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Islamic World News ( 3 Apr 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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US Adds LeT's Political Front, Milli Muslim League, to Terrorist List

New Age Islam News Bureau

3 Apr 2018 

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud sought the view of the Uttar Pradesh government and asked the Sunni Central Waqf Board to serve the copy on the counsel for the state government.



 US Adds LeT's Political Front, Milli Muslim League, to Terrorist List

 Muslims Show the Way: Muslims Protect Properties of Hindu Neighbours in Asansol

 Mosque in Allahabad HC: Supreme Court Seeks View of Yogi Adityanath Government

 Saudi Crown Prince Claims He’s ‘Not Familiar’ with Wahhabism, Islam ‘a Religion of Peace’

 Hafiz Saeed Needs Pak Ministry Clearance for Registering Political Party

 Prisoner Or Free Man? Mystery Surrounds Kadhafi's Son Seif Al-Islam


North America

 US Adds LeT's Political Front, Milli Muslim League, to Terrorist List

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

 Canada Should Show Willingness to Take In Rohingya Refugees: Rae Report

 Trump might give Iran an incalculable windfall

 Manufactured nuclear crisis with Iran to harm Trump administration: US daily



 Muslims Show the Way: Muslims Protect Properties of Hindu Neighbours in Asansol

 Mosque in Allahabad HC: Supreme Court Seeks View of Yogi Adityanath Government

 Muslim Youth Refurbishes Hanuman Temple in Bengal

 US Places Hafiz Saeed's Milli Muslim League on Terror List, India Welcomes Move

 Srinagar restrictions continue after extension of separatist shutdown

 Tears and grief at end of four-year wait: Caskets from Mosul flown home to Punjab

 All 13 militants killed in J&K encounter were local youths, say police


Arab World

 Saudi Crown Prince Claims He’s ‘Not Familiar’ with Wahhabism, Islam ‘a Religion of Peace’

 Saudi Crown Prince: Triangle of Evil is trying to Build Extremist Empire to Control Region

 Human Rights Watch slams ‘unlawful’ Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia

 Largest Syrian rebel group starts leaving Damascus enclave

 Saudi crown prince says Israelis have right to their own land

 Over 1,100 Jeish Al-Islam Militants Leave Douma for Northern Syria

 Raqqa Militias Attack US Coalition Base in Northern Syria

 Syrian Army Raises Flag over Eastern Ghouta Town

 Al-Nusra Kidnaps Tens of Rival Terrorists in Eastern Ghouta

 Iraq scouts make comeback in ex-extremist bastion Mosul

 Syrian opposition pledges to continue anti-Assad revolution



 Hafiz Saeed Needs Pak Ministry Clearance for Registering Political Party

 Army Chief Approves Death for Amjad Sabri’s Killers, Other Terrorists

 Islamic State claims killing Christian family of four as gunmen kill nine in separate attacks in Quetta

 Islamic State claims attack on Christian family in Pakistan

 US Department of State identifies MML, TAK as LeT affiliates: report

 Gen Bajwa assures US of Pakistan’s commitment to Afghan peace

 PM says high time world acknowledges Pakistan’s sacrifices in terror war



 Prisoner or Free Man? Mystery Surrounds Kadhafi's Son Seif Al-Islam

 20 Killed In Boko Haram Attack on Nigerian Army Base, Villages

 US says drone strike kills 5 militants in Somalia

 Sudan to put proposed charter changes to popular vote

 Boko Haram: Light will triumph over darkness – Shettima laments killings


South Asia

 Civilian Casualties in Afghan Airstrike on Taliban Madrassa

 Myanmar Lures Bangladesh Buddhists to Take Over Rohingya Land: Officials

 Turkey’s aid agency opens orphanage in Bangladesh

 Dozens killed by Afghan air strikes in northern Kunduz

 Taliban reacts at the killing of top Chinese militant leader in Badakhshan

 Kabul says substantial issues remain for discussion with Islamabad

 Senior Taliban commanders killed in Afghan airstrike in Kunduz



 Call for Muslim Action to Stop Israeli Atrocities in Gaza

 Air Raid Kills 16 near Yemen Port of Hodeida

 Yemen PM: Cracking down on Houthi stronghold ends ‘Iranian project’

 Yemen: 20 Arab coalition raids target Houthi sites in Saada, al-Baida

 Iran will never compromise on Palestinian cause: Zarif

 Hamas calls on Arab League to sue Israel at ICC for Gaza carnage

 Israel to send 16,000 African migrants to Western countries



 Iraqi Nun Displaced By Islamic State Denied UK Visa

 German coalition partners in row over role of Islam in country

 Russia: 40,000 civilians return to Syria’s E Ghouta

 Anti-Semitic claims against Corbyn, Labour exaggerated: Poll


Southeast Asia

 Indonesia's Supreme Court Rejects Blasphemy Appeal of Christian Ex-Governor

 China Saw 16-Fold Increase in Returning Jihadists in 2017, Analyst Says 

 Malaysia intercepts boat carrying Rohingya refugees from Myanmar

 Four Detained in Indonesia's Aceh for Alleged Gay Sex, Face 100 Lashes

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




US Adds LeT's Political Front, Milli Muslim League, to Terrorist List

April 3, 2018

New York, April 3: Closing Lashkar-e-Taiba’s (LeT) loopholes, the US has taken aim at its political party, the Milli Muslim League (MML), and seven leaders, as well as another front organisation adding them to its list of terrorist groups.

The State and the Treasury Departments announced on Monday that the MML, which openly campaigns with posters of LeT chief Hafiz Saeed, has been added under LeT’s designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) under two different laws.

The State Department said that another LeT front, Tehreek-e-Azadi-e-Kashmir (TAJK) was also added to the lists.

The Treasury Department said that it was also targeting MML president Saifullah Khalid, General Secretary Fayyaz Ahmad and five others.

“LeT continues to operate freely within Pakistan, holding public rallies, raising funds, and plotting and training for terrorist attacks,” the State Department said.

“Make no mistake: whatever LeT chooses to call itself, it remains a violent terrorist group,” the Department’s Counterterrorism Coordinator Nathan A. Sales said in Washington.

“Today’s amendments take aim at Lashkar-e-Taiba’s efforts to circumvent sanctions and deceive the public about its true character.”

Treasury Under Secretary Sigal Mandelker warned that “those working with the Milli Muslim League, including providing financial donations, should think twice about doing so or risk exposure to US sanctions.”

“Treasury is targeting the Milli Muslim League and a group of seven global terrorists who are complicit in Lashkar-e-Taiba’s attempts to undermine Pakistan’s political process,” she added.

Saeed created the MML last August as the group’s political front and LeT members make up MML’s leadership and the “so-called party” openly displays Saeed’s likeness in its election banners and literature, the State Department said.

The Pakistan Election Commission has rejected MML’s application to be recognised as a political part.

The LeT was responsible for the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India that killed 166 people, including six Americans, and it has killed dozens of Indian security forces and civilians in recent years, the State Department said.

In a bid to avoid US sanctions, LeT began operating under the name TAJK in January last year and carried out terrorist activities under that banner, the department said.

The US has demanded the arrest of Saeed, who carries a $10 million US bounty, after he was set free by a Lahore court which refused to extend his detention.

US President Donald Trump’s Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had warned that failure to act against him “will have repercussions for bilateral relations.”

The US has demanded the arrest of Saeed, who carries a $10 million US bounty, after he was set free by a Lahore court which refused to extend his detention.

The MML leaders against whom the US took action include its vice president Muzammil Iqbal Hashimi, Joint Secretary Muhammad Harris Dar, Information Secretary Tabish Qayyuum, Finance Secretary Muhammad Ehsan and Faisal Nadeem.

The Treasury Department said that “all property and interests in property of these persons subject to US jurisdiction are blocked” and US citizens are banned from having any transactions with them.



Muslims Show the Way: Muslims Protect Properties of Hindu Neighbours in Asansol

April 2, 2018

KOLKATA: Despite some recent untoward incidents, members of the Muslim community grouped up to protect houses and business units of local Hindus.

Fellow Muslim neighbors of Sinthla Dangal of West Bengal’s Asansol join hands to bring communal harmony and ensured that the few Hindu families who lived there were not harmed, reported DNA.

Muslim residents of Sinthla Dangal of Asansol show that all is not lost. Some Muslims have grouped up to protect houses and business units of local Hindus who have fled after the violence.

Maulana Imdadul Rashidi, imam of Noorani Masjid at Sinthla Dangal, lost his 16-year-old son during the violence which began a day after Ram Navami celebration. When Imam’s younger son Sibtulla Rashidi was allegedly killed and his body was found on Wednesday night, locals were gearing up to retaliate, but Rashidi urged everyone to maintain peace.

“My faith teaches me peace and thus I urged everyone to maintain peace. My family has suffered a huge loss, but I don’t want people to turn it into an excuse to spread violence,” Rashidi said on Sunday.

Following his instructions, residents send out a message of unity in contrast with what happened in the area.

Wasim Raza, residents of the area said, “Imam saab has suffered a stupendous loss. Since he himself has been patient enough and had asked us not to take law in our hands, we decided to follow his footsteps. Members of a few Hindu families who used to live here had fled the place and we have ensured that their houses are safe. We have instructed everyone to refrain from trying to raze the place. Youths of the area have also made sure that the only temple of the locality is also not harmed so that no wrong message is given out to the society at large.”

“We don’t want revenge and counter revenge to continue. Hindus and Muslims have been living here peacefully for ages and it should remain like that. Violence never benefits poor people like us. My son has been injured and is hospitalised. My house has been razed but we want to forget everything and request administration to ensure peace,” she told DNA, standing in front of her damaged house at Ram Kishan Dangal.

Similar was the emotion of Ratan Mala Devi. The 66-year-old said she had gone through an ordeal on March 28. “People were on a rampage hurling bombs and stones at each other. We want to live in the harmony which had always been here so that people can move around without the fear of being attacked,” she said.



Mosque In Allahabad HC: Supreme Court Seeks View Of Yogi Adityanath Government

April 2, 2018

The Allahabad High Court on Monday told the Supreme Court that it does not have alternate land for relocating a mosque situated in its premises and the state government may consider shifting it to another land. A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud sought the view of the Uttar Pradesh government and asked the Sunni Central Waqf Board to serve the copy on the counsel for the state government.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi appearing for the Allahabad High Court said that as far as high court is concerned, there is no alternate land for relocating the mosque. He said the high court has already very less space for parking of advocates’ vehicles and there is no alternate land where the mosque can be shifted.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal appearing for the Waqf Board said the structure had been there for several decades and it can’t be just asked to move out.

The Waqf Board has moved the apex court against the high court verdict by which it had directed for removal of a mosque situated in the high court premises.

The apex court had earlier directed the parties to arrive at a consensus upon where the mosque should be constructed. The Waqf Board had challenged the November 8, 2017, order of the high court which gave it three months to move out of the premises.



Saudi Crown Prince Claims He’s ‘Not Familiar’ with Wahhabism, Islam ‘a Religion of Peace’

2 Apr 2018

In an interview with the Atlantic conducted from the compound of the Saudi ambassador in Washington, who happens to be his brother, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) offered strong criticism of Iran and some thoughts about the religious, cultural, and economic upheaval in progress in Saudi Arabia.

In one remarkable exchange, MBS recognized the right of Israel to exist—a bold step for any Arab leader, let alone the next guardian of Mecca and Medina.

Like many other interviewers, Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic highlighted 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed’s “directness” as his most arresting attribute. Goldberg amusingly describes the ambassador Prince Khalid and his staff teetering on the edge of a conniption fit every time MBS decided to drop a truth bomb. For example, he calls out the Supreme Leader of Iran as worse than Adolf Hitler.

“I believe the Iranian supreme leader makes Hitler look good. Hitler didn’t do what the supreme leader is trying to do. Hitler tried to conquer Europe. … The supreme leader is trying to conquer the world,” MBS said.

On Israel, Goldberg reports that he “did not have a bad word to say” about the Jewish state, and he went further than any other Arab leader has in acknowledging Israel’s right to exist.

“I believe that each people, anywhere, has a right to live in their peaceful nation. I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land,” said MBS. He proposed that the Gulf states and their allies like Egypt and Jordan have strong common interests with Israel.

Another interesting part of the interview concerned MBS’ ongoing effort to frame Saudi Arabia as a jovial land of moderate Islam temporarily caught up in the Islamist extremism of the late 1970s. He described his vision of a reformist Kingdom returning to its progressive roots and doing battle against the “triangle of evil” that seeks world conquest through fundamentalist Islam: Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Sunni terrorist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda.

“In this triangle, they are trying to promote the idea that our duty as Muslims is to reestablish the caliphate, to reestablish the mindset of the caliphate—that the glory of Islam is in building an empire by force,” MBS explained. “But God didn’t ask us to do this, and the Prophet Muhammad did not ask us to do this. God only asked us to spread the word. And this mission is accomplished.”

He gave his interpretation of the “Islam is a religion of peace” idea and sought to reconcile it with the violent history of the Middle East:

Islam is a religion of peace. This is the translation of Islam. God, in Islam, gives us two responsibilities: The first is to believe, to do good things, and not bad things. If we do bad things, God will judge us on Judgment Day.

Our second duty as Muslims is to spread the word of God. For 1,400 years, Muslims have been trying to spread the word of God. In the Middle East, in North Africa, in Europe, they weren’t allowed to spread the word. That’s why they fought to spread the word.

But you also see that, in a lot of countries in Asia—Indonesia, Malaysia, India—Muslims were free to spread the word. They were told, “Go ahead, say whatever you want to say, the people have free will to believe whatever they want to believe in.” Islam, in this context, was not about conquering, it was about peacefully spreading the word.

“Today, every human has the right to choose their belief,” MBS noted. “In every country, it is possible to buy religious books. The message is being delivered. We have no duty anymore to fight to spread Islam. But in the triangle of evil, they want to manipulate Muslims, to tell them their duty as Muslims – their dignity as Muslims—requires the establishment of a Muslim empire.”

When Goldberg pointed out that the Wahhabi fundamentalist ideology of Saudi Arabia long predates the dire events of 1979—the Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution in Iran and the siege of the Grand Mosque in Mecca—MBS literally responded that he has no idea what “Wahhabism” is.

“This Wahhabism—please define it for us,” he asked Goldberg. “We’re not familiar with it. We don’t know about it.”

When Goldberg attempted a little history lesson about the centuries-old extremist ideology, MBS cut him off and essentially dismissed Wahhabi Islam as tripe, an illegitimate perversion that has no grounding in the recognized schools of Islamic thought. He dismissed Saudi support for Wahhabism in the 20th Century as an unfortunate and unnatural product of Cold War politics, pointedly refusing to denounce it as a mistake, but indicating that it was not something the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would ever consider doing again.

“We were in a situation of revolution in Iran, and they were trying to copy it in Mecca,” he said of the pivotal events of 1979. “We were trying to keep everything tied together, to keep everything from collapsing. We faced terrorism in Saudi Arabia and in Egypt. We called for the arrest of Osama bin Laden very early, because he was not in Saudi Arabia. We suffered quite a lot by fighting terrorism until 9/11 happened. This is the story.”

The crown prince talked about his efforts to reform Saudi society, indicating that he had to proceed carefully in some areas to avoid making problems for “conservative families,” and bluntly indicating that liberalization will stop well short of representative democracy or abolishing the absolute monarchy he will soon inherit.

Political freedom is not in the cards, and neither is freedom of speech, although he claimed free speech is in better shape in his country than in places like Iran. As MBS put it, Saudis merely have to avoid crossing three red lines in their speech: defaming Islam, defaming individual people, or jeopardizing national security.

MBS argued that encouraging the rule of law is more important than changing the method for selecting Saudi Arabia’s rulers, effectively proposing that an enlightened reform-minded monarch is the best hope for real reform under his country’s complex tribal system.

