New Age Islam
Fri Aug 14 2020, 09:34 AM

Islamic World News ( 17 March 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Pakistan: Spike in Attacks on Workers Of Religious Parties














Photo: Pakistan: Spike in attacks on workers of religious parties(Representative Image (AP))

 

'Langar' At Mumbai Mosque Feeds 100 a Night; Kitchen Has Capacity to Serve 400

Syrian Army Keeps Rolling on Terrorist Centres in Eastern Ghouta

7 Bangladesh Islamist Militants Sentenced To Death for Sufi Murder

'Trump Admin Looking To Work with India on Rohingya Issue'

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Pakistan

Pakistan: Spike In Attacks On Workers Of Religious Parties

2 Polio Workers Killed In Mohmand Agency, 3 Abducted

Bilawal says PPP stopped Nawaz's 'Zia alliance' in Senate elections

Reports emerge regarding killing of a Pakistani General in Zabul

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India

'Langar' At Mumbai Mosque Feeds 100 a Night; Kitchen Has Capacity to Serve 400

Troops Can Cross LoC to Protect Territorial Integrity: Home Minister

5 Civilians Killed In Pak Shelling In Jammu And Kashmir's Poonch

Return of Pakistan envoy to India may be delayed

India issues 12th note verbale to Pak over harassment of its high commission staff

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Arab World

Syrian Army Keeps Rolling on Terrorist Centres in Eastern Ghouta

Iraqi Troops Kill Seven Islamic State Militants In Nineveh Province

10 civilians killed by militant shelling in Damascus – Russian MoD

Iraq: Notorious French ISIL Head-Chopper Reportedly Killed

Syrian Army Declares One-Day Ceasefire in Harasta for Evacuation of Civilians

Terrorists Fail to Prevail over Pro-Damascus Forces' Positions in Idlib Province

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South Asia

7 Bangladesh Islamist Militants Sentenced To Death for Sufi Murder

Taliban IED Engineers among 13 Killed In US Airstrike in Kandahar

Car bomb kills at least three in Afghan capital

One killed in grenade attack on a school in Kabul

Afghan president invites Abbasi for talks to repair ties

Abdullah shares the issue of cross-border shelling with Pakistan’s NSA

5 Afghan policemen killed in Taliban attack

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North America

'Trump Admin Looking To Work with India on Rohingya Issue'

Pakistan 'Must Do More' Against Terror Groups: US

US says it’s prepared to stop attacks on troops in Afghanistan

US issues new warnings to Pakistan regarding Taliban, cross-border attacks

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Mideast

Islamic Development Bank lists $1.25 billion Sukuk on Nasdaq Dubai

Hundreds of Israeli Forces Deployed in Iraq

]Turkey's Erdogan Says Afrin City Centre under 'Total' Control

Israel Bombs Gaza 'Underground' Complex after Blast

Israeli Forces Detain 19 Palestinian in West Bank

Why won’t Al Jazeera air their investigation into Israeli lobbying in US?

Turkish Army Occupies 14 More Kurdish-Held Regions in Northern Syria

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Southeast Asia

UN Launches $1bn Appeal to Care for Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh

Malaysia Warns Rohingya Crisis Could Pose Security Risk

Rohingya in 'No Man's Land' Reject Return on Myanmar Terms: Camp Chief

Taliban’s Mullah Rasoul group welcomes Ulema Conference in Indonesia

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Europe

Left-Islamist Rotterdam Coalition Collapses After ‘Israel = ISIS’ Tweet

US training Syria militants for false flag chemical attack as basis for airstrikes – Russian MoD

Muslim community group marks 100 years of RAF

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/pakistan--spike-in-attacks-on-workers-of-religious-parties/d/114631

 

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Pakistan: Spike in attacks on workers of religious parties

PTI | Mar 17, 2018

PESHAWAR: Pakistan saw a sharp increase in terror attacks on workers associated with religious parties in 2017 while there was a 50 per cent reduction in attacks on workers of political parties, a new report has said.

The figures were part of a report by the Centre For Research And Security Study.

34 workers of religious parties died in 2017 in different incidents whereas 12 had died in 2016.

In 2016, 52 workers of political parties were killed while the figure for 2017 was 28.

The report further revealed that 80 percent politicians and local leaders were martyred in target killings and suicide attacks.

Overall, 2,057 people died in suicide attacks, bomb blasts, personal clashes and other criminal offences in 2017 in Pakistan, which mostly included security forces personnel, and 779 civilians, including 28 politicians.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-spike-in-attacks-on-workers-of-religious-parties/articleshow/63343712.cms

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'Langar' At Mumbai Mosque Feeds 100 A Night, Kitchen Has Capacity To Serve 400

Mohammed Wajihuddin | TNN | Updated: Mar 18, 2018

MUMBAI: It is around 8.30pm. The muezzin at the massive, white-washed green minarate-decorated Sunni Muslim Bilal Masjid in Grant Road (East) has called out the faithful for Isha or the night's prayer. While several devout Muslims, clad in white kurta-pyjama, head to the mosque's inner sanctum after doing wadu or ablutions at the front wadukhana, a group of Good Samaritans first finish a big task at hand before joining others at the prayers.

They hand out food packets, each containing containing three rotis, sabzi and achar, to the hungry, impoverished lot who have queued up at the IdgahMaidan on the mosque's eastern flank. Led by spiritual leader Syed Moin Ashraf Quadri (MoinMian), one of the trustees of Sunni Muslim ChhotaKabrastan Trust which manages both the Bilal Masjid and the IdgahMaidan, this charitable act is unusual if not altogether unique.

For, langar or community kitchen through which some Sikhs distribute free meals to the visitors to a place of worship, especially Gurudwaras, is common. Distribution of free meal at Dargahs or mausoleums of Sufi Saints is also passe. But rarely does a mosque or a trust which runs a mosque manage a langar.

Kicking off the service named Langar-e-Rasool (the Prophet's kitchen) this month's beginning, the trustees have not just begun feeding some of the poor in the city but even revolutionise the role of a mosque. Mosques traditionally are used to pray or even to hold Quran classes at non-namaz hours but, by initiating a free vegetarian meal service and naming it after the Prophet, the trustees have introduced an inclusivity to a sacred space. "The Prophet encouraged people to feed the poor and the hungry and the hungry can be from any religion. We have kept it vegetarian deliberately to widen its appeal to non-Muslims who may not be comfortable to take non-vegetarian food from a Muslim-run organisation," explains MoinMian whose fellow trustees-Abdul Kader Churatwala, Amin Dabbawala and Aslam Lakha-approved the proposal when one of MoinMian's followers proposed the idea and initially funded the project. "We have done the maths and can give food to at least 400 people every night. Currently around 100 turn out to receive free meal," informs Dabbawala.

The food, Dabbawala insists, prepared from fresh vegetables and pure wheat flour, at the nearby Madrassa AshrafiaQadriya (MoinMian heads it), reach the maidan just before the night prayer begins. As the volunteers bring the baskets, the beneficiaries queue up. Present in the queue are also three sisters-Lubna, Asma, Sana. "We never had plenty of food at home though we are not beggars. These packets supplement what we already have for the dinner," says Lubna. They share it with neighbours if they have collected more than they can bite off. "Sometimes we share with our neighbours if we feel we have taken more than we can eat," says Asma.

The service is earning accolades from the wider community members. "I appreciate the effort to provide some poor healthy and hygienic meal every night. At least these beneficiaries don't have to sleep on empty stomach," says Bandra-based activist Shadaab Patel who wants many more mosques to replicate the service.

Education activist Kazim Malik says that some months ago Bandra-based activist late Ghulam Mohammed sponsored a free meal service on Fridays at a mosque in Dharavi but the service is close since Ghulam Mohammed died. "One of his friends has promised to reopen it soon," informs Malik.

So how will the langar at the Sunni Bilal Mosque sustain? "As the word spread, people have begun contributing to the Trust being run under MoinMian's guidance. We believe it is not we but God which feeds us and He will keep supplying the food," says Lakha, leaving you almost speechless. You cannot argue much when God appears in between discussions.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/langar-at-mosque-feeds-100-a-night-kitchen-has-capacity-to-serve-400/articleshow/63350000.cms

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Syrian Army Keeps Rolling on Terrorist Centers in Eastern Ghouta

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Army troops continued their early morning operation before the start of a daily-based ceasefire on Sunday and imposed control over more regions in the depth of Eastern Ghouta.

The army men stormed terrorists' strongholds North of the town of al-Reihan and seized control over Farabi School Building.

The army units further captured Tal Kurdi settlement and a large part of Farms Northeast of Tal Kurdi.

A large number of terrorists were killed or wounded and a large volume of arms and ammunition were destroyed in the attack. 

In a relevant development on Saturday the army men, deployed in the newly-freed town of Jesrin, stormed terrorists' strongholds in KafrBatna settlement and managed to capture several points in the settlement after hours of a daily truce in the region ended.

Also, the army's artillery and missile units pounded terrorists' positions inside KafrBatna, killing or wounding a number of terrorists.

A field sources said that the army men have imposed control over half of KafrBatna.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961227000538

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7 Bangladesh Islamist militants sentenced to death for Sufi murder

Mar 18, 2018, 03.30 PM (IST)

Seven Islamist militants were sentenced to death Sunday in Bangladesh for the murder of a Sufi shrine caretaker in 2015, at the height of a wave of attacks which swept the South Asian country.

The militants belonged to the banned outfit Jama’atulMujahideen Bangladesh (JMB). Identified as - Masud Rana, Bijoy, Liton Mia, Ihsak Ali, Chandu Mia, Shakhwat Hossain and Sarwar Hossain - were also fined Tk 20,000 each. Of them, Chandu Mia was tried in absentia.

The Special Judge’s Court of Noresh Chandra Sarker acquitted six other accused of the charges, reports said.

The defendants were convicted by a special court in the northern city of Rangpur where the killing took place, according to prosecutor Ratish Chandra Bhowmik.

"Six of the convicts were in the court. Another convict was sentenced in absentia," he said, adding the defendant remained at large. Two further suspects had been killed in a shootout with security forces since the murder, Bhowmik added.

He said the men confessed to slaughtering the caretaker in November 2015 because they considered him a heretic.

"They think shrine worship is anti-Islam," the prosecutor said, adding the extremists admitted saying they would kill anyone they believed had deviated from Islam.

Earlier, on March 5, a court here fixed March 18for delivering the verdict in the case.

The JMB has been blamed for a wave of extremist attacks on religious minorities, atheist bloggers and converts from Islam in the past five years after they regrouped following the executions of its founder and senior leaders in 2007.

In July 2016, suspected JMB militants stormed a Dhaka cafe and massacred 22 hostages, including 18 foreigners, in an assault claimed by the Islamic State group.

wionews.com/south-asia/7-bangladesh-islamist-militants-sentensed-to-death-for-sufi-murder-36231

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'Trump admin looking to work with India on Rohingya issue'

PTI | Mar 17, 2018

WASHINGTON: The Trump administration is looking for ways to work with India in terms of providing for the needs of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and also to put pressure on Myanmar to create conditions for their safe and voluntary return, a senior US official has said.

Nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar's northern Rakhine state to Bangladesh since August last year when security forces launched a crackdown on insurgents.

Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed in November to start repatriating Rohingya refugees who volunteered to return to Rakhine state, but the process has not yet begun.

The senior US administration official, on the condition of anonymity, said that there is interest in trying to work more closely with India.

"We think India also has an interest in seeing this situation resolved," he said yesterday.

