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Islamic World News (29 Jun 2019 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Deoband Clerics Issue Fatwa against Nusrat Jahan for Applying Sindoor; Sadhvi Prachi Defends TMC MP







Deoband Clerics Issue Fatwa against Nusrat Jahan for Applying Sindoor; Sadhvi Prachi Defends TMC MP

Did Hizbul Mujahideen and LeT Lure Islamic State Militants Into A Trap?

'Shame and Humiliation': Aceh's Islamic Law Violates Human Rights

Zarif to Trump: Sanctions Don't Avoid War, They Are War

Trump Says Saudi Crown Prince Doing ‘Spectacular Job,’ As They Hold Talks In Osaka

Europe Safer Since Islamic State Defeat But Threat Endures, Europol Says

Sheikh Zakzaky Poisoned In Prison, His Health Conditions Serious: Doctors

Pakistan Ulema Council Says ‘Not All Clerics Are Bad’, Lashes Out At Federal Minister

Saudi Crown Prince Welcomes Hosting Of 2020 G20 Summits In The Kingdom

 

India

Deoband Clerics Issue Fatwa against Nusrat Jahan for Applying Sindoor; Sadhvi Prachi Defends TMC MP

Did Hizbul Mujahideen and LeT Lure Islamic State Militants Into A Trap?

Muslim community organises protest against mob lynching

Pakistan, not Indian agents, killed our man in J&K: IS

J-K: JeM Militant killed in Budgam encounter, arms and ammunition recovered

Cops denied Tabrez Ansari of medical treatment, threatened his family: Report

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Southeast Asia

'Shame and Humiliation': Aceh's Islamic Law Violates Human Rights

In Beijing Speech, Minister in Malaysia’s PMO Speaks of ‘False News’ On Xinjiang

Mujahid’s Statement on Xinjiang Has Embarrassed Country, Islam, Says Khaled Nordin

Malaysia Says Not Extraditing Zakir Naik despite Official Request

Will minorities have a place in PAS' Malaysia?

Foreign Islamic groups 'influence' Indonesian campuses

Eight dead in suicide bombing at Philippines military camp

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Mideast

Zarif to Trump: Sanctions Don't Avoid War, They Are War

Iran sees some progress on nuclear deal, but not enough

Inside Intelligence: ‘Israel-Egypt Cooperation Key To Beating Back Isis In Sinai’

Yemeni forces repel Al Houthi attacks in Hodeida

US-Backed Terrorist Group Planning Assassination against Iranian Officials

Istanbul’s new mayor ‘prepared’ for government restrictions

Israel unblocks Gaza fuel, expands fishing, say officials

Yemen vows ‘strong response’ to Saudi crime in Ta'izz

Israeli forces injure 50 Palestinians in Gaza

Yemeni army forces, allies shoot down Saudi-led reconnaissance drone

Yemenis protest en masse against Saudi-led war

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North America

Trump Says Saudi Crown Prince Doing ‘Spectacular Job,’ As They Hold Talks In Osaka

‘Looney Tunes terrorist’ in plea talks over foiled Times Square plot

3 men plead guilty in foiled plot to bomb a Muslim community in New York state

US Senate rejects bid to limit Trump's Iran war power

US will sanction any country that imports Iranian oil: US special envoy

Trump on S-400: NATO member Turkey not treated fairly

Senate vote to curb Trump on Iran war fails

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Europe

Europe Safer Since Islamic State Defeat But Threat Endures, Europol Says

Facebook and YouTube Must Do More To Stop Terrorists Live Streaming Atrocities, May To Tell G20

Gunman Wounds 2, Kills Himself In Attack Near French Mosque

Germany records small uptick in far-right extremist violence

Germany extends Kosovo, Lebanon troop commitment

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Africa

Sheikh Zakzaky Poisoned In Prison, His Health Conditions Serious: Doctors

Somalia: Violent Infighting Breaks Out Among Al-Shabaab Ranks

Suicide Bombers Attack Security Forces in Tunisia

Violence affects more people than ever before in Africa's Sahel

Tunisia hit by twin bombings on the same day its president falls gravely ill

Amnesty urges Sudan to ensure protester safety during rallies

Libya’s Haftar orders forces to attack Turkish ships, bans flights to Turkey

Libya’s Haftar orders forces to attack Turkish ships and interests

UN puts brakes on peacekeepers’ pullout from Sudan’s Darfur

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Pakistan

Pakistan Ulema Council Says ‘Not All Clerics Are Bad’, Lashes Out At Federal Minister

Afghan Refugees Allowed To Stay In Pakistan for another Year

Pakistan: Bilawal Stance against Use of Religion Card for Political Gains Causes a Stir

Muslim countries’ role in diffusing US-Iran tension sought

Pakistan dismisses US report on religious freedom as biased

Pakistan, Afghanistan tied by bond of brotherhood: Ghani

HIV outbreaks in Pakistan indicate lapse in regulation of health system: Lancet

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Arab World

Saudi Crown Prince Welcomes Hosting Of 2020 G20 Summits In The Kingdom

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announces Hajj gift for India with 30,000 increase in quota

Al-Qaida-Affiliated Militants Claim to Have Killed Dozens of Syrian Troops

6 IS militants killed in airstrike, anti-IS operations in northern Iraq

Syrian crisis topped talks between Saudi Crown Prince and Egyptian president at G20

Saudi Crown Prince commends ‘great achievements’ with US in meeting with Trump

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South Asia

Sri Lanka's Army Chief Sees No Immediate Terrorism Threat After Easter Blasts

Bangladesh seeks more Chinese support to Rohingya issue

Afghan President Travels to Pakistan for Talks On Peace With Taliban

9 militants killed, roadside bombs and house-borne IED destroyed in Kapisa and Wardak

Airstrike kills Taliban shadow for governor for Logar and his two deputies

Afghan officials say Taliban attack kills 25 in north

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/deoband-clerics-issue-fatwa-against-nusrat-jahan-for-applying-sindoor;-sadhvi-prachi-defends-tmc-mp/d/119031

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Deoband Clerics Issue Fatwa against Nusrat Jahan for Applying Sindoor; Sadhvi Prachi Defends TMC MP

Jun 29, 2019

New Delhi: The wedding of Trinamool Congress’ actor-turned-politician Nusrat Jahan Ruhi has stoked a row between Deoband clerics and Sadhvi Prachi. Saying that Muslim girls should only marry Muslim boys, Deoband clerics have issued a fatwa against the newly-elected MP.

However, BJP leader Sadhvi Prachi has come to Nusrat’s defence.

Cleric Mufti Asad Wasmi said, “After investigation, we got to know that she married into the Jain religion, Islam says that a Muslim can only marry a Muslim. Second, I want to say that Nusrat Jahan is an actor and these actors do not care about religion. They do what they feel like doing. This is what she showcased in Parliament.”

“She came to Parliament with Sindoor and Mangalsutra, so it is a waste of time to talk about this. We cannot interfere in her life. I just told her what Shariat says with the help of media,” Wasmi added.

Defending Nusrat, BJP leader Sadhvi Prachi lashed out at Maulvis, saying: “If a Muslim woman marries a Hindu and wears Bindi, Bicchwa, Mangalsutra, the Muslim clerics call it Haram. I feel sorry for their intellect but many Muslim men trap our Hindu daughters in the name of love jihad and ask them to wear Burqa, then that is not Haram. That is justified for them.”

The BJP leader’s comments have certainly not gone down well with Muslim clerics. One of the clerics, Maulana Qari, said: “Sadhvi Prachi does not anything about Ulema. Such women are not in control (Belagaam), they try to set the country on fire. They give such statement and spew venom just to create headlines. They want to divide this nation. She does not have any knowledge of any religion. Islam is a religion that gives the message of love and peace. Who does not know anything should first read the Ulema and then speak about it.”

Nusrat Jahan, the first-time parliamentarian, came to Parliament on June 25 in a white and purple Saree, more than a week after the other members took an oath. She had henna motifs on her hands and Bindi on the forehead. She tied the knot with her businessman beau Nikhil Jain in the Turkish town of Bodrum on June 19.

Nusrat Jahan was elected from Basirhat in West Bengal on a Trinamool Congress ticket. She won by more than 3.5 Lakh votes.

https://www.timesnownews.com/india/article/deoband-clerics-issue-fatwa-against-nusrat-jahan-for-applying-sindoor-sadhvi-prachi-defends-tmc-mp-details/445462

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Did Hizbul Mujahideen and LeT Lure Islamic State Militants Into A Trap?

June 29, 2019

Gunshots rang out in south Kashmir late in the evening on 26 June. It was the first day of the Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s visit to the state but incidents of shootings and gunfights in the dead of the night no longer evoke concern in the Valley. However, this time around, the Valley has reason to be worried.

On the morning of 27 June, security forces recovered the body of Adil Ahmad Dass from the orchards in the Bijbehara area. Adil was recruited by the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba in July 2018, but had recently defected to an outfit that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. During searches, security forces also came across and arrested an injured LeT militant.

In what seemed to be an incident that will likely further escalate tensions between the various armed separatist outfits – already at loggerheads with each other owing to ideological differences, and who until now, had just one enemy: The Indian State – they had now clashed among themselves.

The outfit now called the Islamic State Hindh Province (ISHP) took on defectors from the traditional pro-Pakistan militant outfits. Although the ISHP has so far not officially issued a statement on Adil’s killing, a member of the outfit featured in a video that was circulated on pro-IS Telegram channels on late Thursday evening, blaming the “conspiracies” of the LeT and Hizbul Mujahideen.

In the video, the militant identified by his code name Khateeb ridiculed rumours that Adil was “killed by Indian agencies” and instead alleged that the HM and LeT jointly laid out a trap for Adil and his associate, identified by the militant as Turaib, on the pretext of pledging allegiance to the Islamic State and its fugitive leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. “After Adil bhai was martyred, they targeted Turaib bhai with a burst of fire but injured one of their own” who was eventually left behind without weapons, he says in the video.

In the background, helicopters appear to be hovering overhead, but the militants are unfazed. The militant showed pictures of the three members of the HM and LeT posing with Adil after allegedly falsely pledging allegiance as evidence of their complicity. “They are apostates who are doing jihad for Pakistan’s unholy and apostate government,” Khateeb chided.

Khateeb claimed that the traditional pro-Pakistan outfits “only wanted to kill Muslims” and alleged similar plots were hatched against other members of their outfit, details of which would be released in a subsequent video. Addressing the HM’s Valley-based chief, Riyaz Naikoo, the militant towards the end once again shows a picture of Adil with the three militants and declared that “Indian agents did not kill him, Pakistan agents did. The apostates did”.

The HM and LeT have so far not come out with official statements.

Vindication for the pan-Islamists

Infighting isn’t new to militancy in the state. The first phase of the militancy that erupted in the late 1980s descended into massive infighting that saw several clashes between the various militant outfits, all of which in turn helped India establish its writ in the Valley. In September 2015, three militants of the Lashkar-e-Islam headed by Abdul Qayoom Najar, a breakaway module of the HM in north Kashmir, were tortured and killed allegedly by the HM. Najar’s outfit, like the ISHP and the Ansar Ghazwatul Hind today, was called an Indian intelligence ploy.

However, Wednesday’s incident has come as vindication for pan-Islamist outfits, both the Islamic State in Kashmir and its rivals in the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Ansar, that have repeatedly warned against Pakistan and its bartering of “jihad” for its “own national and strategic interests” in the region.

Traditional militant outfits operating in the Valley under the umbrella of the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir-based United Jihad Council are loyal to Pakistani interests. Prominent militants of the Ansar, including its founder Zakir Musa and Pakistani defectors to the outfit, have even accused Pakistan of providing information on militants to the Indian security establishment from time to time.

In the years since the new militancy openly rebelled against the separatist old guard, militants of both outfits have claimed to have suffered at the hands of their parent organisations, including disarmament, entering into scuffles and sometimes harassment of their families. In an audio call recorded before his death, a militant inspired by the Islamic State, Firdous Lone, says that the HM in the Shopian district was “threatening us the way the (Indian) Army does”.

The alleged trap laid out for the Islamic State militants comes just weeks after The Indian Express reported intelligence-sharing by Pakistan, of an imminent attack in Kashmir, with India. The report quoted a senior police official to say that activities of pan-Islamist outfits such as those linked to Al-Qaeda is “seen differently by them”.

http://www.thenorthlines.com/did-hizbul-mujahideen-and-let-lure-islamic-state-militants-into-a-trap/

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'Shame and Humiliation': Aceh's Islamic Law Violates Human Rights

by Aisyah Llewellyn

Jun 29, 2019

Banda Aceh, Indonesia - Hendra, an academic in Indonesia's semi-autonomous region of Aceh, vaguely remembers the first time he saw a public caning take place in his 20s. It was years ago and it didn't faze him much.

The 35-year-old cannot even remember what the people were accused of - just that they were taken to a public square at a local mosque and flogged with a rattan cane in front of a crowd of onlookers.

But in recent years, Hendra, a lecturer in communications at Ar-Raniry University in Banda Aceh, has started to feel differently.

Now he avoids public canings. "I always think, 'Imagine if that was a member of my family'," he told Al Jazeera. "Do these people really deserve this?"

Aceh, on the northern tip of Sumatra, is one of Indonesia's most religiously conservative areas, and is the only part of the archipelago to impose penalties on its residents under Islamic law.

Once one of the most powerful Islamic sultanates in Southeast Asia, the area had long used an informal kind of Islamic law mixed with local laws, known as "hukum adat". But the legislation was enhanced when Aceh's long-running separatist conflict ended in 2005. The laws have been gradually expanded to more offences, most recently in 2014.

Advising Brunei

"Sharia police monitor public behaviour and enforce the rules, including in relation to the clothing women choose to wear," Usman Hamid, the executive director of Amnesty Indonesia, told Al Jazeera.

"People can be subjected to public canings for a range of offences, including gay sex, which carries a penalty of up to 100 lashes, sex before or outside marriage, gambling and the sale and consumption of alcohol."

The practice had already caused shock among the international community, and after Brunei attracted global condemnation over its plan to step up punishments under Islamic law, attention also turned to Aceh.

Officials from Brunei had travelled to the area for advice on implementing the punishments. Initially, the plan was to impose the death penalty for gay sex, but Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Brunei's absolute monarch, then announced that a moratorium on capital punishment would be extended.

Those who had picketed the sultan's luxury hotels and called for a boycott of the country claimed the decision as a victory.

"Sharia law in Aceh is Aceh's Islamic Criminal Code or the usage of corporal punishment upholding Islamic views in Aceh," Amnesty's Usman told Al Jazeera. "But in actuality, the many provisions of the law [are] a breach of international human rights law and standards that create serious barriers for women and girls to report rape or other forms of sexual violence."

In 2016, the first full year when Islamic laws were implemented in Aceh, 339 people, including 39 women, were caned, according to Human Rights Watch.

'Not my concern'

No one who had been whipped was prepared to talk about what had happened to him, even anonymously. Many choose to move elsewhere after the punishment - to a new village or town where they can start afresh - due to stigma.

Hamid says caning in public violates international law prohibiting torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment set out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment to which Indonesia is a state party.

He adds the punishment is severer than a "light tapping with a cane" as it is often described by its supporters.

Hendra, the academic, says that while there are people who oppose Islamic law punishments, few are willing to discuss the issue publicly.

"People are scared of speaking out to say they don't support public canings," he said. "They take the attitude that they see them, but that they don't know anything about the cases or the law. 'It's not my concern' is how many people view it."

A crowd surrounds a vehicle bringing men and women who have breached Islamic law to be publicly caned at the Syuhada mosque in Banda Aceh in May 2017 [File: Beawiharta/Reuters]

Sense of shame

Aryos Nivada, an activist and researcher based in Banda Aceh, said shame and humiliation was the main force behind Islamic law.

The shame factor is why the punishments take place in public, usually in front of a local mosque, where those watching take photos and videos of the event. Some are then uploaded to the internet.

"With the rise of social media," Hendra added, "people can see your face within five minutes [of the punishment being carried out]."

Last year, the then Governor Irwandi Yusuf stopped the practice of public caning. But after he was arrested for corruption last July, the punishments resumed and the issue barely rated a mention in this year's regional elections.

Yusuf became Aceh's second governor to be convicted with economy and corruption topping people's concerns.

Aryos said there was no chance punishments under Islamic law would be abandoned given the close links with traditional Acehnese culture. "Ten years in the future, Aceh will still have Sharia law," he told Al Jazeera. "It's part of the character of Aceh."

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/06/humiliation-aceh-sharia-violates-human-rights-190619020406256.html

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Zarif to Trump: Sanctions Don't Avoid War, They Are War

Mahmoud Barakat

28.06.2019

Amid rising tensions between Washington and Tehran, Iran’s foreign minister has blasted the U.S. president over what he called "misconceptions" that undermine peace.

"Sanctions aren't alternative to war; they ARE war," Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter late Thursday, tagging Donald Trump.

