New Age Islam
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Islamic World News ( 6 May 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Rise Of Hard-Line Islamist Groups Alarms Moderate Indonesian Muslims


New Age Islam News Bureau

7 May 2017

Photo: Muslim protesters take to the streets after Friday prayers in Jakarta on April 28, 2017, to demonstrate against outgoing Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is on trial for blasphemy. (Goh Chai Hin/AFP/Getty Images)

 

 Pope Francis Blasts US for Naming Bomb Dropped On Islamic State 'The Mother Of All Bombs'

 Muslim Reformists Fight to Be Heard, Say Triple Talaq Must Go

 Islamic State Decapitates Father, Two Sons in Sinai Border Town

----------

Southeast Asia

 Rise Of Hard-Line Islamist Groups Alarms Moderate Indonesian Muslims

 Philippines Probe of Manila Blast Focuses on Shi'ite Imam, Rejects ISIS Claim

 Twin blasts in Philippine capital kill at least two

 Why Are So Many Muslims Suddenly Visiting Japan?

-----------

Europe

 Pope Francis Blasts US for Naming Bomb Dropped On Islamic State 'The Mother Of All Bombs'

 Muslims Rally against Israeli Occupation of Palestinian Territories in London

 It Was Islamic State, Not Hackers, Who Hijacked French Election

 East Europeans resentful about taking in Syrian refugees, Muslims less so – poll

 Stratford's former Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi wins libel claim over Islamic State funding article

-----------

India

 Muslim Reformists Fight to Be Heard, Say Triple Talaq Must Go

 Secret Intel Papers Show How ISI Funds Hurriyat: Times Now

 Rs 1 Crore Released For Renovation of Mecca Masjid, Telengana

 Mehbooba says only Modi can end Kashmir unrest

 2 civilians, policeman among 4 killed in Kashmir terror attack

 Son of retired Pak soldier held along LoC

----------

Africa

 Islamic State Decapitates Father, Two Sons in Sinai Border Town

 Boko Haram Releases 82 Chibok Girls

 Algeria Islamists allege fraud in polls

-----------

Arab World

 Over 150 Terrorists Killed in Clashes among Rival Groups in Eastern Damascus

 Online Operatives of Islamic State Become Most-Wanted Targets

 Islamic State attack leaves 2 dead at Iraqi base where US advisers are stationed

 Syrian Army, Russian Special Forces Preparing for Imminent Anti-ISIL Operation in Deir Ezzur

 Ayatollah Khamenei: Iran Not to Abide by UNESCO 2030 Agenda

 US Conducting Secret Attempts to Deploy in Western Iraq in Post-ISIL Era

-----------

Pakistan

 50 Afghan Soldiers Killed, 100 Injured In Retaliatory Firing Claims IG FC Pakistan

 Cop, Notorious Lashker Terrorist among 5 Killed In Kulgam Terror Attack

 Nawaz Sharif, General Bajwa agree to amicably resolve row over leaked report

 Pakistan desires peace, friendship with India: Pakistan President

 COAS says peace in Karachi vital for stability in Pakistan

 Parties announce May 20 deadline for Fata reforms

----------

South Asia

 Afghan FM Calls for Consensus on Terrorism in Muslim World

 ISIS and Foreign Terrorists among 19 Killed In Afghan Forces Airstrikes: MoD

 7 ISIS-K militants killed in drone strike in East of Afghanistan

 2 ISIS suicide bombers killed in premature blast before targeting Afghan forces

 Afghan Taliban take district in spring offensive

 Iranian foreign minister in Kabul to meet top Afghan officials

-----------

North America

 US Backing for 'Moderate Opposition' in Syria Remains Obstacle to Peace Process

 Trump's new ban on travel from six mainly Muslim countries to face court challenge

 Texas adoption agencies could reject Jewish, Muslim, gay or single parents

----------

Mideast

 Palestinian Group Islamic Jihad Rejects Palestine State limited to 1967 Borders

 Israel Weighs Bringing in Foreign Doctors to Force-Feed Hunger Strikers

 Ex-Gaza chief Haniya elected leader of Hamas

 Sharjah Islamic Bank Launches the Smiles Card

 After ban, Turkish Airlines to offer laptops to VIP travellers

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL:  https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/rise-of-hard-line-islamist-groups-alarms-moderate-indonesian-muslims/d/111053

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Rise of hard-line Islamist groups alarms moderate Indonesian Muslims

May 7, 2017

Photo: Muslim protesters take to the streets after Friday prayers in Jakarta on April 28, 2017, to demonstrate against outgoing Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is on trial for blasphemy. (Goh Chai Hin/AFP/Getty Images)

------

JAKARTA, Indonesia — In mid-February, Muhammad al-Khaththath, leader of the hard-line Muslim Community Forum, held court on the top floor of a Jakarta fast-food joint. With key deputies gathered around, he explained the direction he hoped to push relatively secular, democratic Indonesia.

Sharia would become the law of the land, non-Muslims would lose their leadership posts, and thieves, in accordance with Islamic law, would have their hands lopped off, he said. He also criticized Joko Widodo, Indonesia’s pluralist president.

Widodo “isn’t a liberal Muslim,” Khaththath said. “He’s a Muslim who doesn’t get it.”

Six weeks later, Khaththath was detained on treason charges, accused of plotting a coup. But in an April 19 runoff election for governor of Jakarta, his preferred candidate, fellow Muslim Anies Baswedan, defeated the Christian incumbent, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, after a campaign laden with religious overtones.

Since then, hard-line Islamist groups have gained stature; their ability to mobilize huge crowds was considered crucial to securing Baswedan’s lopsided victory. But a strong backlash also has emerged, led by moderate Muslims who worry that conservative Islamists are wrecking Indonesia’s tradition of religious tolerance.

Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (C) attends his ongoing trial for blasphemy on April 25, 2017. (Miftahul Hayat/AFP/Getty Images)

Khaththath had taken over as the leader of a powerful protest movement against Purnama, a Widodo ally, in the months leading up to the gubernatorial election, after the previous leader was summoned by police on pornography charges.

But police came for Khaththath in late March, escorting him from his hotel room to the detention facility where he remains. A few weeks later, on the eve of the election, Khaththath managed to send out a letter to his supporters. “From my detention room, I tap on the sky door,” Khaththath wrote. He hoped the tap would be felt by “every Muslim heart” and would persuade the faithful to “choose a Muslim governor.”

Not every Muslim heart felt the tap, but enough did to secure a clean victory for Baswedan. The high-stakes election campaign was marked by the largest conservative Islamist rallies in generations, as well as by intensifying — and controversial — legal efforts by the Indonesian government to rein in the hard-line groups’ leadership.

[Ethnic Chinese still grapple with discrimination in Indonesia]

Now that the election is over, many moderate Muslim leaders say they are treating it as a wake-up call about the growing power of Indonesian hard-line organizations and the need to take stern action to stop them.

I am not worried about the candidates who won,” said Sidarto Danusobroto, a former speaker of the Senate and key adviser to the president. “I am worried about the groups that supported them — the Islamic Defenders Front and Hizbut Tahrir.”

“Islam is different from how the Islamic Defenders Front portrays it,” said Mohammad Nuruzzaman, head of strategic research for Ansor, a moderate Muslim youth movement that has been working with the police to break up hard-line Muslim gatherings.

In one of a number of efforts in the past few weeks to curb extremists, police officials and nationalist groups in the central Javanese town of Semarang prevented the Islamic Defenders Front from opening a branch.

We have a tolerant city,” explained Iwan Santoso, a representative from the Red and White, a group that takes its name from the colors of the Indonesian flag. “We don’t want students to be instigated.”

This week, police in East Java, apparently acting at the urging of moderate Muslims or nationalists, shut down a planned university event featuring Felix Siauw, a Chinese Indonesian convert to Islam who has become a major hard-line preacher. In a Web video subsequently uploaded to his Facebook page, Siauw complained, “We should have a nation of laws, and the laws should apply to all.”

But moderate Muslim and civil society groups increasingly are calling for bans on Muslim organizations that push for the creation of a caliphate. Nuruzzamancompared such organizations to the Indonesian Communist Party, a boogeyman from Indonesia’s past.

“The goal of Communists and those who support the caliphate are similar — both want all countries in the world to be run under one system,” he said.

[Islamists claim new Indonesia currency has communist symbols]

On Tuesday, police announced that they were reviewing the legality of Hizbut Tahrir because of the international Islamist group’s embrace of a global caliphate. Muhammad Ismael Yusanto, a spokesman for Hizbut Tahrir here, protested that its goal of establishing a caliphate does not violate the Indonesian constitution.

“All we do is convey Islam’s teachings,” he said in an interview. Besides, he argued, the constitution can be amended.

Hizbut Tahrir is banned in many countries around the world, including Germany, China, Egypt and numerous other Arab states. But it has operated for nearly 20 years in democratic Indonesia.

Some rights activists oppose banning the group. Andreas Harsono, Indonesia representative of Human Rights Watch, said that although Hizbut Tahrir’s ideology is deeply discriminatory — toward women, LGBT people and minority faiths — that does not mean the organization should be shut down.

“It is not illegal to say ‘I want to discriminate against women,’?” he argued, acknowledging that the case is “complicated.”

More worrying to Harsono are the Indonesian government’s efforts to pursue radical religious leaders for alleged offenses unrelated to their Islamist activism, or on exaggerated charges. Habib Rizieq, perhaps the nation’s most powerful hard-line figure, was brought in for questioning by police over pornographic images he allegedly exchanged with a woman not his wife, while Khaththath, the detained Islamic leader, was charged with trying to organize a coup.

“It’s very concerning,” said Harsono, who said he knows of no evidence that Khaththath was plotting the violent overthrow of the government.

[Indonesia’s top Muslim cleric issues fatwa against “fake news”]

Marcus Mietzner, an associate professor at Australian National University, expressed worry that heavy-handed charges would harm Indonesia’s democracy.

What they should not do is arbitrarily throw criminal charges at individual leaders that are either excessive, like the treason accusation, or unrelated, as the pornography case,” he wrote in an email. “This, in turn, will only increase the sense of victimization among conservative Muslims.”

That already appears to be happening. Achmad Sofyan, a Khaththath deputy who was also investigated by police, said: “It isn’t fair. The case was engineered.”

Mietzner suggested that the government has legal ways to handle hard-line groups but has opted for different tactics in part to avoid a messy public debate. If the state prosecuted these groups, “it would have to argue in front of the courts why Islam should not be Indonesia’s primary legal-political foundation,” he wrote.

For Nuruzzaman, the moderate Muslim leader, it is crucial to oppose the hard-liners, whatever the difficulties. “We don’t want the government to take repressive measures,” he said. Nonetheless, “we have to confront them.”

washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/rise-of-hard-line-islamist-groups-alarms-moderate-indonesian-muslims/2017/05/05/0175c7e6-2f77-11e7-a335-fa0ae1940305_story.html?utm_term=.5f3e55bfc5ab

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Pope Francis blasts US for naming bomb dropped on Islamic State 'the Mother of All Bombs'

Pope Francis says the name of 'mother' should not be given to a bomb

-----------

The leader of the Catholic faith says he was 'ashamed' when he heard the name of the explosive, saying the word 'mother' should not be used in reference to a deadly weapon

6 MAY 2017

Pope Francis says the name of 'mother' should not be given to a bomb (Photo: AFP)

Banks, ATMs Closed Tomorrow Says PM Modi (NDTV)Watch: Mutilated Jawans batallion had released this viral song challenging Pakistan last year (India Today)

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Pope Francis today criticised the naming of the US military’s biggest non-nuclear explosive as “the Mother of All Bombs”, saying the word “mother” should not be used in reference to a deadly weapon.

The US Air Force dropped a bomb officially designated as the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast on suspected Islamic State fighters in eastern Afghanistan last month.

The nickname was widely used in briefings and reporting on the attack.

“I was ashamed when I heard the name,” Pope Francis told an audience of students today.

US MILITARY RELEASE AERIAL FOOTAGE OF “MOTHER OF ALL BOMBS”

“A mother gives life and this one gives death, and we call this device a mother. What is happening?”

The Pope’s comments come ahead of potentiall awkward meeting with President Trump on May 24.

mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/pope-francis-blasts-naming-bomb-10371664

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Muslim reformists fight to be heard, say triple talaq must go

Sun, 7 May 2017

A well-established Muslim group believes that the Sharia upholds the validity of triple talaq a controversial practice under which a Muslim can divorce his wife by merely saying talaq three times.

Not everybody in the community agrees.

Voices from the Muslim community are eager to make a point in these increasingly polarised times that oral triple talaq undermines the dignity of women and has no place in Islam.

The dominant All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB)--which says the Shariat upholds the validity of triple talaq--is being challenged, not just by women determined to fight back against the arbitrary termination of their marriages but also by scholars and other Muslim sects.

The Shariat, say scholars from the Shia and Bohra schools of Islam among others, is made up of writings in the Quran and Hadith--which are accounts of the Prophet's words and actions.

It does not allow talaq at one go, they say, underlining the need to recognise the multiplicity in customs, practices and jurisprudence in Islam.

As the Supreme Court readies to hear a clutch of petitions on the issue from May 11 and the issue acquires aggressive political overtones, the All India Shia Personal Law Board (AISPLB) is pitching for a strict law.

"The need of the hour is to enact a strict law... that is similar to the anti-sati law to prevent any Muslim woman from getting victimised and ensure that the culprit is punished. In the Shia community, there has never been any place for triple talaq in one go," AISLB spokesman Maulana Yasoob Abbas said.

Bohra scholar Irfan Engineer added that triple talaq was un-Islamic but the Centre should not attempt to claim political mileage over the issue.

"The issue is directly related to the dignity of Muslim women, but the government should leave it to the Supreme Court and not attempt to get political mileage," he said.

Salim Rizvi, a leader of the Shia community, was equally emphatic. "We don't believe in triple talaq and this is not practised by people in the Shia community." Criticising the AIMPLB for appropriating the voices of all Muslims, Asad Reza, former editor of the Urdu daily Roznama Rashtriya Sahara, said this was purely an issue of male domination like in any other religion. "It has no mention in the Quran and is a direct assault on the dignity of women." The strength or reach of the voice of the reformists, however, remains to be seen. According to rough estimates, Shias constitute about 15 per cent of the 17 crore Muslims in India while there are just five lakh Bohras, a sub-sect. About 85 per cent Muslims are Sunnis, who dominate the AIMPLB.

