why can’t Malaysians support Islamic rule?

23 June 2019

BY JERRY CHOONG

KUANTAN, June 23 — PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang questioned today why some Malaysians opposed Islamic rule when some Eastern countries accepted Western ideas.

“Look at Taiwan and China now. Adam Smith was not Chinese, yet his ideals are easily accepted there.

“Whereas when we as Muslims practise prosperous and mature politics, some disagree with it,” Hadi said in his closing speech at PAS’ 65th Muktamar (annual congress), referring to the 18th century Scottish economist whose free-market ideas formed the basis of modern capitalism.

He also exhorted PAS members to continue their struggle in Islam so that knowledge from the faith remains preserved.

He reminded delegates that PAS, formed by Ulema and Islamic teachers, had many members who lived and died for the sake of Islam.

“We must understand God’s demands of us, so that we become the best ‘ummah’, which follows the rules laid down in the Quran,” Hadi said at the Pahang Sports Complex’s Indoor Stadium, using the Arabic term for community.

Hadi recalled that when the party was formed in 1954, its members had to face a society whose Muslims were then still ignorant of their duties.

“We must introduce (the concept of) peace in politics, the concept of uniting the ummah as laid down by the Prophet.

“Therefore I call upon you to hold firmly onto the principles of loyalty to the ‘ja’maah’ (congregation),” he said.

Hadi also touched upon the rights of the Malays and Bumiputera, pointing out that the system is in place since they form the country’s biggest majority.

“When the British conquerors came in, they changed much. They put the Chinese in the towns while they kept us in the villages and coastal areas.

“Economics as we all know is concentrated in the cities. So we lost out to the Chinese with regards to that, hence the need for the rights,” he said.

Yet Hadi sternly warned PAS members that the need for Malay-Bumiputera rights was an unacceptable reason to oppress the non-Muslims.

“It is forbidden to treat them unjustly, for it will not show them the beauty and justice of Islam and the honour of our struggle,” he said.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/06/23/hadi-if-taiwan-china-accept-adam-smith-why-cant-malaysians-support-islamic/1764811

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Aceh Ulema Demand Indonesia Ban Online Battle Game PUBG

June 23, 2019

After slapping a fatwa on PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) in Aceh, a province that upholds the sharia, the Aceh Ulema Council (MPU) has called on the central government to ban the popular but violent online game nationwide. Claiming it could trigger aggressive behavior and addiction, MPU chairman Muslim Ibrahim said the council hoped that the central government would block all websites and online games that contain violence or pornography, as well as to watch out for providers of such games. “We have completed a deep review using [Islamic jurisprudence] and technology and conducted psychological observation. All [MPU members] agree that the game can lead to crime, psychological and moral crisis and create public disruption. So, we declare the game haram,” Muslim said. PUBG is a battle royale competition that resembles the Hunger G...

https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2019/06/23/aceh-Ulema-demand-indonesia-ban-online-battle-game-pubg.html

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The face of Indonesia's moderate Islam nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize

06/22/2019

Jakarta (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Indonesia's greatest scholars support the candidacy of Nahdlatul Ulema (Nu) and Muhammadiyah - the two major moderate Islamic organizations in Indonesia - for the Nobel Peace Prize, stating that the two groups play a key role in the  promotion of religious tolerance.

The well-known Catholic philosopher and priest Fr.  Franz Magnis-Suseno (photo 2) acknowledges that the two institutions have helped shape the face of Indonesian Islam.  "This is completely different from what extremists are trying to portray," he says.  Two days ago, Fr.  Magnis-Suseno was among the participants in the conference "Challenging Islamic Extremism in Indonesia" .  The event took place in Oslo (Norway) and was organized by the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia and the Peace Research Institute (Prio), an institution based in the Norwegian capital.

The priest adds that both groups, established before independence, had a fundamental role in the construction of the nation.  "It is thanks to them that Indonesian Islam has remained moderate;  that Indonesians enjoy internal peace;  that Indonesia is an important stabilizing factor in Southeast Asia and the world, "he says.

Participants in the Oslo seminar included dozens of academics, ambassadors, government officials, representatives of Norwegian civil organizations, as well as the chairman of the executive committee of Nu, Marsudi Syuhud, and general secretary Muhammadiyah, Abdul Mu'ti.  The event was facilitated by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (Csis) of Jakarta and by the Wahid Institute.

Full report at:

http://www.asianews.it/news-en/The-face-of-Indonesias-moderate-Islam-nominated-for-the-Nobel-Peace-Prize-47356.html

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Rights group: Why is UKM involved in Kelantan Orang Asli’s religious conversion?

23 June 2019

BY KENNETH TEE

KUALA LUMPUR, June 23 — A human rights group today questioned a public university’s involvement in the Kelantan government’s proselytisation mission to convert the Orang Asli to Islam.

Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham) secretary Ivy Josiah and chairman Datuk Kuthubul Zaman Bukhari said it was alarming to note that an academic institution such as Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) was joining hands to convert the Orang Asli Community to Islam and asked whether it was officially sanctioned.

“Surely religious conversion programmes are not the mandate of academic institutions?

“It is sad that these institutions are dismissive of the religious and spiritual beliefs and practices of the Orang Asli that define their very identity,” they said in a joint statement here.

In a news report by Utusan Malaysia earlier this week, the Kelantan Islamic Religious and Malay Customs Council (Maik) had announced an ambitious plan to convert all the Orang Asli within its state borders to Islam by 2049.

The Malay daily cited Maik deputy chairman Nik Mohd Azlan Abd Hadi as saying the council has over 100 preachers, including personnel from the federal Islamic Development Department of Malaysia (Jakim), and is working with UKM on the proselytisation mission.

Nik Mohd Azlan also reportedly said that through the collaboration with UKM, Maik has developed a preaching plan based on three main modules — the first which involves preparing a database with profiles of Orang Asli members who have converted to Islam and those who have not.

Proham said the fundamental right to religious freedom is guaranteed in the Federal Constitution under Article 11, which allows any persons to practise and profess their faiths freely.

“We condemn any attempt by preachers who exploit the vulnerable Orang Asli community to lure them into religious conversions,” they said.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/06/23/why-is-ukm-involved-in-kelantan-orang-aslis-religious-conversion-rights-gro/1764803

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Indonesia urges Myanmar to ensure security in Rakhine

June 24, 2019

Myanmar’s government should show its commitment to the security of conflict-torn western Myanmar to ensure that hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims would return voluntarily, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said at the 34th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok. In the ASEAN retreat meeting with all 10 leaders, Jokowi said the security of Rakhine state was key to a successful repatriation. “We are all concerned about the security situation in Rakhine state, which has not shown improvement,” Jokowi said as quoted from a statement from his office on Sunday. The region has attracted international attention since 2017 when Myanmar’s military cracked down on the minority Muslim Rohingya, driving about 730,000 of them to cross into Bangladesh. Meanwhile, since earlier this year, civilians have been caught up in clashes between the military and the Arakan A...

https://www.thejakartapost.com/seasia/2019/06/24/indonesia-urges-myanmar-to-ensure-security-in-rakhine.html

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Africa

 

Ethiopia mosque ban: 'Our sacred city of Aksum must be protected'

June 24, 2019

For Ethiopia's Orthodox Christians, the ancient city of Aksum is a sacred place, home to the Biblical Queen of Sheba and Ark of the Covenant.

The ark is believed to contain the 10 commandments handed down to Moses by God, and is said to be under the guard of monks in the city.

Some Muslim groups are campaigning to build a mosque in the city - a suggestion rejected by Christian leaders, saying they would rather die.

"Aksum is our Mecca," declares senior cleric Godefa Merha, who believes that just as churches are banned in Islam's holiest site, mosques cannot exist in Aksum.

"Aksum is a holy place. This city is a monastery," says Mr Godefa, the deputy head of Askum's Our Lady Mary of Zion Church.

This long-held position of Orthodox Christians is now at the centre of controversy as some Muslims are rallying under the banner "Justice for Aksum Muslims" to demand the right to build a mosque in the city, and to give their call to prayer - "Allah is the greatest" - on loudspeakers.

Many people see the controversy as unfortunate because the Kingdom of Aksum, one of the world's greatest ancient civilisations, was once famed for its religious tolerance.

According to followers of both religions, Muslims first arrived in the kingdom soon after the advent of Islam in around 600AD as migrants fleeing persecution at the hands of Mecca's then non-Muslim rulers.

The Christian king welcomed them with open arms, and gave Islam its first presence outside the Arabian Peninsula.

Today, Muslims make up about 10% of Aksum's population of around 73,000 inhabitants - with 85% of them being Orthodox Christians and the remaining 5% belonging to other Christian denominations.

'Muslims forced to pray outside'

Muslim resident Abdu Mohammed Ali, who is in his 40s, said his family has for generations rented Christian-owned homes to provide Muslims with places of worship.

"We have 13 temporary mosques. On Friday, if they [some Christians] hear us using loudspeakers, they say we are denigrating St Mary," he complains.

Aziz Mohammed, a traditional doctor who has lived in Aksum for 20 years, says some Muslims are forced to pray in the open because of the absence of mosques.

"Here, we, Muslim and Christian, live together. The Christians do not prohibit us from praying but for many years, many of us have been praying in the street. We need a mosque," he says.

The subject is clearly causing some tension between the communities. Mr Abdu was reluctant to talk to me, an Orthodox Christian, and only did so after much persuasion and checking my identity, while Mr Aziz, who was born to a Christian mother and Muslim father, refused to be drawn further on the subject, simply said: "Here you live fearing each other."

'We need to live in peace'

Similar differences surfaced in Aksum about 50 years ago when Emperor Haile Selassie was in power in Ethiopia.

The city's then-leader, a member of the royal family, struck a compromise which saw Muslims build a mosque some 15km (9.3 miles) away in the town of Wukiro-Maray.

During a visit to the town, which also has a majority Christian population, I met Keriya Mesud who was cooking for Muslim worshippers while they were praying.

Pointing out that five mosques now exist in Wukiro-Maray, Ms Keriya said: "Though we need a mosque in Aksum, we can't force them. What we need is to live in peace."

Became rich and powerful through control of Red Sea trade, lasting from around the 1st to the 8th centuries AD.