The U.S. on Monday imposed sanctions on Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, his officials, and other top military officials after Trump opted last week not to carry out an attack on Iranian targets he says would have killed 150 people.

The airstrikes were to be carried out following Iran's downing of a U.S. drone.

Iran maintains the drone violated its airspace when it was targeted by a surface-to-air missile, a claim denied by Washington, which says it was over international waters in the Strait of Hormuz.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday denounced the U.S. sanctions, saying the move reflects the "desperation" of the Trump administration.

‘Obliteration’ = ‘war crime’

On Tuesday, Trump again threw down the gauntlet, declaring on Twitter: “Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration.”

If there is war with Iran, it “wouldn't last very long,” Trump later told Fox Business Network.

"'Obliteration' = genocide = war crime," Zarif said in response.

"'Short war' with Iran is an illusion," he added.

"Whoever begins war will not be the one ending it," Zarif added.

Tensions have been rising between the U.S. and Iran since May 2018, when Washington unilaterally withdrew from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany and the EU.

The U.S. has since embarked upon a diplomatic and economic campaign to put pressure on Iran in order to renegotiate the agreement, as well as other Iranian activities Washington considers to be "destabilizing."

As part of its campaign, the U.S. has re-imposed sanctions on exports of Iranian crude oil, which sent Iran’s economy into a nosedive.

Attacks on six oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz have further escalated tensions. The U.S. has sought to place blame for the mysterious attacks on Iran, a charge Iranian officials staunchly deny.

The strait is a vital international waterway critical to the international energy trade with roughly one-third of the world's seaborne oil transiting it, as well as about one-fifth of the world's liquefied natural gas.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/zarif-to-trump-sanctions-dont-avoid-war-they-are-war/1518206

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Trump Says Saudi Crown Prince Doing ‘Spectacular Job,’ As They Hold Talks In Osaka

June 29, 2019

JEDDAH: The US president on Saturday lavished praise on Saudi Arabia’s crown prince for his transformative reforms in the Kingdom.

“I want to congratulate you,” President Donald Trump told Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as they met for talks in Osaka, on the sidelines of the G20 Summit, “you have done a really spectacular job.”

Trump, referring to the crown prince as a friend, talked of the opening up of Saudi Arabia, “especially what you have done for women,” he told Prince Mohammed, “I think what’s happening is like a revolution in a very positive way.”

The crown prince said the Saudi people have achieved a lot in the past few years. “We are trying to do the best for our country,” and we need to do more.

The crown prince said that with the president’s support Saudi Arabia has been able to realize a number of political, security, economic and military achievements, which he said also contributed to US economic growth and safety.

Trump also highlighted the significant business dealings between the two countries and the impact on US jobs, “at least a million jobs are created by purchases made by Saudi Arabia,” he said.

“We have had meetings on trade and economic development and on the military, of course, and the meetings have been really terrific.”

“One thing that you are doing, which is almost at the top of the list and probably is at the top of the list is your fight on terror,” Trump said, addressing the Kingdom’s efforts to combat the evils of terrorism and extremism.

The remarks were made ahead of a closed-door meeting between Trump, the crown prince and prominent ministers and advisers from both countries.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1517821/saudi-arabia

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Europe Safer Since Islamic State Defeat But Threat Endures, Europol Says

JUNE 27, 2019

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Europeans were safer from jihadist attacks last year than at any point since Islamic State set up its caliphate in 2014, but a number of foiled attacks including plots to use poison chemicals show that the threat still endures, police agency Europol said.

Thirteen people were killed and 46 injured in attacks by jihadists across Europe in 2018, Europol said in a report. The figures were the lowest by far since 2014, when Islamic State swept into control of a third of Iraq and Syria and launched a campaign of mass casualty attacks in Europe.

In each of the intervening years, jihadists killed scores of people and wounded hundreds in Europe, with large scale attacks in cities including Manchester, Nice, Brussels and Paris.

Islamic State has been driven in the past year from all territory it once held in Syria and Iraq, although authorities say it remains a threat as an underground movement.

All attacks last year in Europe were perpetrated by “lone wolves” using firearms and knives. Such home-grown attacks are less deadly than strikes by former fighters, but Europol says they are harder for police to spot and stop.

European law enforcement foiled 16 jihadist plots, a sign that while Islamic State’s territorial rule may be over, the group’s ideology and online reach remain a threat.

“Europol’s report underlines that terrorism still poses a real and present danger to the EU,” Europe’s Security Commissioner Julien King said in a statement.

“The enduring threat posed by Islamist groups ... along with the rise of far right-wing extremist violence, clearly shows that there is still much to be done – notably in tackling the scourge of terrorist content online.”

Two of the disrupted plots involved using ricin in explosives and one involved a plan to poison drinking water.

The number of Europeans making their way back from conflict zones remains low, with hundreds of people captured in Syria still detained there by U.S.-backed Kurdish forces.

Islamic State retains a strong online presence, but the group’s retreat on the ground is likely to give way to an increase in an effort by its rivals al Qaeda to reclaim influence, Europol said.

Islamic State originated as an al Qaeda faction in Iraq, but took advantage of Syria’s civil war to seize land there and split away from the group founded by Osama bin Laden.

The police agency also flagged a rise in the number of arrests linked to right-wing extremism. While still relatively low, the number of arrests doubled for the second year in a row to 44 in 2018.

https://af.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idAFKCN1TS1XR

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Sheikh Zakzaky Poisoned In Prison, His Health Conditions Serious: Doctors

Jun 28, 2019

Top Nigerian Muslim cleric Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, who has been imprisoned for four years now, is said to have been poisoned in prison, according to doctors who found high levels of toxic substance in his blood.

Members of Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) announced that their cleric was poisoned, citing results of an investigation by the movement's Academic Forum.

Based on the findings, a high-level of toxicity has been diagnosed in the cleric’s blood, which has worsened his health condition.

Zakzaky’s legal team has long called for his release, saying he is suffering from health issues that require urgent medical care abroad, but the state high court in Kaduna has denied the request.

A team of medics examining Zakzaky in prison have renewed pleas for him to be released, saying levels of the chemical toxic substance — lead — is so dangerously high in his blood that requires an immediate medical treatment.

A medical team sent by International Healthcare Research Center (IHRC) to Nigeria in April said that the imprisoned cleric was in urgent need of medical care that could only be fully accessed outside Nigeria.

Sheikh Zakzaky, who is in his mid-sixties, lost his left eyesight in a 2015 raid by security forces, that left more than 300 of his followers and three of his sons dead. His wife also sustained serious wounds.

He has been kept in custody along his wife and a large number of his followers ever since.

Back in 2016, Nigeria’s federal high court ordered his unconditional release from jail following a trial, but the government has so far refused to set him free.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/06/28/599620/Nigeria-cleric-Zakzaky-health-condition-toxic

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Pakistan Ulema Council Says ‘Not All Clerics Are Bad’, Lashes Out At Federal Minister

Jun 29, 2019

–Fawad says ‘fatwa-issuing’ clerics are responsible for majority of Pakistan’s woes

Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) Chairman Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi on Friday lashed out at Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry for making ‘controversial’ statements against clerics and challenged the minister to a one-on-one debate.

In a tweet earlier in the day, Fawad said fatwa-issuing clerics were the biggest threat to Pakistan.

“People from all sects should perform jihad against this attitude as 75 per cent of our problems developed due to such clerics,” he said.

In a press conference at Lahore Press Club, Ashrafi responded to the minister, saying clerics played a major and important role during Pakistan’s fights against terrorism and the freedom movement.

In a jibe at the minister, the PUC chairman said Fawad was studying law when the clerics were fighting against terrorism.

Responding to Fawad’s statement on ‘fatwa-giving’ clerics, Ashrafi said if someone issues a wrong ‘fatwa’ take action against that cleric. “Not all clerics are bad,” he said, adding all religious clerics must not be maligned.

In an allusion to the clerics ‘services’, he said today there was peace in the country due to the efforts of religious clerics,” he insisted.

He urged PM Imran to speak to his ministers and help change their behaviours.

He also commented on Fawad’s moon-sighting app, saying it was fine to use new technology for the moon-sighting. However, the prime minister should constitute a committee with religious clerics and astronomy experts on board.

He also lauded the government’s effort to bring changes in Pakistan on the same principles at which the state of Medina was born thousands of years ago.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/06/28/ashrafi-says-not-all-clerics-are-bad/

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Saudi Crown Prince Welcomes Hosting Of 2020 G20 Summits In The Kingdom

29 June 2019

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman welcomed hosting the G20 summit in the Kingdom in 2020 during his speech at the closing session of the 2019 G20 summit on Saturday.

The Crown Prince stressed that the Kingdom is determined to work together with all countries “to find a consensus to crises in the world.”

“The empowerment of women and youth is key to global growth,” he added.

“In the G20, we have a responsibility to create an environment in which the world thrives,” the Crown Prince said.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/06/29/Saudi-Crown-Prince-welcomes-hosting-of-2020-G20-summits-in-the-Kingdom-.html

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India

 

Muslim community organises protest against mob lynching

JUNE 29, 2019

Protesting against the increasing cases of mob lynching of Muslims in the country, hundreds of Muslims took out a rally under the banner of Muslim Muttahida Council (MMC) here on Friday.

In a memorandum submitted to President Ram Nath Kovind, through the district administration, the protesters called the lynching not only a blot on secularism but also an organised effort to create a fear psychosis among Muslims in the country.

Stating that Muslims and Hindus had been living in harmony in India for generations, they pointed out that now, some anti-social elements of Hindutva outfits were killing Muslims in the name of cow protection and protection of Hindu culture.

Referring to the lynching of Tabrez Ansari recently in Jharkhand, they said he was accused of stealing motorcycles and brutally beaten while being asked to chant ‘Jai Sri Ram’. The memorandum stated that in the name of Ram, Muslims are being targeted and victimised through lynching.

Stating that Muslims comprise 20% of India’s population, the memorandum said if a huge number of the community does not feel safe in the country, then it was most regrettable and only the ruling government at the Centre must be held responsible for such inhuman acts.

Listing out several cases in which Muslims have been killed in the last five years in the country, the memorandum said the government must take stringent action. It should send a clear message that it does not tolerate such incidents and take tough action against those involved in such criminal acts. The memorandum demanded maintenance of peace and religious harmony in India.

The programme was attended by MMC president Moulana Tanveer Peeran Hashmi, leader Abdul Hamid Mushrif and other clerics.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/muslim-community-organises-protest-against-mob-lynching/article28219888.ece

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Pakistan, not Indian agents, killed our man in J&K: IS

Jun 29, 2019

NEW DELHI: The provincial branch of the so-called Islamic State in Kashmir, Wilayah al-Hind (WaH), on Friday circulated a video on Telegram channels claiming that one of their members was killed a day ago at the behest of Pakistan.

Lashing out at the Pakistan-sponsored terror outfits Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba, a WaH spokesperson claimed that Adil Rehman Dar, whose killing was attributed by media to a squabble with the Lashkar over an AK-47 rifle, had been actually murdered.

In a video shot against an IS black flag, the WaH spokesperson, later identified by security agencies as Khateeb Dass, narrated how three Hizb and Lashkar terrorists tricked and killed Adil at Bijbehera. Describing Hizbul commander Riyaz Naikoo as infidel, Khateeb said he had “proof to expose his and Pakistan’s sinful lies that Adil was killed by Indian agencies”.

Khateeb claimed that along with Adil, there was another WaH member who met three terrorists from Hizb and Lashkar. After Adil was killed, his aide jumped into a river while one of Naikoo’s men was hurt by their own fire, Khateeb said. Displaying pictures of the killers on his phone, Khateeb claimed that they deceived Adil by convincing him that they were abandoning their organisations to join WaH. “They wore IS inners and swore their allegiance to the caliphate and our chief, Al Bhagdadi,” he said.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/pakistan-not-indian-agents-killed-our-man-in-jk-is/articleshow/69996679.cms

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J-K: JeM Militant killed in Budgam encounter, arms and ammunition recovered

June 28, 2019

A Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) affiliated militant was killed by security forces in an encounter in Jammu and Kashmir’s Budgam district on Friday morning. The encounter broke out during a cordon and search operation launched by security forces in Kralpora Checkpora area of the district.

The police said arms and ammunition were recovered from the site of the encounter. During the search operation, the militants, who were hiding, fired on the search party of the forces. The security personnel retaliated, leading to an encounter in which one militant was killed, the spokesperson said, adding the body was retrieved from the site.

Kashmir Zone Police

@KashmirPolice

#Budgam #encounter update: 01 #terrorist #killed. #Arms & ammunition recovered. #Identity & affiliation being ascertained. #Search continues. @JmuKmrPolice

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The spokesperson said with efforts of police and security forces, it was a clean operation and no collateral damage took place during the exchange of fire. From the incriminating material recovered from the site of the gunfight, the slain militant was identified as a Pakistani named Zarar affiliated with proscribed outfit JeM.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/budgam-encounter-live-updates-5804055/

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Cops denied Tabrez Ansari of medical treatment, threatened his family: Report

Jun 28, 2019

New Delhi: The family of Tabrez Ansari, who died on June 22, after being beaten by a mob which forced him to chant “Jai Shri Ram” and “Jai Hanuman” in Jharkhand, was allegedly threatened by police with a similar fate when his family begged for him to be given treatment while he was bleeding profusely in custody. In the lockup, the family found the main perpetrator of the violence addressing Ansari, asking him why he was not dead yet, in spite of the severe beatings they administered on him, the online portal The Wire reported.

These and many other aspects of the lynching, each outdoing the other in brutality, have been published in a report written by a fact-finding team of the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha. On June 25, the team travelled to the Kadamidiha and Dhaktidih villages in Jharkhand, where the attack on Tabrez took place.

The team, comprising human rights activists and advocates, spoke to Ansari’s family and his neighbours, all of whom were vehement in suggesting that it was very unlikely that he would have been involved in a case of thievery. Twenty-four-year-old Tabrez got married a month-and-half ago and planned to take his wife to Pune, where he has been working as a welder for the past six or seven years.

The team also tried to speak to villagers living around the scene of the lynching, at Dhaktidih, but were interrupted by a group of men who swarmed them and begun saying that they were the “Jai Shri Ram waale” and that a thief has no religion and could easily be asked to chant “Jai Shri Ram,” be he a Hindu or a Muslim. Dhaktidih, the report noted, had a significant population of backward castes.

The area, the team were told, had little communal tension. Some villagers, however, recalled a year-old incident when members of religious right-wing organisations had told the Muslims to stop cattle trade. It did stop, but not for very long.

From accounts of Tabrez’s family members, which have been included in the report, not only does there appear to be a serious lapse in the way the police acted in the case, but there are also glaring points of cruelty in the name of religious violence which come to the fore.

Some of the salient points that led to his death enumerated in the fact-finding report are as follows:

Tabrez had called his wife at 10 pm on June 17 from Jamshedpur, where he had gone to visit a relative with two 14-year-old boys of his in-laws’ village, Behrsarai. He told her that we would be returning that night. He had taken a bike. This puts into perspective the lynchers’ claim that the beatings were in retaliation for Tabrez stealing a bike.

In the morning, Tabrez’s wife got a call from him. He told her that he was being beaten in Dhatkidih village and pleaded with her to help him. She informed his uncles Maksud Alam and Masrur Alam, who went to the local police station to look for him. They could not find him in the Kharsawan police station but found him in the lockup of Saraikela police station. He was found bleeding from the nose, mouth and head. He also had cut marks on his fingers. The police told them that he was caught for stealing.

Masrur then told police station in-charge Bipin Bihari Singh that Tabrez needed immediate medical help. Singh told him “Yehaan Se Bhaago. Nahi to Tumhara Bhi Haath-Pao Tod Ke Tumko Jail Mein Daal Denge.” (“Get away from here or else I will break your bones and put you in jail too.”)

Tabrez spoke to his relatives from the lockup. He said a few men had asked him for his name on the way back from Jamshedpur. He had said ‘Sonu‘ at first, but then they pressured him for his actual name. After this, they began beating him up. The two boys ran away.

After having been tied to the pole and beaten, Tabrez (according to relatives who spoke to him in the lockup) had asked for water. He was forced to drink the juice of Dhatura, a poisonous weed, the leaves of which were stuffed into his mouth.

Tabrez named one Pappu Mandal among his lynchers. Mandal and around 15 people were also at the police station when his relatives went to see him. Mandal, his relatives said, was the one who asked Tabrez why he was not dead in spite of the beatings.

On June 19 too, Tabrez was not given medical treatment despite multiple requests by his family. He was shifted to the local jail. At this point, he could no longer walk.

On June 22, the uncles were informed by an acquaintance that Tabrez was admitted to the Saraikela Sadar hospital. They went there and found him foaming at the mouth. The doctor told them that he was dead. A local reporter found that he was still breathing. He was then referred to the Tata Medical Hospital. When they reached the hospital in Jamshedpur, he was pronounced dead.

