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Islamic World News (03 Aug 2018 NewAgeIslam.Com)


In India’s National Capital Region, Muslim Man Forced To Shave Beard after Argument
















Jaffruddin initially ignored the religious insults, but later got into an argument.

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In India’s National Capital Region, Muslim Man Forced To Shave Beard after Argument

British Court Recognizes Marriage under Islamic Law

Pakistani Opposition to Challenge Imran Khan With Own PM Candidate in Parliament

Malay PM Says Different Interpretations of Islam at Fault for Global Conflicts

Kabul Says Daesh Threat Eliminated In North

 

India

In India’s National Capital Region, Muslim Man Forced To Shave Beard after Argument

‘Sharia Courts Break Families': Muslim Rashtra Manch Set to Launch Parivar Kendras to 'Prevent' Divorces

"Bigoted Agenda": Indian-American Body Wants Assam Citizens' List Dropped

Aftermath of Assam NRC: Muslim Leaders Urge Members to Ensure Proper ID Proof For All Families

Pakistan welcomes Modi’s phone call to Imran Khan, wants resumption of talks with India

Gunfight breaks out between security forces, terrorists in J-K's Baramulla

Personal invitation, great honour: Navjot Singh Sidhu on Imran Khan’s invite

2 Hizbul militants killed after gunfight in Kupwara

CONFIRMED: Navjot Singh Sidhu to attend Imran Khan’s swearing-in

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Europe

British Court Recognizes Marriage under Islamic Law

Syrian Govt Regains Control of Three Southern Provinces: Moscow

Dushanbe blames Tehran over attack, Iran summons Tajikistan's ambassador

UK Border staff ‘seize missile parts that were being sent to Iran’ at Heathrow

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Pakistan

Pakistani Opposition to Challenge Imran Khan With Own PM Candidate in Parliament

Pakistan Hopeful Of Restart Of Dialogue With India

IHC rejects allegations ISI interfered in judicial proceedings

Continue protest against ‘rigging’, Nawaz tells workers from jail

Families of APS students to be compensated like staffers

Pakistan: PTI chief Imran Khan gets MQM-P support for government formation at Centre

Pakistani entrepreneur launches ‘Khan Meter’ to monitor PTI’s 100-day agenda

Religious parties heavily dented PML-N vote bank

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Southeast Asia

Malay PM Says Different Interpretations of Islam At Fault For Global Conflicts

Indonesia Launches New Group to Combat Extremism

Philippines nabs cleric over bomb claimed by Islamic State

Historian: Malay genes second oldest in the world

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South Asia

Kabul Says Daesh Threat Eliminated In North

Afghanistan: US Airstrikes Pound ISIS, Taliban Positions, Leaving Seven Militants Dead

Three foreign workers abducted and killed in Afghan capital

Rohingyas blamed for repatriation delay

Taliban militants suffer casualties in Ghazni artillery strikes

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Mideast

At Least 55 Yemenis Killed In Saudi Strikes on Hospital, Fishing Harbour in Hudaydah

Children Main Victims of Saudi War On Yemen: Activists

Yemen’s security forces confiscate drugs coming from Lebanon to Houthis

Yemen’s army seizes control of road from Saada to Saudi Arabia

Turkey vows retaliation against US sanctions over jailed pastor

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Arab World

Huge Blast Kills Tens of People at Tahrir Al-Sham Base in Idlib

Terrorist Groups in Northern Syria Merge to Confront Army

Turkey-Originated Trucks Carrying Chlorine Enter Terrorists' Bases in Idlib

Syrian Army Pounds Terrorists' Positions, Moves in Hama, Idlib

Israeli Drones Found at ISIL Bases in Southern Syria

Military Sources: Israeli Plots Foiled by Army in Southern Syria

Notorious Military Commander of Terrorists Killed in Aleppo

Egypt Coptic Church halts entry of monks after mystery death

Syria air defences destroy ‘hostile target’ near Damascus

Israel's Lieberman admits Assad back in charge in Syria

‘100 Daesh terrorists in Syria flee toward Jordan border’

Iranian Hajj pilgrims praise Saudi Arabian welcome

292 irregular migrants rescued off Libya coast

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Africa

High-Profile Terror Trial Speaks to an Emerging Threat in Senegal

Jordan says not yet ready to open border crossing with Syria

Armed raid on Tunisian bank treated as terrorism-related — official

Comoros: Yes Vote in Comoros Referendum Gives President More Power

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North America

Muslim Group Slams Mailer Attacking Congressional Candidate

Turkey vows retaliation in crisis with US over pastor

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/in-india’s-national-capital-region,-muslim-man-forced-to-shave-beard-after-argument/d/116028

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In India’s National Capital Region, Muslim Man Forced To Shave Beard after Argument

August 02, 2018

GURUGRAM: A Muslim man was allegedly forced to shave his beard and thrashed following an altercation in Gurugram's Sector 29. A resident of Haryana's Mewat, Jaffruddin had come to Gurgaon to meet his friend when the accused started abusing the victim in Khandsa Mandi area on Tuesday.

"Jaffruddin initially ignored the religious insults, but later got into an argument. Then the accused started thrashing Jaffruddin. They took him to a salon and chopped his beard off," Gurgaon Police public relations officer Subhash Bokan told PTI.

They also threatened to kill Jaffruddin if he approached the police. However, the next morning, Jaffruddin went to Sector 37 police station and filed an FIR.

"Three persons have been arrested. This is an isolated incident and no organisation is involved in it," said Sumit Kuhar, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Gurugram (Crime).

The accused have been identified as Gaurav, Eklash from Uttar Pradesh and Nitin from Haryana.

https://www.ndtv.com/gurgaon-news/in-gurugram-muslim-man-forced-to-shave-beard-after-argument-1894262

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British Court Recognizes Marriage under Islamic Law

Aug 2, 2018

A court in Britain has ruled that all marriages conducted under the Islamic laws, or the Sharia, could be recognized as a legal marriage as they fall under British matrimonial law.

The British High Court ruled Wednesday that an Islamic faith marriage, or Nikah, would be a valid marriage under the British law despite not being legally recognized as such.

The ruling came after a British Muslim woman of the Pakistani background filed for divorce from her husband, also a Pakistani Muslim. Nasreen Akhtar can now be free to bring her case to the divorce court and claim her share of the assets of her marriage. Mohammed Shabaz Khan, the husband, had sought to block the application for divorce in the UK court, arguing that he and Akhtar were never legally married.

The estranged couple took their vows in 1998 while taking part in a nikah ceremony at a restaurant in Southall, west London, where an Imam conducted the marriage before some 150 guests. Akhtar and Shabaz Khan have lived in London, Birmingham and Dubai over the years.

In his ruling, Justice Williams ruled that the union was “entered into in disregard of certain requirements as to the formation of marriage", saying therefore that it was “void” and Akhtar was entitled to a decree of nullity.

The ruling is the first as judges had decided in similar cases in the past that nikah was a non-marriage, depriving the women of the ability to make a case for compensations. Muslim woman had to appeal to Sharia councils for divorce and most of the time their release from marriage came with making concessions.

British Prime Minister Theresa May commissioned a report on the issue of Islamic marriages when she was home secretary. The report revealed earlier this year that unless accompanied by a civil ceremony, the Nikah would prevent many women in Islamic marriages to enjoy legal protections. The report said most of the women in such conditions did not know the facts about their marriage. 

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/08/02/569999/Britain-marriage-law-sharia-court

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Pakistani opposition to challenge Imran Khan with own PM candidate in parliament

Aug 3, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's two former dominant political parties said on Thursday they would join forces to field their own candidate for prime minister in parliament, challenging former cricket star Imran Khan, whose party won last week's general election.

The alliance with several other smaller parties appeared unlikely to derail Khan's election as prime minister, but it could leave him with a thin majority that could make enacting his agenda difficult.

Imran Khan's party, which won 116 of the 272 elected seats in the National Assembly, is believed to have enough would-be coalition partners among smaller parties and independents to win a majority vote to form a government.

But the main rival parties, which on Thursday repeated accusations that the July 25 vote was rigged by the powerful military, vowed to vote together with several smaller parties against Khan's election as prime minister in parliament.

"It is an alliance which is against the rigged elections, and where all the political parties were not provided a free and fair, level playing field," said Maryam Aurangzeb, speaking for the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of jailed ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

The opposition alliance was not believed to have the numbers to block Khan's election.

A European Union election monitoring team in its initial assessment described the election campaign as an unequal playing field but said it was up to the people of Pakistan to decide on the vote's legitimacy.

The PML-N joined with the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), led by the son of assassinated former premier Benazir Bhutto, and several smaller nationalist and religious parties in forming the opposition alliance, known as the All Parties Conference.

The PMN-L and PPP have traded power in Pakistan for most of its history in between periods of military rule after the army seized power, which itself accounts for nearly half of the 71 years since independence from Britain.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistani-opposition-to-challenge-imran-khan-with-own-pm-candidate-in-parliament/articleshow/65254068.cms

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Malay PM Says Different Interpretations Of Islam At Fault For Global Conflicts

03 August 2018

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 3 — Islam as we know it today is not what the religious scripture taught it to be, as it has been variedly interpreted by leaders of the world, says Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

He said the real teachings of the al-Quran call for moderation in every aspect of life where Muslims should treat each other like brothers and sisters.

The true Islam, he added, abhors the practice of war.

“It doesn't preach war, it calls upon all Muslim to be brothers. It forbids killing; well, we are doing all those things which are forbidden by Islam. So, it is the interpretation of the religion that has got us into that world state.

“Somebody comes along, becomes a very popular leader and he interprets in his own way — that you should fight, you should kill, you should be opposed to people of other religions.

“Even among yourselves, you don't accept people who have other interpretations. All these things have resulted in instability, even in conflicts and civil wars, and also wars within nations,” he told American news agency CNN in an exclusive interview.

Dr Mahathir is known to be highly critical of what he called “the endless wars of Europe and its colonies” on Muslim countries and its people ever since his first term as prime minister.

He had also openly condemned the US-led war on Iraq and Afghanistan.

In a 2003 interview with BBC, he called for Muslim countries to embrace Islamic reformation by practicing what Islam advocates — peace, brotherhood and tolerance.

https://www.malaymail.com/s/1658768/pm-says-different-interpretations-of-islam-at-fault-for-global-conflicts

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Kabul says Daesh threat eliminated in north

August 02, 2018

KABUL: The surrender of nearly 200 Daesh affiliates following deadly infighting with Taliban insurgents in the northern region of Afghanistan, marks the end of the network’s threat in the area, government officials said on Thursday.

The fate of the combatants who surrendered in Darzab district of Jowzjan on Wednesday will be decided by the government in future, they said.

Thirty women and two of Daesh’s top leaders in northern Afghanistan, along with a group of foreign militants from Central Asia, were among those who surrendered, they added.

He was unable to confirm that European or Arab fighters were among those who surrendered.

“This is basically the end of Daesh in the north. This will hopefully provide assurance to Central Asia and Russia who expressed fear about the presence of Daesh in northern Afghanistan,” Mohammad Reza Ghafoori, spokesman for Jowzjan’s governor told Arab News.

He said most of Daesh’s combatants, including their two leaders, were former Taliban members.

The surrender comes after days of deadly clashes between Taliban fighters and Daesh in Darzab, a strategic area where both sides vied for power.

They were exhausted so had no option but to surrender, General Mohammad Radmanesh, a spokesman for the defense ministry told Arab News.

“This group will no longer have the ability to create fear and threat in the area,” he said.

The spokesman for Afghanistan’s commando forces, Maj. Ahmad Jawid Salim, said that the move marked the end of Daesh in northern Afghanistan.

Zabihullah Mujahid, spokesman for the Taliban, said after the attack on Daesh, they took scores of their rivals prisoner, with the rest fleeing to government side.

He said the Taliban leadership will decide their fate.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1350046/world

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India

 

‘Sharia Courts Break Families': Muslim Rashtra Manch Set to Launch Parivar Kendras to 'Prevent' Divorces

August 3, 2018

New Delhi: A special court to resolve the private affairs of the Muslim community has become the latest bone of contention between the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-supported Muslim Rashtra Manch (MRM).

Barely a fortnight after AIMPLB announced to open 10 Sharia courts (Darul Qaza) in various parts of the country, the MRM is all set to establish 'Parivar Samjhauta Kendras'. The first Kendra will be inaugurated in Delhi, following which it set up across India.

According to a Muslim Manch member, the Sharia courts 'break families', however, their motive would be to initiate negotiations and help couples find solutions to make their marriage work.

The Kendras will be to act as 'facilitators' in family disputes and prevent the incidence of divorce among Muslim households. The decision was made at the three-day long Executive Members meeting at Haryana Bhawan in Delhi, on Thursday.

