New Age Islam
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Islamic World News ( 19 Apr 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

The ‘New Emir’ of ISIS: What His Coronation Means For Bangladesh and South Asia


New Age Islam News Bureau

20 Apr 2016


Waving flag of Bangladesh. Flag has real fabric texture.

 

•  Pakistan Govt Planning To Make 'Quranic Education' Compulsory In Schools

•  ISIS Could Steal Pakistan's Nuclear Weapons and Make 'Dirty Bomb', Defence Analysts

•  NATO Raises 'Justified Concern' That Isil Is Plotting Nuclear Attack on Britain

•  Saudi Arabia Deploys PR Army against 9/11 Bill

•  India's Share among ISIL Fighters Is Minuscule

South Asia

•  Surging violence claims lives of 33 militants, 7 Afghan soldiers

•  Key Taliban commander killed with his 12 militants in Ghazni province

Pakistan

•  Man Summoned by JuD ‘Sharia Court’ Moves LHC

Europe

•  Palmyra Arch Replica Is Unveiled In Trafalgar Square in London

Arab World

•  ISIL Profits from Secret Cannabis Trade with Italian Mafia

•  Syrian Army Turns South of Aleppo Province into Hell for Al-Nusra Terrorists

India

•  After Modi's Riyadh Visit, Saudi Royalty Should Help India Eliminate Jihadis

•  AMU Former Scholar Exonerated In Nine Terror Cases, One Pending

Southeast Asia

•  Malaysia Faces Challenges in Curbing Incoming ISIS Fund Transfer

•  Rohingya Boat Dead 'Forced' To Travel by Sea - Witnesses

North America

•  Toronto Star Accuses Canadian News Media of Contributing to Islamophobia

•  US Transfers 9 Yemeni Detainees From Guantanamo To Saudi Arabia

Mideast

•  Turkey Kills 32 ISIL Militants in Iraq after Tank Hit

•  Only Solution Is To Destroy PKK: Erdoğan

Africa

•  Nigeria: 'Islamic Scholars Key to Maternal, Child Health'

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: https://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/the-‘new-emir’-of-isis--what-his-coronation-means-for-bangladesh-and-south-asia/d/107052

 

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South Asia

The ‘New Emir’ of ISIS: What His Coronation Means For Bangladesh and South Asia

Surging violence claims lives of 33 militants, 7 Afghan soldiers

Key Taliban commander killed with his 12 militants in Ghazni province

64 killed, 347 wounded in deadly Kabul attack, Sediqi says

Man arrested 4 years after killing 2 US military advisers in Ministry of Interior

Hang Anas Haqqani if serious in fight against terror, Nabil tells govt

President Ghani vows revenge for ‘every drop of blood’

Noor says militants do not believe in peace talks, calls for use of power

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Pakistan

Pakistan Govt Planning To Make 'Quranic Education' Compulsory In Schools

ISIS Could Steal Pakistan's Nuclear Weapons and Make 'Dirty Bomb', Defence Analysts

Man Summoned by JuD ‘Sharia Court’ Moves LHC

Seven policemen guarding polio workers shot dead in Karachi

Imran backs army chief’s call for uprooting corruption

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Europe

NATO Raises 'Justified Concern' That Isil Is Plotting Nuclear Attack on Britain

Palmyra Arch Replica Is Unveiled In Trafalgar Square in London

Switzerland halts citizenship process for Muslim students' family

Please forgive our indifference – Pope Francis' heartfelt plea to refugees

The Odyssey That Ended With A Muslim Family In Rome As Papal Guests

Campaign to tackle Hajj fraud launched by UK police forces

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Arab World

Saudi Arabia Deploys PR Army against 9/11 Bill

ISIL Profits from Secret Cannabis Trade with Italian Mafia

Syrian Army Turns South of Aleppo Province into Hell for Al-Nusra Terrorists

Iranian Army Rejects Organized Deployment in Syria

Yemeni Army Repels Saudi-Backed Attack to Capture Key Region in Jawf

Damascus: Senior Jeish Al-Islam Commanders Killed, Captured by Syrian Army

401 Breaches of Syrian Ceasefire Recorded since February 27

Lightest Crude in Iran Oil Basket

Iran, UN Discuss Regional Crises

Iran to Host Asia Pacific Forum Next Week

National Day of Saadi Commemorated throughout Iran

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India

After Modi's Riyadh Visit, Saudi Royalty Should Help India Eliminate Jihadis

India's Share among ISIL Fighters Is Minuscule

AMU Former Scholar Exonerated In Nine Terror Cases, One Pending

Here's A Reminder: Bharat Mata Is NOT A Religious Symbol

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North America

Toronto Star Accuses Canadian News Media of Contributing to Islamophobia

US Transfers 9 Yemeni Detainees From Guantanamo To Saudi Arabia

Muslims in America' Series Concludes with Discussion of 'Religious Dialogue: The Solutions for Peace'

US Muslims lobby Congress to tackle issues

How to fight extremism? Unite for religious liberty, rabbi says

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Southeast Asia

Malaysia Faces Challenges in Curbing Incoming ISIS Fund Transfer

Rohingya Boat Dead 'Forced' To Travel by Sea - Witnesses

Malaysia school shuts after 'mass hysteria' outbreak

Shop near Kansai airport offering halal ‘bento’ for Muslim tourists

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Mideast

Turkey Kills 32 ISIL Militants in Iraq after Tank Hit

Only Solution Is To Destroy PKK: Erdoğan

Two soldiers killed in PKK attack in Turkey’s southeast

Three wounded in rocket firings from Syria in Turkey’s southeast

EU Rejects Israel's Golan Claims

Palestinian News Outlet Raided in Jerusalem

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Africa

Nigeria: 'Islamic Scholars Key to Maternal, Child Health'

Google awards R10 Million grant to African organisation

 

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The ‘New Emir’ of ISIS: What His Coronation Means For Bangladesh and South Asia

19/04/2016


Waving flag of Bangladesh. Flag has real fabric texture.

---------

Bangladesh has a new prince – of terror.

Sheikh Abu Ibrahim al-Hanafi was recently introduced as Islamic State’s emir, or chief leader, for Bengal – as the terror group prefers to call the region. In a recent interview with the Islamic State’s propaganda magazine, Dabiq, Al-Hanafi vowed to banish ‘deviant’ and ‘apostate’ sects. His strategy is to use Bangladesh’s central location as a launchpad for operations into India and Myanmar.

The approach marks a new phase in Islamic State’s modus operandi that has far-reaching implications for the Indian sub-continent and Southeast Asia, as political analyst Phill Hynes tells Frontera Managing Editor Gavin Serkin on this week’s Emerging Opportunities show.

Bangladesh has a new prince – of terror.

Sheikh Abu Ibrahim al-Hanafi was recently introduced as Islamic State’s emir, or chief leader, for Bengal – as the terror group prefers to call the region. In a recent interview with the Islamic State’s propaganda magazine, Dabiq, Al-Hanafi vowed to banish ‘deviant’ and ‘apostate’ sects. His strategy is to use Bangladesh’s central location as a launchpad for operations into India and Myanmar.

The approach marks a new phase in Islamic State’s modus operandi that has far-reaching implications for the Indian sub-continent and Southeast Asia, as political analyst Phill Hynes tells Frontera Managing Editor Gavin Serkin on this week’s Emerging Opportunities show.

Phill-Hynes-2015-06-28-16.58.11-200x200

“It’s certainly a growing problem within the region,” says Hynes.

“On a strategic level, ISIS has strong aspirations for the creation of caliphates, or a broader caliphate. Where the epicenter of that will be is yet to be determined.”

The danger is compounded by the abject state of denial that the Bangladesh government has displayed toward deepening penetration of ISIS within the country. All layers of the bureaucracy, from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on down, are actively downplaying the expanding presence of Islamic extremism despite mounting evidence to the contrary.

Al-Hanafi’s appointment as the ‘ISIS emir’ in Bangladesh, and the allegiance now being displayed by his minions in the Bengal region, are changing the dynamic of regional political unrest. Ultimately this will present a greater challenge throughout the Indian subcontinent, beginning in Bangladesh, and potentially expanding into eastern India.

And Al-Hanafi stated in his interview, Myanmar is a priority for expansion – a logical target given the ongoing unrest and sporadic violence between Muslims and Buddhists there.

The desired ISIS endstate is for Bangladesh to act as a bridge between the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia for continued expansion. It is unclear how ISIS’s efforts on the sub-continent could spread into Malaysia or Southern Thailand at this point in time, given the highly complex situation in both regions. Currently there is no evidence that supports a viable ISIS presence in Thailand. However, as Frontera has previously reported, Malaysia does contain a growing ISIS threat, which could easily spread into the restive areas of southern Thailand.

It is also logical to see how extremist elements could easily spread from Bangladesh toward Indonesia, and ultimately into the Philippines. That, of course, is ISIS’s ultimate regional goal – the creation of a regional network that could create pockets of caliphates within Southeast Asia.

For those governments seeking to contain this evolving threat, the critical task will be to identify where an actual operational epicenter could take shape. It is our opinion that the ongoing Philippine election may play a substantial role in this process, as will the negotiations on the granting of an autonomous Islamic region on the large Philippine island of Mindanao.

The Indonesian port city of Poso also poses a particular challenge. However, the Indonesian security forces are proving to be highly effective in combatting extremist threats, and have been hammering ISIS affiliates or those seeking to align themselves with ISIS in that region.

Additionally, Hynes believes that the terrorist attacks that took place in Jakarta in January of this year were a clear demonstration of ineptitude, for want of a better description. He believes that the more competent elements of ISIS are now seeking to distance themselves from that particular debacle.

fronteranews.com/news/asia/new-emir-isis-coronation-means-bangladesh-south-asia/

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Pakistan Govt Planning To Make 'Quranic Education' Compulsory In Schools

Wed Apr 20, 2016


Photo: Pakistan Govt Planning To Make 'Quranic Education' Compulsory In Schools

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ISLAMABAD: The government is planning to make 'Quranic education' compulsory in all public schools in Pakistan.

Minister of State for Federal Education Muhammad Balighur Rehman said that 'Nazra Quran' will be taught to students of grade 1 to 5, and proper 'Quranic education' with translation will be imparted to students from grade 6 to 10 in all public schools.

Speaking at the 4th Annual Day organised by Al Huda International School at the Pak-China Friendship Centre, the minister said that the process would be initiated after consulting all provinces through the Inter-Provincial Education Minister's Conference.

Rehman stressed the need to educate children and encourage them to research and explore different subjects, fields and ideas.

dawn.com/news/1253281/govt-planning-to-make-quranic-education-compulsory-in-schools

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ISIS Could Steal Pakistan's Nuclear Weapons and Make 'Dirty Bomb', Defence Analysts

Wed Apr 20, 2016

The mounting concern of an Islamic State presence in Pakistan has put the spotlight on the security of the country's nuclear arsenal.

Key points:

Some security experts fear country's nuclear arsenal at risk from IS operatives

Others disagree, pointing to security around weapons

Pakistan nuclear secrets leaked a decade ago

In February, the director-general of Pakistan's intelligence bureau, Aftab Sultan, said hundreds of fighters from his country were joining IS in Syria, generating concerns about their links and activities when they returned home.

He also said an undisclosed network in Pakistan had been broken up.

More recently, US President Barack Obama declared at a nuclear summit in Washington: "The threat from terrorists trying to launch a nuclear attack is real. It would change the world."

The warnings have triggered debate in Pakistan about the possibility of a "dirty" nuclear bomb.

"There is a possibility of making a dirty bomb if the militants abduct some nuclear scientists, metallurgists with some fissile materials and uranium from Iraq and Syria," said retired Brigadier Said Nazir.

The brigadier, now a defence analyst, spent much of his career in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), bordering Afghanistan.

The FATA are home to 60 militant organisations, some sympathetic to IS, according to Mr Sultan.

Zia Ur Rahman Zia, an international politics professor at Qurtaba University in Peshawar, said he believed IS could make a dirty bomb.

"They have safe havens in Iraq and Syria where it can set up a laboratory to satisfy its nasty plans," he said.

"Pakistan's nuclear weapons might be secure but not safe.

"An ever growing danger persists of the militants putting their hands on the country's nuclear arsenals."

Professor Zia pointed to the attacks in recent years on the army's general headquarters in Rawalpindi and airbases in Mehran, Karachi, Kamra and Peshawar.

"These are not a soft target, keeping in view the track record of militant attacks on the highly secured installations in Pakistan, one can gauge the threat," he said.

Nuclear terror attack 'not possible': analyst

However, according to now retired Lieutenant General Talat Masood, a defence analyst in Islamabad, a terrorist-instigated attack is "technically not possible".

"The nuclear warheads, the safety mechanism and the electronic code words all lie in different hands. How could the militants therefore know how to trigger [a device]?" General Masood asked.

As further evidence of the security of the current arsenal, retired army oficer and now social sciences dean at the National University of Science and Technology, Tughral Yameen, pointed to Pakistan's track record.

"Compared to 2000 incidents of leakages around the world, Pakistan has never witnessed a single incident of its nuclear weapons or fissile materials being stolen," Mr Yameen said.

"It's launching techniques are very complicated and hard to be triggered, at least by those with no know-how."

Pakistan's history of nuclear weapons

After Pakistan's defeat in the 1971 war against India, Islamabad formally initiated its nuclear program the following year and now has around 120 warheads.

Pakistan's nuclear security was dealt a devastating blow over a decade ago with the admission by Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of the Pakistani bomb, that he had secretly provided Iran, North Korea and Libya with the technical ability to develop nuclear weapons.

Pakistan's military has long been accused of links with terrorist groups and allowing the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, which neighbours its lawless and porous FATA.

But some experts dismiss IS as having no viable command and control structure in Pakistan, or Afghanistan.

"How many militants are we talking of [on the ground]. On the other hand we are talking of over 700,000 professionals in the army, well trained and well equipped," said Brigadier Mehmood Shah, a former Secretary of Security for FATA.

abc.net.au/news/2016-04-20/growing-concerns-is-could-steal-nuclear-weapons/7342722

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Nato raises 'justified concern' that Isil is plotting nuclear attack on Britain

19 APRIL 2016

Isil terrorists are plotting to carry out biological and nuclear attacks on Britain and Europe, EU and Nato security chiefs have warned.

There is a “justified concern” that Islamist fanatics in Syria and Iraq  are trying to obtain substances of mass destruction such as biological, chemical and radiological weapons.

The terror group is also trying to develop new ways of avoiding security measures to carry out attacks such as bombs implanted in human bodies and hacking driverless cars, an international  security conference in London heard.

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) is also feared to have obtained a stockpile of former Iraqi short range missiles such as surface to air rockets.

Jorge Berto Silva, deputy head of counter terrorism for the European Commission, said Isil had shown an interest in obtained chemical, biological, radioactive and nuclear (CBRN) materials.

It emerged after the Brussels terror attacks last month that the terror cell had been secretly filming a senior Belgian nuclear official outside his home, fuelling fears they were looking at ways of how to obtain such substances.

Mr Silva told the annual Security and Counter Terror Expo: “With CBRN, there is a justified concern.”

Dr Jamie Shea, deputy assistant secretary general for emerging security threats at Nato, added: “We know terrorists are trying to acquire these substances.”

Dr Shea also warned that Isil may be splitting in two, with one part trying to protect the so-called caliphate in Syria and Iraq, which is increasingly losing ground from coalition airstrikes, but a second part focusing on setting up terror cells around Europe to launch attacks in the future.

He said the threat is likely to “get worse before it gets better”.

What is Isil? An Islamic extremist group controlling territory in Syria and Iraq

What is it called? In the West, the group is usually known as Isil (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) or Isis (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). In June, the militants said they wanted to simply be called Islamic State in recognition of the self-declared caliphate

What about 'Daesh'? Daesh is an abbreviation Dawlat al-Islamiyah f'al-Iraq wa al-Sham, and is the derogatory name used by many Muslims for Isil. Following the Paris attacks, the French government is now using this term

What are its aims? A worldwide Islamic caliphate - a religious government without borders

What terror attacks has it carried out? Isil has claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks of 13 November 2015, the explosion of a plane travelling from Egypt to Russia, and the individual killings of Western hostages, including James Foley and Alan Henning

How is the group funded? Looting, extortion and the possession of oilfields, providing an estimated £1.8m in revenue per day

How much territory does Isil control? An area of the Middle East that is roughly the size of Belgium

Where is it based? Isil's HQ is understood to be in the city of Raqqa, Syria

telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/19/nato-raises-justified-concern-that-isil-is-plotting-nuclear-atta/?WT.mc_id=e_DM111210&WT.tsrc=email&etype=Edi_FPM_New_AEM_Recipient&utm_source=email&utm_medium=Edi_FPM_New_AEM_Recipient_2016_04_19&utm_campaign=DM111210

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Saudi Arabia Deploys PR Army Against 9/11 Bill

Wed Apr 20, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Saudi Arabia will use lobbying and PR firms to sway US Congress and media against disclosing 28 pages detailing its role in the 9/11 attacks.

Saudi Arabia is poised to employ its more than US$9 million a year on lobbying to fight back against the US Congress passing a bill that could expose its role in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Telesur reported.

According to documents disclosed by the US Justice Department, Saudi Arabia hires at least eight US firms that carry out lobbying, consulting and public relations to advocate for the kingdom’s financial and political interests among US lawmakers and media organizations.