Following his death, his family members lodged a case against Pappu Mandal and others.

Full report at:

https://www.siasat.com/news/cops-denied-tabrez-ansari-medical-treatment-threatened-his-family-report-1529070/

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Southeast Asia

 

In Beijing Speech, Minister In Malaysia’s PMO Speaks Of ‘False News’ On Xinjiang

June 28, 2019

PETALING JAYA: After riling up netizens with his apparent endorsement of China’s defence of detention camps in the Xinjiang province, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mujahid Yusof Rawa appears to be questioning reports about Beijing’s policies against Muslims, saying they could be “false news”.

“False news in China about Muslims being oppressed could trigger a wave of sympathy to the oppressed and affect relationships,” Mujahid said in a speech he delivered at the Beijing Foreign Studies University yesterday.

He then made comparison to claims of Hindus in Malaysia being mistreated.

“While false news about Hindu followers being treated unjustly by Muslims in Malaysia, for example, could trigger hatred towards the Muslim minority in India,” he added.

The remarks come in the wake of criticism of Mujahid’s use of the term “training centre” to refer to a controversial camp set up to “re-educate” Muslim dissidents in the restive Xinjiang province.

Following his visit, Mujahid wrote on Facebook: “This centre carries out industrial training activities and teaches a variety of skills such as sewing, legal class, arts and flower arrangement,” he wrote on Facebook in a post accompanied by pictures of his visit.

The post immediately drew criticism from Facebook users, who said Mujahid was parroting Chinese propaganda in describing detention camps in Xinjiang as “training centres”.

China recently denied the existence of such camps, but later said they were “vocational centres” to help “save” people from extremist influences.

Rights bodies have long accused China of cracking down on dissent in Xinjiang under the guise of fighting Muslim extremism.

In his speech, Mujahid said Malaysia and China shared similar approaches in integrating different ethnic groups.

“Malaysia practices national integration through preserving each ethnic group’s own culture and traditions but are united as one big family of being a Malaysian.

“Peoples Republic of China (PRC) resembles the same approach of keeping each ethnic group with their own identity but integrating towards a big family unit as one.”

He said both the constitutions of Malaysia and China provided their citizens the right to practise their religions.

“The only difference being that the Malaysian constitution stipulates Islam as the religion of the federation while PRC does not consider any religion as a state religion,” he said.

Mujahid also praised China’s efforts to combat extremism.

“PRC too is actively resorting to such an approach on her long journey of creating a peaceful and harmonious world.”

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2019/06/28/in-beijing-speech-mujahid-speaks-of-false-news-on-xinjiang/

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Mujahid’s statement on Xinjiang has embarrassed country, Islam, says Khaled Nordin

June 29, 2019

PETALING JAYA: Umno claims Mujahid Yusof Rawa’s use of the term “training centre” when referring to a controversial camp set up to “re-educate” Muslims in Xinjiang has embarrassed Muslims and the nation.

Umno vice-president Mohamed Khaled Nordin said the statement by the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of religious affairs illustrated how backward Pakatan Harapan’s stand was regarding the human rights of the minority Islamic community in Xinjiang.

“Mujahid’s use of the term ‘training centre’ is an endorsement of the Muslim oppression policy in Xinjiang.

“Similarly, he’d described the report on the persecution of Muslims in China as ‘false news from China’ when speaking at the Bejing Foreign Studies University,” Khalid said in a statement today.

Mujahid had previously shared on Facebook about his visit to the “training and vocational centre for the Uighur society”, which is a term used by Beijing to “re-educate” thousands of Muslims criticising China’s policies in Xinjiang.

According to Mujahid, the centre carried out “industrial training” activities, such as sewing. He ended his statement with the hashtag #RahmatanLilAlamin.

Khaled, however, said there were no “training centres” in Xinjiang and these were actually “concentration camps” with the purpose of eliminating the identity, beliefs and cultures of minorities, such as the Uighurs, Kazakhs, Tajiks and others.

He said Mujahid should have instead conveyed his sense of concern, regret and protests of the Muslims in Malaysia and the world over on what is happening in Xinjiang.

“But what happened was that he gave his ‘consent’ to a systematic repression policy against minorities, especially the Uighurs in Xinjiang,” he said.

Earlier, Amnesty International Malaysia had expressed its deep disappointment with the statement on the “re-education camps”.

“Amnesty International has first-hand knowledge that the Chinese authorities have detained Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims – outside any legal process – in ‘political education’ camps for their perceived disloyalty to the government and Chinese Communist Party,” it said.

Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa, of the Islamic Renaissance Front, had also questioned Mujahid’s use of the phrase “vocational and training institution”.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2019/06/29/mujahids-statement-on-xinjiang-has-embarrassed-country-islam-says-khaled-nordin/

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Malaysia Says Not Extraditing Zakir Naik despite Official Request

JUN 28, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia has received an application from India to extradite controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, an Indian national, but is keeping to its decision not to send him back, a Malaysian Cabinet minister said on Friday (June 28).

Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said: "We have received the note (on the extradition application) from the Indian government. I don't remember when, but we have received it."

"For now, we do not have any new decision, we still hold to our original decision," he said, in response to a journalist's question on recent comments by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad that Malaysia won't extradite Mr Zakir.

The 53-year old preacher is wanted by New Delhi to face money laundering charges. He has espoused controversial views in his lectures and videos when answering issues linked to Hinduism with his puritan brand of Islam.

Mr Zakir is a popular figure in Muslim-majority Malaysia and has been granted permanent residency status in the country. Previous news reports say he is also a citizen of Saudi Arabia.

India has previously charged Mr Zakir with laundering 1.93 billion rupees (S$38 million) in illicit funds.

In October 2014, he was charged by India's National Investigation Agency with inciting terror and delivering hate speeches.

But Tun Dr Mahathir on June 10 said he won't send Mr Zakir back to India even if requested by New Delhi.

The Premier likened his stance to how Australia declined to send back a Malaysian fugitive, Sirul Azhar Umar, as Canberra was worried that the man would be hanged in Malaysia.

Sirul, a former Malaysian police commando who was sentenced to death in 2015 for the murder of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu, managed to escape to Australia while on release pending appeal. Australia has refused to send him back to Malaysia, which practises capital punishment.

Asked about Mr Zakir on June 10, Dr Mahathir said: "Zakir in general feels that he is not going to get a fair trial (in India)."

Full report at:

https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/malaysia-says-not-extraditing-controversial-indian-preacher-despite-official-request

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Will minorities have a place in PAS' Malaysia?

29 Jun 2019

IF there is one thing that PAS has revealed itself to be in its recently concluded Muktamar is that it is a party that has problems co-existing in a multiethnic and multifaith country like Malaysia.

This is a party that has taken the dark and twisted road of self-preservation by suggesting to curtail the rights of minorities, even culling ethnic groups to fulfill its agenda of an Islamic state which, has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with politics and power.

It is a far cry from the days of leaders such as the late Ustaz Fadzil Nor and the late Tok Guru Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat who portrayed an all-embracing form of Islam that valued diversity. PAS then received support from the non-Muslims in Kelantan and Terengganu as well as in the West Coast of the Peninsular due to the party's leadership then and especially of Nik Aziz who stressed on the teachings of the Holy Prophet which included the responsibility to protect the welfare of non-Muslims.

The PAS Muktamar witnessed unprecedented Chinese-bashing with unsurprisingly, the DAP being made the bogeyman once again.

The sloganeering was louder this time around since the DAP is in the Federal Government for the first time and is apparently hell bent on making Malaysia a "Second Singapore", according to PAS central committee member Dr Halimah Ali.

Her comments came in the wake of women's wing vice-chief Salamiah Md Nor who in her address, rued the day that Mandarin becomes the country's second language.

She reasoned that vernacular schools did not promote unity and contended that a better way of doing so was to make Arabic – specifically the Quran and Sunnah as the second language.

Dr Halimah, however, had a refreshing perspective on vernacular schools, saying they should be emulated for their academic track record where even Malay parents are sending their children there.

On the other end of the spectrum, PAS Youth chief Khairil Nizam Khirudin in a refreshing winding up speech called for making the learning of Mandarin and Tamil compulsory in a bid to boost national unity.

But the muted response from delegates was a barometer of their enthusiasm in broadening the minds and linguistic skills of our children.

Perhaps Salamiah whose views many fear represent the majority of PAS members should ponder why national schools have largely failed to promote national unity. Could it be the perceived creeping in of Islamisation into national schools that have fueled the increase in the popularity of vernacular schools among non-Malays as well as many Malays?

For instance, of the 55 students in SJKC Sin Min in Lubok Cina, Alor Gajah, Melaka, only nine are Chinese while the rest are Malays.

According to the Education Ministry statistics, 18% of Chinese primary school population comprise of non-Chinese, mostly Malays.

While PAS is fixated on the hereafter, the fact remains that Mandarin is currently the most spoken language in the world due to the global native speakers of 1.1 billion as well as China's growing economic might.

No harm learning Arabic though, but if the intention is to dakwah, or expose non-Muslim children to Islam, then it will run into problems getting the support of non-Muslim parents who are largely suspicious of PAS and its use of religion for politics.

There was a time when PAS was sincere about national unity. Its leaders even held interfaith dialogues and visited churches and temples to foster ties.

These forward-thinking leaders have since left the party to join Parti Amanah Negara or Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia. The likes of Khairil may also find that his forward views may not have a place in his party.

If PAS is serious about national unity, instead of talking about conversion and dakwah, why not moot instead for increased slots for Bahasa Malaysia in Chinese and Tamil schools? We have to acknowledge that the proficiency of Bahasa Malaysia is still not satisfactory among many non-Malays.

In another development, the PAS-led Kelantan Islamic Religious and Malay Customs Council (MAIK) had announced an ambitious plan to convert every single Orang Asli in the state to Islam by 2049.

This plan received a much-deserved rebuke from Orang Asli Development Department (Jakoa) director-general Dr Juli Edo who said it was wrong to take advantage of the Orang Asli communities.

Animism and their way of life and beliefs are the very essence of the Orang Asli identity. Any large scale attempt to make them abandon their beliefs in the name of "progress" is a subtle form of ethnic cleansing similar to the fate of indigenous peoples in Australia, Africa and Latin America who were converted and "saved" from their "sinful" way of life by Christian missionaries and government sponsored assimilation programmes.

To a lesser extent, it evokes memories of the "anak angkat" programmes of the mid-1980s which saw Christian secondary school students from Sabah and Sarawak being sent to hostels in Kelantan and Terengganu to complete their Form Six education.

While non-Muslims were valued stakeholders in the Kelantan administration lead by Nik Aziz, the present State Government's treatment of the Orang Asli have been atrocious. There is nothing Islamic to the degazetting of reserves and backing timber companies who bulldoze their way into ancestral land, as well as the lethargic response to alarming deaths of the Bateq tribe from an epidemic.

Despite assurances by PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang that non-Muslims should not feel anxious over a PAS-Umno alliance that could give rise to a monoethnic government, one is not convinced. This alliance over the past one year have demonstrated an increasing intolerance to diversity because it is politically prudent to do so.

There seems to be some measure of success in their approach seeing that the more ethnically diverse Pakatan Harapan government keeps going on the back-foot on issues such as quotas, merit and open competition.

The downright refusal to extradite alleged hate preacher Zakir Naik to India, an important economic and strategic partner demonstrates an unnatural fear of losing Muslim support.

Full report at:

https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2019/06/29/will-minorities-have-a-place-in-pas-malaysia/

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Foreign Islamic groups 'influence' Indonesian campuses

Ivany Atina Arbi

June 28, 2019 

A recent study by the Nahdlatul Ulama University’s research center (LPPM UNUSIA) has found that transnational Islamic movements have long had influence in state universities, blocking access for non-Muslims or other minority groups to important positions and influencing decision-making. Among the transnational Islamic movements are the Muslim Brotherhood-inspired Jemaah Tarbiyah and the radical organization Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), which endorses the implementation of Islam in government and society. The LPPM UNUSIA, therefore, urged moderate Islamic organizations on campuses to stem the influence of the exclusive groups to create a more tolerant and inclusive educational environment. The research, which was conducted in December and January at eight state universities in Central Java and Yogyakarta, revealed that Jemaah Tarbiyah and HTI had been controlling influent...

https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2019/06/28/foreign-islamic-groups-influence-indonesian-campuses.html

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Eight dead in suicide bombing at Philippines military camp

June 28, 2019

MANILA: Eight people were killed and 22 were wounded after two suspected "suicide bombers" attacked a military camp in southern Philippines Friday.

Maj. Arvin Encinas, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) spokesperson, said the attack occurred around 12 noon at the headquarters of the Army 1st Brigade Combat Team in Tanjung, Indanan, Sulu.

Of the eight fatalities, three were soldiers, three civilians, and the two bomb carriers. The wounded include 10 civilians and 12 soldiers.

The attack took place as the new AFP Wesmincom commander, Maj. Gen. Cirilito E. Sobejana, assumed post vice Lt. Gen. Arnel B. Dela Vega who retired from the service, in a ceremony held in Zamboanga City also on Friday.

Encinas told Arab News the suspected bombers attempted to enter the camp. The first suspect, however, was intercepted at the gate of the camp.

"It appears that the suspects' initial plan was to bring their bombs inside the camp but during inspection at the gate, our soldiers discovered the explosives which suddenly went off," according to Encinas.

At that point, the suspect detonated the bomb, instantly killing three soldiers and three civilians who were nearby. The suspect also died in the blast which destroyed the gate, leaving the entry of the camp open.

Encinas said another suspect rushed inside the camp and detonated the second bomb. He also died in the process.

A police report said armed men simultaneously attacked the camp following the explosion. A brief encounter between the armed men and government forces ensued.

Asked whether the suspects who carried out the bombing were Filipinos or foreigners, Encinas said it has yet to be determined as they were both blown to pieces. Body parts recovered from the scene may be submitted for DNA testing, he added.

Daesh, in a statement released by its propaganda agency Amaq, has claimed responsibility for the attack.

It said that two of their bombers, identified in the statement as Khattab and Abu Muhammed, have made the sacrifice by storming an anti-terror camp of the Philippine military in Sulu.

"They were able to blow up their explosive belts inside the camp and they have killed over a hundred of the crusaders," read the statement.

The military have yet to confirm who is behind attack.

The group also released a photo of two young men holding a black flag used by the Daesh. The two were allegedly those who carried out the attack.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1517586/world

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Mideast

 

Iran sees some progress on nuclear deal, but not enough

Jun 29, 2019

VIENNA (AP) — A meeting of the remaining partners in the Iranian nuclear deal produced some progress but not enough to satisfy Tehran’s demands, a senior Iranian official said Friday, offering little prospect for now of the country backing away from a move to surpass a uranium stockpile threshold that could doom the agreement.

Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, said after meeting with senior officials from Britain, Germany, France, China, Russia and the European Union that a complex barter-type system set up to keep trade with Iran afloat is now active. But he insisted that for the so-called INSTEX system to be useful, “Europeans need to buy oil from Iran, or to consider credit lines for this mechanism.”

Araghchi described the meeting in Vienna, a regular quarterly gathering of signatories to the 2015 accord, as positive and constructive. He said it was “one step forward” compared with previous sessions, “but it is still not enough, and it is still not meeting Iran’s expectations.”

The 2015 agreement was aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions in exchange for relief from economic sanctions. President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the accord last year and he has imposed new sanctions on Iran in hopes of forcing Tehran into negotiating a wider-ranging deal.

Iran recently quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium. It previously said it would surpass a 300-kilogram stockpile limit set by the accord by Thursday, but then said it was below the limit Wednesday and there would be no new assessment until “after the weekend.” It is currently a holiday weekend in Iran.

European countries are pressing for Iran to comply in full with the accord, though they have not specified what the consequences would be of failing to do so. But Iranian officials maintain that even if it surpasses the enrichment limit, it would not be breaching the deal, and say such a move could be reversed quickly.

The Europeans also face a July 7 deadline set by Tehran to offer long-promised relief from U.S. sanctions, or Iran says it will also begin enriching its uranium closer to weapons-grade levels.

After Friday’s meeting, several EU countries said they are supporting efforts to keep the nuclear deal alive. Austria, Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden wrote in a joint statement that “aware of the difficulties to implement the economic part of the agreement, we are working ... to establish channels to facilitate legitimate trade and financial operations with Iran.”

INSTEX was conceived in January but has taken months to activate. It would help ensure trade between Iran and Europe by allowing buyers and sellers to exchange money without relying on the usual cross-border financial transactions.

Senior EU diplomat Helga Schmid confirmed on Twitter that the system is “now operational, (with) first transactions being processed” and more EU member countries to join. She said that Friday’s discussions were constructive and added that “full and effective implementation of #IranDeal by all sides remains key.”

Araghchi said he will report back to Tehran, which will make further decisions. Of the 300-kilogram limit, he said that “the decision to reduce our commitments has already (been) made in Iran, and we continue on that process unless our expectations are met.”

