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Islamic World News ( 20 May 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Saudi-Led Coalition Rescues Young Girl Being Used As ‘Human Shield’ By Houthis in Yemeni Conflict
















This photo released by the Syrian official news agency (SANA) shows Ramadan atmosphere in Eastern Ghouta.

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Saudi-Led Coalition Rescues Young Girl Being Used As ‘Human Shield’ By Houthis in Yemeni Conflict

Pakistan, Afghanistan Ulema Agree to Hold Joint Peace Talks

Ankara-Backed Militants Loot Old Infrastructures in Afrin

Muslim Teachers Exempted From Night Camps in Rajasthan

More Than Thousand Jihadists Left Germany to Support Terrorists in Syria and Iraq

 

Arab World

Saudi-Led Coalition Rescues Young Girl Being Used As ‘Human Shield’ By Houthis in Yemeni Conflict

Ramadan Back to Syria’s Eastern Ghouta after Liberation from Terrorists

Syrian troops in final steps of Hajar al-Aswad's full liberation

Islamic State Begins Evacuating Damascus; Syrian Govt Close To Winning 'War against Terror'

ISIS begins quitting last pocket of Syria's capital

US-Backed Militants Continue Blackmailing Civilians in Northeastern Syria

More Tahrir Al-Sham Terrorists Killed by Unknown Gunmen in Northwestern Syria

Syrian Army Preempts Terrorists' Attack in Sweida Province

Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr meets PM Abadi, hinting at coalition

Syria to repel Israeli attacks under any pretext: Envoy to Russia

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Pakistan

Pakistan, Afghanistan Ulema Agree to Hold Joint Peace Talks

Imran Unveils Ambitious Agenda for First 100 Days of Govt

‘Afghan-based group carried out attacks in Punjab’

Rs20m Released To Renovate Krishna Mandir in Rawalpindi City

Pakistani politician draws censure for Christian slur

JUI-F threatens to close down Indus, Pak-Afghan highways over KP-FATA merger

CTD seizes large amount of weapons during raid in Quetta

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Mideast

Ankara-Backed Militants Loot Old Infrastructures in Afrin

KSRELIEF distributes Iftar meals to Syrians, Yemenis and Rohingya

Nearly 300 Israeli settlers attack al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied al-Quds

Europe's political support for nuclear deal not enough: Iran FM

Palestinian publicly sets himself on fire in Gaza

Zarif describes nuclear deal as a ‘dying patient’, Iran MP says

Iran rejects report about proposal for new agreement with major powers

Yemen's retaliatory missile attack targets Saudi airport

Israel plans new settlements south of Jerusalem al-Quds

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India

Muslim Teachers Exempted From Night Camps in Rajasthan

21-Year-Old UP Youth Converts to Islam Eight Months Ago, Arrested

Kerala Safest Place in India for Minorities: CM Pinarayi Vijayan

Aligarh Muslim University Ranked Second In US News Education Among Best Global Universities

Pakistan 'pleads' for truce as BSF destroys its bunkers along border

Sheikh Hasina in India: Bangladesh PM Likely To Bring Up Rohingya Crisis, Teesta Water Sharing With Narendra Modi

Pakistan violates ceasefire in Jammu

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Europe

More Than Thousand Jihadists Left Germany to Support Terrorists in Syria and Iraq

Atlantic Tremors: US and European Allies Not On the Page on Iran Deal

Thousands of Moroccans protest US embassy move, Gaza carnage

Britain struggles to stamp out extremism in prisons

Islamic State Claims Responsibility for Church Attack in Chechnya

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South Asia

16 Militants Killed In Afghan-US Operations in Paktika and Ghazni

Myanmar Orders Rohingya to Leave Tense Border Zone

Myanmar urges Bangladesh to begin repatriation of 2223 refugees soon

Take concrete steps on Rohingya rights, US aid chief urges Myanmar

Afghan Senate to summon security officials for talks regarding US, NATO pacts

Afghan-US forces respond Taliban attack in Ghazni with heavy airstrikes

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Southeast Asia

Islamic State In Indonesia: National Identity Trumps Religious Creed

Terror Attacks Rock Indonesia’s Oppressed Christian Community

Three steps for Maszlee to deal with his critics

How new antiterrorism law will change Indonesia's war on terror

Police nab ‘conspiracy theorists’ following Surabaya bombings

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North America

Muslims in St. John's Mark Ramadan with Special Friday Prayers

U.S. anti-Islamic State bureau gets reprieve despite speed-up in Syria exit

Trump isn’t the first president to follow his gut into Mideast trouble

US sanctions on Iran threaten Chabahar port project

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Africa

Nigerian, Cameroonian Troops Overrun Boko Haram in Borno

Sudan complains Egyptian TV show ties it to terrorism

Francis Macharia, wanted al Shabaab facilitator arrested in Kayole

Nigeria: Boko Haram Islamists Still Control Parts of North-Eastern Nigeria

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/saudi-led-coalition-rescues-young-girl-being-used-as-‘human-shield’-by-houthis-in-yemeni-conflict/d/115312

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Saudi-led coalition rescues young girl being used as ‘human shield’ by Houthis in Yemeni conflict

May 20, 2018

RIYADH: The Saudi-led coalition spokesperson Col. Turki Al-Malki stated on Saturday that a four-year old baby girl named Jamilah had been delivered to a representative of the legitimate government of Yemen.

In the presence of representatives of International Red Crescent, Human Rights Council and director of the Child Protection Unit in the Joint Forces Command of the Coalition, aimed at restoring legitimacy in Yemen.

Al-Malki explained that the Yemen National Army captured the child’s father during operations in the Sa’dah governorate.

Al-Malki clarified that during the advance of the YNA forces, an armed vehicle, that was driven by a Houthi armed militant, attacked YNA forces.

During the monitoring process, it was made clear that there was a child onboard.

That is when the YNA forces took all precautionary and preventive measures to ensure the safety of the child.

After the vehicle was damaged and prevented from further advancement, and during the apprehension of the driver, who was identified as an Iranian-Houthi militia field commander carrying advanced tactical weapons, a 4-year-old girl was found dressed in boys clothes.

It was discovered that the driver was her father, and that her presence in the battlefield was for the reason of being used as a ‘human shield’, as the Houthi militia is familiar with the Coalition’s rules of engagement, especially those that relate to child protection.

The Joint Forces of the Coalition, represented by its Child Protection Unit, provided necessary medical care for the child, and coordinated the return of the child to her family.

She was delivered to the legitimate government of Yemen, in the presence of her family and relatives, on Saturday.

The Joint Forces Command provided financial aid to the girl’s family.

Col. Al-Maliki asserted that Houthi militia is flagrantly defying international humanitarian law through recruiting children, throwing them into the battlefield and using them as human shields to ensure the safety of their movements.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1306271/saudi-arabia

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Pakistan, Afghanistan Ulema Agree to Hold Joint Peace Talks

May 21, 2018

Pakistan and Afghanistan’s religious scholars (Ulema) have reportedly agreed to hold conferences in both countries to explore ways for peace and to encourage the Taliban to join the reconciliation process, according to Pakistan’s Daily Times report.

According to the report, Syed Ehsan Tahiri, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s High Peace Council (HPC), said Pakistani and Afghan clerics had agreed to hold joint meetings to discuss peace in Afghanistan in accordance with Islamic teachings.

The Daily Times reported that Tahiri told Mashal Radio in Kabul that Pakistan had agreed to organise the meetings in Islamabad and also join similar meetings in Kabul that would be attended by hundreds of scholars from both sides.

The comments came after Afghan, Indonesian, Pakistani and Indonesian Ulema met in Indonesia on May 11 and “appreciated and supported” President Ashraf Ghani’s peace offer to the Taliban in February.

The Indonesian conference in its declaration also described suicide attacks as against the principles of Islam.

After the Indonesia meeting, Mawlawi Anwarulhaq Haqqani, head of Darul Uloom Haqqani madrassa in Pakistan, who participated in the meeting, said Pakistani religious scholars represented the Taliban at the conference.

Haqqani, brother of Mawlana Samiul Haq, leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party in Pakistan, also known as the father of the Taliban, said In a video message after the meeting that he did not let the Ulema in Indonesia mention the Taliban in their declaration.

Ghani meanwhile said that the Indonesia conference in Jakarta was a good chance for the Taliban.

Ghani also welcomed the Ulema’s stance, clarity and decision and called on other Ulema members of the Islamic world to play a pivotal role in maintaining peace and eliminating terrorism.

The president has endorsed such meetings of Ulema to end the imposed battle of Afghanistan and for regional stability.

https://www.tolonews.com/afghanistan/pakistan-afghanistan-ulema-agree-hold-joint-peace-talks

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Ankara-Backed Militants Loot Old Infrastructures in Afrin

May 20, 2018

Media activists in Afrin reported on Sunday that the Ankara-backed militants in Afrin have detached and stole the old railway of Afrin which linked Qatmeh to Akbas square and was built in 1913.

Also, the Kurdish sources reported that the Olive Branch forces, affiliated to the Turkish army, have fully destroyed the tomb of Sheikh Zeid in al-Zeidiyeh district in Afrin and looted the ancient artifacts inside.

Meantime, some reports said that the Turkish government plans to annex Jandaris to the town of al-Reihaniyeh in Turkey by issuing new identity cards for the residents of Afrin, creating fear and panic among the residents of this region.

Also, the Arabic-language al-Watan newspaper reported that the Turkish army has in the past week sheltered over 80 family members of the terrorists, who earlier lived in Homs and Hama, in Kharbat Sharan region in Afrin.

In a similar development last Tuesday, the Ankara-backed militant groups continued blackmailing civilians, expelling them from their residential units and looting their assets in Afrin region in Northwestern Aleppo almost two months after the Turkish troops and allied militants occupied the town of Afrin.

Gunmen of Sultan Murat Brigade, affiliated to Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army, forced villagers in the village of Naza in Shera region to leave their homes.

In the meantime, a field source said that the Ankara-backed militants settled 20 families of Eastern Ghouta terrorists in the village of Kafr Jenah, adding that most of the villagers' assets and properties were looted by the Turkey-backed militants.

The source further said that even electrical cables have been stolen and a school in the village has been damaged by the Ankara forces.

Also, the militants captured a number of men that were Afrin residents near Tarnadeh checkpoint and later called on their families to pay ransom for their release.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970230000425

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Muslim Teachers Exempted From Night Camps in Rajasthan

May 21, 2018

Ahead of the Rajasthan Assembly elections which are slated to be held in December this year, the Vasundhara Raje government's attempts to woo the minority community continues.

The government has now exempted Muslim teachers from night stay in residential training camps which are being organised by the state education department across the state. These camps are being held as per policy decision taken by the Ministry of Human Resources.

The department has scheduled the training camps from May 21 to June 16, which fall on the holy month of Ramzan. The teachers engaged in elementary education have been shortlisted for the six-day camp wherein they would be taught latest methodology of teaching. As per the mandate, the teachers have to stay in the camps throughout the day and they can't leave midway.

However, the department issuing an order has exempted Muslim teachers from night stay who are fasting during Ramzan. Such Muslim teachers, though, shall have to attend academic sessions in the camps during day time.

"In the light of holy month of Ramzan the trainees observing Roza (fast) will be relieved after the academic session," said Deputy commissioner Priya Balram Sharma, while giving these directions to the staffers supervising camps in each district.

Earlier, the department completely exempted from the camps pregnant teachers, those suffering from cancer, brain haemorrhage and other incurable disease and also women teachers whose infants are six months old.

This is third decision in a row taken by the state government to woo Muslims. The social justice department, a week back, had announced to develop 500 modern Madarasa. As per the announcement 500 Madarasa will be developed with latest infrastructure and technology across the state under Adarsh Madarasa Yojana which is the budget announcement made by chief minister Vasundhara Raje.

In another decision the Rajasthan BJP during the month of Ramzan announced to work with members of Muslim community to propagate plans of the Central and state governments. The saffron party's minority Morcha workers were instructed by the party high command to promote the government plan, schemes so the party could achieve 180-plus target in the upcoming assembly elections.

http://www.dnaindia.com/jaipur/report-muslim-teachers-exempted-from-night-camps-in-rajasthan-2617198

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More than thousand jihadists left Germany to support terrorists in Syria and Iraq

20 May 2018

The government of Germany is aware of more than a thousand jihadists who left Germany in the direction of Syria and Iraq to support terrorist groups. This is reported by Deutche Welle, referring to the government's response to the request of the parliamentary faction of the "Left Party".

The figures indicated mean that the number of people who left the Federal Republic of Germany for combat operations increased again, but significantly less than two years ago.

In addition, it is noted that since 2013, 243 supporters of the Kurdistan Workers' Party and Kurdish self-defense units left Germany to support the international coalition fighting the terrorist group Islamic State.

We recall, the Council of the European Union approved on Monday, May 14, a directive on toughening rules for the prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing, providing for increased transparency of data on the owners of trusts and beneficiaries of companies.

President of the United States Donald Trump said that it is necessary to take more stringent measures in the fight against terrorism after the terrorist attack in the south of France.

https://112.international/society/more-than-thousand-jihadists-left-germany-to-support-terrorists-in-syria-and-iraq-28656.html

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Arab World

 

Ramadan back to Syria’s Eastern Ghouta after liberation from terrorists

May 20, 2018

Syrian army announced “full victory” against terrorist groups in Eastern Ghouta area in the suburb of the capital Damascus on March 31 after months of intense fighting.

After the so-called Jaish al-Islam Takfiri group left Eastern Ghouta less than two months ago, Syrian army finished mop-up operations allowing residents to get back to their towns and resume normal life.

In the following photo album, Syria’s official news agency, SANA, shows normal life restored to a district, which was once the stronghold of foreign-sponsored terror outfits.

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/05/20/562379/Syria-Eastern-Ghouta-residents-Ramadan-photo

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Syrian troops in final steps of Hajar al-Aswad's full liberation

May 21, 2018

Syrian government forces are engaged in building to building cleansing operations of remaining terrorists in the northern part of al-Hajar al-Aswad neighbourhood.

According to the Syrian official news agency SANA on Sunday, combat tactics aimed at cleansing building blocks, tunnels and trenches, and fortified points of the lingering presence are currently being used in the region located to the south of the capital city Damascus.

The report noted that the Syrian Army is adamant about thwarting terrorists’ attempts to hinder their advances aimed at fully liberating the al-Hajar al-Aswad neighbourhood.

On Saturday, Syrian government forces and allied fighters from popular defense groups managed to make further advances on terrorists’ lines south of the capital, tightening the noose around foreign-backed terror groups. 

Syrian army troops and their allies advanced in al-Hajar al-Aswad city, and established control over a number of building blocks on Uroba Street towards al-Wassim Mosque, Syria’s official news agency SANA reported.

The new progress gives government forces the upper hand to impose a complete siege on terrorists in the densely-populated al-Jazira region north of Hajar al-Aswad.

Takfiri militants have lost much of the territory they once held in Syria amid sweeping gains by government forces on the ground over the past few months.

In April, the Syrian military launched a counter-terrorism campaign in southern Damascus. So far, it has managed to retake al-Maziniyeh, al-Qadam, al-Assali and al-Joura neighborhoods and large swaths of al-Hajar al-Aswad.

Syrian forces further liberated the Eastern Ghouta and Eastern Qalamoun regions near the capital last month.

For years, the areas had served as a launch pad for deadly terror attacks against civilians in Damascus.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/05/21/562403/syria-aswad-troops-terrorists

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Islamic State begins evacuating Damascus; Syrian govt close to winning 'war against terror'

May 21, 2018

Islamic State group fighters began evacuating their final stronghold in southern Damascus today, a monitor said, bringing Syria's government closer than ever to flushing out the last threat to the capital.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has used a combination of military pressure and evacuation deals in recent months to recapture territory around the capital from his armed opponents.

Last month, troops and allied Palestinian militia launched a fierce offensive to oust IS from a cluster of districts in southern Damascus, including the Palestinian camp of Yarmuk.

