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Islamic World News ( 14 Jul 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Where Is Public Caning Commanded in the Quran, ask Sisters in Islam

















In this photo taken on June 23, 2017, inmates pray with the Imam Mimoun

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Where Is Public Caning Commanded in the Quran ask Sisters in Islam

Amnesty: Saudi Arabia Silence Shia Dissent with Execution

Italy Uses Imams in Prisons to Deter Extremism among Inmates

Agra: Muslims Call Amarnath Terror Attack a 'Satanic Act'

 

Southeast Asia

Where Is Public Caning Commanded in the Quran ask Sisters in Islam

Muslim World Needs Self-Analysis, Says ‘Muslim Democrat’ Ghannouchi

China's Uighur Muslims Struggle under 'Police State'

Indonesian rights activists protest crackdown on hardline Islamists

New Government Regulation Will Allow Indonesia to Ban Hizbut Tahrir

Philippine Air Strike on Rebels Kills 2 Soldiers, Injures Several

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Arab World

Amnesty: Saudi Arabia Silence Shia Dissent with Execution

Iraq Collectively Punishing Daesh Families-HRW

ISIL Commanders Fleeing Deir Ezzur Following Intensified Chaos in Terrorist Front

ISIL's Centers in Hama Receive Severe Blow in Syrian Armed Forces' Attacks

Abadi: We will not issue amnesty for the ‘murderous terrorists’

Iraq strikes Islamic State in Mosul days after declaring victory

Refugees return to Syria after Hezbollah deal

Chinese Takfiri Terrorists in Hard Conditions in Syria

Russia to Supply New Combat Boats to Syrian Coast Guards

Syrian Army Scores More Victories against Terrorists in Eastern Damascus

Syrian Gov't Ready to Reconstruct Infrastructures in Aleppo, Raqqa

Suicide bomber kills and injures scores in Syria’s Idlib province

Prominent Bahraini human rights activist goes on hunger strike

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Europe

Italy Uses Imams in Prisons to Deter Extremism among Inmates

Muslim Man Stopped and Searched On Way to Mosque for ‘Wearing Too Many Clothes’

Extremist Groups Receiving Funds from UK Donors: Report

London Mayor Sadiq Khan Accused Of ‘Flip-Flopping’ Over UK Hezbollah Ban

Eight Men Cycling From London for Hajj, To Raise £1m Syria Fund

British government says won’t publish extremism funding report

Germany convicts Syrian refugee of preparing Denmark attack

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India

Agra: Muslims Call Amarnath Terror Attack a 'Satanic Act'

Hindu, Sikhs, Muslims Hold Candle Light Vigil against the Killings of Amarnath Pilgrims

Enrolment of Muslims in Bengal Varsities Abysmally Low, Says Survey

Civil society, Muslim groups across Maharashtra demand special act for protection against lynching

Muslims say attack on Amarnath pilgrims ‘anti-Islamic’

Hizbul renegade forbids pro-Pak slogans at funeral of slain terrorists

Two Pakistanis among 4 terrorists involved in attack on Amarnath pilgrims: Government

World condemns terror attack on Amarnath pilgrims; China and Pakistan silent

Islamic body denounces lynchings, says government assurance having no impact

Kerala resident’s bid to join IS foiled second time

Basirhat Muslim outfit plans to raise money for compensating victims, repair places of worship

Ten Indian workers are among the dead in a building fire in Najran, Saudi Arabia

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Mideast

Israel Freezes Plan to Give Palestinian City Land to Expand

Turkish Police Kill 5 Suspected IS Jihadists

Turkey firmly helping Qatar amidst Gulf crisis by sending cargo

Turkish Army Dispatches More Forces, Equipment to Borders with Syria

Turkey’s Erdogan says lifting emergency rule currently out of question

Iran, EU start first ever joint project on nuclear safety

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South Asia

ISIS and Taliban Suffer Casualties in Kunar Airstrikes and Operations

Myanmar Escorts Media to Conflict-Torn Region, Vows 'No Restrictions'

Gunmen kidnap Afghan bus passengers, kill seven

Afghan intelligence foil coordinated attack plot by Haqqani network in Gardez city

Dostum strongly reacts at Ghani and US embassy remarks regarding Ishchi case

Afghanistan reacts at ICBM test by North Korea, calling for a halt to such tests

Myanmar Buddhists protest UN human rights envoy’s visit

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North America

High Time for Sofian Zakkout, Pillar of the American-Muslim Community, to Be Investigated for Ties to Hamas

The number of Muslim refugees entering U.S. declined after Trump took office

US secretary of state Tillerson meets Saudi King Salman in bid to end Qatar rift

Appeal of Guantanamo conviction hits snag over legal representation

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Pakistan

Pakistan Making ‘Sure-Footed’ Progress against Terrorism: COAS

4 Policemen Shot Dead In Quetta

Under-fire Sharif set to consult cabinet, allies

Asma Jahangir denies reports of joining PML-N legal team in Panama Papers case

Army chief calls for open debate on CPEC

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Africa

Militants Find Sanctuary in Libya’s Wild South

Sudan’s Bashir suspends sanctions talks with US

Multiple bomb attacks kill 19 in northeastern Nigeria

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/where-is-public-caning-commanded-in-the-quran-ask-sisters-in-islam/d/111827

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Where Is Public Caning Commanded in the Quran ask Sisters in Islam

July 13, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR, July 13 — The Kelantan government should point out the section in the Quran that allows for public caning, Sisters in Islam (SIS) demanded today.

The Muslim women’s rights group said shaming and punishment would only create an increasingly repressive environment that would affect women and the poor disproportionately as in Acheh, pointing out that the Indonesian province’s Shariah laws have extended to non-Muslims too.

“Do not deceive the Muslim population here by brandishing the holy religion of Islam to justify these deplorable actions,” said SIS in a statement.

“As Malaysians, we demand that the Kelantan state government repeal the amendment in the Kelantan Syariah Criminal Procedure Enactment 2002 and observe Article 5 of the Universal Declaration Human Rights (UDHR) that no one shall be subjected to torture, cruel or degrading form of punishment,” the group added.

The Kelantan state legislative assembly yesterday passed amendments to its state Syariah Criminal Procedure Enactment that would allow Shariah offenders to be caned publicly.

SIS stressed that Islam was a religion of compassion.

“It is mentioned in the Qur’an (16:125), ‘Invite all to the way of the Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching, and reason with them in the ways that are best and most gracious’. Any laws passed under the name of Islam must take into account the most fundamental teachings of the Qur’an based on justice and mercy and the right to preserve human dignity. Even in the verses regarding punishment in the Qur’an (5: 38-39 and 5:33-34), God stressed the qualities of mercy and forgiveness,” said the group.

The women’s rights group also pointed out that Kelantan, long governed by Islamist party PSA, has high rates of rape, incest and pornography.

“Repression, shaming, and punishment does not lead to higher Islamic values,” said SIS, urging the federal government to intervene.

PAS is aiming to enforce the Kelantan Syariah Criminal Code II 1993 amended in 2015, its version of hudud, but may not do so until legal barriers are removed at the federal level.

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/sis-where-is-public-caning-commanded-in-the-quran

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Amnesty: Saudi Arabia silence Shia dissent with execution

Jul 12, 2017

Saudi Arabia is using the death penalty as a means to silence Shia dissent, says Amnesty International.

“These brutal executions are the latest act in the Saudi Arabian authorities’ ongoing persecution of the Shia minority. The death penalty is being deployed as a political weapon to punish them for daring to protest against their treatment and to cow others into silence,” said the group’s director for research, Lynn Maalouf, on Wednesday.

Maalouf made the remarks after Saudi Arabia executed four Shias in the kingdom’s oil-rich Eastern Province over allegations of conducting terrorist activities.

“The international community must come down hard on Saudi Arabia to ensure that others currently facing execution after deeply flawed legal proceedings do not meet the same fate. Saudi Arabia should quash their death sentences and establish an official moratorium on executions,” she added.

Amnesty has documented a further 34 other cases of Shia men currently sentenced to death mostly following unfair trials based largely on confessions obtained by torture.

The Shia-dominated Eastern Province, particularly the Qatif region, has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters, complaining of marginalization in the Sunni-ruled kingdom, have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the oil-rich region.

The Shia community of the province accounts for somewhere between 10 and 15 percent of Saudi Arabia's 33-million-strong population.

“The Saudi Arabian government is showing no signs of letting up in its use of the death penalty and has employed it vigorously since the traditional pause for Ramadan…The death penalty continues to be used in violation of international human rights law and standards on a massive scale, and often after trials which are grossly unfair and sometimes politically motivated,” concluded Maalouf.

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/07/12/528286/saudi-arabia-shia-amnesty-executions

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Italy Uses Imams in Prisons to Deter Extremism among Inmates

Jul 13, 2017

TERNI - Italy's plan to reduce the risk of a jihadi-inspired attack is pinned in small part on El Hacmi Mimoun, an imam who bikes to the prison here every week and exhorts Muslim inmates not to stray from life's "right path" or hate people who aren't Muslim.

Seven inmates — three Moroccans, three Tunisians and a Somali — left their cells at Terni Penitentiary on an early summer day to listen as the Moroccan-born imam led prayers and delivered a sermon. Sunlight from a high barred window streamed through Mimoun's gauzy, off-white robe.

"If I am praying, I am not cooking up ideas to harm others on the outside," a 35-year-old Tunisian inmate said, sitting cross-legged in the small, beige-tiled room that was converted into the prison's Mosque of Peace.

None of the inmates would give their names, and prison rules precluded asking why they were serving time. So far spared the attacks that have stunned France, Belgium, Britain and Germany, Italy has relied mostly on arresting and deporting suspected extremists to try to keep the country safe. But the Italian government has come to embrace prevention, too, especially in the prisons it doesn't want to become training grounds for potential extremists.

Inviting in imams who have been vetted to make sure they espouse "moderate views" is a tactic now being employed in Italian prisons to counter radicalization among inmates. In February, the government signed a recruiting agreement with the Union of Islamic Communities and Organizations in Italy, which professes to foster Islamic "pluralism."

When preaching to inmates, "we stress that we are Italians of Muslim faith, Europeans of Muslim faith ... We are 100 percent citizens with rights and duties," UCOII president Izzeddin Elzir said.

Italy's second generation of Muslim immigrants is just coming of age now. For the most part, the nation lacks neighborhoods with heavy concentrations of Muslim residents. But Muslims make up a disproportionate share of the population in Italy's prisons.

More than a third of all inmates in Italian penitentiaries are foreigners, and 42 percent of those come from the majority Muslim countries of Morocco, Albania and Tunisia, according to a 2017 report by inmate advocacy group Antigone.

The advocacy group counted 411 chaplains, but only 47 imams working in Italy's 200 prisons. Prison system officials worry that if imams don't make regular visits, inmates might be more vulnerable to the influence of those who are already radicalised. "It's not so much those (inmates) who preach, but those who submit to this proselytizing" who are considered at risk, Terni Penitentiary Superintendent Natascia Bastianelli said.

Justice Ministry Undersecretary Gennaro Migliore stressed in an interview that of about 11,000 Italian prison inmates from predominantly Muslim countries, "those who could be potentially radicalized, or already radicalized don't exceed 400" inmates.

So far, 13 UCOII imams have started preaching in eight prisons after being screened by interior ministry officials. Government officials and the organization plan to evaluate the strategy's effectiveness as a de-radicalization tool this fall. If Italy needed a wakeup call, it came with the morning news two days before Christmas.

Before dawn, officers in Milan confronted and killed a young Tunisian suspected of driving the truck that plowed through shoppers at a Berlin Christmas market that week, killing 12. Anis Amri is believed to have become radicalised during the 3 ½ years he spent in Italian prisons for his role in a riot at a migrant center.

In a separate case, authorities accused a Tunisian inmate with alleged links to extremist groups of recruiting fellow Muslims at an Italian prison, and attacking inmates who resented his extremist propaganda.

Terni police commander Fabio Gallo said learning that Amri had spent time in Italian prisons spurred him and other prison officials to sharpen their skills at recognizing an inmate who is becoming radicalised. About 20 percent of the penitentiary's personnel have taken courses to make them aware of possible signs, such as preaching to other inmates or exulting at television news coverage about extremist attacks in Europe, Gallo said.

But he stressed that it's often difficult to realize which words or gestures might be worrisome signals, especially for staff who don't understand Arabic. And inmates are catching on to what tips prison personnel off, Gallo said. "Nobody has a long beard" anymore, the commander said.

Vetting imams may not prove to be a straightforward process either. "Where do you set the bar? Is it OK if someone is saying Western society is decadent, but at the same time condemns ISIS?" asked Lorenzo Vidino, an Islamism expert, using an alternative abbreviation for IS.

Former anti-terrorism magistrate Stefano Dambruoso, who is now a lawmaker in Italy, endorses careful screening of who will be preaching to men and women behind bars. He thinks it's essential "they have been trained in schools, in environments respectful of the founding principles of our Constitution."

Yet Dambruoso also expresses concern about the imams invited into prisons "turning into some kind of secret eye, or a spy for the institutions."

On the day when Mimoun was at Terni Penitentiary, 46 of the 109 foreigners in the medium-security section were from northern Africa. The imam delivered his sermon in Arabic, sprinkled with Italian and French phrases. He said he teaches his followers to "respect Italians, respect neighbors, your colleagues, your cellmates."

One of the inmates who came to pray in the mosque said that "if you respect religion, our religion, you won't commit" extremist attacks. After the seven were accompanied back to their cells, Mimoun told of how an inmate once confided in him that he "hated Italians." "I showed him in the Quran where it says you cannot hate others of different religions," the imam said.

http://nation.com.pk/international/13-Jul-2017/italy-uses-imams-in-prisons-to-deter-extremism-among-inmates

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Agra: Muslims call Amarnath terror attack a 'satanic act'

Siraj Qureshi

July 12, 2017

In the backdrop of the terrorist attack on innocent pilgrims in Amarnath, widespread discussion has started resurfacing whether Islam is inherently violent or it preaches peaceful co-existence in its core. Many believe that although religio-ethnically Islam emanated from a tribal background and had adopted many of its rituals from the older religions like Judaism and Christianity, the religion is methodologically based on peace and harmony and as such, the Amarnath attack should be termed as a satanic attack.

Talking to India Today, Sami Aghai, president of Bhartiya Muslim Vikas Parishad said that a seeker of Islamic ideology should know that the study of Islam is not like the study of a branch of science, rather it should always be studied within two parameters, Islam as a religion and Muslim as a religious community.

"These two factors should be looked upon simultaneously while keeping in view, the history, and prophetic teachings. Indeed Islam as a principle is the name of ideology that originated through the Quran containing revelations from Allah to his 'Rasool' Muhammad and although Muslims by heart and mind follow the Quranic guidelines, the social aspects vis-a-vis scriptures including contemporary needs, should be taken into account," he said.

TRUE PICTURE OF ISLAM

"The violence is merely a phenomenon in the social sense, affecting Muslims being basically from a tribal conflicting atmosphere, thus confrontations were more or less, of historic importance and had nothing to do with Islamic teachings or ideology. A differentiation must be studied between the two aspects, otherwise the true picture of Islam cannot be drawn," he further added.

Shiv Kumar Sharma, a member of Hindustani Biradari said that though certain verses in Uran command for war, this injunction was not meant to be taken as a general principle. It appears in Quran only as a justification for engaging in self-defense.

"These verses are applicable only when there is an external threat. In the absence of such a threat, these verses would be inapplicable. Thus, the acts by some errant followers of Islam as well as by proscribed outfits with radical ideology should be condemned, rather than holding Islam, as a religion, responsible for violence and terrorism," he said.

Syed Irfan Salim, district president of Sarvdaleey Muslim Action Committee said that Indian people belonging to different faith/religion have lived in harmony for more than a thousand years and and persons spreading the message of communal harmony, national integration, and peaceful coexistence outnumber those spreading hatred and divisiveness in the society.

"Muslims who had migrated to Pakistan during the partition are yet to get dignity/prominence in that country unlike those who remain in India, enjoying complete liberty. This raises the need of strengthening the communal harmony in this country through spreading and propagating effective counter-narratives against divisive campaigns," he said.

Salim further added, "true Islam has always stood for harmony and coexistence and the evil propaganda that is spreading against Islam is being spread by people having vested interests in destabilizing this country. In fact, every true Muslim is against the meaningless violence being spread by terrorists, in Kashmir and elsewhere in the world."

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/amarnath-yatra-attack-terror-attack-satanic-act-called-by-muslims/1/1000138.html

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Southeast Asia

 

Muslim world needs self-analysis, says ‘Muslim democrat’ Ghannouchi

Aedi Asri

July 12, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR: Muslims need to ponder on the host of problems and conflicts now plaguing them around the world and seek out their solutions, says Rached Ghannouchi, the Tunisian leader who heads the Islamist Ennahda party.

Ghannouchi, often viewed as a “Muslim democrat”, said the self-analysis was most necessary, especially in determining the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims in the Muslim world.

Universities could play a role in contributing to resolving the problems faced by Muslims, he said in his address at a special convocation at the International Islamic University of Malaysia (IIUM) where he was conferred an honorary doctorate today.

