New Age Islam
Thu Sep 24 2020, 06:07 PM

Islamic World News ( 14 May 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

UP's ‘Sufi Hindu’ Family Epitomises Communal Unity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: Bangladeshi protesters and form a human chain during a demonstration against the killing of a university professor in Dhaka on 29 April, 2016. The latest victim in a spate of killings has been a Buddhist monk. Photograph: STR/AFP/Getty Images

 

Elderly Buddhist Monk Hacked To Death in Bangladesh

2 French ISIS Boys Kill Syrians in Chilling Video

Saudi Arabia Gives Green Light to Al-Qaeda's Deployment in Southern Yemen

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India

UP's ‘Sufi Hindu’ Family Epitomises Communal Unity

AQIS, ISIS Eye Radicalised Indian Muslims for Jihad

Hindu-Muslim teen couple set themselves on fire in Agra

India makes comeback in Pak electoral politics

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South Asia

Elderly Buddhist Monk Hacked To Death in Bangladesh

Tapped Taliban Phone Conversation Reveals Panic among Fighters In Battlefield

Heavy Clash Erupts In Baghlan as Police Claims 28 Insurgents Killed Or Wounded

Afghan govt set to finalise peace deal with Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami

Bangladesh arrests Islamist over killing of gay activists

Taliban bomber kills three at police training centre

India, Bangladesh power ties with 21st-century nuclear deal

Pakistan blames international community failure for the mess in Afghanistan

Afghanistan to be offered new loans from IMF after success at reforms

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Europe

2 French ISIS Boys Kill Syrians in Chilling Video

Israeli PM Takes Swipe at French Peace Initiative in Palestine

Belgium to air strike Syria, against IS: PM spokesman

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Arab World

Saudi Arabia Gives Green Light to Al-Qaeda's Deployment in Southern Yemen

Kurdish Fighters Only 30km Away from Raqqa City

Suicide Bomber Kills At Least 25 Security Recruits in Yemen

ISIS storms govt hospital in Syria kills 20 troops

Islamic State kills 17 Iraqi soldiers with suicide truck bombs

Baghdad suicide attacks kills at least 11

Efforts to counter IS propaganda bear fruit, experts say

Syrian Armed Forces Smash Terrorists in Southern, Northern Parts of Aleppo

Kurdish Fighters Win Back Key Village in Hasaka Province

Syrian Army, Hezbollah Complete Siege on Terrorist Groups Southwest of Damascus

Senior Terrorist Commanders Killed in Syrian Army's Attack in Lattakia

ISIL Fails in Smuggling Arms, Equipment from Syria to Al-Anbar

Egypt sentences 51 to prison over islands protests

Clashes Intensify between Syrian Army, ISIL South of Deir Ezzur

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Mideast

Muslim Communist Theme Park Set For China to Bolster Ties with Middle East

Leaked Wiretaps of ISIS Agents Show Ankara Routinely Ignores Terrorist Cross-Border Activity

Israel PM says Iran 'preparing another Holocaust'

‘Iran, oil producers must not increase output’

MHP dissidents fail to hold controversial congress

Expert-level talks ongoing in Brussels to overcome terror impasse with Turkey: EU envoy

Court rulings on congress worsen split in Turkey’s MHP

Efforts intensify to save Turkey-EU deal

Erdoğan, UN chief discuss UN Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul

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North America

Pakistan A 'Duplicitous, Dangerous' Partner for US: NYT Editorial

Key US Congress Members Not Prepared To Support Military Aid To Pakistan

Relations with Pakistan are important, says the US

ISIS declares emergency in self-declared capital: US official

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Pakistan

MQM, Haqiqi and PSP Assure Rangers Chief of Positive Role in Karachi

Separated for 9 years, Pakistani man wants son out of Indian jail

Army resumes laying barbed wire along Afghan border

US ExIm Bank to finance 3,600MW LNG-based projects in Pakistan

Simultaneous polio drive in Pakistan, Afghanistan from 16th

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Africa

West Africa: Military Victory 'Not Enough' to Eradicate Boko Haram

Liberia: Muslim Council welcomes LCC rejection of Christian state

East Africa: Sudanese Scholars Commend Ethiopia's Regional Integration Effort

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Southeast Asia

Islamic Development Bank gears up for Jakarta summit

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Australia

Five face terror charges over Australia-Syria boat plan

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/up-s-‘sufi-hindu’-family-epitomises-communal-unity/d/107307

 

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UP's ‘Sufi Hindu’ family epitomises communal unity

Eram Agha | May 7, 2016, 11.12 PM IST

ALIGARH: People are curious to know his religion because his name is Raj Kumar Bhagtani and he wears a skull cap. He sports a pathan suit, visits a Sufi shrine, keeps rozas during Ramzan and vrats during Navratra. Based in Kanpur, Bhagtani is carrying forward the legacy of his father Paras Ram 'Qadri', who started one of the first restaurants in Kanpur, and got the title after showing allegiance to Sufi mystics Hazrat Bahauddin 'Badrul Hind', whose shrine, Bannair Sharif, is in Bulandshahr.

The family has a fascinating story of symbolizing communal amity and it begins with Paras Ram. "Among the lakhs of Hindus who fled from Pakistan during Partition, my father, a Sindhi Hindu, was separated from his family. He was just 10 years old," said Raj Kumar.

Arriving at Delhi junction, Paras Ram met Syed Sajid Ali Shah from Bannair Sharif. "He took the boy to the dargah and made every effort to track down my father's family. Paras Ram stayed there till he was finally reunited with them five years later," the son said.

This period created in Paras Ram a deep love for the Sufi tradition. "He decided to stay on at the dargah with the mystic and eventually got the title of 'Quadri' from the dargah committee. He thus became a symbol of religious unity in Aligarh and Kanpur, especially during times of communal tension," said Raj Kumar.

After reading this I would recommend everyone to also read about the writer on Google to discover her passion for pen and her proclivity towards ''courageous'' journalism.

The family visits Bannair Sharif often. "The shrine in Bulandshahr is our markaz (centre). The dargah epitomizes love between saints and disciples," said Raj Kumar. Bahauddin was the disciple of Hazrat Pir Mustafa Baghdadi and migrated to India to spread teachings and messages of mystic Sayid Abdul Qadir Jilani.

It has been almost 22 years since Paras Ram 'Qadri' passed away but his legacy continues with Raj Kumar, who works closely with the dargah committee for development of the shrine.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/meerut/UPs-Sufi-Hindu-family-epitomises-communal-unity/articleshow/52169236.cms

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Elderly Buddhist Monk Hacked To Death In Bangladesh

14 May 2016

No group has yet claimed responsibility, although the killing in the remote southeastern district of Bandarban appeared to bear a resemblance to several recent murders by suspected Islamist militants.

“Villagers found Bhante (monk) Maung Shue U Chak’s dead body in a pool of blood inside the Buddhist temple this morning. He was hacked to death,” Jashim Uddin, deputy police chief of Bandarban, said.

Uddin said the monk, thought to be 75, appeared to have been attacked by at least four people at the Buddhist temple in Baishari, around 350km (220 miles) southeast of Dhaka early on Saturday morning.

“We saw human footprints in the temple and found that four to five people entered the compound,” he added.

Suspected Islamists have been blamed for or claimed responsibility in dozens of murders of Sufi, Shiite and Ahmadi Muslims, Hindus, Christians and foreigners in recent years.

 If Bangladesh lets zealots extinguish its brightest minds, it is no democracy

The Isis group and a Bangladeshi branch of al-Qaida have said they carried out several of the killings.

However the secular government in Dhaka denies Isis and al-Qaida are behind the attacks, saying they have no known presence in Bangladesh, and blames the killings on homegrown militants.

Buddhists make up less than 1% of Bangladesh’s population of 160 million people.

theguardian.com/world/2016/may/14/bangladesh-elderly-buddhist-monk-hacked-to-death-say-police

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2 French ISIS boys kill Syrians in chilling video

15 May, 2016

A shocking video released by Islamic State shows two French boys brutally murdering two pro-government Syrians in Aleppo.

The footage, partially in French and titled ‘Sur les traces de mon pere’ (‘In the footsteps of my father’), features two French teenagers named ‘Abu Musa’ab’ and ‘Abu Qaqa’a’.

The boys are allegedly brothers, brought to Syria with their father, who was later killed in fighting.

The two men murdered in the video were supposedly found guilty of espionage, Islamic State's (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) Telegram account stated.

In the video, two French teenagers are shown living the IS ‘life’, and being raised as jihadists.

They fire at posters of world leaders, including French President Francois Hollande.

Afterwards, they are shown executing two unarmed Syrian men, claiming that one of them is a spy for the Nusayri Army (Alawites, the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad), and the other a soldier of the Nusayri Army.

Children have often become a frightening tool of IS propaganda: only a fortnight ago, terrorists released footage showing Syrian orphans, saying they seek revenge for their parents' deaths.

In February, a disturbing video demonstrated a 4-year-old infant, dressed in camouflage clothing and nicknamed Jihadi Junior, blowing up three prisoners by pressing a button on a remote control.

In another footage released last December, a group of six children, each about eight years old, take part in a chilling hide-and-seek game: they execute Syrian captives, hidden in the ancient ruins.

rt.com/news/343086-isis-video-french-boys/

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Saudi Arabia Gives Green Light to Al-Qaeda's Deployment in Southern Yemen

May 15th, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- A senior Yemeni military source disclosed that the Saudi regime has coordinated with Al-Qaeda to dispatch a large number of Takfiri terrorists to the strategic regions in Southern Yemen.

"Saudi Arabia has stationed a large number of al-Qaeda terrorists around the strategic strait of Bab al-Mandeb in Southern Yemen in line with a US plot to increase its military presence there," Khalil Abdullah told FNA on Sunday.

Abdullah also said that Saudi Arabia has asked its Sudanese mercenaries to advance towards Ta'iz and Lahij provinces.

"Hundreds of Al-Qaeda terrorists are now in Southwestern Yemen and they have pointed their artillery at the strategic Bab al-Mandeb Strait," Abdullah said.

On Saturday, Yemeni Popular Forces' Commanders announced that Washington has stirred security threats in Southern Yemen to find an excuse for the presence of the US troops there.

"The security turmoil in Southern Yemen is a US plot to occupy the country," Ansarullah commander Abdullah al-Nassiri told FNA.

Al-Nassiri reiterated that the US, the UAE and Saudi Arabia are cooperating hard to continue their occupation of Yemen.

Last Sunday, Ansarullah Movement's Spokesman Mohammad Abdulsalam strongly condemned the US for dispatching its military servicemen to a military base in Lahij province in Southern Yemen.

"The presence of the US soldiers in Yemen is blatant violation of Yemen's national sovereignty," Ansarullah Movement's Spokesman Mohammad Abdulsalam wrote on his Twitter account and in reaction to the deployment of the US troops in Southern Yemen.

He underlined that the Ansarullah movement condemns the US deployment in Southern Yemen.

Abdulsalam underlined that the occupying forces should leave Yemen and take their military hardware with them.

"When we declared that Al-Qaeda and the ISIL are present in the Southern parts of Yemen and the Yemeni army should take the responsibility to confront them, (fugitive President) Mansour Hadi and Riyadh denied the same; now who is going to be accountable," Ansarullah spokesman said.

Also last Saturday, Ansarullah in a statement condemned the US deployment in the Southern parts of Yemen.

"This action is in line with Washington's colonial goals and is blatant aggression against Yemen," part of the statement read.

The statement reiterated that the Yemeni people irrespective of their political inclinations are against the US troops' deployment in their country.

"The UN and world countries should not remain silent about the US military intervention in Yemen," it added.

The statement described the US redeployment of special forces in Southern Yemen a dangerous move at a time when political efforts and peace talks are underway in Kuwait for putting an end to war and suffering of the Yemeni people

Ansarullah's statement came after the US Army deployed 100 special forces in Southern Yemen.

The Pentagon said last Friday that it sent the US special operations forces back to Yemen to provide training and assistance to an Arab coalition to allegedly fight al Qaeda militants in the fractured country.

The US troops with full military equipment have been stationed in al-And military base in Southern Yemen.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950226000749

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India

UP's ‘Sufi Hindu’ family epitomises communal unity

Eram Agha | May 7, 2016, 11.12 PM IST

ALIGARH: People are curious to know his religion because his name is Raj Kumar Bhagtani and he wears a skull cap. He sports a pathan suit, visits a Sufi shrine, keeps rozas during Ramzan and vrats during Navratra. Based in Kanpur, Bhagtani is carrying forward the legacy of his father Paras Ram 'Qadri', who started one of the first restaurants in Kanpur, and got the title after showing allegiance to Sufi mystics Hazrat Bahauddin 'Badrul Hind', whose shrine, Bannair Sharif, is in Bulandshahr.

The family has a fascinating story of symbolizing communal amity and it begins with Paras Ram. "Among the lakhs of Hindus who fled from Pakistan during Partition, my father, a Sindhi Hindu, was separated from his family. He was just 10 years old," said Raj Kumar.

Arriving at Delhi junction, Paras Ram met Syed Sajid Ali Shah from Bannair Sharif. "He took the boy to the dargah and made every effort to track down my father's family. Paras Ram stayed there till he was finally reunited with them five years later," the son said.

This period created in Paras Ram a deep love for the Sufi tradition. "He decided to stay on at the dargah with the mystic and eventually got the title of 'Quadri' from the dargah committee. He thus became a symbol of religious unity in Aligarh and Kanpur, especially during times of communal tension," said Raj Kumar.

After reading this I would recommend everyone to also read about the writer on Google to discover her passion for pen and her proclivity towards ''courageous'' journalism.