“The end here is development, rights, and freedom. The way to get to it, and this is the American view, is democracy, but the way to get to it in Saudi Arabia is our more complex system,” he said.



Hafiz Saeed Needs Pak Ministry Clearance For Registering Political Party

April 02, 2018

ISLAMABAD:  The Election Commission of Pakistan today asked the Milli Muslim League (MML), the political front of Hafiz Saeed-led Jamaat-ud Dawa, to produce a clearance certificate by the interior ministry for its registration as a political party.

The election commission had earlier rejected the MML's application for registration as a political party after the interior ministry objected to its ties to banned terrorist outfits.

The Islamabad High Court, however, last month set aside the election commission's decision and ordered it to hear MML's case for registration ahead of the general elections.

A three-member bench of the commission headed by Abdul Ghaffar Soomro was today hearing the MML's appeal for its registration as a party, Dawn reported.

During the hearing, the bench asked MML's counsel Raja Rizwan Abbasi whether he could bring a clearance certificate issued by the interior ministry, the paper said.

Abbasi argued that there was no requirement for the party to request clearance from the ministry under the Elections Act, 2017.

However, the commission directed the counsel to submit a clearance certificate issued by the ministry or an affidavit addressing the allegations against MML.

The commission member, Irshad Qaiser, asked the counsel whether the MML had submitted details of 2,000 of its members and Rs. 200,000 registration fee, which is a requirement to be met in order to register as a political party.

The MML's lawyer responded that they had applied for registration in August 2017 when the said law had not been passed.

"We should be allowed to register... (and) the legal requirements will be met," he asserted.

The counsel attempted to assure the bench that members of the MML were not "linked to any banned outfit" and that there is no case or complaint pending against any of its party leaders, the paper said.

Any citizen can get their party registered with the ECP, Abbasi contended.

Before adjourning the hearing until May 2, the ECP asked the MML lawyer to submit a written reply before the next hearing and to bring the clearance from the ministry or affidavit.

The commission also asked the MML to prepare the list of 2,000 members along with thumbprints, the paper added.

Saeed had earlier said that his JuD would contest the 2018 general elections under the banner of the MML.

The JuD is believed to be the front organisation for the LeT which is responsible for carrying out the Mumbai attack that killed 166 people. It has been declared as a foreign terrorist organisation by the US in June 2014.

The banned JuD head was released from the house arrest in November last year after the Pakistan government decided against detaining him further in any other case. He was under house arrest since January last year.



Prisoner Or Free Man? Mystery Surrounds Kadhafi's Son Seif Al-Islam

April 02, 2018

ZINTAN, LIBYA:  Nearly a year after a Libyan militia announced it had set free the son and heir apparent of slain dictator Moamer Kadhafi, the fate of Seif al-Islam remains a mystery.

His reported release from detention by the Abu Bakr al-Sadiq Brigade which once controlled the town of Zintan in western Libya has never been confirmed and has fuelled wild rumours.

While some insist he is still somewhere in Zintan, others claim Seif is dead.

One thing is certain, however: he has not been seen or heard of since June 2014 when he appeared via video from Zintan during his trial by a Tripoli court.

And now Seif is back in the news, after France's former president Nicolas Sarkozy was charged in Paris with financing his 2007 election campaign with money from Kadhafi.

In a 2011 interview with the Euronews television network, Seif said Sarkozy must "give back the money he took from Libya to finance his electoral campaign".

Seif al-Islam -- whose name means "sword of Islam" -- was captured by the Zintan-based militia in November 2011, days after Kadhafi was killed in a NATO-backed uprising against his decades-old rule.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is in a legal tug-of-war with Libyan authorities to transfer Seif to The Hague, where he is wanted for crimes against humanity including murder.

But in July 2015, a Tripoli court sentenced the now 45-year-old to death in absentia along with eight other Kadhafi-era figures.

According to several Libyan sources, and diplomats, Seif has not left Zintan, a largely tribal town 170 kilometres (105 miles) southwest of Tripoli and one of the cradles of the 2011 uprising.

'Still a prisoner'?

But is he a prisoner? No one in Zintan, a town of 40,000 inhabitants, is willing to give a clear answer.

"Yes. He is still a prisoner," Mokhtar al-Akhdar, a member of Zintan's military council which groups the town's key militias, said categorically when asked about Seif.

"Even if he is not a prisoner, he is wanted by the ICC... and he has nowhere to go," he quickly added, throwing more doubt on Seif's fate.

Chaaban al-Marhani, one of the town's tribal leaders, also provided a confusing account of Seif's whereabouts.

"He is here (in Zintan) and his is a prisoner but his fate in not in the hands of Zintan."

A member of the security services, speaking on condition of anonymity, added to the confusion.

"In any case Seif al-Islam was never really a prisoner in the full meaning of the word. Ever since his arrest he has been under home arrest... not in a prison," he said.

The Abu Bakr al-Sadiq Brigade which captured him more than six years ago had repeatedly refused to hand Seif over to authorities in Tripoli or the ICC.

The group said it released him in June 2017 as part of a general amnesty decreed by a parliament based in eastern Libya but legal experts said Seif was not included in the amnesty.

The militia -- which Zintan residents say was disbanded nearly a year ago -- failed to persuade anyone when it announced his release a year ago because it had also reported setting him free a few months earlier.

Criminal on the run?

Omar Gaith, a member of parliament from Zintan, said he "cannot confirm or deny the liberation of Seif".

"Seif al-Islam is considered a criminal and a fugitive. If he is arrested he will be put on trial again," he said.

The Tripoli court sentenced Seif to death, along with other Kadhafi-era officials, for crimes, including murder and complicity to incite rape during the 2011 uprising -- a verdict criticised by the United Nations and human rights groups.

Due to the nature of these crimes "he can not benefit from any amnesty," said the office of the prosecutor general in Tripoli.

The ICC prosecutor was not available for comment on Seif's fate.

In 2015 the court said it was verifying his whereabouts, reiterating its demand for his arrest and transfer to The Hague.

Meanwhile the mystery surrounding Seif continues to grow, including by diehard Kadhafi regime supporters.

On March 19, a man speaking from Tunis and claiming to represent Seif said Kadhafi's son would run in Libya's next presidential election.

The claim was rejected by the Abu Bakr al-Sadiq Brigade which said on its Facebook page that it had "contacted" Seif who insists he has not entrusted anyone to represent him.

The militia's commander, Ajmi Laatiri, could not be reached for comment.



North America


Man helping sick kids shows Islam's 'true face' in US


By Musa Alcan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I raise them as Muslims.”

Turkey acknowledges contribution

The man with a heart of gold has been acknowledged by Turkey and an award was given to him by the Turkish president himself; even a Turkish filmmaker is planning to turn his inspiring story into a documentary.

Speaking at a ceremony in capital Ankara where Bzeek was given the International Benevolence Award, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said stories like that of Bzeek gave people hope despite the violence and brutality across the globe.

About the difficulties he faces in helping terminally-ill children, Bzeek said it is not easy to raise children who require special care.

“It is a very hard job,” he said: “They have a lot of medication, they have a lot of machines.”

Some nights you cannot sleep because you have to take care of them during the night, he adds.

“This is my first vacation in seven years,” he added.

An electronic engineer by profession, Bzeek, who himself has a disabled son, remembers his first foster child.

“A Mexican girl,” he recalled.

“She was just a month old,” when Bzeek began looking after her. In 1991, she died after living for two-and-a-half years with the family.

“It was very hard and it was my first experience of death with a little kid that you have at home for two years.

People 'afraid' to care

“When she died it really hit me hard and I was so sad, I was crying for three days,” Bzeek said.

Bzeek, who is a devout Muslim, said he cares for children regardless of their religion, nationality or skin color.

“I just take them as human beings, I consider them as my own children, I don’t think them as foster children,” he said.

In 1995, Bzeek and his wife decided to take care of terminally-ill kids.

“I was told that I am the only house in the LA that is taking [care of] kids knowing they are going to die,” he said.

People do not want these kids because they are dying, he added.

“They are afraid if they take them home and they die in their house it will be devastating for their family and kids. That’s why people don’t like to take kids that are going to die.”

He said children under his care are made to feel at home.

“When I take them, I make them feel at home. I make them feel they have family, brothers and sister. They are safe and somebody will take care of them.

“And somebody will be with them until the last minute of their lives.”



Canada should show willingness to take in Rohingya refugees: Rae report

April 2, 2018

Ottawa’s special envoy to Myanmar will release a report Tuesday urging Canada to express willingness to welcome Rohingya refugees and implement sanctions against those responsible for the ongoing humanitarian crisis, according to people familiar with the document.

Those sources also say that that the special envoy’s report addresses “strong signals” that crimes against humanity have been committed in the country.

Since August 2017, roughly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar’s Buddhist-majority Rakhine state for neighbouring Bangladesh amid widespread violence that the United Nations has labelled “textbook ethnic cleansing.”

In October 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau named former Toronto MP and Ontario premier Bob Rae as Canada’s special envoy to Myanmar.

“It is hard to convey in words the extent of the humanitarian crisis currently being faced in Bangladesh,” Rae wrote in an interim report released in December. “In addition to accounts of shooting and military violence, I also heard directly from women of sexual violence and abuse at the hands of the Myanmar military, and the death of children and the elderly on the way to the camps.”

Although initially barred from entering Rakhine state, the epicentre of the Rohingya humanitarian crisis, Rae was able to travel to the region in February.

Sources say that Rae’s final report will recommend that Canada declare its willingness to take in Rohingya refugees from both Myanmar and Bangladesh while encouraging other countries to do the same. Such resettlements, the report purportedly states, should not be seen as a solution to the refugee crisis, nor should it diminish the Myanmar government’s duties to take responsibility for the violent exodus and aid hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees in returning home.

Rae will additionally recommend that Canada and its allies implement targeted economic sanctions against individuals, organizations and companies that have broken international humanitarian laws.

According to those familiar with the report, Rae believes that Ottawa’s response to the crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh should be considered a “litmus test” for Canada’s foreign policy. He also reportedly states that the crisis should be discussed during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London in April as well as during the 2018 G7 summit that Canada will be hosting in May.

Although Myanmar’s government has publicly expressed a willingness to resettle those who have fled the country, years of systematic violence at the hands of Myanmar security forces and Buddhist mobs means that such plans have been met with widespread skepticism by Rohingya refugees.

Many of those refugees are currently residing in sprawling and overcrowded Bangladeshi camps that threaten to be inundated with heavy rains -- potentially overwhelming sanitation facilities and leading to outbreaks of water-borne diseases -- during the upcoming monsoon season, which begins in May.

Full report at:



Trump might give Iran an incalculable windfall

By Max Boot

April 2, 2018

“We’re on the two-yard line. We could literally fall into the end zone. We’re that close to total victory, to wiping out the ISIS caliphate in Syria,” a U.S. Special Forces officer in Syria told NBC News last week. But President Trump seems determined to turn over the ball on the goal line, setting up the geopolitical version of the 2015 Super Bowl that the Seattle Seahawks lost with a last-minute interception.

On Thursday, Trump said, “We’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon. Let the other people take care of it now.” He then froze the paltry $200 million the United States had pledged to help rebuild areas liberated from the Islamic State.

If Trump follows through — always a big if with him — he will be reversing a decision he made late last year at the urging of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Staying in Syria appears to be another one of those moves — like not abandoning the Iran nuclear deal or not imposing tariffs — that was forced on Trump by his advisers and that he is reversing now that he has decided to stop listening to people who know what they are talking about. The “very stable genius” prefers to follow his own instincts — you know, the ones that led him into six corporate bankruptcies.

The Trump foreign policy can be characterized as violent isolationism. And, yes, it’s as incoherent as it sounds. His philosophy is: Bombs away, then bye-bye. The United States has dropped a lot of munitions in Syria — mostly on the Islamic State but also, a year ago, on one of Bashar al-Assad’s airfields. But Trump is as allergic to lasting obligations in foreign affairs as he is in his “Stormy” private life.

The problem is that the United States has almost never achieved its objectives without a prolonged intervention. The United States left Europe after World War I, and the result, 21 years later, was World War II. We stayed in Europe after 1945, and the result is unprecedented peace and prosperity.

Want more examples? The United States intervened in Somalia in 1992 and exited in 1994, leaving behind chaos that allowed the rise of the Islamist extremists known as al-Shabab. The United States helped to topple Moammar Gaddafi in 2011, but did nothing to stabilize Libya afterward, allowing that country to become another playground for Islamist extremists. Washington is now trying to limit the damage by launching drone strikes against al-Qaeda leaders in Libya.

Finally, Iraq. The George W. Bush administration did next to nothing to prepare for stabilization operations after Saddam Hussein’s downfall in 2003, creating the conditions for an insurgency that cost the United States 4,497 dead and 32,252 wounded. The 2007-2008 surge restored calm, but President Barack Obama’s pullout of U.S. forces in 2011 made possible the rise of the Islamic State. Republicans blasted Obama’s decision, yet are silent today when Trump looks set to make the same mistake in Syria.

Granted, some of these interventions were mistakes to begin with and should not have been continued in perpetuity. But the United States was right to send military advisers to Syria, and the stakes remain high even with the defeat of the Islamic State in sight.

Withdrawing the 2,000 or so U.S. troops might allow the Islamic State, which today controls less than 7 percent of Syria’s territory, to rise again. It would almost certainly allow Iran to gain control of eastern Syria, creating a land bridge from Tehran to Damascus and Beirut that would increase the danger to Israel. As Josh Rogin notes, instead of taking the terrorists’ oil, Trump appears ready to hand it to the mullahs.

Perhaps the most morally troubling consequence of a pullout — meaning that it will not trouble this president in the slightest — is that it would represent a betrayal of the Kurds and Arabs in the Syrian Democratic Forces who have fought alongside U.S. troops against the Islamic State. The SDF fighters are the most moderate and reliable allies that the United States has in Syria. “They trusted our first forces on the ground,” U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Jonathan Braga told NBC, “and we trusted them.”

The right way to repay their trust is to help the SDF establish an autonomous zone in the one-third of Syria that it controls. This would protect at least a portion of Syrian territory from Russian and Iranian domination and give the United States a strong say in that country’s future.

But Trump seems determined to betray the SDF as the United States betrayed the South Vietnamese in the 1970s, the Afghans in the 1990s, and the Iraqis after 2011. How long before Trump starts reconsidering the commitment to Afghanistan that he only halfheartedly supported? And what will happen in Iraq if “Fox & Friends” informs Trump that the United States still has 5,000 troops there?

Full report at:



Manufactured nuclear crisis with Iran to harm Trump administration: US daily

Apr 2, 2018

Chief editors at leading US daily The New York Times say the US administration of President Donald Trump stands to lose by possibly withdrawing from a multilateral nuclear deal with Iran and manufacturing a "nuclear crisis" with the Islamic Republic.

In its Sunday edition, the paper's editorial board laid out a forceful argument about why the Trump administration should refrain from a unilateral pullout from the Iran deal, which was struck in 2015, when the administration of former president Barack Obama was in office.

Trump started bashing the Iran deal when he was campaigning for presidency in 2016. Since winning the presidential election in November that year and taking office in January 2017, he has repeatedly threatened to pull the US out of the deal but has grudgingly refused to do so on temporal benchmarks related to the deal.

According to reports, Trump has largely been held back by a team of advisers described within the US as the "committee to save America," a reference to their purported ability so far to prevent Trump from making reckless decisions. That circle has included Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and — until recently — national security adviser H. R. McMaster and secretary of state Rex Tillerson.

