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Islamic World News (26 Jul 2019 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Afghan Official: Taliban Can Take Part In Presidential Election If Peace Talks Start







Afghan Official: Taliban Can Take Part In Presidential Election If Peace Talks Start

Facebook, Whatsapp: Major Recruiting Tools for Radicalization: Study Conducted By Liberal Arts Bangladesh

Dr M Touts Malaysia-Turkey-Pakistan Pact as a New Guiding Light for Muslim World

Amendments to Anti-Terror Law: Onus Will Be On Individual to Prove He Is Not Terrorist

Don't Pick Fight with Nation for Incapable Imran Khan: Maryam 'Requests Institutions'

Ilhan Omar's Defiance Resonates With Muslim-American Activists

The UK Now Considers Far-Right Terror As Dangerous As Islamic Extremism

Israeli Home Demolitions Meant To Liquidate Palestinian Cause: Lebanon FM

 

South Asia

Afghan Official: Taliban Can Take Part In Presidential Election If Peace Talks Start

Facebook, Whatsapp: Major Recruiting Tools for Radicalization: Study Conducted By Liberal Arts Bangladesh

Sri Lankan investigator: No ISIL link to Easter bombings

Taliban, ISIS make claims regarding the three explosions in Kabul which over 50 dead, wounded

Afghan Official: Four Police Officers Killed In Taliban Attack

Afghan authorities alarmed by ISIS recruiters at Kabul University

56 killed, wounded in back to back explosions in Kabul city

Pakistan, Qatar reacts to deadly Kabul bombings which left 56 dead, wounded

13 Taliban militants killed, wounded in Afghan forces operations in Logar, Ghazni: Thunder

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Southeast Asia

Dr M Touts Malaysia-Turkey-Pakistan Pact as a New Guiding Light for Muslim World

Zakir Naik, PAS-linked groups, Thai separatists shielding my ex, says Indira

Sabah CM urges calm after deputy’s ‘Islamisation’ remark triggers firestorm

Indonesian Woman Jailed for Recording Boss’s Harassment to be Given Amnesty

Singapore detains two men accused of seeking to join IS

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India

Amendments to Anti-Terror Law: Onus Will Be On Individual to Prove He Is Not Terrorist

Muslim Hawker Beaten Up Over Jai Shri Ram Chants in Bengal, Internet Suspended After Tension

Boycott Muslims Making Kanwar in Haridwar: Sadhvi Prachi

‘Must For Gender Equality, Justice’: Govt On Triple Talaq Bill In Lok Sabha

Triple Talaq Bill debte: Opposition alleges divide and rule, govt says justice after 70 years

MEA says Imran statement ‘glaring admission’, seeks ‘credible action’

India has repeatedly taken up cross-border terrorism issue with Pak, but no action yet: Govt

‘We have ample proof’: Army chief Bipin Rawat on Imran Khan’s Pulwama claim

20 years of Kargil war: India, Pakistan remain tense over Kashmir

Free Quran Translation Distribution Programme by New Delhi-Based Centre For Peace And Spirituality Headed By Noted Islamic Scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

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Pakistan

Don't Pick Fight with Nation for Incapable Imran Khan: Maryam 'Requests Institutions'

Ready To Visit Pakistan If Imran Khan Calls Us, Says Afghan Taliban

Pakistan to open Baba Guru Nanak's Gurdwara Chowa Sahib in Jhelum

Pakistan opposition holds 'black day' protests against PM Khan

Pakistan's Ambassador to the UN Maleeha Lodhi Elected As Vice President Of UN's Economic Arm

FATF cell set up at FBR to deal with terror financing

Taliban asked Malik Riaz for $10m ransom: Nacta

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North America

Ilhan Omar's Defiance Resonates With Muslim-American Activists

Muslims Over-Represented In State Prisons, Report Finds

Official won’t resign over posts on 2 Muslim reps, Islam

US, Afghanistan agree to accelerate Afghan peace talks

14 Iranian-American families sue US govt. over travel ban

US investors see Turkey's business environment positive

US blocks UN rebuke of Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes

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Europe

The UK Now Considers Far-Right Terror As Dangerous As Islamic Extremism

Families of Islamic State Fighters To Sue Australia Over Repatriation

Two charged with terrorism over Bulgaria's biggest data breach: lawyer

After ISIS: how Kosovo is rehabilitating women and children repatriated from Syria

Turkish youth orchestra takes stage in Germany

Greece offers Turkey 'olive branch': foreign minister

Turkey: Russia visa-free travel fruit of warm relations

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Mideast

Israeli Home Demolitions Meant To Liquidate Palestinian Cause: Lebanon FM

Two Israeli Parties Form Alliance against Netanyahu’s Likud Ahead Of Sept. Vote

Israel orders 4 Palestinians to stay out of al-Aqsa for jeering at Saudi blogger

US blocks UN rebuke of Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes

Iran's president hints at tanker exchange

Top Khamenei aide says no talks with U.S. under any circumstances

Yemeni Houthi rebels claim fresh drone attack at Saudi air base

Palestinian president Abbas calls for end to agreements with Israel

Turkey mulls possible operation east of Euphrates in Syria

Arab Coalition thwart new Houthi militia drone attack

Yemeni forces launch drone attack on warplane hangars in Saudi air base

Palestinian president says to stop agreements with Israel

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Africa

Suicide Bomber Kills Officials in Mayor’s Office in Somalia’s Capital

ISIS affiliate releases video of Nigerian aid workers begging for their lives

Libyan security arrests al-Qaeda leaders in Tripoli

Suicide Attack Kills 6 People, Injures Mogadishu Mayor

Delegation of Islamic anti-terror coalition visits Mali

116 migrants missing off Libyan coast, says navy

Tunisia’s president dies after being in intensive care

ISIS says it kidnapped six aid workers in northeast Nigeria

Libya says 38 migrants taken to bombed detention center

Up to 150 refugees feared drowned in shipwreck off Libya

‘Followers of Nigerian cleric Zakzaky die in custody due to lack of care’

152 Somalians graduate from Turkish military camp

ISIS affiliate releases video of Nigerian aid workers begging for their lives

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Arab World

Iraqi PM meets European delegation over counter-terrorism, IS foreign captives in Iraq

Civilians Attack US-Backed SDF in Deir Ezzur

US-Backed SDF Commanders at Odds with Riyadh in Eastern Syria

Bombardment kills 20 civilians in northwest Syria: monitor

Syria Native Accused In Church Bomb Plot Arraigned On Terrorism Charges

Iraqi rapid response forces arrest four Islamic State militants in Baghdad

IS militants attack 2 villages in Iraq's Nineveh

Turkey Delivers US-Made Drilling Equipment to Tahrir Al-Sham to Strengthen Underground Positions

Ankara-Controlled Areas in Syria Becoming Safe Zones for ISIL

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/afghan-official--taliban-can-take-part-in-presidential-election-if-peace-talks-start/d/119308

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Afghan Official: Taliban Can Take Part In Presidential Election If Peace Talks Start

July 25, 2019

The Taliban can take part in the September 28 presidential election if they start negotiations with the Afghan government, a spokesman for Afghan chief executive officer Abdullah Abdullah told local media outlet Tolo News on July 24.

Speaking four days before the presidential election campaign starts, the spokesman, Fraidoon Khwazoon, said "the door is open for the Taliban whenever they are willing to come and sit with the Afghan government and take part in democratic and national stages."

His comments came a day after Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said he will meet with the Taliban to try and persuade them start negotiations with the Western-backed government in Kabul.

"Now I will meet the Taliban…to get them to talk to the Afghan government, and so that the election" can be inclusive, Khan said at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington on July 23.

There are 18 candidates competing for the presidency including current incumbent Ashraf Ghani, who is seeking a second term.

All of them are men, including a former warlord.

The election comes at a time when militants are launching attacks on Afghan security forces almost every day despite peace efforts gaining momentum to put an end to the nearly 18-year war.

The Taliban control or contest around half of the country, controlling more territory than at any time since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 ousted the group from power.

Washington has said it is ready to pull foreign forces out of the country in exchange for a set of Taliban security guarantees. One of them is for Afghanistan not to become a haven for terrorist groups.

The United States is aiming for a deal by September 1, before the presidential election.

If no one wins a majority, a second round will take place, most likely in November.

https://www.rferl.org/a/30074306.html

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Facebook, Whatsapp: Major Recruiting Tools for Radicalization: Study Conducted By Liberal Arts Bangladesh

July 25th, 2019

For persuading university students, radical groups used messaging or texting in their recruitment efforts – particularly on Facebook and Whatsapp – in certain parts of Bangladesh.

Radical groups largely use Facebook and Whatsapp to contact university students to persuade them to join extremist groups, according to a study conducted by the Center for Enterprise and Society (CES) at the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB).

The research, “Social Media and Radicalization of University Students in Bangladesh,” authored by Sajid Amit, director CES and Executive MBA (EMBA) at ULAB, and Lumbini Barua, CES research associate, was based on a quantitative survey of 470 university students in Dhaka, Sylhet, and Rajshahi as well as interviews of experts.

The study finds that 17.2% of students reported being approached online to join a religious group. Although it is not clear if the groups have links with extremists, experts think that extremist groups may be active on social media.

For persuading university students, radical groups  used messaging or texting in their recruitment efforts – particularly on Facebook and Whatsapp – in certain parts of Bangladesh.

Alongside religious misinterpretations, secular motivations and tactics are being used by extremists to recruit new people. For instance, “financial incentives” and the promise of a “strong brotherhood” have a strong role to play in persuading students to join extremist groups.

Notably, most students block, ignore, or report such mobile numbers or accounts on social media, but not to local authorities.

A shocking finding of the study is that around a third of university students suggested that religious extremism may be necessary in some parts of the world, due to the oppression and subjugation of Muslims.

It is also shocking that 26.2%, or the second largest percentage of respondents said that this view falls within the framework of a correct and true understanding of Islam, in certain circumstances. This raises the question of  how then are the youth of the country learning about religion?

The study recommends countering radicalization with curricular and co-curricular activities at educational institutions, and teaching social media ethics or social media safety to students, so they can stay safe and vigilant when they are online.

The authors emphasized the need to facilitate youth-led social media awareness campaigns and recommended that universities teach a mandatory course on current affairs that offers a nuanced view of events and conflicts, so that young people do not grow up with a “victim” mentality.

https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2019/07/25/facebook-whatsapp-major-recruiting-tools-for-radicalization

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Dr M touts Malaysia-Turkey-Pakistan pact as a new guiding light for Muslim world

26 July 2019

BY ZURAIRI AR

ANKARA, July 26 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has put forward a tripartite alliance involving Malaysia, Turkey and Pakistan to speak for the global Muslim community.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister also lauded Turkey for being a rare case of a developed Muslim-majority country that may prove be an “antidote” valuable in the effort.

“What I propose, is for these countries to work together and strengthen the Muslim countries.

“So that we can speak louder as one voice. With our own capacities in terms of many areas,” Dr Mahathir told the press at the Presidential Complex here.

Erdogan, through his translators, concurred with Dr Mahathir.

Malay Mail asked both leaders if Malaysia and Turkey would offer their leadership to the Muslim world amid deafening silence on issues such as the apparent oppression against Muslim minorities and the Uighurs by Beijing.

Both Malaysia and Turkey were conspicuously absent from a joint letter by 22 countries to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights earlier this month condemning China’s “mass arbitrary detentions and related violations” against the Uighurs — much like the rest of the Muslim world.

In his immediate response, Dr Mahathir said: “Making a statement is easy, but action is much harder.”

However, he did not mention China by name, nor touch on the persecution of Muslims there.

Earlier in his speech after receiving the Order of the Republic, becoming the first South-east Asian leader to do so, Dr Mahathir lamented that the global Muslim community is currently facing a lot of problems and is ostensibly weak.

“If you look at the past, Turkey was the saviour of the Muslim community in those days, but for reasons that few are able to understand we now have no Muslim country to stand up and protect us, but that doesn’t mean that this should be forever,” he said.

However, he said the tripartite pact may be able to utilise the collective minds and resources of its members to relieve the Muslim world of being subjugated, and figure out a way to stem the imminent decline and fall of the Muslim-majority nations.

In May, Malaysia, Turkey and Pakistan’s foreign ministers—Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, Mevlut Cavusoglu and Shah Mehmood Qureshi — held a trilateral meeting at the sidelines of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers in Jeddah.

Following the meeting, the three countries announced that it has reviewed the OIC reform agenda, and discussed ways to make the Islamic umbrella organisation more effective.

Dr Mahathir also told the press today that Malaysia and Turkey are on the same page regarding the plight of Palestinians.

“It is important to show the world that Malaysia and Turkey see things in the same way,” he said.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/07/26/dr-m-touts-malaysia-turkey-pakistan-pact-as-a-new-guiding-light-for-muslim/1774874

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Amendments to anti-terror law: Onus will be on individual to prove he is not terrorist

July 26, 2019

The burden of proving that one is not a terrorist will be on the individual who is designated a “terrorist” by the central government under the amended Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967. The amendments will allow the label, which is reserved for convicts, to be extended to individuals accused of or suspected to involved in terror activities.

The Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019, which seeks to give the Centre the power to designate not just organisations but also individuals as terrorists, if they are found committing, preparing for, promoting or involved in an act of terror.

The original law, enacted to prevent certain unlawful activities of individuals and associations and for dealing with terrorist activities, gives powers to designate an organisation that commits or participates in acts of terrorism, or prepares for terrorism, or promotes or encourages terrorism, or is otherwise involved in terrorism as “terrorist organisations”. The amendment Bill simply replaced “organisations” with “organisations/individuals” in Sections 35-38, which deal with designation as terrorists.

According to the Bill, the designation is to be notified by the government in the official gazette and the onus will be on the individual to seek a review to satisfy the government that the individual is not a terrorist. The law does not require any other offences to be filed against the individual to declare him/her a terrorist. The law also does not specify any process for the designation.

To be denotifed from the gazette as a terrorist, an individual can make an application to the central government. If the application is rejected, the person can seek a review by a special committee set up by the government.

The law, however, does not prescribe a time limit for the government to set up such a committee or a process for the committee to decide the application.

Opposition parties, lawyers and activists have criticised the proposed amendments, citing potential for misuse.

“The government is taking over judicial function. I can only be called a terrorist after a court convicts me. It cannot be done on the mere feelings of the government or suspicion,” AIMIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi has said in Lok Sabha.

Advocate Abhinav Sekhri said, “It is bad enough that organisations are called terror outfits without due process. Now to add individuals to the law is worse. Organisations and individuals are treated differently under the Constitution.”

Individuals, specifically citizens, have fundamental rights and freedoms under the Constitution and are guaranteed due process and liberty unlike organisations.

The concerns about the UAPA amendments echo those related to amendments to the National Investigation Agency Act, 2008, which were recently passed by Parliament. Drug peddling, human trafficking and cyber terrorism have been added to the list of offences in which the NIA can intervene.

According to advocate Mehmood Pracha, “There were proposals from the NIA earlier, too, to emulate US agencies on the lone wolf theory. But in the India context there is no requirement.”

Owaisi and NCP MP Supriya Sule said the amendments contravened the federal structure as they allowed NIA to bypass local police to raid property in cases being investigated by the anti-terror agency.

“The fact that someone is designated a terrorist exponentially increases his chances of being booked under other serious offences. A trial for terror offences and conviction can be done away with if one were to be simply be labelled a terrorist through a government order,” said Alok Prasanna, a senior resident fellow at Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy.

The amended UAPA will also empower officers of rank of NIA inspector to investigate terror crimes. This was originally reserved for officers of rank of deputy superintendent of police or equivalent.

Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday cited the backlog of cases in the NIA and fewer DSP-level officers to allow inspectors to deal with anti-terror cases.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/uapa-onus-will-be-on-individual-to-prove-he-is-not-terrorist/

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Don't pick fight with nation for incapable Imran Khan: Maryam 'requests institutions'

July 25, 2019

PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz on Thursday urged unnamed institutions to "not come face to face" with the people of Pakistan for the sake of what she called the "incapable" government of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

She was addressing a public gathering in Quetta's Ayub Stadium, one of numerous events and rallies held across the country by the opposition parties to mark the first anniversary of the 2018 general elections as 'Youm-e-Siah' — 'black day'.

The joint opposition are holding public meetings in all provincial capitals — Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta — while a demonstration was also held in Islamabad.

Addressing the "respected institutions" of the country, Maryam said that these institutions represented all the provinces of Pakistan, "but you are not the institutions of Imran Khan. You are not the representatives of the man who brought historical failure to Pakistan."

"Don't pick a fight with the people for the incapable and failed Imran Khan," she said while addressing the unnamed institutions.

Claiming that the people of Balochistan, Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were upset with, but "want to respect", the institutions, she urged these powers to "come forward and hug" the people of various provinces and solve their issues. She also asked them to "honour the vote" and let the people's representatives be elected.

Maryam said the opposition parties were observing 'Youm-i-Siyah' today because a year ago on this day, "Your vote was crushed under the foot."

She questioned the origins of the ruling Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), saying it was imposed upon the people of Balochistan after "snatching" their right to elect their representative. The people's "true representatives" were asked forced to switch their loyalties and "fake cases" were instituted against those who refused to comply, the PML-N leader alleged.

Referring to Prime Minister Imran Khan as "selected" once again, she alleged that every day under the rule of the incumbent government was a black day for Pakistanis suffering from high inflation and the loss of their businesses.

She alleged that the premier had "sat silently" when US President Donald Trump, during the former's recent visit to Washington, stated that the former Pakistani governments had not cooperated with the US.

"He does not even have the self-respect to represent Pakistan in the US by himself. [He] took people from institutions with him because no one is ready to listen to him alone," she said.

Maryam claimed that the country was going through a severe economic crisis because the vote of Pakistani people "had not been honoured".

She also claimed that whichever city she holds a public gathering in, "6,000-7,000 people are arrested" there and TV channels are warned against broadcasting her speeches.

Lauding her father's past efforts to "honour the vote", she said Nawaz Sharif could have formed a PML-N government after the 2013 general elections if he had so desired, "but he honoured the vote of Balochistan's people and made Dr Abdul Malik Baloch the chief minister of Balochistan". She even claimed that the PML-N could have formed its government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2013 after some "manipulation" but that Sharif had respected the majority obtained by the PTI.

It was also Nawaz Sharif who decided from jail that the person to replace incumbent Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani should be Hasil Bizenjo from Balochistan, she added.

"These are the elected representatives of the people who connect the hearts and provinces," Maryam said, adding that the "wheel of progress" in Pakistan has stopped under the PTI government.

Mahmood Khan Achakzai, the chairman of Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party, and other opposition leaders also joined Maryam at the rally. Security had been beefed up around the stadium.

In a post shared on Twitter prior to her departure, Maryam wrote that every day under the current government — that she alleged had "stolen votes and was a fraud" — is a black day for the country.

Karachi

PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari led the public meeting at Bagh-e-Jinnah in Karachi alongside PML-N’s Ayaz Sadiq. Opposition parties had set up welcome camps around the location and strict security arrangements were made.

Addressing the rally, Bilawal alleged that a "selected government" was imposed on the people of Pakistan after the 2018 elections on July 25 — a day he too termed "black day".

He said the PTI government had made life difficult for people by "dropping the bomb of inflation" and downed the image of Pakistan before the international community.

"And today, we are formally initiating a disobedience drive against the government," the PPP leader announced.

Bilawal said if the country today has an agreed constitution, "it is the Islamic, democratic, federal Constitution of 1973, which was composed by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in collaboration with Mufti Mahmood and other parties."

"We [the PPP] and the PML-N signed the important document of Charter of Democracy, through which we restored the 1973 Constitution with the help of the 18th Constitutional Amendment.

"We, in collaboration with the ANP, provided identity to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by changing the name of NWFP province. Hasil Bizenjo and his father, Mir Ghous Bux Bizenjo, spent their lives for the rights of the people of Balochistan. Moulana Noorani had always struggled for inter-faith harmony and democracy. Achakzai has also spent his entire life for democracy and rights of nations.