His speech, in Arabic, was summarised in English by lecturer Ahmad el-Muhammadi.

Ghannouchi also said the world today saw moderates and extremists living together and that the culture clash in the Muslim world were between moderate Muslims and those at the other end of the spectrum.

He said present day Muslims must continue to uphold the Islamic intellectual tradition by past Muslim reformists such as Rashid Ridha, Jamaluddin Al-Afghani and Muhammad Abduh.

“In the past, Islam was seen as a leading world religion but the role Muslims play today has eroded.

“We must reclaim the past status, not by purely copying the West but by innovating our traditions,” he said.

The Ennahda party was closely tied to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, a movement that had recently come under attack from Saudi Arabia and its allies.

Ghannouchi was jailed several times by the previous regime in Tunisia, forcing him to eventually seek political asylum in Britain in 1987.

In 2011, after the Ben Ali regime was toppled in a revolution that sparked the “Arab Spring” uprisings in many Arab countries, Ennahda played a major role in establishing democracy in Tunisia.

Ghannouchi dismissed the notion that the Arab world was not ready to embrace democracy.

“The Arab world is ready. Democracy can survive in the Islamic world. Tunisia has proven it,” he said.

He conceded that extreme elements were present in his country but he said his people had chosen democracy and had succeeded in practising it without marginalising anyone.

“Tunisians are showing the way for the Arab world,” he added.

KUALA LUMPUR: Muslims need to ponder on the host of problems and conflicts now plaguing them around the world and seek out their solutions, says Rached Ghannouchi, the Tunisian leader who heads the Islamist Ennahda party.

Ghannouchi, often viewed as a “Muslim democrat”, said the self-analysis was most necessary, especially in determining the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims in the Muslim world.

Universities could play a role in contributing to resolving the problems faced by Muslims, he said in his address at a special convocation at the International Islamic University of Malaysia (IIUM) where he was conferred an honorary doctorate today.

His speech, in Arabic, was summarised in English by lecturer Ahmad el-Muhammadi.

Ghannouchi also said the world today saw moderates and extremists living together and that the culture clash in the Muslim world were between moderate Muslims and those at the other end of the spectrum.

He said present day Muslims must continue to uphold the Islamic intellectual tradition by past Muslim reformists such as Rashid Ridha, Jamaluddin Al-Afghani and Muhammad Abduh.

“In the past, Islam was seen as a leading world religion but the role Muslims play today has eroded.

“We must reclaim the past status, not by purely copying the West but by innovating our traditions,” he said.

The Ennahda party was closely tied to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, a movement that had recently come under attack from Saudi Arabia and its allies.

Ghannouchi was jailed several times by the previous regime in Tunisia, forcing him to eventually seek political asylum in Britain in 1987.

In 2011, after the Ben Ali regime was toppled in a revolution that sparked the “Arab Spring” uprisings in many Arab countries, Ennahda played a major role in establishing democracy in Tunisia.

Ghannouchi dismissed the notion that the Arab world was not ready to embrace democracy.

“The Arab world is ready. Democracy can survive in the Islamic world. Tunisia has proven it,” he said.

He conceded that extreme elements were present in his country but he said his people had chosen democracy and had succeeded in practising it without marginalising anyone.

“Tunisians are showing the way for the Arab world,” he added.

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2017/07/12/tunisian-leader-urges-solutions-to-conflicts-in-islamic-world/

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China's Uighur Muslims struggle under 'police state'

Jul 13, 2017

For years, the square outside the mosque in Kashgar was packed with teeming crowds as worshippers jostled for space to unroll their prayer rugs and celebrate the end of Ramadan. But no longer.

This year, an eerie silence hung over the plaza outside the imposing prayer hall as devotees gathered to mark the end of a month of fasting -- the lowest turnout in a generation according to residents.

Authorities declined to comment on the numbers. But local businessmen told AFP the government had used the multiple checkpoints encircling the city to prevent travellers to Kashgar from joining Eid prayers.

"This is not a good place for religion," said one trader.

Beijing says the restrictions and heavy police presence seek to control the spread of Islamic extremism and separatist movements, but analysts warn that Xinjiang is becoming an open air prison.

China is "essentially creating a police state of unprecedented scale," said James Leibold, an expert on Chinese security at Australia's La Trobe University.

'Great wall of steel'

The government began ramping up security and religious restrictions in Xinjiang in 2009, following a series of riots in the regional capital Urumqi that left around 200 dead.

In March, President Xi Jinping ordered security forces to build a "great wall of steel" around the region after Uighurs claiming to belong to a division of the Islamic State group in Iraq threatened to return home and "shed blood like rivers".

Over the last year, Beijing has flooded Xinjiang with tens of thousands of security personnel, placed police stations on nearly every block, and rolled out tough regulations aimed at "eliminating extremism".

Public signs say no one is permitted to pray in public or grow a beard before the age of 50, while government employees are forbidden from fasting during Ramadan.

In Tashkurgan, near the Pakistan border, authorities shut a halal restaurant as "punishment" for refusing to serve food during the holiday, according to a shopkeeper working next door.

A teacher and a government official told AFP that schools discourage students from using the traditional Arabic Muslim greeting "As-Salaam Alaikum" ("peace be upon you").

"The government thinks this Islamic word is equal to separatism," the official said.

The region's ubiquitous surveillance cameras are particularly abundant in places of worship: an empty mosque in the southern city of Yarkand had three of them pointing directly at the spot where the imam leads prayers. Even more hung from the wooden rafters like bats.

At police stations, officers monitor screens with direct feeds from mosques as well as other buildings and nearby streets.

In the run-up to Eid in the southwestern desert oasis town of Hotan, police manned checkpoints with rifles and crude spears made from metal pipes.

At one intersection, men in bulletproof vests stopped traffic for a fleet of dozens of heavily armoured trucks, personnel carriers with mounted guns and black vans.

The caravans patrolled the city every day during the month of Ramadan, a police officer said.

At a mosque in the heart of Hotan, Muslims gathering for Friday prayers passed through a police barricade and showed identity documents at two checkpoints before entering.

Inside, plainclothes men with Communist Party lapel pins and sunglasses kept a close eye on hundreds of worshippers.

At the front of the mosque, an LED signboard reminded people that "the greatest task for Xinjiang's masses is harmonising ethnic unity and religion."

Such signs are a common sight throughout Xinjiang, where tensions between Uighurs and the majority Han ethnic group have led to violent clashes.

Fears of violence

Chinese authorities have long linked their crackdown on Uighur Muslims to international counter-terrorism efforts, arguing that separatists are bent on joining foreign extremists like Al-Qaeda.

Uighurs have been tied to mass stabbings and bombings that left dozens dead in recent years across the country. Riots and clashes with the government killed hundreds more.

Worries about extremism notwithstanding, many Xinjiang residents fear the loss of their cultural identity and question whether the government has gone too far.

Full report at:

http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2017/07/13/chinas-uighur-muslims-struggle-under-police-state

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Indonesian rights activists protest crackdown on hardline Islamists

Jul 13, 2017

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Civil organizations in Indonesia on Wednesday decried a move by the government to disband certain groups deemed to be in conflict with state's secular ideology.

The protests came after President Joko Widodo signed a decree on Monday widely believed to be aimed at containing the rise of hardline Islamist groups that call for sharia law in the world's largest Muslim-majority country.

Islamist groups were instrumental in the downfall earlier this year of Jakarta's former governor, a Christian who was accused and subsequently jailed for insulting Islam.

The events, including massive and sometimes violent rallies led by hardliners and vigilantes, raised concerns about the erosion of Indonesia's long-standing image as a tolerant and pluralistic state. It has the world's largest Muslim population.

"This decree is proof that this regime is repressive, authoritarian, and even repeating what the New Order regime did," Ismail Yusanto, spokesman for Hizb-ut Tahrir Indonesia, referring to the rule of former strongman president Suharto, said in a statement that was echoed by human rights groups.

Suharto ruled Indonesia for 32 years during which he demanded loyalty to the secular state ideology Pancasila – or "five principles" – and discouraged the organization of religious groups.

His downfall in 1998 ushered in democratic reforms, and alongside them a new-found freedom for hardline Islamist groups, many of which have been involved in harassing and violently attacking religious minorities, feminists and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups.

Conservative Islamic civil society groups and New York-based Human Rights Watch also criticized the government's move.

Hizb-ut Tahrir is a peaceful organization that calls for sharia (Islamic law) to be implemented in Indonesia and the government has said it will be disbanded.

Indonesia has the world's largest Muslim population and sizeable communities of Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and people who adhere to traditional beliefs. Religious freedom is enshrined in the constitution and the Pancasila.

The new decree allows for the government to disband organizations deemed to run counter to the Pancasila without taking them to court.

"It must be underscored that this decree is not intended to discredit Islamic organizations or the majority Muslim population of Indonesia," chief security minister Wiranto told reporters on Wednesday.

"It has been issued in the national interest."

He added that the decree had the backing of Indonesia's biggest moderate Islamic groups, which have millions of followers.

The decree adds that civil organizations are "not allowed to carry out activities that are the responsibility of law enforcement officials", in a reference to Islamist vigilante and anti-vice groups accused of harassing minorities.

The decree comes after public outrage over the jailing of ex-Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who many believe was unfairly targeted and represents the crumbling of Indonesia’s pluralistic tradition.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/13-Jul-2017/indonesian-rights-activists-protest-crackdown-on-hardline-islamists

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New Government Regulation Will Allow Indonesia to Ban Hizbut Tahrir

2017-07-12

Indonesia’s government on Wednesday unveiled a controversial executive decree designed to make it easier for authorities to break up civil society groups seen as fomenting discord and threatening the state, officials said.

The decree comes after the government announced two months ago that it would shut down the domestic branch of Hizbut Tahrir, an organization calling for Muslims worldwide to unite under an Islamic caliphate and to establish Sharia law in Indonesia.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo signed off Monday on the decree, which temporarily replaces a 2013 law regulating non-governmental organizations. The decree will allow the government to bypass a lengthy court process earlier required to disband NGOs.

“The 2013 law is outdated and does not accommodate measures required to prevent the proliferation of ideology that contradicts our state ideology Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution,” Wiranto, the nation’s minister for law, politics and security affairs, told a news conference in Jakarta on Wednesday.

The new decree doesn’t identify any organization by name, but it prohibits organizations from committing blasphemy against any faith or using religion to incite hatred based on race, religious affiliation, or ethnicity.

It also forbids organizations from fanning divisions that threaten the nation’s sovereignty. Violating any of the decree’s articles is punishable by prison sentences ranging from five to 20 years, according to a copy seen by BenarNews.

The measure follows recent religious tensions fanned by hardline groups that have tested Indonesia’s tradition of moderate Islam and “unity in diversity” – the motto of the multi-religious nation.

“This regulation is not intended to discredit Islamic mass organizations, given that Indonesia is a Muslim-majority country, or to limit freedom of expression, assembly, and free speech,” said Wiranto, a retired army general and former chief of the Indonesian armed forces.

The new measure goes into effect immediately but requires a two-thirds vote in parliament to replace the existing law permanently.

Going after HTI

In May, the Indonesian government announced its intention to begin efforts to disband Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI). Registered as an NGO under Indonesia’s Home Ministry since 2006, HTI has been preaching in Indonesia for decades, and is thought to have about 2 million members.

In recent months, HTI was among hardline Muslim groups that spearheaded massive street demonstrations calling for the arrest and removal from office of Jakarta’s governor, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, over allegations that he had uttered blasphemous, anti-Islam words in a speech last year.

Ahok, a member of Indonesia’s tiny Christian and ethnic Chinese minorities, has since been convicted and imprisoned on related charges and he was defeated in a gubernatorial election in April.

HTI repeatedly has said that its activities do not contradict Pancasila or espouse violence.

“This is clear evidence of injustice and tyranny by the government, and it will make people increasingly view the regime as anti-Islam,” HTI spokesman Ismail Yusanto told BenarNews, referring to the new government regulation.

He said his organization might call for a judicial review of the move, because powers to override existing laws can only be invoked in emergency situations.

The government was specifically targeting HTI in trying to change a law that purposely made dissolving organizations difficult to avoid abuse of power, he said.

“The government knows that banning an organization is difficult under existing law, so they are publishing this new regulation. The government should give a better example to society of how to be law abiding.”

‘Our country could be destroyed’

In a July 7 press conference, 14 Islamic organizations had urged the government to issue the new regulation as the legal basis for dissolving “radical and anti-Pancasila mass organizations such as HTI and others.”

If left unchecked, such organizations could grow and threaten pluralism in Indonesia, becoming accepted by society, according to Said Aqil Siradj, chairman of the board of Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization.

“You can imagine, our country could be destroyed like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and others,” he said.

While HTI and other organizations thought to oppose Pancasila do not commit violence, their ideology is permeating society and threatening Indonesia’s political system, he added.

“It is unlikely that mass organizations who do not believe in the Unitary Republic of Indonesia and want to replace it with other systems will be able to carry out their obligations to participate in achieving the goals … stated in the preamble of the 1945 Constitution,” Aqil said.

‘Selective silencing’

Human rights advocates, meanwhile, expressed concern about the government’s move.

It could be viewed as a selective silencing of government critics, said Rida Hesti Ratnasari, a researcher on HTI from the Community of Ideological Islamic Analysts (CIIA).

She said the government should be prepared to provide “guidance” for members of the organization if it is dissolved.

“If there is no guidance, they may become out of control and it will be hard to track what happens to them … they may exist as an organization that is not registered but still has the same beliefs,” she told BenarNews.

Sidney Jones, director  of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, called the plan to disband HTI politically inept and said it “left Indonesia more religiously polarized than ever,” according to the Jakarta Post.

If the HTI is dissolved, it would be the first Islamic organization to be banned since the three-decade rule of President Suharto era, who banned Islamic groups deemed as threatening to Pancasila, the Post noted.

The move could stifle Indonesia’s fragile and young democracy, said Andreas Harsono, a Jakarta-based reasearcher for Human Rights Watch.

Full report at:

http://www.benarnews.org/english/news/indonesian/hizbut-ban-07122017150232.html

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Philippine Air Strike on Rebels Kills 2 Soldiers, Injures Several

Jul 13, 2017

Manila. A Philippine government air strike aimed at Islamist rebels mistakenly killed two soldiers on Wednesday (12/07), the military said, the second such deadly accident in a bloody campaign to oust the militants from a southern city.

The accident happened when a plane bombing rebel positions in the city of Marawi missed its target and knocked down buildings on to the soldiers, a military spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera, said in a statement.

"Large debris from heavily reinforced buildings accidentally hit two of our personnel," Herrera said. “We are saddened by this unfortunate incident."

He said 11 soldiers sustained minor shrapnel wounds and were recuperating in the hospital.

An air strike on Islamist rebels killed 11 government troops in May.

Militants linked to Islamic State seized Marawi on May 23 and have been resisting daily assaults by government forces using aircraft and artillery.

President Rodrigo Duterte said on Tuesday he needed 15 more days to defeat the militants.

Full report at:

http://jakartaglobe.id/international/philippine-air-strike-rebels-kills-2-soldiers-injures-several/

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Arab World

 

Iraq collectively punishing Daesh families-HRW

13 July 2017

ERBIL: Human Rights Watch has accused Iraqi security forces of forcibly relocating at least 170 families of alleged Daesh members to a closed “rehabilitation camp” as a form of collective punishment.

“Iraqi authorities shouldn’t punish entire families because of their relatives’ actions,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

“These abusive acts are war crimes and are sabotaging efforts to promote reconciliation in areas retaken from ISIS (Daesh).”

Daesh is also known as Daesh. An Iraqi military spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi has announced victory over Daesh in Mosul, ending three years of jihadist rule in the stronghold of their self-proclaimed caliphate.

Iraq’s government now faces the task of preventing revenge attacks against people associated with Islamic State that could, along with sectarian tensions, undermine efforts to create long-term stability in the country.

“The camps for so-called ISIS families have nothing to do with rehabilitation and are instead de facto detention centers for adults and children who have not been accused of any wrongdoing,” Fakih said. “These families should be freely permitted to go where they can live safely.”

Iraqi authorities have opened the first of what they describe as “rehabilitation” camps in Bartalla, just east of Mosul. Human Rights Watch says the official purpose of the camp is to enable psychological and ideological rehabilitation.

“Forced displacements and arbitrary detentions have been taking place in Anbar, Babil, Diyala, Salah Al-Din, and Nineveh governorates, altogether affecting hundreds of families,” the group said.

“Iraqi security and military forces have done little to stop these abuses, and in some instances participated in them.”

Human Rights Watch said it visited Bartalla camp and interviewed 14 families, each with up to 18 members.

“New residents said that Iraqi Security Forces had brought the families to the camp and that the police were holding them against their will because of accusations that they had relatives linked to ISIS,” said Human Rights Watch.

“Medical workers at the camp said that at least 10 women and children had died traveling to or at the camp, most because of dehydration.”

