New Age Islam
Tue Aug 11 2020, 11:51 PM

Islamic World News ( 8 Jun 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Zakir Naik Photo Campaign to Establish Contact with New Power in Putrajaya
















A collection of pictures shared in one social media group to show Zakir Naik’s rapport with leaders from the present government.

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Zakir Naik Photo Campaign to Establish Contact with New Power in Putrajaya

Hafiz Aide Asks Muslims to Wage 'Jihad' During Ramzan, Says 'Flag of Islam Will Be Hoisted In India and US'

Imam and Khateeb of the Grand Mosque Calls for Measures to Counter Anti-Islam Campaign

Punjab: Sikhs, Hindus Make Iftar Feast Special for Muslims

Afghan Taliban Announce Surprise Three-Day Eid Ceasefire

 

Southeast Asia

Zakir Naik Photo Campaign to Establish Contact with New Power in Putrajaya

Sabah Govt to Help Build Places Of Worship For Non-Muslims

Philippines eyes greater regulation of Islamic schools

Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines to Hunt down Islamic State in Joint Ground Patrols

Indonesia's Christian minority a prime target for radicals

AGC says already has division to address shariah law issues

Indonesia, four others elected to UN Security Council

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Pakistan

Hafiz Aide Asks Muslims to Wage 'Jihad' During Ramzan, Says 'Flag of Islam Will Be Hoisted In India and US'

General Elections: Hafiz Saeed Not to Contest, JuD to Run for Over 200 Seats

Muslim States Urged To Resolve Issues through Talks

Pakistan interim PM Nasir-ul-Mulk reviews FATF requirements on terror financing

Pakistan, Iran should jointly work to resolve Palestine issue: Envoy

Rabbani, Shah assail court nod to Musharraf’s election bid

Christians told to build church out of village in Faisalabad

US asks Pakistan to facilitate Afghan-Taliban peace talks

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Arab World

Imam and Khateeb of the Grand Mosque Calls for Measures to Counter Anti-Islam Campaign

Church Groups in UAE Organize Iftar Parties

Iraq's Christians, Muslims agree to revive site of ancient church

Nasrallah: Even the whole world cannot evict Hezbollah from Syria

IS attacks kill 22 pro-regime fighters in south Syria: monitor

ISIS kidnaps at least 10 jihadist rebels after ambush in Idlib

Air strikes kill at least 44 overnight in Syria’s Idlib

Saudi, UAE seeking to unseat Bahraini PM: Report

Lebanon FM orders to block visa for UNHCR staff amid Syria refugee row

Saudi's potential attack on Yemen's port of Hudaydah may kill 250,000, UN says

Iraqi Sources: twin explosions kill seven in the northern city of Kirkuk

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India

Punjab: Sikhs, Hindus Make Iftar Feast Special for Muslims

Hurriyat Leaders See NIA Probe as Hurdle In Talks Between Centre, Separatists

Fatehpur Sikri celebrates the 448th Urs of Sufi saint Sheikh Salim Chishti

Centre Asks States Not To Give Any Documents to Rohingyas

Rajnath Singh promises to bring lasting peace in J&K

North India’s First Mosque Going Strong after 999 Years

Will bring Jharkhand Muslims into Hindu fold: Tapan Ghosh

At Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid on Last Friday of Ramzan — And Ceasefire

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South Asia

Afghan Taliban Announce Surprise Three-Day Eid Ceasefire

Pakistanis among 15 Taliban Militants Killed In NDS Operation in Nangarhar

US military operations against Daesh in Afghanistan to intensify

Australian commandos accused of Afghan war crimes

Religious cleric among 4 dead, 13 wounded in Laghman explosion

Attack on Herat mosque leaves at least 9 dead, wounded

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Europe

Austria Closes 7 Mosques and Seeks to Expel Imams Paid by Turkey

Strangers Break Bread At Ramadan Tent In London Park

Inter-Faith Iftar at Islamic Center of Long Island

Linking religion, alleged crimes feeds Islamophobia

Indonesia wins UN council seat along with Germany, Belgium

Union in UK backs call for probe into Tory Islamophobia

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Mideast

Anti-Israel Marches in Iraq, Iran In Solidarity With Palestine To Mark ‘Al Quds Day’

Houthis shut down Hajj and Umrah agencies in Yemen, target owners

Al-Quds Day protests reject relocation of US Embassy to Jerusalem

Emergency UN General Assembly meeting on Gaza called for Wednesday

Basij Commander: US Strategic Mistake on Quds Further Unites Muslims

Three Palestinians killed by Israeli fire in fresh Gaza border clashes

Israel army on high alert ahead of ‘Jerusalem Day’ in West Bank, Gaza

Increased resistance against Houthis in Hodeidah as joint Yemeni forces advance

Arab Coalition in Yemen condemns Houthi threat on civilians’, aid workers’ lives

Palestinians’ presence in al-Quds best policy to foil Israel plot: Nasrallah

Iran faces new threat as Kurdish jihadis join IS in Afghanistan

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North America

Trump White House under Fire For Lack Of Muslim-American Representation at Ramadan Celebration

US, Pakistan Working To Jump-Start Afghan Peace Process

In first, Iran admits to facilitating passage of al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attackers

US military operations against ISIS in Afghanistan to intensify

Leading obstetricians, gynecologists call on Canada to help Rohingya victims of rape

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Africa

Cleric Urges Muslims to Give Zakatil-Fitr to Poor, Needy

Kigali Marriott staff share Iftar with Muslim community in Nyamirambo

Suspected jihadists kill 5 in north Mozambique

American Soldier Killed, Four Injured by al-Shabaab Fighters in Somalia

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/zakir-naik-photo-campaign-to-establish-contact-with-new-power-in-putrajaya/d/115498

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Zakir Naik Photo Campaign To Establish Contact With New Power In Putrajaya

June 9, 2018

PETALING JAYA: Pictures of Dr Zakir Naik in past meetings with key leaders of Pakatan Harapan have been making the rounds in some closed Islamic social media circles, in what is believed to be a “public relations” campaign by followers of the embattled preacher to improve ties with the new powers in Putrajaya.

Reliable sources who have previously spoken to FMT on Naik’s attempts to restart his Islamic propagation outfit in Malaysia, said supporters were also happy that the Indian Muslim preacher managed to greet Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad at the Putrajaya mosque yesterday, hoping that it would be the first in a series of gestures to establish contacts with key decision makers in Putrajaya.

“Naik has always moved within powerful circles, whether in Malaysia or abroad. This modus operandi of his has so far ensured him refuge from attempts to have him deported to India,” the source told FMT under conditions of strict anonymity.

Naik has been almost a permanent feature at the Putrajaya mosque every week, where government ministers and key officials attend their Friday prayers.

His “meeting” with Mahathir yesterday was brief, and there was visibly no affection exchanged between the two.

This was unlike his meeting in February with then home minister and deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, when the two men hugged like old friends, touching their chins.

Naik is wanted in India over accusations of money laundering and the spread of extremism, charges that Naik has strongly rejected.

Authorities there as well as in Bangladesh have also closed down his Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) and his missionary satellite channel PeaceTV.

A source close to Naik’s inner circles in Malaysia said his modus operandi to image-build has always been “top-to-bottom”, through making contacts with people in power to strengthen his base.

A closed social media group sighted by FMT showed photographs of Naik with top PH leaders being shared.

“This (picture) was clicked when Anwar Ibrahim was invited by us as a Chief Guest for the Closing Ceremony of the Peace Conference held in Mumbai, India in Dec 2007,” says one message accompanied by a photo of Naik with prime minister-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim.

Indian police never had a chance to question Naik. He has carefully evaded them, flying to and from Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Through his close ties with top Umno leaders and a coterie of local Muslim scholars alligned to Naik’s brand of Salafi Islam, Naik felt safe in Malaysia, with efforts underway to restart his lecture activities as well as PeaceTV.

“Whether or not the PR campaign by Naik’s followers will succeed, remains to be seen. But it will likely not sit well with government supporters including Pakatan Harapan’s partner Hindraf,” the same source told FMT.

Naik’s speeches on “comparative studies” angered non-Muslim groups in Malaysia, as they did in his home country.

Hindu pressure group Hindraf and several other civil society groups had taken the previous government to court, accusing it of “harbouring” Naik by giving him permanent resident status.

But in February, the suit was thrown out by the High Court, allowing Naik to remain in the country without any immediate threats of deportation.

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2018/06/09/zakir-naik-photo-campaign-to-establish-contact-with-new-power-in-putrajaya/

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Hafiz Aide Asks Muslims to Wage 'Jihad' During Ramzan, Says 'Flag Of Islam Will Be Hoisted In India And US'

June 9, 2018

Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a front outfit of the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), has provoked the Muslims to wage 'Jihad' (holy war) during the holy month of Ramzan.

Maulana Bashir Ahmad Khaki, a senior JuD functionary while speaking at Friday sermon in Rawalakot city of Poonch district, Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), said, "Ramadan is the pious month of 'Jihad-o-Qital' (Jihad and killing). Those who attain martyrdom while waging Jihad, doors of heaven remain open". "JuD cadres are still waging Jihad in Kashmir and fighting with Indian forces in Kashmir. They are waging Jihad for freedom of Kashmir and destruction of India. Urged participants to raise flag of 'Jihad' against infidels," he added. Lashkar-e-Taiba is responsible for sending its terrorists to Kashmir valley and creating mayhem.

Maulana Bashir also requested the people in PoK to allow their sons to join for Jihad. " I Appeal participants to donate generously (wheat, ration and cash) during the month of 'Ramadan' to JuD and for 'Mujahideen' waging Jihad. I also urge women to donate their sons and cash for 'Mujahideen' who were waging 'Jihad' in Kashmir," he said.

Calling himself a messenger of LeT chief Hafiz Saeed, Maulana Bashir said, "Flag of Islam will be hoisted in India and America. Modi (Indian Prime Minister) will be killed. India and Israel will get disintegrated as more and more martyrs will be produced."

http://www.dnaindia.com/world/report-hafiz-aide-asks-muslims-to-wage-jihad-during-ramzan-says-flag-of-islam-will-be-hoisted-in-india-and-us-2623199

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Imam and Khateeb of the Grand Mosque Calls for Measures to Counter Anti-Islam Campaign

June 9, 2018

MILLIONS of Muslim faithful braved sizzling sun and sultry weather on Friday to offer noon prayers in the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah as authorities took all steps to provide ease and comfort to them in what could be the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan this year.

In their sermons, the imams urged Muslims to make the best use of the remaining days of Ramadan to compensate for what they have missed till now.

They said Muslims still have a chance to compensate for wasting the first two thirds of Ramadan, Saudi Press Agency quoted the imams as saying.

The imams also urged Muslims to give Zakat Al-Fitr toward the end of the month.

Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, imam and khateeb of the Grand Mosque, stressed that during the last ten days of Ramadan a Muslim must recall the noble deeds he has missed. He said there was still a chance for those who have wasted the first two thirds of Ramadan.

According to the guidance of the Prophet (peace be upon him), a Muslim must work harder in doing good deeds during the last ten days of Ramadan than at any other time of the year.

He mentioned the story of one of the Prophet’s companions, who saw a dream that the Night of Power (Laylat Al-Qadr) falls in the last seven days of Ramadan, so the Prophet (peace be upon him) urged the companions to seek this night during the last seven days.

Al-Sudais called on writers, columnists and journalists to formulate a professional code of ethics to protect Islamic principles, values and virtues and repulse the vitriolic and malicious campaigns against Muslims and their peaceful religion.

Islam, he said, is the religion of moderation and combats extremism and terrorism. “Terror acts are not linked to any religion, culture or nation,” he said.

Al-Sudais exhorted the faithful not to fail in paying up Zakat Al-Fitr before Eid prayers as this charity compensates for the human lapses during the month of fasting.

He urged Muslims not to incline toward life of this world when they have tasted the sweetness of obedience and submission to Allah Almighty. Whoever inclines toward life in this world, will get ruined, he said adding that persevering and continuing on the path of Allah and staying right are signs of acceptance of one’s good deeds.

In his sermon at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, Sheikh Ali Abdulrahman Al-Hudhaifi said Muslims can have true happiness through introspection and working hard in doing good deeds so as to increase the rewards from Allah Almighty and keeping away from sins.

He said loss and despair is in following one’s whims, giving up doing good deeds and indulging in deeds that nullify a person’s righteous deeds.

Al-Hudhaifi said: “Reciting the Holy Qur’an in the holy month of Ramadan has a strong impact on one’s soul; guides it to all good and keeps it away from all evil.”

Speaking on the Night of Power, he said deeds are judged by one’s final deeds and the Night of Power can still be sought. He added that with Allah’s mercy, forgiveness and magnanimity, sins are forgiven.

Al-Hudhaifi stressed: “None can reform the Muslims and improve their conditions without adhering to the Holy Qur’an and the Prophet’s Sunnah. If all wise men of the world come together to solve a worldly problem, they will not be able to find a solution unless they refer and revert to the Holy Qur’an.”

Speaking on Zakat Al-Fitr, he said: “It is permissible to pay Zakat Al-Fitr one or two days before Eid. Zakat Al-Fitr purifies the Muslim’s fasting from shortcomings.”

All the courtyards, floors and plazas of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque were full to the capacity.

Security arrangements at the Two Holy Mosques was exemplary. The crowd movement in and out of the mosques was smooth and properly organized.

http://saudigazette.com.sa/article/536582/SAUDI-ARABIA/Sudais-calls-for-measures-to-counter-anti-Islam-campaign

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Punjab: Sikhs, Hindus make Iftar feast special for Muslims

Shariq Majeed

Jun 8, 2018

GALIB RANSINGH (JAGRAON): Iftar during Ramzan has always been special for members of the Muslim community at two villages in Jagraon as Sikh and Hindu villagers are the ones who get them eatables during these days to break the fast.

Members of these communities at Galib Ransingh and Nathowal villages say they don’t do anything special, but just try to live up to the spirit of Punjabiyat.

"Since my childhood, I have seen Sikhs and Hindus in the village getting eatables for Muslim brothers for Iftar. In fact many of us have been joining the Muslim brothers for breaking the fast during Ramzan. Our Sikh and Hindu brothers bring fruits like bananas, mangoes, water melon and pakoras, samosas and sherbet. We feel proud of our values which give equal importance to every human being irrespective of their religion," said Navjot Singh of Galib Ransingh village, who is into vehicle business and has many Muslim friends.

He said Muslims also participate in festivals of other communities with equal warmth and vigour.

The Muslim community members say that they feel touched by this gesture by the members of other communities.

"Out of 40 to 50 persons who attend Iftar at Hazrat Abu Bakkar Masjid, around 20 are from Sikh community and 10 are Hindus. Not only they bring fruits, pakoras for the Iftar, they also have those with us. I have been seeing this happening since I was a kid and I really feel proud of it," said Muhammad Rafi, who owns a marriage palace. "Children from other communities even come to see us during Tarawi (Ramzan prayers) and feel happy and blessed," he added. Galib Ransingh village has 125 Muslims and Hindus each and 1,500 Sikhs.

Similar is the case in Nathowal village, around 30 kms from this village, where Sikhs and Hindus had come forward for repair and renovation of mosque some years back.

"It is in our village culture that we celebrate festivals of various religions together. During Ramzan, villagers irrespective of their religion bring dates, fruits, cooked vegetables, kheer, sherbet, lassi for Muslims and we have those at Iftar. The scene at that time is worth seeing as Sikh and Hindu brothers sit with us and have eatables," said 47-year-old Mansa Khan, who owns a welding shop in Raikot.

“We also cook biryani on many days during Ramzan and our Sikh and Hindu brothers help us cook the same." He added that these gestures of our brothers ensure that our bond stays stronger.

Nathowal has a population of 5,000 of which around 350 people belong to Muslim community, 50 are Hindus while the rest are Sikhs.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chandigarh/punjab-sikhs-hindus-make-iftar-feast-special-for-muslims/articleshow/64513633.cms

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Afghan Taliban announce surprise three-day Eid ceasefire

Jun 9, 2018

KABUL: The Afghan Taliban on Saturday announced a three-day ceasefire over the Eid holiday at the end of this week, their first offer of its kind, following a ceasefire announced by the government on Thursday.

The militants said foreign forces would be excluded from the ceasefire and that operations against them would continue. They also said they would defend themselves against any attack.

"In three days, maybe the unity of Taliban insurgents will be put to test," a European diplomat told Reuters. "If different factions don't accept the ceasefire, then attacks will continue."

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced an unconditional ceasefire with the Taliban on Thursday, until June 20, coinciding with the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramzan, but excluding other militant groups, such as Islamic State.

Ghani's decision came after a meeting of Islamic clerics declared a fatwa, or ruling, against suicide bombings, one of which, claimed by Islamic State, killed 14 people at the entrance to the clerics' peace tent in Kabul.

The clerics also recommended a ceasefire with the Taliban, who are seeking to reimpose strict Islamic law after their ouster in 2001, and Ghani endorsed the recommendation, saying it would last until June 20.

It was not immediately clear when the Taliban ceasefire would begin, as Eid starts when the moon is first sighted on either the 29th or 30th day of Ramadan, and the moon appears at different times across the country.

Ghani has urged ceasefires with the Taliban before, but this was the first unconditional offer since he was elected in 2014.

In August, U.S. President Donald Trump unveiled a more hawkish military approach to Afghanistan, including a surge in air strikes, aimed at forcing the Taliban to the negotiating table.

Afghan security forces say the impact has been significant, but the Taliban roam huge swaths of the country and, with foreign troop levels of about 15,600, down from 140,000 in 2014, there appears little hope of outright victory.

The Taliban's surprise announcement comes as Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are due to sit down to a summit in Singapore on Tuesday, something few people would have predicted just months ago when threats between the two sides were at their most bellicose.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/afghan-taliban-announce-surprise-three-day-eid-ceasefire/articleshow/64516956.cms

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Southeast Asia

 

Sabah govt to help build places of worship for non-Muslims

Jun 08, 2018

By Natasha Joibi

The state government will keep its word and help non-Muslim communities develop places of worship, says Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal.

The Sabah Chief Minister said he had held discussions with religious leaders to understand their aspirations and expectations of the new leadership.

“I give my assurance that we will help build more churches.

“We will also give allowances to pastors if the state’s finances allow for it,” said Shafie at the Sabah Cultural Centre in Penampang on May 26.

He was invited by United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation (Upko) to open the party’s extraordinary delegates’ conference.

Upko acting president Datuk Seri Madius Tangau, who is also Deputy Chief Minister, said the delegates were supportive of its supreme council’s decision to withdraw from Sabah Barisan Nasional on May 10.

Noting that Upko had been subjected to heavy criticism following the decision, Madius said it was made based on principles and in accordance with the people’s resounding call for change.

He thanked Shafie for giving Upko the opportunity to form the state government with Parti Warisan Sabah and its partners, PKR and DAP.

Sabah Barisan and the Warisan- PKR-DAP coalition were tied with 29 seats each in a hung assembly following the May 9 general election.

Tan Sri Musa Aman was sworn in as Chief Minister on May 10 after Sabah STAR threw its support behind Sabah Barisan to give the coalition a 31-seat majority in the 60-member state assembly.

But Musa lost his majority the next day when six assemblymen from Upko and Umno declared their support for the Warisan-led coalition.

With the defections, Shafie secured a 35-seat majority. He was sworn in as the new Chief Minister on May 12.

But Musa refused to step down and later went missing after a police report was lodged against him over an alleged threat against Yang di- Pertua Negeri Tun Juhar Mahiruddin. -- The Star

http://www.heraldmalaysia.com/news/sabah-govt-to-help-build-places-of-worship-for-non-muslims/42700/5

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Philippines eyes greater regulation of Islamic schools

Jun 3, 2018

SINGAPORE (AP) — The Philippine defense secretary said Sunday that authorities there will standardize teaching in both public and private Islamic schools in the wake of a militant siege last year that raised fears of greater radicalization in the country. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the Philippines will implement an "institutionalized madrassa system" with standard curriculum and greater oversight from the Department of Education.