"We have our own political parties, thoughts and political constitutions. And in the past, we had engaged each other in political fights but we all are patriotic Pakistanis," Bilawal told the crowd.

He said the aforementioned political leaders had fought together for the country's interest and for the supremacy of democracy.

"Today, we all can see that democracy in Pakistan is in danger. Our federation is being targeted.

"Pakistan is facing so many problems that a single political party or politician cannot resolve them. And today, once again, we are united," the PPP chairperson said.

He thanked Ayaz Sadiq, Abdul Ghafoor Haideri of the JUI-F, Senator Raza Mohammad Raza of the PkMAP, Amal Wali of the ANP, Mohammad Baloch of the National Party and other political leaders for participating in the rally.

The opposition parties in the National Assembly had also decided to hold a general convention today outside the Mausoleum of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Central leaders of the opposition parties addressed the event while conventions were also held in other provincial capitals.

Lahore

Lahore’s public meeting was presided over by PML-N President and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif at Mall Road.

Shehbaz strongly criticised the prime minister for his political and economic policies and what he called "the worst revenge on the pretext of accountability".

He alleged that on July 25, 2018, the worst-ever election rigging in the history took place. "From Chitral to Karachi, votes were counted in the absence of polling agents," he added.

The PML-N president also presented a comparison between the prices of bread during the tenure of the PML-N and the incumbent government. "What is the price of a roti today — Rs15," he said while addressing the prime minister and recalled that it was available against Rs5 during the tenure of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

"During the tenure of Nawaz Sharif, the prices of medicines were reasonable and were made available free of cost in government-run hospitals, while today, traders, livelihood and even voices are suppressed," he added.

"Tens of thousands of people have become jobless [...] do you want more joblessness and more expensive bread? — if no, then there is only one way, dislodge Imran Niazi."

PPP Punjab president Qamar Zaman Kaira also addressed the rally.

A large contingent of police and anti-riot force personnel were stationed around Mall Road, where heavy rainfall affected preparations.

Earlier, it was reported that the Punjab government had denied permission to the opposition to hold a rally on The Mall today.

Peshawar

PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal lashed out at the government during a public gathering, saying that the incumbent government had "ruined" the economy in the first year of its tenure.

He was addressing a public meeting at Motorway Chowk on Ring Road in Peshawar alongside members of opposition parties including Qaumi Watan Party's Chairman Aftab Sherpao and Awami National Party's President Asfandyar Wali Khan. Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who was leading the rally, also addressed the gathering.

A visibly charged Iqbal said that Prime Minister Imran has asked for loans from every friendly nation. "He (prime minister) used to say that he would commit suicide but not ask the International Monetary Fund for money," Iqbal said.

The former planning minister said that Nawaz Sharif had delivered on all his promises and merged the tribal areas with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Over 1,100 police officers and 250 traffic police officers were on duty for the opposition gathering at Motorway Chowk.

Islamabad

Local leaders and workers of the PML-N carried out a protest rally in front of the National Press Club in Islamabad.

Participants of the rally, which included local leaders of the JUI-F and PkMAP, chanted slogans against Prime Minister Imran and his government. Police and other security personnel were present at the protest site.

Addressing the rally, PkMAP Islamabad president Abdul Qayyum Achakzai alleged that the PTI government had promised "change" but instead imposed taxes worth Rs750 billion on the people after coming into power.

He claimed that supporters of his party were unable to join the opposition rally in Balochistan because roads across the province had allegedly been blocked. "We strongly condemn [the move]," he added.

On the other side of the capital, supporters of the ruling PTI cut a cake to celebrate and observe "Thanks Giving Day" today to mark Prime Minister Imran's ascension to power.

The opposition rallies coincide with Imran Khan's return from an official working visit to the United States, which has largely been seen as a diplomatic win for the government.

The premier, while addressing a large crowd at a community event at Washington's Capital One Arena on his first day in the US, had gone after opposition leaders and threatened to 'take away' their prison facilities. "They will stay there as long as they do not return the money they have looted," Imran had thundered to a charged audience.

Opposition parties had lambasted Prime Minister Imran over his speech and termed it “provocative, anarchic and full of venom”.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1496135/dont-pick-fight-with-nation-for-incapable-imran-khan-maryam-requests-institutions

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Ilhan Omar's Defiance Resonates With Muslim-American Activists

By Brian Padden

July 25, 2019

WASHINGTON - U.S. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar struck a chord with other Muslim Americans when she denounced a perceived assumption that she is reluctant to condemn or sympathetic to terrorism and atrocities committed by Islamic groups.

"Does this need to be on repeat every five minutes?" Omar asked during a Muslim Caucus Education Collective forum in Washington on Tuesday.

"So today, I forgot to condemn al-Qaida," she continued to resounding applause. "So here's the al-Qaida one. Today I forgot to condemn a FGM [female genital mutilation.]  So there you go."

Muslim-American progressive activists at the conference said Omar's outrage mirrored their anger at having their values and loyalty constantly questioned.

"It was time for someone to say it and she finally did. And we are so proud and so honored to have her in Congress," said Yasmeen Obeid, a Palestinian-American community activist from San Diego, California.

Female genital mutilation

Omar was responding to a question about FGM from Ani Zonneveld, president of Muslims for Progressive Values. She asked the Minnesota lawmaker to join with fellow Muslim Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib from Michigan to condemn the practice, in light of a Detroit judge's ruling last November overturning a federal law that made FGM a crime.

FGM involves the ritual cutting of part or all of a girl or woman's genitals, a traditional practice often associated with Islam. The World Health Organization, or WHO, estimates that 200 million girls and women in 30 countries have undergone FGM. It is most pervasive in Muslim-majority countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Somalia, where Omar was born before she came to the U.S. as a refugee, has one of the highest FGM rates in the world.

The WHO says "FGM has no health benefits," can cause long-term urinary problems, pain during intercourse and lead to an increased risk of childbirth complications.

Numerous Muslim organizations, such the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (representing 53 Muslim-majority nations) have condemned FGM as a human rights violation against women and girls.

Congresswoman Omar has co-authored legislation with Representative Lois Frankel of Florida denouncing FGM and calling on the international community and federal government to step up efforts to eliminate the practice.

Islamophobia

To some, Omar may have come across as overly defensive when she said she was "quite disgusted" to be asked to condemn FGM, which she has done many times, and to be pressed to address issues that non-Muslim legislators typically are not asked about.

But to many in the Muslim Caucus forum, Omar was pushing back against contrived and bigoted stereotypes of Muslims in America. 

Amira Daugherty, a Muslim student activist from Stone Mountain, Georgia, said Congresswoman Omar was demanding to be treated "like every other morally-guided congressperson in the United States."

Omar's reply also followed repeated attacks on her character and patriotism by President Donald Trump and some of his supporters.

At a political rally in North Carolina last week, Trump said Omar "blamed the U.S. for terrorist attacks on our country" and ridiculed her for calling the extremists who carried out the September 11, 2001 attacks as "some people did something." The crowd at the rally responded by chanting, "Send her back."

The president was referring to a speech Omar made to the Council on American-Islamic Relations in March about discrimination against Muslims, in which she said the group "was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties."

Omar stirred controversy in February when she tweeted, "It's all about the Benjamins" — a reference to U.S. hundred dollar bills, suggesting that financial contributions from Jewish Americans help dictate U.S. support for Israel. She later apologized after being rebuked by Democrats and Republicans alike.

Women of color

The Minnesota Democrat, along with Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, all congresswomen of color, have been the recent focus of criticism from President Trump, who first tweeted they should go back where they came from.

Many of Trump's verbal attacks on the congresswomen, analysts say, are intentionally inflammatory and meant to energize Trump's predominantly white and Christian supporters ahead of next year's presidential elections.

https://www.voanews.com/usa/us-politics/ilhan-omars-defiance-resonates-muslim-american-activists

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The UK Now Considers Far-Right Terror As Dangerous As Islamic Extremism

By Tim Hume

Jul 24, 2019

The British government has overhauled the way it assesses terror threat levels to include homegrown and right-wing extremists, putting them on an equal footing with foreign and jihadist threats.

Until now, the terror threat system — which assesses the likelihood of an attack in the UK on a scale from "low" to "critical" — has only addressed the threat from international terrorism, which the Home Office said had become largely synonymous with jihadist attacks.

Announcing the changes Tuesday, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said the new system reflected the growing terror threat from the far-right.

“While the Islamist threat remains, we have recently seen an increase in terrorist activity motivated by the extreme right-wing,” he said. “Our approach to stopping terrorists is the same, regardless of the twisted ideology that motivates them.”

The Home Office said the changes resulted from a wide-ranging review of Britain’s counter-terror approach following a spate of attacks in 2017: three jihadist attacks at Westminster Bridge, Manchester Arena, and London Bridge, and a far-right car-ramming attack outside a London mosque. It said the old classification system was outdated, as Islamist terrorism could be homegrown, while far-right terror could also have an international dimension.

British police revealed in March that four of the 18 terror plots thwarted in the past three years have come from the far-right, including a neo-Nazi plot to kill a left-wing MP with a machete. Meanwhile, of the nearly 400 people who were referred to the government’s de-radicalization program in 2017-2018, roughly an equal number were referred for concerns of about far-right and Islamist extremism.

The rising threat from the far-right was highlighted on the international stage when an Australian extremist massacred 50 Muslims at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in March.

Nick Ryan, spokesman for the British anti-racism watchdog Hope not Hate, told VICE News in an email that his organization welcomed the move, but that it should have happened earlier.

“This is an overdue move by the government and belatedly recognizes the very real threat presented by far-right terrorism,” said Ryan, whose group played a key role in alerting authorities to the MP assassination plot.

“Having thwarted a terrorist plot by a neo-Nazi to murder his local MP, we’re very much alive to this danger and have long been warning the authorities to take the threat much more seriously.”

Ryan said that, in addition to changing the terror threat system, UK authorities need to take stronger action to tackle the spread of extremist propaganda online. “Attention also needs to be paid towards the enablers of terror and the social media platforms which have not only allowed the preachers of hate to spread conspiracies — like the great replacement fallacy used by the Christchurch terrorist and promoted by his supporters here in Europe — but also to monetize that hatred too,” he said.

Since the terror threat level evaluation was first made public in 2006, it has never fallen below “substantial.” Amid the spate of attacks in 2017, which killed 36 people in total, the threat level spiked several times from “severe” to “critical” — meaning an attack “is highly likely in the near future.” It currently stands at severe, meaning an attack is “highly likely.”

https://news.vice.com/en_us/article/kzmmxa/the-uk-is-finally-taking-far-right-terrorism-seriously

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Israeli home demolitions meant to liquidate Palestinian cause: Lebanon FM

Jul 25, 2019

Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil says recent demolition of a cluster of Palestinian homes in occupied East Jerusalem al-Quds is in line with the Israeli regime’s policy to kill the Palestinian cause.

“Israel is demolishing homes in the West Bank, displacing landowners from al-Quds and its suburbs, and rejecting the right of return within the frame of the [so-called] deal of the century in a bid to liquidate the Palestinian cause,” Bassil wrote in a post published on his official Twitter page on Thursday.

Gebran Bassil

@Gebran_Bassil

إسرائيل تهدم المنازل في الضفة وتهجّر أصحاب الأرض من القدس والضواحي وتسقط حق العودة في صفقة القرن  لتصفية القضية الفلسطينية، وهناك من يفتعل المشاكل لإلهاء أخوتنا الفلسطينين عن الخطر الأكبر الآتي على القضية... عين الشرعية الدولية تغمض عن الحق، وعين بعض أهل الحق تغمض عن القضية GB

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1:05 PM - Jul 25, 2019

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He added, “There are people who are creating problems to distract our Palestinian brethren from the greatest danger that is yet to come. The international community has turned a blind eye to truth, and some of those advocating truth are disregarding the issue as well.”

On Wednesday, the United States blocked the United Nations Security Council from passing a resolution condemning Israel’s demolition of about 70 homes in 10 apartment buildings in Sur Bahir neighborhood.

Indonesia, Kuwait and South Africa had earlier circulated a draft statement, expressing grave concern over the demolitions. They stated that such practice would undermine the viability of the so-called two-state solution, and the prospect for a just and lasting resolution of the decades-long conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians.

The secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Saeb Erekat, strongly condemned the demolitions on Tuesday, calling on the international community to push the International Criminal Court (ICC) into opening an immediate investigation into the incident.

He called on UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to implement her mandate under the Human Rights Council resolution 31/36, which demands a database of all business enterprises engaged in Israeli settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territories, and to strive for international protection of Palestinians living under the Israeli occupation.

“The international community has not only failed to stop demolitions and forced displacement in Sur Bahir, but also failed to hold Israel accountable for its continued violations of international law. Israel's actions are not only serious violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention, but are war crimes pursuant to the Rome Statute of the ICC. Therefore, we call for the urgent cessation of crimes being committed in the occupied State of Palestine,” Erekat said.

The remarks came a day after hundreds of Israeli troops with bulldozers tore down homes in Sur Bahir despite local protests and international criticism.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/07/25/601857/Israeli-home-demolitions-meant-to-liquidate-Palestinian-cause-Lebanon-FM

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South Asia

 

Sri Lankan investigator: No ISIL link to Easter bombings

24 Jul 2019

Sri Lanka's Easter attacks that killed more than 250 people were carried out by local groups who drew inspiration from, but were not directly linked to, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) group, a Sri Lankan investigator has said.

Ravi Seneviratne, head of the Sri Lankan police Criminal Investigation Department (CID), made the remarks on Wednesday in a meeting with the country's parliamentary panel investigating the security and intelligence lapses that led to the April 21 bombings.

Seneviratne said the suicide bombers who targeted three churches and three hotels had no direct link to the foreign armed group.

"They followed the IS ideology, but our investigations have not shown any link between them," Seneviratne told the parliamentary panel.

He noted that remnants of the National Thowheeth Jamath (NTJ), the armed group that was held responsible for the Easter attacks, had persuaded ISIL to claim the attack two days after the deadly events in Sri Lanka.

NTJ leader Zahran Hashim made a video with fellow NTJ members pledging allegiance to ISIL leader Abu Bakr Al-Bagdadi. The video was released by ISIL two days later.

Another investigator, Shani Abeysekara, told the same parliamentary panel that the CID found 105 kilogrammes of explosives from an NTJ hideout earlier this year.

"If not for this discovery, they would have been able to cause much more damage," Abeysekara said, adding that they were already investigating the NTJ when the attacks took place.

In a statement last week, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena alleged the attacks "were the work of international drug dealers" to disrupt his anti-narcotics drive.

"Drug barons carried out this attack to discredit me and discourage my anti-narcotics drive. I will not be deterred," he said.

A spokesperson for Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe refuted the president's claims.

"Police completed the investigations within about two weeks," Sudarshana Gunawardana told AFP news agency. "There is no mention of drug dealers being involved. We have no reason to doubt our investigators."

Criminal negligence

Sri Lankan authorities were reportedly tipped off of by Indian authorities as early as April 4, and even hours before the bombings took place, Sri Lankan defence sources told Reuters News Agency days after the attack.

Pujith Jayasundara, Sri Lanka's former police chief, and Hemasiri Fernando, former secretary to the Ministry of Defence, are currently facing criminal charges over their alleged negligence in failing to prevent the attack.

The Sri Lankan Attorney General Dappula de Livera called the security and intelligence lapses a "crime against humanity".

"There is sufficient information to prove negligence of official duties ... and criminal negligence. It is also considered a grave crime against humanity under international law," Livera said in a letter to the country's acting head of police in June, urging him to take action against his predecessor.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/07/sri-lankan-investigator-isil-link-easter-bombings-190724134531830.html

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Taliban, ISIS make claims regarding the three explosions in Kabul which over 50 dead, wounded

25 Jul 2019

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group has claimed responsibility for the twin blasts in Kabul.

The group’s Amaq News Agency claimed that the group was behind the consecutive blasts including a suicide attack against the bus in 16th district of the city.

Meanwhile, the Taliban group has claimed it was behind a car bomb explosion in Despechary area of Kabul city.

The group has claimed that the attack killed 9 foreign nationals.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/taliban-isis-make-claims-regarding-the-three-explosions-in-kabul-which-over-50-dead-wounded-03450/

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Afghan Official: Four Police Officers Killed In Taliban Attack

July 24, 2019

An Afghan official says four police officers were killed and two others wounded when Taliban militants attacked a security checkpoint in the western province of Farah.

Mohibullah Mohib, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said two militants were killed in the incident late on July 23.

Mohib did not reveal where in the province the attack took place.

In a statement, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

The militants have launched near-daily attacks on Afghan security forces, even as peace efforts have been gaining momentum to put an end to Afghanistan's nearly 18-year war.

The Taliban control or contest around half of the country, controlling more territory than any time since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 ousted the group from power.

The Taliban controls large parts of Farah, which is located on the border with Iran.

Full report at:

https://www.rferl.org/a/afghan-official-four-police-officers-killed-in-taliban-attack/30073613.html

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Afghan authorities alarmed by ISIS recruiters at Kabul University

Ruchi Kumar

July 24, 2019

An investigation by Afghanistan’s spy agency this month led to the arrest of four ISIS recruiters, three of whom were teachers at the country’s largest university, raising questions about the ability of extremists to operate in the capital and recruit from the country’s young students.

Of the three suspects, Mubashir Muslimyar was a lecturer, while Zahir Daee and Mohammad Maroof Rasikh were teachers of religious studies at Kabul University, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) said in a statement on July 8.

The suspected insurgent recruiters were detained in Kabul and are believed to have played a role in a spate of recent attacks in the Afghan capital, including against a bus carrying civil servants on June 4 and the September bombings of a wrestling club in which 21 people died.

Beyond their involvement in organising attacks, the NDS investigation raises questions about their efforts to radicalise and recruit students.

The teachers’ alleged activities became known after former students of Mr Muslimyar were detained following the aforementioned attacks and identified him as a recruiter.

One 24-year-old graduate who studied Information and Communication Technology under Mr Muslimyar in 2014 told The National that his former lecturer had exhorted students to “join jihad against the infidel government.”

“He often started debates in the class against the government,” said the former student, who asked to remain anonymous. “He used to tell us that this government is made up of pagans and is against Islam.”

Students complained about Mr Muslimyar’s views but the faculty never took action, the graduate said.

In a now-deleted tweet, a woman who said she had been a student of Mr Muslimyar claimed he had been opposed to co-education and had deducted marks from female students who wore Western-style clothing.

The woman declined to comment further when contacted by The National but said she had deleted the tweet after receiving threats.

Following the arrests, security officials and academics say they are concerned about radicalisation of youth on university campuses.

“Teachers and religious scholars who support jihadist groups hold a lot of influence over the community,” a security official close to the investigation told The National on condition of anonymity. “Young students in their care are exposed to harmful ideologies when they are extremely vulnerable and can be manipulated to do something wrong.”

Aside from Kabul University, authorities are also concerned about ISIS recruitment at Nangarhar University and Al Beroni University in Kapisa, the official said.

A report this year by the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies found that half of 373 students surveyed at three major Afghan universities supported an Islamic Emirate or Caliphate as a preferred system of political governance.

The Taliban refers to their insurgent shadow government as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

About 20 per cent of the students surveyed in Kabul, Herat and Nangarhar were opposed to secularism or living alongside religious groups other than their own, While three quarters supported the idea of proslytesing Islam globally.

Hizb ut-Tahrir, an insurgent group that operates in region, called the report anti-Islamic and secularist.

The report’s author Ramin Kamangar blamed a lack of diversity and inclusivity in university curricula for growing intolerance and susceptibility to radicalisation among students.

“The textbooks of Islamic studies are not academic or standardised,” he told The National. “They speak about the world as right or wrong – presenting the world to the students in form of ideological black and white.

