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Islamic World News ( 21 Jun 2023, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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UP Minister Wants Mosque in Prayagraj Fort Removed, Says 'Illegally Constructed'

New Age Islam News Bureau

21 June 2023


Sanjay Nishad. Credit: PTI File Photo



• Akola Police Ask Muslim Men Accused of Rioting To Furnish Hindu Guarantors

• 4 Hurt As 2 Groups Belonging To Deobandi and Barelvi Sects Fight for A Mosque in UP's Bahraich

• Hindu Man to Marry Muslim Woman Today, Days after Kerala Cops Dragged Her Away From Wedding Venue

• 50 booked for vandalising shops of Muslims, assaulting man in Uttarakhand



• Former CJP moves SC against trial of civilians in military courts

• PTI chief, other party leaders' non-bailable arrest warrants issued

• Pakistan, China sign deal for 1,200 MW nuclear power project

• Army assures all-out support as govt plans economic revival

• PPP will uphold Benazir Bhutto’s philosophy: Zardari

• PM Shehbaz vows to present Pakistan’s position on global financial firms’ restructuring at Paris summit



• Uganda’s military rescues three students abducted by Islamist fighters – army

• Islamic State Affiliate Expanding Reach In DR Congo, UN Experts Say



• German Professor under Fire for Racist Slurs against Female Muslim Student

• Stoke-on-Trent's real life Top Gun who was sent to kill Osama Bin Laden

• Austrian police arrest three suspected Islamic extremists over Vienna Pride terror attack plot

• There are up to 2,500 mosques in Azerbaijan, official says


Arab World

• Saudi students win awards at European Physics Olympiad

• Saudi Arabia condemns Israeli aggression in Jenin raid that led to the death of 6 Palestinians

• Several measures adopted to protect visitors of Prophet's Mosque from summer heat

• 47th Grand Hajj Symposium fosters culture of innovation, service in Saudi Arabia



• Children from Amazon 'Kidnapped' and Converted To Islam; Child Abuse Increased By 700 Percent under "Sultan" Erdogan

• Regime Pressures Baluchs to Deny Assassination Attempt On Sunni Leader

• Dozens of Israeli Settlers Invade Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque

• Flights between Israel and Saudi Arabia for Muslim pilgrims won’t be ready for Hajj

• Bahrain Islamic Index closes higher

• Israel Prison Service seizes mobile phones after Islamic Jihad inmate's live stream


South Asia

• Kabul Will Mediate TTP-Islamabad Talks If Pakistan Wants It: Mujahid

• Islamic Emirate Reacts to UN Rapporteur's Report

• Afghan Migrants in Shipwreck off Coast of Greece: Embassy

• Why India Needs To Support the Quest for Restoring Democracy in Bangladesh

• Eid gift for 1.25cr ultra-poor families


Southeast Asia

• Singapore Mosque Worker Jailed For Taking Meth and Keeping Cannabis Mixtures in Ablution Room, Cubicle and Locker

• Terrorist Groups Increasingly Targeting Youths, Singapore A 'Prized Target': DPM Wong

• Malaysia grateful for ‘smooth’ Hajj operations under Makkah Route

• Malaysia passes 3 Bills in parliament to decriminalise suicide attempts


North America

• Slots, Table Games and Stained Glass: Bally’s Chicago Moving Quickly to Turn Landmark Medinah Temple into a Gambling Mecca

• Israel Kills Islamic Jihad Terrorists in Fiery Jenin Raid; Media Fails to Report the Full Facts

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



 UP Minister Wants Mosque In Prayagraj Fort Removed, Says 'Illegally Constructed'


Sanjay Nishad. Credit: PTI File Photo


JUN 20 2023

In controversial remarks, Uttar Pradesh minister Sanjay Nishad has claimed that the mosque situated in the Nishadraj Fort in Prayagraj is "illegally constructed" and if it is not removed, people of the Nishad community will "throw it in the Ganga".

He was speaking to reporters on the side-lines of a programme at the district headquarters here on Monday.

"At that time, there was no mosque there. There is also a report of the archaeological department regarding the excavation. It means the mosque was built later. It is an illegal mosque," he said.

"The fort is the centre of faith of Hindus and Nishads. Will they (Muslims) now do land jihad along with love jihad?" he added.

The fisheries minister, who has often landed in controversies, said lakhs of people come to Prayagraj on the birth anniversary of tribal king Nishad Raj.

"The people will come this time too. They have decided that if the mosque is not removed, they will throw it in the Ganga," he said.

Regarding the large number of deaths in Ballia amid scorching heat, he said it was a "divine disaster". The government will extend help to the affected after the inquiry committee submits its report, he added.


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'Erosion of Islamic Identity': Pakistan Bans Holi in Universities to Check ‘Disconnect From Socio-cultural Values’


(Image for representation)


Jun 21, 2023

By India Today World Desk: Pakistan's Higher Education Commission (HEC) has banned Holi celebrations in universities. The order of the HEC comes days after students of Quaid-i-Azam University celebrated Holi on the campus on June 12 and videos of the event went viral.

In a notice, the Commission stated that students are forbidden to follow this festival in order to adhere to "sociocultural values".

 "Such activities portray a complete disconnect from country's sociocultural values and are an erosion of the country's Islamic identity," the notice read.

"While there is no denying the fact that cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity leads towards an inclusive and tolerant society that profoundly respects all faiths and creeds; albeit it needs to be done so in a measured manner without going overboard. The students need to be apprised to be aware of the self-serving vested interests who use them for their own ends far from the altruistic critical thinking paradigm," the notice read.

In an apparent reference to Holi celebrations at Quaid-i-Azam University, the Commission stated, "This widely reported/publicized event from the platform of a university has caused concern and has disadvantageously affected the country's image."

Advising the students to refrain themselves from conducting such events, the Commission said, "Foregoing in view, it is advised that the HEls may prudently distance themselves from all such activities obviously incompatible with the country's identity and societal values, while ensuring that they rigorously engage their students and faculty in academic pursuits, intellectual debates, and cognitive learning besides identifying, creating, and fostering avenues for extra-curricular activities and rational discourse."

Earlier this month, videos of Holi celebrations at the Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad went viral. In the videos, students are seen playing Holi with colours and enjoying celebrations on the college campus.

The event was held by the Mehran Students’ Council, a non-political cultural organisation of the university, reports said.

In March, at least 15 Hindu students were injured after members of a radical Islamic student organisation stopped them from celebrating Holi at the Punjab University premises.


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Morocco's Islamist Party Urges Ban of Award-Winning Film, "The Blue Caftan", For 'Promoting Homosexuality'


Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival


20 June, 2023

Morocco's Islamist party has called for a ban on the award-winning Moroccan movie "The Blue Caftan" from screening in national cinemas over its alleged "promotion of homosexuality" and "violating" the country's religious morals.

"The General Secretariat denounces allowing a film that promotes homosexuality to be screened in Moroccan cinemas, in a grave violation of the religious, national, and moral values of the Moroccan Muslim people," the Islamist party of Justice and Development Party (PJD) added in a press release on Friday.

Directed by Maryam Touzani, "The Blue Caftan" depicts the story of Halim, a tailor at a traditional shop in a Moroccan medina that he runs with his ailing wife, Mina. While Halim works lovingly and painstakingly with his wife, the couple lives with the secret of his homosexuality – something Mina has come to accept yet still generates an occasional stab of jealousy within her.

The movie follows the dynamic between the couple and Youssef, a new apprentice who joins them at the shop.

The PJD has called on the authorities "to prohibit the screening of the film, in accordance with the law in force, adopted in May 2015."

This legal framework, adopted under the PJD's government at the time, served as a basis to censor "a movie by the same party, known for its hostile tendencies to the constants and the sacredness of the nation," added the party's press release.

The Islamist party refers to "Much Loved" by director Nabil Ayouch, who is also the producer of "The Blue Caftan" and Touzani's husband.

Despite the controversy, the avant-premier of "The Blue Caftan" on 4 June witnessed the attendance of various public figures, including senior advisor to King Mohammed VI Andre Azoulay, among others.

Since 7 June, the film has been screened in cinemas in Casablanca, Rabat and Tangier.

However, its screening has triggered different reactions among the Moroccan public.

Many viewers took to social media to voice their disappointment in the "scandalous" concept behind the movie, joining the PJD in their request to ban the film from the country's cinemas.

Homosexuality is still a taboo and a crime in Morocco. Article 489 of the Penal Code of Morocco criminalises "lewd or unnatural acts with an individual of the same sex."

Nevertheless, pro-LGBTQ+ movements in the country are getting louder and bolder in defending the community's rights, and the screening of "The Blue Caftan", they argue, is a step forward in the community's fight for visibility.

"Screening a movie about the LGBTQ community in the country's cinemas is definitely a win for us and the result of a long struggle against homophobia. We hope that its screening will continue," Safae, a member of the LGBTQ+ community in Morocco, told TNA.

Amid the controversy over the film, "The Blue Caftan" received the International Critics' Prize at the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival and the Jury's Prize at the Marrakech International Film Festival.


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Bangladeshi Radical Islamist Enayet Ullah Abbasi Free To Give Birmingham Lecture despite Pro-Beheading Comments


Enayet Ullah Abbasi



An Islamist cleric who said critics of the Prophet Mohammed should have their heads “chopped off” has been allowed into the UK to speak at an event.

Sick Enayet Ullah Abbasi previously slammed the late Queen Elizabeth II for endorsing a school that turned children into “disgusting human beings”.

He also praised the terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks in America calling them “brave lions”.

The Bangladeshi scholar was due to speak in Birmingham this evening at the Islamic Conference 2023 which is being hosted and organised by TV channel ION TV.

He is also set to appear in London on Wednesday.

In his home country Bangladesh, Abbasi has said: “If anybody dares to criticise our Prophet (Mohammed) that person should be declared as a disbeliever and hence his/her head should be chopped off.

“If that person urges to apologise for criticising Mohammed we would not give them any chance or accept their apology.

“In this democratic Bangladesh if anybody dares to criticise God, no matter that person be any intellectual, atheist or blogger, that person’s head should be chopped off.”

“If that person urges to apologise for criticising Mohammed we would not give them any chance or accept their apology.

“In this democratic Bangladesh if anybody dares to criticise God, no matter that person be any intellectual, atheist or blogger, that person’s head should be chopped off.”

In another rant, he blasted Queen Elizabeth II for her Queen's Young Leaders Programme which praised teacher Ayman Sadiq who founded Bangladeshi online learning platform 10 Minute School.

Abbasi said: “The young children are being taught living together, free sex, intermingling in sexes, homosexuality and nasty concepts of sexual relations with transgenders in the name of education.

“They are being transformed into disgusting human beings with inferior characteristics, all in the name of the education system.

“I was saying now it is crystal clear what the Queen of Britain is doing in the name of helping people.”

He has previously labelled the theory of evolution a “conspiracy” and insisted it “had not been proven scientifically”.

Abbasi added: “All the scientists are weed addicts. But Charles Darwin is the father of all weed addicts.”

In another hate-filled speech the cleric commended Osama Bin Laden, the orchestrator of the September 11 attacks in America, and founder of the Taliban, Mullah Omar.

He said: “You will never have the merit to carry Laden and Omar’s shoes even after 50 years of pursuit.”

Abbasi went on to call those who flew planes into the World Trade Center in New York in 2001, “brave lions”.

The hate cleric has also delivered hateful speeches against Ahmadi Muslims, a persecuted minority of the Islamic faith, urging his followers to kill them.

According to exiled Bangladeshi blogger Asad Noor, this anti-Ahmadi speech led to two Muslims being killed and houses being torched.

In 2010, then-Home Secretary Theresa May banned Indian Muslim preacher Zakir Naik from entering the UK.

At the time, she said: "Numerous comments made by Dr Naik are evidence to me of his unacceptable behaviour.”

He was due to give a series of lectures in London and Sheffield.

Two years ago Islamic orator Mizanur Rahman Azhari was denied boarding a Qatar Airways flight.

Reports said he was travelling to the UK to attend an Islamic conference at the invitation of the satellite television channel ION TV UK.

In 2009, Geert Wilders, the rightwing Dutch politician, was refused entry to the UK ahead of a showing of his 17-minute film Fitna, which criticised the Qur'an as a "fascist book" at the House of Lords.

WasiqWasiq, Associate Research Fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, told GB News: “Enayetullah Abbasi is alleged to have used rhetoric that is inciting hatred against Hindus and minority Muslim sects.

“The fact that he has been allowed to enter the UK and speak freely demonstrates a weakness in our ability to properly vet hateful preachers. He should be on the first plane back to Bangladesh and handed to the authorities there.”

GB News contacted a reporter at iON TV, who rejected this broadcaster’s claims that Abbasi was delivering hateful and extreme rhetoric.

John Spellar, Labour MP for Warley, told GB News: “Given his record, how the hell was he allowed to come into the country?

“If we are clear that he has made these statements, what the hell were the Home Office thinking?

“Clearly they have questions to answer.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Extremism has no place in our society.

"We work closely with law enforcement, local communities and our international partners to tackle groups and individuals who sow division and hatred.”


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Saudi Arabia Executes Shia Man, Al-Milad, from Qatif Region over Terror Charges


Photo: Fars News



TEHRAN (FNA) - Saudi authorities have executed a young man from the Shia-populated Qatif region over trumped-up allegations of involvement in terrorist activities, as part of a heavy-handed crackdown led by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince against political dissidents.

The Saudi Ministry of Interior announced in a statement on Monday that the death sentence was carried out against Muslim bin Ahmed bin Musallam Al-Milad, presstv reported.

“Al-Milad, a Saudi national, joined a terrorist cell, which at times got into confrontations with security forces and carried out armed attacks on them,” the statement alleged.

The statement claimed that Al-Milad has “undermined domestic security”, and “traded in firearms and narcotics”.

It further alleged that the young man “supported people wanted for armed clashes with security forces, financed terrorism and terrorist acts, and harbored wanted criminals”.

The Saudi national was initially referred to the kingdom’s Specialized Criminal Court, where he was found guilty of charges leveled against him, and handed down a death sentence, which was upheld on appeal, it added.

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia announced the execution of three people in the Shia-populated Eastern Province over fabricated charges.