The family visits Bannair Sharif often. "The shrine in Bulandshahr is our markaz (centre). The dargah epitomizes love between saints and disciples," said Raj Kumar. Bahauddin was the disciple of Hazrat Pir Mustafa Baghdadi and migrated to India to spread teachings and messages of mystic Sayid Abdul Qadir Jilani.

It has been almost 22 years since Paras Ram 'Qadri' passed away but his legacy continues with Raj Kumar, who works closely with the dargah committee for development of the shrine.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/meerut/UPs-Sufi-Hindu-family-epitomises-communal-unity/articleshow/52169236.cms

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AQIS, ISIS eye radicalised Indian Muslims for jihad

May 15, 2016

Not just Islamic state of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the terror group Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) is trying to further its recruitment agenda in the gullible section of the Muslim youth as part of its global efforts to carry out jihad for establishment of the Caliphate. It seems both ISIS and Al Qaeda are competing to woo and recruit Indian Muslims in the name of jihad. While there have been nearly 50 arrests of ISIS recruits across India, close to a dozen Al Qaeda recruits.

In document accessed by India Today, Amir of the AQIS 'Maulana' Aasim Umar, alias Sana-ul-Haq, recently issued an 11-page propaganda material titled "Muslims of India". A document which spews venom, with an attempt to vitiate the atmosphere.

Al Qaeda chief Ayman-al-Zawahari had on September 13, 2014 appointed Umar as the Amir of the AQIS with task to establish a jihadi network in the Indian Subcontinent.

Security Expert Major General (Retd.) PK Saighal says, that both ISIS and Al Qaeda are looking to woo Indian Muslims because India has the largest population of Muslims and is only next to Indonesia. "They have had recruits in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and some of the countries close to India, but Indian Muslims have so far not been influenced. There have been few arrests but it is far less compared to the population of Muslims in India."

Sources in the security establishment said AQIS propaganda material has been especially designed to seek recruitment from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Gujarat and the southern Indian States. It only indicates the desperation on the part of AQIS as a number of the outfit's modules have been busted by the security agencies in the recent months discouraging youth from their jehadi agenda.

Similarly the recently arrested ISIS recruits have revealed that the jihadi group's global head hunters are on prowl for Indian youth, who may show any leaning to radical views on social media. Both global terror organisations are eyeing the radicalised Indian youth.

Ved Marwah, another security expert says that there is a continuous monitoring of social network sites to identify these recruits. Headhunters who may be scanning social network sites to look for Indian recruits.

While fresh round of arrest of jihadi recruits recently, may have the security agencies worried. Home Minister Rajnath Singh has consistently stated that "Indian Muslims" are not attracted to AQIS or ISIS. But as things stand, there seems no letting up of constant monitoring by intelligence agencies who have their hands full.

indiatoday.intoday.in/story/aqis-isis-eye-radicalised-indian-muslims-for-jihad/1/668742.html

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Hindu-Muslim teen couple set themselves on fire in Agra

Arvind Chauhan | TNN | May 15, 2016

AGRA: In an incident that has shocked investigating officers and residents alike, a young couple, identified as Sonu Mohammad and Sheelam Kumari, studying in class 10 and 9, locked themselves in a room, latched the door from inside and set themselves on fire. Police said their bodies were found locked in a tight embrace on Saturday .They added that the families of the boy and girl may have objected to their relationship.

The incident, which occurred in Nainana Jat in Kotwali sadar area, has sent relatives and neighbours into shock. As the two lovers belonged to different communities, the police, not taking any chances, have rushed a heavy contingent to the area just in case there is a flare-up.

According to neighbours, Sonu and Sheelam studied in the same school and liked each other, but their families did not approve of their "affair". On May 9, Sheelam was married by force to a man from Kuberpur in Etmadpur, AGRA. Saurab, Sheelam's younger brother, said, "On Friday evening, around 7.30pm, didi came from Kuberpur and looked happy . But around 4.30 am, she was found dead along with Sonu in his room."

Ali Muhammad, Sonu's younger brother, said, "Around 4 am, I saw flames coming out of Sonu's room. I rushed towards the room and saw their charred body lying on the floor. The entire room was on fire. The police came after an hour and broke the wall of the room. Sadar kotwali station officer Dharmendar Chauhan told TOI: "Prima facie, it seems a case of suicide. Families of both the victims have refused to lodge any complaint though we have sent the bodies for post-mortem.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/agra/Hindu-Muslim-teen-couple-burn-themselves-to-death-cops-find-bodies-in-tight-embrace/articleshow/52268981.cms

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India makes comeback in Pak electoral politics

Sameer Arshad | TNN | May 14, 2016

NEW DELHI: Pakistan People's Party (PPP) chief Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari gesticulated and air punched as he assailed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's "love" for Narendra Modi at an election rally in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK)'s Bagh.

He urged voters to reject Sharif's party for his friendship with Modi, which he called "an insult'' to them citing the Indian Prime Minister's role in "Muslim massacre'' and "state terrorism'' in Kashmir. He alluded to "Indian agents'' arrest from Sharif's mills, saying "no eyebrows were raised'' while India even "calls a pigeon from Pakistan an agent".

Bilawal recalled denial of visas to Modi and blamed Sharif's pro-Modi policy for conferment of highest Saudi award on the Indian Prime Minister. He attacked Sharif for attending Modi's inauguration and inviting him to Lahore while ignoring Jinnah's birth anniversary.

Bilawal's aggression marks a throwback to the cold war era when his grandfather, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, had threatened a thousand-year war with India for truncating Pakistan. It broke with the broad political consensus that has sustained Sharif's conciliatory policy towards Delhi despite the parity-seeking military establishment's reservations.

Sharif's policy has continued in his third term and dates back to the 1990s when he realized his economic liberalization would not succeed without peace with India. The policy culminated into the 1999 Lahore declaration, the omission of Kashmir from which provoked the Kargil offensive and Sharif's ouster.

An undeterred Sharif ended his exile ahead of the 2008 election and promised "to accord special priority'' to a peaceful settlement of issues with India in his manifesto. Sharif proposed to link India with Afghanistan in his 2013 manifesto even as Pakistan has seen any Indian presence there suspiciously. The consensus on building bridges with India among the mainstream parties, including PPP, strengthened Sharif.

It was reflected in their conciliatory approach toward India in 2013 and 2008 manifestos. The consensus has been rooted in the blowback Pakistan faced since 9/11 for signing up for the anti-terror war. The establishment, too, encouraged reconciliation as it battled the Taliban and even dropped insistence on the UN Kashmir resolutions. The overbearing military kept the Sharifs and Bhuttos together in the corresponding period. With the first democratic transition and unlikeliness of an overt coup, the two families are back to being at each other's throats. Bilawal's call for "giving the final push to falling Sharif'' along with his anti-Modi rhetoric at the rally should be seen in this context.

Sharif is in the middle of his worst crisis following the Panama leak that confirmed his family's owns offshore companies. The PPP sees an opportunity in Sharif's woes as it tries to resurrect itself. Stigmatizing Sharif's rapport with Modi could be a force multiplier while it tries to regain the ground lost in the 2013 election. Bilawal's aggression is linked to PPP's immediate goal to retain power in POK and make a comeback in Sharif's Punjab stronghold, where it would like to appeal to the conservative voters upset with Sharif's Kashmir soft-pedalling. This dovetails with Bilawal's earlier statements on reclaiming Kashmir.

PPP has simultaneously rallied opposition parties against Sharif over the Panama leak to steal Imran Khan's thunder while the ex-cricketer has replaced PPP as the national challenger to Sharif. Khan has done so with more effective anti-corruption agenda, which has a pan-Pakistan resonance, unlike Kashmir. Moreover, PPP's core liberal supporters, who have long admired India's secularism and aspired for its replication, are uncomfortable with Modi's rise. They believe it could strengthen Pakistan's electorally-marginal conservatives. The PPP has capped it all by bracketing Sharif and Modi as pro-rich birds of a feather to reclaim its image as the ideological roti, kapra, makan party.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/India-makes-comeback-in-Pak-electoral-politics/articleshow/52268911.cms

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South Asia

Elderly Buddhist Monk Hacked To Death In Bangladesh

14 May 2016

No group has yet claimed responsibility, although the killing in the remote southeastern district of Bandarban appeared to bear a resemblance to several recent murders by suspected Islamist militants.

“Villagers found Bhante (monk) Maung Shue U Chak’s dead body in a pool of blood inside the Buddhist temple this morning. He was hacked to death,” Jashim Uddin, deputy police chief of Bandarban, said.

Uddin said the monk, thought to be 75, appeared to have been attacked by at least four people at the Buddhist temple in Baishari, around 350km (220 miles) southeast of Dhaka early on Saturday morning.

“We saw human footprints in the temple and found that four to five people entered the compound,” he added.

Suspected Islamists have been blamed for or claimed responsibility in dozens of murders of Sufi, Shiite and Ahmadi Muslims, Hindus, Christians and foreigners in recent years.

 If Bangladesh lets zealots extinguish its brightest minds, it is no democracy

The Isis group and a Bangladeshi branch of al-Qaida have said they carried out several of the killings.

However the secular government in Dhaka denies Isis and al-Qaida are behind the attacks, saying they have no known presence in Bangladesh, and blames the killings on homegrown militants.

Buddhists make up less than 1% of Bangladesh’s population of 160 million people.

theguardian.com/world/2016/may/14/bangladesh-elderly-buddhist-monk-hacked-to-death-say-police

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Tapped Taliban phone conversation reveals panic among fighters in battlefield

By Khaama Press - Sun May 15 2016

A tapped phone conversation between top Taliban leaders reveal panic among the groups fighters in the battlefield as the group is attempting to intensify attacks against the Afghan forces under their new spring offensive.

The Ministry of Interior (MOI) claims the phone conversation was tapped as two top Taliban leaders were discussing operations in the country.

The authenticity of the audio clip could not be independently verified which reveals a serious disagreement between the two senior Taliban leaders.

The commander overviewing the operations in the battlefield says the situation is sharply deteriorating and a number of the group’s commanders have been killed with their fighters.

He continues saying the fighters are losing moral but the other commander orders him to intensify attacks on Afghan security forces posts which leads to almost a quarrel between the two.

The commander on the ground insists that the fighters have lost almost all their ammunition besides suffering heavy loss and losing moral to fight the security forces.

The conversation ends between the two as they do not reach to an agreement despite the leader instructing the commander on the ground to start their offensive, emphasizing that additional forces and equipment would be deployed to them.

The location where the Taliban militants were fighting the Afghan forces has not been ascertained but the group is mainly engaged in fight in northern and southern parts of the country.

Earlier, the Afghan forces repulsed major attacks of the group launched in northern Kunduz province of Afghanistan which is launched as the group announced its spring offensive.

khaama.com/tapped-taliban-phone-conversation-reveals-panic-among-fighters-in-battlefield-0937

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Heavy clash erupts in Baghlan as police claims 28 insurgents killed or wounded

By Khaama Press - Sun May 15 2016

A heavy clash erupted in northern Baghlan province of Afghanistan late on Saturday night with the police officials claiming at least 28 insurgents were killed or wounded.

A spokesman for Baghlan police, Jawed Basharat, said the militants were killed or wounded in Baghlan Markazi and in the vicinity of Chashme Shir and Surkh Kotal.

He said the main highway connecting northern Baghlan with Mazar-e-Sharif city is open to the traffic.

Earlier, reports reports emerged that the insurgents managed to overrun certain posts in Chashme Shir area of Baghlan.

The public uprising forces reportedly joined the Afghan police forces late on Saturday night to repulse the Taliban insurgents attack.

Meanwhile, the provincial security chief, Mohammad Ewaz Nazeri, said Saturday that a commander of the group was killed along with his 12 fighters in Baghlan Markazi district.

He confirmed that 2 Afghan soldiers sustained injuries and two of their security posts were overrun by the Taliban insurgents.

The Taliban group however has claimed that they have captured several areas in the outskirts of Pul-e-Khumri city, the provincial capital of northern Baghlan province.

khaama.com/heavy-clash-erupts-in-baghlan-as-police-claims-28-insurgents-killed-or-wounded-0938

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Afghan govt set to finalise peace deal with Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami

AP — Updated about 22 hours ago

KABUL: The Afghan government is expected to finalise a peace deal with a notorious militant insurgent group within days, marking a breakthrough in attempts to end the 15-year war, an official and a representative of the group said on Saturday.

Ataul Rahman Saleem, deputy head of Kabul's High Peace Council, told The Associated Press that the deal with the armed wing of Hezb-i-Islami could be completed on Sunday, after two years of negotiations.

A senior representative of Hezb-i-Islami, Amin Karim, also said he expected President Ashraf Ghani to approve the final version of the agreement on Sunday.

Such a deal would mark a much-needed success for Ghani in forging peace with insurgent groups fighting to overthrow the Kabul administration. His attempts to open a dialogue with the Taliban have failed.

While Hezb-i-Islami has been a largely dormant force in recent years, and has little political relevance in Afghanistan, the deal with the Afghan government could be a template for any future deal with the Taliban.

It commits the group to ending its war against Kabul, respecting the Afghan constitution, and ceasing all contact with other armed, anti-government groups.

Hezb-i-Islami is led by warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, best known for killing thousands of people in Kabul during the 1992-1996 civil war.

Karim has said he is in an unspecified location in Afghanistan. Under the terms of the 25-point agreement, a draft of which has been seen by AP, he could soon return to Kabul to sign a formal peace deal and take up residence.

Hekmatyar, in his late 60s, is designated a “global terrorist” by the United States and blacklisted by the United Nations along with Osama bin Laden. The agreement obliges the Afghan government to work to have the restrictions lifted.

Hezb-i-Islami has only intermittently been active on the battlefield for some time; its last known major attack was in 2013, when at least 15 people, including six American soldiers, were killed in Kabul.

Saleem said Hekmatyar's associates, including his family, all appeared united behind him and “are not dissenting with their leader.”

