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Rights Group: Sri Lanka Abusing UN Law to Arrest Muslim Men and Women Since the Easter Sunday Attacks

New Age Islam News Bureau

20 Jun 2019

A security officer stands in front of St Anthony's shrine in Colombo, after bomb blasts ripped through churches and luxury hotels on Easter, in Sri Lanka April 22, 2019 Reuters


 Rights Group: Sri Lanka Abusing UN Law to Arrest Muslim Men and Women Since the Easter Sunday Attacks

 Islamabad, A 22-Year-Old Blogger Killed, He Had Criticised the Army and the Islamic World

 Triple Talaq, Nikal Halala in President Kovind’s Address in Parliament

 Muslim Families Are Forced To Bury Their Departed in Their Homes in UP Village As Plot Allotted For a Graveyard Some Years Ago Falls Right In The Middle of a Pond

 Indonesia Muslim Group Slaps Fatwa on Popular Combat Game PUBG

 Quebec's 'Secularism Police' Bill Unites Muslim, Christians, And More

 Tory Leadership Rivals Back Islamophobia Inquiry

 Saudi Arabia Says UN Khashoggi Report Contains ‘Baseless Allegations’ And ‘Contradictions’

 Israel Infuriated As International Atomic Energy Agency Recognizes Palestinian State


South Asia

 Rights Group: Sri Lanka Abusing UN Law to Arrest Muslim Men and Women Since the Easter Sunday Attacks

 'Asean Must Not Turn A Blind Eye To Plight Of Rohingya'

 7 militants killed as Taliban offensive to capture N. Afghan district repulsed

 Rohingya children prepare to tackle life’s challenges via education

 Catholic singer receives Nazrul Award, which is named after Muslim Bengali poet

 4 Taliban militants killed, 5 detained in Wardak and Logar operations

 Explosion in Jalalabad city leaves 1 dead, 17 wounded

 U.S. airstrike targets vehicles convoy of important Taliban group members in Farah



 Islamabad, A 22-Year-Old Blogger Killed, He Had Criticised the Army and the Islamic World

 If Anti-Terror Goals Not Met, Pak Faces FATF Black List

 Ahmadis in Pakistan face persecution, flee to Nepal

 Lodhi calls for ‘concrete steps’ to combat Islamophobia

 Giving more time to ‘selected PM’ can be disastrous, Fazl says

 National Assembly offers Fateha for Egypt’s Morsi

 UN report sees credible evidence linking Saudi crown prince to Khashoggi murder



 Triple Talaq, Nikal Halala in President Kovind’s Address in Parliament

 Muslim Families Are Forced To Bury Their Departed in Their Homes in UP Village As Plot Allotted For a Graveyard Some Years Ago Falls Right In The Middle of a Pond

 Letter Diplomacy: India Responds Positively To Pakistan's Offer for Talks

 Indian-Origin Imam In UK Debate Show Sparks Row Over Past Tweets

 AMU Students Question Relevance of Yoga Day Celebration on Campus

 Mumbai Court Tells Zakir Naik to Appear On July 31 In Case Of Money Laundering

 India cautions against hasty peace deal between US and Taliban

 J&K police claim to have foiled major terror attack


Southeast Asia

 Indonesia Muslim Group Slaps Fatwa on Popular Combat Game PUBG

 Pro-Palestine Christian Activist, Muslim Convert Evangelist Honoured By PAS Youth For Contribution To Interracial Hamony

 Zakir Naik’s Pupil Zamri Vinoth Says Willing to Give up Citizenship If Mentor Extradited to India

 IS-linked militants kidnap 10 fishermen off Borneo

 Cooperation with Umno OK, but PAS must be on top, says Kedah division chief

 Hadi: PAS ‘unafraid’ to reject immoral leaders


North America

 Quebec's 'Secularism Police' Bill Unites Muslim, Christians, And More

 Trump Should Reveal Who Was Behind 9/11 Terror Attacks: Scholar

 FBI Shares Security Info with Muslim, Jewish and Christian Leaders

 Witness: Navy SEAL called dead prisoner an 'ISIS dirtbag'

 No US aircraft operated over Iran, US military says

 Iran, Russia square up to US sanctions with 12 accords

 US Senate to vote on blocking Trump’s $8bn arms sales to Saudi, UAE over rights abuses

 US official confirms Iran shot down US drone in Gulf

 US reviewing UN's Khashoggi report 'closely'

 Khashoggi's fiancee urges Washington to act on murder



 Tory Leadership Rivals Back Islamophobia Inquiry

 Two British Teens Convicted For Promoting Far-Right Terrorism Online

 UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

 UN aid chief says ‘humanitarian disaster’ unfolding in Idlib

 Campaign calls for entertainment venues to plan for terror attack

 Spain Arrests 10 Syrians Suspected of Financing al-Qaida

 France sends top diplomat to Iran for talks to reduce tensions


Arab World

 Saudi Arabia Says UN Khashoggi Report Contains ‘Baseless Allegations’ And ‘Contradictions’

 Katyusha Rocket Hits Second US Iraqi Base As Trump Calls Iran 'Nation Of Terror'

 Riyadh, Beirut stress need to confront Islamic extremism

 New suffering for the children of the ISIS caliphate as hunger and sickness spread

 Egypt condemns UN call for independent probe into Morsi’s death

 Rocket hits site of foreign oil firms in Iraq's Basra, three hurt

 Rivlin warns Lebanon, Hezbollah against launching attack on Iran’s behalf

 Regime attacks kill 25 in Syria’s Idlib: Monitor

 'Credible evidence' linking Saudi crown prince to Khashoggi murder: UN expert



 Israel Infuriated As International Atomic Energy Agency Recognizes Palestinian State

 Morsi Was Murdered, Says Turkish President

 Hamas: Trump’s plan cannot deprive Palestine of al-Quds

 Method of attack on tankers remains key evidence against Iran

 Imam Who Criticised Israel Suspended By Muslim School

 Iran says Europe not cooperating in buying Iranian oil: Fars news

 Arab Coalition intercepts drone carrying explosives in Yemeni airspace

 Erdogan says Morsi 'murdured,' calls for action against Egypt government

 Yemeni forces strike Saudi power plant with cruise missile



 Nigeria: 'Children Used' As Suicide Bombers in Borno Attack

 Sudan army ruler calls on protest leaders to hold unconditional talks

 Gunmen 'kill dozens' in attack on two villages in central Mali

 Somalia: U.S. Airstrike Kills 2 Al-Shabab Militants in Southern Somalia

 ICYMI: Boko Haram attacks four army bases in one week

 Libya air raid destroys warehouse, wounds three, says oil firm

 Tunisians fight to preserve cultural heritage

German Muslim convert finds inner peace in Senegal

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Rights Group: Sri Lanka Abusing UN Law to Arrest Muslim Men and Women Since The Easter Sunday Attacks

June 19th, 2019

The leftist People's Liberation Front (JVP) party said police have arbitrarily detained several Muslim men and women since the Easter Sunday attacks

Media activists on Monday accused Sri Lankan police of using a UN convention on hate speech to crack down on media freedom and the country's Muslim minority.

The Free Media Movement rights group said the police Special Task Force (STF) attempted to arrest a respected journalist for his writing on anti-Muslim riots and Buddhist extremists using the UN-backed law.

The STF told a magistrate on Friday they were pursuing freelance writer Kusal Perera under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Act.

"The Free Media Movement strongly condemns the attempts to pursue legal action under the provisions of the ICCPR Act and urges all responsible stakeholders to draw their attention to avoid using the law unfairly," the group said.

Police have also drawn criticism over the detention of a Muslim woman during anti-Muslim riots last month. She was wearing a T-shirt with a print of a ship's steering wheel which police mistook for the Dharma Chakra, a Buddhist symbol.

The woman was held in remand custody for three weeks before a senior police officer intervened to press for her release.

Award winning author and poet Shakthika Sathkumara has been held since April under the ICCPR act for his work hinting at homosexuality among the Buddhist clergy.

A senior police source told AFP separate investigations had been launched into the three cases.

"We feel that police exceeded their authority in using the ICCPR and we will take action against those responsible," the officer said, asking not to be named.

The leftist People's Liberation Front (JVP) party said police have arbitrarily detained several Muslim men and women since the Easter Sunday attacks that killed 258 people.

The suicide bombings on three churches and three hotels were blamed on local Muslim militants.

Anti-Muslim riots after the April 21 bombings left one Muslim man dead and hundreds of Muslim-owned businesses, homes, vehicles and mosques wrecked.

Sri Lankan authorities are very sensitive to perceived insults to Buddhism, the majority religion.

However Sri Lanka's Supreme Court in 2017 awarded $5,000 in damages to a woman who police detained for four days for having a Buddha tattooed on her arm.



Islamabad, a 22-year-old blogger killed, he had criticised the army and the Islamic world


Islamabad (AsiaNews) – Muhammad Bilal Khan, a famous 22-year-old Pakistani blogger, was stabbed to death last Sunday in Islamabad, sparking sparked outrage among Pakistanis.

Despite his young age, he was known for his critical views on many sensitive issues, like the religious divide between Shias and Sunnis, and the disappearance of people, allegedly abducted by the military or intelligence services.

His final post on the day of his death he made a sarcastic comment about the new head of the Pakistani secret services, hard-line General Faiz Hameed.

Khan’s death is the latest in a series of incidents in which intellectuals have been reduced to silence, either by threats or physical elimination.

Police stated that the popular blogger was left dying in a wooded area in Islamabad’s G-9/4 sector. He had had received a phone call and had gone to meet someone accompanied by an uncle. The latter was injured in the attack, but managed to sound the alarm. Bilal's father said that his son’s body showed several wounds inflicted with a sharp tool.

Quickly, the news of his death was all over social media, where the blogger-journalist had a loyal following:  19,000 followers on Twitter, more than 53,000 subscribers on YouTube, and some 30,000 followers on Facebook, plus more than 25,000 likes.

Many activists want justice for Bilal. Marvi Sirmed, a member of the executive council of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, wrote on Twitter: "Mr. Khan and I disagreed strongly. He was against everything that I ever stood for. But he didn't deserve to die like this. I strongly condemn his brutal murder and demand justice for him. My heart-felt condolences to his family and friends. May he rest in peace. Amen.”

Gul Bukhari, a journalist abducted last year in Lahore and then released, twitted back: "Very well said. The murder is highly condemnable. Snuffing out a young life like this is unacceptable.”

Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari reacted to the murder saying that the government will investigate the incident.

I “Strongly condemn the murder of Bilal Khan. Disagreement and opposition to someone’s views simply cannot be translated into killing the person. Government must and it will investigate and punish the killers — it is our responsibility to keep all our citizens secure under rule of law,” she tweeted.,-a-22-year-old-blogger-killed,-he-had-criticised-the-army-and-the-Islamic-world-47323.html



Triple Talaq, Nikal Halala in President Kovind’s Address in Parliament   

June 20, 2019

President Ram Nath Kovind today asserted that there is need to do away with practices like instant triple talaq and nikah halala in his address to the joint session of Parliament.

He said, To ensure equal rights to every sister and daughter in the country, it is necessary to eliminate bad practices like instant triple talaq and nikah halala. I appeal to all members to contribute towards making the lives of our sisters and daughters honourable and better.

The BJP has been pushing for passing a law against instant triple talaq and nikah halala calling these as oppressive practices against Muslim women. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken about it in several of his public rallies.

In its poll manifesto, the BJP promised to bring a law to put an end to these practices. The Supreme Court has ruled instant triple talaq as unconstitutional following which the previous Modi government had introduced a Bill to make instant triple talaq by Muslim men a criminal offence.

But the Bill could not be passed in Parliament in the wake of stiff resistance from the Opposition. The government later brought an ordinance to implement the Supreme Court order.

Instant triple talaq is an old practice among Muslims under which a Muslim man pronounces divorces on his wife by uttering talaq three times in one go. Many scholars of Islam have viewed this form of divorce unislamic.

Nikah halala, on the other hand, is an Islamic dictum requiring a divorced woman to marry and consummate the marriage with another man before she can return to her first husband. There have been reports suggesting that this practice has been grossly misused to the disadvantage of Muslim women.

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Muslim Families Are Forced To Bury Their Departed in Their Homes in UP Village As Plot Allotted For a Graveyard Some Years Ago Falls Right In The Middle of a Pond

Jun 20, 2019

"You're sitting on my grand mother's grave," Salim Shah told this correspondent. She has been buried, he said, in his living room.

A clutch of houses in Chah Pokhar in Achnera block of Agra have turned into graveyards as families are forced to bury their departed in their homes due to lack of a burial ground. As a result, the dead here are a constant part of day-to-day life. TOI found women cooking next to where their children were buried while the elderly rested on cots in a backyard full of graves.

In one of the houses, Rinki Begum told TOI that five bodies were buried in her backyard, including that of her 10-month-old son who had died of an untreated fever. Another resident, Guddi, said, "For poor people like us, there is no dignity in death. Due to lack of space in houses, people have to sit and walk over graves. It is so disrespectful."

Most of the Muslim families here are poor and landless and men scout for work as contract labourers. They said their demand for a graveyard has been ignored for years.

The apathy of the administration can be gauged from the fact that a plot allotted for a graveyard some years ago falls right in the middle of a pond. Repeated complaints have fallen on deaf ears and residents are running out of space. The fresh graves are no more cemented to ensure they occupy less space and stones of different sizes kept over them are the only way to tell them apart.

Protests have erupted in the past over the issue. In 2017, after the death of resident Mangal Khan, his family refused to bury his body until land for a graveyard was provided in the village. After assurances by the authorities, they buried Khan near the pond.

But the promises came to nothing.

"All we are asking for is some land for our ancestors. There is a cremation ground for the Hindus in the periphery of the village, but we are living with our dead," said Munim Khan, a factory worker.

Desperate residents even tried reaching out to nearby Sanan village and Achnera town that have burial grounds. But they were not willing to part with precious space. "These two villages have a larger Muslim population than Chah Pokhar. Their burial grounds are filled to capacity," said Nizam Khan, a mechanic.

Village pradhan Sundar Kumar said that he had asked officials several times for a burial ground for Muslim families, but no action was taken.

Ravi Kumar NG, the district magistrate, said that he was not aware of the issue. "I will send an official team to the village and get details of the burial land required."



Indonesia Muslim group slaps fatwa on popular combat game PUBG

Jun 19, 2019

JAKARTA: A hugely popular but brutal online game was slapped with a fatwa Wednesday by an Indonesian Muslim group who say it insults Islam and makes addicted players violent.

The religious edict, issued in conservative Aceh province, comes after officials in Iraq, Nepal and the Indian state of Gujarat banned PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) over fears it incited real-world violence.

Often likened to the blockbuster book and film series "The Hunger Games", PUBG pits marooned characters against each another in a virtual fight to the death, and has become one of the world's most popular mobile games.

On Wednesday, the Aceh chapter of Muslim-majority Indonesia's powerful Ulema Council called on local residents to ditch PUBG, and said the local government should consider an outright ban.

Breaking the fatwa would not result in sanctions, it said, but the group's national chapter has also been mulling a similar call to ditch violent games.

The edict in Aceh would apply to other violent games, but the Council did not say which.

"Our fatwa says that PUBG and other similar games are haram (forbidden) because they can trigger violence and change people's behaviour," said Faisal Ali, deputy chairman of the Aceh Ulema Council.

"It also insults Islam," he told AFP, without elaborating.

Religious officials were alarmed at PUBG's soaring popularity among Aceh's mostly Muslim residents.

"We've seen that children and even adults in Aceh are starting to get addicted to the game and they're playing it everywhere on their mobile phones," Ali said. "It's getting worrying."

At the tip of Sumatra island, Aceh is the only region in Indonesia with Islamic law and where public flogging is a common punishment for a range of offences, including selling alcohol, adultery, and gay sex.



Quebec's 'secularism police' bill unites Muslim, Christians, and more

by Ryan Everson

June 19, 2019

On Sunday, Quebec's legislature passed a bill prohibiting government employees, including teachers and police officers, from wearing religious clothing or accessories. The bill passed with an overwhelming 73 to 35 vote and a court challenge has already been filed.

The legislation, Bill 21, was introduced by Quebec’s Minister of Immigration, Diversity of Inclusion, Simon Jolin-Barrette. While speaking before the Quebec Assembly, Jolin-Barrette the “an important step forward” because “[s]ecularism is a value that is dear and fundamental to Quebeckers.”

Representative Hélène David replied to Jolin-Barrette with a very different opinion. “In a few hours, we will be voting on legislation that will disregard the most fundamental rights of Quebeckers ... Through his gag procedure, [Jolin-Barrette] tells all Quebeckers who do not agree with him that their opinion does not matter,” she argued before the Assembly.

Bill 21 does not apply to government employees in their current jobs. However, all new government employees will be subject to this new regulation, and if a current government employee accepts a different government job or a promotion, that employee will no longer be exempt.

Additionally, late in the legislative process, Jolin-Barrette added two amendments to “verify the application” of the law and to enforce unspecified “disciplinary measures” against those who violate the law, prompting Quebec Liberal member Marc Tanguay to shout “secularism police!” before the Assembly.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association quickly filed a legal challenge to the bill on Monday and issued a press statement.

“Equality and freedom of religion are universally recognized human rights, and foundational principles in the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms,” says Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, Equality Director at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. “A law that picks on the most visible of minority groups (many of them racialized and newcomers); that harms women in particular; and that fosters an environment of intolerance and division has no place in a society that values equality and freedom.”

Mustafa Farooq, the Executive Director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, has also condemned the bill. “As of last night, the Quebec government has legalized religious discrimination — and we won’t stand for it ... It will upend people’s lives and livelihoods, pushing many Muslims, Jews and Sikhs to the margins of society in an already-tense time when Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and other forms of racism are on the rise. That is why we will be taking immediate legal action to prevent state-sanctioned second class citizenship.”