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board, which is a non-governmental organization that works for towards protecting the Muslim personal law, announced to open Darul-Qaza (Shariat courts) in all districts of the country in order to resolve marital disputes in the light of Islamic laws.

These centres are supposed to function as mediation centres that help in resolving civil and primarily family disputes.

Speaking to News18, Mohammad Afzal, the National Convener of MRM said, “All India Muslim Personal Law Board announced that there will be Darul Qazas in every district – following that announcement, they got 10 applications, and many didn’t even fill the criterion. Hence they were rejected. They won’t be able to realize their ambition at this pace.”

Afzal informed that at MRM, the members have proposed the idea of Parivar Samjhauta Kendras to “make Muslim families stronger and strengthen the ties.”

“The Kendras have been imagined on the lines of the Shariat courts but will work differently. The Shariat Courts break families but our centres won’t. The organization will step in at the earliest so that the problems don’t arise later. Our work will be about negotiations if the marital problems crop up. In that sense we are going to be different,” he said.

The meeting on Thursday was attended by the members of the executive committee of MRM. There were sessions that involved the youth and women as well. Over three days, about 700 people attended the meeting. Indresh Kumar, the patron of MRM was also present. The MRM has also proposed to start a non-governmental widow pension of Rs 500.

Ahead of Eid, the members of MRM are set to launch a campaign among Muslims to discourage the slaughtering of cattle. "This month we will be celebrating Eid, and will sacrifice the goat. We will also propagate that no cattle should be slaughtered. It will be a planned campaign,” said Afzal.

https://www.news18.com/news/india/sharia-courts-break-families-muslim-rashtra-manch-set-to-launch-parivar-kendras-to-prevent-divorces-1832347.html

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"Bigoted Agenda": Indian-American Body Wants Assam Citizens' List Dropped

August 03, 2018

WASHINGTON: An Indian-American advocacy group today called for immediate suspension of the National Registry of Citizens until the irregularities resulting in four million people being excluded from the list are fixed.

The names of 40.07 Lakh applicants in Assam did not find a place in the much-anticipated second and final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), a historic document touted to be a proof of Assamese identity.

"The ethnic group that is the worst victim of this mass disenfranchisement is the Bengali-speaking Muslim community in Assam, accused of being 'infiltrators,' although they are Indian citizens," the Indian-American Muslim Council (IAMC) said in a statement.

"The fact that this is an exercise in subversion of democracy and has a clearly bigoted, discriminatory agenda is reflected in the exclusion of the relatives of the former President of India," IAMC president Ahsan Khan said.

"The entire programme should be suspended until the criteria for exclusion are clearly defined," he said.

It called on the Indian government not to allow religious differences to define the socio-political landscape of the country, where something as basic as a citizen's right to be called a citizen of the country is arbitrarily snatched away.

Full report at:

https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/indian-american-muslim-body-wants-assam-citizens-charter-suspended-1894379

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Aftermath of Assam NRC: Muslim leaders urge members to ensure proper ID proof for all families

August 3, 2018

In the aftermath of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) created in Assam that led to names of over 40 lakh people being left out of the first draft, some leaders of the Muslim community have appealed to the people to ensure they have proper documentation for all family members. One of the measures suggested at a press conference held by leaders of the community on Thursday was to use the pulpit during Friday prayers to ask community members to ensure that they have their documents updated in case there is an Assam-like situation in the future.

Maulana Syed Moinuddin Ashraf, also known as Moin Miya — one of the main speakers at the press conference — told The Indian Express: “The main issue is to raise awareness among people regarding identity documentation. People need to keep their documents, like voter ID, Aadhaar, passport and domicile certificate safe. In order to raise awareness, we told the over 50 ulemas (religious scholars) present to ensure that they should mention the importance of having such documents in place even during the khutba (sermon) during the Friday prayers.”

Also read | Those out of register can provide new papers as proof: NRC official

“The issue at hand does not impact a particular community. Rather it goes against people who are uneducated and come from the lower strata of the society, who would normally not be much aware about the documents that they should have to prove their citizenship,” he added.

Maulana Amanullah Raza Shaikh, who leads prayers at a mosque in Byculla, said, “I will be making an announcement to raise awareness among people during the sermon. We are also trying to spread this message through WhatsApp and phone calls. This is a message for everyone as on several occasions, the name of one family member is missing or someone’s name is spelt wrong in their identification papers. They should realise the importance of having proper documentation.”

Saeed Noorie, general secretary of Raza Academy, who was also present at the press conference, said: “We will also write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the home minister, asking them to look out for people who are misusing the NRC and making it a communal issue. The Supreme Court is monitoring the issue and we have full faith in it.”

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/aftermath-of-nrc-muslim-leaders-urge-members-to-ensure-proper-id-proof-for-all-families-5289336/

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Pakistan welcomes Modi’s phone call to Imran Khan, wants resumption of talks with India

Aug 02, 2018

Pakistan on Thursday welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s congratulatory phone call to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan and said it wants resumption of bilateral talks which were halted in 2015.

On Monday, Prime Minister Modi telephoned Khan to congratulate him on his party’s victory in the general elections and hoped that “Pakistan and India will work to open a new chapter in bilateral ties”.

Khan thanked Modi for his wishes and emphasised that disputes should be resolved through dialogue.

During his weekly press briefing here, Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal said that he hoped the phone call would pave the way for bilateral talks between both India and Pakistan.

Faisal said that Pakistan was ready to host the SAARC Summit postponed in November 2016, which will help to address regional issues.

He hoped that it would lead to an improvement in ties with the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) member states, including Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka, in addition to India.

The 2016 SAARC Summit was to be held in Islamabad but after a major terror attack on an Indian Army camp in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir on September 18 that year, India expressed its inability to participate in the summit due to “prevailing circumstances” and stepped up diplomatic pressure on Pakistan.

The summit was called off after Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan also declined to participate.

The India-Pakistan ties nose-dived in recent years with no bilateral talks taking place.

The ties between the two countries had strained after the terror attacks by Pakistan-based groups in 2016 and India’s surgical strikes inside Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The sentencing of alleged Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav to death by a military court in April last year further deteriorated bilateral ties.

The two sides often accuse each other of ceasefire violations along the Line of Control, resulting in civilian casualties.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/pakistan-welcomes-modi-s-phone-call-to-imran-khan-wants-resumption-of-talks-with-india/story-gG5GEIr8THsYDufc2g3SvJ.html

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Gunfight breaks out between security forces, terrorists in J-K's Baramulla

Aug 3, 2018

SRINAGAR: An encounter broke out between security forces and terrorists at Sopore township in Jammu and Kashmir's Baramulla district on Friday, police said.

Acting on specific information about presence of terrorists in Watergam area of Sopore, security forces launched a cordon and search operation there, a police official said.

He said as the forces were conducting the searches, the terrorists fired upon them and the security personnel retaliated.

The gunfight was going on when the last reports came in, the police official said.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/gunfight-breaks-out-between-security-forces-terrorists-in-j-ks-baramulla/articleshow/65253441.cms

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Personal invitation, great honour: Navjot Singh Sidhu on Imran Khan’s invite

August 3, 2018

Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu said Thursday that he was keen on attending the oath-taking ceremony of Imran Khan as Pakistan’s Prime Minister. “It’s a personal invitation. It’s great honour. And it’s wonderful gesture… If I am allowed (by the government), I will go there as a goodwill ambassador…being instrument of God’s goodwill,” said Sidhu while addressing a press conference at Chandigarh Press Club.

Asked if he would raise the cross-border issues during his visit to Pakistan, Sidhu said, “Let me first go there. Each and every issue related to Punjab will be raised…I want to take our Chief Minister to Nankana Sahab (where first guru of the Sikhs Guru Nanak born and preached) in Pakistan to start celebrations of 550 years (of Sikhism in 2019),” said the Congress leader.

However, the Congress leader made it clear that he “would not encroach upon the view point of the Centre (regarding country’s relations with Pakistan)”. When asked whether the cricket matches between Indian and Pakistan should be allowed again, Sidhu said, “I believe sportsmen break barriers.”

In reply to a question regarding Imran Khan’s statement over Kashmir, Sidhu said, “I don’t have a different opinion than of Indian government on this issue.” Replying a separate question, the Congress leader said, “The issues are resolved with mutual dialogue.”

Talking about his relations with Imran Khan, a cricketer-turned-politician like him, Sidhu said, “We have shared a relationship since 1983 when I met him first time in Faridabad. I had heard he was a Greek god, but when I saw him I found him even ahead of Greek god. I saw him a person of pure soul… A person can trust on Imran Khan as soon as he sees him… Today, he is empowered to change the system.”

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/personal-invitation-great-honour-navjot-singh-sidhu-on-imran-khans-invite-5289257/

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2 Hizbul militants killed after gunfight in Kupwara

Aug 02, 2018

Two Hizbul Mujahedeen militants, allegedly involved in a rifle-snatching incident in Lolab, were killed in an encounter in Kupwara on Thursday.

Bilal Ahmad Shah, of Shatmuqam, and Zahoor Ahmad, of Thayeen village, were locals from Kupwara who had joined the Hizbul Mujahideen ranks this year.

They were killed at Khumriyal, around 12 km from Kandhar village where they had snatched the rifle of a policeman on Wednesday.

Officials said the police had been tracking movement of the militants involved in rifle snatching as it was the first rifle snatching incident in Kupwara district in recent years.

Locals said the militants who were travelling in a car were intercepted by joint team of police and the army, two kilometres before Kupwara town, and were killed after a brief encounter.

A police spokesman said the militants fired at cops conducting checking at a post, prompting retaliation.

“The militant were involved in several attacks on the security establishments and civilian atrocities in the area. An AK 47 rifle and an INSAS rifle was recovered from the slain militants which was yesterday snatched from a policeman in Kandhar,’’ the spokesman said.

In March, a picture of Bilal Ahmad Shah, who had been missing, appeared on the social media holding the rifle. His father was a former Hizbul Mujahideen militant, who was killed in an encounter during the initial years of the militancy in 1991. Shah was working in Srinagar fruit market before he joined the militant ranks. Zahoor was a former militant and had rejoined two months ago.

Both the youths joined militancy after Manan Wani, a research scholar who also hailed from the Kupwara district joined militancy. Last month, a militant from Chogal village in Kupwara district was killed in Pulwama during an encounter.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/security-forces-kill-2-militants-in-jammu-and-kashmir-s-kupwara/story-yvhCC7uKCJCzCrrwxko5YN.html

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CONFIRMED: Navjot Singh Sidhu to attend Imran Khan’s swearing-in

August 3, 2018

Indian Punjab Cabinet Minister and former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu said on Thursday he would attend Imran Khan’s swearing-in ceremony as the Prime Minister of Pakistan and described the Pakistani World Cup-winning captain as a man of character who “can be trusted”, reported Hindustan Times.

Sidhu also described Imran as “a ray of hope”.

He went on to describe the invitation to attend the oath-taking ceremony as a “huge honour”.

Earlier, Sidhu had said that sportsmen build bridges to unite people.

“It is (a) great honour, I accept the invitation. Men of genius are admired, men of power are feared, but men of character are trusted. Khan Sahab is a man of character. He can be trusted. Sportsmen build bridges, break barriers, unite people,” Sidhu had said in a statement.

Sidhu was among those who had reportedly been invited by Khan to attend his oath-taking ceremony. Imran Khan’s party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) emerged as the single-largest party in the National Assembly after the general election on July 25.

PTI won 115 of the 269 seats in the National Assembly for which elections were held. The party fell 12 short of the 137 seats it needed to form a government on its own.

Earlier on Wednesday, a PTI spokesperson said that the party plans to invite former cricketers Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev and Navjot Sidhu and Bollywood star Aamir Khan to Imran Khan swearing-in ceremony.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/08/02/confirmed-navjot-singh-sidhu-to-attend-imran-khans-swearing-in/

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Europe

 

Syrian govt regains control of three southern provinces: Moscow

August 02, 2018

The Russian army on Thursday said the Syrian government had recaptured three of the country's southern provinces from rebels and jihadists, and regained control of the border zone with Jordan.

"Syrian forces, supported by Russian aviation, liquidated (Islamic State) and former al-Nusra groups and retook control of Sweida, Daraa and Quneitra," Russian army general Sergei Rudskoy said at a briefing in Moscow.

He praised the "unique operation" that allowed Syrian forces to retake "3,332 square kilometres" of territory from jihadist and rebel groups.

The Moscow-supported Damascus regime "entirely retook control of the border between Syria and Jordan", Rudskoy said.

He added that "conditions have been created for the resumption of the activities of UN peacekeeping forces in the Golan Heights" near the border with Israel.

