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Religion Plays Too Big a Role in the Lives Of Young Arabs, Survey Reveals

New Age Islam News Bureau

30 Apr 2019

The survey found that young people wanted to see the role religion played in government reassessed. (File/Shutterstock)


 Religion Plays Too Big a Role in the Lives Of Young Arabs, Survey Reveals

 Baghdadi Appears In IS Video After 5 Years, Hails Lanka Blasts

 Trump Pressed To Punish Saudi Arabia over Religious Intolerance

 U.S. Army Veteran Who Converted To Islam Plotted White Supremacist Rally Bombing To Avenge Mosque Attacks: Police

 UN Chief Demands That the World Step Up To Stamp out Hatred

 Pakistan Says Ready to Take Indian Journalists to Balakot

 China Won’t Block Global Terrorist Tag for Masood Azhar: Sources Ahead Of UN Meet

 MCMC Nabs Duo for Insulting Islam, Prophet Muhammad and Wife on Facebook

 MURIC Condemns Revenge Ideology Of IS


Arab World

 Religion Plays Too Big a Role in the Lives Of Young Arabs, Survey Reveals

 Baghdadi Appears In IS Video After 5 Years, Hails Lanka Blasts

 Senior MP Slams US for Creating Safe Zone for ISIL at Iraq-Syria Border

 UAE Using Dahlan to Interfere in Palestine, Launch Coup against Mahmoud Abbas

 US-Backed SDF Releases Hundreds of Foreign ISIL Terrorists in Raqqa

 Russia vows to expel terrorists out of Syria's Idlib


North America

 Trump Pressed To Punish Saudi Arabia over Religious Intolerance

 U.S. Army Veteran Who Converted To Islam Plotted White Supremacist Rally Bombing To Avenge Mosque Attacks: Police

 US: ISIS Leaders To Be ‘Delivered Justice’ After Al-Baghdadi Videotape

 US: Pompeo blames Iran for Yemen's civil war

 US trying to confirm authenticity of Baghdadi video



 UN Chief Demands That the World Step Up To Stamp out Hatred

 Sweden Foreign Minister ‘Proud’ To Recognize Palestine

 Italy’s Minister Provokes Controversy with Comments Equating Europe to ISIS

 New Zealand police respond to undisclosed incident in Christchurch

 Spain’s far-right makes election gains using anti-Muslim sentiment

 Syria links investigated as France arrests four over suspected terror attack plot



 Pakistan Says Ready to Take Indian Journalists to Balakot

 Muslims Help Christians Renovate Iconic Pakistan Cathedral

 Pakistan to Mainstream Madrasas, Bring Them under Govt Control: Army Spokesperson

 Pak army cracks whip on Pashtun body, drags in India’s RAW

 US, Pakistan discuss trade ties, Afghan peace

 Two security men martyred in North Waziristan attacks

 LHC demands evidence against TLP’s Khadim Rizvi


South Asia

 China Won’t Block Global Terrorist Tag for Masood Azhar: Sources Ahead Of UN Meet

 Islamist Militants Planning another Wave Of Attacks: SL

 Extremism found fertile ground in Sri Lankan hometown of radical preacher

 Sri Lanka maintains high alert for attacks ahead of Ramadan

 Bangladesh: Suicide Blast Kills 2 Suspected Militants, RAB Says

 Afghan Special Forces arrest prominent Taliban spy in Kabul

 17 Taliban militants killed in Uruzgan, Ghazni, and Nangarhar airstrikes

 Afghan Special Forces destroy multiple weapons during an operation in Wardak

 EU extends arms sanctions against Myanmar over Rohingya


Southeast Asia

 MCMC Nabs Duo for Insulting Islam, Prophet Muhammad and Wife on Facebook

 Muslim Activists Express Solidarity with Christians Killed In Sri Lanka

 Muslims bullied under current government, says Perlis mufti

 No automatic citizenship for those born in Malaysia, says Muhyiddin

 There must be middle ground to avoid ‘toxic politics’, Khairy says



 MURIC Condemns Revenge Ideology Of IS

 Gunmen Attack Church in Burkina Faso, Five Killed

 Sudan’s Military, Opposition Discuss Powers of Joint Council, Say Sources

 UN warns of deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Libya

 Mufti Advises Against Multiple Hajj Trips Over Saudi Crimes

 Libyan air strikes kill four, wound 37: government

 Residents Warned Against Aiding Al-Shabaab Operatives



 Hyderabad Muslims Condemn Terror Attacks In Sri Lanka

 JeM module busted in Jammu and Kashmir’s Awantipora, four arrested: Police

 Kerala-based ISIS suspect inspired by Sri Lanka bombing plotter caught: NIA

 NIA arrests Palakkad resident for planning suicide attack in Kerala

 NIA arrests Kerala man for being in touch with ISIS inspired module



 UN: Palestinian Authority Faces Risk of Financial Collapse

 Palestinian Authority Refuses Tax Revenues after Israel Cuts

 Israeli attorney general gives Netanyahu ultimatum on graft hearing

 Iran UN envoy: Golan will remain integral part of Syria

 Turkish airstrikes kill over dozen Kurdish PKK terrorists in northern Iraq

 Israeli forces shoot, injure Palestinian man in occupied West Bank

 Coalition returns Yemeni families to villages liberated from Houthi militias

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Religion plays too big a role in the lives of young Arabs, survey reveals

April 30, 2019

DUBAI: Young Arabs believe religion plays too big a role in their lives and want their religious institutions reformed, according to the latest annual survey of attitudes of young people in the Middle East and North Africa.

Young Saudi citizens also believe overwhelmingly that the Kingdom - under the Vision 2030 strategy - is heading in the right direction, and that its economy is on track, the ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey, unveiled today, reveals.

Young Saudis demonstrate optimism in their personal future, with three quarters of those polled saying that they will have a better life than their parents, and only 10 per cent expecting to be worse off.

The 11th annual survey is based on 3,300 interviews with Arabs between the ages of 18-24, split equally between men and women, in January this year.

Perhaps the most eye-catching finding in the 2019 survey is that young Arabs seem to want a reduced role for religion in their lives. Some 66 per cent of those polled said that religion plays too big a role, with an even bigger number - 79 per cent - calling for reform of their religion’s institutions.

The findings come as the Arab News series “Preachers of Hate” explored the destructive influence religious extremists have had on society.

Half said religion was holding the region back, while nearly the same proportion said religion was losing its influence in the region - a finding especially pronounced in North Africa and the Levant.

Young Arabs are also increasingly tired of war and civil strife. A big majority - nearly three quarters - believe the war in Syria should end regardless of the regime in power there. But another big majority remain concerned about the Palestine-Israel conflict. Nearly 60 percent believe that Sunni-Shia relations have deteriorated over the past ten years.

In international relations, 59 percent view the USA as an enemy, while 37 percent see Russia as a strong ally, almost as many view America the same say (38 percent).

Most of those polled - around 60 percent - say the murder of Jamal Khashoggi would have no or only temporary impact on Saudi Arabia’s image around the world.

Most young Arabs think the rising cost of living is the biggest obstacle facing the Middle East, and many - 65 percent - say they want their governments to do more for them, especially in education and healthcare.

The survey also included for the first time questions about youth attitudes to drugs and mental illness, with a large number of respondents saying that illegal drug use was on the rise and drugs were easy to obtain. Mental health is an increasingly important issue, with nearly one third saying they knew someone who was suffering from mental health problems.

Sunil John, president of Asda’a BCW, said: “This year’s findings show that youths are looking at their governments to reshuffle their priorities, especially when it comes to the role played by religion and seemingly endless conflicts – and they want to see change.

“Young Arabs who have grown up against a backdrop of extremism and geopolitical conflicts are tired of the region being defined by war and conflict. They say they want their leaders to focus on the economy and providing better services such as quality education and healthcare.”



Baghdadi appears in IS video after 5 years, hails Lanka blasts

Apr 30, 2019

NEW DELHI: A week after Islamic State owned up to deadly bombings in Sri Lanka that killed over 250 people and injured over 500, the outfit’s elusive chief, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, sprung a surprise by appearing in a video on Monday evening, nearly five years after he was last seen.

In the 18-minute video, released by Al Furqan Foundation, Baghdadi mentions the Sri Lanka blasts apart from the end of the “war” in the Syrian town of Beghuz. This indicates the video was filmed recently as the references are intended to establish that the clip is not an old recording.

He is also seen presiding over jihadis from several countries as they take the oath of allegiance to the IS and its chief.

The release of the video is significant as it seems to confirm that Baghdadi is alive and controlling the outfit’s operations. There had been multiple rumours floating about his death in air strikes. It appears that even after the drastic shrinkage of territory under IS control, the top jihadi continues to operate from his secret location.

The taped message is clearly intended to bolster IS recruits and fighters, and demonstrate the terror group’s capacity to pose a serious security threat to countries across much of the world. In the video, Baghdadi appears to have aged a bit but seems in good health and alert in his address to assembled followers.

Sources in intelligence agencies said the video was credible as it was released by Al Furqan, which is considered to be the core media group of the outfit. Baghdadi, whose real name is Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Al Badri, was last seen on video while giving a speech from the Al Nuri mosque in Mosul in 2014. That was his last public appearance as well.

In August last year, Al Furqan had released a 55-minute audio speech purportedly given by Baghdadi in which he asked his followers to keep the fight going in Iraq and Syria. This audio was released after reports indicated that he may have been killed in a Russian air strike in May last year in Syria’s Raqqa.

Foreign intelligence agencies as well as the Indian intelligence network are carefully evaluating Baghdadi’s speech as they say it could have repercussions on global jihad. “This video might act as a booster to the Islamic State which is losing the battle on the ground. The video can be used for radicalisation by splinter and IS-inspired groups in India and abroad,” an intelligence officer said.

The IS took responsibility for the Sri Lanka bombings two days after the attack and released a statement through its mouthpiece Amaq. Four days later, IS published a “special report” on the attacks in the latest issue of its weekly newsletter, Al Naba. The report said the targets were Christians and “Coalition citizens”.

“Every time the crusaders think they have imposed their influence and stolen the abode of Islam, the conquerors appear in another region in a war brought on by the sons of the Khilafah and their leaders. To rival the enemy... frustrate him in every part of the world and drain his energy and capabilities,” the ‘editors’ of the magazine had written.



Trump pressed to punish Saudi Arabia over religious intolerance

Bryant Harris

April 29, 2019

A federal panel led in part by conservative Christians close to the Donald Trump administration is pressing the president to penalize Saudi Arabia over for its religious discrimination following the mass execution of 37 prisoners, most of them members of the kingdom’s minority Shiite population.

The bipartisan US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today rolled out its annual report, which makes recommendations to the State Department ahead of its own report on the issue, to be released later in the year. Today’s report calls on Trump to lift a waiver that has allowed Saudi Arabia to escape penalties from its designation as a “country of particular concern” for more than a decade.

“We’re encouraging this administration to be more forceful in following these recommendations,” Tony Perkins, a USCIRF commissioner and president of the conservative Family Research Council, told Al-Monitor. “There were some positive developments … but these recent events that have occurred really dashed those hopes.”

USCIRF also called on the State Department to lift the waiver in last year’s report.

This year’s report, which was written before the executions, cites a handful of positive developments, such as lifting the ban on women driving, less strict enforcement of male guardianship laws, more aggressive efforts to counter extremist ideology and a USCIRF meeting with the Saudi Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. It also pointed out that Saudi officials had backed off their stance that Islam can be the only religion on the Arabian Peninsula and had met with Christian leaders.

“Even in two countries that we still recommend to be a country of particular concern, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan, we saw continued efforts of those governments to engage,” Commissioner Gayle Manchin said during the report’s rollout on Capitol Hill today.

Still, Perkins stressed that last week’s mass execution “only exacerbates the situation and only makes it worse from the standpoint of the abuse of religious freedom.” After the executions, which included three individuals who were minors when they were sentenced, USCIRF released a blistering public rebuke.

“The Saudi government’s execution of minority [Shiite] Muslims on the basis of their religious identity and peaceful activism is not only shocking, but also directly contradicts the government’s official narrative of working toward greater modernization and improving religious freedom conditions,” USCIRF Chairman Tenzin Dorjee said in a statement.

The State Department first designated Saudi Arabia as a country of particular concern in 2004 and has maintained an “indefinite waiver” for Riyadh since 2006, the report notes. The International Religious Freedom Act requires the president to designate countries of particular concern every year. The president then has the option to choose among a menu of retaliatory measures (including economic and financial sanctions), negotiate a bilateral agreement or issue a national security waiver.

In a dissenting opinion, Commissioner Johnnie Moore defended the State Department’s decision to maintain the waiver for Riyadh.

“I do not think the way of persuading Saudi Arabia to improve its religious environment is by shame and force,” Moore wrote. “I do think it’s through direct, respectful and meaningful engagement.”

Iran and Syria are the only other two Middle East countries identified as being among the worst offenders. The report notes that “religious freedom conditions in Iran trended in a negative direction relative to 2017,” pointing to the harassment and detention of Sunnis, Sufis, Christians and Baha'is.

For the first time, the report also recommends including Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels and Syria’s al-Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham as “entities of particular concern,” joining the Islamic State. The State Department already designated the Houthis in last year’s report and has highlighted the group’s detention of Baha'i leader Hamed bin Haydara on espionage and apostasy charges.

Conversely, the report notes progress in Egypt’s treatment of its own Baha'i minority. Egypt is listed as a Tier 2 country in which the government is accused of engaging in or tolerating “serious” religious freedom violations.

Moore made it a point to praise the Egyptian government’s “commitment to peaceful coexistence” and suggested that Cairo could rid itself of its black mark if it improves security for religious minorities in Minya, which is home to many Christian Copts, and enshrines the recognition of the Baha'i faith into law.

Nonetheless, Perkins pointed to attacks on Coptic churches throughout Egypt.

“Egypt’s still a troubled place,” he told Al-Monitor. “There are rays of light and of hope, but they’re a long way from being out of the woods.”

Accordingly, the report recommends allocating US assistance “to train and equip Egyptian security forces to protect the places of worship and other holy sites of religious minority communities.”