Hussein bin Ali bin Muhammad Al-Mohishi, Fazel bin Zaki bin HosseinAnsif, and Zakaria bin Hassan bin Muhammad Al-Mohishi received the death penalty.

Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich and predominantly Shia Eastern Province has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011.

Protesters demand reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the region.

The protests have been met with a heavy-handed crackdown, with regime forces increasing security measures across the province.

Ever since Mohammad bin Salman became Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader in 2017, the kingdom has ramped up arrests of activists, bloggers, intellectuals, and others perceived as political opponents.

It shows almost zero tolerance for dissent even in the face of international condemnations of the crackdown.

As a result, Muslim scholars have been executed and women’s rights campaigners have been put behind bars and tortured as freedoms of expression, association, and belief continue to be denied.


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Akola Police Ask Muslim Men Accused of Rioting To Furnish Hindu Guarantors


Mumbai: Over 150 Muslim men who were arrested for their alleged role in a rioting incident that occurred in Akola city in north-central Maharashtra in May this year have a unique dilemma before them. On securing bail from the magistrate court, the Akola city police have allegedly asked the individuals to furnish guarantors from the Hindu community as surety. This demand, both unconstitutional and illegal and criticised by the Bombay high court on several instances in the past, is apparently a common practice in Akola.

M. Badar, a lawyer associated with the human rights organisation the Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR) who is representing many of those arrested in the case, told The Wire that as soon as the Muslim men were granted bail by the magistrate court, they were all lined up before the local crime branch. “Here, depending upon their criminal antecedents, the police-initiated Chapter Proceedings or preventive action as prescribed under the Code of Criminal Procedure,” he said.

“Each of the accused persons was then told to get individuals belonging to the Hindu community to vouch for them as a surety before the police,” Badar shared. These sureties, Badar added, would cost these individuals anything between Rs 5,000 to Rs 6,000, something that most accused persons can’t afford. The police have, however, not given their demand in writing – making it difficult for the lawyers to immediately move the court, Badar said.

“Whether affordable or not, this demand of furnishing surety from a certain community is an absurd act,” Badar pointed out, adding that high court orders have already termed such a police action as unconstitutional and illegal.

Sandeep Ghuge, the Akola superintendent of police, however, denied the claims made by lawyers and those arrested in the case. “How can we demand anyone to get guarantors from a particular community?” Ghuge replied when asked for his comment. When The Wire asked if his office has initiated an inquiry to ascertain the truth in the allegations, he said, “It is not needed. The police aren’t doing any of this. So, we are not checking.”

The rioting incident

On May 13, following an Instagram post by one Karan Sahu, a leader of the radical right-wing group in Akola ‘Chhatrapati Sena’, a tense situation developed in the city. Sahu, who has a massive following on all social media platforms, uploaded a post on Instagram deriding the Muslim community and Prophet Mohammed. In no time, the post garnered thousands of likes and his followers began sharing it on their handles too. By late evening, the Instagram post had reached many in the Muslim community and the community leaders had decided to approach the nearby Ramdaspeth police station.

In all, the police registered six FIRs in two different police stations in Akola city. While the FIRs essentially carry sections of rioting and destruction to public property, sections of murder have also been added following the death of one youth. The youth, identified as Vilas Gaikwad, was allegedly killed after a mob had mistaken him for a Muslim man. One of the eyewitnesses told The Wire that Gaikwad was driving an auto that had “KGN” inscribed on it. KGN stands for Khwaja Gharib Nawaz, also known as Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti – a revered Islamic scholar.

While around 150 Muslim men were arrested, less than 10 persons from the Hindu community have been arrested for their alleged role in the rioting incident.

The arrest patterns and the magistrate court order

Lawyers handling the rioting cases have pointed to the manner in which most arrests were carried out by the police. “Most accused persons had no role to play in the riot. There is no CCTV footage or mobile grabs to support the police’s claim that they were present at the rioting spot. Still, they were arrested,” said advocate Faizan Khan, who managed to get over a dozen men released on bail in the past few weeks.

Khan said individuals who were not in the city at the time of the riot were also arrested. “The police arrested one person who was some 60 kilometres away from Akola city on May 13. He entered the city and only then he found out that the local administration has imposed a curfew. By the time he found out, it was too late. The police had already arrested him in the case,” Khan added.

The local magistrate court has released close to 110 persons on bail. In the bail order, the court has specifically identified that their further custody is not required for the police to carry out the investigation. Yet, the police have initiated chapter proceedings against them and are seeking additional action against them.

Advocate Badar shared with The Wire that he has already written to the local crime branch and the superintendent of police and pointed out that their move is unconstitutional. “I have also directed my clients to submit in writing that they can’t furnish guarantors from the Hindu community. And if the police want, they can initiate a proceeding against them. Which we will then challenge before the high court,” Badar says.


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4 Hurt As 2 GroupsBelonging To Deobandi and Barelvi Sects Fight for A Mosque in UP's Bahraich

Jun 20, 2023

BAHRAICH: Four persons were left injured in a clash between two groups of the Muslim community who came face to face over the occupation of a mosque located under Ranipur police station area of Bahraich district.

The police, which reached the spot and pacified the matter, have started an investigation after registering a case against eight people from both sides. The video of the incident has also come to fore.

The two groups of Muslims belonging to Deobandi and Barelvi sects came face to face over the possession of a mosque located in Gram Panchayat Achaulia under Ranipur police station.

According to the villagers, the registration of the mosque is in the name of Deobandis and they are in possession of the mosque.

However, the members of Barelwi sect also stake their claim to the mosque.

Superintendent ofpPolice (SP) Bahraich, Prashant Verma said that the case regarding the possession of the mosque is also pending in the high court.


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Hindu Man to Marry Muslim Woman Today, Days after Kerala Cops Dragged Her Away From Wedding Venue

Jun 20, 2023

By Shibimol KG: A Hindu man and a Muslim woman are set to get married on Tuesday, days after their wedding was disrupted by the Kerala Police. The police dragged the bride away from the wedding venue.

Alfiya (18) and Akhil (21) had planned to marry in a temple in Thiruvananthapuram on June 17. A video from that day, which has now gone viral on social media, shows police dragging Alfiya from the spot.

The families of both Akhil and Alfiya were opposed to their relationship.

Alfiya’s family had filed a missing complaint with the police. But, Alfiya, who left home on June 16, informed the police that she did so of her own free will.

Police officials said that they had to produce Alfiya before a judge to close the case. They also said she was not cooperating, and hence they had to use force.


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50 booked for vandalising shops of Muslims, assaulting man in Uttarakhand

Jun 21, 2023

The incident in Nainital has come on the heels of communal tensions in the hilly town of Purola in Uttarkashi where shops run by Muslim men were attacked during protests by Hindu right-wing organisations

Dehradun: The Uttarakhand Police on Tuesday booked 50-60 unidentified people for allegedly ransacking shops of Muslims in Nainital and tonsuring a man from the minority community accused of bestiality, officers said, even as no arrest has been made in connection with anti-Muslim posters that surfaced in Uttarkashi’sPurola town.

On June 14, some residents of Lamachaur village in Haldwani claimed to having caught a 25-year-old Muslim man, identified as Hafiz, while having sex with a cow. Following the incident, members of some Hindu right-wing outfits shaved the head of the accused and forced Muslim traders in the area to shut their shops.

The same day, the police arrested Hafiz and booked him under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act on the basis of a complaint lodged by one Mahesh Chand, a resident of Lamachaur. HT has seen a copy of the complaint registered at the Mukhani police station.

On Tuesday, a case was registered against 56-60 unidentified people at the Mukhani police station for vandalising shops of Muslims under sections 147 (punishment for rioting), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 355 (assault or criminal force with intent to dishonour person), and 427 (mischief) of the Indian Penal Code, a senior officer said.

“We have registered a case and identification of the accused is underway,” Mukhani police sub-inspector Preeti, who goes by the single name, said.

The incident in Nainital has come on the heels of communal tensions in the hilly town of Purola in Uttarkashi where shops run by Muslim men were attacked during protests by Hindu right-wing organisations, forcing many from the minority community to leave the town.

Purola has been tensed since the alleged abduction attempt on a 14-year-old girl on May 26. A day later, two accused— including a Muslim man — were arrested in connection with the case. On May 29, at least 30 shops owned or rented by Muslims were ransacked and attacked during a protest rally by right-wing organisations, who claimed the abduction bid was an attempt at “love jihad” — a term popularised by radical Hindu groups to describe what they believe is an organised conspiracy by Muslim men to force or trick Hindu women into conversion and marriage. The minor girl’s uncle, who is also a complainant in the case, has denied the “love jihad” claim while talking to HT.

On June 3, shops and houses belonging to Muslims were again targeted during another protest by right-wing outfits in Barkot. A day later, posters asking Muslim traders to vacate their shops in Purola before a proposed mahapanchayat — which was not allowed by authorities — on June 15 came up at various places.

On June 5, the police registered a first information report (FIR) against unidentified people under sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, etc.), 505 (statements conducing public mischief), and 506 (criminal intimidation) of IPC for putting up anti-Muslim posters. However, no arrest has been made in connection with the case yet.

“We have not arrested anyone for hooliganism in the town thus far,” Uttarkashi superintendent of police Arpan Yadhuvanshi said last week.

Even after three weeks, no FIR has been registered by the police in connection with attack on Muslim shops during protests on May 29 and June 3.

“Our probe into the incident is underway. We will soon file an FIR,” the SP said on Tuesday.

On June 8, Barkot circle officer SS Bhandari had said: “We have not been able to identify anyone who attacked Muslim shops [during the protests] or those who put up posters asking Muslim traders to leave by June 15. Due to low visibility at that time nobody could be seen putting up the posters. We are also checking CCTV footage of hotels to find out the culprits.”

Meanwhile, shops owned by Muslim traders in Purola reopened for the first time in nearly 20 days, in a first sign of normalcy returning to the town gradually. According to people aware of the details, the market roughly consists of 650-700 shops and of these, around 30-40 are run by Muslims. Around half of them left the town amid violence, locals said.


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Former CJP moves SC against trial of civilians in military courts

June 21, 2023

ISLAMABAD   -   Former chief Justice of Pakistan Jawad S Khawaja Tuesday filed a constitutional petition under Article 184(3) of the constitution challenging the trial of ci­vilians in military courts.

In his petition, he requested the Su­preme Court of Pakistan to hold that when the civilian courts were func­tioning, civilians not in active service could not be tried in military courts. The former Chief Justice of Pakistan moved the petition through his coun­sel Muhammad Ozair Chughtai and cited federation through Secretaries Ministry of Law and Justice and Minis­try of Defence and Chief Secretaries of all the provinces as respondents. The petitioner submitted that the court martial of civilians and Article 2(1)(d)(i) and (ii) of the Pakistan Army Act 1952 should be declared uncon­stitutional on the grounds. He argued that the Pakistan Army Act 1952 was meant for maintaining the internal discipline of the armed forces and could not extend to civilians when the ordinary courts were functioning

He further stated that the trial of civilians by military courts when the armed forces were called in aid of civil power was contrary to Article 245 of the Constitution as it displaced civil power and did not “aid” it. He added that the military, as part of the execu­tive, could not undertake trials as ju­dicial power could only be exercised by the judiciary. The trial of civilians by military courts also infringed upon Article 175(3) of the Constitution and was contrary to the separation of pow­ers. The petitioner clarified that it had no personal interest in this case and he was seeking relief for the benefit of all citizens regardless of political affilia­tion. He questioned whether civilians could be court martialed under the constitutional framework of Pakistan, when civilian courts are functioning, adding that under no circumstance can civilians who are not in active ser­vice be tried in military courts. He said that the government and the armed forces have indicated that they pro­pose to court martial certain civilians for involvement in offence allegedly committed on 9thMay 2023. In spite of the fact that the allegations revolve around attacks on or offences in re­spect of property within cantonments or so-called military installations, the petitioner submitted that any such al­leged offences by civilians may only be tried by ordinary criminal courts.

He added that this fundamental right is enshrined in Article 10-A of the Con­stitution. This right is violated when ci­vilians are court martialed. The recog­nized ingredients of a fair trial include an open hearing by a competent and independent forum and the right to counsel of choice. The petitioner said that the primary and fundamental pur­pose of the Pakistan Army Act 1952 is to maintain discipline within the armed forces. This is recognized in the Minis­try of Defence Manual which provides guidance to the court martial when deliberating what sentence to impose – emphasis is placed on the “high state of discipline which springs from a mili­tary system.” When an individual joins the armed forces, they consent to be subject to this system of military disci­pline, and they consent to forgo certain rights. It is unjustifiable for civilians to be subjected to a system of military dis­cipline. They have not consented to the same. In the context of criminal prose­cution and trial, court martial proceed­ings against civilians violate fundamen­tal rights and do not enjoy protection under Article 8(3) of the Constitution.

The former chief justice said that according to a ISPR statement dated 07.06.23 in 81st Formation Com­manders Conference at GHQ, the Pakistan Army has made clear that they intend to try civilians who were allegedly involved in attacking mili­tary installations under the Pakistan Army Act 1952. The government (whether federal or provincial) has not expressed a different view. He mentioned that on 12.06.2023, the National Assembly passed a resolu­tion which stated that those involved in attacking military installations should be tried and punished under the Pakistan Army Act 1952.

He pointed out that Brigadier F.B Ali case was decided prior to the introduc­tion of Article 10A of the Constitution and is not binding on this Court. In the alternative, a bench larger than five judges should be formed to overturn the finding that civilians can be tried by military courts for certain offences even in times of peace; (b) the Dar­wesh M. Arby and the Liaquat Hussain cases show that the courts in Pakistan have struck down attempts to expand jurisdiction of military courts over ci­vilians. The courts have held that mili­tary courts exercising jurisdiction over civilians when the ordinary courts are functioning is violative of inter alia Ar­ticle 8, Article 9, Article 25, Article 175, Article 245; and (c) the District Bar Case permitted trial of civilians by mil­itary courts for a certain limited period of time only on the basis of a constitu­tional amendment which extended specific protection to such trials.


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PTI chief, other party leaders' non-bailable arrest warrants issued

June 20, 2023

LAHORE: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan’s non-bailable arrest warrant was issued on Tuesday by Lahore’s anti-terrorism court (ATC).