According to the public records, Saudi Arabia spent more than US$9.4 million on lobbying in 2015 alone.

Saudi Arabia hires Edelman, the biggest public relations agency in the world, and the Podesta Group, one of the US’s biggest lobbying groups, the Intercept website reported in October last year, citing public documents.

The Hill website reported that Podesta Group receives US$140,000 a year from Saudi Arabia for services.

During the last few months of 2015, Podesta Group sent 27 emails, had two phone calls and one meeting with lawmakers, staff, journalists and organizations including Human Rights Watch and the Center for American Progress, disclosure forms show.

Meanwhile, disclosures in March reveal that Saudi Arabia added a new company to its lobbying muscle by hiring BGR Government Affairs, a company founded by former Republican National Committee chair Haley Barbour.

According to The Intercept, BGR services are provided by “Jeffrey Birnbaum, a former Washington Post reporter who once covered the lobbying industry and now works as a lobbyist, as well as Ed Rogers, a former Reagan administration official who now lobbies and writes a column for the Post called ‘PostPartisan.'”

The large controversial lobbying firm receives US$500,000 annually to assist with US media outreach for Saudi government agencies.

Saudi Arabia has already threatened to pull out its US$750 billion in assets from the US if the bill passes and the 28 pages are disclosed.

President Barack Obama’s administration has publicly spoken out against what many say is the president siding with the controversial Saudi kingdom against victims of the 9/11 attacks.

The 28 pages detailing Saudi involvement in 9/11 are classified pages from a 2004 report on a congressional commission investigation into how 19 hijackers, 17 of whom were Saudi citizens, were able to operate on US soil without alerting federal intelligence agencies.

The report concluded that no "senior level" Saudi government officials were involved, but legal experts have said the wording leaves room for involvement of other members of the Saudi royal family or government.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950201000938

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India's share among ISIL fighters is minuscule

20 April 2016

The violent ideology of the Islamic State has largely failed to appeal to Indian Muslims, if leaked details of its foreign fighters till end of 2014 are to be believed.

Records of Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, reveal that out of over 4000 fighters analysed, only 1 has been identified as an Indian citizen. Six others are said to be residents of India but their citizenship could not be confirmed. Compare this data with the fact that India has the third largest Muslim population in the world. It accounts for nearly 11% of the total number of Muslims.

"India has 0.01 ISIL fighters per million citizens, according to the report"

When you take the number of ISIL fighters per million citizens, India's figure comes out to be a minuscule 0.01. These records are based on documents of foreign fighters entering and leaving between 2013 and end of 2014 in the areas where ISIL is involved in fighting in Syria.

The findings are mentioned in a report titled Caliphates Global Workforce, published recently by the Combating Terrorism Centre at West Bank. The report is based on data analysis of the over 4,000 mostly foreign fighters which was leaked by an Islamic State defector to several news outlets earlier this year. CTC was given the documents by the US based NBC network which is one of the media houses which claimed that they had access to this data.

The report is curiously silent on the number of US citizens who figure in these records.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

The analysis basically points that Indians did not respond to calls of jihad by the Islamic State. The analysis of the records shows a greater representation from smaller countries like Norway, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago and Benin.

The writers of the report note that examining these figures yields interesting insights. "Saudi Arabia, while accounting for the largest number of records, is not the largest contributor of records on a per capita basis. Depending on the nationality measure used, Tunisia and Kosovo account for a larger number of the records in our database".

The writers also caution that these numbers should not be confused as hard estimates of the overall contribution of fighters to the conflict in Syria from these countries. "As discussed...these numbers are limited to Islamic State fighters and to a specific window of time," the report reads.

Meanwhile, among neighbouring countries, the analysis records 138 fighters with Chinese citizenship, 12 fighters from Pakistan, 3 from Bangladesh and 1 from Sri Lanka.

European countries have among the largest number of individuals who have been lured by the ideology of the ISIL to travel to the war torn Syria and Iraq and fight against the regime forces in it's pursuit to establish a Caliphate. The report says that it found records of 57 individuals who were resident of the UK, 128 from France, 52 from Kosovo and another 80 individuals who were residents of Germany. The report says that 11 individuals with Australian citizenship were also found in the cache.

CHILDREN BEING PREPARED AS FIGHTERS?

Interestingly, the analysis of the data by the CTC also confirms that the terror outfit may be grooming children for fighting roles in the future. The records point out that there are almost 400 individuals under the age of 18. Another 41 of them are 15 years or younger.

CTC's analysis has mention of two children, presumably brothers, who arrived in Tal Abyad, Syria on

4 July, 2014, from Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The report says that they were 14 and 12 years old when they arrived, and were listed as primary school students.

"Out of the over 4000 fighters analysed, 400 were found to be below 18 years of age"

"Next to both it is annotated that they are children and are going to a camp, and after the camp they are to be returned to their father, who is known to the organization" the report reads.

"In this particular case, the children appear to be preparing for roles as fighters in the future, not the present, although the number of other minors present in the data set reinforce what is already known about the Islamic State's active use of children in violent capacities," the report adds.

INDIA A TARGET

Interestingly, while these records are confined to the fighters who travelled till 2014, there have been recent instances which show that India now figures as an important target for the terrorist group. A recent interview said to be of the head of the outfit in neighbouring Bangladesh, where several recent attacks have been attributed to the outfit, outlined how the Islamic State now plans to attack India.

While the Home Ministry too recognises the seriousness of the threat and has initiated some anti-radicalisation measures involving members of the community and the clerics, NIA, has also made some arrests of Islamic State suspects.

The agency claimed that most of these individuals were radicalised online by recruiters of the Islamic State, and lured to join the outfit to carry out attacks in the country.

catchnews.com/india-news/india-s-share-among-isil-fighters-is-minuscule-europe-leads-the-way-1461081415.html

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South Asia

The ‘New Emir’ of ISIS: What His Coronation Means For Bangladesh and South Asia

19/04/2016

Bangladesh has a new prince – of terror.

Sheikh Abu Ibrahim al-Hanafi was recently introduced as Islamic State’s emir, or chief leader, for Bengal – as the terror group prefers to call the region. In a recent interview with the Islamic State’s propaganda magazine, Dabiq, Al-Hanafi vowed to banish ‘deviant’ and ‘apostate’ sects. His strategy is to use Bangladesh’s central location as a launchpad for operations into India and Myanmar.

The approach marks a new phase in Islamic State’s modus operandi that has far-reaching implications for the Indian sub-continent and Southeast Asia, as political analyst Phill Hynes tells Frontera Managing Editor Gavin Serkin on this week’s Emerging Opportunities show.

Bangladesh has a new prince – of terror.

Sheikh Abu Ibrahim al-Hanafi was recently introduced as Islamic State’s emir, or chief leader, for Bengal – as the terror group prefers to call the region. In a recent interview with the Islamic State’s propaganda magazine, Dabiq, Al-Hanafi vowed to banish ‘deviant’ and ‘apostate’ sects. His strategy is to use Bangladesh’s central location as a launchpad for operations into India and Myanmar.

The approach marks a new phase in Islamic State’s modus operandi that has far-reaching implications for the Indian sub-continent and Southeast Asia, as political analyst Phill Hynes tells Frontera Managing Editor Gavin Serkin on this week’s Emerging Opportunities show.

Phill-Hynes-2015-06-28-16.58.11-200x200

“It’s certainly a growing problem within the region,” says Hynes.

“On a strategic level, ISIS has strong aspirations for the creation of caliphates, or a broader caliphate. Where the epicenter of that will be is yet to be determined.”

The danger is compounded by the abject state of denial that the Bangladesh government has displayed toward deepening penetration of ISIS within the country. All layers of the bureaucracy, from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on down, are actively downplaying the expanding presence of Islamic extremism despite mounting evidence to the contrary.

Al-Hanafi’s appointment as the ‘ISIS emir’ in Bangladesh, and the allegiance now being displayed by his minions in the Bengal region, are changing the dynamic of regional political unrest. Ultimately this will present a greater challenge throughout the Indian subcontinent, beginning in Bangladesh, and potentially expanding into eastern India.

And Al-Hanafi stated in his interview, Myanmar is a priority for expansion – a logical target given the ongoing unrest and sporadic violence between Muslims and Buddhists there.

The desired ISIS endstate is for Bangladesh to act as a bridge between the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia for continued expansion. It is unclear how ISIS’s efforts on the sub-continent could spread into Malaysia or Southern Thailand at this point in time, given the highly complex situation in both regions. Currently there is no evidence that supports a viable ISIS presence in Thailand. However, as Frontera has previously reported, Malaysia does contain a growing ISIS threat, which could easily spread into the restive areas of southern Thailand.

It is also logical to see how extremist elements could easily spread from Bangladesh toward Indonesia, and ultimately into the Philippines. That, of course, is ISIS’s ultimate regional goal – the creation of a regional network that could create pockets of caliphates within Southeast Asia.

For those governments seeking to contain this evolving threat, the critical task will be to identify where an actual operational epicenter could take shape. It is our opinion that the ongoing Philippine election may play a substantial role in this process, as will the negotiations on the granting of an autonomous Islamic region on the large Philippine island of Mindanao.

The Indonesian port city of Poso also poses a particular challenge. However, the Indonesian security forces are proving to be highly effective in combatting extremist threats, and have been hammering ISIS affiliates or those seeking to align themselves with ISIS in that region.

Additionally, Hynes believes that the terrorist attacks that took place in Jakarta in January of this year were a clear demonstration of ineptitude, for want of a better description. He believes that the more competent elements of ISIS are now seeking to distance themselves from that particular debacle.

fronteranews.com/news/asia/new-emir-isis-coronation-means-bangladesh-south-asia/

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Surging violence claims lives of 33 militants, 7 Afghan soldiers

Wed Apr 20 2016

Afghan army operationsAt least 33 militants were killed and 35 others were wounded during the clearance of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) in the past 24 hours.

The Ministry of Defense (MoD) in a statement said at least 4 militants were also arrested during the same operations.

The statement further added that 8 of the militants were killed in Nari district of Kunar where 4 militants were also wounded, while 2 others were killed and 8 more were wounded in Chahar Dara district of Kunduz.

At least 4 militants were killed in separate raids in Syedabad district of Wardak province and 4 others were killed in Baraki Barak district of Logar province.

At least 2 militants were killed in Qarabagh district of Ghazni, MoD said, adding that 2 others were wounded.

The Ministry of Defense also added that 7 soldiers of the Afghan National Army (ANA) forces also lost their lives during the same operations.

“The Afghan National Army (ANA) forces are prepared for all kinds of devotion and with all force to maintain security and comfort for the people of Afghanistan,” a statement by MoD said, adding that 7 Afghan soldiers were martyred during counter-terrorism operations against the internal and foreign terrorists.

The anti-government armed militant groups have not commented regarding the reports so far.

khaama.com/surging-violence-claims-lives-of-33-militants-7-afghan-soldiers-0716

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Key Taliban commander killed with his 12 militants in Ghazni province

Wed Apr 20 2016

senior Afghan Taliban leader killedA key Taliban commander was killed with his 12 fighters in southeastern Ghazni province of Afghanistan, security officials said Wednesday.

The Taliban commander identified as Mullah Yousuf was killed during a special military operation conducted by the Afghan security forces.

Sediq Sediq, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior (MoI), confirmed the killing of the key Taliban commander but did not provide further information regarding the exact location where the raid was conducted.

The Taliban group has not commented regarding the report so far.

Ghazni is among the relatively volatile provinces in southeastern Afghanistan where anti-government armed militant groups are actively operating and frequently carry out insurgency activities.

The killing of Mullah Yousuf comes as the group has stepped up insurgency activities across the country since they announced their spring offensive earlier last week.

Meanwhile, the Afghan forces have also stepped up counter-terrorism operations in a bid to repulse and thwart attacks by the Taliban group.

khaama.com/key-taliban-commander-killed-with-his-12-militants-in-ghazni-province-0713

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64 killed, 347 wounded in deadly Kabul attack, Sediqi says

Wed Apr 20 2016

The casualties toll as a result of a deadly attack in capital Kabul has climbed to 64 deaths and 347 wounded, the Ministry of Interior (MoI) announced Wednesday.

MoI spokesman Sediq Sediqi said at least 64 lost their lives in the attack and 347 others were wounded.

The attack on Directorate of Security for Prominent Figures was launched around 9:00 am local time after a Vehicle-borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) was detonated near the compound.

The explosion triggered heavy gun battle between the Afghan forces and the Taliban insurgents that continued for several hours before the assailants were shot dead.

The Taliban group claimed responsibility behind the attack which comes amid rampant insurgency led by the group since they announced their spring offensive.

The attack was widely condemned by the Afghan officials as well as the international community.

President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani vowed to revenge each drop of blood of the Afghan people shed by the militants, emphasizing that the militant groups pursued violence despite repeated calls by the Afghan government to participate in peaceful negotations.

khaama.com/64-killed-347-wounded-in-deadly-kabul-attack-sediqi-says-0717

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Man arrested 4 years after killing 2 US military advisers in Ministry of Interior

Wed Apr 20 2016

A man has been arrested four years after killing two US military advisers in an insider attack in the Ministry of Interior of Afghanistan.

Sediq Sediqi, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said the attacker was identified as Abdul Saboor and was arrested by the security forces four years after the incident.

The number of green-on-blue attacks by Afghan security forces reached record levels in 2013 however the attacks largely dropped in 2012 as coalition and Afghan commanders bolster security and improve screening of troops who might be a threat.

According to reports at least 62 coalition security forces were killed by their Afghan counterparts in 47 insider attacks.

The growing green on blue attacks forced the coalition forces to improve security tactics to enhance troop protection.

According to coalition officials at that time the Afghan commanders increased supervision and oversight of their troops.

The Afghan officials enhanced screening of recruits and took counterintelligence steps to screen for potential attackers.

khaama.com/man-arrested-4-years-after-killing-2-us-military-advisers-in-ministry-of-interior-0715

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Hang Anas Haqqani if serious in fight against terror, Nabil tells govt

Wed Apr 20 2016

The former Afghan Intelligence, National Directorate of Security (NDS) Chief, Rahmatullah Nabil has called on the government to hang the Haqqani Network leader’s brother in custody if serious in fight against terrorism.

In a statement following a deadly attack in capital Kabul, Nabil said “If the government is serious and honest in fight against terrorism then Anisa Haqqa, the brother of Siraj Haqqani and several other terrorists who have been sentenced to death, should be immediately hanged and must be hanged tomorrow.”

At least 28 people were killed and 327 othrs were wounded after a group of militants launched coordinated suicide attack on the directorate of security for elites in capital Kabul on Tuesday.

The Afghan intelligence – national directorate of security (NDS) arrested Anis Haqqani along with another key Haqqani network leader late in 2014.

“Both Anis Haqani, the brother of Sirajudin Haqani and the son of Jalaludin Haqani famous on Abdullah and Hafiz Rashid, famous commander of this network in Khost province are arrested in a special operation of NDS on 14 October 2014,” according to NDS

NDS further added that Anis Haqani is one of the powerful members of Haqani Network who is arrested by National Directorate of Security (NDS). Anis was the deputy of his brother Sirajudin Haqani, the leader of Haqani Network and was playing key role in strategic decisions of this network.

“Anis Haqani has special skills in computer and was considered one of the master minds of this network in making propaganda through social networks.He was responsible for collecting and preparing funds from Arabic countries to carry out operations of this network,” NDS said.

khaama.com/hang-anas-haqqani-if-serious-in-fight-against-terror-nabil-tells-govt-0712

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President Ghani vows revenge for ‘every drop of blood’

Tue Apr 19 2016

President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has vowed revenge for ‘every drop of blood’ of Afghan people spilled by the militants as Kabul was hit by a deadly attack today which left at least 28 dead and 327 wounded.

During a visit to Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan hospital where the injured civilians are treated following the deadly attack, President Ghani said the attack represents a culture of ignorance which is not having any justification in the religion of Islam.

Ghani fu9rther added that such acts do not have any links with the humanity and is considered a shameful act in Afghanistan.

He recalled government’s pleas for peace talks and said the militants have been defeated in the battlefield and a large number of them have been killed, insisting the militant groups forced the Afghan forces to take such actions against them.

Vowing revenge for each drop of blood spilled by the militants, President Ghani said no there is not distinction among the Afghan people, warning militant groups that they will fail to divide the Afghan nation.

President Ghani also added that the victims of today’s attack are fathers, sons and brothers of someone, emphasizing that such attacks will further strengthen the will and determination of the Afghan people to bring peace and stability in the country.

Calling the members of the Afghan security forces as true sons of the country, President Ghani said the Afghan forces are ready to go to the frontline against the militant groups.

khaama.com/president-ghani-vows-revenge-for-every-drop-of-blood-0711

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Noor says militants do not believe in peace talks, calls for use of power

Tue Apr 19 2016

The acting provincial governor of northern Balkh province Ata Mohammad Noor has called on the government to use power against the enemies of the country and not to appeal for peace talks.

In a statement released following a deadly attack in capital Kabul, Noor said ‘The enemies do not believe in peace, they only gift death…’

Noor further added that today’s attack in capital Kabul was one of the deadliest in the country which brought agony to hundreds of families.

