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Islamic World News (21 Jun 2019 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Jihad Literally Means Striving or Struggling, Merely the Use of Word ‘Jihad’ Would Not Be Proper To Brand the Accused as a Terrorist,'The Special Judge Said








Jihad Literally Means Striving or Struggling, Merely the Use of Word ‘Jihad’ Would Not Be Proper To Brand the Accused as a Terrorist,” The Special Judge Said

More than Twenty Percent of Indonesian Students Support Idea of Caliphate: Defense

Pope Francis Seeks More Freedom in Theology Taught In Catholic Schools, Dialogue with Islam

UK: Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia Declared Unlawful

Pakistan Will Be Blacklisted If It Fails To Complete Action Plan by October 2019: FATF

Analyst Says Australian Teen Was Islamic State Propagandist

King Abdullah of Jordan Slams ‘Hate-Filled Outlaws of Islam’

US Lawmakers Press Trump Official to Say Iran Not Behind 9/11

US Senate Passes Bill To Block Saudi Arms Sales

Islamic State’s Sinai Province Renews Allegiance to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi

Trump Approves Strikes on Iran, but Then Abruptly Pulls Back

 

India

Jihad Literally Means Striving or Struggling, Merely the Use of Word ‘Jihad’ Would Not Be Proper To Brand The Accused As A Terrorist,” The Special Judge Said

UP government is acting like one of particular community only: Babri Masjid Action Committee

Muslim Men Beaten Up In Assam's Barpeta, Forced To Chant "Jai Shri Ram"

BYJM Members Burn Effigy of SP MP Shafiqur Rehman Barq After He Refuses To Chant 'Vande Mataram'

Prior to joining Hizbul, former SPO worked with PDP: NIA

Vote for Israel at UN not tied to Palestinian cause: India

Will move court if ordinance is brought for Ram temple: Babri Masjid Action Committee

Steel-coated bullets re-entry poses threat to J&K forces fighting militants

Terror link: 2 hard discs seized as NIA carries out raids in Tamil Nadu

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Southeast Asia

More than Twenty Percent of Indonesian Students Support Idea of Caliphate: Defense

Will Jokowi Revive The Vanishing, Tolerant Indonesian Islam?

Whether Islam or the economy, PH has failed us, Hadi tells PAS members

Hadi: PAS-Umno ties won’t jeopardise non-Muslim rights

Outgoing PAS Youth chief tells members to stay vigilant for ‘subtle threats’ against Islam

Minister

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Europe

Pope Francis Seeks More Freedom in Theology Taught In Catholic Schools, Dialogue with Islam

UK: Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia Declared Unlawful

Western Europe must repatriate its ISIL fighters and families

UN chief urges maximum restraint after Iran shoots down US drone

Putin: Iran-US conflict would be 'catastrophe'

‘Europe needs to learn from Turkey on hosting refugees’

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Pakistan

Pakistan Will Be Blacklisted If It Fails To Complete Action Plan by October 2019: FATF

Pakistan Thwarts India’s FATF Blacklist Move But Danger Still Lurks

Pakistan Security Forces Kill 2 Suspected ISIS Terrorists Linked to Abduction of Former PM Yousaf Gilani's Son

Pakistan's Senate expresses sorrow over Morsi's death

Zardari presented before accountability court as NAB's physical remand ends

Asad finds fault with budget, discloses details of IMF talks

Pakistan’s hosting of refugees exemplary: Mazari

Gen Bajwa reaches London on official trip, says ISPR

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Australia

Analyst Says Australian Teen Was Islamic State Propagandist

New Zealand opens gun buyback after mosque killings

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Africa

King Abdullah of Jordan Slams ‘Hate-Filled Outlaws Of Islam’

Hundreds Demonstrate For Civilian Rule In Sudan’s State Capitals

Mali attack: Forces deployed as survivors recall killings

Islamic State says it killed 12 Nigerian soldiers in Borno state attack: statement

Sahel jihadists undeterred by Western-led fightback

Libyan commander marching on capital dismisses negotiations

Sudan's military fires attorney general over crackdown

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North America

US Lawmakers Press Trump Official to Say Iran Not Behind 9/11

US Senate Passes Bill To Block Saudi Arms Sales

US adds Cuba, Saudi Arabia to human trafficking list

House Speaker Pelosi Calls On US To De-Escalate Tensions With Iran

Prince Khalid bin Salman: Saudi Arabia supports ‘maximum pressure' on Iran

Donald Trump tells Iran that strikes are imminent but offers talks

FBI: Syrian Islamic State sympathizer in Pittsburgh planned to bomb North Side church

US envoy for Iran traveling to Middle East: State Department

New US deployment in Middle East includes more Patriot missile defenses

Trump warned Iran via Oman that US attack was imminent, called for talks

Iran decries US 'drone airspace intrusion'

Trump approved strikes on Iran but pulled back: report

Trump: Iran made 'a very big mistake' in downing drone

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Arab World

Islamic State’s Sinai Province Renews Allegiance to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi

US-Backed Terrorists Set Up New Centers at Iraqi-Syrian Borders to Train 2nd Generation of ISIL

Qatar exploiting UN loopholes to facilitate terror financing

Outrage after Muslim told he cannot rent in Christian area

Saudi killers called Khashoggi 'sacrificial animal' before murder

UN aid chief: Syria, Russia attacks on civilians 'deliberate'

2 Rockets Strike Oil Fields in Southern Iraq

Iraqi jet fighters kill two Islamic State jihadists in Diyala

6 IS militants killed in attacks in Iraq

In Lebanon, Syrian refugees face new pressure to go home

Damascus’ Four Seasons closes down following US sanctions on Syrian oligarch

Saudi Arabia buys $300 million worth of spy software from Israel: Report

UN: Bin Salman’s aide had key role in Hariri’s abduction

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Mideast

Trump Approves Strikes on Iran, but Then Abruptly Pulls Back

Arab parliamentarians urge UN to call Houthis ‘terrorists’

Arab Parliament classifies Houthis as a terrorist group, calls on UN and Arab League to do the same

US FAA prohibits operators from flying over some Iran-controlled airspace

Pentagon releases flight path image, grid plot for drone shot down by Iran

Iran's Zarif: US is waging ‘economic terrorism’ on Iran

White House adviser: US efforts to cut off Iran oil revenue working

Iran’s IRGC: Downing of US drone carried a message to Washington

Coalition: Houthis launched projectile at desalination plant in Saudi’s Jizan

Yemeni drone attack halts air traffic in Saudi airport

World Food Programme suspends Yemen aid in Houthi-controlled Sanaa

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South Asia

Afghan Fighting Claims Over 40 Lives within 24 Hours

24 Taliban And ISIS Militants Renounce Violence in Nangarhar Province

6 Taliban militants killed, 4 detained in Farah and Nimroz operations

4 militants killed, 50 thousand kgs of opium and 4,400 rounds of ammunition confiscated in Farah

UN envoy: Goal now must be Afghan-Taliban peace negotiations

Senior Afghan leaders invited to Bhurban moot ahead of Ghani visit

Rohingya refugees long for home but Bangladesh says still too volatile

Common message to Taliban regarding peace process is clear: UN envoy

Sri Lanka prosecutor orders probe of nine officers over Easter bombing lapses

Sri Lanka prosecutor orders probe of nine officers over Easter bombing lapses

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL:  http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/jihad-literally-means-striving-or-struggling,-merely-the-use-of-word-‘jihad’-would-not-be-proper-to-brand-the-accused-as-a-terrorist,”-the-special-judge-said/d/118950

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Jihad Literally Means Striving or Struggling, Merely the Use of Word ‘Jihad’ Would Not Be Proper To Brand the Accused as a Terrorist,” The Special Judge Said

JUNE 20, 2019

‘Adventurous to jump to conclusions’

A person cannot be branded as a terrorist merely for using the word “jihad”, a court in Akola observed while acquitting three accused of terror charges.

The court of special judge A.S. Jadhav was hearing a case against three people accused under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), Arms Act and Bombay Police Act.

Abdul Razzaque (24), Shoeb Khan (24) and Salim Malik (26) were booked under various Indian Penal Code sections, including 307 (attempt to murder) and 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty), following an attack on policemen outside a mosque in Pusad on September 25, 2015, over the beef ban in the State.

Prosecution’s case

According to the prosecution, Mr. Razzaque arrived at the mosque, stabbed two on-duty policemen with a knife, and said he would kill policemen because of the beef ban. The Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) claimed the accused were part of a conspiracy to influence Muslim youths to join terrorist organisations.

Judge Jadhav observed, “It appears that accused Razzaque exhibited his anger by violence against the government and some Hindu organisations for ban on cow slaughter … No doubt he used the word ‘jihad’. But it was adventurous to jump to the conclusion that only for using the word ‘jihad’ he should be branded as a terrorist,” he said.

Citing dictionary

According to dictionary, the word ‘jihad’ literally means “struggle”, he pointed out. “Jihad is an Arabic word which literally means striving or struggling … therefore merely the use of word ‘jihad’ by the accused would not be proper to brand him as a terrorist,” the judge said.

Mr. Razzaque was convicted and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for voluntarily causing hurt to policemen. As he had been in jail since September 25, 2015, he was released following the court order.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/cant-dub-person-terrorist-on-use-of-word-jihad-court/article28083206.ece

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More than Twenty Percent of Indonesian Students Support Idea of Caliphate: Defense

JUNE 20, 2019

Jakarta. A study by Indonesia's Defense Ministry has revealed that 23.3 percent of high school and university students in the country agree with the idea of an Islamic state or a caliphate. 

"Pancasila [the official state ideology] is fading away. This might not be a big problem now, but will be in the next 20-30 years, if we do nothing. It will spell the end of this nation," Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said at the Indonesian Military (TNI) headquarters in East Jakarta on Wednesday.

The study also shows that 19 percent of civil servants and 18 percent of employees in private companies disagree with the Pancasila ideology.

Nine percent of staff in state-owned companies also say they do not agree with Pancasila and 3 percent of TNI personnel also disapprove of the state ideology.

"This is very worrying. We must overcome this together," the former Army commander said.

Bonar Tigor Naipospos, the deputy chairman of Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, said it is particularly worrying that some in the TNI support the establishment of a caliphate.

"This is a serious threat. They are trained soldiers. If they sympathize with a terror group, the impact would be unimaginable," Bonar said in Jakarta on Thursday.

Bonar also said the data need to be checked for accuracy.

"The data came from a study conducted by a government institution. We need comparable data from independent and academic institutions to validate them," Bonar said.

https://jakartaglobe.id/context/more-than-twenty-percent-of-indonesian-students-support-idea-of-caliphate-defense-minister

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Pope Francis Seeks More Freedom in Theology Taught In Catholic Schools, Dialogue with Islam

June 21, 2019

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis called Friday for a reform of the way theology is taught in Catholic schools, saying students must learn about dialogue with Judaism and Islam, and that overall there must be greater freedom in theological research and academic pursuits.

The Jesuit pope made the call during a speech at the Jesuit-run theology university in Naples. It follows his outreach this year to the Muslim world with the signing of a joint statement with the imam of Cairo’s Al Azhar, the seat of Sunni learning, establishing the relationship between Catholics and Muslims as brothers, with a common mission to promote peace.

In his speech, Francis said dialogue and partnership with the Muslim world is necessary “to build a peaceful existence, even when there are the troublesome episodes by fanatic enemies of dialogue.”

Catholic theology students must learn the culture, language and way of thinking of Jews and Muslims “to better understand and live out our relationship,” he said.

After the theologically doctrinaire papacies of St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, Francis has stressed instead the need to “walk together” with interfaith partners, often joking that theologians should ruminate on a deserted island while religious leaders press ahead with dialogue on the ground. He has also called for a more pastoral, merciful and conscience-driven approach to sticky theological problems, such as Communion for the civilly remarried.

“Theological freedom is necessary,” Francis said Friday. “Without the possibility of trying new paths, you don’t create anything new.” Speaking off the cuff, Francis, though, made a distinction between the necessary freedom required for theological study and the need for theological precision in preaching to the faithful.

He called for a revision of the way theology is taught so that it focuses on welcome, dialogue and flexibility. In addition, lay people should be encouraged to take up theological studies, especially women, he said.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1514131/world

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UK: Arms sales to Saudi Arabia declared unlawful

Muhammad Mussa

20.06.2019

LONDON

U.K. weapons exports to Saudi Arabia have been declared unlawful as they have contributed to high levels of civilian deaths and casualties in the bombing of Yemen by Saudi-led coalition forces, Britain's court of appeal said Thursday.

The ruling was passed down by three senior judges after they accepted the legal challenge from the Campaign Against Arms Trade group, which has accused the government of licensing arms sales when it was clear their sales could breach international law.

According to Campaign Against Arms Trade, around £4.7 billion ($5.9 million) worth of arms exports to Saudi Arabia have been licensed by the government since the Saudi-led intervention began in 2015 with record sales taking place before 2018.

The U.K. government "made no concluded assessments of whether the Saudi-led coalition had committed violations of international humanitarian law in the past, during the Yemen conflict, and made no attempt to do so," the court said.

British weapons exports are signed off by the foreign, defense and international trade ministries with Tory leadership candidates Boris Johnson, former foreign secretary, and Jeremy Hunt, the current foreign secretary, have defended the country's arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

The U.K. government has said it would challenge the ruling that its arms sales to the kingdom are unlawful as they contribute to high civilian fatalities in the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

"This judgement is not about whether the decisions themselves were right or wrong, but whether the process in reaching those decisions was correct" a spokeswoman from Downing Street said in a press statement. "We disagree with the judgment and will be seeking permission to appeal" she added.

An estimated 8.4 million people are at risk of severe famine and more than 22 million people, 75 percent of Yemen’s population, are in need of humanitarian assistance.

Impoverished Yemen has been wracked by conflict since 2014, when the Houthi rebels overran much of the country, including capital Sanaa.

The conflict escalated in 2015 when Saudi Arabia and its Sunni Arab allies launched a wide-ranging military campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi gains and shoring up the country’s Saudi-backed government.

The war has resulted in a collapsed economy and a cholera outbreak that has affected over 1.1 million people.

Riyadh has repeatedly accused the Houthis of acting as a proxy force for Iran, Saudi Arabia’s arch-foe in the region.

Calls have been made to governments across the globe to halt weapon sales to Saudi Arabia, resulting in Germany suspending such sales.

The international criticism against the Gulf kingdom rose especially after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October last year.

A damning UN report said Wednesday that the Saudi state was responsible for the Khashoggi murder and called for further investigation into the incident.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/uk-arms-sales-to-saudi-arabia-declared-unlawful/1510930

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Pakistan will be blacklisted if it fails to complete action plan by October 2019: FATF

Jun 21, 2019

NEW DELHI: Pakistan will be blacklisted if it fails to complete its action plan by October 2019, the Financial Action Task Force has told Islamabad, according to diplomatic sources.

In June last year, Pakistan was placed on the 'grey list' of the international terror financing watchdog and given a 27 points action plan. The 'grey list' is a warning given to a country when it fails to curb terror funding and money laundering.

Earlier this week, during a review of the plan, Pakistan had failed to complete 25 of the 27 points in the plan.

In the run-up to the FATF plenary in Orlando, Florida from June 16-21, diplomatic sources have said Pakistan will, at the very least, remain in the 'grey list' which it went back into in 2018.

After the second review meeting in Guangzhou, China, the Asia-Pacific Joint Group - a committee set up by the FATF to monitor Pakistan's compliance, distinct from the Asia-Pacific Group (APG) - told Islamabad over the weekend that it has to take serious steps to stay off the black list which would mean shutting of all doors to international finance.

India is pushing for Pakistan to be blacklisted. But the opinion among the others is that by keeping Pakistan in the 'grey list' they can continue to pressure Islamabad as well as scrutinise its actions.

The FATF action plan was earlier reviewed at the last plenary of the FATF in October 2018. In February 2018, the country was put into the 'grey list' after India submitted new information about Pakistan-based terrorist organisation.

The FATF continuing Pakistan in the 'grey list' means its downgrading by IMF, World Bank, ADB, EU and also a reduction in risk rating by Moody's, S&P and Fitch.

If blacklisted, it will add to the financial problems of Pakistan, which is seeking aid from all possible international avenues.

So far, Pakistan has seized 800 properties belonging to JUD, FIF, JEM and arrested some of their leaders. But pointing out that seizures do not show compliance, FATF has asked Pakistan to explain certain things, like where is the investigation about the source of funds for these bodies. Secondly, Pakistan has not shown any action against terrorist assets - armouries, weapons, explosives and camps. FATF has asked for more detailed action and reporting on this.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-will-be-blacklisted-if-it-fails-to-complete-action-plan-by-october-2019-fatf/articleshow/69884189.cms

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Analyst says Australian teen was Islamic State propagandist

June 21, 2019

CANBERRA, Australia – A security analyst says the eldest of three orphaned Australian siblings pleading for repatriation from a Syrian refugee camp has been an Islamic State group propagandist who could potentially face terrorism charges at home.

Australian National University counterterrorism researcher Jacinta Carroll said Wednesday that Zaynab Sharrouf was taken from Sydney to Syria at the age of 13 in 2014 by her extremist parents and became both a victim and supporter of terrorism in a case that was legally and morally complex.

The Australian government has said it is working with the Red Cross to repatriate 17-year-old Zaynab, her two children, her 16-year-old sister and 8-year-old brother from a Syrian camp.

Carroll has discovered that Zaynab became a prominent Islamic State group propagandist making social media posts supporting atrocities.

https://www.foxnews.com/world/analyst-says-australian-teen-was-islamic-state-propagandist

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King Abdullah of Jordan slams ‘hate-filled outlaws of Islam’

June 20, 2019

AMMAN / SINGAPORE: Attacks on interfaith harmony, mutual respect and trust are the “world’s single most important threat,” King Abdullah of Jordan warned.

Speaking on Thursday at the International Conference on Cohesive Societies (ICCS) in Singapore, Jordan’s monarch condemned both “outlaws of Islam and extremist Islamophobes.”

“Perpetuators of hate-filled messages are distorting our religion’s great heritage and teachings,” he said.

King Abdullah called on the global community to tackle this challenge by “resisting hatred and exclusion,” supporting economic growth and protecting the environment.

In a keynote speech, the Jordanian ruler urged 700 delegates from 40 countries to apply the golden rule. “Loving one’s neighbor is not just an ideal. It is the golden rule that enables all of us to live side by side, to look beyond ourselves, and to achieve what we can only achieve in common.”

The conference was organized by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) with the support of Singapore’s Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.

Ong Keng Yong, executive deputy chairman of RSIS, described the Singapore conference as a platform for constructive dialogue to strengthen mutual trust and understanding across communities.

“Singapore is a multiracial, multi-religious society, and we work hard to keep our country peaceful and secure. At the same time, we are part of the global community, which faces challenges posed by increased connectivity, intensifying identity politics, and infinite technological development,” he said.

King Abdullah listed Jordanian efforts including the Amman Message, the Common Word Initiative, and UN World Interfaith week.

However, when it comes to hate speech on the internet, solutions are not exclusively the responsibility of governments and big companies, he said.

“In a very real way, the internet belongs to its users. Moderate, positive voices need to reclaim this space and redirect the dialogue away from misinformation, insults and fear, and toward understanding and respect. Young men and women have a vital role in speaking up on social media and social networking sites, and using their talent for innovation to promote mutual understanding and hope.”

The Jordanian monarch also called for a “holistic approach to address security and the issues that extremists exploit.”

“We must also help to resolve conflicts, especially the core crisis of my region, the long denial of Palestinian statehood. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has fueled global discord and radicalism. We all need a lasting peace, meeting the needs of both sides, with a viable, independent, sovereign Palestinian state, on 1967 lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital, but living side by side with Israel, in peace and security.

“We must safeguard Jerusalem, a holy city to billions of people around the world. As Hashemite Custodian of Jerusalem’s Islamic and Christian holy sites, I am bound by a special duty. But for all of us, Jerusalem must be a unifying city of peace.”

“King Abdullah is in a very difficult spot,” said Dr. James M. Dorsey, a Middle East expert and senior fellow at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.

Speaking to Arab News, Dr. Dorsey said the king’s speech reflects the geographical situation his country is facing.

“Every single border of his country is conflict-risk and impacts the country’s stability. If there is one country that desperately needs to get away from polarization and conflict and move toward conflict resolution, it is Jordan.”

Other speakers are the conference include Dr. Ali Al-Nuaimi, chairman of the World Muslim Communities Council; Bishop Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue; Dr. Nazirudin Mohd Nasir, deputy mufti and senior director at Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura; and John Alderdice, former Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Over the weekend, Singaporeans can experience key elements of the conference through a series of “Heartland Dialogues and Experiences” at locations across the city. These include “learning journeys” and opportunities to speak with conference speakers.

In parallel with the conference, the “Many Beliefs, One Future” exhibition explores human connections across different beliefs through a collection of artworks and artifacts.

The exhibition is open until June 13 at the Raffles City Shopping Center.

“We must also help to resolve conflicts, especially the core crisis of my region, the long denial of Palestinian statehood. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has fueled global discord and radicalism. We all need a lasting peace, meeting the needs of both sides, with a viable, independent, sovereign Palestinian state, on 1967 lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital, but living side by side with Israel, in peace and security.

“We must safeguard Jerusalem, a holy city to billions of people around the world. As Hashemite Custodian of Jerusalem’s Islamic and Christian holy sites, I am bound by a special duty. But for all of us, Jerusalem must be a unifying city of peace.”

“King Abdullah is in a very difficult spot,” said Dr. James M. Dorsey, a Middle East expert and a senior fellow at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.

Speaking with Arab News Dr. Dorsey said the king’s speech reflects the geographical situation his country is facing.

“Every single border of his country is conflict-risk and has an impact on the stability of Jordan. If there is one country that desperately needs to get away from the polarization and conflict and toward conflict resolution, it is Jordan.”

