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Islamic World News (18 Apr 2019 NewAgeIslam.Com)



In Pakistan, Makkah Grand Mosque Imam Stresses Media’s Importance in Spreading ‘Moderate Islam’








In Pakistan, Makkah Grand Mosque Imam Stresses Media’s Importance in Spreading ‘Moderate Islam’

A Magical First Year at the Movies as Saudi Cinemas Herald Big Screen Revival

Masood Azhar Issue at UNSC Headed For Settlement, But No Apr 23 Deadlines: China

Qatar Conference Not A Wedding Party, Taliban Tell Afghan Govt

Trump's So-Called ‘Peace’ Plan for Palestine Dead On Arrival

'Trump Acting as Al-Qaeda’s Big Brother, Fomenting Bigotry against Muslims'

Sabah Amending Native Laws to Set Marriage Age At 18

Voters Protests Presence of Islamic Flag at Jakarta Polling Station

Germany Confirms Islamic Relief Ties To Muslim Brotherhood

Sudan’s Al-Bashir Transferred to Prison in Khartoum: Sources

 

Pakistan

In Pakistan, Makkah Grand Mosque Imam Stresses Media’s Importance in Spreading ‘Moderate Islam’

Gunmen Kill 14 Passengers On Bus In South-western Pakistan

Suspects in Canadian expat's harassment case arrested in Islamabad

PM Imran Khan, Jacinda Ardern Named Among Time's 100 Most Influential People Of 2019

Four terrorists involved in Peshawar gun battle identified

CII chief lauds NAB chief’s decision of not handcuffing suspects

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Arab World

A Magical First Year at the Movies as Saudi Cinemas Herald Big Screen Revival

Iraq and Saudi Arabia Sign Agreements As King Salman Meets PM Abdul-Mahdi

Syrian Army Launches Military Operation to Purge Terrorists from Eastern Deir Ezzur Province

Sudan authorities refuse to receive Qatari delegation headed by foreign minister

It’s austerity or catastrophe, Saad Hariri tells Lebanon

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India

Masood Azhar Issue at UNSC Headed For Settlement, But No Apr 23 Deadlines: China

Terrorists Using Chinese Grenades Sent By Pak: Intel

Terrorists fire grenade at CRPF camp in Pulwama; jawan injured

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South Asia

Qatar Conference Not A Wedding Party, Taliban Tell Afghan Govt

'We're Broken': Rohingya on Hunger Strike in Saudi Detention

ISIS-K militants killed after attacking security posts of public uprising forces in Achin

Ex-Afghan intelligence chief Saleh not participating in intra-Afghan talks in Qatar

Taliban suffer heavy casualties after attacking Dawlatabad district for the third time

China to oppose new resolution on Masood Azhar

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North America

Trump's So-Called ‘Peace’ Plan for Palestine Dead On Arrival

'Trump Acting as Al-Qaeda’s Big Brother, Fomenting Bigotry against Muslims'

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Hammers Trump For Turning U.S. Into 'Prostitute Of Saudi Arabia'

Democratic small donors back Muslim lawmaker amid 9/11 fight with Trump

Americans say Muslims face most intolerance in US

Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan will not be released until after Ramadan

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Southeast Asia

Sabah Amending Native Laws to Set Marriage Age At 18

Voters Protests Presence of Islamic Flag at Jakarta Polling Station

Peaceful Election Suggests Exaggerated Fears of a Country Split in Two

Delay in appointing Malaysia's Chief Justice may be next spat between govt and royals

Sabah Opposition still torn over unified front for Sandakan race

Malaysia's judges leaderless amid tense govt-royals ties

Indonesia polls close as voters decide between moderate and ex-general

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Europe

Germany Confirms Islamic Relief Ties To Muslim Brotherhood

New Zealand disarms police as terror threat level lowered

Jordan to recall envoy to Romania over embassy move to al-Quds: Reports

France to try Syrian President Assad’s uncle on graft charges

Germany concerned over constitutional changes in Egypt

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Africa

Sudan’s Al-Bashir Transferred to Prison in Khartoum: Sources

Over 50 Boko Haram Fighters Killed In Nigeria Attack

Four killed in Mogadishu car bomb

Sudan’s military rulers say two of Bashir’s brothers arrested

Germany calls for UN Security Council meeting on Libya

Uganda says it is willing to consider asylum for Sudan’s ousted leader Bashir

Death toll exceeds 200 in Tripoli fighting: WHO

Sudan ruling council hails ties with Riyadh, Abu Dhabi

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Mideast

Erdogan’s Party Loses Istanbul after 25 Years

Security Forces Dismantle 20 ISIL-Affiliated Terror Cells in Western Iran

Leader: Region would face unclear fate ‎if Iran armed forces did not counter Daesh

Iran’s Zarif, Turkey’s Erdogan slam US sanctions, IRGC blacklisting as they urge enhanced ties

Yemen Agreement Should Be Implemented Without Delay: UNSC

Ansarullah condemns Trump’s veto to end US involvement in Yemen war

Dozens of Houthi militants killed in clashes

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/in-pakistan,-makkah-grand-mosque-imam-stresses-media’s-importance-in-spreading-‘moderate-islam’/d/118359

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In Pakistan, Makkah Grand Mosque imam stresses media’s importance in spreading ‘moderate Islam’

April 18, 2019

LAHORE, PAKISTAN: Saudi Arabia’s mission is “the message of peace, security and stability to all the peoples of the world,” Sheikh Abdullah bin Awad Al-Juhani, the imam of the Grand Mosque, said.

Al-Juhani’s comments came as he inaugurated the Holy Qur’an channel in the Paigham network, an Islamic educational media group supervised by the Ahl Al-Hadeeth Central Association in Pakistan.

Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki, Saudi ambassador to Pakistan, and Sajid Mir, chairman of the Ahl Al-Hadeeth Association and member of the Pakistan Senate, attended the inauguration along with officials and heads of Islamic associations.

The ceremony took place at the General Assembly of the Ahl Al-Hadeeth Association in Lahore.

Al-Juhani stressed on the importance of the media in spreading the Islamic call, and highlighting the true image of moderate Islam, which fights extremism and terrorism.

The Kingdom under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “seeks to promote good deeds to the whole world,” he said.

“The Kingdom’s mission is the message of peace, security and stability to all the peoples of the world,” he added.

Al-Juhani said that the Kingdom has always stood by Pakistan and its people in all matters, including cooperation in the service of Islam and Muslims.

Mir said: “The Holy Qur’an channel ... will be a permanent link between the viewer and the book of God, to read the wise verses to everyone’s ears.”

He praised the efforts of the Kingdom and its leadership to distribute and spread the Qur’an, and support those who work in this field.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1484136/saudi-arabia

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A magical first year at the movies as Saudi cinemas herald big screen revival

April 18, 2019

The seats have been filled, the popcorn bought and, for the past 12 months, the magic of the movies has been casting a spell over the Kingdom, where the buzz of the big screen had been a dim and distant memory. It has been a year since, as part of the country’s Vision 2030 program of reforms, Saudi Arabia lifted a 35-year ban on cinemas, paving the way for theater chains to unveil ambitious plans to open hundreds of cinemas, with thousands of screens, across the nation in the next decade. And moviegoers just cannot get enough of it, regularly packing out screenings at the first venues to open in Riyadh and Jeddah.

To mark the first anniversary, Arab News asked entertainment chiefs what they have learned from Saudi audiences since that historic first screening of Marvel’s “Black Panther” on April 18, 2018 at the AMC cinema in Riyadh’s King Abdullah Financial District.

Superhero fantasies, comedies and action dramas have proved most popular with audiences, who have flocked to a mix of global box-office hits and regional films.

VOX Cinemas — Saudi Arabia’s biggest movie operator, with plans to invest SR2billion ($533 million) to open 600 screens by 2023 — said it released 114 films across the Kingdom in the past year. The biggest money spinner was Marvel superhero movie “Captain Marvel,” which broke through the billion-dollar global box-office barrier this month — followed by “Cold Pursuit,” an American black-comedy action film starring Liam Neeson, and “Aquaman,” another superhero movie, this time based on a DC Comics character

Rounding out the top 10 list was M. Night Shyamalan’s fantasy-drama sequel “Glass,” Egyptian comedy “Nadi Elregal Elsary,” horror thriller “Us,” science fiction thriller “Alita: Battle Angel,” US superhero film “Shazam!”, Egyptian comedy “El Badla” and Hollywood comedy-drama “The Upside,” according to Cameron Mitchell, CEO of Majid Al-Futtaim Cinemas, of which VOX Cinemas is a subsidiary. “El Badla” had the distinction of being the longest-running film in the country over the past 12 months.

VOX Cinemas was granted its license to operate in the Kingdom in April last year and opened its first multiplex in Riyadh Park in the same month. It has four screens, including an IMAX screen and VOX Kids, the first dedicated children’s theater in the Middle East.

“Since launching Saudi Arabia’s first multiplex in April 2018, the Majid Al-Futtaim group has been delighted by the response from our guests in the Kingdom,” said Mitchell. “In the 12 months since obtaining our license, Majid Al-Futtaim has built five locations with a total of 47 screens, and is planning to open at least another 70 screens this year, on track to reaching our goal of 600 screens in Saudi Arabia by 2023.”

VOX now has three additional locations in Riyadh: a luxury cinema in Kingdom Tower, which opened this week; Al-Qasr Mall; and The Roof in Alyasmin District. This year the chain also opened the first multiplex in Jeddah, at Red Sea Mall.

“Our Saudi Arabian team is proving to be talented and passionate, and is offering a service level and entertainment experience comparable with the highest international standards, with particularly our VOX Kids and IMAX experiences delighting guests in Riyadh and Jeddah,” said Mitchell.

“We are honored to be supporting the 2030 Vision of Saudi Arabia, which noted that ‘culture and entertainment are indispensable to our quality of life,’ and our teams will continue to work tirelessly to meet our vision of creating great moments for everyone every day.”

Films are proving so popular that cinemagoers are having to book well in advance, and Mitchell said 95 percent of the tickets so far sold for Riyadh Park — which screened 82 films in 2018 — were booked online.

“We see this trend continuing with all new openings, as guests want to ensure they are securing seats,” he added.

VOX now has 39 screens and plans to open a further 110 by the end of the year. These will include the first multiplexes in the Eastern Region and Tabuk.

Collectively, VOX and another leading operator in the region, Carnival Cinemas, plan to open nearly 1,000 screens across the Kingdom, according to experts at the Cinema Build KSA Forum in Riyadh this month, which was organized to explore opportunities in the emerging sector.

“Carnival envisions operating about 300-plus screens over the next five years in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” said Sunil Puthan Veettil, the company’s managing director. “Our mission is to take a good-quality movie-watching experience close to the people in the country. For this, we have made a study of all the provinces and identified several locations, subject to approval. Our idea is to move to all these provinces to set up entertainment centers and to make Carnival synonymous with cinema across the country.”

During the forum, Saudi officials estimated that by 2030, the number of cinemas in operation could be as high as 350, with as many as 2,500 screens.

Cinema operating licenses have also been awarded to: AMC Theaters, an American chain owned and operated by Wanda Group; the Al-Rashed Empire Cinema Consortium, which plans to build 30 theaters in the country over the next three years; and Lux Entertainment, in partnership with Cinepolis, the biggest cineplex chain in Mexico, Al-Hokair Group for Tourism and Development, a Saudi-based hospitality and entertainment group, and Al Tayer Group, one of the leading companies in the field of retail operation in the UAE and the wider GCC.

Lux announced in October plans for 300 screens in 15 cities across Saudi Arabia by 2030.

Other operators, including Gulf-based Novo Cinemas, which has announced it is in talks to roll out in Saudi Arabia, have also registered an interest.

John Sullivan, director of The Light Cinemas, a British independent chain, said it recently joined forces with new cinema brand Muvi to launch the Kingdom’s “very first all-Saudi Arabian cinema group,” which plans to open 15 locations across the country, including in Riyadh and Dammam.

“I think it is crucial for property owners in particular to understand their responsibility for figuring out what the cinema will deliver to their assets, and how to deliver that, rather than abdicate their responsibilities to others,” he said.

Regarding the investment opportunities that have opened up in the Kingdom, Sullivan added: “The market at the moment is emerging; we don’t know where it will go. I’ve opened cinemas now in 30 countries around the world and every single one of them is entirely different, so you will not know what’s happening in cinemas here for probably one to two years; then we will have a better understanding of the market.”

Gino Haddad, the managing director of Empire Cinemas, said that the potential Saudi market “is estimated to be almost as big as the whole (of the rest of the) Middle East.”

“So when the market opened up for cinemas, all the operators had full eyes on the Saudi market because it means big numbers,” he added. “We are estimating the market at least to be up to 2,000 screens, and we are very much interested in developing this market.

“We also want to focus on the educational side of cinema; we want to help bring up the new generation to understand and to live with cinema and perceive it not only as entertainment, but also as their future careers.”

The General Authority for Entertainment has indicated that SR267 billion is needed to build suitable infrastructure to serve the entertainment sector across the Kingdom, with expected investments in the sector expected to reach SR18 billion annually, according to a 2018 report from Flanders Investment and Trade.