The Trump administration is looking for ways to try to work with India in terms of providing for the needs of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and also ways to work together to put pressure on Myanmar to create the conditions for their safe and voluntary return, the official said.

"India is a like-minded partner. There are ways we can explore coordinating diplomatic approaches to the Burmese in building on that common interest that we have in supporting Bangladesh and making sure that this doesn't become a situation which complicates their own socio-economic situation or socio-political situation and the radicalism; avoiding that problem of exacerbating a radicalism in Bangladesh," he said.

While the US and India have a lot of joint interests, the official said that there has been no helpful response from China on this.

"What I heard from the Bangladeshis was frustration with China's unhelpful role in this crisis. And they certainly were noticing the stark contrast between China's actions and the generous US humanitarian response," the official from the White House told a group of reporters.

He said that Lisa Curtis, who is Deputy Assistant to US President Donald Trump and Senior Director for South and Central Asia at the National Security Council, visited Bangladesh and held a wide range of consultations with its top officials.

"President Trump is very concerned about the Rohingya situation," the official said, adding that the president wants to help resolve the situation.

During the trip, Curtis discussed with top Bangladeshi officials various aspects of the relationship.

While counter-terrorism is very important for Bangladesh, Rohingya refugee crisis is the most pressing issue right now, the official said.

"We owe a debt of gratitude to Bangladesh for opening its arms to the Rohingya refugees," the official said.

"However, there is concerned with the coming monsoon rains, posing a real challenge, given the risk of flooding and mudslides," the official said, adding that the organisations estimate that more than 100,000 refugees face imminent danger.

The Bangladeshi government seeks to put pressure on Myanmar to create conditions for the peaceful and voluntary return of these refugees, he said.

While currently there is no evidence of extremist groups penetrating these refugees camp, the Bangladeshi government is concerned about this, he said.

"We didn't see any evidence, but it's something they're watching for, they are monitoring for. It is a threat because the kinds of atrocities that these people have witnessed and you already have terrorist groups operating in Bangladesh. So there is concern that the camps could become a recruitment ground," the official added.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/trump-admin-looking-to-work-with-india-on-rohingya-issue/articleshow/63345443.cms

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Pakistan

Pakistan: Spike in attacks on workers of religious parties

PTI | Mar 17, 2018

PESHAWAR: Pakistan saw a sharp increase in terror attacks on workers associated with religious parties in 2017 while there was a 50 per cent reduction in attacks on workers of political parties, a new report has said.

The figures were part of a report by the Centre For Research And Security Study.

34 workers of religious parties died in 2017 in different incidents whereas 12 had died in 2016.

In 2016, 52 workers of political parties were killed while the figure for 2017 was 28.

The report further revealed that 80 percent politicians and local leaders were martyred in target killings and suicide attacks.

Overall, 2,057 people died in suicide attacks, bomb blasts, personal clashes and other criminal offences in 2017 in Pakistan, which mostly included security forces personnel, and 779 civilians, including 28 politicians.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-spike-in-attacks-on-workers-of-religious-parties/articleshow/63343712.cms

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2 polio workers killed in Mohmand Agency, 3 abducted

Dawn.com | Ali Akbar Updated March 17, 2018

Two polio workers were shot dead and three others were abducted by unidentified assailants in Safi tehsil of Mohmand Agency, DawnNewsTV reported on Saturday.

According to Political Administration officials, unidentified miscreants opened fire on the polio team comprising seven volunteers in Safi tehsil of the agency.

Two polio workers managed to escape the attack and reached Ghalanai, the headquarter of Mohmand Agency, and informed about the incident, the officials said.

Attacks targeting polio teams were very frequent few years back but following the military operation, their frequency has decreased over the last few years.

Pakistan along with Afghanistan, the last two polio-endemic countries in the world, is facing militants, who first forcibly stopped vaccination in Swat in 2007 and then in North and South Waziristan agencies in 2012 and thus, leaving at least 160 children crippled.

Officials associated with the anti-polio campaign in the province believe they cannot afford to abandon the efforts due to attacks and lose the gains they have obtained in the prolonged fight against polio.

The authorities in KP and Fata bank on the support of security personnel to eradicate polio from the region for good.

dawn.com/news/1395869/2-polio-workers-killed-in-mohmand-agency-3-abducted

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Bilawal says PPP stopped Nawaz's 'Zia alliance' in Senate elections

Dawn.comMarch 18, 2018

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto, while addressing a rally in KotliSattian tehsil on Sunday, gloated over PML-N's loss in the Senate elections, saying the opposition had defeated the ruling party's "Zia alliance" in the upper house.

"You [PML-N leadership] used to say 'roksako to rok lo' (stop us if you can)," recalled Bilawal. "Look, we have stopped you."

He berated Nawaz Sharif for terming PML-N's defeat in the Senate elections as a "defeat for democracy", saying that the former prime minister had tied democracy with his own victory and defeat.

Referring to Sharif's statement that came right after SadiqSanjarani defeated PML-N's Raja ZafarulHaq in the elections for Senate chairman — where he referred to the opposition parties as "wound-up toys" — Bilawal said that the former premier himself was the "toy". He claimed that Sharif's entire politics was based on using power to his advantage.

The PPP chairman said that the Balochistan Assembly had passed a no-confidence motion against PML-N's government because of lack of development in Balochistan under the ruling party's administration.

"Were they wound-up toys too?" he asked.

In his tirade, Bilawal also targeted Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf's Chairman Imran Khan, saying that the former cricketer had "given nothing to the country except curse words and taken nothing but U-turns".

dawn.com/news/1396047/bilawal-says-ppp-stopped-nawazs-zia-alliance-in-senate-elections

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Reports emerge regarding killing of a Pakistani General in Zabul

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun Mar 18 2018

A Pakistani General has reportedly been killed in an explosion in the restive Zabul province of Afghanistan in the South, the local officials said.

The incident has taken place in the vicinity of Shahjoin district late on Friday night and as a result a security guard of the General has also been killed.

The provincial governor’s spokesman Gul Islam Sayad confirmed that they have received initial intelligence reports regarding the killing of a Pakistani General in Shajoi district.

Sayal further added that the General killed in the explosion has been identified as Nawaz but the circumstances surrounding his killing has not been ascertained so far and it is yet not clear who was behind the attack.

According to Sayal, the General was apparently supporting the anti-government armed elements.

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

Although the presence of the foreign fighters including Pakistani insurgents among the Taliban ranks in Afghanistan is not new but such reports rarely emerge suggesting the killing of a high level General.

khaama.com/reports-emerge-regarding-killing-of-a-pakistani-general-in-zabul-04673/

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India

'Langar' At Mumbai Mosque Feeds 100 A Night, Kitchen Has Capacity To Serve 400

Mohammed Wajihuddin | TNN | Updated: Mar 18, 2018

MUMBAI: It is around 8.30pm. The muezzin at the massive, white-washed green minarate-decorated Sunni Muslim Bilal Masjid in Grant Road (East) has called out the faithful for Isha or the night's prayer. While several devout Muslims, clad in white kurta-pyjama, head to the mosque's inner sanctum after doing wadu or ablutions at the front wadukhana, a group of Good Samaritans first finish a big task at hand before joining others at the prayers.

They hand out food packets, each containing containing three rotis, sabzi and achar, to the hungry, impoverished lot who have queued up at the IdgahMaidan on the mosque's eastern flank. Led by spiritual leader Syed Moin Ashraf Quadri (MoinMian), one of the trustees of Sunni Muslim ChhotaKabrastan Trust which manages both the Bilal Masjid and the IdgahMaidan, this charitable act is unusual if not altogether unique.

For, langar or community kitchen through which some Sikhs distribute free meals to the visitors to a place of worship, especially Gurudwaras, is common. Distribution of free meal at Dargahs or mausoleums of Sufi Saints is also passe. But rarely does a mosque or a trust which runs a mosque manage a langar.

Kicking off the service named Langar-e-Rasool (the Prophet's kitchen) this month's beginning, the trustees have not just begun feeding some of the poor in the city but even revolutionise the role of a mosque. Mosques traditionally are used to pray or even to hold Quran classes at non-namaz hours but, by initiating a free vegetarian meal service and naming it after the Prophet, the trustees have introduced an inclusivity to a sacred space. "The Prophet encouraged people to feed the poor and the hungry and the hungry can be from any religion. We have kept it vegetarian deliberately to widen its appeal to non-Muslims who may not be comfortable to take non-vegetarian food from a Muslim-run organisation," explains MoinMian whose fellow trustees-Abdul Kader Churatwala, Amin Dabbawala and Aslam Lakha-approved the proposal when one of MoinMian's followers proposed the idea and initially funded the project. "We have done the maths and can give food to at least 400 people every night. Currently around 100 turn out to receive free meal," informs Dabbawala.

The food, Dabbawala insists, prepared from fresh vegetables and pure wheat flour, at the nearby Madrassa AshrafiaQadriya (MoinMian heads it), reach the maidan just before the night prayer begins. As the volunteers bring the baskets, the beneficiaries queue up. Present in the queue are also three sisters-Lubna, Asma, Sana. "We never had plenty of food at home though we are not beggars. These packets supplement what we already have for the dinner," says Lubna. They share it with neighbours if they have collected more than they can bite off. "Sometimes we share with our neighbours if we feel we have taken more than we can eat," says Asma.

The service is earning accolades from the wider community members. "I appreciate the effort to provide some poor healthy and hygienic meal every night. At least these beneficiaries don't have to sleep on empty stomach," says Bandra-based activist Shadaab Patel who wants many more mosques to replicate the service.

Education activist Kazim Malik says that some months ago Bandra-based activist late Ghulam Mohammed sponsored a free meal service on Fridays at a mosque in Dharavi but the service is close since Ghulam Mohammed died. "One of his friends has promised to reopen it soon," informs Malik.

So how will the langar at the Sunni Bilal Mosque sustain? "As the word spread, people have begun contributing to the Trust being run under MoinMian's guidance. We believe it is not we but God which feeds us and He will keep supplying the food," says Lakha, leaving you almost speechless. You cannot argue much when God appears in between discussions.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/langar-at-mosque-feeds-100-a-night-kitchen-has-capacity-to-serve-400/articleshow/63350000.cms

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Troops Can Cross LoC to Protect Territorial Integrity: Home Minister

TNN | Mar 18, 2018

NEW DELHI: Home minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday attacked Pakistan for giving political legitimacy to terror mastermind Hafiz Saeed and said Indian security forces can cross the borders, if needed, to protect the country’s territorial integrity.

Asserting that Jammu and Kashmir will remain an integral part of India, Singh said the government wants a permanent solution to the Kashmir issue and the interlocutor appointed by it is ready to talk to anyone who is willing to have a dialogue. “We not only secure India internally but can also cross border, if needed, to protect the country,” he said at the ‘Rising India’ summit, organised by News18.

The army carried out surgical strikes across the LoC in September 2016 at terror launch pads to avenge the attacks in Jammu and Kashmir.

Singh stated India wants to maintain friendly relations with Pakistan but the latter was not keen for it, rather it was giving “political legitimacy” to LeT founder and 26/11 Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed.

“Pakistan is now providing political legitimacy to a UN-designated terrorist. Hafiz Saeed is now allowed to form a political party, he will contest elections and go to Parliament. The Haqqani Network, which is responsible for killings of scores of people is being abetted and given protection. It is shocking,” he said.