Other speakers are the conference include Dr. Ali Al-Nuaimi, chairman of the World Muslim Communities Council; Bishop Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue; Dr. Nazirudin Mohd Nasir, deputy mufti and senior director at Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura; and John Alderdice, former Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Over the weekend, Singapore people can experience key elements of the conference through a series of “Heartland Dialogues and Experiences” at locations across the city. These include “learning journeys” and opportunities to speak with conference speakers. In parallel with the conference, the “Many Beliefs, One Future” exhibition explores human connections across different beliefs through a collection of artworks and artefacts. The exhibition is open until June 13 at the Raffles City Shopping Center.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1513791/middle-east

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US lawmakers press Trump official to say Iran not behind 9/11

Jun 20, 2019

US lawmakers have warned the administration of President Donald Trump not to attack Iran by using a war authorization legislation passed following the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

Members of a foreign affairs subcommittee in the US House of Representatives on Wednesday pressed Brian Hook, the US special representative on Iran, to acknowledge that Tehran was not behind the 9/11 attacks.

Hook repeatedly declined to say if Trump legally enjoyed the right to attack Iran, echoing the comments in April before Congress by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

"I'm not a War Powers Act scholar. I can only tell you that everything we would do would be lawful," Hook told the subcommittee.

But pressed by Democratic Representative Brad Sherman on whether Iran was responsible for the deaths of Americans on 9/11, Hook replied, "No."

Hook claimed that any potential US military moves on Iran would be defensive, saying: "There is no talk of offensive action."

Democratic Representative Ted Deutch, who heads the House subcommittee on the Middle East, said Trump's policy on Iran was incoherent and had provoked tensions with Tehran rather than Washington’s desired outcome.

"Rather than force Iran back to the negotiating table, the administration's policy is increasing the chance of miscalculation, which then would bring the United States and Iran closer to a military conflict," he said. 

After the 9/11 attacks, the US Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) on September 14, 2001 to authorize then President George W. Bush to go to war in Afghanistan, where al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was based.

The authorization has since been cited by administrations to justify military actions in countries such as Yemen and the Philippines where al-Qaeda militants are allegedly present.

Pompeo, in his April appearance before a Senate committee, made baseless claims to link Tehran to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The 9/11 attacks were a series of strikes in the US which killed nearly 3,000 people and caused about $10 billion worth of property and infrastructure damage.

US officials assert that the attacks were carried out by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists but many experts have raised questions about the official account.

They believe that rogue elements within the US government, such as former Vice President Dick Cheney, orchestrated or at least encouraged the 9/11 attacks in order to accelerate the US war machine and advance the Zionist agenda.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/06/20/598983/US-lawmakers-Congress-Iran-911

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US Senate passes bill to block Saudi arms sales

Umar Farooq 

20.06.2019

WASHINGTON

The Senate on Thursday passed a resolution that would block the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, offering a rebuke to U.S. President Donald Trump.

The bipartisan bill passed with a 53-45 vote, and is the first of 22 resolutions that are aimed at blocking the military sales to the Middle East.

The vote was the first in a series of three back-to-back votes, and would potentially stop billions of dollars in munitions sales to Riyadh.

However, the bill still has to pass through the House and it is likely that Trump will veto the bill, and the Senate does not seem to have enough of a majority to override a potential veto.

Democrats and Republicans have joined forces in their anger at the Trump administration over using its declaration of an emergency over Iran to bypass Congress and approve arms sales to the Kingdom.

The nearly two dozen joint resolutions of disapproval are meant to rebuke the Trump administration's declaration.

Last month, Trump invoked a rarely used provision of U.S. arms control laws to circumvent Congress and authorize weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and Gulf allies. While arms sales usually go through a 30-day congressional review period, the provision allows for this process to be skipped in the case of an emergency.

Congress was notified by the Trump administration of the invocation and was shown a deal comprising 22 separate arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan valued at $8.1 billion.

A group of Senators, both Democrat and Republican and led by Sen. Bob Menendez and Sen. Lindsey Graham, had initially filed 22 resolutions of disapproval, one for each of the arms sales the White House approved.

There is also bipartisan anger within Congress over the Trump administration's support for Saudi Arabia despite pressure from lawmakers to punish the country over the murder of Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi last October.

On Wednesday, the House also passed an appropriations bill that would expire a 2001 authorization for military force that some lawmakers feared Trump would use to justify going to war with Iran.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/us-senate-passes-bill-to-block-saudi-arms-sales-/1511390

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Trump Approves Strikes on Iran, but Then Abruptly Pulls Back

By Michael D. Shear, Eric Schmitt, Michael Crowley and Maggie Haberman

June 20, 2019

WASHINGTON — President Trump approved military strikes against Iran in retaliation for downing an American surveillance drone, but pulled back from launching them on Thursday night after a day of escalating tensions.

As late as 7 p.m., military and diplomatic officials were expecting a strike, after intense discussions and debate at the White House among the president’s top national security officials and congressional leaders, according to multiple senior administration officials involved in or briefed on the deliberations.

Officials said the president had initially approved attacks on a handful of Iranian targets, like radar and missile batteries.

The operation was underway in its early stages when it was called off, a senior administration official said. Planes were in the air and ships were in position, but no missiles had been fired when word came to stand down, the official said.

[For Mr. Trump, “judgment time is coming” on how to respond to Iran.]

The abrupt reversal put a halt to what would have been the president’s third military action against targets in the Middle East. Mr. Trump had struck twice at targets in Syria, in 2017 and 2018.

It was not clear whether Mr. Trump simply changed his mind on the strikes or whether the administration altered course because of logistics or strategy. It was also not clear whether the attacks might still go forward.

Asked about the plans for a strike and the decision to hold back, the White House declined to comment, as did Pentagon officials. No government officials asked The New York Times to withhold the article.

The retaliation plan was intended as a response to the shooting down of the unmanned, $130 million surveillance drone, which was struck Thursday morning by an Iranian surface-to-air missile, according to a senior administration official who was briefed on the military planning and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential plans.

The strike was set to take place just before dawn Friday in Iran to minimize risk to the Iranian military and civilians.

But military officials received word a short time later that the strike was off, at least temporarily.

The possibility of a retaliatory strike hung over Washington for much of the day. Officials in both countries traded accusations about the location of the drone when it was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile launched from the Iranian coast along the Gulf of Oman.

Mr. Trump’s national security advisers split about whether to respond militarily. Senior administration officials said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; John R. Bolton, the national security adviser; and Gina Haspel, the C.I.A. director, had favored a military response. But top Pentagon officials cautioned that such an action could result in a spiraling escalation with risks for American forces in the region.

Congressional leaders were briefed by administration officials in the Situation Room.

The destruction of the drone underscored the already tense relations between the two countries after Mr. Trump’s recent accusations that Iran is to blame for explosions last week that damaged oil tankers traveling through the strait, the vital waterway for much of the world’s oil. Iran has denied that accusation.

Iran’s announcement this week that it would soon breach one of the key limits it had agreed to in a 2015 pact intended to limit its nuclear program has also fueled tensions. Mr. Trump, who pulled the United States out of the 2015 pact, has vowed that he will not allow Tehran to build a nuclear weapon.

On Thursday, Mr. Trump insisted that the United States’ unmanned surveillance aircraft was flying over international waters when it was taken down by an Iranian missile.

“This drone was in international waters, clearly,” the president told reporters on Thursday afternoon at the White House as he began a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada. “We have it all documented. It’s documented scientifically, not just words.”

Asked what would come next, Mr. Trump said, “Let’s see what happens.”

Iran’s government fiercely disputed the president’s characterization, insisting that the American drone had strayed into Iranian airspace. Iran released GPS coordinates that put the drone eight miles off the country’s coast, inside the 12 nautical miles from the shore that Iran claims as its territorial waters.

Majid Takht-Ravanchi, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, wrote in a letter to the Security Council that the drone ignored repeated radio warnings before it was downed. He said that Tehran “does not seek war” but “is determined to vigorously defend its land, sea and air.”

Congressional Democrats emerged from the president’s classified briefing in the Situation Room and urged Mr. Trump to de-escalate the situation. They called on the president to seek congressional authorization before taking any military action.

“This is a dangerous situation,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. “We are dealing with a country that is a bad actor in the region. We have no illusions about Iran in terms of their ballistic missile transfers, about who they support in the region and the rest.”

Iran’s destruction of the drone appeared to provide a boost for officials inside the Trump administration who have long argued for a more confrontational approach to Iran, including the possibility of military actions that could punish the regime for its support of terrorism and other destabilizing behavior in the region.

But in his public appearance, Mr. Trump initially seemed to be looking for a way to avoid a potentially serious military crisis. Instead of directly accusing the leaders of Iran, Mr. Trump said someone “loose and stupid” in Iran was responsible for shooting down the drone.

The president said he suspected it was some individual in Iran who “made a big mistake,” even as Iran had taken responsibility for the strike and asserted that the high-altitude American drone was operating over Iranian air space, which American officials denied.

Mr. Trump said the episode would have been far more serious if the aircraft had been a piloted vehicle, and not a drone. It made “a big, big difference” that an American pilot was not threatened, he told reporters.

Last year, Mr. Trump pulled the United States out of the 2015 nuclear pact with Iran, over the objections of China, Russia and American allies in Europe. He has also imposed punishing economic sanctions on Iran, trying to cut off its already limited access to international trade, including oil sales.

Iran has warned of serious consequences if Europe does not find a way around those sanctions, though it has denied involvement in the attacks on tankers near the vital Strait of Hormuz. On Monday, Iran said it would soon stop abiding by a central component of the nuclear deal, the limit on how much enriched uranium it is allowed to stockpile.

Both Washington and Tehran said the downing of the drone occurred at 4:05 a.m. Thursday in Iran, or 7:35 p.m. Wednesday in Washington. The drone “was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile system while operating in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz,” the United States Central Command said in a statement. “This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace.”

Iran’s ability to target and destroy the high-altitude American drone, which was developed to evade the very surface-to-air missiles used to bring it down, surprised some Defense Department officials, who interpreted it as a show of how difficult Tehran can make things for the United States as it deploys more troops and steps up surveillance in the region.

Lt. Gen. Joseph Guastella, the Air Force commander for the Central Command region in the Middle East, said the attack could have endangered “innocent civilians,” even though officials at Central Command continued to assert that the drone was over international waters. He said that the closest that the drone got to the Iranian coast was 21 miles.

Late Thursday, the Defense Department released additional imagery in an email to support its case that the drone never entered Iranian airspace. But the department incorrectly called the flight path of the drone the location of the shooting down and offered little context for an image that appeared to be the drone exploding in midair.

It was the latest attempt by the Pentagon to try to prove that Iran has been the aggressor in a series of international incidents.

Iran’s foreign affairs minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said in a post on Twitter that he gave what he said were precise coordinates for where the American drone was targeted.

“At 00:14 US drone took off from UAE in stealth mode & violated Iranian airspace,” he said in a tweet that included coordinates that he said were near Kouh-e Mobarak. “We’ve retrieved sections of the US military drone in OUR territorial waters where it was shot down.”

Mr. Trump’s comments on Thursday afternoon in the Oval Office reflected the longstanding tension between the president’s desire to be seen as tough on the world stage and his campaign promise to make sure that the United States did not get tangled in more foreign wars.

The president has embraced a reputation as someone who punches back when he is challenged. Only months into his tenure, Mr. Trump launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at an air base in Syria after a chemical weapon attack.

But he has often talked about ending American involvement in long-running conflicts abroad, describing his “America First” agenda as having little room for being the world’s police force. In a tweet in January, he said he hoped that “Endless Wars, especially those which are fought out of judgement mistakes” would “eventually come to a glorious end!”

According to Iranian news media, a foreign minister spokesman there said that flying a drone into Iranian airspace was an “aggressive and provocative” move by the United States.

Hossein Salami, the commander in chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, said crossing the country’s border was “our red line,” the semiofficial Mehr news agency reported.

“We are not going to get engaged in a war with any country, but we are fully prepared for war,” Mr. Salami said at a military ceremony in Sanandaj, Iran, according to a translation from Press TV, a state-run news outlet. “Today’s incident was a clear sign of this precise message, so we are continuing our resistance.”

Iranian news media said the drone had flown over Iranian territory unauthorized, and reported that it had been shot down in the Hormozgan Province, along the country’s southern coast on the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.

Both the United States and Iran identified the aircraft as an RQ-4 Global Hawk, a surveillance drone made by Northrop Grumman.

“This was a show of force — their equivalent of an inside pitch,” said Derek Chollet, a former assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs during the Obama administration, speaking of Iran’s decision to shoot down the drone.

James G. Stavridis, who retired as a four-star admiral after serving as the supreme allied commander at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, warned that the two countries were in a dangerous game that could quickly spiral out of control. He described Iran’s downing of the drone, which costs about $130 million, as a “logical albeit highly dangerous escalatory move by Iran.”

Michael D. Shear and Michael Crowley reported from Washington; Eric Schmitt from Palo Alto, Calif.; and Maggie Haberman from New York. Reporting was contributed by Helene Cooper, Eileen Sullivan and Emily Cochrane from Washington; David D. Kirkpatrick, Megan Specia and Michael Wolgelenter from London; and Daniel Victor from Hong Kong.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/20/world/middleeast/iran-us-drone.html

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India

 

UP government is acting like one of particular community only: Babri Masjid Action Committee

Jun 20, 2019

Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh) [India]: The Babri Masjid Action Committee has alleged that Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath led state government is “not acting as per the written statement submitted by Uttar Pradesh government in 1950 in the case pertaining to Babri Masjid, and is rather acting like government belonging to a certain community only.”

The meeting of the committee chaired by Maulana Yasin Ali Usmani to deliberate upon the Babri Masjid Title suit also expressed its “concern over the statements given by various leaders including that of VHP regarding the construction of Ram Temple at Ayodhya.”

“The concern is expressed that the present State government is acting contrary to the written statement submitted by the Uttar Pradesh government and magistrate in the case in 1950, because in the statement they have accepted that Muslims are offering Namaz in Babri Masjid since centuries and Hindus have never prayed there,” said the statement by Babri Masjid Action Committee.

“The present government is acting assuming that it is the government of a particular community only,” it added.

The Supreme Court had on March 8 referred the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case for court-appointed and monitored mediation and expressed the view that the proceedings should be conducted with “utmost confidentiality” to ensure its success.

While hearing the matter on March 8, a five-judge Constitution bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said: “We have considered the nature of the dispute arising. Notwithstanding the lack of consensus between the parties in the matter, we are of the view that an attempt should be made to settle the dispute by mediation.”

The Supreme Court-appointed mediation committee for resolution of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute held its first sitting on March 14 and heard all parties who attended the proceedings.

https://www.siasat.com/news/government-acting-one-particular-community-only-babri-masjid-action-committee-1520102/

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Muslim Men Beaten Up In Assam's Barpeta, Forced To Chant "Jai Shri Ram"

June 21, 2019

BARPETA, ASSAM: Complaints were filed against a little-known right-wing organisation on Thursday for allegedly assaulting a group of Muslim men in Assam and forcing them to utter slogans "Jai Shri Ram" and "Pakistan Murdabad" on Tuesday.

Two FIRs were filed against the right wing organisation and its founder by the All Assam Minority Students'' Union (AAMSU) and the North-East Minorities Students' Union (NEMSU).

According to the police, the Tuesday night incident came to light after a video of the purported attack and the forcible chanting of slogans went viral on social media.

The complaints stated that a group of men claiming to be members of the right-wing group stopped an autorickshaw in Barpeta town and beat up the people travelling in it. The victims were then forced to utter slogans like "Jai Shri Ram", "Bharat Mata ki Jai" and "Pakistan Murdabad".

Full report at:

https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/muslim-men-beaten-up-in-assams-barpeta-forced-to-chant-jai-shri-ram-2056738

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BYJM Members Burn Effigy Of SP MP Shafiqur Rehman Barq After He Refuses To Chant 'Vande Mataram'

20 JUNE 2019

Members of the BJP's youth wing, Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), Thursday burnt an effigy of newly elected MP from Sambhal, Shafiqur Rahman Barq, for refusing to chant 'Vande Mataram' after taking oath as a member of the Lok Sabha.

After reading out his oath in the House on Tuesday, the Samajwadi Party MP had refused to chant 'Vande Mataram', saying "it's against Islam". His statement drew protests from members of the treasury benches who demanded an apology from him.

BJYM activists burnt Barq's effigy at Fawwara Chowk in Chandausi area here.

District unit chief of BJYM, Vishal Chauhan, said, "Shafiqur Rahman Barq while taking oath in the Lok Sabha had opposed 'Vande Mataram', saying it is against Shariat. This shows his anti-India mindset. We would request the Government of India to disqualify him as MP."

He alleged that the Sambhal MP is trying to incite Muslims by making such statements.

Full report at:

https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/india-news-byjm-members-burn-effigy-of-sp-mp-shafiqur-rehman-barq-after-he-refuses-to-chant-vande-mataram/332632

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Prior to joining Hizbul, former SPO worked with PDP: NIA

Jun 21, 2019

New Delhi: Adil Bashir Sheikh, who as a special police officer (SPO) attached to then PDP MLA Aijaz Ahmad Mir had led a weapons heist at his Srinagar residence in September 2018 and later joined Hizbul Mujahideen, was earlier a PDP worker, an NIA probe has found. He had assisted the party in organising rallies in Wachi assembly constituency, from which Mir was elected, during 2014 assembly poll in J&K.

As per the chargesheet filed by NIA on June 6 in the case relating to theft of 7 AK rifles assigned to Mir’s PSOs and a pistol from the ex-MLA’s house, Adil - named as an accused along with cousin Rafique Ahmad Bhat, arrested in December last year; Yawar Ahmad Dar, killed in a subsequent encounter on May 16, 2019; and Abid Manzoor Magray, a senior Hizbul terrorist also killed in an encounter on May 31, 2019 — was also involved in stone-pelting and is named in FIRs registered in Shopian. Though Adil, now a ‘C’ category terrorist, was hired as an SPO in March 2017, he was actually working as a cook at Mir’s residence.

Adil was aware of duty timings and movements of then PDP MLA’s personal security officers (PSOs) as well as movements of the MLA himself, states the chargesheet. He therefore conspired with Yawar and Rafique in August-September 2018 to steal the weapons of PSOs deposited in a trunk at the Mir’s government quarter, while the MLA was out of station on September 29, 2018. He met Abid Manzoor Magray, an A-plus category terrorist of Hizbul Mujahideen, along with Rafique days before the heist and discussed his plan to steal the weapons for distribution among active Hizbul cadres and recruits for furthering their terror activities.

On September 29, 2018, Adil, Rafique and Yawar arrived in Maruti car at the MLA’s residence, aware that Mir had flown out of Srinagar. The car was driven by Yawar who parked it by the house’s boundary wall. Adil entered the quarter where the weapons were kept in a trunk, which he unlocked with a duplicate key. He handed over the weapons to Rafique and Yawar over the boundary wall. Adil then boarded the car and the three accused drove to village Achan and hid the arms in a maize field. During this time, Adil was in touch with Abid.

Adil, Rafique and Yawar later handed over the weapons to Abid. The three accused then joined Hizbul Mujahideen and became active terrorists. They went to Darangar in Shopian and got weapons training in the forests. Adil is absconding since, while Rafique was arrested.

Yawar and Abid were killed in separate encounters last month.

Some of the stolen AK rifles were recovered from the site of an encounter in Shopian on November 6, 2018, in which two Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists, Idrees Sultan Mir and Amir Husain Rather, were killed.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/prior-to-joining-hizbul-former-spo-worked-with-pdp-nia/articleshow/69884598.cms

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Vote for Israel at UN not tied to Palestinian cause: India

Jun 21, 2019

NEW DELHI: The government said on Thursday that India's vote in favour of an Israeli resolution meant to prevent an NGO with alleged terror links from obtaining observer status in a UN body should not be seen as a vote against Palestine. The foreign ministry clarified India's vote was only meant to ensure proper vetting of the NGO before it's allowed in.

India had on June 6 voted in favour of proposal submitted by Israel at the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the UN for further scrutiny by the Committee on NGOs of the application from an NGO 'Palestinian Association for Human Rights (Witness)' requesting consultative status.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/vote-for-israel-at-un-not-tied-to-palestinian-cause-india/articleshow/69882545.cms

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Will move court if ordinance is brought for Ram temple: Babri Masjid Action Committee

June 20, 2019

As the chorus for Ram temple construction in Ayodhya through an ordinance is gaining momentum after the Lok Sabha polls, the Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC) has reiterated that it would challenge any such move in the Supreme Court (SC).

Addressing a press conference in Lucknow, BMAC convener and All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) member Zafaryab Jilani said "The recent statements given by state deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, other leaders and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) members are against the constitution.

They are pitching for an ordinance for Ram temple construction despite knowing that the matter is pending in the SC. Their statements hold no value because Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already said that no law can be brought for temple construction before the SC verdict. If any such attempt is made then we will challenge it in the SC."

"It seems that the UP government is only working for a particular community. The top state leaders openly support Ram mandir in Ayodhya.

They can't make one-sided statements since dispute is being settled in the SC. We have decided not to react to their remarks. We all should wait for the apex court verdict and the entire country should abide by it" added Jilani.

The BMAC has called a meeting of all its members in Lucknow on the Ayodhya issue as the demand for speedy construction of Ram mandir in Ayodhya is gaining momentum.

UP deputy CM Kehsav Prasad Maurya had recently said that the Centre will bring an ordinance for temple construction if the matter doesn't get resolved in the SC and through talks.

Many seers in Ayodhya also demanded that the temple construction should begin within a year.

Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray along with his newly elected MPs also offered prayers at the make shift Ram mandir in Ayodhya on June 16. They also urged the centre to bring to enact a law for temple construction.

Responding to Jilani's statements, UP BJP spokesperson Manish Shukla said "Our government believes in 'sabka saath sabka vikas'. We have provided benefits of every scheme without any discrimination.

Full report at:

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/will-move-court-if-ordinance-is-brought-for-ram-temple-babri-masjid-action-committee-1553079-2019-06-20

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Steel-coated bullets re-entry poses threat to J&K forces fighting militants

Jun 21, 2019

The security forces in Jammu and Kashmir are taking both immediate and long term remedial measures to counter the threat posed to deployed troops by militants’ use of steel-coated armour piercing bullets.

“Many immediate and long term remedial measures are being taken to avert the threat to security forces in light of the recent and past use of steel-coated armour piercing bullets by the terrorists in the state.

“Immediate measures would include further reinforcement of protective shields used during counter insurgency operations. Long term measures would include upgrade and improvement in the bullet-proof equipment, including helmets and jackets used by the deployed troops,” a senior security forces officer said.

