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Islamic World News ( 22 May 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Slain Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi Family Forgives Those Who Killed Their Father

New Age Islam News Bureau

22 May 2020

FILE - A photo circulated by the Taliban of leader Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada.


• 'Stay at Home for Eid': Delhi Jama Masjid Imam Appeals To Muslims To Refrain From Any Mass Gathering -- Religious Or Celebratory

• Taliban Chief Urges US to Implement Afghan Peace Deal

• Indonesia Cases Top Daily Record as Muslim World Prepares For 'Saddest' Eid

• Imran Khan's Former Aide Among Six Major Millers Acting Like 'Cartel': Official Report

• Eid: Celebrities Urge Muslims To Celebrate Festival at Home and To Follow Social Distancing Guidelines

• Iran’s Leader: No Enmity with Jewish People

• Tunisia To Reopen Mosques, Cafes and Hotels on June 4

• US: FBI Says Texas Base Shooting Was Act of Terrorism


Arab world

• Slain Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi Family Forgives Those Who Killed Their Father

• Iraq Arrests ISIS Leader Abdulnasser Al-Qirdash Said To Be Al-Baghdadi’s Successor

• UAE Says Eid Prayers To Be Performed At Home, Mosques To Remain Closed

• Saudi Arabia rejects Israel’s West Bank annexation plans

• Rami Makhlouf’s brother Ihab confirms Syriatel resignation, declares loyalty to Assad

• ICRC warns of dire humanitarian crisis in northeast Syria amid coronavirus

• Iraqi lawmaker calls for posters of Iran’s Ali Khamenei hung in Baghdad to be removed

• Man Pleads Guilty in US to Conspiracy to Hezbollah Drone Parts Export



• 'Stay at Home for Eid': Delhi Jama Masjid Imam Appeals To Muslims To Refrain From Any Mass Gathering -- Religious Or Celebratory

• Pray at home on AlvidaJummaand Eid prayers, Muslims asked by Imarat-e-Shariah Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha

• US deports Qaeda man Anwar al-Awlaki’s aide to India

• J&K cop killed, 2 others hurt in Pulwama terror attack

• Why Centre changed its mind on flights; al-Qaeda operative lands in Amritsar


South Asia

• Taliban Chief Urges US to Implement Afghan Peace Deal

• Bangladesh denies rights group’s claim security forces beat Rohingya refugees

• Afghanistan attacks underscore scale of challenge facing peace negotiators

• Bangladesh Using Controversial Law To 'Gag Media, Free Speech'

• Khalilzad met with Ghani and Abdullah after meeting Taliban leader in Qatar

• Pentagon’s latest report regarding Pakistan’s support to Taliban, Haqqani Network


Southeast Asia

• Indonesia Cases Top Daily Record as Muslim World Prepares For 'Saddest' Eid

• Non-Muslim Places of Worship in Malaysia's Green Zones to Reopen Under Strict Health Protocols

• Unity Ministry: Non-Muslim Weddings in Houses of Worship Only Allowed After July 31

• ‘The Saddest Eid’ — Coronavirus Lockdown in Malaysia Cuts Lifeline for Indonesian Migrant Families

• Covid-19: Churches say will keep doors closed until end of CMCO

• Non-Muslim places of worship can reopen June 10

• Selangor Religious Council Seeks to Intervene In SIS’ Move to Challenge Law

• Morocco, Indonesia Team Up to Fight COVID-19 in Africa



• Imran Khan's Former Aide Among Six Major Millers Acting Like 'Cartel': Official Report

• Pakistan Ends COVID-19 Lockdown Even As Infections Tick Higher

• ATC concludes trial proceedings in Imran Farooq murder case

• NDMA, UN, donors to help Balochistan fight Covid-19

• PPP leader tells PM to stop adding confusion to chaos, proceed on leave

• Balochistan CM defends Jabbar’s nomination to NFC



• Eid: Celebrities Urge Muslims To Celebrate Festival at Home and To Follow Social Distancing Guidelines

• Britain First leader Paul Golding convicted under terrorism law

• Daesh terrorist charged for attacking Turkish shops, mosque in Germany

• Norway mosque attack trial wraps up, verdict next week

• ‘I Thought We Would Be Safe Here’ – Father Pays Tribute To Murdered Lebanese Student, In Northern England

• Russia warns Israel against expansionist actions

• Greek police forcing asylum seekers into Turkey: Report

• Latest UK 'terrorism' legislation criticised by rights groups



• Iran’s Leader: No Enmity with Jewish People

• Nasrallah Vows to Complete General Soleimani’s Efforts to Liberate Quds

• Iran Deplores US New “Repetitive, Fruitless” Sanctions

• IRGC: Palestinian Issue Most Important Priority of Muslim World

• DM: Iraq Ready to Strengthen Cooperation with Iran

• Iranian President Underlines Sharing Anti-Coronavirus Experiences with Kazakhstan

• Russia Stresses Cooperation with Iran in Fighting Terrorism, US Influence in Region

• Iranian FM: Palestinian Issue Never Forgotten

• Iran’s Human Rights Council Dismisses Hype on Fate of Australian-British Prisoner

• EU chief condemns in ‘strongest possible terms’ Iran threat to Israel

• Bella Caio blasts from hijacked Turkish mosques’ speaker systems

• Over 1,000 Israeli websites targeted in cyberattack showing cities in flames

• Coronavirus: Iran urges against Eid travel as COVID-19 cases surge

• Palestinians shun CIA after declaring end to security coordination with US and Israel

• Israeli military says Iran is slowly pulling out of Syria



• Tunisia To Reopen Mosques, Cafes and Hotels on June 4

• Jordan state employees to have shorter working hours after Eid holiday

• Libyan Army enters downtown al-Asabaa

• 'Haftar forces to be legitimate target if attack Turkish interests'

• Libyan army carries out ops against Haftar in Tarhuna


North America

• US: FBI Says Texas Base Shooting Was Act of Terrorism

• September 11 convict renounces terrorism, al-Qaeda

• Trump’s vaccine chief has a Moroccan background

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Slain Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi Family Forgives Those Who Killed Their Father

May 22, 2020

RIYADH: The family of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi said on Friday that they have forgiven those who murdered their father, his son Salah wrote in a tweet.

"In this blessed night of the blessed month (of Ramadan) we remember God's saying: If a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah."

"Therefore, we the sons of the Martyr Jamal Khashoggi announce that we pardon those who killed our father, seeking reward God almighty" he added.

Khashoggi was last seen at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018, where he had gone to obtain documents for his impending wedding. His body was reportedly dismembered and removed from the building, and his remains have not been found.

The murder caused a global uproar, tarnishing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's image. Some Western governments, as well as the CIA, said they believed he had ordered the killing.

Saudi officials say he had no role, though in September 2019 MbS indicated some personal accountability, saying "it happened under my watch".

Saudi Arabia sentenced five people to death and three to jail over the murder of Khashoggi last December. The suspects were put on trial in secretive proceedings in the capital Riyadh.

The trials were condemned by the United Nations and rights groups. UN special rapporteur for extrajudicial summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, accused Saudi Arabia of making a "mockery" of justice by allowing the masterminds of the 2018 killing to go free.

However, Salah Khashoggi said of the December verdict that "it has been fair to us and that justice has been achieved."


'Stay at Home for Eid': Delhi Jama Masjid Imam Appeals To Muslims To Refrain From Any Mass Gathering -- Religious Or Celebratory

May 21, 2020

Against the backdrop of coronavirus outbreak, Jama Masjid deputy Shahi Imam Syed ShabanBukhari on Thursday in an advisory asked people to refrain from any mass gathering -- religious or celebratory -- at any time during the month of Ramadan, especially on the occasion of Eid.

The initiative is aimed to ensure the health and safety of the people in the light of the pandemic and is aligned with the social distancing guidelines as mandated by the government. A video regarding the same will soon be issued via his official social media accounts, he said.

The imam has asked each member of the community to offer prayers for Jamat-ul-Vida and Eid al-Fitr from their homes as it will significantly help to alleviate the threat of coronavirus transmission from spreading further.

Emphasising on the learnings from Islam, Bukhari has also asked the community to help those in need during this time of crisis as it is an integral part of the Islamic culture. The advisory also appeals to everyone to practice social distancing and follow government guidelines.

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims across the world partake in rituals and customs of Islam.

The community observes stringent fasting from dusk to dawn, crucial to the Islamic holy month.

They offer special Taraweeh prayers only after opening their fasts and observe the same ritual for a month until Eid.

Voicing his concern over the health and safety of the people, Bukhari said, “We can’t allow any congregations in courtyards and parks as it will expose people to an increased risk of contracting the virus.”

“Hence, we urge you to offer holy prayers of Jamat-ul-Vida, Namaz-e-Eid from your homes. I would also like to request all citizens, especially the Muslim community, to abide by the lockdown mandates and help the poor and destitute persons during this period, and pray to the almighty to help keep everyone safe and evade this pandemic.”

The first time the month of Ramadan has begun amid the lockdown. The advisory instructs the community to continue following the government’s guidelines for Eid, which will be observed nationwide on May 25, this year.


Taliban Chief Urges US to Implement Afghan Peace Deal

By AyazGul

May 20, 2020

ISLAMABAD - The leader of the Taliban said Wednesday that implementation of his group’s “historic” agreement with the United States was key to ending the war in Afghanistan and paving the way for U.S. troops to exit the country.

"The Islamic Emirate [the Taliban] is committed to the agreement signed with America and urges the other side to honor its own commitments and to not allow this critical opportunity to go to waste,” said MawlawiHibatullahAkhundzada.

The reclusive Taliban chief made the remarks in a message released in connection with the coming annual festival of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.

“Let us move forward with the implementation phase so that a path is paved for the withdrawal of your [U.S.] forces and for peace and security to take hold in Afghanistan and the region,” Akhundzada said.

His message coincided with a fresh trip to the region by U.S. peace envoy ZalmayKhalilzad, who negotiated and signed the deal with the Taliban on February 29.

The American envoy visited Qatar for talks with insurgent leaders based there prior to meeting Wednesday in Kabul with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

'Historic opportunity'

A pre-visit U.S. announcement said that during Khalilzad's trip, his talks would focus on implementation of the agreement and press Afghan parties to the conflict to open internal negotiations as soon as possible.

"The United States-Taliban agreement opens a historic opportunity for moving forward on peace,” Khalilzad told reporters before leaving Washington for the visit.

The increase in summer fighting between Afghan security forces and the Taliban has threatened to derail the landmark deal, which requires U.S. and coalition forces to leave Afghanistan by mid-July 2021, ending America’s longest overseas military intervention.

“I urge American officials to not afford anyone the opportunity to obstruct, delay and ultimately derail this internationally recognized bilateral agreement between us and you,” said Taliban chief Akhundzada.

The Afghan government and the Taliban have blamed each other for fueling recent battlefield hostilities. Islamic State terrorists, meanwhile, also have conducted deadly attacks, mostly targeting Afghan civilians.

The United Nations said in a report issued this week that the renewed violence had killed and injured hundreds of Afghan civilians over the past six weeks.

On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo again underlined the need for reducing the violence and starting intra-Afghan talks to negotiate an agreement on the political future of the country.

“We need all sides, including the Taliban, to do their part to get into talks. We need violence reduced. We’re working hard to meet the critical objective of getting peace and reconciliation inside of Afghanistan,” the chief American diplomat told reporters in Washington.

Power-sharing accord

Pompeo also welcomed this week’s political power-sharing agreement between Ghani and his chief election rival, Abdullah Abdullah, urging both men to speed up the government’s entry into negotiations with the Taliban.

Ghani and Abdullah both claimed to have won the disputed September presidential election, triggering months of political and governance crisis in Afghanistan.

While Ghani has retained the office of the president, the deal gives Abdullah the de facto No. 2 position and power to recommend candidates for 50 percent of the Cabinet. 

Abdullah will also lead the peace process and future negotiations with the Taliban as head of a new High Council of National Reconciliation.

Under the U.S.-Taliban deal, the proposed intra-Afghan dialogue was due to begin in early March. The crucial talks have been delayed because of an extremely slow-moving prisoner swap between the Taliban and Kabul.

The Afghan government has to release up to 5,000 insurgent prisoners in return for 1,000 detainees held by the Taliban. So far, only 1,000 prisoners have been set free from Afghan jails while the Taliban have released fewer than 300 detainees.


Indonesia cases top daily record as Muslim world prepares for 'saddest' Eid

22 May 2020

Indonesia has reported its highest number of daily coronavirus cases as millions of people in the world’s fourth most populous country prepared to mark the festival of Eid al-Fitr without the usual celebrations and gatherings.

This year’s festivities will be dampened by the economic hardship for many as Indonesian migrant workers, who usually send money back home to their families, have been left stranded and with no income.

Indonesian president JokoWidodo has banned people travelling home to their families for the holiday, though thousands have reportedly made the journey this week, despite fears that this could prompt further rises in transmission.

Officials said the virus has been spreading at its fastest rate over the past nine days, due in part to a worsening outbreak in East Java.

On Thursday, the country reported 973 new infections, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 20,162. The authorities have asked the military and the police to prevent arrivals in Jakarta until a full reopening of the capital is permitted.

As of Friday, 5,101,97 cases of coronavirus have been reported around the word, with the US recording the highest number of infections. There is growing concern about the outbreak in Brazil, which recorded its biggest daily death toll on Thursday, when 1,188 fatalities were reported. Brazil now has 310,087 recorded cases – seen as a likely underestimate given the lack of testing in the country – and has almost overtaken Russia to become the second worst-hit country behind the US.

Across the world, many Muslim countries have said they will tighten restrictions this weekend for Eid, which marks the end of the holiest time in the Muslim calendar, the Ramadan month of fasting.

In Lebanon, an economic crisis that was already causing huge hardship has worsened as a result of the pandemic and left Muslims in despair as Eid begins.

“Even during the civil war there was money and no one starved,” said an unemployed public bus driver, Mohammad, in Beirut. “Now it’s just welfare. Who would have thought?”

In Egypt, authorities are bringing forward the start of the existing coronavirus curfew by four hours to 5 pm, and banning all public transport for six days from Sunday. Meanwhile, in Bethlehem, the first town in the West Bank to be sealed off because of a coronavirus outbreak, the Palestinian authority has said a lockdown will be re-imposed on the West Bank during the three days of the festival.

Authorities in Iran have also warned people not to travel during the festival. “Our biggest concern” is to have “new peaks of the disease in the country by not respecting health regulations,” said health minister Saeed Namaki. “So I ask the dear Iranian people... not to travel during the Eid al-Fitr holiday. New trips mean new Covid-19 infections,” he said, quoted by the semi-official news agency ISNA.

The health ministry announced 66 more deaths and another 2,392 cases of coronavirus infection across Iran, which has the Middle East’s deadliest outbreak.

For the most vulnerable, who have lost work and are stranded away from home, the holiday period will be especially challenging. Maizidah Salas, a coordinator at the non-profit Indonesian Migrant Workers’ Union, said this year will be “the saddest Eid for migrant workers and their family members”.

The festival is usually celebrated with feasts, gifts and new clothes, and there is normally a spike in remittances sent by millions of people who work overseas in casual construction and factory jobs. This year, however, many have seen their work cut as businesses have been forced to close.

Wasito, who works as a plumber in Malaysia, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that he has not been paid his monthly wages of 2,500 ringgit ($575) during the six-week shutdown. Instead, he has been forced to borrow money from his employer just to eat.

“I did not dare to ask why I wasn’t paid because I don’t want to be fired, and I’m too embarrassed to borrow money again for Eid,” he said. “My wife has been calling every day and crying. We have to cancel Eid celebrations this year.”


Imran Khan's former aide among six major millers acting like 'cartel': Official report

21st May 2020

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's six major millers, including a former confidante of Prime Minister Imran Khan, owing over 50 per cent of sugar production were acting like a "cartel" and under-reported sugar sales for years, according to a government report released on Thursday.

The report is based on the probe of the Sugar Forensic Commission (SFC) constituted in April to find out those behind the sugar shortage and its price hike that hit the country earlier this year.

"The findings show that the six major millers owing over 50 per cent of sugar production were acting like a cartel," the Prime Minister's aide on accountability, Shehzad Akbar, said at press conference he addressed along with Information Minister ShibliFaraz.

Akbar said that the finding showed that the millers underreported their stocks to evade taxes.

They also colluded to create artificial shortages and sell sugar at high prices.

He said they sold sugar to unnamed buyers and also indulged in "double booking, under-reporting and over-invoicing".

The report noted that under-invoiced sales from bagasse and molasses by one miller resulted in 25 per cent cost inflation.

"The report also showed that mill owners are maintaining two account books. There is an under-reporting on sugar procurement of 25-30 per cent, which is an absolute," he said.

Some of the owners also committed corporate fraud whereby money was transferred from their public limited company to their private company, Akbar said.

He said that the sugar industry was given subsidies worth Rs29 billion over the last five years whereas the tax income from all 88 sugar mills across the country was just Rs 10 billion after-tax refunds.

He said that the probe found stark failure of the government institutions to hold them accountable, as their malpractice went on unchecked for years.

