Photo: Scores of people have been killed in the Iraqi capital in attacks targeting busy areas [EPA]
Deadly Bombing Hits Baghdad Cafe Killing At Least 12 People and Wounding 38
Syrian army captures famed Crusader castle
Bahrain says it wants to mend fences with Iran
Abbas seeks US help for freedom of Barghouti
Riyadh Court sentences 15 for supporting terrorism
First UN aid convoy enters Syria via Turkey
Somalia: Al Shabaab Imposes Sanction on Liberated Town
Libyans beware of Islamists at next election: Ali Zidan
Libya vows to fight scourge of terrorism
Somalia: Somali Prime Minister Calls on Al-Shabaab to Renounce Violence
AMISOM, Somali forces work in tandem in areas liberated from al-Shabaab
We Are Not Sending Troops to Gulf States to Help Fight Assad in Syria: PM
Balochistan leaders urge Islamabad for swift recovery of ANP leader
MQM to join Sindh government in 3-4 days: Wasan
Islamic cultural week healthy breather
Aiwan to promote education: Nizami
Movies Begin to Take Root in Pakistan
PPP-MQM talks: Rehman Malik says ‘good news’ to come soon
2 soldiers, cop killed in Turkey in an “act of terror”
Israel-Syria faceoff in Golan unlikely to escalate
Obama: Iranians 'deserve better' from leaders
Jerusalem holy site visit sparks riots
For Palestinians, Arab Idol offers welcome escape
Turkey PM threatens to ‘wipe out’ Twitter
Minister briefs Muslim Countries regarding religious harmony in Sri Lanka
Kabul hotel attacked by four gunmen, all dead, Taliban claimed responsibility
Hasina bashes her party MP in parliament
Indonesian Muslim cleric may be jailed over sex video
Malaysia deports 93 Indonesian migrants
Pakistan to import electricity from India: report
Washington denies Pakistani leadership knew about Osama's whereabouts
'Alice in Arabia' outrage: The difficult relationship between Islam and U.S. TV
U.S. gym faces lawsuit over Muslim head covering
New London schools recognize Muslim holidays
Birmingham Mosque Rejects Gays Debate
Salafist group calls for boycott of French local elections
Syrians, Russians, Afghans lead asylum list: UN
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
20 Mar 2014
A suicide bomber struck a Baghdad cafe overnight as customers watched a football game on television, killing at least 12 people and wounding 38, Iraqi officials said.
The attack in the western Washash neighbourhood took place late on Wednesday night, two police officers said. The bomber mingled with the cafe crowd before setting off his explosive belt.
In violence on Thursday, a bomb exploded inside a cafe in a town just south of Baghdad, killing four people and wounding 12, police said.
Two medical officials confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to talk to journalists.
Iraq has been struck by a surge in violence unseen since 2007. The series of relentless attacks have become the Shia-led government's most serious challenge ahead of planned parliamentary elections in April.
Violence has spiked since last April, when security forces cracked down on a Sunni protest camp north of Baghdad in clashes that killed 45 people.
Scores of people have been killed in the Iraqi capital in recent attacks targeting busy areas, restaurants and other public places.
On Tuesday, a series of bombings struck both commercial streets and security forces, killing 15 people.
In a statement issued on Thursday, the US Embassy in Baghdad condemned the attacks.
"In recent weeks, hundreds of Iraqis, including women and children, have been killed or injured by terrorists who pursue their goals through the senseless slaughter of the innocent," the statement read.
"The United States stands with the Iraqi people and will continue its robust support of the government of Iraq in its fight against terrorism."
No one has claimed responsibility for the latest attacks, but they bear the hallmarks of an al-Qaeda breakaway group that frequently uses car bombs and suicide attacks to target public areas such as cafes, restaurants, mosques and markets to undermine the government's efforts to maintain security in the country.
According to the United Nations, 8,868 people were killed in Iraq last year - the country's highest death toll since 2007.
20 Mar 2014
Syrian troops have captured a famed Crusader castle near the border with Lebanon, raising the two-starred government flag above the stone ramparts of the 12th century fortress after days of intense clashes with rebel fighters.
Lebanese private broadcaster, Al-Mayadeen TV, aired footage of Syrian soldiers walking unopposed into the Crac des Chevaliers on Thursday.
The loud crackle of celebratory gunfire could be heard as troops explored the sprawling castle, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, according to the Associated Press news agency.
The military's push into the Crac des Chevaliers marked the latest battlefield gain for President Bashar al-Assad's forces.
Government troops have seized at least four towns and villages during the past two weeks near the border with Lebanon, as the army tries to sever opposition supply lines across the mountainous frontier.
The biggest blow to the rebels came with the fall of their stronghold of Yabroud, near Lebanon's eastern border, on Sunday.
But the government capture of the Crac des Chevaliers, which dominates the surrounding valley and terraced hills below, marked another setback for the rebels, for symbolic reasons as much as strategic ones.
Rebels had controlled the castle since 2012.
"Our efforts, those of the Syrian Arab Army and the National Defence Forces, were crowned today by raising the Syrian flag on the Crac des Chevaliers,'' an unnamed Syrian army colonel told Al-Mayadeen.
"The battle had been going on for more than a month during which several nearby villages were liberated,' the colonel said.'