An alert was recently sounded across various security agencies and the state police following an internal probe by the CRPF into the killing of five of its troops and an officer of the state police in a militant attack on K P Road in Anantnag town on June 12.

The probe findings revealed that the lone Fidayeen militant, a Pakistani national belonging to Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), involved in the attack was able to inflict maximum damage because of the use of steel-coated bullets.

The rifle magazine of the slain militant contained 18 live steel-coated bullets even after he had used quite a few of them to target the CRPF troops and the state Police Station House Officer (SHO), Arshad Khan, sources said.

The CRPF probe also revealed that the JeM militants had used steel-coated bullets in 2017, but not during militant attacks carried out last year.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/steel-coated-bullets-re-entry-poses-threat-to-j-k-forces-fighting-militants/story-pGzx47Dm8gxVg3jIBqXIvK.html

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Terror link: 2 hard discs seized as NIA carries out raids in Tamil Nadu

Jun 21, 2019

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Thursday raided a 26-year-old man’s residence in Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore over his alleged links with a suspect arrested earlier this month for allegedly operating a Facebook page containing propaganda of the so-called Islamic State (IS), according to people aware of the developments.

M Shinoid’s house was raided on the basis of the interrogation of the suspect, Mohammed Azharudeen, 32.

“He [Azharudeen] was also a Facebook friend of Zahran Hashim, the mastermind Sri Lanka’s Easter bombing. While interrogating Azharudeen, he said that he has given two hard discs to Shinoid. Therefore, we raided his place...” said an NIA official on condition of anonymity.

The official added they have recovered two hard discs from Shinoid’s house and told him that he would be summoned for an inquiry, if needed.

The NIA had conducted searches at seven locations in Coimbatore in connection with a suspected IS Kerala-Tamil Nadu module on June 12 and 14.

NIA registered a case against Azharudeen, Akram Sindhaa, 26, Y Shiek Hidayathullah, 38, M Abubacker M, 29, A Sadham Hussain, and Ibrahim, 28, on May 30 for propagating the IS’s ideology on social media with the intention of recruiting vulnerable youths for carrying out attacks.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/terror-link-2-hard-discs-seized-as-nia-carries-out-raids-in-tamil-nadu/story-6UqGTfnrK6hlqXeVq3dM7O.html

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Southeast Asia

 

Will Jokowi revive the vanishing, tolerant Indonesian Islam?

By Sonia Sarkar

20.06.19

Sitting in his limousine, the Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, rolled out a 32-second-long video message on Twitter on June 10. He said in Bahasa, “Let’s join hands, unite, and put our mind and energy to build a developed Indonesia.”

Ever since Widodo got re-elected for a second term last month, his focus has been on development. But soon after his re-election, he faced disruptions. As the final election results were declared, riots broke out in the capital city of Jakarta for over two days, killing eight people and injuring seven hundred others. Early reports suggest that apart from a group of paid thugs, members of the militant Islamist group, Front Pemuda Islam, attacked the police with rocks and petrol bombs.

Interestingly, these hardline Islamists supported Jokowi’s opponent, the former army commander, Prabowo Subianto. The grand imam of FPI, Habib Rizieq Shihab, addressed his election rally from Saudi Arabia via video call. Analysts call Prabowo and Shihab ‘bedfellows’, united by a common enemy — Widodo.

Widodo’s win could create trouble for the FPI. Its status as a legally registered social organization expires today, and there are chances that its appeal for re-registration would be rejected. Public pressure is mounting on authorities to do so. A petition called ‘Stop the Permit of FPI’, filed by Ira Bisyir at Change.org, has received over 4,81,665 signatures so far.

In this last term, analysts say that Widodo would give a fresh push to his liberal and progressive image, which was largely compromised earlier. In his previous term, the “hard-metal-loving secularist” failed to protect free speech, the rights of religious and ethnic minorities and those of LGBTs. But Indonesians still pinned their hopes on him. They preferred to choose a ‘moderate’ Widodo, representative of ‘pluralist’ Indonesia, over a ‘conservative’ Subianto, representative of a ‘hardline Islamist’ Indonesia. Clearly, this is a positive shift from the faith-based politics, which is thriving elsewhere.

For example, across the Indian Ocean, Australia, a country whose politics has long been secular, recently re-elected the 51-year-old conservative, Scott Morrison, as prime minister. In 2008, while he was delivering his maiden speech in Parliament, he said that he derived the values of loving-kindness, justice and righteousness from his ‘faith’. While quoting the American senator, Joe Lieberman, who had said, “the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, not from religion,” Morrison asserted at the same event, “I believe the same is true in this country.” In April this year, Morrison, who holds regressive views on immigration and same-sex marriage, invited television cameras to film his Easter Sunday service at a church.

A similar trend is visible in India, which has re-elected the 68-year-old Hindu nationalist, Narendra Modi. Like Morrison, Modi loves to wear his religion on his sleeve. A day before the last phase of the general election, Modi invited television cameras to film him meditating inside a cave near the Kedarnath shrine. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, which rose to power by playing divisive faith-based politics, won 303 seats in Parliament. On the day of his victory, Modi had tweeted, “India wins yet again.” Perhaps he was referring to the India that has lapped up his politics of religious identity and Hindu majoritarianism.

Faith-based politics has played a leading role in the politics of neighbouring Bangladesh too. Bangladesh re-elected Sheikh Hasina Wajed last year. Wajed, a ‘secular’ leader, has been wooing the radical Islamist group, Hefazat-e-Islam, for many years. She introduced religious education in government schools, edited out poems and stories that conservative Islamists deemed atheistic and also recognized the Qawmi Madrasa degrees. In return, the Islamist group’s head, Shah Ahmed Shafi, bestowed the honorific, ‘Qawmi Janani (mother of the qaum)’, upon Wajed. Like Wajed, who hobnobbed with the Islamists to garner the support of the large Qawmi Madrasa populace, Widodo chose the conservative cleric, Ma’ruf Amin, as his running mate to strengthen his candidacy’s Islamic credentials.

Now that Widodo has been re-elected, questions have been raised regarding his present term by his constituents who gave him a second chance. He has stressed upon development and democracy, but will he abjure faith-based politics? Will he revive the vanishing, tolerant Indonesian Islam? How is he going to do all this with Amin — he issued a fatwa opposing religious pluralism, liberalism and secularism — as vice-president?

But what if Widodo adopts the political strategy of the leaders in his neighbourhood? What if he becomes like Morrison, someone who doesn’t like being labelled a ‘fundamentalist’ but has reservations about gay rights? Or like Wajed, who calls herself ‘secular’ but appeases religious extremists? Or, perhaps, like Modi, who talks of ‘inclusive’ India but doesn’t bat an eyelid when minorities get lynched on the streets?

https://www.telegraphindia.com/opinion/will-joko-widodo-revive-the-vanishing-tolerant-indonesian-islam/cid/1692739

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Whether Islam or the economy, PH has failed us, Hadi tells PAS members

Robin Augustin

June 21, 2019

KUANTAN: Opening his party’s second muktamar after the historic election that saw PAS relegated to the east coast, Abdul Hadi Awang today accused the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government of not defending Islam as well as failing to manage the economy.

In his policy speech, Hadi, the Marang MP, said the country had lost political and economic direction under PH.

The list of the PH-led government’s weaknesses, he said, was too long, and the coalition only knew how to blame others. He added that many of the former administration’s programmes were now being rehashed with cosmetic changes.

“There are some who label PH as a government that is weak and unreliable.

“The people can judge PH’s lies in their manifesto promises which have not been delivered, the fraudulent academic degrees among ministers, and their silence towards those who insult the sanctity of Islam and the Prophet.”

Hadi said the government had also failed to create job opportunities and address concerns over the rising cost of living.

Announcing the theme of the muktamar, “Islam Memimpin Perpaduan” (Islam leads the way for unity), Hadi also touched on a number of issues.

The way forward for PAS

Hadi said PAS would defend Malaysia’s multiculturalism as prescribed by Islam and not for political purposes.

“We have a non-Muslim wing in PAS, and then there is Umno which is Malay-Muslim and staunchly Bumiputera yet has an unbroken bond with all other races.

“So we will fight anyone who wants to fan racial flames and religious fanatics who destroy our multicultural society, and we will not back down from defending Muslim leadership in accordance with the spirit of the theme.”

He said PAS was consistent in choosing the most peaceful approach in politics, adding that the party’s door was always open to dialogue and political cooperation based on principles.

These principles, he said, should benefit Islam, the nation and race as well as emphasise unity among the people.

He told non-Muslims not to fear that their rights would be diminished under an Islamic administration, adding that these have been guaranteed by the Quran and the Federal Constitution.

He then accused some parties of openly challenging the position of Islam, the Malay rulers and special provisions for Malays, saying it would cause tension.

Non-Muslims looked after

Hadi defended PAS’ rule in Kelantan and Terengganu, saying both states have been exemplary in showcasing the party’s commitment to ensuring justice for all races.

He said the party’s Supporters wing, made up of non-Muslims, should be strengthened with the involvement of all races and religions.

He offered to have discussions with non-Muslim parties and NGOs, citing the success of PAS’ discussions with Indian party MIC where he said they had found common ground in some areas and discussed differences peacefully.

He said PAS would uphold the “Charter Guaranteeing the Protection of Non-Muslims” which among others, prioritises relations, peace, and brotherhood in a multicultural society, fairness for all, the protection of non-Muslim sensitivities and the freedom to do what is allowed by their religions while respecting the sensitivities of Muslims.

Corruption and transparency

Hadi also said PAS was committed to making Malaysia corruption-free, transparent and competitive through constructive criticism.

“Every allegation of corruption and breach of trust needs to be investigated and brought to court for trial, not a media trial by ministers.”

He said PAS supported the calls for a royal commission of inquiry or a parliamentary select committee to study every report and recommendation provided by the National Audit Department, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, police and Bank Negara Malaysia to strengthen government bodies such as Tabung Haji, Felda and Mara.

GE15

In his speech, Hadi also urged PAS members to prepare for the 15th general election which he said could take place sooner than expected.

“Priority must be given to boosting membership, recruitment of new voters, widening our influence and the strategic use of the media.”

He added that the mandate for political cooperation, distribution of seats and selection of candidates should be left to the Shura Council and central leadership to decide.

Malaysia Agreement 1963

On Sabah and Sarawak, Hadi said PAS wanted to see the standard of living improve in the two states.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2019/06/21/whether-islam-or-the-economy-ph-has-failed-us-hadi-tells-pas-members/

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Hadi: PAS-Umno ties won’t jeopardise non-Muslim rights

21 June 2019

BY JERRY CHOONG

KUANTAN, June 21 — PAS and Umno’s political cooperation is only meant to protect Islamic interests but not at any cost to non-Muslims, the Islamist president said at his party’s 65th annual congress here today.

Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang said non-Muslims should not feel anxious about the proactive steps taken by the two Malay Muslim parties to resolve their own community’s problems and improve unity among the ummah.

“Islam requires us to maintain bonds of fellowship among family and race.

“At the same time Islam also commands us to maintain the ties of human relations, based on the concept of a holistic community, one that is fair to all and without coercion into adopting Islam,” Hadi said in his opening speech at the Indoor Stadium of the Pahang Sports Complex here.

The Marang MP added that both parties would defend the continuation of a multicultural, multireligious society as referred to in Islam.

He said PAS has proven its commitment to diversity with the creation of a non-Muslim wing in the party while Umno continues to have relations with other races even though it is a party for Malay-Muslim Bumiputera.

Hadi also said PAS remains open to holding discussions with non-Muslim parties and non-governmental organisations.

He named MIC as an example, saying discussions have been positive, transcending cultural and religious barriers and that they reach understanding on common interests due to mutual respect.

“The information programme via social and print media, especially for non-Muslims, is a primary agenda to provide explanation and clarity to them on what Islam is and PAS’ struggles based on wisdom, no coercion in religion, and fairness for all,” he said. Hadi then appealed to Sabahans and Sarawakians, asking them to reject extremism and to preserve communal unity, promising to improve the living standards in Borneo Malaysia but without explaining how.

“PAS is resolved to increase the living standards of Sabah and Sarawak’s Pribumi, and calls upon all parties to strengthen their commitment to the Malaysia Agreement 1963 by rectifying all the weaknesses throughout its implementation.

“This is so the Constitution can be strengthened and the gulf of differences which have existed for so long can be further shortened,” he said.

He cited the separatist conflicts in South Sudan and East Timor as examples and called for the rejection of such obstacles to unity.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/06/21/hadi-pas-umno-ties-wont-jeopardise-non-muslim-rights/1764230

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Outgoing PAS Youth chief tells members to stay vigilant for ‘subtle threats’ against Islam

20 June 2019

BY JERRY CHOONG

KUANTAN, June 20 — Outgoing PAS Youth chief Muhammad Khalil Abdul Hadi called upon the party’s Youth members to never tire in continuing their struggle to uphold and defend Islam.

During the wing’s muktamar or annual congress, he also urged the assembled delegates to be on the constant vigilance for subtle threats against Islam in the country.

“PAS Youth is the final stronghold in facing the challenges Islam has to confront, even as PAS remains but a chain in the overall struggle.

“In this Pakatan Harapan era, Islam is under threat as many issues touching upon the sensitivities of Muslims have come into focus,” Khalil said in his closing speech.

Khalil claimed that Muslims in the country are being “oppressed” by liberalism and pluralism, claiming the ideologies are far more dangerous than physical threats and violence against Muslims elsewhere in the world.

“Through liberal Islam and pluralism, among others. These are far more dangerous than mosque burnings in Myanmar, or being forbidden from fasting in China.

“Unless we are careful, such things will one day bring about our destruction. The movement to equalise all religions will invariably lead to the worship of the human intellect, instead of utilising the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet as a source of guidance,” he said.

He also expressed confidence in his belief that the wing members will be able to take over Putrajaya in the future.

Yesterday, he had claimed that the Pakatan Harapan administration has allegedly continued to threaten and ridicule Islam.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/06/20/outgoing-pas-youth-chief-tells-members-to-stay-vigilant-for-subtle-threats/1763957

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Europe

 

Western Europe must repatriate its ISIL fighters and families

by Letta Tayler

19 Jun 2019

Western European intransigence on ensuring that citizens detained abroad as ISIL suspects or their family members can return home made world headlines recently when an Iraqi court sentenced nine French citizens to death following trials tainted by allegations of torture.

Countries including France, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands insist that logistical challenges and security risks make it practically impossible for them to help their citizens accused of membership in the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). But others, like Kosovo, Turkey, Russia, and especially Central Asian countries are showing that where there is a will to bring citizens home, there is a way.

Three Central Asian states - Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan - have repatriated 756 nationals so far, most of them women and children. Kyrgyzstan is discussing possible repatriations as well.

In stark contrast, repatriations by Western European countries have been piecemeal, despite far greater resources and, in many cases, fewer numbers of ISIL-linked detainees. Their focus, such as it is, has been on children.

Norway, for example, in early June repatriated five orphans from northeast Syria but left 35 other children behind. France since March has flown home 17 children from northeast Syria and one from Iraq, most of them orphans. But the government says more than 400 other French citizens remain detained in northeast Syria, at least half of them children, and there is little sign of any French movement on their returns. Sweden and the Netherlands have brought home seven and two children respectively from Syria; Germany has flown home fewer than 10 from Iraq.

To be sure, repatriation is a complex process. In Iraq, the authorities are prosecuting hundreds of foreign ISIL suspects, including some women and children, in deeply flawed trials but want to send home children detained without charge. In northeast Syria, the Kurdish-led authorities, who do not have an internationally recognised government, are not prosecuting any of the 13,000 non-Iraqi foreigners - 2,000 men and 11,000 women and children - they say they are holding and want their home countries to take all of them back.

Many detainees, particularly children, lack birth certificates or other documents to confirm their nationalities. And many detained children were born to parents from two different countries, raising the issue of which nationality they could, and should, legally claim.

The most difficult obstacle to repatriation may be public opinion. Fearful of being blamed for an attack by a repatriated ISIL member, spouse, or child, government officials often prefer to let nationals remain detained in squalid conditions abroad and even, in some cases, revoke their citizenship. Western European governments say the onus is on their citizens to reach a consulate and request repatriation, but detainees cannot leave the camps and prisons they are locked in to do so.

Central Asia instead has cast airlifts as humanitarian rescues, with some of them releasing footage of cherub-faced children and of women, their black veils replaced by colourful kerchiefs, kissing the tarmac upon arriving home.

Central Asian governments should follow such messaging with greater transparency on what happens to repatriated citizens upon return, allowing independent oversight and monitoring of rehabilitation programmes to ensure they comport with international human rights standards. They should take the same approach to any prosecutions of returnees, given the region's history of unfair trials and torture.

In May, the United Nations independent expert on human rights and counterterrorism, Fionnuala Ni Aolain, expressed concern that Kazakhstan's anti-terrorism legislation may conflate violent extremism with non-violent religious views and infringe on freedom of expression, assembly and belief. Yet she also found much to praise in the country's repatriation and rehabilitation efforts, noting that it was doing far more than Europe.

All countries, including Western European ones, with citizens held in Iraq and northeast Syria need to address two basic issues: the right of everyone to return to their home country, without their home state throwing up direct or indirect barriers; and the duty to ensure justice for the worst crimes committed in Syria and Iraq through fair trials for those most responsible.

The conditions in camps and detention centres in northeast Syria and Iraq are dire, with children reportedly dying from preventable diseases in al-Hol. The camps are also ideal incubators for violent extremism. That makes it all the more urgent that Western Europe stops dragging its feet and ensures that its citizens are repatriated.

https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/western-europe-repatriate-isil-fighters-families-190619110248408.html

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UN chief urges maximum restraint after Iran shoots down US drone

20 June 2019

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is concerned by the Iranian shooting down of US drone and urges all parties to exercise maximum restraint, a UN spokesman said on Thursday.

“It’s important that all parties exercise maximum restraint and avoid any action that could inflame the situation,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/06/20/UN-chief-urges-maximum-restraint-after-Iran-shoots-down-US-drone.html

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Putin: Iran-US conflict would be 'catastrophe'

Elena Teslova  

20.06.2019

MOSCOW

War between Iran and the U.S. would be a catastrophe for the region, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.

The conflict would have "unpredictable consequences" and would lead to an outbreak of violence and to a new wave of refugees, Putin said, speaking at an annual event where he answered questions from the Russian people.

Saying that Iranians are “capable of extremities in case of their own necessity for defense and protection of their country,” Putin added: “What these extremes will result in, no one knows, and whom they will affect, it is difficult to say. It would not be desirable that events developed according to this scenario."

Tensions have been rising between the U.S. and Iran since last year, when the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from a nuclear pact between Tehran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany.

After a series of incidents including attacks against oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington is examining all options to counter Iran in the region, including the military one.

Talks with Trump

Commenting on U.S. President Donald Trump saying he and Putin might meet on the sidelines of the June 28-29 G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, Putin said he was "ready for this dialogue as much as U.S. partners are ready for it.”

"We have plenty to talk about in the sphere of international security and disarmament, -- the START Treaty Is coming to an end in the near future -- and in terms of establishing normal inter-state relations in all areas, including the economy," he said.

Syria would be among the issues he and Trump would discuss, he said.

"Syria is one of the problems that we must solve together, first of all with our colleagues, with whom we have made significant progress -- I mean Turkey, Iran -- and with other countries involved in this conflict, of course, first of all with the United States. The issues related to the political settlement, the establishment of a constitutional committee, and the beginning of its functioning, the rules of its work are on the agenda," he said.

Putin also said Egypt, Israel, Jordan have to join this effort, along with European countries which have taken in Syria refugees.

Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.

Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million others displaced, according to UN officials.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/putin-iran-us-conflict-would-be-catastrophe/1511375

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‘Europe needs to learn from Turkey on hosting refugees’

Muhammad Mussa 

20.06.2019

LONDON

A U.K. panel on Wednesday discussed the humanitarian role of Turkey in the refugee crisis and analyzed the details of the European Union’s immigration policy, including those of the 2016 EU-Turkey deal.

The conference organized by the TRT World Research Centre was held in the Houses of Parliament. It was hosted by Lord Mark McInnes with guest speakers including Talip Kucukcan, a professor in Marmara University in Istanbul, Shoshana Fine, an academic at CERI Sciences Po, and Eiko Thielemann, an associate professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

“From a statistical perspective, Turkey today hosts the greatest number of refugees in the world. When you look at the Turkish economy and the geography, it is not that big," Kucukcan said.

"But when you look at the number of refugees Turkey hosts and the money spent on taking care of them, Turkey is spending more money on the wellbeing of refugees than any other country in the world,” Kucukcan said.

"Europe needs to learn from Turkey on hosting refugees", he asserted.

Kucukcan also cited a UN report released Tuesday which said there are 75 million people displaced throughout the world, of which 25 million are recognized as refugees and of which 4 million are residing in Turkey.

He said that in 2018, Turkey spent more than $70 billion on humanitarian purposes, and not just within Turkey but across the world. He also praised Turkey for allowing millions of refugees in the country access to free healthcare, education and public services.

Syrian refugees have benefited from the Temporary Protection Regulation that was passed by Turkey’s parliament in 2014 which allows Syrian nationals to be admitted into Turkey, to apply to the Turkish government for protection and prevents them from being sent back to Syria. It also granted them a number of rights such as free healthcare, education and the right to work.

“The theme of today’s panel is looking at Turkey in this issue of refugee government, and I’ve been looking at migration practices in Turkey for quite some time now, but very much from the perspective of European and international interventions in Turkey,” Fine said, explaining how Turkish humanitarian organizations have been trained by European and international organizations for the migration policy.

Fine also explained how the categorization of Turkey as a “transit country” for refugees is reductive and overlooks the complexities of so-called “transit migration”. Many are led to believe that “transit migration”, in the case of Turkey and the EU, implies that migrants and asylum seekers are simply using Turkey as a transit point to their main destination, which is Europe.

Fine, however, explained that many migrants who initially planned to travel to Europe have decided to remain indefinitely in Turkey, the “transit country”, and thus “transit migration” as a category has been criticized as it does not take into account migrants’ intentions. Rather, it generalizes certain trends that nominally point to Europe as being the final destination for migrants and so has been labelled a “Eurocentric” category.