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1128726/middle-east

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ISIL Commanders Fleeing Deir Ezzur Following Intensified Chaos in Terrorist Front

Jul 12, 2017

The sources said that after suffering heavy defeats and casualties in battle with the Syrian Army troops in Deir Ezzur in the recent days, a new wave of chaos has covered the terrorist front in the Eastern city.

The sources said that a number of ISIL commanders, including Hamed al-Nouri nom de guerre Abu Hamzeh al-Qar'ani, the deputy commander of ISIL's Hasaba (security-monitory forces) in al-Ashareh and two more commanders from Kazakhstan fled the city.

In the meantime, a number of ISIL terrorists have been killed or wounded in infighting among the group members.

The sources added that a group of residents of the town of Hajin in Eastern Deir Ezzur attacked the Hasaba command center, killing a terrorist and wounding two others.   

In relevant developments in the Eastern province on Monday, a large number of civilians took to the streets in a town near Deir Ezzur Province's border with Iraq and clashed with the ISIL terrorists as the Syrian Army troops and Hezbollah fighters were rapidly advancing against ISIL in Eastern Homs to lift the siege on Deir Ezzur.

Local sources in the town of Albu Kamal reported that a group of young men burned 2 ISIL vehicles and a bus in the town and killed one of the terrorists.

The development came a day after three other terrorists were killed and their car was burned at the hands of locals of al-Kataf area on the outskirts of Albu Kamal.

The sources also announced that a state of turmoil and confusion still prevails among ISIL terrorists, where clashes erupted among ISIL groups in the area of al-Souar, which led to the injury of ISIL commanders, including Abu Mosaab al-Falastini and Abu Omar al-Australi.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960421000416

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ISIL's Centers in Hama Receive Severe Blow in Syrian Armed Forces' Attacks

Jul 12, 2017

The army's artillery and missile units opened heavy fire at ISIL's positions in Sheikh Hilal in Eastern Hama, killing and wounding a large number of militants.

In the meantime, the army soldiers engaged in heavy fighting with terrorists in a region near the oil pipelines East of the town of al-Salamiyah, killing a large number of them and damaging their equipment.

Also, the Russian and Syrian fighter jets pounded ISIL's positions East of al-Salamiyah.

The missile units further targeted ISIL's movements in al-Salamiyah region and destroyed one of their vehicles, killing the entire terrorists on board.  

Relevant reports said on Tuesday that the army troops closed off all the supply lines of ISIL terrorists connecting al-Rasafeh region in Southwestern Raqqa to Ithriya region in Northeastern Hama.

The army men continued their anti-ISIL operation in Southwestern Raqqa and managed to capture the town of al-Rasafeh, its surroundings and 15 villages with over 1,500sq/km of area.

A military source confirmed that with over 1,500sq/km of area stretched from al-Rasafeh to Ithriya region in Eastern Hama, all the supply lines of ISIL connecting Raqqa to Hama have been cut off.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960421001343

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Abadi: We will not issue amnesty for the ‘murderous terrorists’

12 July 2017

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi asserted that Baghdad will not “pardon terrorists”.

During his council of Ministers opening statement, Abadi stated, “the soldiers are human rights’ defenders who sacrificed themselves for the liberation of humanity and the rescue of civilians. The government supports their efforts to defend human rights and will take a stance against any violation.”

Abadi called on “humanitarian organizations to check and verify their sources and acknowledge the joy of the people of Mosul and their warm welcome to the brave Iraqi forces,” wondering about what he described as “the grief and the wailing of some amid the glorious victory of the Iraqi Forces,” and pondering about “the role played by this organizations when ISIS was slaughtering the people of Mosul and destroying everything in their way.”

Amnesty International has condemned Iraqi forces and their allies in the wake of the battle of Mosul. “The Iraqi government, at its highest levels, and the US-led coalition countries must immediately and publicly acknowledge the magnitude and seriousness of civilian casualties during the military operation they have taken to regain control of the country,” said Lynn Malouf, research director of the Beirut Regional Office for Amnesty International.

Abadi stressed in a statement not to allow for the return of the inflammatory and sectarian discourse, calling it an ISIS discourse. He emphasized that “no terrorist escapes punishment and we will not issue an amnesty for the murderous terrorists.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/07/12/Abadi-We-will-not-issue-amnesty-for-the-murderous-terrorists-.html

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Iraq strikes Islamic State in Mosul days after declaring victory

Jul 13, 2017

MOSUL - Iraqi forces clashed with Islamic State militants holding out in Mosul's Old City on Wednesday, more than 36 hours after Baghdad declared victory over the jihadists in what they had declared the de facto Iraqi capital of their "caliphate".

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's victory announcement signalled the biggest defeat for the hardline Sunni group since its lightning sweep through northern Iraq three years ago. But pockets of Mosul remain insecure and the city has been heavily damaged by nearly nine months of gruelling urban combat.

About 900,000 people fled the fighting, with more than a third sheltered in camps outside Iraq's second largest city and the rest living with family and friends in other neighbourhoods.  Civilian activity has quickly returned to much of Mosul and work is underway to repair damaged homes and infrastructure, something the United Nations estimates will initially cost more than $1 billion (£775 million).

Newly trained local police are deployed in Mosul alongside the military, but authorities have not prepared a post-battle plan for governance and security in the city, officials say.  Iraqi forces exchanged gunfire with the militants in their final Mosul redoubt just before midnight and through the day on Wednesday, three residents living just across the Tigris River from the area told Reuters.

Army helicopters strafed the Old City and columns of smoke rose into the air, though it was unclear if these came from controlled explosions or bombs set off by Islamic State, the residents said by phone.

"We still live in an atmosphere of war despite the victory announcement two days ago," said Fahd Ghanim, 45. Another resident said the blasts shook the ground around half a kilometre away.

An Iraqi military official attributed the activity to "clearing operations".  "Daesh is hiding in different places," he said, using an acronym for Islamic State. "They disappear here and pop up there, then we target them."  Media access to the area has been heavily restricted since Abadi claimed victory on Monday, hailing "the collapse of the terrorist state".  Footage released by Islamic State news agency Amaq entitled "Fighting till the last gasp" and allegedly filmed in Mosul's Maydan district showed militants mixed in with civilians and unidentified corpses lying amid the rubble of an urban battlefield. Reuters could not authenticate the video.

Thousands of civilians have been killed during the Mosul offensive. Many were targeted by Islamic State but rights groups have also accused Iraqi forces and the U.S.-led coalition backing them of killings that violated international humanitarian law.

On Tuesday, Amnesty International cited a reliance on weapons it said had only crude targeting capabilities. The coalition strongly rejected the charges, and Abadi, without mentioning Amnesty, said in a statement on Wednesday that rights groups should check their sources.  The Iraqi official declined to estimate the number of militants or civilians remaining in the Old City, but the top U.S. general in Iraq said on Tuesday that as many as a couple of hundred IS insurgents could still be in Mosul.  "There are bypassed holdouts. We haven't cleared every building in this city the size of Philadelphia. That's going to have to be done, and there are also hidden IEDs (improvised explosive devices)," Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend told reporters. "There are still going to be losses from the Iraqi security forces as they continue to secure Mosul."  The coalition said it had conducted three air strikes on IS in the Mosul area on Tuesday, targeting militants, machine-gun emplacements and rocket-propelled grenade systems. South of the city, Iraqi security forces repelled an IS attack launched from western desert areas on the village of al-Jaran, a tribal fighter said.

Reinforcements also arrived to help government forces oust militants armed with machine guns and mortars from the village of Imam Gharbi, further to the south.

A policeman was killed and two others wounded in clashes on Wednesday, a security official said. IS has taken more than 75 percent of the village since storming it last week. These are the kind of asymmetric, guerrilla-style strikes Islamic State is expected to concentrate on now as U.S.-backed Iraqi forces regain control over cities the group captured during its shock 2014 offensive.

Another attack on a border guard convoy in western Anbar province, near the Syrian border, killed two soldiers and wounded four on Tuesday, military sources said. Separately, 28 Sunni Muslim civilians were kidnapped in the Iskandariya district south of Baghdad this week and 20 of them were found dead later, a police officer told Reuters.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/13-Jul-2017/iraq-strikes-islamic-state-in-mosul-days-after-declaring-victory

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Refugees return to Syria after Hezbollah deal

Jul 13, 2017

ARSAL - A convoy of refugees began leaving the Lebanese border region for Syria on Wednesday, a security source said, the second group to return under an agreement brokered by the Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah. The Lebanese army escorted around 250 people out of the border town of Arsal, a security source said. The refugees headed for the Syrian town of Asal al-Ward across the border, northeast of Damascus.

A military media unit run by Damascus ally Hezbollah said the buses carried 60 families. It is the second batch of people to leave Arsal as part of an agreement for the return of refugees to their hometowns across the border. Hezbollah arranged the deal in indirect talks with the Syrian rebel group Saraya Ahl al-Sham, said an official in the alliance fighting in support of the Damascus government.

Hezbollah also coordinated with the Lebanese military and with the Syrian government separately.

, securing crossings for refugees who want to leave, the official said. Since early in the Syrian conflict, Hezbollah has backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government, along with Iran and Russia, sending thousands of its forces to fight the mostly Sunni Syrian rebels.

More than 1 million registered Syrian refugees have fled to Lebanon, a quarter of its population, the United Nations refugee agency says. The number is widely put at closer to 1.5 million. They are scattered across Lebanon, mostly in makeshift camps and often in severe poverty, and face the risk of arrest because of restrictions on legal residence and work.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/13-Jul-2017/refugees-return-to-syria-after-hezbollah-deal

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Chinese Takfiri Terrorists in Hard Conditions in Syria

Jul 12, 2017

According to the Lebanese Arabic-language al-Madan news website, the recent tensions erupted between Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board or the al-Nusra Front) and Ahrar al-Sham terrorist groups have made al-Turkistani leaders and field commanders to put their forces on alert.

Also, another issue which makes the Turkistanis concerned is the terrorist and suicide operations by Jund al-Aqsa terrorists which have killed 2 members of the group in recent days.

Meantime, many members of Turkistani are students who have come from China's Turkistan region and were studying in Egypt and a large number of these students have been detained by the Egyptian security forces, leaving the terrorist group in a complicated and bad situation now.

Late last month, websites close to the terrorist groups disclosed that Ahrar al-Sham, Faylaq al-Sham, Jeish al-Izzah, Turkistani party and Liwa al-Tamkin will soon start a new front called Tahrir al-Syria Front.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960421000896

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Russia to Supply New Combat Boats to Syrian Coast Guards

Jul 12, 2017

Al-Hadath news reported that the speed boats which have been considered for different missions can carry up to 20 naval forces along with all their weapons and ammunition and they can help the Syrian coast guards in patrolling, tracing, and relief and rescue operations as well as seizing small boats.

The speed boats are also able to operate in coastal areas, gulfs and river mouths.

Russia has recently enhanced supply of advanced military tools and weapons systems to Syria.

Photos and images of the recent visit by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to the Russia-administered Humeimim airbase in Lattakia province showed that the Russian Air Force has also deployed more modern warplanes and missiles in Syria recently.

The photos showed that Russia has deployed its Su-27 SM3 in Humeimim airbase.

The reports said that the fighter jet that is the last model of Su-27 had not been previously seen in Syria.

In the meantime, RVV-SD missiles, a version of the Jojo guided missiles, were seen in the footages of Humeimim.

Media sources reported earlier this month that they have observed a number of advanced Terminator tanks in the Russian-run Humeimim airbase during Bashar al-Assad's visit to the base.

The Arabic-language website of Sputnik reported that a number of very strong Russia-made Terminator Tanks were seen in images of Assad's visit to Humeimim military airport in Lattakia province, adding that Russia had never declared anything about deploying this kind of tank in Syria.

The report said Terminator is similar to T-72 but is equipped with stronger weapons, adding that the tank's main mission is providing support for friendly tanks in the battlefields and destroying enemy tanks by missile fire.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960421001613

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Syrian Army Scores More Victories against Terrorists in Eastern Damascus

Jul 12, 2017

The army men engaged in fierce clashes with Faylaq al-Rahman and Al-Nusra Front in the meat-packing company in Ein Terma-Jobar and Zmelka triangle and pushed the terrorists back from the company.

In the meantime, the army aircraft pounded terrorists' positions in the triangle several times.

A military source reported that a large number of terrorists were killed or wounded in the army operation in the meat-packing company.

Relevant reports said on Tuesday that the army men engaged in fierce clashes with Al-Nusra Front in Ein Terma-Jobar-Zmelka triangle, while the army's artillery units pounded terrorists' positions in the region heavily.

A military source, meantime, reported that the army has captured a warehouse and four houses in Ein Terma, adding that the army is now advancing towards the depth of Ein Terma.

The army units have also attacked terrorists' defense lines in the meat-packing company.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960421001262

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Syrian Gov't Ready to Reconstruct Infrastructures in Aleppo, Raqqa

Jul 12, 2017

According to the Syrian state news agency, the plan should propose measures to ensure restoration of state institutions, investment and economic establishments, particularly in the agricultural sector, in Eastern and Southern Aleppo as well as Raqqa's Western suburb.

The restoration of services in the provinces of Aleppo and Raqqa was made possible after the Syrian Arab Army almost completely expelled the ISIL from Aleppo province and moved to Raqqa from the West.

Raqqa, lying on the Euphrates River, was declared ISIL capital in 2014. Its strategically important location gave the terror group great access to the river valley where the major Syrian cities are situated.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960421001606

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Suicide bomber kills and injures scores in Syria’s Idlib province

13 July 2017

A suicide bomber rammed a car laden with explosives into a gathering of rebels near the rebel-held northwestern Syrian city of Idlib on Wednesday, killing and injuring scores, rebel sources said.

They said the blast ripped a textile factory where members of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an alliance of rebel groups whose backbone is the former al-Qaeda affiliate Nusra Front, had been using as their quarters. At least 12 were killed, one rebel source said.

The militant alliance has been waging in the last few days a major sweep to round up ultra-hard-line ISIS sleeper cells in Idlib province. They say they have arrested at least 100 people, including who the group says are senior operatives blamed for a string of recent assassination and blasts in the province.

Idlib province is dominated mainly by militant groups although there is some presence of the moderate Western-vetted Free Syrian Army groups.

The province, which borders Turkey, has long witnessed infighting between the main militant groups vying for power.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/07/13/Suicide-bomber-kills-and-injures-scores-in-Syria-s-Idlib-province.html

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Prominent Bahraini human rights activist goes on hunger strike

Jul 12, 2017

A prominent Bahraini human rights advocate has reportedly gone on hunger strike in protest against the torture and ill-treatment she has endured as the ruling Al Khalifah regime presses ahead with its heavy-handed crackdown on pro-democracy campaigners and opposition figures in the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom.

Informed sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Ebtisam al-Saegh, who works for Salam for Democracy and Human Rights, has been on an open-ended hunger strike since Tuesday to express outrage at being tortured during interrogation at the notorious Criminal Investigation Building after her last arrest on July 3, and being denied the right to meet her family members or contact her lawyer.

The sources noted that Saegh’s health condition was deteriorating, stressing that she had been kept in solitary confinement since her arrest earlier this month.

The remarks come as rights group Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain has enumerated a list of restrictive measures that the Al Khalifah regime has taken against Saegh.

Manama regime officials imposed a travel ban on the human rights advocate last June and prevented her from attending the 35th session of the UN Human Rights Council in the Swiss city of Geneva.

In January, Saegh was summoned to Bahrain’s National Security Agency building in Muharraq, an island about 7 kilometers northeast of the capital Manama.

She was interrogated for her human rights activities, and one of the officers told her that she had presented a "bad" image of Bahrain.

Before leaving the building, she was warned that “her next visit would be a different one.”

In March, Saegh’s sister was summoned and questioned about her whereabouts while the activist was attending a Human Rights Council session in Geneva.

On March 21, 2017, she was taken to the security building in Muharraq for interrogation upon arrival at Bahrain International Airport from Switzerland.

In April, Saegh was interrogated again, and was prevented from attending another session of the Human Rights Council.

On May 15, the human rights activist’s car went up in flames in an apparent attack. The Interior Ministry, however, claimed that the fire was caused by a short circuit.

Thousands of anti-regime protesters have held demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis ever since a popular uprising began in the country in mid-February 2011.

They are demanding that the Al Khalifah dynasty relinquish power and allow a just system representing all Bahrainis to be established.

Manama has gone to great lengths to clamp down on any sign of dissent. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to assist Bahrain in its crackdown.

Scores of people have lost their lives and hundreds of others sustained injuries or got arrested as a result of the Al Khalifah regime’s crackdown.

On March 5, Bahrain’s parliament approved the trial of civilians at military tribunals in a measure blasted by human rights campaigners as being tantamount to imposition of an undeclared martial law countrywide.  

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/07/12/528267/Bahrain-human-rights-activist-Ebtisam-alSaegh-hunger-strike-protest-torture-prison

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Europe

 

Muslim Man Stopped and Searched On Way To Mosque For ‘Wearing Too Many Clothes’

Jul 13, 2017

A Muslim man was subjected to a stop and search by police officers because they thought he was wearing too many clothes as he walked to Friday prayers.