Fremnatos - known as Frumentius in Europe - introduced Christianity, which was adopted as its official religion in 333AD

According to local legend, the Queen of Sheba travelled from Aksum to Jerusalem to visit King Solomon

Their son, Menelik I, is said to have brought back the Ark of the Covenant from Jerusalem after going to visit his father

No-one is allowed to see the Ark in the Our Lady Mary of Zion Church

Orthodox Christian churches must have a tabot, which is a replica of the Ark, to be recognised as a place of worship

The ruins of the ancient city of Aksum are a UN World Heritage Site

Mr Godefa says the two communities do live in peace, adding that the people of the two Abrahamic faiths have much in common.

His best friend is a Muslim, he says, and they come together for weddings, funerals and other events.

'Only Christian hymns'

He believes that Muslims from other parts of Ethiopia are behind the campaign to build a mosque.

But he vows that Orthodox Christians will never break the oath given to their fathers and grandfathers to preserve the "sanctity" of Aksum.

"If anyone comes to build a mosque, we will die. It has never been allowed, and we will not allow it to happen in our age. For us it's death. We must live respecting each other the way we have been living for centuries."

In particular, Orthodox Christians believe only Christian hymns and blessings should be heard within the city, which they say was built about 7,500 years ago, because of the Ark of the Covenant.

Christian preacher Amsale Sibuh explains: "Religions that do not accept Christ's birth, baptism, crucifixion, death and his second coming cannot exist in a place where there is the Ark of the Covenant. If anybody does anything against this, we will pay with our life."

Officials in the city administration declined to comment, except to say that followers of the two faiths are living together peacefully.

Many are hoping that like Emperor Haile Selassie's government, the current one - led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, whose father was Muslim and mother is Christian - will broker a deal to maintain Aksum's reputation as a haven of peace.

For their part, Muslims seem determined to press ahead with their demand.

A body made up of influential Muslim clerics in the area - the Regional Council of Muslims - said it intended to hold discussions with Christians in an attempt to persuade them to allow a mosque in Aksum.

"The Muslim and Christian communities must agree on this and we need to see the Christians also helping in building that mosque," says council official Mahammad Kahsay.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-48634427

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Jordanian government censured for possible participation in Bahrain confab

Jun 23, 2019

The Islamic Action Front in Jordan has strongly denounced the Amman government for its decision to participate in an upcoming US-sponsored summit in Bahrain where Washington is set to unveil the economic dimensions of its self-touted “deal” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Front, which is the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, in a statement on Tuesday called on the Jordanian government to reverse its decision to participate in the conference and side with the Palestinian people.

The conference is slated to be held on June 25 and 26.

The Islamic Action Front also said that the Jordanian government’s decision to attend the summit could confer legitimacy on the conspiracy being hatched against Jordan and Palestine.

This came after thousands of Jordanians took to the streets in the Jordanian capital, Amman, in protest at the US’s controversial plan on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which US President Donald Trump has bombastically called “deal of the century.”

The plan, formulated by Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, will reportedly deny Palestinians any right to a sovereign Palestinian state.

Jordanian officials have expressed concern that Saudi Arabia may be seeking to compromise the special status of Jordan as the custodian of the Haram al-Sharif in East Jerusalem al-Quds and surrender the Palestinian right of return in order to see the deal go through.

All Palestinian factions have boycotted the event, slamming Washington for what they view as an attempt to offer financial rewards for the Palestinians to accept the Israeli occupation.

The Palestinians have also rejected the so-called deal.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/06/23/599253/Jordan-Islamic-party-Bahrain-conference

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Somali army recaptures ‘strategic’ southern town from Al-Shabaab

June 23, 2019

The Somali National Army (SNA) has recaptured the strategic town of El-Salin, which is about 20 kilometres away from Marka, the capital of lower Shabelle region in southern Somalia, from the the Al-Qaeda linked Al-Shabaab militant group, government officials said on Sunday, 23rd June.

The commander of the US-trained forces known as Danab in the region, Abdurahman Janaqar, has confirmed that his troops captured El-Salin in a successful, a key Al-Shabaab stronghold town in the region, on Sunday.

“The Somali army is fighting to liberate Al-Shabaab-held towns in the country. Now they captured El-Salin village which was pivotal for Al-Shabaab militants in lower Shabelle region in the past,” he added.

Meanwhile, the governor of Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region, Ibrahim Adan Ali, also known as Najah, has thanked the troops who pushed Al-Shabaab fighters out of the town on Sunday for the successful operation.

“I thank our troops who flushed out Al-Shabaab militants from this town which is very important for us”,he said.

El-Salin town is located in Lower Shabelle region of Somalia and links the towns of Gandarshe and Dhanane in the agricultural-rich province.

Al-Shabaab militants have not yet commented over the claim by SNA commanders on the town’s capture and the ongoing military operations in the Lower Shabelle region.

Full report at:

https://www.somaliaffairs.com/news/somali-army-recaptures-strategic-southern-town-from-al-shabaab/

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11 Chadian soldiers killed in Boko Haram attack: authorities

June 24, 2019

At least 11 Chadian soldiers were killed in an attack blamed on Boko Haram jihadists at Lake Chad, the latest in a surge of attacks in the region, authorities said on Sunday.

"The Chadian army lost 11 men including three officers... and six soldiers were wounded," the regional authority told AFP.

It added that Chadian forces killed "26 Boko Haram members" in fighting at Tchoukoutalia after the soldiers recovered cattle that the militants had seized.

Boko Haram militants have been waging a decade-long insurgency in northwest Nigeria, but the conflict has spilled into the Lake Chad region where Nigeria borders Niger, Chad and Cameroon. 'Security sources earlier said seven Chadian soldiers and a guard were killed in the ambush that happened on Friday in Mbomouga in Chad's Ngouboua area. 'Since 2018, Boko Haram has carried out at least nine attacks on Chad. But the jihadist group has stepped up attacks outside Nigeria after a period of calm last year.

Last month, militants killed four people in an attack on a Cameroonian island on Lake Chad and Boko Haram killed another 13 villagers in eastern Chad.

Full report at:

https://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/11-chadian-soldiers-killed-in-boko-haram-attack-authorities-119062400045_1.html

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North America

 

Bolton warns Iran to not mistake US ‘prudence’ for ‘weakness’

23 June 2019

US National Security Advisor John Bolton warned Tehran on Sunday of misinterpreting as “weakness” President Donald Trump’s last-minute cancellation of a retaliatory strike on Iran.

“Neither Iran nor any other hostile actor should mistake US prudence and discretion for weakness,” said Bolton ahead of a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

“No one has granted them a hunting license in the Middle East,” he added.

“Our military is rebuilt new and ready to go,” said Bolton, after Trump called off a planned attack on Iran in response to Tehran downing a US drone on Thursday.

Bolton, who was in Israel for a pre-scheduled trilateral meeting with his Israeli and Russian counterparts, Meir Ben-Shabbat and Nikolai Patrushev, noted that the “current circumstances in the region make our conversations even more timely.”

In a Saturday tweet, Trump had pledged to hit Iran with “major” new sanctions on Monday.

Washington has imposed a series of measures against Tehran since Trump pulled out of a landmark nuclear accord between Iran and world powers last year.

“We expect that the new sanctions president Trump referred to in preparation for some weeks will be announced publicly on Monday. Stay tuned,” Bolton said in Jerusalem.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/06/23/Bolton-warns-Iran-to-not-mistake-US-prudence-for-weakness-.html

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Pompeo visiting Saudi, Emirates to seek ‘global coalition’ against Iran

Jun 23, 2019

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he is visiting Saudi Arabia and UAE after Iran shot down a US drone violating its airspace, stating that he is seeking a “global coalition” against Tehran.

"I'm heading out today. Our first stops will be in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two great allies in the challenge that Iran presents and will be talking with them about how to make sure that we are all strategically aligned and how we can go about a global coalition," he told reporters Sunday.

Tehran has time and again asserted that it does not seek war with the US, yet stands ready to defend its interests in the region.

Pompeo further asserted before boarding his plane that the US is ready to for negotiations with Iran “with no preconditions.

Despite repeating threats and baseless accusations against Tehran, Washington has also been calling for negotiations.

In an interview with NBC aired Sunday, US President Donald Trump also made the same comment.

“I'm not looking for war and if there is, it'll be obliteration like you've never seen before. But I'm not looking to do that. But you can't have a nuclear weapon,” Trump said.

The latest comments came just over a week after Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei in Iran, publicly revealing that he carried a message from Trump for renewed talks between Washington and Tehran.

The Iranian Leader, however, snubbed the offer insisting that he considers Trump “unworthy of exchanging messages with,” and adding: “I do not have and will not have any response for him.”

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/06/23/599263/Pompeo-visiting-Saudi-Emirates-seeking-global-coalition-against-Iran

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Trump rejects UN request for FBI probe into Khashoggi's murder to save weapons sales

Jun 23, 2019

US President Donald Trump has rejected a United Nations (UN) request for the FBI to investigate the brutal murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi, expressing concern that the move would affect America's trade with the kingdom.

Trump shrugged off the Washington Post columnist’s gruesome murder in an interview with NBC on Sunday, just days after an inquiry by the UN recommended further investigation into Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s connection to the killing.

The UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings said the US should open an FBI inquiry and “pursue criminal prosecutions within the United States, as appropriate.”

Trump said the murder had already been “heavily investigated,” and that Saudi Arabia was an important trading partner with the United States.

“I only say they spend $400 to $450 billion over a period of time, all money, all jobs, buying equipment,” the president told NBC.

“I’m not like a fool that says, ‘We don’t want to do business with them.’ And by the way, if they don’t do business with us, you know what they do? They’ll do business with the Russians or with the Chinese.”

Khashoggi — a vocal critic of bin Salman— was killed and his body was dismembered by a Saudi hit squad after being lured into the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2, 2018.

His fate was unknown for several weeks, until Saudi Arabia confirmed under rising international pressure that he had been murdered at the diplomatic mission.

Riyadh, however, has attempted to shift the blame to bin Salman’s underlings and away from the prince himself. It has not produced Khashoggi’s body to this day.

The Trump administration has sided with the Saudi regime in the scandal, despite a conclusion by the CIA that Prince Mohammed personally ordered the murder.

Trump said last November that the US supports the Saudi regime amid the Khashoggi scandal because any damage to bilateral ties could affect American interests in the Middle East.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/06/23/599258/US-Donald-Trump-UN-request-Jamal-Khashoggi

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Europe

 

‘Jihadi Jack’ claims he has ‘no intention of blowing up British people’ if he returns to UK

June 24, 2019

The British terror suspect known as “Jihadi Jack” has said he has “no intention of blowing up British people” if he returns to the UK after his parents were found guilty of funding terrorism on Friday.