Trump has dismissed McMaster and Tillerson over policy disagreements, including on the Iran deal, and has replaced them with Iran hawks Mike Pompeo, as secretary of state, and John Bolton, as national security adviser. Both are known to strongly oppose the Iran deal in particular and diplomacy in general.

The editorial said Trump and "his new hard-line team of national security advisers" will lose their standing as a credible negotiating partner in potentially upcoming talks with North Korea if they scrap the Iran deal.

'Without a shred of evidence'

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is tasked with monitoring Iranian compliance with the deal, has in nine consecutive reports confirmed complete Iranian adherence to its contractual commitments.

The Times editorial pointed to that fact, and cited "American diplomats and military officers" as also affirming the deal's "efficacy."

Trump "has claimed, without a shred of evidence, that Iran is out of compliance, and has complained that Iran is still building ballistic missiles, arming Hezbollah and supporting President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. None of these concerns were supposed to be prevented by the deal," the editorial board wrote.

"He has demanded that Britain, France and Germany fix what he calls 'flaws' in the pact by May 12, presumably so he will have someone else to blame when it falls apart."

The Iran deal debate has gained new significance amid reports that Trump may meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in an attempt to strike a deal that would see Pyongyang give up its nuclear weapons.

The Times contrasted Iran and North Korea to make a point that it would be harder to negotiate with Pyongyang.

"Although Iran never had a nuclear weapon, the agreement required months of talks and two years of technical and political negotiations. Now consider North Korea, with 20 to 60 nuclear weapons, and facilities for producing plutonium and enriching uranium," it said.

'Why would Kim trust Trump?!'

In potential talks with Kim, according to the editorial, Trump would want North Korea "to freeze nuclear and missile testing, halt the production of nuclear weapons fuel and the deployment of nuclear weapons and put an Iran-like verification system in place."

"But why would Mr. Kim agree to any of that if the Americans walk away from the Iran deal? Why would Mr. Kim, or any future adversary for that matter, assume Mr. Trump is negotiating in good faith?" it asked, rhetorically.

The paper said that there was still hope a deal could be struck with North Korea but that that opportunity was in peril.

"That possibility will be squandered [...] if the American president escalates a manufactured nuclear crisis with Iran at the very time he is trying to defuse one with North Korea," it said, concluding.

The Trump administration has already been violating the Iran deal by discouraging European business with Iran and refusing to offer reassurance to European banks that renewed cooperation with the Islamic Republic would not subject them to unilateral US penalties.

Full report at:





Muslim Youth Refurbishes Hanuman Temple In Bengal

Apr 02, 2018

A small Muslim trader has refurbished a Hanuman temple at a village in Bengal’s Purulia district even as pockets in the state rocked by communal clashes are struggling to return to normalcy.

The renovated temple was inaugurated on Saturday, the day of Hanuman Jayanti. It is located in ward 21 of Purulia town.

Mohammad Pappu, a trader in the Karpur Bagan area, used money he saved over the years to repair the temple which also got a fresh coat of paint.

Read: Won’t name anyone as suspect, says imam whose son was killed in Asansol clashes

“As kids, we used to play in front of the temple. It was languishing in a state of neglect. I thought it might be a nice idea to repair and paint it,” said Pappu who is in his twenties. The youth makes a living by renting out loudspeakers and electrical items for marriages and musical soirees.

The repair work took three months. On Saturday, Pappu washed the idol with his own hands.

“I asked the locals, who are all Hindus, whether I could refurbish the temple of Hanumanji. They said there was no bar,” said Pappu.

“It’s a nice gesture that he wanted to repair a Hindu temple. He used to tell me that it was a job he always wanted to undertake,” said Pappu’s childhood friend Rajaram Ram.

Read: Malda villagers offer lesson in harmony as Bengal simmers in Ram Navami violence

“What Pappu has done reflects the tradition and culture of Bengal,” said Shamim Dad Khan, chairman of Purulia municipality.

Ironically, the recent spate of communal flare-up started in Purulia district on March 25 when a 50 years -old man, Sheikh Sajahan, was killed in Arsha, about 30 km from Purulia town.

Sajahan, a resident of Beladi village, was caught in the melee that broke out when a Ram Navami procession was passing by a mosque.

Five policemen were injured when they went to tackle the situation. A total of 16 persons were arrested in this connection.



US places Hafiz Saeed's Milli Muslim League on terror list, India welcomes move

Apr 3, 2018

NEW DELHI: The Ministry of External Affairs today said that the United States's decision to designate Hafiz Saeed's political party Milli Muslim League (MML) as a terrorist outfit has substantiated India's stance that Pakistan allows terror groups to operate freely on its soil.

"India welcomes the action taken by the US for designating the Milli Muslim League as an alias of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a Pakistan based terrorist group and its functionaries who are acting on behalf of LeT. It vindicates India’s position that Pakistan has not taken effective action against terrorist groups and individuals," MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said at a press briefing.

The US State Department today placed the MML, floated by JuD chief Hafiz Saeed last year, on its list of foreign terrorist organisations. It also designated seven members of MML's central leadership as foreign terrorists. The US also added Tehreek-e-Azadi-e-Kashmir (TAJK) to the list of terrorist groups. TAJK is said to be a front of the LeT, which according to the Trump administration, continues to operate freely inside Pakistan.

India said the US action took cognizance of the fact that terrorists and entities are allowed to change names and continue to operate freely from territory under Pakistan’s control.

"The designation is a rejection of the attempts being made in Pakistan to mainstream terrorist individuals and entities; and highlights Pakistan’s failure to fulfil its international obligation to dismantle terrorist sanctuaries, and disrupt terror financing," said Kumar.

The State Department said the move was aimed at denying the LeT resources it needs to plan and carry out further terrorist attacks.

"Both MML and TAJK are LeT fronts created to circumvent the sanctions against it (LeT)...Today's amendments take aim at LeT's efforts to circumvent sanctions and deceive the public about its true character," said Nathan A Sales, Coordinator for Counterterrorism at the Department of State.

The LeT was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) group on December 26, 2001. Its leader, Saeed, is also designated as a SDGT.

To avoid sanctions, the LeT has repeatedly changed its name over the years, the State Department alleged.

"Make no mistake: whatever LeT chooses to call itself, it remains a violent terrorist group. The US supports all efforts to ensure that LeT does not have a political voice until it gives up violence as a tool of influence," Sales said.

The move comes a day after the Election Commission of Pakistan asked the MML to produce a clearance certificate by the interior ministry for its registration as a political party.

General elections are scheduled to be held in Pakistan in July.

In October 2017, Pakistan’s electoral commission barred the MML from contesting elections, saying the party had links with terror groups and could not be registered with the commission.

Then in March this year, the Islamabad High Court ordered the election commission to register the party.

Full report at:



Srinagar restrictions continue after extension of separatist shutdown

April 3, 2018

Restrictions continued in parts of Srinagar and some other places in the Kashmir Valley on Tuesday after separatists extended their protest shutdown against the killings of four civilians in Shopian district on Sunday. Restrictions will remain in force in seven police station areas of the city and other sensitive areas in south Kashmir to maintain law and order, the police said.

Heavy contingents of police and the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) have been deployed. Shops, public transport, businesses and educational institutions remained closed in the valley for the second consecutive day. Senior separatist leaders, Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq have been placed under house arrest while Muhammad Yasin Malik has been shifted to the Srinagar Central Jail.

All exams scheduled for Tuesdayhave been postponed by the Kashmir University. Train services between Baramulla and Bannihal towns have also been. Meanwhile, tension was high in north Kashmir’s Ganderbal district after a 23-year old youth was admitted to a Srinagar hospital with pellet injuries in his head.

Full report at:



Tears and grief at end of four-year wait: Caskets from Mosul flown home to Punjab


April 3, 2018

The four-year-long wait of 31 families from Punjab and Himachal Pradesh ended Monday after a special Air Force plane brought back from Baghdad the mortal remains 38 of 39 Indians killed in Mosul, Iraq. The 39th body is not being brought back now since DNA testing had only provided a 70 per cent match.

Amid massive protests by Dalit groups across the state, the coffins carrying the mortal remains were escorted out of the cargo terminal of the Amritsar International Airport to their destination by Punjab police vehicles. Out of 39 Indians killed by IS militants, 27 were from Punjab and four were from Himachal Pradesh.

“The last casket was dispatched at 1730 hrs (5.30 pm) from Amritsar. We provided all the required assistance for safe transport of all the remains to their native places”, said Kamaldeep Singh Sangha, Deputy Commissioner, Amritsar.

Families of the Mosul victims started arriving at the airport from 10 am Monday and received the remains with tears while demanding that the coffins be opened. The district administration, however, refused to do so citing time constraints.

“In the last 10 days, my relatives have come to my house at least thrice expecting the arrival of my son Dharminder’s body. Eventually, he has come in this casket. I will take him home in whatever shape he has arrived. I had never expected I will receive him in this shape”, said Raj Kumar, a resident of village Talwandi Zira in Gurdaspur district.

Gurpinder Kaur from Bhoewal village in Amritsar, who has spearheaded the families’ struggle to locate their missing kin over the last four years, was at the airport to receive the remains of her brother Manjinder Singh.

“It is extremely sad that we were not allowed to open the caskets at the airport. All the families wanted to open the caskets and at least see their kin in whatever shape they have returned”, Gurpinder said.

The long distances, traffic congestion and state-wide protests meant severe delays and for many families, the remains of their kin were kept at mortuaries and will be handed over on Tuesday, sources said. In Punjab, remains of seven Indians killed in Mosul were kept at the Jalandhar civil hospital mortuary and two each were kept at hospitals in Hoshiarpur and Balachaur. In HP, mortal remains of three men were kept at the Nurpur civil hospital mortuary while one was kept in the mortuary of a hospital in Tanda, Kangra district.

“We got delayed and since families do not perform last rites after sunset, we have kept the remains in mortuaries. We shall hand over the remains to the families tomorrow (Tuesday) morning”, said Jalandhar’s Deputy Commissioner Varinder Sharma.

Punjab government’s Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, who received the mortal remains on behalf of state government, announced Rs 5 lakh compensation and a job to one family member of each of the 27 Punjab natives who were killed in Iraq. Sidhu said that the ongoing monthly assistance of Rs 20,000 from the state government would continue.

“Forensic examination conducted in Iraq revealed that some of our men were shot dead, while the exact cause of death was not given in other cases. The forensic examination was also not conclusive of when all these men were killed. The forensic examination, however, hinted that the men were killed more than a year ago”, said Minister of State for External Affairs, VK Singh.

Full report at:



All 13 militants killed in J&K encounter were local youths, say police

by Bashaarat Masood

April 3, 2018

With the Jammu and Kashmir police identifying the five militants killed at Kachdora village of Shopian, all the 13 militants killed on Sunday turned out to be local youths. While 12 of them had joined militancy in the past one-and-a-half years, one joined the militant ranks three years ago.

The five militants killed at Kachdora were identified as Ishfaq Ahmad Thoker and Gayas-ul-Islam Thoker, residents of Padderpora village in Shopian, Sameer Ahmad Lone of Hilow village, Aetimad Hussain Dar of Amshipora village in Shopian, and Aqib Bashir Malik, a resident of Ringeth village in the neighbouring Kulgam district.

The five militants were buried on Monday, with thousands of villagers participating in their funeral processions and militants offering gun salute at two places.

Police say two of the five militants — Ishfaq and Gayas — killed at Kachdora were wanted in connection with the killing of Lieutenant Ummer Fayaz, who was killed by militants last year while on vacation.

Ishfaq was commanding Hizbul Mujahideen in and around Padderpora, his native village. Categorised as A+ by the police, Ishfaq dropped out of school after Class VIII and was helping his family with farming before joining the militant ranks three years ago. Gayas was in the first year of a Bachelor’s programme when he dropped out of college to join the militants last year. Police records show that he was classified as a Category ‘C’ militant and belonged to Hizbul Mujahideen.

Aietimad had completed his MPhil from Hyderabad and had been a militant for less than five months. Police had categorised him as a category ‘C’ militant.

Sameer, a resident of Hillow village in Imamsahib Shopian, joined militants on February 27 this year. Police say he had joined Hizbul Mujahideen and was classified as a Category ‘C’ militant.

Full report at:



Arab World


Saudi Crown Prince: Triangle of Evil is Trying to Build Extremist Empire to Control Region

3 April, 2018

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, accused Iran of seeking to “rule the world” and its supreme leader Ali Khamenei of “making Hitler look good.”

In remarks to the US Atlantic magazine, he stressed: “In the 1920s and 1930s, no one saw Hitler as a danger. Only a few people. Until it happened. We don’t want to see what happened in Europe happen in the Middle East.”

“We want to stop this through political moves, economic moves, intelligence moves. We want to avoid war.”

He spoke of “triangle of evil” that includes, Tehran, the Muslim Brotherhood and terrorist organizations.

The Atlantic asked Prince Mohammed to explain his ambition plan to “shift” the culture in Saudi Arabia, asking him about the role Islam should play in the world.

“Islam is a religion of peace. This is the translation of Islam. God, in Islam, gives us two responsibilities: The first is to believe, to do good things, and not bad things. If we do bad things, God will judge us on Judgment Day.

“Our second duty as Muslims is to spread the word of God. For 1,400 years, Muslims have been trying to spread the word of God. In the Middle East, in North Africa, in Europe, they weren’t allowed to spread the word. That’s why they fought to spread the word. But you also see that, in a lot of countries in Asia—Indonesia, Malaysia, India—Muslims were free to spread the word. They were told, ‘Go ahead, say whatever you want to say, the people have free will to believe whatever they want to believe in.’ Islam, in this context, was not about conquering, it was about peacefully spreading the word.

Asked to elaborate of the “triangle of evil,” Prince Mohammed replied: “In this triangle, they are trying to promote the idea that our duty as Muslims is to reestablish the caliphate, to reestablish the mindset of the caliphate—that the glory of Islam is in building an empire by force. But God didn’t ask us to do this, and the Prophet Mohammed did not ask us to do this. God only asked us to spread the word. And this mission is accomplished. Today, every human has the right to choose their belief. In every country, it is possible to buy religious books. The message is being delivered. We have no duty anymore to fight to spread Islam. But in the ‘triangle of evil’, they want to manipulate Muslims, to tell them their duty as Muslims—their dignity as Muslims —requires the establishment of a Muslim empire.

“First in the triangle we have the Iranian regime that wants to spread their extremist ideology, their extremist Shi’ite ideology (Wilayet al-Faqih). They believe that if they spread it, the hidden Imam will come back again and he will rule the whole world from Iran and spread Islam even to America. They’ve said this every day since the Iranian revolution in 1979. It’s in their law and they’re proving it by their own actions.

“The second part of the triangle is the Muslim Brotherhood, which is another extremist organization. They want to use the democratic system to rule countries and build shadow caliphates everywhere. Then they would transform into a real Muslim empire. And the other part is the terrorists—al-Qaeda, ISIS—that want to do everything with force. Al-Qaeda leaders, ISIS leaders, they were all Muslim Brotherhood first. Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of ISIS. This is very clear.

“This triangle is promoting an idea that God and Islam are not asking us to promote. Their idea is totally against the principles of the United Nations, and the idea of different nations having laws that represent their needs. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Yemen—all of these countries are defending the idea that independent nations should focus on their own interests, in building good relations on the foundation of UN principles. The evil triangle doesn’t want to do that.”

The Atlantic countered Prince Mohammed’s remarks, arguing that after 1979, but before 1979 as well, the more conservative factions in Saudi Arabia were taking oil money and using it to export a more intolerant, extremist version of Islam, Wahhabist ideology, which could be understood as a kind of companion ideology to Muslim Brotherhood thinking.

At this, the Saudi Crown Prince retorted: “First of all, this Wahhabism—please define it for us. We’re not familiar with it. We don’t know about it. No one can define this Wahhabism.”

