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Islamic World News (03 May 2019 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Daesh Threat to India, Bangladesh after New Chief Named








Daesh Threat to India, Bangladesh after New Chief Named

Indian 'Hate Preacher' Zakir Naik Charged With Money Laundering

Pakistan Issues Order to Freeze Assets of JeM Chief Masood Azhar, Impose Travel Ban

Sri Lanka Blasts Show Asia Is Fertile Ground For IS Ideology

Suicide Bombers Fuel Fears Among Sri Lanka's Majority Buddhists

SIS: Absence of Hate Speech Leading Up To ‘Deviant’ Fatwa Hearing Shows Maturity Among Malaysians

Iraqi Source: US Aware of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi's Moves, Hideouts

‘Age-Old Cities’ Exhibition Reveals The Cultural Impact Of Terrorism

American Jews and Muslims Are 'Natural Allies' With Close Bonds, Study Finds

Ramadan Could Draw Wealthy Tourists To New Zealand

Ruling Party Candidate Quits Australian Campaign over Anti-Muslim Posts

 

India

Daesh Threat to India, Bangladesh after New Chief Named

Indian 'Hate Preacher' Zakir Naik Charged With Money Laundering

Zakat can transform Muslim community: Survey

IS Can't Strike India Directly Despite Threats, May Go For Inspired Attacks

Shopian encounter: Brief exchange of fire with militants, area cordoned off

Zakir Naik Got Rs 193 Crore As Donation, Used It To Incite Terror Acts: ED To Special Court

PMK functionary Ramalingam murder case: NIA raids premises of Muslim outfits in Tamil Nadu

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Pakistan

Pakistan Issues Order to Freeze Assets of JeM Chief Masood Azhar, Impose Travel Ban

Breakthrough In Azhar Case Struck During Imran Khan's China Trip: Pak Media Reports

Balochistan govt approves special security division for Quetta

Qureshi says Pakistan wants to keep border with Iran peaceful

Military authorities contemplate transferring terror cases to govt

SC wraps up suo motu case regarding Lal Masjid operation

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South Asia

Sri Lanka Blasts Show Asia Is Fertile Ground For IS Ideology

Suicide Bombers Fuel Fears Among Sri Lanka's Majority Buddhists

Taliban hopeful of ‘final deal’ on troop withdrawal in ongoing talks

Time to put down arms, stop violence and embrace peace, Khalilzad tells Taliban

Taliban Commander in Zabul Joins the Peace Process

Taliban positions pounded with artillery, airstrikes in Badghis leaving 17 dead, wounded

Sri Lanka Catholics cancel Sunday mass over new bomb fears

Afghanistan’s Loya Jirga urges both govt., Taliban to announce ceasefire

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Southeast Asia

SIS: Absence of Hate Speech Leading Up To ‘Deviant’ Fatwa Hearing Shows Maturity Among Malaysians

Matrimony Programme Introduced To Inspire Muslim Couples to Build A Strong Marriage

Don’t fall for racial and religious propaganda at Saturday’s pro-Islam rally, says Muhyiddin

Mujahid takes Perlis mufti to task over claim Islam threatened under Pakatan

Maszlee: Academics must take responsibility for executive summary on Rome Statute

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Arab World

Iraqi Source: US Aware of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi's Moves, Hideouts

‘Age-Old Cities’ Exhibition Reveals The Cultural Impact Of Terrorism

US, Western, Israeli Arms Found from Terrorists' Depots in Southern Syria

Syrian Army Preparing for Major Battle in Idlib

Turkish Army Sustains Heavy Toll in Kurdish Offensive in Afrin

Israeli forces will be annihilated if they dare attack Lebanon, warns Nasrallah

Russian military: 12 drone, rocket attacks by terrorists repelled in Syria’s Latakia

Prime Minister Hariri: Lebanon should learn from Egypt’s economic development

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North America

American Jews and Muslims Are 'Natural Allies' With Close Bonds, Study Finds

US military killed 120 civilians abroad in 2018, lower than watchdog estimates

US Senate sustains Trump veto supporting Arab coalition in Yemen

'Islamophobia in US driven by politics, not religion'

US delegation to Turkey says progress has been made on Syria

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Europe

Ramadan Could Draw Wealthy Tourists To New Zealand

Over 80 Kids Born To Daesh Terrorists Repatriated From Iraq To Tajikistan

Christian churches in sharp decline in Germany

Erdogan meets members of Bosnian Presidential Council

Turkey’s refugee commitment ‘a lesson’ for Europe

EU lawmakers seek end to ‘persecution of religious minorities’ in Pakistan

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Australia

Ruling Party Candidate Quits Australian Campaign over Anti-Muslim Posts

New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern engaged to longtime partner

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Mideast

Turkey Must Hand Over ‘Murderers’ Of Alleged Palestinian Spy, Says Cousin

Israeli warplanes strike Gaza again, prompt retaliatory rocket launch

Israel ‘forced 3,000 Palestinians from homes within 15 yrs’

As Israeli group expands, Palestinian houses face demolition

Senior Hamas official heads to Egypt for talks on Israel

Kushner hopes Israel will look at peace plan before any West Bank moves

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Africa

Sudan’s Bashir to Be Questioned Over ‘Financing Terrorism’

Huge crowds join sit-in outside Sudan’s defense ministry

Nigerian lawmakers summons Buhari for security crisis

3 Nigerian soldiers feared killed in Daesh attack

Germany’s Angela Merkel pledges terror aid to Burkina Faso as G5 Sahel summit begins

Somalia: Al-Shabaab Parades Ten Soldiers It Said Defected From Jubbaland

Troops block Boko Haram logistics and food supplies

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/daesh-threat-to-india,-bangladesh-after-new-chief-named/d/118493

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Daesh Threat To India, Bangladesh After New Chief Named

May 2, 2019

The new chief has been given the responsibility of planning terror attacks and recruiting new members.

Amid developments after the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka which claimed 253 lives, a Daesh affiliate group, "Al-Mursalat", has been reportedly planning to carry out similar attacks in India and Bangladesh with its announcement of appointing a new "emir" (chief) in Bengal, sources said.

The emir of the Daesh group, an intelligence official said, has been named as Abu Muhammed Al Bengali who has been given the responsibility of planning terror attacks and recruiting new members.

Citing a poster released by the Daesh, the official, requesting anonymity, said the group has warned that their "soldiers of Khalifa in Bengal and Hind are not silenced" and that the "thirst for revenge is never to be faded away."

The threat came to light soon after a minor explosion near Gulistan theatre in Dhaka on Monday evening, in which a few police personnel suffered injuries. No casualties were reported in the blast.

The two developments followed a "propaganda" video released for the first time in five years by the fugitive Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi in which he acknowledged the terrorist group's defeat in the Syrian town of Baghuz, another anti-terror official said.

Looking heavier than when he proclaimed the existence of the now-collapsed caliphate in mid 2014, Baghdadi blamed its demise on the "savagery" of Christians in the 18-minute video in which he was seen sitting cross-legged alongside a Kalashnikov rifle and appeared to be limited in his movements.

"Truthfully, the battle of Islam and its people against the cross and its people is a long battle.

The battle of Baghuz is over. But it did show the savagery, brutality and ill intentions of the Christians towards the Muslim community," Baghdadi said in the video.

The Daesh released a statement in Arabic in the early hours of Tuesday through its mouthpiece Amaq.

Indian intelligence agencies have been closely monitoring the developments in Bangladesh and they suspect that the Daesh may carry out "jihadi" attacks in Bangladesh or West Bengal.

Officials close to the investigation have raised an alarm that some Bengali posters were in circulation in West Bengal and Bangladesh to radicalise those who were pro-Daesh sympathisers.

The poster, officials said, read "Shighroi Aschhe (coming soon), Inshallah."

"The posters are being circulated on Telegram flashing the logo of a group called Al Mursalat. The threat cannot be ignored as a little-known militant group, National Thowheeth Jama'ath (NTJ), affiliated to the Daesh was instrumental in the Sri Lanka bombings and their links have been found in a recent unearthed group in Kerala's Kasaragod," another official said.

He said that another group, Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh, which also reportedly pledged allegiance to the Daesh, was also active in Bangladesh for years and may be a threat to West Bengal where Bangladeshi people frequently travel.

The April 21 attacks on three churches and three luxury hotels in Colombo and elsewhere killed 253 people, including 11 Indian nationals and some foreigners, besides injuring 500 others.

Fifteen people, including three suicide bombers, died during a raid by Sri Lankan security forces on April 26 and nearly 100 people have been detained in the island nation.

The Daesh claimed responsibility for the bombings and released a video that showed alleged plot organiser and suicide bomber Zahran Hashim and seven other men pledging allegiance to Daesh chief Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi.

https://www.khaleejtimes.com/international/india/daesh-threat-to-india-bangladesh-after-new-chief-named

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Indian 'hate preacher' Zakir Naik charged with money laundering

May 3, 2019

Indian prosecutors have charged controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik with money laundering.

Mr Naik, who lives in exile, is accused of acquiring $28m (£21m) worth of criminal assets, a claim he denies.

Indian authorities have also accused him of spreading hate speech and inciting terrorism.

Mr Naik, 53, promotes a radical form of Islam on the channel Peace TV. It is banned in India but has an estimated 200 million viewers worldwide.

Broadcasting from Dubai, Peace TV is owned by the Islamic Research Foundation, a group headed by Mr Naik.

Other countries have banned the channel - including Bangladesh, where it is accused of inspiring one of the gunmen behind a 2016 cafe attack in Dhaka in which 22 people were killed.

The influence of Zakir Naik

India's Enforcement Directorate (ED), which investigates financial crimes, filed the charges against Mr Naik in a court in Mumbai on Thursday.

It told the court that it had identified assets worth millions of dollars as proceeds of crime.

Mr Naik's "inflammatory speeches and lectures have inspired and incited a number of Muslim youths in India to commit unlawful activities and terrorist acts", ED told the court.

The agency has accused him of using funds from "dubious or suspicious sources" to buy property in India and finance events where he made "provocative speeches". z

Mr Naik says the money was obtained legitimately.

Who is Zakir Naik?

Mr Naik's fundamentalist approach to religion has long been controversial.

Many detained al-Qaeda followers have reportedly told officials that he was a huge influence on them.

He was banned from entering the UK in 2010 for "unacceptable behaviour", and because of his speeches, by then-home secretary (and now Prime Minister) Theresa May.

However, it was in July 2016 when he really came to international attention, after a deadly attack on the Holey Artisan cafe in Dhaka.

The Bangladeshi media claimed that one of the gunmen had been inspired by his speeches. Later that month the Bangladeshi government banned Peace TV.

In November 2016, India's counterterrorism agency filed an official complaint against Mr Naik, accusing him of promoting religious hatred and unlawful activity.

Mr Naik moved to Malaysia in 2017.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-48132710

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Pakistan issues order to freeze assets of JeM chief Masood Azhar, impose travel ban

May 3, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has issued an official order to freeze the assets of and impose a travel ban on JeM chief Masood Azhar after the UN declared him a "global terrorist".

Pakistan-based Azhar is also banned from selling or purchasing arms and ammunition.

The UN sanctions committee on the Islamic State and al-Qaida on Wednesday announced the designation of Azhar, leader of Jaish-eMohammed (JeM), over its ties to al-Qaida.

The JeM has claimed responsibility for the Pulwama suicide attack that killed 40 CRPF soldiers and led to a spike in military tensions between India and Pakistan.

Pakistan's foreign ministry, in a notification issued Wednesday said: "the Federal Government is pleased to order that the Resolution 2368 (2017) be fully implemented" against Azhar.

The government directed officials to take actions "as appropriate for the implementation of sanctions" against the JeM chief, according to the notification.

The UN designated Azhar as a "global terrorist" after China lifted its hold on a proposal by the US, the UK and France to blacklist him.

The US, the UK and France had moved the proposal to designate Azhar as a "global terrorist" in the UN Security Council's 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee in February, just days after the deadly Pulwama terror attack carried out by the JeM in Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistan foreign office spokesman Mohammad Faisal on Wednesday said that Pakistan would "immediately enforce the sanctions" imposed on Azhar.

A veto-wielding permanent member of the UNSC, China was the sole hold-out in the 15-nation body on the bid to blacklist Azhar, blocking attempts by placing a "technical hold" and asking for "more time to examine" the proposal.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-issues-order-to-freeze-assets-of-jem-chief-masood-azhar-impose-travel-ban/articleshow/69155032.cms

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Sri Lanka blasts show Asia is fertile ground for IS ideology

May 3, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR: The Islamic State group's self-proclaimed "caliphate" may have collapsed in the Middle East but Asia provides fertile territory for a resurrection, analysts say, as last month's bloody Easter Sunday suicide attacks in Sri Lanka have shown.

Factors including poverty, discrimination, radicalisation via social media, weak governance, and poor gathering and sharing of intelligence mean the region is vulnerable to attacks by extremists operating under the IS banner — even if they aren't directly supported by the group.

IS lost the last of its Middle East territory in late March but analysts warned the defeat would not kill off their ideology, and just weeks later the group claimed responsibility for one of the worst militant strikes on civilians in Asia.

"The current status of the Islamic State cannot be gauged without an understanding that it is a global ideological movement, not a single organisational entity," said analyst Scott Stewart in a new report for the US geopolitical intelligence group Stratfor.

The coordinated bombings on churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka claimed more than 250 lives, with the government blaming a local, little-known Islamist group, National Thowheeth Jama'ath (NTJ). Videos later emerged of the bombers pledging allegiance to IS.

The country's security agencies have faced heavy criticism for failing to act on warnings given by both its own Muslim community and Indian intelligence ahead of the blasts.

Additionally, the government has been locked for months in a political crisis, with President Maithripala Sirisena pitted against his own Prime Minister, Ranil Wikremesingha.

"Local security officials had been given ample warning," said Stratfor's Stewart, adding "...there must be a serious accounting for how and why the warnings were not acted upon."

Although two of the Sri Lanka bombers were brothers from a wealthy spice-trading family, analysts say it does not detract from the fact that poverty is often the driving force for increased militancy in other parts of Asia -- including the southern Philippines.

Sidney Jones, director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), said religion alone couldn't be blamed for the longrunning insurrection on Mindanao island.

"It is because it is poor and neglected and sees itself as having suffered discrimination," she told AFP.

"That is a very potent set of factors that make people look to other ideologies (such as IS) that can come in as an alternative."

In both Bangladesh and Indonesia, traditionally moderate forms of Islam have been eroded by the influence of hardliners spreading their messages online.

Bangladesh was particularly vulnerable, said Mubashar Hasan, of the University of Oslo.

"With increasing growth in internet subscribers and mobile phone subscriptions, more and more people are connected online and the bad ideas of IS may facilitate self-radicalisation," he said.

"We need to remember, in the current scenario of militancy in the age of digitisation, one bad idea by one person could be fatal."

In Indonesia, IS last claimed credit for the 2018 Surabaya bombings on three churches and a police station that killed 13 people, but IPAC's Jones said the group's apparent demise in the Middle East doesn't mean the threat has diminished.

New threats come from cells which "by and large come together with little vetting, training, indoctrination, weapons or experience. What they have in unlimited quantities is zeal and a desire for recognition," Jones said in a recent report.

"With a little imagination and better leadership, these pro-ISIS cells could do far greater damage," she added.

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority country, was in the past criticised for having weak anti-terror laws that only allowed police to act after an attack, although authorities have now toughened legislation.

They include new powers to take action against hate speech and question militants on their return from Syria, said Taufik Andrie, a terrorism expert from the Jakarta-based Institute for International Peace-Building.

With the defeat of IS territory in the Middle East, many Asian countries are now on the lookout for nationals who joined their cause attempting to return home and continue the fight on the domestic front, although analysts say the numbers are small and many are already known to authorities.

The situation is different in Afghanistan, however, where a senior US intelligence official told AFP that the threat of "spectacular" attacks against America remained.

"We know some have already made their way back here and are trying to transfer the knowledge, skills and experience they learned over there," the official said.

On Monday, the militants' elusive leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi resurfaced in a propaganda video, his first purported appearance since 2014.

Referring to the setbacks in battle, he vowed fallen fighters will be avenged by their "brothers".

"In fact, the battle of Islam and its people against the Crusaders and their followers is a long battle," he said.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/sri-lanka-blasts-show-asia-is-fertile-ground-for-is-ideology/articleshow/69154862.cms

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Suicide bombers fuel fears among Sri Lanka's majority Buddhists

May 2, 2019

COLOMBO: Soldiers guarded the gate, but Colombo's landmark Gangaramaya temple was virtually empty, a potent sign of anxiety felt by Sri Lanka's majority Buddhist community since the Easter Sunday suicide attacks. The normal stream of faithful and tourists has fallen to a trickle since the April 21 attacks on churches and hotels that killed more than 250 people.

