An important feature of this green marvel is that its entire energy requirements is met through hybrid renewable energy, both wind and solar.
Amid Uproar, Child Marriage Debate Moves To Historical ‘Error’ Over Aisha’s Age
Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee Office-Bearers Apologize For Anti-Indian Slogans
A Roundtable with Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists to Sow the Seeds of Peace in the Diocese of Sylhet
Forced Recruitment by US-Backed SDF Reported Again in Deir Ezzur
Arab States Warned US against Revealing 'Peace' Plan: Report
Palestinians Call for 'Revenge' At Funeral of Boy Killed By Israeli Fire
Karnataka’s Badriya Jum’a Masjid: The First Eco Friendly ‘Green Mosque’
Assam NRC Updation Has Spurred Radical Islamist Activity; Security Forces Say Outfits May Exploit Discontent among Migrants
Row over Plan for Lakshman Statue near Lucknow Masjid
Masood Azhar Roams Free, Incites Anti India Terror
Tax Officer's Wife Probed Over 'Links' With Kerala Man Who Tried to 'Sell' Spouse as Sex Slave to ISIS
Record number of Haj pilgrims despite abolished subsidy
Drone Strikes Target ISIS-K Militants, 130 TTP Militants Attack Security Posts in Nangarhar
Taliban militants blown up by own explosives in Maidan Wardak
Hindu Rohingya refugees also wait for a home
Afghan forces resume offensive operations after govt ceasefire ends
Pakistan, Afghanistan reach ‘unique deal’ on peace: Ashraf Ghani
Pakistan extends the stay of Afghan refugees for three more months
China joins U.S. and India against Pak terror funding
Egypt’s Sisi: June 30 Changed the Nation, Ended Waves of Extremism
Belgian court suspends arms exports to Saudi Arabia
People celebrate as Syrian army purges more towns of terrorists
Syrian army gains in southwest, rebels talk peace terms
Syrian Army Cuts Off Terrorists' Supply Line from Dara'a to Jordan Borders
Popular Uprising Continues against US-Backed SDF Forces in Raqqa
Syria: Army Continues March in Dara'a
Aleppo: Infighting Intensifies Among Turkey-Backed Terrorists in Afrin
Syrian Army Seizes US, French Equipment from ISIL in Homs
Militants in More Regions Join Peace Agreement with Syrian Army
Canadian Muslims Face Anxiety, Uncertainty about Crossing U.S. Border
Trump allies Gingrich, Giuliani push for regime change at Free Iran conference
Riyadh doesn’t “like” raising oil output, Saudi official says
Nasrallah’s Message to Yemen’s Houthi Leaders: ‘I Wish I Could Fight with You’
Houthis ‘Torture and Kill Prisoners’ In Hodeidah Who Refuse To Fight for Them: Reports
Yemeni Army Test-Fires New Ballistic Missile
Turkish airstrikes kill four Kurdish militants in Iraq
Four protesters killed in southwestern Iran after security forces open fire
Israeli forces kill two Palestinians in Gaza border protests - medics
Yemeni army seize Iranian-made Houthi military equipment
Turkish vessel damaged in Houthi-controlled port being repaired in Saudi Jazan
Arab coalition foils Houthi militia attack on fishing boats in Red Sea
Graves scattered across Yemen’s west coast as Houthis incur heavy losses
Iran, Pakistan stress fight against common border threats
Pakistan Channel Hires 1st Sikh Male Anchor
China Lends $1bn to Pakistan to Boost Plummeting Forex Reserves
Pakistan extends Afghan refugees' stay by three months
Nawaz, Zardari will be together in polls, says PTI chief
PTI women activists complain of ‘unjust’ ticket distribution
Bilawal seeks blessings of Karachi’s patron saint before starting election campaign
Bushra bibi reconciles disgruntled PTI women workers protesting in Lahore
Scotland First Minister Invites Muslims for Eid Milan Party
EU Leaders Overcome Differences To Reach Deal On Asylum Seekers
Italy refuses third refugee ship to dock, sparking new dispute with Malta
Al-Qaeda-Linked Support Group Claimed Attack on Mali HQ of G5 Sahel Force
Boko Haram Kills Four in Nigeria Displaced Civilians Camp
Jordan army begins delivering aid to Syrians stranded near border
Can Libya’s Haftar administer captured oilfields
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Abdar Rahman Koya
July 1, 2018
PETALING JAYA: An age-old debate over the marriage age of one of the wives of Prophet Muhammad has been renewed in Malaysia, after the parents of an 11-year-old girl in Kelantan defended their action of giving their daughter’s hand in marriage to a man three times older.
Vocal rights lawyer Siti Kasim says a root cause of Muslim child marriages in Malaysia is their acceptance of a claim that Prophet Muhammad had married one of his wives at a young age, despite Islamic scholars questioning the veracity of the Hadith on which the claim is based.
“Protecting children must be the ultimate aim for our government and no religious edicts or beliefs must come into play.
“I will continue to assert that our new government must start a new narrative in expounding the true teachings of Islam,” Siti wrote on her Facebook, amid public outrage following 11-year-old Masaryu Mat Rashid’s marriage to a 41-year-old rubber tapper in Kelantan.
Parents of the girl, who are Thai citizens living in Gua Musang, have defended the marriage, in the face of condemnation from child rights activists as well as government leaders.
Putrajaya said it was forming a special task force on the issue of child marriages, with civil society activists urging the new government to urgently amend the laws to ensure the legal age for marriage is set at 18.
The current legal age for marriage under civil law is 18, while shariah courts are empowered to allow Muslim marriages at 16 or younger.
Khadija and Aisha’s correct age
Siti’s statement renews a debate among Muslim scholars and historians over the correct age of Aisha, as well as that of his first wife, Khadija.
It was said Khadija was 40 when the Prophet married her at the age of 24. She later gave birth to seven children. But major chroniclers of the life of the Prophet have challenged this notion, with some saying Khadija was only 28 when they married.
A similar debate continues over the age of Aisha. Some traditional scholars have accepted the claim that she was only six years of age when the Prophet married her. Other hadiths, or sayings attributed to the Prophet which form the basis of Islamic teachings, said Aisha was nine years old.
Prominent Muslim activist Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa, agreeing with Siti Kasim, said the excuse given by defenders of child marriages was nothing but to justify their own sexual desire.
“No modern moral standard could justify this blatant act of lust,” he told FMT. “This religion that is claimed to elevate the status of women is definitely a religion that is against any exploitation of the poor and the weak and of course helpless women and under aged girls.”
Farouk, who heads the Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF) challenged the argument by some Muslims that Islam does not prohibit the marriage of underage girls.
He said Islamic precepts and laws must be practised based on maqasid shariah, the principle of taking into account higher objectives for society’s common good.
“If people argue that the Sunnah did not prohibit marrying an underage girl, then the Sunnah also did not prohibit us from taking up slaves.
“But the higher intention of this religion or the maqasid is about the freedom of human beings from the bondage of slavery and elevating the status and protecting the women.
“Obviously marrying an underage girl goes against this maqasid,” said Farouk.
Jul 1, 2018
ATTARI: Indian Sikh devotees made officials of Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) apologize for raising anti-India slogans during a function at Nankana Sahib in Pakistan.
The Sikh devotees who returned from Pakistan on Saturday after observing the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh accused the Pakistan government of politicizing the religious occasion for furthering its anti-India propaganda. One of the jatha members Avtar Singh told TOI that PSGPC office-bearers, including its general secretary Gopal Singh Chawla, had raised ‘Hindustan murdabad’ slogans, which was opposed by Indian Sikh devotees, forcing Chawla to tender an apology. “Chawla made many objectionable utterings against India but he had to apologize after we protested,” he added.
On the other hand, jatha members hailed Pakistan government’s arrangements, especially security for the jatha, but at the same time they complained that they were not allowed to move out of gurdwaras. “Only on Friday evening did they allow us to go to a market in Lahore,” Avtar Singh.
Many devotees, however, denied that they had heard anti-India slogans. Jatha member Mohinder Singh said; “I had heard some arguments but I don’t know the reason.” A women devotee, who didn’t want to give her name, said not only PSGPC office-bearers and a few Sikhs of Pakistan raised anti-India slogans but they also raised pro-Khalistan slogans and delivered provocative speeches.
Intelligence sources said agents of the ISI, who often swarm the sarais where Sikh devotees live in Pakistan, avoided inquiries about Kiran Bala, an Indian devotee woman who had gone to Pakistan on Baisakhi but embraced Islam and married a Lahore man. “When I asked about her, I was told that she is living happily in Lahore and the ISI agent refused to give her contact number,” said a member, who was part of the jatha.
Sources claimed that officials of the Evacuee Trust Property Board and PSGPC held a meeting with Indian Sikh jatha leaders on Friday evening, wherein Indian jatha leaders floated a proposal of holding joint celebrations by the PSGPC and Indian Sikh bodies on the occasion of 550 birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.
A roundtable with Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists to sow the seeds of peace in the Diocese of Sylhet
Sylhet (AsiaNews) – The Interreligious Dialogue Commission of the Diocese of Sylhet, in north-eastern Bangladesh, recently organised a roundtable to "build a peaceful nation".
The Diocesan Office invited Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist leaders to the event. At least 200 people came.
The meeting’s explicit aim was to make leaders understand that it is necessary to work together to build a country of peace. The theme of the event was "An open heart brings peace and harmony".
Sanghanando Thero, head of the Sylhet Buddho Bihar Buddhist monastery, fully embraces the purpose of the meeting.
"If everyone worked with a positive mindset, they would succeed,” he said. “That's why we should use the heart properly.”
“As a mother saves her child by giving him life, we too should save all the animals of the earth,” he explained. “If various religious leaders sit around a table to discuss, I believe that many problems would be solved."
Other leaders expressed similar views, including Nasir Ullaha, a Muslim and a former additional magistrate in Sylhet district.
"People create divisions,” he said, “but we have all been created by the one God. If we can stop divisions, conflicts, we can create a society in which harmony remains."
For Shami Chandranathananda, a Hindu and the director of the Sylhet Ramkrishno Mission and Ashrom, "Whoever does not believe in God cannot be considered pious. We must believe that God is present in everything. All faiths remind us to open our hearts. Envy destroys man. So, we first have to correct ourselves ".
"All human beings are equal and identical,” noted Mgr Bejoy D'Cruze, bishop of Sylhet, and sponsor of the event. “There is no difference in the man who is hungry, thirsty, who feels happiness or pain. Human beings are superior: this is true. This is the axiom of peace and harmony."
"We should all love our neighbours,” he said in concluding. “We must not look at others only from the outside, but also from within. We live next door but not together. We must overcome evil through good. All religious leaders must work to establish peace on earth."
Jun 30, 2018
Local sources in Eastern Deir Ezzur reported on Saturday that the SDF has detained tens of civilians during heavy attacks on the villages of al-Tiyanah, al-Shanan and al-Jarzi.
The Kurdish forces also arrested a number of civilians in the villages of Mahimideh and Haqayej al-Bomasa'h.
Meantime, reports said that they have attacked and beaten a number of civilians in the town of al-Kashisheh in Eastern Deir Ezzur.
Tensions have heightened between the civilians and the SDF in Deir Ezzur, Hasaka and other regions occupied by the US-backed Kurdish forces.
In a relevant development on Thursday, local sources in Eastern Deir Ezzur reported that tensions and uprising of civilians against the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have intensified, adding that assassination attempts by unknown assailants have also increased against the SDF in the region.
The sources said that residents of the town of al-Shahil have held protest rallies against the SDF and blocked the roads in Eastern Deir Ezzur.
They added that the SDF then detained nearly 70 local residents of the region, noting that several other people were also arrested in the town of Zabiyan and the village of al-Hawayej in Eastern Deir Ezzur.
Meantime, a number of SDF forces have been killed and wounded during repeated explosions and assassination attempts by unknown assailants in Eastern Deir Ezzur.
Arab states warned US against revealing 'peace' plan: Report
Arab countries have reportedly warned the US against revealing its so-called Mideast peace plan, saying disclosing a plan that doesn't meet Palestinian expectations could agitate the region.
US President Donald Trump’s "deal of the century" is being spearheaded by his senior adviser Jared Kushner and Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt, and is reportedly supported by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Jordan.
The duo recently ended a tour of the region, with Ha’aretz reporting that “the Arab officials cited the fact that their countries are dealing with internal challenges.”
They said disclosing a plan that did not meet Palestinians’ expectations could further disturb region, the daily said, quoting “a Palestinian official.”
"Egypt isn't short on internal issues, along with fighting terror in Sinai; Jordan is dealing with many difficulties on the home front and repercussions from the Syrian war don't simplify things and the Saudis with the challenges in Yemen and the struggle against Iran," the official said.
"If the [Trump] administration presents a plan without Jerusalem [al-Quds] and without the refugees it will be an earthquake whose repercussion will undermine stability in the entire region and not one is ready for that," the source added.
The warning struck a clearly different tone from the support that four regional Arab states reportedly threw behind the plan during Kushner and Greenblatt’s visit.
Israel Hayom daily reported on Monday that Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Jordan had assured the US of their support for the plan.
The US has been pushing to conclude the proposal, despite the Palestinian Authority’s rejection of Washington’s mediation role in the conflict with Israel after the US relocated its embassy to the occupied Jerusalem al-Quds.