The Atlantic then explained that it is “a movement founded by Ibn abd al-Wahhab in the 1700s, very fundamentalist in nature, an austere Salafist-style interpretation.”

Prince Mohammed dismissed the statement, stressing: “No one can define Wahhabism. There is no Wahhabism. We don’t believe we have Wahhabism. We believe we have, in Saudi Arabia, Sunni and Shi’ite. We believe we have within Sunni Islam four schools of thought, and we have the ulema [the religious authorities] and the Board of Fatwas [which issues religious rulings]. Yes, in Saudi Arabia it’s clear that our laws are coming from Islam and the Quran, but we have the four schools—Hanbali, Hanafi, Shafi’i, Maliki—and they argue about interpretation.

“The first Saudi state, why was it established? After the Prophet Mohammed and the first four caliphs, the people of the Arabian Peninsula went back to fighting each other like they did for thousands of years. But our family, 600 years ago, established a town from scratch called Diriyah, and with this town came the first Saudi state. It became the most powerful economic part of the peninsula. They helped change reality. Most other towns, they fought over trade, hijacked trade, but our family said to two other tribes, ‘Instead of attacking the trade routes, why don’t we hire you as guards for this area?’ So trade grew, and the town grew. This was the method. Three hundred years later, this is still the way. The thought was always that you need all the great brains of the Arabian Peninsula—the generals, the tribal leaders, the scholars—working with you. One of them was Mohammed ibn abd al-Wahhab.

“But our project is based on the people, on economic interests, and not on expansionist ideological interests. Of course we have things in common. All of us are Muslim, all of us speak Arabic, we all have the same culture and the same interest. When people speak of Wahhabism, they don’t know exactly what they are talking about. Abd al-Wahhab’s family, the al-Sheikh family, is today very well known, but there are tens of thousands of important families in Saudi Arabia today. And you will find a Shi’ite in the cabinet, you will find Shi’ites in government, the most important university in Saudi Arabia is headed by a Shi’ite. So we believe that we are a mix of Muslim schools and sects.”

Asked about the funding of extremists, Prince Mohammed responded: “When you talk about funding before 1979, you are talking about the Cold War. You had communism spreading everywhere, threatening the United States and Europe and also us. Egypt had turned in that time to this sort of regime. We worked with whomever we could use to get rid of communism. Among those was the Muslim Brotherhood. We financed them in Saudi Arabia. And the United States financed them.

“If we went back in time, we would do the same thing. We would use these people again. Because we were confronting a bigger danger—getting rid of communism. Later on we had to see how we could deal with the Muslim Brotherhood. Remember, one of the presidents of the United States called these people freedom fighters.

“We tried to control and manage their movements. But then came 1979, which exploded everything. The Iranian revolution [created] a regime based on an ideology of pure evil. A regime not working for the people, but serving an ideology. And in the Sunni world, extremists were trying to copy the same thing. We had the attack in Mecca [on the Grand Mosque]. We were in a situation of revolution in Iran, and they were trying to copy it in Mecca. We were trying to keep everything tied together, to keep everything from collapsing. We faced terrorism in Saudi Arabia and in Egypt. We called for the arrest of Osama bin Laden very early, because he was not in Saudi Arabia. We suffered quite a lot by fighting terrorism, until 9/11 happened. This is the story.

“This is what America wanted us to do. We had a king who paid with his life trying to counter these people, King Faisal, one of the greatest kings of Saudi Arabia. When it comes to financing extremist groups, I challenge anyone if he can bring any evidence that the Saudi government financed terrorist groups. Yes, there are people from Saudi Arabia who financed terrorist groups. This is against Saudi law. We have a lot of people in jail now, not only for financing terrorist groups, but even for supporting them. One of the reasons we have a problem with Qatar is that we are not allowing them to use the financial system between us to collect money from Saudis and give it to extremist organizations.”

Addressing the crisis, with Qatar, the Atlantic asked if Riyadh would ever become friends with Doha again.

Prince Mohammed said: “It has to happen, one day. We hope they learn fast. It depends on them.”

Turning to Iran, he remarked: “I believe that the Iranian supreme leader makes Hitler look good. Hitler didn’t do what the supreme leader is trying to do. Hitler tried to conquer Europe. This is bad.

“But the supreme leader is trying to conquer the world. He believes he owns the world. They are both evil guys. He is the Hitler of the Middle East. In the 1920s and 1930s, no one saw Hitler as a danger. Only a few people. Until it happened. We don’t want to see what happened in Europe happen in the Middle East. We want to stop this through political moves, economic moves, intelligence moves. We want to avoid war.”

Asked if he believed that this was a sectarian problem, the Crown Prince said: “As I told you, the Shi’ites are living normally in Saudi Arabia. We have no problem with the Shi’ites. We have a problem with the ideology of the Iranian regime. Our problem is, we don’t think they have the right to interfere with our affairs.”

On Barack Obama and US President Donald Trump’s stances on this issue, he stated: “Both of them understand it. I believe that President Obama had different tactics. President Obama believed that if he gave Iran opportunities to open up, it would change. But with a regime based on this ideology, it will not open up soon. Sixty percent of the Iranian economy is controlled by the Revolutionary Guard. The economic benefits of the Iran nuclear deal are not going to the people. They took $150 billion after the deal—can you please name one housing project they built with this money? One park? One industrial zone? Can you name for me the highway that they built? I advise them—please show us something that you’re building a highway with $150 billion. For Saudi Arabia, there is a 0.1 percent chance that this deal would work to change the country. For President Obama it was 50 percent. But even if there’s a 50 percent chance that it would work, we can’t risk it. The other 50 percent is war. We have to go to a scenario where there is no war.

“We are pushing back on these Iranian moves. We’ve done this in Africa, Asia, in Malaysia, in Sudan, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon. We believe that after we push back, the problems will move inside Iran. We don’t know if the regime will collapse or not—it’s not the target, but if collapses, great, it’s their problem. We have a war scenario in the Middle East right now. This is very dangerous for the world. We cannot take the risk here. We have to take serious painful decisions now to avoid painful decisions later.” Asked to comment on the situation in Yemen in wake of the Arab coalition’s intervention and criticism against it, Prince Mohammed replied: “First of all, we have to go back to real evidence, real data. Yemen started to collapse not in 2015, but in 2014—based on UN reports, not based on our reports. So it’s collapsing for one year before of the campaign started. We had a coup d’état in 2015 against a legitimate government in Yemen. And from the other side al-Qaeda tried to use this move for its own sake and to promote its own ideas. We fought to get rid of extremists in Syria and Iraq and then they started to create a haven in Yemen. It would be much harder to get rid of extremists in Yemen than Iraq or Syria. Our campaign is focused on helping the legitimate government and bringing stability. Saudi Arabia is trying to help the people of Yemen. The biggest donor to Yemen is Saudi Arabia. The people who are manipulating this aid in the 10 percent of Yemen not controlled by the government is the Houthis.

“What I want to say here, to make it simple, is that sometimes in the Middle East you don’t have good decisions and bad decisions. Sometimes you have bad decisions and worse decisions. Sometimes we have to choose the bad option. We don’t want to come here, as Saudi Arabia, and be asked these questions. We want to be asked about the economy, our partnerships, investment in America and Saudi Arabia. We don’t want to spend our lives arguing about Yemen. This is not something about choice here. This is about security and life for us.”

Shifting topics, the Atlantic asked Prince Mohammed if he believed in women’s equality, he responded: “I support Saudi Arabia, and half of Saudi Arabia is women. So I support women.

“In our religion there is no difference between men and women. There are duties to men and duties to women. There are different forms of equality. In the Saudi government women are paid exactly like men. We have regulations like this that are going into the private sector. We don’t want divided treatment for different people.

“Before 1979 there were societal guardianship customs, but no guardianship laws in Saudi Arabia. It doesn’t go back to the time of the Prophet Mohammed. In the 1960s women didn’t travel with male guardians. But it happens now, and we want to move on it and figure out a way to treat this that doesn’t harm families and doesn’t harm the culture.”

Asked if he will get rid of those laws, Prince Mohammed said: “There are a lot of conservative families in Saudi Arabia. There are a lot of families divided inside. Some families like to have authority over their members, and some women don’t want the control of the men. There are families where this is okay. There are families that are open and giving women and daughters what they want. So if I say yes to this question, that means I’m creating problems for the families that don’t want to give freedom for their daughters. Saudis don’t want to lose their identity but we want to be part of the global culture. We want to merge our culture with global identity.”

The interview then shifted to comparing values between the US and Saudi Arabia, with Prince Mohammed noting: “We don’t share values. But I also believe that different states in the US don’t share values. There are different values between California and Texas. So how come you want us to share your values 100 percent when you are not sharing values? Of course there is a foundation of values that all humans share. But there are differences, state-to-state, country-to-country.”

Asked about “absolute monarchy” in Saudi Arabia, he replied: “Absolute monarchy is not a threat to any country. You say ‘absolute monarchy’ like it’s a threat. If it were not for absolute monarchy, you wouldn’t have the US. The absolute monarch in France helped the creation of the US by giving it support. Absolute monarchy is not an enemy of the United States. It’s an ally for a very long time.

“Each country, each regime, it has to do what the people think is workable. Saudi Arabia is a network of thousands of absolute monarchies, and then has a large absolute monarchy. We have tribal monarchies, town monarchies. Moving against this structure would create huge problems in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi fabric is much more complicated than you think. And actually our king doesn’t have absolute power. His power is based in law. If he is making a royal decree, he can’t say, ‘I’m King Salman and I’m doing this.’ If you read decrees, you first see the list of laws that allow the king to take this decision. By the way, the queen of the United Kingdom, she has absolute power with any law. But she doesn’t practice it. So it’s complicated.”

Asked if he could move toward a system in which people vote for their representatives, the Saudi Crown Prince said: “What I can do is encourage the power of law. We would like to encourage freedom of speech as much as we can, so long as we don’t give opportunity to extremism. We can improve women’s rights, improve the economy. There is tension here, but we should do it.

“One American visitor told me a really interesting thing. He said that Americans don’t recognize the difference between the two things—there is the end, and there is the means. The end here is development, rights and freedom. The way to get to it, and this is the American view, is democracy, but the way to get to it in Saudi Arabia is our more complex system.”

Turning to the broader Middle East, the Atlantic asked Prince Mohammed if believes the Jewish people have a right to a nation-state in at least part of their ancestral homeland.

He responded: “I believe that each people, anywhere, has a right to live in their peaceful nation. I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land. But we have to have a peace agreement to assure the stability for everyone and to have normal relations.

“We have religious concerns about the fate of the holy mosque in Jerusalem and about the rights of the Palestinian people. This is what we have. We don’t have any objection against any other people.”

Commenting on alleged anti-Semitism in Saudi Arabia, Prince Mohammed remarked: “Our country doesn’t have a problem with Jews. Our Prophet Mohammed married a Jewish woman. Not just a friend—he married her. Our prophet, his neighbors were Jewish. You will find a lot of Jews in Saudi Arabia coming from America, coming from Europe. There are no problems between Christian and Muslims and Jews. We have problems like you would find anywhere in the world, among some people. But the normal sort of problems.”

The Atlantic asked if Riyadh’s problems with Iran pushed it closer to Israel, to which the Crown Prince said: “Israel is a big economy compared to their size and it’s a growing economy, and of course there are a lot of interests we share with Israel and if there is peace, there would be a lot of interest between Israel and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and countries like Egypt and Jordan.”

The magazine then turned its attention to Prince Mohammed himself and his youth, speculating that he holds a “complicated job” for a young man.

The Crown Prince replied: “I believe humans learn to the last days of their life. Anyone who claims he knows everything doesn’t know anything. What we are trying to do is to learn fast, to understand fast, to be surrounded by smart people. I don’t believe my youth is a problem. I believe the best creations in the world came from young people. Apple is a good example. Apple was created by Steve Jobs, who was in his early 20s when he started inventing. Social media, Facebook, created by guy who is still young. I believe that my generation can add a lot of things.

“In Saudi Arabia you can do whatever you want to do in a business, in what kind of work and what kind of project you want to develop. Also, there is a different standard of freedom of speech. In Saudi Arabia we have just three lines—anyone can write whatever they want to write, speak about whatever they want to speak about, but they shouldn’t reach these three lines. This is not based on the interest of the government, but on the interest of the people. Line one is Islam. You cannot defame Islam. Line two—in America, you can attack a person and his company or a minister and his ministry. In Saudi Arabia it’s okay to attack a ministry or a company, but the culture of the Saudis, they don’t like to attack a person, and they like to leave the personal issue out of it. This is part of the Saudi culture.

“The third line is national security. We are in an area not surrounded by Mexico, Canada, the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. We have ISIS, al-Qaeda and Hamas and ‘Hezbollah’ and the Iranian regime, and even pirates. We have pirates that hijack ships. So anything that touches the national security, we cannot risk in Saudi Arabia. We don’t want to see things that happen in Iraq happening in Saudi Arabia. But other than that, people have the freedom to do whatever they want to do. For example, we didn’t block Twitter. Or access to social media. Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat. Name it, it’s open for all Saudis. We have the highest percentage of people around the world using social media. In Iran, they block social media and in other countries they block social media. Saudis have free access to whatever media around the world.”



Human Rights Watch slams ‘unlawful’ Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia

2 April 2018

JEDDAH: Yemen’s Houthi rebels have violated international laws of war in their latest missile attacks on Saudi Arabia, which killed an Egyptian laborer on March 25, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Monday.

Once again on Monday, the Houthis tried to target Saudi territories by launching a ballistic missile.

The spokesman for the Arab coalition, Col. Turki Al-Malki, on Monday said the air defense forces of the alliance spotted a missile launched by the Iranian-backed Houthis from Saada in Yemen, reported SPA.

Al-Malki said that the missile was heading toward the town of Dhahran Al-Janoub, deliberately targeting civilian populated areas, but it fell inside Yemeni territories at a distance of about 1.75km from southern Saudi borders.

Last month, the Iranian-backed militia fired seven ballistic missiles into Saudi Arabia.

Saudi authorities said their defenses intercepted all seven, but falling debris from one of the missiles killed a migrant worker in the capital Riyadh.

HRW said the missile attacks “violated the laws of war” as they were fired “indiscriminately at populated areas,” calling on the Houthis to cease their attacks.

Over the weekend, Saudi air defenses intercepted another Houthi missile targeting the southern city of Najran.

Full report at:



Largest Syrian rebel group starts leaving Damascus enclave

April 2, 2018

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian state media say the largest rebel group in Damascus’ eastern Ghouta, the Army of Islam, has begun to evacuate from the area’s last holdout town.

The government is waiting for the rebels to leave the besieged town of Douma, just east of Damascus, before it can say it has full control of the area, after seven years of revolt. Douma is the last town to hold out against government forces in the once rebel-held suburbs.

The SANA news agency says two buses carrying the rebels left Douma on Monday morning, heading for Jarablus, a town in north Syria shared between rebels and Turkish forces.

Full report at:



Saudi crown prince says Israelis have right to their own land

Apr 3, 2018

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s crown prince said Israelis are entitled to live peacefully on their own land in an interview published on Monday in US magazine The Atlantic, another public sign of ties between Riyadh and Tel Aviv appearing to grow closer.

Asked if he believes the Jewish people have a right to a nation-state in at least part of their ancestral homeland, Mohammed bin Salman was quoted as saying:

"I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land. But we have to have a peace agreement to assure the stability for everyone and to have normal relations."

Saudi Arabia - birthplace of Islam and home to its holiest shrines - does not recognize Israel. It has maintained for years that normalizing relations hinges on Israeli withdrawal from Arab lands captured in the 1967 Middle East war, territory Palestinians seek for a future state.