Muhammad Chamoune was heading to London's Regent’s Park Mosque when he was pulled over by officers from the capital's Metropolitan Police.

Video footage of the incident shows Mr Chamoune standing handcuffed as officer question and search him.

A woman, reportedly an off-duty officer, can also be seen. She is thought to have alerted the force because she was concerned at the number of layers the man was wearing.

The officers put on plastic gloves before they start to search him, going through his pockets and taking out his belongings.

The man filming the incident can be heard saying: “He’s going to the mosque. He’s got nothing on him I can vouch for him.”

Two other officers arrive and take Mr Chamoune’s name and he remains quiet and patient as he continues to be searched. Six minutes later, he is released.

The film of the incident, which has has been shared more than 18,000 times and had more than five million views, has been branded “unlawful” and “unreasonable” by members of the public.

It is said to have “caused major concern for Muslims across the UK”.

One Twitter wrote: “Walking while being Muslim — that was what the issue was”.

Another wrote: “So just because he is Muslim, has a beard and wears a few layers is reasonable grounds to stop and search?”

The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE), which governs police powers to stop and search, outlines that the police must have “reasonable grounds for suspicion” prior to being able to use stop and search powers (PACE Code A 2.2).

It states that a person’s physical appearance cannot be used to support "reasonable suspicion" unless “the police have information or intelligence which provides a description of a person suspected of carrying an article for which there is a power to stop and search.”

But the Metropolitan Police said the officers responded “quickly and appropriately” to the situation, saying the man was “deemed to be acting suspiciously in the vicinity of a mosque”.

Charity the Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND) said in a statement the footage had been a "major" cause for concern for Muslims across Britain, but urged caution in formulating premature judgements regarding the police action.

Sufyan Ismail, Chief Executive of the charity, later told The Independent MEND's Islamophobia Response Unit had been in touch with the Met Police and Mr Chamoune and intended to host a roundtable to discuss the incident.

"We have noted the statement by the Met Police for the reasons behind their search and now intend on hosting a meeting with all parties involved to conclude on the matter," he said.     

A Met spokesperson said: “Officers responded quickly and appropriately to a man who was deemed to be acting suspiciously in the vicinity of a mosque.

“Officers are aware of the vulnerability of faith premises and acted accordingly. It is imperative that we act on information we receive positively and proactively to help safeguard communities.

“The man was searched, he was not arrested. Officers explained the reasons for the search and no complaint has been received at this stage."

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/muslim-man-stop-search-mosque-wear-too-many-clothes-regent-s-park-mosque-muhammad-chamoune-police-a7837126.html

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Extremist groups receiving funds from UK donors: report

Monitoring Report

July 13, 2017

LONDON: Extremist organisations are receiving hundreds of thousands of pounds a year, mainly made up of small, anonymous public donations from UK-based individuals, a long-awaited government report has found.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said she had decided against publishing the report in full for reasons of national security and because of the volume of personal information it contains. She said the "most common source of support for Islamic extremist organisations in the UK is from small, anonymous public donations, with the majority of these donations most likely coming from UK-based individuals.”

"In some cases these organisations receive hundreds of thousands of pounds a year," she added. "This is the main source of their income." She said the donors may not know or support the organisations' full agenda. The report was commissioned by then prime minister David Cameron in November 2015.

The Home Office review into the nature, scale and origin of the funding of Islamic extremist activity in the UK also looked at overseas sources. It found that for a small number of organisations with which there are extremism concerns, overseas funding is a "significant source of income.”

But it found that for the vast majority of extremist groups in the UK, overseas funding is not so important. Ms Rudd said the review "gives us the best picture we have ever had of how extremists operating in the UK sustain their activities.”

Other findings include that some Islamic organisations of concern are posing as charities to increase their credibility and to take advantage of Islam's emphasis on charity. Some of these are deliberately vague about their activities and their charitable status.

Overseas support has allowed individuals to study at institutions that teach "deeply conservative forms of Islam", the report found. Overseas support also provides "highly socially conservative literature and preachers" to the UK's Islamic institutions and some of these individuals have since become of extremist concern.

Ms Rudd said the government would be directly raising issues of concern with "specific countries as part of our wider international engagement on countering extremism and violent extremism.”

She said no single measure will tackle all the issues raised in the review and a comprehensive approach focused particularly on domestic sources of support for all forms of extremism is needed.

She said, after analysing the findings, the government will also build on existing work by continuing to deliver public awareness campaigns to encourage people to understand the full aims of the organisations that they give to, and raising awareness across the financial services sector to ensure they are not inadvertently supporting extremist individuals or organisations.

Full report at:

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/216214-Extremist-groups-receiving-funds-from-UK-donors-report

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London Mayor Sadiq Khan accused of ‘flip-flopping’ over UK Hezbollah ban

SEAN CRONIN

13 July 2017

LONDON: The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has been accused of “flip-flopping” over whether Hezbollah should be completely banned in the UK.

A spokesman for the mayor’s office told Arab News that he had not called for a total ban on the organization, despite a number of media outlets reporting that Khan had agreed to write to the UK’s home secretary to make such representations during an exchange last week in the London Assembly.

London Assembly member Andrew Boff said: “The mayor was explicit in his answer just days ago that he would be writing to the home secretary urging her to ban Hezbollah in its entirety.

“If he is reneging on that commitment it is the third time he has changed his mind on this issue in a matter of weeks. He is flip-flopping in order to give a changing audience what it wants to hear.”

Khan appeared to have agreed to a call by Labour member Andrew Dismore to write to Home Secretary Amber Rudd to make “urgent representations” to ban Hezbollah in its entirety during an exchange in the London Assembly on July 6.

Dismore asked the mayor: “Can I ask you to make urgent representations to the home secretary to make a long overdue decision to proscribe Hezbollah in its entirety as it has been in so many other countries?”

In his response, the mayor said he was “happy to make representations to the home secretary” but without detailing specifics of what he intended to write.

The row erupted following the appearance of Hezbollah flags at the annual Al Quds Day parade in London last month.

The mayor was questioned in the London Assembly after some marchers waved flags at the parade, which is usually held on the last Friday of Ramadan, and which was originally launched by Iran’s late revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Hezbollah is also among the 60 groups defined as foreign terrorist organizations by the US Department of State, while the group’s military wing is also named in the EU’s list of terror groups.

The UK government proscribed the military wing of Hezbollah in March 2001. That ban was extended to its Jihad Council in 2008. Those wings of Hezbollah are among 71 banned organizations that also include Hamas.

Hezbollah’s political wing is not however subject to a ban in the UK.

The UK home secretary has the power to proscribe an organization and freeze its assets while membership of such groups carry jail sentences of up to 10 years.

The intervention of the mayor of London has focused attention on the political and military activities of the armed militia that emerged in the wake of the Israeli invasion of South Lebanon in 1982.

Terror experts said that there should be no separation between its political and military wings and that a total ban was necessary.

“Hezbollah is a vicious terror and criminal organization with both American and European blood on its hands,” said David Ibsen, executive director of the Counter Extremism Project, a non-profit organization formed to combat extremist ideologies.

“The idea that there is a separation between Hezbollah’s political and military wings is a dangerous fantasy.”

“Policymakers and security officials who indulge this absurd fiction are only emboldening one of the world’s most proficient terror organizations and facilitating Hezbollah’s penetration of European communities.”

Tally Helfont, the director of the program on the Middle East at the Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute believes that the distinction between the military and political wings of Hezbollah is a rhetorical one and reflects “different power levers” all working toward the same hegemonic ambitions.

“It is all smoke and mirrors,” she said. “Countries across the globe, from the United States to the Gulf states, have deemed the activities of this violent organization to be acts of terror, carried out to sow chaos and do the bidding of Iran. Making a distinction between a political wing and a militant wing is simply a matter of perpetuating the false narrative that group is peddling and amounts to a PR win for Hezbollah, and for Iran.”

The Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) policy institute says that the separate treatment of Hezbollah’s political and military wings in Europe allows it to use front companies to fundraise and recruit.

“In 2016, the German government exposed a Hezbollah money-laundering operation in Europe that enabled it to amass nearly $2 million a week over two years. In turn, Hezbollah can use this to threaten the very countries that hesitate to fully ban the organization. These terror finance sources should be plugged,” said FDD Senior Vice President Toby Dershowitz.

“It is noteworthy that Hezbollah does not view itself as bifurcated into political and military wings; the group’s top leader — Hassan Nasrallah — fully controls the organization in its entirety.”

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1128496/world

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Eight men cycling from London for Hajj, to raise £1m Syria fund

13 July 2017

Beginning tomorrow (July 14), a group of eight young men is embarking on a challenging six-week journey, cycling all the way from London to perform Hajj in Saudi Arabia.

The riders from the UK-based charity Human Aid also hope to raise £1 million for medical aid in Syria. They says they champion the principles of Islam while revisiting the early Muslim tradition of travelling to Hajj on land.

The journey starts in East London and the group will first cycle to New Haven and will take a ferry to Dieppe in France. From there, they will bike to Paris and will then be travelling to Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein and entering Italy.

In Venice the group will catch a ferry to Igoumenitsa in Greece. They will cycle through Greece and take a plane over the sea to Alexandria. They will cycle in Egypt and go to Hurghada from where they will take a ferry to Yanbu in Saudi Arabia.

On the last leg of their journey, they will travel from Yanbu to Medinah. Enthusiasts will be joining the group during different segments of their journey while some cyclists will be welcoming the group into Saudi Arabia.

Donations on the way

People can donate money to Hajj Ride and the money the group raises will be used for emergency services in Syria. Human Aid and a few other organizations in UK and in Malaysia organized a unity convoy and since April they have sent 80-85 ambulances to Syria.

The funds raised during Hajj Ride will be used to replenish these ambulances and give them the equipment they need. Abdul Wahid, the founder of Hajj Ride conceptualized the project when he converted to Islam 11 years ago.

“People say you have to change everything about you when you become Muslim. I had a lot of time to think about how I can merge my lives. I thought I love cycling and I want to go to Hajj, so why don’t we go back to the old way of journeying?” Wahid told Al Arabiya.

According to Wahid, they are trying to be in touch with their ancestors and to overcome the difficulties in the journey and raise awareness for charity. Wahid joined a London to Paris cycle ride in 2015 which made him realize that cycling form London to Madinah is indeed possible.

He pulled out his old plan and started drafting and turned the sketches into a project plan. The eight men of which three are Bengali British, four Pakistani British and one from the UK, are addressing many causes.

“The spirit of Hajj has been lost. People used to travel for half a year or a year to go to Hajj. Some people would have been gone for two years at a time. It is a spiritual journey and it is a chance for us to see different people. We will be talking to people and educating them about our cause,” he said.

Wahid said they are also going to raise awareness about medical efforts in Syria. “I have found that people throughout Europe and further are very respectful of your intentions and efforts when I tell them about it. I hope this will spread the nobility of Islam,” he said.

With diabetes and heart disease being common in the Muslim community in Britain, the men are also hoping to raise awareness about regular exercise. “Being away from our families and friends and being on the roads for nearly two months will be the biggest challenge. We have to support each other in these difficult times,” Wahid pointed out.

Resting at night

None of the cyclists are professional athletes and the group will be cycling through the day and resting at night.

Another rider, Dobbir Uddin, is a lab technician originally from Bangladesh who is born and brought up in London and is performing Hajj for the first time. He believes the main challenge for the riders is going to be the terrains as they will be cycling through the Alps and through mountains in the Arab region.

“Climbing the mountains is going to take time. Greece onwards the heat is going to be a challenge as we haven’t had training in the heat. The heat will be a challenge and it’s going to be quite arid and dry,” he said.

“I am looking forward to the brotherhood and the bond that will hopefully develop between us. Since the beginning of Hajj, people have travelled for days and months to go to Hajj. Now, people perform express Hajj, within a few days. We are trying to revisit the tradition and keep alive the spirit or essence of Hajj,” Uddin said.

According to him, his family members were earlier skeptical of his plans but are now supportive. In key areas where the group will be staying over, they are hoping to have receptions from media outlets. They will have a team at Human Aid who will be giving them promotional support.

Saifullah Nasser an Imam based in Northampton is also going on the Hajj Ride. “The fact that it is unique is what makes stand out. People from Russia and China have cycled to Hajj in the past. We are all cycling enthusiasts, but none of our professional athletes,” said Nasser.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2017/07/13/Eight-men-cycling-from-London-for-Hajj-to-raise-1m-Syria-fund.html

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British government says won’t publish extremism funding report

Jul 12, 2017

The British government has announced that it will not publish in full a report on the sources of funding of extremism and terrorism in the country.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd cited national security reasons for not publishing the review that found a significant overseas funding for some extremist organizations in the UK in a written statement to Parliament on Wednesday.

“This is because of the volume of personal information it contains and for national security reasons,” she said.

Following three recent deadly attacks in Britain, the government has been under pressure to release the findings of the report, which was commissioned by former Prime Minister David Cameron in 2015.

Meanwhile, lawmaker Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green Party who has been pressing the government to release the full report, said the statement from Rudd was unacceptable.

"The statement gives absolutely no clue as to which countries foreign funding for extremism originates from - leaving the government open to further allegations of refusing to expose the role of Saudi Arabian money in terrorism in the UK," she said.

Last week, a British think tank released the report, saying foreign funding for extremism came from Persian Gulf countries, chief among them Saudi Arabia.

The Henry Jackson Society said in the report that since the 1960s, Saudi Arabia has sponsored a multi-million dollar effort to export the Wahhabi ideology across the Muslim world, including to Muslim communities in the West.

“Foremost among these has been Saudi Arabia, which since the 1960s has sponsored a multimillion dollar effort to export Wahhabi Islam across the Islamic world, including to Muslim communities in the West,” the report said.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said, “It seems like the government, yet again, is putting our so called friendship with Saudi Arabia above our values.”

Meanwhile, the British government’s stance has angered the opposition that says Westminster is trying to protect the UK’s ally Saudi Arabia.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/07/12/528272/S-Arabia-chief-source-of-extremism-funding

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Germany convicts Syrian refugee of preparing Denmark attack

12 July 2017

BERLIN: A Syrian refugee has been convicted by a German court of collecting components to make bombs with the intent of carrying out attacks in Denmark.

The dpa news agency reported the 21-year-old, whose name was not released, was convicted in Ravensburg state court of preparing an act of violence and sentenced to six and a half years in prison.

The man was arrested in November with 17,000 matches, a package of fireworks, 17 batteries, six walkie-talkies and two kitchen knives and was trying to make his way into Denmark.

The court said he had come to Germany in 2015 and become radicalized after his arrival, and was strongly influenced by Daesh propaganda.

It said he planned an attack involving many bombs in Copenhagen that he hoped would cause multiple casualties.

16 migrants from Iraq, Iran, Syria arrested in Romania

Romanian border police have detained 16 migrants from Iraq, Syria and Iran who were hidden in a truck transporting dishes to Sweden.

Police stopped the truck that was driven by a Turkish citizen early Wednesday at the Romanian-Hungarian border and discovered the migrants in the back.

A police statement said they found nine men and seven women, most of them asylum-seekers in Romania.

They told police they wanted to cross the border illegally to reach a country in the visa-free Schengen travel zone. Hungary is a member of that zone but Romania is not.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1128436/middle-east

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India

 

Hindu, Sikhs, Muslims hold candle light vigil against the killings of Amarnath pilgrims

Jul 13, 2017

Bathinda: Members of the Hindu, Sikh and Muslim communities in Moga took part in a candle light vigil on Tuesday night to protest against the killings of Amarnath pilgrims in Anantnag district of Jammu and Kashmir. Over 100 people from all walks of life took part in the vigil and demanded that the Union government ensured fool-proof security for the devotees visiting the shrine.

Moga MLA Harjot Kamal led the march in which members of various organisations such as Baba Barfani Sewa Mandal, Kanwar Sangh Moga, Punjab Mahavir Dal, Parmeshardwar Society, Muslim League and Lions Club took part.

The MLA said, "It was a cowardly act. Since terrorists have no religion, members from all communities are here to condemn the ghastly act. We urge the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir government to ensure tight security for the pilgrims."

Muslim League members Wahid Ali and Safaroz Bhatt said, "The terrorists who kill innocent people are not true Muslims. A true Muslim doesn't kill but protect people."

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chandigarh/hindu-sikhs-muslims-hold-candle-light-vigil/articleshow/59568852.cms

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Enrolment of Muslims in Bengal varsities abysmally low, says survey

Suvojit Bagchi

JULY 12, 2017

Lack of education at primary and secondary levels is seen as one of the main reasons

The percentage of Muslim students in leading State and Central universities of West Bengal is abysmally low, revealed the sixth All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) for the year 2015-16. The report, prepared by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MoHRD), was released on Monday.

Among the elite institutions that could not enrol any Muslim student in 2015-16 are the Presidency University in Kolkata, Visva Bharati in Shantiniketan, the Indian Institute of Technology-Kharagpur, the West Bengal University of Teachers’ Training, Education Planning and Administration in Kolkata, the Indian Institute of Information Technology in Kalyani, the Kazi Nazrul University in Asansol, the West Bengal State University in Kolkata, and the Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswa Vidyalaya in Mohanpur. Amity, a private university, also has no Muslims among the 1,140 students enrolled in it.