Back in May, Israeli intelligence website DEBKAfile reported that the plan gave the Palestinians limited sovereignty over about half of Tel Aviv-occupied West Bank and set Abu Dis, east of the occupied al-Quds, as their capital.
Palestinians have historically sought east al-Quds as the capital of their future state.
The US plan would also reportedly give Palestinians’ sovereignty over the Gaza Strip on the condition that the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas gave up its arms.
Last year, Trump recognized al-Quds as Israel's "capital," and moved the US embassy to the city in May.
Following Trump's announcement, an overwhelming number of countries voted in favor of a resolution at the UN General Assembly, which called on Washington to withdraw the recognition.
Palestinians call for 'revenge' at funeral of boy killed by Israeli fire
July 01, 2018
Gaza City - Thousands of Palestinians on Saturday attended the funeral of the 11-year-old son of a Hamas military commander killed by Israeli fire in the southern Gaza Strip, with mourners demanding "revenge".
Yasser Abu al-Naja, whose father is a member of Hamas's military wing, was shot in the head on Friday in border clashes near the southern city of Khan Yunis.
Senior members of Hamas, which rules the blockaded Gaza Strip, and commanders of its Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades attended the funeral.
"Yasser's martyrdom is clear proof of the crimes committed by the (Israeli) occupation against the Palestinian people," said senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya during the ceremony.
"The occupiers killed the child in cold blood," said Hayya, a member of the Islamist Palestinian group's political bureau.
The boy was one of two Palestinians killed on Friday by Israeli troops during border clashes in southern Gaza, according to the Palestinian health ministry in the coastal enclave.
His exact age was initially unclear but his family said on Saturday that Yasser was born on September 19, 2006.
The second fatality was identified as Mohammed al-Hamayda, 24, who was shot in the stomach in a separate incident east of Rafah in Gaza's south. A separate funeral was held for him there.
The army said thousands of Palestinians took part in "extremely violent riots" on Friday and "committed various acts of terror in several locations" along Gaza's border with Israel.
A statement said troops responded with "riot dispersal means" and "resorted to live fire" when those failed. It said the death of the boy would be examined.
Since protests broke out along the Gaza border on March 30, at least 137 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire.
The majority were involved in protests but others were seeking to breach or damage the border fence. No Israelis have been killed.
KUNDAPUR: Badriya Jum’a Masjid is the world’s first “ZERO Energy” Eco Friendly Green Mosque.
Located at Kodi village near Kundapur in Udupi district of Karnataka, the building design is an evolution in core Islamic Architecture integrating epitomized sustainable technologies.
Syed Mohamed Beary, Chairman of construction giant, Bearys Group & IGBC who is passionate about sustainable developments built the structure on his ancestral land (15,000 sqft area) at a cost of Rs. 2 crore.
“In today’s world, the Islam is being perceived and being projected in such a bad light. It is always calamities, blood bath, issues and hassle, which is not a real Islam. Being a committed green building developer, I felt the mosque should demonstrate both modern face of Islam as well as sustainability,” he said.
It has become a holistic place of worship and is drawing innumerable visitors every day i.e. students, tourists and attracting people of all faiths in a spirit of oneness.
“At a time when the world is passing through climate change crisis, the mosque demonstrates how sustainable developments can help in mitigating global warming. It also presents a modern face of Islam aiming to promote harmony among all communities. It is a contemporary eco-friendly design,” he said.
It took three years for the construction of this eco-friendly mosque and nearly 2,000 persons can offer prayers at a time at the mosque.
“It is our little contribution in India’s march towards Sustainable Development,” said Mr. Beary.
It has bagged also the prestigious Platinum Award under the specialized category ‘IGBC Green Place of Worship’.
Some of the unique features includes:
The mosque is designed as an ‘L-Shape’ with elevated nature of prayer hall, green vegetation and water tanks offering a naturally cooling environment.
The building also maximize natural ventilation aiming to reduce heat gain and minimize use of fossil fuel.
The important feature of this mosque is it get managed by Hybrid Renewable Energy i.e. wind and solar. That is entire power supply is met through wind & solar.
The building terrace floor is laid with white china mosaics which reflects the solar heat.
“Reduce-Reuse-Recycle-Regenerate” technology has been implemented and the mosque is equipped with “Pressmatic” TOTO water fixtures to conserve precious water.
The calligraphy which is Arabic, Chinese and Japanese languages was again on white on white.
Assam NRC updation has spurred radical Islamist activity; security forces say outfits may exploit discontent among migrants
The process of updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam has provoked some radical Islamist outfits to step up their presence in areas inhabited by suspected illegal migrants.
Inputs received by security agencies suggest that two organisations from the southern region of the country are on overdrive to expand their base among the community through 'philanthropic activities' like the distribution of textbooks and blankets.
While these organisations were initially confined to Goalpara and Darrang, their activities have now expanded to include Karimganj, Chirang and Baksa. A student wing floated by one of these groups has also been making efforts to enroll students in Guwahati. A cause of worry for the agencies is the involvement of these groups with radical Muslim leaders and their access to huge funds from West Asia.
Pallab Bhattacharya, additional director general of Assam Police in charge of the Special Branch, said that the NRC has offered scope to many organisations to 'fish in troubled waters.'
“The recent conference by the SIO (Students Islamic Orgnisation) at the Delhi press club is an example, as is the raising of the NRC issue at the level of the United Nations (UN),” he said.
Wild guesses are being made about the number of migrants who would be identified after the completion of the NRC. However, various groups espousing the causes of Hindu and Muslim migrants have already begun to oppose the exercise of identifying foreign nationals, claiming that genuine citizens are being harassed and victimised. It is possible that some radical groups may exploit disaffection among the migrants after the final list is declared.
On 20 June, News18 Assam even reported that Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) had activated sleeper cells in Assam for causing disturbances after the NRC is completed. The report also referred to previous instances when functionaries of the agency were apprehended in the state.
Meanwhile, additional battalions of paramilitary forces have been rushed to the state to deal with the post-NRC situation. Areas in central and western Assam have been also been identified where companies would be deployed to assist the state police. The final draft of the NRC, which was supposed to have been published on 30 June, has been postponed due to floods.
Presence of radical Islamist outfits in Assam
Radical Islamist groups have intermittently surfaced in Assam, enlisted cadres for a while but fizzled out within a few years. The earliest activities of these organisations can be traced to the mid-1990s in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition, when outfits like the Muslim United Liberation Front of Assam (MULTA) emerged with the goal to safeguard the interests of the community. More groups surfaced in the early 2000s, but they appear to have been short-lived.
Around 500 militants belonging to Muslim Fundamentalist Organisations (MFOs) either surrendered or were apprehended in Assam and Manipur between 1999 and 2004. They were mostly cadres belonging to MULTA, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and People’s United Liberation Front (of Manipur).
Pakistan’s ISI has also been making efforts to develop a network in Assam either with ethnic rebel groups or Muslim communities. A statement issued on 6 April, 2000 by the then chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta in the Assam Assembly disclosed significant details about the agency’s strategy in the region, which also includes creating new groups along communal lines, supply of explosives and weapons, sabotage and communal tension between Hindus and Muslims.
Evidence of the Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB)’s presence in Assam surfaced three years ago following the blast at Burdwan in West Bengal in 2014, which killed two persons. The probe into the incident revealed that one Bura Bhai who was the head of a martial arts institute at Chirang had allegedly been providing arms training to youth associated with the JMB module. More than 20 activists have been arrested by the police in Assam.
With the Awami League led government in Bangladesh launching a severe crackdown against fundamentalist and terror groups, some activists of JMB and other Islamist organisations are believed to have taken refuge in parts of India, including Assam and West Bengal.
Can these groups pose a security threat in Assam?
A long list of radical Islamist outfits that had supposedly taken birth in Assam in the past two-and-a-half decades finds mention in some books and reports by intelligence agencies. Apparently, the names of some organisations (like Independent Liberation Army of Assam) are obscure and have never been heard of, which casts serious doubts about the authenticity of these accounts. Officials have also given statements on some occasions on the presence of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Kashmiri rebel groups in Assam.
These reports notwithstanding, it is reliably learnt that top functionaries of MULTA had landed in Bangladesh to network with similar groups and agencies with the goal to procure weapons and funds. Some over-ground militants from the ethnic groups who had been based in Bangladesh also believe that small groups of MFOs from Assam availed training in the Af-Pak region in the same manner as they were themselves trained by ISI instructors.
But these MFO activists seem to have charted a path very different from the ethnic rebel outfits. Full scale operations by security forces have never been mounted so far against any MFO in Assam. Nor have they ever resorted to attacks or ambushes on the security forces. Some officials do not rule out the possibility of the inaccessible char (riverine) areas in the state being used by them for indoctrination and recruitment of cadres, since the police lacks an effective presence in these areas.
Sensing the danger, the state government has initiated a survey of 829 such villages of a total of 2,251 along the Brahmaputra river, which are concentrated in the central and western zones of Assam. A proposal has been sent to the Centre for satellite imageries and augmenting the strength of the river police wing. Former police chief Mukesh Sahay had himself camped for several days near a char last year to supervise an operation.
Full report at:
Row over plan for Lakshman statue near Lucknow masjid
LUCKNOW: A proposal by a committee of the Lucknow Municipal Corporation (LMC) to put up a giant statue of Lakshman, the younger brother of Lord Ram, in a park in front of Teele Wali Masjid in Lucknow has rankled Muslim clerics, who complained that installing a Hindu deity’s idol will obstruct their prayers.
The committee approved the proposal on the grounds that the place was earlier called ‘Lakshman Teela’.
Imam of Teele Wali Masjid Maulana Syed Fazlul Mannan Rahmani said, “We don’t object to the construction of Lakshmanji or Ramji’s the statue anywhere but a statue in that small park outside Teele Wali Masjid may become a hindrance to the big namaz gatherings we have during which the crowd offers namaz on the road and in the park. This might lead to possibilities of a clash. I have spoken to the mayor and she said talks were on and that we will be informed about whatever the decision is.”
Masood Azhar roams free, incites anti India terror
June 30, 2018
Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Maulana Masood Azhar has positioned himself as the leading anti-India voice in Pakistan, emboldened by the lack of any action against him by either the Pakistan government or the US administration. He is encouraging more and more illiterate youths to go to India and carry out terrorist activities in Kashmir in the name of jihad.
In his latest anti-India rhetoric, Azhar not only appealed to youths to enter India and carry out attacks, he also rebuked those who are taking part in the “jihad” in Pakistan and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) of “promoting their politics or for buying cars”.
His allegation that Pakistanis are using the jihad to further their own vested interests is understood to be a pot-shot at the chief of the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT), Hafiz Saeed, and also the latter’s son Talah and son-in-law Khalid Walid, who are contesting the forthcoming Pakistan general elections. Saeed and his men have a more active presence in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir than Azhar.
Security experts, who have been following the terrorist groups in Pakistan, say that Saeed’s efforts to become a “mainstream politician”, while he continues to carry out attacks in Kashmir, have not gone down well with the ultra-religious Masood Azhar who does not have any political aspirations and has more radical, illiterate followers than Saeed’s LeT, which boasts of having educated and computer savvy youths running the set-up.
Last week, Saeed fielded 265 candidates for the national and provincial polls in Pakistan that are slated for 25 July with the aim to make Pakistan a “citadel of Islam”. Despite carrying a $10 million US bounty on his head, Saeed, guarded by Pakistani military personnel, openly canvasses for his candidates. Saeed’s candidates are contesting on the platform of a little known “dormant” political entity, Allah-u-Akbar Tehreek (AAT).
According to the officials, Masood, who had “gone silent” temporarily under instructions from his ISI handlers, has now again started giving anti-India speeches in which he asks young men to join Jaish and carry out jihad in Kashmir.
“His speeches are very popular among Pakistani youths most of whom are illiterate, unemployed and do not have any aims in life. When they hear speeches that promise to give their lives some sort of meaning, they readily join the Jaish,” an official said.
Bengaluru: The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is probing allegations made by a 25-year-old woman that her husband forced her to convert to Islam and attempted to sell her as a ‘sex slave’ to terror outfit Islamic State (ISIS), questioned a commercial tax officer’s wife in Bengaluru in the case.
NIA sources on Saturday disclosed that they had questioned the wife of Irshadullah Khan, deputy commissioner of commercial tax, Kalburgi district, on June 6 and 7 and confiscated eight laptops and 12 cellphones from her.
Confirming the searches, supervising officer of south India NIA operations and inspector general of police Alok Mittal said, “The victim had told us that she attended Islamic Studies classes conducted by the tax officer’s wife while studying in Bengaluru on the insistence of the accused. Based on this information, we conducted searches on June 6 and 7. We have seized laptops, cellphones and SIM cards from her house. The victim did not stay at the officer’s house but frequented it as part of her coaching. The investigation is on.”
Speaking to News 18, a highly placed source in the agency said, “The officer’s wife may have helped the accused even after knowing that he was involved in unlawful activities. We are focusing on recovering data from the laptops and cellphones seized from Khan’s house. Prima facie, it appears she was involved in providing logistics and other kind of support to the accused. So far, we haven’t found any direct link of the officer. The probe is on and it will be a fair investigation.”
Khan has been posted in Kalburgi for the past four years and his wife, who works as an engineer, resides in Bengaluru.