Asked whether there would be a follow-up meeting, Araghchi said that delegates “decided to have a ministerial meeting very soon,” perhaps in the next few weeks, although a time and place have not yet been determined. Friday’s meeting was held at a lower level of senior foreign ministry officials.

Trump said on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Japan that “there’s no rush” to ease tensions with Iran.

“There’s absolutely no time pressure,” he added. “I think that in the end, hopefully, it’s going to work out. If it does, great. And if doesn’t, you’ll be hearing about it.”

Tensions have been rising in the Middle East. Citing unspecified Iranian threats, the U.S. has sent an aircraft carrier to the region and deployed additional troops alongside the tens of thousands already there.

The U.S. has been worried about international shipping through the Strait of Hormuz since tankers were damaged in May and June in what Washington has blamed on limpet mines from Iran, although Tehran denies any involvement. Last week, Iran shot down a U.S. Navy surveillance drone, saying it violated its territory; Washington said it was in international airspace.

Cornelius Adebahr, an associate fellow at the German Council on Foreign Relations think tank in Berlin, said there was a risk of “a big conflict.”

“There is so much space for miscalculations, for misperceptions and there is no direct communication between Iran and the U.S.,” he said. During the Cold War, he noted, Washington and Moscow had a direct hotline for crises, but now “there is nothing comparable and that makes this all so dangerous.”

On Thursday, U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook met top European diplomats in Paris and said he wants them to get tougher on Iran, instead of clinging to the nuclear deal.

The U.S. is trying to drum up support for an international naval force in the Persian Gulf, notably to protect shipping. On Friday, Hook met in London with the head of the International Maritime Organization, the U.N. shipping safety agency, to share intelligence on “Iran’s recent aggression in and around the Strait of Hormuz.”

Hook said that “we have put ourselves in a strictly defensive position but we are, we think, making strides to restore deterrence.”

He also stressed that “you can’t do business with the United States and Iran, and everyone has chosen the United States over Iran for a number of reasons.”

https://apnews.com/2c748431d7f3427aae966003a16e2641?utm_medium=AP&utm_source=Twitter&utm_campaign=SocialFlow

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Inside Intelligence: ‘Israel-Egypt Cooperation Key To Beating Back Isis In Sinai’

By Yonah Jeremy Bob  

JUNE 28, 2019

Israeli-Egyptian cooperation is the key to confronting the threat posed by ISIS Sinai, former director of the US National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) Nick Rasmussen told The Jerusalem Post in a recent exclusive interview.

Rasmussen, who was the center’s chief from 2014 until December 2017, straddling the Obama and Trump administrations, complimented the reports of quiet-but-effective cooperation between Cairo and Jerusalem.

Currently director of the McCain Institute’s Counterterrorism Program, he said that, “given the extensive capabilities of Israel’s intelligence apparatus,” this would make it harder for ISIS to attack Israel from Sinai – although it has clearly tried.

While some have looked at Sinai as one of the new key bases of operations for ISIS, he said that the jihadist organization is “not moving en masse to set up the caliphate” in a single, specific alternative spot.

Rather, there are many alternatives, he said, noting that “the Sinai is not the only one.”

Rasmussen added the Philippines and, even more so, Libya. In addition, he said that he personally is most concerned about reprisal terrorist attacks within other Arab countries.

The NCTC has over a thousand intelligence professionals working for it across 20 US agencies, analyzing and carrying out strategic planning to fight terrorist threats to America.

It was formed after 9/11 based on expert recommendations, which stated that, had an agency existed to ensure that all of the dozen or so US intelligence agencies cooperated better in sharing intelligence, the attacks might have been foiled.

Discussing the potential of ISIS to make a comeback less than two months after its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, came out with a video showing he was still alive despite rumors otherwise, Rasmussen said that with ISIS routed from its capitals in Iraq and Syria, everything “is linked to the question: How do we successfully address the political aspirations of the broader Sunni community in Iraq or Syria?

“To the extent the Sunni population still feels marginalized and disenfranchised, this creates a pool of potential adherents or recruits, the same as it did a decade ago with Islamic State 2.0,” he stated.

Continuing, he said: “That is a population from which they were allowed to become a mass movement, and not just a clandestine terrorist organization... Though the caliphate has been destroyed, ISIS is perfectly able to convert to embed into the broader Sunni population.”

From there, he said that ISIS can “bide its time until an opportunity presents itself to capitalize on the grievances, to expand again into a broad-based insurgency campaign.”

To combat this possibility, Western government and intelligence officials must be asking themselves, “How do we create a more inclusive political system in Iraq to stop the Sunni community’s feeling of being marginalized?”

Regarding the group’s resiliency, he pointed out that “ISIS had quite a bit of time to prepare for the current phase. The campaigns against Mosul, Raqqa and smaller pockets in the Euphrates River Valley took a long time. It was the world’s longest telegraphed punch.”

Since ISIS “knew what the coalition was doing, they had plenty of time to prepare for the outcome,” he said.

Fundamentally, he said that it is crucial for the US to have learned that “we don’t turn away and think the Iraqis can handle it all on their own. That is not a recipe for success. There is plenty of room for debate about what presence the US should have, but it must have some role.”

One area where the ISIS threat has been less than expected has been that fewer of its fighters from the West have returned to Europe and beyond.

Following comments last week by a Syrian Democratic Forces commander that England could still face a large number of ISIS sleeper cells perpetrating terrorism there, Rasmussen said that “we were very focused in my tenure” on the volume of ISIS returnees to the West.

Now, he said, “the analysis has shifted. It is not as much a quantity problem, as a quality problem... Most foreign fighters have chosen or been compelled to stay in conflict zones to fight and die, or go to the countryside... and our defense against outflow of fighters [to the West] is better than before.”

But the “SDF commander’s words are something to worry about,” he said. “Maybe not hundreds of ISIS fighters will return to the UK, but should the UK be concerned if the wrong three to five fighters are returning?... If they are very capable and highly trained?... We still have a quality problem, so we need to find out who we should be the most worried about and get the right intelligence.”

MOVING ON to American and Israeli intelligence cooperation, such as tips Israel’s Mossad has taken credit for relating to sabotaging ISIS plots to explode airplanes using laptop computers, Rasmussen demurred.

“I’m constrained; I was in government too recently,” to discuss specifics, but he said that in general, “we have a very robust dialogue and intelligence exchange with Israeli intelligence services on the full range of terror-related issues in the Middle East. ISIS has featured prominently in those discussions. We looked to Israel as helpful partners.”

Despite what he called generally excellent intelligence cooperation, when pressed, Rasmussen acknowledged that sometimes the US and Israel, especially under different administrations, may even view intelligence differently, based on the differing threats and constellation of national priorities in play.

“Most of my career I was in the White House, the National Security Council and the US State Department. I was not a career intelligence professional. But at NCTC I was involved in intelligence. Even with our closest partners, we can have different perspectives. That happens with the US, Israel, England and almost any country you can think of, with whom you have a close intelligence relationship.”

He continued, saying that “I hope to be open and honest about differences, so we can evaluate what we are hearing from our partner” and understand each side’s policy choices and preferences, since “I don’t want to question the veracity of the information” itself, and “I never saw anything like that happen with the terror issues I dealt with.”

In addition, he said that “Israel is an aggressive and very direct partner in bringing terror concerns to the US. At meetings with Israeli intelligence officials, you knew you would get well developed and thoughtful presentations – for example, what is happening with Hezbollah – instead of just general comments.”

Rasmussen also got to know issues relating to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps intimately during his service.

Referring to the Trump administration’s recent decision to define the entire IRGC as a terrorist group, “I understood the political views for wanting to do it,” but questioned whether it was more effective than other moves.

He said that the US could have “designated specific entities and individuals associated with the IRGC, to make a point in a very direct and precise way about who was involved in terror-related behavior.”

In contrast, he said that “by designating the entire group as a terror organization, you set up a potential conflict where you are demonizing an entire segment of the Iranian national security apparatus.”

“While that may be politically useful to make the case about Iran... I am not sure it puts us in a better place,” implying that he would have preferred a scalpel in applying sanctions rather than a big machete.

RASMUSSEN HAS some cutting-edge ideas about redefining how we think about “international” terrorism.

“I am not sure we have all the answers. In some ways, my thinking on this started evolving after the Christchurch attack. It is almost embarrassing that I did not think about this before. This brought it home to me.”

His point was that attacks are perpetrated in the US by white supremacists and antisemites, with non-jihadist ideologies, where the attackers benefit from, coordinate with, or are inspired by domestic terrorists in other countries – even without an apparent ideological bridge between them.

After the Pittsburgh attack, he said, the US needed to explore the idea of international links between those individuals who share such violent ideologies.

Looking to the Christchurch attack, he said: “We noted from travel patterns that an attacker had some interaction with people who thought like he thought,” though they lived in other countries and were not part of a joint network.

“It doesn’t mean they have a network or organization like ISIS or Hezbollah, but maybe there can be an international dimension to domestic terrorism. This has not been completely explored,” he noted.

He said that recently, he was having dinner with his former British counterpart and that the two of them remarked how strange it was that they never dealt with sharing information about domestic terrorism with international dimensions as a strategic issue.

To properly combat this kind of terrorism, new questions need to be asked, such as “what kind of new intelligence and sharing do you need from German, French, Danish and Belgian security services? Until now this conversation related only to ISIS-inspired attackers,” but he said that making international connections needed to expand.

ENTERING THE cyber realm, Rasmussen said he was astonished by the level of detail in a recent New York Times story about the US planting cyber booby traps in the Russian electrical power system.

He said the US hack of Russia and the decision to leak it was a “signaling device to the Russians” that the US is degrading Russian capabilities.

“You need to find the art of striking” and sending whatever signal you want to send, while managing the level of detail that is leaked into the public domain, noting that he found the specificity of detail leaked in this case “troubling.” he said. He explained that the US wanted Russia to know that we “are working aggressively to develop these capabilities” of planting cyber booby traps. The purpose of these tools and of advertising them in public is to deter the Russians, though he said that, “I hope we do not need to use these tools.”

Having worked with US peace negotiator Dennis Ross from 1996 to 2001 during the height of the Oslo process, Rasmussen said that the current state of broken-down Israeli-Palestinian relations can be hard to take.

He worries that the next generation on both sides of the conflict may find it more difficult to continue to envision any kind of peace horizon.

Full report at:

https://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Inside-Intelligence-Israel-Egypt-cooperation-key-to-beating-back-ISIS-in-Sinai-593925

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Yemeni forces repel Al Houthi attacks in Hodeida

June 27, 2019

Ramadan Al Sherbini

Cairo: Yemeni government forces had repulsed fierce attacks by Iran-allied Al Houthi militants that had targeted residential areas inside the coastal city of Hodeidah and outskirts, military forces said on Thursday.

Al Houthis had shelled the district of July 7, about four kilometres from the Hodeidah port, and the city’s southern suburbs, they added.

The government troops had also inflicted heavy casualties on the extremists.

The attacks violated a UN-brokered peace ceasefire deal reached in Sweden six months ago.

In December, the Yemeni government and Al Houthis reached an agreement after UN-sponsored indirect talks near Stockholm, providing for a truce and withdrawals from Hodeida. At the time, the deal was hailed as a breakthrough to end the fighting in the impoverished country. However, the accord has since bogged down over Al Houthis’ procrastination.

“Al Houthi militia failed in their attacks on the positions of the army and joint troops. So, they turned to target citizens with mortar and artillery in the liberated areas,” Walid Al Qadeemi, a senior official in Hodeidah, said, according to pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

The attacks come amid a fresh attempt by UN peace envoy Martin Griffiths to revive Yemen’s peace process.

Most humanitarian aid and imports to Yemen enter through the Hodeida port. Al Houthis, who controlled the Red Sea area in late 2014, have been repeatedly accused of using the harbour to illegally smuggle weapons from Iran to sustain their military operations.

Yemen’s conflict erupted after Al Houthis unseated the internationally recognised government and overran parts of the country, including the capital Sana’a, in December 2014.

Full report at:

https://gulfnews.com/world/gulf/yemen/yemeni-forces-repel-al-houthi-attacks-in-hodeida-1.64876849

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US-Backed Terrorist Group Planning Assassination against Iranian Officials

Jun 28, 2019

The MKO terrorist group specified the targets as Major General Qassem Soleimani, who commands the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), and Iranian Judiciary Chief Seyed Ebrahim Rayeesi.

The terrorist organization said it would “welcome” their assassination, adding that it desired for the ranking officials to “join” Asadollah Lajevardi, Tehran’s former chief prosecutor, and Ali Sayyad-Shirazi, a former commander of the Iranian Army’s Ground Forces during Iraq’s 1980-88 war against Iran.

Lajevardi and Sayyad-Shirazi, both prominent figures in the country’s struggle against campaigns led by the United States and its allies following the victory of Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979, were assassinated by the MKO terrorists respectively in 1998 and 1999.

The MKO has a dark history of assassinations and bombings against the Iranian government and nation. It notoriously sided with former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in the eight-year war.

Out of the nearly 17,000 Iranians killed in terrorist assaults since the Revolution’s victory, about 12,000 have fallen victim to the MKO’s acts of terror.

The group throws lavish conferences every year in Paris, with certain American, Western, and Saudi officials as its guests of honor. These include US National Security Advisor John Bolton, US President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper, and former Saudi Arabian spy chief, Prince Turki al-Faisal.

This comes as Western countries, topped by the US, have taken the group out of their terror blacklists, while frequently accusing Iran of conducting terrorist attacks against regional countries.

In the latest instance of their accusations, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, echoing Trump, accused Iran of being behind a recent attack on two tankers in the Sea of Oman.

Last week, a leaked audio of a phone conversation between two members of MKO, revealed Saudi Arabia has colluded with the MKO elements to frame Iran for the recent tanker attacks in the Persian Gulf.

In the audio, which is being released by the Iran Front Page for the first time, Shahram Fakhteh, an official member and the person in charge of MKO’s cyber operations, is heard talking with a US-based MKO sympathizer named Daei-ul-Eslam in Persian, IFP news reported.

In this conversation, the two elements discuss the MKO’s efforts to introduce Iran as the culprit behind the recent tanker attacks in the Persian Gulf, and how the Saudis contacted them to pursue the issue.

“In the past week we did our best to blame the [Iranian] regime for the [oil tanker] blasts. Saudis have called Sister Maryam [Rajavi]’s office to follow up on the results, [to get] a conclusion of what has been done, and the possible consequences,” Fakhteh is heard saying.

“I guess this can have different consequences. It can send the case to the UN Security Council or even result in military intervention. It can have any consequence,” Daei-ul-Eslam says.

Attacks on two commercial oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman on June 13, and an earlier attack on four oil tankers off the UAE’s Fujairah port on May 12, have escalated tensions in the Middle East and raised the prospect of a military confrontation between Iran and the United States.

The US, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE have rushed to blame Iran for the incidents, with the US military releasing a grainy video it claimed shows Iranian forces in a patrol boat removing an unexploded mine from the side of a Japanese-owned tanker which caught fire earlier this month.

It later released some images of the purported Iranian operation after the video was seriously challenged by experts and Washington’s own allies.

The MKO which is said to be a cult which turns humans into obedient robots, turned against Iran after the 1979 Revolution and has carried out several terrorist attacks killing senior officials in Iran; yet the West which says cultism is wrong and claims to be against terrorism, supports this terrorist group officially.

Full report at:

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980407000179

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Istanbul’s new mayor ‘prepared’ for government restrictions

28 June 2019

The new mayor of Istanbul said on Friday he is ready to work with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan but that he was also preparing to deal with any attempts by the government to restrict his powers.

Speaking to international media in Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoglu said the government had already put into practice new regulations to bypass the mayor in appointments to municipal companies and to give authority to municipal assemblies where Erdogan’s party has a majority. The mayor said such measures were against the current laws governing local government.

“We are prepared even for the most risky situations,” said Imamoglu, who won last weekend’s rerun definitively. “Right now I am the Metropolitan Mayor of Istanbul and Mr. Erdogan is President. I think we can contribute great things to this country and the city by coming to an agreement.”

Imamoglu was elected mayor for a second time on Sunday after Turkey’s electoral board annulled the results of the March 31 polls in Turkey’s largest city. He beat his opponent, the government candidate Binali Yildirim, with more than 806,000 votes.

Days before the election’s re-run, Erdogan hinted that the judiciary could investigate Imamoglu, who represents the opposition Republican People’s Party, for insulting a public official.

Since his stunning victory, which represented a major setback for Erdogan, the president quickly congratulated the mayor. And in a speech on Thursday in Japan where he is attending the Group of 20 leaders’ summit, Erdogan struck a somewhat conciliatory tone in, saying his party would support “realistic projects to the benefit of Istanbul.”

“But we will never support unacceptable projects for the benefit of Istanbul.”