The system does not encourage critical thinking or creativity, he said, producing graduates who are unable to reason independently – and therefore vulnerable to recruitment to extremist groups.

Security officials meanwhile are keeping a close eye on higher learning institutions across the country.

“Many students who come to these universities hail from villages and rural areas; some are even returning from Pakistani refugee camps,” the security official said. “We can’t expect them to have the same kind of thoughts and ideologies as urban students from Kabul. Bringing youth of different thinking has also been concerning in terms of spreading influence of certain harmful ideologies.”

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/asia/afghan-authorities-alarmed-by-isis-recruiters-at-kabul-university-1.890394

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56 killed, wounded in back to back explosions in Kabul city

25 Jul 2019

Three consecutive blasts in Kabul city left 11 people dead and 45others wounded, the Ministry of Public Health said.

Nasrat Rahimi, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior said the explosions killed 11 civilians and wounded 45 others.

Furthermore, Rahimi said a suicide bomber targeted a vehicle carrying the employees of the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum in 16th district of the city.

According to Rahimi, the second explosion took place in the same area killing 11 civilians and wounding 45 others.

Meanwhile, Rahimi said the third explosion took place in Despachery area of Kabul. It was likely a car bomb explosion.

The Ministry of Public Health officials had earlier said the explosions killed 8 civilians including women and child.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/30-killed-wounded-in-back-to-back-explosions-in-kabul-city-03440/

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Pakistan, Qatar reacts to deadly Kabul bombings which left 56 dead, wounded

25 Jul 2019

Pakistan and Qatar reacted to deadly bombings in Kabul city which left at least 56 civilians dead or wounded.

The ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar in a statement said the State of Qatar expressed its strong denunciation and condemnation of the three consecutive explosions in the Afghan capital Kabul, which resulted in deaths and injuries.

The statement further added that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated the State of Qatar’s firm stance on rejecting violence and terrorism, regardless of the motives and reasons.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry in a statement said Pakistan strongly condemns the terrorist attack in Kabul today, on a bus carrying government employees.

The statement further added “We express our condolences to the bereaved families and pray for speedy recovery of the injured.”

The statement also added “Pakistan condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. We express solidarity with the people of Afghanistan. Pakistan will continue to support international efforts to restore complete peace and stability in Afghanistan.”

The Ministry of Interior spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said the three explosions killed 11 civilians including women and children.

Rahimi further added that the explosions also wounded 45 civilians.

Furthermore, Rahimi said a suicide attack followed by an explosion targeted a vehicle of the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum in 16th district of Kabul city.

He also added that the third blast took place in Despechary area of the city. It as likely a car bomb explosion.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/pakistan-qatar-reacts-to-deadly-kabul-bombings-which-left-56-dead-wounded-03447/

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13 Taliban militants killed, wounded in Afghan forces operations in Logar, Ghazni: Thunder

25 Jul 2019

The Afghan forces conducted separate operations in Logar and Ghazni provinceskilling, wounding at least 13 Taliban militants.

The 203rd Thunder Corps in a statement said the security forces an operation in the vicinity of Mohammad Agha district killing 9 Taliban militants.

The statement further added that the security forces killed a Taliban fighter and wounded another militant during a separate raid in Baraki Barak district.

Furthermore, the 203rd Thunder Corps said the security forces killed 2 Taliban militants during an operation in Aab district of Ghazni province.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/13-taliban-militants-killed-wounded-in-afghan-forces-operations-in-logar-ghazni-thunder-03443/

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Southeast Asia

 

Zakir Naik, PAS-linked groups, Thai separatists shielding my ex, says Indira

July 25, 2019

PETALING JAYA: M Indira Gandhi today alleged she was informed that three groups are protecting her ex-husband who abducted her 11-year-old daughter, all of whom, she claimed, are inspired by controversial preacher Dr Zakir Naik.

In a police report lodged at the Petaling Jaya district police headquarters this morning, Indira said she suspected PAS-friendly NGOs, southern Thailand separatists and “Mualaf” followers of Naik of being involved in protecting him.

She said she had been informed that Mohd Riduan @ K Pathmanathan was being given protection by these groups and “mualaf” who were inspired by Naik and his teachings, she said in her police report sighted by FMT.

Indira said she received a call from a private number recently. The caller said Riduan was living under the protection of these groups in Golok, Kelantan, she claimed.

“I do not know the authenticity of that information but we have received information that since September 2018 these groups are directly involved, religious scholars giving illegal protection to Riduan and his wife and children.”

She urged the police to investigate Riduan’s new wife and the groups according to Section 216(1) of the Penal Code, which relates to harbouring an offender who has escaped from custody or whose apprehension has been ordered.

Prasana Diksa was one year old in 2009 when Riduan took her away from Indira.

Indira has been battling in the courts for custody of her children and against their unilateral conversion to Islam by Riduan.

Last year, the Federal Court ruled in favour of Indira when she challenged her three children’s conversion to Islam. The court said both parents must agree on their children’s conversion to Islam, departing from another court’s decision that either parent can decide on the children’s religion.

The court also ordered the police to locate Riduan and Prasana, and to return the child to Indira.

The police task force to track down Riduan and Prasana was set up by former inspector-general of police Fuzi Harun on May 3.

In a response to FMT yesterday on the status of the search, Fuzi’s successor, Abdul Hamid Bador, said: “Not yet (found). I am looking actively into it.”

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2019/07/25/zakir-naik-pas-linked-groups-thai-separatists-shielding-my-ex-says-indira/

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Sabah CM urges calm after deputy’s ‘Islamisation’ remark triggers firestorm

25 July 2019

BY JULIA CHAN

KOTA KINABALU, July 25 — Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal sought to steer Sabah’s attention towards development today in an attempt to defuse anger over his deputy chief minister’s Facebook post alleging a mass effort to convert Sabahans to Islam in the 80s.

The Sabah CM said that while religion was vital, arguments about it were distracting from efforts to bring progress to the state and its people.

“Let’s not fight over our differences. We need to focus our efforts and strengths on moving forwards and developing the state,” Shafie said.

The CM was asked to comment over the 20 police reports lodged by Umno Youth and others against Datuk Wilfred Madius Tangau’s claim that a senior Sabah official had conducted mass conversion efforts some 38 years ago in Tambunan.

Shafie asserted that Tangau was simply providing an example but conceded that this could lead to negative interpretations.

He then expressed hope that Sabah as a whole could move past the incident.

“If we start arguing over it, it will be an endless affair. Surely we should learn from the past. If we continue to fight over religion, we would never achieve what we want for our future generations: good education, jobs,” he said.

Controversy erupted last Sunday after Tangau posted on Facebook claiming a Sabah official had gone to Tambunan decades ago and held a mass Islamisation ceremony, coercing locals to convert by threats and promises of jobs and land titles.

He was comparing the unnamed official to Shafie, who had just visited the district to deliver a RM1 million allocation to upgrade churches in the area and called for peace, tolerance and respect between races and religion to continue.

The post incited dissatisfaction among some groups who then lodge 20 police reports against him.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/07/25/sabah-cm-urges-calm-after-deputys-islamisation-remark-triggers-firestorm/1774702

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Indonesian Woman Jailed for Recording Boss’s Harassment to be Given Amnesty

By Richard C. Paddock and Muktita Suhartono

Jul 25, 2019

BANGKOK — An Indonesian bookkeeper who rose to national prominence after she was sentenced to jail for recording her boss to prove he was sexually harassing her is expected to receive amnesty from the country’s president soon.

A grant of amnesty by President Joko Widodo would reverse two Supreme Court rulings and spare the bookkeeper, Nuril Maknun, a six-month jail term and a $35,000 fine, in a case that has highlighted the frequent mistreatment of women in Indonesia.

The president signaled his intention to grant amnesty last week when he asked for Parliament’s approval, which it granted Thursday. Once the president receives a formal letter of approval from Parliament, he will issue a decree granting Ms. Nuril amnesty, an aide to the president said.

“Baiq Nuril is the real victim, not the perpetrator,” said Parliament member Erma Suryani Ranik, using an honorific for Ms. Nuril as she read a statement from Parliament supporting the grant of amnesty.

Ms. Nuril appeared before the Parliament, where she spoke from the podium, thanked her supporters and urged Parliament not to let other women suffer the same treatment.

The plight of Ms. Nuril, 41, resonated with women across the predominantly Muslim nation, who have little recourse against the verbal harassment they often face in the workplace and in public places. Indonesia’s law against sexual harassment does not cover verbal abuse unless there is also physical contact.

The case against Ms. Nuril also called attention to gender inequities in Indonesia’s judicial system, under which Ms. Nuril was punished for recording her boss’s lewd remarks to her but he faced no legal consequences for having uttered them.

After her boss, the principal at the high school where she worked, learned of the recording, Ms. Nuril lost her job, while his career flourished.

She was charged with distributing obscene material and served two months in jail while awaiting trial. He was never charged with a crime.

The case propelled Ms. Nuril, a mother of three, into the national spotlight, where she has become a rare voice for Indonesian women and equal rights.

“For other women who might have experienced cases like me, we have to be brave,” she said in an interview. “Our dignity as women, our self-worth as women, should not be easily trampled by other people.”

Her troubles began six years ago, after she took a temporary bookkeeping job at Senior High School Seven Mataram on Lombok island, east of Bali.

The school’s new principal, Muslim, who like many Indonesians uses only one name, began harassing her and insisting they have sex. He often phoned her and described various sex acts in detail and his attentions prompted rumors that they were having an affair.

To prove that they were not, she recorded one of his lewd calls and played it for her husband and a colleague. Months later, another colleague downloaded the recording from Ms. Nuril’s phone while she was not present.

Mr. Muslim learned of the 15-minute recording about a year after the call. He promised to extend her contract if she deleted it. When she refused, he fired her and reported her to the police, accusing her of criminal defamation.

Even though any defamation would have been based on his own recorded words, the police pursued the case vigorously. After repeated questioning, they arrested Ms. Nuril in March 2017.

When the defamation charge did not stick, she was put on trial for distributing obscene material.

In court, teachers from the school testified that they, not Ms. Nuril, had distributed the recording. The trial court acquitted her, but prosecutors appealed the verdict to the Supreme Court.

In November, a three-judge panel found her guilty and sentenced her to six months in jail. The high court also imposed a $35,000 fine and ordered her to serve another three months if she could not pay it.

After the ruling, President Joko said he would consider granting her clemency once she had exhausted all her legal appeals. She appealed to the Supreme Court for reconsideration, and this month a different three-judge panel upheld the guilty verdict.

Mr. Muslim has declined to discuss the case. But his lawyer, Asmuni, has said that his client was the real victim and that Ms. Nuril deserved to go to jail.

“Men have to be protected, too,” Mr. Asmuni said in a January interview. “She is an ungrateful person and does not know her place.”

Ms. Nuril belatedly reported Mr. Muslim to the police for sexual harassment. But the police pointed out that under Indonesian law, verbal abuse alone does not constitute sexual harassment.

Legislation that would protect women from verbal sexual harassment has long been stalled in Indonesia’s Parliament, where women have never held more than 20 percent of the seats.

“Harassment is not always physical,” Ms. Nuril said. “And also, we don’t have a place to report it if we experience this. I think that will be the government’s homework.”

It is unclear how Parliament would address one potential obstacle to obtaining evidence of verbal harassment: such recordings can be construed as obscene material under the country’s electronic communications law.

Ms. Nuril said she was grateful for the support received “from all over Indonesia, even from abroad,” and that the ordeal had given her a new sense of purpose. “If we stay silent, the men who commit these deeds will feel they are above us,” she said. “We have to be brave whatever the risks.”

Full report at:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/25/world/asia/indonesia-harassment-nuril.html

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Singapore detains two men accused of seeking to join IS

July 26, 2019

Two Singaporeans accused of intending to join the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria have been detained without trial under the city-state’s tough security laws, authorities said Thursday.

They were the latest arrests in Singapore of people allegedly supporting the jihadists or planning to fight with them, with the country's leaders warning it is a prime target for an attack due to its status as a regional financial centre.

The interior ministry said a 36-year-old money-changer, Kuthubdeen Haja Najumudeen, was arrested in May and a 47-year-old former delivery assistant, Suderman Samikin, was detained this month.

They were arrested in two separate cases under the Internal Security Act, which allows for detention without trial for up to two years.

"Investigations established that they were radicalised and had harboured the intention to make their way to Syria to join the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria," the ministry said in a statement.  

It said Haja was a follower of Zahran Hashim, the alleged mastermind and one of the suicide bombers in the Easter terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka which killed 258 people in April.

He donated funds to Zahran and his group, though investigators did not find any indication that he was involved in the attacks, the ministry said.

Suderman is accused of joining a pro-IS Facebook group and actively seeking advice on how to join IS. He had been in prison previously for drug consumption.

As the jihadists' "caliphate" crumbled in the Middle East, members of the group have dispersed and are surfacing with their own operations and networks elsewhere, including Southeast Asia.

There have been a steady stream of such cases reported in recent years in Singapore, which is majority ethnic Chinese but also has a sizeable Muslim minority.

In February, authorities said that a Singaporean businessman who allegedly gave support to a Malaysian IS militant in Syria had been arrested under the tough laws.

Full report at:

https://www.thejakartapost.com/seasia/2019/07/26/singapore-detains-two-men-accused-of-seeking-to-join-is.html

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India

 

Muslim hawker beaten up over Jai Shri Ram chants in Bengal, internet suspended after tension

July 26, 2019

Tension prevailed in Hirapur area near here after a Muslim hawker was allegedly beaten up and forced to chant Jai Shri Ram slogans, following which authorities have suspended internet services and stepped up security.

After the Tuesday night incident, fake videos and photographs of Hindu-Muslim riots were being circulated on the social media to vitiate the atmosphere, police said on Thursday, adding they have increased vigil to avoid any untoward incident.

According to officials, a Muslim hawker in his mid forties was beaten up on Tuesday evening by a group of youths who allegedly forced him to chant Jai Shri Ram. He was later admitted to a local hospital.

No arrest has been reported in connection with the incident.

"We decided to snap internet services so that no one is able to vitiate the atmosphere through use of fake videos and photographs. Police patrolling is also on. The situation is presently under control," Asansol Police commissioner DP Singh told PTI.

The internet services will remain suspended for the time being, he said.

The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Bharatiya Janata Parrty (BJP) blamed each other for the incident.

Senior TMC leader and Asansol Mayor Jitendra Tiwari accused the BJP of trying to destroy the secular fabric of the area since the victory of the saffron party in the Lok Sabha polls.

"Since the result of Lok Sabha polls, this has been a regular affair. The BJP thinks it can win seats in the area in the 2021 assembly polls by creating a communal divide," Jitendra Tiwari told PTI.

Babul Supriyo, the Union Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate, had been re-elected from Asansol this time.

State BJP General Secretary Sayantan Basu denied the charges as "baseless" and said such incidents only prove that the state government has failed to maintain law and order.

The issue of mob violence and lynching was raised by a group of 49 eminent personalities, including filmmakers, authors and actors, who wrote to the prime minister on Tuesday, expressing concern over such incidents.

The signatories also said that they regretted that Jai Shri Ram has been reduced to a "provocative war cry that leads to law and order problems, and lynchings take place in its name".

Reacting to it, Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi had said no one should communalise criminal incidents and asserted that Dalits and minorities are safe in the country.

https://www.indiatoday.in/crime/story/asansol-west-bengal-muslim-beaten-jai-shri-ram-internet-tmc-bjp-1573640-2019-07-25

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Boycott Muslims making Kanwar in Haridwar: Sadhvi Prachi

July 25, 2019

Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Sadhvi Prachi has courted yet another controversy, calling for Muslims to be shunned from making Kanwar for devotees of Lord Shiva in Haridwar.

"99 per cent of Muslims make Kanwar for Lord Shiva devotees in Haridwar. They should be boycotted. They should be asked to leave from there. Hindus of my country should get employment opportunities," Prachi said while addressing a gathering here on Wednesday.

The 'Kanwar Yatra' is an annual pilgrimage of Lord Shiva's devotees. Kanwariyas (pilgrims) visit places like Haridwar, Gaumukh and Gangotri in Uttarakhand and Sultanganj in Bihar to fetch holy waters of River Ganga and worship the Almighty with the same water.

In another statement that could stir controversy, the VHP leader claimed that those born in madarsas grow up to be like Mumbai terror attack mastermind and founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba terror outfit, Hafiz Saeed.

She also claimed that people like BJP MP Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and Mahatma Gandhi's assassin Nathuram Godse can never be born in madarsas.

Full report at:

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/muslims-kanwar-haridwar-sadhvi-prachi-1573300-2019-07-25

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‘Must for gender equality, justice’: Govt on triple talaq bill in Lok Sabha

Jul 25, 2019

Lok Sabha on Thursday took up for consideration the contentious bill to make the practice of instant triple talaq illegal with up to three years in jail for the husband.

Moving the bill for consideration, law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the legislation was a must for gender equality and justice as despite an August 2017 Supreme Court verdict striking down the practice of instant triple talaq , women were being divorced by ‘talaq-e-biddat’.

He said, since January 2017, 574 such cases had been reported by the media.

The ban on ‘triple talaq’ has been enforced through three ordinances issued by Narendra Modi government as the related bill couldn’t be passed by the previous Lok Sabha.

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A fresh bill was introduced by the new government in June during the ongoing Parliament session.

Under the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019, divorcing through instant triple talaq will be illegal, void and would attract a jail term of three years for the erring husband.

Prasad said to allay fears that the proposed law could be misused, the government had included certain safeguards such as provision of bail for the accused before trial.

While the bill makes triple talaq a “non-bailable” offence, an accused can approach a magistrate even before trial to seek bail. A provision has been added to allow the magistrate to grant bail “after hearing the wife”, the minister said.

The Opposition termed the penal provision for the Muslim husband ‘discriminatory’ and also objected to the 3-year jail term for the practitioner of ‘talaq-e-biddat’ as disproportionate and counter-productive. Those opposing the Bill said it was ‘discriminatory’ as it sought to target only Muslim women even when the problem of abandoning-wives was not unique to the community.

Congress leader Gaurav Gogoi said the majority enjoyed by the NDA government doesn’t mean that Parliamentary committees--where such contentions Bills should be debated--are bypassed. He demanded a comprehensive Bill to empower women from all religions and sections.

Trinamool Congress MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay drove the above point home by expressing his party’s opposition to the practice of ‘triple talaq’ yet requesting the Centre to drop the 3-year jail term which he called “arbitrary and excessive.” “We support Muslim women who have a problem with ‘triple talaq’. But the Bill is excessive, arbitrary as a jailed husband can’t support his family or give maintenance to his separated wife,” the TMC MP said while demanding that the Bill be referred to a joint select committee.

Minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the argument against 3-year jail term was specious and mischievous as it sought to side with the guilty. “Those who do not refrain from ‘triple talaq’ deserve to be jailed,” he said. “All the major Islamic countries had banned “triple talaq” and therefore it couldn’t be argued that there was even a religious ground for opposing it,” he added.

NDA ally JD(U)’s MP Rajiv Ranjan Singh declared that his party will abstain from voting on the “triple talaq” Bill as it was fundamentally opposed to any interference on this matter and added that the Bill was likely to create mistrust within the Muslim community. “The government should instead try to awaken the community to women’s rights,” he said, adding that despite being a part of the NDA, his party had a long standing policy of divergence on controversial issues including common civil code and article 370.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/must-for-gender-equality-justice-govt-on-triple-talaq-bill-in-lok-sabha/story-5p5ysXsydxFqitnQ1MEJoI.html

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Triple Talaq Bill debte: Opposition alleges divide and rule, govt says justice after 70 years

July 26, 2019

The Opposition accused the government of “destroying the institution of marriage” and “divide and rule” by criminalising triple talaq through a Bill that was passed by voice vote in the Lok Sabha on Thursday.