After weeks of combat and heavy casualties, an apparent deal was reached for remaining IS fighters to leave Yarmuk and the adjacent district of Tadamun, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

IS jihadists burned their headquarters in Yarmuk before boarding buses with their relatives to leave the area, said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

"The six buses left at dawn, heading east for the Syrian desert," he told AFP.

Abdel Rahman could not specify how many had left, but said a majority were relatives of jihadists and not armed. More than two dozen buses remained in Yarmuk for additional evacuations, he said.

Syrian state media and a Palestinian official have denied a deal was reached or that evacuations were taking place.

IS has had a presence in southern Damascus since 2015, expanding in recent years from Yarmuk to Tadamun and the nearby districts of Hajar al-Aswad and Qadam.

Yarmuk in particular has been devastated by Syria's conflict, suffering a crippling government siege since 2012 and ruined by years of fighting.

It was once home to 160,000 Palestinian refugees, as well as Syrians, but just a few hundred remain.

Assad has already ousted tens of thousands of rebels and civilians from areas around Damascus this year through military force and negotiated withdrawals, including the rebel bastion of Eastern Ghouta.

The regime used similar tactics to clear opposition towns northeast and south of Damascus earlier this month, leaving IS as the only armed presence in the capital.

The assault against the jihadist force has left more than 250 pro-regime forces, 233 jihadists and more than 60 civilians dead according to the Britain-based Observatory.

But the offensive died down around midday Saturday after a truce between IS on one side and pro-government Palestinian militias and regime ally Russia on the other, said the monitor, which relies on a network of sources in Syria.

"After the ceasefire yesterday, IS withdrew from areas in the western part of Yarmuk camp, east towards the centre of the camp," Abdel Rahman said.

"Troops and Palestinian loyalist militias entered that area for sweeping operations," he told AFP.

Syrian state media on Sunday denied evacuations were taking place in Hajar al-Aswad and made no mention of any departures from Yarmuk or Tadamun.

"Army units in southern Damascus continued their operations against the remaining terrorists in a small area of Hajar al-Aswad, making further progress towards ending the terrorist presence in the area," it said.

Anwar Abdel Hadi, the head of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) also denied the evacuations but said IS appeared to be giving up.

"Daesh is surrendering in Yarmuk, Hajar al-Aswad, and Tadamun," he told AFP, using the Arabic acronym for IS.

It remains unclear exactly where Sunday's evacuees will go, or if they will be pursued by regime troops.

A similar deal reached last year by Syria's regime and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah saw IS fighters bussed out of the Lebanon-Syria border area towards Syria's east.

IS once held large parts of Syria's north and east, but offensives by rival forces have whittled down its control to less than three percent of the country.

The jihadists still hold some territory in remote parts of central Homs province and Deir Ezzor in the east, according to the Observatory.

But IS is even under attack there.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters backed by Western powers, launched an assault on IS holdouts in Deir Ezzor earlier this month.

On Sunday, they were closing in on a key IS-held village, backed by close US and French ground support, the Observatory said.

"There are intense clashes around Hajjin, and the SDF is advancing thanks to American and French artillery fire," Abdel Rahman told AFP.

Full report at:

http://www.dnaindia.com/world/report-islamic-state-begins-evacuating-damascus-syrian-govt-close-to-winning-war-against-terror-2617135

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ISIS begins quitting last pocket of Syria's capital

May 20, 2018

Islamic State group fighters began evacuating their final stronghold in southern Damascus on Sunday, a monitor said, bringing Syria's government closer than ever to flushing out the last threat to the capital.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has used a combination of military pressure and evacuation deals in recent months to recapture territory around the capital from his armed opponents.

Last month, troops and allied Palestinian militia launched a fierce offensive to oust IS from a cluster of districts in southern Damascus, including the Palestinian camp of Yarmuk.

After weeks of combat and heavy casualties, an apparent deal was reached for remaining IS fighters to leave Yarmuk and the adjacent district of Tadamun, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

IS jihadists burned their headquarters in Yarmuk before boarding buses with their relatives to leave the area, said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

"The six buses left at dawn, heading east for the Syrian desert," he told AFP.

Abdel Rahman could not specify how many had left, but said a majority were relatives of jihadists and not armed. More than two dozen buses remained in Yarmuk for additional evacuations, he said.

Syrian state media and a Palestinian official have denied a deal was reached or that evacuations were taking place.

IS has had a presence in southern Damascus since 2015, expanding in recent years from Yarmuk to Tadamun and the nearby districts of Hajar al-Aswad and Qadam.

Yarmuk in particular has been devastated by Syria's conflict, suffering a crippling government siege since 2012 and ruined by years of fighting.

It was once home to 160,000 Palestinian refugees, as well as Syrians, but just a few hundred remain.

IS 'surrendering'

Assad has already ousted tens of thousands of rebels and civilians from areas around Damascus this year through military force and negotiated withdrawals, including the rebel bastion of Eastern Ghouta.

The regime used similar tactics to clear opposition towns northeast and south of Damascus earlier this month, leaving IS as the only armed presence in the capital.

The assault against the jihadist force has left more than 250 pro-regime forces, 233 jihadists and more than 60 civilians dead according to the Britain-based Observatory.

But the offensive died down around midday Saturday after a truce between IS on one side and pro-government Palestinian militias and regime ally Russia on the other, said the monitor, which relies on a network of sources in Syria.

"After the ceasefire on Saturday, IS withdrew from areas in the western part of Yarmuk camp, east towards the centre of the camp," Abdel Rahman said.

"Troops and Palestinian loyalist militias entered that area for sweeping operations," he told AFP.

Syrian state media on Sunday denied evacuations were taking place in Hajar al-Aswad and made no mention of any departures from Yarmuk or Tadamun.

"Army units in southern Damascus continued their operations against the remaining terrorists in a small area of Hajar al-Aswad, making further progress towards ending the terrorist presence in the area," it said.

Anwar Abdel Hadi, the head of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) also denied the evacuations but said IS appeared to be giving up.

"Daesh is surrendering in Yarmuk, Hajar al-Aswad, and Tadamun," he told AFP, using the Arabic acronym for IS.

Artillery backs SDF

It remains unclear exactly where Sunday's evacuees will go, or if they will be pursued by regime troops.

A similar deal reached last year by Syria's regime and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah saw IS fighters bussed out of the Lebanon-Syria border area towards Syria's east.

IS once held large parts of Syria's north and east, but offensives by rival forces have whittled down its control to less than three percent of the country.

The jihadists still hold some territory in remote parts of central Homs province and Deir Ezzor in the east, according to the Observatory.

But IS is even under attack there.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters backed by Western powers, launched an assault on IS holdouts in Deir Ezzor earlier this month.

On Sunday, they were closing in on a key IS-held village, backed by close US and French ground support, the Observatory said.

"There are intense clashes around Hajjin, and the SDF is advancing thanks to American and French artillery fire," Abdel Rahman told AFP.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/20-May-2018/isis-begins-quitting-last-pocket-of-syrias-capital

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US-Backed Militants Continue Blackmailing Civilians in Northeastern Syria

May 20, 2018

The US-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) arrested a number of civilians in Raqqa province to further ask a hefty amount of money for their release.

In the meantime, local sources in the town of Tabaqa in Western Raqqa reported that the Kurdish militias captured a number of young people at the town's entrance and forced them to pay $550 for their release or fight in battlefields.

The Kurdish militias have been forcing locals to join the SDF via vast arrest plans in their territories.

In a relevant development on Tuesday, tens of residents in the village of al-Jarniyeh in Western Raqqa took to the main street in the village and protested against the Kurdish militias' forced recruitment and brutal measures.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970230000668

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More Tahrir Al-Sham Terrorists Killed by Unknown Gunmen in Northwestern Syria

May 20, 2018

Unknown assailants stormed two bases of Tahrir al-Sham near the town of Idlib and in al-Za'einiyeh region in the town of Jisr al-Shughour, killing at least seven Tahrir gunmen and wounding several more.

In the meantime, Tahrir's Al-Ram checkpoint on a road that connects Idlib city to the town of Ma'arat Mesrin in the Northern part of Idlib province was attacked by unknown attackers, leaving five gunmen dead and several more wounded.

In response, Tahrir al-Sham's security forces executed four civilians in Idlib city on charges of carrying out assassination operation against the group.

Local sources reported that terrorists in Idlib are fraught with fear after the start of a fresh wave of assassination operations and spread of insecurity in the region.

Field sources reported on Saturday that a roadside bomb blast killed Jund al-Malahem Commander Abu Jasim Kansafra and two of his aides on a road connecting the town of Kafr Nabal and Kansafra settlement in Southern Idlib.

In the meantime, a bomb went off near al-Bahrah square in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Southern Idlib, killing and wounding a number of terrorists, the sources said.

Also, two Uzbek terrorists were assassinated by unknown assailants near the town of Ma'arat Mesrin in Northern Idlib, they added.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970230000544

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Syrian Army Preempts Terrorists' Attack in Sweida Province

May 20, 2018

The army soldiers carried out a preemptive operation in Eastern Sweida after the intelligence forces informed them of the movements of a group of terrorists.

The army units further targeted and destroyed a bomb-laden suicide vehicle of the terrorists that was moving towards the government forces' al-Mosamiyeh checkpoint at Sweida-Damascus highway.

The vehicle was damaged and all the terrorists inside were killed in the attack.

In a similar development in March, the army men warded off the terrorists' offensive near the towns of Ta'ara and al-Dowar in Western Sweida.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970230000459

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Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr meets PM Abadi, hinting at coalition

20 May 2018

A meeting between nationalist cleric Moqtada Sadr and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was held a day after the announcement of the Iraqi parliamentary election results to reaffirm close ties between both parties in forming a future government, a source close to Sadr revealed.

A statement released by Abadi on Saturday said that the meeting with Sadr came for the sake of working together to speed up the process of forming a new government, and ensure that the government will be strong, provide services for the people and job opportunities, as well as increasing people’s standard of living and fight corruption.

“During our meeting, we agreed to work together and with other parties to expedite the process of forming a new Iraqi government,” Abadi said at a joint press conference.

The statement added that there was an understanding between both parties in the meeting that the future government needs to be inclusive.

Sadr said that the meeting is a message of reassurance that the next government will be a “paternal” one, including and caring for all people of Iraq.

“We extend our hands to everyone building the country, and for the decision to be an Iraqi one,” Sadr said, reaffirming the importance of speeding the government forming process that prioritizes the Iraqi people’s needs.

Abadi called on all other blocs to accept the results and to follow legal procedures if they would like to object. He also stressed on the need for those who won the election to begin their role and tasks in parliament as soon as possible.

Two days ago, Sadr invited Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the al-Hikma bloc who won 20 seats in parliament trailing in seventh place, to create a joint vision for the future.

Sadr’s Sairoon electoral list captured 54 parliamentary seats, 12 more than Abadi’s.

Winning the largest number of seats does not automatically guarantee that Sadr will be able to hand-pick a prime minister.

Parties will have to align themselves to try and form a bloc large enough for the parliamentary majority necessary to nominate a candidate. The government should be formed within 90 days of the official results, but negotiations are expected to drag on for months.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/05/20/Cleric-Sadr-meets-Iraq-PM-Abadi-hinting-at-coalition.html

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Syria to repel Israeli attacks under any pretext: Envoy to Russia

May 20, 2018

A senior diplomat says Damascus views any Israeli attack on Syria an act of "aggression" and will confront it, following Israel's raids under the pretext of targeting Iranian forces. 

"Syria has its own sovereignty. Any outside aggression against the Syrian territory is an aggression,” Syrian Ambassador to Moscow Riad Haddad told reporters in the Russian city of Sevastopol on Saturday.

“Our forces, including the air defense, protect the Syrian sky and land. We will repel any aggression against Syria, regardless where it will take place," he added.

The ambassador was commenting on a May 10 incident, in which Israel conducted what it called its most intensive airstrikes on Syria in decades.

According to Russia's Defense Ministry, Israel used 28 warplanes in the attack and fired 70 missiles. Both Damascus and Moscow said the Syrian army had managed to shoot down more than half of the missiles.

Tel Aviv has claimed that its assault was a response to a barrage of 20 rockets fired from Syria at Israeli military outposts in the occupied Golan Heights which it blamed on Iran.

Iranian officials traditionally do not respond to Israeli claims, saying they do not merit an answer. Nevertheless, an Iranian lawmaker quoted by Lebanon's Al-Manar television network, denied his country was behind the barrage. 

Israel has stepped up its attacks on Syrian military positions in what is considered an attempt to prop up terrorist groups that have been suffering heavy losses and retreating on multiple fronts, most recently from their strongholds in Damascus suburbs.  Israel has been acting as a de facto air force of the militants for some time but its extensive raids on May 10 were its most brazenly direct engagement in Syria's fight on terrorism. 

Tel Aviv has been occupying the Golan Heights since 1967. It has been lending arms support to Takfiri terrorists, besides treating them in the mountainous region.

Using Lebanon’s airspace, the regime has attacked the Syrian soil on many occasions since 2011, when the Arab country found itself in the grips of a devastating foreign-backed militancy.

The attacks are mostly conducted against targets belonging to the Lebanese resistance movement of Hezbollah, which has been helping Damascus against foreign-backed terrorists.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/05/20/562343/Syria-Israel-aggression-Riad-Haddad-Golan-Heights-Russia-Iran

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Pakistan

 

Imran unveils ambitious agenda for first 100 days of govt

Amir Wasim

May 21, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Exuding too much optimism and confidence, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) on Sunday unveiled its ambitious “agenda” outlining the party’s commitments for starting work within the first 100 days of forming its government after the 2018 general elections.

The salient features of the agenda are expeditious merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, bifurcation of Punjab province and reconciliation with estranged Baloch leaders.

The agenda, prepared by the Policy Unit of the PTI’s Election Management Cell headed by former chief secretary of KP Shahzad Arbab, was unveiled at a ceremony attended by the party’s chairman Imran Khan and other top leaders.

The agenda also contains a plan for introducing a development package for Karachi and a programme for alleviation of poverty from the country, besides a number of steps for improvement of economy.

The agenda is based on six themes — transforming governance, strengthening the federation, re-vitalising economic growth, uplifting agriculture and conserving water, revolutionising social sector and ensuring national security.

Imran Khan said a government could take difficult decisions only during its initial days as this was the time when it had the maximum strength.

He highlighted the “achievements” of the PTI-led coalition government in KP where he claimed they had depoliticised bureaucracy and police.

Terming overseas Pakistanis an asset for the country, Mr Khan spoke about bringing in investment and capability into the country by tapping into the pool of six million overseas Pakistanis.

He said the PTI had gained experience and capability through five years of its government in KP which would help his team run the country in a much better way than they could have five years ago.

In five years, he said, the PTI had also learned about how to deal with resistance by the powers of status quo. He vowed to introduce “civil services reforms” in the country which would help improve delivery system.

FATA MERGER: PTI vice-chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi said all laws of Pakistan would gradually be enforced in Fata in consultation with the local people.

He said the PTI had expressed reservations over the draft law on Fata reforms prepared by the government and all proposals of the party had now been incorporated in the draft. The bill which would be passed by the National Assembly on Wednesday would be “reflective of the PTI’s thinking,” he added.

Mr Qureshi said a mega development plan would be implemented in Fata for which the other provinces would give three per cent share from the amount they received from divisible pool.

He said the black Frontier Crimes Regulations would be abolished and a legal infrastructure would be provided to Fata which was necessary after the passage of the bill extending the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and Peshawar High Court to the tribal region.

SOUTHERN PUNJAB: He said the PTI was committed to bifurcate Punjab which presently had 110 million population, which was 57 per cent of the country’s total population. He said Punjab was larger than KP and even many countries of the world.

Mr Qureshi said the PTI would carve out a new southern Punjab province which would be given complete autonomy. He said the new province would be made an agricultural hub in the next five years and an economic package would also be announced for the people of southern Punjab. The youth of the new province would be provided job opportunities through setting up of food processing industry.