"We have religious concerns about the fate of the holy mosque in Jerusalem and about the rights of the Palestinian people. This is what we have. We don’t have any objection against any other people," said Prince Mohammed who is touring the United States to drum up investments and support for his efforts to contain Iranian influence.

Increased tension between Tehran and Riyadh has fueled speculation that shared interests may push Saudi Arabia and Israel to work together against what they see as a common Iranian threat.

"There are a lot of interests we share with Israel and if there is peace, there would be a lot of interest between Israel and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries", Prince Mohammed added.

Saudi Arabia opened its airspace for the first time to a commercial flight to Israel last month, which an Israeli official hailed as historic following two years of efforts.

In November, an Israeli cabinet member disclosed covert contacts with Saudi Arabia, a rare acknowledgment of long-rumored secret dealings which Riyadh still denies.

Full report at:



Over 1,100 Jeish Al-Islam Militants Leave Douma for Northern Syria

 Apr 03, 2018

The sources reported that a sum of 1,130 militants from Jeish al-Islam and their family members left the town of Douma on 22 buses via al-Wafedeen safe corridor for the town of Jarabulus at the border with Turkey.

A fresh wave of tension and clashes has erupted among Jeish al-Islam militants after the start of their withdrawal from their main bastion city of Douma. 

On Saturday, the Syrian army command announced that the government forces liberated all the towns and cities in the embattled Damascus suburb except for the town of Douma which remained under the control of militants.

Full report at:



Raqqa Militias Attack US Coalition Base in Northern Syria

Apr 02, 2018

“Following the intelligence activities, the militia of Raqqa waged a special operation targeting the US Staff located at the former base of the 93rd Brigade in the district of Ein Issa, 43 miles North of Raqqa. Several mortar shells were fired on individual targets without any casualties on our side,” the statement said, Sputnik reported.

The militia also said that they do not tolerate “the occupational forces” of the United States, Turkey and their allies in Northern Syria. The statement read, “Do not relax night and day, wherever you are.”

On March 25, the indigenous Arab population launched an uprising against armed groups supported by the United States in the town of Al-Mansura in the suburbs of Syria's Raqqa, opposing a forced mobilization conducted by the Syrian Democratic Forces and local self-governing bodies appointed by the United States.



Syrian Army Raises Flag over Eastern Ghouta Town

Apr 02, 2018

Syria-based Damascus Now said that the Syrian military raised the flag of the Syrian Republic over a municipal building inside the Eastern Ghouta town of Hazzah.

Hazzah was one of the first densely populated towns in Eastern Ghouta to fall to the Syrian Army during their month-long operation in this region.

The Syrian Army is expected to raise the flag of the Republic over several other Eastern Ghouta towns this week.



Al-Nusra Kidnaps Tens of Rival Terrorists in Eastern Ghouta

Apr 02, 2018

The sources said that the hostages – a total number of 21gunmen from Jeish al-Islam – had been captured by Al-Nusra during previous infighting across Eastern Ghouta.

They added that Tahrir al-Sham had managed to sneak the hostages into buses bound for militant-held areas of Northern Syria without being detected.

The buses carrying the militant prisoners have since arrived at Qalaat al-Mudiq after which Tahrir al-Sham loaded them onto their own trucks and disappeared to an unknown location in Idlib province.

Military sources in Eastern Ghouta said Sunday that the Jeish al-Islam said that it reached a preliminary agreement with the Syrian government and the Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria that would allow the militant group to transport its critically wounded fighters in the town of Douma to Northern Syria.

The sources said that the Syrian government and Russia allowed Jeish al-Islam to transport their wounded fighters to Idlib in exchange for an extended ceasefire inside the town of Douma.

Furthermore, Jeish al-Islam is to hand over all hostages (civilians and troops) to the Syrian Army as well as the corpses of fallen government ranks.

Full report at:



Iraq scouts make comeback in ex-extremist bastion Mosul

3 April 2018

MOSUL: Scouts are making a symbolic comeback in Mosul after a three-year absence from the city that used to serve as Daesh’s capital in Iraq.

With white shirts and neckerchiefs, more than 200 male and female scout leaders from across Iraq recently converged on the city that was devastated by three years of extremists rule and nine months of heavy urban warfare.

It was “a message to Iraq and the world: The scouts of Mosul and Iraq are back,” Mohammed Ibrahim, head of scout activities in Mosul, told AFP.

The rally took place at Mosul’s scout camp set in the heart of a wooded area popular with locals for family outings on Fridays, the weekly day of rest in Iraq.

Iraq was one of the first Arab countries to join the World Organization of the Scout Movement in 1914 when it was still part of the Ottoman Empire.

But in 1999, the world scout body evicted the Iraqi chapter because it was allegedly being used by former dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime for military training.

But the Iraqi scouts kept operating.

In 2017, they were readmitted into the international scouting world and have since grown to 25,000 members across the country.

Loudspeakers blasted nationalist songs at full volume as children from local schools paraded in traditional Iraqi dress at the Mosul rally.

For Qassima Mohsen, a 42-year-old scout leader in the southern province of Zi Qar, the 800-kilometer (500-mile) trip to Mosul had both symbolic and personal value.

In the early 2000s, she used to come regularly to Mosul’s scout camp for gatherings.

More than 15 years later — after the US-led invasion, the fall of Saddam, years of sectarian violence, the jihadist occupation of nearly a third of the country and its subsequent recapture by Iraqi forces — she is back.

With the ouster of the extremists from Mosul last July, she has returned to the northern city to help build an activities center for young scouts in the area.

The rally also provided a space for leaders and organizers from across the country to network and discuss future projects.

Full report at:



Syrian opposition pledges to continue anti-Assad revolution

3 April 2018

JEDDAH: The Syrian opposition on Monday pledged to continue the revolution against President Bashar Assad as pro-regime forces drew closer to taking full control of the besieged enclave of Eastern Ghouta.

“What’s happening in Syria isn’t a matter of geography,” opposition spokesman Yahya Al-Aridi told Arab News.

“The uprising in Syria is in the hearts and minds of people who reject the brutal dictatorship (of Assad). We’ll never stop.”

Pro-regime newspaper Al-Watan said in an editorial on Monday that it was a matter of hours until Douma, the last significant center of resistance in Eastern Ghouta, was declared a “town empty of terrorism.”

Backed by Russia, pro-regime forces have scored a series of victories over the opposition in recent years, often through sieges, aerial bombardment and ground offensives that have drawn widespread international condemnation.

“These aren’t Assad victories. This is an occupation achieved with horrible military power against civilians,” said Al-Aridi. “This is the propaganda of the regime and Iran when they talk about victory. It’s immoral.”

His remarks came as the presidents of Russia, Iran and Turkey planned to meet on Wednesday in Ankara for their second three-way summit on Syria.

The meeting follows the first tripartite summit between the three presidents in Sochi last November.

Al-Aridi said: “It’s the start of the revolution all over again — reorganizing and learning from mistakes made… and organizing forces at the political and other levels. We’ll rebuild our efforts on different levels.”

He added: “Our uprising has been peaceful from the very beginning. We didn’t select to carry weapons. We just tried to defend ourselves.”

He said: “The regime created all sorts of pretexts, including terrorism, militias, Daesh and Al-Nusra Front. And it internationalized the Syrian case so it could sideline the people’s main request for freedom.”

US Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, warned President Donald Trump on Sunday against pulling American troops out of Syria, saying it would lead to a resurgence of Daesh and increased Iranian sway in the country.

Al-Aridi said: “The main beneficiary of Daesh is the Syrian regime and those who support it. Iran and Russia used Daesh as a pretext to rescue a falling regime.

He added: “The revival of Daesh, if there is one, will be used again to oppress and suppress and kill people. Daesh is a tool in the hands of dictators.”

He said: “There are different narratives of the deal struck between the people of Douma and Russia. The opposition says the wounded will be taken away for treatment but the people will remain there.

“Russia’s story is different. It wants everybody removed. No final deal has been achieved yet. This is the last thing we heard from our people.”

A Russian-brokered deal had been reported on Sunday for fighters with Jaish Al-Islam, the largest opposition group still in Eastern Ghouta, to leave Douma.

But the fighters have not yet confirmed the agreement, amid reports of divisions within the group as hard-liners refuse to abandon their posts.

In the past few weeks, such deals have seen more than 46,000 people — fighters and civilians — board buses with scant belongings to be driven to the northwest province of Idlib, which is largely outside regime control.

“It isn’t the Syrian regime that has occupied Eastern Ghouta or has full control over it. It’s an Iranian and Russian occupation,” said Al-Aridi.

He condemned “the Iranians with their militias on the ground and their vicious plan, and the Russians with their deadly jets bombing everything in a scorched-earth strategy like what they did in Grozny,” the capital of Chechnya.

Full report at:





Army chief approves death for Amjad Sabri’s killers, other terrorists

Apr 3, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Monday approved the death sentences of 10 convicted terrorists, including qawwal Amjad Sabri’s killers.

According to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the terrorists belonged to a banned outfit and were involved in crimes, including an attack on a hotel in Peshawar and attacks on armed forces and law enforcement agencies

Moreover, the convicted terrorists include the killers of qawwal Amjad Sabri. The late musician was gunned down in broad daylight in Karachi’s Liaquatabad area on June 22, 2016.

The convicted terrorists were responsible for killing 62, including five citizens, the military’s media wing added.

Earlier on Jan 19, General Bajwa confirmed death sentences of 10 terrorists who had been convicted by the military courts.

The convicts were involved in terror activities, killing of innocent civilians, attacks on educational institutions, slaughtering of soldiers, and attacking the law enforcement agencies and armed forces of Pakistan.

In totality, these 10 terrorists were involved in killing 41 personnel while injuring 33. Caches of arms and explosives were also recovered from their possession. All of them had admitted their offences before the magistrate and the trial court.



Islamic State claims killing Christian family of four as gunmen kill nine in separate attacks in Quetta

APR 3, 2018

QUETTA, PAKISTAN – Gunmen riding on motorcycles carried out two separate attacks in the Pakistani city of Quetta on Monday, killing five Muslims in one shooting and four members of a Christian family in the other, police said.

Abdul Qadeer, a local police chief, said the attacks were apparently unrelated. The Islamic State group claimed the attack on the Christians in a statement carried by its Aamaq news agency. It was unclear who was behind the other attack.

Earlier Monday, Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, confirmed death sentences for 10 convicted militants, including the killer of a well-known Sufi singer, according to a military statement.

The military courts found the “terrorists” guilty of taking part in separate attacks that killed 62 people, it said.

The trials are closed to the public, but defendants are allowed to hire lawyers.

One of those whose sentence was confirmed was found guilty of a 2016 attack in Karachi that killed Amjad Sabri. He and his late father, Ghulam Farid Sabri, were renowned qawwali singers, a style of music rooted in Islamic mysticism.

Full report at:



Islamic State claims attack on Christian family in Pakistan

3 Apr 2018

Quetta, Pakistan: The militant group Islamic State on Tuesday claimed responsibility for killing four members of a Christian family in southwestern Pakistan.

A statement issued by the group claimed that militants belonging to ISIS fired on the group of Christians as they were travelling in the city of Quetta, killing four on Monday.

Islamic State has affiliates in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, many drawn from existing Islamist militant groups, who support their vehement sectarian views against Shi'ite Muslims and non-Muslims.

The family was travelling in a rickshaw when armed men on a motorcycle intercepted them and opened fire in Quetta city, the capital of Baluchistan province.

The family had come to visit relatives in Quetta's Shahzaman road area, where a large number of the city's Christian community lives.

"It appears to have been a targeted attack," provincial police official Moazzam Jah Ansari told Reuters. "It was an act of terrorism."

The attack came a day after Pakistan's Christian community celebrated Easter on Sunday. Around 2 percent of Pakistan's population of 208 million are Christians.

Minority religious festivals are a security concern in the majority Sunni Muslim country where there have been a number of high casualty attacks on Christians and Shi'ite Muslims.

Baluchistan, a region bordering Iran as well as Afghanistan, is plagued by violence by Sunni Islamist groups linked to the Taliban, al Qaeda and Islamic State.

It also has an indigenous ethnic Baloch insurgency fighting against central government.

Full report at:



US Department of State identifies MML, TAK as LeT affiliates: report

Apr 3, 2018

WASHINGTON: The US Department of State on Monday identified Milli Muslim League (MML) and Tehreek-e-Azadi-e-Kashmir (TAK) as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) affiliates and also named seven members of the MML leadership as LeT activists who were acting on behalf of LeT, according to a report by a private media outlet.

The State Department described the MML and the TAK as LeT ‘aliases’ and added their names to its lists of Foreign Terrorist Organisations (FTO) and Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT).

The designations clearly undermine MML’s effort to get itself registered with the Election Commission of Pakistan as a political party and contest the 2018 general elections. It will be difficult for the Pakistani government to ignore the designations and register MML as a political party, as it would be seen as an act of direct confrontation with the United States.

These designations “seek to deny LeT the resources it needs to plan and carry out further terrorist attacks,” the State Department said in a statement issued in Washington.

Concurrently with Monday’s State Department actions, the US Department of the Treasury designated seven members of the MML central leadership body for acting on behalf of LeT: Saifullah Khalid, Muzammil Iqbal Hashimi, Muhammad Harris Dar, Tabish Qayyum, Fayyaz Ahmad, Faisal Nadeem, and Muhammad Ehsan.

Full report at:



Gen Bajwa assures US of Pakistan’s commitment to Afghan peace

Apr 3, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Monday told US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells that Pakistan remains committed to peace and stability in the region, particularly in Afghanistan, through a national approach.

“Pakistan also expects other players in the region to play an equally positive part,” the army chief stated.

According to an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement, Gen Bajwa and Wells discussed regional security and matters of mutual interest at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi.

Ambassador Wells assured the army chief that the US is committed to peace and supports all efforts towards that end.

Both agreed that bilateral convergences should be leveraged to gain positive momentum rather than remaining hostage to perceptions, ISPR added regarding the meeting.

Wells arrived in Pakistan on an official visit on March 28. She has held meetings with Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua and National Security Adviser Lt Gen (R) Nasser Khan Janjua.

Earlier on March 1, in an interview with an American broadcast organisation, Wells had said that the US wanted to become a partner of Pakistan against terrorist organisations.

Wells said that the US focuses on maintaining trade and communication relations with the countries of the region and considers Pakistan an important country for peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Full report at:



PM says high time world acknowledges Pakistan’s sacrifices in terror war

Apr 3, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister (PM) Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Monday said it was time that the world took note of Pakistan’s sacrifices in the largest war against terrorism in which thousands of its troops and civilians laid down their lives to rid the country and the region of this scourge.

Talking to a delegation of students from the prestigious London Business School (LBS) at the PM Office, the PM said Pakistan fought this war from its own resources and pointed that the major challenge of terrorism had adversely impacted the economy of the country.

He, however, pointed out that the government worked hard to bring peace and now Pakistan was a vibrant market for investors. He mentioned the recent visit of Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai after almost six years and said it was a manifestation that peace had been restored.

Abbasi interacted with the students, many of whom were visiting Pakistan for the first time. Special Assistant to PM Ali Jahangir Siddiqui was also present during the interaction.

The PM said the government had established power plants and was planning to construct more than 1700 kms of six-lane motorways across Pakistan under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to improve connectivity within the country and with the region.

He said CPEC’s energy sector projects had brought substantial relief to power consumers. The PM said there had been a quantum improvement in Pakistan with the democracy taking hold and economic conditions improving.

He said Pakistan recorded 5.7% GDP growth rate and plans to increase it to 6%.

The PM said Pakistan was a peaceful country and its peaceful nuclear program was a deterrent for those who wanted to destabilise the country and for its sovereignty.

He said Pakistan had always strived for bringing peace and stability to the region through dialogue.