Lorenzana said some such schools were found to be run by people with extremist beliefs, making them funnels for the discreet funding of radical activities.

Lorenzana was addressing a security conference in Singapore attended by U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, defense officials and academics from 43 countries.

He added that the results of patrols targeting Islamic militants in the Sulu Sea were encouraging. Since last June, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia have been patrolling an area bounded by Sabah and the southern Philippines, where militants intended to establish a caliphate.

Full report at:

https://www.heraldextra.com/news/world/philippines-eyes-greater-regulation-of-islamic-schools/article_f2c0d0a9-508d-5b04-b975-09d1db8dbf91.html

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Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines To Hunt Down Islamic State In Joint Ground Patrols

June 9, 2018

Indonesia will deploy soldiers to hunt down pro-Islamic State militants for the first time in a joint ground patrol with Malaysia and the Philippines, Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said Friday.

Ryamizard first divulged the joint ground patrol aimed at curbing the spread of IS in the region during a speech last weekend at the Shangri-La Dialogue, a meeting in Singapore attended by Southeast Asian and other world leaders.

He said the three neighboring nations had already established trilateral air and maritime patrols in the Sulu Sea but would step up and elevate their cooperation through the joint operation of land forces on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao “two months from now.”

“The aim of this joint operation is to locate ISIS in the southern Philippines and stop it from spreading,” he said, using the other acronym for IS.

On Friday, Ryamizard confirmed that the expansion of the existing trilateral patrol mechanism would take place. He said Malaysia and the Philippines had agreed.

“I planned it. The implementation is after Eid,” he told reporters after a ceremony at the Defense Ministry in Jakarta.

At a bilateral meeting with his Malaysian counterpart Mohamad Sabu on June 9 in Singapore, Ryamizard said the training exercise “at a company level” would focus on “anti-guerrilla warfare, urban warfare and how to tackle snipers.”

A company is a military unit that usually consists of 80 to 150 soldiers and often commanded by a major or a captain.

Ryamizard told Mohamad that the militants in southern Philippines were skilled marksmen and it was necessary for the three countries to equip their forces with better rifles.

The three nations began trilateral patrols in June last year after pro-IS militants launched a siege in the southern Philippine city of Marawi. Five months of vicious fighting ended in October and killed at least 1,200 people, mostly militants, including the acknowledged Philippine IS leader Isnilon Hapilon.

The Marawi fighting emboldened other Southeast Asian terror cells aligned with the Syria- and Iraq-based IS, according to analysts.

Among the 31,500 foreign fighters who had joined IS in Syria, about 800 came from Asia, including 400 from Indonesia, the largest Muslim-majority country, Ryamizard said on June 2, citing intelligence data from his government.

Ryamizard talked about the joint plans to curb the spread of IS in the southern Philippines as his own country grappled with a string of terror attack in recent weeks, including bombings that targeted three churches and killed 51 people, including 13 civilians, seven police and 31 suspects.

Indonesia, a nation of 262 million people, faces a resurgence of extremist attacks as security analysts warned that dozens of its citizens would return home after fighting for IS in the Middle East.

“Maritime patrols have been already implemented, the air patrols too, even though mostly through drones, but it is the same. But not the land patrols yet, even though the combined land forces exercise is very important,” Ryamizard said.

Malaysia’s Sabah state is a short boat ride from islands in the Philippines’ Mindanao region, where pro-IS Muslim guerrillas and other armed Muslim groups operate. The waters between the two countries are extremely porous and analysts said the three nations shared coastal borders that have long been used for smuggling routes.

To involve elite forces

Indonesia’s Defense Ministry spokesman, Brig. Gen. Totok Sugiharto, told BenarNews that the exercise would involve the three forces from the Indonesian National Army (TNI).

“This is also a continuation of the collaboration of the intelligence sharing strategy ‘Our Eyes’ which was launched earlier,” he said, referring to sub-regional cooperation with Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand launched earlier this year in Bali, Indonesia.

Full report at:

https://www.eurasiareview.com/09062018-indonesia-malaysia-philippines-to-hunt-down-islamic-state-in-joint-ground-patrols/

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Indonesia's Christian minority a prime target for radicals

June 8, 2018

Indonesia was hit by a series of suicide attacks against three churches and the central police station in Surabaya, the country's second-largest city on May 13-14.

In this interview conducted by Marianne Dardard from Eglises d'Asie, Indonesia specialist Delphine Alles, a researcher in Jakarta for the Research Institute on Contemporary Southeast Asia (IRASEC) and a lecturer in political science at the Universite Paris-est Creteil, explains the situation facing the nation's Christian minority.

Dardard: The Surabaya attacks are the deadliest (27 deaths, including 13 terrorists) since the 2002 attacks in Bali (202 dead), which were the bloodiest in the country's history. What's new about the Surabaya attacks?

Delphine Alles : The mode of family action is what has caused the greatest astonishment. It's the first time that parents have perpetrated suicide attacks with their children in Indonesia. The other dimension that needs to be pointed out is the level of coordination and [technical prowess] of these attacks, which far exceeds that of the Bali and Jakarta attacks in the early 2000s.

According to the police, at least two of the three "kamikaze" families belonged to the same Koranic study group, and the authorities found 54 operational explosive ordinances in the home of the perpetrators of the attack against the headquarters of the Surabaya police.

Dardard: In February an individual armed with a sword wounded many people inside a church in Yogyakarta in the center of the archipelago. Before that he had reportedly tried to team up with jihadists. Should we be worried by the increasing number of attacks against churches and Christians, who represent 9 percent of the Indonesian population?

Delphine Alles: To this day it has not been possible to establish a link between the events in Surabaya and the Yogyakarta attack, which has been considered an isolated attack in the absence of any claim of responsibility. On the other hand, the attacks against churches — which hark back to a mode of action that was frequent in the early 2000s — come at a time of intensified internal divisions in Indonesia.

This could be observed in late 2017, with the accusations of blasphemy levelled against the former governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is of Chinese and Christian origin, by groups like the Islamic Defenders Front. This stigmatization is not representative of the entire Indonesian society but comes at a time when the Christian minority is becoming once again a prime target for groups ready to go into action.

This is one of the objectives of the pro-Islamic State group Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), to which many of the Surabaya terrorists belonged. JAD has called on Indonesians to attack what it calls 'internal miscreants': religious minorities, but also state representatives, especially the police forces involved in the fight against terrorism.

There is perhaps also an operational reason. Churches are softer targets than places frequented by foreigners, such as embassies, hotels and shopping malls, since they have no security systems. During peak periods such as Christmas or Easter, some are guarded by the militias of Muslim organizations, which lend their services to show their attachment to pluralism, but this was not the case on May 13.

Dardard: Do these attacks against churches weaken the myth of a moderate Islam in Indonesia?

Delphine Alles: The issue is raised at every attack since Indonesia's international image was battered by the Bali attacks, but we have to go beyond this image and observe the resilience of Indonesian society.

Political groups and civil society organizations, most of them Muslim, immediately condemned the attacks. The involvement of children has accentuated the rejection of these acts of violence by Indonesian society. To try to ease the tensions spawned by the rise of radicalism, the Indonesian government decided in the early 2000s to highlight the Islamic side of the national identity and promote the representation of Indonesia as the first Muslim-majority democracy that practices tolerant Islam.

The authorities highlight, in particular, their institutional synthesis, which is based on the "Pancasila," a national ideology based on five principles, the first of which is belief in a single God — without favoring any one religion.

However, behind this discourse and its institutional foundations, the divisions are significant. One of the current challenges is not only promoting pluralism or tolerance, which can be satisfied with simple coexistence without interaction, but maintaining the possibility of discussing religious issues, not only between communities, but also within them.

Within Muslim civil society, for example, each attack sparks discussions on recognizing or not the self-proclaimed Islamic nature of their authors. Many voices are raised to take this up and advocate a process of contextualizing the texts they use to legitimize the violence, but the issue remains sensitive.

Dardard: What challenges do these attacks raise in the country with the most Muslims in the world?

Delphine Alles: Indonesia faces an image challenge abroad and a cohesion challenge at home, something the government is aware of. The difficulty is finding the means to confront this without definitively alienating the fringe of public opinion attracted by religious radicalism.

If it actively promotes pluralistic Islam that is in keeping with the institutions, the government is tempted to reduce the violence to exogenous factors to maintain the idea of national cohesion.

That has helped to minimize the localized violence that creates a climate of violence that goes beyond the issue of terrorism, particularly between religious or ethnic minorities and groups seeking to impose their own vision of purity, by targeting, for example, what they consider to be places of debauchery.

While terrorists are broadly condemned, organizations like the Islamic Defenders Front are now part of the political and social landscape. They are still very much in the minority, but the visibility of their mobilization, combined with the relative ideological vacuum on the other side, occasionally enables them to act as kingmakers in the political arena, as was the case with the election of the governor of Jakarta last year.

Full report at:

https://www.ucanews.com/news/indonesias-christian-minority-a-prime-target-for-radicals/82504

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AGC says already has division to address shariah law issues

June 8, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR: The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) has clarified that it already has a Syariah and Harmonisation of Law Division to address issues related to shariah law at federal and international levels.

In a statement today, the AGC said it also had a Council of Experts (Multi-Disciplines) whose members included Sheikh Ghazali Abdul Rahman, an expert in shariah law.

Based on the AGC organisational structure, the division was placed under the supervision of the solicitor-general (the post currently held by Engku Nor Faizah Engku Atek).

“The AGC noted that there was a proposal for the attorney-general to appoint an officer from the AGC, specifically to supervise on matters and issues related to shariah law,” the statement said.

“At the AGC, there is already a Division of Syariah and Harmonisation of Law, which has the roles of tackling any issues related to shariah law arising at the federal and international levels.”

The AGC also has a new attorney-general, Tommy Thomas, who was appointed on June 4 to replace Mohamed Apandi Ali.

Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V consented to the appointment of Thomas as the new attorney-general on the advice of Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad according to Article 145 (1) of the Federal Constitution.

Thomas, who has 42 years of experience as a lawyer, began his duties at the AGC on Wednesday.

Earlier today, Pakatan Harapan and PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim was reported to have said that the AGC could appoint a dedicated officer to oversee Islamic law issues in light of concerns that Thomas was a non-Muslim.

Full report at:

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2018/06/08/agc-says-already-has-division-to-address-shariah-law-issues/

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Indonesia, four others elected to UN Security Council

June 9, 2018

UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations General Assembly voted on Friday to elect Germany, Belgium, South Africa, the Dominican Republic and Indonesia for a two-year term in the Security Council starting on Jan 1, 2019.

The council is the only UN body that can make legally binding decisions and has the power to impose sanctions and authorise the use of force.

Indonesia drew more votes than the Maldives in the contested election for one Asia-Pacific seat by 144 to 46, while the other four candidates ran unopposed.

Uncontested candidates still need to win more than two-thirds of the overall General Assembly vote to be elected. There were 190 ballots in Friday’s vote.

Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country, will pursue a global comprehensive approach to combat terrorism, radicalism and extremism during its term, the foreign affairs ministry said in a statement.

Indonesia suffered its worst bombing attacks since 2005 last month that left around 30 people dead, including 13 suspected perpetrators.

“Palestinian issues will also be Indonesia’s concern during its non-permanent membership,” the ministry said.

Germany received 184 votes, Belgium had 181, South Africa got 183, and the Dominican Republic had 184 after one round of voting.

Regional groups generally agree upon the candidates to put forward and competitive races are increasingly rare.

In a typical year the General Assembly elects five new members, which join the five elected the previous year and the five permanent, veto-power seats: the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia.

The five members giving up their seat at the end of this year are the Netherlands, Sweden, Ethiopia, Bolivia and Kazakhstan.

Full report at:

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/world/2018/06/09/indonesia-four-others-elected-to-un-security-council/

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Pakistan

 

General elections: Hafiz Saeed not to contest, JuD to run for over 200 seats

Jun 9, 2018

LAHORE: Hafiz Saeed's Jammat-ud-Dawah is fielding more than 200 candidates in the July 25 general elections on national and provincial Assembly seats across the country even as the Mumbai terror attack mastermind has decided not to run for parliament.

Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD), a front for the Lashkar-e- Taiba militant group that carried out the deadly 2008 Mumbai attack, launched its political front Milli Muslim League (MML), but it has not been yet registered with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

With general elections approaching, the group decided to contest on the platform of a "dormant" political entity Allaha-u-Akbar Tehreek (AAT) registered with the ECP.

The JuD activists and sympathisers have taken the nomination papers from the ECP and are fielding their candidates on the platform of the AAT.

"MML president Saifullah Khalid and AAT chief Ehsan Bari have agreed to field joint candidates on the platform of ATT in the upcoming elections. Under the seat adjustment agreement, the MML will field more than 200 educated candidates. They will contest the elections on the AAT's election symbol chair," Ahmad Nadeem, an MML spokesperson, told PTI today.

He said there are many political figures who have joined the MML and it has awarded them AAT tickets.

Asked if Saeed plans to run as a parliamentary candidate in this election, the spokesman said: "No ... Hafiz sahib has no such plans at the moment. The MML is taking part for the first time in the general elections and hopefully, we will make to the parliament."

To a question, if any "significant leader" of the JuD would contest the election, he said: "Our priority is that those joining us from other political parties or educated youths in respective constituencies be given AAT tickets."

He said the AAT will launch its political campaign once its candidates file nomination papers.

"We are hopeful that the people will elect our candidates," he said.

It is believed that since the MML has hardly any chance to get registered with the ECP as the latter had announced the election schedule and issued election symbols, it had no other option but to contest the election on any 'dormant' entity like the AAT.

Earlier, MML president Saifullah Khalid had said: "We have decided to support the candidates of AAT in July 25 elections. We will play a role in the victory of those contesting on the symbol of a chair. To save Pakistan, patriotic people should be supported in the elections."

Khalid said the MML had been denied registration in the ECP for the last 11 months but will take part in the polls by supporting AAT candidates.

The interior ministry had opposed enlisting of the MML as a political party arguing it's an offshoot of Saeed's JuD banned under a UN resolution.

The JuD formed MML at the time when Saeed was detained in Lahore. Saeed and his four aides - Abdullah Ubaid, Malik Zafar Iqbal, Abdul Rehman Abid and Qazi Kashif Hussain - were placed under house arrest in Lahore on January 30 under the anti-terrorism act.

The JuD was declared as a foreign terrorist organisation by the US in June 2014. The JuD chief also carries a USD 10 million American bounty on his head for his role in terror activities.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/general-elections-hafiz-saeed-not-to-contest-jud-to-run-for-over-200-seats/articleshow/64516875.cms

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Muslim states urged to resolve issues through talks

June 9, 2018

LAHORE: Religious scholars while addressing Friday sermons and congregations to mark, "Youm-e-Tahafuz-e-Harmain Al-Sharifain, Al-Aqsa" stated that Masjid Al-Aqsa and Harmain Al-Sharifain are centres of Muslim unity.

The clerics also urged upon leadership of Muslim world to resolve prevailing differences within Arab and Muslim countries with mutual collaboration and bilateral talks. On the call of Pakistan Ulema Council, "Youm-e-Tahafuz-e-Harmain Al-Sharifain, Al-Aqsa" was observed here Friday to express solidarity with cause of Palestinian Muslims and to condemn Israeli aggression on innocent people of Palestine.

Addressing Friday congregations in mosques associated with Wafaq-ul-Masajid Pakistan, the scholars demanded a unanimous mechanism for protection of Harmain Al-Sharifain and Al-Aqsa.

They condemned the US administration for relocation of US Embassy in Jerusalem stating that world leadership and world organisations were playing dubious role on prevailing atrocities for innocent people of Palestine and Kashmir.

Pakistan Ulema Council chairman Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi while addressing a Friday sermon in Rawalpindi, stated that protection of Harmain Al Sharifain is part of our faith and people of Pakistan are united with oppressed Muslims the world over.

Talk: Punjab University Library Book Club organised introductory talks on two new books of English and Urdu languages. Department of English Language and Literature assistant professor Ms Ayesha Fatima Barque presented a talk on an English language play “The Guilt” written by a Pakistani author.

The second talk of the programme was on a poetry book of Urdu language. PU Chief Librarian Dr Muhammad Haroon Usmani talked about the book “Raat Dhaltee Nahi” written by Ayub Nadeem. The authors of the both books were also present.

Cash prizes: Punjab Highway Patrol (PHP) Additional IG Kunwar Shahrukh visited the DIG office at Gulberg and awarded cash prizes to police officials on best performance.

Full report at:

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/327503-muslim-states-urged-to-resolve-issues-through-talks

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Pakistan interim PM Nasir-ul-Mulk reviews FATF requirements on terror financing

Jun 8, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's interim Prime Minister Nasir-ul-Mulk on Friday reviewed the measures taken by the country to meet the requirement of the global watchdog Financial Action Task Force over terrorism financing.

Based in Paris, Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is the global watchdog on money laundering and terror financing. The FATF has placed Pakistan on the global terror financing watch-list.

Pakistan was listed as grey in 2012 but was removed in 2015 after strenuous efforts to address the concerns of the group.

Nasir chaired his first National Security Committee meeting at the Prime Minister's House.

Minister for Finance Shamshad Akhtar gave a detailed presentation to the meeting about the upcoming FATF in Paris and the administrative and legal measures taken so far to meet the global watchdog's requirements, said a statement by the PMO.

"While reviewing various actions taken towards fulfilling country's international responsibilities under the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) framework, the meeting expressed satisfaction over the progress made so far," it said.

Pakistan Foreign Office confirmed in February that the country would go on a 'grey-list' from June this year.

"Pakistan will be assigned to the 'grey-list' in June, once an Action Plan has been mutually negotiated," Foreign Office spokesperson Muhammad Faisal was quoted as saying by The Express Tribune.

He, however, said that it was not true that the country would be transferred from the 'grey' to 'black' list in June this year.

The National Security Committee noted that the progress should be shared with the FATF Secretariat in the upcoming meeting.

It reaffirmed the commitment of the country to work with FATF and other international organisations in achieving common goals and shared objectives.

The Prime Minister also shared with the Committee members contents of his telephonic discussion with US Vice President Mike Pence on June 7, the statement said.

The meeting reviewed overall security situation in the country, it said.

FATF was set up in 1989 with a primary aim to set standards to combat money laundering, but in 2001 its mandate was expanded to include countering terror financing.

It can take action against any country by including a country in black or grey lists.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-interim-pm-nasir-ul-mulk-reviews-fatf-requirements-on-terror-financing/articleshow/64511613.cms

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Pakistan, Iran should jointly work to resolve Palestine issue: Envoy

SHAFQAT ALI

June 09, 2018

ISLAMABAD - Iranian Ambassador Mehdi Honardoost has said that Pakistan and Iran should jointly work to resolve the Palestine issue.

Speaking to The Nation, he said it was necessary that all the governments, nations and Islamic societies especially Iran and Pakistan with 200 million of the population of the Muslim world should utilize their all endeavours and capacity to grant the rights to the oppressed people of Palestine.

He said: “In today’s world, we witness war, blood shedding and conflicts in the Islamic world and various Islamic countries, especially in the Middle East suffering from devastating wars, have rendered irreparable human and material loss to the Islamic Ummah undoubtedly, there are foreign imperialistic hands behind occurrence of these wars and blood-shedding, who have disturbed the stability and tranquility of the Islamic world for fulfilling their own interests.”

The wars, Honardoost said, during the last two decades in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Afghanistan rendered nothing except deaths and dislocating of a number of oppressed Muslims in the world, destruction of Islamic countries and further weakening of Islamic communities.

He said, in such circumstances and in concurrence to the 70th anniversary of Palestinian occupation, “we have witnessed a cruel act by US President Donald Trump to transfer of US embassy to Alquds which has been contrary to UN General Assembly resolutions and expression of unilateral US support to usurper Zionist regime in the one hand and further intensification of atrocities against the Palestine on the other hand.”

