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Islamic World News ( 1 Jun 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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No Need to Open Mosques in Current Situation: Bengal Imams Association

New Age Islam News Bureau

1 Jun 2020

A view of Nakhoda mosque amid the Covid-19 lockdown in Kolkata. (ANI Photo)


• 200-Yr-Old Karachi Temple Source of Livelihood for Muslim Youths

• Saudi Activist Reveals Formation of Opposition Council To Oust Crown Prince

• Long Strides in Coronavirus Diagnosis, Vaccine Production Turn Iran Role Model for Other Nations

• Californians Object to Islamic Call to Prayer Over Loudspeakers at 4:30AM

• Turkey Rebuts Greece On Quran Session In Hagia Sophia

• Took A Principled Stand on India, Islamophobia: Maldives

• Muslim Couples Can Make Marriage Vows in Person from June 2 With Safe Distancing

• Obama Called ‘Slave’ By Qatar’s Ex Emir Hamad Bin KhalifaIn Leaked Gaddafi Recording



• No Need to Open Mosques in Current Situation: Bengal Imams Association

• India expels two Pakistani officials on ‘espionage’ charges

• Jaish terrorist’s hideout busted in Kulgam forest

• Pakistan shells forward areas along LoC in Poonch, man injured

• Army foils infiltration attempt in Jammu and Kashmir, 3 terrorists killed



• 200-Yr-Old Karachi Temple Source of Livelihood for Muslim Youths

• Nawaz Sharif was against Pakistan's nuclear tests: Sheikh Rasheed

• Violence grips Karachi hospital over handing body of a patient who dies of Covid-19

• NCC meets today as Covid-19 situation worsens

• Twin cities face terror threat

• Pakistan summons senior Indian diplomat over expulsion of two High Commission officials on espionage charges


Arab world

• Saudi Activist Reveals Formation of Opposition Council To Oust Crown Prince

• From Jeddah ToJerusalem, The Faithful Return To Their Mosques

• Egypt shortens coronavirus curfew hours despite rise in COVID-19 cases

• Lebanon must turn reform ideas into reality, says US ambassador Shea

• Egyptian military operation kills 19 militants in Sinai, dismantles explosive devices

• The IMF should not give Lebanon funding without deep governance reforms: Petition

• Torture, abduction, murder: Inside Kata’ib Hezbollah, Iran’s terrorist proxy in Iraq

• Egypt says 19 suspected militants killed in targeted ground, air operations in Sinai

• Coronavirus: Dubai changes rules on wearing face masks in public

• Coronavirus: UAE bans movement in, out of Abu Dhabi as lockdown tightened

• Coronavirus: Resuming economic activities in the UAE is ‘necessary’, says Dubai Ruler



• Long Strides in Coronavirus Diagnosis, Vaccine Production Turn Iran Role Model for Other Nations

• Speaker: New Iranian Parliament to Continue Support for Resistance Front

• Iranian Scientists Design Kits to Diagnose Coronavirus in 55 Minutes

• Afriqiyah flight accompanied by military aircraft leaves Istanbul for Misrata: Radar

• Iran beheaded teen’s father was ensured he won’t get death penalty before killing her

• COVID-19 may double poverty in West Bank, World Bank warns

• Two Israeli forces freed day after shooting dead disabled Palestinian

• 4 civilians killed in shelling by Saudi mercenaries in Yemen’s Hudaydah

• Israeli forces storm neighbourhood in Tira, demolish Palestinian homes

• Jordan warns UK, US of 'unprecedented danger' of Israel’s land grab bid

• Israeli defense minister apologizes for Palestinian’s death


North America

• Californians Object to Islamic Call to Prayer Over Loudspeakers at 4:30AM

• President Trump Says Will Place ‘ANTIFA’ Activist Group on Terror List

• US State Department uses convoluted logic regarding Iran: Analyst

• US threatens to slap sanctions on countries aiding Iran and Venezuela



• Turkey Rebuts Greece On Quran Session In Hagia Sophia

• France, Germany, UK criticize US for ending Iran nuclear waivers

• UK 'concerned' over alleged Russian jets in Libya

• EU regrets US decision on Iran nuclear deal

• Jailed Briton victim of Iranian psychological torture, says husband


South Asia

• Took A Principled Stand on India, Islamophobia: Maldives

• Afghan government has so far released 2,884 prisoners: Taliban

• Kabul ready to start intra-Afghan peace talks with Taliban: Abdullah

• Afghan reporter killed as govt says ready for Taliban dialogue

• Bangladesh reports record deaths as it lifts lockdown

• Redefining and Redesigning Afghanistan’s Banking and Financial Sectors

• Ghani appoints new acting minister for the ministry of public health of Afghanistan

• Taliban reacts to Kabul bombing which killed 2 employees of a TV station dead

• The Taliban, The Government, And Islamic State: Who Controls What In Afghanistan?


Southeast Asia

• Muslim Couples Can Make Marriage Vows in Person from June 2 With Safe Distancing

• Muslim pre-marriage course needs revision, says lawyer

• Indonesia Reaffirms Support for Palestine as Israel Reveals Plan to Annex West Bank

• Selangor Sultan Extends Ban on Friday Prayers at Mosques By One Month To June 30 Due To Covid-19, Except In 39 Mosques



• Obama Called ‘Slave’ By Qatar’s Ex Emir Hamad Bin Khalifa In Leaked Gaddafi Recording

• Around 30 killed in extremist attack on eastern Burkina Faso town

• Gunmen kill dozens in eastern Burkina Faso

• At least six killed in Somali minibus bombing

• In Sudan, traced Bashir regime assets ‘tip of iceberg’

• Kenya: Turkey helps families displaced after demolition

• Somali military 'kills over 18 al-Shabaab militants'

• Somalia: Bomb blast kills 10, wounds over 13 civilians

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



No need to open mosques in current situation: Bengal Imams Association

May 31, 2020

KOLKATA: The Bengal Imams Association has appealed to the public to continue the way they have been praying in their homes and inside the mosques during the Covid-19 lockdown with a strength of not more than five people.

The Chairman of the Bengal Imams Association said that for more than two months people have been praying at home and they can continue in the same manner. There is no need to open mosques for the common people looking at the present situation of Covid-19, he added.

"Till we do not get clarity from the state government, no decision of opening the mosques can be taken. It is important to open emergency services like hospitals. If religious places are to remain closed for some more days, it won't harm anyone," the Chairman said.

Earlier on May 29, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee had said that all religious places will open in the state on June 1 where not more than 10 people will be allowed at any time.


200-yr-old Karachi temple source of livelihood for Muslim youths

May 31, 2020

A 200-year-old temple in Pakistan's largest metropolis is not only an important place of worship for the minority Hindu community in the country, but also a source of livelihood for the young and enterprising Muslim boys in the area.

Members of the Hindu community visit the Shri Laxmi Narayan Mandir located at the Native Jetty bridge close to the Karachi Port regularly for worship and during religious festivals, and this has given an unusual livelihood for the local Muslim boys.

The temple is important for the Hindus as according to Ramesh Vankwani of the Pakistan Hindu Council, it is also a sacred place for performing funerals and other religious rituals by the sea.

"It is the only temple located at the banks of a creek in Karachi," said Vankwani, who is also a member of the National Assembly.

"This temple is important because we Hindus need access to seawater as one of the essential things to perform worship. We throw many objects into the seawater as part of our rituals," said the lawmaker from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party led by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Shafiq, a local Muslim youth, said Hindus who come to the temple throw many things, including valuables, into the seawater under the bridge as part of their rituals and this means the local boys can earn their livelihood by collecting them from the Arabian Sea.

Shafiq, 20, and 17-year-old Ali along with some others dive into the sea from time to time to retrieve the objects thrown by the worshippers and visitors to the temple.

According to Shafiq, the boys have found gold jewellery, silver ornaments, coins and other valuable objects from the seawater.

"We have now trained ourselves and become expert divers, swimmers and can keep underwater and hold our breath for a long time as we search for the objects,” he said. Asked whether the visitors to the temple or its caretakers object to them retrieving and taking away objects given as part of religious rituals, Ali said sometimes they are shouted at and told to go away. — PTI


Saudi Activist Reveals Formation Of Opposition Council To Oust Crown Prince

31 May 2020

A Saudi activist has revealed the formation of a coordinating council by the kingdom’s distinguished opposition figures and political dissidents, including three senior members of the royal family, in order to remove Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) from power.

“The coordinating council of the Saudi opposition comprises of 18 members, including three princes. This council neither does call for sit-ins, nor civil disobedience and armed struggle. Its activities are rather limited to correspondence with world leaders as well as international bodies,” the Qatar-based and Arabic-language al-Jazeera news network, citing Abdul Rahman al-Suhaimi as saying in a video published on YouTube, reported on Sunday.

Suhaimi added that parliaments in Muslim countries, Persian Gulf littoral states, members of the US Congress and House of Representatives, as well as members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have been contacted in this regard.

He further noted that the council supports Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to assume the Mandate of the Covenant and come to power as the crown prince with the goal of making Saudi Arabia a state of institutions and a constitutional kingdom, where there will be an elected parliament.

“We call on King Salman to remove his son from all positions, including the Mandate of the Covenant, and to appoint Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz to the post. A total of 17 Muslim countries have already voiced their support for our cause, but we expect King Salman to be the initiator,” Suhaimi pointed out.

The report come as a number of prominent jailed Saudi royals and their allies have reportedly hired influential lobbyists in the US to establish links with President Donald Trump’s circle and push for an end to “political persecution” by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, while he is busy dealing with a coronavirus-related economic crisis in the kingdom.

According to a report published by The New York Times on May 19, allies of several jailed Saudis have contacted Washington lawyers and consultants during the past few weeks, and mounted legal, lobbying and public relations campaigns as part of efforts to end what they term as political persecution by the kingdom’s 34-year-old de facto ruler.

Allies of imprisoned Saudi dissidents and their Washington representatives hope to pressure MbS through some combination of lobbying and public relations efforts to highlight the dire situation of human rights in Saudi Arabia and possible legal action in international courts in a bid to secure their release.

Earlier this year, bin Salman launched a new campaign of arrests against royals over an alleged coup attempt to unseat him and his father King Salman, sparking yet another outcry from human rights organizations.


Long Strides in Coronavirus Diagnosis, Vaccine Production Turn Iran Role Model for Other Nations

May 31, 2020

Iranian researchers at Amir Kabir University of Technology have manufactured new test kits which can diagnose coronavirus within 55 minutes.

"We have produced a molecular kit by the application of real-time PCR method which can trace the virus in the patient's mucus in a minimum time of 55 minutes and the lowest number of virus (in the patient's saliva)," Esmayeelzadeh, the CEO of a knowledge-based company affiliated to Amir Kabir University, said on Sunday.

He added that the accuracy of the kits is 2.5 to 10 times more than the kits imported from foreign states.

Esmayeelzadeh said that several countries, including Azerbaijan, Turkey, Romania, Spain and Britain have demanded purchasing the kits.

Meanwhile, Iran has turned into an exporter of equipment for campaign against coronavirus, a senior official said, adding that 5 companies are actively studying production of anti-COVID-19 virus vaccine.

"Nearly 4 months after the coronavirus outbreak, 5 companies are studying and producing vaccine for the disease," Chairman of the Biotechnology Development Council of Iran and Secretary of the Scientific Committee to Fight against Coronavirus MostafaQaneyee said on Sunday.

He said that Iran is pioneering in the production of coronavirus campaign equipment and research.

"We have been able to turn into an exporter of anti-coronavirus equipment," Qaneyee said.

Moreover, Health Minister Saeed Namaki said that the world hails Iran’s performance in battling coronavirus as the country has successfully managed and contained the virus to a great extent.

Namaki made the remarks on Saturday noting that despite all the problems caused by sanctions and economic constraints, Iran is one of the pioneers in the fight against coronavirus.

“We have managed and contain the disease in many provinces.” he said.

Namaki stressed that if people observe health protocols, there won’t be a notable surge in the number of coronavirus cases in the country in the next two months.

“There is no shortage of hospital beds in the country and we have gained more experiences than before. Besides, much more advanced treatment instructions are being provided for the patients," the minister underlined.

According to Namaki, Iran has taken long steps in the field of producing vaccines and medical supplies.

“It is a national honor that we have been able to export medical equipment such as ventilators and N.95 masks 60 days after the onset of the disease.” he added.

The Iranian health ministry announced on Sunday that 2,516 new cases of infection to coronavirus have been diagnosed in the country in the past 24 hours, adding that 63 patients have died since yesterday.

"2,516 more patients infected with COVID-19 virus have been identified in the country in the past 24 hours based on confirmed diagnosis criteria," Health Ministry Spokesman KianoushJahanpour said on Sunday.

He explained that 511 new patients were hospitalized and 2,005 others were identified as outpatients.

Jahanpour noted that the total number of coronavirus patients in the country has increased to 151,466 people.

He expressed pleasure that 118,848 patients have recovered and been discharged from hospitals.

Jahanpour said that 7,797 people have lost their lives due to infection to the virus, including 63 in the past 24 hours.

The ministry’s spokesman, meantime, expressed concern that 2,527 patients infected with COVID-19 virus are in critical conditions.

He added that 935,894 coronavirus tests have been conducted in Iran so far.

Saeed Namaki stressed on April 7 effective measures to control coronavirus epidemic, expressing the hope that the disease would be controlled in Iran by late May.

“At present, the country is in the phase of disease management and we should not imagine that we have reached the harness and control phase. Today is the time for full-fledged combat against the virus. God willing, we will control coronavirus by late May. The virus should be controlled in the minimum possible time,” Namaki said, addressing the Iranian legislators in an open session of the parliament in Tehran.

He noted that at least 30% to 50% of hospital beds are still vacant across Iran and nearly 15,000 beds are ready to keep the patients who are recovering from coronavirus disease.

“We have now moved down to tank 6th in terms of deaths,” Namaki said, adding that the country’s situation in treatment of patients will improve in the next few days.

The coronavirus COVID-19 is affecting approximately all countries and territories around the world. The virus was first reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year. It has so far killed more than 371,200 people and infected over 6.1 million others globally.

The Iranian foreign ministry declared that despite Washington’s claims of cooperation to transfer drugs to Iran via the new Swiss-launched payment mechanism, the US is troubling the process amid the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

Although US claims that medicines and medical equipment are not under sanctions, they have practically blocked the transfer of Iran’s financial resources in other countries into the Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement (SHTA), Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi said.

As the death toll from the virus surges, Iran intensifies its preventive safety measures. Closures of schools and most universities have been extended until further notice.

The government also imposed travel restrictions, especially on Iran’s North, which is among the red zones. The country has also adopted strict digital health control procedures at airports to spot possible infections.

Namaki announced last month that a new national mobilization plan would be implemented across the country to fight against the coronavirus epidemic and more effectively treat patients.

Namaki said that the plan will include all the 17,000 health centers and the 9,000 medical and clinical centers in all cities, suburban areas and villages.

He added that the plan will include home quarantine, noting that infected people will receive the necessary medicines and advice, but they are asked to stay at home.

Namaki said that people with a more serious condition will stay at the hospitals, adding that the public places will be disinfected, the entries of infected towns and cities will be controlled to diagnose and quarantine the infected cases.

He added that the necessary equipment and facilities have been provided, expressing the hope that the epidemic would be curbed.

According to the latest statistics of Health Ministry, the number of medical laboratories to test coronavirus infection has reached over 90 across the country.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says Iran's response to the virus has so far been up to the mark. Still, it says the US sanctions are a big challenge, and Washington would be complicit in the rising death toll in Iran if it would not remove its sanctions.

The World Health Organization has considered priorities in combating coronavirus and Islamic Republic of Iran obeys and follows up priorities as defined by WHO.

The WHO is dispatching separate delegations to all countries.


Californians Object to Islamic Call to Prayer Over Loudspeakers at 4:30AM

Jun 1, 2020

Diversity is being duly celebrated in the Los Angeles area these days, as neighbors of the King Fahad Mosque in Culver City are now treated to what Barack Obama called the most beautiful sound in the world, the Islamic call to prayer, blared over loudspeakers five times a day, beginning at 4:30AM. And lo and behold, some Culver City residents have had the temerity, the audacity, the unrestrained “Islamophobia,” to complain about the noise. As Greta Thunberg might say, How dare they? Don’t they know they live in California, and that California is the most woke of states?