The non-bailable arrest warrants were also issued for former ruling party leaders Hammad Azhar, Mian Aslam Iqbal and others.

The court issued a non-bailable arrest warrant at the request of the investigating officer.

The cases against the accused were registered in the Naseerabad and Model Town police stations of Lahore for torching the container and attacking Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) office in the provincial capital.

Dozens of cases ranging from terrorism to corruption have been registered against the deposed prime minister since being ousted from power via a no-trust motion in April last year.

Other party leaders including the party chief were also booked under terrorism charges following riots sparked by the arrest of the former PM in the Al-Qadir Trust case on May 9.

During the nearly three-day-long violent protests, PTI supporters allegedly attacked and torched state installations, leaving at least eight dead and dozens others injured.

Following the violent protests, several PTI leaders and founding members including Shireen Mazari, Fawad Chaudhry, Imran Ismail, Ali Zaidi, Aamir Mehmood Kiani and others parted their ways with the party while many blaming the party chief’s policies for the violence.

Hundreds of PTI leaders and workers were also arrested after the authorities launched a crackdown to detain the suspects involved in the vandalism.

The National Security Committee (NSC) comprising top civil and military leadership of the country had also expressed the resolve to show a policy of zero tolerance to acts of violence by miscreants on May 9 and endorsed the decision to hold the trial of those involved in attacking sensitive installations and state buildings under the Army Act, Official Secrets Act and other concerned laws under the Constitution.

The NSC meeting endorsed the decision that all the abettors, planners, facilitators and those directly involved in acts of arson, attacks on military installations and public buildings should be tried under the Army Act, Official Secret Act and other laws as the country’s Constitution.


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Pakistan, China sign deal for 1,200 MW nuclear power project

June 21, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has said that Pakistan was facing economic challenges and was engaged with the IMF to finalize the 9th Review but there was an inordinate delay and it was at that critical juncture that China came to Pakistan’s rescue.

The prime minister was addressing the ceremony to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Pakistan and China for a 1,200 MW Chashma-5 (C-5) nuclear power project worth $3.48 billion here. President of China National Nuclear Corporation Overseas Ltd and Member Power and Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) Muhammad Saeedur Rehman signed the MoU.


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Army assures all-out support as govt plans economic revival

June 21, 2023

Special Investment Facilitation Council to act as ‘Single Window’ interface for potential investors n PM says investors will be given primacy, fast-track approvals through a well-coordinated approach n Pakistan to target key sectors, foreign investment as part of the strategy n COAS says plan fundamental to socio-economic prosperity of Pakistanis.

Shehbaz Sharif urges political parties to work together for country’s uplift n Witnesses MoU signing on $3.48b C-5 nuclear power project n Donates four vans for orphan children at Pakistan Sweet Homes.

ISLAMABAD   -   The PML-N led coalition gov­ernment, in the wake of eco­nomic hardships confronting the country, Tuesday unveiled an elaborated ‘Economic Reviv­al Plan’ with a view to capital­ise Pakistan’s untapped poten­tial in key sectors, fast-track the development projects and facil­itate investment.

“The plan was unveiled during a high-level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and attended by Chief of Army Staff (COAS), chief ministers, federal and provincial ministers, and high-level government offi­cials,” says a press release issued by PM Office on Tuesday.

The ‘Economic Revival Plan’ envisages capitalising Pakistan’s untapped potential in key sec­tors of defence production, ag­riculture, livestock, minerals, mining, information technology and energy, through indigenous development as well as invest­ments from friendly countries.

To fast-track the development of projects, the establishment of Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) has been under­taken to act as a ‘Single Win­dow’ interface for the potential investors as well as to adopt a unified approach.

The setup will shorten here­tofore cumbersome and lengthy business processes through a cooperative and collaborative ‘whole of the government ap­proach’ with representation of all stakeholders. It is aimed at cre­ating horizontal-vertical synergy between the federation and prov­inces; facilitating timely decision making; avoiding duplication of effort; and ensuring swift project implementation. The high-rank­ing participation from feder­al and provincial governments, clearly manifests the national resolve to turn around the econ­omy despite all odds.

COAS, speaking on the occa­sion, assured the Pakistan Ar­my’s all-out support to com­plement the government’s efforts for Economic Revival Plan, considered fundamental to socio-economic prosperity of Pakistanis and reclaiming Pa­kistan’s rightful stature among the comity of nations.

Prime Minister Shehbaz re­called that his government in­herited an economy which was on the brink of collapse. With bold and difficult decisions, it was now being steered towards growth and development, how­ever, there were massive chal­lenges ahead, he added.

He said export-oriented for­eign direct investments held the key to economic revival and the government had, therefore, decided to adopt a holistic/whole-of-government approach which fostered partnerships within the federal and provin­cial governments for effective implementation and execution.

The investors would be given primacy and fast-track approv­als, through a well-coordinated approach, he added. The prime minister observed that the ex­pected investments would cre­ate jobs and livelihoods for the youth and women, and advised that the focus should be on em­powering young and females to realise their full potential.

“Let us resolve to work togeth­er, leave no stone unturned and be single minded in our focus and direction. We can transform the destiny of Pakistan and its people. It would, however, not happen without hard work and staying the course on the path of progress and development,” he remarked. PM Shehbaz said Pakistan and Pakistanis de­served nothing less from those who had been bestowed the re­sponsibility to administer the country by Allah Almighty and the people.

Meanwhile, Prime Minis­ter Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday called upon the nation and all political parties to work togeth­er for bringing the country out of crisis and taking it to new heights of development.

He said the dream of a pros­perous and developed Pakistan could only be fulfilled by ris­ing above mutual differences, burying the conspiracies, and maintaining rule of law in the country. Addressing the inau­guration ceremony of Margalla Avenue here, the prime minis­ter said the country possessed huge natural resources as it had the best minds and man­power as well.

“The only thing that laps is the will to do”, he said adding that although it was a difficult task but not impossible to bring the country out of crisis.

He said all the initiatives were being taken for the de­velopment and prosperity of people of Islamabad and its at­tached areas. However, he said due to the past government’s criminal negligence, the citi­zens of the federal capital had to wait for years to enjoy their due facilities.

He said last year was devas­tating both in terms of natu­ral calamities and on the polit­ical front as the country faced devastating floods and the po­litical opponents hatched con­spiracies against the country. Their agenda surfaced on May 9, 2023 when everyone saw that what they did was even never thought by the enemy of Paki­stan,” he added.

He said despite the challeng­es, the CDA Chairman, former MNA Hanif Abbasi and their team who worked diligently to complete this project for which the people of Islamabad were waiting for years.

He said recently he visited Baku, where he saw smooth and clean roads and beautiful land­scape and gardening along the roads. He advised Interior Min­ister Rana Sanaullah to take his team to Baku to get their first hand experience and apply in Pakistan as well.

PM Shehbaz said today he also witnessed the signing of an MoU for a $3.48 billion Chash­ma Nuclear Power Plant (C-5) which reflected the Chinese re­solve to support Pakistan in dif­ficult times.

He said Saudi Arabia, Qatar and UAE were also Pakistan’s unmatched friendly countries that were also supporting Paki­stan at this difficult time.

The prime minister said his political opponents alleged him for getting big kick backs on China Pakistan Economic Corri­dor (CPEC) projects. “If that was true, Imran Khan should have presented the proof before the courts,” he added.

He said the Chinese state owned company not only kept the cost of the C-5 project at the level agreed in 2017-18, but also on his personal request, the company gave discount of Rs 30 billion on the project.

He said former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif himself launched 5000 MW energy projects at a time when Pakistan was facing huge power load shedding.In­terior Minister Rana Sanaullah said the prime minister had in­augurated an important road Margalla Avenue which con­nected new sectors of Islam­abad with GT-Road.

He said the prime minister had also launched a historic Rs 20 billion package for rural ar­eas of the federal capital.

Hanif Abbasi said the PML-N always worked for welfare of the people and the prime minis­ter was famous across the world for his speed and his service for the people of his county.

Later, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also laid the foundation stone of upgradation and reha­bilitation project of Sikander e Azam Road.

He was told that the 7.5 kilo­meter road would be complet­ed at cost of Rs 3.5 billion and it would connect district Haripur and Khanpur Dam.

The prime minister directed the relevant authorities to com­plete the project on time. PM as­sures utilization of resources to strengthen, facilitate police force Prime Minister Muham­mad Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday said the incumbent government would utilize all possible re­sources to upgrade the capacity and performance of the Islam­abad Capital Territory Police by extending different facilities.

Addressing a stone laying ceremony of the National Po­lice Hospital at Police Lines, the prime minister appreciated the sacrifices and contributions of the police force.

He said the entire nation felt pride over the police force as they were the protectors of the nation and expressed the con­fidence that the police force would not tolerate any lapse in maintaining law and order.

The prime minister assured to strengthen the skills and capac­ity of the police force and all the recommendations in that re­gard would be fulfilled despite economic constraints.

On the occasion, the prime minister also unveiled plaques for Dolphin and SPU Headquar­ters and an educational insti­tute for the families of the police force projects. Minister for Plan­ning Ahsan Iqbal, Minister for Federal Education and Training Rana Tanveer Hussain, Minis­ter for Interior Rana Sanaullah, parliamentarians, ambassadors and a large number of police of­ficers and jawans were present.

Appreciating the efforts of in­terior minister, the prime min­ister said the plan for the es­tablishment of Dolphin force in Islamabad should be immedi­ately prepared on the pattern he had introduced in the Punjab province with the assistance of Turkiye. Instructors from Tur­kiye should be brought to im­part training and a comprehen­sive programme in that regard should be introduced, he added.

The prime minister further said that a hospital for the po­lice force and their families in Islamabad should have been constructed in the past. Now, the police force and their fami­lies would be provided with the latest health and educational facilities.

Commending the interior minister for his efforts for pay­ment of the Shahuda Package arrears, he also assured that he would take up the issue of po­lice law and order allowance with the finance minister.

The prime minister said about 2000 jawans had been induct­ed on merit which should be the standard emulated across the society. He said with such like merit-based inductions, the nation would move on path of progress whereas corrup­tion and favourtism wreaked havoc during the previous gov­ernment’s tenure. Meritocracy should be maintained at all lev­els, he stressed.

Earlier, speaking on the occa­sion, Minister for Interior Rana Sanaullah said the present gov­ernment paid prompt attention to address all the issues faced by the Capital Police.

He referred to the payment of arrears to families of Shuhada and said over Rs 1 billion was paid within three days, in that regard, on the direction of the prime minister.

He said deserving children of the deceased police force were given jobs on merit.

Rana Sanaullah said salaries of the Islamabad Capital Terri­tory Police were made equiva­lent to those of the Punjab po­lice. He said the Dolphin force, special protection unit and an­ti-terrorism force would be soon made operational in Is­lamabad. Lauding the sacrific­es of Shuhada of police force, he said they had sacrificed their lives for the protection of coun­trymen and securing peace.

The interior minister said the entire nation stood against those who attacked and dis­graced the monuments of Shu­hada on May 9, adding the po­lice force very bravely faced the onslaught of a political party and protected the Capital city.

Inspector General of Police Dr Akbar Nasir Khan also high­lighted the performance and contributions of the police force in maintaining law and order in the Federal Capital.


Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday witnessed the sign­ing of a Memorandum of Under­standing (MoU) between Paki­stan and China for a 1200 MW Chashma Nuclear Power Plant-5 (C-5) worth $3.48 billion here. President of China National Nu­clear Corporation Overseas Ltd (CNOS) and Member Power, Pa­kistan Atomic Energy Commis­sion (PAEC) Muhammad Saeed Ur Rehman signed the MoU.

Speaking on the occasion, Shehbaz Sharif said the nucle­ar power project was a great step forward towards econom­ic cooperation between the two countries.The prime minister said decision to start this proj­ect had been taken and the main conditions were agreed during previous government of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif but the successive government put this project in cold storage.

He said keeping view of the higher international inflation, the project cost would have been much higher than that de­termined in 2017-18 but the Chinese government not only abstained from raising the cost according to the inflation but also gave a discount of around Rs 30 billion.

Vowing to kick start the proj­ect without delay, the prime minister said under the diffi­cult economic situation, invest­ment from China in this project to the tune of $3.48 billion sent a clear message that Pakistan was a place where Chinese com­panies and investors continued to show their trust and faith.

“This reflects the famous quote that our friendship is higher than Himalayas, deeper than the deepest ocean, sweet­er than sugar and honey, and stronger than iron and steel. He said President Xi Jinping had called this friendship as iron brothers. He said recently he also inaugurated K-3 nuclear project in Karachi.

He said owing to the econom­ic challenges, Pakistan was en­gaged with the Internation­al Monetary Fund (IMF) trying to finalize the 9th review. “Pa­kistan has met all conditions required by the IMF that has been done three months ago, but there has been inordinate delay”, he said adding that Chi­na once again had come to Paki­stan’s rescue.

Other than China, he said Paki­stan had also great friends such as Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qa­tar that had been and still sup­porting the country. However, he said at this critical juncture, Chinese support was outstand­ing. “We are deeply obliged to President Xi, Chinese leader­ship, sincere thanks to Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and his team for working hard to strike the agreement with the Chinese counterpart.” He also thanked Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal and Power Minister KhurramDastgir who worked diligent­ly in this regard. Especially, he thanked the new military lead­ership for taking interest in this project. This is a beautiful com­bination that all political parties and military leadership are on one page,” he added.

He also paid tribute to Nawaz Sharif who, for the first time in 1993 made an agreement with China for a nuclear power proj­ect. PM Shehbaz said during the last few months, China also re­newed commercial and sover­eign loans which reflected un­paralleled friendship between the two countries.