“This US step is considered another Belfour declaration, which damaged feelings of more than one billion Muslims,” he said.

Honardoost said, “the imperialist powers were creating civil wars in the regional countries including Syrian, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan and all the crisis-hit and tense areas in all nooks and corners of the Islamic world.

He said, “the imperialists had opened of fake secondary fronts, exploitation of the resources of the Islamic Ummah and to put the pivotal subject of the Islamic world, Palestine in the back burner with objective of creating operation for the Zionist regime so that in any further discussions and future peace process, Palestinians could be put in a purely determined situation and impose their demands”.

“In none of the eras of history, no nation of the world has to confront such sorrowful grief and atrocities, in such a manner that through a world conspiracy, a country is completely occupied and its nation kicked out of its home and an alien group from various parts of the world is brought and lodged there. The real existence of a land is ignored and a fake existence is replaced by it, this existence is also supported by world imperialistic powers,” he said.

Honardoost said that “the world imperialism has created cancer in this region, full of God gifted wealth and human civilization and supported it and containing their support, so by imposing a long conflict and creating constant instability to hinder the progress of the regional countries and to flared their wealth and tarnish the civilization identity of the region.”

He said in view of the oppressive approach of imperialistic powers against Muslim countries especially Palestine “all the Muslim countries should, by utilizing their potential and strengthening of solidarity and unity in the support of that land in countering of usurper Israeli regime, take a step.”

In this regard, he said, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran Imam Khomeini named the last Friday of the Holy Month of Ramazan as Quds Day, “so that all the Muslims in the world cover in an organized manner can protest against silence of International and support of imperialistic powers to Israel and suppression of Palestinians and take steps in favour of Palestine.”

Imam Khomeini, he said, had informed the Muslims many years back about the danger of Israeli hegemony and requested to all Muslims and Islamic governments to unite against this occupying regime and their supporters.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/09-Jun-2018/pakistan-iran-should-jointly-work-to-resolve-palestine-issue-envoy

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Rabbani, Shah assail court nod to Musharraf’s election bid

Ikram Junaidi

June 09, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Two Pakistan Peoples Party leaders — former Senate chairman Raza Rabbani and former opposition lea­der in the National Assembly Syed Khur­sheed Shah — have criticised the decision of the Supreme Court to allow retired Gen Pervez Musharraf to file his nomination papers for the upcoming elections.

The court had permitted Mr Musharraf to do so on the condition that he appear in person before the court on June 13 in Lahore.

In a statement, Senator Rabbani said that the rule of law would evade Pakistan if Mr Musharraf, an erstwhile dictator, was allowed to file his nomination papers.

“It is a matter of record that the Special Court trying Musharraf for treason, on 11th May, 2016 under Article 6 of the Constitution, 1973, declared him an absconder. Further, he fraudulently misled the Court, on the pretext of ill-health and has since then been absconding the country,” he said.

Mr Shah, in a separate statement, claimed that Mr Musharraf would not return to Pakistan.

While responding to a question about the Kalabagh dam, Mr Shah said that three provinces had already passed resolutions against the dam. The matter, he said, should therefore be referred to the Council of Common Interests for the final decision.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1412970/rabbani-shah-assail-court-nod-to-musharrafs-election-bid

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Christians told to build church out of village in Faisalabad

June 9, 2018

Around 40 Christian families in Nayya Sarabah village of Toba Tek Singh district near Faisalabad have been told to remove every visible sign of Christianity from their church, six months after being forced to sign a form pledging they would no longer hold services.

According to World Watch Monitor, the village is dominated by Muslims and as a resident, Hajji Muhammad Siddique commented, “Muslims are in the majority in the village, we can’t allow a church here.”

“Now we are working with the civil administration to give a piece of land to Christians outside the village,” he added.

Most of the Christians of the village work as brick-kiln labourers and Rafaqat Masih retired army official have helped build a church in the village that belongs to Full Gospel Assemblies, an evangelical group working in Pakistan.

The church is run by Pastor Samuel Masih, but Rafaqat Masih, a union councillor for minorities, who has been at the forefront of efforts to resolve the matter.

The construction of the church began in 2012 and had been holding worship services since then. But in December 2016 the local Muslims objected over it and filed an application against the minorities. At that time, a compromise was reached and services were held again.

In December 2017, an application was submitted in the police station, after which the Christians were told to sign an agreement.

The Christians in the village have therefore not held a service this year, but have made frequent visits to the civil administration to either permit them to hold services in their church or to provide them with an alternative venue.

However, earlier this month the villagers were called in for another meeting in the presence of Deputy Superintendent of Police Muhammad Tahir where they were ordered to demolish the existing structure and, in lieu of this, they would let us build a church on a piece of government land outside the village which is already dedicated for a school.

It was further reported by the police that the Christians being forced to pledge to end services was not legal. “We are trying to amicably resolve this matter,” Tahir said.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/06/08/christians-told-to-build-church-out-of-village-in-faisalabad/

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US asks Pakistan to facilitate Afghan-Taliban peace talks

June 09, 2018

Washington/Brussels - The United States has confirmed it is asking Pakistan for help in facilitating the Afghan government’s direct peace talks with the Taliban insurgency.

After months of strained relations and disruption in high-level mutual contacts, US Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week spoke to Pakistani civilian and military leaders to push Afghan political reconciliation efforts. The flurry of high-level contacts came as Washington suspended all military assistance to Islamabad and both countries imposed travel restrictions on each other’s diplomats.

Lisa Curtis, a deputy assistant to US President Donald Trump and senior director for South and Central Asia at the National Security Council, has explained the US is pursuing “multiple lines of effort” to promote Afghan peace. At a seminar Thursday in Washington, she said an important component of the effort is to ensure that Pakistan plays “a constructive role” in it.

“We have asked for Pakistan’s assistance in facilitating a peace process and we have sought to understand Pakistan’s own core security concerns and ensure that its interests are taken into account in any peace process,” Curtis said, while speaking at the US Institute of Peace.

“However, we have to be clear that Pakistan’s interests are not served by a Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan,” Curtis added.

Pakistan says deteriorating security in Afghanistan has created “ungoverned spaces” which are serving as sanctuaries for terrorists linked to Islamic State and fugitives of the outlawed Pakistani Taliban, who are orchestrating cross-border attacks from there.

Officials in Islamabad also have routinely accused rival India of supporting these “terrorists” to destabilise Pakistan, charges New Delhi and Afghan officials reject.

Pakistani officials have long pushed for seeking a negotiated end to the Afghan conflict, saying neither side can win it on the battlefield. UN officials also have acknowledged the war is at a “mutually hurting stalemate” and call for urgently starting peace talks to end the suffering of Afghans.

Curtis spoke hours after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced his security forces will unilaterally cease anti-Taliban offensives for a week, taking effect next Tuesday, in a bid to encourage insurgents to seek a peaceful resolution to the war.

Afghan officials have said the ceasefire will also apply to the Haqqani Network, which allegedly maintains ties with Pakistan’s intelligence agency.

Curtis again alleged the Afghan Taliban, including the Haqqani Network, has enjoyed sanctuary in Pakistan throughout the past 16 years of conflict. “Pakistan has a fundamental responsibility to address the use of its territory by these malign actors. One can acknowledge Pakistan’s complex security calculus without absolving it of its responsibility to do something of these malign actors,” she said.

A Pakistani military spokesman this past week denied his country was supporting Afghan insurgents, saying sustained security operations have eliminated all terrorist groups.

The Taliban have not responded to Thursday’s ceasefire announcement by the Afghan president. The insurgent group has been seeking direct talks with the US and refused to talk to the Afghan government until all US and NATO forces leave the country.

“The US is ready to participate in the discussion, but we cannot serve as a substitute for the Afghan government and the Afghan people,” Curtis said, apparently responding to the Taliban’s calls for direct talks with the US.

NATO, US HOPE PEACE BREAKTHROUGH

US generals and NATO officials hoping for a peace breakthrough with the Taliban after 16 years of war are touting a ceasefire announced by Kabul as potentially decisive and despite scepticism in Afghanistan.

Attacks in Kabul - the most heavily defended city in the country - are multiplying and a recent US government watchdog report painted a grim picture of the security situation, saying there were “few signs of progress”.

But senior NATO and US military figures have warmly welcomed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s ceasefire announcement, even though it is not at all clear that the Taliban have any plans to respect it.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg hailed the announcement as a “positive step on the path to peace” and urged the Taliban to come to talks the government.

General Curtis Scaparrotti, NATO’s supreme commander in Europe, gave an upbeat assessment of the struggle against the Taliban, ousted from power in a US-led invasion in 2001.

“I have dealt with this for quite a number of years and personally, I sense a different set of conditions today, and perhaps more potential,” he told reporters at a meeting of NATO defence ministers in Brussels.

“They are under greater pressure and you see some splinter in their leadership and their cohesion.

“In the past, the Taliban has been cohesive and one voice about this. Now we are seeing indications that there are those who would like to talk.”

“I have to tell you, for someone who has been either in Afghanistan or working on Afghanistan for some years now, I am seeing things now that I haven’t seen before,” one NATO official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

Pressed for details, the official mentioned the ruling by the clerics and “social movements for peace”, an apparent reference to a march by a small group of activists from Lashkar Gah in Helmand province to Kabul.

The group, which numbers about eight but has been joined by more at times on the route, is demanding both the Taliban and the Afghan government lay down their arms.

The modest size of the march did not stop General John Nicholson, commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, from calling it a “grassroots movement” and comparing the current situatoin in Afghanistan to the final stages of the conflicts in Northern Ireland and Colombia.

“All wars end. And when you study how wars end, there is usually a period where you are fighting and talking at the same time. I think we are clearly in that period,” he said.

But the optimism coming from NATO and the Pentagon has not reached observers in Afghanistan.

Political analyst Haroon Mir, based in Kabul, said Ghani’s government had lost the initiative since the offer in February and the ceasefire was a bid to win it back.

“NATO and the US are trying to boost the government and trying to show that the government still has some initiative but this is not the reality unfortunately,” Mir told AFP, pointing to the upcoming anniversary of US President Donald Trump’s new South Asia strategy as a key milestone.

“In August it will be one year and everybody will talk about the achievements of the US military in Afghanistan (but) unfortunately despite the bombing campaign and high casualties among the Taliban... there is no significant change on the ground,” Mir said.

Indeed the Pentagon’s own Office of the Inspector General directly undercut claims the momentum of the war was shifting against the Taliban.

In a report in May the watchdog said there had been “little positive change” in the first quarter of 2018, with just 65 percent of Afghans living in areas under government control or influence.

US TO INTENSIFY COMBAT AGAINST IS

Senior American officials said Friday that there are indications the Taliban might be considering peace talks.

The officials said the US will intensify combat against the Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan during the Kabul government’s temporary halt to attacks on the Taliban.

Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said this could, for example, allow the US to partially shift the focus of aerial surveillance from the Taliban to IS fighters as well as Al-Qaeda extremists, who remain a threat 17 years after the US invasion.

Mattis spoke to reporters during a break in a NATO defence ministers meeting in Brussels, which included a discussion of progress and problems in Afghanistan. The ministers also discussed more broadly the international campaign against IS, which has focused since 2014 on eliminating the group’s so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

In remarks to ministers at the start of the meeting, Mattis argued for continuing military pressure on IS even after the fighting in Syria is over. He did not mention that President Donald Trump has said he wants the US to exit Syria as soon as it can, perhaps within a matter of months.

Army Gen John Nicholson, the top US general in Afghanistan, said the fight against IS in the eastern Nangarhar province had already been intensifying this year and would be further stepped up during the Afghan ceasefire against the Taliban, which does not apply to other opposition groups. Nicholson spoke with reporters on the sidelines of the NATO meeting.

Speaking separately at a NATO news conference, Mattis said the ceasefire could put US forces in a better position to fight other extremist groups such as the IS affiliate and remnants of Al-Qaeda. “If the Taliban take full advantage of the ceasefire in the best interest of the Afghan people, then many of the surveillance assets that we have overhead can be reoriented to ISIS-K, to Al-Qaeda and other foreign terrorists that have no business being in Afghanistan in the first place,” Mattis said. ISIS-K is a name for the Islamic State affiliate that operates in three provinces in eastern Afghanistan.

Nicholson said he could not predict whether the Taliban will join the ceasefire announced this week by President Ashraf Ghani. He expressed no concern that a unilateral ceasefire would give the Taliban breathing room to regroup and rearm.

“The potential benefit is greater than the risk,” he said, expressing hope that what Ghani called a weeklong pause could lead to something more substantial and improve prospects for actual peace negotiations. The Taliban have insisted that they would negotiate only with Washington, but the US insists that they talk to the Afghan government.

US forces will remain prepared to respond to any Taliban attacks, Nicholson said. The US has about 8,400 troops providing noncombat support for Afghan security forces fighting the Taliban; separately, roughly 7,000 US combat troops are fighting Al-Qaeda and IS-affiliated groups.

Nicholson, who has commanded the US-led military coalition in Afghanistan since March 2016, spoke with measured optimism about prospects for compelling the Taliban to enter peace negotiations with the Afghan government.

US officials have talked up the prospects for peace many times over the course of the war, only to be disappointed. When Trump announced last August that he was committed to winning the war with a revamped strategy, he said the goal was to compel the Taliban — with help from Pakistan and other interested nations — to seek peace. However, a US government watchdog agency recently reported that it saw few signs that this strategy was working, while acknowledging that the Afghan security forces are getting better training.

Nicholson, however, credited Trump’s policy with producing early signs that the Taliban might be considering peace talks, although the militant group has not publicly acknowledged it is considering negotiations with the Afghan government. “I do think the policy is working. It just needs more time,” he said.

Nicholson acknowledged that the war is complicated by the involvement of other outside powers, including Russia, which has said it became involved out of concern that IS-affiliated groups there will spread to other parts of Central Asia.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/09-Jun-2018/us-asks-pakistan-to-facilitate-afghan-taliban-peace-talks

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Arab World

 

Church groups in UAE organize iftar parties

June 8, 2018

Dubai: With 10 days to go for the Eid festival, the St Thomas Orthodox Cathedral in Dubai distributed iftar food kits at the Sonapur labor camp on June 5. The camp is home to more than 200,000 Asian workers, mostly from the Indian subcontinent.

This year was a special one for the church as it is celebrating its golden jubilee.

Speaking at the camp event, Father Ninan Philip, the vicar, hailed Ramadan as a festival of brotherhood and love. He noted that all major religions have fasting, which is meant to improve man’s relations with fellow-beings as well as with God. He also noted that in present times, these two relationships are on the wane. He expressed hope that the small gesture from his Church will help improve such relations.

Speaking in Hindi for the benefit of the Pakistani and Bangladeshi laborers, Assistant Vicar Saju Thomas likened the month of Ramadan to stopping at a traffic red light – when God makes us stop and ponder over our lives.

Church committee members pointed out how Ramadan had a unifying effect – people ate food together at the breaking of fast irrespective of their social or economic class. Ramadan is also the month when a person’s mind, body and soul become purified through fasting, they noted.

The church committee members then visited laborers also in their rooms to distribute the food packets.

Students’ gesture

Schools in the emirates also go on charity drives during Ramadan. They collect donations from their pupils – from cooking oil, sugar and rice to soaps, shampoos and deodorants – to distribute at labour camps.

Abu Dhabi and iftar parties

This year a school in Abu Dhabi distributed iftar food packets for motorists at traffic intersections, mainly meant for those who get caught in traffic at iftar time.

The capital also witnessed a rare iftar get-together when the St Andrews Anglican Church hosted for the first time a special inter-faith iftar on June 5. The church is also celebrating its golden jubilee. About 150 people attended the event. People broke their fast with dates, water and laban (buttermilk) as is the custom here.

Rev Andy Thompson, senior chaplain at the church, said the iftar was organized to express gratitude to the Founding President of the UAE, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Nahyan, for his commitment to tolerance.

In the Persian Gulf countries, majority appeasement and being in the good books of the establishment becomes the norm for minority expatriate communities or their organizations such as schools and churches.

A Christian building a mosque with his funds for Muslim laborers or schoolchildren distributing iftar goody bags at traffic junctions or churches donating food kits for fasting laborers in labor camps are not merely to appease the majority community, they are a means of participation in the true spirit of Ramadan, a month of selflessness and sacrifice, a Church observer told Matters India.

http://mattersindia.com/2018/06/church-groups-in-uae-organize-iftar-parties/

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Iraq's Christians, Muslims agree to revive site of ancient church

Saad Salloum

June 8, 2018

BAGHDAD — A group of Christians from Baghdad who visited the ruins of the Church of Kokheh, located 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of the Iraqi capital, were spontaneously invited by the local Muslim community for lunch after their tour.

The historical Church of Kokheh is one of the early points of departure of Christianity in the Middle East, Father Mansour al-Makhlissi, founder and head of the Center for Eastern Studies at the Roman Catholic Church in Baghdad, told the visitors as he took them around the site of the church on May 25. “It was the patriarchal residence of the Eastern Church for centuries,” he said, adding that 24 patriarchs were buried in the church built by Saint Mari in the first century.

Over the past 20 years, Christians could not visit the remnants of the church due to safety concerns, most recently due to the attacks by the Islamic State.

With the area now more secure, the Center for Eastern Studies organized the visit to the Church of Kokheh. The current al-Mada'in district was called Ctesiphon or Taysafun in ancient times, and served as the winter capital of the Parthian Empire and later of the Sasanian Empire. The area was discovered and partially excavated by the German Oriental Society in 1929.

Makhlissi also took the visitors to Sur Salik, another historical site whose Arabic name means "Walls of Selucia," on the other side of the Tigris River. Sur Salik is now surrounded by the Iraqi army’s military checkpoints that aim to control the violence in the area. He pointed out the church in Tal Qasr Bint al-Qadi, another site excavated by the German team in the late 1920s. “Deeper underground, the ruins of another smaller church built in the same style are barely visible,” he said. “This was the highest spiritual seat of the Eastern Church. This is where the Christian expansion to Asia started and reached China and India.”

Following the tour, Sheikh Saad Thabit al-Jubouri, a prominent local tribal leader in al-Mada’in, offered the group a lunch of masgouf (traditional Iraqi grilled fish), even though most of the Muslims were fasting for Ramadan.

During the meal, the local Muslim community and the visiting Christians talked about the restoration of the Church of Kokheh. They agreed to work on a plan together to reconstruct the site with the support of the government and organizing tours to the church for Christians in and outside Iraq.

This cooperation “unites Muslims and Christians after having been divided by the atrocities and violence of [IS] over the past few years,” Father Maissar, the minister of St. George Chaldean Church, told Al-Monitor. “Reviving this church is perhaps a new starting point in the process of uniting Muslims and Christians during the holy month of Ramadan.”

Maissar organized an iftar on May 27 at St. George Church to encourage unity and coexistence between Muslims and Christians.

Jubouri told Al-Monitor that the Muslims in the region support opening up the church to visitors to show that the area is safe once again. “It proves that it is possible to rebuild what terrorism destroyed — whether on the construction level or in the social relationship between the different Iraqi religions,” he added.

Jubouri warned against attributing the work of “a few terrorists” to a whole community or religion. “The local residents can't be held accountable for what a minority of terrorists have done. The holy month of Ramadan will be a new point of departure for all Muslims and Christians to achieve common goals such as reviving this historical church,” he said.

In the 1980s, there were calls to revive the church and make it a place of pilgrimage. Iraqi Christian theologians such as Father Yussef Hubi and Father Albert Abouna have written about the historical importance of the Church of Kokheh in their works on the Eastern Church. But the calls have yet to lead to a solid plan by the Iraqi government to authorize further excavations and restore this important heritage site.

The joint calls of Christians and Muslims to revive visits to the church were welcomed by Iraqi archaeological circles. Abdulamir al-Hamdani, an Iraqi archaeologist and head of the Antiquities Directorate in Dhi Qar from 2003 until 2010, told Al-Monitor, “This initiative is important and deserves support in the name of reviving and restoring the church and its paraphernalia, especially since its foundations are still there. A civil initiative to create awareness of this church would be a symbol of unity and peaceful coexistence between the different religions and communities within Iraqi society.”

