New Age Islam News Bureau
18 Aug 2017
Spanish policemen accompany people leaving the cordoned off area at Las Ramblas. Picture: AFP.
• Spain Knew Attack Would Come In Islamist Hotbed Barcelona
• Maulvis Go Into Hiding; Muslim Communities Disown Clerics Caught On Tape
• Mainstream Political Party Brazenly Lays Out Goal for ‘Real Islamic State’ In Pakistan
• Good and Bad News for First Wives of Polygamous Malay Muslims
• Spain Knew Attack Would Come In Islamist Hotbed Barcelona
• Nigel Farage blames EU leaders for continued ISIS terror in Europe
• Religious Minorities Face Persecution in Morocco: US State Department
• Putin condemns Barcelona attack, calls for united front against terror
• Police hunting for Barcelona attacker, foil bombing
• Saudi Arabia, world stand in solidarity with Spain in confronting terrorists
• Maulvis Go Into Hiding; Muslim Communities Disown Clerics Caught On Tape
• A Mushaira for Non-Muslims to Recite Their Urdu Works
• Indian Agencies Preventing Me from Delivering Speeches on Islam: Zakir Naik to Interpol
• Terror funding: Srinagar businessman linked to ISI and PoK ministers
• Terror funding: NIA arrests Geelani aide Zahoor Watali
• 2 terrorists killed during infiltration bid in J&K's Gurez sector
• India welcomes US move to designate Hizbul Mujahideen as foreign terror organisation
• Mainstream Political Party Brazenly Lays Out Goal for ‘Real Islamic State’ In Pakistan
• Will US Sanctions on Hizbul Mujahideen Make Pakistan Reconsider Its ‘Good Taliban’?
• Sharif, sons to skip NAB probe meeting today
• ‘Hard questions apprehended’: Sharifs ‘advised against’ visiting house of boy killed in rally
• Unjustified to term freedom fighters as terrorists: FO
• Educated youth prime target of ISIS: COAS
• Good and Bad News for First Wives of Polygamous Malay Muslims
• International Jesuit Group Learns About Islam in Indonesia
• Isis-Inspired Jihadis Planned Chemical Bomb Attack on Indonesia's Presidential Palace
• Suspected Thai Militants Turn Stolen Cars into Bombs: Police
• US New Crime in Raqqa: 90 Civilians Killed, Wounded
• Tens of Terrorists in Idlib Demand Gov't Amnesty to Return to Damascus
• Ahrar Al-Sham Reshuffles Senior Commanders after Failures in Idlib
• UN Syria envoy hopes for ‘serious’ negotiation between Damascus govt., opposition
• Daesh-held Raqqah worst place in Syria, United Nations says
• Syrian Army Advances 25km in Southern Raqqa
• Army Troops Win Back Several New Points in Central Syria
• US plans decades-long military presence in northern Syria: Militia group
• Iran: Confession of a State Mullah to the Execution of Innocent People
• UAE to Fund $15 Million Monthly To Gaza: Official
• Iran reform leader Mehdi Karroubi on hunger strike over 6-year house arrest
• Saudi Arabia installing cranes at Yemen ports to boost aid delivery
• Yemen army takes control of strategic heights in Saada
• 12,000 fighters in west coast of Yemen to retake Taiz and Hudaydah
• Iran, Turkey agree to boost military cooperation: Official
• UN rights expert outraged at Iran execution of a young man sentenced as a child
• Statement by the Human Rights Commissioner on an imminent execution in Iran
• Iran: Six People Arrested for Training Zumba Dance
• Hezb-e-Islami Warns Of Repercussions If Justice Not Served In Noor and Momand Case
• Bangladesh Grapples With Extremist Threats 12 Years after Nationwide Bombings
• Suicide bomber killed by detonating a Humvee packed with explosives in Helmand
• ISI agent arrested in Kabul while planning attack on Pul-e-Charkhi prison
• Pakistani army informs regarding the arrest of 20 Afghan nationals
• US soldier killed in operations against militants in eastern Afghanistan
• Mali: ICC - Timbuktu Destruction to Cost Islamist Rebel $3.2 Million
• US air strikes kill seven al Shabaab fighters in Somalia: US military
• Nigeria: I'm Ready to Heal Buhari, Like I Healed IBB - Satguru Maharaj Ji
• Gambia: Regional Forum On Interest Free Islamic Banking Held
• American Muslims Show Solidarity in Pushback against Bigotry at Charlottesville
• Trump at Camp David on Friday for Afghanistan talks
• Trump calls for the United States to imitate fake war crimes to fight terrorism
• Vancouver mayor calls for peace ahead of anti-Islam rally and counter protest; MP wants event cancelled
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Spain knew attack would come in Islamist hotbed Barcelona
August 18, 2017
Spain had been spared the carnage suffered recently by its neighbours but anti-terrorism chiefs repeatedly warned that a big Islamist attack was likely. A large and effective security service and better integration of Muslim immigrants have thwarted a string of plots, some of them near execution.
Spain became inured to terrorism in the last four decades of the 20th century when more than 800 people were shot or blown up by Eta, the Basque separatist group. Until yesterday, however, no Islamist attack had taken place on Spanish soil since March 2004 when bombs on four commuter trains in Madrid killed 191 people and wounded more than 1,800.
The co-ordinated assault, carried out by al-Qa'ida, was Europe’s worst terrorist act this century. It jolted Spain into building one of most intensive anti-jihadist policing and intelligence operations on the continent. More than 3,000 officers from the security forces, intelligence services, prosecutors, judges and analysts track potential threats, and 600 more will be recruited by 2020 to focus solely on jihadism.
With Spanish fighters returning from service with Islamic State in the Middle East, the intelligence services are tracking more than 1,000 people. Hundreds of suspects have been detained and dozens convicted in the past five years with the help of informers, spies and data gleaned from social networks.
In May, police arrested two Moroccan men in Madrid who were allegedly plotting an attack with a lorry and bombs. One had applied for a licence to drive the type of lorry used to kill 86 in the French city of Nice on Bastille Day last year. The men were allegedly an online terrorist cell that shared material intended to recruit Isis sympathisers.
In December, police in northern Spain arrested an alleged terrorist who had worked with lorries and was said to be intending to copy the Nice attack. Spain had the second highest number of jihadist arrests in 2015, with 187, Europol, the EU agency, said. France had the most, with 424.
Spain has been cited for years on jihadist websites as a target for historical reasons. Much of its territory was under Muslim rule from 711 to 1492 and its links with Morocco remain strong, with the Spanish cities of Melilla and Ceuta on the Moroccan coast. Last summer, Isis called on militants to attack Spanish tourist haunts including nightclubs, cafes and bars. They were exorted to use explosives, guns and lorries to avenge the “crimes committed by Spain against Muslims”. The Isis message, issued by its media arm, cited the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212, known in Islamic history as the battle of al-Uqab, in which Spanish troops killed 60,000 Muslims.
The Foreign Office warns the 12 million Britons who visit Spain each year that there is a “high threat” of terrorism. The alert has remained at its second highest level since the Paris massacres in November 2015.
Spanish officials have been worried that terrorists would turn to “soft” targets using accessible means such as vehicles or knives because the state had been so effective in thwarting more complex operations. Last November, police arrested a Moroccan living near Madrid who was alleged to be planning a “lone wolf” attack. “The detainee demonstrated an intense fanaticism and an incessant activity on the internet through which he taught himself to commit terrorist acts against the civilian population,” police said.
In May, General Francisco Jose Gan, a former chief of intelligence, said that Spain’s security effort was defending the country. “I do not say Spain is safe. I say it is better prepared because we learnt in a very traumatic way,” he said.
Powers to detain suspects without immediate charges have proved effective. “Preventive arrests have a lot to do with it,” a police chief said last month. “The Muslim community and the level of radicalisation are not the same, xenophobia has not taken hold,” he told El Pais.
Only about 160 Spaniards are estimated to have joined Isis in Iraq and Syria, compared with more than 1,000 from France since 2012.
The terrorist threat is held to be highest in Madrid, Barcelona, Ceuta and Melilla, which are home to most of the Spanish Isis fighters. According to the Pew Research Centre, 2.1 per cent of the Spanish population is Muslim compared to 4.8 per cent in Britain, 5.8 per cent in Germany and 7.5 per cent in France. Better integration was cited by an intelligence analyst as a reason that Spain was free of Islamist attacks for 12 years. “Here we don’t have ghettos as they do in France. The integration of the Muslim population is greater, the radicalisation is not so great,” he said.
Maulvis Go Into Hiding; Muslim Communities Disown Clerics Caught On Tape
August 17, 2017
Pressure mounted on Islamic policymakers to scrap nikah halala formally after India Today's damning investigation exposed shocking exploitation of women wishing to restore their broken marriages under personal laws.
Community elders sought to disown maulvis and scholars caught on tape striking deals to participate in the insidious practice that requires a divorced Muslim woman to sleep with a stranger in order for her to return to her husband.
Villagers at Bulandshahr's Til Gaon expressed anguish over the conduct of a local imam, Zahir-ul-lah of Mewatian Masjid, who had introduced India Today's undercover reporters with an aged man for nikah halala. Many of them agreed the cleric has undermined Islam.
Zahir-ul-lah, according to the villagers, went into hiding after India Today broadcast its investigation on Wednesday. Greed, they alleged, had probably driven the imam to broker nikah-halala deals.
His wife Afroza also disagreed with her husband's advocacy of nikah halala, but denied knowing he officiated one-night stands as an imam.
Zahir-ul-lah, who appeared Thursday, claimed innocence. "I didn't know they were reporters. I never said I would broker nikah halala," he insisted. "I was only explaining the process of nikah halala."
CAUGHT MARKETING NIKAH HALALA SERVICES
At Sikheda village in western UP's Hapur district, Mohammed Zahid also went underground after India Today showed him marketing his services for nikah halala.
"We'll see to it. We have the men. It will be done through them. If you don't trust them, I am always available for it," Zahid was heard promising to the undercover reporters. He quoted a bill of Rs 1 lakh-Rs 1.5 lakh for participating in a temporary marriage for sex.
According to his wife, Hasina, Zahid had left home at 5 am on Thursday. Hasina claimed she never heard her husband took part in nikah halala before.
Mohammad Mustaquim was not found at his Darul Uloom Mahmoodia Madrasa in Delhi on Thursday. Educated in Islamic studies, Mustaquim had been caught on camera willing to do what he had done several times before -- sleeping with divorced women to consummate nikah halala.
In his comments, Zubair Qasmi, a Delhi-based maulana married with two wives, flatly denied demanding money for sex as part of nikah halala.
MAULANA'S UNABASHED CLAIMS
"I spend many nights out. It's much easier to manage this with two (wives). One would think I am with the second. And the second would think I am with the other. It's not at all difficult with two (wives)," he bragged in India Today's investigative report.
Meantime, P.P. Chaudhary, union minister of state for law and justice, said any custom that violates gender equality and fundamental rights is itself violative of the constitution.
In her remarks, Manipur governor Najma Heptulla described nikah halala as unIslamic.
Noorjehan Safia Niaz, founder of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, underscored the need for the community to raise its voice against nikah halala. She also called for legal measures to abolish the practice.
Mainstream political party brazenly lays out goal for ‘real Islamic state’ in Pakistan
August 17, 2017
LAHORE, Pakistan — In a sign of how such groups are securing a hold in civil society, a group accused of terrorism is fielding a new mainstream party with the explicit aim to make Pakistan a “real Islamic state.”
Leaders of the Milli Muslim League aren’t even bothering to soften their platform to attract mainstream voters. As party organizers marked the country’s 70th Independence Day on Monday with public rallies in major cities, they essentially declared war on Pakistan’s liberals.
“We declare our [platform] to be for the change in the ideology of Pakistan,” Saifullah Khalid, Milli Muslim League president, said at a party launch event in Islamabad last week. “We plan to make Pakistan a real Islamic state. [Because of] a nefarious plan, the country has been put on the road to secularism and liberalism.”
The league is widely viewed as a front for the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, an aid foundation that was once affiliated with the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people. The U.S. government declared the group a terrorist organization in 2010, and American officials have offered a $10 million bounty for group founder Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, who is believed to now be living under house arrest inside Pakistan.
Mr. Khalid made it clear that Saeed’s status as an identified terrorist would be no bar to a top job in the party.
“What role he will play in the Milli Muslim League or in Pakistan’s ongoing politics will be seen after Allah ensures his release,” Mr. Khalid told reporters in Pakistan this week. Once he is released, “we will meet him and ask him what role he would like to play. He is the leader of Pakistan.”
The party’s public event illustrates Pakistan’s deeply ambivalent attitude about terrorism, observers said. Those suspected of terrorism or terrorist links roam freely throughout the country, address public gatherings and appear in television interviews, where they plead their innocence to the public.
“Pakistan has today, unfortunately, become a country where the killer of slain Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer, murdered over alleged blasphemy, has a mausoleum; global terrorist Hafiz Saeed is free to preach; and terrorists [such as] Taliban former spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan or [suicide bomber] Noreen Laghari are forgiven,” said Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States.
The party’s emergence has raised alarm in India, Pakistan’s longtime South Asian rival.
Gopal Baglay, a spokesman for India’s External Affairs Ministry, asked, “The person who traded in bullets to take lives, is he trying to hide behind the ballot?”
Pakistan’s political landscape is already unstable. Nawaz Sharif was recently forced to step down as prime minister because of corruption charges stemming from the Panama Papers revelations. Sympathy toward terrorist groups only adds more volatility to the mix, Mr. Haqqani said.
“Pakistan mainstreams terrorists,” he said. “Almost every global terror group and terrorist has a link to Pakistan, from al Qaeda to ISIS. This is a function of a state policy which defines Pakistan’s identity in Islamic terms, glorifies jihad and sanctions terrorism.”
On the day before Easter this year, police arrested a female Islamic State recruit named Noreen Laghari shortly before she planned to blow herself up in a Christian church.
The 19-year-old medical student at the Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences in the southern province of Sindh had been missing since she joined the Islamic State in February. Via Facebook, she told her worried parents that she was in “Syria to get training for jihad” and that they should stop searching for her.
“I used to see Facebook pages and Instagram posts preaching jihad, and I was intrigued,” Ms. Laghari told the 92 News TV channel recently. “People of banned organizations approached me and told me to come to Lahore first. The online learning videos they asked me to watch were about jihad.”