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PPP will uphold Benazir Bhutto’s philosophy: Zardari

 June 21, 2023

ISLAMABAD   - President Pakistan People’s Party Parliamen­tarians Asif Ali Zardari said yesterday that the PPP will uphold the philosophy of Benazir Bhutto and fulfill her dreams. In a message on the occasion of Benazir Bhutto’s birth anniversary falling on June 21, Zardari, former president of Paki­stan, said that the aim of Benazir Bhutto’s politics was to end the darkness of ignorance from the country. “Benazir Bhutto struggled throughout her life to liber­ate the people from social and economic exploitation,” he added. Zardari said that the PPP was struggling to make this country one that was envisioned by Benazir Bhutto, a Pakistan where social and economic justice is available to the people and a society that is free from all kinds of extremism and terror. He said that PPP will definitely liberate the people from poverty, bank­ruptcy and economic mis­ery. Zardari said that Chair­man PPP, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was determined to fulfil the mission of his great maternal grandfather and great mother. Zardari said that the philosophy of Benazir Bhutto was a bea­con of hope. He expressed his resolve to complete the mission of Benazir Bhutto.


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PM Shehbaz vows to present Pakistan’s position on global financial firms’ restructuring at Paris summit

 June 21, 2023

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday said he planned to present Pakistan’s stance on the urgent need to restructure international financial institutions to address the challenges facing humanity.

He made the remarks as he was departing for France to attend the New Global Financing Pact Summit in Paris.

In a tweet, the premier emphasised that the summit provided a “unique opportunity” for global unity, enabling consensus on fundamental principles and necessary measures for a comprehensive overhaul of the international financial system.

The summit serves as a platform for the exchange of ideas and consultation on future changes in the global financial system to address challenges related to sustainable development, alternative and renewable energy sources, environment, and climate change, the statement added.

The PM further highlighted that Pakistan, as a prominent stakeholder in the G-77 plus China alliance and a nation significantly affected by climate change, was well-positioned “to assume this role”.

Later, the Prime Minister’s Office also shared a video on Twitter, featuring the premier and his delegation boarding a plane bound for France.

The premier will also hold bilateral meetings with global leaders during his stay in Paris.

PM eyes boosting FDI to $5 billion

In another statement earlier today, the prime minister said the coalition government had decided to set up a Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) with a mandate to frame economic policies that ensure policy predictability, continuity and effective implementation to revive the economy.

“Attracting investment from friendly countries remains one of the key goals of the SIFC. The immediate task is to increase foreign direct investment to $5 billion,” he said in a tweet, explaining initiatives being taken by the government to provide economy a forward thrust.

He said the SIFC would serve as a top decision-making forum to push through fundamental reforms in the structure of the economy. “To begin with, the forum will focus on leveraging key sectors such as IT, agriculture, energy, minerals and mining, and defence production.”

According to the premier, the need for a representative forum like the SIFC had long been felt, given the scale of the economic challenges caused by “internal and external factors”.

He said “the textbook approach to deal with a unique set of problems” was not workable anymore. He said it was time to leverage collective wisdom to kick-start the economy to make it self-reliant, export-driven, and robust, capable of withstanding external shocks and upheavals.

He insisted that creative ideas offered the solution to economic problems faced by the country.

‘Economic revival plan’

Civilian and military leaders had on Tuesday devised an “economic revival plan” to capitalise on “untapped potential in key sectors” and attract foreign direct investments.

A statement issued by the PM Office had said the meeting was chaired by PM She­h­baz and participants included chief ministers, federal and provincial ministers, and the army chief, among others.

The plan envisages making the most of “untapped potential in key sectors of defence production, agricultural/livestock, minerals/mining, IT, and energy, through indigenous development as well as investments from friendly countries”.


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Uganda’s military rescues three students abducted by Islamist fighters – army

KAMPALA (Reuters) -The Ugandan military have rescued three of the six students who were kidnapped by Islamist fighters when they stormed a school in the west of the country last week and massacred 42 people, mostly young students, the army said on Wednesday.

“There were six students kidnapped and three have so far been rescued,” said military spokesman Felix Kulayigye.

A woman with two children who had been kidnapped outside the school was also rescued, together with her children, while two militants were killed and two guns captured, Kulayigye said.

On Friday night a group of fighters from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a group linked to Islamic State, stormed the Lhubirira Secondary School in Mpondwe on Uganda’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The militiamen entered a boys’ dormitory, shot at the children and set the building on fire, incinerating nearly everyone in it. They then entered a girls’ dormitory and killed them with machetes.

Most of the bodies recovered from the boys’ dormitory were burnt beyond recognition and authorities are using DNA tests to identify them.

ADF, formerly a Ugandan rebel group, operates in the jungles of eastern Congo and has over the past two decades been blamed for killings of civilians there.

The group has also sometimes carried out attacks in Uganda including bombings at a police station and near the parliament building in the Ugandan capital in 2021.

(Reporting by FistonMahamba in Congo and Elias Biryabarema in Uganda; Editing by Alison Williams, Hereward Holland and Estelle Shirbon)


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Islamic State Affiliate Expanding Reach In DR Congo, UN Experts Say

By Sonia Rolley

June 20, 2023

KINSHASA, June 20 (Reuters) - A Ugandan armed group that killed dozens of school children last week is expanding its operations in Democratic Republic of Congo with funding from Islamic State, a United Nations group of experts said on Tuesday.

The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) started as an uprising in Uganda but has been based in neighbouring Congo since the late 1990s. It pledged allegiance to Islamic State in 2019.

The ADF killed at least 37 people in an attack on a school in western Uganda near the Congolese border on Friday night.


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German Professor under fire for racist slurs against female Muslim student

June 20, 2023

A Muslim student was racially insulted by a university Professor in Germany because she was wearing a headscarf, her lawyer said on Monday, Anadolu Agency reports.

According to the report, the incident occurred during an economics class at the campus of the Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University in north-western Germany.

The Professor used racist slurs and even compared the Muslim woman's headscarf with the swastika symbol of neo-Nazis, lawyer FatihZingal said, the report added.

"Article 4 of the German Constitution protects religious freedom, and a student can attend lessons by wearing a headscarf. The attitude of this Professor is absolutely unacceptable," he told Anadolu.

Gulsen Kurt, who was shocked by the lecturer's use of racist slurs, said most of the students reacted and left the class in protest.

"The Professor said that he will not allow a student with headscarf to attend the class, just as he would not allow a neo-Nazi wearing a swastika, He shouted at me, saying 'you are an Islamofascist', and that he will report me to the Directorate", she told Anadolu.


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Stoke-on-Trent's real life Top Gun who was sent to kill Osama Bin Laden

20 JUN 2023

A Stoke-on-Trent fighter pilot has described his extraordinary experiences taking on top secret combat missions in Afghanistan, including being ordered to blast the secret hideaway of Osama bin Laden.

Former Holden Lane High School student Nathan Gray has flown 140 missions in the war-torn country, despite the risk of death on each and every hair-raising sortie. But the Stokie, who rose to the rank of commander, comes from a humble background, having been born into a working-class family in the Potteries.

His dad worked in the potbanks while his mum had a job as a sales assistant. And his career as a fighter pilot is said to have all come about after he spotted a 747 jet flying over his home and carrying the Challenger Space Shuttle on its back, the Express reports.

After completing gruelling training, including a near-death experience, he was sent on multiple top secret combat missions. But there was one in particular he will never forget - the task of killing bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda.

Through the crackle of his radio, British Harrier jump jet pilot Lieutenant Gray received his latest bombing target co-ordinates. “This is the HVT,” said one of his US special forces colleagues on the ground, meaning “high value target”. “Yes, copy that and copy HVT,” Gray responded from his cockpit over the secret frequency.

Suddenly, he realised the enormity of his task: he was being ordered to blast what Americans believed was the secret hideaway of bin Laden, and mastermind of the 9/11 attacks on New York.

Below him, in the rugged mountains of northern Afghanistan, US military colleagues were engaged in a firefight with terrorists who were shooting from the entrance of a secluded cave at 9,000ft above sea level.

“I knew I had the chance to get the world’s most wanted terrorist as I prepared to press home the attack,” recalls Gray, who has been described as the Royal Navy’s “Top Gun”, their best test and fighter pilot. “I can’t get this wrong. There’s no way I can mess this up.”

At first he swooped in to drop a 540lb bomb which landed just off-target, to the left of the cave mouth, showering rock everywhere. For his second run he rolled his Harrier onto its back, pushing the nose down to reduce altitude, before rolling back upright and then lining up directly with the cave entrance.

From a distance of 1,000 yards he unleashed all 38 of his rockets and then pulled up into a steep climb, pushing the Harrier to its absolute flying limits.

“That was the bit that caught me out,” he remembers. “We normally practise weapons at sea level, but I was so high up the air was thin and the aircraft was struggling. It was touch and go. Trees flashed past and I thought I might have to eject.”

Moments after releasing the missiles, Gray was skimming over the mountain peaks, close enough to the ground to pick out individual boulders.

Incredibly, he emerged unscathed and the shooting from the terrorists ceased. Whether bin Laden was in the mountain cave at the time is not clear, and further details of the mission remain classified.

As we now know, US special forces killed the terrorist leader some years later, in 2011 in Pakistan, and buried his body at sea. During three tours of duty in Afghanistan, Gray, now 47, flew 140 combat missions – each one risky in its own way.

The stories of his many brushes with death have just been published in a pulsating new memoir called Hazard Spectrum. Just prior to his first tour, a Harrier on the ground at Kandahar was struck by a Taliban rocket, putting it firmly out of action. For Gray, it was a timely reminder that nowhere was safe – either on the ground or in the air.

But the speed and agility of the now-retired Harrier jump jets meant they provided support at very low altitudes, often below 100ft.

“I can recall one occasion when I was shot at by three guys with AK47s and a rocket launcher,” Gray says.

“The rocket was fired at my cockpit but just missed. That was a close call. You think you’re invincible in a multi-million pound aircraft, but you’re not. It only had a plastic canopy and I was not wearing any body armour.”

Luckily, Apache helicopters were nearby to offer assistance and neutralise the threat. As a schoolboy, with an ambition to become a pilot, Gray had never envisaged being at the heart of military conflict.

Born into a working-class family in Stoke-on-Trent, he experienced flying in an aeroplane for the first time on a holiday to Majorca, marvelling at the blue infinity of the skies around him. But when he told a schoolteacher of his ambition, the response was hardly encouraging: “People from around here don’t go on to do things like that.”

Undeterred, he worked harder than ever to pass the necessary exams – including a degree in aerospace engineering – and joined the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm.His first real test would come during early training in 2002, when he narrowly escaped death at RAF Wittering, in Cambridgeshire.

He was conducting his 16th flight in a Sea Harrier, with the Navy’s top pilot, Lieutenant Commander Jack London, in the rear seat as his instructor. Shortly after take-off the engine exploded.

“Jack was teaching me short take-offs and landings,” Gray remembers. "We took off and slammed to full power, but at 50ft my whole world changed.

“The engine exploded. There was a huge deceleration and then a fireball. The whole aircraft was engulfed in fire.” As the aircraft rolled and fell back to earth, both men pulled on their ejector seats and shot out of the inferno in a trajectory parallel to the ground.

Tragically, Jack was killed, but Gray survived as his trajectory was a fraction above ground level. “I went shooting across the top of a barbed wire fence,” he remembers.

“Those three seconds felt like an eternity. I believed I was going straight into the ground. I was thinking, what will I see just before I die? I could feel the coldness of the air and tumbling. My eyes were wide open. I was walking a tightrope between life and death.”

Fortunately, he landed in a recently ploughed field, softening the impact. As he emerged from the shock with minor injuries, he could see his instructor had been killed. “Seeing that he lost his life was very painful,” Gray says. “It was very difficult to get over, but his death certainly was a driving force in me continuing. Jack lost his life training me.

“So the very least I could do was become the best pilot I could possibly be. I was never as good a fighter pilot as he was. From there on in, I feel as if he has always been there, overseeing me and being my instructor, especially when things got very challenging.”

As well as training at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, Devon, Gray also spent a year with 40 Commando Royal Marines. He is the proud owner of a green beret. He began flying combat missions in Afghanistan in 2006 and impressed British and US military leaders with his coolness under fire.

Following his three tours of duty, he was seconded to the US Marine Corps, winning the US Meritorious Service Medal and finishing top of his class at the US Naval Test Pilot School. All this experience eventually helped him secure what he says was his dream job – test pilot for the new F-35 stealth fighter jets.

There were many new skills to learn. Instead of the traditional cockpit display screens, he wore a £240,000 helmet which projected flight information directly onto the iris in his eye.

“It is the most sophisticated aircraft out there – a world beater,” he says of the F-35. You could easily push it close to twice the speed of sound and there is no limit to how high you can go. It’s out of this world.”

One of Gray’s greatest honours was piloting the first vertical landing of an F-35 on the aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth in September 2018.

The landing may have looked flawless, but Gray still had to keep his cool when communication problems sprang up.

And when a hurricane blew up, he was able to fly the aircraft through some atrocious weather in test conditions – all of which will help British pilots today as they face new global threats. Since leaving the Navy in 2019, at the rank of Commander, Gray has run a small farm with his wife Lucy, 44.

And when he is not in the fields – he was recently dealing with the very last of his spring lambs – he keeps himself busy working on designs for unmanned aircraft.

In the future, it is possible these “drones” may carry out the lion’s share of the perilous combat missions he once flew.

As Gray says: “Hopefully this will mean pilots don’t have to put themselves in the sort of danger zones that I’ve luckily managed to survive.”


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Austrian police arrest three suspected Islamic extremists over Vienna Pride terror attack plot

Omar Haijawi-Pirchner, from Austria’s State Protection and Intelligence Directorate (DSN), told journalists on Sunday (18 June) that three suspects were arrested on suspicion of plotting a terror attack at the event, according to CNN.

The suspects, aged 14, 17 and 20, are Austrian nationals of Bosnian and Chechen origin and were arrested by Austria’s Cobra special forces ahead of the parade on Saturday. 

Vienna Pride, which ran from 1 June to 18, was attended by about 300,000 people this year.

Haijawi-Pirchner said the trio had become radicalised online, developing views in line with ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). He did not give details about the planned attack.

The domestic intelligence chief added that police carried out searches on properties in Vienna and lower Austria where they seized illegal weapons.

“In our democratic society, hate and terror have no place,” he said.

State police president Gerhard Pürstl told journalists: “For the LGBTQ community, many Islamic, as well as right-wing, extremists represent an intense enemy, which is clear from the violent crimes that have been committed during events in the past across the world.”