“We know that actually, migration is much more complex, and there is also an illegalized connotation for ‘transit migration’ in which it is associated with people smugglers and illicit forms of mobility. But we know, once again, that we see refugees and migrants using these same pathways, so I think that this categorization is quite problematic.”

Analyzing the EU’s immigration policy and its response to the refugee crisis prior to the EU-Turkey deal in 2016, Thielemann said the bloc needed to take more responsibility in accepting refugees and implementing laws that would protect their status and give them a fair representation when being accepted into a member state.

“There are a couple of things that the European Union should do. On the one hand, it should provide safer entry routes for asylum seekers and refugees. As we all know, a lot of migrants die in the process of trying to reach Europe. It should try and close implementation gaps that exist in the various member states where refugee representation is unequal, despite there being one policy for member states,” he said.

Thielemann also emphasized the need for the EU to share responsibilities for refugees more equally, and as such, attention should be given to introducing quota-based approaches to share refugee responsibilities equitably across member states and effectively ensure their rights and protections by enforcing the laws they have introduced regarding refugee rights.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Turkey hosts up to 4 million refugees, of which 3.6 million are Syrian as well as hundreds of thousands from Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq, a figure that represents 4% of the Turkish population.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/-europe-needs-to-learn-from-turkey-on-hosting-refugees-/1510695

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Pakistan

 

Pakistan thwarts India’s FATF blacklist move but danger still lurks

June 20, 2019

Pakistan has managed to garner much-needed support from three member states of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to avoid being placed on its blacklist, but black clouds are still hanging over it.

Islamabad has been on the global money laundering watchdog’s radar since June 2018, when it was placed on a grey list for terrorist financing and money laundering risks after an assessment of the country's financial system and security mechanism.

Turkey was the only country that had opposed the move backed by the United States, the United Kingdom and Pakistan’s arch-rival India. However, Islamabad’s longtime ally, Beijing abstained.

Moving one step further, New Delhi — co-chair of the joint group of FATF and Asia Pacific Group — wants Islamabad to be placed on the Paris-based watchdog’s blacklist of the countries, which fail to meet international standards in combating financial crimes.

However, an aggressive diplomatic push from Islamabad has frustrated the looming threat with the support of Turkey, China, and Malaysia.

According to the 36-nation FATF charter, the support of at least three member states is essential to avoid the blacklisting.

Confirming the development that took place at the five-day meeting of the watchdog’s Plenary and Working Group meeting in Orlando, Florida last week, an official at Pakistan's foreign ministry admitted that “the danger is still not over”.

Pakistan on FATF’s grey list: what, why, and why now?

The group will formally announce the decision of not blacklisting Islamabad in its Plenary scheduled in Paris on Oct. 13-18.

“This is certainly a positive development that there is no imminent threat of blacklisting [by the FATF] due to crucial support from Turkey, China and Malaysia,” the official told Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity as he was not allowed to make a public statement due to the sensitivity of the matter.

But, he added, Pakistan had to meet the FATF deadline — January 2019 — to complete its action plan aimed at fully blocking the money laundering and other financial loopholes.

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mohammad Faisal refused to comment on the development.

In a statement in February this year, the FATF said: “Given the limited progress on action plan items due in January 2019, the FATF urges Pakistan to swiftly complete its action plan, particularly those with timelines of May 2019.”

The watchdog agreed that Islamabad had made progress towards implementation of the action plan — negotiated between Pakistan and the FATF members — in June last year but still sought “dissuasive sanctions” and “ effective prosecution” in this connection.

Islamabad, at a meeting in Guangzhou, China last month, was reportedly asked to “do more" as its compliance on 18 of the 27 indicators — pointed out in the action plan — was unsatisfactory.

Pakistan, in recent months, has taken some major steps in accordance with the action plan, which includes, no foreign currency transactions without a national tax number, and ban on currency change of up to $500 in the open currency market without submission of a national identity card copy.

In addition to that, Islamabad has also proscribed several militant groups and seized their assets, including Jamat-ud-Dawa’h, and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) — the groups blamed for several terrorist attacks such as the 2009 deadly Mumbai attacks killing over 150 people.

Success of active diplomacy

The foreign ministry official said that Pakistan was in constant touch with Turkey and other friendly countries to use their good offices to help Islamabad move out of the grey list.

Pakistan had faced a similar situation in 2011 when it was included in the grey list and was taken out only in 2015 after it successfully implemented an action plan.

Islamabad requires at least 15 out of 36 votes to move out of the watchdog’s grey list, which is causing an estimated loss of $10 billion per year.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who is currently on a state visit to the UK, claimed on Wednesday that London had agreed to support his country in its efforts to move out of the list.

Political and security analysts, however, reckon it will not be a walk in the park.

“This is good news but the danger is still looming”, Ali Sarwar Naqvi, a former ambassador told Anadolu Agency and added, “This is just a temporary relief allowing us to rally more and more support to permanently get rid of this threat.”

He observed that Pakistan was still required to meet some key FATF conditions to move out of the list, and avoid being blacklisted.

Naqvi, who served as Pakistan’s ambassador to Jordan, Belgium, and Austria from 1970 to 2006, said that active diplomacy with the help of friendly countries would give a boost to Islamabad’s ongoing efforts steer out of FATF scanner.

“As far as I know, they [foreign ministry] is already in touch with FATF and Asia Pacific Group members and other friendly countries, and briefing them of measures it has taken to combat terror financing and money laundering recently,” he said.

About the US opposition to Pakistan in the FATF, Naqvi, who also served as an acting ambassador to the US, said: “Pakistan cannot do much to persuade the US. The fact is that the US opposition is not based on FATF charter but on political consideration, mainly because of clash of interests in Afghanistan, and Islamabad’s ever-growing relations with China.”

Mohiuddin Aazim, a Karachi-based economic analyst thinks that Pakistan is likely to be removed even from the gray list though FATF may make some observations urging Islamabad to remain vigilant and continue to strengthen its anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regime.

"The removal of Pakistan from the gray list is likely both due to diplomatic support of China, Turkey and Malaysia and due to a host of measures the country has taken to stop money laundering and terror financing," Aazim told Anadolu Agency.

On the diplomatic front, he opined, seeking the help of other countries notably of Saudi Arabia and the US would be important but even with the already available support of China, Turkey and Malaysia, it was very much likely that Pakistan would get out of the grey list.

On the economic front continuing with strong resolve all measures taken to stop money laundering and terror financing and initiating more measures is important to avoid any hostile FATF action in future, he maintained.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1489350/pakistan-thwarts-indias-fatf-blacklist-move-but-danger-still-lurks

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Pakistan Security Forces Kill 2 Suspected ISIS Terrorists Linked to Abduction of Former PM Yousaf Gilani's Son

June 20, 2019

Lahore: Two suspected ISIS terrorists, who were allegedly involved in the abductions of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani's son and a US national, were killed by Pakistani security agencies in Punjab province, police said on Thursday.

The terrorists, identified as Muhammad Rizwan and Imran Saqi, were killed in a late night raid on a house in Multan district on Wednesday, the Punjab Police's counter-terrorism department (CTD) department said.

They were also involved in the killing of three intelligence officers.

In a statement, the CTD said it received information that five terrorists of banned terror group ISIS were hiding in a house in the district, around 350 km from Lahore.

It said a team surrounded the house and told the terrorists to surrender. "The terrorists instead of surrendering opened fire on the raiding team which returned fire, killing two terrorists on the spot while three of their accomplices managed to escape taking advantage of darkness," the CTD said.

The terrorists had planned to attack personnel of intelligence agencies. Nine hand grenades, explosives and weapons were seized from the house, it said.

They were involved in the kidnapping of US national Warren Weinstein in 2011 and Yosuf Gilani's son Ali Haider Gilani in 2013.

Weinstein, who was abducted from Lahore, was accidentally killed in a US drone strike in 2015 on the Afghan border, while Haider Gilani was rescued from Afghanistan after three years.

Full report at:

https://www.news18.com/news/world/pakistan-security-forces-kill-2-suspected-isis-terrorists-linked-to-abduction-of-former-pm-yousaf-gilanis-son-2194989.html

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Pakistan's Senate expresses sorrow over Morsi's death

Islamuddin Sajid 

20.06.2019

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan

Pakistan’s Senate on Thursday unanimously passed a resolution expressing deep sorrow and shock over the death earlier this week of Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president.

The resolution was made by Senator Mushtaq Ahmad Khan of Jamaat-e-Islami, one of Pakistan’s main religious parties, and won support from all the political parties in the Senate.

"The Senate of Pakistan shows its deep shock at the tragic death of Muhammed Morsi,” said the resolution.

“His struggle and sacrifice for the cause of democracy parliamentary supremacy, constitutionalism, civilian supremacy, the rule of law and justice and fundamental rights will not go in vain and shall be recognized by all the democratic people around the world in general and the future generations in Egypt in particular."

The Senate also expressed dismay and disappointment at the general world apathy towards the suffering of Morsi and other political prisoners.

The body also endorsed the call by Human Right Watch for an independent judicial inquiry into the circumstances that led to the death of the former president.

The senate urge the government of Pakistan to approach the government of Egypt and where necessary other Islamic states to secure fair trials and fair treatment of political prisoners in line with the UNHCR, UN charter, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s 1981 universal Islamic declaration of human rights.

Morsi died during a court appearance on Monday.

A leading member of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood group, Morsi won the country’s first free presidential election in 2012.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/pakistans-senate-expresses-sorrow-over-morsis-death/1511528

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Zardari presented before accountability court as NAB's physical remand ends

Nadir Guramani | Naveed Siddiqui

June 21, 2019

A National Accountability Bureau (NAB) team presented former president Asif Ali Zardari before an accountability court in Islamabad on Friday as his 11-day physical remand comes to an end.

The former president will be presented before accountability court judge Mohammad Arshad Malik.

A day after his arrest on June 10, Judge Malik had granted NAB physical remand of the former president and ordered that Zardari be presented before the court again on June 21.

Ahead of his appearance before the court today, strict security arrangements were made and all routes leading to the court were closed.

PPP leaders — including Senator Sassui Palijo, Shahida Rehmani, Senator Gianchand and others — who were gathered outside the court were initially stopped by police from entering. They were eventually allowed entry into the court.

PPP Secretary General Nayyar Bukhari, Amir Fida Paracha as well as the former president's lawyers also reached the accountability court. While speaking to media, Zardari's counsel Latif Khosa said, "It is the court's decision whether it favours its judicial orders or whether the NAB chairman overpowers them."

On June 10, a 15-member NAB team, accompanied by police personnel, had arrested Zardari from his residence in Islamabad after the cancellation of his pre-arrest bail by the Islamabad High Court in the fake bank accounts case.

During the previous hearing at the accountability court, NAB had presented the grounds for his arrest.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1489523/zardari-presented-before-accountability-court-as-nabs-physical-remand-ends

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Asad finds fault with budget, discloses details of IMF talks

Amir Wasim

June 21, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Opposing a decision of the government of his own Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf to increase taxes on items of daily use, former finance minister Asad Umar on Thursday called for an investigation into a constant increase in sugar prices.

Taking part in the debate on the budget in the National Assembly soon after the speech of a subdued Asif Zardari, who attended the sitting for the first time since his arrest by NAB on June 10 after issuance of his production order by Speaker Asad Qaiser, Mr Umar asked the government to reconsider the decision to increase tax on sugar, ghee and cooking oil and impose Federal Excise Duty (FED) on small cars.

Mr Umar, who was removed from the post of finance minister weeks before presentation of the budget and in the middle of the talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), said it was inappropriate to increase tax on sugar as its prices were already on the rise.

“This (rise in tax on sugar) should be taken back and there should be an investigation as to why sugar prices are already on the rise,” Mr Umar demanded.

He also disclosed for the first time some of the details of his talks as finance minister with the IMF and claimed the credit for making the Fund agree to soften its tough conditions for the bailout package.

The brief presence of Prime Minister Imran Khan and a verbal clash between the members of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) over the matters related to Sindh were the other highlights of the daylong proceedings.

Mr Zardari’s daughters Bakhtawar and Aseefa were present in the galleries when he delivered a brief speech focusing only on the budget. He was greeted by the opposition members when he entered the house with his son and PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s firebrand MNA Khwaja Saad Rafique, whose production order was also issued by the speaker on Wednesday night, reached the assembly from Lahore at the fag end of the day’s proceedings.

The house also witnessed a few verbal skirmishes between the government and the opposition when the members from the two sides during their speeches made personal attacks against the leadership of each other, forcing the chair to expunge a few words from the proceedings.

Two senior ministers — Shafqat Mehmood and Ghulam Sarwar Khan — in their speeches mainly targeted the opposition parties, particularly the PML-N, instead of discussing the budget.

Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan, who was given the floor during the presence of the prime minister, earned the ire of the speaker when he objected to his decision of issuing a production order for Mr Zardari, saying that the speaker was bound to ensure the presence of the arrested members only during voting on the budget.

An angry speaker reprimanded the minister saying he had discretionary powers to issue production orders and was not “bound to anyone in this regard”. He switched the minister’s mike off when the PML-N members protested over his remarks when he started naming PML-N leaders, accusing them of receiving kickbacks while awarding contracts of major development projects.

Asad Umar’s speech

The former minister lauded the new economic team of the government for presenting a “budget for tough times”.

Mr Umar, who is presently heading the house committee on finance, said the turnover tax should not be imposed at least on new investments for five years. Similarly, he said, the decision to levy Federal Excise Duty on small cars should also be reviewed to provide benefit to the middle class people.

Mr Umar recommended that there should be a further increase of 10 to 15 per cent in pensions. He advised the government to either withdraw the gas infrastructure development cess on fertilisers or make arrangements to recover it from the owners of the factories who were collecting it from the farmers, but not depositing it to the government’s kitty due to some litigation on the issue.

Mr Umar said now when he was no more a minister he could disclose some of the details of his talks with the IMF. He said there were five main factors — electricity prices, gas prices, tax rates, policy rates of State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and rupee devaluation — which were discussed during negotiations with the IMF before his “resignation” from the cabinet.

He said the IMF wanted an increase of 50pc and 94pc in the prices of electricity and gas, respectively. However, he said, the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority had recommended an 11pc increase in electricity price, saying there might be three to four per cent further increase in it.

He claimed that it took him four months to make the IMF agree on one-fourth of the 94pc suggested increase in gas price. He said he was happy to see that the SBP governor had already announced that there would be “flexible exchange rate” in the country, instead of “free float.”

Mr Umar said the IMF wanted the government to increase the policy interest rate from 9pc to 15pc. Similarly, the IMF put a condition that the tax-to-GDP ratio be brought to 13.2pc, which the government now intends to bring to 12.6 per cent.

Zardari’s speech

Surprisingly, Mr Zardari in his first speech since his arrest did not target the National Accountability Bureau or the prime minister and suggested that the government and the opposition should sit together and discuss an economic policy “to move forward.”

“Let’s give the economic policy [collective] ownership so that it continues forever,” said Mr Zardari who was the first speaker of the day.

“If the budget is so good and if we are getting money from the IMF then why are people crying? Why are industries crying?” he asked.

He said his party leaders had rendered sacrifices for the cause of democracy and he also raised slogan of “Pakistan Khappay” after the assassination of his wife and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

Mr Zardari said when they assumed power after a military rule, they did not victimise any politician. He said detention was not new for them, saying: “I used to come to the assembly from jail in the past too.”

He said there was so much fear among businessmen and investors that they weren’t ready to invest in the country.

“Arresting me doesn’t make any difference to the party. The PPP is further strengthened,” he said, adding that an ordinary person was worried that if Zardari sahab could be caught, then what next.

He warned that the entire country might protest because of these measures (arrests) and then no political party would be able to do anything.

PPP-MQM tussle

Taking part in the debate, the MQM’s Salahuddin said Mr Zardari who was known as “Mr 10 per cent” had now become “Mr 100 per cent”.

He said his party had voted for the 18th Amendment, but the people of Sindh were not getting any benefit out of it. He alleged that the Sindh government was not spending money on welfare of the people which was evident from the dilapidated condition of the cities. He said there was not a single model union council in Sindh where people were not forced to drink contaminated water. He said even the Supreme Court had declared that Sindh was the most “corrupt province”.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1489466/asad-finds-fault-with-budget-discloses-details-of-imf-talks

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Pakistan’s hosting of refugees exemplary: Mazari

June 21, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari said on Thursday that Pakistan’s hosting of refugees in vast numbers has been exemplary and far beyond its resources.

Dr Mazari issued a statement on the eve of World Refugee Day.

She said Pakistan continues to host Afghan refugees despite the loss of interest by the world community, and Prime Minister Imran Khan has moved to improve facilities for them.

She said Pakistan has done this despite not being party to the 1951 Refugee Convention.

“In fact, we should sign the convention as we have gone far beyond its requirements without gaining any of the benefits and there is always more everyone can do better in terms of treatment of refugees,” she said.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1489415/pakistans-hosting-of-refugees-exemplary-mazari

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Gen Bajwa reaches London on official trip, says ISPR

June 21, 2019

LONDON: Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa arrived in London today (Thursday) on an official visit, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) reported.

The army chief is scheduled to meet senior civil and armed forces leadership of England during the trip.

The trip will underscore matters pertaining to defence, security and geo-strategic situation of the region.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/06/20/gen-bajwa-reaches-london-on-official-trip-says-ispr/

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Australia

 

New Zealand opens gun buyback after mosque killings

20 June 2019

New Zealand opened a gun buyback scheme Thursday aimed at ridding the country of semi-automatic weapons similar to those used in the Christchurch mosque attacks that killed 51 Muslim worshippers.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern vowed in the hours after the March 15 killings that New Zealand’s gun laws would be tightened and her government has expedited the change in just three months.

“The buyback and amnesty have one objective – to remove the most dangerous weapons from circulation following the loss of life at Al Noor and Linwood mosques,” Police Minister Stuart Nash said.

The Australian man accused of the killings, Brenton Tarrant, is alleged to have used an arsenal of five weapons, including two military-style semi-automatic rifles (MSSAs), in the attacks on two Christchurch mosques.

Lawmakers voted to outlaw MSSAs, which allow the rapid fire of high-caliber bullets, by a margin of 119-1 in the wake of the worst massacre in modern New Zealand history.

Licensed firearms owners will have six months to surrender weapons that have now been deemed illegal under the scheme, with an amnesty ensuring they will not face prosecution during that period.

After the amnesty expires, possession of prohibited firearms is punishable by up to five years in jail. Compensation will be based on the model and condition of the firearm, with the total cost of the scheme estimated at NZ$218 million ($143 million).

That includes NZ$18 million towards administration costs for what Nash said was “a huge logistical exercise”. He said police knew of 14,300 registered MSSA rifles and there were an estimated 1.2 million firearms in the community, with the vast majority still legal under the new rules.

Police said they were organizing “collection events” around the country where firearms owners could submit their weapons. Tarrant last week pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges, as well as 51 counts of murder and 40 of attempted murder.

He was committed to stand trial in May next year.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/06/20/New-Zealand-opens-gun-buyback-after-mosque-killings.html

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Africa

 

Hundreds demonstrate for civilian rule in Sudan’s state capitals

20 June 2019

Hundreds of Sudanese demonstrated in state capitals on Thursday, putting pressure on the ruling military council to cede power to civilians in ongoing tumult since the overthrow of former President Omar al-Bashir more than two months ago.

There were gatherings in each of the state capitals of Wad Madani, Al-Ubayyid and Port Sudan to call for the Transitional Military Council to relinquish power.

Dozens also demonstrated in the national capital Khartoum, including employees from the private Bank of Khartoum, chanting “Civilian!” and waving Sudanese flags.

Talks between the military and an opposition alliance collapsed when security forces stormed a protest sit-in outside the Defense Ministry on June 3, killing dozens.

The two sides had been wrangling for weeks over whether civilians or the military would control a new sovereign council to lead the Sudan to elections after the military deposed and detained long-time president Bashir in April.

The prolonged chaos has concerned world powers including the United States, which sanctioned Sudan under Bashir over its alleged support for militant groups and the civil war in Darfur.

The opposition accused the military council of ordering the sit-in’s bloody dispersal and wants an international inquiry. Witnesses said the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, headed by the military council’s deputy, carried out the violence.

The military said a crackdown on criminals spilled over to the sit-in area, but some officers have been detained for presumed responsibility.  

New public prosecutor

On Thursday, the military council named Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah as public prosecutor, judicial sources told Reuters.

Abdullah had recently been appointed prosecutor for Khartoum, a role in which he was overseeing an investigation into the storming of the sit-in, state news agency SUNA said.

The military council called for a renewal of negotiations on Wednesday, but there was no response from the opposition.

There have been no direct talks since the dispersal, but Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the African Union have been trying to mediate. An envoy for Abiy would soon return to Khartoum with proposals for both sides, opposition sources said.

Stability in the nation of 40 million is crucial for a volatile region struggling with conflict and insurgencies from the Horn of Africa to Egypt and Libya.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/06/20/Hundreds-demonstrate-for-civilian-rule-in-Sudan-s-state-capitals.html

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Mali attack: Forces deployed as survivors recall killings

20 Jun 2019

The attackers behind the latest attack to have hit central Mali identified victims one by one before executing then, survivors have said.

Monday's attack on the Gangafani and Yoro villages in the Mopti region was the last in a cycle of apparent tit-for-tat violence between the Dogon and Fulani communities.

At least 38 people were killed in the villages where survivors and officials say Fulani gunmen arrived by motorbike before attacking villagers in "revenge" for suspicions that they had collaborated with the Malian army.

Abdoulaye Goro, a security guard, had been travelling by truck to his father's funeral near the two villages, when about 40 armed men intercepted the vehicle and forced the passengers into the bush.

"They did identity checks and they only looked for the people from Yoro and Gangafani, and all those who were from those two villages were set apart," Goro said.

"They killed them in front of us, with rifles, and released us afterwards."

The raids followed a massacre of dozens of people earlier this month in another Dogon village, Sobane Da.

That attack came months after suspected Dogon militiamen in late March killed more than 150 Fulani in two villages in central Mali, one of the worst acts of bloodshed in the country's recent history.

Mali's government said on Wednesday the army had dispatched a contingent to reinforce security and protect property in the Gangafani and Yoro villages, near the border with Burkina Faso.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called for restraint in order to end the "vicious circle of violence".