BALOCHISTAN: The PTI vice-chairman said they would heal their wounds and reconcile with the estranged Baloch youth who had taken positions on mountains and were being used by intelligence agencies of India and Afghanistan. He said they would fulfil all promises with the Baloch people and ensure implementation on job quota reserved for the province.

KARACHI: Mr Qureshi said the coming PTI government would announce a “federal package” for Karachi after implementing a six-point agenda for the city. The six-point agenda for Karachi includes improvement in law and order situation, crackdown on extortionists and China cutting mafia, elimination of militant wings of political parties, launching a public transport system, a housing infrastructure policy and empowerment of local government.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: MNA Asad Umar presented the salient points of the economic policy of the PTI government and vowed that the party would create 10 million jobs, revive manufacturing, rapidly grow small and medium enterprises sector, facilitate private sector to build five million houses, boost tourism, reform tax administration, transform state-owned-enterprises, fix energy challenge, make China-Pakistan Economic Corridor a game changer and enhance access to finance.

AGRICULTURE: Former secretary general of the PTI Jahangir Tareen highlighted the steps the PTI government planned to take for uplifting agriculture sector and for conservation of water. He said the party would impose an “agriculture emergency” to take steps on war-footing basis to increase farmers’ profitability, improve farmers’ access to finance, transform agriculture produce markets, incentivise value-addition, revamp livestock sector and upgrade and implement the National Water Policy.

KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak talked about the party’s agenda to improve social services like education and health whereas MNA Shireen Mazari highlighted the party’s priorities for ensuring national security, announcing setting up of four national security organisations. She also highlighted steps needed for mainstreaming of seminaries and measures to fight terrorism.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1409003/imran-unveils-ambitious-agenda-for-first-100-days-of-govt

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‘Afghan-based group carried out attacks in Punjab’

Mohammad Asghar

May 21, 2018

RAWALPINDI: The Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) has claimed that the four terrorist attacks in Punjab last year were carried out by Jamatul Ahrar (JuA), a faction of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban (TTP) which was operating from Afghanistan.

It said all facilitators of the attackers had been arrested. Mohammad Tahir Rai, additional inspector general CTD, said except the four terrorist attacks the security situation in the province remained satisfactory in 2017.

He stated this while briefing participants of a meeting of National Counter-Terrorism Authority (Nacta).

The meeting was attended by the interior minister, police high-ups and representatives of intelligence agencies.

The official said handlers of those who carried out the four terrorist attacks had been arrested by law enforcement agencies.

Among those killed in the fourth suicide attack in Lahore on July 13, 2017, were six policemen, including Zahir Gondal, the SSP operations, and Ahmed Mobin, the DIG traffic.

At least 26 people were killed and over 50 injured in the attack.

The CTD official said radicalisation of the youth through the social media by terror groups was posing a security threat to Punjab.

He suggested establishing social media monitoring mechanisms at Nacta for countering the terrorists’ narrative. He also stressed the need to form a body at the federal government level to deal with transnational and inter-provincial terrorism.

The AIG warned against anti-China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) hostile proxies operating in the country and suggested addressing the root cause of terrorism such as poverty, unemployment, deprivation and most importantly lack of easy access to justice.

He said the terrorists must be neutralised ideologically because merely hunting them down with force would not be a long-lasting solution to the menace of terrorism.

Meanwhile, Nacta has issued a security alert citing intelligence that terrorists associated with TTP had been planning to carry out an attack in the provincial capital.

It also warned that the terrorists’ likely target would be Chinese interests and establishments, law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1408936/afghan-based-group-carried-out-attacks-in-punjab

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Rs20m Released To Renovate Krishna Mandir in Rawalpindi City

May 20, 2018

RAWALPINDI: The Punjab government has released Rs20 million to renovate Krishna Mandir in Rawalpindi city, which the local Hindu community has said should be expanded because it cannot currently accommodate worshippers on festivals and religious occasions.

Krishna Mandir is the only functioning Hindu temple in the twin cities.

There are two prayers held at the temple every day – one in the morning and one in the evening – which are attended by six or seven people.

The small temple was built by Kanji Mal and Ujagar Mal Ram Rachpal in 1897 to serve people in nearby areas. However, after partition the street temple in Saddar became the only place of worship for Rawalpindi’s Hindus.

The temple was reopened after partition in 1949; it was operated by local Hindus before being handed over to the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) in 1970. Until the 1980s, even diplomats living in Islamabad visited the temple to pray.

ETPB Deputy Administrator Mohammad Asif told Dawn that the government has released funds to reconstruct the temple at the request of an MPA.

He said reconstruction work would begin soon. A team has visited the site and pointed out a plan to start work. The main room where idols are kept will be sealed until reconstruction ends.

Once reconstructed, the temple will be able to accommodate more people, he said. The official said the temple could accommodate the local Hindu community from the twin cities and nearby areas.

Local Hindus have said the temple’s area should be expanded.

Jag Mohan Arora said the temple courtyard, which can only accommodate 100 or so people, should be expanded, and shops next to the temple that the ETPB has leased to local traders should be retrieved to expand the front of the building.

“At present the front of the temple is very small. The ETPB should vacate nearby shops that have been rented,” Jag Mohan Arora said, adding that he had asked the ETPB to extend the temple area many times.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1408744/rs20m-released-to-renovate-krishna-mandir

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Pakistani politician draws censure for Christian slur

May 21, 2018

Minority members of the Punjab Assembly are condemning a Muslim lawmaker for making anti-Christian remarks.

"Suspend Arif Abbasi!" shouted Sikh and Christian lawmakers outside the assembly, where they held an emergency press conference to discuss a member of the Tehreek-e-Insaf party headed by former cricket star Imran Khan.

"During a heated discussion of the budget, Abbasi called me churha (low caste). This is an insult to all religious minorities in Pakistan. His leader is also prejudiced. We only accept a Pakistan where there is no discrimination of color, cast or faith," said Tariq Gill, the Christian parliamentary secretary for human rights and minorities.

The remarks were followed by a physical clash between treasury and opposition legislators on May 17.

Churha is a racial and abusive term reserved for Christian sanitation workers. Government advertisements usually announce sweeper jobs only for Christians, Hindus and Shia Muslims in Pakistan. Minority Hindus in Sindh province and Christians in other provinces are associated with cleaning toilets and drains.

Abbasi made a video statement to deny making anti-Christian comments.

"I only said 'Do not chur chur, respect my leader.' My comment was in response to insulting remarks but now it is being misquoted," he said. "I did not use any word against parliamentary etiquette. This is propaganda to distance a community from us." 

"#I am churha" was trending on social media as Christian community leaders posted mixed reactions to the incident.

"The use of a derogatory term on the floor of the assembly is unethical. Minority lawmakers should have submitted their resignation from the assembly, which will complete its term this month anyway," Khalid Shehzad, a Catholic human rights activist, told ucanews.com.

"We are still not being accepted as equal citizens. The insecurity increases as our leaders themselves become faith victims. The comment from a leader reflects the dominant mindset of society"

Yousaf Benjamin, executive director of Dignity First, an NGO for persecuted Christians, said the dispute was a petty matter.

Full report at:

https://www.ucanews.com/news/pakistani-politician-draws-censure-for-christian-slur/82356

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JUI-F threatens to close down Indus, Pak-Afghan highways over KP-FATA merger

May 21, 2018

PESHAWAR: Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) has threatened to close down the Pak-Afghan Highway and Indus Highway on May 22 in protest against the Federally Administered Tribal Areas’ (FATA) likely merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).

Addressing a news conference following an emergency party meeting on Sunday, JUI-F’s FATA Chapter chief Mufti Abdul Shakoor, General Secretary Mufti Ijaz Shinwari and Information Secretary Jihad Shah said FATA’s merger with KP “is an international agenda which will not be supported at any cost.”

They said the party will stage a protest demonstration at the Pak-Afghan Highway in Landi Kotal and a separate one at the Indus Highway in Darra Adam Khel simultaneously against ignoring the will of tribal people and imposing decisions on them against their wishes.

The two highways will be closed for all traffic, they warned.

Earlier today, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman announced that the party had decided to part ways with the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) over the implementation of reforms in FATA.

Strongly opposing the 13th Amendment Bill, Rehman termed the reforms a global conspiracy. The JUI-F chief claimed that the government had backed off from the promise it made with their party for not going ahead with the merger; not going ahead with Rewaj Act and not announcing the national and provincial assembly seats.

In a National Security Committee (NSC) meeting on Saturday, the top civil and military leadership of the country had put their weight behind the merger and directed the relevant ministries to take steps in this regard.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/05/20/jui-f-threatens-to-close-down-indus-pak-afghan-highways-over-kp-fata-merger/

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CTD seizes large amount of weapons during raid in Quetta

MAY 21, 2018

QUETTA: The Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) seized a significant amount of weapons during a raid on a house in Quetta’s Kili Barat area.

The CTD confiscated a large amount of weapons, explosive material and suicide vests from the house.

A CTD spokesperson also claimed that the raid occurred after the CTD managed to gain information from terrorists it had earlier apprehended.

The CTD, however, did not make any arrests during this operation.

The raid comes only a few days after FC personnel gunned down five attackers who tried to break in to the Frontier Corps Help Center in Quetta.

Full report at:

https://dailytimes.com.pk/242881/ctd-seizes-large-amount-of-weapons-during-raid-in-quetta/

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Mideast

 

KSRELIEF distributes Iftar meals to Syrians, Yemenis and Rohingya

20 May 2018

The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRELIEF) is distributing Ramadan Iftar meals to displaced Syrians in the northern countryside of Aleppo, Yemeni people in Taiz, and Rohingya refugees in the Balukhali camp in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar.

The distribution in Aleppo covered the areas of Hreitan, Miznaz, Kafr Hamra and Dara Azza.

In the Salah Directorate of Taiz in Yemen, 1,500 food baskets were distributed benefiting 9,000 people.

The aid falls within the framework of humanitarian projects provided by the kingdom, represented by KSRELIEF.

The UNESCO Arab Group has praised the kingdom’s efforts in providing humanitarian aid to crisis-stricken people and countries around the world.

During a recent meeting with the UNESCO Arab Group at its headquarters in Paris, KSRELIEF supervisor, general, Dr. Abdullah Al Rabeeah, said that the kingdom has implemented education programs in nine countries at a total cost of $93,000,000, and carried out 419 humanitarian aid and relief projects in 40 countries.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/variety/2018/05/20/KSRELIEF-distributes-Iftar-meals-to-Syrians-Yemenis-and-Rohingya.html

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Nearly 300 Israeli settlers attack al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied al-Quds

May 20, 2018

Nearly 300 Israeli settlers have stormed the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Israeli-occupied Old City of East Jerusalem al-Quds amid frequent acts of violence committed by Israeli forces and settlers against the Palestinian people.

Firas al-Debs, head of the media bureau of the Islamic Endowments Department in Jerusalem al-Quds, said a total of 284 settlers forced their way into the holy site through the Bab al-Magharibah under the tight protection of several groups of Israeli soldiers and special police forces, Arabic-language Safa news agency reported.

Debs added that the settlers sought to perform acts deemed provocative by Palestinians in the mosque courtyard, but Muslim worshipers and mosque guards resisted them.

The Palestinian official went on to say that more Israeli settlers and extremists are expected to storm al-Aqsa Mosque tomorrow as they are currently commemorating the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, known as the Feast of Weeks in English.

The occupied Palestinian territories have witnessed new tensions ever since US President Donald Trump announced his decision on December 6 last year to recognize Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s capital and relocate the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the occupied city.

The dramatic shift in Washington’s policy vis-à-vis the city triggered demonstrations in the occupied Palestinian territories, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq, Morocco and other Muslim countries.

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

In an attempt to avert the resolution, Trump had warned that “we’re watching,” threatening reprisals against countries that backed the measure, which had earlier faced a US veto at the UN Security Council.

Israel, however, rejected the world body’s resolution while thanking Trump for his decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem al-Quds.

On January 18, the United States reneged on a pledge to contribute $45 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which supports more than 5 million registered Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

The announcement to cut aid to Palestinian refugees came after the US president made a threat to cut off aid to the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency.

In a series of tweets on January 2, Trump said that the US paid “the Palestinians hundreds of millions of dollars a year” and yet gets “no appreciation or respect.”

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/05/20/562355/Nearly-300-Israeli-settlers-attack-alAqsa-Mosque-in-occupied-alQuds

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Europe's political support for nuclear deal not enough: Iran FM

May 20, 2018

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says the European Union's "political support" for a 2015 multilateral nuclear agreement is not enough, urging the bloc to take more practical steps to boost economic cooperation with Iran.

Zarif made the remarks in a meeting with the European Commissioner for Energy and Climate Miguel Arias Cañete and his accompanying delegation in Tehran on Sunday, a few weeks after US President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw from the nuclear agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries.

"With the US exiting the JCPOA, public opinion's expectations from the European Union have increased to save the JCPOA's achievements," the top Iranian diplomat said.

"The [European] Union must take more practical steps to continue its economic cooperation with Iran and boost its investment in Iran," Zarif added.

He emphasized that the 28-nation's commitment to implementing the nuclear accord was not consistent with the announcement of the possible withdrawal by major European companies from cooperating with Iran.

Arias Cañete, for his part, said European countries had reinforced their determination to maintain the JCPOA's gains.

The European commissioner added that the EU was resolute on implementing the nuclear deal and helping European firms continue their cooperation with Iran.

The US president announced on May 8 that Washington was walking away from the nuclear agreement, which was reached between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- the US, Britain, France, Russia and China -- plus Germany.

Trump also said he would reinstate US nuclear sanctions on Iran and impose "the highest level" of economic bans on the Islamic Republic.

Iran has said it would remain in the JCPOA for now, pending negotiations with the other signatories in the coming weeks before making a final decision on its future role in the agreement. Tehran wants the Europeans to give it clear-cut guarantees about fulfilling their obligations if it remains in the accord.

The three European signatories to the JCPOA have expressed their determination to preserve the landmark Iran nuclear deal.

Trump's administration said last week that the US president is prepared to impose sanctions on European companies that do business in Iran.

John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, claimed that “the Europeans will see that it’s in their interests to come along with us” rather than continue with the JCPOA, under which major European corporations have signed billions of dollars of contracts with Iran.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Sunday that his country was weighing possible ways that could help the EU compensate European companies that might be facing sanctions by the United States for doing business with Iran.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/05/20/562368/Zarif-Miguel-Arias-Canete-European-Commissioner-JCPOA

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Palestinian publicly sets himself on fire in Gaza

21 May 2018

A 20-year-old Palestinian is in critical condition on Sunday after publicly setting himself on fire but his motives remain unclear with family believing he was despairing over Gaza’s dire living conditions and Hamas, the militant group that rules the territory, alleging personal problems.

Suicide is strictly forbidden in Islam and cases are rare in conservative Gaza but dozens were reported last year. Several cases of self-immolation have also been reported in Gaza over the past years. This was the first time, however, that one was filmed and posted online.

In the brief nighttime clip, Fathi Harb is already ablaze in front of a residential building. Onlookers rush to put out the fire with rugs and water.

Majda, the young man’s mother, told The Associated Press Sunday that a day earlier her eldest son had said he was going to collect a payment. But half an hour later police came to her home saying he was in hospital after having set himself ablaze.

On Sunday, Fathi was unconscious and connected to breathing tubes at the intensive care unit of Gaza city’s Shifa hospital.

Majda said she doesn’t know for sure what led Fathi to hurt himself. She said he was expecting his first child soon and felt helpless due to the harsh economic situation in Gaza.

“What can a man do when his wife is giving birth and he has no money for a doctor, diapers and milk?” she said.

Fathi was a laborer who sought any job that paid, his mother said. He had worked as a waiter at a wedding and was on his way to collect his wages, about $14, when he set himself on fire.

The head of the hospital’s burn unit, Nafez Abu Shaban, said Fathi has second and third-degree burns over almost half of his body and has also suffered serious injuries from smoke inhalation.