The Quebec Assembly of Catholic Bishops criticized the bill as well, saying it “will nourish fear and intolerance, rather than contribute to social peace."

Despite its strong support in the legislature, Bill 21 has quite a variety of opponents. Unusual alliances will be forged as Christians, Muslims, libertarians, and more begin the legal battle against this aggressive act of authoritarian secularism.



Tory leadership rivals back Islamophobia inquiry

19 June 2019

All five Conservative leadership candidates have said they will support an independent inquiry into allegations of Islamophobia within their party.

Sajid Javid challenged the other candidates on Tuesday's BBC TV debate to commit to an external investigation and the others appeared to agree to it.

Jeremy Hunt said racism was "not restricted to any one political party".

Ex-party chairwoman Baroness Warsi said it was "important" the promise was kept by whoever becomes prime minister.

She has been calling for an independent inquiry into "institutional" Islamophobia in the Conservative Party.

On the BBC TV debate, the candidates were pressed by an imam to accept that "words have consequences" amid claims that the Conservatives have failed to tackle Islamophobia in the party.

Referring to Donald Trump's string of attacks on London's Muslim mayor Sadiq Khan, the home secretary said politicians should be "brave enough" to call out Islamophobia wherever it came from.

Foreign Secretary Mr Hunt told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think we should have an independent inquiry because the cancer of racism and prejudice is not restricted to any one political party.

"We have been very vociferous calling out Jeremy Corbyn and anti-Semitism and if we are going to do that, and I think we are right to do that, then we have to be whiter than white ourselves."

Environment Secretary Michael Gove told the BBC that there were people who need to be "rooted out" of the Conservative Party over Islamophobia.

"We need to be absolutely resolute in tackling racism and prejudice of all kinds," he said.

"Absolutely there are people in the Conservative Party who we need to make sure appreciate the consequences of their actions - there are people who need to be rooted out of the party."

In response to the question from Abdullah Patel on the TV debate, leadership frontrunner Boris Johnson said he was "sorry for the offence" his comments about veiled Muslim women looking like "letter boxes" and "bank robbers" had caused, and mentioned his great-grandfather was a Muslim.

Baroness Warsi, who was the UK's first female Muslim cabinet minister, said: "It's really important that whoever becomes PM keeps this promise.

"It was made on national TV, so I hope they will.

"Secondly, [I hope] that they genuinely appoint someone who is independent and who is trusted really."

Meanwhile, concerns have been raised about allegedly anti-Semitic social media posts from Mr Patel's now-deleted Twitter account.

BBC Radio 5 Live presenter Nicky Campbell, who interviewed Mr Patel on his breakfast show, apologised on Twitter, saying the imam's social media comments were "extremely disturbing" and they "should have checked".

The BBC defended its vetting process, saying in a statement that "one individual reactivated a public twitter account he had previously deactivated" following the debate, resulting in the tweets not being visible during the background research process.

"Had we been aware of the views he expressed there he would not have been selected," the statement said.



Saudi Arabia says UN Khashoggi report contains ‘baseless allegations’ and ‘contradictions’

June 19, 2019

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia said Wednesday that a report by a UN expert on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi contains “baseless allegations” and “contradictions.”

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir said the report contained “nothing new.”

He said the judicial authorities in the Kingdom are the only ones competent to investigate the case and that a number of suspects have already been arrested.

The report “contains clear contradictions and baseless allegations which challenge its credibility,” he said on Twitter.

“We strongly reject any attempt to prejudice the Kingdom’s leadership or to remove the case from the course of justice in the Kingdom or influencing it in any way.”

The report released Wednesday by UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, said the murder of Khashoggi was the responsibility of the state of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia late last year indicted 11 people for the killing and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against five of them.

Saudi prosecutors said Khashoggi was killed by a “rogue operation” in a botched attempt to repatriate him.

Al-Jubeir said the trials are being attended by representatives from the embassies of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council in addition to Turkey and Saudi human rights organizations.



Israel Infuriated As International Atomic Energy Agency Recognizes Palestinian State

June 20, 2019

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has recognized Palestine as a state by allowing it to join the body as an observing member, a move that drew fire from the Israeli regime.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano and Palestinian Ambassador to Vienna Salah Abdul Shafi signed an agreement on Tuesday that lets IAEA inspectors carry out safety checks on radioactive materials and fissile nuclear materials, such as uranium, that are stored in Palestine.

Palestine has no nuclear reactors, but there are medical equipment components of nuclear materials in physics departments in some hospitals and universities, according to reports by Israeli media.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said the move by the IAEA amounted to a "violation of international conventions."

"This is another attempt by the Palestinian Authority to join international organizations in order to exploit them for political purposes," he said. "Israel does not recognize the attempts of the Palestinian Authority to join such organizations and such institutions as a state, and Israel views this as a violation of international agreements."

The agreement is expected to stir tensions between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, because in Tel Aviv's view the territory and borders of a Palestinian state is unclear.

Israel has never signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), an international treaty which has been endorsed by most governments in the world with the goal of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.

Israel has not revealed the size of its nuclear arsenal, even though a new report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) the Israeli regime is in possession of approximately 100 atomic warheads.

As a result, Israel only allows the IAEA inspectors to visit a limited number of designated areas across the occupied Palestinian lands with full supervision.

Israel has been operating a nuclear facility outside the southern city of Dimona. Reports suggest that Israel produces fissile materials - highly enriched uranium and plutonium- for nuclear weapons using the reactor, which is off-limits for inspectors.

Israeli media have compared the situation to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's 2011 recognition of Palestine as a member.

Back then, the US pulled its annual funding of the UN organization. The US government is required by a 1990's law to refrain from funding any UN organization that gives full membership to entities that don't have “internationally recognized attributes” of statehood, according to Reuters.

The IAEA is an autonomous organization but it still reports to the UN. Data by the Congressional Research Service shows that the US contributed $200 million annually in assessed and voluntary contributions to the IAEA as of 2016.

An IAEA spokesperson told Israeli media that the agreement "does not in any way imply an expression of a position regarding the legal status of any state or territory or its powers or demarcation of its borders."

The move comes as the administration of US President Donald Trump is preparing to unveil its so-called "Deal of the Century" to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the coming weeks.

The deal, which has already been rejected by Palestinians and many governments in the region and around the world, seeks to do away with Palestine's right to statehood in exchange for some economic initiatives as well as limited autonomy.



South Asia


'Asean must not turn a blind eye to plight of Rohingya'

June 19th, 2019

More than 700,000 Rohingya crossed into Bangladesh in 2017, according to UN agencies

Human rights groups on Wednesday called on Southeast Asian leaders to rethink their approach to the Rohingya refugee crisis ahead of a regional summit in Bangkok this week.

Myanmar regards Rohingya Muslims as illegal migrants from the Indian subcontinent and has confined tens of thousands to camps in its western Rakhine State since violence swept the area in 2012.

More than 700,000 Rohingya crossed into Bangladesh in 2017, according to UN agencies, after a crackdown by Myanmar's military sparked by Rohingya insurgent attacks on the security forces.

The Rohingya issue, especially their repatriation from Bangladesh, is expected to be a major topic during four days of meetings among leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Thailand from Thursday.

Human rights activists say the bloc should not rush to get involved in the repatriation without addressing the root causes of their displacement.

"Asean needs to stop turning a blind eye to Myanmar's atrocities against the Rohingya, and cease lending legitimacy to the repatriation process," Eva Sundari, an Indonesian lawmaker and a board member of the Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights, said in a statement.

UN investigators have said the 2017 Myanmar military operation that drove more than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims into Bangladesh was executed with "genocidal intent" and included mass killings, gang rapes and widespread arson.

Myanmar denies widespread wrongdoing and says the military campaign across hundreds of villages in the north of Rakhine State was in response to the attacks by Rohingya insurgents.

But rights groups say conditions in Rakhine State are not conducive to the safe return of refugees.

"Asean seems intent on discussing the future of the Rohingya without condemning – or even acknowledging – the Myanmar military's ethnic cleansing campaign against them," said Brad Adams, the Asia director of the Human Rights Watch.

"It's preposterous for Asean leaders to be discussing the repatriation of a traumatized population into the hands of the security forces who killed, raped, and robbed them."

Mostly Buddhist Myanmar is a member of Asean. The grouping includes Muslim-majority Malaysia and Indonesia, where the plight of the Rohingya is of particular concern.

Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai rejected any suggestion the grouping, which is under Thailand's chairmanship this year, would gloss over Myanmar's action, but at the same time, said Asean would not be apportioning blame.

"This is not about whitewashing anyone," he told Reuters.

"Asean is not here to point to who is right or wrong, our concern is the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya in refugee camps who should begin to take their first step to making a return."

Repatriation would only take place on a voluntarily basis, and with the consent of both Myanmar and Bangladesh, he said.

Thousands of Rohingya have fled Myanmar by sea in an exodus that peaked in 2015, crossing the Andaman Sea to Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

Last week, a boat carrying 65 Rohingya arrived at a southern Thai island, raising concern that there could be a new wave of people smuggling by sea after a 2015 regional crackdown on trafficking.



7 militants killed as Taliban offensive to capture N. Afghan district repulsed


FAIZABAD, June 19 (Xinhua) -- Taliban militants' offensive to overrun Shuhada district in the northern Badakhshan province has been repulsed and the militants fled away after leaving seven bodies behind, an army spokesman in the northern region Abdul Hadi Jamal said Wednesday.

According to the official, Taliban outfit launched massive offensive early Wednesday to capture the headquarters of Shuhada district, but the security forces stationed there offered stiff resistance, forcing the militants to flee after leaving seven bodies behind and five more injured.

Two security personnel were also killed in the firefight which lasted for a while, the official further said.

Full report at:



Rohingya children prepare to tackle life’s challenges via education

June 19th, 2019

It is estimated that there are about 500,000 children under the age of 18 living in the camps, with about 300,000 aged three to 14

In a hot and sunny day with the mercury levels likely around 35˚C in the Kutupalong Rohingya refugee camp area, a group of restless children aged eight to 14 – forcefully displaced from their own land – are enjoying a game of football with their classmates.

The scenario was hitherto unfamiliar in Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar where more than 1.1 million Rohingya people took shelter after their dreams were crushed under the boots of Myanmar Army.

But the scenario has changed now, and Rohingya children are reviving their lost dreams with basic education, sports, life skills, music, and arts in hundreds of learning centres.

Ayub, an 11-year old boy, lives at Kutupalong refugee camp with his mother. Like Ayub, around 145,000 Rohingya children can enjoy their childhood under early learning centres as a new school year begins, according to Unicef.

Described by the UN as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” the brutal offensive forced 750,000 Rohingyas over the border into Bangladesh. They arrived directly into the border areas where aid agencies have been working, providing education to thousands of Rohingya refugee children, for eight years.

It is estimated that there are about 500,000 children under the age of 18 living in the camps, with about 300,000 aged three to 14.

About 50% of the refugee community in Kutupalong camp are children, and despite a wealth of agencies investing in education, only 45% have access to education, this according to a statement of Unicef.

Ayub said that he wants every child to be able to receive an education like him.

Among the aid agencies, Brac is the largest provider of education in the Cox’s Bazar camps ever since the Rohingya crisis unfolded in August 2017.

Currently, more than 58,000 children are learning, and playing in more than 700 learning centres across the camps.

More than 65,000 children aged 3-14 still need access to a classroom.

Like Brac, other aid agencies are also targeting adolescents with educational training to develop their knowledge, and vocational skills.

Currently, the majority of adolescents, aged 15 to 18, do not receive any kind of education in the refugee camps. This group is extremely vulnerable to child marriage, child labour, human trafficking, abuse, and exploitation, according to Unicef.

A Unicef report last year warned that without urgent action, these teenagers are at risk of becoming a lost generation.

“It is through these targeted interventions that Unicef is striving to provide education for the hardest-to-reach children, many of whom have severe vulnerabilities,” Edouard Beigbeder, Unicef Representative to Bangladesh said in a statement.

“Our aim is to ensure they can be equipped with the knowledge, and skills they require to navigate their future,” said Beigbeder.

Rohingya people also hope that early learning classrooms will help to create a sense of normalcy, and prepare the children for whatever lies ahead.

M Nazrul Islam, program head of Brac Education Program, told Dhaka Tribune that there are so many children, but they do not have sufficient space to open learning centres for all of them.

Finding teachers from within the Rohingya community is also a tough job, as there are very few men and women who can work as teachers, and the ones that we find have limited educational qualifications, added Nazrul.

Nazrul said: “Now Brac is operating learning centres at the pre-primary, and primary levels where students get learning materials such as slates, notebooks, paper, and pencils free of cost, along with snacks.”

He claimed that learning centres have changed the lives of the children in the camps, where they have a safe and secure space to enjoy, opportunities to play, and socialize with other children.

Full report at:



Catholic singer receives Nazrul Award, which is named after Muslim Bengali poet


Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Joseph Kamal Rodrigues, a Bengali Catholic singer, received the 2018 Nazrul Award for his "outstanding contribution" to Nazrul Sangeet, Nazrul’s music, named after Kazi Nazrul Islam, a famous writer, composer and anti-colonial revolutionary, and Bangladesh’s national poet.

The 67-year-old singer is member of the Catholic parish in Nagori, Archdiocese of Dhaka. In receiving the award, he told AsiaNews: "I am pleased with this award. Every honour pushes one to work more sincerely. I will do so."

The award ceremony was held last Friday at the Nazrul Institute, a government cultural organisation. Cultural Affairs Minister KM Khalid presented the winners with a crest, money (100,000 taka, US$ 1,180) and a certificate.

Rodrigues is a famous singer of Narzul Sangeet, a musical genre inspired by the works of the late Bengali intellectual, widely used in the independence struggle against the British Empire and the Liberation war with West Pakistan.

The style mixes romantic themes and revolutionary notions, philosophical reflections and spiritual meditations.

Full report at:,-which-is-named-after-Muslim-Bengali-poet-47305.html



4 Taliban militants killed, 5 detained in Wardak and Logar operations

19 Jun 2019

The security forces killed 4 Taliban militants and detained 5 others during the operations in Wardak and Logar provinces.

The informed military officials said Wednesday that airstrikes in Sayyidabad district of Wardak killed 3 Taliban fighters.

The officials further added that the Special Forces conducted an operation in Chak district of Wardak and destroyed a weapons cache containing ammunition, a rocket and 2 mortars.

The Special Forces also killed 1 Taliban fighter and detained 5 others during an operation in Pul-e-Alam district of Logar.

The security situation in some districts of Wardak and Logar provinces has deteriorated during the recent months.

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

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

Full report at:



Explosion in Jalalabad city leaves 1 dead, 17 wounded

20 Jun 2019

An explosion in Jalalabad city of Nangarhar province killed one person and injured at least 17 others.

The incident took place earlier today after a magnetic bomb planted in a vehicle went off.

Local officials confirmed that the bomb was planted in a Toyota Hilux type vehicle.

Meanwhile, reports indicate the blast killed one person and wounded at least 20 others.



U.S. airstrike targets vehicles convoy of important Taliban group members in Farah

19 Jun 2019

A U.S. airstrike targeted a vehicles convoy of important Taliban figures in western Farah province.

The Police Headquarters of Farah in a statement said the U.S. forces conducted an airstrike against the vehicles convoy of Taliban in Farah Rod area.

The statement further added that the U.S. forces conducted the airstrike based on credible intelligence tip off.

The Police Headquarters of Farah also added that airstrike killed four important group members of Taliban.

According to reports, the airstrike killed four Taliban members belonging to Mullah Mohammad Mustaghfir, the shadow district chief of Taliban for Farah Rod and Highway#1 of Farah.

The airstrike also destroyed three vehicles which were moving in a convoy, the Police Headquarters of Farah added.

Full report at:





If anti-terror goals not met, Pak faces FATF black list

Jun 20, 2019

Pakistan faces the onerous task of defending its actions to curb terror financing at the plenary meeting of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in the US against the backdrop of reports that the country has failed to deliver on a 27-point action plan framed by the multilateral watchdog.

The FATF plenary at Orlando, Florida, which is ending on June 21, is crucial as its findings will determine whether Pakistan will remain on the watchdog’s “grey list” or be downgraded to the “black list”, which would lead to harsher financial sanctions.

During the meeting, FATF members will assess the implementation of the action plan by Pakistan.

However, a final announcement on Pakistan’s status is expected only after the FATF’s next plenary in Paris during October 18-23, people familiar with developments said.

The Orlando plenary will specifically look at developments in the financing of Islamic State, al-Qaeda and affiliates and “countries’ disruption strategies, including prosecution of terrorist financing”, a statement issue by the FATF stated.

Pakistan has aligned its domestic counter-terror and money laundering legislations and regulatory mechanisms with international obligations, especially the need to crack down on individuals and groups listed by the United Nation’s 1267 Sanctions Committee. It has also taken some steps to detain operatives of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and their affiliates such as Jamaat-ud-Dawah and Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation and to restrain the activities of these groups.

However, several reports have suggested that evaluations by the Asia Pacific Group, a regional affiliate of the FATF, have concluded Pakistan hasn’t done enough on the ground to disrupt fund-raising by eight terror groups, including LeT and JeM, and to completely freeze their assets.

Pakistan was placed on the grey list in June last year after a majority of FATF members concluded that the nation wasn’t doing enough to curb terror financing.

A plenary meeting of the watchdog in Paris in February concluded it had made “limited progress” in countering terror financing and failed to show proper understanding of risks posed by eight groups, including LeT, JeM, JuD, FIF, Islamic State, al-Qaeda, Haqqani Network and the Taliban.

The findings of the watchdog’s latest assessment will be known when FATF president Marshall Billingslea, also the US treasury department’s assistant secretary, briefs the media on June 21.