He added, “This work would reinforce a sense of national Mesopotamian identity that would include all. We cannot talk about [restoring Iraq's multicultural community] without preserving our cultural heritage and clearly expressing respect for cultural elements.”

Full report at:

https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/06/christians-muslims-want-to-revive-visits-to-old-church.html

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Nasrallah: Even the whole world cannot evict Hezbollah from Syria

8 June 2018

Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah will remain in Syria as long as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad wants it there, the group’s leader said on Friday, defying renewed US and Israeli pressure to force Tehran and its allies to quit the country.

“I will tell you that if the whole world comes together to force us to leave Syria, they will not be able to evict us,” Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised address, adding that only the Syrian leadership could ask them to leave.

Israel has repeatedly struck Hezbollah and Iranian targets in Syria, saying they must leave the country, with which it shares a border. Washington has also demanded that Iran and forces it back quit.

Alongside Russia, Iran-backed forces in Syria have helped Assad drive rebels from the country's biggest cities and reclaim swathes of the eastern deserts from ISIS.

Russia’s call

Russia has recently called for all non-Syrian forces to leave southern Syria, a statement seen as partly aimed at Iran, as well as at US forces in a base near the Iraqi border.

Senior Syrian officials have said they want to recapture the rebel-held areas in the southwest near the border with Israel. Israeli strikes in Syria are partly aimed at keeping Hezbollah and other Iran-backed forces from its border.

This week, a Russian troop deployment near the border with Lebanon caused friction with Iran-backed forces there including Hezbollah, a rare case of Assads' allies acting out of sync with each other, though it was soon resolved.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/06/08/Nasrallah-says-even-whole-world-cannot-evict-Hezbollah-from-Syria.html

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IS attacks kill 22 pro-regime fighters in south Syria: monitor

June 9, 2018

Beirut: Islamic State group jihadists on Thursday killed 22 pro-regime fighters including 11 soldiers among them two officers, in surprise attacks in southern Syria, a monitor said.

Twelve jihadists also lost their lives in the assaults in the desert of the southern province of Sweida, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.

These were the first attacks of their kind in the area, where no IS presence had been noted in more than a year, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.

The 22 pro-regime combattants killed also included nine Iranians and fighters belonging to pro-Iran Shiite militias, as well as two unidentified fighters, he said.

IS has ramped up its attacks against pro-regime forces since its fighters in May left their last stronghold near Damascus under an evacuation deal with the regime.

The new toll brings to 184 the number of pro-regime troops killed in more than two weeks of jihadist attacks across the country since May 22. At least 92 jihadists were killed during that same period.

IS in 2014 proclaimed a cross-border “caliphate” in Syria and neighbouring Iraq, but has since lost most of that territory to separate offensives by Russia-backed regime troops and a US-backed Kurdish-Arab alliance.

The jihadists now control no more than three percent of Syria, the Observatory says, mostly in the eastern desert near the border with Iraq.

Earlier this week, IS assaults in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor killed 45 pro-regime fighters.

Full report at:

https://www.siasat.com/news/attacks-kill-22-pro-regime-fighters-south-syria-monitor-1366616/

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ISIS kidnaps at least 10 jihadist rebels after ambush in Idlib

2018-06-09

BEIRUT, LEBANON (12:30 A.M.) – The Islamic State (ISIS) carried out an ambush against a group of Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham fighters in the Idlib Governorate on Friday.

According to pro-opposition activists, the Islamic State ambushed the HTS fighters along the Idlib-Jabal Al-Zawiyah Highway in the western part of the Idlib Governorate.

The pro-opposition activists added that all ten Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham fighters were captured by the Islamic State terrorists and then taken to an unknown location.

This part of west Idlib is supposedly filled with many Islamic State sleeper cells that are currently wrecking havoc on the jihadist rebels in the area.

https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/isis-kidnaps-at-least-10-jihadist-rebels-after-ambush-in-idlib/

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Air strikes kill at least 44 overnight in Syria’s Idlib

8 June 2018

Air strikes on a village in Syria's rebel-held Idlib province have killed at least 44 people overnight, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Friday.

"War planes, which are likely Russian, targeted the village of Zardana in northern rural Idlib overnight and caused the highest death toll in a single attack on the region since late March," Rami Abdulrahman, the director of the Britain-based war monitor said.

Russia later denied that it was behind the strikes.

The death toll is expected to increase as some of the 50 injured in the strikes were in a critical condition, he said. Rescue workers were still searching under the rubble for survivors.

The northwestern Idlib region remains the largest populated area of Syria in the hands of insurgents fighting the Damascus government.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/06/08/Suspected-Russian-air-strikes-kill-dozens-overnight-in-Syria-s-Idlib-.html

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Saudi, UAE seeking to unseat Bahraini PM: Report

Jun 9, 2018

A new report says Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are seeking to overthrow Bahraini Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifah, the world's longest-serving premier, in a bid to gain more influence in the Persian Gulf country.

While older leaders in the region support Khalifah, the younger ones, namely Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, are siding with Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah and wish to sideline the prime minister, a diplomatic source told the Middle East Eye news portal.

The source also noted that both former Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and the incumbent one, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, favored Khalifah.

"As Saudi king, Abdullah objected to the elimination of Khalifa. King Salman and the emir of Kuwait also consider him the right man in the right place," the source said. "However, Mohammed bin Salman has no relationship with him and does not care much about him."

"It is likely that bin Salman does not mind overthrowing the prime minister in order to satisfy bin Zayed, who seeks to rearrange the situation in Bahrain, crowning a new prince, and overthrowing the old figures," he added.

The source further emphasized that bin Zayed was pushing for more influence in Bahrain and regarded King Hamad as a close friend and ally.

Meanwhile, London-based al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper reported that the Bahraini king was seeking to remove the premier after the parliamentary elections later this year.

Adel Marzooq, a Bahraini journalist who lives in London, confirmed that a "violent and irresponsible" conflict in the halls of Bahraini power "is not a joke and it does not bode well. It is actually a serious development".

"The current signs indicate that there is a predilection in favor of a historic change in the position of prime minister after parliamentary elections at the end of the year," he said.

"However, the decision has not yet been announced, or rather has not been agreed upon, particularly since it needs prior consultation from Saudi Arabia and the UAE," he pointed out.

The Bahraini journalist further stressed that bin Salman and bin Zayed "are less likely interested in keeping the [Bahraini] prime minister."

Khalifah has served as Bahrain’s prime minister since the island declared independence from Britain in 1971 after Iran's former Shah relinquished sovereignty over the tiny Persian Gulf isalnd.

Earlier this month, bin Salman and bin Zayed held the first-ever meeting of their Saudi-Emirati Coordination Council in Jeddah.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are accused of plotting to monopolize power in the Persian Gulf region through aggressive policies against their neighbors.

The two countries are partners in a deadly war on Yemen and an all-out siege of Qatar. Oman recently complained that it was running out of patience with the UAE violations.

Since February 2011, Bahraini people have been holding peaceful protest rallies on an almost daily basis, demanding that the Al Khalifah family relinquish power and let a just system representing all Bahrainis be established.

Bahrainis have also been complaining against widespread discrimination against the Shia majority in the kingdom.

Manama has responded to the protests with lethal force, drawing international criticism.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/06/09/564390/Saudi-Arabia-UAE-Bahrain

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Lebanon FM orders to block visa for UNHCR staff amid Syria refugee row

Jun 8, 2018

Lebanon's Foreign Ministry has ordered to suspend residency applications for the staff of the UN refugee agency accusing the organization of discouraging Syrian refugees in Lebanon from returning their country.

"Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Gebran Bassil issued instructions... to stop the requests for residency presented to the ministry and (those already submitted) for the UNHCR in Lebanon until further notice," a statement by the ministry said on Friday.

"Bassil asked for the study of other progressive measures... in the case that the UNHCR is determined to pursue the same policy," the statement added.

On Thursday, Bassil said the UNHCR has discouraged refugees in the Lebanese border town of Arsal from returning home by asking them questions about potential situation they may experience in Syria, including the likelihood of military conscription, security issues and poor accommodation.

"We sent a mission that verified that the UNHCR is intimidating the displaced who wish to return voluntarily," the Lebanese foreign minister tweeted.

However, Nadim Mounla, an aide to Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, said Bassil's decision was "unilateral" and "not representative of the Lebanese government's position."

Mounla predicted Bassil would have to cancel his decision, noting that the foreign minister "did not consult the prime minister nor the other ministers, including those most directly affected by the issue."

The UNHCR also said the foreign ministry has not officially notified the agency of the decision.

A UNHCR spokesman, William Spindler, denied Bassil's accusations, saying, "We do not discourage or oppose returns taking place based on an individual decision."

"But in our view, conditions in Syria are not yet conducive for an assisted return, although the situation is changing and we are following closely," Spindler added.

Lisa Abou Khaled, another UNHCR spokesperson, said the agency had not been notified of suspension of residency permits for its foreign staff.

She noted that the majority of the UNHCR's 600 staff in the country are Lebanese, but did not specify any number.

Nearly 1.5 million Syrian refugees have been living in Lebanon since 2011, making up a quarter of the country’s population.

Last month, Lebanon's head of the General Security agency Major General Abbas Ibrahim said Lebanese and Syrian officials are working together to facilitate the return of thousands of refugees who want to return to Syria.

The official did not give a timeframe for the return of refugees, but noted that some parts of the plan will take place in the short term.

In April, nearly 500 Syrian refugees returned to Syria from the Shebaa area of southern Lebanon under the supervision of Lebanon's General Security in coordination with Syrian officials.

The UNHCR, however, said it was too early for returns to begin, noting that the agency was not involved in the process due to the prevailing humanitarian and security situation in Syria.

The UNCR's position infuriated Bassil, warning that Lebanon could "re-evaluate" the UN agency's operation in the country.

The UNHCR had announced last December that than 50 percent of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon live in extreme poverty and are highly vulnerable than ever before.

Lebanon is set to form a new government after the country's parliamentary elections in May.

Many Lebanese officials, including President Michel Aoun, are demanding that the government facilitate the return of the Syrian refugees, arguing that the Syrian government has managed to purge many areas of terrorists and the refugees can now safely return to their homes.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Hariri has expressed opposition to any forced eviction of refugees.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/06/08/564370/Lebanon-Syria-UNHCR-refugee

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Saudi's potential attack on Yemen's port of Hudaydah may kill 250,000, UN says

Jun 8, 2018

The United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Yemen has warned that a military assault on the vital Yemeni port city of Hudaydah by the Saudi regime and its coalition partners may kill 250,000 people.

“A military attack or siege on Hudaydah will impact hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians,” said Lise Grande in a statement released on Friday, pointing to Saudi Arabia’s long-standing threat to launch an attack on Yemen’s only entry gate for much needed basic supplies and humanitarian aid.

“In a prolonged worst case, we fear that as many as 250,000 people may lose everything, even their lives,” added the UN official.

On Tuesday, a spokesman for the Saudi coalition declared that allied forces were 20 kilometers from Hudaydah, which is controlled by Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement. The spokesman, however, did not elaborate on potential plans to launch an attack to seize the port, which serves as the main entry point for supplies needed to ease the famine and cholera epidemic.

The UN’s Yemen mediator Martin Griffiths also voiced concern on Tuesday over attacks on Hudaydah by Saudi-sponsored militants in the country.

"Apart from the avoidable humanitarian consequences of such a battle, I am also very concerned about the impact (on) chances of a political settlement of this conflict," Griffiths said.

Griffiths, who was wrapping up a three-day visit to Yemen, added that talks had been positive while underlining that a military action on Hudaydah would have a negative impact on its civilian population. "We are working very hard, focusing every day on moving forward in the political process. My aim is to restart negotiations which have not taken place for a very long time, for too long, and I want that to restart in the very near future," he said.

Griffiths is due to submit a report on the Yemeni situation to the UN Security Council on June 18.

Humanitarian agencies working in Yemen remain deeply worried about the likely impact of a Saudi-led assault, since as many as 600,000 civilians now live in and around Hudaydah, which lies on the country's Red Sea coast.

Yemen, according to the UN, faces the world's worst humanitarian crisis and 22.2 million Yemenis are in need of humanitarian aid, and 8.4 million are at risk of starvation, a number that will rise to 18 million this year if conditions do not improve.

Meanwhile, Yemeni political sources are cited in a Reuters report as saying that Griffiths is also holding talks with the Houthis to hand over the control of Hudaydah to the United Nations in a bid to avert the potential assault.

The sources also claim that a broader UN peace plan urges the Houthi movement to give up its ballistic missiles in return for an end to the brutal campaign against it by the Saudi aggressors as well as a transitional governance agreement.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) also announced on Thursday that it had pulled 71 international staff out of Yemen because of security incidents and threats, moving them to Djibouti.

Furthermore, a United Nations vessel delivering humanitarian aid to Hudaydah on Monday came under a suspected Saudi attack.  

Yemen’s Red Sea Ports Corporation announced that the vessel used by the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) was attacked after delivering a shipment at Hudaydah.

According to figures released by the Yemeni Ministry of Human Rights, more than 600,000 people have been killed or injured in the Saudi war since 2015.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/06/08/564342/Yemen-Hudaydah-UN

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Iraqi Sources: twin explosions kill seven in the northern city of Kirkuk

June 08, 2018

KIRKUK, Iraq: At least one person was killed and 14 people were wounded when an improvised explosive device went off in the ethnically-mixed Iraqi oil city of Kirkuk, security and medical sources said late on Friday.

The bomb exploded in a crowded market area in the evening, a peak time for shopping during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. A second explosive device went off in another area of the city but caused no casualties, the sources said.

There was no immediate comment or official statement from Iraq’s security forces.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1318311/middle-east

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India

 

Hurriyat leaders see NIA probe as hurdle in talks between Centre, separatists

Jun 09, 2018

The future of the delicately poised dialogue between the government at the Centre and separatists in Kashmir is closely linked to the National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) probe into terror funding, multiple government officials involved with the backchannel parleys said.

“Leaders of the Hurriyat Conference have pointed to the charge sheets filed in court by the NIA, asking how the case and talks can go side by side,’’ one official said on condition of anonymity. The ground is being prepared for a dialogue with the separatists. In response to an offer of talks by home minister Rajnath Singh, the Joint Resistance Leadership indicated it would be ready for a dialogue provided the government of India spoke in one voice and with clarity.

The NIA’s probe, however, is a hurdle.

A charge sheet filed by the NIA in January points to the link between the leaders of the JRL and Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed and Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin. No direct charges have been made against JRL leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq or Yasin Malik, but the NIA charge sheet says they espouse the cause of secession of Jammu and Kashmir from India. The blame for the protests by stone-pelting youth has also been laid at the door of the separatists.

When asked about the Hurriyat’s concerns over the NIA’s multiple investigations, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, in a telephone interview from Srinagar said: “The government should decide whether they want to arrest us or talk to us.’’

Reiterating the JRL’s commitment to a dialogue, Mirwaiz said, “The (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee government spoke to us under the ambit of humanity. Let (home minister) Rajnath Singh tell us whether his government has had a change of heart or is it just a change of strategy. If we are the kingpins of the demonstrations and the protests, who is now paying the youth to go to encounter sites?”

Key aides and relatives of the separatists have been in jail for over a year due to the NIA probe. Altaf Ahmad Shah alias Altaf Fantoosh, son-in-law of Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Shahid-ul-Islam, spokesperson of the Mirwaiz, are still in prison.

The Mirwaiz also indicated that the JRL would prefer a dialogue at the ‘political level’ and not at the level of the interlocutor, Dineshwar Sharma, who retired as the chief of the Intelligence Bureau.

Rajnath reiterated the need for a dialogue while on a two-day visit to the state. “You don’t have to be like-minded, but right-minded,” he said in Srinagar on Thursday.

The Mirwaiz held out hope of a dialogue, saying, “We will respond soon to the home minister’s request.”

A second official, familiar with the backchannel efforts also held out hope, hinting that it’s possible to simply keep the NIA case going without doing anything about it. “The case against Yasin Malik, accused of killing air force officers, is still dragging on for more than 25 years,” this person added on condition of anonymity.

“We are hopeful of talks.”

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/hurriyat-leaders-see-nia-probe-as-hurdle-in-talks-between-centre-separatists/story-lyH3Oj06s4j3JZVmZNBdLK.html

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Fatehpur Sikri celebrates the 448th Urs of Sufi saint Sheikh Salim Chishti

Siraj Qureshi

June 8, 2018

Legend has it, that when Emperor Akbar could not have a child from his wife Jodhabai, he walked barefoot from the Agra Fort to a small village 'Sikri' about 45 kilometers away from the city to pray for a son to a Sufi saint Sheikh Salim Chishti, who was reputed to have great powers.

Less than a year later, Jodhabai gave birth to a son and Akbar's heir, whom Akbar fondly named 'Salim' after the saint and a few years later, even shifted his capital from Agra to Sikri, where he built a whole new city which was called 'Fatehpur'. Sheikh Chishti passed on in the year 1572, when the new city was still under construction and Akbar commissioned a grand marble tomb of the saint to be built in the center of the main courtyard of the city, visible as soon as one entered the 'Buland Darwaza', which is the highest gateway in the world.

Salim, later on, came to be known as Emperor Jahangir, while Fatehpur was deserted in less than two decades due to the lack of water. But while the Royals, as well as most of the residents of the new city, moved back to Agra and Delhi, Sheikh Salim Chishti's family did not move with the royal family and continued to live in the deserted city that came to known as 'Fatehpur Sikri', serving at the grand tomb of Sheikh Salim Chishti completed by Emperor Akbar in his honour in 1581, barely four years before the capital was deserted.

Syed Irfan Salim, City Chairman of UP Muslim Action Committee, said that since then, the Chishti family has been celebrating the annual Urs of the saint during the month of Ramzan at his tomb in Fatehpur Sikri. The 448th Urs of the saint is being celebrated from June 6 - 13 this year.

The Urs is known to be a period charged with divinity and a show of mixed Hindu-Muslim brotherhood and harmony. The annual event with devotion, deity and festivity overlaps whole of the township of Fatehpur Sikri and the adjacent cities, besides followers of the Sufi master, drawn from the nook and corners of the country visiting Sikri.

He said that the celebrations, participated both by Hindus and Muslims expressing devotion and faith in the Sufi saint, Hindustani culture and Ganga-Jamunni tehzeeb, include un-interrupted qawwalis/naats/adhikra, drum-beating, offering of mannat/fariyad/chadars by the devotees, day and nights among Bandhawas (specialized singular singing with clapping in crescendo).

There are continuous colourful processions of pilgrims or devotees offering heavily ornate/floral/decorative chadars with golden/silver embellishment. During the observations the atmosphere of the tomb remains of utter solace and mysticism aerated with incense/scents from flowers and burning sticks. The delicious kheer spruced with rice, sugar, dry-fruits, zafran etc. cooked in a massive pot is distributed among the people. The celebrations terminate with Qu'l, Fatiha and wishing goodwill to the whole world.

Full report at:

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/fatehpur-sikri-celebrates-the-448th-urs-of-sufi-saint-sheikh-salim-chishti-1255599-2018-06-08

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Centre asks states not to give any documents to Rohingyas

Jun 8, 2018

JAMMU: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday said all states have been asked to conduct a survey of Rohingya Muslims living in the country, but have been cautioned against providing any legal documents to the community that would help the latter claim Indian citizenship.

He was responding to questions about the steps taken by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to deport the Rohingyas.

"Advisory was issued to them (all states) that no document should be given to them (Rohingyas) so that they claim citizenship of the country in future," the minister told a press conference here.

Singh said the process of deportation of the community would begin once the survey information from all the states reaches the ministry.

"After getting the information from the state governments about the number of Rohingyas, we will hand over the case to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). We will talk to the Burma (Myanmar) government for starting the process of their (Rohingyas) deportation," he said.