Singh said Prime Minister Narendra Modi achieved huge success in taking the fight against terrorism to the international fora. Earlier, nobody talked against Pakistan's terrorism and now the US has also condemned Pakistan, he said.

He said despite Pakistan’s best efforts, Kashmir would never be separated from India. “Kashmir was with India, Kashmir is with India and it will remain with India forever,” he said, adding, “Kashmir's children are like my own and would not allow anyone to radicalise them.”

“I want to tell those who are trying to teach jihad to innocent Kashmiri youths that they should first learn the real concept of jihad in Islam,” he said. The minister said he had personally asked Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to ignore cases filed against first-time stone-pelters.

Following Singh’s request, the J&K government withdrew cases registered against 9,730 people involved in stone-pelting incidents, including first-time offenders.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/troops-can-cross-loc-to-protect-territorial-integrity-rajnath-singh/articleshow/63349964.cms

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5 Civilians Killed In Pak Shelling In Jammu And Kashmir's Poonch

March 18, 2018

JAMMU:  Five members of a family were killed in heavy shelling by Pakistani forces this morning near the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir's Poonch district. Army troops were retaliating appropriately and effectively, the police said.

Choudhary Mohammad Ramzan, his wife and three minor sons were killed as shells hit their house in DevtaDhar village in Balakote sector. His two daughters are injured.

The shelling started around 7:45 am, Army spokesperson Lt Col DevenderAnand said, adding that Pakistani troops were "specifically targeting civilian areas".

Last week, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that the armed forces were retaliating appropriately to ceasefire violations by the Pakistani army "wherever necessary", adding that the defences along the border were being periodically fortified to withstand any attack.

In a reply in Rajya Sabha to questions related to the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir, Ms Sitharaman said that 209 incidents of ceasefire violations by the Pakistani army were reported along the Line of Control in January, while the number was 142 in the first 12 days of February. A total of 860 incidents of ceasefire violations took place last year.

Last month, four Army personnel, including a 22-year-old Captain, were killed in Pakistani shelling along the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch and Rajouri districts. Army Vice Chief Sarath Chand had said that India would continue to give a "befitting reply" and its "action will speak for itself".

ndtv.com/india-news/5-civilians-killed-in-ceasefire-violation-by-pak-in-jammu-and-kashmirs-poonch-1825279

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Return of Pakistan envoy to India may be delayed

Sachin Parashar and Omer Farooq Khan | TNN | Updated: Mar 18, 2018

Pakistan commerce minister Pervaiz Malik on Saturday called off his visit to India to protest "an unprecedented intimidation of its diplomats."

Sources said Pak is likely to delay the return of its envoy, Sohail Mahmood, who may not come back "until bilateral ties improve."

Image used for representationImage used for representation

NEW DELHI/ISLAMABAD: Tensions between India and Pakistan over alleged harassment and bullying of diplomats seem set to worsen with Pakistan deciding to pull out of the WTO + ministerial which will take place here next week. As first reported by TOI on Saturday, Pakistan commerce minister Pervaiz Malik called off his visit to India to protest against what Pakistan sees as an unprecedented intimidation of its diplomats and their children.

While India did not officially respond to Pakistan’s decision, which put paid to what would have been the first public high-level engagement between the two countries in a long time, Indian officials here said it was Pakistan which needed to check instances of harassment of Indian diplomats in Islamabad + . It seems though that the worse is yet to come as India Saturday issued another note verbale, its 12th this year on the issue, saying Indian diplomats had been aggressively followed and harassed.

Diplomatic sources said that Pakistan is likely to delay the return of its envoy Sohail Mahmood to India. He may not come back until the time there was, as a Pakistan media report put it, improvement in bilateral ties. Mahmood is the host for the upcoming Pakistan Day celebration here on March 23 but that apparently is not an issue for Islamabad as, if Mahmood doesn’t indeed return by then, this won’t be the first occasion that the high commissioner would not be present at the event. Mahmood is likely to next week brief the Pakistan PM, ShahidAbbasi, about the standoff after the latter returns from the US.

Indian officials here said they had no idea about the plans of Mahmood but ruled out a repeat of the 2001-2002 diplomatic standoff after the Parliament attack which saw both countries recalling their envoy for a while. Sources here said the Indian government wasn’t contemplating at all any such move to recall its own high commissioner Ajay Bisaria who has himself faced harassment in Islamabad.

Pakistan has accused India of jeopardising the relationship for "short term tactical gains’’ suggesting the recent hostility was initiated by India to mar any possibility of a thaw in the relationship. Islamabad sees as significant the fact that the alleged bullying of Pakistan diplomats started on March 7, days after the agreement which the 2 countries arrived at for release and repatriation of women and senior citizen prisoners. It also alleges that there is a "vacuum’’ in the relationship in the absence of any high-level engagement and that the recent incidents are a fallout of the same.

According to Indian officials though, if Pakistan indeed was serious about engagement with India, it would not have called off the visit by Pakistan’s commerce minister. India holds Pakistan responsible for the bitterness in ties and its litany of complaints goes well back into 2017 or May 2017 to be specific when Pakistan, according to Indian authorities, started blocking access to Indian government websites. The raid on an Indian complex on February 15 this year was the immediate provocation for India to take up the harassment of its diplomats seriously. The honey-trapping of 2 junior Indian officials late last year in Islamabad and Pakistan’s decision to block membership of Indian diplomats for Islamabad Club had earlier exacerbated the situation for India.

Last month, India had invited Pakistan’s Commerce Minister Pervaiz Malik to participate in the informal WTO ministerial meeting in New Delhi on March 19-20. While Pakistan had not formally accepted the invitation, the minister was likely to attend the meeting and meet his Indian counterpart Suresh Prabhu.

The invitation was part of December 2017 secret back-channel negotiations between National Security Advisers Nasser Janjua and AjitDoval.

A senior official of the Ministry of Commerce in Pakistan said the decision to boycott the meeting was made at the highest level in the backdrop of continuing diplomatic standoff between the two countries. “We have conveyed to India that nobody from Islamabad will attend the WTO meeting in New Delhi. It is not possible to send our commerce minister to India at a time when our diplomats and their families are harassed there,” the official

said, requesting anonymity.

He said that India has been conveyed to change its policy toward Pakistan before expecting it to attend summits and meetings there. Last month, India had invited Pakistan’s Commerce Minister Pervaiz Malik to participate in the informal WTO ministerial meeting in New Delhi on March 19-20. While Pakistan had not formally accepted the invitation, the minister was likely to attend the meeting and meet his Indian counterpart Suresh Prabhu.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/return-of-pakistan-envoy-to-india-may-be-delayed/articleshow/63349855.cms

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India issues 12th note verbale to Pak over harassment of its high commission staff

PTI | Mar 17, 2018

NEW DELHI: India today gave a note verbale to Pakistan through its high commission in Islamabad protesting the "intimidation and harassment" of its staff there, the 12th such diplomatic note in less than three months.

Official sources said that in its communication to the Pakistan foreign ministry, the Indian high commission specifically mentioned two incidents of harassment - one today and the other on March 15.

"Another note verbale was sent today by our High Commission in Islamabad to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan protesting against the intimidation and harassment of Indian High Commission officials," a source said.

"This was the 12th note verbale this year on the subject," the source said.

Two incidents were highlighted in the note verbale.

In today's incident, the source said, some officials of the Indian mission, who had gone to the Blue Area in Islamabad to shop, were harassed, with two persons aggressively following them and hurling abuses.

In the March 15 incident, another official of the mission and his family was aggressively followed by two men on a motorbike when he was on the way to a restaurant.

"We have asked the Pakistan government to investigate these incidents," the source said.

The note verbale to the Pakistan foreign ministry comes two days after Islamabad called its high commissioner home for consultations, a move termed "routine" and "normal" by India.

Pakistan had said it called home its envoy in India Sohail Mahmood for consultations after repeated incidents of "harassment" of its diplomatic staff in New Delhi.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had said that the Indian High Commission in Islamabad was also facing a "litany of issues" which have not been resolved for several months by that country.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/india-issues-12th-note-verbale-to-pak-on-harassment-of-its-high-commission-staff/articleshow/63349215.cms

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Arab World

Syrian Army Keeps Rolling on Terrorist Centers in Eastern Ghouta

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Army troops continued their early morning operation before the start of a daily-based ceasefire on Sunday and imposed control over more regions in the depth of Eastern Ghouta.

The army men stormed terrorists' strongholds North of the town of al-Reihan and seized control over Farabi School Building.

The army units further captured Tal Kurdi settlement and a large part of Farms Northeast of Tal Kurdi.

A large number of terrorists were killed or wounded and a large volume of arms and ammunition were destroyed in the attack. 

In a relevant development on Saturday the army men, deployed in the newly-freed town of Jesrin, stormed terrorists' strongholds in KafrBatna settlement and managed to capture several points in the settlement after hours of a daily truce in the region ended.

Also, the army's artillery and missile units pounded terrorists' positions inside KafrBatna, killing or wounding a number of terrorists.

A field sources said that the army men have imposed control over half of KafrBatna.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961227000538

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Iraqi troops kill seven Islamic State militants in Nineveh province

by  MohammedEbraheem

Mar 18, 2018

Nineveh (Iraqinews.com) – Iraqi troops killed on Sunday seven Islamic State (IS) militants while trying to infiltrate into al-Ba’aj district in Nineveh province, a military spokesman was quoted as saying.

Speaking to the Kuwaiti al-Watan newspaper, spokesman for the Nineveh Operations Command Brigadier-General Mohamed al-Jabouri said, “A group of IS militants tried to sneak into al-Ba’aj district, 120 km northwest of Mosul, but security forces stationed there managed to foil their scheme and killed seven of them.”

“The IS insurgents sought to infiltrate into al-Ba’aj district to carry out terrorist attacks against security forces and citizens,” Jabouri said, adding that the troops seized all weapons from the terrorists.

Jabouri pointed out the security forces will continue to hunt for Islamic State infiltrators across the province.

The Islamic State group appeared on the international scene in 2014 when it seized large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria, declaring the establishment of an Islamic “caliphate” from Mosul city.

Later on, the group has become notorious for its brutality, including mass killings, abductions and beheadings, prompting the U.S. to lead an international coalition to destroy it

Despite the victory over IS in Iraq in December, observers say IS is believed to constitute a security threat against security forces and citizens alike.

iraqinews.com/iraq-war/iraqi-troops-kill-seven-islamic-state-militants-nineveh-province/

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10 civilians killed by militant shelling in Damascus – Russian MoD

Published time: 17 Mar, 2018

At least 10 civilians have been killed in Syria’s capital city of Damascus over the past 24-hours by militants who continued shelling of the city’s residential areas, spokesman for the Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria Major General Yury Yevtushenko said on Saturday. The attacks also caused material damage. Over 32,000 people left the area of eastern Ghouta through humanitarian corridors on Saturday, according to the spokesman. On the whole, some 48,000 civilians have left Ghouta since daily humanitarian pauses were implemented in the region in late February, which came as part of the Syrian Army’s and Russia’s efforts to help civilians leave the combat zone.

rt.com/newsline/421599-civilians-killed-damascus/

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Iraq: Notorious French ISIL Head-Chopper Reportedly Killed

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- Maxim Hoshar, a French national and the notorious head-chopper of the ISIL terrorist group, has reportedly been killed, Iraqi sources reported on Sunday, but said there is no further details about the incident.

The Arabic-language al-Sumeriyeh news quoted the Iraqi sources as saying that 27-year-old Maxim Hoshar, nom de guerre Abu Abdullah, has been killed.