Many of Sri Lanka's 15 million Buddhists fear they too could become a jihadist target. Wild rumours of attacks fly around each day – building unease which observers say serves the cause of Buddhist radicals.

Nilman Ekanayake, a 29-year-old Sri Lankan on holiday from his job as a manufacturing manager in Britain, said Wednesday he has never seen Gangaramaya so empty.

"There is a lot of speculation at the moment," he told AFP. "They have targeted a church, a place of worship. A Buddhist temple is another place of worship. It's an unknown for the public."

"Going out in the streets in Colombo at around eight o'clock, it's like three or four in the morning. There's nobody out there and I've never experienced that in my lifetime."

Pallegama Rathanasara, a monk at the temple, also highlighted the uncertainty. "The intelligence services say the next attack will be on a Buddhist temple," he claimed.

While the the main victims of the recent attacks were Christian, the Easter attacks have strengthened a minority of Buddhist extremists who want an authoritarian Buddhist state, political commentator Kusal Perera said.

"The ordinary Buddhists are made to feel that they are under threat," Perera told AFP. "This is the way Buddhist extremists can remain relevant. "What we are seeing is the creation of a fear psychosis among the Buddhists. The end result will be a militarised society," he warned.

The government has come under criticism after it admitted that it had prior warnings about the suicide bomb attacks, which have been claimed by the Islamic State group.

Firebrand Buddhist monks also accuse the government of failing to heed their warnings about militants too. The Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), or Buddhist Force, argues that the bombings have vindicated their warnings of Islamic radicalisation.

"Wahabism is working in the country," BBS national organiser Witharandeniye Nanda told AFP, referring to a strict Sunni version of Islam. "They (the government) did not do anything about our warnings. If they paid attention to what we were saying, this tragedy could have been avoided," the monk added.

"The Sinhalese (Buddhist) politicians saw us as a political rivals and called us nationalists, religious extremists," he said. "Instead of taking our warnings seriously, they tried to suppress us."

The group's leader, monk Galagodaatte Gnanasara, is currently serving a six-year jail term for contempt of court. He has been accused of a string of hate crimes against Muslims but never been prosecuted.

At a court appearance for another case last week, Gnanasara told reporters he feared Islamic extremists could target Buddhist temples.

With the top monk in jail, the BBS no longer spews venomous rhetoric against minorities, but has instead put its efforts into a campaign for Gnanasara's release.

While investigating its own failure to heed Indian intelligence warnings of the attacks, the government has declared a state of emergency giving sweeping powers to security forces to arrest and detain suspects.

That has added to the nationwide nerves that has unsettled Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and Christian places of worship.

One leading moderate Buddhist monk, Omalpe Sobitha, urged Sri Lanka's Roman Catholic leader, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, to initiate inter-religious dialogue to defuse tensions.

"It is the Catholic community which suffered the most in the Easter attacks and we stand with them," Sobitha said.

"The cardinal should chair an interfaith movement to ensure better understanding." The monk also urged the Islamic clergy to be vigilant about radical elements within their community.

"The first steps against 'Muslim terrorism' should be taken by Muslim clerics because they are the ones who know the most about their communities," he added.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/suicide-bombers-fuel-fears-among-sri-lankas-majority-buddhists/articleshow/69150026.cms

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SIS: Absence of hate speech leading up to ‘deviant’ fatwa hearing shows maturity among Malaysians

02 May 2019

By Terence Tang

KUALA LUMPUR, May 2 — Sisters in Islam (SIS) has commended the majority of Malaysians for their maturity and peace-loving nature, despite its court hearing to legally challenge a “deviant” fatwa being postponed today.

According to the non-governmental organisation’s (NGO) communications manager Majidah Hashim, the absence of hate speech and racist smear campaigns leading up to the hearing indicates a positive level of maturity in Malaysian society and shows that most of the country are peace-loving.

“The encouragement that we received both offline and online reflects not only recognition for the importance of the work that we do, but also the eagerness of Malaysians to see justice being upheld,” Majidah said in a statement today.

“SIS expresses appreciation to all our volunteers and supporters who had taken time out from their busy schedules to show their support for us at Kuala Lumpur High Court today,” she added.

Today’s hearing of SIS’ legal challenge against a fatwa, or religious edict, was postponed to June 17 after the High Court was informed that the opposing counsel was medically unwell.

The fatwa, gazetted on July 31, 2014, considered “any individuals, organisations or institutions” deemed “liberal” to be religiously deviant but singled out SIS by name.

When SIS and several individuals first filed the legal challenge in October 2014, pro-clergy Muslim group Geng Ustaz Cintakan Ulama (Gang of Ulama-loving Ustaz) had planned to rally against them at the courts complex.

PAS Youth, at the time, had also declared SIS as an “insolent” and “extremist” group out to challenge the monarchy and Federal Constitution.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/05/02/sis-absence-of-hate-speech-leading-up-to-deviant-fatwa-hearing-shows-maturi/1749132

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Iraqi Source: US Aware of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi's Moves, Hideouts

May 02, 2019

The source was quoted by the Arabic-language al-Ma'aloumeh news website as saying on Thursday that the Americans are in possession of all intelligence about al-Baghdadi but refrain from providing them to the Iraqi government in a move to exert pressure on Baghdad to keep the US forces in the country.

He added that ISIL commanders close to al-Baghdadi who had been arrested by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have disclosed all intelligence about al-Baghdadi to the Americans.

Meantime, Abbas al-Ardawi, a senior Iraqi security expert, said that al-Baghdadi's reappearance is in line with the US plot to create insecurity in Iraq and keep its forces in the country.

In relevant remarks on Wednesday, another Iraqi expert also said reappearance of al-Baghdadi in front of the cameras after five years was aimed at justifying the US military deployment in Iraq.

Hamad al-Dulaimi told the Arabic-language al-Arabi al-Jadid news website that the Iraqi parties which favored the US continued deployment in Iraq were much likely to make use of al-Baghdadi's move to magnify potential threats by the ISIL.

He added that the US was the first to misuse al-Baghdadi's reemergence politically and as an emphasis on its recent warnings about the danger of ISIL and importance of its forces' presence in Iraq.

Al-Arabi al-Jadid also quoted Iraqi officials as saying that al-Baghdadi had come into sight again as Iraqi security forces were running operations to cleanse Jabal Hamrin mountains and some regions of al-Anbar desert from terrorists, adding that the ISIL cells were now in their weakest conditions since the freedom of Mosul and after they were stranded in desert areas.

Al-Baghdadi in a new video message released after five years threatened to take revenge of the killed and jailed members of the terrorist group.

The ISIL terrorist group released an 18-minute video message of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in which he had threatened to continue his terrorist activities.

Al-Baghdadi was seen with three masked militants while the ISIL ringleader pointed to the ISIL's exit from Baqouz region in Eastern Deir Ezzur and reiterated that the Baqouz Battle had ended.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi also said that he would take revenge of his killed and captive militants, adding that the ISIL had conducted 92 terrorists operations in eight countries to take revenge of its killed and captured members in al-Sham region.

The ISIL ringleader also claimed that the Easter blasts in Sri Lanka had been carried out in line with ISIL's revenge for Baquouz battle.

The newly-released video of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was the first since the last one released in Iraqi Mosul's Nour Mosque in 2014.

On Saturday, Russian media reports claimed that al-Baghdadi was in Syria's Badiyeh (desert) region, attempting to cross the border into Iraq.

The Arabic-language service of RT news channel quoted an Iraqi intelligence source as saying that al-Baghdadi was at present hiding in Abu Rajmin mountain near Syria's Palmyra region in Homs province.

He added that the ISIL leader wants to cross the border into Iraq in the next few weeks, noting that he has already made several unsuccessful attempts due to the tight security measures at the border.

The report said captured ISIL terrorists have leaked during interrogations that al-Baghdadi has been left with a small number of Saudi, Tunisian and Iraqi militants who are still loyal to him.

Security experts said al-Baghdadi is likely trying to join the ISIL terrorists who have been transferred by the US from Syria to Iraq.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980212000576

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‘Age-Old Cities’ exhibition reveals the cultural impact of terrorism

May 02, 2019

RIYADH: “Age-Old Cities,” an exhibition that opened in Riyadh last month, uses virtual reality to allow visitors to access four significant heritage sites in the Arab world that were once vibrant and beautiful, but are now destroyed —  or seriously threatened: Mosul in Iraq; Aleppo and Palmyra in Syria; and Leptis Magna in Libya.

The immersive exhibition — organized by the Ministry of Culture in collaboration with the Institut de Monde Arabe in Paris, where the exhibition was first displayed — uses VR technology, giant-screen projections, archival documents and images, and video testimonials to take visitors on a journey from the cities’ origins through to their modern-day state, in order to raise awareness about the need to preserve cultural treasures.

It clearly reveals the devastating effects that terrorism can have on mankind, civilization and history.

“The ministry’s organization of an international exhibition such as this comes in the context of its keenness to promote international cultural dialogue and open communication with the world,” said Abdul-Kareem Al-Humaid, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Culture.

Visitors

One of the volunteers at the exhibition told Arab News that some visitors had been visibly shaken when they left. The volunteer described it as an “emotional roller-coaster” for two visitors from Mosul and Aleppo in particular, who had left with tears in their eyes after seeing the “before and after” of their respective cities, both of which are currently reduced, for the most part, to rubble.

Prince Turki Al-Faisal saluted the Ministry of Culture, which is led by Prince Badr Al-Saud, for organizing such an exhibition.

He pointed out that documenting the devastation caused by terrorism makes a great contribution to raising awareness of the value of cultural heritage.

“Without this awareness and sensing the importance of this intangible heritage, we cannot preserve it and protect it from the hands of saboteurs and extremists,” he said.

“As much as I am pleased with this visit, I am saddened by the images I have seen in this exhibition — especially as it highlights the ancient archaeological cities listed in the UNESCO list of human heritage such as Aleppo and Palmyra in Syria, and Mosul in Iraq,” he continued.

He said the exhibition “managed to take us on a virtual journey and a unique realistic simulation to see, live, these cities that were subjected to destruction, desecration and theft. The exhibition succeeded in defining the magnitude of the great and terrible loss suffered by humanity for this neglect and destruction.”

“Age-Old Cities” runs at the National Museum in Riyadh until May 18. During Ramadan, the exhibition will be open daily from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1491646/saudi-arabia

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American Jews And Muslims Are 'Natural Allies' With Close Bonds, Study Finds

03/05/2019

By Carol Kuruvilla

In 2010, a small group of Muslim and Jewish women in New Jersey began meeting in one another’s homes, drawn by the prospect of working in solidarity to combat the hatred that each group faced.

Years later, the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom has more than 3,000 women participating in 170 chapters in the U.S. and Canada. During these meetings, members spend time getting to know each other. They learn about similarities in Judaism and Islam. They celebrate holidays and life events together.

Recently, they’ve also been grieving the rise of white nationalist violence and planning how they will respond to both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

Executive Director Sheryl Olitzky said the Sisterhood is based on a simple premise: “It’s really easy to hate someone you don’t know. But when you know them, it’s difficult, and when you care about them, it’s impossible.”

A new survey is offering data on something that Olitzky and other American Jewish and Muslim leaders have been insisting on for years: that the stereotypes that paint these religious groups as “natural enemies” don’t reflect what’s actually happening.

The American Muslim Poll 2019, a research project from the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU), suggests that American Jews and Muslims have much more in common than is often assumed.

Both groups are minorities in the U.S. who report facing religious discrimination. They are both becoming increasingly anxious about the threat white supremacists pose to their communities and houses of worship. They tend to vote for Democrats, and they are more likely to be educated and urban.

All these factors increase their chances of meeting. And the ISPU study suggests that once American Jews and Muslims meet each other, they become more than just acquaintances ― they become close friends and allies.

“These findings fly in the face of the dominant narrative that paints Muslims and Jews as natural enemies,” Dalia Mogahed, director of research at the ISPU, told HuffPost. “The data paints a different picture, one of two communities facing a common threat and who are by far the most likely to know and like each other. The story we tell about these communities should start reflecting this reality.”

The ISPU is a research organization that seeks to offer insight on the lives of American Muslims. Its January 2019 survey of 2,376 people was conducted among Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Protestants (white evangelicals in particular), and unaffiliated Americans.

Collaborating with Georgetown University’s The Bridge Initiative, the ISPU attempted to measure the extent to which the American public endorses anti-Muslim tropes. The resulting tracker, dubbed the National American Islamophobia Index, analyzes the level of agreement religious groups had with the following five stereotypes about Muslims.

Compared to all the non-Muslim faith groups surveyed, Jewish Americans were the least Islamophobic, meaning they were most resistant to accepting those negative stereotypes about Muslims. On the other hand, white evangelical Protestants scored the highest on the Islamophobia Index.

Separate from the index, the ISPU asked participants whether they had an overall “favorable, unfavorable, or no opinion” about different religious groups. Jews and Muslims had similar responses to this question, with 45% of Muslims saying they had favorable opinions on Jews and 53% of Jews saying they had favorable views about Muslims.

Notably, Jewish Americans had significantly better opinions about Muslims than they did of white evangelicals. While 75% of white evangelicals had favorable opinions of Jews, only 25% of Jews returned the positive sentiment.

American Jews and Muslims also appeared to have similar thoughts about President Donald Trump’s attempts to restrict immigration through executive orders targeting primarily Muslim majority countries. Trump first proposed an outright ban on Muslims entering the country while campaigning in 2015, and, although the president has claimed otherwise, many Muslim leaders still think of his efforts as a “Muslim ban.”

The ISPU sought to measure whether political candidates’ support or opposition to the Muslim ban would have an effect in the voting booth. Sixty-one percent of Muslims and 53% of Jews said that a candidate’s endorsement of the Muslim ban would decrease their support for that individual. White evangelicals were the most likely religious group surveyed to say the opposite, with 44% saying a candidate’s endorsement of the Muslim ban would actually increase their support for that candidate’s run for office.

Olitzky believes American Jews feel a “moral responsibility” to protect people fleeing violence.

“Jews, because of their horrific past, know what it is like to not be welcome in any country, to not be protected from any country,” Olitzky said, specifically thinking about how Jewish refugees were treated during the Holocaust. “They feel the strongest responsibility so that this should never happen to anyone else.”

Researchers also discovered evidence of strong social ties between American Muslim and Jewish communities. About 53% of the general public reported knowing an American who is a Muslim, with white evangelicals being the least likely to say the same (35%). But 76% of Jews reported knowing a Muslim. And within that subset, 45% said they were close enough friends with a Muslim to “call them if you needed help” ― a much higher percentage than the other religious groups surveyed.

That closeness might help explain why American Jews have such positive views of Muslims. Political scientists have long argued that knowing someone from a specific community is associated with more positive views of that community. The ISPU analysis revealed that knowing a Muslim personally is a “protective factor” against Islamophobia.

“When a Muslim is a close friend, Islamophobia is further reduced,” the researchers state.

These strong social ties are reflected in a number of joint initiatives that Muslim and Jewish leaders are creating. In addition to the Sisterhood, there are groups like NewGround, a Los Angeles-based community-building organization that connects Jewish and Muslim professionals and high schoolers. There’s also the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council, a collaboration between the American Jewish Committee and the Islamic Society of North America.

Aziza Hasan, NewGround’s executive director, told HuffPost that the ISPU’s findings confirm what she’s experienced while leading the interfaith organization.

“While Muslims and Jews share similarities and religious teachings, living as religious minorities in the United States also deeply connects our communities with shared common experiences,” Hasan said.

Olitzky said that the biggest issue that tends to cause divisions among Muslim and Jews today is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Sisterhood chapters are purposeful about how that topic is addressed, sharing resources that teach participants how to engage in difficult conversations, listen with compassion and focus on building relationships with fellow members first.

Even with those political differences, Olitzky said that Muslim and Jewish women in Sisterhood chapters have found many commonalities. They face similar challenges in the workplace, for example, when it comes to observing holidays or fasts that most of their co-workers don’t partake in.

“It’s not easy being a Jewish or Muslim woman of faith in a country that is really navigated by a calendar, by dietary habits, by values that aren’t necessarily the same as yours,” Olitzky said.

In addition, Muslims and Jews also share experiences of being targeted for their faith. Of the religious groups surveyed, Muslims were the most likely to report experiencing religious discrimination (62%). Jewish Americans were the second most likely to say the same, with 43% reporting religious discrimination. 

Jewish and Muslim leaders are both concerned about a rise in white nationalist violence. Mogahed, of the ISPU, said that Jews and Muslims are “natural allies” because they face this common threat.

Hasan said that she believes anti-Semitism and Islamophobia often go hand in hand. She pointed out that the shooter accused of killing 11 Jews at a Pittsburgh synagogue last year was angry at a Jewish nonprofit for helping Muslim refugees resettle in the U.S. The man accused of opening fire at a Poway, California, synagogue last week was reportedly inspired by the New Zealand mosque massacre and is suspected of setting a fire at a mosque last month.