Russia, which intervened military in Syria on the side of Bashar al-Assad's regime in 2015, will deploy "eight military police observation posts" in order "to prevent possible provocations."

More than seven years since the conflict began, regime forces have managed to retake entire regions from rebels and jihadists and now control nearly two-thirds of the country.

Syrian troops are supported military by their Russian and Iranian allies, as well as by Lebanese Hezbollah fighters and Iraqi, Iranian and Afghan militiamen.

https://nation.com.pk/02-Aug-2018/syrian-govt-regains-control-of-three-southern-provinces-moscow

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Dushanbe blames Tehran over attack, Iran summons Tajikistan's ambassador

2 August 2018

Iran’s Foreign Ministry has summoned Tajikistan’s ambassador to protest the allegation of Tehran’s links to a recent attack that killed four Western tourists in the Central Asian country.

Previously, police in Tajikistan Tuesday appeared to blame a banned opposition party for an attack previously claimed by ISIS that left four tourists dead and was originally reported as a hit-and-run road accident.

A police statement called a detained man identified as leading an attack that killed two tourists from the United States and one each from Switzerland and the Netherlands an “active member” of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, which was banned in 2015.

Authorities in the Central Asian country offered no immediate proof of the assertion.

According to the police statement Hussein Abdusamadov, 33, who police identified as the leader of the group that attacked the tourists, is an “active member” of the IRPT and also “underwent training in Iran”, a country with whom Tajikistan has poor relations.

The extremist group had on Monday claimed the attack on a group of seven tourists cycling in the Danghara district, about 100 kilometres from Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe.

Although the attack was initially reported as a hit-and-run, Tajikistan’s interior minister Ramazon Hamro Rahimzoda said on Monday that the group was armed with “knives and firearms.”

At least one of the three tourists that survived was stabbed and is being treated in hospital, he told a press conference.

In a statement published Monday, ISIS claimed a “detachment from the soldiers of the Caliphate” had carried out the attack against “citizens of Crusader coalition countries.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2018/07/31/Tajikistan-accuses-Iran-of-training-perpetrators-of-attack-claimed-by-ISIS.html

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UK Border staff ‘seize missile parts that were being sent to Iran’ at Heathrow

August 02, 2018

LONDON: Attempts to ship missile parts to Iran have been thwarted by UK border agents at Heathrow Airport.

Two ‘O rings’ — small components made of rubber used to form seals in warheads to stop leakages — were detected during an inspection of cargo leaving the airport, according to a report in London’s Evening Standard.

The parts were described as being sent for use in Iran’s oil industry. But UK Border Force staff stopped the shipment, suspecting that they were actually going to be used in the construction of missiles.

Monique Wrench, UK Border Force’s deputy director at Heathrow Airport, told the newspaper: “We had a couple of O rings that we identified. O rings are pieces of rubber that go between tubes to stop leakage to seal them. They can be used in oil, but they can also be used for warheads and the like. Our staff stopped them from going to Iran.

“It is a component part. It looked like it was going to an oil refinery. But the dots don’t quite join up here.”

Wrench refused to comment on whether any arrests were made in connection with the incident and confirmed that an investigation was being launched by HM Revenue and Customs.

The selling, supplying or transportation of missile-related goods or technology to Iran is banned in the UK, and those found guilty face heavy fines and a possible prison sentence.

In June, UN tests found that Houthi militia missiles fired at Saudi Arabia from Yemen had been manufactured in Iran.

Col. Turki Al-Maliki of the Saudi-led coalition operating in Yemen against the Iranian-backed Houthis said last month that as many as 163 ballistic missiles and 66,362 projectiles have targeted Saudi Arabia since the beginning of the military operations.

Iran has continued to expand its missile arsenal despite the deal with international powers signed in 2015 to curb its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1350241/world

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Pakistan

 

Pakistan hopeful of restart of dialogue with India

AUGUST 3, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Office spokesman Dr Faisal on Thursday applauded Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s phone call to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan to congratulate him on winning the general election and expressed the hope that this could pave the way for restart of talks between the South Asian neighbors.

Addressing a weekly press briefing here at the Foreign Office, the spokesman said that Narendra Modi in his phone call had told Imran Khan that India was ready to enter a new era of relations with Pakistan and that both countries should adopt a joint strategy for progress in the bilateral ties. He hoped that it would lead to an improvement in Pakistan’s relations with South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) member states, including Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka, in addition to India. The spokesman said resumption of comprehensive dialogue between Pakistan and India and holding of SAARC summit were the areas that required particular focus by the two governments.

The Foreign Office spokesman said Pakistan was witnessing a continued journey towards consolidation of democracy with the completion of tenures of two democratically elected governments. He said international election observers from Commonwealth and the European Union have expressed satisfaction on the conduct of elections.

To a question, Dr Faisal said that foreign heads of state have not been invited to attend the inauguration ceremony of the newly elected prime minister.

Turning to situation in Indian-held Kashmir, the spokesman said the human rights situation in the occupied valley reflected the unabated use of force, oppression and mass killings of innocent and defenseless Kashmiris by the Indian forces. He said Indian troops in unabated acts of state terrorism martyred 21 Kashmiris during the last month. Over 300 Kashmiris were also critically injured when Indian police and paramilitary personnel used force and fired pellet guns and teargas shells on peaceful demonstrators during the same period.

The spokesman expressed deep concerns over the unhygienic conditions in Central Jail of Srinagar and District Jail in Rajouri, where a number of political prisoners have been packed beyond capacity. He urged the international community to take notice of all these injustices.

Dr Faisal said if India has nothing to hide, it should allow the foreign journalists and Commission of Inquiry as recommended by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit the areas.

When asked to comment on a bill passed by US Congress to slash Pakistan’s defence aid to 150 million dollars, the spokesman confirmed that the Coalition Support Fund had been discontinued.

He said Afghanistan and Pakistan in their meetings of the five working groups in Kabul assessed prospects in all areas of mutual interest, including counter-terrorism, security, bilateral trade and transit and repatriation of Afghan refugees.

Faisal also apprised the media about the daring rescue mission conducted by the Pakistan Army on July 31 which saved the life of stranded Russian climber Alexander Gukov from Gilgit-Baltistan’s Latok-I peak. “The Russian government has conveyed deep gratitude to Pakistan for the rescue and lauded the professionalism of Pakistan Army for successfully carrying out this courageous operation,” he noted.

https://dailytimes.com.pk/277178/pakistan-hopeful-of-restart-of-dialogue-with-india/

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IHC rejects allegations ISI interfered in judicial proceedings

August 03, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) Mohammad Anwar Khan Kasi has rejected allegations of interference by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in judicial proceedings, especially in the constitution of benches.

Subsequently, a division bench of the IHC comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb hearing an intra court appeal (ICA) of the ISI expunged adverse remarks of Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui from a judicial order. The ISI in the appeal asserted that the court order widely circulated on the social media within the country and abroad and damaged the reputation of the army, ISI and judiciary across the world.

It requested the court to expunge the adverse remarks from the court order and also impose cost of litigation on the petitioner for filing a frivolous petition.

As per background of the case, one Mohammad Iftikhar Raja filed a petition before the IHC saying that his brother Rabnawaz was abducted by spy agencies. However, Rabnawaz when produced before Justice Siddiqui on July 18 stated that he had gone to Vehari on his own.

But petitioner Raja insisted that his brother was in immense fear and that he had lied before the court.

The IHC division bench comprising Justice Farooq and Justice Aurangzeb took up the ICA on Aug 1. The court had issued notices to the petitioner as well as the advocate general for Islamabad.

Advocate General Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri appeared before the bench. He told the court that the IHC registrar conveyed the message of IHC Chief Justice Kasi that he never allowed outside interference of any person or institution in the judicial proceedings.

He said that the IHC chief justice further said that he had never taken instructions from any quarter while working as a sessions judge or after his elevation to the IHC.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1424636/ihc-rejects-allegations-isi-interfered-in-judicial-proceedings

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Continue protest against ‘rigging’, Nawaz tells workers from jail

Aamir Yasin

August 03, 2018

RAWALPINDI: Former prime minister and supreme leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) Nawaz Sharif has sent a message to his party leaders and workers from Adiala jail, asking them to continue protest against alleged rigging in the July 25 elections.

According to PML-N leaders who met Mr Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law retired Capt Muhammad Safdar in the jail on Thursday, the former PM has also asked them to make a joint strategy with other opposition parties.

A number of PML-N leaders and family members met the incarcerated leaders of the PML-N in jail. Prison authorities arranged the meeting in a conference hall adjacent to the jail superintendent’s office.

Talking to reporters outside the jail later, they said Mr Sharif was of the opinion that people’s mandate had been stolen in the elections.

Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed said the morale of Mr Sharif and Ms Maryam was high. He said they both wanted the PML-N leaders and workers to continue protest against alleged rigging in the elections.

A senior PML-N leader later told Dawn that the party leaders briefed Mr Sharif on their talks with other opposition parties in their recent meetings. They also got former PM’s approval for the opposition parties’ expected nominees for the election of prime minister, speaker and deputy speaker in the National Assembly.

He said PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif informed the former PM about the party’s efforts for the formation of its government in Punjab.

The request of a number of other PML-N leaders and workers to meet the former PM was rejected by the jail authorities after which charged workers confronted security personnel outside the jail.

The jail authorities banned the entry of media DSNGs on the outer side of the jail which sparked unrest among media personnel.

Some female workers of the PML-N staged a demonstration outside the jail and demanded release of Ms Maryam.

The family members and relative who met the Sharifs in the jail included PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif, Mian Yousuf Abbas and Mian Aziz Abbas (nephews of Nawaz Sharif), Junaid Safdar (son of Maryam Nawaz), Sajjad Ahmed and Dr Waqar Awan (brothers of Mr Safdar) and Col Zafar (cousin of Mr Safdar).

Among the PML-N leaders who visited the jail are: National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, Punjab Assembly Speaker Rana Iqbal, Senators Pervaiz Rashid, Chauhdry Tanvir Khan, Begum Najma Hameed, Begum Tahira Aurangzeb, Raja Zafarul Haq, Javed Hashmi, former federal minister for health Saira Afzal Tarar, Marriyum Aurangzeb, Ahsan Iqbal, Tariq Fatemi and his wife, Irfan Siddiqui, Khawaja Asif, Dr Tassaduq Malik, Miftah Ismail, Siddiqul Farooq, Malik Abrar Ahmed, Sardar Mumtaz and Rana Mubashir.

Caretaker minister meets Sharif

Caretaker federal Minister Barrister Ali Zafar also met Mr Sharif in the jail.

A team of doctors from the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences also visited Adiala jail and examined Mr Sharif. They termed his condition better.

During the medical examination, Mr Sharif’s personal physician Dr Adnan Khan was also present.

PML-N leader Tallal Chaudhry, who was awarded sentence in a contempt of court case, also met the former PM in the jail.

Answering questions of reporters about his sentence outside the jail later, Mr Chaudhry said that he was expecting such a judgement.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1424637/continue-protest-against-rigging-nawaz-tells-workers-from-jail

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Families of APS students to be compensated like staffers

August 03, 2018

PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court has directed the provincial government to compensate the families of students killed in the 2014 Peshawar Army Public School terrorist attack like those of martyred school employees under the Special Shaheed (martyr) Package.

A bench consisting of Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth and Justice Mussarat Hilali observed that the government had discriminated against the martyred APS students during the payment of compensation for the terrorist attack.

The bench issued the orders accepting a petition of Ajun Khan, father of martyred student Asfand Khan, and other parents seeking the Special Shaheed compensation Package equivalent to either the one provided to the martyred staffers including APS Principal Tahira Qazi or the one provided to families of the lawyers who were martyred in terrorist attack at a hospital in Quetta in Aug 2016.

The bench had decided the case on July 17.

In a detailed judgment in the case, it ruled: “What has been discussed above, it is proved that discrimination has been done by the Provincial Government: thus, in this scenario petition in hand is allowed.”

“The respondents (KP Government) are directed to treat the petitioners’ instant petition alike with the others by awarding them a handsome full package as early as possible. In case of failure, petitioners would be at liberty to file contempt petition,” the order states.

The bench ruled that keeping blind eye and deaf ears towards the little flowers martyred in APS incident was highly deplorable.

“It is further noted that as per available record handsome package was given to the family of martyred Principal Tahira Qazi and other staff members of APS as per minutes of the meeting of Senate Standing Committee on defence dated 28.12.2015, attended by notified dignitaries.”

Advocate Mohammad Ayaz had appeared for the petitioners and contended that after the brutal incident compensation package awarded to the aggrieved parents included payment of Rs2 million along with Umra trip, which was too nominal keeping in view the brutal nature of the incident.