He said peace and negotations do not have any value for the enemies of the country who are only reducing their thirst by kiling innocent people.

The Taliban group claimed responsibility behind the deadly attack in capital Kabul on elite security forces personnel this morning.

According to the security officials, at least 28 people were killed and at least 327 others were wounded in the attack.

The militants initially detonated a Vehicle-borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) near the compound around 9:00 this morning and started gun battle with the security forces following the attack.

khaama.com/noor-says-militants-do-not-believe-in-peace-talks-calls-for-use-of-power-0710

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Pakistan

Pakistan Govt Planning To Make 'Quranic Education' Compulsory In Schools

Wed Apr 20, 2016

ISLAMABAD: The government is planning to make 'Quranic education' compulsory in all public schools in Pakistan.

Minister of State for Federal Education Muhammad Balighur Rehman said that 'Nazra Quran' will be taught to students of grade 1 to 5, and proper 'Quranic education' with translation will be imparted to students from grade 6 to 10 in all public schools.

Speaking at the 4th Annual Day organised by Al Huda International School at the Pak-China Friendship Centre, the minister said that the process would be initiated after consulting all provinces through the Inter-Provincial Education Minister's Conference.

Rehman stressed the need to educate children and encourage them to research and explore different subjects, fields and ideas.

dawn.com/news/1253281/govt-planning-to-make-quranic-education-compulsory-in-schools

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ISIS Could Steal Pakistan's Nuclear Weapons and Make 'Dirty Bomb', Defence Analysts

Wed Apr 20, 2016

The mounting concern of an Islamic State presence in Pakistan has put the spotlight on the security of the country's nuclear arsenal.

Key points:

Some security experts fear country's nuclear arsenal at risk from IS operatives

Others disagree, pointing to security around weapons

Pakistan nuclear secrets leaked a decade ago

In February, the director-general of Pakistan's intelligence bureau, Aftab Sultan, said hundreds of fighters from his country were joining IS in Syria, generating concerns about their links and activities when they returned home.

He also said an undisclosed network in Pakistan had been broken up.

More recently, US President Barack Obama declared at a nuclear summit in Washington: "The threat from terrorists trying to launch a nuclear attack is real. It would change the world."

The warnings have triggered debate in Pakistan about the possibility of a "dirty" nuclear bomb.

"There is a possibility of making a dirty bomb if the militants abduct some nuclear scientists, metallurgists with some fissile materials and uranium from Iraq and Syria," said retired Brigadier Said Nazir.

The brigadier, now a defence analyst, spent much of his career in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), bordering Afghanistan.

The FATA are home to 60 militant organisations, some sympathetic to IS, according to Mr Sultan.

Zia Ur Rahman Zia, an international politics professor at Qurtaba University in Peshawar, said he believed IS could make a dirty bomb.

"They have safe havens in Iraq and Syria where it can set up a laboratory to satisfy its nasty plans," he said.

"Pakistan's nuclear weapons might be secure but not safe.

"An ever growing danger persists of the militants putting their hands on the country's nuclear arsenals."

Professor Zia pointed to the attacks in recent years on the army's general headquarters in Rawalpindi and airbases in Mehran, Karachi, Kamra and Peshawar.

"These are not a soft target, keeping in view the track record of militant attacks on the highly secured installations in Pakistan, one can gauge the threat," he said.

Nuclear terror attack 'not possible': analyst

However, according to now retired Lieutenant General Talat Masood, a defence analyst in Islamabad, a terrorist-instigated attack is "technically not possible".

"The nuclear warheads, the safety mechanism and the electronic code words all lie in different hands. How could the militants therefore know how to trigger [a device]?" General Masood asked.

As further evidence of the security of the current arsenal, retired army oficer and now social sciences dean at the National University of Science and Technology, Tughral Yameen, pointed to Pakistan's track record.

"Compared to 2000 incidents of leakages around the world, Pakistan has never witnessed a single incident of its nuclear weapons or fissile materials being stolen," Mr Yameen said.

"It's launching techniques are very complicated and hard to be triggered, at least by those with no know-how."

Pakistan's history of nuclear weapons

After Pakistan's defeat in the 1971 war against India, Islamabad formally initiated its nuclear program the following year and now has around 120 warheads.

Pakistan's nuclear security was dealt a devastating blow over a decade ago with the admission by Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of the Pakistani bomb, that he had secretly provided Iran, North Korea and Libya with the technical ability to develop nuclear weapons.

Pakistan's military has long been accused of links with terrorist groups and allowing the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, which neighbours its lawless and porous FATA.

But some experts dismiss IS as having no viable command and control structure in Pakistan, or Afghanistan.

"How many militants are we talking of [on the ground]. On the other hand we are talking of over 700,000 professionals in the army, well trained and well equipped," said Brigadier Mehmood Shah, a former Secretary of Security for FATA.

abc.net.au/news/2016-04-20/growing-concerns-is-could-steal-nuclear-weapons/7342722

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Man summoned by JuD ‘sharia court’ moves LHC

Wed Apr 20, 2016

LAHORE: A property developer summoned by ‘Shariat Court’ of Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) on a complaint regarding a monetary dispute has moved the Lahore High Court, seeking action against Qazi (judge) of the organisation’s ‘court’ for running a parallel judicial system.

Khalid Saeed of Samanabad has made interior secretary, federal law minister, Punjab chief secretary, Punjab IG, Lahore CCPO and Qazi Hafiz Idrees of JuD parties in the petition filed through Advocate Maqbool Hussain Sheikh.

The petitioner says he received summons written on the letter pad of ‘Darul Qaza Al-Sharia’ Jamat-ud-Dawa, Masjid Al-Qadsia, Chauburji, Lahore, with a direction to appear before its ‘arbitration court of Sharia’.

He says the summons was issued to him on the complaint of Muhammad Azam.

The summons warned that in case of non-appearance no excuse would be considered and the petitioner would be proceeded against in accordance with Sharia law, the petition stated.

He alleged that he also received telephone calls from the JuD “court” Qazi in “threatening tone”, asking him to appear before him.

He said that applications were submitted to the government functionaries (respondents) and Chief Justice of Pakistan against the illegal summons but remained unanswered.

The petitioner urged the court to order the respondent authorities to look into the matter and take action against the organisation for committing illegal acts and for subverting the Constitution by establishing a parallel judicial system.

Justice Shahid Bilal Hassan issued notices to the respondents for April 26.

dawn.com/news/1253195/man-summoned-by-jud-sharia-court-moves-lhc

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Seven policemen guarding polio workers shot dead in Karachi

Wed Apr 20, 2016

KARACHI: Seven police officials guarding polio workers were killed in two separate attacks in Orangi Town Wednesday afternoon, officials said.

DIG West Feroz Shah told DawnNews that eight gunmen riding four motorcycles carried out the killings in two separate attacks in the neighbourhood.

“The gunmen first opened fire on three policemen in the streets of Orangi Town, killing them all,” he said, adding: “Later they shot dead four policemen, who were sitting in a police mobile van” a few streets away.

“The first incident happened while the police was escorting the polio team,” Shah said.

“A policeman intervened when eight men on four motorcycles came and asked a polio worker for his name. In response, the men opened fire. Although the police fired in response, they were overpowered,” he said.

“The same men killed four members of another police team.”

Abdul Kareem, an official at the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, where the bodies were taken, also confirmed the casualties.

There are no reports of injuries or deaths of polio workers.

The anti-polio campaign in the area was suspended immediately and heavy contingents of law enforcement agencies, including paramilitary Rangers, cordoned off the area.

‘Polio campaign to continue despite all odds’

Talking to media personnel on a visit to the crime scene, Sindh Police Inspector General AD Khawaja said “polio drops will be administered to our children at all costs”, adding that security for polio teams will be beefed up even more.

He said police was “ready to render more sacrifices if need be” and announced compensation of Rs2 million for the families of each slain official.

The Sindh IG also announced reward money of Rs5 million for anyone who helps police nab those behind the attacks.

Sindh Rangers DG Maj Gen Bilal Akbar said a joint investigation into the attacks will be launched by police and Rangers. He said the policemen had laid down their lives to protect polio workers – “a sacrifice that will not go to waste”.

The Rangers chief said it was too soon to say who the attackers were affiliated with and where they came from. However, he urged the public to come forward with any information they had on the attackers.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in a statement from his office, condemned the attack and appreciated the policemen’s valour. “They laid down their lives to secure the country’s future,” he said.

The campaign to eliminate polio in Pakistan has been fraught with risk, with militants attacking health teams they accused of being spies.

A polio worker was shot and wounded in February and in January a suicide bomber killed 15 people outside a polio eradication centre in Quetta.

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only countries in the world which have been transferring the polio virus to each other.

dawn.com/news/1253283/seven-policemen-guarding-polio-workers-shot-dead-in-karachi

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Imran backs army chief’s call for uprooting corruption

Wed Apr 20, 2016

PESHAWAR: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan has backed the statement of Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif about uprooting corruption, saying his party has been demanding even-handed accountability of corrupt elements.

Addressing a press conference in Peshawar on Tuesday, he said that the entire nation was with the army chief on the issue of corruption as people wanted corruption-free society. He said that National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had disclosed that corruption of Rs12 billion was committed every day.

“Now NAB needs to be jacked up to improve its performance,” said Mr Khan. He added that every Pakistani supported Gen Raheel on the issue and wanted independence of NAB, FIA, FBR and other institutions.

PTI chairman challenges prime minister to prove allegations against him

When asked about the Bank of Khyber scandal in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the PTI chief said that the issue indicated that institutions in the province were becoming independent and gaining strength. He said that managing director of the province’s bank had complained about political interference.

The managing director had accused finance minister of political interference in the bank’s affairs and did not mention corruption, he said. “It shows that institutions in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are becoming independent which is encouraging. People may not even think about such trend in Punjab,” he added.

Mr Khan said that a committee would present its report about the dispute between the finance minister and BoK managing director within 48 hours. He said that he had met Finance Minister Muzafar Said and officials of the bank and the issue would be sorted out in the light of the committee’s report.

The PTI chief came down heavily on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for endorsing allegations of Defence Minister Khwaja Mohammad Asif, who claimed that corruption had been committed in Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital Lahore.

He challenged Nawaz Sharif to prove his allegations about the hospital where 70 per cent patients were getting free treatment. He said that PML-N had been in the government in Punjab for the last eight years so it should take action against him (Imran) if it had any credible information and proofs.

“Why you don’t take action against me if I have committed corruption in the hospital’s funds,” he asked the prime minister and alleged that Nawaz Sharif was trying to blackmail leaders of other political parties including PPP if opposition pressed the government to conduct investigations in Panama Papers leaks.

“I regret statement of Nawaz Sharif who levelled baseless allegations against a hospital that serves poor patients,” said the PTI chief and vowed that his party would contact all political parties to work out joint line of action in the aftermath of Panama leaks.

Mr Khan said that instead of blackmailing opposition, Nawaz Sharif should follow British Prime Minister David Cameron, who produced details of his income tax in the parliament. He said that prime minister knew nothing about democracy. Former president retired General Pervez Musharraf was far better than Nawaz, he added. The PTI chief said that it was fundament right of the people to arrange peaceful protest rallies or meetings everywhere in the country. Peaceful protest was beauty of democracy and the government should not ban such activities, he said, adding that PTI would hold historic rally in Islamabad on April 24.

Meanwhile, Imran Khan has appreciated the students and staff of Peshawar Model School Charsadda branch for taking active part in fund raising for Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre.

Nusrat Nazir, the principal of the school, who along with the students was invited to a ceremony held at SKMCH&RC Lahore to receive prize for their contribution, told journalists here on Tuesday that they would continue to take part in such activities to help needy and deserving people of the country.

The school stood seventh among the institutions of the country for collecting huge donation and Imran Khan gave certificates and shields to students and teachers, she said.

The principal said that students of the schools had displayed banners inscribed with appeals for donations on Peshawar-Islamabad Motorway and collected amount from the motorists.

dawn.com/news/1253226/imran-backs-army-chiefs-call-for-uprooting-corruption

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Europe

Nato raises 'justified concern' that Isil is plotting nuclear attack on Britain

19 APRIL 2016

Isil terrorists are plotting to carry out biological and nuclear attacks on Britain and Europe, EU and Nato security chiefs have warned.

There is a “justified concern” that Islamist fanatics in Syria and Iraq  are trying to obtain substances of mass destruction such as biological, chemical and radiological weapons.

The terror group is also trying to develop new ways of avoiding security measures to carry out attacks such as bombs implanted in human bodies and hacking driverless cars, an international  security conference in London heard.

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) is also feared to have obtained a stockpile of former Iraqi short range missiles such as surface to air rockets.

Jorge Berto Silva, deputy head of counter terrorism for the European Commission, said Isil had shown an interest in obtained chemical, biological, radioactive and nuclear (CBRN) materials.

It emerged after the Brussels terror attacks last month that the terror cell had been secretly filming a senior Belgian nuclear official outside his home, fuelling fears they were looking at ways of how to obtain such substances.

Mr Silva told the annual Security and Counter Terror Expo: “With CBRN, there is a justified concern.”

Dr Jamie Shea, deputy assistant secretary general for emerging security threats at Nato, added: “We know terrorists are trying to acquire these substances.”

Dr Shea also warned that Isil may be splitting in two, with one part trying to protect the so-called caliphate in Syria and Iraq, which is increasingly losing ground from coalition airstrikes, but a second part focusing on setting up terror cells around Europe to launch attacks in the future.

He said the threat is likely to “get worse before it gets better”.

What is Isil? An Islamic extremist group controlling territory in Syria and Iraq

What is it called? In the West, the group is usually known as Isil (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) or Isis (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). In June, the militants said they wanted to simply be called Islamic State in recognition of the self-declared caliphate

What about 'Daesh'? Daesh is an abbreviation Dawlat al-Islamiyah f'al-Iraq wa al-Sham, and is the derogatory name used by many Muslims for Isil. Following the Paris attacks, the French government is now using this term

What are its aims? A worldwide Islamic caliphate - a religious government without borders

What terror attacks has it carried out? Isil has claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks of 13 November 2015, the explosion of a plane travelling from Egypt to Russia, and the individual killings of Western hostages, including James Foley and Alan Henning

How is the group funded? Looting, extortion and the possession of oilfields, providing an estimated £1.8m in revenue per day

How much territory does Isil control? An area of the Middle East that is roughly the size of Belgium

Where is it based? Isil's HQ is understood to be in the city of Raqqa, Syria

telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/19/nato-raises-justified-concern-that-isil-is-plotting-nuclear-atta/?WT.mc_id=e_DM111210&WT.tsrc=email&etype=Edi_FPM_New_AEM_Recipient&utm_source=email&utm_medium=Edi_FPM_New_AEM_Recipient_2016_04_19&utm_campaign=DM111210

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Palmyra Arch Replica Is Unveiled in Trafalgar Square in London

APRIL 19, 2016

LONDON — A landmark Roman arch that was destroyed by Islamic State fighters in Palmyra, Syria, stood proudly once again on Tuesday, this time as a replica built from digital models that was installed in Trafalgar Square in London.

To create the roughly 20-foot-tall marble replica, which weighs around 11 tons, researchers built a 3-D computer model of the arch by compiling dozens of photographs taken by archaeologists and tourists in Palmyra before the Islamic State moved in. Robots in Italy then used the computer model to carve the marble replica.

Mayor Boris Johnson of London unveiled the piece on Tuesday, as crowds gathered in the square and on the steps leading to the National Gallery.

“Syria’s future depends on the conservation and protection of Syria’s past,” Mr. Johnson said. Calling the Islamic State’s actions in the Middle East “savage” and “nihilistic,” he said that the celebration was “in solidarity with the people of Syria” and in “defiance of the barbarians” who destroyed the original arch.

After the unveiling, a trio of musicians played traditional Mesopotamian music on replicas of ancient instruments.

The replica arch was built as part of a project by the Institute for Digital Archaeology, a joint initiative that works with Oxford, Harvard and the Museum of the Future in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, to draw attention to the destruction of cultural artifacts across the world, and to rebuild some pieces.

Islamic State fighters, who occupied Palmyra for nearly a year beginning in May 2015, ransacked landmarks across the city, a Unesco World Heritage site. Late last month, the Syrian Army announced that it had recaptured the city from Islamic State fighters.

Crews pieced together the replica arch on Monday, and it will be displayed in front of the National Gallery through Thursday. It will appear in New York City in September and will also travel to Dubai, a spokeswoman for the archaeology institute said.

nytimes.com/2016/04/20/arts/international/replica-of-palmyra-arch-is-unveiled-in-trafalgar-square.html?emc=edit_tnt_20160419&nlid=71783194&tntemail0=y&_r=0

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Switzerland halts citizenship process for Muslim students' family

Apr. 19, 2016

GENEVA: Switzerland has suspended the citizenship process for the family of two teenage Muslim brothers after the boys' refusal to shake hands with their female teachers sparked a national debate over religious freedoms.

The brothers, aged 14 and 15, had informed education officials in the northern municipality of Therwil that physical contact with women who are not family members violated their faith.

They were then exempted from a Swiss custom of pupils shaking teachers' hands, with Therwil officials instructing them to avoid contact with male teachers as well to avoid gender discrimination.

But the compromise sparked a heated response from leading Swiss politicians including Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga who insisted that "shaking hands is part of (Swiss) culture".