Among the prominent mill owners mentioned in the report include Jehangir Khan Tareen, once considered as the most powerful in the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) after Prime Minister Khan.

Tareen, one of the richest men in the country, was dubbed as "ATM" of Khan by opposition parties after he was frequently seen using his private jet to haul lawmakers from far flung areas to Islamabad in order to win their support to form the government after elections in 2018 as Khan's party lacked numerical strength to form the government on its own.

"I do not maintain two sets of books. I pay all my taxes diligently," Tareen said and vowed to answer every allegation and be vindicated.

Pakistan Muslim League Quaid (PML-Q) leader MoonisElahi is also one of the mill owners named in the report.

His party is an ally of Khan at centre and in Punjab province.

His father PervaizElahi is Speaker of the Punjab Assembly.

Hamza Shehbaz and his father Shehbaz Sharif of opposition Pakistan Muslims League-Nawaz have been also named in the report.

The scandal was a test case for Khan who came to power in 2018 riding on the slogan to expose the corrupt mafia and put them in jails.

"The Prime Minister had kept his promise and it is our commitment that we will not tolerate any kind of corruption," said information minister Faraz.

Akbar said that now action would be taken against those named in the report, including registration of cases and prosecution on charges of for corruption, cheating the public, evading taxes, fraud and other crimes.


Eid: Celebrities Urge Muslims To Celebrate Festival At Home And To Follow Social Distancing Guidelines

May 22, 2020

Celebrities including baker NadiyaHussain and Citizen Khan creatorAdil Ray have urged Muslims celebrating Eid this weekend to follow social distancing guidelines.

Traditionally, the festival is marked with communal prayers in mosques and visits to friends and family.

But in a video posted online, Muslims were encouraged to stay at home and celebrate with their families online.

Hussain said "now could not be a better time to put others first".

Eid is celebrated at the end of the fasting month of Ramandan and is a special time for nearly two billion Muslims all over the world.

The Eid al-Fitr prayers are usually among the best attended of the year, however, mosques are currently closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Addressing his fellow Muslims in the video, Ray said: "This year, we can stay home, save lives and give consideration to others. What a wonderful Eid gift that would be."

Former Blue Peter presenter and children's book author KonnieHuq, who also appears in the video, said: "By following the guidance we are helping to protect not just ourselves but also our families."

At Thursday's Downing Street coronavirus briefing, a member of the public asked about advice for those celebrating Eid this weekend.

Mehwish from Coventry asked: "With the BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) coronavirus death rate being relatively high, will you be advising the Muslim community to stay at home or stay alert during the upcoming three-day celebration of Eid?

"If not, what is your advice for them? As a member I am concerned that some people may be finding ways to flout the rules like having garden parties or gatherings."

Chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty said religious celebrations for all faiths will have to continue to be adapted to meet social distancing rules.

He said: "Everybody knows what those rules are and they remain the same for every community.

"And the reason we must all do that is, this is to protect the whole community, all communities and all of us must find ways around this, of whatever faith."

Earlier this week, the Muslim Council of Britain - an umbrella organisation of various UK Muslim bodies - said people should celebrate Eid at home and virtually.

Analysis by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has found that black men and women are nearly twice as likely to die with coronavirus as white people in England and Wales.

Men and women from Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities had an increased risk of between 30% and 80%, the analysis found.


Iran’s Leader: No Enmity with Jewish People

May 21, 2020

“The Zionist regime has proven it won’t abide by any treaty and understands no logic except force. The nature of the Zionist regime is incompatible with peace, because the Zionists seek to expand their territories and will certainly not be limited to what they have already occupied,” the official twitter page of Ayatollah Khamenei wrote on Wednesday night.

“Eliminating the Zionist regime doesn’t mean eliminating Jews. We aren’t against Jews. It means abolishing the imposed regime and Muslim, Christian and Jewish Palestinians choose their own govt and expel thugs like Netanyahu,” it added.

This is “Eliminating Israel” and it will happen, Ayatollah Khamenei underlined.

He noted that a proposal for a referendum to choose the type of government for the historical country of Palestine was registered with the UN as offered by Iran, adding, “We say the true Palestinians with Palestinian roots of at least 100 years, and Palestinians living abroad, choose the govt of Palestine.”

“Comprehensive struggles by the Palestinian nation - political, military and cultural - should continue till the usurpers submit to the referendum for the Palestinian nation. This nation should determine what political system should rule there; struggle must continue until then.

We will support and assist any nation or any group anywhere who opposes and fights the Zionist regime, and we do not hesitate to say this,” Ayatollah Khamenei concluded.

His remarks came as the Iranian parliament in its meeting on Monday unanimously approved the generalities of a bill to confront the hostile acts of the Zionist regime against peace and security.

The parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission had on Saturday prepared and approved the bill on “confronting the hostile acts of the Zionist regime against peace and security”.

“Based on the first article of the plan, all Iranian bodies are required to use the country’s regional and international capacities to confront the Zionist regime’s measures, specially its warmongering and terrorist moves, siege (of Gaza), settlement construction, displacing the Palestinian people and occupation of countries’ lands, including Golan,” Rapporteur of the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission SeyedHosseinNaqaviHosseini told FNA on Saturday.

He added that the plan also underlines support for Quds city as the Palestinian capital and the Palestinian people.

NaqaviHosseini said that based on the approval, any cooperation or spying for the Zionist regime is equal to enmity towards God and corruption on earth and activities of the Israeli software platforms in Iran and using its hardware and software products is forbidden.

He noted that another article of the plan requires the foreign ministry to pursue the referendum in the Palestinian territories which has been registered at the UN too.

The new bill also bans transferring the goods produced by the Israeli companies via the Iranian territories as well as participation of the Israeli nationals and firms in the exhibitions held inside Iran.

It also requires the government to pave the ground for the establishment of a virtual embassy in Palestine.

“The foreign ministry is required to make necessary arrangements to form the Islamic Republic of Iran’s virtual embassy or consulate (in Palestine) and submit the results for approval to the cabinet,” one of the paragraphs of the bill said.

“The foreign ministry is required to adopt necessary measures (to this end) in consultations with other countries,” it added.

The plan was approved on the eve of the International Quds Day on May 22.

The International Quds Day is an annual event opposing Israel's occupation of Beitul-Muqaddas. Anti-Zionist rallies and demonstrations are held on the last Friday of Ramadan in Muslim and Arab countries around the world, specially in Iran, as well as a large number of non-Muslim states.

The International Quds Day was started by the late Founder of the Islamic Republic, Imam Khomeini, in 1979 as a way of expressing solidarity with the Palestinians and underscoring importance of the holy Quds to Muslims.

Due to the outbreak of coronavirus in Iran, the International Quds Day will be commemorated differently without holding gatherings and rallies.

Earlier this month, an official with the Coordination Council of Islamic Propagation Organization said Ayatollah Khamenei will deliver a speech on the occasion of the International Quds Day corresponding with May 22.


Tunisia to reopen mosques, cafes and hotels on June 4

21 May 2020

Tunisia will reopen places of worship, restaurants and hotels from June 4, authorities announced Thursday, more than two months after closing them over the coronavirus pandemic.

The reopening could be delayed if there is a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, the ministers of major projects, interior and religion told a press conference.

Hotels and restaurants, closed since March 22, will reopen at 50 percent capacity and authorities are finalizing sanitary measures for tourism facilities.

Read the latest updates in our dedicated coronavirus section.

A final lifting of all movement restrictions is scheduled for June 14, the ministers added, renewing calls for wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing.

Travel between provinces remains forbidden and security checks will be increased this weekend as Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when people traditionally visit family.

Schools will remain closed until September with only baccalaureate preparation classes resuming for a month at the end of May.

Children’s daycare will also reopen at the end of the month.

Since March, Tunisian authorities have reported 1,045 COVID-19 cases, including 47 deaths. Rigorous containment measures since then appear to have halted the spread of the virus in recent days.

“We didn’t waste time and we made difficult, bold and occasionally creative decisions,” Prime Minister ElyesFakhfakh said in a televised speech on Wednesday.

But the crisis exposed deep problems that Tunisia can “no longer ignore,” he said, including poverty, a weak economy and underfunded public infrastructure, with the healthcare system a top concern.

The government is revising the 2020 budget and a plan to reactivate the economy, to be presented to parliament at the end of June, Fakhfakh said.

It will focus on reducing bureaucracy, increasing digitalization, maintaining jobs and fighting corruption, he said.


US: FBI says Texas base shooting was act of terrorism

Michael Gabriel Hernandez  



A shooting at a naval air base in Texas is "terrorism-related," FBI officials said Thursday. 

The shooting at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi took place around 6:15 a.m. local time (1115 GMT). One sailor was shot with minor injuries and is expected to leave a local hospital later in the day.

The gunman, who has not been officially identified, was killed in a shootout with base personnel after he attempted to speed through an entry gate with a vehicle. NBC News reported the suspect's name is Adam Alsahli.

FBI Supervisory Senior Resident Agent Leah Greeves told reporters during a brief news conference that the bureau has information determining "the incident this morning at the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi is terrorism-related."

"We are working diligently with our state, local and federal partners on this investigation, which is fluid and evolving," she said.

A second person "of interest" may be involved, and may be "at large" within the community, according to Greeves.


Arab world 

Iraq arrests ISIS leader Abdulnasser al-Qirdash said to be al-Baghdadi’s successor

20 May 2020

Iraqi intelligence has arrested Abdulnasser al-Qirdash, the ISIS leader said to be a favored candidate to succeed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, according to several Iraqi media outlets.

“Today, the terrorist named Abdulnasser al-Qirdash, the candidate to succeed the criminal al-Baghdadi, was arrested. [The arrest] came after accurate intelligence,” the statement from the Iraqi National Intelligence Service read.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Al Arabiya English



Exclusive images show #ISIS leader Abdulnasser al-Qirdash, said to be a favored candidate to succeed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in captivity after his arrest by #Iraq's National Intelligence Service. …

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Al-Qirdash was one of the candidates to succeed al-Baghdadi, who was killed by US forces in a raid in the Syrian city of Idlib last October.

The latest raid that led to the capture and arrest of al-Qirdash comes a month after Mustafa al-Kadhimi, Iraq’s former intelligence chief, became the country’s prime minister.

Al-Qirdash had served as the head of the negotiations committee within ISIS. He had also worked with the organization as a leader during the time of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Most recently, al-Qirdash was in charge of the battles for al-Baghouz in Syria, a small town in the province of Deirez-Zor close to the Iraqi border and the final stronghold for ISIS.

Speaking to Al Arabiya, al-Qirdash confirmed that ISIS leadership, at the request of al-Baghdadi, reevaluated the terrorist group’s ideas after in recent years after it began losing many of its strongholds.

“There was a massive reevaluation of the Islamic State after it lost vast areas including Kobani and many other areas. There were three of us, myself, Omar al-Furkan and AyoubRakawi, who sat with the leadership to review our steps,” al-Qirdash told Al Arabiya.


UAE says Eid prayers to be performed at home, mosques to remain closed

20 May 2020

The United Arab Emirates announced on Wednesday that Eid al-Fitr prayers are to be performed at home instead of mosques this year, adding that mosques will continue to remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“As per the Emirates Fatwa Council, Eid al-Fitr prayers should be performed at home. Taking all precautionary measures to protect yourself and your family is a religious and national commitment,” said Abdul Rahman al-Shamsi, official spokesperson for the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments (Awqaf).

Visit our dedicated coronavirus site here for all the latest updates.

The spokesperson said the public will hear the call for Eid takbeer 10 minutes ahead of prayer time to keep the ritual and mark the religious festival while staying at home.

“Though we will be staying home, we still can maintain the spirit of the Eid, communicate with our family members and exchange Eid greetings via the virtual communication tools,” said al-Shamsi in a tweet.




Abdul Rahman Al Shamsi: Though we will be staying home, we still can maintain the spirit of the Eid, communicate with our family members and exchange Eid greetings via the virtual communication tools. #UAEGov


11:46 PM - May 20, 2020

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@AwqafUAE: Albeit our keenness to perform the Eid prayer every year together in mosques, we will have to perform this Eid's prayer in homes with families based on the Fatwa of the Fatwa Council of the #UAE#DedicationAtWorkSafetyAtHome

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12:00 AM - May 21, 2020

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The UAE announced on Wednesday that it has detected 941 new coronavirus cases, raising the number of confirmed infections to 26,004, according to the health ministry.

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Earlier on Wednesday, the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation announced that the nationwide disinfection program in the UAE will be extended for two hours in industrial areas, and will now be from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. as part of efforts in the country to curb the coronavirus outbreak.


Saudi Arabia rejects Israel’s West Bank annexation plans

May 21, 2020

AMMAN: Saudi Arabia said on Thursday that it rejected Israel’s pledge to annex parts of the occupied Palestinian West Bank.

The Foreign Ministry stressed the Kingdom’s “condemnation of any unilateral decisions and any violation of legitimate international decisions.”

It said it opposed anything that hinders the peace process to achieve stability in the region. The Kingdom continued to “support the Palestinians and their choices, as well as their right to establish their own independent state.”

Israel’s new coalition government is expected to discuss proposals to annex Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley in the West Bank.

In response, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he was cutting off all agreements signed with Israel and the US, and had informed those countries of his intentions.

The Israeli threat to annex the land has been widely condemned by both Arab and Western nations. The Vatican said the Israeli move was concerning and could further compromise peace dialogue.

Respect for international law and UN resolutions was an “indispensable element for the two peoples to live side by side,” the Vatican said following talks between chief foreign policy official Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher and Palestinian negotiator SaebErekat.

“The Holy See is following the situation closely, and expresses concern about any future actions that could further compromise dialogue,” the Vatican said.

Speaking to a select group of journalists Erekat said that Palestine will happily attend an international conference arranged by Russia.

“We have been in contact for some time with the quartet which includes Russia and we have been discussing the possibility of a quartet plus meeting that could include Saudi Arabia, UAE, China, and others.”

Erekat said that Palestinians are proud of their relations with the Russians and “we will attend any meeting that they organize on the terms of reference of what has been agreed.” Erekat revealed that the idea of an international conference was also discussed with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who called Abbas on Wednesday.

Erekat noted that the last time security coordination was suspended — by Palestinian President Arafat — Ariel Sharon sent in the tanks to Ramallah, but he said: “We are on our land and we are not going anywhere.”

Full report at:


Rami Makhlouf’s brother Ihab confirms Syriatel resignation, declares loyalty to Assad

22 May 2020

Prominent tycoon Rami Makhlouf’s brother Ihab has stepped down from his VP role of Syriatel and pledged his loyalty to his cousin Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to a Facebook post in which he blamed his sibling for his resignation.

IhabMakhlouf said confirmed he was resigning and blamed brother Rami for their company’s legal and financial troubles with the Syrian government.

“I want to ensure that I was not pressured to step down from any side and that my resignation was a result of differences with the chairman of the board at SyriatelMr. Rami Makhlouf over his dealings with the media over the legal and financial files toward the government,” Makhlouf wrote.

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Al Arabiya English



An unverified document reportedly leaked by Rami #Makhlouf to social media and #Syrian media revealed that the Syrian tycoon Rami Makhlouf’s second son Ali, 20, has been named deputy CEO of telecom company Syriatel. …

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“The companies of the world will not budge my loyalty to the leadership of President Bashar al-Assad,” he added.

The government says Syriatel, the largest mobile phone network in Syria, owes 134 billion pounds, around $77 million at the current exchange rate on the parallel market.

The Makhlouf brothers are Assad’s first cousin and key members of the regime’s inner circle.

Full report at:


ICRC warns of dire humanitarian crisis in northeast Syria amid coronavirus

21 May 2020

The International Committee of the Red Cross warned Thursday of a worsening crisis in northeast Syria, where water cuts, food shortages and depleted health services are proving as dangerous as coronavirus.

Home to sprawling displacement camps hosting tens of thousands of people, including families of ISIS members, the Kurdish-held northeast has been hard hit by nine years of war.

Read the latest updates in our dedicated coronavirus section.

A COVID-19 outbreak, which the United Nations says has infected six people and killed one in the region, has only added to a litany of challenges in the area, the ICRC said.

“For millions of people in northeast Syria, consequences of fighting, shortages of water, food and medicine, a lack of electricity, the economic downturn with job losses and price hikes are as much of a worry as coronavirus,” said Karim Mahmoud, ICRC office head in the city of Hasakeh.

FabrizioCarboni, ICRC’s regional director, said “there’s a risk that profound crises will worsen, hidden in plain sight, while the world’s attention is on” the COVID-19 pandemic.




There are 16 hospitals in north eastern Syria.

Only 1 functions fully.

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Under pressure from Russia, the UN Security Council in January reduced the number of border crossings authorized to deliver humanitarian aid to northern Syria from four to two, both on the Turkish frontier.

The Yarubiya entry point on the Iraqi border, used mainly to deliver UN-funded medical aid to the northeast, was one of those scrapped, causing an aid shortage.

Only one out of 16 hospitals is fully functioning, while eight are partially operational and seven are out of commission, the ICRC said.

Over 50 percent of the local population in northeast Syria is believed to be food insecure, which means they consume less than 2,100 calories a day, the World Food Program says.