It further said that the French who won the title of ISIL's head-chopper in late 2014 when he beheaded an American hostage and 18 Syrian army troops captured by the group earlier.

Abu Abdullah that joined the terrorist group via internet had invited a large number of people to follow his suit.

The source did not disclose any information about Hoshar's death.

The Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency quoted Iraqi Army Major Abdul Aziz al-Mo'azidi as disclosing earlier this month that the Iraqi forces have detained Head of Amaq News Agency, the media wing of ISIL terrorist group in the village of al-Lak near Mosul.

Anadolu further said that Khalid al-Amin was interrogated by the Iraqi forces right on the spot, leading the Baghdad forces to detain six al-Amin's aids in the same village.

The Amaq was established in 2014 when ISIL was ruling large parts of Iraq and Syria.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961227000610

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Syrian Army Declares One-Day Ceasefire in Harasta for Evacuation of Civilians

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Army has declared a 24-hour ceasefire in Harasta region in Eastern Ghouta to allow civilian evacuation as the terrorists are preventing thousands of people from leaving the region via a newly-established humanitarian corridor, a field source reported on Sunday.

The sources said that the army declared a unilateral 24-hour ceasefire in Harasta to assist people to save their lives and exit terrorist-held regions via a newly-set up humanitarian corridor in Water Resources region and move towards the government forces' positions.

The sources said that a large crowd of people have moved toward the corridor in Harasta, hundreds of them have exited Harasta via the passageway.

They said that the militant groups have opened fire at fleeing civilians, preventing them from leaving the region.   

Field sources said on Saturday that the army established a new humanitarian corridor from the town of Harasta to Water Resources Company Building near the international Highway to Damascus for the evacuation of civilians from the terrorist-held regions in Eastern Ghouta.

The sources said that a large number of people in Harasta were moving towards the new corridor.

In the meantime, the Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria reported that over 11,000 civilians left Eastern Ghouta via humanitarian corridors for safer regions since 11 a.m Saturday.  

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961227000459

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Terrorists Fail to Prevail over Pro-Damascus Forces' Positions in Idlib Province

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- A heavy offensive of the Al-Nusra Front (Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at or the Levant Liberation Board) was warded off by the pro-government popular forces in the Shiite towns of Fua'a and Kafraya in the Northeastern countryside of Idlib city.

The pro-Damascus National Defense Forces clashed with a 15-member group of Al-Nusra terrorists near Brouma Farms in Kafraya region and repelled their attack.

The popular forces killed and wounded several Al-Nusra terrorists and seized their arms and ammunition.

Meantime, the Syrian army continued its military advances in other parts of Syria over past 24 hours.

Tens of terrorists were killed and dozens more were injured during the Syrian army's operations in provinces across Syria.

Idlib

The pro-government popular forces fended off a heavy offensive of the Al-Nusra Front in the Shiite towns of Fua'a and Kafraya in the Northeastern countryside of Idlib city.

The pro-Damascus National Defense Forces clashed with a 15-member group of Al-Nusra terrorists near Brouma Farms in Kafraya region and repelled their attack.

The popular forces killed and wounded several Al-Nusra terrorists and seized their arms and ammunition.

Commanders of the terrorist groups, especially Abdullah Muhammad al-Muhaysini, the former commander and Mufti (religious leader) of Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board or the Al-Nusra Front), have called on their gunmen to attack Fua'a and Kafraya to compensate for their comrades' defeats in Eastern Ghouta. 

The Arabic-language al-Watan daily reported earlier this month that a safe corridor was set up by the government forces under the supervision of the Russian and Turkish sides in Tal al-Sultan region in Eastern Idlib to pave the ground for the civilians to exit terrorist-held regions in Northwestern Syria.

Al-Watan went on to say that the newly-set up safe corridor was supposed to be used by those displaced civilians that had left their villages and settlements in Southern Aleppo for the regions that are under the control of the Al-Nusra Front in Idlib province.

It added that tens of civilians used the newly-established corridor to reach army-controlled regions within the framework of the de-escalation zone agreement concluded in Astana.

Heavy infighting among terrorist groups in Aleppo and Idlib provinces has displaces a large number of civilians in Northwestern Syria.

Damascus

The Syrian Army troops started fresh attacks on terrorists after hours of a daily ceasefire ended in Eastern Ghouta on Saturday afternoon, advancing rapidly towards anther key settlement in the Central part of Eastern Ghouta.

The army men, deployed in the newly-freed town of Jesrin, stormed terrorists' strongholds in KafrBatna settlement and managed to capture several points in the settlement after hours of a daily truce in the region ended.

Also, the army's artillery and missile units pounded terrorists' positions inside KafrBatna, killing or wounding a number of terrorists.

A field source said that the army men have imposed control over half of KafrBatna.

Field sources reported earlier on Saturday that the army has established a new humanitarian corridor from the town of Harasta to Water Resources Company Building near the international Highway to Damascus for the evacuation of civilians from the terrorist-held regions in Eastern Ghouta.

The sources said that a large number of people in Harasta are moving towards the new corridor.

In the meantime, the Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria reported that over 11,000 civilians have left Eastern Ghouta via humanitarian corridors for safer regions since 11 a.m. Saturday.

Hasaka

The Turkish Army troops struck the positions of the Kurdish gunmen in NortheasternHasaka, field sources said on Saturday, adding that Raqqa province is also prone to the same clashes.

Kurdish sources reported that the Turkish troops stormed one of their positions North of the small town of al-Qahtaniyeh in NortheasternHasaka near the border with Turkey, killing a Kurdish militant.

Local sources in Northern Raqqa said that the Kurdish-led groups have deployed a number of their Arab gunmen to the town of Tal Abyadh at the border with Turkey.

Also, several sources said that clashes between the Kurds and Turkish troops are likely in Hasaka and Raqqa following the rapid advances of Ankara forces against the Kurds in Afrin.

Aleppo

The Turkish Army troops and Ankara-backed militants managed to push the Kurdish fighters back from more positions near the town of Afrin on Saturday, deploying on the outskirts of the town in Northwestern Aleppo.

The Turkish forces and allied militants stormed the Kurdish fighters' positions in Ma'abatli near Afrin and captured the villages of KokaliTahtani, KokaliFoqani, DarKayr and Ein al-Ajr.

Also, the Ankara-backed militants occupied the village of Joyaq near Afrin, and the villages of KhzyanFoqani, KhazyanTahtani, Jalqam, Sheikh Balal, Jarkhatli, Qasem, Hill 800 and Hill 1500 in Rajou region.

The militant-affiliated sources said that the forces of Operation Olive Branch have reached Afrin gate after their recent advances.

In the meantime, Turkish President RecepTayyip Erdogan claimed that the Ankara forces have seized control over 75 percent of Afrin region.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961227000382

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South Asia

7 Bangladesh Islamist militants sentenced to death for Sufi murder

Mar 18, 2018, 03.30 PM (IST)

Seven Islamist militants were sentenced to death Sunday in Bangladesh for the murder of a Sufi shrine caretaker in 2015, at the height of a wave of attacks which swept the South Asian country.

The militants belonged to the banned outfit Jama’atulMujahideen Bangladesh (JMB). Identified as - Masud Rana, Bijoy, Liton Mia, Ihsak Ali, Chandu Mia, Shakhwat Hossain and Sarwar Hossain - were also fined Tk 20,000 each. Of them, Chandu Mia was tried in absentia.

The Special Judge’s Court of Noresh Chandra Sarker acquitted six other accused of the charges, reports said.

The defendants were convicted by a special court in the northern city of Rangpur where the killing took place, according to prosecutor Ratish Chandra Bhowmik.

"Six of the convicts were in the court. Another convict was sentenced in absentia," he said, adding the defendant remained at large. Two further suspects had been killed in a shootout with security forces since the murder, Bhowmik added.

He said the men confessed to slaughtering the caretaker in November 2015 because they considered him a heretic.

"They think shrine worship is anti-Islam," the prosecutor said, adding the extremists admitted saying they would kill anyone they believed had deviated from Islam.

Earlier, on March 5, a court here fixed March 18for delivering the verdict in the case.

The JMB has been blamed for a wave of extremist attacks on religious minorities, atheist bloggers and converts from Islam in the past five years after they regrouped following the executions of its founder and senior leaders in 2007.

In July 2016, suspected JMB militants stormed a Dhaka cafe and massacred 22 hostages, including 18 foreigners, in an assault claimed by the Islamic State group.

wionews.com/south-asia/7-bangladesh-islamist-militants-sentensed-to-death-for-sufi-murder-36231

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Taliban IED engineers among 13 killed in US airstrike in Kandahar

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun Mar 18 2018

At least thirteen Taliban insurgents including two engineers expert in the making of the Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) were killed in the US airstrike in southern Kandahar province. (US Military Photo – 455 Air Expeditionary Wing – Bagram Airfield)

According to the local security officials, the militants were killed during the airstrike late on Saturday in the vicinity of Khakriz district.

Provincial Police Chief General Abdul Raziq confirmed the airstrike and said initial intelligence information reveals that two engineers of the group were also among those killed.

He said the Taliban insurgents had gathered in a house in Khakriz and were busy manufacturing IEDs when they came under the air raid.

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

This comes as the 209th Shaheen Corps in the North said a IED expert of the Taliban group identified as Qari Saleh was wounded critically in an operation of the Afghan Special Forces.

The source further added that the Qari Saleh and his two companions were busy planting IEDs on a roadside in Chemtal district when they were spotted by the Special Forces.

khaama.com/taliban-ied-engineers-among-13-killed-in-us-airstrike-in-kandahar-04674/

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Car bomb kills at least three in Afghan capital

Reuters | Mar 17, 2018

KABUL: A Taliban car bomb killed at least three people and wounded two in the Afghan capital Kabul on Saturday in an apparent attack on a foreign contractor company that came despite a further tightening in security across the city, officials said.

Interior ministry spokesman NajibDanesh said all those killed and wounded in the explosion were civilians, with no casualties among the contractors.

Witnesses said the true casualty toll was higher and that, like countless other attacks in Kabul, its main victims appeared to ordinary people going about their daily lives.

"All those killed were barbers or shoeshine men. I was horrified when I saw their bodies," said Mohammad Osman, who was nearby when the explosion shattered buildings and said he had seen four or five bodies on the ground.

A Taliban statement claimed responsibility for the attack, which it said targeted "foreign invaders." It said the attack destroyed two foreign vehicles and killed between six and 10 people, but it denied any Afghan civilians were killed.

"More such attacks will be carried out," the statement said.

While the latest blast was not on the scale of others that have killed scores of people recently, the constant stream of attacks in Kabul has undermined confidence in the Western-backed government of President Ashraf Ghani.

Earlier this week, General John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said security in Kabul would be "the main effort" for international powers helping Afghan defence and security forces.

The extra security in Kabul has turned the city centre into a fortified zone of high concrete blast walls, barbed wire and police checkpoints and security forces say they have intercepted numerous attacks before they take place.

However, Saturday's incident underlined the fact that insurgent groups are still able to evade checks and carry out attacks in the city streets.

Ghani has offered peace talks with the Taliban, who have been fighting to drive out foreign forces and re-establish their version of strict Islamic law to Afghanistan, but the movement has so far shown no sign of accepting the offer.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/car-bomb-kills-at-least-three-in-afghan-capital/articleshow/63345255.cms

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One killed in grenade attack on a school in Kabul

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun Mar 18 2018

At least one person was killed in an attack on a school in the vicinity of the 13th police district of the city.