The officer admitted that his wife was questioned by the NIA but “they have no links to the conspiracy”. “My wife was questioned by the NIA officials because the complainant had stayed in my house for 15 days in 2016. We have no links to the conspiracy of forceful conversion or any other harassment that the victim faced. We will give full support to the investigators and I am sure my family will be proven innocent,” he added.
The case came into the limelight when the woman, who is a native of Kerala but lives in Gujarat, alleged that accused Muhammed Riyaz lured her, raped her, recorded her nude videos and pictures on his phone and threatened her to become disciple of televangelist Zakir Naik.
She also alleged that Riyaz married her by forging documents and forcibly converted her to Islam. The accused reportedly created a fake passport, illegally confined the 25-year-old and threatened her in Kerala before taking her to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in August 2017 to sell her off to ISIS terrorists.
The victim also said in her complaint that Riyaz had joined the Islamic State in Jeddah and received funds from them for “unlawful activities”.
A case was filed by the woman’s parents in Kerala under various sections of the IPC and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. The FIR registered by the police named nine accused, of which four are from Bengaluru.
NIA had arrested Riyaz on February 3 from the Chennai airport after his return from Jeddah. In his statement to the agency, he had rejected all charges of rape, blackmail and links to ISIS and called it a case of a “marriage gone sour”.
During interrogation, NIA also learnt that Riyaz was forced to come back to India from Jeddah after his cousin and friends were arrested by Kerala Police.
July 1, 2018
The year 2018 that began with the end of Haj subsidy has been marked by a record 175,025 Indians heading for Saudi Arabia and is also distinct for a record 47 per cent women among the pilgrims including 1,308 without their ‘mehram’ (male companion).
“For the first time after the Independence, record 1,75,025 Muslims from India are going to Haj this year. These include record more than 47 per cent female pilgrims,” Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said addressing an orientation cum training camp here.
Despite removal of Haj subsidy and various new taxes imposed in Saudi Arabia, a lot of Muslims from India are going to Haj this year that too without any additional financial burden, he said. In fact, the airlines will be getting Rs 57 crore less this year from the passengers.
“Even after ending the Haj subsidy, airlines will be paid Rs 57 crore less … Last year Rs 1,030 crore was paid to airlines as air fare for 1,24,852 Haj pilgrims and this year Rs 973 crore will be paid for 1,28,702 Haj pilgrims going through Haj Committee of India,” Naqvi said.
For the first time, choice of embarkation points has been given to Haj pilgrims which has received overwhelming response. The minister said a total of 3,55,604 applications was received for Haj 2018 which included 1,89,217 male and 1,66,387 female applicants.
“For the first time a total of 1,308 women Muslim women from India are going to Haj without ‘mehram’,” he told the Haj Coordinators, Assistant Haj Officers, Haj Assistants and medical personnel including 98 women staff who are deployed to assist the pilgrims.
Representatives from Minority Affairs Ministry, Health Ministry and Urban Development Ministry informed in detail, various issues concerned to Haj, pilgrims, their health, safety and accommodation during the camp, the ministry said in a statement.
Flights for Haj will start from July 14, when pilgrims from Delhi, Gaya, Guwahati, Lucknow and Srinagar will embark on pilgrimage. On July 17 pilgrims from Kolkata, July 20 from Varanasi, July 21 from Mangalore, July 26 from Goa and on July 29 pilgrims from Aurangabad, Chennai, Mumbai and Nagpur will embark on Haj, he added.
Drone strikes target ISIS-K militants, 130 TTP militants attack security posts in Nangarhar
Jun 30 2018
A series of drone strike targeted militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Khurasan (ISIS-K), a day after at least 130 Pakistani Taliban militants, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), attack the security posts in Nangarhar province.
The 201st Silab Corps of the Afghan Military said at least five ISIS-K militants were killed in drone strikes in Kako and Gorgori areas of Deh Bala district.
The source further added that a commander of the group identified as Salman Orakzai was also among those killed.
In the meantime, the commander of the 1st Brigade of the Border Police forces, Gen. Mohammad Ayoub Hussain Khel said a group of at least 130 militants launched coordinated attacks on security posts late on Wednesday night.
He said the attack was carried out in the vicinity of Momand Dara district and at least ten militants were killed or wounded after the Afghan forces responded to the attack.
Gen. Hussain Khel further added that the dead bodies of the militants were left in the area after the clash ended and Pakistani identity cards were also recovered from the dead militants.
According to Gen. Hussain Khel, the militants managed to flee the area after the attack and the Afghan forces are fully prepared to respond to the attacks by the militants.
At least five Taliban militants were killed or wounded in an explosion triggered by a roadside bomb in Maidan Wardak province of Afghanistan.
The 203rd Thunder Corps of the Afghan Military said the incident took place in the vicinity of Jalrez district after an improvised explosive device planted on a roadside went off targeting a group of armed militants.
The source further added that the explosion left at least three Taliban militants dead while two others sustained injuries.
The anti-government armed militant groups frequently use explosives materials for the roadside bombings and car bombings to target the government staff and security personnel.
However, in majority of such incidents the ordinary civilians are targeted besides such bombings incur casualties to the security personnel and in some cases the Taliban militants themselves are killed or wounded.
A total of 10,453 civilian casualties – 3,438 people killed and 7,015 injured – were documented in the 2017 Annual Report released last month by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the UN Human Rights Office.
JUNE 30, 2018
Less than a kilometre from the gates of the world’s largest refugee settlement, in southeast Bangladesh, 101 Hindu Rohingya families wait to be rescued from their status as the “minority” within the world’s most persecuted minority community — the Muslim Rohingyas.
The Hindu Rohingya families — nearly 410 people, most of them children — live in a ‘Hindu Camp’, located just outside Camp 1, the first of 27 refugee settlements that make up the Kutupalong-Balukhali camps, the largest in the world.
Over 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims live here after being forced to flee Myanmar following the brutal campaign of violence by the Myanmar army that began on August 26, 2017.
The Hindu Camp stands out from the rest of the sprawling refugee settlement.
It is the only camp with round-the-clock police presence. The women, wearing colourful saris and bangles, and sporting a vermillion sindoor, are visibly different. The camp is built around a small bamboo and tarpaulin temple to Lord Krishna and his consort Radha. The families have been segregated from the main camp, as a measure of “abundant caution”, says Mohammad Reza, in-charge of the oldest refugee camps that came into existence after the first wave of violence against the Rohingyas in 1991-92.
“The Bangladesh government decided to place them outside the main camp because, inside the camps, if something went wrong, we wouldn’t be able to provide them security,” Mr. Reza explained.
Tensions between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists in Myanmar’s Rakhine state have existed for decades. The inflection point came in 1982, when Myanmar passed the controversial Burmese Citizenship Law. It stripped eight ethnicities of citizenship. Even though the Rohingyas were not among them, almost overnight, the community lost its freedom and, over decades, has been violently persecuted.
In the 1991 violence, only six affected families were Hindu, among the 30,000 Rohingya Muslims who fled to the refugee camps. “Those families were integrated with the Rohingya Muslim community. They continue to have good relations but we do not want to take a chance with the refugees who have arrived since August 2017,” said Mr. Reza, explaining that when everyone is fighting for resources — land, food and shelter — tensions can intensify.
The ‘majhi’ or camp leader for the Hindu Rohingya families is 32-year-old Shishu Sheel, who was forced to flee from his home in the Maungtaw district in Rakhine on August 28 last year. “When neighbouring Hindu villages were attacked, my wife, two children and I decided to leave before the army attacked our village. My parents stayed back,” Mr. Sheel says. His entire village, Chikanchari, decided to evacuate after ‘clearance operations’ by the Myanmar army in the neighbouring Hindu village of Fakirabazaar, where 86 persons were allegedly killed.
The Hindu Camp has families belonging to the Pal and Sheel sub-sects, most of them third generation Myanmar citizens. The Myanmar government has given them National Verification Cards (NVC), which gives their ‘Race’ as ‘Indian’. “My grandfather moved to Burma and our family has lived there ever since. But we are considered ‘guests from India’ [in Myanmar] and don’t have citizenship status,” Mr. Sheel said.
Officials in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in Dhaka and Yangon confirmed that their missions were in touch with the group of 101 Hindu families and had recorded their details, but denied that the ID cards, which gave their ‘Race’ as ‘Indian’, meant they were Indian citizens. When asked if India would be asked to accept the families, one senior official said, “It is understood that, in Myanmar, people who don’t originate from there [Myanmar] are identified by their ethnic or national origins. It certainly doesn’t mean that these people [the Hindu Rohingyas] will be deported to India.”
Indian officials maintain that the refugees they met were keen to return to Myanmar and that this had been conveyed to the Myanmar government. “The Government of Myanmar cleared their early repatriation to Myanmar and sent the necessary documents to the Bangladesh government. We have been told that they [Bangladesh] have not yet worked their way around to facilitating the repatriation,” the official, who did not wish to be identified, said. In December 2017, Myanmar’s Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Win Myat Aye had visited the families, promising refugees will be allowed back across the border to Myanmar on January 22 as the first step in the repatriation process. This has not happened.
UN aid workers, however, disputed the contention that the Hindu Rohingya refugees were ready to return to Myanmar, given the conditions there. “Indian diplomats may have met with the leaders of the group and had that impression, but the bulk of the refugees are just too scared to go back to Rakhine,” one refugee coordinator said.
When asked about the choices facing his community, Mr. Sheel says no one could guarantee their security if they returned to Myanmar, so they want to go to India, “khushi se” (happily). “We want to go to India, if the Indian government will take us. We have repeatedly said that and we have never heard back from the Indian government on it,” adds Mr. Sheel.
Afghan security forces resumed offensive operations on Saturday after President Ashraf Ghani declared an end to the government's unilateral ceasefire with the Taliban.
Ghani said the ceasefire, which lasted 18 days after it was extended once and overlapped with the Taliban's unilateral three-day truce for Eid, had been '98 per cent successful'.
"The ceasefire is over. The Afghan security and defence forces are allowed to restart their military operations," Ghani told reporters.
The three days of no fighting were unprecedented in the nearly 17-year conflict and triggered jubilant scenes across the war-weary country.
Taliban fighters and security forces spontaneously celebrated the holiday that caps the holy month of Ramazan, hugging each other and taking selfies.
The militants were also mobbed by relieved civilians, who have borne the brunt of the war, raising hopes of a renewed push for peace talks.
Ghani said the ceasefire had shown that the majority of the insurgents wanted peace and it was the "Taliban's turn to give a positive response".
"I am ready to extend the ceasefire anytime when the Taliban are ready," he said at a press conference.
But the sight of its fighters openly mingling with security forces and civilians over Eid appeared to alarm the Taliban's leaders, who on Sunday ordered their men back to their posts.
The Taliban vowed Tuesday to continue their bloody fight against the government and their foreign backers, brushing aside rising civilian casualties.
The insurgents returned to the battlefield last week after refusing a government request to extend their ceasefire, launching attacks across the country that have seen scores killed or injured.
The renewed violence has poured cold water on hopes the truce would provide a clear path to peace talks, with the Taliban refusing to bow to pressure to lay down their arms until foreign forces withdraw from Afghanistan.
President Ashraf Ghani said on Saturday an agreement has been made with Pakistan – in writing – on rooting out terrorism, reported Tolo News.
Addressing an event in Kabul, the president said achievements had been made with Pakistan on finding a solution to the Taliban problem in Afghanistan.
“The issue of Taliban should be solved in our relations with Pakistan. Some things have been done in this respect and some things are still needed to be done. It has been agreed on paper for the first time. The Afghanistan-Pakistan negotiations framework is now on paper. Now, serious actions are required,” he said.
He said there have been improvements in terms of uprooting terrorism.
“We should clearly agree on this, on how we will work with each other in the future and how we will prevent other movements,” he added.
Ghani did not however give details on exactly what the agreement entailed.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Kabul Zahid Nasrullah stressed the need for the strengthening of Kabul-Islamabad ties. He talked about Islamabad’s role in ensuring peace in Afghanistan.
“We welcome the ceasefire and strongly supported it. Pakistan’s President Mamnoon Hussain was in China when he announced that Pakistan is strongly supporting the ceasefire. Pakistan knows its role well in peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan and we will fulfil our role very well,” he said.
Jul 01 2018
The government of Pakistan has extended the stay period of the Afghan refugees based in the country for another three months, it has been reported.
The decision was reportedly taken during a meeting of the cabinet chaired by the new Prime Minister of Pakistan Nasirul Mulk.
According to the reports, the cabinet decided to extend the stay period of the Afghan refugees for another three months.
The cabinet of Pakistan has extended the stay period of the registered refugees only and it was also decided that the decision regarding the long term or short stay of the refugees will be taken by the new government.
This comes as the extended stay period of the Afghan refugees based in Pakistan expired on Saturday.
The Pakistani officials had earlier said the deadline for the stay of the Afghan refugees has been further extended until 30th of June this year.
According to the officials, refugees possessing Proof of Registration cards could continue to stay in the country until June 30 and that the same policy would also be applicable on those holding Afghan Citizen Cards (ACCs).
In the meantime, efforts are underway in Afghanistan to pave the way for the return of the Afghan refugees from the neighboring countries, specifically Pakistan which currently hosts hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees.