This month, the Saudi government announced that SR131 billion will be invested in building cinemas and theaters, mainly in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam.

According to a study by PwC Middle East, a global advisory firm, the Kingdom’s cinema industry — which will serve a population of more than 32 million, the majority of whom are under the age of 30 — is expected to generate $1.5 billion in annual revenue by 2030.

“The world is witnessing Saudi Arabia’s confident steps toward an unprecedented era of social and economic reforms,” said Leila Masinaei, a managing partner at Great Minds Event Management, which staged the Cinema Build KSA Forum.

“The lifting of the cinema ban opens doors to untrodden ground for investments and lucrative revenue streams for the Kingdom.”

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1484156/saudi-arabia

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Masood Azhar Issue at UNSC Headed For Settlement, But No Apr 23 Deadlines: China

April 17, 2019

Dismissing reports that it had been given a deadline of April 23 by the US, UK and France to lift its “technical hold” on the proposal to list Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist at the United Nations, China on Wednesday said the issue was moving towards a settlement.

The development comes after reports said P-3 countries — US, UK and France — had fixed April 23 as the deadline for China to lift its technical hold in the 1267 Committee or else they would press for a discussion on the issue at the UNSC.

“You need to get clarification from the sources about where you get such information. China’s position is very clear. This issue should be resolved through cooperation. We don’t believe that any efforts without the consensus of members will achieve satisfying results,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said.

After the Pulwama attack in February, where a Jaish suicide bomber killed 40 CRPF personnel, a fresh proposal to designate Azhar under the 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council was moved by France, the UK and the US.

However, China, a veto-wielding member of the UNSC, blocked the bid by putting a technical hold on the proposal — its fourth overall. However, the key takeaway for India was that for the first time since 2009, it got 13 co-sponsors for the proposal.

“On the issue of listing Azhar, China’s position remains unchanged. We also stay in communication with relevant parties. The matter is moving towards the direction of the settlement,” Kang further said.

Earlier this month, after the US threatened to use ‘all available resources’ to get Azhar designated as a global threat, China said it would further complicate peace and stability in South Asia.

“The relevant parties are forcing new resolution through the UN Security Council. We firmly oppose that. In fact, the relevant discussion in UNSC, most members expressed wish that this issue should be discussed within the 1267 committee and they don’t hope to bypass it to handle the issue,” Kang said.

Without directly referring to the US, Lu said, “We hope the relevant country can respect the opinion of most members of the UNSC to act in a cooperative manner and help this issue be properly resolved within the framework of the 1267 Committee.”

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/china-united-nations-masood-azhar-global-terrorist-5680457/

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Qatar conference not a wedding party, Taliban tell Afghan govt

Tahir Khan

APRIL 18, 2019

The Taliban on Wednesday mocked the Afghan government over the list of 250 delegates for the anxiously awaited intra-Afghan conference in Qatar, saying that it was not a “wedding party” for which 250 delegates had been nominated, and added that only a “limited number” of politicians from the list would be selected.

The Presidential Palace in Kabul on Tuesday issued a 250-member list for the meeting with the Taliban in Qatar on April 20-21. Former president Hamid Karzai, who is one of the main characters behind the intra-Afghan talks, is out of the long list of participants. However, sources close to the former president said he was “most likely” to attend the talks. “The creators of Kabul list must realise that this is an orderly and prearranged conference in a far-away Gulf country and not an invitation to some wedding or other party at a hotel in Kabul,” the Taliban said in reaction to the Kabul list.

“Only a limited number of political and national figures from this list are selected for the finalised list, and only they shall be participating,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement.

The spokesman accused the Afghan government of “trying to be a spoiler with such actions”, adding that arranging and publishing such lists signified that the Kabul administration feared these conferences and progress towards peace.

The Taliban also reminded the Afghan government that the hosts of the conference had explained in both written and verbal forms that no “one will be representing the Kabul administration in the conference”. “If any participant is affiliated with the Kabul administration, as was the case in the Moscow conference, they shall partake in personal capacity and express their own personal views, as no one is allowed to represent the Kabul administration,” the Taliban spokesman said.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, however, defended the list and told several members in the list that they would represent the Afghan government and the nation in talks with the Taliban.

Ghani described the intra-Afghan talks as a chance for peace and urged the participants to convey to the Taliban that there was no other option but to hold talks with the government to end the war, according to the Presidential Palace.

“We have a historic opportunity to resolve our issues through debate and with deep thinking. National, Islamic, regional and international conditions are set for peace, and peace is the symbol of courage and power,” the president said.

Chief Executive Dr Abdullah Abdullah, speaking on the occasion, hoped that efforts by the delegates would pave the way for direct talks between the Taliban and the government.

Importance:

The Qatar conference is significant as government representatives will for the first time sit face-to-face with the Taliban even if they do not represent the government, but no one can deny official status of many in the list of 250 people.

The Taliban had a tough longstanding stance of not talking to the Afghan government, and first wanted to solve issues with the Americans. But now they will directly speak to the government nominees.

The Taliban have been criticised for not talking to the Afghans when they started a dialogue with US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad in October.

Now, the Taliban say they are talking to Afghans to create an understanding and remove their (people’s) concerns.

The Afghan government was unhappy at the intra-Afghan dialogue since it was started in Moscow in February. So this moot is an opportunity for the officials to meet the Taliban political envoys.

Kabul was in a fix over attending the conference when a senior Qatari official informed President Ghani of the Taliban’s willingness to accept a Qatari request to sit with Afghan government delegates. If Ghani’s administration refused to attend, it would be isolated further. Ghani was critical of the Moscow round, as it benefited Ghani’s political opponents. Important personalities like Karzai, Yunus Qanuni, Mohammad Hanif Atmar, Muhammad Mohaqiq and Omar Zakhilwal – who were among the participants of the Moscow talks – are making an anti-Ghani’s alliance in the elections. The US policy about these meetings is also not very clear. It does not publicly opposes the process, but its support is also vague.

War-weary Afghans are happy at the process and have pinned high hopes to it, as the Taliban and their former foes are meeting and creating an understanding. The Taliban and their opponents had fought in the past, but are now involved in negotiations that would remove concerns about the future after the Taliban and the US reached a peace deal.

https://dailytimes.com.pk/377961/qatar-conference-not-a-wedding-party-taliban-tell-afghan-govt/

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Trump's so-called ‘peace’ plan for Palestine dead on arrival

Apr 17, 2019

US President Donald Trump’s so-called “peace plan” has been dismissed by Palestinian authorities before its unveiling at the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner said Wednesday that the plan would be unveiled until June.

“We will all have to look for reasonable compromises that will make peace achievable,” Kushner said.

Speaking in the Israeli-occupied West Bank city of Ramallah Tuesday, Palestinian Authority Prime Minster Mohammad Shtayyeh lashed out at Trump’s initiative allegedly to bring about peace between Israelis and Palestinians, asserting that it is “born dead.” Trump’s “deal of the century” comes in the backdrop of his recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as the capital of the Israeli regime.

Shtayyeh noted that negotiations with the US are useless in the wake f the country’s relocation of its embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city, which Palestinians consider the capital city of their future state.

"Deal of the century which was presented to us, which we do not think that there is anything left of it that was not publicized yet, and if there is anything left that has not been publicized yet, then it must be worse than what was made public, and therefore, from the beginning we came to understand that such a plan will not be accepted by us,” he said. “It's enough that it excluded Jerusalem from Palestine, we do not want to hear the rest. What kind of solution and cause does President Trump plan to discuss? I doubt that there is a point to having discussions with him after he moved the embassy to Jerusalem, and announced that Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel."

The Palestinian premier further suggested that Trump’s pro-Israel policies has left him with no allies among Palestinians or even Europeans.

“There are no partners in Palestine for Trump. There are no Arab partners for Trump and there are no European partners for Trump,” Shtayyeh said.

He further censured Trump over declaring a “financial war” on the Palestinian population.

Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.

The last round of Israeli-Palestinian talks collapsed in 2014. Among the major sticking points in those negotiations was Israel’s continued settlement expansion on Palestinian territories.

Trump backtracked on Washington’s support for a “two-state solution” in 2017, saying he would support any solution favored by both sides.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/04/17/593686/Trump-ME-peace-plan-dead-on-arrival

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'Trump acting as al-Qaeda’s big brother, fomenting bigotry against Muslims'

Apr 17, 2019

Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard has launched a Twitter attack against US President Donald Trump, describing him as the “big brother and protector” of the Saudi-sponsored al-Qaeda terror group, while "fomenting bigotry against Muslims for political gain."

She made the comments in defense of fellow Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who has been targeted by President Trump because of her recent remarks about the 9/11 terror attacks.

In a video posted on her Twitter account on Sunday, Gabbard, also a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, said Trump’s criticism of Minnesota Representative Omar was “complete hypocrisy.”

The Saudi kingdom is reported to have helped plan the 9/11 terror attacks in New York. Riyadh is also widely believed to be a key sponsor of Takfiri terrorist outfits operating in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Gabbard further blasted the Saudis for “spending billions of dollars spreading their exclusivist, radical” ideology around the world, “the very same ideology that has been inspiring al-Qaeda and ISIS (Daesh) and other terrorists to carry out their barbaric acts.”

Speaking at the Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR) on Sunday, Omar said the body had been “founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.”

Following the remarks, Trump launched a Twitter attack against Omar, saying “WE WILL NEVER FORGET” and accusing her of diminishing 9/11.

Gabbard noted, “Trump says ‘WE WILL NEVER FORGET (9/11)!’ Yet it is Trump who’s been acting as al-Qaeda’s big brother and protector in Syria.”

She also slammed the US president for having turned “America into the prostitute of al-Qaeda's biggest supporter: the Saudis.”

In yet another damning tweet, Gabbard accused President Trump of "shamelessly" fomenting fear of all Muslims for selfish and political gains.

Other Democrats have also condemned the US president for “inciting violence” against Omar.

CAIR said that Omar’s words about the 9/11 attacks had been taken out of context. It also condemned Trump’s “life-endangering” tweet, saying he uses “shocking imagery” to potentially incite violence against a Congresswoman while “exploiting a national tragedy” at the same time.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/04/17/593633/Tulsi-Gabbard-Donald-Trump-alQaeda

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Sabah amending native laws to set marriage age at 18

18 April 2019

By JULIA CHAN

KOTA KINABALU, April 18 — The Sabah state government said today it will amend legislation by the next state legislative assembly meeting to ban child marriage.

Law and Native affairs minister Datuk Aidi Mokhtar said that the state is proposing to amend the Islamic Family Law Enactment and the Native Courts Enactment and any other relevant laws.

“We have agreed to raise the minimum marriage age to 18, so we are proposing that the Islamic Family Law Enactment and the Native Courts Enactment plus any other relevant laws be amended in the coming state assembly sitting," said Aidi in his winding up speech at the state legislative assembly here today.

Last year, Sabah's underage marriage laws became the subject of controversy when Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal said the state was considering Sabah Mufti Datuk Ismail Bungsu Aziz Jaafar's suggestion to reduce the minimum marriage age for Muslim girls from 16 to 14 years old, with the approval of the authorities.

Later, Shafie said the Cabinet has decided to make 18 the minimum marriage age in Sabah.

In the poorer districts of Sabah, culture sometimes dictates that young children be married off early to help lift the families' burden or in cases where they cannot afford to continue school.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/04/18/sabah-amending-native-laws-to-set-marriage-age-at-18/1744517

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Voters protests presence of Islamic flag at Jakarta polling station

April 17, 2019

Fachrul Sidiq

Voters casting their ballots in polling station (TPS) 110 located within the SMK Yasda Islamic vocational school compound in Kuningan, South Jakarta, were surprised to see several Shahada (Islamic creed) flags – which are associated with the disbanded Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) group – displayed at the site.

“It was surprising and regrettable. Why are flags from a disbanded organization being erected at a polling station?” said a 55-year-old voter who wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the issue.

The woman, who was there with four members of her family, secretly took pictures of the flags and shared them through messaging apps. She added that other voters had also conveyed a similar complaint.

“Organizers didn’t seem to be bothered and I started to question their impartiality,” she said, referring to the fact that HTI members are known supporters of Prabowo Subianto, the sole challenger to incumbent candidate Joko “Jokowi” Widodo in the presidential election.

Muslim groups have repeatedly denied that the Shahada flag belonged to one specific organization.

“The flags have been there [SMK Yasada] for a long time and we don’t think it’s necessary to take them down because they do not carry any political messages,” said local poll administrator (KPPS) chief Ahmad Zakarsih.

The flags were removed later in the afternoon.

“We received an order from the Jakarta Police,” said Hamid, a KPPS member.

Prabowo received 141 votes while Jokowi earned 81 votes at the polling station.

https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2019/04/17/voters-protests-presence-of-islamic-flag-at-jakarta-polling-station.html

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Germany confirms Islamic Relief ties to Muslim Brotherhood

Damien McElroy

April 17, 2019

German officials have accused Islamic Relief Worldwide of “significant” connections to the underground Muslim Brotherhood, triggering concerns among politicians over the diversion of official funds to Islamists.