Earlier on Friday, the leader of Imamoglu’s party in Istanbul went on trial on numerous charges, including insulting the country’s president and allegations of terror propaganda, with sentences up to 17 years in prison.

Canan Kaftancioglu has called the trial, which was adjourned until July 18, “politically motivated.”

Imamoglu echoed her position and said he stands with Kaftancioglu “until the very end.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/06/28/Istanbul-s-new-mayor-prepared-for-government-restrictions.html

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Israel unblocks Gaza fuel, expands fishing, say officials

28 June 2019

Israel allowed Gaza fuel deliveries to resume and expanded its fishing zone on Friday in exchange for calm in the enclave, Israeli and Palestinian officials and a UN source said.

Israel began blocking deliveries of fuel to the Gaza Strip on Tuesday after new incendiary balloons were launched from the Palestinian territory, causing fires on Israeli farmland.

A source at the United Nations, which along with Egypt mediates between Israel and Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas, said on Friday that Israel had agreed to ease these restrictions in exchange for calm.

“It has been agreed to immediately stop launching incendiary devices and other violent acts,” the source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“Israel will allow the import of fuel to the Gaza Power Plant to be restored, the return of fishing boats that had been confiscated and will extend the fishing zone up to 15 nautical miles,” the source said.

The source added: “Implementing these understandings in full is critical to reducing tensions.”

Fuel trucks entered the Gaza Strip on Friday morning to help increase production at its sole power plant, a Hamas source said.

A spokesman for the fishing union confirmed the distance they were allowed to fish off Gaza’s coast had been increased to 15 nautical miles.

An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the UN and Egypt had brokered the understanding, which includes an “end to violence on the part of Hamas.”

“If Hamas does not live up to its commitments, Israel will re-impose these sanctions,” the official said.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/06/28/Israel-unblocks-Gaza-fuel-expands-fishing-say-officials.html

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Yemen vows ‘strong response’ to Saudi crime in Ta'izz

Jun 29, 2019

Yemen’s Foreign Ministry has condemned Saudi Arabia’s bombing of the southwestern province of Ta'izz, vowing a “strong response”.

A ministry official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, told Saba news agency that the fresh Saudi killing was yet another flagrant violation of international law and human values.

It also warned that the crime would be met with a “strong response and retaliation.”

Saudi warplanes targeted two houses in the Khadir district of Ta'izz on Friday, killing at least eight members of a family.

The airstrike also left five Yemeni civilians wounded, reports said.

The spokesman for Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement denounced the Ta'izz killing, stressing that it would only increase the Yemeni people's resolve to confront the Saudi aggression.

"Killing and injuring a number of citizens is considered a continuation of the aggressive bloody approach in targeting civilian houses," Mohammed Abdul-Salam said.

He further expressed regret that the bodies of innocent Yemeni women and children do not lead international parties to stop lucrative arms sales to aggressor regimes.

Saudi Arabia and its allies have been waging a brutal war on Yemen since March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall the country's Riyadh-allied former regime and crush the Houthis -- objectives that have failed to materialize due to Yemenis’ stiff resistance.

The Western-backed military aggression, coupled with a naval blockade, has destroyed Yemen’s infrastructure and led to a massive humanitarian crisis.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/06/29/599688/Yemen-Saudi-Arabia-Taizz

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Israeli forces injure 50 Palestinians in Gaza

Jun 28, 2019

At least 50 Palestinians have been wounded by Israeli forces who attacked anti-occupation protests taking place near the border separating the besieged Gaza Strip and the occupied territories.

The Gazan Health Ministry said Israeli forces opened fire on the protesters on Friday, leaving 19 people injured.

According to the ministry, the remaining 31 suffered other types of injuries.

Ashraf al-Qedra, the spokesman for the ministry, said eight paramedics as well as a journalist were among the casualties.

The rallies have been held every week since March 30 last year. The Palestinians demand the right to return of those driven out of their homeland by Israeli aggression. Israeli troops have killed at least 305 Palestinians since the beginning of the rallies and wounded more than 17,000 others, according to the Gazan Health Ministry.

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

Earlier this week, the enclave saw a new wave of protests against a US-led conference in Bahrain, rejecting US President Donald Trump’s so-called peace plan for the Middle East.

Gaza has been under Israeli siege since June 2007, which has caused a decline in living standards.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/06/28/599662/Israel-forces-injure-Palestinians-Gaza

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Yemeni army forces, allies shoot down Saudi-led reconnaissance drone

Jun 28, 2019

Yemeni army forces, supported by allied fighters from the Popular Committees, have intercepted and targeted an unmanned aerial vehicle belonging to the Saudi-led military coalition while flying in the skies over Saudi Arabia’s southwestern border region of Jizan.

An unnamed source in the Yemeni air defense forces told the media bureau of the Houthi Ansarullah movement that Yemeni forces and their allies shot down the drone as it was on a reconnaissance mission east of the mountainous Jabal al-Nar area of the region, located 967 kilometers southwest of the capital Riyadh, on Friday afternoon.

The development came only hours after Yemeni army forces and allied fighters from Popular Committees downed a Saudi-led spy drone in the skies northeast of al-Durayhimi district in the country’s western coastal province of Hudaydah.

On June 23, Yemeni air defense forces and fighters from Popular Committees shot down a Saudi-led drone over al-Sadis area of Saudi Arabia’s southern border region of Najran.

A day earlier, Yemeni air defense forces and their allies had downed a drone as it was flying over al-Mazraq area in the Harad district of Yemen’s northwestern province of Hajjah, located approximately 130 kilometers northwest of Sana’a.

Yemeni army forces and fighters from Popular Committees shot down a spy drone of the Saudi-led military coalition in the skies over Hudaydah on June 21.

Yemeni snipers shoot dead two Saudi troopers

Also on Friday, Yemeni forces and their allies fatally shot two soldiers in the al-Shabakah area of the kingdom’s Najran region.

Separately, eight people, including women and children, lost their lives and several others sustained injuries when Saudi-led fighter jets launched two airstrikes against a house in Wadi Warzan area of Dimnat Khadir district in Yemen’s southern province of Ta’izz.

Moreover, three women sustained injuries when Saudi-backed militiamen loyal to Yemen's former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi lobbaed a barrage of mortar shells at residential buildings in al-Salkhaneh area of al-Hali district in Hudaydah province.

A boy and a man were also injured as shells fired by Saudi-paid militiamen struck Shuhada area in the same Yemeni district.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the government of Hadi back to power and crushing Ansarullah movement.

The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the Saudi-led war has claimed the lives of over 60,000 Yemenis since January 2016.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/06/28/599657/Yemen-Saudi-drone-Jizan

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Yemenis protest en masse against Saudi-led war

Jun 28, 2019

Yemenis have taken to the streets of the northern city of Sa’ada to protest against the Saudi-led war on their country and to condemn the United States’ support for the aggression.

On the 17th anniversary of the “Scream in the face of the arrogance” protests, Yemeni people on Friday censured the US as well as other Western and regional countries supporting Saudi Arabia in the war on Yemen, carrying banners denouncing US policy in the region.

In 2002, Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, the late leader of the Ansarullah movement, designated the group’s slogan, or “sarkha” in Arabic (also meaning scream), as “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.”

In the Friday demonstration, people also carried Palestinian flags in support of the Palestinian cause, voicing their rejection of the recent US-led conference in Bahrain, which was held in support of President Donald Trump’s proposal for alleged “peace” between the Israeli regime and Palestinians.

Palestinian public opinion, as well as the Arab street in general, is fiercely opposed to the plan, which Trump himself calls “deal of the century.” Certain Arab governments, however, back the initiative in an attempt to win the Trump administration’s favor.

People also held similar rallies in the capital, Sana’a, on Friday, with more protest being set to go ahead in Hudaydah and other Yemeni provinces.

Saudi Arabia launched the war on Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing a former Yemeni regime back to power and eliminating the Ansarullah movement.

The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the war has killed over 60,000 Yemenis since January 2016.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/06/28/599650/Yemen-protest-Saudi-Arabia-war

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North America

 

‘Looney Tunes terrorist’ in plea talks over foiled Times Square plot

By Emily Saul

June 27, 2019

The “Looney Tunes terrorist” is already in plea talks with the government following his foiled plot to shoot up Times Square, according to a federal prosecutor.

Ashiqul Alam pleaded “not guilty” Thursday to an indictment charging him with possessing a firearm with an obliterated serial number. Assistant US Attorney Jonathan Algor told the court both sides “have begun plea negotiations.”

Alam, 22, allegedly underwent Lasik eye surgery first because he worried that if he bungled the shooting he’d be dubbed the “Looney Tunes Terrorist” or “Blind Terrorist,” according to federal charging documents.

“Let’s say we are in an attack, right, say that my glasses fall off. What if I accidentally shoot you?” Alam is quoted as telling an undercover law enforcement officer in the filing in the Brooklyn federal court filing. “You know what I mean? Imagine what the news channel would call me, the ‘Looney Tunes Terrorist’ or the ‘Blind Terrorist.’ ”

The Queens man was arrested earlier this month following months of plotting an attack with informants and undercover agents.

Prosecutors say he originally planned to buy suicide vests and hand grenades, but eventually settled on attacking Times Square.

Alam’s lawyer, Deirdre von Dornum, declined to comment on her clients behalf as she left court with his family, who also declined to speak.

He’s due back in court July 18, and remains held without bail.

https://nypost.com/2019/06/27/looney-tunes-terrorist-in-plea-talks-over-foiled-times-square-plot/

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3 men plead guilty in foiled plot to bomb a Muslim community in New York state

June 28, 2019

(CNN)Three men pleaded guilty Friday to criminal terrorism charges in connection with a foiled plot to attack an Islamic community in New York state.

Vincent Vetromile, 20, pleaded guilty to one count of attempted criminal possession of a weapon in the first degree as a crime of terrorism, according to Monroe County District Attorney spokeswoman Calli Marianetti.

Andrew Crysel, 19, and Brian Colaneri, 20, both pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy in the second degree as a crime of terrorism. The three men will not face additional federal charges as a part of the plea deal, Marianetti told CNN.

Vetromile faces a prison sentence of at least seven years and Crysel and Colaneri face a prison sentence of four to 12 years, according to Marianetti. Sentencing for the three men is set for August 8.

CNN has reached out to their defense attorneys for comment but have not heard back.

Charges against a fourth suspect, a minor male who was 16 when he was arrested, are still pending, Marianetti told CNN.

Vetromile, Crysel, Colaneri and the unidentified minor were arrested in January in Greece, New York, a day after a student reported a comment made during lunch at a local high school. All were accused of making homemade bombs and plotting to attack the Muslim community of Islamberg in Delaware County, New York.

Islamberg is a community of several hundred Muslim Americans located about a three-hour drive northwest of New York City.

All four individuals are from the Rochester, New York, area and were originally each charged with three felony counts of criminal possession of a weapon and one felony count of conspiracy, according to Greece Police Sgt. Jared Rene.

Greece Police Chief Police Patrick Phelan hailed the swift investigation as an example of how teaching kids to "see something, say something" can work.

A plot quickly uncovered

Phelan said the investigation began when after a student overheard the minor male suspect showing a photo of another student and making a comment to the effect of, "he looks like the next school shooter, doesn't he?"

That student reported the comment and school security immediately interviewed the students involved in the conversation. School security also notified Greece Police, who took over the investigation that eventually involved the New York State Police, federal law enforcement, and officers from nearby towns.

After conducting further interviews and executing several search warrants, police found 23 firearms and three "improvised explosive devices" associated with the four males, as well as details of the alleged plot to attack Islamberg.

It appeared the plot had been in the works for about a month, Phelan said. Three of the four males knew each other through their participation in Boy Scouts, Phelan said.

Stephen Hoitt, CEO of the Boy Scouts of America's Seneca Waterways Council, said in a statement in January that "we were shocked and disturbed to learn about the allegations against these individuals."

Full report at:

https://edition.cnn.com/2019/06/28/us/upstate-new-york-foiled-terror-plot-plead-guilty/index.html

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US Senate rejects bid to limit Trump's Iran war power

Jun 28, 2019

Republican senators have blocked a largely Democratic-led amendment that aimed to restrict President Donald Trump’s authority to militarily strike Iran without first obtaining congressional approval.

During a voting session on Friday, the proposal by Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine and Tom Udall was rejected 50 to 40, but for the amendment to be added to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), supporters needed 60 yes votes.

“We must tell the president and affirm to the American people that we will assume our constitutional responsibility,” said Udall, Democrat of New Mexico. “And we must do so now before — through miscalculation, mistake or misjudgment — our nation finds itself in yet another endless war.”

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) also told reporters that “the American people are very afraid that this president, even if he doesn’t want to start a war, would bumble us into one.”

Tensions increased between the US and Iran after the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) shot down an intruding American spy drone in the country’s southern coastal province of Hormozgan on June 20.

Following the downing of the RQ-4A drone, Trump claimed he had called off US strikes on three different Iranian sites 10 minutes before they were planned to be launched.

A few days later, the White House introduced new sanctions that targeted Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei and senior commanders of Navy, Aerospace, and Ground Forces of the IRGC.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/06/28/599670/US-Republicans-Donald-Trump-war

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US will sanction any country that imports Iranian oil: US special envoy

Jun 28, 2019

American special envoy for Iran Brian Hook has said the United States will sanction any country that imports oil from the Islamic Republic and there are no exemptions in this regard.

"We will sanction any imports of Iranian crude oil... There are right now no oil waivers in place," Brian Hook said on Friday in London when asked about the sale of Iranian crude to Asia.

He added that the United States would investigate reports of Iranian crude going to China.

"We will sanction any illicit purchases of Iranian crude oil," he told reporters.

US President Donald Trump on Monday announced new sanctions against Iran targeting Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and top commanders of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).

Trump said the sanctions would have been imposed regardless of the Tehran's recent downing of a surveillance US drone by the IRGC. He said the Leader was ultimately responsible for what Trump called "the hostile conduct of the regime."

Iran on Tuesday warned that the new US sanctions meant “closing the doors of diplomacy” between Tehran and Washington.

Meanwhile, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday denounced the Trump administration as being “afflicted by mental retardation.”

Rouhani also called the sanctions against the Leader “outrageous and idiotic.”

The Trump administration said on April 22 that, in a bid to reduce Iran's oil exports to zero, buyers of Iranian oil must stop purchases by May 1 or face sanctions. The move ended six months of waivers, which allowed Iran’s eight biggest buyers -- Turkey, China, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan -- to continue importing limited volumes.

The United States' insistence on zeroing out Iran's oil exports has cause many problems in the global market, keeping confused both experts and buyers as they look straight into what is shaping up to be a chaotic chapter for the petroleum industry.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/06/28/599652/US-will-sanction-any-country-that-imports-Iranian-oil

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Trump on S-400: NATO member Turkey not treated fairly

Vakkas Doğantekin  

29.06.2019

U.S. President Donald Trump said Saturday that Turkey “was not allowed to buy Patriot missiles by the Obama administration” and his administration is looking at different solutions regarding its purchase of Russia’s S-400 missiles.

"Turkey is a NATO member and was not treated fairly," Trump said in a joint presser with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, referring to the Obama administration's reluctance to sell Patriots to Turkey in 2013.

Asked about possible sanctions against Turkey, Trump said “we are looking at it, but it’s a two-way street”.

Trump also touched on the trade volume between Turkey and the U.S., saying "$75 billion is small. I think it is going to be well over $100 billion soon."

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/trump-on-s-400-nato-member-turkey-not-treated-fairly/1518718

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Senate vote to curb Trump on Iran war fails

Michael Hernandez 

28.06.2019

WASHINGTON

An amendment to restrain U.S. President Donald Trump's ability to wage war on Iran failed to clear the Senate Friday. 

Under the measure Trump would have still been allowed to attack Iran in self-defense, but Republicans mounted sufficient opposition to it, saying it is unnecessary and could undermine efforts to check Iran.

The amendment needed 60 votes to clear the Senate, but over 40 senators voted in opposition in the 100-member chamber effectively scuttling it even though voting remains open.

It was to be added to the annual military spending bill, which cleared the Senate Thursday, if it had gained enough support.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell allowed the amendment to be tacked on retroactively -- a rarity in the federal legislature -- but voiced stern opposition to it.

"This amendment would be a radical departure from constitutional traditions and norms. It would weaken American deterrence and diplomacy at a time of heightened tensions caused by Iran’s aggression in the Middle East. The Senate must defeat it," he said.

Trump and Iran's top officials have exchange bellicose rhetoric over the past couple of weeks as tensions have ratcheted higher.

The president on Tuesday starkly warned Iran that should it attack American targets the U.S. response would be overwhelming including the obliteration of at least some sites that would be hit in response.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/senate-vote-to-curb-trump-on-iran-war-fails/1518525

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Europe

 

Facebook and YouTube must do more to stop terrorists live streaming atrocities, May to tell G20

June 29, 2019

Theresa May is calling on tech giants like Facebook and YouTube to co-operate more closely with governments and security agencies to stop terrorists from being able to broadcast their atrocities in real time over the internet.