The triple talaq issue came to the fore in February last year when Shayara Bano, divorced through the practice, petitioned the Supreme Court for a ban. She also asked for a ban on polygamy and nikah halala, under which a divorced Muslim woman has to marry again, consummate the marriage and then break it if she wants to go back to her first husband.

Thousands of Muslim women across the country have since formed pressure groups and spearheaded signature campaigns demanding that triple talaq be abolished.

"All personal laws are gender-biased. And it isn't only about triple talaq. The Muslim personal law is problematic in terms of divorce, property rights, inheritance, adoption rights. Our point is that triple talaq is unconstitutional. We are not bothered about whether the Quran sanctions it or not," said Hasina Khan, founder-member of Bebaak Collective, one of the petitioners in the case.

She added that while 22 Islamic countries had abolished the practice, the ban "did not necessarily" translate into equality for women.

Our laws have to be gender-just. The court should also look at it from a secular perspective," said Khan.

Experts point out that Islam views marriage as a civil contract based on consent, unlike Hinduism, for instance, where it is a sacrament. At the core of the controversy is the dispute over the forms of dissolution of that contract.

Under 'talaq-ul-sunnat', there has to be a three-month period called 'iddat' between the husband pronouncing talaq and lawful separation; 'talaq-e-bidat' authorises a man to do so in a single sitting.

Mumbai-based Shia scholar Maulana Zaheer Abbas Rizvi spoke in favour of settling the issue amicably without any judicial interference.

To get a divorce, Shias have to go through three sittings with a month's gap between them. This gives enough chance for reconciliation of the couple. The Sunnis must find a solution which protects the dignity of women," he said.

Maulana Syed Ataur Abba Rizvi, a prominent Muslim cleric representing the Shia community, appeared more guarded in his views. "We are against any interference of the government into our personal laws such as triple talaq. But steps should be taken to stop its misuse," he said, sounding more in tune with the AIMPLB's stance.

Reports, based on a perusal of 2011 Census data, shows that the average rate of divorce among Muslims is lower than that of other communities. There is no separate data on the victims of triple talaq.

But analysis of the data reveals that the difference between the numbers of female and male divorcees is the highest in the community, suggesting that Muslim men tend to remarry more quickly than women of the community.

(With contribution from Prashant Thakore (Ahmedabad), Pradipta Narayan Tapadar and Ashok Kumar Bhaumik (Kolkata), Aruvav Sinha (Lucknow), Anand Prakash Mishra (Mumbai).

(This article has not been edited by DNA's editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)

dnaindia.com/india/report-muslim-reformists-fight-to-be-heard-say-triple-talaq-must-go-2430083

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Islamic State Decapitates Father, Two Sons in Sinai Border Town

7 May 2017

EL-ARISH, Egypt (AP) — The decapitated bodies of a father and his two sons recently kidnapped by Islamic militants were found on Saturday lying in the street in the northern Sinai town of Rafah, according to security officials and witnesses — the latest grotesque act of brutality in the country’s long-running insurgency.

They said the mother of the two siblings was killed last week by members of the Islamic State group when they raided the family home in the village of Yamit, west of Rafah, and kidnapped the three men they suspect of being collaborators.

The three decapitated bodies found Saturday were taken to hospital, where they were identified and prepared for burial, according to the officials and witnesses, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media and feared reprisals, respectively.

IS is spearheading an insurgency in northern Sinai, where there has recently been an uptick in the abduction and killing of suspected informants. The brutal killings are meant to serve as a deterrent to would-be collaborators.

Islamic militants have been fighting security forces in northern Sinai for years, but the insurgency has grown deadlier and expanded since the military’s 2013 ouster of an Islamist president — Mohammed Morsi of the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood — whose one year in office proved divisive.

Lately, the militants have targeted Egypt’s minority Christians, forcing hundreds of them to flee their homes in northern Sinai after killing several of them there. Since December, it has targeted three churches — one in Cairo and two north of the Egyptian capital — with suicide bombings that killed at least 45.

An IS leader in Egypt vowed this week to escalate attacks against Christians, urging Muslims to steer clear of Christian gatherings and western embassies as they are targets of their group’s militants.

“Targeting the churches is part of our war on infidels,” the unidentified leader said in a lengthy interview published by the group’s al-Nabaa newsletter on Thursday. He said churches, security posts and institutions, as well as places where “crusader nationals of western countries” gather were all “legitimate targets.”

Separately, the Interior Ministry announced on Saturday that policemen on the trail of members of Brotherhood breakaway factions that have taken up arms against the government have located and shot dead two operatives in a gunbattle north of Cairo. It said the two were involved in a bomb attack that killed two policemen and injured others last month in the city of Tanta north of Cairo.

Also on Saturday, a criminal court in Cairo accepted an appeal by the prosecution against a release order issued on Thursday in favor of a senior leader and financier of the Brotherhood, businessman Hassan Malik, who has been in detention for two years but never faced trial.

Malik, arrested in 2015 on charges that he plotted to harm the national economy, was ordered Saturday to remain in police custody for 45 days.

breitbart.com/jerusalem/2017/05/07/islamic-state-decapitates-father-two-sons-sinai-border-town/

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Southeast Asia

Rise of hard-line Islamist groups alarms moderate Indonesian Muslims

May 7, 2017

JAKARTA, Indonesia — In mid-February, Muhammad al-Khaththath, leader of the hard-line Muslim Community Forum, held court on the top floor of a Jakarta fast-food joint. With key deputies gathered around, he explained the direction he hoped to push relatively secular, democratic Indonesia.

Sharia would become the law of the land, non-Muslims would lose their leadership posts, and thieves, in accordance with Islamic law, would have their hands lopped off, he said. He also criticized Joko Widodo, Indonesia’s pluralist president.

Widodo “isn’t a liberal Muslim,” Khaththath said. “He’s a Muslim who doesn’t get it.”

Six weeks later, Khaththath was detained on treason charges, accused of plotting a coup. But in an April 19 runoff election for governor of Jakarta, his preferred candidate, fellow Muslim Anies Baswedan, defeated the Christian incumbent, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, after a campaign laden with religious overtones.

Since then, hard-line Islamist groups have gained stature; their ability to mobilize huge crowds was considered crucial to securing Baswedan’s lopsided victory. But a strong backlash also has emerged, led by moderate Muslims who worry that conservative Islamists are wrecking Indonesia’s tradition of religious tolerance.

Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (C) attends his ongoing trial for blasphemy on April 25, 2017. (Miftahul Hayat/AFP/Getty Images)

Khaththath had taken over as the leader of a powerful protest movement against Purnama, a Widodo ally, in the months leading up to the gubernatorial election, after the previous leader was summoned by police on pornography charges.

But police came for Khaththath in late March, escorting him from his hotel room to the detention facility where he remains. A few weeks later, on the eve of the election, Khaththath managed to send out a letter to his supporters. “From my detention room, I tap on the sky door,” Khaththath wrote. He hoped the tap would be felt by “every Muslim heart” and would persuade the faithful to “choose a Muslim governor.”

Not every Muslim heart felt the tap, but enough did to secure a clean victory for Baswedan. The high-stakes election campaign was marked by the largest conservative Islamist rallies in generations, as well as by intensifying — and controversial — legal efforts by the Indonesian government to rein in the hard-line groups’ leadership.

[Ethnic Chinese still grapple with discrimination in Indonesia]

Now that the election is over, many moderate Muslim leaders say they are treating it as a wake-up call about the growing power of Indonesian hard-line organizations and the need to take stern action to stop them.

I am not worried about the candidates who won,” said Sidarto Danusobroto, a former speaker of the Senate and key adviser to the president. “I am worried about the groups that supported them — the Islamic Defenders Front and Hizbut Tahrir.”

“Islam is different from how the Islamic Defenders Front portrays it,” said Mohammad Nuruzzaman, head of strategic research for Ansor, a moderate Muslim youth movement that has been working with the police to break up hard-line Muslim gatherings.

In one of a number of efforts in the past few weeks to curb extremists, police officials and nationalist groups in the central Javanese town of Semarang prevented the Islamic Defenders Front from opening a branch.

We have a tolerant city,” explained Iwan Santoso, a representative from the Red and White, a group that takes its name from the colors of the Indonesian flag. “We don’t want students to be instigated.”

This week, police in East Java, apparently acting at the urging of moderate Muslims or nationalists, shut down a planned university event featuring Felix Siauw, a Chinese Indonesian convert to Islam who has become a major hard-line preacher. In a Web video subsequently uploaded to his Facebook page, Siauw complained, “We should have a nation of laws, and the laws should apply to all.”

But moderate Muslim and civil society groups increasingly are calling for bans on Muslim organizations that push for the creation of a caliphate. Nuruzzamancompared such organizations to the Indonesian Communist Party, a boogeyman from Indonesia’s past.

“The goal of Communists and those who support the caliphate are similar — both want all countries in the world to be run under one system,” he said.

[Islamists claim new Indonesia currency has communist symbols]

On Tuesday, police announced that they were reviewing the legality of Hizbut Tahrir because of the international Islamist group’s embrace of a global caliphate. Muhammad Ismael Yusanto, a spokesman for Hizbut Tahrir here, protested that its goal of establishing a caliphate does not violate the Indonesian constitution.

“All we do is convey Islam’s teachings,” he said in an interview. Besides, he argued, the constitution can be amended.

Hizbut Tahrir is banned in many countries around the world, including Germany, China, Egypt and numerous other Arab states. But it has operated for nearly 20 years in democratic Indonesia.

Some rights activists oppose banning the group. Andreas Harsono, Indonesia representative of Human Rights Watch, said that although Hizbut Tahrir’s ideology is deeply discriminatory — toward women, LGBT people and minority faiths — that does not mean the organization should be shut down.

“It is not illegal to say ‘I want to discriminate against women,’?” he argued, acknowledging that the case is “complicated.”

More worrying to Harsono are the Indonesian government’s efforts to pursue radical religious leaders for alleged offenses unrelated to their Islamist activism, or on exaggerated charges. Habib Rizieq, perhaps the nation’s most powerful hard-line figure, was brought in for questioning by police over pornographic images he allegedly exchanged with a woman not his wife, while Khaththath, the detained Islamic leader, was charged with trying to organize a coup.

“It’s very concerning,” said Harsono, who said he knows of no evidence that Khaththath was plotting the violent overthrow of the government.

[Indonesia’s top Muslim cleric issues fatwa against “fake news”]

Marcus Mietzner, an associate professor at Australian National University, expressed worry that heavy-handed charges would harm Indonesia’s democracy.

What they should not do is arbitrarily throw criminal charges at individual leaders that are either excessive, like the treason accusation, or unrelated, as the pornography case,” he wrote in an email. “This, in turn, will only increase the sense of victimization among conservative Muslims.”

That already appears to be happening. Achmad Sofyan, a Khaththath deputy who was also investigated by police, said: “It isn’t fair. The case was engineered.”

Mietzner suggested that the government has legal ways to handle hard-line groups but has opted for different tactics in part to avoid a messy public debate. If the state prosecuted these groups, “it would have to argue in front of the courts why Islam should not be Indonesia’s primary legal-political foundation,” he wrote.

For Nuruzzaman, the moderate Muslim leader, it is crucial to oppose the hard-liners, whatever the difficulties. “We don’t want the government to take repressive measures,” he said. Nonetheless, “we have to confront them.”

washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/rise-of-hard-line-islamist-groups-alarms-moderate-indonesian-muslims/2017/05/05/0175c7e6-2f77-11e7-a335-fa0ae1940305_story.html?utm_term=.5f3e55bfc5ab

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Philippines probe of Manila blast focuses on Shi'ite imam, rejects ISIS claim

 

MANILA (AFP) - Philippine police believe a Shi'ite Muslim cleric was the likely target of explosions that killed two people in Manila, an official said Sunday (May 7), rejecting ISIS claims of involvement.

Six others were injured when two explosions rocked the office of the imam, Nasser Abinal, in the capital's busy Quiapo district on Saturday.

Oscar Albayalde, head of police forces in the capital, said the bomb was apparently intended for Abinal who is also government tax officer for the Manila region.

He was not at the office at the time.

"He admitted there were threats to his life in the past" while being questioned by police, Albayalde told AFP.

The bomb was carried in a package by a hired delivery man who handed it over to an aide of Abinal just before it went off, killing them both.

As police were searching the blast site late Saturday, another explosion rocked the area, possibly from a second bomb planted earlier, said Albayalde.

"This has nothing to do with terrorism. There is no indication that this was done by a terror group, local or foreign," he said.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group has claimed it staged the explosion.

"Five Shiites were killed and six others wounded in a bomb blast by ISIS fighters in the centre of Manila," said a statement from Amaq, IS's propaganda arm.

Albayalde said this was just the ISIS custom of taking credit for any such incidents.

The group has carried out attacks in other countries on Shiite sites and events.

But Albayalde said the attack seemed to be targeting Abinal, adding that it may be for personal reasons, his work or his religion.

Tension remained high after the blasts, with police cordoning off the area again on Sunday after a suspicious bag was spotted.

A bomb disposal robot later established it was a false alarm.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman Ernesto Abella urged the public to stay alert but avoid spreading "unverified" news that may cause panic.

The Philippines is a mainly Catholic country but has a significant Muslim minority, some of whom live in the Quiapo district.

Just over a week ago another explosion injured 14 people in Quiapo as Southeast Asian leaders were meeting for a summit a few kilometres away.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the April 28 explosion, but police insisted it was not a terrorist attack and not related to the gathering of political leaders.

Local Muslim militants who have pledged allegiance to ISIS are based in the southern Philippines, hundreds of kilometres from Manila.

straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/philippines-probe-of-manila-blast-focuses-on-shiite-imam-rejects-isis-claim

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Twin blasts in Philippine capital kill at least two

AFP | May 6, 2017

MANILA: Two explosions in the Philippine capital on Saturday night killed at least two people and injured four others, police and witnesses said.