One of Ms. Laghari’s university classmates, Qainat Somoro, was not surprised. She said she is one of the few among her peers who don’t harbor jihadi dreams.
“Noreen always had extremist views. I wasn’t surprised when I heard that she had joined Daesh,” said Ms. Somoro, using the pejorative Arabic term for the Islamic State. “She was interested in joining the Islamic caliphate and was often vocal about it. I don’t want her to come back.”
Back in extremist circles
Still, authorities released Ms. Laghari a month after they apprehended her. She has since become a familiar presence in extremist circles.
“Every pious Muslim wants to do jihad, and it was unfortunate that Noreen fell in the wrong hands,” said Muhammad Saeed, a student from Sindh, referring to the military. “Yes, she is my hero.”
Since Ms. Laghari confessed to her plans, the military appears to have forgiven her. Army officials said she wasn’t technically guilty because she was caught before she could detonate a suicide bomb.
“We saved her in time from becoming a terrorist,” said Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, director general of the army’s public relations office. “If Noreen Laghari was my daughter or your daughter, would we not save her?”
Human rights activist Pervez Hoodbhoy said Ms. Laghari’s case exposed how Pakistani officials defined national security too narrowly.
“It would have been different if Noreen Laghari had said she had been recruited by [the Indian intelligence service]. In that case, no punishment would have been too severe,” said Mr. Hoodbhoy, a physics professor at Forman Christian College in Islamabad. “But with Islamic State it was a case of ‘friendly fire.’ A crime, or intent to commit a crime, is pardonable if it was done using the name of religion.”
Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan surrendered to Pakistan’s security agencies in April. He was wanted on suspicion of being part of a terrorist organization.
Pakistani security officials have said all terrorists face punishment. But since his “confessional statement,” as the military calls it, the government has been silent about Mr. Ehsan, who has been part of several terrorist attacks in Pakistan, including the shooting of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai in 2012 and the 2014 Peshawar school killing of 141 people.
Meanwhile, the Islamabad High Court gave Ms. Laghari and Mr. Ehsan permission to give television interviews to profess regret to mass audiences. They also have appeared on other talk shows and similar broadcasts.
Sindh police fear Ms. Laghari might have accomplices. She was among several young women in her medical school who attended private Quranic lessons, police said.
That’s not unusual: Plenty of teachers and students on Pakistani campuses hail those who fall in with terrorist groups as heroes.
“Jihad is compulsory for every Muslim, and I don’t think there is anything to feel ashamed of,” said Muhammad Ali, a teacher at Mehran University of Engineering and Technology in Sindh.
“Osama bin Laden wasn’t a terrorist for me,” he said. “He was striving to achieve an Islamic caliphate. Similarly, Noreen and [convicted Pakistani terrorist] Aafia Siddiqui, they are daughters of the nation. We should be proud of them.”
Good and Bad News for First Wives of Polygamous Malay Muslims
BY SHARANPAL SINGH RANDHAWA
18 August 2017
ALOR SETAR: The state will inform first wives if their Muslim husbands marry again out of the country, but their consent or approval will not be needed for those marriages to be legalised.
This is part of the state’s legalisation programme for Kedah Muslim men who tied the knot in Thailand or other countries and did not register their union on returning.
The programme, expected to start next month, will see such marriages legalised, even if the men are already married here.
The state is also working on reducing the fine for failing to register the marriages to between RM300 and RM400, compared with RM3, 000 currently, said state Religious Affairs Committee chairman Datuk Mohd Rawi Abdul Hamid (pic).
He said the move was to solve problems and not to promote illicit marriages.
“For their children, they will have problems with education, rights to public healthcare and citizenship.
“The spouses themselves will face difficulties especially making any claims when one of them dies or when they divorce,” he told the state assembly here yesterday.
Mohd Rawi said this programme was similar to Selangor’s ‘Jom Daftar Nikah’ programme.
Launched between Aug 1 and Nov 1 last year, the Selangor programme saw 1,938 illegal marriages solemnised by the state.
It was reported that the Selangor Islamic Religious Department found cases of couples not legalising their marriages until they became grandparents.
Mohd Rawi stressed that Kedah’s objective was to protect the future of the subsequent wives and children.
He said emphasis would be given to couples with children who have not registered their marriages.
“We want them to have valid marriage certificates so that their children will not become victims and be denied citizenship,” he said in reply to Md Zuki Yusof (PAS- Kuala Ketil) about measures taken to help Muslim families who failed to register their marriages.
Mohd Rawi added that a booklet to create public awareness on the necessity of registering marriages had been published and distributed.
The booklet also educates married couples on the complexities they face when their marriages are not solemnised in Malaysia.
“We have discussed this with several departments including the state Islamic Religious Affairs Department and the Syariah courts.
“We have also met with state Women Development and State Welfare Committee chairman Datuk Suraya Yaacob,” he said.
Nigel Farage blames EU leaders for continued ISIS terror in Europe
August 17, 2017
Former U.K. Independence Party leader and Brexit advocate Nigel Farage told Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Thursday that the Islamic State continues its terror attacks in Europe because leaders take no action and do little more than stand in solidarity.
“And not once do we ever hear a single leader in Europe offer any policy solutions whatsoever,” he told Tucker Carlson. “They are still in denial because they are so embarrassed by the fact that they have caused this.”
A van rammed into a crowd in Barcelona on Thursday, killing at least 13 people and injuring more than 100 others. ISIS claimed responsibility for the terror attack on Thursday through its propaganda arm, according to the SITE Intel Group.
The Thursday attack came after a string of incidents in Europe where vehicles were used as weapons. In the last year, Paris, London, Stockholm, Berlin, and Nice have faced terror attacks by vehicles.
“There is a direct link and relationship between the number of people you let in from different religions and different cultures and the number of terror attacks,” Farage said.
He said the ISIS terror attacks have not occurred in Central and Eastern Europe because countries such as Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia refuse to indulge European Union quotas of migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean.
The countries from this region of Europe who have lived under Nazism and Communism within living memory, he said, won’t buckle under the pressure to allow “Islamic migration.”
Farage also noted that Brexit was about protection and safety: not about being anti-Islam but rather leaving the EU and controlling immigration.
“We actually want to control our borders, not because we dislike anybody, but because we believe firstly in sensible border controls,” he said.
Noting he believes the European project is falling apart, and that it’s a continent of various diverse peoples and not the United States of Europe — he also simultaneously doesn’t understand what’s happening across the pond.
“What’s happening in America is that amazes me,” Farage said. “There’s a large section of America that is much more concerned with tearing down historical statues that date back to the Civil War than recognizing who the real enemy of the West is!”
Religious Minorities Face Persecution in Morocco: US State Department
By Chaima Lahsini
August 17, 2017
More than 99% of Moroccans are Sunni
Sunni Muslims are the majority in Morocco. The US government estimates that 99 percent of the Moroccan population follows the Sunni doctrine, while the rest of the beliefs represent less than 1 percent. This minority includes Christians, Jews, Shia, and Baha’i Muslims, the latter being a messianic sub-current of Shi’ism.
According to the Jewish community leaders cited by the study, there are about 3,000 to 4,000 Jews in Morocco, about 2,500 of whom live in Casablanca. Moroccan Christian leaders estimate that there are between 2,000 and 6,000 Moroccan Christians spread throughout the country, although some say it could be up to 50,000.
Shia Muslim leaders estimate that there are tens of thousands of faithful in Morocco, the majority of whom are settled in northern Morocco. Shia foreign nationals come mainly from Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. Finally, the Baha’i community is thought to have between 350 and 600 members across the country.
Repressions of Religious Minorities
“Some local Christians reported authorities pressured Moroccan Christian converts to renounce their faith.” This is one of the serious accusations contained in the US State Department’s report on the situation of religious freedoms in the world in 2016.
The report speaks mainly of Moroccans who have a different religion from the state: Christians, Jews, Shiite Muslims, Baha’is, and other religious groups.
While the 2011 Constitution guarantees freedom of worship, several religious minorities remain persecuted by society but also by the penal code in Morocco, a contradiction that the US State Department refers to on numerous occasion in its latest report. “Fear of government harassment and reported societal, familial, and cultural pressure led some local Christians, Bahais, and Shia to refrain from public worship and instead meet discreetly in members’ homes,” stresses the report published August 15.
“According to human rights organizations and local Christian leaders, the government occasionally detained and questioned Moroccan Christians about their beliefs and contacts with other Christian,” notes the DRL, which states that some Moroccan Christians have been “forced to abandon their faith.”
During the arrest of a Moroccan Christian living in Salé, the police accused him of “apostasy” and wanted to “reconvert him to Islam,” says the report quoting the National Federation of Amazigh Associations (FNAA). The complaint lodged with the Ministry of Justice by the applicant in March 2016 was not followed by the initiation of an investigation, states the report.
Christians are not the only religious minority persecuted in Morocco, the report adds, as “several non-Muslims were arrested and imprisoned for eating or smoking in public during Ramadan.”
A Moroccan Shia leader, Abdou El Chakrani, is also cited in the report. Arrested in 2016 for “alleged financial improprieties,” El Chakrani “was targeted for his religious beliefs and his attempt to register an association affiliated with known Shia leaders,” according to Shiite officials quoted by the DRL.
A confusing legal framework
The US State Department point out several laws that undermine freedom of belief. Among them, “the fact that Sunni Islam and Judaism are the only religions recognized by the State for native Moroccans,” “the prohibition of criticizing Islam on public platforms,” “the criminalization of the rupture of the fasting during Ramadan for the people known to be Muslim,” or the specifications of the HACA which obliges Moroccan televisions and radios to dedicate 5 percent of their programming to Islamic content.
Although the Moroccan Constitution guarantees freedom of thought, expression and assembly, Morocco is a sovereign Muslim state and Islam is the official religion. Thus, according to the report, the Constitution states that “the king holds the Islamic title of commander of the faithful, is the protector of Islam and is the guarantor of freedom of worship in the country.”
The Constitution cites international conventions and insists on respect for universal principles of human rights. It stipulates, however, that this respect for international conventions must be “in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, the constants and the laws of the Kingdom.”
Criminal law prohibits any attempt by non-Muslims to “shake the faith” of Sunni Muslims and punishes any Muslim who has converted to another religion with six months to three years’ imprisonment and a fine of MAD 200 to 500.
Moreover, according to the Moroccan legislation in force, freedom of conscience can only be combined in one sense: the conversion of Christians or Jews to Islam. The opposite is rejected legally and condemned socially.
The outlook for societal acceptance of religious minorities is not getting any brighter, according to the State Department. The US report recalls the collective attacks in June 2016 against a man in Marrakech and another in Rabat for having smoked cigarettes during Ramadan. Moroccan Christians have also denounced pressure from their relatives and friends to convert to Islam or renounce their Christian faith.
Full report at:
Putin condemns Barcelona attack, calls for united front against terror
Aug 17, 2017
Russian President Vladimir Putin has condemned a recent terror attack in Barcelona, Spain, calling on the international community to “join forces” against terrorism.
"We strongly condemn this brutal and cynical crime against civilians," Putin said Thursday, shortly after an alleged Daesh sympathizer smashed his van into pedestrians in Barcelona’s busy Las Ramblas Street, killing at least 13 and injuring some 80 others.
"What has happened once again emphasizes the need for the global community to join efforts to fight against the forces of terror," the Russian head of state added.
Putin expressed sympathy and support to the families and friends of the victims and wished a speedy recovery for the injured.
Echoing Putin, Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev also condemned the attack, calling it a “heinous crime.”
"I am confident that we can conquer international terrorism only through joint efforts of the whole global community," he wrote.
Spanish police said they had arrested two people and were treating the attack as an act of terrorism.
Full report at:
Police hunting for Barcelona attacker, foil bombing
Aug 18, 2017
Police in Spain have launched a massive search operation to find an assailant who killed at least 13 people by ramming a van into a crowd in central Barcelona, and have thwarted at least two other attacks, including a bombing plot.
The deadly van incident happened along Las Ramblas, a street in central Barcelona popular with tourists and locals alike, on Thursday afternoon, when it was packed with tourists taking an afternoon walk.
More than 100 people were injured, and authorities have said the death toll could rise.
Foreign nationals were among the dead.
The driver was seen escaping on foot, and security forces are involved in a large-scale operation to find him.
The Takfiri Daesh terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Police have already arrested two men — a Spanish from Spain’s North African enclave of Melilla, and a Moroccan — in connection with the van attack but neither was the driver.
The men were arrested in the towns of Ripoll and Alcanar, both in the region of Catalonia, of which Barcelona is the capital.
Driss Oukabir, a 28-year-old of Moroccan origin, was suspected of having rented the van used in the assault. Spanish reports later said he had handed himself in to police after reporting his documents had been stolen, possibly by his brother.
Another car ramming in Barcelona
Police said they also shot dead on Thursday a man who had driven a car into a police checkpoint in Barcelona, though they had no evidence that he had been connected with the van attack.
Attack in Cambrils
Meanwhile, in the early hours of Friday morning, in the town of Cambrils, 100 kilometers away from Barcelona, seven people were injured when “alleged terrorists” drove into pedestrians before being shot dead by security forces.
Two of the pedestrians injured in the attack were said to be in critical condition.
“The alleged terrorists were in an Audi A3 and apparently knocked down several people before coming across a police patrol and a shoot-out ensued,” said a spokesman for the regional government of Catalonia, where Cambrils is located, in Spain’s northeast. The five attackers, who were wearing explosive vests, were then shot dead, police said. The bomb vests were detonated by the force’s bomb squad.
Police said the situation in Cambrils was now under control.
Blasts in Alcanar
Separately, two explosions occurred at a house in the town of Alcanar, 130 km south of Barcelona, in the early hours of Thursday.
Police said the residents had been preparing explosives when the blasts took place.
At least one person died and more than 16 were injured in what was initially thought to be a gas explosion.
A string of Daesh attacks similarly carried out by plowing a car into crowds in European cities in the past months has killed well over 100 people — in Nice, Berlin, London, and Stockholm.
Full report at:
Saudi Arabia, world stand in solidarity with Spain in confronting terrorists
18 August 2017
JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia denounced in the strongest term the terrorist attack in Barcelona, Spain that killed at least 13 people and injured dozens more.
“Saudi Arabia offers its sincerest condolences to the families of the victims and to the Spanish government,” said a statement released by a source at the Saudi Foreign Ministry.
The statement said the Kingdom “stands in solidarity with Spain against all form of terrorism and extremism” and called on the international community to rally all efforts to eradicate this epidemic from its roots.
