New Age Islam
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Islamic World News ( 7 Apr 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Temple, Mosque, Gurdwara Join Hands in Small UP Town











Photo: The Jeish al-Islam terrorist group is using civilians in the Syrian town of Douma in Eastern Ghouta as human shields to slow down the Syrian Army's rapid advances in the region.

 

Syria: Terrorists Use Civilians as Human Shield in Douma

Military Hand? Pakistani News Channel Geo TV Forced To Go Off Air

Muslims Win Case against New York Police Illegal Surveillance

CPEC Being Extended To Afghanistan, Says Report

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India

Temple, Mosque, Gurdwara Join Hands in Small UP Town

Why Shopian Symbolises Fight against Kashmir’s New Wave of Militancy

Farooq Abdullah advocates Indo-Pak dialogue; LoC turned into Line of Peace

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Arab World

Syria: Terrorists Use Civilians as Human Shield in Douma

Twitter Account of Makkah Imam Closed By Saudi Authorities

Activists, Medics: Gas Attack near Syrian Capital Kills 40

Iraqi Troops Kill Seven Islamic State Militants In Anbar

Militants Resume Attacking Damascus: 8 Killed, 37 Wounded

Terrorists Resort to False-Flag Chemical Attack Scenario again amid Syrian Army Rapid Advances in Douma

Tens of Civilians Killed in Terrorists' False-Flag Chemical Attack in Douma

New Convoy of US, French Forces Arrive in Kurdish-Held Manbij

Army Purging Southeastern Hama of Terrorists

Eight People Killed, 20 Injured Near Mosque in Al-Bab's Car Bomb Attack North Syria

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Pakistan

Military Hand? Pakistani News Channel Geo TV Forced To Go Off Air

Pervez Musharraf Postpones Plan to Return to Pakistan

Pakistan PM: Kabul accepts offer to renew talks with Taliban

Pak man who hurled shoe at Sharif released on bail

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North America

Muslims Win Case against New York Police Illegal Surveillance

Mentor Church, Islamic Group to Offer Teatime for Peace Event to ‘Build Bridges’

Man Helping Sick Kids Shows Islam's 'True Face' In US

US: 16 Military Aviators Dead in Six Crashes in Past Few Weeks

Trump threatens to retaliate on Syria for chemical weapons attack

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South Asia

CPEC Being Extended To Afghanistan, Says Report

Taliban Should Not Miss the Chance For Peace, Says Turkish PM

Top IS commander in Afghanistan killed

Motorcycle bomb explosion leaves 2 militants dead in Laghman

8 militants killed in AAF airstrike in Badakhshan province: Gen. Radmanish

Afghan forces thwart deadly explosion in Kabul

Afghan forces and Taliban suffer casualties in Uruzgan operation

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Mideast

Don’t Mess With Our Elections: Iran Data Centres Hacked, US Flags Appear On Screens

Muslim, Arab Elites Should React Against Scandal: Majlis Speaker

Palestinian Injured by Israeli Gunfire Dies of Wounds

Turkish Military Convoy Enters Syria's Hama to Set up New Monitoring Post

Jaish al-Islam terrorists resume attacking Damascus, 8 martyred, 37 injured

Turkey’s Erdogan says France is abetting terrorists

Turkey to deport nearly 600 Afghan migrants – interior ministry

Palestinian journalist dies as Israel border clash toll rises to nine

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Southeast Asia

Islamic Groups Report Indonesian Politician for Reciting 'Blasphemous' Poem

Myanmar Not Ready For Return Of Rohingya Refugees: UN Official

Developments in Maldives cause of concern: Pentagon

Sheikh Hasina seeks UN help for Rohingya's return

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Africa

Egypt’s Dar Al-Iftaa Declares ‘Blue Whale’ Video Game Prohibited In Islam

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Europe

Islamic Festival Welcomes All Denominations to Learn About Practices

Islamophobia in UK: Thugs Shot Imam Of A Mosque, Police Arrest 2 For Attempted Murder

Imam speaks out after being shot in Luton

Russia Accuses West of Curbing Syrian Army's Op Amid Chemical Attack Claims

No indication driver had Islamist ties - Germany official

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/temple,-mosque,-gurdwara-join-hands-in-small-up-town/d/114858

 

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Temple, Mosque, Gurdwara Join Hands in Small UP Town

Apr 08, 2018, 01.20 PM IST

With inter-community violence reported from many parts of India in a society increasingly polarised on religious and caste lines, a small town in Uttar Pradesh is setting an extraordinary example where a temple, a mosque and a gurdwara have joined hands to clean a polluted river while bringing their communities together.

About 100 km from the state capital Lucknow is the town named Maholi in district Sitapur. Here lies an old Shiva and a Radha-Krishna temple along with Pragyana Satsang  ..

Along the periphery of this amalgamated religious campus, passes a polluted river called Kathina, that merges into the highly polluted Gomti River, a tributary of the mighty but polluted Ganga.

Often used as dumping site by dozens of villages and devotees, the stink from Kathina was increasing daily. The solution -- Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb (a term used for a fusion of Hindu and Muslim elements) - of Awadh.

"The river belongs to everyone. Hindus use it for 'aachman' (a Hindu ritual for spiritual purification), Muslims use it for 'wazu' or ablution. Due to lack of awareness, people had been dumping solid and bio waste here, and also doing open defecation. The situation was worsening. The only solution was to start cleaning it ourselves," said Swami Vigyananad Saraswati, head of the Pragyana Satsang Ashram, as he inspects the river stretch along with Muhammad Haneef, head of the mosque's managing com ..

Swami said that once the ashram and temple administration began rallying volunteers for the cleaning drive, the mosque also came around to help. Even Maholi's Sikh gurudwara committee came forward and brought along many volunteers from the Sikh community.

"Once the communities came together, the number of volunteers multiplied. The initiative has now become a kind of an environment-movement which is being driven by religious fervour and bonding. Watching our efforts, the local administration also offered help, and other unions like traders and Sikh gurudwara committee also joined hand for cleaning the river," Swami told IANS pointing out the potential of possibilities when different communities join hands for good.

Ujagar Singh, a member of the Sikh gurdwara committee, equated the effort in cleaning the river with 'sewa', an important aspect of Sikhism to provide a service to the community.

The temple and mosque, near the town's police station, were both built in 1962 by then Inspector Jaikaran Singh. The communal fervor is shared since years. During 'namaaz', the ashram switches off its loudspeakers and on Hindu festivals and special occasions, the mosque committee helps the temple with arrangements.

"Many villages do not have toilets and volunteers had to stay here round the clock to stop people from defecating or throwing waste. The work was divided. Muslims volunteers would take over the Muslim majority areas and Hindus would tackle other areas, convincing people to stop pollution further while we clean," Muhammad Haneef told IANS.

economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/temple-mosque-gurdwara-join-hands-in-small-up-town/articleshow/63666209.cms

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Syria: Terrorists Use Civilians as Human Shield in Douma

Sun Apr 08, 2018 1:54

Jeish al-Islam has prevented a large number of civilians from leaving Douma in Eastern Ghouta for safe zones, using them as human shield to save its gunmen as the army is on march in the region.

The terrorists have opened fire at civilians that have been protesting against Jeish al-Islam in Eastern Ghouta and calling for the pullout of militants and deployment of the army in their region.

The army is advancing against terrorists in several flanks near Douma, coming close to a full victory over Jeish al-Islam. 

The terrorists have resorted to every possible measure including frequent suicide attacks to prevent the army from advancing.

In a relevant development on Saturday, the army men, backed up by the artillery and missile units' heavy fire and air raids, stormed the positions of Jeish al-Islam in Douma and managed to push the militants back from the farms around the town.

The army soldiers further imposed control over Farabi School at the gate of Douma.

In the meantime, local sources said that a main command center of Jeish al-Islam in the Central part of Douma was destroyed in the army's air strikes, adding that several depots of arms and ammunition were detonated in the attack.

Local sources reported that Jeish al-Islam's front has completely collapsed after its command center was destroyed.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970119000487

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Military hand? Pakistani news channel Geo TV forced to go off air

Omer Farooq Khan | TNN | Apr 7, 2018, 06:39 IST

ISLAMABAD: Amid the incessant tussle between Pakistan’s military and civilian institutions, the country’s largest television network, Geo TV, has gone off air in most parts of the country, apparently for airing programmes widely seen as unacceptable to the powerful establishment.

Without revealing who was behind the blackout of Geo, Pakistan home minister Ahsan Iqbal said it was not taken off air by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) or the ministry of information. “We are off the air in 80% of the country,” Mir Ibrahim Rahman, the chief executive of Geo network, told media without blaming anyone.

The blackout began in the first week of March, when Geo News went off air in cantonment areas across the country and adjacent residential areas. By the start of April, according to media reports, all Geo channels — including news, entertainment and sports channels — were being blocked across the country by cable operators. According to Pemra, it has issued notices to cable operators not to disrupt transmissions by Geo.

“Though Pemra issued notices, and the matter was heard by the apex court, no one knows how to reverse the situation legally and formally. Officials at the media regulator seem helpless and powerless before the hands of invisible yet powerful people,” Fasihur Rehman Khan, a senior journalist and analyst working for The News, Jang Group, told TOI.

Geo reportedly has upset the military with its critical coverage of Pakistan’s placement on a terrorism financing watch list this year. More recently, according to media reports, news reports and articles critical of the army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, and his domestic and foreign policy preferences, known here as the “Bajwa Doctrine”, have also outraged generals.

The Committee to Protect Journalists expressed concern. “The arbitrary suspension of Geo TV on cable TV is a direct assault on Pakistan’s constitutionally guaranteed right to access information,” Steven Butler, the committee’s Asia programme coordinator, said in a statement. “It’s outrageous that the authorities are either unable to find, or too frightened to name, those powerful enough to orchestrate the blocking of the news distribution.”

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/military-hand-pakistani-news-channel-geo-tv-forced-to-go-off-air/articleshow/63651514.cms

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Muslims win case against New York Police illegal surveillance

April 8, 2018 - 1:37 PM News Code : 888534 Source : al Jazeera

(AhlulBayt News Agency) - The New York Police Department has agreed not to conduct surveillance based on religion or ethnicity and to listen to Muslims as it develops new training materials as part of a deal to settle claims it illegally spied on Muslims for years after the September 11 attacks.

“We won this case, make no mistake about it. But as a member of the armed forces, I believe the United States won as well,” said Farhaj Hassan, a US Army reservist and the lead plaintiff in the 2012 lawsuit in federal court in Newark, New Jersey.

“No one likes to take on the cops. Cops are good,” he said. “But in this case, when cops were acting bad, it had to be done."

“Today’s settlement sends a message to all law enforcement: Simply being Muslim is not a basis for surveillance,” said Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, a legal advocacy and educational organization.

Lawsuit

The lawsuit came after The Associated Press revealed in a series of Pulitzer Prize-winning articles how the NYPD infiltrated Muslim student groups and put informants in mosques as part of a broad effort to prevent "terrorist attacks". In New Jersey, the department collected intelligence on ordinary people at mosques, restaurants and schools starting in 2002, the AP news agency reported.

At a news conference, the plaintiffs noted that surveillance programme never produced a "terrorism" lead as it spied on at least 20 mosques, 14 restaurants, 11 retail stores, two grade schools and two Muslim student associations in New Jersey.

The deal came after a Philadelphia appeals court in 2015 likened the surveillance programme to when Japanese Americans were interned during World War II and discrimination before racial unrest in the 1950s and 1960s forced change.

The ban

The court settlement bans the police department from conducting surveillance without suspicion on the basis of religion or ethnicity and calls for the Muslim litigants to provide input into a new policy guide to control the police department’s Intelligence Bureau. It also requires NYPD "counterterrorism" probes in New Jersey to follow the Handschu Guidelines, which resulted from a 1971 lawsuit by the Black Panther Party alleging police engaged in widespread surveillance of legitimate political activity.

The agreement announced Thursday by the city and the Islamic community also calls for the city to pay $75,000 in damages and nearly $1m in legal fees. It also ensures surveillance in New Jersey will follow rules defined in another landmark civil rights case.

It also requires the city to pay $47,500 to businesses and mosques harmed by surveillance and $25,000 to individual plaintiffs in $5,000 increments. The city also will pay $950,000 in legal fees for plaintiffs.

“This settlement demonstrates a continued commitment by the NYPD to safeguard individual constitutional rights while keeping New York the safest city in America,” said Zachary W Carter, the city’s top lawyer.

en.abna24.com/news/america/muslims-win-case-against-new-york-police-illegal-surveillance_888534.html

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CPEC being extended to Afghanistan, says report

PTI | Updated: Apr 8, 2018

China in December had unveiled its plans to extend the CPEC to Afghanistan which has sparked concerns in India

India has protested to China over CPEC, which is being built through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK)

File photo shows a container being loaded on a ship after the inauguration of CPECFile photo shows a container being loaded on a ship after the inauguration of CPEC

BEIJING: The controversial China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the flagship project of China's ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is being extended to Afghanistan, a study report said on Sunday.

The BRI has injected "fresh vitality" to Asia's economic cooperation and helped the continent to reshape its international relations, said the Asian Competitiveness Annual Report 2018 released here on the sidelines of China's Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) annual conference.

China in December had unveiled its plans to extend the $50 billion CPEC to Afghanistan which has sparked concerns in India.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during his meeting with his Pakistan and Afghan counterparts had offered to extend CPEC to Afghanistan.

"China and Pakistan are willing to look at with Afghanistan, on the basis of win-win, mutually beneficial principles, using an appropriate means to extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to Afghanistan," Wang had said at the trilateral foreign ministers' meeting.

The BFA was formed by China in 2001 on the lines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, and holds its meeting every year.

This year's forum to be held till April 11 has opened at Boao today a coastal town in the southern island province of Hainan. President Xi Jinping is due to address the conference.

"China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project under the Belt and Road Initiative, has not only improved local infrastructure but also is extending toward Afghanistan, reducing poverty, the hotbed of terrorism, and bringing better prospects for local people's lives," state-run Xinhua news agency quoted the report as saying.

The multi-billion-dollar BRI, the pet project of Xi has become a major stumbling block in India-China relations as CPEC has been listed as its "flagship project".

India has protested to China over CPEC, which is being built through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Outlining India's concerns on BRI, Indian Ambassador to China, Gautam Bambawale told Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post recently that "when we talk about development projects or connectivity projects, they must be transparent, fair and equal. There are certain internationally accepted norms for such projects".

"If a project meets those norms, we will be happy to take part in it. One of the norms is the project should not violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a country. Unfortunately, there is this thing called CPEC, which is called a flagship project of BRI which violates India's sovereignty and territory integrity. Therefore, we oppose it," he said.

Earlier, he told state-run Global Times that both countries should resolve differences. "This is a major problem for us. We need to talk about it, not push it under the carpet," he said.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/cpec-being-extended-to-afghanistan-says-report/articleshow/63669582.cms

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India

Temple, Mosque, Gurdwara Join Hands in Small UP Town

Apr 08, 2018, 01.20 PM IST

With inter-community violence reported from many parts of India in a society increasingly polarised on religious and caste lines, a small town in Uttar Pradesh is setting an extraordinary example where a temple, a mosque and a gurdwara have joined hands to clean a polluted river while bringing their communities together.

About 100 km from the state capital Lucknow is the town named Maholi in district Sitapur. Here lies an old Shiva and a Radha-Krishna temple along with Pragyana Satsang  ..