It’s likely that most of the people who were complaining were Leftists who, in other contexts, would denounce concern about jihad violence and Sharia oppression as “Islamophobia” and “bigotry.” So now they have what they have wanted and enabled. They should be very proud. They can get up at 4:30 every morning and celebrate diversity.

This is happening all over the world, notably in the United States, Canada, and Germany: cities are amending or ignoring their noise ordinances to allow the Islamic call to prayer (adhan) to be broadcast over loudspeakers. Officials in Europe and the U.S. have explained this as an effort to comfort Muslims who in quarantine because of the coronavirus; however, none of those who have offered this explanation seem to have made any efforts to comfort Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, or anyone else.

Yet the implications of this broadcast call to prayer, beyond the expected hosannas from the usual proponents of globalism and multiculturalism, are ominous. The adhan, prayed in Arabic, repeats “Allahuakbar” six times, “I testify that there is no god but Allah” three times, and “I testify that Muhammad is Allah’s prophet” twice.

Dr. Gavin Ashenden, former chaplain to the British queen, who resigned his position in protest against a Qur’an reading in a Scottish church, observed that “the Muslim call to prayer is a dramatic piece of Islamic triumphalism. It proclaims Islam’s superiority over all other religions, and in so doing casts Jesus in the role of a charlatan and a liar. The Muslim god, Allah, is unknowable and has no son. Jesus was, therefore, a fraud in claiming He and the Father are one.”

Is Culver City really wise to broadcast repeatedly a declaration of the superiority of Islam, a faith that directs its adherents to make war against Christians and other non-Muslims and subjugate them as inferiors under the hegemony of believers (cf. Qur’an 9:29)?

Is Culver City wise to broadcast the cry “Allahuakbar,” beloved of jihad terrorists the world over? Chief 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta wrote this in his letter to himself before carrying out his jihad mission: “When the confrontation begins, strike like champions who do not want to go back to this world. Shout, ‘Allahu Akbar,’ because this strikes fear in the hearts of the non-believers.” This is why the Fort Hood jihad killer, Nidal Malik Hasan, shouted it as he shot thirteen Americans in November 2009, and why so many other jihadis have used it essentially as an announcement that non-Muslims are about to die.

In light of the use of so many elements of the adhan by jihad terrorists, Culver City residents who have been victims of jihad violence may not find the sound of it so comforting. And some clearly just don’t like the noise, which is unnecessary even from an Islamic standpoint. Mosques didn’t have loudspeakers in Muhammad’s time, and don’t need them now, especially given the fact that everyone has a smartphone that could quite easily alert him or her to prayer times. The broadcasting of the adhan over loudspeakers is nothing more than a declaration of supremacism.

But Culver City is far too woke to take any notice of that, and the residents’ concerns about the noise will be dismissed out of hand as “Islamophobic.” Culver City authorities, meanwhile, are no doubt certain that Muslim communities in the city will be grateful, and will redouble their efforts to become loyal, productive citizens, marching together with non-Muslims in California into the glorious multicultural future. That’s the way it will work out. Isn’t it? No Muslims will take seriously the adhan’s declarations of Islamic superiority and heed the Qur’an’s calls to wage war against unbelievers. Will they? In multiculti California today, such an idea is inconceivable!


Turkey rebuts Greece on Quran session in Hagia Sophia



Turkey on Saturday shot back at an objection from Greece on the reading of passages from the Muslim holy book, the Quran, in the Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia), a landmark mosque-converted-museum in Istanbul.

Accusing Athens of making "futile and ineffective statements" on the event, which marked the 567th anniversary of the Ottoman conquest of the former Byzantine capital, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman HamiAksoy said Greece's displeasure illustrated its "intolerant psychology."

"The fact that Greece, the only remaining European country without a mosque in its capital, is disturbed by the recital of the Holy Quran in Hagia Sophia is a case in point illustrating the intolerant psychology of this country, especially at a time when calls to prayer can be heard from minarets in Europe and the importance of principle of mutual respect is increasingly valued," said the written online statement.

Aksoy's statement came after earlier remarks from the Greek Foreign Ministry saying the move did not comply with the UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.

"Turkey has acted neither against the monumental status of Hagia Sophia, nor the 1972 UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. On the contrary, thanks to Turkey's care and attention to the Historical Sites of Istanbul, these sites have survived for present generations as cultural heritages," Aksoy underlined.

He also criticized "recent efforts of certain circles in Greece" to use the novel coronavirus pandemic as a pretext to silence the Muslim call to prayer in Western Thrace "which has been recited for centuries."

Aksoy also emphasized that the Hagia Sophia would remain a "significant treasure of Turkey and humanity," and will continue to be protected as such.

"We invite Greece to free itself of its mindset deriving from history," he added.


Took a principled stand on India, Islamophobia: Maldives

May 31, 2020

NEW DELHI: The stand taken by the Maldives at a virtual meeting of OIC envoys of OIC to the UN, where the neighbouring country scuttled a move apparently at Pakistan's behest to target India, is a principled one, said Maldives foreign minister Abdulla Shahid.

"It's a principled stand and we will continue to maintain it," Shahid told ToI Sunday. He was elaborating on Maldives' position on attempts by some OIC countries to reprimand India over issues like alleged vilification of Muslims, CAA and Delhi riots.

In the meeting of OIC envoys to the UN, Maldives didn't just cite a technicality which went in India's favour. Its statement was perhaps the most forthright defence of India by any country in the face of flak drawn in recent times by the NarendraModi government internationally for alleged Islamophobia.

As reported by ToI on May 23, the Maldivian ambassador ThilmeezaHussain had told OIC envoys that "isolated statements by motivated people and disinformation campaigns" on social media should not be construed as representative of the feelings of 1.3 billion people.

Pakistan media had later reported that the Maldives and UAE had blocked a move by Pakistan to form a working group of envoys to deal with Islamophobia. UAE apparently said the envoys didn't have such a mandate. Pakistan Foreign Office denied these reports saying a large number of OIC envoys at the UN shared its concerns on Islamophobia. It was silent though on the statement by the Maldives.

As evident from Shahid's remarks to ToI, Maldives has stood its ground that targeting a specific country for Islamophobia will be like "side-stepping" the real issue.

Shahid also underscored Maldives' position otherwise that the world had indeed seen an alarming rise in the "culture of hatred, prejudice and racism".

He recalled Hussain's remarks in the virtual meeting that violence had been exploited as a tool to promote political and other ideologies and that the Maldives stood firmly against such actions anywhere in the world, including Islamophobia, xenophobia or any form of violence to promote political or any other agenda.

The support from an Islamic neighbour, strategically located in the Indian Ocean, is important for India as it seeks to ride out criticism not just from OIC over the "growing tide of Islamophobia" but also organisations like US Commission on International Religious Freedom which have targeted India for violating religious freedom.

The 57-member OIC, which calls itself the collective voice of the Muslim world, has been extremely critical of India on issues related to J&K and what it has called a vicious campaign to malign Muslims for the spread of Covid-19 in the country.

Hussain had said though in her statement that that "singling out India, the largest democracy in the world and a multicultural society home to over 200 million Muslims, for Islamophobia would be factually incorrect".


Muslim couples can make marriage vows in person from June 2 with safe distancing

01 Jun 2020

SINGAPORE - Muslim couples can choose to make their marriage vows in person from Tuesday (June 2), although the number of attendees will be capped at 10 and solemnisations through video links are still encouraged.

Physical Muslim marriage solemnisations will resume first at the Registry of Muslim Marriages (ROMM) building from Tuesday, then at designated mosques from June 13, the ROMM and the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) said on Sunday.

The announcement comes as Singapore starts to reopen, with circuit breaker measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus ending on Monday.

It is in line with the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth's (MCCY) earlier announced guidelines for solemnisations during the Phase One period, which allows for in-person ceremonies with up to 10 attendees who, apart from the two witnesses, must be immediate family members of the couple.

ROMM and Muis said on Sunday that for Muslim marriage solemnisations, only the bride, groom, two male witnesses, five other immediate family members of the couple, and the wali - the bride's lawful guardian - can attend the ceremony.

Seniors are also encouraged not to attend as they are particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus.

There should be no physical interactions between participants from different households, and those present must minimise their time in the ROMM or mosque, keep 1m from one another and follow a one-way flow for entering and exiting the solemnisation area.

Muslim couples have been allowed to tie the knot via video link since May 18 after Parliament enacted a law on May 5 recognising virtual solemnisations.

This was also approved by the Mufti after his office issued religious guidance saying that virtual ceremonies do not affect the religious validity of a marriage.

ROMM and Muis said on Sunday this option remains available after June 2 and that it is "safer than in-person solemnisations and more family members can witness the solemnisation via a video link".

MCCY has also encouraged couples in general to get married virtually to "better protect themselves and their loved ones from the risk of infection".

This option is not available for some couples due to religious reasons, however. For instance, the Catholic Church has said that Catholic couples will have to get married in person, as physical interaction of those celebrating the sacrament remains crucial.

But the Catholic and Methodist churches have both said that in-person ceremonies in churches, also capped at 10 people, can resume during the Phase One period.

A total of 2,723 couples have had to put off their initial wedding plans during the circuit breaker period from April 7 to June 1, according to Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee.


Obama Called ‘Slave’ By Qatar’s Ex Emir Hamad Bin KhalifaIn Leaked Gaddafi Recording

31 May 2020

The former Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani called ex-US President Barack Obama a “slave” and “silly,” according to a leaked audio recording that reportedly captured a conversation between the emir and the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

“God curse him… that slave… he is silly. I swear Muammar, he is silly,” the former emir is heard saying about Obama.

Al Arabiya English could not verify the authenticity of the recording, which was posted on social media by Qatari opposition activist Khalid al-Hail.

A similar recording between Qatar’s former emir and Gaddafi was released in 2017, in which the two ex-leaders attacked Saudi Arabia and the ruling family.

In another recording leaked from the same year, Gaddafi and former Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim can reportedly be heard discussing plans to carve up Saudi Arabia.

Hamad bin Jassim did not deny the recording and said that the issue was discussed to appease Gaddafi.

In 2013, Sheikh Hamad handed over power to his son, current Emir Sheikh Tamim al-Thani. Hamad bin Jassim stepped down from his positions in government at the time and reportedly has strained relations with the current emir.

Libyan dictator Gaddafi was tortured and killed on October 20, 2011 when rebel fighters took control of his hometown Sirte as part of an uprising that deposed his regime and led to the subsequent civil war in the country.



India expels two Pakistani officials on ‘espionage’ charges

June 1, 2020

The Indian government has expelled two officials at the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi, accusing them of being involved in spying activities, the country’s foreign ministry said on Sunday.

“The government has declared both these officials persona non grata for indulging in activities incompatible with their status as members of a diplomatic mission,” the ministry said in a statement.

The pair had to leave the country “within 24 hours” and Pakistan’s Charge de Affaires was issued with a “strong protest” over the alleged activities of the officials, the ministry added.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry condemned the expulsion and alleged that the two were detained and tortured by Indian authorities.

“The Indian action has been accompanied by a negative pre-planned and orchestrated media campaign, which is a part of persistent anti-Pakistan propaganda,” the ministry said.

Tension over Kashmir

The move is likely to increase tensions between the two nuclear-armed South Asian countries, who have a long-running dispute over the Muslim-majority Kashmir region. Pakistan and India both rule part of the disputed Himalayan territory, but claim it in full.

Ties between Islamabad and New Delhi further deteriorated after Prime Minister NarendraModi stripped India-administered Kashmir of its semi-autonomous status in August, last year.

Modi said the move was necessary to quell a Pakistan-sponsored Islamist insurgency in the area.

Earlier in May, Indian security forces killed Junaid Ashraf Sahrai, a Kashmiri separatist commander, and his aide in a shootout. Police said Sahrai was a militant commander of HizbulMujahideen, Kashmir’s largest rebel group.

On Wednesday, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that any Indian aggression will receive a “befitting response” from Pakistan.

“India’s bellicosity is aimed at provoking Pakistan, but we showed patience in the past and will exercise restraint in future too,” state-run Radio Pakistan quoted Qureshi as saying.

Qureshi also claimed the Pakistani military shot down an Indian drone on Wednesday, which “was an example of India aggression.”

Espionage claims

India and Pakistan regularly level espionage charges against each other.

In July 2019, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Pakistan to review the death penalty for KulbhushanSudhirJadhav, a former Indian navy commander. New Delhi had complained of an unfair trial and sought the ICJ’s intervention.

Read more: KulbhushanJadhav: UN court orders Pakistan to review Indian ‘spy’ death sentence

Pakistan arrested Jadhav in March 2016. Islamabad claims that Jadhav confessed to a Pakistani military court that he had been tasked by India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) intelligence agency to “plan, coordinate, and organize espionage/sabotage activities aiming to destabilize and wage war against Pakistan” in the southwestern province of Baluchistan and the southern port city of Karachi. New Delhi denies these allegations.

In April 2017, a military court sentenced Jadhav to death, a verdict that angered Indian authorities, who believe that if the ruling was carried out, it would substantially damage ties between the two nuclear-armed countries.


Jaish terrorist’s hideout busted in Kulgam forest

May 31, 2020

SRINAGAR: Security forces on Sunday busted a terror hideout at AkhalMalwan forest in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district, based on intelligence inputs about the presence of terrorists in the area. The shelter is used by Haider, a Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorist from Pakistan, who wasn’t there at the time of the operation, IG (Kashmir Range) Vijay Kumar said.

“A joint team of J&K Police, Army’s 9 RR, 10 Para SF commandos and CRPF’s 18 Bn launched a cordon-and-search operation in AkhalMalwan belt and discovered a hideout built inside a tunnel-like space in the forest,” IG Kumar said. “The search party also recovered an AK-47 rifle and some rounds of ammunition, besides several household items from the spot,” he added.

Haider has managed to evade security forces several times and continues to elude them, but the terrorist will soon be eliminated, IG Kumar said.

Late on Sunday, security forces rescued a J&K cop moments after he was allegedly abducted by terrorists from his home in south Kashmir’s Shopian district, official sources said.

The armed terrorists allegedly barged into the residence of Shakeel Ahmad Bhat in Shopian’sThairen area and abducted him. Soon after, a rescue operation was launched by a joint team of Army’s 44 RR and J&K Police.

Full report at:


Pakistan shells forward areas along LoC in Poonch, man injured

May 31, 2020

JAMMU: The Pakistani army continued heavy shelling targeting various sectors along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir's Poonch district, leaving a 25-year-old civilian injured and at least two residential houses damaged, officials said on Sunday.

The shelling from across the border in Mendhar and Balakote sectors started around 11 pm on Saturday and continued till 4:50 am Sunday, followed by fresh rounds of fire in Kirni, Qasba and Degwar sectors this evening, they said.

Mohammad Yasir, a resident of Gohlad, received splinter injuries when a mortar shell exploded near his house in the early hours of Sunday, the officials said.

They said over half a dozen villages in forward areas were hit by the overnight shelling, resulting in partial damage to two houses.

The shelling was intense in the Mendhar sector as the Pakistan army used long range mortars to target civilian areas, the officials said.

The Indian Army effectively retaliated but the casualties on the Pakistani side could not be ascertained immediately, they said.

The panic-stricken people in the targeted areas spent the whole night in bunkers and other safe places, they said.

A defence spokesman said the Pakistan Army initiated the unprovoked ceasefire violation by firing with small arms and lobbying mortars along the LoC in Balakote and Mendhar sectors, causing damage to civilian houses.

In a separate statement this evening, the spokesman said Pakistan again initiated unprovoked ceasefire violations in Kirni, Qasba and Degwar sectors around 7.50 pm, drawing a befitting response by Indian army.

The cross-border shelling was going on when the reports last came in, he said.

Full report at:


Army foils infiltration attempt in Jammu and Kashmir, 3 terrorists killed

Jun 01, 2020

The Indian Army soldiers foiled an infiltration attempt from across the border in Jammu and Kashmir’s Naushera sector in Rajouri district.

Three terrorists who were trying to cross over to India were killed in the operation, the army claimed. The operation has been going on since May 28 (Sunday), it further said.