He said the affected parents had been looking forward for some handsome package from government machinery as well as Armed Forces, but till date no attractive package was announced.

He pointed out that handsome Shaheed Package was announced for the aggrieved families of the staff members killed in the incident as Rs9.4 million was awarded to them.

Mohammad Ayaz contended that over three years had passed since the tragic incident had taken place but the federal and provincial governments had failed to give appropriate Shaheed Package to the parents of the APS martyrs.

He submitted that there were double standards for compensating the families of the APS martyrs.

A representative of the Accountant General office had told the bench that the matter in hand was totally administrative in nature and related to the provincial government and the accountant general office had no concern with the disputed matter.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1424567/families-of-aps-students-to-be-compensated-like-staffers

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Pakistan: PTI chief Imran Khan gets MQM-P support for government formation at Centre

August 02, 2018

Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan received a shot in the arm on Thursday after the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) extended support to his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) for forming the new federal government.

Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, the convener of MQM, confirmed to Geo TV that his party has agreed to cooperate with PTI for the formation of a coalition government at the Centre.

"Yes, we have agreed to cooperate with them (the PTI) for the formation of (a coalition) government at the Centre," he told Geo TV.

Imran Khan’ s PTI had sought support of MQM as well as Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) for the formation of a new government at the Centre.

MQM-P's Siddiqui added that after a series of past experiences, the party does not want to side with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). "The PPP does not need anyone in Sindh. The MQM-P will sit alongside the PTI on government benches."

"We have decided to sit on treasury benches instead of the opposition. Sitting with the opposition would have created doubts about our stance and because of this, the MQM-P has arrived at a consensus on this move."

"We respect everyone's mandate and want everyone to respect ours," said the MQM-P convener.

He also said that the MQM-P will not be attending the All Parties' Conference on Thursday. It will be a meeting of opposition parties led by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to hold talks on alleged rigging in the July 25 general election.

MQM-P MNA and coordination committee member Aminul Haq said though MQM decided to support Khan for the Prime Minister slot, they were yet to decide if they will take any ministries. The final decision in this regard will be taken in a few days, he added.

Meanwhile, a PTI delegation led by leaders Naeemul Haque and Sardar Yar Muhammad Rind met BNP-M chief Sardar Akhtar Jan Mengal in Islamabad to seek their backing.

After the meeting, Mengal said: "I am thankful to the PTI leadership for extending us an invite to be part of the federal government." Talking about the demands he put forth, the leader said that "we want missing persons to be recovered as well as implementation of China Pakistan Economic Corridor".

"If we are given a satisfactory response to our demands then we are ready to support the party," he said.

Geo News quoted sources as saying that the PTI also invited Mengal for a one-on-one meeting with Khan.

Full report at:

https://www.indiatvnews.com/news/world-pakistan-pti-chief-imran-khan-gets-mqm-p-support-for-government-formation-456023

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Pakistani entrepreneur launches ‘Khan Meter’ to monitor PTI’s 100-day agenda

August 3, 2018

A website called the ‘Khan Meter’ has been launched to monitor Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan’s performance as the country’s top leader in light of PTI’s 100 days plan, reported a local media outlet.

Pakistani social entrepreneur Salman Saeed launched the website and got his inspiration from the Obamametre.

The website provides a detailed breakdown of the promises that the PTI chief had made and they have been divided further into seven categories; economy, agriculture, water, society, security, governance and federation.

Salman, while talking on a morning show, said, “Those who have voted for Imran Khan and his party are active now to keep an eye on their performance after they form the government in the federation.”

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/08/02/pakistani-entrepreneur-launches-khan-meter-to-monitor-ptis-100-day-agenda/

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Religious parties heavily dented PML-N vote bank

Maqbool Malik

August 03, 2018

ISLAMABAD - Besides severe pre-polling odds, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz had to face presence of eleven politico religious parties in election arena, which also factored in denting its vote bank, leading to reduction of its national and provincial assembly seats.

Except the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), eleven politico religious parties which contested the 2018 general elections had secured about 2.9 million votes in total which previously PML-N used to get basically on ideological affinity.

Though MMA has secured 2.5 million votes and bagged 12 National Assembly seats, none of the eleven religious parties could bag a National Assembly seat as only Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) could win two provincial assembly seats in the Sindh Assembly. A cursory analysis of the pre-poll election campaign suggests that by and large all the eleven parties with Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) ostensibly played a leading role against the PML-N highlighting the issue of an amendment in the law regarding finality of the Prophethood.

Political analysts believed this slogan had helped the eleven religious parties in securing a total of 2.9 million votes in the general elections.          

According to data uploaded by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), the highest number of votes polled in favour of these parties was in Punjab followed by Sindh province.

Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam Nazryati-Pakistan managed to bag 34,170 votes as compared to 1,030,98 votes in 2013. Another religious party that did not leave an impact on the electoral battleground was Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan (Noorani) that received 22,918 votes in contrast to 67,966 votes in 2013.

The Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen that bagged 41,520 votes last time managed to only get 19,597 votes this time. The Sunni Ittehad Council also witnessed a significant drop in its popularity as it received 5,939 votes only as compared to 37,732 votes in 2013. On the other hand, the new splinter groups have remarkably marked their presence as compared to the old parties.

The newly formed Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) led by clerics of the Barelvi sect emerged as the top fifth party which received 2,234,138 votes for the National Assembly, outranking major parties like the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan and Awami National Party among others.

Although the TLP did not secure a seat in the lower house of parliament, its 178 NA and over 500 provincial assembly candidates contesting elections across the country contributed significantly to its vote bank.

The party bagged the most votes in Punjab (1,887,419) where it was the only party that had fielded over 100 candidates from the 117 constituencies of the province.

The TLP also managed to govern Punjab’s religious poll bank as its votes make up 69 per cent of the total votes given to religious parties (2,704,856) in the region.

In Sindh, the party candidates gave a tough time to prominent leaders like Dr Farooq Sattar of MQM-P and PPP’s Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in the election.

In NA-246 (Karachi South-1), TLP’s candidate Ahmed secured over 3,000 more votes than the PPP chairman whereas in NA-247 (Karachi South-2), the party’s candidate secured second position and beat Dr Sattar by a margin of over 500 votes.

The TLP bagged two seats in the provincial assembly one from Lyari’s PS-107 and the other from PS-115 (Baldia Town).

The Tehreek-i-Labbaik (Islam), the political wing of TLP’s Jalali group also influenced religious vote bank as it managed to secure over 55,000 votes for the National Assembly.

Besides the TLP, Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek (AAT) allegedly led by the Hafiz Saeed and was introduced after the ECP denied registration of Milli Muslim League has also secured 171,356 votes.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/03-Aug-2018/religious-parties-heavily-dented-pml-n-vote-bank

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Southeast Asia

 

Indonesia launches new group to combat extremism

August 3, 2018

Moderate Muslims in Indonesia have launched a new civil society group to promote interreligious tolerance in a country where religious and ethnic sentiments are on the rise ahead of a presidential election in 2019.

More than 200 people, including religious leaders such as Jakarta's Catholic archbishop, as well as politicians, attended the Aug. 1 launch of the Said Aqil Siroj Institute in Jakarta.

The new non-profit organization is named after a prominent Muslim cleric who now serves as chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia's largest Islamic organization.   

"His thoughts and ideas highlighting tolerance, mutual respect, peace and willingness to work together with people from different religious and ethnic backgrounds have inspired the establishment of this institute. These are important pillars for the existence of our diverse nation," Imdadun Rahmat, the organization's executive director, said at the launch.

"This institute has come about because of concerns among young people about problems and challenges faced by our nation, especially the weakening of national unity as a result of segregation based on religion, ethnicity and ideology," he said.

He said the organization would take up the same fight as similar organizations including the Jakarta-based Wahid Institute, an organization that focuses on the creation of peace and non-violence espoused by former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid, who was also a former NU chairman.

"Such organizations need to expand to serve as 'shields' to protect our younger generation from radicalism," he told ucanews.com.

In near future, he said, the institute will share moderate Islamic teachings through social media and conduct research, seminars and discussions.

Speaking to reporters, Siroj said the institute would promote Islam Nusantara (Islam of the Archipelago) as many people still don't have a clear understanding of it.

"Islam Nusantara means an Islam which promotes cultural values that are dignified, friendly and polite," he said.

"I think Islam Nusantara is a solution to the wave of globalization which is very radical and extreme.

"I believe Indonesian Muslims can show people that they respect differences and other cultures," he said.

Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, Luhut Binsar Panjaitan, said the launch of the new organization comes at the right time.

"[Next year] is the year of politics. Regional elections [held in June] ran peacefully. Yet, we see that in some regions the issues of religion, ethnicity and ideology were used to influence public opinion. We predict these issues will grow ahead of the presidential election next year," he said.

Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo of Jakarta, who attended the launch, welcomed the institute's establishment.

"This is the actualization of Said Aqil Siroj's thoughts and ideas summarized in Islam Nusantara, a movement of peace and tolerance. This is the answer to the very worrying situation in our country today," he told ucanews.com.

https://www.ucanews.com/news/indonesia-launches-new-group-to-combat-extremism/82981

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Philippines nabs cleric over bomb claimed by Islamic State

Aug 2, 2018

MANILA: The Philippine military said on Thursday it has arrested a Muslim cleric who knew in advance about a bomb that killed 11 people on Basilan island in an attack earlier this week that raised fears of Islamic State involvement.

Acting on a tip off, scout rangers raided the home of Indalin Jainul, alias Ustadz Abdulgani, 12 hours after Tuesday's bombing in Lamitan town.

Informants told the army that the cleric, 58, knew the bomb would go off and had been helping foreign operatives reach Basilan from Malaysia, according to army spokesman Gerry Besana. A grenade was found at his home.

Jainul is charged with multiple murder and illegal possession of explosives. His family protested what they said were trumpedup charges. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack which killed five militias, a soldier, and four civilians, including a child, calling it a "martyrdom operation". The driver of a van carrying the device also died. He was believed to have detonated the device when questioned at the checkpoint. Defence and military officials dismissed the Islamic State claim as propaganda, with defence secretary Delfin Lorenzana describing the claim as "just speculation". Basilan is a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf, a group better known for its banditry and kidnapping, though it has pledged loyalty to Islamic State.

The attack came days after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte made peace overtures towards the Abu Sayyaf, following his approval for an autonomy plan sought for decades by leaders of the region's Muslim minority.

Vehicle bombings are rare in the Philippines, despite decades of separatist and Islamist violence that have destabilised the southern Mindanao region.

Security experts say that although Islamic State has no known affiliate in the southern Philippines, it has ties with local extremists who have given refuge to foreign radicals, particularly from Malaysia and Indonesia.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/philippines-nabs-cleric-over-bomb-claimed-by-islamic-state/articleshow/65244264.cms

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Historian: Malay genes second oldest in the world

02 August 2018

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 2 — The Malays have the second oldest set of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in the world, second only to the Africans and making the ethnicity the second oldest in the world, writer and historian Zaharah Sulaiman told a forum today

Speaking at “The Origins of the Malay” forum organised by the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (Abim), Zaharah said roughly 60,000 to 75,000 years ago, there was a migration by some of the shortest people from humanity’s cradle in Africa to Sundaland, which is now known as Southeast Asia.

“The study conducted by the Human Genome Organisation (Hugo) that was published in 2013 showed that the ancestors of the Malay people, the Semang and Senoi, migrated to the ancient kingdom of Champa that is now located in parts of Vietnam and Cambodia.

“Their ancestors were the first African tribes that migrated to the lands around Saudi Arabia and the Middle East.

“From Semang and Senoi came the rest of the ethnic tribes including the indigenous peoples such as the orang Asli, Iban, Dayaks and so on. In fact, the Malays’ closest ancestor is the Jakun tribe. So for politicians, regardless of which party to say that the Malays are migrants, that is not true,” said Zaharah.

The academic then pointed out that based on scientific evidence, the Malay set of mtDNA is 63,000 years old when compared to the Chinese mtDNA that is 43,000 years old. The youngest set of mtDNA in the world belongs to the South American civilisation at 10,000 years old.

She was positing a theory first put up by Professor Stephen Oppenheimer of the School of Anthropology and Museum Archeology of the University of Oxford.

Oppenheimer’s work on genetics, particularly on the mtDNA — which is the science of tracing genetic material through the maternal lineage — was first proposed in his 1998 book titled Eden in the East: The Drowned Continent of Southeast Asia.

It was also the first time the “Out of Sundaland” theory, in which ethnic Malay tribes were a part of one of the world’s ancient civilisations, was proposed.