Ahmadis in Pakistan face persecution, flee to Nepal

JUN 19, 2019

NEW DELHI: Pakistan’s Ahmadi community, which is facing severe persecution by the Pakistani government, are fleeing in large numbers to the Himalayan state of Nepal.

The Ahmadiyya community has accused Prime Minister Imran Khan of stirring religious hatred against them and several have taken refuge in Nepal in recent months, ET has learnt.

Khan, in the lead-up to the July 2018 elections that brought him to power, backed antiblasphemy laws that included death penalty and a discriminatory oath which specifically targeted the Ahmadi Muslims. Saleem-ud-Din, spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in Pakistan, recently said about 400 Ahmadis had been killed since the introduction of the anti-Ahmadiyya laws.

“For many years now, the basic human rights of Ahmadis in Pakistan have been denied and this discrimination continued throughout 2018, indeed by various determining measures -- it was worse than ever before,” Saleem-ud-Din alleged.

In Pakistan, Ahmadis are not allowed to read the Quran, perform namaz or call azaan but in Nepal they can practice religion without any fear, a member of the community told ET on the condition of anonymity.

Full report at:



Lodhi calls for ‘concrete steps’ to combat Islamophobia

June 20, 2019

NEW YORK: Pakistan on Wednesday underscored the need for concrete steps to combat Islamophobia and hate speeches.

This was stated by Pakistan’s permanent representative Maleeha Lodhi while addressing in a special meeting of the UN in New York.

Lodhi said an inevitable consequence is to fan the flames of bigotry, intolerance, anti-Muslim hatred and xenophobia.

She said Prime Minister Imran Khan, has recently called for urgent action to counter Islamophobia, which is today the most prevalent expression of racism and hatred against ‘the other’.

On the occasion, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the UN Strategy and Plan of Action provides a system-wide programme with the overriding objective of identifying, preventing and confronting hate speech.

On April 3, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution titled “Countering terrorism and other acts of violence based on religious and belief”, against the backdrop of a terror attack on two Christchurch mosques in New Zealand.

It strongly condemned continuing violence and acts of terrorism targeting individuals, including persons belonging to religious minorities, based on religion or belief.

The resolution came during a meeting convened in the wake of the horrific mosques attack, in which 50 people were killed and 50 others injured in March.

The resolution proposed by Turkey and co-sponsored by Pakistan urged all countries to protect and promote freedom of religion and belief and to foster a domestic environment of religious tolerance, peace and respect.

He also said the attack "came in response to the continuing crimes and blockade of the Saudi-led coalition," and vowed more attacks against "vital facilities in Saudi Arabia."

Full report at:



Giving more time to ‘selected PM’ can be disastrous, Fazl says

June 20, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Wednesday said that allowing more time to the “selected prime minister” to govern Pakistan could prove fatal.

He asked oppositions parties to devise a collective plan to oust the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“We might not be able to achieve our goals if we are divided or try to devise a strategy for personal or party interests,” he said while talking to reporters.

He added that his war is for Pakistan and to save it from the ‘incompetent rulers’.

Full report at:



National Assembly offers Fateha for Egypt’s Morsi

June 20, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Members of the National Assembly on Wednesday offered Fateha for former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi who died on Sunday.

The prayers were led by Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali on the request of a lawmaker in the National Assembly.

Opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari were also present during the session during which the prayers were offered.

The first elected president of Egypt died at a hospital after he collapsed in a court. Morsi died years after being ousted by his defense minister and now president of the country, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Full report at:



UN report sees credible evidence linking Saudi crown prince to Khashoggi murder

JUNE 20, 2019

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other senior Saudi officials should be investigated over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi since there is credible evidence they are liable for his death, a UN rights investigator said on Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Adel al-Jubeir, rejected the investigator’s report as “nothing new”. He added in a tweet: “The report of the rapporteur in the human rights council contains clear contradictions and baseless allegations which challenge its credibility.”

Khashoggi’s death stirred widespread disgust and hurt the image of crown prince, previously admired in the West for pushing to end the kingdom’s oil dependence and easing social restrictions including by allowing women to drive.

After the killing some Western executives pulled out of a major investment forum in Riyadh, but big investors have been pushing ahead with deals this year in a sign that an effort by the kingdom to return to business as usual is making some headway.

Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, called on countries to invoke universal jurisdiction for what she called the international crime and make arrests if individuals’ responsibility is proven.

The report, based on a six-month investigation, also calls on the United States to “open an FBI investigation, if one is not already open, and pursue criminal prosecutions within the United States as appropriate.”

The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Callamard urged states to widen sanctions to include the crown prince and his assets abroad, unless the man seen by many as the de facto Saudi ruler can prove he has no responsibility.

Khashoggi, a critic of the prince and a Washington Post columnist, was last seen at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct 2 where he was to receive papers ahead of his wedding.

His body was dismembered and removed from the building, the Saudi prosecutor has said, and his remains have not been found. “What needs to be investigated is the extent to which the crown prince knew or should have known of what would have happened to Mr. Khashoggi, whether he directly or indirectly incited the killing…whether he could have prevented the execution when the mission started and failed to do so,” Callamard told reporters.

“It is the conclusion of the Special Rapporteur that Mr. Khashoggi has been the victim of a deliberate, premeditated execution, an extrajudicial killing for which the state of Saudi Arabia is responsible under international human rights law,” her report said.


The Saudi public prosecutor indicted 11 unnamed suspects in November, including five who could face the death penalty on charges of ordering and committing the crime.

Callamard said the Saudi trial should be suspended, citing concerns over secret hearings and a potential miscarriage of justice. Instead, a follow-up international criminal probe should be launched, she said.

The CIA and some Western countries believe the crown prince ordered the killing, which Saudi officials deny. Khashoggi’s Turkish fiancée, who had waited outside the consulate while he was killed inside, called on the United States to do more to bring his killers to justice.

“Washington has chosen not to use its strong ties and leverage with Riyadh to get the Saudis to reveal the truth about Jamal’s murder and to ensure those responsible are held accountable,” Hatice Cengiz wrote in a New York Times op-ed. Critics have accused President Donald Trump of letting the Saudis off the hook after Khashoggi’s death, but a senior administration official told Reuters this month the message to the kingdom is that it remains a “very hot issue”. The UN report publishes excerpts of what it calls conversations inside the consulate shortly before Khashoggi arrived there and during his final moments.

A few minutes before Khashoggi arrived, Salah al-Tubaigy, an Interior Ministry forensics doctor who would dismember the body, said he hoped his job would “be easy”, according to the report.

Full report at:





Letter diplomacy: India responds positively to Pakistan's offer for talks

Naveed Siddiqui

June 20, 2019

India has expressed readiness for dialogue with Pakistan, a source in the Foreign Office (FO) said on Thursday. This was communicated in letters by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar to their Pakistani counterparts.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Imran Khan, in a letter written to felicitate Modi on assuming office for a second term, had renewed Pakistan's offer to hold dialogue with India to resolve contentious issues, including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute and terrorism, to restore peace in the region, and address the problems confronting the people of the two countries.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had also written a letter to the newly appointed Jaishankar and congratulated him on assuming office.

According to the Foreign Office source on Thursday, the letters were received by Pakistan through diplomatic channels on Tuesday. India has positively responded to Pakistan's offer for talks about peace in the region, expressing readiness for dialogue, they added.

In their response, Modi and Jaishankar wrote about comprehensive and fresh talks between India and Pakistan. They said that India desires normal and cooperative relations with all neighbours, including Pakistan, adding that it has always preferred progress and peace of the people, said the source.

The sentiments from Pakistan "were also appreciated in the letters".

The Indian premier and minister said that India was ready for comprehensive talks with Pakistan and all other countries for the peace and progress of the entire region. They also spoke of having a special focus on terrorism in the talks.

According to a statement by the Indian External Affairs Ministry, shared by the source, Modi said "it is important to build an environment of trust, free of terror, violence and hostility". The minister also emphasised the need for an "atmosphere free from the shadow of terror and violence".

First face to face meeting

The letters come on the heels of the first face-to-face interaction between the prime ministers last week, which Qureshi described as a "courtesy" meeting. The foreign minister said Imran and Modi shook hands and exchanged pleasantries during their interaction on the sidelines of the 19th Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Bishkek.

Soon after coming to power last year, Prime Minister Imran had expressed the hope that sour relations between the nuclear neighbours would become normal.

However, a war-like situation emerged between Pakistan and India in February after a suicide bombing in India-occupied Kashmir’s Pulwama district killed more than 40 Indian security forces personnel. India immediately hurled allegations of Pakistan’s involvement, whereas Islamabad strongly rejected the claim and asked for “actionable evidence”.

The situation aggravated on Feb 25 when Indian fighter jets conducted an airstrike on Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in retaliation of the Pulwama attack. The next day, two Indian Air Force MiG 21 aircraft were shot down by the Pakistan Air Force in Kashmir and an Indian pilot named Abhinandan Varthaman was captured. However, as a goodwill gesture announced by PM Imran, the pilot was later handed over to Indian authorities.

The premier on a number of occasions had expressed the view that Indian leaders were using anti-Pakistan sentiments to gain people’s support in the polls.

Following Modi's election win in May, the premier telephoned his newly elected Indian counterpart to congratulate him.

Last month, Foreign Minister Qureshi had a chance meeting with the then Indian external affairs minister, Sushma Swaraj, on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

It was the first face-to-face meeting between the two ministers and the highest-level interaction since the post-Pulwama standoff.

Although Pakistan had closed its airspace for flights to and from India on Feb 26 after the Balakot standoff, Islamabad reportedly made a rare exception for Swaraj to fly directly through Pakistani airspace to attend the SCO meeting.



Indian-origin Imam in UK debate show sparks row over past tweets

Jun 19, 2019

An Indian-origin imam chosen by the BBC for a select panel of members of the British public to put their questions to the UK’s prime ministerial hopefuls during a live television debate has triggered controversy over some of his past anti-Jewish remarks on social media.

Imam Abdullah Patel challenged frontrunner Boris Johnson and the four others remaining in the Conservative Party leadership race over tackling Islamophobia in Britain during the debate telecast by the BBC Tuesday night.

Johnson said he was “sorry for the offence” his comments about veiled Muslim women looking like “letter boxes” and “bank robbers” had caused, while Pakistani-origin minister Sajid Javid urged all his fellow candidates to commit to an external investigation into the issue of Islamophobia within the Tory party. However, by Wednesday morning the narrative had shifted against Patel himself as some of his past messages from Twitter were unearthed.

“Every political figure on the Zionist’s payroll is scaring the world about Corbyn. They don’t like him. He seems best suited to tackle them,” read one of his past tweets, seen as antisemitic. He also tweeted a map of the US, suggesting Israel should be moved from the Middle East to North America as a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

A BBC statement said Patel seemed to have deactivated and then reactivated his Twitter account and if the corporation knew of the views he had expressed in the past, he would not have been invited on to the programme.

“Had we been aware of the views he expressed there he would not have been selected,” said a BBC spokesperson.

Amid the mounting controversy, Patel was also suspended as Deputy Head of a girls’ school at Gloucester in the west of England. Al-Ashraf Primary School said in a statement that he had been suspended “from all school duties” while it investigated comments attributed to him in the media.

“The Trust has decided to suspend him from all school duties with immediate effect until a full investigation is carried out. The school and trust do not share the views attributed to him,” said Yakub Patel, Chair of the Al-Madani Educational Trust, which runs the primary school.

Patel himself denied his past Twitter statements were against the Jewish community, but directed at “Israel’s policy”.

“The criticism was not of the Jewish community because if you go through my tweets, you’d see support for the Jewish community. They’re our brothers and sisters, and the Jewish community and I – especially in Gloucester – work very closely together. We actually visited a synagogue just a while ago,” he said.

He emerged as the one of the most commented-upon members of the public during the live TV debate, which saw Johnson go head to head with foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, environment secretary Michael Gove, home secretary Javid and international development secretary Rory Stewart on a range of issues. Questioners from around the UK appeared on a big screen to quiz the candidates from a regional BBC television studio. The debate followed the second round of voting in the Tory leadership race, which knocked out former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab from the running after failing to secure the minimum 33-vote threshold. Johnson once again emerged as the winner of the round, with the race for second place set for another round of voting during the course of the week.

Full report at:



AMU Students Question Relevance of Yoga Day Celebration on Campus

June 20, 2019

Aligarh: Students of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) have objected to the holding of Yoga Day on the campus. While a common arrangement has been made for men and women, raising the students’ hackles, the latter have also said that such a celebration is just a waste of time and that no one becomes healthier by practising yoga just for a day, said a leading daily on Thursday.

Former president of Students’ Union, Faizul Hassan told the daily that Islam emphasises decency during an interaction between the sexes so the administration should have made separate arrangements for men and women. “In Islam, we offer namaz five times a day and it’s like performing yoga,” he added.

Hassan said that such celebrations are meaningless and if the administration really cared, it should hold yoga classes round the year. AMU court member, Shafikurhman Khan from Theology department, told the daily, “We welcome yoga if it is a part of the curriculum but not if it is forced under a particular ideology.”

He also added that it was unfortunate that yoga was being given a communal colour. Former students’ union vice-president Hamza Sufyan said the university should spend the amount on its budget which had steadily been dipping.

Meanwhile, varsity spokesperson Shafey Kidwai called the allegations baseless. He said, if students can study together, they could very well do yoga together. On the issue of Yoga Day celebration, he said week-long celebrations had been planned for International Yoga Day.

Full report at:



Mumbai court tells Zakir Naik to appear on July 31 in case of money laundering

Jun 20, 2019

A Mumbai court on Wednesday ordered controversial preacher Zakir Naik, who is being probed by the Enforcement Directorate in a money laundering case, to physically appear before it on July 31.

The special court also took cognisance of the latest complaint filed against Dubai-based jeweller Abdul Kadir Najmudin Sathak, booked for helping Naik raise and divert funds.

The ED had filed a complaint against Sathak and others on May 2. The court asked all the accused — Sathak, Aamir Gazdar and Naik — to appear before it on July 31. If Naik fails to turn up, the agency may seek a non-bailabale warrant against him. Naik is absconding at present and is a permanent resident of Malaysia.

Naik was booked by the ED in 2016, after the National Investigation Agency (NIA) registered a case against him. He has since been charged with promoting enmity between different groups, delivering hate speeches and money laundering.

Last month, the agency had filed a charge sheet against Naik on charges of laundering criminal money to the tune of Rs 193 crore and creating illegal real estate assets in India and abroad.

Full report at:



India cautions against hasty peace deal between US and Taliban

Jun 20, 2019

As a new round of negotiations between the US and the Taliban is to start in Qatar, India has cautioned against a hasty deal with the terror group that is dictated by a Washington timeline rather than the best interests of Afghanistan.

Speaking at the Security Council on Wednesday, India’s Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin also said that shutting down terrorist safe havens in Pakistan must be a precondition for a peace agreement to go forward.

While welcoming the international efforts for ending the Afghanistan civil war, he said: “We see that some may be driven by a sense of an urgency with timelines which are, perhaps, not intrinsic to the needs of the Afghan people.”

He also warned that terrorist organisations cannot be allowed to negotiate from a position strength that is guaranteed to them by the sanctuaries given to them by Pakistan.

Akbaruddin, however, diplomatically did not name the US or Pakistan, but his message to them was clear.

“As the way forward is chalked out, we cannot ignore that groups enjoying support and safe havens carry out violent and terrorist activities from across borders,” he said. “They cannot be allowed to negotiate from a place of advantage.”

“The sanctuaries and safe havens provided to terror networks have to be addressed for genuine and sustainable peace. The terrorist activities of the Taliban, Haqqani Network, Islamic State (IS), as well as Al Qaeda and its proscribed affiliates, including the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, need to end.”

Washington has been trying to forge a peace deal with the Taliban so that US President Donald Trump can keep his election promise of ending American involvement in Afghanistan and bringing the troops home as the campaign for next year’s election heats up.

The pace of negotiations have accelerated recently and a key round of negotiations between the Taliban leaders and Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, is scheduled to start this week in Doha.

The two sides appeared to dispute the interpretations of what they have agreed so far on US troop withdrawal. The Taliban negotiators’ spokesperson was reported to have tweeted on Tuesday that the US had agreed to pull out its troops.

But Khalilzad clarified in a tweet that the US sought “a comprehensive peace agreement, not a withdrawal agreement”.

Troop withdrawal is only one part of a comprehensive peace agreement, which would inlcude counter-terrorism assurances, intra-Afghan negotiations that lead to a political settlement, and a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire, he explained in another tweet.

Khalilzad visited India last month for consultations with Indian officials on the negotiations.

Speaking at the Security Council, Rodney Hunter, the political coordinator at the US Mission, said: “The US has made clear to the Taliban that we are prepared to reduce our forces; however, we have not agreed to numbers or a timeline with the Taliban.”

For any peace agreement to go into force, despite the US need for speed, the Afghanistan government has to directly negotiate with the Taliban. This was emphasised at the Security Council by Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN Special Representative for Afghanistan.

“The common message to the Taliban is clear: come to the table and negotiate directly with the Afghan Government,” he said.

Full report at:



J&K police claim to have foiled major terror attack

by Adil Akhzer

June 20, 2019

Two days after a car bomb attack in south Kashmir’s Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir police on Wednesday claimed to have foiled a major “terror” attack plan by recovering a sophisticated improvised explosive device (IED) in Shopian district.

Police said the IED was recovered after five youths were arrested in Shopian. J&K Police said in an official release that the arrested youths, who have been identified as “associates” of militants, had said during questioning that with a help of a Hizbul Mujahedeen (HM) militant, they were planning to plant an IED to target security forces.