Syrian state television said troops "wiped out terrorists who were entrenched in the castle".
An activist based in Homs said the citadel fell into the hands of government troops earlier on Thursday, a day after rebels and the government agreed that opposition fighters be given safe passage to Lebanon.
The activist, who goes by the name of Beibares Tellawi, told Associated Press news agency that troops captured Hosn, the town at the foot of the castle, after an intense bombardment by the Syrian air force.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said fighting around Hosn killed 12 fighters on Thursday.
The dead included the local leader of the Jund al-Sham Islamic group. Lebanese television stations identified the dead
commander as Abu Suleiman Dandashi, a Lebanese national.
Syria's state news agency said "a number of terrorists were killed'' as they tried to flee Hosn towards Lebanon.
An activist in Homs who goes by the name of Samer al-Homsi said people fleeing Hosn were ambushed near the Lebanon border and many were feared dead.
BAQIR SAJJAD SYED
ISLAMABAD: In an obvious reference to Iran, Bahrain said on Thursday that it expected Pakistan to have a moderating effect on Muslim countries in the region.
“We look forward to Pakistan having influence of moderation and peace,” Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa said at a press conference at the conclusion of the three-day visit of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.
During the king’s visit, Bahrain raised the issue of its troubled ties with Iran, accusing it of interference in the kingdom, which recently witnessed an uprising against the monarchy.
Pakistan helped it in putting down the revolt by allowing Bahrain to recruit retired security personnel for its security forces.
A joint communique issued at the conclusion of the visit said the two sides had exchanged views on regional and international issues of mutual interest and stressed the importance of peaceful resolution of all issues, both regional and extra-regional, through dialogue.
Though the Bahraini foreign minister denied having sought Pakistani support against Iran or asking Islamabad for mediation, his statement at the media conference hinted at Manama’s desire for outside help in fixing problems with Tehran.
The foreign minister said his government wanted to mend fences with Iran, but the Iranian government was not serious in a rapprochement.
“We want them to take steps to mend this relationship,” he added.
On finding Pakistan’s government not too keen in further discussing the Iran issue because of local political expediencies, Foreign Minister Khalifa said: “We have explained our position at meetings and agree that Pakistan has to have balanced relations with all countries in the region.”
Speaking about Pak-Bahrain defence cooperation, the foreign minister said it was historical and wide-ranging.
Recalling the King Hamad’s unprecedented visit to Joint Services Headquarters, he said the trip marked the “culmination” of one phase of cooperation and laid the foundation for much more extensive relationship in future.
He refused to give details about the nature of defence cooperation being worked out by the two countries, saying it should be left for the military side. He did not deny that Pakistan was considering sending more security forces to Bahrain and said details of cooperation could not be disclosed.
The joint communique said that both countries, while agreeing to intensification of bilateral defence and security cooperation, decided to initiate annual security dialogue.
“It was also decided to strengthen sharing of information, intelligence and assessments,” the communique added.
Bahrain has reportedly shown interest in making defence purchases from Pakistan and also sought help in military training.
The communique further noted that there was agreement on further enhancing high-level political exchanges, cooperation in the fields of economic, trade and investment, defence and security and people-to-people contacts.
The two sides agreed to a meeting of foreign ministers in later half of this year to continue their consultations, which the communique said would serve as an umbrella framework for bilateral cooperation.
21 March 2014
RAMALLAH: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has asked Washington to mediate with Israel for the release of Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian leader and possible presidential contender jailed a decade ago over a spate of suicide bombings.
Israel agreed last year to free 104 Palestinian prisoners in what it termed a gesture of goodwill to mark the resumption of direct, US-backed peace talks. But Barghouti was excluded from this and occasional previous releases and the talks have since faltered with Washington struggling to keep them alive.
Any move to free such a high-profile figure as Barghouti would probably ignite a political fire storm in Israel. By the same token, it would shore up Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s standing at home and help give him domestic cover to carry on the as-yet unproductive talks with Israel.
A Palestinian official said Abbas had written to the United States asking them to bring about the release of ill prisoners, female inmates and minors, as well as Barghouti and two other high-profile leaders — Ahmed Sa’adat and Fouad Al-Shobaki.
“The president renewed his demand during the recent meetings in Washington,” said Qadoura Fares, chairman of the Palestinian Prisoner Club, referring to Abbas’s trip to Washington this week to discuss the shaky peace process with President Barack Obama.
An Israeli court sentenced Barghouti to five life sentences and 40 years in jail in 2004, finding him guilty of orchestrating ambushes and suicide attacks during the Palestinian Intifada, or uprising, that was raging at the time.
Barghouti, now 54, has always denied the charges and he remains a highly popular figure among ordinary Palestinians, portrayed by his supporters as a Nelson Mandela-like figure who could galvanize and reunite their divided political landscape.
Israel has refused to free Barghouti in the past, leaving him out of a prisoner swap struck with the Hamas group in 2011, which saw some 1,000 Palestinian inmates go free.
Many Palestinians see the charismatic Barghouti, a senior member of Abbas’s Fatah movement, as a top contender to succeed Abbas, who is 78 and has no designated deputy.
Barghouti was a leading activist in both the first and second Palestinian uprisings against Israel.