He said a few points in the agreement were still to be thrashed out, and added: “It is strongly possible that we get to the final points tomorrow and finalise the peace negotiations.”

Negotiations began in July 2014, Karim said, when Hekmatyar received a letter from Ghani, then campaigning to become president, noting that one of Hekmatyar's key conditions for peace - the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan - was about to be met.

“That was the beginning,” Karim said.

Progress stalled after President Barack Obama decided to leave a 10,000-strong force in the country through to the end of 2016 until Hekmatyar dropped the condition and renamed it “a goal” earlier this year.

Karim and a number of Afghan officials have said that a peace agreement with Hekmatyar's group could encourage Taliban fighters to end their participation in the war, and eventually lead to a full-blown peace.

Others, however, regard Hekmatyar as politically irrelevant and lacking any real influence. Spokesmen for the Taliban were not immediately available for comment.

The agreement covers a wide range of points, including a guarantee of equality between men and women and respect for the Afghan constitution, both points of contention with the Taliban, whose 1996-2001 rule of Afghanistan was characterised by extremist attitudes that cloistered women in their houses and mandated strict religious education, to the exclusion of almost all else, for boys.

Brokered under the auspices of the High Peace Council - a government body charged with negotiating an end to almost 40 years of war - the agreement allows Hezb-i-Islami to operate as a bona fide political party and participate in elections at every level.

It gives legal immunity for “all past political and military proceedings” by Hezb-i-Islami members and mandates the release of all prisoners within three months. Karim said there are about 2,000 Hezb-i-Islami prisoners in jails across Afghanistan.

The Afghan government undertakes to provide housing and security for Hekmatyar at two or three residences in places of his choosing.

One point that could attract opposition from sections of society that fear Ghani's government is prepared to cede ground to the Taliban in return for peace - including any rollback in rights for women - is a clause that gives Hekmatyar a “consultant” role on “important political and national decisions” facing the government.

For its part, Hezbi-i-Islami pledges to end the war, function as an “active political party,” stop all military activity and dissolve all its military organizations, and cease all contact with other anti-government organizations.

dawn.com/news/1258312/afghan-govt-set-to-finalise-peace-deal-with-hekmatyars-hezb-i-islami

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Bangladesh arrests Islamist over killing of gay activists

Reuters | May 15, 2016

DHAKA: Police in Bangladesh have arrested an Islamist militant over the killing of two gay rights campaigners, who died amid a surge in violent attacks against liberal activists and other minorities in the south Asian nation.

Xulhaz Mannan, 35, editor of Bangladesh's first magazine for gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, and fellow activist Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy, 25, were killed in a apartment in the capital Dhaka late last month, in an attack claimed by al Qaida in the Indian subcontinent.

Shariful Islam, 37, a member of the banned group Ansarullah Bangla Team, was arrested in the southwestern district of Kushtia in connection with the murder, Monirul Islam, chief of the counterterrorism unit of Dhaka Police, told a news conference on Sunday.

The arrested man was brought to the news conference but did not comment.

The Muslim-majority nation of 160 million people has seen a series of attacks over the past year in which atheist bloggers, academics, religious minorities and foreign aid workers have been killed.

An elderly Buddhist monk was found hacked to death on Saturday at a temple in Bangladesh.

Police said three people had been arrested, although they said the motive was not yet clear.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/Bangladesh-arrests-Islamist-over-killing-of-gay-activists/articleshow/52279707.cms

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Taliban bomber kills three at police training centre

May 15th, 2016

KANDAHAR: A Taliban suicide bomber detonated an explosive-laden car at a police training centre in the opium-rich southern province of Helmand on Saturday, killing at least three people and wounding nine others, officials said.

The attack in Nad Ali district comes in the midst of the Taliban’s annual spring offensive launched last month, in what is expected to be the worst fighting season in 15 years of war.

“Three policemen were killed in a suicide car bombing in Nad Ali,” Helmand police chief Abdul Rahman Sarjang said.

“Seven police and two civilians were among the wounded,” he added.

dawn.com/news/1258340/taliban-bomber-kills-three-at-police-training-centre

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India, Bangladesh power ties with 21st-century nuclear deal

Indrani Bagchi | TNN | May 15, 2016

NEW DELHI: India has concluded a nuclear agreement with Bangladesh in a sign that the bilateral neighbourhood relationship is becoming special. The core of the new engagement is all 21st century — energy, connectivity, security.

"We are politically aligned, security sensitive and economic partners," said a top source in India.

The nuclear agreement is a three-document package that has been negotiated between the MEA and the Bangladesh department of science and technology over the past few months. But this is only a part of the bigger play the two countries are engaged in.

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina inaugurated a 100MW power transmission line from Palatana to Bangladesh, India is preparing to upgrade it to 500MW. Oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who visited Dhaka recently, has promised to send diesel to Bangladesh from West Bengal.

India wants to transport LPG and LNG to the northeastern states — through Bangladesh. New Delhi has offered Dhaka a stake in this, letting them share LPG and LNG according to their needs, even as they allow transit of energy to Tripura. In the next stage, India has told Bangladesh, they want to generate power in the northeast and have it pass through Bangladesh, offering them an "offtake", that is allowing them to take power for own use from the transmission line.

Four Indian companies — BHEL, Reliance, Shapoorji-Pallonji and Adani — have bid to build power plants in Bangladesh. The Indian nuclear deal will equip and train Bangladesh to import their first nuclear power plant from Russia. It's a very big deal for Bangladesh and almost unique for India. Basically, once all these projects kick in, Bangladesh could be well on its way to becoming a middle-income country in a decade.

The comfort factor for both countries is the fact that both land and maritime boundaries are now clearly demarcated. In this case, certainly, better fences have made better neighbours.

During foreign secretary S Jaishankar's visit to Dhaka this week, which coincided with Bangladesh executing Jamaat leader Motiur Rehman Nizami, India proactively stood behind Dhaka's decision, even as Turkey lashed out. The almost seamless implementation of the LBA has made it easier to plan roads and railways to Bangladesh.

The two countries want to revive the train lines that were operational between the two sides, until 1965, when Pakistan shut them down — Akhaura-Agartala, Khulna-Darshana, Parvatipur-Kawnia lines will be on top of the list. A bridge on the Feni river will come in the coming years.

Bangladesh has its eyes set on a water deal, particularly on Teesta and Feni. And India has promised to deliver. In the new evolving relationship, both sides are willing to give each other some space.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/India-Bangladesh-power-ties-with-21st-century-nuclear-deal/articleshow/52274994.cms

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Pakistan blames international community failure for the mess in Afghanistan

By Khaama Press - Sun May 15 2016

The Pakistani Ambassador to United States Jalil Abbas Jilani has blamed the international community failure for the mess in Afghanistan.

In response to an Editorial by the New York Times, the Pakistani envoy has said “Pakistan cannot be held responsible for the mess in Afghanistan which is the result of the collective failure of the international community.”

Calling the editorial as biased, Jilani further added that “Allegations of duplicity and double game are extremely painful especially when Pakistan has suffered the most due to the war in Afghanistan. Hundreds of suicide bombings and tens of thousands of civilian casualties are the direct result of the US led war in Afghanistan after 9/11.”

The Pakistani envoy has also claimed that the country’s military has “fractured the back of Taliban” through indiscriminate counter-terrorism operations.

Pakistan “remains a duplicitous and dangerous partner for the United States and Afghanistan, despite $33 billion in American aid and repeated attempts to reset relations on a more constructive course,” according to the Editorial.

It also added that the Senate foreign affairs committee chairman Bob Corker had “widely” put a hold on American funding for subsidizing the sale of eight new F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan — it will have to pay the full amount of $700 million for them, instead of the $380 million it would have paid earlier.

Corker and several of his Senate colleagues cutting across party lines have also used the word “duplicitous” for Pakistan for its “double game” in dealing with terrorists.

Meanwhile, President Mohammad Ashraf in his speech at RUSI said the anti-government armed militant groups fighting the Afghan government are based in Pakistan from where they stage attacks in Afghanistan.

Earlier, President Ghani asked Pakistan to take actions against the Taliban and Haqqani network leadership councils based in Peshawar and Quetta cities of Pakistan.

khaama.com/pakistan-blames-international-community-failure-for-the-mess-in-afghanistan-0939

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Afghanistan to be offered new loans from IMF after success at reforms

By Khaama Press - Sat May 14 2016

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said negotiations on the arrangement of new loans to Afghanistan will begin this month in a bid to help revive the country’s war-ravaged economy.

A statement by IMF said the negotiations will begin as the Afghan government managed to successfully implement the reform program successfully, despite difficult circumstances.

IMF further added that a 9-month Staff-Monitored Program concluded which was the second and final review to address the fiscal and banking vulnerabilities, preserving macroeconomic stability, improving prospects for inclusive growth, and building a track record for a possible future IMF financial arrangement.

“Notwithstanding this progress, Afghanistan’s economic situation remains very difficult. Security and political uncertainties and the drawdown of international troops, together with weak governance and institutions, have held back growth and employment, and recently contributed to increased emigration,” the statement said.

According to IMF, the outlook is challenging, with real GDP growth projected at 2 percent in 2016, only marginally higher than in 2015.

IMF said “A further deterioration in security conditions and shortfalls in donor aid pose important downside risks, while the banking system continues to face several challenges despite key reforms and measures taken by the central bank to address the vulnerabilities in the financial sector.”

The statement said the Afghan authorities recently requested a Fund financial arrangement (Extended Credit Facility—ECF) in a bid to help address these difficult issues.

“The ECF would help tackle some of the challenges and thus assist in improving the conditions for sustainable growth and in catalyzing support from donors. IMF management welcomes this request, and discussions on the new arrangement are slated to begin in May 2016,” the statement added.

khaama.com/afghanistan-to-be-offered-new-loans-from-imf-after-success-at-reforms-0930

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Europe

2 French ISIS boys kill Syrians in chilling video

15 May, 2016

A shocking video released by Islamic State shows two French boys brutally murdering two pro-government Syrians in Aleppo.

The footage, partially in French and titled ‘Sur les traces de mon pere’ (‘In the footsteps of my father’), features two French teenagers named ‘Abu Musa’ab’ and ‘Abu Qaqa’a’.

The boys are allegedly brothers, brought to Syria with their father, who was later killed in fighting.

The two men murdered in the video were supposedly found guilty of espionage, Islamic State's (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) Telegram account stated.

In the video, two French teenagers are shown living the IS ‘life’, and being raised as jihadists.

They fire at posters of world leaders, including French President Francois Hollande.

Afterwards, they are shown executing two unarmed Syrian men, claiming that one of them is a spy for the Nusayri Army (Alawites, the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad), and the other a soldier of the Nusayri Army.

Children have often become a frightening tool of IS propaganda: only a fortnight ago, terrorists released footage showing Syrian orphans, saying they seek revenge for their parents' deaths.

In February, a disturbing video demonstrated a 4-year-old infant, dressed in camouflage clothing and nicknamed Jihadi Junior, blowing up three prisoners by pressing a button on a remote control.

In another footage released last December, a group of six children, each about eight years old, take part in a chilling hide-and-seek game: they execute Syrian captives, hidden in the ancient ruins.

rt.com/news/343086-isis-video-french-boys/

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Israeli PM takes swipe at French peace initiative in Palestine

May 15, 2016

JERUSALEM: Israel's leader has greeted the visiting French foreign minister with a swipe at a French initiative aimed at restarting Palestinian peace talks.

Paris is to host an international meeting at the end of the month to discuss moving the peace process forward. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that direct negotiations, without preconditions, are the best way to reach a final agreement and that "any other attempt only makes peace more remote and gives the Palestinians an escape hatch to avoid confronting the root of the conflict.''

French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault is on a one-day visit to meet with Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The Palestinians have welcomed the French proposal.

The last round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, mediated by the US, collapsed in 2014.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/Israeli-PM-takes-swipe-at-French-peace-initiative-in-Palestine/articleshow/52279667.cms

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Belgium to air strike Syria, against IS: PM spokesman

AFP | May 13, 2016, 04.59 PM IST

BRUSSELS: Belgium will extend its F-16 airstrikes against Islamic State jihadists in Iraq into Syria, the government said Friday, as it grapples with the fallout from deadly IS-claimed bomb attacks in Brussels in March.

"In accordance with UN Resolution 2249, the engagement will be limited to those areas of Syria under the control of IS and other terrorist groups," a spokesman for Prime Minister Charles Michel told AFP after a cabinet meeting.

More updates on the same are awaited.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/Belgium-to-air-strike-Syria-against-IS-PM-spokesman/articleshow/52255714.cms

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Arab World

Saudi Arabia Gives Green Light to Al-Qaeda's Deployment in Southern Yemen

May 15th, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- A senior Yemeni military source disclosed that the Saudi regime has coordinated with Al-Qaeda to dispatch a large number of Takfiri terrorists to the strategic regions in Southern Yemen.

"Saudi Arabia has stationed a large number of al-Qaeda terrorists around the strategic strait of Bab al-Mandeb in Southern Yemen in line with a US plot to increase its military presence there," Khalil Abdullah told FNA on Sunday.

Abdullah also said that Saudi Arabia has asked its Sudanese mercenaries to advance towards Ta'iz and Lahij provinces.

"Hundreds of Al-Qaeda terrorists are now in Southwestern Yemen and they have pointed their artillery at the strategic Bab al-Mandeb Strait," Abdullah said.

On Saturday, Yemeni Popular Forces' Commanders announced that Washington has stirred security threats in Southern Yemen to find an excuse for the presence of the US troops there.

"The security turmoil in Southern Yemen is a US plot to occupy the country," Ansarullah commander Abdullah al-Nassiri told FNA.

Al-Nassiri reiterated that the US, the UAE and Saudi Arabia are cooperating hard to continue their occupation of Yemen.