Full report at:



Southeast Asia


Pro-Palestine Christian activist, Muslim convert evangelist honoured by PAS Youth for contribution to interracial hamony

19 June 2019


KUANTAN, June 19 — In recognition of their contribution to their respective fields, PAS Youth has named Christian activist Jason Leong and independent preacher Firdaus Wong Wai Hung as exemplary icons during its 60th muktamar or annual congress here today.

Leong, the adviser to a group called NextGen Christians of Malaysia (Ancom) was awarded the Unity Icon Award while Firdaus was awarded the Dakwah Icon Award for his missionary work. For both men, this is their first time attending the Islamist party’s event.

Speaking to Malay Mail on the side of the Congress, Leong, who is also known for his vocal support for Palestine and the Rohingyas in recent years, said he was humbled by the award, explaining that his association has maintained good relations with various Muslim organisations and even political parties, to foster better understanding and cooperation among one another.

“We have done a lot of engagement with Muslims across the board and we do not believe in profiling people, we do not believe in labelling people. Calling them ultra, extremist, left, right centrist. So long as you are Malaysians we will work with you.

“So we don’t come with preconceived prejudices," he said, stating that he has also worked with other parties such as Umno, Pakatan Harapan, and even hardline Islamist and Malay rights groups such as Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) and Perkasa, among others.

Leong said Ancom was born from the “Allah” controversy in 2013 since it is pertinent to constantly engage with various groups from the two faiths to ensure the matter was dealt rationally.

He added it is important for members of different faiths to continue to talk to one another, and build a relationship of trust and understanding.

Leong is also a founder and adviser of Christians For Peace and Harmony Malaysia, a pro-Barisan Nasional group formed to provide a counterpoint to established Christian groups such as the Christian Federation of Malaysia and the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship.

Firdaus, the founder of convert support group Multiracial Reverted Muslims (MRM), on the other hand, expressed shock on receiving his award, stating his work or evangelism was based purely on the principle of spreading Islam.

“It is up to them to decide what my contribution is as I am perplexed as to what my contribution really is. What I do is only for the sake of Islam,’’ he said.

Wong then explained he remains apolitical, and only came this year out of an invitation from PAS Youth.

He echoed Leong’s sentiment that members of different faiths should continue to converse with one another. However, he is mainly concerned with religious extremists who tend to be more vocal.

“It is these select few who tend to overtake rational religious discussions, which is a shame,’’ he said.

Firdaus has in the past defended fugitive televangelist Dr Zakir Naik, who received support during the PAS Youth event today, and has expressed anti-Shiah and anti-LGBT sentiments.



Zakir Naik’s pupil Zamri Vinoth says willing to give up citizenship if mentor extradited to India

19 June 2019


KUANTAN, June 19 — Independent preacher Muhammad Zamri Vinoth Kalimuthu said today he is willing to give up his Malaysian citizenship if his mentor, Dr Zakir Naik is extradited to India.

“If the government wants to send back Zakir Naik or extradite him, I will not hesitate to hand over my IC,” he said at the PAS Youth 60th muktamar or annual congress at the Bukit Gambang Resort City here today.

Zamri also claims that Islam is being “bullied” at the international and even domestic level.

Speaking at the Congress as a special guest, Zamri also lamented the current political landscape where he claimed even elected Muslims representatives will not speak up when Islam is supposedly being attacked in Parliament.

Zamri also said that his mentor will be in Kelantan on the 7, 8 and 9 August and plans to conduct a ceramah there and invited the entire PAS Youth delegate to join Dr Zakir there.

On June 10, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad stated that Malaysia has the right to refuse to extradite fugitive Indian national Dr Zakir, since the latter alleges he will not be accorded justice back home.

Dr Mahathir compared Dr Zakir’s status to that of Sirul Azhar Umar’s, the former police commando sentenced to death for murdering Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu, currently seeking refuge in Australia.

In February, an Australian court had rejected Sirul’s application for political asylum there after concluding his conviction for killing Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu was not political in nature.

Full report at:



IS-linked militants kidnap 10 fishermen off Borneo

June 18, 2019

Suspected Islamic State-linked militants kidnapped 10 fishermen off Borneo island Tuesday and took them to the southern Philippines, police said, the latest abductions in the strife-torn waters.

The heavily armed assailants snatched the group of nomadic sea gypsies in the early hours as they sailed in two boats off eastern Sabah state, in the Malaysian part of Borneo.

Six others escaped.

Sabah police chief Omar Mammah confirmed to AFP that the fishermen had been kidnapped.

Philippine kidnap-for-ransom gang Abu Sayyaf is thought to be responsible, and the fishermen were taken to islands in the south of the country, reported Malaysia's official news agency Bernama, citing police.

The southern Philippines is home to numerous armed groups, and Abu Sayyaf is notorious for kidnappings of foreigners.

The militants, who demand large ransoms and have beheaded several hostages, have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) group.

There has been a spate of kidnappings in the waters between the southern Philippines and the Malaysian part of Borneo in recent years. Borneo is shared between Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.

Full report at:



Cooperation with Umno OK, but PAS must be on top, says Kedah division chief

20 June 2019


KUANTAN, June 20 — Kedah PAS Youth today backed its party central leadership’s endeavour for cooperation with age-old nemesis Umno as long as it is for Islam.

But state wing chief Nasrun Othman also said PAS must ensure it takes pole position in the cooperation — indicating the Islamist party’s grassroots are not fully comfortable with joining forces with their political foe, even for the sake of religion.

“We must unite our leadership on the state and central levels, for it is a necessity to the unity of the ummah. All parties, including Umno, should ensure the governance of Malaysia is led by Islam,” he said in his speech during debates at the wing’s annual congress, held at Bukit Gambang Resort here.

He acknowledged that cooperation between both Malay political parties pursuing a common goal to protect Muslim interests would bring mutual benefits, but added the caveat for PAS.

“Unity of the ummah brings benefits, on the condition that PAS must be the leader on top, so as to ensure the Constitution, the Quran, and the Sunnah of the Prophet can be defended.

“It is also pivotal that we make it clear to our friends in Umno for them to understand that our principle is to defend God’s religion, not merely for the sake of race, the Malay language, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. But above all else the defence of Islam, for Islam is the highest and none other is higher than Islam,” he said.

Nasrun suggested a possible current of unease may run through his party’s veteran members who still recall and hold onto the differences and grudges that prompted PAS to break away from Umno in the past.

“Asides from understanding our friends in Umno, we must understand the veterans. They may not understand, since they might still view Umno through old habits.

“Support us and be together with us, to ensure Islam remains to lead. We are willing to forget past history for the sake of Islam, since that has always been the basis of our struggle all this while,” he said.

Nasrun also referring to Youth chief Muhammad Khalil Abdul Hadi’s speech yesterday and urged delegates to avoid becoming greedy and to chase after positions and ranks of power within PAS.

Full report at:



Hadi: PAS ‘unafraid’ to reject immoral leaders

20 June 2019


KUANTAN, June 20 — PAS will not hesitate to eject any of its leaders if their morals are found lacking, its president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang said today.

The Marang MP who turned up unexpectedly at the party’s Youth wing congress here said other political parties may consider morality to be trivial, but not PAS which regards virtue as sacred and places great emphasis on education.

“We are unafraid of rejecting such leaders, unlike some others whose activities are based on videos,” he said in his speech to PAS Youth delegates at  the Bukit Gambang Resort.

Hadi did not name anyone in his speech, but was likely referring to political foe PKR.

The ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition’s biggest component is embroiled in a sex video scandal after a Youth leader claimed to have had several trysts with a senior party leader.

The police are investigating the case under Section 377B of the Penal Code for “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” which carries the penalty of a maximum 20-year jail term and caning; Section 292 of the same law for distribution of pornographic materials that carries a punishment of maximum three years’ jail or fine, or both; and Section 504 for “intentional insult with intent to provoke a breach of the peace” that is punishable by jail up to two years, or fine, or both.

The Malaysian Communications Multimedia Commission is also investigating the “improper use of network facilities or network service” under Section 2033 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 for the posting of several video clips showing the sexual acts that have been widely shared through WhatsApp.

Hadi insisted that good morals is the Islamist party’s core strength, and that it is non-negotiable.

“If it was my subordinate who was involved in immoral activities, I would resign from my post, and disband the party,” Hadi said.

In his speech, Hadi also denounced those who viewed politics to be “filthy” and “disgusting” as being un-Islamic in their thinking.

“Such claims are not Islamic, as politics is taught to be separate from religion. Indeed Islam teaches this is the purpose of man to uphold the faith.

“For 13 centuries the powers of the world respected Islam. But now the ummah is weak not because of the religion but because of themselves. Yet there will always be those who will defend the faith, especially when it comes to politics,” he said.

Hadi said upholding Islam is a greater challenge than anything else, not just physically but also spiritually and mentally.

“When Muslims are willing to face this challenge, it is then that Islam will take power and rule.

“Some do not wish to do so, for fear of challenges from certain quarters. But those ready to defend Islam should expect these challenges to begin with,” he said.

Full report at:



North America


Trump should reveal who was behind 9/11 terror attacks: Scholar

Jun 19, 2019

US President Donald Trump should reveal that US and Israeli intelligence agencies, along with the Pentagon and Zionist neoconservatives, were behind the terror attacks on the US in September 2001, says an American academic and analyst.

“Trump says he may know who is responsible (for 9/11), but I doubt very much that he’s going to acknowledge that it was the CIA, in collaboration with the neocons and the Department of Defense, most of whom were dual US- Israeli citizens, and the Mossad,” said James Fetzer, a retired professor of philosophy at the University of Minnesota,

“I and other students of 9/11 have been hopeful that Trump might actually dig in to 9/11 and reveal the truth,” Fetzer told Press TV on Friday.

However, this is unlikely, “given the extent to which the foreign policy of the Trump administration is under the control of the Zionist [lobby],” he added.

In an exclusive interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos broadcast on Sunday, Trump categorically said that “Iraq did not knock down the World Trade Center.”

“It was not Iraq,” he told the American broadcaster. “It were other people. And I think I know who the other people were. And you might also.”

Trump also criticized Washington’s military intervention in the Middle East, which he said was ”the worst decision made in the history of our country.”

He described the Middle East region as “like quicksand.”

“It was a terrible decision to go into the Middle East. Terrible.  We’re now up to almost $8t trillion (£6.4trn). And when we want to build a roadway, a highway, a school, or something, everyone’s always fighting over money. It’s ridiculous. So that was a bad decision,” he added.

The September, 11, 2001 attacks, also known as the 9/11 attacks, were a series of strikes in the US which killed nearly 3,000 people and caused about $10 billion worth of property and infrastructure damage.

US officials assert that the attacks were carried out by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists but many experts have raised questions about the official account.

They believe that rogue elements within the US government, such as former Vice President Dick Cheney, orchestrated or at least encouraged the 9/11 attacks in order to accelerate the US war machine and advance the Zionist agenda.



FBI Shares Security Info With Muslim, Jewish And Christian Leaders

By Ron Kampeas

JUNE 20, 2019

The FBI convened a round table meeting of leaders of Muslim, Jewish and Christian groups to discuss means of preventing bias-based attacks on religious institutions.

The event Tuesday at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., appeared to be the first of its kind; the FBI has in the past convened similar forums for Jewish groups. There has been broader awareness of the danger facing faith groups with the deadly attacks over the last year on synagogues in the United States, mosques in New Zealand and churches in Sri Lanka.

A session was dedicated to identifying potential attackers in one’s midst. A special agent broke down data analyzing 63 recent active shooting incidents. There was no single warning sign, although a number of factors were shared by a majority of the attackers, including being male (94 percent), single (57 percent) and having mental health issues (62 percent).

In the session where participants shared tips, differences of approach emerged. Michael Masters, who heads the Secure Community Network, the security umbrella for national and regional Jewish groups, emphasized the benefits of information sharing with police, while Salam Al-Marayati, the president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said Muslims tended to still be wary of law enforcement because of perceptions that police profiled Muslims after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

Full report at:



Witness: Navy SEAL called dead prisoner an 'ISIS dirtbag'

Jun 20, 2019

SAN DIEGO: A Navy SEAL charged with killing a captive militant boy in his care had told fellow troops that if they encountered a wounded enemy, he wanted medics to know how "to nurse him to death,'' a former comrade testified Wednesday.

When a radio call announced an Islamic State prisoner was wounded on May 3, 2017, Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher replied: "Don't touch him, he's all mine,'' Dylan Dille told jurors in a military courtroom.

The captive was on the hood of a Humvee fading in an out of consciousness with only a minor leg wound visible when Iraqi forces delivered him to a SEAL compound in Mosul.

Dille said he was not the grizzled warrior he expected to find.

"He looked about 12 years old,'' Dille said. "He had a wrist watch around his bicep. He was rail thin.''

Gallagher, a trained medic, began treating the boy's injuries. When he applied pressure to his leg wound, the boy shot up in pain.

Then-Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Craig Miller, who has since been promoted to chief, said he put his foot on the boy's chest to keep him down.

Miller briefly stepped away and said when he returned he saw Gallagher unexpectedly plunge a knife twice into the boy's neck "right here on the right side in the jugular vein,'' he said tapping the spot above the collar of his dress whites.

Blood spurted out and another SEAL jumped back and grabbed his medical bag, Miller said.

Gallagher has pleaded not guilty to murder and attempted murder charges, along with other war crimes.

Defense lawyers say Gallagher treated the prisoner for a collapsed lung suffered in a blast from an air strike. He made an incision in his throat to insert a tube to clear the airway.

They claim that disgruntled sailors fabricated the murder accusations because he was a demanding platoon leader and they didn't want him promoted.

Miller said he immediately reported the stabbing to an officer, but didn't pursue a more formal complaint until months after returning from deployment.

He acknowledged he never took photos of the enemy's wounds or tried to document the incident.

No corpse was ever recovered, no autopsy was performed and no forensic evidence was gathered.

Miller struggled with recalling details from that day. He didn't remember the platoon flying a drone over the dead body, not even after seeing video in court that showed him smiling nearby.

After the boy died, Gallagher's re-enlistment ceremony was conducted next to the corpse. Miller and other troops were in photos of the event.

Later that day, Dille said Gallagher confronted him and other senior enlisted men and said he knew they were upset with what happened.

"This was just an ISIS dirtbag,'' Dille said Gallagher told the group.

Gallagher said the next time he did something similar, it would be out of their sight, Dille said.

The testimony came on the second day of Gallagher's court-martial in a case that has drawn the attention of President Donald Trump and revealed a rare rift in the typically tightknit elite special forces.

Defense lawyer Tim Parlatore questioned why Dille never confronted Gallagher or reported him to superiors until after deployment.

Dille said the allegations were serious and he wanted to ``be prepared for the angry mob to come knocking,'' referring to conservative news media and older SEALs who maintain their silence.

Dille and Miller admitted participating in a group text they called ``the sewing circle'' in which they discussed concerns about Gallagher.

Parlatore accused them of using the chat group to coordinate a campaign to oust Gallagher based on lies.

"My truth is watertight, Mr. Parlatore,'' Dille said.

Dille also said that he also believed Gallagher had fired at Iraqi civilians from a sniper's position several times, including an instance on Father's Day 2017 when an old man was shot by the Tigris River.

Dille was also a sniper and was near Gallagher during the shootings but didn't see him pull the trigger.

After hearing a gunshot coming from Gallagher's position and seeing the old man fall, Dille said he looked through his scope and saw the man bleeding through his white clothing. He said Gallagher then radioed that he thought he had missed the old man.

Defense lawyer Marc Mukasey objected to the testimony, saying descriptions of the alleged shootings were "wildly vague.''

Gallagher, who served eight tours of duty and earned two Bronze Stars for valor, was in the courtroom in his dress uniform with a chest full of medals. His wife, parents and brother also attended.

His family has lobbied intensely for his freedom, claiming he was being treated unfairly.

Congressional Republicans took up his cause and prevailed on Trump to release Gallagher from the brig into better conditions in a military hospital. Trump also is reportedly considering a pardon for Gallagher.

Full report at:



No US aircraft operated over Iran, US military says

20 June 2019

The US military did not fly over Iranian airspace on Wednesday, the US military said, after a news website run by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said a US drone was shot down over the southern Iranian province of Hormozgan.

“No U.S. aircraft were operating in Iranian airspace today,” Navy Captain Bill Urban, a spokesman for the US military’s Central Command, said shortly before midnight on Wednesday.

Urban declined further comment.

The relationship between Tehran and Washington has been particularly strained since the US last year quit the multilateral 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran.

Full report at:



Iran, Russia square up to US sanctions with 12 accords

Jun 19, 2019

Iran and Russia have signed a dozen cooperation agreements covering energy, railway, agriculture, pharmaceuticals and tourism, with senior officials stressing the political will of the two countries to reinforce ties in the face of US sanctions.     

The agreements were signed as Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak visited Iran with a delegation of 120 businesspeople, including representatives of private and public companies.

The two sides held their 15th meeting of the joint commission for economic and trade cooperation in Isfahan Tuesday, which was also attended by governors of several Iranian provinces and ministers of several Russian republics.

“Both Iran and Russia are affected by illegal sanctions. It is hoped that the sanctions can be used as an opportunity to expand ties and increase cooperation,” Iranian energy minister Reza Ardekanian said, stressing that there is “political will” on both sides to do that.

Novak described Iran and Russia as “good neighbors”, saying both are determined to strengthen their cooperation.

The Iranian Ministry of Petroleum’s Shana news agency said the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding covering oil, gas, petrochemicals, electricity and nuclear power.

Russian news agencies cited Novak as saying that Moscow and Tehran have been discussing joint development of Caspian Sea hydrocarbon projects.

Hossein Esmaeili Shahmirzadi, the director general of the department for America, Europe and Caspian States at Iran’s Ministry of Petroleum, told Shana the MoU includes cooperation on exploration, recovery and production of oil, and investment in oil, gas and petrochemical industries.