“He is in a very risky, critical condition,” said Abu Shaban.

Israeli blockade

Gaza has been under blockade by Israel and Egypt since Hamas took over the territory in 2007. The blockade has devastated Gaza’s economy, made it virtually impossible for people to enter and exit the territory, and left residents with just a few hours of electricity a day. Moreover, the tap water is undrinkable and rising unemployment is at 45 percent.

Israel says the restrictions are crucial to prevent Hamas, a militant group sworn to Israel’s destruction, from acquiring weapons. Critics say the blockade is tantamount to collective punishment of Gaza’s 2 million people.

Hamas, which rules Gaza with a tight fist, has mostly denied political or economic motivation behind recent suicides. Hamas police were quoted in Palestinian media blaming “internal family problems” for the incident.

Furthering the misery is the internal Palestinian feud between President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas. Palestinians have been split since the Hamas takeover, with Hamas ruling Gaza and Abbas governing parts of the West Bank. Repeated reconciliation attempts have failed.

Abbas has tried to squeeze Hamas financially hoping to force it to cede power. Measures have including cutting salaries of his employees there.

One of those affected is Walid, Fathi’s father.

Earlier this week, Majda, Fathi’s mother, went to the bank hoping to withdraw money from her husband’s account. “It was in the minus. I found out we owe money to the bank,” she said.

Meanwhile, Walid, was able to make a rare crossing into Egypt to accompany another son, 14-year-old Arafat, who is seeking treatment there for wounds sustained by Israeli fire in recent violence along the Gaza border.

The mass border rallies are aimed in part at breaking the blockade.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/05/21/Palestinian-publicly-sets-himself-on-fire-in-Gaza.html

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Zarif describes nuclear deal as a ‘dying patient’, Iran MP says

20 May 2018

An Iranian MP said that the Islamic Republic Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif described the nuclear deal as a "dying patient," after US President decided to withdraw from it.

Mohamed Rida Radai Kotchi who heads the parliamentary reconstruction committee said to Mehr News Agency that “Zarif confirmed in a closed session that this Deal is in the intensive care and going through a very tough situation."

He added that the session was held in the parliament and attended by Parliament Speaker, Supreme National Security Council Secretary, Chief negotiator, to discuss Iran's accession to the Anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing Treaty.

The MP noted that ratifying the treaty will hurt Iran because the "West might classify Iranian backed groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas as terrorist organizations.

Kotchi quoted Zarif as saying that the treaty would not affect Iran’s support for its allied groups.

Regarding the agreement, Zarif was quoted as saying that the agreement is dying in light of the lack of clarity of the Europeans during the talks."

“We do not know how much the Europeans will resist America's sanctions because the shareholders of European companies are Americans” Zarif said.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2018/05/20/Iranian-MP-Zarif-described-the-Nuclear-Deal-as-a-dying-patient.html

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Iran rejects report about proposal for new agreement with major powers

May 20, 2018

Iran has rejected a report about a proposal for conclusion of a new agreement between Iran and major world powers, saying such baseless claims are fabricated by Zionist media and other international anarchists.

A German newspaper reported on Sunday that diplomats from all signatories to the landmark 2015 nuclear agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), except for the United States will meet in Vienna on Friday to discuss next steps after US pullout from the deal.

The Welt am Sonntag newspaper cited an unnamed senior EU official as saying that the diplomats would discuss a proposal for a new agreement between Iran and world powers that would be the same as the JCPOA but with some additions to appease the United States.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said on Sunday, "Such baseless news and claims are rooted in the think tanks of the Zionist media and other international anarchists as well as ill-wishers of the Iranian nation with the purpose of creating a negative atmosphere and diverting the course of dialogue between Iran and other sides in the JCPOA."

After the "unilateral and illegal" US exit from this "international agreement" and in response to calls by other sides to remain in the deal, Iran has explicitly announced that it would stay in the accord if other parties would be able to observe the Islamic Republic's rights stipulated in the JCPOA and fully implement it, he added.

The spokesman said it is important to determine whether the other sides would be able to fulfill their commitments under the JCPOA or not.

Qassemi emphasized that participants at the first session of the JCPOA joint commission without the US, which is scheduled to be convened upon Iran's proposal in the coming days, would "only discuss issues pertaining to the JCPOA."

US President Donald Trump announced on May 8 that Washington was walking away from the nuclear agreement, which was reached between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- the US, Britain, France, Russia and China -- plus Germany.

Trump also said he would reinstate US nuclear sanctions on Iran and impose "the highest level" of economic bans on the Islamic Republic.

Iran has said it would remain in the JCPOA for now, pending negotiations with the other signatories in the coming weeks before making a final decision on its future role in the agreement. Tehran wants the Europeans to give it clear-cut guarantees about fulfilling their obligations if it remains in the accord.

The three European signatories to the JCPOA have expressed their determination to preserve the landmark Iran nuclear deal.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Sunday that the European Union's "political support" for the multilateral nuclear agreement is not enough, urging the bloc to take more practical steps to boost economic cooperation with Iran.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/05/20/562383/Bahram-Qassemi-JCPOA-Welt-am-Sonntag-Iran

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Yemen's retaliatory missile attack targets Saudi airport

May 21, 2018

Yemen’s popular Houthi Ansarullah movement has fired a ballistic missile at an airport in southwest Saudi Arabia in retaliation for fresh airstrikes by the kingdom.

Yemen’s al-Masirah television network said on Monday that the Houthis had fired a Badr-1 ballistic missile at Jizan's airport which successfully hit the target.

A Saudi television report said the country’s air defense systems had intercepted and destroyed the projectile.

The Houthis have fired a salvo of missiles at Saudi Arabia in recent months, including the capital Riyadh, while the kingdom launched thousands of airstrikes on Yemen, killing hundreds of civilians at hospitals, schools and markets.

Riyadh frequently reports intercepting missiles fired from Yemen, but various reports have pointed out that US-made Patriot interceptors were repeatedly failing against the counterattacks.

Last month, The New York Times described the Patriot a ”struggling missile defense system.”

“The Patriot system has faced recent scrutiny after it failed to protect Saudi Arabia’s capital from missiles fired by Houthi militants in Yemen,” the paper wrote.

A month earlier, Washington-based Foreign Policy magazine published an article, describing the Patriot as “a lemon of a missile defense system,” and casting doubt on the veracity of the kingdom’s claims of successfully neutralizing the counterattacks.

Saudi Arabia relies heavily on the United States to continue its invasion of Yemen. More than 14,000 have died since Riyadh and its allies launched their military campaign against the country.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/05/21/562415/Yemen-Saudi-Arabia-retaliation-ballistic-missile-Jizan-Houthi-Patriot-United-States

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Israel plans new settlements south of Jerusalem al-Quds

May 20, 2018

Israel is planning to build four new settlement buildings in the occupied territories.

The new buildings will each have 22 housing units and are expected to be built in the Gilo settlement located to the south of Jerusalem al-Quds, says Palestinian media on Sunday.

According to the report, the fresh settlements will be inhabitable by the end of next year.

Last week, two-thirds of the 15 United Nations Security Council (UNSC) member states raised alarm over the non-implementation of a 2016 resolution which urges the Israeli regime to stop its settlement expansion on occupied Palestinian territory.   

In a letter addressed to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and seen by Reuters on Tuesday, 10 UNSC member states said they were writing to express “profound concern about the lack of implementation” of Resolution 2334.

The council approved Resolution 2334 on December 23, 2016 by a vote of 14-0 when former American president Barack Obama’s administration abstained, stopping short of vetoing the anti-Israel document in a rare move.

The resolution states that “it will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem [al-Quds], other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations.”

Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds during the Six Day War in 1967. It later annexed East Jerusalem al-Quds in a move not recognized by the international community.

About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built illegally since the 1967 occupation of the Palestinian lands.

The Tel Aviv regime has been emboldened by the all-out support of Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, stepping up even further its settlement construction activities in the occupied territories in defiance of UNSC Resolution 2334.

Israel accused of medical malpractice over prisoners death 

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Affairs Committee accused the Tel Aviv regime of medical malpractice and called for an international investigation into the death of Aziz Awaisat.

Awaisat had been imprisoned since 2014 over claims of sabotaging gas lines and carrying out knife attacks against Israeli soldiers.

The 53-year-old prisoner was recently hospitalized after suffering from severe lung failure and pneumonia after having a heart attack.

Some 7,000 Palestinians are currently behind bars in 17 Israeli prisons and detention centers, according to reports.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/05/20/562398/israel-settlement-palestinian-prisoner

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India

 

21-Year-Old UP Youth Converts to Islam Eight Months Ago, Arrested

Anuja Jaiswal

May 21, 2018

AGRA: A 21-year-old Aligarh youth who converted to Islam was arrested on Sunday after his family members and some right-wing organisations created a ruckus outside the Kwarsi police station in the district. He has been arrested under section 151 of the CrPC (arrest to prevent the commission of cognizable offences). A complaint filed by his family members has alleged that “their son was influenced by a Muslim girl and forced to convert” even though the youth said that he has embraced the religion of his own free will.

According to police, Ved Prakash, who has now taken the name of Aadil, had left Hinduism around eight months ago while he was employed at a furniture shop in the district’s Nagla Patwari locality. The matter came to light on Saturday evening when he had allegedly expressed his desire to marry a Muslim girl who lives in the same neighbourhood. Aadil is a resident of Baraula Jafrabad area of the district. On Sunday, members of his family along with some right-wing groups lodged a complaint against the girl’s relatives alleging them of “forceful religious conversion”.

Rejecting allegations of his family, Aadil said, “No one forced me to convert. I have embraced Islam and have no regrets about it. What is wrong in that?”

Senior superintendent of police (SSP), Aligarh, Ajay Kumar Sahni said, “The youth has admitted to conversion without any pressure. Following the religion’s tenets, he even underwent circumcision.”

Nemvati Devi, the youth’s mother, said, “Wasim alias Chotu, used to work with my son at the furniture shop. Wasim influenced him to convert and promised to get his sister married to him. When we came to know about the conversion, we rushed to the shop but were stopped by some members of the other community. They also threatened us against filing a complaint.”

Meanwhile, police have arrested another person named Khurram, one of Aadil’s acquaintances, on charges of forceful conversion. In his statement to officers, Khurram said, “I have known Aadil for only a fortnight. We had offered namaz together a couple of times in the past.”

Talking to TOI, Reeta Rajput, general secretary of BJP's Aligarh unit, said, "Strict action should be taken against those who allegedly forced the youth to convert."

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/agra/aligarh-cops-arrest-youth-who-converted-for-love/articleshow/64248952.cms

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Kerala safest place in India for minorities: CM Pinarayi Vijayan

May 20, 2018

KOZHIKODE: Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that Kerala was the safest state for minorities in the country.

Addressing a meeting attended by leaders of Muslim religious organizations as part of the government’s outreach during the second anniversary celebrations of the LDF government on Saturday, Vijayan said that while there have been deliberate and targeted moves against minorities in many states, Kerala has remained the safest place.

“There have been deliberate attempts in many parts of the country to create communal strife and even riots. But, the situation in Kerala is different. It is due to the deeply-ingrained secular culture of many Malayalis and the strong action taken by the government against communal forces, irrespective of whether they are from the majority or minority communities,” he added.

Responding to the complaint raised by Muslim Education Society that Muslim reservation norms were not properly followed even in Muslim minority institutions, the chief minister said that the government would undertake a study to study to see whether minority reservation norms are being properly followed in educational institutions. He assured the organizations that the state government will take legal steps to protect orphanages that are facing difficulties following the implementation of provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act.

One among the major issues raised by Muslim organisations was the shortage of higher secondary seats in Malabar region. The leaders said that the government order, which mandated prior sanction from the district collector for building new mosques, was posing difficulties. They urged the government to allow local self-government bodies to give the nod in such cases. They also urged the government not to move ahead with the plans to shut unrecognized schools.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kozhikode/kerala-safest-place-in-india-for-minorities-cm-pinarayi-vijayan/articleshow/64243778.cms

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Aligarh Muslim University ranked second in US News Education among best global universities

May 20, 2018

Students choose the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) for its impeccable teaching and academic ambience. This evidence is in the US News Education, Best Global Universities Rankings that has ranked AMU the second best among Indian universities and its Department of Mathematics is 129th in the world.

The US News Education has also ranked AMU on the 305th rank in the world for studying biology and bio-chemistry and on the 460 rank for studying physics.

AMU Vice Chancellor, Professor Tariq Mansoor said that the university is proud to claim the top spot in the US News Education Rankings. He added that these rankings reveal that AMU is one of the most prestigious universities with very high entry standards. “AMU attracts students from all over the country and the world,” said the Vice Chancellor.

Meanwhile, Prof M Mursaleen (Chairperson and Coordinator, DRS-SAP-II Programme) said that the Department of Mathematics has a unique achievement as it is the only mathematics department from an Indian University in the top slots.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/education/aligarh-muslim-university-ranked-second-in-us-news-education-among-best-global-universities-5184539/

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Pakistan 'pleads' for truce as BSF destroys its bunkers along border

May 21, 2018

NEW DELHI: Faced with heavy retaliatory fire by Border Security Force (BSF), which pounded Pakistani posts over the last three days, Pakistan Rangers on Sunday "pleaded" for ceasefire along the international border.

In a statement, BSF said that Pak Rangers called up Jammu BSF formation and beseeched them to stop the heavy artillery and precision firing, which was in retaliation to unprovoked shelling and firing from across the border by Pakistani forces. A Pak Rangers' trooper was also shot down by BSF men during the retaliatory firing. BSF also released a 19-second thermal-imagery footage showing destruction of a Pakistani picket across the border. "For the last three days, the precision fire of BSF troopers on Pakistani firing locations inflicted heavy losses and on Saturday, this firing found their mark with one of the rangers in chicken neck area," a BSF spokesperson said.

BSF had lost two of its jawans in this latest round of unprovoked firing from across the border in Jammu. Four civilians were also killed and few injured in the border villages. The firing from Pakistani side increased ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's day-long visit to Jammu and Kashmir + on Saturday.

Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed a spurt in Pakistani shelling and firing along the IB and Line of Control (LoC) this year. Over 700 incidents of firing and shelling have been reported, which left 38 people including 18 security personnel dead and scores injured.

It is not the first time that BSF has used all its firepower to bring Pakistani forces on its knees. Earlier when Pak forces violated the ceasefire in January this year and killed several civilians on the western border, BSF fired over 9,000 rounds of mortar shells inflicting heavy damage on the Pakistani side.

BSF has been using long range mortar shells - also called 8mm area weapons- which can hit targets within the range of 5-6 km; short range mortar shells (51mm mortar shells) which can hit targets at 900 meters; and small arms like MMG, LMG, rifles for retaliating to Pakistani shelling and firing.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/bsf-fires-back-pakistan-pleads-for-truce/articleshow/64250534.cms

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Sheikh Hasina in India: Bangladesh PM likely to bring up Rohingya crisis, Teesta water sharing with Narendra Modi

Shubha Singh

May 21, 2018

In these days of "informal summits", Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina in an informal bilateral meeting at Banga Bhavan in Shantiniketan this week. It will be the third informal summit Modi will be attending in the past few weeks, after the Wuhan summit with Chinese president Xi Jinping in April and another meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Sochi on Monday.

Sheikh Hasina is expected to arrive in Kolkata on 25 May for a two-day visit that will lay emphasis on the close cultural ties between the two countries, but her visit is also likely to lead to more substantive talks between the two leaders.

The informal summit will take place at the newly inaugurated Banga Bhaban (Bangladesh Bhavan) in Shantiniketan. The Bangladesh prime minister will later meet Mamata Banerjee after the convocation ceremony at the Nazrul Islam University in Asansol. The issue of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and the Teesta water sharing treaty are likely to be the top issues on Sheikh Hasina's agenda.