The Spanish royal family issued an unusually strongly worded statement: They are assassins, criminals who won’t terrorize us. All of Spain is Barcelona.
FC Barcelona said it was “deeply saddened” by the tragedy and the team’s talismanic striker Lionel Messi said separately that people must reject “any act of violence.”
“There are many more of us who want to live in a world in peace, without hate and where respect and tolerance are the basis of coexistence,” he added.
World leaders also denounced the terrorist attack, with US President Donald Trump saying this country stood ready to help Spanish authorities.
“The United States condemns the terror attack in Barcelona, Spain, and will do whatever is necessary to help,” Trump tweeted.
France’s President Emmanuel Macron — whose country witnessed a similar horror when a Tunisian man plowed a 19-ton truck through a crowded boulevard in Nice, killing 86 people in July 2016 — said his thoughts were with the victims of the “tragic attack.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin called for the world to unite in an “uncompromising battle against the forces of terror” after a deadly van attack in Barcelona, the Kremlin said.
“We decisively condemn this cruel and cynical crime against civilians,” Putin wrote in a telegram of condolences to Spanish King Felipe VI.
“What happened once again confirms the need for a genuine unification of efforts by the entire world community in an uncompromising battle with the forces of terror,” Putin said.
In a statement, the office of German Chancellor Angela Merkel said they were thinking of the victims of the “revolting attack” with “profound sadness.”
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “I send my deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims, as well as to Prime Minister Rajoy and the people of Spain. My thoughts are with the people of Barcelona.”
President Emmanuel Macron voiced “France’s solidarity” with Spanish citizens following what he called “a tragic attack.”
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said: “Parisians are at your side. Barcelona and Paris are cities that share love and tolerance. Our values are much stronger than this heinous and cowardly act of terrorism.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May tweeted: “My thoughts are with the victims of today’s terrible attack in Barcelona ... and the emergency services responding to this ongoing incident. The UK stands with Spain against terror.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan called the attack “barbaric,” adding: “London stands with Barcelona against the evil of terrorism.”
It was a “cowardly attack against innocent people,” Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in a statement on his Facebook page, calling it a “black day at a place where many people around the world gathered.”
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey strongly condemned the “henious terrorist attack.”
Pope Francis’s spokesman said in a statement: “The Pope prays for the victims of this attack and wishes to express his closeness to all the Spanish people, especially the wounded and families of the victims.”
Full report at:
A mushaira for non-Muslims to recite their Urdu works
by ZEESHAN SHAIKH
August 18, 2017
Residents of Bhiwandi have taken a step to celebrate India’s composite literary tradition, where Hindu writers have enriched the Urdu language.
The “Bazm-E-Yaaraan-E-Adab” (gathering of lovers of literature), a social organisation floated by late Bhiwandi corporator Balkrishna Mukund Mali, is set to hold a mushaira on Sunday, in which only non-Muslim Urdu writers will recite their compositions.
“There is a growing perception these days that Urdu is a language of Muslims alone and is alien to India. The reality is that non-Muslims have played a big role in making Urdu literature what it is today. Munshi Chandarbhan Brahaman, who served in the court of Shah Jahan, was among the foremost Urdu writers. The first publisher who provided great service to Urdu was Munshi Nawal Kishore, who also came up with the first Persian-to-Urdu dictionary,” Abdul Jaleel Ansari, the general secretary of the Bazm-E-Yaaraan-E-Adab, said.
Ansari says the plan to hold a mushaira of only non-Muslim writers came in response to a social climate that negates the idea of Indians sharing a composite culture.
“One of our close friends, Sandeep Gupte, posts an Urdu couplet on his social media account every day. In the comments that follow, it is mostly non-Muslims discussing the intricacies of Urdu. Their love for the language is very evident, and we felt the need to showcase to the world the contribution of these people in enriching Urdu,” Ansari said.
As part of the programme, the organisers have invited 16 non-Muslim Urdu poets from in and around Mumbai to read out their works.
The group has also sent out invites to non-Muslim guests to attend the function.
“The function is open to all. However, we have deliberately sent out special invites to our non-Muslim friends. s is our belief that sitting together and witnessing the beauty of a composite language and culture, created by the efforts of both Hindus and Muslims, will be our little step towards making the society a better place,” Ansari said.
He pointed out that the Bazm-E-Yaaraan-E-Adab too was founded by a Hindu.
“It was Mali’s idea to float this organisation. He understood the power of literature and arts in bringing people together. Till 1995 — when he passed away — Mali was the leading light in holding mushairas in Bhiwandi,” Ansari said.
Once known for being communally sensitive, Bhiwandi, a textile town located 50 km from Mumbai, houses 10 lakh powerlooms that process nearly a third of the cloth that the country wears.
Its warehouses spread over seven crore square feet, the highest in Asia, pack and deliver goods ordered on e-commerce websites across India.
Indian agencies preventing me from delivering speeches on Islam: Zakir Naik to Interpol
August 18, 2017
Kamaljit Kaur Sandhu
Controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik whose passport was revoked earlier in July, has contested NIA's (National Investigation Agency) request to Interpol for a red-corner notice. Naik has alleged that the case against him is linked to "religious persecution of minorities in India".
In his plea to Interpol, Naik has submitted that he had been delivering speeches on Islam for the past 25 years across several countries, where he was respected and welcomed.
He has alleged that Indian agencies, by banning his NGO Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) and preventing him from delivering speeches on Islam, were violating his freedom of expression.
Naik also cited the "poor condition of Indian prisons" and "human rights violations" there to back his plea.
Naik's plea comes after the National Investigative Agency (NIA) wrote to Interpol and Central Bureau of Investigation ( CBI) in May for issuing a red corner notice against him.
Naik is being probed by the NIA for alleged terrorism and money laundering. He fled India on July 1, 2016, after one of the terrorists involved in the Dhaka cafe attack said he was "inspired by Naik's speeches on waging jihad".
The controversial Islamic preacher has been declared a proclaimed offender, and the process to attach his assets has been initiated, the National Investigation Agency said in July. The government also revoked the passport of the Islamic preacher following a request from NIA the same month.
Full report at:
Terror funding: Srinagar businessman linked to ISI and POK ministers
Aug 18, 2017
NEW DELHI: Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali, a prominent Srinagar-based businessman, is believed to be at the centre of a widespread network of subversive Kashmiri elements in contact with Pakistan-based persons of Indian origin and has been in regular touch with serving and retired personnel of Pakistan Army and ISI.
According to sources in the Intelligence Bureau, Watali, who heads the Trison Group of companies, allegedly uses his business to channel ISI funds to India for separatist activities. He is believed to have developed entrenched connections with ISI since his days as driver of late Hurriyat leader Abdul Ghani Lone. Some of the key Pakistan military personnel he has been in touch with were identified as Brigadier Mir Hafiz Sohail of ISI, Brigadier (Retd) Javeed Aziz Kahn (ex-ISI) and Major General (Retd) Rashid Qureshi.
His links to politicians across the border are also well documented. He is in direct or frequent contact with former PoK chief minister Sardar Ateaq Khan, Barrister Sultan Mehmood Chaudhary and Federation of Pakistan's Chambers of Commerce and Industry vice-president Haji Tariq Shafi. In fact, he had invited Ateaq Khan, Chaudhary and Shafi to his son Yasin Ahmed Watali's wedding in Srinagar in September 2011.
Watali is not new to controversy. He was first arrested in August 1990 for habouring militants in Kashmir. After his release in April/May 1991, he was apprehended yet again in August 1994 for connections with financing of militant outfit Al Burq by Pakistan's ISI. In 2005, there were indications that Watali had been acting as conduit for the clandestine flow of large amounts of money from ISI to various separatists bodies in J&K and for the rebuilding of Charar-e-Sharief mosque.
A detailed investigation into his bank accounts with RAK Bank, UAE (two accounts) and J&K Bank, Air Cargo branch, Srinagar in the past had revealed large inward remittances. One remittance that came under the scanner was for $31,250 made on October 21, 2011, soon after Watali's visit to Dubai during October 25-29, 2011. There were large remittances of money worth lakhs into Watali's account in RAK Bank between May and October 2011, the source of which remains unknown. Despite these large inflows, Zahoor filed a Rs 13.36 lakh income for financial year 2009-10 and paid just Rs 1.12 lakh as tax.
Watali owns a large number of properties not only in Jammu & Kashmir but also at expensive locations in Delhi such as Greater Kailash, Sainik Farms, Chittaranjan Park, DLF Gurgaon and Kalkaji, as well as in London. NIA sources said they found notings during the recent raid, pointing to the large cash component paid to acquire some of these properties.
Full report at:
Terror funding: NIA arrests Geelani aide Zahoor Watali
Aug 18, 2017
NEW DELHI: The National Investigation Agency on Thursday arrested a millionaire businessman from Srinagar - Zahoor Ahmad Watali for allegedly facilitating the funding of "terrorists" and "separatists" in Jammu and Kashmir for anti-India operations.
Sources say Watali played a key role in receiving the funds received from Pakistan and then forwarding the same to the separatists and even kept account books for the same.
Watali, a prominent businessman from Kashmir valley who has links with politicians and separatists, was being questioned by NIA sleuths in Delhi before he was put under arrest for terror charges.
A statement by NIA stated, "Watali's arrest follows the searches conducted by the NIA on Wednesday at multiple locations in Srinagar, Handwara, Kupwara and Baramulla belonging to his relatives and employees. The searches have unearthed highly incriminating material pertaining to receipt of funds by Zahoor Watali from foreign sources and its further distribution to the terrorists and separatists in Kashmir valley for anti-India activities."
Watali's residence in Srinagar was first searched by NIA on June 3 during which it had recovered several financial documents related to terror funding apart from land deals handled by him.
NIA said that Zahoor Watali is suspected of acting as a "conduit" for illegally remitting funds to the secessionists, terrorists and stone-pelters.
He was earlier arrested in 1990 by Jammu and Kashmir police, when some anti-national activists were found present in his house at Bagat Barzulla, Srinagar. He was taken into custody along with Yaseen Malik, Sajjad Gani Lone, Bilal Lone and others and was jailed for eight months at Jammu.
In 2009, Watali was accused of illegal encroachment of a land and assault, and a case was registered against him at Parimpora police station in Srinagar.
The NIA statement said that Watali was also accused of travelling on a cancelled/invalid passport despite having full knowledge of its being invalid/cancelled.
Full report at:
2 terrorists killed during infiltration bid in J&K's Gurez sector
Aug 17, 2017
NEW DELHI: Two terrorists were killed as the Army foiled an infiltration bid in Gurez sector in Jammu and Kashmir's Bandipora district on Thursday, Police said.
"Army had launched a massive search operation yesterday evening at Dhurmut forest area at Kundalwan in Gurez after noticing suspicious movement when they were on routine patrol of the forests," a senior police official said, adding, "Two terrorists were shot down today in the ensuing gunfight."
Yesterday, top Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorist Ayub Lelhari was gunned down in an encounter with security forces in Banderpora village of Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama.
Full report at:
India welcomes US move to designate Hizbul Mujahideen as foreign terror organisation
August 17, 2017
India on Thursday welcomed the US decision to designate Kashmiri militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen as a “foreign terrorist organisation”, saying the move was “long overdue”. The US on Wednesday designated the Hizbul Mujahideen as a foreign terrorist group, nearly two months after declaring its Pakistan-based chief Syed Salahuddin as a global terrorist. The decision to designate Hizbul Mujahideen as a foreign terrorist organisation was long overdue, a Home Ministry spokesperson said, adding “it is well deserved”.
The decision, which slaps a series of US sanctions on the outfit, came against the backdrop of an upsurge in the activities of the militant group in Kashmir in recent months. Among other consequences, all of Hizbul Mujahideen’s property and interests in property subject to US jurisdiction are blocked, and US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with the group.
The US decision marks a severe blow to Pakistan which has been projecting the militant group as a voice of Kashmiri people. Formed in 1989, Hizbul Mujahideen is one of the largest and oldest militant groups operating in Kashmir. It has claimed responsibility for several attacks in Jammu and Kashmir.
Full report at:
Will US Sanctions on Hizbul Mujahideen Make Pakistan Reconsider Its ‘Good Taliban’?
By Kunwar Khuldune Shahid
August 18, 2017
The United States on Wednesday confirmed sanctions on Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) as a “foreign terrorist organization,” around three months after the Kashmir-based militant group’s leader Syed Salahuddin had been blacklisted by the State Department. And just like the decision in June, the Pakistani Foreign Office has condemned the U.S. action as being “detrimental to Kashmir’s freedom struggle.”
The U.S. upping the ante on Pakistan-based militant groups was expected following the election of President Donald Trump last year. And the United States’ tilt towards India has been increasingly visible since Trump’s address to the Riyadh Arab Islamic American summit in May, where he singled out India as a victim of terrorism in South Asia, despite the overwhelming Muslim presence at the summit, including Pakistan.
The Riyadh summit was immediately followed by the killing of HM commander Sabzar Bhatt, which resulted in a leadership crisis for the group that has culminated in Mohammed bin Qasim being ushered to the helm, after Yasin Yatoo’s death in an encounter and Zakir Musa’s defection into an al-Qaeda affiliated cell.
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The writing, however, had been on the wall for Pakistan to cut ties with Hizb, not merely to forestall any sanctions on Islamabad over shielding Kashmir-bound militant groups, but also to help the Kashmiris’ fight for autonomy by ridding it of the jihadist label.
But as Washington continues to back the Indian stance in Kashmir, by blacklisting jihadist militancy in the valley as terrorism, the Pakistani Election Commission has been sanctioning yet another reincarnation of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) – a Kashmir-bound group banned in, among other countries, Pakistan itself.
The Milli Muslim League (MML) is a very conspicuous political endeavor of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), an already proscribed offshoot of the LeT, with the founder of all the affiliates Hafiz Saeed – the alleged Mumbai Attacks mastermind – also placed under house arrest in Pakistan since early this year.
To comprehend the backing that MML enjoys, one only needs to look into the timing of its birth and the loudly proclaimed ambitions. The MML plans to thwart the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) bid to regain the NA-120 constituency in Lahore – the seat vacated by ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
With Sharif removed, the security establishment is throwing its assets in the political arena to rub salt into the wounds, a little less than a year after the ruling PML-N’s confrontation with Army leadership over Hafiz Saeed had resulted in a national civil-military crisis following the leak of the story.