That high proportion was “due to the heavy fighting that took place in this part of Syria over the past few years,” said WFP spokeswoman Jessica Lawson.

Kurdish-led fighters for years battled ISIS, before Turkey and its Syrian proxies seized Kurdish areas on the Syrian side of the border last year.

Full report at:


Iraqi lawmaker calls for posters of Iran’s Ali Khamenei hung in Baghdad to be removed

21 May 2020

An outspoken Iraqi lawmaker questioned on Wednesday why authorities put up posters and images of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Iraq, after a large poster put up in the capital Baghdad in preparation for Iran’s Quds Day caused an uproar amongst Iraqis.

An image shared on social media showed a large poster in Baghdad which included the faces of Khamenei, slain military commander QassemSoleimani, former supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and slain Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes.

The poster was put up in preparation for Iran’s annual Quds Day, which is held on the last Friday of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

“What is the purpose of putting up images of Khamenei in Iraq?” Iraqi lawmaker Faiq Al Sheikh Ali tweeted on Wednesday.

Arguing that there is no basis for having posters of Khamenei in Iraq, Al Sheikh Ali said in the same tweet that Khamenei is a foreign political leader, and that Iraq has many of its own Shia clerics, thus there is no justification for having his images in Iraq.

The streets of many Iraqi cities, including the capital Baghdad, are filled with posters and images of Iranian figures, such as Khamenei, and Soleimani.

Many Iraqis on Twitter pointed out that while there are countless images of Iranian leaders in their country, there are no images of Iraqi leaders in Iran.

“Why does the Iraqi government allow images of Iranian figures to be put up in Iraq, when Iran does not allow the opposite? Children of Iraq … remove the images of Khamenei and his followers wherever you find them and burn them,” Shia Iraqi cleric Ayatollah Hassan al-Moussawi tweeted.

Iraqi demonstrators protesting Iran’s role in their country took down, ripped up and torched many posters of Iranian leaders, including Khamenei, Khomeini and Soleimani during the country’s nationwide protests at the end of last year.

In recent days, Iraqi social media users launched a hashtag against Khamenei in response to what they consider interference in Iraq’s internal affairs.

Khamenei said in a speech on Sunday that the US “will be expelled” from Syria and Iraq.

Iraqis took to Twitter to attack Khamenei following his remarks by tweeting using an Arabic hashtag that read “Khamenei stick to your limits.”

The hashtag quickly gained traction as thousands of Iraqis expressed their opposition to Iran’s involvement in Iraq.

Full report at:


Man Pleads Guilty in US to Conspiracy to Hezbollah Drone Parts Export

21 May, 2020

A Lebanese man has pleaded guilty in federal court in Minnesota to conspiring to export drone parts and technology from the US to Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

US Attorney Erica H. MacDonald said this week that UsamaHamade, 55, pleaded guilty to conspiring to illegally export goods and technology.

His brother, IssamHamade, pleaded guilty in March in federal court in Minnesota.

Prosecutors said the brothers acquired sophisticated technology for drones from 2009 to 2013 and illegally exported them to Hezbollah, which the US considers a terrorist organization.

The Hamades were arrested in February 2018 in South Africa and were extradited to the US last fall.

According to an indictment, the parts included inertial measurement units, which can be used to track an aircraft’s position, and digital compasses, which can be paired with the inertial measurement units for drone guidance systems. The parts also included a jet engine and 20 piston engines.

Full report at:



Pray at home on AlvidaJumma and Eid prayers, Muslims asked by Imarat-e-Shariah Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha

May 22, 2020

PATNA: In view of the Covid-19 lockdown, many Islamic bodies have asked Muslims to offer ‘AlvidaJumma’ (last Friday of Ramzan) and Eid prayers at home and follow social distancing norms.

Depending on the sighting of the crescent moon, Eid is likely to be celebrated on Sunday or Monday.

Imarat-e-Shariah, a Muslim religious body with jurisdiction over Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha, has told the devotees that no congregational prayer services will be conducted at mosques on ‘AlvidaJumma’ and Eid this year. Only the ‘imam’ (who leads prayers), ‘muezzin’ (who gives the call for prayers) and three others will pray at mosques.

Imarat-e-Shariah’s general secretary MaulanaShibliQasmi said, “Mosques will remain shut till the Centre issues a notification regarding recommencement of prayer services at religious places. Your prayers will be accepted even if you offer ‘AlvidaJumma’ and Eid namaz at home.”

Bihar State Sunni Waqf Board (BSSWB) also made an appeal to the people to avoid large gatherings and pray at home. Its chairman MohdIrshadUllah told this newspaper on Thursday, “Devotees should form a small group of five to seven people and offer prayers with ‘khutba’ (public preaching in the Islamic tradition) at home.”

He also emphasized on maintaining social distance as “it is the only way to combat Covid-19”.

Full report at:


US deports Qaeda man Anwar al-Awlaki’s aide to India

byDeeptimanTiwary , NavjeevanGopal

May 22, 2020

An al-Qaeda operative from Hyderabad, who has been convicted in the United States for financing activities of the slain Yemeni preacher and al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki, has been deported to India.

Mohammed Ibrahim Zubair, 41, a resident of Toledo in Ohio, US, was deported to India on a special flight that landed in Amritsar on May 19. He was escorted by Indian agents.

Zubair is “Sharjah born”, but is an “Indian national”, with his parents tracing their roots to Hyderabad, a top Punjab Police officer said. He was among 167 deportees by arrived in Amritsar from the US, the officer said.

Sources in New Delhi said Zubair was interrogated by central intelligence agencies about his links with al-Qaeda and his networks across the world and in India, if any. He has now been sent to 14 days’ quarantine in Amritsar as the agencies decide on their next step.

“He has not been booked in any case here. We are still exploring if he can be booked at all. There is no case against him. He has already served the sentence for the offence for which he was convicted in the US. Our main objective is to see how much information he has about al-Qaeda networks in India,” a security establishment officer said.

In July 2015, Zubair was arrested by US authorities for helping send around $22,000 in 2009 to al-Awlaki in Yemen. The money was allegedly carried by his brother Farooq Mohammed, who was then based in the United Arab Emirates. Farooq is currently serving a 29-year sentence in the US for both terror links and for conspiring to kill the judge who was hearing his case. Al-Awlaki was killed in a drone strike ordered by President Barack Obama in Yemen in September 2011.

In April 2018, Zubair pleaded guilty to charges of concealing financial aid to a terrorist organisation and was sentenced to 60 months in prison. The court recently ordered his deportation to India.

Punjab Director General of Police Dinkar Gupta said that during his questioning by the Counter Intelligence wing of the state police, Zubair had revealed that he was radicalised after he started following the preachings of al-Awlaki, who was calling for a jihad against the US. “The FBI detained Zubair on November 5, 2015… He was sentenced to 60 months jail in April 2018 but was supposed to spend 30 months only taking into account the 30 months he had already spent in detention,” Gupta said.

Punjab ADGP (Internal Security) R N Dhoke said, “He is not wanted by us; he has no linkages in Punjab.”

According to central agency sources, Zubair comes from a well-to-do family which migrated to Sharjah and then to the US while he was still a child. Both he and his brother graduated from the University of Illinois as engineers.

“They were engaged in well paying jobs, but got sucked into the whirlpool of radicalisation and terrorism that swept the western landscape post the 9/11 attacks. They had been influenced by videos of al-Awlaki and even [the Malaysia-based wanted Indian televangelist] ZakirNaik lately. In fact his brother’s attempt to meet al-Awlaki in Yemen had failed,” an officer said.

After graduating, Zubair moved to Toldeo and married an American citizen in 2006, following which he became a permanent resident of the US, sources said. Before that he lived in Texas with his parents.

“While their father is dead now, the two brothers had bought a property in Hyderabad and sent back their mother to India a few years ago,” the officer said.

According to an order of the US District Court for the Northern district of Ohio, Zubair along with his brother and two others “did knowingly and intentionally provide material support and resources… including currency and monetary instruments, knowing and intending that they were to be used in preparation for, and in carrying out, violations” of US laws.

Full report at:


J&K cop killed, 2 others hurt in Pulwama terror attack

May 21, 2020

SRINAGAR: One security personnel was killed and two others were injured when two terrorists attacked a temporary naka in Prichoo area of Pulwama district on Thursday. Intelligence sources held The Resistance Front (TRF) – an amalgam of Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba and HizbulMujaheedin – responsible for the attack.

The Prichoo attack comes a day after terrorists shot dead two BSF personnel in Pandach area of central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district.

The deceased has been identified as J&K Police head constable Anoop Singh. The two injured are police constable Mohammad Ibrahim and CRPF jawanKrishan Kumar. While Ibrahim was critically injured and shifted to Srinagar’s SMHS Hospital, Kumar, who received a minor bullet injury in his chest, was being treated at Pulwama sub-district hospital.

Kashmir zone police tweeted that terrorists fired at joint naka party of police and CRPF at Prichoo, Pulwama. “Two police personnel got injured, however, one of the injured succumbed,” the tweet read.

Kashmir range IGP Vijay Kumar said the terrorists came from the bylane near the naka and opened fire upon the securitymen, who retaliated but they managed to flee from the spot.

Police, CRPF and Army have cordoned off the entire area and launched searches to track down the attackers.

An intelligence officer said that terrorists have stepped up attacks on security forces to avenge the killing of Hizbul commander RiyazNaikoo, who was eliminated in an encounter at Beighpora in Pulwama on May 7.

Meanwhile, security forces on Thursday arrested three newly recruited terrorists affiliated to Lashkar during a brief exchange of gunfire in Sogam area of north Kashmir’s Kupwara district.

Full report at:


Why Centre changed its mind on flights; al-Qaeda operative lands in Amritsar

by Liu Chuen Chen , Leela Prasad

May 22, 2020

Dear Reader,

On May 17, the Centre, in its revised guidelines for lockdown 4.0, said domestic air travel will remain prohibited till May 31. But in just three days, it had a change of mind. The reason: An imminent threat of more than one airline folding up, both on account of the extended lockdown and little to no relief in the economic package.

Bonus reading: Aviation ministry has introduced fare caps — notably, they do not include the additional fees and taxes

A special flight from the US that landed in Amritsar on May 19 was carrying 167 deportees. Among them was a convicted al-Qaeda operative from Hyderabad. As he serves the mandatory 14-day quarantine, intelligence agencies mull over their options.

Data on Chinese transgressions into the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) show there has been a marked increase in the western sector, which falls in Ladakh. Officials contend that they occur because both the militaries try to patrol the area up to their respective perceptions of the LAC, but concede that the Chinese are coming to the Indian side more often.

Prime Minister NarendraModi will be travelling to Odisha and West Bengal to hold an aerial survey of the devastation caused by Cyclone Amphan which claimed 72 lives. Track our live coverage here

The threat of hunger, evictions and unemployment created by the COVID fear and subsequent lockdown forced hundreds of thousands to return from the city to their native place. However, Uttarakhand’s ‘ghost villages’ are symptomatic of what forced them out in the first place. Not one of the more than two lakh residents of the state who have registered to return have opted for its 1,700-odd “nirjan” villages, areas with no road connectivity or opportunities, which now house just one-two families.

In today’s oped, senior advocate Justice FaliNariman lauds the “humanitarian approach” of a division bench of the Karnataka High Court who had recently questioned the state government’s decision not to fund the travel of migrant workers if their home states do not deposit funds for train fares. “Like Abou Ben Adhem (in the poem by James Hunt) ‘May their tribe increase’,” he writes.

In poll-bound Bihar, high-decibel political activities are on hold, given the pandemic and the unprecedented reverse migration. But BJP leaders pointed out that the initiatives of the government and party would “eventually create goodwill for the party”.

On Sunday, India decided to keep schools closed for another two weeks. In Europe, millions of children have begun returning to classrooms. Will reopening make children vulnerable? Are there any findings to suggest that school reopening has led to a rise in cases in Europe? We try to answer these questions.

The World Health Organisation has poured water over the claims on the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine in treating Covid-19. Its warning comes two days after US President Donald Trump said he is on the drug, and at a time when India is going through heated discussions within the government on whether to reconsider its use.

Full report at:


South Asia 

Bangladesh denies rights group’s claim security forces beat Rohingya refugees

22 May 2020

Bangladesh on Thursday slammed an international rights group’s claim that its security forces beat Rohingya refugees held at a flood-prone island, calling them “baseless”.

Some 306 Rohingya rescued by Bangladesh after being stranded at sea for weeks were taken to Bhashan Char – a silty strip of land in the Bay of Bengal where a severe cyclone has just barrelled through – earlier this month.

Dhaka said the mostly Muslim minority from Myanmar were not sent to camps in Cox’s Bazar in the country's southeast as authorities were afraid they might have coronavirus.

Human Rights Watch alleged in a report Wednesday citing interviews with 25 Rohingya that the refugees have been subject to interrogations and beatings on the island.

“They said that those on the island are being confined in prison-like conditions without freedom of movement or adequate access to food, water, or medical care,” the New York-based group said.

“Some alleged beatings by Bangladesh security forces.”

Human Rights Watch said refugees on the island told them that “soldiers threatened and beat up male refugees, including children, while interrogating them about the smugglers who transported them”.

“Women described hearing screams from the interrogation room,” the report added.

Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen hit back at the claims and questioned why the allegations were being raised.

“They have an evil motive. Why they (Human Rights Watch) are silent about the violence in Myanmar?” he told AFP.

“Those who are making such comments they should take them (Rohingya) to their country. If they think they are in discomfort, they should take them to their country and make them happy.”

Bangladesh’s junior foreign affairs minister ShahriarAlam told AFP that Human Rights Watch's reports were “baseless and ill-motivated.”

A spokesman for the navy, which is looking after the Rohingya on the island, said the refugees were being "treated very well".

He added that no-one was hurt and there was no damage on the island from Cyclone Amphan, which smashed into Bangladesh and India on Wednesday.

UN chief Antonio Guterres last week urged Momen to shift the rescued Rohingya to Cox’s Bazar – where nearly one million Rohingya live in squalid camps, many after fleeing a 2017 military crackdown – after a coronavirus quarantine period.

Momen previously said the refugees would “most likely” have to live on Bhashan Char until they return to their home state of Rakhine in Myanmar.


Afghanistan attacks underscore scale of challenge facing peace negotiators

20 May 2020

At least 14 people have been killed in attacks on a mosque in northern Afghanistan and on worshippers returning from prayers in the east, as the US peace envoy arrived in Kabul to push Afghanistan’s newly united government to start peace talks with the Taliban.

The Taliban rapidly denied involvement in either shooting, but said it had carried out an attack on a checkpoint that killed nine militia fighters. The violence on the eve of the planned talks underscored the scale of the challenge facing the US-brokered efforts to negotiate an end to the war.

In a rare message to mark the upcoming celebration of Eid, the Taliban leader, HaibatullahAkhundzada, said the group was committed to the deal reached with the US earlier this year. He urged Washington “not to waste” the opportunity offered by the agreement, which provided for the safe departure of US troops from Afghanistan and was also meant to pave the way for serious peace talks between Afghan parties. This part of the process has stalled.

After the February signing ceremony the Taliban rejected government calls for a ceasefire, continuing attacks inside Afghanistan and prompting the Afghan government to accuse it of bad faith.

In comments quoted by the AFP news agency, Akhundzada said: “I urge American officials to not afford anyone the opportunity to obstruct, delay and ultimately derail this internationally recognised bilateral agreement. The [Taliban] is committed to the agreement.”

The US envoy, ZalmayKhalilzad, arrived in Kabul days after Ashraf Ghani, the Afghan president, finally brokered a deal with his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, to settle a dispute over the results of last year’s presidential election.

Both men had claimed victory, accused the other of fraud and organised his own inauguration, with the long standoff prompting the US to cancel $1bn (£817m) in aid.

The new agreement leaves Ghani as president, while Abdullah will control half of the cabinet posts and lead the government’s peace efforts.

That process was dealt a heavy blow last week, however, by a horrific attack on a maternity hospital in Kabul. In response Ghani ordered Afghan forces back on the offensive against the insurgents, after a period in “active defence” to prepare for possible talks.

The Taliban denied responsibility for the bloodshed and Khalilzad was quick to say it was the work of Islamic State, but Afghan government officials said it was too early to apportion blame.

Tuesday’s attacks also targeted civilians, with gunmen storming a mosque in Parwan province, north of the capital, as people gathered to break the Ramadan fast, killing at least 11. The next morning relatives carried the bodies of their loved ones to the provincial capital, Charikar, to protest outside the governor’s office.

Later that the evening, gunmen in eastern Khost province attacked a family returning home from prayers, killing three brothers, AdilHaidari, spokesman for the provincial police chief, told AP.

Full report at:


Bangladesh using controversial law to 'gag media, free speech'

byTanvir Chowdhury

May 22, 2020

Dhaka, Bangladesh - At least 20 journalists in Bangladesh have been charged or arrested under the controversial Digital Security Act (DSA) in the past month, raising concerns about free speech in the South Asian nation.

A number of journalists have been arrested for social media posts critical of the government or reporting on the government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Nearly 60 cases have been filed against more than 100 people, including 22 journalists, under the DSA this year until May 6, according to a study by Article 19, a UK-based human rights body.