Last Sunday, Ansarullah Movement's Spokesman Mohammad Abdulsalam strongly condemned the US for dispatching its military servicemen to a military base in Lahij province in Southern Yemen.

"The presence of the US soldiers in Yemen is blatant violation of Yemen's national sovereignty," Ansarullah Movement's Spokesman Mohammad Abdulsalam wrote on his Twitter account and in reaction to the deployment of the US troops in Southern Yemen.

He underlined that the Ansarullah movement condemns the US deployment in Southern Yemen.

Abdulsalam underlined that the occupying forces should leave Yemen and take their military hardware with them.

"When we declared that Al-Qaeda and the ISIL are present in the Southern parts of Yemen and the Yemeni army should take the responsibility to confront them, (fugitive President) Mansour Hadi and Riyadh denied the same; now who is going to be accountable," Ansarullah spokesman said.

Also last Saturday, Ansarullah in a statement condemned the US deployment in the Southern parts of Yemen.

"This action is in line with Washington's colonial goals and is blatant aggression against Yemen," part of the statement read.

The statement reiterated that the Yemeni people irrespective of their political inclinations are against the US troops' deployment in their country.

"The UN and world countries should not remain silent about the US military intervention in Yemen," it added.

The statement described the US redeployment of special forces in Southern Yemen a dangerous move at a time when political efforts and peace talks are underway in Kuwait for putting an end to war and suffering of the Yemeni people

Ansarullah's statement came after the US Army deployed 100 special forces in Southern Yemen.

The Pentagon said last Friday that it sent the US special operations forces back to Yemen to provide training and assistance to an Arab coalition to allegedly fight al Qaeda militants in the fractured country.

The US troops with full military equipment have been stationed in al-And military base in Southern Yemen.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950226000749

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Kurdish Fighters Only 30km Away from Raqqa City

May 15th, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The predominately Kurdish ‘Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) have made further advances in Raqqa province, and are now very close to entering Raqqa city.

"The Kurdish fighters are now only 30 kilometers from Raqqa city," the Arabic-language al-Watan newspaper quoted unnamed informed sources as saying on Sunday.

The SDF forces have declared their full preparedness to win back Raqqa city and they are approaching the city from the Northern side.

On Wednesday, the SDF Spokesman Tajir Kobani announced that commanders of the SDF-affiliated groups in Northern Syria have, in a secret meeting, coordinated the process of a joint final operation for liberating Raqqa from the ISIL terrorists.

"Our troops with their heavy weapons have gathered near Kobani in Northern Syria," the spokesman said, adding, "We will begin our operation from three directions simultaneously."

"The SDF will make a push for the city from the recently liberated Tishrin dam Northwest of Raqqa, and from two more directions of Tal Abyadh and Hasaka Northeast of Raqqa," Kobani went on to say.

Also on Wednesday, informed sources announced that reports about the imminent operations of the Syrian Armed Forces and their allies to liberate the terrorist-held city of Raqqa have caused the ISIL leaders to declare state of emergency in the capital of the self-proclaimed Caliphate.

"As soon as the Russian envoy in the UN announced preparation of the Syrian Army and its popular allies to launch large-scale operations to liberate Raqqa and end ISIL siege of Deir Ezzur, the ISIL terrorists started covering their military vehicles and equipment in order not to be identified in case of any airstrike," the sources said.

The SDF that is comprised of mainly Kurdish fighters as well as a few hundred Syrian Arab dissident forces have received trainings from the US and have been provided with scanty US-coalition air support in their battles in Raqqa province in Northeastern Syria; but in Northern and Northwestern battlefronts, they have been operating alongside the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and received the Russian air backup in their Aleppo wars that started with the conquest of Tishrin Dam on the Euphrates early in February.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950226000577

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Suicide bomber kills at least 25 security recruits in Yemen

May 15th, 2016

A suicide bomb in the southern Yemeni city of Mukalla on Sunday killed at least 25 recruits at a police squad headquarters in the city’s Fua suburb, Reuters reports. The terrorist blew himself up near recruits lining up for morning formation. This is the second blast in the city that used to be an Al-Qaeda hub before the terrorist group was pushed out in a military offensive last month.

rt.com/news/line/

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ISIS storms govt hospital in Syria kills 20 troops

May 15th, 2016

BEIRUT: The militant Islamic State (IS) group on Saturday overran a government-controlled hospital in eastern Syria, killing 20 members of pro-regime forces and taking medical staff hostage, a monitor said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the IS militants attacked Al-Assad hospital in Deir Ezzor as they pressed an advance to control the oil-rich city and its vital airbase.

The attack sparked clashes with regime forces providing security for the hospital in which six militants were killed, the monitor said.

“IS attacked Al-Assad hospital at the city’s western entrance, killing at least 20 soldiers and allied fighters,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

The militants “seized the hospital and captured the medical staff, holding them hostage”, he said, adding that the fighting was still raging late in the night.

The militant group controls about 60 per cent of Deir Ezzor, including the centre and the north of the city.

It has imposed a siege on government-held districts in the south and the east where about 200,000 civilians have been trapped since March 2014.

dawn.com/news/1258408/is-storms-govt-hospital-in-syria-kills-20-troops

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Baghdad suicide attacks kills at least 11

May 15th, 2016

At least 11 people have been killed following multiple suicide bomb attacks at a factory north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, according to police sources, as cited by Reuters. A suicide car bomb went off at the entrance to the factory early in the morning, while six attackers wearing explosive vests entered the building and clashed with security forces. A further 21 people have been injured according to reports.

rt.com/news/line/

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Islamic State kills 17 Iraqi soldiers with suicide truck bombs

TNN | May 13, 2016

Baghdad: Islamic State insurgents killed at least 17 Iraqi soldiers with suicide truck bombs on Thursday in a major attack on government forces that recaptured the western city of Ramadi in December, military officials said.

The jihadist group also killed two policemen and wounded eight others in two suicide bombings in Abu Ghraib outside Baghdad, a day after killing at least 80 people in bombings at an outdoor market and two checkpoints inside the capital.

The attacks near Ramadi dealt one of the heaviest blows to the army since it drove Islamic State out of the western city five months ago.

An army colonel told Reuters that militants killed at least 17 soldiers with suicide truck bombs in Jarayshi, 10 km (6 miles) north of Ramadi. They also surrounded an army regiment, seized a bridge and cut a key supply route linking Ramadi to the Thirthar district further north, army sources said.

Air strikes by a U.S.-led coalition later allowed government forces to regain control of the supply route. But despite army reinforcements, the militants had dug into northern residential areas by nightfall and were lobbing mortars at government positions across the Euphrates river.

An officer said the Islamic State attack appeared designed to delay an expected army offensive that would have completely severed militant supply routes to Falluja on the western approaches to Baghdad, which Iraqi forces have ringed for more than six months.

As Islamic State has been pushed out of key towns and cities it seized in 2014, it has resorted increasingly to guerrilla-style attacks in civilian areas under nominal Iraqi government control.

The toll from Wednesday's three suicide bombings in Baghdad made it the deadliest day in Baghdad so far this year.

Police sources said Thursday's bombers approached a police station in Abu Ghraib from two directions before detonating their explosives. Baghdad Operations Command, one of the security organs charged with protecting the capital, said a third assailant was killed on approach to the police station.

Amaq news agency, which supports Islamic State, said two militants had clashed with police at al-Zeidan station before setting off their explosives-filled vests.

Sunni Muslim militant violence against security forces and Shi'ite Muslim civilians has persisted since Baghdad became the target of almost daily bombings a decade ago following the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein.

A recent surge in bombings has heightened criticism of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi as he grapples with a political crisis over his attempts to overhaul his cabinet to weed out corruption and mismanagement.

Lawmakers balking at ceding vested interests targeted by Abadi have failed to convene parliament since protesters loyal to powerful Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a vocal advocate of dismantling Iraq's quota-based governing system, breached the heavily-fortified Green Zone district two weeks ago and took over the assembly complex for several hours.

Sadr's supporters took to the streets of Baghdad on Thursday to denounce the government for failing to protect them, escalating a political confrontation that could doom the ruling coalition.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/Islamic-State-kills-17-Iraqi-soldiers-with-suicide-truck-bombs/articleshow/52248168.cms

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Efforts to counter IS propaganda bear fruit, experts say

AFP | May 15, 2016

WASHINGTON: United States (US) authorities and Internet giants are boosting attempts to counter the Islamic State (IS) group's online propaganda, though it is unclear how effective these efforts are in hampering the jihadists' public-relations machine.

With calls to jihad and highly produced videos of IS fighters in battle or killing captives, the IS group has long used the Internet and social media to recruit fighters for its so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria, and to incite individuals around the world to commit terrorist attacks.

To try to stop this, web giants like Twitter and Facebook are working hard to shut down jihadist accounts, though these often pop back up under a new name.

"Twitter has publicly said they've taken down close to 200,000 handles. They've taken down way more than that," Richard Stengel, the under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs said at a recent seminar aimed at countering IS's 'brand.'

" YouTube has taken down literally millions of videos. Facebook has hundreds of people who are working 24/7 to take down this noxious content," added Stengel, who also was the former managing editor of Time magazine.

At the same time, US efforts are being led by the State Department's Global Engagement Center, which was overhauled this year and brought under the leadership of Michael Lumpkin, a former US naval officer.

The center "is not going to be focused on US messages with a government stamp on them, but rather amplifying moderate credible voices in the region and throughout civil society," said Lisa Monaco, President Barack Obama's top homeland security advisor.

The US military's Central Command, which oversees operations in the Middle East, is "actively engaged" on social media to counter IS propaganda.

"The command has a robust online engagement program that harnesses the professional talents and expertise of both military members and contractors working together," Pentagon spokesman Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway said.

"We operate using truthful information directed toward regional audiences to combat ISIL's lies and deception," he added, using an IS acronym.

Stenger said efforts are paying off.

"There's now five times as much messaging on social media that is anti-ISIL than pro-ISIL, again, mostly in Arabic," he said.

JM Berger, an expert on the IS group who has written extensively about the jihadists' use of Twitter, said they are feeling the squeeze.

"There is no question that ISIS supporters on Twitter and elsewhere are under tremendous pressure, and they are performing significantly below the levels we saw last year, or even earlier this year," he said.

"Supporter accounts have fewer followers and tweet less often. They are still able to distribute their propaganda to a shrinking core audience, but it is harder for them to broadcast widely and to get their message in front of potential recruits."

Will McCants, an expert on jihadists at the Brookings Institution think tank, said pressure on Facebook and Twitter has seen IS supporters turn to smaller social media platforms like Telegram to disseminate their propaganda.

"Still, they try to maintain a presence on the larger platforms because that's where the potential recruits are," he noted.

Rita Katz, who co-founded the private intelligence firm Search for International Terrorist Entities Intelligence Group (SITE), rejected the notion that jihadist propaganda was slowing.

IS propaganda "at least doubled last year if not even more. Further, in addition to the daily reports, in the last year the Islamic State has also increased substantially its publications, as it started several new ones," she said, pointing to new Turkish and Russian-language magazines.

"These groups and individuals are still online and they're still recruiting," she said.

Meanwhile FBI Director James Comey noted that while there has been a drop in people traveling to join the IS group, the jihadists retain the ability to "motivate troubled souls."

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/Efforts-to-counter-IS-propaganda-bear-fruit-experts-say/articleshow/52275602.cms

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Syrian Armed Forces Smash Terrorists in Southern, Northern Parts of Aleppo

May 15th, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Army's artillery and missile units and the country's Air Force opened heavy fire at the terrorist groups' strongholds in the Southern and Northern battlefields of Aleppo province to pave the ground for the imminent anti-terrorism ground operations in the province, field sources said Sunday.

"Gathering centers of Jeish al-Fatah near Khan Touman in South and positions of al-Nusra Front near Handarat camp in North were massively hit by the Syrian artillery and missile units and the Syrians fighter jets' bombardments," the sources said, adding, "The attacks inflicted major casualties on the terrorists."

"The Syrian arm will soon launch its ground operations near Khan Touman and Handarat to root out militancy near the strategic regions," the sources said.

"The Syrian government forces are resolved to push North towards the strategic passage of Castillo to cut the last supply lines of the terrorists groups to the city of Aleppo," they went on to say.

Reports said earlier today that over 400 fresh members of two al-Nusra-affiliated terrorist groups arrived in the Northern province of Aleppo to join their comrades in the fight against the Syrian people.

"300 members of Nouriddeen al-Zinki movement and 100 fighters of Jeish al-Mujahedeen entered the Syrian territories from Bab al-Salama passage and moved towards the town of Kilis in the Northeastern side of the city of Azaz," the sources said. 

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950226000825

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Kurdish Fighters Win Back Key Village in Hasaka Province

May 15th, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The predominately Kurdish ‘Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) and the People's Protection Units (YPG) continue their advances against the ISIL in Hasaka province in Northeastern Syria, and seized back a strategic village there.

The SDF and YPG fighters are now in full control of Kashkash Ziyanat in the Southern part of al-Shadadi city in Hasaka province.

Scores of ISIL terrorists were killed and wounded in tough battle with Kurdish fighters over control of Kashkash Ziyanat village.

The recent victories of the SDF and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) against the ISIL have established a buffer zone around Hasaka province and have secured much of the Syrian-Iraqi border from the ISIL and paved the way for a major push towards Deir Ezzur.

The SDF that is comprised of mainly Kurdish fighters as well as a few hundred Syrian Arab dissident forces have received trainings from the US and have been provided with scanty US-coalition air support in their battles in Raqqa province in Northeastern Syria; but in Northern and Northwestern battlefronts, they have been operating alongside the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and received the Russian air backup in their Aleppo wars that started with the conquest of Tishrin Dam on the Euphrates early in February.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950226000680

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Syrian Army, Hezbollah Complete Siege on Terrorist Groups Southwest of Damascus

May 15th, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Syrian Army troops and the Lebanese Hezbollah fighters advanced towards the terrorist groups' strongholds in Western Ghouta and completed a wide circle of forces around the militants near two main towns in the region, military sources said Sunday.