A specialized criminal court in Riyadh on Thursday sentenced 15 of 30 defendants, of whom 14 Saudis and a Jordanian, from 11 months to 16 years in prison for supporting terrorism and terror organizations and propagating “takfiri” ideology (branding opponents infidels).
The defendants were also charged of being in possession of documents related to making bombs and explosives, an official statement said, adding that they had facilitated the travel of young Saudis to fight in crisis-hit countries.
One of the defendants was handed 16 years, including four years based on Article 34 of the weapons law and six years based on the law for combating money laundering. He was also fined SR30,000 based on the publication law.
On Wednesday, the court sentenced 13 men to up to 14 years in prison for security offenses, including material support to wanted Islamist militants, aiding terrorism and helping young men go to Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan to fight.
The Kingdom has sentenced hundreds of its citizens to prison terms for similar offenses over the past decade since Al-Qaeda waged a campaign of attacks from 2003-06 inside the country, killing hundreds of people.
The growing role of Saudi militants in Syria has raised fears about a new wave of radicalism in the country and the government has issued stern new penalties for fighting abroad or supporting extremist groups.
The 13 sentenced on Wednesday to between three and 14 years in prison were nine Saudi citizens, two Jordanians, an Egyptian and a Syrian, an official statement said.
They were convicted of owning material that glorified Al-Qaeda, money laundering and of involvement in weapons training in militant camps, the SPA reported.
Earlier this month, the government issued a list of groups it described as terrorist or extremist, including Al-Qaeda affiliates in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah and Houthi rebels in Yemen.
A new government decree said moral or material support for such groups would incur prison terms of five to 30 years, while traveling overseas to fight would be punishable by sentences of three to 20 years.
United Nations aid trucks have crossed from Turkey into Syria for the first time in three years, a development aid officials hope will lead to greater humanitarian access to civilians hardest hit by the civil war.
But with the convoy heading to a region controlled by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, doubts remained whether those in rebel-held areas most urgently in need would benefit.
The trucks travelled through the largely deserted frontier at the Nusaybin border post, taking food supplies, bedding and medicine towards the ethnic Kurdish city of Qamishli in Syria.
"It is the first time in three years of this brutal conflict that the UN has been able to carry aid across into Syria from Turkey," Nigel Fisher, the United Nations' regional humanitarian coordinator, said in a statement.
Full report at:
Somalia: Al Shabaab Imposes Sanction On Liberated Town
20 MARCH 2014
Hudur — Somalia's Al Qaeda linked Al Shabaab group imposed blockade on Bakool regional capital of Hudur of southwestern Somalia, turning back the vehicles moving into the newly liberated town, Garowe Online reports.
Speaking with Mogadishu-based radio station via telephone, Bakool Governor Mohamed Abdi Tool said that the price of food is now up after Al Shabaab group which maintains militias presence around Hudur denied trucks loaded with commercial commodities entry into the Full report at:
TRIPOLI – In his first major interview since he was removed from office last week through a vote of no confidence, former Prime Minister Ali Zidan blamed the failure of his government on the General National Congress (GNC), the Islamist parties, the militias, the spread of arms and the weak post revolutionary Libyan state.
In a two hour pre-recorded interview conducted by former GNC member Hassan Lamin, who ironically has had to flee Libya and seek refuge abroad in the face of threats from militias, Zidan paid tribute to all who worked with him and apologized for not being able to protect them in the face of apparent intimidation after his departure.
“The worst night of my life” – being chosen as Prime Minister
On being chosen as Prime Minister, Zidan said that it was the “worst night” of his life as he felt the weight of responsibility of the job.
The Libyan government yesterday vowed to fight terrorism, in its first acknowledgement that "terrorist groups" were behind dozens of attacks against security services and Westerners.
Three years after a revolution toppled long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi and left the country awash with guns, near-daily attacks continue unchecked across Libya.
"The nation finds itself in a confrontation with terrorist groups, and it falls upon the government to mobilise its military and security forces to fight this scourge," the government Full report at:
Somalia: Somali Prime Minister Calls On Al-Shabaab to Renounce Violence
19 MARCH 2014
Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed on Tuesday (March 18th) called on al-Shabaab to renounce violence and admit defeat following a meeting of the National Security Council in Mogadishu.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud chaired the meeting, during which senior government, security and military officials discussed the ongoing military campaign against al-Shabaab and the government's stabilisation plans for recently liberated areas.
"We will not cease our operations till all of Somalia and all Somalis are free from the horror and oppression of al-Shabaab," Ahmed said. "We are winning the war and now is the time for al-Shabaab to renounce violence."
By Hamdi Salad in Mogadishu
March 20, 2014
In a recent interview with Sabahi, African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) spokesperson Colonel Ali Aden Humad elaborated on the recent successes achieved in the fight against al-Shabaab in the first two weeks of March.
Humad spoke about the co-operation between the Somali National Army and AMISOM forces, their humanitarian assistance to the Somali people in liberated areas and the extent of AMISOM's involvement in the federalism process.
Sabahi: What can you tell us about the recent military offensive you launched in central and southern Somalia?
Colonel Ali Aden Humad: We have liberated a large portion of land from al-Shabaab. We are close to where we wanted to reach and the area we wanted to liberate. They flee each time we launch an attack on an area where they are located.
Sabahi: How many districts have you liberated so far?