On Tuesday, authorities in the canton of Basel-Country where Therwil is located, said that naturalization proceedings for the family had been put on hold.

Basel-Country spokesman Adrian Baumgartner, in an email, confirmed a report from the ATS news agency on the suspension.

The report also noted that such suspensions are common in citizenship procedures as authorities often require supplemental information about the families concerned.

Amid the media storm that surrounded the handshake exemption, Basel-Country requested an expert legal opinion, which Therwil pledged to follow.

The father of the two boys, an imam based in Basel and a Syrian national, moved to Switzerland in 2001 and was granted asylum.

Basel's migration office was seeking more information about the circumstances under which the father's asylum request was approved.

Switzerland's population of eight million includes an estimated 350,000 Muslims.

Previous similar disputes have centered on Muslim parents who demanded that their daughters be exempt from swimming lessons.

Muslim families have however secured victories in court against schools which sought to ban the full face veil.

dailystar.com.lb//News/World/2016/Apr-19/348145-switzerland-halts-citizenship-process-for-muslim-students-family.ashx

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Please forgive our indifference – Pope Francis' heartfelt plea to refugees

Apr 19, 2016

Pope Francis has offered his praise to the Jesuits in Italy for their longstanding work with refugees, but asked the foreigners for their pardon on behalf of all who have been closed-minded and indifferent to their plight.

“I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” the Pope said in a video message directed to refugees and workers who help them, calling to mind Chapter 25 of Matthew’s Gospel.

“Too often we have not welcomed you! Forgive the closure and indifference of our societies, who fear the change of life and mentality that your presence requires,” he said.

Francis noted that after coming to a new country, refugees are frequently treated as burdens and problems which only bring more cost. However, “you are instead a gift.”

“You are the testimony of how our heavenly and merciful God transforms the evil and injustice of those who suffer into a good for all,” the Pope said, explaining that each refugee can be a bridge “that unites peoples who are far away, that makes possible the meeting of cultures and different religions,” and which lead to a path of “rediscovering our common humanity.”

Pope Francis offered his words in a video message for the 35th anniversary of Centro Astalli, the Italian headquarters of the Jesuit Refugee Service. Published April 19, the message coincides with the presentation of the center’s annual report in Rome.

In his brief comments, Francis spoke directly to both the workers and volunteers of the center, as well as the refugees they assist.

He pointed to the first part of the passage in Matthew 25: “I was a stranger.” Each refugee, he said, has “the face of God and the flesh of Christ.”

Speaking directly to the refugees who receive help from the center, Francis told them that their experiences of both pain and hope serve as a reminder that every person on the earth is a stranger and a pilgrim who has been welcomed by someone “with generosity and without any merit.”

“Whoever, like you, has fled from their own land due to oppression, war, nature disfigured by pollution and deforestation, or from the unjust distribution of the planet’s resources, is a brother with whom to share one’s bread, home and life,” the Pope observed.

He said the Astalli Center is prime example of what the daily welcoming of peoples ought to look like, and thanked the workers and volunteers, both lay and consecrated, for their work.

Through their work, they show “in the facts that if we walk the path together there is less fear,” he said, and urged them to be concrete witnesses “of the beauty of encounter. Help our society to listen to the voice of the refugees.”

“Continue to walk with courage at their side, accompany them and be their guide,” Pope Francis said in conclusion, adding that “refugees know the roads that lead to peace, because they know the acrid smell of war.”

catholicnewsagency.com/news/please-forgive-our-indifference-pope-francis-heartfelt-plea-to-refugees-13517/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=email

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The Odyssey That Ended With A Muslim Family In Rome As Papal Guests

April 20, 2016

ROME:  They left war-ravaged Syria, family and friends behind them. France was where they were aiming for. A Greek island was where they ended up.

Now, five months after fleeing their home in the suburbs of Damascus, young Syrian couple Hassan and Nour and their two-year-old son Riad find themselves in Rome as guests of Pope Francis, who plucked them and two other Muslim families from Lesbos on Saturday.

An odyssey fraught with danger and the fear of the unknown has ended with plates of lasagna and strolls in the spring sunshine of the Eternal City.

Nour, 30, clutches little Riad's hand as she explains why they had no option but to get out of a Syria on its knees after five years of civil war.

"We were neither for the Syrian regime or for the Islamists," the scientist said. "We had to leave the country because my husband had been conscripted to join the army."

As Nour had studied in France and speaks the language, that was where they decided to head for.

But first they had to get out of Syria and into Turkey, a challenge that involved the ordeal of being detained for a week by the Islamic State group in the region of its stronghold Raqa.

Capture could mean death

At a time when Syrian and Russian warplanes were intensifying air strikes on the region, it was a terrifying experience. But they escaped from it thanks to a trafficker skilled at smuggling people over the border.

"Between Turkey and Greece, if you are caught it is not serious, you are likely to only be in prison for a few hours. If you get caught in Syria, you can get killed," said Nour.

Hassan, 31, recalled being swindled in a Turkish port by a less helpful smuggler who tried to convince him to join more than 60 people on board a rubber dinghy made for 40 in rough weather.

"I refused," said Hassan.

Eventually, the family found their way across the narrow strait of the Aegean Sea that separates Turkey from Lesbos, only to find themselves bogged down in the interminable bureaucracy associated with trying to enter the European Union via its southeastern tip.

Having arrived before the entry into force in March of an EU deal allowing migrants arriving clandestinely to be sent back to Turkey, they were not in danger of deportation.

But with their hopes of a new life in limbo, the Greek island was no less a prison to them for that - until representatives of the Catholic Sant-Egidio community began to raise the possibility of a transfer to Italy, without ever mentioning the pope or his plane.

"Even now I do not believe what happened to us, it is like a beautiful dream," said Nour.

Once on the plane, Francis came to greet them. "He ruffled our little boy's head. Now Riad kisses his picture."

An uncertain future

Installed in temporary accommodation in the Trastevere district of Rome while the Vatican prepares longer-term housing for the families, Hassan says the relief of reaching safety cannot remove the pain of being so far from loved ones.

"The pope is an amazing person. We hope every religious person should be like the pope," he said.

"You can find a new place but you cannot find a new family."

The couple also feel a longing for a time when Syria was not a place of war, when people of different religions and cultures were able to co-exist peacefully.

And they see the pope's gesture as all the more symbolic because of how it highlighted the failure of the Muslim world to come to the aid of the Syrian people in their hour of need.

"No Muslim cleric, no president felt our suffering," Nour said.

"None of them have done what the pope has done. And yet they have the means, the money. I am thinking of the Gulf states. They have everything to take in Syrian refugees but they have not done it."

Having already taken their first language lessons in their new home, the family now face another odyssey of sorts: dealing with Italy's notorious bureaucracy over their application for asylum.

Who knows what the future holds for them but Nour is clear about one thing: "I want my son to have the kind of life I had before the war."

ndtv.com/world-news/the-odyssey-that-ended-with-a-muslim-family-in-rome-as-papal-guests-1397406

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Campaign to tackle Hajj fraud launched by UK police forces

APRIL 19, 2016

Police forces across the country have launched a campaign to tackle fraud related to Hajj.

Around 25,000 British Muslims make the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia each year and many will book their travel arrangements over the coming months. Action Fraud - the UK's fraud reporting centre - was informed about 49 cases of Hajj fraud from April 2015 to last month.

The average loss was over £2,600 and hotspots for offending were London, Birmingham, Manchester and Blackburn. But detectives believe the extent of the problem is much worse than the reported cases. Some 16 forces are engaging with their local Muslim communities in a bid to raise awareness of fraud.

The campaign is being supported by the British Council of Hajjis, travel association Abta and Atol, a financial protection scheme from the Civil Aviation Authority.

City of London Police Commander Chris Greany said: "Many victims will have saved for years to be able to afford to travel to Saudi Arabia and as a result will be absolutely devastated when they find out that they have in fact been conned by fraudsters."

People booking package trips with flights for Hajj this autumn are advised to make sure the company is covered by the Atol scheme to offer protection against losses if it goes bust.

They are also warned against paying by cash or direct bank transfer into an individual's account, to get everything in writing and to check flight details, accommodation and Hajj visas are valid.

Mark Rayner, Atol's head of compliance, commented: "It is really important that anyone looking to travel to Mecca this September as part of a Hajj pilgrimage looks beyond the price, checks that the travel business has Atol protection and ensures they receive an Atol certificate once they pay any money towards their trip."

Hajj is the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, the birthplace of Islam.

asianimage.co.uk/news/14436433.Campaign_to_tackle_Hajj_fraud_launched_by_UK_police_forces/?ref=ebln

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Arab World

Saudi Arabia Deploys PR Army Against 9/11 Bill

Wed Apr 20, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Saudi Arabia will use lobbying and PR firms to sway US Congress and media against disclosing 28 pages detailing its role in the 9/11 attacks.

Saudi Arabia is poised to employ its more than US$9 million a year on lobbying to fight back against the US Congress passing a bill that could expose its role in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Telesur reported.

According to documents disclosed by the US Justice Department, Saudi Arabia hires at least eight US firms that carry out lobbying, consulting and public relations to advocate for the kingdom’s financial and political interests among US lawmakers and media organizations.

According to the public records, Saudi Arabia spent more than US$9.4 million on lobbying in 2015 alone.

Saudi Arabia hires Edelman, the biggest public relations agency in the world, and the Podesta Group, one of the US’s biggest lobbying groups, the Intercept website reported in October last year, citing public documents.

The Hill website reported that Podesta Group receives US$140,000 a year from Saudi Arabia for services.

During the last few months of 2015, Podesta Group sent 27 emails, had two phone calls and one meeting with lawmakers, staff, journalists and organizations including Human Rights Watch and the Center for American Progress, disclosure forms show.

Meanwhile, disclosures in March reveal that Saudi Arabia added a new company to its lobbying muscle by hiring BGR Government Affairs, a company founded by former Republican National Committee chair Haley Barbour.

According to The Intercept, BGR services are provided by “Jeffrey Birnbaum, a former Washington Post reporter who once covered the lobbying industry and now works as a lobbyist, as well as Ed Rogers, a former Reagan administration official who now lobbies and writes a column for the Post called ‘PostPartisan.'”

The large controversial lobbying firm receives US$500,000 annually to assist with US media outreach for Saudi government agencies.

Saudi Arabia has already threatened to pull out its US$750 billion in assets from the US if the bill passes and the 28 pages are disclosed.

President Barack Obama’s administration has publicly spoken out against what many say is the president siding with the controversial Saudi kingdom against victims of the 9/11 attacks.

The 28 pages detailing Saudi involvement in 9/11 are classified pages from a 2004 report on a congressional commission investigation into how 19 hijackers, 17 of whom were Saudi citizens, were able to operate on US soil without alerting federal intelligence agencies.

The report concluded that no "senior level" Saudi government officials were involved, but legal experts have said the wording leaves room for involvement of other members of the Saudi royal family or government.

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ISIL Profits from Secret Cannabis Trade with Italian Mafia

Wed Apr 20, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Italy’s top prosecutor revealed ongoing investigations point to cooperation between the ISIL terrorist group and Italian mobsters who are reportedly smuggling cannabis together through Libya.

The main smuggling route for North African cannabis now runs from Casablanca in Morocco, through Algeria, Tunisia to the Libyan city of Sirte, said the country’s anti-mafia and anti-terrorism chief Franco Roberti, Al-Masdar reported.  

The port city of Sirte now serves as a de facto Mediterranean base for the most powerful ISIL branch outside Syria and Iraq. An estimated 6000 ISIL fighters are present in Libya.

“Certainly ISIL controls the Libya cannabis route, it controls the coast along the Gulf of Sirte,” said Roberti in his office in a 17th century building that once served as the Vatican prison.

During investigations which their details have not yet been made public, police have found evidence that Italian organized crime, which has long controlled most of the country’s illegal drug supplies, and “suspected terrorists” in North Africa are trafficking drugs together, Roberti said.

Italy has not been attacked by ISIL, but the terrorist group's propaganda films regularly mention Rome and the Vatican as possible targets. Many Italian sites are considered at high risk of attacks, Roberti said.

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Syrian Army Turns South of Aleppo Province into Hell for Al-Nusra Terrorists

Wed Apr 20, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Ground and Air Forces targeted the positions of al-Nusra Front near al-Eis, Khan Touman and al-Zerbeh heavily, inflicting major losses on the terrorist group's military hardware in large scale.

Dozens of the terrorists of al-Nusra were killed and their military equipment, including two tanks, one PMP vehicle and several machinegun-equipped vehicles were destroyed in the joint operation of the Syrian army, its artillery units and the country's fighter jets.

Earlier reports said that the Syrian fighter jets, in several combat flights, traced and targeted one of the main lines of supply of the terrorist groups between Southwestern Aleppo and Southeastern Idlib, inflicting major losses on the convoys on the road.

A road connecting Saraqib in Idlib to Khan Touman in Aleppo was heavy bombed by the Syrian warplanes.

The terrorist groups' column of military and logistic vehicles sustained major damage in the air attacks.

The road was used by the terrorists of al-Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham, Ajnad al-Sham and Faylaq al-Rahman and its blockage will result in the shortage of ammunition, medical equipment and foodstuff in militant-held territories.

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Iranian Army Rejects Organized Deployment in Syria

Wed Apr 20, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Army Commander Major General Ataollah Salehi dismissed his forces' organized presence in Syria, saying that only some army men have been dispatched to the country among other volunteer military advisors.

"The Army has no responsibility to render advisory services to Syria and there is an organization in Iran which adopts the related measures," General Salehi told reporters in Tehran on Wednesday.

"We, in the Army, are facing a large number of forces who love to be sent to this front (in Syria) but have never claimed that Brigade 65 of Nohed (Special Airborne Forces) is present there," he said

"A number of volunteer forces have been dispatched to Syria which may consist of some members of the Brigade 65," General Salehi added.

He, meantime, underlined that Iran helps those Muslim states which have been attacked by enemies.

His remarks came after certain Iranian media outlets had mistakenly quoted a senior commander that the Army has dispatched a number of its commandos to Syria to help the war-hit country with advisory assistance against terrorism.

"Brigade 65 of Nohed (Special Airborne Forces) is a part of the Ground Force and we send its soldiers as well as other units as advisors to Syria," Tasnim website quoted Deputy Chief Liaison of the Army Ground Force General Ali Arasteh as saying on April 4.

He, meantime, explained that the dispatch of advisers from Iran is not merely confined to the Commandos of Brigade 65, adding that the brigade's advisors have already been deployed in Syria.

Iran is providing Iraq and Syria with military advisory and humanitarian aid in their fight against terrorist groups.

Also in March, Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force Major General Qassem Soleimani said Takfiri terrorism threatens all Muslims, and Iran has waged war on those terrorists that trade enslaved women and children.

"The fire of Takfiri and Takfirism has engulfed in homes of our Sunni brothers. Those behind this are under the illusion that they can bring Shiism and the Islamic Republic to their knees. More than anywhere else, Takfiri groups have targeted the sanctity of humanity and the Sunni world," General Soleimani said, addressing a ceremony in Tehran.

General Soleimani then asked those behind the smear campaign to question Iran's policy in its ongoing war on terror, "Is it adventurism if the Islamic Republic makes sacrifices to defend Muslims? Is it wrong for the Islamic Republic to battle a group that in just one region is buying and selling some 20,000 unfortunate enslaved young women? Is it wrong for the Islamic Republic to stand against the anti-Muslim current and stop the demolition of Mosques and Muslim holy sites?"

His remarks came after Iraqi Minister of Human Rights Mohammed Mahdi Ameen al-Bayati said the Takfiri ISIL terrorist group has sold more than 5,000 women and girls from Iraq’s Izadi Kurdish minority in their slave market.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950201000646

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Yemeni Army Repels Saudi-Backed Attack to Capture Key Region in Jawf

Wed Apr 20, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Yemeni army and popular forces foiled an attempt by the Saudi-backed militias to win back a strategic region in al-Jawf province in Western Yemen on Wednesday.

The pro-Saudi militias attempted to take control of al-Qayl region in al-Jawf province, but were pushed back by the Yemeni army and popular forces.

Scores of the militias were killed and wounded in the Yemeni army's counteroffensive.

In a relevant development last Wednesday, scores of Saudi mercenaries in Yemen were killed in an Ansarullah Rocket attack on their position in the war-hit country’s Northern province of al-Jawf, local reports said.

The rocket hit a building of the Saudi mercenaries late Tuesday and killed 70 of them. At least 100 others were injured in the attack, Yemen's al-Masirah TV reported.

Saudi Arabia has been waging a war on Yemen since late March 2015 in a bid to reinstate Hadi and undermine the Ansarullah movement, which took over state matters after Hadi resigned.

Over 9,400 Yemenis, including 4,000 women and children, have lost their lives in the Saudis' deadly military campaign.

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Damascus: Senior Jeish Al-Islam Commanders Killed, Captured by Syrian Army

Wed Apr 20, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- One of the notorious commanders of Jeish al-Islam terrorist group was killed and another one was captured by the Syrian Army troops in the battlefields of Eastern Ghouta near Damascus.

The Syrian army thwarted Jeish al-Islam offensive on the government forces' positions near the villages of Bala and Tal Sawwan, which ended in the killing of at least 15 terrorists, including their commander Ramah al-Az.