Other countries on the report’s Tier 2 watch list include Bahrain, Iraq and Turkey.

While the report notes that religious freedom in Bahrain “trended positive” in some areas, the government, it said, “continued its discrimination and repression of the [Shiite] Muslim community.”

As it did last year, the commission endorses legislation that would sanction the Iran-backed Shiite militia Asaib Ahl al-Haq, which holds 15 seats in the Iraqi parliament.

Turkey has also fallen under particular scrutiny despite releasing pastor Andrew Brunson, a US citizen, last year.

“They’re really on the borderline of becoming a Tier 1 country,” Perkins told Al-Monitor. “They’re moving in the wrong direction. We’re going to be watching very closely this next year, and if they continue on the same course, I would not be surprised to see them [downgraded].”



U.S. Army veteran who converted to Islam plotted white supremacist rally bombing to avenge mosque attacks: police

April 29, 2019

LOS ANGELES — An Army veteran who converted to Islam and discussed launching various terror attacks throughout Southern California was arrested as he plotted to bomb a white supremacist rally as retribution for the New Zealand mosque attacks, federal prosecutors said Monday.

Mark Domingo, an infantryman who served a combat stint in Afghanistan, was arrested Friday after visiting a park in Long Beach where authorities said he planned to plant home-made explosive devices made with nail-filled pressure cookers in advance of a Nazi rally scheduled Sunday.

Domingo, 26, was arrested on a charge of providing material support to terrorists. A criminal complaint said he had been planning since March to “manufacture and use a weapon of mass destruction in order to commit mass murder.”

U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna told a news conference that Domingo supported violent jihad and spoke about becoming a martyr and of pledging allegiance to the Islamic State group if it established a presence in the United States.

“This is a case in which law enforcement was able to identify a man consumed with hate and bent on mass murder, and stop him before he could carry out his attack,” Hanna said. “The criminal case outlines a chilling terrorism plot that developed over the past two months and targeted innocent Americans that he expected to gather this past weekend.”

Investigators said Domingo posted an online message March 3 that said “America needs another Vegas event,” an apparent reference to the 2017 mass shooting that killed 59. He allegedly said it would spark civil unrest to weaken “America by giving them a taste of the terror they gladly spread all over the world.”

After Domingo began to discuss seeking revenge for the March 15 attacks that killed 50 people at New Zealand mosques, a confidential source who has worked with the FBI since 2013 began chatting with him about his plans.

Domingo said he had an assault rifle, semi-automatic rifle and several magazines of ammunition. He discussed picking off Jews walking to synagogue, shooting police officers or attacking a church or military base, according to investigators.

When the source asked him how he planned to carry out violence without getting caught, court records said Domingo replied: “Martyrdom, bro.”

He also allegedly discussed killing a neighbour he was upset with as a prelude to broader violence and later contemplated bombing the Santa Monica Pier, where he said a summer attack on the crowded tourist spot would maximize casualties because people wouldn’t be able to escape the blast in the enclosed space.

Eventually, he settled on the idea of planting an improvised explosive device that would be remotely triggered or detonated by a timer at a white supremacist event, investigators said. The confidential source connected him with a purported bomb maker who was actually an undercover police officer.

Domingo bought 8 pounds (3.6 kilograms) of nails long enough to puncture internal organs and provided them to the bomb maker, though the resulting contraption contained only inert materials, authorities said.

If he survived the planned bombing, Domingo allegedly discussed launching further attacks on the Long Beach Port or on a train.

The plot was thwarted just two days ahead of the event, investigators said, when an FBI SWAT team arrested Domingo after he was given the pressure cookers and surveyed Bluff Park in Long Beach, where the rally was supposed to happen.

White nationalists, however, never showed up at the park Sunday. Instead, a large group of counter protesters demonstrated for peace.

Phone and email messages seeking comment from the public defender representing Domingo were not immediately returned. A voicemail left at a phone number listed for Domingo was not returned.

A statement from his family asked for privacy.

“We do not know what is going on at this point,” the statement said. “We are surprised by all of these events in regard with Mark.”

The suspect’s younger brother told reporters outside the family’s Los Angeles home that Mark Domingo had converted to Islam in recent months.

“Like anybody else, I don’t want to assume a thing when someone joins a new religion,” James Domingo said. “If anything, I thought it was a good thing. I thought maybe my brother finally found some sort of guidance in this world.”

James Domingo declined to speculate on whether his brother was guilty, only saying he would “wait for the trial.”

Domingo is believed to have acted alone and authorities said the public was not at risk. After Domingo was identified online by the FBI, he was under surveillance around the clock, said Ryan Young, the FBI special agent in charge of counter terrorism at the Los Angeles office.

“Our biggest fear is this was a rapid what we call ‘radicalization to mobilization to violence,”‘ Young said. “Sometimes we get asked ‘What keeps you up at night?’ This is a case that keeps us up at night.”

While Domingo had appeared committed to carry out the plot, court papers portray him as suddenly reluctant as the bomb plot came together.

He told the others he thought were his confederates they should consider postponing so he could finish reading the Qur’an and experience the Muslim holy month of Ramadan beginning in May.

Last Wednesday, he told the confidential source he wanted to think about it for a night.

“Let’s just sleep on it,” he said, according to court papers. “If we’re still as motivated … I’ll give the go-ahead.”

The next day he sent a message to the supposed bomb maker that the plan was on. The two referred to the bombs as “presents” they needed to wrap for a party.

“Keep the presents somewhere safe lol,” Domingo wrote back Friday morning before making plans to meet that night.



UN chief demands that the world step up to stamp out hatred

29 April 2019

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is demanding that the world “step up to stamp out anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim hatred, persecution of Christians and all other forms of racism, xenophobia, discrimination and incitement.”

The UN chief says that beyond the recent murders of worshippers “there is loathsome rhetoric” aimed not only at religious groups but at migrants and refugees.

He also decries “assertions of white supremacy, a resurgence of neo-Nazi ideology (and) venom directed at anyone considered the ‘other.’”

Guterres said Monday “parts of the Internet are becoming hothouses of hate, as like-minded bigots find each other online, and platforms serve to inflame and enable hate to go viral.”

Guterres said he’s launched initiatives to tackle hate speech and to see how the UN can contribute to the safety of religious sanctuaries.



Pakistan says ready to take Indian journalists to Balakot

Apr 30, 2019

Pakistan’s military on Monday contended the Indian air strike in Balakot in February had not resulted in loss of lives or damage to infrastructure even as it warned New Delhi not to test Islamabad’s resolve.

Addressing a news conference at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi, chief military spokesman Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor repeated his offer to facilitate Indian journalists if they wished to visit Balakot to “see the truth”.

The Indian government has said it struck a Jaish-e-Mohammed facility at Balakot in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province on February 26 in retaliation for the February 14 suicide bombing by JeM at Pulwama that killed 40 troops.

Pakistan, in turn, retaliated with air strikes along the Line of Control on February 27, which triggered an aerial engagement in which an Indian jet was shot down and its pilot captured.

Ghafoor contended India has been “repeatedly lying” and Pakistan has not responded. “For the past two months, India has told uncountable lies. As a responsible country, we have not responded to their lies,” he said.

He reiterated that the state of Pakistan wasn’t linked to the Pulwama attack and that Prime Minister Imran Khan had called for an investigation based on evidence as well as dialogue. Despite India’s contention that only one of its jets was downed on February 27, Ghafoor again claimed two jets were shot down. He also dismissed India’s contention that a Pakistani F-16 was shot down.

Ghafoor also said India shouldn’t test Pakistan’s resolve as the situation on the ground has changed since the 1971 war that led to the creation of Bangladesh from East Pakistan. “This is not 1971, it is not that force or those circumstances,” he said, adding Pakistan has been engaged in a “continuous struggle for support to the Kashmiris”.

He said “kinetic operations” had been conducted to kill terrorists and dismantle their facilities. “Today we can say with conviction and evidence that any kind of organised terrorist infrastructure is not present in Pakistan,” he said. “The state’s will and capacity is also based on financial capability. While we were conducting kinetic operations, we had to deal with threats on our eastern border at least three times,” he added.

Ghafoor said Pakistan plans to bring under state control more than 30,000 madrassas as part of a drive to “mainstream” them. “An Islamic education will continue to be provided but there will be no hate speech,” he said, adding seminaries will come under the purview of education ministry.



China won’t block global terrorist tag for Masood Azhar: Sources ahead of UN meet

Shishir Gupta

Apr 30, 2019

China is expected to lift its hold on blacklisting Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar at a UN sanctions committee on May 1, paving the way for further global financial sanctions against the banned group, people familiar with the development said.

Azhar’s designation as a global terrorist would be a major diplomatic victory for the Narendra Modi government, which has been pushing for the move particularly since the February 14 terror attack in Pulwama.

“Mayday is going to be the death knell for Masood Azhar, as he will be designated as a global terrorist by the UN’s Islamic State and al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee, with Beijing caving in to the global demand led by the US, France and the UK that the main orchestrator of the Pulwama attack be brought to book,” said a senior official who asked not to be named.

“China is expected to lift the technical hold which it had placed on March 13 on the proposal by the US, the UK and France, with all other Security Council members approving the move,” he added.

While there were reports suggesting that Beijing wanted to lift the hold around May 15, the other members of the UN Security Council, led by the US, have made it clear that time was running out for China and its all-weather ally Pakistan on the issue of Azhar.

Soon after the Pulwama attack by a JeM suicide bomber that killed 40 Indian troopers, France, with the backing of the US and the UK, moved a proposal at the UN’s 1267 Sanctions Committee to designate Azhar as a global terrorist.

Members of the committee, who are the same as the 15 members of the Security Council, had 10 working days to raise objections to the proposal. On March 13, the final day, China placed a hold on the proposal, saying more time was needed to discuss the matter.

This was the fourth time China blocked the designation of Azhar even though JeM was proscribed by the UN in October 2001.

The development infuriated the US and its allies, which circulated a draft resolution on listing Azhar among the UN Security Council’s members to force China’s hand.

During a visit to India last week, the US principal deputy assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, Alice Wells, conveyed to her Indian interlocutors that Washington was looking for action against Azhar “in the near term”, people familiar with the developments said.

The UK high commissioner, Dominic Asquith, also told reporters last week that his country was optimistic about Azhar’s listing.

Azhar was released on December 31, 1999, in a hostage swap at Kandahar airport after an Indian airliner was hijacked by Pakistani terrorists. He has been accused of masterminding some of the most heinous terror attacks in India. Before Pulwama, the JeM was responsible for the 2016 attack on Pathankot airbase, the 2001 attack on Parliament, the Jammu and Kashmir assembly attack the same year, and a series of assaults against security forces in Kashmir.

The 50-year-old Azhar is suffering from a life threatening spinal cord ailment and is bed-ridden but plays an active role in orchestrating attacks against India with the help of brothers Athar Ibrahim and Rauf Asghar. The JeM operates from a newly built headquarters in Bhawalpur, which also houses the grave of Azhar’s father Sabir Alvi. Three of his kin, including two nephews, have been gunned down by security forces in Jammu and Kashmir since 2017.



MCMC nabs duo for insulting Islam, Prophet Muhammad and wife on Facebook

30 April 2019

By R. Loheswar

KUALA LUMPUR, April 30 — The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) have detained two individuals for uploading offensive material on Facebook about the Prophet Muhammad, his wife Aisyah, and Islam.

The agency’s chief enforcement officer Datuk Mohd Shafie Harun said raids were carried in Semporna, Sabah and in Kajang, Selangor in response to multiple police reports made about the matter.

He said the individuals’ statements were recorded after the simultaneous raids executed with the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) in both states.

“The first case involving Facebook profile ‘Auni Zaara’, the suspect uploaded offensive messages towards the Prophet Muhammad and his wife,” Shafie said through a statement.

“In the second case of Facebook profile ‘Faadhillah Abdulhamid’, the suspect uploaded offensive material against Islam and Prophet Muhammad using very insulting language.”

Shafie said they confiscated two mobile phones, three SIM cards and one memory card in the raids.

The cases will be investigated under Section 233 of the Communication and Multimedia Act (CMA) 1998 for the “improper use of network facilities”, an offence punishable by up to a year’s jail and a fine of RM50,000.

Shafie warned that the MCMC will not compromise on such behaviour and will take harsh action against those abusing social media to circulate inflammatory content.



MURIC condemns revenge ideology of IS

By Chris Irekamba

30 April 2019

Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has condemned the revenge ideology of the Islamic State (IS), which claimed responsibility for the multiple bombing of churches and hotels in Sri Lanka during the Easter holidays.

About 321 deaths were recorded in the attacks.

Founder and director of the rights group, Prof. Ishaq Akintola, stated yesterday that Islam frowns at tit-for-tat.

His words: “For the umpteenth time, we reiterate our condemnation of terrorism and all forms of violence as a means of seeking redress. Violence is a square peg, while peace is a round hole. Seekers of justice must not resort to violence lest they err. Neither can avengers have peace of mind because revenge, by its very nature, is a vicious cycle. The solution to the world’s problems lies in dialogue, mutual respect, tolerance, forgiveness and love.”

“We reject religious demagogues who instruct us to kill people of other faiths. We debunk the parochial philosophy of merchants of death who tell us to kill Westerners. We assert clearly, categorically and unequivocally that Islam is a religion of peace, not a creed of violence.

“We further contend that as an integral part of compos mentis homo sapiens, Muslims have no right to kill any follower of other faiths any more than members of other faiths have any right to kill Muslims. To believe otherwise is to succumb to the Hobbesian theory of nature where man is seen as a selfish and dangerous brute. This is what the killers in New Zealand and Sri Lanka have done. They have become unsolicited ideologues of the Darwinian theory of survival of the fittest.

“Contrary to this barbaric mentality, Islam invites mankind to rational thinking and respect for human life.”



Arab World


Senior MP Slams US for Creating Safe Zone for ISIL at Iraq-Syria Border

Apr 29, 2019

Sa'ad Khazali, the representative of Sadeqoun coalition at the Iraqi parliament, told the Arabic-language al-Ma'aloumeh news website that the safe zone is protected by the US air force which monitors the Iraqi-Syrian border.