The two governments stepped up talks on allowing Russian oil and gas companies to develop fields in Iran, in place of Western companies that withdrew under pressure from Washington when President Donald Trump withdrew the US from a 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran last May.

Iranian officials said then as many as 12 projects in the petroleum sector had been presented to Russia’s Gazprom, Rosneft, Gazprom Neft, Zarubezhneft, Taftneft and Lukoil for development.

President Vladimir Putin also said Russia was prepared to continue its oil investment in Iran to the tune of $50 billion in the face of US plans to reimpose sanctions on the Iranian oil and gas sector. But there is yet no concrete deal that has been firmed up. 

Sputnik news agency on Tuesday quoted Novak as saying that in their new talks, Iran spoke of its interest in working with Russian gas giant Gazprom to develop oil fields and liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects.

“They are interested in Gazprom taking part in the projects such as oil fields and LNG projects and swap deals,” Novak said.

Iran and Russia have yet to implement an oil-for-goods scheme originally signed in 2014 and extended for five more years, which calls for Iranian crude exports of up to 500,000 barrels per day in return for Russian goods.

The scheme includes Iran’s use of Russian machinery, equipment and installations Iran needs in its strategic petroleum, mining, construction and transportation sectors.

A tentative arrangement calls for swapping around 300,000 barrels per day of Iranian crude oil via the Caspian Sea and the rest from the Persian Gulf.

One of the agreements signed on Tuesday includes the revamp of the Ramin thermal power station in Ahvaz and building four 1,400-megawatt thermal power plants in the southern Hormozgan province, Ardekanian said.

They further agreed to work jointly on several railway projects, fish farming, drug manufacturing, and establishing cruise trips in the Caspian Sea.

They also doubled down on the need to implement previous agreements on implementing the second and third units of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, Ardekanian added.

Novak told TASS news agency Russia could also resume wheat exports to Iran soon.

Iran was one of the largest markets for Russian wheat until it reduced purchases in 2016 because of its self-sufficiency in the strategic product.

Private Iranian millers who are not allowed to use domestic wheat for flour exports, however, still need imported wheat.

Full report at:



US Senate to vote on blocking Trump’s $8bn arms sales to Saudi, UAE over rights abuses

Jun 20, 2019

US senators will vote later on Thursday on legislation that seeks to block President Donald Trump’s plan to complete an $8 billion arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates using a  loophole, citing concerns about the two Arab regimes' human rights records.

The White House announced last month that it was making an emergency provision within the country’s arms control law to enable the major arms sale to America’s two main allies in the Persian Gulf region.

The Trump administration had cited “alleged threats from Iran” to justify resorting to the emergency provision.

However, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have made it clear they want Washington to take a harder line against what the human rights abuses by the two countries.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced the vote on Wednesday, after opposing lawmakers filed 22 separate resolutions of disapproval against the deals.

Lawmakers were confident that the measures would pass both the Senate and House of Representatives but they may fail to garner the two-thirds majority support needed to override a possible veto by Trump.

The bipartisan support for the deals is considered a serious rebuke to Trump specially since many of his close Republican allies, who generally have provided overwhelming support for his policies, are among the opposition this time.

The US Congress has grown increasingly with Saudi Arabia and the UAE over their devastating war against Yemen, which has killed thousands of people and caused a humanitarian crisis in the impoverished country.

Many US lawmakers have also called on the Turmp administration to hold Saudi rulers, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in particular, accountable for the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Turkey last October.

A UN rights expert said Wednesday that bin Salman and other senior Saudi officials should be investigated over the gruesome murder of the US-based Washington Post columnist.

Trump has pushed back against efforts to halt the weapons sales, arguing that Washington needs Saudis and Emiratis as important strategic partners against Iran.

However, even Republicans who had in the past opposed legislation to end US involvement in the Yemen conflict -- which passed Congress but was vetoed by Trump – think Washington needs to send a strong message to Riyadh.

“I don’t think there’s anyone on this (Senate) floor that is averse to the idea that action needs to be taken,” said Republican Senator Jim Risch, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said lawmakers were also preparing legislation “to hold Saudi Arabia accountable” for human rights abuses and Khashoggi’s murder.

Full report at:



US official confirms Iran shot down US drone in Gulf

Vakkas Doğantekin


An American official who spoke on condition of anonymity told ABC News Thursday that Iran shot down a U.S. military drone over the Strait of Hormuz. 

The U.S. Navy MQ-4C Triton was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile while the reconnaissance drone was flying in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday, the official told ABC News.

The confirmation comes amid growing hostility in the Gulf region between Washington and Tehran. 

Iran's state-run Press TV as well as its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) announced earlier that the U.S.-made RQ-4 Global Hawk "spy drone" was shot down in the country's coastal province of Hormozgan, near the Strait of Hormuz.

The IRGC said in an online statement it shot down the aircraft after it entered Iranian airspace in the country's south.

The U.S. military initially denied the report.

"No U.S. aircraft were operating in Iranian airspace today," said Navy Captain Bill Urban, a spokesman for the U.S. military's Central Command.

Tensions have been rising between the U.S. and Iran since last year, when Washington unilaterally withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany.

The Trump administration said Monday it would send 1,000 additional troops to the Gulf region in the wake of escalating tensions.

Full report at:



US reviewing UN's Khashoggi report 'closely'

Michael Hernandez 



The U.S. said Wednesday it is "closely" appraising a UN report that said the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi was an extrajudicial killing for which Saudi Arabia is responsible.

"We are reviewing the report closely," a State Department spokesman told Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity. "The United States supports UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard’s global mission to investigate extra-judicial, summary, or arbitrary executions."

Officials from the State Department met with Callamard "at her request" to discuss matters that included Khashoggi's killing, the spokesman said.

"We are determined to press for accountability for every person who was responsible," he added.

In the report, Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said she found "credible evidence" to further probe Saudi officials’ individual liability in the Khashoggi killing at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, including Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

President Donald Trump and his top officials, however, have sought to shield bin Salman from responsibility for Khashoggi's grisly murder last October, insisting Saudi Arabia is a critical ally.

"Maybe he did and maybe he didn't!" Trump said in a statement.

"If we abandon Saudi Arabia, it would be a terrible mistake," he added.

Among its other recommendations, the UN's report calls for the FBI and UN secretary general to launch criminal investigations into the murder of Khashoggi, who was a U.S. resident.

Khashoggi was killed and dismembered by a group of Saudi operatives shortly after he entered the country's consulate in Istanbul last Oct. 2.

Full report at:



Khashoggi's fiancee urges Washington to act on murder

Michael Hernandez 



The U.S. must act decisively to not only achieve justice for slain Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but to rein in Saudi Arabia's crackdown on dissent, Khashoggi's fiancee said Wednesday.

Hatice Cengiz said in a New York Times op-ed piece that to this point Washington "has chosen not to use its strong ties and leverage with Riyadh to get the Saudis to reveal the truth about Jamal’s murder and to ensure those responsible are held accountable."

"President [Donald] Trump has tried to look the other way," she wrote.

But Cengiz pointed to the detention of three men, whom she said are "reformist scholars" -- Salman al-Awda, Awad al-Qarni and Ali al-Omari --, arguing Trump "has the power to save the lives of the three men" as they await execution in the Kingdom.

"Jamal always said they were reformists, contrary to allegations made against them by Saudi Arabia," she said. "And Riyadh’s lax attitude to the legal proceedings of Jamal’s case cannot be accepted."

Cengiz's op-ed comes on the same day the Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said she found “credible evidence” to further probe Saudi officials’ individual liability in Khashoggi's killing, including Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

"Targeted sanctions against the individuals and/or entities in Saudi Arabia that were likely involved in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi must continue," the report advised.

"However, in view of the credible evidence into the responsibilities of the Crown Prince for his murder, such sanctions ought also to include the Crown Prince and his personal assets abroad, until and unless evidence is provided and corroborated that he carries no responsibilities for this execution," it added.

The report also prompted further investigations by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the FBI.

Cengiz urged the UN to heed the call.

Full report at:





Two British teens convicted for promoting far-right terrorism online

By Liz Weber

June 18, 2019

Two British teenagers who reportedly posted an image of Prince Harry and accused him of being a “race traitor” last year were convicted Tuesday of promoting terrorism and neo-Nazi propaganda online, according to news reports.

The outcome of the trial comes after the United Kingdom strengthened its laws to prosecute terrorism activity online, and the judge called the picture “abhorrent” and “criminal.”

Authorities said Michael Szewczuk, 19, and Oskar Dunn-Koczorowski, 18, used pseudonyms for personal accounts on Gab, a social media site primarily used by far-right activists. They also shared control of the official page for the Sonnenkrieg Division, a British neo-Nazi organization, where they frequently created and shared racist and violent propaganda online. On the site, the two teens posted an image of Prince Harry with a gun to his head and the caption “See Ya Later Race Traitor” months after his marriage to Meghan Markle in May 2018, according to U.K. news reports.

When detectives arrested Szewczuk after a BBC report last year exposed his online activity, they discovered in his residence bombmaking instructions, a “white-resistance” manual and instructional propaganda on conducting Islamist terrorist attacks.

Dunn-Koczorowski and Szewczuk, both Polish nationals, pleaded guilty to encouraging terrorism. Dunn-Koczorowski was sentenced to an 18-month detention and training order, while Szewczuk, the older, was given a sentence of over four years.

During the court hearing, Dunn-Koczorowski’s lawyer, David Kitson, said his client’s mind-set had not changed and he had a “lack of remorse” for his views and a “deeply entrenched ideology,” according to news reports.

Detective Chief Superintendent Martin Snowden, head of a counter terrorism unit, said Dunn-Koczorowski and Szewczuk saw themselves as superior to others and represented a “significant risk.” He told the BBC that it “only takes one individual to be encouraged or be inspired by that propaganda to take that further step.”

The U.K. has a much stricter legal framework than the United States for prosecuting individuals for acts of terrorism propaganda. For example, under the U.K.'s updated 2019 Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act, it is illegal to click on terrorist propaganda and recklessly express support for banned groups. Interest in updating the U.K.’s treason and terror law increased after two alleged members of an Islamic State cell were not prosecuted, according to the Independent.

Judge Rebecca Poulet said the pair were responsible for promoting a violent ideology from right-wing and neo-Nazi groups, according to the Guardian. “The posts I have seen and read are abhorrent as well as criminal by reason of their clear intention to encourage terrorist acts,” she said.

In the United States, their actions might not rise to a criminal prosecution partly because there is no statutory crime of domestic terrorism and because of strong First Amendment speech protections, according to Simon Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, who has written on the domestic right-wing terrorism threat.

Clark, who has lived in the United Kingdom and United States, said he has seen an increase in a similar rise in far-right extremism throughout Europe and America. “When I moved over here, I was concerned to see the same types of patterns emerge here,” he said. But in the past few years, he has also seen an increased interest in tackling the rise of far-right groups from the House of Representatives, numerous nonprofits and the online community.

According to Snowden, the amount of material the police uncovered on the British teens’ social media channels “not only reflects their extremist beliefs but was intended to encourage others to carry out despicable acts.”



UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home


June 20, 2019

GENEVA (AP) — A record 71 million people have been displaced worldwide by war, persecution and other violence, the U.N. refugee agency said Wednesday, an increase of more than 2 million from a year earlier — and an overall total that would amount to the world’s 20th most populous country.

The annual “Global Trends” report released by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees counts the number of the world’s refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people at the end of 2018.

The figures, coming on the eve of World Refugee Day on Thursday, are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics, especially the movement in some countries, including the U.S., against immigrants and refugees.

Launching the report, the high commissioner, Filippo Grandi, had a message for U.S. President Donald Trump and other world leaders, calling it “damaging” to depict migrants and refugees as threats to jobs and security in host countries. Often, they are fleeing insecurity and danger themselves, he said.

The report also puts a statistical skeleton onto often-poignant individual stories of people struggling to survive by crossing rivers, deserts, seas, fences and other barriers, natural and man-made, to escape government oppression, gang killings, sexual abuse, militia murders and other such violence at home.

UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017 — and nearly a 65% increase from a decade ago. Among them, nearly three in five people — or more than 41 million — are displaced within their home countries.

“The global trends, once again unfortunately, go in what I would say is the wrong direction,” Grandi told reporters in Geneva. “There are new conflicts, new situations, producing refugees, adding themselves to the old ones. The old ones never get resolved.”

The phenomenon is growing in both size and duration. Some four-fifths of the “displacement situations” have lasted more than five years. After eight years of war in Syria, for instance, its people continue to make up the largest population of forcibly displaced people, at some 13 million.

Amid runaway inflation and political turmoil at home, Venezuelans for the first time accounted for the largest number of new asylum-seekers in 2018, totaling more than 340,000 — or more than one in five worldwide last year. Asylum-seekers receive international protection as they await acceptance or rejection of their requests for refugee status.

UNHCR said that its figures are “conservative” and that Venezuela masks a potentially longer-term trend.

Some 4 million people are known to have left the South American country in recent years. Many of those have traveled freely to Peru, Colombia and Brazil, but only about one-eighth have sought formal international protection, and the outflow continues, suggesting the strains on the welcoming countries could worsen.

Grandi predicted a continued “exodus” from Venezuela and appealed for donors to provide more development assistance to the region.

“Otherwise these countries will not bear the pressure anymore and then they have to resort to measures that will damage refugees,” he said. “We are in a very dangerous situation.”

The United States, meanwhile, remains the “largest supporter of refugees” in the world, Grandi said in an interview. The U.S. is the biggest single donor to UNHCR. He also credited local communities and advocacy groups in the United States for helping refugees and asylum-seekers in the country.

But the refugee agency chief noted long-term administrative shortcomings that have given the United States the world’s biggest backlog of asylum claims, at nearly 719,000. More than a quarter-million claims were added last year.

He also decried recent rhetoric that has been hostile to migrants and refugees.

“In America, just like in Europe actually and in other parts of the world, what we are witnessing is an identification of refugees — but not just refugees, migrants as well — with people that take away jobs, that threaten our security, our values,” Grandi said. “And I want to say to the U.S. administration — to the president — but also to the leaders around the world: This is damaging.”

He said many people leaving Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador through Mexico have faced violence by gangs and suffered from “the inability of these governments to protect their own citizens.”

At more than 1.5 million, Ethiopians comprised the largest population of newly displaced people — nearly all internally — last year, prompting the head of the Norwegian Refugee Council to decry a “forgotten crisis” in the east African country.

“We need a 180-degree shift in attitudes,” said NRC Secretary-General Jan Egeland.” Wealthier nations must share the heavy-lifting, dig deep and support generous countries like Ethiopia to ease the human suffering of millions fleeing from conflict worldwide.”

The UNHCR report noted that, by far, the most refugees are taken in the developing world, not wealthy countries.

The figures marked the seventh consecutive year in which the numbers of forcibly displaced rose.

Full report at:



UN aid chief says ‘humanitarian disaster’ unfolding in Idlib

By Edith M. Lederer

June 18 at 7:06 PM

UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. humanitarian chief declared Tuesday that “a humanitarian disaster” is unfolding in Syria’s last rebel-held territory where Bashar Assad’s forces have launched an offensive, ending a cease-fire negotiated by Turkey and Russia in September.

Mark Lowcock told the Security Council that since Syrian troops began pushing into Idlib on April 30 an estimated 330,000 people have been forced to flee their homes and more than 230 civilians have died.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed to Russia and Turkey to stabilize the situation in Idlib, home to over three million people, “without delay.” He called the situation “especially dangerous given the involvement of an increased number of actors,” and said civilians are again “paying a horrific price.”

U.N. political chief Rosemary DiCarlo told that council that for Syria’s close ally Russia, the presence in Idlib of radicals from the al-Qaida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, or HTS, “is not tolerable” and “for Turkey, time is required to effectively isolate and address HTS’ most hardline fighters.”

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the September memorandum with Turkey “is being fully implemented,” telling council members it “doesn’t ban but rather encourages the fight against terrorism.”

He stressed that all military activities are in response “to provocations from terrorists,” saying HTS controls 99 percent of the Idlib de-escalation zone.

“We think that the issue is not that it’s a humanitarian catastrophe,” Nebenzia said. “It’s clear that the issue is the desire to keep the territories that are not under Damascus’ control for as long as possible regardless of who prevails in them.”

Nebenzia said Idlib should ultimately return to Syrian government control “and the terrorists there ... will have to be liquidated.” And he added that fighting the spread of terrorists “is much more important than artificial stoking of tensions in the region, in the Persian Gulf.”

Germany, Belgium and Kuwait asked for the humanitarian briefing on Idlib by Lowcock, and the United States asked for DiCarlo’s political briefing.

Lowcock said the World Health Organization has confirmed that 26 health care facilities in northwestern Syria have been attacked since late April and stressed that attacking civilians and civilian installations like hospitals and schools is a violation of international law.

“A number of partners now feel that supplying geographical coordinates to be given to the warring parties effectively paints a target on their backs,” he said. “Some have drawn the conclusion that hospital bombings are a deliberate tactic aimed to terrorize.”

The U.S., Britain and many Western ambassadors echoed his concern.

Turkey’s U.N. Ambassador Feridun Sinirlioglu told the council that the “fight against terrorism can in no way justify these indiscriminate attacks.”

Russia’s Nebenzia said “we decisively reject any accusation of indiscriminate strikes” and told the council “we’re not carrying out attacks against civilians.” He added that terrorist fighters are using civilian infrastructure and civilians as human shielings.

On the political front, DiCarlo said political efforts “cannot move forward in an environment of open conflict” and U.N. efforts “will stall if Russia and Turkey cannot uphold the cease-fire agreement.”

Turkey’s Sinirlioglu said the HTS problem needs to be addressed “with a more sophisticated and comprehensive long-term strategy, targeting its ideology and structure.”