An army officer said that the terrorists had entered Indian territory where they were eliminated.

The troops have launched a search operation in Rajouri and half a dozen villages in Poonch district

A separate search operation has also been launched by the Border Security Force (BSF) and police in the Hiranagar area of Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua-Samba sector, news agency PTI reported. The operation was launched on Sunday night after security forces received information about the movement along the international border, it further reported.

The operation is going on in Samba sector’s riverine areas of Basantar and EikNalah areas, which are adjacent to Hiranagar, PTI quoted officials as saying.

In the last few years, terrorists have infiltrated into India through Hiranagar and Samba and carried out attacks on army camps, police stations in Samba, Kathua, Jammu and Nagrota areas.

Full report at:



Nawaz Sharif was against Pakistan's nuclear tests: Sheikh Rasheed

May 30, 2020

LAHORE: Pakistan's Railways Minister Shiekh Rashid on Saturday claimed that the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif was against conducting the nuclear tests in 1998 in response to India's tests.

"Sharif and almost his whole cabinet (in 1998) were against conducting the nuclear tests in response to India's. Raja ZafarulHaq, GauharAyub and I were in favour of conducting the nuclear tests,” Rashid told reporters.

Rashid was a member of the cabinet of the Sharif government in 1998.

When asked then on whose order the nuclear tests were carried out on May 28, 1998, if not on Sharif's, Rashid indirectly referred to the military establishment. "These are national secrets and let it be so.”

When asked why he left for abroad when Pakistan conducted the nuclear tests, the minister replied: “I had to proceed abroad on a special duty.”

Rashid is considered to be close to the establishment and the Opposition calls him its spokesperson.

Dismissing Rashid's claim, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz senior leader RanaSanaullah said the whole world knows that Sharif had conducted the nuclear tests in 1998 despite international pressure. "This certified turncoat cannot take away the credit of nuclear tests from Nawaz Sharif,” he said.

Sharif's younger brother and PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif also said: “After India conducted nuclear tests (in 1998), Nawaz Sharif asked the army leadership to make preparation to give response to it (India) in the same manner.”

"Nawaz Sharif neither accepted a huge economic package nor bowed to international pressure,” he said, adding that there was no doubt in it that former prime minister and Pakistan People's Party leader late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto started the nuclear programme.

Sharif was serving prime minister in 1998 for the second time when the nuclear tests were carried out by Pakistan. He was convicted and sentenced to jail on corruption charges in 2018. He is currently in London to receive medical treatment.


Violence grips Karachi hospital over handing body of a patient who dies of Covid-19

May 31, 2020

KARACHI: In a yet another incident where Pakistanis broke the mandatory rule imposed to keep coronavirus infection at bay, mob violence gripped the Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital in Karachi on Friday over the delay in handing body of a patient who died of coronavirus.

Karachi police officials told Dawn on Saturday that a patient was brought to the hospital at 2:15 a.m. on Friday night but he died while being treated. The doctors suspected the patient to have the coronavirus and conducted a test, which came positive.

However, the relatives of the deceased patient refuted the test results and alleged that the doctors had declared him to be positive even though he was "normal".

Officials said that some 70 people stormed the hospital ward at around 10:30 p.m. (local time). They resorted to violence and forcibly took away the body. Videos taken of the hospital's entrance showed a large number of people removing equipment such as stretchers from the hospital premises and breaking the sanitiser gate installed there.

Responding to allegations of delay, the medical superintendent at the hospital Dr KhadimHussain Qureshi further informed the media that doctors at the hospital were only following the standard operating procedures (SOPs) issued by the government for handling bodies of people who die from the virus.

"We are government servants. We only follow what the government tells us," he said.

He added that the patient had come to the hospital complaining of a heart problem. The doctors suspected that he had the coronavirus and conducted a test.

"It takes time for the result to be received," he said further.

Qureshi also noted that none of the doctors was injured in the violence but, he said, a female doctor was slapped by one of the deceased's relatives.

A senior police official said that the hospital administration had not approached police for lodging a first information report (FIR). However, he said, the police have decided to register the case against the persons involved over charges of rioting and creating hindrances in official work.

Pakistan has been the most chilled country in the world despite being severely hit by the virus. One of Imran Khan's minister calls coronavirus god's punishment, the Punjab chief minister promises ulemas mosques won't be closed, and worshippers continue to defy lockdown rules amid a rising number of COVID cases.

It is true that Khan's government has no plan and no direction to deal with the coronavirus. The fact becomes more evident after witnessing how the Pakistan prime minister begs for money to stabilise the country's economy in the garb of coronavirus at a time when world leaders are looking at ways to treat, cure or take precaution against the highly dangerous contagion.

Full report at:


NCC meets today as Covid-19 situation worsens

Amir Wasim

June 01, 2020

ISLAMABAD: As Pakistan is set to surpass China among the most affected pandemic-hit countries with a sudden rise in Covid-19 cases, a crucial meeting of the National Coordination Committee (NCC) to be presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan will be held on Monday (today) to decide the future strategy though the federal government has already declared that the lockdown option is not under active consideration.

“(The) Lockdown option is always on the table, but it is not under active consideration,” said federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar, who is also the head of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), during a briefing to a group of TV anchors with Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza and other senior government officials here on Sunday.

Referring to the calls by the opposition parties and the Sindh government, headed by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), for imposing a strict lockdown, the minister claimed that so far the federal government had not received any request from the provinces to impose lockdown.

Mr Umar informed the gathering that all the four chief ministers would first attend the NCOC meeting to be held on Monday morning and then they would also be attending the NCC meeting later in the day.

The briefing with the help of a presentation highlighting the projected and actual figures with respect to Covid-19 was made to the senior TV anchors on the day when the number of affected persons crossed 71,000 mark and Pakistan became the 23rd country to register more than 1,500 deaths from coronavirus.

Asked as to at which point the government would consider imposing lockdown, the minister replied that the lockdown could only happen, when they saw the country’s healthcare system getting overwhelmed which, according to him, was not the case at present.

He said they were expecting that the impact of the violations of the SOPs (Standard Operating Procedure) committed by the people during the Eid days would be felt by mid-June.

‘Early lockdown was a mistake’

Responding to another query, Mr Umar said in his opinion they had committed a “mistake” by imposing the lockdown too early and too severe.

The minister said the government was aggressively pursuing the TTQ (Tracking, Testing and Quarantine) policy. Moreover, he said, the tracking and testing software was being upgraded and the screening system at the airports was being improved.

Earlier, the NCOC in its meeting sought to engage markets associations for the implementation of Covid-19 guidelines and SOPs in letter and spirit.

Chairing another meeting, Mr Umar said shopkeepers should strictly implement “no mask, no service” policy.

Peak time yet to come

Meanwhile, a senior government official on condition of anonymity said they were expecting a peak time of the pandemic in the country sometimes between the end of June and mid-July.

Giving future projection, he said they were expecting that the number of Covid-19 cases would be between 110,000 and 125,000, with the death toll ranging between 2,750 and 3,250 by the mid of June.

Collective Punishment

Talking to Dawn, federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting ShibliFaraz while expressing his serious concern over the rise in the Covid-19 cases in the country said the government was considering to introduce a system of “collective punishment” for those who would violate the SOPs.

“There are two options available to the government. Either to go for a lockdown, which we don’t want to, or to ensure strict compliance of SOPs through punitive actions against violators,” he said.

Elaborating, the minister said that the whole market or a shopping mall could be closed for a certain period of time if violation of SOPs was found. Similarly, he said, the traffic police would be able to challan any public transport vehicle if passengers were found without masks.

Responding to a question, Senator Faraz said there had been no decision so far to allowing reopening of marriage halls. However, he added the issue would be discussed with the provinces in the meetings to be held today.

Briefing points

During the briefing, the participants with the help of slides were informed that the number of coronavirus patients and deaths due to the pandemic were still lower than the projected figures.

According to the estimates, the government was expecting 97,611 Covid-19 cases in the country by May 30, but the actual number of reported cases was 66,457. – 32 per cent less than expected. Similarly, the projected number of deaths due to the pandemic by May 30 was 2,266, but the country registered 1,395 deaths by May 30, which is 34 per cent less than the projected figure.

The participants were informed that so far only 24 per cent of the total available ventilators in the private and public sector hospitals had been utilised. The rate of recovery among patients on ventilator is between 10 and 20 per cent.

According to the data provided at the briefing, out of total 4,095 ventilators available in the country, 3,188 are still vacant. The data shows that Peshawar is currently utilising 51 per cent of the 167 available ventilators as there are 71 patients, including 33 non-Covid-19 patients, on ventilators.

Out of 1,523 ventilators ordered, Pakistan is likely to receive 897 ventilators in June.

Smart Lockdown

The participants were told that at present smart lockdown was in place in 550 localities where the Covid-19 cases are in large numbers. As many as 334 smart lockdowns are in place in 16 districts of Punjab, 222 in 19 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, nine in three districts of AJK, eight in I-10 sector of Islamabad and seven in three districts of Sindh.

Full report at:


Twin cities face terror threat


June 1, 2020

ISLAMABAD: While the authorities are busy handling the major surge in cases of coronavirus, intelligence agencies have warned the authorities of a high profile terrorist attack likely to hit the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

According to a secret memo dated May 30, it has been reported through reliable sources that some terrorist groups are planning to undertake a high profile terrorist activity in twin cities i. e. Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

“All relevant security agencies are therefore requested to ensure optimum security measures within twin cities in particular and in other parts of the country in general,” the secret letter suggested.

“It is therefore declared that Chief Secretaries, Inspectors General of Police should hold meetings with all the stakeholders related to security and review security arrangements. Extreme vigilance and higtened security measures are suggested to avoid any untoward incident,” says the official communique sent to Chief Secretary Punjab, IGP Punjab, IGP Islamabad, Chief Commissioners ICT and Rawalpindi and provincial authorities of Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Balochistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJ&K) and GilgitBaltistan (GB).


Pakistan summons senior Indian diplomat over expulsion of two High Commission officials on espionage charges

Jun 1, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Monday summoned a senior Indian diplomat to register strong protest over India's decision to expel two officials of its High Commission in New Delhi on charges of espionage.

Pakistan's Foreign Office (FO) said the Indian Charge d'Affaires was summoned for a "strong demarche", conveying Pakistan's condemnation of the decision to declare two officials of the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi persona non grata and rejection of all "baseless" allegations against them.

Pakistan also conveyed that the Indian action was in "clear violation" of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the diplomatic norms, the FO said in the early hours of Monday.

Earlier, Pakistan's Foreign Office said that the two staff members of the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi were lifted by the Indian authorities on May 31 on "false and unsubstantiated charges".

Full report at:


Arab world 

From Jeddah to Jerusalem, the faithful return to their mosques

June 01, 2020

JEDDAH/AMMAN: It began at dawn. As the first light appeared on the horizon and the call to Fajr prayer rang out, Muslims from Riyadh to Madinah and Jeddah to Jerusalem returned to their mosques on Sunday after a two-month break that for many was unbearable.

More than 90,000 mosques throughout Saudi Arabia were deep cleaned and sanitized in preparation for the end of the coronavirus lockdown. Worshippers wore face masks, kept a minimum of two meters apart, brought their own prayer mats and performed the ablution ritual at home.

“My feelings are indescribable. We are so happy. Thank God we are back in His house,” said Abdulrahman, 45, at Al-Rajhi mosque in Riyadh, where worshippers had their temperatures checked before entering.

Television screens inside the mosque displayed written instructions, including the need to maintain a safe distance from others to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In Jerusalem, at 3:30 a.m. thousands crowded outside three gates assigned to be opened to allow Muslims to enter Al-Aqsa Mosque. Young and old, men and women, many with their phone cameras on, chanted religious songs as they waited to return for the first time since the virus lockdown began.

“Those wishing to pray were checked for their temperature and those without a mask were given one by Waqf staff. All were asked to stay a safe distance from each other when they prayed,” MazenSinokrot, a member of the Islamic Waqf, told Arab News.

WasfiKailani executive director of the Hashemite Fund for the Restoration of Al-Aqsa Mosque told Arab News that enabling Muslims to pray in large numbers and according to health requirements had gone smoothly.

“People cooperated with the local Muslim authorities and followed the regulations.” The people of Jerusalem had shown a high degree of responsibility, he said.

Israeli police spokesman Miky Rosenfeld told Arab News that extra police units had been  mobilized in the old city of Jerusalem for the reopening of Al-Aqsa.

“People arrived in the areas scheduled according to health and security guidelines,” he said.

Khaled Abu Arafeh, a former Minister for Jerusalem in the Ismael Haniyeh government in 2006, said people were happy to be able to pray once more at Islam’s third-holiest site.

“It is time to open a new page in cooperation with local institutions and with Jordan to regain all that has been lost over the years,” he told Arab News.

“The Waqf council has done a good job in dealing with the contradictions and pressures that they are under, which is like walking on a knife’s edge as they deal with the occupiers on the one hand and the health situation on the other, while also trying to be responsive to the desires of worshippers.”

Elsewhere in Saudi Arabia, commercial flights took to the air again, office staff returned to work and restaurants resumed serving diners as life began a gradual return to normal after the coronavirus lockdown.

Eleven of the Kingdom’s 28 airports opened on Sunday for the first time since March 21. “The progressive and gradual reopening aims at controlling the crowds inside airports because we want to achieve the highest health efficiency,” civil aviation spokesman Ibrahim bin Abdullah Alrwosa told Arab News.

No one without an e-ticket will be allowed into an airport, face masks must be worn and safe distancing observed, and children under 15 may not travel unaccompanied.


Egypt shortens coronavirus curfew hours despite rise in COVID-19 cases

01 June 2020

Egypt shortened a night curfew by one hour on Sunday as it recorded new highs in the daily in novel coronavirus cases and deaths.

For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.

The Health Ministry said 1,536 new cases had been confirmed including 46 deaths, bringing total cases to 24,985 and deaths to 959.

Earlier, the prime minister’s office said a night curfew would end at 5 a.m. instead of 6 a.m. The curfew begins at 8 p.m., though its start had been brought forward to 5 p.m. last week during the holiday that follows the Eid holiday at the end of Ramadan.

The curfew is one of a number of measures including the closure of schools, cafes and places of worship, that are aimed at curbing the pandemic.

The government announced that the number of hospitals designated to deal with coronavirus cases is rising to 376 from 340, and the number of laboratories capable of processing test results to 57 from 49.

Hospitals assigned to treat coronavirus patients have 3,539 intensive care unit beds and 2,218 ventilators, a government statement said.

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Officials have signaled that they are looking to gradually ease restrictions and revive economic activity even as the number of confirmed infections accelerates.

Full report at:


Lebanon must turn reform ideas into reality, says US ambassador Shea

01 June 2020

The Lebanese government must turn its reform ideas into reality and take concrete steps to win international support, the US ambassador said in an interview broadcast on Sunday.

Dorothy Shea also told Lebanese local broadcaster OTV it was a mistake to scapegoat any one person or institution for Lebanon’s economic collapse in response to a question about the role of central bank Governor RiadSalameh, who she said “enjoys great confidence in the international financial community.”

Lebanon is suffering an acute financial crisis seen as the biggest threat to its stability since the 1975-1990 civil war.

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Shea said the United States was still assessing the government, formed with backing from the heavily armed, Iran-backed Shia group Hezbollah, listed as a terrorist organization by Washington.

“The government has demonstrated a good intention to fight corruption and make itself committed to reforms. Now it needs to take that commitment to the next level and begin to make these ideas reality,” Shea said.

“Are they willing to push these reforms forward? We haven’t yet made a final judgement on that.”

The government launched IMF negotiations in May.

Asked what Lebanon must do to secure support, Shea said the international community was looking for concrete reforms. “It is easy to say and much harder to do.”

The crisis is rooted in decades of waste and corruption and exploded last year as capital inflows slowed and protests erupted against the ruling elite.

On the role of Salameh, Shea said the United States had worked very closely with him over the years. Central bank appointments were a sovereign matter, she added.

Full report at:


Egyptian military operation kills 19 militants in Sinai, dismantles explosive devices

31 May 2020

The Egyptian military said it has killed at least 19 militants in raids and airstrikes against an insurgency in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula, in clashes that also left at least five casualties among its troops.