However, it is not clear from the AISHE report if Muslims are listed under the OBC category by the institutions. “That is unlikely as the number of Muslims is indicated under a separate column for all other institutions,” said an expert associated with similar surveys in the State.

A little over 27% of Bengal’s population is Muslim. In nearly all of the State’s universities and institutes of higher education, the percentage of Muslims stands between 0 and 3%.

The West Bengal Minister of State for Minority Affairs Giasuddin Molla did not deny that Muslims were failing to make it to the institutes of higher education in the State. “In a few places, the number of Muslim students is very low and we are trying to figure out the reasons,” he told The Hindu.

A 2016 report on the status of Muslims published in 2016 by the Pratichi Institute founded by Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen and Association SNAP, a social network of volunteers, stated that owing to “the higher population share of Muslims in rural areas, the overall literacy rate [69.5%] of Muslims is substantially affected.” Moreover, government data indicates that the dropout rate of students from primary and secondary schooling is higher among Muslims. Many feel that it is the lack of education at the primary and secondary levels that stops Muslims from making it to universities of higher education.

In Jadavpur University, for example, of the total number of 8,329 students enrolled in the 2015-16 academic year, only 50 (0.6%) were Muslim. The premier Kolkata-based centrally-funded Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) could enrol only eight (1.08%) Muslim students out of an intake of 740 in 2015-16, says the AISHE report. The Rabindra Bharati University, which enrolled a massive 46,522 students in 2015-16, had only 2.34% Muslim students, and the University of North Bengal in Siliguri had 2.6% Muslim students.

Aliah and Gour Banga

Meanwhile, theAliah University in Burdwan and the University of Gour Banga in the Malda district enrolled the maximum number of Muslim students. Aliah University, funded by the West Bengal Minority Affairs and Madrasah Education Department, had 6,656 Muslims out of a total of 6,772 students.

Full report at:

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/enrolment-of-muslims-in-bengal-varsities-abysmally-low-says-survey/article19265509.ece

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Civil society, Muslim groups across Maharashtra demand special act for protection against lynching

Varsha Torgalkar

Jul, 12 2017

Due to regular mob lynching and attacks on vulnerable groups especially Muslims on the suspicion of carrying or transporting beef, several Muslim organisations and civil society groups across Maharashtra are demanding a strict act like the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Prevention (Atrocities Act) for the protection of the community.

Three peace rallies demanding the formation of this new act have already taken place in Pune, Latur and Solapur, and a fourth one is scheduled to take in Pune on 15 July.

Though focussed mostly on the incidents of violence committed against Muslims, these rallies have received support not just from Muslim organisations like Jamat-e-Islami but also from civil society groups as well as Marath organisations.

On Wednesday, 20 organisations including Muslims, Dalits, and Marath organisations like the Sambhaji Brigade took part in a peace rally in Solapur, where they walked from Hutatma Chowk in the city to the Collector's office. The rally which saw more than 500 people from different religions and sections concluded with the organisers giving a letter to the district collector demanding the formulation of an act to protect Muslims from attacks. A similar rally was held on 5 July in Latur city in Marathwada and in Pune on 7 July.

One of the organisers of the Aman Rally in Solapur which took place on Wednesday is Sadiq Shaikh, father of Mohsin Sadiq Shaikh, a techie who was beaten to death by a Hindu group in 2014.

“My son Mohsin was brutally lynched to death in June 2014 by Right wing organisations because he had beard. The murder took place in Pune soon after the Narendra Modi government came to power. Seventeen out of the 21 accused who were arrested have gotten bail from the court till now. If Muslims are protected by the act like Prevention of Atrocities Act, the killers of my son wouldn't have been able to roam scot free. With the increasing number of attacks and mob lynching of minorities and that too mostly of Muslims, we need protection of an act like the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Prevention (Atrocities Act),” he says.

Mohsin Khan of Swabhimani Muslim Vikas sanghatana, one of the organisations which took part in the Latur rally on 5 July said that there's a need for a strict law like that of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Prevention (Atrocities) Act-like law for protection of Muslims because the government, police and minority commissions have proven ineffective in protecting them.

"Muslims are being targeted under the pretext of carrying or eating beef, transporting cows, circulating objectionable message against Hindu leaders and so on.  If somebody commits crime then police should take action and a trial should be held in the court. Common men are attacking Muslims and Dalits," he added.

Latur city had seen more than 200 people from different social organisations and political parties, demanding the formation of the prevention of atrocity act for Muslims. The participation was higher in Pune on 7 July where more than 500 Punekars took to the street and formed a human chain. They also handed over a letter to the district collector with the demand for a similar act.

Anjum Inamdar, president of Rashtrapremi Kruti Samiti and one of the organisers of the Pune rally, said, “We have seen mob lynching of Muslims — from Mohsin Sadiq Shaikh in Pune, Akhlaq Khan in Uttar Pradesh and most recently Hafiz Junaid Khan, a 15-year-old boy in Uttar Pradesh. On this background, we want an act like Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Prevention (Atrocities Act) for minorities especially Muslims."

He added, “Besides, we also want the accused in the attacks and lynching of Muslims to be arrested and tried under a MCOCA like act." Inamadar also demanded that families of Muslims who got lynched should be given compensation of Rs one crore immediately. Mohammed Shabi of Jamat-e-Islami, an organisation working for the welfare of Muslims in Pune, said, “This is high time the minority community especially Muslims get legal protection from attacks and lynching as, currently, the whole Muslim population have been living under fear and pressure of attacks and death. If we see the statistics, 97 percent of attacks and deaths due to lynching of Muslims have taken place after 2014 when the BJP government came into power."

He also added that though attacks on Muslims for allegedly carrying beef started in 2010, the number of attacks spiralled after 2014. "Till now 63 such attacks have taken place across the country. Nineteen people have died while 14 got injured in these attacks. And more than half of the 63 attacks have taken place in BJP-ruled states," Shabi said.

Punekars are planning to held another peace rally on 15 July in Kondhwa in Pune. The rally has already received support from 15 Muslim social organisations, NGOs and political parties.

“Our country is known for communal harmony despite having many religions. But the trend like mob lynching and attacks on Muslims under the pretext of carrying or transporting beef or other communal reasons is creating rift in the society. Muslims do not feel secure any more. We are organising this rally to demand their protection under a prevention of atrocity act in solidarity with other rallies," said Razi Ahmed Khan of Popular Front of India. One of the organisers of the 15 July rally in Pune, Razi is is expecting a turn out of more than 7,000-8,000 people on Saturday.

Full report at:

http://www.firstpost.com/india/civil-society-muslim-groups-across-maharashtra-demand-special-act-for-protection-against-lynching-3804201.html

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Muslims say attack on Amarnath pilgrims ‘anti-Islamic’

Mohammed Wajihuddin

Jul 13, 2017

Mumbai: Muslim groups denounced the recent dastardly attack on Amarnath pilgrims, terming it inhuman, anti-Islamic and aimed to stoke communal clashes in the country. Staging dharnas and protest meets, community leaders and activists expressed condolences to families of the bereaved and solidarity with the yatris who have refused to be cowed down by the terror and continued their pilgrimage.

Muslim leaders and groups converged at Azad Maidan on Wednesday to stage a protest with the hashtag #NotInMyName in the same spirit that people had stepped out a fortnight ago to condemn lynchings in the name of cow protection. Chants of "Aatankwad pe halla bol" rent the air as protestors held placards that read 'Terrorists can never terrorise us'. "Nothing justifies violence as a means to resolution of social conflicts. We denounce all perpetrators of mob terror and bomb terror, irrespective of their religious affiliation," said Javed Anand of Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy (IMSD), one of the groups at the protest. "The attack on innocent pilgrims is clearly to fuel fires of communalism. While we denounce the terror attack, we also salute the bus driver, Salim Shaikh, who showed extraordinary courage to save lives of around 50 Hindu pilgrims," said M A Khalid of All-India Milli Council.

Islamic scholar Zeenat Shaukat Ali rejected any justification that terrorists may give for the cowardly attack. "Islam rejects attacks on non-combatants. The fact that these were pilgrims makes the attack more heinous and inhuman. They have sullied the name of religion which they invoke but indulge in irreligious acts," said Ali.

Many said the attack was aimed at stoking widespread social unrest in the country. "The terrorists wanted to throw India into a communal cauldron but Indians are mature enough not to fall into this trap and will defeat the nefarious design by staying together," said BJP city vice-president Haider Azam. "The perpetrators will go straight to jahanum (hell) as they killed and injured pilgrims who had nothing to do with conflicts in Kashmir," commented Congress city unit vice-president Zakir Ahmed.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/muslims-say-attack-on-amarnath-pilgrims-anti-islamic/articleshow/59567471.cms

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Hizbul renegade forbids pro-Pak slogans at funeral of slain terrorists

Jul 13, 2017

SRINAGAR: Kashmiri youth claiming to be followers of "deposed" Hizbul Mujahideen chief Zakir Musa told people on Wednesday that they stood for the Islamic State terror outfit and forbade them from draping the bodies of three terrorists killed in encounters in Pakistani flags. The three Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists were gunned down by security forces in Radbugh village of central Kashmir's Budgam district on Tuesday night.

These armed youth also prohibited the crowds from shouting pro-azadi and pro-Pakistan slogans; significantly, the people complied with their directives while coming out in large numbers for the burials. Mohammad Omar, a photo journalist covering the funeral of slain Sajjad Ahmad Gilkar in downtown Srinagar, said the youth proclaimed that they subscribed to the views of Zakir Musa, who preaches Caliphate (or Islamist rule), and whose video last month threatening Hurriyat separatists with death sent shock waves across the Valley.

All the three terrorists were from central Kashmir. While Sajjad Ahmad Gilkar was from Malarata in downtown Srinagar, Javid Sheikh, was from Beerwah Churpora and Aaquib Gul from Goripura in Rawalpora. Gul had gone underground just 15 days ago to join Hizb, police said.

Based on specific intelligence inputs about the presence of militants, security forces earlier cordoned Radbugh village on Tuesday evening. All the three terrorists hiding in the house were killed "outside the house after they came out and tried to break the cordon", police said. The operation was conducted by the Army and SOG of Jammu & Kashmir Police without causing any collateral damage.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/hizbul-renegade-forbids-pro-pak-slogans-at-funeral-of-slain-terrorists/articleshow/59569883.cms

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Two Pakistanis among 4 terrorists involved in attack on Amarnath pilgrims: Government

Jul 12, 2017

NEW DELHI: Four terrorists, two of them Pakistanis, are suspected to have been involved in the attack on Amarnath pilgrims in which seven devotees were killed+ , home ministry officials said on Wednesday.

Quoting intelligence inputs, the officials said Pakistani national and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) commander Abu Ismail was the mastermind of Monday's attack and he was assisted by another Pakistani and two local militants.

A massive manhunt has been launched+ for the four terrorists, who are also believed to have used two motorcycles to escape from the scene after attacking the pilgrims bus, officials said.

They said the Gujarat-registered bus, which was attacked, reached Jammu on July 7 and got registered at Amarnath shrine facilitation centre.

Initially, the bus was part of the regular convoy of the pilgrims and travelled together till Baltal.

The pilgrims in the bus paid their obeisance at the cave shrine on July 8 and returned. On the way back, the pilgrims left the convoy and drove to Srinagar.

The Gujarati pilgrims stayed in Srinagar for two days as tourists. On July 10, around 4:30pm, they left Srinagar for Katra.

The vehicle got punctured at a place 10km away from Khanabal around 6:30pm. Then the passengers went down and had food at a roadside eatery.

When the bus resumed its journey, it came under attack from the terrorists at Khanabal around 8.17pm.

Facing the bullets, the driver of the bus, Salim Sheikh, charged past the area but had to face another group of terrorists after crossing just 75 metres.

The driver again did not stop the bus despite facing the terrorist attack for the second time in quick succession.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/two-pakistanis-among-4-terrorists-involved-in-terror-attack-on-amarnath-pilgrims-government/articleshow/59565360.cms

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World condemns terror attack on Amarnath pilgrims; China and Pakistan silent

Jul 12, 2017

NEW DELHI: Several countries across the globe have come out to condemn the terror attack on Amarnath pilgrims in Jammu and Kashmir, but India's two immediate neighbours, China and Pakistan, have not commented on it.

On Wednesday, the Portuguese government condemned the attack and expressed its support for the authorities and solidarity with the Indian people, while the Spanish President in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India can count on Spain in the fight against terrorism.

The US, the UK, France, Germany, Russia, Norway, Canada, Iran apart from The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries-- Afghanistan, Bangladesh. Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal-- are among those which have already condemned the attack.

However, China and Pakistan,the two immediate neighbours of India, have not commented on the attack in which seven Amarnath pilgrims were killed and 19 injured when their bus came under heavy gunfire from terrorists in south Kashmir's Anantnag district on Monday night.

Meanwhile, security forces have launched a massive hunt to track down a Pakistani national Abu Ismail, a Lashkar-e- Taiba (LeT) commander, who has emerged as the mastermind of the deadly attack on Amarnath pilgrims.

In his letter, the Spanish leader also said,"in these moments of pain caused by this barbaric act committed for religious motives, I would like to convey the solidarity of the government and people of Spain, and reiterate our condemnation to all types of terrorism."

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/world-condemns-terror-attack-on-amarnath-pilgrims-china-and-pakistan-silent/articleshow/59564712.cms

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Islamic body denounces lynchings, says government assurance having no impact

July 12, 2017

An Islamic forum on Wednesday said the Centre’s assurance that those involved in mob lynchings would be acted against was not having any impact on the ground, and the situation was “deteriorating very fast”. Referring to recent cases of lynching, including that of teenager Junaid near Delhi, the chief of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind Maulana Umari advised the Muslim youth to avoid being “instigated”, which he said would only aid communal forces. “The spate of mob lynchings rages persistently in trains, buses and public places. It is highly regrettable that there is a feeling of fear and insecurity among citizens in many places of the country.

“Those in power assure us that breaking the law will not be tolerated and the guilty will be awarded exemplary punishment but the reality is that this assurance is not having any impact on the ground,” Umari said in a statement.

He said Muslims should not use the language of fear and despondency nor use the language of confrontation and communalism and instead “build bridges with fellow countrymen”.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/islamic-body-denounces-lynchings-says-government-assurance-having-no-impact-4747979/

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Kerala resident’s bid to join IS foiled second time

July 13, 2017

The Delhi Police have arrested a Kerala native who was deported from Turkey while allegedly trying to join the Islamic State in Syria. The police have also arrested a passport agent who had helped 32-year-old Shahjahan Velluva Kandy procure fake travel papers. The police said Kandy, who was deported from Turkey for travelling on a fake passport, is being interrogated in Delhi about his activities in Syria. “Kandy had gone to Turkey last year in June with his wife, but was deported from there in February after trying to cross over to Syria for joining ISIS.

His wife was also deported,” a police officer said. Deputy commissioner (special cell) P S Kushwah said: “A case under Sections 420 (cheating), 468 (forgery) and 419 (impersonation) under the Passport Act has been registered against him. Further investigations are on.” He was arrested from the airport with the fake documents on July 1.

According to intelligence sources, Kandy was an activist of the Muslim outfit Popular Front of India (PFI). Sources said the Kannur resident had first been deported from Turkey four months back. This was his second attempt to allegedly join the Islamic State.

Last time, he was let go by Delhi police after he pleaded mercy and sought release saying his wife was in an advanced stage of pregnancy.

“Subsequently, the NIA issued a notice for him to appear before the agency for recording his statements. However, the notice could not be served to Kandy as he was missing from the house. We have been trying to locate him since then,’’ said an officer. There is no criminal case against him.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/kerala-residents-bid-to-join-is-foiled-second-time-4748188/

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Basirhat Muslim outfit plans to raise money for compensating victims, repair places of worship

Jul 12, 2017

The Muslim organisation that played a key role in coordinating with the police in pacifying agitating Muslim mobs at Baduria and Basirhat during the five days of communal flare up has planned to raise funds to compensate every victim of violence.

All India Sunnat Al Jamaat has also decided to repair all places of worship vandalised during clashes between Hindus and Muslims and has sought the administration’s permission for the work.

The outfit has also sought the administration’s permission to host a mega gathering at Basirhat where Hindus and Muslim will be served khichdi on the same table.  “We are waiting for the administration’s permission,” Abdul Matin, secretary of the North 24-Parganas-based All India Sunnat Al Jamaat, told HT.

The outfit is a Muslim social welfare organisation that organises some of the biggest religious soirees in Basirhat and Baduria region.

“We have started drawing up a list of victims of the clashes. This include people who were beaten up, whose houses and shops were vandalised,” said Matin.

He told HT that the organisation will use its own funds to repair the damage done to the temples and mosque. The authorities will start a fund collection drive if the administration approves their plan of offering compensation to the victims.

“We’ll sit with the administration with the list of victims and request a joint effort by people from both communities and the administration in properly compensating each of them. We have also told the local administration that we want to repair all temples and mosques vandalised during the clashes,” added Matin.