“Progress in the political process will be one of the key elements to this end,” he said.

For over a year, the U.N. has been trying to form a committee to draft a new constitution for Syria, and Sinirlioglu said finalizing an agreement is at a “critical stage.”

Convening the committee “will be the first essential step of the international community’s efforts towards a democratic Syria,” he said.

But Sinirlioglu said the Syrian regime’s attacks in Idlib are clearly aimed “at the collapse of the political process.”

Full report at:



Campaign calls for entertainment venues to plan for terror attack

Dan Sabbagh

18 Jun 2019

A group representing terrorism survivors will call on the Home Office to require all venues and public spaces – from arenas to pubs – to prepare a dedicated security plan in case of an attack.

Called Martyn’s law, the proposal is named after Martyn Hett, who was killed in the Manchester arena attack two years ago, and is supported by his mother, other terror survivors and former counter-terror police officers.

But the Home Office has so far resisted the idea, prompting campaigners to go public and lobby the remaining contenders in the Conservative leadership contest for their support.

Figen Murray, Hett’s mother, said that she “never set out to be an activist or stir things up” but, a year after her son was one of 22 killed in the Manchester attack, she felt she had to act after visiting a theatre where no security checks were performed.

“I had wrongly assumed that since the attack in May 2017, venues would have learned their lessons and would have put stringent security checks in place. I was devastated to see that this was not the case,” Murray said.

“It felt as if what happened in Manchester on that fateful night had been forgotten.”

Murray will hold a press conference on Wednesday, where she and other campaigners will appear alongside Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, and a retired counter-terror officer who says he has been arguing for reform for years.

Nick Aldworth, a former chief superintendent with the Metropolitan police, said he and other senior officers wanted the Home Office to legislate on “commonsense” security steps. He added: “Ministers mustn’t delay action on this any further.”

Concerns have been raised by the Home Office that for all venues to have a counter-terror plan would impose extra costs on business, although Survivors Against Terror says that venues already have to comply with fire safety and other regulations.

Insiders from the campaign group say they are confident that the Home Office’s initial reluctance can be overcome. “I think that this has been one of those issues that has been lost in Brexit,” one campaigner said.

The group argues that large venues, such as the MEN Arena, should be required to have a more detailed plan, while pubs and bars should be allowed to produce something simpler because a one-size-fits-all model won’t work.

The idea is that venues could be held to account over their plan if a location was attacked, and that most of the measures required, such as security staff, CCTV or metal detectors, are already likely to be in place.

A report produced by Aldworth for Survivors Against Terror says that “there are no laws in the UK aimed at providing counter-terrorism protective security”. Councils should be required to produce their own counter-terror plan, Aldworth added.

Full report at:



Spain Arrests 10 Syrians Suspected of Financing al-Qaida

June 18, 2019

Spanish police Tuesday arrested 10 Syrian nationals suspected of financing al-Qaida militants in Syria.

Agents carried out raids in Madrid, Toledo and Valencia province.

"The organization was led by a family clan that for years allegedly used a legal business structure to hide illicit operations with which they evaded tax authorities and laundered large amounts of money," Spain's Interior Ministry said.

It accuses the suspects of funneling money to "give support and backing to the terrorist militia" in Syria's rebel-held Idlib province.

Full report at:



France sends top diplomat to Iran for talks to reduce tensions

19 June 2019

French President Emmanuel Macron’s top diplomatic advisor traveled to Iran on Wednesday to hold talks with local officials as part of European efforts to reduce tensions in the Gulf region, a presidency official said.

“The diplomatic advisor did indeed travel to Iran on June hold high-level talks with the objective of contributing to a de-escalation of tensions in the region,” the official said, confirming information from two diplomatic sources.

The diplomat, Emmanuel Bonne, has been based in Iran in the past and is a Middle East expert.

The United States sought on Wednesday to bolster its case for isolating Iran over its nuclear and regional activities by displaying limpet mine fragments it said came from a damaged oil tanker and saying the ordinance looked Iranian in origin.

Full report at:



Arab World


Katyusha rocket hits second US Iraqi base as Trump calls Iran 'nation of terror'

Joyce Karam

June 19, 2019

A Katyusha rocket was fired at a US-Iraqi training base in the city of Mosul late on Tuesday, in the second such attack in almost 24 hours.

About 11.15pm, the rocket was fired at the Presidential Palaces Compound in the east of the city, where US trainees are stationed alongside Iraqi forces, Sky News Arabia reported.

The attack is the second this week, after three Katyusha rockets were fired at the Taji joint US-Iraqi base north of Baghdad.

The attacks come despite US pressure on Baghdad to rein in pro-Iranian proxies and other militias in the country. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi last Friday and discussed Iranian threats.

Mr Pompeo “appreciated Prime Minister Al Mahdi’s commitment to protect US personnel in Iraq, supporting the Iraqi people and continue the defeat ISIS campaign, and his continued efforts to counter threats to Iraq’s sovereignty from Iran-backed militias", a statement read.

On Wednesday, Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah is expected to make a rare visit to Baghdad to discuss co-operation and regional tension.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that his government was "very prepared" for Iran, which he called “a nation of terror".

He said that when his predecessor Barack Obama signed the nuclear deal with world powers and Tehran, Iran’s leaders were screaming 'Death to America'.

"I haven't been hearing that lately,” Mr Trump said.

But last February, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei insisted that the Iranian people "will not stop saying 'Death to America' as long as the US acts maliciously" towards Tehran.

Nicholas Heras, a senior fellow at the Centre for New American Security, said the US was being challenged by the rising tension in Iraq.

“The US military is being put on notice that it is vulnerable in Iraq and that it best remember that if it chooses to escalate its presence in the region,” Mr Heras told The National.

The US is sending another 1,000 troops to the Middle East.

The challenge in Iraq, where the US has about 5,000 troops, is that the attacks “put the burden on the United States to show force to deter its opponents", he said.

Katyushas are neither expensive nor difficult to launch, Mr Heras said.

Many non-state actors in Iraq could have access to the rockets, he said, but Iran-backed groups have an advantage because they they are mostly incorporated into Iraq's security forces.

This means they have the ability to store and launch Katyushas.



Riyadh, Beirut stress need to confront Islamic extremism


June 20, 2019

BEIRUT: A delegation from the Saudi Shoura Council, headed by Saleh bin Manea Al-Khalewi, began an official visit to Lebanon on Tuesday, meeting President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

It is the first visit of the council to Lebanon, to convene the first meeting of the Saudi-Lebanese Parliamentary Friendship Committee, headed by Tammam Salam.

Aoun praised “the fraternal relations between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia,” and reaffirmed “the paramount importance of restoring peace and harmony among all Arab countries, for the benefit of all,” wishing to establish “peace on solid foundations based on the principle of respect for the vital interests of every country.”

He underlined that political differences should not allow deviation from the principles of the Arab League charter, and hailed Saudi Arabia’s recent decision to lift the ban on its citizens traveling to Lebanon in time for the summer season, hoping that the “Kingdom witnesses further success and growth.

“Lebanon is more than ready to cooperate in all areas to achieve this end, especially in the presence of an important Lebanese community in the Kingdom that contributed to its prosperity,” he added.

Al-Khalewi underscored the “historic relations between the two countries and the two brotherly peoples,” emphasizing the importance of the ongoing support provided by the Kingdom to Lebanon. He also praised Aoun’s keenness to build Arab solidarity and consensus.

Full report at:



New suffering for the children of the ISIS caliphate as hunger and sickness spread

By Liz Sly

June 19, 2019

AL-HOL, Syria  — At a makeshift clinic on the edge of this desolate camp, several dozen of the last and smallest inhabitants of the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed ­caliphate bawled and whimpered as they waited to see the only doctor on duty.

Shortages of food, clean water and medicine combined with the early arrival of the scorching summer heat have contributed to worsening conditions in the camp, which houses more than 73,000 family members of the Islamic State fighters who in March made their last stand in the Syrian village of Baghouz, the final sliver of the caliphate’s territory.

The vast majority of those family members — 49,000 — are children, and 95 percent of them are under the age of 12, according to Kurdish and U.N. officials.

It is the children who are suffering the most. They are falling ill by the hundreds, mostly with diarrhea, according to Ramadan Zaher, who manages the clinic for the Kurdish Red Crescent. Medical staff are also detecting a small but rising number of cases of severe malnutrition, he said, as the children pay the price for the choices their parents made.

They endured months or years of relentless U.S.-led airstrikes, were hustled from place to place under fire by their families as the Islamic State’s territory dwindled, and now face an uncertain future living indefinitely in what amounts to an internment camp, stuck in the desert, surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards.

Unwanted by their former communities and in many cases missing at least one parent, they are scarred by the terrors they have experienced. There are no schools in the camp, and the children remain vulnerable to the teachings of their surviving parents or guardians, who were among the staunchest holdouts of the Islamic State. 

Doctor Sino Antar examines Marwa, who is severely malnourished. (Alice Martins for The Washington Post)

Iman holds her little sister's foot while she waits to be seen by a pediatrician at al-Hol camp. (Alice Martins for The Washington Post)

Marwa's mother and sister wait for a stamp on a document she needs for her to be transferred to a hospital in Hasaka city. (Alice Martins for The Washington Post)

Many of the children arrived hungry, after months of living under siege. More than 300 died in the first weeks after the influx began in March, of hunger and injuries received in the fighting. Their bodies are buried on a bare hillside outside the camp, the tiny space they occupied in life marked by a only pair of cement bricks and little mounds of mud. 

Some were born hungry. Marwa, 2 months old, was lying immobile on an examination table, too weak to cry, her ribs jutting from her tiny frame. The clinic’s pediatrician, Antar Sino, gently raised her stick-thin arm to fit a color-coded tape measure around it. It slid to red, indicating, he said, that she was severely malnourished.

Sino said the clinic, a dingy concrete structure with few facilities, sees about four such children a day, mostly babies whose mothers don’t eat enough to produce milk. Marwa’s mother said she hadn’t produced milk since the baby was born, within days of her arrival from Baghouz, her five other children in tow. Their father was killed in the airstrikes.

The aid effort is beginning to ramp up. The International Committee of the Red Cross is in the process of opening a well-equipped field hospital. The World Health Organization is preparing to supply chlorine to improve the quality of the water.

Emergency cases such as Marwa are whisked by ambulance to a Syrian government-run hospital in the city of Hasakah. There, she recovered her strength, and is now back with her mother. But it is highly unusual for children to become so severely malnourished in a camp that is overseen by the international aid community, aid workers said.

That there isn’t enough aid is a function of the unexpectedly large number of civilians who had been hiding out with the Islamic State fighters in Baghouz. Aid workers had been told to prepare for an influx of about 10,000 civilians; instead, more than 60,000 came, joining about 9,000 mostly Iraqi citizens who were already living in Al-Hol after fleeing fighting just across the border in Iraq, said Amjad Yamin of the Save the Children Fund.

A woman cleans the clinic at al-Hol camp. (Alice Martins for The Washington Post)

Women and children sit at the waiting area in a clinic at al-Hol camp. (Alice Martins for The Washington Post)

Women stand at a registration office at al-Hol camp, looking for documents in their phones they need to print to apply for permission to leave the camp. (Alice Martins for The Washington Post)

About 8,000 of the children now living in the camp are foreigners — from dozens of countries around the world — who were either born in the caliphate or relocated there by their parents. Several hundred of those appear to have no surviving parents at all. But even camp officials aren’t sure who all the children are — orphans have been taken in by parents who lost their children, and some are either too young to know where they’re from or speak no languages understood by local staff, Yamin said.

Foreign governments have begun, reluctantly, to repatriate some of the orphans — including Norway, Uzbekistan and Sweden. The United States flew six children and two women back to America this month. But for the most part, foreign governments are refusing to countenance the return of the vast majority of the children and their mothers, said Abdulkarim Omar, head of the foreign relations department in the self-proclaimed Kurdish administration that governs the area of northeast Syria where the camp is located.

An additional 20,000 children are Iraqi, and the administration was hoping that the Iraqi government would take them back, Omar said. But only 5,000 Iraqis have volunteered to return to their home country, and the administration won’t force them to go back, he said.

Almost all of the adult residents are women who escaped with the children earlier this year. Their husbands are either dead or among more than 6,000 Islamic State fighters who are being detained in prisons by the Kurds.

The mothers of the sick children seem unrepentant, however. A German convert to Islam who had brought her 18-month-old daughter to the clinic because she had been suffering from diarrhea for weeks lamented the poor conditions, and especially the lack of medicines to help the children. Most are just given dehydration salts and sent on their way, she said. “There’s no family without sick children,” she said.

The woman, who declined to give her name, said she does not regret traveling to Syria to join the Islamic State. “In Germany you see drinking everywhere, drugs everywhere, television that destroys your mind, and I don’t want my children to grow up with this,” she said.

Her 4-year-old daughter, who was born in Germany, sucked her thumb at her mother’s knee, her face and hair caked with dust. The sick baby fretted and fussed in the woman’s arms.

Full report at:



Egypt condemns UN call for independent probe into Morsi’s death

Jun 19, 2019

Egypt has rejected a call by the United Nations for an “independent” investigation into the death in court of the country’s first democratically-elected President Mohamed Morsi, saying the world body is “politicizing” the death.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Tuesday called for an “independent and thorough” investigation into the sudden death of Morsi during a trial court session on Monday.

Morsi was buried at dawn a day later in the presence of his family members only, said his son Ahmed Morsi, in a burial that analysts believe fuels suspicions surrounding his death.

The OHCHR’s call angered Egypt, with the North African country’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Hafez condemning it “in the strongest terms” on Wednesday.

Hafez described the call as a “deliberate attempt to politicize a case of natural death.”

Rupert Colville, spokesman for the OHCHR, had said “Any sudden death in custody must be followed by a prompt, impartial, thorough and transparent investigation carried out by an independent body to clarify the cause of death.”

Morsi, a senior figure in Egypt’s now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood organization, was elected as Egypt’s president after the 2011 revolution, which ousted former dictator Hosni Mubarak.

However, Morsi was deposed through a bloody military coup led by his then-army chief and now President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in July 2013.

Morsi, 67, had been serving prison terms on several charges, including passing intelligence to Qatar.

He suffered from medical neglect during his imprisonment as well as poor conditions in prison.

Last year, a report by a panel of UK legislators and attorneys warned that the lack of medical treatment could result in Morsi’s “premature death.”

The Muslim Brotherhood has labeled Morsi’s death as a full-fledged murder.

The organization said Egyptian authorities were responsible for his deliberate slow death.

Full report at:



Rocket hits site of foreign oil firms in Iraq's Basra, three hurt

June 20, 2019

A rocket landed at the headquarters of several global oil companies in Iraq's southern city of Basra on Wednesday, wounding three Iraqi workers and raising alarm amid rising tensions between the US and Iran in the region.

The rocket hit the Burjesia residential and operations headquarters west of Basra, Iraqi police said. The site is home to a number of international oil giants, including US firm ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell PLC, and Italian Eni SpA.

Al Jazeera's Charles Stratford, reporting from Basra, said a local security official confirmed Exxon evacuated 21 foreign staff in the immediate aftermath of the incident.

"The oil ministry is saying that oil production in the area has not been affected by this attack," Stratford said, adding the security official described the rocket used as a Katyusha.

"[But] we are seeing what can only be described as an increase in the frequency of such incidents, over the last month and a half there has been a number involving rockets fired at what has been interpreted to be foreign interests here," he added.

According to security official Mahdi Raykan, the Katyusha rocket landed at dawn in the Zubair and Rumeila oil fields camp, operated by the Iraqi Drilling company, where Exxon Mobil and other foreign oil companies have tents.

Raykan said the rocket was fired from a distance of up to 5km.

Workers of the foreign companies were not on site at the time but still in their sleeping quarters, said another Iraqi official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to address the media.

Oil attacks continue

Wednesday's incident was the latest in a spate of attacks on oil infrastructure in the region and came after the United States evacuated hundreds of diplomatic staff from its embassy in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, last month, citing unspecified threats from Iran.

Last Thursday, two explosions occurred on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Four oil vessels were targeted in May, also near the Strait of Hormuz - a key transit route for oil and gas from the Middle East.

It remains unclear who was responsible for the blasts. US officials have pointed a finger at Iran, which has denied all accusations.

On Tuesday, a rocket landed near an Iraqi military base hosting US forces in the northern city of Mosul, an Iraqi military statement said.

Three rockets hit another base hosting US troops north of Baghdad on Monday. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Gulf tensions soar

The series of incidents take place as tensions continue to ramp up between the US and Iran, with Iraq seen as a possible site for any violent flare-up between the two rivals.

No foreign troops in Iraq should use its territory to attack another "foreign presence" or a country in the region, Iraq's Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi told a news conference on Tuesday, adding no local group should work outside of the supervision of the Iraqi armed forces.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that President Donald Trump's administration did not want war with the Islamic Republic.

However, Pompeo vowed Washington would continue to pursue a "maximum pressure" campaign against Tehran - which it accuses of being a destabilising actor in the Middle East - that was rolled out after Trump's decision in May 2018 to withdraw from a landmark nuclear deal brokered between Iran and several other world powers.

Full report at:



Rivlin warns Lebanon, Hezbollah against launching attack on Iran’s behalf

18 June 2019

President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday warned Lebanon and Hezbollah against launching an attack on Israel at the behest of Iran.

“We warn Hezbollah not to impose Iran’s agenda on Lebanon, and we warn Lebanon not to be a base for attacks on Israel,” Rivlin said during a memorial ceremony in Jerusalem for Israeli soldiers killed in the First Lebanon War.

Rivlin’s warning came as he remarked on Operation Northern Shield, an Israel Defense Forces operation to locate and destroy Hezbollah tunnels dug under the border that the army believes were intended to be used to ferry the terror group’s fighters into Israel as the opening salvo in a future war.