Col. Tamer el-Rifai said in his statement late Saturday that the raids and airstrikes took place last week in the towns of Bir al-Abed, Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid. He said forces dismantled at least five explosive devices and destroyed two four-wheel drive vehicles and a storehouse.

The military statement did not specify the number of soldiers killed.

Other officials however said two officers, including a colonel and a lieutenant, and three conscript soldiers were killed when an explosive device hit their vehicle Saturday while taking part in a campaign against the militants in central Sinai.

The officials spoke in condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to brief the media.

Other details about the incident could not be independently corroborated as Egyptian authorities heavily restrict access to that part of Sinai.

Full report at:


The IMF should not give Lebanon funding without deep governance reforms: Petition

31 May 2020

The International Monetary Fund should not give Lebanon funding until sweeping governance reforms are carried out, according to a letter sent to the IMF by a group of Lebanese former officials, civil society groups and analysts.

The letter is the latest intervention in the ongoing debate over how the Lebanese government should try to remedy the worsening economic crisis in the country. The government of Prime Minister Hassan Diab has sought $10 billion in IMF funding to help resolve the country’s financial crisis, but protest groups and analysts say that the funds should be contingent on deep reforms to combat corruption and waste in additional to the fiscal reforms the IMF more typically asks for.

“Any plan to improve or restore the fiscal and monetary balances will inevitably impose additional sacrifices on the Lebanese people and we would like to ensure that these sacrifices will not be in vain and that any IMF program does not simply constitute additional debt without putting the country on a sustainable path and implementing long overdue and critical reforms,” wrote the signatories.

They include former Minister of Economy and Industry Nasser Saidi, former Labor Minister Camille Abousleiman, former Minister of Interior ZiadBaroud, and former MP GhassanMoukheiber, along with a number of representatives of finance and industry groups, trade syndicates, and good government advocates.

Sara Assaf


I signed this petition to the IMF because I believe no funds whatsoever should be given to #Lebanon as long as our country is not properly governed and reforms are duly implemented. …

Supporting the letter of the Lebanese people to the IMF

The Executive Board International Monetary Fund 700 19th St NW, Washington, DC 20431 United States 27 May 2020 Dear Sirs The signatories of this letter represent a cross-section of civil society and...


10:57 PM - May 29, 2020

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On May 1, Prime Minister Diab and Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni signed a request for $10 billion of IMF assistance. Officials are hoping that the IMF funding – and the reforms required to get it – would also unlock a further $11 billion in soft loans pledged at the 2018 Paris CEDRE conference, which were contingent on reforms that have not been carried out.

Negotiations are currently underway on topics that reportedly include capital controls and financial sector restructuring among other reforms, with IMF officials having called an economic plan adopted by the government “a good starting point.”

Read more: Japan will only back Lebanon IMF bailout if it deports Carlos Ghosn: Nissan Lawyer

The letter, which was sent Wednesday and is now being circulated as a petition online, calls on the IMF to require Lebanese officials to adopt or implement legislation dealing with different aspects of governance. It highlights specific sectors for reform including calling for adoption of existing draft laws on judicial independence, public procurement processes, and access to information, and argues for the implementation of the recently adopted National Anti-Corruption Strategy and Action Plan.

The letter also calls for the establishment of a regulatory authority to oversee the country’s power sector, which has been a source of long running government deficits along with inadequate electricity provision, and the appointment of a new board for state utility Electricite du Liban. It also advocates amending the previous government plan for reform of the sector to ensure that new plants are built via an “open, transparent and competitive selection process.”

Among other proposed measures to target corruption in the public sector, the letter calls for an audit of public sector employment and reforms to the customs system to prevent smuggling and corruption; as well as for social welfare distributions to be carried out through a mechanism that would ensure aid is “targeted to the truly needy away from political patronage;” and for reforms to the National Social Security Fund.

Al Arabiya English


Watch: #Lebanon's agriculture and food production industry has come under multiple threats, and the #coronavirus-spurred economic contraction has exacerbated the hit already laid upon the sector by the ongoing currency crisis. …

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Another loan ‘wasted’ without reform

Abousleiman, the former labor minister and an attorney whose practice has focused on global financial matters, told Al Arabiya English that the letter had been his idea. While the IMF usually focused on macroeconomic reforms, Abousleiman said he wanted to draw the organization’s attention to governance reforms “that are more difficult to achieve and less on the radar screen of the IMF normally.”

Many of the measures highlighted in the letter are reforms that have already been promised. Abousleiman noted that the Lebanese government has a poor track record on following through on pledges made to the international community.

“This time what has changed is that it’s no longer future promises, but with an IMF program, you can and do usually have preconditions,” he said. Unless those preconditions include the type of reforms outlined in the letter, he said, “It will be just another loan with funds wasted and an accumulation of more debt into a system that is corrupt, wasteful and inefficient.”

Abousleiman said he had received feedback from the dean of the IMF executive board describing the proposals as “important.”

Jan Kubis


Different numbers of losses presented by the government and the Banque du Liban, lack of progress on judicial & other appointments or stalled electricity sector reform only weaken #Lebanon’s position in talks with the IMF. The country and the people cannot afford that any more.


1:34 PM - May 27, 2020

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Electricity and procurement reforms most important, says former minister

Former economy minister Saidi told Al Arabiya English that in his view, the electricity sector reforms, along with reforms to the public procurement process, were the most crucial.

“If I’m going to be getting new power plants, I better make sure that I have transparency, disclosure, and a modern procurement law” to avoid corruption and waste in the contracts, he said.

Saidi said he and the other signatories of the letter had intended the document as a “roadmap” for both the IMF and government officials in the negotiations and to push the government to make difficult reforms that so far it has been unwilling to undertake.

For instance, Saidi pointed to a long-awaited measure allowing for the lifting of bank secrecy passed by Parliament this week, but with last-minute amendments that critics send rendered it toothless.

Full report at:


Torture, abduction, murder: Inside Kata’ib Hezbollah, Iran’s terrorist proxy in Iraq

31 May 2020

Kata’ib Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia, issued a statement last week calling for terrorist attacks to be launched against Saudi Arabia.

The militant organization has been central in the proxy conflict between Iran and the US in Iraq, having carried out a series of attacks against US-led forces in Iraq that led to the US retaliating by killing Iran’s Gen. QassemSoleimani and Kata’ib Hezbollah former leader Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes in January. The group has carried out several missile attacks since, including an attack on a base that killed three US personnel.

And with Iran refusing to drop support for its proxy organizations across the region, Kata’ib Hezbollah is unlikely to fall out of the headlines any time soon.

Here is all you need to know about the group.

Who are Kata’ib Hezbollah?

Kata’ib Hezbollah – or the “Brigades of the Party of God” – is one of the most prominent Iranian-backed Shia militias in Iraq. It was established in 2007, when several Shia Iraqi militias formed an alliance.

Kata’ib Hezbollah initially began operating in the southern parts of Iraq and later extended its activities to the rest of the country and beyond.

On its official website, the militia identifies itself as a “jihadi group that believes in the principles of Islam and fights injustice and oppressors.”

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Kata'ib Hezbollah, which was designated by the US as a foreign terrorist organisation in 2009, is estimated to have between 3,000 to 7,000 fighters, according to unofficial figures.

In 2014, Kata’ib Hezbollah and six other Shia militias formed the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) umbrella militia group.

The PMU was established based on a fatwa (religious edict) by Iraq’s most senior Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to fight ISIS. The militia has its own command structure, and is currently headed by Abu Fadak al-Mohammadawi, a former secretary-general of Kata’ib Hezbollah.


Kata’ib Hezbollah is currently headed by Ahmad al-Hamidawi, who the US designated as a global terrorist in February.

Al-Hamidawi succeeded Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, who was killed alongside Iran’s Quds Force commander QassemSoleimani in a US airstrike in Baghdad in January.

Ties with Iran

Kata’ib Hezbollah has strong sectarian, ideological and financial ties with Iran.

On its website, the militia states that it believes Iran’s political system is the “best way to achieve the rule of Islam” during the absence of the 12th Imam and Shia Messiah, al-Mahdi.

“The establishment of the Islamic Republic in Iran is an essential stage in preparing for the state of divine justice” that al-Mahdi would bring about once he reappears, Kata’ib Hezbollah says on its website.

The militia enjoys Iranian funding, armament, training, and support, and aims to dominate Iraq’s political scene in a manner that suits its pro-Iranian political and ideological orientations.

Some of Kata’ib Hezbollah’s goals which are listed on its official website include “the pursuit of a political majority that is able to bring about fundamental changes in the constitution and the political process” as well as seeking to “invest in competent, honest and courageous individuals and getting them to decision-making positions.”

Besides enjoying significant support from Tehran, Kata’ib Hezbollah has also received military training from the Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah inside Iran, according to the US treasury.

The militia stresses the need to fight countries Iran considers as enemies, such as the US, Saudi Arabia and their allies.

Al Arabiya English


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Operations inside Iraq

Kata’ib Hezbollah’s website has a “jihadi operations” section on its website which includes hundreds of videos documenting attacks carried out by the militia against US and coalition forces in Iraq over the years.

On December 27, 2019, Kata’ib Hezbollah conducted a deadly strike on an Iraqi military base near Kirkuk using rockets, killing a US civilian contractor.

Days later, supporters of the militia attacked the US embassy in Baghdad, torching parts of the compound, smashing security cameras, and hurling stones. On January 3, Washington carried out a drone strike outside Baghdad International Airport, hitting the two-car convoy in which Soleimani and al-Mohandes were travelling.

Al Arabiya English


Video: The end of top Iranian general QassemSoleimani came in the early hours of Friday after his convoy was struck by US airstrikes shortly after leaving Baghdad International Airport.

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Kata’ib Hezbollah is also accused of being behind the massacre of Iraqi demonstrators protesting corruption and Iran’s meddling in their country in December 2019. At least 24 protesters were killed and more than 120 were injured in the attack.

Additionally, Kata’ib Hezbollah is accused of committing human rights violations motivated by sectarian hatred against Sunni Iraqi civilians after reclaiming Sunni-dominated areas in the country from ISIS.

Rights group also say that Kata’ib Hezbollah, as well as other militias that are part of the Iran-backed PMU militia group, have tortured, killed, abducted and destroyed the homes of Sunni civilians in Iraq.

In 2013, the militia was directly involved in an attack on Camp Ashraf in Iraq which hosted members of the Iranian opposition group Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK). Over 50 MEK members were killed in the attack.

Presence outside of Iraq

Kata’ib Hezbollah believes it is obligated to defend Iran’s interests not only in Iraq, but wherever possible. Based on this belief, the militia has fought alongside the forces of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad against Syrian rebels.

In 2015, Kata’ib Hezbollah allegedly sent 1,000 fighters to Aleppo in Syria in response to a direct order from Soleimani.

At the time, the militia was led by al-Mohandes, who considered himself a soldier of Soleimani. Asked about the nature of his relationship with Soleimani, al-Mohandes said on Iranian state TV in 2017 that his relationship with Soleimani is that of a soldier with a superior officer. “I am proud to be a soldier of Haj Qassem.”

Kata’ib Hezbollah is also suspected of drone attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry in 2019.

On May 14, 2019, Saudi Arabia announced that two oil-pumping stations for the East-West pipeline had been hit by explosive-laden drones, calling the attack “an act of terrorism” that targeted global oil supplies.

Full report at:


Egypt says 19 suspected militants killed in targeted ground, air operations in Sinai

31 May 2020

Egypt's military said Saturday it killed 19 suspected militants in targeted ground and air operations as part of its battle to quell a long-running insurgency in north Sinai.

In a video statement replete with a dramatic score released on its social media, the army said troops killed three "extremely dangerous" militants as well as 16 others in precision airstrikes on their "terrorist hideouts".

Troops found troves of automatic rifles, hand grenades and rocket-propelled grenades in possession of the militants, the army added.

Security forces have been battling a long-running Islamist insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula – in Egypt's northeast – that is spearheaded by a local affiliate of ISIS.

The fighting intensified after the military's 2013 ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

In February 2018, authorities launched a nationwide operation against militants, focused on north Sinai.

Full report at:


Coronavirus: Dubai changes rules on wearing face masks in public

31 May 2020

Authorities in Dubai have updated rules on wearing face masks in public, exempting children under the age of six and people with cognitive, intellectual or sensory disorders and those engaging in strenuous indoor and outdoor exercise from wearing them.

The updates to the rule were made on Sunday night by Dubai’s Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management.

The new rules on face masks comes as movement to and from the UAE’s capital city Abu Dhabi and its cities will be restricted starting from June 2 for a week as part of efforts to curb the coronavirus outbreak, the Abu Dhabi Media Office announced on Sunday.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

The following categories of people are now exempt from wearing face masks in public under these specific conditions:

- Children under the age of six.

- People of determination with cognitive, intellectual or sensory disorders or any impairments that hamper their ability to breathe or communicate, as well as those for whom masks can lead to sensory triggering (This should be confirmed by a medical report).

- Individuals who require supplemental oxygen or have severe respiratory conditions, who cannot breathe safely or have difficulty breathing with a mask, are also exempted (This should be confirmed by a medical report).

The following updates also allow the public to temporarily remove their face mask while out in public under these conditions:

- When driving the car alone or in the presence of the same household members.

- While eating or drinking in indoor and outdoor settings, for example in restaurants. The public must however maintain physical distance with others.

- When engaging in strenuous indoor and outdoor exercise or high intensity workouts, as it may exacerbate known or unknown health conditions. Physical distancing must be observed at all times.

- While being alone with no people around - for example, in a private office setting.

- When the risks associated with wearing the face mask outweigh the benefits, for example while swimming or skydiving.

- While undergoing specific treatments that require removal of masks, such as dental work and eye, nose, and throat examinations, as well as other related treatments or examinations including those involving hair and beauty.


Coronavirus: UAE bans movement in, out of Abu Dhabi as lockdown tightened

31 May 2020

Movement to and from the UAE’s capital city Abu Dhabi and its cities will be restricted starting from June 2 for a week as part of efforts to curb the coronavirus outbreak, the Abu Dhabi Media Office announced on Sunday.

For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.

“Abu Dhabi Emergency and Crisis Committee for the Covid-19 Pandemic, in collaboration with Abu Dhabi Police and DOH, have announced a ban on movement entering & exiting the emirate and between its regions (Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, & Al Dhafrah) starting from Tuesday 2 June, for 1 week,” the capital’s media office tweeted.

Abu Dhabi Emergency and Crisis Committee for the Covid-19 Pandemic, in collaboration with Abu Dhabi Police and DOH, have announced a ban on movement entering & exiting the emirate and between its regions (Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, & Al Dhafrah) starting from Tuesday 2 June, for 1 week.

مكتبأبوظبيالإعلامي (@admediaoffice) May 31, 2020

The ban on movement includes residents and citizens, according to Abu Dhabi Media Office.

However, employees working in vital sectors, patients with chronic illnesses who want to visit hospitals, and the those transporting necessary goods are exempt.

The UAE last week announced that it would be adjusting its nightly curfew starting from May 30, and will restrict movement from the hours of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.



From Saturday 30 May, National Sterilisation Programme timings in Abu Dhabi will run from 10pm until 6am across all residential areas, industrial zones and workers’ accommodation.

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During that time, authorities will be conducting the national disinfection program to help prevent the virus from spreading.

Food outlets, cooperatives, grocery stores, supermarkets and pharmacies are permitted to open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

From Saturday 30 May, National Sterilization Program timings in Abu Dhabi will run from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. across all residential areas, industrial zones and workers’ accommodation,” the emirate’s media office said.


Coronavirus: Resuming economic activities in the UAE is ‘necessary’, says Dubai Ruler

31 May 2020

Resuming economic activities in the UAE is “necessary,” but the public must be responsible, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid said on Sunday as coronavirus restrictions in the country begin to ease.

For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.

We are approaching a new phase of gradual reopening of our economy where entities & sectors are responsible for safeguarding health of employees. Public health remains a top priority,” Sheikh Mohammed said during the first cabinet meeting after government employees returned to work.

HH Sheikh Mohammed


I chaired a cabinet meeting today, on the first day of returning to work in government offices. We are approaching a new phase of gradual reopening of our economy where entities & sectors are responsible for safeguarding health of employees. Public health remains a top priority.