Senior journalist Shafiqul Islam Kajol disappeared on March 10, a day after a politician from the governing Awami League party filed a criminal defamation case against him for publishing "false, offensive, illegally obtained and defamatory" content on Facebook.

A governing party legislator, SaifuzzamanShikor, filed a defamation case against Kajol, a photographer and editor of the biweekly Pakkhakal magazine, and 31 others, accusing them of linking him to escort services run from a hotel.

Kajol mysteriously turned up in police custody 53 days later on India-Bangladesh border.

He has been slapped with three cases under the DSA, a law rights bodies have described as "draconian". Police have registered a fourth case against Kajol for "trespassing" into his own country.

If punished, he faces seven years in jail.

Another top editor, Motiur Rahman Chowdhury, was also charged in the same case.

'A prisoner of conscience'

Amnesty International said Kajol was detained for exercising his right to freedom of expression. "Shafiqul Islam Kajol is a prisoner of conscience and must be released immediately and unconditionally," the rights body said in a statement released on May 6.

MonoromPolok, Kajol's son, has pleaded for his father's release. "My father still hasn't got the chance to appeal in front of a court as the courts are now shut due to COVID -19 lockdown," Polok told Al Jazeera.

"Out of humanity and out of kindness, we appeal to our government to consider my father's pr-existing health conditions and his mental state and immediately release him and drop all charges against him," he said.

Journalists filing reports critical of the government's measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus also seemed to have been targeted.

On May 6, at least 11 people, including a cartoonist, two journalists, and a writer, were charged with "spreading rumors and carrying out anti-government activities".

Swedish-Bangladeshi journalist Tasneem Khalil, US-based journalist ShahedAlam and blogger Asif Mohiuddin also have cases against them under DSA.

On the same day, Didarul Islam Bhuiyan, a member of a politico-civic organization, Rashtrachinta, was arrested for a Facebook post.

"My husband was not involved in any criminal acts, but he was picked up by plain-clothes people who identified themselves as members of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB)," DilshanAra, wife of Bhuiyan, told Al Jazeera.

"He is innocent, who merely posted some write-ups on social media criticising the corruption in the relief distribution process; we all have that right to expression under the constitution.

"We want his immediate release, he may get exposed to coronavirus inside the jail."

Police defend action

Police officials have defended the cases against journalists.

Masudur Rahman, Dhaka Metro Police deputy commissioner media, told Al Jazeera that cases filed on May 6 against 11 people, including journalists, and Bhuiyan were filed by paramilitary RAB for social media postings.

He affirmed that the police would investigate the matter in accordance with the law. "However, it will be up to the court to decide their fate in the end. All of them have been sent to Keranigonj central jail, pending a court hearing," Rahman told Al Jazeera.

Rights activists have expressed grave concern over the rising number of cases being filed against journalists and critics of the government. They say the DSA law is being used to "gag media and freedom of expression".

"We are alarmed by nature and procedure followed by authorities to prosecute people in some of the cases under The Digital Security Act (DSA)," SaadHammadi, South Asia campaigner for Amnesty International, told Al Jazeera.

"When a police official's justification for taking a DSA case against someone is based on only the fact that a ruling party leader is aggrieved as opposed to determining the necessity and proportion of the actions, it severely compromises the country's commitment to promote and protect people's right to freedom of expression," he said.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has called on Bangladesh to urgently revise the DSA to ensure that it is in line with international human rights laws.

Rising cases against journalists

More than 1,000 cases have been filed in Bangladesh under the DSA since it was implemented in 2018.

In the last two months, journalists have become more vulnerable, with many media outlets announcing lay-offs due to COVID-19 pandemic that has infected 25,121 and killed 370 people in the country of 160 million.

A group of eminent citizens and journalists unions have called for the release of jailed media workers.

"Digital Security Act can be useful against those who commit cybercrimes, but it should not be used against journalists and media persons," Farida Yeasmin, general secretary of the Bangladesh National Press Club, told Al Jazeera.

The Bangladesh Editors' Council (SampadakParishad) has also expressed grave concern over the recent cases against journalists.

"No concern is being shown over the merit of the complaints before making arrests," the Editors' Council said in a statement.

Last month, Reporters Without Borders published a report that at least nine journalists had been physically attacked and six face charges under the DSA for collecting or publishing news on misappropriation of relief materials.

Full report at:


Khalilzad met with Ghani and Abdullah after meeting Taliban leader in Qatar

21 May 2020

The U.S. envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation ZalmayKhalilzad met with President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah after meeting the deputy political chief of Taliban in Qatar.

“Met with President @AshrafGhani and Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation @DrabdullahCE together and separately today in Kabul. I congratulated them on their agreement to form an inclusive government after protracted negotiations,” Khalilzad said in a Twitter post.

H also added “We discussed next steps required to implement the agreement between the 2 leaders. On peace, we agreed that violence is much too high and there is a need to move urgently to reduce it by all sides.”

“We also agreed on the importance of delivering (and soon) on other commitments made in the US-Taliban agreement and US-Afghanistan joint declaration including release of prisoners by both sides and the start of intra-Afghan negotiations,” he said.

In regards to his meeting with Abdullah, Khalilzad said, “In my meeting with Dr Abdullah, we discussed his plans for operationalizing his new role and will be working closely with him and his team.”

khalilzad had earlier tweeted “I held 3 constructive mtgs w/ Mullah Berader& members of the Taliban Political Commission. Emphasized the US-Taliban agreement is inter-connected: CT commitments, intra-Afghan negotiations, troop withdrawal, & gradual violence reduction leading to a permanent ceasefire.”

“All sides have implementation requirements on all fronts including on prisoner releases by the Afghan government and the Taliban,” Khalilzad said, adding that “I also raised missing Americans Mark Frerichs and Paul Overby as well as our concerns about recent Taliban attacks in Kunduz, Ghazni, &Khost. We discussed their concerns with President Ghani’s ordering offensive attacks.”

“On violence, I told the Talibs violence by all sides must fall. Innocent Afghans have borne far too much and for too long the costs of this war,” he said.

Full report at:


Pentagon’s latest report regarding Pakistan’s support to Taliban, Haqqani Network

21 May 2020

The Department of Defense (Pentagon) released its latest report outlining Pakistan’s continued support to Taliban and the notorious Haqqani terrorist network.

The Pentagon report, prepared by the Inspector General, complied with the helip of the Department of State and United States Agency for International Development, covers the period from January to March of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan.

“Pakistan continues to harbor the Taliban and associated militant groups in Pakistan, such as the Haqqani Network, which maintains the ability to conduct attacks against Afghan interests,” the report said.

The report also added that Islamabad has encouraged the Afghan Taliban to participate in peace talks but that it “refrained from applying coercive pressure that would seriously threaten its relationship with the Afghan Taliban to dissuade the group from conducting further violence.”

This comes as Pakistani leaders have repeatedly assured Washington that they support peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Pentagon stated in its report that Islamabad’s primary strategic objective in Afghanistan is to counter its regional archrival, India, and prevent the spillover of instability from the neighboring country.

Full report at:


Southeast Asia 

Non-Muslim places of worship in Malaysia's green zones to reopen under strict health protocols

21 May 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: A total of 174 non-Muslim places of worship in green zones will be allowed to open on selected days starting Jun 10, said Malaysian Senior Minister Ismail SabriYaakob.

In a press conference on Thursday (May 21), he said the decision was made after Minister of National Unity Halimah Mohamed Sadique met with the heads of organisations representing various religious groups.

“They met earlier today and agreed that these places of worship would be allowed to operate under strict standard operating procedures (SOPs).

“This includes only allowing up to 30 worshippers at a time, but that would also depend on the size of the premise. If it is too small for 30 people, then the respective management should ensure a more appropriate number,” the senior minister said.

Mr Ismail Sabri said in addition to implementing SOPs such as compulsory use of hand sanitiser and face masks, worshippers above the age of 70 and below the age of 12 will not be allowed to enter, as they are in the high risk group.

“Besides that, these premises will only be open to Malaysians. Other nationalities will not be allowed to enter the temples or churches.

“It must also be noted that these premises will only be allowed to open on important days. For example, Sundays for churches. There will be similar important days for the Hindu and Buddhist communities as well. We will only allow one or two days in a week for these places to operate,” he said.

Out of the 174 places of worship, 84 are Hindu temples, 67 are churches, 15 are Buddhist temples and eight are Gurdwaras.

The senior minister stressed that events like weddings will still not be allowed in these places of worship. Officers from the Ministry of National Unity have been appointed to oversee the operations of these places of worship.

“Please note that should the SOPs be defied, the permission to operate can be withdrawn,” he warned.

To date, a total of 126 districts have been declared as green zones. There are now seven red zones.

Last week, the government announced that all mosques and certain surau in the federal territory will be able to conduct Friday prayers starting May 15. Additionally, daily Tarawih prayers and Hari Raya prayers will also be allowed, subject to strict SOPs.


Separately, following the failure of Malaysians to avoid interstate travel unless absolutely necessary, Mr Ismail Sabri said the government has decided to ban interstate travel altogether.

He noted at the Thursday press conference that there has been increased traffic on the roads despite requests by the government for people to avoid returning to their hometowns for the Hari Raya season.

“Yesterday (May 20), the police department had 149 interstate roadblocks nationwide. A total of 271,646 vehicles were checked and 2,412 vehicles that tried to cross state borders were told to turn back as their reason for travel was to return to their hometowns."

Earlier, the government announced that those who needed to make interstate travel during this period would need to get approval from the police department.

Asked if the travel ban would apply to those who have already obtained approval from the police but have yet to hit the road, the senior minister replied that approval was only given for cases of extreme emergency.

“There would not have been cases of someone getting approval to travel but only in three days' time. It is for immediate travel, so this problem would not arise.

“But you can see the lack of Malaysian compliance by looking at the 1,300 who lined up at the Kuantan police station to get approval. They can’t all be going to another state for an emergency like the death of a family member. This is just Malaysians trying their luck to see if they get away with it,” he said.

He was referring to a long line of people outside the Kuantan district police station to get permission for interstate travel.

Mr Ismail Sabri told Malaysians to be more considerate and not travel to their hometowns as they could risk the lives of others.

He then cited a case of a pregnant woman from Ampang who had travelled to Kelantan and was later tested positive when screened at her hometown.

“By the time she was screened, she had already made contact with so many people ... Now although that place is not under lockdown, the community will need to undergo screening due to the actions of one person.”


Unity Ministry: Non-Muslim weddings in houses of worship only allowed after July 31


21 May 2020

KUALA LUMPUR, May 21 — All non-Muslim wedding ceremonies held in house of worships have been postponed to July 31, the National Unity Ministry said in a statement today.

This comes after the National Security Council (NSC) approved the reopening proposal for non-Muslim worship places operating in green zones submitted by National Unity ministerDatukHalimah Mohamed Sadique during the Ministers’ Special Committee Meeting held earlier today.

The ministry also said arrangements for burial at residences must not exceed 20 people including close relatives depending on the size of the house while wake services are strictly prohibited.

Meanwhile, the ministry also provided a list of standard operating procedures (SOP) for houses of worship to make the necessary arrangements prior to resuming their services.

Earlier today, Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail SabriYaakob said non-Muslim places of worship, located in green zones, are allowed to operate throughout the conditional movement control order (CMCO) period from June 10 onwards.

Among the SOP were for the management committee of the respective houses of worship to ensure all devotees understood and obeyed the SOP provided.

“Devotees showing signs of fever, cough, breathing difficulties and flu are not allowed to attend.

“Devotees diagnosed with diabetes, cancer and other non-communicable diseases are also not encouraged to attend religious services,” it said, adding that devotees aged 70 above and children below 12 were prohibited from attending similar services.

The statement also said a distance marker of one metre, both visible and adhesive, must be compulsorily placed on the floor.

The ministry also said officers from the National Unity and Integration Department will be appointed to monitor the compliance rate of the SOP in accordance with Section 3 of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act.

“The ministry will like to remind all parties including religious bodies and devotees to obey the SOP issued by the NSC and the Health Ministry.

“Failure to do so will result in the immediate revocation of the permission to operate,” it said.

The statement also said a total of 174 non-Muslim places of worship were allowed to operate nationwide beginning June 10, in accordance to the guidelines set forth in the SOP such as limiting attendees to 30 people depending on the size of the place of worship.

Full report at:


‘The saddest Eid’ — Coronavirus lockdown in Malaysia cuts lifeline for Indonesian migrant families

22 May 2020

KUALA LUMPUR, May 22 — Since leaving his village in Indonesia to work abroad three decades ago, Wasito has never failed to send money home at Hari Raya to support family in the world’s largest Muslim country.

This year he cannot.

Coronavirus lockdowns around the world have forced companies to cut jobs or wages, and migrant workers such as Wasito are particularly vulnerable because of inadequate job protections.

“My wife has been calling every day and crying. We have to cancel Eid celebrations this year,” said Wasito, who works as a plumber in Malaysia and like many Indonesians goes by one name.

Hari Raya celebrations, due to start this weekend, mark the end of the holiest time in the Muslim calendar, the Ramadan month of fasting.

Most businesses in Malaysia have reopened this month, but Wasito said he was not paid his monthly wages of RM2,500 during the six-week shutdown, forcing him to borrow money from his employer to get food that he now has to repay.

“I did not dare to ask why I wasn’t paid because I don’t want to be fired, and I’m too embarrassed to borrow money again for Eid,” the 49-year-old father of four told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.


Hari Raya Aidilfitri is the most important festival in Indonesia, where nearly 90 per cent of its 260 million population are Muslim.

The festival is celebrated with feasts and new clothes, and characterised by a spike in remittances sent by millions of labourers who work overseas in building, plantations and factories.

Migrant workers sent US$11.44 billion (RM49.8 billion) back to Indonesia in 2019, up from US$8.35 billion in 2014, mostly from countries in Asia and the Middle East, Indonesia’s Central Bank figures show.

“Remittances are important for Indonesian families to support their basic needs like food, housing and education,” said PingkanAudrine, a researcher at the Centre for Indonesian Policy Studies, a Jakarta-based think-tank.

“Some of their relatives have also used the money to start small business such as the warung (roadside kiosks), so their family in the village can earn an income,” she added.

The World Bank says global remittances are set to fall by about 20 per cent — or US$100 billion — this year, about four times more of a drop than during the 2009 financial crisis.

Such a loss would cut a crucial lifeline for many families, as one in nine people globally benefitted from international remittances in 2019, according to the United Nations.

More than 100,000 Indonesians have returned home since the start of the coronavirus crisis, local media reported, and with little work around, they are now the ones who need help.

“(Instead of sending money home), many migrant workers are asking their family for money,” said Maizidah Salas, a coordinator at the non-profit Indonesian Migrant Workers’ Union.

“This will certainly be the saddest Eid for migrant workers and their family members,” she added.


Some returning workers have started their own small businesses, but sluggish consumer sentiment makes it tough.

“It’s always difficult to find jobs in village, which is why I became a migrant worker,” said ArumyMarzudhy, once a nanny in Singapore who now sells rice crackers in East Java province.

“The decline in sales is a blow and there is no fixed salary any more,” said 32-year-old Marzudhy, who was paid S$1,000 (US$707) a month as a nanny.

SumasriAsri, 46, struck a more optimistic note about Hari Raya.

The mother of two worked as a cleaner in Malaysia for a decade until she lost her job in March. She has started a sewing business back home — and sees a silver lining in her layoff.

Full report at:


Covid-19: Churches say will keep doors closed until end of CMCO

21 May 2020


KUALA LUMPUR, May 21 — The Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM) today said that churches under its umbrella will remain closed until the conditional movement control order (CMCO) is lifted.

Its general secretary Rev HermenShastri said that CCM will only allow churches to open if there is assurance from the Ministry of Health that Covid-19 no longer poses a threat to the general public.

“Whether that will be June 10, will be reviewed judiciously when the time comes.

“We seek to priorities the safety of our people as our paramount spiritual duty. The current situation is still very precarious and volatile,” he said in a statement today.

However, he said that the believers can continue to pray and worship at their respective homes with online streaming will be offered for the worship service on Sundays.

“As we continue to battle the Covid-19 pandemic together, we take this opportunity to salute the frontliners who are working tirelessly and selflessly in order to keep the rest of us safe.

“May God continue to bless, protect and guide our nation. Stay at home. Pray at home. And, let us carry one another's burdens for the good of the nation,” he added.

Earlier, Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail SabriYaacob said that non-Muslim religious houses will be allowed to open with strict standard operating procedures (SOP) starting from June 10.

Ismail Sabri said that only religious houses in green zone are allowed to open with the numbers limited to only 30 people.

This comes as Islamic authorities have allowed some mosques to allow congregational prayers with strict restrictions since last week.

While noting the authorities’ SOPs, Hermen said that CCM also have additional rules for its churches when they reopen in the future.

“Each church leader should issue guidelines to their congregations to comply and self-regulate taking cognisance of national and state SOPs.

“For Sunday Worship maximum 30 individuals are allowed and there will be online live streaming in sanctuary. Other services like weddings, funerals and prayer meetings held when needed. Worship time restricted to one and a half hours,” he said.

