Mehdi Karroubi, who has twice served as speaker of Iran’s parliament, has been under house arrest for the past five years after challenging the validity of the 2009 Presidential election.
Credit Photograph By Hossein Koliya / Demotix / Corbis
Halal Soft Drink Mecca Cola Re-Launches in UK
An Iranian Opposition Leader, Mehdi Karroubi, Pushes to Be Put on Trial
Ram Navami Procession: Muslims in Bihar, India, To Offer Sweet Drinks To Hindu Devotees
Terrorists in Tie-Up with Military Autocrats, Says Bangladesh Minister
At Least 40 ISIS Fighters Dead In Nangarhar Airstrikes: Afghan Military
Won’t Tolerate Filthy Words against Religion: Sheikh Hasina
ISIS potentially an ‘enormous’ threat in Afghanistan: Gen. Cleveland
Gen. Murad says militant groups to suffer heavy loss this year
Disabled young Afghan artist dreams to become professional teacher
Afghan man arrested for keeping Syrian girl as hostage in Herat
Merkel Accepts Turkish Request to Prosecute German Comedian over ‘Insulting Poem’
Belgian transport minister resigns after Brussels airport security criticized
After Europe and Turkey Strike a Deal, Fears Grow That Migrants Will Turn to Italy
Muslim States to Work Closely To Fight Terrorism: Erdogan
Israel to build 229 homes for settlers in West Bank
Top business organization underlines importance of close transatlantic ties between Turkey, US
Turkey ranks bottom on child inequality: UNICEF report
Iran presents plan for Muslim world unity, serious fight against extremism
Ram Navami Procession: Muslims In Bihar, India, To Offer Sweet Drinks To Hindu Devotees
China Will Not Allow India into NSG: Former Pakistani Diplomat
India 'not forthcoming' on resuming comprehensive dialogue, Pakistan tells UN
Syria: Heavy Infighting Erupts Between Terrorists near Border with Turkey
22 ISIL Terrorists Killed in Deir Ezzur, VBIED Defused by Army
10,000 Syrian Forces on Alert to Start Massive Anti-Terrorism Operations in Aleppo
Islamic State advances near Turkish border and east of Aleppo
Syrian Army Liberates Strategic Region Northwest of Aleppo
All Al-Nusra Leaders inside Dara'a Centre Killed, Wounded in Army Attack
Syrian Army, Hezbollah Cut off Terrorists' Major Supply Route in Aleppo
Navy Commander: Iran to Increase Missile Power in Caspian Fleet
Iran Equips Helicopters with Anti-Armoured Weapons, Modern Missiles
Commander: Iran to Equip Naval Forces in Caspian Sea with Drone Battalion
Army Source Dismisses Militants' Claims on Seizing Airbase in Damascus
Storms kill 42 in Saudi Arabia, Yemen
Flint-Area Muslim Cleric Blasted In ISIS Magazine
Muslims, S. Asians Are Targeted For Their Faith And Looks: US A-G
Pakistan must act against all militant groups: US
Musharraf’s Non-Bailable Arrest Warrants ‘Could Not Be Executed’
In Islamabad, Six Artists Explore How Our Hyper-Visual World Affects Us
Zardari is not meeting PM Nawaz in London, Bilawal says
President turned down 513 mercy petitions over last five years: Interior Ministry
Malaysia 1MDB: Saudi Minister Says Najib Funds Were Donation
Uighur Terror Suspects Not Detected In Malaysia
Indonesia central bank to adopt new policy benchmark
Africa is a Land of Promising Future, Say Ambassadors in Cuba
East African countries to sign Paris climate change deal
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Terrorists in tie-up with military autocrats, says Bangladesh Minister
Apr 15 2016
Hasanul Haq Inu claims that the crackdown on terrorism in Bangladesh is being carried out within the democratic constitutional limits.
There are thousands of al-Qaeda-trained extremists in Bangladesh who have links to military autocratic forces as well as international terrorist groups, says Hasanul Haq Inu, Minister of Information in Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government.