Jack Letts said he was desperate to be reunited with his parents, who he has not seen since he travelled to Syria in 2014 to join Isis, and insisted that Britons are “my people”.

Mr Letts’ parents were convicted at the Old Bailey of sending him money while he was in Syria, despite repeated warnings that their son had joined Islamic State.

The Muslim convert, who left the UK as a teenager, told Sky News: “I feel guilty for what I’ve put them through.”

Mr Letts is currently being held by Kurdish authorities in a prison in northern Syria over the accusation that he was a member of Islamic State.

His mother, Sally Lane, has said her life is “in ruins” after she and her husband, John Letts, were given suspended sentences for funding terrorism earlier this month.

The Old Bailey heard how the couple sent – or tried to send – a total of £1,723 to their son despite being warned by police not to.

They were found guilty of one terror funding charge relating to September 2015, but cleared of a similar offence from December 2015.

A third charge relating to an attempt to send money in January 2016 was ordered to lie on file after jurors could not agree.

In a statement following their trial, the parents said they did “what any parent would do if they thought that their child’s life was in danger”.

Jack Letts has said the conviction did make sense to him.

"It's two 60-year-old atheists being convicted for Islamic terrorism, it doesn't really make much sense,” he added.

He claimed his parents had sent him money so he could leave Syria and he had used some of it to buy “glasses and maybe falafel”.

Mr Letts had admitted he was once prepared to carry out a suicide attack and realised he had been “an enemy of Britain”.

"I used to want to at one point, believe it or not. Not a vest. I wanted to do it in a car. I said if there's a chance, I will do it,” he told the BBC.

He added that he had made “a big mistake” and did not expect members of the British public to forgive him.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/jihadi-jack-interview-islamic-state-isis-syria-terrorism-a8971276.html

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Gezi protests: Turkey begins controversial trial of 16 civil society leaders

June 24, 2019

A group of leading Turkish businessmen, academics and artists will go on trial Monday, accused of seeking to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the mass "Gezi Park" protests of 2013.

All 16 face life imprisonment if convicted in a case dismissed as a witch-hunt by rights activists, who say there is not "a shred of evidence" against the suspects.

The group includes prominent businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala, whose detention since November 2017 has made him a symbol of what critics say is a crackdown on civil society.

Kavala is accused of orchestrating and financing the protests, which began over government plans to build over Gezi Park, one of the few green spaces left in Istanbul.

The protests snowballed into a nationwide movement that marked the first serious challenge to Mr Erdogan's brand of Islamic conservatism and grandiose development projects.

The 657-page indictment seeks to paint the protests as a foreign-directed conspiracy with links to the Arab Spring, which, ironically, the Turkish government supported.

"None of these actions were coincidental … they were supported from the outside as an operation to bring the Turkish Republic to its knees," the indictment said.

Amnesty International's Andrew Gardner said the trial "speaks volumes about the deeply flawed judiciary that has allowed this political witch-hunt to take place.

"(The indictment) does not contain a single shred of evidence that they were in any way involved in criminal activity, let alone conspiring to overthrow the government.

"Instead it is absurdly attempting to portray routine civil society activities as crimes," he said.

Among the allegations is the claim that a map on Mr Kavala's phone showing bee species actually depicted his plans to redraw Turkey's borders.

'Political sham'

Monday's hearing takes place at a high-security prison and court complex in Silivri on the outskirts of Istanbul.

Among those on trial are experts in urban planning and architecture.

Six are being tried in absentia after fleeing the country, including Turkish actor Memet Ali Alabora and dissident journalist Can Dundar.

The case against Alabora focuses on his appearance in a play featuring a revolt against the ruler of a fictional country.

But Mr Erdogan has particularly focused on Mr Kavala, accusing the businessman of "financing the terrorists" during the protests.

He has linked the suspects to US billionaire George Soros, whose efforts to promote democracy around the world have made him a target for several authoritarian leaders.

Last year, Mr Erdogan said Mr Kavala was the representative in Turkey of the "famous Hungarian Jew Soros" whom he accused of trying to "divide and tear up nations".

Soros's Open Society Foundation, which ceased activities in Turkey last year, called Monday's trial a "political sham".

"The charges in this case follow a political script that seeks to silence all critical voices in Turkey," said Patrick Gaspard, the foundation's president, in a statement.

"That they are now on trial, facing possible life sentences, is a tragedy."

A respected figure in intellectual circles, Mr Kavala is chairman of the Anatolian Culture Foundation, which seeks to bridge ethnic and regional divides through art, including with neighbouring Armenia, with which Turkey has no diplomatic ties.

Some of the suspects were already tried and acquitted for their role in the Gezi Park protests in 2015.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/gezi-protests-turkey-begins-controversial-trial-of-16-civil-society-leaders-1.878250

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Pakistan

 

MoU signed on money laundering, terror financing

JUNE 23, 2019

Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani arrived in Islamabad on Saturday on a two-day official visit to Pakistan. He is accompanied by a high-powered delegation comprising key ministers and senior officials.

Al Thani was received by Prime Minister Imran Khan on his arrival at Nur Khan Airbase, where he was given a 21-gun salute. This was followed by a formal welcoming ceremony at the Prime Minister’s House, where the visiting dignitary was given a tri-services guard of honour. He also witnessed fly-past of JF-17 Thunder. The visiting dignitary also planted a tree at the Prime Minister’s House.

Prime Minister Imran Khan and Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani held one-on-one meeting, followed by delegation-level talks. The talks were marked by exceptional warmth and cordiality. All aspects of bilateral relations came under review. The two leaders reaffirmed the closeness of Pakistan-Qatar fraternal ties and reiterated the resolve to forge a robust political and economic partnership.

Among other things, it was agreed to take steps to significantly increase bilateral trade; expand collaboration in the agriculture and food sectors; enhance cooperation in the energy sector including in the LNG and LPG fields and exploration and production of oil and gas; promote Qatar’s investments in energy, tourism and hospitality industries; increase the number of Pakistani workers employed in Qatar; expand cooperation in the fields of aviation, maritime affairs, higher education, and defence and defence production. It was decided that the respective ministers would hold further follow-up talks on the areas to give concrete shape to the proposals agreed between the leaders.

The two sides also exchanged views on the regional situation and efforts to facilitate the Afghan peace process.

During the talks, the prime minister was accompanied by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Energy Minister Omar Ayub, Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan, Maritime Affairs Minister Ali Zaidi, Special Assistant to the PM on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, SAPM on Overseas Pakistani Zulfiqar Bukhari, Finance Advisor Abdul Hafeez Sheikh and Commerce Advisor Abdul Razzak Dawood.

Following the official talks, Pakistan and Qatar signed the following MoUs:

* Memorandum of Understanding on the Establishment of Pakistan and Qatar Joint Working Group (JWG) on Trade and Investment;

* Memorandum of Understanding for Cooperation in the fields of Tourism and Business Events between Government of State of Qatar and Government of Islamic Republic of Pakistan; and

* Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in the field of Exchange of Financial Intelligence related to Money Laundering, Associated Predicate Offences and Terrorism Financing between Financial Information Unit of State of Qatar and the Financial Monitoring Unit, in the Government of Pakistan.

Prime Minister Imran Khan hosted a banquet dinner in honour of the Qatari emir and his entourage. In a special gesture, Al Thani presented the Qatar National football team jersey to Prime Minister Imran Khan and received a cricket bat signed by him.

The distinguished guest will have a meeting with the President Arif Alvi on Sunday (today). The visit will further cement the close brotherly relations between Pakistan and Qatar and give a significant boost to bilateral cooperation in diverse fields.

Earlier, upon his arrival at the Nur Khan airbase, Amir of Qatar was warmly received by Prime Minister Imran Khan. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Special Assistant to PM Syed Zulfikar Abbas Bukhari and other high officials were also present there to welcome the foreign dignitary. Children clad in traditional attire presented bouquet to the visiting dignitary.

Later, the PM himself drove Amir of Qatar to the Prime Minister House where an official welcome ceremony was held.

National anthems of the two countries were played and a smartly turned out contingent of the armed forces of Pakistan presented a guard of honour. Amir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani reviewed the guard of honour.

The prime minister introduced him to the federal cabinet members and also welcomed the delegation accompanying the Amir of Qatar.

Intelligence-based operations were launched in the capital as part of security measures ahead of the arrival of the Qatari emir. The operations were conducted jointly by the teams of armed forces, the Counter Terrorism Force of Capital and the capital police. Besides, the special branch of the capital police also deployed officials all around the capital to gather prior information for necessary and precautionary measures. Two units of Rangers along with the capital police would perform security duties during the visit of the Qatari emir, they said, adding that the Red Zone would be partially sealed during the period for strictly restricting the entry of the unconcern persons.

https://dailytimes.com.pk/416898/mou-signed-on-money-laundering-terror-financing/

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Khawaja Asif backs Maryam stance on charter of economy offer

June 24, 2019

SIALKOT: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) senior leader Khawaja Mohammad Asif has endorsed the stance of party’s vice president Maryam Nawaz that the proposed charter of economy has become a joke.

Talking to reporters on Sunday, Khawaja Asif said: “Yes it is true that the charter of economy has become a joke and what Maryam said is absolutely right as per the policy of PML-N.”

PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif had made the offer of the charter of economy to the PTI government during the ongoing session of the National Assembly.

Ms Maryam rejected the offer at a press conference on Saturday and said that PML-N supreme leader and former premier Nawaz Sharif was against any charter of economy or charter of democracy.

Her remarks fuelled speculation there are differences between her and Shahbaz Sharif. On Sunday, she denied reports of any rift with her uncle and said her remarks at the press conference had been quoted out of context.

She said she had had a relation of extreme respect, esteem and love with her uncle and taking him into confidence in all affairs is her duty.

She said Shahbaz Sharif had in his budget speech repeated the offer the charter of economy that had originally been made in September 2018.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1490066/khawaja-asif-backs-maryam-stance-on-charter-of-economy-offer

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Defence services secured biggest supplementary grant

Khaleeq Kiani

June 24, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The defence services secured the biggest supplementary grant of more than Rs36 billion during the outgoing fiscal year before seeking about 4.7 per cent higher allocations for next fiscal year.