The security sources are saying that the attacker was a school student who was attempting to hurl a hand grenade on the school compound.

The sources further added that the grenade explosion left the attacker dead and another student wounded.

The main motive behind the attack has not been ascertained so far and it is yet not clear if the attacker had any links with the terror groups or not.

This comes as at least three people were killed and four others were wounded in a suicide attack in Kabul city earlier on Saturday.

The incident took place in the vicinity of the 9th police district of the city after a suicide bomber detonated a vehicle packed with explosives.

The Taliban militants group claimed responsibility behind the attack which also left at least four people wounded.

The Ministry of Interior officials are saying that all those killed or wounded during the bombing on Saturday are ordinary civilians.

khaama.com/one-killed-in-grenade-attack-on-a-school-in-kabul-04672/

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Afghan president invites Abbasi for talks to repair ties

BaqirSajjadSyedMarch 18, 2018

AFGHAN President Ashraf Ghani meets National Security Adviser Nasser Janjua in Kabul on Saturday.—Online

ISLAMABAD: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday invited Prime Minister ShahidKhaqanAbbasi to Kabul to kick-start a ‘comprehensive bilateral dialogue’ with the aim of repairing the fractured relationship between the two countries.

Mr Ghani extended this invitation during a meeting with Pakistan’s National Security Adviser retired Lt Gen Nasser Janjua, who was in Kabul on a day-long trip on the invitation of his counterpart HanifAtmar.

“Today, I received Pakistani NSA at Dilkusha palace. As a follow-up to Kabul Process, I have extended an official invitation to Pakistani prime minister to visit Afgha­nistan. This is to initiate state to state comprehensive dialogue,” the Afghan president tweeted after the meeting.

President Ghani had in his speech at a meeting of the Kabul Process offered peace talks to Taliban militants, which was seen as a major shift in his position on the insurgent group. At the same time he had indicated his willingness to resume engagement with Pakistan and fix the strains in bilateral relations.

Invitation was extended during NSA Janjua’s meeting with Ashraf Ghani in Kabul

Pakistan had welcomed President Ghani’s offer. Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif had said in his reaction: “We welcome his offer to talk directly to Taliban. It is a good initiative and should be supported.”

Taliban have, meanwhile, been silent on the offer. Some believe that their silence means that they are weighing the offer.

Mr Janjua, a diplomatic source said, in his meeting with President Ghani reiterated Pakistan’s position that it fully supported efforts for a politically negotiated resolution of the Afghan conflict.

In his pre-departure statement, the national security adviser had said: “Both sides will work together and chalk out a way forward to improve bilateral relations and enhance cooperation particularly with reference to the peace initiative undertaken by the president of Afghanistan... Pakistan is always prepared to work in a cooperative framework and provide every help to win peace in Afghanistan.”

A statement issued by the Afghan presidency said that during the meeting between President Ghani and Mr Janjua, both sides deliberated on ways to cooperate on peace efforts and jointly fight cross-border terrorism, criminal networks and drug traffickers.

Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Bajwa had in a recent interaction with journalists said that he was directly in touch with the Afghan president and both of them were keeping up the positive direction in the ties.

Better ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan are considered critical for ending terrorism in the two countries. Kabul accuses Pakistan of allowing the Taliban and the Haqqani network sanctuaries on its soil, whereas Islamabad says Afghanistan has set up bases of Pakistani militants involved in cross-border attacks.

Pakistan and Afghanistan have formed several platforms for bilateral discussions. More lately they were negotiating the Afghanis­tan-Pakistan Action Plan for Solidarity, which envisioned “constructive and meaningful bilateral enga­gement” in political, economic, military and intelligence domains through working groups. However, the two sides had not agreed on most of the aspects of the arrangement.

It is unclear if the comprehensive dialogue for which President Ghani is inviting Prime Minister Abbasi is a yet another format.

Continuing conflict in Afghanistan has also been straining Pak-US ties. As efforts for repairing relationship with Washington gain pace, Afghanistan is again in the limelight. Prime Minister Abbasi, who is on a private visit to the US, had an unannounced meeting with Vice President Pence during which he renewed Pakistan’s commitment to peace in Afghanistan and noted that it was as important for Pakistan as its own peace.

dawn.com/news/1395966/afghan-president-invites-abbasi-for-talks-to-repair-ties

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Abdullah shares the issue of cross-border shelling with Pakistan’s NSA

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun Mar 18 2018

The Chief Executive of the Government of National Unity Abdullah Abdullah shared the issue of cross-border artillery shelling on eastern provinces of Afghanistan during his meeting with Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Nasser Khan Janjua.

A statement by the Office of the Chief Executive said the two sides also discussed other issues of bilateral interest including peace process and steps needed for improving bilateral relations.

Abdullah said peace and stability is one of the main demands and needs of Afghanistan and the Afghan government has provided better opportunities for reconciliation, insisting that all parties should take good advantage from the available opportunities.

He also added that the terrorist groups have their own specific agendas and the nations should work closely to eliminate the menace of terror.

According to Chief Executive Abdullah, new opportunities are also available for the betterment of relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, emphasizing that the Pakistani government should take necessary steps to establish an environment of trust between the two nations.

In his turn, Mr. Janjua said his country supports the recent efforts of the Afghan government for peace process, adding that Islamabad is interested to establish join working groups for the betterment of relations and elimination of the barriers.

He called the recent efforts for peace and reconciliation as unprecedented and said the Taliban has no other pretext or excuses for the continuation of war and violence.

According to the Office of the Chief Executive, the two sides also discussed regarding the need for the issuance of a joint Fatwa by the Afghan and Pakistani Ulemas to denounce the ongoing violence in Afghanistan.

khaama.com/abdullah-shares-the-issue-of-cross-border-shelling-with-pakistans-nsa-04672/

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5 Afghan policemen killed in Taliban attack

APMarch 18, 2018

An Afghan official says the Taliban have attacked security positions northwest of Kabul, killing at least five police.

Mohammed Zaman, the provincial police chief for Ghazni province, says the attack late on Saturday set off a two-hour gunbattle.

The Taliban have stepped up attacks across Afghanistan since the United States and Nato formally concluded their combat mission at the end of 2014.

In the western Ghor province, meanwhile, a roadside bomb killed a young shepherd and wounded five others.

Police Spokesman Iqbal Nizami says the Taliban planted the bomb in order to target security forces.

In the eastern Khost province, Police Spokesman Basir Bina says a roadside bomb killed two children and wounded another nine. Both bombs went off on Saturday.

dawn.com/news/1396041/5-afghan-policemen-killed-in-taliban-attack

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North America

'Trump admin looking to work with India on Rohingya issue'

PTI | Mar 17, 2018

WASHINGTON: The Trump administration is looking for ways to work with India in terms of providing for the needs of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and also to put pressure on Myanmar to create conditions for their safe and voluntary return, a senior US official has said.

Nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar's northern Rakhine state to Bangladesh since August last year when security forces launched a crackdown on insurgents.

Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed in November to start repatriating Rohingya refugees who volunteered to return to Rakhine state, but the process has not yet begun.

The senior US administration official, on the condition of anonymity, said that there is interest in trying to work more closely with India.

"We think India also has an interest in seeing this situation resolved," he said yesterday.

The Trump administration is looking for ways to try to work with India in terms of providing for the needs of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and also ways to work together to put pressure on Myanmar to create the conditions for their safe and voluntary return, the official said.

"India is a like-minded partner. There are ways we can explore coordinating diplomatic approaches to the Burmese in building on that common interest that we have in supporting Bangladesh and making sure that this doesn't become a situation which complicates their own socio-economic situation or socio-political situation and the radicalism; avoiding that problem of exacerbating a radicalism in Bangladesh," he said.

While the US and India have a lot of joint interests, the official said that there has been no helpful response from China on this.

"What I heard from the Bangladeshis was frustration with China's unhelpful role in this crisis. And they certainly were noticing the stark contrast between China's actions and the generous US humanitarian response," the official from the White House told a group of reporters.

He said that Lisa Curtis, who is Deputy Assistant to US President Donald Trump and Senior Director for South and Central Asia at the National Security Council, visited Bangladesh and held a wide range of consultations with its top officials.

"President Trump is very concerned about the Rohingya situation," the official said, adding that the president wants to help resolve the situation.

During the trip, Curtis discussed with top Bangladeshi officials various aspects of the relationship.

While counter-terrorism is very important for Bangladesh, Rohingya refugee crisis is the most pressing issue right now, the official said.

"We owe a debt of gratitude to Bangladesh for opening its arms to the Rohingya refugees," the official said.

"However, there is concerned with the coming monsoon rains, posing a real challenge, given the risk of flooding and mudslides," the official said, adding that the organisations estimate that more than 100,000 refugees face imminent danger.

The Bangladeshi government seeks to put pressure on Myanmar to create conditions for the peaceful and voluntary return of these refugees, he said.

While currently there is no evidence of extremist groups penetrating these refugees camp, the Bangladeshi government is concerned about this, he said.

"We didn't see any evidence, but it's something they're watching for, they are monitoring for. It is a threat because the kinds of atrocities that these people have witnessed and you already have terrorist groups operating in Bangladesh. So there is concern that the camps could become a recruitment ground," the official added.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/trump-admin-looking-to-work-with-india-on-rohingya-issue/articleshow/63345443.cms

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Pakistan 'must do more' against terror groups: US

PTI | Mar 18, 2018

WASHINGTON: The US has told Pakistan that it "must do more" against Taliban and other terror groups operating in the country, warning that the Trump administration is ready to take unilateral measures if Islamabad failed to stop cross-border attacks from its soil.

The warning, given at a news briefing on Saturday, followed the meeting between US vice president Mike Pence and Pakistan's Prime Minister ShahidKhaqanAbbasi, Pakistani daily Dawn reported.

Abbasi, who was on a personal trip to see his ailing sister in the US, met Pence at the US Naval Observatory, the vice president's official residence. The meeting was held on Saturday at the request of Abbasi.

The White House in a statement about the meeting said, "Vice President Pence reiterated President Trump's request that the Government of Pakistan must do more to address the continued presence of the Taliban, Haqqani Network, and other terrorist groups operating in their country."

"The Vice President stated that US efforts to eliminate terrorist groups who threaten US security and the stability of the region will continue and noted that Pakistan could and should work closer with the US," the White House said.

During the 30-minute meeting, Pence emphasised the need for immediate action from Pakistan to stop cross-border attacks.

The Dawn reported that hours after Pence-Abbasi meeting, senior Trump administration officials held a special briefing for Washington-based journalists to convey their dissatisfaction with Pakistan's Afghanistan policy.

"Six months after the announcement of the South Asia Policy, Pakistan is yet to take the kind of decisive actions that the US is seeking," one of the officials was quoted as saying by the Dawn.

"We are continuing to look for real actions and not word on the Taliban and the Haqqani sanctuaries," the official added.

The official demanded cooperative action against terrorists from Pakistan but warned that the US was prepared to take its own measures to protect its personnel in Afghanistan if Islamabad did not take action, the daily said.

The official said that President Donald Trump was constantly monitoring progress on the South Asia policy and wanted Pakistan to do more than "the bare minimum" it's doing now.

In his new South Asia Policy unveiled in August, Trump had called for tougher measure against Pakistan if it did not cooperates the US in its fight against terrorism.

In his first tweet of the new year, Trump had accused Pakistan of basing its relationship with the US on "nothing but lies and deceit".