In the meantime, Abu Nasser al-Barzawi, one of the most notorious commanders of Jeish al-Islam in Eastern Ghouta, was captured by the Syrian government forces near the village of Tal Sawwan.

Also on Tuesday, a senior field commander of al-Nusra Front was killed by rival ISIL terrorists in the Palestinian Yarmouk Refugee Camp in the Southern countryside of Damascus.

Abu Omar al-Qashi, a notorious commander of the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra front, was killed in intense infighting in Yarmouk camp.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950201000852

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401 Breaches of Syrian Ceasefire Recorded since February 27

Wed Apr 20, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The number of breaches of the cessation of hostilities agreement in Syria by armed groups has amounted to 401 after 7 new breaches were observed during the past 24 hours by the Russian Center for Coordinating and Observing the Cessation of Hostilities in Syria.

The Center, which is based at the Hmeimim airbase, said in a statement published on the website of the Russian Defense Ministry that the center observed 7 breaches in Lattakia province where “Ahrar al-Sham” terrorist organization attacked Syrian army’s posts in a number of areas, Syrian official news agency, the Syrian Arab news agency reported.

The Center also noted that the number of towns which joined the agreement has reached 64, while the number of illegal armed groups which announced their approval of the conditions of the cessation of hostilities is 50.

The cessation of hostilities agreement, which came into effect on February 27, does not include al-Nusra Front, ISIL and other organizations listed by the UN as terrorist organizations.

The Center affirmed that the Russian air force did not target any positions for armed organizations which announced their commitment to the agreement.

Some 4 tons of humanitarian aid were delivered in Palmyra in the Eastern countryside of Homs province, the center pointed out in its statement.

It also noted that terrorists of al-Nusra Front attacked a number of military positions in the province of Lattakia, while others fired mortar rounds at Basateen Abu-Jarash area in Damascus countryside.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950201000764

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Lightest Crude in Iran Oil Basket

Wed Apr 20, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Before starting extraction from Hengam oil field, Iran’s oil basket contained six categories of oil whose API gravity varied from 18 to 5.36 degrees. But the API gravity of oil produced from Hengam is 51 degrees.

The average price of Iran’s oil exports increased after the country started delivering light oil produced from Hengam, which is shared with Oman.

Currently, light crude oil with API gravity of 62.5 degrees is being extracted from well number seven of this field. It has the highest quality in the world and no other country is producing such crude oil, shana reported.

Heydar Yar-Veisi, director of Qeshm district in the Iranian Offshore Oil Company (IOOC), said crude oil production from Hengam field officially started in 2010.

“Over the past five years, more than 35 million barrels of crude oil has been extracted from this joint field located near the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf waters,” he said.

Describing the main advantages of crude oil extracted from Hengam, Yar-Veisi said: “According to newly conducted studies, the quality of crude oil produced from this joint field has increased to API=51. Therefore, the crude oil produced from this field is the lightest among all oil fields in the Persian Gulf region and even the world.”

He said that following new drillings, even white crude oil is being extracted from one of Hengam field’s wells.

“Unlike the dark color of crude oil from other fields, the oil produced from Hengam field is white or green,” said Yar-Veisi.

Noting that Iran’s Persian Gulf oil basket currently contains six categories of crude oil whose API gravity varies from 18 to 36.5, he added: “But Hengam field’s oil with API gravity of 51 degrees is light oil of the highest quality in Iran, Persian Gulf and offshore zones.”

The official said the oil produced from Hengam oil field is carried from platform to refinery and separation installations in the Qeshm island via a subsea pipeline, which is 30 kilometers offshore and 26 kilometers onshore.

“Moreover, the oil produced from this field is transferred from Qeshm island to Bandar Abbas oil refinery through a 75-kilometer-long pipeline after undergoing separation and preliminary processing,” Yar-Veisi said.

He also said that high-grade middle distillate products like gasoline and gasoil are being produced from the crude oil extracted from Hengam field.

He said that Hengam field is estimated to contain 219 million barrels of recoverable oil and 28.7 tcf of associated gas.

Yar-Veisi said another important property of Hengam field’s crude oil was the low volume of water content of oil.

The facilities installed in Qeshm Island for recovery from Hengam field can handle 45,000 b/d. Plans are under way for bringing the capacity of processing and separation in the field to 180 mcf of associated gas a day.

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Iran, UN Discuss Regional Crises

Wed Apr 20, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliason in a meeting in New York discussed the latest political developments in Syria, Yemen and Iraq.

During the meeting at the UN headquarters in New York on Tuesday evening, Zarif and Eliason underlined the need for finding political solutions to the ongoing crises in Syria, Yemen and Iraq.

Zarif’s deputies for International and Legal Affaris Abbas Araqchi and for Europe and American Affairs Majid Takht Ravanchi as well as Jaberi Ansari are accompanying him in the visit.

Zarif left Tehran for New York on Monday to take part in the United Nations climate event.

According to Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari, the foreign minister is going to attend the signing ceremony of documents on climate change based on Paris Agreement on April 22.

He said Zarif will also meet with a number of world officials and hold talks with his American counterpart John Kerry on the nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

He will also deliver a speech in a gathering of Harvard University graduates.

Iran and a record number of more than 130 countries are expected to sign the landmark agreement to tackle climate change at a ceremony at UN headquarters on 22 April.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is hosting the signing ceremony on the first day that the agreement reached in Paris in December opens for signature.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950201000747

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Iran to Host Asia Pacific Forum Next Week

Wed Apr 20, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Director General of Research at Iran Handicrafts Organization Ali Haji Shizari said the 7th Asia Pacific Forum will be held in Tabriz on April 27.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Shirazi said the meeting is a significant development as it could help boost the export of handicrafts from Iran.

He said designation of Mashhad and Laljin as the world cities of precious stones and clay is also another giant step towards improving the status of Iranian handicrafts in the world market.

According to the official, Isfahan and Tabriz are the World Creative Cities for handicrafts and carpets.

The Asia Pacific Forum is one of four regional networks of national human rights institutions. It is unique among the regional networks in having close working relations with non-governmental organizations.

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National Day of Saadi Commemorated throughout Iran

Wed Apr 20, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iran commemorated the National Day of Saadi, the highly revered 13th-century poet, who is known both in and outside Iran for his enticing choice of word, ethical and social teachings and deep expressive poetry.[+PHOTOS]

Different ceremonies were held throughout Iran and in Saadi's hometown Shiraz in southern Iran on Wednesday and large numbers of Iranian and foreign guests convened in remembrance of the talented poet who lived from 1184-1283/1291 AD.

Abu-Mohammad Mosleh al-Din bin Abdallah Shirazi, better known by his pen-name as Saadi was one of the major Persian poets of the medieval period. He is recognized not only for the quality of his writing, but also for the depth of his social thoughts.

A native of Shiraz, his father died when he was an infant. Saadi experienced a youth of poverty and hardship, and left his native town at a young age for Baghdad to persue a better education. As a young man he was inducted to study at the famous an-Nizzamiya center of knowledge (1195-1226), where he excelled in Islamic Sciences, law, governance, history, Arabic literature and theology.

Although Saadi was born and died in Shiraz, Persia (Iran), during his life he traveled extensively. He is said to have traveled for thirty years throughout the Islamic world. Iran has filled the centuries with some of the world's finest poets, but Iranians consider Saadi to be one of the greatest.

Historians often divide his life into three parts. His first twenty-five years were spent studying in various countries, going to university at Baghdad. During the next thirty years he traveled widely, east to India and as far west as Syria. He made his pilgrimage to Mecca fourteen times. Finally, Saadi returned to Shiraz where he devoted himself to writing and to teaching.

Saadi was a disciple of the Sufi master Sheikh Shahabud-Din Sahrawardi.

Saadi's two best known works are the Bustan (the Garden), composed entirely in verse, and the Golestan (the Rose Garden), in both prose and verse. He was particularly known for the wry wit he injected into his poems.

Saadi is probably the first Persian poet to have been translated into European languages. A German version of the Golestan appeared in 1654.

Saadi's tomb can be seen in the town of Shiraz.

Lines from Saadi's poems are still commonly used in conversations by Iranians today.

بنی آدم اعضای یک پیکرند

که در آفرینش ز یک گوهرند

چو عضوى به درد آورد روزگار

دگر عضوها را نماند قرار

تو کز محنت دیگران بی غمی

نشاید که نامت نهند آدمی

Of One Essence is the Human Race,

Thusly has Creation put the Base.

One Limb impacted is sufficient,

For all Others to feel the Mace.

The Unconcerned with Others' Plight,

Are but Brutes with Human Face.

Story

A scholar of note had a controversy with an unbeliever but, being unable to cope with him in argument, shook his head and retired.

Someone asked him how it came to pass that, with all his eloquence and learning, he had been unable to vanquish an irreligious man.

He replied: 'My learning is in the Quran, in tradition and in the sayings of sheikhs, which he neither believes in nor listens to. Then of what use is it to me to hear him blaspheming?'

To him of whom thou canst not rid thyself by the Quran and tradition the best reply is if thou dost not reply anything.

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India

After Modi's Riyadh visit, Saudi royalty should help India eliminate jihadis

20-04-2016

Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose the most appropriate gift for the Saudi king when he called on the royal personality during his two-day visit to Riyadh. The gift was a gold-plated replica of the first mosque built in India.

The thoughtful gift underlined an ancient truth about this country. India has had tradition of probably the world's most secular, non-fanatic society because of its dominant eclectic Hindu faith. Warm welcome to the persecuted communities of Syrian Christians, Jews and Parsis by the reigning Hindu rulers of the yore are further illustration of the pluralistic ethos of the Hindu society.

Mosque

This celebrated mosque was built in 629AD, under a Hindu king in Kerala. This place of worship came up when the first Muslim from India visited the Holy Prophet in Arabia. It was the first mosque to be built outside Arabia and that too during Prophet Muhammad's life time. It is known as Cheraman Jumma Masjid.

In 1342-47, a well-known traveller and historian Ibn Batuta visited the settlements of Arab commoners and the noblemen, including some native royal heads on the west coast and wrote in his travel memoirs: "Muslims are the most highly honoured people". He had travelled from the coastal port of Kozhikode to Kollam before he wrote it.

It is for the present Muslim leadership, both religious and political, to reflect on why this bonhomie between Hindu rulers and commoners and Muslims changed its character in the tenth century onwards. As against the trade-led peaceful Arabs bringing Islam to welcoming west coast of India, the northwest saw violent clashes between the invading Afghan, central Asian and Persian Islamic forces and Indian kingdoms in the10th century and onwards.

Why did the widespread tolerance for the Arabs in the seventh century take an increasingly hostile turn later? Was it the rising influence of non-Arabic Islamic communities that infused an attitude of separateness within the Muslim masses that culminated in India's Partition in 1947?

Look at Pakistan which was created with the slogan that Islam was in danger in a Hindu majority state. Today, not a week passes without the world getting reports of the Sunni and Shia factions of Islam violently breaking into each other's places of worship. The other smaller Islamic communities like the Bohras, the Ismailites, the Sufis, etc, have already either been driven out or declared non-Muslims.

Mindset

Contrast this exclusivist mindset, which breeds terror, with harmony which followed after the fusion of the new faith of the converts with their pre-conversion culture and practises. Lightening of brass lamps in places of worship is one such ancient tradition. It is prevalent in temples and in many Syro-Malabar and Orthodox churches even today. In the first mosque built in India such a lamp has been a distinct mark of Indian-ness in a holy place.

The Indian leadership from various communities and sections, including the government and political parties, will have to deplore the tendency of promoting within the community exclusivity, ghetto mentality and alignment against national mainstream through one act of symbolism or the other.

Mission

The Saudi royalty is one of the top targets of organisations like the ISIS. Riyadh keeps a lynx-eyed vigil on all these ISIS sympathisers, open or underground, who may be getting through the iron curtain it has built against them among the Saudi communities. It has, in recent years, handed over every such identified terrorist who sought cover in Saudi Arabia against the Indian government to our authorities.

Riyadh's warmth towards India and its present prime minister was evident during Modi's visit to the Saudi capital.

However, many analysts here have raised the issue of the same Saudi royalty investing billions of its globally applauded wealth in promoting what is known as Wahabism in many countries, especially India. Wahabism, analysts point out, is the prime implanter of Islamic separateness and jihadi ideology especially through lakhs of madrasas spread across the country.

The Riyadh royalty's concern for spreading true Islamic teachings is fully understood by PM Modi in his symbolic gift. Can, in return, India expect the Saudis to work with its government to eradicate the seeds of exclusivism, victimhood building and jihadi mindset?

After all the Saudi royalty remains one of the main targets for the ISIS.

dailyo.in/politics/narendra-modi-saudi-arabia-riyadh-muslims-partition-1947-pakistan-isis-wahabism/story/1/10172.html

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India's share among ISIL fighters is minuscule

20 April 2016

The violent ideology of the Islamic State has largely failed to appeal to Indian Muslims, if leaked details of its foreign fighters till end of 2014 are to be believed.

Records of Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, reveal that out of over 4000 fighters analysed, only 1 has been identified as an Indian citizen. Six others are said to be residents of India but their citizenship could not be confirmed. Compare this data with the fact that India has the third largest Muslim population in the world. It accounts for nearly 11% of the total number of Muslims.

"India has 0.01 ISIL fighters per million citizens, according to the report"

When you take the number of ISIL fighters per million citizens, India's figure comes out to be a minuscule 0.01. These records are based on documents of foreign fighters entering and leaving between 2013 and end of 2014 in the areas where ISIL is involved in fighting in Syria.

The findings are mentioned in a report titled Caliphates Global Workforce, published recently by the Combating Terrorism Centre at West Bank. The report is based on data analysis of the over 4,000 mostly foreign fighters which was leaked by an Islamic State defector to several news outlets earlier this year. CTC was given the documents by the US based NBC network which is one of the media houses which claimed that they had access to this data.

The report is curiously silent on the number of US citizens who figure in these records.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

The analysis basically points that Indians did not respond to calls of jihad by the Islamic State. The analysis of the records shows a greater representation from smaller countries like Norway, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago and Benin.

The writers of the report note that examining these figures yields interesting insights. "Saudi Arabia, while accounting for the largest number of records, is not the largest contributor of records on a per capita basis. Depending on the nationality measure used, Tunisia and Kosovo account for a larger number of the records in our database".

The writers also caution that these numbers should not be confused as hard estimates of the overall contribution of fighters to the conflict in Syria from these countries. "As discussed...these numbers are limited to Islamic State fighters and to a specific window of time," the report reads.

Meanwhile, among neighbouring countries, the analysis records 138 fighters with Chinese citizenship, 12 fighters from Pakistan, 3 from Bangladesh and 1 from Sri Lanka.

European countries have among the largest number of individuals who have been lured by the ideology of the ISIL to travel to the war torn Syria and Iraq and fight against the regime forces in it's pursuit to establish a Caliphate. The report says that it found records of 57 individuals who were resident of the UK, 128 from France, 52 from Kosovo and another 80 individuals who were residents of Germany. The report says that 11 individuals with Australian citizenship were also found in the cache.

CHILDREN BEING PREPARED AS FIGHTERS?

Interestingly, the analysis of the data by the CTC also confirms that the terror outfit may be grooming children for fighting roles in the future. The records point out that there are almost 400 individuals under the age of 18. Another 41 of them are 15 years or younger.

CTC's analysis has mention of two children, presumably brothers, who arrived in Tal Abyad, Syria on

4 July, 2014, from Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The report says that they were 14 and 12 years old when they arrived, and were listed as primary school students.

"Out of the over 4000 fighters analysed, 400 were found to be below 18 years of age"

"Next to both it is annotated that they are children and are going to a camp, and after the camp they are to be returned to their father, who is known to the organization" the report reads.

"In this particular case, the children appear to be preparing for roles as fighters in the future, not the present, although the number of other minors present in the data set reinforce what is already known about the Islamic State's active use of children in violent capacities," the report adds.

INDIA A TARGET

Interestingly, while these records are confined to the fighters who travelled till 2014, there have been recent instances which show that India now figures as an important target for the terrorist group. A recent interview said to be of the head of the outfit in neighbouring Bangladesh, where several recent attacks have been attributed to the outfit, outlined how the Islamic State now plans to attack India.

While the Home Ministry too recognises the seriousness of the threat and has initiated some anti-radicalisation measures involving members of the community and the clerics, NIA, has also made some arrests of Islamic State suspects.

The agency claimed that most of these individuals were radicalised online by recruiters of the Islamic State, and lured to join the outfit to carry out attacks in the country.

catchnews.com/india-news/india-s-share-among-isil-fighters-is-minuscule-europe-leads-the-way-1461081415.html

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AMU former scholar exonerated in nine terror cases, one pending

Wed Apr 20, 2016

FORMER ALIGARH Muslim University (AMU) research scholar Gulzar Ahmad Bani, an alleged Hizbul Mujahideen operative and lodged in jail since 2001, was on Monday acquitted in a blast case in Agra for want of evidence by a local court.

With his acquittal in the Agra case, Bani (42) — a native of Baramulla in Kashmir and currently lodged in Lucknow District Jail — has been exonerated in nine of the 11 cases in which he had been booked. In these nine cases, he has either been acquitted or discharged from charges.