“The pattern we find is that where there is anti-Semitism, there is often Islamophobia as well,” Hasan said. “While our shared trauma has brought our communities together, our response of solidarity and allyship has bonded us.”

After the Pittsburgh shooting, Muslim worshippers raised thousands of dollars for the victims. Months later, Jewish groups in Pittsburgh raised funds for victims of New Zealand’s mosque shootings.

“Through the grief and the pain of this past year, one continual source of inspiration and strength has been the way our communities continue to show up for each other,” Hasan said.

https://www.huffingtonpost.in/entry/jewish-muslim-allies-ispu_n_5cc9e017e4b0d123954d74ba?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAJM5TVQad26KeqWoDQPYsF29k0VYObyg9Ihb88JU649xesT02d1CVBXri-II0zSJoqmiq9p3VZYv_SQTYQvNZfdQ9yVU5LQrXspArEIG_-YHbsYn2ug81amVtPElEzy3mgXVe7yJOt3WFWaln6XdX_oYwEvB9pxk7e3D7WjPJqMb

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Ramadan could draw wealthy tourists to New Zealand

May 03 2019

Shorter daylight hours in New Zealand during the holy month of Ramadan could be a draw for wealthy Muslim tourists, according to one of the country’s leading researchers in Islamic studies.

Ramadan will begin on May 6 when the crescent moon is visible in most Islamic nations. This signals the start of the holy month where Muslims refrain from eating or drinking during daylight hours.

New Zealand’s shorter autumn days mean Muslims will fast for about 10 hours. As Europe and the Middle East head into summer, longer days could potentially spell a 16-hour fast for worshippers.

University of Auckland professor of religious studies Zain Ali said New Zealand had a unique opportunity to market itself to Muslim tourists during this time of year.

"The idea of Ramadan tourism has been around for a while and I think the potential is there for it to take off in this country," he said.

"We have fewer hours of daylight and there is [a] class of wealthy people who would be looking to travel during Ramadan."

Ali said the challenge was making New Zealand stand out against other popular tourist spots for Muslims.

"Muslim tourists will be thinking about whether a destination will provide halal options, offer meals before sunrise and how friendly it is to Muslims," he said.

"New Zealand will need to address these issues to compete with popular destinations like Malaysia and Dubai that have Muslim majority populations, so are already well-prepared to accommodate for them."

Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development general manager of destination Steve Armitage said there were no current plans to target Ramadan fasters, but travelling Muslims would be welcomed.

"There is a vibrant local Muslim community across the region who have a history of welcoming others to experience Ramadan with them, and plenty of great halal eateries to choose from," he said.

"New air services have also recently made Auckland more accessible for travellers coming from the Middle East and other Pacific Rim destinations with predominantly Muslim populations."

Solicitor Umar Kuddus was sceptical Muslims would be flocking to New Zealand during Ramadan.

"Ramadan isn’t just a time for us to fast and eat after sunset, it’s a time of reflection, prayer and to be with family," he said.

"While New Zealand is attractive for Muslims, as we only have around 10 hours of daylight, I don’t think many will be flocking here from across the world."

Kuddus said if Muslims did decide to come to New Zealand for the holy month, the country did well in terms of providing halal options.

“Recently we’ve had quite an influx in terms of the understanding of halal food. Now not only Muslim-owned and -operated restaurants are providing halal but general restaurants all cater for halal,” he said.

“There is endless opportunity for halal food in New Zealand.”

Halal tourism is expected to be worth over $200 billion worldwide by 2025.

Police security is expected to be ramped up during the holy month following the terror attack at the Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre in March.

Imam Shafiq ur Rehman from the Baitul Muqeet Mosque in south Auckland said meetings had been held between Islamic leaders and the police and armed guards and increased bag checks would greet worshippers.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/travel/112400366/ramadan-could-draw-wealthy-tourists-to-new-zealand

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Ruling party candidate quits Australian campaign over anti-Muslim posts

May 03, 2019

SYDNEY: Another candidate for Australia’s governing Liberals was forced to stand down over anti-Muslim comments Friday as the party struggles to fend off charges it harbors right-wing extremists.

Jessica Whelan became the third Liberal candidate to quit the race for May 18 elections in the past three days over racist or homophobic social media posts.

Whelan, running for the lower house of parliament from the island state of Tasmania, initially said the posts, which included references to “filthy Muslims” and called for a referendum to ban Muslim immigration, had been doctored by hackers.

But after screenshots of additional anti-Islam posts emerged in the Australian press overnight, Whelan withdrew from the race early Friday.

The move came after the Liberals, led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, were forced to drop two other candidates in the key state of Victoria on Wednesday after they were found to have posted anti-Islam or homophobic messages on social media.

The incidents provided new ammunition to opposition parties’ charges that the Liberals have become dominated by extremists since party hard-liners ousted moderate prime minister Malcolm Turnbull last August, putting the more conservative Morrison in power.

“The Liberals have been forced to dump another one of its extreme right-wing candidates,” trumpeted Bill Shorten, leader of the main opposition Labor party, which is leading in opinion polls.

Morrison denied that Whelan’s views reflected a broader far-right agenda for his party.

“Her views were her views and they do not represent the views of the party I lead,” he said.

But Labor has also been hit by controversy as both major party campaigns are roiled by social media posts made by their candidates, sometimes years earlier.

One Labor candidate dropped out of the race earlier this week over posts deemed anti-Semitic, while Liberal leaders demanded on Friday that Shorten sack another Labor hopeful for posting rape jokes and other sexist comments.

Luke Creasey, a 29-year-old school teacher running for office in the Victorian capital of Melbourne, posted the comments in 2012 and Shorten defended him on Friday, saying the candidate regretted the posts made when he was 22.

“He has apologized deeply and he certainly doesn’t hold those views now,” Shorten said, adding, “Jessica Whelan said what she believes now (and) tried to cover it up.”

In an increasing fiery campaign, both parties are learning the value of vetting candidates even in long-shot races where they stand little chance of taking office.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1491746/world

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India

 

Zakat can transform Muslim community: Survey

by ZEESHAN SHAIKH

May 3, 2019

A pan-India survey conducted about Zakat, which is an Islamic religious tax, shows that 77 per cent of respondents believe it has the potential to transform the Muslim community in India. However, the money is being given for various purposes with no specific focus, and the donors are also not keen on checking whether the money they give is having any tangible impact on the lives of those who received it, the survey says.

Any Muslim who owns assets worth more than 75 grams of gold after deducting his liabilities is expected to pay Zakat. The amount is pegged at 2.5 per cent of his total income, assets and savings. This amount is expected to be given to a needy person.

There are 17.18 crore Muslims accounting for 14.2 per cent of India’s population. There is no exact estimate on how much Zakat is collected in India, with estimates fluctuating between Rs 7,500 crore and Rs 40,000 cr annually.

This amount is either distributed in small amounts to individuals or goes into madrasas to fund religious education. There are numerous groups in India which collect Zakat and utilise it for community work. There have been, however, complaints that a large chunk of this money goes in funding madrasas, and very little is done for empowerment of the community.

The survey was conducted across India by the Association of Muslim Professionals, who sent questionnaires to 4,589 respondents from across various social strata to “understand the current practices of Zakat collection, distribution and its impact on Muslim community”.

The study shows that 36 per cent of the respondents paid less than Rs 10,000 as Zakat. 39 per cent paid Rs 10,000-50,000, five per cent paid Rs 50,000-Rs 1 lakh and 10 per cent over Rs 1 lakh.

The most donations are given by individuals to their own relatives, with 38 per cent saying they preferred paying charity to their less well off relatives. Only 16 per cent of respondents paid money to NGOs or community organisations.

Funding an individual’s education was the most preferred form of paying Zakat. However, with only 18 per cent paying Zakat for education, the number was relatively less.

Over 50 per cent tended to pay Zakat to the same people and over 55 per cent claimed that the money they gave as charity to someone did not change the life of the family nor were the donors interested in finding out whether the money was being used effectively.

The majority of the respondents, at 77 per cent, felt that collective donation had the potential of transforming the Muslim community in India, and nearly 47 per cent preferred the money being given for the educational empowerment of the community.

“Thousands of crores of money gets distributed as Zakat annually in India. Inspite of this huge amount, you do not see a tangible impact on the upliftment of the community. The idea of the survey was to identify the pain areas which hinder the effective utilisation of Zakat and how it can be leveraged in a better and more organised way to improve the socio economic situation of India’s Muslims,” Aamir Edresy, founder president of the Association of Muslim Professionals, said.

https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/zakat-can-transform-muslim-community-survey-5707834/

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IS Can't Strike India Directly Despite Threats, May Go For Inspired Attacks

May 2, 2019

A recent statement from an Islamic State (IS)-aligned group threatening attacks in India and Bangladesh and naming its new 'emir' (chief) in 'Bengal' does not point to the IS' official presence in India or its ability to directly strike targets in these countries, but authorities must remain vigilant as more 'IS-inspired' attacks are expected.

The renewed focus on the IS threat in the Indian sub-continent comes after over 250 people were killed last month in Sri Lanka in the Easter Sunday suicide attacks, for which IS has claimed responsibility. Terrorist activity watchdog SITE Intelligence Group has also said that for the first time in over two years, the group has claimed credit for an attack in Bangladesh, where three people, including two policemen, were injured on Monday by a crude bomb in Dhaka's Gulistan area. A day after this attack, an IS-aligned group reportedly named Abu Muhammed al-Bengali as its new emir in 'Bengal' and threatened to carry out attacks in India and Bangladesh.

Edmund Fitton-Brown, coordinator of the ISIL (Daesh)/Al-Qaida/Taliban Monitoring Team at the United Nations, had recently warned about the dangers of IS-inspired attacks, despite the group losing its last piece of territory in Syria and Iraq. In an interview published in the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point's (The United States Military Academy's) April 2019 Sentinel publication, Fitton-Brown had said while IS was "not capable of directing complex international attacks" at the moment, attacks inspired by the group would still take place. "This is where the message is being put out online; the propaganda is saying, 'Go ahead and do these various things.' It's angry, radicalised individuals responding to something they're seeing online," he had said.

Despite its military defeat, the Islamic State's ability to inspire terrorism in different parts of the world has remained intact. The group is likely to make full use of it to fight the threat to its relevance. "After the loss of Baghouz, the Islamic State has collapsed as a geographical entity but it continues to exist as an ideological one," said Kabir Taneja, an associate fellow at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) and author of 'The ISIS phenomenon: South Asia and beyond'.

On March 23, 2019, US-backed forces in Syria had announced they had liberated the last area under Islamic State control in the village of Baghouz, declaring victory over the terrorist group and the end of its self-declared caliphate. With this, the group lost the safe space from where it could plan and direct attacks in the rest of the world.

Taneja said that inspired attacks were IS' best bet to maintain its relevance, describing it as "do it yourself" terrorism. "This will be IS' preferred methodology. They will be looking for opportunities. Expect more attacks, like the ones in Sri Lanka, across the world. IS is willing to accept any attack on any territory in its name in a bid to stay relevant," he added.

The threat is very real

India has seen an estimated 180 IS-related cases to date, according to Taneja. While the group and its affiliates have been unable to carry out any high-casualty attacks in the country, the threat remains ever present as demonstrated by the Sri Lankan bombers.

"There is no official IS presence in India," said Taneja. However, this does not mean that the terrorist group has not made any inroads here.

An analysis of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) releases, media reports and data collated by ORF's 'Tracking ISIS' Influence in India' project revealed that between 2014 and 2019 at least 113 individuals were under the scanner of agencies for being involved with IS to one extent or another. About 30 of them have been arrested, while others are under investigation, absconding, or have been killed.

Among the 13 states from where these IS suspects or operatives came, Kerala topped the list by a wide margin, with an estimated 43 such individuals in that state. Telangana was a distant second with nine IS members, affiliates or sympathisers. Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu stood third with six such individuals each.

The first full-scale IS attack in India was the March 7, 2017, blast on the Bhopal-Ujjain passenger train in Madhya Pradesh. Over 10 people were injured when a low-intensity bomb detonated. As the perpetrators were caught, the NIA described them as self-radicalised IS sympathisers. "They took bayat to ISIS and also attempted migrating (to Syria or Iraq) several times through Kashmir, Amritsar, Mumbai and other places," NIA spokesperson, Inspector General Alok Mittal, had said in an August 2017 statement on the case.

A recent high-profile NIA case also showed how an IS-aligned group could emerge. The NIA has been investigating the "ISIS-inspired module" styled as 'Harkat-ul-Harb-e-Islam' and its alleged members, having arrested 14 in the case between last December and April this year. The agency has said that a group of "pro-IS terrorists" had formed this "terrorist gang", which was found to be inspired by the IS ideology. The NIA claims it has credible information that the group was preparing "to carry out terrorist attacks targeting vital installations, sensitive locations and crowded places in and around Delhi/NCR". The agency also said the group, which had been operating from Delhi and neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, had mobilised funds and procured weapons, ammunition and explosive material to prepare improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and bombs, and that its members planned "to carry out explosions and fidayeen attacks".

What about the new emir?

Being named as its emir by an IS-aligned group does not necessarily mean that al-Bengali has the IS top leadership's blessings. "It is very easy for a pro-IS group to declare an emir for a region and its allegiance to IS," explained Taneja. "IS is like a brand and associating with it can earn a group attention and prominence because of the imagery and reputation attached to it," he added.

But, the IS has rules when it comes to appointing senior leaders. "Any person who becomes an emir has to swear an oath of allegiance (known as bayat or bay'ah in Arabic) to the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. And, their oath of allegiance needs to be accepted by the group's top leadership and Al-Baghdadi," said Taneja.

Full report at:

https://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/is-can-t-strike-india-directly-despite-threats-may-go-for-inspired-attacks-119050201024_1.html

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Shopian encounter: Brief exchange of fire with militants, area cordoned off

May 3, 2019

A brief exchange of firing took place between security forces and militants in Jammu and Kashmir’s Shopian district on Friday morning, the Jammu & Kashmir police said.

Kashmir Zone Police

@KashmirPolice

Brief exchange of firing between #Security forces and #terrorists in #Shopian. Area under cordon. Information is #preliminary in nature. @JmuKmrPolice @Sandeep_IPS_JKP

51

6:44 AM - May 3, 2019

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Security forces had launched a cordon and search operation in the area this morning following information about the presence of militants.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/shopian-encounter-live-updates-jk-militants-security-forces-5707944/

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Zakir Naik got Rs 193 crore as donation, used it to incite terror acts: ED to special court

by Deeptiman Tiwary

May 3, 2019

Islamic preacher Zakir Naik had received over Rs 193 crore as donations which were used to “convert people to Islam” and to incite them “to commit terrorist activities”, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) told a special court in Mumbai on Thursday.

The agency has filed a prosecution complaint against Naik, alleging that he has diverted part of the donations to buy properties in the name of his family members and has also ventured into the real estate business in Dubai where he is building high-end villas, agency sources said.

This is the second prosecution complaint in the case but the first implicating Naik directly. “These Prosecution Complaints have been filed before the Hon’ble Special Judge with a prayer for punishment to the accused and confiscation of attached properties to the tune of Rs. 50.46 crores for involvement in money laundering,” an ED statement said.

According to the ED’s prosecution complaint, Naik’s NGO Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) received funds to the tune of Rs 64.86 crore from “dubious sources” between 2003-04 and 2016-17. “The IRF received donations in response to the appeals made by Zakir Naik during the course of his controversial speeches and thus these donations were proceeds of crime emanating from criminal activity,” the ED statement said.

According to ED, its probe has revealed between 2012 and 2016, Naik diverted Rs 49.20 crore from his accounts in UAE to his accounts in India. These funds, ED alleged, were used to purchase properties in Mumbai and Pune by layering of funds in the name of his close relatives.

“Naik used the funds to the tune of Rs. 17.65 crore for purchase of properties from builders viz. Mr.Salim Kodia partner in M/s MK Enterprises, Mr Munaf Vadgama, partner in M/s Aafiyah Realtors, Mr. Sameer Khan, partner in M/s Pacific Orient Genesis Associates and Mr Musa Lakdawala, partner of M/s Lakdawala & Yash Associates in their projects,” the ED statement said.

These projects have been identified by ED as Fatima Heights (Mumbai), Aafiyah Heights (Mumbai), Engracia (Pune) and another project at Bhandup in Mumbai.

The ED has also alleged that Naik has established several companies in UK and India by placing his close confidantes and relatives as directors to camouflage the diversion of funds received by him and his trust “through his illegal activities of provocative speeches, etc and also for propagating hate speeches”.

The ED case is based on an NIA FIR, which alleged Naik’s involvement in “unlawful activities through his provocative utterances, thus promoting enmity and hatred between different religious groups in India”.