He added that the US planes land in regions which host the ISIL commanders, saying that the Americans intend to engage Iraq in a new war and lead it to economic collapse.

Khazali said that the recent airstrikes by the US coalition against the Iraqi forces in Kirkuk province should never be ignored, adding that the Iraqi parliament will soon study the US forces' measures against the security and Hashd al-Shaabi (popular) forces.

Iraq's security experts have accused the US army of training hundreds of ISIL terrorists in al-Anbar province after relocating them from Syria to Iraq to prepare them for a new round of insecurity in the country.

"Between 700 to 1,000 ISIL militants are being trained by the US troops in al-Anbar province," the Arabic-language al-Maloumeh news website quoted Manager of Badr Organization in Al-Anbar Province Qusai al-Anbari as saying in March.

He pointed to the special conditions considered for the ISIL militants, and said that the US troops had specified redlines for third parties to avoid approaching the region.

This is while the Arabic-language Arabi Post recently disclosed that the US troops had been intensively training the ISIL terrorists in two military bases of Ain al-Assad and al-Habanieh in al-Anbar province under name of desert ghosts.

The sources said the US army troops had equipped the ISIL terrorists with 200 military and non-military vehicles.

Also, Russian media reports claimed on Saturday that ISIL terrorist group's ringleader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was in Syria's Badiyeh (desert) region, attempting to cross the border into Iraq.

The Arabic-language service of RT news channel quoted an Iraqi intelligence source as saying that al-Baghdadi was at present hiding in Abu Rajmin mountain near Syria's Palmyra region in Homs province.

He added that the ISIL leader wanted to cross the border into Iraq in the next few weeks, noting that he had already made several unsuccessful attempts due to the tight security measures at the border.

The report said captured ISIL terrorists leaked during interrogations that al-Baghdadi had been left with a small number of Saudi, Tunisian and Iraqi militants who were still loyal to him.

Security experts said al-Baghdadi was likely trying to join the ISIL terrorists who had been transferred by the US from Syria to Iraq.



UAE Using Dahlan to Interfere in Palestine, Launch Coup against Mahmoud Abbas

Apr 29, 2019

The Arabic-language al-Khaleej Online quoted Palestinian sources in Fatah movement in the West Bank as saying that the UAE has resumed its meddling in Palestine's internal affairs and is attempting hard to hit a blow at the position of the prominent Palestinian leaders.

They added that Dahlan is in a secret war with Abbas to take control of Fatah movement, adding that over $2mln, supplied by Abu Dhabi, is being paid by him to the Palestinians who were coaxed into defecting Fatah movement and supporting Dahlan.

Relevant reports said last year that Egypt and the UAE were encouraging Dahlan to form a new Palestinian party to challenge President Abbas.

Full report at:



US-Backed SDF Releases Hundreds of Foreign ISIL Terrorists in Raqqa

Apr 29, 2019

Around 600 ISIL terrorists with foreign nationalities have been released by the SDF in Raqqa province, the pro-militant Step News reported.

It noted that the SDF is gradually releasing the ISIL terrorists in Raqqa and the Western regions.

The Step News said that the released ISIL terrorists had been captured by the SDF in late 2017, adding that the released terrorists are freely commuting in Raqqa.

It also reiterated that several Tunisian ISIL terrorists who had earlier been freed by the SDF have been transferred to Idlib.

In a relevant development in late December 2018, the SDF forwarded several aid convoys to the ISIL terrorists' bases in the town of al-Sha'afah in Southeastern Deir Ezzur.

The field sources reported that a number of SDF vehicles, carrying food stuff, were sent to al-Sha'afah via al-Alalouni passageway in Eastern Deir Ezzur.

The sources pointed to a possible agreement between the SDF and the ISIL over sending the convoy in return for receiving a hefty amount of money by the Washington-backed militia.

In November 2018, the Arabic-language al-Ma'aloumah news website quoted Ahamd al-Sahrifi, an Iraqi security expert, as disclosing that the US intended to heliborne ISIL terrorists from Syria-Iraq border to regions behind Iraqi forces' positions near border with Syria.

It further said that the US plan to heliborne ISIL to Iraq came after the Iraqi forces deployed at border with Syria and close off any infiltration by terrorists into Iraq.

Full report at:



Russia vows to expel terrorists out of Syria's Idlib

Apr 29, 2019

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says the remnants of Daesh Takfiri terrorists and al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra militants continue to stage provocations and are reluctant to abide by a ceasefire agreement in the northwestern province of Idlib. Lavrov said during a press conference in Moscow on Monday that  the terrorist outfits, especially militants from the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham terror group, formerly known as al-Nusra Front, are constantly breaching the de-escalation zone agreement by attacking civilians and carrying out provocations against the Syrian Arab Army in the troubled region.

The top Russian diplomat went on to say that the Syrian government had every right to protect people living in the country, including Idlib province, which is under the control of al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra.

“There’s a limit to everything. The situation in Idlib and other areas where terrorists are still active cannot go on like this forever. We will proceed from the fact that the Syrian government has every right to ensure the safety of its people on its territory,” Lavrov stressed, adding, “As Russian President Vladimir Putin has said, Russia cannot tolerate these terrorists remaining safe there like in a preserved area.”

Turkey and Russia brokered a deal in September 2018 to create a demilitarized zone in Idlib that would be evacuated of all heavy weapons and militants.

Iran, Russia, and Turkey, the three guarantor states of a ceasefire regime in Syria, have time and again expressed their determination to continue their fight against terrorism in the Arab country.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has recently called for progress in stalled talks on a so-called buffer zone around Idlib province in a meeting with the Russian president’s special envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev in Damascus.

The Syrian president also stressed his government’s determination to eliminate terrorist groups which are holed up in Idlib and attack civilians in neighboring areas.

President Assad called for the removal of any "obstacles" blocking the full implementation of the deal.

Elsewhere in the remarks, Lavrov expressed fear that the US forces, which are illegally stationed in Syria,  could release all detained foreign terrorists.  He said that such an act by the United States would be as “a terrible crime.”

The remarks come as several governments have been grappling with the problem of what to do with captured fighters from their country, the women who married them and their children.

Full report at:



North America


US: ISIS leaders to be ‘delivered justice’ after al-baghdadi videotape

30 April 2019

The United States vowed on Monday that it would track down and defeat surviving leaders of ISIS extremist group after its elusive chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi appeared to speak in a newly released videotape.

The US-led coalition against the group will fight across the world to “ensure an enduring defeat of these terrorists and that any leaders who remain are delivered the justice that they deserve,” a State Department spokesman said.

In al-Baghdadi’s first purported appearance in five years, a cross-legged speaker said to be the world’s most wanted man referred to the group’s defeat last month in its final redoubt of Baghouz and threatened revenge attacks.

US government analysts “will review this recording and we will defer to the intelligence community to confirm its authenticity,” the State Department spokesman said.

But regardless of the video’s authenticity, the spokesman said that ISIS had been battered.

“ISIS’s territorial defeat in Iraq and Syria was a crushing strategic and psychological blow as ISIS saw its so-called caliphate crumble, its leaders killed or flee the battlefield, and its savagery exposed,” he said.



US: Pompeo blames Iran for Yemen's civil war

Umar Farooq  



U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday blamed Iran for the ongoing civil war in Yemen, despite a congressional resolution to end support for the Saudi Arabian-led coalition in the country.

"With respect to the civil war, this is Iranian-led," Pompeo said in an interview for The Hill’s Newsmaker Series.

Saudi Arabia has been leading a coalition of countries against Houthi rebels since 2015, when Riyadh and its Sunni-Arab allies launched a massive air campaign in Yemen aimed at rolling back Houthi gains that began in 2014.

The campaign has devastated Yemen’s infrastructure, including its health and sanitation systems, prompting the UN to describe it as one of the worst humanitarian disasters of modern times.

Yemeni government representatives and Houthi rebel leaders held a round of UN-brokered talks in Sweden in December, which yielded a cease-fire agreement in the Red Sea province of Al-Hudaydah.

Neither of the warring parties, however, have yet to fully withdraw from Al-Hudaydah amid tit-for-tat accusations of truce violations and sporadic clashes in other parts of the country.

Pompeo said Houthis were not committing to any of the agreements made in Sweden, following the orders of Iran.

He said that weapons systems being used by Houthi forces "have been smuggled in by Iran" and are aimed at attacking the airport in Riyadh, which means U.S. citizens flying into the country could be in danger.

"The support we are providing the Saudis as they engage with these dangerous missile systems is in America’s best interest," Pompeo said.

Last month, the Senate voted to pass a legislation that called for the end to the U.S.'s support to the Saudi-led coalition's war efforts in Yemen. The measure alpo passed in the House but was eventually vetoed by President Donald Trump.

Full report at:



US trying to confirm authenticity of Baghdadi video

Joyce Karam

April 30, 2019

The first video message in five years from ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi emerged on Monday, in which he sought to reassure his followers after the group's defeat in Iraq and Syria.

The 18-minute video released by the terrorist organisation’s media arm Al Furqan shows Al Baghdadi next to an assault rifle, seated in a white-walled room while speaking to three followers.

The ISIS leader looks physically well despite signs of ageing. His beard is longer and more grey, dyed with henna at the end, and his hands are paler.

"The battle for Baghouz is over," Al Baghdadi said as he spoke about future attacks and areas of presence for ISIS, and recent assaults across Africa and in Sri Lanka.

A US State Department official said that Washington was “aware of the video” and that government analysts and intelligence agencies would review it to confirm its authenticity.

The US official called the territorial defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria “a crushing strategic and psychological blow for its so-called caliphate”.

But he said that the fight against ISIS was not finished and any remaining leaders in the group would be “delivered the justice they deserve”.

Counter-terrorism experts say the video is meant to boost ISIS's supporters after the recent losses, and is an attempt by Al Baghdadi to exert his control.

Amarnath Amarasingam, a senior research fellow at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, told The National that the video is aimed at putting the defeat in Baghouz in Al Baghdadi's own context.

“This is the context in which he thanks key leaders, key media figures and focuses on recent attacks,” Mr Amarasingam said.

“He wants to show that it was largely inevitable that the caliphate would have been defeated and that the West was never going to allow such a state to exist.

“Whatever is the next stage of ISIS, Baghdadi wants to assure his followers that he’s still in charge and not incapacitated."

Mia Bloom, professor of communications and author of the book Small Arms: Children and Terror, said the video was about Al Baghdadi’s own leadership and control of ISIS.

Dr Bloom told The National that he wanted to show he was physically well after rumours that he was wounded last year, and that “he is aware of all the ISIS operations to give the impression that he’s in control”.

In the footage, Al Baghdadi mentions terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka and Nigeria that ISIS claimed.

“He wants the West to overreact to this video so that the ISIS rhetoric and ideology resonates with its support base,” Dr Bloom said.

She said that the video's editing techniques could imply that Al Baghdadi did not direct the production.

“He seems very up to date,” Dr Bloom said.

She was referring to his mentions of recent events such as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s re-election and the removal of Algerian and Sudanese presidents Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Omar Al Bashir.

Other experts such as Rita Katz, director of the Site intelligence group, saw the video as alarming to the West.

Full report at:





Sweden foreign minister ‘proud’ to recognize Palestine

Atila Altuntas  



Sweden’s foreign minister on Monday expressed pride over her country recognizing Palestine as an independent state.

“I am proud of the decision of Sweden's government, which recognized Palestine as an independent state in 2014,” Margot Wallstrom told state broadcaster SVT.

Wallstrom said many countries followed Sweden's lead in recognizing Palestine.

“This shows that we recognized Palestine at the right time. We will continue to support Palestine,” she added.

On Israel's criticism of Sweden’s Palestine policy, Wallstrom said dialogue between Sweden and Israel to solve the problems between the two countries continues.

Ties with Israel reached a low in October 2014 when Sweden became the first EU member in Western Europe to officially recognize the state of Palestine.

In 2015, Wallstrom canceled an official visit to Israel, as no Israeli official was prepared to receive her.

Palestine has long sought international recognition as part of its pursuit of a two-state solution.



Italy’s Minister Provokes Controversy with Comments Equating Europe to ISIS

April 29, 2019

Europe is at risk of becoming an “Islamic caliphate”, Italy’s populist Interior Minister Matteo Salvini told an election rally as he campaigned in the country’s regional elections.

The Italian firebrand has launched an aggressive electoral campaign centred on the preservation of national identity and putting an end to illegal immigration with an eye to emerging as the largest party in the upcoming elections and a second vote for the European Parliament in May.

“Either Europe saves itself now, or it never will,” Mr Salvini said on Sunday. “Either we take it back, as we are doing with Italy, or it will become an Islamic caliphate with no hope or future.”

The comments were met with scorn by a woman in the crowd, who shouted “fascist” at the leader of the anti-immigrant League party.

Mr Salvini replied sending a kiss to the lady – as he often mockingly does to his opponents – and rejected the accusation. “We live in a democracy and we will not go back to fascism, Nazism or communism, what I’d like to see is more respect,” he said.

Increasingly hardline rhetoric has emanated from the campaign waged by the Italian official. On April 25 – which coincides with Italy’s national holiday in remembrance of the fall of fascism – Mr Salvini told a crowd of supporters in Sicily: “Our grandparents sacrificed themselves to stop foreigners from coming in. I am doing and will do exactly the same, because this is our home and Italians come first.”

A post on the minister’s Facebook’s page quoting his words was met by a flurry of comments. “Our grandparents and ancestors sacrificed themselves for democracy and everyone’s freedom (see 25 April), not for hating foreigners,” one user said.

Another one used Nelson Mandela’s words to condemn racism.

The Interior Minister, who also serves as deputy Prime Minister, has been the object of an array of lawsuits following his decision to close all Italian ports to rescue boats operated by humanitarian organisation to assist migrants at sea.

Last August, Mr Salvini was placed under investigation for alleged abuse of power and holding people against their will after the Italian coastguard ship, the Diciotti, was denied permission to disembark.

In February, a key committee voted not to lift his immunity to face a possible trial.

The League party has also come under fire last week as one of its members, Armando Siri, was accused of accepting a €30,000 bribe from a businessman in return for pushing specific renewable energy policies.