Along the periphery of this amalgamated religious campus, passes a polluted river called Kathina, that merges into the highly polluted Gomti River, a tributary of the mighty but polluted Ganga.

Often used as dumping site by dozens of villages and devotees, the stink from Kathina was increasing daily. The solution -- Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb (a term used for a fusion of Hindu and Muslim elements) - of Awadh.

"The river belongs to everyone. Hindus use it for 'aachman' (a Hindu ritual for spiritual purification), Muslims use it for 'wazu' or ablution. Due to lack of awareness, people had been dumping solid and bio waste here, and also doing open defecation. The situation was worsening. The only solution was to start cleaning it ourselves," said Swami Vigyananad Saraswati, head of the Pragyana Satsang Ashram, as he inspects the river stretch along with Muhammad Haneef, head of the mosque's managing com ..

Swami said that once the ashram and temple administration began rallying volunteers for the cleaning drive, the mosque also came around to help. Even Maholi's Sikh gurudwara committee came forward and brought along many volunteers from the Sikh community.

"Once the communities came together, the number of volunteers multiplied. The initiative has now become a kind of an environment-movement which is being driven by religious fervour and bonding. Watching our efforts, the local administration also offered help, and other unions like traders and Sikh gurudwara committee also joined hand for cleaning the river," Swami told IANS pointing out the potential of possibilities when different communities join hands for good.

Ujagar Singh, a member of the Sikh gurdwara committee, equated the effort in cleaning the river with 'sewa', an important aspect of Sikhism to provide a service to the community.

The temple and mosque, near the town's police station, were both built in 1962 by then Inspector Jaikaran Singh. The communal fervor is shared since years. During 'namaaz', the ashram switches off its loudspeakers and on Hindu festivals and special occasions, the mosque committee helps the temple with arrangements.

"Many villages do not have toilets and volunteers had to stay here round the clock to stop people from defecating or throwing waste. The work was divided. Muslims volunteers would take over the Muslim majority areas and Hindus would tackle other areas, convincing people to stop pollution further while we clean," Muhammad Haneef told IANS.

economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/temple-mosque-gurdwara-join-hands-in-small-up-town/articleshow/63666209.cms

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Why Shopian Symbolises Fight against Kashmir’s New Wave of Militancy

April 8, 2018

12 terrorists were killed in this district on April 1, in one of the Valley’s biggest operations. Shopian has been getting here since Burhan Wani was killed, with security forces pushing back. The Sunday Express on how Shopian has come to symbolise the fight against Kashmir’s new wave of militancy.

Written by Bashaarat Masood | Shopian | Updated: April 8, 2018 8:20:05 am

Police say Burhan and his associates travelled to Shopian from Tral, Awantipora and Pulwama to shoot the picture, because the small South Kashmir district had only eight local militants at the time.

On April 1, when 12 militants, four civilians and three security personnel were killed in one of the biggest anti-militancy operations in the Valley in the last decade, it was Shopian that lay at the heart of it. The deaths came in two operations in the district —11 of the 12 militants killed that day belonged to 10 of its villages.

If that Wani photo in Shopian symbolised the start of a new wave of militancy in the Valley, the district once known more for its golden apples now represents what has happened after. Records show a three-fold rise in militant numbers in Shopian in the last one year. From eight local militants at the time of Wani’s killing on July 8, 2016, the number now stands at over 46. While 29 militants, including 12 on April 1, have been killed in the district in this period in operations by security forces, the number of local militants still hovers around 25. Almost all of the dead militants took up arms after Wani’s killing.

Says a senior district police officer, who doesn’t want to be identified, “There is militancy everywhere in South Kashmir, but Shopian is an altogether different story.”

Shopian, Shopian encounter, Kashmir unrest, terrorism in kashmir, militancy in jammu kashmir, indian army, J&K Police, militancy in Shopian, Indian Express

Four days after the April 1 encounters, Shopian is shut, with green-and-white flags fluttering in the air, its roads manned by masked young youths, as police, paramilitary and Army personnel keep a watch from behind sandbag bunkers. From mosques blare out songs extolling militants. Two children, around the age of 10, walk by with their cellphones playing Kashmiri ‘freedom’ songs.

Shopian, Shopian encounter, Kashmir unrest, terrorism in kashmir, militancy in jammu kashmir, indian army, J&K Police, militancy in Shopian, Indian Express

Police sources say that in the encounters of April 1, if 12 militants were killed, at least six escaped. “The fact that 11 of them were hiding in one house (in Draggad) shows the confidence militants in Shopian have,” adds a top police officer dealing with counter-insurgency in the district. “We often get inputs of groups of five to seven militants roaming in different parts of the district.”

Another senior police officer puts the number of militants present in the district at any given time at “as high as 40”. “The problem is not just the increase in the number of local militants but also that militants from surrounding Kulgam, Anantnag and Pulwama too have moved into Shopian.”

Spread over 30,741 hectares, Shopian has a population of 2.6 lakh and is divided into two Assembly segments — Shopian and Wachi. It’s also relatively affluent, with money earned from the over 20,000 hectares under apple cultivation. Over two lakh metric tonnes of apples are produced here every year. Though the street protests of 2016 made it difficult to send the fruit outside, the fruit industry has remained largely unaffected by the militancy.

Its location has contributed to Shopian turning into a new militant favourite — it has as its neighbours Poonch (Jammu) in the south-west, and Pulwama and Kulgam districts, both of which have a good militant presence.

Shopian emerged on the radar of security forces almost immediately after Wani’s killing. In the protests that followed his death, South Kashmir remained out of bounds for days, with militants moving around unhindered and posting their videos. Before Shopian, Tral in South Kashmir and Sopore in the north had been militant strongholds.

Soon, Mehmood Ghaznavi, 40, a Hizbul Mujahideen ‘operations chief’ known for his tactical thinking, who was spoken of as Burhan’s successor, surfaced in his village Awneera in Shopian. Active since 1996, he had been presumed dead — having reportedly faked the death — before he was seen in Shopian addressing large crowds.

When security forces started a push into South Kashmir five months after Wani’s death, they left Shopian for the last. Then, in April last year, they had a rude awakening when they had to withdraw while trying to enter some villages in Zainapora area due to stiff resistance. It was after this that top officers of the Army’s Victor Force, that looks after South Kashmir, and police and paramilitary sat together to draw a new strategy.

In August last year, a joint team of police, Army and paramilitary forces surprised militants by cordoning off Awneera village, trapping nine militants inside, including Ghaznavi. After a gunfight of two days, Ghaznavi was killed along with two associates.

Then, in November 2017, additional forces were moved into Shopian. The CRPF sent a reserve battalion of nearly 1,000 men, while police despatched additional personnel of few hundred to various parts. The Army established eight new camps, including at Nagbal, Mantribugh, Pahnoo, Zainapora, Nagisharan and Chillipora.

Shopian, Shopian encounter, Kashmir unrest, terrorism in kashmir, militancy in jammu kashmir, indian army, J&K Police, militancy in Shopian, Indian Express The twon of Shopian in South Kashmir (Express Photo)

Shopian Superintendent of Police Shriram Ambarkar Dinkar says the force operates on “a two-pronged strategy”. “One, where we organise public contact programmes and tell people that we are here to protect them. The second is to continue and intensify anti-militancy operations, though in a different form, with not just encounters but where we also bust modules. We will also act against people who are Over Ground Workers who run militancy in the Valley,” says Dinkar.

Shopian, Shopian encounter, Kashmir unrest, terrorism in kashmir, militancy in jammu kashmir, indian army, J&K Police, militancy in Shopian, Indian Express Relatives of one of the militants grieving after the April 1 encounter. (Express Photo by Shuaib Masoodi)

Within Shopian, security forces face the toughest challenge in over 60 villages bordering Kulgam, Anantnag and Pulwama districts — an area of dense apple orchards. Rambiara, a large stream that divides Shopian from Pulwama, is running dry these days. Last week, a group of teenagers walked into the stream, picked up stones and lined them along the road to prevent movement of vehicles.

“The villages are located at a tri-junction (of districts),” says a police officer. “Plus, the dense orchards provide cover, especially in the summer, when even sunlight can’t penetrate the trees. It is here that militants, including from neighbouring districts, meet.”

Police sources say that three Hizbul Mujahideen commanders separately commanded units in the district till one of them, Ishfaq Ahmad Thoker, was killed on April 1. Thoker was the only one among the 12 killed that day who had joined militancy before Wani’s killing. The 26-year-old, who became a militant in 2015, was commanding the area around his native village of Paddarpora.

Zeenat-ul-Islam, whose name figures in the Army’s list of most wanted militant commanders released after Wani’s killing, is believed to be running the operations in his native village Sugan and its surroundings. The Hizbul’s Kulgam commander, Altaf Kachroo, also moves around Shopian regularly.

Shopian, Shopian encounter, Kashmir unrest, terrorism in kashmir, militancy in jammu kashmir, indian army, J&K Police, militancy in Shopian, Indian Express Army personnel walk during a gun battle between suspected militants and security forces in Shopian, south of Srinagar. (Express Photo by Shuaib Masoodi/Files)

Within Shopian, security forces face the toughest challenge in over 60 villages bordering Kulgam, Anantnag and Pulwama districts — an area of dense apple orchards. Rambiara, a large stream that divides Shopian from Pulwama, is running dry these days. Last week, a group of teenagers walked into the stream, picked up stones and lined them along the road to prevent movement of vehicles.

“The villages are located at a tri-junction (of districts),” says a police officer. “Plus, the dense orchards provide cover, especially in the summer, when even sunlight can’t penetrate the trees. It is here that militants, including from neighbouring districts, meet.”

Police sources say that three Hizbul Mujahideen commanders separately commanded units in the district till one of them, Ishfaq Ahmad Thoker, was killed on April 1. Thoker was the only one among the 12 killed that day who had joined militancy before Wani’s killing. The 26-year-old, who became a militant in 2015, was commanding the area around his native village of Paddarpora.

Zeenat-ul-Islam, whose name figures in the Army’s list of most wanted militant commanders released after Wani’s killing, is believed to be running the operations in his native village Sugan and its surroundings. The Hizbul’s Kulgam commander, Altaf Kachroo, also moves around Shopian regularly.

Officials say Zeenat is in touch with Saddam Padder, who commands the Hizbul in Shopian and is active in his native village Heff and Shirmal. Both Zeenat and Saddam are ‘A++’ category militants in police books, with a cash reward of Rs 12.5 lakh each.

In the Keller region of Shopian bordering Pulwama, foreign militants of the Jaish-e-Mohammad, including fidayeen, are said to have set up base. Nestled in the Pir Panjal mountains, Keller is surrounded on two sides by dense pine forests, making it a difficult terrain for security forces. In recent months, the area has seen rise in militant movement.

Shopian, Shopian encounter, Kashmir unrest, terrorism in kashmir, militancy in jammu kashmir, indian army, J&K Police, militancy in Shopian, Indian Express Relatives and families take part in a funeral procession of an army soldier in Shopian of Kashmir. (Express Photo)

But bar these handful of foreign militants, what marks the Shopian militancy is its “completely localised” nature, says a police officer involved in counter-insurgency operations — making their task all the more harder. The Hizbul is the dominating outfit, while a few are associated with the Lashkar-e-Toiba. “The militant commanders here don’t have even contact with their handlers in Pakistan. It is a closely knit network of relatives, friends and acquaintances. The people here are also religious and are ideologically wedded (to the ‘movement’).”

On April 5, outside a closed shop near the historic Jamia Masjid of Shopian, four youths in their early teens stood listening to the last conversation of Aetimad Ahmad with his father Fayaz Ahmad Malik. Aetimad was a militant for five months, before being killed on April 1. “I can’t ask you to surrender, I can’t tell you that,” Malik tells his son, as the 26-year-old informs him that they are trapped in a house and one of his associates has been shot. “Pray to God that He keeps you steadfast. Be brave. I will only tell you that you were God’s gift to me, and I am returning that.”

The conversation, in which Aetimad goes on to seek his father’s forgiveness, has gone viral in the Valley. One of the youths listening to it today on his phone, comments in Kashmiri, “By God, we have to become mujahid.” The other three stay quiet.

Police say religiosity is one of the factors for Shopian’s rising militancy. The district has had a long association with the Jamat-e-Islami — a politico-religious organisation that has been advocating Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan. Two of the Jamat founders in J&K, Hakeen Ghulam Nabi and Ghulam Ahmad Ahrar, belong to the district. Ahrar continues to have a huge following a decade after his death.

Jamat insiders say that while Hakeem was against the idea of militancy initially, he later asked his son to cross the border for arms training. His son was killed in an encounter when he was in his 20s. “Most of these new militants are from Jamat families or their sympathisers,” says a police officer.  Locals dismiss the explanation of Jamat “influence” as the only reason for militancy as too convenient. They offer another.

In January this year, three civilians were killed when the Army opened fire on stone-throwing protesters at Ganawpora village of Shopian. On March 4, four civilians and two militants were killed in a late-night ambush at Pahnoo village of the district. While the Army says the civilians were accompanying the militants in a car, villagers have been saying they were killed in cold blood.

“We are left with no option but to take up arms,” says a 22-year-old masked youth, guarding a barricade he and his friends have put up. “They (police and the Army) enter our houses, beat us, ransack our homes. We can’t leave our homes after dusk or before first light in the morning. We have been reduced to slaves. Look what forced Zubair (Ahmad Turray) to pick up the gun.”

Turray, a member of Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, was arrested under the Public Safety Act (PSA) after the 2009 protests over the alleged rape and murder of two women in Shopian. In May last year, the 24-year-old escaped jail to join militancy. Two weeks later, he released a video in which he says, “Oppression forced me to do it… I was under custody for four years. In these four years, PSA was slapped against me eight times. Whenever… my father made efforts (for my release) and my PSA was quashed, they would slap another PSA against me… When I could not see hope, I had only one way — to join the Mujahideen.” Turray was among the militants killed on April 1 at Draggad. Says his father Bashir Ahmad Turray, “I told police you turned my son into a militant.”

“Why would police harass anyone?” asks Shopian SP Dinkar. “Turray was a motivator and instigator and had a long criminal record. He was a notorious stone-pelter who had been booked under PSA several times.” The others killed on April 1, apart from Turray, Thoker and Aetimad Hussain, who joined militancy in November 2017, were Ubaid Shafi Malla alias ‘Abu Huraira’, 18, a militant since February 2017; Nazim Ahmad Dar alias ‘Furqan Bhai’, 20, and Rayees Ahmad Thoker, 21, militants since May 2017; Yawar Itoo, 18, a militant since July 2017; Adil Ahmed Thoker, 23, who joined militants in November 2017; and Ishfaq Ahmed Malik, 23, alias ‘Umar Bhai’ and Sameer Ahmed Lone, 20, who became militants just three and two months ago respectively.

The villagers have other stories of “torture” and “harassment”.

The PDP MLA from Shopian, Mohammad Yousuf Bhat, says he believes the allegations. “It is not just Shopian. Harassment is on everywhere in the Valley,” he says.

Ajaz Mir, who also belongs to the ruling PDP and is an MLA from the other Assembly constituency in Shopian, Wachi, adds, “The fear (of security forces) is everywhere.”

The villagers say the increased Army presence is only pushing more youths to pick up the gun. “One night last year, forces entered houses in several villages. They ransacked houses, beat up and arrested people,” says Showkat Ahmad Ganai, a National Conference leader from Shopian and an MLC. “In that week alone, 10 boys joined militants. That was the reaction to the harassment.”