The MHA had written to all the states, asking them to identify the Rohingyas living in their respective states and a survey be conducted to know their numbers in order to start the deportation process.

More than 10,000 Rohingya Muslims are living in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Their presence is most found in Jammu and Samba districts of the state.

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had in January said in the state assembly that some madrasas were associated with the Rohingya Muslims in the state.

She said no Rohingya Muslim had been found involved in militancy-related incidents, but 17 FIRs have been registered against 38 Rohingyas for various offences, including those related to illegal border crossing.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/centre-asks-states-not-to-give-any-documents-to-rohingyas/articleshow/64512401.cms

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Rajnath Singh promises to bring lasting peace in J&K

June 8, 2018

Home minister Rajnath Singh on Friday visited border areas of Jammu and Kashmir. The home minister met border dwellers affected by Pakistani shelling in RS Pura belt of Jammu region and assured them that bullet-proof vehicles will be stationed there for their use during firing from across the border. On the second day of his visit to the conflict-ridden state, Singh addressed a press conference where he promised that the Narendra Modi government was keen to bring lasting peace in Jammu and Kashmir.

Here's all what he said:

1. Five bullet-proof ambulances have been sanctioned for the border areas. During their interaction with the Union home minister, the border dwellers, living under fear, demanded that bunkers should be built in every house to prevent casualties.

2. Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has decided to constitute nine new battalions of security forces. For two battalions only youth from Border areas will be recruited. Five Battalions of Indian Reserve Police will be constituted. The reservation of 60 per cent will be given to the people living in border area

3. Two new women battalions for J&K police have been sanctioned. This will provide direct employment to nearly 2000 women of the state.

4. Rs 5 Lakh will be deposited directly in the bank accounts of relatives of victims of Cross-Border Firing & Ceasefire Violations.

5. The relief given to Kashmiri migrants in Jammu was increased to Rs 10,000 in the year 2015. Now we have decided to give 30 per cent hike. This amount will be increased to Rs 13000 per family per month

6. 13029 individual and 1431 community bunkers will be constructed in the border area. Rs 415 crores have been already sanctioned for the construction.

7. Compensation for livestock killed during violations has been increased from lump sum amount of 30,000 to 50,000 per cattle.

8. Terrorism will be eradicated from the state like it happened in North East, Rajnath said

9. On the question of granting citizenship to West Pakistan refugees, who settled in Jammu after partition, Rajnath said they are citizens of India if not state subjects.

10. Rohingya Muslims have come from Burma (Myanmar). They will have to return to their place. We have written to state governments to provide us information about Rohingyas. We have directed states not to give the identification documents so that they don't claim citizenship.

11. Ramzan ceasefire was announced in Kashmir so that Muslim community do not face problems during the holy month.

Full report at:

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/13-takeaways-from-rajnath-singh-s-presser-in-jammu-1255453-2018-06-08

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North India’s first mosque going strong after 999 years

Jun 08, 2018

Situated in the old city area, the Shahi Jama Masjid in Meerut is considered the first mosque constructed in North India in 1019 AD.

The mosque represents a mixture of the pre and post-Mughal era architecture. The structure remains robust after almost 1000 years of its construction.

Shahar Qazi Prof Zainus Sajidin Siddiqui says the mosque’s three domes represent the architecture of Central Asia.

Historian K K Sharma says the mosque’s construction was completed during the rule of Naseeruddin Mehmood. Later, minarets were constructed and some parts rebuilt during the British Rule.

Qutubuddin Aibak, who established the Slave Dynasty in Delhi, built the tomb of an Islamic saint. Mohammad Ghori, who came from Afghanistan, had returned after handing over the rule of India to his confidant Qutubuddin Aibak.

Siddiqui, who is also a former professor of theology in Aligarh Muslim University, says maulanas (clerics) used to apprise people about rulers and their welfare schemes for people during Khulna (address to people ahead of Naman). That was why the then rulers used to construct mosques in important cities and Meerut was one of them.

Qazi says Shahi Mosque became an important centre for activities of Muslim leaders and people fighting for independence during the freedom struggle. The British arrested the then Shahar Qazi Abdul Bari during the First War of Independence in 1857 and wanted to give him capital punishment. But, some Muslim families persuaded the British not to do so due to Bari’s popularity among the masses.

The British then shifted the city kotwali, bringing it within a stone’s throw from the mosque in order to keep a close vigil on activities of pro independence activists.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/lucknow/north-india-s-first-mosque-going-strong-after-999-years/story-jPfLPas0NYQVTpLYE6YvIN.html

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Will bring Jharkhand Muslims into Hindu fold: Tapan Ghosh

June 8, 2018

Hindu Samhati founder Tapan Ghosh has announced he would soon begin a ‘ghar wapsi’ programme under his ‘Deogarh project’’ to bring Muslims into the Hindu fold in Jharkhand.

“We are still figuring out how to do this. But one thing we will initiate is the concept of daawats that the Muslims use when they want to convert a community. The community is invited for feasts and we will also do this,’’ Ghosh told The Indian Express.

The Hindu Samhati had invited 14 members of a Muslim family to a rally in Kolkata on February 14, claiming it had conducted their ‘ghar wapsi’ while calling for similar programmes across West Bengal.

“Unlike the anti-love jihad programme, we have not managed that many ghar wapsis in Bengal. There have been around 25 ghar wapsis, which is a small number,’’ said Ghosh, who stepped down as Hindu Samhati president last year and appointed Debtanu Bhattacharya as his successor.

Ghosh plans the proselytization drive under the auspices of Ram Krishna Vivekananda Sewa Ashram in Deogarh. “There are several reasons why this will be more effective in Jharkhand. It has a small Muslim population compared to Bengal,’’ he said.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/will-bring-jharkhand-muslims-into-hindu-fold-tapan-ghosh-5209179/

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At Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid on last Friday of Ramzan — and ceasefire

by Naveed Iqbal

June 9, 2018

On the main road outside Jamia Masjid, hundreds of youths, their faces covered with scarves, raise slogans of “azaadi”. A banner with pictures of several slain militants is tied on the mosque gates. This is Srinagar’s Nowhatta Chowk on the last Friday of Ramzan, and the last Friday before the Centre’s unilateral ceasefire is to run out.

Men and women start trickling into the mosque from noon and as the mosque begins to fill, a row of youngsters queue up on its east side. T-shirts with slogans like “I am Kashmir”, “This is my Kashmir” can be spotted. They take pictures together, video-call friends and tell them about the plan for the day.

Inside, as Mirwaiz Umar Farooq reads his Friday sermon before prayers, the youths prepare in the mosque’s restrooms for their march. They rub salt on their faces and help each other with the masks before stepping out.

As the namaz proceeds, they speak of Qaiser’s “murder”. One of them describes how last Friday, the 21-year-old was “mowed down” by an armoured CRPF vehicle when it came under stone-pelting. The CRPF has said the youth was run over as the vehicle was trying to move out after coming under stone-pelting by hundreds of youths.

As soon as the namaz ends, at about 2.35 pm, the youths bring out the flags, the banners and the slogans and begin a march towards Nowhatta police station. This Friday, just as the last, there has been no visible police or paramilitary presence in the area. As the procession moves deeper inside Nowhatta, the first teargas shell is fired in the direction of the crowds just after 3 pm. The youths, fully prepared, run backwards, only to run forward again, towards the police.

The back and forth between the crowd and police continues and more teargas shells are fired. One that lands further inside the crowd, is picked up by one of the protesters and thrown back at the police.

One of the elders watching from the sides says, “They do not have a choice. No one bothers to listen to them”. As the crowd is pushed back towards the gates of the mosque, a teargas shell lands in the middle of the protesters. “Breathe through your mouth,” the youths tell those unprepared for the sting, “Don’t splash water on your face, just rub salt.”

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/at-srinagars-jamia-masjid-on-last-friday-of-ramzan-and-ceasefire-5210226/

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South Asia

 

Pakistanis among 15 Taliban militants killed in NDS operation in Nangarhar

Jun 08 2018

At least fifteen militants including Pakistani nationals were killed during the operation of the Special Forces of Afghan Intelligence, National Directorate of Security (NDS), in eastern Nangarhar province.

The provincial government media office in a statement said the militants were killed during the operation conducted in Hesarak district.

The statement further added that the operation was conducted late on Thursday night in the vicinity of Gulo Khel area of the district and as a result several weapons, munitions, and explosives were also destroyed.

According to the provincial government, at least six Pakistani nationals including a commander and IED expert of the group were among those killed.

The Pakistani senior Taliban commander killed during the operation has been identified as Muaviya Waziristani, the statement said, adding that the militants had gathered in a meeting to plan their future attacks on security posts and other government compounds in Hesarak district.

According to the provincial government, the local residents did not suffer any casualty during the operation.

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

https://www.khaama.com/pakistanis-among-15-taliban-militants-killed-in-nds-operation-in-nangarhar-05337/

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US military operations against Daesh in Afghanistan to intensify

June 08, 2018

The United States intends to step up military operations against Daesh in eastern Afghanistan during a temporary ceasefire between the Afghan government and the Taliban, senior US officials said on Friday.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday announced the first unconditional ceasefire with the Taliban, coinciding with the end of the month of Ramazan. The ceasefire excludes other militant groups such as Daesh.

The Daesh group has developed a stronghold in Nangarhar, on the eastern border with Pakistan, and is among the country’s most dangerous militants since it appeared around 2015.

“(Operations against Daesh) will continue, in fact will be even intensified during this period of ceasefire,” US Army General John Nicholson, commander of US and international forces in Afghanistan, told reporters.

The ceasefire could free resources for operations against Daesh but some would remain to monitor the Taliban and for force protection, he told journalists on the sidelines of a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the United States could now redirect significant military capabilities towards Daesh and other militant groups.

“If the Taliban take full advantage of the ceasefire in the best interests of the Afghan people, then many of the surveillance assets we (have) overhead could be reoriented to ISIS-K, to Al Qaeda and other foreign terrorists that have no business being in Afghanistan in the first place,” he told reporters. The regional branch of the militant group is often called [Daesh]  Khorasan (ISIS-K).

Afghan commandos, supported by US Special forces and American and Afghan air power, have been carrying out an operation against the militants in Nangarhar.

The number of Daesh fighters in Afghanistan is uncertain because they frequently switch allegiances, but the US military estimates the number at about 2,000.

Before the start of a meeting on Daesh militants, Mattis said the United States remained committed to fighting the militant group in Syria and any premature exit would be a “strategic blunder.”

“While we are nearing the defeat of the so-called physical caliphate in Iraq and Syria, terrorists operations elsewhere have increased... The US remains committed to the conditions based approach,” Mattis added.

Ceasefire

The ceasefire announcement provides a potential moment of cautious optimism in the nearly 17-year-old war that has been defined by government corruption, weak security forces and militants that still control parts of the country.

The decision came after a meeting of clerics this week declared a fatwa, or ruling, against suicide bombings. One such bombing, claimed by Daesh, killed 14 people at the entrance to the clerics’ peace tent in the capital Kabul.

Nicholson said the ceasefire was “significant” because it was the first of its kind. The Taliban has not yet reacted to the announcement. Mattis said it gave the Taliban an opportunity to end the fighting.

Privately, Western officials have expressed caution.

Michael Kugelman, with the Wilson Center think tank in Washington, said the ceasefire was largely symbolic.

“We should keep our expectations in check ... If anything, it will make the Taliban even stronger by giving it some breathing room and time to regroup and reload,” Kugelman said.

NATO’s chief Jens Stoltenberg said he expected allies to agree to fund Afghan security forces at the same level until 2024, despite public fatigue in Western countries about their involvement in the conflict. Funding has averaged at about $1 billion annually and Stoltenberg said he expected that level to be met.

In August, US President Donald Trump unveiled a more hawkish military approach to Afghanistan, including a surge in air strikes to force the Taliban to the negotiating table.

Afghan security forces say the impact has been significant, but the Taliban roam large parts of the country and, with foreign troop levels of about 15,600, drawn swiftly down from 140,000 in 2014, there appears little hope of outright victory.

In another worrying sign, humanitarian organisations said nearly half of Afghan children are out of school due to conflict, poverty, child marriage and discrimination against girls, the number rising for the first time since 2002.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/08-Jun-2018/us-military-operations-against-daesh-in-afghanistan-to-intensify

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Australian commandos accused of Afghan war crimes

June 08, 2018

SYDNEY- Australian special forces have been accused of committing war crimes in Afghanistan in a secret defence report leaked Friday that described a "complete lack of accountability" from top military brass.

The investigation, reported by Fairfax Media, quoted unnamed special forces insiders saying some Australian troops engaged in the "unsanctioned and illegal application of violence on operations" with "a disregard for human dignity".

The report, which Fairfax said was compiled by defence department consultant Samantha Crompvoets, concerned operations by Australian Special Air Service troops and other elite commandos deployed alongside US and allied forces in Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001, attacks.

It described a dysfunctional military organisation rife with distrust of senior leaders and competition between different elite units.

"Even more concerning were allusions to behaviour and practises involving abuse of drugs and alcohol, domestic violence, unsanctioned and illegal application of violence on operations... and the perception of a complete lack of accountability at times," the report is quoted as saying.

The Defence Force declined to answer specific questions about the leaked report, but told Fairfax it was taking "all allegations about Australian Forces seriously" and would be making recommendations based on the findings of the inquiry.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop also declined to provide details as "there is an investigation underway".

The opposition Labor party on Friday described the revelations as "deeply concerning" and said subject to national security concerns the report should be made public.

"Our soldiers, particularly our special forces, work in difficult and complex environments," shadow minister for defence Richard Marles said in a statement.

"It's important that we know, as a country, that they're doing it in a professional and legal way."

Government parliamentarian and former SAS member Andrew Hastie said the allegations "should be taken seriously".

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/08-Jun-2018/australian-commandos-accused-of-afghan-war-crimes

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Religious cleric among 4 dead, 13 wounded in Laghman explosion

Jun 08 2018

At least four people including a religious cleric were killed and thirteen others were wounded in an explosion in Laghman province.

The provincial government media office in a statement said the incident took place at around 1:15 local time in Sultan Ghazi Baba Township after explosives planted a motorcycle went off.

The statement further added that a religious cleric identified as Mawlavi Mohamamd Younus Shama Khel was among those killed and thirteen civilians were wounded.

According to the provincial government, the incident took place shortly after the religious cleric left the mosque and was on his way towards his residence.

The health condition of two sons of Mawlavi Younus and another civilian has been reported as critical, the statement said, adding that the wounded individuals have been shifted to Nangarhar provincial hospital for the treatment.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/religious-cleric-among-4-dead-13-wounded-in-laghman-explosion-05338/

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Attack on Herat mosque leaves at least 9 dead, wounded

Jun 08 2018

At least seven people were killed and two others were wounded after a group of armed men attacked a mosque in the vicinity of Shindand district.

The local officials are saying the incident took place at around 1:30 pm local time after a group of armed men opened fire on prayer participants.

District security chief Abdul Wakil Watanyar confirmed the incident and said at least seven people were killed and at least two others were wounded.

He said the gunmen managed to flee the area after the attack and a search operation and investigations into the incident are underway.

In the meantime, another local official says at least seven people were killed and at least six others were wounded in the attack.

No individual or group has so far claimed responsibility behind the incident.

Herat has been among the relatively calm provinces in West of Afghanistan but the security situation of the province has started to deteriorate during the recent years.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/attack-on-herat-mosque-leaves-at-least-9-dead-wounded-05335/

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Europe

 

Austria Closes 7 Mosques and Seeks to Expel Imams Paid by Turkey

By Melissa Eddy

June 8, 2018

BERLIN — Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of Austria on Friday ordered the closing of seven mosques and the scrutiny of the right of dozens of Turkish imams to remain in the country, citing suspected violations of an Austrian law that bans “political Islam” or foreign financing of Muslim institutions.

The government’s move comes as Turks living in Austria and in other countries began casting absentee ballots for the June 24 presidential election. Mr. Kurz, who governs in a coalition  with the far-right Freedom Party, campaigned last year on a plan to crack down on illegal immigration and radical Islam.

“Parallel societies, politicized Islam or radical tendencies have no place in our country,” Mr. Kurz said at a news conference announcing the measures in Vienna on Friday.

Roughly 600,000 Muslims, most of them Turks or of Turkish descent, live in Austria, a country of 8.8 million.

Ibrahim Kalin, a Turkish senior presidential adviser and spokesman, denounced Austria’s action on his Twitter feed.

“Austria’s decision to close seven mosques and expel imams is a reflection of the Islamophobic, racist and discriminatory wave in this country,” he wrote. “It is an attempt to target Muslim communities for the sake of scoring cheap political points.”

Since taking office last year, Mr. Kurz’s government has begun investigating Muslim organizations suspected of violating the country’s 2015 Islam law. The law aims to prevent any conflict between “thinking of oneself as a pious Muslim and proud Austrian citizen at the same time,” by regulating operations of the Islamic community.

Announcing the first legal consequences of the inquiry on Friday, Mr. Kurz said that a group known as the Arab Cultural and Religious Community would be shut down on suspicion of promoting radical Islam, and that six of the mosques it operates were ordered to cease operations. Three of the mosques are in Vienna, two in the northwest of the country and one in the south.

A seventh mosque, also in Vienna, that is run by a far-right group known as the Gray Wolves was considered illegal even by the country’s main Islamic organization.

Under the Islam law, Muslim religious organizations are banned from receiving the bulk of their financing from sources outside Austria. But many imams working in those organizations do so through the Turkish-Islamic Union for Cultural and Social Cooperation, known by the initials A.T.I.B., and are civil servants of the Turkish government.

Speaking at the news conference, the Austrian interior minister, Herbert Kickl, said the authorities were reviewing the residence permits of about 40 imams employed by A.T.I.B., and their family members, over concerns they were being paid from abroad. He added that the permits of two others had already been revoked and that Austria had decided not to grant initial visas to five more.

Yasar Ersoy, a spokesman for the organization, told the public broadcaster ORF that the religious leaders were paid by Diyanet, the Directorate of Religious Affairs, which is based in the Turkish capital, Ankara.

The mosques and the imams have the right to challenge the order, the government said.

Turkey has criticized Austria for what it sees as anti-Islam stances, but its foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, tried to mend ties in a visit to Vienna in March. Austria has opposed Turkey’s accession to the European Union, and has angered the Turkish government by barring Turkish politicians from campaigning in the country.

The Turkish organization has come under criticism from both Austrian officials and the public after images surfaced in the Austrian media of boys dressed in camouflage uniforms re-enacting the Battle of Gallipoli as Turkish soldiers at one of the 60 mosques run by A.T.I.B.

German news outlets found pictures indicating that similar re-enactments were being carried out in Germany, adding fuel to complaints against the sister branch of the organization based in Germany. Last year, several imams in mosques run by the organization were investigated over accusations that they were spying on critics of the Turkish government living in Germany.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/08/world/europe/austria-islam-mosques-turkey.html

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Strangers break bread at Ramadan tent in London park

08.06.2018

As dusk falls, shoes come off and hundreds of hungry diners sit cross-legged in a London park to break bread.

It is iftar: the traditional sundown dinner that follows 19 hours of fasting in London, part of an annual ritual observed by Muslims the world over to mark the holy month of Ramadan. One of the sacred pillars of Islam, Ramadan calls on Muslims to abstain from all food, drink and even sipping water during the month's daylight hours.

So dinner takes on a special significance at the "open iftar" staged each year in a central London park.

Held in Bloomsbury, an elegant London district known for its garden squares and literary past, the "open iftar" is laid on for 30 nights by a small community group - The Ramadan Tent Project, which invites all comers to join them and eat for free.

"I was a bit uncertain as I'm not a Muslim," said retired psychotherapist Anthony Royle, who attended with two friends. "The more we can understand of each other's particular points of view, I think it's an essential part of us all sharing in a community. It's very easy to put people into little enclaves."