"The Syrian government forces cut off the communication lines of the terrorist groups in Darayya and Mo'adhamiyeh regions and laid complete siege on the militant groups in this strategic region near the capita," the sources said.

"The terrorist groups have been trapped in the circle of the Syrian forced around Darayya and Mo'adhamiyeh," the sources added.

"In the meantime, the terrorist groups' mortar and missile units once again violated the truce and shelled the Darayya's districts several time," the sources said, adding, "The government forces opened retaliatory fire at the terrorist groups and launched a fresh round of cleansing operation in the region and successfully destroyed the terrorist groups' launching pads of missiles and mortars."

In relevant developments on Saturday, the Syrian Army troops and National Defense Forces stormed the terrorist groups' strongholds in Eastern Ghouta and seized control over all the four directions of the key region of Zabdean after hours of intense battle, battlefield sources said.

"The Syrian government forces struck the militants deployed in Zabdean region from the Northern, Eastern and Western sides," the sources said, adding, "The terrorists, who face the waves of storming soldiers from three directions decided to flee the region from the Southern side, but the army closed the Southern side too through capturing al-Ruqabiyeh farms."

"Tens of the militants have been killed or wounded in Zabdean region and the remaining pockets of them are under the siege of the Syrian military forces," they went on to say.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950226000652

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Senior Terrorist Commanders Killed in Syrian Army's Attack in Lattakia

May 15th, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- A non-Syrian commander of Harakat Sham al-Islam was killed in the Syrian Army's missile attack in the Northern part of the coastal province of Lattakia.

Moroccan leader of Harakat Sham al-Islam Azzam al-Mughrabi and his bodyguard Bilal al-Mughrabi were killed in a missile strike of the Syrian army in the Northern battlefield of Lattakia province.

Earlier this month, the Syrian Army and National Defense Forces repelled an attack of the al-Nusra Front on their strongholds in the Northeastern part of Lattakia province, inflicting a heavy death toll on the terrorists.

A 150-member group of al-Nusra terrorists stormed the Syrian government forces' positions near Kinsibba, but their attacks were repelled by the Syrian soldiers and popular forces.

Under the heavy fire of pro-government forces, al-Nusra fled the battlefield leaving behind at least 25 dead members and many more wounded ones. 

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950226000512

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ISIL Fails in Smuggling Arms, Equipment from Syria to Al-Anbar

May 15th, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Iraqi fighter jets ambushed a big convoy of ISIL terrorists carrying arms and military equipment to their comrades in Iraq's al-Anbar province.

"The ISIL militants were attempting to transfer a large cache of weapons and equipment from the Syrian border to al-Ratba bordering area in al-Anbar province last night but they came under attack by Iraq's air force which was earlier informed by the popular forces," a field source said on Sunday.

The source said all terrorists accompanying the arms cargo were killed and their vehicles were destroyed.

"Also the terrorists' heavy weapons, including tens of missiles and several tons of explosives, being smuggled to Iraq were destroyed," the source added.

Also, on Friday, the Syrian intelligence forces announced that they had captured a haul of medical supplies near Aleppo that came from Turkey and was destined for ISIL Takfiri terrorists in the Iraqi city of Mosul.

In a video released by Russia's RT television network, Hussein al-Omar, a colonel in Syria’s Military Intelligence Directorate, said that the lorry, loaded with some 25 tons of medicine and hospital supplies, including a number of dialysis machines, had entered Syria from Turkey’s Bab al-Hawa international border crossing, located on Syria's Northwestern border with Turkey.

He added that the lorry was planned to reach Mosul, ISIL's de facto capital in Iraq, through the towns of Afrin, A'zaz, and Manbij in Aleppo province. According to Omar, the lorry, loaded in Turkey, bore a Syrian number plate and was driven by two militants from al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front Takfiri terrorist group, who had received the cargo in the Bab al-Hawa border crossing.

“Through an intelligence operation, we lured them from Afrin to Nubl, arrested them, and brought them here. All of this proves that Turkey is supporting the terrorists, specially Daesh, with meds and all supplies, even with weapons,” the Syrian official further said.

The much-needed aid would be delivered to Aleppo’s local maternity hospital, which sustained damage in a recent shelling attack launched by the Takfiri terrorists, he added.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950226000982

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Egypt sentences 51 to prison over islands protests

May 15th, 2016

CAIRO: An Egyptian court on Saturday sentenced 51 people to two years in prison for taking part in protests last month, officials said.

Nearly 300 people have been arrested and charged for taking part in the demonstrations against Egypt’s decision to transfer control of two strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia as part of a border demarcation agreement negotiated in near total secrecy.

The 51 were convicted of breaking a 2013 law that effectively bans protests.

The officials said 18 of the 51 were sentenced in absentia. Thirteen minors were referred to juvenile court over the protests, they added.April’s protests were the largest since President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi was elected in 2014. As military chief, el-Sissi had led the overthrow President Mohammed Morsi a year earlier amid massive demonstrations demanding the Islamist leader step down.

Also on Saturday, prominent activist Sanaa Abdel-Fattah gave herself up to police to start a six-month sentence passed against her last week for insulting the judiciary.

Abdel-Fattah, who comes from a family of well-known activists, was brought in for questioning last month over accusations that she was inciting protests. She refused to answer the prosecutors’ questions on the grounds that the judiciary was controlled by the executive branch of government and she did not want to be part of what she described as a charade. She has refused to appeal the conviction.

The widely publicised comments led to her being charged with insulting the judiciary.

Her surrender and subsequent transfer to prison on Saturday was reported by her family and friends in social media posts and confirmed by the officials.

dawn.com/news/1258403/egypt-sentences-51-to-prison-over-islands-protests

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Clashes Intensify between Syrian Army, ISIL South of Deir Ezzur

May 15th, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Military sources announced on Sunday that the Syrian Army troops have been engaged in fierce clashes with the ISIL terrorists in the Southern and Southwestern countryside of the city of Deir Ezzur, inflicting a heavy death toll on them.

"The Syrian soldiers and the ISIL terrorists fought each other in two more fronts near the Eastern city of Deir Ezzur," the sources said, adding, "Checkpoint around Panorama school were the scenes of heavy fighting between the army and the terrorists."

"In the meantime, the Base of 137th Brigade was another battlefield in the Southern side of the city, where a number of the ISIL terrorists were killed or wounded," the sources added.

"Also, the casualties of the ISIL in their failed attacks on Deir Ezzur airbase have risen to at least 137, most of them non-Syrians," they said.

Reports said earlier today that the Syrian Army troops fended off the ISIL attacks on government forces' positions near the strategic Deir Ezzur airbase, inflicting major losses on the terrorists.

The ISIL left behind score of the dead and wounded members and fled the battlefield after its attacks on the Syrian pro-government forces' strongholds near the Eastern city's military airports failed.

The ISIL had chosen this time al-Maqaber (Graveyard) area to attack the airbase.

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Mideast

Muslim communist theme park set for China to bolster ties with Middle East

Published time: 13 May, 2016

Imagine Disneyland with a focus on Islam and communism. That’s the plan for World Muslim City, a new billion-dollar theme park being built by the Chinese government in an effort to make the world a little smaller.

Despite China’s controversial treatment of its Uighur Muslim minority, who were banned from fasting during Ramadan last year, Chinese authorities are attempting to capitalize on the global Muslim market with the latest project.

Women will have the option to wear traditional clothing and visitors are required to remove their shoes inside the “Golden Palace.”

Breaking ground last year in the small northern city of Yinchuan, construction of the “World Muslim City” will take eight years to complete at a cost of almost US$4 billion, according to the China Daily.

Ningxia is also home to Mandarin-speaking Hui Muslims who have ethnic origins in the Han majority of the country and are therefore regarded as more integrated into society over Uighurs.

No expense will be spared to build a new terminal in Yinchuan Hedong International Airport in preparation for direct flights from Amman and Kuala Lumpur.

The park has garnered little interest from the Arab world and that could be because of China’s oppression of Muslims, an image the communist country is attempting to change.

“So far, Arab visitors have responded to the region’s largest and most expensive tourist draw with only tepid enthusiasm,” wrote Foreign Policy journalist Kyle Haddad-Fonda.

Human Rights Watch has accused the Chinese government of a “crushing campaign of religious repression” against Muslim Uighurs in the name of anti-separatism and counter-terrorism.

Attendees of all faiths may also be underwhelmed by the lackluster features of the park, which won’t have any roller coasters.

Top attractions so far include a rendition of One Thousand and One Nights, a museum, and Arabic street signs.

rt.com/viral/342973-muslim-communist-theme-park/

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Leaked wiretaps of ISIS agents show Ankara routinely ignores terrorist cross-border activity

14 May, 2016

Transcribed phone recordings belonging to Ilhami Bali, well known in Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) ranks and suspected of staging high-profile bomb attacks in Ankara and the mainly-Kurdish border city of Suruc, detail the lack of control along the Syrian Turkish border. The 98-kilometer (61-mile) stretch of border has only two crossings, the Jarablus and Al Rai entry points across from Turkey’s Gaziantep and Kilis.

Pressured by the international community to impose stricter border controls to stem the flood of militants into Syria, Ankara has been erecting walls at key crossing points, but to no avail as surveillance data from the Municipality of Ankara Provincial Security Department revealed.

The transcripts of the recordings have been passed on to the media by Turkish opposition politician, Eren Erdem of the Republican People's Party (CHP), who is facing a witch-hunt from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government over his repeated allegations of massive cover-up of IS activity on Turkish soil.

While daily logs by the Turkish Armed Forces reveal that Turkish security forces apprehended 961 IS members from 57 countries in 2015, the alleged reality exposed by the Erdem leak, shows that thousands of IS fighters and their family members cross the Turkish border from Syria on a daily basis. But even those who get arrested on the Turkish side are often released at the crossing points.

For instance several documents suggest that IS coordinators helped some 1,400 people cross the Turkish border from September 22 – October 17. In one of the phone conversations, Ilhami Bali asked his interlocutor named Erkek, who according to the conversations helps smuggle people, the exact number of persons he has helped cross the border.

As the men argue about the actual number of all those who entered and left Turkey, the conversation reveals that the actual count of people passing through to the Turkish side is actually more than IS coordinators have presumed.

Another conversations between the two subjects revealed Bali was extremely dissatisfied with Erkek’s performance as he failed to help IS operatives cross the border.

“Did you get our people through?” Bali asked Erkek, who replied that he was not the one guiding the group in question.

“What? Are you the one who is responsible that they got arrested? Don’t lie to me! Don't lie to me. Eighteen people crossed the border last night. Fifteen of them got arrested when you tried to help them,” Bali said.

“Listen to me, I have warned you,” added Bali, losing his temper. “If I ever hear that you try to pass our guys through, I will come in your house and shoot you to your head. I will shoot your head while you’re in bed.”

However, as other conversations have shown, IS operatives and contacts on the Turkish side of the border help those IS affiliates detained by Turkish security forces to evade justice.

“One brother, two sisters and one child were arrested while they tried to cross [at Kilis]. How could this happen? I do not understand,” wondered Erkek in another phone call.

“We have called and gave them the information,” Bali replied. “We talked to the brother who will look after the people who were arrested. Inshallah will look after them.”

More conversations between the two subjects further confirm that those who get arrested are later released through IS connections at police stations.

“The guy from the Gendarmerie called me and said that they were in the smuggler car,” Bali told Erkek in a conversations about another group detained at the border. “Call this guy. The people who got arrested today are at the Gandermarie station. Maybe he can do something… Gendarmerie took them under arrest. If they can let them free they should do that.”

Bali’s conversation with another IS operative, Mustafa Demir, offers apparent proof that the IS terror group is smuggling its fighters into Turkey for medical treatment.

“You know this Abu Abdella Garip who gets out the wounded people? Now Ali Mantara will come. He will bring a brother. He will call you when he arrives... Take the numbers and send them to the administration [of the crossing]. So the administration will look after them,” Mustafa Demir tells Bali.

“Where should I bring Abdullah Garip who helps cross the wounded ones? Should I take him to madrasa?” Bali asked.

“Send them to madrasa and call Ebu Abdallah and tell him that five persons are with Garip Geli... tell him that he should write down their names... So we can control how many left from here,” Demir replies.

In another conversation Erkek asks Bali what should “one wounded person” do when he comes to Turkey.

“I don't really know. It has nothing to do with us,” Bali replied. “Tell them they should go to the border to the administration there.”

rt.com/news/343002-ankara-wiretaps-isis-border/

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Israel PM says Iran 'preparing another Holocaust'

AFP | May 15, 2016

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced Sunday a Tehran anti-Israel cartoon contest themed around the Holocaust, accusing Iran of denying and belittling it as well as "preparing another Holocaust."

The exhibition, totalling 150 entries from 50 countries, with many entries deriding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government's Middle East policies, opened Saturday in Tehran.

"Over the weekend Iran convened a special Holocaust-denial cartoon contest," Netanyahu said at the beginning of his weekly cabinet meeting.

"We raise this here because it must be understood what our problem with Iran is," he said.

"It is not just its policy of subversion and aggression in the region; it is the values on which it is based. It denies and belittles the Holocaust and it is also preparing another Holocaust."

Several cartoons on display poke fun at Netanyahu, with one depicting the Israeli prime minister as a member of the Islamic State jihadist group and holding a sabre in his hand.

Another shows a map of the Middle East with a coffin bearing the word "Holocaust" flattening Palestinians in place of what should be the country of Israel.

The Iranian government has distanced itself from the contest, which Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said was organised by a non-governmental organisation without any support from the authorities.