In the three days following the April 1 encounter, adds MLA Mir, three more youths have taken up arms.  Pointing to the futility of dealing with the problem “through the might of the gun”, Mir says, “They (the Government of India) don’t want to resolve it. They have been only managing it. They managed it for some time. Now, they are not even able to manage it. You have killed 210 militants in a year, but what is the result? I have said this in the Assembly too.”

                                                                     ***

Shopian, Shopian encounter, Kashmir unrest, terrorism in kashmir, militancy in jammu kashmir, indian army, J&K Police, militancy in Shopian, Indian Express An army personnal walk during a gun battle between suspected militants and security forces in shopian, south of Srinagar. (Express Photo by Shuaib Masoodi)

The way forward is only one, say the PDP legislators and the NC’s Ganai. “The problem is the Kashmir issue. You need to treat the problem. But no serious step has been taken in this direction. People want the issue to be resolved but nobody is interested in New Delhi. We have to involve Pakistan,” says Mir. He adds that PDP chief and Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has been regularly calling for this. “This (resolution) can be done only by the Centre. We can only become the bridge.”

Meanwhile, worry the leaders, the space for mainstream politics is shrinking every day. “Our MLAs can’t even visit their homes,” says Mir. “There is no question of political activity.” Ganai points to the huge public presence at funerals and encounter sites as another worrying sign. Many do so risking their lives, he says. “You need to see how angry people are. At Kachdora, the Army had to leave an encounter site midway. People managed to retrieve bodies of two of the militants. Their bodies and guns were later taken out from the debris by the people.”

A few days ago, the funeral for Ubaid Shafi, a militant killed in the Draggad encounter, drew around 10,000 people, from Shopian and afar. Two youths in their late 20s, one of them an employee at a private school and another a graduate, sat on the sidelines. Shaking their heads at the people milling around, they wondered where it would all end — a question not many in Shopian are willing to hear right now.

“Is this the right direction we are going in?” said one. “How long are we going to lose our young men, the most promising, educated boys of our society? We need to re-strategise. The bloodshed must stop. Our leaders must rethink. The government must respond.”

indianexpress.com/article/india/shopian-encounter-kashmir-militancy-indian-army-terrorism-hizbul-jk-mehbooba-mufti-police-5128053/

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Farooq Abdullah advocates Indo-Pak dialogue; LoC turned into Line of Peace

PTI | Apr 8, 2018

Jammu: National Conference president Farooq Abullah on Sunday sought that the Line of Control (LoC) should be converted in to a 'Line of Peace and Goodwill' while India and Pakistan should initiate the dialogue process with an active involvement of the people of Jammu and Kashmir to usher harmony and tranquillity in the state.

He cautioned the Centre against taking the people of J&K "for granted and ignoring" their legitimate aspirations. He said the claims that demonetization had curbed stone pelting had fallen flat and expressed concern that "youth were now taking to guns".

India and Pakistan should resume the dialogue process and engage people of Jammu and Kashmir in an acceptable solution, Abdullah said addressing party workers at Balakote in Poonch district.

Sagacity lies in acknowledging realities and shedding the baggage of the past, he said.

Referring to the Indo-Pak hostilities in 1990s, he said former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had invited the then Pakistan president Parvez Musharraf despite the Kargil incursion and his political wisdom worked in terms of a cease-fire agreement which brought cheer to the lives of border people.

"Why can't Vajpayee's spirit be emulated by his political inheritors," he said warning that extreme positions could lead to devastation and destruction in the entire region.

Reiterating his party's demand for greater autonomy to the state, the former chief minister said internal autonomy within the framework of Indian Constitution and conversion of Line of Control (LoC) into Line of Peace was the pragmatic way forward.

"The people of the state decided their future in 1947 by acceding to Mahatma Gandhi's secular India and they will fight all machinations of reversing these well established credentials by polarising forces. India is not religion specific but a country of all, irrespective of religion, region and caste. This legacy cannot be trampled on by fringe elements, currently holding the centre-stage in Indian politics, as majority of Hindus disapprove politics of polarisation and division," he said.

Without naming BJP, he said the current spell of governance in New Delhi had created chaos all over, with people feeling their identities threatened and thus taking to streets.

Abdullah expressed concern over the "dicey political situation" saying he would keep his fingers crossed about things to happen in case the present arrangement is repeated in New Delhi in 2019.

"India cannot flourish with a myopic political vision. It has been a forward looking country, which has to move forward as a strong, stable and a united nation," he added.

Abdullah cautioned people against the divisive politics, saying attempts were being made to create wedge in the society on the basis of region and religion. "All this is being done with a sinister motive of fragmenting Jammu and Kashmir into three different regions", he said and warned those nurturing this "nightmarish dream".

National Conference would fight these designs tooth and nail, he said.

Earlier, at a public meeting at Mandi in Poonch district, Abdullah cautioned the Centre against taking the people of Jammu and Kashmir for granted.

"The claims that demonetization had put an end to stone pelting in Jammu and Kashmir have fallen flat as the youth were now taking to guns. The situation therefore cannot be allowed to drift anymore," he said.

The former chief minister called for earnest initiatives to reach out to the people and urged the Centre to resolve the issues which are essentially political in nature and try to win over the alienated hearts and minds by shunning the policy of "creating divisions".

The MP reiterated the need for Indo-Pak dialogue and said Line of Control (LoC) should be converted into 'Line of Peace and Goodwill' to enable unhindered people to people exchange and trade.

Abdullah said conversion of LoC into Line of Peace would benefit peoples living along the borders on both sides, who have been braving the brunt of hostilities.

He referred to the violence over the alleged "dilution" of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and said machinations are being engineered to end reservation.

"The present dispensation at the Centre is working against the interests of farmers, weaker sections, and minorities," he alleged.

The NC president also blamed the PDP-BJP dispensation in Jammu and Kashmir for "failing" to deliver.

"The lack of accountability and mis-governance have added to the miseries of the people, who are feeling let down on every front," he claimed.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/farooq-abdullah-advocates-indo-pak-dialogue-loc-turned-into-line-of-peace/articleshow/63669968.cms

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Arab World

Syria: Terrorists Use Civilians as Human Shield in Douma

Sun Apr 08, 2018 1:54

Jeish al-Islam has prevented a large number of civilians from leaving Douma in Eastern Ghouta for safe zones, using them as human shield to save its gunmen as the army is on march in the region.

The terrorists have opened fire at civilians that have been protesting against Jeish al-Islam in Eastern Ghouta and calling for the pullout of militants and deployment of the army in their region.

The army is advancing against terrorists in several flanks near Douma, coming close to a full victory over Jeish al-Islam. 

The terrorists have resorted to every possible measure including frequent suicide attacks to prevent the army from advancing.

In a relevant development on Saturday, the army men, backed up by the artillery and missile units' heavy fire and air raids, stormed the positions of Jeish al-Islam in Douma and managed to push the militants back from the farms around the town.

The army soldiers further imposed control over Farabi School at the gate of Douma.

In the meantime, local sources said that a main command center of Jeish al-Islam in the Central part of Douma was destroyed in the army's air strikes, adding that several depots of arms and ammunition were detonated in the attack.

Local sources reported that Jeish al-Islam's front has completely collapsed after its command center was destroyed.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970119000487

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Twitter Account of Makkah Imam Closed By Saudi Authorities

April 8, 2018 - 12:03 PM News Code: 888530 Source: MEMO

(AhlulBayt News Agency) - The Saudi Arabian authorities closed the twitter account on Friday morning of Sheikh Saud Al-Shuraim, one of the Imams in the Grand Mosque in Makkah, AlKhaleejonline.com has reported.

Al-Shuraim had posted comments about political and social issues in the Kingdom and criticised what he believes are violations of Islamic teachings.

The Imam was born in Riyadh in 1964. He has held several senior academic positions, including the Dean and Specialist Professor at Umm Al-Qura University in Makkah. He is also a judge at the High Court in the Holy City.

His fellow Imam at the Grand Mosque, which houses the Sacred Kaaba, is Sheikh Abdul Rahman As-Sudais, who is loyal to the policies of the Saudi royal family. While Al-Shuraim has been praised by Muslims within and beyond the Kingdom over his courageous stances, Al-Sudais has been criticised for his “blind” support for the ruling House of Saud, which is regarded by many as irreligious.

en.abna24.com/news/middle-east/twitter-account-of-makkah-imam-closed-by-saudi-authorities_888530.html

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Activists, medics: Gas attack near Syrian capital kills 40

AP | Apr 8, 2018

BEIRUT: Syrian activists, rescuers and medics said Sunday that a poison gas attack on a rebel-held town near the capital has killed at least 40 people, allegations denied by the Syrian government.

The alleged attack in the town of Douma occurred late Saturday amid a resumed offensive by Syrian government forces after the collapse of a truce.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 80 people were killed in Douma on Saturday, including around 40 who died from suffocation.

Opposition-linked first responders, known as the White Helmets, also reported the attack, saying entire families were found suffocated in their homes and shelters. It reported a death toll from suffocation of more than 40. The Syrian American Medical Society, a relief organization, said 41 people were killed and hundreds wounded.

The reports could not be independently verified.

Syrian government forces resumed their offensive on rebel-held Douma on Friday afternoon after a 10-day truce collapsed over disagreement regarding the evacuation of opposition fighters. Violence resumed days after hundreds of opposition fighters and their relatives left Douma toward rebel-held areas in northern Syria. Douma is the last rebel stronghold in eastern Ghouta.

The alleged gas attack in Douma comes almost exactly a year after a chemical attack in the northern Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun killed dozens of people. That attack prompted U.S. President Donald Trump to order a missile attack on a Syrian air base. The Syrian government and its ally, Russia, denied any involvement in the alleged gas attack.

Douma is in the suburbs of Damascus known as eastern Ghouta. A chemical attack in eastern Ghouta in 2013 that was widely blamed on government forces killed hundreds of people, prompting the U.S. to threaten military action before later backing down.

Syria denies ever using chemical weapons during the seven-year civil war, and says it eliminated its chemical arsenal under a 2013 agreement brokered by the U.S. and Russia after the attack in eastern Ghouta.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/activists-medics-gas-attack-near-syrian-capital-kills-40/articleshow/63666157.cms

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Iraqi troops kill seven Islamic State militants in Anbar

Apr 8, 2018, 12:20 pm | by  Mohammed Ebraheem

Anbar (Iraqinews.com) – Seven Islamic State (IS) militants were killed Sunday as Iraqi troops launched a military operation to eliminate the terrorist group in Anbar, a security source was quoted as saying.

“A security force from the Anbar Operations Command, backed by pro-government troops, launched a military operation to track down IS cells in Hit desert, west of Ramadi,” the source told Knooz Media.

“Seven IS militants were killed in the operation, which was launched upon accurate intelligence reports,” he said, adding that there were no casualties among Iraqi troops.

The troops also seized a huge amount of explosive charges and firearms, according to the source.

The Islamic State group appeared on the international scene in 2014 when it seized large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria, declaring the establishment of an Islamic “caliphate” from Mosul city.

Later on, the group has become notorious for its brutality, including mass killings, abductions and beheadings, prompting the U.S. to lead an international coalition to destroy it.

Despite the group’s crushing defeat at its main havens across Iraq, Islamic State continues to launch sporadic attacks against troops with security reports warning that the militant group still poses a threat against stability in the country.

iraqinews.com/iraq-war/iraqi-troops-kill-seven-islamic-state-militants-in-anbar/

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Militants Resume Attacking Damascus: 8 Killed, 37 Wounded

Sun Apr 08, 2018 1:45

The number of injured civilians rose to 37, including women and children, while other eight civilians, including a child, were killed, Middle East News reported.

A source at Damascus Police Command told SANA that the terrorists of Jeish al-Islam fired 3 shells on Saturday afternoon on the neighborhood of Mazzeh 68, injuring 5 civilians, some of them having sustained serious injuries.

Director General of al-Mouwasat Hospital, Dr. Issam Zakarya al-Ameen, said that the ER in the Hospital received on Saturday morning six bodies of martyrs of civilians including a child and 32 injuries, 10 of them suffered serious injuries, including amputation of limbs and cases of paralysis due to spine injury and severe injuries to the face and abdomen.

Earlier, the source mentioned that terrorists of Jeish al-Islam fired 7 mortar shells on Mazzeh 86 neighborhood and on the surroundings of the Umayyad Square and on Abu Remmaneh and Ish al-Warwar areas, leaving four civilians martyred and more than 30 others injured.

The source added that the terrorist attacks caused also material damage to some houses of the citizens, a number of cars and to the public and private properties.

Material damage was caused to the Islamic Radio and Television Union’s office in Mazzeh area due to the shells fired by Jeish al-Islam terrorists on Damascus.

Later, a source at Damascus Police Command said that Jeish al-Isalam terrorists targeted the neighborhood of Barzeh with a rocket shell, which fell on the roof of a house, causing material damage only.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970119000488

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Terrorists Resort to False-Flag Chemical Attack Scenario again amid Syrian Army Rapid Advances in Douma

Sun Apr 08, 2018 1:50

The sources said that Jeish al-Islam has attacked residential areas in the town of Douma in Eastern Ghouta by poisonous gas to blame the army for the chemical assault.

The sources went on to say that the Jeish al-Islam front is collapsing under the rapid advances of the Syrian army units in Douma, adding that the terrorists' resort to false-flag chemical attack is aimed at preventing the government forces from driving the terrorists out of the region.

On Saturday, rebel-linked activists, including the notorious 'civil defense' group White Helmets, accused the Syrian government of carrying out a chemical attack that allegedly affected dozens of civilians in the militant-controlled town of Douma in Eastern Ghouta. The Syrian government, which regards the White Helmets as a foreign-funded terrorist propaganda mouthpiece, rejected these "fabrications."

In the meantime, the Russian Defense Ministry warned on Saturday that Jeish al-Islam and the Free Syrian Army are to launch gas attack on Douma.

Also, local source in Douma had reported Jeish al-Islam's preparation for launching chemical operation in the region.

In relevant development on March 20, the Russian Defense Ministry said, citing a tip from a local, that militants holed up in Eastern Ghouta were preparing to stage a “false flag” attack to accuse the Syrian government forces of using chemical weapons against civilians.

The Russian Reconciliation Center received a phone call from one of the residents of the al-Wanar quarter of Eastern Ghouta, who warned of possible preparations for a “provocation” with the use of chemical agents.

According to the tip-off, Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Al-Nusra Front) terrorists placed “hermetically sealed containers”, which could contain poisonous substances, next to a self-engineered turbine on one of the roofs in the Damascus suburb.

“The terrorists, according to (the caller), could use those preparations to spray chemical agents in residential areas, which will lead to a large number of casualties among civilians,” Major-General Yuri Yevtushenko announced at the time, adding that “The mass poisoning of civilians will be used to accuse the government troops of the use of chemical weapons against peaceful citizens.”

That was not the first time Moscow raised concerns about possible provocations using chemical agents in Syria. Russia believes that such an attack will be widely covered in the Western media and may ultimately be used as a pretext by the US-led coalition to launch strikes against Syrian government forces.

Russia’s Defense Ministry stressed last month that “US instructors” were training militants to stage false flag chemical attacks in Southern Syria. The incidents were said to be a pretext for airstrikes on Syrian government troops and infrastructure.