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The coming phase requires a new spirit and new ways of thinking. Our work needs to be smarter and more flexible,” he said on Twitter.

Dubai last week announced that it would be allowing some businesses to reopen if they comply with social distancing rules and preventative measures.

During Sunday’s cabinet meeting, chaired by Sheikh Mohammed, members discussed measures and policies to facilitate employees’ return to their offices.

We discussed measures to bring employees back to their offices and policies to automate future government work. We formed two teams to develop smart judiciary services and study the social culture our society needs in the coming phase,” he added.

HH Sheikh Mohammed


We discussed measures to bring employees back to their offices and policies to automate future government work. We formed two teams to develop smart judiciary services and study the social culture our society needs in the coming phase.

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Speaker: New Iranian Parliament to Continue Support for Resistance Front

May 31, 2020

"The 11th parliament is committed to continue the path of martyr Soleimani to increase the power of the resistance pivot as an unchangeable strategy and considers support for the Palestinian nation, the Lebanese Hezbollah, the resistance groups, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the oppressed Yemeni people as its revolution and national responsibility and will always stand with and is ready to cooperate with the Iraqi people, government and senior clerics in all fields," Qalibaf said, addressing an open session of the parliament on Saturday.

He added that the new parliament also assesses talks and compromise with the US "fruitless and harmful".

"Our strategy to confront the terrorist US entails completion of the chain of revenge for the blood of martyr Soleimani; something that started with the unprecedented attack against Ein Al-Assad base and continued by shattering the hollow awe of the US after it failed to respond to the Islamic Republic's move and will complete with the full expulsion of the US terrorist army from the region," Qalibaf said.

Lieutenant General Soleimani and Deputy Commander of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were assassinated in a US drone strike on Baghdad International Airport in Iraq on January 3.

On January 8, the IRGC Aerospace Force started heavy ballistic missile attacks on US Ein Al-Assad airbase in Southwestern Iraq near the border with Syria and a US operated airbase in Erbil in retaliation for the US assassination of General Soleimani.

Ein Al-Assad is an airbase with a 4km runway at 188m altitude from sea levels, which is the main and the largest US airbase in Iraq. Early reports said the radar systems and missile defense shields in Ein Al-Assad failed to operate and intercept the Iranian missiles. Unofficial reports said the US army's central radar systems at Ein Al-Assad had been jammed by electronic warfare.

The second IRGC reprisal attack targeted a US military base near Erbil airport in Iraqi Kurdistan Region in the second leg of "Martyr Soleimani" reprisal operation.

Iraq said the attacks had not taken any toll from its army men stationed at these two bases. The US army had blocked entrance into Ein Al-Assad to everyone, including the Iraqi army.

It was the first direct attack on the US army ever since world war two.

The IRGC officials said none of the missiles had been intercepted.

Iran has repeatedly stressed that Ein Al-Assad missile attack was just the start of its revenge for the US assassination of its top General, and not the end of it. Tehran has declared expulsion of the US troops from the region as its ultimate goal.


Iranian Scientists Design Kits to Diagnose Coronavirus in 55 Minutes

May 31, 2020

"We have produced a molecular kit by the application of real-time PCR method which can trace the virus in the patient's mucus in a minimum time of 55 minutes and the lowest number of virus (in the patient's saliva)," Esmayeelzadeh, the CEO of a knowledge-based company affiliated to Amir Kabir University, said on Sunday.

He added that the accuracy of the kits is 2.5 to 10 times more than the kits imported from foreign states.

Esmayeelzadeh said that several countries, including Azerbaijan, Turkey, Romania, Spain and Britain have demanded purchasing the kits.

In relevant remarks on May 10, Deputy head of the Iranian presidency’s office for scientific affairs Mehdi Qalenoyee said that Iranian firms are going to export serological test kits to eight more countries after a first successful cargo was sent to Germany earlier in the week.

Qalenoyee said export of two types of coronavirus test kits to the Philippines and Pakistan was waiting for confirmation from the local officials after Iranian companies manufacturing the special tools sent sample kits to labs in those countries.

He added that India, Nigeria and Armenia will receive the items once travel restrictions are eased.

The official also said that Qatar, Georgia and Syria will soon be included in the list of export destination for the Iranian test kits.

Full report at:


Afriqiyah flight accompanied by military aircraft leaves Istanbul for Misrata: Radar

31 May 2020

A Libyan Afriqiyah flight has left Istanbul, making a transfer stop in Antalya, while being accompanied by a military aircraft late on Sunday, according to flight radar images which currently show it is making its way to Misrata.

The live radar data from flight-tracking service showed the Afriqiyah Airways flight leaving Istanbul and stopping shortly in the southern Turkish city of Antalya. It was accompanied by an unmarked Lockheed C-130 Hercules military aircraft throughout its journey.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

While Al Arabiya English could not independently verify whether both aircraft were carrying passengers or cargo, a source from Misrata airport informed Al Arabiya two weeks ago that an African Airways plane arriving from Turkey carried 122 Syrian mercenaries on board.

Sources confirmed this month that 8,950 mercenaries, including Syrian and non-Syrian fighters, have reached Libya so far. Sources also said the number mercenaries who arrived in Turkish military camps to receive training number around 3,300.

Al Arabiya English


A video shared by a battalion in the Libyan National Army (LNA) allegedly shows a Syrian mercenary talking about being recruited by #Turkey to fight in the North African country. …

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Turkish President RecepTayyipErdogan began sending his troops, as well as Syrian mercenaries, to Libya since earlier this year. The Turkish leader, who is allied with Qatar and the extremist Muslim Brotherhood network, first announced plans to send troops to Libya back in December last year.

Full report at:


Iran beheaded teen’s father was ensured he won’t get death penalty before killing her

31 May 2020

An Iranian father who recently beheaded his teenage daughter in a so-called “honor killing” consulted a lawyer prior to killing his daughter to ensure he will not receive the death penalty, an Iranian daily reported on Saturday.

Reza Ashrafi beheaded his 14-year-old daughter RominaAshrafi in her sleep on May 14 in a so-called “honor killing” that shook Iran and stoked a nationwide outcry.

A month before killing his daughter, Ashrafi had checked and found out through his son-in-law, who is a lawyer, that based on Iran’s laws, he would not receive the death penalty for killing his own child, Iranian daily Shahrvand reported on Saturday.

A father who kills his child is not considered a murderer and escapes the death penalty, according to the laws of the Islamic Republic.

Al Arabiya English


Last week’s apparent “honor” killing of RominaAshrafi, 14, sparks outrage in#Iran and Guardian Council denies that the killing of a teenage girl by her father was the result of “negligence” due to a delay in its approval of a new child protection law. …

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Under Article 612 of Iran’s Islamic penal code, Ashrafi will face between three to ten years in prison, according to a member of Iran’s Guardian Council.

The victim, RominaAshrafi, had run away from home following her father’s opposition to her marrying a man she had “fallen in love with,” according to local media. The man Ashrafi wanted to be with is reportedly 35 years old, according to local Iranian media outlets.


COVID-19 may double poverty in West Bank, World Bank warns

01 June 2020

The World Bank has warned about the devastating economic ramifications of the new coronavirus in the occupied Palestinian territories.

In a report on Monday, the World Bank warned that poverty in the occupied West Bank may double as Palestinians are facing the economic fallout of the coronavirus outbreak.

The UN agency said the Palestinian Authority's financial situation is expected to become increasingly difficult due to loss of income and increased spending on healthcare and other areas.

It added the fallout is expected to see the number of households living below the poverty line increase this year from 14 to 30 percent in the West Bank, largely due to Palestinians being unable to cross into Israel for work.

The global body also estimated that the Palestinian economy is set to shrink between 7.6 and 11 percent for 2020.

The PA last week announced an end to the lockdown it had imposed in early March across the West Bank after an outbreak of the COVID-19 illness in Bethlehem.

The easing allowed more than 63,000 Palestinians to pass through checkpoints for work on Sunday, according to the Israeli military branch handling civilian affairs in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The borders of the Gaza Strip, which has been under a crippling Israeli blockade since 2007, remain closed to all but a few returning Gazans, who are quarantined on arrival.

Full report at:,-World-Bank-warns


Two Israeli forces freed day after shooting dead disabled Palestinian

31 May 2020

Two Israeli forces, who had shot dead a mentally-ill Palestinian man in occupied Jerusalem al-Quds, have been freed.

Eyad al-Hallaq, a 32-year-old Palestinian with special needs, was shot dead by the two Israeli forces in the vicinity of al-Asbat Gate, a main entrance to the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem al-Quds on Saturday.

Israel forces claimed in a statement following the killing that the Palestinian was allegedly “holding a suspicious object that appeared to be a gun.”

At the time of the incident, Hallaq was on his way to a special needs educational institute, where he studied.

When the Israeli forces ordered him to stop approaching, he did not understand the order and ran away in fear, and was reportedly shot eight to ten times.

On Sunday, the two Israeli forces, who were directly involved in Hallaq’s murder, were freed after spending a night in detention, the Palestinian Information Center reported.

The West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, the Gaza-based Palestinian Hamas resistance movement, and many human rights organizations have strongly condemned Hallaq’s tragic murder, calling for international probes into Israeli crimes against the Palestinians, particularly extrajudicial killings.

The shooting came a day after Israeli troops killed a Palestinian father of five children, identified as Fadi Adnan Sarhan Samara, 37, over an alleged car-ramming attack near Nabi Saleh village, northwest of the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The Israeli military regularly opens fatal fire on Palestinians, claiming they pose a threat to the regime's forces.

Human rights groups have repeatedly criticized Tel Aviv for its shoot-to-kill policy as a large number of the Palestinians killed at the scene of the alleged attacks did not pose any serious threat to Israelis.

Full report at:


4 civilians killed in shelling by Saudi mercenaries in Yemen’s Hudaydah

31 May 2020

At least four civilians have been killed and over a dozen others injured in mortar shelling by Saudi-sponsored militiamen loyal to Yemen’s former president, AbdRabbuh Mansur Hadi, at a residential area in the western coastal province of Hudaydah.

Local sources, who asked to remain anonymous, told Arabic-language al-Masirah television network that the projectiles struck al-Zohourneighborhood in the al-Hali district of the province on Sunday.

The sources added that the injured victims were taken to a nearby hospital, though health facilities in the war-ravaged country are suffering from lack of medicine and medical equipment.

Al-Masirah TV cameraman killed in northern Yemen

Separately on Sunday, Abdullah AskarMajali, a cameraman working for al-Masirah TV, was killed in Yemen’s northern province of al-Jawf.

The television network said Majali lost his life while covering the advances of Yemeni army forces and allied fighters from Popular Committees.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched the devastating war on Yemen in March 2015 in order to bring Hadi back to power and crush the HouthiAnsarullah movement.

The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the war has claimed more than 100,000 lives over the past five years.

More than half of Yemen’s hospitals and clinics have been destroyed or closed during the war by the Saudi-led coalition, which is supported militarily by the UK, US and other Western nations.

Full report at:


Israeli forces storm neighbourhood in Tira, demolish Palestinian homes

31 May 2020

Israeli forces have demolished four Palestinian homes in the Arab city of Tira, displacing their residents, a report says.

Israeli authorities bulldozed the houses in the city, located in the central part of the occupied territories, at dawn on Sunday, the Palestinian Information Center reported.

They claimed that the homes had been constructed without a license, which is almost impossible to obtain. 

The report, citing local sources, added that Israeli police forces first stormed the neighborhood and cordoned off the area, before carrying out the demolitions.

The move angered local residents and has drawn widespread condemnation against the Israeli regime for exploiting the coronavirus crisis to press ahead with its demolition campaign in Arab-populated areas to expand its illegal settlements.

Last month, the Palestinian minister of Jerusalem al-Quds affairs, Fadi al-Hadami condemned Israel’s exploitation of the pandemic to expand its settlement construction activities, saying the Tel Aviv regime aims to further Judaize the occupied holy city of Jerusalem al-Quds.

“In light of the world’s preoccupation with the fight against the [COVID-19] epidemic, we see that the pace of settlement expansion in al-Quds has increased, with more than 17,700 settlement units being built just within the past two months. This indicates that Israel cares neither about the epidemic nor the campaign against coronavirus, and is simply pursuing its policies of settlement construction,” Hadami said.

Israeli authorities also demolish Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank usually claiming that the residential structures have been built without the relevant building permits.

They also sometimes order the Palestinian owners to demolish their own homes or pay the demolition costs to the municipality.

Back in May last year, the Israeli rights group, B’Tselem, said in a report that the Tel Aviv regime uses other strategies to block Palestinian use of land, or demolish the homes Palestinians have already built, thus, clearing the way for new illegal Israeli settlements in the region.

Israeli authorities may declare Palestinian-owned land as “open scenic areas,” where development is prohibited, or as “national parks,” where construction and urban development are almost entirely forbidden.

Full report at:


Jordan warns UK, US of 'unprecedented danger' of Israel’s land grab bid

31 May 2020

Jordan's Foreign Minister AymanSafadi has cautioned Britain and the United States against the “unprecedented danger” posed by an Israeli scheme to annex parts of the occupied Palestinian territory, urging the international community to step in.

In a telephone conversation with his British counterpart Dominic Raab, Safadi said the Tel Aviv regime's plan to impose its “sovereignty” over West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley is “an unprecedented danger that threatens the chance of peace.”

The top Jordanian diplomat called on Raab to prevent Israel from moving forward with the annexation plan. He further stressed the significance of “urgent and active interference” by the international community to “protect the chances of peace.”



Through discussion with #UK FM @DominicRaab on bilateral ties, Corona, regional issues. Deepest condolences over Corona victims. Appreciate UK support to Kingdom.  A growing strong partnership.  Grateful for commitment to just peace on basis of 2-state solution. UK role is key. …



أجرى @AymanHsafadiووزيرخارجيةالمملكةالمتحدة @DominicRaabاليوممحادثاتتناولتالتضامنفيمواجهةجائحةكوروناوالعلاقاتالثنائية


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In a separate conversation with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Safadi expressed Jordan’s strong opposition to Israel's push for consolidating its occupation of Palestinian lands.

The annexation scheme "undermines all peace prospects,” he noted.

A deal underlying Israel’s new coalition administration, sworn in earlier this month, allows the regime to initiate the annexation legislation from July 1.

US President Donald Trump gave Tel Aviv the green light for the annexation in his self-proclaimed “deal of the century,” which was unveiled in January with the aim of legitimizing Israel’s occupation and re-drawing the Middle East map.

The US plot calls for the creation of a Palestinian state with limited control over its own security and borders. It also bars Palestinian refugees from returning to their homeland, enshrines Jerusalem al-Quds as “Israel’s undivided capital” and allows the regime to annex settlements and the Jordan Valley.

Netanyahu vows to annex 30% of West Bank

Speaking to the Israeli newspaper MakorRishon, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Tel Aviv's "sovereignty" would be applied to 30 percent of the West Bank, which is the equivalent of 50 percent of Area C.

Asked whether the mapping process of the would-be annexed area was complete, Netanyahu replied, “Not yet, we are still working on it.”

Full report at:


Israeli defense minister apologizes for Palestinian’s death

May 31, 2020

JERUSALEM: Israel’s defense minister apologized on Sunday for the Israeli police’s deadly shooting of an unarmed Palestinian man who was autistic.

The shooting of IyadHalak, 32, in Jerusalem’s Old City on Saturday, drew broad condemnations and revived complaints alleging excessive force by Israeli security forces.

Benny Gantz, who is also Israel’s “alternate” prime minister under a power-sharing deal, made the remarks at the weekly meeting of the Israeli Cabinet. He was sat near Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who made no mention of the incident in his opening remarks.

“We are really sorry about the incident in which IyadHalak was shot to death and we share in the family’s grief,” Gantz said. “I am sure this subject will be investigated swiftly and conclusions will be reached.”

Halak’s relatives said he had autism and was heading to a school for students with special needs where he studied each day when he was shot.

In a statement, Israeli police said they spotted a suspect “with a suspicious object that looked like a pistol.” When he failed to obey orders to stop, officers opened fire, the statement said. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld later said no weapon was found.

Israeli media reported the officers involved were questioned after the incident as per protocol and a lawyer representing one of them sent his condolences to the family in an interview with Israeli Army Radio.