He also said no physical contact during the worship, which includes no laying of hands on others, no back up singers and choirs, and no sharing of communion trays.

“Church hall will be sanitised immediately after use. A break of two hours is essential between different worship services.

Full report at:


Non-Muslim places of worship can reopen June 10

May 22, 2020

PUTRAJAYA: Non-Muslim houses of worship will be permitted to reopen on June 10, but only in the green zones, according to Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail SabriYaakob.

However, they must comply with standard operating procedures (SOP) set including the number of those present should not exceed 30 people and is subject to the size of the place of worship.

“If a house of worship is small and cannot accommodate 30 people, then the number of people attending should be less, people should not crowd together,” he said.

In addition, Ismail Sabri said senior citizens of 70 years old and above, and children of 12 years old and below are not permitted to attend. Body temperature screening, the use of hand sanitisers and the wearing of face masks were also part of the SOP, he added.

Permission to use these houses of worship will only be granted to Malaysians, and only be opened on auspicious days according to the respective religions.

“For example Christians go to church on Sundays, so only Sundays are permitted,” he said.

To date, the government has allowed 174 places of worship nationwide to reopen, namely 84 Hindu temples, 15 Chinese temples, 67 churches and eight gurdwaras.

He said permission would be granted gradually and so far it accounts for about 1.0pc of houses of worship nationwide.

Meanwhile, he said weddings were still not allowed at these premises, adding that if there were violations of the SOP then this relaxation of the rules would be retracted immediately. customers should lodge a report with the police and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission if there was a leak of personal data such as identity card number after entering a business premises.

Ismail Sabri said it was agreed at the meeting to waive 50pc of the hotel quarantine charges for people with disabilities who are returning from abroad, while members of the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme still have to bear the full quarantine charge of RM150 per day.

Ismail said earlier that from June 1, all Malaysians overseas who want to return home would have to pay 50pc of the RM150 per day for hotels converted to Covid-19 quarantine centres while non-citizens will be charged 100pc.

Meanwhile churches that are members of the Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM) will remain closed until the movement control order (MCO) is fully lifted.

CCM general secretary Rev Dr HermenShastri said its churches would remain closed until it was deemed safe to re-open without risking public health.

He added that online streaming of Sunday services would continue, with devotees remaining at home to pray and worship.

Full report at:


Selangor Religious Council seeks to intervene in SIS’ move to challenge law

May 20, 2020

PUTRAJAYA: The Selangor Islamic Religious Council has applied to intervene in a suit by women’s rights group Sisters in Islam (SIS), which is seeking a declaration that a state enactment allowing the state Shariah High Court to review fatwas issued by the state religious authorities is unconstitutional.

Lawyer MaizatulAmalina Ahmed Mustaza, who represented SIS, said the application would only be heard in the event the Federal Court allowed her client leave application.

“The council’s intervener application will be heard subject to a single judge allowing the leave application before the merit of the case can be heard,” she told FMT after case management before deputy registrar AznizaMohd Ali.

Amalina said the court had fixed July 20 for the leave hearing.

“Parties will appear in person before a judge as our application to have virtual proceedings did not have the support of the council,” she said.

SIS filed the challenge under Article 4 (3) on grounds that the state legislature cannot pass Section 66A of the Administration of the Religion of Islam (State of Selangor) Enactment 2003.

Section 66A states that shariah high courts in Selangor have the jurisdiction to hear judicial reviews against the decisions of state religious councils or committees.

The applicant is arguing that any judicial review of a law passed by Parliament and state assemblies can only be heard before a civil high court.

SIS filed the application in the Federal Court on Jan 21 after a High Court in Kuala Lumpur last year dismissed its judicial review application against a Selangor religious authority’s fatwa labelling the group as deviant.

Citing Section 66A, judgeNordin Hassan ruled that it was within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Selangor Shariah Court to determine legal challenges against a fatwa issued by a state religious committee.

Full report at:


Morocco, Indonesia Team Up to Fight COVID-19 in Africa

By Morgan Hekking -

May 21, 2020

Rabat – Indonesia and Morocco have agreed to coordinate their efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa, Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs RetnoMarsudi announced yesterday.

“Indonesia and Morocco have agreed to work together through the Ministerial Coordination Group on Covid-19, as well as through other international forums, to face the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly in Africa,” said Marsudi during a videoconference based in Jakarta.

She stressed that the world cannot definitively defeat the global pandemic if countries are left behind, particularly African states. The Indonesian FM underlined the right of developing countries to access quality health services and the COVID-19 vaccine, as soon as scientists can develop it.

The minister added that Indonesia’s efforts to counter the global spread of the virus include cooperation with 111 international partners, 11 countries, 12 international organizations, and 88 non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

With 20,162 cases of the virus, including 4,838 recoveries and 1,278 deaths, Indonesia is one of the leading countries in East Asia in terms of COVID-19 figures. The country’s government expects the epidemic to fade after peaking this month and hopes to reopen the economy by July. Marsudi did not detail when the country expects to open its borders to foreign nationals. 

Morocco and Indonesia enjoy warm diplomatic ties but pledged in October 2019 to further solidify cooperation on a range of issues, including education and culture.

On October 28, Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita led a working visit to Jakarta, where he met with Indonesian Vice President Maaruf Amin and Speaker of the Indonesian House of Representatives Puan Maharani.

Bourita underlined the need to nurture the socio-cultural ties between the two nations and said Morocco intends to increase the number of scholarships and study grants to Indonesian students.

He also expressed Morocco’s commitment to working with Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population in the world, to promote a tolerant and moderate interpretation of Islam.

In December 2019, Morocco’s House of Councillors President Hakim Benchamach announced that Morocco is ready to work with Indonesia to build a league of senates and consultative “shura” councils that would promote a positive image of Islam and defend against offenses targeting Muslim people or the religion of Islam.

The two countries formalized their bilateral relationship in 1960 during a visit to Morocco by President Sukarno, Indonesia’s first president and a pioneering figure in the Afro-Asian Non-aligned and anti-colonial movements. A street in Rabat, “Rue Soekarno,” bears his name.

Full report at:



Pakistan ends COVID-19 lockdown even as infections tick higher

MAY 21, 2020

COVID-19 infections in Pakistan trended higher in recent days and were approaching 50,000, official data showed, with total deaths crossing 1,000, as the government remained unsure over the consequences of its decision to end the nation's lockdown.

Fearful of the economic and financial impact, and swayed by the acute hardship suffered by millions of poor families, Prime Minister Imran Khan has defended the lifting of the lockdown last week, saying the virus spread has been well below projections.

Education is the only major sector that remains closed.

"The ending of the lockdown doesn't mean the threat is over," Yasmeen Rashid, the health minister of Punjab, the country's largest province, said in an interview on Pakistani television on Wednesday, adding that people needed to adopt safety measures themselves.

How the mostly Muslim nation of 207 million people behaves when the fasting month of Ramadan ends and festivities for Eid begins, which is expected on Sunday or Monday, could influence the course of the contagion.

Usually Eid draws big crowds to malls and shops, and people travel in droves to reach their hometowns. While the government has advised people to act responsibly, and avoid going out for nonessential reasons, there has been little mention of special precautions needed over the festival period.

For a country of Pakistan's size, levels of testing remains low at around 14,000 a day. But Reuters calculations, using official data, suggest the infection rate has so far remained relatively steady, with total infections doubling every 9 to 11 days since April 1.

Doctors and experts fear Pakistan's under-funded and creaking health care system if the contagion gathers more pace.

In the first 20 days of May, over 630 people have died, compared to around 380 in the entire month of April, data tabulated by Reuters shows. There were less than 10 deaths in March.

The 32 deaths reported on Wednesday took the total to 1,017, a government website showed, making Pakistan the 25th country worldwide where the toll has crossed a thousand. On Tuesday, Pakistan reported the most deaths for a single day at 46.

Infections on Wednesday were reported at 2,193 – the second highest for a single day in the country – taking the total number of COVID-19 cases in Pakistan to 48,091.

Regardless of the final death toll, Pakistan expects to suffer an awful human cost, as the government expects millions more of its people to fall into poverty.

The International Monetary Fund has forecast Pakistan's economy will shrink 1.5% this year, and the government is expected to miss major revenue and deficit targets, making it more dependent on loans from multilateral lenders.


ATC concludes trial proceedings in Imran Farooq murder case

May 22, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Anti Terrorism Court (ATC) of Islamabad on Thursday concluded the trial proceedings in the murder case of MuttahidaQaumi Movement (MQM) leader Dr Imran Farooq. A verdict will be announced on June 18.

Concluding his arguments, special prosecutor Khawaja Mohammad Imtiaz informed the court that Pakistan has assured the British government that the accused in this case would not be given the death sentence even if he is found guilty of murdering Farooq.

Dr Farooq, a senior leader of the MQM, was murdered outside his home in London in 2010.

The British government was reluctant to share evidence with Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) as the European laws discourage the death sentence.

However, upon Pakistan’s assurance that the suspects would not be given the death penalty, the UK shared key evidence with Pakistan. Among the evidence Pakistan received from the UK Central Authority are the CCTV footage of the murder incident, forensic and post-mortem reports, recovery memo, statements of the investigation officer and 23 witnesses.

Dr Farooq’s widow, ShumailaSyedaNazar, was also among the British witnesses. In her statement recorded before ATC Judge ShahrukhArjumand, she said that her husband went to the market to buy bread, but never returned. When she tried to find out him, she found police standing near her home. Her neighbour informed her that two youngsters shook hand with Farooq and then one of them attacked him with a knife while the other hit his head with a brick.

In September last year, Toby Cadman, the counsel for the Pakistan government, confirmed that following a request for mutual legal assistance (MLA) to transfer evidence relevant to the murder inquiry into the death of Dr Farooq, the FIA prosecution team has received an acceptance letter from the UK Central Authority confirming the transfer of evidence in the possession of the UK authorities.

Initially, the UK authorities did not respond to Pakistan’s request for MLA. The UK government had been reluctant to hand over the evidence to Pakistan as the European laws did not permit the sharing of evidence with a country where the offence was punishable by death.

However, the Pakistani government has assured the UK government that if convicted, the accused persons would not be given death penalty and also given assurance of amending the law.

The trial of the murder suspects had been standstill since last year as the prosecution case was stuck up because of non-availability of evidence.

In 2018, the IHC had directed the ATC to conclude the much-delayed trial by October 2018. However, the prosecution of the FIA repeatedly requested the court for extension of the deadline since the British government was reluctant to share evidence related to the murder fearing that the accused might get death sentence if convicted.

Two suspects in the case — Khalid Shamim and Syed Mohsin Ali — have recorded their confessional statements before a magistrate, saying Dr Farooq was killed because he was a “potent threat to the leadership of the MQM”.

Full report at:


NDMA, UN, donors to help Balochistan fight Covid-19

May 22, 2020

QUETTA: The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), UN agencies, donor organisations and the Balochistan government have agreed to work jointly to minimise the impact of Covid-19 in the province.

The decision was taken in a high-level meeting presided over by Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan Alyani on Thursday. The meeting was attended by NDMA chairman Lt General Muhammad Afzal along with representatives of the United Nation agencies and donor organisations.

Federal Minister for Defence Production Zubaida Jalal, Balochistan Assembly Deputy Speaker Sardar Babar Musakhel, Chief Secretary retired captain FazeelAsghar and other concerned were present in the meeting.

Official sources said that matters pertaining to Covid-19 in Balochistan, economic challenges, and assistance from donor agencies were discussed in the meeting.

Gen Afzal informed the meeting that the NDMA would provide maximum possible assistance to increase the capacity of conducting corona tests, including establishment of two more laboratories at divisional level. With the institutionalisation of these two laboratories, the capacity of testing would increase, he said.

Country heads and representatives of World Health Organisation, United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, United Nations Population Fund, and the World Food Programme assured the chief minister to provide maximum possible assistance to combat the pandemic.

Official sources said that the meeting decided that steps would be taken to boost relation and cooperation between United Nations agencies and provincial government departments. The World Health Organisation would provide assistance in different programmes of paramedic trainings, conducting surveys and awareness among the people.

The WHO also appreciated and expressed complete satisfaction on the efforts taken by provincial government of Balochistan to contain the spread of the virus.

Balochistan chief minister Alyani, while speaking at the meeting, said that the Covid-19 situation in Pakistan was better than western countries where millions of people were infected and a large numbers of patients had lost their lives.

“Every day new theories, philosophies, hypothesis were emerging about coronavirus but the entire world is agreed on one point that the pandemic has been posing a great threat to the economic, financial and health prospects,” he said.

He said that the coalition government of Balochistan had been focusing on improving the economic and trade-related activities in the province, and to utilise the resources to meet the financial constraints and challenges successfully.

Full report at:


PPP leader tells PM to stop adding confusion to chaos, proceed on leave

May 22, 2020

HYDERABAD: Pakistan Peop­les Party (PPP) information secretary MaulaBuxChandio has said that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s statements and policies in the present situation are only adding to confusion and chaos in the country.

“The prime minister should proceed on leave and let institutions work independently, because his politics is endangering people’s lives,” he remarked.

He was speaking at a press conference at his residence on Thursday evening.

Other PPP activists including Saghir Qureshi and Ahsan Abro were present.

He quoted the PM as saying that Pakistan still did not face a serious situation and wondered that such statement was given in spite of thousands of positive cases emerging in the country.

Mr Chandio said that even Supreme Court had given important observations on present coronavirus situation in the wake of a presentation by the attorney general of Pakistan. He said the apex court realised that it was indeed a pandemic. It was only the prime minister who was not sensitised on the issue, adding that he even issued statements that hurt people. “The PM is not even saddened by the death of his party’s lawmaker from Covid-19,” he remarked.

“The present situation has raised the question as to who is in fact ruling over the country and framing policies,” he said.

He argued that the PM clearly looked helpless; he had himself said he was averse to lockdown policy which showed that lockdown was given effect in all four provinces against his consent. “We know those running government sit elsewhere,” he said.

Mr Chandio said there was a legal option which enabled the PM to proceed on leave. “Why doesn’t he proceed on leave?” he asked.

The senior PPP leader said that the PM’s party leaders were adding confusion to the present situation and creating chaos. “Even the Sindh governor is doing the same,” he added.

Alluding to PM’s former special assistant for information FirdousAshiqAwan, Mr Chandio said he as her former cabinet colleague knew her, adding: “She is just waiting for permission and would start reacting against PTI ... she won’t spare anyone”.

He claimed that Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah was acting on federal government’s advice but the latter was ridiculing his decisions and not taking any step [on control of Covid-19 spread]. He insisted that coronavirus outbreak in Pakistan was critical but the rulers lacked the capacity and seriousness to handle it.

Full report at:


Balochistan CM defends Jabbar’s nomination to NFC


May 22, 2020

QUETTA: Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan Alyani has defended the nomination of former senator JavedJabbar to the National Finance Commission, saying he had “all the knowledge needed” to plead the province’s case at the NFC.

Winding up a debate in the Balochistan Assembly on Thursday, the chief minister recalled that Qaiser Bengali and GulFaraz had represented the province in the NFC a few years ago and no one opposed their nomination.

“We need strong arguments to persuade the Centre into giving Balochistan’s rightful share. Unfortunately political pressures were seen during previous meetings,” Alyani said.

He criticised the opposition parties for trying to politicise Mr Jabbar’s nomination, warning that it would harm the province’s interests.

The chief minister said Mr Jabbar was conversant with Balochistan’s economic problems and had forcefully advocated the province’s case at various forums.

“Hafeez Pasha and JavedJabbar have been speaking out for Balochistan and other small provinces for the past 20 years.”

Alyani said the government was ready to take the opposition into confidence over the NFC award.

Referring to criticism of the provincial government’s handling of the coronavirus matter, he said “we were the first to act after the outbreak at a time when other provinces were merely debating how to tackle the scourge”.

Dwelling on the recent spate of terrorism in Balochistan, the chief minister accused India of funding “the terrorists”.

“Some elements living abroad are taking money for killing our soldiers and civilians, but we are determined to wipe out the menace.”

Alyani condemned the recent attacks on security forces in PirGhaib and Mand.

Nomination challenged

Former Supreme Court Bar Association president AmanullahKanrani has filed a petition in the Balochistan High Court on behalf of independent MNA Mohammad AslamBhootani, challenging the nomination of ex-Senator JavedJabbar to the NFC by the Balochistan government.

Full report at:



Britain First leader Paul Golding convicted under terrorism law

20 May 2020

The leader of the far-right political group Britain First has been found guilty of an offence under the Terrorism Act after refusing to give police access to his mobile phone on his return from a political trip to Russia.

Paul Golding, 38, was stopped at Heathrow by Metropolitan police officers on 23 October last year on his way back from Moscow. He refused to give the pin codes for an iPhone and Apple computer and was later charged with wilfully refusing to comply with a duty under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act.

Golding denied the charge but was found guilty following a trial at Westminster magistrates court in London on Wednesday.

Chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot ruled there was “no doubt” that Golding had failed to comply with requests for information, despite his obligations being explained to him and being warned “over and over” that he risked arrest.

She handed Golding a conditional discharge for nine months and ordered him to pay a £21 surcharge and £750 in costs.