“We have reliable information at our disposal that US instructors have trained a number of militant groups in the vicinity of the town of At-Tanf, to stage provocations involving chemical warfare agents in Southern Syria,” Russian General Staff Spokesman General Sergey Rudskoy said at a news briefing on Saturday.

“Early in March, the saboteur groups were deployed to the Southern de-escalation zone to the city of Dara'a, where the units of the so-called Free Syrian Army are stationed,” he added.

“They are preparing a series of chemical munitions explosions. This fact will be used to blame the government forces. The components to produce chemical munitions have been already delivered to the Southern de-escalation zone under the guise of humanitarian convoys of a number of NGOs,” the Spokesman stated.

The planned provocations will be widely covered in the Western media and will ultimately be used as a pretext by the US-led coalition to launch strikes on Syria, Rudskoy warned.

“The provocations will be used as a pretext by the United States and its allies to launch strikes on military and government infrastructure in Syria,” the official stated.

“We’re registering the signs of the preparations for the possible strikes. Strike groups of the cruise missile carriers have been formed in the East of the Mediterranean Sea, Persian Gulf and Red Sea,” he added.

Another false flag chemical attack is being prepared in the province of Idlib by the “Al-Nusra Front terrorist group, in coordination with the White Helmets,” Rudskoy warned.

The militants have already received 20 containers of chlorine to stage the incident, he said.

Washington repeatedly warned that it would conduct more air strikes against Syrian forces if chemical weapons are used in the country.

In January, just before various factions of Syrian society gathered for the Syrian National Congress in Sochi, reports of a chlorine gas attack on the outskirts of the Syrian capital were used to attack the legitimacy of the reconciliation process. At the time, former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson took advantage of the alleged attack to blame Russia for all the chemical weaponry-related incidents in Syria, regardless of who actually conducted it.

Since last month, Syrian government forces have been carrying out operation Damascus Steel to clear EasternGhouta of armed Islamist units that have been terrorizing the locals for years. After the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution proposing a 30-day humanitarian ceasefire in Syria, the Russian Reconciliation Center has been focused on evacuating civilians out of militant-controlled east Ghouta.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970119000399

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Tens of Civilians Killed in Terrorists' False-Flag Chemical Attack in Douma

Sun Apr 08, 2018

Al-Jazeera network reported that a sum of 150 civilians have been killed and hundreds more have been poisoned after Jeish al-Islam lunched the false-flag chemical attack in Douma.

In the meantime, other sources said that Jeish al-Islam terrorists violated an agreement based on which they had to leave Douma for the town of Jarabulus in Northeastern Aleppo and opened mortar fire at residential areas in Damascus suburb, killing or wounding almost 50 civilians.

The sources further said that Jeish al-Islam refused to comply with the terms of the agreement on its evacuation from the town of Douma in a last ditch effort to try the false-flag operation to change the military balance in its favor after the start of an international outcry.

Meantime, experts say the army soldiers have the complete upper hand in the battlefield and are making rapid advances in Douma, "hence, they do not need to use any chemical weapon".

On March 20, the Russian Defense Ministry said, citing a tip from a local, that militants holed up in Eastern Ghouta were preparing to stage a “false flag” attack to accuse the Syrian government forces of using chemical weapons against civilians.

The Russian Reconciliation Center received a phone call from one of the residents of the al-Wanar quarter of Eastern Ghouta, who warned of possible preparations for a “provocation” with the use of chemical agents.

According to the tip-off, Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Al-Nusra Front) terrorists placed “hermetically sealed containers”, which could contain poisonous substances, next to a self-engineered turbine on one of the roofs in the Damascus suburb.

“The terrorists, according to (the caller), could use those preparations to spray chemical agents in residential areas, which will lead to a large number of casualties among civilians,” Major-General Yuri Yevtushenko announced at the time, adding that “The mass poisoning of civilians will be used to accuse the government troops of the use of chemical weapons against peaceful citizens.”

That was not the first time Moscow raised concerns about possible provocations using chemical agents in Syria. Russia believes that such an attack will be widely covered in the Western media and may ultimately be used as a pretext by the US-led coalition to launch strikes against Syrian government forces.

Russia’s Defense Ministry stressed last month that “US instructors” were training militants to stage false flag chemical attacks in Southern Syria. The incidents were said to be a pretext for airstrikes on Syrian government troops and infrastructure.

 “We have reliable information at our disposal that US instructors have trained a number of militant groups in the vicinity of the town of At-Tanf, to stage provocations involving chemical warfare agents in Southern Syria,” Russian General Staff Spokesman General Sergey Rudskoy said at a news briefing on Saturday.

 “Early in March, the saboteur groups were deployed to the Southern de-escalation zone to the city of Dara'a, where the units of the so-called Free Syrian Army are stationed,” he added.

“They are preparing a series of chemical munitions explosions. This fact will be used to blame the government forces. The components to produce chemical munitions have been already delivered to the Southern de-escalation zone under the guise of humanitarian convoys of a number of NGOs,” the Spokesman stated.

The planned provocations will be widely covered in the Western media and will ultimately be used as a pretext by the US-led coalition to launch strikes on Syria, Rudskoy warned.

“The provocations will be used as a pretext by the United States and its allies to launch strikes on military and government infrastructure in Syria,” the official stated.

“We’re registering the signs of the preparations for the possible strikes. Strike groups of the cruise missile carriers have been formed in the East of the Mediterranean Sea, Persian Gulf and Red Sea,” he added.

Another false flag chemical attack is being prepared in the province of Idlib by the “Al-Nusra Front terrorist group, in coordination with the White Helmets,” Rudskoy warned.

The militants have already received 20 containers of chlorine to stage the incident, he said.

Washington repeatedly warned that it would conduct more air strikes against Syrian forces if chemical weapons are used in the country.

In January, just before various factions of Syrian society gathered for the Syrian National Congress in Sochi, reports of a chlorine gas attack on the outskirts of the Syrian capital were used to attack the legitimacy of the reconciliation process. At the time, former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson took advantage of the alleged attack to blame Russia for all the chemical weaponry-related incidents in Syria, regardless of who actually conducted it.

Since last month, Syrian government forces have been carrying out operation Damascus Steel to clear EasternGhouta of armed Islamist units that have been terrorizing the locals for years. After the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution proposing a 30-day humanitarian ceasefire in Syria, the Russian Reconciliation Center has been focused on evacuating civilians out of militant-controlled east Ghouta.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970119000631

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New Convoy of US, French Forces Arrive in Kurdish-Held Manbij

Sun Apr 08, 2018

Arabic-language Smart news website reported that a new convoy of the US and French army troops, including 18 military and armored vehicles, have been sent to Manbij from their base in the town of Tal Abyadh in Northern Raqqa.

The website further said that the newly-arrived convoy of the US and French forces moved towards the village of Khatab Northwest of Manbij.

In the meantime, other field sources reported that a US convoy, including several trucks carrying vehicles, ambulances and cement barriers crossed Simalka passageway at Iraq-Syria border and entered Kurdish-held regions.

They pointed out that the Simalka border-crossing is mainly used for transferring military hardware.

US President Donald Trump had recently vowed to withdraw the country's military forces from Syria.      

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that Ankara would continue its operation in Syria until Kurdish forces leave Syria's Manbij region.

"I would like to repeat that unless we ensure security in all the regions controlled by the YPG [the Kurdish People's Protection Units] first of all, in Manbij, we will not stop," Erdogan said at the trilateral Russia-Turkey-Iran summit on Syria.

The President noted that the three guarantor states' leaders agreed on the necessity to preserve Syria's territorial integrity.

He mentioned that they also had worked out some steps on Syrian settlement, however, without providing details.

On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Erdogan held their second trilateral meeting on Syrian settlement in Ankara. Iran, Russia, and Turkey are the three guarantor states of the ceasefire in Syria, which has been mired in a violent war since 2011, and active participants of the stana format of the Syrian reconciliation.

The Turkish National Security Council has warned that Ankara would push its operation in the Northern district of Afrin further to Manbij, if the Kurdish YPG forces, supported by the United States, did not leave the region. Turkey considers YPG militia to be linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by Ankara.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970119000865

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Army Purging Southeastern Hama of Terrorists

Sun Apr 08, 2018 1:47

The Damascus government troops' advances came after a recent peace agreement reached between the army and the militant groups.

The army entered the villages of Qabiheh, al-Mashakh, Zour al-Jamqaliyeh and Zour Abu Dardah and their nearby regions in Southeastern Hama.

Meantime, the Syrian army continued its military advances in other parts of Syria over the past 24 hours.

Tens of terrorists were killed and dozens more were injured during the Syrian army's operations in provinces across Syria.

Hama

The Syrian Army troops seized full control of four large regions in Southeastern Hama, and came close to full control over the regions after a recent peace agreement that envisaged militants' retreat.

The army entered the villages of Qabiheh, al-Mashakh, Zour al-Jamqaliyeh and Zour Abu Dardah and their nearby regions in Southeastern Hama after the terrorists were forced to leave the region under a peace agreement with Damascus.

Army officers say they will soon take control over the entire militant-held regions in Southeastern Hama as the peace agreement struck by the Syrian army and Russian military with the population of the region envisages expulsion of terrorists from Southeastern Hama.    

Damascus

The Syrian Army troops continued to advance against Jeish al-Islam in Eastern Ghouta, and deployed at the gates of the key town of Douma.

he army men, backed up by the artillery and missile units' heavy fire and air raids, stormed the positions of Jeish al-Islam in Douma and managed to push the militants back from the farms around the town.

The army soldiers further imposed control over Farabi School at the gate of Douma.

In the meantime, local sources said that a main command center of Jeish al-Islam in the Central part of Douma was destroyed in the army's air strikes, adding that several depots of arms and ammunition were detonated in the attack.

Local sources reported that Jeish al-Islam's front has completely collapsed after its command center was destroyed.

Earlier reports said that the army's elite forces, backed up by the artillery and missile units' fire, stormed Jeish al-Islam's positions West of Douma and seized the Southwestern farms between Mesraba and Douma towns.

In the meantime, the army aircraft pounded the positions and movements of Jeish al-Islam in Douma, killing and wounding several terrorists and destroying their positions.

The army started military operation after Jeish al-Islam violated the ceasefire agreement and shelled residential areas in Damascus suburb, killing or wounding almost 34 civilians.

Idlib

A notorious field commander of Jeish al-Izzah was killed after a bomb planted in his car went off in Southern Idlib on Saturday.

Nasr Azkor nom de guerre Abu Marwan, a notorious commander of Jeish al-Izzah, was killed in a booby-trap blast on the road to the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Southern Idlib.

Abdul Rahman al-Dayeri, an aid to Azkor, was also killed in the blast.

A large number of members and commanders of terrorist groups have been assassinated in Idlib province as tension is on rise among terrorist groups in Northwestern Syria.

Aleppo

A main position of the Turkish Army and Ankara-backed militants in the Central part of the occupied town of Afrin came under the Kurdish militias' attack, a media outlet reported on Saturday.

The Kurdish-language Hawar news reported that the Kurdish fighters destroyed a key position of the Turkish troops and Ankara-backed militants near al-Vilat street in Afrin's center, killing four militants and wounding two more.

The Turkish military said in a statement last week that a total number of 3,820 Kurdish militants have been killed of held captive since the start of Operation Olive Branch in Syria's Afrin region.

The General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces said 52 Turkish soldiers were killed while 229 others wounded since the beginning of the Afrin operation.

Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch on Jan. 20 to clear the Kurdish militants from Afrin in Northwestern Syria.

Deir Ezzur

The US Army forwarded more troops and military equipment to the oil and gas fields in Eastern Deir Ezzur on Saturday despite President Donald Trump's claims about troops pullout from Syria.

The US has forwarded more military troops and equipment to the two oilfields of Koniko and al-Omar in Eastern Deir Ezzur and also to al-Sowar settlement in Northern Deir Ezzur, sources from among the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) disclosed on Saturday.

The newly-sent convoy of US forces included several vehicles, a number of soldiers and several mine clearance vehicles.

Local sources reported that the US-backed Kurdish fighters plan to take control over the entire oil and gas fields with the US' military and logistic back-up.

The Kurds are in control of al-Omar oilfield, al-Tunk and al-Jafrah energy fields and Koniko gas company in Eastern Deir Ezzur.

A senior representative of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said last month that the US Army started establishing another large military base in the Eastern part of Deir Ezzur province to further gain control over Syria's energy-rich regions.

Mehdi Kobani, the SDF’s press secretary in Deir Ezzur, said that the new US military base is being built in the vicinity of al-Omar oilfield – the largest oil reservoir in Syria.

“The US is building a large military base in the oil-rich al-Omar region of Deir Ezzur province. Due to security concerns we cannot provide information about the acreage of this new installation. There is currently construction machinery working in the vicinity of the base, and security is being provided by SDF forces,” he said.

Hasaka

A sum of 1,500 fugitive soldiers received government amnesty and joined the Syrian Army in the Northeastern province of Hasaka on Saturday.

The Syrian Army granted amnesty to a sum of 1,500 fugitive soldiers in the town of Qamishli and in Hasaka city. The troops came back into service after they went under a fresh round of military training.

The soldiers are to be later deployed to the army bases and positions in Hasaka province to boost the army's combat power.

A major part of Hasaka province has been captured by the US-backed militants.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970119000391

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Eight People Killed, 20 Injured Near Mosque in Al-Bab's Car Bomb Attack North Syria

Published April 8th, 2018 - 09:48 GMT via SyndiGate.info

Eight civilians were killed and 20 others injured on Saturday when a car bomb exploded near a mosque in Syria’s northern Al-Bab city, according to an Anadolu Agency correspondent on the field.

Civil Defense workers rushed to the area to help the injured and douse the fire.

Some of the injured are in critical condition, Ammar Selmo, head of the Syrian Civil Defense in the city, told Anadolu Agency fearing the death toll may rise.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack yet.

Al-Bab city was liberated from Daesh terrorist group on Feb. 23, 2017 by the Turkish forces and Free Syrian Army amid Euphrates Shield operation.

albawaba.com/news/eight-people-killed-20-injured-near-mosque-al-babs-car-bomb-attack-north-syria-1114062

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Pakistan

Military hand? Pakistani news channel Geo TV forced to go off air

Omer Farooq Khan | TNN | Apr 7, 2018, 06:39 IST

ISLAMABAD: Amid the incessant tussle between Pakistan’s military and civilian institutions, the country’s largest television network, Geo TV, has gone off air in most parts of the country, apparently for airing programmes widely seen as unacceptable to the powerful establishment.

Without revealing who was behind the blackout of Geo, Pakistan home minister Ahsan Iqbal said it was not taken off air by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) or the ministry of information. “We are off the air in 80% of the country,” Mir Ibrahim Rahman, the chief executive of Geo network, told media without blaming anyone.

The blackout began in the first week of March, when Geo News went off air in cantonment areas across the country and adjacent residential areas. By the start of April, according to media reports, all Geo channels — including news, entertainment and sports channels — were being blocked across the country by cable operators. According to Pemra, it has issued notices to cable operators not to disrupt transmissions by Geo.

“Though Pemra issued notices, and the matter was heard by the apex court, no one knows how to reverse the situation legally and formally. Officials at the media regulator seem helpless and powerless before the hands of invisible yet powerful people,” Fasihur Rehman Khan, a senior journalist and analyst working for The News, Jang Group, told TOI.