Mr Siri is set to offer Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte his resignation within the next two days to thwart a government crisis.

The case escalated tensions between the League and its coalition partner, the 5Star Movement, whose members have repeatedly called for Mr Siri’s resignation.

The party’s leader, Luigi Di Maio, said on Thursday: “When there’s the mafia involved, we can’t wait for the trial before deciding. [Mr Siri] must go.”

Mr Salvini and other League officials argued evidence is not sufficient to convict Mr Siri, therefore he should not step down. League officials also say the allegations do not in any way link their minister to the mafia and have threatened to withdraw support for the prime minister should the Prime Minister step in to oust him.

The governing coalition has seen multiple rifts in recent months. Critics have accused both parties of using internal disputes to radicalise their position and bag votes ahead of the European elections.

The League, which was the 5Star Movement’s junior partner when they formed a government in March 2018, is now projected to win the largest share in the next elections.

The latest European elections polls show the League ahead in Italy, with a share of votes oscillating between 31 and 37 per cent. The 5Star Movement is projected to come second, bagging between 20 and 23.5 per cent of preferences. In the European parliament, votes for Mr Salvini will result in the Europe of Nations and Freedom party – which comprises right-wing and far-right groups across Europe – taking 27 of the 73 total seats allocated to Italy.

Under its former leader Umberto Bossi, the League – formerly called Northern League – has been at the eye of a political and judicial storm after claims by prosecutors that taxpayers' money was used to pay for improvements to Mr Bossi’s house, as well as for travel, dinners and hotel accommodation for his children.

Umberto Bossi, his son Renzo and ex-treasurer Francesco Belsito were convicted in July 2017 for embezzling some €49 million of public money between 2008 and 2010.

Full report at:



New Zealand police respond to undisclosed incident in Christchurch

April 30, 2019

WELLINGTON: New Zealand police said on Tuesday they were responding to an incident in Christchurch, where 50 people were killed in attacks by a lone gunman on two mosques in March, and asked people to avoid the area.

Police declined to comment on the nature of the incident in the Phillipstown area of the city on New Zealand’s South Island and gave no further details.

A spokesman for the St. John Ambulance service said an ambulance was on standby at the scene at the request of police but had not treated any patients.

The New Zealand Herald said police were called due to threats of an explosive device and residents were evacuated from nearby homes.

Full report at:



Spain’s far-right makes election gains using anti-Muslim sentiment

Kira Walker

April 29, 2019

Spain's far-right nationalist party Vox gained a significant foothold in general elections on Sunday and will enter parliament with 24 of the 350 seats.

The rise of Vox, from winning 0.2 per cent of votes to more than 10 per cent in three years, has shocked Spain and split the right-wing vote.

Vox first gained popularity for their hardline approach to the Catalan independence bid, tapping into growing nationalist sentiment, and with their provocative rhetoric against “supremacist feminism” and “illegal immigration”, which they consider threats to traditional Spanish values.

Also central to their gains was a stoking of anti-Muslim sentiment through the manipulation of history, often pegged to calls for a new “Reconquista” and nationalist iconography.

Reconquista refers to the long campaign Iberian Christians fought against Moorish rule, which lasted almost eight centuries and led to the expulsion of Muslims and Jews from the Iberian Peninsula in 1492.

Last year, Vox leader Santiago Abascal released a video of himself alongside dozens of men on horseback riding across an open plain with the slogan, “The Reconquista will begin in Andalusian lands”.

Earlier this month, he launched Vox’s electoral campaign in the village of Covadonga, where it is claimed the first Christian victory against the then Muslim rulers took place.

Vox’s use of the term Reconquista in reference to Al-Andalus is itself debatable, said Hicham Oulad Mhammed, a community activist in Madrid, as the term did not start appearing in books until the 18th century.

“At every rally, every meeting they’ve had, they always go back in time and misrepresent Al-Andalus as a bunch of people that came from Africa, occupied us for eight centuries, and thank God we managed to kick them out,” he said.

Such rhetoric reduces the complexity of the Iberian Peninsula’s past, and is a false representation of history, he said.

The language used by the party’s leadership is rife with anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment.

Mr Abascal has called for “an insurmountable wall” to be built in Spain’s North African enclave cities of Ceuta and Melilla to stop the “invasion of illegal immigration”.

The party’s second in command, Javier Ortega Smith, is under investigation for alleged hate speech at a rally in Valencia last September where he claimed Muslims were “enemies”.

“They’re using scare tactics, the politics of fear, of division,” Mr Oulad Mhammed said.

Dr Carmen Aguilera-Carnerero, senior research fellow at the Centre for the Analysis of the Radical Right, said the increase in hate speech in Spain can be explained by the polarisation brought about by rising populism.

The kinds of comments Vox makes and the symbols they use, Dr Aguilera-Carnerero adds, indicate that, “they want to build up a concept of Spain in which Muslims have no place”.

For Aurora Ali of the Madrid-based Muslim Association for Human Rights, much of this anti-Muslim sentiment can be attributed to propaganda for political gain.

“Islamophobia sells, and Islamophobia gives votes because they create this atmosphere of ‘othering’ and make us foreigners, although we were always here.”

Moreover, in a country with four million Muslims, Ms Ali said Vox’s manipulation of Spain’s past negates its Muslim history.

Founded in 2013 after splintering from the conservative Popular Party, Vox’s breakthrough came in the regional Andalusian parliamentary elections in December, where they won 10 per cent of the vote and helped prop up a right-wing coalition that ended 36 years of socialist rule in southern Spain.

Dr Aguilera-Carnerero said Vox’s ascension to the political mainstream revived the far-right nationalist ideology that had remained latent since the country’s transition to democracy, waiting on the fringes for political representation.

Its use of social media has also aided its rise: a study of political posts in Spain between December and January revealed 10 per cent contained far-right content.

The study by Alto Analytics discovered just 862 users were responsible for generating 2.6m far-right political posts, 1.5m of them from the Vox community.

However, despite being unabashedly Islamophobic in public, in private Vox has been willing to overlook these views where funding is concerned.

In January, Spanish newspaper El Pais reported that supporters of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) had financed 80 per cent of Vox’s campaign for the 2014 European elections.

The exiled NCRI is controlled by the militant Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, which was previously listed as a terrorist organisation by the EU and the US.

A spokesperson for the NCRI told El Pais that while they knew Vox was a new party, they were not aware it was a far-right party.

The fear of losing voters to the far-right saw both the conservative Popular Party and the centre-right Ciudadanos party shift their rhetoric further towards Vox throughout the election campaign.

Full report at:



Syria links investigated as France arrests four over suspected terror attack plot

April 29, 2019

Four people, including a minor, have been arrested in France over an alleged plot to attack security forces, the Paris prosecutor’s office said on Monday.

The individuals were arrested on Friday on suspicion of preparing for an “extremely violent” attack as part of an investigation into a terrorist conspiracy by France’s domestic intelligence agency, DGSI.

French newspaper Le Figaro reported that the suspects, all male, had been looking for weapons to commit terrorist acts on security forces.

"We had sufficiently significant indications to fear a major attack," said Interior Minister Christophe Castaner.

One of the suspects is a teenager serving a probationary sentence for trying to travel to Syria, the prosecutor’s office said.

The suspect, aged 17, was sentenced to three years' imprisonment in February 2017, two of which were suspended with probation, for “terrorist criminal conspiracy”, Le Figaro reported.

The other three were also known to French authorities for common law offences.

France’s security forces have been the target of a number of attacks by groups claiming to be affiliated with ISIS since the 2015 Paris attacks.

In March 2018, a gunman affiliated with the terror group shot at a group of police officers jogging in the southern town of Trebes.

In August 2017, a man who had shown interest in ISIS rammed his car into soldiers in Levallois-Peret outside Paris, injuring seven people including the attacker.

Full report at:





Muslims help Christians renovate iconic Pakistan cathedral

April 29, 2019

A three-day music festival was held in Karachi to raise funds for the renovation of one of Pakistan’s oldest churches.

The Muslim community joined hands with Catholics from St. Patrick’s Parish for the event to support 175-year-old St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

In his address, Cardinal Joseph Coutts of Karachi welcomed the gesture by Muslim brethren and appreciated their presence, cooperation and support. 

“The need is not only to work for the building of the cathedral but also for the harmony of the people of Pakistan, because it’s all about Pakistan. And I am happy that the people who are volunteering for this noble cause are not only from our church but are also Muslims,” the cardinal said.

“This three-year project will not only help us to raise funds but will also strengthen interfaith harmony and build good relations between people of various religions that will definitely contribute to the development of the country and send a positive message from Pakistan, our beloved homeland.”

Imran Ismail, the governor of Pakistan’s Sindh province, inaugurated the event.

“Interfaith harmony is the need of the hour. Every religion in the world teaches love, peace and kindness and it is needed to promote tolerance and humanity,” Ismail told

The governor appreciated the services of the minority Christian community in various fields, especially education and health care.

“The services of the church in promoting interfaith harmony are also remarkable. I appreciate the Christian community for organizing this event to raise funds to renovate the architectural work of the church building,” Ismail said.

The event included food stalls, a children’s play area and musical performances in which renowned Christian and Muslim singers and musicians rendered their talents free of charge.

Father Mario Rodrigues, rector of the cathedral, said: “This year we are celebrating 175 years of the foundation of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Karachi. We have to preserve our history, especially this great architectural work. Many of the stained glasses are broken and the stonework needs repairing.”

He said the restoration project would cost about US$1.6 million. Several fundraising events are planned.

“The governor and the chief minister of Sindh province have assured us of their support for this project. They have sent a team to see the cathedral and that team will monitor and evaluate the whole three-year project,” Father Rodrigues said.



Pakistan to Mainstream Madrasas, Bring Them under Govt Control: Army Spokesperson

Apr 29, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will bring over 30,000 madrassas into the mainstream education system as part of a determined campaign to combat extremism, the military spokesperson said Monday.

Addressing a press conference in Rawalpindi, Major General Asif Ghafoor said Pakistan had witnessed a surge in religious seminaries from 247 madrassas in 1947 to 2,861 in 1980.

"And now there are over 30,000 madrassas. Out of these, only 100 are involved in propagating terrorism," he said, adding that several steps were afoot to control and bring the seminaries into the mainstream.

"All madrassas will be brought under the Ministry of Education so that contemporary subjects can be taught. We will formulate a syllabus which will not have hate speech and students will be taught respect for different sects," he said.

The military spokesman said the students will also receive a degree which will be associated with the education board.

"In February, money was allotted to bring the seminaries into the mainstream. To control the welfare activities of proscribed organisations, the government has made a system to mainstream their social activities,"

Ghafoor said to bring the madrassas into the mainstream, they will have to start teaching other subjects so that students have skills other than religious studies.

He said initially Rs 2 billion will be required to run this programme and then Rs 1 billion each year to keep it going.

"We will provide these funds so that these madrassas are mainstreamed and all of our children have equal opportunities," he said.

"The mainstreaming has three phases. The first is to prepare a bill which will be ready in around a month. The second phase requires training of teachers and the third phase will be the implementation of the bill," he said.

Ghafoor also claimed that there were no terrorist groups in Pakistan as military operations had broken the organised networks of militant outfits.

Full report at:



Pak army cracks whip on Pashtun body, drags in India’s RAW

Apr 30, 2019

ISLAMABAD:Accusing the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM, also Pashtun protection movement) of getting funds from Indian and Afghan intelligence agencies, Pakistan’s military vowed on Monday that the state will take legal action against the group.

In Rawalpindi, Pakistan army spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor said time is up for those who are stoking PTM’s issues.

“How much money did you get from the National Directorate of Security to run your campaign,” Ghafoor asked and alleged that India’s RAW supported it. “How much money did RAW give you for the first sit-in in Islamabad? What revenge are you seeking from the army?”

Full report at:



US, Pakistan discuss trade ties, Afghan peace

April 30, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Top Pakistani and US officials in two meetings on Monday held talks to promote economic and business relations between the two countries and also agreed to continue their cooperation for Afghan peace and reconciliation.

At one of the meetings, Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh informed the delegation led by US principal deputy assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian Affairs Ambassador Alice Wells that Pakistan valued its ties with the United States and both countries needed to create an environment to move forward for mutual benefits.

An official statement issued after the meeting said that matters pertaining to promotion of economic and business relations between the two countries were discussed. The participants underlined the need to deepen the engagements between the two countries in the areas of trade, economy and energy.

Dr Hafeez said that both countries had shared concern about militancy and extremism. He also referred to the sacrifices rendered by Pakistan while fighting the war on terror and said the country had borne the brunt of the war.

Pakistan’s role in promotion of peace and regional stability also came under discussion.

Ambassador Wells lauded the peace efforts for stability in Afghanistan. She said both countries needed to work together for the expansion of economic relations.

She appreciated the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan for economic progress and vowed that the US would support policies aimed at bringing economic stability in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Pakistan and the US agreed to continue their cooperation for Afghan peace and reconciliation.

This understanding was reached during a meeting between US and Pakistani delegations at the Foreign Office in which the two sides deliberated on efforts for peace in Afghanistan and the state of bilateral relationship.

Pakistani and US inter-agency delegations were led by Ambas­sador Aftab Khokhar, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and Ambassador Wells, respectively.

“The two US officials are visiting Islamabad as part of regular consultations on Afghan peace process, Pakistan-US bilateral relationship and regional security situation,” said the Foreign Office (FO) in a statement issued after the meeting.

“The two sides reviewed recent developments regarding the Afghan peace process. It was underlined that this was a historic opportunity to end the prolonged Afghan conflict for which all Afghan stakeholders as well as Afghanistan’s neighbours had an important role to play,” the FO statement added.

The Pakistani delegation during the talks reiterated the country’s support for intra-Afghan dialogue. They also highlighted the need for creating conducive environment in Afghanistan for early and dignified return of Afghan refugees to their homeland, the FO said.

During the talks, the state of bilateral engagement and cooperation was also reviewed. The Pakistani side also sought early convening of the next round of Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) meeting. It was noted that an ‘inter-sessional meeting’ would be held in Islamabad on May 2.