In one of the 11 cases, Bani was convicted for 10 years for allegedly carrying explosives to trigger a blast in Delhi. However, records show the Delhi High Court had suspended his sentence. The only case now pending against him is that of a blast that had occurred at Sabarmati Express train in UP’s Barabanki district in 2000. Nine persons had died in the blast.

On Monday, Bani was acquitted in a 2000 case, in which an explosion had occurred in a house in Agra’s Sadar Bazar, leading to the death of three persons. Bani was pursuing PhD in Arabic from AMU when Delhi Police arrested him from the national capital on July 30, 2001. The arrest was made in connection with explosives recovered in Delhi. The police had then claimed Bani to be a Hizbul operative. This was a few months before then BJP-led NDA government banned Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). Later, Bani was booked in 10 other terror cases registered in UP, Delhi and Maharashtra. Bani, the son of retired government employee Ghulam Mohammad, has three brothers and sisters each. After completing his studies at Baramullah, he had come to Uttar Pradesh and completed his graduation and postgraduation from AMU. He was pursuing PhD when he was arrested. Government counsel in Agra, Satish Kumar Sharma, told The Indian Express: “Additional District and Session Judge Ajit Singh acquitted Gulzar Ahmed Bani for want of evidence in the blast case related to 2000… Six prosecution witnesses were examined during the trial and one of them had turned hostile.” He added that the other accused — Syed Abdul Mobeen, a former AMU student and Maroof, a Aligarh resident — had already been acquitted in the case in 2005. According to the prosecution, the police chargesheet had alleged that the Agra blast was executed jointly by SIMI and Hizbul. It had claimed that Bani, who was operating under fake names, was with Hizbul and working with SIMI. Agra District Government Counsel Shishu Pal Yadav said they will file an appeal against the district and session court order. The case dates back to August 9, 2000 when a bomb exploded at the first floor of one Khaleef’s house at Agra’s Sadar Bazaar. Khaleef’s three tenants — Sajid, Waqar and Hafeez, all residents of Aligarh — were present in the room and died in the blast. While searching the room, police had claimed to have recovered literature and pamphlets of SIMI. Following this, Mobeen and Maroof were arrested. Police had then claimed that during interrogation, Mobeen had taken Bani’s name. Bani was arrested from Delhi and reportedly confessed to his involvement in terror conspiracies, including the one in Agra. In UP, Bani was also booked in three cases in Kanpur and one in Lucknow. On August 15, 2000, a blast had taken place at Sahkarita Bhawan in Lucknow’s Hazratganj. No one was injured. Bani has been acquitted in all four cases. The trial in the Sabarmati Express case is still pending in a Barabanki court, said Bani’s lawyer Prabhat Singh. “In all, there are four accused in the case. While the court had given life imprisonment to one, the judgment on three others is yet to come,” he added. Meanwhile, Bani has moved Supreme Court seeking bail in the Barabanki case. “Notices have been issued to the state of UP… It will come up for hearing on April 25,” said Irshad Hanif, Bani’s lawyer in SC.

indianexpress.com/article/cities/lucknow/amu-former-scholar-exonerated-in-nine-terror-cases-one-pending/

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Here's A Reminder: Bharat Mata Is NOT A Religious Symbol

Wed Apr 20, 2016

Humans have been organizing themselves in some sort of collective national structure since time immemorial. As much as many intellectuals, including Rabindranath Tagore, may argue that nationalism is a Western construct, which doesn't apply to India, or advocate the concept of a wider community of humanity, the value of the nation in the lives of its people cannot be trivialized.

While these intellectual ideals are definitely worth pursuing, it is critical to factor in the harsh reality of human nature that has determined the history of humanity and shaped political boundaries. Weak states and kingdoms have been wiped out and untold sufferings have been unleashed on their populace. The 'nation' plays a major role in the lives of individuals by providing security and a larger identity. Just like people need the protective umbrella of the nation, the nations itself needs symbols to rally, inspire, and unite its people.

While some artists may have chosen to interpret and depict Bharat Mata as a goddess, it is by no means a religious slogan or symbol.

Flags, national anthems and emblems are amongst the most prominent symbols that define nations today. The slogan, "Bharat Mata ki Jai" is one such symbol for India and gained widespread acceptance and usage during India's freedom struggle. This slogan can be translated to mean "long live Mother India" or "victory to Mother India". The word "mata" is a popular synonym for "mother"and not just another word for "goddess". While some artists may have chosen to interpret and depict Bharat Mata as a goddess, it is by no means a religious slogan or symbol. Think of it as a salute to the Motherland, or "matribhoomi" as it is known in Hindi.

Respect for mothers is an integral part of Indian culture. Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and all other communities virtually venerate the mother. It is natural for this veneration to be extended to the nation as well. To portray the country as the mother is to assign it maternal attributes like affection, nurturing, and fertility, which are again, completely religion neutral.

Most Indian Muslims see this rationale and therefore have never had a problem saying these words. Those who do object to it, either incorrectly interpret the meaning of the slogan, or are being misguided by those with vested interests. Delhi's Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung and poet Javed Akhtar are amongst the several prominent Indian Muslims who have come out in support of the slogan.

[C]hanting it is not a religious act and does not violate the tenets of the Islamic faith.

With that said, it is perfectly ok if someone doesn't want to say 'Bharat Mata ki Jai', especially since that alone cannot be a yardstick to judge one's patriotism. Nowhere has the government made it a mandate either. At the same time, it is also clear that chanting it is not a religious act and does not violate the tenets of the Islamic faith. So just as people should not be forced to chant the slogan, there should be no communal diktats to not chant it either.

When there is no religious element involved, it begs the question about why radicals like Owaisi are showing such extreme resistance and making such a big deal out of it. Is it just opportunistic posturing to stir the pot of communalism in these sensitive and highly charged times? Or are there deeper issues that are playing out?

The answer to this question lies in the uneasy coexistence of the larger pan-Islamic identity and Indian nationality in the minds of some Indian Muslims. The moment the Indian identity becomes secondary, it opens up avenues for conflict with the interests of the Indian nation.

Just as people should not be forced to chant the slogan, there should be no communal diktats to not chant it either.

Feelings of nationalism, like love and all other personal emotions, cannot be imposed. For a nation to be truly successful, its citizens must give it primacy over secondary identities such as religion, ethnicity or language. It is the duty of the citizens to cherish and respect their nation and the nation's duty to value each individual and allow them the liberty to fully express themselves. An important aspect to consider here is the fact that Rabindranath Tagore was critical of the idea of hyper nationalism or actively seeking homogeneity. Citizens must be free to imagine the nation based on their own idea and ideals. In a diverse and heterogeneous country like India, this is even more relevant. However, there has to be a distinction between not being nationalistic and being anti-national. Not loving someone is not the same as hating them.

In order for this arrangement to function effectively in the Indian context, it is vital for that segment of Indian Muslims to stop seeing themselves through the prism of an Arab-driven identity and as exceptions to the fabric of India. Most Indian Muslims are of sub-continental ethnic stock and not of Arab, Turk or Persian descent. The understanding and acceptance of their Indic roots and civilizational context will lead to smoothening out a lot of the fissures and conflicts that keep erupting in the subcontinent. The comments of Tarek Fatah, a Pakistani author and intellectual, are illuminating in this regard.

Muslims are an integral part of India and are as attached to its soil as any other community. They have made vital contributions to its progress and have also had the opportunity to flourish in its secular and inclusive ecosystem, again, like any other community. Feelings of 'otherness' or victimhood are counterproductive since all Indians face common challenges in the path to greater peace and prosperity. Moreover, Islamic heritage and symbols have had widespread, unconditional acceptance and bear significant influence on India's cosmopolitan identity.

[I]t is vital for... Indian Muslims to stop seeing themselves through the prism of an Arab-driven identity and as exceptions to the fabric of India.

The spirit of give and take becomes an important healer when rifts surface. Just as there is no coercion to chant any slogan, a certain amount of grace and sensitivity towards symbols that have great meaning for a large segment of a country's population is also vital. Peaceful co-existence and progress are only possible when everyone rises above petty differences and rallies towards the common good. Drawing from shared roots and civilizational ethos are perhaps a good way to make the beginning and strengthen the nation.

huffingtonpost.in/amit-nangia-/bharat-mata-ki-jai-a-misi_b_9698728.html

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North America

Toronto Star Accuses Canadian News Media of Contributing to Islamophobia

Apr 19, 2016

The Toronto Star today published an excerpt from a lecture delivered at the Aga Khan Museum by Haroon Siddiqui, the Star’s former columnist and editorial page editor emeritus, who argued that the media have contributed to widespread Islamophobia “by conflating Muslim terrorists with all Muslims.” John Honderich, chair of the board of Torstar Corp also thinks there has been an anti-Muslim bias in the media, while John Cruickshank, publisher of the Star, said that a big segment of the Canadian media has been peddling “flat-out racism and bigotry” against Canadian Muslims.

The entire excerpt can be found appended below:

The biggest culprits have been the National Post and the Postmedia group of newspapers across the country, which now include the Sun chain.

Hardly a week goes by without these publications finding something or other wrong with Muslims and Islam. These publications are forever looking for terrorists under every Canadian minaret. They are hunting for any imam or any Muslim who might make some outrageous statement that can be splashed as proof of rampant Muslim militancy or malevolence.

In the 1950s there was the Red Scare. Today, Postmedia are giving you the Green Scare.

Last week, I spoke to John Honderich, chair of the board of Torstar Corp. I asked him if he thinks there has been an anti-Muslim bias in the media. “Yes, there is,” especially in the Postmedia newspapers, he said. Some of their columnists conflate Muslim terrorists and Muslims – “this has been lethal.”

John Cruickshank, publisher of the Toronto Star, told me that a big segment of the Canadian media has been peddling “flat-out racism and bigotry” against Canadian Muslims. He added:

“The popular press, perhaps, are doing what they’re doing not out of some deep conviction or ideological basis, but because they are playing to the notion of building the loyalty of a certain segment of their customer base by creating a tribal solidarity against Muslims. They’re doing it to strengthen their own brand. It is despicable. We have to call them out on it for not abiding by the rules of their craft.”

The other media are not blameless.

The media demand that Canadian Muslims condemn the latest act of terrorism, anywhere. Muslim groups and individuals always do so, but the media rarely report on them. So the impression persists among large numbers of Canadians that Muslims have not condemned terrorism and may, in fact, be endorsing it by their silence. The media leave Muslims in a no-win situation.

Some of the more outrageous allegations against Muslims have been carried on editorial and opinion pages, especially in Postmedia papers. Pundits are, of course, entitled to their views in a free society. But even opinion pieces must adhere to basic facts. Is it really true that Canadian imams are inciting terrorism? Are our mosques really crawling with potential terrorists? Is a preference for halal products really a sign of fundamentalism or militancy – more than it may be for your preference for kosher food?

The credibility of media with Muslims is very low. Muslims generally don’t trust us. In fact, they’re outright afraid of us. They don’t think they would get a fair shake from us. They are petrified that their words would be twisted and distorted.

Let me offer some suggestions.

It would be helpful for newsrooms, or the media industry as a whole, to articulate some ethical guidelines on coverage of and commentary on Muslims.

Develop a manual to clarify what do the following words mean and whom do they apply to – “moderate Muslims,” ‘anti-modern Muslims,” “fundamentalist Muslims,” “militant Muslims,” and “Islamist Muslims.” Who, exactly, are “radical Muslims” – those who believe in violence, or something else? Who are anti-modern Muslims – the Muslims who don’t drive cars, don’t use iPhones, don’t Tweet, don’t build or visit museums, or refuse blood transfusions?

Subject opinion pieces and commentaries to the simple test of truth. Give us a range of views, not just those that might just confirm your own prejudices. The CBC commentator Rex Murphy has advanced questionable propositions about Muslims. He is free to express his views, of course. But where’s the counter-opinion on the taxpayer-supported CBC?

Don’t find excuses to attribute crimes by Muslims to their religion. Use the same standard for them as for other people.

Avoid double standards on free speech. It seems that we must have free speech to malign Muslims but Muslims must not claim the right to be free from hate speech, which is also a very Canadian value.

Resist generic photos of niqab-wearing women when the story has little or nothing to do with niqab. You create the impression that most Muslim women wear it, whereas the number who do is a tiny, tiny minority – in Canada, no more than a few dozen. Don’t distort that reality.

I describe myself as an “incurably optimistic Canadian.” So I think if any nation can debate this issue, within the framework of free speech and fair play, it is Canada. If we get this right, we might even export it to the United States and Europe.

We owe it to Canada to at least try.

honestreporting.ca/toronto-star-accuses-canadian-news-media-of-contributing-to-islamophobia/16194

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US transfers 9 Yemeni detainees from Guantanamo to Saudi Arabia

April 18, 2016

The Department of Defense (DOD) announced on Apr. 16 that nine Guantanamo detainees, all from Yemen, have been transferred to Saudi Arabia. The transferred detainees include a man who was allegedly one of Osama bin Laden’s bodyguards, the brother of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) current emir, and a jihadist the Obama administration determined was “too dangerous to transfer but not feasible for prosecution.” Intelligence included in declassified and leaked files links all nine of them to al Qaeda’s network in 2001 or beforehand.

The DOD says that eight of the nine detainees “were unanimously approved for transfer by the six departments and agencies comprising” President Obama’s Guantanamo Review Task Force, which concluded its work in January 2010. But the reality is more complicated. The task force placed six of the now former detainees in “conditional detention” at Guantanamo. The six Yemenis could be transferred, Obama’s interagency body found, but only under certain conditions.

Just two of the men — Mohammed Abdullah al Hamiri and Mansoor Muhammed Ali Qattaa — were approved for outright transfer to a country “that will implement appropriate security measures.”

Prior to the task force being established in Jan. 2009, Joint Task Force – Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO), which oversees the detention facility, assessed both Hamiri and Qattaa to be “medium” risks who “may pose a threat to the US, its interests, and allies.” JTF-GTMO also recommended that both of them be transferred out of the DOD’s custody.

Hamiri reportedly received training at al Qaeda’s Al Farouq camp and “participated in hostilities against US and Coalition forces” in late 2001. JTF-GTMO concluded that Qattaa was an “Islamic extremist and probable member of al Qaeda who traveled to Afghanistan for jihad shortly after” Sept. 11, 2001. Qattaa was captured on Feb. 7, 2002 in a Karachi, Pakistan safe house operated by a senior al Qaeda facilitator known as “Riyadh the Facilitator” (a.k.a. Sharqawi Abdu Ali al-Hajj).

Six recommended for “conditional detention” by Obama’s task force

The task force explained in its January 2010 report that 30 Yemenis, including six of the men transferred to Saudi Arabia on Apr. 16, were placed in “conditional detention.” These men could be transferred if the “security situation improves in Yemen,” “an appropriate rehabilitation program becomes available,” or “an appropriate third-country resettlement option becomes available.”

The task force considered the Yemenis placed in “conditional detention” to be a lower risk than the detainees slated for indefinite detention, but they were also thought to be more of a threat than the Yemenis approved for outright transfer. Even if one of these three security conditions was “satisfied,” the task force said, the Yemenis “approved for transfer would receive priority for any transfer options over the 30 Yemeni detainees approved for conditional detention.”

In the years since the task force completed its work, most of the Yemenis who were approved for transfer have been resettled in other countries. However, the security conditions in Yemen have hardly improved. In fact, AQAP has taken advantage of a multi-sided war to seize a large amount of territory along Yemen’s southern coast. This is one reason why Saudi Arabia was chosen as a destination for the men.

3 deemed “High risk” detainees by JTF-GTMO

JTF-GTMO evaluated all six “conditional” detainees prior to President Obama’s task force being established in Jan. 2009. JTF-GTMO found that three of them — Ahmed Umar Abdullah al Hikimi, Tariq Ali Abdullah Ba Odah (who became well-known for his prolonged hunger strike) and Ahmed Yaslam Said Kuman — were “high” risks who are “likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests, and allies.” All three of them allegedly served in Osama bin Laden’s 55th Arab Brigade, which fought alongside the Taliban in pre-9/11 Afghanistan, and also participated in the Battle of Tora Bora in late 2001.

A leaked JTF-GTMO threat assessment for al Hikimi, dated June 2, 2008, notes that he was captured in mid-2001 as part of a group the US intelligence community has dubbed the “Dirty 30.” American intelligence analysts found that most members of the “Dirty 30,” who were fleeing the Tora Bora Mountains in Afghanistan when they were captured along the border with Pakistan, were either bin Laden’s bodyguards or part of the al Qaeda master’s security detail. One member of the “Dirty 30” was Mohammed al Qahtani, who was recruited to take part in the 9/11 hijackings before being denied entry into the US in the summer of 2001.

JTF-GTMO found that al Hikimi himself was a bodyguard for bin Laden. The threat assessment for al Hikimi includes this warning: “Detainee continues to demonstrate extremist behavior at JTF-GTMO and is likely to reestablish his membership [in] al Qaeda if released.”

3 deemed “Medium risk” detainees by JTF-GTMO

Three others placed in “conditional detention” by the task force prior to being transferred to Saudi Arabia were deemed “medium” risks by JTF-GTMO, which concluded that they “may pose a threat to the US, its interests, and allies.”

One of them is Ali Yahya Mahdi al Raymi, the brother of AQAP’s current emir, Qasim al Raymi. [See LWJ report, Guantanamo detainee is brother of AQAP’s new top leader.]