According to the ED, investigation revealed most of Naik’s controversial speeches were delivered during the Peace Conferences organised by IRF in Mumbai between 2007 and 2011. The ED claimed these speeches were aimed at converting people to Islam and to inspire youth to commit “terrorist acts”.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/zakir-naik-got-rs-193-crore-as-donation-used-it-to-incite-terror-acts-ed-to-special-court-5707835/

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PMK functionary Ramalingam murder case: NIA raids premises of Muslim outfits in Tamil Nadu

MAY 02, 2019

Ramalingam, 45, was was murdered by a gang on the night of February 5 at Muslim Street in Thirubhuvanam

Officers of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Thursday conducted simultaneous searches at the Popular Front of India (PFI) district unit offices at Thanjavur, Tiruchi, and Karaikal on Thursday, in connection with the murder of PMK functionary V. Ramalingam in Thanjavur in February.

Split into teams, the NIA officials carried out the operation armed with search warrants and with protection provided by the local police. Sources said the NIA conducted a search at the house of a person by name Mohamed Hasan Quthoos at Karaikal and seized a hard disk, laptop and books besides some unaccounted money. Quthoos it is alleged, was involved in the murder of Ramalingam.

Thereafter, a search was conducted at the PFI district unit office at Karaikal town. This concluded in the afternoon. NIA teams carried out similar searches at the PFI office at Thanjavur town for about 45 minutes.

In Tiruchi city, another NIA team searched the premises of the PFI situated at Palakkarai. Although the NIA team had landed at the spot at around 8 a.m., the PFI office was closed and opened thereafter by its office bearers.

Armed protection was given by the City Police team to enable the NIA officers carry out their operation. The NIA team conducted enquiries with an office bearer of the PFI as part of the operation which lasted over six hours.

Ramalingam, 45, was murdered by a gang on the night of February 5 at Thirubhuvanam. Thiruvidaimaruthur police, who registered a case, arrested 10 persons in connection with the incident and seized a car allegedly used by the assailants.

The PMK functionary was intercepted by a car-borne gang on Muslim Street at Thirubhuvanam around midnight and was attacked with lethal weapons resulting in deep cut injuries.

Full report at:

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/pmk-functionary-ramalingam-murder-case-nia-raids-premises-of-muslim-outfits-in-tamil-nadu/article27013038.ece

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Pakistan

 

Breakthrough in Azhar case struck during Imran Khan's China trip: Pak media reports

May 2, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The "breakthrough" in designating Masood Azhar as a global terrorist came during Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's recent visit to China where the two sides agreed to withdraw their opposition to the latest move to blacklist the JeM chief, a media report said here Thursday.

The UN's sanctions committee announced Wednesday the designation of Pakistan-based Azhar, leader of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), over its ties to Al-Qaeda.

The US, France along with the UK had moved the proposal to designate Azhar as a "global terrorist" in the UN Security Council's 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee in February, just days after the deadly Pulwama terror attack that killed 40 CRPF soldiers.

A veto-wielding permanent member of the UNSC, China was the sole hold-out in the 15-nation world body on the bid to blacklist Azhar, blocking four attempts since 2009 by placing a "technical hold" and asking for "more time to examine" the proposal.

Hours after sanctions were imposed on Azhar, the Express Tribune newspaper, quoting diplomatic sources, reported that Pakistan and China held extensive discussions before making a decision on the Azhar issue.

"It is believed that the breakthrough came during the recent visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to China where both sides agreed to withdraw opposition to the latest move after realising that Islamabad's concerns were addressed," the report said.

Khan was in Beijing to attend the 2nd Belt and Road Forum hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping from April 25 to 27. Apart from President Xi, the Pakistan prime minister met his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang as well as Vice President Wang Qishan.

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Wednesday that China lifted its hold on the US, the UK and French proposal after a "careful study of the revised materials" it had to designate Azhar as a global terrorist.

The listing of Azhar means that he will now be facing a travel ban, assets freeze and arms embargo.

But the source told the paper that the listing does not mean the person should be detained. Another official claimed that authorities were "unaware" of Azhar's whereabouts.

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, during the peak of India-Pakistan tensions following the Pulwama terror attack had admitted that Azhar was in Pakistan. He also mentioned that the JeM chief was "very unwell" to the extent that he cannot leave his house.

The report also claimed that Islamabad agreeing to the designation of Azhar as a global terrorist was a "paradigm shift" in the country's approach.

An official said prime minister Khan had made a public commitment that Pakistan's soil would not be used against any country.

However, he made it clear that Pakistan would go after these groups in a manner that the peace and security of the country was not affected.

The Washington Post reported that Azhar's sanctioning comes weeks after Washington said it was seeking to have him put on the UN blacklist.

In Washington, a senior US administration official told reporters that "after 10 years China has done the right thing by lifting its hold on this designation."

The official, who insisted on speaking anonymously, said Britain and France joined the US in putting pressure on China after the February 14 attack, and Beijing seems to have understood "that it is increasingly important that its actions on the international stage on terrorism matched its rhetoric."

The official said the Trump administration is watching to see if Pakistan Prime Minister Khan's commitment to crack down on militants in the country "will translate into irreversible steps to end terrorist and militant safe havens inside Pakistan."

Khan's government has ordered the takeover of assets and property of JeM and dozens of banned militant organisations that operate in Pakistan after the Pulwama terror attack by a JeM suicide bomber.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/breakthrough-in-azhar-case-struck-during-imran-khans-china-trip-pak-media-reports/articleshow/69147691.cms

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Balochistan govt approves special security division for Quetta

May 03, 2019

QUETTA: The Balochistan cabinet on Thursday approved a plan to establish a special division of police force for Quetta to ensure security and protection of people.

Official sources said that under the new special security division, over 1,300 vacancies of ranks of Senior Superintendent of police (SSP) to constables would be created and they would be trained on modern lines. The meeting, presided over by Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan Alyani, was informed that the security division would have the latest communication system as well as modern weapons and other equipment.

“The provincial government will create 1,305 new vacancies from the rank of soldiers to SSPs who will be selected purely on merit,” a senior official of the Balochistan government said after the meeting.

The cabinet also decided to declare Quetta, Gwadar and Lasbela districts A area and Levies force of all these districts would be merged into the police department.

The meeting also approved Rs939 million in compensation for the people affected by the Mirani Dam project.

The federal government is providing funds for the project. The cabinet also approved 10 billion tsunami tree project under the Green Pakistan initiative of Prime Minister Imran Khan under which 250 million plants would be planted across the province.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1479896/balochistan-govt-approves-special-security-division-for-quetta

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Qureshi says Pakistan wants to keep border with Iran peaceful

Ijaz Kakakhel

MAY 3, 2019

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Thursday said Pakistan had a long border of 905 kilometers with Iran, and Islamabad want to keep it peaceful and stable.

Responding to the points raised by the opposition members in the National Assembly, Qureshi said Pakistan had positively engaged with Iran to curb cross-border movement of militant elements.

He said there were certain elements, including regional spy agencies, which were bent upon hurting this relationship by creating misunderstandings through their nefarious acts. He, however, said these sordid designs would be foiled through collective efforts.

The minister said Pakistan had taken a number of steps to raise the level of understanding and confidence between the two neighbouring countries. “We have decided to establish a joint border centre as well as fence the border to curb the movement of militant elements.” He said the statement of Prime Minister Imran Khan in Iran was taken out of context. He said given the sensitivity involved, the opposition parties should not do politics on it.

About the new local government act in Punjab, the foreign minister said it was aimed at giving more powers and financial autonomy to the local governments to address the problems of the people at the grassroots level. On reforms in the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Qureshi said the process of accountability must continue transparently. He said the people of the country wanted to see corrupt elements brought to justice.

He said the government was ready to sit with the opposition for bringing reforms in the NAB. He, however, recalled that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) failed to introduce reforms in the NAB in its five-year tenure.

Meanwhile, Federal Minister of Law Farogh Naseem informed the House that the government would introduce amendments to laws governing the NAB and the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). Replying to a point of order, the law minister said the government had held several meetings with the opposition leadership to reach a common ground over amendment to the NAB law. He said the opposition had given a long list for proposed amendments to the law. “We have no ego issues… the bill will be given final shape,” the minister said. He urged the opposition to strengthen the government for a strong Pakistan. Naseem disclosed that he and Qureshi frequently met the opposition members to discuss the issue.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan told the House that the government intended to privatise six state-owned entities. Speaking at the floor of the House during the question hour, the minister said that the government had planned to privatise two RLNG plants, two banks, the Jinnah Convention Centre and the Lakhra coal power project.

He said the government would also put up for sale its shares in Mari Petroleum. He said the government had sold its Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL) shares during the PML-N government’s tenure. He informed the House that the government was not considering privatising the Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM), and added that it was a national asset like institutions such as the Pakistan Railways and Pakistan Post.

The minister said that the PSM was removed from the list of privatisation and the government was committed to reviving the institution to make it a profitable entity. The minister told the House that the Privatisation Commission successfully conducted five privatisation transactions during 2014-18, generating proceeds amounting to Rs 172.9 billion. Replying to another question, the minister said that an international-level research university would be constructed at the Prime Minister’s House as per the promise made by Imran Khan.

As the assembly resumed its session on Thursday, with Speaker Asad Qaiser in the chair, Parliamentary Secretary for Planning and Development Kanwal Shauzab told the House during the question hour that 11 projects relating to water, energy and communication had been granted approval so far.

She said the projects would benefit the entire country, and added that the government was developing a policy for equitable development of less developed districts to bring them on a par with other developed districts. She further said that a special economic zone (SEZ) was being established at Rashakai under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.

Farogh Naseem lay before the House seven bills, urging the members not to do politics on them as they were people-friendly bills. He said the Legal Aid and Justice Authority Bill would extend assistance to women and children involved in criminal cases.

Full report at:

https://dailytimes.com.pk/387204/qureshi-says-pakistan-wants-to-keep-border-with-iran-peaceful/

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Military authorities contemplate transferring terror cases to govt

Malik Asad

May 02, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The military authorities are contemplating transferring the cases of all suspected terrorists arrested over a period of time to the federal government in case military courts are not given another extension through constitutional amendment.

In case of the transfer of these cases to the federal government, they may be assigned to the sessions courts or antiterrorism courts, legal experts believe.

The military courts set up under the National Action Plan (NAP) in 2015 to try civilians on terrorism charges ceased to function after their second two-year constitutional term expired at the end of March.

Director legal of the defence ministry Brigadier Falak Naz had, in response to a petition seeking release of under-trial accused Abdullah Saleh, submitted to the Lahore High Court a report stating that the accused was being tried by a military court and his case was pending as the authorities were awaiting further extension in the tenure of the military courts. The report further states: “However, in case of non-extension of military courts by parliament, his case for trial along with other accused will be at the disposal of the federal government for appropriate disposal.”

Abdullah Saleh is the son of retired Major Mohammad Saleh who has challenged the arrest of his son, saying he has been in the custody of secret agencies since Aug 28, 2016.

Brigadier Naz informed the court that Abdullah Saleh was allegedly involved in terrorist activities and his case was processed for trial under the military court. “Presently, his case with other cases is pending, subject to further extension of military courts.”

According to former officer of the military’s legal branch retired Lt Col Inam-ur-Rahim, in case these cases are transferred to the federal government, these will be given to the sessions courts or antiterrorism courts of the respective provinces.

Minister for Law and Justice Dr Farogh Nasim, when asked about the fate of pending cases in the military courts, told Dawn that it was a complicated issue and it needed some legal interpretation.

When he was reminded that after the antiterrorism law — Protection of Pakistan Act (PoPA) — had lapsed, the cases registered under PoPA were transferred to antiterrorism courts, he said PoPA was a different law and it could not be compared with the amendment to the Pakistan Army Act that empowered the military courts to try terrorists.

Though there are no official statistics available about military court cases, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, in response to a question raised by MNA Mohsin Dawar, had informed the lower house of parliament in November last year that the military courts had to decide 185 terrorism-related cases before the expiry of their two-year term in March this year.

The minister had said that since the launch of the Zarb-i-Azb operation, the interior ministry had referred a total of 717 cases to the military courts. Of the total cases, 185 were still under process and these had to be decided by March 30, he added. The minister had said a total of 478 cases had been decided by the military courts, which meant that the conviction rate of the cases was more than 60 per cent.

Mr Khattak had said that 284 convicts had been awarded death sentences and 56 of them had been executed. Similarly, he added, 192 convicts had been awarded rigorous imprisonment, two accused acquitted and 54 cases dropped due to technical reasons.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government, which has already decided in principle to give another extension to the military courts for two more years, is still struggling to seek cooperation of the opposition parties over the issue as it does not have the required two-thirds majority in any of the two houses of parliament to carry out the constitutional amendment for the purpose.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz seems to be willing for the extension of the military courts, but it wanted the PTI government to convince the opposition on this issue.

PML-N Senator Pervaiz Rashid blamed the PTI for the expiry of the military courts and delay in their revival. Talking to Dawn, he said that in this case the PML-N was ready to support the bill for the extension of the military courts, but it appeared that “complainant is lazy and witness is active” in the current situation.

“We asked the government to formally engage the opposition in discussion on the revival of the military courts, but the PTI leadership seems not interested as they did not contact Nawaz Sharif or Shahbaz Sharif,” he added.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1479688

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SC wraps up suo motu case regarding Lal Masjid operation

MAY 3, 2019

The Supreme Court on Thursday disposed of a suo motu case concerning the affairs of Lal Masjid after receiving an assurance from the attorney general that the Jamia Hafsa seminary would be reconstructed.

Firebrand Lal Masjid cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz had in 2015 petitioned the court to ensure that the families of those killed in the July 2007 military operation were paid blood money. After the operation, the government and the mosque administration, led by Maulana Aziz, had reached an agreement under which the Capital Development Authority (CDA) would provide an alternative site for the reconstruction of the Jamia Hafsa seminary.

The petition, among other demands, had also called for the CDA to build a new seminary in place of the seminary for women that had been damaged in the 2007 operation and later razed to the ground.

Aziz had also asked the court to order the federal government to implement its October 2, 2007 judgement in the case.

Attorney General of Pakistan Anwar Mansoor Khan was present in court on Thursday as a two-judge bench, headed by Justice Gulzar Ahmed, heard the case.

The attorney general assured the apex court that a seminary would be constructed at the site in question, and said that, administratively, it would fall under the government’s control. On March 12, the Supreme Court had been informed that Lal Masjid was built on government land by the Capital Development Authority (CDA).

“Who had recruited the prayer leader of the mosque,” Justice Faez Essa, a member of the bench, asked the Islamabad chief commissioner. “The Evacuee Properties Trust Board had appointed Maulana Abdullah as the prayer leader,” the chief commissioner replied. After Maulana Abdullah, his son Maulana Abdul Aziz was appointed the imam, the commissioner further said.

“It means Maulana Abdul Aziz was a government employee,” Justice Gulzar observed. The commissioner replied that Aziz was removed from his post in 2004, but he retained control of the mosque. “The mosque had become his personal property,” Justice Gulzar remarked. “Are you saying the government could not vacate the mosque? Justice Ijazul Ahsan, another member of the bench asked.

“In 2007’s operation, the building of Jamia Hafsa was destroyed and 20 kanals of land was allotted in year 2011 on the directives of the Supreme Court,” the chief commissioner informed the court.

“You mean the CDA allotted the state land to a private institution?” Justice Gulzar Ahmed asked. “How can you grant the property of CDA to someone?” he said, adding, “The space could temporarily be used by someone, but it will remain your property.”

He also said that running a private institution on government land was impermissible. “A private institution could only be run on your purchased place,” Justice Gulzar said.

Aziz’s laywer, Advocate Tariq Asad, came to the rostrum to argue that the case was not about one plot, but linked to various matters.

Justice Gulzar asked Asad to apprise the court of what angles of the case had been overlooked, to which the lawyer was unable to furnish an adequate response. Both Justice Gulzar and Asad then exchanged sharp words, with the lawyer telling the court he was not arguing the case “just to pass the time”.

Full report at:

https://dailytimes.com.pk/387202/sc-wraps-up-suo-motu-case-regarding-lal-masjid-operation/

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South Asia

 

Taliban hopeful of ‘final deal’ on troop withdrawal in ongoing talks

Tahir Khan

MAY 3, 2019

Afghan Taliban say a deal with the US on withdrawal of foreign forces ‘can be possible’ in the ongoing talks in Qatar. “We are holding detailed discussions on two core issues: complete withdrawal of foreign forces and to prevent Afghan soil from being used for terrorism. We will make efforts to finalize a deal,” Taliban political spokesman Suhail Shaheen said in an audio statement sent to Daily Times from Doha. When asked again if he is confident of a deal, he said “there are hopes.” “Agreement on troop withdrawal will open way for discussions and solution to other issues,” he said.