Zaharah elaborated further saying that some of the Malay tribes residing in Champa and the Phillippine islands later moved northward to settle China and later establishing the Chinese civilisation.

However, she said this did not make the Chinese people an offshoot of the Malay tribes.

“It takes tens and thousands of years for an ethinicity, for a civilisation or a race to evolve. The roots of the Greeks also came from the settlers in Champa but it does not make them Malays,” she explained.

Zaharah added that the original Malay script — the Rejang Script— is an offshoot of Sanskrit and that Sanskrit first came to Sundaland before it reached the Indian subcontinent.

She explained that Sanskrit was actually an Indo-Aryan script and language originating from Persia (modern day Iran) and the Arabian peninsula.

“Since the Indians had studied Sanskrit extensively, people thought the language originated from there and the Malays borrowed many words from Sanskrit. I believe it is the other way around. Sanskrit came to Sundaland first before it reached India.

“Look at Kemboja (modern day Cambodia), the word Kemboja is Persian because they settled from a land known as Kembojas in modern day Iran. They settled there and intermingled with the Malay tribes there first before heading to India,” said Zaharah.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/s/1658530/historian-malay-genes-second-oldest-in-the-world

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South Asia

 

Afghanistan: US airstrikes pound ISIS, Taliban positions, leaving seven militants dead

02 Aug 2018

Kabul, Aug 2 (IBNS): The US forces based in Afghanistan carried out a series of airstrikes on ISIS and Taliban positions in eastern Kunar and Nangarhar province of Afghanistan leaving at least seven militants dead.

Local Khaama Press quoted a military statement, saying that the US unmanned aerial vehicles pounded the ISIS hideouts in Milwa and Gorgori areas of Deh Bala in Nangarhar province.

The statement further added that the airstrikes left at least six ISIS militants and their hideouts were totally destroyed.

It said the US unmanned aerial vehicles also targeted the Taliban targets in Watapur district of Kunar and as a result, a Taliban group member identified as Masiullah was killed.

The airstrikes did not inflict casualties on the local residents of the two provinces, the statement said.

https://www.indiablooms.com/world-details/SA/16524/afghanistan-us-airstrikes-pound-isis-taliban-positions-leaving-seven-militants-dead.html

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Three foreign workers abducted and killed in Afghan capital

2 August 2018

Militants abducted and killed three foreign nationals working for international food company Sodexo in Kabul on Thursday, deepening concerns about security of expatriates in Afghanistan.

A senior diplomat and two Afghan security officials said the three worked as cooks at Sodexo, the world’s second-largest food and catering services company.

“An Indian, a Malaysian and a Macedonian citizen were abducted and killed. We have found their bodies,” Hashmat Stanekzai, spokesman for Kabul’s police chief, told Reuters.

Kidnapping has been a major problem in Afghanistan in recent years.

While it mainly affects Afghans abducted for ransom, foreigners have also been targeted, either by criminals looking for ransom or by militant groups.

The Malaysian national was 64, the Indian was 39 and the Macedonian was 37. They were all travelling for work with a local driver.

An Afghan security official said they found identity cards next to the bodies and officials at Sodexo in Afghanistan have confirmed their identities.

The company had no immediate comment.

Police said the three men were abducted near Pul-e-Charkhi on the eastern outskirts of Kabul but their bodies were found in a car parked in the Mussahi district in the southern part of Kabul province.

“They were shot dead and their bodies were found inside a car,” said Nusrat Rahimi, deputy spokesman for the interior ministry.

Sodexo manages canteens and facilities for offices, the military, schools, hospitals and prisons, and also supplies vouchers for meals and gifts.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2018/08/02/Three-foreign-workers-abducted-and-killed-in-Afghan-capital.html

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Rohingyas blamed for repatriation delay

August 3rd, 2018

Cox’s Bazar locals have accused the Rohingyas of intentionally stalling the repatriation process by raising multiple demands, one after another.

More than 700,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar, since late August last year, to escape a brutal military crackdown in Rakhine state. More than 400,000 Rohingyas already lived in Bangladeshi camps.

Myanmar denies allegations of: killing, rape, arson, looting, and torture used in its military campaign targeting the mainly-Muslim ethnic minority. Naypyidaw denies the Rohingyas citizenship and forces many of them to live in squalid camps in apartheid-like conditions.

Many global leaders have visited Bangladesh since the world’s largest refugee crisis unfolded. They promised support for the Rohingyas and their repatriation.

Dhaka has signed an agreement with Naypyidaw to return the refugees— but the repatriation process has stagnated.

“We will go back to our motherland only if we are guaranteed citizenship and equal rights,” Abdur Rahim, a Rohingya community leader at Kutupalong camp, told the Dhaka Tribune.

Another Rohingya leader at Palongkhali camp, seeking to remain anonymous, said they want repatriation to be supervised by global leaders, the UN, and international agencies.

“We want to go back peacefully. The situation in Rakhine state will have to be secure for us to live there,” he added.

Myanmar’s Social Welfare Minister Win Myat Aye met about 40 refugees at Kutupalong camp on April 11. The refugees gave him a list of their repatriation-related demands.

Some Cox’s Bazar locals claim some Rohingya leaders have secret agreements with Myanmar. They claimed the Rohingyas were making new demands to stall repatriation. The claim could not be verified independently.

“They are making demands one after another. This clearly shows that they are trying to delay repatriation,” Rohingya Prevention and Repatriation Committee chief Mahmudul Haque told the Dhaka Tribune.

Full report at:

https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2018/08/03/rohingyas-blamed-for-repatriation-delay

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Taliban militants suffer casualties in Ghazni artillery strikes

Aug 02 2018

The Taliban militants suffered casualties during the artillery strikes conducted in support of the armed forces operations in southeastern Ghazni province of Afghanistan.

The 203rd Thunder Corps of the Afghan Military in the Southeast said at least five militants were killed or wounded during the operations.

A statement by Thunder Corps stated that the Afghan armed forces conducted operations with the help of artillery support in Andar district, leaving at least four militants dead and another militant wounded.

The statement further added that the operations were conducted in Shash Khel area of the district.

In the meantime, the Afghan armed forces discovered and defused five different types of improvised explosive devices during the separate operations conducted in Moqor district of Ghazni, the Thunder Corps added.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/taliban-militants-suffer-casualties-in-ghazni-artillery-strikes-05696/

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Mideast

 

At Least 55 Yemenis Killed In Saudi Strikes on Hospital, Fishing Harbour in Hudaydah

Aug 2, 2018

At least 55 people have been killed after warplanes of the Saudi-led military coalition hit a hospital and a fishing harbor in Yemen’s western province of Hudaydah.

Yemen’s Health Ministry said the Thursday brutal strikes also left at least 130 wounded, some in critical condition.

Yemen’s Arabic-language al-Masirah television network, citing its correspondent, reported that Saudi-led jets struck al-Thorah Hospital in the provincial capital Hudaydah and a fishing port in the province almost simultaneously.

According to the correspondent, the death toll was expected to rise due to the magnitude of the airstrikes, particularly on the hospital.

The report also said that the attacked hospital had launched an urgent appeal for Yemeni citizens to donate blood.

On Wednesday, at least nine fishermen were killed after Saudi-led warplanes targeted their ship off the coast of Hudaydah.

Saudi Arabia and some 20 of its allies, including the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Sudan, launched a brutal war, code-named Operation Decisive Storm, against Yemen in March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall former Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh, and crush the popular Ansarullah movement.

The offensive initially consisted of a bombing campaign, but was later coupled with a naval blockade and the deployment of ground forces into Yemen.

The imposed war, however, has so far failed to achieve its goal, thanks to firm resistance mounted by Yemeni troops and Houthi fighters in defense of the city. The war was also launched despite warnings that it would compound the impoverished nation’s humanitarian crisis.

The Yemeni Ministry of Human Rights announced in a statement on March 25 that the war had left 600,000 civilians dead and injured until then. The war and the accompanying blockade have also caused famine across Yemen.

The Saudi-led aggression has also taken a heavy toll on the country's infrastructure, destroying many hospitals, schools, and factories. The United Nations has already said that a record 22.2 million Yemenis are in need of food aid, including 8.4 million threatened by severe hunger.

Several Western countries, the United States and Britain in particular, are also accused of being complicit in the ongoing aggression as they supply the Riyadh regime with advanced weapons and military equipment as well as logistical and intelligence assistance.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/08/02/570023/Yemen-Hudaydah-Hudaydah-hospital-Saudi-arabia

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Children main victims of Saudi war on Yemen: Activists

Aug 3, 2018

Saudi Arabia’s ongoing military aggression against the Yemeni city of Hudaydah has put thousands of children at risk of death, starvation and disease, says an activist group.

The charity Save the Children said Thursday that around 6,000 people – half of them children -- are leaving the war-ravaged city every day, bringing the total number of people forced out of the city since the start of the offensive in June to more than 330,000.

"With the economy in tatters and health and sanitation facilities throughout the country destroyed, conditions are now rampant for disease and starvation to spread," said Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children's Yemen Country Director.

"Aid agencies are doing what they can to keep people alive but ultimately, our efforts are just a sticking plaster on a gaping wound," he added.

Saudi Arabia and several of its allies, including the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Sudan, launched a brutal war, code-named Operation Decisive Storm, against Yemen in March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall former Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh, and crush the popular Ansarullah movement.

Hudaydah, the impoverished Arab country’s main port city, has been under aerial and maritime siege by the Saudi military forces. The blockade has prevented medicines and other critical commodities from reaching around 8.4 million people who are believed to be on the verge of starvation.

Launched in June by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the Hudaydah offensive is the largest battle in the Saudi-led war, which Yemeni officials say has killed and injured over 600,000 people.

A round of fresh airstrikes by Saudi warplanes left 26 people dead and 35 others injured, medical sources told Reuters.

Save the Children warned in its Thursday statement that Hudaydah’s neighboring areas did not have the means to accommodate the huge influx of people and many of the refugees were struggling to find food, water and medicine.

Meanwhile, Juliette Touma, a spokeswoman for the United Nations children's agency, warned that a series of Saudi attacks on the city last week had a "catastrophic" impact on organization’s ability to supply clean water and sanitation to the population, raising the specter of a new disease outbreak.

"These attacks may contribute to the increase of water-borne diseases - especially to children who are prone to diseases like cholera, and (getting) diarrhea," the Jordan-based official told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Thursday.

"There is a war on children in Yemen - very few places are safe for a Yemeni child," she added.

The UN has also warned of risks that the war has posed against pregnant women in Yemen, which already holds one of the world's highest rates of maternal mortality.

Some 90,000 women are reportedly due to give birth in the next nine months.

New UN initiative for peace

In another development, Martin Griffiths, Yemen’s envoy to the UN, said the world body was going to invite warring sides for talks on September 6 in Geneva.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/08/03/570027/Yemen-UN-Saudi-save-the-children-Hudaydah

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Yemen’s security forces confiscate drugs coming from Lebanon to Houthis

2 August 2018

Yemeni security forces in Marib governorate confiscated a shipment of drugs coming from Lebanon, on its way to the Houthi militias in the capital Sanaa, according to the Yemeni Information Ministry.

The Yemeni minister of Information Mouammar al-Aryani said on Thursday on his tweeter account that the seized drug shipment was hidden inside coffee packets.

Following investigation it was revealed that the shipment was on its way to the pro-Iranian militia in Sanaa.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2018/08/02/Yemen-s-security-forces-confiscate-drugs-coming-from-Lebanon-to-Houthis.html

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Yemen’s army seizes control of road from Saada to Saudi Arabia

2 August 2018

Military sources reported on Thursday that the Yemeni national army supported by the Arab coalition, seized control over the international road  between Saada and Saudi Arabia.

The sources confirmed that the army backed by the Arab coalition is battling, in the last few days, with the Houthi militias in the mountainous areas surrounding the district of Baqim near Saada and that the national army gained full control over a town at the entrance of the district after inflicting loses among the militias.

On the western coastal front of Yemen, many casualties were reported among the Houthis after the Arab coalition staged air strikes targeting a training camp in Abs district in Hajjah governorate.

The air strikes also destroyed a gathering for the militias as well as an ammunition depot at a military camp east of Hodeidah port city.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2018/08/02/Yemen-s-army-seizes-control-of-Saada-Saudi-road.html

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Turkey vows retaliation against US sanctions over jailed pastor

Aug 2, 2018

Turkey has vowed to take retaliatory measures against the United States after Washington slapped two Turkish ministers with sanctions over the trial of a jailed American pastor in the Anatolian country.

In a statement on Thursday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry warned the White House that the move “will greatly damage constructive efforts” to settle outstanding issues and that Ankara would surely retaliate.

“Without delay, there will be a response to this aggressive attitude that will not serve any purpose,” it further said.