“At least 8,000 Bangladeshi men were trained by Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan. They returned home and ever since, the threat perception has been high. There is an alliance between military autocratic forces, covert domestic terrorists, and the international terrorist networks in Bangladesh and we are fighting them,” Mr. Haq said while interacting with a group of foreign journalists at his official residence in the city.
He said Bangladesh has been successful in preventing mass casualty attacks by terrorists despite a series of murders of bloggers and secular activists. Such lone-wolf terror strikes are hard to pre-empt, he said.
“No one can be fully secure. But in Bangladesh, we have ensured that the terrorists do not get to launch major attacks like the ones they carried out in Brussels and Paris,” Mr. Haq said while highlighting how the government has managed to maintain order despite allegations of human rights violations and custodial deaths.
The Minister claimed that the crackdown on terrorism in Bangladesh is being carried out within the democratic constitutional limits and excesses have not been committed.
He also acknowledged that political parties also cooperate with each other and keep channels of communication open despite a visible show of antipathy between the ruling Awami League, led by Prime Minister Hasina, and the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, led by Khaleda Zia.
“I have fought terrorism all my life. I was trained in India during the Liberation War and led a battalion of 10,000 guerrilla fighters. We will defeat terrorism in Bangladesh,” Mr. Haq added.
Halal soft drink Mecca cola re-launches in UK
The halal cola company where 20 per cent of all profits are donated to charity has been re-launched.
Mecca Cola which was launched in the UK in 2003 is now available locally after the brand was re-designed.
Hamza Jennings from Mecca Cola said, “The brand was very popular between 2003 and 2007 but was then withdrawn from the UK market.
“The Mecca Cola brand is highly respected and we have already had great feedback from businesses and the local community.
“It has now been re-launched across the country and we are delighted to be offering a whole host of new flavours.
“It is really pleasing to see that across the UK the brand is still much-loved.”
Presently Mecca Cola offers Mecca Cola Classic and Mecca Cola diet, with a new Mecca Energy drink launching very soon along with sparkling fruit ranges of apple, orange, lemonade and Mecca Aqua. Mecca Coffee and Mecca Tea will also be hitting UK stores soon.
We are extremely excited about our future lines of healthy fruit juices and smoothies.
Hamza added, “Our vision is to be the number one Muslim halal brand in the UK.
“We have a new management team with the vision and expertise to take mecca cola to new level and we are looking for partners in the UK to distribute our soft drinks. So please get in touch.”
For further information about Mecca Cola you can follow them on Twitter (@meccacolauk) and like them on Facebook.
BY ROBIN WRIGHT: APRIL 13, 2016
In a melancholy yet defiant open letter, from one revolutionary to another, Mehdi Karroubi pleaded over the weekend to be put on trial in Iran. His dissent could no longer be silenced, he wrote in his letter to President Hassan Rouhani, a former colleague, and he declared, “We must stand up against the idea of a regime with one single voice, made so through monopolizing an unaccountable power.”
Karroubi has long been one of the Islamic Republic’s leading politicians. He fits the profile—a cleric who earned his bona fides, in the seventies, in the Shah’s jails. He was arrested nine times. Karroubi’s wife, Fatemeh, has recounted taking their son Taghi to prison when he was six months old so that Karroubi could see him for the first time. After the 1979 revolution, Karroubi served for eight years, in the late eighties and early nineties, as speaker of Iran’s Parliament, and again from 2000 to 2004. He twice ran for President, in 2005 and 2009, passing the rigorous vetting by the twelve-man Guardian Council, which assesses candidates and legislation for compliance with Islam. (By then an adult, Taghi helped manage his father’s campaign.) He lost both times to the hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, amid accusations of fraud. Karroubi is sixty-eight now; his beard is as snow-white as his turban. He is a passionate speaker, and photographers like to capture the way his thick eyebrows arch, for emphasis, above his rimless glasses.