"As our teams prepare to provide emergency assistance to the survivors of Sobane Da, we have learned that other villages in the Mopti region also suffered attacks, causing a large number of casualties," Jean-Nicolas Marti, the ICRC head of delegation for Mali, said in a statement to Al Jazeera.

"We've now seen four major attacks since the beginning of the year, on top of daily violence. Our colleagues on the ground see an overwhelming amount of need and remain determined to support the victims of the violence, first and foremost through the provision of medical care."

Ethnic tensions in central Mali surged after an armed group led by preacher Amadou Koufa emerged in 2015 and recruited mainly from among the Fulanis. Clashes increased with Dogons and Bambaras who formed their own self-defence militias.

President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita appealed for an end to revenge attacks after he visited the site of the Sobane Da massacre.

But despite military help from France and the United Nations, Mali's government is struggling to calm violence that began in the north of the country in 2012, sparked by rebel fighters and Tuareg militias, while groups linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) have used central and northern Mali as a launch pad for attacks across the Sahel region and stoke tensions among different communities.

Arrived by motorbike

During Monday's attack, witness Goro said, the gunmen blamed inhabitants for having "cooperated" with the Malian and Burkinabe military about 15 days ago in a raid in the neighbouring town of Dinagourou.

At the local level, "there is a dispute between the people of Gangafani and Yoro against the Fulani," Goro said.

"Our kidnappers were taking revenge," the security guard said.

Local officials said the situation has calmed down, but residents were shocked how the gunmen were able to arrive en masse by motorbike even after the government imposed a ban on the vehicles as a way to tighten security.

"We need to strengthen security," said Amidou Maiga, a local retired civil servant. "People are frightened."

The UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA, said in May it had recorded nearly 500 deaths in attacks on Fulanis in the central regions of Mopti and Segou since January 2018.

Armed Fulanis caused 63 deaths among civilians in the Mopti region over the same period, it said.

Full report at:

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/06/mali-attack-forces-deployed-survivors-recall-killings-190619174718672.html

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Islamic State says it killed 12 Nigerian soldiers in Borno state attack: statement

JUNE 20, 2019

CAIRO (Reuters) - Islamic State said on Wednesday its West African branch carried out an attack on a Nigerian army base in northeastern Borno state and that its fighters killed 12 soldiers.

A military source put the toll higher, saying up to 25 soldiers were killed after insurgents traveling on trucks mounted with guns attacked the base on Monday around 5:30 p.m. (1630 GMT). He said fighting lasted for about three hours. A local resident said he saw the bodies of six dead Nigerian soldiers.

The attack in the town of Gajiram, in which the insurgents said the barracks were burned, followed a similar assault on a base last week and suicide bombings that killed 30 people on Sunday. The attacks raise questions about government assertions to have almost defeated the insurgents.

“Twelve Nigerian soldiers were killed and others injured following an attack by Islamic State fighters on their barracks in the northern Nigerian town of Gajiram,” Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) said in a statement published on the SITE Intelligence website.

A Nigerian army spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The insurgency in northeast Nigeria has killed more than 30,000 people and displaced about 2 million since 2009. President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired general, was re-elected in February after a campaign in which he vowed to improve security.

Full report at:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-nigeria-security-islamic-state-claim/islamic-state-says-it-killed-12-nigerian-soldiers-in-borno-state-attack-statement-idUSKCN1TK36H

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Sahel jihadists undeterred by Western-led fightback

Jun 21, 2019

ABIDJAN: The Sahel region has become a haven for jihadist groups, who are now carrying out attacks almost daily in the vast, fragile region despite a fightback by international and local armies.

The latest strikes included Tuesday's raid in northern Burkina Faso, which killed 17, and another at the gates of the Niger capital Niamey that claimed the lives of two policemen.

Eighteen members of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara were meanwhile killed in a joint operation by US, French and Niger troops near Niger's border with Mali, Niger's defence ministry announced on Tuesday.

The June 8-18 operation took place in the northern border region of Tongo Tongo and targeted a group "implicated in an ambush on May 14," in which 28 Nigerien soldiers were killed," it said.

The volatile western rim of the southern Sahara includes conflict-ravaged Mali as well as Mauritania and Chad, which have become hunting grounds for a range of armed militia including some linked to the Islamic State (IS) group.

"It's Sisyphean, it never stops!" said a French security source, referring to the figure in Greek mythology whose name signifies endless labour and frustration.

Sisyphus was punished for eternity by being forced to roll a boulder to the top of a hill, only to see the rock roll down again once it neared the peak.

Further complicating matters are the Boko Haram fighters from Nigeria who have now extended their attacks to neighbouring countries in a decade-long campaign of violence that has killed 27,000 people in Nigeria alone.

There are 13,000 soldiers in a UN peacekeeping force in Mali, while France -- the former colonial ruler of several western Sahel countries -- has deployed 4,500 troops to Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad in a mission codenamed Barkhane to help local forces flush out jihadists.

The so-called G5 Sahel group -- comprising Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger -- have sent 5,000 troops to help expand their anti-terror campaign.

However, their impact seems so far to be meagre.

Burkina President Roch Marc Christian Kabore on Thursday called for "more concerted action" against the jihadists and said the countries "must overcome our differences and individual interests."

A security expert said that despite repeated operations (the jihadists) still have this ability to strike regularly.

"Every month there are fairly complex attacks, improvised explosive devices are planted... giving the impression that the insurrection is growing slowly but surely," the expert said.

"The number of incidents and victims are not reducing, rather it's the opposite."

One problem facing the international forces was that they were "reactive", said Jean-Marc Balencie, an Africa expert at French consultancy firm Risk&Co.

"One can assume that the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (present in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso) has suffered some serious blows, lost chiefs, been in a state of withdrawal and yet they have successfully pulled off several spectacular operations in recent weeks," he said.

"A real area of concern is the capacity of resilience and recovery from losses."

Mahamadou Savadogo, a researcher at Senegal's Gaston Berger University, said the jihadists' huge advantage was their invisibility.

"They just melt into the population," he said, and then stage "sporadic attacks."

"The foreign armies face a problem of intelligence. For the time being, the locals seem more inclined to provide information to armed groups than to local armies," he added.

Jihadists often play on inter-ethnic tensions, further complicating an explosive situation and breeding hostility towards local armies.

Foreign soldiers often face suspicion and anger from people who view their presence as a loss of sovereignty.

At the end of May, around 1,000 people gathered in the Niger capital shouting "Down with foreign military bases!" and "Down with the French army!"

Jihadist violence was largely unknown in Burkina Faso before 2015 and some claim that the arrival of the French Barkhane troops fuelled Islamist attacks.

Politicians also fan the flames by blaming external forces for the mess, analysts say.

"I personally think if France had not intervened in Mali in 2013 (when a rapid response from French military prevented Islamist groups from storming Bamako), there wouldn't be a Malian state, so that was a good thing. But since then, the situation hasn't really improved," Burkinabe Defence Minister Cheriff Sy said in a recent interview.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/rest-of-world/sahel-jihadists-undeterred-by-western-led-fightback/articleshow/69884904.cms

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Libyan commander marching on capital dismisses negotiations

June 20, 2019

CAIRO: A Libyan commander, whose forces are fighting to take the country’s capital of Tripoli from militias allied with a UN-backed government based there, has dismissed an initiative by its prime minister for negotiations to end the crisis.

Instead, Khalifa Haftar vowed in comments to a news website on Wednesday that his fighters would press on with the weeks-long offensive until Tripoli is rid of what he described as “terrorist militias.”

“Our military operations will not stop” until Tripoli is taken, Haftar told almarsad.co.

“The situation is excellent and I call on the Libyans to ignore rumors about our withdrawal,” Haftar said in interviews with Libyan news websites The Address and The Observer published overnight Wednesday to Thursday.

The offensive to seize the capital “will not stop before all its objectives are reached,” he said.

The campaign by Haftar’s Liberation National Army has raised fears of another bout of violence after the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi. Since then, the country has sunk into chaos, with rival administrations in the east and the west, and an array of forces and militias allied with either side.

On Monday, the World Health Organization reported the latest casualty tolls for the fighting in and around Tripoli, saying 691 people have been killed so far, including 41 civilians, and 4,012 wounded, 135 of them civilians.

The head of the Tripoli-based government, Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj, told a news conference on Sunday he is proposing a “Libyan forum,” aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the conflict.

The talks would draw up a roadmap for parliamentary and presidential elections to be held before the end of 2019, Al-Sarraj said.

In his remarks to the news website, Haftar dismissed Al-Sarraj’s initiative and criticized him as an ineffective leader.

“Initiatives have no meaning unless they are brave and carry clear clauses that address the causes of the crisis and its very roots,” Haftar said.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1513771/middle-east

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Sudan's military fires attorney general over crackdown

Ahmed Asem, Bahram Abdel-Monem  

20.06.2019

Sudan's ruling military council on Thursday fired the country's attorney general over ties with recent deadly crackdown on protestors.

The Transitional Military Council (TMC) dismissed prosecutor general Alwaleed Sayed Ahmed Mahmoud and appointed Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, a judicial source told Anadolu Agency.

Last Thursday, TMC spokesman Shamseddine Kabbashi told media outlets that the country's attorney general participated in a security meeting to provide legal advice regarding the deadly dispersal of a sit-in in front of the army headquarters in Khartoum.

On June 3, Sudanese security forces stormed the sit-in in central Khartoum and dispersed it by force. The crackdown left more than 100 people dead according to opposition sources while the TMC puts the death toll at 35.

On Sunday, the Attorney General, Alwaleed Sayed Ahmed, denied discussing the sit-in with the TMC and threatened to resign over intervention in his powers and competences.

Sudan has remained in turmoil since April 11, when the military establishment deposed long-serving Omar al-Bashir after months of popular protests against his 30-year rule.

The Transitional Military Council (TMC) is now overseeing a two-year “transitional period” during which it has pledged to hold free presidential elections.

The TMC has announced it will draw up a transitional technocrat government and hold general elections within a year.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/sudans-military-fires-attorney-general-over-crackdown/1511324

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North America

 

US adds Cuba, Saudi Arabia to human trafficking list

Umar Farooq  

20.06.2019

WASHINGTON

The U.S. on Thursday added Cuba and Saudi Arabia to the lowest tier in a new report on human trafficking.

Both countries were newly designated as Tier 3 countries, which could make both subject to restrictions on U.S. assistance. The countries join China, North Korea, Russia, and Syria as Tier 3 trafficking offenders.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo unveiled the report on trafficking alongside U.S. President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka at the State Department.

Tier 3 countries can face restrictions on "non-humanitarian, non-trade related foreign assistance" and on "government official or employee participation in educational and cultural exchange programs," according to the report.

While Pompeo mentioned Cuba by name during his remarks, he did not mention Saudi Arabia, even though it is in the report.

In Saudi Arabia's profile in the report, it is stated that the country "may have funded Yemeni militias that in some cases may have hired minors in combatant roles."

Pompeo added that 25 million people across the world are subject to trafficking including those “in the United States, and indeed in this very city we’re sitting in today.”

The secretary of state also mentioned that 77% of traffickers exploit victims in their own countries.

“Human trafficking is a local and global problem,” he said.

The Trump administration also marked the countries Libya, Somalia, and Yemen as special cases, where humanitarian conflicts make the ability to access information difficult.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/us-adds-cuba-saudi-arabia-to-human-trafficking-list/1511361

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House Speaker Pelosi calls on US to de-escalate tensions with Iran

21 June 2019

The US House of Representatives’ Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday called for the United States to de-escalate tensions with Iran, after top lawmakers attended a White House briefing on the downing of an American drone by Tehran.

“It is essential that we remain fully engaged with our allies, recognize that we are not dealing with a responsible adversary and do everything in our power to de-escalate,” Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, said in a statement.

“This is a dangerous, high-tension situation that requires a strong, smart and strategic, not reckless, approach,” she added.

Does not seek war, write Iran to UN chief

Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations called on Thursday for the international community to demand the United States end its “unlawful and destabilizing measures” in the Gulf, saying Tehran did not seek war but would act to secure its territory.

Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi, in a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said Iranian forces targeted an unmanned US aircraft on Thursday when “despite repeated radio warnings, it entered into the Iranian airspace.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/06/21/US-House-Speaker-Pelosi-calls-on-US-to-de-escalate-tensions-with-Iran.html

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Prince Khalid bin Salman: Saudi Arabia supports ‘maximum pressure' on Iran

June 21, 2019

Saudi Deputy Defence Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman discussed Iranian aggression in the region with the visiting US special envoy for Iran and affirmed the kingdom's support for the America's policy of applying “maximum pressure" on Tehran.

Prince Khalid said he met special representative Brian Hook to “explore the latest efforts to counter hostile Iranian acts and continuous escalation that threaten the region’s security and stability”.

In a series of Twitter posts on Friday, the deputy defence minister, who previously served as ambassador to the US, said Saudi Arabia backed the US “maximum pressure campaign on Iran” in response to “continuing Iranian hostility and terrorism”.

Khalid bin Salman خالد بن سلمان

@kbsalsaud

Pleased to meet with United States Special Representative for Iran Mr. Brian Hook to explore the latest efforts to counter hostile Iranian acts and continuous escalation that threaten the region’s security and stability.

527

10:26 AM - Jun 21, 2019

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Khalid bin Salman خالد بن سلمان

@kbsalsaud

Replying to @kbsalsaud

We affirmed the Kingdom’s support for the United States maximum pressure campaign on Iran, which came as a result of continuing Iranian hostility and terrorism, and discussed the latest Iranian attacks on the Kingdom

327

10:26 AM - Jun 21, 2019

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Prince Khalid's tweets came after Iran shot down a US surveillance drone in the Strait of Hormuz, escalating tensions between the two countries. Tehran claimed the aircraft entered its airspace while the US said it was attacked over international waters.

The attack followed a series of explosions targeting oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman and the Strait of Hormuz that Washington and Riyadh have blamed on Iran.

Prince Khalid said he also discussed with Mr Hook the “dangerous role the Iranian regime plays in Yemen", where Houthi rebels are fighting the internationally recognised government supported by a Saudi-led coalition.

In other tweets earlier this month, Prince Khalid said that for 40 years the Iranian regime has been “spreading chaos, death and destruction, by sponsoring and financing terrorist organisations including the Houthis”.

The Yemeni rebels have stepped up drone and missile attacks on Saudi Arabia in recent weeks, damaging oil infrastructure and injuring dozens of people at the civilian airport in the popular mountain resort of Abha.

The US State Department said Mr Hook is visiting allies in the region to discuss Iran’s regional aggression” and share intelligence on the range of threats posed by Iran.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/gcc/prince-khalid-bin-salman-saudi-arabia-supports-maximum-pressure-on-iran-1.877312

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Donald Trump tells Iran that strikes are imminent but offers talks

June 21, 2019

Donald Trump sent a message to Tehran through Oman on Thursday to say that a US attack on Iran was imminent but he would rather begin talks, according to Iranian officials.

The officials spoke to Reuters shortly after the New York Times reported that the US president had ordered strikes against Iran in retaliation for the downing of a US drone on Thursday, but cancelled them before they could be launched.

"In his message, Trump said he was against any war with Iran and wanted to talk to Tehran about various issues ... He gave a short period of time to get our response but Iran's immediate response was that it is up to Supreme Leader [Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei to decide about this issue," one of the officials said.

"We made it clear that the leader is against any talks, but the message will be conveyed to him to make a decision," a second official said. "However, we told the Omani official that any attack against Iran will have regional and international consequences."

According to senior administration officials quoted by the New York Times, Mr Trump had approved strikes against Iranian targets such as radar stations and missile batteries. Aircraft and ships were preparing to launch the attacks when the president ordered them to stand down.

It was not clear whether Mr Trump simply changed his mind or his decision was based on logistical or strategic reasons.

The US however barred until further notice all American civilian flights from the area where the Global Hawk drone was shot down in the Strait of Hormuz. The Federal Aviation Administration order cited danger to flights "demonstrated by the Iranian surface-to-air missile shoot-down of a US unmanned aircraft system".

The downing of the drone, which the Pentagon says was above international waters but Iran says was over its territory, raised tensions between the US and Iran even further after a series of attacks on tanker ships in the region that Washington blamed on Tehran.

Mr Trump had struck a combative tone in his initial response to the attack. "Iran made a very big mistake!" he said on Twitter. "This country will not stand for it, that I can tell you," he said later at the White House.

But as fears rose of open conflict between the US and Iran, something both sides have said they do not want, Mr Trump softened his comments.

"I find it hard to believe it was intentional, if you want to know the truth," he said. "I think that it could have been somebody who was loose and stupid that did it."

The president's mixed message left the world unsure what Washington's next move would be.

"You will find out," Mr Trump said when asked about possible retaliation.

The president held meetings with top officials and Congressional leaders to discuss the attack.

Senior Republicans called for a "measured response" to the incident after meeting Mr Trump at the White House.

"President Trump and his national security team remain clear-eyed on the situation and what must be done in response to increased Iranian aggression," said Kevin McCarthy, Michael McCaul, Devin Nunes and Mac Thornberry.

The Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for de-escalation. The "dangerous, high-tension situation" needed a "strong, smart and strategic, not reckless, approach", she said.

The main point of dispute is whether the drone was in violation of Iranian airspace and therefore a legitimate target.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that parts of the drone had been recovered in Iranian territorial waters, as Tehran moved to bring the incident before the United Nations.

"We don't seek war, but will zealously defend our skies, land and waters," Mr Zarif said.

The Pentagon denounced the "unprovoked attack", claiming the navy drone was 34 kilometres from Iran when it was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile.

But Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said it brought the drone down as it was "violating Iranian air space" over the waters of Hormozgan province.

Mr Zarif provided coordinates to back the claim.

"At 00:14 US drone took off from UAE in stealth mode & violated Iranian airspace," Zarif tweeted. "It was targeted at 04:05 at the coordinates (25°59'43"N 57°02'25"E) near Kouh-e Mobarak."

"We've retrieved sections of the US military drone in OUR territorial waters where it was shot down," he wrote on Twitter.

In a letter to the UN Security Council and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Iran protested against a "dangerous and provocative act by the US military forces against the territorial integrity of the Islamic Republic of Iran".

But the Pentagon published a map showing the flight path of the drone, which indicated it travelled outside of Iranian waters and included a photograph showing it was at the coordinates (25°57'42"N 56°50'22"E) when it was downed.

The drone downing came as Iran was already accused by Washington of carrying out attacks on tanker ships in the congested Hormuz area. Tehran denies involvement but has frequently threatened to block the sea lanes used to ship much of the world's oil exports.

The commander of the US Naval Forces Central Command, Sean Kido, said a mine allegedly used in one of the attacks matched Iranian weaponry and that incriminating fingerprints had also been collected.

The shipping attacks came soon after the US decision to beef up its military presence in the region in response to counter Iranian threats and as Iran faces increasing pressure on its economy as a result of US sanctions that have greatly curbed it own oil exports.

The sanctions were re-imposed last year after Mr Trump pulled the US out a deal to curb Iran's nuclear programme. He has repeatedly said he does not favour war with Iran unless it is to stop the country getting a nuclear weapon, something Iranian leaders insist they are not pursuing.

But Trump critics say his policy of "maximum pressure" – crippling economic sanctions, abandonment of the nuclear agreement, and sending forces to the region – make war ever more likely.

A key Republican ally, Senator Lindsey Graham, said the president's "options are running out".

Asked if he believed the countries were nearing conflict, he replied: "I think anybody would believe that we're one step closer."

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/gcc/donald-trump-tells-iran-that-strikes-are-imminent-but-offers-talks-1.877198

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FBI: Syrian Islamic State sympathizer in Pittsburgh planned to bomb North Side church

June 21, 2019

A young Syrian refugee living in Pittsburgh plotted to blow up a North Side church next month in support of the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham, according to the FBI.

Mustafa Mousab Alowemer, 21, who came to the U.S. in 2016 and recently graduated from Brashear High School, was arrested Wednesday morning by the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force.

He had been due in federal court Wednesday afternoon but the hearing was postponed until Friday so a lawyer could be appointed to represent him.

Mr. Alowemer planned to blow up a tiny church called Legacy International Worship Center on Wilson Avenue, according to the FBI, with the help of someone he thought was another Islamic State member but who turned out to be an undercover FBI employee.

He met with the employee and another FBI source several times in recent months as the plot developed and in June drove both of them to the church to show them the target and decide where to place a homemade backpack bomb, according to a federal complaint. His motivation was to support the Islamic State and inspire other sympathizers in the U.S. to join to together to commit similar crimes, the FBI said.

After rejecting other potential targets in Pittsburgh, including a Shia mosque, Mr. Alowemer chose the Wilson Avenue church to "take revenge for our [ISIS] brothers in Nigeria," the complaint said. He described the church as Christian and Nigerian.

He was going to meet with his supposed collaborators one more time Wednesday to finalize plans for the attack, set for July, when agents took him into custody.

He is charged with attempting to provide support to the Islamic State and two counts of distributing information relating to an explosive device in connection with the bomb plot.

Michael Anthony Day, pastor at the church, said the FBI called him Wednesday morning to say the church had been placed on a terrorist attack watch list and that Mr. Alowemer had been arrested.

He said he was "grateful God protected us...We have a growing church and we're happy to be alive."

He said he plans to meet with the FBI to learn more about the case and ensure the safety of church members and the community.

"How can we make sure our congregation is comforted that this can't happen or won't happen," he said, "or that he doesn't have any friends to keep these attacks going?"

Mayor Bill Peduto said news of the plot was especially alarming “due to the suspect’s alleged target of yet another place of worship in our city, like the Tree of Life synagogue, which should be peaceful places of refuge and reflection that are free of threats of violence.”

This is how the case developed, according to the FBI:

In April 2018 the bureau identified a social networking site used by Mr. Alowemer in which he expressed a desire to commit violence in the name of the Islamic State. He also began communicating with "Person 1" in Wisconsin, a fellow Islamic State supporter who has pleaded guilty in Wisconsin to attempting to provide support to a terrorist organization.

In March, he began communicating online with a covert FBI employee who posed as an Islamic State "brother." In those conversations, all in Arabic, he said he wanted to "answer the call for jihad," wanted to meet other Islamic State members and offered to provide information about targets in Pittsburgh.

In April, the covert FBI employee put him in contact with an undercover FBI employee and another person described in the complaint as a confidential source.