Humad: We have liberated eight districts located in Bay, Bakol, Gedo and Hiran, including Bulo Burde and Hudur. [Once] we liberate the towns, we will move towards removing [al-Shabaab] from the rural areas.
Sabahi: What are the losses AMISOM troops sustained in the offensive, and what losses have they inflicted upon al-Shabaab?
Humad: I cannot give you a specific number, but the losses we suffered are not important. What is important is our goal and the progress we have made. Al-Shabaab is making the people flee because they want to hide among the people.
Sabahi: How do AMISOM and the Somali army work together?
Humad: AMISOM and the Somali forces each fulfil their duties. During the battles both engage and participate. But after an area is liberated, the Somali forces have closer ties to the people so they are the ones who work to stabilise the area that has been captured and connect the people and the government.
By Palash Ghosh
on March 20 2014
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif denied media reports Thursday that he is planning to send troops to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to help the Persian Gulf States fight the forces of Bashar Assad in Syria, nor has he been asked to. Dawn, an English-language Pakistan daily, reported that Sharif made the denials while attending a ceremony at the newly named M.M. Alam Airbase in Mianwali. “Neither any country has requested Pakistan to send forces nor will Pakistan send its troops to any other country,” Sharif said in refutation of the rumors, reported GEO-TV.
But speculation has arisen as the reigning monarch of Bahrain, King Hamad bin Isa bin Salman al-Khalifa, is on a three-day official visit to Pakistan, attended by a large delegation that includes his defense and security chiefs. Dawn noted that King Hamad and his aides even made an “unprecedented” visit to the Joint Services Headquarters, the principal headquarters of Pakistan’s Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee in Rawalpindi, a highly unusual event for a foreign head of state.
While the Pakistanis claim the visit by the king is designed to upgrade trade and investment links between the countries, Dawn noted that Bahrain seems more interested in enhancing defense links. The crown prince of Saudi Arabia and the Kuwaiti prime minister have also recently visited Pakistan – Sharif also asserted that these trips had nothing to do with the dispatch of Pakistani troops to the Middle East.
On Thursday, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Tasnim Aslam, reiterated that Pakistan will not send troops to Syria nor arm the rebels there. Although Pakistan has close ties with Syrian ally Iran, Aslam assured that Pakistan will not take sides in Mideast conflicts.
But in 2011, as the Arab Spring revolution exploded across the Middle East, Bahrain recruited troops from Pakistan to help stamp out a Shi'a rebellion. The revolt was crushed with the aid of Saudi troops. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and other Sunni Muslim-dominated Gulf states have led the charge against Assad (an Alawite related to Shi'a Islam) and have reportedly sent money and arms to rebel groups seeking to topple the Damascus regime. Pakistan is also a Sunni-dominated Muslim state.
QUETTA: Political parties of Balochistan on Thursday night demanded of the federal government to include the name of kidnapped Awami National Party (ANP) leader Arabab Zahir Kasi in exchange of prisoners' list with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
Speaking to a press conference, leaders of ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), National Party (NP) and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) along with opposition parties including Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M), ANP, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F), Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and JUI (Ideological) urged upon Islamabad to help the provincial government in an unhurt recovery of Arbab Zahir Kasi.
“Arbab Zahir Kasi has been shifted to a region where Balochistan government has no writ,” Nawab Sanaullah Zehri, the PML-N provincial president told reporters.
Armed gunmen abducted Kasi, central leader of ANP on October 23 last year from Patel road area of Quetta. His family has received telephone calls of kidnappers demanding heavy ransom for his release.
March 21, 2014
Karachi- Pakistan Peoples Party leader, Manzoor Wasan, claimed today that the MQM would join the Sindh Government in three to four days.
Talking to media here, Wasan said that the nation would receive good news very soon as the Full report at:
ISLAMABAD - A weeklong cultural activities have provided the students of International Islamic University (IIUI) a break from the stress of studies, especially the hostélites from the issues that still bother them.
The university has remained in the limelight due to strike over hostel issues and later because of the three girls who made headlines after a court bailiff recovered them from the alleged confinement from the hostel rooms on the same issue.
The 26th cultural week with theme of 'Youth, Peace and Harmony' kicked off at the female campus of the IIUI on Thursday where celebration of diversity and culture was witnessed.
The students represented cultures of Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Turkey, China, Jordan, Bangladesh, Algeria, Indonesia, Oman, Palestine and many other countries through various stalls. They displayed cuisine, outfits, traditional musical instruments and pictures of native heroes and poets describing their works and achievements. The students also decorated various stalls with Pakistani provincial and other regional handmade products and folklores.
At a stall of Balochistan, the students wearing traditional dresses of the area danced to the traditional Balochi beats.
LAHORE - Pakistan Movement Worker and The Nation Editor-in-Chief Dr Majid Nizami Thursday said that the Aiwan would become beacon of best education and training for the youth.
He spoke at a special session held at the office of the Aiwan-i-Quaid-i-Azam Johar Town.
He said that the central and provincial governments contributed towards the construction of this grand masterpiece of architecture.