Speaking at the G20 summit in Japan, the prime minister will urge the companies to development technology to allow livestreams of atrocities to be swiftly identified and removed from the web.

She will highlight a new crisis response mechanism being developed in response to the murder of 51 people in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March, when the killer broadcast his murders as they happened via Facebook Live.

Some 1.5 million copies of the footage were removed by Facebook, but film of the atrocity could still be found on YouTube for as long as eight hours after it was first posted.

In a discussion on the digital economy at the Osaka summit, Ms May will say that governments around the world need to learn the lessons from the attack and will urge close collaboration between security officials and social media and tech companies.

Ms May will say: “We should do all we can to bring the best minds together across industry to develop technology to tackle the misuse of livestreaming. We’ve seen the damage when terrorists can advertise into people’s homes - now we mustn’t let them broadcast their atrocities in real time.”

The PM will highlight new methods of tackling the abuse of the internet by terrorists developed as part of the Christchurch Call to Action, which world leaders signed at an online extremism summit in Paris earlier this year.

Among these are a new crisis response mechanism involving the establishment of networks of “online first responders” within tech companies, who are directly linked to the heart of international governments’ counter-terrorism units and law enforcement agencies, allowing a rapid and co-ordinated response to stop the spread of violent extremist content.

A crisis hotline can be used to share digital fingerprints to allow companies to prevent the re-upload of existing terrorist content on their platforms. The companies involved - Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft - are already making use of technology to automatically remove terrorist propaganda.

And the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, established after the Westminster attack of 2017, is working with more than 100 small platforms to spread use of the mechanism.

The PM will say tools and expertise should be shared more widely to build the capacity of the industry to tackle terrorist content.

“There are no easy answers but I am sure that by combining different methodologies to detect illegal and harmful content we will be able to find an approach that severely limits terrorists ability to live-stream,” she will say.

“In the UK we are encouraging social media companies to develop these techniques at pace. Others should do the same.”

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/theresa-may-facebook-youtube-terrorists-live-streaming-g20-a8977846.html

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Gunman wounds 2, kills himself in attack near French mosque

By Angela Charlton 

June 27, 2019

PARIS — An unidentified gunman shot and wounded an imam and one other person Thursday in front of a mosque in the western French city of Brest, then killed himself, police said.

The motive for the attack is unclear. France’s interior minister ordered security tightened at places of worship around the country.

The shooter fired at two people then fled the scene in a car, according to a national police spokesman. The shooting took place in front of the Mosquée Sunna de Brest, on France’s Atlantic Coast.

Police launched a manhunt, but soon found the attacker’s Renault Clio car in a nearby neighborhood — and nearby lay the attacker, who had shot himself in the head, the spokesman said. The manhunt was called off, as police do not suspect the attacker had accomplices.

The two wounded people were hospitalized but “are doing OK,” the police spokesman said. He was not authorized to be publicly named.

One of them was prominent imam Rachid Eljay, the police spokesman said. Authorities released no details about the identities of the suspect or the other victim.

France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office said it is evaluating the situation and whether there is a reason to suspect terrorist motives.

Pharmacist Thierry Ropars, working near the site of the attack, said he heard six or seven shots.

Full report at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/2-injured-in-shooting-near-french-mosque-manhunt-underway/2019/06/27/fbb4a9fe-98ff-11e9-9a16-dc551ea5a43b_story.html?noredirect&utm_term=.e1d4a6e2a933

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Germany records small uptick in far-right extremist violence

27.06.2019

Germany's domestic intelligence service recorded a small rise in the number of far-right extremists and the number of far-right violent crimes in 2018, a new report published Thursday has shown.

The 2018 report by the Germany's domestic security agency (BfV), presented in Berlin by Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and BfV head Thomas Haldenwang, found that there were 24,100 right-wing extremists in Germany — 100 more than in 2017 — of whom 12,700 were considered "violence-oriented."

While the overall number of right-wing extremist crimes dropped by 0.3% in 2018, the number of violent crimes committed by known right-wing extremists rose by 3.2% (from 1,054 to 1,088), according to the report.

That marks a new upturn after the number of crimes dipped in the wake of a high point during the "refugee crisis" of 2015 and 2016. There were also a total of 6 attempted homicides categorized as right-wing extremist crimes in 2018, the report found, up from 4 the year before.

Neo-Nazi terrorism

This year's BfV report has come at a particularly sensitive moment: On Thursday morning, police made new arrests in the ongoing investigation into the killing of Walter Lübcke, a conservative politician who had become a target for extreme-right hate speech and death threats over his support for Chancellor Angela Merkel's refugee policy in 2015.

The main suspect, Stephan Ernst, who confessed to the killing this week while in custody, is known to have neo-Nazi sympathies and connections to various far-right organizations. German media investigations in the weeks after his arrest found he had a history of violent crime against immigrants, including a stabbing and the attempted pipe bombing of refugee housing, both in the early 1990s.

The new arrests, of two men alleged to have supplied Ernst with weapons, have led to concerns that he was part of a terrorist cell similar to the National Socialist Underground (NSU), a trio of neo-Nazis who committed ten murders, as well as several bombings and bank robberies, over an eight-year period.

Blind to Nazism

At Thursday's press conference, Seehofer reiterated his "shock" at Lübcke's death and pledged that all the relevant security forces would carry out a thorough investigation into whether Ernst had a support network. Seehofer also rejected the accusation, often repeated in the wake of the NSU case, that the domestic security agency was "blind" to the threat of neo-Nazi terrorism, either now or in the past.

"The problem we have is when we say we will improve, it is understood as a criticism of the past, or that we were asleep before," he told reporters. "Of course it's natural that one always tries to improve, to stay good."

While Haldenwang described the politician's killing as a "turning point" for the security services, he also said that a number of reforms inside the BfV had been introduced in the wake of the NSU murders. Those reforms, he said, took place under his predecessor Hans-Georg Maassen — who was dismissed amid controversy over his allegedly lax stance toward the far-right amid the fallout when investigative failings were revealed in the NSU murder series.

"There is a more intensive cooperation with other security forces," Haldenwang said. "Since I came to office, I have always emphasized that in the last few months we are seeing a new and intensified development in far-right extremism." The agency is reacting, he said: "We are intensively addressing the issue of networks in far-right extremism. We are very alert to the activities of far-right extremists in the internet."

Anetta Kahane, head of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, an NGO that tracks and counters far-right extremism, said it was "surprisingly good" that the BfV report acknowledged the existence of far-right terrorism and interconnected neo-Nazi networks in Germany.

But she questioned how, precisely, the agency determined which extremists were "violence-oriented" and which were not. "It's so speculative; the criteria aren't clear," she told DW.  

'Thursdays for Democracy'

Lübcke's death has sent a shockwave through Germany's political establishment, with Foreign Minister Heiko Maas calling for a new campaign initiative along the lines of the climate protection campaign "Fridays for Future."

Under the motto (and social media hashtag) "Thursdays for Democracy," Maas called on citizens to speak out against internet hatred aimed at local politicians. "This cannot be accepted," Maas told the ARD public broadcaster on Thursday morning.

the foreign minister also wrote an open letter to all members of the German Bundestag, inviting them to show support for local politicians on their social media platforms under his hashtag. "I am absolutely convinced that the great majority in our country wants Germany to be an open and tolerant country," he said.

Full report at:

https://www.dw.com/en/germany-records-small-uptick-in-far-right-extremist-violence/a-49379510

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Germany extends Kosovo, Lebanon troop commitment

Fatih Hafız Mehmet 

28.06.2019

BERLIN

Germany on Friday extended its troop commitment to the NATO mission in Kosovo and the UN mission in Lebanon.

German Federal Parliament or the Bundestag approved a 12-month extension of presence of troops in Kosovo. The parliament, however, halved number of committed soldiers, from 800 to 400, for the NATO's Kosovo force (KFOR).

The number of German soldiers serving in the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) stands at 300.

The Left Party and the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) opposed the extension of commitments for these missions.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/germany-extends-kosovo-lebanon-troop-commitment/1518393

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Africa

 

Somalia: Violent Infighting Breaks Out Among Al-Shabaab Ranks

27 JUNE 2019

Intelligence reports have confirmed that in the morning of Thursday 27th of June, violent skirmishes broke in Jiliib pitting core Harakat Shabaab Mujahideen commanders against each other.

Accorfding to the report Strategic Intelligence, hhe violence, though actual incident reports are yet to be reviewed, confirms that the infighting between the groups ranks and file forced the group's leadership to worry, possibly call for a shura council meeting.

The fighting is largely blamed on successful airstrikes targeting top intelligence and military commanders in the groups' bastions, specifically Central Somalia.

The Amniyaat, the intelligence wing of the group claimed that moderate members of the governing council covertly met representatives of the government of Somalia in what could have been the onset of negotiating a political truce and subsequent de-escalation by the terror group.

A Critical review of the terror groups activities around Mogadishu confirm indeed the number of attacks have almost fizzled after the accused group shared locations of terrorist safe-houses, operatives, and weapon safes around and inside the capital, an outcome that crippled the groups capability to mount large scale attacks.

However, it's the killing of field intelligence and military operations commanders that has made the fissures bare leading to violent confrontations between commanders allied to the suspected group and the mephitic terror group.

In coming days, Al-Qaeda branch in Somalia, Harakat Shabaab Mujahideen, is going to conduct a violent purge targeting moderates in its governing council accused of helping the Federal Government of Somalia in exchange of money and clan-political favors.

The events will further culminate to possible divisions at the governing council and subsequent morphing of the outfit into a more violent religious-political outfit that'll fast track its core objective of governing Somalia under strict sharia law and further Al-Qaeda Central expansionist goals in the region.

https://allafrica.com/stories/201906280260.html

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Suicide Bombers Attack Security Forces in Tunisia

By Fadil Aliriza and Declan Walsh

June 27, 2019

TUNIS — Two suicide bombers struck security forces in quick succession on Thursday morning in the Tunisian capital, killing at least one police officer and wounding at least eight other people, the Interior Ministry said.

It was the second suicide assault on the streets of Tunis in nine months, stoking worries of renewed instability in a country that emerged as a rare democratic success after the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011.

The previous attack, in October 2018, was carried out by an unemployed female graduate who, according to her family, had been radicalized online.

The first bomber on Thursday morning struck a security patrol in the city center, near the site of the October attack, killing one police officer and wounding other officers and passers-by, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

Ten minutes later, another bomber detonated a device at the back door of a police building in the El Gorjani area of the city, wounding four security officers, the ministry said. The building is part of a large complex that includes the headquarters of an antiterrorism brigade.

Tunisia’s state news agency also said that unidentified “terrorist elements” tried to sabotage a radio transmitter on Mount Orbata, about 175 miles south of Tunis, early on Thursday. Soldiers stationed nearby chased the attackers away and no equipment was damaged, the report said.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks in Tunis, which took place months before an election and during the height of the tourist season, and on the same day that Tunisia’s elderly president was taken to a hospital for what officials called a health crisis.

Prime Minister Youssef Chahed condemned the attacks as a “cowardly operation” that aimed to “confuse” Tunisians ahead of the presidential vote in November. “I want to tell Tunisians, ‘Don’t be scared,’” he said in a statement.

Tunisia was the only North African country to achieve an enduring democratic transition after the Arab Spring in 2011, adopting a new constitution in 2013 and holding free presidential elections a year later.

But its progress has been blighted by terrorist attacks and economic decline. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for two major attacks in 2015 that killed 60 people, mostly European tourists. In recent years the national debt has ballooned, while soaring prices led to nationwide street protests in January 2018.

Footage taken shortly after the first explosion on Thursday showed debris and what appeared to be body parts scattered across a street near the French embassy. One officer could be seen clutching a wound on his torso and had blood smeared on his neck.

The sense of crisis was compounded by the announcement hours later that Tunisia’s president, Béji Caïd Essebsi, 92, had been taken to a military hospital after suffering a “severe health crisis,” the presidency said in a statement. Later, as reports circulated on social media that Mr. Essebsi had died, the president’s office issued a statement on its Facebook page saying the president was in stable condition.

Mr. Essebsi won Tunisia’s first free presidential election, in 2014. In March, Tunisia’s Truth and Dignity Commission named him for his role in human rights violations in 1963, when he served as a security official under Tunisia’s post-independence leader, Habib Bourguiba.

On Thursday afternoon, a sense of strained normality prevailed in Tunis, as shops reopened near the site of the bombings.

Adnen Belhaj, 28, one of the founders of a co-working space located near the site of the first attack, on Rue Charles de Gaulle in the city center, said he heard noises that he initially thought were the sound of malfunctioning electric wires.

But when he heard ambulances and police sirens, he knew something was wrong.

“Everyone here in the neighborhood was checking Facebook,” Mr. Belhaj said, which is how they found out about the attack.

The violence is a further blow to Tunisia’s tourism industry, a key source of income, which is still recovering from the violence of 2015. But the country’s tourism minister, René Trabelsi, vowed that the city would return to normal.

“Life continues,” he said to reporters after the attacks. “We’ll show them that Tunisia isn’t scared of anything.”

He added that he hoped the attacks would not damage the tourism industry.

“This was an attack on Tunisian security,” he said. “It has nothing to do with it.”

In March 2015, gunmen killed 22 people at the Bardo National Museum in Tunis. Three months later, attackers killed 38 people, most of them British tourists, at a beach resort near the town of Sousse. In November that year, a suicide bomber killed 12 members of the presidential guard in central Tunis.

In 2017 the BBC investigative program Panorama, citing investigative documents, said the Bardo Museum and Sousse attacks had been orchestrated by the same Islamic State commander, Chamseddine al-Sandi, now believed to be at large in Libya.

Full report at:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/27/world/africa/tunisia-suicide-attacks-tunis.html

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Violence affects more people than ever before in Africa's Sahel

JUNE 27, 2019

DAKAR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Violence in West Africa’s Sahel region has never spread so fast nor affected so many people, the United Nations said on Thursday, warning of an “unprecedented” humanitarian crisis.

The number of people uprooted in Burkina Faso, Mali and western Niger has increased five-fold since last year, said the U.N. humanitarian agency (OCHA).

“We have never seen the levels of violence that we’re seeing today,” said Sofie Garde Thomle, regional head of OCHA, at a press conference in Senegal’s capital Dakar.

“The displacement is happening so fast that it makes us all a bit afraid,” she said.

The countries of the Sahel, a semi-arid strip below the Sahara desert, have been struggling with rapid population growth, extreme climate shifts and Islamist violence for years.

But the fighting has worsened in recent months as jihadists have expanded their reach and stoked inter-communal fighting.

At the new nexus of violence, where Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger meet, more than 1,200 civilians have been directly targeted and killed this year through May, OCHA said.

About 4.2 million people are displaced across the Sahel, a million more than a year ago, according to OCHA, and most are living in communities already stretched for resources.

Fighting the militants has diverted state funds from services like healthcare and education, said Mads Oyen, regional emergency advisor for the U.N. children’s agency (UNICEF).

“Funding is very rapidly being transferred from social spending to security spending and this will aggravate the issues we’re seeing,” Oyen said.

Donors including the United States and the European Union have funded a joint military operation by five Sahel countries to contain the violence, and thousands of French and U.N. troops have been deployed to the region.

But U.N. officials and aid agencies said an overly militarized response to the crisis is only making it worse.

Civilians cannot tell the difference between military vehicles and cars bringing food or medicine, so aid workers have increasingly become the target of attacks and struggle to assert their neutrality, representatives of several U.N. agencies said.

Full report at:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-africa-sahel-aid/violence-affects-more-people-than-ever-before-in-africas-sahel-idUSKCN1TS2EJ

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Tunisia hit by twin bombings on the same day its president falls gravely ill

By Kareem Fahim

June 27, 2019

ISTANBUL — Suicide bombers carried out two separate attacks on security forces in Tunisia’s capital early Thursday, killing one police officer and injuring at least seven other people, Tunisia’s Interior Ministry said.

The bombings occurred in rapid succession and shattered a sense of relative calm in Tunis, which had gone eight months without a major militant attack. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the bombings later on Thursday, saying they were carried out by two of the militant group’s “fighters,” according to a message distributed on social media accounts affiliated with the group.

Separately, Tunisia’s 92-year-old president, Beji Caid Essebsi, was hospitalized on Thursday after what his office said was a “severe health crisis.”

Officials did not disclose the nature of his illness but sought to tamp down rumors throughout the day that Essebsi had died, on a day already filled with anxiety.

Essebsi, a veteran political figure, became Tunisia’s first freely-elected leader in 2014, after a pro-democracy uprising ended the 23-year dictatorship of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

Tunisia has largely avoided the chaos that has plagued several other Arab countries in the aftermath of the 2011 Arab Spring revolts, such as Syria and Libya. But Tunisia’s tenuous transition to democracy has been threatened by arguments over how to deal with the crimes of past governments and over the nation’s identity moving forward.