The PM urged the students to visit various cities of Pakistan and to see for themselves the progress it has made besides witnessing the peace and stability in the country.

Earlier, the LBS students also received a briefing from SAPM Ali Jahangir Siddiqui regarding the structure and working of the executive branch of the government.

Full report at:





20 killed in Boko Haram attack on Nigerian army base, villages

3 April 2018

KANO, NIGERIA: Boko Haram killed at least 20 people and wounded scores of others in coordinated attacks on a military camp and villages around the flashpoint northern Nigerian city of Maiduguri, which they also tried to infiltrate across a defensive trench, officials said Monday.

The brazen operation — which unfolded around the very city where Boko Haram was born — turned the spotlight on the authorities’ struggle to quell the jihadists’ nearly nine-year-old offensive.

Boko Haram fighters attacked a military base in the Cashew Plantation area at the entrance to the city with suicide bombers, mortars and guns, leading to a prolonged battle, a senior military officer in Maiduguri said.

“Eighteen Boko Haram terrorists on foot attacked the military base while seven suicide bombers targeted residents of nearby Bale Shuwar and Alikaranti villages at 8:50 p.m. (1950 GMT),” said the officer, who asked not to be identified as he was not authorized to speak about the incident.

“The terrorists fired mortars at troops,” the officer said.

Bello Dambatto, chief security officer at the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), told AFP that an initial death toll of 18 had risen to 20 after two people died in hospital from their wounds.

“We are not sure if the remaining 82 wounded victims will make it. Some of them are in critical condition and will require major surgery from their wounds, which are mostly from gunshots.”

One soldier was among the dead, the army said in a statement, which added that it had killed six insurgents and “neutralized” seven suicide bombers.

The attackers were trying to infiltrate into the city, said Ba’Kura Abba Ali, a militia leader in the area helping soldiers in fighting Boko Haram.

The assailants climbed up a trench that had been dug in the sand round the city to stave off Boko Haram suicide and gun attacks, and attacked troops, Ali said.

Maiduguri residents reported hearing at least five explosions and sounds of gunfire coming from the Cashew Plantation area.

“Huge blasts and sounds of gunshots were heard all over the city last night and they continued for more than an hour,” said one resident, Ibrahim Gremah.

The UN said it “strongly condemns the deadly combined attack” and, citing local sources, gave a toll of at least 34 civilians killed and 90 wounded.

Boko Haram’s nearly nine-year fight to establish a hard-line Islamic state in northeast Nigeria has claimed at least 20,000 lives and displaced more than two million people.

Hundreds of thousands are holed up in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, where they are living in camps or with host families.

On Friday, four girl suicide bombers aged between 13 and 18 killed two people in multiple attacks in Zawuya settlement on the outskirts of Maiduguri in the first assault since the government announced it was in cease-fire talks with Boko Haram.

The attacks highlight the challenge the government faces in striking a cease-fire agreement with the jihadist group.

In February, when more than 100 schoolgirls were returned to Dapchi after being kidnapped by Boko Haram, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said his government was offering amnesty to “repentant” jihadists.

But the process is troubled by factionalism within Boko Haram, say senior security officials.

The group is divided into two factions that have competing goals and operational methods.

One, led by Abu Mus’ab Al-Barnawi and affiliated with the so-called Islamic State, is reportedly in talks with the government. The other, led by Abubakar Shekau, is notorious for suicide bombings.

“Talks have been ongoing between the government and the insurgents from the Al-Barnawi faction,” said a source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The source said peace talks began in earnest after the July 2017 attack on an oil exploration team in Lake Chad that killed at least 69 people.

“The major headache now is extending the talks to the Shekau faction which is averse to negotiations. Dealing with them is quite problematic.”



US says drone strike kills 5 militants in Somalia

Apr 2, 2018

The United States military says it has killed five militants by a drone strike in Somalia.

The US Africa Command (Africom) confirmed to the Associated Press Sunday that the airstrike was launched near al-Bur, according to various reports on Monday.

A vehicle carrying senior officials with the al-Shabab militant group was reportedly targeted and a woman was among the dead.

While the militant group has not officially commented on the report, media outlets close to al-Shabab reported that two civilians were killed.

The US, meanwhile, claimed that no civilians were killed in the strike.

Since last year when President Donald Trump approved expanded military efforts against the group, the US military has launched more than a dozen drone strikes against it.

Washington claims that it coordinates such drone strikes with the Somali government.

There has been a sharp rise in the number of US drone strikes around the world since Trump took office, according to a report published in December by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

The US carries out drone attacks in Yemen and several other Islamic countries, claiming to be targeting al-Qaeda elements. However, local sources say civilians have been the main victims of the attacks.

Full report at:



Sudan to put proposed charter changes to popular vote

03 April 2018

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has said a raft of proposed constitutional changes will be put before a popular referendum but failed to provide a date for the vote.

Addressing parliament Monday, al-Bashir also neglected to say whether he planned to run in 2020 presidential elections.

“According to the recommendations that came out of the National Dialogue initiative, we should amend the constitution,” he said.

“We will hold a referendum on this, but must still decide on a date -- whether to hold it before or after the 2020 polls,” he added.

Sudan’s current constitution grants the president a maximum of two terms in office.

Al-Bashir also said that Sudan would not pull its troops out of Yemen, where they are fighting alongside a Saudi-led Arab coalition against Yemen’s Shia Houthi group.

In the same parliamentary address, al-Bashir also vowed to combat corruption within the domestic banking sector.

Full report at:



Boko Haram: Light will triumph over darkness – Shettima laments killings

April 3, 2018

By Wale Odunsi

The Borno State Governor, Governor Kashim Shettima on Monday described the Boko Haram insurgents’ Sunday night attack on communities in Jere Local Government Area of the state as “sad and inhumane”.

Shetiima told newsmen when he visited the over 80 victims of the attack on treatment at the Specialist Hospital, Maiduguri that the attack indicated high level of atrocities committed by the insurgents.

“It is very sad which no any sensible human being could inflict on another person; such level of dexterity, such level of atrocity but this is a war between light and darkness, and in the fullness of time truth shall always triumph over falsehood.

“We have repeatedly said they have been sufficiently decimated and these decimated monsters berks in the oxygen of publicity they are targeting soft targets, senselessly and criminally opening fire on innocent souls.

“Yesterday, we witnessed that very sad episode, we will continue to intensify our efforts to safeguard life and property, and we are talking with security agencies that are doing their utmost best to secure the state.

“Appreciable progress has been made but such hiccups are inevitable. I will visit the communities to see what measures need to be put in place to forestall future occurrence,” he said.

Shettima assured that the state government would provide free treatment to the victims and provide necessary support during their period of recuperation.

The governor also condoled with the families of those who lost their lives in the attack.

Meanwhile, the Police in Borno had confirmed 20 persons killed and 84 others wounded in the attack.

The Commissioner of Police, Mr Damian Chukwu, disclosed that five mutilated corpses of male suicide bombers were recovered and two Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) vests were diffused by men of the command at the scene of the attack.

He said: “On 01/04/2018 at about 20:20 pm; Boko Haram terrorists in an attempt to infiltrate into Maiduguri through Bale Kura, Bale Shuwari, Jamine and Alkaramti villages in Jere local government area of the state, in the outskirts of Maiduguri detonated IEDs.

“They were promptly repelled by military and police reinforcement. In the process about 84 persons were injured and 20 others killed.”

Full report at:



South Asia


Civilian casualties in Afghan airstrike on taliban madrassa

Apr 3, 2018

KUNDUZ  - An Afghan airstrike on a religious school in a Taliban stronghold on Monday caused multiple casualties, including civilians, Afghan officials and witnesses said.

Top Taliban commanders were gathered inside the madrassa where a graduation ceremony was under way for students at the time of the attack in the northeastern province of Kunduz, a security source told AFP.

He said an unknown number of civilians were among the casualties that also included senior Taliban commanders who were "planning for the next spring operations". "Several dead and at least 15 wounded", including children, were taken to the regional hospital in the provincial capital Kunduz, Naim Mangal, a doctor, told AFP.

Relatives of the wounded told an AFP photographer at the hospital that the attack happened during a graduation ceremony at the madrassa in Dashte Archi district, which is controlled by the Taliban.

"When the planes came at around 12:00 pm some kids screamed 'they will drop a bomb' but the elders said 'calm down, nothing is going to happen', but then in an instant bombs hit the mosque," Mohammad Ishaq told AFP.

It was not clear if the madrassa was inside the mosque or was a separate building. Ishaq said civilians, students and some Taliban, who had been invited to attend the ceremony, were inside the mosque at the time of the attack. There were three airstrikes which "destroyed" the building, he added.

"I escaped unhurt but many people were killed and injured and I saw their bodies laying on the ground," he said. The Taliban issued a statement confirming the attack on the madrassa but denied militants had been meeting at the school.

Around 150 religious scholars and civilians -- most of them children -- were among the dead and wounded, the group added. Several boys with their arms and legs bandaged were seen laying in beds and along the corridors of the hospital. The security source said the Taliban had started meeting at madrassas in the hope of avoiding airstrikes.

A defence ministry spokesman confirmed an airstrike in Dashte Archi, but described the location as a kind of Taliban "training centre" and denied civilians were among the casualties. "Twenty Taliban, including the commander of their Red Unit in the district, and also a key member of the Quetta Shura were killed," Mohammad Radmanish said.

The Red Unit is the insurgent group's elite unit, and the Quetta Shura is its leadership council. The same number were wounded, Radmanish added. The meeting included a "high-ranking Taliban delegation" from the Quetta Shura, Ghulam Hazrat, a spokesman for the 20th army division in Kunduz, told AFP.

"Fifteen Taliban were killed and 10 were wounded," Hazrat said. He also denied civilians were among the casualties.

A senior local official said "around 150" people had been killed and wounded in the airstrike. Afghan officials often give conflicting casualty figures after an attack. Obtaining detailed information is difficult because the Taliban controls the area. Most telecommunication services are cut from late afternoon on Taliban orders, locals say.

A spokesman for US Forces said they were not involved in Monday's airstrike. Afghanistan's fledgling air force has accelerated bombardments in recent months as the Americans beef up the country's aerial capability with more aircraft and better weapons. Earlier this month, the Afghan Air Force dropped its first laser-guided bomb on a Taliban compound in the western province of Farah, where the militants have gone on the offensive. US and Afghan forces are increasing ground and air offensives against Taliban and Islamic State insurgents as they try to get the upper hand in the 16-year war. The latest airstrike comes weeks before the Taliban usually launches its spring offensive. The group is under growing pressure to take up President Ashraf Ghani's offer of peace talks but so far it has not responded.



Myanmar lures Bangladesh Buddhists to take over Rohingya land: officials

April 2, 2018

Myanmar authorities have lured dozens of mainly Buddhist Bangladeshi tribal families to cross the border and resettle on land abandoned by fleeing Muslim Rohingya, officials said today.

About 50 families from remote hill and forest areas on the Bangladesh side, attracted by offers of free land and food, have moved to Rakhine state in mainly Buddhist Myanmar -- the scene of a brutal army crackdown which prompted hundreds of thousands of Rohingya to flee.

The families from the ethnic Marma and Mro tribes have left their homes in the Bandarban hill district, local councillor Muing Swi Thwee told AFP.

He said 22 families departed from their villages in the Sangu forest reserve last month.

The families, mainly Buddhist but with some Christians, were being "lured by Myanmar" to Rakhine where they were given free land, citizenship and free food for five years, Muing Swi Thwee said.

"They are going there to fill up the land vacated by the Rohingya who have left Burma (Myanmar). They are extremely poor."

Nearly 700,000 Rohingya have fled Rakhine for camps in mainly Muslim Bangladesh since Myanmar last August launched a crackdown which US and UN officials have described as ethnic cleansing.

An agreement to repatriate Rohingya has yet to see a single refugee returned. Rohingya leaders have said the refugees will not return unless they are allowed back to their villages, many of which have been torched by security forces, rather than to supposedly temporary resettlement camps.

Two government officials in the region confirmed the migration, saying up to 55 tribal families had left for Myanmar.

"They are being lured by some people in Myanmar in return for free homes, free food for five-seven years. Some families have shifted there after being attracted by these offers," Jahangir Alam, a government district administrator, told AFP.

He said some of the tribal groups have family in Rakhine and these relatives are being used to woo the Bangladeshi tribals.

"These people have religious and linguistic similarities with Myanmar. Some of their ancestors have settled there in the past," he said.

Al Kaiser, another government official, said a tribal man was killed and several family members were injured in a mine blast when they were crossing into Myanmar from the town of Ali Kadam.

Officials said they suspect political motives behind the migration.

"We think perhaps they (Myanmar) want to make some news using these people, that Buddhists are being tortured and repressed in Bangladesh and that's why they have left the country," said one official on condition of anonymity.

A Bangladeshi security officer told AFP that Myanmar had resettled thousands of Buddhists in Rakhine by using a rsettlement scheme which offers free food, homes, cows and cash.

Muing Swi Thwee said more than 100 tribal families had left his area for Myanmar in the past three years.

Observers say Myanmar authorities are carrying out methodical social engineering schemes in northern Rakhine in the absence of many of the Rohingya.

Full report at:



Turkey’s aid agency opens orphanage in Bangladesh

Apr 3, 2018

Turkey's Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) inaugurated an orphanage to shelter 170 orphans in Bangladesh, said an aid agency’s official on Monday.

Said Demir, a member of the agency’s executive board, told Anadolu Agency that Bangladesh with five million orphans has the highest number of orphans compared to the country's population in Muslim-majority countries.

The orphanage, named as Iyilikhane (House of Goodness), has been built by IHH with the support of Iyilikhane Association in the southwestern Bangladesh’s Khulna region.

Demir said that the establishment can accommodate 100 orphans and the capacity will be increased to accommodate 170 children.

This is the largest orphanage in Bangladesh and also the 10th orphanage built by IHH in the region, he added.

Full report at:



Dozens killed by Afghan air strikes in northern Kunduz


2 April 2018

KABUL: Dozens of people were killed on Monday in a series of air strikes by the Afghan air force in a district of northern Kunduz province.

Several politicians claimed a madrassa was hit during a graduation ceremony for Islamic students.

Defense Ministry chief spokesman General Mohammad Radmanesh said the army’s helicopters targeted a “concentration Taliban site” in Dasht-e-Archi because militants planned to unleash attacks on government institutions in the district, which has been largely controlled by insurgents for several years.

The attacks were carried out at midday local time, without any involvement by the US-led coalition, he said, adding that 21 Taliban members died in the assault, which left dozens wounded.

Radmanesh denied reports from several senators and two provincial officials that a madrassa was targeted.

The lawmakers said several dozen people were killed, while an unconfirmed report from the province put the total number of dead and wounded at more than 150. One senator, Abdullah Qarloq, said civilians were among the victims, along with Taliban militants.

The Taliban also said a madrassa was hit, and that all the victims were civilians.

“Those responsible for killing civilians and insulting religion will be brought to justice,” said spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid in an email to Arab News.

A senior government official in Kabul denied that a religious school had been hit, and said all of the casualties were militants.

However, Patricia Gossman, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch in Afghanistan, fears that many of those killed might have been civilians.

“Under laws of war, targeted killings must be carried out in compliance with principle of proportionality,” she wrote on Twitter. “This is latest incident in which airstrikes aimed at killing insurgent leaders may have disproportionately killed civilians.”

The attack comes a week after allegations that a group of civilian students in a seminary were killed in a similar air strike in western Farah province by an Afghan air force attack, and days after reports of civilian casualties in northeastern Badakhshan province.

Since assuming power over three years ago, President Ashraf Ghani’s government has mostly remained silent about civilian deaths in Afghanistan caused by Afghan government forces and the US-led coalition.