Hafiz Saeed’s LeT umbrella is a part of the jihadist conglomerate United Jihad Council (UJC), a group of Kashmir-centric militant organizations spearheaded by HM and led by Syed Salahuddin. With Hafiz Saeed’s MML mainstreamed, and the Foreign Office lip-synching to condemnations over U.S. sanctions, it is evident that jihadist groups abusing the Kashmir cause — the summit of the “good Taliban” logic – will continue to enjoy the establishment’s backing despite global sanctions.
It is hard to believe that this fixation with jihadism as foreign and security policy is a product of the military leadership still believing that it’s the best bet for securing their interests in the region, considering over half a century of failures, that have alienated both Afghanistan and Iran, along with damaging the Kashmiri freedom fight as well.
A more likely explanation is of a case of unflinching adherence to Islamist policymaking, with an eye still on facilitating the Taliban in Kabul, in a bid to ideologically and geostrategically unite the Middle East with Central and South Asia, which has been Islamabad’s quest since the 1970s.
But this self-contradicting ideological unity, based on a network of jihad, will soon face a rude awakening in the shape of Chinese influence on decision-making in Pakistan, especially since Beijing has already called out Islamabad over the jihadist spillover that has overlapped with the Uyghur militants leading the East Turkestan separatist movement.
Even so, Islamabad shouldn’t need Washington, or Beijing, to pull it back from continuing with a policy that directly resulted in deaths of over 80,000 citizens — if nothing else, the survival instinct inherent to any organism should’ve pushed Pakistan away from armed jihad.
It is bona fide insanity that foreign sanctions on groups that have harmed Pakistan and Kashmir, more than anything they might’ve done to India, continue to garner indifference, nay resistance, from Islamabad.
Sharif, sons to skip NAB probe meeting today
August 18, 2017
LAHORE: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his two sons will not appear before the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) Lahore office today (Friday) to join investigation into the Al-Azizia Steel Mills case, say Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) insiders.
According to them, Mr Sharif — after discussing the matter with close aides and his legal team — has decided to not join the NAB investigations till the Supreme Court decides his review petition against the apex court’s July 28 verdict to disqualify him from office.
In a statement issued here late on Thursday night, ruling PML-N Senator Asif Kirmani said neither Nawaz Sharif nor his sons would appear before NAB in Lahore on Friday. They had not received any summons from NAB, he added.
Earlier this week, Mr Sharif had filed three petitions in the Supreme Court to review and stay further implementation of the Panama Papers case verdict which had resulted in his disqualification.
Close aide says NAB summons not yet received
“Mian Nawaz Sharif and his children have decided not to appear before NAB till a verdict on his review petition in the SC is decided. Mr Sharif has sought a stay of the NAB proceedings and till the apex court decides his petition there is no point in his joining the NAB investigation in cases against him,” a close aide to Mr Sharif, who is privy to the development, told Dawn on Thursday.
He said Mr Sharif had been advised by some of the hawks in his party to not ‘simply cooperate’ and appear before NAB, like he had done with the Joint Investigation Team constituted by the SC in the Panama Papers case. “It is time to show some defiance,” he said.
Mr Sharif already cast doubts on the NAB investigation, saying it was unprecedented for a Supreme Court judge to supervise NAB proceedings against him to get, what he termed was, a “desired result”.
The PML-N leader said many party members believed that Mr Sharif and his family members should boycott the NAB investigations in the current situation.
Senator Pervaiz Rashid, a close aide to Mr Sharif, told Dawn that the former premier and his sons had not yet received the NAB summons.
“Mian sahib will decide whether or not to appear before NAB after receiving the summons,” Mr Rashid said.
A NAB official told Dawn that the bureau would issue a second summons if Mr Sharif and his sons — Hussain and Hasan — failed to appear before the team from NAB’s Rawalpindi office in Lahore on Friday.
“We will issue summons to Nawaz Sharif and his two sons after two weeks if they do not join the NAB investigation on the first summons on Friday. The third and final summons will be issued next month,” he said, adding that if a suspect didn’t join NAB’s investigation even after being served a third summons, on the pretext of “not receiving” summons, then the relevant DPO would be asked to ensure delivery of the summons.
Former NAB director and analyst retired brigadier Farooq Hameed told Dawn that the ex-premier would try to buy time to appear before NAB.
“Delaying tactics will be used to provide relief to the Sharif family. Since NAB chief Qamar Zaman Chaudhry was selected by Nawaz Sharif, he will make sure that ‘weak’ references are prepared against the Sharif family to provide it relief,” he said.
Brig Hameed further said that if Mr Chaudhry was sincere about conducting an impartial investigation against the Sharif family, he should write to the British government right away asking them to freeze the assets and accounts of the Sharif family, in the wake of the SC verdict in the Panama Papers case. He added that Mr Chaudhry was retiring in the first week of October, and then at least two months would be wasted before a new NAB chief was appointed.
Full report at:
‘Hard questions apprehended’: Sharifs ‘advised against’ visiting house of boy killed in rally
Waseem Ashraf Butt
August 18, 2017
GUJRAT: Ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif is likely to arrive at Lalamusa on Aug 19 and will visit the residence of a boy, Hamid Chughtai, who died last Friday after being hit by a protocol vehicle in the ex-premier’s cavalcade during his journey from Islamabad to Lahore.
According to sources, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif may also accompany his brother on the occasion.
However, the sources said, the local administration and police had suggested postponement of the visit till arrest of the driver of the vehicle involved in the accident that caused embarrassment to the PML-N leadership.
A source told Dawn that the local police and administration had made repeated requests to the staff of Nawaz Sharif for custody of the driver and the vehicle (SS 875) for investigation into the case.
But, the source said, the staff of Mr Sharif had so far been showing reluctance to surrender the driver as well as the vehicle despite intervention by the Punjab government in favor of police demand.
The sources said the chief minister had also conveyed a message to the ex-premier’s staff asking them to surrender the driver and the vehicle but to no avail so far.
A police party led by a senior official of Gujrat police had also visited a senior security officer of Nawaz Sharif on Saturday the last seeking arrest of the driver but returned empty handed.
The Section 320 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), under which the case was registered, declares the offence bailable and even the station house officer of the concerned police can release the suspect on personal surety.
An official, wondering why delaying tactics are being used in surrendering the suspect and the vehicle responsible for the death of the nine year old to police, asked what would be Mr Sharif’s response if the boy’s parents inquired about any legal action taken against the driver during his visit to Hamid’s house.
“That is why it had been conveyed to the concerned quarters that the visit should be delay at least till the suspect’s custody issue was resolved,” he added.
A PML-N MPA, Mian Tariq, of Dinga, however, dispelled the chances of any questions being raised by the deceased boy’s parents during the visit, putting the Sharifs in an awkward situation.
He said the Sharifs were coming to Lalamusa on a scheduled visit and they had already announced they would also visit the deceased boy’s house where they would express their sympathy for the family.
Full report at:
Unjustified to term freedom fighters as terrorists: FO
by By Ijaz Kakakhel
ISLAMABAD: Foreign Office on Thursday called it unjustified to designate individuals or groups supporting the Kashmiris' right to self-determination as terrorists.
Islamabad criticised the United States for blacklisting the Kashmiri freedom group Hizb-ul-Mujahideen as a terrorist organisation, calling the move "unjustified".
The State Department designation bans US citizens and residents from dealing with the group and any assets found to belong to it in areas under US jurisdiction will be frozen.
"We are disappointed with the US decision in view of the fact that Kashmir is an internationally recognised dispute with UN Security Council resolutions pending implementation for the last 70 years," Nafees Zakariya, Pakistan s foreign ministry spokesman, told reporters in weekly press briefing. He said the move was "completely unjustified".
After Washington announced the decision on Wednesday, several hundred activists gathered in Muzaffarabad, capital of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and chanted anti-US slogans.
Washington had already designated the group s leader, Syed Salahuddin, a "global terrorist".
Nafees Zakaria remarked that Indian aggression in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IoK) had increased over time. He said that Indian forces had martyred six Kashmiris in the last five days. Moreover, Indian forces have also imprisoned the Hurriyat leadership and denied them basic amenities.
Kashmiris' struggle for their right to self-determination had been rightfully continuing for the past 70 years. He further said that the primary issue in Pakistan-India relations was that of Kashmir "which has to be resolved through dialogue". The blacklisting of Hizbul Mujahideen further increases US pressure on Pakistan to do more about tightening the screws on terrorist groups that allegedly use its territory for launching cross-border attacks in Afghanistan and India-held Kashmir.
The spokesperson also strongly condemned the Quetta blast in which FC personnel embraced Shahadat. "They rendered the ultimate sacrifices for the protection of the country and its people," he stated.
Zakariya said that innocent civilians in IoK were subjected to worst atrocities in living memory at the hands of India occupation forces when they raised slogans in favour of Pakistan s 70th Anniversary.
"Killing of innocent Kashmiris, illegal detention and harassment of Kashmiri leadership, destruction of Kashmiris' properties and terrorizing of Kashmiri women continues with impunity. And the civilized world only watches without a word of condemnation. History will record this sheer apathy for generations to come," he said.
Zakaria said Hindu terrorist groups engaged in violence against Indian minorities. "They are also involved in terrorist activities in Pakistan. India also uses the Afghan soil to act against Pakistan," he said. "The Indian allegation that the 400-feet tall flag hoisted by Pakistan at Wagah Border on the eve of Pakistan's 70th independence anniversary could be used for spying is "ridiculous", the FO spokesman said.
Full report at:
Educated youth prime target of ISIS: COAS
August 18, 2017
ISLAMABAD - Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa has asked the youth to remain mindful and vigilant to hostile narratives of terror outfits through the social media.
“The educated youth is the prime target of the ISIS and its affiliates, be extra cautious,” the COAS said this during his visit to the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Directorate and his interaction with the youth undergoing annual internship programme at the ISPR.
“The Pakistan Army is capable of meeting all internal and external challenges and has achieved great successes to rid the country of violence and terrorism,” the army chief said, according to a press statement issued by the ISPR.
The COAS congratulated the students on the successful completion of the internship programme.
He said that Pakistan was blessed with the most talented and vibrant youth and the future of Pakistan belonged to them.
Gen Bajwa said that he has full confidence and optimism that the Pakistani youth will lead Pakistan to a new era of peace and progress.
The COAS asked the interns to have confidence in themselves, adhere to merit, follow the rule of law and avoid shortcuts in life.
In response to a question that how did he maintain his morale amid so much of challenges and pressures, the COAS replied that selfless motivation of his outfit (Pakistan army) and the hope he sees in the future of Pakistan (the youth) keeps him motivated and committed to the cause.
He also assured the students that the army was committed to providing them a safe, secure and stable Pakistan.
“Every Pakistani is a soldier of the operation Rudd-ul-Fasaad,” the COAS said. He also said that the Pakistan Army is capable to meet all internal and external challenge.
“It has achieved great successes to rid the country of violence and terrorism,” he said adding, however for enduring peace each one of us has to contribute our respective bit.
“Your success and progress in life depends on three things; Faith in Allah, serve your parents and hard work. This trinity is key to success,” the COAS remarked in response to the question on key to success in life.
The annual Internship Programme 2017 was held from July 11 to 17 August 2017 comprising students from various educational institutions across the country including FATA.
POLISH COMMANDER CALLS ON COAS
APP adds: Commander Polish Land Forces Brigadier General Wojclech Granowshi called on Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the GHQ on Thursday.
During the meeting, views were exchanged on regional security’s situation and issues of mutual interest including defence, training and bilateral security cooperation, a statement issued here by Inter Services Public Relations said.
He was given a detailed briefing on operational and training activities of Pakistan Army.
Brigadier General Wojclech Granowshi acknowledged and appreciated Pakistan’s efforts in fight against terrorism.
Earlier, on arrival at the GHQ, the commander of the Polish Land Force laid wreath at “Yadgar-e-Shuhada.”
A smartly turned out contingent of Pakistan Army presented the guard of honour to the visiting dignitary.
Meanwhile, Jordanian Ambassador to Pakistan Nawaf Khalifeh Saraireh also called on Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa at GHQ.
Full report at:
International Jesuit group learns about Islam in Indonesia
An international group of Jesuits recently gathered in Indonesia to learn more about Islam, diversity and interreligious tolerance in the country with the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation. Twelve Jesuit priests from Germany, France, Nigeria, Turkey, India, Spain, Italy and Indonesia held a series of session on Aug. 10 at Tebuireng Islamic Boarding School in Jombang, East Java.
"The gathering is part of regular meetings among priest who join the Jesuits Among Muslims (JAM) programme and this year Indonesia is the host," said the group leader Father Franz Magnis Suseno, a Dutch-born Indonesian Jesuit who teaches philosophy and is noted for his initiatives in inter-religious dialogue.
Interacting with students
Abdul Ghofar, the boarding school secretary said the Jesuits talked with students at the school to learn more about their life experiences and what their faith means to them. When asked whether a non-Muslim could be enrolled at the school, Gofar said they do have non-Muslims studying there.
Jesuit Father Ignatius Ismartono, one of the group members, said that through this encounter, participants also learned about Nahdlatul Ulema, Indonesia’s largest moderate Islamic organization. "We study about how Nahdlatul Ulema goes about living in harmony with others who are non-believers," he told UCANEWS.
The Tebuireng Islamic School, that today has more than 7,000 students, was founded in 1899 by Hasyim Asya’ri, a moderate Muslim leader belonging to the Nahdlatul Ulema.
After the visit, the priests visited the grave of Abdurrahman Wahid or Gus Dur, Indonesia’s fourth president, and a former NU leader. (Source: UCANEWS)
Isis-Inspired Jihadis Planned Chemical Bomb Attack On Indonesia's Presidential Palace
BY JACK MOORE
Indonesian authorities say they have thwarted an alleged chemical bomb plot inspired by the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), including one attack that would have targeted the presidential palace, ahead of the country’s Independence Day celebrations on Thursday.
Police arrested five suspected radical Islamist militants in the West Java city of Bandung, located east of the capital Jakarta, a spokesman said. He said the suspects were members of an ISIS-affiliated network known as Jemaah Anshorut Daulah.
Two of those arrested had been deported back to Indonesia from Hong Kong for spreading radical Islamist ideology. Police said that the cell had been following the online bomb-making instructions of an Indonesian militant fighting for ISIS in Syria.