The project began in 2013 when Omar Salha, then a postgraduate student, decided to set up a "home from home" for international students living in the city. It has far surpassed Salha's first vision.

At least 300 hungry Londoners gathered in the park on Tuesday evening, from suited executives to the homeless, as strangers sat side-by-side on the ground. Many said the atmosphere challenged perceptions that it was a time of mistrust between communities in Britain, home to some 2.7 million Muslims, according to census data. But terror attacks, rising anti-immigrant sentiment and disputes over what it means to be British have bred division.

Sajid Javid, Britain's first Muslim interior minister, said this week the threat posed by Islamist militants remained high but that Muslims were not responsible "for the acts of a tiny minority who twist their faith".

Britain's largest Muslim group, The Muslim Council of Britain, has logged more than 100 hate incidents against Muslims since Britons voted in 2016 to leave the European Union, an outcome fuelled in large part by anti-immigrant sentiment.

In its infancy, the dinner drew just a handful of students who sat on newspapers and shared a jumbled picnic on the grass. Now, up to 400 people gather each night under a large marquee, with lighting and a sound system, served by a slick operation of 90 volunteers.

Its founder said the project was a way to celebrate diversity and offer Londoners an escape from urban life.

"It's very easy to get sucked into the 'us and them' narrative," Salha told journalists. "The 'open iftar' experience is about turning strangers into friends, breaking down barriers ... and doing it through the act of sharing a meal."

Once the sun set, a volunteer performed a live call to prayer as parched men and women happily broke their fast. Diners ate grilled chicken, rice, stuffed peppers and sticky baklava - all shared with strangers from any and no faiths.

"'Open iftar' in the heart of London provides a means for people to stop, take a moment, come together and connect," Tabetha Bhatti, an organiser at the Ramadan Tent Project, told journalists.

It was the first time for faster Wahil Gouraya.

"In a big city like London, it can be easy to be isolated," said the 18-year-old student. "This gives people an opportunity to go out and meet people that they might not usually meet."

It was the third visit for Umayair Ullah, who said the meal mattered more when misconceptions about Islam were so rife.

"Islam has definitely been misrepresented in the media so I think what 'open iftar' is doing is really important," he said. "It's like reclaiming the narrative ... it makes me really happy."

PR professional Laura Bannister came with her Arabic class, while television anchor Jon Snow praised the spirit of communality in the bustle of a big city.

"I pay tribute to your generosity, which is what after all we celebrate at an iftar and what we then try to practice after Ramadan," he told the group.

Full report at:

https://en.qantara.de/content/strangers-break-bread-at-ramadan-tent-in-london-park

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Inter-Faith Iftar at Islamic Center of Long Island

June 8, 2018

Two hours to sunset on a Wednesday, community members, clergy from various houses of worship, political leaders, Town Supervisors, Policemen rolled into the Islamic Center to attend the event. Keeping true to its tradition, ICLI hosted 15th Annual Interfaith Iftaar on May 30, 2018. The basketball court, ICLI’s new priced addition was buzzing with people. The event was set up with grandeur yet exhibited humbleness, a trademark of ICLI. Over 200 people filled the room seated on golden chairs and green tablecloths. Along with some reading materials were dates and water bottles, waiting

to be consumed at the first sign of sunset. The aroma from the dinner prep also filled the room, almost tempting the fasting bunch.

The Inspiration of the evening was this verse from the Holy Quran, 49:13

O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).

Dr. Isma Chaudhry, Chair and Mr. Habeeb Ahmed President of the Islamic Center of Long Island welcomed the guests. Chaudhry recalled the journey of the Islamic Center from hosting a dozen people in a small room, to the large congregation that was in front of her. She reflected on the verse “We have believed in Allah and what has been revealed to us and what has been revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the Descendants and what was given to Moses and Jesus and what was given to the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and we are Muslims [in submission] to Him.” and was able to articulate why interfaith was dear to her as a Muslim.

Mr. Ahmed introduced Dr. Mufti Mohammed Farhan as their new Executive Director. He gave a very thought-provoking short speech. The fulcrum of the speech was a sweet story which focused on how the world can be fixed by fixing relationships amongst individuals. Mr. Habeeb Ahmed made sure to acknowledge all guests and was his usual witty self. He was followed by Dr. Faroque Khan who introduced the work of the newly established Interfaith Institute of the Islamic Center of Long Island. He attested to the strength of building interfaith relationships and recalled numerous occasions when during the strong waves of Islamophobia all interfaith partners stood up for the rights and dignity of the Muslim Community at the Islamic Center of Long Island.

Rabbi Michael White of Temple Sinai of Roslyn, Reverend Mark Lukens of Bethany Congregational Church and Dr. Sheikh Negm, Chief Advisor to the Grand Mufti of Egypt and a visiting scholar at ICLI, gave inspiring talks on the attributes of fasting in the three Abrahamic traditions. Rabbi White and Rev. Lukens mentioned how the Interfaith Iftar is one of his favorite events due to the warmth and spirit of camaraderie and the dinner especially ICLI’s signature dish Seemie Ahmed’s Mango Mousse. Commissioner Ryder mentioned that during the day he had to deal with a murder incident but was glad to be in a place of peace by evening. There were short speeches by Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, Supervisors Judi Bosworth (Town of North Hempstead), Laura Gillan (Town of Hempstead), Joseph Saladino (Town of Oyster Bay). Presiding officer Rich Nicolleo and Legislator Siela Bynoe offered their Ramadan Greetings to the guests. Council Women Anna Kaplan and Viviana Russel along with Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, Commissioner Health and Human Services John Imhoff, Deputy Commissioner Parks Timothy O’ Connell, and Deputy Commissioner Minority Affairs Farah Mozzawala were among the guests. Keeping up with the tradition of charity in the month of Ramadan. Like previous years there was a cate cutting ceremony, and the cake was cut by county executive, the 3 town supervisors and the police commissioner. Long Island Council of Churches was presented with a 5000-dollar gift on behalf of ICLI. The check was accepted by Rev King who thanked ICLI for all their love and support. Muslim and Jewish ladies from Sisterhood of Shalom Shalom filled two tables attesting to the unity between both communities. They were acknowledged by Dr Isma Chaudhry for their efforts in promoting community building. Dr. Chaudhry also acknowledged the crossing guards who help the congregants cross the Brush Hollow Road every night when they come for the night prayers.

Full report at:

https://www.siasat.com/news/inter-faith-iftar-islamic-center-long-island-1366532/

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Linking religion, alleged crimes feeds Islamophobia

June 8, 2018

What comes to mind when you think of Muslims? Tolerance, love and peace or bigotry, hatred and terrorism? I asked this question of a TEDx audience in Traverse City, Mich., earlier this month in an attempt to raise awareness of the dangers of Islamophobia. Now, I similarly address fellow Londoners.

As a Muslim and a member of this community, I am gravely concerned with the decision of The London Free Press to print the article Charges against Londoner raise spectre of terrorism again (June 1) that underscores the religious conviction of a Londoner recently charged with dozens of offences, including car-jacking, home invasion and robbery.

Certainly, no one should downplay the severity of these allegations. However, at a time when we need to build a strong sense of community and dispel suspicion, the article falls short of practising cultural sensitivity while potentially perpetuating misconceptions that may lead to Islamophobia, discrimination and racism.

Our media have a duty to report responsibly and exercise moderation in their coverage. They are also responsible for raising awareness about the diversity of the community it serves. That includes Muslims, who make up almost a tenth of the London population.

The article’s first line reads: “What to make of a Muslim man charged with having explosive material?” and later refers to him as a “devout Muslim.” How do we measure one’s piety?

So often, the wider Muslim community is implicated in the actions of an individual, or of particular groups who have hijacked Islam to endorse their own twisted interpretation. Rarely are these generalizations extended to members of other faith groups, yet there is little reservation when it comes to Muslims. Such distorted typecasts result in widespread unease in attitudes toward Muslims, promote racist stereotypes, and encourage backlash against Muslims.

The investigation into terrorism charges is still underway, but the verdict already is in: “devout Muslims” raise the spectre of terrorism. It is no wonder Muslims become overly apprehensive during an attack for fear the perpetrator might have ties to Islam. They dread the overwhelming pressure to offer a collective apology for a crime they neither committed nor supported, or brace for the hateful backlash that might ensue.

In his book American Islamophobia, Khaled Beydoun dissects the dangers of painting Muslims with a broad brushstroke. When seen as threatening “members of an enemy bloc,” their Islamic identity alone becomes grounds for suspicion, leading to the normalization of hate-mongering, and to vigilante action that is both condoned and justified.

We can no longer look away or sugar-coat it. Islamophobia is alive and thriving in our community and the article exemplifies how typecasting the “devout Muslim” requires treating them with suspicion. Not surprisingly, anti-Muslim hate crimes are on the rise, especially against hijab-clad women, as well as other visible minorities mistaken for Muslims, such as Sikh men, and non-English-speaking immigrants, as exemplified by the recent attack on a Colombian family in St. Thomas. At their worst, these incidents can be tragic, lest we forget the Quebec mosque terror attack in 2017 that resulted in the murder of six Muslim men.

I echo the words of New York activist Linda Sarsour: I remain “unapologetically Muslim.” I am not guilty of the crimes committed in the name of Islam, but I do believe we can find a cure for Islamophobia by dispelling some of the fears and myths associated with it.

Full report at:

http://lfpress.com/opinion/columnists/hammoud-head

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Indonesia wins UN council seat along with Germany, Belgium

8 June 2018

Indonesia has defeated the Maldives in the only contested election for a seat on the Security Council starting Jan. 1 and will join the UN’s most powerful body along with Germany, Belgium, South Africa and the Dominican Republic.

General Assembly President Miroslav Lajcak announced the results of the secret ballot vote Friday.

The four countries running without opposition in the 193-member General Assembly all received over 180 votes. Indonesia defeated the Maldives by a vote of 144-46.

The Security Council has five permanent members and 10 members elected by the assembly for two-year terms. Five countries are elected every year.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2018/06/08/Indonesia-wins-UN-council-seat-along-with-Germany-Belgium.html

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Union in UK backs call for probe into Tory Islamophobia

08.06.2018

LONDON

The National Union of Students, an organization representing students across the U.K., has backed the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and the Muslim Conservative Forum in calling for an investigation into Islamophobia within the Conservative party.

“As Muslim full-time officers and National Union of Students [NUS] representatives, we would like to express our solidarity with the Muslim Council of Britain [MCB] and the Conservative Muslim Forum in calling for an independent review into Islamophobia within the Conservative Party,” the NUS said in a statement Friday.

“Given the current political context, it is more important than ever to resist any form of racism - wherever and whenever it manifests” it added.

The MCB, in an open letter on May 30, had called for an independent inquiry into alleged Islamophobia within the Conservative party, citing reports of weekly incidences and occurrences of “anti-Muslim racism from representatives of the Conservative Party”.

The MCB listed 12 reports of such incidences that occurred in the past two months alone.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid denied the reports presented by the MCB and rejected the claims of Islamophobia within the Tory party, accusing it of being unrepresentative of British Muslims and having alleged links to extremism.

There has been a outpour of support for the MCB from many different groups across the U.K. following Javid’s comments.

An 11 umbrella organization, representing over 350 mosques and institutions in the U.K., have also written to the Conservative party calling for an investigation and the Union of Jewish Students has also expressed solidarity with the MCB.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/union-in-uk-backs-call-for-probe-into-tory-islamophobia/1169746

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Mideast

 

Anti-Israel marches in Iraq, Iran in solidarity with Palestine to mark ‘Al Quds Day’

Jun 08, 2018

Thousands of Shiite Muslims marched in the capitals of Iran and Iraq on Friday to mark “Jerusalem Day,” in an annual protest against Israeli rule over the holy city and show of support for the Palestinians. Some burned Israeli flags and effigies of President Donald Trump.

Later on Friday, thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were to head to the perimeter fence with Israel to stage the latest in a series of mass protests against the blockade of their territory by Israel and Egypt.

Friday’s protest was also being held to mark Jerusalem Day, instituted by Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

A large turnout was expected in Gaza, raising concerns about renewed bloodshed. At least 115 Palestinian protesters have been killed and close to 3,800 have been wounded by Israeli army fire since the marches began in late March.

Earlier on Friday, organizers urged Gaza residents to head to the perimeter fence with Israel after Muslim noon prayers. The call was issued through mosques and loudspeakers mounted on cars that toured Gaza neighborhoods.

Previous border protests have drawn thousands of people, most gathering at sit-in tent camps several hundred meters (yards) from the fence. Smaller groups have approached the fence, throwing stones, burning tires or sending kites with incendiary materials attached toward Israel with the aim to set fields there on fire. Others have thrown fire bombs or tried to damage the fence. Israeli soldiers, including snipers perched behind earthen berms, have fired live bullets and tear gas.

On Friday morning, Israeli army drones dropped incendiary materials on piles of old tires to make them unusable for the later protests, Gaza organizers said.

Israel’s use of potentially lethal force against the protesters, the vast majority of them unarmed, has drawn international criticism. Rights groups have said Israel’s open-fire rules are unlawful.

Israel has accused Gaza’s ruling group, the Islamic militant Hamas, of trying to carry out attacks and damage the fence under the guise of the protests. Hamas leaders have threatened possible mass border breaches, raising concerns in Israel that communities near Gaza might be at risk.

The Jerusalem Day protests are being held each year on the last Friday of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. The day is known in Arabic as “Al Quds Day,” a reference to the city’s historic Arabic name.

Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed it to its capital, a move not recognized by most of the international community. Israel’s current government has said it will not accept a partition of the city as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians.

The eastern sector houses major shrines revered by Muslims, Christians and Jews. The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in east Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam, is built on the spot where tradition says the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. The compound sits on the ruins of biblical temples and is revered as the holiest site of Judaism.

In Iran’s capital of Tehran, thousands joined a Jerusalem Day march on Friday, chanting “Death to Israel” and burning a Trump effigy.

Iran and Israel are implacable foes. Iran does not recognize Israel and supports militant groups, including Hamas, the smaller Palestinian group Islamic Jihad and the Lebanese Hezbollah militia.

In Iraq, thousands of Iran-backed Shiite militiamen in uniform marched through the streets of the capital of Baghdad on Friday, setting an Israeli flag on fire and carrying posters of the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and Supreme Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/anti-israel-marches-in-iraq-iran-in-solidarity-with-palestine-to-mark-al-quds-day/story-CVy9orbHnb2Pm0sesXel0J.html

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Houthis shut down Hajj and Umrah agencies in Yemen, target owners

8 June 2018

The Houthi militias shut down a number of offices and agencies that book Hajj and Umrah trips from Sanaa and other areas, and have begun tracking down the agencies’ owners.

The managers of one of the agencies in Sanaa said that this Houthi campaign against them is large, adding that the campaign coincides with the Awqaf ministry issuing a list of officially approved Hajj and Umrah booking agencies where people can start arranging pilgrimage trips.

The militias forced these agencies to pay a fee for every pilgrim who books through them as “operational expenses” for the Awqaf ministry of the illegitimate government, which controls Sanaa.

A manager of one of the agencies, who did not reveal his name for security purposes, said that several did not agree to these payment terms which cause the Houthis to shut down 18 of them in Sanaa alone.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2018/06/08/Houthis-shut-down-Hajj-and-Umrah-agencies-in-Yemen-target-owners.html

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Al-Quds Day protests reject relocation of US Embassy to Jerusalem

JUNE 9, 2018

While addressing Friday congregations, religious scholars and clerics urged leadership of Muslim world to resolve prevailing differences within Arab and Muslim countries with mutual collaboration and bilateral talks.

“Foreign interference in affairs of Muslim World and elements supporting extremism and terrorism in Muslim countries have weakened the case of Palestinian cause,” said clerics, adding that world leadership, especially the United Nations, must come out of slumber and take notice of Israeli aggression on innocent Palestinians.

The demonstrations were held on the call of the Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) to mark ‘Youm-e-Tahafuz-e-Harmain Al-Sharifain’ and ‘Al-Quds Day’.

Demonstrators also reaffirmed their support to the people of Saudi Arabia and the Saudi government against missile attacks of Houti rebel tribes. Participants unanimously called for devising a mechanism for protection of Harmain Al-Sharifain and Al-Aqsa.

While addressing a Friday congregation in Rawalpindi, PUC Chairman Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi said, “Protection of Harmain Al Sharifain is part of our faith. People of Pakistan are united with oppressed Muslims of Syria, Iraq, Kashmir and Palestine,” he said, adding that US administration had put world peace on stake by relocating US Embassy to Jerusalem.

“World peace can’t be sustained without seeking permanent solution to burning issues of Palestine and Kashmir.” He added that there was no link between Islam and terrorism. Ashrafi also urged Muslim leadership to get united to contain the conspiracies of the enemies of Islam and Muslims.

Lauding services of Saudi government for pilgrims, Ashrafi said that the Saudi government had never restraint pilgrims from visiting Saudi Arabia on account of sectarian differences or any such other reason. “Elements making baseless propaganda against Saudi government are aimed at dividing Muslim Ummah and fanning confrontation within Muslim world.”

Full report at:

https://dailytimes.com.pk/251069/al-quds-day-protests-reject-relocation-of-us-embassy-to-jerusalem/

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Emergency UN General Assembly meeting on Gaza called for Wednesday

June 09, 2018

The UN General Assembly will hold an emergency meeting next Wednesday at 19:00 GMT to vote on an Arab-backed resolution on Gaza, the body's president Miroslav Lajcak announced Friday.

The resolution will condemn Israel, and will be similar to one vetoed by the United States in the Security Council last week, which called for protecting Palestinians from Israeli aggression, according to diplomats.

It comes as four Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire on the Gaza border on Friday, as weeks of deadly clashes with protesters continued.

Resolutions adopted by the General Assembly have no binding value, unlike those passed by the Security Council.

"We will work next week to get the maximum number of votes," a diplomat from a country that supported the measure told AFP.

Arab countries turned to the General Assembly in December after the US vetoed a Security Council vote on a resolution to condemn its decision to move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Fourteen members of the Security Council backed the December resolution, though the US as well as the council's four other permanent members retain a right to veto.

The measure then received 128 votes out of 193 in the General Assembly.

A diplomatic source said the emergency meeting had been pushed by the Organization of Islamic States and the Arab League.

Several European countries have tried to dissuade Palestinians and Arab countries from demanding a vote in the General Assembly after last week's US veto.

At least 129 Palestinians killed

"Everyone told them not to do it," said a diplomat on condition of anonymity, arguing the resolution could be counterproductive if it doesn't receive at least as many votes as the one obtained in December on Jerusalem.

Danny Danon, Israel's ambassador to the UN, condemned the planned resolution.

"It is unfortunate that instead of condemning the terrorists of Hamas, some countries are looking to satisfy their domestic political needs by bashing Israel at the United Nations ," Danon said in a statement.

It is not entirely clear what form of protection the Palestinians of Gaza are seeking, from observers to a full blown peacekeeping force.

Arab states have recently turned to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to make proposals on this matter.

But according to a diplomat who asked for anonymity, he said he needed a mandate from the Security Council to look further into the issue.

On Friday, four Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip by Israeli soldiers near the border fence during new clash-ridden protests in the blockaded enclave.

At least 129 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since protests broke out along the Gaza border on March 30. There have been no Israeli casualties.

Protests peaked on May 14 when at least 61 Palestinians were killed in protests to coincide with the controversial opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem

The Jewish state maintains a crippling blockade of Gaza it says is necessary to isolate Hamas.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/09-Jun-2018/emergency-un-general-assembly-meeting-on-gaza-called-for-wednesday

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Basij Commander: US Strategic Mistake on Quds Further Unites Muslims

Jun 08, 2018

"This big strategic mistake has further bolstered solidarity of the Islamic Ummah," General Gheibparvar told FNA on the sidelines of the International Quds Day rallies in Tehran on Friday.

He also referred to the US withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, and said this enmity has increased the Iranian people's motivation to participate in the Quds Day rallies more massively than the past.