Those present on the occasion include NPT Vice Chairman Professor Dr Rafique Ahmad, former Federal Shariah Court chief justice Mian Mehboob Ahmad, Lt-Gen (r) Zulfikar Ali Khan, Nazaria-i-¬Pakistan Trust Chief Coordinator Mian Farooq Altaf, Etimad Engg Pvt Ltd Chief Executive Mazhar-ud-Din Ansari, Kashif Aslam Associates’ Abid Naeem, Sardar Maroof Khan, Resident Engineer Tahir Mehmood, NPT Secretary Shahid Rasheed and eminent columnist Asar Chauhan.
Dr Majid Nizami remarked that the Aiwan-i-Quaid-i-Azam is near completion and an amount of Rs900million will be required to bring its construction to conclusion. He observed that it was Shahbaz’s Punjab government that had made the most donations towards the construction of the Aiwan.
By ANNABEL SYMINGTON
March 20, 2014
KARACHI, Pakistan—At the brand-new Nue Multiplex here, chauffeured cars drop families at the door. Excited squeals of children reverberate from the games arcade. Hollywood and Bollywood movies play on five screens.
"We wanted to have something of international standard," said Tariq Baig, executive director of the $100 million multiplex that opened in August, replete with a Canadian sound system, Danish carpeting, and chairs and screens imported from the U.K. "We didn't go for anything local."
Nue is part of a wave of Western-style cinemas that are opening across Pakistan, aiming to serve the entertainment-starved middle classes in a country where movie houses were traditionally dilapidated, seedy, and shunned by families.
The blossoming of Western cinema in Pakistan is something of a phenomenon, taking place even as Islamist militants—who view all cinema as sinful— increasingly target the country's moviegoers.
There are just 104 movie screens in all of Pakistan, a country of 180 million people. Still, that is a jump from 20 screens in 2005, according to various distributors and cinema owners. There are another 100 screens under construction, they say.
Pakistan's cinema renaissance began in 2006, when the then military dictator, Pervez Musharraf, loosened a law dating back to the 1965 war between India and Pakistan that banned the import of Bollywood films. Though imports of Indian movies are still restricted, Mr. Musharraf's ruling allowed them to be granted a "No Objection Certificate" by the government in special cases. The ordinance also created a loophole in the law that allowed Indian films to be imported via another country.
"Everyone wants to go to the cinema," says Nadia Jamil, a popular TV and film actress based in Lahore. "It's the Indian films that have created the market that everyone wants to rush to."
Pakistan's national language of Urdu is very close to Hindi, and most Pakistanis easily understand Bollywood blockbusters.
KARACHI: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Rehman Malik on Friday said talks with leaders of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) had been held in a pleasant and agreeable atmosphere and the nation would receive good news on this end very soon, DawnNews reported.
Speaking to media representatives at the airport in Karachi, Malik stated that PPP and MQM had been in collaboration in the past as well. Malik added that authorities should be worrying about improving the security situation in Karachi and across the country at large.
On a question relating to the ongoing peace talks with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the PPP leader before departing for Islamabad, said that the government’s good will should not be doubted.
ANKARA: Two soldiers and a police officer were killed Thursday in southern Turkey when unidentified assailants opened fire on security forces in an attack denounced as an “act of terror” by the government.
Using long-range shotguns the armed men fired from a truck after they had been ordered to stop at a checkpoint on a highway in the town of Ulukisla, according to local media.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed the attack whose motive was not immediately clear. He condemned it as a “vile act of terror”.
JERUSALEM: Israel’s air strikes on Syria after a bomb targeted Israeli troops on the occupied Golan Heights was unlikely to spiral into full-scale confrontation, with each side preoccupied elsewhere, commentators said Thursday.
Israeli warplanes attacked Syrian army positions early on Wednesday and the Jewish state issued a stark warning to Damascus just hours after a bomb wounded four Israeli soldiers on the Golan, one severely.
Over the past year, Israel has reportedly carried out a series of raids on Syrian and Hezbollah targets but has not officially acknowledged them.
In a rare departure, the Israel military issued a public statement acknowledging Wednesday’s strikes on Syrian army facilities.
Damascus. meanwhile, said one soldier had been killed and seven more wounded in an act of “aggression” that endangered regional stability.
But most commentators agreed that neither Israel nor the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad were seeking a faceoff as each was dealing with threats on other fronts.
Assad has been tied up fighting a three-year civil war against rebels seeking his ouster, while Israel is occupied with the threats of rockets from Gaza in the south, powerful Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah on its northern flank and the perceived threat posed by Iran’s nuclear programme.
“Assad has no desire to get into a direct confrontation with Israel, which could bring about his end,” Syria expert Eyal Zisser told the Jerusalem Post.
Although the targets in Wednesday’s raids were Syrian army, it appeared that the bomb was planted by militants from Damascus ally Hezbollah, pundits said.
Syria has long provided arms and other aid to Hezbollah, and served as a conduit for Iranian military aid to the movement, which battled Israel to a bloody stalemate in a 2006 war.
Israeli public radio quoted Paolo Serra, commander of UN peacekeeping troops in Lebanon, as saying Hezbollah too was unlikely to want a full-scale confrontation.
“Hezbollah and Israel are not interested in escalation after the Golan Heights incident,” it quoted him as saying. Last week, Israel shelled Hezbollah positions after another explosion targeted Israeli troops patrolling the Lebanese border.
20 Mar 2014
US President Barack Obama has told Iranians they "deserve better" and that a comprehensive agreement on the nuclear issue will help move Iran "along the new path that so many Iranians seek".