A submission to the Bundesrat revealed that the powerful Federal Court of Audit was examining official grants to Islamic Relief, which was founded in Birmingham, UK, that totalled €6.1 million in the years to 2016. The response said Islamic Relief was connected to Muslim Brotherhood groups not only in Europe but around the world.

Liberal MP Oliver Luksic said the answer was deeply alarming. "It is a scandal that German taxpayers' money is going to go to Islamists," he said.

The centrist party has called on the German government to address the issue as an “urgent problem” and said its refusal to accept concerns expressed by parliament was a matter of deep concern.

Most of the German funding provided to Islamic Relief was designated for projects in Syria, the statement added.

The United Arab Emirates designated Islamic Relief Worldwide as a terrorist organisation in 2014 over its global links to the Muslim Brotherhood. Meanwhile concerns over the provenance of funds led global banking giant HSBC to shut down Islamic Relief’s accounts as had the Swiss banking corporation UBS four years earlier.

The announcement of a German review into official funding of Brotherhood-related groups comes amid growing concern over the spreading influence of the group in the country. The most recent published intelligence assessment said that there were an estimated 1,040 Brotherhood activists active in the country. It further said the group exerted active control over 50 mosques or Islamic centres.

Following concerns about the group’s underground influence at centres in Bonn, Colletta Manemann, Germany’s Integration Commissioner, warned that mosque-goers were targeted by the group. “To our knowledge, the Brotherhood is more in the focus of the security agencies than ever before,” she said. “We welcome that.”

Islamic Relief Worldwide rejected the claims and said it was seeking clarification from the authorities.

“Allegations surfacing in the German media claiming that Islamic Relief Worldwide has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood are damaging, defamatory and false," it said. "Islamic Relief is a purely humanitarian organisation, which categorically has no ties to any political group.

“To ensure no abuse of the organisation of any kind occurs, Islamic Relief employs comprehensive control mechanisms – including screening all staff, trustees and volunteers and ensuring that financial transfers require multiple approvals – that preclude any individual from making use of IRW’s projects and/or funds for extraneous purposes. These control mechanisms have been applauded in independent audit reports.

“Our independent affiliate office in Germany is in contact with the local authorities to seek clarifications on this urgent matter.”

On its website, the group sets out its history of working with governments since it was founded in Britain by Egyptian Hany El Banna. It became the first specialist Muslim charity to gain British government funding for projects in Africa in 1994.

It signed a framework partnership with the EU in 2002 and became a member of the UK’s Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) which distributes funds from nationwide appeals in 2005. In Britain alone its annual Ramadan campaign raises more than £10 million annually.

Political concerns in German over the Brotherhood have led warnings that groups Islamic Community of Germany, known by the initials IGD, actively seeks to be the government’s recognised partner in dealing with Muslim-focussed issues of policy and community relations.

The official intelligence report stated as much in 2018 and said members went to actively concealed their ideological beliefs. “The goal of the IGD is to be the recognised contact point in Germany for established Islam,” it said. “It therefore pursues a Muslim Brotherhood ideology-oriented strategy of influence in the political and social sphere.

“At public appearances, confessions to the Muslim Brotherhood and any anti-constitutional statements are avoided. Nevertheless, the activities of the IGD centres are rooted in the ideological orientation of the Muslim Brotherhood, including negative attitudes towards Western values and an antipathy to democracy.”

Volker Beck, a Green Party politician, said the Brotherhood had built up ties with the main Islamic body for German Turks, using a conference organised in Cologne late last year as a platform for pan-European ambitions. “At the conference at the Islamic centre in Cologne there was the presence of the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said. “This event is quite interesting and a bit terrifying. They are not anymore trying to organise the Muslims in Germany but on a European level.”

https://www.thenational.ae/world/germany-confirms-islamic-relief-ties-to-muslim-brotherhood-1.850299

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Sudan’s al-Bashir transferred to prison in Khartoum: sources

17 April 2019

Ousted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is being transferred to Kobar prison in the capital Khartoum, sources told Al Arabiya.

A son of Sudan’s main opposition leader Sadiq al-Mahdi said that President Omar al-Bashir was under house arrest since his ouster, along with a number of Muslim Brotherhood leaders, al-Hadath TV reported.

Bashir is being held under tight security in solitary confinement, a source at the prison said.

Since his removal by the military last Thursday, Bashir had been detained under heavy guard in the presidential residence inside the compound that also houses the Defence Ministry, the family sources said.

The military ousted Bashir after weeks of protests against him that culminated in a sit-in outside the Defense Ministry compound that began on April 6. Protests are still going on despite his removal.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/04/17/Sudan-s-al-Bashir-transferred-to-prison-in-Khartoum-sources.html

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Pakistan

 

Gunmen Kill 14 Passengers On Bus In South-western Pakistan

18 April 2019

Gunmen ambushed a bus and killed 14 passengers after going through their ID cards and forcing them out on a highway in a remote area of southwestern Pakistan before dawn Thursday, officials said.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the killings. Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the attack in restive Baluchistan province, calling it “an act of terror.” Separatists in Baluchistan frequently target Pakistani security forces and also people from neighboring Punjab province.

The attack took place as the bus was traveling on the Makran coastal highway between the port city of Karachi and the Gwadar port in the southwest, local official Jehangir Dashti told The Associated Press. He said it was unclear who was behind the killings.

Dashti said the passengers targeted in the attack were killed after the assailants checked their identity cards but he could not confirm if all the slain were Punjabis. Security personnel also frequently use buses to travel to their jobs in Gwadar, a port built through investments and help from China.

“Dozens of gunmen” were involved in the attack and fled the scene afterward, he said. “In this tragic incident, 14 passengers were forced off the bus, they were lined up in a nearby open area and killed by the terrorists,” Dashti said.

Security forces from the nearby town of Buzi Top were dispatched and had reached the area, about 600 kilometers from the provincial capital, Quetta, he added.

In his statement, Prime Minister Khan ordered authorities “to make every possible effort to identify and to bring the perpetrators of the barbaric act to justice.”

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said Pakistan had rendered great sacrifices in the war on terror, which has not ended yet.

Other militant groups also operate in Baluchistan. Last Friday, a suicide bomber targeted an open-air market in Quetta, killing 20 people in an attack claimed by ISIS.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/04/18/Gunmen-kill-14-passengers-on-bus-in-southwestern-Pakistan.html

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Suspects in Canadian expat's harassment case arrested in Islamabad

Shakeel Qarar

April 18, 2019

Two men were arrested in Islamabad on Thursday over their alleged sexual harassment of a Canadian expat.

Superintendent Police (SP) Rural Omer Khan said the suspects, identified as Hamza Sohail and Anas Kamran, were taken into custody and identified by Lahore-based model and humanitarian worker Assma Galuta, who had filed a case against them after the two began harassing her and telling her to get into their car in the Bahria Town Phase 7 area.

Explore: The Canadian model who filed a harassment case in Islamabad slams critics for victim-blaming

In the FIR filed on April 16, Galuta stated that when she asked them to leave her alone, they started laughing. She accused them of blocking her from getting into her Uber and then followed her from Bahria Town to Islamabad. They also tried to block the driver and asked him for his passenger's drop-off location, the FIR said.

Galuta said in the FIR that she had to change her drop-off location and evade the suspects in a mall until they were gone before she could return to her lodgings. She added that she had video and vehicle details as proof.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1476900/suspects-in-canadian-expats-harassment-case-arrested-in-islamabad

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PM Imran Khan, Jacinda Ardern named among Time's 100 most influential people of 2019

April 17, 2019

Prime Minister Imran Khan has been named among the '100 Most Influential People' of 2019 by Time magazine.

The list, unveiled on Wednesday, has chosen the "influential people" under four categories: leaders, pioneers, artists, icons and titans.

Journalist Ahmed Rashid wrote the following regarding Prime Minister Khan for Time's 100 most influential people issue.

"Pakistan is at a critical crossroads, and the man in charge is the closest it has to a rock star. Imran Khan captained the team that won the 1992 Cricket World Cup, built a world-class cancer hospital in Lahore, then a top-notch university for kids who could never have dreamed of attending one. Twenty years ago, he entered politics—a dirty business in Pakistan at the best of times.

"Now he is Prime Minister of an impoverished nation that cannot pay its bills and is dependent on handouts from rich neighbours like China and the Arab Gulf states. Critics say Khan is too close to the army and Islamic fundamentalists, and chooses advisers poorly. Driven by fierce ambition, he can be cold and calculating. But he still generates the broadest hope among young and old that he can turn Pakistan around, and help make South Asia an ocean of peace rather than a state of permanent conflict."

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who received global acclaim for her handling of the aftermath of a terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch, also made it to the annual list.

Among the other leaders on the list are US President Donald Trump, Pope Francis, American Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Bin Mohamad, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1476717/pm-imran-khan-jacinda-ardern-named-among-times-100-most-influential-people-of-2019

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Four terrorists involved in Peshawar gun battle identified

April 18, 2019

PESHAWAR: Police investigators probing the Peshawar gun battle have identified four of the terrorists involved, a senior police official said on Wednesday.

Four terrorists were killed the previous day and one on Monday night when security forces besieged a house in the city’s Hayat­abad area. A policeman also lost his life.

The police official told Dawn that investigators had managed to identify four attackers, three of whom belong to merged tribal districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and one of them was an Afghan national.

The official said Counter Terrorism Department was investigating the incident.

The outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, through an email message, claimed that six of its members were involved in the gunfight with law enforcement personnel.

The gun battle had started at 7.30 on Monday evening after police tried to enter the house in Hayatabad’s E-sector, Phase-VII, during an intelligence-based operation.

Assistant Sub-Inspector Qamar Alam lost his life while trying to enter the house. A terrorist went down during an initial exchange of fire that triggered a fierce gunfight, which continued till the killing of the four remaining terrorists on Tuesday afternoon.

A number of police units, the army’s Special Services Group and the 102 Brigade took part in the operation.

Meanwhile, a delegation of city police visited Hayatabad to thank the residents for their “patience and support” during the operation.

According to a statement, the delegation handed over letters written by the city’s police chief to thank them for their support and also regretted the pain and trauma they suffered during the 17-hour-long gun battle.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1476834/four-terrorists-involved-in-peshawar-gun-battle-identified

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CII chief lauds NAB chief’s decision of not handcuffing suspects

Apr 18, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) Chairman Dr Qibla Ayaz Wednesday lauded the statement given by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman Justice (R) Javed Iqbal for not handcuffing the accused until his guilt to be proved.

He said a previous recommendation and an opinion regarding this issue already existed and on the April 3, the apex body of the Council had further discussed this issue in detail, a press release said.

The CII chairman hoped that the NAB chairman’s recent narrative would improve the image of the country regarding human rights and respect for the dignity of humanity.

“It will also revive and enhance trust of the nation,” Dr Qibla Ayaz said adding media especially electronic should adopt responsible attitude so that the Islamic value of honoring humanity could be given due importance.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/04/17/cii-chief-lauds-nab-chiefs-decision-of-not-handcuffing-suspects/

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Arab World

 

Iraq and Saudi Arabia sign agreements as King Salman meets PM Abdul-Mahdi

April 17, 2019

RIYADH: Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi arrived in Riyadh on Wednesday and held talks with King Salman on relations between the two countries.

During their talks, the king said he was keen to enhance cooperation between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, SPA reported. Abdul-Mahdi said he was hoping to develop "areas of bilateral cooperation."

His visit to the Kingdom "symbolizes the Iraqi government's vision in aiming to bolster ties with the Kingdom in all fields," the Iraqi prime minister said in a statement on his Facebook account.

The two countries signed 12 agreements and memorandums of understanding between their various ministries. The deals covered many areas including energy, education, culture and political consultation.

Abdul-Mahdi was met at King Khalid International Airport by the Governor of the Riyadh Region Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz, SPA reported.

The visit comes as ties continue to improve between Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

A Saudi Arabian delegation visited Iraq earlier this month, when a new consulate in Baghdad was opened and $1 billion in loans for development projects in Iraq was announced.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1483896/saudi-arabia

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Syrian Army Launches Military Operation to Purge Terrorists from Eastern Deir Ezzur Province

Apr 17, 2019

The Syrian Army troops engaged in fierce clashes with the ISIL terrorists in Haribsheh and Shoula Desert in Southeastern Deir Ezzur, killing several of the militants, battlefield sources in Eastern Deir Ezzur said.

The sources said that the Syrian Army is trying to purge the remnants of the terrorists from the surrounding areas of Bukamal and along the borders with Iraq through the operation in Southeastern Deir Ezzur.

They, meantime, said that the Syrian Army has managed to cleanse Palmyra Badiyeh (desert) in the outskirts of al-Sukhna in Eastern Homs from terrorists.

In a relevant development on Monday, the Arabic-language media reports said that the ISIL terrorist commanders "are using a camp controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Hasaka as a base for military operations".

"The ISIL terrorists and commanders have turned the SDF-controlled al-Hawl Camp as a venue for holding their meetings and coordinating their movements," the Arabic-language service of Russia Today quoted an Iraqi intelligence source as saying.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980128000635

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Sudan authorities refuse to receive Qatari delegation headed by foreign minister

17 April 2019

Sudanese authorities on Wednesday refused to receive a Qatari delegation headed by Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, a source confirmed to Al Arabiya.