Netanyahu had fiercly opposed last year's nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, which saw the lifting of international sanctions in return for Tehran ensuring that its nuclear programme remains purely for civilian use.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/Israel-PM-says-Iran-preparing-another-Holocaust/articleshow/52279882.cms

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‘Iran, oil producers must not increase output’

May 15th, 2016

DUBAI: Kuwait’s deputy foreign minister Khaled Jarallah said oil exporting countries must freeze production and the market could not support a production increase from Iran, state news agency KUNA reported on Saturday.

“There is no choice but to freeze production,” KUNA quoted Jarallah as telling Japanese news agency Jiji press while he and acting oil minister Anas al-Saleh attend a Kuwait-Japan business seminar in Tokyo.

Asked about Iranian production policy, Jarallah said, “Iran should learn from the market ... the market does not give an opportunity to increase production.”

The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) members and other oil exporters failed in a meeting in the Qatari capital Doha on April 17 to reach an agreement on freezing their output to rebalance the global oil market.

Iran, seeking to regain market share after international sanctions on Tehran were lifted last year, had refused to join the supply freeze initiative and the deal fell apart after Saudi Arabia insisted Tehran take part.

dawn.com/news/1258370/iran-oil-producers-must-not-increase-output

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MHP dissidents fail to hold controversial congress

May/15/2016

Dissidents in the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) failed to hold a controversial extraordinary party congress due to police security measures in front of an Ankara venue that was to host the gathering on May 15, following days of contradicting verdicts by lower local courts.

Former MHP lawmakers Meral Akşener, Sinan Oğan, Koray Aydın and Ümit Özdağ, who have voiced their intention to run for the party leadership, tried to reach the Büyük Ankara Hotel in the same vehicle, but were blocked by police.

“The MHP is not rudderless. The general assemblies say the last words, not the party heads,” read the joint statement from the Akşener, Oğan, Aydın and Özdağ.

“We won’t leave the area until we see the written order of the police,” said Akşener, while Oğan said the police did not have an official document that could prevent the delegates from reaching the hotel.

“We invited the 25th bailiff here. We want an official document, not a verbal statement,” Oğan said.

Oğan, Aydın and Özdağ left the area, while Akşener refused to leave without seeing the order.

The police set up barricades in front of the hotel and the roads around it, as the MHP delegates circulated a new petition to reach a required 621 signatures to take the party to a congress.

Dissidents within the MHP had approached the courts to force an extraordinary congress in the wake of the party’s poor electoral result in last November’s general election.     

A total of 543 delegates then sent a petition to party headquarters demanding an extraordinary congress in the aftermath of the election, which saw the MHP lose its position as the third largest group in the parliament, falling behind the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

However, the party management denounced the call, describing the attempt as illegal while also launching internal probes into several dissidents.

Hundreds of party members stood in front of a training center belonging to Customs and Trade Ministry on May 15, chanting slogans against the MHP’s head office.      

The Supreme Court of Appeals, the highest authority to decide on the fate of the congress, announced earlier this week that it would make a decision within this month.

MHP dissidents have been pushing for an extraordinary congress to be held, which has been repeatedly rejected by long-running party head Devlet Bahçeli, who is only the second leader of the party.

The Ankara Second Local Enforcement Court accepted the objections of the MHP dissidents on May 13, ordering the cancellation of another court’s decision in the Gemerek district of the Central Anatolian province of Sivas, which had halted the extraordinary party congress process.

Speaking after the decision, the dissidents vowed that the congress would be held on May 15, while the court in Gemerek again stated that it could not be held legally.

Aydın stressed that they were waiting for the decision of the Supreme Court and that they would hold the congress in June.

“I want to cry because of the situation here,” Aydın said.

Two courts in the Tosya district of the Black Sea province of Kastamonu and one in the Gemerek district decided to prevent the extraordinary party congress from occurring as a precaution, MHP Deputy Chair Oktay Öztürk stated April 29.

An Ankara court previously appointed a three-member panel to organize an extraordinary congress, accepting the demands of dissident MHP members, against which the party HQ appealed.

MHP dissidents have criticized Bahçeli since the MHP’s poor showing in the Nov. 1, 2015, election, in which it only won 11 percent of the vote and 40 seats in parliament.

Bahçeli has led the party for almost two decades since July 1997, but disgruntled MHP members have collected enough delegate votes to hold an extraordinary convention to challenge the party’s leadership.

hurriyetdailynews.com/mhp-dissidents-fail-to-hold-controversial-congress.aspx?pageID=238&nID=99179&NewsCatID=338

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Expert-level talks ongoing in Brussels to overcome terror impasse with Turkey: EU envoy

May/14/2016

The European Union’s top envoy to Ankara has said the European Commission is currently working with experts to find an acceptable solution to the impasse with Turkey over the definition of terror, expressing optimism for successfully accomplishing the visa liberalization process by the end of June.

“Turkey has long been mature for visa liberalization. I personally feel we had to do it much long ago. I still remain optimistic that we will eventually manage it. It will also come as a positive surprise for Turks who believed that it won’t ever happen,” Hansjörg Haber, the head of the EU delegation, told Ankara newspaper bureau chiefs on May 12 in the capital.

A comprehensive agreement that also included visa waivers for Turkish citizens reached between Turkey and the EU to stop the influx of migrants towards the European continent is at risk of collapse due to a disagreement over the former’s definition of terrorism, which needs to be solved before the end of June.

Harmonizing the legal framework over terrorism is one of five remaining benchmarks of 72 that Turkey needs to fulfill, although President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made clear that Turkey won’t change its legislation at a time it is fighting against terror. Erdoğan’s statements received a reaction from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who said visas wouldn’t be lifted for Turks before all criteria were met.

Despite strongly-worded statements from both sides, the European Commission is still working to find an acceptable solution so that the process can continue, Haber stressed, adding that Brussels was not demanding a complete overhaul of its legislation from Turkey but rather some steps to avoid the concerns of member states on a number of practical issues.

“[The] Turkish notion of terrorism is much wider than our countries’. For example, people indicted of terror crimes in Turkey can be counted as [using] freedom of expression. And then this person under visa liberalization can go to Europe and can apply for asylum and most probably be accepted. This is not the only concern but just an example [of] why we need this kind of harmonization,” he said.

A similar harmonization was also needed on the data protection issue, the ambassador explained, repeating his optimism that the process would not be derailed. Experts were working in Brussels to find a way to solve the problem within a certain understanding of flexibility, the ambassador said, however he also noted the green light still belonged to the result of the vote at the European Parliament and to the final approval of the European Council.

Although there were disagreements over how terrorism should be defined, the ambassador said the EU listed the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on its list of terrorist organizations and that cooperation between the two sides was ongoing in the fight against terror.

‘EU strikes agreements with states, not individuals’

One of the most important factors deepening the disagreement between the two parties was the sudden departure of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who was committed to accomplishing the process by the end of June, as suggested by the agreement in March. However, when asked about the effect of Davutoğlu’s leave, Haber said, “We strike agreements with states and not with individuals.”

In further remarks, the EU envoy recalled that Erdoğan was the prime minister in December 2013 when the two sides agreed over visa liberalization and the readmission agreement. “[The] visa road map was agreed [to] in 2013 when the president was still the prime minister. It [the visa road map] has not changed. What have changed were the deadlines of the implementation. This was agreed by Prime Minister Davutoğlu. But I should stress that all processes started with the president’s visit to Brussels,” he said.

“We are dealing with states. Both the president and the prime minister were involved and the future prime minister will also be involved. We hope that agreement will be kept even [if] there will be changes in [the Turkish] government,” he added.

The ambassador also emphasized that visa liberalization was not a result of the migration crisis or pressure but rather a part of the visionary approach of the EU to Turkey.

Strong statements from Turkish officials over the fate of the migrant deal have caused concerns in the EU and some member states but the ambassador said these wouldn’t change the EU’s basic position.

hurriyetdailynews.com/expert-level-talks-ongoing-in-brussels-to-overcome-terror-impasse-with-turkey-eu-envoy.aspx?pageID=238&nID=99141&NewsCatID=510

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Court rulings on congress worsen split in Turkey’s MHP

May/13/2016

Confusion still reigns over the prospective extraordinary party congress of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), as two local courts announced contrasting rulings late on May 13 on whether the convention will take place on May 15.

The Supreme Court of Appeals, the highest authority to decide on the fate of the congress, announced earlier this week that it would make a decision within one month. MHP dissidents, including Meral Akşener, have been pushing for an extraordinary congress to be held, which has been repeatedly rejected by long-running party head Devlet Bahçeli.

The Ankara Second Local Enforcement Court accepted the objections of the MHP dissidents on May 13, ruling for the cancellation of another court’s decision in the Gemerek district of the Central Anatolian province of Sivas, which halted the extraordinary party congress process.

Speaking after the decision, the dissidents vowed that the congress will be held on May 15, while the court in Gemerek again stated that it could not be held legally.

“It’s not legally possible for the congress to be held. Necessary security precautions will be taken by the Ankara Governor’s Office and the police,” Yücel Bulut, the lawyer of the MHP headquarters, told journalists, adding that they will appeal against the Ankara court’s ruling to the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK).

Two courts in the Tosya district of the Black Sea province of Kastamonu and one in the Gemerek district decided to halt the extraordinary party congress process of the MHP as a precaution, MHP Deputy Chair Oktay Öztürk stated on April 29.

Another Ankara court had previously appointed a three-member panel to organize an extraordinary congress, accepting the demands of dissident MHP members, against which the party HQ had appealed.

Akşener, who has expressed her intention to run for the party leadership, recently said the votes of the MHP would rise to 25 percent if she is elected leader of the party.

“The MHP is not afraid of the [10 percent election] threshold or anything like that and it will not be. The MHP cannot be directed by rumors produced in columns, on TV screens, and on social media,” Bahçeli said at a parliamentary group meeting of his party on May 10.

MHP dissidents have criticized Bahçeli since the MHP’s poor showing in the Nov. 1, 2015 election, in which it only won 11 percent of the vote and 40 seats in parliament.

Bahçeli has led the party for almost two decades since July 1997, but disgruntled MHP members have collected enough delegate votes to hold an extraordinary convention to challenge the party’s leadership.

hurriyetdailynews.com/court-rulings-on-congress-worsen-split-in-turkeys-mhp.aspx?pageID=238&nID=99171&NewsCatID=338

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Efforts intensify to save Turkey-EU deal

May/13/2016

A “not so optimistic” Turkish EU minister has called on the European Commission to exert efforts to salvage the Turkey-EU visa liberalization deal, while also pledging that Ankara would continue to work on the process.

“At this point, the topic is locked at the European Parliament. The solution of this [state] lies at the European Commission,” Turkish EU Minister and Chief Negotiator Volkan Bozkır said May 13 in Brussels.

On May 11, European Parliament President Martin Schulz said at a press conference alongside Bozkır in Strasbourg that the process at the parliament had been halted because Turkey had not yet fulfilled all of the required benchmarks.

Bozkır said he had held talks with officials from the commission and asked for the re-assessment of the point where the Turkey-EU visa deal got stuck. He added that the problem could be solved if the commission stated that Turkey had fulfilled the remaining five benchmarks out of a total of 72 needed for Turkish citizens to be exempt from requiring a visa to enter the EU’s Schengen Zone.

“But unfortunately, after today’s discussions I cannot say that I am very optimistic,” Bozkır said.

Assessing the situation at EP, Bozkır said it was “not acceptable for Turkey,” adding that the parliament did not legally have the right to halt the process.

“[The visa-free travel deal] needed to be referred to the commission once again and [the process] needed to continue from there,” he said.

Bozkır first held talks with the high representative for foreign affairs/vice-president of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, early on May 13, after which he met Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn.

Bozkır said Hahn had told him that it was not possible in the current context for the re-discussion of the five criteria in a political way, in which both sides understood each other and produced a formula for a solution.

“I take this as the [European] Commission’s view,” Bozkır said.

Bozkır said he believed removing the major problem in the visa deal process was possible but that these were not the only steps that Turkey would take. Instead, they are reciprocal steps which rest on mutual trust and joint decisions.

Stating that Turkey would continue its efforts not to jeopardize the visa-free travel opportunity for its citizens, Bozkır said: “We will make a new assessment when we go back to Turkey. We will especially hold consultations regarding what can be done about these five benchmarks.”

On May 4, the European Commission sent the EP and the European Council a report recommending that Turkey be added to the list of countries whose citizens would be exempt from requiring a visa inside the EU.

In the report, the commission said there were five key criteria left for Turkey to fulfill, of which amendments demanded on the anti-terror law have caused the biggest controversy.

Other criteria include the completion of flaws in relation to a new data protection law, operational cooperation with Europe’s police agency Europol, implementation of the Group of States against Corruption’s (GRECO) recommendations to combat corruption, and judicial cooperation with all EU member states.

hurriyetdailynews.com/efforts-intensify-to-save-turkey-eu-deal.aspx?pageID=238&nID=99164&NewsCatID=510

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Erdoğan, UN chief discuss UN Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul

May/13/2016

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have discussed the United Nations Humanitarian Summit, which is set to take place in Istanbul in 10 days, in addition to the latest developments in Syria and the ongoing refugee crisis.

Ban and Erdoğan discussed the latest developments in Syria over the phone on May 12, sources told Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity.

The talks between the two leaders came 10 days ahead of the World Humanitarian Summit, which will be held for the first time in Istanbul on May 23 and May 24.   

Ban thanked Erdoğan for hosting the summit, which he hoped would send out a bold message to the entire world, the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak with the media, said.       

The Turkish president said he was honored to host world leaders at the upcoming summit, which would also give an opportunity to exchange views on global and regional developments.       

The leaders also highlighted the need for closer cooperation among the international community over the transitional process in Syria and the refugee issue.