The US leader made the remarks on Thursday in a message marking Nowruz, the Persian new year, a day after the conclusion of the latest round of negotiations on Tehran's nuclear programme.
Iran denies seeking to to develop the capability to produce atomic weapons. The US, the European Union and the United Nations have imposed sanctions on Iran because of its refusal to suspend enrichment and other sensitive atomic activities.
In his address, Obama said: "A comprehensive agreement on the nuclear issue would help move Iran along the new path that so many Iranians seek.
"But the economic hardship that so many Iranians have endured in recent years - because of the choices of Iranian leaders - has deprived your country and the world of the extraordinary skills and contributions you have to offer. And you deserve better."
It is Obama's first Nowruz address since talks began in earnest to reach a lasting settlement about Iran's nuclear activities and the first since Hassan Rouhani was elected to the office of president.
A right-wing Israeli politician who called for Israel to take over the Haram al-Sharif in occupied East Jerusalem has visited the holy compound, causing a backlash from stone-throwing Palestinians protesting against the visit.
Moshe Feiglin, a nationalist member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party, visited the compound on Thursday, after calling on the Israeli Knesset last week to strengthen Israel's control over the holy site and usurp sovereignty.
The Haram al-Sharif, which includes the Al Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, is Islam's third holiest site and is known to Jews as the Temple Mount. Israel captured the area from Jordan in the 1967 war.
RAMALLAH – Hundreds of Palestinian youths lined up outside a luxury hotel at the crack of dawn on Monday for a chance to compete in the Arab world’s premier talent show, hoping to follow the unlikely example of last year’s winner and sing their way out of a life of conflict and poverty.
It was the first time that the top rated “Arab Idol” show has come to the Palestinian territories, marking an important milestone for an area that is not accustomed to celebrating.
“We have to put Palestine on the map. This is the first Arab contest to come here and recruit people, and the other programs will follow,” Mohammed Assaf, the feel-good winner of last year’s competition, told The Associated Press.
Assaf, a young wedding singer for a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, became an overnight sensation across the Arab world thanks to his bright smile, warm tenor and personal story of overcoming adversity.
Assaf said he had to plead with Gaza’s Islamic Hamas rulers to let him leave the territory, then bribe Egyptian border guards to enter the country en route to Lebanon to compete. A fellow Palestinian gave up his slot during the audition phase because he believed Assaf had a better chance at winning. Many of Assaf’s songs touched upon the Palestinian struggle for independence.
ANKARA : Turkey’s combative prime minister warned on Thursday that he would eradicate Twitter after a number of audio recordings anonymously posted on social media purportedly exposed corruption in his inner circle.
“We will wipe out Twitter. I don’t care what the international community says,” premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in an election rally in the western province of Bursa. “They will see the Turkish republic’s strength,” he added.
Early this month, Erdogan warned that his government could ban popular social media networks Youtube and Facebook after the crucial March 30 local election, triggering US concern. Erdogan, Turkey’s all-powerful leader since 2003, has been under mounting pressure after audio recordings allegedly show his involvement in corruption, and others portraying him interfering in business deals, court cases and media coverage.
He dismissed most of the recordings as “vile” fakes concocted by his rivals.
Erdogan’s government has been rocked by a vast corruption probe launched in December which saw dozens of people rounded up including the premier’s close business and political allies.
FRIDAY, 21 MARCH 201
Mahinda Samarasinghe, Minister of Plantation Industries and Special Envoy of the President on Human Rights, briefed the countries representing the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation on the current situation in Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva yesterday.
The Minister informed the Permanent Representatives and Ambassadors of the steps taken to ensure progress in Sri Lanka towards reconciliation and peace building in the aftermath of the armed conflict.
The Minister outlined the constitutional protection of the freedom of thought conscience and religion as well as the right to manifest a person’s religion in Sri Lanka.
He said Sri Lanka has long been a multi-religious, multi-lingual and multicultural society in which diversity is celebrated and perceived as a source of strength in the forging of a true national identity.
KABUL - Taliban gunmen attacked a luxury hotel on Thursday in the centre of the Afghan capital Kabul, police said, and four of the assailants were killed in a shootout with Afghan security forces.
Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told Reuters all the gunmen were dead and security forces were in control of the hotel. He said he was not aware of deaths among the staff or guests, but checks were under way and Afghan Special Forces were on the scene.
The attackers appear to have entered the hotel around six in the evening with pistols hidden in their socks and waited three hours to start their attack, he said.
They fired on guests and then hid in bathrooms when security forces arrived, he said. The gunmen appeared to be under 18 years old. Two guards had been wounded, he said. No other casualties were confirmed.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack and said the attackers had fired at foreign and Afghan guests celebrating the Afghan New Year. “Suicide bombers have entered the Serena Hotel, heavy battle is underway, enemies suffered heavy casualties,” he said in a text message.
His information could not be immediately verified and no one Reuters spoke to reported hearing any explosions.
A ruling party MP pulled back in parliament yesterday after facing fire from the prime minister for proposing to turn a health institute into a medical college and name it after her.
While tabling a proposal, Awami League’s Habibur Rahman Mollah said the mother and child institute in Matuail that fell under his constituency, should be upgraded into a full-fledged medical college because the existing facility could not serve properly.