Tensions between the two NATO allies have heightened over Turkey's detention on alleged terror charges of American pastor Andrew Brunson, who was in custody for 21 months in a Turkish prison until he was transferred to house arrest last week.

The American pastor, who has lived in Turkey for more than two decades, was ordered by a Turkish court to wear an electronic bracelet at all times. The court also prevented him from traveling outside of the country.

On Wednesday, the White House announced that it was imposing sanctions on Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu. The sanctions involve freezing any property or assets on the US soil held by the two ministers. The sanctions also prevent American citizens from doing any business with the two ministers.

It had been unprecedented for the US so far to slap a NATO ally with sanctions.

In a separate statement, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who is set to meet his American counterpart Mike Pompeo in the coming days, also warned that the provocative move “will not go without response.”

Brunson, 50, was indicted by a Turkish court on charges of having links with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group and the movement of the US-based opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of having masterminded the July 2016 coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Brunson has already denied the charges, calling them “shameful and disgusting.” If evangelical pastor is found guilty, he will face up to 35 years in jail.

US President Donald Trump has repeatedly demanded Brunson’s release and said on Twitter last month that the pastor’s detention over terrorism and espionage charges was “a total disgrace.” He also called the prisoner “a great Christian, family man and wonderful human being.”

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/08/02/570016/Turkey-US-pastor-Andrew-Brunson-sanctions-ministers-Gulen-PKK

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Arab World

 

Huge Blast Kills Tens of People at Tahrir Al-Sham Base in Idlib

Aug 02, 2018

Local sources in Idlib city reported on Thursday that a bomb-laden car was detonated at the former Central Bank building in the Eastern district of the city which is used by Tahrir al-Sham for military operations.

They added that at least 20 people, including 4 foreign members of Tahrir al-Sham and several civilians, were killed and a number of others were wounded, saying that the explosion also left heavy damage.

Meantime, reports also said that one of the Muftis (religious leaders) of terrorist groups in the town of Ma'arat al-No'eman in Southern Idlib, named Abu al-Bara al-Hamawi, was killed by unknown assailants in Kafr Nobl-Ma'arat No'eman road.

In a relevant development on Tuesday, three more senior commanders of Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at (were killed in attacks by unknown raiders in Idlib and Lattakia provinces.

Abu Homam al-Lazeqani, one of the commanders of Tahrir al-Sham, was gunned down by unidentified assailants in the village of Balyoun in Northern Lattakia.

In the meantime, Abu Bakr al-Mesri, another commander of Tahrir al-Sham, was killed along a road connecting Idlib to Saraqib.

Also, Abu Islam Uzbeki, a commander of military training in Tahrir al-Sham, was killed after unknown attackers opened fire at him along a road that connects Darkoush to al-Yaqoubiyeh in Western Idlib.  

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970511000634

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Terrorist Groups in Northern Syria Merge to Confront Army

Aug 02, 2018

News websites affiliated to the terrorists reported on Wednesday that the five groups of Syria's Tahrir Front, al-Wieh Saqour al-Sham, Jeish al-Ahrar and Tajamo Damascus have joined the 'National Liberation Front' which had been formed nearly two months ago by 11 other militant groups.

A new coalition of 75,000 terrorists had been formed in Idlib province in Northern Syria to fight against the Syrian army.

A militant-affiliated website reported on Monday that the terrorist groups in Idlib and Hama provinces started a new coalition, called Jeish al-Fatah, to counter the Syrian Army's imminent operation after they came under increasing pressure by Ankara.

Anab al-Baladi website quoted a well-informed source as disclosing that the terrorist groups' decision to form a new coalition in Idlib was made under Ankara's pressure, adding that Turkey had forced the entire terrorist groups, including Syria's Liberation Front, the National Liberation Front, Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at and Jeish al-Izzah, in Northern Hama to stand united against the Damascus government before they are annihilated in the upcoming operation of the Syrian army.

In the meantime, Commander of Syria's Liberation Front Abdul Salam Abdul Razaq claimed that the coalition members have an endorsed an agreement to specify their battlefield responsibilities across the region which stretches from the coastal areas to Northern Aleppo.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970511000303

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Turkey-Originated Trucks Carrying Chlorine Enter Terrorists' Bases in Idlib

Aug 02, 2018

The Arabic-language website of Sputnik news agency quoted local sources in Idlib province as saying that a Turkish military convoy, consisting of tens of trucks, and accompanied by Tahrir al-Sham terrorists, entered Syria through Kafr Lousin passageway in Northern Idlib and were transferred to the region under the supervision of Turkey in Jisr al-Shaqour in Western Idlib and Northwestern Hama.

They added that 8 trucks carrying plastic barrels containing fluid Chlorine were unloaded in one of the bases of Turkistani terrorist group in the village of Halouz in Western Jisr al-Shaqour.

Also, 18 other trucks, carrying prefabricated residential boxes, cement walls and other technical equipment, communication systems and electronic sniper guns, were transferred to Jabal Ishtabraq region.

The sources also said that 3 trucks moved towards Turkey at night under heavy security measures of Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board or the Al-Nusra Front), raising the speculations that they had transferred the foreign terrorist commanders of Tahrir al-Sham to Turkey.

Meantime, the Turkish forces stopped activities of al-Barqoum checkpoint which was the biggest Tahrir al-Sham checkpoint in Aleppo-Damascus highway.

Field sources reported on Wednesday that terrorists had been deeply affected by the possible consequences of the Syrian army's imminent operation in Idlib, trying to find safe ways to escape the province.

The sources said that the Turkish Army has deployed forces along the border with Syria as the Damascus forces are preparing for an imminent operation in the Northwestern part of the country.

The sources went on to say that the terrorists are deeply concerned about "the government forces' upcoming operation and Turkish forces' betrayal", and are paying a hefty amount of money to leave Idlib for Turkey and European states before the army starts the operation.

The sources said that the army has dispatched several convoys, including a large number of forces and equipment, to the contact lines with the Ankara-backed terrorists in Idlib, Hama, Lattakia and Aleppo provinces.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970511000436

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Syrian Army Pounds Terrorists' Positions, Moves in Hama, Idlib

Aug 02, 2018

The Syrian army troops launched heavy artillery and missile attacks against the positions and moves of the terrorist groups in the towns of al-Latamineh and Kafr Zita and the adjacent areas as well as the villages of Hasraya, al-Zakat, Ma'arkabeh, al-Sayad, Tal al-Sakhar and al-Janaberah in Northern and Northwestern Hama in response to Jeish al-Izzah terrorists' missile strikes against Zalin military base in Northwestern Hama.

During the operations, several positions of the terrorists were destroyed and a large number of militants were killed and wounded.

Meantime, the Syrian army forces intensified missile and artillery attacks against Tahrir al-Sham and other terrorist groups' positions in Tal Wasit, al-Qarqour, al-Zayareh, al-Mashik and al-Sarmaniyeh in Western Idlib as well as the triangle of Western Jisr al-Shaqour-Northeastern Lattakia-Sahl al-Iqab.

Field sources said that the terrorists have sustained heavy casualties, adding that the Syrian army attacks came in prepration for their massive military operations in Idlib province.

In a relevant development on Tuesday, three more senior commanders of Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at were killed in attacks by unknown raiders in Idlib and Lattakia provinces.

Abu Homam al-Lazeqani, one of the commanders of Tahrir al-Sham, was gunned down by unidentified assailants in the village of Balyoun in Northern Lattakia.

In the meantime, Abu Bakr al-Mesri, another commander of Tahrir al-Sham, was killed along a road connecting Idlib to Saraqib.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970511000493

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Israeli Drones Found at ISIL Bases in Southern Syria

Aug 02, 2018

The army units found a large cache of ISIL weapons and ammunition and several Israeli drones during the purging operations in the Abedin township in Hawz al-Yarmouk on Thursday.

They also discovered a large number of missiles, mortars, anti-tank missiles and a large amount of ammunition.

Meantime, the Syrian army troops seized a large number of US-made TOW missile-launchers and 3 warehouses containing foodstuff and medicine, some of them sent by Saudi Arabia, in another ISIL hideout in the village of Kouya.

The Syrian government troops liberated Hawz Yarmouk region in Southwestern Dara'a on Wednesday, and purged the Southern part of country of terrorists.

The army men stormed ISIL positions and captured the villages of Kouya and Beit Areh in Hawz Yarmouk.

The army soldiers further advanced towards al-Qusayr region, the last ISIL stronghold and captured it, imposing control over the entire Hawz Yarmouk.

ISIL suffered heavy casualties and over 100 terrorists surrendered to the Syrian military.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970511000143

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Military Sources: Israeli Plots Foiled by Army in Southern Syria

Aug 02, 2018

The Syrian military sources said on Thursday that Israel planned to link regions between Quneitra and Western Ghouta of Damascus followed by connecting al-Harmoun mountains to Qalamoun mountains.

They also underlined the strategic importance of Quneitra province that borders the Israeli-occupied territories, and said this region bridges Southern and Western Damascus in addition to connecting the country's Southern and Central parts from the borders with occupied Golan to the bordering areas with Lebanon.

The Syrian army has returned to the disengagement line which was used for field coordination between terrorist groups, including the al-Nusra Front (Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at or the Levant Liberation Board), and Israel that linked its borders with occupied Golan from Sha'aba region at the Lebanese borders to the village of Ma'ariyeh in the triangle which borders Syria, Jordan and Golan.

During the battles in Southern Syria, specially in the town of Jabata al-Khashab, which has been cleansed by the army, Israel trafficked a large number of militants through the occupied Golan borders to Syria to support the terrorist groups.

The Syrian government forces managed to capture four more regions in Quneitra on Wednesday after a sum of 300 terrorists retreated towards Northern Syrian, and is now only a few inches away from declaring Quneitra a free province.

A sum of 300 terrorists withdrew from the town of Jabata al-Khashab and the nearby villages along with their family members on 6 buses and moved towards Northern Syria via the Ofaniyeh passageway.

Later, the army entered the towns of Jabata al-Khashab, Toranja, al-Horiyeh and Ofaniyeh in Northern Quneitra to come in control of 99 percent of the province.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970511000198

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Notorious Military Commander of Terrorists Killed in Aleppo

Aug 02, 2018

The Syrian army's missile and artillery units heavily pounded the terrorists' positions and moves in Hawir al-Ais and al-Rashideen region in Western Aleppo in response to the terrorists' missile strikes against the safe regions in 1070 residential area in al-Hamdaniyeh region of Aleppo.

Missile and artillery attacks were also launched against the terrorists' positions in the towns of Zaitan and Khalseh in Southwestern Aleppo.

Field sources also reported that a number of terrorists, including one of their military commanders, namely Younes al-Shabli, was killed in al-Rashideen region during the Syrian army operations in Western Aleppo.

In a relevant development on Monday, the Syrian army's missile and artillery units opened heavy fire at terrorists' positions in three regions in Western Aleppo, inflicting major losses on them.

The terrorists, deployed in Western Aleppo, launched missile attacks on residential areas in al-Hamdanieh district and the 3,000-unit Housing Project near Aleppo city, killing and wounding eight civilians.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13970511000247

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Egypt Coptic Church halts entry of monks after mystery death

2 August 2018

Egypt’s Coptic Church said Thursday that it will stop accepting any new monks for a year after the mysterious death of a Bishop at a monastery northwest of Cairo.

The body of Bishop Epiphanius, the 68-year-old abbot of Saint Macarius monastery in Wadi el-Natrun, was found with head injuries on Sunday in what a security official said was being investigated as a possible murder.

The church announced a dozen measures on Thursday related to monks’ activities after a meeting called “to discuss monastic order in the light of the painful incident and martyrdom of Bishop Epiphanius”, a church statement said.

It said the number of monks at each monastery would be limited “to ensure monastic order” and they would be restricted from going outside without the abbot’s permission.

They are being warned against making media appearances “in any form” or involvement in unauthorized financial transactions.

Monks are also being given one month “to deactivate and close any social media pages or accounts and voluntarily renounce these behaviors that are not true to monastic life”.

It did not elaborate on why it decided the measures - which were ratified by Coptic Pope Tawadros II- were necessary in response to the Bbishop’s death.

Coptic Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s predominantly Sunni Muslim population of 100 million.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/08/03/Is-a-deal-between-Israel-and-Hamas-imminent-.html

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Syria air defences destroy ‘hostile target’ near Damascus

Aug 2, 2018

Syrian air defenses have destroyed a "hostile target" near the capital Damascus, state media say.

"Our air defenses confronted a hostile target and destroyed it west of Damascus," Syria's official news agency SANA reported late on Thursday, quoting a military source.

No further details about the incident were immediately available, but Israel has carried out similar attacks over the past months.