The Congress, TMC, DMK and others demanded the Bill be sent to a Standing Committee for further scrutiny, but the government rejected this saying it was an “apolitical” Bill meant to give Muslim women the justice that eluded them for 70 years.

Opposing The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi said that criminalising triple talaq does not make sense when the Supreme Court has decriminalised gay sex and adultery. “You want to destroy the institution of marriage and bring the women on the road,” he said. “Who will pay her maintenance once her husband is in jail?”

He asked that when the Supreme Court had banned triple talaq, why did the government want to send Muslim men to jail for it.

Targeting the BJP, Owaisi said that if the government was so keen to give justice to Muslim women, it should also think about the Muslim women who were “raped” during the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots. “There is not a single conviction in those cases,” he said.

“You brought law against Jallikattu (bull-taming) but failed to bring legislation against mob lynching of Muslims in different parts of the country. If you are so concerned about the rights of women, I challenge you to hire a special aircraft and take all the women MPs to Sabarimala,” he said.

After issuing a whip for all its MPs to be present during the discussion and voting on the Bill, the BJP fielded its women MPs — Meenakshi Lekhi, Poonam Mahajan, Kirron Kher and Locket Chatterjee — to speak on the subject.

Lekhi led the BJP’s defence of the Bill. Insisting that it was not on the agenda of the BJP but of the nation, she alleged that Opposition parties could not digest the fact Prime Minister Narendra Modi, being a Hindu, was thinking for Muslims. According to Lekhi, there were Sharia courts running in Uttar Pradesh when Akhilesh Yadav (SP) was chief minister. She said the government had shown political courage by bringing this Bill and that the earlier government resorted to appeasement to gain votes. She cited that 22 Muslim countries have given up the practice of instant triple talaq.

Gaurav Gogoi of the Congress said the SC had not asked the government to make triple talaq a criminal offence, while his party’s Jothimani said the BJP sought to divide and rule Muslims through this Bill. The party’s leader in the House Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said that existing laws related to domestic violence and dowry were enough to prosecute marital discord in Muslim families.

“If you want to protect Muslim women who are divorced by their husbands, you should also give protection to Hindu and Parsi women who are deserted by their husbands,” Gogoi said.

The TMC called the punishment clause “excessive, arbitrary and irrational”. “There is three years of imprisonment to husband… He is being asked to look after his family. Once a person will go to jail, how will it be possible?” TMC leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay said.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/triple-talaq-bill-debte-opposition-alleges-divide-and-rule-govt-says-justice-after-70-yrs-5852691/

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MEA says Imran statement ‘glaring admission’, seeks ‘credible action’

July 26, 2019

Terming Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s statement that about 30,000-40,000 “armed people” who fought in Kashmir or Afghanistan were still in Pakistan as a “glaring admission”, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Thursday said it is time for Islamabad to take “credible and irreversible action” against terror groups.

“It is a glaring admission by the Pakistani leadership,” MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar told the media. The response came a day after the Pakistan PM admitted that about 30,000-40,000 “armed people”, who have been trained and fought in some part of Afghanistan or Kashmir, were in Pakistan and accused the previous governments of not telling the truth to the US about the militant groups operating in the country.

“Until we came into power, the governments did not have the political will, because when you talk about militant groups, we still have about 30,000-40,000 armed people who have been trained and fought in some part of Afghanistan or Kashmir,” Khan said during his appearance at the US Institute of Peace, a US-Congress funded think-tank, on Tuesday.

MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said “it is time for Pakistan to take credible and irreversible action against terrorists”.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/mea-says-imran-statement-glaring-admission-seeks-credible-action-5852648/

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India has repeatedly taken up cross-border terrorism issue with Pak, but no action yet: Govt

July 25, 2019

India has persistently taken up with Pakistan the issue of cross-border terrorism, including funding of secessionist and terror activities in Jammu and Kashmir, but Islamabad is yet to take any action against it, the government said on Thursday.

In written reply to a question in Rajya Sabha, Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan said Pakistan has been asked to abide by its commitment to not allow any territory under its control to be used for terrorism against India in any manner and take credible, verifiable and irreversible steps in the matter.

Pakistan is yet to demonstrate such steps, he said.

“The government has, through diplomatic channels, persistently taken up with Pakistan, the issue of cross-border terrorism, including funding of secessionist and terrorist activities in the state of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.

To another question on relations with neighbouring countries, the minister said that with Pakistan, the government desires normal neighbourly relations and is committed to addressing all outstanding issues bilaterally and peacefully in accordance with the Shimla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration.

“However, any meaningful dialogue can only be held in an atmosphere free from terror, hostility and violence,” he said.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-has-repeatedly-taken-up-cross-border-terrorism-issue-with-pak-but-no-action-yet-govt-5852310/

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‘We have ample proof’: Army chief Bipin Rawat on Imran Khan’s Pulwama claim

July 25, 2019

Army Chief General Bipin Rawat Thursday said there is “ample proof” of what happened in Pulwama, days after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan claimed the terror attack that killed 40 CRPF personnel was an “indigenous thing”.

“We are aware of the truth. So we don’t have to get carried away by any statement. The truth is known to us and our establishment. Our intelligence agencies had given ample proof of what had happened in Pulwama and that is all I would like to say,” Rawat told reporters.

Khan, who was on three-day visit to the US, made the remarks while speaking at an event organised by Washington-based think-tank US Institute of Peace.

“It was a Kashmiri boy radicalised by the brutality of the security forces. He blew himself up. But because this group claimed responsibility, which was in India as well, Jaish-e-Mohammed is operating in India — but Pakistan suddenly came in the limelight,” Khan said on Tuesday.

Khan also admitted that about 30,000-40,000 “armed people”, who have been trained and fought in some part of Afghanistan or Kashmir, were in Pakistan and accused the previous governments of not telling the truth to the US about the militant groups operating in the country.

India and Afghanistan accuse Pakistan of providing safe haven to the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Taiba and other militant groups, which carry out attacks in the two countries.

“Until we came into power, the governments did not have the political will, because when you talk about militant groups, we still have about 30,000-40,000 armed people who have been trained and fought in some part of Afghanistan or Kashmir,” Khan said.

Khan said it is in the interest of Pakistan that “we do not allow any armed militant groups to operate” in our country.

“We are the first government that has started disarming militant groups. This is the first time it’s happening. We’ve taken over their institutes, their seminaries. We have administrators there,” said Khan, whose Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party formed its first federal government in August last year.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/we-have-ample-proof-army-chief-bipin-rawat-on-imran-khans-pulwama-claim-5851201/

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20 years of Kargil war: India, Pakistan remain tense over Kashmir

by Rifat Fareed

July 26, 2019

Kargil, India-administered Kashmir - Visitors to Drass, a town situated at an altitude of 10,760 feet (3,279 metres) in India-administered Kashmir, are greeted with a signboard that says at -60 degrees Celsius on January 9, 1995, it was the second-coldest inhabited place on the planet.

Drass, located in Kargil district, has an additional claim to fame. In the summer of 1999, it was on the western edge's rocky and barren Himalayan peaks that India and Pakistan fought their last war.

That year, Pakistan's military and Kashmiri rebels occupied strategic positions on the Indian side of the de facto border between them (known as the Line of Control or LoC), prompting a counteroffensive by India.

The Kargil war, as it came to be known, lasted for nearly three months, killed more than 500 Indian and nearly 400 Pakistani soldiers, and ended with India successfully pushing back Pakistani fighters to the other side of the LoC.

While Pakistan had named its move to take over the control of Indian posts along the LoC as Operation Badr, India called its offensive Operation Vijay.

It was a war fought in the era of satellite news channels. The battles were broadcast directly to homes in both the countries, making Drass a symbol of India's nationalism, inspiring a raft of jingoistic Bollywood movies.

Every year since 1999, the Indian army celebrates July 26 - the day war ended - as "Vijay Diwas" (Victory Day), this week being its 20th anniversary.

India's warning to Pakistan

With a Hindu nationalist government in place, the Indian army celebrated in style, and held commemorative treks to the mountain tops where the fiercest fighting had taken place.

On Thursday, Indian army chief General Bipin Rawat was in Kargil, where he warned Pakistan not to repeat a similar incursion "anytime, anywhere".

"They [Pakistan] did not appreciate the will and the intent of the Indian political establishment and the Indian armed forces that they will never allow them to succeed," he said.

"My warning to Pakistan [is]: do not ever repeat such misadventure anytime in the future anywhere. Do not think of it," he said.

Until 1999, Indian and Pakistani soldiers manning the mountaintop posts had an unwritten winter armistice on the inhospitable Kargil frontier. Both sides abandoned front line posts during the harsh winters when temperatures plunged.

The Himalayan territory of Kashmir has been divided between Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan since the two countries gained independence from British rule in 1947.

Both India and Pakistan claim Kashmir in full, resulting in a 70-year standoff and turning the region into one of the world's most militarised zones.

20 years later

Drass, nearly 150km east of Kashmir's main city, Srinagar, is separated from the Kashmir valley by the Himalayas. The people here are of Central Asian ancestry, speak in the regional languages of Balti and Dardic and live in much the same way as their forefathers did.

Mohammad Hussain had to flee with his family during the war and returned to find his house badly damaged by the shelling. He said a lot had changed since the war as the town now attracts tourists from across India and abroad.

"Earlier, very few people would come to this desolate place. Now, they come and some even stay for a night," he said.

Hussain said the harsh living conditions in the region helped  heal the scars of the war quickly. "We are cut off from the world for six months every year when we live and die on our own. So, it's not difficult to forget a war," he said.

While Hussain may claim to have "forgotten" the Kargil war, the dispute continues to cast the longest shadow on the tenuous relations between the two nuclear-armed neighbours, making the future of Kashmir uncertain.

The hostilities between the two nations sunk to a new low in February this year, when a Pakistan-based armed group, Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) carried out a suicide attack on an Indian military convoy in a southern town of India-administered Kashmir.

The Pulwama attack killed at least 40 Indian troops, triggered dogfights and air attacks inside each other's territory, and brought India and Pakistan to the brink of another full-scale war.

Even as the threat of a war appears to have subsided since, tension between the two countries continues, freezing any dialogue.

'From bad to worse'

Meanwhile, India-administered Kashmir has been in turmoil for the last three decades since an armed rebellion against the Indian rule erupted in the early 1990s.

In recent years, the almost daily confrontations between stone-throwing protesters and armed rebels on the one side, and the Indian security forces on the other has only worsened.

Security experts say not much has changed in Kashmir even after two decades of the Kargil war.

New Delhi-based security analyst Rahul Bedi told Al Jazeera the Kashmir issue is "responsible for India's huge military expenditure".

"Nothing really seems to be changing because the political situation in Kashmir has gone from bad to worse and nobody knows when the state elections are going to be held," he said, referring to the federal rule imposed in the disputed region earlier this year.

The Kashmir unrest has been further compounded by New Delhi's insistence on revoking the laws which protect the demographic structure of the only Muslim-majority region in the country.

Bedi says such actions may create further trouble in Kashmir. India accuses Pakistan of backing the armed rebels in Kashmir, an allegation Pakistan denies.

"The chances of Kargil happening again are very remote, but the fact is that Kashmir continues to remain the fierce bone of contention between the two states and military action cannot be ruled out entirely," Bedi said.

However, Islamabad-based analyst Zahid Hussain thinks a breakthrough between India and Pakistan is possible if they engage directly and not through third-party intervention as offered by US President Donald Trump this week.

"I don't see progress immediately. It won't happen soon," he said, adding that "backchannel diplomacy" could help. He also said it's not Kargil, but the 2008 Mumbai attacks that worsened India-Pakistan relations.

"Kashmir used to be open. I went to India-administered Kashmir myself. In 2008, Mumbai happened... [It was] the turning point," he said.

Ajai Sahni, another New delhi-based defence and security analyst, told Al Jazeera that while military clashes between the two countries has been dialed back, "political mismanagement" may escalate the tensions.

Full report at:

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/07/20-years-kargil-war-india-pakistan-remain-tense-kashmir-190725205420082.html

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Free Quran Translation Distribution Programme by New Delhi-Based Centre For Peace And Spirituality Headed By Noted Islamic Scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

By ‘Tabassum’

July 26, 2019

The New Delhi-based Centre for Peace and Spirituality (CPS), headed by noted Islamic scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, produced a vast amount of literature on Islam and issues of contemporary interest, geared to a multi-faith readership. It has also been deeply engaged in promoting peace and understanding between Muslims and others.

One of the CPS’s major activities is its Quran translation distribution programme, in collaboration with Goodword Books, a publishing house headed by Maulana Wahiduddin Khan’s son Saniyasnain Khan.  These attractively-designed translations are available in many regional and international languages: English, Urdu, Hindi, Dogri, Punjabi, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Russian, Chinese, Chichewa and Filipino. At present, translations are underway in Polish, Japanese, Burmese and Manipuri. 

Generally, CPS prefers that its English translation serves as the reference for any other translation. But, if they get  permission to publish a translation of the Quran which has already appeared in a particular language, they may agree publish it without alterations but adding an Introduction by Maulana Wahiduddin Khan.   But after first print, they try to secure a translator for that same language, and if they get a suitable one, they start a process of translating the Quran afresh in that language.

Copies of the translation of the Quran published by CPS/Goodword Books can be procured from completely free of cost. All one needs to do is to fill up a simple request form on the CPS website, which can be accessed here:

https://cpsglobal.org/content/order-free-quran

When a request form is submitted, it is automatically filtered and forwarded to the Quran Distribution Centre (QDC) of that particular country (as of now there are QDCs in eight countries, in Asia, Europe and North America, besides India). The QDC team then posts it locally. In India, the form is filtered state-wise and forwarded to QDC of that particular state to handle. At present, there are QDCs in Srinagar, Jodhpur, Meerut, Patna, Kolkata, Indore, Bombay, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Calicut, Goa and Chennai. Requests from places where CPS does not as yet have a QDC are handled by CPS Delhi.

In addition to sending copies of the translation of the Quran to people who request for them, CPS team members sometimes contact them and provide other relevant literature, depending on the interest shown by them through the remarks field on their form. CPS members also engage in free distribution of translations of the Quran in seminars, conferences, literary fests, book fairs, tourist attractions, schools, colleges, libraries, hospitals and prisons. Several popular hotels in different countries have placed copies of the translation in their rooms.

QDCs stock copies of the translation of the Quran in languages commonly spoken in their area. In case they do not  have a copy in the requested language, they forward the request to CPS Delhi and it is taken care of.  The books are generally sent by ordinary post, but if someone mentions that she/he wants it urgently, it is sent by courier or speed post.

On an average, CPS gets around 500 requests a month from different parts of India for Quran translation copies, mostly for the English translation, which has been widely acknowledged as simple, clear and easy-to-read. One can request for one copy for each form. Requests come from both individuals and organizations and from people of different faith backgrounds.

The programme is sustained financially by the contribution of CPS members and well-wishers. QDCs procure copies of the translations of the Quran and post them at their own expense. Where it is not possible, Goodwoord Books sponsors this.

Recently, CPS launched a new website (http://www.cpsquran.com/) where translations of the Quran can be downloaded, free of cost, in more than 25 languages.

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Pakistan

 

Ready to visit Pakistan if Imran Khan calls us, says Afghan Taliban

Jul 26, 2019

ISLAMABAD/DOHA: The Afghan Taliban on Thursday expressed willingness to travel to Pakistan and meet PM Imran Khan if he invites them for negotiations to end the 18-year conflict in Afghanistan, according to a media report.

The statement by the Taliban came hours after Khan returned to Islamabad after his maiden official visit to the US where he discussed the Afghan peace process with President Donald Trump on Monday and agreed to work together to end to the conflict.

During the meeting, Trump said that Pakistan would help the US "extricate" itself from Afghanistan, adding there was "tremendous potential" in the relationship between Washington and Islamabad. Interestingly, Khan was accompanied by Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed during the talks at the White House.

Sohail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban's political office in Qatar's capital Doha, told the BBC Urdu that if PM Khan extended a formal invitation, they will accept it. "We frequently visit countries in the region and would surely go to Pakistan, too, which is our Muslim neighbour, if there is a formal invitation from Islamabad," he said.

Media reports say the US is negotiating for a deal by September 1 that would see international forces pull out of Afghanistan in return for Taliban security guarantees, including a pledge that Afghanistan will not become a safe haven for terror groups.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/ready-to-visit-pakistan-if-imran-khan-calls-us-says-afghan-taliban/articleshow/70388146.cms

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Pakistan to open Baba Guru Nanak's Gurdwara Chowa Sahib in Jhelum

Jul 25, 2019

AMRITSAR: Ahead of Guru Nanak Dev's 550th birth anniversary the Pakistan government is all set to open Gurdwara Chowa Sahib in Jhelum district of Pakistan's Punjab even as in the recent past Pakistan government had opened Gurdwara Khara Sahib in Gujranwala district of Pakistan's Punjab. Both the Gurdwaras had been closed since Indo Pak partition.

Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) chairman Aamir Ahmad told TOI over phone from Lahore on Thursday "We are intending to open Gurdwara Chowa Sahib very soon."

Due to heavy rains and inclement weather, the Gurdwara Sahib can only be opened next week or in ten days, he added. "We are getting the preparations done and very soon it will be opened" said Aamir.

Notably in January, 2019, Indian high commissioner in Pakistan, Ajay Bisaria had visited the Gurdwara Chowa Sahib.

A noted Pakistan historian Shaheed Shabbir who had visited Gurdwara Chowa Sahib on Thursday informed that after completing four journey's (udhasi's) Guru Nanak Dev had stayed in Jhelum for some time. Despite being close to river Ghan, there persisted draught like conditions and locals were short of drinking water.

"When they came to know that a saint was camping near them, they approached Baba Nanak on whose blessings a fresh water spring erupted from the ground which was known as Amrit Kund" he said.

Shabbir informed that Maharaja Ranjit Singh used to get water for drinking and bathing from Amrit Kund.

About the Gurdwara which is situated close to Rohtas Fort, Pakistan historian informed that the double storied Gurdwara was a marvel of Mogul architecture adding that its preservation and restoration would be given to Agha Khan Foundation.

Sources informed that like Gurdwara Khara Sahib, Gurdwara Chowa Sahib would also be opened for Pakistani followers of Sikhism and not for Indian Sikh Jatha's.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-to-open-baba-guru-nanaks-gurdwara-chowa-sahib-in-jhelum/articleshow/70382748.cms

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Pakistan opposition holds 'black day' protests against PM Khan

by Asad Hashim

July 26, 2019

Islamabad, Pakistan - Thousands of opposition supporters have rallied in major cities across Pakistan to mark a "black day" of protests against Prime Minister Imran Khan's government, as the country's opposition parties step up efforts to mobilise demonstrations against his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.

Rallies were held in Karachi, Peshawar, Lahore, Quetta and the capital, Islamabad on Thursday, addressed primarily by leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) political parties.

"If this fake government, which stole votes to come into power, to give it its final shove, if … we have to march to Islamabad against them, will Balochistan join us?" asked PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz at a rally of thousands in the southwestern city of Quetta.

Nawaz is the daughter of three-time former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was dismissed from office by the Supreme Court in 2017 and convicted for corruption a year later.

Nawaz herself was also convicted in a related corruption case, but her sentence was suspended pending the hearing of her appeal.

Since last year, Nawaz and her party have led a series of public protests, alleging vote-rigging in the 2018 polls that saw Khan sweep to power. Thursday marked exactly a year since the polls took place.

Since taking office, Khan's PTI has led an anti-corruption drive, arresting several high-profile members of the opposition, including Nawaz Sharif, his brother Shehbaz, former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, and others.

Other opposition parties, too, have seen arrests, with Pakistan People's Party chief and former President Asif Ali Zardari also currently jailed on corruption charges.

The opposition alleges that the anti-corruption drive has been selectively launched to target political opposition. Khan's PTI says they are cleaning up Pakistan's political system.

"We have to transform all institutions which had been destroyed by thieves who only want to loot Pakistan," Khan said earlier on Thursday, addressing supporters on his return to the country after a three-day visit to the United States.