Austria’s Interior Ministry confirmed investigations by the DSN had revealed a number of people were planning an attack.

“The suspects were subsequently tracked down and taken into custody in a co-ordinated attack,” the security agency said, adding that those attending Pride were in no danger.

 Austrian chancellor Karl Nehammer tweeted his thanks to investigators for preventing “a possible Islamist attack in Vienna”.

He added: “We must never give in in the fight against radicals and extremists. They are a threat to our democracy and security and must be dealt with severely.”

Vienna’s mayor Michael Ludwig told Austria’s APA news agency that there “was no place for hate and exclusion in Vienna. Our city is colourful and cosmopolitan”.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Austria in 2019, with registered partnerships permitted since 2010.

Since then, Catholic bishops in the country have called for “official blessings” of same-sex couples to be allowed within the Church.


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There are up to 2,500 mosques in Azerbaijan, official says

21 June 2023

Azerbaijan’s main task in the field of religion is to achieve further improvement of state-religion relations, Azernews reports, citing the Chairman of the State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations MubarizGurbanli telling at the conference on Azerbaijan's State-Religion Model held on June 21.

He said that important tasks have been set before Azerbaijan’s victory. In this direction, the State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations also has duties.

Noting that there are up to 2,500 mosques in Azerbaijan, and 1,500 of them are permanently functioning, the chairman of the committee said that cases of abuse in the name of religion are not only related to Islam. He noted that there are cases of abuse of other religions as well. The task facing Azerbaijan is to make Azerbaijan the strongest state in the region.


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Arab World


Saudi students win awards at European Physics Olympiad

June 20, 2023

RIYADH: A team of Saudi students won four awards at the European Physics Olympiad 2023, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The olympiad, which ran in its seventh edition, was held in Hannover, Germany from June 16-20.

Around 181 students from 38 countries competed in the event, with the Kingdom being represented by the King Abdulaziz and His Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity, or Mawhiba.

Three Saudi students, who spent over 2,000 hours training for the competition, won bronze medals, whilst one student received a certificate of recognition.

Mawhiba Secretary-General Dr. Amal Al-Hazzaa said that the win as well as the work of the foundation is in line with the goals of Saudi Vision 2030, and carved the path toward making the Kingdom among the top 20 countries globally for education and qualifications.

The Saudi team participating in the EuPhO underwent intensive preparation, training their critical thinking skills by performing unfamiliar physics experiments.

EuPhO is a contest for high school students. The concept is similar to real research situations, with short problems description and plenty of space for creative solutions.


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Saudi Arabia condemns Israeli aggression in Jenin raid that led to the death of 6 Palestinians

June 20, 2023

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Tuesday condemned Israeli aggression in the city of Jenin the previous day that led to the death of six Palestinians and injured dozens of others.

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement denouncing and condemning the Israeli escalation of actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The Kingdom expressed its sincere condolences to the families of the victims and to the government and people of Palestine, wishing those injured a speedy recovery.

The ministry reaffirmed the Kingdom’s categorical rejection of the serious violations committed by Israeli occupation forces.

News agency Associated Press reported that Israeli military forces raided a refugee camp in the northern West Bank which left six Palestinians dead, including a 15-year-old boy, while injuring more than 90, according to Palestinian health officials.

AP originally reported five Palestinian fatalities, but the toll increased when 48-year-old Amjad Abu Jaas succumbed to wounds sustained in a gun battle. Eight Israeli soldiers were wounded while a dozen Palestinians were left in a critical condition.

Last month the Kingdom condemned the storming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and reiterated Saudi Arabia’s firm position toward the Palestinian people.

Thousands of Jewish nationalists, some of them chanting “Death to Arabs” and other slogans, paraded through the main Palestinian thoroughfare of Jerusalem’s Old City on Thursday.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Gulf Cooperation Council have reiterated their support for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

The Saudi foreign minister spoke about the Kingdom’s stance on the Palestinian cause during a panel discussion on “The Geostrategic Role of Middle Eastern Countries” at the Munich Security Conference in February.

Prince Faisal bin Farhan said: “We have a moral responsibility to try to find a pathway to peace because the suffering that will come both in Palestine and in Israel if we don’t find a pathway to peace is indescribable.

“Therefore, we will do what we can. We will engage with whomever we can to find that pathway.”


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Several measures adopted to protect visitors of Prophet's Mosque from summer heat

June 20, 2023

MADINAH — Coinciding with the huge influx of Hajj pilgrims to the holy city of Madinah before the start of the rites of the pilgrimage, the Saudi government has taken several measures to protect them from the sweltering summer heat.

These measures, followed up by the Prophet's Mosque agency, include air-conditioning systems, huge umbrellas, mist fans, white marble, and chilled Zamzam water.

The air-conditioning system runs with high efficiency; its cooling level is automatically adjusted depending on outside heat to maintain a balanced temperature.

The Central Air Conditioning Station covers an area of 70,000 square meters and comprises the world’s largest concentrator to cool water. It has 6 coolers, each with a capacity of 3,400 tons. The water cooling reaches as low as 5 degrees Celsius.

The agency uses the latest methods and technologies to distribute water received from the station in an accurate, consistent and automatic manner to treat, distribute and cool the air.

The cooling in the Prophet's Mosque is done by pushing air through pipes connected to the pillars of the Prophet’s Mosque. The water cooling cycle is completed by returning the air through insulated pipes to reach the central station to complete the cooling process.

The number of umbrellas installed in the Prophet's Mosque reached 250. Each of the huge umbrellas has a height of 15 meters, and each one weighs 40 tons. The umbrellas operate with an automatic system to protect the worshipers in the courtyards of the mosque from the hot sun. They also protect them in the event of rain.

The mist fans in the Prophet's Mosque's courtyards cool the atmosphere and reduce the heat.

There are 436 water mist fans in the courtyards of the mosque. The central mist network is subjected to continuous sterilization to ensure the quality of the water and that it is free of bacteria to preserve the safety of visitors.

The white marble — known as the Thassos marble — covers the areas allocated for prayer in the courtyards of the Prophet's Mosque. The marble reflects heat and light, and absorbs moisture through minute pores during the night. During the day, it emits moisture absorbed at night. This is the reason why the floor is always cool even at times of high temperature.

As for the chilled Zamzam, the agency distributes it for drinking through 20,000 containers — 22,000 at peak times — in addition to the several water points (mashrabiya) in the courtyards.

In addition, water bottles are distributed among visitors throughout the Prophet's Mosque. These efforts are intensified during the summer.


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47th Grand Hajj Symposium fosters culture of innovation, service in Saudi Arabia

June 20, 2023

JEDDAH: The 47th Grand Hajj Symposium, organized by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, took place in Jeddah on Tuesday, under the title “Jurisprudence Facilitation in Hajj.”

The symposium was attended by prominent Saudi ministers including Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, minister of Hajj and Umrah; Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, president of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques; Abdulfattah bin Sulaiman Mashat, deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah; and Ayed Al-Gwinm, deputy minister for Hajj affairs, in addition to a group of scholars and intellectuals from the Islamic world, and representative delegations from Muslim countries.

The symposium aimed to advance the values of peace, understanding, and cooperation, and sought to establish a platform for discussing pressing and pivotal matters that could potentially impact the pilgrims’ journey as they engaged in the rituals.

Through the event the ministry attempted to highlight the cultural and civilizational role that Saudi Arabia had played in serving Hajj pilgrims since the founding of the Kingdom.

It also highlighted the most significant achievements, pioneering projects, and developments.

Al-Rabiah said in his opening remarks that the symposium would allocate a special session in which senior leaders could discuss operational programs that had been prepared for the Hajj season.

Four panel discussions were held at the symposium, including a session called “Service Readiness and Operational Plans: Key Enablers and Opportunities.”

Al-Gwinm said that there were more than 400 service packages offered by various companies, utilized by more than 1.4 million pilgrims.

He added that the ministry had worked with its partners to license service providers in order to achieve targets in regard to housing, food, and catering.

Hani Jokhdar, the deputy minister for public health, said that 32,000 health practitioners were providing services to pilgrims during the Hajj season through four regions and 14 health centers through land, air and sea ports.

Additionally, there are 32 hospitals and more than 140 health centers, which include 46 health centers in Arafat, 26 in Mina, 6 on pedestrian roads of the holy sites, and 16 in Jamarat.

Jokhdar advised pilgrims to use umbrellas due to the high temperatures expected.

He added: “I advise those who suffer from chronic diseases and pregnant women not to go to stone the Jamarat by themselves, and to appoint someone on their behalf to carry out this task because it involves walking long distances while it is sunny, which will pose a great risk to their health.”

Mashat, in his closing remarks, said that some 20,000 buses would serve pilgrims this year.

He added: “If these buses were lined up behind each other, it would form a distance of 350 km. We are talking about 2 million people traveling five times in five days.

“Hajj in the past was not like Hajj in our time, and it will be different in the future ... information technology is one of the key elements in Hajj.”

Regarding technology, Al-Gwinm told Arab News: “The Hajj smart bracelet will serve in tracking pilgrims and managing crowds.

“Nusuk platform will help the pilgrim to choose the service operator for performing the rituals, as well as issuing the necessary permits and visas. It is the comprehensive application for the Hajj journey.

“We also use the Tafweej platform, in which all transportation-related issues are included, to ensure that the pilgrims move from their homes in Makkah to the holy sites, and from there to the Grand Mosque easily.”

The Grand Hajj Symposium was established in 1970 and highlights Saudi Arabia’s esteemed regional and international position as a beacon of religion and culture.


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Children from Amazon 'Kidnapped' and Converted To Islam; Child Abuse Increased By 700 Percent under "Sultan" Erdogan

Milan (AsiaNews) - A direct thread connects the Amazon to Turkey. A traffic of minors, who are taken from their families - often destitute and unable to support them or offer them prospects for growth - to take them overseas to the former Ottoman Empire where, under the pretext of education, they are educated and converted to Islam.

Police have launched an investigation into the affair that is still ongoing, confirmed by AsiaNews sources in Manaus, who urge "caution" and ask that "the names of those involved be omitted for the moment" pending the judiciary and criminal implications.

The investigators' are focusing on the Süleymancılar association, linked to Turkish Islam and active in several countries, with a radical view of the faith that is contrary to the secularity of the state and seeks to permeate-and influence-the lives of families according to Muslim precepts.

An in-depth investigation by Turkish diaspora news site ArtıGerçek uncovered a long-running practice. The newssite is critical of the Ankara government and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and was founded in 2017 by exiled journalists.

Its' guiding principle is to "publish news" that would be "victims of censorship" at home and "give voice to groups, religions, minorities" relegated to the margins, or persecuted, in the country of the "sultan."

This is a controversial and sensitive affair, because it involves "minors being abused, trafficked and violated," as our source confirms, and which is fueled by a pro-Islamic entity that has already been the subject of complaints in the past, but has been able to count on the cover of Turkey's top leadership.

Groomed and converted

A longtime Turkish citizen in the Amazon, who since June 2021 benefits from a residence permit issued by Brasilia, allegedly lured on behalf of the Süleymancılar sect dozens of children from poor families of forest tribes.

The target area is that on the border with Colombia, but the operational headquarters is Manaus, the capital of the Amazon state, where children picked up with a "consent" signed by the family are conveyed to receive the first dictates of their "new educational model."

At least six of these were transferred to Turkey  after a three-year period in Brazil and housed in centers owned by the sect or linked to it in Kütahya, Tarsus or Istanbul (where child abuse had allegedly taken place in the past) to continue "schooling" and eventually be converted to Islam.

The Turkish trafficker allegedly acted through a company he founded, the Amazon Humanitarian Aid Solidarity Association, which, under the guise of aid and development support, would establish ties with the families and gain their trust by getting their children into his care.

This move was also motivated by the parents' desire, or hope, to secure a better future for the children by wrenching them away from forest life toward an educational path, the opportunity to attend schools and attain a higher level of education that would otherwise be precluded.

After spending some time in Manaus, the children are changed their names by receiving "Turkish and Muslim" ones such as Muhammad, Hüseyin, Ahmet. Education is also Turkish, Arabic, and Islamic, involving young guests between the ages of 5 and 17.

For some-in this case between the ages of 15 and 17-the final step, with relocation to Turkey through an "education visa" issued by Ankara's own embassy in Brazil.

Trafficked to Turkey

Once they arrived in Turkey, the Brazilian Indians lost track of each other among the cities hosting branches or affiliates of Süleymancılar. The investigation shows that the young boys from the Amazon were taken to the MekânOrtadoğu men's dormitory in Tarsus, whose center manager would not give his personal details and attacked the journalists who authored the investigation.

"Why," he said, with a reference to religion, "do you chase children who have taken the path of the Prophet Allah? Mind your own business...." He then added that "they came to Turkey for educational purposes, even their families gave permission [...] they are no longer in the center and I don't know where they are." Faced with the prospect of charges of international trafficking of minors taken from their families by deception (the crime being investigated by Brazilian police), he cut it short by saying that they have been transferred to an Islamic solidarity association called Mena in Istanbul.

Among those who have put up a wall of silence and omertà is the Turkish embassy in Brazil itself, which does not want to comment on the affair and does not answer questions from reporters, both Turkish and from Cariocans.

As Brazilian journalist ThalysAlcantara, quoted by ArtıGerçek, explains, the children belong to Amazonian peoples whose culture and way of life "are protected by Brazilian law" as part of a policy to preserve tribes and indigenous areas.

"The young people," he explains, "come from a town [which our source asks to keep secret, ed.] in the state of Amazonia, located in the middle of the rainforest," from which they were taken in 2019 behind "the signing of documents by their parents that have no legal validity."

The families "are poor and dream of a better future," the children "have few opportunities to learn to read and overcome poverty." Islamic groups, AsiaNews sources confirm, have seized on the destitution of populations that have become "targets" for child trafficking, kidnapped and forcibly converted. Better fate befell 20 of these children, who were tracked down by police and returned to their families.

Suleymancilar and sexual abuse

At the center of this international trafficking is the Süleymancılar Association, which for years has been shrouded by opaque affairs involving abuse and violations, including of minors.

In November 2020, a family in Istanbul filed a complaint against the organizers of a Quran course after their son saw with his own eyes sexual violence in the facility and dormitories.