Days after his tweet, the US suspended over USD 1.15 billion in security aid and the delivery of military equipment to Pakistan for failing to clamp down on the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network terror groups.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani last month proposed peace talks with the Taliban.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/pakistan-must-do-more-against-terror-groups-us/articleshow/63354109.cms

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US says it’s prepared to stop attacks on troops in Afghanistan

Anwar IqbalUpdated March 18, 2018

WASHINGTON: Hours after the meeting between Prime Minister ShahidKhaqanAbbasi and US Vice President Mike Pence on Friday, the United States reminded Pakistan that it was prepared to take necessary steps to protect its personnel in Afghanistan if Islamabad did not stop cross-border attacks.

The warning, given at a special news briefing on Friday afternoon, followed the unscheduled Abbasi-Pence meeting at the US Naval Observatory, the vice president’s official residence.

Sources briefed on this one-on-one meeting told reporters that Mr Pence also focused on this issue [Afghan policy] in the 30 minutes that he spent with the Pakistani leader.

At 3pm — almost four and a half hours after the meeting — senior Trump administration officials held a special briefing for Washington-based journalists to convey their dissatisfaction with Pakistan’s Afghan policy.

Pence urgesAbbasi to ‘do more’ against Taliban

“Six months after the announcement of the South Asia Policy, Pakistan is yet to take the kind of decisive actions that the US is seeking,” one of the officials said. “We are continuing to look for real actions and not word on the Taliban and the Haqqani sanctuaries,” the official added.

The official demanded “cooperative action” against terrorists from Pakistan but warned that the United States was prepared to take its own measures to protect its personnel in Afghanistan if Islamabad did not.

The official did not give a timeline but stressed the urgency to prevent alleged cross-border attacks on US and Afghan troops in Afghanistan.

“It’s Pakistan choice in which direction it wants to take the future of the relationship,” said the official, adding that the US was still engaging Pakistani leaders and was willing to address its concerns.

The official said that US President Donald Trump was constantly monitoring progress on the South Asia policy he launched in August and wanted Pakistan to do more than “the bare minimum” it’s doing now.

“President has made it clear that he is not satisfied with the actions Pakistan has taken so far. We have communicated what we mean by decisive action,” the official added.

Those briefed on the Abbasi-Pence meeting said Mr Pence too devoted much of his talk to Afghanistan, emphasising the need for immediate action from Pakistan to stop cross-border attacks.

AFP adds: During the meeting on Friday, Mr Pence told Prime Minister Abbasi that Pakistan “must do more” against the Taliban and other militants.

“Vice President Pence reiterated President (Donald) Trump’s request that the government of Pakistan must do more to address the continued presence of the Taliban, Haqqani network, and other terrorist groups operating in their country,” the White House said in a statement on Saturday.

“Pakistan could and should work closer with the United States,” Mr Pence said.According to Washington, there is little sign that Islamabad has made a decision to end its support for the Taliban.

dawn.com/news/1395961/us-says-its-prepared-to-stop-attacks-on-troops-in-afghanistan

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US issues new warnings to Pakistan regarding Taliban, cross-border attacks

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun Mar 18 2018

The United States has issued new warnings to Pakistan regarding the alleged support of the country to Taliban and the cross-border attacks in Afghanistan allegedly involving the Taliban and the notorious Haqqani terrorist network, it has been reported.

The new warnings were reportedly issued during a meeting between the US Vice President Mike Pence and the Pakistani Prime Minister ShahidKhaqanAbbasi.

The United States reminded Pakistan that it was prepared to take necessary steps to protect its personnel in Afghanistan if Islamabad did not stop cross-border attacks, according to the sources privy of the development.

“Six months after the announcement of the South Asia Policy, Pakistan is yet to take the kind of decisive actions that the US is seeking,” one of the officials said. “We are continuing to look for real actions and not word on the Taliban and the Haqqani sanctuaries,” a US official quoted by Dawn News said.

The official demanded “cooperative action” against terrorists from Pakistan but warned that the United States was prepared to take its own measures to protect its personnel in Afghanistan if Islamabad did not.

“It’s Pakistan choice in which direction it wants to take the future of the relationship,” said the official, adding that the US was still engaging Pakistani leaders and was willing to address its concerns.

khaama.com/us-issues-new-warnings-to-pakistan-regarding-taliban-cross-border-attacks-04671/

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Mideast

Islamic Development Bank lists $1.25 billion Sukuk on Nasdaq Dubai

 

The listing marks the ninth Sukuk by IDB on the exchange, with a total value of $11.5 billion.

Nasdaq Dubai has welcomed the listing of a $1.25 billion Sukuk by the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), Nasdaq Dubai announced on Sunday.

The listing marks the ninth Sukuk by IDB on the exchange, with a total value of $11.5 billion, making the bank one of the largest Sukuk issuers on Nasdaq Dubai.

According to IDB, the Sukuk supports the banks economic and social advancement goals, in line with its Sharia principles.

IDB participates in equity capital and grant loans for projects and enterprises, in addition to providing financing to member countries in other forms, such as financing infrastructure and agricultural projects including roads, dams, schools, hospitals, housing and rural development projects in both the public and private sectors.

Dubai is the world’s leading centre for Sukuk listings by value, with a current total value of more than $57.7 billion.

arabianbusiness.com/banking-finance/392198-islamic-development-bank-lists-125-billion-sukuk-on-nasdaq-dubai

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Hundreds of Israeli Forces Deployed in Iraq

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- Arab media reports disclosed presence of hundreds of covert Israeli troops in Iraq, saying that they are conducting special terrorist operations in the country.

The Arabic-language Palestinian al-Manar newspaper quoted an Iraqi source as saying that 250 to 300 Israeli soldiers are stationed at Taji military base, North of Baghdad, using American or Canadian passports to conceal their real identity.

Observers believe that the soldiers are indeed missioned to conduct terrorist operations and assassinate Iraqi figures, including Hashd al-Shaabi (Iraqi popular forces) commanders.

The report also referred to the presence of Zionists in Iraq within the framework of different electronic firms, including Tadirancompany, to implement security projects, warning of Israel's dangerous plots against Iraq's unity.

Israel has not played a direct role in the US-led coalition's campaign in Iraq but evidence in recent years has shown that it has supplied weapons to the terrorist groups.

The Iraqi army discovered nearly a dozen depots of Israeli-made arms and ammunition in Diyala province, local officials disclosed in 2014.

"An Iraqi army unit has found around 10 weapons and munition depots where Israel-made weapons and explosives were kept in Hamrin mountains," Sadeq Al-Moussavi, a member of Diyala provincial council, said at the time.

Moussavi said that the depot contained a lot of explosives, weapons and bombs all made by Israel.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961227000358

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Turkey's Erdogan says Afrin city centre under 'total' control

AFPUpdated March 18, 2018

Turkish-backed Syrian rebels have taken “total” control of the centre of Afrin, a Kurdish-majority city in northern Syria, President RecepTayyip Erdogan said on Sunday.

“Units of the Free Syrian Army, which are backed by Turkish armed forces, took control of the centre of Afrin this morning at 8:30 am (0530 GMT),” Erdogan said, adding that de-mining operations were under way.

Taking Afrin has been the main objective of Turkey's operation Olive Branch, a deadly ground and air offensive launched on January 20 with the aim of ousting the People's Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish militia group.

Erdogan said a “large number” of Kurdish fighters had “fled with their tails between their legs”. He added Turkish special forces had deployed in the city.

News of Afrin's capture was also confirmed by the Turkish military, which released a statement saying the city centre was “under control”.

“Search operations to locate mines and other explosives are under way,” it said.

On Twitter, the military posted a video of a soldier putting a Turkish flag on a balcony.

“Now the Turkish flag will fly over there! The flag of the Free Syrian Army will fly over there!” said Erdogan who was speaking at a ceremony marking the battle to open the Dardanelles during World War I.

As the Turkish operation intensified, more than 200,000 civilians fled the Kurdish-majority city in less than three days and dozens have been killed in the area, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The monitor said Sunday that more than 1,500 Kurdish fighters have been killed in the two-month assault by Turkish forces and allied Syrian rebels on Afrin.

Most died in air strikes and artillery fire, the group said adding that more than 400 pro-Ankara rebels had been killed since January 20 Ankara sees the YPG as a Syrian offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been waging an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984.

But Washington has provided weapons to the YPG, which it sees as a key ally in the fight against jihadists in Syria and Turkey, with Ankara's military operation hiking tensions between the two NATO allies.

According to figures released by the Turkish army, 46 Turkish soldiers have been killed since the start of the Afrin offensive.

Afrin is one of several fronts in the Syrian war which has left 350,00 people dead and displaced millions of people since 2011.

dawn.com/news/1396045/turkeys-erdogan-says-afrin-city-centre-under-total-control

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Israel bombs Gaza 'underground' complex after blast

AFPMarch 18, 2018

Israel's military carried out an air raid overnight against an underground Hamas facility in the Gaza Strip and destroyed a separate tunnel under construction that could be used for attacks, it said on Sunday.

No casualties were reported in either operation, which came after an explosive device was detonated near the Gaza border with Israel, the latest in a string of such incidents.

Israel's military said the operation to destroy the tunnel involved new technology it has been developing to detect them.

“Our policy is to act resolutely against any attempt to harm us and systematically eliminate the terror tunnel infrastructure, and we will continue doing so,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.

Hamas, the Palestinian militant movement that runs the Gaza Strip, called Israel's actions an attempt “to scare the people” and head off planned protests along the border beginning later this month.

Israel “bears all the consequences of the escalation,” Hamas spokesman FawzyBarhoum said.

Beginning on March 30, Gazans are planning to erect hundreds of tents near the Israeli border in a six-week show of support for Palestinian refugees.

Regarding the overnight operations, Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus said Hamas had been digging the tunnel to link up with an older one in the south of the Palestinian enclave.

The new tunnel had not reached Israeli territory but was within a few hundred metres of the border fence, near the Kerem Shalom goods crossing and in the area of the city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip, he said.

The older tunnel did “partially” reach into Israeli territory, but had been discovered and cut off in 2014.

According to Conricus, the recent Hamas work was an attempt to link up with the part of the older tunnel that “they thought could still be usable.”

'Military complex'

Israel had been monitoring the work before the operation, said Conricus.

An unspecified material was injected to thwart the work and explosives were not used, he said, declining to elaborate further.

Israeli soldiers carried out the operation from the Israeli side of the border fence, he said.

Conricus also did not describe in more detail what he said was an underground facility struck in the air raid in the central Gaza Strip.

“It was a subterranean complex, a military complex,” he said.

Resident Amal Malaka spoke of her fear during the strike in Gaza City. “We heard the sound of shelling, the whole of the house shaking and the windows too,” she told AFP.

“My children were afraid and the girls fell down from the bed.”

Late on Saturday, an explosive device went off in the northern Gaza Strip near Israel's border fence, the army said in an earlier statement, with no casualties reported.

Israel had already retaliated once in the immediate aftermath of the explosion, with tanks targeting a Hamas observation post.

According to Palestinian sources, the tank fire slightly injured one person.

Two explosive devices were detonated on Thursday along the border, which had already provoked Israeli attacks on Hamas positions.

On February 17, four Israeli soldiers were wounded by an improvised explosive device on the border, sparking intense military retaliation.

It was not clear who was behind the blasts, but Israel held Hamas responsible as the de facto power in the Palestinian enclave.

Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2014.