Media blackout

Some of the opposition protests were covered live by Pakistan's domestic news television channels, but PML-N leader Nawaz's demonstration was notably blacked out, following a federal cabinet order earlier this month to ban coverage of opposition political leaders who are under investigation for corruption.

Rights groups have warned of "brazen censorship" taking place in Pakistan, specifically of coverage critical of the ruling party or of opposition events.

In Lahore, the country's second city, the PML-N's Shehbaz Sharif was to address a crowd of PML-N supporters, while thousands had gathered earlier in the northwestern city of Peshawar for another protest there.

In the capital, the demonstration on Thursday appeared to be sparsely attended, with several hundred supporters of the PML-N and JUI-F, a religious right-wing party, gathering outside the city's press club to register their protest.

Full report at:

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/07/pakistan-opposition-holds-black-day-protests-pm-khan-190725160351539.html

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Pakistan's ambassador to the UN Maleeha Lodhi elected as vice president of UN's economic arm

July 26, 2019

Pakistan's ambassador to the United Nations Maleeha Lodhi was on Thursday unanimously elected as one of the four vice presidents of the Economic and Social Council (Ecosoc), the economic arm of the United Nations.

Ambassador Lodhi, who was elected by acclamation after her candidature was endorsed by the 54-member body, will assume the Asia Pacific seat in the Ecosoc bureau.

Norway's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN Mona Juul was elected by acclamation as the president of the body, replacing Rhonda King of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Along with Lodhi, Permanent Representative of Armenia to the UN Mher Margaryan (representing Eastern European states) and Deputy Permanent Representative of Mexico Juan Sandoval Mendiolea (representing Latina American and Carribean states) were also elected. The election for the vice president for African states will be held later.

In a post shared on Twitter, Lodhi said that her election as the vice president of the Ecosoc is a "vote of confidence from the global community".

"Ecosoc is at the heart of implementation of the 2030 agenda for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and mobilising financing for SDGs," she added.

Speaking to reporters following the vote, Lodhi said that her election to such an "important organ demonstrates the faith of [the] international community in Pakistan and the competence of its diplomats".

She said Pakistan has always engaged intensely and enthusiastically with economic and social development activities at the UN. Lodhi added that the country was fulling engaged in the reform process of the UN Development System and played a "leading role" in reshaping the UN system to effectively respond to needs and challenges of the sustainable development agenda.

Pakistan's Permanent Representative to the UN said that in her new position, she would play an important role in shaping the UN development agenda and would advance the interests of developing countries, increasing synergy between the General Assembly and Ecosoc.

"As vice president of the Council, I will continue to strive to build an atmosphere of mutual trust and partnerships in the spirit of multilateralism," she added, while attributing her win to the efforts of her team at the Pakistan Mission to UN.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1496307/pakistans-ambassador-to-the-un-maleeha-lodhi-elected-as-vice-president-of-uns-economic-arm

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FATF cell set up at FBR to deal with terror financing

Mubarak Zeb Khan

July 26, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has established a Financial Action Task Force (FATF) cell to ensure an effective and timely implementation of measures against terror financing carried out through currency smuggling.

The cell will seek information required for FATF-related work from the FBR, field formations, directorates and record of meetings. The FATF cell will serve as a focal point for all activities related to customs compliance for FATF issues.

The Financial Action Task Force cell has been placed under the Director General of Intelligence and Investigation, Islamabad.

According to the notification, customs officer Waheed Marwat has been appointed head of the cell.

He will also look after the charge of director, directorate of cross border currency movement. One of the major initiatives of the FATF recommendations is the establishment of the directorate of cross-border currency movement, which is mainly responsible for developing a national-level profile of currency traffickers.

Another customs officer, Muhammad Asif, stands transferred and posted as additional director FATF cell; Wajid Zaman as deputy director, FATF cell; Zahoor Ahmed Mughal as superintendent FATF cell and Sajid Mehboob as intelligence officer of the Financial Action Task Force cell.

One of the FATF’s major recommendations for the Pakistan Customs is to effectively deal with currency smuggling, a source of trade-based money laundering and terror financing, particularly at entry and exit points of the country, and to install a system for tracking the money trail.

A custom officer said that the customs department had arrested 144 people in currency smuggling cases over the last five years, more than 30 of them during the outgoing fiscal year.

The customs department is determining whether those involved in currency trafficking had any link with terrorist organisations or not. The investigation will also identify the end use of cash smuggling proceeds and investigate travel history of the arrested persons to ascertain whether the money being generated through cash smuggling was used by proscribed entities and individuals.

In case any link is found with terror financing, the information will be shared with the customs department and other law enforcement agencies.

On the enforcement side, Pakistan Customs has seized currency worth Rs485 million for FY 2018-19, as against Rs157m seized over the corresponding period last year. It shows that since July 2018, the enforcement drive has produced desired results in the wake of effective enforcement of measures to curb smuggling.

In the last five years, the total amount of currency confiscated stood at Rs911m in 118 cases. In the prosecution of arrested 144 people, 65 were convicted and 19 acquitted by the court. The court imposed Rs18.01m fine in these cases.

For enhancing international cooperation in controlling smuggling, the Pakistan Customs has so far signed 22 MoUs/agreements with foreign governments/customs administrations for cooperation.

Under these agreements, requests for mutual legal assistance have been sent to foreign counterparts for identification of linkages in currency seizures.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1496172/fatf-cell-set-up-at-fbr-to-deal-with-terror-financing

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Taliban asked Malik Riaz for $10m ransom: Nacta

Mohammad Asghar

July 26, 2019

RAWALPINDI: The National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) has asked governments of Punjab and Sindh to make effective measures regarding threats hurled at property tycoon Malik Riaz by a wing of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) demanding $10 million extortion money.

According to sources, Nacta informed the authorities concerned about an email of the in-charge of the TTP’s finance wing sent to Malik Riaz containing the demand for the extortion money.

The email contains the bank account number in which the money has to be deposited, the sources said, adding the email suggested in case of nonpayment Malik Riaz and his family would face `dire consequences’.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1496214/taliban-asked-malik-riaz-for-10m-ransom-nacta

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North America

 

Muslims Over-Represented In State Prisons, Report Finds

July 25, 2019

Muslims make up about 9% of state prisoners, though they are only about 1% of the U.S. population, a new report from the civil rights organization Muslim Advocates finds. The report, released Thursday, is the most comprehensive count of Muslims in state prisons so far.

The report also sheds light on the obstacles some incarcerated Muslims face in prison while practicing their faith.

"Getting a picture of the religious preference of state prisoners is, we think, really important and unique," said Yusuf Saei, the author of the report.

Muslim Advocates requested religious preference data from every state, and based its report on the records it received from 34 states and Washington D.C. Previous data on the religious preference of federal prisoners show that Muslims make up about 12% of that population, but that's just a small slice of a much bigger picture.

"There are roughly 200,000 federal prisoners and more than 1.3 million state prisoners," Saei said. "We can say with a high degree of confidence this is one of the most comprehensive looks at religious preference data." The report only focused on the Muslim population in state prisons.

Knowing how many Muslims are in state prisons, Saei said, helps prison officials understand the importance of respecting religious practice for a significant and growing portion of people in prison. The report also compiled 163 lawsuits between October 2017 and January 2019 in which Muslims alleged their right to practice was being violated.

"Incarcerated Muslims are asking for very basic things: religiously compliant food, books, prayer mats. But they're not receiving them in many states," Saei said. "This idea of religious liberty is baked into the U.S. Constitution and federal law specifically protects the religious liberty of prisoners. But our report shows that many state prisons are arbitrarily and illegally preventing incarcerated Muslims from practicing their faith."

The report compared state policies and found they were inconsistent. Some are very accommodating; others are not accommodating at all. For example, the report finds that only 17 states specifically allow religious head coverings. It also finds that more and more states are fully accommodating Muslim dietary requirements--halal-certified meals. But there are states that still make access to alternative meals difficult or impossible.

"Many state policies do provide for full accommodation of Muslim diet requests. Others, however, provide diminished diet substitutes or no substitutes at all," the report said. "And in some cases, the paucity of diet accommodations may coerce individuals into violating their dietary beliefs."

The report provides examples of the inconsistent and in some cases burdensome state policies for Muslim prisoners. In Nevada, for example, to get a meat-substitute diet a prisoner has to pass a diet accommodation interview. In North Dakota, there is a "60-day sincerity test" for anyone who changes religions and has a new religious dietary requirement as part of the practice.

The report recommends some straightforward policies for prisons to facilitate Muslim religious practices such as permitting individual and group prayers for Muslims and training officers on how to make that happen. It also recommends giving prisoners with works assignments days off on their religious holidays, creating clear policies on burial practices that allow for Muslims to be buried within their faith traditions and allowing religious head coverings for men and women.

Prisoners' religious practice is legally protected by the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, passed by Congress in 2000. That law states the government can't impede a prisoner's free exercise of religion without a compelling reason.

"Things that I want to do or congregate activities that I might want to engage in with other prisoners, if they're done in the name of religion have a higher degree of protection than those same activities such as gathering together or studying together if they're not done in the name of religion," said Martin Horn. He teaches at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and is the former secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.

He said for the most part, state prisons respect federal law that protects religious practice for prisoners. And when prisoners sue over violations of religious practice, it's difficult for the state to win.

"The state has a very high burden to overcome to avoid allowing them to practice their faith at all and that means not allowing the prayer books, not allowing them to gather for prayer, not allowing access to services of an Imam," Horn said. "Once something is considered a religious practice, it has to be allowed unless there is a substantial burden on the state and there is no other way to mitigate that burden."

But advocates point to cases like the recent execution of a Muslim prisoner in Alabama earlier this year. His request for an Imam to be present when he was put to death was denied by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision. The majority opinion said the prisoner had waited too long to make the request. In the dissenting opinion, Justice Elena Kagan wrote that the decision was "profoundly wrong."

And Muslim prison chaplains say the current political climate affects the treatment of Muslim prisoners. That's problematic for people with so little control over their lives.

Tariq Aquil, the Muslim chaplain credited with developing the halal meal program in California's state prisons, said he saw that play out before he retired in 2017. Like when a Muslim prisoner's prayer time coincided with the inmate count.

"The guard sees that he's literally praying and he sees that he's actually in his cell so he could literally count him right there, 'I can see you, you're praying so I know you haven't escaped," Aquil said. "But they would stop, they would yell at him and they would curse him."

Because he was praying rather than responding to the roll call.

Some decisions made by the prisons that are obstacles to Muslims practicing their faith come out of ignorance, concerns about costs, like meal plans, or real security concerns like an emergency in the middle of Friday prayer, Aquil said.

But corrections officers live in the real world, he said, and the anti-immigrant, racist and anti-Muslim rhetoric spouted by the current administration has an impact.

"Those of us who've worked in an environment where we're trained are told that we should leave our political and any other attitudes that we have at the front gate when we come to work and that we should treat everyone equal," Aquil said. "Very few human beings that I know of have this on and off switch where they simply can disengage from hearing last night 'lock her up' or 'send her back' and then come into the prison and see the people who are attired in the same way or have the same face or something like that. So sometimes it's subtle and sometimes it's much more overt."

Also, Aquil said it's important to note that over-representation of Muslims in prison isn't indicative of a lot of Muslims being arrested and convicted.

"About 90 percent of incarcerated Muslims in the United States become Muslims during their incarceration," he said. "Most of the people that are in prison tend to be repeat offenders and so at some point in time they seem to become aware that they have run the gambit and maybe it's time for a change."

https://www.npr.org/2019/07/25/745226402/muslims-over-represented-in-state-prisons-report-finds

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Official won’t resign over posts on 2 Muslim reps, Islam

July 26, 2019

TOMS RIVER, N.J. — A New Jersey school board member is refusing to resign or apologize for disparaging two Muslim congresswomen and Islam on social media.

Dan Leonard said at a Toms River school board meeting Wednesday he has a right to free speech as over a dozen speakers chastised him for his personal Facebook posts.

In remarks about Democratic Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib urging a hunger strike over U.S. treatment of migrants, he wrote: “my life would be complete if she/they die.” In another post he described Democratic Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, also a Muslim, as a terrorist.

He also shared a derogatory meme with an image of a bruised “Sharia Barbie’ doll in a headscarf.

Full report at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/official-wont-resign-over-posts-on-2-muslim-reps-islam/2019/07/25/b124583e-aeef-11e9-9411-a608f9d0c2d3_story.html

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US, Afghanistan agree to accelerate Afghan peace talks

25 July 2019

The United States and Afghanistan said on Thursday they have agreed to accelerate efforts to reach a negotiated end to the conflict in the war-ravaged country.

In a joint statement, Washington and Kabul said the agreement had been reached in a telephone call between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday.

Ghani had asked for clarifications following President Donald Trump’s remark that the United States could easily win the war in Afghanistan but didn’t “want to kill 10 million people.”

Pompeo assured Ghani that “there has been no change to President Trump’s South Asia strategy, including US commitment to a conditions-based drawdown” of troops, the statement said.

It said Pompeo and Ghani had agreed that “now is the time to accelerate efforts to reach a negotiated end to the war in Afghanistan.”

General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Washington’s special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, had been sent to Kabul to “discuss in detail the next steps on the road to peace,” the statement said.

Khalilzad is then expected to head to Doha to resume talks with the Taliban.

He has held several meetings with the Islamist militants in the past year, the most recent being on July 9, also in Doha.

But the major hurdle has so far been the Taliban’s refusal to negotiate directly with the Afghan government.

At least 10 people -- including several women and a child -- were killed and scores more wounded by a series of blasts that rocked the Afghan capital on Thursday ahead of the election season.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/07/25/US-Afghanistan-agree-to-accelerate-Afghan-peace-talks-.html

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14 Iranian-American families sue US govt. over travel ban

Jul 25, 2019

Fourteen families are suing the Trump administration for the hardships and "unbearable burdens" they've experienced stemming from the US travel ban.

The complaint filed Monday in the Central District of Southern California says that "unreasonable administrative delays" for processing travel ban waivers, among other reasons, has caused the defendants distress. It paints a picture of separated spouses and broken families suffering "a range of ongoing harms."

The most recent version of the ban has been in effect since December 2017 and blocks travel from several countries, most of which are predominantly Muslim.

The ban allows for visas to be issued on a case-by-case basis with a waiver under certain conditions.

According to the proclamation signed by President Donald Trump, waivers are intended for those who can demonstrate that their entry would not pose a threat to national security and would be in the national interest and for whom denial of entry would cause "undue hardship."

But the group suing -- all of whom are US citizens or permanent residents and their Iranian relatives who are visa applicants -- have waited "unreasonable amounts of time" -- an average of 447 days at the time the lawsuit was filed -- for travel ban waivers, the complaint says.

"Those days have been filled with unbearable hardships and a constant state of distress that, absent intervention, will last indefinitely," the complaint says.

CNN has reached out to the State Department for comment.

A 592 day wait

The waiting has been detrimental for the defendants named in the lawsuit, the complaint says.

Shamim Darchini, a US citizen who lives in Irvine, California, experienced "severe anxiety, stress, and depression as a result of being separated from her husband," according to the complaint.

"These problems have also triggered other health problems for her," the complaint says. "She feels like she and her husband are being punished, but she doesn't know why."

Darchini met her husband, Amin Sirati, in 2013 when she was in Iran visiting her parents and they were married two years later.

In September 2015, they petitioned for his visa and Sirati had his interview in July 2017, where he was told "everything looks good" and his visa would be ready in 2 months, according to the complaint.

But Darchini's husband, who works as a dentist in Iran, has yet to make it to the US. His waiver has been pending since December 8, 2017.

He told CNN he's constantly trying to do everything in his power to get people to listen to his case. And he's awake nearly all hours of the day trying to match his wife's time zone, a time difference of 11.5 hours.

Desperate to get out

Curtis Morrison, the lead attorney on the case, told CNN his work with Yemeni families desperate to reunite following the travel ban inspired him to file the lawsuit.

When he realized the Iranian community was faced with similar hurdles, Morrison said he began using multiple social media platforms to spread the word that he wanted to help.

He used encrypted apps to communicate with his clients, he said, as many Iranians fear for their safety. Not all defendants are named in the lawsuit, for fear of prosecution in their country, Morrison said.

Fear of another ban has left them desperate to be with their loved ones, he said.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/07/25/601817/Iran-US-travel-ban

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US investors see Turkey's business environment positive

Abdulselam Durdak, Yunus Turk 

25.07.2019

The U.S. business people in Turkey see the country's investment environment positive although the Turkish economy has been facing some problems with foreign currencies, inflation and interest rates since mid-2018. 

With the government's measures, the country entered a rebalancing period since the first quarter of this year.

Howard Beasey, Middle East and Africa regional manager of Will-Burt -- a global manufacturer of integrated towers and masts for lighting, communication, and surveillance purposes -- said the U.S. investors are happy to do business in Turkey.

"We see Turkey as a really good investment environment for us," Beasey, also the former chairman of the American-Turkish Council, told Anadolu Agency.

Although Turkey and the U.S. have some issues, more recently in the defense sector, "we believe there are many other opportunities to do business together to grow our industries in multiple sectors," he added.

Beasey also said the defense sector was the beating heart for the relations between Turkey and the U.S. for many years.

Turkey is not only a country of good engineering and labor standards, but also one with a very competitive cost of labor, he said.

He also stressed that Turkey is a hub for U.S. business people to access the African, Middle Eastern, Central Asian and European markets. 

Good investment climate

Patrick Anderson, the CEO of Anderson Economic Group, a consulting firm in public policy and business which has been operating in Turkey since 2012, said that Turkey had troubles but it will turn the corner and surmount the difficulties.

Turkey is a very attractive country for investments with competitive business costs, he underlined.

Anderson said that for a lot of people in the U.S. and Europe, Turkey seems like a very distant country.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/us-investors-see-turkeys-business-environment-positive/1541403

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US blocks UN rebuke of Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes

Miriam Berger

July 25, 2019

The United States blocked the United Nations Security Council from passing a resolution condemning Israel’s demolition on Monday of about 70 homes in 10 apartment buildings in a Jerusalem suburb controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

The homes in the village of Wadi Hummus, part of the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sur Baher, were all built in an area controlled by the Palestinian Authority and with the PA's permission. Israel, however, said the buildings were too close to the separation wall dividing Israel and the occupied West Bank and therefore posed a security threat in violation of construction codes.

Palestinians condemned the demolitions – carried out after residents lost their case in Israeli court – as a politicised assault on their sovereignty and Palestinian communities in Jerusalem.

Key international players like the UN, European Union, United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Saudi Arabia quickly condemned the development.

On Tuesday, Indonesia, Kuwait and South Africa circulated a draft statement expressing grave concern over the demolition that “undermines the viability of the two-state solution and the prospect for just and lasting peace,” according to Reuters, who viewed the statement.

The US reportedly refused to support the statement, which needs a consensus within the UNSC to pass, and additionally rejected a revised version.

Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem in 1967, and soon after annexed the latter. Israel approves barely any building requests in Palestinian parts of east Jerusalem and Area C of the West Bank under its control. In turn, Israeli authorities frequently demolish Palestinian homes and structures in these areas built illegally without the required, hard-to-obtain permits.

The demolitions in Wadi Hummus, however, gained international attention both because of the large number of buildings affected and because of the community’s location inside Area A of the West Bank, where per the 1993 Oslo peace accords the semi-autonomous Palestinian Authority is in charge.

Palestinians also said they worried these demolitions could set a new precedent for displacing more residents located along the PA side of the wall.

It is already common for Israeli military forces, in coordination with Palestinian security forces, to enter into Palestinian-controlled parts of the West Bank to arrest people or conduct information-gathering operations.

The Western-backed PA, set up as an interim five-year government as part of Oslo, is unpopular among Palestinians, who say they are fed up with years of mismanagement, corruption, and no end in sight to the occupation.