The blasts occurred in the same area in Quiapo, where there are big slums, within two and a half hours of each other, according to police and an AFP photographer who witnessed the second explosion.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/twin-blasts-in-philippine-capital-kill-at-least-two/articleshow/58550647.cms

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Why Are So Many Muslims Suddenly Visiting Japan?

BY JULIAN RYALL

7 MAY 2017

Japan is rolling out the red carpet to visitors from Muslim nations, with qiblah (arrows pointing towards Mecca) appearing in hotel rooms, prayer rooms being signposted in airports and commercial complexes, and halal food becoming a staple in restaurants and the cafeterias of companies that conduct business with firms from Muslim states.

There has been a steady growth in the number of Muslims opting to settle in Japan. Halal meals first became available on menus about a decade ago, but the nation’s recent tourism boom is driving supply and demand.

The total number of tourist arrivals in Japan in 2016 surpassed 24 million, well ahead of the 20 million target set by the national government for 2020. And tourists from Muslim nations accounted for a growing number of the arrivals.

According to the Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO), nearly 271,000 Indonesians travelled to Japan in 2016, up from just 63,000 in 2009. Similarly, more than 394,000 Malaysians arrived last year, up from 89,000 seven years ago.

The sharp increase in arrivals from Southeast Asia is in part due to the Japanese government relaxing visa requirements, the growth in low-cost airlines serving Japan and a growing middle class with a larger disposable income, according to the JNTO. Yet another contributing factor has been the ease with which Muslim travellers can have their specific needs met.

How a 17th-century monk is boosting China-Japan ties

“There have been a combination of factors that are behind these impressive figures, including the low yen rate, which has made holidays in Japan much more affordable for people from Southeast Asia, in particular,” said Susah Ong, deputy director of the JNTO office in Singapore.

“But I also think that the Japanese travel sector has become more receptive to overseas visitors,” she said.

Shigeru Yamashita opened the Syariah Hotel Fujisan specifically to meet the needs of Muslim travellers in July 2016. “I opened the hotel in order for Muslims to feel comfortable when they visit Japan,” he said.

“All the meals that we serve are Japanese dishes but prepared using halal ingredients,” he told This Week in Asia. “We also have a qiblah in each guest room, while there is also a dedicated prayer room.”

The hotel, a spacious former home that has been extensively renovated, is close to Kawaguchiko Lake, at the foot of Mount Fuji, one of the must-see locations in Japan for many foreign visitors.

“So far, we have had around 300 Muslim guests come to stay with us, but the business is young and I believe that this sector will grow and that many Muslims will come to Japan in the years ahead.”

Other business operators also see Muslim consumers as a significant opportunity.

In November, nearly 7,000 people attended the third Halal Expo Japan, which ran over two days in Tokyo in conjunction with the Tokyo Modest Fashion Show. A similar event is scheduled to take place in Osaka in May and again in Tokyo this November.

Tokyo Tower and other tourist destinations in Japan are drawing more visitors from Muslim nations. Photo: AP

Tokyo Tower and other tourist destinations in Japan are drawing more visitors from Muslim nations. Photo: AP

In Okayama prefecture, the Okayama Health Tourism Association launched a scheme earlier this year giving hotels and restaurants that have Muslim-friendly facilities or meals a Peach Mark logo to display. Restaurants that do not serve pork and prepare food in the appropriate manner are eligible for certification, along with hotels that provide prayer mats.

The Shisui Premium Outlets retail park, in Chiba prefecture, opened a prayer room for Muslims in 2014, the same year that a similar facility opened in the Shinjuku store operated by Takashimaya. The Shiroi Koibito theme park in Sapporo opened a worship room earlier this year after 24,000 Malaysians and Indonesians visited in the park 2014, a 74 per cent jump from the previous year.

Facilities are also being introduced for longer-term visitors. Rikkyo University in Tokyo, which plans to increase its enrolment of foreign students to 2,000 by 2024, opened a prayer room, complete with a qibla, in April. The university said the prayer room “provides an opportunity for our Japanese students to learn about Islamic culture”.

Nearby Sophia University, which already has 50 students from Muslim-majority nations, has also opened a cafeteria for students with a wide range of halal meals.

YKK Corp, a fastener manufacturer, started providing halal meals in its factory cafeteria in Kurobe to accommodate an increasing number of Muslims who visit the plant for training. The YKK Group has operations in 71 countries around the world.

Mohammed Naji Matar joined Osaka-based Miyako International Tourist Co four years ago, after leaving Syria. He was tasked with starting up the company’s Muslim business and says he believes there are plenty of opportunities in Japan’s travel sector.

“A few years ago we started seeing Muslim travellers from Southeast Asian countries taking off, but now we are seeing similar interest in Japan from Dubai, Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East,” he said.

Japan’s dullest city tries to get party started but will anybody come?

“Japan is fashionable as a destination for people from those countries, and is famous for its technology, cuisine, traditions, history and the sights of Tokyo and Osaka,” he said. “A lot of these people have already been to many European countries and the United States, and they are looking for a new destination to explore.”

scmp.com/week-asia/society/article/2092298/chinese-children-dancing-away-drug-addiction

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Europe

Pope Francis blasts US for naming bomb dropped on Islamic State 'the Mother of All Bombs'

The leader of the Catholic faith says he was 'ashamed' when he heard the name of the explosive, saying the word 'mother' should not be used in reference to a deadly weapon

6 MAY 2017

Pope Francis says the name of 'mother' should not be given to a bomb (Photo: AFP)

Banks, ATMs Closed Tomorrow Says PM Modi (NDTV)Watch: Mutilated Jawans batallion had released this viral song challenging Pakistan last year (India Today)

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Pope Francis today criticised the naming of the US military’s biggest non-nuclear explosive as “the Mother of All Bombs”, saying the word “mother” should not be used in reference to a deadly weapon.

The US Air Force dropped a bomb officially designated as the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast on suspected Islamic State fighters in eastern Afghanistan last month.

The nickname was widely used in briefings and reporting on the attack.

“I was ashamed when I heard the name,” Pope Francis told an audience of students today.

US MILITARY RELEASE AERIAL FOOTAGE OF “MOTHER OF ALL BOMBS”

“A mother gives life and this one gives death, and we call this device a mother. What is happening?”

The Pope’s comments come ahead of potentiall awkward meeting with President Trump on May 24.

mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/pope-francis-blasts-naming-bomb-10371664

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Muslims rally against Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories in London

07 May 2017

Hundreds of Muslims and civil activists rally on the occasion of 69th anniversary of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories in front of Zionist regime embassy in London on May 6, 2017.

en.alalam.ir/news/1964558

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It Was Islamic State, Not Hackers, Who Hijacked French Election

Posted on May 7, 2017

That hackers, most likely Russia-linked, were trying to throw the French election to Marine Le Pen this weekend by releasing thousands of emails from her opponent Emmanuel Macron, probably struck too late to achieve their goal.  They were counting on the rule that candidates may not speak on election day, so Macron cannot defend himself from any controversies created by the emails.  Russia has given loans to Le Pen’s campaign and it is pretty obvious that Moscow likes her anti-European Union, anti-NATO far right French fascism.

But these interlopers are late to the party.  The biggest de facto backer of Le Pen’s hateful, far right nationalism is ISIL (Daesh, ISIS).  And she is likely in the run-offs because of ISIL attacks on France.  Otherwise, one of the more mainstream candidates would likely have defeated her.  That is, ISIL has already hijacked the electoral process, whatever happens today.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his clique, some of them ex-Baath Iraqi officers, have taken revenge on the world for the American war on and occupation of Iraq 2003-11.  Sunni Arabs, they felt that the US had overturned their hegemony in Iraq and installed a government of pro-Iran Shiites and separatist Kurds.

They are seeking polarization, a great war of Westerners of Christian heritage against Muslims, in which they can claim the mantle of natural protectors of Muslim interests.

They deployed this strategy in Iraq from 2003-2011, hitting Shiite soft targets over and over again, in an attempt to get the Shiites to over-react and crush the Sunni Arabs.  They succeeded all too well.  In 2006-2007, as Karen DeYoung at WaPo first showed, they provoked Shiite militias to ethnically cleanse the bulk of the Sunnis from Baghdad.  The hard line Shiite fundamentalist government of Nouri al-Maliki (2006-2014) declined serious attempts to incorporate the Sunnis. (It is also true that not all Sunnis wanted to be incorporated into such a government).

Once they had their foothold in Syria from 2013, Daesh came back to Iraq and advertised themselves as saviors of the Sunnis.  Some key Sunni leaders bought this line, though it would be unfair to say the Sunni Arabs in general did. In 2014 they brought in ISIL and seceded from Iraq.  The largely Shiite army in the Sunni north was attacked by massive angry crowds and Daesh guerrillas and ran away, collapsing.  Daesh set up a so-called “caliphate” (It is highly unpopular in the Muslim world and would show up as even more unpopular if poll-takers called it Daesh instead of the misleading “Islamic State”).

The politics and brutal violence of ethnic polarization allowed ISIL to take over 40% of Iraqi territory and to take two rural, thinly populated eastern provinces of Syria.  They ruled sadistically and rapaciously, so that when the largely Shiite Iraqi army liberated strongly Sunni Falluja, locals hugged their liberators.

ISIL should get the Darwin Award for their mishmash of strategies.  Terrorism as a strategy depends on not having a return address.  That way the perpetrators can blow up something but the authorities cannot find them.  (Ayman al-Zawahiri, a mastermind of 9/11, is still at large).

But declaring a capital (Raqqa in eastern Syria) and establishing a state with a bureaucracy gives ythem an obvious home address.  If a state commits terrorism, that isn’t terrorism, that is an act of war.  I don’t think ISIL ever had more than about 4 million people, which it more or less kidnapped, under its rule.  It had no air force, and relatively little armor.  For it to attack France and Belgium just guaranteed that NATO would ally with the Baghdad government, despite its close coordination with Iran, and give air support to the war effort against the faux “caliphate.”  Hence, from fall of 2014 until now, ISIL has met with humiliating defeat after defeat and now just has a quarter of so of Mosul, its last significant urban possession (Hawija and Telafar are small cities, likely 50,000 each).

Like mercenaries signed up on the wrong side and in retreat, the ISIL crew are now looking for other killing fields.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his minions think it would be nice to have the Muslim neighborhoods of Europe under their control.  That would bring in a lot of money and European Muslims often have high degrees of education and valuable skills.

The problem is that most European Muslims are secular-minded and uninterested in fundamentalism, much less in radicalism.

We think there are 5-7 million Muslims resident in France.  It is hard to know, since French secularism makes it difficult to do a government survey of religion.  Still, government ministries got permission to carry out such a survey a few years ago.  Less than half that number show up in government surveys as Muslims.  The rest are there, but they are just into other things (e.g. hip-hop) and do not have a strong marker of religious identity.  This configuration is not unusual for minorities.  In the US, there are roughly 5.3 million Jews but only 3 million of them say they believe in God. (there are another couple million persons with at least one Jewish parent who follow another religion). The proportion of agnostics among French Muslims is even higher.

There is no French Muslim community.  Only 5 percent of French Muslims belong to a religious organization.  There are only 10 Muslim schools in the whole country.  Less than a fifth of French Muslims say they would vote for a Muslim candidate regardless of the person’s party affiliation.  For the other 80%, “Muslim” is clearly not the most important marker of identity.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of ISIL, and Ayman al-Zawahiri of al-Qaeda, hate this situation.  It makes them angry every morning when they get up.

They want French Muslims to be extremists like themselves.  They want them as virtual citizens of the faux caliphate.

They have a secret weapon in their quest to radicalize French Muslims.

Marine Le Pen?

Marine Le Pen.

If they can get people of Gallic heritage to attack the French Muslims and make their lives miserable, then ISIL will find it easier to recruit them.

Hence the November, 2015 attack on Paris, which deeply traumatized the country in the wake of the assassination by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula of staff of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January of 2015.  The attack left 130 dead and 366 wounded.  Apparently if it had gone better the terrorists had been planning to set off explosions in the stands of a soccer game that the president was attending, on live t.v.  As it was, they hit a rock concert and a Cambodian restaurant– the softest of soft targets, with no security implications whatsoever.  Then on Bastille Day (the French 4th of July) of 2016, ISIL swayed a Tunisian to drive a truck into a crowd, killing 86 and wounding 434.

That is the kind of attack they had launched on Iraqi Shiites for 11 years before they took over Sunni Iraq.

They were hoping that the French would go out and mistreat French Muslims and shore up the latter’s religious identity, radicalizing them and making them available for recruitment.

The French public will decide today whether ISIL succeeded in its plot against France.

truthdig.com/report/item/it_was_islamic_state_not_hackers_who_hijacked_french_election_20170507

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East Europeans resentful about taking in Syrian refugees, Muslims less so – poll

7 May, 2017

In the majority of Eastern European countries, at least half of the population does not want to offer asylum to even a limited number of Syrian refugees, a Gallup poll has revealed, although the aversion is not as strong in predominantly Muslim nations.

Syria remains one of most significant sources of people seeking asylum in Europe, even after the flow shrunk after the EU struck a deal with Turkey to hold the refugees off. However, even after the agreement was sealed, the public in Eastern European countries, both EU members and non-members alike, are largely opposed to the idea of welcoming refugees from the war-torn state.

According to a Gallop opinion poll published on Friday, at least half of the populations of nine out of the 14 countries surveyed, including the self-proclaimed nation of Kosovo, do not want even a limited number of Syrians sheltered next to them. Hungary shows the most distaste for the idea, with 70 percent of respondents objecting, and just 22 agreeing to only a limited number of refugees.

Although the majority of the populations of Serbia, Greece, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Kosovo appear more welcoming, the idea of giving refugees unrestricted access to asylum didn’t hit double-digit approval percentage in any of those countries either.

Religion seems to be a big factor in people’s willingness to accept refugees from the predominantly Muslim Middle Eastern country. People identifying as Muslims expressed a more positive attitude towards asylum seekers, with eight percent willing to offer unrestricted access to them and only 36 percent objecting to allowing any in. On the other hand, 63 percent of self-identified atheists or secular people said no refugees should be allowed in.

In Kosovo, which as a large Muslim population, just 38 percent of respondents said no Syrians should be given asylum.