Full report at:



Taliban reacts at the killing of top Chinese militant leader in Badakhshan

Apr 03 2018

The Taliban militants group in Afghanistan reacted at the reports regarding the alleged killing of a top Chinese militant leader in northeastern Badakhshan province of Afghanistan.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claims that the reports regarding the killing of a top Chinese militant leader in Jurm district are baseless as he called it a ‘propaganda by enemies’.

Mujahid went on to claim that the Afghan forces conducted an operation in Jurm district but the heavy mortar shelling and raid resulted to massive civilian casualties.

The Taliban spokesman claims that 28 civilians including women and children were killed as he emphasizes that no foreign fighters are based in Badakhshan apart from the Taliban militants.

He also claimed that the there is no foreign insurgent by the name of Mustafa among the ranks of the Taliban in Badakhshan. The 209th Shaheen Corps of the Afghan Military in the North said on Saturday that at least seven militants including two Chinese nationals were killed during the operations.

The officials further added that one of the Chinese nationals killed during the operations has been identified as Mustafa who was the deputy leader of a Chinese militant group.

A spokesman for the 209th Shaheen Corps Mohammad Hanif Rezayi confirmed that the militants were killed in Jurm district.

Rezayi further added that thirteen militants were also wounded during the operations but the security personnel involved in the operations have not sustained any casualty.

Full report at:



Kabul says substantial issues remain for discussion with Islamabad

Apr 03 2018

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan says substantial issues remain to be discussed with Pakistan as part of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity as the top officials of the two countries met in Kabul on Monday.

“A high-level Pakistani delegation comprising of senior civilian and military officials led by Foreign Secretary Ms. Tehmina Janjua visited Kabul today to hold the third round of talks with their Afghan counterparts led by Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai on Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS),” a statement by Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

The statement further added that “Both sides continued their discussions of the first and second rounds of negotiations on APAPPS document.”

“While some progress was made, substantial issues remain to be discussed in the future,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

This comes as the Afghan officials said last month that fight against terrorism, reduction in violence, peace efforts were on top of Afghanistan’s agenda in bilateral talks but no breakthrough was made during the negotiations.

Full report at:



Senior Taliban commanders killed in Afghan airstrike in Kunduz

Apr 2, 2018

An Afghan airstrike targeting a gathering of Taliban representatives in the northern province of Kunduz has caused multiple casualties, officials and local residents say.

Top Taliban commanders were gathered inside a madrassa (religious school) at the time of the attack, a security source told AFP on Monday.

The security source added that the casualties included senior Taliban commanders who were "planning for the next spring operations."

Meanwhile, Abdul Hameed Hameedi, a local police official, said at least 15 people were killed after the aerial raid hit the Taliban in the militant-controlled district of Dasht-i Archi outside Kunduz city.

Hameedi added that a representative from the Taliban leadership council based in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta was visiting when the airstrike took place.

He said there also appeared to be civilian casualties.

Mohammad Radmanish, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry, confirmed the strike but denied civilians were among the casualties. He said twenty Taliban militants, including a commander and a key member of the militant group’s leadership council, were killed in the attack.

Afghanistan’s Tolo News channel has put the death toll at 25, saying the number of casualties resulting from the strike was probably much higher.

A statement from the Taliban claimed that the strike had killed 150 religious scholars and civilians and denied that any of its forces were present.

Meanwhile, Army Colonel Lisa Garcia, US Forces-Afghanistan spokesperson, said in a statement that US forces had not carried out any attacks in the area. "US Forces-Afghanistan did not conduct air strikes in Kunduz province today. Any claims to the contrary are baseless."

Airstrikes by US warplanes have also significantly increased in recent months against the purported positions of the Taliban militant group and other terror outfits in the crisis-hit country.

Full report at:





Call for Muslim Action to Stop Israeli Atrocities in Gaza

Apr 3, 2018

Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani called on his counterparts in Muslim parliaments to denounce the Israeli killings of defenseless Gaza citizens and adopt appropriate measures in support of the Palestinian nation.

"The Zionist regime must be stopped from creating new crises [in the region]," he said, adding that the best course of action against "terrorists ruling Tel Aviv is resistance," IRNA reported on Sunday.

Clashes have been ongoing since Friday when tens of thousands of Palestinians began a six-week march in Gaza to demand their right to return to the homes of their families in what is now called Israel.

Israel has responded ferociously to the rally and as of Sunday, at least 17 Palestinians have been shot dead and more than 1,450 others injured.

The top parliamentarian criticized the US president for its unconditional support of Israel, saying Trump's decision to move the US embassy to Beit-ul-Moqaddas has emboldened Israel to carry on its 70-year lawlessness and carnage of Palestinian people.

Echoing that view, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qasemi called on Islamic ummah to put aside political infighting and threatening other Muslim nations, urging them to "use their resources and mobilize their nations against the inhumane actions of the Zionist regime."


He also slammed "the leaders of some regional countries who have established covert and overt relations with Israel," in a reference to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain which have been widely reported in the past year to establish ties with Israel.

"These countries are an accomplice in the killings of Palestinians and must be held accountable," he added.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also hit out at "Zionist tyrants" who "murder peaceful Palestinian protesters whose land they have stolen as they march to escape their cruel and inhuman apartheid bondage."

Rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have criticized Israel's use of live fire.

"While some Palestinian demonstrators have thrown stones and other objects toward the fence, it's hard to believe how this would be an imminent danger to the lives of well-equipped soldiers protected by snipers, tanks and drones," Amnesty said.

Friday's demonstration also marked Land Day, the annual commemoration of an incident that took place on March 30, 1976, when six unarmed Palestinian citizens were killed by Israeli forces during protests against the Israeli government's decision to expropriate massive tracts of Palestinian-owned land.

Land Day is seen by Palestinians as a continuation of an ethnic cleansing campaign carried out by Zionist armed groups in 1948, when more than 750,000 Palestinians were driven off their lands in an event known to Muslims as the Nakba, or "catastrophe".

Friday also marked the beginning of a six-week sit-in demonstration leading up to the commemoration of the Nakba on May 14.

May 14 will mark 70 years since the creation of Israel and is when the United States is expected to open its new Beit-ul-Moqaddas embassy.



Air raid kills 16 near Yemen port of Hodeida

Apr 3, 2018

ADEN - An air strike near the Yemeni port of Hodeida on Monday killed 16 people in a building where Huthi rebels were gathering, security sources told AFP.

There were conflicting reports on the number of rebels versus civilians killed in the strike which was believed to have been carried out by the Saudi-led coalition. The coalition said it was investigating the reports and could not immediately comment.

The strike occurred in the district of Al-Hali in Hodeida province, which is controlled by the Iran-backed insurgents.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch said Yemen’s Huthi rebels have violated international laws of war in their latest missile attacks on Saudi Arabia, which killed an Egyptian labourer.

On March 25, the Iran-backed rebels fired seven ballistic missiles into Saudi Arabia.

Saudi authorities said their defences intercepted all seven, but falling debris from one of the missiles killed a migrant worker in the capital Riyadh.

Human Rights Watch said the missile attacks “violated the laws of war” as they were fired “indiscriminately at populated areas”, calling on the Huthis to cease their attacks.

Over the weekend, Saudi air defences intercepted another Huthi missile targeting the southern city of Najran.

The Yemen war - which has created what the UN has called the world’s largest humanitarian crisis - has killed nearly 10,000 people since 2015, when a regional military coalition led by Saudi Arabia joined the government’s war against the rebels.

While both parties in the war stand accused of neglecting civilian safety, the Saudi-led coalition in particular has drawn harsh condemnation from international rights groups for civilian deaths, landing on a UN blacklist last year for the killing and maiming of children.

The Huthis have intensified missile attacks on Saudi Arabia since November, and the coalition imposed a blockade on Yemen ports and airports in retaliation.

The blockade has since been partially lifted.

“The Huthis should immediately stop their indiscriminate missile attacks on populated areas of Saudi Arabia,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

Full report at:



Yemen PM: Cracking down on Houthi stronghold ends ‘Iranian project’

3 April 2018

Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr said on Monday that cracking down on the Houthis in their stronghold in Saada is the beginning of the end to Iran’s dangerous sectarian project via its Houthi tool.

“The military operation to cut the head off the snake in its stronghold aims to put an end to Iran’s project and destroy its dream to form sectarian militias like it did in other Arab countries,” Bin Daghr said.

“Opening a fifth front in Al Dhaher District in Saada and approaching the hometown of the rebels’ leader in Marran confirm victory is near,” Bin Dagher said during a phone call with Saada governor Hadi Tarshan who updated him on the army’s victories in cooperation with the Arab coalition in the Houthis’ stronghold.

The PM commended the great victories in Saada and said the Yemeni army, which has the Arab coalition’s full logistic support, is making great sacrifices to draw the future of Yemen that will not accept altering its identity as an Arab state or submit to agendas that aim to blackmail other countries.

Full report at:



Yemen: 20 Arab coalition raids target Houthi sites in Saada, al-Baida

2 April 2018

The coalition aircrafts carried out more than 20 strikes on positions controlled by the Houthi militias in the governorates of Saada, Jouf and al-Baida.

The military sources told Al Arabiya that the coalition fighters launched their first raids on Saada and targeted the Houthi positions in Al-Malahidhs, Al-Baqa'e and Baqam Directorate.

The fighter jets also targeted Jabal Al-Dahra and Wadi Al-Q’aif in Al-Jawf.

Dozens of Houthi militia members were killed and wounded during a bombardment of the central security headquarters in the city of al-Baidah, where militias have made it a gathering point to support and reinforce their forces in the province.

The Yemeni Legitimate Forces continued to support the coalition forces to clamp down on the main stronghold of the Houthi militias in Saada governorate on four fronts, the most recent of which was the Malahidhs Front, where the Yemeni army regained its camp and strategic positions nearby.

The Yemeni forces are advancing towards Juma'a ibn Fadil, the center of the Dhaher district, on the road leading to the Maran Mountains. The importance of this progress lies in the fact that the Houthi militias are losing their main stronghold.

From the Kataf Front eastward to the Malahidhs Front in the west, the confrontations between the legitimate forces and the Houthi militia are escalating along the border areas north of the border province of Saada amid major progress of the National Army with the support of the Arab coalition air and land forces.

Full report at:



Iran will never compromise on Palestinian cause: Zarif

Apr 2, 2018

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says Iranians have made the Palestinian cause an ideal of their own, stressing that the Islamic Republic will never compromise on this issue.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran sees the problems of Palestine as its own, like all other friends and neighboring Muslims, and their security and freedom as its own security and freedom," Zarif said in an article in the Turkish Yeni Safak newspaper published on Monday.

Zarif's comments came after at least 17 Palestinians lost their lives and more than 1,400 others sustained injuries on Friday when Israeli military forces opened fire on thousands of protesters who had flocked to a sit-in near the Gaza border.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas held the Israeli regime accountable for the deaths of the Palestinian protesters and called on the international community to urgently intervene to “protect” the Palestinian people against Israel’s “escalating daily aggression.”

The rallies coincided with the 42nd anniversary of Land Day, which commemorates the murder of six Palestinians by Israeli forces in 1976.

Palestinians have called the rally a "peaceful demonstration" in order to raise international awareness of the plight the displaced Palestinians are struggling with and take the chance to express their anger towards the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. Palestinian leaders pledged to go beyond the Gaza fence next time and surprise Israel again after massive protests near the barrier were met with fierce Israeli force.

Former Hamas leader, Khaled Meshaal, said on Sunday that Israel has been emboldened by the crises and “weaknesses” plaguing the Arab world, adding, “The Palestinians will not give up the ‘right of return.”

Elsewhere in his article, Zarif warned that some countries were trying to take advantage of the Arab world "for settling their own scores and their greedy deeds" and reiterated that Iran; however, believed that its security and stability hinged on the "security and stability of the region, especially all its neighbors. This should be a priority for everyone."

"In this context, the Islamic Republic of Iran has expressed its desire to actualize a joint security agreement based on mechanisms that spur dialogue, common principles and trust," the top Iranian diplomat said.

He added that Iran has expressed its readiness to "cooperate with all sides to ensure good neighborly relations and security and to protect common interests."

Zarif said foreign powers have chosen the option of "continuous and fierce wars in the region."

"Israel’s war against Lebanon, the illegal occupation of the Palestinian lands, repeated violations of the Syrian airspace, and ... the war against Yemen are all parts of these scenarios. Now we have to ask the question, what is the benefit of all these developments in our region and how have they affected the world?"

Ethnic, sectarian, religious and tribal conflicts have turned the Middle East into a geographical area lacking minimum security, he said and warned that despite the existence of many nations with common interests and few disputes, the region "has become a commodity with no safety."

The Iranian foreign minister said, "We do not want to witness long bloody battles again. If we do not want to see the repetition of such a scene in our history, we should sit down and discuss our differences at the table, not on the battlefields!"

Full report at:



Hamas calls on Arab League to sue Israel at ICC for Gaza carnage

Apr 3, 2018

Palestine’s Hamas resistance movement has urged the Arab League to file a lawsuit with the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Israel over its recent killings of over a dozen Palestinians during anti-occupation mass rallies in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh made the request during a phone conversation with Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Monday.

Haniyeh’s call for an ICC investigation came after the death toll from Friday’s Israeli attacks on Palestinian protesters along the border fence between Gaza and the occupied territories rose to 18.

The Palestinian Health Ministry updated the number of the fatalities, after 29-year-old protester Fares al-Raqib succumbed to his wounds.

On Friday, around 30,000 Gazans marched to the fence with the occupied lands at the start of a six-week protest, dubbed “The Great March of Return,” demanding the right to return for Palestinians driven out of their homeland.

The rallies coincided with the 42nd anniversary of Land Day, which commemorates the murder of six Palestinians by Israeli forces in 1976.

Friday’s demonstrations turned violent after Israeli forces used tear gas and live fire to force back demonstrators who had approached within a few hundred meters of the heavily-fortified fence.

In addition to the 18 killed, almost 1,500 Gazans were also injured during the clashes.

The Return rallies culminate on May 15, the day Palestinians commemorate Nakba Day (Day of Catastrophe) when hundreds of thousands fled or were driven out of their homes in 1948, the year Israel was created.

The United Nations Security Council also held an urgent meeting on Saturday to discuss the situation in Gaza, but the 15-member body failed to condemn the Israeli bloodshed.

Elsewhere in his phone call with Aboul Gheit, Haniyeh underlined the need “to go to the UN General Assembly to discuss the [Israeli] crime and form a special investigation commission,” according to a statement by the Hamas chief’s office.

Aboul Gheit, for his part, decried the “Israeli crime against participants in the peaceful rally.”

The Israeli minister for military affairs, Avigdor Lieberman, has rejected calls for a probe into the killing of Palestinians by the regime forces, saying, “We shall not cooperate with any commission of inquiry.”

The Israeli military has also threatened to step up its “response” if tensions continue on the Gaza fence.

Arab League to meet on Gaza

Haniyeh’s phone call came on the eve of an emergency Arab League meeting on the Gaza carnage.

Saeed Abu Ali, the 22-member pan-Arab body’s assistant secretary general for Palestine and the occupied Arab territories, told the Palestinian Wafa news agency that the meeting will focus on “the crimes of the occupation against the Palestinian people.”

He also noted that the Arab League is closely following the developments after the “Israeli massacre against peaceful civilians” in Gaza.

Full report at:



Israel to send 16,000 African migrants to Western countries

Apr 2, 2018

Israel says it has cancelled plans to deport African migrants to Africa, adding that it has instead reached a deal with the United Nations refugee agency to send more than 16,000 to Western countries.

Israel and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees have reached an agreement “for the departure of at least 16,250 migrants ... to Western nations," the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement on Monday, adding that the agreement would allow the removal of more migrants from Israel than in the previous plan.