But attacks on the PA by US President Donald Trump and his administration – including cutting off aid and moving the US embassy to disputed Jerusalem – and the PA’s subsequent refusal to deal with the US administration’s reported peace plan has increased the PA’s popularity.

While the UN and other countries condemned the Wadi Hummus demolitions as a threat to the two-state solution, Palestinians often cite these developments as evidence that on the ground prospects for a two-state solution failed long ago.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/us-blocks-un-rebuke-of-israeli-demolition-of-palestinian-homes-1.890601

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Europe

 

Families of Islamic State fighters to sue Australia over repatriation

25/07/2019

Australia faces a lawsuit aimed at forcing the government to repatriate Islamic State fighters' wives and children from a Syrian refugee camp, lawyers for their families told AFP Thursday.

The threat of a lawsuit comes the same day as parliament passed legislation to prevent Australian citizens who have fought for the Islamic State from returning home for up to two years under so-called "temporary exclusion orders".

Lawyers for the Australia-based families of nearly 30 women and children currently held in Syria's Al-Hawl camp said the firm was preparing to refer their case to the Federal Court in coming days.

Sarah Condon, of the Melbourne law firm Stary Norton Halphen, said the government had a legal obligation to protect Australian civilians abroad and called for a timeframe for the extraction of the families living in conditions she described as "increasingly volatile and dangerous".

"The urgency therefore arises from the hellish conditions of the camp, and the psychological damage that is caused to children when they are being indefinitely detained," Condon told AFP.

Eight orphans of two Australian IS fighters were removed from the camp in June into the care of Australian officials.

"We understand that it is not an easy logistical task, and that it may take time," Condon said of repatriating the remaining families.

"We know that it is a possible task however, as they have already successfully returned two families to Australia -? we commend those efforts, and urge the efforts to be extended to all women and children."

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said he had "a lot of sympathy" for children born to foreign fighters abroad, but the government had to be "cognisant of the threat" that some of the women and older children could pose if they were to return.

"Some women have been dragged by their husbands into the Middle East in horrific circumstances and there are others who are willing participants and are an equal threat to Australians," he told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

The fate of foreign fighters and their families has become a significant problem for governments as the conflict against IS draws to a close.

Similar legal action has been launched against the French and German governments, and several European countries have repatriated children from Syria in recent months.

Dutton has said the government was aware of 80 Australians who remained in active conflict zones after travelling to Iraq and Syria.

Condon's firm said it has identified at least 40 Australian children in al-Hawl camp alone, an unknown number of whom were born abroad.

https://www.france24.com/en/20190725-families-islamic-state-fighters-sue-australia-over-repatriation

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Two charged with terrorism over Bulgaria's biggest data breach: lawyer

JULY 24, 2019

SOFIA (Reuters) - Prosecutors have charged two workers at a cyber security company with terrorism as part of an investigation into Bulgaria’s biggest-ever data breach, a lawyer for the defendants said on Wednesday.

Georgi Yankov, a manager at the company Tad Group, has been charged and released from custody, Georgi Stefanov said.

Earlier charges of crime against information systems against Kristian Boykov, a 20-year-old cyber security worker at the same company, have been changed to terrorism, he added.

Both deny wrongdoing, Stefanov said.

Prosecutors were not immediately available for comment.

“We are very surprised with these charges,” Stefanov told Reuters. “How do you charge someone with terrorism but let them go?” he added.

On Tuesday, police raided the offices of Tad Group, seizing computers and detaining a manager over last month’s cyber attack on the tax agency, in which nearly every Bulgarian adult’s personal data and financial records were compromised.

Boykov was conditionally released from custody last Wednesday, but banned from leaving the country.

Prosecutors have said they believe Boykov did not act alone and were looking for others in connection with the attack.

Prosecutors believe Boykov was behind an email sent from someone purporting to be a Russian hacker who was offering stolen tax agency files to local media. They do not currently believe the attack came from abroad.

Prosecutors said decrypted data from one of Boykov’s computers led them to conclude for the time being that he had the stolen data before it was published online.

The tax agency is facing a fine of up to 20 million euros($22.5 million) over the breach, which officials have said compromised about 3% of the agency’s database.

According to financial newspaper Capital, the leaked data also included files from the EU’s anti-fraud network EUROFISC, which allows national tax administrations to share information on fraudulent activities and combat organized VAT fraud.

On Wednesday, the tax agency said it would contact 189 Bulgarians whose full names, personal identification numbers, addresses and ID card details were among the leaked data.

The other more than four million Bulgarians affected by the breach do not need to change their ID cards, the agency said.

Full report at:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-bulgaria-cybersecurity/two-charged-with-terrorism-over-bulgarias-biggest-data-breach-lawyer-idUSKCN1UJ139

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After ISIS: how Kosovo is rehabilitating women and children repatriated from Syria

Sara Manisera

July 25, 2019

Visar never expected to see his grandchildren again after his daughter took them with her when she followed her husband to Syria to join ISIS in 2014.

Now, five years later, Visar – not his real name – stands watching his five grandchildren playing in the inner courtyard of his simple home surrounded by rolling hills and cornfields in a remote village 20 kilometres north of the Kosovan capital Pristina. “The youngest was six-months-old when they went to Syria and the last [grandchild] was not born yet”, he says, lighting one cigarette after another.

If he had known of his daughter’s plan to follow her husband, “I would have done everything to stop them,” he says. “My daughter was threatened by her husband and she was forced to follow him. They made a mistake.

“Was it better to leave them in Syria or try to correct their path? If my daughter was wrong, she will pay for her mistakes, but my grandchildren are innocent creatures” he says.

Visar’s daughter, Edina (also not her name), was married to Arbenin Demolli. He was one of the 316 Kosovars who joined ISIS but was killed in a US airstrike in Aleppo in a few months after their arrival.

After he was killed, his wife and children remained in Syria, moving across ISIS territories first to Hasaka in the northeast and then to Raqqa.

According to Visar, she was forced to marry a second husband, a Kosovar man who is the father of her youngest child. The couple lived in Raqqa until it was liberated in 2017, when they were arrested by US-backed Kurdish forces.

The husband went to jail while Edina and her five children were sent to Ain Issa camp and then moved to Al Hol camp alongside thousands of other former ISIS families.

After he was killed, his wife and children remained in Syria until the Kosovo government repatriated 110 people – mostly wives and children of ISIS fighters –in April this year. Edina and her children were among the group.

“I’m very happy to be at home”, Edina says in Arabic standing by the front door of her father’s house. “I’m lucky”. Edina can’t say much else as she isn’t supposed to talk to journalists. She is under house arrest and will face a criminal trial, but her shy smile reveals her relief at being home.

Many other families of ISIS fighters have not been so lucky to get home. Most are still in camps like Al Hol in north-eastern Syria.

They now live in overcrowded and squalid conditions. “In Al Hol camp alone there are 75,000 people and approximately 12,000 are foreign women and children in a state of semi-detention, exposed to violence. It’s a ticking-time-bomb”, says Domenico Chirico, Syria Programme Director for the Italian NGO Un Ponte Per.

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has urged the international community to repatriate families of ISIS fighters.

Most European governments – including France, Britain, Germany, and Belgium – have repatriated only small numbers of women and children, leaving most stuck in an unstable situation.

Kosovo, however – whose claim of independence from Serbia is recognised by around half the members of the UN and is considered the youngest state in Europe – has launched a unique rehabilitation project for repatriated ISIS families involving psychiatrists, family psychotherapists, imams and female preachers called “Mualime”.

“I’m a kind of bridge between [the women] and society. I visit them and I help them to understand what is the real value of Islam and to live a normal life again”, explains Sanie Gashi Mehmeti, a Muslim preacher from Lipjan, 20 kilometres south of Pristina. She has more than ten years of experience in women’s prisons. “At the same time, I work with the society to help them accepting those women and children”, she says.

Although Kosovo is 90 per cent Muslim, most of the population is deeply secular.

Kosovar society, therefore, stigmatizes the families of those who went to Syria. For this reason, part of the rehabilitation project includes regular meetings with neighbours and villagers in their communities.

“My colleagues and I work with the local population so that the community can accept and reintegrate these women and their children,” says Ms Mehmeti. “It is not an easy process. If they have committed a crime they must be punished. If they have not, they must be helped and reintegrated.

“But if we leave them in those places or we abandon them, they can become even more dangerous. In life, we may commit a mistake but we must teach them the right direction and prevent children from growing up with wrong ideas about Islam", she says.

“This is a long-term process that changes according to the specific circumstances of individual cases”, says Valbona Tafilaj, the coordinating doctor for mental health under the government's rehabilitation and reintegration programme for women and children in their homes.

“With some [women] it will take years, but since we started the initial psychotherapy sessions [we found] the most visible symptoms for everyone, women and children, are post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), backtracking and depression”, she adds.

The psychiatric programme includes home visits, individual and family sessions, outdoor activities and a process of reintegration into society through school and training courses.

“With this programme, we first deal with the trauma then we try to work on ideology,” says Ms Tafilaj.

“Many of [the families] did not choose to go to Syria but were forced by their husbands. Others have become radicalized. All, however, have lived four or five years under ISIS and under that ideology. Including children", the doctor says.

The repatriation and rehabilitation program, developed over more than two years, has no guaranteed result. But those involved say it’s their best chance for the women and their societies.

“It is the best solution for this situation and is managed by the state”, explains Mensur Hoti, director of the Public Safety Department of Kosovo.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/after-isis-how-kosovo-is-rehabilitating-women-and-children-repatriated-from-syria-1.890533

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Turkish youth orchestra takes stage in Germany

Cuneyt Karadag 

25.07.2019

The Turkish National Youth Philharmonic Orchestra took to the stage for a special festival in Berlin, Germany on Wednesday night.

The orchestra performed Beethoven’s 8th Symphony, Rachmaninoff's 2nd Piano Concerto, Carl Maria Von Weber's Der Freischutz, and Fusun Koksal's Silent Echoes at the Konzerthaus hall.

Famed Turkish conductor Cem Mansur led the orchestra during the performance for the Young Euro Classic festival.

Impressed by its performance, the audience gave the orchestra a standing ovation.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/culture/turkish-youth-orchestra-takes-stage-in-germany/1541098

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Greece offers Turkey 'olive branch': foreign minister

Furkan Naci Top 

26.07.2019

Greece has offered an olive branch to Turkey, Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said Thursday.

“Prime Minister [Kyriakos Mitsotakis] has offered an olive branch to Turkey. It is obviously according to the respect for international law and agreements,” Dendias told local TV channel SKAI.

He was referring to Mitsotakis’ remarks at a General Assembly meeting last week, in which he said: “I call on [Turkish President Recep] Tayyip Erdogan for a mutual approach in which we will take brave steps.”

Recalling that the two countries have deep-rooted ties, Dendias said Athens would meet Ankara in the current “international context”.

He noted that Greece’s stance on the Cyprus issue is obvious and they have put it forward at the European Union (EU) level.

Dendias also said there are no meetings with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu on the agenda “for now”.

Turkish-Greek ties have been at odds especially due to recent developments in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot administration’s unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) also has rights to resources in the area.

Since this spring, Ankara has sent two drilling vessels -- Fatih and most recently Yavuz -- to the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting the rights of Turkey and the TRNC over the resources of the region.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/greece-offers-turkey-olive-branch-foreign-minister/1541774

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Turkey: Russia visa-free travel fruit of warm relations

Büşra Nur Bilgiç 

25.07.2019

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday said that Russia’s move allowing visa-free travel to Turkish citizens was a fruit of their friendly relations.

"The Russian move allowing visa-free travel to Turkish citizens is a result of warm relations and dialogue," Erdogan said addressing a joint news conference with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad.

Under a decree signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish holders of special and service passports paying short-term visits to Russia will no longer need to obtain visas.

Erdogan said that the two leaders discussed cooperation between Turkey and Malaysia as two D-8 members and strategic partners.

He went on to say that solidarity between Turkey, Malaysia and Pakistan is necessary for unity of the Islamic world.

Mahathir echoed the statement saying: “Cooperation between Malaysia and Turkey will help to relieve the Muslim Ummah from being subjugated by others.”

“Statements are easy to make. But to have an effective action is far more important. That is why I proposed that three Muslim countries should work together. At least these three [Turkey, Malaysia and Pakistan]. So that we can speak with a louder voice in terms of many areas; defense, for example.”

He praised Turkey calling it a role model welfare state.

“All Muslim countries should be developed. Someone has to provide it, and we can say that Turkey is a candidate country for this cause,” said Mahathir.

Erdogan, upon a question, talked about the release of Hakan Atilla, a former Turkish banking executive, from a federal U.S. prison last week and said that they will meet after Atilla spends time with his family first.

“His time in prison and all that process upset me and my colleagues [...] There is no barrier between Hakan Atilla and us. He is our son. We will embrace him,” he added.

Atilla’s arrest came after Turkish businessman Riza Sarraf was arrested in 2016 in the U.S. for violating sanctions on Iran. Cooperating with prosecutors, he gave testimony against Atilla which was used to convict the banker.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/turkey-russia-visa-free-travel-fruit-of-warm-relations/1541553

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Mideast

 

Two Israeli parties form alliance against Netanyahu’s Likud ahead of Sept. vote

Jul 25, 2019

Two Israeli parties have formed an alliance to boost bloc against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party in September’s do-over general election.

Left-wing Meretz led by newly-elected leader Nitzan Horowitz, and the newly-formed Democratic Party led by former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak said on Thursday that they had built up an alliance called the Democratic Camp.

Such a union is not likely to pose a serious threat to Netanyahu’s Likud but it could act as a catalyst for further mergers among smaller parties, fractioning both the left-wing and right-wing vote.

Netanyahu won a fifth term in office in the April elections after his right-wing Likud Party won 35 of the Knesset's 120 seats. He had until 21:00 GMT on May 29 to form a cabinet that controlled at least 61 seats in the 120-member parliament.

But despite weeks of negotiations, he failed to bridge the gap between secular and religious allies.

Late in May, Israeli legislators voted by 74 to 45 to dissolve the Knesset, setting the regime on the path to a snap election due to take place in September 17.

Meretz barely passed the threshold in April snap elections. The Democratic Party, for its part, would not make it into the Knesset through the September’s vote, opinion surveys show.

“The initiators of the union believe that forming the Democratic Camp is the first and crucial step in the mission of bringing Israel back on track,” said a statement from the alliance on Thursday.

The union was facilitated by Stav Shaffir of Labor, who will win the second place on the list. Labor head Amir Peretz, who will receive the first place, rejected the notion of joining forces with Meretz.

The alliance will be led by Horowitz, with Barak taking the tenth place on the list.

On July 18, Gesher Party chair Orly Levy-Abekasis and Peretz also announced their joint run in the September election.

Netanyahu, whose fifth term in office has been jinxed, vowed at the time that his conservative party would win the new vote.

His coalition talks reached a stalemate over disagreements between ultra-Orthodox parties and Yisrael Beiteinu, a secular right-wing party led by former minister of military affairs Avigdor Lieberman, on a military conscription bill.

Following the Knesset decision in late May, Lieberman wrote on his Facebook page that Likud held responsibility for the repeat election because of its refusal to vote on a bill to draft the ultra-Orthodox.

Netanyahu, however, said Lieberman misled his voters and was dragging the entire Israel into a new election "after he was the cause of the previous one too, just because he wants a few more votes, which he won’t get. It’s just unbelievable."

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/07/25/601825/Israel-Likud-Horowitz-Meretz-Ehud-Barak-Netanyahu-Likud-election

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Israel orders 4 Palestinians to stay out of al-Aqsa for jeering at Saudi blogger

Jul 25, 2019

Israeli police have ordered four Palestinians to stay out of the al-Aqsa Mosque compound over the alleged harassment of a pro-Tel Aviv Saudi blogger at the holy site.

Nasser Qous, the head of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society’s (PPS) office in Jerusalem al-Quds, said on Thursday that the Israeli police had summoned the four Palestinians, along with two journalists and three al-Aqsa guards, after Saudi blogger Mohammed Saud was cursed and jeered at during his visit to the compound.

Qous said that Malik al-Nabulsi, 14, had been handed a deportation order from al-Aqsa Mosque for 15 days.

The other three Palestinians, he added, had also been ordered to stay out of the holy site for different periods, with the possibility of being extended.

Saud is one of six Arab journalists and bloggers who travelled to the occupied Palestinian territories at the invitation of the Israeli foreign minister.

On Monday, he was filmed being chased out of the Old City of Jerusalem al-Quds as angry Palestinians spitted on him while others threw plastic chairs at him, accusing him of being a traitor and a Zionist.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/07/25/601812/Israel-Palestine-Aqsa-Mosque-Saudi-blogger

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US blocks UN rebuke of Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes

July 25, 2019

UNITED NATIONS: The United States on Wednesday blocked an attempt by Kuwait, Indonesia and South Africa to get the United Nations Security Council to condemn Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes on the outskirts of Jerusalem, diplomats said.

Israel said the 10 apartment buildings demolished on Monday, most of them still under construction, had been built illegally and posed a security risk to Israeli armed forces operating along a barrier that runs through the occupied West Bank.

UN officials, who had called on Israel to halt the demolition plans, said 17 Palestinians faced displacement.

Kuwait, Indonesia and South Africa circulated a five-paragraph draft statement, seen by Reuters, to the 15-member Security Council on Tuesday that expressed grave concern and warned that the demolition “undermines the viability of the two-state solution and the prospect for just and lasting peace.”

Such statements have to be agreed by consensus and on Wednesday the United States told its council counterparts it could not support the text, diplomats said. A revised three paragraph draft statement was circulated, but the United States again said it did not agree with the text, diplomats said.

The United States has long accused the United Nations of anti-Israel bias and shielded its ally from council action.

The demolition of the Palestinian buildings is part of the latest round of protracted wrangling over the future of Jerusalem, home to more than 500,000 Israelis and 300,000 Palestinians.

The Palestinians want a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with east Jerusalem as the capital, all territory captured by Israel in 1967.

US President Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt and senior Trump adviser Jared Kushner have spent two years developing a peace plan they hope will provide a framework for renewed talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Greenblatt told the Security Council on Tuesday a peace plan cannot rely on global consensus, inconclusive international law and “unclear” UN resolutions, sparking pushback from several countries. He said a decision on the release of the political component of the US plan would be made “soon.”

The buildings demolished on Monday were near what Israel describes as a security barrier. The initial draft Security Council statement described the construction of the wall by Israel as contrary to international law.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1530861/middle-east

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Iran's president hints at tanker exchange

By Hamdi Alkhshal

July 24, 2019

(CNN)Iranian President Hassan Rouhani appeared to signal Wednesday that his country might be willing to release a British-flagged oil tanker it seized—in return for the UK's release of a detained Iranian tanker.

In a speech during a weekly cabinet session, Rouhani said Iran did not want to have continued "tensions with some European countries."

"And if they are committed to international frameworks and abandon some actions, including what they did in Gibraltar, they will receive a proper response from Iran," he said during the session, according to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency.

The UK and Gibraltar seized the Iran-flagged tanker Grace 1 in early July. UK authorities alleged the tanker was attempting to transport oil to Syria, a violation of EU sanctions.

Iran, in turn, seized the British-flagged Stena Impero last week, alleging that the ship had violated "international regulations."

Rouhani praised Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, saying the seizure ensured security in the Gulf. "The IRGC courageously seized the British ship because it had refused all the orders and warnings. They did a very accurate, professional and right job. and I believe that the whole world must be grateful to the Islamic Revolution Guards for ensuring the security of the Persian Gulf," he said.

Full report at:

https://edition.cnn.com/2019/07/24/middleeast/rouhani-tanker-swap-uk-gibraltar-intl/index.html

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Top Khamenei aide says no talks with U.S. under any circumstances

JULY 24, 2019

GENEVA/DUBAI (Reuters) - The top military adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday that Tehran would not negotiate with the United States under any circumstances, an apparent hardening of its position as the Gulf tanker crisis escalates.