After the Sudanese officials refused to receive al-Thani in Khartoum, the Qatari delegation left the Sudanese capital and returned to Doha.

The Sudanese source told Al Arabiya and Al Hadath that the Qatari delegation was informed that diplomatic protocols require coordination and agreement before the visit, which did not take place.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/04/17/Sudan-authorities-refuse-to-receive-Qatari-delegation-headed-by-foreign-minister.html

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It’s austerity or catastrophe, Saad Hariri tells Lebanon

April 18, 2019

BEIRUT: Lebanese public sector workers took to the streets of Beirut in protest on Wednesday ahead of a budget expected to impose painful austerity measures.

The 2019 draft budget includes “wide reductions” in spending based on the need for “exceptional austerity measures,” Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri promised “the most austere budget in the history of Lebanon.”

He said: “It’s my duty to be honest with people. We stand with limited-income people and the retired, but we want to maintain the lira peg and the salary scale for general services and national officers. To do so, tough austerity measures will be needed to the detriment of public expenditure.”

The budget is seen as a critical test of the government’s will to enact reforms that economists say are more pressing than ever for an economy that has suffered years of low growth. State finances are strained by a bloated public sector, high debt servicing costs and hefty subsidies spent on the power sector.

Hariri said: “If we continue like this we will reach a catastrophe.” Unlike other states that had suffered financial crises such as Greece, Lebanon would have no one to save it, he said.

Labor union chief Bechara Al-Asmar, who took part in a protest sit-in in Beirut on Wednesday, told Arab News: “We raise our voice because the government finds that the easiest things to do is to jeopardize the public sector.

“But there are many measures that can be adopted before cutting wages, including a correctional basket that does not affect Lebanese people. The government always prevails over the weak, but the public servants will no more be the weak link.”

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1484126/middle-east

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India

 

Terrorists using Chinese grenades sent by Pak: Intel

Apr 18, 2019

Neeraj Chauhan

Pakistan is supplying Chinese-made grenades and sophisticated ammunition in large quantities to terror groups in the Kashmir Valley so that it cannot be blamed for subversive activities in India, an assessment by agencies conducting counter-insurgency operations has concluded.

According to an internal document accessed by HT, 70 Chinese grenades (64 in 2018 and six so far in 2019) have been seized by security forces in Jammu and Kashmir since January 1 last year.

The document said security forces had recovered pistols, armour piercing incendiary (API) shells and tracer rounds of Chinese origin from terrorists belonging to different groups.

“The API includes both mild steel core and hard steel core (which can pierce bulletproof jackets used by Indian security forces) and its use brings a new dimension of threat for the security forces,” the document stated.

Other than the seizures, a dozen incidents documented in the past 15 months involved either trained terrorists or over-ground workers (OGWs) of terror groups lobbing grenades at patrol parties, bunkers, vehicles or camps of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and other paramilitary forces, Jammu and Kashmir Police, and the army.

The most recent grenade attack in the Kashmir Valley took place on Tuesday, when a terrorist hurled a grenade at a National Conference election meeting in the Tral area.

Two people were killed and 32 injured in a grenade attack at Jammu’s inter-state bus stand on March 7.

An Indian Police Service officer involved in counter-insurgency operations, who didn’t want to be identified, said: “These attacks had a mix of both grenades made in China and Pakistan, but there is a sudden spurt in the use of Chinese ones.”

Explaining the trend, the officer said, “Earlier, Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF)-manufactured grenades were easily available to all terror groups but the Pakistan Army markings on them exposed the western neighbour’s role in spreading terrorism in the international community. “Now, it uses its agencies and terror groups to smuggle ammunition of Chinese origin, which do not have any Chinese ordnance markings. These are low-intensity but still a grenade causes more damage than a bullet.” The officer added, “The main purpose of using Chinese grenades is that Pakistan doesn’t want any weapons used in Jammu and Kashmir to be traced back to it.”

The use of grenades to target security forces also suits Pakistan and terror groups as there is no need to train anyone to use such weapons.

Another official engaged in counter-insurgency operations, who too didn’t want to be identified, said: “They hire young schoolboys by paying them a few thousand rupees, or task OGWs to throw grenades on security personnel. Grenades are easy to throw, they cause more damage and the suspects cannot be identified from a distance as they don’t carry any guns, and easily flee the spot.” The second official added, “Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), Al-Badr and even Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) are now encouraging their OGWs and terrorists to throw grenades at security forces’ vehicles, camps and bunkers.”

Most of the Chinese-origin grenades and ammunition, an officer of the Intelligence Bureau said, are entering the state through the Line of Control (LoC) or the international border in Jammu.

In the Northeast too, particularly Assam, security forces have recovered a substantive amount of arms, ammunition, grenades and explosives having Chinese markings during operations over the past two years. Defence expert ?Col Sanjiv Kumar (retd) said, “There are only two routes for smuggling Chinese arms and ammunitions into India – Pakistan or Nepal. Nepal’s border is not connected to Jammu and Kashmir, so all of it is coming from Pakistan. “The fact that Chinese weapons and ammunition are being used by Pakistan-backed terror groups means China is not only overtly supporting Pakistan at the UN Security Council (by blocking JeM chief Masood Azhar’s listing as a global terrorist) but it is covertly encouraging it to continue its terror activities in India.”

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/terrorists-using-chinese-grenades-sent-by-pak-intel/story-8Bz90lpvHIfq6hKMF4l4VJ.html

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Terrorists fire grenade at CRPF camp in Pulwama; jawan injured

Apr 17, 2019

SRINAGAR: Terrorists fired a grenade at a CRPF camp in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama on Wednesday injuring a personnel of the force, officials said.

They said an under-barrel grenade launcher was fired at the Tral-based camp of the 180th battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force.

The grenade exploded inside the camp of the 'bravo company' causing minor injuries to a CRPF head constable, they added.

The injured jawan is being provided medical assistance, they said.

A UBGL is a weapon accessory and is fitted below the barrel of a gun. It fires a grenade at a trajectory and causes splinter and blast casualties.

Security forces have launched a search in the area for the terrorists who carried out the attack, they said.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/terrorists-fire-grenade-at-crpf-camp-in-pulwama-jawan-injured/articleshow/68926568.cms

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South Asia

 

'We're broken': Rohingya on hunger strike in Saudi detention

by Saba Aziz

Apr 18, 2019

Scores of Rohingya detainees inside a Saudi detention centre have gone on a hunger strike for the third time in recent months, activists told Al Jazeera.

Almost 650 men, most of whom have been kept at the Shumaisi detention centre in Jeddah since 2012 for not having valid documentation, started the strike on Saturday, Ro Nay San Lwin, campaign coordinator for the Free Rohingya Coalition, said.

By Tuesday night, at least seven had been taken to hospital, he said, as the strike continued in 10 rooms at the detention camp.

Footage secretly filmed by a detainee and sent to Lwin that was shared with Al Jazeera showed the Rohingya men lying on the floor.

"The immigration police are harassing them, saying if you carry on this hunger strike, we will not even give you water," Lwin said in a phone interview from Frankfurt, Germany.

Ambia Perveen, vice chairman of the NGO European Rohingya Council (ERC), who has also received video via WhatsApp since Saturday, said the police have now taken away the prisoners' blankets, pillows, shirts and other necessities.

Most of the Rohingya entered Saudi Arabia in 2012 following violence breaking out in Myanmar's western Rakhine state, searching for a better life.

Upon arrival, their fingerprints were registered under a different nationality as they carried fake passports obtained from brokers in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, Lwin explained.

Myanmar stripped the Muslim-majority Rohingya of their citizenship in 1982, rendering them stateless.

Many of them entered Saudi Arabia on pilgrimage visas but overstayed to work. They were detained at various immigration checkpoints and during raids, according to activists.

"They didn't commit any crime," said Lwin. "Their only crime is they didn't have the valid resident permit, which is why they were arrested."

'Trapped from every corner'

Muslim-majority Rohingya have faced persecution in Myanmar for decades.

Since 2012, following deadly riots between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya, tens of thousands of people from the minority have been forced to live in squalid internment camps in neighbouring Bangladesh.

Nearly one million Rohingya were forced to take shelter in Bangladesh after Myanmar's army, responding to attacks by an armed group, launched a brutal campaign against the minority in Rakhine state in 2017.

Matthew Smith, a cofounder and chief executive of Fortify Rights, said the Saudi government is "layering human rights abuses on to a community that is already experiencing genocide in Myanmar".

"Nobody should be detained for their immigration status and the Saudi authorities should immediately and unconditionally release all Rohingya that are in detention for immigration-related reasons," Smith told Al Jazeera by phone from Washington, DC.

Since the start of this year, Saudi Arabia has forcibly deported dozens of Rohingya to Bangladesh - some of whom have been detained upon arrival at the Dhaka airport.

Lwin explained that embassy officials from four countries were brought to the Saudi detention centre, and only Bangladesh agreed to take the Rohingya detainees, even though they are not from there.

ERC's Perveen said countries such as Saudi Arabia and India are "indirectly helping Myanmar to wipe us out".

Rights groups have slammed India, home to almost 40,000 Rohingya refugees, for handing them over to the Myanmar government following a Supreme Court ruling in October last year.

"These people [Rohingya] have not only faced genocide, but they are also going through post-traumatic stress disorder," Perveen told Al Jazeera in a phone interview from Hamburg, Germany.

"These countries are also part of genocide, they are helping Myanmar when they are taking such an action. They [Rohingyas] are facing the same thing they have been facing in Myanmar."

The military government, which took power following a coup in 1962, stripped the Rohingya of citizenship in 1982.

Under the 1982 Citizenship Law, the Rohingya were not recognised as one of the country's 135 ethnic groups, restricting their rights to study, work, travel, marry, vote, practise their religion and access health services.

"Rohingya people are trapped from every corner," said Perveen. "We did not want to leave our country.

"We had no choice in the sense of security. We Rohingya are wounded enough - morally, physically and financially. We are broken."

Humanitarian grounds

Saudi Arabia is home to more than 300,000 Rohingya, but according to activists and rights groups, the kingdom has stopped issuing residency permits to them in recent years.

Smith said the Rohingya are facing "other human rights challenges" in Saudi Arabia in addition to the "mass detention".

"We know that Rohingya women have been trafficked to Saudi Arabia and have been working essentially as indentured servants to families in Saudi Arabia and this has been going on for some time," he said.

On Wednesday at Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh, family members of those detained urged the Saudi government and King Salman to release their loved ones.

Lwin said while legally nothing can be done to help the prisoners, Saudi Arabia should release them on "humanitarian grounds".

The main goal of the hunger strike is "to get freedom", he said.

"They want to get released as soon as possible. They just want to work there so they can support their family back in Myanmar and Bangladesh."

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/04/broken-rohingya-detainees-hunger-strike-saudi-190417124752481.html

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ISIS-K militants killed after attacking security posts of public uprising forces in Achin

18 Apr 2019

At least three ISIS Khurasan militants were killed after attacking the security pots of public uprisign forces in Achin district of Nangarhar province.

The 201st Silab Corps of the Afghan Military in a statement said ISIS-K militants on Tuesday attacked the security posts of public uprising forces in Pekha area of Achin district.

The statement further added that the attack sparked a clash which resulted into the killing of three ISIS Khurasan militants.

The anti-government armed militant groups including ISIS Khurasan loyalists have not commented regarding the clash so far.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/isis-k-militants-killed-after-attacking-security-posts-of-public-uprising-forces-in-achin-03744/

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Ex-Afghan intelligence chief Saleh not participating in intra-Afghan talks in Qatar

17 Apr 2019

The former chief of the Afghan intelligence Amrullah Saleh has announced that he will not participate in the upcoming intra-Afghan talks in Doha, the capital of Qatar.

“I remain grateful to president @ashrafghani for adding me in the list of speakers to represent the Islamic Republic of Afg in Doha conference. However, I won’t attend. Taliban are the only & the biggest obstacle to peace as they continue the campaign of massacre & destruction,” Saleh said in a statement which was posted in his official Twitter account.

He said “If the Taliban are not fighting for the interest of a hostile foreign power then they should agree to direct & focused negotiations with the Afghan government. Their daily massacre of ordinary Afghans & destruction of education infrastructure is anything but Islam & Afghan.”

The government on Tuesday released the initial list of individuals who are due to participate in talks with the Taliban group in Qatar.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/03743ex-afghan-intelligence-chief-saleh-not-participating-in-intra-afghan-talks-in-qatar-03743/

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Taliban suffer heavy casualties after attacking Dawlatabad district for the third time

17 Apr 2019

The Taliban militants suffered heavy casualties after their third attack was repulsed on Dawlatabad district in northern Faryab province.

The 209th Shaheen Corps in a statement said clashes took place between security forces and Taliban militants in various areas of Dawlabad district on Tuesday.

The statement further added that 11 Taliban militants including their two commanders identified as Omari and Mawlavi Naeem were killed during the clashes and 21 others were wounded.

According to 209th Shaheen Corps, some senior Taliban leaders including Mawlavi Najeeb alias Nasir the Red Unit commander of the group for Dawlatabad, Mawlavi Ehsanullah alias Toofan, and Mawlavi Tahir one of the prominent Taliban leaders in Qoshtapa district are among those wounded.