The main purpose of the visit is the inauguration of the Bangladesh Bhavan at the campus of the Viswa Bharati University in Shantiniketan and to attend the convocation ceremony at the Kazi Nazrul University in Burdwan district's Asansol. The Bangladesh government-funded Bhavan will be inaugurated in the presence of Sheikh Hasina and Modi, who is the Chancellor of the Viswa Bharati University. It will be Modi's first visit to the university. The Bangladesh Bhavan will house a library and a museum of the Bangladesh War of Liberation.

At the Kazi Nazrul University, Sheikh Hasina will be conferred an honorary DLit degree by West Bengal governor and university chancellor Keshari Nath Tripathi. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will be the chief guest at the convocation. The university is named after Bangladesh's national poet, Kazi Nazrul Islam, and is located near his birthplace of Churulia.

The university has robust links with the Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University in Trishal, Bangladesh, with regular academic exchanges between the two.

The Bangladesh government had been dismayed at the initial Indian reaction to the violent displacement of the Rohingyas by Myanmar security forces. As thousands of refugees poured across the Bangladesh border everyday, Dhaka made known its distress at the Indian stance that seemed to tilt in favour of Myanmar.

New Delhi later made amends by undertaking 'Operation Insaniyat' to supply relief material to the Rohingya refugees and extending full support to Bangladesh's efforts to resolve the issue.

The informal summit is taking place just days after Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj's visit to Myanmar, where she met the country's top leadership. The two sides discussed the Rohingya refugee crisis and India offered to provide prefabricated houses for displaced persons in Rakhine state. In her discussions, Swaraj underlined the need for "safe, speedy and sustained return of displaced persons to Rakhine state", according to an External Affairs Ministry statement.

Other topics likely to come up for discussion are water, connectivity, power and infrastructure, the four main areas of cooperation between the two countries. The question of sharing Teesta river water remains a sticky point in India-Bangladesh relations, with West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee opposing any agreement that curtails the state's share of river water.

Modi had assured Bangladesh during Hasina's previous visit that he was making efforts towards a satisfactory solution to the problem. As elections in Bangladesh draw closer, the issue is likely to gain urgency for the government in Dhaka as well.

Relations between India and Bangladesh have widened and deepened in content in the past decade of the Sheikh Hasina government. Both India and Bangladesh are due to hold elections within the next 12 months and the informal meeting provides the opportunity for a high level review of bilateral relations.

Full report at:

https://www.firstpost.com/india/sheikh-hasina-in-india-bangladesh-pm-likely-to-bring-up-rohingya-crisis-teesta-water-sharing-with-narendra-modi-4476489.html

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Pakistan violates ceasefire in Jammu

May 21, 2018

JAMMU: In yet another ceasefire violation, Pakistani Rangers on Monday fired mortar shells on border outposts at several places in Jammu and Kashmir's Arnia sector, prompting retaliation by the BSF personnel guarding the international border.

The mortar firing from across the border started around 7:00am in Arnia sector of Jammu and was still continuing when last reports were received, a senior Border Security Force official said.

"Three border outposts are under fire from the Pakistani Rangers and the personnel deployed there are also retaliating to silence the Pakistani guns," the official said.

"However, there was no immediate report of any casualty in the shelling," he said.

On Sunday night, Pakistani troops fired small arms and mortars, targeting Narayanpur area of Ramgarh sector in Samba district, hours after "pleading" with the BSF to stop firing, after being pounded with heavy artillery that left a trooper dead across the border.

The BSF also released a 19-second thermal-imagery footage, showing the destruction of a Pakistani picket across the border, in retaliation to the unprovoked firing and shelling along the IB.

The BSF has lost two of its jawans in the latest round of unprovoked firing along the IB in Jammu region since May 15.

Four civilians were killed and 11 others injured on Friday in the Jammu area due to the firing, which increased in the wake of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's day-long visit to Jammu and Kashmir on May 19.

The state has witnessed a spurt in Pakistani shelling and firing along the IB and the Line of Control (LoC) this year.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/pakistan-violates-ceasefire-in-jammu/articleshow/64252356.cms

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Europe

 

Atlantic Tremors: US and European Allies Not On the Page on Iran Deal

20 May 2018

Khaled Dawoud

The United States renewed this week its threat to impose sanctions on European companies that do business with Iran, as the remaining participants in the Iran nuclear accord stiffened their resolve to keep that agreement operational.

White House National Security Adviser John Bolton said US sanctions on European companies that maintain business dealings with Iran were “possible”, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he remained hopeful Washington and its allies could strike a new nuclear deal with Tehran.

Bolton struck a more hawkish tone with his comments in an interview with CNN’s State of the Union programme than Pompeo did when he was interviewed on Fox News Sunday.

US President Donald Trump on 8 May announced that the United States would pull out of a 2015 deal negotiated by the Obama administration.

So far, China, France, Russia, Britain, the European Union and Iran remain in the accord, which placed controls on Iran’s nuclear programme and led to a relaxation of US economic sanctions against Iran and companies doing business there.

Despite the US exit, Britain and Iran on Sunday expressed their commitment to ensuring that the accord is upheld, according to a statement released by the office of British Prime Minister Theresa May.

And Germany said it will spend the next few months trying to persuade Washington to change its mind.

When asked whether the United States might impose sanctions on European companies that continue to do business with Iran, Bolton told CNN: “It’s possible. It depends on the conduct of other governments.”

Pompeo said he was “hopeful in the days and weeks ahead we can come up with a deal that really works, that really protects the world from Iranian bad behaviour, not just their nuclear programme, but their missiles and their malign behaviour as well.”

The US withdrawal from the Iran deal has upset Washington’s European allies, cast uncertainty over global oil supplies and raised the risk of conflict in the Middle East.

Germany’s Minister for Economic Affairs Peter Altmaier, said Sunday that Berlin will try to “persuade the US government to change its behaviour”.

In an interview with ZDF public television, Altmaier noted the United States has set a 90-day deadline for foreign firms to comply with the return of sanctions and that this period can be used to convince Washington to change course.

Israel and Iran engaged in an extensive military exchange on the heels of Trump’s decision to leave the deal. On Saturday, French President Emmanuel Macron told Trump in a telephone call that he was worried about stability in the Middle East, according to Macron’s office.

As a private citizen, Bolton in the past has suggested that the United States push for a change in Iran’s government. However, in an interview aired on the ABC’s This Week, Bolton refused to confirm his personal views.

“That’s not the policy of the administration,” he said. “The policy of the administration is to make sure that Iran never gets close to deliverable nuclear weapons.”

In the CNN interview, Bolton did not respond directly when asked whether Trump might seek “regime change” in Iran, or whether the US military would be ordered to make a pre-emptive strike against any Iranian nuclear facility.

“I’m not the national security decision-maker,” Bolton said, adding that Trump “makes the decision and the advice that I give him is between us”.

When pressed by CNN on whether the Trump administration would sanction European firms that continue to do business with Iran, Bolton said: “I think the Europeans will see that it’s in their interest ultimately to come along with us.”

Bolton said Europe was still digesting Trump’s 8 May move. “I think at the moment there’s some feeling in Europe — they’re really surprised we got out of it, really surprised at the re-imposition of strict sanctions. I think that will sink in. We’ll see what happens then,” Bolton said.

However, the French were the most outspoken in criticising the US move, considering that many French companies have already started doing business in Iran worth billions after the nuclear deal was concluded in 2015.

On Friday, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire suggested Trump’s proposals to corral Europe into joining US foreign policy on Iran may lead to a severe backlash by EU firms and politicians, especially advocates of a stronger independent European foreign policy.

“We have to work among ourselves in Europe to defend our European economic sovereignty,” Le Maire said, adding that Europe could use the same instruments as the US to defend its interests. Speaking on Europe1 he added: “Do we want to be a vassal that obeys and jumps to attention?”

Le Maire put forward three main proposals starting with an EU-wide blocking statute similar to an EU regulation passed in 1996 designed to nullify any US sanctions imposed on EU firms.

The statute permitted European companies to ignore the US sanctions and said that any decisions by foreign courts based on such sanctions would not be upheld in Europe. The US backed down before any sanctions were implemented.

He added: “The second avenue is looking at Europe’s financial independence — what can we do to give Europe more financial tools allowing it to be independent from the United States?” One proposal is to set up a purely European finance house to oversee euro-denominated transactions with Iran.

He also proposed a European agency capable of following the activities of foreign companies. Le Maire said he would meet with German and British finance ministers at the end of the month to discuss these proposals.

The UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, also met his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, in London Monday to discuss the Iran crisis. Le Drian has already described the US extraterritorial sanctions as unacceptable, saying European business should not be required to pay for US foreign policy decisions.

On Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif met his counterparts from France, Germany and Britain in Brussels. The Iranian government said in a statement that Europe needed “to move from giving pledges to taking practical steps without any preconditions”.

In Italy, Nathalie Tocci, an adviser to EU external affairs chief Federica Mogherini, said Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran deal was “an utter and unjustified betrayal of Europe”. She called for proportionate reprisals if necessary.

The EU and US combined to impose sanctions against Iran between 2012 and 2015. After the Iran deal was struck in 2015, the Obama administration worked with European banks to reassure them that some US sanctions that remained in force did not restrict the rights of European business.

The former US ambassador to Italy, David Thorne, said Trump’s decision had the potential to cause the biggest rift between the US and mainland Europe since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Ellie Geranmayeh, an Iran expert with the European Council on Foreign Relations, said Europe needed to produce a counter-package against the US, including penalties against assets of US companies based in Europe, to allow for a clawback of illegal fines imposed.

The UK is not as heavily involved in Iranian trade as France, Germany and Italy, partly because UK finance houses are so strongly intertwined with the US, and therefore vulnerable to fines if they are deemed to have breached sanctions.

http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/2/9/299868/World/International/Atlantic-tremors-US-and-European-allies-not-on-the.aspx

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Thousands of Moroccans protest US embassy move, Gaza carnage

May 20, 2018

Thousands of Moroccans have held massive demonstrations to condemn Washington's move to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem al-Quds.

More than 10,000 marchers poured onto the streets of Casablanca, Morocco's largest city and main port, on Sunday.

The demonstrators condemned the relocation of the US embassy. They said the holly city would remain the eternal capital of Palestine.

The angry protesters chanted slogans such as "Death to Israel" and carried Palestinian flags and placards that read "Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Palestine's eternal capital".

The demonstrators also reaffirmed support for the Palestinians' struggle to attain their legitimate rights, including their right to return to their homeland and establish their independent state.

The Casablanca protest had been organized by a coalition of four parties including the Islamic opposition group al-Adl Wal Ihsan, which is seen as Morocco's most powerful group in terms of rallying supporters on the street.

A massive march was earlier held in the capital Rabat, which commemorated Nakba Day (Day of Catastrophe), and expressed solidarity with the Palestinian people.

At least 65 Palestinians were killed and more than 2,700 others wounded near the Gaza fence on the eve of the 70th anniversary of Nakba Day, which coincided this year with the relocation of the US embassy.

Muslim leaders, who recently gathered in Turkey for an special summit on recent killings in Gaza, have called for an international force to be deployed to protect Palestinian people against Israeli crimes.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/05/20/562378/Morocco-Gaza-US-embassy

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Britain struggles to stamp out extremism in prisons

May 20, 2018

LONDON: The UK government has started sending extremist prisoners to its latest “separation” center as experts warn that longer sentences for lower-level offenders could increase their chances of deeper radicalization.

Special centers for the most dangerous terror offenders have been set up after a 75 percent increase in prisoners convicted of terrorism-related offenses in the last three years.

Pressure is also expected to grow on penal systems across the Middle East and Europe as they deal with foreign fighters returning from Iraq and Syria after the collapse of Daesh.

In the UK there is growing concern that prisons are acting as incubators for extremism, with violent young offenders being brainwashed by hardcore extremist recruiters.

Sentencing Council for England and Wales guidelines have raised the minimum charge for the “preparation of terrorism” from three to six years, compared to 21 months to five years previously. The move comes despite concerns that longer jail terms could expose prisoners to greater risk of radicalization.

“We have to be careful who we are imprisoning,” said Ian Acheson, a former prison governor whose review of Islamic extremism in UK prisons last year led to the creation of separate units in prison for extremists. “Prisons are ideal places for radicalization, where violent men are mixing with the country’s most adept proselytisers.”

Acheson’s concerns mirror those of the Parole Board, which has warned that radicalization within prisons is likely to continue and increasing penalties for less serious offenders — such as those found guilty of spreading terrorist material online — could “result in them becoming more likely to commit terrorist acts when they are released.”

Acheson told Arab News: “Criminals are searching for meaning, they can be violent, impulsive, alienated and harbor grievances — so they can be vulnerable to radicalization and it’s a problem.”

However, the former prison officer stressed that the new separation units are not “Jihadi jails” or “Guantanamo Bays,” but in place, he said, to separate the “preacher from the audience.”

“They are not exclusively for Muslims and they are separation units, not segregation units,” he said, adding that most of the separated inmates are Islamic extremists.

The separation unit at HMP Frankland — Britain’s highest security prison — was the first to open in June last year.

Frankland has housed Tanvir Hussain, who planned to down flights from Heathrow to the US using liquid bombs hidden in soft drink bottles and Omar Khayam, convicted of planning to blow up Bluewater shopping center in Kent.

More recently, Michael Adebolajo, who murdered Lee Rigby in London in 2013, was transferred to Frankland amid fears he was attempting to radicalize prisoners in Belmarsh.

Khalid Masood, who killed five people, including a policeman, in an attack in London in March 2017, was reportedly radicalized in prison.

HMP Full Sutton near York opened the UK’s second separation unit last month and HMP Long Lartin in Worcestershire is to open the country’s third unit in the coming months. The three centers will hold up to 28 of the most subversive extremist prisoners in the system.

In total, there were 213 individuals in custody in Britain after being charged with or convicted of terrorism-related offenses at the end of September 2017, a rise of more than a quarter on the previous year.

The Ministry of Justice has confirmed that 700 prisoners have been identified as a potential radicalization risk “due to their extremist views” as well as “foreign fighters returning from Syria and Iraq hardened and dangerous.”

Acheson continued: “The units are set up to incapacitate those who are most dangerous. But we have to be careful about those who are convicted of lesser offenses; they need to be offered another way and not necessarily jail time. They need be cut off from the dangerous and manipulative proselytisers.”

However, the view from those on the inside of prisons is mixed. A serving London-based prisoner officer, who asked not to be named, told Arab News: “Radical recruitment happens a lot, but I think people do it for the safety in numbers… Most of them don’t follow it properly but will attend prayers,” he said.

“The problem is when the big players mix with the half-hearted people and then convince them to do something when they get out.”

A former prisoner, who served three years of a six-year term, wrote to Arab News on Twitter under the handle @cookinginakettle. “Firstly, let me say that the hype about Muslims in prison is just that, hype. People believe that Muslims get what they want and control the prisons. It’s true that it’s the case for some wings in the high security estate, but on the whole, they’re just like the majority of other prisoners: just trying to make it through the system one day at a time.”

He said there are people who try to “radicalize their own firebrand version of Islam,” highlighting a small segment of inmates who prey on young, naive prisoners and recruit them for protection. “They sell the illusion of brotherhood. They prey upon the vulnerable, those with no direction. When people are at their lowest ebb they believe they will be saved by religion and so they will join the brotherhood.”

In other situations, the extremists will offer food and other resources to incoming prisoners, he said. “This fosters the sense of brotherhood and puts people in their debt. As such, this drives people on to be their soldiers. On the whole, it’s just like any gang and Muslims end up being the biggest gang in a prison.”

Jackie Marshall, general secretary of the Prison Officers Association, said radicalization inside prisons is “just something we have deal with.” “What happens in the outside world tends to happen in prisons,” he said.

Marshall said jail populations are swelling beyond control for many reasons, including a surge in historic sex offenders and those convicted of terrorism-related charges. “My biggest concern is that prisons are understaffed and becoming increasingly violent. We currently have 169 staff staying in hotels to cover shortages across the country. Staff are leaving due to underfunding and there is a crisis,” he said.