Earlier in an interview with Tolo News, Afghanistan’s private TV channel, Mr Khalilzad had said that any peace agreement with the Afghan Taliban would depend on the declaration of a permanent ceasefire and a commitment to end the war.

He said the US would not agree to the revival of the old system that existed in Taliban before 2001. “If the Taliban insist on going back to the system they used to have, in my personal opinion it means the continuation of war, not peace,” he said.

“Our focus is on terrorism. No agreement will be done if we don’t see a permanent ceasefire and a commitment to end the war,” he added.

Full report at:



Two security men martyred in North Waziristan attacks

April 30, 2019

MIRAMSHAH: Two security personnel were martyred and another was injured in separate attacks in North Waziristan tribal district on Monday.

According to official sources, militants opened fire on a checkpost in the Sheen Kandai area of Dattakhel tehsil. As a result, Sepoy Mujahid was martyred. His body was shifted to the Miramshah district headquarters by helicopter.

In the other incident, security forces exchanged fire with militants along the border in Ghulam Khan tehsil. The sources said that security forces challenged the militants during a search operation in the Meerkhwand top area that led to the shootout.

Full report at:



LHC demands evidence against TLP’s Khadim Rizvi

Apr 30, 2019

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday ordered police to submit the record of proof that led to the arrest of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi.

A two-member bench, headed by Justice Mohammad Qasim Khan, was hearing bail petitions filed by Rizvi and TLP Patron-in-Chief Pir Afzal Qadri.

The high court also ordered the SP Investigation and the investigation officer concerned to appear before the court in all consequent hearings of the case.

The petitioners held the Punjab government and others as party in their bail plea.

Rizvi’s lawyer contended that police arrested his client on the basis of an “illegal” case, adding that there was no evidence of incitement to violence against the TLP chief.

During the hearing, Justice Qasim pointed out that in the last hearing, the prosecutor general was asked to appear before the court. Deputy Prosecutor General Khurrum Khan, who was present in the court room, responded that the prosecutor general was in Islamabad and that he had transferred the case to the deputy.

The judge said that the prosecutor general should have appeared before the court when was directed to do so.

The counsel for the petitioner said that the TLP leaders had been accused of issuing statements against the Pakistan Army and the judiciary. The defendant was also accused of delivering fuming speeches against the release of Aasia Bibi, he added, while rejecting the allegation.

Justice Qasim asked if the the Constitution has clauses against speaking up against institutions. “Doesn’t this merit the filing of a treason case, if a clause of the Constitution is violated,” the judge asked.

The counsel for Rizvi added that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) itself had staged sit-ins and the media had shown the same. At this point, Justice Qasim Khan said that the court will not take notice on media reports. “We will make a decision of the basis of what is in the file,” he said.

Rizvi’s counsel further said that the case against the TLP leader Rizvi was lodged on Nov 23, 2018 and he was arrested on Jan 2 under the confinement order.

Justice Qasim Khan remarked that apparently police had arrested Rizvi under confinement orders instead of the case lodged against him. He also reprimanded the police officials over absence of the investigation officer.

Full report at:



South Asia


Islamist militants planning another wave of attacks: SL

Apr 30, 2019

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan security officials have warned that Islamist militants behind Easter Sunday’s suicide bombings are planning attacks and could be dressed in uniform.

The militants were targeting five locations for attacks on Sunday just passed or on Monday, security sources said. “There could be another wave of attacks,” the head of the police ministerial security division said in a letter to lawmakers and other officials seen by Reuters on Monday. “The relevant information further notes that persons dressed in military uniforms and using a van could be involved in the attacks.”

Security across Sri Lanka has been ramped up since the April 21 attacks on hotels and churches that killed 253 people.

President Maithripala Sirisena said on Monday he had appointed Chandana Wickramaratne, the second in command at the police, as acting police chief. Over the weekend, two sources at the president’s office told Reuters that Pujith Jayasundara, the police chief who was appointed by PM Wickremesinghe, was refusing the president’s request to step down for not sharing information about the attacks.

“Since there is an investigation into his possible failure in preventing the attacks, Jayasundara has been sent on compulsory leave,” a source close to the president said. It was not immediately possible to contact Jayasundara on Monday. The president has also appointed General Shantha Kottegoda as the new defence secretary, replacing Hemasiri Fernando who resigned after the bombings.



Extremism found fertile ground in Sri Lankan hometown of radical preacher

Apr 29, 2019

KATTANKUDY: When the Wahhabis came, with their austere ideology and abundant coffers, the town of Kattankudy yielded fertile ground.

In this part of Sri Lanka, faith was often the sole sustaining force during the civil war that raged for nearly three decades. Wahhabism — a hard-line strain of Islam blamed for breeding militancy —proposed a direct path to God, albeit one that aimed to return the religion to the time of the Prophet Muhammad. It was here in Kattankudy’s warren of homes decorated with delicate swirls of Arabic calligraphy that Zaharan Hashim, the man accused+ of masterminding the Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka, grew up. And it was here that he preached his ideology, calling for the killing of nonbelievers in Islam and even other Muslims. “To be taken over by radicalism, this is not what we want for Kattankudy,” said Mohamed Ibraheem Mohamed Jaseem, vice chairman of the town’s urban council. “We are living in Sri Lanka, not a caliphate.”

Sri Lankan police say that at least two of the suicide bombers involved in the attacks, which killed at least 250 people, were from Kattankudy. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility.

Beginning Friday evening, just down the coast from the town, a raid on a house linked to the Easter bombings turned violent, leaving 15 dead+ and wounding the wife and child of Zaharan. Some of the dead, thought to include Zaharan’s brother and other immediate family, blew themselves up as security forces closed in. The Islamic State group also claimed a connection to this shootout.

It was in the 1980s that Kattankudy, one of the few almost exclusively Muslim towns in Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka, began blossoming into a center of Islamic life. The town was enriched by Saudi money for mosques and madrassas, work-abroad contracts and university scholarships.

But the advent of Wahhabism, with its isolating dogma, has also shaken this multifaith island where minority Muslims have traditionally practiced a more inclusive faith. Birthed in Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism’s stern intolerance denigrates not only those who don’t believe in Islam but other Muslim sects as well.

While Saudi Arabia insists the faith does not call for violence, critics have long blamed the kingdom’s mass export of its austere creed for fueling extremism and terrorism abroad. Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and most of the hijackers in the September 11, 2001, attacks were from Saudi Arabia, and the Islamic State group used Saudi religious textbooks inside its selfstyled caliphate in Syria and Iraq.

Today in Kattankudy, stately date palms line the main street, as if this lagoon-filled landscape was a desert oasis. Cafes offer tiny cups of syrupy Middle Eastern coffee along with Sri Lanka’s famous tea.

There are more than 60 mosques in Kattankudy for a population of 45,000, and most now subscribe to conservative strains of Islam, including Wahhabism. At the New Kattankudy Grand Jumma Mosque, designed as a replica of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, one of Islam’s holiest sites, construction workers are laying intricate blue mosaics as part of the town’s mosquebuilding boom.

“After the age of 7, everyone must pray five times a day, so we always need more mosques,” said MIM Irfan, the mosque’s secretary.

In an appeal to the Muslim community that supported his government, Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka’s former president and an unabashed Buddhist nationalist, came to lay the cornerstone of the Kattankudy Grand Jumma Mosque. Saudi diplomats visited, too.

The Saudis and others from the Gulf also supported a plan by MLAM Hizbullah, a Kattankudy native who is now governor of Eastern province, to open an Islamic-inspired university campus in his hometown. But a dearth of land in its densely populated neighborhoods meant that the university, a vast edifice of domes and mosaics that is one of the biggest buildings in the province, is being built farther north.

Hizbullah is against reversing regulations that allow Sri Lankan Muslim men to marry children and have multiple wives. Last week, authorities brought him in for questioning in connection with a radical group founded by Zaharan.

That group, National Towheed Jamaat, said it severed ties with Zaharan two years ago.

The group’s prayer space in Kattankudy is modern and under renovation, a glass-sheathed building with expensive speakers waiting to be installed. Less than a block away stands a disused bus from Yeshua Ministries, an evangelical Christian organization.

Faith mingles in Sri Lanka but it also can combust.

Beginning in 2004, Wahhabi-influenced youth from Kattankudy began attacking Sufis, who practice a mystical form of Islam.

Grenades were thrown and swords thrust. Hundreds of Sufis were forced from their homes.

Zaharan charged with the anti-Sufi brigade.

Although Kattankudy’s Islamic organizations are horrified by Zaharan’s militancy and have eschewed violence, most have campaigned for years against Sufis.

“Those people, it is not Islam,” said MLM Nassar, a member of the Federation of Kattankudy Mosques and Muslim Institutions.

“It’s a deviation.”

During Sri Lanka’s long civil war, which pitted minority Tamils against the Sinhalese majority, Muslims were sometimes caught in the middle. (Accounting for about 10% of the population, Muslims are considered a distinct ethnic group in Sri Lanka.)

Some Tamils, who are mostly Hindus or Christians, considered Muslims to be government collaborators. Some Sinhalese, who tend to be Buddhist, distrusted the fact that Muslims in Sri Lanka speak Tamil and populate some areas where Tamils are clustered.

A Buddhist chauvinism popularized by powerful politicians has poisoned relations further.

In 1990, at the height of the terror between insurgents from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and a Sri Lankan military accused of slaughtering civilians, worshippers gathered in the evening for prayer at the Meera Grand Jumma Mosque in Kattankudy.

It was dark, just another poor town on Sri Lanka’s Tamil and Muslim-dominated east coast bereft of electricity.

Suddenly, gunmen emerged from among the faithful, lobbing grenades and spraying bullets in the sacred space. That night, more than 100 people, many of them children, were killed in attacks on two Kattankudy mosques. The perpetrators were believed to have been Tamil Tigers.

Today, the walls of the Meera Grand Jumma Mosque are still pockmarked with bullet scars, a memory of hatred preserved for each generation to ponder.

MLM Shamsudeen’s 13-year-old son was killed in the attack, along with 16 other relatives. He is now a security guard at the mosque where his family was massacred, keeping vigil amid fears after the Easter killings that mosques might be targeted in retribution.

Sitting on the mosque’s veranda, his eyes filled with tears for his son. He welled up again when he thought of what a hometown boy, Zaharan, appears to have unleashed at one church in the nearby city of Batticaloa and at two others in or near the capital Colombo.

The talk of jihad emanating from some of Kattankudy’s hard-line clerics appalled him, he said. Peace finally came to Sri Lanka in 2009. Like so many in the country, Shamsudeen is done with war.

“We had no weapons to fight back then,” he said of the attack that killed his son and other family members. “But even if we did, is revenge the best way?”

Full report at:



Sri Lanka maintains high alert for attacks ahead of Ramadan

April 30, 2019

Colombo: Sri Lankan officials said on Tuesday security forces were maintaining a high level of alert after intelligence reports that Islamist militants were planning fresh attacks before the start of the holy Islamic month of Ramadan.

The head of the police ministerial security division had said in a letter to lawmakers and other officials that attacks were expected on Sunday or Monday by militants dressed in army uniform.

There were no attacks on Sunday and Monday but security across Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka remains ramped up, with scores of suspected Islamists arrested since the April 21 attacks on hotels and churches that killed more than 250 people, including 42 foreign nationals.

"Security will stay tight for several days because military and police are still tracking down suspects," a senior police intelligence official said on Tuesday.

Another government source told Reuters a document has been circulated among key security establishments instructing all police and security forces across the Indian Ocean island nation to remain on high alert because the militants were expected to try a strike before Ramadan.

Ramadan is scheduled to begin in Sri Lanka on May 6.

The government has also banned women from wearing face veils under an emergency law that was put in place after the Easter Sunday attacks.

Authorities suspect members of two previously little-known groups - National Thawheedh Jamaath (NTJ) and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim - of carrying out the attacks, although Daesh has claimed responsibility.

Authorities believe Zahran Hashim, the founder of NTJ, was the mastermind and one of the nine suicide bombers.

Full report at:



Bangladesh: Suicide Blast Kills 2 Suspected Militants, RAB Says


Bangladesh’s counter-terrorist Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) carried out a strike on a militant hideout in Dhaka on Monday, leading to the suicide-bomb deaths of at least two suspects, officials said.

RAB officers surrounded a makeshift tin-shed house in the Bosila neighborhood of the Bangladeshi capital and called on those inside to surrender. But about six hours after the government forces arrived, bystanders heard an explosion followed by a fire, officials said.

“At least two militants were killed. They blew themselves up as we started the operation following their refusal to surrender,” RAB senior superintendent Mizanur Rahman, who was at the scene, told BenarNews.

“Primary indication shows that they blew themselves up with an IED (improvised explosive device). We have yet to identify them or which militant outfit they belong to,” he said.

The blast marked the first suicide bombing incident by militants in Bangladesh since Oct. 16, 2018, when a woman and a child died in an explosion at a hideout in Dhaka’s Narshingdi district.

RAB officers, on the basis of intelligence reports, first arrived around 3 a.m. Monday, knocked on the door of the house and got no response. They then went to a nearby mosque, according to RAB Director General Benazir Ahmed.

“We interrogated the caretaker of the mosque near the house. As we were interrogating the caretaker, the people inside the house open fired on us. Our forces fired back,” he said.

The house’s owner, the caretaker and caretaker’s wife were arrested along with the imam of the mosque, RAB spokesman Mufti Mahmud Khan told reporters.

Neighbor recounts raid

Naim Shikder, a mason whose house is about 50 meters from the hideout, told BenarNews about the standoff.

“We stayed inside the house. At around 3:30 a.m., we heard sounds of firing,” he said.

“We were terrified that we could be caught in the crossfire. At dawn, we were herded out to a nearby mosque.”

Shikder said the hideout was constructed several months ago.

“The owner of the house was a cable TV businessman and he set up the nearby mosque. A caretaker lives there with his wife and two children,” he said.

“We used to hear recitations from the Holy Quran,” he said.

Neighbor Maleka Begum told BenarNews that she visited the house a couple of days ago.

“On Saturday, I saw two bearded men sleeping in the room next to the room of the caretaker. One of them was fat and had a long beard while the other was slim and had a thin beard,” she said.