The organizers belonged to the controversial sect, which is no stranger to such events, and responding to the parents' complaints one of the organizers said what happened "was not a big deal," in any case not such "as to merit a complaint and create a scandal." At the time, the family's lawyer stressed that for the organization in question, the case of violence is "just the tip of an iceberg" of abuse, rape, and exploitation with the blessing of the state.

An emergency confirmed by the numbers: child violence has increased by 700 percent under President Erdogan's Akp (Justice and Development Party) governments and, in many cases, investigations have ended with the perpetrators going unpunished.

In 2018 alone, nearly a dozen cases had emerged in the dormitories of the Süleymancılar, moreover known for its ties to the highest echelons of the executive branch. The country ranks 38th in the world for rape (15.6 per 100,000 population) and 45th for femicide (0.88 per 100,000).

In 2018 Turkey was third in the world for child abuse; nearly 500 thousand young girls under the age of 18 were married with the "permission" of the state; in pregnancies conducted between 2007 and 2017 by girls 17 and under, more than 2,400 babies were stillborn. Hdp and Chp have submitted dozens of parliamentary questions for the prevention of sexual abuse and violence, all of which have been punctually rejected by the Akp.

Today is UN World Refugee Day: "The hope," concludes the AsiaNews source, "is that exploitation will be nipped in the bud for the sake of these minors, who are lured with a false promise that is also the motive behind this trade. Finally, what happened is also a warning to the Brazilian and global Church, so that it can help to become increasingly aware of the pastoral care of minors and contribute to the prevention of possible violence."


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Regime Pressures BaluchsTo Deny Assassination Attempt On Sunni Leader

Officials at Makki seminary in Zahedan have come under pressure to deny the assassination of religious leader MowlaviAbdolhamid.

Haalvsh website, which covers the events in Sistan-Baluchestan province, reported on Tuesday that a number of staff at Makki Mosque where Abdolhamid conducts his controversial anti-regime sermons, are now trying to play down the conspiracy to show the suspect as a spy.

“On Monday, some officials from the ministry of intelligence came to the seminary and the administrative deputy of the complex handed over the arrested person to the security officers,” the website reported.

On Monday, security guards at the mosque arrested a man in the guise of a religious student who wanted to assassinate the Sunni leader.

“The suspect, who is a Baluch and a resident of Delgan region in Sistan and Baluchistan province, has been sleeping and worshiping in the mosque for a long time in the dress of a student of religious studies,” explained the Baluch website.

The report also claimed the suspect admitted he had been attending the mosque for some time to poison MowlaviAbdolhamid.

"This type of poison works through tactile contact and does not have an immediate effect," the hitman told Haalvsh sources.

According to the report, the suspect admitted that he received a salary of 150 million rials per week since the beginning of his operation.

In recent months, Abdolhamid has been under pressure by Iranian security to end his weekly protests and critical sermons on Fridays.


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Dozens of Israeli Settlers Invade Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque

21 June, 2023

Dozens of Israeli settlers, supported by Israeli occupation forces, raided the courtyards of Al-Aqsa Mosque and performed provocative rituals on Wednesday morning, June 21, 2023.

The Department of Islamic Endowments in occupied Jerusalem stated that tens of Israeli settlers performed provocative rituals at Al-Aqsa’s courtyards.

Israeli settlers carry out semi-daily incursions into the blessed Mosque in Jerusalem and provocatively perform Talmudic rituals under the protection of Israeli occupation forces.

Settlers’ raids into Al-Aqsa Mosque aim to impose a temporal and spatial division in the holy site, which the Muslim Palestinians reject and decry.

Earlier in June, media sources revealed a new Israeli proposed plan aiming at dividing Al-Aqsa Mosque between Jews and Muslims.

Meanwhile, Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem continue their calls to mobilize at Al-Aqsa to confront the Israeli settlers’ calls for mass raids in Al-Aqsa.

In April 2023, nearly 5054 Israeli settlers invaded the courtyards of Al-Aqsa mosque and performed provocative Talmudic rituals at its courtyards.


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Flights between Israel and Saudi Arabia for Muslim pilgrims won’t be ready for Hajj

20 June 2023

Direct flights between Israel and Saudi Arabia for Muslim pilgrims will not be available in time for this year’s Hajj, after months of intensive efforts by Israeli, Saudi and American negotiators, National Security Council chairmanTzachiHanegbi confirmed on Monday.

The Biden administration has viewed launching the direct line as a step toward reaching a normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia. During US President Joe Biden’s visit to the region last July, the idea was included in a package of steps that Washington had managed to secure, including an agreement by Riyadh to allow Israeli overflights.

The White House announcement said the US “welcomed related steps under discussion to include direct flights from Israel to Jeddah for next year’s Hajj on approved carriers.”

 The parties have since been in talks to get the flights up and running in time for this year’s pilgrimage from June 25 to July 2.

But Hanegbi told the Kan public broadcaster on Monday that they would not succeed in time. “Perhaps for the next Hajj we will be in a position to help in this matter, and [direct] flights will depart from here… but it’s too early to say.”

Citing three sources familiar with the matter, Kan later reported that the delay was not politically motivated as far as Saudi Arabia is concerned. The broadcaster said the airline the sides were hoping would run the flights was unable to prepare in time.

While Hanegbi said the new goal would be to have the flights running by next year’s Hajj, the subsequent Kan report said Israel was still hoping to roll out the direct line later this year for Muslim pilgrims looking to travel to Mecca outside the Hajj season.

The Hajj is a once-in-a-lifetime duty for all Muslims physically and financially able to make the journey, which takes them along a path believed to have been traversed by the Prophet Muhammad some 1,400 years ago.

Currently, Saudi Arabia accepts Muslim pilgrims arriving from Israel to Mecca but requires them to travel through a third country, increasing the cost of the already pricey journey. According to Maariv, 2,700 Israelis embarked on the pilgrimage in 2022, and this year, the figure is expected to almost double to 4,500.

Despite the hiccup with the Hajj flights, the Biden administration is still working to secure a full normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia in the coming months.

Biden’s top aides have visited Riyadh in recent weeks to discuss the matter and they have subsequently been updating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on their efforts.

Still, several US officials assessed the chances of a deal at less than 50 percent in a New York Times report on Saturday.

Saudi Arabia is demanding US support for a civilian nuclear program along with a series of security and economic assurances as well as significant weapons purchases, according to US, Israeli and Arab officials.

Given Riyadh’s checkered human rights record, Washington is hesitant to heed such demands, and Jerusalem also has concerns about being able to maintain its so-called “Qualitative Military Edge” over its neighbors.

Saudi officials have also made clear to the Biden administration that any agreement with Israel will have to include a significant gesture for the Palestinians, a senior US official told The Times of Israel in May.

This would likely pose a significant obstacle for Netanyahu, given that the majority of his coalition is ideologically opposed to any move that offers them a pathway to statehood.


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Bahrain Islamic Index closes higher

 20 Jun 2023

Manama, June 20 (BNA): Bahrain All Share Index has closed at 1,957.36 points marking a decrease of 0.17 points below  the previous closing .

This decrease was due to the fall in the Material Sector.

Bahrain Islamic Index has closed at 743.60 points marking an increase of 0.89 points above the previous closing.

Results indicated that 52 equity transactions took place with a volume of 1,403,949 worth BD 320,455.

Investors traded mainly in the Financial Sector representing 63.02% of the total value of securities traded.


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Israel Prison Service seizes mobile phones after Islamic Jihad inmate's livestream

JUNE 20, 2023

The Israel Prison Service seized six smuggled mobile phones from Palestinian Islamic Jihad prisoners at the Ketziot Prison in southern Israel after a prisoner used a smuggled phone to stream his brother's funeral on Monday.

Six prisoners were punished with 14 days in solitary confinement and reduced living conditions. 26 prisoners were isolated as well.

"The prison service will continue to work to eradicate terrorist activity both within and from the prisons professionally and for the safety of the country's residents," said the prison service.

Palestinian prisoner uses smuggled phone to stream brother's funeral

On Monday, a prisoner reportedly used a smuggled phone to speak with his family and stream the funeral of his brother, Ahmed Khaled Daraghmeh, who was killed in the clashes in Jenin earlier on Monday.

Photos on social media showed the video call with the prisoner, leading Israel Prison Service forces to search his cell and find the phone. The prisoner's cell was searched and he was transferred to solitary confinement.

After the prisoner was transferred, other prisoners from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist movement torched a mattress in their cell. Security forces in the prison entered the cell and extinguished the fire and moved the prisoners in the cell to solitary confinement as well.

The Palestinian Commission of Detainees' Affairs stated on Tuesday that prisoners in the prison had announced their "mobilization and readiness for confrontation" in light of the situation.


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South Asia


Kabul Will Mediate TTP-Islamabad Talks If Pakistan Wants It: Mujahid


The Islamic Emirate’s spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, said that if Islamabad seeks it, the Islamic Emirate will mediate negotiations between Pakistan and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Earlier, Pakistani media reported that the Afghan interim government tried to resume negotiations between the TTP and Islamabad.

“If Pakistan wants us to mediate, and we know that it is beneficial, we will undoubtedly mediate as it benefits the region and we don’t want war in the region,” Mujahid said.

He also denied the presence of TTP in Afghanistan and said that the Islamic Emirate will not allow Afghan soil to be used against other countries.

“We don’t have any type of connection with the TTP--in that we support them, or are with them; on the contrary, we do not allow them to be active in Afghanistan,” Mujahid said.

“If the Islamic Emirate begins mediation between the Pakistan government and TTP, it will be a good gesture,” said SarwarNiazai, a military veteran.

“If any side mediates between the Pakistan government and TTP, there is not any other group but the Taliban,” said Asadullah Nadim, military analyst.

Earlier, the Express Tribune reported that there is a renewed push by the Afghan Taliban to restart talks between Pakistani officials and the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) as a delegation of tribal elders reportedly met the TTP chief.

Though there was no official confirmation from either side, sources claimed that the tribal delegation recently met TTP chief Noor Wali Mehsud. The meeting was part of efforts to explore the possibility of the resumption talks that were called off in November last year.


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Islamic Emirate Reacts to UN Rapporteur's Report


The Islamic Emirate said in reaction to the United Nations Human Rights Council's report on the situation of women in Afghanistan, that the Western countries have begun an extensive effort of propaganda against the current Afghan government.

The Islamic Emirate's spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said that orders regarding women are in accordance with Sharia law, and that the world's opposition to the decrees of the Islamic Emirate stems from their problems with Islam.

"The entire report is anti-Afghanistan propaganda. Second, all of the laws that are in effect here are Islamic and Sharia-based. The issue with Richard Bennett, his ilk, and organizations like them that propagate in the West, is with Islam and Islamic law,” Mujahid noted.

The UN Human Rights Council’s special rapporteur for Afghan human rights, Richard Bennett, criticized the policies of the current Afghan government towards women in Afghanistan.

“Grave, systematic and institutionalized discrimination against women and girls is at the heart of Taliban ideology and rule, which also gives rise to concerns that they may be responsible for gender apartheid. A serious human rights violation which although not yet explicitly an international crime requires further studies,” Bennett noted.

The UN Human Rights Council’s special rapporteur highlighted that “a durable peace will only come about through recognizing the richness of the diversity of Afghanistan's people, women, men, any gender and different ethnic and religious groups.”

However, political experts believe that it is not enough to emphasize human rights by broadcasting reports in Afghanistan.

"Bennett's attitude should be truly expert and very practical, which means changing the situation," said WaisNasiri, a political analyst.

"The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan must reconsider the orders issued for the education and employment of Afghan women, so that Afghan women have rights granted to them by the noble religion of Islam,” said Ahmad Khan Andar, another political analyst.

The UN Human Rights Council’s special rapporteur for Afghan human rights, Richard Bennett, on Monday presented his report at the 53rd meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, in the presence of representatives from various countries and international organizations.

Earlier, Bennett has said in a report that between September 2021 and May 2023, more than 50 edicts were issued regarding women and girls by the Islamic Emirate, which has "deprived Afghan women of the right to education, work, and participation in social and political life."


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Afghan Migrants in Shipwreck Off Coast of Greece: Embassy


The Afghanistan embassy in Italy said that 78 men from Afghanistan and Pakistan lost their lives in a shipwreck off the coast of Greece.

The embassy said in a statement that hundreds of refugees are feared to be missing and based on speculation between 400 to 750 passengers were on board.

“The refugees who are heading to Europe from Afghanistan to Europe, they are in fact traveling via Iran to Turkey and Greece and the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe, and they are facing serious threats of robbery, kidnapping, and even assaults and deaths,” said Asifa Stanikzai, a refugees' rights activist.

The Islamic Emirate’s spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, said that the Foreign Ministry is in contact with the Greek officials and remains will be transported to Afghanistan after they are identified.

“Our foreign ministry is informed about it and is in contract with the countries where the ship has sunk. We first will identify how many of them are Afghans and we will transfer the corpses,” he said.

The Amnesty International said in a report voiced concerns about the situation of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, saying that the government of Pakistan must urgently stop arbitrarily arresting and harassing Afghan refugees and asylum seekers, “many of whom are fleeing persecution by the Taliban, Amnesty International said today as it marks World Refugee Day.”

“It is deeply concerning that the situation of Afghan refugees in Pakistan is not receiving due international attention. Being unable to return home or stay permanently in Pakistan, they are caught in an impossible situation from which there is no escape. Their ambiguous legal status and arduous processes for asylum or third country relocation have made them even more vulnerable,” said DinushikaDissanayake, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for South Asia as quoted in the report.

“The crime of the Afghan refugees is not clear, and they are being arrested by the Pakistani military,” said Marriam, a refugee.

The Afghanistan’s Consulate in Karachi, Abdul JabarTakhari, said that in his meetings with the Pakistani officials, he stressed on extension of refugee's cards or (POR) for the Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

“We want the Pakistan government and UN to extend the (expiration) dates of the identities of (refugees) so they are provided with resources. Otherwise, when the date of the cards expire, the police take them to prisons and their problems are increased,” Takhari said.