Mr. Alowemer offered to provide information on local Kurdish Yazidi families so fellow Islamic State "brothers" could attack them out of revenge for "our brothers in al-Baghuz."

Yazidis are ethnic Kurds often targeted by Islamic State radicals. Al-Baghuz is a town in Syria where Kurdish-led Syrian forces assisted by the U.S. battled with Islamic State fighters in February and March. The Islamic State lost control of that part of Syria.

Mr. Alowemer said he was excited to meet the undercover FBI employee. They met April 16 in Pittsburgh, along with the confidential source, during which Mr. Alowemer discussed opportunities for attacking Yazidis, Shia Muslims and a lone U.S. soldier.

In regard to the military member, Mr. Alowemer said he had seen a soldier in the woods by himself and could kill him.

"He killed our sisters in Baghuz and in Iraq," he said. "Why should we stay quiet?"

The FBI employee gave him a cell phone for future secure communications and Mr. Alowemer offered to drive the two FBI operatives around Pittsburgh to look at potential targets.

At a meeting April 25, Mr. Alowemer decided against the Shia mosque because it had too much security but reiterated his desire to carry out a bomb attack and escape to Syria.

"When we have a goal, we can leave a book bag or something," he said, referring to a bomb.

Mr. Alowemer later began discussing carrying out bomb attacks using a timer and sent the undercover operative instructional materials on how to make bombs, including one called "Beginners Course for Young Mujahadeen."

Mr. Alowemer and the FBI operatives met again June 2, when he identified a "Nigerian" church for an attack. He said he chose the church because "all of them are Mushrikeen [polytheist Christians]" and to take revenge for "our brothers in Nigeria."

He spelled out his plans, talked about planting a second bomb to kill responding police and presented Google satellite maps of the church.

At a fourth meeting June 11, he provided additional details about the plot and presented bomb-making materials he had bought, including batteries, acetone and ice packs.

He also drove the FBI operatives to the church to case it and said he would conduct further surveillance on his bicycle to check on security cameras and the best spot to place the bomb.

He said he wanted to meet with them one more time, on Wednesday, to finalize the plans.

Full report at:

https://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2019/06/19/Pittsburgh-man-charged-with-planning-bomb-attack-for-IS/stories/201906190150

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US envoy for Iran traveling to Middle East: State Department

20 June 2019

US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook will travel to the Middle East on Wednesday for meetings in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain to discuss “Iran’s regional aggression,” the State Department said.

“He will also share additional US intelligence on the range of active threats Iran currently poses to the region,” the department said in a statement.

Hook travels next week to Europe to meet with officials from Britain, Germany and France “to discuss a range of issues concerning the Iranian regime,” the statement said.

On Wednesday, the US envoy told a congressional hearing that Tehran was “without question” behind last week’s attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

“Those who have seen the intelligence all come away without any question Iran is behind these attacks,” Brian Hook told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/06/20/US-envoy-for-Iran-traveling-to-Middle-East-State-Department.html

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New US deployment in Middle East includes more Patriot missile defenses

20 June 2019

The latest deployment of 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East, which was announced on Monday, will include a Patriot missile battalion, manned and unmanned surveillance aircraft and “other deterrence capabilities,” the Pentagon said on Wednesday.

“The United States does not seek conflict with Iran, but we are postured and ready to defend US forces and interests in the region,” a Pentagon spokeswoman said in a statement.

Fears of a confrontation between Iran and the United States have mounted since last week’s attack on two oil tankers at the entrance to the Gulf, which Washington blamed on Tehran. Iran denies the accusations.

On Monday, acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan announced the deployment of about 1,000 more troops to the Middle East for what he said were “defensive purposes,” citing concerns about a threat from Iran.

“The recent Iranian attacks validate the reliable, credible intelligence we have received on hostile behavior by Iranian forces and their proxy groups that threaten United States personnel and interests across the region,” Shanahan said in a statement.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/06/20/New-US-deployment-in-Middle-East-includes-more-Patriot-missile-defenses.html

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Trump warned Iran via Oman that US attack was imminent, called for talks

June 21, 2019

DUBAI: Iranian officials told Reuters on Friday that Tehran had received a message from US President Donald Trump through Oman overnight warning that a US attack on Iran was imminent.

They spoke shortly after the New York Times reported that Trump had approved military strikes against Iran on Friday in retaliation for the downing of a US surveillance drone, but called off the attacks at the last minute.

“In his message, Trump said he was against any war with Iran and wanted to talk to Tehran about various issues...He gave a short period of time to get our response but Iran’s immediate response was that it is up to Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Ali) Khamenei to decide about this issue,” one of the officials told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A second Iranian official said: “We made it clear that the leader is against any talks, but the message will be conveyed to him to make a decision...However, we told the Omani official that any attack against Iran will have regional and international consequences.”

After weeks of rising tension amid a spate of attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf, Iran said on Thursday it had shot down an unmanned US military surveillance drone, fanning fears of an overt military confrontation between the longtime adversaries.

The New Times quoted a senior administration official as saying, US warplanes took to the air and ships were put in position for a retaliatory attack only for an order to come to stand down, without any weapons being fired.

Targets had included Iranian radar and missile batteries, the paper cited senior administration officials involved in, or briefed on, the deliberations, as saying.

The strikes were set for early in the day to minimize risk to the Iranian military or to civilians, the Times added.

It was unclear if attacks on Iran might go ahead later, it added, nor was it known whether Trump had changed his mind or whether his administration had become concerned about logistics or strategy.

Meanwhile, Russia accused the US on Friday of deliberately stoking dangerous tensions around Iran and pushing the situation to the brink of war, the RIA news agency reported.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1514091/middle-east

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Iran decries US 'drone airspace intrusion'

Muhammet Kursun

21.06.2019

Iran has protested the "violation" of its airspace by a U.S. "spy drone" which it downed on Thursday.

In an emergency phone call, Deputy Foreign Minister Seyyed Abbas Araqchi expressed his country's protest to Swiss Ambassador in Tehran Markus Leitner, whose country represents U.S. interests in Tehran, Iran's Foreign Ministry said in a statement Friday.

On Thursday, Iran’s military released a video of the downing a U.S. surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran and the U.S. dispute the drone’s location when it was downed. Tehran maintains the drone violated its airspace, while Washington says it was in international airspace.

Araqchi asserted there was "indisputable evidence that the drone had breached Iran's airspace."

"This was not the first time Americans have committed such an act, as this has happened a number of times before," he stressed.

Tehran "will not hesitate for a moment to decisively defend its territory against any aggression," Araqchi added.

Following the incident, U.S. President Donald Trump said on Twitter that "Iran made a very big mistake."

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/iran-decries-us-drone-airspace-intrusion/1511789

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Trump approved strikes on Iran but pulled back: report

Servet Günerigök 

21.06.2019

WASHINGTON

U.S. President Donald Trump approved airstrikes Thursday evening against Tehran in retaliation for the downing of an American surveillance drone but pulled back, The New York Times reported.

Citing multiple officials from the Trump administration, the Times said the White House hosted intense debates and discussions among Trump's senior national security officials and congressional leaders over a response against Tehran.

"As late as 7 p.m., military and diplomatic officials were expecting a strike," said the report, adding the U.S. president approved a couple of military targets including radar and missile batteries.

Iran and the U.S. dispute the drone’s location when it was downed. Tehran maintains the drone violated its airspace while Washington says it was in international airspace.

Later in the day, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif also shared the coordinates of where the drone was shot down and announced that the wreckage fell into Iran’s territorial waters.

A senior official said planes were flying in the air and ships were in position until the attack was aborted, according to the report.

If the airstrike went ahead, it would have been Trump's third military action in the Middle East after 2017 and 2018 airstrikes in Syria.

The report said it remained unclear whether the airstrike might still go forward.

"The strike was set to take place just before dawn Friday in Iran to minimize risk to the Iranian military and civilians," the Times added.

In the Oval Office while meeting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Trump said the public will "find out" what the U.S. response will be to the drone downing.

"Iran made a big mistake. This drone was in international waters, clearly," Trump said.

In a fresh development late Thursday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an emergency order prohibiting U.S. airline operators from flying over parts of Iran-controlled airspace, according to Reuters news agency.

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

The U.S. has since embarked upon a diplomatic and economic campaign to ramp up pressure on Iran to force it to renegotiate the agreement.

Part of its campaign has included the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions on exports of Iranian crude oil, which has sent the Iranian economy into a nosedive.

The U.S. has also increased its military presence in the Middle East, deploying a carrier strike force, bomber task force and Patriot missile battery and using threats from Iran as justification for the actions.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/trump-approved-strikes-on-iran-but-pulled-back-report/1511633

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Trump: Iran made 'a very big mistake' in downing drone

Umar Farooq  

20.06.2019

WASHINGTON

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday that Iran made a big mistake after it had shot down an American drone.

"Iran made a very big mistake!" Trump tweeted.

Earlier on Thursday, Tehran announced that it shot down a U.S. military drone.

U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed that a "Navy Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (or BAMS-D) ISR aircraft was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile system while operating in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz."

The attack took place at around 3 a.m. Eastern Time on Thursday.

The BAMS-D aircraft was a RQ-4A Global Hawk, a high-altitude unmanned aircraft used for reconnaissance purposes by the Navy.

"Iranian reports that the aircraft was over Iran are false," CENTCOM spokesman Navy Capt. Bill Urban said in a statement. "This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace."

The confirmation comes amid growing hostility in the Gulf region between Washington and Tehran.

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

The U.S. has since embarked upon a diplomatic and economic campaign to ramp up pressure on Iran to force it to renegotiate the agreement, and other behavior not covered by the original pact that the administration views as destabilizing behavior.

Part of its campaign has included the reimposition of U.S. sanctions on exports of Iranian crude oil, which has sent the Iranian economy into a nosedive.

The U.S. has also increased its military presence in the Middle East, deploying a carrier strike force, bomber task force, and Patriot missile battery and using threats from Iran as justification for the actions.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/trump-iran-made-a-very-big-mistake-in-downing-drone/1511288

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Arab World

 

US-Backed Terrorists Set Up New Centers at Iraqi-Syrian Borders to Train 2nd Generation of ISIL

Jun 20, 2019

The Arabic-language al-Ma'aloumeh news website quoted Head of Badr Organization's Office in al-Anbar Qusai al-Anbari as saying on Thursday that the ISIL terrorist group is after training the second and third generations of its members to replace the fighters who have been defeated by the security forces and Hashd al-Shaabi (popular forces) in Iraq and Syria.

He added that the terrorist groups have established training centers and recruited children between the ages of 10 to 15, calling them with different names, including the lion cubs of the caliphate.

Al-Anbari disclosed that the training centers are protected by the US air force and bases in al-Anbar province.

Relevant reports also said in March that the ISIL terrorist group had restarted training children for war and suicide operations in a region protected by the US and its allied Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Deir Ezzur in Southeastern Syria.

The Arabic-language al-Manar news website quoted sources affiliated to the Syrian government's armed opposition as saying that the ISIL had again set up a military base to train what it calls 'The Caliphate's Lion Cubs' in Southeastern Deir Ezzur near the border with Iraq.

Numerous reports said in recent months that the ISIL is recruiting again in Syria with the US help to attack the Syrian army positions in Deir Ezzur and destabilize the country.

Al-Manar said the child militias training center has been set up under the supervision of the former commander of ISIL bases in Raqqa, Abu Mohammed al-Fransi, adding that a large number of Syrian and foreign children had been recruited in there.

Meantime, Alexander Ivanov, the spokesman of Russia's airbase at Humeimim, said that "real evidence" indicates that the ISIL would resume operations with the support of certain regional and trans-regional states.

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980330000303

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Qatar exploiting UN loopholes to facilitate terror financing

June 20, 2019

Dubai: Blacklisted terrorists from Al Qaida and Daesh have been able to tap into their bank accounts despite a UN asset freeze, according to documents reviewed by the Wall Street Journal.

The reason for this, the documents showed, are loopholes in the the current UN Security Council sanctions procedures.

Qatari financier, Khalifa Al Subaiy, is among those who have accessed their funds.

The US believes Al Subaiy to be a longtime funder of Al Qaida’s senior leadership, including 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

The UN has allowed Al Subaiy to take up to $10,000 a month from frozen accounts for “basic necessities”, despite being placed on the terror blacklist in 2008.

Astonishingly, the Security Council has approved 71 out of 72 requests, the documents show.

While blacklisted terrorist are, in theory, not allowed any access to their financies, a loophole in the sanctions policy allows their home crountries to applied for exemptions to give them access to small amounts of money for food, housing and basic necessities.

But member countries are not properly monitoring the blacklisted terrorists living within their borders.

Some UN officials who spoke to the Wall Street Journal say the exemptions procedure is too loosely structured and lacks oversight.

A more selective process is needed because practically anyone who asks for the exemption now is being granted it.

The revelation of Al Subaiy’s financies came from a leaked data base from the Qatar National Bank, the WSJ reported.

The bank admitted its systems had been breached by unknown hackers in 2016.

Asked why a designated terror supporter would have an active account, both the bank and a spokesman at Qatar’s Embassy in Washington declined to comment on Mr. Subaiy’s case, citing confidentiality.

Al Subaiy was tried and convicted in absentia in 2008 in Bahrain on charges of financing and facilitating terrorism, then was arrested in Qatar and imprisoned for six months, according to the U.N.

Upon his release, Al Subaiy reconnected with Al Qaida agents and resumed organizing funds in support of the group, as well as linking up with operatives in Iran in 2009, 2011 and throughout 2012, and sending cash to senior Al Qaida leaders in Pakistan through 2013.

“I would be hard-pressed to find someone more prominent than him in the whole terrorism financing side,” said Hans-Jakob Schindler, a senior director at the Counter Extremism Project and former adviser to the U.N. Security Council. told the Wall Street Journal.

Al Subaiy’s six-month sentence was criticised by former U.S. Treasury officials for its leniency.

U.S. security analysts said Qatar’s assurances that it would monitor his activities fell flat after the UN revelations that he had continued his activities.

Full report at:

https://gulfnews.com/world/gulf/qatar/qatar-exploiting-un-loopholes-to-facilitate-terror-financing-1.64724666

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Outrage after Muslim told he cannot rent in Christian area

June 20, 2019

Beirut: A Muslim citizen who tweeted that he was barred from renting a flat in a predominately Christian area has triggered waves of criticism and accusations against the Al Hadath municipality chief.

Mohammad Awwad, a Lebanese citizen, tweeted that he was turned away from renting a flat in Al Hadath area on orders from the region’s Municipality Chief George Aoun.

Awwad tweeted that the municipality call centre’s attendant informed him that he cannot rent a flat because he is a Muslim following a decision by Aoun that rent is limited to Christians.

Awwad’s tweet triggered a massive outcry on social media where users criticised Aoun.

Following up on the incident, a reporter called the Municipality posing as a tenant, who was told she cannot rent if not a Christian.

An audio recording of the call of the exchange also went viral on social media.

Meanwhile, Lebanon’s interior minister, Raya Al Hassan, said Aoun’s decision was “unacceptable and unconstitutional”.

Al Hassan said she asked the governor of Mount Lebanon [the governance under which Al Hadath Municipality operates] to listen to what Aoun has to say concerning the controversial decision before deciding to act accordingly.

“He [Aoun] will be asked to retract his remarks if they turn out to be true,” the minister told LBCI TV station.

Gulf News contacted Al Hadath Municipality Chief Aoun who said the decision dates back to May 2010.

“We are baselessly being accused of preventing Muslims from renting and this is a slanderous campaign. What we’ve been doing is asking Christians to stop migrating, selling or renting out their properties. The area’s population counted 120,000 amongst who are 70,000 Muslim Shiites we have always been and continue to be Lebanon’s best example of religious coexistence. Between 1990 and 2010 Shiites purchased 60 per cent of the properties. Since then, we asked Christians to stop leaving, selling or renting for demographical reasons,” Aoun told the newspaper.

Full report at:

https://gulfnews.com/world/mena/outrage-after-muslim-told-he-cannot-rent-in-christian-area-1.64731571

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Saudi killers called Khashoggi 'sacrificial animal' before murder

Jun 21, 2019

As the killers waited for the victim, the Saudi autopsy specialist reassured them that dismembering the body would "be easy." "Joints will be separated," he said. "It will not be a problem." Then, as the minutes passed, a Saudi intelligence officer asked whether the "sacrificial animal" had finally arrived.

That "animal" was Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, and the exchange between the Saudi operatives as they waited to ambush and kill him last October was among the many details disclosed on Wednesday in a new United Nations report on the case.

Within a day, the report said, new teams of Saudi operatives were already working diligently to thwart investigators and cleanse the crime scene - the Saudi consulate in Istanbul - including setting a fire in a barrel outside that may have been used to destroy evidence.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/saudi-killers-called-khashoggi-sacrificial-animal-before-murder/articleshow/69882868.cms

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UN aid chief: Syria, Russia attacks on civilians 'deliberate'

19 Jun 2019

United Nations officials alleged that Syria's and Russia's forces may be deliberately targeting hospitals and schools in the rebel-held northwest of Syria as a tactic aimed at "terrorising" civilians.

Both Syria and Russia denied the accusations on Tuesday.

UN aid chief Mark Lowcock told the UN Security Council since late April the World Health Organization had confirmed 26 incidents affecting healthcare facilities in the Idlib region.

Civilian facilities often provide their exact coordinates to military officials involved in conflict zones to help protect them from inadvertent artillery or air strikes.

Lowcock said some hospitals in northwestern Syria were now not sharing their locations with warring parties because it "paints a target on their back".

"Hitting a facility whose coordinates were shared as part of the UN's deconfliction system is simply intolerable," said Lowcock. "A number of partners  ... have drawn the conclusion that hospital bombings are a deliberate tactic aimed at terrorising people."

United Nations officials alleged that Syria's and Russia's forces may be deliberately targeting hospitals and schools in the rebel-held northwest of Syria as a tactic aimed at "terrorising" civilians.

Both Syria and Russia denied the accusations on Tuesday.

UN aid chief Mark Lowcock told the UN Security Council since late April the World Health Organization had confirmed 26 incidents affecting healthcare facilities in the Idlib region.

Civilian facilities often provide their exact coordinates to military officials involved in conflict zones to help protect them from inadvertent artillery or air strikes.

Lowcock said some hospitals in northwestern Syria were now not sharing their locations with warring parties because it "paints a target on their back".

"Hitting a facility whose coordinates were shared as part of the UN's deconfliction system is simply intolerable," said Lowcock. "A number of partners  ... have drawn the conclusion that hospital bombings are a deliberate tactic aimed at terrorising people."

Crumbling 'de-escalation'

Idlib is the last remaining bastion of anti-government rebels after eight bloody years of civil war.

Russia, which supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces, and Turkey, long a backer of rebel groups, cosponsored the de-escalation pact for the area that has been in place since last year.

But the deal has faltered in recent months, forcing hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee.

"I am deeply concerned about the escalation of the fighting in Idlib, and the situation is especially dangerous given the involvement of an increased number of actors," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters, appealing to Russia and Turkey "to stabilise the situation without delay".

"Let me underscore, even in the fight against terrorism, there needs to be full compliance with international human rights and international law," he added.

UN political chief Rosemary DiCarlo told the council for Syria's close ally Russia, the presence in Idlib of the former al-Qaeda affiliate Hay'et Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) "is not tolerable", and "for Turkey, time is required to effectively isolate and address HTS' most hardline fighters".

'Not a humanitarian catastrophe'

Nebenzia said the de-escalation deal with Turkey " was being fully implemented" telling Security Council members it "doesn't ban but rather encourages the fight against terrorism".

He added all military activities were in response "to provocations from terrorists" saying HTS controls 99 percent of the Idlib de-escalation zone.

"We think that the issue is not that it's a humanitarian catastrophe," Nebenzia said.

"It's clear that the issue is the desire to keep the territories that are not under Damascus' control for as long as possible regardless of who prevails in them."

Syria's war has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests.

Full report at:

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/06/aid-chief-syria-russia-attacks-civilians-deliberate-190619072034833.html

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2 Rockets Strike Oil Fields in Southern Iraq

By Alissa J. Rubin

June 19, 2019

BASRA, Iraq — Two rockets struck separate targets on Wednesday in oil fields just outside Basra, not far from the headquarters of many international and domestic oil companies.

Though a bit more frequent in recent weeks, rocket attacks have been rare since the Islamic State was pushed out of Iraq more than 18 months ago, and oil fields generally have not been targets. Basra, in southwestern Iraq just above the Persian Gulf, is one of the richest oil production regions in Iraq.

In the first attack, three employees of an Iraqi drilling company who were injured when a Katyusha rocket hit their sleeping quarters were taken to a hospital, said Khalid Hamza, the deputy director of the Basra Oil Company, an Iraqi firm.

There were no injuries reported in the second attack. No other details were available about the strike, and officials would not say who they believed was responsible for the attacks.

The rocket strikes come as tensions are escalating between the United States and Iran after attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, for which Washington blamed Tehran. Iran said on Monday that it would soon breach curbs on its stock of low-enriched uranium set out in the 2015 pact limiting its nuclear program. In response, President Trump ordered an additional 1,000 troops to the Middle East and affirmed his pledge that Iran would not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon.

Iraqi soldiers near the entry to the Zubair oil field on Wednesday after a rocket struck a building housing several oil companies.

The Trump administration withdrew the United States from the nuclear pact last year and has reimposed painful economic sanctions on Iran, including a prohibition on oil exports that has cut off a large portion of its government’s revenue.

Western analysts have described the attacks on the oil tankers as an effort by Iran to signal that if it is blocked from selling its oil, it will penalize the rest of the world by making the shipment of oil riskier and more expensive.

Recent rocket attacks in Iraq have included one in the Green Zone, home to the embassies of the United States and other countries. Other strikes appeared to take aim at Iraqi security forces.

The Iraqi government has been resolute about keeping out of any conflict between Iran and the United States.

“We think its an operation that aims to drag Iraq into the crisis between Iran and America and to involve Iraq in a war,” said Gen. Yahya Rasool of the Baghdad Joint Command, which includes American and Iraqi forces.

The first rocket landed before dawn Wednesday near the Zubair oil field in an area that includes the headquarters of many oil companies, including those of Shell and Exxon Mobil; the second landed in the area of the Rumaila oil field, one of Iraq’s oldest and largest oil patches, where BP is operating. Shell said in a statement that all its staff members were accounted for and that the company was continuing normal operations in Iraq.