The “Wuhan Spirit” ensured that China joined with India, the United States, Russia and the European Union in rejecting the bid of Turkey to take Pakistan off the “Grey List” of terror funding of the 37-nation Financial Action Task Force at its plenary meeting in Paris last week. The Pakistan delegation sought the support of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, China and Turkey to be taken off the Grey List of countries that have made unsatisfactory progress in stopping terror funding. Should Islamabad not show visible progress in stopping terror funding within 15 months, it will be placed on the terror Black List, which at present includes only Iran and North Korea. The Pakistan delegation argued that “Muslim nations should stand together” against any move by FATF to place “the world’s second largest Muslim country” on the Grey List, aware that it was only a short step from there to the Black List, which would make it mandatory for the world’s significant trading nations to impose financial sanctions on Pakistan. Inspired by the fight-back against Wahhabism by Saudi Arabia under the direction of Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman and the rejection of extremist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood by another important Muslim country, Egypt, the GCC rejected such lobbying and pointed out that Muslims themselves have been the worst victims of terrorism and therefore should unite in support of moves to choke off funding to terror groups.
Interestingly, Turkey has found itself on such a list on multiple occasions, and now hosts the leaders of several groups tethered to violent solutions to political problems. Soundings within Ankara indicate that President Erdogan himself gave the command to “stand by Pakistan come what may” out of worry that the same label may get affixed to Turkey. Under President Erdogan, as many as 15 armed extremist groups, active mostly in the Middle East, have substantial segments of their leadership resident in Turkey, including two groups associated with the Pakistan army’s ongoing campaign of terror against India.
Although several calls were made from Rawalpindi GHQ to the headquarters of the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) in Beijing to ensure that China joined with Turkey in getting Pakistan dropped from the Grey List, now that President Xi Jinping has taken charge of the “India Account” (the way Prime Minister Narendra Modi has in the case of China), it was not possible for pro-Pakistan voices in the PLA to join hands with pro-Pakistan, India-phobic elements in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) in Beijing to make the Chinese delegation at the FATF plenary side with Pakistan at the expense of those countries that were longstanding victims of Pakistan terror groups. Saudi Arabia in particular had been lobbied very hard by the Pakistan delegation at the plenary meeting, but that country stood behind India in the matter of ensuring that Pakistan was on the Grey List. Although as yet the pro-Pakistan lobby in the PLA is blocking UN action against certain leaders of Jaish as well as Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, at the Paris meet, the Chinese delegation did not demur when these entities were all included in the list of organisations to which funds should be cut off totally, no matter the fake names they operate by. Although the Pakistan delegation swore, for example, that funds to Hafiz Saeed as well as his media access have been cut off, during 2015 and 2016 there were nearly 70 Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) public rallies in Pakistan, almost all of which was reported by the Pakistan media, which is known in its reporting to go by the wishes of the ISI. On average, there were nine violent incidents per month in Jammu & Kashmir that were caused by those sent across the border from the well-funded terror training camps in Pakistan. Of course, the JuD has now morphed into the Tehreek-e-Azaadi-e-Jammu & Kashmir (TAJK) from mid-January last year. And while Hafiz Saeed has been “detained” in 4-star comfort, both Abdul Rehman Makki and Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi (both designated as terrorists by the US) remain free to roam across Pakistan and recruit impressionable youths to their terror outfits, the destructive purpose of which gets described by LeT and JuD leaders publicly in speeches every day. As for Saeed, while still technically in detention, he gave a live press conference outside the JuD headquarters to 11 media channels, in each of which he threatened violence and mass terror in India. Saeed continues to reside at 4 Chauburji, Lahore, and runs a network of colleges and hospitals that receive money from Pakistan and outside, especially the Middle East.
Egypt’s Sisi: June 30 changed the nation, ended waves of extremism
30 June 2018
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared in a speech on Saturday that the June 30 protests, in which Egyptians took to the streets to rally, changed the nation from one on the path of evil, exclusion, and extremism to one on the path of good, peace, and growth.
Speaking on the fifth anniversary of 2013 mass protests that ousted former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s President Sisi added that millions of Egyptians rose to proclaim that there was no place for conspirators among them.
He considered the occasion as the day Egyptians stopped the waves of extremism and division that were sweeping the region.
The president said the turbulent years that Egypt and the region’s countries experienced since 2011 have produced three major detrimental results: the absence of security and political stability, the spread of terrorism and violence, and the collapse of the economy.
Sisi added that in terms of security and stability, Egypt has reestablished its institutions, including its constitution and executive and legislative authority along with its judicial authority, to rebuild political stability in the country.
He also affirmed that the police and armed forces were successful in suppressing and persecuting terrorism and all those involved despite considerable political support from abroad that terrorist groups were receiving.
He added that Egypt could not have done so without the help of its people who sacrifised themselves to protect their country.
‘We are walking on the right path’
In regards to the economic conditions, al-Sisi said that Egypt’s foreign exchange margin had reached less than $15 billion in June 2013, which was less than the population growth rate, indicating that the Egyptian economy was shrinking in size.
The rates indicated that the economic situation needed to be addressed and reforms undertaken as soon as possible.
However, the president added that Egypt was on the right path, with its foreign exchange reserves rising from about $15 billion to $44 billion, the highest level achieved by Egypt in its history.
The economic growth rate has also increased from 2 percent five years ago to 5.4 percent, and Sisi said that the government aims that the rapid growth will touch 7 percent in the next few years.
According to Sisi, this will change the way of life in Egypt and will put the country on a rapid economic path.
Belgium's Supreme Administrative Court has suspended eight licenses for export of arms to Saudi Arabia, citing the kingdom’s human rights record.
The court said authorities in Belgium’s French-speaking Wallonia region had failed to examine the kingdom’s human rights record before issuing the permits.
The decision affected planned sales to the kingdom by Belgium’s leading weapons manufacturer FN Herstal, which is based in the region.
Also known as Fabrique Nationale, the company specializes in making firearms, ranging from pistols to heavy machineguns.
Last year, the kingdom bought €153 million ($179 million) worth of arms from the company. Two years earlier, it had bought more than €575 million ($672 million) -- 65 percent of Wallonia’s arms exports.
Last September, the European Parliament approved a resolution calling on the European Union to impose an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia as accusations flew against Riyadh of rampant rights violations and arms abuse.
A month later, the Belgian Human Rights League and the country’s National Peace and Democracy Coordination Center urged the court to rescind the licenses for the export of lethal arms to Riyadh. In their drive, the organizations were being backed by UK-based rights body Amnesty International.
The kingdom has been coming down hard on dissent in its Shia-populated Eastern Province. It has ordered repeated police raids against the province’s Qatif region and once razed an entire neighborhood in its capital of Awamiyah.
The kingdom is also accused of channeling weapons to terrorists in Syria, and has been leading a hugely deadly war against Yemen.
More than 600,000 people have either died or been injured in the war, which seeks to restore Yemen’s former Saudi-allied officials.
The Syrian army has liberated several towns and villages from the grip of Takfiri terrorists in the strategic southern Dara'a Province, with locals rejoicing at the restoration of government control over the region.
The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said on Saturday that government forces had managed to retake more than half of Dara'a, which borders Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
A string of militant-held towns and villages accepted government rule as terrorist lines collapsed. Militants met Russian negotiators to seek peace terms for Dara’a Province, but said the talks failed.
Local groups in many towns recaptured by the army in recent days had negotiated their own surrender deals independently of the main militant operations rooms.
The southwest was an early hotbed of the foreign-backed riots against President Bashar Assad and defeat there would leave terrorists with just one remaining stronghold - the area around Idlib province bordering Turkey in the northwest.
SOHR head Rami Abdel Rahman said that eight Dara'a towns had been returned to government control under Russia-brokered deals "after talks in each town between Russian generals as well as local notables and remaining rebels."
The so-called reconciliation deals have seen terrorists handing over their heavy weapons and evacuating to militant-held areas in northern Syria.
The towns of al-Ghariyah al-Sharqiya, al-Ghariyah al-Gharbiya, Um Walad, al-Harak and Busra al-Harir, all situated in eastern Dara'a, had been liberated in recent days.
In a statement to Syria's official SANA news agency, a military source said that the army units had killed a number of Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists and destroyed their weapons in al-Ghariyah al-Gharbiya.
The source also noted that the Syrian military’s engineering units had begun dismantling mines and car bombs that terrorists had left behind.
Meanwhile, the town of Dael in northwestern Dara'a Province was recaptured by the Syrian army on Saturday.
State television broadcast live images from Dael, showing residents holding up posters of President Bashar al-Assad and chanting slogans in support of the Syrian military.
Earlier in the day, the the Dara'a areas of Tal Khleif and Tal al-Sheikh Hassan reconciled with the Syrian government, with militants laying down their arms.
The government's offensive so far has focused on Dara’a province, which borders Jordan, but not Quneitra province abutting the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
The Israeli military raised its alert level in the Golan Heights on Friday as the Syrian army edged closer to the occupied region.
Over the past few months, foreign-backed Takfiri militants have lost much of the territory they once held in Syria amid sweeping gains by government forces on the ground.
The army's offensive follows the capitulation of militant enclaves near Homs and Damascus, including Eastern Ghouta.
Jordan has been facilitating talks between militant factions and Moscow over a deal that would end the clashes in exchange for the return of state rule in Dara’a province on its border.
Russian negotiators have demanded militants accept terms like those agreed for Eastern Ghouta, where terrorists either left for militant-held territory in the northwest along with their families or accepted the return of state rule.
The southwest militants did not accept this, and were instead proposing the return of civilian state institutions in the militant areas and the entry of Russian military police rather than Syrian government forces.
Dara'a's recapture would allow Syria to reopen the Nasib border crossing with Jordan and resume trade across the frontier.
The Syrian army seized more towns in the southwest on Saturday, as air strikes pounded others that still held out against the rapid offensive and rebels said they had begun negotiating peace terms through the government’s ally Russia.
State television broadcast from the town of Dael, northwest of Deraa city, after the army entered, and a war monitor reported that several towns further east had also accepted government rule.
Rebels expected to hold another meeting on Saturday with Russian officers to negotiate a deal for the return of Syrian state sovereignty over the whole of Deraa province, an insurgent spokesman said.
Air raids continued in the meantime, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, in an offensive that the United Nations says has driven 160,000 people from their homes, threatening a humanitarian catastrophe.
Russia, the Syrian government’s strongest supporter, has backed army advances with air strikes since entering the war in 2015 and has played a role in mediating surrender deals.
Southwestern Syria is one of two remaining rebel strongholds, along with a region of the northwest that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has sworn to recapture. He also wants to take back control of territory in northeastern Syria held by US-backed Kurdish forces.
The army’s offensive follows the capitulation of rebel enclaves near Homs and Damascus, including eastern Ghouta, which was recaptured after a scorched-earth assault that killed over a thousand civilians and laid waste to several towns.
Warfare in the southwest could risk a further escalation because of its proximity to Israel. The Israelis have already targeted Iran-backed militia fighting on Assad’s side, which they have vowed to keep far from their country’s borders.
The government’s offensive so far has focused on Deraa province, which borders Jordan, but not Quneitra province abutting the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The deal being discussed does not include Quneitra, the rebels said.
The entire southwest is part of a “de-escalation zone” agreed last year by Russia, the United States and Jordan. Despite Washington’s threats that it would respond to breaches of that arrangement, it has shown no sign of doing so, and the opposition’s top negotiator on Thursday accused it of having struck a “malicious deal” to stay silent.
Insurgent negotiators and a spokesman said a six-member civilian and military committee of the southern rebels held a preliminary meeting along the administrative borders of neighboring Sweida province.
“The committee held its first meeting with Russian officers who presented their demands,” said Ibrahim Jabawi, a spokesman of the central operations room set up by the main Free Syrian Army groups in southern Syria.
But Russian negotiators had still not arrived several hours after another meeting was due to begin on Saturday, Jabawi said.
Jordan has been facilitating talks between rebel factions and Moscow over a deal that would end the violence in exchange for the return of state rule in Deraa province on its border.
Russian negotiators have demanded rebels accept terms like those agreed for eastern Ghouta, where insurgents either left for opposition territory in the northwest along with their families or accepted the return of state rule, Jabawi said.
The southwest rebels did not accept this, and were instead proposing the return of civilian state institutions in the opposition areas and the entry of Russian military police rather than Syrian government forces.
The army has already captured large parts of the eastern zone of rebel-held territory in Deraa province in less than two weeks of fighting, however, and several more towns still held by the insurgents have reportedly agreed to settle with Assad.
On Saturday, state television said the town of al-Ghariya al-Sharqiya had accepted a “reconciliation” agreement with the government, and the national flag had been raised there.
It broadcast live from the town of Dael, where a crowd was shown chanting slogans in support of Assad and the army.
State TV said on Friday that four nearby towns had agreed to surrender their arms and accept state rule. The army had gained control over the towns of al-Harak, Ibta and Rakham, it said, and a rebel said opposition lines in one area had collapsed.
The Observatory said Russian military police had entered several other towns and villages in deals to end their rebellion against Assad.
It reported that warplanes carried out 32 air strikes overnight as the offensive continued, hitting nine towns in Deraa province. So far, about 100 civilians have been killed in air raids and shelling since June 19, it said.
Field sources reported on Saturday that the army forces strengthened their military positions in Western Dara'a after imposing full control over the strategic al-Zamitiyeh heights.