Mawlavi Tahir and his fighters had travelled to Dawlatabad district to support the militants who had attacked the security outposts in the district, the 209th Shaheen Corps added.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/taliban-suffer-heavy-casualties-after-attacking-dawlatabad-district-for-the-third-time-03742/

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China to oppose new resolution on Masood Azhar

Apr 18, 2019

BEIJING: Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang on Wednesday said that China’s position on the issue of Masood Azhar’s listing as an international terrorist is consistent and clear.

Recently, China has continued to maintain communication with relevant countries and things are moving in the direction of resolution.

Regarding the recent move by some relevant countries to force the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to adopt a new resolution, China has repeatedly expressed its opposition to this practice, he said at a regular news briefing.

He was asked to comment on the report, that the United States, Britain and France once again demanded that China lift the technical suspension of the resolution of the listing of Masood in the 1267 Committee of UNSC. It was also asked by a questioner that if the resolution is passed by the 1267 Committee in UNSC, will China support it.

Responding to it, Lu Kang emphasised that they are firmly opposed to this approach. In fact, in the relevant discussions in UNSC, most members have indicated that the relevant issues should be resolved within the framework of the 1267 Committee and they do not wish to deal with issues that should have been resolved by the 1267 Committee.

China, he added, has urged the countries concerned to respect the opinions of the majority of the members of UNSC and continue to work in a cooperative manner. Through cooperation, he added, the relevant issues could be properly resolved within the framework of the 1267 Committee.

Lu Kang pointed out that UNSC and its affiliates have clear rules of procedure and relevant disciplinary rules. You are afraid to ask the relevant parties for your information to verify. The attitude of the Chinese side is very clear.

He emphasised that this issue must be resolved through cooperation between the members of UNSC within the framework of the 1267 Committee.

“We do not believe that forcing any program that does not reach an agreement will achieve the results that the promoters hope to see,” he added.

He reiterated that the first of all things are moving in the direction of resolution. Secondly, regarding the current discussions in the 1267 Committee, UNSC and its subsidiary bodies have clear discipline and procedures for internal consultations. As members of the council, we should faithfully abide by these disciplines and procedures, he added.

To a question about the “re-education camp” in Xinjiang and having any of its link to the demolitions of Muslim mosques across China, the spokesperson said, they have said many times that the vocational skills education and training institutions established in Xinjiang have a very clear purpose.

“Like other countries in the world, we are taking preventive measures based on the need to fight terrorism and de-extremism. Such measures may be different in different countries, but the objectives are the same,” he said.

As for your reference to the existence of anti-Islamism in China, the spokesperson said, there is no such situation. China implements the policy of freedom of religious belief.

Like other countries, they manage religious affairs in accordance with the law, resolutely oppose and combat religious extremism, and at the same time guarantee the normal religious needs of religious believers and respect the customs of religious believers.

“China has more than 20 million Muslims and more than 35,000 mosques. The majority of religious believers can freely engage in religious activities in accordance with the law,” he added.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/04/17/china-to-oppose-new-resolution-on-masood-azhar/

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North America

 

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard hammers Trump for turning U.S. into 'prostitute of Saudi Arabia'

By Seth McLaughlin

April 17, 2019

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, on Wednesday accused President Trump of prostituting the United States after he vetoed a congressional resolution this week calling for an end of U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Ms. Gabbard, a former combat veteran who served in the Iraq War, said Mr. Trump is turning the nation “into the prostitute of Saudi Arabia.”

“By vetoing the war powers resolution, Trump has again proven that he is the servant of Saudi Arabia, the theocratic dictatorship that spends billions of dollars every single year spreading the most extreme and intolerant form of Islam around the world,” the Hawaii Democrat said in a video. “The very same ideology that motivated al Qaeda and other jihadists.”

In her underdog bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, Ms. Gabbard has tried to separate herself from the massive field of contenders by emphasizing foreign affairs.

The 37-year-old joined most of her fellow Democrats in the House and 16 Republicans in voting for a resolution that invoked the war powers act and directed the president to remove U.S. armed forces from the hostilities in Yemen within 30 days. The Senate passed the resolution in March.

On Tuesday, Mr. Trump vetoed the resolution.

“There are no United States military personnel in Yemen commanding, participating in, or accompanying military forces of the Saudi‑led coalition against the Houthis in hostilities in or affecting Yemen,” he said in his veto message.

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/apr/17/tulsi-gabbard-hammers-donald-trump-turning-us-pros/

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Democratic small donors back Muslim lawmaker amid 9/11 fight with Trump

Apr 17, 2019

Muslim American Congresswoman Ilhan Omar is gaining more support among Democratic small donors in the wake of her 9/11 fight with US President Donald Trump.

The Minnesota Democratic lawmaker in the US House of Representatives, who has been at the center of a controversy over her fight against using the 2001 terrorist attacks as a cudgel against Muslim Americans, is gaining more donations from donors contributing less than $200, Vox reported Wednesday.

Having earned $830,000, half of which came from donors contributing less than $200, Omar is one of the top Democratic earners despite raising only $10,000 from PACs.

Other first-term progressive lawmakers following Omar are New York Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with about $720,000 and Michigan Democratic Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-) with about $300,000.

Trump has accused Omar of minimizing the 9/11 attacks by using a sentence from her speech and juxtaposing it with a video of the terrorist attacks.

At some point in her speech, Omar used the sentence “some people did something” to describe the terror attack.

The Muslim congresswoman has been receiving death threats in the wake of her fight against Islamophobia after being accused of anti-Semitism.

Some Democratic 2020 contenders have thrown their support behind the Minnesota lawmaker.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/04/17/593659/Democratic-small-donors-rush-to-back-Ilhan-Omar

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Americans say Muslims face most intolerance in US

Umar Farooq  

17.04.2019

WASHINGTON

Eight in ten Americans believe Muslims face more discrimination than any other group in the U.S., according to a poll by the Pew Research Center.

Eighty-two percent of respondents said Muslims face discrimination. Eighty percent of those surveyed said blacks faced some discrimination.

Pew released the figures Monday after U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted a video that attacked Muslim congresswoman Ilhan Omar from Minnesota.

The video was of a speech delivered by Omar in which she discussed how Muslim Americans came to be seen as second-class citizens after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. The president's tweet mixed in footage from the attacks with parts of the speech.

Omar is one of the first Muslim lawmakers to be elected to Congress, alongside Michigan's Rashida Tlaib, and has faced a flurry of attacks since she began in office this year.

The Muslim congresswoman said she has faced more death threats since the president posted the tweet, sparking criticism that Trump is condoning harmful attacks against the country's own elected officials.

The survey was conducted prior to the president's tweet.

Ninety-two percent of Democrats said there is discrimination against Muslims in America, with 75% saying there is a lot of discrimination, according to the poll. While less Republican respondents said the same, 69%, a large majority, agreed.

The percentage of people that think Jews face "a lot" of discrimination nearly doubled since 2016, rising from 13% to 24%, with 64% of respondents saying there is some discrimination against the group, according to Pew.

Race played a large factor in predicting how much discrimination a respondent thought was happening. Seventy-three percent of black respondents said there is "a lot" of discrimination against blacks and 63% of Hispanics said the same about discrimination against Hispanics.

However, among whites, it was partisanship that was the biggest factor in deciding how they answered.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/americans-say-muslims-face-most-intolerance-in-us/1455214

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Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan will not be released until after Ramadan

Joyce Karam

April 17, 2019

Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s adviser and son-in-law, announced on Wednesday that the administration’s long-awaited Middle East peace plan will be released after Ramadan.

Mr Kushner made his announcement to a group of ambassadors in Washington a week after the Israeli elections in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scored a victory, enabling him to remain in office for a fifth term.

Ramadan ends in the first week of June.

The Trump administration has remained tight-lipped about the plan's content.

“We're not going to reveal details of the plan ahead of time,” US envoy Jason Greenblatt tweeted this week.

Jason D. Greenblatt

@jdgreenblatt45

Jared, @USAmbIsrael & I sincerely appreciate all of the interest in our peace efforts over the past 2 yrs. But, we're not going to reveal details of the plan ahead of time. Cont’d speculation doesn't help anyone & harms the effort. We kindly suggest a stop to the guessing games.

117

8:44 PM - Apr 16, 2019

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Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat is expected to visit Washington next week but no meetings are scheduled with Mr Kushner or his team, The National has learnt.

The Palestinian Authority cut communications with the Trump administration after it announced it would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in December 2017.

The White House still hopes that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will support the plan.

“We hope Abbas reads the plan, judges it on its merits and comes to the table for negotiations,” a US official said in February.

The plan is expected to have sections on political, economic and security matters, and the administration is hoping to gain Arab support for the document.

The US is also expected to co-ordinate the release of the plan with Mr Netanyahu as he forms his new government.

“The Trump peace plan is now likely to be presented in full co-ordination with Mr Netanyahu,” Daniel Shapiro, of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said last week.

Mr Shapiro, an ambassador to Israel under former president Barack Obama, anticipated that the plan would fall short of meeting Palestinian aspirations, but could be accepted by the Israeli government.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/donald-trump-s-middle-east-peace-plan-will-not-be-released-until-after-ramadan-1.850450

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Southeast Asia

 

Peaceful Election Suggests Exaggerated Fears of a Country Split in Two

APRIL 17, 2019

Jakarta. On Wednesday, Indonesia proves to the world that after a lengthy and often heated presidential campaign it is still more than able to hold its first simultaneous presidential and legislative elections—the biggest and most complex one-day elections in the world—without much hiccups.

Competing to win the hearts of 192.8 million registered voters this year are incumbent president Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, who has been running on a platform of economic reform and infrastructure drive, and former Army general Prabowo Subianto, an ally of Islamic parties and hardliner groups.

Fears that identity politics—which both the Jokowi and Prabowo camps have used to leverage their power—might have created deep ruptures in one the world's biggest democracy now seem to have been unfounded.

It's Not Islamic Fundamentalism vs. Tolerance, It's Pure Politics!

Asad Ali Said, a senior figure from Nahdlatul Ulama (NU)—the world's largest Muslim organization—has dismissed the idea that Indonesian Muslims have been polarized between liberals wanting to maintain the country's religious tolerance and conservative Muslims aspiring to see an Islamic rule, even a caliphate.

He said that what has happened during the sometimes brutish presidential campaign is "pure politics."

He also pointed out that this was not the first time Islamic populist ideas have been used by politicians to curry support.

"I get many political scientists from overseas coming to me. It often feels they want me to say a conflict is happening between Indonesian Sunni and Shia Muslims. I tell them no, it is not happening. Our long-maintained tradition to respect diversity is stronger than that," Asad said.

Asad's organization NU claims a membership of more than 60 million Indonesian Muslims.

Around 99 percent of Indonesian Muslims are followers of Sunni Islam. There are only around one million Indonesian Shia Muslims (0.5 percent of the total Muslim population), most of whom live in the big cities.

Asad said Western media make a big mistake when they assume that tolerance and diversity in Indonesia are being threatened by increasing political tension.

"When people talk about intolerance, what's the parameter? Also, there has been a misunderstanding that has spread around the world, that Indonesian Muslims want to implement Islamic rule. That's just an exaggeration," said Asad, who was also a former deputy chief of Indonesia's Inteligence Agency, known as BIN.

He said Islamic values have already been adopted into Indonesia's national ideology, the Pancasila, and its 1945 Constitution.

M. Najih Arromadloni, the secretary general of the Indonesian Syrian Alumni Association (Alsyami), said the argument that there is a battle of Islamic statehood versus tolerance in Indonesia is a "simplistic way" of seeing what is really happening in the country.

"It is reckless to use that argument. We know in Prabowo's camp there are some who support the idea of an Islamic state, there are some hardliners, but I don't think Prabowo is the kind of person who will agree to that project. This is just about riding the wave in politics," Najih said.

Najih's own Alsyami has been active in combating political indoctrination by preachers in mosques around the country.

During the eight-month long presidential campaign, some critics have voiced concerns that political campaign had infiltrated mosques, including those in government offices and state-owned companies.

"You might be surprised, but believe me, Indonesians are a lot more tolerant than what may have been reported by foreign media. One or two cases do not represent the entire nation," he said.

Populist identity politics was predicted to be a determining factor in the 2019 presidential election after the fall of Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, who was a key ally of Jokowi and a renowned reformist, in the 2016 Jakarta gubernatorial election.

Not only did Ahok fail to get reelected, he was also charged with blasphemy against Islam and sentenced to two years in prison.

"Ahok's rise was too fast. His political career peaked at a time when wealth disparity remained huge, and he wasn't wise with his words, especially over sensitive matters," Asad said.

Deep Social Wounds

In the aftermath of the elections, Najih warns that Indonesia's political elites should try to calm people down. Any violent clash will leave a big rip in the fabric of Indonesian society.

"The political elites should forget their traditional rivalry. It might not seem possible now, but the Democratic Party can join the government. Gerindra [Prabowo's party] was also once in coalition with PDI-P [Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, Jokowi's backer]," he said.

The Democratic Party was founded by former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who in this election has sometimes been seen as a reluctant supporter in Prabowo's camp.