Earlier Taliban chief negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar told US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad that there will be no deal on any other issue unless both sides reach agreement on complete withdrawal of foreign forces and preventing Afghan soil from being used against others.

Khalilzad met Baradar in Qatar on Wednesday ahead of a new round of talks and views were exchanged about key aspects for a peaceful resolution of the Afghan issue. “It is absolutely vital that the two key agenda points of the previous meeting (full withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan and preventing Afghanistan from harming others) be finalized,” a Taliban statement quoted Baradar as telling the US envoy. “This will open the way for resolving other aspects of the issue and we cannot enter into other topics before this,” the Taliban leader further said.

Meanwhile, Senior Taliban leader Mullah Fazl has been appointed as deputy of the Qatar’s negotiating team, in an apparent attempt to boost trust of the military commanders in the negotiation process. Fazl, a former Guantanamo inmate, had served as Afghan army chief during the Taliban rule. He was freed from the US detention centre along with four other leaders in June 2014 in exchange of a US soldier. All five former Taliban Guantanamo prisoners are now part of the Qatar political negotiation team. “Trust of the military commanders in the political process is a must and the decision may have been taken to convey a message to the military commanders,” a Taliban official said. “This could also be an attempt to make former military leaders part of the political process and that they are determined to the peace process,” another Taliban official said.

https://dailytimes.com.pk/387245/taliban-hopeful-of-final-deal-on-troop-withdrawal-in-ongoing-talks/

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Time to put down arms, stop violence and embrace peace, Khalilzad tells Taliban

03 May 2019

The U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation has told Taliban to put down arms, stop violence and embrace.

“In our opening session, I underscored to the Talibs that the Afghan people, who are their brothers & sisters, want this war to end. It is time to put down arms, stop the violence, & embrace peace,” Khalilzad said in a Twitter post.

He also added “Peace will require that we find common-ground on four inter-connected issues: troop withdrawal, counter-terrorism assurances, intra-Afghan dialogue & negotiations, and reduction in violence leading to a comprehensive ceasefire. Nothing will be final until we agree on all 4 issues.”

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/time-to-put-down-arms-stop-violence-and-embrace-peace-khalilzad-tells-taliban-03871/

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Taliban Commander in Zabul Joins the Peace Process

02 May 2019

A Taliban Commander from Shah Joy District in Zabul Province has stopped fighting and is cooperating with the District Governor, Wazir Muhammad and the local 205th Corps security forces, the Afghan military said Thursday.

According to this Taliban Commander, he has joined the peace process on his own efforts and and will try to bring the rest of the Taliban members under his command to join the peace process too.

During the process he handed over a motorcycle, a Kalshnikov and some ammunition, the 205th Atal Corps said in a statement.

In a statement posted on social media, the provincial governor of Zabul Rahmatullah Yarmal said “This week a #Taliban Commander in #Zabul has stopped fighting a joined the peace process,” said Yarmal.  “There is a loud and clear desire for peace from everyone and this is a positive step for Zabul towards sustainable peace.”

https://www.khaama.com/taliban-commander-in-zabul-joins-the-peace-process-03868/

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Taliban positions pounded with artillery, airstrikes in Badghis leaving 17 dead, wounded

02 May 2019

The Afghan forces pounded Taliban positions pounded Taliban positions in north-western Badghis province of Afghanistan leaving at least 17 militants dead or wounded, the Afghan military said Thursday.

The 207th Zafar Corps in a statement said the operations were conducted in Qads district of Badghis leaving 9 militants dead and 8 others wounded.

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

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/taliban-positions-pounded-with-artillery-airstrikes-in-badghis-leaving-17-dead-wounded-03867/

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Sri Lanka Catholics cancel Sunday mass over new bomb fears

2 May 2019

Sri Lanka’s Roman Catholic Church said it had cancelled plans to resume Sunday services because of fears of fresh bomb attacks.

A spokesman for Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith said on Thursday that the Church received “specific information of two possible attacks against churches,” and it was decided to call off the May 5 mass.

“On the advice of the security forces, we have decided not to have Sunday masses in any of the churches,” the spokesman told AFP.

The Church had planned to resume public services for the first time since the Easter Sunday attacks that killed 257 people.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/05/02/Sri-Lanka-Catholics-cancel-Sunday-mass-over-new-bomb-fears.html

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Afghanistan’s Loya Jirga urges both govt., Taliban to announce ceasefire

May 2, 2019

Attendees at Afghanistan’s most important national gathering have urged ceasefire between the government and the Taliban militant group as a foretaste to a potential peace deal.

Loya Jirga, or grand assembly, wound down in the capital Kabul on Thursday following days of discussion among the thousand-strong politicians, religious leaders and representatives from across the country. The centuries-old assembly convenes in the event of national crises or to address momentous issues.

The gathering seeks to address the rampant violence, which has been waged for decades by the Taliban against Afghan people and officials, and has been worsened since 2001, when the United States ousted the militants when Washington invaded Afghanistan.

"We are here to urge both sides to announce a ceasefire. The war will end only when both sides stop fighting before they sign a permanent peace agreement," said Abdul Hannan, a member of one the committees, who had traveled from the south to attend the assembly.

"Every day, Afghans are being killed without any reason. An unconditional ceasefire must be announced," said Mohammad Qureshi, head of another committee.

"It is you, who will show the government the way towards peace and the government will do what you demand," Jirga chairman Abdul Rab Rasul Sayyaf said, apparently appealing to the nation to pool its resources to bring about peace.

Others, meanwhile, urged that any potential peace should not come about at the cost of free speech, women’s right or the right to vote.

The Taliban, which were not present at Jirga meeting, shun talks with the government, calling it a US puppet.

They have called for all foreign forces to leave the country before the militants would revisit their approach.

Many rounds of talks between the group and Washington have stopped far short of any agreement foreseeing foreign forces’ withdrawal.

Most recently, the Taliban and the US resumed a new round of negotiations, excluding Kabul, in Qatar’s capital of Doha, where the militant group runs a representative office.

During the fifth round of their talks in Doha, which ended in mid-March, the two sides “agreed in draft” on the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan in return for preventing the country’s soil from being used as a hub for terrorism.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/05/02/594937/Afghanistan-Grand-Assembly-ceasefire-Taliban-government-Loya-Jirga-United-States

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Southeast Asia

 

Matrimony programme introduced to inspire Muslim couples to build a strong marriage

MAY 2, 2019

Rahimah Rashith

SINGAPORE - Muslim couples applying to register their marriages from July 1 must first meet a naib kadi, or wedding solemniser, before their solemnisation ceremony.

The naib kadi will continue engaging the couple over the next two years, to inspire a strong and stable marriage by providing support before and throughout their matrimony.

Besides sharing advice and useful information on marriage and parenthood, the naib kadi may also refer couples to programmes and services aimed at enhancing their marital relationships, or when they need professional help.

The programme, which started as a ground-up initiative by the naib kadis, will be run by the Registry of Muslim Marriages and M³, which is an alliance of three key Malay/Muslim organisations: Mendaki, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) and the People's Association Malay Activity Executive Committees Council, Mesra.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development and Education Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim announced the Bersamamu (Malay for With You) programme on Thursday (May 2) at the Al-Mukminin Mosque in Jurong East.

"Bersamamu aims to make a difference to the lives of all Muslim couples seeking to marry. It underscores how couples can journey towards a strong marriage with the support of their naib kadi.

"As part of the M³ framework, it also serves as a key component of the continuum of care for Malay/Muslim families which I announced recently," he said, referring to an initiative launched on April 23 which will see government agencies collaborating with M³ to support Malay/Muslim families in marriage, parenthood, and early childhood education.

Government numbers show there were 6,050 Muslim marriages in 2017, up from the 5,954 in 2016 and 5,778 in 2015.

Meanwhile, the number of Muslim divorces fell to a five-year low in 2017, in part because of initiatives to bolster marriages in the community.

In the Bersamamu programme, couples must attend the free meet-up session after they apply online for a Muslim marriage application.

They will be required to meet the naib kadi once, for an hour, before their solemnisation date. Only after the first meting will the marriage be registered.

The naib kadi will also encourage soon-to-wed couples to attend Cinta Abadi, a marriage preparation course run by the Ministry of Social and Family Development.

Mr Mohamed Haziq, 30, has met a naib kadi, who is also a religious teacher, with his 29-year-old fiancee once after applying online to register his marriage.

"The advice given for life after marriage was especially helpful. It was also helpful that the Ustaz (religious teacher) raised awareness to improve our religious knowledge," he said.

https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/matrimony-programme-introduced-to-inspire-muslim-couples-to-build-a-strong-marriage

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Don’t fall for racial and religious propaganda at Saturday’s pro-Islam rally, says Muhyiddin

02 May 2019

PUTRAJAYA, May 2 — The public, especially Muslims, are advised not to fall for the propaganda of certain quarters who will purposely fan racial and religious sentiments at the rally to ‘defend Islam’ scheduled to be held in Kuala Lumpur this Saturday.

Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the rally, organised by the Gerakan Pembela Ummah (UMMAH), has been seen as merely a propaganda and an opportunity for those quarters to gain political mileage.

“I want to take this opportunity to advise all Malaysians to preserve racial and religious harmony in the country,” he said in a media interview here today in conjunction with the first anniversary of Pakatan Harapan (PH) government.

The rally is scheduled to be held in front of Sogo shopping complex in the capital at 2pm Saturday.

Meanwhile, Muhyiddin also refuted the allegation that the status of Islam was ‘unsafe’ under the PH government.

“The status of Islam as the religion of the Federation as enshrined in the Federal Constitution will not change,” he said in response to Mufti of Perlis Datuk Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin’s statement on Facebook claiming that the ‘voices to defend Islam’ were hardly heard among leaders in the ruling government.

In fact, Muhyiddin said the ministry also viewed seriously the issue of insults against Islam, Prophet Muhammad and the monarchy institution on social media.

He said stern action had been taken by the police so far in regard to the issue, with eight out of the 53 cases investigated had been charged in courts.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/05/02/dont-fall-for-racial-and-religious-propaganda-at-saturdays-pro-islam-rally/1749105

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Mujahid takes Perlis mufti to task over claim Islam threatened under Pakatan

02 May 2019

By Ida Lim

KUALA LUMPUR, May 2 — Datuk Seri Mujahid Yusof Rawa today appeared to defend Perlis mufti Datuk Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin as a progressive religious scholar, but also cast doubt on the latter’s attempts to portray Islam as purportedly being under threat in Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) rule.

The minister in charge of religious affairs described the Perlis mufti, popularly known as Dr Maza, as an “old friend” who had in the past lent support to his agenda for reform.

“We frequently exchanged views regarding contemporary Islamic issues, Dr Maza has progressive views especially in social matters and contemporary political Islam,” Mujahid said in a statement, adding that the cleric was supportive of inter-religious dialogue.

But Mujahid also said he was confident that Asri had “noble” intentions when the latter said that Islam’s position was threatened under PH’s rule in a Facebook posts on April 29.

“I also believe his Facebook status that sought views from the public may be to evaluate the performance of the new government in the past year,” Mujahid said, adding that he found Asri’s Facebook post to be confusing.

Asri had recently come under fire for his Facebook posts, including on April 29 where he had publicly sought response to his claim that many feel that Islam was allegedly “increasingly threatened” in Malaysia under the current administration.

In the said post under the in Bahasa Malaysia with the heading “Islam under threat?”, he cited independent Muslim preacher Muhammad Zamri Vinoth Kalimuthu’s arrest for a recent police probe to claim that Islam currently was not in such a safe position in the country.

Noting that Asri’s Facebook post revolved around the issue of police reports lodged by the public regarding Zamri’s alleged insult of the Hindu religion, Mujahid questioned the basis of Asri’s remarks regarding Islam’s position.

“Is it only with this one incident, that it results in a general judgment as summed up such as by saying that Islam is threatened under PH?,” he asked, pointing out that Zamri is now under investigation and has not even been charged in court for any offences.

“Why is something that has yet to be determined the basis for evaluations that Islam in Malaysia under PH’s administration is under threat?” he asked.

Mujahid then went on to list 10 measures as proof of the PH government’s commitment in the past year to ensure Islam is upheld, including the increase of the budget for the administration of Islam to RM1.2 billion.

Mujahid highlighted that additional allocations of RM50 million and RM25 million have been made for tahfiz schools and pondok schools respectively.

He said the government has also improved the administration of Islamic affairs with the introduction of seven clusters, and has also carried out reformation of religious institutions and agencies.

He said the government has expanded Maqasid-based Governance to six ministries and held Maqasid town hall sessions nationwide.

Among other things, Mujahid said the PH government had also committed RM17.8 billion to rehabilitate Tabung Haji.

In response to the Perlis mufti’s claims that the PH government had not heeded his suggestion for inter-faith dialogues to reduce tension among different religious groups, Mujahid said he had already given his commitment and had started the #solidarity4peace initiative through the Committee to Promote Understanding and Harmony among Religious Adherents (JKMPKA) platform under the Prime Minister’s Department.

“Hopefully, with this platform, I as the chairman together with the unity minister would be able to carry out various programmes this year as planned. Certainly, among others, the programmes that have been planned are Inter-faith Dialogue,” he said.

Mujahid said the PH government is of the view that life involving different religious groups has to be based on peace, not hate or the denigrating of other religions.

“I wish to thank Dr Maza from the bottom of my heart for being willing to criticise us and I as the minister who oversees Islamic religious affairs has the responsibility to explain the situation objectively,” he added.

Following Mohd Asri’s remarks, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad recently called him “deaf” for not paying attention to the government’s efforts for Muslim welfare and other concerns.

The National Patriots Association (Patriot) yesterday also said Mohd Asri may have been misinformed that Muslims are purportedly being “bullied” under the PH administration, adding that the latter’s recent claims may possibly be driven by misinformation peddled by certain political parties aiming to sow public discord towards the new government.

Patriot highlighted the PH government’s recent bailouts totalling RM24 billion (RM6.3 billion for Felda and RM17.8 billion for Lembaga Tabung Haji) for institutions that benefit Malay-Muslims.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/05/02/mujahid-takes-perlis-mufti-to-task-over-claim-islam-threatened-under-pakata/1749117

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Maszlee: Academics must take responsibility for executive summary on Rome Statute

03 May 2019

KUALA LUMPUR, May 3 ― The four academics who drew up the executive summary for the Conference of Rulers on the Rome Statute must take responsibility for it, said Education Minister Maszlee Malik.

He said this was in line with the Pakatan Harapan government’s  pledge to uphold academic freedom.

“At the same time, we hope this issue will be debated scholarly based on the facts and without any political motives or otherwise.

“As such, those involved must be responsible and be accountable for whatever is to be debated,” he said when contacted by Bernama regarding an open letter by G25 member Tan Sri Alwi Jantan to him that was carried in a news portal,  citing that as civil servants the four had gone overboard in coming up with the executive summary for the Conference of Rulers on the Rome Statute.

He was alluding to the fact they should not  continue holding their posts in their respective universities due to alleged lack of integrity.

The  four are Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Law  Faculty dean Prof. Datuk Dr Rahmat Mohamad,  International Islamic University Malaysia constitutional expert Assoc Prof Dr Shamrahayu Ab Aziz and Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM) law lecturers Dr Fareed Mohd Hassan and Hisham Hanapi.

The G25 is a group of former top civil servants.

Malaysia was forced to withdraw ratification of the Rome Statute due to fears by some segments of society that the country would lose its sovereignty if it was answerable to the International Criminal Court, which came into being as a result of the statute.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/05/03/maszlee-academics-must-take-responsibility-for-executive-summary-on-rome-st/1749255

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Arab World

 

US, Western, Israeli Arms Found from Terrorists' Depots in Southern Syria

May 02, 2019

The engineering units of the Syrian army discovered underground weapons caches during purging operations in the towns and villages of Southern Syria.

A military source said that they found several US TOW missiles, Israeli LAV missiles, shoulder-launched missiles, US-made M-16 guns, West-made sniper guns, machine-guns and tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition, artilleries, mortars, TNT and advanced goggles.

In a relevant development last month, the Syrian army discovered a cache of arms and military equipment, including the US, Israeli and western weapons, during cleansing operations South of Quneitra province.

The Syrian Army's engineering units discovered depots packed with weapons and military equipment, some of them made in the US and Israel, left behind by terrorists in several towns and villages in Southern Quneitra.

A military source, meantime, said that the Syrian Army troops found different machineguns, anti-tank missiles, state-of-the-art telecommunications systems, West-made mines, satellite equipment and different kind of Saudi manufactured drugs and medicine.

Also in April, the Syrian army discovered a cache of weapons and military equipment, including West-made arms, during cleansing operations in regions freed from terrorists' hands in Northern Dara'a.