The Iranian-backed Hezbollah, which Israel fought in the 2006 Second Lebanon War, is part of the Lebanese government. Some Israeli politicians have called for the IDF to treat Lebanon and Hezbollah as a single entity in any future conflict, with a top general warning earlier this month that the country would “pay a heavy price” for allowing the terror group to take root there.

The Israeli military considers Hezbollah to be one of its most significant foes, with a rocket arsenal larger than many countries’ and ample combat experience from its years fighting in the Syrian civil war on behalf of dictator Bashar Assad.

In his comments, Rivlin said Israelis “have never had anything against the Lebanese people” and that the First Lebanon War, which was launched in 1982 to stop Palestinian Liberation Organization attacks from southern Lebanon, “was not a war of choice.”

“Then, as now, it was the terrorist organizations that exploited the weakness of Lebanon, the Lebanese state, to attack the State of Israel and its citizens,” he said.

The president also vowed Israel would continue working to recover the missing remains of Israeli troops killed in the war, after the body of Brooklyn-born tank commander Zachary Baumel was returned to Israel earlier this year after 37 years.

“The State of Israel kept its promise to our soldiers, our sons and daughters, to bring home those who do not return from the battle… We remain committed to do everything possible to find every shred of information about Zachary’s comrades, Yehuda Katz and [Zvi] Feldman, and bring them home for burial in Israel,” Rivlin said.

Full report at:



Regime attacks kill 25 in Syria’s Idlib: Monitor

19 June 2019

Regime attacks killed 16 civilians and nine combatants in Syria’s northwest on Wednesday, a war monitor said, the latest violence to rattle a region housing three million people.

Eleven civilians were killed in regime air strikes on a village in the Jabal al-Zawiya region of southeastern Idlib province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The bombardment destroyed shops and ripped apart bodies, according to an AFP photographer, who found human remains more than a hundred meters away from the site of the strike.

Rescue workers were seen pulling bodies from under the rubble.

Four other civilians were killed in air raids on nearby towns and villages in southern Idlib, while one civilian died in air strikes on the edges of Idlib’s eponymous provincial capital, the Britain-based Observatory said.

Full report at:



'Credible evidence' linking Saudi crown prince to Khashoggi murder: UN expert

Jun 19, 2019

An independent United Nations rights expert says there is “credible evidence” suggesting Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other senior Saudi officials are liable for the murder of prominent journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October.

“It is the conclusion of the Special Rapporteur that Mr. Khashoggi has been the victim of a deliberate, premeditated execution, an extrajudicial killing for which the state of Saudi Arabia is responsible under international human rights law,” UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard said in her report on Wednesday based on a six-month investigation.

“There is credible evidence, warranting further investigation of high-level Saudi officials' individual liability, including the crown prince's,” she said.

“Indeed, this human rights inquiry has shown that there is sufficient credible evidence regarding the responsibility of the crown prince demanding further investigation," Callamard added, urging UN Secretary-General António Guterres to establish an international probe.

The probes conducted so far by Saudi Arabia and Turkey, she noted, have “failed to meet international standards regarding the investigation into unlawful deaths.”

Callamard further highlighted that an official international criminal investigation into Khashoggi’s murder would make it possible to “build up strong files on each of the alleged perpetrators and identify mechanisms for formal accountability, such as an ad hoc or hybrid tribunal.”

She also called on the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the United States, where Khashoggi was a resident, to probe the case, if it has not already done so, “and pursue criminal prosecutions within the United States, as appropriate.”

Callamard went on to say that she had viewed CCTV footage from inside the consulate for her investigation.

Her report also found that there was evidence that “Saudi Arabia deliberately used consular immunity to stall Turkey's investigations until the crime scene could be thoroughly cleaned.”

“In view of my concerns regarding the fairness of the trial of the 11 suspects in Saudi Arabia, I call for the suspension of the trial,” Callamard said in the report.

Moreover, the report identified by name the 15 people who were part of the mission to kill Khashoggi. It also suggested that many of them were not on the list of 11 unnamed suspects facing a closed-door trial over the murder.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor and critic of the Saudi crown prince, was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Turkey’s largest city of Istanbul on October 2, 2018.

Full report at:





Morsi was murdered, says Turkish president

June 20, 2019

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday vowed to try to ensure the Egyptian government is tried in international courts for the death of former president Mohamed Morsi, who suffered a fatal heart attack in a Cairo court earlier this week.

“Mohamed Morsi flailed on the courtroom floor for 20 minutes and the authorities did not help him. This is why I say Morsi did not die, he was murdered,” Erdogan told supporters at an election rally in Istanbul.

“We, as Turkey, will follow this issue and do everything possible for Egypt to be tried in international courts for Morsi’s death,” he said, calling on the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to take action towards this end.

He spoke a day after he called Morsi a martyr and said he did not believe the former president died due to natural causes.

Morsi, a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood Islamist group which is now banned in Egypt, died on Monday after collapsing in a Cairo court while on trial on espionage charges.

The 67-year-old — the first democratically elected head of state in Egypt’s modern history — had been in jail since the army commanded by Egypt’s current president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi toppled him in 2013 after barely a year in power following mass protests against his rule.

Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted AK Party supported Morsi’s short-lived Egyptian government, and many Brotherhood members and supporters have fled to Turkey since its activities were banned in Egypt.

Erdogan added he would raise the issue at the G20 summit in Japan at the end of the month.

Rights groups have called for an investigation into Morsi’s death and raised questions about his treatment in prison. Egypt’s government has dismissed accusations that he was badly treated.



Hamas: Trump’s plan cannot deprive Palestine of al-Quds

Jun 20, 2019

The Hamas resistance movement says US President Donald Trump’s upcoming plan meant to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot deprive the Palestinian nation of Tel Aviv-occupied Jerusalem al-Quds.

Speaking in Gaza on Wednesday, Head of Hamas Political Bureau Ismail Haniyeh said Jerusalem al-Quds cannot be divided into eastern and western sectors as the whole city is “Islamic” and belongs to the Palestinians.

He stressed that Trump and his conspiracies against Palestine could not change the holy Israeli-occupied city, adding that the US president’s plan — which is called the “deal of the century” — would not have the power to take away al-Quds or the al-Aqsa Mosque from the Palestinians.

“The city of al-Quds is neither eastern or western but Islamic, and not Trump, the American administration, the Zionist-American alliance, the international silence, the conspiracy, normalization or the transfer of the embassy to al-Quds can change the facts,” he said.

In December 2017, Trump recognized Jerusalem al-Quds as the “capital” of Israel. He also moved the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the Israeli-occupied city in May 2018.

While little is known about Washington’s upcoming proposal on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, leaks have suggested that under the initiative the Palestinians would only get some neighborhoods on the outskirts of Jerusalem al-Quds rather than the original city.

Saeb Erakat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)., “Trump and [Israeli prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu are planning to terminate the Palestinian cause by removing Jerusalem [al-Quds] from any solution, annexing major settlements and finding a capital for us on the outskirts of Jerusalem [al-Quds).”

This while the Palestinians view the eastern part of Jerusalem al-Quds as the capital of their future state.

The Trump administration is set to unveil the economic portion of its plan on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during a conference in Manama, Bahrain, on June 25-26.

Full report at:



Method of attack on tankers remains key evidence against Iran

18 Jun 2019

The sophistication of the attacks on two shipping tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week had already led most independent analysts to conclude Iran was responsible for the high-profile explosions.

But there has been scepticism from some key countries, including Germany and Japan, after the US initially released a grainy black and white video it said showed Iranian forces removing an unexploded mine from one of the two targeted ships. Iran has denied involvement.

The fresh set of colour images released by the US Department of Defense overnight add a little more visual clarity to the diplomatic debate, including an image of an armed speedboat with troops in red life-jackets on board, and life-jacketed personnel by the side of the Japanese vessel that was struck last week.

But the principal evidence used to justify Iranian involvement has been the method employed. The two tankers were mined above the waterline – damaging them, but not sinking them – prompting the conclusion the actions were designed to make a point. There were no fatalities in either case, with both crews rescued.

Jack Watling, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute thinktank, said the attacks were “very precise, to avoid the risk of an oil spill”, to make the point that “Iran can impose a cost on the United States, and that the US can’t police the waterway around the strait of Hormuz”.

Both ships hit last Thursday were operating 19 and 21 nautical miles off Iran – just beyond the 12-mile territorial limit – in the crowded waterways through which 40% of the world’s internationally traded crude passes. Oil prices rose 4.5% on the day.

The mines used were small. Another photo released by the US shows a limpet mine attached to the Japanese vessel, the Kokuka Courageous, which did explode, creating a hole 1.5 metres high and 1.1 metres wide; dramatic enough when pictured, but again not enough to threaten the ship.

The wider argument used to justify Iran’s involvement is that it would make sense as a response by the country to what it perceives as the economic warfare waged by the US in withdrawing from the nuclear deal and imposing sanctions. “The status quo for Iran is unacceptable,” Watling said.

David Wearing, a teaching fellow at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, cautions that the US and its regional allies are “not reliable narrators”, partly because it is in Washington’s interest “to narrow debate to the question of whether or not Iran is guilty of these attacks to present their own aggression as defensive”.

But he acknowledged the evidence so far suggested it was probable Iran was directly involved. “They would likely be attempting to strengthen their hand in this standoff by demonstrating their ability to impose costs on their opponents,” the analyst added. The release of the images was followed by the announcement that the US was sending another 1,000 troops to the Middle East, a modest show of strength designed to reinforce Washington’s argument about culpability.

A British assessment has also concluded Iranian forces were responsible for the tanker attacks, but there is not understood to be any immediate plans for the UK to step up its military commitment to the region.

Full report at:



Imam who criticised Israel suspended by Muslim school

June 20, 2019

An imam who questioned the Tory leadership candidates during a televised debate has been suspended from all duties at the primary school where he is deputy head amid controversy about his past comments on Israel.

Abdullah Patel, who asked the contenders about Islamophobia during a BBC debate on Tuesday evening, has been criticised for past tweets in which he said "every political figure on the Zionist's payroll is scaring the world about Corbyn".

He also shared an image endorsing the relocation of Israel to the US as a way of solving the Israel/Palestine conflict.

The BBC said Mr Patel would not have been selected for the programme if it had been aware of his previous comments, and said his Twitter account had been deactivated ahead of his appearance - meaning the old tweets could not be read.

Al-Ashraf Primary School in Gloucester said in a statement posted on its website that it had suspended Mr Patel from all school duties.

Yakub Patel, chairman of Al-Madani Educational Trust, said: "Following some of the comments attributed to Mr Patel in the media this morning, the Trust has decided to suspend him from all school duties with immediate effect until a full investigation is carried out.

"The 'school' and 'Trust' do not share the views attributed to him."

Rob Burley, who edited the programme, tweeted: "It was AFTER the show that Mr Patel reactivated his account revealing his tweets.

"We wouldn't have put him on the programme if these were public before broadcast, but they were not. We also carried out a number of other routine checks which didn't uncover anything untoward."

Mr Patel has taken down his Twitter account again after the past tweets came to light.

The BBC has also faced criticism after it emerged that another member of the public - Aman Thakar - who questioned the Tory leadership candidates was the Labour Party candidate in Borough and Bankside in the Southwark local election last year.

Earlier, BBC Radio 5 Live presenter Nicky Campbell, who had Mr Patel on his breakfast show, apologised and said the imam had made "extremely disturbing" remarks on Twitter and that he was "sorry" the broadcaster had not checked beforehand.

Campbell tweeted: "I would like to apologise. We had the Imam from the BBC Tory leadership debate on our programme this morning.

"His social media comments have been extremely disturbing. We should have checked. We didn't. I'm sorry."

In the debate, Mr Patel asked the five candidates whether they believed words had consequences, and said he had seen first hand the impact of Islamophobic rhetoric on his community.

Boris Johnson said he was "sorry for the offence" his comments about veiled Muslim women looking like "letter boxes" and "bank robbers" had caused, while Michael Gove condemned Islamophobia as "repugnant" and attacked Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for comments he claimed were "disgusting" and anti-Semitic.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid urged all the candidates to commit to an external investigation into the issue within the Tory Party, and his rivals nodded in agreement.

Writing on Twitter after the debate, Mr Patel said he had asked the question because he wanted the candidates to promise that "things would change", adding: "The hate is real."

"As an Imam, I'm exposed to many incidents which happen in my community, and of course, as a visible Muslim, I also witness it first hand. I have received numerous incident reports of blatant racism against members of my community, from spitting and swearing at Muslim women ... to asking students coming to my mosque if they had bombs in their bags," he wrote.

He added: "What I got as a response was nothing short of disappointing and deluded: @BorisJohnson forgot my name, spoke about his G(reat) grandfather and about Iran. Gove used the opportunity to have a dig at @jeremycorbyn.

"@Jeremy-Hunt used the chance to speak about how he can't be racist because he has an immigrant wife, and @RoryStewartUK forgot that this is also OUR country. The only positive from the debate was @sajidjavid making them all commit to an independent investigation into Islamophobia in the @Conservatives."

In his response to the question, Mr Johnson said he believed his Muslim great-grandfather would have been "very proud" to have seen him become foreign secretary.

He added that, when his great-grandfather came to the UK in 1912, "he did so because he knew it was a beacon of generosity and openness and a willingness to welcome people from around the world", adding: "If I am prime minister, I will ensure that that is the way our country acts and behaves."

Full report at:



Iran says Europe not cooperating in buying Iranian oil: Fars news

JUNE 19, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) - Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said on Wednesday that Europe was not cooperating with Tehran to buy its oil in the face of U.S. sanctions against Iran’s energy sector.

“The Europeans are not cooperating to buy oil,” Zanganeh was quoted as saying by Fars news agency.



Arab Coalition intercepts drone carrying explosives in Yemeni airspace

19 June 2019

The Arab Coalition says it destroyed a drone carrying explosives heading toward Yemen's Hajjah Governorate on Wednesday.

The unmanned drone was shot down in Yemeni airspace after the Iran-aligned rebels launched it from Hodeidah province, the Arab coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki said in comments carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

Al-Maliki called it another violation of an already fragile ceasefire in a key Red Sea province.

Maliki did not report any casualties but said the operation was a breach of the Hodeidah ceasefire deal reached in Sweden last December between the rebels and Yemen’s government.

Hodeidah is the main entry point for the bulk of Yemen’s imports and humanitarian aid.

However, the rebels denied carrying out the attack, with the Houthi-run Al-Masirah TV quoting a spokesman as saying “no such operation has been conducted in the past 12 hours.”

The Houthis have stepped up missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia in recent weeks, warning that its airports are legitimate targets.

Last Wednesday, the coalition said a rebel missile attack on Abha airport left 26 civilians wounded, vowing “stern action” in response.

Full report at:



Erdogan says Morsi 'murdured,' calls for action against Egypt government

Jun 19, 2019

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for the prosecution of Egyptian government officials who "murdered" the country's first democratically-elected president Mohamed Morsi.

Erdogan told an election rally on Wednesday that Morsi "did not die, he was murdered," days after the former Egyptian president suffered a fatal heart attack in a Cairo court.

Erdogan said he will push to ensure the Egyptian government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is held into account by international courts for Morsi's death.

He also called on the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to take action. The Turkish head of state said he would raise the issue at the G-20 summit in Japan which is set to kick off later this month.

Shortly after his death on Monday, Morsi was buried at dawn in the presence of some of his family members in a burial that analysts believe fuels suspicions surrounding his death.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Tuesday called for an “independent and thorough” investigation into the issue.

The call angered Egypt, with the North African country’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Hafez condemning it “in the strongest terms” on Wednesday.

Hafez described the call as a “deliberate attempt to politicize a case of natural death.”

Rupert Colville, spokesman for the OHCHR, had said “Any sudden death in custody must be followed by a prompt, impartial, thorough and transparent investigation carried out by an independent body to clarify the cause of death.”

"Concerns have been raised regarding the conditions of Mr. Morsi's detention, including access to adequate medical care, as well as sufficient access to his lawyers and family," Colville added.

Erdogan: Morsi's death not 'normal'

Erdogan, a key supporter of Morsi, has dismissed Cairo's account that he died of natural causes.

During a prayer service in Istanbul on Tuesday, he said that the former Egyptian president's death was not "normal."

"I don't believe that this was a normal death," Erdogan said.

He also lashed out at Egyptian officials for inviting only a small number of Morsi's family members to his secret funeral.

"They are so cowardly that they could not even deliver his body to his family," Erdogan said.

Morsi, a senior figure in Egypt’s now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood organization, was elected as Egypt’s president after the 2011 revolution, which ousted former dictator Hosni Mubarak.

However, Morsi was deposed through a bloody military coup led by his then-army chief and now President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in July 2013.

Morsi, 67, had been serving prison terms on several charges, including passing intelligence to Qatar.

Full report at:



Yemeni forces strike Saudi power plant with cruise missile

Jun 20, 2019

Yemeni forces have targeted a power plant in Jizan province southwest of Saudi Arabia using a cruise missile in retaliation for the Riyadh regime's deadly war on their country.

The missile hit the power plant in al-Shuqaiq area on Wednesday night, al-Masirah TV quoted spokesman for Yemeni Armed Forces Brigadier General Yahya Saree as saying.

In another development on Wednesday, the Yemeni forces managed to intercept and shoot down a Saudi spy drone in Najran region.

Earlier this month, another Saudi drone had been shot down over Yemen. The drone was a US-made MQ-9 Reaper.

The Saudi air force launched a series of airstrikes on the wreckage of the drone to destroy it before it fell to the hands of the Yemeni fighters.

Yemeni forces seem to have developed a sophisticated air defense network to fight off Riyadh's drone raids.