A former deputy education manager for London’s HMP Pentonville told Arab News: “People think the outside world stops in prisons, but it doesn’t. Whatever happens outside, happens inside.”

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, he added: “The average literacy in prisons is low, the prisoners in general have very poor general knowledge and so they are vulnerable — this directly affects radicalization rates.”

The former teacher said: “I often thought to myself, ‘who can’t radicalize this lot?’ You see it all the time in that environment. A chap comes in who has a bit of charisma and he is a bit more well-read than the other chaps. He gives these lost souls a vision and a purpose, it doesn’t matter what purpose. These people are often already violent, a perfect combination for radicalization.”

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1306411/world

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Islamic State Claims Responsibility for Church Attack in Chechnya

May 20, 2018

MOSCOW (REUTERS) - THE Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for an attack on a church in Russia's Chechnya republic that killed three people, the group's Amaq news agency said on Sunday.

The group offered no evidence in support of the claim.

Four people attacked the Orthodox church on Saturday, killing two policemen and a churchgoer, Russia's investigative committee said in a statement. The attackers were killed.

"Islamic State fighters executed an attack on 'Michael' Church yesterday in Chechnya's capital, Grozny," Amaq said.

Russia, which hosts the soccer World Cup next month, has fought two wars with separatists in the mainly Muslim internal republic since the 1991 Soviet collapse, but such attacks have become relatively rare in Chechnya.

Full report at:

https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2018-05-20/islamic-state-claims-responsibility-for-church-attack-in-chechnya

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South Asia

 

16 militants killed in Afghan-US operations in Paktika and Ghazni

May 21, 2018

By KHAAMA PRESS - Mon May 21 2018At least sixteen militants were killed during separate operations conducted in southeastern Ghazni and Paktika provinces.

The 203rd Thunder Corps of the Afghan Military in the Southeast said the Afghan forces conducted operations in Andar district of Ghazni province leaving at least four militants dead and three others wounded.

The source further added that the US forces conducted airstrikes in Chaharbaran district of Paktika province leaving at least sixteen militants dead.

According to Thunder Corps, a vehicle and three motorcycles belonging to the militants were also destroyed during the airstrikes.

In the meantime, the Thunder Corps said the Explosive Ordnance Disposal team of the Afghan armed forces also discovered and defused two improvised explosive devices in Ghazni province.

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

This comes as the Thunder Corps said Sunday that the Afghan and US forces carried out joint airstrikes against the Taliban militants in Ajristan district leaving at least 30 militants dead.

The airstrikes were carried out in response to coordinated Taliban attack to seize control of the district.

https://www.khaama.com/16-militants-killed-in-afghan-us-operations-in-paktika-and-ghazni-05199/

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Myanmar orders Rohingya to leave tense border zone

May 21, 2018

TOMBRU, Bangladesh - Myanmar security forces have resumed loudspeaker broadcasts near its border with Bangladesh ordering Rohingya Muslims to immediately leave a strip of no-man's land between the two countries, refugees said Sunday.

Around 6,000 refugees from the persecuted minority have been camping on the narrow stretch of land since fleeing a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar's west last August. The majority of the nearly 700,000 Rohingya who escaped the violence settled in huge camps in Bangladesh but a smaller number insisted on staying put in the buffer zone between the borders. Myanmar had agreed in February to stop using loudspeakers to order the stranded Muslims to leave the area immediately and cross into Bangladesh.

The army also withdrew some of its heavy forces from the edge of no-man's land, where refugees camped on the other side of a barbed wire fence had complained of intimidation.

But the loudspeaker messages resumed this weekend without warning, Rohingya community leaders said, exacerbating tension along the restive border zone. "They played it several times yesterday, and have been repeating it this morning. It's very disturbing and creates panic," said Mohammad Arif, one of the leaders camped in no-man's land.

The messages - broadcast in Burmese and Rohingya - warned the refugees to "leave the area under Myanmar's jurisdiction or face prosecution". "We're citizens of Myanmar. It's our fatherland. We have every right to remain here. Why should we go elsewhere?" said another community leader, Dil Mohammad. The broadcasts also refer to the refugees as "Bengalis", the term used by many in Buddhist-majority Myanmar to refer to the Rohingya, whom they consider interlopers from Bangladesh. Lieutenant Colonel Manzurul Hasan Khan, a local Border Guard Bangladesh commander, said the situation was being closely monitored.

"We have noticed that they tied loudhailers to the trees along their border fences near the camp," Khan said.

The refugee crisis has strained ties between Bangladesh and Myanmar.

The neighbours had agreed in November to begin repatriating Rohingya refugees to Myanmar but the process has stalled, with both sides blaming each other for the delays.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/21-May-2018/myanmar-orders-rohingya-to-leave-tense-border-zone

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Myanmar urges Bangladesh to begin repatriation of 2223 refugees soon

21 MAY 2018

Myanmar urged Bangladesh to repatriate as soon as possible 2223 refugees who have been approved out of the more than 8000 names submitted for repatriation by Dhaka a few months ago, a senior official of the Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Ministry said on Sunday.

U Ko Ko Naing, director general of the ministry, said the number included 1001 refugees, most of them Muslim, that were approved on May 2 from the list of 8000 names submitted by Bangladesh for repatriation. Also,  the two countries agreed to repatriate 778 Muslims and 444 Hindu refugees a few months back. 

U Ko Ko Naing, who is a member of the Joint Working Group, said during a meeting with his counterpart in Dhaka last week that Myanmar restated to Bangladesh its readiness to begin the repatriation.

“We told them what we must insist on starting repatriation. We expressed our readiness,” he said.

He added the date of the repatriation could not be fixed yet as the process is extremely complex and difficult despite there have been no disagreement over it.

During the meeting, both sides shared views about safety and security of the repatriation process as well as ensuring a conducive environment and involvement of the United Nations agencies in the resettlement, said U Ko Ko Naing.

“We are to sign with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and UN Development Programme an agreement, and the repatriation would be faster after we sign it,” he added.

The Joint Working Group of Myanmar and Bangladesh met on Thursday in Dhaka in a bid to resolve the deadlock on the repatriation of hundreds of thousands of refugees who fled from strife-torn northern Rakhine. The Myanmar delegation was led by Permanent Secretary of Foreign Affairs U Myint Thu, accompanied by senior officials from the Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Ministry.

Full report at:

https://www.mmtimes.com/news/myanmar-urges-bangladesh-begin-repatriation-2223-refugees-soon.html

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Take concrete steps on Rohingya rights, US aid chief urges Myanmar

May 21, 2018

- USAID Administrator Mark Green ends 3-day visit to western Rakhine State

The US government's aid chief urged Myanmar yesterday to take "concrete steps" to guarantee the rights of Rohingya Muslims and to show sincerity in that endeavour in order to encourage hundreds of thousands who have fled the country to return.

Mark Green, administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), ended his three-day visit to Myanmar touring Rohingya and Rakhine communities in western Rakhine State, including a camp for displaced Rohingya people.

Green said the refugees, whom he met during the previous leg of the trip in camps in Bangladesh, are fearful and while they want to return, they are asking for their rights and security to be guaranteed before making the decision to come back.

"That reinforces the importance here of clear signs of sincerity of the government's stated position of welcoming back Rohingya in a safe, secure and dignified manner," Green told reporters.

"We would strongly encourage the government to take those concrete steps which are a demonstration of the ability for Rohingya to return under those conditions," Green said.

He said the government could show the refugees in Bangladesh it is sincere by taking "clear actions" with the tens of thousands of Rohingya displaced in previous bouts of violence now stuck in crowded camps in squalid conditions in Rakhine.

Green said he was "struck by the sense of hopelessness that so many Muslims nearby feel - the lack of access to healthcare, education, ability to move, access to livelihoods ... that kind of hopelessness is obviously disturbing - it's also something that has to be addressed."

Green has said the United States would provide $44 million in additional aid for the Rohingya and vulnerable populations in Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Nearly 700,000 Rohingya have fled into Bangladesh from Myanmar to escape an army crackdown since August, launched in response to Rohingya insurgent attacks. Refugees have reported murder, rape and arson by Myanmar troops.

Washington has called the army response “ethnic cleansing” - a charge Myanmar denies, saying its security forces have been waging a legitimate counter-insurgency operation against “Bengali terrorists”.

After meeting Myanmar's de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi in the capital Naypyitaw and civil society leaders in the main city Yangon on Friday and Saturday, Green met local government officials in Rakhine and toured villages and camps over the weekend.

On Sunday, he went to Muslim and Buddhist villages in the Rathedaung township in the north of the violence-torn state. He then met camp leaders in Thet Kae Pyin camp for nearly 6,000 Rohingya, a short drive from state capital Sittwe.

Full report at:

https://www.thedailystar.net/rohingya-crisis/rohingya-muslim-refugee-crisis-take-concrete-steps-rights-usaid-chief-mark-green-urges-myanmar-1579350

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Afghan Senate to summon security officials for talks regarding US, NATO pacts

May 20 2018

The Afghan Senators, Lawmakers in the Upper House of the Parliament, Wolesi Jirga, on Sunday decided to summon top security officials for discussions regarding the US and NATO security pacts.

The Upper House Chairman Fazal Hadi Muslimyar said the Senate had in-depth discussions regarding the recent developments in the country, including discussions regarding the impact of the US and NATO security pacts on security of the country.

He said the Senate House decided to summon top security officials to brief the lawmakers regarding the affect of the security pacts on the situation, including their benefits and losses.

Muslimyar further added that the necessary decisions will be taken considering the situation if it was found that the security pacts have not proven as useful for the country.

According to Muslimyar, the Senate will urge the US and NATO to further strengthen the security and defense forces, specifically the Afghan Air Force, if the security officials provided positive feedback regarding the benefits of the pacts.

The security pacts with the United States and NATO were signed at the start of the government of national unity.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/afghan-senate-to-summon-security-official-for-talks-regarding-us-nato-pacts-05196/

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Afghan-US forces respond Taliban attack in Ghazni with heavy airstrikes

May 20 2018

The Afghan and US forces responded to Taliban attack on Ghazni province with heavy airstrikes that resulted into the killing of several militants.

The 203rd Thunder Corps of the Afghan Military in the Southeast said the Afghan Air Force carried out airstrikes on Taliban positions in Ajristan disrict, leaving at least 12 militants dead.

The source further added that 14 Taliban militants were also killed during the clashes with the security forces in the same district.

At least one Afghan soldier also lost his life during the clashes and two sergeants sustained injuries, the 203rd Thunder Corps added.

In the meantime, the Thunder Corps said the US force also carried out airstrikes in Mir Khan Wal area of the district leaving at least 16 militants dead.

Ghazni is among the relatively volatile provinces in Southeastern parts of Afghanistan where the anti-government armed militants are active in some of its districts and often carry out terrorist related activities.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/afghan-us-forces-respond-taliban-attack-in-ghazni-with-heavy-airstrikes-05195/

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Southeast Asia

 

Islamic State in Indonesia: National Identity Trumps Religious Creed

By ABHISHEK MOHANTY

MAY 20, 2018

It is a fact not widely known globally: Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, doesn’t have Islam as the state religion.

Constitutionally, Indonesia deems itself a religiously tolerant state which officially recognizes six religions: Islam, Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism. Such religious tolerance has been one key to political stability in a geographically diverse country of 240 million, whose people have customarily chosen nationalism over faith. While the archipelago has suffered bloody ethnic-religious clashes in recent history, radical Islamic political parties have never won the upper hand.

But in recent years, Indonesia has witnessed fanatic attacks by terrorist groups affiliated to the self-styled Islamic State (IS). Islamic State or Daesh, is a Salafi/Wahhabi terrorist organization which gained prominence in 2014 when it captured Mosul and Sinjar in Iraq. Its policy is establishing a global caliphate.

While IS has been decimated by a formidable range of military players in the Middle East, it has also forged links with home-grown extremist groups in distant Indonesia.

Over the last 70 years, Indonesia has cherished the status of a secular Islamic country. But now, it is facing a grave threat from IS. While a January 2016 attack has been acknowledged as the first terrorist attack carried out by IS affiliates, IS in Indonesia dates back to the heyday of the movement, in 2014.

Immediately after the proclamation of Islamic State by al-Baghdadi in June 2014, two prominent militant leaders of Indonesia, Abu Wardah of Mujahideen Indonesia Timor and Abu Bakar Baashir of Jemaah Anshorut Tauhid pledged allegiance to IS.

The main commander of IS in Indonesia is Aman Abdurrahman. He has been in prison with Abu Bakar Bashir since 2010 for involvement in terrorist activities. It is believed that he pledged allegiance to IS online in 2014 and initiated the translation of Islamic State’s propaganda materials into the Indonesian language and circulated them from prison.

By 2015, Abdurrahman got backing from more than a dozen Indonesian terrorist outfits to strengthen the influence of IS in Indonesia. He formed a new organization, Jamaah Ansharut Daulah, which has since carried out several terrorist attacks in Indonesia, including the January 2016 Jakarta attack and the recent Surabaya attack.

Church attacks are not a new phenomenon in Indonesia.

In December 2000, on Christmas Eve, a series of explosions shook eight cities of Indonesia. Led by Jemaah Islamiyah, these attacks targeted dozens of churches and killed scores of people. In February 2018, a radical Islamist who had wanted to fight for IS in Syria ran amok with a sword and injured three clergymen in Yogyakarta. In the recent Surabaya church attacks, Indonesian officials have said that the family which carried out the explosions has links with Jamaah Ansharut Daulah, the strongest IS affiliate in Indonesia.

According to rough estimates by the Indonesian government, around 700 native fighters made their way to the Middle East to fight for IS over the last four years. Turkish authorities have arrested around 500 Indonesian fighters and deported more than 150 to Indonesia after putting them through de-radicalization programs.

Nevertheless, Indonesian fighters have appeared in IS  propaganda videos. Rumiyah, the official magazine of IS, in a 2017 editions, made special reference to strengthening IS influence in Indonesia.

Fortunately, the radicals remain a minority. In the latest study by the Pew Research Centre, about 92% of respondents from Indonesia said that suicide bombings and other forms of violence against civilians in the name of Islam can never be justified. Roughly 79% of Indonesian Muslims have negative views about IS. Only 4% have sympathy towards the group.

But while this may looks small on paper, Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim nation. In real numbers that translates into some 10 million people. This is alarming. It calls for stringent action.

Some counter-terrorism experts fear that IS is becoming a dangerous challenger to the political sovereignty of Southeast Asian states. Evidence? Last year’s siege of Marawi in Mindanao, in the southern Philippines, and the recent terrorist attacks in various cities of Indonesia. Closer security cooperation among Southeast Asian states is surely essential.

For Indonesia, IS is not only political, but also a cultural threat. While most Indonesians are religiously Muslim, culturally, they remain close to Hindus and bear Sanskritised names. The diversity implicit in Indonesian identity is one reason why IS has restricted influence in Indonesia. But their threat cannot be overlooked.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo needs to  review the 2003 Anti-Terrorism Law to authorize police to arrest and interrogate terror suspects without hindrances. Citizens seeking to travel abroad in order to join religious rebellions against secular governments must be halted.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has successfully taken on IS. Now, Widodo needs to step up.

http://www.atimes.com/islamic-state-in-indonesia-national-identify-trumps-religious-creed/

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Terror Attacks Rock Indonesia’s Oppressed Christian Community

May 20, 2018

Last Sunday was marred by one of the bloodiest days in Indonesia in over a decade. Over a twenty-four-hour period, a dozen or so members of Jamaah Ansharut Daulah, an ISIS-affiliated group, carried out attacks on churches and a police station in Surabaya. The first attacks were carried out in quick succession on a Catholic, Pentecostal, and Indonesian Christian Church. That same night several terror cell members died when they accidentally set off an explosive device in their apartment complex, killing three of the terrorists and injuring several children. In the early hours of Monday morning, several terrorists approached the Surabaya police station on motorbikes and then detonated explosive devices while they were being checked.