The engineering units of the Syrian army last Monday found a large number of different types of weapons, machine-guns, RPGs, guns and ammunition left behind by the terrorists who had earlier occupied the town of Ankhal in Northern Dara'a.

Among the seized weapons, several types of arms and ammunition manufactured by the western companies, communication systems and night-vision equipment were found as well.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980212000317

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Syrian Army Preparing for Major Battle in Idlib

May 02, 2019

The Arabic-language website of Sputnik reported on Wednesday that the Syrian army has dispatched fresh convoys to Southern Idlib and Northern Hama to be prepared for imminent military operations in Northern Syria.

It added that extensive military equipment has been sent to the Northern fronts of Hama to Sahl al-Qab region in Northwestern Hama.

Meantime, a military source said that the terrorists launch repeated attacks from the demilitarized zone on safe zones and military positions, adding that cleansing operations in the region should be prioritized.

Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board or the Al-Nusra Front) terrorists targeted the town of Salhab and Mahradeh in Northern Hama by heavy rocket attacks which were responded by the artillery and airstrikes of the Syrian army against their positions and movements in the towns of al-Latamineh, Kafr Zita, Kafr Naboudeh, Rasm al-Ahmar, al-Hawijeh, Qalat al-Maziq, al-Sakhar and al-Sahriyeh in Northern and Northwestern Hama.

The attacks destroyed several hideouts, vehicles and military equipment of the terrorists and killed and wounded a large number of them.

In a relevant development on Tuesday, the Syrian army dispatched a large military convoy to deploy troops and equipment in different parts of Northern Hama as the terrorists intensified their attacks from the demilitarized zone and Ankara defies its terms under the Sochi Agreement.

The Arabic-language version of Russian Sputnik news agency quoted a Syrian military source as saying that the Syrian Army had sent massive military equipment to different regions in Northern Hama along the borders with the demilitarized zone.

It noted that the dispatch of military hardware and equipment had taken place in line with the Syrian Army's preparations for cleansing the region and restoring security to the towns of al-Saqilbieh, Mahradeh, al-Azizieh, al-Rasif and several towns bordering contact lines in Northern and Northwestern Hama.

The Sputnik noted that the terrorists' attacks on the Syrian Army's military points and safe zones in Northern Syria had continued in recent weeks.

The Arabic-language Al-Watan newspaper quoted Ankara-backed terrorists as saying that Turkey had completely abandoned the Sochi agreement by refraining from implementing it.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980212000266

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Turkish Army Sustains Heavy Toll in Kurdish Offensive in Afrin

May 02, 2019

The Kurdish-language Hawar news reported on Thursday that the so-called 'Afrin Liberation Forces' targeted two armored vehicles of the Turkish army in the village of Qatmeh in Shara region in Afrin on April 30, killing 7 Turkish soldiers, wounding 5 others and destroying their vehicles.

It added that another group of Turkish soldiers were trapped and engaged in clashes with the Kurds in regions near Qatmeh, noting that 6 Turkish military men were wounded.

Also, 2 Turkish military commanders were killed and 3 others were severely wounded in operations launched by 'Afrin Liberation Forces' against a Turkish army vehicle on the road linking Shara region to the town of A'azaz in Northwestern Aleppo.

Reports from Afrin and A'azaz regions in Northern Aleppo said that heavy clashes had erupted between the Kurdish fighters and the Turkish army and its affiliated militants in the past two days, adding that the Turkish army has pounded the Kurdish positions in Northern Aleppo with artillery fire.

Relevant reports last Friday said that the Kurdish fighters had penetrated into the military positions of the Ankara-backed militants after fierce clashes between the two sides in al-Bab region in Northeastern Aleppo, sources said.

The Kurdish fighters attacked the militants who are allies to the Turkish Army from al-Daghbash axis near the village of Abaleh West of al-Bab city in Northeastern Aleppo, sources affiliated to the Turkey-backed militants said.

The sources pointed to the penetration of Kurdish fighters into one of their military points in Abaleh village, and said that at least five Turkish Army soldiers were killed and several others were wounded in the Kurdish attack.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980212000385

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Israeli forces will be annihilated if they dare attack Lebanon, warns Nasrallah

May 2, 2019

The secretary general of the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement has cautioned the Tel Aviv regime against launching a new military aggression against his country, stressing that “Israeli forces will be destroyed” in such a case. 

Addressing his supporters via a televised speech broadcast live from the Lebanese capital of Beirut on Thursday evening, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah dismissed the possibility of a new Israeli war on Lebanon this summer, describing such speculation and related media reports as “psychological warfare.”

“All in Israel know that any war on Lebanon needs to be decisive and swift. Hezbollah remains fairly capable and utterly determined irrespective of sanctions imposed on it. The Zionist regime (of Israel) fears launching a new war, even on the besieged Gaza Strip, let alone Lebanon. All Israeli battalions will be destroyed under the eyes of mainstream media and the entire world, if they dare enter Lebanon. We will not compromise on even one iota of the Lebanese soil,” Nasrallah pointed out.

Commenting on the presence of Hezbollah fighters in neighboring Syria, Nasrallah said the fighters had entered Syria in order to thwart US, Israeli and Saudi conspiracies there, noting, “What happened in Syria was a multifaceted scheme, and not a change for democracy.”

The Hezbollah chief then blamed certain Persian Gulf Arab states for funneling money and munitions to the Daesh terrorist group, emphasizing that the Takfiris could not have been able to overrun large swathes of land in Iraq and Syria without their support and media coverage.

Nasrallah added that Daesh has its roots in the radical ideology of Wahhabism, which is being preached in Saudi Arabia.

“The United States and Saudi Arabia created and sponsored Daesh. One of the main objectives of the West in this regard was to defeat Hezbollah. Daesh was created by Washington and tasked with standing against all those who confront US-Israeli plots in the region. This is what American officials have acknowledged themselves,” the Hezbollah leader underlined.

Nasrallah said Daesh was created in a bid to provide Pentagon with an excuse to dispatch military forces to Iraq and Syria.

“Daesh has served the US, Israel and other enemies of our nation. It has destroyed several armies and societies in the region. The terror outfit still remains a threat as its ideology persists and its sleeper cells can be resurrected,” he said.

The Hezbollah chief also pointed to US President Donald Trump’s humiliation of Saudi Arabia at a campaign rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on April 27, where he boasted to his supporters about a bizarre phone call with King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. Trump asserted that he had made the monarch pay more money in exchange for the military support that the oil-rich kingdom receives from Washington.

“I feel pity for the Saudi king in the wake of Trump’s humiliation of him in his latest remarks. Trump has so far fulfilled his [2016 presidential] campaign promises concerning the so-called deal of century [on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict] and milking Saudi Arabia,” Nasrallah commented.

“The US secretary of state [Mike Pompeo] has even admitted that he is a liar, a deceiver and a thief,” he said.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/05/02/594943/Israeli-forces-will-be-annihilated-if-they-dare-to-attack-Lebanon-Nasrallah-warns

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Russian military: 12 drone, rocket attacks by terrorists repelled in Syria’s Latakia

May 2, 2019

Russia’s military says during the past month it has repelled 12 drone and rocket attacks by terrorists based in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib against a Russian airbase and Syrian positions in Latakia.

The attacks had been conducted against Russia’s Hmeimim airbase and Syrian troops’ positions since early April, Major General Viktor Kupchishin, the head of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Center for Syrian Reconciliation, said.

“There are ongoing attempts to attack the Hmeimim airbase and positions of the Syrian army in the Latakia province by the terrorist groups staying in the Idlib de-escalation zone with multiple-launch rocket systems and unmanned aerial vehicles,” he said.

The Russian military official said eight out of the 12 attacks had been carried out with the use of drones, but stressed that “all the attacks were repelled”, noting that there was no materiel damage as a result of the shelling.

Russian defense units managed to down 12 combat drones sent by terrorists, Kupchishin said.

The Hmeimim airbase has been hosting Russia’s military forces and equipment since the country launched an operation in late 2015 to help Syria’s fight against terror.

The base has been a frequent target of terrorists’ drone attacks, nearly all of which have so far been successfully repelled by the Russian defense units.

Last year, Moscow warned that terrorists had acquired advanced technologies on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Russia is in Syria at the official request of Damascus.

Last month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that remnants of Daesh and al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra terror group continue to stage provocations and are reluctant to abide by a ceasefire agreement in Idlib.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/05/02/594925/Syria-Russia-drone-rocket-terrorists-Latakia-Hmeimim

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Prime Minister Hariri: Lebanon should learn from Egypt’s economic development

May 02, 2019

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s prime minister says his country should learn from the government of Egypt how to stimulate economic growth, reform laws and combat corruption.

Lebanon’s economy is struggling with soaring debts, rising unemployment and slow growth. The government of Prime Minister Saad Hariri is debating an austerity budget and key reforms with the aim of unlocking billions of dollars in pledged foreign assistance. Protests have criticized the planned measures.

Hariri spoke at a Beirut forum Thursday attended by Egyptian and Arab officials.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1491526/middle-east

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North America

 

US military killed 120 civilians abroad in 2018, lower than watchdog estimates

3 May 2019

United States military actions killed about 120 civilians and injured 65 others in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia last year, the Pentagon said in a report on Thursday, though the figures were far lower than those reported by watchdog groups.

The annual report, mandated by Congress, showed a significant drop from nearly 800 civilians killed in 2017, in part because the pace of operations had slowed against ISIS extremist group in Iraq and Syria.

During operations in Afghanistan in 2018, 76 civilians were killed, with 42 killed in total in Iraq and Syria, and two civilians killed during a strike in Somalia, according to the nearly 20-page report, which tracks air and ground military operations.

The Pentagon assessed that no civilians were killed in Libya or Yemen, the report said.

Still, the civilian casualties in the report were far lower than those reported by watchdog groups.

Amnesty International USA said that while the report was a welcome step, more was required.

“The Department of Defense unfortunately still significantly undercounts civilian casualties caused by US-led operations, as demonstrated by our recent, detailed reporting on civilian casualties in Somalia and in Syria,” said Daphne Eviatar, director of Security with Human Rights at Amnesty International USA.

Amnesty International and the monitoring group Airwars, in a report published late in April, said the US-backed assault to drive ISIS militants from Syria’s Raqqa in 2017 killed more than 1,600 civilians.

In February, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said 1,185 civilians were killed during operations conducted by pro-government forces in 2018.

The Pentagon report said there was a difference in civilian casualty assessments between the US military and UNAMA because they used different methodologies.

Commander Candice Tresch, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said this was the first year the full report was unclassified.

“Although civilian casualties are a tragic and unavoidable part of war, no force in history is more committed to limiting harm to civilians than the US military, which routinely applies standards that are more protective of civilians than required by the Law of Armed Conflict,” Tresch said.

In March, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that revoked an Obama-era policy requiring US intelligence officials to report civilian deaths in drone strikes outside of active war zones.

President Barack Obama put the policy in place in 2016 as part of an effort to be more transparent about drone strikes after he had dramatically increased their use against ISIS militants.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/05/03/US-military-killed-120-civilians-abroad-in-2018-lower-than-watchdog-estimates.html

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US Senate sustains Trump veto supporting Arab coalition in Yemen

May 02, 2019

WASHINGTON: The Senate has failed to overturn President Donald Trump's veto of legislation that would have ended US military assistance for the Arab coalition in Yemen against Iran-backed Houthi rebels on Thursday.

The Senate's 53-45 vote to override the veto fell short of the required two-thirds.

The US is providing logistical support and intelligence-sharing with the coalition as it battles the Houthi militia in support of the internationally-recognized government.

When explaining the veto, the White House said that support does not constitute engaging in hostilities.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1491611/world

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'Islamophobia in US driven by politics, not religion'

Umar Farooq 

03.05.2019

WASHINGTON

Islamophobia in the United States is not rooted in a clash of religious beliefs but is driven by politics, according to a survey focusing on Muslim Americans.

The survey, conducted by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU), noted that anti-Muslim sentiment is influenced by a host of factors, including personal and national politics and how much a person knows about Islam, but is not due to their religious affiliation.

It found that Americans who personally know a Muslim are more than twice as likely to have a positive opinion of Muslims compared to those who do not.

However, the ISPU's Islamophobia Index rose from 24 in 2018 to 28 in 2019, indicating that Muslims remain the most likely group to face discrimination for their religion.

The index is a measure of the level of public endorsement of five negative stereotypes associated with Muslims in America – that most Muslims living in the U.S. are more prone to violence than others, that they discriminate against women, that they are hostile to the U.S., that they are less civilized than other people, and that they are partially responsible for acts of violence carried out by other Muslims.

According to the ISPU’s data, the Jewish community scored the lowest on the index at 18 while white evangelicals scored the highest at 35.

The survey also found that Americans who hold favorable views of blacks, Jews and the LGBTQ community tended to score 10 points lower on the index.

Some 33% of the Muslims surveyed were more optimistic about the direction of the country, despite being dissatisfied with U.S. President Donald Trump’s performance in office.

This may have been due in part to the survey being conducted after the first two Muslim women lawmakers, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, were elected to Congress, according to ISPU Executive Director Dalia Mogahed.

"It was against this backdrop that ISPU conducted its fourth annual 2019 poll of American faith and non-faith groups," Mogahed said in the report, referring to Omar and Tlaib's election to office.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/islamophobia-in-us-driven-by-politics-not-religion/1468596

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US delegation to Turkey says progress has been made on Syria

Joyce Karam

May 2, 2019

A senior US delegation has made progress in its Syria talks with Turkey, a US official said, as a Senate committee on Thursday advanced David Satterfield's nomination as the next US ambassador to Ankara.

The US special representative for Syrian engagement, James Jeffrey, and special envoy for Syria, Joel Rayburn, ended a three-day visit to Turkey on Thursday.

They met senior Turkish officials including presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin, Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal.

A State Department official told The National that “the discussions were positive and productive”.

Talks “focused on how we could advance issues of mutual concern in Syria, to include addressing Turkey’s legitimate security concerns, promoting stability and security in northern Syria as the US military draws down its presence".

Both countries are seeking to establish a safe zone in Northern Syria and in area under the control of Kurdish forces.

While no agreement was announced on Thursday, the official said discussions will continue.

Nicholas Heras, senior fellow at the Centre for New American Security, said that the policy gap between the two parties remains wide.

“The US team has a tall task in trying to convince President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that a token Turkish force in Syria satisfies his desire to look tough against the Kurdistan Workers' Party, while reassuring the Syrian Democratic Forces that it is not committing suicide by allowing the Turks such force,” Mr Heras said.

“Neither the Turks nor the SDF trust each other and they view the current situation as a zero-sum competition.”

Aaron Stein, director of the Middle East at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, was not optimistic about a safe zone agreement in the near future.

“The US is proposing a plan with a token Turkish presence to placate Ankara and to preserve the maximum pressure policy placed on Iran and the Assad government,” Mr Stein said.

“Turkey is proposing it takes over a zone with a token American presence to put maximum pressure on the SDF."

He said these positions were not compatible and so far neither party has made necessary concessions.

“Ankara has shown no willingness to entertain anything other than its vision for Syria," Mr Stein said.

"The same goes for the US, which is bending over backwards to try and figure out a way to get some Turks into the zone, but can't stomach Turks actually taking over the north-east."

The negotiations could gain impetus as Washington draws nearer to sending an ambassador to Ankara.

The Senate foreign relations committee voted favourably on the nomination of David Satterfield as the next ambassador.

The Senate will meet for a full vote in the next few weeks and the nomination is expected to pass.

At his hearing last month, Mr Satterfield warned Turkey against buying an S-400 Russian defence missile system.

"Turkey must choose – does it want to remain a critical partner in the most successful military alliance in history, or does it want to risk the security of that partnership by making such reckless decisions that undermine our alliance?” he said.

US national security adviser John Bolton also discussed the issue with Mr Kalın on Tuesday.

Turkish media alluded to a visit by US President Donald Trump to Turkey in July but a White House official did not confirm it.

The Senate committee also voted to advance David Schenker’s nomination as assistant secretary for Near East affairs at the State Department.

Mr Schenker served in the administration of George W Bush. He was nominated more than a year ago but Democrat Senator Tim Kaine delayed his nomination to try to obtain a legal memo from the White House on its cruise missile strikes in Syria.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/the-americas/us-delegation-to-turkey-says-progress-has-been-made-on-syria-1.856725

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Europe

 

Over 80 kids born to Daesh terrorists repatriated from Iraq to Tajikistan

May 2, 2019

Tajikistan’s Foreign Ministry says more than 80 children have arrived in the Central Asian country from Iraq, where their parents are being held over membership in the terrorist group of Daesh and other militant outfits.

The ministry announced in a statement released on Wednesday that eighty-four children, all Tajik citizens, were "forced to join the ranks" of militant groups after their parents were recruited.

The statement added that the children returned on a special flight from Baghdad to Tajikistan's capital Dushanbe on April 30.