Abbas Maher, the mayor of Al Zubair, said the first rocket had been launched from his town.

Full report at:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/19/world/middleeast/iraq-rocket-attacks-basra.html

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Iraqi jet fighters kill two Islamic State jihadists in Diyala

by  Mohammed Ebraheem

Jun 19, 2019

Diyala (IraqiNews.com) – Two Islamic State militants were killed and a terrorist hotbed was destroyed in an airstrike conducted by Iraqi warplanes in the eastern province of Diyala.

In a press statement carried by the privately-owned Baghdad Today news agency, the Iraqi security media cell said that jet fighters killed two Islamic State fighters and destroyed one of their hotbeds in al-Makhisa village in Diyala.

No further details were given, the statement read.

In January 2015, Iraqi forces announced liberation of Diyala province from Islamic State extremist militants who proclaimed an “Islamic Caliphate” in Iraq and Syria in 2014.

Full report at:

https://www.iraqinews.com/features/iraqi-jet-fighters-kill-two-islamic-state-jihadists-in-diyala/

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6 IS militants killed in attacks in Iraq

2019-06-19

BAGHDAD, June 19 (Xinhua) -- A total of six Islamic State (IS) militants were killed on Wednesday in an airstrike and an ambush in the Iraqi provinces of Nineveh and Diyala.

In the northern province of Nineveh, a force from the paramilitary Hashd Shaabi units acted on intelligence reports and ambushed four IS militants in al-Baaj area, in the west of the city of Mosul near the Syrian border, a Hashd Shaabi statement said.

The paramilitary members clashed with the IS militants and killed them all, the statement added.

In Iraq's eastern province of Diyala, an Iraqi army's gunship carried out an airstrike in the village of Mkheisa, some 95 km northeast of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, a statement by the media office of the Iraqi Joint Operations Command said.

The airstrike resulted in the killing of two IS militants and the destruction of their vehicle and a hideout in the area, the statement added.

Despite repeated military operations in Diyala, remnants of IS militants were still hiding in rugged areas near the border with Iran, as well as the sprawling areas extending from western part of Diyala to Himreen mountainous area in the northern part of the province.

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

Full report at:

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-06/19/c_138156676.htm

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In Lebanon, Syrian refugees face new pressure to go home

By Sarah El Deeb

June 20, 2019

ARSAL, Lebanon — Lebanese authorities are making their most aggressive campaign yet for Syrian refugees to return home and are taking action to ensure they can’t put down roots.

Mirroring the rise of anti-migrant sentiment in Europe and around the world, some in Lebanon say that after eight years of war in neighboring Syria they have had enough of the burden of hosting the highest concentration of refugees per capita in the world — 1 million amid a Lebanese population of nearly 5 million — especially at a time when they are facing austerity measures and a weakened economy.

Anti-refugee sentiment in Lebanon has waxed and waned in the past. It’s been persistent but limited among a public torn by conflicting feelings — resentment over past domination by Syria and worry over the refugees’ impact on their country’s delicate sectarian balance, but also sympathy for the refugees amid memories of their own displacement during Lebanon’s long civil war.

But this time a rising star in the country’s politics has latched onto the issue. Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil leads the campaign, saying Syrians should return home and using nationalist language, like saying the “genetic distinction” of Lebanese will unite them to confront the refugee issue.

During one rally organized by Bassil’s party this month — held under the slogan of “Employ a Lebanese” — protesters chanted, “Syria get out.” Some attempted to storm a shop run by a Syrian, sparking a scuffle. Posters have popped up in streets and online calling on residents to report any Syrian working without a permit.

The tensions point to how a backlash in host countries burdened by intractable refugee situations intertwines with local politics. Numbers of displaced worldwide have swelled to record levels. The U.N. refugee agency said Wednesday 71 million people are uprooted from their homes as of this year — 26 million of them refugees, double the number 20 years ago.

“Out of this grim number, Lebanon stands out as the country that has the highest number of refugees per capita,” said Mireille Girard, the UNHCR representative in Lebanon. “It is a huge responsibility that Lebanon is shouldering and the whole world has to show solidarity with the countries that are in the front of refugee flow.”

Allies of Bassil in the government have begun enforcing laws that were previously rarely implemented, shutting down shops owned by or employing Syrians without permits and ordering the demolition of anything in refugee camps that could be a permanent home.

The refugees are trying to weather the storm.

In the town of Arsal, near the Syrian border, where 60,000 refugees live in informal camps set up in the fields, Syrians have been tearing down brick and concrete walls they had added to their shacks of canvas, sheet metal and plastic, trying to make them able to withstand the harsh winters in the mountainous area. The military gave them until July 1 to remove any wall taller than waist high.

The Syrians said no matter how much authorities squeeze them, they have no choice but to stay.

“They think a concrete block is what’s keeping us here?” one woman, Um Hassan, said angrily. She said she can’t go back because her sons will be drafted into the military of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The demolition order, she said, left her and her family sleeping without a roof over their head for over a week.

Most Syrians who came to Lebanon since 2011 were impoverished and dispossessed. Despite years of receiving aid, 51 percent of Syrian refugee families survive on less than $3 a day and 88 percent of households are in debt. Of more than 660,000 school-aged Syrians in Lebanon, 54% are not enrolled in formal education and an estimated 40% remain out of any kind of certified schooling.

Many Lebanese, in turn, complain that — despite $6 billion of foreign aid invested to support Lebanon — the flood of refugees has overwhelmed schools and the already debilitated infrastructure, increased rents and forced Lebanese to compete with cheap Syrian labor. Some are resentful of aid stipends some Syrians receive, pointing out that they don’t pay taxes and often work illegally as well.

Lebanese face an upcoming year of austerity measures, and critics say politicians are using the Syrians as a scapegoat for a damaged economy and endemic corruption.

“The Lebanese public is frustrated and ... wants anything to dump all their anger on. So who is the weakest, the refugee,” said journalist Diana Moukalled.

Bassil is the leader of the largest Christian party in parliament and the government and the son-in-law of the country’s president. He has been mobilizing a popular base and boosting his credentials as the prime protector of Christians — some believe with the aim of one day replacing his 84-year father in law, President Michel Aoun.

He has popularized the term “Lebanon above all,” while warning of an “international conspiracy” to settle Syrians in Lebanon, like what happened with the Palestinian refugees. The influx of Palestinian refugees, who fled or were driven out during the 1948 war surrounding the creation of Israel, upset Lebanon’s sectarian balance, and armed Palestinian factions were a key factor in the 1975-1990 civil war. After decades in Lebanon, the Palestinians’ numbers have dwindled to about 175,000, living in squalid camps with no access to public services, limited employment opportunities and no rights to ownership or protections.

While pushing at home for implementation of laws against refugees, Bassil has lobbied abroad for increased aid to Lebanon and an organized return of Syrians.

“The one who speaks of refugees returning is not a racist or a fascist, and those accusing us of racism either benefit (from the issue) or are conspirators,” he said during a recent conference.

He has gained ground in a political sphere divided over refugees and the Syrian war in general.

Bassil’s ally, Hezbollah, has backed Assad’s government in the fight against rebels. Bassil’s political opponents — including other Christian parties and the main Muslim Sunni party led by Prime Minister Saad Hariri — have sided with Syria’s opposition. Hariri called Bassil’s rhetoric “racist,” and the prime minister and his allies have pushed against his campaign.

At a recent small rally in Beirut, politicians, activists and Syrians held banners against hate speech. Paula Yacoubian, an independent Armenian Christian politician at the rally, said the campaign to “dehumanize” refugees is irresponsible.

“This is destructive and, even if it brings someone popularity for now, in the long run it is very harmful, for Lebanon and the Lebanese first of all,” she said.

Nasser Yassin, a professor of public policy at the American University of Beirut, said he doesn’t believe there will be a widespread public backlash against the refugees. But the rise of similar sentiments around the world makes it harder to challenge.

“If Europe is actually violating human rights when it comes to pushing people trying to cross the Mediterranean back to the Libyan militias, they will turn a blind eye or (be) silent when the Lebanese government is applying it,” he said.

The campaign is not simply political rhetoric.

Local vigilantes recently set fire to three tents in a refugee camp in the eastern town of Deir al-Ahmar, and Syrians there scuffled with the Lebanese firefighters, injuring one. An eviction order followed from the municipality, forcing 400 Syrians to move their tents to a new spot.

In a possible violation of its international obligations, Lebanon in April deported at least 16 Syrians, including some registered as refugees, after they arrived in Beirut airport. Human Rights Watch and other groups said some of the deported expressed fear of persecution in Syria and were forced to sign “voluntary” repatriation forms, despite Beirut’s commitment not to forcibly return any Syrians.

Lebanese authorities estimate that over 170,000 Syrians have returned to their country between December 2017 and March 2019, many through government-organized bus trips.

Aid groups and many Western countries say conditions are not yet right for refugees’ return to Syria, with lack of a political resolution and guarantees for their security.

In Arsal, Abu Fares, an organizer of the Syrian camp, said the campaign to apply labor and building laws really aims to harass Syrians into returning home. He is campaigning for an exemption or longer grace period for the disabled or elderly in the camp who can’t do their own demolition.

A defector from Syria’s police force, Abu Fares said he can’t fathom returning to Syria without a political settlement, a pardon and new laws.

“But if they can’t have us here, just say it and take us out of Lebanon” to another country besides Syria, he said.

Some have succumbed to pressure. Arsal’s mayor, Bassel al-Hujairi, said nearly 200 Syrians registered to return to Syria after the orders to bring down the walls.

Abu Ossama, a 74-year old Syrian and a retired army general, said he put his name on the list.

Full report at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/in-lebanon-syrian-refugees-face-new-pressure-to-go-home/2019/06/20/066c2eb8-9328-11e9-956a-88c291ab5c38_story.html?utm_term=.0f365042faa7

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Damascus’ Four Seasons closes down following US sanctions on Syrian oligarch

20 June 2019

“Thank you for your interest in Four Seasons Hotel Damascus.” That is the message on display on the hotel’s website, which adds that the “hotel is no longer managed by Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.”

The announcement comes close on the heels of the US imposing sanctions on 16 individuals and entities associated with an international network benefiting the Assad regime.

Among those who were sanctioned is prominent Syrian businessman Samer Foz and his family, who have close ties to President Bashar al-Assad. According to a Bloomberg report, the Four Seasons Damascus hotel was owned or controlled by Foz.

Al Arabiya reported last week that the US Treasury said it was imposing sanctions on Foz, his siblings Amer and Husen, and the family-owned Aman Holding, a company run by the Foz family from the coastal city of Latakia.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/06/20/Damascus-Four-Seasons-closes-down-following-US-sanctions-on-Syrian-oligarch.html

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Saudi Arabia buys $300 million worth of spy software from Israel: Report

Jun 20, 2019

Saudi Arabia has reportedly purchased $300 million worth of spy software from Israel as Riyadh presses ahead with its crackdown against dissidents and pro-democracy campaigners in the ultra-conservative kingdom.

Arabic-language al-Khaleej Online news website, citing unnamed senior Arab sources, reported that representatives from the Riyadh regime and Israeli firms met and struck a deal without a mediator in the British capital city of London at the end of last May.

Tel Aviv and Riyadh have no diplomatic ties as Saudi Arabia does not recognize Israel. But the two sides have increased backchannel cooperation in recent years.

According to the sources, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates are aware of the deal, which they described as “major and fairly lucrative.”  They said the first phase of the accord includes the delivery of 1,000 small but sophisticated tracking devices, which can be placed in the target’s mobile phone to fully monitor the movements of their owners both in Saudi Arabia and abroad.

Israeli representatives have received full payment for the deal before handing over the devices.

The second part of the deal will be implemented by 2020, under which another 2,000 devices will be handed over to Saudi officials.

Last November, Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz revealed that Saudi Arabia had negotiated the purchase of a system that hacks into cellphones with a secretive Israeli technology firm.

The report exposed Riyadh’s behind-the-scenes attempts to buy Israeli cyber attack software, citing a complaint filed with the Israeli police by a European businessman, who said representatives of Israel’s NSO Group Technologies had offered their Pegasus 3 technology to high-profile Saudi officials during talks in Vienna, Austria, in 2017.

The report identified the Saudi officials as Abdullah al-Malihi, a close associate of Prince Turki al-Faisal – a former Saudi spy chief – and another top Saudi official, Nasser al-Qahtani, who presented himself as the deputy of the current spy chief.

During their meeting, NSO representatives showed a PowerPoint presentation of the system’s capabilities.

Back then, NSO was promoting its Pegasus 3 software, a sophisticated espionage tool that does not depend on the victim clicking on a link before the phone is hacked, as defined by Haaretz.

The spyware needs only a phone number to ensnare a device. As soon as a phone is breached, the speaker and camera can be used for recording conversations. Even encoded applications like WhatsApp can be monitored via the spying software, according to the report.

Last week, American financial and business news website Business Insider reported that authorities in Saudi Arabia are reportedly resorting to military-grade technology and making use of the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number in a bid to track down the cellphones of women who are fleeing the repressive and male-dominated system in the country.

Saudi Arabia has stepped up politically-motivated arrests, prosecution and conviction of peaceful dissidents and human rights campaigners.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/06/20/598978/Saudi-Arabia-buys-300-million-worth-of-spy-software-from-Israel-Report

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UN: Bin Salman’s aide had key role in Hariri’s abduction

Jun 20, 2019

UN investigators say a close aide to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who was involved in the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, had played a central role in the abduction and interrogation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Saudi soil two years ago.

In a report released on Wednesday, UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard said that Saud al-Qahtani, who was said to have been fired last year for his role in the killing of prominent dissident journalist Khashoggi, was one of two officials who had “personally interrogated and threatened” Hariri at the notorious Riyadh Ritz-Carlton hotel after being summoned to the capital in 2017.

“People close to the incident suggested the prime minister was a victim of ‘psychological torture’ and treatment that may have been ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading,’” the UN official said in her report, which was based on a six-month investigation.

She said that Qahtani was involved in the kingdom’s bid back then to force Hariri to resign as Lebanon’s prime minister.

According to eight Saudi, Arab and Western diplomatic sources, Hariri was also verbally humiliated and beaten during his detention in the kingdom.

Hariri stunned Lebanon and the world on November 4, 2017 by announcing his resignation in a live television broadcast from Saudi Arabia. He accused Iran and Hezbollah of sowing strife in the Arab world, an allegation rejected by both sides.

Senior sources close to Hariri and top Lebanese officials said Riyadh had coerced the Lebanese premier into stepping down and put him under house arrest.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun stressed at the time that the prime minister was being detained in Saudi Arabia against his will.

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s Secretary General, also noted that Saudi authorities had clearly and openly declared a war on Lebanon by holding Hariri hostage and forcing him to quit.

Hariri, however, managed to get out of the kingdom amid international pressure on Riyadh.

He rescinded his resignation after returning home. The prime minister has, himself, denied that he was mistreated during his stay in Riyadh.

A New York Times report later revealed that Hariri, upon arrival in Riyadh, had found himself manhandled by Saudi forces and forced to resign.

The UN’s report also detailed the results of an inquiry into the murder of Saudi journalist Khashoggi.

Khashoggi, a former advocate of the Saudi royal court who later became a critic of bin Salman, was killed and his body was dismembered by a Saudi hit squad after being lured into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, last year.

The Washington Post, for which Khashoggi was a columnist, reported in November last year that the CIA had concluded that Bin Salman personally ordered his killing. Riyadh strongly denies the allegation, claiming that the murder has been carried out by a “rogue” group.

Qahtani, believed to be bin Salman’s right-hand man, is one of the highest-profile figures implicated in the brutal assassination of Khashoggi.

According to reports, Qahtani has not been charged with any crime and continues to work closely with the crown prince despite being dismissed from his official position.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/06/20/598950/Saudi-Crown-Prince-Mohammed-bin-Salman-Saud-alQahtani-Lebanons-PM-Hariri-UN

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Mideast

 

Arab parliamentarians urge UN to call Houthis ‘terrorists’

20 June 2019

Arab parliamentarians gathered in Cairo on Wednesday urged the United Nations to list Yemen’s Houthi militia as a “terrorist organization” while accusing it of attacks on Saudi Arabia.

The Houthis have intensified attacks in the past few weeks against the kingdom, which launched military operations in Yemen in 2015 as part of a coalition to push back against the Shiite militia.

The parliament of the Arab League decided on Wednesday to “ask the UN and the Security Council to take a firm and immediate position by classifying the putschist Houthi militia a terrorist organization.”

The body made up of representatives from the parliaments in the pan-Arab bloc accused the Houthis of “regularly targeting civilian and vital infrastructure in Saudi Arabia with ballistic missiles or drones.”

On June 12, a missile fired at Abha airport in southwestern Saudi Arabia wounded dozens of civilians - in an attack claimed by the Houthis.

The Houthis also claimed responsibility for a series of drone strikes on Saudi Arabia, including an attack that damaged two oil pipeline pumping stations on May 14.

Saudi Arabia accuses its regional arch-rival Iran of being behind the attacks, either directly or through supporting the Houthi militia.

On Wednesday, the parliamentarians meeting in Cairo also asked the Arab League to put before the UN Security Council “the issue of Iran’s threats and interference.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/06/20/Arab-parliamentarians-urge-UN-to-call-Houthis-terrorists-.html

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Arab Parliament classifies Houthis as a terrorist group, calls on UN and Arab League to do the same

June 19, 2019

CAIRO: The Arab Parliament announced on Wednesday that it has designated the Iranian-backed Houthi militia as a terrorist group for its role in deliberately targeting civilians and civilian installations, calling on the League of Arab States and the UN to take similar action.

The resolution was issued during an Arab Parliament meeting in Cairo in the wake of the “terrorist attack on civilian installations in Saudi Arabia and commercial vessels in the territorial waters of the United Arab Emirates and the Sea of Oman,” reported the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

The Arab Parliament called on the UN and the Security Council to adopt a firm and immediate position to classify the Houthi militia as a terrorist organization; for its flagrant violation of international law and its deliberate targeting of civilian and vital installations in Saudi Arabia with ballistic missiles and aircraft.

It also called on the world body to also pursue its leaders, financiers and supporters, whether they are states or groups.

Meshaal bin Fahm Al-Sulami, spokesperson of the Arab Parliament, said the Parliament will not condone any group targeting civilian areas, such as the Houthi attacks on neighboring countries like Saudi Arabia.

“These attacks are a war crime,” he said.

He also mentioned that the Houthis are threatening Yemeni MPs for attending parliament sessions. The parliament condemned in the strongest terms the Houthi attack targeting two oil pumping stations in Saudi Arabia and the Kingdom’s Abha International Airport in the southwest.

It also condemned the sabotage of four commercial vessels of a number of countries near the UAE’s territorial waters and two vessels for transporting oil in the Sea of Oman, affirming its full solidarity with Saudi Arabia and the UAE in maintaining their security and stability and the measures they take to protect their security and the safety of their citizens.

The Arab Parliament denounced Iran’s negative interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries, directly or indirectly, as well as threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz, which is an international strait for international navigation and can not be attacked or harmed, or to mobilize its terrorist organizations within Arab countries to destabilize security and stability.

The parliament also denounced the continued launching of Iranian-made ballistic missiles by the Houthi militia on Saudi Arabia, which has seen more than 225 rockets launched toward the Kingfom and have even targeted toward the holy city of Makkah.

The Arab Parliament gave its full support for the resolutions issued by the Arab emergency summit held in Makkah in May, calling on the Arab League to raise the issue of Iranian threats and its interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries to the UN Security Council to halt these interventions.

The Parliament called on the UN Security Council, the UN General Assembly and the Inter-Parliamentary Union to shoulder their responsibilities toward Iran’s violation of Yemen’s sovereign rights and the smuggling of weapons and ballistic missiles to the Houthi militia with the aim of destabilizing the region and maintaining chaos. It also urged the UN to compel Iran to comply with Security Council Resolution 2216, which prohibits the supply of arms to the Houthis.

The Arab Parliament also condemned the continuing Iranian interference in Bahrain’s internal affairs, including the formation and support of militias, supporting extremist groups and terrorist organizations, training terrorists, supplying weapons and fueling sectarianism to destabilize security and stability in the kingdom.

It also condemned Iran’s continued occupation of three occupied islands of the United Arab Emirates: Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa, and stressed its full support for the UAE in all its actions to restore its three islands.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1513116/middle-east

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US FAA prohibits operators from flying over some Iran-controlled airspace

21 June 2019

The US Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday issued an emergency order prohibiting US operators from flying in an overwater area of Tehran-controlled airspace over the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman due to heightened tensions.

In a separate advisory to operators, FAA said according to flight tracking applications, the nearest civil aircraft was operating within around 45 nautical miles of a US Global Hawk drone when it was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile this week.

“There were numerous civil aviation aircraft operating in the area at the time of the intercept,” FAA said.

The agency said it remained concerned about the escalation of tension and military activity within close proximity to high volume civil aircraft routes as well as Iran’s willingness to use long-range missiles in international airspace with little or no warning.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/06/21/US-FAA-prohibits-operators-from-flying-over-some-Iran-controlled-airspace.html

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Pentagon releases flight path image, grid plot for drone shot down by Iran

21 June 2019

The Pentagon on Thursday released an image it said showed the flight path for the drone that was shot down by Iran, but did not immediately provide a detailed explanation of the image.

The US release of the image appeared to be an effort to bolster its case that the drone was shot down in international airspace.

Tehran said it was on a spy mission over its territory and was shot down in Iranian airspace.

A US official said the drone was a US Navy MQ-4C Triton.

“Iranian reports that the aircraft was over Iran are false,” said Navy Captain Bill Urban, a spokesman for the US military’s Central Command.

“This was an unprovoked attack on a US surveillance asset in international airspace,” he added.

US President Donald Trump will be meeting later on Thursday with senior Pentagon officials to determine the nature of the response against Iran.

Lieutenant General Joseph T. Guastella, speaking from al-Udeid air base in Qatar, said in a Pentagon briefing that the US drone did not enter Iranian airspace, adding that Iran’s downing was “escalatory” and “irresponsible.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/06/21/Pentagon-releases-flight-path-image-grid-plot-for-drone-shot-down-by-Iran.html

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Iran's Zarif: US is waging ‘economic terrorism’ on Iran

20 June 2019

Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted on Thursday saying that the US is waging “economic terrorism” on the republic, adding that Tehran will complain to the UN over drone aggression.