Gallop noted that the governments of four nations that strongly object to taking in refugees – Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic – have openly opposed an EU plan to redistribute asylum seekers among union members. The negative attitude was also stronger in the Balkan countries that the refugees traveled through on their way north to richer European nations during the peak of the crisis, prompting some to erect border fences to prevent them from entering.

Interestingly, Greece, which serves as an entry point for asylum seekers coming from Turkey, was largely divided on the issue, with 47 percent of respondents saying they were fine with granting asylum to a limited number of Syrians, and as many wanting to bar them completely.

The new poll results come as some EU nations are considering whether to relax border controls between them that were put in place in 2015 in response to the crisis. EU rules only allow such measures to be imposed temporarily, but some nations like Austria want to keep them even after the deadline expires.

rt.com/news/387425-east-europe-syrian-refugees/

Russian & US top brass discuss plan for Syrian safe zones

Published time: 6 May, 2017

Senior US and Russian military commanders have discussed the situation in Syria, where a Russian-proposed plan to establish four safe zones to promote a cessation of hostilities came into force hours ago.

General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, called General Valery Gerasimov, the chairman of the Russian General Staff, to discuss the latest developments in Syria by phone, the Russian Defense Ministry reported.

The ministry’s statement was vague on the results of the consultations, saying that there was “a confirmation of the readiness to resume, in full volume, the implementation by the parties of the obligations under the Russian-American Memorandum on ensuring safety and prevention of incidents in the airspace of Syria.”

Russia suspended the memorandum after the US launched Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase last month. Moscow considers the attack to have been an act of international aggression. The document is meant to prevent possible adverse encounters between American and Russian warplanes over Syria.

The ministry said the officials had also discussed “additional measures to prevent conflict situations during joint operations against ISIL and Jabhat Al-Nusra,” the two groups designated by the UN as terrorists operating in Syria.

The Russian Defense Ministry has dismissed western media reports about some alleged clashes between Syrian government forces and opposition groups in Hama province following the safe zone initiative which came into effect hours ago.

It also said that the situation in the safe zones remains stable.

However, the ministry confirmed that government forces came under fire in Hama province on Friday night. The attackers turned out to be Al Nusra terrorists, the Russian defence ministry said, citing data provided by the Turkish military. The extremists’ combat sites were destroyed, it added.

Russia, Turkey, and Iran agreed upon the plan to establish four safe zones in Syria during peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan. It is meant to provide a degree of safety to armed opposition groups that pledge to end their violent revolt and seek a political transition in Syria. Under the plan, Damascus and these groups have agreed not to engage in hostilities with each other in those safe zones.

The safe zones have been established in Syria’s Idlib Governorate and parts of neighboring Latakia, Aleppo and Hama provinces, the northern part of Homs province, Damascus’ Eastern Ghouta neighborhood, and parts of southern Deraa and Quneitra provinces that border on Jordan. The exact borders of the zones have yet to be demarked and agreed upon by the three guarantors of the plan.

Observation posts and checkpoints manned by the guarantors are to be established along the lines to monitor how well the deal is observed. The first hours after the agreement came into force were marked by a reduced level of violence, but some violations have been reported.

The Russian Center for Syrian reconciliation said on Saturday that it had received reports that some jihadist groups were planning to “attempt to derail the memorandum,” but added that the Russian military is prepared to “eliminate any possible provocations by the terrorists.”

The deal offers no protection to terrorist groups such as Islamic State (formerly ISIS/ISIL), which remain legitimate targets in Syria. The armed opposition is expected to keep the jihadists from using the zones as safe havens. The memorandum also states that the three guarantors will “take all necessary measures to continue the fight” against the terrorists.

The plan has been hailed by UN and received reserved approval from Washington. Russia said it expects the US-led coalition to refrain from flying over the safe zones, but the Pentagon has yet to publicly make such a commitment.

rt.com/news/387368-syria-safe-zones-discussion/

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India

Muslim reformists fight to be heard, say triple talaq must go

Sun, 7 May 2017

A well-established Muslim group believes that the Sharia upholds the validity of triple talaq a controversial practice under which a Muslim can divorce his wife by merely saying talaq three times.

Not everybody in the community agrees.

Voices from the Muslim community are eager to make a point in these increasingly polarised times that oral triple talaq undermines the dignity of women and has no place in Islam.

The dominant All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB)--which says the Shariat upholds the validity of triple talaq--is being challenged, not just by women determined to fight back against the arbitrary termination of their marriages but also by scholars and other Muslim sects.

The Shariat, say scholars from the Shia and Bohra schools of Islam among others, is made up of writings in the Quran and Hadith--which are accounts of the Prophet's words and actions.

It does not allow talaq at one go, they say, underlining the need to recognise the multiplicity in customs, practices and jurisprudence in Islam.

As the Supreme Court readies to hear a clutch of petitions on the issue from May 11 and the issue acquires aggressive political overtones, the All India Shia Personal Law Board (AISPLB) is pitching for a strict law.

"The need of the hour is to enact a strict law... that is similar to the anti-sati law to prevent any Muslim woman from getting victimised and ensure that the culprit is punished. In the Shia community, there has never been any place for triple talaq in one go," AISLB spokesman Maulana Yasoob Abbas said.

Bohra scholar Irfan Engineer added that triple talaq was un-Islamic but the Centre should not attempt to claim political mileage over the issue.

"The issue is directly related to the dignity of Muslim women, but the government should leave it to the Supreme Court and not attempt to get political mileage," he said.

Salim Rizvi, a leader of the Shia community, was equally emphatic. "We don't believe in triple talaq and this is not practised by people in the Shia community." Criticising the AIMPLB for appropriating the voices of all Muslims, Asad Reza, former editor of the Urdu daily Roznama Rashtriya Sahara, said this was purely an issue of male domination like in any other religion. "It has no mention in the Quran and is a direct assault on the dignity of women." The strength or reach of the voice of the reformists, however, remains to be seen. According to rough estimates, Shias constitute about 15 per cent of the 17 crore Muslims in India while there are just five lakh Bohras, a sub-sect. About 85 per cent Muslims are Sunnis, who dominate the AIMPLB.

The triple talaq issue came to the fore in February last year when Shayara Bano, divorced through the practice, petitioned the Supreme Court for a ban. She also asked for a ban on polygamy and nikah halala, under which a divorced Muslim woman has to marry again, consummate the marriage and then break it if she wants to go back to her first husband.

Thousands of Muslim women across the country have since formed pressure groups and spearheaded signature campaigns demanding that triple talaq be abolished.

"All personal laws are gender-biased. And it isn't only about triple talaq. The Muslim personal law is problematic in terms of divorce, property rights, inheritance, adoption rights. Our point is that triple talaq is unconstitutional. We are not bothered about whether the Quran sanctions it or not," said Hasina Khan, founder-member of Bebaak Collective, one of the petitioners in the case.

She added that while 22 Islamic countries had abolished the practice, the ban "did not necessarily" translate into equality for women.

Our laws have to be gender-just. The court should also look at it from a secular perspective," said Khan.

Experts point out that Islam views marriage as a civil contract based on consent, unlike Hinduism, for instance, where it is a sacrament. At the core of the controversy is the dispute over the forms of dissolution of that contract.

Under 'talaq-ul-sunnat', there has to be a three-month period called 'iddat' between the husband pronouncing talaq and lawful separation; 'talaq-e-bidat' authorises a man to do so in a single sitting.

Mumbai-based Shia scholar Maulana Zaheer Abbas Rizvi spoke in favour of settling the issue amicably without any judicial interference.

To get a divorce, Shias have to go through three sittings with a month's gap between them. This gives enough chance for reconciliation of the couple. The Sunnis must find a solution which protects the dignity of women," he said.

Maulana Syed Ataur Abba Rizvi, a prominent Muslim cleric representing the Shia community, appeared more guarded in his views. "We are against any interference of the government into our personal laws such as triple talaq. But steps should be taken to stop its misuse," he said, sounding more in tune with the AIMPLB's stance.

Reports, based on a perusal of 2011 Census data, shows that the average rate of divorce among Muslims is lower than that of other communities. There is no separate data on the victims of triple talaq.

But analysis of the data reveals that the difference between the numbers of female and male divorcees is the highest in the community, suggesting that Muslim men tend to remarry more quickly than women of the community.

(With contribution from Prashant Thakore (Ahmedabad), Pradipta Narayan Tapadar and Ashok Kumar Bhaumik (Kolkata), Aruvav Sinha (Lucknow), Anand Prakash Mishra (Mumbai).

(This article has not been edited by DNA's editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)

dnaindia.com/india/report-muslim-reformists-fight-to-be-heard-say-triple-talaq-must-go-2430083

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Secret intel papers show how ISI funds Hurriyat: Times Now

TNN | May 7, 2017

Secret intel documents say the payment was made to fund those involved in anti-India activities

The payment was made through a known ISI conduit named Mehboob Ahmed Sagar

Prime Minister’s Office has taken cognisance of the transaction

Shabir Shah wirh Syed Ali Shah Gilani (File photo)Shabir Shah wirh Syed Ali Shah Gilani (File photo)

It's a secret that was always spoken in whispers: Hurriyat is on Pakistan's payrolls. Times Now has irrefutable proof of cash paid in Indian currency to top Hurriyat leader Shabir Shah, and to specific individuals at the Hurriyat office in Srinagar.

Secret intel documents that Times Now has accessed say the payment was made to fund those involved in anti-India activities through a known ISI conduit named Mehboob Ahmed Sagar. He also has a well-established connection with Pakistan's high commissioner to India, Abdul Basit.

Sagar was paid by ISI on a monthly basis and he, in turn, funnelled the cash to Shabir Shah, founder and president of the Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party. Shah claimed he was paying families of terrorists who were killed in action and to stone-pelters.

One of the annexures of the top secret intel document has proof that cash was channelled to multiple individuals in the Hurriyat office in Srinagar. This is direct proof of a link between funds sent by Pakistan's ISI and Hurriyat.

The "register of treachery" lists out names of Hurriyat men and the money they took under various heads.

The payments made are only for one month, essentially meaning that there is a fixed salary paid to many and that there is a monthly contribution made for Hurriyat's day-to-day expenses.

These are the questions that Hurriyat should answer: Why is ISI funding purchase of computers at Hurriyat office? What are these payments made to Kot Bhalwal and Jammu jails?

Meanwhile, it is reliably learnt that the Prime Minister's Office has taken cognisance of the transaction and will shortly be taking action to shut the tap on Pak terror funding via Hurriyat.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/secret-intel-papers-show-how-isi-funds-hurriyat-times-now/articleshow/58555286.cms

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Rs 1 Crore Released For Renovation of Mecca Masjid, Telengana

Syed Mohammed | TNN | May 7, 2017

CHARMINAR: A year after announcing a package for conservation work of the historic Mecca Masjid, the Telangana State Waqf Board on Saturday issued a cheque for Rs 1crore.

The cheque was handed over to the Department of Archaeology and Museums and will be used for roof repairs among other conservation work. The entire scope of work is expected to take 18 months to complete.

Speaking to TOI, Telangana State Waqf Board chairman Mohammed Saleem said, "The funds will be used in the best manner possible. The officials of the Department of Archaeology are experts in the work. As for the remaining amount, it will be paid as and when the work progresses," he said adding that he would ensure that work is completed soon.

As was reported in these columns, the funds were yet to see the light of day despite deputy chief minister Mohammed Mahmood Ali making the announcement.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/rs-1-crore-released-for-renovation-of-mecca-masjid/articleshow/58558684.cms

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Mehbooba says only Modi can end Kashmir unrest

May 7th, 2017

NEW DELHI: The embattled Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said on Saturday that only Prime Minister Narendra Modi can solve the Kashmir problem as he has a strong mandate.

Ms Mufti, who has become unpopular with her Bharatiya Janata Party allies and with restive Kashmiris also claimed that the situation in the tense Valley is the result of pent-up anger flowing from the Manmohan Singh government’s failure to continue with the policy started by the Kashmir Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government.

"I say today with authority... If anyone can find a solution to Jammu and Kashmir problem, it is Prime Minister Narendra Modi... He has a strong mandate. Whatever decision he takes, the country will support him,” reports said quoting Ms Mufti as saying in Jammu.

Her party, the Peoples Democratic Party, is running a coalition government with the BJP.

She gave credit to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and her father, former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, for starting the “chapter of peace” in Jammu and Kashmir in 2002 and alleged that the Congress regime at the centre and the then-state government did not carry forward the process.

She also said that while her government is trying to improve the situation in Kashmir, there are some forces which do not want it.

She also praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to visit Lahore on December 25, 2015, and said that it was a sign of strength not weakness.

“He went to Lahore and met the PM of Pakistan. This is not a sign of weakness but an indication of strength and power,” she said.

She also took a jibe at PM Modi’s predecessor, Dr Manmohan Singh, saying he did not have the courage to visit Pakistan.

“Before him (PM Modi), a Prime Minister had also desired to go to Pakistan for over ten years. He wanted to see his home there... He also would have tried to end the confrontation between the two countries, but he had no courage to do that.

dawn.com/news/1331542/mehbooba-says-only-modi-can-end-kashmir-unrest

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2 civilians, policeman among 4 killed in Kashmir terror attack

PTI | Updated: May 7, 2017

SRINAGAR: Two civilians and a policeman were killed in a terrorist attack in Kulgam district of south Kashmir on Saturday, while one terrorist was killed in retaliatory action, police said.

One of the terrorists was killed, while another was injured in retaliatory firing by police, Director General of Police S P Vaid told PTI.

The terrpor, travelling in a car, opened fire on a police team which had gone to Mir Bazaar area to investigate a road accident, the DGP said.

He said the police also retaliated and even managed to snatch a pistol from one of the militants.

"Four bodies were found at the spot. Two of the deceased are civilians and one policeman has been martyred," Vaid said.

He said the fourth deceased was a terrorist who was carrying a grenade and some ammunition.

"while one terrorist has managed to escape, we are following the blood trail of another militant who was injured in the police action," the DGP said.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/2-civilians-policeman-among-4-killed-in-kashmir-terror-attack/articleshow/58554999.cms

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Son of retired Pak soldier held along LoC

Sanjay Khajuria | TNN | May 7, 2017

JAMMU: A retired Pakistani soldier's son was arrested by the Army along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu & Kashmir's Rajouri district on Friday night.