The strip has been under an Israeli blockade for around a decade.

dawn.com/news/1396048/israel-bombs-gaza-underground-complex-after-blast

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Israeli Forces Detain 19 Palestinian in West Bank

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- Israeli forces overnight and early Sunday detained 19 Palestinians from several areas in the occupied West Bank, according to the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS).

PPS said in a statement Israeli soldiers detained six Palestinians from Nablus, including a man whom Israel accuses of carrying out an attack near Salfit almost a month ago, WAFA reported.

Four people were detained in Ramallah, two in Hebron, one in Jenin, and another from Bethlehem. A 16-year-old minor was also detained from Qalqilya.

Soldiers also detained four people, including a minor, from al-Issawiya, Northeast of occupied Jerusalem.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961227001011

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Why won’t Al Jazeera air their investigation into Israeli lobbying in US?

Robert FiskMarch 18, 2018

SO when am I going to be able to watch Al Jazeera’s hard-hitting investigation into Israel’s powerful lobby in the United States? Remember Al Jazeera? The tough, no-holds-barred Middle East satellite channel that transformed Qatar into a media empire whose reports frightened dictators and infuriated potentates and presidents alike? Why, George W Bush once wanted to bomb its headquarters in Doha — so it must have been doing something right. It even has an office in Jerusalem.

But something seems to be amiss. Not Al Jazeera’s disastrous American venture, which was supposed to break free of the dross on CNN and Fox News and ended up looking just like CNN or Fox. Nor the tragicomedy of its journalists’ imprisonment in Sisi’s Egypt, banged up by Cairo’s farcical laws and the stupidity of Al Jazeera’s own management in Qatar.

No, I’m talking about a documentary called The Lobby, directed by one of Al Jazeera’s top journalists, Clayton Swisher, the man whose exclusive (and book) on the “Palestine Papers” blew open the secret and scandalous American-led negotiations between Israelis and the Palestinian authority between 2000 and 2010.

But after months of postponement, The Lobby, which secretly filmed pro-Israeli US activists and Israeli government officials and was completed last autumn, is still no nearer to being shown — and Swisher himself has taken a paid leave of absence. He even chose to explain his frustration in an article for the progressive American Jewish magazine Forward, which has always maintained a liberal and often very critical view of Israel.

“Don’t mistake me — I love Al Jazeera,” Swisher told me this week. “I love working for Al Jazeera. They’ve done fantastic things. And they look after their staff very well. But our new documentary doesn’t seem to be getting on air.”

In his published explanation, Swisher described how his award-winning investigative unit — which he says operates “without [Qatari] government interference” — sent an undercover reporter to look into “how Israel wields influence in America through the pro-Israeli American community. But when some right-wing American supporters of Israel found out about the documentary, there was a massive backlash. It was even labelled as anti-Semitic in a spate of articles.”

Nothing surprising there, you might think. Any reporters who have dared to criticise Israel grow used to the vile smear of anti-Semitism thrown over them — but there was an even more disturbing background to Swisher’s attempts to get his documentary on the air.

The programme’s completion, he writes, “came at a time when, due to an arbitrary blockade on Qatar imposed by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, Qatar had been pursuing an end to its siege by appealing to the US. According to reports, Qatar sought to offer its own side of the narrative in this conflict by hosting thought leaders, including from the American Jewish community. From reports in the Israeli press, I learned that [Harvard Professor Alan] Dershowitz had been brought to meet with the Qatari emir [Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani], and that the American Jews had brought up what they saw as Al Jazeera’s anti-Semitism in those meetings. Of course, our documentary is not anti-Semitic. It is an exploration of how Israel, a foreign government, influences US foreign policy.”

Ironically, one of the Saudi-UAE demands for a return to normal relations with Qatar was to shut down Al Jazeera.

Most of Swisher’s staff within Al Jazeera are American or British, and he recruited a young Oxford postgraduate, James Anthony Kleinfeld, to meet and mix with members of pro-Israeli groups in Washington. When this was discovered — partly because Swisher, for legal reasons, contacted those appearing in the programme to say that his team had used secret filming during their investigations — there was uproar.

Kleinfeld, who apparently used the name “Tony Kleinfeld”, was accused of being “pro-Palestinian” but of “embedding himself with the Washington pro-Israel crowd” while spending “months of his life under a new and meticulously fabricated persona to infiltrate pro-Israeli groups”.

The concern of Israeli lobbyists was not without reason. Recipients of legal letters from the documentary group — referring to the secretly recorded Israeli activists — included AIPAC, the Israeli-American Council, the Sheldon Adelson-created Maccabee Task Force, the Israel Project, the Zionist Organisation of America and other groups.

Although Swisher’s reporters had exposed genocide in Myanmar, presidential corruption in the Maldives and paedophilia in British youth football, another documentary under Swisher’s direction concentrated on Israel’s influence over Britain and included a secretly filmed sequence in which Israeli official Shai Masot discussed how to “take down” British MPs regarded as pro-Palestinian, including Sir Alan Duncan. Masot was forced to resign and the Israeli ambassador to London, Mark Regev, issued a formal apology.

According to Swisher, if his documentary on the American lobby doesn’t air soon, “it might prove to be ammunition sought by a group of zealous US politicians who wish to declare Al Jazeera a foreign entity, and label us journalists as ‘spies’”.

In response to anti-Semitism claims after the London documentary, the broadcasting regulator Ofcom ruled that the programme was “a serious investigative documentary”. It was the same question, Swisher says, that he and his team sought to answer in the American edition of The Lobby: “Whether the Israeli government was funding or involved in lobbying efforts in the US under the guise of a domestic lobbying group.”

Swisher says that several “leaders of Jewish American organisations” met with Qatar’s registered agent and lobbyist, Nick Muzin — a former aide to US Senator Ted Cruz, who supported American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — “to see if he could use his ties with the Qataris to stop the airing”.

Since October, Swisher says, “we’ve faced a series of unexplained delays on broadcasting our project, the likes of which I’ve never experienced. I was repeatedly told by everyone to ‘wait’, and was assured our documentary would eventually see the light of day. Then, as now, I took my senior management at its word. To my own specially trained ears, ‘wait’ did not constitute ‘stop’. In fact, it must not constitute ‘stop’.”

Almost every journalist I’ve met in the Middle East has encountered similar problems. When I worked for The Times, I alerted the then editor, Charles Douglas-Home, to evidence that Israeli officers had secretly buried at least seven Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners — done to death in an interrogation centre — at night in a Sidon graveyard in 1983. He wanted me to spend as many weeks as necessary to find out if the story was true. Then, months later, when witnesses emerged with evidence of the burial, including the gravedigger — the bodies still had their hands tied behind their back with nylon rope when they were brought to him — I called my editor. My witnesses were being “visited” by armed members of the Israeli Shin Beth intelligence agency, I told him, and I was being trailed around Sidon by Israeli-registered vehicles. It was time to run the story.

To my shock, Douglas-Home — an editor who otherwise loyally stood by me in every Middle East dispute over my work — replied that he wasn’t sure “how we’re justified in running a story like this so long after the event”. In other words, we had to be sure of our facts on such an important story — but by taking the time to do just that, the story was now out of date.

After much argument — during which I suggested to the Israelis that they might like to institute a military inquiry into the deaths if they wanted to avoid a scandal (they said, mysteriously, that it was already under way, although I doubted this) — the story ran. A deputy editor, I was told, had tried to cut the report by two-thirds. He was overruled. Then the story ran. In full.

So, old story, new story. I’ve appeared many times on Al Jazeera. And never been told to mince my words.Nor would I. But a lot of us are waiting to see Swisher’s new documentary. If we don’t, we’ll know what to think of Al Jazeera.

—By arrangement with The Independent

dawn.com/news/1396019/why-wont-al-jazeera-air-their-investigation-into-israeli-lobbying-in-us

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Turkish Army Occupies 14 More Kurdish-Held Regions in Northern Syria

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Turkish Army troops and Ankara-backed militants continued Operation Olive Branch against the Kurdish fighters in Northwestern Aleppo and captured 14 more regions, including a military post, field sources reported on Sunday.

The sources said that the Turkish troops and their allied militants occupied the villages and settlements of Ein al-Hajar al-Kabir, Ein al-Hajar al-Saqir, Omo and Afrin Central prison, that is considered as a main base of the Kurds.

They further said that the Turkish forces captured the industrial zone West of Afrin and cut off the main road connecting Ma'abatlabi settlement to the town of Afrin.

The Ankara forces further seized control over the villages of al-Amiriyeh, Tatra, SerkanJoqliJom, KaletanQarbi in Sheikh Hadid, JatalQabo and Sheikh Obasi in Rajou region and the village of Ashkan Est of al-Nashmah military base in Jandaris, the sources said.

They went on to say that the Ankara forces have tightened noose on the Kurds in the town of Afrin, adding that the only road still open is between the village of Kafr Ram and Ein al-Hajar Northwest of Afrin and its capture will pave the way for laying siege on the town from three directions.

President RecepTayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that Turkey-backed troops had surrounded Afrin city center in Northwestern Syria and were ready to enter at any moment.

"We are about to enter Afrin, and we may announce the good news at any time," Erdogan said at his Justice and Development (AK) Party's 6th Annual Congress in Southeastern province of Mardin.

He added that a total of 3,569 terrorists have been "neutralized" in Afrin since the start of Operation Olive Branch.

Ankara on January 20 launched Operation Olive Branch to clear YPG/PKK and ISIL terrorists from Afrin.

Since the launch of the operation, the Turkish military and FSA have liberated 268 locations, including five town centers, 224 villages, 44 strategic mountains and hills, and one YPG/PKK base.

The forces reached Afrin city's border last week and encircled it.

According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region as well as protect Syrians from the oppression and cruelty of terrorists.

The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey's rights based on international law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defense rights under the UN charter, and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.

The military also said only terror targets were being destroyed and "utmost care" was being taken to not harm civilians.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961227000405

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Southeast Asia

UN launches $1bn appeal to care for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

16 Mar, 2018

The United Nations launched an appeal for nearly $1 billion to care for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh on Friday. The UN stressed, however, that efforts must remain focused on securing the safe return to Myanmar of those displaced. UN agencies asked for $951 million through the rest of the year to provide basic needs to the nearly one million Rohingya Muslims in Bangladesh, AFP reports. This number includes almost 700,000 people who have crossed the border since August. According to the head of the UN refugee agency, Filippo Grandi, the immediate concern was mobilizing life-saving aid for refugees, especially with monsoon season approaching and tens of thousands of people living in areas prone to landslides and floods.

rt.com/newsline/421518-un-appeal-rohingya-bangladesh/

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Malaysia warns Rohingya crisis could pose security risk

AFP | Mar 17, 2018

SYDNEY: Malaysia's prime ministerNajibRazak on Saturday warned his Southeast Asian neighbours that the Rohingya refugee crisis in Myanmar could become a serious security threat for the region.

Hundreds of thousands of the Muslim-minority Rohingya have fled Myanmar's troubled Rakhine state after authorities launched a brutal crackdown on insurgents six months ago that the UN has called "ethnic cleansing".

Myanmar has vehemently denied the allegations, insisting it was responding to attacks by Rohingya militants in late August.

Malaysian Prime Minister NajibRazak raised fears that so many desperate and displaced people could fall prey to extremist groups like Islamic State.

With Myanmar's de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi sitting just metres away at a special Australia-ASEAN summit in Sydney, Najib said it was no longer a domestic issue.

"Because of the suffering of Rohingya people and that of displacement around the region, the situation in Rakhine state and Myanmar can no longer be considered to be a purely domestic matter," he said.