Arbuthnot said Golding had been lawfully questioned and that under Schedule 7 there had been no requirement for “reasonable suspicion” for the stop.

Giving evidence earlier, PC Rory O’Connor, a borders officer with the Met who questioned Golding, told the court that Schedule 7 enables accredited officers to “speak to people in order to make a determination of whether they are or have been concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism”.

The officer explained that it also permitted police to interrogate, search and detain anyone for up to six hours at UK ports.

He said he had cause to examine Golding under the legislation and recalled him being initially “agitated” and “clearly angry” at being stopped, with him shouting at officers.

Golding, of Hodder Bank, Stockport, spoke only to confirm his name, date of birth, address and nationality.

English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, watched the proceedings in the court’s physically distanced public gallery.

Golding described Britain First as a “patriotic, right-wing, conservative” group who considered themselves “loyalist”.

Representing Golding, Abigail Bright said Britain First had never been a banned organisation. She said Golding had been “calm, compliant and respectful” during questioning under what she claimed was a “predetermined operation”.

Britain First was deregistered as a political party in November 2017.


Daesh terrorist charged for attacking Turkish shops, mosque in Germany

MAY 21, 2020

German federal prosecutors said Wednesday they were investigating an alleged member of the Daesh terrorist group suspected of a series of acid and arson attacks on Turkish-owned shops and a mosque and of planning killings with a gun and explosives.

The suspect, named only as Muharrem D., faces charges of attempted murder against 27 people by arson, and of grievous bodily harm against six, as well as planning "a serious violent act endangering the state."

Beginning in mid-April, Muharrem is believed to have committed a series of violent crimes against Turkish-owned businesses and a mosque in Waldkraiburg, a small town near Germany's border with Austria.

Investigators say he also secured a pistol with ammunition as well as "significant amounts" of bomb-making equipment for planned attacks on nearby mosques, the Turkish consulate in Munich and a major mosque in the western city of Cologne.

He manufactured 23 pipe bombs and 34 kilograms (75 pounds) of explosives.

Investigators said in a statement that German citizen Muharrem "underwent a radicalization process from 2017 onward" and then he grasped the ideology of the Daesh while becoming a member of the terrorist group.

Turkey's operations in northern Syria were the terrorist's pretext for an "enduring hatred of the Turkish state and people of Turkish origin," prosecutors said, adding that he aimed "to bring about a spiral of violence and retaliation" with his attacks.

People with ties to Daesh have committed several violent attacks in Germany in recent years, with the worst a ramming attack at a Berlin Christmas market in December 2016 that killed 12.

Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize Daesh as a terror group in 2013, as soon as it emerged. The country has since been attacked by Daesh terrorists numerous times, including 10 suicide bombings, seven bombings and four armed attacks that killed 315 people and injured hundreds of others.

In response, Turkey launched military and police operations at home and abroad to prevent further terrorist attacks.

The Daesh terrorist group held vast swaths of territory across Syria and Iraq from its rise in 2014 until its military defeat last year.

Full report at:


Norway mosque attack trial wraps up, verdict next week

May 20, 2020

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — A Norwegian man charged with murder and terrorism in the killing of his stepsister and the storming of an Oslo mosque should get the maximum 21 years in prison, a prosecutor said Wednesday on the final day of the trial.

Philip Manshaus, 22, is accused of first killing his 17-year-old stepsister by shooting her with a hunting rifle at their home in the Oslo suburb of Baerum on Aug. 10. Authorities say Manshaus then drove to a nearby mosque where three men were preparing for Eid al-Adha celebrations. He wore a helmet with a video camera attached and a bulletproof vest, police said.

Manshaus was armed with a hunting rifle and a shotgun and fired four shots with the rifle at a glass door before he was overpowered by one of the men in the mosque at the time. One person was slightly injured when they jumped on Manshaus inside the mosque.

“These actions upset the feeling of security we have in Norway, regardless of faith and ethnicity,” prosecutor Johan Oeverberg said Wednesday according to the Norwegian News Agency as the trial wrapped up after starting on May 7.

Authorities say Manshaus was inspired by the shootings in March 2019 in New Zealand, where a gunman targeted two mosques, killing 51 people, and in August 2019 in El Paso, Texas, where an assailant targeted Hispanics and left at least 22 dead.

Manshaus, who in court expressed regrets of not having caused more damage, “has proven to be an extremely dangerous person,” Oeverberg said.

Oeverberg demanded that Manshaus should be sentenced to prison for at least 14 years, but called for him to get the maximum 21 years. A verdict is expected next week.

Manshaus has already appeared at an Oslo court where he denied the charges. He has acknowledged the facts of what happened, but denies the accusation, saying he opposes non-Western immigration.

Full report at:


‘I Thought We Would Be Safe Here’ – Father Pays Tribute To Murdered Lebanese Student, In Northern England

May 21, 2020

LONDON: The father of a Lebanese student murdered in a drive-by shooting in northern England said he thought his family would be safe in the UK.

AyaHachem, 19, was killed when she was shot in the chest as she went to buy groceries in Blackburn on Sunday.

Police have arrested 11 people as part of the investigation into the killing, eight of whom are suspected of her murder.

A court on Thursday granted police extra time to question three men who were arrested on Tuesday.

Detectives said Aya, who was studying law at university and planned to become a solicitor, was not the intended target.

Her father Ismail, who arrived with his family in the UK as a refugee from Lebanon about 10 years ago, said his dreams have been destroyed by his daughter’s death.

“I think I would be safe here... in this small town. No big problems,” he told the BBC. “All my dreams (were) Aya. Everything Aya.

“She had big dreams, she helped many people. Anywhere, everybody liked Aya. But we lost Aya, my family lost Aya.”

He described how he had been trying to call Aya, the eldest of his four children, when she did not return home from the supermarket.

When he went searching for her, he saw an area had been cordoned off but was unaware it was the scene of her murder.

Police officers then came to his house and told him and his wife that Aya had died.

Full report at:


Russia warns Israel against expansionist actions

Elena Teslova



Russia warned Israel on Thursday against expansionist actions, saying it might provoke violence and destabilize the situation in the Middle East.

Moscow repeatedly warned Israel against implementing unilateral plans contradicting the international legislation for the Middle East settlement, the Foreign Ministry said in a comment, published on its official website.

The annexation would make impossible the territorial continuity of the West Bank of the Jordan River, which is an essential condition for the viability of a future Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, it said.

"Such expansionist actions by Israel could provoke a dangerous cycle of violence in the Palestinian territories, as well as destabilize the situation in the Middle East region as a whole," it added.

The Ministry reaffirmed Russia’s strong adherence to a two-state solution and called on all sides to refrain from actions that could provoke a new dangerous escalation in the region and hinder the creation of conditions for the resumption of direct Palestinian-Israeli negotiations.

Full report at:


Greek police forcing asylum seekers into Turkey: Report



The Greek police have been bringing in asylum seekers living in the country and expelling them to Turkey by force while using the coronavirus pandemic as a cover for their abuses, according to a report published Wednesday.

The Wall Street Journal report, based on evidences from asylum seekers who faced violence as well as lawyers and human-rights activists, said "at least 250 asylum seekers have been forcibly expelled from Greece since late March."

Simon Campbell, the field coordinator of Border Violence Monitoring Network, told the Wall Street Journal that he believes the real number is bigger than the cases reported and said "many migrants who are returned to Turkey don’t speak out."

While the Greek authorities have denied reports of extrajudicial deportations, they failed to respond to the WSJ's questions regarding the allegations by migrants and human rights groups.

DimitrisKoros, a lawyer with the Greek Council for Refugees, defined the Greek treatment against the asylum seekers as an "illegal pushback" and not "a deportation".

"It's illegal according to the Geneva convention and Greek law," Koros said.

With efforts to continue on legal ground, Koros and his group compiled testimonies from at least 10 migrants with Afghan, Pakistani, North African, Syrian and Iraqi nationalities, who recently faced forced deportation from deep inside Greece.

Underscoring that the "Greek police are targeting migrants and refugees who haven’t officially filed an asylum claim," Koros said even without the official file, the Greek law allows the asylum seekers to stay in the country for 30 days if they express an intention to apply for asylum and cannot be deported without due process.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the migrants' testimonies compiled by the Greek Council for Refugees said additionally that "taking people from refugee camps, the Greek police have also deported migrants from a closed detention center, promising them freedom but instead driving them to the Turkish border."

Pandemic used as cover for abuses

Koros told the US daily that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic paves the way for Greek police to abuse asylum seekers.

Besides Koros, Nadia Hardman, a researcher with Human Rights Watch (HRW), also told the WSJ: "Under the cover of a global pandemic it is obviously easier to get away with particular human rights abuses when the attention of the world is elsewhere."

The HRW report published in March pointed out Greek authorities’ violent acts against the asylum seekers trying to cross the border, "including assaulting them, taking personal property and stripping them to their underwear before sending them back into Turkey."

Though the Greek government refused to comment on the rights group’s report, it further noted that the Greek security as well as unidentified armed men were carrying out the illegal pushbacks via violent methods.

The HRW's Hardman, who investigates and reports on human rights abuses, said in the report: "You just have a complete breakdown in the rule of law."

One of the asylum seekers, Khalid Hassede, a 35-year-old Syrian, told the WSJ that he and his extended family "arrived by raft on the Greek island of Symi on March 21" and "were held by Greek police at the port for three days, rather than being taken to the island’s refugee camp."

Hassede said his family along with at least 24 other Syrian asylum seekers were "told to board a Greek coast guard boat and informed that they would be taken to Athens to begin their asylum applications."

"Instead, the boat took them back into Turkish waters, and they were forced to board an inflatable raft and left to drift in the sea. They were eventually rescued by Turkish coast guards and taken back to Turkey."

Mohamad Ali Ahmadzi, a 20-year-old Afghan man who was also forcibly expelled, said "he saw Greek police give the smugglers cash to take 45 people across the river in two boats."

AlbaniMohmed, an asylum seeker from Morocco, told he was stopped by Greek police in Thessaloniki in April.

After stopped by the Greek police, Mohmed, 25, was taken to the police station "where he said he was beaten and had his cash and cellphone confiscated. Then he was put in a cell overnight with three Afghan migrants."

According to the Wall Street Journal, Mohmed said: "They [the Greek police] threw us to Turkey without our clothes except for our underwear... They kept hitting us and told us never to return."

Turkey has been one of the main routes for asylum seekers wanting to reach Europe, especially since the Syrian civil war started in 2011.

Full report at:


Latest UK 'terrorism' legislation criticised by rights groups

by James Brownsell

21 May 2020

Civil liberties groups have criticised the British government's latest overhaul of the United Kingdom's "terrorism" legislation, highlighting the potential for indefinite restrictions placed against those suspected - but not convicted - of terrorism.

The burden of proof would be lowered for officials considering placing "terrorism prevention and investigation measures" (TPIMs) against suspects, while the current two-year limit on their use would be removed, under legislation unveiled on Wednesday.

Under the proposed law, courts would be able to limit a suspect's movements, enforcing curfews and electronic tagging for an indefinite period, subject to review. Minimum sentences would rise and the most serious offenders, if released, would remain on licence for the rest of their lives and could be taken back into custody.

"We promised to act and today we are delivering on that promise," Home Secretary Priti Patel said in announcing the plan.

But campaigners said the proposals were a fundamental threat to justice.

"It was never right to drastically curtail people's liberty on the basis of secret, untested evidence using control orders or TPIMs - and we seem to be diving headlong into that territory, where the standard of proof is extremely flimsy and people's liberties can be curtailed on an indefinite basis," said Rachel Logan, Amnesty International UK's legal expert.

The new restrictions are needed, say the government, after Usman Khan killed two people in a knife rampage, injuring several more, near London Bridge in November. The attacker was tackled by members of the public and shot dead by police officers.

The 28-year-old had previously served six years in prison for plotting to bomb the London Stock Exchange, was out of prison on licence and required to wear an electronic tag.

"This is an announcement designed first and foremost to grab headlines, as the government struggles over its coronavirus response, rather than to make any change in the legal or security situation," Scott Lucas, professor of international politics at the University of Birmingham, told Al Jazeera.

"Boris Johnson used the London Bridge attack during the December election campaign to proclaim an extension of terrorism sentences. That came into force in April.

"Now Priti Patel talks about mandatory minimum sentences of 14 years, and of permanent surveillance and control of those who have not been charged. So the question again is: will a political gambit for power, amid questions about performance, lead to a significant change in law, imprisonment, and the security state?"

Human rights experts said the government's counterterrorism strategy was failing.

"This legislation not only authorises people being locked up indefinitely, it also poses a threat to fundamental pillars of our justice system. By reintroducing, in all but name, the widely condemned Control Orders, a fundamental principle of justice - the presumption of innocence - hangs in the balance," said Rosalind Comyn, policy and campaigns officer of human rights group Liberty.

"Control Orders allow people to be placed on indefinite house arrest without trial - and this can happen based on suspicion rather than charges, evidence and proof. Control Orders were abolished by the coalition government as a stain on our human rights records and that's where they should remain."

Mark Shanahan, head of the politics department at the University of Reading, said tougher TPIM restrictions may not make much of a difference when it came to preventing violence, as they had not been widely used since their first introduction.

"Anything that appears to make life tougher for terrorist suspects will play well with the Conservatives' natural base, but is also likely to go down well with the wider public in the wake of the relatively recent London terror attacks," he told Al Jazeera.

"The same can be said for the new minimum sentences. Making sure convicted terrorists are off our streets for longer will be a popular move. And at a time when virtually all media is dominated by a less-than-stellar response to the coronavirus crisis, and with a Brexit bubble close to bursting in the background, this is an attempt by the Home Office to show strong and decisive action that paints the government in a positive light.

"Those who read a little deeper into government action may worry about the attack on personal freedoms, but it's not that easy to make a case in favour of those suspected of terrorist involvement."

The timing of the government's move has also caused concern. 

Full report at:



Nasrallah Vows to Complete General Soleimani’s Efforts to Liberate Quds

May 21, 2020

Speaking on the occasion of International Quds Day, Nasrallah addressed martyred General Soleimani, stressing that the Resistance is preparing to pray in Al-Quds, the Arabic-language al-Manar news channel reported.

“This year, we miss martyr Hajj QassemSuleimani. Hajj Qassem had worked throughout the day and the night to strengthen the Resistance and to liberate Al-Quds.”

“We promise him and all the other martyrs that the day when Al-Quds will be liberated is coming,” he added.

Nasrallah said that Imam Rouhollah Khomeini declared Al-Quds Day as an annual occasion on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan in a bid to voice Iran’s firm and decisive commitment to Palestine and Al-Quds.

“Today we are so close to liberate Al-Quds thanks to faith, steadfastness, patience and sincerity of Axis of Resistance’s powers.”

He added that those who are seeking to normalize ties with the Zionist entity don’t represent the real image of the Muslim and Arab Ummah.

Nasrallah noted that the Zionist officials are concerned over the military buildup of Resistance factions across Arab and Muslim countries.

“Zionist officials are scared of victories achieved by Axis of Resistance and astonished by defeat of the United States and its allies.”

“We in Hezbollah, pledge to stand by the oppressed people of Palestine,” he underlined.

The International Quds Day is an annual event opposing Israel's occupation of Beitul-Muqaddas. Anti-Zionist rallies and demonstrations are held on the last Friday of Ramadan in Muslim and Arab countries around the world, specially in Iran, as well as a large number of non-Muslim states.

The International Quds Day was started by the late Founder of the Islamic Republic, Imam Khomeini, in 1979 as a way of expressing solidarity with the Palestinians and underscoring importance of the holy Quds to Muslims.

Due to the outbreak of coronavirus, the International Quds Day will be commemorated differently without holding gatherings and rallies in most countries.

General Soleimani in a letter before his martyrdom to Commander of Hamas’s Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades Mohammed Deif had underscored Iran’s continued support for Palestine despite all pressures and sanctions.

“Everyone should rest assured that no matter how much pressures increase and sanctions are intensified, the Islamic Republic of Iran will not leave Palestine and Palestinian people alone,” martyred General Soleimani wrote in his letter released by the Arabic-language al-Mayadeen news channel.

He described Mohammed Deif as a “living martyr” and a “brave commander”, sending greetings to the brave nation of Palestine which is under an oppressive siege before the eyes of millions of Muslims.

In a part of his letter, martyred General Soleimani also sent his greetings to the Head of Hamas Political Bureau Ismail Haniyeh, calling him as a resilient and resistant commander.

“Defending Palestine is an honor for the Islamic Republic of Iran and Iran will not renounce and give up its duty for the benefit of the world. Palestinians are our friends, and enemies of Palestine are our enemies and this is and will be our policy,” he stressed.

The letter was released a few days after Head of the Tehran bureau of the Islamic Jihad Movement of Palestine Nasser Abu Sharif praised General Soleimani for his strenuous efforts in line with the Palestinian cause to liberate Quds from Israeli occupation.

“General Soleimani’s ultimate goal was the holy Quds wherever he was. He thought of Quds when he was in Iraq or Syria. No matter which part of the Muslim lands he was, his ultimate objective was liberation of Quds,” Abu Sharif said, addressing a seminar in the Republic of Azerbaijan to commemorate the International Quds Day (May 22) via a video conference on Sunday.