The Ministry of Finance has reported to the parliament that the government exceeded by Rs222bn its sanctioned expenditure limit without parliamentary approval. Therefore, it sought Rs106bn regular supplementary grant from the parliament as fait accompli. The remaining Rs116bn amount pertained to surrender from one grant to another or foreign grants and would be treated as technical supplementary grants.

Of these regular supplementary grants, the largest supplementary grant of Rs36bn was given to the defence services which spent these funds without prior approval of the parliament. Of these, Rs20bn was spent on fencing and lighting of Pak-Afghan border, Rs5bn as special duty allowance on Pakistan Army and Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and Rs5.89bn recurring cost of Special Security Division for the army.

As such, the documents showed that the defence services had been allocated about Rs1.100 trillion in the current year’s budget which was later increased to Rs1.138tr. The government has allocated Rs1.152tr to the defence services for next year, showing an increase of about 4.8pc over the original allocation for current year or 1.4pc over the revised budget.

This is in addition to Rs370.5bn allocation for separate development expenditure of the defence division for next fiscal year compared to Rs153.5bn spent under this account during current fiscal year, showing an increase of 160pc or Rs217bn.

When put together, the total allocations for the defence services will amount to Rs1.522tr next year, compared to Rs1.253tr during current year, showing an increase of about 21.5pc.

Another Rs4.3bn was released by the finance ministry as shortfall of petroleum expenditure to the PAF and remaining expenses of community bunkers on the borders, Junior Naval Academy, Ormara, repair and maintenance of Cessna Grand aircraft and a helicopter of Pakistan Rangers.

Another unapproved major expenditure overrun of Rs26bn has now been placed before the parliament for ex-post facto approval that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government announced in its supplementary budget in September 2018 as subsidy on liquefied natural gas (LNG) for industrial consumers, but forgot to includes it in budget documents while seeking parliamentary approval at the time.

Also, another major supplementary grant of Rs12.2bn is being sought for the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training. The ministry had originally got Rs1.5bn budget but utilised almost 10 times greater funds in disregard to financial rules that do not allow supplementary expenses greater than original budget.

Another major expenditure overrun pertained to diversion of Rs24bn earmarked for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects to development schemes recommended by the parliamentarians through the cabinet division. This also violated the financial rules because the cabinet division had an original budget of about Rs14.8bn and the supplementary grant was greater than the allocation.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1490070/defence-services-secured-biggest-supplementary-grant

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PML-N wasted $66bn fiscal space: Khusro Bakhtiar

Amir Wasim

June 24, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Declaring former finance minister Ishaq Dar an “economic hitman”, the federal Minister for Planning and Develop­ment, Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar, on Sunday acc­used the previous Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) government of failing to utilise $66 billion historic fiscal space to stabilise the national economy.

Mr Bakhtiar, while taking part in the general debate on the federal budget in the National Assembly, offered to sign a charter of economy with the opposition. The charter was a brainchild of Mr Dar.

The speeches of PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal and PPP legislator Raja Pervez Ashraf during the brief presence of former president and PPP leader Asif Zardari were highlights of the proceedings of the house, which continued its sitting even on the weekend to compensate for a week that had been wasted due to noisy protests by the treasury benches to prevent the Leader of the Opposition, Shahbaz Sharif, from opening the budget debate, apparently to settle scores with the opposition for its similar protest on the budget day.

Mr Zardari, who has been attending the NA session after issuance of his production order by the speaker, reportedly later met Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani. There was no official confirmation about the meeting which took place amid reports that an attempt to remove Mr Sanjrani was part of the opposition’s pla­nned anti-government campaign.

‘Selected PM’

Speaking on a point of order, the Minister for Power, Omar Ayub Khan, while quoting some rules of the assembly asked Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri to stop the opposition members from using the term “selected” for Prime Minister Khan and threatened that the ruling party members would move privilege motions against those who would use this term in future. He also asked the chair to expunge this word from the house proceedings whenever used.

Although the deputy speaker did not issue a formal ruling, he asked the members not to use such words. He termed the use of word “selected” an insult of the entire house, saying that every member, including himself, sitting here was an elected representative of people. He said legislators themselves damaged the sanctity of the house by using such words.

The PPP’s Mahreen Razzaq Bhutto was bold enough to use the term “selected prime minister” for Mr Khan even after the directives from the chair.

Largest fiscal space

Mr Bakhtiar said the PML-N had obtained $34bn foreign loans whereas it saved $32bn oil bonanza due to historic reduction in oil prices in the international market. With this huge fiscal space of $66bn, the PML-N could have put the country’s economy on the right track, but it wasted the opportunity and precious five years of the nation, he added.

“The Dar economy failed to put the country on right track,” he said.

The planning minister said the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government had inherited the biggest-ever fiscal and current account deficits. He said they had managed to reduce the current account deficit from $20bn to $12bn in just 10 months.

Giving India’s example, he said the country had faced the biggest balance of payment crisis in 1992, but bounced back as it had laid emphasis on the right areas for development. “They developed human resources, technology, and industry. We kept on building motorways,” he said.

The minister observed that the last time India approached the International Monetary Fund for a bailout was 27 years ago, in 1992.

Alleging that the PML-N had been showing an “artificial growth rate”, the minister said it was evident from the fact that the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government had created some seven million jobs during its five-year tenure despite having the growth rate of little over two per cent whereas the PML-N with its claim of over five per cent growth rate provided jobs to only 5.7 million people. He then vowed that the PTI would fulfil its promise of providing 10m jobs to the people in five years.

The minister said there were only 1.9m taxpayers out of 220m people living in the country whereas only 50pc of the companies were paying taxes. He said there was a need to expand the tax base and for that purpose they needed to sign a charter of economy.

He said being the most important policy-making institution, the parliament should draft a charter of economy to decide what should be the GDP to tax ratio and what allocations should be made for the less developed areas.

“The time has come that the nation decides that the 18th IMF package will be last one,” Mr Bakhtiar asserted.

He further said the PTI government had allocated 80pc of the development funds for the ongoing projects launched by the PML-N government keeping in view that the cost of projects would increase, if work on them stopped midway.

The minister, who belongs to Rahimyar Khan, alleged that Shahbaz Sharif as Punjab chief minister had ignored southern Punjab region and Lahore remained focus his focus during his more than a decade-long rule in the province.

Mr Bakhtiar had taken the floor after PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal blasted the government’s economic policies, saying they had handed over a “prosperous Pakistan” to the incumbent rulers, but they had ruined its economy due to their “incompetency”.

Mr Iqbal termed the formation of the Commission of Inquiry to probe the utilisation of foreign debts by the two previous governments a “big joke” and a kind of a joint investigation team (JIT).

Mr Iqbal, who had served as the planning and development minister in the previous PML-N government, regretted that the inquiry commission comprised officials of the intelligence agencies and National Accountability Bureau but it had no member from the Planning Commission, which was mainly responsible for the Public Sector Development Programme.

“This is a JIT and not an inquiry body and we are ready to face this JIT. We are not afraid of this JIT,” Mr Iqbal declared.

The former minister said they were ready to be accountable for Rs10,000bn loans and added that the Economic Survey report showed where that loan amount was spent. He said 12,000mw electricity was generated and 1,750km long motorways were built with that loan amount in five years. The growth rate during the PML-N government, he said, stood at 5.8pc, highest in 13 years.

“Now the PTI should be made answerable for obtaining Rs5,000bn loan in just one year,” he demanded.

Mr Iqbal again took the floor after the planning minister’s speech and said today Mr Bakhtiar was reciting verses in praise of Imran Khan whereas previously he used to do so for Nawaz Sharif. He also termed the minister’s speech “a lecture on Khusronomics”.

Former PM Raja Pervez Ashraf regretted that the treasury members in their speeches were only targeting the opposition, instead of discussing the budget.

About the PTI’s allegations of PPP-PML-N alliance, he said previously when the PML-N was in power, his party was sitting on opposition benches with the PTI.

“Today when you are in government, our two parties are now together against you. This is politics and democracy,” he added.

Mr Ashraf praised Mr Zardari for “secretly” finalising the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project with the neighbouring country.

“We were finalising the CPEC but kept it in low profile knowing that Pakistan had many enemies. It was president Zardari who through his political wisdom and patience got the Gwadar Port back from Singapore and handed it over to China,” said the former premier.

Taking part in the debate, a number of minority members belonging to all political parties called for taking steps to prevent forced conversions.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1490124/pml-n-wasted-66bn-fiscal-space-khusro-bakhtiar

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Pakistan, Qatar vow to work for regional peace

Syed Irfan Raza

June 24, 2019

ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi and the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, held wide-ranging talks, particularly the Afghan issue, on Sunday.

Mr Alvi lauded Qatar’s role in promoting efforts for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan, which was a notable contribution to regional peace.

While thanking the government and leadership of Pakistan for the gracious invitation and hospitality extended to him and his entourage during his two-day visit, the Qatari emir acknowledged the sacrifices made by Pakistan in the fight against terrorism.

Taking note of the progress achieved in Afghan peace talks, the two leaders agreed to continue working closely for regional peace and stability.

President Alvi conferred Nishan-i-Pakistan upon Sheikh Tamim at a special investiture ceremony.

Pakistan’s highest civil award was conferred upon the visiting emir in recognition of his outstanding contribution for fostering fraternal ties between the two countries.

The emir of Qatar held talks with Mr Alvi at the Presidency in a warm and cordial atmosphere.

The president complimented the emir for his astute leadership, which enabled Qatar to make major strides in energy, tourism, aviation and construction sectors.

Mr Alvi admired Qatar’s efforts to promote world sports. Taking note of 70 per cent increase in Pakistan’s exports to Qatar following direct linkage between Karachi and Hamad ports, he underlined the importance of increased volume of bilateral trade.

The president focused on potential for enhanced Qatari investments in diverse fields and prospects for further employment of Pakistani workers in that country.

Expressing his desire to further solidify the economic content of bilateral relations, the Qatari leader evinced keen interest in enhanced bilateral collaboration in the energy sector as well as import of food items from Pakistan.

He offered assistance in building Pakistan’s tourism p otential through more Qatari investments and technical support in the hospitality industry.

Expressing satisfaction at the pace of recruitment of manpower from Pakistan, the emir underlined Qatar’s desire to import additional workers as well as trained security personnel from Pakistan.

Taking note of the progress achieved in Afghan peace talks, the two leaders agreed to continue working closely for regional peace and stability.

The investiture ceremony was followed by a banquet lunch hosted by the president in honour of the visiting dignitary and his entourage.

The Qatari leader later left for home, adds APP.