For the past five years, however, Karroubi has been under house arrest. His offense was daring to challenge the validity of the 2009 election. The official results stated that Ahmadinejad had won with more than sixty per cent of the vote in a four-man race. (The tallies of almost forty million handwritten ballots were announced within only a few hours, and there were more than six hundred complaints of irregularities.) According to the official tally, former Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi came in second, Karroubi third, and a former Revolutionary Guard commander fourth. Millions took to the streets to complain of voter fraud—the largest public protests since the 1979 revolution. The Green Movement raged on sporadically for more than six months; political tensions lingered long afterward. In 2011, Karroubi and Mousavi were put under house arrest and branded “seditionists.” Neither has ever been formally charged.
“I am not asking you to lift my house arrest, nor do I believe that it is in your power to do so,” Karroubi wrote in his letter to President Rouhani, which was smuggled from his home and verified by his family. Instead, he went on, “I want you to ask the despotic regime to grant me a public trial based on Article 168 of the Constitution, even if the court is constructed the way that the potentates want. With the help of God and my lawyer, we will hear the indictment and we will present our evidence to the public about the fraudulent  Presidential election, the rigging of the  Presidential election and what happened to the children of this country in legal and illegal detention centers. The outcome of this trial will show which side in the  election dispute has turned its back on the revolution.”
Karroubi accused Iran’s pernicious deep state—including the Revolutionary Guards, the paramilitary Basij, and the Intelligence Ministry—of “trampling” on human rights. Government officials had squandered seven hundred billion dollars in revenues, transferred billions to accounts in Dubai and Turkey, and “pushed the country to the edge of a precipice while the people were impoverished and helpless,” he wrote. The Guardian Council had become “a tool” that “defames respectable people and violates people’s rights to ensure that one tendency wins and others are eliminated.”
Karroubi did not name him, but the implicit target of his scathing criticism was Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the ultimate authority in Iran. Just as the Shah used thuggery to perpetuate the monarchy, Karroubi wrote, “these days the regime uses thugs every day across the country to attack the homes of religious authorities, political figures who have been critical of the regime, embassies, and artistic and cultural centers in the name of ‘values.’ They violate the sanctuary of mosques for their political ambitions and know no boundaries in their desperate behaviour.”
After the “ridiculous” results of the 2009 elections, Karroubi continued, he had opted to stand against the regime. “I stood by the people, aware of the heavy price that must be paid. With the help of God, I will continue to stand by them.”
The letter was posted Sunday on Saham News, the Web site of Karroubi’s Etemad-e Melli, or National Trust Party. Its official newspaper, of the same name, was banned in 2009, after it cited Karroubi’s claim that female protesters in the Green Movement had been raped in detention.
Karroubi has little to personally gain from waging this fight. Mousavi, the other Green Movement leader, was widely believed to have been the main contender in the 2009 election against Ahmadinejad. Yet Karroubi has consistently dared to speak out during the protests and, through his family, since his house arrest.
“Mehdi Karroubi has been the most radical and relentless advocate of the Green Movement,” Abbas Milani, the director of the Iranian Studies Program at Stanford University, told me Tuesday. “He is still the most fearless. He has directly challenged Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Though President Rouhani and former President Hashemi Rafsanjani have sniped at the Leader, Karroubi’s letter is the first time that a man of his stature has unequivocally called Khamenei a despot and dishonorable.”
The reaction from Iran’s hard-liners was swift and harsh. Some suggested that Karroubi was lucky to be under mere house arrest. The hard-line journalist Mohammad Abdollahi predicted that Karroubi would be convicted in any trial. “Karroubi, by rejecting the Islamic mercy [awarded so far], has indeed submitted his death wish,” Abdollahi was quoted as saying, in Jahan News. Mehdi Zarinnam, a journalist for Vatan Emrooz, a conservative paper, added, “If they had executed him in the first place, he wouldn’t have gotten on such a roll.”
At the conclusion of his letter, Karroubi vowed to accept a court verdict “without reserve” and “without asking for the right to appeal, because the world is God’s court and his deputies on this Earth are the people. And there are no better judges than God and the people.” After a half century in politics, Karroubi’s political career is basically back where it began. He is an outlaw in the eyes of the theocracy, just as he was an outlaw during the Shah’s monarchy.