Last week, Israeli military forces targeted a Syrian Air Force fighter jet over the Golan Heights as it was flying in Syria’s airspace and conducting a series of airstrikes against the positions of foreign-sponsored Takfiri militants in the occupied territories.

In mid-July, Israel targeted a Syrian military site in the Aleppo countryside in a missile attack causing structural damage. Earlier that month, the Syrian military said it had repelled an Israeli attack on Syrian army positions in the country's Quneitra province near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Back on May 10, Israel conducted what it called its most intensive airstrikes on Syria in decades. According to Russia's Defense Ministry, Israel used 28 warplanes in its airstrikes and fired 70 missiles. Both Damascus and Moscow said the Syrian army managed to shoot down over half of the missiles.

The Tel Aviv regime, at the time, claimed that its assault was in response to a barrage of 20 rockets fired from Syria at Israeli military outposts in Golan.

Damascus has on multiple occasions denounced the Israeli regime’s aggression and warned about the “dangerous repercussions” of such assaults on its territory.

Tel Aviv is also widely believed to have been providing weapons to anti-Damascus militants as well as medical treatment to Takfiri elements wounded in Syria inside the occupied Golan Heights.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/08/02/570029/Syria-Damascus-air-defenses-attack-interception-

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Israel's Lieberman admits Assad back in charge in Syria

Aug 2, 2018

Israeli minister of military affairs has admitted that the government of President Bashar al-Assad is regaining control of the Syrian territory and that stability is returning to the occupied Golan Heights.

The situation in Syria is returning to how it was before the conflict began in 2011, Avigdor Lieberman told reporters on Thursday while visiting Israeli military positions near Tzefat.

"From our perspective, the situation is returning to how it was before the civil war, meaning there is a real address, someone responsible, and central rule," he said.

Backed by its allies, namely Iran and Russia, the Syrian government has stepped up its gains against foreign-backed Takfiri terrorist groups on several fronts.

Israel is especially concerned about Syria’s advances against militants in the south near the occupied territories in Golan.

Tel Aviv has recently beefed up its military presence on the occupied side of Syria’s Golan Heights, deploying more military equipment and forces to the region.

The regime has also increased its aerial assaults against the Syrian army in what is widely viewed as an attempt to prop up anti-Damascus terrorists.

Elsewhere in his remarks, the Israeli minister of military affairs stressed that the residents of the occupied Golan should be less wary of a potential flare-up in the region.

“It is also Assad's interest, because he understands what will happen if it does not return to the previous situation and I assume that he will make his own decisions," Lieberman added.

He also claimed that Israel does not "interfere or intervene in Syria's internal affairs," adding, however, "this is provided that all three points that are important to us are fulfilled."

The Israeli minister urged Damascus to observe the 1974 armistice, not allow Iran to use the Syrian territory as a front against Israel and not become a transit point for alleged arms deliveries to Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement.

"We are not looking for friction, but we will know how to respond to any provocation and any challenge," Lieberman said.

Israeli strike kills 7 in Golan

Shortly after the remarks, the Israeli military said it had carried out an airstrike on Syria's Golan Heights, killing seven people.

It further claimed that the victims were Daesh elements who sought to attack an Israeli target.

Israeli army spokesman, Ronen Manelis, said the victims had come as close to 200 meters to the border with the occupied lands.

Russia deploys military police to Golan

Additionally on Thursday, Russia said it had deployed its military police to the Golan Heights.

A senior Russian Defense Ministry official told a news briefing in Moscow that the military police had begun patrolling Golan and planned to set up eight observation posts in support of UN peacekeeping efforts.

"Today, UN peacekeepers accompanied by Russian military police conducted their first patrols in six years in the separation zone," Sergei Rudskoi said, adding, "With the aim of preventing possible provocations against UN posts along the 'Bravo' line, the deployment is planned of eight observation posts of Russia's armed forces' military police."

He, however, noted that the Russian presence in Golan was temporary and that the observation posts would be handed over to Syrian government forces once the situation stabilized.

Israeli PM cancels Colombia visit

In another development on Thursday, an Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had cancelled a planned trip to Colombia due to the situation around the Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu was due to travel to the Latin American country on August 6-9.

Tensions have been running high near the Gaza fence since March 30, which marked the start of a series of protests, dubbed “The Great March of Return,” demanding the right to return for those driven out of their homeland.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/08/02/569993/Israel-Syria-Golan-heights

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‘100 Daesh terrorists in Syria flee toward Jordan border’

Aug 2, 2018

At least 100 members of the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group have fled from Syria’s southwestern province of Dara’a toward Jordan’s border areas after losing ground to advancing Syrian army troops, a monitor says.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the development on Thursday, adding that the Daesh terrorists had escaped from the Yarmouk Base in in Dara’a toward the villages of Beit Ara and Koya, located in the vicinity of Jordan’s border.

The report added that the terrorists were using local inhabitants of the rural areas as human shields against alleged airstrikes by the Syrian military. It further said that dozens of Daesh terrorists had already surrendered to Syrian government troops, and some 30 others had been executed by the terror outfit itself.

The government has been making swift advances in the southern and southwestern regions of Syria.

President Bashar al-Assad said earlier in the week that final victory over terrorism was close thanks to the sacrifices of the Syrian Armed Forces.

In recent weeks, the Syrian army has been trying to wrest control of the southern provinces of Dara’a and Quneitra, which border the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Takfiri militants have been handing over their heavy weapons to Syrian government forces and leaving the region in negotiated surrender deals.

The full liberation of both Dara’a and Quneitra by Syrian government forces would cut the much-reported collaboration between Israel and the anti-Damascus militants operating in the two regions.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The Syrian government says the Israeli regime and its Western and regional allies are aiding Takfiri terrorist groups wreaking havoc in the country.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/08/02/569974/Syria-Daesh-flee-Jordan

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Iranian Hajj pilgrims praise Saudi Arabian welcome

August 02, 2018

JEDDAH: Iranian pilgrims in Madinah have praised the Saudi government’s efforts to serve Hajj pilgrims, saying services and facilities are being provided without discrimination.

Iranian pilgrim Hassan Turabi thanked the Kingdom for the warm reception he received upon his arrival, his speedy entry into the country and journey to his residence, and the distribution of water, flowers and gifts to all pilgrims.

Hajjat-Allah El-Haki, who is in charge of the pilgrims’ convoy from the Iranian city of Barzak, said he was welcomed in the Kingdom in the best possible way.

He praised the various services, easy procedures and good treatment at the airport in Madinah.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1350176/saudi-arabia

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292 irregular migrants rescued off Libya coast

01 August 2018

Libyan naval forces of the UN-backed unity government have rescued 292 irregular migrants in the country’s northwestern coast.

According to a Wednesday statement by the Navy, the migrants were aboard three rubber boats off Zawiya shores in northwestern Libya.

The migrants, including 42 women and 10 children, were mostly from African countries and Syria, the statement said.

Ever since the collapse of the central authority in Libya in 2011, the country’s northwestern coast has become a hub for illegal migration to Italy and other countries in Europe.

Full report at:

http://www.worldbulletin.net/news/204593/292-irregular-migrants-rescued-off-libya-coast

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Africa

 

High-Profile Terror Trial Speaks to an Emerging Threat in Senegal

1 AUGUST 2018

By Lucinda Rouse

Unlike other nearby West African countries like Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, and Mali, Senegal has so far been spared a major attack by Islamist extremists. But experts say an unprecedented trial of dozens of Senegalese terror suspects that concluded two weeks ago in Dakar is a timely wake-up call about a nascent and growing threat.

The verdicts and sentences delivered on 19 July in the cases of 29 Senegalese citizens accused of planning to establish a terrorist cell in Senegal's southern Casamance region were far from an unmitigated success for the prosecution.

A key defendant, Alioune Ndao, whom the state wanted to see jailed for 30 years, received only a one-month suspended sentence for the unlawful possession of firearms, while 15 of the accused were acquitted for lack of evidence, and sentences handed down to others were shorter than the prosecutors' recommended jail terms.

Thirteen of the accused were given prison sentences ranging from five to 20 years for crimes that included terrorism financing and criminal conspiracy. Lawyers for at least one of those convicted have said they will appeal.

"To think that Senegal is safe from this evil would be a dangerous illusion," prosecutor Aly Ciré Ndiaye said when the trial began in earnest in April (multiple adjournments followed the official start date in December 2017). "Dangerous because it would make us neglect the colossal efforts needed to dismantle the scaffolding on which terrorism finds strength."

Senegal makes for an attractive target for extremists because of its strong international connections, with military cooperation agreements in place with the United States and France, and its sizeable troop contribution to the UN's peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA, an intervention opposed by many Senegalese.

As the regional hub for numerous international institutions, Senegal is "a luxury target... like the jackpot for terrorist groups," said Bakary Sambe, director of the Dakar-based Timbuktu Institute, which tracks violent extremism.

Islam in Senegal, which is followed by some 94 percent of the population, is dominated by a moderate, tolerant form of Sufism headed by powerful brotherhoods that have long been considered the country's principal defence against extremism.

But change is also occurring. Money is increasingly being pumped in from foreign states to build mosques and open Koranic schools, or daaras, which teach alternative interpretations of religious texts - more conservative Salafi and Wahhabi influences are beginning to take hold.

Sambe believes Senegal's school system is its greatest vulnerability. "We are one of the few countries in the world that does not have a complete hold on our own educational system," he told IRIN. "There is a formal system controlled by the secular state and another in which foreign powers such as Saudi Arabia and Iran interfere."

According to the prosecution's case, the Casamance cell would have served as a base from which to carry out attacks against French targets and the Senegalese state. The court heard that the accused planned to extend the influence of this new so-called caliphate into neighbouring countries, including The Gambia, Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau.

Some of those in the dock were rounded up in 2015 during a large-scale police operation against what were perceived to be hate-filled sermons in mosques. Others were detained while travelling to, or returning from, Nigeria.

Ndao is a Salafist imam who until his arrest in 2015 preached at a mosque in the town of Kaolack, 200 kilometres southeast of Dakar. He was accused of being the spiritual guide and coordinator of the cell.

Supporters of some of the accused outside the Dakar courthouse after the verdicts were delivered.

Ndao appeared in court in the centre of the line of defendants, dressed in flowing white robes that matched his white beard. The trial was well attended by his supporters, and the courtroom erupted when the verdict was read out, with disciples of Ndao either rising to their feet or throwing themselves on the floor praising God.

One such supporter was Imam Diene, who had travelled 100 kilometres for the occasion. "He is not a terrorist," he asserted. "There are no terrorists here in Senegal - there's no proof! Only when you have proof can you say there are terrorists."

The jihadist threat in the region has strengthened following the merger in 2017 of a handful of groups operating mainly out of northern Mali, including Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), to form Jama'at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM).

The group's leader, Iyad Ag Ghali, confirmed in April 2017 that Senegal is on its list of target countries. JNIM has been behind numerous attacks in recent months, including a twin assault in March on the French embassy and the national army headquarters in Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou, that killed eight people and wounded 80.

Many of the defendants in the Dakar trial were accused of having links with Boko Haram, including the alleged ringleader, Makhtar Diokhané, who received a 20-year prison sentence for terrorist acts by criminal association. The court heard how Diokhané spent time with Boko Haram militants in northeastern Nigeria before being sent back to Senegal with six million naira (around $20,000) to launch an affiliated cell.

Most of those convicted last month had travelled abroad to receive training from extremist groups, including Boko Haram and AQIM, but experts like Sambe warn it would be a mistake to ignore the rising influence of more conservative strains of Islam within Senegal itself.

Senegal's northern town of Saint-Louis, once the colonial capital of French West Africa, is a prime destination for religious learning.

It hosts a large number of renowned Koranic teachers, or marabouts, running daaras that attract students known as talibés - from boys as young as five to young men in their twenties - from other parts of Senegal and the wider region.

The daaras are unregulated by the state in terms of both their curriculum and living standards. "Anyone can decide to set up a school and start teaching the Koran," said Baye Ndaraw Diop, a former director of a child protection service within Senegal's Ministry of Justice.

Evidence of Salafi influence is becoming apparent in some daaras in Saint-Louis, including one located near the northern tip of the historic island town that is attended by more than 1,000 talibés. Although not a Salafist himself, the presiding marabout is known for accepting students regardless of their religious leaning, so long as they wish to study the Koran.

"We've noticed a change in behaviour among some of the older talibés in this daara," said Issa Kouyaté, a campaigner working to improve the rights and living conditions for talibés. "They dress differently and refuse any kind of physical contact with women."