"A patrol of the Indian Army apprehended a 12-year-old intruder from Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) who had crossed over the Line of Control yesterday (Friday) late evening in Nowshera Sector of Rajouri district," a defence spokesperson said.

The boy was identified as Ashfaq Ali Chauhan, son of retired Baluch Regiment soldier Hussain Malik, who resides in Dunger Pel village in PoK's Bhimber district. Ashfaq was found moving suspiciously near the LoC.

"On having been challenged by the patrol, the boy immediately surrendered," the spokesperson said, adding that the boy could have been sent by terrorists in connivance with the Pakistan army to identify routes for infiltration. He has been handed over to police.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/son-of-retired-pak-soldier-held-along-loc/articleshow/58555559.cms

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Africa

Islamic State Decapitates Father, Two Sons in Sinai Border Town

7 May 2017

EL-ARISH, Egypt (AP) — The decapitated bodies of a father and his two sons recently kidnapped by Islamic militants were found on Saturday lying in the street in the northern Sinai town of Rafah, according to security officials and witnesses — the latest grotesque act of brutality in the country’s long-running insurgency.

They said the mother of the two siblings was killed last week by members of the Islamic State group when they raided the family home in the village of Yamit, west of Rafah, and kidnapped the three men they suspect of being collaborators.

The three decapitated bodies found Saturday were taken to hospital, where they were identified and prepared for burial, according to the officials and witnesses, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media and feared reprisals, respectively.

IS is spearheading an insurgency in northern Sinai, where there has recently been an uptick in the abduction and killing of suspected informants. The brutal killings are meant to serve as a deterrent to would-be collaborators.

Islamic militants have been fighting security forces in northern Sinai for years, but the insurgency has grown deadlier and expanded since the military’s 2013 ouster of an Islamist president — Mohammed Morsi of the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood — whose one year in office proved divisive.

Lately, the militants have targeted Egypt’s minority Christians, forcing hundreds of them to flee their homes in northern Sinai after killing several of them there. Since December, it has targeted three churches — one in Cairo and two north of the Egyptian capital — with suicide bombings that killed at least 45.

An IS leader in Egypt vowed this week to escalate attacks against Christians, urging Muslims to steer clear of Christian gatherings and western embassies as they are targets of their group’s militants.

“Targeting the churches is part of our war on infidels,” the unidentified leader said in a lengthy interview published by the group’s al-Nabaa newsletter on Thursday. He said churches, security posts and institutions, as well as places where “crusader nationals of western countries” gather were all “legitimate targets.”

Separately, the Interior Ministry announced on Saturday that policemen on the trail of members of Brotherhood breakaway factions that have taken up arms against the government have located and shot dead two operatives in a gunbattle north of Cairo. It said the two were involved in a bomb attack that killed two policemen and injured others last month in the city of Tanta north of Cairo.

Also on Saturday, a criminal court in Cairo accepted an appeal by the prosecution against a release order issued on Thursday in favor of a senior leader and financier of the Brotherhood, businessman Hassan Malik, who has been in detention for two years but never faced trial.

Malik, arrested in 2015 on charges that he plotted to harm the national economy, was ordered Saturday to remain in police custody for 45 days.

breitbart.com/jerusalem/2017/05/07/islamic-state-decapitates-father-two-sons-sinai-border-town/

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Boko Haram releases 82 Chibok girls

AP | Updated: May 7, 2017

MAIDUGURI: Eighty-two Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped three years ago by Boko Haram extremists in northern Nigeria have been released into military custody, authorities said late Saturday. Family members said they were eagerly awaiting a list of names and "our hopes and expectations are high."

Before the announcement, 195 of the schoolgirls had remained captive after the first negotiated release of 21 girls in October. At the time, Nigeria's government said another group of 82 girls would be released "very soon."

"Huge numbers,'' the personal assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari, Bashir Ahmad, tweeted late Saturday.

A Nigerian military official with direct knowledge of the rescue operation said the 82 freed girls were found near the town of Banki in Borno state near Cameroon.

"The location of the girls kept changing since yesterday when the operation to rescue them commenced,'' said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make the announcement.

The number released could not be independently confirmed by The Associated Press, and there was no official government announcement late Saturday.

Many of the kidnapped girls, most of whom were Christians, were forced to marry the Islamic extremists and became pregnant. Human rights advocates believe others could be among the young girls who have been used to carry out suicide bombing attacks.

The group representing the families of the girls said they were awaiting direct confirmation from the government.

``Our hopes and expectations are high as we look forward to this news being true and confirmed,'' said Sesugh Akume with the (hash)BringBackOurGirls campaign.

The Nigerian government has denied that a ransom was paid in the October release and that it freed some detained Boko Haram fighters in exchange for the girls. The negotiations were mediated by the Swiss government and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

At the three-year anniversary of the kidnapping in April, the government said negotiations had ``gone quite far'' but faced challenges.

The 276 schoolgirls kidnapped from Chibok in northern Nigeria in April 2014 are among thousands of people abducted by the Nigeria-based Boko Haram over the years.

Buhari late last year announced Boko Haram had been "crushed,'' but the group continues to carry out attacks in northern Nigeria and neighboring countries. Its insurgency has killed more than 20,000 people and driven 2.6 million from their homes, with millions facing starvation.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/rest-of-world/boko-haram-releases-83-chibok-girls/articleshow/58555713.cms

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Algeria Islamists allege fraud in polls

By AFP - May 06,2017

Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika casts his ballot during the parliamentary election in Algiers, Algeria, on Thursday (Reuters photo)

ALGIERS — Algeria's main Islamist coalition, which came third in this week's legislative elections, on Saturday accused the ruling coalition of ballot box stuffing, threatening and committing violence against its supporters.

Abderrazak Makri, who heads the Movement for the Society of Peace (MSP), said his party and its ally the Front for Change would have won if there had not been any fraud.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's National Liberation Front (FLN) and its ally the Rally for National Democracy (RND) won a clear majority in Thursday's elections.

"The administration allowed the thugs of the FLN and the RND to stuff ballot boxes and commit violence without it intervening," said Makri, whose party has links to the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Islamist leader, whose coalition won 33 of the national assembly's 462 seats, said official complaints would be filed with the country's constitutional council.

Islamist parties won 67 seats in the polls, up from a total of 60 in the 2012 elections.

Makri said 70 per cent of polling stations did not have any observers due to a misinterpretation of the electoral law.

According to the Islamist leader, in several areas, the vote count of which the MSP obtained a copy does not coincide with the final vote count that was announced.

Makri said abstention in the country would diminish considerably when elections become clean, after a turnout of 37 per cent in Thursday's vote.

He said there were "more than two million blank ballot papers" out of eight million who cast their vote.

But Makri said he would not encourage Islamist lawmakers to resign from parliament, and instead press for change within public institutions.

Thursday's vote was marred by voter disillusionment over what many see as broken government promises and a political system tainted by corruption.

jordantimes.com/news/region/algeria-islamists-allege-fraud-polls

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Arab World

Over 150 Terrorists Killed in Clashes among Rival Groups in Eastern Damascus

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- Local sources said that over 150 terrorists have been killed and tens of others have been wounded in intensified clashes between Jeish al-Islam and the coalition of Faylaq al-Rahman and Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board) in Eastern Ghouta in the last seven days.

The sources said that almost 160 militants have been killed and tens of others have been injured in seven-day-long infighting between Jeish al-Islam and the united front of Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at and Faylaq al-Rahman in the Eastern territories of Damascus province.

The sources added that Faylaq al-Rahman announced in a statement that its fighters have repelled Jeish al-Islam's attacks and have pushed them back from the lands that it has conquered recently.

Faylaq al-Rahman also accused Jeish al-Islam of attacking its positions, seizing their warehouses and capturing several fighters and commanders of the group in Eastern Ghouta.

In the meantime, Spokesman for Jeish al-Islam Hamzeh Beiraqdar tweeted that Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at and Faylaq al-Rahman are to attack Jeish al-Islam's defense lines in the town of al-Ash'ari after Jeish al-Islam stopped attacks and pulled its forces back from the townships they had entered previously.

Jeish al-Islam had previously announced in a statement that it had halted operation against Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at in Eastern Ghouta.    

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported on Saturday that a sum of 169 militants and civilians were killed in fresh clashes between rival terrorist groups in Eastern Ghouta since April 28.

The SOHR reported that clashes between the Saudi-backed Jeish al-Islam and Al-Nusra Front (also known as Fatah al-Sham Front or the Levant Liberation Board) in Eastern Ghouta left 156 militants dead since April 28.

The SOHR noted that 67 slain militants were from Jeish al-Islam while the rest were members of the Al-Nusra and allied Faylaq al-Rahman.

The fighting has also killed 13 civilians, including two children, and wounded dozens more.

SOHR Director Rami Abdel Rahman said the “situation has returned to how it was before,” adding that “each side has taken back the areas it lost during the fighting.”       

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960217000708

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Online operatives of Islamic State become most-wanted targets

 

By W.J. HENNIGAN | Tribune Washington Bureau (Tribune News Service) | Published: May 6, 2017

WASHINGTON — The monthslong manhunt for French-born Rachid Kassim ended one chilly morning early this year when a drone-launched missile destroyed his battered white pickup truck as it motored through the besieged Iraqi city of Mosul.

The 29-year-old former rapper had cast a grim shadow in international counterterrorism circles. He spoke fluent French, once beheaded a man in an online video and played a role in a string of terrorist plots — two successful — in France last year.

The Feb. 8 drone strike notched a victory for a U.S.-led effort that seeks to silence Islamic State operatives who use social media, encrypted messaging and other online tools to reach disaffected Muslims overseas and to launch what counterterrorism experts now call “remote-controlled” attacks.

As Islamic State steadily loses ground in Iraq and Syria, its ability to sponsor and inspire headline-grabbing attacks abroad looms larger than ever — providing the militants the appearance of lethal viability despite the caliphate’s collapsing borders.

In recent weeks, the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for killing a policeman on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, for the Palm Sunday bombings of two churches in Egypt, for an attack by gunmen disguised as medical staff that left 38 dead at a hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, and for a suicide bombing that killed 88 people at a Sufi shrine in southern Pakistan.

The European Union’s police agency, known as Europol, discovered late last month that the Islamic State has built its own social media platform to try to evade law enforcement and intelligence agencies that monitor the militants’ communications and propaganda, said Rob Wainwright, head of Europol.

“We have certainly made it a lot harder for them to operate (in digital space), but we’re still seeing these awful videos (and) communications operating large scale across the internet,” Wainwright said Wednesday at a security conference in London.

Europe is facing “the highest terrorist threat for a generation,” he warned.

European security officials already are bracing for hundreds of foreign militants to return from the battlefields in Iraq and Syria and are scrambling to respond. The State Department issued a travel alert Tuesday for all of Europe because of the threat of terrorist attacks on the continent.

An image grab taken from a video made available by jihadi media outlet Welayat Nineveh on July 20, 2016, allegedly shows Rashid Kassim, a French member of the Islamic State group, speaking in French to the camera from an undisclosed location before beheading two men along with another jihadi. The 29-year-old former rapper had cast a grim shadow in international counterterrorism circles before he was recently killed in Mosul, Iraq.

Gen. Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, acknowledged the Islamic State’s loss of territory does not mean it is on the verge of collapse.

The group will continue to coordinate and inspire attacks from its online “virtual caliphate,” he said in an email interview.

“The military defeat of ISIS is essential but not sufficient,” he said, using an acronym for the Islamic State. “As we continue to degrade ISIS’ physical capability they will shift more of their attention to the virtual realm and we will need to do whatever we can to stay ahead of them.”

U.S. efforts to counter extremist messaging has largely failed so far, said Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington.

“The U.S. government needs a systematic campaign to undermine the messaging,” he said. “So far any effort to do that has flat-out failed.”

A Government Accountability Office study released in April found “no cohesive strategy with measurable outcomes has been established” for counter-propaganda against the Islamic State.

“Islamic State’s propaganda will assuredly outlive their physical caliphate,” said Charlie Winter, a research fellow at King’s College in London. “This resilience means their ability to inspire terrorist attacks will also live on.”

Twitter has suspended more than 635,000 accounts linked to the Islamic State since 2015, the company says. Facebook, YouTube and other social media companies also regularly remove the militants’ material.

But the group still publishes a monthly online magazine in 10 languages, issues messages via its Amaq news agency and posts videos that are widely shared on Twitter, Telegram and elsewhere, U.S. officials say.

Information gleaned from U.S. special operations raids, surveillance drones and informants has enabled analysts to piece together what they believe is the Islamic State’s chain of command, including a secretive wing of external operations planners that is assigned to plot attacks in different regions of the world.

A team of U.S. commandos, called the expeditionary targeting force, has killed more than a dozen suspected planners since last summer, according to U.S. officials.

In addition to Kassim, the French-speaking plotter killed by drone, they include Abu Muhammad Adnani, head of external terrorism plots, who was killed by an armed drone Aug. 30.

Eight days later, Abu Mohamed Furqan, who oversaw production of propaganda videos and created the group’s monthly online magazine Rumiyah, was also killed by a drone strike in Raqqah, the Islamic State’s self-declared capital in Syria.

In December, another airstrike in Raqqah killed three men said to have played a role in the November 2015 assaults that killed 130 people in Paris. Abdurakhmon Uzbeki, who helped organize the New Year’s Day attack on a nightclub in Istanbul, Turkey, that left 39 dead, was killed in April in eastern Syria.

“ISIS uses information as a weapon, so targeting key people in their messaging operations can be devastating,” Lt. Col. Sean Heidgerken, deputy director of a U.S. military counter-propaganda unit, said in a phone interview from Baghdad. “It’s similar to going after a key general or prominent decision-maker of enemies in past wars.”

Heidgerken’s team drops leaflets, broadcasts radio messages and helps target radio towers, video production facilities and internet kiosks used by the Islamic State.

The militants typically rely on foreign-born operatives to communicate online with sympathizers abroad. They then try to move the conversation to encrypted messaging apps, such as WhatsApp and Telegram, to avoid detection.

“Encryption is the real game-changer,” said Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, a terrorism expert at George Washington University. “It takes the conversation underground and poses a huge challenge to stopping attacks.”