They downed an MQ-1 Predator last month, another US-made drone, using a surface-to-air missile.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Saudi-led coalition carried out deadly airstrikes on the war-ravaged country, killing at least two people.

Full report at:





Nigeria: 'Children Used' As Suicide Bombers in Borno Attack

18 June 2019

Children were used as suicide bombers in a triple attack in Nigeria on Monday, Unicef has said.

Two girls and a boy carried out the bombing outside a video hall in Konduga village in north-eastern Borno State, the UN children's charity said. Their ages are not yet known.

Officials say at least 30 people were killed and 40 injured in the attack.

The bombing is believed to have been carried out by the Boko Haram jihadist group. It has not yet commented.

According to Unicef, five children have been used in suicide attacks since the beginning of the year.

In 2018, 48 children were used as human bombs in Nigeria, including 38 girls.

"Unicef appeals to all those involved in this terrible conflict to protect children at all times and to keep them out of harm's way," the organisation said.

Formed in Borno State, Boko Haram has waged a brutal insurgency across the north-east for a decade.

As part of the ongoing armed conflict, thousands of children have been recruited and used by armed groups as combatants and non-combatants.

Unicef said girls are raped and forced to marry, with some becoming pregnant in captivity and giving birth without medical care.

What happened in the attack?

The blast took place outside a hall as a group of people gathered to watch television.

Ali Hassan, leader of a self-defence group in Konduga, told AFP news agency that the owner of the hall had prevented one bomber from entering.

"There was a heated argument between the operator and the bomber who blew himself up," he said.

Two other attackers who were nearby then set off their devices.

The number of casualties was high because emergency services arrived late at the site of the blast. They were not adequately equipped to deal with such a large number of wounded people, Usman Kachalla, head of operations at the State Emergency Management Agency (Sema) told AFP.

Video halls are common across northern Nigeria. They are usually rudimentary buildings where people pay a small fee to watch football matches or films.

Boko Haram has targeted them on several occasions, saying they are un-Islamic.

Konduga has been targeted before. In July 2018, eight people were killed after a suicide bomber detonated explosives in a mosque.

President Muhammadu Buhari has commiserated with the families of the victims and promised to bring the perpetrators to justice.

At least 27,000 lives have been lost and about two million people forced to flee their homes in the conflict with Boko Haram.

This latest attack came at the end of a bloody weekend in northern Nigeria. There is rising concern of insecurity in other parts of the country.

On Friday night an armed gang killed at least 34 people in the north-western state of Zamfara, which has been at the centre of a wave of attacks by bandits since the beginning of the year.

The Boko Haram insurgency has been terrorising people in the north-east for the past decade, and has been the main area of focus for Nigeria's armed forces.

But the triple suicide bombings in Borno on Sunday reflect just how complex the security challenges are.

The government has said that Boko Haram and the rival Islamic State of West Africa Province (Iswap) group are on their last legs. But both the military and population of the north-east continue to suffer regular attacks.

Although Boko Haram has lost a lot of the territory it held in the north-east in the last four years, it is still attacking soft targets in mosques, markets and public gatherings.

Combine this with the ongoing banditry attacks in the north-west, and kidnappings across the country's highways, and the scale of the security challenge is daunting.



Sudan army ruler calls on protest leaders to hold unconditional talks

19 June 2019

Sudan’s army ruler on Wednesday called on protest leaders to resume talks on the transfer of power without any conditions, as the tension between the two sides persists after the dispersal of demonstrators.

“We are calling on the Alliance for Freedom and Change and all political powers to come and sit without any conditions... we need a solution that satisfies all people,” General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan told a gathering of medics in a speech broadcast on state television.

His remarks came just over two weeks since armed men in military fatigues broke up a weeks-long sit-in outside army headquarters.

The ruling generals had vowed on several occasions not to disperse the sit-in.

The dispersal came after multiple rounds of talks between the military council and protest leaders faltered.

“The country has been without a government for three months... the Sudanese people and foreign policy have been affected by the lack of government,” Burhan said.

“We don’t want the situation to get out of control. We don’t want to see another coup,” he said.

The ruling generals said last week that “more than one coup attempt had been planned” against the military council, but had been thwarted, with “two groups of officers” taken into custody.

Full report at:



Gunmen 'kill dozens' in attack on two villages in central Mali

19 Jun 2019

Dozens of people are reported killed after a new attack on two villages in central Mali, a part of the country experiencing a dire security situation amid an increase in tit-for-tat ethnic violence.

A local mayor told Reuters News Agency on Tuesday that unidentified gunmen on motorbikes attacked the villages of Yoro and Gangafani 2 the previous evening, killing at least 41 civilians.

The victims of the raids were mostly ethnic Dogons, according to Issiaka Ganame, the mayor of Yoro, where 24 people were killed. Another 17 died in Gangafani 2.

"About 100 unidentified armed men circulating on motos all of a sudden invaded Yoro and fired on the population," Ganame said.

"Then they descended on the village of Gangafani 2, which is about 15km away."

Separately, local judicial official Boubacar Sidiki Samake told the AFP news agency that Monday's attacks in the two villages near the border with Burkina Faso had left "14 people dead according to a provisional toll".

A Malian military source said as many as 40 people may have been killed.

No other information was immediately available.

The attack on the two villages compounds a desperate security situation in central Mali, where ethnic militias regularly slaughter civilians from rival groups.

The tit-for-tat violence in recent months has largely pitted Dogon hunters against Fulani herders. Attackers believed to be Fulani raided a Dogon village last week, killing at least 35 people.

In March, suspected Dogon militiamen killed more than 150 Fulani in two villages in central Mali, one of the worst acts of bloodshed in the country's recent history.

At least 488 Fulani civilians died in attacks carried out in the central regions of Mopti and Segou between January 1, 2018, and May 16, 2019, according to the United Nations mission in Mali (MINUSMA). In the same period, armed Fulanis had "caused 63 deaths" among civilians in the Mopti region.

President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita's government has vowed to disarm the militias but has struggled to do so.

On Tuesday, two labour unions representing civil servants called on state administrators in the Mopti region, where most of the attacks have occurred, to leave their posts and decamp to the regional capital due to death threats.

"President Keita said he was going to disarm all the militias. We take note and await the disarmament of the militias and implementation of protection measures," said Ousmane Christian Diarra, secretary-general of the National Syndicate of Civil Administrators.

Central Mali has in the past few years been overrun by fighters with links to al-Qaeda.

Violence by fighter groups has worsened almost every year since it first started in Mali in 2012 when rebel fighters and allied Tuareg rebels took over the north and advanced towards the capital, Bamako, until a French-led intervention pushed them back the following year.

Full report at:



Somalia: U.S. Airstrike Kills 2 Al-Shabab Militants in Southern Somalia

18 JUNE 2019

The United States military said Monday its special forces killed two al-Shabab militants in an airstrike in southern Somalia on Sunday.

The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) said the strike was conducted in cooperation with Somali government near Jilib, Middle Juba Region.

Since 2017, the U.S. military has stepped up air raids against al-Shabab. The al-Shabab group still controls large parts of rural southern and central Somalia and continues to carry out high-profile attacks in the capital Mogadishu.



ICYMI: Boko Haram attacks four army bases in one week

June 19, 2019

Boko Haram fighters backed by the Islamic State West African Province have attacked at least four Nigerian Army bases between last Wednesday and Tuesday.

This has already been raising concerns among the troops of the Operation Lafiya Dole in the North-East.

The army has lost a yet-to-be-ascertained number of soldiers when Boko Haram fighters attacked its bases in the Mobbar, Damasak, Monguno and Gajiram areas of Borno State.

Also, the acting Director of Army Public Relations, Col. Sagir Musa, has yet to confirm the number of casualties in any of the attacks.

In the attacks on army bases by the insurgents within the last one week, ammunition worth at least N20m was carted away by the fighters.

On June 12, while the Democracy Day celebration was ongoing nationwide, Boko Haram insurgents attacked a military location at Kareto village in the Mobbar Local Government Area of Borno State.

The terrorists reportedly killed the Commanding Officer of 158 Battalion and an undisclosed number of soldiers.

On Saturday, June 15, Boko Haram terrorists attacked another troops’ location in Damasak, Borno State, during which an unconfirmed number of soldiers were injured.

On Monday, the Boko Haram fighters attacked another military base in Monguno, Borno State, killing at least five soldiers.

The terrorists reportedly invaded the location in many utility vehicles in an attack, which occurred on Monday around 6pm.

Sources said before reinforcements came to Monguno, the terrorists had made away with the military’s ammunition and set a section of the base on fire.

On the same Monday, the terrorists in armoured trucks attacked another army base in Gajiram in the Nganzai LGA of the state.

Full report at:



Libya air raid destroys warehouse, wounds three, says oil firm

June 20, 2019

TRIPOLI: Libya’s National Oil Company deplored an air raid that on Tuesday evening destroyed a warehouse operated by a subsidiary and wounded three personnel near Tripoli.

“A warehouse owned by subsidiary Mellitah Oil & Gas Company (MOG) was destroyed by aerial bombardment,” the NOC said in a statement on its website.

“The attack and resulting fire destroyed valuable equipment and materials in addition to the warehouse itself,” it said, adding that three MOG employees had been lightly wounded and taken to hospital.

Tripoli is controlled by forces loyal to the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), but eastern commander Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) launched an offensive against the capital in early April. Images published by the NOC show a building devastated by fire, which was extinguished by fire fighters.

“This is another tragic loss caused by this unnecessary conflict,” said NOC chairman Mustafa Sanalla.

“NOC infrastructure is being destroyed before our eyes. The lives of oil sector workers are continually being put at risk,” he added. The air raid poses a risk to oil production, Sanalla said, vowing to work with local authorities to “ascertain the origin of this unprovoked attack.”

The raid is the fourth attack against installations supported by the NOC since Haftar launched his offensive.

Counter-attacks against the LNA by forces loyal to the GNA have resulted in stalemate on the capital’s southern outskirts.

No side has yet claimed responsibility for the attack against the warehouse owned by MOG, a joint venture between the NOC and Italian energy firm ENI.

But forces loyal to the GNA have blamed Haftar’s forces.

Full report at:



Tunisians fight to preserve cultural heritage

June 20, 2019

FOUSSANA/TUNISIA: Standing near the shrine of the Sufi scholar Sidi Boughanem in western Tunisia, Karim points to the earth below his feet.

“There are stairs under the ground,” he said. “We started digging, but we had to stop because someone called the police.”

At the foot of a mountain covered with Roman villas and antique olive oil factories, the shrine sits atop buried structures and catacombs that date back to the Roman and Byzantine periods.

Archaeological sites such as this one in the region of Kasserine are often looted or damaged during illegal nighttime excavations by people looking for goods to sell, said Karim, a local historian from the nearby town of Foussana.

Then there are farmers who stumble across antiques by accident while planting crops, he added, and other people who go digging on their own land in the hope of finding artifacts they can sell.

Karim takes part in these digs out of curiosity. But his colleagues are hunting for treasures, he said.

“There are multiple groups (that do this),” said Karim, whose name has been changed for his safety.

The looting of archaeological sites is a longstanding problem in Tunisia, said Yasser Jrad, head of the seized objects department at the National Heritage Institute (INP).

Objects of significant historical and cultural value often end up on the European market and in the homes of Tunisia’s rich and powerful, he explained.

The issue was brought into the spotlight in 2011, when Tunisia’s ousted Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali was sentenced to 35 years in prison in the first of several trials for a range of crimes, including possession of archaeological artifacts.

In 2017, the Tunisian authorities seized a rare 15th-century Torah scroll that they thought was being smuggled to Europe.

More recently, in March customs seized 600 antique coins dating from the 2nd century from a car in the coastal town of Sfax.

Figures from the INP, which is tasked with protecting and recording the country’s artifacts, show that the team has received more than 25,000 recovered archaeological items since the 2011 uprising.

Today, the INP gets more than double the number of reports for Kasserine than it did before the uprising, said Mohamed Ben Nejma, head of the region for the institute, adding that the instability and chaos of conflict often provides a window for archaeological looting.

But he also attributed the increase in recovered objects to the fact that the authorities are getting more serious about tackling the illicit antiquities trade.

“It might have been partly to do with state interests,” said Jrad.

“Especially, since we discovered pieces stolen from our (national) sites in the houses of Ben Ali and his family.”

Keeping hidden

The western region of Kasserine, where the shrine of Sidi Boughanem is located, is one of the most marginalized parts of the country — with government figures showing about one in four people unemployed, far higher than the 15 percent unemployment rate for the country as a whole. It is also one of the most archaeologically rich. There are four major sites located in an area of 8,000 sq. km, and the land is peppered with architectural ruins and antique stones.

Bigger sites are guarded around the clock, according to the INP, while less significant sites have security guards during the day. But the sheer number of small sites makes it impossible to keep an eye on all of them, said Nejma.

Ridha Shili, an expert in national heritage promotion with the University of Tunis, said it is the lack of proper excavation projects and cultural investment in general that leaves the Kasserine region open to looting.

“It is kind of a virgin region,” said Shili, pointing out that his hometown of Thala alone has about 350 archaeological sites.

“The state prefers for (these sites) to remain hidden because we don’t have the means to protect them,” he said.

When a new site is discovered, instead of guarding it or moving the artefacts to somewhere secure, “the state documents it, they take photos and then they put the earth back over it,” Shili added.

As she surveys sites around Foussana for her research, Wafa Mouelhi, an archaeology masters student at the University of Tunis, takes pictures whenever she sees that someone has been digging.

“You see holes, you notice with the placement of stones that someone has been there,” she said. “People are looking for statues or gold and jewelry.”

Mouelhi and other residents inform the local authorities about illegal excavations. In January, she caught someone from the town attempting to dig up a mosaic and ceramics from a Roman site that contains a church.

’Everything is stolen from us’

Matthew Hobson of the UK-based Endangered Archaeology in the Middle East and North Africa project, said multiple factors need to be taken into account when it comes to protecting heritage sites from theft, which is often driven by poverty and political instability.

“There are economic reasons (for looting),” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in Tunis. “The blame should not be put on the people who are trying to get by day-to-day, but the persons who are furnishing these collections.”

Unlike in Libya or Egypt, the antiquities trade in Tunisia is fairly small and disorganized, according to a local policeman, who asked to remain anonymous to protect his job.

“It’s just pocket money, people sell things for less than they are worth,” he said.

Abdelbaki Idoudi, a civil servant from Foussena, said the country’s unprotected artefacts are fair game and that citizens have the right to benefit from rogue archaeological digs.

“The state left of all of (the artefacts) and doesn’t look after them,” he said. “I’m for the practice because people can profit, it can help people get some money from their (heritage).”

Others, such as Ayoub Sayhi, a 22-year-old amateur filmmaker from Thala, called on the government to do more to care for the country’s ancient objects.

To Sayhi, the looting of Kasserine’s antiquities was just another symptom of what he saw as the state’s neglect of the region.

Full report at:



German Muslim convert finds inner peace in Senegal

Alaattin Dogru 


In search of a peaceful and spiritual life, a Muslim convert find what he was seeking in the West African nation of Senegal, moving away from the material, conformist life he was living in Germany.

Björn Pachurka, a German Muslim convert known as Hadim Ndiguel, had traveled around the world in search of inner peace, before living in Senegal for nearly 20 years.

43-year-old Pachurka found inner and spiritual peace in Senegal, which made him forget about the material comfort life he had in Germany and adopt the Muslim religion and lifestyle in the West African country.

He was a solar energy technician in Germany, passionate about hip-hop music and the story of the African American community's fight for civil rights.

Influenced by the life of Malcolm X, Ndiguel began a quest that took him far from his native land.

Ndiguel converted to Islam in Senegal about 20 years ago where he joined the Mouride Brotherhood, he told Anadolu Agency.

The Mouride Brotherhood is a Sufi Muslim fraternal organization that encourages self-help and hard work. It is very popular in Senegal and Gambia with headquarters in the city of Touba, Senegal, which is a holy city for the order.

The transition from hip-hop to mystical Mourisdism

Ndiguel grew up as a Protestant Christian.

"I'm part of the hip-hop generation. I loved reggae and hip-hop music. That's how I knew African-Americans. Then I read the story of Malcolm X and his conversion to Islam. After that, I decided to move to Africa," he told Anadolu Agency.

Ndiguel, who first settled in Egypt, recounted his adventures with religious members of Rastafarianism, of which the late Bob Marley was also a member.

He later pursued his quest in some Sub-Saharan African countries, including Zambia, Malawi and finally settled in Senegal.

In Senegal, Ndiguel was introduced to the Sufi tradition of Mouridism and was influenced by the lifestyle and peaceful teachings of Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba (1853-1927), founder of the brotherhood.

"Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba, founder of the city of Tuba, was an exceptional man and he showed peaceful and non-violent resistance against French people of the colonial era, " Ndiguel said.

From Bamba Mourisdism to Baye Fall Mysticism

During his adventure in the heart of the Senegalese Sufi brotherhood, Ndiguel met the Baye Fall movement, which was similar to Rastafarianism.

The movement was established by Sheikh Ibrahima Fall -- one of the first students of Sheikh Bamba.

His teachings focused on hard work, goodness, and helping others.

Ndiguel, who married a Senegalese woman, is now the father of eight children and lives with Baye Fall members in a remote village in the West African country.

"We live in our village according to a collective way of life and we do all the work required by our Sheikhs. Our lives conform to the strict rules of the community. Here, we work hard to find inner peace," he said.

Baye Fall Movement

The Mouride, a Sunni brotherhood followed by the majority of Muslims in Senegal, was founded by the Senegalese Muslim scholar Sheikh Bamba (1853-1927) in 1887.

Bamba was exiled to Gabon and Mauritania because he resisted -- with a non-violent rhetoric -- the French colonial and missionary activities in Senegal.

Full report at:




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