The office bearers of All India Sunnat Al Jamaat have spoken to local police and administrative officers, who have requested Matin to wait till the situation normalises.

Matin, who is in his forties, ran from one locality to another between July 2 and July 5 to persuade blockaders to clear the roadblocks and desist from vandalism. His appeal to refrain from protests on the day of ulta-rathajatra on July 3, however, could not stop attacks on rathajatra at two places.

“Muslims need to initiate any such effort because it was a section of people from our community who are to be blamed for creating the trouble,” he said.

Full report at:

http://www.hindustantimes.com/kolkata/basirhat-muslim-outfit-plans-to-raise-money-for-compensating-victims-repair-places-of-worship/story-QTxctxFxhTDynxR0yGVKSN.html

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Ten Indian workers are among the dead in a building fire in Najran, Saudi Arabia.

July 13, 2017

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has asked Indian diplomats to rush to the place to assist the six reportedly injured Indians and help bring back the bodies of the deceased Indians.

“I am aware of the fire tragedy in Najran in which we have lost 10 Indian nationals and six injured are in hospital. I have spoken to consul-general, Jeddah. Najran is 900 km from Jeddah. Our staff is rushing by the first flight available. Our consul-general is in touch with the governor of Najran.

He is updating me,” she tweeted on Wednesday night. The blaze ripped through a windowless house some Indian and Bangladesh workers shared, Saudi media reports said. In all, 11 workers were killed, Saudi civil defence sources were quoted as saying. The workers, who belonged to a construction company, were living near a gold market area in Faisaliah district.

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/ten-indian-workers-are-among-the-dead-in-a-building-fire-in-najran-saudi-arabia/

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Mideast

 

Israel freezes plan to give Palestinian city land to expand

13 July 2017

Israel’s cabinet has frozen a plan to expand the West Bank’s most densely populated Palestinian city by ceding military control over a parcel of land, a proposed concession that has outraged settler leaders.

A spokesman from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said Wednesday that the government will deliberate the issue of Palestinian development in Israeli military controlled areas of the West Bank later this month.

Until then, the proposal to grant a part of Area C to allow the expansion of the city of Qalqiliya will be on hold.

Last year, Netanyahu’s government quietly passed the eagerly awaited plan to allow the Palestinian city to double its size by expanding into off-limits land in Area C. Since then, settler leaders have railed against the move, calling it a “reward for terror.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/07/13/Israel-freezes-plan-to-give-Palestinian-city-land-to-expand.html

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Turkish police kill 5 suspected IS jihadists

Jul 13, 2017

ANKARA - Turkish police on Wednesday killed five suspected Islamic State jihadists in the central province of Konya, officials said, as officers detained 233 suspected extremists across Turkey. "During the operation, the five terrorists were neutralised after they resisted armed force, and four security forces were lightly injured," the local governor's office said in a statement. Police also seized weapons during the raid including five Kalashnikovs, a gun and ammunition. Officers launched raids against IS across 29 different provinces, detaining 233 suspects, the national security headquarters said in a statement. The raid in Konya took place as part of an investigation into whether the suspects were planning to target events commemorating last year's failed coup on July 15, Dogan news agency said. The statement did not say whether the five had actually been planning an attack. Police began the raid shortly after sunrise, targeting a house believed to belong to an IS cell, Dogan said, indicating that they searched a total of 10 separate addresses.

Istanbul security forces captured 25 foreigners intending to go to Syria, the agency reported, adding they would be deported.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/13-Jul-2017/turkish-police-kill-5-suspected-is-jihadists

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Turkey firmly helping Qatar amidst Gulf crisis by sending cargo

Jul 13, 2017

ANKARA: Today the Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci said that Turkey has sent 197 cargo planes, 16 trucks and one ship to Qatar to meet its daily needs since a dispute broke out last month between Qatar and other Gulf states

At a meeting with Zeybekci in the Turkish capital Ankara, Qatar's economy minister, Ahmed bin Jassim al-Thani, said Doha's sea and land trade was continuing without disruption despite sanctions.

Ankara has backed Qatar after Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain cut all economic and diplomatic ties with it, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism, a charge it denies.

http://nation.com.pk/international/12-Jul-2017/turkey-firmly-helping-qatar-amidst-gulf-crisis-by-sending-cargo

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Turkish Army Dispatches More Forces, Equipment to Borders with Syria

Jul 12, 2017

The Turkish-language Anadolu news agency quoted security sources as saying that fresh forces and the convoy of military equipment have arrived in Kilis region in the Southern part of the country to provide back up for the Turkish soldiers that deployed at the border with Syria.

The news agency said that the Turkish army's equipment, includes six military vehicles  that have transferred to Kilis under severe security measures.

The agency added that the newly-arrived forces are to support the Turkish units in Musa Bili border region located opposite to Afrin region in Northern Syria.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared at the end of G20 summit in Hamburg on Sunday that Ankara would respond decisively to any threats on its borders, warning against any push by the Kurds to secure their own independent region.

“We will definitely not remain silent and unresponsive to the support and arming of terror organizations next to our borders and the forming of terror havens in the region,” Erdogan warned Saturday at the conclusion of the G20 in Germany, Turkish Radio and Television Corporation quoted.

The Turkish government urged the US to reverse its decision to broaden support for Syria’s Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, stating that it is unacceptable for a NATO ally to support “terrorist groups.”

Erdogan emphasized that Turkey would not allow a Kurdish state to be established in Northern Syria, adding that "we would not hesitate to use our legitimate right to defense against formations that threaten our country's security."

Turkish President announced late June that Ankara was ready to launch a new military campaign similar to the Operation Euphrates Shield in Northern Syria.

“Presently, negative processes are underway in Syria. In case they lead to a threat to our borders, we will respond the same way as during the Euphrates Shield operation,” Erdogan told the Russian Izvestia newspaper, as the tension between Ankara and Washington has risen over the supplying arms to Kurdish fighters in Syria by the United States.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960421000525

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Turkey’s Erdogan says lifting emergency rule currently out of question

12 July 2017

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday it was out of the question under current circumstances to lift the state of emergency in Turkey, which was imposed soon after an attempted military coup on July 15 last year.

“There can be no question of lifting emergency rule with all this happening. They ask when emergency rule will finish. It will finish when this business is completely out the way,” Erdogan said in a speech to investors in Ankara.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/07/12/Turkey-s-Erdogan-says-lifting-emergency-rule-currently-out-of-question.html

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Iran, EU start first ever joint project on nuclear safety

Jul 13, 2017

Iran and the European Union have launched their first joint project aimed at strengthening bilateral nuclear safety cooperation on the eve of the second anniversary of Tehran’s nuclear deal with six world powers.

At a Wednesday meeting in Tehran, the EU delegation, headed by Oliver Luyckx, the director of the EU nuclear safety unit, and the Iranian side led by Hojjatollah Salehi, the director of Iran’s nuclear safety center, officially announced the start of the 2.5-million-euro project.

The project was signed in April within the framework of the 2015 nuclear deal, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). It is part of a five-million-euro package approved in 2016 with regard to Iran-EU cooperation on nuclear safety.

Under the agreement, Tehran-EU nuclear safety cooperation will last for a period of three and a half years.

One of its key objectives is to enhance Iran’s nuclear safety capabilities in different spheres including, the establishment of a nuclear safety center as foreseen in the JCPOA.

Under the project, the EU will also support the Iranian Nuclear Regulatory Authority (INRA) in developing a nuclear regulatory framework, working toward the accession by Iran to several international nuclear conventions, and reviewing the results of the stress test to take place in the Bushehr nuclear power plant.

The project also seeks to provide more training opportunities to Iranian experts with regard to nuclear safety procedures.

On June 21, Iran and the EU also agreed on another four-million euro project in support of Iran’s nuclear safety procedures in the upcoming years.

The implementation of the first nuclear safety project comes as the nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+states is about to turn two.

On July 14, 2015, Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council - the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia - plus Germany signed the JCPOA. The deal took effect in January 2016.

The UN Security Council later unanimously endorsed a resolution that effectively turned the JCPOA into international law.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/07/13/528304/Iran-EU-nuclear-safety

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South Asia

 

ISIS and Taliban suffer casualties in Kunar airstrikes and operations

Jul 13 2017

The loyalists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group and Taliban insurgents suffered heavy casualties during the airstrikes and ground operations in eastern Kunar province of Afghanistan.

The 201st Silab Corps of the Afghan National Army (ANA) forces in a statement said at least fifteen Taliban insurgents were killed, two of them were wounded, and their heavy machine gun was destroyed during the operations of the ground forces in Asmar and Shigal districts on Tuesday.

The statement further added that in separate operations involving airstrikes, at least nine militants affiliated with the Islamic State terror group were killed.

The airstrikes were carried out in the vicinity of Watapur district of Kunar, the Silab Corps added.

In the meantime, the provincial police chief Juma Gul Hemat said a total of eleven ISIS militants were killed in the airstrikes.

According to Hemat, an Arab national and two Pakistanis were among those killed in the airstrikes.

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

Kunar is among the relatively volatile provinces in eastern Afghanistan where the anti-government armed militant groups including the Taliban insurgents and militants affiliated with the other terrorist groups are actively operating in its various districts and often carry out insurgency activities.

http://www.khaama.com/isis-and-taliban-suffer-casualties-in-kunar-airstrikes-and-operations-03137

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Myanmar Escorts Media to Conflict-Torn Region, Vows 'No Restrictions'

Jul 13, 2017

Sittwe, Myanmar. Myanmar pledged on Wednesday (12/07) "no restrictions" on journalists visiting the troubled state of Rakhine this week, in the first official trip to include foreign reporters to mostly Rohingya Muslim villages affected by violence since October.

Eighteen Myanmar nationals and foreigners representing international media, including Reuters, arrived in the state capital of Sittwe on Wednesday ahead of a government-escorted visit to the northern areas of Buthidaung and Maungdaw, where most residents are stateless Rohingyas.

"There are no restrictions regarding the areas that you can report from," said Thet Swe, a director at the Ministry of Information's News and Periodicals Enterprise.

"We didn't arrange any 'for show' places for news reporting," he said.

Last year, Myanmar's army unleashed a crackdown in the area after Rohingya militants attacked posts near the Bangladesh border, killing nine police officers.

Some 75,000 people fled across the nearby border to Bangladesh, according to the United Nations, which has documented allegations of gang rape, torture, arson and killings by security forces.

Myanmar's government, led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, has denied most of the allegations, and has denied entry to a UN fact-finding mission tasked with looking into the allegations.

The government has blocked independent journalists and human rights monitors from going to the area in the far north of the state for the past nine months.

Suu Kyi has said a UN fact-finding mission would only heighten tension in the region. Many in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, see the Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Myanmar officials say a domestic investigation, led by Vice President Myint Swe - a former lieutenant general in the army - and a commission headed for former UN chief Kofi Annan - which is not mandated to investigate human rights abuses - are the appropriate ways to address problems in Rakhine State.

Security Concerns

Annan recommended in March that authorities "provide full and regular access for domestic and international media to all areas affected by recent violence".

Reporters on the visit to the northern areas would be provided security by Myanmar's paramilitary Border Guard Police force, Thet Swe said.

Although access would not be restricted, he said, reporters should stay close to officials during visits to villages for their own security.

A detailed itinerary for the five-day trip was provided to reporters on Wednesday.

The itinerary does not include visits to the villages at the center of a two-week offensive in mid-November, in which Reuters has documented numerous allegations of abuses by troops following a clash with Rohingya militants.

However, Thet Swe said, the plan was "not fixed" and would be subject to changes due to the weather and security concerns. He invited reporters to suggest additional places they want to visit.

Reporters would be taken to the village of Tin May, where security forces killed two suspected militants and arrested one after they detonated a bomb on Sunday, according to an announcement from Suu Kyi's office.

While Myanmar has denied entry to a UN fact-finding mission, a UN special rapporteur on human rights, Yanghee Lee, is visiting Rakhine State this week.

Full report at:

http://jakartaglobe.id/international/myanmar-escorts-media-conflict-torn-region-vows-no-restrictions/

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Gunmen kidnap Afghan bus passengers, kill seven

July 13, 2017

Herat - Afghan authorities on Wednesday recovered the bullet-riddled bodies of seven passengers kidnapped by gunmen in the western province of Farah a day earlier, in an attack blamed on Taliban insurgents, police said.

The violence, which underscores the fragile security situation in Afghanistan, came after Taliban fighters closed a highway connecting provincial capital Farah to Herat city late Tuesday, stopping a bus and forcing 16 passengers to dismount, Farah police spokesman Iqbal Baher told AFP. They shot at least seven of them, while the remaining nine were taken hostage, he said.

Government forces launched an operation early Wednesday to free the hostages and open the highway, clearing roadblocks set up by the militants, Baher said. They recovered the bodies of seven passengers, he continued, adding that six were civilians and one a police officer.

"It is not clear why the Taliban kidnapped and killed them, and we are still unsure about the fate of the remaining kidnapped passengers," he stated.

The Taliban have so far not commented on the incident in Farah province, which has witnessed an increase in the militant group's activities recently, according to provincial officials. Highways around Afghanistan passing through insurgency-prone areas have become exceedingly dangerous, with the Taliban and other armed groups frequently kidnapping or killing travellers.

Civilians are increasingly caught in the crosshairs of Afghanistan's worsening conflict as the Taliban step up their annual spring offensive, launched in April against the Western-backed Kabul government.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/national/13-Jul-2017/gunmen-kidnap-afghan-bus-passengers-kill-seven

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Afghan intelligence foil coordinated attack plot by Haqqani network in Gardez city

Jul 12 2017

The Afghan intelligence operatives foiled a plot by the Haqqani terrorist network to carry out a coordinated attack in Gardez city, the provincial capital of southeastern Paktia province.

The National Directorate of Security (NDS) in a statement said Wednesday that a group of eight insurgents were arrested in connection to the attack plot.

The statement further added that the suspects were arrested during an operation of the intelligence operatives in the vicinity of Gardez city.

The detained militants have confessed that they were deployed to Gardez city by the Haqqani network commanders, Ghazi and Jahad, who they claim are based on the other side of the Durand Line.

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

This comes as the Afghan officials have long been insisting that the leadership councils of the Taliban group and the notorious Haqqani terrorist network are based in Peshawar, Quetta, and other parts of Pakistan from where they plan and coordinate attacks in Afghanistan.

Full report at:

http://www.khaama.com/afghan-intelligence-foil-coordinated-attack-plot-by-haqqani-network-in-gardez-city-03134

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Dostum strongly reacts at Ghani and US embassy remarks regarding Ishchi case

Jul 13 2017

The first vice president and leader of Junbish Millie party General Abdul Rashid has strongly reacted at the remarks of President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and a top US diplomat, hours after reports emerged that the controversial case involving the vice president and his rival has been referred to the court.

The office of the first vice president in a statement said the Attorney General Office is not having such an authority to permit the vice president to travel abroad, pointing towards President Ghani’s remarks during a press conference on Tuesday where he had said Gen. Dostum is in Turkey for the treatment on the permission of the Attorney General Office.

The statement further added that the US embassy must respect independency of Afghanistan and bilateral relations between the two countries, insisting that the legal and judicial system of the country has a clear definition and approach regarding such cases.

Gen. Dostum’s office also added that irresponsible remarks by the foreign diplomats and missions will only spark concerns among the people.

The statement also added that the first vice president played a key role in the fight and elimination of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda during the US-led invasion in 2001.

This comes as the US embassy Charge d’Affaires on Tuesday called for thorough investigation in the torture and sexual abuse case of Ahmad Khan Ishchi involving the first vice president General Abdul Rashid Dostum.

“I want to be very clear; it is not for me to speak on the technicalities of legal cases in Afghanistan.  Nevertheless, my government, the international community, and the Afghan people, support the continued serious investigation and possible follow up legal actions in the case of First Vice President Dostum and his associates,” the US special charge d’affaires said.

Full report at:

http://www.khaama.com/dostum-strongly-reacts-at-ghani-and-us-embassy-remarks-regarding-ischi-case-03136

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Afghanistan reacts at ICBM test by North Korea, calling for a halt to such tests

Jul 12 2017

The Afghan government in reaction to the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) test by North Korea has called a halt of further such tests, calling it a move against the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan in a statement said the ministry condemns the test of the ICBM by North Korea.

The statement further added that the Afghan government considers such provocative acts against the accepted humanitarian and peaceful values and asks that further such tests should be stopped.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said negotiations to find peaceful solution to the issues is the only logical way.

The North Korean officials last week informed regarding the successful test of the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile.

The officials are claiming that the test of ICBM on Tuesday was successful and the missile that landed in the sea of Japan after the test can hit targets anywhere in the world.

However, the US and Russia said the missile had a medium range and presented no threat to either country.

Full report at:

http://www.khaama.com/afghanistan-reacts-at-icbm-test-by-north-korea-calling-for-a-halt-to-such-tests-03135

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Myanmar Buddhists protest UN human rights envoy’s visit

Jul 12, 2017

Buddhists have protested in Rakhine state against the information-gathering visit of the United Nations' special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, who has slammed the government's treatment of the persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority.