The Swedish operator of a British-flagged oil tanker seized by Iran in the Gulf last week said it had been able to speak to crew members and all 23 of them were safe.

“We had direct contact with the crew on board the vessel last night by telephone and they’re all okay and in good health and they’re getting good cooperation with the Iranians on board,” Stena Bulk spokesman Pat Adamson said.

The company said it had no evidence that the ship had been involved in a collision, one of the reasons Iran has cited for sending commandos to capture it last Friday.

The tough remarks by Khamenei’s aide, Hossein Dehghan, a senior commander of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards whose views are seen as reflecting those of Khamenei, appeared to take a firm line in response to Western proposals to beef up security in the Strait of Hormuz in the wake of the seizure of the ship.

Dehghan said Iran would take action if the status of the strait were altered, and that no country would be allowed to ship oil through it unless all countries can.

His remarks were reported by Al Jazeera television which did not supply direct quotes of an interview with him. He singled out the United Arab Emirates for criticism, saying it had become a base for attacks on Iran, and repeated earlier Iranian threats to attack all U.S. targets in the region in the event of war.

VOLATILE TIME

Dehghan’s remarks appear to shift the Iranian position on talks with the United States. In the past Tehran has said talks are possible although Washington must lift all sanctions first and return to the nuclear deal it abandoned last year.

The Trump administration says the purpose of its sanctions is to force Iran to the negotiating table, and it is open to talks, but Iran must make the first move.

Earlier on Wednesday, Iran’s pragmatist president, Hassan Rouhani, who has drawn fire from hardline clerical leaders for reaching the nuclear pact with world powers in 2015, said Iran was ready for “just negotiations” but not if they mean surrender.

Britain has called for a European-led naval mission to ensure safe shipping through the world’s most important oil artery after Iran seized the Stena Impero last week. The United States is trying to rally support for a global coalition to secure Gulf waters, although allies have been reluctant to join a U.S.-led mission for fear of escalating confrontation.

France, Italy and Denmark gave initial support to the British plan. A German Foreign Ministry spokesman said Berlin was talking to Britain and France about the idea.

Full report at:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-iran/top-khamenei-aide-says-no-talks-with-u-s-under-any-circumstances-idUSKCN1UJ29Z

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Yemeni Houthi rebels claim fresh drone attack at Saudi air base

2019-07-25

SANAA, July 25 (Xinhua) -- Yemen's Houthi rebels said they launched a drone attack at a Saudi air base early on Thursday, Houthi-run al-Masirah TV reported.

The attack targeted King Khaled Air Base in the border city of Khamis Mushait in southwestern Saudi Arabia, said the television.

However, Turki Al Maliki, spokesman of the Saudi-led coalition involved in the Yemeni war, denied the reports that King Khaled Air Base was targeted by the Houthis' bomb-laden drone.

The drone was intercepted and destroyed without causing casualties, he was quoted by the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television as saying.

Houthi rebels have recently stepped up drone attacks on Saudi Arabia, but most of the drones were intercepted by the kingdom's air forces.

Full report at:

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-07/25/c_138257203.htm

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Palestinian president Abbas calls for end to agreements with Israel

26 July 2019

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday he has decided to stop implementing agreements with Israel amid worsening relations between the two sides.

Abbas issued a statement following a meeting of PLO leaders in Ramallah on Thursday. The president said he would form a committee to advance ending all signed agreements with Israel, but it wasn’t clear such a move had a timeline.

“We announce the leadership’s decision to stop implementing the agreements signed with the Israeli side,” he said in a speech in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The president’s remarks came three days after Israel leveled several buildings it says were built too close to its West Bank separation barrier after a years-long legal battle.

Abbas restated his opposition to President Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century” between Israel and the Palestinians, and said that “Palestine and Jerusalem are not for sale or bargain.”

Abbas had previously not spoken so clearly and definitively of a break in cooperation, although Palestinian officials have in the past made threats to stop implementing all accords with Israel.

He said the Palestinians would immediately form a committee to study how to carry out the decision.

The two governments work together on matters ranging from water to security, and withdrawing from agreements could impact security in the occupied West Bank.

Abbas, 84, has made similar threats before and not implemented them.

But relations between Abbas’s government, based in the West Bank, and its Israeli counterpart have worsened in recent months.

In February, the Jewish state decided to deduct around $10 million a month from tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinians, corresponding to the amount it said the Palestinian Authority pays to families of prisoners or directly to inmates in Israeli jails.

Israel sees such payments as encouraging attacks while Palestinians see them as support for families who have often lost their main breadwinner.

The Palestinians have in response refused to take any of the roughly $180 million in monthly tax revenues until the full amount is transferred, leaving Abbas’s PA in financial crisis.

Israel on Monday demolished 12 Palestinian apartment buildings, many of which were still under construction, in the Sur Baher area which straddles the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Israel said they were built too close to its separation barrier that cuts off the West Bank, but the demolitions were condemned by Palestinian leaders, as well as the European Union and UN officials.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/07/26/Palestinian-leader-calls-for-end-to-agreements-with-Israel.html

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Turkey mulls possible operation east of Euphrates in Syria

25 July 2019

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar met with military officials to discuss a possible operation in northern Syria, the ministry said on Thursday, a day after Ankara warned it would act if a planned safe zone could not be agreed with the United States.

Turkey said on Wednesday it had “run out of patience” with the United States in talks over the formation of the zone, after Turkish and US officials held a series of meetings on the planned safe zone and other developments in the region.

“We conveyed our views and requests to the delegation that came here. We expect them to evaluate these and answer us immediately,” the ministry quoted Akar as saying in a statement.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/07/25/Turkey-mulls-possible-operation-east-of-Euphrates-in-Syria.html

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Arab Coalition thwart new Houthi militia drone attack

25 July 2019

Saudi air defenses intercepted a Houthi militia drone targeting a southwestern city on Thursday, the Arab Coalition said, as cross-border attacks by the militia showed no let-up.

“The drone targeting civilians in the city of Khamis Mushait has been intercepted and destroyed,” coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki told the official Saudi Press Agency.

Maliki denied claims made by the Houthi on their Al-Masirah television that drones targeting the King Khaled airbase in Khamis Mushait had “achieved their goals precisely.”

“These are lies,” he said, calling the attack “another act by the militias that is akin to a war crime.”

The Houthis have stepped up missile and drone attacks across the border in recent weeks.

Nine civilians were wounded in a July 2 Houthi attack on Abha airport in the south of the kingdom, the coalition said.

A June 12 missile attack on the same airport wounded 26 civilians, drawing warnings of “stern action” from the coalition.

And on June 23, an attack on Abha airport killed a Syrian and wounded 21 other civilians, the coalition said.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/07/25/Arab-Coalition-thwart-new-Houthi-militia-drone-attack-.html

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Yemeni forces launch drone attack on warplane hangars in Saudi air base

Jul 25, 2019

The spokesman for Yemeni Armed Forces says army troopers and allied fighters from Popular Committees have launched a string of airstrikes against military aircraft hangars in Saudi Arabia's southwestern region of Asir, using a squadron of domestically-manufactured Qasef-2K (Striker-2K) combat drones.

Brigadier General Yahya Saree said the unmanned aerial vehicles struck with great precision the designated targets in King Khalid Air Base, which lies 884 kilometers south of the capital Riyadh, early on Thursday.

Saree added that arms depots, loading facilities and other strategic structures were destroyed during the operation as well.

The senior Yemeni official then warned Saudi Arabia against more painful days to come, stressing retaliatory attacks will continue as long as the Riyadh regime continues its military aggression, siege and relentless raids against the war-torn Arab country.

Later in the day, Yemeni soldiers and allied fighters from Popular Committees launched a drone strike against Abha International Airport in Saudi Arabia’s Asir region.

Saree said Qasef-2K unmanned aerial vehicles pounded aircraft hangars and several targets at the airport, leading to the disruption of air traffic.

On July 23, Yemeni soldiers and their allies launched drone attacks against the same Saudi air base, hitting radars and other sensitive military positions there.

Arabic-language al-Masirah television network reported that Yemeni army soldiers and allied fighters from Popular Committees had used Qasef-K2 combat drones to accurately hit radar and military sites at King Khalid Air Base.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the government of former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power and crushing the Houthi Ansarullah movement.

The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the Saudi-led war has claimed the lives of over 60,000 Yemenis since January 2016.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/07/25/601824/Yemeni-forces-launch-drone-attack-on-warplane-hangars-in-Saudi-air-base

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Palestinian president says to stop agreements with Israel

July 25, 2019

RAMALLAH, Palestine: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is calling Israel's demolition of several dozen Palestinian homes on the outskirts of east Jerusalem "ethnic cleansing" and says he will take steps to terminate all agreements with Israel.

Abbas issued a statement following a meeting of PLO leaders in Ramallah on Thursday. The president said he would form a committee to advance ending all signed agreements with Israel, but it wasn't clear such a move had a timeline.

The president's remarks came three days after Israel leveled several buildings it says were built too close to its West Bank separation barrier after a years-long legal battle.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1530846/middle-east

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Africa

 

Suicide Bomber Kills Officials in Mayor’s Office in Somalia’s Capital

By Hussein Mohamed and Anemona Hartocollis

July 24, 2019

MOGADISHU, Somalia — A suicide bomber walked into the mayor’s office in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, during a high-level security meeting on Wednesday and detonated explosives, seriously injuring the mayor and killing at least six people, according to local authorities.

The mayor, Abdirahman Omar Osman, was in critical condition with head and stomach injuries, officials said.

James Swan, an American diplomat who is the United Nations’ special representative for Somalia, had visited the mayor’s office earlier Wednesday but left before the attack, the authorities said.

The Shabab, an Islamist extremist group with links to Al Qaeda, claimed responsibility and said that Mr. Swan was the intended target, according to Radio Andalus, the group’s radio station. The Shabab, which seeks to overthrow Somalia’s Western-backed government, often target government offices and other high-profile places in Somalia’s capital.

It was not clear how the attacker was permitted to enter the room and detonate explosives. People familiar with the mayor’s office, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the situation, said that it was closely guarded and that the bomber must have been familiar with the guards in order to enter.

At least six people, including two district commissioners, were killed in the attack, and five people besides the mayor were injured, said Mohamed Abdi Hayir Maareeye, Somalia’s minister of information, at a news conference.

The attack came just 11 days after 26 people were killed in a suicide car bombing and gun attack on a hotel in the southern Somali port city of Kismayo. That attack killed a former politician and a prominent Somali-Canadian television journalist, Hodan Nalayeh, who had returned to the country of her birth to tell positive stories and was mourned as a hero.

The Shabab claimed responsibility for the hotel attack, which also killed three Kenyans, three Tanzanians and a Briton. The group, which has killed thousands across East Africa, has accused Somalia’s president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, of being an apostate and an American “puppet.”

The Somalia-based group was driven from Mogadishu years ago but still operates in some regions and is a frequent target of American airstrikes.

Mr. Swan, the United Nations envoy, condemned the attack in a statement, saying it not only reflected “a violent disregard for the sanctity of human life, but also targets Somalis working to improve the lives of their fellow Somalis.”

Hussein Mohamed reported from Mogadishu, Somalia, and Anemona Hartocollis from Dakar, Senegal. Simon Taveta contributed reporting from Nairobi, Kenya.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/24/world/africa/suicide-bomber-mayor-somalia.html

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ISIS affiliate releases video of Nigerian aid workers begging for their lives

July 25, 2019

Six Nigerian charity workers kidnapped in Borno state last week have appeared in a video where they begged for their lives.

The workers said their captors were from the local ISIS affiliate, which has executed humanitarian staff before.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said on Thursday that talks were taking place to negotiate the release of the hostages.

In a three-minute video shared online on Thursday, a woman who identified herself as Grace begged her employer and the Nigerian government to help free her and the five men kneeling behind her.

The Christian Nigerian said she worked for Action Against Hunger and she and her colleagues were being held by militants who called themselves "the Calipha".

The video was released through the same channels as previous footage from the ISIS-linked IS West Africa Province.

“I beg Action Against Hunger, we have families and some of us have children,” Grace said. “Please do something to release us.”

An Action Against Hunger spokesman declined to say what the organisation's policy was on ransom payments.

Grace also implored her government for help.

“We are Nigerians and we are also working for Nigerians," she said. "I’m begging the Nigerian government to please do something to see we are released.”

The six were kidnapped on Thursday last week when a convoy was attacked on the road to Damasak, a northern town on the Niger border in Borno State.

Gunmen fired on the convoy, killing a driver and taking the six hostages.

The aid workers were seen with their captors on the day of their abduction passing through the villages of Chamba and Gatafo, south-west of Damasak, villagers told AFP.

They are now believed to be held in a militant enclave on the shores of Lake Chad.

The charity identified the captives as “one staff member, two drivers and three health workers”, although in the video Grace said they were all staff.

"Action Against Hunger strongly requests that our staff member and her companions be released," the group said.

"They are humanitarians and health workers and they chose to dedicate their lives to support the most vulnerable communities in Nigeria."

The militants, a breakaway faction of the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram, swore allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi in 2016.

Since 2009, Boko Haram has carried out an insurgency across north-eastern Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

More than 27,000 people have been killed and two million displaced by the conflict, which has prompted a US military response.

The kidnapping raises concerns about the safety of humanitarian workers in an area where 7.1 million people need aid because of the insurgency.

“These acts of violence affect the very individuals, families, and communities that we support, and deprive vulnerable people of vital services,” said Edward Kallon, the UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator.

The ISIS affiliate has repeatedly attacked military bases in north-east Nigeria.

Last October, the militants killed midwife Hauwa Liman, 24, after her employer, the International Committee of the Red Cross, refused to pay a ransom.

A month earlier, Boko Haram murdered another Red Cross midwife, Saifura Khorsa.

“Some ladies from the Red Cross were caught," Grace said, her voice breaking. "They asked to be released but because Nigeria didn’t do anything about it, they were killed.”

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/africa/isis-affiliate-releases-video-of-nigerian-aid-workers-begging-for-their-lives-1.890581

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Libyan security arrests al-Qaeda leaders in Tripoli

2019-07-25

TRIPOLI, July 24 (Xinhua) -- Interior Ministry of Libya's UN-backed government on Wednesday announced arresting a number of leaders of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb on the outskirts of the capital Tripoli.

"Within the framework the fight against terrorism and pursuit of those wanted locally and internationally, a raid was carried out and arrested internationally wanted terrorists classified as leaders of al-Qaeda, against whom arrest warrants were issued by the Office of Investigations of the Attorney-General," the ministry said in a statement.

"The operation has been carried out on the outskirts of Tripoli after those wanted had recently infiltrated into Tripoli, taking advantage of the deterioration security situation as a result of the war of the capital," the statement said.

Weapons, hand grenades, ammunition, and documents were seized with the arrested terrorists, the statement added.

Full report at:

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-07/25/c_138255075.htm

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Suicide Attack Kills 6 People, Injures Mogadishu Mayor

By Mohamed Olad Hassan

July 24, 2019

A suspected al-Shabab suicide bomber killed at least six people Wednesday and injured six others, including the mayor of the Somali capital Mogadishu, witnesses and security officials said.

The attack took place at local government headquarters in Mogadishu, where Mayor, Abdirahman Omar Osman — who is also the governor of Banadir — was meeting with his deputies and the city's district chairpersons about security challenges, Deputy Mayor Mohamed Tulah told state-run Radio Mogadishu.

Al-Shabab is claiming responsibility for the attack, and the terrorist group says it was targeting the U.N. Special Envoy to Somalia James Swan, an American national who had met with the mayor prior to the attack.

Swan strongly condemned the attack, saying, "I deplore this heinous attack which not only demonstrates a violent disregard for the sanctity of human life, but also targets Somalis working to improve the lives of their fellow Somalis in the Mogadishu-Banadir region. The United Nations stands with the people and government of Somalia in their rejection of such terrorist acts, and our thoughts are with the victims of this attack."

Tulah said, "We ask people in the city to show calm, and we reaffirm that such terrorist attacks would not deter us from performing our national duty."

At a press conference shortly after the bombing, Somali information minister Mohamed Abdi Hayir Mareere said two district commissioners and three regional directors were among the dead.

He said the governor and five others, including government officials, sustained injuries.

"We heard a huge blast, and then a black plume of smoke rose from the meeting hall of the headcounters' compound," a security guard at the compound told VOA.

Full report at:

https://www.voanews.com/africa/suicide-attack-kills-6-people-injures-mogadishu-mayor

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Delegation of Islamic anti-terror coalition visits Mali

July 24, 2019

RIYADH – A delegation of Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) has visited the Republic of Mali to assess the mechanism for the implementation of support for G5 Sahel Joint Force, submitted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday.

Head of the delegation and Representative of Saudi Arabia to the Coalition Maj. Gen. Muhammad Bin Abdulkhaleq Al-Ghamdi visited the office of Commander of the Force Lt. Gen. Hassan Ould Sidi, where they discussed the importance of the support.

Full report at:

http://www.saudigazette.com.sa/article/572916

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116 migrants missing off Libyan coast, says navy

25 July 2019

At least 116 migrants are missing and another 132 were rescued by Libyan coast guards and local fishermen after a wooden boat capsized off Libya, Libyan navy spokesman Ayoub Qassem said on Thursday.

Citing initial findings, he said there had been more than 200 migrants on board the boat, which capsized off the coast near Komas, a town east of the capital Tripoli. He said one body had been recovered so far.

Earlier, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said that up to 150 people were feared dead while another 150 were rescued. If confirmed, that death toll would be the highest for a shipwreck in the Mediterranean this year.

Libya is a hub for migrants, many of whom try to reach Europe in unseaworthy boats.

The ship left Libya from Komas, 120 km (75 miles) east of Tripoli.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2019/07/25/116-migrants-missing-off-Libyan-coast-says-navy.html

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Tunisia’s president dies after being in intensive care

25 July 2019

Tunisia’s 92-year-old president, Beji Caid Essebsi, a major player in the North African country’s transition to democracy after a 2011 revolution, has died, the presidency said on Thursday.

Essebsi was taken to a military hospital on Wednesday.

A leading figure in the country’s fortunes since 2011, Essebsi was hospitalized late last month and spent a week in hospital after suffering what authorities described as a severe health crisis.

“On Thursday morning, the President of the Republic died at the military hospital in Tunis… The burial ceremony will be announced later,” the presidency said in statement.

According to the constitution, the speaker of parliament will temporarily serve as president.

Essebsi has been a prominent figure in Tunisia since the overthrow of veteran autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, which was followed by uprisings against authoritarian leaders across the Middle East, including in nearby Libya and Egypt.

Parliamentary elections are expected to be held on Oct. 6 with a presidential vote following on Nov. 17. They will be the third set of polls in which Tunisians have been able to vote freely following the 2011 revolution.

Youssef Chahed, the Head of Government of Tunisia, said on Thursday that a 7-day period of mourning will be held in the country.

King Salman, crown prince send condolences to Tunisia’s interim president

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have sent their condolences to Tunisia’s interim president Mohamed Ennaceur on the death of the late president Beji Caid Essebsi.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2019/07/25/Tunisia-president-back-in-intensive-care.html

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ISIS says it kidnapped six aid workers in northeast Nigeria

25 July 2019

The ISIS group’s West Africa branch said on Thursday it was responsible for the kidnapping of six aid workers in northeast Nigeria, according to a tweet published by the SITE monitoring group.

Separately, the Nigerian presidency said the government was negotiating for the release of the kidnapped aid workers.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/07/25/ISIS-says-it-kidnapped-six-aid-workers-in-northeast-Nigeria.html

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Libya says 38 migrants taken to bombed detention center

25 July 2019

Libya’s coast guard said on Wednesday it intercepted around three dozen Europe-bound migrants off its Mediterranean coast and took them to a detention center that was bombed earlier this month.