Lone Palestinian attackers with no clear links to armed groups have carried out a series of stabbings, shootings and car-ramming attacks in recent years.

Palestinians and Israeli human rights groups have long accused Israeli security forces of using excessive force in some cases, either by killing individuals who could have been arrested or using lethal force when their lives were not in danger.

Full report at:


North America 

President Trump says will place ‘ANTIFA’ activist group on terror list

31 May 2020

President Donald Trump said on Sunday that the United States would be classifying the loose-knit Antifa movement as a terrorist group after blaming it for some of the recent spasm of violence in US cities in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, a black man, while in police custody.

“The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization,” Trump announced on Twitter, with little elaboration.

Donald J. Trump


The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization.


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The president and some of his top advisors have blamed Antifa and groups they call “far-left extremists” for hijacking peaceful protests against police abuses after a black man’s death in Minneapolis.

Nationwide rioting in dozens of cities was sparked by the videotaped death of the unarmed black man, George Floyd, during his arrest Monday.

In a series of tweets, the US president also congratulated national guard troops for restoring order on Saturday in Minneapolis after days of unrest.

“The ANTIFA led anarchists, among others, were shut down quickly. Should have been done by Mayor on first night and there would have been no trouble!” Trump tweeted.

Donald J. Trump


Congratulations to our National Guard for the great job they did immediately upon arriving in Minneapolis, Minnesota, last night. The ANTIFA led anarchists, among others, were shut down quickly. Should have been done by Mayor on first night and there would have been no trouble!


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He was referring to Jacob Frey, the Democratic mayor of Minneapolis, where a horrifying video of Floyd’s death – after a police officer kneeled on his neck – sparked the nationwide outpouring of rage, as well as protests elsewhere in the world.

Derek Chauvin, the officer who kept his knee on Floyd’s neck even as onlookers pleaded with him, has been fired and charged with third-degree homicide.

Antifa – the name is a contraction for anti-fascist – is a secretive grouping of radical activists that has emerged in recent years, in part in opposition to racist demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017.

It is not known to have official leaders. Its members, often dressed entirely in black, protest against racism, far-right values and what they consider fascism, and say violent tactics are sometimes justified as self-defense.

The group’s loose, diffuse organization would seem to make it a difficult target for the terrorist listing.

Domestic terrorist groups, the FBI says on its website, promote “the unlawful use, or threatened use, of violence ... against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”


US State Department uses convoluted logic regarding Iran: Analyst

30 May 2020

The US State Department uses convoluted logic when it deals with Iran’s nuclear issues, blaming Tehran after it was Washington that canceled the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an American writer and former professor says.

“Secretary of State Mike Pompeo just removed the final waivers to countries who were still doing business with Iran, under the JCPOA, which the Trump administration revoked,” said E Michael Jones, the current editor of Culture Wars magazine.

“This is going to eliminate the last ability to have some type of economic exchange,” he told Press TV in an interview on Saturday.

Pompeo made the announcement on Wednesday amid Washington’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iranians.

“Today, I am ending the sanctions waiver for JCPOA-related projects in Iran, effective in 60 days,” Pompeo wrote on Twitter.

He further repeated his baseless allegations that “Iran’s continued nuclear escalation makes clear this cooperation must end."

"Further attempts at nuclear extortion will only bring greater pressure on" Iran, he added.

Pompeo, however, provided a separate waiver for the Bushehr nuclear power plant “to ensure safety of operations” for the next 90 days.

In 2018, President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the internationally backed nuclear deal, negotiated under his predecessor, Barack Obama, three years earlier.

Ever since, the US has renewed the waivers every 60 days, with the last one on March 30.

“We will continue to closely monitor all developments in Iran’s nuclear program and can modify this waiver at any time,” Pompeo claimed in a statement released by the State Department when announcing the previous sanctions waivers.

Jones said, “The justification that Pompeo used was that Iran is enriching uranium in order to produce weapons. This is a little bit contradictory because the whole point of the JCPOA was Iran agreeing not to enrich uranium, in order to evade the sanctions.”

“So we've got this convoluted logic here of the United States State Department, which is blaming Iran for the very thing that they signed the agreement not to do. Now, if there is no agreement there is no reason why Iran should not enrich nuclear material,” he added.

“And if there's no agreement, there's no reason why Iran should not have nuclear weapons. That was the whole point of the JCPOA, which the United States revoked,” he noted.

Full report at:


US threatens to slap sanctions on countries aiding Iran and Venezuela

30 May 2020

The administration of US President Donald Trump has threatened to slap sanctions on the countries assisting Iran and Venezuela to do fuel trade.

Elliott Abrams, Washington’s special representative on Venezuela, said on Friday that Washington was issuing warnings to the governments of countries en route between Iran and Venezuela “to be sure everyone recognizes this would be a very dangerous transaction to assist.”

“We've alerted the shipping community around the world, ship owners, ship captains, ship insurers, and we've alerted ports along the way between Iran and Venezuela” not to give any services to Iranian vessels, Abrams revealed.

Venezuela is facing an a shortage of fuel and other essential commodities due to US sanctions against the country.

A US official familiar with the matter said various countries had been asked to deny port services to Iranian vessels.

Despite the US-imposed sanctions on both countries, Iran has already made several fuel shipments to its South American ally Venezuela.

“I do not think that you will find ship owners and insurers and captains and crews willing to engage in these transactions in the future, “Abrams said.

Washington said this month that it had issued a global maritime advisory warning countries on how to avoid sanctions related to Iran, North Korea and Syria.

Experts say the harsh US sanctions slapped on Iran were “illegal” and not authorized by the UN Security Council.

Trump has also threatened to begin a blockade on Venezuela.

Dan Kovalik, author and political commentator said Iran and Venezuela had the right to defend their nations against the harsh sanctions and get the much needed fuel and supplies to their people.

Iran and Venezuela have warned the US government against any use of US military force to stop the shipments of fuel.

Full report at:



France, Germany, UK criticize US for ending Iran nuclear waivers

30 May 2020

France, Germany and Britain have censured the United States for ending the last remaining sanctions waivers in a 2015 nuclear deal signed between Iran and the world powers, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The sanctions waivers, which covered important Iran nuclear deal projects, allowed Russian, Chinese and European companies to continue their work at Iranian nuclear facilities including the heavy water reactor in Arak, the Fordow enrichment facility, the Bushehr nuclear power plant and the Tehran research reactor.

"We deeply regret the US decision to end the three waivers," the three European countries said in a joint statement on Saturday.

"These projects, endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 2231, serve the non-proliferation interests of all and provide the international community with assurances of the exclusively peaceful and safe nature of Iranian nuclear activities."

On Wednesday, hawkish US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that Washington had ended the last remaining sanctions waivers in the JCPOA, as part of the Trump administration’s brutal campaign against Iran.

“Today, I am ending the sanctions waiver for JCPOA-related projects in Iran, effective in 60 days,” Pompeo wrote on Twitter.

Pompeo, however, provided a separate waiver for the Bushehr nuclear power plant “to ensure safety of operations” for the next 90 days.

Russia and China, which are both signatories to the nuclear deal, have already blasted the United States for its decision. 

In May 2018, US President Donald Trump took an illegal and unilateral decision to end Washington’s participation in the nuclear deal and re-impose the sanctions that the agreement had lifted, in defiance of the fact that the accord has been endorsed by the UN Security Council in the form of Resolution 2231.

Ever since, the US has renewed the waivers every 60 days, with the last one on March 30.

Tehran maintains that its nuclear program is merely peaceful as also asserted by other signatories of the JCPOA.

Ever since withdrawing from the agreement, Washington has launched a so-called maximum pressure campaign against Tehran, seeking to pressure it with a growing list of widespread sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic.

The European partners to the deal -- the UK, France, and Germany -- have already knuckled under Washington’s pressure by ending their trade with the Islamic Republic for fear of facing the American punitive measures.

The United States also intends to have the UN extend an arms embargo against Iran, which is set to expire in October in line with the JCPOA.

The US attempt to extend the arms embargo violates UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which has endorsed the nuclear agreement, also backed by Britain, Germany, China, Russia and France.


UK 'concerned' over alleged Russian jets in Libya




The UK on Saturday expressed concern over the recent transfer of Russian aircraft from Syria to Libya.

"We are concerned by recent US reports of Russian fighter jets being deployed from Syria into Libya, and growing evidence of Russian involvement in Libya in support of General Haftar's forces. This external interference exacerbates the conflict and undermines the UN-led peace process," the country's Foreign and Commonwealth Office said in a statement.

The statement also called on all Libyan parties in the conflict to "engage urgently" in UN-led cease-fire efforts and a return to political dialogue.

Alleged Russian jets in Libya

Libya's Interior Minister FathiBashagha had said last week that at least six Mig-29 and two Su-24 jets previously stationed at Russia's Khmeimim Air Base in Syria landed in areas controlled by eastern Libya-based renegade military commander KhalifaHaftar.

Russia has since denied this, with its Defense Committee official AndreyKrasov saying Bashagha's information did not reflect the truth.

"This is just another American scaremongering. An example of spreading false information, just like the previous American administrations," Krasov added.

US Africa Command (AFRICOM) had shared satellite images of the Russian jets being sent to Libya, claiming that after being painted in Russia's Khmeimim Air Base in Syria, they were sent to the war-torn North African country along with other Russian planes.

Libya's internationally recognized government, also known as the Government of National Accord, has been under attack by Haftar's forces since April 2019, with more than 1,000 killed in the violence.

In March, the Libyan government launched Operation Peace Storm to counter attacks on the capital, and recently regained strategic locations, including the Al-Watiya airbase, in a major blow to Haftar's forces.

Full report at:


EU regrets US decision on Iran nuclear deal

Agnes Szucs



Key European actors of the Iran nuclear deal disapprove the US’ recent decision on ending the sanction waivers.

The spokespersons of the EU foreign policy chief and foreign ministers of Germany, France and the UK expressed their “deep regret” in a joint statement on Saturday.

“These projects (…) serve the non-proliferation interests of all and provide the international community with assurances of the exclusively peaceful and safe nature of Iranian nuclear activities,” the statement read.

The diplomatic services call the Iran nuclear deal -- officially known as Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) -- “a key achievement of the global non-proliferation architecture”.

The EU+E3 -- abbreviation referring these actors who have played a significant role in the nuclear pact -- are also convinced that the international deal is “currently the best and only way to ensure the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo decided last week to end the rights to an exemption from sanctions in case the concerned activity was related to the Iran nuclear deal, and blacklisted two more Iranian officials working in the sector.

He argued that “Iran’s continued nuclear escalation makes clear this cooperation must end.”

The US decision will enter into force in two months and affects, among the others, the Arak Modernization Project.

The nuclear deal was signed in 2015 by Iran, the US, China, Russia, France, the UK, Germany and the EU.

The US unilaterally withdrew from the agreement in 2018.

Following a dramatic surge of confrontations between Iran and the US early this year, Iran also announced to stop complying with the 2015 nuclear deal.

Full report at:


Jailed Briton victim of Iranian psychological torture, says husband

Paul Peachey

May 31, 2020

The jailed British-Iranian charity worker NazaninZaghari-Ratcliffe has been put through “psychological torture” after another delay in her bid for clemency, her husband said.

The decision over her fate in Iran has been complicated by an apparent dispute between the judiciary and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Mr Ratcliffe told British media it appeared that both the foreign ministry and the judiciary were seeking her release.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 41, has been out of prison since March as the Iranians battle the Covid-19 crisis, and she has applied for clemency after serving four years of a five-year sentence for unspecified national security offences.

She was arrested in April 2016 as she prepared to fly out of Iran after visiting her parents with her young daughter.

Her lawyers had hoped that officials will have ruled on her case last week but her lawyer was rebuffed on two occasions.

He has been told to report back to prosecutors next Saturday by which time the family believe it will be clear who will decide her fate among the upper echelons of the Iranian leadership.

Free Nazanin


Replying to @FreeNazanin

Nazanin’s lawyer remains upbeat, since legally her clemency cannot be refused. Though it is understood that some parts of the regime are still trying to block it.


3:25 PM - May 30, 2020

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She spent last week having nightmares as she waited for news at her parents’ home in Iran, where she is confined under an electronic tagging programme, her husband told a British newspaper.

“It is fair to say that what Nazanin has gone through amounts to psychological torture,” Mr Ratcliffe told the Observer.

“The Revolutionary Guard have had no problem making a mockery of Iranian law,” he said. “But this is the first time we’ve had a situation where not only is the Iranian foreign ministry, behind closed doors, trying to solve this for diplomatic purposes, but also the judiciary are trying to solve this case.”

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe is eligible for release under the terms of an amnesty announced by Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei earlier this year.

She is one of 125 identified security prisoners who is eligible for permanent release under the terms of the programme, according to Iran Prison Atlas, a database of prisoners compiled by a US-based group.

Full report at:


South Asia 

Afghan government has so far released 2,884 prisoners: Taliban

31 May 2020

The Taliban group has confirmed that the Afghan government has so far released 2,884 prisoners of the group.

“So far, a total of 2284 prisoners of the Islamic Emirate have been released from prisons of the Kabul Administration. Claim of having released more prisoners of ours than that as announced by officials of the Kabul Administration is not true,” SuhailShaheen a spokesperson for the political office of Taliban said in a Twitter post.

Shaheen further added “Only actual and true figures should be published and avoid distorting the process.”

The Afghan government started the release of Taliban weeks after the Taliban group signed a peace deal with Taliban in a bid to help kick start the intra-Afghan talks.

However, a series of attacks in Kabul disturbed the release of prisoners until the Taliban group announced a ceasefire on the occasion of Eid which was widely welcomed with the Afghan government vowing to expedite the release of prisoners.


Kabul ready to start intra-Afghan peace talks with Taliban: Abdullah

30 May 2020

A senior Afghan official tasked with leading the much-awaited intra-Afghan peace negotiations with the Taliban militant group says his team is ready to commence talks “at any moment” with the militants. 

Abdullah Abdullah, the head of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), made the comment on Saturday at his first press conference since taken the role, saying the lull in violence created by an unexpected truce offered by Taliban had set the tone for starting the peace talks.

“The announcement of the ceasefire, a reduction in violence and the exchange of prisoners have all paved the way for a good beginning,” Abdullah said, adding, “The negotiating team is ready to begin the talks at any moment.”

After months of political crisis over the outcome of a disputed September presidential election, which declared Ashraf Ghani as the president for a second term, Abdullah, Ghani’s bitter rival, agreed to ink a power-sharing deal with the incumbent president.

Part of the agreement is that Abdullah henceforth heads Kabul’s negotiating team in its intra-Afghan peace talks with the Taliban militant group, which has already controls large parts of the war-torn country.

Kabul responded to the ceasefire by releasing some 1,000 Taliban inmates this week, and plans to further free an equal number of prisoners in the coming days.

The militant group, for its part, has said that it plans to releases another group of government prisoners. The Taliban have so far freed around 300 Afghan security force personnel.

The Taliban-proposed three-day ceasefire was held over the Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan. Although the truce, in effect from Sunday through Tuesday, maintained relative peace across the country, it was soon followed by deadly attacks on security forces.

Afghan officials blamed the attacks on the Taliban.

A peace deal inked between the United States and the Taliban on February 28 stipulated that the Taliban stop their attacks on foreign forces in return for the US military’s phased withdrawal from Afghanistan and also a prisoner exchange between the group and the government in Kabul, which was excluded from the talks.

The prisoner swap is regarded as a confidence-building move ahead of long-awaited peace talks between Kabul and the militant group, which rejected a government offer of truce for the duration of Ramadan and continued its attacks.

Full report at:


Afghan reporter killed as govt says ready for Taliban dialogue

May 30, 2020

KABUL: A roadside bomb killed a television journalist in Kabul on Saturday, soon after a top Afghan official appointed to lead peace talks with the Taliban said his team was ready for the long-delayed dialogue.

The insurgents denied responsibility for the blast, which targeted a minibus carrying 15 employees of private television channel Khurshid TV.

The explosion, which claimed the lives of a reporter and a driver, punctuated an overall reduction in violence that has followed on from a three-day ceasefire the Taliban instigated May 24.

Just hours before the blast, Afghanistan's former chief executive Abdullah Abdullah, who has been appointed to head talks with the Taliban, said his team was positioned to start dialogue.