Millions of Iranians from all walks of life took to city streets all over the country to show their full and everlasting support for the oppressed Palestinian nation against Israeli occupation and aggressions, specially its recent massacre of the Palestinians in Gaza.

People in large groups of tens of thousands in Tehran and other cities across the country converged in main city squares on the International Quds Day on Friday to condemn Israeli occupation and its recent massacre of Palestinian demonstrators in the Great March of Return as well as those who were protesting against the US move to transfer its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem al-Quds.

Recent months have seen a major escalation of violence in Gaza, with more than 120 Palestinians killed by Israeli fire since the end of March, when the Great March of Return demonstrations began.

In Tehran, demonstrators congregated at the University of Tehran, the site of Friday prayers for the past three decades.

Head of the Intifada and Quds Headquarters Brigadier General Ramezan Sharif said on Saturday the International Quds Day rallies would be held in tens of parts and nations of the world on Friday to voice support for the defenseless Palestinian people and condemn the Zionist regime's atrocities.

He also said that nearly 900 Iranian cities would witness popular rallies in support of the defenseless people in Gaza before the Friday prayers ceremonies.

Sharif stated that some 5,300 Iranian and foreign reporters, including 160 foreign photojournalists and reporters, cover the International Quds Day rallies in Iran.

The International Quds Day is an annual event opposing Israel's occupation of Beitul-Muqaddas. Anti-Zionist rallies and demonstrations are held on the last Friday of Ramadan in Muslim and Arab countries around the world, specially in Iran, as well as a large number of non-Muslim states.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970318000313

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Three Palestinians killed by Israeli fire in fresh Gaza border clashes

8 June 2018

Three Palestinians, including a 15-year-old, were killed by Israeli fire on the Gaza border on Friday, as thousands again took part in anti-Israel protests.

The Palestinian health ministry had announced a fourth man had been killed but swiftly clarified that his heart had been restarted.

Earlier reports said Israeli troops fired tear gas and live bullets at Palestinians taking part in weekly protests at the Gaza Strip border with Israel on Friday, injuring at least 386 people, medics said.

The army said it was taking action to disperse some 10,000 Palestinians, some of whom threw rocks at the troops and burned tyres, and prevent any breach of the fortified frontier fence.

Israeli forces have killed at last 120 Palestinians in protests along the border since a campaign was launched on March 30 to demand the right to return to ancestral lands lost to Israel in the 1948 war of its creation, hospital officials say.

Israel says the dead included gunmen who used civilians as cover for gun and grenade attacks or infiltration attempts. Organizers linked Friday’s protests to annual “Jerusalem Day” events in Iran, which like Gaza’s dominant.

“There is no such state called Israel that could have a capital called Jerusalem,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said, adding that the protests, which also demand an end to a grinding Israeli and Egyptian blockade on Gaza, would continue.

Emmanuel Nahshon, spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, described Gaza protesters on Twitter as “hateful morons” and “Hamas Jugend”, the latter a play on “Hitler Youth” in German.

Months of confrontation

There have been no Israeli casualties from the more than two months of confrontations along the Gaza border. But Israel says it has lost swathes of farmland and forests on its side of the border to blazes set by coal- or fuel-laden Palestinian kites.

Among those wounded on Friday was an Agence France Press photographer and a 23-year-old man who was on life support after a tear gas canister penetrated his face, medical officials said.

“We are not asking for the moon,” said Amer Abu Khalaf, a 20-year-old business administration student who took part in the protest, saying it aimed to “break the siege and have the world recognize our right to return”.

Israel has long refused to admit Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war or their millions of descendants, saying that would spell demographic suicide and that they should stay in a future Palestinian state. Statehood talks have been frozen since 2014.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/06/08/Israeli-gunfire-tear-gas-injure-hundreds-as-Gaza-protest-resumes.html

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Israel army on high alert ahead of ‘Jerusalem Day’ in West Bank, Gaza

8 June 2018

The Israeli Army heightened its security measures Friday ahead of a major protests on “Jerusalem Day” expected after Friday prayers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Israeli Radio said the IDF are on high alert as they are expecting confrontations on Gaza border with Israel.

At least 115 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli army fire on daily protests sparked since March, 30.

Friday’s protest which coincide with “Jerusalem Day” has additional meaning this year with the United States recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Last night the Israeli army dropped leaflets warning Gaza residents to stay away from its border with Israel during the protest.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/06/08/Israel-army-on-high-alert-ahead-of-Jerusalem-Day-in-West-Bank-Gaza.html

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Increased resistance against Houthis in Hodeidah as joint Yemeni forces advance

8 June 2018

Local sources in Hodeidah, west of Yemen, said there are signs of popular escalation in the city to form resistance factions as joint Yemeni forces advance towards the city, adding that Houthis are in a state of panic.

As a result, the militias have resorted to campaigns of arbitrary detentions and deployment of snipers on rooftops.

The sources added that youth groups in the city seek to form resistance factions against the Houthis to secure public and private property.

Meanwhile, the Houthis detained several youths and said they busted cells that are cooperating with the Yemeni legitimacy.

According to local sources, Houthi stance worsened due to popular anger as a result of the violations and crimes they committed, including looting the city’s revenues while citizens suffer from poverty and famine.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2018/06/08/Signs-of-popular-escalation-in-Hodeidah-as-joint-Yemeni-forces-advance.html

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Arab Coalition in Yemen condemns Houthi threat on civilians’, aid workers’ lives

8 June 2018

Following the withdrawal of 71 members of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Arab Coalition, which supports Yemen’s legitimate government, expressed its concern about the current humanitarian conditions and the increasing Houthi threat in Yemen.

The Arab Coalition’s spokesman, Turki al-Maliki, confirmed the coalition’s commitment to facilitating conditions for aid workers to perform their duties in areas liberated by the Yemeni government and other areas controlled by the Houthi militias.

Maliki stressed the coalition’s priority of providing all security measures to protect the staff of humanitarian organizations in Yemen. Thet includes their freedom of movement, and entering areas that need humanitarian aid.

Maliki added that any threat to any aid worker’s life should be considered a clear violation of international laws and Security Council resolutions. He said that whoever is responsible for this should face the consequences and be prosecuted by the international community.

Since beginning air raid operations, and operations to liberate Hodeidah, Maliki said that Yemen’s government forces and the Arab Coalition have been taking the necessary measures to ensure the safety of Yemeni citizens, as well as UN organizations and humanitarian organizations.

The Arab Coalition condemned the Houthi threat on civilian lives, and held them responsible for any further deterioration in humanitarian conditions.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2018/06/08/Arab-Coalition-in-Yemen-condemns-Houthi-threat-on-civilians-aid-workers-lives.html

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Palestinians’ presence in al-Quds best policy to foil Israel plot: Nasrallah

Jun 8, 2018

The secretary general of the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement has described the presence of Palestinian population in various districts of Jerusalem al-Quds, and their participation in Muslim religious rituals across the occupied city as the best polices to thwart the Israeli regime’s attempts to change its demographics.

Addressing his supporters via a televised speech broadcast live from the Lebanese capital city of Beirut on the occasion of the International Quds Day, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah stated that many countries have rejected US President Donald Trump’s decision to move the American diplomat mission in the occupied territories to Jerusalem al-Quds, and that his much touted “deal of the century” aims to terminate the Palestinian cause.

Nasrallah added that Israeli officials have been seeking to change the demographic make-up of Jerusalem al-Quds ever since the Tel Aviv regime was created in 1967.

The Hezbollah chief noted that the Lebanese people marked this year’s Quds Day in the southern village of Maroun al-Ras as it lies on the border with occupied Palestinian lands.

“The occupying regime (of Israel) has failed to change al-Quds demography despite considerable efforts over the past years. Palestinians are resolved to stay in their homes, and they need the full support of Arab and Muslims to achieve such a goal,” he pointed out.

Nasrallah also criticized Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for their efforts to persuade other Muslim countries that Israelis reserve a right in Palestine.

“They falsify and distort the meanings of holy Quran verses in a bid to protect their regimes through obeying US orders, recognizing the Zionist regime (of Israel) and eradicating the Palestinian cause,” he commented.

The Hezbollah secretary general went on to say that some treacherous Arab businessmen are buying Palestinian homes in Jerusalem al-Quds, and then selling them to extremist settlers.

Nasrallah also made it clear the new generation of the Palestinian nation has no fear of Israeli bullets at all, and is pressing ahead with anti-occupation protest rallies.

He further highlighted that this year’s Quds Day demonstrations were staged worldwide; and that Yemenis – irrespective of Saudi airstrikes and crippling Saudi-led naval and aerial blockade – took part in a massive rally to express their unwavering support for Palestine and its nation.

The Hezbollah chief then criticized Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifah over his support for Israel’s missile attack on occupied Golan Heights.

“Saudi Arabia and some Arab countries tend to arrest all those who advocate the Palestinian cause and call for anti-Israel demonstrations.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran has supported Palestine since the victory of the Islamic Revolution back in 1979. It has paid a heavy price for such a stance. All those countries that hold hostilities against Iran should consider themselves as Israel’s allies. All those expecting the fall of Iran’s Islamic establishment should also well know that they are under delusion,” Nasrallah pointed out.

He then described Syria as the main pivot of the anti-Israel resistance front, emphasizing that the Israeli regime must now come to terms with the fact that its plots to end the resistance front there have resulted in abject failure.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/06/08/564361/Palestinians-presence-in-alQuds-best-policy-to-foil-Israel-plans-to-change-alQuds-demographics-Nasrallah

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Iran faces new threat as Kurdish jihadis join IS in Afghanistan

June 8, 2018

A group of journalists had gathered at the site of a bomb blast in the center of Kabul, the Afghan capital, on the morning of April 30. Suddenly, a suicide bomber carrying a press card slipped past police and approached the journalists. As the bomb he was carrying went off, seven media workers died on the spot. Two more later died of their injuries, bringing the death toll of the two blasts to 26.

The Islamic State's (IS) Afghanistan branch, known as Wilayat Khorasan, claimed responsibility for the attacks and released an image, dated April 29, of the two suicide bombers standing next to each other with their faces covered. One of them was identified by IS as Qaqa al-Kurdi. IS did not reveal where Kurdi came from, but for decades, both Iranian and Iraqi Kurds have been known to travel in large numbers to Afghanistan in pursuit of jihad. They have swelled the ranks of a number of groups over the years, and most recently IS.

Mukhtar Hooshmand, an expert on tracking the movement of Kurdish jihadis from Iran and Iraq, told Al-Monitor that he has identified Qaqa al-Kurdi as a 29-year-old man from Iran's western Kermanshah province. The province has gained notoriety in recent years, as hundreds of young Kurds hailing from there and other Kurdish areas have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join IS and the jihadi group previously known as Jabhat al-Nusra (now called Jabhat Fatah al-Sham). Indeed, all of the IS suicide bombers who struck the Iranian parliament and the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran last summer hailed from Kermanshah province.

Following the IS attack in Tehran, Iran appears to have woken up to the jihadi threat and has arrested hundreds of Iranian Kurdish extremists. But as the IS project in Iraq and Syria is falling apart, Iranian Kurdish jihadis have changed direction and are now heading eastward instead to join Wilayat Khorasan, sources familiar with Sunni extremism in Iran's Kurdish areas told Al-Monitor.

Iran sees western Afghanistan as a vulnerable spot that could be exploited by IS and hostile countries. As such, the Islamic Republic appears to have tried to fortify its defenses by allegedly propping up the Taliban to fight IS as well as NATO and Afghan forces stationed there.

With over 500 miles of land border with Afghanistan, and the existence of a number of local Iranian Sunni armed groups in border areas, Tehran appears to be worried about its side of the frontier, including Sistan and Baluchestan, which is one of the poorest provinces in Iran. In May, Iran's ambassador to Kabul, Mohammad Reza Bahrami, described the existence of IS in Afghanistan as a mutual concern for Tehran and Kabul.

As President Donald Trump's anti-Iran rhetoric intensifies, there are now fears that the United States and other governments hostile toward the Islamic Republic may use Iraqi Kurdistan and neighboring countries — particularly Afghanistan — to destabilize Iran.

In response, Iran appears to have brought the Iraqi Kurds under its umbrella, warning them in recent talks in Tehran to avoid being used by hostile forces. Meanwhile, Tasnim News Agency, an outlet closely affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, highlighted in a recent report the threats that Iran faces in Afghanistan's Farah province. Tasnim's list includes the presence of a large NATO base in the province, IS and the increasing activities of Persian Gulf kingdoms such as Saudi Arabia. "Farah, as a province bordering Iran, is of special importance for Washington," Tasnim reported on May 19. "If Trump, who since the beginning of his presidency has always beaten the drums of war with Iran and [promoted] fearmongering of Iran, genuinely wants to do something against the Islamic Republic, the [NATO] military base in this province and the airport of Farah province would be a strategic location."

But while the existence of NATO and US forces in Afghanistan poses a challenge to Iran, the internal threat from disenfranchised Iranian Sunnis — including Kurds who join extremist groups — poses a far more serious challenge to Iranian authorities. Since the US attacks on al-Qaeda hideouts in Afghanistan and the US destruction of Saddam Hussein’s command centers in northern Iraq in the early 2000s, Salafist jihadi ideology appears to have grown among Sunnis in Iran and particularly among the Kurds. Indeed, a large number of Salafist jihadis from Iraq crossed into Iran after the US attack on Kurdish jihadis in northern Iraq, where they were allowed to stay and gradually spread their extremist ideology.

As such, thousands of Kurds in Iran have embraced Salafist jihadi outlook since the beginning of this millennium, with hundreds of young men joining various terrorist groups in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. Some of these recruits have eventually returned to Iran, which they had left in the mid-2000s to fight alongside al-Qaeda-linked groups in Iraq, such as that of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Some Kurdish jihadis inside Iran even set up a group named after Zarqawi's Tawhid wal-Jihad and engaged in violent clashes within the country.

"There were three waves of Kurds going to Afghanistan," Hooshmand told Al-Monitor. "The first wave, which were mainly Iraqi Kurds, was in the 1980s to fight alongside the mujahedeen against the Soviets. Another [wave], including both Iraqi and Iranian Kurds, occurred after 2002, to fight NATO forces." The third wave, according to Hooshmand, started with the emergence of Wilayat Khorasan in early 2015. "The number of Kurds going there is steadily growing," he said.

Two other sources familiar with the jihadi groups in western Iran confirmed this trend. "It is a well-known fact that before the emergence of Daesh [IS] and [Jabhat al-] Nusra, the extremist Kurds were going to Afghanistan," one of the sources told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. "Then they went to Iraq and Syria, but now they are going to Afghanistan again." The second source, who also spoke on condition of anonymity over concerns for his safety, concurred. "They travel to Zahedan [in Iran] and then use Saravan area [near Pakistan] to cross. … They either cross into Pakistan or directly go to Afghanistan."

Full report at:

https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/06/iran-islamic-state-isis-khurasan-wilayah-kurd-jihadists.html

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North America

 

Trump White House under fire for lack of Muslim-American representation at Ramadan celebration

Jun 8, 2018

Wednesday night, to commemorate the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the Trump White House hosted its first Iftar dinner — the meal that ends the daily fast.

The White House has hosted an Iftar dinner annually since the Clinton administration. However, President Donald Trump — breaking with tradition — passed on hosting one in 2017, causing controversy. This year, however, the Iftar dinner was no less controversial.

No Muslim-American leaders or activists appear to have attended the dinner. (Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, declined to provide a final guest list), and it is not clear if any were asked. The dinner was instead attended by a number of Middle Eastern diplomats and senior officials, including representatives from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan, as well as one American Muslim military chaplain. According to the Guardian, representatives of a number of prominent domestic Islamic advocacy organizations, including the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), were surprised not to be invited to the dinner.

“There has been no real engagement, no real effort to even invite members of our faith communities, to have conversations with the White House or administration,” Hoda Hawa, MPAC’s director of policy and advocacy, told the Guardian.

Trump’s Iftar dinner may have been well-intentioned, but it seems to be representative of a wider trend in his presidency: that of minimizing attention paid to the needs and goals of Muslim Americans, while stoking Islamophobia more generally to appeal to Trump’s white, conservative base. From the “Muslim ban” barring visitors from seemingly arbitrarily selected Muslim countries to his repeated, hostile, and often factually incorrect comments about Islam (like the debunked idea that American Muslims were “celebrating” 9/11), Trump has positioned himself in opposition to the American Muslim community.

His remarks about Islam at the event, however, were generally positive. He called Islam “one of the world’s great religions” and wished attendees a “Ramadan Mubarak” — Arabic for a “blessed holiday.”

Wednesday night, to commemorate the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the Trump White House hosted its first Iftar dinner — the meal that ends the daily fast.

The White House has hosted an Iftar dinner annually since the Clinton administration. However, President Donald Trump — breaking with tradition — passed on hosting one in 2017, causing controversy. This year, however, the Iftar dinner was no less controversial.

No Muslim-American leaders or activists appear to have attended the dinner. (Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, declined to provide a final guest list), and it is not clear if any were asked. The dinner was instead attended by a number of Middle Eastern diplomats and senior officials, including representatives from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan, as well as one American Muslim military chaplain. According to the Guardian, representatives of a number of prominent domestic Islamic advocacy organizations, including the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), were surprised not to be invited to the dinner.

“There has been no real engagement, no real effort to even invite members of our faith communities, to have conversations with the White House or administration,” Hoda Hawa, MPAC’s director of policy and advocacy, told the Guardian.

Trump’s Iftar dinner may have been well-intentioned, but it seems to be representative of a wider trend in his presidency: that of minimizing attention paid to the needs and goals of Muslim Americans, while stoking Islamophobia more generally to appeal to Trump’s white, conservative base. From the “Muslim ban” barring visitors from seemingly arbitrarily selected Muslim countries to his repeated, hostile, and often factually incorrect comments about Islam (like the debunked idea that American Muslims were “celebrating” 9/11), Trump has positioned himself in opposition to the American Muslim community.

His remarks about Islam at the event, however, were generally positive. He called Islam “one of the world’s great religions” and wished attendees a “Ramadan Mubarak” — Arabic for a “blessed holiday.”

https://www.vox.com/2018/6/8/17439564/trump-iftar-dinner-ramadan-white-house

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US, Pakistan working to jump-start Afghan peace process

Anwar Iqbal

June 09, 2018

WASHINGTON: The United States and Pakistan have worked together in arranging a temporary ceasefire in Afghanistan, hoping that it would jump-start the Afghan reconciliation process, official and diplomatic sources told Dawn.

At a Thursday afternoon seminar, a senior US official confirmed that Washington was pursuing “multiple lines of effort” for bringing peace to Afghanistan and an important component of that effort was to ensure that Pakistan played “a constructive role” in it.

“We have asked for Pakistan’s assistance in facilitating a peace process,” said Lisa Curtis, a senior adviser to the US president.

“And we have sought to understand Pakistan’s own core security concerns and ensure that its interests are taken into account in any peace process.” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday that US and Nato troops in Afghanistan will also observe this truce and there will be no attack on the militants if they do not breach the ceasefire arrangement.

Pakistan’s role in the ceasefire was also discussed at a news briefing by a senior administration official in Washington. “We’re certainly hopeful that both the Taliban and those … or countries that have some degree of influence with the Taliban will equally support this limited duration ceasefire,” he said.

At this news briefing, called hours after Secretary Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence spoke to Pakistani leaders, journalists pointed out that while Washington and Islamabad present the ceasefire as an Afghan initiative, people in Afghanistan believe that it was pushed by the Americans and the Pakistanis.

The senior administration official avoided getting into a discussion over what role did the US and Pakistan play in arranging the ceasefire. Ms Curtis said that an important component to catalysing a peace process in Afghanistan was ensuring that Pakistan also stayed engaged.

“We have to be clear that Pakistan’s interests are not served by a Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan,” she said in her keynote address at a Washington think-tank, the US Institute of Peace. “Pakistan has a fundamental responsibility to address the use of its territory by these malign actors.”