Geo reportedly has upset the military with its critical coverage of Pakistan’s placement on a terrorism financing watch list this year. More recently, according to media reports, news reports and articles critical of the army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, and his domestic and foreign policy preferences, known here as the “Bajwa Doctrine”, have also outraged generals.

The Committee to Protect Journalists expressed concern. “The arbitrary suspension of Geo TV on cable TV is a direct assault on Pakistan’s constitutionally guaranteed right to access information,” Steven Butler, the committee’s Asia programme coordinator, said in a statement. “It’s outrageous that the authorities are either unable to find, or too frightened to name, those powerful enough to orchestrate the blocking of the news distribution.”

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/military-hand-pakistani-news-channel-geo-tv-forced-to-go-off-air/articleshow/63651514.cms

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Pervez Musharraf postpones plan to return to Pakistan

PTI | Apr 8, 2018

KARACHI: Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf on Sunday postponed his plan to return to the country, saying he will not return until an interim government is formed, a media report said.

The former president and chief of All Pakistan Muslim League (APML), who has to appear before a special Pakistani court in a high treason case, has postponed his plan to return from the UAE as the incumbent government will not provide him with the security he had applied for, a party leader said.

He is likely to return by end of May or even start of June as soon as a caretaker government is formed, the party leader told the Express Tribune.

APML's central leadership will finalise the date, he said.

The 74-year-old retired general has been living in Dubai since last year when he was allowed to leave Pakistan for medical treatment.

Musharraf, who had ruled Pakistan from 1999 to 2008, had sought adequate security from the government for his return and his lawyer had moved a petition to the interior ministry, stating that the former president faced security threats.

The party has decided that a new application will be filed with the federal government seeking foolproof security for Musharraf.

The former military ruler was indicted in March 2014 on treason charges for imposing emergency in the country which led to the confinement of a number of superior court judges in their houses and sacking of over 100 judges.

He has been declared "proclaimed offender" by courts in the treason and the Benazir Bhutto assassination cases.

Musharraf is set to reach out to his political allies in May, the daily said.

Quoting party sources, the daily said Musharraf's party will look to form an alliance against the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) to step out as political force in the upcoming elections.

Up till now, the party has allied itself with the Pakistan Awami Ittehad which will later be renamed as Muttahida League and will take part in the general forthcoming elections.

Musharraf will try to garner support from other parties including PTI, PML-Q, PML-F, BAP and MQM-P.

He will meet the leaders of these parties on his return, the daily said.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pervez-musharraf-postpones-plan-to-return-to-pakistan/articleshow/63668481.cms

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Pakistan PM: Kabul accepts offer to renew talks with Taliban

AP | Apr 7, 2018, 16:03 IST

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's prime minister says Afghanistan has accepted his offer to revive stalled peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said war is not the solution to the decades-long conflict in Afghanistan. His remarks Saturday came a day after he visited Kabul and met with the Afghan leadership.

Pakistan has praised Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani's overture to the Taliban in which he offered to recognize the radical religious group as a political party. The Taliban have not officially responded but have reiterated their demand to talk to the US before holding talks with Kabul.

Pakistan hosted the first direct peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban in 2015 but those talks ended when Kabul announced death of Taliban founder Mullah Mohammed Omar.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-pm-kabul-accepts-offer-to-renew-talks-with-taliban/articleshow/63656533.cms

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Pak man who hurled shoe at Sharif released on bail

PTI | Apr 7, 2018, 19:05 IST

LAHORE: A former seminary student who hurled a shoe at Pakistan's ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif last month has been released from prison on bail.

A judicial magistrate yesterday granted post-arrest bail to Munawar Hussain along with his two accomplices Abdul Ghafoor and Muhammad Sajid subject to furnishing surety bonds of worth Rs 100,000 each.

"The suspects were released from the Kot Lakhpat Jail today after they furnished surety bonds of worth Rs 100,000 each," a jail official said.

Several members of the Tahreek-e-Labaik party greeted them outside the jail and chanted slogans against the PML-N government for not punishing those involved in making changes to the law of finality of Prophet Mohammad.

The party is also known for widespread street power and massive protests in opposition to any change in Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law.

Yesterday, a counsel for the accused argued that their clients did not belong to any political party nor had any political motive.

He said their act was in reaction to the amendment to the 'Khatam-i-Nabuwat' (finality of Prophethood) law by the parliament. He asked the magistrate to release the suspects on bail as they were ready to submit surety bonds.

Police in Lahore's Qila Gujjar Singh area had registered a case against the suspects for assault and criminal intimidation.

Later the police also added the Anti-Terrorism Act in the FIR. However, an anti-terrorism court allowing a petition of the suspects ordered the police to delete the terrorism charge.

Hussain had hurled a shoe at Sharif, who resigned as prime minister last July after the Supreme Court disqualified him over alleged corruption, when he came to the dais to address a gathering here. The attacker then chanted "Labbaik Ya Rasoolallah".

The shoe hit Sharif's shoulder and ear. The co-suspects also tried to throw shoes but security personnel overpowered them. All three were former students of the Jamia Naeemia, a religious seminary in Lahore.

The incident had drawn widespread condemnation from all political and religious parties.

An identical reason was given by Faiz Rasool, who threw black ink on the face of Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif last month.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pak-man-who-hurled-shoe-at-sharif-released-on-bail/articleshow/63658311.cms

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North America

Muslims win case against New York Police illegal surveillance

April 8, 2018 - 1:37 PM News Code : 888534 Source : al Jazeera

(AhlulBayt News Agency) - The New York Police Department has agreed not to conduct surveillance based on religion or ethnicity and to listen to Muslims as it develops new training materials as part of a deal to settle claims it illegally spied on Muslims for years after the September 11 attacks.

“We won this case, make no mistake about it. But as a member of the armed forces, I believe the United States won as well,” said Farhaj Hassan, a US Army reservist and the lead plaintiff in the 2012 lawsuit in federal court in Newark, New Jersey.

“No one likes to take on the cops. Cops are good,” he said. “But in this case, when cops were acting bad, it had to be done."

“Today’s settlement sends a message to all law enforcement: Simply being Muslim is not a basis for surveillance,” said Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, a legal advocacy and educational organization.

Lawsuit

The lawsuit came after The Associated Press revealed in a series of Pulitzer Prize-winning articles how the NYPD infiltrated Muslim student groups and put informants in mosques as part of a broad effort to prevent "terrorist attacks". In New Jersey, the department collected intelligence on ordinary people at mosques, restaurants and schools starting in 2002, the AP news agency reported.

At a news conference, the plaintiffs noted that surveillance programme never produced a "terrorism" lead as it spied on at least 20 mosques, 14 restaurants, 11 retail stores, two grade schools and two Muslim student associations in New Jersey.

The deal came after a Philadelphia appeals court in 2015 likened the surveillance programme to when Japanese Americans were interned during World War II and discrimination before racial unrest in the 1950s and 1960s forced change.

The ban

The court settlement bans the police department from conducting surveillance without suspicion on the basis of religion or ethnicity and calls for the Muslim litigants to provide input into a new policy guide to control the police department’s Intelligence Bureau. It also requires NYPD "counterterrorism" probes in New Jersey to follow the Handschu Guidelines, which resulted from a 1971 lawsuit by the Black Panther Party alleging police engaged in widespread surveillance of legitimate political activity.

The agreement announced Thursday by the city and the Islamic community also calls for the city to pay $75,000 in damages and nearly $1m in legal fees. It also ensures surveillance in New Jersey will follow rules defined in another landmark civil rights case.

It also requires the city to pay $47,500 to businesses and mosques harmed by surveillance and $25,000 to individual plaintiffs in $5,000 increments. The city also will pay $950,000 in legal fees for plaintiffs.

“This settlement demonstrates a continued commitment by the NYPD to safeguard individual constitutional rights while keeping New York the safest city in America,” said Zachary W Carter, the city’s top lawyer.

en.abna24.com/news/america/muslims-win-case-against-new-york-police-illegal-surveillance_888534.html

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Mentor church, Islamic group to offer Teatime for Peace event to ‘build bridges’

By Betsy Scott, The News-Herald | POSTED: 04/07/18, 5:13 PM EDT

An event aimed at unifying people of various faiths is coming to Mentor.

Teatime for Peace will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m., April 17 at Advent Lutheran Church, 7985 Munson Road in Mentor.

The event is being sponsored by the Cleveland chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

All are welcome, said Tim Krueger, a church prayer committee member who helped bring the event to town. He and his wife attended a Teatime for Peace in 2016 at St. Noel’s Catholic Church in Willoughby Hills.

“We hope to get people from different faith traditions and religious backgrounds together for deep conversation so that they might get to know and understand each other on new and different levels,” Krueger said. “We also hope to create peace by building a loving community through recognizing, validating and accepting our differences. We have a shared humanity and we need to recognize our own biases in order to eliminate fear of ‘the other.’”

The event will include refreshments and fellowship, plus time for table discussions and large-group sharing. Bishop Abraham Allende of the Northeast Ohio Synod-Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will be the special guest.

The first Teatime for Peace was conducted by West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church and the Council in 2016 in Rocky River. Since then, a dozen others have occurred throughout the greater Cleveland area at various churches and mosques.

“The intention was to bring the Muslim community together with the wider community as a show of support and solidarity due to the language of fear, separation and hate during the 2016 election cycle,” said Humera Khan, part of the Council’s Teatime for Peace steering committee. “We hope to dispel some myths and address the stereotypes which the general public has with regard to the Muslim community. Getting to know one another as individuals over a cup of tea and coffee and having conversations will, we hope, build bridges and recognize our shared humanity.”

The events usually draw about 100 people, but the one at the Islamic Center of Cleveland in Parma attracted 225 attendees. The next one is May 10 at Trinity Cathedral in downtown Cleveland.

The Council is a grassroots civil rights and advocacy group, and America’s largest Muslim civil liberties organization with regional offices nationwide. CAIR’s national headquarters are on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C.

Since its establishment in 1994, CAIR has worked to promote a positive image of Islam and Muslims in America.

“Right now, the focus is on Muslims, but the intention is also to bring in anyone who is being marginalized,” Khan said. “Someone coming may be meeting a Muslim for the first time and may, to their astonishment, find them to be very normal. They are amazed that Abraham, Moses, Noah and Jesus are all revered in Islam and that there is a chapter on Mary in the Holy Quran. …

“I think this would be a wonderful opportunity to meet a diverse group of people in a very neutral setting and everyone can decide, depending on their personal preference, where they want this to lead.”

news-herald.com/general-news/20180407/mentor-church-islamic-group-to-offer-teatime-for-peace-event-to-build-bridges

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Man Helping Sick Kids Shows Islam's 'True Face' In US

10:53, 03 April 2018 Tuesday

A 63-year-old Muslim immigrant, who looks after terminally-ill children in the U.S., has said his selfless and inspiring story is helping change negative perceptions about Muslims in America.

In an interview with Anadolu Agency, Libyan-born Mohamed Bzeek said: “My story changed the way the American thinks about Muslims.”

Muslims in the U.S. are seen as “criminals, killer, we are not good and Islam is just the religion of blood and devastation,” he said.

“[But] after my story, I showed them the true Islam. Islam is about love and compassion and sympathy towards other people.”

Bzeek’s story became public after he was interviewed by Los Angeles Times last year. He has been taking care of abandoned or terminally-ill children since 1989.

Recalling the words of an atheist in the U.S. to him, Bzeek said he told him: “After reading your story I hope there is god so he can reward you.”  

Bzeek said he had taken care of 80 children in the U.S. since the 90s.

“Ten of them died; I was holding them [when they died],” he said.

Some of the babies he took care of did not even have names, he said, so he gave them Muslim names.

worldbulletin.net/islamic-world/200626/young-muslims-promote-peace-with-roses-in-uk

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US: 16 Military Aviators Dead in Six Crashes in Past Few Weeks

Sun Apr 08, 2018 1:46

As is customary, the identities of the soldiers won’t be released until their families are notified, HEAVY reported.

The crash comes in the wake of five other crashes that claimed 14 lives since March 14.

On March 14, two Navy aviators were killed when their F/A-18F Super Hornet crashed into the Truman Harbor waters near Naval Air Station Key West on Boca Chica Key, the Navy said.

Witnesses described what appeared to be an explosion or fire in mid-air before the jet crash landed. Both aviators ejected from the craft.

The F/A-18F Super Hornet fighter jet, which crashed at 4:30 pm, was from NAS Oceana in Virginia Beach on a training exercise.

Lieutenant Caleb King and Lieutenat Commander Brice Johnson both perished in the Super Hornet crash.

Johnson, a naval aviator and 2007 graduate of the US Air Force Academy, was piloting the jet when the incident occurred while King, a 2012 US Naval Academy graduate, was serving as the weapons systems operator.

The next day, on March 15, seven were killed when, during a routine transport flight, an HH-60 Pave Hawk crash-landed in Western Iraq.

The Army stated the crash did not result from enemy fire.

“This tragedy reminds us of the risks our men and women face every day in service of our nations. We are thinking of the loved ones of these service members today” Brigadier General Jonathan Braga, director of operations for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, said in a statement provided by CJTF-Operation Inherent Resolve Public Affairs Office.

The aviators were deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and belonged to three different units — the 38th Rescue Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia; the 106th Rescue Wing of the New York National Guard; and the Air Force Reserve’s 308th Rescue Squadron at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida.

Killed were Captain Mark Weber, 29, of Colorado Springs, Colorado; Captain Andreas O’Keeffe, 37, of Center Moriches, New York; Captain Christopher Zanetis, 37, of Long Island City, New York; Master Sergeant Christopher Raguso, 39, of Commack, New York; Staff Sergeant Dashan Briggs, 30, of Port Jefferson Station, New York; Master Sergeant William Posch, 36, of Indialantic, Florida; and Staff Sergeant Carl Enis, 31, of Tallahassee, Florida.

Raguso and Zanetis were members of the FDNY.

On April 3 there were two crashes.

In the AV-8B Harrier crash in the East African country of Djibouti, a Marine pilot survived after ejecting.

Later that day, four crew were killed when a Super Stallion CH-53E helicopter went down during a training mission near El Centro, California.

Captain Samuel A. Schultz, 1st Lieutenat Samuel D. Phillips, Gunnery Sergeant Derik R. Holley, and Lance Corporal Taylor J. Conrad died in the crash.

The following day, on April 4, an Air Force F-16 crashed close to Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

US Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron Slot Pilot Thunderbird 4, Major Stephen Del Bagno, was killed “during a routine aerial demonstration training flight”, the Air Force stressed.

“We are mourning the loss of Major Del Bagno,” Brigadier General Jeannie Leavitt, 57th Wing Commander, said, underlinnig that “He was an integral part of our team and our hearts are heavy with his loss. We ask everyone to provide his family and friends the space to heal during this difficult time.”

All of the crashes are under investigation.

Following the F/A-18F Super Hornet crash in the Florida Keys, the Associated Press reported the Pentagon agreed that “budget shortfalls have eroded military capabilities, including training and flight hours, but stopped short of blaming those cutbacks for the crash of a US Navy fighter jet that killed both crew members.”

There have been 25 serious mishaps involving F/A-18 Super Hornets since 2008; two were killed in the Florida crash and two fatalities were in 2011.

The AP reported all 25 were considered “Class A”, which means a crew member died or the plane suffered at least $2 million in damage.

the AP said that a Spokesperson for the Naval Safety Center couldn’t explain why the increase in accidents in 2017.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970119000566

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Trump threatens to retaliate on Syria for chemical weapons attack

Reuters | Updated: Apr 8, 2018

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Sunday said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will have a "big price to pay" for launching a deadly chemical weapons attack on civilians, and blamed Iran and Russian President Vladimir Putin for backing "animal Assad."