Abdullah credited the general lull in violence for setting the tone for discussions.

"The ceasefire, a reduction in violence and the exchange of prisoners have all paved the way for a good beginning," Abdullah said at his first press conference since taking on the role.

"The negotiating team is ready to begin the talks at any moment," he said.

However, he insisted on a fresh ceasefire during the talks.

No group claimed responsibility for Saturday's bombing in central Kabul.

Khurshid TV's news director Jawed Farhad confirmed the attack, which left the station's white minibus with extensive damage to its front end.

"The target of the blast was the vehicle of Khurshid private TV," the interior ministry said in a statement.

It was the second such attack targeting Khurshid employees in less than a year.

In August 2019, two passers-by were killed when a "sticky bomb" -- a type of homemade explosive attached to vehicles with magnets -- struck a similar Khurshid TV van in an unclaimed attack.

Afghanistan is one of the world's deadliest places for journalists, who face many risks covering the country's long conflict and who have sometimes been targeted for doing their job.

Afghanistan's truce ended Tuesday night but violence since then has stayed relatively low, though government security forces have suffered some attacks that authorities blamed on the Taliban.

The ceasefire and general drop in violence has injected hope into Afghanistan's peace process, which had earlier this month looked to be on the verge of collapse because of soaring Taliban violence after they signed a deal with the US in February.

Momentum has also built thanks to the government's release of hundreds of Taliban prisoners in recent weeks, as part of a swap that has also seen the militants free government security force captives.

Peace talks were initially scheduled to begin on March 10.

US President Donald Trump's administration has made it a priority to end America's longest war and withdraw all troops by next May. US officials have pushed the Taliban and government leaders to hold peace talks.

Abdullah was appointed to lead the process after he ended his bitter political feud with President Ashraf Ghani earlier this month.

He had announced himself as a rival president after rejecting the result of the September election, which incumbent Ghani eventually won amid fraud claims.

With the end of the dispute, the Afghan government appeared unified in terms of the peace process, a member of Abdullah's negotiating team said.

Full report at:


Bangladesh reports record deaths as it lifts lockdown


DHAKA, Bangladesh

Bangladesh registered as many as 40 deaths from the novel coronavirus on Sunday -- the highest since the first fatality was confirmed on March 18 -- as the country lifted an over two-month nationwide lockdown.

With the new cases, total fatalities rose to 650, said Nasima Sultana, one of the directors at the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), during a regular online media briefing.

Among the deaths, 33 were men and seven women, she added, saying that some 1.38% of the total infections died.

Before the latest casualty report, Bangladesh's highest number of fatalities in a single day had been 28.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh also recorded some 2,545 positive cases, also a single-day high for the country since the first case emerged on March 8, raising the infection tally to 47,153.

The country also increased testing numbers with a record of 11,876 in 52 labs across the country in the past 24 hours, the DHGS official said, adding that a total of 308,930 samples had tested to date.

Some 406 more COVID-19 patients recovered for a total of 9,781 people, 20.74% of overall cases.

Lockdown lifted

Bangladesh also marked the first working day in the country after its two-month coronavirus lockdown amid visible scenes of breaching social distancing and health guidelines.

The South Asian country with a population of 165 million imposed a nationwide lockdown on March 26 in the wake of the coronavirus and extended it until May 30 with several extensions.

The government, however, eased the lockdown at a time when the pandemic began to escalate with the new casualty records, raising concerns that the outbreak may yet worsen in the coming days.

People have since been seen to gather closely at different busy crossings in the capital Dhaka while waiting for public transport, while others have been seen packed in vehicles.

The Bangladesh Doctors' Foundation (BDF) chairman Dr.Shahed Rafi Pavel told Anadolu Agency that the decision to ease the lockdown could endanger the country.

He warned that intensified infections could force authorities to re-impose a lockdown as the peak may come at a later date due to intermittent easing of measures.

Pavel said that allowing residents of the capital to leave ahead of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr could expose villages across the country to virus infection, adding that "there was no scientific study before easing nationwide lockdown that took the economic losses in the country."

Hospitals are already filled with coronavirus patients and if the rapid infection continues, we fear we will not deal with such a situation, he said.

Full report at:


Redefining and Redesigning Afghanistan’s Banking and Financial Sectors

30 May 2020

A bank is a financial institution that collects financial resources from depositors, safeguards them and loans them back to consumers and business owners, brokers, investors, and even sovereign actors at an interest. In essence, a bank is a bridge between an individual who does not have the capital to a person that does. Speaking metaphorically, a bank is like a water dam. The slow stream of water pours into the dam – gradually causing accumulation of water. Massive amounts of water in a dam are key in generating electricity and a better irrigation system.

Similarly, banks are institutions that accumulate financial resources and direct them toward investment opportunities for growth and regeneration of wealth. There are many various types of banks. A Central Bank usually acts as a mother bank, regulates the banking system, controls inflation, provides loans to investment institutions, commercial, retail banks and ensures healthy liquidity levels in a financial market of a given sovereign state.

Financial resources are limited; therefore, a bank plays a fundamental role in collecting financial resources and loaning them back. This process is key in the generation and production of liquidity in markets.

Afghanistan’s mother bank – “Da Afghanistan Bank” (DAB) – was established almost 80 years ago and it has two main objectives. 1) to foster price stability and 2) to build a robust financial system in Afghanistan.  The question is to what extent DAB has been capable of achieving these two objectives?

Afghanistan’s economy is highly influenced by the value of the United States Dollar (USD). Over the last 10 years, almost 80-90 percent of Afghani (Afghanistan’s currency) value has been lost against the USD. Moreover, DAB has failed to drive the Afghan economy toward robustness. Of course, it is very easy to blame terrorism, the Taliban, and war as the key drivers of economic failure, but on the ground, realities tell a different story. In fact, based on what we see, DAB lacks serious practical banking knowledge on how the financial markets work. Moreover, political dependency has further undermined the DAB’s ability to act flexibly and work harder to achieve its objectives. My attempt here is not to criticize but to point out DAB’s serious shortcomings and highlight the financial system’s inherent problems. By writing this piece, we can begin a discourse on how we can redefine, rebuild, and redesign Afghanistan’s banking and financial industries.

Central Banks all around the world apply ‘sovereign bonds’ as well as ‘interest rates as key tools in driving liquidity and managing inflation and deflation rates; however, this is not the case in Afghanistan. It means DAB does not have any tools to apply for measuring and contributing to the liquidity of the market. The foreign currency injection specifically of the USD and EURO (EUR) are the only tools in buying back Afghani. The true value of the USD and EUR derive from their respective sovereigns’ international trade, inflation, quantitative easing policies, employment data, and interest rates. Moreover, geopolitical issues are among the other reasons behind the valuation of the USD and EUR.  The injection of the USD and EUR in the Afghan markets is contributing to short-term Afghani deflation, but in the long run, they have made Afghani highly dependent in relation to the value of the USD and EUR. Therefore, the injection of foreign currencies has been counterproductive and unhealthy for Afghanistan’s financial markets.

DAB must create Afghanistan’s ‘sovereign bond’ system where market intervention should only be done through a bond, and not foreign currencies. I understand that this is not an easy challenge to tackle. There are serious financial, political, and cultural implications for establishing the bond market, but I believe it is the only way.

In the last 15 years, a handful of private retails banks has been established in Afghanistan in addition to the state-owned banks. Unfortunately, these retail banks that provide services to the general public rather than companies and corporations are mainly focused on opening accounts and daily transactions but offer no loan program to individuals, families, or entrepreneurs, and businesses. Most importantly, there is no investment banking wing within these institutions to take care of their excess capital. Consequently, they are just partially effective. The market has not benefitted from their huge cash amounts, which are either stashed away in Afghanistan or in foreign banks. The cash is out of the healthy market circulation and has become a liability.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the presence of major international economies in Afghanistan have largely failed to build a viable and practical system of financing and loans to consumers and businesses. We often talk about the failure of the Kabul Bank, but Afghanistan must move forward and learn from its past financial failures.

The Afghan economy must be linked to global markets, but this connectivity is lacking a trust-building mechanism. Afghanistan’s Ministry of Finance, DAB, and Afghan diplomatic missions abroad are key to building trust and linking the Afghan economy to global markets.  

Investment banking and financial brokerage services are other keys and fundamental areas that need serious attention. The Parliament of Afghanistan should legislate relevant laws for investment banking and brokerage services. Afghanistan has an institution called “Afghan Deposit Insurance Corporation” (ADIC), which is part of DAB but the degree of cooperation between the two entities is unclear, particularly when it comes to insurance for retail, investment, and commercial banks.

The Afghan government should work to facilitate and pave the way for investment banking, primary and secondary markets, where businesses could access credit for expansion as well as individuals and families to invest their excess capital for the growth of their retirement plans.

Afghanistan is a cash-rich country but possesses a financially poor and dilapidated system. There is very limited opportunity for consumers and businesses to borrow money based on their credit history. There is no system in Afghanistan for the evaluation of consumers and small businesses’ credit history. An independent credit rating entity must be established. 

Almost all transactions in Afghanistan are cash-driven. In progressive economies, there is a stable credit system, where people buy whatever they like including property and cars. A sound credit system facilitates the consumption market and consistency in the circulation of the market. I am advocating for a consumption credit system as well as supporting the programs that facilitate small and medium-size loans to businesses.

It’s not governments that create employment in an open economic system but the private sector and businesses.

The government is responsible for securing credit lines in various packages for business owners, as well as securing insurance. A practical job market requires a stable credit system. The Afghan government and Parliament should start working on developing a series of investment laws, regulations, and institutions to ensure a practical and accessible credit system, primary and secondary markets, as well as a very active bond market.

Full report at:


Ghani appoints new acting minister for the ministry of public health of Afghanistan

31 May 2020

President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has appointed Ahmad JawadOsmani as the new acting minister of the ministry of public health of Afghanistan.

President Ghani issued two separate decrees earlier today confirming Mr.Osmani’s appointment as acting minister of public health and the new minister-designate for the ministry.

Dr.FerozudinFeroz was previously serving as the acting minister of public health.

Meanwhile, Dr.Feroz issued a statement online confirming that his assignment as acting minister of public health has ended.


Taliban reacts to Kabul bombing which killed 2 employees of a TV station dead

31 May 2020

The Taliban group reacted to Kabul bombing which left two employees of a private TV station dead, including one of the reporters of the TV.

“Today’s bomb attack against workers of Khurshid TV in #Kabul city has no relation with the Mujahidin of Islamic Emirate,” ZabiullahMujahid, a spokesperson for the group said in a Twitter post late on Saturday.

An official in the Ministry of Interior confirmed that the vehicle of Khurshid TV, one of the private TV channels, hit an improvised explosive device at around 4 pm on Saturday.

The official further added that the explosion killed two people, including a reporter and one of the technical workers of the television.

According to the official, the explosion wounded at least six others including one of the employees of the TV channel.

Full report at:


The Taliban, The Government, And Islamic State: Who Controls What In Afghanistan?

May 31, 2020

By FrudBezhan

After 18 years of fighting, the Afghan war is at a deadly stalemate.

Afghanistan is divided among government forces backed by international troops, the Taliban and its militant allies, the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, and a collection of smaller foreign terrorist groups.

The United States and the Taliban signed a landmark agreement in February aimed at "bringing peace to Afghanistan." That deal foresees a power-sharing arrangement between the Afghan government and the Taliban, and the full withdrawal of all foreign troops.

As a Taliban delegation arrived in Kabul for talks on prisoner releases and the Afghan government and the Taliban prepare to launch direct peace talks, most of the country is fiercely contested and ravaged by violence, with warring factions pursuing a "fight-and-talk" strategy.


The Afghan government controls the capital, Kabul, provincial capitals, major population centers, and most district centers, according to Resolute Support, the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan.

Around 30 percent of Afghanistan's 407 districts are in government hands, the Taliban commands some 20 percent, and the rest of the country is contested, according to Long War Journal (LWJ), a project run by the Foundation for DefenseOf Democracies, a Washington-based think tank.

The LWJ's "living map," based mostly on media reports, is the only publicly available source that tracks district control in Afghanistan, after Resolute Support stopped assessing territorial control and enemy-initiated attacks over the past two years.

Afghan security forces have been on the defensive since NATO's combat mission in Afghanistan ended in 2014, losing much-needed assistance with logistics, air support, and intelligence.

Resolute Support is training, advising, and assisting the 273,000-strong Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police. Additionally, the Afghan government employs around 20,000 militiamen who are part of the Afghan Local Police.

Meanwhile, a separate U.S. counterterrorism force is combating foreign terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and the IS group and also elements of the Taliban. The United States also funds and supports special Afghan paramilitary units.

The Afghan forces have a large numerical advantage: There are an estimated 60,000 full-time Taliban militants and some 90,000 seasonal fighters.

But government forces are suffering from record casualties, high attrition, and low morale. That is widely blamed on a resurgent Taliban, ineffective leadership in the armed forces, and chronic corruption.

President Ashraf Ghani said in January 2019 that about 45,000 Afghan soldiers and policemen had been killed since he took office in September 2014 -- or a staggering 849 per month. In 2018, the government stopped publicizing fatalities.

"The internationally recognized and elected government doesn't have a monopoly on the use of force nor control over the majority of the country," says Jonathan Schroden, a security expert with the U.S.-based nonprofit research and analysis organization CNA, who has provided assessments on the security situation in Afghanistan to the U.S. military and Congress.

The Taliban, which claims to be a government in exile, "has eroded much of the government's control but cannot do so to the point of becoming the recognized government," Schroden says.

The result, he says, is a "strategic stalemate."

Government forces had been in an active defensive mode since a weeklong reduction-of-violence agreement preceding the U.S.-Taliban deal. But after two devastating terrorist attacks this month that the government blamed on the Taliban, Ghani ordered government forces to go on the offensive.

The political crisis over the disputed presidential election in September also affected the government's military posture. There were fears of civil war after Ghani's leading challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, threatened to form a parallel government and proclaimed himself the president, a scenario that threatened the cohesion of the security forces.

The standoff was resolved after Ghani and Abdullah signed a power-sharing deal -- their second after consecutive elections -- on May 17.

"The government faced serious challenges for months," says Obaid Ali, an expert on the insurgency at the Afghanistan Analysts Network, an independent think tank in Kabul. "The government didn't have a military strategy because the leadership was focused on the internal crisis after the presidential election's outcome and the U.S.-Taliban talks."

Ali says the months-long political feud sank morale and complicated logistics within the security forces.


The Taliban controls more territory than at any time since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 toppled the fundamentalist group from power.

The fundamentalist militant group's leadership fled to neighboring Pakistan, where it allegedly received sanctuary, training, and arms, an accusation Islamabad has denied. From its safe havens in Pakistan, the Taliban has waged a deadly insurgency against Afghan and international troops.

The Taliban has been following what security experts call an "outside-in" strategy that was effectively employed by other insurgencies in Afghanistan, including the mujahedin who fought Soviet and Afghan government forces in the 1980s.

From its sanctuaries in Pakistan, the Taliban captured rural areas of Afghanistan and consolidated control over larger swaths of the countryside while generating recruits and resources. In recent years, the Taliban has encroached on more populated areas with the aim of isolating and then seizing them.

The militants have twice briefly seized control of the northern city of Kunduz, the country's fifth-most populous.

"The Taliban has so far been successful in seizing and contesting ever larger swaths of rural territory, to the point where they have now almost encircled six to eight of the country's major cities and are able to routinely sever connections via major roads," Schroden says.

"The major thing holding the Taliban back at this point is the government's supremacy of the air and its superior strike forces in the form of the commandos and special police units. But those units are being worn down and the Afghan Army has been slowly failing as an institution for the past five years."

The Taliban insurgency has been a unifying cause for some smaller foreign militant groups.

Around 20 foreign militant groups are active in Afghanistan, including Pakistani extremist groups like the Pakistani Taliban, Lashkar-e Jhangvi, Lashkar-e Taiba, Jaish-e Muhammad, and Central Asian militant groups including the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the Islamic Jihad Union, and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a militant group fighting for Uyghur independence in China.