The statement said that other migrants, many of whom are seeking asylum, will be allowed to remain in Israel for at least the next five years.

A UNHCR spokeswoman also confirmed that an agreement had been reached but gave no details.

At a press conference later in the day, Netanyahu identified Canada, Germany, and Italy as some of the countries set to host the migrants.

There are currently some 42,000 African migrants in Israel, and more than 1,400 asylum seekers being held in two detention centers, including the notorious Holot facility in Negev desert.

Most of the African migrants in Israel are from Eritrea and war-torn Sudan, saying they fled danger at home and that it is not safe to return.

Israel considers the majority of African asylum seekers to be economic migrants and has said it has no legal obligation to keep them.

In January, Israel started the implementation of a plan to deport migrants who had entered the occupied territories, threatening to detain those who refused to leave.

The plan, initially approved by the Israeli cabinet in November, has drawn concerns from the UN refugee agency, which called it incoherent and unsafe.

Full report at:





Iraqi nun displaced by Islamic State denied UK visa

2 Apr 2018

An Iraqi nun who wants to visit her sick sister in the UK has been denied a visa by the Home Office.

Sister Ban Madleen was driven out of Qaraqosh, the biggest Christian town in the Nineveh plains, by ISIS, who took over her Dominican convent. She settled as a refugee in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdestand, where she set up kindergartens. The refugees are returning to their home towns now that ISIS have been driven out.

Sister Ban is not the first religious to have problems visiting Britain, according to Fr Benedict Kiely, founder of, which helps the persecuted Christians of the Middle East. Another Dominican nun with a PhD in Biblical Theology from Oxford has been refused a visa twice.

The letter from UK Visas and Immigration, a division of the Home Office, gives the reasons for refusing Sister Ban a visa: that she had not provided evidence of her earnings as a kindergarten principal, and that she had not provided confirmation that the Dominican Sisters of St Catherine of Siena would fund her visit. For these reasons, the letter says the clearance officer is not satisfied that she is genuinely seeking entry for a permissible purpose.

Rather than allowing Sister Ban to provide the necessary evidence, the letter, a copy of which the Catholic Herald has seen, ends: “In relation to this decision there is no right of appeal or right to administrative review.”

The letter acknowledges the importance of family visits, and accepts that Sister Ban had previously travelled to the UK and complied with the terms of her visa, but points out that she was issued that visa seven years ago in 2011 and comments specifically on her absence of recent travel to the UK. Fr Kiely said: “Do they not know what happened between 2014 and now?”

This is the latest case where foreign religious have been refused entry to Britain. A year ago the Institute of St Anselm, a Catholic institute training priests and nuns in Margate, Kent, was forced to close because of problems with visa applications for foreign students. Institute founder Fr Len Kofler said that a Catholic priest was refused a visa to study at the Institute because he wasn’t married, and a nun was denied entry to the UK because she did not have a personal bank account because she belonged to a religious order.

In December 2016 three archbishops from Iraq and Syria were refused entry into the UK despite being invited by the country’s Syriac Orthodox Church for the consecration of the UK’s first Syriac Orthodox Cathedral, attended by Prince Charles.



German coalition partners in row over role of Islam in country

Apr 3, 2018

An ongoing dispute within Germany's coalition over the role of Islam in the country re-emerged on Saturday, as party officials gave conflicting messages in interviews published by German media.

Just ahead of Easter celebrations across the country, Wolfgang Schaeuble, a senior figure in Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), told the Funke media group, "We cannot halt the course of history. Everyone has to deal with the fact that Islam has become a part of our country."

However, Alexander Dobrindt, deputy party chief of the Christian Social Union (CSU), stated in an interview with Focus magazine that "Islam does not belong to Germany."

Bavaria's CSU is the more right-leaning sister party of Merkel's CDU and has often clashed with the chancellor over migration.

Schaeuble appeared to be following Merkel's lead by distancing himself from CSU leader Horst Seehofer and Dobrindt, both of whom have repeatedly emphasized that Islam is not part of Germany.

Dobrindt said that suggesting Islam belonged to Germany was "a barrier to integration" that "sends a false signal to immigrants."

Asked whether the CSU is bracing for a long-term dispute with its senior coalition partner on the issue, Dobrindt said his party was heading into the debate with a clear stance.

"The CSU will not budge on this," he said. "After all, the majority of the population is of the opinion that Islam does not belong to Germany."

Full report at:



Russia: 40,000 civilians return to Syria’s E Ghouta

Apr 3, 2018

Russia says more than 40,000 civilians have returned to Eastern Ghouta after the Syrian capital’s countryside was almost fully liberated from militants.

The Russian Defense Ministry made the announcement on Tuesday.

The returnees had initially left the Damascus suburb using four humanitarian corridors set up to enable their safe exit from the area.

Militants had been using the area to launch incessant rocket attacks on the capital. Backed by Russian airpower, the Syrian army has been trying to liberate the countryside to both spare the capital from the attacks and liberate thousands of other trapped civilians, whom militants have been using as human shields.

Eastern Ghouta has now been almost fully liberated with the exception of the town of Douma.

Recently, Moscow brokered an agreement between the militants based there and the government, enabling the former’s safe exit to Jarabulus, a militant-held town in northern Syria.

The Russian ministry said 1,123 militants and their families had left Douma in the past 24 hours on the back of the deal.

It said that 2,269 militants and their families had left Douma since the introduction of the deal.

On Monday, Syrian paper al-Watan said it was a matter of hours before Douma is declared a “town empty of terrorism.”

Full report at:



Anti-Semitic claims against Corbyn, Labour exaggerated: Poll

Apr 1, 2018

The majority of Labour Party members in Britain say Israel is “a force for bad” and believe accusations of anti-Semitism within UK's main opposition party are being exaggerated to damage Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and stifle legitimate criticism of Israel, according to a new poll.

The YouGov survey, which was commissioned by The Times newspaper, showed that 65 percent of the party’s members held a negative view of Israel.

The poll’s findings sent a clear message as Israeli military forces continued to brutally stifle a six-week protest by Palestinians near the border with Gaza.

Called the Great March for Return, the march has seen around 30,000 Palestinians pitch tents along the coastal enclave’s borders to mark the Land Day, the 42nd anniversary of Israel’s murdering of several Palestinians who protested Israel’s land grab plans in 1976.

Israeli soldiers have so far killed 17 protesters and injured dozens more since Friday, the day the new protests began.

Palestinians have pledged to stand firm and continue the event until Nakba Day, or Day of Catastrophe, on March 15, one day after the Israeli regime was created in 1948.

Anti-Semitism claims 'exaggerated'

The poll also saw Labour members express solidarity with Corbyn, who as a pro-Palestinian politician, has long been accused of anti-Semitism and come under pressure from the Israeli lobby in the UK to resign.

The pressure peaked last year, when Corbyn announced in his manifesto for the June 8 snap election that a Labour government will “immediately recognize” a state of Palestine.

The manifesto also called for an end to Israel’s blockade and occupation of Palestinian territories, as well as construction of illegal settlements on Palestinian lands.

In the latest case, Corbyn has been accused of partaking in a secret Facebook group that was used by some senior Labour members to allegedly post anti-Semitic content.

Around 77 percent of the participants in the poll said the allegations were “exaggerated” to damage Corbyn and stifle legitimate criticism of Israel. Some 61 percent said he was handling the situation well.

Corbyn’s popularity soaring

The poll also found that Corbyn was enjoying high approval ratings as an astounding 80 percent of Labour member supported him despite internal rebellions and anti-Semitism claims.

Full report at:



Southeast Asia


Indonesia's Supreme Court rejects blasphemy appeal of Christian ex-governor

Mon 2 Apr 2018

Indonesia's Supreme Court has rejected an appeal to reduce the two-year prison sentence of the former governor of Jakarta, Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, who was convicted of blasphemy last year for allegedly insulting the Quran.

Purnama, a Christian who is also ethnically Chinese, was convicted by a lower court in May last year after a subtitled video purporting to show the politician insulting the Quran circulated on social media.

Fify Lety Indra, who represented Purnama in court, said she believed that the North Jakarta District Court made a mistake in convicting Purnama of blasphemy and suggested the ruling be reconsidered in light of the verdict against communications lecturer Buni Yani, who was found guilty of tampering with the video footage used as evidence against Purnama.

"The legal argument for our petition is that the judges [at the district level] made a mistake in their verdict [on Ahok], particularly in relation to Buni Yani's verdict." Indra, who is also Purnama's sister, said after the preliminary hearing.

Court spokesman Suhadi had confirmed that the panel of three justices, chaired by Artidjo Alkotsar, had rejected the request for judicial review of Purnama's sentence.

"All the reasons for the appeal put forward by Ahok's team were rejected by the judge," Suhadi said, as reported by Channel News Asia.

Purnama's case review petition to the court came nine months after he was convicted of blasphemy. As the appeal has been rejected, the former governor will have to serve the remaining year and two months of his jail term.

Human rights groups have expressed concern that the Supreme Court decision could prompt a rise in the use of blasphemy laws by conservative Muslims to target non-Muslims and liberal Muslims.

"This ruling means that the blasphemy laws can be used by conservative Muslim groups for political purposes to target their nemeses, including non-Muslims and liberal Muslims," said Human Right Watch Indonesia's Andreas Harsono.

"About 76 per cent of all countries in the world do not have or enforce blasphemy laws, but in Indonesia it is being enforced more and more."

He warned that Indonesia's blasphemy laws, which were introduced in 1965, had only been used eight times up to 2004 but after the election of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as president that same year, 89 cases were brought to court during his rule with 89 people jailed, and another 17 were jailed for the same offense under Yudhoyono's successor, Joko Widodo.



China saw 16-fold increase in returning jihadists in 2017, analyst says 

03 APRIL, 2018

BEIJING — China is facing a growing threat from trained jihadists re-entering the country, security and diplomatic analysts warned, after it was revealed that the number of such people intercepted by the authorities in 2017 was 16 times as high as the year before.

The size of the increase was revealed by Mr Ji Zhiye, head of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, though he did not provide absolute figures.

The steep rise in the number of people apprehended might have been a result of China tightening its border controls, but the complicated geopolitical situation in neighbouring countries had heightened the risk, he said.

Jihadists could return to China via Russia or central Asia, and their options had been increased as a result of Beijing’s growing ties with the latter through its “Belt and Road Initiative”, Ji said.

Mr Li Shaoxian, director of the China-Arab Research Institute at Ningxia University, said there were multiple channels that jihadists could use to get back into the country and that authorities needed to remain on high alert, even for those travelling with genuine documents.

Many of the people arrested in police crackdowns on terrorism suspects in Xinjiang, a restive region in China’s far west that is mostly populated by people from the Uygur ethnic group, were found to have returned from Syria with legal visas, he said.

Xinjiang has increasingly tightened its border controls, including its visa management procedures, since late 2016.

“Beijing should work with other countries in the region, and Russia, to crack down on terrorism near its border”, Mr Li said.

Since the second half of 2015, the extremist group Islamic State has established new strongholds outside Syria and Iraq, including ones in Afghanistan, Libya and on the Sinai Peninsula in northeastern Egypt.

Beijing has accused IS of recruiting Uygurs from Xinjiang and blamed forces such as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) for plotting deadly attacks within China that have claimed hundreds of lives.

Mr Imad Moustapha, Syria’s ambassador to China, said in November that an estimated 5,000 Chinese militants, mostly Uygurs from Xinjiang, were believed to have been trained in Syria.

The Kabul-based Pajhwok Afghan News reported over the weekend that two Chinese militants were killed in an anti-terrorism operation on Friday in Afghanistan’s northeast Badakhshan province, a volatile region close to the border with Xinjiang. An estimated 21 militant groups, including ETIM, have set up training camps in the country.

The United States military is also targeting militants in northern Afghanistan. According to a Nato statement released in early February, US troops had conducted air operations to strike at Taliban training facilities in Badakhshan, preventing the planning and rehearsal of terrorist acts by groups including the ETIM near the border with China and Tajikistan.

Mr Raffaello Pantucci, director of International Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute in London, said that while Beijing needed to be aware of the potential threat posed by jihadists returning to the country, there was nothing yet to suggest that any of them actually had.

“While China clearly has something to worry about given the numbers of jihadists with links to China who have fought in Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan, it is worth pointing out that so far China has not shown any evidence of foreign fighters making it back home,” he said.

“Rather, we have seen these individuals killed abroad, or launching attacks against China abroad, suggesting that it is very difficult for people to return to China to try to launch an attack”.

Full report at:



Malaysia intercepts boat carrying Rohingya refugees from Myanmar

April 3, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR, April 3 — Malaysia has intercepted a boat carrying 56 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar off its northern island of Langkawi, authorities said today, with rights groups expecting further perilous journeys by sea after last year’s surge in violence in Myanmar.

The boat had stopped at an island in southern Thailand on Saturday after a storm, with officials there saying the refugees were heading to Malaysia. It had set sail from central Rakhine state in Myanmar, the UN refugee agency said.

“Generally, all 56 passengers, mostly children and women, are safe but tired and hungry,” Malaysian navy chief Admiral Tan Sri Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin told Reuters.

“We have provided them with water, food and other humanitarian assistance.”

According to UN and other rights groups, some 700,000 mostly Muslim Rohingya fled their homes in Rakhine into Bangladesh after militant attacks in August last year sparked a military crackdown that the United Nations and Western countries have said constitutes ethnic cleansing.

Buddhist-majority Myanmar rejects that charge, saying its forces have been waging a legitimate campaign against “terrorists” who attacked government forces.

Tens of thousands of Rohingya fled Myanmar by sea following an outbreak of sectarian violence in Rakhine in 2012, some falling prey to human traffickers. That exodus peaked in 2015, when an estimated 25,000 people fled across the Andaman Sea for Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, many drowning in unsafe and overloaded boats.

Due to the fresh outbreak of violence in Myanmar, rights groups expect another surge in Rohingya boats reaching South-east Asia, during the months the seas are calmer, even if not at the levels of three years ago.

Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency Director General Datuk Zulkifili Abu Bakar said the refugees would be allowed to enter the country on humanitarian grounds.

“They will be handed over to the Immigration Department,” he told Reuters in a text message.

Full report at:



Four Detained in Indonesia's Aceh for Alleged Gay Sex, Face 100 Lashes

April 3, 2018

Banda Aceh, Indonesia: Rights activists called on Tuesday for Indonesia's Aceh province to release four people detained on suspicion of having homosexual sex, amid concerns over the persecution of the LGBT community in the world's third-largest democracy. Secular Indonesia is predominantly Muslim but ultra-conservative Aceh is the only province to follow sharia, or Islamic law, and criminalise gay sex.

Indonesia's parliament is currently debating revisions to the national criminal code that could criminalise all sex outside marriage, including same-sex relations. Many believe the new rules could be used to unfairly target the LGBT community and other minority groups.

Authorities said the four suspects were rounded up by vigilantes and police and, if convicted, could face up to 100 lashes in public.

"We are completing their files and will soon hand over to prosecutors," said Marzuki, head of sharia police investigations in the provincial capital, Banda Aceh.

Human Rights Watch said the punishment "constitutes torture under international human rights law".

"Acehnese authorities should release the four and protect the public from marauding vigilantes who target vulnerable minorities," said Graeme Reid, director of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights programme at Human Rights Watch.

The provincial and central governments drew international condemnation last year when, for the first time, Aceh authorities publicly caned two men who were convicted under the province's anti-homosexuality laws, which were introduced in 2014.

Vigilantes and religious police in Aceh often raid homes and places of work and detain people on suspicion of engaging in homosexual activity.

Aceh police detained 12 transgender women earlier this year and publicly shamed them by forcing them to cut their hair and dress in "masculine" clothing.

Full report at:




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