The Qatari delegation was seen off by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Overseas Pakistanis Syed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari and high civil and military officials at the Nur Khan airbase.

Prior to his departure, the emir was briefed by the Pakistan Air Force officials about the JF-17 Thunder aircraft. He took keen interest in the multi-role fighter aircraft.

Upon his arrival on Saturday, the emir of Qatar was warmly received by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1490121/pakistan-qatar-vow-to-work-for-regional-peace

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Pakistan, EU to ink MoU on ‘strategic plan’, says FM

June 24, 2019

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Sunday said that a strategic plan has been agreed with the European Union to commence long-term cooperation with the EU bloc.

Talking to media-persons in Islamabad on Sunday before leaving for Brussels, he said that he would sign this agreement with EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini.

The minister said that it will begin long-term cooperation with the European Union, which is a positive development.

Qureshi further said that during the visit, he will meet NATO General Secretary at its headquarters in Brussels, adding that Pakistan has been cooperating with NATO and we extended unprecedented help to US and NATO forces in matters pertaining to Afghanistan.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/06/23/pakistan-eu-to-ink-mou-on-strategic-plan-says-fm/

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Qatar seeks workers, security personnel from Pakistan

JUNE 24, 2019

Visiting Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on Sunday sought more workers and security personnel from Pakistan as he met President Dr Arif Alvi at Aiwan-e-Sadr on Sunday – the second day of his official visit.

During the meeting, both the countries agreed to continue working closely for regional peace and stability while taking note of the progress achieved in Afghan peace talks.

The president complimented the Qatari emir on his astute leadership, which enabled Qatar to make major strides in energy, tourism, aviation and construction sectors.

In the regional context, the president lauded Qatar’s role in promoting efforts for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan, which was a notable contribution to regional peace.

The president admired Qatar’s efforts to promote world sports. Taking note of 70% increase in Pakistan’s exports to Qatar following direct linkage between Karachi and Hamad Port, the president underlined the importance of increased volume of bilateral trade and enhancing and diversifying Pakistan’s exports to Qatar.

He also focused on potential for enhanced Qatari investments in diverse fields and the prospects of further employment of Pakistani workers in Qatar. The Qatari emir thanked the government and leadership of Pakistan for the invitation and hospitality, acknowledged the sacrifices made by Pakistan in fight against terrorism.

Expressing his desire to further solidify the economic content of bilateral relations, the emir evinced keen interest in enhanced bilateral collaboration in the energy sector as well as import of food items from Pakistan.

He offered assistance in building Pakistan’s tourism potential through more Qatari investments and technical support in the hospitality industry.

Expressing satisfaction at the pace of recruitment of manpower from Pakistan, the emir underlined Qatar’s desire to import additional workers as well as trained security personnel from Pakistan.

In a special investiture ceremony, the president conferred upon Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the highest civil award, Nishan-e-Pakistan, for his outstanding contribution to the enhancement of Pakistan-Qatar relations.

The ceremony was attended by National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjarani, members of federal cabinet, parliamentarians, members of Qatari delegation and civil and military officials.

The ceremony was followed by a banquet lunch hosted by the president of Pakistan in the honour of the visiting dignitary and his entourage.

Later, Al Thani departed after the conclusion of his two-day official visit to Pakistan.

The emir and his delegation were seen off by Special Assistant to PM on Overseas Pakistanis Syed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari and other high civil and military officials at the Nur Khan airbase.

Prior to his departure, Pakistan Air Force officials briefed the Emir of Qatar about the JF-17 Thunder aircraft. The emir took keen interest in the multi-role fighter aircraft.

Earlier, the Qatari foreign minister had expressed interest on behalf of his country to invest in various sectors in Pakistan.

He said his country was interested in importing more than one hundred thousand people from Pakistan for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Separately, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan on Sunday termed the visit of Qatari Emir to Pakistan a great achievement of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Talking to the state-run PTV news channel, she appreciated the PM’s initiatives and said his credibility had been proven worldwide that had introduced the soft image of the country across the globe. About the visit, she said a ‘ joint working group ‘ had been formed and some targets, including LNG and LPG were identified adding Qatar wanted to invest in power sector that help to address the energy problems in Pakistan.

She hoped the visit would enhance the bilateral trade besides opening the door of more jobs for the youth in Qatar as the two countries agreed to increase the number of Pakistani workers employed in Qatar that would also eliminate the monopoly of India in IT sector.

She said development of tourism industry was the vision of PM but it required a suitable infrastructure to attract the tourists adding this visit would help improve this industry.

Firdous said Pakistan and Qatar had agreed to take steps to enhance the bilateral cooperation in diverse areas including trade, energy, oil and gas exploration, besides tourism and defense.

Full report at:

https://dailytimes.com.pk/417518/qatar-seeks-workers-security-personnel-from-pakistan/

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Terrorist killed, another arrested in DI Khan attack

JUNE 23, 2019

Security forces killed a terrorist and arrested another after they attacked a police station on Sunday. Police said the two terrorists threw hand-grenades at the Cantonment police station. When security personnel returned fire, one of the terrorists was killed, while the other was injured. Police took the injured into custody. Later, the dead terrorist was identified as Zia. The injured terrorist has been hospitalised.

https://dailytimes.com.pk/417373/terrorist-killed-another-arrested-in-di-khan-attack/

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South Asia

 

ASEAN avoids condemning Myanmar for Rohingya plight

Jun 23, 2019

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has failed to condemn member state Myanmar for its massive purge of Rohingya Muslims from the country despite calls from rights campaigners and other members that the massacres and atrocities against the minority group should not go unnoticed.

An ASEAN’s chairman's statement released at the end of a summit of the group in Bangkok, Thailand, on Sunday called on a Myanmar government commission to investigate the Rohingya case and to seek accountability through “an independent and impartial investigation into alleged human rights violations and related issues”.

However, the statement fell short of condemning Myanmar for a large-scale crackdown that caused more than 700,000 Muslims to flee to neighboring Bangladesh in 2017.

The statement avoided to respond to a Saturday call by Malaysia's foreign minister Saifuddin Abdullah who had urged that perpetrators of massacres and atrocities against the Rohingyas should be brought to justice.

Abdullah had also called on the ASEAN to force Myanmar to “include the citizenship of the Rohingyas” in an ongoing repatriation process which many rights activists believe is not fair and is causing the Muslims to face discrimination and persecution once they return home.

Without calling the Rohingya by name, the ASEAN statement only supported Myanmar’s alleged commitment to repatriation process to “facilitate the voluntary return of displaced persons in a safe, secure and dignified manner.”

Marty Natalegawa, a former Indonesian foreign minister, said taking a stance on the situation of Rohingyas was a key issue for the ASEAN as it could show that the powerful regional organization can manage the domestic issues of a member state with wider regional implications.

“Developments in Myanmar ... (are) providing a litmus test for ASEAN’s capacity to manage developments in one of its member states that have wider ramifications for the region and, indeed, beyond,” said  Natalegawa.

For the past 50 years, the 10-member ASEAN has mostly sought to distance itself from internal issues of member states as it works only by consensus.

The 34th ASEAN summit wrapped up on Sunday in Bangkok, Thailand, as members were mainly concerned about growing trade tensions between China and the United States. A next summit of the organization will again be held in Thailand in November.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/06/23/599246/Myanmar-Rohingya-Muslims-plight-ASEAN-statement

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Internet blackout imposed on Myanmar's restive Rakhine state

June 23, 2019

YANGON: An unprecedented shutdown of mobile data across swathes of Myanmar's restive Rakhine state entered a third day Sunday, blocking villagers from the internet in areas where the army is accused of abuses in its battle with ethnic rebels.

Myanmar's Ministry of Transport and Communications (MoTC) ordered all mobile phone operators on Friday to suspend internet data in nine townships across Rakhine and neighbouring Chin State.

"As a basis for its request, the MoTC has referenced disturbances of the peace and internet services to coordinate illegal activities," Telenor Myanmar said in a statement.

The decree was made under the Telecommunications Law, hitting all mobile operators for an unspecified period.

Myanmar's army is fighting ethnic Rakhine rebels who want greater autonomy from the central state. The Rakhine are Buddhists and are also fighting in northern Chin state which borders their homeland.

The Rakhine accuse the army of committing abuses -- including arbitrary arrests -- against them, while the military confirmed it shot dead six Rakhine detainees in late April.

Civilians have been killed in crossfires and shellings, even while taking refuge in monasteries.

Villagers in Rakhine said the mobile data ban had cut them off from the outside world, where few have personal computers and most people share information on the violence through social media.

"We have no internet at all. We use the internet to share information through (messaging app) Viber," Kyaw Soe Moe, head of Inn Din village in Rathedaung told AFP.

Local authorities have also been hit by the blanket shutdown.

A police officer in Mrauk U town, home to Rakhine temples but also the seat of ferocious fighting in recent months, said that communication was being hampered.

"We have to use the phone, SMS and fax to report back to our headquarters. Fighting is still on going here every day," the officer who did not want to be named told AFP.

Rakhine is also home to the remaining Rohingya Muslim population, many confined to squalid camps.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1514891/world

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Afghan Special Forces Kill 4 ISIS Militants; Detain 14 Others in Kunar Province

22 Jun 2019

The Afghan Special Forces killed 4 militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria during an operation in Kunr province.

The informed military sources said Saturday that the Special Forces conducted the operation in Nurgal district of Kunar.

The Special Forces also detained 14 militants of the terror group during the same operation.

The anti-government armed elements have not commented regarding the operations so far.

The security situation in some districts of Kunar province has deteriorated during the recent years.

Taliban and ISIS militants are active in some districts of the province and often conduct terrorist related activities.

Meanwhile, the Afghan forces routinely counter-terrorism operations against the anti-government armed groups in this province.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/afghan-special-forces-kill-4-isis-militants-detain-14-others-in-kunar-province-03693/

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11 Taliban militants killed, wounded in Kandahar airstrikes: Atal Corps

24 Jun 2019

The security forces conducted airstrikes in Kandahar province killing at least 8 Taliban militants.

The 205th Atal Corps in a statement said the airstrikes were carried out in Tangi Wech area of Shah Wali Kot district.

The statement further added that the airstrikes also wounded three Taliban militants.

Furthermore, the security forces discovered and defused 45 improvised explosives devices during the operations in Kandahar and Uruzgan provinces.