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Why India Needs To Support the Quest for Restoring Democracy in Bangladesh


ShaonProdhan, Shahidul Islam Shaon, Nayan Mia, Maqbul Hossain and others like them were working class and self-employed young men in Bangladesh – rickshaw pullers, vegetable vendors, welders, factory workers, tailors, and so on. They risked violence from the ruling Awami League workers and law enforcement agencies to attend rallies and meetings of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) – the country’s main opposition party. And they paid the ultimate price for participating in overwhelmingly peaceful protests against inflation, crippling power shortages, and the right to vote in a free and fair election.

These protests have become more frequent in the past year and the government’s reprisals more brutal. They signify a few facts about Bangladesh that need to be better understood in India.

Firstly, Bangladesh’s economy is not delivering for its people. That the economy is in trouble is self-evident – no one takes a nearly $5 billion loan from the IMF otherwise. Inflation is running at nearly double digits by official count, but in reality is perhaps much higher because the authorities are known to fudge the data. Meanwhile, the government seems to be unable to pay for imported coal to fire up power plants, leaving people without electricity for hours on end in the middle of summer.

The official explanation for the economic woes is the war in Ukraine. But the economic malaise, in fact, has causes that run much deeper. After the precarious, warravaged, faminestricken early years, Bangladesh’s remarkable economic transformation over the past few decades – on the back of rising female literacy and employment in the ready-made garment sector and remittances from Bangladeshis working abroad – is now well understood. In India, news reports have pointed out that on average, Bangladeshis might now earn more than the average Indian. But what is left unsaid is the fact that even according to the Bangladesh government’s own measures, inequality has widened over the past decade, with the Gini coefficient (an index for the degree of inequality in the distribution of income/wealth) rising from 0.46 in 2010 to 0.5 in 2022.

And this rising inequality is not a bug, but a feature of the Sheikh Hasina government that has been in power since 2009. Instead of continuing the policies of previous governments (including her own in the late 1990s), the Hasina regime took a very different route in the 2010s. It struck a deal with the country’s emerging business tycoons whereby, in exchange for helping the prime minister rig elections, the oligarchs would be given access to infrastructure mega-projects and other business opportunities without oversight.

Take electricity, for example. Power purchasing agreements with not just local businessmen but also the Indian Adani Group were signed with terms and conditions that allowed the power suppliers to take an enormous cut of the total project price. And parliament passed a law prohibiting anyone from investigating the matter.

Gautam Adani with Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina in 2022. Photo: Twitter/@gautam_adani

Political cronies were allowed to set up banks without proper governance frameworks. Attempts were made to steal nearly a billion dollars from the country’s foreign exchange reserves in a caper worthy of a Hollywood movie in 2016, but the investigation report on the case is yet to be made public.

While the regime has prioritised mega-infrastructure deals like the comically one-sided coalfuelled power plant deal with the Adani Group, or the $7.1 billion infrastructure loan inked with China, Bangladesh’s public expenditure on education and health is far lower than many of its neighbours. It is the government’s priorities that are driving the economic woes. 

When the global economic conditions were favourable, the country’s working poor still saw incomes rising. Income now is falling behind the cost of living. No wonder then that the working poor are despondent and protesting.

Bangladesh’s much-vaunted development success story is at the risk of coming undone. However, contrary to the fear of many progressive and liberal Indians, the threat to development is not coming from Islamic fundamentalists and extremists opposed to female empowerment and social transformation.

It is the Hasina government’s economic model that is putting the country’s development at risk – the second fact about Bangladesh that needs to be understood.

The BNP’s history of reform

The third, related, fact is that the protesters are not flocking to Islamic fundamentalists, extremists, militants or populist peddlers of communal-sectarian-ethnic hatred. They are risking police firing to attend rallies and meetings of a political party that is avowedly moderate, and cautious in its policy platform and political message alike.

Contrary to the propaganda coming from the acolytes of the Hasina regime and their supporters in India, the BNP has always been a party of democratic reform and pragmatic development policies.

In its first term in office in the late 1970s, the party ended martial law and the one-party system that was introduced by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. In its second term in the 1990s, the BNP amended the constitution to restore the parliamentary system and introduce an election-time non-partisan caretaker government.

In 2008, the party put the restoration of democracy in the country ahead of its narrower partisan interests and contested an election that it knew it would lose. The playing field was less-than-level, with the then quasi-military regime targeting its rank and file over the previous year in a failed attempt to create a ‘King’s party’.

On the economic front, the garments industry, migrant workers, and female empowerment – factors that drove Bangladesh’s development in the past few decades – were all results of policies by successive BNP governments.

Against the backdrop of economic hardship and simmering discontent against the regime, BNP’s message harkens to that track record of democratic renewal and pragmatic developmentalism. Crucially, it promises a national government which, after the election, will ensure lasting institutional reforms to restore democracy.

Khaleda Zia. Photo: US Department of State, Public domain

Of course, that promise assumes that there will be a free and fair election. The last two elections, held under Hasina, were anything but that. In January 2014, more than half the MPs were elected unopposed, giving the prime minister a parliamentary majority without a single vote being cast. In December 2018, to ensure victory, Awami League cadres and its cronies in the civil administration and law enforcement agencies stuffed the ballot boxes the night before the election.

This brings us to the fourth fact: Hasina must step down if Bangladesh is to avoid certain disaster. The idea that there can be a free and fair election under her is a case of twice bitten, thrice shy. A non-partisan caretaker administration is an absolute must for a free and fair election in Bangladesh, and only a democratically elected government can restore economic stability. If the democratic avenue is thwarted, simmering discontent will have no alternative but to boil over.

India has a choice to make

Great powers appear to understand the situation in Bangladesh very well. The Joe Biden administration in the US does not want a potential development success story to become yet another economically stagnant dictatorship, and therefore has announced a new policy that will deny visas to anyone partaking in election rigging. China senses an opportunity to court a potentate in the Hasina regime.

For obvious historical reasons, of course, India has a special relationship with Bangladesh. No other country will be affected as much as India if Bangladesh’s careen towards a crisis continues. If India were to stand behind the Hasina regime till the bitter end, it would just exacerbate the situation, not resolve it. More importantly, this would only fuel anti-Indian sentiment in Bangladesh, to be exploited by some future populist demagogue.

On the other hand, if India were to take a firm stance on helping restore democracy in Bangladesh, it would likely find a willing partner in the BNP. Contrary to the perception, the opposition party is not inherently anti-Indian, and previous BNP governments had worked amicably with India. For example, successive BNP governments adhered to the India-Bangladesh 25 Year Friendship Agreement that was signed by the two countries’ prime ministers in 1972. 

Therefore, either from a cold hard realpolitik perspective or to keep faith in its cherished democratic ideals, the facts laid out above should make India choose democracy in Bangladesh.

A free and fair election would be the most effective way for the country to avert a deeper crisis. Parliamentary elections are due in the winter of 2023-24. Before that, however, there are several more months of heat, monsoon, and the late autumn cyclone season. The people of Bangladesh have lived with monsoon floods and tropical storms since time immemorial. As the Assamese singer Bhupen Hazarika sang in an iconic movie about the Bhola cyclone of 1970, ‘jhorohawabhengediyo, miththetasherghor’ (the gale will blow away the false house of cards).

A storm is brewing over the Bengal delta. It’s not too late to avoid calamities.

Jyoti Rahman is director of the Sydney Policy Analysis Centre, an Australian organisation of focussing on diaspora communities, and a Bangladeshi writer.


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Eid gift for 1.25cr ultra-poor families

Wed Jun 21, 2023

The government is set to distribute 10 kilograms of rice to each of the 1.25 crore ultra-poor and destitute families ahead of Eid-ul-Azha to soften the blow of a spiralling inflation.

The disclosure was made yesterday by Enamur Rahman, the state minister for disaster management and relief, after a meeting of the Executive Committee of National Economic Council with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair.

At the meeting, Hasina expressed concerns about the escalating prices, The Daily Star has learnt from people informed on the  discussion.

In May, inflation hit an 11-year-high of 9.94 percent, taking the average inflation so far this fiscal year to 8.95 percent, way above the target of 7.5 percent.

"People are suffering due to inflation -- it is everyone's responsibility to fight against inflation," said Planning Minister MA Mannan quoting the prime minister as saying.

Subsequently, she instructed the respective ministries to find ways to give people respite from the soaring price level.

After Hasina raised her concern, Rahman informed the meeting about his ministry's plan for the poor ahead of Eid.

The rice, which is already being shipped to the districts, will be distributed through the deputy commissioner's office before Eid, said a top official of the ministry of disaster management.

Meanwhile, at the meeting, 16 projects worth Tk 24,362 crore were approved.

Of these, nine are revised projects where the cost escalated by 52.82 percent to Tk 19,835 crore. The original cost was Tk 12,989 crore. Many of the projects were revised two to five times.

Three projects were taken for the rural development of Chattogram and Rajshahi divisions and three districts including Noakhali, Feni and Laxmipur. The estimated cost of the projects is Tk 8,160 crore.

While approving the projects, Hasina quizzed why the projects are not implemented with foreign funds as many of the development partners are interested in such projects.

Had the projects been implemented through foreign funds, it would quell the inflationary pressure and shore up strained foreign currency reserves.

"I am approving this. But the concerned ministries will have to find foreign funding to implement these," said a top official quoting Hasina as saying.

In response, an official of the Economic Relations Division, the government wing that negotiates foreign loans, told the prime minister that such projects never come to their desk.

They would have sought funds from the development partners if they got it beforehand.

From now onwards, such project proposals would be forwarded to the ERD to solicit foreign funding, said a planning ministry official.

"Huge volumes of foreign loans remained unutilised in the pipeline. If these can be used, it will reduce the pressure on local currency and increase foreign currency reserves," Mannan told reporters after the meeting.

At the meeting, the prime minister instructed the finance and ERD secretaries to take measures to utilise more foreign loans.

More than $50 billion of foreign loans is remaining unused in the pipeline, said Shamsul Alam, the state minister for planning.

The interest rate for foreign loans is only about 3 percent whereas the interest rate for domestic borrowing is 7 percent.

Using foreign loans will reduce expenditure and increase efficiency in the education, health and energy sectors, he added.

One of the three projects that got approval at the Ecnec meeting is taken to improve connectivity such that farmers can get a fair price for their produce in Chattogram.

Under the project worth Tk 3,110 crore, about 1,149km of roads will be improved in 67 upazilas of the Chattogram division.

Another project involves extending 783 km of upazila roads and 44 km of union roads in Rajshahi division's 65 upazilas for Tk 2,400 crore.

A similar project will be taken for Noakhali, Feni and Laxmipur involving Tk 2,650 crore.

Asked why these projects are being taken up now when there is little fiscal space, Mannan said: "Rural connectivity is very important for the country as it is the lifeline of the rural economy. These are not luxurious projects. We are not constructing four lanes or six lanes now."


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Southeast Asia


Singapore Mosque Worker Jailed For Taking Meth and Keeping Cannabis Mixtures in Ablution Room, Cubicle and Locker

21 Jun 2023

SINGAPORE: A facilities maintenance worker at a mosque kept drug utensils and cannabis mixtures at the place of worship and took methamphetamine for more "energy" to work, but was nabbed by Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) officers.

Mohammad AsyrafuddinJupri, 31, was sentenced to a year's jail on Wednesday (Jun 21) for one count each of drug possession and consumption, with another three charges taken into consideration.

The court heard that Asyrafuddin worked at the YushofIshak Mosque at 10 Woodlands Drive, and was also a part-time freelance confined-area rescuer.

He was arrested near the mosque by CNB officers on Oct 28, 2022.

A search was conducted on level 5 of the mosque where Asyrafuddin was staying. Officers recovered several items from his resting space in the ablution room, his cubicle and his personal metal locker.

These included vegetable matter wrapped in foil, packets of crystalline substances, glass and metal drug utensils and a metal can containing vegetable matter.

The exhibits were sent to the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) for analysis and two of them were found to contain 15.53g of cannabis mixture and 14.99g of cannabis mixture respectively.

Asyrafuddin admitted possessing the items, which he knew contained "ganja", a street name for the Class A controlled drug.

He was taken to the Central Police Divisional Headquarters for further investigations, where his urine samples tested positive for methamphetamine.

Asyrafuddin later admitted that he had been smoking about 5g of Ice, a street name for meth, per month.

He said he did so because he felt that Ice would give him the energy he needed for his work.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Chong Kee En asked for eight months' jail for the drug possession charge and a year's jail for the drug consumption charge, with no objection to it running concurrently.

Asyrafuddin has no prior convictions, he said.

Defence lawyer Riko Isaac concurred. He said his client had consumed the drugs as he "wished to work overtime and give himself more energy so he can earn more income for himself".

Addressing Asyrafuddin, the judge said he hoped the latter had learnt his lesson and would be able to stay drug-free after his release.


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Terrorist groups increasingly targeting youths, Singapore a 'prized target': DPM Wong

21 Jun 2023

SINGAPORE: Terrorist groups have been increasingly targeting youths, with Singapore considered a "prized target", Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said on Wednesday (Jun 21).

Speaking at the Religious Rehabilitation Group's (RRG) 18th annual retreat, Mr Wong said that while terrorism may not be at the top of many Singaporeans' minds, the threat of radicalism and extremism remains high.

The RRG was formed in 2003, after Singapore authorities arrested members of the Jemaah Islamiyah group.

Global terrorist groups like ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) and Al-Qaeda continue to rebuild their strength and "remain determined to sow disorder and chaos" by conducting attacks in other countries, said Mr Wong.

"This includes Singapore, which is considered a prized target by terrorists," he added.

The groups have become more sophisticated at using digital platforms like social media to spread propaganda and incite followers to conduct attacks.

"This has not only made extremist material easier to access, but it has also accelerated the process of radicalisation to a matter of months, or even weeks, because all of this now takes place behind a computer screen and it is much harder to detect," said Mr Wong.

Terrorist groups have been increasingly targeting youths who are more impressionable and susceptible to influence, he said.

Apart from traditional social media channels, they have started to exploit online music streaming sites and gaming platforms that are popular with young people.

A 15-year-old boy was arrested in November 2022 and issued with a detention order for terrorism-related activities, making him the youngest person so far to be dealt with under the Internal Security Act (ISA).