“They learn to make bombs from Bahrun Naim's blog,” regional police spokesman Yusri Yunus told the Associated Press. “This arrest opened a new discovery linked to terror acts.”
He did not provide further details on the plot to detonate an explosive device at the presidential palace, but it involved chemicals and their targets included several other locations. Counter-terror police said their discovery of the cache in a raid in Bandung, they left them with redness of the skin.
Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation and its government is battling against the threat of extremist ideology in the country.
The jihadi group has a notable presence in southeast Asia and Indonesia’s army chief General Gatot Nurmantyo warned in June that there are sleeper cells in “almost every province of Indonesia.”
A report detailing the links between ISIS’s central leadership in Syria and the southeast Asian militants who overran the southern Philippine city of Marawi in May revealed that a Malaysian fighter and leader of the group’s East Asia wilayah, or province, Dr. Mahmud Ahmad, was funneling money to the militants through Indonesia. The funding came in payments of tens of thousands of U.S. dollars via Western Union transfers.
Ahmad also used fighters from the outlawed Indonesian militant group Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), which the U.S. has designated as an extremist organization, the report, published by the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, said.
Indonesia has suffered several small scale, ISIS-inspired attacks, including twin cooker-bomb blasts at a Jakarta bus station in May that killed three police officers, and a coordinated bomb and shooting attack in the capital in January 2016 that left four people dead. Police killed all four attackers in that assault.
In June, Indonesian authorities jailed six militants from the island of Batam for a plot to fire a rocket at Singapore’s Marina Bay.
Full report at:
Suspected Thai Militants Turn Stolen Cars Into Bombs: Police
Aug 18, 2017
Bangkok. Suspected militants raided a car dealership in southern Thailand and turned two of the cars into bombs, police said on Thursday (17/08), adding that a "new generation" of Muslim separatists was operating in the insurgency-plagued region.
A group of men raided the dealership in Songkhla province near the border with Malaysia on Wednesday and made off with a car which exploded on a rural road in neighboring Pattani province, prompting an exchange of gunfire, police said.
A second car bomb exploded on Thursday, damaging property.
A car dealership employee who was held hostage was shot dead by the suspects, police said. One of the suspects was also killed in the violence.
A decades-old insurgency in the Muslim-majority southern provinces of mostly Buddhist Thailand has claimed more than 6,600 lives since escalated in 2004.
"We know the name of the group that was responsible for this incident. It is a new, younger generation, kind of group," Police Lieutenant General Sakorn Thongmanee, head of Provincial Police Region 9, told Reuters.
Thailand's three southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat were once part of an independent Malay Muslim sultanate until annexed by Thailand in 1909.
Insurgents from Thailand's Malay, Muslim minority want independence for the south. The groups rarely comment on attacks.
Observers and groups monitoring the south said they were seeing signs of restlessness amongst a younger generation of separatists.
"This might be a change in tactics because in the past the state has suppressed separatists considerably," Srisompop Jitpiromsri of Deep South Watch, an organization that monitors the violence, told Reuters.
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US New Crime in Raqqa: 90 Civilians Killed, Wounded
Aug 17, 2017
The US fighter jets targeted the two districts of al-Wahdah, al-Nahzah and al-Badou in Raqqa city on Wednesday, killing 14 civilians, including several children, and injuring 74 others.
Meantime, the coalition warplanes fully destroyed Sayedah Basharah church in al-Saknah district in Raqqa city.
Also, 1 civilian was killed and a number of others were wounded in the attacks launched by the US-backed Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) snipers.
Also, the US-led coalition fighter jets bombed residential areas in the Northeastern city of Raqqa on Monday, killing and wounding over 15 civilians.
Ten civilians were killed and five more were injured in a US air attack on residential neighborhoods of the ISIL-held city of Raqqa.
Field sources reported last week that over 70 civilians, including women and children, were killed or wounded in the US-led coalition airstrikes in the province of Deir Ezzur and Raqqa in one day.
The sources said that the warplanes bombed several regions in Raqqa city, killing 29 civilians, including nine women and 14 children and wounding several more.
The fighter jets, meantime, targeted the women's hospital in the town of al-Mayadeen in Southeastern Deir Ezzur and in al-Romayleh neighborhood in the Northern part of Deir Ezzur city, killing two children and wounding 40 more, the source said, adding that the death toll was on rise due to the critical conditions of the injured.
Tens of Terrorists in Idlib Demand Gov't Amnesty to Return to Damascus
Aug 17, 2017
Informed sources reported that tens of militants and a number of their family members who had left al-Zabadani and Madhaya in Damascus for Idlib almost three months ago after an agreement with the Syrian army, have demanded return to their previous residence in Damascus.
They want to be pardoned to return to the normal life in Damascus as they are "dissatisfied with the behavior, crimes and corruption of the terrorist groups in Idlib".
The militants have also disclosed that "the terrorists in Idlib kill each other for money".
Reports said earlier this month that clashes among the terrorist groups have intensified in Southeastern Idlib, leaving a number of militants dead or wounded.
Informed sources reported that the Al-Nusra Front (Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at or the Levant Liberation Board) stormed the positions of Jeish al-Fateheen affiliated to Ahrar al-Sham in the town of Tahtaya, killing and wounding a number of the rival militants.
The sources added that Al-Nusra intends to impose full control over the road connecting the Southern part of Idlib province to its Eastern part via driving out Jeish al-Fateheen of Tahtaya.
In the meantime, fighters of Hamoud al-Malik, the former commander of Ahrar al-Sham, engaged in clashes with former combatants of Jund al-Aqsa in the town of Ma'art Shamarin in Southern Idlib.
Local activists reported early August that Al-Nusra militants stationed at a checkpoint South of Saraqib intercepted a convoy of four trucks of Faylaq al-Sham terrorist group.
Al-Nusra militants seized the vehicles which were laden with weapons and ammunitions, and detained Abu Adas, Faylaq’s commander who was leading the convoy.
Faylaq al-Sham issued an ultimatum to Al-Nusra to release the convoy and the commander before midnight or wait for bloody clashes.
Full report at:
Ahrar Al-Sham Reshuffles Senior Commanders after Failures in Idlib
Aug 17, 2017
Hassan Soufan, the commander of Ahrar al-Sham, appointed Abu Adnan al-Zabadani as the general military commander of the terrorist group and Ala Faham, nom de guerre Abu al-Ez, as his deputy.
Also, Abu Ali al-Sahil was selected for the post of secretary of the general command and Kanan al-Nahas, nom de guerre Abu Izam al-Ansari, was appointed as the head of Ahrar al-Sham's political wing.
Meantime, media sources affiliated to the terrorists reported that the measure, that received the objection and opposition of other commanders, was adopted to show Ahrar al-Sham's readiness for the return of Jeish al-Ahrar terrorist group, commanded by Abu Saleh Tahan, which separated from Ahrar al-Sham in January last year and joined Tahrir al-Sham Hayat (the Levant Liberation Board or Al-Nusra Front).
The sources also raised the possibility that choosing Kanan al-Nahas, who has close ties with the US and is the enemy of Tahrir al-Sham, was aimed at improving Ahrar al-Sham's foreign relations with its supporters, specially Turkey.
Tahrir al-Sham ultimately pushed Ahrar al-Sham back from Idlib city late last month after weeks of bloody clashes in Northwestern Syria.
The Arabic-language al-Mayadeen news network quoted informed sources affiliated to the terrorist groups as saying that Tahrir al-Sham has gained full control over Idlib city and has driven the entire members of Ahrar al-Sham out of the city.
The network added that regardless of the ceasefire, fierce clashes between Tahrir al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sham are underway to take control of passageways and command centers.
Full report at:
UN Syria envoy hopes for ‘serious’ negotiation between Damascus govt., opposition
Aug 17, 2017
The United Nations Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura has hoped for a “serious negotiation” between the Damascus government and the opposition as the world body expects to convene a next round of talks on the crisis in the Arab country in October or November.
De Mistura said Thursday that the time remaining to another round of UN-backed negotiations on Syria would be a “major opportunity for the opposition to take stock of the realities on the ground.”
The UN diplomat was clearly referring to intra-Syrian talks between the so-called High Negotiations Committee (HNC), which serves as an umbrella group for militants and opposition groups, and two more moderate opposition alliances. The three have been discussing ways to set aside differences and establish a united front in the next round of negotiations on Syria’s future.
A major cause of failure in previous UN talks has been HNC’s insistence on departure of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad from power. The two other opposition camps have pressured the HNC to forgo the condition since it could no longer work as a bargaining chip in talks due to Syria’s continued victories against the militants.
De Mistura told reporters in Geneva that the opposition should “take stock of their own need to be unified,” adding that anti-government forces should finally reach an “inclusive and perhaps even a more pragmatic approach” to the situation in Syria.
De Mistura said there could be a key meeting between opposition forces in the coming weeks in which they would formally reorganize their delegation ahead of face-to-face talks with the Syrian government.
The UN official said he may stage “preparatory” talks in Geneva in September, but insisted that his office “will be focusing on the real agenda for the real substantive talks that we hope will be taking place in October.”
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Daesh-held Raqqah worst place in Syria, United Nations says
Aug 17, 2017
The United Nations has expressed serious concerns over the humanitarian condition in Syria’s northern city of Raqqah, describing the territory still controlled by the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group as “the worst place” in the conflict-plagued Arab country. “The worst place probably today in Syria is the part of Raqqah that is still held by Daesh,” Jan Egeland, the UN humanitarian adviser for Syria, told reporters in Geneva on Thursday.
The city of Raqqah, which lies on the northern bank of the Euphrates River, was overrun by Daesh terrorists in March 2013, and was proclaimed the center for most of the Takfiris’ administrative and control tasks the following year.
It is estimated that some 300,000 civilians are trapped inside Raqqah, including 80,000 displaced from other parts of Syria. Thousands have fled in recent months, and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs believes about 160,000 people remain in the city.
On June 6, the US-backed militiamen from the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said they had launched an operation aimed at pushing Daesh out of Raqqah.
“They (civilians) are encircled by the SDF fighters and they are used seemingly as human shields by Daesh,” Egeland said, noting that “constant air raids” by the US-led coalition purportedly fighting the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group also threaten their lives.
The US-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes against what are said to be Daesh targets inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate.
The military alliance has repeatedly been accused of targeting and killing civilians. It has also been largely incapable of fulfilling its declared aim of destroying Daesh.
“We are therefore urging the coalition, the SDF whom we can deal with to allow as much as they can people to escape,” the UN official pointed out.
Syria has been fighting different foreign-sponsored militant and terrorist groups since March 2011.
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Syrian Army Advances 25km in Southern Raqqa
Aug 17, 2017
The army forces engaged in clashes with ISIL terrorists in Southern Raqqa, advancing 25km inside the region and retaking control of the hills and villages of Tal al-Asfar, Zohour al-Mamlehah, Rasm al-Amali, Rajam al-Sheih, Souh al-Dij, Qarbah and Wadi al-Owj.
During their operations, the army troops killed a number of militants, destroying several of their military vehicles and defusing two bomb-laden cars.
Late last week, the Syrian army forces regained control of 30km of al-Sukhnah-Deir Ezzur road as they advanced in several areas in Raqqa towards Deir Ezzur.
The Syrian soldiers continued to advance after clashes with ISIL terrorists in the Eastern parts of al-Sukhnah on Sunday, taking back control of a 30-km area in al-Sukhnah-Deir Ezzur road which includes regions like Talat Saniyat, al-Tayyebeh, Wadi Abu Talleh and Wadi al-Rahibeh.
Full report at:
Army Troops Win Back Several New Points in Central Syria
Aug 17, 2017
The Syrian soldiers advanced in regions near Ithriya in Eastern Hama, retaking control of several hills and military control of the villages of al-Fasedah and Amsheh Radeh in Eastern Salamiyeh.
The Syrian army, supported by the air force and artillery fire, also thwarted the ISIL offensives against several military points in Job al-Mazare in the Northeastern parts of the village of al-Maboujeh in Eastern Hama, inflicting heavy tolls on the terrorists.
Meantime, the army units advanced from the Eastern parts of Hama towards the Eastern parts of Homs province, taking back control of several points in the Northern parts of Sha'er mountain after heavy clashes with the militants.
Also, the Syrian fighter jets pounded the ISIL positions and moves in areas of clashes in the Northern parts of Sha'er mountain, al-Tayebeh region and Northeastern al-Sukhnah, smashing several positions, vehicles and military equipment and leaving a large number of ISIL members killed and wounded.
Meantime, the Syrian soldiers blew up a number of ISIL's bomb-laden cars before they reached one of the army's new points in Homs.
In a relevant development on Tuesday, the Syrian army troops continued to advance against ISIL in the Eastern territories of Homs and Hama provinces, paving the ground for the full liberation of Central Syria after almost four years of terrorists' occupation.
The Syrian pro-government forces imposed heavy defeats on ISIL after taking control over the key town of al-Sukhnah in Eastern Homs and their advances in the Southern parts of Raqqa province in recent days.
In the meantime, thousands of the Syrian soldiers East of the town of al-Salamiyah in Eastern Hama managed to advance significantly towards the town of Aqayrabat, driving ISIL out of a number of key positions.
Also, the Syrian and Russian fighter jets have continued their heavy air raids on ISIL's movements and positions in the Eastern territories of Hama and Homs.
According to a military source, the ISIL has sent most of their fighters deployed in Eastern Hama to the Tayebeh region.
The source added that the ISIL terrorists are being deployed to Tayebeh in order to obstruct the Syrian Army from reaching their forces in the Homs province.
Aqayrabat has long been the ISIL’s main stronghold in the Central Syria as it is a cross-roads town that is located near the provincial borders of the Hama, Homs, and Raqqa provinces, and SIL's defeat in al-Sukhnah is a severe blow to the terrorists in Aqayrabat.
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US plans decades-long military presence in northern Syria: Militia group
Aug 18, 2017
A US-backed militia group in northern Syria says American forces plan to remain in the Arab state “for decades to come” after the fall of Daesh, adding that Washington is not providing support to anti-Damascus militants “for free.”
In a Thursday report by Reuters, Talal Silo, the spokesman for the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of militias dominated by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), said the SDF believes that Washington has “strategic interests here after the end of Daesh.”
“They have a strategy policy for decades to come. There will be military, economic and political agreements in the long term between the leadership of the northern areas (of Syria)... and the US administration,” Silo said.