The 205th Atal Corps said the security forces discovered the improvised explosive devices in Panjwai district of Kandahar and Tarin Kot city of Uruzgan.

This comes as the security situation in some districts of Kandahar province has deteriorated during the recent months.

Taliban militants are active in some districts of the province and often conduct terrorist related activities.

Meanwhile, the Afghan forces routinely conduct counter-terrorism operations against the anti-government armed groups in this province.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/11-taliban-militants-killed-wounded-in-kandahar-airstrikes-atal-corps-03711/

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Taliban’s IED maker among 13 killed, wounded in Farah and Herat provinces

23 Jun 2019

A coalition airstrike in Herat province killed a Taliban IED maker and wounded another Taliban group member.

The 207th Zafar Corps in a statement said the coalition forces conducted an airstrike in Azizabad Village of Zawal district in Herat.

The statement further added that the airstrike killed Ewaz son of Mir Khan, one of the IED makers of Taliban.

The airstrike also wounded another key Taliban group member Sher Ahmad who is the brother of Taliban’s shadow district chief for Zawal.

Meanwhile, a clash broke out between the Afghan forces and Taliban during an operation in Posht-e-Rod district of Farah province, the 207th Zafar Corps said.

The security forces killed four Taliban militants and wounded 7 others during the clash.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/talibans-ied-maker-among-13-killed-wounded-in-farah-and-herat-provinces-03707/

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Mideast

 

Netanyahu ready to ‘consider’ long-awaited US peace plan

24 June 2019

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday he is ready to “consider” a US plan to resolve his country’s long-running conflict with the Palestinians.

“We will consider the American proposal in a fair and open way,” he said as he hosted US national security adviser John Bolton.

The Palestinian leadership has already rejected the plan, citing US “bias” after the White House recognized bitterly divided Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“I don’t understand how the Palestinians rejected the plan even before knowing what it contained,” said Netanyahu.

“That’s not how you move forward,” he added.

He was talking during a visit to the Jordan valley, Israeli-occupied territory he has pledged never to give up in a peace deal.

“To those who say that to obtain peace, Israel must leave the Jordan Valley, I say: it will not bring peace - it will bring war and terror,” he said.

“Israel’s presence here must continue for Israel’s security and the security of all,” Netanyahu added.

Bolton was being hosted by the Israeli leader for talks on “regional security,” according to the White House.

His visit came amid a tense standoff between the US and Iran following a series of tanker attacks and the shooting down of an American drone.

The White House is set next week to present details for the first time of its long-awaited peace initiative being formulated by US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/06/24/Netanyahu-ready-to-consider-long-awaited-US-peace-plan.html

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Greece causes outrage over violation of Muslim community's rights

24.06.2019

A decree by the Greek presidency enraged the country's Turkish Muslim community, which claims Athens is trying to trample their rights to elect their own muftis, or Muslim clerics. The decree that came into force earlier this month is about muftis in Western Thrace, the Greek region that has historically been home to a Turkish minority and defines the "judicial authority" of muftis in Komotini, Didymoteicho and Xanthi, where muftis serve the Turkish Muslim community. Among its clauses are the use of the Greek language in mufti offices and the assignment of muftis and their staff by the Greek Ministry of Education, which are viewed as restricting the rights of muftis.

İlhan Ahmet, a lawyer, a former lawmaker from Komotini and a prominent figure in the community, told Anadolu Agency (AA) that the decree basically removed the autonomy of the mufti's office in Western Thrace and called the community to file legal action for its removal.

Muftis in the region are appointed by the government despite the objections of the community, which repeatedly calls on the state to recognize clerics they elect themselves.

About 150,000 ethnic Turkish people reside in Western Thrace with their status set by the Lausanne Peace Treaty of 1923 and their rights guaranteed by several bilateral and multilateral agreements.

Ahmet said there have been two separate decrees actually that were implemented recently and both violated religious freedoms guaranteed by the Treaty of Lausanne. He said that the decrees in 2018 and 2019 effectively make the community's religious institutions a "state apparatus." "A decree in 2018 gave the administration and inspection of mosques in Western Thrace and the appointment of imams to those mosques to the Ministry of Education. It also gave the ministry the right to govern and inspect foundations [set up to run the mosques]. That same decree gave them authority to shut down madrasas [schools teaching religion]. The treaty gave us guarantee that madrasas would not be closed down by Greece, and it forbade giving whole authority for the administration of foundations and appointment of clerics by the state."

The second decree, which was implemented on June 11, instructs the appointment of all staff, from clerks to archivists in the offices of mufti and foundations by the state. "Thus, muftis will be relieved of any authority they have, and their offices would be ordinary state offices. This is part of a long-term plan to keep muftis under state control," Ahmet said. "So, any mufti appointed by the state would be a puppet controlled by the state. Certainly, the state can recognize muftis elected by the community, but these people will not have any authority. To sum it up, a mufti, whether elected by the community or picked by the state, will be someone without any say over who he can appoint to work as his staff." He said that the timing of the latest decree, which surfaced shortly before the parliament went into a summer recess, was "meaningful." "Therefore, it wouldn't be open to parliament's inspection. Now, the only way for cancelation of the decree is filing a lawsuit over violation of Lausanne," he continued.

The Turkish minority in Greece faces a variety of issues, including state denial of ethnic identity, inadequate education provision and restrictions on freedom of religion, purchase of property and political representation.

The Consultation Committee of the Western Thrace Turkish Community (BTTADK), a leading group representing the community, had earlier issued a statement denouncing the latest decree. In a statement, the committee said the decree was the "product of malicious efforts" and "unacceptable" for the community. The statement says the office of the mufti, under the guise of "modernization," was targeted by the decree that both goes against the Lausanne Treaty as well as religious freedom and international legal regulations, along with norms of the European Union, which Greece is a member, on freedom of religion and conscience. The committee said the minority was not consulted in drafting the decree and Athens rejected their calls for a meeting over the decree.

Full report at:

https://www.dailysabah.com/minorities/2019/06/24/greece-causes-outrage-over-violation-of-muslim-communitys-rights

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Turkey's opposition strikes blow to Erdogan with Istanbul mayoral win

Jun 24, 2019

ISTANBUL: Turkey's opposition has dealt President Tayyip Erdogan a stinging blow by winning control of Istanbul in a re-run mayoral election, breaking his aura of invincibility and delivering a message from voters unhappy over his policies.

Ekrem Imamoglu of the Republican People's Party (CHP) had secured more than 54% of votes, with nearly all ballots opened, Turkish broadcasters said - a far wider victory margin than his narrow win three months ago.

The previous result was annulled after protests from Erdogan's Islamistrooted AK Party, which said there had been widespread voting irregularities. The decision to re-run the vote was criticised by Western allies and caused uproar among domestic opponents who said Turkey's democracy was under threat.

On Sunday, tens of thousands of Imamoglu supporters celebrated in the streets of Istanbul after the former businessman triumphed over Erdogan's handpicked candidate by almost 800,000 votes.

"In this city today, you have fixed democracy. Thank you Istanbul," Imamoglu told supporters who made heart signs with their hands, in an expression of the inclusive election rhetoric that has been the hallmark of his campaigning.

"We came to embrace everyone," Imamoglu said. "We will build democracy in this city, we will build justice. In this beautiful city, I promise, we will build the future."

The High Electoral Board has yet to announce the formal results, but Erdogan has already congratulated Imamoglu for his victory and Imamoglu's rival, Binali Yildirim, of the ruling AK Party wished him luck as mayor barely two hours after polls closed.

WANING SUPPORT

Erdogan has ruled Turkey since 2003, first as prime minister and then as president, becoming the country's most dominant politician since its founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, nearly a century ago.

His AK Party has strong support among pious and conservative Turks and its stewardship of Turkey's economy through a decade and a half of construction-fuelled growth helped Erdogan win more than a dozen national and local elections.

But economic recession and a financial crisis have eroded that support, and Erdogan's ever-tighter control over government has alarmed some voters.

Imamoglu won support even in the traditionally pious Istanbul districts, once known as AK Party strongholds, ending the 25-year-long Islamist rule in the country's largest city.

"This re-run (election) was one to put an end to the dictatorship," said Gulcan Demirkaya, a 48-year-old housewife in Istanbul's AKP-leaning Kagithane district. "God willing, I would like to see him as the president in five years' time. The one-man rule should come to an end.

The results are likely to trigger a new chapter in Turkish politics, with the country's top three cities now held by the opposition, and could trigger cracks within Erdogan's AK Party, while bringing the economic troubles more to the centre.

"This is definitely going to have an impact on the future of Turkish politics given the margin of victory. It's alarming sign for the AKP establishment," said Sinan Ulgen, visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe in Brussels and former Turkish diplomat.

Analysts say the loss could set off a Cabinet reshuffle in Ankara and adjustments to foreign policy. It could even trigger a national election earlier than 2023 as scheduled, although the leader of the AKP's nationalist ally played down that prospect.

"Turkey should now return to its real agenda, the election process should close," MHP party leader Devlet Bahceli said. "Talking of an early election would be among the worst things that can be done to our country."

The uncertainty over the fate of Istanbul and potential delays in broader economic reforms have kept financial markets on edge. Threats of sanctions by the United States if Erdogan goes ahead with plans to install Russian missile defences have also weighed on the markets.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/turkeys-opposition-strikes-blow-to-erdogan-with-istanbul-mayoral-win/articleshow/69920687.cms

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Iran says it welcomes any diffusion of tensions in region

24 June 2019

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman said on Monday Tehran welcomes any diffusion of tensions in the Gulf region following weeks of deteriorating relations with Washington.

“We welcome diffusion of tensions in the region. We do not want rise of tensions,” Abbas Mousavi was quoted as saying by ISNA news agency.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/06/24/Iran-says-it-welcomes-any-diffusion-of-tensions-in-region.html

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Erdogan’s candidate concedes defeat in Istanbul vote

23 June 2019

Binali Yildirim, the ruling party candidate in the controversial re-run of Istanbul’s mayoral election, conceded defeat on Sunday.

Initial results from the state-run Anadolu news agency showed opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu leading with 53.69 percent to Yildirim’s 45.4 percent with more than 95 percent of ballots counted.

“According to the result as of now, my competitor Ekrem Imamoglu is leading the race. I congratulate him and wish him good luck,” Yildirim said.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/06/23/Erdogan-s-candidate-concedes-defeat-in-Istanbul-vote.html

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Arab League renews pledge to give Palestinians $100 mln in aid monthly

23 June 2019

The Arab League on Sunday reaffirmed a pledge to pay $100 million a month to the Palestinian Authority, a day after Washington unveiled its Middle East peace plan.