Militant groups, including the Islamic State, have carried out periodic deadly attacks, threatening tourism, a cornerstone of Tunisia’s economy.

On Thursday, the first explosion happened shortly before 11 a.m., when a bomber approached a security patrol on Charles de Gaulle Street near the French Embassy in central Tunis. A police officer was killed. Ten minutes later, another bomber detonated explosives at a security installation in the Qarajani district, the Interior Ministry said.

At least three civilians and several officers were injured in the blasts, according to the ministry. Video purporting to depict one of the attacks showed a group of police officers surrounding a wounded colleague, who appeared to be bleeding from the head.

In 2015, large-scale militant attacks on tourists killed at least 60 people and helped plunge the country into a recession, but such attacks have become increasingly rare.

Full report at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/twin-suicide-bombings-in-tunisian-capital-kill-police-officer-interior-ministry-says/2019/06/27/29b5131a-98d4-11e9-a027-c571fd3d394d_story.html?utm_term=.240b32574d29

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Amnesty urges Sudan to ensure protester safety during rallies

28 June 2019

Amnesty International said Friday that Sudanese military rulers must guarantee the safety of protesters ahead of planned mass rallies over the weekend calling for civilian rule and following a deadly military crackdown that has left more than 100 dead since early June.

Sudan’s pro-democracy movement said they would proceed in their demonstrations despite intensified efforts by the African Union and Ethiopia to end the political impasse and bring protest leaders and the ruling military council back to the negotiating table. The rallies are planned nationwide, with a focus on Khartoum.

“The horrific unprovoked use of lethal and unnecessary force against peaceful protesters as witnessed on June 3 must not be repeated this Sunday, or ever again,” said Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty’s secretary general.

Protest leader Sherif Osman, from The Forces for Decoration of Freedom and Change, which represents the protesters, told reporters in a news conference in Khartoum that the “peaceful” marches planned for Sunday could only be called off “if the military council handed over power to civilians.”

The demonstrations are planned to mark the 30th anniversary of the Islamist-backed coup that brought Omar al-Bashir to power in 1989, toppling Sudan’s last elected government.

Amnesty warned the military council of repeating the June 3 crackdown, when security forces led by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces violently broke up a protest sit-in outside the military’s headquarters, dealing a massive blow to the protest movement.

The break-up of the sit-in and ensuing clampdown has killed at least 128 people cross the country, according to protest organizers. Authorities say the toll is at 61, including three security forces.

The military took over the country after protests drove Al-Bashir from power in April. Negotiations with protesters over the transfer of power to civilians reached a deadlock following the clampdown on their sit-in.

In recent weeks, Ethiopia and the AU have been mediating between the two sides. On Thursday, they presented a proposal to resume talks after the military refused to accept an Ethiopian initiative, which had been approved by the protesters.

The military council did not comment on the joint proposal and a spokesman for the council did not answer phone calls seeking comment.

The Ethiopian proposal also stipulates that the military would chair the council in the first 18 months, and the FDFC the second half of the transition.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/06/28/Amnesty-urges-Sudan-to-ensure-protester-safety-during-rallies.html

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Libya’s Haftar orders forces to attack Turkish ships, bans flights to Turkey

29 June 2019

Head of the Libyan National Army Khalifa Haftar has ordered his forces to attack Turkish ships and interests in the country, his spokesman said on Friday, accusing Turkey of being actively involved in battles.

“Orders have been given to the air force to target Turkish ships and boats in Libyan territorial waters,” said General Ahmad al-Mesmari, adding that “Turkey provided air cover using drones during the militia invasion of Gharyan city.”

The spokesman accused Turkey of helping Haftar’s rivals- the Government of National Accord (GNA)- seize the town of Gharyan, around 100 kilometers (around 60 miles) southwest of Tripoli.

Turkish strategic sites, companies and projects belonging to the Turkish state (in Libya) are considered legitimate targets by the armed forces.”

Haftar’s Libyan National Army, which holds eastern Libya and much of the country’s south, launched an offensive to take the capital in early April.

Libya has been mired in chaos since a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, with a multitude of militias vying for control of the oil-rich country.

Haftar, a retired general who had taken part in the revolt against Qaddafi, unleashed an offensive in May 2014 to purge Libya of Islamists he branded “terrorists.”

Mesmari added “all Turkish nationals on Libyan territory will be arrested” and “all flights to and from Turkey will be banned.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2019/06/29/Libya-s-Haftar-orders-forces-to-attack-Turkish-ships-interests.html

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Libya’s Haftar orders forces to attack Turkish ships and interests

June 29, 2019

BENGHAZI: Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar has ordered his forces to attack Turkish ships and interests in the country, his spokesman said on Friday, accusing Turkey of backing his rivals in Libya’s conflict.

“Orders have been given to the air force to target Turkish ships and boats in Libyan territorial waters,” said General Ahmad Al-Mesmari, adding that “Turkish strategic sites, companies and projects belonging to the Turkish state (in Libya) are considered legitimate targets by the armed forces.”

Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army, which holds eastern Libya and much of the country’s south, launched an offensive to take the capital in early April.

Libya has been mired in chaos since a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, with a multitude of militias vying for control of the oil-rich country.

Haftar, a retired general who had taken part in the revolt against Qaddafi, unleashed an offensive in May 2014 to purge Libya of Islamists he branded “terrorists.”

Mesmari added “all Turkish nationals on Libyan territory will be arrested” and “all flights to and from Turkey will be banned.”

He did not explain how the flight ban could apply to areas not under Haftar’s control.

The spokesman accused Turkey of helping Haftar’s rivals — the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) — seize the town of Gharyan, around 100 kilometers (around 60 miles) southwest of Tripoli.

Haftar on Wednesday lost control of the city he had seized on April 2 and made his center of operations.

Both sides accuse each other of using foreign mercenaries and receiving military support from foreign powers.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1517796/middle-east

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UN puts brakes on peacekeepers’ pullout from Sudan’s Darfur

June 28, 2019

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council voted unanimously Thursday to put the brakes on the withdrawal of the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force in Sudan’s vast western Darfur region as the country deals with a political crisis.

The council approved a resolution to extend the current mandate of the force, known as UNAMID, for four months until October 31.

It asks Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to provide an update in 60 days on the situation on the ground — and it asks the UN and AU to make recommendations by Sept. 30 on what the council should do about continuing the withdrawal.

Last July, the Security Council voted to dramatically cut the UNAMID force in response to reduced fighting and improved security conditions. The target for ending the mission is June 30, 2020.

Britain’s UN deputy ambassador Jonathan Allen, whose country co-sponsored the resolution with Germany, said the council made “the responsible decision to pause the withdrawal,” which he said aligns with the decision of the AU Peace and Security Council.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1517636/middle-east

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Pakistan

 

Afghan refugees allowed to stay in Pakistan for another year

Tahir Khan

JUNE 29, 2019

Pakistan has extended the stay of nearly 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees for another year, officials said on Friday.

Pakistan’s federal cabinet has formally approved the extension to those Afghan refugees who hold the Proof of Registration (PoR) cards, the country’s Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON), which deals with the refugees’ issues, said on Friday. The PoR cards allow the refugees to legally stay in Pakistan.

The UN refugee agency on Friday welcomed the cabinet’s decision to let 1.4 million Afghan refugees stay in Pakistan until June 30, 2020. The previous nine-month extension will expire on June 30, 2019.

“We appreciate the government decision to extend the PoR cards for twelve months, since this will provide predictability to Afghan refugees who were facing uncertainty and anxiety,” said UNHCR Country Representative in Pakistan Ruvendrini Menikdiwela.

Menikdiwela appreciated the people and government of Pakistan for generously hosting Afghan refugees for four decades.

“Pakistan has been an exemplary host throughout,” she said, adding that the UNHCR would continue to support government policies that promote the resilience and voluntary repatriation in dignity and safety, of the refugees, according to a UNHCR statement.

Menikdiwela said the UNHCR would continue to call for international support to Pakistan for Pakistani host communities and Afghan refugees living in the country.

Around 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees reside in Pakistan, the UNHCR says. Besides registered Afghan refugees, Pakistan also hosts about 900,000 Afghans who were documented last year and they hold Afghan Citizenship Card (ACC), but they are considered illegal immigrants. Thousands others skipped the documentation process.

Pakistani and UNHCR officials say that voluntary repatriation of the Afghan refugees from Pakistan was slow, citing security issues in Afghanistan and also the UNHCR decision to reduce cash grants for those returning.

The UNHCR says only 1,700 individuals returned to Afghanistan since the voluntary repatriation started in April 2019.

The agency has reduced the cash grant to $200 for an individual, citing financial problems. Earlier, a returnee would receive $400.

Afghans started taking refuge in Pakistan after the erstwhile Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979. Pakistan still hosts the largest refugee community in the world, according to the UN refugee agency.

https://dailytimes.com.pk/420599/afghan-refugees-allowed-to-stay-in-pakistan-for-another-year/

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Pakistan: Bilawal stance against use of religion card for political gains causes a stir

June 28, 2019

Zubair Qureshi

Islamabad: The All Parties Conference (APC) on Wednesday left little impact on the government of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) amid reports of differences within the opposition parties over a strategy to topple Imran Khan’s government.

Pakistan People’s Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari took a principled stand in the APC against a number of suggestions made by APC chairman and convener Maulana Fazlur Rehman, chief of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F).

During the APC, Fazlur Rehman suggested mobilising the masses against Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent televised address to the nation in which he had allegedly made blasphemous remarks against ‘Sahaba’ (Fellows) of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).

Sources told Gulf News here Friday that almost all the participating high-profile leaders of the Opposition parties were about to approve this suggestion when Bilawal put his foot down firmly saying he and his party would never support any political gain based on exploiting people’s religious sentiments.

Such a strategy would serve to divide the society in the name of religion and that the PPP is against using religion for political benefits.

Bilawal was quoted as saying he had lost his grandfather Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, mother Benazir Bhutto and two maternal uncles, Murtaza and Shah Nawaz, in opposing the forces of extremism and fanaticism and if he okays use of ‘religion card’ against the current government, he will be doing great injustice to them.

After Bilawal’s opposition, the suggestion was deferred for another time. Another suggestion that met the same fate was that of en masse resignation of MPs.

While presiding over the session, Fazlur Rehman suggested resignation of opposition legislators from the assemblies, but the main opposition parties said such a move was not a solution to national issues.

Both Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and PPP said they would not be able to effectively push their stance outside parliament, adding that a joint strategy should be opted inside and outside the parliament against incumbent government.

Whereas Bilawal’s stance showed fissures among the opposition parties it also raised his stature as a visionary leader who was not in favour of using religion for political motives.

Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry on Friday in his tweet, welcomed Bilawal’s stance and said fatwa (decree)-issuing clerics are the biggest threat to Pakistan.

On his Twitter account, Chaudhry further wrote that people from all sects should wage Jihad against this attitude as 75 per cent of “our problems develop due to such clerics”.

Full report at:

https://gulfnews.com/world/asia/india/pakistan-bilawal-stance-against-use-of-religion-card-for-political-gains-causes-a-stir-1.64900399

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Muslim countries’ role in diffusing US-Iran tension sought

June 29, 2019

LAHORE: Representatives of different religious and political organisations have demanded the Islamic countries’ leadership take action on prevailing unrest in Gulf countries.

Representatives of different religious and political organisations while addressing "Unity of Ummah Conference" that held here Friday under the aegis of Pakistan Ulema Council, Lahore Chapter, demanded UNO and OIC to take action on rising unrest in Gulf countries stating that mounting tension between Iran-US and Arabian countries could be very sabotaging for world peace.

Full report at:

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/491135-muslim-countries-role-in-diffusing-us-iran-tension-sought

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Pakistan dismisses US report on religious freedom as biased

June 29, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Rejecting the latest report of the US State Department on the international religious freedom, Pakistan has said people of different faiths are living together in the country and their rights are guaranteed under the Constitution.

Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal said in a statement on Friday that the US report on Pakistan was “a compendium of unsubstantiated and biased assertions”.

“Pakistan is of the view that all countries are obliged to promote religious harmony and have a duty to protect their citizens in accordance with national laws and international norms. “A glaring discriminatory aspect of the report is that it has ignored the systematic persecution of minorities, particularly Muslims, in India, which are subjected to alien domination and foreign occupation such as in the occupied Jammu and Kashmir,” he stated.

He said that Pakistan, which is a multi-religious, multi-cultural and pluralistic society, had always played a positive role and engaged the international community, including the US with a view to have better and mutual understanding of the issue of religious freedoms, which were under stress around the world.

Pakistan often raised its own concerns internationally, including with the western governments and the US over the growing trend of Islamo­phobia in their own countries, said the FO spokesperson. “At the United Nations, OIC and other platforms, Pakistan will continue to be part of global efforts to combat religious intolerance, discrimination based on religion and belief and Islamophobia.”

About the US report, the spokesperson made it clear that as a matter of principle, “Pakistan does not support such national reports making observations on the internal affairs of sovereign states”.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1491090/pakistan-dismisses-us-report-on-religious-freedom-as-biased

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Pakistan, Afghanistan tied by bond of brotherhood: Ghani

June 29, 2019

LAHORE: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani arrived here on Friday after spending in Islamabad the first day of his two-day visit to Pakistan.

Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar welcomed the Afghan President at Allama Iqbal International Airport.

“We welcome the Afghan president in Lahore from the core of our hearts. President Ghani’s visit to Pakistan is indeed a new chapter in the history of Pak-Afghan relations,” said Mr Buzdar.

The chief minister termed Mr Ghani’s visit to Lahore an honour and privilege for him and expressed the hope that with his visit, relations between the two countries would improve.

“Pakistan and Afghanistan need to work together for the sake of peace in the region. Peace is important for stability and prosperity of both Pakistan and Afghanistan. When Pak-Afghan relations will improve, trade activities will also flourish between the two countries,” said Mr Buzdar.

Speaking on the occasion, President Ghani said that he was happy to be in Lahore. Later, the Afghan president visited the Governor House.

Welcoming the Afghan president to the Governor House, Governor Chaudhry Sarwar said that a peaceful and strengthened Pakistan needed a peaceful neighbourhood. He said that road to peace in Kabul goes through Islamabad.

“We are facilitating the Afghan government in our fullest capacity to bring peace and stability there,” the governor said.

Mr Sarwar also discussed with Mr Ghani matters pertaining to Pak-Afghan relations, security situation in the region, terrorism and trade.

The governor said that terrorists and their abettors did not belong to a particular country or a particular nation, adding that these elements were against humanity in the region and it was necessary to eliminate networks of these terrorists to ensure peace in the entire region.

He said that members of security forces of Pakistan had rendered great sacrifices in their fight against terrorism.

The governor said that Pakistan had played a very positive role in bringing peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan as Islamabad was in favour of a political solution of the Afghan issue and it was a great proponent of Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

Mr Sarwar said that Pakistan believed that a peaceful Afghanistan was in the best interest of Pakistan.

Regretting that terrorism had become the greatest threat for the region, the governor said the need of the hour was to intensify collective battle against terrorists and their abettors. He said it was also obligatory upon other regional countries to contribute to the elimination of terrorism effectively to make the region free from chaos, disorder and terror.

“We hope that with your visit, both Pakistan and Afghanistan would come closer and enhance bilateral engagement through increased mutual cooperation,” the governor said.

Mr Ghani said that he was greatly obliged and thankful for the love, hospitality and affection he received in Lahore from Mr Buzdar and Mr Sarwar.

Mr Ghani said that he had fruitful meetings with President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan and added that Pak-Afghan relations would be strengthened in future and trade relations would also get a boost.

“Pakistan and Afghanistan are not mere neighbours, we are more than that, we are connected by Muslim bond of brotherhood,” Mr Ghani said.

The Afghan president also held a meeting with a delegation of Pak-Afghan Business Forum, led by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Abdul Razaq Dawood at the Governor House.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Ghani said that though Afghanistan was a landlocked country, it could still play an effective role for an improved connectivity between countries of Central Asia and South Asia.

“Afghanistan is developing its infrastructure to come up with a new direction of connectivity through energy transmission and modernisation of transport sector in an effort to cater to needs of modern day age,” he said.

Mr Ghani also held a meeting with investors and experts in the education sector.

The Afghan president along with the governor offered Friday prayers at the Governor House mosque.

Later, Mr Ghani visited Badshahi Masjid, Allama Iqbal’s mausoleum and Lahore Fort.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1491019/pakistan-afghanistan-tied-by-bond-of-brotherhood-ghani

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HIV outbreaks in Pakistan indicate lapse in regulation of health system: Lancet

June 29, 2019

KARACHI: The recent HIV outbreaks in Pakistan indicate a worrying but potentially addressable knowledge gap in infection control processes and mechanisms of HIV transmission and a severe lapse in regulation of country’s health system, which allows people without appropriate training and certification to call themselves doctors.