They said that the army forces could cut off the road used by the terrorists to transfer military equipment between Eastern and Western Dara'a to the borders with Jordan.
Reports also said that terrorists in the two towns of Tafas and al-Mazirib in Western Dara'a have laid down their arms and surrendered to the Syrian army forces.
Meantime, other army units operating in Eastern Dara'a liberated the town of al-Jizeh and the villages of al-Sahweh and Kahil after heavy clashes with the terrorists.
In a relevant development earlier today, the Syrian army won back control of 2 regions and a strategic hill from the terrorists in Dara'a, finding footprints of certain western and regional states in militants' strongholds.
The Syrian army forces engaged in heavy clashes with the terrorists in Northern Dara'a on Saturday, regaining control of the village of al-Ja'eilah West of Abta'a dam.
Meantime, reports from Eastern Dara'a said that the Syrian army forces have liberated the town of Karak after clashes with the terrorists.
Also, the Syrian army units captured the strategic heights of al-Zamitiyeh from the terrorists in Western Dara'a.
Al-Zamitiyeh heights overlook the military road which links East to the North-East, and West to the North-West of Dara'a.
The army troops also imposed control over two caches of mostly West-made arms during the mop-up operations in the town of Olama in Eastern Dara'a.
Local sources in Raqqa reported on Friday that tens of civilians in the village of al-Salhabiyeh in Western Raqqa have revolted against the SDF.
They added that residents of the village are angry with the SDF moves, including extensive detentions, curfew and establishment of several checkpoints in Raqqa, noting that people are holding protest rallies to show their opposition to the SDF and its deployment in their town.
Tensions have heightened in Raqqa in the past month after infighting started between the SDF and other US-backed militants, namely Liwa al-Thowar Raqqa brigade.
Local sources reported on Wednesday that the SDF had put its militias on alert after unknown men embarked on distributing Syrian government flags across Raqqa city in Northeastern Syria.
The sources in the village of Ya'arab in Western Raqqa reported that SDF stormed the village to take down and tear apart a large number of Syrian government flags and images of President Bashar al-Assad at power towers.
The SDF leadership in the region put fighters on alert and ordered to clean the streets from flags and president's images.
Damascus government troops are planning to lay siege on the districts of Dara'a al-Balad after regaining control over Air Defense Battalion from the western directions and from Qarz region in Eastern Dara'a, field sources said.
The Syrian army is now advancing towards Air Defense Battalion from Southwest of Dara'a al-Balad.
The Syrian army also opened its way into Eastern al-Qariyeh and Khalif hills in Eastern Dara'a after terrorists joined the peace plan and ended battle with the Syrian army.
Residents of the regions in Eastern Dara'a have hoisted Syria's flag after militants surrendered.
In a relevant development earlier on Saturday, the Syrian army won back control of 2 regions and a strategic hill from the terrorists in Dara'a, finding footprints of certain western and regional states in militants' strongholds.
Militants of al-Shamiyeh Front and al-Moatasem Brigade affiliated to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) engaged in tough battle in downtown Afrin which resulted in the death of 7 terrorists from both sides and injury of many more, battlefield sources said.
The sources noted that al-Shamiyeh Front and al-Moatasem Brigade were holding a meeting to put an end to their differences at the presence of a peace committee, but the clashes erupted between them and three members of the peace committee were also killed.
Several militants from both sides were killed and wounded during the clashes.
Meantime, Hawar news reported that 36 civilians were killed and 58 others were wounded in a series of explosions in Afrin.
In a relevant development earlier in June, tens of civilians and Ankara-backed forces were killed or wounded after three heavy explosions hit the bases of Turkey-backed militants in the town of Afrin in Northwestern Aleppo.
Two bomb-laden motorcycles went off at a base of the al-Shamiyeh Front near Qawa square in Afrin.
In the meantime, heavy infighting was reported between al-Shamiyeh Front and Liwa al-Mo'atasem in a large area from Qawa square to the industrial zone and al-Hall Bazaar.
Another blast hit Deir Sam Hospital. The hospital had halted operation after it came under threat and was forced to shut down by the Turkish troops.
The Turkey-backed militants have gone on alert immediately after the blasts.
Preliminary reports said that at least 30 militants and civilians have been killed or wounded in the explosions.
Local sources said on Sunday that the Ankara forces started closing off all the streets across the town of Jandaris in Northeastern Aleppo.
The sources pointed to anguish felt by the Turkish soldiers and their allied militants over the Kurdish militias' surprise attack, adding that the Ankara forces prefer not to wear military uniforms to avoid becoming the target of Kurdish attacks.
The sources further said that the Kurdish militias launched eight heavy offensives against Turkish troops and their allied militants in the region in the past week.
In the meantime, local sources in Rajou in Afrin reported that the Ankara forces have plundered three power generators and telecommunication masts.
Jun 30, 2018
The Syrian army's engineering units gained access to modern communication systems of the ISIL which were made in the US and France.
This comes as the Syrian army regained from the ISIL full control of 2,500 square kilometers of territories located between Aviraz and South of Humeimem in Eastern Homs towards borders with Iraq.
In a relevant development on Friday, the Syrian army continued its military advances in Southeastern Deir Ezzur and clashed with a group of terrorists trying to attack the government forces' military positions near the border with Iraq.
The Syrian army troops engaged in heavy clashes with the ISIL terrorists who were planning to attack the army positions near Point 400 close to the border with Iraq and thwarted their attack.
The government forces destroyed a number of military vehicles of the terrorists and seized a drone and a large volume of their weapons and military equipment.
In a relevant development on Thursday, the Syrian army fully cleansed Badiyeh (desert) of Deir Ezzur of the remnants of the ISIL terrorists in an operation in the Southeastern parts of the province, regaining control over 5,800 sq/km of territory.
The Syrian army's operations command center announced in a statement on Thursday that its forces have been able to retake control of the entire Badiyeh region in Deir Ezzur in military operations also backed by the air force.
It added that the army units have won back control of 5,800 sq/km of the country's soil after heavy clashes with the terrorists and inflicting heavy losses and damages on them.
The Syrian army has fully purged the terrorists from regions in Eastern Homs and Badiyeh of Deir Ezzur to the borders with Iraq.
In a relevant development on Monday, government troops in Syria continued their cleansing operation in Southeastern Deir Ezzur and drove the remaining pockets of ISIL terrorists out of a vast stretch of land.
The army men engaged in fierce clashes with the remaining pockets of ISIL in Southeastern Deir Ezzur and freed 1,800 sq/km of land along the border with Syria near Point 400 in Albu Kamal region.
The representatives of the militants in the towns of Tayebeh, Saida, Um al-Mayazin, Abta, Dael and Nasib endorsed the peace agreement with the army, battlefield sources said.
Meantime, citizens in the town of Um Walad in Eastern Dara'a staged protests against the terrorists and hoisted the Syrian government's flag, calling for the Syrian troops.
The sources said that the terrorists' lines in the remaining regions have collapsed, adding that infighting among militants has intensified over surrendering the regions under their control to the Syrian government.
Meantime, tens of residents of Dara'a managed to escape to the areas under the Syrian army's control through human corridors determined by the army.
In a relevant development on Friday, the Syrian army continued its military advances in the Eastern part of Dara'a province, and took full control of several strategic towns and cities, media reports said.
The government troops imposed control over al-Harak city and al-Thawra town in Dara'a province, the Arabic-language al-Alam al-Harbi war media reported.
The Arabic-language Moraseloun website also reported that the Syrian army has won control of the town of Alma North of al-Hirak city together with the Syrian Air Force Battalion Base West of al-Hirak after clashes with terrorists East of Dara'a province.
The Syrian army is now reinforcing its military positions in liberated areas after making the recent advances.
The government troops had also managed to liberate and purge terrorists from Eastern Meliha, Western Meliha, Naheteh and Sama al-Nahidat on Thursday morning.
With Al-Hirak and Alma under their control, the Syrian Army swept through several more areas, including the large hilltop of Talat Al-Sakar, Battalion 279 Base, and the small town of Al-Sourah.
Canadian Muslims face anxiety, uncertainty about crossing U.S. border
By Maham Abedi
Muslims living in Canada often fear discrimination crossing the border into the U.S. — and some say that fear has increased under the administration of President Donald Trump.
This week, the country’s Supreme Court ruled that Trump’s travel ban, which applies to predominantly Muslim-majority countries, wasn’t discriminatory.
The current version of the ban, announced in September 2017, prohibits most people from seven countries — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, North Korea and Venezuela — from entering the U.S.
While the ban doesn’t apply directly to those living in Canada, it has stoked fears for some Muslim Canadians that they’ll face discrimination at the border.
Fatima Abrar, who lives and works in Toronto, crosses the border regularly to visit family in Chicago. She told Global News she’s almost never had a problem with border agents.
That doesn’t allay her concern.
“I’ve heard really strange stories and people having really bad experiences. It really freaks you out.”
With the travel ban in place, Abrar is uncertain of how things will change — if at all.
“I’m hoping it doesn’t affect us, but I think in some way, shape or form it will,” she said. “We just have to take the risk of crossing the border, because a lot of the time it’s for personal reasons.”
But it’s not a risk that everyone is willing to take.
Fears of border troubles led a choir of Syrian children from Toronto to decline an invitation to perform at a festival in Washington, D.C. this week.
Fei Tang, the general manager of the Nai Kids Choir, said the chorus of about 60 Canadian newcomers between the ages five and 15 will perform at home instead.
“It’s just not practical.”
The choir’s trip isn’t the only one that has been cancelled.
The Toronto District School Board stopped planning trips to the U.S. in March 2017 after Trump signed the first iteration of the travel ban, citing concerns that some students would be turned away at the border.
Leila Nasr, who works with the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), told Global News that the organization has heard from several people who don’t know what the ruling means for them.
“We have received calls and concerns from Canadians who are unsure of how to proceed,” Nasr said. “They already had plans to travel to the U.S., and especially given the long weekend, and they’re worried.”
The organization is concerned the ruling will “exacerbate issues of mistreatment and discrimination” for Canadian Muslims travelling across the U.S. border.
“The main reason for our concern stems from the fact that it reinforces the idea that somehow Muslims are now — if they weren’t before — fair targets for discrimination under the pretext of national security,” she said.
The NCCM is urging Canadian Muslims to be vigilant and prepared when crossing the border. Nasr said that means having all the proper travel documents and having an address for where you plan on staying.
But the organization also has advice for what to do when matters grow complicated.
“If they do experience discrimination, we encourage them to take detailed notes, remember who they spoke to, try and get their badge or identification number, remember if there are witnesses, and what was said to you,” Nasr advised.
The council also has a section on its website that allows Canadian Muslims to confidentially report incidents of discrimination to its human rights department. Nasr explained the NCCM will then contact the individual and provide any added assistance or advice.
Concerns over Tuscan program
The NCCM’s concerns about the border stretch beyond the U.S. travel ban to the Canadian Border Services Agency’s use of Tuscan, a national security database.
The name is shorthand for “Tipoff U.S./Canada;” it describes a U.S. list of names and other basic information about known or suspected terrorists.
It came to light this month that Canada and the United States have started sharing information about suspected terrorists under a revamped agreement, even though the federal privacy watchdog is still studying the possible risks for Canadians.
Several privacy concerns have been raised about the list and there is little public knowledge about what it entails, Nasr said.
“It’s not enough for the federal government to just say, ‘oh, trust us,'” she said. “We need more transparency than this. Our Charter rights dictate that we are entitled to more transparency than that.”
In an email to Global News, Public Safety Canada said the database is used to help make “decisions on admissibility to Canada.”
“A name match to the TUSCAN database in and of itself does not result in an inadmissibility decision,” the statement said.
Public Safety Canada added that it is just one part of the assessment process.
The government also said procedures are in place to “update and correct information when errors are detected” on the database.
“Protocols also exist around the use and protection of information,” the statement said, but it did not expand on what those protocols entail.
Travelling across the border without difficulty
It’s also important to note that not all Muslims have faced discrimination at the border — and they’re not all nervous.
Jaweria Ashgar, who lives with her husband in Mississauga, Ont., told Global News that the couple often goes to the U.S. to visit family.
Ashgar, who is a permanent resident of Canada and hopes to become a citizen soon, said they rarely experience any difficulty.
“We have been very confident and upfront with the border security, there was nothing to hide,” she said. “Whatever they ask us, we would just tell them.”
The questioning process typically takes a couple of minutes, Ashgar said, adding she believes answering questions honestly will prevent future trouble.
US President Donald Trump allies Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani on Saturday urged regime change in Iran, saying the prospect was closer than ever after the Islamic Republic was hit by a wave of strikes and protests.
Former House speaker Gingrich and ex-New York mayor Giuliani also told a rally of thousands of Iranian opposition supporters in Paris that Trump needed to turn up the heat on European countries still seeking to do business with Tehran despite re-imposed US sanctions.
“The only way to safety in the region is to replace the dictatorship with a democracy and that has to be our goal,” Gingrich told the Free Iran rally, organized by exiled opponents including the former rebel People’s Mojahedin which is banned in Iran.
He stressed he did not speak for the Trump administration, but added: “It seems to me there would be a rather happy celebration should regime change occur.”
Gingrich said he did not support arming the Iranian opposition, saying Trump should instead heap on more sanctions after pulling out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.
And he blasted countries attempting to find ways to allow their companies to keep operating in Iran under the threat of penalties for US sanction-busting.