"Politicians should wise up. We all know that violent clashes at grassroots level can lead to a deep wound," Najih said.

One of the last and bloodiest social conflicts in Indonesian history happened in 1998 when riots broke out in cities around the country after New Order dictator Suharto was forced to resign after more than 30 years in power.

In May that year, looters ransacked shops and properties owned by Chinese-Indonesians. An investigation by a fact-finding commission (TGPF) found that at least 52 Chinese-Indonesian women became victims of gang rapes during the Jakarta riot, but none of the cases ever went to trial.

Muslim scholar Komarudin Hidayat also echoed Najih's comments. He said Indonesia's political elites, public intellectuals and scholars must work together to push for a reconciliation.

"Indonesia has everything to lose if there are people who want to spoil the elections. Whoever wins is the best child of Indonesia," said Komaruddin, who was speaking in a forum attended by NU chairman Said Aqil Siroj and Abdul Mu'ti, the secretary general of Muhammadiyah, the country's second-largest Muslim organization.

Both organizations are known for their liberal stance, even though Muhammadiyah scholar-turn-politician Amien Rais has famously made a turn to the right.

Komaruddin said after the elections, Muslims in Indonesia will start their fasting month, which he said is a perfect momentum to forget about political differences.

So far, voting around the country ran smoothly and no major incident was reported. Authorities, including the police and the military, have stayed true to their promise not to tolerate any attempt at provoking violence and spoiling the peace.

https://jakartaglobe.id/context/peaceful-election-suggests-exaggerated-fears-of-a-country-split-in-two

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Delay in appointing Malaysia's Chief Justice may be next spat between govt and royals

APR 17, 2019

Shannon Teoh

KUALA LUMPUR - The delay in appointing the head of Malaysia's judiciary threatens to be the latest in a series of battles between the influential Malay royals and the 11-month-old Mahathir Mohamad administration that is struggling to maintain support from the crucial ethnic majority.

Sources told The Straits Times that the Prime Minister submitted the government's pick to replace outgoing Chief Justice Richard Malanjum early this month but has yet to receive the King's consent for the candidate.

Tan Sri Malanjum retired last Friday (April 12), leaving the post vacant.

"They have kept mum, passing back the message that they are no rubber stamps," said a source close to a senior monarch, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Prime Minister Mahathir has not commented on the matter, merely saying last Friday that "I already have a candidate".

But the previous day, he made a stinging criticism of monarchs wanting "absolute power", warning that "they may put their own interests before their states".

Sources close to the issue believe the delay in naming the next Chief Justice is less to do with the choice of candidate and more about the government's prickly relations with the royals.

In May last year, the appointment of the new Pakatan Harapan government's choice of Attorney-General, Mr Tommy Thomas, was delayed over concerns that a non-Malay and non-Muslim would be the government's top lawyer and public prosecutor. Royal assent was only gained after Parti Keadilan Rakyat president Anwar Ibrahim, who is supposed to succeed Tun Dr Mahathir as PM, met the then King, Sultan Muhammad V of Kelantan.

An aide to the Prime Minister told The Straits Times that "there is no way the next CJ is non-Muslim", although he did not reveal who the candidate was. It is speculated that for the first time, Malaysia's top judge could be female as one of three candidates proposed to the King is a woman.

Another official explained that factions have arisen within the country's Council of Rulers - made up of the nine royal houses - due to the sudden resignation of Sultan Muhammad V as King in January, resulting in disparate views.

"There seems to be camps among the royals so it will be more difficult to reach a consensus to fill important roles like (that of the) CJ," he said.

A stand-off over judicial appointments could worsen already tense relations between the Pakatan Harapan government and Malaysia's constitutional monarchy.

Earlier this month (April 5), the government was forced to reverse plans to ratify the Rome statute following weeks of heated public argument with the Johor sultanate which claimed the accord on genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crime of aggression, would undermine Islam, the Malays and the monarchy.

Most recently, Dr Mahathir and Johor's Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar had a war of words over who had the final say in appointing the Johor Menteri Besar, who heads the state government.

Continued silence from the King - appointed by rotation among the nine rulers - could have repercussions for the entire judiciary.

Mr Malanjum is the first of the country's top four judges who are due to vacate their post after reaching the retirement age of 66. The King can approve a six-month extension of service after judges hit the retirement age.

The president of the Court of Appeal - the second highest-ranked judge - Ahmad Ma'arop turns 66 next month, the same month Chief Judge of Malaya Zaharah Ibrahim's extension expires. Meanwhile, the Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Wong Dak Wah will be 66 in August.

Should the rulers remain silent, Malaysia's judiciary could be entirely rudderless within weeks.

Full report at:

https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/delay-in-appointing-malaysias-chief-justice-may-be-next-spat-between-govt-and-royals

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Sabah Opposition still torn over unified front for Sandakan race

18 April 2019

By JULIA CHAN

KOTA KINABALU, April 18 — With just ten days until nomination for the Sandakan by-election, Sabah’s Opposition parties are scrambling for consensus on a single candidate to take on DAP in the federal seat.

With PAS, Umno, and former Barisan Nasional component Liberal Democratic Party out of contention, the parties in the running are now Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), Parti Solidariti Tanah Air Ku (Sabah STAR), Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) and MCA.

“We are talking, we are hoping to have a decision by next week,” said STAR president Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan.

“We are hoping to come out with one Opposition candidate that is acceptable to all, the best choice,” he said, adding that he was not sure if all the parties will agree as some were still “testing the electoral mood”.

The matter is made complicated by the convoluted arrangements among the state Opposition parties.

STAR and PBS are in the Gabungan Bersatu Sabah (GBS) coalition but the former is also part of the Gabungan Sabah (GS) pact with SAPP, Parti Perpaduan Rakyat Sabah (PPRS), and Parti Kebangsaan Sabah (PKS).

Neither coalition is yet recognised by the Registrar of Societies, which Kitingan acknowledged.

“I hope that we can work under one banner eventually. But we will see which coalition gets registered by the ROS first and we will work with it,” he said.

The Election Commission has set polling for May 11. The by-election was triggered after the incumbent, Sabah DAP chairman Datuk Stephen Wong, died of a sudden heart attack on March 28.

For now, the state DAP looks set to put up his 30-year-old daughter, Vivian Wong, as its candidate to be his replacement.

STAR previously named economist Jenny Liew as its potential candidate for the seat.

At least three independents — ex-Sabah Amanah chairman Hamzah Abdullah, former oil palm company manager Chia Siew Yung, and youth activist Jufadzil Shi Ahmad — have also stated their intention to contest for the parliamentary seat.

Hamzah told Malay Mail he was optimistic as public sentiment has turned against Pakatan Harapan since its upset general election victory while Chia has said he wants to represent Sandakan without being obligated to a party.

Jufazli, an outspoken activist, ran for the Tanjung Papat state seat last May after plans to contest the Sungai Sibuga state seat went awry; he lost the seat to DAP’s Datuk Frankie Poon and took just 3.7 per cent of the votes cast, losing his deposit.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/04/18/sabah-opposition-still-torn-over-unified-front-for-sandakan-race/1744424

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Malaysia's judges leaderless amid tense govt-royals ties

Apr 18, 2019

The delay in appointing the head of Malaysia's judiciary threatens to be the latest in a series of battles between the influential Malay royals and the 11-month-old Mahathir Mohamad administration, which is struggling to maintain support from the crucial ethnic majority.

Sources told The Straits Times that the Malaysian Prime Minister submitted the government's pick to replace chief justice Richard Malanjum early this month but has yet to receive the King's consent for the candidate.

Tan Sri Malanjum retired last Friday, leaving the post vacant.

"They (the royals) have kept mum, passing back the message that they are no rubber stamps," said a source close to a senior monarch who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Tun Dr Mahathir has not commented on the matter, merely saying last Friday that "I already have a candidate".

But the previous day, he made a stinging criticism about monarchs wanting "absolute power", warning that "they may put their own interests before their states".

Sources close to the issue believe the delay in naming the next chief justice (CJ) is less to do with the choice of candidate and more about the government's prickly relations with the royals.

In May last year, the appointment of the new Pakatan Harapan government's choice of Attorney-General Tommy Thomas was delayed over concerns that a non-Malay and non-Muslim would be the government's top lawyer and public prosecutor.

Royal assent was gained only after Parti Keadilan Rakyat president Anwar Ibrahim, who is supposed to succeed Dr Mahathir as prime minister, met the then King, Sultan Muhammad V of Kelantan.

An aide to the Premier told The Straits Times that "there is no way the next CJ is non-Muslim", although he did not reveal who the candidate was. It is speculated that for the first time, Malaysia's top judge could be female, as one of three candidates proposed to the King is a woman.

Another official explained that factions have arisen within the country's Council of Rulers - made up of the nine royal houses - due to the sudden resignation of Sultan Muhammad V as King in January, resulting in disparate views.

"There seems to be camps among the royals so it will be more difficult to reach a consensus to fill important roles like (that of the) CJ," he said.

A stand-off over judicial appointments could worsen already tense relations between the Pakatan Harapan government and Malaysia's constitutional monarchy.

Earlier this month, the government was forced to reverse plans to ratify the Rome Statute following weeks of heated public argument with the Johor Sultanate, which claimed the accord on genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crime of aggression, would undermine Islam, the Malays and the monarchy.

Most recently, Dr Mahathir and Johor's Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar were engaged in a war of words over who had the final say in appointing the Johor Menteri Besar, who heads the state government.

Continued silence from the King - appointed by rotation among the nine rulers - could have repercussions for the entire judiciary.

Mr Malanjum is the first of the country's top four judges to retire. The King can approve a six-month extension of service after judges hit the retirement age of 66.

President of the Court of Appeal Ahmad Maarop, who is the second-highest judge, turns 66 next month - the same month that Chief Judge of Malaya Zaharah Ibrahim's extension expires.

Meanwhile, the Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak David Wong Dak Wah will be 66 in August.

Should the rulers remain silent, Malaysia's judiciary could be entirely rudderless within weeks.

Full report at:

https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/malaysias-judges-leaderless-amid-tense-govt-royals-ties

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Indonesia polls close as voters decide between moderate and ex-general

17 April 2019

Tens of millions of Indonesians voted in presidential and legislative elections Wednesday after a campaign that pitted the moderate incumbent against an ultranationalist former general whose fear-based rhetoric warned that the country would fall apart without his strongman leadership.

Polling booths closed first in easternmost provinces such as Papua followed an hour later by central regions including Bali, and finally western provinces and Jakarta, the capital. Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago of 17,000 islands and hundreds of ethnic groups, has three time zones.

Preliminary results based on so-called “quick counts” as votes are publicly tallied at polling stations were expected to start rolling in within two hours of the final poll closings. The quick counts from reputable survey organizations have been reliable in past elections.

About 193 million people were eligible to vote in elections that will decide who leads the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation and third-largest democracy after India and the U.S. Indonesians are voted for Senate and national, provincial and district legislatures.

The elections are a huge logistical exercise, with more than 800,000 polling stations and 17 million people involved in ensuring they run smoothly. Helicopters, boats and horses were used to get ballots to remote and inaccessible corners of the archipelago.

The presidential race is a choice between five more years of the steady progress achieved under Indonesia’s first president from outside the Jakarta elite, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, or electing Prabowo Subianto, who was a special forces general during the era of the Suharto military dictatorship.

Pre-election polls consistently gave a large lead of as much as 20 percentage points to Widodo and his running mate, conservative cleric Ma’ruf Amin, though analysts said the race was likely tighter.

“I’ve voted for Jokowi because five years in office was not enough for him to complete his brilliant programs for infrastructure, health and education,” said Eko Cahya Pratama, 43, after voting in Tangerang on the outskirts of Jakarta.

“For me, this country is better to be managed by a man with a clean track record rather than a dirty one in the past,” he said.

Widodo’s campaign highlighted his progress in poverty reduction and improving Indonesia’s inadequate infrastructure with new ports, toll roads, airports and mass rapid transit. The latter became a reality last month in chronically congested Jakarta with the opening of a subway.

A strident nationalist, Subianto ran a fear-based campaign, highlighting what he sees as Indonesia’s weakness and the risk of exploitation by foreign powers or disintegration.

“He deserves to get my vote because I was impressed with his commitment to create a clean government and a great nation,” said Anneka Karoine, 43, after she and her husband voted for Subianto and his running mate, tycoon Sandiaga Uno. “I believe they will lead our country better than the current leader.”

Subianto voted not long after 8 a.m. in Bogor in West Java province, one of his strongholds of support, and told reporters he was confident of winning despite trailing in the polls.

“I promised that we will work for the good of the country,” he said. “If it’s chaos or not, it’s not coming from us. But I guarantee that we don’t want to be cheated anymore, that Indonesian people don’t want to be cheated anymore.”

Widodo, who voted in Jakarta, held up a finger dipped in inedible ink to show reporters and said his next stop was playing with his grandson and eating with his wife, Iriana Widodo.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/04/17/Indonesia-polls-close-as-voters-decide-between-moderate-and-ex-general.html

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Europe

 

New Zealand disarms police as terror threat level lowered

17 April 2019

New Zealand police on Wednesday ended the routine arming of frontline officers as the terrorism threat level was lowered a month after the Christchurch mosques massacre.