Tajik Foreign Minister Sirodjidin Mukhriddin said on February 12 that his country was seeking repatriation of 75 children from Iraq.

Mukhriddin highlighted that while Iraqi legislation demanded that parents consent to their children leaving the country, the kids had mostly lost their fathers as they were fighting within the ranks of Daesh and other militant groups.

On February 8 last year, Tajikistan pardoned more than 100 people, who had returned home from Iraq and Syria after fighting along the ranks of Daesh and other terrorist groups.

Tajikistan’s Interior Minister Ramazon Rahimzoda said the returnees could resume their normal lives in the country based on a 2015 government decree for clemency.

“Regarding the fate of 111 Tajik citizens who returned from Syria and Iraq voluntarily, all of them are free under Tajik law,” Rahimzoda told a news conference in Dushanbe.

According to Tajik authorities, over 1,000 citizens have left the country to fight on the side of militant groups in Iraq and Syria since 2011. Most of the recruits had traveled to those countries via Russia, where an estimated one million Tajiks live and work.

The most famous Daesh recruit from Tajikistan was Colonel Gulmurod Khalimov, the head of the Tajikistan’s special purpose police, known as Omon.

On May 30, 2015, American officials confirmed that Khalimov had defected to Daesh. He was known for a while as the terror group’s “minister of war.”

Russia’s Defense Ministry reported on September 8, 2017 that its fighter jets had killed him during an operation in Syria’s embattled eastern city of Dayr al-Zawr.

The poor economic situation in Tajikistan and its adjacency to Afghanistan has made the country, a former Soviet republic, a prime ground for homegrown militancy over the past years.

Former Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi declared the end of military operations against Daesh in the country on December 9, 2017.

On July 10 that year, he had formally declared victory over Daesh in Mosul, which served as the terrorists’ main urban stronghold in Iraq.

In the run-up to Mosul's liberation, Iraqi army soldiers and volunteer Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters had made sweeping gains against Daesh.

Iraqi forces took control of eastern Mosul in January 2017 after 100 days of fighting, and launched the battle in the west on February 19 last year.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/05/02/594914/Over-80-kids-born-to-Daesh-terrorists-repatriated-from-Iraq-to-Tajikistan

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Christian churches in sharp decline in Germany

Ayhan Şimşek 

02.05.2019

BERLIN

Membership in Christian churches is projected to dramatically decline in Germany over the next four decades, according to a study released Thursday. 

Germany's Catholic and Protestant churches, which currently have about 45 million members, would lose almost half their members by 2060, researchers from the Albert-Ludwig University of Freiburg concluded.

The Catholic Church (DBK) would have an estimated 12.3 million members in 2060, while the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) would have 10.5 million members, according to the study.

The aging population, high number of church withdrawals, and decline in infant baptisms were listed as the main reasons for the downward trend.

Currently, around two-thirds of Germany’s 83 million population are Christians, including members of the Evangelical Church, the Protestant Free Churches, and the Orthodox Churches.

Another third of Germans either ascribe to no religious belief or belong to another religion.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/christian-churches-in-sharp-decline-in-germany/1468371

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Erdogan meets members of Bosnian Presidential Council

Enes Kaplan 

02.05.2019

Bosnia and Herzegovina's Presidential Council members on Thursday paid an official visit to Turkey at the invitation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan received Chairman of the Council and Serb member Milorad Dodik, and Bosniak member Sefik Dzaferovic of the Presidential Council in an official ceremony held at the presidential complex.

The Presidential Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina has three members, representing Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats. The members are elected for a period of four years and rotate every eight months.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/erdogan-meets-members-of-bosnian-presidential-council/1468344

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Turkey’s refugee commitment ‘a lesson’ for Europe

Ahmet Gürhan Kartal

02.05.2019

LONDON

Turkey’s strategy in dealing with the Syrian refugee crisis is an example for Europe, head of a London-based think tank said on Thursday.

Philippa Stroud, chief executive officer (CEO) of Legatum Institute, praised Turkey’s approach toward Syrian refugees in an article in The Times.

“I have just returned from the Turkey-Syria border to witness the international community’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis, spearheaded by the International Organization for Migration (IoM),” Stroud said.

Underlining that the civil war in Syria has “claimed approximately 400,000 lives, with many millions of people displaced during and after the fighting,” Stroud wrote that “over half of the 20 million population require humanitarian aid, including 5 million who are acutely in need.”

“An astonishing 5.7 million Syrians have fled their country to neighbouring nations, mostly to Turkey which is demonstrating extraordinary hospitality to about 3.5 million Syrian refugees, even building permanent homes for them,” she said.

Stroud said that the IoM team had two roles.

“First, to ensure that the 3.5 million refugees who have made it across the border into Turkey over the last 7 years are provided for and properly integrated,” she wrote.

Comparing Turkey’s efforts with the U.K.’s, she said “the UK is only committed to taking 0.6 per cent of this total, yet consider the controversy around this tiny number and you can begin to appreciate the challenge of integrating millions of people.”

Stroud said the second role of the IoM was “to care for and provide emergency help to those who are internally displaced within Syria.”

“This is the more pressing of the challenges, with over 6 million displaced people within Syria, and the key concern is for Idlib and the potential further displacement of another million refugees in the event of renewed bombing,” she added.

- Huge resettlement

Stroud said the “international aid committed to Turkey to alleviate the refugee crisis has also enabled this huge resettlement of Syrians.”

Underlining that the U.K. has committed £2.8 billion ($3.7 billion) for Syria and the region since 2012, including allocations to United Nations agencies, she said the UN has a consolidated appeal target of $9 billion for the Syria crisis.

“Driving from the airport at Gaziantep to the IoM headquarters which is close to the Syrian border, we passed building site after building site, new home after new home, and new apartment block after apartment block,” Stroud said.

She added that she was “told that 95 per cent of the refugees have been housed in permanent accommodation.”

Stroud said: “Whatever is driving Turkey’s hospitality, it is unquestionably an act of generosity — and in Europe we need to look and learn what it means to care for our neighbours.

“The IoM are conducting an interesting analysis of the pull and push factors for refugees. By far the largest number of refugees have no desire whatsoever to leave the area, and if they do it is only to go as far as Turkey.”

Stroud wrote that “Turkey has begun to point the way for addressing the global refugee crisis by providing a model for a regional solution to a regional problem”.

She said: “Turkey is providing a home for many refugees, when we won’t, and is still working with the EU and international community.”

“Whilst this is complex, it should also be applauded,” she added.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/turkey-s-refugee-commitment-a-lesson-for-europe/1468305

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EU lawmakers seek end to ‘persecution of religious minorities’ in Pakistan

May 3, 2019

Over 50 members of the European Parliament, in a written letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan, have expressed concern over the persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan.

The European parliamentarians reminded the premier that oppressing minorities is a violation of the United National treaty on Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

It further explained that ICCPR Convention is part of the 27 core conventions set out as a prerequisite criteria for the EU’s GSP-Plus status of which Pakistan is a beneficiary.

Marijana Petir

@marijana_petir

I have just sent a letter, signed by 52 MEPs, to the Prime Minister of #Pakistan urging him to take measures to dismantle the constitutional and institutional structures that have resulted in the persecution of religious minorities in the country. @Pakchristians @FreeAsiaBiBi

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The letter added that continued violation of the ICCPR Convention may compel EU to call on the European Commission to suspend all subsidies and trade preferences to Pakistan.

“Today’s Pakistan is far removed from being the country that its founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, had envisaged. Jinnah had always insisted that Pakistan would be a Muslim majority State where people from all religions, whether Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Ahmadis or Shias, would be treated equally,” read the letter.

It said, “Over the last seven decades, successive governments in Pakistan have contributed to implementing discriminatory systems that have resulted in political, economic and social persecution of religious minorities, which have encouraged acts of violence against them by radical Islamic groups.”

The letter cited the case of Asia Bibi, the Christian woman who was sentenced to death row on blasphemy charges but was acquitted by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 2018.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/05/02/eu-lawmakers-seek-end-to-persecution-of-religious-minorities-in-pakistan/

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Australia

 

New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern engaged to longtime partner

May 03, 2019

WELLINGTON: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is engaged to her longtime partner Clarke Gayford after a proposal over the Easter holidays, her spokesman said on Friday.

Gayford, the 41-year-old host of a TV fishing show, takes care of their ten-month-old daughter Neve Te Aroha, while Ardern, 38, runs the country.

Her pregnancy announced in early 2018 was seen by many as a symbol of progress for women in leadership roles. She is only the second elected leader to give birth while in office, after Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto in 1990.

The calm and compassion shown by Ardern in response to the killing of 50 Muslims in March burnished the credentials of a leader who has been criticized domestically over handling of the economy and flip flops in government policy.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1491786/world

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Mideast

 

Turkey must hand over ‘murderers’ of alleged Palestinian spy, says cousin

2 May 2019

Ever since Turkish authorities said that Palestinian Zaki Mubarak who was charged by Turkey with espionage hung himself at Istanbul’s Silivri prison, all analyses in Turkish media outlets have been focusing on the information which the Turkish authorities revealed, and almost all published material in this context matched the official narrative.

Meanwhile, Lawyer Abas Mubarak, Zaki’s cousin, said the suicide story promoted by these media outlets is not true because Zaki did not have any tools to kill himself, adding that the purpose of promoting this narrative is to hide the truth.

He also warned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of hiding the truth behind Zaki’s “murder,” and called on him to hand over the murderers to relevant courts.

Earlier this week, Istanbul’s prosecutor’s office said that Zaki Mubarak, who was held on suspicion of spying for the United Arab Emirates, has died in prison after hanging himself.

But, in an exclusive interview with Al Arabiya, the Palestinian man’s family members rejected the Turkish authorities’ statement, calling it “a mere charade,” and accusing Turkey of killing him.

Zaki’s brother, Zakaria Mubarak, said in an interview with Al Arabiya that initially Turkish authorities claimed the two detained men were UAE citizens. He added they later announced the men were Palestinian, which he said proves that they are lying about his cause of death.

Meanwhile, in a Skype interview with Al Arabiya from Gaza, his son Yusuf called for forming an international commission to investigate his father’s death.

He also questioned the Turkish story, asserting that his father did not commit suicide, and accusing Turkish security forces of killing him. Yusuf added that his father was a victim and “a scapegoat in a political conflict.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/05/02/Cousin-of-UAE-spy-suspect-says-Turkey-must-hand-over-murderers-.html

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Israeli warplanes strike Gaza again, prompt retaliatory rocket launch

May 2, 2019

Israeli warplanes have carried out a wave of airstrikes against Gaza, promoting two retaliatory rocket launches from the blockaded enclave towards the Israeli-occupied territories.

The Israeli military said its fighter jets targeted several positions of the Hamas resistance movement in the northern part of the coastal strip in response to the alleged launch of incendiary balloons from the besieged enclave.

There were no immediate reports of Palestinian injuries.

In response to the air raids, two rockets were reportedly fired from Gaza towards the southern parts of the Israeli-occupied territories, triggering, according to the Israeli military, several rounds of red alert sirens in the communities of Alumim and Nahal Oz in the Sha’ar Hanegev region.

The projectiles fell in an open area, and no injuries were reported, Israeli media reported.

Flying fiery kites and balloons has become a new mode of protests by Gazans since last March, when the regime in Israel launched a bloody crackdown against anti-occupation demonstrations near the fence separating Gaza from the Israeli-occupied land.

Tel Aviv, however, holds Hamas responsible for such a show of protest.

Israeli officials have tried to put a criminal spin on the protests, claiming that kites and balloons launched by Palestinians have burned thousands of acres of farmland, forests and nature reserves in the regions around the Gaza Strip.

A ceasefire between Israel and Hamas brokered by Egypt and the United Nations had led to relative calm earlier this year.

But on Tuesday, Israel reduced the offshore fishing limit it imposes for vessels operating out of Gaza after a rocket was allegedly fired from the territory.

Since March 30 last year, the Palestinians in Gaza have been holding weekly rallies to demand the right to return for those driven out of their homeland by Israeli aggression and an end to the siege on the enclave. Israeli snipers and special troops have shot and killed more than 270 Palestinians and injured over 16,000 others.

A United Nations (UN) fact-finding mission found earlier that Israeli forces committed rights violations during their crackdown against the Palestinian protesters in Gaza that may amount to war crimes.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/05/02/594896/Palestine-Gaza-Hamas-rocket-Israel

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Israel ‘forced 3,000 Palestinians from homes within 15 yrs’

May 2, 2019

Israeli authorities have forced nearly 3,000 Palestinians from their homes in Jerusalem al-Quds in the past 15 years, a new report says.

According to a report by the Israeli rights group B’Tselem, the so-called Jerusalem municipality demolished 830 homes and ordered the owners of 120 more residential units to demolish theirs between 2004 and 2019.

“The municipality deliberately left 2,927 people homeless, 1,574 of them minors,” the group added in its report, which was carried by the Palestinian Ma’an news agency on Wednesday.

B’Tselem further said that the Israeli body adopted policies that deliberately caused a severe construction crisis for the Palestinians living in Jerusalem al-Quds, while the Israeli neighborhoods of the city were increasingly expanding and were substantially funded.

“Israel has expropriated more than a third of the land it annexed from the West Bank and has built 11 neighborhoods exclusively for Jews,” it said, stressing that those neighborhoods were built in sheer violation of “international law as they have been constructed in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli authorities demolish Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank usually claiming that the residential structures have been built without the relevant building permits, which are nearly impossible to obtain from the Israeli regime. Israeli authorities also sometimes order the Palestinian owners to demolish their own homes or else the municipality would fine them for demolition costs.

According to the report, Israeli authorities use at least three other strategies to block Palestinian use of land, or demolish the homes Palestinians have already built, thus, clearing the way for new Israeli settlements in the region.

Israeli authorities may declare Palestinian-owned land as “open scenic areas,” where development is prohibited, or as “national parks,” where construction and urban development are almost entirely forbidden. In other parts of the occupied territories, vast swaths of land, including towns and villages, may be declared to be “military zones” almost as a matter of routine, and Palestinians are forced to leave their homes for set periods when the military moves in.

As for Jerusalem al-Quds, B’Tselem said, “Thousands of Palestinians in the city are living under constant threat to their homes and businesses; in many cases, the authorities follow through on this threat or force residents to demolish the structures themselves.”

Israel lays claim to the whole city, but the Palestinians view its eastern sector as the capital of their future sovereign state.

“Israel does not see the residents of East Jerusalem [al-Quds, who are Palestinians] as human beings with equal rights, but as people it strives to remove from their homes, as they are an obstacle to Judaizing the city,” the Israeli group said.

About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built illegally since the 1967 occupation of the Palestinian lands.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/05/02/594895/Palestine-Israel-West-Bank-Jerusalem-al-Quds-displacements

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As Israeli group expands, Palestinian houses face demolition

May 03, 2019

JERUSALEM: For 20 years, Hala Kashour has lived with her husband in what she called “paradise,” a bucolic meadow that rolls through a Palestinian neighborhood of east Jerusalem.

The coveted pasture, which Israel calls the “Peace Forest,” lies in the crosshairs of a long-simmering conflict between the city government and its Palestinian residents that flared up on a recent spring morning as Kashour, 47, was jolted awake by the sound of bulldozers crushing her neighbor’s house.

Some 60 houses in the grassy quarter, known to its 500 residents as Wad Yasul, are facing demolition by Israeli authorities. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court declined to hear the residents’ appeal against demolition orders, saying the structures were built without required permits in a municipally designated green space.

“God willing, we won’t be next,” said Kashour, who claims she built the neighborhood’s first house, a stone cottage ringed with rose bushes, on land her family has owned for 50 years.

Demolition of unauthorized Palestinian-owned structures in east Jerusalem is not unusual. The municipality contends it cracks down on zoning violations. Palestinians say it is nearly impossible to receive building permits, and that Israel is severely restricting their ability to build on land they claim for the capital of their future state.

But the Peace Forest demolitions have drawn particular attention because of accelerating construction by a nationalist Jewish organization in the same park.

With the support of Israel’s Tourism Ministry, the City of David Foundation has set up lodging structures, operates a Segway tour through the woodland and is advancing plans for several tourist attractions, including a visitor center and what it bills as the country’s largest zip line. The foundation said it has leased 4% of the park’s total area from the government.

Although city regulations forbid construction of any kind in designated parks, the municipality confirmed it was working to alter zoning restrictions and retroactively authorize City of David’s construction and facilitate its expansion.

“The City of David hasn’t yet received final approval for everything, but its efforts to build up public space with sports and tourist facilities are being considered positively,” said an official in the Jerusalem mayor’s office, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. “We are not eager to evict Palestinian residents in a brutal way, but we have a green light from the highest court.”