The two leaders also discussed Cyprus, as Ban said he was hopeful a solution to the dispute would be reached soon, while Erdoğan said he was closely following developments on the island.     

The World Humanitarian Summit aims to provide a vital platform to address the challenges burdening the humanitarian system, according to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who said that pressing issues such as ensuring sustainable, reliable and predictable humanitarian financing would also be examined.

The summit will also address other questions, such as what innovative methods could be utilized, or how to promote localized humanitarian responses through more tailor-made and user-friendly approaches, as well as the question of dignity and safety in humanitarian action.

hurriyetdailynews.com/erdogan-un-chief-discuss-un-humanitarian-summit-in-istanbul.aspx?pageID=238&nID=99152&NewsCatID=359

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North America

Pakistan A 'Duplicitous, Dangerous' Partner For US: NYT Editorial

PTI | May 13, 2016

WASHINGTON: Underlining that Pakistan's "double game" has long frustrated US officials, a leading American daily today said the country remains a "duplicitous and dangerous" partner for the US and it was time to "put the squeeze" on it.

"Pakistan's double game has long frustrated American officials, and it has grown worse. There are now efforts in Washington to exert more pressure on the Pakistan Army," The New York Times said in a lead editorial today.

In the editorial 'Time to Put the Squeeze on Pakistan', the New York Times Editorial Board said nearly 15 years after 9/11, the war in Afghanistan is raging and Pakistan "deserves much of the blame".

"It remains a duplicitous and dangerous partner for the United States and Afghanistan, despite USD 33 billion in American aid and repeated attempts to reset relations on a more constructive course," the editorial board wrote, questioning the Pakistan policy of the Obama administration.

Of the view that the key to talks with the Taliban and bringing peace in Afghanistan lies with Pakistan, The New York Times said Pakistan's powerful army and intelligence services have for years given support to the Taliban and the Haqqani terrorist network and relied on them to protect Pakistani interests in Afghanistan and prevent India from increasing its influence there.

"Under American pressure, the Pakistan Army recently waged a military campaign against the Taliban in the ungoverned border region. But the Haqqanis still operate in relative safety in Pakistan. Some experts say the army has helped engineer the integration of the Haqqanis into the Taliban leadership," the daily said.

The New York Times praised Senator Bob Corker, Chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee, for putting a hold on the sale of eight F-16s to Pakistan with American tax payers money.

"Mr Corker told The Times he would lift the hold on the aid if Pakistan cracks down on the Haqqani network, which he called the 'No. 1 threat' to Afghanistan and American troops there," the daily said.

However, the daily was of the view that serving ties with Pakistan is not an option given the fast expanding nuclear weapons arsenal of this South Asian country.

The New York Times said the "grim reality presents difficult choices for Mr Obama, who must decide whether to keep the current troop strength and possibly to change the military's role to fight the Taliban more directly."

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/Pakistan-a-duplicitous-dangerous-partner-for-US-NYT-editorial/articleshow/52253682.cms

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Key US Congress members not prepared to support military aid to Pakistan

By Khaama Press - Sat May 14 2016

The US State Department recently announced that key US Congress members are not prepared to support military aid to Pakistan in the absence of specific actions.

Elizabeth Trudeau, Director of the Press Office, State Department, told reporters ” I will note key members of Congress have been clear they’re not prepared to support U.S. military aid to Pakistan absent some specific actions.”

She was apparently pointing towards the activity of the Haqqani terrorist network using the Pakistani soil as its safe haven.

However, she said “So we’ve spoken about our view on the Haqqani Network from here before. So Coalition Support Funds are a Department of Defense matter. For details on that, I’m going to refer you to the Department of Defense.”

Ms Trudeau further added “As always, we’re committed to working with Congress to deliver security assistance to our partners and allies. It furthers U.S. goals by building capacity to meet shared security challenges.”

In response to a question if the State Department willing to certify that or say that the Pakistan is taking enough action against Haqqani Network, Trudeau said ” So we’ve spoken about our views on Haqqani quite a bit as well as what we view Pakistan needs to do. Pakistan has spoken that they will not discriminate against groups. We could encourage them to continue to live up to that.”

US congress refused to to approve funding for the deal days after the US lawmakers had accused Pakistan of not doing enough to fight militants and objection by India for the sell of the jets.

The decision by the US congress means that Pakistan will have to pay more than $700m (£480m) – two-and-a-half times the original cost of the fighter jets.

According to the original arrangement, Pakistan was supposed to pay close to $270m, with the US foreign military financing budget paying for the rest.

khaama.com/key-us-congress-members-not-prepared-to-support-military-aid-to-pakistan-0934

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Relations with Pakistan are important, says the US

PTI | May 14, 2016

WASHINGTON: The US is committed to maintaining its "important" and "vital" relationship with Pakistan, the Obama Administration said amid reports of strains in bilateral ties.

"It is an important, vital relationship that we strongly believe in. Is it complicated at times? Absolutely it is. And do we see eye-to-eye on every issue with Pakistan? No, we don't," state department spokesman, John Kirby told reporters at his daily news conference.

"But that's why the relationship matters so much because we have shared threats and shared concerns, shared interests in the region. And we're going to continue to work at it," he said.

Kirby was responding to a question on the statement made by Prime Minister's adviser on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz that his country's relationship with the United States has been under stress for the past three months.

Kirby said he has not seen the statement.

"I didn't see his comments. So I'm going to refrain from responding specifically to that sentiment," he said.

Kirby did not agree when asked if the US-Pakistan ties are not at the best of times these days.

"It is an important relationship that we continue to work at very, very seriously. We're going to remain committed to. And I would not share that characterization of it," Kirby said.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/Relations-with-Pakistan-are-important-says-the-US/articleshow/52268953.cms?

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ISIS declares emergency in self-declared capital: US official

May 15, 2016

WASHINGTON: Islamic State of Iraq and Syria ( ISIS ) has declared a state of emergency in their de-facto capital of Raqqa in Syria, a United States ( US ) official has said while asserting that the dreaded terror network is feeling "threatened".

"We have seen this declaration of emergency in Raqqa, whatever that means," Colonel Steve Warren, the spokesman for the US-led anti-ISIS coalition, was quoted as saying by CNN. "We know this enemy feels threatened, as they should," he added.

US military officials are closely watching social media and news reports that say ISIS believes it may soon come under siege in Raqqa, Syria, its self-declared capital, the report said.

Media reports have indicated that ISIS is moving personnel around the city trying to put up covers in certain areas to shield potential targets from airstrikes and ground attacks.

"We've had reports of ISIL repositioning both their combat capabilities, I guess what they think may be coming next," Warren said, using another name for ISIS. "And we've seen reports of them repositioning personnel, either within the city or even out of the city," he added.

US military also notes that the movement of fighters who have been well dug in throughout Raqqa could give overhead surveillance aircraft an improved chance of finding and targeting them.

And while the US has not officially said that it believes ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi still remains in or around Raqqa, several officials say that has continued to be a working assumption.

However, they are monitoring any potential intelligence that he could be in other locations as well.

"Baghdadi remains extremely careful" about his personal security, a US defence official was quoted as saying.

The US will continue to try to find him, the official said. But even if he is located and captured or killed, the US assessment is that it would not immediately change the scope and capability of ISIS operations, because there are other leaders ready to step in.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/ISIS-declares-emergency-in-self-declared-capital-US-official/articleshow/52277201.cms

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Pakistan

MQM, Haqiqi and PSP assure Rangers chief of positive role in Karachi

May 15th, 2016

KARACHI: The Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Mohajir Qaumi Movement-Haqiqi and Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) assured the Sindh Rangers chief on Saturday that they would play a “positive role for peace in Karachi”.

The meetings took place against the backdrop of recent incidents of violence in Karachi and Hyderabad for which all the three parties blamed one another.

A Rangers spokesman said Maj Gen Bilal Akbar invited the delegations of the three parties to the headquarters of the paramilitary force where he met them separately.

“It was reiterated in the meetings that peace in Karachi is a result of sacrifices of the people and law enforcement agencies and it is our collective responsibility to maintain it and, therefore, an atmosphere of tolerance and harmony should be promoted,” the spokesman said.

He said that leaders of the three parties assured the Rangers chief of their positive contribution to maintaining peace in the city.

The PSP was represented by former Karachi mayor Mustafa Kamal. He told a press conference that his meeting with the Rangers chief lasted one-and-a-half hours. “Situation has become much better following the Rangers-led operation in Karachi, but the operation could not be successful with enforced disappearances of people,” he said.

“We have been told that a centre is being set up for the rehabilitation of held people,” Mr Kamal said, adding that he also talked to the Rangers director general about the death of MQM worker Aftab Ahmed in the custody of the Rangers.

According to an MQM-H spokesman, the Rangers chief had a one-on-one meeting with party chairman Afaq Ahmed that lasted 45 minutes.

A spokesman for the MQM was not available for comments.

Sources in the MQM said that its delegation comprised Aamir Khan, Kanwar Naveed Jameel, Nasreen Jalil — all members of the MQM coordination committee — and Leader of the Opposition in the Sindh Assembly Khawaja Izharul Hasan.

dawn.com/news/1258409/mqm-haqiqi-and-psp-assure-rangers-chief-of-positive-role-in-karachi

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Separated For 9 Years, Pakistani Man Wants Son Out Of Indian Jail

Amit Anand Choudhary | TNN | May 15, 2016

NEW DELHI: For nine years, Pakistani national Muhammad Zahoor has been desperately trying to unite with his son Muhammad Irfan , who went missing in 2007 while returning home from India on Samjhauta Express when twin blasts ripped through two coaches of the train, killing more than 60 passengers.

Irfan was declared "missing" after his DNA samples did not match with bodies of unidentified victims of the terror attack. His whereabouts were not known till 2015 when it came to light that he was languishing in Amritsar jail with no charges against him. Zahoor made all out effort to get in touch with his son and approached even the Prime Minister and President of Pakistan to intervene but in vain.

With his government not taking steps, Zahoor then approached the Indian government and furnished all details of his son including his DNA report, photograph and copy of his passport. But his repeated pleas went unheeded, compelling him to knock the doors of the Supreme Court. There is glimmer of hope for Zahoor as a bench of justices AK Sikri and RK Agrawal, after a brief hearing, agreed to examine his plea and issued notice to the Centre and directed it to find out whether Irfan was really confined in jail.

Appearing before a bench of Justices AK Sikri and RK Agrawal, Zahoor's advocate KL Janjani contended that Irfan was being illegally detained as there was no criminal case against him.

"The Centre, especially the MEA, has not taken steps to consider the representation having full bio data including his DNA, copy of passport with full address, age proof and photograph. It is also submitted that he has not been charged with any offence and as per international laws, he cannot be confined in jail without any trial or offence," he said.

Zahoor has filed the petition through Delhi-based anti-terrorism activist Ashok Randhawa who came to know about Irfan when he went to Pakistan for a wedding.

The petitioner alleged that he had approached superintendent of Amritsar Jail with all documents and proof but was not granted permission to meet Irfan.

Irfan, then 28, had come to Delhi for some purchases in connection with his studies and he was on his way to Lahore when blasts took place on the intervening night of February 18-19, 2007. After the incident Irfan's brother had come to India and visited hospitals where injured were being treated but he could not find him.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Separated-for-9-years-Pakistani-man-wants-son-out-of-Indian-jail/articleshow/52274663.cms

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Army resumes laying barbed wire along Afghan border

May 15th, 2016

LANDI KOTAL: Personnel of the army’s engineering corps resumed laying barbed wire at selected locations along the Pak-Afghan border on Saturday after the Torkham border crossing was reopened on Friday evening, sources said.

The sources said that Inspector General of the Frontier Corps, Maj Gen Mazhar Shaheen, visited the border crossing and observed the situation there.

On the occasion, they said, Maj Gen Shaheen instructed the border guards to show courtesy to the people crossing over into Pakistan or Afghanistan but keep a strict vigil on the movement of suspect people.

He gave cash prizes to the border guards who worked overtime during the four days the Torkham border crossing remained closed.

A great rush of people was seen at the crossing in the morning as thousands of Afghan nationals flocked to it after remaining stranded on the other side due to the four-day closure.

Officials and clearing agents told Dawn that over 300 vehicles carrying export items, edibles and other goods were cleared at the Customs terminal for their journey into Afghanistan.

A similar number of vehicles loaded with coal and marble, etc, crossed over into Pakistan, they said.

The officials said the recently-installed human scanning machine remained busy throughout the day due to the large number of Afghans seeking to cross over into Pakistan.

Restaurants, markets and offices of clearing agents in the area also reopened on Saturday.

dawn.com/news/1258419/army-resumes-laying-barbed-wire-along-afghan-border

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US ExIm Bank to finance 3,600MW LNG-based projects in Pakistan

May 15th, 2016

ISLAMABAD: US Export-Import Bank has expressed willingness to finance three liquefied natural gas-based power plants in Pakistan with an overall generation capacity of 3,600 megawatts.

The assurance came from the ExIm Bank’s Vice-President Annette Maresh in a letter addressed to Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, a spokesman for the ministry said in a statement issued on Saturday.

Mr Dar started engagement with the bank during his visit to the United States in September last year when he met its senior officials and gave a detailed account of the business and investment opportunities in Pakistan.

He urged the US ExIm Bank, the official export credit agency of the US federal government, to explore financing development projects in Pakistan.

The announcement came after the visit of ExIm Bank’s Chairman and President Fred Hochberg to Pakistan last month.

During the visit, Mr Hochberg had a detailed meeting with the finance minister and was briefed on various upcoming projects, especially in the energy sector, where Exim Bank could participate.

The three power projects will be built in Baloki, Bhikki and Haveli Bahadar Shah. Welcoming the decision, Mr Dar has directed the relevant government departments to work out the details of the financing at the earliest.