Ali says the Taliban has ties to some of these foreign militant groups. "Some of these groups operate under the Taliban umbrella," he says. "They can't operate in Afghanistan without the Taliban's permission. Each of these groups has a unique relationship with the Taliban -- operationally, ideologically, or economically."

Al-Qaeda is a largely diminished force, with only several hundred fighters in Afghanistan. But it remains a crucial part of the Taliban insurgency. The two groups have been longtime partners and are co-dependent, according to experts.

According to the U.S. State Department, the "implementation of the U.S.-Taliban agreement will require extensive long-term monitoring to ensure Taliban compliance, as the group's leadership has been reluctant to publicly break with Al-Qaeda."

Under that deal, the Taliban committed to "preventing any group or individual, including Al-Qaeda, from using the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies."

A January report from the UN's Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team stated that ties between Al-Qaeda and the Taliban "continue to be close and mutually beneficial, with Al-Qaeda supplying resources and training in exchange for protection."

Islamic State

Afghan security forces said on May 11 that they had captured the IS group's regional leader for South Asia, Abu Omar Khorasani, in an operation in Kabul.

This was the latest in a string of recent setbacks for the group.

In April, Afghan security forces in the southern city of Kandahar captured the leader of the IS branch in Afghanistan, Abdullah Orakzai, along with several other militants.

According to the United Nations, since October 2019, over 1,400 IS fighters and affiliates have surrendered to Afghan or U.S. forces.

The U.S. military said the IS group's stronghold in the eastern province of Nangarhar was "dismantled" in November 2019 due to U.S. air strikes, operations by Afghan forces, and fighting between the Taliban and IS militants.

The U.S. military said around 300 IS fighters and 1,000 of their family members surrendered.

The fighters and family members who did not surrender have relocated to Pakistan or the neighboring province of Kunar, a remote, mountainous region along the border with Pakistan, it added.

The U.S. military estimates that there are between 2,000 and 2,500 IS fighters active in Afghanistan.

Ali says that the IS group has bases in a few districts of Kunar Province, and they are also likely present in parts of neighboring Nuristan Province, another remote, mountainous province. But he says recent reports that IS militants were active in northern Afghanistan are "unreliable."

"The group has lost most of the territory it held in eastern Afghanistan," Ali says. "The recent operations against IS have severely weakened them and most have gone underground."

But he says the recent arrests of IS fighters and leaders in major urban areas shows that there are still IS "sleeper cells" in the country.

Most IS fighters are thought to be former members of Pakistani militant groups, especially the Pakistani Taliban.

Full report at:


Southeast Asia 

Muslim pre-marriage course needs revision, says lawyer


May 31, 2020

PETALING JAYA: A lawyer has called for a revision of the mandatory pre-marriage course for Muslims, saying it needs to keep up with the times.

Nizam Bashir, a shariah lawyer, proposed that religious authorities make the revision in consultation with lawyers who have experience in handling marriage issues.

He told FMT that he and many other shariah lawyers were finding themselves having to handle large numbers of marriage cases every day, making it apparent that the course in its current form is deficient.

He claimed that many graduates of the course were not satisfied with it. “I have received many complaints from attendees regarding the course content as well as the attitude and professionalism of the instructors.”

Nizam urged religious authorities to ensure appropriate behaviour among instructors so as not to cause discomfort among attendees.

He suggested the course be conducted online, the two-day duration reduced and that couples be required to sit for a pre-course test to determine the level of their knowledge.

“Couples then only need to attend specific modules according to their knowledge. Only those who do not get satisfactory scores should be made to attend the whole course.”

Couples showing adequate knowledge in the content of the curriculum should be excused from attending, he added.

In Kedah, couples wishing to get married while the conditional movement control order is in force are not required to take the course. They only have to go through a brief interview before getting married.


Indonesia Reaffirms Support for Palestine as Israel Reveals Plan to Annex West Bank


MAY 29, 2020

Jakarta. Foreign Minister RetnoMarsudi has reaffirmed Indonesia's support for Palestine at the same time as Israel revealed its latest plan to annex parts of Palestinian territory in the West Bank.

"Indonesia is one of the strongest supporters of Palestine. We are very concerned about Israel's West Bank plan," Retno said on Thursday.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday it will annex the occupied West Bank in July despite growing condemnations by the global community and even its own allies, as Time has reported.

Around half a million Jews have settled in the West Bank since 1967, but the area has never been officially recognized as Israeli territory since the international community deems the settlement a violation of international law.

Over two million Palestinians also still live in the territory.

Annexing the West Bank will cancel the popular two-state solution and would lead to the destruction of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a holy site to Muslim Palestinians.

The move – which Netanyahu has called a "historic opportunity" – was planned as Israel's biggest ally, the United States, continued to show signs of supporting Israel's expansion.

US President Donald Trump's rerun for the 2020 presidency has also widened the chance for Israel to go ahead with the plan.

Retno said she picked up a call from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday during which she asked the US to help stop Israel's plan.

"I told [Secretary Pompeo] that Indonesia's position remains unchanged on the Palestine issue. Our hope is for the US leadership to stop Israel's plan to annex more parts of the West Bank," Retno said.

Retno also brought up the issue during a UN Security Council teleconference on Wednesday, arguing that international law compliance is needed to stop the plan.

"Compliance to international humanitarian law is desperately needed now as [Israeli] annexation and Covid-19 might soon strike the Palestinians all at once," Retno said.

"The world and the council have to restore Palestinian rights to its territory according to the 1967 borders. We must not let further annexation to happen," she said.

Retno has also written to other foreign ministers, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, the European Union, countries of the non-aligned movement and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to remind them to maintain peace in Palestine and support the two-state solution.

"Annexation will not only threaten peace and stability in the region but also undermine all efforts to reach a lasting political solution on the Palestinian issue, which is the two-state solution," Retno said.

The Arab League has deemed the annexation a "war crime." Saudi Arabia has also rejected the plan despite its closeted relations with Israel.

The EU's foreign policy chief, JosepBorrell, said annexing the West Bank would be a violation of international law and pledged to stop it using "all our diplomatic capacities."

Full report at:


Selangor Sultan extends ban on Friday prayers at mosques by one month to June 30 due to Covid-19, except in 39 mosques

01 Jun 2020


KUALA LUMPUR, June 1 — The Selangor Sultan today extended a ban on Friday prayers being held in Selangor mosques by one month to June 30 as part of measures to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus, except for 39 selected mosques previously allowed to host such prayers with limited numbers of individuals.

The Selangor Sultan's private secretary DatukMohamadMunirBani said the state ruler had decided to extend the ban — initially to end on May 31 — due to continued worries of Covid-19 infection risks posing a threat to Selangor residents if restrictions were to be relaxed.

“Therefore, with a heavy heart, the Selangor Sultan has decided that the period of prohibition of Friday prayers and the solat lima waktu (prayers five times daily) at mosques and suraus will be extended until June 30, 2020 except for 39 mosques that had been allowed before this to carry out Friday prayers with the numbers fixed,” MohamadMunir said in a statement today.

MohamadMunir however said that the azan or call to prayer will still be broadcasted and that the five-times daily prayer will still be carried out by a total of three mosque officials namely the imam, bilal and siak of mosques and suraus in Selangor, while talks through social media would still be carried out.

MohamadMunir indicated the possibility of changes if the Covid-19 situation improves.

“However, a review will be done after the first week of June 2020, and if the spread of Covid-19 is found to have reduced consistently, then considerations will be made to enable the numbers of Friday prayer congregants to be increased and for mosques to be opened earlier for Friday prayers to be held gradually, especially in areas categorised as green zones,” he said.

In the same statement, MohamadMunir said the Selangor Sultan had previously imposed the ban on Friday prayers and the daily five-time prayer at Selangor's mosque and surau due to the Covid-19 pandemic until May 31 after receiving views and advice from the Selangor mufti, Selangor Islamic Religious Council (MAIS), Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais).

Noting that this was a difficult decision for the Selangor Sultan to make, MohamadMunir said the Selangor ruler understood the Selangor residents' laments of not being able to perform their prayers at the mosques for the past 12 weeks but noted that this was necessary to control the spread of Covid-19.

MohamadMunir said that Selangor Sultan as of now was still closely monitoring the latest data on the spread of Covid-19 including the declining trend of new cases in Selangor, adding that the decline in mid-May had led to the Selangor ruler giving his consent on May 14 for Friday prayers to be allowed at 39 selected mosques in Selangor with a maximum of 12 individuals limited to mosque officials only.

Full report at:



Around 30 killed in extremist attack on eastern Burkina Faso town

31 May 2020

Gunmen killed around 30 people at a market in the eastern Burkina Faso town of Kompienbiga, local residents said on Sunday, in an attack blamed by a security source on extremists.

The attackers “burst into the market riding motorbikes and started shooting, especially at people who were trying to flee,” one resident said, estimating the death toll at around 30.

A second resident said “more than 30 bodies were collected” after the attack Saturday.

A local official put the death toll at “several dozen.”


Gunmen kill dozens in eastern Burkina Faso

31 May 2020

Dozens of people have been killed in an attack by gunmen on a livestock market in the eastern Burkina Faso town of Kompienga, residents and security sources say.

Witnesses and local residents estimated the death toll of Saturday’s attack at around 30.

The assailants "burst into the market riding motorbikes and started shooting, especially at people who were trying to flee," AFP quoted one resident as saying on Sunday.

A second resident said, "It's hard to say how many people were killed. There were bodies in the market, and others in the bush."

He added, "More than 30 bodies were collected" after the attack. He said his brother was at the market at the time and he had had "no news" from him since.

A local official put the death toll at "several dozen" including vendors and residents.

The attack was blamed by a security source on armed groups with links to al-Qaeda and DaeshTakfiri terrorist groups operating across the region.

The east and north of the impoverished African country are the hardest hit by attacks by terrorists, who have killed more than 900 people and caused some 860,000 people to flee their homes in the past five years.

In the most recent attack on Friday, a convoy of mainly shopkeepers escorted by a local self-defense unit came under fire in the north of the West African country, leaving more than a dozen dead. The bloodshed in Loroum province was also blamed on al-Qaeda and Daesh-linked terrorists.

Burkina Faso is part of a regional anti-terror group along with Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Chad.

Full report at:,-residents-and-security-sources%C2%A0say.%C2%A0-Faso%C2%A0al-Qaeda-Daesh-France


At least six killed in Somali minibus bombing

31 May 2020

At least six people were killed on Sunday, May 31, when a minibus was hit by the blast from a roadside bomb near the Somali capital Mogadishu, police and witnesses said.

The vehicle's passengers, mostly from the same extended family, were travelling from the city to a funeral in a nearby town, when it hit the explosive at Hawa Abdi village, 19 kilometres northwest of Mogadishu.

The road is used frequently by government and security vehicles. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack from any group.

Somalia has been mired in conflict since 1991, when clan warlords overthrew dictatorSiadBarre and then turned on each other.

Full report at:


In Sudan, traced Bashir regime assets ‘tip of iceberg’

June 01, 2020

KHARTOUM: Sudanese authorities have begun to recover billions of dollars of real estate illegally amassed by deposed ruler Omar Bashir’s regime, but other assets will be difficult to seize, experts say.

“Initial estimates indicate that the real estate and properties owned by the former regime ... range (in value) from $3.5 to $4 billion,” said Salah Manaa, a spokesman for a committee tasked with fighting corruption and dismantling the old regime.

“This is only the tip of the iceberg,” in terms of the total assets illicitly accumulated and hidden under Bashir’s rule, Manaa told AFP.

Bashir ruled Sudan with an iron fist for 30 years, but was overthrown in April last year by the military during mass protests against him.

He has already been sentenced to two years detention in one corruption case — involving illegal possession of foreign currency — and is being held in Khartoum’s Kober Prison, on a range of other charges.

The new anti-graft committee began work in December and is answerable to a power-sharing government of civilians and generals that was established in August.

Less than six months into its mandate, that committee is perusing a monumental paper trail on the former regime’s assets.

“The committee received large volumes of documents that filled three trucks,” said a source close to the committee, who requested anonymity. “Each will be rigorously scrutinized.”

The investigators have so far recovered hotels, farms, shopping centers, agricultural lands and other properties in Khartoum and other cities from the ex-leader’s relatives and aides.

Manaa said international experts will be brought in to help assess the assets’ value — a task that has not yet moved beyond guesstimates — before transferring their ownership to the finance ministry.

“The former regime’s corruption was extensive and diverse,” said Osman Mirghani, a Sudanese analyst and editor in chief of Al-Tayyar newspaper.

He believes that Bashir’s circle hid some assets “with skill, which would require time and expertise (for authorities) to uncover.” One challenge facing the committee is the cash held by former regime members in banks. “The money is kept in banks governed by strict laws prohibiting its availability to anyone other than the depositors,” said Sudanese economist Mohamed Al-Nayyer.  But some of the more easily recoverable assets could raise funds to support the country’s ailing economy.

“The real estate properties can be offered in public auctions and firms can be converted to joint-stock companies ... which will spur investment,” said Nayyer.

Sudan has long suffered daunting economic challenges ranging from decades-long US sanctions to the 2011 secession of oil-rich South Sudan.

While the US lifted sanctions toward the end of Bashir’s rule, Sudan remains on Washington’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, deterring investment.

The country also remains in deep economic crisis, suffering an acute shortage of foreign currency and soaring inflation, which reached around 99 percent in April.

Full report at:


Kenya: Turkey helps families displaced after demolition

Andrew Wasike



Hundreds of families in the Kenyan capital Nairobi who were left in the cold after government bulldozers flattened their houses for encroaching on private land have received aid from Turkey's state-run aid agency.

The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) distributed water tanks, blankets, food and hygiene items for women and children to dozens from the Mukuru slums which were hit by the demolitions.

The Kenyan government issued a notice to families whose dwellings along road reserves, pipelines, powerlines and other types of private land were subject to imminent demolition.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, EmreYuksek, TIKA's Kenya coordinator, said shelter for the families was important, especially due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

"During the pandemic, curfew measures put in place already complicated the casual workers' daily struggle. Unfortunately, untimely demolitions not only left people homeless but worsened their vulnerabilities during these trying times."

He added that "TIKA with the support of Turkish non-governmental organizations has extended help to the families with food aid hygiene kits for babies and mothers, sanitation support through water tanks and buckets, and also helped disabled and vulnerable families. We hope to extend this support in the upcoming weeks again."

Full report at:


Somali military 'kills over 18 al-Shabaab militants'

Mohammed Dhaysane



At least 18 al-Shabaab militants were killed and several others wounded in an operation in the southern lower Shabelle region, Somali military said on Sunday.

Gen. Abdihamid Mohamed Dirir, a Somali military infantry commander, told national army radio that the operation against the militants affiliated with al-Qaeda took place in BuloUrunji and Busley villages outside the strategic town of Janaale, which was recently liberated.

"We have conducted an operation against al-Shabaab militants who were hiding in the bushes... managed to kill more than 18 of them, and wounded several others," Dirir said.

Abdirahman Mohamed, a military official, told Anadolu Agency that no government soldier was killed or wounded during the operation.

Residents in the region said they heard gunfire during the military action.

Janaale is a rich agricultural town located 95 kilometers (59 miles) southwest of the capital Mogadishu.

Full report at:


Somalia: Bomb blast kills 10, wounds over 13 civilians

Mohammed Dhaysane



At least 10 people have been killed, and over 13 others were wounded in a bomb blast which targeted a civilian transport vehicle in the vicinity of Hawa Abdi, the lower Shabelle region of Somalia on Sunday morning, officials said.

Hussein Abdi Ali, a police officer in the region, told Anadolu Agency over the phone that the attack was a roadside bomb blast that killed 10 people.

"What we know so far is that the bomb blast was a landmine which targeted a minibus carrying civilians who was traveling from Mogadishu to the town of Wanlaweyn, killing at least 10 people, all of them civilians," Ali said.

The attack took place in Hawa Abdi outside the capital Mogadishu during the morning rush hour, he added.

Ismail MukhtarOronjo, the Somali government spokesman, also confirmed the attack to Anadolu Agency, saying that at least 13 people were also wounded, and transported to the Madina hospital in Mogadishu for treatment.

"Death toll is expected to rise as some people sustained life-threatening injuries," he also said.

Hawa Abdi is located 20 kilometers (12 miles) southwest of the capital Mogadishu.

Full report at:




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