Deadly gas attack reported on Syrian rebel enclave, Damascus denies

"Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world," Trump wrote on Twitter.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price...

6:30 PM - Apr 8, 2018

36.7K

"President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price to pay," he wrote.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/trump-threatens-to-retaliate-on-syria-for-chemical-weapons-attack/articleshow/63669371.cms

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South Asia

CPEC being extended to Afghanistan, says report

PTI | Updated: Apr 8, 2018

China in December had unveiled its plans to extend the CPEC to Afghanistan which has sparked concerns in India

India has protested to China over CPEC, which is being built through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK)

File photo shows a container being loaded on a ship after the inauguration of CPECFile photo shows a container being loaded on a ship after the inauguration of CPEC

BEIJING: The controversial China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the flagship project of China's ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is being extended to Afghanistan, a study report said on Sunday.

The BRI has injected "fresh vitality" to Asia's economic cooperation and helped the continent to reshape its international relations, said the Asian Competitiveness Annual Report 2018 released here on the sidelines of China's Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) annual conference.

China in December had unveiled its plans to extend the $50 billion CPEC to Afghanistan which has sparked concerns in India.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during his meeting with his Pakistan and Afghan counterparts had offered to extend CPEC to Afghanistan.

"China and Pakistan are willing to look at with Afghanistan, on the basis of win-win, mutually beneficial principles, using an appropriate means to extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to Afghanistan," Wang had said at the trilateral foreign ministers' meeting.

The BFA was formed by China in 2001 on the lines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, and holds its meeting every year.

This year's forum to be held till April 11 has opened at Boao today a coastal town in the southern island province of Hainan. President Xi Jinping is due to address the conference.

"China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project under the Belt and Road Initiative, has not only improved local infrastructure but also is extending toward Afghanistan, reducing poverty, the hotbed of terrorism, and bringing better prospects for local people's lives," state-run Xinhua news agency quoted the report as saying.

The multi-billion-dollar BRI, the pet project of Xi has become a major stumbling block in India-China relations as CPEC has been listed as its "flagship project".

India has protested to China over CPEC, which is being built through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Outlining India's concerns on BRI, Indian Ambassador to China, Gautam Bambawale told Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post recently that "when we talk about development projects or connectivity projects, they must be transparent, fair and equal. There are certain internationally accepted norms for such projects".

"If a project meets those norms, we will be happy to take part in it. One of the norms is the project should not violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a country. Unfortunately, there is this thing called CPEC, which is called a flagship project of BRI which violates India's sovereignty and territory integrity. Therefore, we oppose it," he said.

Earlier, he told state-run Global Times that both countries should resolve differences. "This is a major problem for us. We need to talk about it, not push it under the carpet," he said.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/cpec-being-extended-to-afghanistan-says-report/articleshow/63669582.cms

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Taliban should not miss the chance for peace, says Turkish PM

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun Apr 08 2018

The Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım has said that the Taliban group should not miss the chance for peace and reconciliation with the Afghan government as he called on the group to participate in the Afghan-led peace process.

Mr. Yıldırım arrived in Kabul today to meet with the Afghan officials to discuss the issues of bilateral interest between the two nations.

In a press conference with Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, Mr. Yıldırım called the available opportunity for peace process as historic and rare.

He said the time has come that the Taliban group should join peace process and should not miss the chance.

The Turkish Prime Minister also welcomed the visit by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to Kabul and said Ankara supports the bilateral relations between Kabul and Islamabad.

The latest call by the Turkish Prime Minister on Taliban to join peace process comes as the group has so far refrained from participation in direct peace talks with the Afghan government and insists on direct talks with the US.

This comes despite the Afghan government proposed that the government is prepared to recognize the group as a political movement besides making other offers to encourage the group to participate in the talks.

In the meantime, the Turkish Prime Minister said Turkey is committed to maintain economic and security support to the Afghan government.

khaama.com/taliban-should-not-miss-the-chance-for-peace-says-turkish-pm/

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Top IS commander in Afghanistan killed

AFPUpdated April 08, 2018

MAZAR SHARIF: A high-ranking commander of the militant Islamic State (IS) group in Afghanistan has been killed in an air strike, officials said Saturday, as Afghan and US forces dial up attacks on the militant group.

Qari Hekmat was the top commander of IS’s Afghan franchise in the northern province of Jowzjan, where the group established a stronghold after coming under intense pressure in the eastern province of Nangarhar.

Hekmat was killed on Friday in an Afghan air strike in Darzab district, the defence ministry said in a statement, describing him as “one of the key figures” for IS in northern Afghanistan.

He was involved in or responsible for “deadly terrorist attacks” and has been replaced by Mawlawi Habib-ul-Rahman, the ministry added.

Provincial governor Lutfullah Azizi confirmed Hekmat had been killed but said US Forces carried out the air strike. US forces did not immediately respond to request for comment.

“Our intelligence sources have identified his body. His death will affect the recruitment of Daesh and disperse IS fighters in Afghanistan’s north,” Azizi said, using the Arabic acronym for IS.

Afghan and US forces have ramped up air strikes and ground offensives against IS fighters in Jowzjan in recent months as the group seeks to expand its foothold in the country.

Afghan security forces last month detained a French woman fighting for IS in the same district of Jowzjan. It has been reported that French and Algerian fighters, some arriving from Syria, have joined IS in the restive province.

In January, Afghan forces caught the group’s “head facilitator of foreign forces”. Two months later, his two successors were killed in a US air strike, Nato’s Resolute Support mission said previously.

Jowzjan provincial police chief Faqir Mohammad Jawzjani said Hekmat’s death was “a big blow” to IS in the north.

“He was the founder of Daesh in northern Afghanistan and had recruited fighters,” Jawzjani said. He said Hekmat was killed on Thursday in a joint operation between Afghan and foreign forces.

dawn.com/news/1400301/top-is-commander-in-afghanistan-killed

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Motorcycle bomb explosion leaves 2 militants dead in Laghman

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun Apr 08 2018

At least two militants were killed after a motorcycle packed with explosives went off prematurely in eastern Laghman province of Afghanistan.

The 201st Silab Corps of the Afghan Military in the East said a group of insurgents were looking to detonate a Motorcycle-borne Improvised Explosive Device in Alingar district on Saturday.

The source further added that the explosives went off before the militants manage to use for an attack, leaving at least two of them dead and two others wounded.

This comes as a local Taliban leader was killed along with another militant in a premature explosion triggered by an Improvised Explosive Device in this province last eek.

Accordingto the local officials, the two militants were looking to plan an Improvised Explosive Device on a roadside frequented by the Afghan forces in Alisheng district.

The officials further added that the explosives went off prematurely as they were busy planting it, leaving two people dead, including a local leader of the Taliban identified as Sayeda Gul.

According to the officials, the militants killed in the explosion were involved in major terrorist related activities in this province.

khaama.com/motorcycle-bomb-explosion-leaves-2-militants-dead-in-laghman-04827/

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8 militants killed in AAF airstrike in Badakhshan province: Gen. Radmanish

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun Apr 08 2018

The Ministry of Defense (MoD) spokesman Gen. Mohammad Radmanish says at least eight militants were killed during the airstrike conducted by the Afghan Air Force in Jurm district of Badakhshan province.

Speaking during a press conference in Kabul, Gen. Radmanish said at least twenty nine terrorists have been killed during the past 24 hours as a result of the ground operations and airstrikes.

Gen. Ramanish further added that at least eight of the terrorists were killed in Jurm of Badakhshan, 6 were killed in Chora district of Uruzgan, 6 others were killed in Qaragh of Ghazni, 5 militants were killed in Chesht district of Herat, and 4 ISIS militants were killed in Achhin district of Nangarhar and four more militants were wounded during the same operations.

He also added that the engineering team of the Afghan army has defused at least twenty improvised explosive devices from different parts of the country during the same period.

According to Gen. Radmanish, at least ten offensive operations are underway in eight provinces of the country while the Special Forces have conducted 66 raids across the country.

He said the Afghan Air Force has carried out at least thirteen airstrikes in support of the Afghan armed forces in the past 24 hours.

Gen. Radmanish called the operations in Nangahrar, Ghazni, Khost, Uruzgan, Farah, Badghis, Faryab, and Helmand as successful, emphasizing that the operations will continue against the militants in the named provinces.

khaama.com/8-militants-killed-in-aaf-airstrike-in-badakhshan-province-gen-radmanish-04825/

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Afghan forces thwart deadly explosion in Kabul

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun Apr 08 2018

The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces have thwarted a plot by the militants to carry out a deadly explosion in Kabul city.

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officials are saying that the militants were looking to detonate explosives on a roadside in the vicinity of the 17th police district of the city in Ghaibi Baba Township.

The officials further added that the security forces have confiscated ten kgs of explosives along with an artillery shell and other types of explosives from the area.

The CID officials said Friday that the Afghan forces have thwarted a plot by the anti-government armed militants to carry out a rocket attack on Kabul.

The officials further added that the militants were looking to target the city with a BM-1 rocket from Chahar Asiab district.

According to the officials, the rocket along with a mobile phone device was discovered from the vicinity of Char Asiab district before the militants manage to carry out an attack.

This comes as the anti-government armed groups are attempting to carry out attacks in the key provinces and cities of the country during the recent months.

At least six Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers were wounded in an explosion in Kabul city on Wednesday morning.

khaama.com/afghan-forces-thwart-deadly-explosion-in-kabul-04824/

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Afghan forces and Taliban suffer casualties in Uruzgan operation

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun Apr 08 2018

The Taliban militants and Afghan armed forces suffered casualties during an operation in southern Uruzgan province of Afghanistan, the local officials said Sunday.

According to Uruzgan security chief Gen. Rahmatullah Sediqi, at least 18 Taliban insurgents were killed and 17 others were wounded during the operation.

Gen. Sediqi further added that the operation was conducted in the vicinity of Khas Uruzgan district on Saturday to suppress the armed militants.

He said at least three security personnel including two army soldiers and a policeman also lost their lives during the operation and three others were wounded.

This comes as at least Taliban insurgents were killed and eleven others were wounded during a similar operation in Chora district of Uruzgan two weeks ago.

Provincial administrative chief Aminullah Khaleqi had confirmed that nine Taliban insurgents were killed and at least eleven others were wounded during the clashes.

He said an Afghan army soldier also lost his life during the clashes and seven others were wounded.

khaama.com/afghan-forces-and-taliban-suffer-casualties-in-uruzgan-operation-04828/

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Mideast

Don’t mess with our elections: Iran data centres hacked, US flags appear on screens

"Some 55,000 devices were affected in the United States and 14,000 in China, and Iran's share of affected devices was 2 percent," Azari-Jahromi was quoted as saying.

By: Reuters | Dubai | Published: April 8, 2018 7:36:50 am

Hackers have attacked networks in a number of countries including data centres in Iran where they left the image of a US flag on screens along with a warning: “Don’t mess with our elections”, the Iranian IT ministry said on Saturday.

“The attack apparently affected 200,000 router switches across the world in a widespread attack, including 3,500 switches in our country,” the Communication and Information Technology Ministry said in a statement carried by Iran’s official news agency IRNA.

The statement said the attack, which hit internet service providers and cut off web access for subscribers, was made possible by a vulnerability in routers from Cisco which had earlier issued a warning and provided a patch that some firms had failed to install over the Iranian new year holiday.

A blog published on Thursday by Nick Biasini, a threat researcher at Cisco’s Talos Security Intelligence and Research Group, said: “Several incidents in multiple countries, including some specifically targeting critical infrastructure, have involved the misuse of the Smart Install protocol…

“As a result, we are taking an active stance, and are urging customers, again, of the elevated risk and available remediation paths.”

On Saturday evening, Cisco said those postings were a tool to help clients identify weaknesses and repel a cyber attack.

Iran’s IT Minister Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi posted a picture of a computer screen on Twitter with the image of the US flag and the hackers’ message. He said it was not yet clear who had carried out the attack.

Azari-Jahromi said the attack mainly affected Europe, India and the United States, state television reported.

“Some 55,000 devices were affected in the United States and 14,000 in China, and Iran’s share of affected devices was 2 percent,” Azari-Jahromi was quoted as saying.

In a tweet, Azari-Jahromi said the state computer emergency response body MAHER had shown “weaknesses in providing information to (affected) companies” after the attack which was detected late on Friday in Iran.

Hadi Sajadi, deputy head of the state-run Information Technology Organisation of Iran, said the attack was neutralised within hours and no data was lost.

indianexpress.com/article/world/dont-mess-with-our-elections-iran-data-centres-hacked-us-flags-appear-on-screens-512830/

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Muslim, Arab elites should react against scandal: Majlis Speaker

Tehran, April 8, IRNA – The scholars and parliaments of the Islamic and Arab states should react against the scandal of some Arab states and meet their humane and Islamic responsibility, said the speaker of Majlis (the Iranian Parliament) on Sunday.

Expressing his sorrow at the Zionists' killing and injuring Palestinians, Ali Larijani urged the inter-parliamentary secretariat of the Islamic countries and the Asian Inter-parliamentary secretariat to stand against the big oppression.

The Saudis are planning to recognize the Zionist regime and to actually wipe Palestine off the map or limit it to some small part of the original land of Palestine.

Most sadly, the announcement was made exactly at the time the Zionist military forces killed and injured many peaceful defenseless Palestinian protestors, which showed the true nature of the Saudi rulers.

irna.ir/en/News/82880536

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Palestinian Injured by Israeli Gunfire Dies of Wounds

Sun Apr 08, 2018 1:44

Anbar was being hospitalized at Meir hospital in Tel Aviv before he was announced dead of his wounds on Sunday morning, WAFA reported.

He was shot and injured by Israeli forces in mysterious circumstances on April 2 at an military checkpoint near Tulkarm city in the Northern West Bank.

He was detained and transferred to an Israeli hospital following the incident. Death of Anbar raises the death toll of prisoners who died in Israeli jails to 214.

PPS and the Detainees and Ex-Detainees Commission blamed Israel for Anbar’s death.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970119000829

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Turkish Military Convoy Enters Syria's Hama to Set up New Monitoring Post

Sun Apr 08, 2018 1:56

The Turkish convoy, including 100 heavy military vehicles and 50 trucks carrying logistic equipment, accompanied by the terrorists of Ahrar al-Sham and Faylaq al-Sham, has arrived in regions near the town of Morek in Northern Hama.

A local source said that the Turkish convoy went through the villages and towns of Kafr Lusin, Sarmada, Ma'arat al-Nu'aman and Khan Sheikhoun, adding that the Turkish troops have set up the ninth monitoring post in the region.   

Also, a delegation from the Turkish Army, accompanied by a military convoy, arrived in Syria's Idlib on Saturday to set up another de-escalation monitoring post in the region after the Presidents of Iran, Turkey and Russia met in Ankara to explore new ways to end the crisis in Syria.

The sources in Northern Hama reported that a Turkish delegation, accompanied by a number of military vehicles, entered Idlib province and visited four points in Khan Sheikhoun region in Southern Idlib and in the towns of Morek, Lahaya, Kafr Zita and al-Sayad in Northern Hama.

The sources said that the Turkish delegation's visit was aimed at setting up the eighth de-escalation zone monitoring post in Northwestern Syria.