“I was curious to see who the two men were and tried to peep through the room. But the wife of the caretaker told me not to,” Begum said.

She said she walked past the house at 11 p.m. Friday. “I saw two persons carrying a small courier bag come to the house on a motorcycle. They covered their faces with a scarf,” she said.

RAB and police officials said about 100 suspected militants had been killed in Bangladesh since an overnight siege claimed by an Islamic State-linked group at the Holey Artisan Bakery café attack, the deadliest in the nation’s history. In all, 20 civilians, two police and two café workers were killed along with five militants who died when security forces raided the café the morning after the siege began.

Terrorist attacks abroad denounced

Also on Monday, Bangladesh’s parliament adopted a unanimous resolution denouncing recent terrorist attacks in New Zealand and Sri Lanka.

“The Bangladesh parliament urges the governments of all countries and their citizens to build up resistance against terrorism and militancy,” Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury told BenarNews.

Seven opposition members of parliament, including five newly sworn in Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) members, participated in the discussion and vote on the resolution.

“Bangladesh must be made free from militants and terror. We need to be united to face the challenges of terrorism and militancy,” said Harun Rashid, a BNP member who took the parliamentary oath on Monday.

On March 15 in New Zealand, an Australian white supremacist allegedly opened fire at two mosques in Christchurch, killing 50 people.

On Easter Sunday, suicide bombers attacked churches and hotels in Sri Lanka, leaving around 250 people dead, according to government officials.

In the aftermath of the suicide attacks, Sri Lanka expelled foreign employees who worked at a factory owned by one of the suspects who carried out the April 21 bombings. Eleven Bangladeshis were among factory workers sent back to their home countries.

The 11 were interrogated by authorities after coming back to Bangladesh, Monirul Islam, the chief of the counter-terrorist unit at Dhaka Metropolitan Police, told reporters Monday.

“Those workers were employed in a factory owned by Ibrahim Insaf Ahmed, who is one of the alleged suicide attackers in Sri Lanka,” he said. “After the death of Ibrahim Insaf, Sri Lankan authorities shut down the factory and interrogated employees, then handed over all foreign workers to their respective embassies.”

Full report at:



Afghan Special Forces arrest prominent Taliban spy in Kabul

29 Apr 2019

The Special Forces of the Afghan National Police have arrested a prominent Taliban spy in Kabul city, the Ministry of Interior said in a statement.

The ministry of interior further added that the Taliban spy identified as Qudratullah was arrested in Company area of Kabul city on Sunday evening.

Qudratullah was collecting and sharing information regarding supply convoys which were travelling on Kabul-Maidan Wardak highway besides planning and coordinating terrorist attacks, the ministry of interior said.

Full report at:



17 Taliban militants killed in Uruzgan, Ghazni, and Nangarhar airstrikes

29 Apr 2019

At least 17 Taliban militants were killed during the airstrikes which were conducted in southern Uruzgan, south-eastern Ghazni, and eastern Nangarhar province.

According to informed military sources, at least 12 Taliban fighters were killed during the airstrikes conducted in Tarin Kot city, the provincial capital of Uruzgan province.

The sources further added that a similar airstrike was carried out in Andar district of Ghazni province leaving one Taliban fighter dead.

At least 4 Taliban fighters were killed during separate airstrieks conducted in Khogyani and Achin districts of Nangarhar province.

The sources also confirmed that 13 Taliban fighters were killed in the airstrikes conducted in Abe Kamari district of north-western Badghis province.

Full report at:



Afghan Special Forces destroy multiple weapons during an operation in Wardak

29 Apr 2019

The Special Forces of the Afghan military have destroyed multiple weapons during a raid which was conducted in Wardak province.

Informed military source said Monday that the raid was conducted on Monday in Sayyidabad district.

“Multiple weapons were captured and destroyed during an Afghan Special Security Forces (ASSF) raid in Sayyidabad district, Wardak province, April 28, 2019,” the sources said.

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

Full report at:



EU extends arms sanctions against Myanmar over Rohingya

Apr 30, 2019

The European Union (EU) has extended sanctions, including a weapons embargo, against Myanmar for one year over the Myanmarese military’s deadly crackdown on minority Muslims in the country.

The European Council said in a statement on Monday that the sanctions included restrictions on arms, dual-use products, and surveillance equipment that could be used for “internal repression” in Myanmar’s Kachin, Rakhine, and Shan states, where minority Rohingya Muslims have been subjected to state-sponsored violence.

“The sanctions regime includes an embargo on arms and equipment that can be used for internal repression, an export ban on dual-use goods for use by the military and border guard police, and export restrictions on equipment for monitoring communications that might be used for internal repression,” the Council said in the statement.

The EU also extended sanctions on 14 senior military and border officials over human rights violations, including killings and sexual violence. The measures bar them from traveling to or through the European bloc and freeze any assets they hold in Europe. Under the sanctions, the EU will also be refusing to train soldiers from Myanmar.

The measures will stay in place until at least April 30, 2020.

The statement referred to the findings of the independent international fact-finding mission (FFM) of the UN Human Rights Council, which “concluded that gross human rights violations were committed in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan States, in particular by the Myanmar Armed Forces (Tatmadaw)” and urged the government of Myanmar “to take, without further delay, meaningful action and to make progress in all areas of concern set out” in its previous conclusions of February 26, 2018.

The Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar have faced horrific violence since 2012. In 2017-18, Rakhine State in particular was the scene of an organized crackdown committed against the Muslims by the country’s military and Buddhist mobs. Thousands of Muslims were killed in that crackdown and some 800,000 Rohingya fled to neighboring Bangladesh, where they currently live in camps in dire conditions.

The violence in Rakhine has been described by the United Nations as genocide.

Last year, a UN fact-finding mission said the campaign against the Rohingya was orchestrated with “genocidal intent.” It urged charging the Myanmarese army chief and five other generals with the “gravest crimes under international law.”

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has already opened a preliminary examination of the violence.

Full report at:



Southeast Asia


Muslim activists express solidarity with Christians killed in Sri Lanka


Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) – A group of Muslim activists for dialogue yesterday visited a Hindu temple, a Catholic church and a place of Buddhist worship, to show solidarity with the victims of the terrorist attacks, which struck on 21 April Sri Lanka. Claimed by the Islamic State (IS), 253 people lost their lives and over 500 were seriously injured in the attacks against three churches and as many hotels.

Led by President Shah Kirit Kakulal Govindji, a 22-member delegation from the Global Unity Network NGO began a round of visits from Sri Maha Kaliamman, a Hindu temple located in the village of Kampung Kasipillay. Later the group arrived at the parish of St. Joseph in Sentul (photo 1), district of Kuala Lumpur. Activists finally visited the Sri Jayanti Buddhist temple in the same area of the capital.

"In Christchurch, when people of Islamic faith were killed, non-Muslims showed us their solidarity. Following the attacks in Colombo, where Christians were murdered, we Muslims also need to show our closeness. We must not manifest compassion and solidarity only when Muslims die. We must express concern if even a non-Muslim is killed. We need to be fair to everyone," says Shah Kirit to the Malaysian newspaper The Star.

At the church of St. Joseph, the delegation attended mass (photo 2). At the end of the function, the group - composed of students and professionals - held a meeting with the parish priest, Fr. George Packiasamy. "We have an excellent relationship with the church," the president said, adding that this is his fourth visit to the local Catholic community.

The NGO has been engaged in interreligious dialogue for almost 20 years and offers itself as a tool to expose Muslims to other religions. "Malaysia - explains Shah Kirit - is a multi-racial and multi-religious country, so it is very important that we understand each other well".

The activist believes that today many problems in the world stem from prejudices, presumptions and misconceptions about other religions or ethnic groups. "The best way to remove all this is to learn from each other. That's why we must teach Muslims to learn about other religions," he concludes.



Muslims bullied under current government, says Perlis mufti

April 29, 2019

PETALING JAYA: The mufti of Perlis today took potshots at the Pakatan Harapan administration following the arrest of a close associate over allegedly derogatory remarks on Hinduism.

“I don’t blame the police, but this is happening due to a political reality that allows Muslims to be bullied,” said Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, in remarks defending Muhammad Zamri Vinoth Kalimuthu, who was arrested early yesterday in Arau, Perlis, over remarks allegedly insulting Hinduism.

But Asri said Zamri was someone who worked to strengthen religious harmony by organising visits to non-Muslim places of worship.

Zamri, who heads Muslim propagation organisation One Centre Malaysia, is being investigated under Section 298A of the Penal Code and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act over a lecture at a mosque in Kelantan last year.

Asri said Zamri was only sharing his personal experience of becoming a Muslim to a Muslim audience.

“Were his facts false? Was he insulting or merely sharing his own story? What about the speeches of politicians of other faiths which always spark friction with Muslims,” Asri asked.

Asri said current “political realities” allowed Muslims to be bullied, adding that authorities had not acted against government leaders who made statements offensive to Muslims.

Full report at:



No automatic citizenship for those born in Malaysia, says Muhyiddin

29 April 2019

KUALA LUMPUR, April 29 — Being born in Malaysia does not allow an individual to automatically obtain Malaysian citizenship, Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said.

He said that children who do not have identification documents in Sabah, should fulfill the requirements set by the National Registration Department (NRD).

It is in line with the provisions of the Federal Constitution and the Citizenship Rules 1964, where the citizenship status of an individual is determined on the basis of the biological parents’ nationality and the legal status of the marriage, according to the law that was in force at the time of birth,” he said.

He said this when winding up the debate on the royal address for his ministry at Dewan Negara here today.

In regard to the ministry’s action on allegations that there are 500,000 people in Sabah who have no citizenship, Muhyiddin said the government had intensified enforcement and repatriation against illegal immigrants in Sabah.

He explained that 581,085 illegal immigrants in Sabah had been repatriated from the country which was carried out from 1990 until April 18.

Commenting on the action taken against those insulting the royal and Islamic religious institutions on social media, he said the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) had investigated 98 cases and of that number, nine individuals were charged in court from 2012 to April 20.

Full report at:



There must be middle ground to avoid ‘toxic politics’, Khairy says

29 April 2019

SHAH ALAM, April 29 — There should always be a middle ground in politics, lest the country be poisoned by toxic politics, said former Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin.

Noting that other countries aside from Malaysia is currently experiencing this phenomenon, he said it is all too common for the supporters of one side to not see eye-to-eye with their counterparts on the other side.

“If one is a Pakatan Harapan supporter, then there is nothing they can agree upon with a BN supporter, and vice-versa,” Khairy said during Karangkraf’s Bicara Minda session.

The Rembau MP said there surely must be some form of middle ground, where both PH and BN can co-operate in certain matters when it comes to running the country.

“It is a matter of us functioning as a viable Opposition, and they as the (federal) government running the country.

“If politics in Malaysia become too toxic, the hatred will poison the entire political system,” Khairy told moderator Tan Sri Johan Jaafar.

Remarking on an earlier point where he discussed it is vital for Umno to remain centrist instead of heading further into the right, Khairy said this was a fact that even PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang admitted.

“He himself acknowledged that although the core (of the struggle) is Malay-Islam, it does not mean others are denied their rights.

Full report at:





Gunmen Attack Church In Burkina Faso, Five Killed

29 APRIL 2019

Gunmen killed four worshippers and a pastor in the first jihadist attack on a church in Burkina Faso, security and local sources said Monday.

Sunday's attack took place in the small northern town of Silgadji near Djibo, the capital of Soum province, and two others were reported missing.

"Unidentified armed individuals have attacked the Protestant church in Silgadji, killing four members of the congregation and the main pastor," a security source told AFP.

"At least two other people are missing," the source added.

It was the first attack on a church since jihadist violence erupted in the west African nation. Muslim clerics and imams have been targeted as well.

"The attack happened around 1:00 pm, just as the faithful were leaving the church at the end of the service," a member of the church who did not want to be identified told AFP.

"The attackers were on motorbikes. They fired in the air before aiming at the members of the congregation," the witness added.

Burkina Faso has suffered from increasingly frequent and deadly attacks attributed to a number of jihadist groups, including the Ansarul Islam group, the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara.

The attacks started in the north of the country before targetting the capital Ouagadougou and other regions, notably the east of the country.

In February, a Spanish priest, Father Cesar Fernandez, was killed in a raid attributed to jihadists in Nohao in the centre of the country.



Sudan’s military, opposition discuss powers of joint council, say sources

29 April 2019

Sudan’s military rulers and an opposition alliance met on Monday to discuss the powers of a joint military-civilian council to steer the country’s transition after three decades of rule by Omar al-Bashir, two sources familiar with the proceedings said.

The two sides had been due to talk about the make-up of the proposed body, but military officers who toppled Bashir on April 11 focused the discussions instead on the future council’s functions and powers, the sources said.

A further meeting between the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the Alliance of Freedom and Change Forces, an umbrella group representing opposition groups and activists, will be held to discuss the council’s composition, they added.

The make-up of the proposed council is key because activists who organized 16 weeks of protests leading to Bashir’s ouster have insisted that the body be civilian led.

The TMC has not indicated that it is willing to cede ultimate authority.

The joint council would be the sovereign body overseeing a technocrat government and a legislative council.

But on Monday evening, the Alliance of Freedom and Change Forces held a press conference reiterating demands for a full civilian rule in Sudan, Al Arabiya reported.

After Bashir’s ouster the TMC announced it would remain in place for two years ahead of elections.

The Alliance of Freedom and Change Forces wants a four-year transition overseen by a civilian-led council with military representation.

Protesters have kept up pressure on the TMC through mass rallies and a sit-in outside the Defense Ministry in Khartoum that began on April 6.

Full report at:



UN warns of deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Libya

Apr 29, 2019

The United Nations (UN) has warned against the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Libya as fierce fighting rages on between rival forces for control of the capital, Tripoli.

UN humanitarian coordinator for Libya Maria do Valle Ribeiro issued the warning in an interview with AFP late Sunday, amid clashes that continue in and around Tripoli between forces loyal to Libya’s internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) and those allied with the so-called Libyan National Army (LNA) led by renegade general Khalifa Haftar.

"As long as the situation continues, even if it just stagnates and continues like this, we can expect to see a continuing deterioration," Ribeiro told AFP. "When we see the use of air power, the indiscriminate shelling of densely populated areas, it is very difficult to be optimistic.”