He said that the Palestinian people enjoy the spirit of struggling and are always after liberation of their occupied lands and have never become tired of pursuing this cause.

Abu Sharif warned that if Muslims do not consider Quds as their compass, they will lose their path and unity among them will fade away.

General Soleimani played a key role in assisting the resistance forces in the region.

Head of the Research Center of the International Islamic Awareness Organization HosseinAkbari underlined that Israel was forced to change its war strategy from offensive to defensive mode after General Soleimani stood beside the resistance front’s leaders.

“Actually, martyr Soleimani was the initiator of a strategic move which forced Israel to change strategy from offensive to defensive,” Akbari said in an interview with Persian-language Sobh-e No on Saturday.

He explained that General Soleimani awakened many people in the Muslim world when he stood beside Secretary-General of Hezbollah resistance group in Lebanon and defeated Israel in 2006 while many imagined that the regime cannot be defeated.

“It was the first and biggest failure of Israel,” Akbari said, adding that it was followed by the regime’s second defeat during the 22-day war against Gaza.

“Martyr Soleimani's command ran through the Palestinian resistance in a unique way and defeated Israel in the territories occupied by the regime,” he underlined.

Akbari said that after all these defeats, the Syria war was ignited and the US and its allies attempted to establish security for Israel but General Soleimani’s advice to the Syrian army commanders defeated them again.

General Soleimani had before his martyrdom in January 2020, in an interview disclosed some untold facts about the 2006 Israel–Hezbollah 33-day War.

“I should say that the 33-day war had some hidden causes which were the principle factors leading to the war. The war had some apparent and some hidden causes, the pretext of which were the hidden goals that the [Zionist] regime sought for a period of time. When I say there were hidden causes, we had some information about the preparations of the Zionist regime, but we had no information on the fact that the enemy wanted to launch an attack in ambush. Later, based on two circumstances, we concluded that prior to this war, a swift ambush was supposed to be conducted to overturn Hezbollah. Well, this war happened when two important events, one concerning the entire region and another exclusively concerning the Zionist regime were taking place,” he said in 2019 in an interview with website.

He said that Tel Aviv was using the opportunity of the presence of US military forces in the region to uproot Hezbollah from Southern Lebanon, adding that some Arab countries were also collaborating with the Israeli-American plot.


Iran Deplores US New “Repetitive, Fruitless” Sanctions

May 21, 2020

“The US regime's addiction to imposing sanctions reflects the illegal and arbitrary behavior of the United States against the international law and order which targets the legal institutions and authorities of independent states,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi said on Thursday.

“The US regime's fruitless, repetitive and blind sanctions against the interior minister, the police chief and other Iranian officials are a sign of the US regime's weakness, despair and confusion which is based on the constant illusions and under the influence of inexperienced advisers and in response to the failures of this regime against the will of the government and the people of Iran,” he added.

“The recent sanctions are also a major violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2331 and its obligations under the international law,” Mousavi said, adding, “The international community must hold the United States accountable for such gross violations.”

“By imposing and enforcing such sanctions, the United States has ignored customary and international decencies and directly sanctioned individuals and institutions that are tied with the order and security of the Iranian people and, in a larger scale, with the security of the region,” he noted.

His remarks came after the US Treasury Department announced on Wednesday a fresh round of sanctions against a number of Iranian authorities, including the Interior Minister RahmaniFazli and Police Chief Brigadier General HosseinAshtari.

The new sanctions affect the Great Tehran Penitentiary in Iran's capital, the Law Enforcement Forces Cooperative Foundation, and Qarchak Prison, also situated in Tehran. All three entities are targeted with secondary Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA)-related restrictions.

The sanctions are also imposed on seven other officials in the Iranian Police.

Full report at:


IRGC: Palestinian Issue Most Important Priority of Muslim World

May 21, 2020

The issue of Palestine is still of highest regional and international priority for the Islamic world, the IRGC’s statement said on Thursday. 

It also honored the memory of the martyrs of the Resistance, specially Quds Force Commander Lieutenant General QassemSoleimani.

The statement said that after 72 years of occupation of Palestine by the Zionists and gradual siege and martyrdom of Palestinian people with the ominous plot of the “wicked UK and criminal US”, the old wound is still annoying the Muslims and freedom-loving people of the world.

The wise naming of the last Friday of Ramadan as World Quds Day by late Imam Khomeini was a turning point for the cause of Palestine and in fact the move challenged the world Arrogance and Zionism, the statement said.

Noting that the martyrdom of General Soleimani strengthened the Resistance and the Quds Force of the IRGC, the statement referred to the annexation of the West Bank to the occupied lands, and said the simultaneity of the two happenings not only had no achievements for the usurpers but also put the clock forward for the total destruction of the fake “child-killing” Zionist regime.

Normalization of relations with the Zionist regime by some Arab states while the Palestinian groups have chosen the path of resistance shows that the Deal of the Century has failed and the defeat of the groups advocating compromise is crystal clear.

The IRGC said that hopefully, as the two leaders of the Islamic Revolution have promised, the end of the Zionist regime is close and soon the news of Ayatollah Khamenei congregation prayers in the Holy Quds and the region emerging without the Zionist regime and the US will be covered by all the media of the world.

The statement was issued on the eve of the International Quds Day on May 22.

The International Quds Day is an annual event opposing Israel's occupation of Beitul-Muqaddas. Anti-Zionist rallies and demonstrations are held on the last Friday of Ramadan in Muslim and Arab countries around the world, specially in Iran, as well as a large number of non-Muslim states.

Due to the outbreak of coronavirus in the world, the International Quds Day will be commemorated differently without holding gatherings and rallies in most countries.

Full report at:


DM: Iraq Ready to Strengthen Cooperation with Iran

May 21, 2020

During the meeting in Baghdad on Wednesday, Anad appreciated Iran's efforts in fighting terrorism.

He said Iraq is ready to promote cooperation with Iran.

Masjedi, for his part, congratulated Anad for his election as defense minister of Iraq.

He also underlined Iran's readiness for developing relations with Iraq.

The Iranian ambassador noted that no efforts will be spared in line with having a powerful Iraq.

Earlier this month, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said stability in Iraq is important, and stressed the need to boost Tehran-Baghdad ties.

In his phone conversation with Iraqi President BarhamSalih, Rouhani discussed regional developments and underlined strengthening of Tehran-Baghdad relations.

Today, the regional countries are facing many problems, he said, adding, "Bolstering all-out relations and cooperation between friends can be a way to overcome problems."

"The Islamic Republic of Iran stands by the Iraqi government and nation like before, and favors protecting Iraqi sovereignty and non-interference of foreign powers in the future of the country’s government and people," he noted.

Iraqi president, for his part, congratulated the arrival of Eid al-Fitr in advance, stressing the need for further development of relations and cooperation between the two countries.

Referring to the importance of Iran-Iraq political relations, he said, "The stability and security of Iraq require cooperation between friendly and neighboring countries, especially with the Islamic Republic of Iran."

Full report at:


Iranian President Underlines Sharing Anti-Coronavirus Experiences with Kazakhstan

May 21, 2020

During the phone talks on Wednesday, Rouhani and Tokayev referred to problems concerning coronavirus in the world, and emphasized the need for sharing experiences in fighting COVID19.

They noted that Iranian and Kazakh health ministries will have more cooperation in fighting the pandemic and on exchanging items like ventilators, N95 mask and serology test kits.

Tehran and Astana have always been together, both presidents said, stressing that they will spare no efforts in developing relations in issues of mutual interests.

Referring to continued US illegal sanctions in time of coronavirus and their impact on people's life, Iranian and Kazakh presidents underscored lifting sanctions. 

Rouhani and Tokayev expressed satisfaction over cooperation in railway and road fields, saying they are ready to increase trade exchanges through Caspian Sea.

President Rouhani highlighted the importance of lifting rail and road transit obstacles, banking cooperation and finalizing the agreement to facilitate visa issuance.

He added that barter trade will help boost economic cooperation and Iran is ready to launch this mechanism.

In a relevant development last month, Iran and Kazakhstan had reviewed ways to further develop efforts to fight against coronavirus.

Full report at:


Russia Stresses Cooperation with Iran in Fighting Terrorism, US Influence in Region

May 21, 2020

The Russian Foreign Ministry reported on Wednesday that Jalali and Rudenko reviewed major regional developments and issues of mutual interest.

Developments of Caucasus and Central Asia were at the center of attention during the phone call between the two officials.

Iran's Embassy in Moscow also announced in a statement that bilateral relations, situation in Afghanistan, Shanghai Cooperation Organization and coronavirus pandemic were also dealt with by the two officials.

Rudenko also stressed the need for consultation and interaction between the two countries on the issues of Central Asia and the Caucasus as well as cooperation between Iran and Russia to address threats facing the region, including the spread of terrorism and extremism and US influence in the region.

In relevant remarks earlier this month, Senior Aide to the Iranian Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Ali AsqarKhaji underlined continued cooperation among Iran, Russia and Syria in fighting terrorist groups.

“The strategic cooperation among Russia, Syria and Iran in line with the fight against the ominous phenomenon of terrorism and the ongoing consultations of the three countries to settle the crisis in Syria politically will continue,” Khaji said in a meeting with Syrian Ambassador to Tehran Adnan Hassan Mahmoud.

He also reiterated Tehran’s firm support for Syria in combat against terrorism.

Khaji pointed to the continued US unilateral sanctions against the Syrian nation in the conditions of coronavirus outbreak and the crisis in the country, stressing the need for the international community to support the Syrian nation and the country’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity within the framework of the international laws and fight against terrorism.

Full report at:


Iranian FM: Palestinian Issue Never Forgotten

May 21, 2020

Although some Arab countries had coordinated themselves in the past with the Camp David Accord and recently with the policies of Saudi regime, with Israel and against the Palestinian cause, the issue of Palestine is not the issue that will be fallen into oblivion by these methods, Zarif said in a TV program on Wednesday night on the occasion of the International Quds Day (May22).

He described the issue of Palestine as a priority of Iran’s foreign policy both for government and people of the country since the time of the late Imam Khomeini up to the present time, and stressed, “Given its concern for the Islamic world, the Islamic Revolution of Iran should stand up for the inalienable and legitimate rights of Palestinian people.”

“The terrorist and fake regime of Israel has violated the most fundamental and basic rights of Palestinian people,” Zarif said.

In response to a question that some believe the issue of Palestine is an issue that is related to the Arab world and has nothing to do with the Islamic Republic of Iran, Zarif emphasized, “The policies of the Zionist regime are not the policies that are limited to a small area. Today, you can see that even in the United States, interests of the Zionist regime prevail over the interests of Americans themselves in many cases.”

He also said that the Zionist regime is a global problem that threatens the world with its nuclear bombs and Weapons of Mass Destruction [WMDs].

In relevant remarks on Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that Palestinian people will embrace ultimate victory and their territories will be freed from occupation of Israel.

“Quds will not be forgotten. Quds will not remain under occupation of oppressors. The Palestinian lands will one day be liberated. We do not accept and tolerate this cruelty, oppression and aggression at all. We will commemorate the highly important Quds Day,” Rouhani said, addressing a cabinet meeting in Tehran.

“Every day, a new plot is hatched by the US against the Muslims and the Palestinian people but the strong determination of the Palestinian people and their resistance will continue and this path will lead to victory,” he added.

President Rouhani underscored that the Iranian nation has always stood against the oppressors, adding that it is one of the principles of Islam.

His comments came as the Iranian parliament in its meeting on Monday unanimously approved the generalities of a bill to confront the hostile acts of the Zionist regime against peace and security.

The parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission had on Saturday prepared and approved the bill on “confronting the hostile acts of the Zionist regime against peace and security”.

“Based on the first article of the plan, all Iranian bodies are required to use the country’s regional and international capacities to confront the Zionist regime’s measures, specially its warmongering and terrorist moves, siege (of Gaza), settlement construction, displacing the Palestinian people and occupation of countries’ lands, including Golan,” Rapporteur of the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission SeyedHosseinNaqaviHosseini told FNA on Saturday.

He added that the plan also underlines support for Quds city as the Palestinian capital and the Palestinian people.

NaqaviHosseini said that based on the approval, any cooperation or spying for the Zionist regime is equal to enmity towards God and corruption on earth and activities of the Israeli software platforms in Iran and using its hardware and software products is forbidden.

He noted that another article of the plan requires the foreign ministry to pursue the referendum in the Palestinian territories which has been registered at the UN too.

The new bill also bans transferring the goods produced by the Israeli companies via the Iranian territories as well as participation of the Israeli nationals and firms in the exhibitions held inside Iran.

It also requires the government to pave the ground for the establishment of a virtual embassy in Palestine.

“The foreign ministry is required to make necessary arrangements to form the Islamic Republic of Iran’s virtual embassy or consulate (in Palestine) and submit the results for approval to the cabinet,” one of the paragraphs of the bill said.

“The foreign ministry is required to adopt necessary measures (to this end) in consultations with other countries,” it added.

The plan was approved on the eve of the International Quds Day on May 22.

The International Quds Day is an annual event opposing Israel's occupation of Beitul-Muqaddas. Anti-Zionist rallies and demonstrations are held on the last Friday of Ramadan in Muslim and Arab countries around the world, specially in Iran, as well as a large number of non-Muslim states.

The International Quds Day was started by the late Founder of the Islamic Republic, Imam Khomeini, in 1979 as a way of expressing solidarity with the Palestinians and underscoring importance of the holy Quds to Muslims.

Due to the outbreak of coronavirus in Iran, the International Quds Day will be commemorated differently without holding gatherings and rallies.

Full report at:


Iran’s Human Rights Council Dismisses Hype on Fate of Australian-British Prisoner

May 21, 2020

Iranian Human Rights Council's reaction came after certain foreign-affiliated media claimed that Moore-Gilbert has committed suicide in Iran.

The claims of her suicide was soon denied by her family in a statement published in Western media. They announced that Kylie was in “good health” and that they have been in contact with her through the embassy.

Moore-Gilbert had been reported by Western-affiliated media to have attempted suicide multiple times.

"She has strongly denied reports that she has attempted suicide or that she is being tortured," her family said.

They noted that she is treated like other prisoners and has access to medical treatment. "She is provided with the things she needs as well such as books. Her books are provided as she wishes."

In December 2019, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi had said Moore-Gilbert had been arrested on a charge of violating Iran’s national security and “the competent court has also issued the appropriate ruling by observing all relevant laws.”

“Experience has shown that the Islamic Republic of Iran would not give in to political and smear campaigns, and this Australian citizen is serving her sentence while enjoying all legal rights, like any other convict with a judicial verdict,” the spokesman said.

Full report at:


EU chief condemns in ‘strongest possible terms’ Iran threat to Israel

21 May 2020

The European Union’s foreign policy chief on Thursday condemned a threat against Israel from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei as a threat to world peace.

JosepBorrell, the EU high representative for foreign affairs, took to Twitter after Khamenei’s comments sparked an angry response from Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“I condemn in the strongest possible terms the call by the Iranian Supreme Leader @khamenei_ir to fight Israel,” Borrell wrote, using the Iranian leader’s Twitter handle.

“This is a threat to international peace and security. The security of Israel is of paramount importance and the EU will stand at its side,” he declared.




I condemn in the strongest possible terms the call by the Iranian Supreme Leader @khamenei_ir to fight #Israel. This is a threat to international peace and security. The security of Israel is of paramount importance and the EU will stand at its side.


7:59 PM - May 21, 2020

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Borrell was responding to comments posted on Twitter by Khamenei on Wednesday in Farsi, English and Arabic.

“Eliminating the Zionist regime doesn’t mean eliminating Jews. We aren’t against Jews,” Khamenei wrote, explaining that what he meant was to “expel thugs like Netanyahu.”

“This is ‘eliminating Israel’,” he said.


Eliminating the Zionist regime doesn’t mean eliminating Jews. We aren’t against Jews. It means abolishing the imposed regime & Muslim, Christian & Jewish Palestinians choose their own govt& expel thugs like Netanyahu. This is “Eliminating Israel” & it will happen.#FlyTheFlag


11:21 PM - May 20, 2020

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Shortly afterwards he added: “We will support and assist any nation or any group anywhere who opposes and fights the Zionist regime, and we do not hesitate to say this.”

The comment was also condemned by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and drew a counterthreat from Israel’s Netanyahu.

“He should know that any regime that threatens Israel with extermination will find itself in similar danger,” Netanyahu wrote on his official Twitter feed in Hebrew.


Bella Caio blasts from hijacked Turkish mosques’ speaker systems

21 May 2020

The popular song Bella Ciao blared from mosques in Turkey, and a Turkish prosecutor on Thursday launched a probe into the alleged hijacking of the mosques’ speaker systems.

The tune, a World War II-era Italian anti-fascist anthem, has been adopted by leftists around the world but it has no particular association with religion and it was unclear why anyone would seek to broadcast it from mosques.

The government and religious officials reacted angrily to the breaking of a religious taboo -- mosques are supposed to only broadcast calls to prayer or other significant religious messages -- accusing unnamed individuals of "sabotage."