In the end, 13 suicide attackers, including unwitting children as young as seven, died along with 13 victims. The attackers came from three closely tied families that practiced fundamental radical Islam. While none of the attackers had traveled to Syria to fight for the Islamic State, it is believed that they were inspired by an associate who had fought for ISIS in Syria.

While this particular incident is tragic, it is part of a much longer strain of Islamic extremism in the archipelagic nation. During the nation’s war of independence from the Netherlands and in the years after, Islamic militias vied for an Islamic State as compared to the secular system that most nationalists supported. In recent decades, with the rise of organizations like Al Qaeda and ISIS, Islamic terrorism in Indonesia has occurred sporadically in the world’s largest Islamic nation. I lived in Indonesia from 1999 to 2005, during a height of terrorism. Prior to 9/11, there was a series of church bombings on Christmas Eve, 2000. My family had previously attended one of the churches where a bomb was planted, but that bombing failed.

After 9/11, anti-Christian and anti-Western hostility from elements in Indonesian society began to rise as the United States became involved in the conflict in the Middle East. The threats got so bad that my family had to temporarily relocate to the United States two times in a year-long period. Guards at churches, schools, and in neighborhoods where westerners lived regularly checked under cars for bombs; this was just a fact of life.

While the threats against Westerners, and Christians in particular, were high, the threats against Indonesian Christians were, and remain, dire. Indonesia is mostly Islamic, but around 10% of the population is Christian. Once again, terrorists targeted Indonesian Christians in this latest attack. Beyond terrorism, even local governments have worked to shut down and demolish Christian churches. Using discriminatory zoning practices and at the request of fundamentalist Islamic organizations, churches operate without permits that are extremely difficult to obtain and are regularly shut down. Even the most prominent Christian Indonesians are targeted for their faith. Last year, Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama was sentenced to two years in prison for blaspheming the Koran. His comment that warranted this reaction was extremely mild; he simply stated that certain Islamic leaders were misusing the Koran for political advantage over Christian candidates. His statement was proven correct by this sentencing.

Discrimination against Christians in Indonesia doesn’t just come from terrorists or the government, it can come from family. A woman that my family knew in Indonesia worked for a Christian family and eventually converted from Islam. When her family found out about this, they threatened her with death to the point where she had to flee to the United States for asylum. She currently is living a happy life here in the United States, free from Islamic fundamentalism.

Full report at:

https://spectator.org/terror-attacks-rock-indonesias-oppressed-christian-community/

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Three steps for Maszlee to deal with his critics

May 20, 2018

By Anas Zubedy

I find it sad and unfair that Dr Maszlee Malik is made to justify his position as the Education Minister-designate. I would not like it if I were to be in his shoes. Like it or not Dr Maszlee will need to nip this in the bud. He must remove the uncertainties.

A leader must be totally determined to remove uncertainties, failing which, Dr Maszlee would lose power and influence and in the long run will fail and fall. We cannot afford to let the Ministry of Education fail.

Either Dr Maszlee clarifies the uncertainties and confusion of his distractors and come out on top, or submit to the uncertainty, and end up the victim. There is nothing more crucial in legitimate leadership and power as the ability to remove uncertainties.

May I humbly suggest Dr Maszlee make a clear stand of support on the following:

1. Unequivocally support the ambitions of the Rukun Negara, especially items 2 and 4 to “maintain a democratic way of life” and “ensuring a liberal approach to her rich and diverse cultural traditions”.

Some feel that there is a reluctance among certain groups of people in taking a strong stand towards the Rukun Negara because of their wish to change the character of the country towards a more theocratic state and curb the liberal character of the nation.

By standing firm with the Rukun Negara Dr Maszlee will disassociate himself from these groups.

2. Explicitly stand by the Amman Message, a statement calling for tolerance and unity in the Muslim world, issued on Nov 9, 2004, (or 27th of Ramadan 1425 AH) by King Abdullah II of Jordan at an international Islamic conference of 200 of the world’s leading Islamic scholars (ulama) and leaders of 50 countries.

They unanimously agreed on three fundamental issues (which became known as the ‘Three Points of the Amman Message’):

They specifically recognised the validity of all eight Mazhabs (legal schools) of Sunni, Shi’a and Ibadhi Islam; of traditional Islamic Theology (Ash’arism); of Islamic Mysticism (Sufism), and of true Salafi thought, and came to a precise definition of who is a Muslim;

Based upon this definition they forbade takfir (declarations of apostasy) between Muslims;

Based upon the Mathahib they set forth the subjective and objective preconditions for the issuing of fatwas, thereby exposing ignorant and illegitimate edicts in the name of Islam.

Among the Malaysians who signed the statements were former prime minister Abdullah Badawi, Anwar Ibrahim, Khairy Jamaluddin and Professor Hashim Kamali.

Should Dr Maszlee take this stand he would remove any uncertainties among those who feel that he will not practice diversity and inclusion with the Muslim community.

3. Call for a dialogue with the distractors. Deal with their concerns. Ask for feedback and seek their opinion. I have seen Dr Maszlee making presentations. I am sure he will be able to manage the distractors and find a justly balanced understanding and compromise.

Full report at:

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/opinion/2018/05/20/three-steps-for-maszlee-to-deal-with-his-critics/

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How new antiterrorism law will change Indonesia's war on terror

May 21, 2018

Indonesia will soon have a new antiterrorism law to replace the current law, which is widely seen as weak, with deliberations on the antiterrorism bill expected to conclude this May or June.

Speaking to The Jakarta Post in an interview on Thursday, Enny Nurbaningsih, head of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo administration's team to deliberate the antiterrorism bill, ensured the new legislation could provide security for Indonesians against deadly terror attacks such as those that had occurred recently in numerous places across Indonesia's most populated island of Java.

Calls for the government and the House of Representatives to conclude the long-due deliberation on the bill have mounted after the attacks, which were allegedly conducted by an Islamic State (IS)-linked local jihadist organization known as Jamaah Ansharud Daulah (JAD).

Enny, who is also head of the Law and Human Rights Ministry's National Law Development Agency (BPHN), said the government expected deliberations to be concluded at a hearing with the parliament scheduled for May 23, saying that nearly "99 percent" of the bill’s content had been finalized, and only the debate over the definition of terrorism as a crime remained to be concluded.

Below are some crucial points in the antiterrorism bill, which was initiated after the Jan. 14, 2016 bombings on Jl. MH Thamrin, one of Jakarta's busiest thoroughfares.

What is terrorism?

One of the main reasons the deliberations have been dragging on for months is that the government and the House have failed to reach an agreement on what constitutes terrorism. 

While the government insists that terrorism is "any deed that uses violence or threats of violence on a massive scale, and/or causes damage to strategic vital objects, the environment, public facilities or international facilities", the House demands that terrorism as a crime includes "any deed that is based on political and ideological motives and/or threats to state security."

Lawmakers have said a detailed and rigid definition of terrorism as a crime would ensure that investigators crack down on terrorist activities, while the government believes it would only hamper terrorism prevention and mitigation processes, as it would obligate investigators to determine whether suspects had either political or ideological motives before naming them as terrorists.

Enny said the government would accommodate the parliament's request by inserting the latter's version in the general explanation part of the bill, not in the verse section of it.

The government expects to convey that proposal to the parliament at the scheduled May 23 hearing, so that the bill can be further deliberated before being proposed for the next plenary meeting.

Terrorism prevention measures

Law enforcers will have greater powers. The new terrorism law will include numerous provisions on terrorism prevention measures -- something that is not dealt with comprehensively in the prevailing terror law, Enny said.

"For instance, we can do nothing to people who plan terror attacks if we use the prevailing law," said Enny. Under the bill, plotting terror attacks is a crime.

The bill stipulates that a person accused of terrorism could be held in custody from seven to 14 days without charges. Law enforcers could hold them for up to 200 days after officially charging them with terrorism.

Rights activists have voiced concerns over the policy, but Enny ensured that the policy would be carried out in accordance with human rights principles.

If there is a law enforcement officer found guilty of violating human rights principles during the terrorism investigation process, they will be charged with a criminal offense, said Enny. 

People who import explosives or components such as chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or radioactive weapons for terrorism purposes into the country, or make, receive or possess them, can be charged under Article 10a of the bill, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment.

The bill also charges people who mastermind terror attacks, partake in paramilitary training with the purpose of launching terror attacks or join overseas wars related to terror attacks, with maximum terms ranging from 12 years, 15 years, 20 years to life sentence and the death penalty.

That means the police will later be able to charge Indonesians returning from war-torn countries where they are proven to have joined a terrorist group such as IS.

Terrorism prevention measures also include what the bill describes as "counter-radicalization" and "deradicalization" activities.

Counter-radicalization activities are intended for people or groups that have been exposed to radical teachings that could potentially lead them to committing terror attacks. Deradicalization activities are intended for terrorist suspects, defendants, convicts, inmates or former inmates and aim to reintegrate these people into society.

The bill says counter-radicalization and deradicalization activities will be detailed in other supporting regulations.

The roles of the Indonesian Military (TNI)

The decades-long rivalry between the two institutions to handle and manage state security has been apparent during the deliberation of the terrorism bill. Activists have also warned about possible abuse of power carried out by the two authorities in handling terrorism.

Enny ensured that, while the bill finally included a provision on the role of the TNI in countering terrorism, the military would not be involved in law enforcement.

“To prevent the military from entering the domain of law enforcement, we have decided that the President will regulate the TNI’s involvement through a government regulation.”

The regulation will refer to the 2004 TNI Law, which stipulates that the TNI’s involvement in civilian affairs depends on the political decision of the state, which should be consulted with the House.

Compensation and protection for victims

Victims of terror attacks have long sought comprehensive provisions about their rights as victims.

Yayasan Penyintas Indonesia, an organization that supports terror victims, detailed in 2016 that over 1,900 victims of terror attacks suffered from physical and mental trauma from a number of bomb attacks that had occurred since the start of the millennium.

House terrorism bill committee chairman Muhammad Syafi'i said last year that "the well-being of victims has been one of our biggest concerns since the beginning of the deliberation."

The terrorism bill has one special chapter dedicated to detailing protection for victims of terror attacks. The bill acknowledges two kinds of victims: direct victims, for example victims who are killed or injured in attacks, and indirect victims, for example wives who lose their husbands as a result of a terror attack.

Full report at:

http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/05/19/how-new-antiterrorism-law-will-change-indonesias-war-on-terror-.html

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Police nab ‘conspiracy theorists’ following Surabaya bombings

May 21, 2018

North Sumatra Police have arrested a lecturer at North Sumatra University (USU), identified as HDL, and a security guard at a regional bank, identified as AAD, over the weekend for their social media comments that suggested the Surabaya church attacks were an attempt to “divert attention” from current issues.

The police have charged them with inciting hate speech under the Information and Electronic Transactions (ITE) Law.

“What a perfect attention-diverting scenario. #2019GantiPresiden[2019ChangePresident],” HDL posted on May 13, the day of the attacks. Her post had since gone viral.

North Sumatra Police spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr. Tatan Dirsan Atmaja said that HDL, who was arrested at her house in the Johor Permai residential complex in Medan Johor, would be charged with Article 28 of the 2008 ITE Law.

“HDL told the police that she wrote the post while she was emotional from being disappointed in the government,” Tatan said on Sunday. HDL told the police she was upset over the rising prices of goods.

“Our officers have questioned several witnesses and confiscated some items as evidence, namely a cell phone and a SIM card,” he added.

Budi Agustono, the dean of USU’s Humanities Department and HDL’s direct superior, said the lecturer’s actions did not reflect the institution’s views. As a lecturer who had been teaching for 16 years, Budi said, she should have known better not to post the comment on social media.

Tatan said the other suspect, AAD, posted a Facebook comment on May 17 that said, “There are no terrorists in Indonesia, it is only a fiction, [an attempt] at diverting attention from important issues.” AAD did not elaborate on what he meant by “important issues”.

Tatan advised members of the public to be careful in sharing their thoughts on social media, as they might spark controversy that might drag them to court.

A similar incident occurred that involved a pilot of state-owned airline Garuda Indonesia, who was identified as OGT. OGT allegedly shared a third-party Facebook post on his Facebook account that said the suicide bombings in Surabaya were part of a conspiracy.

OGT commented on the post with “dudududu”, a vague expression that was perceived among netizens as supporting terrorism, and who responded to his shared post with bullying and anger. Some netizens accused him of being a radical.

OGT’s post also went viral, prompting the Garuda Indonesia management to take immediate measures against him. Garuda Indonesia corporate secretary to the vice president Hengki Hariandono said on Saturday that OGT had been suspended while the airline investigated the case.

“I am sorry for causing such inconvenience. We are attempting to uncover the reason behind OGT’s post. Should we find that he had engaged in behavior that deviated from our ethics [policy], we will penalize him according to company policies,” said Hengki, as quoted by kompas.com.

Shortly after the string of terror attacks hit West Java and East Java earlier this month, some social media users speculated that the attacks were part of a conspiracy. The conspiracy theories ranged from a smear campaign against Islam to a political motive related to the upcoming elections, as HDL had suggested.

Full report at:

http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/05/21/police-nab-conspiracy-theorists-following-surabaya-bombings.html

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North America

 

Muslims in St. John's mark Ramadan with special Friday prayers

May 19, 2018

With Wednesday marking the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan this year, Muslims gathered at the Masjid-an-Noor mosque in St. John's for special Ramadan prayers Friday afternoon.

Syed Pirzada, president of the Muslim Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, said most of the time he feels people are aware that Ramadan is a special month for Muslims; they know it's a time when the community fasts and prays.

However, a few youths at the prayer session noted that there are still quite a few misconceptions floating about.

Yusuf Ahmad said despite what others may think, he enjoys Ramadan and sees it as something to look forward to. In fact, he started the practice when he was just seven.

"It's supposed to be the age of 11 or something, but I insisted," he said. "I like it — it's fun."

Ahmad admitted the days can be long and hard, especially on his stomach. Ramadan observers go without food and water between sunrise and sunset for 30 days. In Newfoundland, a day during these spring months can last almost 16 hours.

Time for self-reflection

But Ahmad appreciates how he's able to self-reflect and become a better person because of this period each year.

For instance, the time for prayer and contemplation gives him a compelling reason to not watch television.

"But then you know, my parents say that shouldn't be a reason, you should not do it anyway," Ahmad joked.

Another misconception that young Moiz Ali has encountered with friends is the assumption that Ramadan is only about oneself and fasting.

"It's also for other people," he said, for those who are living in poverty. Charity and giving to the less fortunate is a significant component of Ramadan.

Fasting is merely a facet of the practice that allows Muslims to experience and understand the hardships that those in need face daily.

"I feel like I'm kind of in their shoes," said Abdallah Shahwan. But at the end of the day, Shahwan said he knows when he'll next eat, unlike the poor.

Full report at:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/ramadan-st-johns-masjid-an-noor-mosque-1.4670785

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U.S. anti-Islamic State bureau gets reprieve despite speed-up in Syria exit

MAY 21, 2018

WASHINGTON – The State Department unit overseeing the fight against the Islamic State group will stay in business for at least six more months, reversing an administration plan for the unit’s imminent downgrade even as President Donald Trump presses ahead with a speedy U.S. exit from Syria.

A plan initiated by Rex Tillerson before he was fired as secretary of state in March would have folded the office of the special envoy to the global coalition into the department’s counterterrorism bureau as early as spring, officials said. Tillerson’s successor, Mike Pompeo, canceled the plan this month, and the office will stay an independent entity until at least December, when there will be a new review, said the officials, who weren’t authorized to discuss the plan publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The office reports directly to the secretary of state and the president, and the planned shift would have undercut its status and the priority of its mission. It could have led to staffing and budget cuts as well as the departure of the special envoy, Brett McGurk. He is now expected to remain in his job at least through the end of the year.