“We need to have a campaign to shame the European governments who are unwilling to support freedom and democracy,” Gingrich said. “We need to insist that they join the sanctions once again.”
Giuliani called for a boycott of companies “that continually do business with this regime”.
“Freedom is right around the corner,” he added of the recent protests in Iran.
Gingrich, Giuliani and other US politicians have been heavily paid to speak at the annual Paris rally in recent years.
Their comments came after US Secretary Mike Pompeo this week gave his backing to the strikes and protests over economic woes, not least the collapse of the currency following the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal.
On Monday traders at Tehran’s Grand Bazaar staged a rare strike following earlier reports of street protests in provincial cities.
Iranians have been hit by rising prices, and record levels of unemployment have left a third of under 30s out of work.
The latest protests follow dozens over the new year which left at least 25 people dead.
The People’s Mojahedin were founded in the 1960s against Iran’s royalist government and went on to fight the Islamic regime after the 1979 revolution.
Riyadh does not “like” raising its oil production not at least beyond 11,000 barrels per day (bpd), says a Saudi official.
The anonymous official made the comment to The Wall Street Journal Saturday, not long after US President Donald Trump claimed that the monarchy has agreed to raising the oil output to take on Iran and Venezuela.
"Saudi Arabia does not really like going beyond 11 million barrels a day and has no intention of expanding its current production capacity. It is expensive," the Saudi official told the paper.
Trump claimed in a tweet that Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud had agreed to his call to boost production by "maybe up to 2,000,000 barrels."
"Just spoke to King Salman of Saudi Arabia and explained to him that, because of the turmoil & disfunction in Iran and Venezuela, I am asking that Saudi Arabia increase oil production, maybe up to 2,000,000 barrels, to make up the difference...Prices to high! He has agreed!" read the tweet.
Saudi Arabia acknowledged in a statement published Saturday on the state-run Saudi Press Agency that King Salman had received a telephone call from Trump and that the two discussed the need to make efforts to "maintain the stability of oil markets."
“During the call, the two leaders stressed the need to make efforts to maintain the stability of oil markets and the growth of the global economy,” said the statement as quoted in the report.
According to the report, the two leaders also spoke about efforts of oil producing countries to compensate for any potential shortage of supply.
There was no confirmation, however, that the Saudi regime would boost its oil production, as claimed in Trump’s tweet.
The development came days after the oil-rich Persian Gulf state, which is the world's largest oil exporter, agreed to substantially raise production. The leading OPEC member announced plans to pump a record-high 11 million barrels of oil per day in July, according to press reports.
Saudi Arabia currently produces about 10 million barrels of oil per day. Trump’s tweet, however, mentioned no time frame for the additional 2 million barrels – whether it meant per day or per month.
However, investors are betting that Saudi regime “has little room to respond to a future crisis should it boost output even more to meet Trump's request, as Saudi Arabia only has about 2 million barrels of unused capacity,” according to International Energy Agency.
Meanwhile, UK-based energy consultancy group, Fact Global Energy (FGE), reported in its June newsletter that Washington is determined to "push Iran's exports to zero."
“Added to the losses from Venezuela, is there enough capacity to replace the lost Iranian volume??” it asked, insisting that “it is highly doubtful."
"This will push the system close to the limit," FGE further, emphasized, noting that spare production capacity could fall below 2 million barrels a day -- a level previously associated with $100 per barrel prices.
This is while world oil prices have climbed higher as the Trump administration has pressured US allies to end all purchases of oil from Iran. Prices have also increased due to the persisting US-backed troubles in Venezuela, as well as with the unrest in Libya over control of that country’s oil infrastructure.
The administration has threatened key allies such as South Korea with sanctions if they do not cut off Iranian imports by early November. South Korea accounted for 14 percent of Iran’s oil exports last year, according to the US energy department. China remains the largest importer of Iranian oil with 24 percent, followed by India with 18 percent. Turkey stood at 9 percent and Italy at 7 percent.
The US state department has claimed that it expects the “vast majority” of world nations will comply with Washington’s demand to boycott Iran’s oil.
Meanwhile, Leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei slammed all-out US economic and political measures against Tehran in a Saturday address, describing them as futile efforts to turn Iranians against the Islamic Republic.
Nasrallah’s message to Yemen’s Houthi leaders: ‘I wish I could fight with you’
30 June 2018
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has announced his desire to fight alongside the Houthi militia in Yemen during a televised speech on Friday, in which he delivered several other announcements.
“I am ashamed that I am not with you. I wish I could be one of your fighters and fight under the guidance of your brave and dear leaders,” Nasrallah said.
Nasrallah’s comment on wanting to be a Houthi fighter sparked an uproar of criticism from social media commentators and activists. Many said Nasrallah should “come out of his secret hideout first, and then talk.”
Disregarding all international efforts to keep Syrian refugees safely in Lebanon and away from the dire conditions in Syria, Nasrallah also announced that he formed a “committee” to follow up on the affairs of Syrian refugees so they could be sent back to Syria.
The UN previously reported that the conditions in Syria were still too dangerous to allow refugees to move back from Lebanon.
Nasrallah, in an attempt to appease statements that he would forcibly send Syrians back to their country, added that his militias would not force anyone to leave Lebanon.
He said he appointed a team to talk to Syrian refugees and send back only those who wish to do so. One of his MPs, Nawar al-Saheli, was also appointed to speak to refugees.
According to the Lebanese National Media Agency, Hezbollah’s Mohamed Raad said in 2016 that Syrian refugees in Lebanese camps were a “ticking time bomb”, and that “Tafkiri terrorists were infiltrating the camps.”
Houthis ‘torture and kill prisoners’ in Hodeidah who refuse to fight for them: reports
LONDON: The inmates of the central prison in Hodeidah, Yemen, have refused to yield to Houthi demands to fight in their ranks, prompting the militia to torture inmates, set fire to prison wards, and shoot inmates with live bullets, according to reports.
At least three inmates have died as a result of Houthi torture and 20 others have been injured, Asharq Al-Awsat reported.
There has also been a reported rise in Houthi violations of citizen’s rights in the areas that they control, including the looting of bank funds, and imposing restrictions on commercial companies.
Houthi militias have also tried to sell large properties belonging to the General People’s Congress party in Hodeidah and Taiz.
Relatives of prisoners told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Houthi militia decided to transfer hundreds of central prison inmates to unknown locations on Friday morning and that it is very likely that they were taken to training camps in order to force them to fight in Houthi ranks.
Houthi militias called hundreds of its gunmen to the prison in order to force inmates to fight for them and randomly opened fire when the prisoners refused to leave. Gas bombs were also used to force inmates to surrender.
Houthi militia have lately resorted to recruiting the inmates of prisons in Sanaa, Ibb, Dhamar, Hajjah, Al-Mahwit because they need more fighters. Children, teenagers, civilian employees, and residents of homes for orphans have also been recruited.
The Arabic-language al-Masirah news channel quoted a source in the Yemeni army's missile unit as saying that the short-range ballistic missile has successfully been fired at the Saudi-led coalition militants on the Western coast of Yemen.
He added that the new missile enjoys unique features and will be unveiled and used in the battleground in the near future.
Saudi Arabia has been striking Yemen since March 2015 to restore power to Mansour Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh. The Saudi-led aggression has so far killed at least 17,000 Yemenis, including hundreds of women and children.
Despite Riyadh's claims that it is bombing the positions of the Ansarullah fighters, Saudi bombers are flattening residential areas and civilian infrastructures.
According to several reports, the Saudi-led air campaign against Yemen has driven the impoverished country towards humanitarian disaster, as Saudi Arabia's deadly campaign prevented the patients from travelling abroad for treatment and blocked the entry of medicine into the war-torn country.
Yemen is the world’s largest humanitarian crisis with more than 22 million people in need and is seeing a spike in needs, fuelled by ongoing conflict, a collapsing economy and diminished social services and livelihoods.
The United Nations aid chief has recently expressed concern over the decline of food imports to Yemen amid restrictions put in place by the Saudi Arabia, warning that a further 10 million Yemenis could face starvation by year-end.
The Turkish military carried out airstrikes in northern Iraq’s Avasin Basyan region on Saturday, killing four Kurdish militants, it said on its official Twitter account.
Turkey has recently stepped up strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) bases in northern Iraq, especially its stronghold in the Qandil mountains. Ankara has said it may launch a ground offensive into Qandil, where high-ranking PKK members are believed to be based.
1 July 2018
Iranian security forces have shot and killed at least four protesters after demonstrations erupted for a second day in a row in the southwestern city of Muhammarah, activists told Al Arabiya English.
Videos of the protests have been circulating on social media showing clashes between demonstrators and security forces of the Revolutionary Guards with “death to Khamenei slogans” slogans being heard.
The news of protesters death comes a day after major protests erupted on Friday as thousands of people gathered in Khorramshahr city in front of the city’s central mosque.
The rallies protested against what activists described as a deteriorating economic situation of their city, as well as the lack of support for their towns with slogans being chanted against “regime thieves” being heard.
Last week, traders at Tehran’s Grand Bazaar staged a rare strike following earlier reports of street protests in provincial cities.
Israeli forces shot and killed two Palestinians, one of them a 14-year-old boy, and wounded 415 others with live fire and tear gas during protests along the Gaza border on Friday, Gaza health officials said.
Gaza medical officials said the boy, Yasser Abu Al-Naja and Mohammad Al-Hamayda, 24, were hit by live bullets. They added that four other men wounded by live fire were in critical condition.
The Israeli military said in a statement that troops had used “large amounts of riot dispersal means”. In some cases, when the non-lethal means proved ineffective, live fire was used “in accordance with the standard operating procedures”.
It said thousands of Palestinians had “participated in extremely violent riots”, hurling a grenade and rocks at troops and the border fence and burning tyres.
It said the reported death of the boy would be investigated and that legal action could be taken, if appropriate.
Gaza officials say Israeli troops have killed at least 135 people since the weekly protests began on March 30.
Palestinians say the protests are a popular outpouring of rage against Israel by refugees demanding the right to return to homes their families fled or were driven from on Israel’s founding 70 years ago.
Israel says the demonstrations are organized by Hamas that controls the Gaza Strip and denies Israel’s right to exist. Israel says Hamas has intentionally provoked the violence, a charge Hamas denies.
Tens of thousands took part when the protests were launched at several locations along the Gaza border but the number has dropped significantly in the past few weeks and only a few thousand have participated more recently.
Israel’s deadly tactics have drawn international condemnation. But support has come from its main ally, the United States, which like Israel, has cast blame on Hamas.
Israel has accused Hamas of stoking the violence in an attempt to deflect domestic opinion from Gaza’s energy shortages and faltering economy.
The Yemeni army seized military equipment and vehicles, including multiple weapons of different types and sizes, which belong to the Houthi militia during battles on the Hiran front in the north-west governorate of Hajjah.
The Media Center of the Fifth Military Region released a video Saturday showcasing the captured weapons and military equipment.
A military source said the items seized included “Iranian-made binoculars that were used to determine the army’s location.”
The source added that he considered the binoculars to be “clear evidence of the Iranian military’s support of the militia.”
A Turkish vessel that was damaged while trying to dock on Houthi-controlled port of Saleef last month is currently being repaired on Saudi Arabia’s Jazan port, according to an-Arab coalition statement released on Saturday.
The Turkish “Ince Inebolu” was trying to unload its cargo of wheat last month when an explosion heavily damaged the vessel.
The captain of the ship at the time sent a distress call to an Arab coalition naval ship who reported an opening had appeared in the middle of the vessel’s left side.
“Coalition forces conducted a survey of the incident and visited the ship and found an explosion from the inside to the outside,” a coalition spokesman said in a statement at the time.
The Arab Coalition Supporting Legitimacy in Yemen foiled on Saturday an imminent attack by the Houthi militias’s boats against civilian fishing boats in the Red Sea.
The coalition added in a statement that it seized the Houthi militias’ boats along with its cargo of weapons.
In another development the Arab coalition confirmed issuing an entry permit to an oil tanker to enter Hodeidah port in the last 24 hours.
The coalition clarified that six ships already started unloading at Hodeidah port, while seven other ships are waiting for permission to enter the port, pointing out that the ship Great K reached the port after being obstructed by the Houthi militias for 69 days.
The coalition said that the Houthi militias also obstructed the entering of the ship Volante to Hodeidah for more than 39 days.
Yemen's west coast has become a bleeding bastion for Houthi militias in a frontline stretching 100 kilometers from the Hays district of Taiz to the town of Hadiya, where militias have suffered heavy casualties.
Reports say more than 1,500 militia members have been killed, among them dozens of leaders since mid-June.
Over the past few hours and during intense clashes with the Yemeni army and the popular resistance backed by the Arab coalition, a number of the most important ideological leaders of the militia in the area of Tahita, Hays and in the port city of Hodeidah have been killed.
One of the prominent leaders that have been killed, named Abu Imad Hounaisha, was the security supervisor of the militias in the southern districts of Hodeidah. He was killed with his bodyguards in an air strike by the Arab coalition in al-Tahita directorate. Also in this area, another Houthi leader named Ismaeel Abdullah Yehia Zaid al-Houthi was killed, along with a number of his associates.
Ismaeel is the son of the Houthi leader Abdullah Yehia Zaid al-Houthi, the undersecretary for Yemen’s Justice Ministry in the coup government.