"In addition, the problem should not be looked at through the humanitarian prism only because it has the potential of developing into a serious security threat to the region.

"Rakhine with thousands of despairing ... people who see no hope in the future will be a fertile ground for radicalisation and recruitment by Daesh and affiliated groups."

Daesh is an alternative name given to Islamic State.

The United Nations on Friday launched an appeal for nearly US$1 billion to care for Rohingya refugees, who have mostly fled to Bangladesh.

Najib said Malaysia was ready to assist in finding "a just and durable solution", while urging Southeast Asian nations to work closely to deter any extremist threats.

"We must be vigilant and increase our collaboration, because the collapse of Daesh territories in Iraq and Syria has forced it to go underground and re-emerge elsewhere, especially in crisis zones where it can grow and operate."

He pointed to pro-Islamic State militants seizing the southern Philippine city of Marawi last year as a warning of what can happen.

"We must draw lessons from Marawi and be extremely concerned that at least 10 militant groups in the Mindanao region (of the Philippines) have declared their affiliation to Daesh," he said.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, with Australia a dialogue partner since 1974.

All leaders are attending the summit in Sydney except the Philippines' Rodrigo Duterte, who cited more pressing developments at home.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/malaysia-warns-rohingya-crisis-could-pose-security-risk/articleshow/63343260.cms

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Rohingya in 'no man's land' reject return on Myanmar terms: camp chief

AFP | Mar 18, 2018

MAUNGDAW (MYANMAR): Rohingya holed up in a border "no man's land" after fleeing Myanmar will only accept repatriation to their home villages, a local leader said on Sunday, rejecting any move to transit camps for fear of long-term confinement.

Some 700,000 Rohingya have been driven into neighbouring Bangladesh since last August by a major army crackdown -- purportedly intended to "clear" northern Rakhine state of militants from the Muslim minority.

The UN describes it as a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Muslim Rohingya, an allegation staunchly denied by mainly Buddhist Myanmar.

Overwhelmed by the influx, Bangladesh wants Myanmar to take them back and the neighbours agreed to start repatriating refugees in January. But so far no Rohingya have returned.

Since August several thousand of the Rohingya have been living in tents beyond a barbed-wire fence which roughly demarcates the border zone between the two countries, reliant on NGO food handouts.

Myanmar authorities are pressing hard for their return and have increased troop numbers on their side of the fence, accusing Rohingya militants of infiltrating the camp.

But despite the apparent show of force and looming monsoon rains, a camp leader told reporters they would not bow to pressure to return or to move forward into Bangladesh.

"We have no intention to enter Bangladesh. We are not Bengali... we are Myanmar original citizens," Dil Mohamed, 51, told reporters through barbed wire in an interview in "no man's land", during a government-steered trip through the Maungdaw border district.

Dil said the villagers -- who number around 6,000 -- would return to Myanmar only if they are guaranteed safety, compensation for the homes burned down in the army clearance and permission to resettle in their old villages.

"We don't want to go to the transit camps. We need to go directly to our homes," he said, referring to sites set up by Myanmar authorities to process returning refugees.

The international Red Cross currently provides supplies to the group, who collect it by crossing a creek and reaching the Bangladesh side.

Fears abound that transit camps and resettlement villages being built for returnees will effectively become long-term detention centres.

More than 120,000 Rohingya are already confined to squalid camps further south in Myanmar following earlier bouts of communal violence, with their movements strictly controlled.

Myanmar denies any plan to hold Rohingya.

"We don't have any vision or intention to keep them long," Ye Htut, the administrator of Maungdaw district, told reporters on Saturday as they were chaperoned around northern Rakhine by government minders.

But the repatriation process appears to be in disarray, with the international community saying continuing insecurity precludes a swift return for the refugees.

Myanmar continues to show off new reception centres and camps for refugees who do eventually return as a sign of its apparent good faith over repatriation.

Development schemes led by the army, powerful Myanmar businessmen and donor-funded ethnic Rakhine groups are abundant across the north of Rakhine, the scene of the worst violence.

Critics say the projects are shaped by military and economic priorities and are often sited on commandeered Rohingya land, effectively excluding the minority from the future of the state.

Myanmar brands the Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. It has systematically dismantled their legal rights and access to basic services in Rakhine, a state where many have lived for generations.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/rohingya-in-no-mans-land-reject-return-on-myanmar-terms-camp-chief/articleshow/63354806.cms

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Taliban’s Mullah Rasoul group welcomes Ulema Conference in Indonesia

ByJavedHamimKakarOn Mar 18, 2018

KABUL (Pajhwok): The Taliban’s splinter group led by Mullah Rasoul has declared its support for Ulema conference in Indonesia on Afghan peace process later this month, a statement from the group said on Sunday.

The establishment of peace was only possible through the mediation of Ulema and religious scholars, the statement said.

The Mullah Rasoul’s groups thanked the Indonesian government for arranging and hosting meeting on Afghan peace process.

The statement slammed the Habbatullah led Taliban for rejecting the conference and regarded their decision inaccurate and illegal.

The mainstream Taliban leader Mullah Hibatullah, had earlier rejected the upcoming peace conference of religious scholars in Jakarta.

“Afghan nation lived in hardship, poverty and peace is possible in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of foreign troops,” the Taliban statement said.

Indonesian president during his visit to Kabul had offered to host a global conference in which Ulema from Afghanistan and Pakistan would take part. Pakistan government has not yet state about the conference.

Mulvi Abdul Rahman Niazai, member of the High Peace Council (HPC), said they welcomed any meeting, cooperation for settlement or facilitating the withdrawal of foreign troops.

He said Afghans suffered too much due to decade long conflict and rendered huge sacrifices.

pajhwok.com/en/2018/03/18/taliban’s-mullah-rasoul-group-welcomes-ulema-conference-indonesia

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Europe

Left-Islamist Rotterdam Coalition Collapses After ‘Israel = ISIS’ Tweet

18 Mar 201816

A coalition between left-wing socialists and the Islamic extremist party Nida in the Dutch city of Rotterdam has collapsed after a tweet from Nida which called the state of Israel equal to the Islamic State terror group surfaced.

The coalition, which consisted of Nida, the Labour Party, the Greens, and the Social Democrats, was formed to combat the right-wing parties like the Party for Freedom (PVV) led by populist firebrand Geert Wilders in next week’s municipal elections, NL Times reports.

The tweet, which was published in August 2014, shows a picture with two columns, one labelled ‘Israel’ and the other labelled ‘ISIS’. It then goes through a list of statements, including claims that Israel is an “illegally created state” and terrorises indigenous inhabitants.

NIDA

@NidaRotterdam

Wijzeggen #Zionisme = #ISIS #vrijheidvanmeningsuiting

12:51 AM - Aug 15, 2014

As a result of the tweet, the left-wing parties decided to drop their cooperation with Nida. Greens Rotterdam leader Judith Bokhove said: “Contrary to what we agreed, Nida does not distance itself sufficiently from the objectionable tweet from 2014. I no longer have confidence in Nida’s position. As far as I am concerned, there is no longer a place for Nida in our alliance.”

Rotterdam Labour Party leader Barbara Kathmann echoed the statement, saying: “It seemed that we would get through it together. But in the end, I found that the cooperation is not there now.”

Nida city councillor Nourdin el Ouali said the group would still work with the Social Democrats and that the party was still keen on the coalition agreement.

@BreitbartLondon

Migrant Party Calls For 1,000-Strong ‘Racism Police’, Dissenters to be Put on Register breitbart.com/london/2016/10/14/migrant-party-racism-police/ …

5:00 PM - Oct 14, 2016

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The extremist party is not the only party with Islamic overtones. In the Dutch election last year the party Denk, which is largely made up of Turkish Muslims, won several seats in the Dutch parliament.Denk is accused of being a “mouthpiece” for Turkish president RecepTayyipErdoğan.

Sweden also saw the rise of an Islamic extremist party named Jasin last year, but the party was eventually shut down and rejected by the election agency after allegations that radical extremists had taken over the party.

breitbart.com/london/2018/03/18/left-islamist-rotterdam-coalition-over-islamist-israel-isis-tweet/

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US training Syria militants for false flag chemical attack as basis for airstrikes – Russian MoD

Published time: 17 Mar, 2018

Russia’s Defense Ministry says “US instructors” are training militants to stage false flag chemical attacks in south Syria. The incidents are said to be a pretext for airstrikes on Syrian government troops and infrastructure.

“We have reliable information at our disposal that US instructors have trained a number of militant groups in the vicinity of the town of At-Tanf, to stage provocations involving chemical warfare agents in southern Syria,” Russian General Staff spokesman General Sergey Rudskoy said at a news briefing on Saturday.

“Early in March, the saboteur groups were deployed to the southern de-escalation zone to the city of Deraa, where the units of the so-called Free Syrian Army are stationed.”

“They are preparing a series of chemical munitions explosions. This fact will be used to blame the government forces. The components to produce chemical munitions have been already delivered to the southern de-escalation zone under the guise of humanitarian convoys of a number of NGOs.”

The planned provocations will be widely covered in the Western media and will ultimately be used as a pretext by the US-led coalition to launch strikes on Syria, Rudskoy warned.

“The provocations will be used as a pretext by the United States and its allies to launch strikes on military and government infrastructure in Syria,” the official stated.

“We’re registering the signs of the preparations for the possible strikes. Strike groups of the cruise missile carriers have been formed in the east of the Mediterranean Sea, Persian Gulf and Red Sea.”

Another false flag chemical attack is being prepared in the province of Idlib by the “Al-Nusra Front terrorist group, in coordination with the White Helmets,” Rudskoy warned. The militants have already received 20 containers of chlorine to stage the incident, he said.

The US military has dismissed the accusations raised by the Russian Defence Ministry. Pentagon spokesman Adrian Rankine-Galloway described Rudskoy's statement as “extremely absurd,” RIA Novosti reported.

Moscow and Damascus have repeatedly warned about upcoming chemical provocations, and have highlighted that banned warfare agents have been used by the militants. Earlier this week, Syrian government forces reportedly captured a well-equipped chemical laboratory in Eastern Ghouta. Footage from the facility has been published by the SANA news agency. The installation contained modern industrial-grade hardware of foreign origins, large amounts of chemical substances as well as crude homemade munitions ad their parts.

rt.com/news/421589-us-preparing-syria-provocations-airstrikes/

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Muslim community group marks 100 years of RAF

Sunday 18 March 2018

Muslim community group marks 100 years of RAF Bob Slater and Atiq Ahmad Bhatti at the exhibition.

A special exhibition to mark 100 years of the RAF has been prepared by a children’s group from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Slough & South Bucks.

The event was arranged by Bob Slater, chairman of the village’s RAF Association.

The children’s group, aged from six to 14 years of age, worked during the half-term holidays to prepare posters and paintings to mark the historic occasion.

Atiq Ahmad Bhatti, president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Slough & South Bucks said: “It’s been an incredible experience in seeing the amazing enthusiasm, time and effort that has been put in by the children’s group.

“It shows their interest and passion in preparing material which we are proud to display in Burnham Park Hall.”

He thanked Bob Slater, for providing them with the opportunity to contribute to the exhibtion. The display went up on Monday and will stay for six weeks.

burnham-advertiser.co.uk/gallery/burnham/128923/muslim-community-group-marks-100-years-of-raf.html

 

URL: http://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/pakistan--spike-in-attacks-on-workers-of-religious-parties/d/114631

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