Arab finance ministers who met in Cairo renewed a promise first made in April to boost “the Palestinian Authority’s budget with a $100 million monthly transfer... as it faces financial burdens,” a statement said.

On Saturday the United States said its Middle East peace plan to be presented next week in Bahrain aims to raise more than $50 billion for the Palestinians and create one million jobs for them within a decade.

Israel collects taxes on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, but withheld $138 million in transfers in February over Palestinian payments to political prisoners jailed for attacks against Israelis.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/06/23/Arab-League-renew-pledge-to-give-Palestinians-100-mln-in-aid-monthly-.html

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One killed, eight wounded in fresh Yemeni drone attack on Abha Airport

Jun 23, 2019

The Yemeni armed forces have launched fresh retaliatory attacks on Abha and Jizan airports in southern Saudi Arabia, leaving multiple casualties.

Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV quoted its own correspondent as saying that the Yemeni drone attack on Abha Airport has left one killed and eight people wounded.

Earlier, Yemen's Houthi movement said they had targeted Abha and Jizan airports in southern Saudi Arabia with drone attacks, the group's Al-Masirah TV said.

The spokesman for the Yemeni armed forces, Brigadier General Yahya Saree, said the country's air force has carried out "large-scale" attacks with K2 drones against Jizan and Abha airports.

The first operation targeted the airfields and important military targets at Jizan airport. The second operation targeted Abha airport and the two operations hit their targets with high accuracy, he said.

"Our operations are continuing and will be more painful to the enemy in the coming days if they continue to escalate."

The retaliatory attacks came after the Saudi-led coalition launched 30 raids during the past 48 hours against the Yemeni civilians, leaving several people dead or wounded.

Since June 12, the airports of Abha and Jizan have been subject to almost daily attacks by Yemenis who send their UAVs and missiles in order to paralyze the two airports and force the Saudi enemy to lift the siege on Sana'a airport and stop its raids on Yemeni territory.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the government of former Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power and crushing the Houthi Ansarullah movement.

The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the Saudi-led war has claimed the lives of over 60,000 Yemenis since January 2016.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/06/23/599264/Yemen-drone-abha-jizan-airports-wounded

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Israeli settlers attack, seize Palestinian land in West Bank

Jun 23, 2019

A group of Israeli settlers escorted by troops has razed agricultural property on and confiscated a large plot of private Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank.

Local Palestinian media reports said that several bulldozers belonging to the settlers, under the heavy protection of Israeli soldiers, entered the Khillat al-Nahla area south of Bethlehem City on Sunday.

The bulldozers leveled properties on more than 74 acres of land owned by the Palestinian farmer Mohammed Ayesh.

The raid was reportedly aimed at making way for a new outpost connecting the settlements of Tekou and Efrat.

In recent years, Israeli settlers have been frequently caught on camera vandalizing Palestinian farms in the occupied West Bank and stealing their olive harvests.

Palestinians say the thefts and vandalism occur mainly on Palestinian land near settlements that the Israelis can only reach by coordinating ahead of time with the Israeli military.

Furthermore, most of the attacks carried out by Israeli settlers against Palestinians and their property are met with impunity, with those guilty rarely facing any consequences.

Israel occupied the entire West Bank, including East Jerusalem al-Quds, during military operations in 1967.

In January, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said Israel’s demolition and confiscation of Palestinian-owned structures in the West Bank had soared by 10 percent last year as the Tel Aviv regime continued with its land expropriation policies in the occupied territories in blatant defiance of international law.

More than half a million Israelis live in over 230 settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds. Built on occupied land, the settlements are internationally condemned as illegal.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/06/23/599242/Palestine-Israel-land-confiscation-Bethlehem

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Turkish forces ‘neutralize’ 58 Kurdish PKK terrorists in northern Iraq: Defence Ministry

Jun 23, 2019

Turkish security forces have “neutralized” nearly 60 members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group in a string of artillery strikes and air raids followed by operations by commando brigades in Iraq’s northern semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.

The Turkish Defense Ministry announced in a statement published on its official Twitter page on Sunday that 58 PKK terrorists had been neutralized over the past four weeks as part of Operation Claw, which has been going on since May 27 in the Hakurk region of northern Iraq.

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

The Turkish Interior Ministry said on Saturday that Turkish forces had conducted clean-up operations in a rural area of the country’s eastern province of Tunceli, neutralizing two PKK terrorists.

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

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

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

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

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/06/23/599249/Turkish-forces-neutralize-58-Kurdish-PKK-terrorists-in-northern-Iraq-Defense-Ministry

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Yemeni forces shoot down 3rd Saudi-led spy drone as retaliatory attacks rise

Jun 23, 2019

Yemeni army forces, supported by allied fighters from Popular Committees, have intercepted and targeted another unmanned aerial vehicle belonging to the Saudi-led military coalition in the skies over Saudi Arabia’s southwestern border region of Najran in retaliation for the alliance’s atrocious military aggression against their impoverished country.

Yemeni air defense forces and their allies shot down the drone as it was flying in the skies over al-Sadis area of the region, located 844 kilometers (524 miles) south of the Saudi capital Riyadh, on Sunday.

The development came a day after Yemeni air defense forces and their allies downed a drone as it was on a reconnaissance mission over al-Mazraq area in the Harad district of Yemen’s northwestern province of Hajjah, located approximately 130 kilometers northwest of the capital Sana’a.

On Friday, Yemeni army forces and Popular Committees fighters shot down a spy drone of the Saudi-led military coalition in the skies over Yemen’s strategic western coastal province of Hudaydah.

The unmanned aerial vehicle was struck with a surface-to-air missile over al-Fazah area in the al-Tuhayta district.

The spokesman for Yemeni Armed Forces, Brigadier General Yahya Saree said, said on June 19 that Yemeni army forces, backed by allied fighters from Popular Committees, had launched a string of airstrikes against unmanned aerial vehicles and military targets at Jizan Airport in Saudi Arabia, using a squadron of domestically-manufactured Qasef-2K (Striker-2K) combat drones.

Saree further noted that the attacks led to the suspension of flights at the airport.

“We have sophisticated military hardware that US-built and other air defense systems deployed in Saudi Arabia cannot intercept. Our ballistic missiles, rockets and drone can hit any target all across Saudi Arabia. Our strikes will not be limited to Asir, Najran and Jizan. The Saudi enemy must know that we will d expand the scope of deterrence in case the military aggression continues,” the top Yemeni military official pointed out.

Also on Sunday, Saudi fighter jets launched an airstrike against Al Ali area in the Razih district of Yemen’s mountainous northwestern province of Sa’ada. There were no immediate reports of possible casualties and the extent of damage caused.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the government of former Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power and crushing the Houthi Ansarullah movement.

The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the Saudi-led war has claimed the lives of over 60,000 Yemenis since January 2016.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/06/23/599222/Yemen-Saudiled-spy-drone-

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Palestine rejects US economic revival plan as 'illusion'

Jun 23, 2019

Palestinian Finance Minister Shukri Bishara has rejected the recently-released details about the economic section of a US-devised plan on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as an “illusion” that will fail to bring about peace.

Addressing an Arab League meeting in the Egyptian capital city of Cairo on Sunday, Bishara slammed a June 25-26 meeting Bahrain, during which Washington is set to unveil the economic aspect of US President Donald Trump’s so-called “deal of the century.”

“We don’t need the Bahrain meeting to build our country, we need peace, and the sequence of (the plan) — economic revival followed by peace is unrealistic and an illusion,” he said.

The White House on Saturday unveiled the details of the economic portion of Trump’s deal, which would inject $50 billion into struggling economies in the Middle East over the next ten years.

Under the document, dubbed “Peace to Prosperity,” over half of the funds ($28 billion) would go toward the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and the remaining to Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt, which have absorbed Palestinian refugees.

'Lebanon won't exchange Palestinian cause with US money'

Separately on Sunday, Lebanon’s Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri emphasized that his country would not be lured by the American initiative to invest billions in the country in return for settling Palestinian refugees.

“Those who think that waving billions of dollars can lure Lebanon, which is under the weight of a suffocating economic crisis, into succumbing or bartering over its principles are mistaken,” he said in a statement.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/06/23/599217/Palestine-Israel-economic-plan

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One dead, several injured in Houthi attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abha Airport

June 23, 2019

RIYADH: Arab coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki said on Sunday that one person was killed and 21 others injured in a Houthi attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abha Airport.

A terrorist attack by the Iranian-backed Houthi militia took place at Abha international airport, through which thousands of civilian passengers pass daily. A Syrian national died and 21 civilians were wounded,” the coalition spokesperon said in a statement carried by Saudi Press Agency.

Al-Maliki did not say what type of weapon was used in the attack.

Earlier this month, at least 26 people were injured when a Houthi missile fired from Yemen hit the same airport.

After the attack, the coalition vowed a firm response and said the attack proved Tehran’s support for cross-border terrorism.

The coalition said the injured in the first attack were all civilians of different nationalities and included two Saudi children and three women - a Saudi, a Yemeni and an Indian.

Human Rights Watch denounced the June 12 strike as an apparent “war crime”, urging the Houthis to immediately stop all attacks on civilian infrastructure in Saudi Arabia.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1515066/saudi-arabia

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Arab World

 

White Helmets Preparing to Film Tahrir Al-Sham's False-Flag Chemical Attacks in Idlib

Jun 23, 2019

The Arabic-language Morasseloun news website quoted special sources in Idlib province as saying that Tahrir al-Sham is planning to launch a new chemical attack on civilians and areas controlled by the Turkish Army in Mourek and Jbal al-Zawiyeh in Northern Hama and Southern Idlib.

The sources pointed to the preparedness of the White Helmets to take films from the preplanned chemical attacks, and said most probably the cameramen of the CBS television network who have recently obtained permits for preparing videos from Tahrir al-Sham terrorist commanders in Idlib will also contribute to shooting the scene.

According to intel, Tahrir al-Sham commanders have previously paid $200 to each of the White Helmets to take films and pictures from the aftermath of the chemical attacks on children in Saraqib and Jorjnaz in Idlib.

Meantime, the Tahrir al-Sham terrorists are also planning to conduct chemical attacks after the Syrian and Russian air forces carry out airstrikes on the town of Jorjnaz in Southern Idlib.