“I also demand naming the proposed medical college after jononetri [people’s leader] Sheikh Hasina,” Habibur said in the presence of Sheikh Hasina, who turned up at the House after the Meghreb prayer recess.
Independent MP Hazi Mohammad Selim, also a former Awami League lawmaker, Nobi Newaz and Nazrul Islam Babu supported Habibur’s proposal.
The leader of the house then called Habibur and said: “Why should this be made a medical college and why after me? Why have you brought a proposal like this? Go and withdraw the proposal,” she said, infuriated.
A nervous-looking Habibur Rahman then went back to his seat.
Before State minister for Health Zahid Maleque could say anything about the proposal in accordance to rules, Sheikh Hasina instructed Whip Shahiduzzaman Sarker to convey to the House that she wanted the proposal withdrawn.
19 Mar 2014
An Indonesian Islamic cleric arrested for allegedly making an explicit video with two teachers could face 12 years in jail under the Muslim country's tough anti-porn laws, police said Wednesday.
Saeful Sardi Jayadi, 44, surrendered to police Saturday after the video began circulating in Cisarua, south of Jakarta.
Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority country, introduced a tough anti-pornography law in 2008 that criminalises any work that could be deemed obscene.
Jayadi is accused of making the six-minute video in a hotel room in 2011, said Didik Purwanto, police chief in Bogor district, which includes Cisarua.
"He has deliberately produced a porn video for a private collection," Purwanto said, adding the alleged offence could carry a 12-year jail sentence.
The video started circulating in the area recently and was passed between people's mobile phones, said Purwanto.
March 21 2014
The Malaysian government has deported 93 Indonesian migrant workers through Nunukan regency in North Kalimantan.
Nunukan immigration office head Nasution, who received the group in Nunukan on Thursday, said the migrant workers had served prison terms in Kinabalu, Sabah, for several months before being deported.
The Malaysian government found the Indonesians guilty of illegally entering the country, for which they were sent to jail, Nasution said.
They were caught in routine raids conducted by the Malaysian police against illegal migrants.
The group included 21 women and six children Nasution said as reported by Antara news agency.
The long discussed Indo-Pak electricity deal has moved closer to reality with energy- starved Pakistan handing over draft of an initial power trade deal to India.
The move comes as the World Bank has offered to finance the feasibility study and transmission line to import 1,200
megawatts (MW) of power from India.
“Now, the World Bank has also offered to finance a feasibility study along with the (installation of) transmission line to import 1,200 MW power from India,” an unnamed government official told the Express Tribune daily.
The official said a draft of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was handed over to Indian authorities in a recent
meeting held in New Delhi.
India would respond to Pakistan after going through the draft of the initial deal, the official said.
Indian diplomats said Pakistan and India have constituted technical working groups which would review the aspects of the export of 500 MW of electricity to Pakistan.
The Pakistani cabinet had decided in January to import electricity from India. “The cabinet gave approval to the signing of an MoU between Pakistan and India for trade of electricity,” an official statement had said.
The Water and Power Ministry had initiated negotiations with India in this regard, it said, adding that the World Bank had undertaken to finance feasibility study of the project.
The issue of electricity trade had come up for discussion during the meeting between Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma and Chief Minister of Pakistani Punjab Shahbaz Sharif during his visit to India in December.
March 20, 2014,
WASHINGTON- There is no reason to believe that anyone in the highest ranks of the Pakistan government knew about the location of slain al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden, the White House has said.
A day after a major American daily claimed that the top ISI leadership knew about the presence of bin Laden inside the country, the White House maintained its earlier stance.
"As US officials have said, we have no reason to believe that anyone in the highest levels of the government knew about the location of bin Laden. That continues to be true," White House National Security Council spokesperson Laura Lucas Magnuson said, when asked about the news report.
By Laurel Brown
March 20, 2014
When ABC Family announced a trio of new drama pilots in development earlier this week, one of them -- "Alice in Arabia" -- sparked immediate notice and anger.
Why is that? What caused Muslim groups and many across the Internet to come down so hard on a TV show that no one has actually seen yet? Is it just a knee-jerk response by over-sensitive people?
Or could it have more to with how American television programs have dealt with Muslims in the past? Any red flags on a current show have to be colored by years of terrorists, torturers and protested normalcy.
The current controversy erupted Monday (March 17) when ABC Family announced it had greenlit a pilot for "Alice in Arabia," along with two other dramas. An official description of the show was released as well:
"'Alice in Arabia' is a high-stakes drama series about a rebellious American teenage girl who, after tragedy befalls her parents, is unknowingly kidnapped by her extended family, who are Saudi Arabian. Alice finds herself a stranger in a new world but is intrigued by its offerings and people, whom she finds surprisingly diverse in their views on the world and her situation. Now a virtual prisoner in her grandfather's royal compound, Alice must count on her independent spirit and wit to find a way to return home while surviving life behind the veil. The pilot was written by Brooke Eikmeier, who previously served in the U.S. Army as a Cryptologic Linguist in the Arabic language, trained to support NSA missions in the Middle East. She left service in September 2013 as a rank E-4 Specialist."
Although many immediately complained about phrases like "surviving life behind the veil," "a virtual prisoner in her grandfather's royal compound" and "unknowingly kidnapped," the issues run deeper than that.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations posted a letter to show concern about the wider issue:
A gym refused to let a Muslim woman wear her religious head covering when she tried to work out, according to a new lawsuit against the company.