Kassim used his Telegram channel “Sabre de Lumiere,” or Sword of Light, to communicate with sympathizers in France.

In September, four French women were arrested after they allegedly heeded his directive to “fill a car with gas cylinders, sprinkle petrol in it and park in a busy street … BOOM,” according to a message that police later said was found on a public Telegram channel.

Their Peugeot, parked near the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, failed to explode.

In July, two armed men stormed a church and slit the throat of an 85-year-old Catholic priest during a Mass near Normandy in northern France. The killers, who apparently had been in contact with Kassim, were both shot dead.

A month earlier, another suspected Kassim follower killed a French police commander and his partner at their home outside Paris — and reportedly streamed it live on Facebook before he was killed by police.

stripes.com/news/middle-east/online-operatives-of-islamic-state-become-most-wanted-targets-1.467222#.WQ6bg9KGN1s

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Islamic State attack leaves 2 dead at Iraqi base where US advisers are stationed

Published May 07, 2017 

Two people were killed and six others were injured Sunday when Islamic State militants attacked a base in northern Iraq where U.S. military advisers are stationed, Reuters reported.

Two of the ISIS militants died when they detonated suicide vests at the entrance to the K1 base overnight. Three more were killed by Kurdish forces who control the Kirkuk region.

"They were wearing uniforms like the Kurdish peshmerga and had shaved their beards to look like us," one officer told Reuters.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it had killed and wounded dozens of “crusaders and apostates.”

foxnews.com/world/2017/05/07/islamic-state-attack-leaves-2-dead-at-iraqi-base-where-us-advisers-are-stationed.html

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Syrian Army, Russian Special Forces Preparing for Imminent Anti-ISIL Operation in Deir Ezzur

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- Military sources revealed on Sunday that the Syrian Army troops along with the Russian Special Forces are getting ready to carry out a joint operation against ISIL in Deir Ezzur to free the terrorist-held regions in the Eastern province.

The sources said that as preparations are underway for a massive operation, the army units, backed up by the country's fighter jets, have managed to push ISIL back to come closer to their objective of removing the siege of Deir Ezzur's military airport.

The army soldiers, supported by the artillery and missile unis and warplanes, also engaged in fierce clashes with ISIL in al-Maqaber (cemetery) region, Wadi (desert) al-Thardah and al-Omal neighborhood, driving terrorists out of more positions in the battlefields.

Most military experts believe that Wadi al-Tharda, al-Maqaber and al-Omal neighborhoods will be the focus of the imminent joint operation by the Syrian and Russian forces. 

Media sources have also reported that the Russian special forces will take part in the Syrian Army military operation to lift the siege on the Deir Ezzur.

The Russian Ministry of Defense also announced that the Russian air force will participate in the Deir Ezzur offensive, but it made no mention of the Russian special forces taking part in the upcoming ground assault on ISIL.

In the meantime, well-informed sources said that after the implementation of the agreement over the establishment of De-Escalation Zones in Syria, hundreds of the army forces will be forwarded to the battlefields, including Deir Ezzur and Eastern Homs to intensify fight against ISIL simultaneous with the Euphrates Rage Operation of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in Raqqa and Iraqi Army's operation in Mosul.

Military sources said on Saturday that the army was preparing a large number of fresh soldiers to send them to the Eastern province of Deir Ezzur to intensify battle against ISIL.

The sources said that the Syrian army reinforcements deployed in Eastern Damascus would be transferred to the battlefields in Deir Ezzur to intensify fight against ISIL.

The soldiers would land at the 137th military base in the Southern countryside of the city in a heliborne operation.

Reports from Syria also said that once the de-escalation zones plan comes into force, a large number of army soldiers in the zones would be sent to fight against terrorists in other provinces.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960217001024

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Ayatollah Khamenei: Iran Not to Abide by UNESCO 2030 Agenda

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei said the UNESCO, as a body infiltrated by world powers, has no right to make decisions for other nations, stressing that Iran will never submit to its 2030 education agenda.

"Why should a so-called International body-- which is definitely infiltrated by the superpowers—have the right to make decisions for the nations of the world with various cultures," Ayatollah Khamenei said in Tehran on Sunday, addressing a large group of teachers and university students on the occasion of teachers day in Iran.

Ayatollah Khamenei stressed that the Islamic Republic of Iran will not surrender to UNESCO’s Global Education 2030 Agenda , and said, “The UNESCO 2030 education agenda and the like are not issues that the Islamic Republic of Iran could surrender and submit to.”

Ayatollah Khamenei asserted that Iran will not sign such documents, and added, “This is wrong per se. That we sign an agenda and begin to carry it out secretly is wrong. It is not permitted at all. I have declared it.”

The Leader of the Revolution expressed regret that the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution has shown neglect in supervising endorsement of the document, and said, “I am disappointed at the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution. They should have taken care of it and prevented it from getting to where it is now, so that I would not have needed to take action to stop it. It is the Islamic Republic here."

Ayatollah Khamenei also pointed to the upcoming presidential election, and invited the nation to participate.

"If you want this enthusiasm, dignity and immunity to last for us, you should take part in the elections. If you wish the Islamic Republic of Iran’s establishment to preserve its power in the eyes of the people of the world — whether friends or foes — you should participate (in the elections)," he said.

Ayatollah Khamenei emphasized that "partaking in the elections protects the power, dignity and immunity of the country”.

The Leader of the Revolution declared, “It is not important who you vote for. It is important for everyone to turn out and take part to show that they are ready to defend Islam and the Islamic Republic.”

He highlighted the significance of deterring the enemies by displaying the dignity of the country, and said, “if this diligence and willpower continues to exist as mighty and dignified as it is now, the enemy will never be able to do a single thing against the country.”

Ayatollah Khamenei said, “What is urgently necessary for the management and protection of the interests of the nation is the partaking of the nation. It is the partaking of the nation that can solve the problems. It is the nation’s turn out that scares the enemies, making them fear the Islamic Republic’s solemnity. The Islamic Republic is seen as solemn by its enemies. Does this solemnity come from people like this humble person? Never! It emerges from the people and the public partaking. It emerges from the people’s enthusiasm and sentiments.”

He further went on to clarify that he does not imply people should vote for a certain candidate by stating that “I am saying this so that no one will come up to distort what I have clearly declared and claim that I imply that people’s partaking will elect an administration into office which would... no sir! It is not about the administrations. Have you forgotten what happened in the 90s? When a European government accused our president and called him to the court? And it happened despite the fact that the European government expressed friendship and letters were often exchanged. The same government called the administration of our president to the court. We hit them (the European government) in the mouth and they withdrew. If we hadn’t slapped them they wouldn’t have retreated.”

“The enemy is the enemy. It is not about which administration is in office. The enemy will try to blow a strike once it can and it won’t care for anyone. It does not care about drawing on rhetoric, glib talking and taking political stances. What stops the animosity is the fear of the public taking part. Because the enemy fears that an 80-million nation would stand against it,” Ayatollah Khamenei underlined.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960217001106

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US Conducting Secret Attempts to Deploy in Western Iraq in Post-ISIL Era

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The US officials and media have started inspiring the public with perceived necessity for the American military troops' continued build-up in Iraq even after Mosul is taken back from the ISIL terrorist group.

Some Iraqi media outlets have recently reported that Washington and Baghdad have inked an agreement to prolong the US deployment in Iraq after retaking control of Mosul from the ISIL, but Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's office rushed to issue a statement to strongly reject the reports.

The media reports were released after Chief of Staff of the US Army General Mark Milley spoke of the US commitment to support Iraq and the Iraqi Kurdistan region in the post-ISIL era.

Also, US Senator Marco Rubio revealed the negotiations between Washington and the Kurdish officials to supply the Peshmerga forces with weapons and equipment, without any coordination with the government in Baghdad.

Meantime, Spokesman for Iraqi Kurdistan Region's Peshmerga fighters Jabbar Yavar said that Washington seeks to equip two divisions of Peshmerga fighters with different weapons, including heavy arms, and allocate $415mln to pay the salaries of 36,000 Peshmerga fighters who are due to participate in operations to liberate Mosul.

Iraq's prime minister said on Friday that no US combat troops will stay in Iraq after the fight against ISIL is concluded.

Al-Abadi remarks came in a statement following a report by the Associated Press that talks are ongoing between Iraq and the US on maintaining American forces in Iraq.

Al-Abadi said the American troops will be advisers who will help Iraq's security forces maintain "full readiness" for any "future security challenges".

Iraqi forces are struggling to retake the last remaining Mosul neighborhoods ISIL holds in the city's Western half, but even after a territorial victory, Iraqi and US-led coalition officials have warned of the potential for ISIL to carry out insurgent attacks in government-held territory.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960217001027

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Pakistan

50 Afghan Soldiers Killed, 100 Injured In Retaliatory Firing Claims IG FC Pakistan

 

Inspector General (IG) Frontier Corps (FC) Balochistan Maj Gen Nadeem Anjum on Sunday claimed that 50 Afghan security personnel were killed and another 100 injured as Pakistani forces retaliated to unprovoked firing by Afghan border forces on security personnel in Balochistan's Chaman area last week.

He added, however, that "we are not happy over their losses since they are our Muslim brothers".

The IG FC was briefing the media over a recent cross-border attack in Chaman, in which 12 people were killed and 40 injured when Afghan border forces opened fire on security personnel guarding a census team, although Afghanistan had been informed of the exercise in advance.

The attack caused residents in Killi Luqman, Killi Jahangir and Badshah Adda Kahol evacuating their homes as Chaman was shut down and security ramped up in Quetta and other parts of Balochistan.

The FC Balochistan chief said four or five check posts were also destroyed when Pakistani border guards retaliated to the cross-border attack.

Gen Anjum said that on May 5, Afghanistan pleaded for ceasefire, which Pakistan accepted.

The FC Balochistan chief said that Afghan authorities targeted civilians even though they had been informed about the on-going census exercise.

Earlier, Commander Southern Command Lt Gen Aamir Riaz termed the cross-border attack as 'shameful'.

"This was a shameful act to target civilians at the border villages of Pakistan," Riaz told journalists at Chaman during a visit to the area.

He said that Afghanistan would not benefit from such attacks in any way and that the Afghan government should be ashamed of such acts.

dawn.com/news/1331637/50-afghan-soldiers-killed-100-injured-in-retaliatory-firing-to-chaman-cross-border-attack-ig-fc

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Cop, notorious Lashker terrorist among 5 killed in Kulgam terror attack

PTI | Updated: May 7, 2017, 05.54 PM IST

SRINAGAR: A policeman and a wanted terrorist of Lashker-e-Taiba terror group were among five persons killed when terrorists made an attempt to ambush a police party in Kulgam in South Kashmir on Sunday.

Wanted terrorist Fayaz Ahmed Ashwar alias Setha, who had been been on the run since August 2015 after his name cropped up in the Udhampur terror strike case, was killed in the attack when he tried to target the police party at Mir Bazar in Kulgam.

Constable Mehmood Ahmed Sheikh, who was part of the police team, risked his life and snatched a pistol from one of the terrorists before other members of the police party opened fire at them, according to an eyewitness account.

Three civilians were also killed due to indiscriminate firing by the terrorists.

Director general of police S P Vaid told PTI that a policeman had been killed.

And indiscriminate firing by terrorists had led to the death of three civilians.

The terrorists ambushed the police team which had gone to Mir Bazaar area to investigate a road accident case, the DGP said.

The injured terrorist was taken to a local hospital where he was declared brought dead, police said.

He was later identified to be Ashwar, who carried a cash reward of Rs two lakh on his head. He has been charge-sheeted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the Udhampur terror strike case.

In the terror case, Pakistani national Naved was arrested on the spot when he was firing on a BSF convoy in August 2015 in Udhampur on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/cop-notorious-lashker-terrorist-among-5-killed-in-kulgam-terror-attack/articleshow/58562283.cms

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Nawaz Sharif, General Bajwa agree to amicably resolve row over leaked report

PTI | May 6, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa have resolved to "amicably" address the differences over a leaked report that had angered the powerful army, a media report said on Saturday.

In October, a columnist for Dawn newspaper wrote a front-page story about a rift between civilian and military leaderships over militant groups that operate from Pakistan but engage in proxy war against India and Afghanistan.

Army resented the "leaked news" item and asked for a probe.

The military had demanded full implementation of recommendations by a committee which probed a story of a meeting in which civilian leaders confronted the military over its alleged reluctance to halt Islamist groups in the country.

Sharif following the findings of the committee sacked his foreign policy aide Tariq Fatemi but army rejected the move, triggering speculation about the public posturing by the military.

However, the situation was apparently brought under control during a meeting between Bajwa and Sharif.

Geo News reported that meeting was held on Thursday night at the "wish" the prime minister.

It quoted sources that both had a pleasant meeting, adding that matter pertaining to Dawn Leaks, security and border situation were discussed.

"PM Sharif and Chief Of Army Staff Bajwa agreed that the issues surrounding Dawn Leaks would be dealt with amicably," it reported further.

The Prime Minister's House or the army did not comment on the meeting.

Earlier on Friday, Sharif held a meeting with interior minister Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan, who had last week promised that his ministry will issue a notification based on the recommendations of the Dawn leaks report.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/nawaz-sharif-general-bajwa-agree-to-amicably-resolve-row-over-leaked-report/articleshow/58547686.cms

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Pakistan desires peace, friendship with India: Pakistan President

May 7th, 2017

ISLAMABAD: President Mamnoon Hussain has said that Pakistan desires peace and friendship with India and asked the government in New Delhi not to endanger stability and development of the region by creating tension.

The president was addressing the inaugural ceremony of “Made in KPK” exhibition organised by the Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry at Pak-China Friendship Centre here on Saturday.

He said that Afghans were brethren of Pakistanis who desired friendship and amity with them with an open heart. Pakistan, he added, had been working sincerely for peace and development in Afghanistan because a peaceful Afghanistan was in its own interest.

Mr Hussain said that some external forces were trying to create a rift in Pak-Afghan ties but Kabul should understand Pakistan’s sincerity.

He emphasised that Pakistan was desirous of peace and security in the region and was keen to have friendly relations with all its neighbours.

The country’s relations with Iran had improved, he said and expressed hope that those with other neighbours would alos improve in future.