While the national religious body Diyanet filed a legal complaint and launched an internal inquiry, the Izmir prosecutor's office said it would investigate the original incident as well as social media users who posted about it.

Izmir is one of Turkey's secular bastions, where the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) dominates local politics.

President RecepTayyipErdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its allies roundly criticised the stunt.

"Whoever committed this ugly act will surely be found," tweeted AKP spokesman Omer Celik.

Pro-government Sabah daily described it as a "scandal" and the YeniSafak newspaper said it was a "vile attack" on mosques.

Full report at:


Over 1,000 Israeli websites targeted in cyberattack showing cities in flames

21 May 2020

Many Israeli websites were hit by a coordinated cyberattack Thursday, with the home pages replaced by images of the country’s commercial capital Tel Aviv in flames.

Israel’s National Cyber Directorate said private companies using a particular operating system were targeted, but said the damage was “superficial.”

It did not state the number of pages targeted but Israeli media reported it was more than 1,000, including those of major firms.

The pages were replaced with the slogan “the countdown to the destruction of Israel started long ago.”

A link led to a computer-generated video of Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities on fire, seemingly after a series of attacks.

There were no immediate details on the group which claimed the attack called Hackers of savior.

The attack came a day before Israelis celebrate Jerusalem Day -- signifying the country’s capture of the eastern part of the disputed city in 1967.

Iran, Israel’s long-time rival, also commemorates the day but highlights the Palestinian and Muslim connection to the holy city.

Their animosity has flared in a war of words on Twitter.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei recently attacked Israel’s founding ideology Zionism, charging that Zionists have “been acting like a cancerous tumor, furthering their goals by massacring children, women and men.”


The Zionist regime is the most evident example of state terrorism. Ever since Britain’s anti-Islamic, antihuman policies put the Zionists to rule in #Palestine, they have been acting like a cancerous tumor, furthering their goals by massacring children, women and men.#FlyTheFlag


1:29 AM - May 20, 2020

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu replied Wednesday evening, saying Khamenei “should know that any regime that threatens Israel with extermination will find itself in similar danger.”

Full report at:


Coronavirus: Iran urges against Eid travel as COVID-19 cases surge

21 May 2020

Iran called on its citizens on Thursday to avoid travel during the upcoming festival marking the end of Ramadan as it announced another surge in coronavirus infections.

For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.

The Islamic republic has entered a fourth month in its battle to contain the virus.

“Our biggest concern” is to have “new peaks of the disease in the country by not respecting health regulations,” said Health Minister Saeed Namaki.

“So I ask the dear Iranian people... not to travel during the Eid al-Fitr holiday. New trips mean new COVID-19 infections,” he said, quoted by the semi-official news agency ISNA.

The Eid al-Fitr festival marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan is expected to begin on Sunday in Iran.

Namaki’s remarks came as his ministry announced 66 more deaths and another 2,392 cases of coronavirus infection across Iran, which has the Middle East’s deadliest outbreak.

Ministry spokesman KianoushJahanpour said the latest figures took Iran’s overall death toll to 7,249 and its caseload of infections to 129,341.

He said that of the new infections, 351 were in people who had been hospitalized and 2,041 who had been in close contact with patients.

Jahanpour added that there were no new deaths in 12 of Iran’s 31 provinces, and that six provinces reported just one virus fatality.

The minister said people were failing to adhere to health protocols in Iran’s hardest-hit provinces.

“In Khuzestan province, and in some of the provinces that have experienced new outbreaks of the disease, we found that they had not followed instructions,” he said, referring to the government’s social distancing protocols.

Iran reported its first cases of coronavirus on February 19 – two deaths in the Shiite holy city of Qom.

The government of President Hassan Rouhani was criticized for being slow to react as the virus spread rapidly across the Islamic republic.

Full report at:


Palestinians shun CIA after declaring end to security coordination with US and Israel

May 21, 2020

JERUSALEM/GAZA: The Palestinians have suspended contacts with the CIA after announcing an end to security coordination with Israel and the United States in protest at Israeli proposals to annex territory in the West Bank, a Palestinian official said on Thursday.

SaebErekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said Washington had been told of the move after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Tuesday his administration was no longer committed to agreements with Israel and the United States, including on security coordination.

On cooperation with the US Central Intelligence Agency, Erekat told reporters in a video call: “It stopped as of the end of the (Palestinian) president’s speech.”

Intelligence cooperation with the CIA continued even after the Palestinians began boycotting US peace efforts led by President Donald Trump in 2017, with the sides working together on heading off violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority is based.

Abbas has threatened before to end security ties, without following through. Israeli officials say he needs Israel’s support in the face of domestic challenges from the Palestinian group Hamas.

But Erekat said: “Things change and we have decided it is time now to change.”

“Security cooperation with the United States is no more. Security coordination with Israel is no more,” said Erekat. “We are going to maintain public order and the rule of law, alone.”

The US embassy in Jerusalem declined to comment.

Later in the day, a senior Palestinian security official told Reuters that Palestinian forces had begun to pull back from some areas of the West Bank that they had policed in coordination with Israel during the coronavirus crisis.

“In light of the president’s instructions about ceasing security coordination, the Israeli side was notified” of the partial withdrawal.

Israeli officials had no immediate comment and it was not clear how widespread the Palestinian forces’ drawback was.

Palestinians worry that Israel, with the blessing of Washington, could carry out pledges to apply Israeli sovereignty to Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley in the West Bank, which they see as annexation.

Full report at:


Israeli military says Iran is slowly pulling out of Syria

May 21, 2020

JERUSALEM: Iran is slowly pulling out of Syria in response to Israeli strikes, as well as growing domestic discontent linked to the economy and its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the Israeli military said Thursday.

Israel and Iran have for years been engaged in a shadow war that has recently been playing out in Syria, where Israel says Iran has been boosting its military presence along the frontier. Amid the chaos of the Syrian civil war, Israel has carried out repeated strikes aimed at pushing back Iranian forces and preventing the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Lebanese militant group that is also fighting in Syria.

The Israeli military described the withdrawal as “a backward movement from various locations to other locations that are further away and in reduced numbers.” It said the movement was ”not massive, not overwhelming,” but that it was also “undeniable.”

The military shared its findings in a briefing with reporters and said they were based on classified intelligence, without elaborating.

The military partly attributed the pullback to growing discontent in Iran, where the economy has cratered under US sanctions and authorities have struggled to contain the deadliest coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East.

In a speech earlier this month, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah described Israeli reports about Syria’s allies abandoning it as “empty” talk and “wishful thinking.”

He acknowledged some movement by Iranian military advisers and a reduction of personnel in some areas, but said that was because fighting there had ended and Syria had “won.” He said Israel is lying when it links those movements to its airstrikes.

Israel and Iran have tangled in the open on a number of occasions in recent years, with the latest incident in November, when Israeli fighter jets hit multiple targets belonging to Iran’s elite Quds force in Syria following rocket fire on the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.

Israel views Iranian entrenchment on its northern frontier as a red line, and it has repeatedly struck Iran-linked facilities and weapons convoys destined for Hezbollah.

Iran portrays its actions in Syria as support for an allied government battling terrorist groups. It says its support for Hezbollah is aimed at defending Lebanon from Israel, which occupied parts of southern Lebanon from 1982 until 2000. It rarely comments on the Israeli strikes.

The Israeli military also said it would be prepared to respond to any Hezbollah attack by striking homes, factories and other civilian infrastructure used by the group. The military said it had no interest in an escalation and believed the same was true for Hezbollah.

Full report at:



Jordan state employees to have shorter working hours after Eid holiday

May 22, 2020

DUBAI: Jordan’s public sector employees are in for a shorter working period from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. after the Eid Al-Fitr holiday, the minister of State for Media Affairs AmjadAdaileh said.

“Our recent decision to impose the comprehensive curfew was “not improvised” but came according to the requirements of the epidemiological situation in the Kingdom,” according to Adaileh, in a report from state news agency Petra.

“We will continue to impose a comprehensive curfew from time to time, which helps to curb the transmission of the virus,” he added.

Adaileh also said that the Kingdom’s third phase of repatriating citizens stranded abroad will start after the Eid holiday, and will include new states.

“We have accomplished two phases so far, during which about 7,000 Jordanians have returned, and they are currently being subjected to precautionary quarantine,” he said.


Libyan Army enters downtown al-Asabaa

Ibrahim Sabahi



The Libyan Army on Thursday entered al-Asabaa downtown after clashes with warlord KhalifaHaftar's militia.

Libya Al-Ahrar TV channel cited unnamed military source as saying the army launched an attack on the remnants of Haftar's militia, who had escaped from the al-Watiya airbase.

On Wednesday, the Libyan army said it was in progress towards liberating the town located 100 kilometers (62 miles) of the capital Tripoli from Haftar's militia.

Local tribes in al-Asabaa announced their support to the Libyan government on the same day.

Libya’s army on Monday retook al-Watiya Airbase, a key facility now back under government control after some six years under putschist forces of warlord KhalifaHaftar.

The move came after the Libyan army destroyed three Russian-made Pantsir type air defense systems used by Haftar’s forces that were also supplied by the UAE.

Libya's government has been under attack by Haftar's forces since April 2019, with more than 1,000 killed in the violence.

Full report at:


'Haftar forces to be legitimate target if attack Turkish interests'



Turkey reiterated Thursday it will respond to putschistsKhalifaHaftar's elements in Libya as a “legitimate target” if they attack Turkey’s interests in the country.

“We remind it once again that in case of targeting Turkish interests in Libya, this will have very heavy consequences and the putschistHaftar elements will be considered as a legitimate target,” HamiAksoy, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said in a written statement.

Aksoy’s statement came after eastern Libya-based renegade Gen. Haftar’s militias said they would target Turkish forces and interests.

“It is noteworthy that the statement, which is referred by a foreign media outlet and said illegitimate militias loyal to Haftar will target Turkish interests with their air elements, is made after new warplanes are deployed in Libya’s east with foreign support,” Aksoy added.

He said the statement mirrors the defeat of Haftar’s forces on the ground, and added it was “the clearest sign” that Haftar and his supporters were trying to escalate the dispute in Libya.

Libyan army recently destroyed many Russian-made Pantsir-type air defense systems supplied to Haftar by the United Arab Emirates. Earlier this week it also recaptured the key Al-Watiya airbase from Haftar militias.

Turkey helps the Libyan government in military training, cooperation and consultancy, according to a Wednesday statement by Turkish National Defense Minister HulusiAkar.

Haftar, who has targeted the government for over a year now, intensified his attacks on civilians in May due to the recent achievements of the Libyan army against the militants.

Full report at:


Libyan army carries out ops against Haftar in Tarhuna




The Libyan Army carried out five air operations against militias loyal to renegade commanderKhalifaHaftar in the past 24 hours, military sources said early Thursday.

Libyan military spokesman Col. Mohamed Qanunu said in a statement that the airstrikes were carried out against Haftar’s militias in the city of Tarhuna, southwest of the capital Tripoli.

Two military vehicles and an ammunition carrier were destroyed and the army carried out observation flights over Tarhuna, it added.

On Wednesday, the Libyan army destroyed a Russian-made Pantsir-type air defense system in Tarhuna.

Tarhuna is a major focal point for supply lines for Haftar’s militias from Al-Jufra Airbase.

Libya’s army on Monday retook Al-Watiya Airbase occupied by Haftar's militias, a key facility now back under government control after some six years under putschist forces.

The move came after the Libyan army destroyed three Russian-made Pantsir type air defense systems used by Haftar’s forces that were supplied by the United Arab Emirates.

Libya's government has been under attack by Haftar's forces since April 2019, with more than 1,000 killed in the violence.

Full report at:


North America 

September 11 convict renounces terrorism, al-Qaeda

20 May 2020

The only man ever convicted in a United States court for a role in the September 11 attacks now says he is renouncing terrorism, al-Qaeda and the ISIL (ISIS) group.

Zacarias Moussaoui is serving a life sentence at a federal prison in Colorado after narrowly escaping the death penalty at his 2006 trial.

He was sometimes referred to as the missing 20th hijacker, and while he was clearly a member of al-Qaeda, there is scant evidence to suggest he was slated to hijack a plane on September 11, 2001. Instead, prosecutors pinned responsibility on Moussaoui because they said he could have prevented the attacks if he had not lied to the FBI about his knowledge of al-Qaeda and its efforts to attack the US when he was arrested in August 2001.

In a handwritten court motion Moussaoui filed with the federal court in Alexandria, Virginia last month, Moussaoui wrote, "I denounce, repudiate Usama bin Laden as a useful idiot of the CIA/Saudi. I also proclaim unequivocally my opposition to any terrorist action, attack, propaganda against the US."

He also said he wants "to warn young Muslim against the deception and the manipulation of these fake jihadis".

His remarks are a far cry from his 2006 trial, when he taunted victims and flashed a victory sign after a jury opted to send him to prison for life rather than execute him. At his final sentencing hearing, he told the judge "God save Osama bin Laden, you will never get him."

Bin Laden was killed in a raid by US forces on a compound in Pakistan in 2011.

Moussaoui made his renunciation in a petition seeking relaxation of the special administrative measures under which he serves his sentence. In particular, he says he wants either Rudy Giuliani or Alan Dershowitz to represent him as a lawyer, so he can testify in a civil trial filed by victims of the September 11 attacks.

Prison documents filed with his motion indicate he received a response of some kind to a letter he wrote to the American Civil Liberties Union but was not allowed to see it because it was marked as privileged legal communication, and he is only allowed to receive the mail if the prison can open and read it.

Moussaoui has a long history of writing letters to the court - indeed he served as his own lawyer for several years leading up to his trial and regularly wrote legal motions referring to himself as "Slave of Allah", a name he continues to use.

He has written numerous letters seeking to testify at a civil trial related to the September 11 attacks, and at the military trials of al-Qaeda members, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. But those requests have not included the explicit renunciation of terrorism that he includes in his most recent letter.

As recently as 2018, he continued to refer to himself as a "natural born terrorist" in court papers. In another handwritten motion that year, he concluded his motion with "God Curse Ugly Satan of Abomination" in huge letters.

Katherine Donahue, an anthropology professor at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, who wrote a book about Moussaoui called "Slave of Allah" after attending his 2006 trial, said she was unaware of any other instance in which Moussaoui had renounced terrorism or bin Laden. She said she expects he is being truthful, even though he admitted at his trial that he lied to the FBI after his arrest.

"He's been there 14 years. It's a long time to think about what you've done," she said. "I don't see him lying ... There were so many ways he could have helped himself before by lying" but he did not.

US District Judge Leonie Brinkema, who presided over Moussaoui's trial and was regularly subjected to Moussaoui's insults in court papers, denied his request and said any grievance he has about the treatment he is receiving in prison should be filed in Colorado where he resides.

"Raising these issues with this Court is an act of futility," Brinkema wrote.

Moussaoui has appealed her denial to the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.


Trump’s vaccine chief has a Moroccan background

Mohamed Bandarsin


US President Donald Trump’s nomination of MoncefSlaoui to head the anti-COVID-19 vaccine program has brought cheers, thousands of miles away in the North African country of Morocco.

Slaoui, 61, a former professor of immunology at the University of Mons, Belgium was born in Agadir, Morocco. Those close to him said that his sister had died from whooping cough, while they were growing up in the African country bordering the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

Since then he never looked back. He has spent his career attacking the under-researched diseases that plague the developing world.

“Salaoui already has a cervical-cancer vaccine and a pneumococcal immunization to his credit, and in 2015 he won European approval for the world’s first malaria vaccine, which could limit the spread of a disease that kills more than half a million people a year,” said the New York-based American multinational business magazine Fortune.

Trump has compared his vaccine initiative called Operation Warp Speed, to the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb in the 1940s.

Holding triple doctorates in molecular biology and immunology from the Free University of Brussels, Harvard Medical School, and Tufts University, Salaoui had previously worked as head of the vaccine department at the of GlaxoSmithKline company.

He has several scientific achievements and patents to his credit such as vaccines to prevent stomach and intestine infections, cervical cancer, malaria, and Ebola.

Morocco-based newspaper AkhbarAlyoum said a blessing in disguise of COVID-19 pandemic was recognizing and the talent of Moroccan-born scientists. The newspaper hoped justice will come to other Moroccan talents as well.

The scientist left Morocco at the bare age of 17 to pursue studies in medicine in France. After graduation, he moved to Belgium for higher studies, where he married his colleague, who is a specialist in neuroscience.

Supervised development of 24 vaccines

After serving a university in Brussels for 27-years, he shifted to the U.S. to teach at the Harvard University in Boston and contribute to the discovery of the many vaccines.

He supervised the development of 24 new vaccines to combat viruses from 2011-2016, which were formally approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

To combat the COVID-19 Slaoui was engaged with several pharmaceutical companies, such as GlaxoSmithKline which is developing a vaccine in collaboration with Sanoficompany.

Appearing on a Moroccan TV channel on April 12, he said there are 800 clinical studies currently being undertaken to develop vaccines that can reduce the infection rate and reproduction of the virus.

He said that it is possible to have a vaccine against the COVID-19 by the end of this year or early 2021.

Slaoui's new position came two weeks after President Trump announced the "Operation Warp Speed" to accelerate the production of a vaccine.

Full report at:




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