Police and security agencies reduced the threat level from high to medium, meaning authorities judge that another attack, violent criminal behavior, or violent protest remains “feasible” rather than “very likely.”

The level is still higher than it was before the March 15 attacks, when the threat was deemed to be “low.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said “there is no current specific threat,” but the security agencies believed the medium level “accurately reflects our current status.”

Frontline New Zealand police have historically not carried firearms and many people were shocked to see them heavily armed after 50 Muslims were gunned down while at Friday prayers.

Police commissioner Mike Bush said with the easing of the security threat level, the police had reassessed their position on arming frontline staff and the carrying of weapons would now be decided on a case-by-case basis.

The decision was made after “significant consultation” with mosques and Islamic Centres in relation to ongoing security, although Bush said he would not release details.

“There was never any intention for the routine carriage of firearms to continue indefinitely,” Bush said.

“Generally this means frontline staff will transition back to our normal approach regarding carriage and access to firearms.

The police also released a timeline of the mosque attacks, showing it took 18 minutes from the time of the first emergency call to the apprehension of the alleged shooter.

A 28-year-old Australian, Brenton Tarrant, a self-avowed white supremacist, faces 50 murder charges and 39 of attempted murder over the attack.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/04/17/New-Zealand-disarms-police-as-terror-threat-level-lowered.html

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Jordan to recall envoy to Romania over embassy move to al-Quds: Reports

Apr 17, 2019

Jordan will recall its ambassador to Romania in a show of protest after it announced plans to relocate its Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to the occupied Jerusalem al-Quds, reports say.

Jordanian media outlets reported that King Abdullah II had approved a decision of the Council of Ministers to call in Saker Malkawi on June 1.

Last month, the Jordanian monarch canceled a visit to Romania to protest its prime minister's support for recognizing Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel's capital.

The Royal Hashemite Court said on March 25 that the decision came "in solidarity with al-Quds”, following the announcement by Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila. King Abdullah was scheduled to visit Romania later in the day.

Dancila made the announcement in a speech in Washington at the annual conference of American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the main pro-Israel lobby group in the United States.

King Abdullah II, whose country is the custodian of Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem al-Quds, has repeatedly said that the question of the occupied Palestinian city is key to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The only way to do that, he has said, is by creating a Palestinian state in the disputed holy city alongside Israel.

In mid-March, he called Jerusalem al-Quds a “red line” for Jordan, while the kingdom's parliament recommended that the government expel Israel's ambassador in response to "Israeli aggression" at holy sites in the city. Last May, US President Donald Trump sparked international outrage when he relocated the US embassy from Tel Aviv.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/04/17/593657/Jordan-envoy-Romania-embassy-move-Jerusalem-alQuds

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France to try Syrian President Assad’s uncle on graft charges

April 17, 2019

PARIS: The uncle of Syrian President Bashar Assad is to stand trial in France on charges of building up a big property empire in the country using funds from Syrian state coffers, legal sources said on Wednesday.

An investigating magistrate ordered Rifaat Assad to stand trial for organized money laundering in building the 90 million euro ($102 million) property portfolio in France, according to the order for the trial seen by AFP.

Its date has yet to be set.

Rifaat Assad, dubbed the “Butcher of Hama” for allegedly commanding the troops that bloodily put down an uprising in central Syria in 1982, has been under investigation in France since 2014.

In a written decision dated March 8, seen by AFP on Thursday, the office of the financial crimes prosecutor called for Assad to stand trial for laundering the proceeds of aggravated tax fraud, embezzling Syrian state funds, and failing to register French security and cleaning staff.

Assad, who splits his time between France and Britain, denies the charges.

Formerly Syria’s vice president, Rifaat Assad left Syria in 1984 after mounting a failed coup against his brother Hafez Assad, Bashar’s father who led Syria from 1971 to 2000.

After he arrived in Europe, his lavish lifestyle, four wives, and 16 children soon raised eyebrows.

His reported French fortune includes two Paris townhouses, one measuring a vast 3,000 square meters (32,000 square feet), as well as a stud farm and a chateau near the French capital, and 7,300 square meters (79,000 square feet) of office space in Lyon.

Most of that was bought in the 1980s through offshore companies in Panama, Curacao, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1483971/world

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Germany concerned over constitutional changes in Egypt

Ayhan Şimşek 

17.04.2019

BERLIN

Germany raised concern over recent constitutional changes in Egypt that would allow President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi to remain in power until 2030. 

“It is feared that in the course of these constitutional changes the role of the executive and armed forces would be expanded, and a peaceful democratic change in power could be hampered,” Christofer Burger, the deputy spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, told a news conference in Berlin.

He reiterated Germany’s support for Egypt’s stability, but also underlined that it requires opening more space for civil society and political debate in the country.

On Tuesday, Egypt’s parliament approved sweeping constitutional amendments which opponents said would reinforce the dominance of military on political affairs and increase executive control over the judiciary.

The changes would extend the duration of presidential terms from four to six years, and allow President al-Sisi to eventually run for a third term in office.

Egypt’s current constitution, which was ratified in 2014, allowed the president to hold office for a maximum of two four-year terms.

The constitutional change, however, means al-Sisi’s second term in office -- which he secured in elections last year -- will end in 2024, after which he will be allowed to run for a third six-year term ending in 2030.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/germany-concerned-over-constitutional-changes-in-egypt/1455202

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Africa

 

Over 50 Boko Haram fighters killed in Nigeria attack

18 April 2019 T

More than 50 Boko Haram fighters have been killed in an attack on a multi-national force in northeastern Nigeria, a military spokesperson said Wednesday.

Two Chadian soldiers belonging to the Multinational Joint Task Force (MMF), an anti-Boko Haram force combining soldiers from Chad, Cameroon, Niger, and Nigeria, died in the assault at Cross Kauwa on Tuesday, Colonel Azem Bermandoa said. Eleven other soldiers were injured.

“Fifty-two members of Boko Haram have been killed. Chadian forces have recovered a vehicle equipped with a heavy weapon and several small arms,” Bermandoa said.

A report published by Nigerian newspaper The Nation quoted the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF ) as saying on Wednesday that 39 Boko Haram terrorists have been killed as its troops engaged the terrorists at the fringes of lake Chad.

Boko Haram’s nearly 10-year insurgency has its epicenter in northeast Nigeria but has spilled over into Chad, Niger and Cameroon.

It has left more than 27,000 people dead and about 1.8 million others homeless. In late February, more than 500 Chadian soldiers entered Nigeria to aid the Nigerian army in the fight against the militant group.

On Sunday night, seven Chadian soldiers were also killed in a Boko Haram attack in the town of Bouhama in Chad.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2019/04/18/Over-50-Boko-Haram-fighters-killed-in-Nigeria-attack.html

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Four killed in Mogadishu car bomb

17 April 2019

Four people were killed and five injured when a car loaded with explosives detonated on a busy road in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, police said on Wednesday.

“So far we can confirm four dead and five wounded. We offer our condolences to the victims,” Somalia’s deputy police chief Zakia Hussein wrote on Twitter.

Abdulkadir Abdirahman Adan, director of the private Aamin Ambulance service, said his team had collected 13 wounded people and one dead body. It was not clear if these victims had been counted by police.

“The blast was very huge, and I saw smoke and shrapnel everywhere around the area, the police have cordoned off the road and ambulances were rushing to the scene to collect casualties,” said witness Mohamed Abdikarin.

The explosion occurred along the busy Maka Al-Mukarama road despite a recent increase in police checkpoints in the capital following a hike in bomb attacks by Al-Qaeda linked Al-Shabaab militants.

On March 28, a car bomb ripped through a restaurant, killing 15 people just days after Shabaab gunmen attacked a complex housing government ministries, killing 11 people including the deputy labor minister.

There have also been several smaller blasts in the capital.

Shabaab fighters have been fighting for more than a decade to topple the government. They fled fixed positions they once held in Mogadishu in 2011, and have since lost many of their strongholds.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/04/17/Four-killed-in-Mogadishu-car-bomb-.html

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Sudan’s military rulers say two of Bashir’s brothers arrested

18 April 2019

Sudan’s military rulers said on Wednesday that two brothers of ousted President Omar al-Bashir have been arrested as part of a continuing campaign of arrests against “symbols of the previous regime.”

A spokesman for the Transitional Military Council also said that irregular forces linked to Bashir's former ruling party have been brought under the army or police control.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2019/04/18/Sudan-s-military-rulers-say-two-of-Bashir-s-brothers-arrested.html

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Germany calls for UN Security Council meeting on Libya

18 April 2019

Germany on Wednesday requested an urgent UN Security Council meeting on Libya after negotiations on a draft resolution calling for a ceasefire in Tripoli failed to yield an agreement.

The council is expected to meet behind closed doors on Thursday to “consult on the way forward,” according to a note sent by the German mission to the council and seen by AFP.

Some 205 people have been killed, including 18 civilians, and 913 wounded in two weeks of fighting near the Libyan capital of Tripoli, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2019/04/18/Germany-calls-for-UN-Security-Council-meeting-on-Libya.html

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Uganda says it is willing to consider asylum for Sudan’s ousted leader Bashir

17 April 2019

Uganda will consider offering asylum to ousted Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir despite his indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC), its foreign affairs minister said on Wednesday.

“Uganda would not be apologetic at all for considering an application by Bashir,” Okello Oryem, Uganda’s state minister for foreign affairs, told Reuters in Kampala.

Bashir, 75, who had ruled Sudan for 30 years after seizing power in a military coup, was toppled by the military last week after months of street protests.

Bashir faces an International Criminal Court arrest warrant over the death of an estimated 300,000 people during an insurgency in Sudan’s western Darfur region over a decade ago.

Oryem said Bashir had yet to contact Kampala for possible refuge, but added that there was no harm in considering the fallen Sudanese leader for political asylum.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/04/17/Uganda-says-it-is-willing-to-consider-asylum-for-Sudan-s-ousted-leader-Bashir.html

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Death toll exceeds 200 in Tripoli fighting: WHO

April 18, 2019

GENEVA: Some 205 people have been killed, including 18 civilians, and 913 wounded in two weeks of fighting near the Libyan capital of Tripoli, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.

Shells slammed into a densely-populated district of Tripoli late on Tuesday, piling misery on civilians from a two-week assault by commander Khalifa Haftar’s forces to take Libya’s capital from an internationally-backed government.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1484276/world

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Sudan ruling council hails ties with Riyadh, Abu Dhabi

Bahram Abdel-Moneim 

17.04.2019

Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of Sudan’s ruling Military Transitional Council (MTC), has praised his country’s “distinctive” relations with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Burhan made the remarks at a Wednesday meeting with members of a joint Saudi/Emirati delegation at Defense Ministry headquarters in the capital Khartoum.

According to a subsequent statement released by the MTC, the delegation “delivered a message of greetings from the leaders of these two brotherly countries, who expressed their readiness to support Sudan and its people at this critical period”.

Members of the joint delegation, who arrived in Khartoum on Tuesday for a two-day visit, also met with MTC deputy leader Mohamed Daglo.

Last week, President Omar al-Bashir was ousted by the Sudanese army following months of popular protests against his 30-year rule.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/sudan-ruling-council-hails-ties-with-riyadh-abu-dhabi/1454918

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Mideast

 

Erdogan’s party loses Istanbul after 25 years

April 18, 2019

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s main opposition candidate was declared Istanbul’s mayor on Wednesday after election recounts were finally completed, despite an appeal still pending by President Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party to re-run the vote in the country’s largest city.

The final result of the March 31 local elections showed a narrow victory for the secularist opposition Republican Peoples Party (CHP) in Turkey’s commercial hub, ending 25 years of control by the AK Party (AKP) and its Islamist predecessors.

The loss is especially hard for Erdogan, who launched his political career in Istanbul as mayor in the 1990s and has triumphed in more than a dozen elections since his Islamist-rooted AKP came to power in 2002.

The Turkish lira, which has dipped since the election, firmed on Wednesday.

As he formally took office after a campaign which featured months of harsh rhetoric from Erdogan’s AK Party and more than two weeks of challenges and recounts, Ekrem Imamoglu promised to work for all 16 million residents of the city.

“We never gave up, we never gave up on our battle for democracy and rights,” he told supporters at Istanbul’s municipality building. “We are aware of our responsibilities and the needs of this city. We will start to serve immediately.”

Imamoglu’s margin of victory — the final count put him some 13,000 votes, or less than 0.2 percentage points, ahead of the AK Party candidate and former prime minister Binali Yildirim — prompted several AKP challenges.

On Tuesday, after 16 days of appeals and recounts, the AKP asked the High Election Board (YSK) to annul and re-run the election in Istanbul over what it said were irregularities. Its nationalist MHP allies made a similar request on Wednesday.

“We are aware there are ongoing processes... We hope the relevant authorities will complete these processes in the most sensitive and just way,” Imamoglu said.

The repeated challenges by the AKP and MHP have fuelled frustration among opposition supporters which spilled over into football stadiums at the weekend when fans chanted at top Istanbul derby matches for the mayoral mandate to be given to their candidate.