Spokesman Ayoub Gassim said a rubber boat carrying 38 migrants, mostly Egyptians, was stopped on Tuesday off the coast some 65 kilometers east of the capital, Tripoli. He said the migrants were transferred to the Tajoura detention center.

The United Nations expressed deep concern Wednesday that the new migrants were taken to Tajoura, where the UN refugee agency says over 200 refugees and migrants are thought to be detained. It is near the front lines of the latest fighting near Tripoli between rival Libyan factions.

UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said the Tajoura detention center had been fully evacuated as of July 10, following a July 2 airstrike that killed at least 53 refugees and migrants and injured at least 130 others.

“The humanitarian community calls on the Libyan authorities to fulfil their pledge to close the Tajoura detention center immediately,” he said.

“At least 2,500 refugees and migrants are estimated to remain in detention centers exposed to or at risk of armed conflict in and around Tripoli, out of at least 5,600 refugees and migrants held in detention centers in Libya,” Haq added.

The self-styled Libyan National Army led by Khalifa Hifter launched an offensive from eastern Libya on April 4 seeking to take Tripoli. Hifter’s forces are battling militias loosely allied with a weak, UN-recognized government in the capital.

The UN said earlier this month that the battle for Tripoli has killed more than 1,000 people.

Civil war in Libya in 2011 toppled and later killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi, and the chaos that followed resulted in a divided country, with the UN-aligned administration in Tripoli overseeing the country’s west and a rival government in the east aligned with Hifter.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/07/25/Libya-says-38-migrants-taken-to-bombed-detention-center.html

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Up to 150 refugees feared drowned in shipwreck off Libya

Jul 25, 2019

A spokesman for the UN refugee agency says up to 150 refugees trying to reach Europe from Libya are believed to have died after their boat capsized in the Mediterranean Sea.

Charlie Yaxley, a spokesman for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said on Thursday that a further 150 survivors were picked up by local fishermen and then returned to the coast by Libyan coastguard.

It is not clear if the refugees were on one or two boats that left the Libyan town of al-Khoms, some 120km (74.5 miles) east of Tripoli.

If confirmed, the number of dead would be the highest for a shipwreck in the Mediterranean this year.

Thousands of refugees attempt to cross the Mediterranean to Europe every year, and Libya is a key departure point. The majority of refugees from Africa take the sea route from Libya to Italy to reach Europe, while some others depart from Morocco to Spain. Most refugees are packed into flimsy inflatable boats that often break down or sink. UNHCR figures show about 164 people died on the route between Libya and Europe in the first four months of 2019.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said in May that 443 people had reportedly died on dangerous Mediterranean crossings so far this year, compared to 620 deaths for the same period in 2018.

Europe has faced its worst refugee crisis since World War II. The continent has been hit since 2014 by an unprecedented influx of refugees fleeing conflict-ridden zones in North Africa and the Middle East, in particular Syria.

But since mid-2017, the number of migrant journeys has declined dramatically. The decline is largely because Italy has engaged Libyan forces to stop refugees from setting off or return them to Libya if found at sea - a policy condemned by human rights groups and international organizations.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/07/25/601863/Libya-UNHCR-Charlie-Yaxley-Europe-Mediterranean

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‘Followers of Nigerian cleric Zakzaky die in custody due to lack of care’

Jul 25, 2019

Supporters of senior Nigerian cleric Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky say they have obtained information that four of his followers have died in government custody because of a lack of medical treatment of their gunshot wounds, raising further concerns about a government crackdown on the sheikh’s Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN).

IMN members regularly take to the streets of the Nigerian capital of Abuja to call for the release of Sheikh Zakzaky, their leader, who has been in detention since 2015.

On Monday, Nigerian forces reportedly used live ammunition and teargas to curb one such protest.

Abdullahi Junaidu, an IMN member, ‏said in a tweet on Wednesday that the group had received reports about the death of four detained followers of Sheikh Zakzaky.

The cleric has been in detention since December 2015 after his residence in the city of Zaria was raided by Nigerian forces, during which he was beaten and lost his left eye. Three of his sons also lost their lives in the brutal crackdown, while his wife sustained serious wounds and more than 300 of his followers were killed.

In 2016, Nigeria’s federal high court ordered Zakzaky’s unconditional release from jail following a trial, but the government has so far refused to set him free.

Earlier this month, Zakzaky’s son, Mohammad, said after visiting him that he was shocked by his father’s worsening medical condition. Mohammad said large and dangerous quantities of lead and cadmium had been found in Zakzaky’s blood and the cleric needed to be immediately hospitalized.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/07/25/601811/Nigeria-Sheikh-Zakzaky-die-in-custody-lack-of-medical-care-medical-negligence

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152 Somalians graduate from Turkish military camp

Büşra Nur Bilgiç  

25.07.2019

Some 152 soldiers graduated from Turkey’s largest overseas military training camp in Somalia, Turkish Defense Ministry announced Thursday.

The graduates included 81 Somalian lieutenants and 71 sergeants, according to a statement by the ministry.

“I believe that the brotherly people of Somalia who are dealing with drought, hunger, civil war and terror will march to the future more confidently thanks to the qualified graduates of this campus, who will contribute to the security of their country," said Hulusi Akar, Turkish defense minister, in his message to graduates, as quoted by the statement.

“Our brothers who have graduated today will take the deep historical bonds of brotherhood among us even further,” he added.

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo attended the ceremony along with Turkish and Somali military and civilian personnel.

Turkey opened its largest overseas military training camp in Mogadishu in September 2017.

The facility is spread over 4 square kilometers (1.54 square miles) and has the capacity to train more than 1,500 troops at a time.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/152-somalians-graduate-from-turkish-military-camp/1541637

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ISIS affiliate releases video of Nigerian aid workers begging for their lives

July 25, 2019

Six Nigerian charity workers kidnapped in Borno state last week have appeared in a video where they begged for their lives.

The workers said their captors were from the local ISIS affiliate, which has executed humanitarian staff before.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said on Thursday that talks were taking place to negotiate the release of the hostages.

In a three-minute video shared online on Thursday, a woman who identified herself as Grace begged her employer and the Nigerian government to help free her and the five men kneeling behind her.

The Christian Nigerian said she worked for Action Against Hunger and she and her colleagues were being held by militants who called themselves "the Calipha".

The video was released through the same channels as previous footage from the ISIS-linked IS West Africa Province.

“I beg Action Against Hunger, we have families and some of us have children,” Grace said. “Please do something to release us.”

An Action Against Hunger spokesman declined to say what the organisation's policy was on ransom payments.

Grace also implored her government for help.

“We are Nigerians and we are also working for Nigerians," she said. "I’m begging the Nigerian government to please do something to see we are released.”

The six were kidnapped on Thursday last week when a convoy was attacked on the road to Damasak, a northern town on the Niger border in Borno State.

Gunmen fired on the convoy, killing a driver and taking the six hostages.

The aid workers were seen with their captors on the day of their abduction passing through the villages of Chamba and Gatafo, south-west of Damasak, villagers told AFP.

They are now believed to be held in a militant enclave on the shores of Lake Chad.

The charity identified the captives as “one staff member, two drivers and three health workers”, although in the video Grace said they were all staff.

"Action Against Hunger strongly requests that our staff member and her companions be released," the group said.

"They are humanitarians and health workers and they chose to dedicate their lives to support the most vulnerable communities in Nigeria."

The militants, a breakaway faction of the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram, swore allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi in 2016.

Since 2009, Boko Haram has carried out an insurgency across north-eastern Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

More than 27,000 people have been killed and two million displaced by the conflict, which has prompted a US military response.

The kidnapping raises concerns about the safety of humanitarian workers in an area where 7.1 million people need aid because of the insurgency.

“These acts of violence affect the very individuals, families, and communities that we support, and deprive vulnerable people of vital services,” said Edward Kallon, the UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator.

The ISIS affiliate has repeatedly attacked military bases in north-east Nigeria.

Last October, the militants killed midwife Hauwa Liman, 24, after her employer, the International Committee of the Red Cross, refused to pay a ransom.

A month earlier, Boko Haram murdered another Red Cross midwife, Saifura Khorsa.

“Some ladies from the Red Cross were caught," Grace said, her voice breaking. "They asked to be released but because Nigeria didn’t do anything about it, they were killed.”

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/africa/isis-affiliate-releases-video-of-nigerian-aid-workers-begging-for-their-lives-1.890581

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Arab World

 

Iraqi PM meets European delegation over counter-terrorism, IS foreign captives in Iraq

2019-07-24

BAGHDAD, July 24 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi on Wednesday discussed counter-terrorism efforts and the future of foreign Islamic State (IS) militants held captive in Iraq with a delegation from countries of the European Union (EU).

During the meeting, Abdul Mahdi and the EU representatives "exchanged views over how to deal with large numbers of (foreign) Daesh militants (IS militants) captured in Iraq in order to punish them according to the law," a statement by Abdul Mahdi's media office said.

In recent months, Iraqi courts issued verdicts of death penalties to many foreign citizens involved in IS group.

Thousands of fighters and supporters of various nationalities joined the extremist IS group when it took control of large areas in Iraq and neighboring Syria, but after its defeat in both countries, hundreds of IS loyalists were killed or captured.

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-07/24/c_138254879.htm

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Civilians Attack US-Backed SDF in Deir Ezzur

Jul 25, 2019

The sources said that the residents attacked the SDF positions after one of the civilians was killed under torture at an SDF prison in the town of al-Sabhah.

They added that two other civilians were also earlier killed by the SDF in the town of Sweidan Jazirah in Eastern Deir Ezzur, noting that the Kurdish forces detained and tortured under baseless accusations a large number of civilians in the regions under their occupation.

Sources had noted in June that several civilians were killed and wounded in SDF and US attack, and said that the entire regions under the SDF control in Hasaka and Deir Ezzur provinces were the scenes of popular protests against the presence of occupying forces there.

Meantime, the Arabic-language al-Khabour News Website reported that the SDF in Hasaka province prevented civilians from leaving the regions under their control for safe regions controlled by the Syrian Army.

Full report at:

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980503000559

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US-Backed SDF Commanders at Odds with Riyadh in Eastern Syria

Jul 25, 2019

The Arabic-language al-Akhbar newspaper quoted different sources as saying that the SDF commanders are displeased with the meetings held between Saudi Minister for Persian Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan and Syrian tribal leaders and the head of Deir Ezzur civil council on the tribes' demand for the withdrawal of the Kurds from Deir Ezzur and delivering its control to the locals.

They added that the Kurdish commanders believe that these meetings have decreased the power of Deir Ezzur's civil council and they have asked their forces to cancel the missions ordered by the council.

Al-Akhbar confirmed that al-Sabhan's visit to Deir Ezzur and his meetings with a number of political, military and tribal figures were in line with restoration of special forces affiliated to al-Qad stream under the command of Ahmed al-Jaraba and their merger with Deir Ezzur military council affiliated to the SDF.

It added that one of the goals of the recent moves by Riyadh in Eastern Syria is creation of a military power against Syria and the resistance forces in case of non-collaboration by the US-backed forces.

Meantime, reports said earlier this month that Saudi Arabia had offers hefty cash to Syria's tribal leaders in Eastern Syria to support the US-backed militants in order to threaten Turkey, media reports said.

The Arabic-language al-Watan newspaper quoted special sources in Eastern Syria as saying that al-Sahban in his meeting with Syrian tribal leaders asked for helping Kurdish fighters.

Several US officials were accompanying al-Sahban during his meeting with tribal leaders of Eastern Syria, it added.

They have offered to give a hefty sum of $50 million to them indirectly through local councils and also direct financial aide, the paper further said.

Al-Watan newspaper noted that the efforts by Saudi Arabia are in line with support for the SDF and the presence of al-Sahban in the region is in line with Riyadh's confrontation with Turkey on the issue of Kurds.

The daily noted that Turkey-Saudi Arabia relations are currently very strained.

Al-Watan also quoted special sources as saying that Saudi Arabia threatens Turkey and tries to include itself in the Syrian power balance through the Kurds, specially the SDF.

Full report at:

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980503000326

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Bombardment kills 20 civilians in northwest Syria: monitor

24/07/2019

Bombardment by the Syrian regime and its Russian ally killed 20 civilians including five children Wednesday in the latest violence to hit northwest Syria.

The Syrian regime and Russia have stepped up their deadly raids on the Idlib region since late April, despite an international deal intended to prevent a full-scale offensive on the area of some three million people.

In almost three months, 730 civilians have been killed there in air strikes and ground-to-ground fire by the Damascus government and its allies.

The bombardment has also hit two dozen hospitals in the opposition area, which is made up of most of Idlib province as well as slivers of adjacent governorates.

On Wednesday, Russian air strikes killed 10 people from the same family, including three children, on a farm near the town of Khan Sheikhun in Idlib province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Ten others lost their lives in regime air strikes and artillery fire in other parts of the jihadist-run bastion, the Britain-based monitoring group said.

Among these, regime war planes killed five civilians including two children in the town of Ariha in Idlib province, it said.

A rescue worker in the town lifted the limp body of a toddler out of the rubble and rushed the child to an ambulance, according to footage shared by his White Helmets organisation.

His team members hurriedly worked through the debris and twisted sheets of corrugated iron, finding a young man on his back covered in grey dust -- but still alive.

- 'Nightmare' -

On Monday, air strikes killed at least 50 civilians in various parts of the bastion.

The Observatory said the majority were killed in Russian air raids on a busy market, but Moscow has denied any involvement.

The monitor, which relies on sources inside Syria, says it determines who carries out air strikes according to flight patterns, as well as aircraft and ammunition involved.

Mark Cutts, UN deputy regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria crisis, this week described a worsening "nightmare" unfolding in Idlib.

He said Monday's aerial onslaught was "one of the deadliest attacks on civilian areas that we have seen since the upsurge in fighting".

The Idlib region has since January been administered by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham -- a group led by Syria's former Al-Qaeda affiliate -- but other jihadists and rebels are also present in the area bordering Turkey.

A September accord struck between Moscow and Ankara was supposed to set up a buffer zone around the region, but it was never fully implemented after jihadists refused to withdraw from that planned security cordon.

The recent violence has forced more than 330,000 people from their homes, the United Nations says, many seeking shelter further north in camps or olive groves along the Turkish border.

Full report at:

https://www.france24.com/en/20190724-bombardment-kills-20-civilians-northwest-syria-monitor

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Syria Native Accused In Church Bomb Plot Arraigned On Terrorism Charges

July 24, 2019

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The young man from Syria facing federal terrorism charges for allegedly plotting to bomb a Pittsburgh church was back in court Wednesday for his arraignment.

According to our news partners at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 21-year-old Mustafa Alowemer was arraigned in U.S. District Court on terrorism charges.

He pleaded not guilty and requested a trial by jury.

Attorneys on both sides asked for three weeks for the trial, the Post-Gazette reports.

Alowemer is accused of planning to bomb the Legacy International Worship Center on the North Side.

Investigators say an undercover agent reported that Alowemer told him he was going to set off a backpack full of explosives on the side of the church.

Full report at:

https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2019/07/24/mustafa-alowemer-pittsburgh-church-bomb-plot-arraignment/

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Iraqi rapid response forces arrest four Islamic State militants in Baghdad

by  Mohammed Ebraheem

Jul 24, 2019

Baghdad (IraqiNews.com) – Iraqi rapid response forces announced on Wednesday the capture of four Islamic State terrorists in Baghdad.

The arrests were made in al Tarmiyah district in Baghdad as part of a military operation, which was launched earlier this week to cleanse Iraq’s northern provinces from Islamic State terrorists.

The four IS terrorists were arrested in line with article no. 4 of the anti-terrorism law.

The second phase of the “Will of Victory” operation was launched on Sunday with an aim to attain security and stability in the desert area between Nineveh, Salahuddin and Anbar provinces on the Iraqi-Syrian border, in addition to preventing IS remains from sneaking into that region or even using it as a stronghold for their terrorist acts.

Iraq declared the collapse of Islamic State’s territorial influence in November 2017 with the recapture of Rawa, a city on Anbar’s western borders with Syria, which was the group’s last bastion in Iraq.

Full report at:

https://www.iraqinews.com/features/iraqi-rapid-response-forces-arrest-four-islamic-state-militants-in-baghdad/

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IS militants attack 2 villages in Iraq's Nineveh

2019-07-24

BAGHDAD, July 24 (Xinhua) -- A local tribe leader and an Islamic State (IS) militant were killed Wednesday in separate attacks by the extremist militants on two villages in Iraq's northern province of Nineveh.

One incident took place at dawn, when three IS militants infiltrated into a village near the town of Hammam al-Alil, some 20 km south of the provincial capital Mosul, and shot dead a local tribe leader after they broke into his house, Khalaf al-Jubouri, mayor of the town, told Xinhua.

The attackers also wounded the nephew of the tribe leader, al-Jubouri said, adding that many of armed villagers clashed with the attackers and forced them to withdraw.

Separately, IS militants attacked the Yazidi village in east of the town of Sinjar, some 100 km west of Mosul, prompting the security forces to repel the attack and killed one of them, Ziad Burjus from the local police told Xinhua.

According to Burjus, reinforcement troops from the paramilitary tribal fighters and the provincial police arrived at the scene and launched a search campaign looking for the attackers in the area.

The security situation in Iraq was dramatically improved after Iraqi security forces fully defeated the extremist IS militants across the country late in 2017.

Full report at:

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-07/24/c_138254721.htm

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Turkey Delivers US-Made Drilling Equipment to Tahrir Al-Sham to Strengthen Underground Positions

Jul 25, 2019

The Arabic-language website of Sputnik news agency quoted local sources in Idlib province as saying that recently Tahrir al-Sham has received 8 drilling vehicles through a businessman in Turkey and transferred them to several regions in Khan Sheikhoun in Southern Idlib and Kafr Zita, al-Latamineh and Sahl al-Qab in Northern Hama.

They added that Tahrir al-Sham intends to build underground tunnels like what existed in the Eastern Ghouta of Damascus with the aim of reinvigoration of its positions in Northern Hama and Southern Idlib fronts under the supervision of al-Muhaysini.

The sources also said that a delegation of foreign engineers from different Arab countries as well as construction experts and the terrorists who had earlier been transferred to this region from Eastern Ghouta collaborate in the operations.

Relevant reports said late last month that the Turkish army deployed in areas under its control in Hama and Idlib provinces backs Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay'at in its attacks against the Syrian Army positions and safe zones in Northern Syria, the Arabic-language media outlets reported.

Sputnik news agency quoted a Syrian Army source as saying that the Syrian Army's military positions came under the Turkish Army's artillery attacks while the government forces were thwarting the terrorist groups' attacks on their positions in Northwestern Hama.

Full report at:

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980503000190

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Ankara-Controlled Areas in Syria Becoming Safe Zones for ISIL

Jul 25, 2019

The Kurdish-language Hawar News quoted local sources in Northern Aleppo as saying that the ISIL terrorists are stationed in Ankara-controlled regions in Northern Aleppo under names of terrorist groups backed by Turkey.

The sources released a photo of ISIL flag mounted on the vehicles of a member of Shohada al-Sharqieh which is affiliated to Turkey in the city of Jerablus is Syria, and said that the Ankara-controlled regions in Northern Aleppo have turned into safe zones for the ISIL terrorists.

In a relevant development earlier this month, tens of ISIL terrorists had been transferred from Turkey to Afrin region in Northwestern Aleppo as reports said the Turkish Army and its affiliated militants were preparing to launch a major offensive on the US-backed Kurdish fighters in Eastern Euphrates.

The Hawar News Website quoted local sources in Afrin as saying the ISIL terrorists have become active along Turkey’s borders with al-Shieh region in Afrin.

The sources said that the Turkish Army and its allied militants have sent 30 ISIL terrorists who had been trained by the Turkish Army in Hatay province of Turkey to al-Shieh region.

Hawar noted that thousands of Turkey-backed terrorists have recently been dispatched to Afrin from Idlib province.

Full report at:

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980502000778

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