The Kurdish-dominated SDF holds 400-kilometer (250-mile) stretch of the Syrian-Turkish border. The US has deployed forces at several locations in northern Syria, providing support to the SDF with air strikes, artillery and special forces on the ground.
The SDF is involved in an operation against Daesh terrorists in Raqqah Province.
In July, the head of the YPG said the US had established seven military bases in northern Syria, including a major air base near the border town of Kobani.
“They (recently) referred to the possibility of securing an area to prepare for a military airport. These are the beginnings – they are not giving support just to leave. America is not providing all this support for free,” Silo said.
He suggested that the US could turn northern Syria into a new base for its forces in the region, adding, “Maybe there could be an alternative to their [Incirlik] base in Turkey.”
Turkey has been on a collision course with the US in Syria, with Ankara sharply criticizing Washington over its support for the YPG, which it views as a terror organization linked to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Ties between the NATO powers have further soared in recent months after US-backed YPG militants made a series of gains against Daesh at the Turkish doorstep.
Ankara has warned that the US partnership with Kurdish militants in Raqqah will pave the way for “other terror organizations” in the region to strengthen their positions.
Eric Pahon, a Pentagon spokesman, refused to provide a timeline for the US presence in northern Syria, saying, “The Department of Defense does not discuss timelines for future operations. However we remain committed to the destruction of ISIS (Daesh) and preventing its return.”
Meanwhile, there are concerns within the SDF that the US may not provide enough support to their forces and civil councils which control northeast Syria.
“We are constantly asking them (the US) for clear, public political support,” Silo said. “At the moment there are no meetings being held for a real discussion of Syria’s future. There are initiatives for developing political support for our forces, but we hope this will be bigger,” he added.
The SDF offensive is backed by US-led airstrikes, which have claimed hundreds of civilian lives in Raqqah over the past months. Besides its role in Raqqah, Washington has, since 2014, been leading an alliance of mainly NATO states in what is called a military campaign against Daesh.
On Wednesday, the Syrian government called on the UN to put an end to the US-led coalition’s crimes against Syrians in their so-called mission against Daesh.
Full report at:
Iran: Confession of a State Mullah to the Execution of Innocent People
12 August 2017
NCRI - A member of the Iranian regime's parliament referring to the regime’s judiciary emphasizing on more executions and that 5,300 people are in death row in the regime's prisons, said: “The smuggler who has 500 (billion dollars) capital in Tehran and elsewhere is released, but we will execute the poor porter.”
Mullah Hassan Norouzi, the regime’s parliamentary commission representative, addressing Undersecretary General of the National Drug Control Headquarters (Ali Mouayedi), said: “Mr. Mouayedi said, give us time, we gave 10 months to a program, they did not give us a hit. They can just tell us that we're executing. We say you are executing, but who are you executing? Mr. Mouayedi, how many international smugglers have you executed? Why do you want to execute porters and innocent people and why do you want to execute 5,300 people who are in prison?”
He added: “When did we say that the execution would be lifted... We did not say the death penalty would be eliminated. We said that you would have to execute someone who deserves to be executed. That trafficker, who has 500 capitals in Tehran and elsewhere, is freed by strong attorneys, but a poor porter man who has 35 grams of industrial materials cannot defend himself and have a lawyer gets executed, for what?”
UAE to fund $15 million monthly to Gaza: official
Aug 18, 2017
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) will provide $15 million a month to Gaza, a Palestinian politician said Thursday, as its rulers Hamas move closer to a UAE-based rival to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
Mohammed Dahlan has been based in exile in the UAE since falling out with Abbas and being expelled from his Fatah movement. He has been improving relations with Hamas to the chagrin of the West Bank-based Abbas.
“Fifteen million dollars will be pumped monthly from the beginning of next month to the Palestinian Joint Liability Committee in support of relief, humanitarian and development projects in the Gaza Strip to alleviate their suffering,” Samir Al-Mashharawi, an ally of Dahlan, said in a statement.
The committee was established in the wake of agreements made between Dahlan and Hamas in early July in Cairo.
On Friday, Hamas leaders and Dahlan allies again met in Cairo to discuss easing the blockade of Gaza with Egyptian officials. The Rafah crossing from Egypt has been largely closed in recent years due to disputes between Hamas and Cairo.
Israel has maintained a crippling blockade on Gaza for a decade. Seeing his two longtime adversaries moving closer, Abbas has sought to weaken Hamas — reducing electricity funding for the strip and cutting salaries of state employees there.
Full report at:
Iran reform leader Mehdi Karroubi on hunger strike over 6-year house arrest
17 August 2017
Iranian opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi, under house arrest for the past six years, was hospitalized Thursday after going on hunger strike a day earlier to demand a trial date, his family told local media.
“His health condition deteriorated after the hunger strike and he is now hospitalized,” said Sahamnews website, which is affiliated to Karroubi’s family.
He was admitted to Shahid Rajaei hospital due to high blood pressure, less than 24 hours after beginning a hunger strike Wednesday morning, it said, adding that he was still refusing to eat. His son Mohammad also confirmed the news on Twitter.
“At 1:00 AM, Thursday father was sent to hospital due to the hunger strike. Pray a lot,” he said. Karroubi’s wife Fatemeh Karroubi told Sahamnews that his first demand was the removal of intelligence ministry agents inside their home as well as recently-installed security cameras, which she said “has no precedent before or after the (1979 Islamic) revolution in any house arrest”.
‘Not expecting a fair trial’
“Second... in case of continuation of the house arrest, they should arrange a public trial,” she said. Karroubi “does not expect a fair trial” but wants it to be public and would respect the verdict, she added.
He and fellow reformist leader Mir Hossein Mousavi were candidates in Iran’s disputed 2009 presidential election which sparked months of mass protests over claims they were rigged in favor of hardline incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Both men were placed under house arrest in 2011 for their role in the protests -- which were brutally suppressed by the regime -- but have never been charged.
Also read: Why did Iran publish images of their general Qasem Soleimani in Aleppo?
In March, Iran sentenced Karroubi’s eldest son, Hossein Karroubi, to six months in prison for “propaganda against the regime” after he published a letter that his father had written to Iran's current president, Hassan Rouhani, a reputed moderate, calling for a trial.
Full report at:
Saudi Arabia installing cranes at Yemen ports to boost aid delivery
18 August 2017
Saudi Arabia said on Thursday it was installing four cranes at three ports in Yemen to help boost humanitarian aid deliveries and was ready to assist with installing cranes at the key port of Hodeidah once it was under control of a neutral party.
The Saudi mission to the United Nations said in a statement that the cranes were being installed at the ports of Aden, Mukalla and Al-Mokha - which are all under the control of a Saudi-led military coalition fighting in Yemen.
The coalition has said it was determined to help Yemen’s government retake all areas of the country held by Houthi militia, including Hodeidah port, and would ensure alternative entry routes for badly needed food and medicine.
The United Nations has worked to avert attacks on Hodeidah, a vital Red Sea aid delivery point for millions of Yemenis in danger of slipping into famine. Around 80 percent of Yemen’s food imports arrive via Hodeidah.
“Saudi Arabia is deeply concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation,” it said. “We have always supported every effort to ensure that the people of Yemen receive the aid and relief they require especially in times of crisis.”
The coalition began an air campaign in March 2015 to help defeat the Iran-allied Houthi militias. Five Hodeidah cranes have been destroyed by coalition air strikes, forcing ships to line up offshore because they could not be unloaded. The United Nations has said the coalition prevented it from delivering mobile cranes to the port earlier this year.
The coalition has accused the Houthis of using the port to smuggle weapons and ammunition and has called for UN monitors to be posted there. The Houthi movement denies the allegations.
The United Nations has proposed that Hodeidah be handed to a neutral party to smooth the flow of humanitarian relief and prevent the port being engulfed by Yemen’s two-year-old war.
“The coalition ... reaffirms its readiness to facilitate the immediate installation of cranes at the port of Hodeidah, in line with the secretary-General’s special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed latest proposals,” the Saudi statement said.
The United Nations Security Council urged the warring parties in Yemen in June to reach a UN brokered deal on management of Hodeidah and resumption of government salary payments as the country slides closer to famine.
Full report at:
Yemen army takes control of strategic heights in Saada
18 August 2017
The forces from the Yemeni Army managed to take control of a number of highlands where the militias were based in Baqim district, north of Saada governorate - a stronghold of the Houthis.
According to field sources, the elite forces that were formed from the 102nd Brigade and the 63rd Infantry Brigade, launched a large-scale attack on the Directorate of Baqim from three days.
After fierce battles with the militias, they succeeded in controlling the north-west of the Khashm and Namsa east, while cutting off militia supply lines in areas from the Sobhan to Baqam.
12,000 fighters in west coast of Yemen to retake Taiz and Hudaydah
17 August 2017
The Popular Resistance Forces in Yemen have recaptured key areas around the strategic Khalid Ibn al-Walid base near the western coast of the country.
Field Commander Abdul Rahman al-Mahrami, commander of west coast front, said that the resistance forces will now be moving in two directions in their next stage of battle.
One group is directed toward Taiz city in support of the Yemen National Army, while the second is directed towards Hudaydah, which has been under the control of Houthi militias and forces loyal to Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Commander al-Mahrami said that the strength of the resistance forces and the national army are 12,000 fighters.
He added that ongoing battles with Houthi militias are concentrated north of Yakhtal district, which is about 25 km from Mokha province as well as eastward towards the Moze and Jisr al-Hamli districts.
Full report at:
Iran, Turkey agree to boost military cooperation: Official
Aug 17, 2017
Iran and Turkey agree to forge closer military cooperation following talks in Ankara this week between the Iranian Armed Forces’ chief of staff and senior Turkish officials, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman says.
“An agreement was reached to hold further high-level visits from now on," Ibrahim Kalin told a news conference on Thursday.
“A series of activities will also be held to boost military cooperation,” he added.
Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Baqeri arrived in Turkey on Tuesday at the head of a high-ranking politico-military delegation.
He met with the country’s top authorities, including President Erdogan, his Turkish counterpart, General Hulusi Akar, and Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli.
It was the first visit by an Iranian chief of staff of the Armed Forces to Turkey after the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
Kalin described Baqeri’s visit as “fruitful and successful” and added that bilateral talks focused on counter-terrorism, the campaign against Daesh Takfiri terrorists, and a joint effort by Iran, Turkey and Russia to stem the fighting in parts of Syria.
Speaking to reporters after his meeting with Erdogan on Wednesday, Baqeri said bilateral defense ties, regional developments and battling terrorism were the key issues discussed.
Full report at:
UN rights expert outraged at Iran execution of a young man sentenced as a child
Aug 18, 2017
GENEVA (11 August 2017) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Asma Jahangir, has expressed outrage at the execution of a young man who received the death penalty as a child.
Alireza Tajiki was arrested at the age of 15 in 2012 and sentenced to death in 2013 at the age of 16.
He was executed on August 10 despite repeated interventions by UN human rights experts, who said the death penalty should never be used against a child, and noted that Mr. Tajiki had reportedly been tortured and had not received a fair trial.
“I am distressed in the extreme to learn that this execution has gone ahead despite twice being postponed on previous scheduled dates,” said the Special Rapporteur.
The human rights expert stressed that Mr. Tajiki’s death penalty was upheld following judicial procedures which did not meet acceptable international standards of a fair trial or due process.
“I am deeply concerned that the court relied on the use of forced “confessions”, which were reportedly extracted using torture, including beatings, floggings and suspension by the arms and feet,” she said. “There has been no investigation into these torture claims.”
“Mr. Tajiki also suffered violations of his rights to a defence, for example by being denied access to a lawyer throughout the entire investigation process and being held in solitary confinement for 15 days without access to his family.”
Ms. Jahangir added: “This treatment would be unacceptable for an adult, but for a child suspect to have been convicted after such grave rights abuses, and then to be executed despite all interventions, is truly shocking.”
The death sentence against Mr. Tajiki was quashed in 2014 but the Supreme Court, but he was resentenced to death by the Provincial Criminal Court of Fars, which ruled that he had sufficient “mental maturity” for an understanding of his alleged crime to be executed. This verdict was later upheld by the Supreme Court.
“I note that Iran has ratified both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, both of which commit the country to protecting and respecting children’s right to life,” the Special Rapporteur noted.
“These Conventions also unequivocally forbid the passing and carrying out of the death penalty on anyone below 18 years of age.”
The human rights expert recalled that Iran has already executed three other juvenile offenders since January and at least 86 are known to be on death row, although the exact figure may be higher.
“The Government of Iran must immediately and unconditionally stop sentencing children to death,” said Ms. Jahangir. “It must also commute all existing death sentences imposed on children, in line with its international commitments.”
Ms. Asma Jahangir (Pakistan) was designated as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran by the Human Rights Council in September 2016 Ms. Jahangir was elected as President of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan and as Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Over the years, she has been recognized both nationally and internationally for her contribution to the cause of human rights and is a recipient of major human rights awards. She has worked extensively in the field of women’s rights, protection of religious minorities and in eliminating bonded labour. She is a former Special Rapporteur on summary executions, and on freedom of religion.
Full report at:
Statement by the Human Rights Commissioner on an imminent execution in Iran
Following reports of the imminent execution of the young Iranian Alireza Tajiki, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy BärbelKofler issued the following statement today (9 August):
The news that the execution of young Iranian Alireza Tajiki could be imminent fills me with great concern.
He was only 15 years old at the time of the crimes of which he stands accused, and there are considerable doubts as to whether his trial was conducted in accordance with the principles of the rule of law.
Should Alireza Tajiki be executed, this would be an unacceptable violation of international law. Iran has ratified not only the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, but also the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which prohibit the execution of individuals who were minors at the time of an offence.
I urgently appeal to the Iranian judicial authorities to refrain from carrying out this planned execution. Alireza Tajiki must be given a fair trial under the rule of law – and without the imposition of the death penalty.
The German Government opposes the death penalty, whatever the circumstances.
Alireza Tajiki, who is now 20 years old, was arrested in May 2012 at the age of 15 with other young men on suspicion of murder and rape. In April 2013, he was sentenced to death by a court in Fars province. According to a recent Amnesty International report, his conviction was based on confessions extracted through torture which he subsequently withdrew on repeated occasions. The original verdict was quashed in April 2014 and the court ordered an examination of Tajiki’s mental maturity. In November 2014, however, Tajiki was again sentenced to death on the basis of a medical report which claimed he had attained “mental maturity”. As a result of international pressure, his execution, which was due to be carried out on 3 August 2016, was postponed.