“There are way too many irregularities,” AKP Deputy Chairman Ali Ihsan Yavuz said, presenting the party’s justification for its demand for a new vote. “We are saying that organised fraud, unlawfulness and crimes were committed.”

CHP Deputy Chairman Muharrem Erkek responded that there were “no concrete documents, information or evidence in the AKP appeal for an annulment”. “There is no legitimate reason at all. You are using your right (to appeal) to damage the will of Istanbul,” he said.

While the AKP was defeated in the battle for Istanbul mayor, results showed the party had won most seats in its municipal councils. The AKP’s re-run appeal applies only to the mayoral elections, not those for municipal councils.

Wolfango Piccoli, co-president of Teneo political risk advisers, said it was puzzling to call only for a re-run of the mayoral elections, and added that some of the areas where the AKP claimed fraud took place were under its responsibility.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1476857/erdogans-party-loses-istanbul-after-25-years

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Security Forces Dismantle 20 ISIL-Affiliated Terror Cells in Western Iran

Apr 17, 2019

The director-general of the intelligence ministry's office in Kurdistan province said that 20 teams affiliated to the Takfiri grouplets, specially ISIL, were dismantled and 20 of their operational and logistical agents were under radar in the past Iranian year (ended on March 20).

"All of their terrorist and harassment operations were killed in the bud and a large amount of equipment and ammunition were discovered and seized from them," he added.

The official, meantime, said that members of 5 groups affiliated to the anti-revolutionary terrorist grouplets, were identified and the groups were dismantled.

He also added that a number of members of a group affiliated to the PJAK (the Party for Free Life of Kurdistan) terrorist group were operating in disguise of an official Iranian party in the province, noting that the group has been disbanded as well.

The Iranian security forces stationed at the bordering areas have dismantled several terrorist groups in the past few months.

The Iranian intelligence ministry announced in February that the country's security forces had arrested members of two terrorist groups affiliated to the ISIL in the Western province of Kurdistan who intended to assassinate Sunni clerics in Iran.

According to Intelligence Ministry statement, the intelligence forces managed to identify and detain 13 terrorists, affiliated to the ISIL grouplet, who were divided in two groups to plant bombs, kill people and assassinate certain Iranian Sunni clerics in Iran.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980128000672

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Leader: Region would face unclear fate ‎if Iran armed forces did not counter Daesh

Apr 17, 2019

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei says the region would have been facing an unclear fate had it not been for the Iranian Armed Forces’ efforts against Dash terrorists.

During a meeting with military commanders in the capital Tehran on Wednesday ahead of National Army Day, Ayatollah Khamenei pointed to the presence of the Iranian Army and the Armed Forces in the region and their contribution to the fight against “enemies’ seditious acts” and said, “If the Army and the IRGC did not engage in the fight against Daesh, today what had become of the region and neighboring countries and who would rule over them?”

“Each and every single country that was engaged [in the fight] countered [terrorists] and took necessary measures but the role of Iran’s Armed Forces cannot be ignored,” the Leader added.

The Leader said Iran’s Armed Forces were among the “manifestations and elements of national power,” contrary to many countries even those claiming to be advocates of freedom and human rights, where the military is the element of power that counters people, an example of which we see in the Saturday [protests in] Paris.”

Ayatollah Khamenei said the Armed Forces both in Islam and in the Islamic Republic of Iran are considered a “safe protection for nations,” noting that’s why enemies are seeking to disrupt peace of the nation through portraying the Armed Forces agitated.

The Leader said the US made baseless remarks about Iran to undermine the morale of the nation.

“The United States is struggling with thousands of billions of debt and various problems, and despite some years after floods and storms in areas such as Carolina they have not yet been able to deal with these problems, but they are ranting and raving to weaken the morale of the Iranian nation.”

Elsewhere in his remarks, Ayatollah Khamenei commended the army and the IRGC as well as the unprecedented presence of people in flood-hit areas to help their fellow country men and women.

The Leader also underlined the importance of “ever-growing unity” among Iran’s Armed Forces, He also hailed the unity between the Armed Forces and the IRGC in the face of a recent move by the US to blacklist the IRGC.

“Whatever measure that enrages enemy is good and right but all should refrain from any act that emboldens and bolsters enemy,” Ayatollah Khamenei further said.

The United States on Monday officially registered the IRGC as a "foreign terrorist organization," according to a notice published on the website of the US Federal Register.

US President Trump said in a statement on April 8 that he had designated the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization, adding that the Iranian elite forces' designation "makes crystal clear the risks of conducting business with, or providing support to, the IRGC. If you are doing business with the IRGC, you will be bankrolling terrorism."

The US measure was met with severe criticism from Iranian officials and military commanders as well as the nation that voiced support for the IRGC.

On Tuesday, the Iranian parliament overwhelmingly approved the general outlines of a motion devised by the legislature to counter the US blacklisting of the IRGC.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/04/17/593662/IRGC-blacklisting-terrorist-organization-US-Iran-Ayatollah-Khamenei

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Iran’s Zarif, Turkey’s Erdogan slam US sanctions, IRGC blacklisting as they urge enhanced ties

Apr 17, 2019

Tehran and Ankara have voiced opposition to the US sanctions against Iran as well as Washington’s terror blacklisting of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps while reaffirming the need to bolster bilateral ties.   

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday met with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is in Ankara on a one-day official visit to discuss bilateral ties and regional developments.

During the meeting, the two sides said that Ankara and Tehran needed to promote cooperation, including in the economic sector, in line with their agreements in the face of the US sanctions.

They also exchanged views on the ongoing developments in Syria, Yemen and North Africa.

The Turkish leader also voiced his sympathy with Iran over the recent flooding in the country, the worst in decades in 25 of 31 provinces.

Zarid also hailed the recent successful local elections in Turkey.

Earlier in the day, Zarif also held talks and later attended a joint press conference with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu, during which Turkey's top diplomat said his country has told and will continue to tell the United States that the sanctions against Iran are “wrong.”

“Our ministers expressed Turkey’s concerns to US counterparts in a recent meeting,” Cavusoglu said, referring to Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak and Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan, who visited Washington and met with top US officials, including President Donald Trump, on Monday.

The Trump administration has taken a hostile approach toward Iran. That approach intensified last year when Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and imposed sanctions against the country.

The White House has also warned its European allies in the JCPOA against seeking to circumvent anti-Iran sanctions.

Elsewhere in his remarks during the press conference, Cavusoglu said Turkey and neighboring Iran needed to keep working to raise their bilateral trade to a target of $30 billion.

He also said his country is looking into establishing new trade mechanisms with Iran, like the INSTEX system introduced by European countries, to avoid US sanctions, but he did not provide further details.

“Along with the existing mechanisms, we evaluated how we can establish new mechanisms, like INSTEX ...how we can remove the obstacles before us and before trade,” Cavusoglu told the news conference. “What is important here is the solidarity and determination between us,” he added.

The Europeans introduced INSTEX as a non-dollar direct payment channel to keep the JCPOA alive following Washington’s withdrawal from the nuclear accord.

In late January, Iran’s European partners in the JCPOA -- the UK, France and Germany-- unveiled INSTEX with the aim of protecting their companies against US sanctions and enabling them to continue trade with Iran.

Iran has complained about a delay by the European partners to make INSTEX operational, saying they have "no excuse" for further postponement of the project.

Zarif said on Sunday that the Europeans had introduced INSTEX as "a preliminary measure" as part of their multiple commitments under the JCPOA following Washington’s withdrawal from the nuclear accord, adding that in order to begin honoring their commitments, the Europeans were required to set up INSTEX.

An Iranian structure parallel to INSTEX, called the Special Trade and Finance Institute (STFI), was launched just last week, Zarif said, noting that the European signatories have no longer any excuse to delay the start of their job.

During the Wednesday press conference, Zarif, for his part, pointed to US’ acts of obstructionism to hinder Iran’s trade with other countries and said,” We will not allow Americans to question our trade with other countries.”

The top Iranian diplomat said the unilateral US sanctions are in contravention of UN Security Council Resolution 22331, which endorses the JCPOA, noting,” We believe the US cannot bring relations among other countries under its control.”

He said there were numerous ways for Iran, including INSTEX, to continue cooperation with other countries as the world was against Washington’s sanctions. 

“The US illegally imposes its policies on the world. US measures violate Security Council Resolution [2231] and they should definitely be countered or it (the world) should wait for the Americans to interfere in all economic relations for the sake of their own interests,” he said.

On Syria, Zarif said that Iran along with Turkey and Russia would work to contribute to the restoration of peace and stability in Syria.

“We along with our friends in Turkey and Russia will maintain efforts to promote peace and stability in Syria. These efforts will continue with the formation of the [Syrian] Constitutional Committee and support of the peace process,” he said.   

He said that he had held extensive talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during his visit to Damascus before he arrived in Turkey and said he would brief Erdogan on the negotiations.  

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/04/17/593650/Turkey-Iran-sanctions-wrong

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Yemen agreement should be implemented without delay: UNSC

Apr 18, 2019

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has called on warring parties in Yemen to withdraw from the embattled port city of Hudaydah “as soon as possible” in line with a ceasefire deal reached in December 2018.

In a statement on Wednesday, the council expressed “grave concern” that the UN-brokered deal reached between Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement and the country’s former Saudi-backed regime in Sweden has yet to be implemented, urging the parties to conflict to act on their commitments “without delay.”

The council said it will monitor the compliance of all sides with the “redeployment plans” agreed in the deal as it awaits a report by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on whether they are upholding their commitments.

The council members welcomed Monday’s announcement by UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths that said fighters of Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement and militants loyal to the ex-Yemeni government had agreed to a detailed plan for the initial withdrawal of forces from Hudaydah.

The statement urged the warring sides to engage with Griffiths and the head of the UN operation monitoring the withdrawals “to swiftly agree on local security force arrangements” and on the second phase of the redeployment.

It also called on the parties “to redouble efforts” to finalize arrangements for a prisoner exchange and to establish a coordinating committee in southwestern city of Ta’izz, as called for in the Stockholm agreements.

The council further reiterated its concern about “the continued deterioration of the humanitarian situation across Yemen.”

The Houthis have repeatedly complained that the Saudi-led coalition has been violating the ceasefire. UN diplomats earlier said the Houthis refused to pull away from Hudaydah ports as part of the first stage, citing fears that forces linked to the Saudis will move in to take over facilities there.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates launched the Hudaydah offensive in June 2018 but have been facing strong resistance from Yemeni armed forces, led by the Houthis, as well as the city’s residents.

Hudaydah, a lifeline for millions of Yemenis, has seen some of the heaviest fighting in the Saudi-led war, which Riyadh began in 2015.

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

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/04/18/593707/UNSC-Yemen-Hudaydah-Sweden-deal-Saudi-Arabia

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Ansarullah condemns Trump’s veto to end US involvement in Yemen war

Apr 17, 2019

The Yemeni Houthi Ansarullah movement has strongly censured US President Donald Trump's veto of a Congress resolution directing him to end support for the Saudi-led war against Yemen, describing the measure as a proof that Washington was behind the conflict.

The veto “proves that the United States is not only involved in the war on Yemen but also was behind the decision to go to war,” Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdelsalam wrote in a post published on his Twitter page on Wednesday.

“Others followed that decision and execute the wishes and ambitions of the United States,” Abdelsalam added, referring to Saudi Arabia and its allies involved in the military aggression against Yemen.

He also held the United States responsible for “massacres, crimes and the unjust siege of Yemen.”

Congress had for the first time voted to invoke the War Powers Resolution to try and stop US involvement in a foreign conflict.

But Trump vetoed the measure on Wednesday, with the Congress lacking the votes to override him.

“This resolution is an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities, endangering the lives of American citizens and brave service members, both today and in the future,” Trump said in a statement.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash (pictured below) later praised Trump's decision.

“President Trump’s assertion of support to the Arab Coalition in Yemen is a positive signal of US resolve towards America's allies. Common strategic interests are best served with this clear commitment,” Gargash wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.

He also termed Trump's decision as “timely” and “strategic.”

“Coalition continues to work without interruption to support peace through UN led Stockholm Agreement & its commitment to the humanitarian & political dimensions of the Yemen crisis [remains] unshakable,” Gargash asserted.

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

According to a December 2018 report by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, the Saudi-led war has claimed the lives of over 60,000 Yemenis since January 2016.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/04/17/593669/Ansarullah-Trump-veto-US-Yemen-war-

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Dozens of Houthi militants killed in clashes

April 17, 2019

DUBAI: The Yemeni army killed 70 Houthi militants, including senior officers, on Tuesday in Al-Dhale province south of Yemen, Saudi state agency SPA reported.

The clashes in the Hamak front, which also left 20 Houthis injured, broke out when the militia tried to block a main road in Al-Nadira district and a secondary road in Hamak, but Yemeni troops forced them to retract.

Meanwhile, the Yemeni parliament held talks in Seiyun to classify the Houthi militia as a terrorist group.

The new law would include individuals in any way affiliated to the Houthis or any of its auxiliary bodies, as well all its higher political bodies, field workers, and fighters.

Also, any Houthi finances would be held until a decision is made by the court.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1483811/middle-east

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