Still, the officials said Trump’s intent to reduce the U.S. military and civilian stabilization presence in Syria has not changed and is, in fact, accelerating. The State Department has ended all funding for stabilization programs in Syria’s northwest. Islamic State militants have been almost entirely eliminated from the region, which is controlled by a hodgepodge of other extremist groups and Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government forces.

At least some of the U.S. money for those projects is expected to be redirected toward Syria’s northeast, where IS fighters remain, the officials said.

The conflicting moves of retaining McGurk’s office while pulling out of the northwest illustrate how the administration is being pulled in different directions by Trump’s two competing interests: extricating the U.S. from messy Mideast conflicts and delivering a permanent defeat to the Islamic State group.

Trump has said the United States will be withdrawing from Syria “like very soon.” In late March, the State Department, the Pentagon and intelligence agencies tried to dissuade him from pulling troops out immediately, warning there was a risk IS would manage to regroup. Trump relented slightly, but told aides they could have only five months or six months to finish off IS and get out.

The U.S. announced in September 2014 that it was forming a coalition of nations to defeat the nascent extremist group that had taken over vast swathes of Iraq and Syria. Days later, President Barack Obama named retired Marine Gen. John Allen the first special presidential envoy for the coalition. McGurk, his deputy, replaced him in 2015.

Almost four years later, IS no longer controls territory in Iraq, though U.S. officials say its ideology remains a threat there. The final vestiges of the self-proclaimed caliphate are in Syria, where civil war has made it far trickier to wrest the militants from the few pockets of territory they still control.

Yet, as Trump’s administration eyes an exit as soon as IS is vanquished, the broader situation in Syria is not getting any better as far as American interests are concerned.

Assad’s forces are making inroads against the opposition and now control roads between Syria’s three main cities for the first time since the war broke out in 2011. Moscow is solidifying its influence, even hosting Assad for a surprise visit Thursday to Russia, where he met with President Vladimir Putin. And an outbreak of direct fighting between Israel and Iranian forces based in Syria has catalyzed concerns about Tehran’s involvement in Syria and the potential for a broader regional conflict.

“Hopefully, Syria will start to stabilize,” Trump said last week as he met with NATO’s secretary-general at the White House. “You see what’s been happening. It’s been a horror show.”

Nevertheless, there are no signs that Trump is backing away from his determination to limit U.S. involvement to the narrow task of defeating IS, leaving to others the longer-term challenges of stabilizing the country, restoring basic services and resolving the civil war.

A $200-million pledge that Tillerson made in February for stabilization programs in Syria remains on hold on Trump’s orders and is under review. Tillerson, who had advocated for maintaining the U.S. presence, was fired shortly after he made the pledge at a conference in Kuwait.

Full report at:

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/05/21/world/u-s-anti-islamic-state-bureau-gets-reprieve-despite-speed-syria-exit/#.WwJUWdSFOzc

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Trump isn’t the first president to follow his gut into Mideast trouble

By Joe Scarborough 

May 20, 2018

American presidents’ strategic miscalculations in the bloody years following Osama bin Laden’s attacks on New York and Washington have had a catastrophic impact on the Middle East. In response to those attacks by al-Qaeda, Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama spent the next 15 years committing foreign policy sins of omission or commission that unleashed chaos upon an already troubled region. The fallout from those grave missteps empowered our enemies and undermined the noble causes for which too many Americans fought and died.

If Afghanistan is truly the graveyard of empires, then today’s Middle East is where rigid ideologies go to die. Bush’s addiction to the schemes of neocons led to Iraq’s unraveling, just as Obama’s obsessive retreat from the region left Syria in ruins, the Islamic State on the rise and Iran marching westward.

Both of these well-meaning commanders in chief made historic miscalculations because they were captive to ideological assumptions. Obama’s belief that the United States could escape history in an area undone by his predecessor’s policies proved to be as misguided as Bush’s call for “ending tyranny in our world.”

Now it is President Trump who has been motivated by his political instincts to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem while abandoning the Iran nuclear deal. Both geopolitical decisions appeal to many conservatives like myself in the way that liberating Iraq from the reign of Saddam Hussein once did.

Today, few remember that 76 percent of Americans once supported the Iraq War, while 77 U.S. senators — and a majority of Democrats — voted for the resolution backing the invasion. Proving once again that failure is an orphan, Iraq’s most tragic lessons are too often lost on the politicians, press and public who blithely supported a war whose tragic consequences few fully considered. Put me at the top of that list.

Unlike Bush’s momentous missteps in 2003, however, Trump’s policy shifts on Israel and Iran are opposed by a majority of Americans and viewed skeptically by most of our allies. Support for both policies is mainly limited to conservatives who support a stronger Israel and a diminished Iran.

If the 21st century has taught Americans anything, it is that Middle East policy decisions demand that our presidents question their assumptions and challenge their ideological instincts. Following their “gut” always ends in disaster.

That is a tall order for a politician such as Trump, who lives in the eternal now and brushes aside the complexities of history and the consequences of his actions. Were he more introspective, Trump might conclude that moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem at this moment in history only helps the terrorist group Hamas, which had been back on its heels for failing miserably to deliver for its followers. More troubling, but just as predictable, is the burden Trump’s decision places on our closest regional allies.

Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi was forced to respond to Trump’s Jerusalem announcement by opening his country’s border with Gaza for the longest time in five years. A secular leader who rose to power by ruthlessly defeating the Muslim Brotherhood, Sissi announced Thursday that he would move to “ease the burdens on the brothers in the Gaza Strip.” Even before the Jerusalem announcement, Egypt’s government was reeling from internal unrest, leaving Sissi little room to maneuver: Public sympathies rest squarely, as they do throughout the Arab Middle East, with Hamas and the Palestinian cause.

Meanwhile, Trump’s decision to abandon the Iran nuclear deal will further strain relations with our closest European allies, undermining long-term U.S. interests. I opposed the 2015agreement, but unilateral U.S. withdrawal from it just three years later will further strengthen Iran and isolate the United States.

While Iran has been the epicenter of international terrorism for 40 years, its leaders have usually proved themselves to be shrewder than the U.S. presidents they have opposed. Expect Iran to remain in the nuclear deal and to give our European allies no reason to answer Trump’s call for banking or oil sanctions on a country that Europe believes to be adhering to the agreement’s terms. Without those secondary sanctions imposed by Europe or China, the United States will lose most of its leverage over Iran’s economic future — and also have far less power shaping Iran’s nuclear program than it did when the UnitedStates was part of the international deal.

Full report at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-isnt-the-first-president-to-follow-his-gut-into-mideast-trouble/2018/05/20/9597fdb0-5ad0-11e8-858f-12becb4d6067_story.html?utm_term=.473540ab8f4a

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US sanctions on Iran threaten Chabahar port project

May 21, 2018

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear accord and re-impose sanctions on Tehran threatens to derail a project to help build Afghanistan’s economy, endangering a key goal of the US strategy to end America’s longest war.

The Indian-backed Chabahar port complex in Iran is being developed as part of a new transportation corridor for land-locked Afghanistan that could potentially open the way for millions of dollars in trade and cut its dependence on Pakistan.

Building Afghanistan’s economy would also slash Kabul’s dependence on foreign aid and put a major dent in the illicit opium trade, the Taliban’s main revenue source.

But Trump’s decision to re-impose sanctions on Iran and penalise financial institutions for doing business with Tehran is clouding Chabahar’s viability as banks, nervous they could be hit with crippling penalties, pull back from financing.

“President Trump’s decision has brought us back to the drawing board and we will have to renegotiate terms and conditions on using Chabahar,” a senior Indian diplomat said. “It is a route that can change the way India-Iran-Afghanistan do business, but for now everything is in a state of uncertainty.”

The White House did not respond to requests for comment.

Launched in 2016, the joint Iran-India-Afghanistan Chabahar project already is facing holdups. It has yet to see significant traffic apart from some containers of donated wheat from India, and the first shipments of Afghan dried fruit to India are not expected before July.

At least three contracts to build infrastructure at the port now have been delayed, with two Chinese companies and a Finnish group left hanging while bankers seek clarity from Washington before approving guarantees, a person close to the project said.

In addition, Afghan traders, who were hoping for an alternative to Karachi port, now find themselves cut off from funding and forced to rely on the traditional hawala money transfer system, which is insufficient on its own to transform an economy.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1409041/us-sanctions-on-iran-threaten-chabahar-port-project

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Africa

 

Nigerian, Cameroonian Troops Overrun Boko Haram in Borno

19 MAY 2018

By Senator Iroegbu in Abuja

Nigerian troops in a joint Counter Insurgency Operation with Cameroonian Defence Forces and the Civilian Joint Task Force in Borno State on Thursday overran a Boko Haram hide out in Bukar Maryam and Abaganaram villages of Borno State.

This is as troops of 1 Brigade, Nigerian Army, Sokoto, currently involved in Operation Idon Raini on Thursday, killed three bandits at Danmaijiya village in Maru Local Government Council of Zamfara State.

The Deputy Director Public Relations, Operation Lafiya Dole, Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, in a statement yesterday said the troops overpowered the insurgents, killing two of them and capturing 11 men after a fierce fire fight, during an operation to clear the surrounding villages of fleeing Boko Haram terrorists.

Nwachukwu said the troops recovered two Multi-Purpose Rocket Grenade Launcher (Police Tear Gas Gun), one rocket propelled gun charger, two AK 47 Rifle magazines with 20 Rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition and one magazine vest.

Other logistics, including three motorcycles, one power generating set, a tool box, a pair of Camouflage, one military-type belt and one Boko Haram flag were also captured from the routed insurgents by the troops.

In another development, he said the Explosive Ordnance Disposal team (EOD) of Operation Lafiya Dole on Thursday successfully uncovered three Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) planted by Boko Haram terrorists in Doro Naira village.

According to him, vigilant troops made the discovery during a Counter IED operation sweeping the general area of IEDs. He said the IEDs had been safely detonated by the EOD team.

In a related development, Nwachukwu said the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Component of Operation Lafiya Dole had concluded training for the first set of 22 personnel in an Explosive detection and disposal training program organised by the British Liaison and Support Team in Maiduguri.

He said the capacity development program came on the heels of Boko Haram terrorists resort to attacking soft and vulnerable targets in North Eastern Nigeria.

"In response to the terrorists IED attacks, the British Liaison and Support Team in partnership with the Theatre Command organised instructional and practical training packages to shore up troops' Counter IED capacity in theatre of operation. The British team also made a donation of Explosive Ordnance Disposal kits to each of the trainees.

"In a symbolic presentation of one of the kits to the Theatre Commander Operation Lafiya Dole, the Commander of the British team Lt Col. Alex Micheal said the training program was United Kingdom's support to Nigeria in the fight against terrorism and insurgency in the North East theatre," he stated.

He also stated that the Theatre Commander, Maj-Gen. Rogers Nicholas, expressed appreciation for the support and partnership, assuring that the EOD troops would now be better able to function efficiently.

In a related development, he Assistant Director of Army Public Relations, Sokoto, Major Clement Abiade, said the troops encountered the bandits during clearance operations in Mahalu and Danmaijiya villages of Dansadau District.

"After the encounter that lasted over 30 minutes, the bandits succumbed to the superior firepower of the troops with three killed and several others escaping with gunshot wounds into the forest," Abiade stated.

In addition, he said, one motorcycle that was abandoned by fleeing bandits was also recovered.

He also urged members of the public to report all suspicious persons, movements and activities to the nearest security agents in Zamfara State.

http://allafrica.com/stories/201805190002.html

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Sudan complains Egyptian TV show ties it to terrorism

21 May 2018

A diplomatic row has erupted between Sudan and Egypt over an Egyptian television series.

Sudan’s Foreign Ministry late Sunday blasted the series, calling it a conspiracy aimed at creating a negative image of Sudan by linking it to terrorism.

“This is an absurd attempt by some circles to sabotage the trust and historic ties between our two nations,” said a ministry statement.

The statement called on Egyptian authorities to take appropriate measures to protect ties between the two countries, adding that Sudan has officially complained about this “aggression.”

The ministry also summoned the Egyptian ambassador to Khartoum.

“We called on Egyptian authorities to put an end to the attempts of those who want to sabotage ties between our two nations,” it said.

“Along with the recent good relations between our two countries after the summit between Presidents Al-Bashir and [Abdel Fattah] al-Sisi in March, the meeting between the two foreign ministers in Addis Ababa and all those meetings have stressed the maintenance of ties between our two countries,” it added.

The plot of the Egyptian drama “Abu Omer Al-Masri” includes the real-life terrorist group ISIL, hinting that Sudan is involved in protecting the group and giving it support.

Full report at:

http://www.worldbulletin.net/africa/202262/sudan-complains-egyptian-tv-show-ties-it-to-terrorism

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Francis Macharia, wanted al Shabaab facilitator arrested in Kayole

May. 21, 2018

Francis Macharia Karishu, a suspect believed to be facilitating al Shabaab activities has been arrested.

Macharia was arrested on Sunday evening in Kayole and handed over to the anti-terrorism police unit.

The arrest comes just two days after police placed a Sh1 million bounty on his head.

Security agencies have warned members of the public that the terror group is planning to carry out attacks during this month of Ramadhan.

Police are also looking for another "armed and dangerous" suspect from Kitui.

Two weeks ago, spokesman Charles Owino said Anthony Munyasya alias Abdalla is a "highly trained" al Shabaab operative who has been fighting for the militants in Somalia since 2014.

“He was recently deployed to the country as part of operatives who were to conduct an attack in Nairobi in February,” he said.

Full report at:

https://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2018/05/21/francis-macharia-wanted-al-shabaab-facilitator-arrested-in-kayole_c1761226

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Nigeria: Boko Haram Islamists Still Control Parts of North-Eastern Nigeria

19 MAY 2018

People in two of northeastern Nigeria's six states say militants with ties to Boko Haram are still in control of areas despite the federal government's unwavering stance that it has defeated the Jihadist militant group.

In Borno and Yobe states, residents told DW that militants of the so-called Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) - led by Musab al-Barnawi - held sway over a territory spanning an estimated 100 miles (160 kilometers). Boko Haram rebranded itself as ISWA when it aligned with Islamic State in 2015, the year President Muhammadu Buhari pledged to defeat the group.

"Definitely Boko Haram is very much present in our area. They even mount roadblocks, conducting stop and search operations the way the military does. Luckily they don't kill people in this area," said Ahmad Muhammad, who lives in Damboa, Borno State.

Residents also told DW the militants were collecting taxes from citizens in return for what they said was "protection". The Nigerian military has refuted the claims, insisting that no territory was under ISWA control.

Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel said he was not surprised by the accounts of the residents because it was wrong to assume Boko Haram is totally defeated.

"Unfortunately, this kind of struggle is difficult to eliminate completely in the short-run. What is not in doubt is that good progress has been made against Boko Haram. Most of their territory has been taken away and they have been pushed to remote areas and are being pursued there," Chambas said.

Boko Haram "technically defeated"?

In 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari pledged to defeat Boko Haram and officials insist this has been achieved. The conflict, now in its tenth year, continues. At the time he also told media outlets that Nigeria had "technically won the war" against Islamists Boko Haram militants.

Despite offensive attacks launched by the multinational task force, the Islamists still pose a threat to countries in the Lake Chad basin.

In March this year, 20 Boko Haram militants were killed in clashes with Chadian soldiers who are part of the multinational task force fighting Boko Haram. And because of these recent gains the commander of the multinational task force Major General Lucky Irabor dismissed reports of militants controlling areas.

"Narratives can always be created by anybody for whatever purpose but you also need to verify. We have troops in Gaidam, in Gashua and even in Babban Gida. So, Were do they control?" Irabor said.

Political analyst Umar Baba Kumo suggested the army may need a new approach in the face of a continued Boko Haram presence in the states.

"This is a very devastating development and a serious threat. People are becoming very apprehensive and disturbed that, despite the gains recorded, the militants are trying to revert to the situation we had faced. I think there is a need for the military to become more strategic and focused," Kumo told DW.

Full report at:

http://allafrica.com/stories/201805210062.html

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