The second is Abdul Rahman Mohamed Saleh Naser, who was allegedly recruited by Sheikh Abdul Majid al Zindani and belonged to bin Laden’s 55th Arab Brigade. Zindani was long allied with bin Laden and remains an influential jihadist in Yemen. As of late 2013, according to the US Treasury Department, Zindani continued to provide “guidance” to AQAP. JTF-GTMO’s leaked threat assessment for Naser notes that he has been a “high” risk from a health perspective, as he has participated in hunger strikes and had other health problems.

JTF-GTMO recommended years ago that both Naser and al Raymi be transferred. The same is true for Abdul Rahman Umir al Qyati, who was recommended for transfer in September 2004. JTF-GTMO’s analysts found that Qyati was likely trained at al Qaeda’s Al Farouq camp, where he purportedly received some basic weapons training.

Recommended for continued detention under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF)

President Obama’s task force recommended that Mashur Abdallah Muqbil Ahmed al Sabri be held in continued detention under the 2001 AUMF because he was “too dangerous” to release. JTF-GTMO previously determined that he was a “high” risk detainee and recommended that he remain in DOD custody.

Sabri also had his petition for a writ of habeas corpus denied by a DC district court in February 2011. [See LWJ report, Judge finds Gitmo detainee was no ‘Gucci jihadist’.]

The court found that Sabri “traveled from Yemen to Afghanistan in 2000” to fight alongside the Taliban and al Qaeda, “stayed in Taliban and al Qaeda guesthouses,” “sought out and received military-style training from the Taliban or al Qaeda,” and “traveled to the battle lines in Afghanistan as part of the Taliban or al Qaeda and remained part of those forces at the time of his capture in early 2002.”

The US government presented overwhelming evidence against Sabri, including documents recovered in Afghanistan. One such document was Sabri’s application for an al Qaeda training camp. After completing his training, the application notes, Sabri planned on waging “jihad.”

The government also introduced into evidence a 92-page collection of documents recovered from the “Director of Al Qaeda Security Training Office.” Those documents contain the “names of the students admitted to” various training programs. Sabri is mentioned more than once in the documents, which list him as a graduate of an anti-aircraft missiles class.

In April 2012, an appellate court upheld the district court’s rejection of Sabri’s habeas petition. Sabri’s counsel challenged the government’s evidence showing he had received anti-aircraft training. But the appellate court ruled that “the district court did not clearly err in finding that the documents refer to” Sabri. The appellate court also cited much other evidence demonstrating Sabri’s ties to al Qaeda’s network inside Afghanistan.

Three years after the appellate court’s decision, in April 2015, a Periodic Review Board (PRB) approved Sabri’s transfer, finding that “continued law of war detention of the detainee is no longer necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.”

The PRB “considered” Sabri’s “low level of training, renunciation of extremist ideology, and lack of a leadership position in al Qaeda or the Taliban.” It is not clear why there is a discrepancy in how Sabri’s training was described by the PRB as compared to the earlier court rulings. Anti-aircraft training is not “low level.”

Sabri knew at least one of the suicide bombers responsible for the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole. JTF-GTMO’s leaked threat assessment ties Sabri to the al Qaeda operatives who carried out the bombing. But the US government argued during his PRB hearing that there is “no indication” he “had foreknowledge of the attack.”

longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/04/us-transfers-9-yemeni-detainees-from-guantanamo-to-saudi-arabia.php?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+LongWarJournalSiteWide+%28The+Long+War+Journal+%28Site-Wide%29%29

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Muslims in America' Series Concludes with Discussion of 'Religious Dialogue: The Solutions for Peace'

April 19, 2016

MACON – Mercer University’s “Muslims in America” series will conclude tonight at 6 p.m. in Willingham Auditorium with a presentation titled “Religious Dialogue: The Solutions for Peace” by Dr. Mansa Bilal Mark King, associate professor of sociology at Morehouse College.

Dr. King will explore the vital role of productive interfaith dialogue in ending conflict and building positive outcomes.

Dr. King joined Morehouse’s Sociology Department in 2006, following two years as an assistant professor at Middle Tennessee State University. His current teaching responsibilities include introductory and upper division courses in the U.S., as well as the African Family course in Africa for the Morehouse Pan-African Global Experience (MPAGE). His research has been published and presented widely related to his specialties regarding issues of masculinity, race, ethnicity, class, status, religion and family.

He is also engaged in departmental, university, professional and community service activities, including active membership on the Georgia Sociological Association Executive Committee, directing the South Eastern Undergraduate Sociological Symposium (SEUSS), organizing events for the annual Africa Awareness Week program, and active membership on the MPAGE Steering Committee. As the director of SEUSS, he established a partnership with the American Institutes for Research (AIR), an applied social science research firm in Washington, D.C.

Dr. King earned his B.S. in psychology from Howard University and both his M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology from The Johns Hopkins University.

In addition to his presentation, Dr. King will participate in a panel discussion that will also include Pastor Scott Dickison of First Baptist Church of Christ, Imam Adam Fofana of the Islamic Center of Central Georgia, Betty Taylor of Temple Beth Israel and the Women’s Interfaith Alliance of Central Georgia and Pastor Marilyn Tucker of Forsyth Presbyterian Church. The discussion will be moderated by Darrie Schlesinger, a member of Women’s Interfaith Alliance of Central Georgia.

Following the presentation and panel discussion, Women’s Interfaith Alliance of Central Georgia will host a reception that will serve as an opportunity to put interfaith dialogue into practice.

The local alliance of Muslim, Jewish and Christian women organized in 2010 in an effort to appreciate the different faith traditions through education, friendship and service. The group meets monthly for lunch, convenes a book discussion group and a study group, and participates in a variety of community service projects.

The four-part “Muslims in America” series, designed to promote interfaith dialogue and understanding about Islam and the experiences of Muslims in the Middle Georgia community, began in January. The first, second and third events can be viewed on Mercer’s YouTube channel.

The series is co-sponsored by Mercer’s Center for Community Engagement, Department of International and Global Studies, and Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) Office.

news.mercer.edu/articles/2016/muslims-in-america-series-concludes.cfm#.Vxds2NR951s

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US Muslims lobby Congress to tackle issues

19 April 2016

Hundreds of Muslim Americans gathered Monday on Capitol Hill for a day of lobbying aimed at getting lawmakers to address Islamophobia and growing wealth disparity in the U.S.

“The Muslim American community is under a lot of stress because of the political rhetoric,” said Naeem Baig, president of the Islamic Circle of North America.

This election year has been marked by heated anti-Muslim rhetoric, with Republican candidates calling for a ban on Muslim entry to the U.S., and for increased surveillance of Muslim communities.

Baig said he hopes that lawmakers understand that “they don’t work for Wall Street, or lobbying firms -- they are here to represent their constituencies, people who have elected them, put them into these offices”, including Muslims.

This year’s Muslim Advocacy Day is the second gathering of its kind, and roughly 300 participants from across the U.S. are expected to lobby lawmakers during a series of more than 200 meetings, according to Baig.

In addition to a bill that recognizes and condemns Islamophobia, the advocates will seek to press lawmakers on three other resolutions that span a wide range of topics from access to credit to a lack of food access in urban communities and the government’s efforts to combat violent extremism.

“We’re here to support the middle class,” said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“As American Muslims we are part of this class, and we advocate on behalf of other segments of our society.”

Regarding U.S. efforts to combat violent extremism, Awad said that the issue "needs to be put in the right context".

“There are many extremist organizations in America who are not Muslim, and we have to pay attention to them," he said.

"There are very few people who are violent in our community," he added.

worldbulletin.net/us-muslims-lobby-congress-to-tackle-issues/171749/us-muslims-lobby-congress-to-tackle-issues

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How to fight extremism? Unite for religious liberty, rabbi says

Apr 18, 2016

Facing a rising tide of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and government crackdowns on religious practice, European religious communities must stand together, insisted one religious leader this week.

“For the first time in history, we recognize that all faiths are at risk,” Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks told an audience at the National Press Club on Monday in Washington, D.C. He added that “all faiths can stand together recognizing our shared humanity under the sovereignty of God.”

Rabbi Sacks gave the keynote address at the conference put on by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, titled “Europe at a Crossroads.” The conference focused on efforts by civil and religious leaders to combat “religious hatred and bigotry in Europe,” especially Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

“The truth is that things are difficult, in Europe and throughout the world. I have been very, very shocked by what is happening in Europe,” Rabbi Sacks said.

More Jews are leaving France, Holland, Belgium, Norway, Sweeden, and Denmark because of increasing acts of anti-Semitism. The political hostility has become particularly bad in Hungary, Rabbi Sacks noted, and the climate toward Jews in Poland is deteriorating.

Throughout Europe, synagogues have been attacked, Jewish stores have been targeted, and Jews are afraid to wear symbols of their faith in public. Whenever the Israeli-Palestinian conflict escalates, so too do public acts of anti-Semitism in Europe.

It was recently discovered that a member of Britain’s Labour Party praised Hitler amongst a slew of anti-Semitic tweets, including statements that Iran should “wipe Israel off the map” and that Hitler was the “greatest man in history.”

Jews are the not the only victims of religious-targeted violence throughout Europe. In Glasgow, a Muslim shopkeeper who wished a happy Easter to the “beloved Christian nation” of Britain was shortly afterward stabbed to death by a Sunni radical for insulting Islam. Muslim women in Britain have been targeted for veiling their faces or wearing a hijab, a headscarf.

Laws prohibiting or infringing on religious practice have also surfaced. A German law required parents to discuss circumcision with their children. French laws outlawed the wearing of the hijab in public. Denmark banned Kosher and Halal animal slaughter.

Threatened by extremism and hostile secularism, religious communities must stand together, Rabbi Sacks insisted. He drew from an account of Auschwitz survivor Primo Levi from his book “If This Is a Man.”

At Passover, Jews begin eating the “bread of affliction” in remembrance of the toil the Hebrews endured as slaves in Egypt. At the end, however, they eat the “bread of freedom” that their ancestors ate at the first Passover, their exodus from Egypt, Rabbi Sacks explained.

In his book, Levi wrote of a meal that the suffering prisoners at Auschwitz shared together in between the Nazi departure from the camp and the Soviets arriving. “And I suddenly saw that even if what we eat is the bread of affliction, if we are willing to share it with someone else, we have begun the process of turning affliction into freedom,” he wrote, quoted by Rabbi Sacks.

“In the same way, everyone must be “standing together in defense of religious liberty,” Sacks said, “and that stands a chance of success. Whereas if we stand on our own, we stand no chance whatsoever.”

As an example, Sacks explained how, when he was Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, the BBC had him do a television program “as a message to the nation.” He used the opportunity to “show the most beautiful faces of the Muslim community in Britain.”

The “end result” of this was that “we realized we had to be there for others if we wanted others to be there for us,” he said.

Another time when anti-Semitic acts became more prevalent on Britain’s college campuses, he explained to fellow Jewish leaders that they would monitor for anti-Semitism, but they would also “lead the fight against Islamophobia.”

As he sees it, “if you are hurting because people hate you, then stand in solidarity with other people” who also face hatred.

catholicnewsagency.com/news/how-to-fight-extremism-unite-for-religious-liberty-rabbi-says-41223/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=email

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Southeast Asia

Malaysia faces challenges in curbing incoming ISIS fund transfer

April 19, 2016

Authorities are having a difficult time tracing these funds because of the underground black market money network in Southeast Asia and the emergence of the elusive hawala system.

“It would be a straight-forward case if the fund is being channeled via the conventional banks as we could track it through the Suspicious Transaction Record (STR) but it would be harder if it is being distributed through other systems out there,” Malaysian police counter terrorism official Ayub Khan Mydin Pitchay told BenarNews.

“They can even use the simplest method by using courier services and even the more complicated elusive ancient hawala money transfer system,” he added.

The hawala system, often used in the Middle East and North Africa, is a means of transferring money via a large network of brokers without money actually moving.

Local English daily The Sun recently reported that IS had allocated more than U.S. $73,000 (RM 292,000) for Katibah Nusantara to finance bombings and attacks at strategic locations in Southeast Asian countries including Malaysia.

Leaders of Katibah Nusantara are pushing their followers to stage attacks similar to the Jan. 14 attack in Jakarta that left eight dead, The Sun reported, citing sources in the intelligence arm of the Royal Malaysia Police, who said they got the information from their international counterparts.

Katibah Nusantara includes IS followers in Malay-speaking countries – mainly Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Approximately 1,000 Southeast Asians had travelled to Syria and Iraq to join militant groups there by the end of 2015, according to the U.S. State Department.

No specific country

Ayub said intelligence received on the transfers were vague. He added that police have not confirmed whether the funding had made its way to any group in Malaysia.

“We were only informed that the fund is purportedly being channelled to Southeast Asia region, but it is not specific to which country,” he said.

Meanwhile, University Science of Malaysia (USM) Criminologist associate professor P. Sundramoorthy said tracking fund movements and distribution is complicated.

“I think it will not be an easy task for the authorities to identify and track down the funds distribution as they happened, particularly given the fact that they are not distributed in one, big lump sum.

“In some cases, these funds are being transferred in smaller amounts and even some are being channelled using conventional financial institutions,” he told BenarNews on Monday.

Monitoring needed

Malaysia has more than 400 currency or money changing premises, and many of them offer money transfer services.

The Malaysian Association of Money Services Business (MAMBS), which represents all licensees under the Money Services Business Act 2011, insists its members ask customers to produce identification documents for transactions greater than RM 3,000 (U.S. $769), according to a statement.

“This is for the purpose of complying with requirements pursuant to the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act 2001, which requires licensees to identify and verify the customers performing money services transactions,” reads the undated press statement on its website.

Sundramoorthy said it is paramount that strict monitoring is carried out, along with intelligence sharing among law enforcement agencies, to curb the threat posed by terror organizations.

newsgram.com/malaysia-faces-challenges-in-blocking-incoming-isis-fund-transfer/

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Rohingya boat dead 'forced' to travel by sea - witnesses

20 Apr 2016

Witnesses to a boat capsize that left some 20 people dead, including children, say the victims were from the persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority and blamed the tragedy on travel restrictions that forced them to journey by sea.

At least 21 people, including nine children, died after a packed boat capsized in choppy waters on Tuesday as it approached the Rakhine state capital of Sittwe, according to the United Nations.

Most of the passengers were inhabitants of Sin Tet Maw, in Paukaw township, a camp for Rohingya Muslim minority members forced from their homes by bouts of communal violence.

"It (the boat accident) happened because of unsafe transport... we cannot use direct transport (overland) to Sittwe to buy goods or medicine," Rohingya activist, Kyaw Hla Aung, told AFP from Sittwe.

The boat's passengers had received special permission to travel by boat to the market in Sittwe from Paukaw -- a journey through the mouth of a wide river that then skirts several kilometres around the coast to the capital.

Photographs showed locals carrying the dead and injured to shore on makeshift gurneys.

More than 100,000 Rohingya have been forced to live in apartheid-like conditions since unrest between Buddhists and Muslims left hundreds dead in 2012.

Their movement and access to services, including healthcare, is severely restricted by authorities in the Buddhist-majority country.

The activist said he had counted 22 bodies in Sittwe and they all were Rohingya.

Another Rohingya man, Tin Hla, who also lives in the camp of 1,500 people, said his son was unaccounted for among the boat passengers.

"When we need to go to Sittwe, we have to go there in an unsafe way (by sea)," he said, adding that he fears the worst for his son and had travelled to Sittwe to find his body.

Myanmar does not formally recognise the Rohingya as one of the country's patchwork of ethnic minorities.

A rising tide of Buddhist nationalism has in recent years deepened hostility towards the group -- most of whom are rendered stateless by a web of citizenship laws.

Many Rohingya trace their roots in the country back for generations.

But officials routinely refer to them as "Bengalis" -- a pejorative term identifying them as outsiders from neighbouring Bangladesh.

"This accident serves as a tragic reminder of the vulnerability that many communities and families face in this area of Rakhine," said Janet Jackson, the UN's resident and humanitarian co-ordinator in Myanmar.

"Their only option is to use this mode of travel in order to access livelihoods, and other basic services that are essential for a dignified life."

The deprivations of camp life has led thousands of the minority group to take to the sea in crammed boats, seeking sanctuary in Muslim-majority Malaysia and Indonesia.

They were among the victims of last year's Southeast Asian migrant crisis which saw trafficking networks suddenly unravel, leaving thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants stranded without food at sea.

Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has come under pressure for failing to speak up for the rights of the much-maligned Rohingya.

She has however vowed to press for greater autonomy for other ethnic minorities.

bangkokpost.com/news/asia/940513/rohingya-boat-dead-forced-to-travel-by-sea-witnesses

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Malaysia school shuts after 'mass hysteria' outbreak

19 April 2016

A school in northern Malaysia has had to shut temporarily to handle what local media have called a case of "mass hysteria".

It started last week with several students and teachers of the school in the city of Kota Bharu claiming that they had seen spirits or had supernatural experiences.

School authorities shut the school and called in Islamic traditional experts, scholars and even witch doctors in prayer sessions and "exorcisms".

By Sunday, the school had reopened and school officials said things had gone back to normal - but questions remain and the case continues to generate intense interest in Malaysia.

What happened?