In the Amran governorate, also west of Yemen, Houthi leader Waleed Hussian al-Saraji, responsible for military training at one of the military camps in Amran was killed with dozens of his militias members by Arab coalition air strikes when they were on a road heading towards the western coast.
Another Houthi leader, Mazen al-Hadary, responsible for armaments in Hodeidah, was also killed along with a number of the militias members by coalition air strikes, while another Houthi leader, Abdulqader Abbas Sharafeddine, the son of the undersecretary of the Ministry of Education in the coup government, was killed with other Houthi members on Friday along the western coast.
In the port city of Hodeidah, Houthi leader Abdul Kareem Marwan who goes by the name Abu Raed was killed, along with dozens of militias, by Arab coalition air strikes.
The numbers of the Houthi militias killed in the west coast front reveal significant losses among the militia, whom the majority of its members are from the Hashemite clan which is connected to Abdul Malik al-Houthi the head of the Houthi militias.
Senior Iranian and Pakistani military officials have stressed the importance of strengthening defense and security cooperation to fight common threats in border areas and deal with regional challenges.
Brigadier General Hossein Salami, the second-in-command of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), and Chief of General Staff of Pakistan Army Lieutenant General Bilal Akbar held talks in Tehran on Saturday.
Salami said Iran and Pakistan could act in a unified and coordinated front to counter regional woes by boosting bilateral cooperation in defense and security sectors.
He commended Pakistan's wise and brave move not to join a Saudi-led coalition against Yemen and said the ongoing regional crises "are the outcome of crimes committed by the US and the Zionist regime (Israel)."
"They were in need of a new means to keep their evil approaches in the West Asia region alive," the IRGC commander said, adding that they created Takfiri terrorists to bridge the gap between their strategy and objectives and weaken Muslim countries.
Salami emphasized that the Islamic Republic had played a key role in thwarting Takfiri terrorists' dangerous plots to carry out crimes and atrocities beyond Iraq and Syria and across the region.
He stressed the importance of boosting security in Iran-Pakistan border areas, saying, "Today, the battle against Takfiri terrorism and security threats is a priority of the two countries."
He expressed the IRGC's readiness to transfer its experience to Pakistan in this regard.
The senior Pakistani official, for his part, said Tehran and Islamabad were facing common border threats and should make joint efforts to boost border and regional security.
Akbar added that security and military forces of Iran and Pakistan planned to expand cooperation to protect the two countries' interests.
In a meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Khawaja Muhammad Asif in Islamabad in March, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Iran and Pakistan must bolster cooperation to ensure security in borders and fight terrorists.
Pakistan channel hires 1st Sikh male anchor
KARACHI: In a first, a Sikh man has been hired as an anchor by a news channel in Pakistan. Harmeet Singh, who is a resident of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province’s Chakesar city, has joined the Public News channel. The official handle of the media house posted a video of Singh on twitter with the caption: “Pakistan’s 1st Sikh News Anchor Harmeet Singh only on #PublicNews.” Recently, Manmeet Kaur had become the first female Sikh reporter in Pakistan.
“I didn’t use any religion card to gain access in the media industry. I worked hard and did a lot of work,” Singh said. Media veteran Yousaf Baig Mirza, who heads the the channel, said Singh was chosen as newscaster due to his flamboyant looks and voice pitch.
China lends $1bn to Pakistan to boost plummeting forex reserves
ISLAMABAD: China has lent Pakistan $1 billion to boost the South Asian country’s plummeting foreign currency reserves, two sources in Pakistan’s finance ministry told Reuters, amid growing speculation of another International Monetary Fund bailout.
The latest loan highlights Islamabad’s growing dependence on Chinese loans to buffer its foreign currency reserves, which plunged to $9.66bn last week from $16.4bn in May 2017.
The lending is the outcome of negotiations for loans worth $1-$2bn that was first reported by Reuters in late May, the two sources told Reuters.
“Yes, it is with us,” said one finance ministry source, in reference to the Chinese money. The second source added that the “matter stands complete”.
The finance ministry spokesperson did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.
With the latest loan, China’s lending to Pakistan in this fiscal year ending in June is set to breach $5bn.
In the first 10 months of the fiscal year China lent Pakistan $1.5bn in bilateral loans, according to a finance ministry document seen by Reuters. During this period Pakistan also received $2.9bn in commercial bank loans mostly from Chinese banks, ministry officials told Reuters.
Beijing’s attempts to prop up Pakistan’s economy follow a strengthening of ties in the wake of China’s pledge to fund badly-needed power and road infrastructure as part of the $57bn China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), an important cog in Beijing’s vast Belt and Road initiative.
But analysts say China’s help will not be enough and predict that after the July 25 national election the new administration will likely seek Pakistan’s second bailout since 2013, when it received a package worth $6.7bn from the IMF.
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Saturday extended by three months the deadline for repatriation of Afghan refugees, giving them a temporary relief amid violence in war-torn Afghanistan.
Prime Minister Nasir-ul-Mulk chaired the meeting of the Cabinet at the Prime Minister's House here. The meeting discussed the issue of extension in stay of the Afghan Refugees, according to an official statement.
"It was decided to grant an interim extension of three months to the registered refugees present in the country," it said. The deadline was set to expiry on June 30.
The Cabinet also decided that the issue of refuges will be placed before the incoming elected government after July 25 elections.
About 1.5 million registered and almost similar number of unregistered Afghans have been living in Pakistan for decades. Pakistan, which considers their camps terrorists' hideouts, has been pushing for their earliest but safe return to Afghanistan.
The security situation in Afghanistan, where US-led coalition forces and the Afghan army continue to battle the Afghan Taliban for control of areas of the country, has been deteriorating in recent months.
Afghanistan and the US have blamed Pakistan for allegedly providing safe havens to elements of the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani terror Network.
ISLAMABAD: Saying that his party is fully prepared for coming elections, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan claimed on Saturday that the nation would again see PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif and PPP leader Asif Zardari together.
“I am telling you, (Asif) Zardari and (Nawaz) Sharif will be together in the elections,” the PTI chief said while speaking at a party workers’ convention marking the formal launch of his election campaign from Islamabad’s National Assembly constituency NA-53.
Read more: PPP, PTI could forge Senate-like arrangement if needed: Zardari
“We were never prepared (for elections) the way we are this time,” Mr Khan said and told PTI workers that first rule of the competition was to never underestimate one’s opponents.
“Be ready for the decisive fight against plunderers,” he said, announcing that the PTI would conclude its election campaign with a “mammoth” public meeting at Islamabad’s Parade Ground on July 23.
Mr Khan, whose party is yet to announce its election manifesto, highlighted some of the major steps the PTI would take on a priority basis after assuming power, including some important legislation.
Imran asks his party’s workers to get ready for ‘decisive fight against plunderers’
In his nearly 30-minute speech, he pledged that after coming to power, his party’s government would “improve governance, eliminate corruption and strengthen institutions” of the National Accountability Bureau, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), Federal Investigation Agency and police. He vowed that he would collect Rs8 trillion from the country simply by improving the working of the FBR and curtailing government expenditures.
The PTI chief said his party planned to introduce a whistle-blowers act in an effort to curb corruption. For example, he said, if the government managed to recover Rs10 million looted money, the whistle-blower would get Rs2.5m as reward. He also declared that they would introduce a conflict of interest bill like they had done in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to prevent the persons having vested interests from coming to power.
Mr Khan said that his party would soon after assuming power launch a campaign to grow trees all over the country to resolve the issue of climate change.
He said the Sharif family had been caught “red-handed” in the Panama Papers case, but the “father-daughter duo is misleading the nation with their mantra of Mujhe Kyun Nikala”.
“On the other hand, there are Zardaris who have ruthlessly plundered nation’s wealth,” he said, urging the workers “to vote sensibly.” He asked them to vote for those people who lived among them through thick and thin.
Mr Khan lashed out at the previous governments of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), alleging that the two parties had failed to construct even a single state-of-the-art hospital in Pakistan and that was mainly because the members of the Sharif and Zardari families preferred visiting hospitals in London and Dubai, and they were least concerned about common citizens of Pakistan.
He said that the national economy was on the verge of collapse and Pakistan’s current debt had surged to a staggering Rs27tr due to the governments of the PML-N and PPP, which was only Rs6tr about 10 years ago.
Speaking of distribution of party tickets among election candidates, the PTI chief said that he had to face immense difficulties in the process of awarding tickets to candidates. “There were several capable candidates in many constituencies, but the ticket was to be given to one person,” he explained, elaborating his three-week ordeal while finalising the candidates.
He also mentioned his wife, saying “Bushra Begum has been with me for four months, and she said that she had seen me getting old in just three weeks”.
Mr Khan lauded women members of his party for their services during the sit-in and said that awarding tickets to women who could take part in legislation was necessary. He declared that in future no woman would be awarded ticket for a reserved seat unless she made her way up through the party ranks by contesting intra-party elections.
PESHAWAR: Some PTI women activists have accused the party’s provincial leaders of naming their female relatives as election candidates by ignoring old guards and said they would raise voice against the ‘injustice’ at all available forums.
Former MPA Zareen Zia told reporters at the Peshawar Press Club that the women activists, who had served the party for a long time, couldn’t flatter leaders Pervez Khattak, Ali Ameen Gandapur and Shah Farman to bag election tickets. Accompanied by women party workers, she however said award of tickets in violation of the party’s ideology was an unjust act towards the genuine workers.
Ms Zareen said 29 women had applied for tickets in southern districts but none of them was considered by the party’s parliamentary board.
She said ironically, the priority list made by the board had three Peshawar women, who were quite unknown to workers.
The former MPA said an NGO worker had been named in Hazara division, while one party ticket was given away to a woman in Nowshera, who was the wife of a driver.
She claimed that party leaders Shah Farman, Pervez Khattak and Mohammad Atif eyed the chief minister’s office and therefore, they’d got tickets for their favourite people to brighten their chances to become the province’s next chief executive.
Ms Zareen said loyalists were confused about who to approach for justice in that respect as party chief Imran Khan didn’t give them time to know about their grievances and ‘factual position’ about election nominations in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
“We went to Banigala to meet Imran Khan seeking a probe into the unfair distribution of tickets but he didn’t meet us despite several requests,” she said.
The former lawmaker claimed that she had undeniable evidence of the violation of the PTI ideology and injustices during election nominations.
She said Ali Ameen Gandapur had compromised the rights of the party’s women activists in southern districts.
JULY 1, 2018
After Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf chairman Imran Khan’s visit to Baba Fariduddin Ganjshakar’s shrine in Pakpattan, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also turned towards Sufi saints on Saturday.
He paid homage at the shrines of Abdullah Shah Ghazi and Dhulley Shah Bukhari alongside inaugurating his campaign office in Lyari on Saturday.
The PPP leader is set to formally start his election campaign in Lyari on Sunday.
During his time in Lyari on Saturday, Bilawal visited a family that lost six members in a drowing accident in Gaddani during Eid days, to offer his condolences.
Speaking to party workers, the PPP leader said he was looking forward to representing the people of Lyari. “I will be directly working with the people to resolve their problems just like my mother Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. She struggled for the rights of the people of this country and I will continue her mission,” he said.
Later in the day, he visited the shrine of Dhulley Shah Bukhari in Lyari. Benazir Bhutto was a regular visitor at the shrine. At the shrine, Bilawal also visited a tree planted there by his mother.
In the rest of Sindh, the PPP chairman will start campaigning from Monday (July 2). A statement issued by the party said that after Sindh, Bilawal would proceed to southern Punjab and then to the rest of the country.
Separately, on Saturday, Ali Raza Shah, grand-son of G.M. Syed, visited Bilawal from Jamshoro district and announced his decision to join PPP.
Former chief minister Murad Ali Shah and PPP leader Malik Asad Sikandar were also present on the occasion. Ali Raza Shah was former tehsil nazim of Manjhand.
Meanwhile, in a statement issued from his office, the PPP chairman criticised the caretaker government’s move to increase petroluem product prices. He expressed concerns over reports that caretaker government was initiating attempts to further hike PoL prices and advised it to concentrate on ensuring free and fair elections, instead of putting more economic burden on the masses.
JUNE 30, 2018
LAHORE: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan’s wife Bushra Bibi on Friday reconciled PTI women workers staging protest outside Khan’s Lahore residence over allocation of party tickets.
The angered part workers were staging protest against allocation of party tickets for Punjab Assembly constituencies PP-65 Mandi Bahauddin and PP-14 Rawalpindi.
PTI chief held a meeting with the disgruntled party workers along with his wife Bushra bibi.
During the meeting, Khan’s wife successfully calmed and reconciled with the disgruntled workers.
After the meeting, the women workers in a conversation with the media, praised Bushra bibi, saying that she was a kind-hearted women and had touched their hearts with her address.
PTI women workers pledged that they will be leading the party’s election campaign for the upcoming elections.
Scotland First Minister invites Muslims for Eid Milan Party
EDINBURGH, Scotland (PR) - The First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon invited the Muslim community of Scotland for an Eid Milan Party at Bute House, the First Minister’s official residence and home of the Scottish Government.
She praised the Muslim community for the contribution they had made to Scottish society and the valuable contribution they are continuing to make. She wished the Scottish community Eid Mubarak. The event was organised by the Scottish Government, Scottish National Party (SNP) Regional Organiser Qasim Hanif and Scots Asian President Ch. Abdul Majid.