President Hussain said there had been no power cuts for industrial sector during the tenure of the incumbent government, adding that small dams would be built in Balochistan for power generation.

Mr Hussain said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor would change the fate of the region and Pakistan would emerge as the most important country.

He underlined that there had been no change in the route of the corridor project and those making it controversial were trying to mislead the people.

The president called for forging harmony on national affairs at the political and non-political levels for sustainable progress and cautioned that any rift would waste efforts being made for economic stability and prosperity of people.

dawn.com/news/1331559/pakistan-desires-peace-friendship-with-india

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COAS says peace in Karachi vital for stability in Pakistan

 

Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa was briefed on the security situation in Karachi and progress on Operation Raddul Fasaad during a visit to Corps Headquarters in Karachi on Sunday, according to an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) press release.

The Army chief was also informed of the support extended by the Rangers to the census operations in Sindh. He appreciated the army and Rangers for their contributions towards successful execution of their assignments, and asserted that peace in Karachi is vital for country-wide stability.

Gen Bajwa also appreciated the "efforts of intelligence agencies and security forces in winning back dissident/sub-nationalist elements into the national mainstream through positive engagement", ISPR said.

The COAS reiterated that efforts will continue until the complete restoration of peace in Karachi and the province.

Earlier, Gen Bajwa was received by Commander Karachi Corps Lieutenant General Shahid Baig Mirza, while Director General Rangers Sindh was also present.

dawn.com/news/1331633/coas-says-peace-in-karachi-vital-for-stability-in-pakistan

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Parties announce May 20 deadline for Fata reforms

May 7th, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Representatives of tribal areas and main political parties have expressed concern over the delay in the implementation of proposed Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) reforms and have threatened to march on Islamabad if the government does not convene special sessions of the National Assembly and the Senate by May 20 to carry out the necessary legislation.

The ultimatum was announced in a one-page declaration issued at the end of a multi-party conference (MPC) organised by parliamentarians from Fata on Saturday.

“If [the] reforms are delayed further, a march on Islamabad will be announced to reflect the voice of the people of Fata,” MNA Shah Gee Gul Afridi said, reading out the declaration.

Participants of the MPC have asked the government to convene a special session of the National Assembly before the budget session, with a single-point agenda: “to take the administrative, financial and legal steps required for the merger of Fata with KP”.

The declaration says “the people of Fata have been anxiously waiting to enter the mainstream,” and their disappointment was growing with each passing day. The MPC demands: “That the government should present [the] Fata Reforms Act to the Parliament in the next session in line with the announcement made by the prime minister.”

It also calls for “Local government elections in Fata before the next general elections, ensuring that Fata will get representation in the KP Assembly in the 2018 general elections.”

Those who attended the MPC include the Fata MNAs, KP Assembly members, senators, senior Supreme Court lawyer Latif Afridi, and representatives of the Pakistan Peoples Party, Jamaat-i-Islami, Pakistan Muslim League-Q, Qaumi Watan Party and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party. Adviser to the Prime Minister on Law Barrister Zafarullah Khan represented the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz in the MPC.

On March 2, the federal cabinet approved the steps to be taken for a proposed merger of Fata with KP and a 10-year reform package to bring the tribal region on a par with other developing areas of the country.

Back then, Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, the head of the reforms committee, had said that the package would soon be sent to President Mamnoon Hussain for final approval after which a constitutional process would be initiated.

Speaking at the MPC, Senator Farhatullah Babar of the PPP held the civil-military bureaucracy responsible for the delay, saying that “the greatest obstacle in mainstreaming Fata has been the hesitation of the civil-military bureaucratic complex to loosen their grip on tribal areas”.

PML-Q’s Ajmal Wazir said the people of Fata had reservations over the proposed Riwaj Act as they were not aware of the details of the proposed law.

Barrister Zafarullah said the Fata reforms package was a part of the government’s agenda and urged everyone not to doubt the government’s intentions.

RIWAJ ACT: In a statement issued separately, Federal Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid said the Riwaj Bill 2017 had been finalised in line with the wishes of the people of Fata, to accord complete protection to their customs and introduce the country’s legal code.

He said a proper judicial system would be established in Fata wherein the role of the tribal jirga had been duly legalised. “The black provisions of the FCR are proposed to be deleted and all fundamental rights are to be provided effectively,” he said.

dawn.com/news/1331621/parties-announce-may-20-deadline-for-fata-reforms

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South Asia

Afghan FM calls for consensus on terrorism in Muslim world

Sun 7 May 2017

TEHRAN, May 07 (MNA) – Salahuddin Rabbani said all countries had to fight against terrorism and the campaign would fail unless the Muslim world agree on a common definition of terrorism.

Afghan Foreign Minister Rabbani, while addressing a joint press conference in Kabul with Iran’s Mohammad Javad Zarif, pointed to deep religious, cultural and political ties between the two countries saying “incumbent governments of the two countries feel committed to pursue their political, economic and security interests in the light of existing close bonds.”

“At the joint meeting, constructive talks were made on the fight against terrorism and economic collaborations,” he continued.

The Senior Afghan official said both sides agreed that terrorism and extremism posed threats to regional peace asserting “Iran and Afghanistan believe that all world countries need to combat terrorism and the fight will succeed only if the Muslim world develops a common understanding of terrorism since terrorists mainly harm Muslims and the region.”

On the recent terror attack in Iran-Afghanistan border, foreign minister of Afghanistan stated “the two recent terrorist incidents were both rooted and organized outside the region and they had the same organizer. Afghanistan urges all countries to join hands in the fight against terrorism since terrorists cannot be eradicated unless their supporters are brought under pressure and disintegrated.”

Salahuddin Rabbani also noted that, apart from issues pertaining to regional threats and militant groups like ISIL and Taliban, the joint meeting also dealt with expansion of political, economic and transit relations.

He underscored that Iran and Afghanistan could turn into a transit hub for the region and efforts are being made to bolster bilateral relations.

The Afghan FM said views were also exchanged on development of consular ties and appreciated the Islamic Republic of Iran for hosting Afghans over the past decades.

en.mehrnews.com/news/125249/Afghan-FM-calls-for-consensus-on-terrorism-in-Muslim-world

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ISIS and foreign terrorists among 19 killed in Afghan forces airstrikes: MoD

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun May 07 2017

At least nineteen insurgents including militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group’s offshoot, ISIS Khurasan, and foreign militants fighting with the Taliban insurgents were killed in a series of airstrikes in three provinces, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) said Sunday.

At least eight of the insurgents, all ISIS loyalists, were killed in an airstrike in Achin district of Nangarhar province, MoD said, adding that a commander of the terror group was among those killed.

The Ministry of Defense further added that at least six insurgents belonging to the Taliban group were killed, including four foreign insurgents in an airstrike conducted in Zebak district of northeastern Badakhshan province.

A vehicle belonging to the Taliban insurgents was also destroyed in the same airstrike, MoD added.

According to MoD, at least five insurgents were killed in another airstrike conducted in Khanshin district of Helmand province and one of their vehicles was also destroyed.

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

The Afghan forces have stepped up counter-terrorism operations to suppress the terrorist groups as they are trying to increase insurgency as part of their spring offensives.

khaama.com/isis-and-foreign-terrorists-among-19-killed-in-afghan-forces-airstrikes-mod-02727

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7 ISIS-K militants killed in drone strike in East of Afghanistan

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun May 07 2017

At least seven militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group were killed in an airstrike in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan on Saturday.

The provincial police commandment said the militants were targeted in an airstrike carried out by the foreign forces using unmanned aerial vehicle in the vicinity of Chaparhar district.

The source further added that the foreign forces engaged the ISIS militants in Spari area of Chaparhar.

The local residents and security forces on the ground did not suffer any casualties in the airstrike.

The ISIS loyalists operating under the name of ISIS Khurasan have not commented regarding the report so far.

Nangarhar is among the relatively calm provinces in eastern Afghanistan but the anti-government armed militant groups are attempting to expand their insurgency in this province during the recent years.

The growing threats posed by Taliban, ISIS and other insurgents forced the Afghan forces and US forces based in Afghanistan to step up operations in a bid to restrict their insurgency activities.

The operations are currently conducted under the name of Hamza operations by the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces who are also receiving air support from the US forces based in Afghanistan.

khaama.com/7-isis-k-militants-killed-in-drone-strike-in-east-of-afghanistan-02732

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2 ISIS suicide bombers killed in premature blast before targeting Afghan forces

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun May 07 2017

Two suicide bombers of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group were blown up by their suicide bombing vests before they manage to target the Afghan security forces.

The provincial police commandment in Nangarhar said the incident took place in Achin district on Saturday as the Afghan forces were busy conducting clearance operations, Hamza operations, in Mamand Dara area.

A statement by the police commandment said the two suicide bombers were looking to get close to the Afghan security forces and detonate their suicide vests but were instantly killed after their explosives went off prematurely.

The loyalists of the terror group have not commented regarding the incident so far.

The Hamza operations were launched nearly one month ago in response to the growing threats posed by ISIS loyalists in Nangarhar province.

The US forces based in Afghanistan are also providing support to the Afghan forces during the operations, mainly involving airstrikes.

The US forces in Afghanistan dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb on ISIS hideouts in Achin district last month that resulted into the elimination of the largest tunnels network of the terror group besides leaving nearly 100 ISIS militants dead, including some of their senior leaders.

khaama.com/2-isis-suicide-bombers-killed-in-premature-blast-before-targeting-afghan-forces-02730

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Afghan Taliban take district in spring offensive

May 7th, 2017

KUNDUZ: Taliban militants captured a district just outside the northern Afghan city of Kunduz on Saturday, officials said, pointing to renewed pick up in fighting after the insurgents announced their annual spring offensive last week.

Mahfouz Akbari, a police spokesman for eastern Afghanistan, said security forces had pulled out of Qala-i-Zal district, west of Kunduz city, on Saturday to avoid further civilian and military casualties after more than 24 hours of heavy fighting.

In a statement, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the insurgents had taken police headquarters, the governor’s compound and all security checkpoints. He said several police and soldiers had been killed and wounded.

Over the past 18 months, Taliban insurgents have twice succeeded in seizing the town centre of Kunduz for brief periods and the latest fighting underscores warnings that Afghan forces face another gruelling year of fighting.

A shopkeeper, whose name is also Zabihullah, said the situation was now reminiscent of the position in October last year when Taliban forces entered the city before being driven back after days of fighting and air strikes.

According to US estimates, government fighters control only around 60 per cent of the country, with the rest either controlled or contested by the insurgents, who are seeking to reimpose Islamic law after their 2001 ouster.

Although the Taliban made a formal announcement of their spring offensive only last week, there has already been heavy fighting from the northern province of Badakhshan to the Taliban heartlands of Helmand and Kandahar in the south.

There have also been several operations against IS militants in the eastern province of Nangarhar, which have also involved US special forces and air strikes.

dawn.com/news/1331548/afghan-taliban-take-district-in-spring-offensive

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Iranian foreign minister in Kabul to meet top Afghan officials

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun May 07 2017

The Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrived in capital Kabul earlier today to meet with the top Afghan officials.

Zarif has reportedly been visiting Afghanistan on an official invitation of his Afghan counterpart Salahuddin Rabbani.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran Bahram Qasemi has said Zarif is scheduled to meet with President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, and other high level government officials, including foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani.

Qasemi quoted by state news agency, IRNA, said Zarif will hold talks on different aspects of Tehran-Kabul relations and the ways to promote the current level of bilateral ties as well as the latest international and regional developments during his visit to Kabul.

His visit to Afghanistan followed after an official visit he made to Islamabad.

According to the local media reports, the day-long visit to Pakistan took place on May 3 during which Zarif met top Pakistani officials on the recent terrorist attack near Iran-Pakistan border which resulted in killing of some Iranian border guards.

khaama.com/iranian-foreign-minister-in-kabul-to-meet-to-afghan-officials-02728

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North America

US Backing for 'Moderate Opposition' in Syria Remains Obstacle to Peace Process © AFP 2017/ AMER ALMOHIBANY

06.05.2017

The creation of four de-escalation zones in Syria, backed by Russia, Iran and Turkey, offers the conditions for political reconciliation, but US backing for "moderate opposition" groups is an obstacle to political resolution, military expert Viktor Murakhovsky told RIA Novosti.

While Russia has done everything in its power to enable a political agreement, US support for what it calls "moderate opposition" could present an obstacle to last week's ceasefire agreement in Astana, editor-in-chief of the Russian magazine "Arsenal of the Fatherland," Viktor Murakhovsky, told RIA Novosti.

"The crux of the issue is to implement a ceasefire across Syria, or at least most of it. Russia has done everything it can to contribute to this, simultaneously destroying radical terrorists, aiding the reconciliation process with guarantees and influencing the Syria government and its allies so that they also keep to such agreements," Murakhovsky said.

"At the same time, the number of armed opposition members who have been persuaded to leave the area where they were fighting has increased."

"If it is possible to resolve this issue [of a ceasefire] with safe zones, then the political process for creating a new parliament, for presidential elections, defining the constitution and so on, will begin to dawn," Murakhovsky said.

Vladimir Putin meets with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan

However, the analyst said that the lack of agreement between Russia and the US regarding what Washington has called "moderate opposition" groups is a possible obstacle for the peace process.

"We have not been able to get from the US a list of moderate opposition groups and the districts where they are located. Russia, the Syrian government and Syria's ally Iran refer to some of these groups as terrorist organizations, but the other side [the US] considers them to be moderate opposition."

The US has also signaled its willingness to arm anti-government forces. In December, US President Barack Obama eased restrictions on arms sales to Syrian rebels, allowing the current administration to send man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) to the Syrian opposition.

Murakhovsky referred to the case of Jabhat-al-Nusra [al-Nusra Front], al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria which claimed to shed ties with its sponsor and rebranded itself as "Jabhat Fateh al-Sham" in July 2016.

The jihadist group "changed its sign and walked into the moderate opposition straight away," Murakhovsky pointed out.

Children in the village of Brabishbo, Syria greet Russian servicemen with flowers and citrus fruit

The process of agreeing who constitutes genuine "moderate opposition" to the Syrian government is a "difficult process" because of differences of opinion between Russia, the US, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. In addition, some representatives of the moderate Syrian opposition can't come to an agreement between themselves, the analyst said.