The school, SKM Pengkalan Chepa 2, is located in the highly traditional and religious state of Kelantan.

Last week, a small group of students began claiming they had seen a "black figure" lurking in the school. Soon, more students and even teachers claimed to have seen the same figure or experienced a supernatural presence.

One teacher told local news channel Astro Awani that she felt a "heavy" presence was hanging on to her, while another claimed that a "black figure" was attempting to enter her body.

A student meanwhile told newspaper Sinar Harian (in Malay) that he felt numbness in his hands while his mind "was all over the place".

About 100 people, mostly students, were affected, a senior school staff member confirmed to the BBC.

"Our students were possessed and disturbed [by these spirits]. We are not sure why it happened. We don't know what it is that affected us," she said.

"But the place is a bit old, and these children can be disobedient and sometimes throw their rubbish around the school grounds. Perhaps they hit some 'djinns' and offended the spirits," she added, using a local reference to ghosts.

The school shut on Thursday and invited Islamic preachers to recite the Koran and conduct prayers in the school. Local education authorities are also sending counsellors to the school this week.

The Kelantan state education department did not respond to queries from the BBC.

What is mass hysteria?

Based on the media reports, Robert Bartholomew, a sociologist who has researched mass hysteria in Malaysia, called it a textbook outbreak in an email to the BBC.

Mass hysteria or collective delusions are defined as the spontaneous and rapid spread of false or exaggerated beliefs within a population.

Outbreaks usually occur in small, tight-knit groups in enclosed surrounding such as schools, orphanages and factories.

How common is it?

Several famous cases of mass hysteria or collective delusion have been documented throughout history all over the world - including "dancing mania" centuries ago, in which people reportedly would start dancing uncontrollably for hours.

In 2012, LeRoy, New York made headlines with high school students developing strange tics and verbal outbursts with no obvious cause. Eventually the New York state department of health found that those involved - mostly girls - were suffering from conversion disorder, a form of mass hysteria.

In South East Asia, during the 1970s there were several reported cases of mass hysteria outbreaks at factories in Singapore and Malaysia.

Mr Bartholomew, who once lived and did research in Malaysia, said the phenomenon is quite common in rural areas of the country.

In 1987 there was an outbreak involving 36 Muslim girls in a Malay hostel in Alor Star, Kedah which Mr Bartholomew said had lasted five years.

"The outbreak involved shouting, running and mental confusion, crying, bizarre movements, trances and spirit possession. The girls, ages 13-17, complained of too much religion and study, and too little recreation," Mr Bartholomew said.

"Malays are susceptible because of their belief in an array of spirits," said Mr Bartholomew, adding that outbreaks tend to occur in all-female boarding schools as they are the strictest.

So what could have caused it?

Existing fears or beliefs often influence what is blamed for mass hysteria incidents - for example in LeRoy the HPV vaccine was first suspected followed by a decades-old chemical spill in the area. In Kota Bahru, school officials are pointing to the supernatural.

In some cases one person sets off a mass episode that is then exacerbated or prolonged by various factors.

In the case of LeRoy, New York some doctors said it had been sparked by one student actually diagnosed with Tourette syndrome.

Mr Bartholomew says his research points to deeper underlying causes in Malay girls who have been sent to boarding school.

"They are reluctant to attend such schools, where overcrowding is rife and privacy non-existent," he says. "Frustration and anger build over weeks or months. Eventually a single student becomes 'possessed' and is a seed or catalyst for the unfolding drama."

In the Alor Star case, school officials brought in witch doctors to help. "The use of so many bomohs and native healers can be a double-edged sword, especially if they fail, because they legitimise the supernatural aspects of the outbreak. As a result, the outbreak is likely to be prolonged."

Social media and media attention have been blamed for exacerbating the outbreak in some cases.

Dr Wan Zumusni Wan Mustapha, a university lecturer who lived and taught in Kelantan for 13 years, however, thought the incident had been blown out of proportion.

"It could have just been brought on by heat, stress or the haze," said Dr Zumusni, from the Universiti Teknologi Mara in Seremban.

bbc.com/news/world-asia-36069636

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Shop near Kansai airport offering halal ‘bento’ for Muslim tourists

APR 19, 2016

OSAKA – A shop near Kansai International Airport is offering halal-certified bento (boxed meals) in a bid to serve the growing numbers of Muslim tourists.

Mabruk — which means “blessing” in Arabic — is located near the entrance of Rinku Town Station in Izumisano, Osaka Prefecture, just one stop on the train from western Japan’s biggest international airport.

“We got the hint after hearing Muslims’ remarks about wanting to be able to enjoy Japanese cuisine in a bento box while viewing cherry blossoms,” said Huh Kyoyoun, 45, president of Grande Limite Co., a tourism consultancy involved in running the shop.

With Muslims comprising almost a quarter of the world population, “this is the next mega-market after China,” he said.

Mabruk’s halal bento was developed under the supervision of the owner-chef of the Michelin-starred Kappo Sakamoto in Kyoto and is relatively highly seasoned to meet the tastes of Southeast Asian visitors. Some ingredients, such as its green peas with rice and the onion sauce used on grilled salmon, are from Izumisano.

The halal bento is priced at ¥1,200 before tax and must be reserved in advance by telephone or via the shop’s website. The menu varies by season.

The boxed meals are prepared in accordance with Islamic dietary laws and are certified halal. This means chefs must ensure the food does not contain or come into contact with pork or alcohol.

Few restaurants and shops in Japan provide halal food. Many Muslim visitors bring their own food ingredients or even travel with their own cooks in order to adhere to their dietary restrictions during their stay.

In addition to the halal bento, Mabruk also offers baggage storage at ¥600 excluding tax to encourage tourists to go sightseeing in the neighborhood, rather than just passing through to another destination. Those using the baggage service can also borrow bicycles for free.

Specialities that Izumisano is known for, such as Senshu towels, are sold at the shop’s souvenir corner. Customers who make purchases worth ¥10,000 or more can have names embroidered onto the towels.

japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/04/19/national/shop-near-kansai-airport-offering-halal-bento-muslim-tourists/#.Vxdvp9R951s

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Mideast

Turkey kills 32 ISIL militants in Iraq after tank hit

Wed Apr 20, 2016

Some 32 militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) were killed in a Turkish Armed Force operation in Bashiqa near Mosul on April 19 after the militants launched an attack on a tank belonging to the Turkish army in the Bashiqa training camp.

Ten militants were killed in the operation and 22 others were killed while they attempted to escape, while a building belonging to the militants was blown up, reported Doğan News Agency, citing unnamed Turkish military sources.

Undated footage, claiming to display the alleged attack, was posted on the ISIL-affiliated Amaq news agency on April 19.

The militants claimed that they hit the tank with a guided missile. The ammunition hit the palette of the tank, Turkish broadcaster NTV reported.

No casualties were reported in the attack.

Turkey sent about 600 troops to the Bashiqa camp on Dec. 4, 2015, with the stated aim of training an Iraqi militia to fight the jihadist group, but the move created tensions with the Baghdad government.

Following reactions both from Iraq and the U.S., Turkey pulled out a significant number of its troops and tanks from the camp.

The camp has been targeted by ISIL more than once.

Turkish artillery and warplanes struck ISIL positions in northern Iraq after a Turkish soldier was killed on March 26 during a gun battle between ISIL militants and Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces. The TSK said in a statement that a Katyusha projectile fired from an ISIL location landed in the camp at around 3 p.m.

“Due to projectiles that fell on the base, our hero comrade has been martyred and one hero comrade was slightly injured,” said the statement.

Turkish forces killed 18 militants from ISIL after jihadists tried to sneak into the camp late on Jan. 7. 

Five Turkish soldiers sustained injuries on Dec. 27, 2015, in an ISIL attack on the camp and on Dec. 16, 2015, four soldiers were injured when ISIL militants fired Katyusha projectiles at the camp.

hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-kills-32-isil-militants-in-iraq-after-tank-hit.aspx?pageID=238&nID=98039&NewsCatID=352

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Only solution is to destroy PKK: Erdoğan

Apr 19, 2016

All political attempts to end the three-decade-long conflict between Turkey’s security forces and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) are now things of the past, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said, vowing that ongoing joint military-police operations are the only way to “root the terrorist organization out of Turkey and the region.”

“We cannot stop ongoing grievances without rooting out the terror organization, which is operating only to kill ... along with its all figures and supporters, from the region and our country,” Erdoğan said on April 19 at a gathering of village and neighborhood chiefs at his presidential palace.

“If you are looking for a resolution, here is the resolution. When we root out the terror organization, without its smallest trace remaining, from these territories, then we will have put the resolution into practice,” he added.

The April 19 meeting was the 24th regular meeting held with local chiefs since late January 2015.

“The point at which we have arrived is in the open. We have suffered many losses due to terrorism. More than 40,000 of our people have unfortunately been victims of terror in these lands for 35 years,” Erdoğan said.

Since the PKK took up arms against the state in 1984, more than 40,000 people have been killed in conflict, including civilians, national security forces, PKK members and village guards operating in towns and villages in eastern and southeastern Turkey where PKK fighters are most active.

The southeast has in recent months been hit by the worst violence in years, after a fragile peace process and two-and-a-half-year de facto cease-fire shattered in July 2015. Thousands of militants and hundreds of civilians and soldiers have been killed since then.

A government-led initiative dubbed the “resolution process” by government officials placed the jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan as a central player of the negotiations, which began in late 2012. Öcalan had been in dialogue with state officials, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and its predecessor, the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).

“First, we said ‘Democratic Initiative’ but that didn’t work. Then we said ‘National Unity and Fraternity [Project]” but that was also exploited and it didn’t work. From now on, all of these have been put away. We said we put the Resolution Process ‘in the refrigerator.’ Now is the period of operations. What will happen during this period of operations? This issue will be resolved. This issue will end because nobody has the right to target the serenity of the nation,” Erdoğan said.

hurriyetdailynews.com/only-solution-is-to-destroy-pkk-erdogan.aspx?pageID=238&nID=98037&NewsCatID=338

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Two soldiers killed in PKK attack in Turkey’s southeast

Wed Apr 20, 2016

Two soldiers killed in PKK attack in Turkey’s southeast

A sergeant and a specialized sergeant were killed while four others were wounded as militants from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) detonated a homemade bomb in the Bahçelievler neighborhood of the southeastern province of Şırnak on April 19.

Six soldiers were injured in the explosion and taken to Şırnak Military Hospital, where Sgt. Murat Erdi Eker and Specialized Sgt. Habib Gökçe succumbed to their wounds despite all efforts from the medical staff.

The treatment of the other injured soldiers was ongoing.

Security operations in Şırnak, which began on March 14 when a curfew was imposed, are continuing.

hurriyetdailynews.com/two-soldiers-killed-in-pkk-attack-in-turkeys-southeast-.aspx?pageID=238&nID=98067&NewsCatID=509

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Three wounded in rocket firings from Syria in Turkey’s southeast

Apr 19, 2016

Three people were wounded on April 19 when rocket projectiles fired from Syria landed in the southeastern province of Kilis, less than a day after similar incident which claimed the lives of five.

Two of the rocket projectiles fired from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)-controlled region in northern Syria landed in an empty field while the last one hit the Bilalihabeşi neighborhood in the province. A fire later broke out at a house hit by the projectiles.

Firefighters and health personnel were immediately deployed to the scene.

Meanwhile, Kilis Mayor Hasan Kara announced that three people were slightly wounded in the incident but there were no casualties.

The latest rocket projectile firings marked the second such incident in the province this week. On April 18, five people, including three children, were killed and five others were wounded when four Katyusha projectiles fired from the Bab region hit residential areas in the province.

Turkish Artillery units retaliated by shelling ISIL positions near the border within the rules of engagement following the firings.

hurriyetdailynews.com/three-wounded-in-rocket-firings-from-syria-in-turkeys-southeast.aspx?pageID=238&nID=98018&NewsCatID=341

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EU Rejects Israel's Golan Claims

Wed Apr 20, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini stressed that the European Union does not recognise Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, after Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu said the annexed territory would "forever" remain in his country's hands.

"The EU recognises Israel within its pre-1967 borders, whatever the government's claims on other areas, until a final settlement is concluded," Mogherini said, Agence France Presse reported.

"And this is a common consolidated position of the European Union and its member states," she added ahead of a meeting in Brussels for international donors supporting the Palestinian economy.

Netanyahu's cabinet on Sunday held its first meeting in the Golan Heights, territory seized from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War.

"The Golan Heights will remain in the hands of Israel forever," Netanyahu said at the start of the cabinet meeting, in comments broadcast on Israeli public radio.

Bashar Jafari, Syria's envoy to the United Nations, denounced the meeting as an "irresponsible provocation", while Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi called it an "escalation".

Israel seized 1,200 square kilometres (460 square miles) of the Golan Heights from Syria in the Six-Day War and later annexed it, a move never recognised by the international community.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950201000899

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Palestinian News Outlet Raided in Jerusalem

Wed Apr 20, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Palestinian media reported Israeli police raid into the main office of a leading Palestinian news outlet and its print shop in Northern Jerusalem.

Israeli officers stormed the main building and print house of al-Quds newspaper in the Atarot industrial area, holding employees at gunpoint and checking surveillance footage, Ma'an News Agency (MNA) has reported.

The police officers were reportedly searching for West Bank ID-holders who had allegedly entered Israel illegally.

The raid comes amid increasing efforts by Israeli authorities to crack down on Palestinians entering Israel illegally from the occupied West Bank.

Palestinian media outlets have been frequently targeted by the Israeli authorities since further unrest hit the occupied Palestinian territories in the past six months, with a number of outlets shut down for alleged "incitement against Israel".

Journalists have also been the target of a crack down and arrest campaign.

According to a report by the New York-based Committee to Support Palestinian Journalists, at least 43 Palestinian journalists have been jailed without charge by Israel since October 2015.

The report also said that the detained media workers had been victims of torture, medical negligence, and illegal rulings by the Israeli authorities.

In a statement released in March, Palestinian media freedoms group MADA said it was "highly concerned" by recent Israeli resolutions targeting Palestinian media.

The watchdog also released a report last month showing that 2015 had seen an "unprecedented" increase in Israeli violations against journalists across the occupied Palestinian territories.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950201000874

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Africa

Nigeria: 'Islamic Scholars Key to Maternal, Child Health'

April 20, 2016

Islamic scholars are very important in tackling maternal and child mortality in the country, a health expert, Dr Abdulazeez Mashi has said.

A statement from the Development Research Projects Centre (dRPC) signed by the Director, Judith-Ann Walker said Mashi stated this during a sensitization campaign for communities in Nasarawa State carried out by the organization in collaboration with the Association of Islamic Scholars.

Speaking at the Emir's palace in Lafia, Nasarawa State, Mashi who represented dRPC during the community dialogue, said the Grand Challenges Canada /Saving Lives at Birth project is aimed at mobilizing Islamic scholars to serve as change agents in the areas of child and maternal health.

He said the Islamic scholars are currently working on the psyche of health workers and members of the public especially in disabusing their minds from religious misconceptions on improving the delivery of health care services to women and children.

"Islamic scholars from three initial states were identified and taken for a training and study tour of other Islamic countries. The Islamic scholars are now visiting these facilities as a follow up to the training, and mentoring health workers on how to use the religious texts to find solutions," he said.

Emir of Lafia, Dr Isa Mustapha Agwai commended dRPC and the Islamic scholars from Katsina State on their efforts. He urged traditional and religious leaders in the state to be involved in the project so that more people will benefit from it.

allafrica.com/stories/201604190566.html

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Google awards R10 Million grant to African organisation

April 19, 2016

Google has awarded a $717,728 (roughly R10 Million) grant to the Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD) to develop technology that can assist people in Sub-Saharan Africa who are living with disabilities.

SAFOD is working with with the University of Washington and The African Network for Evidence-to-Action on Disability (AfriNEAD) to establish AT-Info-Map, a system that will map the location and availability of assistive technology (AT) in Sub-Saharan Africa—providing critical and timely information to empower governments, suppliers, and advocates to increase access to AT.

The Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities was launched in March last year, in the form of an open call to global nonprofits who are building transformative technologies for people around the world with disabilities. Ideas were received from over 1 000 organisations spanning 88 countries, and 30 winners were announced last week.

Google is helping these 30 organisations to scale by investing in their vision, by rallying its people and by mobilising its resources in support of their missions.

The organisations Google is supporting all have big ideas for how technology can help create new solutions, and each of their ideas has the potential to scale. Each organisation has also committed to open sourcing their technology—which helps encourage and speed up innovation in a sector that has historically been siloed.

In awarding these grants Google looked for big ideas, with technology at the core and the potential to scale supported by nimble and flexible teams that are strong enough to implement the work proposed.

And, Google realises there’s always room to improve its products as well. The company has a team committed to monitoring the accessibility of Google tools; and provides engineering teams with training to incorporate accessibility principles into products and services. That doesn’t just mean improving existing Google tools, it means developing new ones as well. For example, Liftware is a stabilising utensil designed to help people with hand tremors eat more easily, and self-driving cars could one day transform mobility for everyone.

itnewsafrica.com/2016/04/google-awards-r10m-grant-to-african-organisation/

 

URL: https://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/the-‘new-emir’-of-isis--what-his-coronation-means-for-bangladesh-and-south-asia/d/107052

 

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