Other sources said that the Turkish army was to set up the eighth monitoring post in al-Zaytouniyeh in Jabal al-Turkman region in Northern Lattakia.

In the meantime, the Turkey's state-run Anadolu said Iran and Russia established eight Monitoring Posts in Idlib province, but not in the regions that are under monitor by the Turkish forces.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970119000577

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Jaish al-Islam terrorists resume attacking Damascus, 8 martyred, 37 injured

News ID: 4265932 - Sun 8 April 2018 - 14:38

DAMASCUS, Apr. 08 (MNA) –Jaish al-Islam terrorists resumed on Saturday targeting the residential neighborhoods of Damascus.

The number of injured civilians rose to 37, including women and children, while other eight civilians were martyred; including a child, not to mention the material damage to the houses, and private and public properties as a result of the terrorist attacks.

A source at Damascus Police Command told SANA that the terrorists of Jaish al-Islam fired 3 shells on Saturday afternoon on the neighborhood of Mazzeh 68, injuring 5 civilians, some of them having sustained serious injuries.

Director General of al-Mouwasat Hospital, Dr. Issam Zakarya al-Ameen, said that the ER in the Hospital received on Saturday morning six bodies of martyrs of civilians including a child and 32 injuries, 10 of them suffered serious injuries, including amputation of limbs and cases of paralysis due to spine injury and severe injuries to the face and abdomen.

Earlier, the source mentioned that terrorists of Jaish al-Islam fired 7 mortar shells on Mazzeh 86 neighborhood and on the surroundings of the Umayyad Square and on Abu Remmaneh and Ish al-Warwar areas, leaving four civilians martyred and more than 30 others injured.

The source added that the terrorist attacks caused also material damage to some houses of the citizens, a number of cars and to the public and private properties.

Material damage was caused to the Islamic Radio and Television Union’s office in Mazzeh area due to the shells fired by Jaish al-Islam terrorists on Damascus.

Later, a source at Damascus Police Command said that Jaish al-Isalam terrorists targeted the neighborhood of Barzeh with a rocket shell, which fell on the roof of a house, causing material damage only.

en.mehrnews.com/news/133215/Jaish-al-Islam-terrorists-resume-attacking-Damascus-8-martyred

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Turkey’s Erdogan says France is abetting terrorists

April 8, 2018 at 11:58 am   | Published in: Europe & Russia, France, Middle East, News, Syria, Turkey

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday accused France of abetting terrorists by “hosting them” at the Elysee Palace, amid a diplomatic row between the NATO allies over Paris’s support for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Relations between Ankara and Paris have been tense in recent weeks, with France one of the most vocal critics of Turkey’s two-month-old military operation in northern Syria against the Kurdish YPG, which Turkey considers a terrorist organisation.

That came to a head on March 30 after President Emmanuel Macron met a Syrian delegation including the YPG and its political arm, the PYD, and gave assurances of French support to help stabilise northern Syria against Daesh.

Turkey said the pledge amounted to support for terrorism and could make France a “target of Turkey”.

“France, you are abetting terrorism, supporting it by then hosting them at the Elysee Palace,” Erdogan told his supporters in the southwestern province of Denizli, adding:

The split with France is the latest rift between Turkey under Erdogan and its NATO allies in the West.

Read: Turkey criticises US over mixed messages on Syria

Turkey has also been infuriated by US support for the YPG, threatening to extend military operations along hundreds of miles of border, including areas where American forces are deployed.

France, like the United States, has already extended arms and training to the YPG-led militia in the fight against Daesh, and has dozens of special forces members based in the region, angering Turkey.

Ankara considers the YPG to be an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that has waged a decades-old insurgency in southeast Turkey.

middleeastmonitor.com/20180408-turkeys-erdogan-says-france-is-abetting-terrorists/

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Turkey to deport nearly 600 Afghan migrants – interior ministry

April 8, 2018 at 11:51 am   | Published in: Europe & Russia, News, Turkey

Turkish authorities will deport close to 600 illegal Afghan migrants in eastern Turkey back to Kabul this weekend, the interior ministry said on Saturday.

The Afghan migrants had crossed into Turkey through Iran due to “ongoing terrorist activities and economic troubles” in Afghanistan, the ministry said, and security forces had handed the migrants over to provincial immigration authorities.

It said deportation procedures had been completed for 591 migrants in the eastern province of Erzurum and that charter flights to Kabul would be arranged on Saturday and Sunday to send the migrants back.

“Following the completion of deportation procedures for illegal migrants in our other provinces, deportations will speed up and continue in the coming days,” the ministry said in a statement.

Rights groups have criticised Turkey for deporting migrants back to conflict-torn countries, including Afghanistan, saying it was putting their lives at risk.

This week the Hurriyet newspaper reported that several thousand Afghan migrants had crossed into Turkey in recent months and had walked for days from the border to reach Erzurum.

Afghanistan has been ravaged by militant attacks this year, and the government has made promises to tighten security in the wake of an attack in central Kabul that killed around 100 people in January.

The attacks have undermined support for President Ashraf Ghani, who offered in February to hold peace talks with Taliban insurgents fighting to drive out international forces and reimpose their version of strict Islamic law.

The Taliban have so far shown little sign of accepting the offer of talks with the Western-backed government, which they consider an illegitimate, foreign-imposed regime, although they have offered to talk to the United States.

middleeastmonitor.com/20180408-turkey-to-deport-nearly-600-afghan-migrants-interior-ministry/

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Palestinian journalist dies as Israel border clash toll rises to nine

AFP | Apr 7, 2018, 14:33 IST

GAZA CITY: Two Palestinians, including a journalist, have died after being shot by Israeli troops during border clashes, the health ministry in Gaza said Saturday, bringing the total killed in the latest violence to nine.

Thousands of protesters approached the border fence around the Gaza Strip for a second Friday in a row, burning tyres and hurling stones at Israeli forces, who responded with tear gas and live ammunition.

In addition to the nine dead, at least 491 were wounded by Israeli gunfire, the health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza strip said.

Israel estimated the number of protesters at around 20,000, saying they were seeking to breach the border.

Numbers were down from the previous Friday, when tens of thousands approached the border in demonstrations that saw Israeli forces kill 19 Palestinians, making it the bloodiest day in Gaza since a 2014 war.

No Israelis were injured on either day and the latest deaths have sparked fresh calls for an investigation.

Among those killed at Friday's protest was Yasser Murtaja, a photographer with the Gaza-based Ain Media agency, who died from his wounds after being shot, the local health ministry said Saturday.

Murtaja's company confirmed his death, with witnesses saying he was close to the front of the protests in Southern Gaza when he was hit.

An AFP photograph taken after he was wounded showed Murtaja wearing a press vest as he received treatment.

The Israeli army declined to comment, saying it was reviewing the incident.

The Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate said five other journalists were also shot during the protests, insisting they were wearing clothes clearly identifying them as members of the press.

In a statement, the syndicate said it held Israel "fully accountable for this crime."

The Gaza health ministry also announced Saturday the death of another man, 20-year-old Hamza Abdel Aal, saying he was shot east of Al-Bureij in central Gaza.

The nine men were expected to be buried Saturday.

Weeks of border protests have been called to demand the return of Palestinians to land they were forced from or fled after the founding of Israel 70 years ago.

They come with tensions high as the US gears up to shift its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem after recognising the disputed city as the capital of the Jewish state.

Protesters on Friday said Gaza's economic woes were also fuelling frustration.

The territory has been under an Israeli blockade for a decade, while Egypt has mostly sealed its borders in recent years as well, leaving the cramped area of two million people largely sealed off.

Ahmad al-Naqaa, 40, said he was bringing his seven children to the protest because "we are living like sardines."

"I am ready to die for our land and our dignity," he told AFP.

At the United Nations, Kuwait on Friday called on the Security Council to investigate the deaths.

A Kuwaiti text is expected to be vetoed by the United States after a similar draft declaration was blocked last week.

Israel has rebuffed international calls for a probe into last Friday's killings.

UN chief Antonio Guterres urged it to "exercise extreme caution with the use of force" ahead of the latest clashes.

The Israeli army said its troops opened fire on Friday "in accordance with the rules of engagement".

The military said "attempts were made to infiltrate into Israel under the cover of a smokescreen" and that firebombs and explosive devices were thrown at the soldiers.

Israel accuses Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip and with whom it has fought three wars since 2008, of using the protests as cover to carry out violence.

It claimed more than half the dead from the previous Friday were members of militant groups, including Hamas's armed wing.

Hamas claimed only five of the dead, saying they were participating "in popular events side-by-side with their people."

Those killed would receive $3,000 to support their families, Hamas announced ahead of Friday's protests.

Late Friday Israeli army spokesman Brigadier General Ronen Manelis classified the operation along the border as a success.

"None of our troops were wounded, the fence was not crossed," he said, noting that what happened last week had "deterred Hamas, which prevented the masses from approaching the fence".

But on the other side, Hamas's leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar also claimed victory and pledged Palestinians would eventually "break the border and return to our land and pray in Jerusalem".

Israel has also banned the entry of tyres into the Gaza Strip, the head of a Palestinian committee for coordinating imports to Gaza said.

The borders were quiet Saturday morning.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/palestinian-journalist-dies-as-israel-border-clash-toll-rises-to-nine/articleshow/63655596.cms

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Southeast Asia

Islamic groups report Indonesian politician for reciting 'blasphemous' poem

Wednesday, 4 Apr 2018 7:41 PM MYT | by agustinus beo da costa and kanupriya kapoor

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Hardline Islamic groups on Wednesday filed a blasphemy complaint against a daughter of Indonesia's first president, accusing her of reciting a poem insulting Islam and prompting fresh concerns over intolerance in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country.

Sukmawati Sukarnoputri, a politician, is the third daughter of Indonesia's founding father Sukarno and the younger sister of Megawati Sukarnoputri, who leads President Joko Widodo's ruling party.

Indonesia is a secular country with significant Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and other religious minorities, but a rise of hardline, politicised Islam and stricter interpretations of the religion have undermined its reputation for tolerance in recent years.

The Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) was among an alliance of hardline groups that reported Sukmawati, as she is usually known, to police over the poem. The same alliance last year accused Jakarta's former Christian governor of blasphemy and spearheaded mass rallies that led to his ouster and jailing, a ruling that many believed was politicised and unjust.

"It's clear there is an insult towards the teachings of Islam in the poem," said Eggi Sudjana, a lawyer and an adviser to the alliance.

"We hoped that Ahok's case would be the last one, but now there are others who dare to insult Islam again," he said, referring to the ex-Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama by his nickname.

Sukmawati apologised for reading the poem, which appeared to favour traditional Indonesian culture and beliefs over conservative Islamic customs like the full veil, in public.

"The poem is a reflection of my concern about the sense of nationalism... and to honour our motherland's rich cultural traditions and diversity," a tearful Sukmawati told a news conference in Jakarta on Wednesday.

"I apologise to Islamic people in Indonesia, especially to those who feel offended by the poem," said Sukmawati, whose family remains highly influential in Indonesia.

FPI's Novel Bamukmin said the alliance appreciated the apology but would not withdraw its complaint.

"There will be no mercy for those who blaspheme," he said.

Rights activists feared the controversy was a sign that religious tolerance and freedom of expression are being eroded in the world's third-largest democracy.

"It's creating an atmosphere of fear," said Andreas Harsono of Human Rights Watch. "People never know when someone could report them to the police for blasphemy against Islam."

Suspects can be jailed for up to five years under the blasphemy laws, which have been criticised by rights groups as draconian and vulnerable to abuse.

Sukmawati's family issued a statement distancing itself from the issue, saying the poem only reflected the writer's personal opinion. A spokesman for President Widodo said the palace "did not want to be associated with the issue".

thestar.com.my/news/world/2018/04/04/islamic-groups-report-indonesian-politician-for-reciting-blasphemous-poem/

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Myanmar not ready for return of Rohingya refugees: UN official

Reuters | Apr 8, 2018

YANGON: Myanmar is not ready for the repatriation of Rohingya refugees, said the most senior United Nations official to visit the country this year, after Myanmar was accused of instigating ethnic cleansing and driving nearly 700,000 Muslims to Bangladesh.

“From what I’ve seen and heard from people – no access to health services, concerns about protection, continued displacements – conditions are not conducive to return,” Ursula Mueller, UN’s Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said after a six-day visit to Myanmar.

The Myanmar government has pledged to do its best to make sure repatriation under an agreement signed with Bangladesh in November would be “fair, dignified and safe”.

Myanmar has so far verified several hundred Rohingya Muslim refugees for possible repatriation. The group would be “the first batch” of refugees and could come back to Myanmar “when it was convenient for them,” a Myanmar official said last month.

Mueller was granted rare access in Myanmar, allowed to visit the most affected areas in Rakhine state, and met army-controlled ministers of defence and border affairs, as well as de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other civilian officials.

The exodus of Rohingya Muslims followed an Aug. 25 crackdown by the military in the northwestern Rakhine state. Rohingya refugees reported killings, burnings, looting and rape, in response to militant attacks on security forces.

“I asked (Myanmar officials) to end the violence … and that the return of the refugees from (Bangladeshi refugee camps in) Cox’s Bazar is to be on a voluntary, dignified way, when solutions are durable,” Mueller told Reuters in an interview in Myanmar’s largest city Yangon.

Myanmar says its forces have been engaged in a legitimate campaign against Muslim “terrorists”.

Bangladesh officials have previously expressed doubts about Myanmar’s willingness to take back Rohingya refugees.

Myanmar and Bangladesh agreed in January to complete a voluntary repatriation of the refugees in two years. Myanmar set up two reception centres and what it says is a temporary camp near the border in Rakhine to receive the first arrivals.

“We are right now at the border ready to receive, if the Bangladeshis bring them to our side,” Kyaw Tin, Myanmar minister of international cooperation, told reporters in January.

Many in the Buddhist-majority Myanmar regard the Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. The U.N. has described Myanmar’s counteroffensive as ethnic cleansing, which Myanmar denies.

Asked whether she believed in government assurances the Rohingya would be allowed to return to their homes after a temporary stay in camps, Mueller said: “I’m really concerned about the situation.”

Part of the problem is that, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch, Myanmar has bulldozed at least 55 villages that were emptied during the violence.

“I witnessed areas where villages were burned down and bulldozed...I’ve not seen or heard that there are any preparations for people to go to their places of origin,” Mueller said.

Myanmar officials have said the villages were bulldozed to make way for refugee resettlement.

Mueller said she has also raised the issue with Myanmar officials of limited humanitarian aid access to the vulnerable people in the country and added, referring to the authorities, that she would “push them on granting access” for aid agencies.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/rest-of-world/myanmar-not-ready-for-return-of-rohingya-refugees-un-official/articleshow/63666588.cms

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Developments in Maldives cause of concern: Pentagon

"It's in India's backyard. We know it's of concern to India. So, yes, (the situation in Maldives) is a concern. We will see how it plays out," a top Pentagon official said.

By: PTI | Washington | Published: April 7, 2018 2:21:13 pm

maldives, united states, pentagon, maldives political crisis, indo pacific, Yameen Abdul Gayoom, world news, indian express

Maldivian president Yameen Abdul Gayoom, center, surrounded by his body guards arrives to address his supporters in Male, Maldives, Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Mohamed Sharuhaan/Files)

Maldives President Abdulla Yameen lifts state of emergency after 45 daysMaldives President Abdulla Yameen lifts state of emergency after 45 days

Amid allegations of China engaging in massive land grabbing in the Maldives, the Pentagon on Saturday said it was a cause of concern for the US. Asserting that the US was “committed to a free and open” Indo-Pacific rules-based order, the Pentagon said anything else would cause the US concern. “The US is committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific rules-based order. We have seen concerning developments in Maldives as far as the Chinese influence is concerned,” Joe Felter, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia, told PTI in interview.