Activists and Palestinian residents say the case of the Peace Forest highlights discriminatory Israeli policies that have propelled a housing crisis in overcrowded east Jerusalem.

“The government zoned this area in an intractable way to prevent Palestinian construction, and now we can see the designation being altered to serve Jewish settlement,” said Aviv Tatarsky from Ir Amim, an Israeli group that advocates equality in Jerusalem.

The Supreme Court’s dismissal of the case brought an end to the residents’ costly decade-long legal battle to get their houses, in many cases built decades ago on inherited family land, authorized by Israel.

Structures belonging to two families were destroyed immediately following the decision, and two more homes were demolished on Tuesday. Pending demolition orders for the rest of the area can go into effect at any time, said Zyad Kawar, lawyer for the Palestinian residents.

Many residents view the park zoning as a government ploy to force Palestinians out of east Jerusalem, which Israel considers an indivisible part of its capital.

“They don’t want to give us permits, that’s the bottom line,” said Nasser Burqan, 42, whose cousin owned a house demolished this month. “It’s displacement.”

Israel captured east Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast War and annexed it, a move not internationally recognized. Since then, Israel has boosted the Jewish presence there, building neighborhoods where over 200,000 Jews now live.

The Peace Forest sits in the larger Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, long a focal point of Jewish settlement for its proximity to some of the world’s most sensitive religious sites in the walled Old City.

The City of David Foundation runs popular archaeological and touristic sites in and around Silwan — spots it emphasizes as centerpieces of ancient Jewish civilization. The foundation says its sites “are situated upon King David’s once lost ancient capital,” referring to the biblical figure who is believed to have conquered the city and established Jewish Jerusalem thousands of years ago.

In the Peace Forest, “the City of David has transformed what was once a derelict crime-ridden site” into a space used freely by the public, said the foundation’s vice president, Doron Spielman. “We are confident that it too will become a major tourist attraction.”

The City of David projects are not planned on the ruins of the demolished homes, and the foundation says the city’s demolition plans go back long before it became involved. But critics say the demolitions on one hand, and the green light to City of David on the other, illustrate two sets of standards for Jews and Palestinians in the city.

The organization has also drawn sharp criticism for helping to settle Jewish families in Arab neighborhoods, fueling suspicions that its tourism projects mask efforts to erase the line between east and west Jerusalem, and with it, hope for an independent Palestinian state.

The two-state dream seems more distant than ever after newly re-elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised on the campaign trail to annex West Bank settlements. He is poised to form a governing coalition with right-wing parties that reject Palestinian sovereignty.

His re-election comes a year after the Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the US Embassy to the city. Though Trump says his move does not determine the city’s final status, it was seen by the Palestinians and others as recognizing Israel’s claim to the city, including its eastern sector.

With the Trump administration providing unprecedented support for Israel, there are fears in Jerusalem that the government could step up its pressure on Palestinian residents.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1491806/middle-east

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Senior Hamas official heads to Egypt for talks on Israel

3 May 2019

A Hamas delegation led by its Gaza head Yahya Sinwar left the enclave for Cairo on Thursday for talks with Egyptian officials on a truce with Israel, Hamas officials said.

Egypt has long been the broker between Israel and the Islamist group that runs Gaza.

In November it brokered a fragile truce agreement whereby Israel eases its blockade of the Gaza Strip in exchange for calm.

That agreement has appeared to be under stress in recent days, with Israel carrying out airstrikes early Thursday in response to Palestinian firebombs across the Gaza border.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said that Sinwar “left Gaza for Cairo at the invitation of the head of the Egyptian intelligence service, Major General Abbas Kamal.”

The visit was aimed at discussing “bilateral relations and ways to lessen the suffering of our people,” he said in a statement.

A Hamas official said the truce agreement would be discussed.

Islamic Jihad, a Hamas-allied group, said its head will also attend the meetings.

Israel carried out air raids early Thursday morning on “a number of terror targets in a Hamas military compound in the northern Gaza Strip,” a military statement said.

It said that they were in response to the launching of incendiary and explosive balloons from Gaza into Israel.

Border clashes have been taking place for over a year during weekly demonstrations.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/05/03/Senior-Hamas-official-heads-to-Egypt-for-talks-on-Israel.html

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Kushner hopes Israel will look at peace plan before any West Bank moves

3 May 2019

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner said on Thursday that he hopes Israel will take a hard look at President Donald Trump’s upcoming Middle East peace proposal before proceeding with any plan to annex West Bank settlements.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had vowed in the waning days of a re-election campaign he won on April 9 to annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, in a move that would be bound to trigger condemnation from the Palestinians and the Arab world and complicate the US peace effort.

Kushner, speaking at a dinner of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said the Middle East peace proposal he has been putting together was close to release and that Israel and the Palestinians should wait to see it before making any unilateral moves.

He said the issue would be discussed with the Israeli government when Netanyahu forms a governing coalition.

“I hope both sides will take a real look at it, the Israeli side and the Palestinian side, before any unilateral steps are made,” Kushner said, adding he had not discussed the issue of settlement annexation with Netanyahu.

Kushner and Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt have spent the past two years developing the peace proposal in the hopes it will provide a framework for a renewed dialogue between the Israelis and Palestinians.

The Palestinians have refused to talk to the US side since Trump decided to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

The Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, all territory Israel captured in 1967.

Kushner is expected to unveil his proposals in June after the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

“What we will be able to put together is a solution that we believe is a good starting point for the political issues and then an outline for what can be done to help these people start living a better life,” Kushner said.

“I was given the assignment of trying to find a solution between the two sides and I think what we’ll put forward is a framework that I think is realistic ... it’s executable and it’s something that I do think will lead to both sides being much better off,” Kushner said.

Political, economic components

Kushner has begun to take a more public role in the Trump administration since he emerged unscathed from US Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into whether the Trump presidential campaign in 2016 colluded with Russia.

Trump has relied heavily on the 38-year-old Kushner, who helped develop prison reform legislation and a new US-Mexico-Canada trade deal, and is also working on a US immigration proposal.

The Middle East proposal, which has been delayed for a variety of reasons over the past 18 months, has two major components.

It has a political piece that addresses core issues such as the status of Jerusalem, and an economic part that aims to help the Palestinians strengthen their economy.

Kushner has said the proposal is not an effort to impose US will on the region. He has not said whether it calls for a two-state solution, a goal of past peace efforts.

On Thursday night, he called on critics to hold their fire until they are able to see the plan in its entirety.

Palestinians have voiced skepticism about the effort led by Trump’s son-in-law, who was a real estate developer before joining his father-in-law as a senior White House adviser.

Arab officials and analysts believe the plan is likely to be decidedly pro-Israel since the Trump administration has taken a tough line toward Palestinians, cutting off aid and ordering the PLO’s office in Washington shut.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/05/03/Kushner-hopes-Israel-will-look-at-peace-plan-before-any-West-Bank-moves.html

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Africa

 

Sudan’s Bashir to be questioned over ‘financing terrorism’

3 May 2019

Sudan’s prosecutor general has ordered the questioning of ousted president Omar al-Bashir over money-laundering and “financing terrorism,” the official SUNA news agency said on Thursday.

“The acting public prosecutor general Al-Waleed Sayyed Ahmed has ordered the questioning of former president Omar al-Bashir... under anti-money laundering and financing terrorism laws,” SUNA said.

A source in the prosecutor general’s office confirmed the state media report to AFP.

Al-Bashir, who swept to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989, ruled Sudan with an iron fist for three decades.

During his rule the country was placed on Washington’s list of state sponsors of terrorism over its alleged links with Islamist militants.

Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden lived in Sudan between 1992 to 1996.

In October 2017, Washington lifted a 20-year-old trade embargo imposed on Sudan, but kept the country on the terrorism blacklist.

Since last year however the two countries have been in talks to remove the country from the blacklist, but these have now been suspended since al-Bashir was ousted by the army on April 11.

“That is a conversation that we are not able to engage at the moment,” a top State Department official, Makila James, told AFP last month during her visit to Khartoum.

“All of that is suspended as we try to assess what is the reality on the ground, what is the way forward,” she said.

Last month Sudan’s army ruler General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said that more than 113 million dollars worth of cash in three currencies had been seized from al-Bashir’s residence.

He said a team of police, army and security agents found seven million euros ($7.8 million), $350,000 and five billion Sudanese pounds ($105 million) during a search at al-Bashir’s home.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/05/03/Sudan-s-Bashir-to-be-questioned-over-financing-terrorism-.html

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Huge crowds join sit-in outside Sudan’s defense ministry

2 May 2019

Hundreds of thousands of protesters joined a sit-in outside Sudan’s defense ministry on Thursday to press the ruling military council to hand over to a civilian government.

An alliance of activists and opposition groups called the Alliance of Freedom and Change had called for a mass march in the capital.

The Alliance is now demanding that the military council which took Bashir’s place be replaced by a joint civilian-military council, although they say the number of members is yet to be finalized.

On Thursday, protest leaders presented the council with a proposal for the new civilian structures they want see rule the country.

Protest leader Satea al-Haj told reporters that the transitional civilian government should be of 17 ministers, while the legislative body should include 120 to 150 members.

He said the alliance was expecting a response from the military council in “48 to 72 hours”.

The protest leaders insisted on Thursday that the civilian administration they intend to establish must include representatives from armed groups who spent years battling Khartoum during the regime of ousted leader Omar al-Bashir.

Three armed groups are currently part of the Alliance for Freedom and Change which spearheaded protests since December that led to the ouster of Bashir.

“We will not have a transitional (civilian) structure without representatives from the armed groups,” said Khalid Omar Yousef, a leader from the Alliance for Freedom and Change umbrella group which has led the protest movement.

He did not name specific armed groups.

Since 2003, Sudan has been rocked by rebellions in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions.

Tens of thousands of people have died in those areas since ethnic minority rebels picked up arms against the forces of Bashir, accusing his administration of political and economic marginalization.

In recent years, the violence has waned as rebels and Khartoum reached a series of ceasefires, but none of the rebel groups joined a civilian administration during Bashir’s iron-fisted rule.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/05/02/Huge-crowds-join-sit-in-outside-Sudan-s-defense-ministry-.html

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Nigerian lawmakers summons Buhari for security crisis

Rafiu Oriyomi Ajakaye

02.05.2019

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari was summoned Thursday by the House of Representatives to address parliament on rising insecurity in parts of the country.

Adopting a motion presented by Ahmed Safana, a lawmaker from Buhari's home state of Katsina, the House "resolved to request that the president address the House and the entire country."

Safana told parliament how bandits have taken over parts of the state, including abducting a monarch Wednesday and kidnapping at least five people from a girls-only secondary school in Zamfara.

Lawmakers took turns lamenting the unabated insecurity they suggested might be related to rising unemployment and poverty.

They urged the government to buckle down and tackle the challenges.

“The major problem is the policy we give out,” said Deputy Speaker Yusuf Lasun. “It took Bill Gates to tell us in Nigeria that we’ve neglected health and education."

Mohammed Monguno, a lawmaker from the restive northeast Borno state, said the situation is worsening and could spark national unrest.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/nigerian-lawmakers-summons-buhari-for-security-crisis/1468452

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3 Nigerian soldiers feared killed in Daesh attack

Rafiu Oriyomi Ajakaye

02.05.2019

At least three Nigerian soldiers were killed early Thursday in an improvised explosive device (IED) attack on their base in the restive northeast Borno state, according to a local paramilitary and the Daesh terrorist group. 

"Information from our team in Baga showed that three soldiers died in the early hours of Thursday. About eight others were injured," Adamu Dingi, a member of a local government-backed paramilitary group, told Anadolu Agency.

Dingi said the dead and injured were taken to Maiduguri, Borno’s capital.

Attacks on regional forces fighting Daesh across the Lake Chad area have been on the rise in the past weeks -- underscoring the adaptation of the terrorists in the 10-year-old insurgency to avoid encounters with the troops while also inflicting violence.

The Nigerian army has not spoken on the development.

However, Daesh confirmed the attack in a statement.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/3-nigerian-soldiers-feared-killed-in-daesh-attack/1468403

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Germany’s Angela Merkel pledges terror aid to Burkina Faso as G5 Sahel summit begins

May 2, 2019

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has pledged 46 million euros ($51 million) to help Burkina Faso fight Islamic extremism.

Mrs Merkel, who is on a three-nation tour in West Africa this week, made the announcement late on Wednesday. While in the capital of Ouagadougou, she attended a summit with presidents from the countries making up the G5 Sahel – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

Burkina Faso's security situation has rapidly deteriorated over the past several years, particularly along the volatile northern border with Mali.

After her visit to Ouagadougou, Mrs Merkel plans to visit German soldiers who are stationed in Gao, Mali, as part of the United Nations peacekeeping mission there. She also plans to visit Niger during the trip.

The presidents of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou and Chad, Idriss Deby Itno were also in Ouagadougou to attend the G5 meeting.

Terrorism is set to be top of the agenda at the summit after a series of attacks in Burkina Faso. The country has suffered from increasingly frequent and deadly attacks attributed to a number of militant groups, including the Ansarul Islam group, the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) and ISIS in the Greater Sahara.

Militant raids began in 2015 in the north before targeting the capital Ouagadougou and other regions, notably in the east.

A total of 350 people have been killed since 2015 - mainly in hit-and-run raids - according to an AFP tally.

On Sunday, gunmen killed six people, including a pastor, in an attack on a Christian church in the country's north.

The violence took place Sunday in the village of Silgadji, not far from the volatile border with Mali.

Urbain Kabore, the communications director for the Sahel region of Burkina Faso, said on Monday that the six people were slain after Sunday services.

There was no claim of responsibility.

Authorities said that in a separate incident in the east of Burkina Faso, five teachers were shot to death Friday.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/africa/germany-s-angela-merkel-pledges-terror-aid-to-burkina-faso-as-g5-sahel-summit-begins-1.856566

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Somalia: Al-Shabaab Parades Ten Soldiers It Said Defected From Jubbaland

2 MAY 2019

Somalia's Al-Shabaab has paraded 10 soldiers from Southern regional state, Jubbaland at its stronghold town of El-Adde in Gedo region.

The soldiers are said to have deserted from Bardere and Garbaharey in the Jubbaland state and joined the group which tries to topple Somalia's UN-backed federal government.

The group has released photos of the soldiers posted on the group-affiliated websites, showing the soldiers armed with AK-47 rifles in military clad in uniform sitting side by side in El-Adde town.

The soldiers are reportedly surrendered to Al Shabaab after deserting from Jubbaland state army over unknown circumstances.

Full report at:

https://allafrica.com/stories/201905020843.html

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Troops block Boko Haram logistics and food supplies

May 2, 2019

The Nigerian Army on Thursday said troops have blocked Boko Haram logistics and food supplies routes and neutralized scores of them during a clearance operation.

According to spokesman of the Operation Lafiya Dole in the northeast, Col Ado Isa, the method adopted by the troops to restrict the terrorists and their operations to fringes of Lake Chad had become effective.

Col. Isa said in a statement that the coordinated operations of operation Lafiya Dole and Multinational Joint Task Force had made the terrorists to become desperate in search of food thus their surprised attacks on soft targets.

Col Isa urged the public to disregards reports on casualties on the side of troops during such attacks, saying such information are from Boko Haram sympathizers.

Col Isa said: “The recent strategy adopted by the untiring and dogged troops of Operation Lafiya Dole in conducting robust and aggressive fighting patrols coupled with simultaneous clearance operations within the North East has been highly effective.

“These actions were aimed to complement the efforts of Operation Yancin Tafki by the Multi National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) currently ongoing along the borders of the lake chad region.

“Recently, it has been observed that the few elements of the Boko Haram Terrorists (BHTs) earlier bombarded and chased out of their enclaves were left with depleted number of fighters and supplies.

“They are presently feeling the colossal storm of the joint operations and are now looking for ways to sneak into town for food supplies, logistics and most importantly weapons.

“In their desperate and fruitless efforts, they resolved in springing surprise attacks on soft targets, smaller units, including civilian settlement with market advantage within the Theatre.

“It is in this regard, troops of 254 Task Force Battalion at Forward Operation Base (FOB) Kimba while on clearance operation along Sabon Gari in 25 Task Force Brigade Area of Operations – Damboa, came in contact with the terrorists on 27 April, 2019.

“During the encounter, troops were reinforced and gave the terrorists a lethal fight with only minor casualty on own troops and few damaged equipment. Dozens of the BHTs were decimated and several others escaped with severe gunshot wounds.

“Normalcy has since returned to the general area while troops dominated all likely escape routes of the terrorists.

“We therefore call on the general public to disregard the unsubstantiated story circulating in some media outfits and other social media platforms with fake casualty report of own troops and equipment on the encounter with BHTs along Kimba – Sabon Gari – Damboa axis on 27 April 2019.

Full report at:

https://thenationonlineng.net/troops-block-boko-haram-logistics-and-food-supplies/

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