Iran: Six People Arrested for Training Zumba Dance
10 August 2017
NCRI - The Iranian regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) commander in Shahrud announced the arrest of members of a Zumba and Shafel Dance Training Network.
Colonel Hamid Damaghani, IRGC commander in Shahrud, has announced that a western dance training network has been identified and arrested while filming and making video clips.
He added that the arrest of these people was placed on the agenda of the IRGC's Intelligence after the release of the movie and dance clips on the Telegram and Instagram networks.
The IRGC commander has accused the group of debauchery and that by training a variety of western dances and producing clips, they were trying to change the lifestyles and promoting unveiling and rejecting the obscenity of this issue.
“After the observation by the IRGC Intelligence forces of Shahrud, the members of this network were identified and a court order was issued by Shahrud district prosecutor and several members of the network were arrested in a strike action, including four boys and two girls who were in a mix-gender meeting and while filming and making clips,” Damghani said.
Shahrud’s IRGC commander added that the detainees had confessed to the discovery of veils in the parks and boulevards of the city and the placement of photos and videos of this action in groups and channels of Telegram and Instagram.
Damaghani has called for more control over classes and sports halls to crack down on youth. He claimed that promoting women dancing in the clubs would upset the majority of women and their absence in sports clubs.
Two months earlier, the Iranian Public Sports Federation had announced a ban on rhythmic exercises, including Zumba, in sports clubs.
Full report at:
Hezb-e-Islami warns of repercussions if justice not served in Noor and Momand case
Aug 17 2017
Hezb-e-Islami led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has strongly condemned the incident in Balkh airport that led to the arrest of a member of the provincial council of Balkh province Asif Momand, apparently involving armed men belonging to Balkh governor Ata Mohammad Noor.
The party in a statement said it strongly condemns the arrest of Balkh provincial council member, calling it a brutal attack that left at least ten people dead or wounded.
The statement further added that the party demands an immediate step by the government for the apprehension of those involved and should be tried in accordance to Sharia and those arrested must be released besides necessary steps and precautions should be taken to prevent the repeat of such incidents.
In the meantime, Hezb-e-Islami warned that the government’s failure to ensure justice for those killed or wounded and/or apprehended will have a serious negative repercussion as the relatives of the victims and supporters of Momand will adopt their own way of taking revenge.
This comes as a delegation tasked by the government has started an investigation into the incident.
Balkh governor and chief executive of Jamiat-e-Islami Ata Mohammad Noor in a statement confirmed his meeting with the delegation and said information related to the circumstances and reasons surrounding the incident were shared with the members of the delegation.
He also added that the delegation has been urged to conduct a thorough investigation regarding the incident including the conspiracies surrounding the incident.
According to Noor, the delegation has promised that the incident will be investigated thoroughly and in a transparent manner.
Bangladesh Grapples With Extremist Threats 12 Years after Nationwide Bombings
Twelve years after militants attacked Bangladesh with a nationwide wave of near-simultaneous bombings, police officials acknowledged on Thursday that security forces have not completely eliminated the extremist group suspected of involvement in the blasts.
Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), the militant group that claimed responsibility for the explosions, suffers from an internal leadership crisis, but authorities still consider it a security threat, said Monirul Islam, chief of the police’s counter-terrorism and transnational crimes unit.
“Militancy is a byproduct of bad domestic and international politics. We have placed it under control, now our aim is its complete elimination,” Monirul told BenarNews.
Between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Aug. 17, 2005, the JMB led by its founder, Shaikh Abdur Rahman, set off almost 600 bombs in 63 of 64 districts across the country, police said. The bombs, mostly detonators or without explosive charges, killed two people, forcing the government to admit the presence of militants in Bangladesh.
Before those blasts, the government of then-Prime Minister Khaleda Zia repeatedly accused the media of publishing “cooked and fabricated” stories about the presence of extremists in the country.
But the bombings catapulted JMB onto the national consciousness. Despite attempts to crush the group, it recently gave rise to a new faction, Neo-JMB, whose members align themselves with the Islamic State.
On July 1, 2016, five young members of Neo-JMB stormed the upscale Holey Artisan Bakery café, taking dozens of hostages and killing 20 of them using guns and knives. In all, 29 people, including the five militants, died in the attack, police said.
After interrogating Sohel Mahfuz, a JMB member who had been at large for 11 years and was believed to have taken part in the planning of the deadly café attack, investigators uncovered that “mistrusts and contests” among the members of the two JMB factions have taken place, Monirul said.
“This internal rivalry handicaps them from carrying out all-out attacks,” Monirul told BenarNews.
That rivalry, investigators said, triggered a leadership crisis. The old JMB is led by Salahuddin Salehin, but officials said they were not sure of the identity of Neo-JMB’s leader. Salahuddin and Mahfuz are suspects in a bombing that killed two people in Burdwan, India, in October 2014.
Hundreds convicted after 2005 blasts
As a result of crackdowns following the 2005 blasts, more than 300 JMB militants have been convicted and jailed in 93 cases, according to the Daily Star.
Officials could not say how many were already released, but said many were about to be released.
“Since most of the cases were filed under the Explosives Substances Act and the highest punishment is 10 years' imprisonment, many of the convicts have completed their terms,” the newspaper quoted a counter-terrorism official as saying.
In March 2007, the government shattered JMB’s organizational network by executing its founder, Rahman, and other high-ranking leaders, including the chief of the group’s military wing, Siddiqul Islam.
But the militants have not been rooted out completely, criminologists said.
“The first condition for eliminating militancy is to stop use of religion in politics,” Sheikh Hafizur Rahman Carzon, a Dhaka University law professor, told BenarNews.
He compared police operations against individuals to tearing a leaf from a tree.
“We have to find out the causes that woo the youths in militancy and initiate social moves for redress,” he said.
Nur Khan, executive director of human rights group Ain-o-Salish Kendra, told BenarNews that police pre-emptive operations since the Holey Artisan attack have resulted in the deaths of at least 70 suspected militants.
But the death of a suspected JMB militant who blew himself up in a Dhaka hotel room on Tuesday has sparked concerns about fresh recruitment efforts, Nur said.
The suspect, identified as 21-year-old Saiful Islam, planned to attack people during Bangladesh’s National Mourning Day but set off the bomb after officers confronted him at the Hotel Olio International, police said.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police commissioner Asaduzzaman Mia told reporters Saiful had not acted alone, but his accomplices fled the scene and had not been caught.
“Look, police said Saiful recently joined Neo-JMB. This means recruitment has not stopped,” Nur said.
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Suicide bomber killed by detonating a Humvee packed with explosives in Helmand
Aug 17 2017
A suicide bomber detonated a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) or Humvee vehicle in southern Helmand province of Afghanistan, leaving only the suicide bomber dead.
The local government officials said the incident took place in the vicinity of Greshk district late on Wednesday night.
The officials further added that the militants had placed large amounts of explosives inside the vehicle with an aim to target the security forces.
The provincial government media office in a statement also confirmed the incident and the death of the bomber.
The statement further added that the security forces opened fire on the vehicle as the suicide bomber was attempting to ram the vehicle into its target in Awpashak area.
Helmand government said the area is under total control of the security forces and the security situation is currently stable.
The anti-government armed militant groups including the Taliban insurgents have not commented regarding the report so far.
This comes as the Taliban insurgents launched a coordinated attack using a similar tactic of detonating Humvee vehicles by storming the security posts in Greshk district last month.
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ISI agent arrested in Kabul while planning attack on Pul-e-Charkhi prison
Aug 17 2017
An agent of the Pakistani military intelligence, inter services intelligence (ISIS), has been arrested by the security forces in Kabul as he was planning an attack on the major Pul-e-Charkhi prison.
The Afghan intelligence, national directorate of security (NDS), said the man was detained during an operation from Kabul city.
A statement by NDS said the detained suspect has been identified as Allah Noor who is originally a resident of Quetta city of Pakistan.
The detained agent confesses in a video published by NDS saying he wanted to have a role in the attack on Pul-e-Charkhi prison.
He also admits his involvement in organizing meetings between the ISI officials and Taliban leader Mullah Hebatullah as well as Haqqani network leader Sirajuddin Haqqani network in Pakistan.
Allah Noor says he started operations with the ISI in 2013 and had visited Kabul to gather information for the future plans apart from hatching plans for the attack on Pul-e-Charkhi prison.
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Pakistani army informs regarding the arrest of 20 Afghan nationals
Aug 17 2017
The Pakistani army on Wednesday informed regarding the arrest of at least twenty Afghan nationals during the joint military operations.
The Inter Services Public Relations, media wing of the Pakistani military, in a statement said “Pakistan Rangers Punjab alongwith Police and intelligence agencies carried IBO in Attock, DG Khan and Lahore.”
The statement further added “During the last 72 hours, 7 x Terrorists & 20 x Afghan suspects were apprehanded along with huge quantity of explosive, illegal / automatic weapons and ammunition.”
No exact information was given regarding the reasons behind the apprehension of the Afghan nationals.
However, ISPR said “The Terrorists are affiliated with banned TTP / TTS. The explosive & weapons were likely to be used for terrorist activities in major cities of Punjab.”
The Afghan government officials have not commented regarding the report so far.
This is not the first time reports have emerged regarding the arrest of the Afghan nationals by the authorities but numerous such incidents have taken place during the recent months.
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US soldier killed in operations against militants in eastern Afghanistan
Aug 17, 2017
A US National Guard soldier has been killed during an anti-militant operation in eastern Afghanistan.
The US military said Thursday that the soldier had been killed during a joint operation a day earlier against the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in the eastern province of Nangarhar.
The Utah National Guard said in a statement that the battle in the Achin district of Nangarhar had also left several Afghan forces injured, along with seven other National Guardsmen, adding that all those injured were receiving medical treatment.
The statement did not elaborate on the identity of the slain American soldier and those wounded in the attack, saying details would be released after notifying the victims’ families.
The casualties are the latest in Afghanistan’s new campaign against Daesh, a terror group mainly operating in Iraq and Syria which has managed to gain a foothold in the war-torn country.
Daesh mostly recruits disgruntled militants from the Taliban, the most established militant group in Afghanistan which is reorganizing some 16 years after its ouster from power by a US-led invasion.
Afghan authorities said Thursday that a total of three civilians and 15 Afghan policemen were killed in three southern provinces in attacks by the Taliban that took place on Wednesday.
The civilian casualties were reported in Helmand, where a bomber tried to target a military base. Omar Zwak, spokesman for the provincial governor, said the attacker was killed in the blast while three other militants on foot were shot dead when guards opened fire on them. He said the explosion also left three Afghan forces injured.
Seven policemen were killed and nine were wounded in two similar attacks by the Taliban on police checkpoints in two districts of Kandahar, said Zia Durani, spokesman for the provincial governor, adding that 19 Taliban forces were killed in the ensuing clashes.
Another attack by the Taliban on a police base in Zabul province killed eight policemen. Asif Tokhi, a police official, said the base, located along the Zabul-Kandahar highway, came under attack late on Wednesday and security was restored only in the following morning. He said three policemen were also wounded in the clashes, which left 12 Taliban militants killed.
The Taliban have yet to claim the multiple attacks in the south while there has been no confirmation of the casualties among the ranks of the group.
The renewed attacks by the Taliban militants, which have also inflicted casualties on the US forces, come amid fresh warnings by the group about the need for the US to fully withdraw its forces from Afghanistan after more than a decade and half of occupation.
US President Donald Trump has resisted repeated requests by the Pentagon to approve the deployment of another 4,000-strong US force to Afghanistan, which the US military says is needed to boost the so-called counter-terrorism operations in the country.
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Mali: ICC - Timbuktu Destruction to Cost Islamist Rebel $3.2 Million
17 AUGUST 2017
ICC judges have made legal history by ruling that a former Islamist rebel is liable to pay compensation for the destruction of ancient shrines in Mali's Timbuktu. The historic sites were destroyed by jihadists in 2012.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) ruled on Thursday that former jihadi rebel Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, the man convicted of ordering the attack on the ancient landmarks in Timbuktu, was liable to pay "individual, collective and symbolic" reparations of up to $3.2 million (2.7 million euros).
Al-Mahdi was jailed last September for nine years by the Hague-based court after he pleaded guilty to "intentionally" directing attacks on nine historic Timbuktu mausoleums and its Sidi Yahia mosque - works dating back to the 15th century. The jihadists used pickaxes and bulldozers on the buildings.
The destruction of the shrines prompted global outcry and condemnation, but also set a legal precedent.
Al-Mahdi was the first person to be convicted by the ICC on Islamist-related charges. He was also the first person to be convicted of destroying cultural heritage.
In its ruling, the ICC said that its reparations order was based on three categories of harm: "damage to the attacked historic and religious buildings, consequential economic loss, and moral harm." Part of the reparations costs will also go toward individuals whose livelihoods depended on the Timbuktu landmarks and whose ancestors' burial sites were wrecked in the attack.
ICC judge Raul Pangalangan said that attacks such as the ones on the shrines "destroy part of humanity's shared memory and collective consciousness, and renders humanity unable to transmit its values and knowledge to future generations."
Known as the "City of 333 saints," Timbuktu was founded between the fifth and the 12th centuries by indigenous Tuareg tribes. Most of the sites destroyed in 2012 were built in the 14th century, during Mali's golden age as a revered center of Sufi Islam, considered blasphemous by orthodox Islamic groups.
Reparations for victims
The Trust Fund for Victims (TFV), set up implement the judges' reparation rulings, has until February next year to draw up a plan on how the reparations award will be paid, the court said.
Given that al-Mahdi is penniless, it is up to the TFV to allocate the funds, DW's Brussels correspondent Max Hoffmann tweeted.
The TFV has previously cautioned that the security situation in northern Mali "poses serious challenges" to distributing the compensation. They also warned the court that rumors of high compensation could provide an "incentive" for similar attacks in countries with cultural treasures.
US air strikes kill seven al Shabaab fighters in Somalia: US military
Aug 18, 2017
Three US air strikes killed seven al Shabaab fighters in Somalia, the US Africa Command said on Thursday.
The strikes hit targets 200 miles (320 km) southwest of Mogadishu on Wednesday and Thursday in an operation conducted in cooperation with Somali forces, it said in a statement.
Islamist militant group Al Shabaab has allied with al Qaeda and frequently bombs military and civilian targets in Somalia's capital and other cities.