The sources noted that the terrorists intend to victimize civilians in real chemical attacks, and said that the White Helmets are also supposed to film the chemical attack to accuse the Syrian Army for the crime later.

In a relevant development on Saturday, the commanders of terrorist groups held a meeting in Idlib province to prepare for false-flag chemical attacks on areas under the control of the Turkish army to falsely accuse the Syrian Army.

Special sources in Idlib said that the commanders of Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay'at have decided to conduct fresh false chemical attacks in the province to point the finger of accusations at the Damascus Army.

They noted that the terrorist commanders have agreed to conduct chemical attacks on spots 9 and 10 controlled by the Turkish Army to portray that the Syrian Army has carried out the attack.

Meantime, the Syrian Army's artillery and missile units pounded the terrorists' military positions in the towns of al-Latamineh, Kafar Zita and al-Hobait in Northern Hama and Southern Idlib in response to the terrorists' rocket attacks on residential areas of Sheikh Hadid and al-Jornieh in Northern Hama.

The Syrian Army's artillery units also pounded Tahrir al-Sham's military convoys in the town of al-Mastoumeh and near Jabal al-Qarbain towards the city of Ariha in Southern Idlib, inflicting heavy losses on the militants.

The Arabic-language website of the Russian Sputnik news agency also quoted a military source as saying that over 25 terrorists have been killed in al-Jalmeh in Northern Hama and several of their military vehicles, including the Turkish Army's armored vehicles were destroyed.

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980402000567

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West Increasing Support for Kurds' Separatist Goals in Eastern Syria

Jun 23, 2019

The Arabic-language al-Watan newspaper reported on Sunday that Australian Envoy John Phillip entered the town of Qamishli in line with attempts to support the Kurds' separatist moves and held a meeting with Abdulkarim Omer, the head of the Foreign Relations Commission in the Jazeera region, and his deputy Abir Ilia.

It also quoted the Kurdish sources as saying that a delegation of the Kurdish autonomous forces held a meeting with Special Envoy to Syria Geir Pedersen, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash, Norwegian Foreign Minister Marie Eriksen and US Envoy to anti-ISIL Coalition Brett McGurk in Oslo on June 18 and 19.

Meantime, the Kurdish forces formed military councils in the three occupied towns of Ain al-Arab, Tal Abyadh and al-Tabaqah to strengthen their military structure in Eastern Euphrates region in the past week after a US-Saudi delegation visited Eastern Syria.

Also, Mazloum Abdi, the SDF spokesman, claimed on Saturday that Damascus should recognize the local autonomous system, including the general department of the Northern and Eastern Syria, as well as the SDF and its full responsibility in the security and military issues in the autonomous regions.

Media reports said earlier this month that American and Saudi diplomatic delegations held a meeting with teh SDF commanders and a number of tribal leaders in a Washington-occupied base in Deir Ezzur in a bid to coordinate a plan for the separation of Eastern Euphrates from Syria.

The Arabic-language Step news website affiliated to the militants reported that recently a meeting was held between the two sides in al-Omar oilfield region in Eastern Deir Ezzur.

It added that Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Joel Rayburn, former US Ambassador to Bahrain William V. Roebuck and Thamer al-Sabhan participated in a meeting with Qassan al-Yousef and Leili al-Hassan, the co-chairs of Deir Ezzur civil administration, noting that the event was meant do coordination for supporting the SDF-occupied regions against any possible threat and political and economic support for the SDF in Northern and Northeastern Syria.

According to the report, another meeting was also held between the Arab and US delegations and a number of tribal leaders of Deir Ezzur in al-Omar base to remove differences between the tribes and the SDF and discuss financial and logistical support for the Eastern Euphrates region.

Meantime, the Arabic-language Xeber 24 news website reported that al-Sabhan conveyed a message from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on his full support for militants in Northeastern Syria.

Full report at:

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980402000695

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Pompeo visiting Saudi, Emirates to seek ‘global coalition’ against Iran

Jun 23, 2019

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he is visiting Saudi Arabia and UAE after Iran shot down a US drone violating its airspace, stating that he is seeking a “global coalition” against Tehran.

"I'm heading out today. Our first stops will be in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two great allies in the challenge that Iran presents and will be talking with them about how to make sure that we are all strategically aligned and how we can go about a global coalition," he told reporters Sunday.

Tehran has time and again asserted that it does not seek war with the US, yet stands ready to defend its interests in the region.

Pompeo further asserted before boarding his plane that the US is ready to for negotiations with Iran “with no preconditions.

Despite repeating threats and baseless accusations against Tehran, Washington has also been calling for negotiations.

In an interview with NBC aired Sunday, US President Donald Trump also made the same comment.

“I'm not looking for war and if there is, it'll be obliteration like you've never seen before. But I'm not looking to do that. But you can't have a nuclear weapon,” Trump said.

The latest comments came just over a week after Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei in Iran, publicly revealing that he carried a message from Trump for renewed talks between Washington and Tehran.

The Iranian Leader, however, snubbed the offer insisting that he considers Trump “unworthy of exchanging messages with,” and adding: “I do not have and will not have any response for him.”

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/06/23/599263/Pompeo-visiting-Saudi-Emirates-seeking-global-coalition-against-Iran

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Aleppo: Civilians Demand Expulsion of Turkish Occupying Forces, Popular Uprising Suppressed in Al-Bab City

Jun 23, 2019

The Kurdish-language Hawar News reported that residents of al-Bab city and the district of Jabal al-Sheikh Aqil launched massive protests calling for exit of Turkish occupying forces and evacuation of their military bases there.

The residents of Al-Bab city gathered in front of a military base of the Turkish Army in Sheikh Aqil region, and chanted slogans in Arabic and Turkish languages to condemn the brutal and occupying policies of Turkey there.

Meantime, local sources reiterated that the Syrian people and Turkish army engaged in fierce clashes after the Turkish Army and its allied militants attacked the people to suppress their popular uprisings.

Several Syrian citizens were injured in the clashes, while the Turkey-controlled hospitals refrained from admitting civilians.

Meantime, two consecutive explosions rocked Al-Bab City in Northern Aleppo, killing and injuring at least 15 Ankara-backed terrorists.

In a relevant development on Saturday, over 2,800 civilians were arrested by the Turkish Army and its allied militants in line with the crackdown on the local population by occupying forces in Northern Syria.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that the Ankara-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) terrorists detained at least 31 civilians on different charges, including cooperation with Kurdish units by attacking their houses in the towns of Kafar Zit, lower and upper Kafar Daleh as well as Kazieh in Afrin in Northwestern Aleppo.

It noted that 2,038 civilians, out of 2,800 arrested since the occupation of Afrin, are still in custody of the Turkish Army and its allied militants.

This is while over 760 civilians have been released after paying a ransom of up to 10 million Syrian liras.

In a relevant development earlier in June, thousands of family members of Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board or the Al-Nusra Front) terrorists were sheltered in areas occupied by the Turkish army in Aleppo to replace the local population.

Hawar news quoted a special source as saying on Sunday that Ankara has transferred nearly 190,000 family members of Tahrir al-Sham terrorists from Idlib city to regions stretching from Afrin and E'zaz to the towns of al-Bab, Jarabulus and al-Ra'ei in Northern Aleppo.

It added that Ankara is attempting to expel the local population in Afrin in Northwestern Aleppo and seize their lands and properties, noting that the Turkish army has so far sheltered over 64,000 family members of the terrorists in this region's towns and villages.

Full report at:

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980402000736

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Australian ISIS orphans rescued from Syria camp

24 June 2019

Eight orphans of Australian ISIS fighters have been spirited out of a camp in Syria, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Monday, in an apparent U-turn.

The children and grandchildren of two notorious extremists are now in the care of Australian officials, he said in a statement.

The children are believed to be aged between two and 17 and were living in a camp in northern Syria -- making consular access all but impossible.

Morrison previously indicated his government would only help citizens if they approached an embassy or consulate but appeared to have had a change of heart.

“The fact that parents put their children into harm’s way by taking them into a war zone was a despicable act,” Morrison said in a statement.

“However, children should not be punished for the crimes of their parents.”

The group includes three surviving children and two grandchildren of Sydney-born Khaled Sharrouf- who came to prominence after posting a photo of one of his sons holding the head of a Syrian soldier.

There are also three children of Yasin Rizvic who travelled from Australia to Syria with his wife.

Both ISIS fighters are presumed dead.

Morrison did not name the children or elaborate on how they were removed, but confirmed they were “repatriated from the conflict zone into the care of Australian government officials”.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that the children had been moved to a country neighboring Syria.

Their case had gained widespread attention after the grandmother of the Sharrouf children -- 17-year-old heavily pregnant Zaynab, her younger sister Hoda, their eight-year-old brother Hamzeh, and Zaynab’s two young children Ayesha, three, and Fatima, two -- had pleaded with Canberra to bring them home.

Grandmother Karen Nettleton even travelled to the camp earlier this year to meet them but was rebuffed by authorities, and Morrison said he did not want to put Australian lives at risk.

The prime minister on Monday repeated his concerns, adding that “repatriating these children was not a decision the Australian government made lightly”.

“Australia’s national security and the safety of our people and personnel have always been our most important considerations in this matter,” he said.

The fate of foreign fighters and their families has become a significant problem for governments as the conflict against IS draws to a close.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/06/24/Australian-ISIS-orphans-rescued-from-Syria-camp.html

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Syria regime air strikes kill four civilians

23 June 2019

Syrian regime air strikes killed four civilians including two children on Sunday in the northwestern Idlib region, a Britain-based war monitor said.

The Idlib region of some three million people is supposed to be protected by a September buffer zone deal, but the enclave has come under mounting bombardment by the government and its ally Russia since late April.

An air raid by Damascus aircraft on Sunday took the lives of two adults and two children in the village of Josef in Idlib province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Since Wednesday, more than 60 civilians have been killed in regime air raids in the surrounding anti-government enclave, the Britain-based monitoring group says.

Since the start of the escalation in late April, more than 470 civilians have perished in regime and Russian bombardment there.

The violence has forced around 330,000 people to flee their homes and hit 23 health centers, the United Nations says.

The September deal signed by Russia and rebel backer Turkey was supposed to set up a buffer zone around the Idlib region, but the accord was never fully implemented.

In January, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham – an alliance led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate – took over administrative control of the region, which is made up of a large part of the Idlib province and slivers of neighboring governorates.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/06/23/Syria-regime-air-strikes-kill-four-civilians.html

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