An attorney for Tarainia McDaniel, 37, recently filed the lawsuit in a New Mexico district court stemming from a 2011 clash at a Planet Fitness that prevented McDaniel from using the gym while wearing the head covering, even though court documents said another Planet Fitness in the area had previously let her do so, the Albuquerque Journal reports (http://goo.gl/lqi6Xj).
McDaniel joined the New Hampshire-based gym chain Planet Fitness in Albuquerque on a two-year contract and later transferred to another location, according to the lawsuit.
On Oct. 3, 2011, she was turned away at her new gym and was told the informal head covering didn’t meet its dress code, the lawsuit states. The gym had a sign that said “no jeans, work boots, bandanas, skull caps or revealing apparel.”
McDaniel said she asked to be allowed to wear the informal head covering to accommodate her Muslim faith, and she even asked if she should come back wearing a formal head covering known as the hijab, according to the lawsuit.
But the gym denied her requests, the lawsuit states.
Planet Fitness attorney Erika Anderson said the head covering violates the gym’s dress-code policy. “My client’s position is that they didn't know the head covering was for religious purposes,” Anderson said.
March 17, 2014
NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) — An advocacy group is welcoming New London’s recognition of Muslim school holidays in its calendar for the next school year.
The calendar lists certain Muslim and Jewish holidays as days when observing students can be excused for absences. It also asks teachers not to schedule tests on those dates.
The Connecticut chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said Monday that including the Islamic holidays will serve to enhance the learning environment for Muslim students.
20 March 2014
CAIRO – Defending his mosque’s decision to censor a question about gay Muslims, the chairman of Birmingham Central Mosque, one of Europe's largest, has asserted that homosexuality is not accepted in Islam, same as other social illnesses caused by human weaknesses.
"There are people with homosexual tendency in Muslim countries but they respect the law and control their desire as others do,” Dr Mohammad Naseem said in a letter sent to HuffPost UK on Wednesday, March 19.
"Human beings do have weaknesses and tendencies which are not socially acceptable and so they try to have a control over them and do not give in.
"A compulsive murderer, gambler, paedophile etc. could present the same logic and ask for accommodation by the society. Are we going to accept on the basis of freedom of action?" he added.
Dr Naseem, the mosque's long-time chairman, has been facing criticism recently for banning a BBC3 discussion about gay Muslims at his mosque.
The panel show called "Free Speech", was aired last week live from Birmingham Central Mosque, trailing the question ‘When will it be accepted to be Muslim and gay?’, airing an introductory clip featuring Asifa Lahore, a Muslim drag queen.
Later, the part was not aired after the mosque demanded the segment not be discussed.
It was apparent that Lahore, the Muslim drag queen featured in the program, "does not know his religion and has not got much links with it," Naseem said.
"He would have, otherwise, known that it is prohibited in Islam. If he wants to persue [sic] his inclination then he is free to leave Islam and follow any ideology that suits him," Naseem continued.
The organisation Anâ-Muslim (“I am Muslim”) is calling for a boycott of France’s local elections via its website, social network and brochures. Our Observer tells us more about who is behind this Salafist group.
Anâ-Muslim is a nonprofit organisation recognised by the French state. Its members share their vision of Islam on the organisation’s website, on its Facebook and Twitter pages, and on YouTube. A few days ago, Anâ-Muslim called on Muslims to boycott French municipal elections, which will take place on March 23 and 30. They explain this decision by using various religious arguments and by saying that for a Muslim person, “voting is an act of submission … while abstaining is an act of resistance”.
On its website, the organisation explains that this campaign is aimed at Muslim people between 18 and 40 years old. They argue that refusing to participate in French politics is a way to “preserve their faith”: “Voting means recognising the power of men on earth and giving them absolutely sovereignty to create their own laws that have nothing to do with Islam.” The organisation’s goal, as described in their mission statement, is to “teach Islam to Muslims … because Muslims are the only ones who can control their destiny … and contribute to Islam’s resurgence so that humanity may be saved”.
Contacted by FRANCE 24, a member of Anâ-Muslim said the organisation could not grant interviews because all its members were busy working on the boycott campaign.
There have been similar calls for boycotts in the past, but these came from informal Islamist groups. This is the first time that a state-recognised Muslim organisation calls for boycotting elections for religious reasons.
The Anâ-Muslim group and their website have existed for about three years. It became a state-recognised organisation a little over a year ago. There are about 100 members and sympathisers who have signed up online. The organisation is mainly targeted towards Muslim intellectuals and students.
Mar 21, 2014
GENEVA: Syria, Russia and Afghanistan have the largest numbers of people fleeing their homelands to seek asylum, and most are turning to Europe, the United Nations refugee agency said in a report on Friday that analyzes trends in 44 industrialized countries.
Syria's 3-year-old civil war generated 56,351 asylum seekers in 2013, more than double the previous year's total of 25,232, according to the office of the United Nations high commissioner for refugees. Syria became the world's biggest source for asylum seekers, surpassing Afghanistan, which fell to third.
Russia, meanwhile, become the second-biggest source of asylum seekers with 39,779, up from 22,650 in 2012.