Fewer than 100 demonstrators waited for the arrival of Yanghee Lee in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine, on Wednesday, chanting slogans and holding signs that called the UN rapporteur unfair and unwanted as she passed in her car.

Rakhine has been the scene of communal violence at the hands of Buddhist extremists since 2012. Hundreds of people have been killed and tens of thousands forced from homes to live in squalid camps in dire conditions in Myanmar, Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

According to the UN, the Rohingya are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.

Last October, the army launched a crackdown in Rakhine after a deadly attack on the country’s border guards left nine policemen dead. The government blamed the Rohingya for the assault.

There have been numerous accounts by eyewitnesses of summary executions, rapes and arson attacks against Muslims since the crackdown began. The military has blocked access to Rakhine and banned journalists and aid workers from entering the zone.

Upon an invitation of the government, Lee is on a 12-day visit to Myanmar during which she is scheduled to meet political and community leaders and civil society representatives to discuss human rights issues with them.

After her arrival in Sittwe, Lee visited a prison where hundreds of Rohingya men are detained on suspicion of having connections to the perpetrators of the October assaults.

Than Tun, a leader of the Rakhine Buddhist community, said, "Yanghee Lee has been here in Rakhine three or four times but every time she goes back and writes a report about her trip or has press conferences and never mentioned any good thing about either Rakhine people or the Myanmar government."

"What Rakhine people think about Yanghee Lee is that she is too one-sided," he claimed.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/07/12/528279/Buddhists-UN-envoy-Myanmar

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North America

 

High Time for Sofian Zakkout, Pillar of the American-Muslim Community, to Be Investigated for Ties to Hamas

by Joe Kaufman

July 13, 2017

There is good reason to suspect that a pillar of the Muslim community in South Florida, who sits on the boards of many civil rights groups and charities, is actually a member of Hamas, the terrorist organization ruling the Gaza Strip. Sofian Zakkout, the founding president of the American Muslim Association of North America (AMANA), was born and partly raised in Gaza, which he has referred proudly to as "my nation, my hometown."

His fondness for his birthplace, however, is not what is worrisome about Zakkout. It is, rather, that he has spent decades cloaking himself in a veil of respectability, while actively promoting violent Hamas propaganda, including virulently anti-Semitic speech.

To grasp how dubious a character Zakkout is, one need only compare AMANA's self-described mission – and Zakkout's positions, for example, in the Florida State Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights, the Florida Regional Interfaith/Interagency Emergency Network in Disaster, the Miami Dade County Citizen Corps and even the Jewish-Arab Dialogue -- with his activism on behalf of Hamas.

On Amana's Facebook page, the group, established in 1992, states:

"Our mission at AMANA is to make our communities stronger, safer, and best prepared to respond to the danger of Islamophobia and the threats of terrorism, hate crimes, public health issues and disasters of all kinds (may Allah forbid). Our mission is to provide a better understanding of Islam to Muslims and information on Islam and Muslims to non Muslims. Our mission is to build more understanding, more knowledge and respect between the Muslim and non-Muslim communities.

"It is important to work with other community leaders with no exception of race, color, religion and origin hand by hand so that our country the United States of America will be a safer and more secure place to live in."

its goal is:

"to make our communities stronger, safer, and best prepared to respond to the danger of Islamophobia and the threats of terrorism, hate crimes, public health issues and disasters of all kinds (may Allah forbid)..., to provide a better understanding of Islam to Muslims and information on Islam and Muslims to non-Muslims..., [and] to build more understanding, more knowledge and respect between the Muslim and non-Muslim communities."

In addition, according to a Harvard University Pluralism Project overview, "AMANA does not think Muslims have any problem with other religious groups, such as Jews or Christians, but rather appreciates and supports each other."

Yet Zakkout's social media feeds are rife with hate-filled posts against non-Muslims, particularly Jews. His Facebook page, for instance, is littered with Hamas logos and photos of its operatives and leaders, including arch-terrorist founders Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi, and deceased bomb-maker Yehiya Ayyash.

Over a picture he shared in February 2015 of Yassin and Rantisi together, Zakkout wrote (in Arabic):

"It is an obligation to kill those who left our religion. It is an obligation to kill those who fight our religion and to intimidate our enemies and the enemies of the religion."

A few months earlier, in August 2014, Zakkout declared on Facebook, "Hamas is in my heart and on my head," adding that "America has been contaminated by some Jews."

A year before that, in July 2014, Zakkout organized a pro-Hamas rally outside the Israeli Consulate in Miami. A video of the event shows an elated Zakkout smiling as protesters repeatedly scream, "We are Hamas!" Zakkout then posted photos of the demonstration on Facebook, with the caption: "Thank God, every day we conquer the American Jews like our conquests over the Jews of Israel!"

More recently, in April 2017, Zakkout posted a graphic of all the Palestinian terrorist factions interlocking arms, around an image of Israel draped in a Palestinian flag -- an image he has also shared several times in the past.

Two months later, in June 2017, he attacked the Saudi foreign minister -- and his "Zionist government" -- for accusing Qatar of supporting Palestinian jihad, waged by Hamas. "This sucker doesn't know we defend the remaining Palestinian lands," he wrote. That same month, he posted: "It is no shame for your enemy [the Jews] to enter your homeland by force... The shame is to let them leave alive."

Statements such as these, which incite to violence not only against Jews, but all "infidels," including Muslims who denounce terrorism, run counter to Zakkout's self-professed peaceful and philanthropic aims "to build more understanding... between the Muslim and non-Muslim communities."

No matter how abhorrent hypocrisy and love of Hamas may be, however -- especially when exhibited by a respected American community leader -- neither is criminal. Even the definition of incitement on social media is a matter of controversy. It is, nevertheless, illegal in the U.S. to be an active member of Hamas, which was declared a terrorist organization in 1995 by then-President Bill Clinton, and designated as such by the State Department in 1997.

The question is, then, whether Sofian Zakkout's attachment to Hamas is "merely" emotional, or whether he is an official member of the terrorist organization. All evidence points to the latter.

It is time for the FBI to investigate Zakkout and his activities, and for all the groups that provide him an ill-deserved virtuous reputation to recognize him for the threat he poses to the coexistence and "understanding" he purports to be promoting.

If it emerges that Zakkout is a member of Hamas, he should not be permitted to continue his pernicious activities in America, while prospering in the process.

https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/10668/sofian-zakkout-amana

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The number of Muslim refugees entering U.S. declined after Trump took office

July 12, 2017

Christians made up the majority of refugees admitted to the U.S. in the first five full months of the Trump administration, reversing a trend that saw Muslims entering the country at higher numbers under President Obama, a new Pew Research report shows.

Out of all the refugees who arrived between President Trump’s inauguration and June 30, about half were Christians and 38% were Muslims, according to data released Wednesday.

But when monthly figures are viewed, the data originally from the U.S. State Department reveals a steady decline for Muslims, from about 50% of refugees in February to 31% in June.

This comes at a time when the origin of most of the world’s refugees continues to be Muslim-majority countries. According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, Syria continues to account for a significant proportion of newly displaced refugees, with more than half of all new refugees worldwide fleeing the conflict in that country. Afghanistan and Somalia also top the list.

Not so in America.

“As whole, we look at fiscal 2017 since October, and Muslims and Christians are about the same number,” said Phillip Connor, a co-writer of the report. “But seeing the shift month to month was somewhat surprising. … It is a growing increase. It’s not just that there was an immediate shift.”

In the wake of Trump’s executive orders restricting travel to the U.S. from seven — and under the revised travel ban, six — Muslim-majority countries, the report said, “the religious affiliation of refugees has come under scrutiny.”

Yet the specific cause of this year’s changes can’t be fully explained. Some refugees now arriving on U.S. shores likely applied for resettlement when Obama was still in office.

Muslim refugees to the U.S. outnumbered Christians only three times between 2002 and 2016: in 2005, 2006 and 2016, which saw a record number of Muslims (38,901).

And the refugees’ countries of origin have changed.

Of the top six countries of origin for U.S. refugees, three —Iraq, Somalia and Syria — are majority Muslim. But beginning in April that changed. Now only Iraq remains among the top six nations, in addition to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burma, Ukraine, Bhutan and Eritrea.

Full report at:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2017/07/12/number-muslim-refugees-entering-u-s-declined-since-trump-took-office/472712001/

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US secretary of state Tillerson meets Saudi King Salman in bid to end Qatar rift

Jul 13, 2017

United States (US) Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met Wednesday with the king of Saudi Arabia and officials from other countries lined up against Qatar as he works to end a rift that has left the tiny, energy-rich state isolated from its neighbours.

His trip from Kuwait to the western Saudi city of Jeddah follows talksthe previous day with the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. He has also held discussions with the ruler of Kuwait, who is mediating the dispute.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain severed relations with Qatar and cut air, sea and land routes with it more than a month ago, accusing it of supporting extremist groups. Qatar denies the allegations.

Tillerson met with Saudi King Salman following his arrival in the Red Sea city and later sat down for talks with foreign ministers from the anti-Qatar quartet.

He will likely press the bloc to ease up on some of its demands after he secured a deal with Qatar on Tuesday to intensify its fight against terrorism and address shortfalls in policing terrorism funding.

The four countries last month issued a tough 13-point list of demands to Qatar that included shutting down its flagship Al-Jazeera network and other news outlets, cutting ties with groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, limiting ties with Iran and expelling Turkish troops stationed in the country.

Qatar has rejected the demands, saying that agreeing to them wholesale would undermine its sovereignty. The head of Qatar's government communication office, Sheikh Saif bin Ahmed Al Thani, on Tuesday accused the quartet of organising “a smear campaign in the international media to damage Qatar's reputation” and said they are “not interested in engaging in honest negotiations to resolve our differences.”

The anti-Qatar bloc took partial credit for the US counter-terrorism deal Qatar signed Tuesday, saying it was the result of “repeated pressures and demands” by them and others, but said it fails to go far enough.

While welcoming US-led efforts to dry up terrorist funding, they maintained a hard line that Qatar must meet their list of what they said were “fair and legitimate demands.”

“The quartet affirms that the measures they have taken were motivated by the continuous and diversified activities of the Qatari authorities in supporting, funding and harbouring terrorism and terrorists, as well as promoting hateful and extremist rhetoric and interfering in the internal affairs of states,” they said in a joint statement.

The deal struck between Washington and Doha essentially enhances cooperation between the two countries and falls far short of the sweeping demands made by the Arab quartet for Qatar to change its policy of supporting opposition militants in the region.

The group has mixed its accusations that Qatar supports extremists with demands that it end support for political dissidents that they have branded as terrorists. That broad definition of terrorism is seen as an overreach by Western allies, which do not view groups like the Muslim Brotherhood as terrorist organisations.

Saudi commentators were quick to criticise the result of Tillerson's visit to Qatar.

“What makes Wednesday's meeting in Jeddah difficult is that Tillerson has, since the beginning of the crisis, appeared to be taking the Qatari side,” Abdulrahman al-Rashed, the general manager of the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya satellite news channel, wrote in a column published in the pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat newspaper.

“He has to realise that he will be further complicating an already complex matter and prolonging the crisis,” he added, emphasising that the goal of the four Arab countries is to change Qatar's “agenda.”

Faisal Abbas, editor-in-chief of the Saudi daily Arab News, framed the security agreement signed between the US and Qatar as a win for the quartet, but added that “it is not time to party just yet.”

The squabble among five of its Mideast allies has put the United States in an uncomfortable position and risks complicating the Pentagon's operations in the region.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/international/12-Jul-2017/us-secretary-of-state-tillerson-meets-saudi-king-salman-in-bid-to-end-qatar-rift

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Appeal of Guantanamo conviction hits snag over legal representation

13 July 2017

A former al-Qaeda foot soldier’s appeal of his Guantanamo Bay war crimes conviction stalled on Wednesday as US attorneys clashed over his legal representation in a test of the military tribunal system.

The dispute halted a fact-finding hearing at a military base outside Washington about whether Ibrahim al-Qosi, 57, who reportedly rejoined al-Qaeda after his 2012 release from Guantanamo Bay, was an enemy belligerent.

Qosi, a cook and occasional driver for al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, pleaded guilty in 2010 before a military commission at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. He was transferred to his native Sudan after completing a reduced term.

The head of the Guantanamo legal defense team had appointed two lawyers to appeal his conviction for conspiring with al-Qaeda and providing material support to terrorism to a military appeals court.

The tribunal, the Court of Military Commission Review, had sent the case back to a lower military court to demonstrate whether Qosi actually wanted to appeal and to determine whether he had taken up arms against the United States.

Prosecutors argued on Wednesday that only Suzanne Lachelier, Qosi’s original attorney and one of the lawyers to file the appeal, was empowered to represent him there. Qosi also may not be aware that an appeal was under way, they said.

“A unilateral decision by the defense [to appoint attorneys for Qosi] is not enough to pursue the case,” Air Force Major Charles Dunn told Judge Army Colonel James Pohl.

Defense lawyers said legal rules allowed them to start a case to clear Qosi’s name even though they had had no contact with him.

Pohl said he would ask the appeals court to clarify its March order that Lachelier and her colleague Mary McCormick get Qosi’s assent to act as his attorney.

Lachelier testified on Wednesday that she had an unspecified conflict of interest in the lower court and could not represent Qosi on the question of whether he was an enemy belligerent.

Defense lawyer Michael Schwartz told reporters after the hearing that the delay was to be expected in a military tribunal system set up to try suspected militants outside the normal civilian courts.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2017/07/13/Appeal-of-Guantanamo-conviction-hits-snag-over-legal-representation.html

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Pakistan

 

Pakistan making ‘sure-footed’ progress against terrorism: COAS

13-Jul-17

ISLAMABAD: Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa has said that the country is making steady but sure-footed progress in making Pakistan a terrorism and extremism free country with full backing of the nation.

“Pakistan is much safer than before. Peace has been restored in FATA and adjoining areas. Normalcy is returning to Pakistan’s economic hub of Karachi, where business community and common people have started to benefit from it,” the army chief said while addressing a seminar on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Similarly, he said, law and order situation in Balochistan had improved significantly and there was a much bigger focus on socio-economic development in the province. “Let me assure that the army and law enforcement agencies are vigilant and are determined to provide foolproof security to CPEC. No one should have any doubt about our commitment to the project. We will make CPEC a success... come what may,” the COAS said.

He said that Pakistan was fortunate to have Chinese brothers on her side to assist in surmounting the gigantic challenges facing CPEC.

“Pakistan is a resilient nation of over 200 million people with a large ratio of vibrant, capable and enthusiastic youth. We need to capitalise this opportunity to make Pakistan an economic power in coming years. I want our entrepreneurs to join hands with our Chinese brothers and make this dream a reality. My dream is that by the year 2030, when we complete the current phase of economic partnership between the two countries, Pakistan should be in league with middle income countries.”

The COAS said, “We take immense pride in our relationship with China that has always remained on an ascending trajectory and now encompass almost every sphere of our life. The lasting imprint of this brotherly partnership is visible in state-to-state, military-to-military, business-to-business and people-to-people contacts. Pak-China relationship is based on the principles of peaceful coexistence, commonality of interest and shared perception on regional and global issues. We have always stood by each other through thick and thin and at every critical juncture of our history. That is why we are called ‘Iron Brothers’.”

He said the honourable President of China Xi Jinping’s grand vision of One Belt, One Road (OBOR) had opened up a whole new world of opportunities for the countries of the region and beyond. CPEC, being an important project of OBOR, holds great promise for turning around the economies of Pakistan, Western China and the region, he said. “That is why we consider it a game-changer.”

The COAS said that the CPEC was also affirmation of “our efforts for a peaceful and prosperous region”. “Unlike some countries of South Asia, we believe in focusing our energies on peace and inclusiveness. CPEC is a great initiative for people of the region, particularly the people of Pakistan. It is truly a harbinger of economic development, prosperity and peace. Chinese investment in various fields, including energy, infrastructure, Gwadar Port and special economic zones, could lay the foundation of a fast developing, progressive Pakistan, if the opportunity is optimally utilised.”

He said that the nation could only benefit from this historic opportunity if “we prepare ourselves to embrace it”. All national institutions would have to make a deliberate effort to ensure success of CPEC, he said. “To begin with, we need education, training and skill development of our youth to enable them to reap benefits from this economic initiative.”

He underlined the need to improve the existing laws and regulations to provide a facilitating framework for trade and investment activities. “Infrastructure and urban planning are need of the hour to ensure that the country can handle large volume of business and transport without any hassle.”

He said that the CPEC would bring increasing economic integration between the regional economies on the one hand and reduce the development gap within various regions of Pakistan on the other. “This, however, will require transformation of trade corridors into economic corridors with the help of industrial and urban development, under a unified development framework. We must ensure that the people of Pakistan benefit from CPEC to enjoy the fruits of prosperity. This will require leadership, collaborative spirit and capacity building at a much higher pace and level.”