Nigeria: I'm Ready to Heal Buhari, Like I Healed IBB - Satguru Maharaj Ji
17 AUGUST 2017
By Jayne Augoye
Satguru Maharaj Ji, the founder of the One Love Family, says he can heal ailing President Muhammadu Buhari if the president so wishes.
The sect leader also claimed to have treated the former head of state, Ibrahim Babangida, of an undisclosed ailment while in office.
Maharaj Ji made the claims when he spoke at the Nigerian Union of Journalists Secretariat, in Lagos on Wednesday.
While addressing a cross section of the media on the state of the nation at the occasion, Mahara Ji assured Nigerians that the challenges confronting the nation would soon be over.
"I do not believe in sickness. The president of Nigeria is great and he should remain so. And that is why if he comes to me for healing, I will heal him. I have done it for several public office holders. I remember that I treated Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, IBB, when he was afflicted by an ailment in his leg. I cured him. But he later denied me. That was why the ailment returned."
He added, "Remember the last time he was going out of the country for medical attention, I was the only one who said he would come back safe. What I'm saying is that let's harness our power here to save ourselves. You cannot sit down and be saying Maharaji ji is not a Muslim or Christian. Is God a Muslim? So, if he can come to me, I'll heal him."
The sect leader also spoke about the importance of President Buhari being present in the country.
"It will douse agitation of Nigerians and help address issues challenging the country. Since he left, the acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, has been acting on his behalf very well, he has shown enough competence. And I believe he has defied Nigerians' prediction that he will be a figurehead. I believe he knows what he is doing."
The spiritual leader described the ongoing strike by university lecturers as a decision that could cripple the country's economy.
Maharaj ji, who said the APC would rule Nigeria beyond 2019 in spite of the acrimony in the party, added, "They (lecturers) should opt for dialogue with the government and I am sure, Buhari led administration will cooperate with them because it is in-line with his government policy of change.
"Looking at the ASUU strike, I believe it is a manipulation by the European witches to set the country backward again."
President Buhari has been in the UK to treat an undisclosed ailment for over 100 days.
Maharaj Ji, whose real name is Mohammed Ajirobatan Ibrahim, leads a religious group which has diverse names: One Love Family, the One Love Mission, One Love, One Family, the Divine Love Family.
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Its followers are vegetarians and wear badges as signs of their commitment.
Gambia: Regional Forum On Interest Free Islamic Banking Held
8 AUGUST 2017
By Momodou Jawo
The West African Institute for Financial and Economic Management (WAIFEM) is currently organising a five days regional course on interest free Islamic Banking in The Gambia.
The training held in a local hotel in Senegambia aimed at providing a broad understanding of the rudiments of Islamic banking to participants; as well as to provide clarity on the Shariah requirements and the avoidance of RIBA in modern day banking business.
According to officials, the broad themes to be covered in this course include; fundamentals of Islam and Introduction to Islamic as it relates to banking and finance development and challenges in Islamic finance; Legal and Institutional Framework; Operation of Islamic Banking and Sharia Governance Framework among others.
Deputising for the governor of the Central Bank of The Gambia, the 1st deputy governor of Central Bank of The Gambia Saikou Jabbie, spoke at length on the significance of the forum. He said non-interest (Islamic finance), despite its name, is not a religious product/service restricted to Muslims alone, adding that it is bound by Sharia (Islamic Law) and prohibits the taking or payments of interest.
In its simplest form, he added, non-interest banking requires that financial products-from mortgages to savings accounts be structured to comply with Sharia Law, and executed through the purchase or sales contracts based on the underlying assets.
According to him, it is very evident that there has been significant growth in Islamic financial services in recent years and there is every reason to expect that this growth will continue at a rapid pace. The 1st deputy governor of the CBG stated that, given the large Muslim population and the potential of Islamic banking, the government of The Gambia went into partnership with the Islamic Development Bank to develop the necessary infrastructure for Islamic banking in the country.
This partnership, he noted, resulted in the revision of the Financial Institutions Act 1992, now the Banking Act 2009, and facilitated the creation of a legal framework for the establishment of Islamic banking in the country. This was followed by the necessary regulatory framework to adequately supervise Islamic banks.
For his part, the director general of WAIFEM, Prof. Akpan H. Ekpo, said modern-day Islamic banking started over three decades ago, with the establishment of the Islamic Bank of Dubai in 1975, thus other banks in the middle East entered the market, and Islamic banking eventually spread to Asia, Europe, America and the rest of the World.
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American Muslims show solidarity in pushback against bigotry at Charlottesville
August 17, 2017
For many American Muslims, the hate that struck Charlottesville has become all too familiar.
The community has in recent months witnessed some of its mosques being attacked or vandalised, and a few of its members targeted in public places such as taxi cabs and university campuses.
The rise in hate crimes targeting the 3.3 million Muslims in the United States goes hand in hand with the growing wave of the far-right nationalism in the country, displayed in its extreme form in Charlottesville last Saturday.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations, there was a 67 per cent spike in hate crimes against Muslims in 2015, bringing the number of attacks to 257, up from the annual average of 100-150 between 2001 and 2014.
The number of hate crimes targeting Muslims may have doubled from 2015 to 2016, according to the Centre for Muslim-Christian Understanding at the University of Georgetown.
One week before the Charlottesville events, a bomb exploded at the Dar Al Farooq Islamic Centre in suburban Minneapolis. The governor of the state, Mark Dayton, called the mosque attack an “act of terrorism” as the FBI launched an investigation.
In May, Jeremy Joseph Christian — known for his right wing extremist and white supremacist views — fatally stabbed two passengers in Portland, Oregon on a train who were trying to stop him from harassing two young Muslim women.
But even before Minnesota and Oregon, last fall, three anti-Muslim white supremacists in Kansas were arrested for allegedly plotting to bomb an apartment complex occupied by Somali immigrants. They are currently awaiting trial.
When the neo-Nazi suspect in Charlottesville, James Alex Fields, drove his car into a counter-protest killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others, Muslim-Americans were among the first to show solidarity.
Across the US, members of the community took part in interfaith vigils in Alabama, Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, California, to condemn white supremacist and neo-Nazi rhetoric. Muslims joined hands with Jewish, Christian and humanitarian groups in holding vigils and promoting a message of unity.
“Hate is hate,” said David Ramadan, a former Republican member of the Virginia House of Delegates.
“In the white supremacist mind there is no difference between an Arab and a Jew, between a Muslim and a black man, between an Asian and a Latino," Mr Ramadan, who has Lebanese roots, told The National.
While the events in Charlottesville strike at the core of American values, and beyond the Arab or Muslim community, “what we saw is the same bigotry”.
"While they have the right to protest, we have every single right to condemn them with every fibre of our being,” he added.
Not far from Charlottesville in northern Virginia, Rizwan Jaka of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (Adams) said his group has attended several vigils since Saturday's clashes.
“We denounce all manifestations of white nationalist/supremacist hatred and bigotry, in the same way that we have denounced similar actions in past years, by those who falsely claim to be acting in the name of Islam or other religions,” Mr Jaka said.
“Anyone who perpetrates such actions is a vile criminal and needs to be labelled as a terrorist murderer,” said Mr Jaka referring to the perpetrator in Charlottesville.
Mr Trump has so far been reluctant to use the word “terrorism” to describe the Charlottesville attack. His late condemnation of white supremacists on Monday, followed by assigning blame to "both sides" the next day, struck a nerve with those protesting white supremacists.
“This great nation cannot go back to Nazism for God’s sake,” said Mr Ramadan, pointing to a false moral equivalency that Mr Trump drew between the two camps protesting. That, in his opinion, will embolden white supremacists.
“These people drove from far places to come to Charlottesville because they are feeling emboldened … if they didn’t feel they have sympathisers in the White House, such as [Trump’s chief strategist] Steve Bannon they wouldn’t have made such a long journey," he said.
Former KKK leader and white supremacist David Duke thanked the president on Twitter for his “honesty and courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists".
Still, almost a week after the Charlottesville attack, many Muslim-Americans are hoping that the pushback and massive public outcry against white supremacists will help in curtailing the wave of similar attacks targeting the community.
Trump at Camp David on Friday for Afghanistan talks
17 August 2017
US President Donald Trump will meet Friday with his national security team at Camp David, as he mulls whether or not to send more American troops to war-ravaged Afghanistan.
Possible plans include sending thousands more troops into the nearly 16-year conflict, or taking the opposite tack and pulling out, leaving private military contractors to help the Afghans oversee the fragile security situation.
"The president along with the vice president will meet with the national security team on Friday at Camp David to discuss the South Asia strategy," the White House said.
Trump's generals have called the Afghan conflict a "stalemate" and even after years of intensive help from the US and other NATO nations, Afghanistan's security forces are still struggling to hold back an emboldened Taliban.
In an early move to address the situation, Trump gave his Pentagon chief, former general Jim Mattis, broad powers to set troop numbers.
But several months later, the level remains stuck at about 8,400 US and about 5,000 NATO troops, mainly serving in a training and advisory capacity.
Mattis wants to wait until the White House has come up with a coherent strategy for not just Afghanistan but the broader region, notably Pakistan and how it deals with terror groups, before he commits to adjustments.
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Trump calls for the United States to imitate fake war crimes to fight terrorism
Aug 17, 2017
After he struggled to condemn a white supremacist terrorist attack in the United States, reluctantly condemned it, and then pivoted back to the idea that not every participant in a neo-Nazi rally that ended with a woman’s murder was necessarily bad, a deadly terrorist attack in Barcelona offered President Trump the more comfortable terrain of talking about Islamic terrorism.
Specifically, he suggested on Twitter that the long-dead American Gen. John Pershing has the fix that the world needs today.
This is a reference to a story Trump has told in the past about efforts undertaken by the United States to subdue an insurgency in the Philippines. The United States took control of the islands after a brief war with Spain in 1898, and then fought a three-year war against the locals to secure control over it. But localized unrest continued in some areas, and Pershing served as governor of Moro Province, which is predominantly Muslim, between 1909 and 1913 before going on to his better-known career as the leader of American military forces in World War I.
They were having terrorism problems, just like we do. And he caught 50 terrorists who did tremendous damage and killed many people. And he took the 50 terrorists, and he took 50 men and he dipped 50 bullets in pigs’ blood — you heard that, right? He took 50 bullets, and he dipped them in pigs’ blood. And he had his men load his rifles, and he lined up the 50 people, and they shot 49 of those people. And the 50th person, he said: You go back to your people, and you tell them what happened. And for 25 years, there wasn’t a problem. Okay? Twenty-five years, there wasn’t a problem.
After Trump told this story, Louis Jacobson of PolitiFact looked into it with eight historians, all of whom were deeply skeptical that it ever happened. The notion that pig’s blood was used as an anti-Muslim weapon appears to derive from a 1939 Gary Cooper movie and a single letter written in 1960.
And of course while observant Muslims avoid eating pork products, they’re not vampires who can only be killed by special bullets. There’s no precept of Muslim doctrine that would suggest being shot at with pig blood–soaked bullets would imperil one’s immortal soul. In the bigger picture, unrest in the Philippines didn’t actually taper off while Pershing was governor — let alone stop for 25 years. Plus, you can’t execute suicide attackers anyway.
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Vancouver mayor calls for peace ahead of anti-Islam rally and counter protest; MP wants event cancelled
Aug 18, 2017
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson says the city is working with police to make sure there are no violent clashes in Vancouver this weekend.
In the wake of a racist rally that turned deadly in Charlottesville, Va. last weekend, the City of Vancouver is set to hold its own pair of dueling demonstrations between anti-Islam groups and counter-protesters.
A Saturday event dubbed the “WCAI Canada/CAP rally” has been re-posted to Facebook after being taken down Tuesday, and lists speakers from several anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim groups.
That prompted a counter rally, organized by an ad-hoc group calling itself Stand Up to Racism Metro Van.
Robertson is asking for peace this weekend during the two events.
“Obviously Vancouver has a troubled history with racism and discrimination that’s part of our history,” said Robertson.
“We’ve been very focused on eliminating it in the City of Vancouver in these recent years. We are focused on being a city of reconciliation and zero tolerance of hatred, racism and discrimination is where Vancouver’s at.”
On Friday, Vancouver-Kingsway MP Don Davies, called on the City to cancel permission for the planned rally by the Worldwide Coalition Against Islam (WCAI) and the Cultural Action Party (CAP).
In a written statement Davies said it’s clear the event’s organizers are motivated by what happened in Charlottesville, Va and they “intend on spreading hatred and inciting violence.”
Davies believes a strong and clear message must be sent that this will not be tolerated in “our community.” He also said he empathizes with the difficult position the City is in.
“I wholly respect the right of citizens to gather peacefully and express their views,” Davies said. “But these are criminal acts, and I believe the City has the right and an obligation to enforce the law and protect all citizens before someone gets hurt.” Davies went on the say community leaders need to express clear denunciations of those fomenting hatred against identifiable groups.
“We need to call these people and their ideas what they are: racist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, homophobic and misogynist. There is no place in our society for them, and we need to back up that sentiment with action,” Davies said.
Vancouver Police Sgt. Jason Robillard said Wednesday that police are prepared for the possibility of violence, but that free speech is protected.
He said officers at the scene will be making the distinction about whether that protected speech crosses over into hate speech.
“We have to assess, sometimes at a very high rate of speed, what that means and make quick decisions so that we can make sure that the public is safe. But we do like to be prepared and we are making preparations.”
The VPD has been criticized by protesters who say they didn’t do enough to stop members of the allegedly anti-immigrant group the “Soldiers of Odin” disrupting an anti-racist protest in March.
Meanwhile, organizers of the counter-protest said they are taking measures to keep the event peaceful.
“We are going to be advising everybody to stay in groups. We’re also reaching out with the peacekeepers right now, which is a volunteer organization of people who are trained in de-escalation, and combat if necessary,” said Isabelle Rowe-Codner with Stand-Up Racism Metro Vancouver.
However, not everyone in the activist community is supporting the counter-protest. Ana David with Latinos in Action is calling on the mayor to shut down the event — which she says only draws attention to racists, and could turn violent.
“I think he should be stopping the rally alltogether. It is about hate speech, it is about violence, and it is about white supremacy. Hmm, what an interesting point. White supremacy, from a white man who happens to be a mayor of the city.”
More than 2,000 people have said they plan to attend the counter-protest, scheduled for 12:45 p.m. on Saturday, according to a Facebook post from the group.
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