Explaining the new US approach towards Pakistan, Ms Curtis said: “One can acknowledge Pakistan’s complex security calculus without absolving it of its responsibility to do something of these malign actors.”

Responding to the Taliban position that they would hold direct talks with the US, not with the Afghan government, she said: “The US is ready to participate in the discussion, but we cannot serve as a substitute for the Afghan government and the Afghan people.”

Pakistan was once a key ally in the US-led war against terror but relations between the two countries began to strain after Washington raided Osama bin Laden’s den in Abbottabad in 2011, without informing Islamabad.

The Trump administration’s new South Asia strategy, which blames Pakistan for continued fighting in Afghanistan, further strained the relations. And in January this year, the US suspended its security assistance to Pakistan and later the two countries also imposed travel restrictions on each other’s diplomats.

That’s why Thursday’s telephone calls — from Mr Pence to the caretaker prime minister and from Mr Pompeo to the Pakistan army chief — were seen in both Washington and Islamabad as the first major move towards improving the strained relations.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1412975/us-pakistan-working-to-jump-start-afghan-peace-process

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In first, Iran admits to facilitating passage of al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attackers

8 June 2018

Mohammad-Javad Larijani, the international affairs assistant in the Iranian judiciary, confessed in unprecedented remarks that Iran facilitated the passage of al-Qaeda members who carried out the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in New York.

In an interview with the Iranian state TV broadcast on May 30 and circulated by activists on social media networks, Larijani narrated the details of the Iranian regime’s relations with al-Qaeda and how the Iranian intelligence supervised the passage and relocation of al-Qaeda members in Iran.

In the interview, which Al Arabiya translated a part of, Larijani said: “The lengthy report of the 9/11 commission which was headed by figures like Lee Hamilton and others mentioned in pages 240 and 241, i.e. in two or three pages, queries Iran’s role in the issue (and said that) a group of reports stated that al-Qaeda members who wanted to go to Saudi Arabia and other countries like Afghanistan or others and who entered Iranian territories by land or by air asked the Iranian authorities not to stamp their passports (and told them) that if the Saudi government knows they’ve come to Iran, it will prosecute them.”

“Our government agreed not to stamp the passports of some of them because they were on transit flights for two hours, and they were resuming their flights without having their passports stamped. However their movements were under the complete supervision of the Iranian intelligence,” he added.

Larijani said the US took this as evidence of Iran’s involvement in the 9/11 terror attacks and fined Iran billions of dollars.

“The Americans took this as evidence of Iran’s cooperation with al-Qaeda and viewed the passage of an airplane through Iran’s airspace, which had one of the pilots who carried out the attacks and a Hezbollah military leader sitting (next to) him on board, as evidence of direct cooperation with al-Qaeda through the Lebanese Hezbollah,” he said.

Despite that, Larijani, who is the secretary of the judiciary’s so-called High Council for Human Rights, which is accused by international human rights organizations of violations and cover-ups, in Iran, confirmed that al-Qaeda members were in permanent contact with Iran’s intelligence ministry and that they used Iran in their flights to Afghanistan and other countries.

Earlier this year, a federal US judge ordered Iran to pay $6 billion to families of the victims of 9/11 after he found various government entities were accountable in the 9/11 attacks.

Meanwhile, the European court in Luxembourg had issued a decision to freeze $1.6 billion from the Iranian Central Bank’s money in Europe and to hold them in compensation to the families of the victims of the September 11 terror attacks.

Bin Laden’s documents on ties with Iran

The Abbottabad documents which American troops seized from al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s hideout when he was killed in 2011 in Pakistan, and which were published by the CIA in November last year, revealed details pertaining to Iran’s relations with al-Qaeda.

Among the 470,000 documents seized, 19 pages were specifically on the prominent ties with Iran.

According to Thomas Joscelyn and Bill Roggio in their analysis in the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a letter showed that a prominent al-Qaeda member confirmed in a letter that Iran is willing to provide everything that the group needs, whether arms, money and training camps for Hezbollah in Lebanon, in exchange of attacking American interests in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.

According to the document, the Iranian intelligence apparatuses has in some cases facilitated visas to al-Qaeda members tasked with carrying out operations and harbored others.

Senior al-Qaeda official Abu Hafs al-Mauritani helped negotiate the deal with Iran before the September 11 terror attacks.

Iranian embassies’ involvement in Europe

The New York court’s reports revealed that Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who was described by the 9/11 commission as the “coordinator” of the September 11 terror attacks, met several times with Mohamed Atta, a hijacker of the attacks, in many European cities at the beginning of 2001 then traveled to Afghanistan to submit a follow-up report from the operations’ team to Bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri.

This all happened thanks to assistance by the Iranian embassy in London and afterwards – according to a German intelligence memorandum – he received a visa from the Iranian embassy in Berlin to travel to Amsterdam then to Iran on January 31, 2001.

The documents also revealed the names of some senior al-Qaeda figures whose beginning was at the Lebanese Hezbollah camps. The most prominent is Saif al-Adel who later became the al-Qaeda’s No. 3 and a military leader, as he was first trained by Iranian commanders in Lebanon and Iran. Saif al-Adel is the one who made the orders to carry out the Riyadh explosions in 2003 from his headquarters in Iran.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2018/06/08/WATCH-In-first-Iran-admits-to-facilitating-passage-of-al-Qaeda-s-9-11-attackers.html

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US military operations against ISIS in Afghanistan to intensify

8 June 2018

The United States intends to step up military operations against ISIS in eastern Afghanistan during a temporary ceasefire between the Afghan government and the Taliban, senior US officials said on Friday.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday announced the first unconditional ceasefire with the Taliban, coinciding with the end of Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month. The ceasefire excludes other militant groups such as ISIS.

The ISIS group has developed a stronghold in Nangarhar, on the porous eastern border with Pakistan and is among the country’s most dangerous militants since it appeared around 2015.

“(Operations against ISIS) will continue, in fact will be even intensified during this period of ceasefire,” US Army General John Nicholson, commander of US and international forces in Afghanistan, told reporters.

The ceasefire could free resources for operations against ISIS but some would remain to monitor the Taliban and for force protection, he told journalists on the sidelines of a meeting of NATO defence ministers in Brussels.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the United States could now redirect significant military capabilities towards ISIS and other militant groups.

“If the Taliban take full advantage of the ceasefire in the best interests of the Afghan people, then many of the surveillance assets we (have) overhead could be reoriented to ISIS-K, to Al Qaeda and other foreign terrorists that have no business being in Afghanistan in the first place,” he told reporters. The regional branch of the militant group is often called ISIS Khorasan (ISIS-K).

Afghan commandos, supported by US Special forces and American and Afghan air power, have been carrying out an operation against the militants in Nangarhar.

The number of ISIS fighters in Afghanistan is uncertain because they frequently switch allegiances, but the US military estimates the number at about 2,000.

Before the start of a meeting on Islamic State militants, Mattis said the United States remained committed to fighting the militant group in Syria and any premature exit would be a “strategic blunder.”

“While we are nearing the defeat of the so-called physical caliphate in Iraq and Syria, terrorists operations elsewhere have increased... The US remains committed to the conditions based approach,” Mattis added.

Ceasefire

The ceasefire announcement provides a potential moment of cautious optimism in the nearly 17-year-old war that has been defined by government corruption, weak security forces and militants that still control parts of the country.

The decision came after a meeting of ISIS clerics this week declared a fatwa, or ruling, against suicide bombings. One such bombing, claimed by ISIS, killed 14 people at the entrance to the clerics’ peace tent in the capital Kabul.

Nicholson said the ceasefire was “significant” because it was the first of its kind. The Taliban has not yet reacted to the announcement. Mattis said it gave the Taliban an opportunity to end the fighting.

Privately, Western officials have expressed caution.

Michael Kugelman, with the Wilson Center think tank in Washington, said the ceasefire was largely symbolic.

“We should keep our expectations in check ... If anything, it will make the Taliban even stronger by giving it some breathing room and time to regroup and reload,” Kugelman said.

NATO’s chief Jens Stoltenberg said he expected allies to agree to fund Afghan security forces at the same level until 2024, despite public fatigue in Western countries about their involvement in the conflict. Funding has averaged at about $1 billion annually and Stoltenberg said he expected that level to be met.

In August, US President Donald Trump unveiled a more hawkish military approach to Afghanistan, including a surge in air strikes to force the Taliban to the negotiating table.

Afghan security forces say the impact has been significant, but the Taliban roam large parts of the country and, with foreign troop levels of about 15,600, drawn swiftly down from 140,000 in 2014, there appears little hope of outright victory.

In another worrying sign, humanitarian organizations said nearly half of Afghan children are out of school due to conflict, poverty, child marriage and discrimination against girls, the number rising for the first time since 2002.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2018/06/08/US-military-operations-against-ISIS-in-Afghanistan-to-intensify.html

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Leading obstetricians, gynecologists call on Canada to help Rohingya victims of rape

Jun 08, 2018

A group of Canadian doctors, lawyers and activists are calling on the Trudeau government to help 10s of thousands of rape victims in Bangladeshi refugee camps.

The girls and women were raped when soldiers in Myanmar forced more than 700,000 minority Muslim Rohingya to flee their homes.

Hundreds of Canadian obstetricians and gynaecologists gathered in Vancouver on Friday said that nine months after the August 2017 military crackdown, an estimated 81,000 Rohingya women and girls are now about to give birth in "unthinkable" conditions.

"Girls as young as 10 and 12 are now pregnant as a result of gang rape. They are severely traumatized both physically and emotionally, and they're not capable of caring for their babies," said Alleeya Khan, a professor of clinical medicine at McMaster University.

"These women are now giving birth in very, very desperate circumstances without water, without food or any health care."

'We look like hypocrites'

Groups like Save The Children and Human Rights Watch say they're anticipating that hundreds of babies could be abandoned or killed.

In April 2018, the United Nations added Myanmar's military to the list of armies known to commit brutal sexual violence in armed conflict.

In May, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland embarked on a four-day trip to Bangladesh, during which she visited Rohingya refugee camps.

Afterwards, she said she was "more convinced than ever of the necessity of a comprehensive international response to this tragedy."

But Khan said despite the international community's pledges, not enough is being done.

"The international community has visited, they're aware of the Bangladeshi camps, they are aware of what's happening, but there's very little action. We look like hypocrites when we go to the Holocaust memorials and say never again and yet it's unfolding in front of our eyes and we're sitting there mesmerized, not doing anything," she said.

"So, we are asking Canada to lead."

The group is calling on Canada to introduce sanctions against Myanmar and encourage the international community to take action by leading diplomatically.

It's also demanding that the United Nations Security Council immediately refer the issue to the International Criminal Court.

$300M pledge not met

Bob Rae, Canada's special envoy to Myanmar, called on the government last month to set aside $600 million over the next four years to help the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims affected by the violence.

Freeland later announced during a news conference that Canada would contribute $300 million over the next three years, which will go toward emergency assistance and education and reproductive health programs.

The money is expected to be channelled through the UN, the International Committee of the Red Cross and various NGOs and will include a specific focus on helping women and girls.

Full report at:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/leading-obstetricians-gynecologists-call-on-canada-to-help-rohingya-victims-of-rape-1.4698441

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Africa

 

Cleric urges Muslims to give Zakatil-fitr to poor, needy

08.06.2018

Al-Yolawi gave the advice in his Friday sermon titled “Last 10 Days of Ramadan and Eid Preparation” in Abuja.

According to him, the poor and needy are the most deserving beneficiaries of Zakatil-fitr.

He explained that the purpose of Zakatil-fitr was to purify the one who had fasted from any type of

indecent act or speech he or she might have committed while fasting.

He said Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said the charity was to enable the poor and the needy to also enjoy the eid.

He added that Zakatil-fitr was an obligatory charity on every Muslim at the end of the month of Ramadan, noting that the Holy Prophet had enjoined every Muslim, young and old, male and female,

free and slave to give out charity.

Al-Yolawi said “the Messenger of Allah said Zakatil-fitr is mandatory on the one who fasts to shield him or her from any indecent act or speech and for the purpose of providing food for the needy.

“Abu Sa’eed said we used to give out Zakatil-fitr on behalf of every child, aged person, free man or slave during the lifetime of the Messenger of Allah.”

The cleric said the Prophet had ordered Muslims to give out the charity before they go out to perform the Eid prayer.

He emphasised that “if the zakat was given out after the Eid prayer; it would be considered as just regular charity and not Zakatil-fitr.

“If one gives out Zakatil-fitr before the Eid salat, it is considered an accepted zakat but if given after the salat, then it is just an ordinary charity.”

The cleric then urged Muslims to take their wives and daughters to the Eid prayer ground in line with the teaching of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him).

He said “we have been ordered to go to the Eid ground with all family members, including menstruating women to witness the good and the supplications of the Imam and Muslims.

“Menstruating women are, therefore, advised to stay away from the prayer area but remain in the vicinity to witness the prayer.”

He also advised Muslims to listen to the sermon of the Imam at the Eid prayer ground as it was regarded as a time to remember Allah’s blessings and to be thankful to be present in such gathering.

He said Muslims should not leave the Eid prayer ground early just to avoid the crowd but should stay until after the final prayer was said and then follow with the customary greetings to Muslim sisters and

brothers there.

http://www.pulse.ng/news/local/cleric-urges-muslims-to-give-zakatil-fitr-to-poor-needy-id8474546.html

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Kigali Marriott staff share Iftar with Muslim community in Nyamirambo

By Joseph Mudingu

June 09, 2018

Staff members of Kigali Marriott Hotel this week joined the Muslim community in Nyamirambo, Nyarugenge District to share an evening meal, commonly known as Iftar, and is taken during such times as the ongoing holy month of Ramadhan.

In the spirit of sharing a feast with the Muslim community during this period of Ramadhan, 21 staff members of Marriott on Wednesday took the evening off to go to Mar’wa Rah’Man Mosque in Rwarutabura, Nyamirambo Sector where they shared the meal with the Muslim community in the area.

After the meal, the Imam of Mar’wa Rah’Man Mosque, Sheikh Daoud Niyigena, thanked Kigali Marriott Hotel staff for the gesture.

He said Iftar is a social event that involves family and community members.

“It is common for people to host others for dinner, or gather as a community for a potluck. It is also common for people to invite and share food with those less fortunate. The spiritual reward for charitable giving is considered to be especially significant during Ramadan,” he added.

Aisha Nante Mambo, the Human Resource Manager at Kigali Marriott Hotel, said that they chose the mosque in Rwarutabura because there are members who do not have the privilege to enjoy festivities like Ramadhan.

“We saw that one of the best ways to serve the community is to share Iftar with the Muslim community,” she said.

She urged Muslims to keep supporting the disadvantaged.

Full report at:

http://www.newtimes.co.rw/news/kigali-marriott-staff-share-iftar-muslim-community-nyamirambo

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Suspected jihadists kill 5 in north Mozambique

JUNE 8 2018

Suspected jihadists wielding knives and machetes killed five people in a Mozambique region that has been rocked by attacks blamed on radical Islamists, police said Thursday.

Cabo Delgado, a northern province expected to become the centre of a natural gas industry after several promising discoveries, has seen a string of assaults on security forces and civilians since October.

"There was one more attack (by) the same group that has been attacking the neighbouring villages, (it) attacked a village on Wednesday around 9:00 pm and killed five and destroyed houses and left running," a police source told AFP.

The attackers targeted Namaluco village in the Quissanga district of Cabo Delgado.

Rights group Amnesty International said in a statement that as many as 10 people were killed in the latest attacks, but AFP was unable to confirm this toll.

Police reinforcements had been deployed to the area to step up security but attacks have continued unabated.

Police believe the same group also hacked seven people to death in another village in the region on Tuesday after beheading 10 people in another settlement on May 27.

"The strategy of the group is to attack different villages over several days, confusing the strategic response of government forces," added the police source.

Cabo Delgado police spokesman Augusto Guto said that "defence and security forces are on the ground hunting the attackers".

The May 27 bloodshed occurred in two small villages close to the border with Tanzania and not far from Palma, a small town gearing up to be the country's new natural gas hub in Cabo Delgado.

- 'An alarming deterioration' -

Wednesday's slayings ocurred roughly 100 kilometres (62 miles) from Pemba, a town that is an emerging tourist destination.

In October, armed men targeted a police station and military post in the regional town of Mocimboa da Praia in what was believed to be the first jihadist attack on the country.

Two officers died and 14 attackers were killed.

"It is an alarming deterioration. It has contributed to a climate of uncertainty and fear in Cabo Delgado," said Alex Vines, a Mozambique expert at the London-based Chatham House think-tank.

"International investors are asking questions about the ability of the Mozambican authorities to both contain and counter this emerging problem."

The group, often described by locals and officials as "Al-Shabaab", has no known link to the Somali jihadist group of the same name.

In the weeks following the initial attacks, at least 300 Muslims, including Tanzanians, were arrested and several mosques were forced to close.

Signal Risk, an Africa-focused consultancy, said that "the group goes by different names... and has about 1,000 members".

"It is deemed unlikely that the group will formalise a relationship with the Islamic State group or any other Islamist extremist network given that criminality may serve as the primary motivation for (their) actions," they added.

Analysts have previously suggested group members may have used proceeds from organised crime, including timber, gemstones and narcotics trafficking, to travel abroad to Tanzania and Democratic Republic of Congo to receive training in guerilla tactics.

The increase in attacks in the north of the country could pose serious issues for Mozambique, which holds general elections next year and is hoping for a bonanza from the recently-discovered gas reserves.

The vast deposits discovered off the shores of Palma could transform the impoverished country's economy.

Experts predict that Mozambique could even become the world's third-largest exporter of liquefied natural gas.

The north has largely been excluded from the economic growth of the last 20 years, and the region sees itself as a neglected outpost, creating fertile ground for radical Al-Shabaab-style ideology.

According to official statistics, 17 percent of Mozambicans are Muslim but Islamic leaders say the real figure could be double that. In Mocimboa, more than half of the population is Muslim.

Full report at:

http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/World/Suspected-jihadists-kill-5-north-Mozambique/688340-4601200-f2pr13z/index.html

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American Soldier Killed, Four Injured by al-Shabaab Fighters in Somalia

June 8, 2018

One American special operations soldier was killed and four were wounded in a firefight with al-Shabaab terrorists in southwestern Somalia on Friday.

The combat occurred as American forces and Somali troops at a small outpost came under mortar and gunfire, the New York Times reports, according to three Department of Defense officials. Al-Shabaab is an al-Qaeda affiliate operating to overthrow the Somalian government, and it took credit for the attack. In addition, the U.S. had armed surveillance aircraft overhead.

The attack has also been confirmed by a U.S. official who spoke to Reuters. The SITE Intelligence Group also found a post online in which al-Shabaab described a "fierce attack."

The U.S. has about 500 troops in Somalia, mostly in Special Operations. The last time an American soldier in Somalia was killed was 13 months ago, when a member of the Navy SEALs was killed in an attack by al Shabaab on U.S. and Somali forces.

Four american soldiers in Niger were also killed in October following an ambush by Islamic terrorists associated with an Islamic State affiliate in north Africa.

Al-Shabaab has carried out terror campaigns in Africa for years, notably the 2013 attack in a mall in Nairobi, Kenya, which killed at least 67. Some of al-Shabaab’s top leaders have been killed in U.S. drone strikes, but its operations have continued in Somalia despite the resistance.

The U.S. Africa Command reported killing 27 al-Shabaab terrorists Saturday, and in 2014 the U.S. said it killed the group’s leader Ahmed Abdi Godane in a drone strike. Al-Shabaab has ramped up its attacks recently, however; its attacks have led to more than 150 deaths in the last two months, including Ugandan and Kenyan soldiers.

The Times has also reported that the Defense Department is looking to reduce its involvement in Africa. The planned cuts could reduce the special forces in Africa by about half in the next three years.

Full report at:

http://freebeacon.com/national-security/american-soldier-killed-four-injured-al-shabaab-fighters-somalia/

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