“It’s in India’s backyard. We know it’s of concern to India. So, yes, (the situation in Maldives) is a concern. We will see how it plays out. It emphasizes some of our priorities identified in our National Defence Strategy,” the top Pentagon official said.

He was responding to a question on the allegations of a Maldivian opposition leader and a former foreign minister, on the Chinese land grabbing activities in the island nation with the potential of developing them into a military outpost.

Felter said these developments were “a cause of concern” for all states that supported the maintenance of a rules-based order.

“If you look at similar activities across the region, it gives us some cause for concern. From Djibouti to, Gwadar put to Hambantota port in Sri Lanka, and now potentially the Maldives and then extending further east, it’s of concern,” he said.

Other countries in the region have expressed similar concern, including India, he noted. “We believe the interests of all states- large and small- are best served by maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific and a rules-based order. Some of China’s activities that we’ve observed give us concern because they do not seem to be consistent with those interests. I suspect India shares these concerns as well,” Felter said.

During a recent visit to the US, Ahmed Naseem, a former foreign minister of Maldives, had alleged that China was meddling in internal affairs of Maldives and had indulged itself in a massive land grabbing endeavour which if left unchecked would pose a major strategic threat to both the US and India.

China, he alleged, appeared to be keen on building a base in the Maldives which one day may house warships and submarines.

indianexpress.com/article/world/developments-in-maldives-cause-of-concern-pentagon/

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Sheikh Hasina seeks UN help for Rohingya's return

IANS | Apr 7, 2018, 22:22 IST

DHAKA: Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has sought the help of UN to implement the Bangladesh-Myanmar agreement on the return of hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas displaced from the Rakhine state.

Hasina spoke with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on the issue over phone on Friday night and her Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim said the UN chief praised Bangladesh for sheltering the Rohingya refugees, bdnews24.com reported on Saturday.

The Bangladeshi leader invited Guterres to Bangladesh to see first-hand the plights of the over one million refugees from Myanmar. Around 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have joined nearly 400,000 refugees in Bangladesh since August 25 when the Myanmar forces launched a crackdown dubbed "ethnic cleansing" by the UN.

Following international pressure and condemnation, the Myanmar government agreed to take back the recently arrived Rohingyas and signed a deal with Bangladesh on the issue earlier this year, but the repatriation has not started yet, the daily said.

Under the "Physical Arrangement" signed by the two sides, Bangladesh would set up five transit camps from which returnees would be taken initially in two reception centres on the Myanmar side, the Bangladeshi Foreign Ministry said.

The UN and international agencies and human rights organisations had expressed concern that the Rohingyas would not be repatriated in a dignified and safe manner.

Bangladesh later said the UN's refugee agency UNHCR will be involved in the process.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/sheikh-hasina-seeks-un-help-for-rohingyas-return/articleshow/63660664.cms

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Africa

Egypt’s Dar Al-Iftaa declares ‘Blue Whale’ video game prohibited in Islam

April 08, 2018

The governmental body has warned against the game after an 18-year-old Egyptian boy reportedly committed suicide after playing the game last week.

Dar Al-Iftaa explained how the game demands its players to commit self-harm tasks in a challenge that eventually leads them to take their own lives.

Cairo: Egypt’s Dar al Iftaa, the country’s top Islamic authority, has declared ‘Blue Whale’ forbidden in Islam after learning that the video game has led to several suicide-linked deaths.

The governmental body has warned against the game after an 18-year-old Egyptian boy reportedly committed suicide after playing the game last week.

In a YouTube video, a Dar Al-Iftaa representative said the game consists of “several elements” deemed to be “forbidden” in Islam, as quoted by Al-Masry el-Youm newspaper.

He goes on to explain how the game demands its players to commit self-harm tasks in a challenge that eventually leads them to take their own lives.

“After studies and research into the game, we say that it is a filthy game and causes harm. So we deem that it is forbidden. It is forbidden to play it and we ask our youth to spend their time in something that is productive for them and their society,” he added.

The death of a son of a former Egyptian MP sent shock waves across the community after his family blamed its occurrence on the controversial “game.”

The victim’s siblings said their brother hung himself in his room surrounded by scribblings and symbols referring to the “Blue Whale” video game.

arabnews.com/node/1280641/middle-east

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Europe

Islamic Festival Welcomes All Denominations to Learn About Practices

ROCIO VILLALOBOS | STAFF WRITER Apr 5, 2018

This Saturday, a local Islamic group holds its annual festival, an event open to the public to get to know their Muslim neighbours and learn about Islam.

The Islamic Festival will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Arridwan Mosque in Edinburg hosted by Masjid Arridwan — the Alkhair Islamic Society of RGV.

Now in its third year, the purpose, said Masjid Arridwan board member Tareq Allan, is to invite the public to get to know members of the mosque and learn about the religion.

According to Allan, within the Valley, about 300 families and 800 individuals practice Islam. The Arridwan mosque was erected in 2005, but its history in the region traces back about three decades.

Several activities for all ages will be offered, most taking place inside a new building of the mosque.

A room will be open for visitors to try on hijab’s, practice Arabic calligraphy, receive henna tattooing and face painting in order to become familiarized with customs of Islam.

In another area, educational books will be on display and Islamic souvenirs will be offered.

Abu Omar Halal, a food truck from Houston, will be serving up Arabic food including chicken and beef shawarma and falafel.

Tours of the mosque are also being offered, as well as a question and answer session with three Imams — Muslim leaders — who will be addressing any confusion about Islam and discussing “common things between Islam and other religions in the Valley,” Allan said.

Moon jumps and train rides will be provided for children in the outside lot.

Since the first event was hosted in 2016, Allan said attendance has grown steadily; last year the Arridwan mosque received nearly 400 visitors.

This wouldn’t be possible without the help of volunteers. Members of the Muslim Student’s Association at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, he said, have played a big role in its success.

The main hope for this year, Allan said, is an increased level of engagement, interaction and collaboration amongst different communities.

themonitor.com/news/local/article_6adc2b06-3937-11e8-9275-17a7a70ff57b.html

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Islamophobia in UK: Thugs shot Imam of a Mosque, Police arrest 2 for attempted murder

April 8, 2018 - 1:02 PM News Code : 888533 Source : Daily Mail

(AhlulBayt News Agency) - An Imam who was shot in the arm moments after leading evening prayers says three thugs gunned him down in the street before fleeing in a BMW.

The 47-year-old, who asked not be be named, was one of two men shot on Portland Road in Luton of UK about 9.50pm on Thursday night.

Two local men, aged 30 and 32, were arrested on Saturday morning on Blundell Road, Luton, on suspicion of attempted murder.

The father of a young son was released from hospital hours after he was shot, sporting a heavily-bandaged forearm with 11 shotgun pellets still lodged in it.

He had just left the Masjid al Madani mosque when the black BMW 4-series stopped next to him, he thought to let him cross the road.

'Then the driver started reviving the engine. I stopped in front of the car turned to say what are you doing,' he said.

'He got a bit vexed by that and that's when I saw the passenger on the back seat pull out a shotgun to show me.'

The Imam said the gunman fired two shots, the first two missing him before the third struck him - though he didn't realise at the time.

'The car turned right Portland Road and started to drive away and I chased after it. I managed to pick up a brick and I smashed the windscreen,' he said.

'I couldn't keep up with it and further along the road is when the other man was shot I understand a pellet has gone into his eye although I didn't see it happen.'

The Muslim teacher said the occupants of the car were three black men aged in their mid-20s to early 30s.

The powerfully built Imam, who kept fit by working out three times a week, said it was only when passers-by came to his aid that he realised he had been shot.

'People came up to me and said you are bleeding and that's when I saw my arm and the blood,' he said.

An ambulance was quickly on the scene and he was taken to the Luton and Dunstable Hospital for treatment.

He said it was only when he was in hospital that he found out a second man was been and badly wounded, allegedly by the gunmen.

The Imam thought he heard five shots ring out after the car sped around the corner, presumably aimed at the second victim who remains in intensive care.

'Who goes round shooting at people like this? They are cowards. I wasn't targeted, it was just random, it's madness' he said.

'There is a lot of concern in the community, people are infuriated by what happened as you would expect.

'I had to present myself to Friday Prayers at the mosque to reassure everyone and calm everyone and to tell them the police were dealing with the situation.'

Portland Road is a residential street in the Bury Park area of Luton where many Muslim families live, and also has several small car repairs workshops and tyre fitters.

The Imam said there hadn't been any similar incidents in the street and the shooting had 'just come suddenly out of the blue'.

He said he must return to hospital in the next few days when it will be decided what to do about the 11 pellets still embedded in his right forearm.

The shooting was on the same night as six teenagers were stabbed, but none were killed, and three days after the latest of 55 murders in London this year.

en.abna24.com/news/europe/islamophobia-in-uk-thugs-shot-imam-of-a-mosque-police-arrest-2-for-attempted-murder_888533.html

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Imam speaks out after being shot in Luton

8 April 2018 at 10:40am

An Imam in Luton has been talking about the moment he chased after a car armed with just a brick, after a gunman sitting on the back seat of the vehicle turned a shotgun on him.

It happened moments after he left the Masjid al Madani Mosque in Bury Park following Thursday night prayers last week.

The 47 year old married father of a young son said he was on his way home just before 10pm when the black BMW pulled up in Portland Road, he thought to let him cross over.

But moments later a gunman on the back seat of the car fired a shotgun from out of the window. Two shots missed but then a third hit him.

After the shooting the Imam tried to chase the car as it made its getaway and a second man was then shot by the gunman in the same road.

Two men from Luton aged 30 and 32 have been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and remain in custody.

The Imam who has asked not to be identified has been speaking about the attack.

I had been at the mosque on Thursday night and had just finished taking prayers. I had just left and was making my way along Portland Road going home. It had been a long day and I was looking forward to getting home and relaxing. I thought the driver had stopped to let me cross. I had stepped into the road, but then the driver started reviving the engine. I stopped in front of the car turned to say what are you doing. He got a bit vexed by that and that’s when I saw the passenger on the back seat pull out a shotgun to show me. Words were exchanged and that’s when a shot was fired at me which missed. So did a second shot and it was a third shot that hit me although at that moment I didn’t know it.

– IMAM

The Imam said it was only when passers by and local residents came to his aid that he realised his arm was bleeding and he had been shot.

People came up to me and said you are bleeding and that’s when I saw my arm and the blood

– IMAM

He was taken to the Luton and Dunstable Hospital for treatment and says it was only when he was there that he found out a second man had been shot and wounded by the gunman.

He says he thought five shots had rung out on Thursday evening from the car and said the occupants could have been armed with more than weapon.

There is a lot of concern in the community, people are infuriated by what happened as you would expect and I had to present myself to Friday Prayers at the Mosque to reassure everyone and calm everyone and to tell them the police were dealing with the situation. Who goes round shooting at people like this? They are cowards. I wasn't targeted, it was just random, it’s madness

– IMAM

Police say the second man who was shot remains in hospital with serious injuries.

The two men arrested are from Luton and were arrested on Friday at Blundell Road in the town, on suspicion of attempted murder.

We are treating this as an isolated incident, but are continuing to appeal for information that could help our ongoing investigation. Anyone with information is asked to use our online reporting tool or call 101 quoting Operation Flemish. Alternatively, call Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.

itv.com/news/anglia/update/2018-04-08/imam-talks-after-being-shot-in-luton/

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Russia Accuses West of Curbing Syrian Army's Op Amid Chemical Attack Claims

Sun Apr 08, 2018 1:46

"We strongly deny these claims and announce our readiness to send Russian experts in radiation, chemical and biological defense to Douma after its liberation from terrorists to gather evidence, which would prove that the allegations on the chemical weapons use was staged," Maj. Gen. Yuri Yevtushenko, commander of the Russian Center for Syria reconciliation, said, RIA Novosti reported.

The Syrian government has also denied allegations of having used chemical weapons in the city of Douma in Eastern Ghouta, saying it doesn't need such measures to stop the terrorists.

According to the statement, issued by the Syrian authorities on the state-run SANA news agency, such claims have been made by terrorists and are aimed at hindering Syrian forces, which have made “a swift and determined advance” and do not need such measures to deter the terrorists.

"The chemical fabrications, which did not serve the terrorists and their sponsors in Aleppo and Eastern Ghouta, will not serve them today either, as the Syrian state is determined to end terrorism in every square inch of Syrian territory," the statement read.

The US State Department has voiced concern about the reports of chemical weapons being used in Douma, suggesting that Russia was accountable for the brutal targeting of countless Syrians.

Washington has also accused Damascus of chemical weapons use, alleging that “history” of such weapons being used by the country’s government was “not in dispute”.

Earlier, several media outlets had cited militants in Syria accusing the authorities in Damascus of using chemical weapons in Douma, with Jeish al-Islam claiming that the government forces had dropped a chemical bomb on Eastern Ghouta.

Last month, Damascus reported that several foreign experts were working on staging a chemical attack, which would be carried out with the help of the infamous White Helmets and would be covered by mainstream media. The same warning was issued by the Russian Center for Syria reconciliation in January.

The Syrian government has consistently denied all claims of chemical weapons use, arguing that the country’s stockpiles had been destroyed, which has been confirmed by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970119000835

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No indication driver had Islamist ties - Germany official

April 8, 2018 - 12:45 PM News Code : 888532 Source : Independent

(AhlulBayt News Agency) - A man who drove a van into a group of people in the city of Münster in western Germany, killing at least two before shooting himself dead, had no Islamic extremist ties, a Germany security official has said.

Herbert Reul, the interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia state, where Münster is located, said the driver was a German citizen.

He stressed the investigation is at an early stage but said "at the moment, nothing speaks for there being any Islamist background."

Mr Reul added: "we are investigating in all directions."

He said two people were killed in the crash and the driver then killed himself.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported the perpetrator was Jens R, a 48-year-old man who lived around 2km (1.2 miles) from the crime scene.

Broadcaster ZDF said police were searching his apartment and he had contact with far-right extremists, but there was no evidence so far that he was an extremist himself.

The German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung said the driver is believed to be a middle-aged man who had psychological issues.

His apartment was being searched for possible explosives, the paper added, citing information it had obtained but giving no specific source.

The vehicle ploughed into people sitting at tables outside the Grosser Kiepenkerl restaurant.

"At 15.27 (13.27 GMT), a vehicle drove into the outside area of the restaurant... three people were killed, 20 injured, and six of those seriously injured," police spokesman Andreas Bode said.

He added: "The perpetrator killed himself in the vehicle."

Mr Bode said the identity of the perpetrator was not yet clear.

Investigators were looking at the possibility that other suspects fled the scene, though they had no evidence this was the case, he added.

"It is far too early to speak of an attack," Mr Bode said.

"We have cordoned off the area widely. The crime scene investigators are checking out the crime scene, trying to identify, investigate and secure traces. That is our current task."

en.abna24.com/news/europe/no-indication-driver-had-islamist-ties-germany-official_888532.html

 

URL: http://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/temple,-mosque,-gurdwara-join-hands-in-small-up-town/d/114858

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