The UN official made the remarks after the GNA reported that air raids by the LNA had killed four people and wounded 20 others in Tripoli a day earlier.

"We continue to call for a respect of civilians, we continue to call for humanitarian pauses and most of all we continue to hope that the situation can return to a more peaceful settlement of the crisis," Ribeiro said.

The UN official also voiced concern over a breakdown in basic services, including electricity and water supplies, and said more relief funds were needed for the oil-rich African country.

GNA decries UN ‘silence’ on Haftar attacks

Separately on Sunday, the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord held the UN Security Council responsible for refraining from taking action regarding attacks carried out by Haftar’s forces on the Libyan capital.

The GNA “holds the UN mission and Security Council responsible for their silence and complacency towards the actions of the criminal Haftar,” the government said in a statement.

It went on to say that since the Libyan renegade general failed to make progress on the ground, he has resorted to seek support from “foreign air forces to strike civilians and the unarmed in the city”.

Libya has been divided between two rival governments - the House of Representatives based in the eastern city of Tobruk and the GNA headed by Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj in Tripoli.

The 75-year-old Haftar who enjoys the loyalty of a group of armed militia and backing from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt has taken upon himself to protect the government in Tobruk.

Armed forces and militia loyal to the GNA have been fighting back.

Libya’s crisis began to escalate on April 4 when forces loyal to Haftar launched a deadly campaign to invade and conquer Tripoli.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has recently said that intensified fighting for control of Tripoli was turning the densely-populated residential areas of Tripoli into “battlefields.”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the fighting has so far killed at least 278 people and wounded more than 1,300 others. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) also reported that about 39,000 people have been displaced by the clashes.

Libya has been the scene of increasing violence since 2011, when former dictator Muammar Gaddafi was toppled from power after an uprising and a NATO military intervention.

Full report at:



Mufti advises against multiple Hajj trips over Saudi crimes

Apr 29, 2019

Libya’s Grand Mufti Sadiq al-Ghariani has urged Muslims to abstain from traveling to Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage more than once, saying the kingdom uses Hajj revenues to commit crimes against " fellow Muslims."

While able Muslims are required to go on Hajj once in their lifetimes, Ghariani said anyone going on a second Hajj or on the optional Umrah pilgrimage would be committing "an act of sin rather than a good deed."

The reason for his fatwa is that the money paid would "help Saudi Arabian rulers to carry out crimes against our fellow Muslims," the grand mufti said in a televised address on Ean Libya.

Depending on the pilgrim's nationality, Hajj costs thousands of dollars per person. Hajj and Umrah make up 20% of Saudi Arabia’s non-oil-related GDP.

"Nowhere in the world hasn’t been thrown into havoc by Saudi Arabia," Ghariani said, adding the money paid to the monarchy would contribute to the "massacre" of Muslims in Yemen, Libya, Sudan, Tunisia, and Algeria.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its allies have been waging a devastating war against Yemen since March 2015 with the goal of bringing the government of former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power and crushing Houthis.

Alongside the United Arab Emirates, Riyadh is also a key ally of General Khalifa Haftar, who earlier this month began an offensive on the internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli.

Last year, the top cleric accused the UAE of stimulating hostilities in Libya with the help of the “Zionists’ room” which he said existed in the United Arab Emirates.

The UAE and Egypt have in the past helped Haftar with airstrikes and provided his forces with military equipment such as helicopters, even building an air base for them.

Haftar has been waging a deadly campaign since April 4 to seize Tripoli from troops aligned to Libya’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).

Earlier this month, Ghariani said the Libyan people should resist and fight against Haftar’s forces in Tripoli. He also called for jihad on France and the UAE in response to their backing of Haftar.

Full report at:



Libyan air strikes kill four, wound 37: government

April 29, 2019

TRIPOLI: Air raids on Tripoli Sunday night killed four people and wounded 37, Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) said Monday, blaming the attacks on strongman Khalifa Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA).

This came a day after a similar attack on the capital killed another four civilians and injured 20, according to the GNA.

Haftar’s LNA launched an offensive against Tripoli, the seat of the internationally-recognized GNA, on April 4.

After initial gains, Haftar’s forces have encountered stiff resistance on the southern outskirts and his troops have been pushed back in some areas.

At least 278 people have been killed and more than 1,300 wounded in the clashes, according to a toll released Wednesday by the World Health Organization.

The GNA accuses Haftar of using foreign planes to carry out air strikes, without naming a country of origin.

After Sunday’s raids, “public hospitals received four dead people — three civilians and a soldier, and 37 wounded, Amin Al-Hachemi, a spokesman for the GNA health ministry told AFP.

“The toll may rise given that victims have been transported to private hospitals.”

The parts of Tripoli struck were Abou Slim, a densely-populated residential area in the south, and Ain Zara, a southern suburb that has seen several violent clashes in recent weeks.

A spokesman for the LNA confirmed Saturday’s strikes on the capital, but said they were aimed at military targets.

“The capital is experiencing an escalation in the military offensive, war crimes, and indiscriminate bombings of residential areas, public facilities and infrastructure,” Mohanad Younes, a spokesman for the GNA, said on the government’s Facebook page.

“Unmanned foreign planes participated in these raids, the latest ones having hit homes in Ain Zara and Abou Slim,” said Younes.

The responsibility for these acts, he added, rests “with the states which support the belligerent forces of the criminal Haftar.”

Haftar’s offensive has sharpened fault lines in policy toward Libya among world powers.

On April 18, Russia and the United States opposed a British bid backed by France and Germany at the UN Security Council to demand a cease-fire in the North African country.

The White House revealed the next day that Donald Trump had reached out personally to Haftar in a phone call, during which the US president “recognized Field Marshal Haftar’s significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources.”

Full report at:



Residents Warned Against Aiding Al-Shabaab Operatives

April 29, 2019

The  North Eastern Regional Commissioner (RC), Mohamed Birik has issued a stern warning to residents bordering Boni  forest against  aiding Al-Shabaab militants holed up in the forest.

Speaking  during  a press  conference  in  his office  on Monday, Birik said security officers patrolling the forest on

Sunday  stumbled on thirty 20-litre jerricans stuffed with foodstuff and buried in the ground at the edge of the forest in Holugho.

Birik  said the recent rains that have been pounding the area could have exposed the containers and the security personnel patrolling the area became curious when they spotted parts of the jerricans partly exposed.

“Upon inspection they found that the thirty jerricans neatly packed and buried some five feet in the ground were stuffed with rice, cooking oil, sugar and beans,” Birik said.

The  administrator  said that preliminary investigations show the locals collaborating with the militants ferried the foodstuff and buried them so that members of the militia could come and collect them under the cover of darkness.

He said the recovered consignment has since been destroyed.

“This  latest  incident has confirmed  our  fears  that we have in our midst locals who are aiding terror activities. I would like to issue a stern warning to the collaborators that they will be severely punished when caught,” Birik said.

Birik  urged members of the public to be on the alert and report any suspicious characters residing in their midst.

“I  want to urge the public to be wary of the militants who want to gain entry into the country through the border at this time  of rains,” he said.

Birik  also put chiefs and their assistants on notice, saying that they should be aware of what is happening in their areas  of  jurisdiction.

“Chiefs and their assistants are the eyes of the government on the ground. They are expected to know what is happening especially on matters to do with security. This should not have escaped their knowledge,” he added.

The militants who can walk long distances on foot during rainy season always take advantage of the bad roads that curtail security patrols to move far and wide to carry out attacks.

Full report at:





Hyderabad Muslims condemn terror attacks in Sri Lanka

April 29, 2019

Hyderabad, April 29, 2019: Hyderabad’s St George’s Church on April 28 saw a rather unusual guest addressing the 300-odd Christians assembled for the morning worship service.

An Imam was speaking of peace, more precisely, condemning the ghastly terror attack in Sri Lanka that killed more than 350 people, mostly Christians and international tourists in the island nation.

As many churches in Hyderabad wore a gloomy look after the bomb attacks in Sri Lanka, Muslim clergy and scholars came together and spoke of religious harmony at various churches in the capital city of Telangana.

While the sermons delivered by priests and pastors strssed unity and peace, the Muslim leaders expressed solidarity and condemned all forms of terrorism. During the worship service, Shaikh Mirza Yawer Baig, an Imam of Masjid Mahmood Habib in Banjara Hills along with other Muslim clergy and scholars, visited the church.

With flowers ready for distribution, as a symbol of peace, and placards that read of spreading ‘unity,’ the group met the members of the church after the service. However, the pastor of the church invited the Imam to address the congregation.

“God is one, whatever name you call or however way you worship. But as far as this world is concerned, we are brothers and sisters to one and other,” Baig, an alumnus of St George’s Grammar School told the gathering.

He urged people to stand firm and together to fight terrorism. “If we allow hate messages of the terrorists to reach us, they will succeed. We cannot let them succeed,” Baig added.

Resident presbyter of St George’s Church, M Prashanth Babu, said, “They (Muslim scholars) came in the morning and asked if they could meet the members. But we invited them to speak. They were extremely sad with what happened in Sri Lanka and preached the message of peace.”

Even US Consulate General, Katherine B Hadda, was present during the service as she spoke about, “…evil that is striking people as they worship,” and asked people to stand together.

The Muslim group was led by Mecca Masjid society vice-president Iqbal Jaweed, architect Khaja Asif Ahmed and members from student Islamic organisation. They plan to hold a candlelight vigil at St Mary’s Church on May 5.

Meanwhile, members of Christian churches in the city demand of door frame metal detectors to be placed for security checks.

Besides the imams, the Muslim group comprised IT professionals, housewives to social organisztions and educational institutions.

The speakers noted that the attacks aimed to instil fear and break people, “but today we want to say it loud and clear that we are together and will always stand together in all the times sharing love and brotherhood.”

They marched to St George’s Grammar School church and visited Rosary Convent school Church and Wesley Church.



JeM module busted in Jammu and Kashmir’s Awantipora, four arrested: Police

Apr 29, 2019

Four people have been arrested for their alleged involvement in grenade attacks and planting explosives in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district, the Jammu and Kashmir police said on Monday.

Police superintendent Tahir Saleem Khan identified three of the accused as Murtaza, Aqib and Irfan-ul-Haq. He added the four were a part of a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) module involved in terror activities in Pulwama’s Tral and Awantipora areas. The identity of fourth accused was not immediately revealed.

Pulwama has been the focus of anti-insurgency operations in the state since 40 paramilitary troopers were killed in a car bomb attack there on February 14.

Khan said Murtaza was arrested following a specific input, and a Chinese pistol, two magazines and eight pistol rounds were recovered from him. “The duo [Murtaza and Aqib] has been involved in arranging transport and logistics for the JeM terrorists, who are involved in firing on a civilian and injuring him critically,” he said.

Khan said Irfan-ul-Haq has also been in contact with the JeM and obtained grenades from them. “He lobbed a grenade on Central Reserve Police Force Camp, Awantipora, and has been operating various WhatsApp groups and transferring, sharing incriminating material with some outside the country,” Khan

Full report at:



Kerala-based ISIS suspect inspired by Sri Lanka bombing plotter caught: NIA

Apr 29, 2019

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Monday arrested a 29-year-old suspect linked to the Islamic State terror group, who allegedly wanted to carry out a suicide attack in Kerala, the anti-terror agency said.

It added Zahran bin Hashim, the April 21 Easter Sunday’s suicide bombings mastermind in Sri Lanka and National Towheed Jama’at leader, had inspired Riyas A, the suspect, to carry out the attack. Riyas A is from Kerala’s Palakkad district.

An NIA statement said Riyas A’s revelation has “stunned” the intelligence agencies and they now believe that the Sri Lanka attacks were part of a larger conspiracy to create terror in the region. Raids were carried out in Kerala and Tamil Nadu to track down suspects linked to the IS after the Sri Lanka bombings left over 250 people dead.

“Riyas has disclosed that he has been following speeches/videos of Zahran Hashim of Sri Lanka for over a year and has also followed the speeches of [fugitive Indian preacher] Zakir Naik. He admitted that he wanted to carry out a suicide attack in Kerala,” said NIA spokesman Alok Mittal.

Mittal said Riyas A disclosed he had been in touch with ISoperative Abdul Rashid Abdulla and has been following his audio clips. He added the clips included the one instigating terror attacks in India. Abdulla is the leader of a group of 22 people, including women and kids, which had travelled to Afghanistan’s Nangarhar to fight for the IS from Kerala’s Kasargod in 2016. He is suspected to have been in touch with Hashim and had even sent members of the Kasargod’s IS module to Sri Lanka to get religious training.

A case was initially registered in July 2016 following the disappearance of 15 people from Kasargod. As many as 14 of them had left for Afghanistan and one for Syria. It later turned out later that 22 people had travelled to IS held territories. “He [Riyas A] revealed that he was also having online chat with Abdul Khayoom alias Abu Khalid [another IS-linked suspect] who is was believed to be in Syria.”

The NIA said it had earlier received inputs that a group of four had been in contact with some of the accused including Khayoom. It added NIA carried out raids at three places in Kerala’s Kasaragod and Palakkad on Sunday. Mittal said three people have been interrogated.

An official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there is a strong possibility that Riyas A had met Hashim during his trip to India and knew him well. They were questioning him over it. More people are likely to be arrested in coming days.

Full report at:



NIA arrests Palakkad resident for planning suicide attack in Kerala

Apr 30, 2019

NEW DELHI: The NIA on Monday arrested Riyas Aboobacker, a resident of Palakkad in Kerala, for being in touch with some members of an Islamic State-inspired module from Kasargod and planning to carry out a suicide attack in the state.

During his questioning by NIA, Aboobacker said he had been following speeches and videos of Sri Lankan bomber Zahran Hashim for more than a year, besides the speeches of Salafi preacher Zakir Naik.

Earlier, the NIA had come across videos of Hashim's jihad-inspiring speeches from computer resources seized during raids at the premises of six accused in the IS Coimbatore module case. The module was allegedly planning to attack Hindu leaders in Tamil Nadu.