"There is no unity, even among the so-called moderate opposition, who go back and forth at each other day and night, shooting, killing, capturing hostages, luring people from one side to another, seizing different resources. They can't always agree among themselves," Murakhovsky concluded.

At a previous round of talks in Astana in February, representatives of Russia, Turkey and Iran discussed protocol on a ceasefire and also focused on separating moderate opposition units form terrorist groups on a map of Syria.

During talks in Astana on Thursday, Russia, Turkey and Iran signed a memorandum on the creation of four zones of de-escalation in Syria, which include the province of Idlib and seven other regions. According to the memorandum, any clashes between the government forces and opposition armed groups must stop within the zones.

A woman walks past damaged buildings in the rebel held besieged city of Douma, in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Syria

The adherence of so-called "moderate opposite" groups, which have received substantial backing from Turkey and the US, will be crucial to the success of the agreement.

On Friday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said that Moscow expects the armed groups present at the Astana talks to comply with the agreement.

"The armed opposition is one of the two Syrian parties in these agreements. Of course they must comply," Bogdanov told reporters.

He said that Turkey, as one of three ceasefire guarantors, "assumed responsibility for compliance by the armed opposition with those agreements that were reached in Astana."

After the memorandum came into effect on Friday, a source close to the operations headquarters told Sputnik that it was generally adhered to.

"In general, the ceasefire is being adhered to. However, in some areas there have been local, unsubstantial clashes. It is impossible to solve everything in one day, but we hope that this [problem] will be eliminated," the source said on Saturday.

sputniknews.com/middleeast/201705061053347164-syria-moderate-opposition/

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Trump's new ban on travel from six mainly Muslim countries to face court challenge

It is the first of two challenges made in federal courts

Trump's travel ban will see it's first day in court next week AP

President Donald Trump’s controversial revised travel ban is going to face scrutiny in court for the first time next week, nearly two months after a federal judge issued a last-minute halt on its implementation.

The ban in question, which would halt travel into the United States from six predominantly Muslim countries, was the second attempt to block travel by Mr Trump after a hastily rolled out initial executive order that brought thousands of angry protesters airports around the country. Two federal judges filed stays on the execution of this second ban, in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals and in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The 4th Circuit will consider the case Monday

“We do not fault President Trump for being politically incorrect. We fault him for being constitutionally incorrect,” Doug Chin, the Hawaiian attorney general, said of his decision to request that the travel ban be blocked by the court.

Monday’s case will be a bit unusual. Under normal circumstances, a three judge panel listens to arguments and makes a decision and will on occasion then call in the full court. But this hearing will skip the three-judge panel and will be heard by the full court immediately— minus any judge who recuses themselves. The court hasn’t skipped the three-judge panel and gone immediately to the full-court since 1998 when it considered a challenge to a law requiring minors to notify their parents before receiving an abortion.

It’s unclear which way the court, which was known as the most conservative appeals court in the nation before former President Barack Obama shifted it dramatically towards the centre. The court still generally sides with the government if administrations present a convincing case that the issue at hand is a national security concern, which is how Mr Trump has presented the executive order publicly.

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“I think a lot depends on how the judges view the case,” Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor, told the Associated Press. “Is this a national security case or is this an immigration case? Or is this a religious freedom case?”

Mr Trump’s travel ban, though not currently acting US policy, has led to a reduction of people coming to the United States in the past few months. The number of visitors dropped by more than 23,000 people in the first quarter of 2017. That drop, according to data from the Airlines Reporting Corporation, could mean that the US travel and tourism industry has missed out on more than $89.1 million in revenue

independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/donald-trump-muslim-travel-ban-court-of-appeals-federal-judges-a7721981.html

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Texas adoption agencies could reject Jewish, Muslim, gay or single parents

Saturday 6 May 2017

Parents seeking to adopt children in Texas could be rejected by state-funded or private agencies with religious objections to them being Jewish, Muslim, gay, single, or interfaith couples, under a proposal in the Republican-controlled state legislature.

Why there’s hope for LGBT rights under Trump | Steven Thrasher

The bill was scheduled for debate and approval on Saturday in the Texas state house, but lawmakers became bogged down with other matters. It now is expected to come up next week.

Republican sponsors of the Texas bill say it is designed to support the religious freedom of adoption agencies and foster care providers. Many such agencies are private and faith-based but receive state funds.

Opponents say the bill will rob children of stable homes while funding discrimination with taxpayer dollars.

“This would allow adoption agencies to turn away qualified, loving parents who are perhaps perfect in every way because the agency has a difference in religious belief,” said Catherine Oakley, senior legislative counsel for the Human Rights Campaign. “This goes against the best interest of the child.”

The bill also blatantly violates the US constitution, Oakley added.

“As a governmental entity, Texas is bound to treat people equally under the law,” said Oakley. “This is a violation of equal protection under the law.”

James Frank, the state representative who authored the bill, said it was designed to address the state’s foster care crisis by making “reasonable accommodations so everyone can participate in the system”.

“Everyone is welcome,” said Frank, a Republican from Wichita Falls, near Texas’s border with Oklahoma. “But you don’t have to think alike to participate.”

Suzanne Bryant, an Austin-based adoption attorney who works with LGBT clients and was one of the first individuals to have a legal same-sex marriage in Texas, said the bill failed to provide alternatives for prospective parents rebuffed by adoption agencies.

“Say you call an agency and say, ‘I’m Jewish,’ and it’s a Catholic agency and they hang up on you,” said Bryant. “The bill says you can be referred to another agency, but there’s no mechanism to set that up.”

Not only could agencies turn away hopeful parents under the religious freedom provision, but they could require children in the foster care system to comply with their faith-based requirements, said Bryant.

That, she said, means child welfare organizations could send LGBT kids to conversion therapy, a treatment designed to turn people heterosexual which the Pan American Health Organization calls a “serious threat to the health and well-being of affected people”. Agencies could also deny young people access to contraception and abortions.

“If a 17-year-old who is sexually active wants birth control, the burden to prove that constitutional right is on the child,” said Bryant. “They don’t have their parents advocating for them and are supposed to go it alone against the system.”

Could Trump's 'religious liberty' executive order embolden progressive Christians? | Cayleb Gayle

Frank said most adoptions happened through the state’s child protective services, which would not be subject to the religious freedom mandate, though outside agencies that receive state funding would be. He said his bill “codifies” the choices adoption agencies were already making as they selected parents.

“My guess is if you have an LGBT agency they’re going to pick an LGBT family, and if you have a Baptist agency they may be more likely to pick a Baptist family,” Frank said. “They’re free to do that and should be free to do that.”

His proposal is just one of 24 pending bills in the Texas legislature that LGBT advocates say encourage discrimination.

theguardian.com/us-news/2017/may/06/texas-adoption-agencies-ban-jewish-muslim-gay-or-single-couples

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Mideast

Palestinian Group Islamic Jihad Rejects Palestine State limited to 1967 Borders

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- Palestinian resistance group Islamic Jihad reiterated its stance on a Palestinian state limited to the 1967 borders.

The announcement comes few days after other Palestinian resistance movement, Hamas unveiled a new policy document, announcing it accepts the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, the territories occupied by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967, Al Manar reported.

Islamic Jihad’s deputy leader, Ziad al-Nakhala said his movement rejects what he described as Hamas’s new policy of easing its stand on Israel.

“As partners with our Hamas brothers in the struggle for liberation, we feel concern over the document” which the main Islamist movement that rules Gaza adopted on Monday, said Islamic Jihad’s deputy leader, Ziad al-Nakhala.

“We are opposed to Hamas’s acceptance of a state within the 1967 borders and we think this is a concession which damages our aims,” he said on Islamic Jihad’s website.

Nakhala said the new Hamas policy formally accepting the idea of a state in the territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War would “lead to deadlock and can only produce half-solutions”.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960217000924

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Israel Weighs Bringing in Foreign Doctors to Force-Feed Hunger Strikers © Photo: Pixabay

07.05.2017

Israeli authorities are considering hiring foreign doctors to feed hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners against their will if the country’s own top medical association continues to resist the practice.

U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House in Washington D.C., U.S., May 3, 2017

In 2015, the Knesset passed a law allowing physicians to force-feed inmates, saying the government is responsible for the lives of those incarcerated in its prison system. Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that the law, backed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was in keeping with the constitution.

Nevertheless, the Israel Medical Association (IMA) has prohibited its members from participating in force-feeding hunger strikers, saying the practice amounts torture and that physicians should continue acting in accordance with medical ethics.

"The message we wish to convey to physicians is that forced feeding is tantamount to torture and that no doctor should take part in it," said IMA Director Leonid Eidelman.

On Thursday, Israel's Channel 2 reported that the Health Ministry is considering flying doctors from abroad to force-feed the prisoners participating in a mass hunger strike, a move that is expected to trigger fierce opposition from human rights advocates.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends his Likud party session in the Knesset, Israel's parliament in Jerusalem, Monday, Feb. 8. 2016.

An Israeli Prison Service spokesman said earlier this week that 20 days after the start of the strike, more than 850 prisoners were still refusing nutrition. The strikers demand better prison conditions, including the resumption of academic studies and bi-monthly visitations, and seek to expose what they call Israel's illegal system for arresting and detaining Palestinians.

On Wednesday, Israel's Health Ministry issued new orders requiring doctors who refuse to force-feed strikers whose lives are at risk to transfer their patients to another doctor willing to provide treatment.

The IMA opposed that order as well, saying it is not customary for doctors to find a substitute if they demur on ethical grounds. The association does instruct its doctors to act on strikers' behalf if they are unable to express their wishes.

sputniknews.com/europe/201705071053350818-israel-strike-force-feeding/

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Ex-Gaza chief Haniya elected leader of Hamas

AFP | May 6, 2017, 05.50 PM IST

GAZA CITY: Hamas's former chief in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, has been elected overall head of the Palestinian Islamist group, succeeding Khaled Meshaal, its official media announced Saturday.

Haniya is expected to remain in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian enclave run by Hamas since 2007, unlike Meshaal who lives in exile in Doha and has completed the maximum two terms in office.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/ex-gaza-chief-haniya-elected-leader-of-hamas/articleshow/58549706.cms

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Sharjah Islamic Bank Launches the Smiles Card

Published May 7th, 2017

Sharjah Islamic Bank (SIB) has announced the launch of its Smiles Credit Card, the new card that is loaded with a host of compelling benefits for travel lovers as well as businessmen. The Smiles Card enables customers to earn Smiles Points on every Dirham spent, locally and internationally. Cardholders can redeem these Smiles Points for free flights on over 300 airlines, 300,000 hotels worldwide, car rentals as well as a large catalogue of 13,000 items from SIB’s Exclusive Online Shop.

Positioned as “Fly with Smiles”, Smiles Cardholders will be able to redeem their Smiles Points seamlessly and online through the dedicated sibsmiles.com portal with a few simple clicks. Unlike other cards, the Smiles Points can be redeemed for flights from anywhere to everywhere with no blackout dates, no air ticket taxes and no fuel surcharges.

The Smiles Card is believed to be the best travel card as it opens the door to over 800 VIP airport lounges in more than 400 cities free of cost with unlimited usage. Best of all, the Smiles Card is free for life. There is no monthly or yearly earning cap to sign up – in short, the more you spend, the more Smiles you accumulate. In addition, cardholders can buy Smiles points online to fulfill a redemption value.

Mr. Nabil Abou Alwan, Head of the Retail Banking Group at SIB, commented: “The Smiles Card was carefully structured and designed based on a thorough research of the UAE market. The card has been created to bridge the gap between available credit cards and the customers’ need for a rewarding travel card.”

“From free flights on any airline and free hotel rooms, to free access to over 800 VIP lounges at most international airports, the Smiles Card is the perfect companion to all travellers,” Mr. Abou Alwan continued. He also added that the bank offers two types of Smiles Credit Cards: the lifetime free credit card, the “Titanium” Card, and the “World” Card, which has an AED 399 annual fees that can be reversed upon spending AED 25,000 during the year.

The Titanium Smiles Card, which is accepted worldwide and offers free membership for life, has a spectrum of benefits, including unlimited privileged access to 10 lounges in  prominent Middle East airports, enriching opportunities, experiences and special offers through Priceless Arabia, instant cash, discounted chauffeur rides with “Careem”, and hundreds of  exclusive offers with Mastercard “Buy 1 Get 1 Free” application. With every AED 2 spent on the card , Titanium cardholders will earn 1 Smile Point.

Likewise, the World Card encompasses all the perks of the Titanium Card, including exclusive travel benefits, free unlimited Airport Lounge access to over 800 airports in more than 400 cities worldwide, complimentary hotel nights at Starwood Hotels & Resorts, MyUS Premium shipping discounts, travel inconvenience and cancellation insurance, travel accident and medical insurance as well as Cleartrip.com travel discounts. The World Card also offers discounts on luxury serviced apartments, a discounted fast track travel visa service, Hertz Gold membership and discounts as well as the Hertz “Gold Plus” Rewards Five Star membership. With every AED 2 spent, World cardholders will receive 1.5 Smiles.

albawaba.com/business/pr/sharjah-islamic-bank-launches-smiles-card-971162

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After ban, Turkish Airlines to offer laptops to VIP travellers

May 7th, 2017

ISTANBUL: Turkish Airlines on Saturday said it would offer laptops to business-class travellers after Britain and the United States banned large electronic devices from the cabin of flights from certain countries.

Washington has barred all electronic devices larger a mobile phone on direct flights to the United States from 10 airports in seven Middle Eastern countries and Turkey, only allowing them to be transported in hold luggage. Britain followed with a similar ban from five countries in the Middle East and north Africa as well as Turkey.

But Turkish Airlines said it would offer travellers a solution. “The national flag carrier has now started to offer laptops for its business class passengers on US-bound flights as from today,” it said in a statement released on Saturday.

The airline would also offer the same service for UK-bound business class passengers from May 12. Such passengers would be able to request a laptop from the cabin crew to use in-flight, it said. The laptops would offer top security and protect the users’ privacy by “automatically deleting” all personal data after being shut down, it said.

 

URL: https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/rise-of-hard-line-islamist-groups-alarms-moderate-indonesian-muslims/d/111053

 

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