General Bajwa said that while the army provided security to the project, other national institutions would have to come forward and play their respective roles.

http://dailytimes.com.pk/pakistan/13-Jul-17/pakistan-making-sure-footed-progress-against-terrorism-coas

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4 policemen shot dead in Quetta

Syed Ali Shah

July 13, 2017

At least four policemen were shot dead by unidentified assailants in Quetta's Killi Deba area on Thursday, police said.

The gunmen opened indiscriminate fire at the police mobile while it was patrolling in the area, according to police.

Superintendent of Police (SP) Quaidabad Mubarak Shah was among the four martyred police personnel in what police said was an act of targeted killing.

Police and Frontier Corps (FC) personnel reached the site and started an investigation into the incident.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack as yet.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1345069/4-policemen-shot-dead-in-quetta

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Under-fire Sharif set to consult cabinet, allies

Amir Wasim

July 13, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Amidst growing calls for his resignation, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has convened an emergency meeting of the federal cabinet today (Thursday) to take his ministers and coalition partners into confidence over the situation that has arisen following the release of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) report.

Also on Wednesday, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) continued to highlight “discrepancies” in the JIT’s findings.

Sources said the prime minister is expected to seek an endorsement from the cabinet in the form of a resolution or a declaration, apart from briefing members about the party’s strategy to challenge the JIT report the Supreme Court.

The decision to convene the cabinet was taken during an “informal meeting” at the Prime Minister’s House, attended by members of PM Sharif’s kitchen cabinet and his legal team, including Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf Ali.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and the prime minister’s daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif were also present in the meeting, the third such huddle in as many days. The prime minister’s daughter expressed a similar resolve, tweeting on Wednesday night: “Insh’Allah he won’t resign. Should Nawaz Sharif resign because not a single allegation of misuse of public money has been proven against him?”

Sources said participants in the meeting were dismayed over some of the nasty remarks made by the JIT members about the Sharif family and decided that the lawyers would raise the issue before the Supreme Court, with a request to expunge them from the report.

The JIT, in its report, highlighted that the prime minister was “non-committal” about the two letters furnished before the Supreme Court by the former Qatari prime minister.

Similarly, the JIT members had termed retired Capt Muhammad Safdar, the PM’s son-in-law, “untruthful, dishonest, deceitful and shifty on many accounts displaying wanting conduct”.

The prime minister, sources said, has already nominated Khawaja Harris to represent his family before the Supreme Court and directed him to prepare a point-wise response to the JIT report.

Later, speaking at a press conference, Minister of State for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb and PML-N MNA Daniyal Aziz highlighted some of what they called discrepancies in the JIT report and expressed the hope that the Supreme Court would reject it as “frivolous”.

The minister said no one could snatch the right of the Sharif family to challenge the JIT’s findings, adding that opposition leaders were trying to fool the nation by presenting a “selective analysis” of the report.

Ms Aurangzeb said the JIT members had used the terms like “prima facie”, “seems” and “possibly” etc, which clearly proved that it was a “biased report.”

“In legal terms, this is called naked bias,” she said.

The minister said that questions were being raised as to who had written the 254-page report. Moreover, all the documents attached in the report had been “generated” and not “procured” by the JIT.

MNA Daniyal Aziz later gave a Powerpoint presentation to reporters, highlighting a number of discrepancies in the report.

Mr Aziz said the JIT was taking credit for completing its task within the stipulated 60-day period, whereas it had submitted an “incomplete” report to the Supreme Court since the word “ongoing” had been written in front of Volume X, which had been declared as “secret” and the “most essential” part of the report.

The MNA said that Volume X was related to international correspondence and the documents obtained by the JIT came from foreign countries. He said the power to obtain information from foreign governments had been given to the JIT by the federal cabinet.

Mr Aziz asked that if Volume X was “secret”, how come documents from UAE authorities had been “leaked.” He also claimed that the document had not been verified and attested by the UAE Embassy, which was a must before using it as evidence in court.

He claimed that the JIT had submitted its report without waiting for a response to 80pc of the queries it had sent to various countries, including the UAE, the UK and Saudi Arabia.

“That 80pc is the most essential part of the report, and is empty. Those demanding the PM’s resignation should read the report first,” he said.

Mr Aziz then mentioned a page where JIT members had highlighted three possibilities: “What kind of investigation is this?” he asked, saying that even a newly-appointed assistant sub-inspector could do a better job.

The MNA also claimed that the JIT report had not addressed the core issue regarding the ownership of the London flats before 2006.

He also denied that the prime minister owned any offshore company, as claimed by the JIT report.

Responding to a question, Ms Aurangzeb refuted reports that there were divisions within the PML-N over the issue of the prime minister’s resignation and that Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan was in favour of the PM stepping down.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1345012/under-fire-sharif-set-to-consult-cabinet-allies

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Asma Jahangir denies reports of joining PML-N legal team in Panama Papers case

July 13, 2017

Human rights lawyer and activist Asma Jahangir on Thursday denied reports that she will be joining the PML-N's legal team which will represent the Sharif family before the Supreme Court as hearing of the Panama Papers case resumes on Monday.

"Neither has the Prime Minister's House contacted me to take their case nor is it my field of law to accept such a case," Jehangir wrote on Twitter, dismissing media reports of her involvement in the case as "false" that had begun circulating on Wednesday evening.

An apex bench is scheduled to resume hearing the case on Monday a week after the Supreme Court-mandated joint investigation team (JIT) which had been probing allegations of money laundering against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family submitted an explosive report before the apex court.

In the damning report, the JIT stated that the prime minister and his children had accumulated wealth beyond their known sources of income.

It also declared that PM Sharif's sons Hussain and Hassan Nawaz were used as proxies to build family assets.

Further, the report highlighted "irregular" movements of large sums of money from companies owned by the Sharif family in the UK, UAE and Saudi Arabia to their companies in Pakistan.

In a section titled "Ownership of Avenfield Apartments", the report stated that the prime minister's sons, his daughter, Maryam Nawaz and his son-in-law, Capt Muhammad Safdar tried to mislead and manipulate the SC through a series of fake documents submitted or signed by the defendants.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1345064/asma-jahangir-denies-reports-of-joining-pml-n-legal-team-in-panama-papers-case

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Army chief calls for open debate on CPEC

July 13, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa wants civilian institutions to step up to the plate and fully benefit from the opportunities coming the country’s way because of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and called for an open debate on various aspects of the project.

In his keynote speech at a seminar organised by the National Logistics Cell on CPEC Logistics on Wednesday, Gen Bajwa said people must benefit from the CPEC for which “leadership, collaborative spirit and capacity building at a much higher pace and level” would be required.

The army chief then said that while the Army provided security to the project, “other national institutions will have to come forward and play their respective roles”.

He twice underscored the need for the “national institutions” to play their role for optimally benefiting from the opportunity provided by the CPEC. “We as a nation can only benefit from this historic opportunity if we prepare ourselves to embrace it. All national institutions will have to make a deliberate effort to ensure success of the CPEC,” he noted in his speech.

The CPEC projects, both Chinese and Pakistani officials say, are progressing well, but on several occasions officials in private discussions point to problems in the execution of the multi-billion dollar infrastructure and connectivity project, which is seen here as a game-changer.

Gen Bajwa, listing some of the areas that required the government’s attention, said greater focus was needed on education, training and skill development of the youth; improvement in existing laws and regulations for facilitating trade and investment and infrastructure development. Emphasising the need for a “unified development framework”, he said, industrial and urban development was needed for transforming “the trade corridors into economic corridors”.

Analysts believe the project is being weighed down by coordination between federal and provincial governments, lack of clarity about projects and transparency issues.

The army chief called for a fuller and open debate on “all aspects of CPEC” so that policies best suited for the country could be framed.

Such a call for open debate on the CPEC is unprecedented, analysts say.

Improved security

Noting that the military was up to the job of providing security, Gen Bajwa said: “We are making steady but sure-footed progress in making Pakistan a terrorism and extremism-free country”.

He maintained “Pakistan is much safer than before. Peace has been restored in Fata and adjoining areas. Normalcy is returning to Pakistan’s economic hub of Karachi… Similarly, the law and order situation in Balochistan has improved.”

Reaffirming the commitment to the CPEC, he said, “Army and law enforcement agencies are vigilant and are determined to providing foolproof security to the CPEC. No one should have any doubt about our commitment to the project.”

Besides talking about the needs for reforms within the country, the general used the occasion to take a jibe at India for pursuing a divisive agenda.

“CPEC is also affirmation of our efforts for a peaceful and prosperous region. Unlike some countries of South Asia, we believe in focusing our energies on peace and inclusiveness, rather than divisive competition.”

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1345004/army-chief-calls-for-open-debate-on-cpec

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Africa

 

Militants find sanctuary in Libya’s wild south

13 July 2017

BENGHAZI: A series of military victories over extremist Islamic groups along Libya’s Mediterranean coastline has forced hundreds of militants, including Islamic State fighters, to seek refuge in the vast deserts of the North African nation, already home to militias from neighboring countries, cross-border criminal gangs and mercenaries.

Libya’s lawless, desolate center and south provides a sanctuary for militants to reorganize, recruit, train and potentially plot for a comeback. That is especially important at a time when the Daesh group lost not only its urban holdings in Libya but is crumbling in Iraq and Syria.

In Libya’s remote stretches near the borders with Egypt, Sudan, Chad, Algeria, Niger and Tunisia, multiple armed groups already operate freely. Arms are easily available. Human trafficking and cross-border smuggling, especially fuel, are rampant and lucrative.

Lack of effective border controls has allowed militiamen fighting the Sudanese and Chadian governments to set up camp inside Libya. Alongside them came soldiers-for-hire from places as far afield as Cameroon. Tribal and ethnic rivalries frequently boil over into deadly strife.

Militants “travel back and forth near the southern borders and all the way to the central parts of the country, robbing traveling cars and attacking civilians,” said Brig. Gen. Abdullah Nouredeen of the Libyan National Army. “They sometimes work close to the borders since there is money to be made from smuggling and arms trading.”

The migration of the militants comes after rivals drove them out of coastal cities like Sirte, Benghazi, Sebratha and Derna. Their dispersion into the desert undermines prospects for a return of stability in oil-rich Libya.

Claudia Gazzini, the International Crisis Group’s senior Libya analyst, said IS militants were generally lying low in the desert south of the coastline, moving in small convoys so as not to attract attention or just going home. Others, she explained, were active around Sirte, staging occasional attacks against their adversaries.

Going forward, she said, IS remnants will likely try to influence and win over groups opposed to Gen. Khalifa Hifter, the Egyptian-backed commander of Libya’s national army who has been fighting militants.

“We are already seeing signs that this may have already happened,” she said.

Sensing danger, Egypt has begun to closely monitor its borders with Sudan and Libya, fearing the area could turn into a major staging ground for attacks inside its territory. Egypt has said IS militants fighting its security forces in the Sinai Peninsula receive arms and fighters from Libya. It said militants behind recent deadly attacks against Christians were trained in Libya and sneaked into Egypt across the porous desert border.

Like the rest of Libya, the desert towns and villages in the country’s central and southern regions have seen law and order vanish since the 2011 ouster and death of dictator Muammar Qaddafi. Across the country, militias — many of them with Islamist ideologies — have carved out fiefdoms, imposing their will on local administrations.

Some estimates put the number of full-time militiamen in Libya at around 120,000 and IS fighters around 1,000, but there is no way to independently verify these figures.

Gen. Hifter has sought to drive out Islamic militants and bring the center and south under his control — but with limited success. He said he intends to seal off Libya’s borders with Egypt, Sudan and Chad by early July to stop the flow of arms, fighters and migrants.

It is widely believed, however, that his forces don’t have the resources to enforce order in the vast region or take on the hardened militants and militiamen there.

In a sign of desperation over deteriorating security, Libya’s national oil company halted shipments to the south, after a series of hijackings of convoys delivering fuel. Invariably, the fuel surfaced later in the black market or in neighboring countries. The following are key geographical locations for the militants and armed groups:

ZAMZAM VALLEY:

Zamzam Valley is south of Misrata about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the coast. Scores of IS militants found refuge there after they were defeated last year by militiamen loyal to the UN-backed government in Tripoli after a months-long battle. IS fighters in Zamzam Valley occasionally launch attacks against Misrata, the hometown of the militia that drove them out of Sirte, as well as kidnap travelers or attacks checkpoints.

AL-AWAYNAT:

This location in the remote southwestern corner of Libya close to the borders of Algeria and Niger has become something of a “mercenaries central” because of the hundreds of guns-for hire stationed there. The men, mostly from Chad, Niger and Cameroon, are hired mostly to fight under the banners of different militias. They make an average of $2,000 a month when hired. Militias and criminal groups in Al-Awaynat, meanwhile, make money from human trafficking, kidnappings for ransom and smuggling of weapons, drugs and fuel.

AL-KUFRA:

Small cells of IS and Al-Qaeda fighters are believed to have moved to the outskirts of this oasis city in southeast Libya in recent months. Al-Kufra has for decades been torn by a deadly conflict pitting the Arab Alzway tribes against the sub-Saharan African Tabu group, which inhabits a large swath of territory stretching across northern Chad, southern Libya, northwestern Sudan and northeastern Niger.

Alzway dominate the city and accuse the Tabu of harboring criminals and militants from Sudan and Chad. The Tabu deny the charges. Militias from both sides are involved in tit-for-tat raids that often target civilians. The conflict is widely seen as a rivalry over control of border crossings and lucrative smuggling routes.

Two brigades from Hifter’s Libyan National Army are stationed at Al-Kufra, but they don’t have the manpower or resources to enforce law and order in the vast desert area.

SABHA:

Most of the hundreds of militants who managed to flee the assault on Sirte last year are thought to have made it near this town in central Libya.

It was a perfect destination. The city is virtually out of control, with several ongoing conflicts. The main players are Awlad Suleiman, an ethnically Arab tribe, and the Tabu and Twareg, all of whom have for years been vying for a bigger slice of the smuggling trade.

Anti-government militiamen from Sudan and Chad provide a pool of mercenaries for any armed group. They are also involved in cross-border arms smuggling, according to local politician Youssef Kalourki.

IS fighters in the area keep a low profile, spending most of their time in valleys and mountains outside the city.

In May, forces loyal to Hifter seized a nearby air base and several localities. It was a significant victory, but Hifter’s forces remain a long way away from controlling the region.

UBARI:

This town southwest of Sabha saw fierce fighting among rival criminal gangs in 2015 that displaced almost the entire population. The hostilities were triggered by an attempt by several militias to control the black market in subsidized fuel provided by the Tripoli government.

Radical militant groups in the area, including Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, are known to be involved in the illicit trade, selling the fuel in neighboring countries for at least 10 times the price in Libya.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1128756/middle-east

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Sudan’s Bashir suspends sanctions talks with US

12 July 2017

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on Wednesday suspended negotiations with the United States on ending decades-old sanctions against Khartoum after Washington extended the embargo by three months, state media reported.

“President of the republic Omar al-Bashir issued a presidential decree ordering the suspension of the committee that was negotiating with the United States” over the lifting of sanctions, the official news agency SUNA reported quoting a presidential decree issued by Bashir.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/07/12/Sudan-s-Bashir-suspends-sanctions-talks-with-US.html

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Multiple bomb attacks kill 19 in northeastern Nigeria

Jul 12, 2017

The Nigerian police say multiple bomb attacks have claimed the lives of at least 19 people and wounded about two dozen others in the country’s troubled northeast.

Police said on Wednesday that the deadly attacks were carried out in the city of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, on Tuesday night.

Borno state police commissioner Damian Chukwu said 12 of the dead were members of a civilian self-defense force and the other seven were killed when they gathered to mourn them. At least 23 others were wounded in the fatal attack, he added.

Danbatta Bello, a spokesman for the self-defense force, said at least one of the bombers was female. He said the bombers specifically targeted his colleagues while they were on duty.

"A teenage female suicide bomber actually crept to the sandbag post of our boys at Molai and before they could realize what was happening she detonated herself and killed three of our boys," the Associated Press quoted Bello said as saying.

"That happened simultaneously with the one that occurred at the tea vendor's, where seven of our members who took their time off to eat their dinner were killed," he said.

Media reports said mourning residents were preparing the bodies of the victims for burial.

No group has so far claimed responsibility for the latest attacks but they have the hallmark of the Boko Haram Takfiri terrorist group, as it in the past employed radicalized women on multiple occasions to conduct bombings against people or army troops.

In recent weeks, a number of bomb attacks by suspected members of Boko Haram have taken place in the capital of Borno state and its environs.

In December 2016, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who came to power in 2015 with a pledge to eradicate Boko Haram, announced that the army had “crushed” the terror group a day earlier by retaking its last key bastion, deep inside the thick Sambisa Forest in Borno.

The group has, however, resorted to sporadic shooting attacks and bombings in the northeast of the African country, spreading panic among local residents.

Boko Haram has killed more than 20,000 people and abducted thousands of others.

Northeastern Nigeria is part of what the United Nations has called the world's largest humanitarian crisis in more than 70 years, with the World Food Program estimating that more than 4.5 million people in the region need emergency food assistance.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/07/12/528247/Nigeria-Maiduguri-Borno-Boko-Haram

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