Qasim Hanif said that this was the Scottish Government that is showing unity and respect for the Muslim community by taking part in Eid celebrations. It showed at government level tolerance for a minority faith. The event was attended by top Muslim business leaders, lawyers, professors, civil servants, police officers and other key people in the Muslim community in Scotland.
EU leaders overcome differences to reach deal on asylum seekers
European Union leaders have claimed success in overcoming major differences over how to control the arrival of refugees.
After nine hours of talks in Brussels, EU leaders reached consensus on sharing out refugees arriving in the bloc on a voluntary basis and establishing “controlled centers” within the EU to process asylum applications. The agreement, however, faced criticism as hard to implement and a potential threat to human rights.
EU leaders agreed to share responsibility for refugees rescued at sea, which was a key demand from Italy’s new Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who declared: “Italy is not alone anymore.”
The leaders also agreed to look into setting up sites around the Mediterranean, both inside and outside the EU, to handle asylum claims and send back those whose requests fail. EU officials insist such places would not amount to “camps”.
While the influx of refugees has slowed in recent years, there are still daily accounts of disasters as asylum seekers make the perilous journey to Europe to flee wars and conflicts.
On Friday, Libyan coastguard said nearly 100 refugees were thought to have drowned in the Mediterranean off Tripoli.
United Nations aid agencies gave the EU deal a cautious welcome, with Charlie Yaxley of the refugee agency UNHCR saying: “We will welcome any outcome that leads to a more collaborative and harmonized approach to asylum, also one that has at its core and priority saving lives at sea.”
But humanitarian aid groups expressed concerns that the EU agreement is a political smoke screen aimed at addressing the fears of resurgent anti-immigration parties across Europe.
“At a time when EU leadership on global issues is needed more than ever, European heads of state and government continue to try to offload their responsibilities onto poorer countries outside the EU,” Oxfam migration policy adviser Raphael Shilhav emphasized.
He further underlined it appears the EU is planning more “de facto detention centers” and cautioned that “this approach to migration is a recipe for failure, and directly threatens the rights of women, men and children on the move.”
Imogen Sudbery at the International Rescue Committee further stated that the new “disembarkation platforms” raise more questions than answers.
“Would this approach be compatible with international law?” she asked.
“Would those apprehended be transferred to the nearest safe port? Crucially, under which country’s law would claims be assessed? Who would be responsible for those whose claims are upheld? We need clarity on this,” she said.
Conte, whose government includes the anti-establishment 5-Star movement and far-right League, had earlier refused to endorse a summit text on security and trade until other leaders had pledged to help Italy manage Mediterranean arrivals.
Meanwhile, Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, whose League party campaigned to bar refugees fleeing Africa and expel those already in Italy, said he was “satisfied and proud of our government’s results in Brussels.”
“Finally Europe has been forced to discuss an Italian proposal ... [and] finally Italy is no longer isolated and has returned to being a protagonist,” he declared in a statement.
The Italian government has once again closed the country’s sea ports to a rescue boat carrying 60 refugees stranded at sea off Libya, igniting yet another dispute with Malta over who should allow the boat to dock.
The refugees, including five women, a nine-year-old child, and three teenagers, were saved by Open Arms, a boat run by Spanish aid group Proactiva Open Arms, on Saturday.
The rescue ships being run by humanitarian aid groups have drawn the ire of Italy’s anti-refugee Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who has vowed to deny such refugee boats docking in his country.
On Saturday, Salvini said Open Arms “can forget about arriving in an Italian port” and claimed it should go to Malta, the nearest port of call.
Malta immediately hit back on Twitter, with its interior minister contending that the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, south of Sicily, was closer to the boat.
“Quit spreading incorrect news, dragging Malta into it for no reason,” Interior Minister Michael Farrugia tweeted, attaching to his post a map that he said indicated the rescue occurred in waters between Libya and the Italian island.
Reports said the refugees on board included Palestinians, Syrians, and Guineans, adding that they were all in good condition.
It remained unclear where the Spanish rescue vessel would be allowed to anchor.
Open Arms is the third such humanitarian rescue ship that has been subjected to Salvini’s crackdown over the past weeks.
Earlier this month, Italy and Malta refrained from accepting the French NGO rescue ship Aquarius carrying more than 600 refugees, sparking an international outcry before Spain stepped in to help.
Malta then allowed another vessel, operated by German charity Mission Lifeline, to dock with 233 refugees on board after Italy rejected it.
Last year, Italian authorities reached an agreement with the internationally-recognized government as well as some militia groups in Libya — the main embarkation point for refugees seeking to reach Europe — to curb the flow of refugees to the continent.
Salvini has threatened to seize rescue ships or bar them from Italian ports altogether as he tries to keep his word on campaign promises to stop the influx of refugees.
Additionally, Salvini has called for processing centers to be set up south of Libya’s borders as a way to block attempts by refugees to cross the Mediterranean.
Over the past five years, more than 600,000 refugees have reached Italy by risking their lives on board rickety boats in the sea. Some 500,000 of them are still staying in the country.
A suicide bomber in a vehicle painted in UN colours attacked the Malian headquarters of an international anti-terror task force, the G5 Sahel, on Friday, killing two soldiers and a civilian, according to a security source and a local leader.
The building’s entrance wall was destroyed, with the force of the blast throwing the vehicle inside it, according to witnesses and pictures of the scene.
The Al-Qaeda-linked Support Group for Islam and Muslims, the main jihadist alliance in Africa’s Sahel region, claimed the attack in a telephone call to the Mauritanian news agency Al-Akhbar.
UN secretary general Antonio Guterres condemned “the complex attack perpetrated against the G5-Sahel Joint Force’s Headquarters”, his spokesman said in a statement.
It was the first attack on the headquarters of the five-nation force, set up with the backing of France in 2017 to roll back jihadist insurgents and criminal groups in the vast, unstable Sahel region.
“Shortly after Friday prayers, a suicide bomber in a vehicle painted with UN colours blew up at the entrance to the G5 base in Sevare. It was a huge blast,” a military source in the G5 Sahel force told AFP.
Two soldiers from the force and a civilian were killed, as well as two attackers, according to a source within the force and the governor of Mopti, the regional capital.
The Malian government later said that the two soldiers killed were members of its armed forces.
A previous toll of six people killed was revised down.
Governor Sidi Alassane Toure said there had been “confusion” in the morgue.
“We have arrested four suspects,” he told AFP, adding that search operations would take all night.
Guterres, who visited the Sevare headquarters last month, highlighted security shortcomings on several of the force’s sites in Mali in a report published in May.
“Poor conditions on and around the site represent an important security threat, and are delaying the deployment of the remaining soldiers,” the report said.
Residents in Sevare, 600 kilometres (375 miles) northeast of the capital Bamako, hid inside their homes during Friday’s attack, according to Bouba Bathily, a trader who sheltered from the gunfire in his house.
A local orange seller, Haoussa Haidara, said “there was a huge blast” followed by shooting that lasted more than an hour.
The attack came three days before a meeting in the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott between French President Emmanuel Macron and the heads of the G5 Sahel states to discuss progress made by the force.
The G5 Sahel aims to have a total of 5,000 troops from five nations — Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, but has faced funding problems.
It operates alongside France’s 4,000 troops in the troubled “tri-border” area where Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso meet, and alongside the UN’s 12,000-strong MINUSMA peacekeeping operation in Mali.
France’s armed forces minister, Florence Parly, condemned the “cowardly attack” in a Twitter statement.
“Solidarity with our African partners with whom we will continue the fight against terrorism,” she said.
The G5 Sahel was scheduled to be fully mobilised by mid-2018, but its deployment has faced delays, equipment worries and accusations of human rights abuses.
On Tuesday, the UN said Malian soldiers within the force had “summarily” executed 12 civilians in a market in central Mali in May in retaliation for the death of a soldier.
Malian Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga said that the government had “taken the necessary measures” after the bloodshed, which he condemned.
France intervened militarily in Mali in 2013 to help government forces drive Al-Qaeda-linked jihadists out of the north.
But large tracts of the country remain lawless despite a peace accord signed with ethnic Tuareg leaders in mid-2015 aimed at isolating the jihadists. The violence has also spilled over into both Burkina Faso and Niger.
Earlier Friday, French military headquarters said troops from its Barkhane mission in Mali had killed or captured 15 jihadists on June 22 in a joint operation with local forces.
The clash took place in a woodland area of the Inabelbel region, southeast of Timbuktu, it said in a statement.
A group of about 20 jihadists were attacked using helicopters and jet fighter support after they were spotted by Malian commandos, it said.
Boko Haram kills four in Nigeria displaced civilians camp
Boko Haram jihadists killed four people during a raid on a camp for civilians displaced by the Islamist group’s violent insurgency in Nigeria’s troubled northeast, security sources said. The gunmen entered the camp in the town of Banki near the border with Cameroon on bicycles and on foot Friday night and opened fire. “Boko Haram terrorists entered Banki IDP (internally displaced people) camp last night and killed four people, injured four others and took supplies away with them,” a military officer in the town told AFP yesterday.
The shots drew the attention of soldiers and policemen outside the camp, who then engaged the militants in an hour-long gun battle, said the officer, who asked not to be named. “Two terrorists were killed in the fight and the rest fled,” he added. A member of a militia force assisting the military said the jihadists used ladders to scale a ditch dug around the camp to stop such an incursion. “This was why security personnel keeping sentry at the entrance of the camp were taken off-guard,” he said. “From all indications, they came to steal food supplies.”
Hours later two soldiers were wounded when their patrol vehicle hit a landmine planted by the fleeing jihadists at Freetown village, nine kilometres (five miles) away, he added. Banki, which is 130 kilometres southeast of Borno state capital Maiduguri, houses 45,000 displaced people in a sprawling camp. The camp was relatively calm after opening in March 2015. However Boko Haram has since raided it numerous times, including in February when militants stole food and clothing before being repelled by soldiers. Eleven people were killed in another raid in September.
Boko Haram’s nine-year armed violence to establish a hardline Islamic state in remote northeastern Nigeria has killed more than 20,000 people.
The Jordanian army began delivering humanitarian aid to thousands of displaced Syrians who took shelter near its border when major fighting broke out in southern Syria this month, a government spokeswoman said on Saturday.
“This is in line with Jordan's stance to help our Syrian brothers,” Jumana Ghunaimat told the state news agency.
Several thousand Syrians had gathered near a closed border crossing earlier on Saturday pleading to enter Jordan, which closed its borders after the Syrian army launched a major offensive this month, uprooting tens of thousands of people.
Social media footage showed large crowds of civilians, many children and women thronged facing Jordanian troops and tanks stationed along the heavily sealed border with Syria.
Tens of thousands of the more than 160,000 civilians who have been displaced, according to UN figures, have given up on entering Jordan and have instead headed westwards to the Israeli border.
Heavy fighting has taken place in Daraa city where rebels control its the border stretch with Jordan and several mortars have fallen in Jordanian territory but no casualties have been reported.
Public pressure is piling on Jordan to ease restrictions on entry of refugees where some have criticized the kingdom's stance towards Syrians many of whom have close kinship with Jordanians on the border
Last week, Libya’s military strongman Khalifa Haftar captured some of the country’s most lucrative oilfields after clashes with a rival militia.
Shortly afterwards, Haftar decided to hand over the oil ports held by his forces to a rival oil corporation in the east instead of the UN-recognized National Oil Corporation (NOC).
The move has triggered a storm of condemnations inside Libya and concerns among major powers such as the U.S., France and Italy, raising many questions about Haftar’s ability to run the oilfields.
“Local Libyan reactions will do nothing,” Fathi Rahil, a former Libyan oil official, told Anadolu Agency.
He said only the international community and OPEC can prevent the military commander from exporting the Libyan oil.
“If the international community rejected Haftar’s decision, the East-based oil corporation would not be able to strike any oil deals,” he said.
Rahil expects that the international community would refuse to deal with the breakaway oil corporation in the east since “all oil deals were signed by the Tripoli-based NOC”.
He cited the failure of the East-based oil corporation to strike deals in April 2015 “because of the opposition of the international community”.
Rahil opines that the oil drilling and selling are “co-organized” by the NOC and foreign shareholders.
“All parties are governed by certain measures and domestic and international agreements and contracts,” he said. “Any unexpected malfunction in this system might turn the situation into an international crisis, in which both Libya and foreign shareholders would sustain damage.”
He said Libyan authorities have signed oil agreements with foreign partners and clients.
“These agreements specify the amount of oil and gas exports, ports and loading dates. These must be respected," he said.
Libya holds Africa’s largest crude reserves, but seven years of conflict and violence in the country since the 2011 ouster of strongman Muammar Gaddafi have hobbled production and exports.
The recent bout of violence has cost the country about 450,000 barrels of daily output.
Libya’s national oil production now stands at little over one million bpd.
-Interests, not principles
But Marwan Qatesh, a Libyan businessman, believes that the breakaway oil corporation in the east will be able to sell the Libyan oil.
“The international community is governed by interests, not principles or legitimacy,” he told Anadolu Agency.
He said the international community “knows that its interests lie with Haftar, since he controls not only the oil but also vast swathes of territory in the country”.
Qatesh, however, said that if the East-based corporation failed to sell oil, “it might allow buyers to take the crude at below-market prices”.
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