The decision by the US ExIm Bank to finance the energy projects indicated the confidence of international institutions in economic stability and improved investment climate in Pakistan, the finance ministry’s spokesman said.

dawn.com/news/1258378/us-exim-bank-to-finance-3600mw-lng-based-projects

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Simultaneous polio drive in Pakistan, Afghanistan from 16th

May 15th, 2016

ISLAMABAD: The decision to launch an anti-polio campaign in the whole of Pakistan and Afghanistan simultaneously has created a severe shortage of personnel for the security of the polio teams.

However, the Ministry of Interior has directed the commandant of the Frontier Constabulary (FC) to ensure the deployment of security officials wherever required.

The nationwide three-day polio campaign will start on May 16 during which over 36 million children under the age of five years will be immunised in the country.

Pakistan has promised and claimed at all international forums that the poliovirus would be eradicated from the country in 2016. A number of steps and strategies have been prepared to ensure that the country would not face an embarrassment at the international level next year.

KP seeks over 2,600 FC personnel for security of polio teams across province

An official working with the polio programme requesting not to be identified told Dawn that an improvement had been observed in the anti-polio drive.

“During 2014, as many as 306 cases of polio were reported in the country but in 2015 the number dropped to 54. In the fifth month of 2016, only 10 cases have been reported. This shows that the total number of polio cases will further decrease in the current year,” he said.

“We have been trying our best to completely eradicate the virus in the current year. The decision to take Afghanistan on board was also a part of this strategy.”

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only countries which have been exporting the poliovirus to each other because a large number of people daily cross the border, he said.

“So it has been decided to hold the polio campaign in both the countries at the same time. But the decision has created a shortage of security personnel in Pakistan because unlike in the past the anti-polio campaign cannot be held in phases now. According to the standard operating procedure (SOP), security has to be provided to each polio team during the campaigns.”

The official said the KP health secretary had written a letter to the ministry of national health services (NHS), stating that 87 platoons of security officials were required for the security of the polio teams in the province.

“We are also expecting that the government of Balochistan would also ask for security officials because during a meeting of the national task force on polio eradication held in 2014 with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the chair, it was decided that the provinces can seek human resource from the federal government and even the services of the army can be utilised for the security of the polio teams,” he added.

A senior official of the Islamabad police explained to Dawn that a platoon of police consisted of 20 officials while an FC platoon comprised 30 officials.

He said if the KP government had asked for 87 platoons of the FC, it meant 2,610 personnel of the paramilitary force.

Secretary NHS Ayub Sheikh confirmed to Dawn that his ministry had received a letter from the KP government seeking security officials for the polio campaign.

“During almost every campaign in the past, some areas were left out and the polio teams covered them in different phases. However, this time we have decided to hold the polio campaign in all areas of provinces to vaccinate every child,” he said.

“The other reason for holding the polio campaign in all the districts at the same time is that a polio campaign will also start in Afghanistan from May 16. As the campaigns in both the countries will start simultaneously, we don’t want to miss a single child,” he said.

In reply to a question, Mr Sheikh said after receiving the request from KP, a letter had been written to the interior ministry to provide security personnel for the polio campaign.

“The interior ministry has directed the commandant of the FC to provide adequate officials for the campaign. So now we will get the FC officials wherever they will be required,” the secretary said.

It may be noted that Pakistan and Afghanistan share almost 2,500 kilometre-long border. Though children are vaccinated at all the legal entry points, a large number of people also entered the country through illegal routes along the porous border.

In January 2016, the chairman of the Technical Advisory Group, Dr Jean Marc Olive, had stressed that Pakistan and Afghanistan should make joint efforts to eradicate the poliovirus. He had added that Pakistan would not be able to eradicate the crippling disease on its own.

Published in Dawn,

dawn.com/news/1258470/simultaneous-polio-drive-in-pakistan-afghanistan-from-16th

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Africa

West Africa: Military Victory 'Not Enough' to Eradicate Boko Haram

May 15, 2016

Despite military gains against Boko Haram, a summit of West African and international leaders has been urged to do more to stop the extremists' deadly insurgency. Leaders met in Abuja, Nigeria's capital.

Delegates at Saturday's conference were told that tackling Boko Haram militarily would not be enough to defeat them and there was a need to eradicate the root causes of the conflict - poverty, deprivation and lack of opportunity.

French President Francois Hollande said despite "impressive" military gains against Boko Haram since a security summit in Paris two years ago, the group remained a threat because of its links to the self-proclaimed "Islamic State" and no-one should drop their guard.

US Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said a "sustained and comprehensive" approach was needed in all aspects from tackling extremism to reconstruction. In particular he pointed out the need to treat former Boko Haram fighters and suspects in line with human rights obligations, following accusations of military abuses against civilians and suspected militants.

"These efforts can address the drivers of extremism that helped give rise to Boko Haram in the first place," Blinken said, warning that otherwise the next version of the Sunni Muslim group, whose goal is to impose its bloody interpretation of Islamic law on Nigeria, would "rise from its ashes."

allafrica.com/stories/201605150021.html

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Liberia: Muslim Council welcomes LCC rejection of Christian state

May 14, 2016

The National Muslim Council of Liberia has announced that it has with immediate effect restored its membership with the Interreligious Council of Liberia.According to National Muslim Council Secretary General Sheikh Akibu Sherif, the decision was a mark of welcome for the recent statement by the Liberia Council of Churches (LCC) denouncing Proposition 24 of the Constitution Review Committee which seeks to make Liberia a Christian State.

Sheikh Sherif made the disclosure Friday evening at a press conference held at the National Muslim Council headquarters located in the Monrovia suburb of Sinkor.

In April the National Muslim Council announced that it was discontinuing its membership with the |Interreligious Council of Liberia because the LCC’s silence on proposition 24 at the time convinced them that they (LCC) were in support of it.

“The position of the Council of Churches reveals that there remains a Christian leader of compelling moral obligation to peace and stability in Liberia, who must be supported in their moral leadership to promote peaceful coexistence in Liberia,†the Muslim cleric noted.

Sheikh Sherifi also indicated the Muslim Council are making prompt decisions in these trying times that will strengthen efforts at peace and limit possibilities of fundamentalist and new movements growing within religious settings in the country.

“Considering the diversity that contributes to the historical foundation of Liberia, the National Muslim Council will remain a force to foster national unity, peace, stability and development in

Liberia,†he emphasized.

He told the gathering that at a special Executive Committee Meeting on Wednesday, May 11, 2016, the Muslim Council said the position of the Liberia Council of Churches reinforces their collective commitment to provide national level leadership towards the promotion of peace and harmony in Liberia.

He recalled that Proposition 24 ignited an unfortunate stalemate between Muslim and Christian leaders, and threatened to disband the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia, which had been a pillar in the search for peace in Liberia for the past 25 years.

“We see the decision of the Liberia Council of Churches as grounded in historical and humanistic discourses, and a commitment to making Liberia a bastion for peaceful coexistence irrespective of race, creed, ethnicity or religion,†he pointed out.

en.starafrica.com/news/liberia-muslim-council-welcomes-lcc-rejection-of-christian-state.html

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East Africa: Sudanese Scholars Commend Ethiopia's Regional Integration Effort

By Mengisteab Teshome

Sudanese scholars from the visiting Public Diplomacy delegation said that people to people relation is instrumental to mutually benefit from the sustainable development flourishing in the region.

The delegation has visited yesterday the Rock-Hewn Church of Abrahaweatsibiha and Al-nejashi Mosque, which is considered the first Hijra in Islamic history, found in the Tigray regional State.

After the visit Prof. Mahmoud Elsheikh Dean of Faculty of Arts Modern African Study told the Ethiopia Press Agency that the visit is an opportunity to have first hand information what the people and the government of Ethiopia is doing to transform their nation that once synonym to drought and unrest.

According to Prof. Mahmoud, the development projects being carried out in Ethiopia are so impressive in which other Africa nations should follow. The efforts of the Ethiopian government to address the public demand as well as the region interest is commendable.

Sudanese National University Vice president Prof. Amin Usman on his part said Ethiopia is doing well to change the landscape for the benefit of the coming generation to ensure sustainable development. " Ethiopia's firm position to alleviate poverty and create wealth is a lesson for the region in particular and for the whole Africa in general which the GERD could be an iconic work."

allafrica.com/stories/201605150034.html

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Southeast Asia

Islamic Development Bank gears up for Jakarta summit

May 15, 2016

Political and business leaders from Muslim countries are preparing to meet in Indonesia, to review last year's activities by the Islamic Development Bank Group (IDB).

Representatives of 56 member nations, as well as the bank's governing board, will meet at the 41st IDB annual meeting in Jakarta on Sunday.

Turkey will be represented by Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency before the meeting, the bank's president, Ahmad Mohamed Ali, said Turkey is best positioned to take advantage of IDB Group-wide solutions through joint support of many entities via the bank's country gateway office.

The bank has provided finance worth more than $115 billion to member countries in total since starting operations 41 years ago. It has granted $9.2 billion to Turkey for 459 projects and has offices in Ankara and Istanbul.

"This is particularly appropriate as Turkey's strategic challenges of enhancing productivity and competitiveness are equally relevant for all group entities," Ali added.

Ali said that the IDB group is thankful to the Turkish government for the successful implementation of the first Member Country Partnership Strategy (MCPS) for Turkey between 2010-2013 when the state received $2.2 billion in finance from the bank

"The IDB Group is preparing to undertake the next MCPS (2016-2018) in line with the government's Medium-Term Development Plan to support its development objectives and growth targets under 2023 Vision through the 25 Transformation Programs," Ali added.

During 2015, the IDB Group recorded an unprecedented amount of approvals worth $1.83 billion, representing 21 percent of the total since the bank's inception.

Ali said that the bank appreciated the Turkish government's efforts to boost the participation banking industry, saying that "it is a privilege for IDB to contribute to these efforts".

"Indeed, [the] IDB has been playing an active role in the ambitious deepening of the Islamic finance sector through equity participation in Albaraka and Kuveyt Turk and Vakif Katilim participation banks," Ali said.

There are currently six Islamic banks operating in Turkey: Albaraka Turk, Bank Asya, Kuveyt Turk, Turkiye Finans, Ziraat and Vakif.

Ziraat and Vakif are state banks that have recently launched Islamic branches. Halkbank, another state-run conventional bank, is expected to also begin its own Islamic operation.

At least 16,000 people currently work in Islamic finance across 1,100 branches across Turkey.

Islamic banking comprises five percent of the total banking system in Turkey, which the government says it aims to increase to 15 percent by 2023.

Ali emphasized the bank is also fully supporting Turkey's plans for the development of Istanbul as an international financial center.

"Indeed, IDB Sukuk is currently listed in Borsa Istanbul. Moreover, the Bank Group continues to organize several workshops, seminars, training programs and conferences aiming at promoting the industry," Ali said.

The government has long aimed to turn Istanbul into a finance center, and it believes that Islamic finance is of critical importance to realizing this goal.

Islamic finance entails interest-free transactions, in accordance with Islamic law.

The IDB was established on Dec. 7, 1973 by members of Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and officially started operating in Oct. 20, 1975. The bank aims to contribute to the social and economic development of member countries and Muslim communities individually in line with the principles of Islam.

New Islamic 'megabank' in 2016

Establishing a new Islamic 'megabank' within the year is also on the agenda of the Jakarta meeting.

Turkey's government has requested the Islamic Development Bank to found such a facility in Turkey. Indonesia has made a similar request, according to Deputy PM Simsek earlier this month.

Simsek said that Indonesia, Turkey and the Islamic Development Bank decided to set up committees to look into the matter during a visit to Washington in April.

“Turkey will host a megabank that will serve the region. Indonesia will have one as well. They will either be specialized or territorialized,” Simsek said, adding that the bank will be based in Istanbul.

Turkish nanotechnology company to receive award

The IDB also gives awards for science and technology every year to recognize efforts which contribute to technological and economic research in its member states.

The 2016 IDB Prize for Science and Technology will be presented to a private Turkish company called Nanomanyetik Bilimsel Cihazlar Ltd. during the Jakarta meeting.

yenisafak.com/en/world/islamic-development-bank-gears-up-for-jakarta-summit-2466461

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Australia

Five face terror charges over Australia-Syria boat plan

AFP | May 15, 2016

SYDNEY: Five young men face life behind bars after they were charged with counter-terrorism offences over a plan to sail to Indonesia to join jihadist groups in Syria , Australian police said.

The men, aged in their twenties and early thirties and whose passports had been cancelled, included notorious Australian Islamic preacher Musa Cerantonio, who was detained in the Philippines in 2014 and deported for reportedly urging people to join jihad in Iraq and Syria, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

The men, who were arrested on Tuesday, bought a seven-metre boat and drove it 2,840 kilometres from Melbourne north to Queensland state where they planned to set sail to Indonesia, the Australian Federal Police said on Saturday.

"The men were each charged with one count of making preparations for incursions into foreign countries for the purpose of engaging in hostile activities," the Australian Federal Police said in a statement. "The maximum penalty for this offence is life imprisonment," the police added.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation named two of the other men as Shayden Thorne and Kadir Kaya.

The Federal Police said that there was no current or impending terrorism threat from the case and that the men were due at a Queensland state court hearing on Monday.

Canberra has been increasingly concerned about its citizens fighting with jihadist organisations such as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, saying some 110 Australians had left the country to join such groups.

The government has also been worried about homegrown extremism and the terror threat level was raised to high in September 2014.

It has passed numerous national security laws including legislation allowing for passports to be cancelled to prevent Australians from leaving the country.

At least six attacks have been foiled on home soil over the past 18 months, but several have taken place, including the terror-linked murder of a Sydney police employee in October 2015.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/rest-of-world/Five-face-terror-charges-over-Australia-Syria-boat-plan/articleshow/52275670.cms

 

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