“The US wages #EconomicTerrorism on Iran, has conducted covert action against us & now encroaches on our territory,” his tweet said.

In the same tweet, Zarif said that Iran does not seek war, but will “zealously” defend its skies, land, and waters.

Javad Zarif

@JZarif

The US wages #EconomicTerrorism on Iran, has conducted covert action against us & now encroaches on our territory.

We don't seek war, but will zealously defend our skies, land & waters.

We'll take this new aggression to #UN & show that the US is lying about international waters

6,519

9:04 PM - Jun 20, 2019

Twitter Ads info and privacy

3,379 people are talking about this

“We'll take this new aggression to #UN & show that the US is lying about international waters,” he added.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/06/20/Iran-s-Zarif-US-is-waging-economic-terrorism-on-Iran.html

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White House adviser: US efforts to cut off Iran oil revenue working

20 June 2019

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said on Thursday that United States efforts to cut off Iran’s oil export revenues through sanctions are succeeding.

“What we’re trying to do here, which is succeeding, is to cut off their export revenues. They sell oil, they sell petrochemiclas, they sell iron and steel,” Navarro said in an interview with Fox News.

“It’s certainly working – it’s working beautifully.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/06/20/White-House-adviser-US-efforts-to-cut-off-Iran-oil-revenue-working.html

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Iran’s IRGC: Downing of US drone carried a message to Washington

20 June 2019

Iran’s borders “represent our red line,” the head of the country’s powerful Revolutionary Guard warned after Tehran said it shot down a US drone over its waters on Thursday.

Tehran’s response to the drone was “a clear message” from the “defenders of the borders” of Iran, said Hossein Salami, quoted by Tasnim news agency.

Iran will “respond to all foreign aggression and our reaction is, and will be, categorical and absolute,” Salami added.

Salami’s comments come hours after the Revolutionary Guard said it shot down a US-made surveillance drone in Iranian airspace near the Strait of Hormuz, just a week after attacks on two tankers in the strategic waterway.

The US military confirmed the incident and said that it took place in international airspace, challenging Iran’s account that the US aircraft had been flying over Iranian territory.

“Iranian reports that the aircraft was over Iran are false,” said Navy Captain Bill Urban, a spokesman for the US military’s Central Command.

“This was an unprovoked attack on a US surveillance asset in international airspace,” he added.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/06/20/Iran-s-IRGC-Downing-of-US-drone-carried-a-message-to-Washington.html

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Coalition: Houthis launched projectile at desalination plant in Saudi’s Jizan

20 June 2019

The Arab coalition said on Thursday that the Iranian-backed Houthi militia launched late on Wednesday a projectile at a desalination plant in al-Shuqaiq city, in the southern province of Jizan in Saudi Arabia, state news agency SPA reported.

The coalition spokesman Col. Turki al-Maliki said security forces were working to determine what type of projectile had been used.

He added that the projectile did not cause any casualties or damage.

Earlier, Reuters reported that US President Donald Trump has been briefed on the details of a missile strike in Saudi Arabia, citing White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/06/20/Arab-coalition-Houthis-launched-projectile-at-desalination-plant-in-Saudi-s-Jizan.html

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Yemeni drone attack halts air traffic in Saudi airport

Jun 21, 2019

Saudi Arabian officials have been forced to suspend air traffic at an airport in the southern province of Jizan following yet another major drone attack by Yemeni resistance forces in retaliation for the kingdom's ongoing war against the impoverished country.

Brigadier Yahya Saree, the spokesman for Yemeni Armed Forces, said that the attacks on Thursday by the Yemeni Air Force saw indigenous Qasif-2K drone destroy a number of targets at the Jizan Airport.

According to Al Masirah television network, the air traffic remained suspended as of the time of this writing.

The attack was yet another testament to the Yemeni resistance forces' expanding power in responding to the years-long Saudi war against the country, which has killed thousands of people since it started in March 2015.

The Houthi Ansarullah movement has so far carried out several high-profile drone and missile attacks against vital targets across Saudi Arabia, successfully bypassing the advanced air defenses of the kingdom which are mostly provided by the US.

"Yemen has advanced techniques, US systems, spread throughout Saudi Arabia, cannot intercept them," Saree said.

He also pointed that Yemeni ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and drones are able to hit any targets in Saudi Arabia and that strikes will not be limited to Najran, Jizan and Asir which are closer to Yemeni territories.

He warned the Riyadh regime that Yemen was going to broaden its "deterrence area."

The general also confirmed that Yemen had the ability to continuously manufacture missiles and drones for the years to come despite an aerial and maritime blockade by Saudi Arabia and its allies.

Saree also underlined Yemen's "full right and legitimacy" in responding to the aggression.

Yemeni snipers hunt 11 Saudi soldiers in Jizan and Najran

According to Al Masirah, sniper units of Yemen's Army and Popular Committees targeted 11 Saudi mercenaries in 24 hours.

The Yemeni forces also fired a short range Zilzal 1 missile as well as a Bader F ballistic missile at gatherings of US-Saudi mercenaries in Najran.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/06/21/599018/Yemen-Drone-Attack-Saudi-Jizan-airport

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World Food Programme suspends Yemen aid in Houthi-controlled Sanaa

June 20, 2019

LONDON: The World Food Programme has begun the partial suspension of aid in areas of Yemen under Houthi control.

The move announced Thursday comes after the UN agency warned this week that the Iran-backed militia was diverting food away from those most in need.

The suspension will start in Sanaa, affecting 850,000 people, WFP said. The city is the former capital of Yemen where the Houthis seized power from the internationally recognized government in 2014, sparking the conflict.

The organization said the decision was taken as a last resort after negotiations stalled to introduce controls to prevent food being diverted away from those who needed it by Houthi officials.

“As in any conflict zone, some individuals seek to profit by preying on the vulnerable and diverting food away from where it is most needed,” the WFP said.

“WFP has been seeking the support of the Sana’a-based authorities to introduce a biometric registration system that would prevent diversion and protect the Yemeni families we serve, ensuring food reaches those who need it most.

“Unfortunately, we are yet to reach agreement.”

The agency said it will maintain support in the city for malnourished children, pregnant women and nursing mothers.

David Beasley, the WFP’s executive director, warned the Houthis Monday that aid would be suspended unless the militants immediately implement registration and monitoring agreements.

He said up to 60 percent of beneficiaries at seven centers in Sanaa “confirmed they had not received any assistance.”

“Children are dying right now because of this”, Beasley told the UN Security Council.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1513811/middle-east

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South Asia

 

Afghan fighting claims over 40 lives within 24 hours

2019-06-19

KABUL, June 19 (Xinhua) -- More than 40 fighters with majority of them the anti-government militants had been killed elsewhere in the militancy-battered country over the past 24 hours, officials said Wednesday.

The government forces in the latest crackdown against militants launched airstrikes against a Taliban hideout in Farah Rod district of the western Farah province on Wednesday, killing four armed insurgents on the spot, provincial police spokesman Mohibullah Mohib said.

Similarly, a fighting between security forces and the Taliban fighters for the control of Shuhada district in northern Badakhshan province claimed nine lives including seven militants and two security personnel on the same day, an army spokesman Abdul Hadi Jamal confirmed.

Five more militants sustained injuries in the fighting, according to the official.

A clash between Taliban fighters and police in Yahya Khil district of eastern Paktika province on Wednesday morning claimed the lives of one police officer and three militants, police spokesman in the province Shah Mohammad Aryan said.

According to Aryan, three more police and three militants were injured in the firefight which lasted for three hours.

Moreover, fighting for the control of the strategically important Ghormach district in the western Badghis province had left 25 militants dead and injured 16 others since Tuesday, army spokesman Mohammad Hanif Rezai reported without providing information on the possible casualties of the security personnel.

Both Taliban and government forces have intensified operations recently.

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-06/19/c_138156505.htm

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24 Taliban and ISIS militants renounce violence in Nangarhar province

20 Jun 2019

A group of 24 Taliban and ISIS militants renounced violence and joined peace process in Nangarhar province.

The Governor’s Office of Nangarhar in a statement said Wednesday the Taliban and ISIS militants renounced violence due to the efforts of provincial intelligence officials.

The statement further added that militants have vowed not to return to the battlefield again.

Meanwhile, the governor of Nangarhar Shah Mahmood Mia Khel said 7 ISIS militants and 17 Taliban fighters renounced violence and joined peace process.

Mia Khel further added that the militants also handed over their weapons to security forces.

He also added that the militants were involved in destructive activities in Surkh Rod, Chaparhar, Khogyani, Momandara, Lalpur and Ghani Khel districts.

According to Mia Khel, around 550 ISIS and Taliban militants have renounced violence in Nangarhar province since the start of the year.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/24-taliban-and-isis-militants-renounce-violence-in-nangarhar-province-03679/

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6 Taliban militants killed, 4 detained in Farah and Nimroz operations

21 Jun 2019

The security forces killed 6 Taliban militants during the operations in Farah and Nimroz provinces.

The security forces also detained 4 others during the same operations.

The informed military sources said Thursday that the Afghan Special Forces killed 2 Taliban militants during an operation in Bala Boluk district of Farah.

The Special forces also wounded another Taliban fighter and destroyed 1,000 pounds of Hashish and a small cache of weapons.

Meanwhile, the security forces conducted an airstrike in Bala Boluk district and killed 4 Taliban militants.

The Afghan Special Forces also detained 4 Taliban militants during a separate operation in Khash Rod district of Nimroz province.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/6-taliban-militants-killed-4-detained-in-farah-and-nimroz-operations-03684/

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4 militants killed, 50 thousand kgs of opium and 4,400 rounds of ammunition confiscated in Farah

20 Jun 2019

The security forces killed four Taliban militants including one of their key commanders during the operations in Farah province.

The Police Headquarters of Farah in a statement said the Afghan Special Forces killed a key Taliban commander and his fighter during an operation in Khak-e-Safid district.

The statement further added that the Special Forces also wounded another Taliban militant during the same operation.

The Special Forces also confiscated 50,000 kilograms of opium, 4400 rounds of amunition, 5 weapons, 7 motorycles and 4 vehicles during the operation.

The Police Headquarters of Farah also added that Special Forces destroyed the confiscated opium and munitions together with two compounds of Taliban and drug lab of the group.

Meanwhile, the Police Headquarters of Farah said a coalition airstrike killed two militants of Taliban commander Mawlavi Esmat in Qala-e-Nasrullah area of Bala Bolok district.

The airstrike also destroyed a vehicle packed with explosives and weapon, the statement added.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/4-militants-killed-50-thousand-kgs-of-opium-and-4400-rounds-of-ammunition-confiscated-in-farah-03680/

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UN envoy: Goal now must be Afghan-Taliban peace negotiations

By Edith M. Lederer

June 19, 2019

UNITED NATIONS — All peace efforts in Afghanistan including a new initiative by Germany and Qatar for talks among Afghans must be aimed at starting formal negotiations between the government and the Taliban, the U.N. envoy for the war-torn country said Wednesday.

Tadamichi Yamamoto told the Security Council he’s encouraged by increasing support for a political settlement and called on countries “with direct contacts and with influence over the Taliban to intensify their efforts toward this goal.”

Germany’s deputy U.N. ambassador Jurgen Schulz said there is “great support” from the Afghan government, other key political actors and civil society for an “Intra-Afghan Dialogue Conference” in the Qatar capital Doha.

But he said there are still “obstacles,” stressing the need for a united international community to send the Taliban and other Afghan parties a clear message “that it is time to talk about a common future.”

The first talks between the Taliban and the Kabul government were scheduled to start in late April in Qatar but were indefinitely postponed after a falling out over the delegations that should attend.

Before the postponement, U.S. special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who has met on several occasions with the Taliban and has pressed for Afghan-to-Afghan talks, had hoped the Qatar meeting would bring the sides closer to a “roadmap” for a future Afghanistan.

With political efforts currently stalemated, Afghan government forces on the ground face not only a resurgent Taliban but also militants from the Islamic State group.

A report by U.N. experts circulated Wednesday said the number of Taliban fighters, facilitators and non-combatants are estimated at approximately 100,000.

The experts monitoring sanctions against the Taliban said during the past 12 months, “control of 40 percent to 50 percent of Afghan territory was contested between the Taliban and government forces.”

The panel of expert said between 25 and 30 districts are now reported to be under full Taliban control, roughly double the number it reported last year.

“The Taliban have continued to undermine the morale of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces by carrying out nocturnal attacks against isolated checkpoints, aided by new supplies of night vision scopes and sniper rifles arriving into Taliban arsenals,” the panel said.

“This simple yet effective tactic has aided the Taliban’s battle for control of rural areas and is likely a key reason for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces ceding further ground to Taliban forces this year in an effort to consolidate government-held areas without taking excessive casualties in remote military outposts,” it said.

The experts said the Taliban remain the primary partner for all “foreign terrorist groups” operating in Afghanistan including al-Qaida, except for the Islamic State extremist group. It said IS suffered military setbacks in the past year “but Afghanistan remains its largest and most threatening manifestation” outside Syria and Iraq.

The Islamic State group “is still assessed as commanding between 2,500 and 4,000 fighters” and it has carried out a series of attacks, the experts said.

The experts noted that the Taliban took advantage of parliamentary elections last October “to harass overstretched government forces and disrupt the process itself.”

The panel said Afghan security officials are concerned about preparations for presidential elections scheduled for September 28th.

“Many observed that it would be difficult to fight the Taliban and protect the elections at the same time, as had proved to be the case with parliamentary elections in October 2018,” the experts said.

U.N. envoy Yamamoto said the U.N. is working with the new Independent Electoral Commission and Election Complaints Commission, both headed by women for the first time, in all aspects of election preparations.

Full report at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/un-envoy-goal-now-must-be-afghan-taliban-peace-negotiations/2019/06/19/ecf134b0-92dc-11e9-956a-88c291ab5c38_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.d486a619131f

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Senior Afghan leaders invited to Bhurban moot ahead of Ghani visit

Tahir Khan

JUNE 21, 2019

Senior Afghan political leaders have been invited to a peace conference in the scenic town of Bhurban ahead of President Ashraf Ghani’s visit to Islamabad.

Former Afghan prime minister and Hizb-e-Islami chief Engineer Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is among the senior Afghan politicians who have confirmed participation, a Hizb leader said.

Hizb-e-Islami leader Ghairat Baheer confirmed to Daily Times from Kabul late Thursday that Hekamtyar would lead a delegation of his party in the conference on June 22.

Several other important leaders include head of the High Peace Council Mohammad Karim Khalili, presidential candidate Haneef Atmar, Jamiat-e-Islami leader Ustad Atta Mohammad Noor, former minister Younas Qanooni and former governor Ismail Khan.

The Lahore Center for Peace Research (LCPR) and the South Asian Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI) are organising the event.

Nearly 30 senior Afghan leaders have been invited to the conference and the list seen by Daily Times also has the name of former president Hamid Karzai among the guests. However, Karzai’s participation has not yet been confirmed.

Official sources say Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi will also speak at the meeting while President Arif Alvi will host a dinner for the senior Afghan political leaders.

The conference has assumed importance in view of the growing activities to press for political solution to the Afghan conflict. The Bhurban conference will provide opportunity for the Afghan leaders and Pakistani experts to exchange views on peace process.

Although the conference is being organised by two independent think tanks, the event is part of Pakistan’s effort to establish close contacts with cross section of Afghan society, which will help Pakistanis understand Afghan perspective from important political leaders.

Presence of leaders from cross section of Afghan society will also diversify Pakistan’s closer engagement and contacts with all ethnic groups in Afghanistan.

The conference underscores Pakistan’s desire to strengthen progress made by Afghanistan despite enormous challenges in human rights and women development.

It is a private initiative, which provided an opportunity to new government in Pakistan to engage with movers and shakers of Afghan people opinions in a positive, academic setting.

The event will also provide a greater depth and meaning to Ghani’s June 27 visit as an important people-to- people interaction. More such interactions are now required in both countries.

The list of the invitees include Hamid Karzai, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Maulavi Abdul Hakim Muneeb, Anwar ul Haq Ahadi, Dr Ghairat Baheer, Haneef Atmar, Omer Zakhilwal, Umar Daudzai, Madam Fauzia Kofi, Latif Pidram, Mansoor, Mir wais Yasini, Pir Hamid Gillani, Ishaq Gillani, Qutbuddin Hilal, Habibur Rahman Hekmatyar, Arghandiwal, Attaullah Wahidyar, Ustad Karim Khalili, Ustad Atta Mohammad Noor, Abdur Rasheed Dostum, Ahmad Zia Masood, Ahmad wali Masood, Younus Qanooni, Alhaj Mohammad Islamail Khan, Salahud din Rabbani, Mohammad Saeed Hashemi, Mohammad Mohaqiq, Mohammad Karim Khalili, Atif Mashal, and Aminullah Jan Mujadidi.

Full report at:

https://dailytimes.com.pk/415719/senior-afghan-leaders-invited-to-bhurban-moot-ahead-of-ghani-visit/

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Rohingya refugees long for home but Bangladesh says still too volatile

By Nurul Islam

June 20, 2019

COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh, June 20 (Reuters) - Rohingya Muslim refugees in camps in Bangladesh long to go back to their homes in Myanmar but a Bangladeshi official said on Thursday things were still too volatile for a safe return.

More than 700,000 Rohingya crossed into Bangladesh in 2017, according to U.N. agencies, after a crackdown by Myanmar's military sparked by Rohingya insurgent attacks on the security forces.

Several hundred Rohingya refugees rallied at the Kutupalong camp, near the southeast Bangladeshi city of Cox's Bazar, on Thursday to mark World Refugee Day.

"No more refugee life, we want to return to our homeland," the refugees chanted.

Some held up placards that read: "We want a life of freedom, peace and dignity."

Myanmar regards Rohingya Muslims as illegal migrants from the Indian subcontinent.

U.N. investigators have said the 2017 Myanmar military operation that drove more the Rohingya into Bangladesh was executed with "genocidal intent" and included mass killings, gang rapes and widespread arson.

Mostly Buddhist Myanmar denies widespread wrongdoing and says the military campaign across hundreds of villages in the north of Rakhine State was in response to the attacks by Rohingya insurgents.

Last year, Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed to begin to repatriate the refugees but the plan has been opposed by many of the refugees, who want Myanmar to agree to certain conditions first.

The U.N. refugee agency and aid groups are also doubtful about the plan as they fear for the safety of Rohingya in Myanmar.

"The situation is volatile there due to fighting between the army and insurgent groups," said Abul Kalam, Bangladesh's refugee relief and repatriation commissioner, who visited the refugees on Thursday.

"But we're still trying to begin repatriation as soon as possible."

Full report at:

https://news.yahoo.com/rohingya-refugees-long-home-bangladesh-124539268.html

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Common message to Taliban regarding peace process is clear: UN envoy

20 Jun 2019

The UN Secretary General’s Special envoy for Afghanistan Tadamachi Yamamoto has said the common message to Taliban regarding peace process is clear, insisting that the group should directly engage with the Afghan government.

Yamamoto made the remarks while briefing the UN Security Council on late on Wednesday.

The UN envoy further added that the Taliban group should come to the table and negotiate directly with the Afghan government.

He said “I am encouraged by signs of increasing consultations between countries leading these initiatives in support of a political settlement. The common message to the Taliban is clear: come to the table and negotiate directly with the Afghan Government.”

Yamamoto also added that “I call upon those countries with direct contacts and with influence over the Taliban to intensify their efforts towards this goal.”

Furthermore, he emphasized that ultimately, there is no substitute for the Afghan people taking ownership and advancing their inclusive dialogue towards a peace process.

The UN envoy also added that the government and political leaders must foster consensus and create structured arrangements to effectively represent the interests of all Afghan people in their engagement with the Taliban.

In the meantime, the UN envoy emphasized that preparations for the presidential elections should not distract from the necessary work.

This comes as efforts are underway to launch direct peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban group.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/common-message-to-taliban-regarding-peace-process-is-clear-un-envoy-03678/

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Sri Lanka prosecutor orders probe of nine officers over Easter bombing lapses

20 June 2019

Sri Lanka’s main prosecutor directed the acting police chief to carry out an investigation into nine officers who are suspected of failing to help prevent the Easter Sunday bombings that killed more than 250 people, a document showed.

More than 250 people including 42 foreigners were killed in the attacks, for which ISIS group has claimed responsibility.

The attacks sent shockwaves through the Indian Ocean island state, which had enjoyed relative peace since a civil war ended a decade ago.

“You are hereby directed to initiate criminal investigations with regard to the lapses of the above officers to prevent/minimize the above attacks,” the Attorney General wrote in a letter to the acting police chief seen by Reuters. The letter named the nine senior police officers.

Despite three advance intelligence reports from India on pending attacks, Sri Lanka’s top defence officials failed to act before the Easter day suicide bombings by Islamist militants that targeted three churches and three luxury hotels.

Authorities said the attacks were carried out by two little-known domestic groups: the National Thawheedh Jamaath (NTJ) and Jamathei Millathu Ibrahim.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/06/20/Sri-Lanka-prosecutor-orders-probe-of-nine-officers-over-Easter-bombing-lapses.html

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Sri Lanka prosecutor orders probe of nine officers over Easter bombing lapses

June 20, 2019

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka's main prosecutor directed the acting police chief to carry out an investigation into nine officers who are suspected of failing to help prevent the Easter Sunday bombings that killed more than 250 people, a document showed.

More than 250 people including 42 foreigners were killed in the attacks, for which Daesh has claimed responsibility. The attacks sent shockwaves through the Indian Ocean island state, which had enjoyed relative peace since a civil war ended a decade ago.

"You are hereby directed to initiate criminal investigations with regard to the lapses of the above officers to prevent/minimize the above attacks," the Attorney General wrote in a letter to the acting police chief seen by Reuters. The letter named the nine senior police officers.

Despite three advance intelligence reports from India on pending attacks, Sri Lanka's top defence officials failed to act before the Easter day suicide bombings by militants that targeted three churches and three luxury hotels.

Authorities said the attacks were carried out by two little-known domestic groups: the National Thawheedh Jamaath (NTJ) and Jamathei Millathu Ibrahim.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1513781/world

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