This is stated in a recent editorial in the Lancet Infectious Diseases — a leading international medical journal.

It refers to the letters it has received from Pakistan about the recent HIV outbreaks in Sindh and Punjab that appear to have stemmed from unsanitary and unregulated medical practice usually in rural towns.

In March, 2019, an outbreak of HIV was reported in a single village in Sargodha district, Punjab, where the prevalence of HIV infection increased from 1 per cent to around 13pc in six months.

Interviews with many patients revealed that many of them had been treated by the same unlicensed practitioner before testing positive for the virus.

It also talks about the HIV outbreak in Larkana and says that so far around 700 cases have been identified, affecting more than 600 children, most of whom are younger than five years.

“The reports of HIV epidemics in Pakistan linked to health providers (legitimate or not) have highlighted a potentially unappreciated source of the burden of blood borne infections in the country, which has previously been attributed to transmission among the country’s considerable population of injecting drug users and sex workers.

“These reports are concerning for several reasons. First, they could indicate a worrying but potentially addressable knowledge gap in infection control processes and mechanisms of HIV transmission among health workers in Pakistan,” says the editorial.

Making a deeper analysis of the situation in the country, it suggests there could be a severe lapse in regulation of country’s health system, which allows people without appropriate training and certification to call themselves doctors.

“Thirdly, they could lead to fear and mistrust of the health system, further exacerbating the country’s health woes and putting health targets out of reach,” it says.

It also notes the consistent poor performance of Pakistan in the health sector and cites a 2018 Unicef report which ranked it as the riskiest place to be born in the world.

“Numerous health indicators particularly those related to maternal and child health are worse in Pakistan than elsewhere in the South Asian region.

“Preventable communicable diseases remain a primary cause of morbidity and mortality in the country, a situation that can be attributed to many complex societal, political and structural factors that lead to inadequate sanitation, unsafe drinking water, overcrowding, low socio economic status and poor vaccination coverage.”

Citing Pakistan’s 2017-18 Demographic and Health Survey, it says that as little as 32pc of women and 67pc of men in Pakistan have ever heard of HIV/AIDS with comprehensive knowledge of the disease limited to 4pc and 10pc, respectively.

These findings are despite the Pakistani government launching the NACP, an HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness programme in 1986-87.

On the response to the HIV outbreak in Larkana, the editorial says it ‘was fairly swift involving various international agencies and provincial and federal governments.

“A new antiretroviral treatment clinic for children has been established in Larkana, although how long these treatments will be unavailable in unclear, with access to ART generally limited in the country.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1491083/hiv-outbreaks-in-pakistan-indicate-lapse-in-regulation-of-health-system-lancet

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Arab World

 

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announces Hajj gift for India with 30,000 increase in quota

SANJAY KUMAR

June 29, 2019

NEW DELHI: Saudi Arabia has increased India’s Hajj quota by 30,000, lifting the figure to 200,000 per year. The enhanced quota means India will send the second-highest number of pilgrims for Hajj after Indonesia.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman decided to raise the quota after a bilateral meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Japanese city of Osaka.

Vijay Gokhale, India’s foreign secretary, said that the “crown prince has promised PM Modi the quota will be increased.”

“This is important and this has been done,” he said

India’s Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the increase was a result of Modi’s “cordial and friendly” relations with the Saudi leadership.

“This is the third hike in three years. When the Modi government came to power in 2014, India’s Hajj quota was 136,000. That has now been increased to 200,000,” he said.

Dr. Ausaf Sayeed, India’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, welcomed the crown prince’s decision.

“We are grateful to the Kingdom for increasing the Hajj quota. This will be the highest number of pilgrims to be handled by the Indian Hajj mission in its history,” he told Arab News. “The decision reflects the increasingly close and developing strategic relationship between the two countries, which has taken an upward trajectory in the recent years,” he said.

“We are geared up to receive the Indian Hajj pilgrims starting from July 4, 2019. The Saudi leadership involved in Hajj management, including Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal and Hajj Minister Mohammed Salih Bentin, have promised to make Indian pilgrims’ stay in the Kingdom as comfortable as possible.”

Anwar Sadat, a New Delhi resident, also welcomed the increase in the quota. “I waited for three years before my turn came to perform Hajj. The increase of 30,000 is significant ... I feel that the quota should go up further.”

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1517771/saudi-arabia

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Al-Qaida-Affiliated Militants Claim to Have Killed Dozens of Syrian Troops

By Sirwan Kajjo

June 27, 2019

At least 27 Syrian troops were killed and three wounded in two attacks on Thursday by al-Qaida-affiliated fighters in the central Syrian province of Hama, according to jihadi sources.

The two surprise attacks took place against Syrian military positions near the village of Atshan in the northern part of Hama, al-Bayaan, an Arabic website dedicated to jihadi news in Syria, reported.

The website also published a statement by a jihadi coalition that has launched an offensive against Syrian regime forces in parts of Hama and the nearby northwestern province of Idlib.

"This blessed operation resulted in killing and wounding more than 30 soldiers and officers from the [Syrian] army … an ammunition depot unit was destroyed, and the army retreated from the checkpoints near the location of the raid, due to the fear that struck them," the statement said.

Several pro-rebel media outlets reported on the attacks as well, but attributed them to rebel forces that are also active in the region.

Jihadists or rebels?

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor that has researchers on the ground, told VOA that it couldn't confirm whether the jihadists or rebels were behind Thursday's attacks.

"The ongoing battle in northern Hama is a complicated one," said Rami Abdulrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory. "Rebel groups and radical jihadists are fighting regime troops separately but simultaneously."

He added that oftentimes during Syria's civil war — which has been raging since 2011 — Syrian rebels and terrorist groups would take credit for the same attack against Syrian regime forces.

A media activist in Hama said that jihadist militants were trying to take advantage of the new rebel advances on several villages in the area.

"The regime is under enormous pressure in the areas along the border between Hama and Idlib provinces. That's why radical groups are pressing forward in the same areas," the activist, who declined to be identified for fear of retribution, told VOA.

Hama province has largely been under the control of the Syrian regime, with parts of it briefly captured by rebel groups and the Islamic State (IS) militants during different stages of the Syrian war.

'Command center'

The northern part of Hama came under intensive strikes after several rebel groups launched an offensive against regime forces last week in an apparent attempt to shift Syrian government troops and their allied forces from embattled Idlib, which is the last major rebel stronghold in Syria.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a powerful Islamist group that was once al-Qaida's Syria branch, controls a lot of territory in Idlib. However, several small yet significant jihadist groups have broken away from HTS, while remaining loyal to al-Qaida.

Last October, these jihadist forces established a "command center" to coordinate attacks against Syrian troops and allied Russian forces in many parts of northwestern Syria.

The move came after Russia and Turkey reached an agreement in September 2018 that required Turkey to remove jihadist militants from Idlib while Russia would stop the Syrian regime from carrying out attacks on the province.

Full report at:

https://www.voanews.com/extremism-watch/al-qaida-affiliated-militants-claim-have-killed-dozens-syrian-troops

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6 IS militants killed in airstrike, anti-IS operations in northern Iraq

2019-06-27

BAGHDAD, June 27 (Xinhua) -- A total of six Islamic State (IS) militants were killed on Thursday in an airstrike carried out by the U.S.-led coalition aircraft and operations by the Iraqi army in the northern province of Nineveh, the Ministry of Defense said in a statement.

The U.S.-led coalition aircraft conducted an airstrike on a tunnel used by IS militants as a hideout in the province, killing four of the extremist militants inside, the statement said, without providing further details about the exact location of the tunnel.

Also in the province, a force from the Iraqi army carried out search operation looking for IS remnants in al-Fawarat area in al-Baaj area near the border with Syria, killing two IS militants, one of them a Syrian national, the statement said.

Meanwhile, the security forces conducted another search operation outside the town of Bashiqa in northeast of the provincial capital Mosul, about 400 km north of Baghdad, and found a minefield, four explosive devices and three artillery shells left by IS militants and destroyed them all, it added.

The security situation in Iraq was dramatically improved after Iraqi security forces fully defeated the extremists IS militants across the country late in 2017.

Full report at:

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-06/27/c_138179058.htm

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Syrian crisis topped talks between Saudi Crown Prince and Egyptian president at G20

29 June 2019

The Syrian crisis topped talks held between Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on the sidelines of the G20 summit, Egypt’s state TV said on Saturday, citing the presidency.

The presidency also said the talks between the two showed matching views regarding the latest developments in the Gulf region, state TV reported.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/06/29/Syrian-crisis-topped-talks-between-Saudi-Crown-Prince-Egyptian-president.html

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Saudi Crown Prince commends ‘great achievements’ with US in meeting with Trump

29 June 2019

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met on Saturday with US President Donald Trump, and commended the “great achievements” between the two countries, stressing that more needs to be done.

“With you Mr. President we did a lot of great achievements, in the political side, security side, military side, and economical side,” the Crown Prince said during a working breakfast on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Japan.

Trump praised the “spectacular job” that the Crown Prince is doing with reforms in the Kingdom, highlighting what he has done for women especially.

“It’s an honor to be with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia... a man who has really done things in the last five years in terms of opening up Saudi Arabia,” Trump said.

“It’s like a revolution in a very positive way.”

“You have done a spectacular job,” Trump told Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, referring to him as “a friend of mine.”

“We’ve had some meetings on trade, and economic development, and on the military of course, and the meetings have been really terrific,” Trump added.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/06/29/Saudi-Crown-Prince-commends-great-achievements-with-US-in-meeting-with-Trump.html

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South Asia

 

Sri Lanka's army chief sees no immediate terrorism threat after Easter blasts

2019-06-27

COLOMBO, June 27 (Xinhua) -- Sri Lanka's army chief Mahesh Senanayake said there was no immediate terrorism threat in Sri Lanka following the Easter Sunday terror explosions, but security forces would continue to remain vigilant, local media reported on Thursday.

Senanayake, testifying before the Special Parliamentary Committee probing the suicide attacks on April 21, said that army forces, police and intelligence agencies were ensuring that all attempts to revive terrorism had been thwarted.

He added since the terrorist attacks in April, coordination between the military, police and intelligent agencies had been strengthened and they were coordinating with foreign intelligence agencies as well.

"We meet regularly and have been able to create an integrated intelligence network with inputs from foreign intelligence agencies as well," Senanayake said.

"Security forces have been able to contain the situation and have reached a critical juncture where sweeping arrests have been made and links to the banned organizations have been weakened. The security forces are now maintaining their state of alertness," he added.

Over 250 people were killed and 500 injured when suicide bombers targeted churches and luxury hotels on April 21.

Police said over 100 suspects were in custody while President Maithripala Sirisena told journalists on Wednesday that all the main suspects had either died or had been apprehended.

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-06/27/c_138178669.htm

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Bangladesh seeks more Chinese support to Rohingya issue

Md. Kamruzzaman  

28.06.2019

Bangladesh will ask more support from China on the issue of safe and dignified repatriation of Rohingya Muslim to their own land in Myanmar, an official said Friday. 

"We are hopeful that we will get China’s full support to pressurize Myanmar to return their citizens [Rohingya] with safety and dignity”, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen told reporters in Dhaka while briefing about Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's upcoming visit to Beijing.

During her 5-day official tour to China between July 1-5 to attend the World Economic Forums annual meeting, Hasina will raise the issue to Chinese President Xi Jinping during a bilateral meeting.

Momen said that China has been playing a role in favor of Bangladesh on the Rohingya issue.

"Nowadays, not only China but Russian and even India are mostly doing a role in favor of Bangladesh against Myanmar on peaceful repatriation of Rohingya," he added. 

Rohingya the most persecuted community in the world has long been facing government atrocities in the western Rakhine state of Maynamar. 

According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.

Bangladesh's southeastern Cox's Bazar district is currently hosting more than 1 million Rohingya refugees living in temporary shelters. Rohingya have long been shouted to return to their country as Dhaka and Naypyitaw have signed a repatriation agreement in late 2017.

However, Dhaka repeatedly accused Myanmar of the failure of peaceful repatriation so far. 

“Our main target is to permanently return Rohingya people to their home country with peace and dignity so that there is no situation in future that may push them again to move to Bangladesh”, Momen added.

Pointing to the current global scenario he said that it is not wise to believe that Myanmar will abide by any instruction of China. 

In reply to a query about repeated controversial role of China on Rohingya issue, Momen said: “We do not believe that Myanmar is being patronized by China."

About recent proposal of US Congressman Brad Sherman for separating the Rakhine State, the homeland of Rohingya, from Myanmar and adding it as a territory of Bangladesh, Momen said that Dhaka is not thinking such way. “We are always trying to solve the Rohingya crisis peacefully.”

He reiterated the Bangladeshi government's called on the international community to support Dhaka and put more pressure on Myanmar. 

“We have to gain our goal with the joint effort of the whole international community”.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).

More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience".

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/bangladesh-seeks-more-chinese-support-to-rohingya-issue/1518399

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Afghan President Travels To Pakistan For Talks On Peace With Taliban

June 27, 2019

Afghanistan’s president has held talks with Pakistan’s prime minister as momentum builds for peace talks with the Taliban that are aimed at ending Afghanistan's decades of war and conflict.

Ashraf Ghani’s June 27 meeting with Imran Khan came as the Afghan leader started a two-day trip to Pakistan, his first since elections that brought Khan to power last year.

In addition to the Taliban peace negotiations, Ghani’s visit is also seen as an attempt to improve the often-strained relationship between the two neighbors.

According to a statement released by Khan’s office, the two leaders "agreed to open a new chapter of friendship and cooperation…based on mutual trust and harmony for the benefit of the two peoples and countries and for advancing the cause of peace, stability and prosperity in the region."

Earlier, Ghani met with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi where he "praised Pakistan's role in the peace process," according to a Foreign Ministry statement.

Pakistan has facilitated ongoing peace negotiations between Washington and the Taliban, with U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad trying to find a negotiated exit to the 17-year war in Afghanistan.

Ghani’s visit comes a week after dozens of Afghan political leaders attended a peace gathering in Pakistan.

The Taliban has refused to talk directly with Kabul government representatives, calling them U.S. puppets.

Khalilzad, meanwhile, traveled to Tajikistan for talks with Tajik officials on the Afghan peace push.

Khalilzad has held six rounds of talks with the Taliban in the Qatari capital, Doha. The next round is scheduled to begin on June 29.

Full report at:

https://www.rferl.org/a/afghan-president-starts-two-day-visit-to-pakistan-to-talk-ties-peace-with-taliban/30023146.html

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9 militants killed, roadside bombs and house-borne IED destroyed in Kapisa and Wardak

29 Jun 2019

The Afghan Special Forces killed 9 Taliban militants during the operations in Kapisa and Wardak.

The informed military sources said Friday that the Special forces killed 3 Taliban militants in Tagab district of Kapisa.

Furthermore, the Special Forces destroyed 10 roadside bombs and one house-borne Improvised Explosive Device during an operation in Nijrab district of Kapisa.

Meanwhile, the Special Forces killed 6 Taliban militants during an operation in Chak-e Wardak district of Wardak province.

The Special Forces also destroyed a weapons cache belonging to Taliban militants, the sources added.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/9-militants-killed-roadside-bombs-and-house-borne-ied-destroyed-in-kapisa-and-wardak-03760/

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Airstrike kills Taliban shadow for governor for Logar and his two deputies

28 Jun 2019

An airstrike killed the shadow governor of Taliban for Logar and his two deputies, the Ministry of Defense said Friday.

The defense ministry said the airstrike was carried out in Charkh district of Logar.

The statement further added that the airstrike killed Haji Lala, the shadow governor of Taliban group for Logar province.

The Ministry of Defense also added that the airstrike also killed Baryalai and Faridoon, the shadow deputy governors of Taliban for Logar.

The Taliban group has not commented regarding the airstrike so far.

The security situation in Logar province has deteriorated during the recent months.

Taliban militants are active in some districts of the province and often conduct terrorist related activities.

Meanwhile, the Afghan forces routinely conduct counter-terrorism operations against the anti-government armed groups in this province.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/airstrike-kills-taliban-shadow-for-governor-for-logar-and-his-two-deputies-03759/

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Afghan officials say Taliban attack kills 25 in north

June 29, 2019

KABUL: Afghan officials say a Taliban attack against pro-government forces has killed at least 25 in the northern province of Baghlan.

District chief Fazeluddin Muradi says that the insurgents’ attack also wounded at least eight pro-government fighters, during several hours of battle late Friday in the area of Nahrin.

A police official, who was not authorized to speak on the issue, confirmed the high death toll.

Taliban did not immediately claim the attack, but recently the militant group has stepped up its offensive against Afghan security forces.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1517861/world

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TOTAL COMMENTS:-   1


  • Congratulations and best wishes to Nusrat Jahan and Nikhil Jain!
    Communalist hate merchants like Sadhvi Prachi are not qualified to speak on matters of love any more than Deobandi fatwamongers.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 6/29/2019 1:22:55 PM



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