IRIN accompanied Kouyaté on a visit to the daara. Feet protruded from tarpaulin-roofed rooms set around an open space where clothes were haphazardly hung out to dry. In keeping with the living conditions in many of the country's Koranic schools, the students are housed in derelict buildings and bathe in the dirty river nearby; diseases such as scabies are commonplace.

A dozen young men were gathered under a large tree outside their makeshift lodging. The tinny sound of recorded Koranic verses played from a mobile phone as one young man made tea, while another shaved the head of a younger talibé. The majority wore skull caps and plain tunics with trousers cut shorter than those customarily worn in Senegal - a sartorial hallmark of the more conservative forms of Islam.

The young men originate mainly from The Gambia and Guinea-Bissau and stick together. Their common language, Mandingo, is not widely spoken in Saint-Louis. One stated that their sole motivation is to learn the Koran.

The Senegalese government has won praise for its efforts to combat extremism in an increasingly unstable region. February 2016 saw the launch of the Inter-Ministerial Counter-Terrorism Intervention and Coordination Framework, known as the CICO. Chaired by the interior minister, the CICO is defined by the government as a "coordination and strategic monitoring mechanism in the fight against terrorism".

"The CICO relies particularly on intelligence, and is focused on monitoring our borders," a source in the interior ministry, who requested anonymity, told IRIN. The ability of the state to effectively monitor jihadist activity using social media was demonstrated by the arrest of Momodou Ndiaye, an accomplice of Diokhané's, after the Department of Investigations tracked interactions via a Facebook group.

Some believe the state's efforts are superficial, others that they go too far. "Senegal wanted to show the world and its donors that it was committed to the fight against terrorism," said defence lawyer Assane Dioma Ndiaye on the conclusion of the trial. But, he continued, "there has been an exaggeration. It may be that some people in Senegal were tempted to respond to the call of terrorism. But the legal response was disproportionate."

For Sambe, however, the Senegalese government is falling short and needs to put forward some pre-emptive policies to tackle violent extremism.

"What we need now is an inclusive prevention strategy involving religious leaders, civil society, and the educational world," he said.

At the 2016 edition of the Dakar International Forum on Peace and Security in Africa, President Macky Sall appealed for a "doctrinal response" to jihadist propaganda, a vague-sounding call for a coordinated response that goes beyond simply military action.

But while Senegal is a secular state, politicians are heavily dependent on religious leaders at election time for securing votes.

This helps to explain why religious institutions and the extensive daara system are largely unregulated, and the growth of foreign ideologies - whether benign or otherwise - is left unchecked. "There is complicity between the religious power and the political power," said Diop, the former justice ministry official. Another shortcoming in Senegal's response may be a general unwillingness to acknowledge the problem. The jihadist threat is not a common topic of discussion, and few Senegalese journalists cover the issue.

Kouyaté, the campaigner, is frustrated by this national complacency. "We need to de-taboo what is taboo," he said. "It is obviously better to pre-empt than to heal, but here in Senegal the medicine only comes after death."

https://allafrica.com/stories/201808020687.html

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Jordan says not yet ready to open border crossing with Syria

3 August 2018

Jordan will reopen its border with Syria only when it is ready, Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said on Thursday, in a signal that Amman could delay a decision that would boost President Bashar al Assad.

Billions of dollars in annual trade with Europe and the Gulf moved through the Syrian-Jordanian Nassib crossing until fighting erupted in 2011. It was captured by rebels in 2015 and its closure hurt the economy of Syria and neighbouring states.

Damascus said this week the road was ready for use but Safadi said he had received no request to reopen it.

“We will deal with the request with all positiveness that serves our interests,” he told a news conference with visiting French Foreign Minster Jean-Yves Le Drian. “Matters have to stabilize,” he said.

Safadi said he discussed reopening the crossing with Moscow.

The crossing’s recapture by Syrian forces was a central goal of a campaign launched last June by the government and Russian forces to regain control of rebel-held parts of the southwest.

“Jordan in principle wants open borders with all its neighbors.. But when and how (Nassib opening) this will depend on when we ensure our interests and our security,” he added.

Diplomats say Amman now wants Russian guarantees to help restore stability in the sensitive southern border area where officials say a spillover of violence and radicalism poses a threat.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/08/03/Jordan-says-not-yet-ready-to-open-border-crossing-with-Syria.html

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Armed raid on Tunisian bank treated as terrorism-related — official

August 02, 2018

TUNIS: An armed group robbed a Tunisian bank in the town of Kasserine near the Algerian border on Wednesday in an attack with a “terrorist background,” a Tunisian security official said.

Eleven men, some armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles, had hijacked a car and four then stormed the bank and seized an unknown amount of cash, the official said. They later escaped. The security official had no further details.

Tunisia has been on high security alert since 2015 when Daesh gunmen killed dozens of tourists in a museum in the capital and on a beach in the resort city of Sousse.

Since then security has much improved with only sporadic smaller attacks, allowing the vital tourism industry to recover as foreigners have returned to Tunisia’s Mediterranean beaches. Authorities say more than 3,000 Tunisians have left to fight for extremist groups in Syria, Iraq and Libya.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1350266/middle-east

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Comoros: Yes Vote in Comoros Referendum Gives President More Power

1 AUGUST 2018

The president of the Comoro Islands, Azali Assoumani, has won a mandate to simplify the political system in the Indian Ocean archipelago -- and expand his own powers.

The yes vote in a referendum on changing the constitution was 92.74 percent, with a voter turnout of 63,9 percent, the head of the Election Commission said.

According to observers, however, many polling stations were empty on Monday.

The opposition had called on the inhabitants of the islands off East Africa to boycott the poll. It accused President Azali of wanting to cement his power. The current constitution makes provision for a rotation of the presidency every five years between inhabitants of the three main islands of Grand Comore, Anjouan and Moheli.

Azali, who is from Grand Comore, wants to change that: in future, the head of state - regardless of his origin - will have the right to two five-year terms. Instead of leaving office in 2021, Azali could now stay in office for 10 more years.

The president had convened a national conference which recommended the constitutional reform. The referendum would ensure better development in the Comoros, he said in his campaign.

Azali argued that the existing political system hinders long-term planning. The opposition, however, sees the plebiscite as a bid by the president to expand his powers since the amendment to the constitution would make it possible to scrap the posts of vice presidents and governors on the three main islands.

In the view of the opposition, the referendum was unlawful. But there was no resistance from the judiciary to be expected. In April, Azali suspended the constitutional court, saying it was incompetent. A month later, the president banned demonstrations, prompting critics to accuse him of an increasingly authoritarian leadership style.

Sunni Islam as official religion

The anthropologist and Comoros expert Iain Walker of the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg in Germany sees the referendum as ambivalent. The political system in the Comoros is certainly complicated, and considering the low population of some 800,000, bloated. Azali could perhaps indeed be seeking to combine sensible reform with measures to hold on to power.

However, the constitutional amendments will not only do away with federalism on the Comoros. The clause on the separation of religion and state would also disappear and be replaced with new wording: "Islam is the state religion" and "the state draws from this religion the principles and rules linked to adherence to to Sunniism."

99 percent of Comorians are Muslim and the government has been strongly Islamic since independence from colonial ruler France in 1975. The explicit reference to Sunni Islam is new though, according to Walker, who sees it as a possible attack on Azali's rival Ahmed Abdallah Sambi.

Sambi, a native of Anjouan, the second biggest island, was Comoros president from 2006 to 2011. On the basis of the rotational presidency, he would have had the best prospects to succeed Azali. Even though Sambi is Sunni, he is believed to have close ties to Shiite-majority Iran. By contrast, Azali is seeking closer political ties to Sunni Saudi Arabia, an enemy of Iran but a financial backer of the Comoros. Expert Walker said it was due to Saudi pressure that Iran's embassy on the Comoros was closed several years ago. In May, Sambi was placed under house arrest.

Crucial test of island unity

It is not only the outcome of the referendum, but also voter turnout that plays a role, said Walker. If the president were to go ahead with the constitutional amendments despite strong resistance, the stability of the government would be in danger, he told DW.

The Comoros has been the scene of 20 coups, four or them successful, since independence. Azali himself came to power for the first time in a military coup in 1999. His leadership was endorsed in elections three years later and in 2006 he handed power to Sambi, in keeping with the constitution. Two years later, Azali returned to power following a disputed election.

Full report at:

https://allafrica.com/stories/201808020688.html

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North America

 

Muslim Group Slams Mailer Attacking Congressional Candidate

Aug. 2, 2018

WESTFIELD, Mass. (AP) — Muslim activists are condemning anonymous mailers targeting a Muslim-American congressional candidate in Massachusetts.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations' Massachusetts chapter says the illustrated mailers attempt to "stoke fears" of Muslims.

They criticize attorney Tahirah Amatul-Wadud for serving on CAIR-Massachusetts' board of directors and as general counsel for The Muslims of America.

The two organizations are frequent targets for right-wing groups.

The Muslims of America operates Muslim enclaves like Islamberg in New York. CAIR is often tied to fundamentalist groups like Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, which it denies.

Amatul-Wadud is challenging U.S. Rep. Richard Neal in the Sept. 4 Democratic primary.

CAIR says the mailers were sent to homes around Westfield following one of Amatul-Wadud's campaign events.

The organization says anyone with information should contact police or the local postmaster.

https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/massachusetts/articles/2018-08-02/muslim-group-slams-mailer-attacking-congressional-candidate

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Turkey vows retaliation in crisis with US over pastor

August 03, 2018

ISTANBUL  -  Turkey was on Thursday drawing up retaliatory measures after Washington slapped sanctions on two Turkish ministers in the one of the biggest crises between the two NATO allies in recent years.

Tensions have soared over Turkey's detention on terror charges of American pastor Andrew Brunson, who was first held in October 2016 and was moved to house arrest last week.

The sanctions targeting Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu freeze any property or assets on US soil held by the two ministers, and bar US citizens from doing business with them.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told journalists both ministers had "played leading roles in the arrest and detention of Pastor Brunson", who led a Protestant church in the Aegean city of Izmir.

The US Treasury implemented the sanctions under the 2016 Global Magnitsky Act named after Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Moscow jail, and which allows the US to sanction foreign officials implicated in rights abuses.

The Turkish foreign ministry warned that the move "will greatly damage constructive efforts" to solve outstanding issues and told Washington it would retaliate. "Without delay, there will be a response to this aggressive attitude that will not serve any purpose," it said.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who is set to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the next few days, also warned that the move "will not go without response".

Hours before the sanctions were announced, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Washington of showing an "evangelist, Zionist mentality".

The standoff appears to be one of the most serious crises between Turkey and the United States in modern history, along with the rows over the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus and the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.

"A scandalous decision from Washington," said the headline in the pro-government Hurriyet daily. "A historic rupture," added the opposition Cumhuriyet.

In a rare show of unity by Turkey's parliament, two opposition parties joined Erdogan's ruling party and its main ally by agreeing a joint statement opposing the sanctions.

The row over Brunson escalated last week when US Vice President Mike Pence, like the pastor an evangelical Christian, said Turkey would face "significant sanctions" if this "innocent man of faith" was not freed.

His language was immediately echoed by President Donald Trump, who had enjoyed a relatively warm relationship with Erdogan and was even reported to have "fist-bumped" the Turkish president at a NATO summit last month.

US media reported there had been a deal with Turkey to free Brunson after Washington's ally Israel released a Turkish woman held on terror charges. But Turkish officials have rubbished the claims.

The senior US general in Europe, Curtis Scaparrotti, was on Thursday holding talks with Turkish military officials in Ankara but there was no indication the Brunson case would be raised.

The court trying Brunson has repeatedly refused to allow him to go free. The next hearing is October 12 with the pastor facing 35 years in jail if convicted.

He is accused of acting on behalf of two groups deemed by Turkey to be terrorist organisations - the movement led by US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen who Ankara says was behind the 2016 coup bid and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). The row over Brunson is just one of a number of disputes which have buried any hope of a warming of ties under the Trump presidency.

Ankara and Washington are at odds over American support for a Kurdish militia in Syria and the United States is extremely wary over Turkey's growing cooperation with Russia and its deal to buy Russian air defence systems. Two Turkish employees of US consulates in Turkey are also currently in jail on terror charges and another is under house arrest, while several Americans have been caught up in the crackdown that followed the failed coup.

Turkey is meanwhile furious the United States has failed to extradite Gulen, who lives in rural Pennsylvania, to face trial over the coup bid.

Soylu tweeted that the only thing Turkey wanted in the United States was Gulen's group, vowing "we won't leave that there, we will get it!"

Gul dismissed the sanctions, saying: "I have neither a tree planted nor one penny in the US or any other country outside of Turkey."

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/03-Aug-2018/turkey-vows-retaliation-in-crisis-with-us-over-pastor

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