Aboobacker's arrest follows raids at his residence in Palakkad as well as of two other suspects in Kasargod. The raids followed inputs that a group of four persons had been in contact with IS Kasargod module accused Abdul Rashid Abdulla, Ashfaq Majeed, Abdul Khayoom etc who had migrated to Afghanistan and Syria. Three group members have been interrogated for their IS links and their plans.

During interrogation, Aboobacker disclosed that he had been in online contact with absconding accused Abdul Rashid Abdulla alias Abu Isa for a long time and had been following his audio clips, including the clip which he had circulated on social media instigating others to carry out terror attacks in India. He told his interrogators that he had online chats with Abdul Khayoom alias Abu Khalid, an accused in Valapattanam IS case who was believed to be in Syria. He further said that he had been following speeches/videos of Zahran Hashim and Zakir Naik. He admitted that he wanted to carry out a suicide attack in Kerala.

The IS Kasargod case was registered in July 2016 following the disappearance of 15 youths from Kasargod and their subsequent migration to join the IS (14 persons to Afghanistan and one to Syria).

Full report at:



NIA arrests Kerala man for being in touch with ISIS inspired module

Apr 29, 2019

NEW DELHI: The NIA on Monday arrested Riyas Aboobacker, a resident of Palakkad in Kerala, for being in touch with some members of an Islamic State-inspired module from Kasaragod and having intentions to carry out a suicide attack in Kerala.

Aboobacker, during his questioning by NIA, said he had been following speeches and videos of Sri Lanka bomber Zahran Hashim for more than a year, besides speeches of Salafi preacher Zakir Naik. Earlier, NIA had come across videos of Hashim's jihad-inspiring speeches from computer resources seized during raids at premises of six accused in IS Coimbatore module case. The module was allegedly planning to attack Hindu leaders in Tamil Nadu.

Aboobacker's arrest follows raids at his residence in Palakkad as well as of two other suspects in Kasaragod. The raids followed inputs that a group of four persons had been in contact with IS Kasaragod module accused Abdul Rashid Abdulla, Ashfaq Majeed, Abdul Khayoom etc who had already migrated to Afghanistan and Syria.

Three group members have been interrogated for their ISIS links and their plans. During interrogation, Aboobacker disclosed that he had been in online contact with absconding accused Abdul Rashid Abdulla alias Abu Isa for a long time and had been following his audio clips including the clip which he had circulated on social media platform instigating others to carry out terror attacks in India.

Full report at:





UN: Palestinian Authority faces risk of financial collapse

30 April 2019

The UN political chief warned Monday that the worsening Palestinian financial crisis poses a growing risk “of a financial collapse of the Palestinian Authority.”

Rosemary DiCarlo told the UN Security Council that “a sustainable resolution” to the authority’s funding crisis is urgently needed.

Israel is withholding about $11 million of the roughly $180 million a month in tax funds that it collects for the Palestinians, claiming that money was being used to support families of terrorists. The Palestinians, in protest, have refused to accept any of the tax transfers.

“Israel’s so-called ‘withholding’ of Palestinian tax revenues is blatant theft, violating bilateral agreements and the Geneva Convention prohibition on the pillaging of the occupied people’s resources,” Riyad Mansour, the Palestinians’ ambassador at the UN, told the council.

Without the funds, the Palestinian Authority has cut most workers’ salaries in half since March, though salaries will be raised to 60 percent this month because of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The lowest paid employees who earn less than $600 a month continue to get full pay, but most civil servants have higher salaries.

DiCarlo called on both sides to address the underlying causes of the financial crisis, implement their bilateral agreements, and avoid actions that undermine security and stability for both Palestinians and Israelis.

She also urged the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, which coordinates development aid to the Palestinians, to use its meeting Tuesday in Brussels to work with Israel and the Palestinian Authority to resolve the crisis.

In addition to the tax revenue, the Trump administration has cut hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for the Palestinians.

Last month, the head of the UN agency that helps 5.3 million Palestinian refugees called for equal generosity from donors who filled a $446 million hole in its budget last year after the US drastically cut its contribution.

Pierre Krahenbuhl said donors funded the UN Relief and Works Agency’s $1.2 billion budget for 2018 after the US reduced its $360 million contribution in 2017 to just $60 million.

He said the UN agency also adopted a $1.2 billion budget for 2019, and this year it is getting nothing from the United States.

US President Donald Trump said in January 2018 that the Palestinians must return to peace talks to receive US aid money.



Palestinian Authority refuses tax revenues after Israel cuts

29 April 2019

The Palestinians on Monday restated their refusal to accept tax revenues collected on its behalf by Israel as long as the Jewish state deducts millions of dollars over a dispute about prisoners.

“Our position is as it was: We will not receive any money from Israel if it is incomplete,” Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmud Abbas told the weekly cabinet meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

“This is something we will not accept at any cost.”

Israel collects around $190 million a month in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through Israeli ports, and then it transfers the money to the PA.

In February, the Jewish state decided to deduct around $10 million a month from those revenues, corresponding to the amount it said the PA paid families of prisoners or directly to inmates serving time in Israeli jails.

The Palestinians responded by saying they would refuse any funds where unilateral deductions had been made.

Israeli public radio reported Monday that a month’s payment - minus the $10 million deduction - had recently been transferred to PA bank accounts, in the hope the authority would quietly accept payment.

But after two weeks, the radio said, the money was returned to the Israeli finance ministry.

Israel sees the payments to those who have carried out attacks against Israelis as encouraging further violence.

The PA describes the payments as a form of welfare, while the Palestinian public regards prisoners jailed by Israel as national heroes.

The Arab League pledged last week to provide the PA with $100 million monthly, potentially averting a financial crisis caused by the row.

Abbas on Monday called on the body to honor that pledge.

“We do not have high hopes, but perhaps the amount could be considered a debt that we return as soon as Israel returns” the money, he said.

Abbas also renewed his opposition to a proposed US peace plan expected to be unveiled this summer.

He has refused to negotiate with Donald Trump’s administration since December 2017, when the US president controversially recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Abbas, 84, has previously faced accusations of anti-Semitism in comments about the history of Israel, Jews and Zionism, the ideological movement behind the creation of a Jewish state, accusations he denies.

Full report at:



Israeli attorney general gives Netanyahu ultimatum on graft hearing

29 April 2019

Israel’s attorney general has given Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu until next week to confirm he wants a formal hearing to defend himself before corruption charges are filed against him.

In a letter made public Sunday evening Avichai Mandelblit told Netanyahu’s lawyers that if he wants to exercise his right to defend himself before possible indictment he must notify authorities by May 10.

The hearing itself must then take place no later than July 10.

Netanyahu’s lawyers have been protesting non-payment of their fees to date and are refusing to collect the case files until they are paid, the letter said.

The prime minister wants to raise a $2 million from two American businessmen -- his cousin Nathan Milikowsky and friend Spencer Partrich -- to pay his attorneys, Israeli media reported.

However, the government committee that vets requests by government officials to accept money from outside sources has twice rejected his petition.

In February, Mandelblit announced his intention to indict Netanyahu on charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery, following up on police recommendations.

At Netanyahu’s request evidentiary material was only made available to lawyers the day after the April 9 general election, for fear that files would leak and sway voters.

Netanyahu, who won a fifth term in office and now faces the prospect of becoming the first sitting Israeli premier to be indicted, has called corruption allegations against him a “witch hunt.”

“The issue of the fees,” Mandelblit said in the letter, “does not justify any delay in transfer of the most important material to the prime minister or his lawyers and in any event does not affect the date of the hearing.”

Several accusations

In what is considered the most serious of the cases, Netanyahu is accused of advocating regulatory benefits allegedly granted to telecommunications firm Bezeq in exchange for positive news coverage for himself from a media company owned by the then Bezeq CEO.

Another involves Netanyahu allegedly seeking a secret deal with the publisher of Israel’s top-selling newspaper Yediot Aharonot to ensure positive coverage in return for pushing forward a law that would have limited the circulation of a rival paper.

The third case involves suspicions the premier and his family received luxury gifts such as cigars and champagne from wealthy individuals, including Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, in exchange for financial or personal favors.

Netanyahu denies the accusations and calls them an attempt by his political enemies to force him from office.

Even if he is charged, Netanyahu, 69, would not legally be forced to withdraw until he had been convicted and exhausted the appeals process.

Analysts believe he will fight the charges through every level of the courts, which could take years.

Full report at:



Iran UN envoy: Golan will remain integral part of Syria

Apr 29, 2019

Iran’s UN ambassador condemns the world body’s inaction in the face of the US’s increasing support for Israel’s territorial violations, including Washington’s recent recognition of Syria’s Golan Heights as an “Israeli territory.”

Majid Takht-e Ravanchi made the remarks at an open debate in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Monday. “We stress that the Golan is and will remain an integral part of Syria,” the envoy said.

In late March, US President Donald Trump signed a proclamation recognizing Israeli “sovereignty” over the territory, which the Tel Aviv regime occupied in 1967.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran once again condemns, in the strongest possible terms, these internationally wrongful acts,” he noted about both the move and Washington’s decision to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem al-Quds in May 2018 after recognizing the occupied holy city as Israel’s “capital.”

“Both acts are against the peremptory norms of international law, let alone Council’s resolutions,” he said. “According to international law, the territory of a State shall not be the object of acquisition resulting from the threat or use of force, and no such territorial acquisition shall be recognized as legal,” the official added.

Using its veto power as a permanent member of the UNSC, the US has vetoed all the proposals, 44 in total, intending to force Israel to implement the Council’s resolutions.

“This Council has been both inactive and ineffective because of the unreserved support of the US for Israel,” Takht-e Ravanchi said. “Indeed, the continuation of this situation would further erode the credibility of the Council and deteriorate its already trust and confidence deficit,” he added.

The international community has been resorting to the UN General Assembly for adoption of anti-Israeli resolutions, where the US does not wield a veto power.

Shortly after the US move concerning al-Quds, members of the Assembly overwhelmingly voted in favor of a resolution asking on Washington to withdraw its recognition.

Takht-e Ravanchi reminded that the Council’s “primary responsibility is the maintenance of international peace and security,” and that it “has an explicit legal obligation to counter aggression and occupation.”

Full report at:



Turkish airstrikes kill over dozen Kurdish PKK terrorists in northern Iraq

Apr 29, 2019

Turkish military aircraft have “neutralized” more than a dozen members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group when they carried out a string of airstrikes against a terrorist hideout in Iraq's northern semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.

Colonel Tamer Zincir, an official with the Turkish Defense Ministry, told reporters in the capital Ankara on Monday that the fighter jets had conducted airstrikes against a cave in the Zap region of northern Iraq late on Sunday, and “neutralized” 14 PKK terrorists in the process.

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

Meanwhile, the Turkish Defense Ministry, in a message published on its official Twitter page, said Turkish fighter jets had hit designated targets in the Haftanin regions of northern Iraq.

Shelters and ammunition depots used by PKK terrorists were destroyed as a result.

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

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

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

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

Full report at:



Israeli forces shoot, injure Palestinian man in occupied West Bank

Apr 29, 2019

Israeli military forces have shot and injured a Palestinian man in the northern part of the West Bank as tensions continue in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Israeli media outlets alleged that the unidentified Palestinian fired toward Israeli soldiers near the town of Arrabah, located 13 kilometers southwest of Jenin, on Monday afternoon.

In response, Israeli soldiers fired at the man, who was injured in the back.

Medical responders who arrived at the scene said the man was in moderate condition, and was transferred to a hospital to receive medical care. No Israeli troops were injured in the purported attack.

The Israeli army later said in a statement that a second suspect was also involved in the incident.

“The soldiers are searching the area and carrying out a manhunt to apprehend him,” the statement added.

Israeli security forces established checkpoints and increased patrols throughout the northern West Bank following the incident.

Tensions continue in the occupied Palestinian territories as part of the aftermath of US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s capital in December 2017 and the relocation of the US embassy to the occupied city in May 2018.

On December 21, 2017, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly voted in favor of a resolution that called on the United States to withdraw its controversial recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as Israeli “capital.”

In an attempt to prevent the passing of the resolution, Trump threatened reprisals against countries that backed the measure, which had earlier faced a US veto at the UN Security Council.

Full report at:



Coalition returns Yemeni families to villages liberated from Houthi militias

April 30, 2019

RIYADH: One hundred families have returned to their homes after the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen liberated areas from the control of Iranian-backed Houthi militias.

Coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki said on Monday that the Yemeni National Army with the support of the coalition seized back parts of Saada in the north-west of the country.

As a result, citizens forcibly displaced from their farms and homes in 12 villages in the Wadi Abu Jabara area, were allowed to return. Al-Maliki said the coalition had assigned a special delegation to oversee the resettlement operation.

Al-Maliki pointed out that Houthi militias had unsuccessfully tried to target the House of Representatives with the use of drones. “We continue to target the militias’ drones in Sanaa,” he said.

The military spokesman added that the Houthis had continued to threaten to blow up a floating crude oil tank, an act which would lead to an environmental and economic disaster.

In all its operations, Al-Maliki stressed that the coalition was doing everything it possibly could to avoid civilian casualties.

He also revealed that the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) was launching a second voluntary medical operation to carry out heart surgery and catheterization for Yemeni children.

“This campaign is part of a series of various voluntary campaigns carried out by the center in Yemen and other countries,” said Al-Maliki.

A medical team sent to the port city of Mukalla performed 95 heart operations and a successful pediatric catheterization procedure. Al-Maliki said the surgery required high-tech medical equipment and specialized teams, the cost of which was covered by KSRelief.

Al-Maliki said the total number of Houthi violations of the Swedish agreement had reached 3,811. Militias were still planting mines that threatened global shipping routes in the southern Red Sea.

There were 226 ballistic missiles launched by Houthi terrorists toward Saudi Arabia between March 26, 2015, and April 29 this year.

Several relief ports are open for Yemen (air, sea, land), and the total number of maritime permits issued by the Joint Forces Command from March 26, 2015, to April 29, 2019, was 5,713. Air permits for the same period were granted for 15,168 passengers. There were 1,357 land permits during this period. Permits and orders to secure the movements of relief organizations inside Yemen from April 22 to 28, 2019, topped 332.

Full report at:




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