Mr Wong cited the case of another self-radicalised 16-year-old who was issued with a restriction order in January. The teenager had ventured into Islamic State-themed servers in popular online game Roblox, where he practised shooting ISIS enemies and took a pledge to an "in-game ISIS leader".

"You can imagine this has created a very worrying trend – an increasing number of people dealt with by the ISD (Internal Security Department) are youths," said the Deputy Prime Minister.

Since 2015, ISD has issued ISA orders to 11 self-radicalised Singaporeans below 21. Some of them started their process of radicalisation from as young as 14 years old, he noted. Before 2015, there was only one case of youth radicalisation.

"The threat has also gone beyond Islamic extremism, because we have seen a broader range of radical extremist and violent groups active in spreading their ideologies online," said Mr Wong.

For example, one of the 11 youths was a 16-year-old Protestant Christian who had planned to conduct attacks against Muslims at two mosques in Singapore, after he imbibed far-right extremist ideology, he noted.

"What all this means is that extreme and violent ideologies can radicalise any Singaporean, regardless of age, regardless of race or religion," said Mr Wong.

"And this has serious implications for our society. The extremist and terror threat is far more insidious now, it can reside within our own communities. It will seek to exploit our racial and religious differences in attempts to divide us."

It will not be possible to "completely insulate" Singaporeans from everything online, said Mr Wong.

"So our approach must be to inoculate Singaporeans against extreme ideologies," he added.

"This is not something that the government or enforcement agencies can do alone. To succeed, we will need everyone to do their part. We need active and vigilant citizens who will all contribute to the safety and security of Singapore in their own ways."

People must be equipped with the knowledge to identify and challenge extremist ideas, and spot indicators of radicalisation so they can seek help for family members or friends, said Mr Wong.

Singapore must also evolve its rehabilitation methods so that it can help detainees to rejoin society, he added.

"The increasing array of extremist ideologies ... will make rehabilitation more complex, more challenging. We must seek to better understand why some young people are attracted to these ideologies, and work with their families to help them reclaim their lives," said the Deputy Prime Minister.

Singapore must continue to have strong community leaders who are deeply involved in this work, which means ensuring a steady renewal and rejuvenation of the RRG and its leadership.

"I also encourage younger asatizahs (religious teachers) to come onboard the RRG, and for those already within the group to play an even more active role," he added.

"With the threat of radicalisation extending to young people in Singapore, we will need fresh perspectives and new ways of engaging our youth."


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Malaysia grateful for ‘smooth’ Hajj operations under Makkah Route

June 20, 2023

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is grateful for being part of Saudi Arabia’s flagship Makkah Route initiative, the chief of its Hajj operations has told Arab News, with the last batch of pilgrims set to depart from Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday.

Malaysia is among seven Muslim-majority countries — alongside Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Morocco, Turkey and Cote d’Ivoire — where Saudi Arabia opened its Makkah Route initiative.

“We are deeply grateful to Saudi Arabia for continuing the initiative in Malaysia for the fifth year. The Makkah Route initiative has indeed helped ease the journey of our hajj pilgrims significantly,” said Syed Saleh Syed Abdul Rahman, executive of Tabung Haji — Malaysia’s Hajj board — and head of the Malaysian Hajj delegation.

“The Makkah Route initiative has proven to be very smooth, effective and helpful for Malaysian pilgrims. This could not have been done without the assistance rendered by various parties especially the Saudi Arabian government and its relevant government agencies.”

The program, launched in 2019, is dedicated to Hajj pilgrims, allowing them to fulfill all visa, customs and health requirements at the airport of origin, saving long hours of waiting. Upon arrival, pilgrims can enter the Kingdom without waiting, having already gone through visa and customs processes back home.

This year, 31,600 Malaysians are participating in the annual pilgrimage that is one of the five pillars of Islam. Most of them have already reached the Kingdom.

Rahman said they “admired and praised” Saudi efforts, which had “provided tremendous convenience” for the pilgrims, especially the elderly who, without the Makkah Route, would have spent long hours on immigration procedures at home and upon arrival.

When Malaysia’s King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah saw off the first batch of pilgrims traveling to Saudi Arabia via the initiative earlier this month, he expressed his appreciation for the Kingdom’s Hajj services and assistance.

“We hope that the close relationship that has been established for a long time between Malaysia and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will continue to serve the pilgrims,” the king said.

The special Hajj flights under the Makkah Route initiative will conclude in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday.

“The first phase of Hajj operations involving departure flights is almost completed and will end on June 21, 2023,” Rahman said.

“All praise to Allah, everything is progressing according to plan and the Hajj operation has been smooth.”


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Malaysia passes 3 Bills in parliament to decriminalise suicide attempts

21 Jun 2023

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s Upper House of parliament on Wednesday (Jun 21) passed a third Bill to decriminalise suicide attempts, in addition to two Bills which were passed the day before.

The Mental Health (Amendment) Bill 2023 was passed with a voice vote after a third reading.

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Law and Institutional Reform) Ramkarpal Singh told members of the Upper House that the Bill is intended to empower crisis intervention officers to rescue victims who are attempting suicide.

"(This includes giving them) the space or power to forcefully break into the premises where the suicide attempt is made. It is a necessity,” he said.

He added that the focus of the Bill is on the victims.

“We believe that as a result of in-depth research and so on, what needs to be done in cases like this is to treat and not to criminalize an act of attempted suicide,” he said during a debate on the Mental Health (Amendment) Bill 2023 which seeks to amend the Mental Health Act 2001.

According to Bernama, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Law and Institutional Reform) Azalina Othman Said said previously that these amendments will define the post and powers of crisis intervention officers.

It also includes a moratorium for the implementation of Section 309 of the Penal Code until the repeal of the section is completed and gazetted.

On Tuesday, two Bills related to the decriminalisation of suicide attempts were passed by the Upper House.

Mr Singh said then that there are several provisions which provide that a person who attempts suicide must be taken to a medical facility for treatment.

"The priority in these amendments is to rehabilitate a person who is thinking of taking his or her own life. That will also take a long time because it involves a psychological process and so on to rehabilitate the person," he was quoted as saying by Bernama while wrapping up the debates on the Bills.

According to Bernama, Ms Azalina previously said that the Bills to decriminalise attempted suicide contain measures including retaining the offence of abetting suicide under Sections 305 and 306 of the Penal Code.

She said the Bills also differentiate the categories of those who are incited to commit the actions of attempted suicide or suicide.

The Bills will have to be presented to the king for approval and then gazetted in order for the amendments to take effect.


Malaysia seeks to decriminalise suicide attempts

Decision on decriminalising suicide attempts in Malaysia lies with Cabinet: Khairy

The Bills were tabled for first reading by Ms Azalina on Apr 4 and were passed in the Lower House of parliament on May 22 and May 23.

Ms Azalina said in a statement on Apr 4 that the government hopes the reform will encourage those affected to seek help, remove the stigma of suicide and lower the country's suicide death rate.

She also said then that the government also proposes strengthening punishment for cases of aiding suicide involving children and mentally incapacitated people.

"This is based on the fact that suicide attempts are within the scope of suicidal behaviour and this act is the impact of mental incapacity or psychiatric disorder," Ms Azalina said.

In comments made last year, former health minister Khairy Jamaluddin said Malaysia had in 2021 recorded 1,142 suicide cases, compared to 631 cases in 2020.

Its suicide mortality rate was at 5.7 per 100,000 population in 2019, according to the most recent data from World Bank.


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North America


Slots, table games and stained glass: Bally’s Chicago moving quickly to turn landmark Medinah Temple into a gambling mecca

Jun 20, 2023

Days after getting preliminary approval from the state, Bally’s Chicago has moved hundreds of slot machines and table games into place at the landmark Medinah Temple, which is set to be reborn this summer as a temporary Chicago gambling mecca.

The River North building, a Moorish-style amphitheater perhaps best known for hosting the annual Shrine Circus, is quickly being transformed into Chicago’s first casino, while preserving elements of its colorful 111-year history.

“It’s probably the best-looking temporary casino you’ll ever see,” said Chris Jewett, director of corporate development for Bally’s, during a tour Tuesday. “It’s a wow factor just walking in. It’s unique.”

Granted preliminary approval last week by the Illinois Gaming Board — a precursor to final licensing — Bally’s Chicago began installing more than 750 slot machines and 50 gaming tables almost immediately. It expects to have all the equipment in place and the roughly 1,000 gaming positions laid out by the end of the week.

Rhode Island-based Bally’s won a heated competition last year to build a $1.74 billion casino at the 30-acre site of the Chicago Tribune printing plant in River West. It plans to open the permanent casino in 2026.

Medinah Temple will serve as a temporary casino for up to three years while the permanent facility is built. Bally’s hopes customers can begin pulling slot levers and splitting aces by August, pending Gaming Board approval.

Built by the Shriners in 1912, the Medinah Temple was designed by architecture firm Huehl and Schmid. Over the years, the venue hosted everything from concerts and high school graduations to the annual Shrine Circus. Amenities included a 30,000-pound pipe organ installed in 1915.

The building, which occupies nearly a block on Wabash Avenue, was designated a Chicago landmark in 2001. It was redeveloped as a Bloomingdale’s home furnishings store in 2003 but had been vacant since Macy’s sold it to Chicago developer Albert Friedman in 2019.

Bally’s Chicago has been renovating the historic 130,000-square-foot Medinah Temple since January.

“We basically knocked down 90% of everything that was in here when it was Bloomingdale’s,” said Mark Wong, a veteran casino executive named vice president and general manager of Bally’s Chicago in August. “This is new construction.”

While much of the heavy lifting took place earlier in the year, the transformation has accelerated in recent days after getting the green light from the Gaming Board.

On Tuesday, dozens of hard-hatted workers in yellow vests carted slot machines in on dollies, placing them in marked spots near electrical stands where they will be mounted. Gaming table bases found a home on the two upper floors, wrapped in plastic with small placards indicating their designated purpose, awaiting the tops that make them ready to play.

“We have 75% of the slot machines and table games loaded in,” Wong said. “By the end of the week we’ll have everything. Then it’s just a matter of installing, testing.”

The main entrance on Wabash Avenue opens onto an expansive, modern blue-lit center bar. An abundance of slot machines are scattered across the first floor. The ground level also includes a coffee shop and an atrium looking up to the ornate rotunda lined with inset stained glass windows.

The second floor includes half of the table games, set down on spaces marked with blue tape on a swirling carpet of blue, red and orange. It also features hundreds of slot machines and an element seldom found in casinos — windows, or more precisely, 111-year-old stained glass windows.

The historic windows are cordoned off by a low glass partition to enable close viewing without touching — a preservation requirement from the Commission on Chicago Landmarks.

“It was important for us to have on display some of the original architectural elements of the building,” Wong said. “We purposely put a wall here to protect them, but at the same time make sure that our customers will enjoy this very unique experience here.”

The third floor is home to the rest of the table games, more slot machines, two restaurants and a planned sportsbook, which Bally’s hopes to open in 2024, pending Gaming Board approval.

Other historic touches include the theater proscenium, which long framed eclectic offerings on the auditorium stage. The curtain is drawn, but backstage is where back office administrative functions will take place, Wong said.

Modern amenities include six new brightly-lit washrooms.

Bally’s is also considering a large display on the inaccessible but visible lower level paying homage to Medinah Temple’s history, with renderings and models of the permanent casino to come, Jewett said.

The permanent facility will include an exhibition hall, 500-room hotel, a 3,000-seat theater, 10 restaurants and 4,000 gaming positions — by far the largest casino in the state.

Bally’s had planned to use an adjacent Tribune Publishing warehouse at 700 W. Chicago Ave. as its temporary casino while Freedom Center is demolished and the permanent facility is built, but the city pushed for Medinah Temple as an alternative, sources said.

At the time, Bally’s chairman Soo Kim told the Tribune he was “not crazy” about switching to Medinah Temple, a sentiment shared by some River North neighbors. Concerns included the lack of on-site parking.

On Tuesday, Jewett said the Medinahbuildout has exceeded expectations.

“I think this is a much better experience than you would have gotten from a warehouse,” Jewett said.


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Israel Kills Islamic Jihad Terrorists in Fiery Jenin Raid; Media Fails to Report the Full Facts

JUNE 20, 2023

The Israeli military launched a counter-terrorism raid in the West Bank city of Jenin on Sunday to arrest terrorists planning deadly attacks against civilians in Israel.

A statement from the IDF confirmed that the operation in the city — which has been dubbed the “terror capital” of the Palestinian-Authority controlled territories — was for the purpose of arresting two terror operatives belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, both of whom were successfully detained.

During the raid, an IDF armored vehicle was ambushed, and eight IDF and Israel Border Police personnel were injured.

The IDF also came under fire from terrorists using automatic weapons and a “large number of explosive devices were hurled at [Israeli] forces,” which reportedly prompted the IDF to deploy a helicopter to give air cover during the extraction of the soldiers.

During the gunfight, at least five Palestinians were killed, including two who were almost immediately claimed by terrorist organizations.

Despite copious amounts of evidence confirming their membership in terror organizations — including photos and video — reports about the Jenin raid have shied away from identifying the men as terrorists.

The Associated Press included in its headline and opening paragraph the fact that four Palestinians had been killed — and later named them — but failed to mention their terror links. The outlet also neglected to mention that the raid had been for the purpose of detaining other terrorists.

The Guardian, using news copy from the AFP wire agency, also sidestepped correctly identifying the slain men as terrorists and prominently featured the Palestinian health ministry’s false assertion that they “died as a result of the occupation (Israeli) aggression on Jenin.” Of course, there is nothing “aggressive” about firing back at heavily-armed militants trying to prevent the lawful arrest of fellow terrorists.

Other media outlets that did not include the fact that two of the men were terrorists include CNN and Sky News.

In fact, the only outlet that reported the men had been claimed by Islamic Jihad was Reuters, which included this relevant fact in the second paragraph of its piece.

Meanwhile, the obvious need for Israeli counter-terror operations in Jenin has been completely overlooked in the majority of the coverage, specifically that the city is a hub of terror activity.

While CNN described Jenin as one of the “tensest cities in the occupied West Bank” (a muted way to sum up a place where Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, and the Jenin Battalion all operate a network of cells), Sky News failed to make any reference to how the city is totally overrun by armed militants.


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