April 15, 2016
Setting yet another example of religious tolerance and communal harmony, city Muslims in Gaya in Indian state of Bihar will offer cool water and sweet drinks to devotees taking part in Ramnavami processions.
The sweet drinks will be offered at some of the most sensitive points along the Gautam Buddha Road and Nadiraganj locality of the town.
The imams of all important mosques conveyed this decision to Gaya senior superintendent of police (SSP) Garima Mallik during a meeting here on Friday, that Muslims will offer drinks so to help the Hindu devotees in beating the heat.
Welcoming the gesture of the Muslim groups, VHP district chief Mani Lal Barik told TOI that the good gesture would be properly honoured and reciprocated. The country belongs to all of us and mutual respect for each other’s faith would promote harmony and goodwill, said the VHP district chief.
The SSP had called a meeting with imams, maulavis and intellectuals of the minority community to seek their cooperation in maintaining law and order during the religious processions.
It is not for the first time that such a goodwill gesture would be seen here. About two years ago, Jagadguru Swami Raghwacharya, then Mahanth of Vaishnavite Ramanujacharya Math, had offered accommodation and food to Haj pilgrims arriving at Gaya to board Jeddah-bound flights. Reciprocating the gesture, imams had offered similar facilities to Hindu pilgrims coming here during the Pitrapaksh Mela.
The SSP said a close vigil would be kept on trouble-makers during the processions to avoid any untoward incident.
KABUL: The Afghan military says its air force has hit militant Islamic State (IS) group fighters in the eastern province of Nangarhar, killing at least 40 insurgents.
Defence Ministry spokesman Gen Dawlat Waziri says the airstrike took place late Thursday night in Achin district and also wounded several IS militants.
District governor Ghalib Mujahid says the airstrike targeted a meeting of IS fighters that was underway in the Pikha Lataband area.
He says most of the dead were foreign fighters and that their bodies were collected by the local villagers and handed over to IS, which has gained a foothold in Nangarhar.
Dhaka: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said everybody needs to exercise tolerance as it is essential for the country’s uninterrupted development.
The Prime Minister, who was speaking on the occasion of the Pahela Baishakh at her official residence, said development can only be done if there is a peaceful environment in the country.
Hasina also said the country’s GDP growth is poised to reach 7.05 percent in the current fiscal year alongside a rise in the per capita income as there was a peaceful environment over the last one year, reports Daily Star.
She said the people across the country, including rural areas, are celebrating the Bangla New Year, with much festivity.
Hasina expressed hope that the New Year would bring more peace and prosperity for Bangladesh.
She said it is not at all acceptable to write something, which hurts the religious sentiments of others.
“But if anyone writes filthy words against our religion, why should we tolerate that?” asked Hasina.
The Prime Minister also hoped that the pace of socio-economic development in various fields would continue.
She mentioned that her government for the first time in the history of the country introduced Baishakhi allowance much to the joy of the public servants. (ANI)
By KHAAMA PRESS - Fri Apr 15 2016
A spokesman for the US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan has said the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group has the potential to be an ‘enormous’ threat in Afghanistan.
The chief of communications for the coalition, Brigadier General Charles Cleveland, has said the threat exists despite the group has received major setbacks during the recent months, pointing towards the growing US forces airstrikes against the loyalists of the terror group.
“Obviously, we’ve all seen them, how rapidly they are able to spread, in other parts of the world,” Gen. Cleveland said during a briefing at Pentagon.
He said between January and March, the United States has carried out 70 to 80 airstrikes against ISIS in Afghanistan, according to The Hill newspaper.
The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) carry out operations against ISIS, and the Taliban fights against ISIS, he added.
According to Gen. Cleveland “Here in Afghanistan, one of the things that appear[s] to be common to just about everybody is that nobody really wants Daesh in the neighborhood.”
The General further added “And so, whether it’s the Taliban attacking Daesh, whether it’s locals trying to rise up against them or the ANDSF operations and now some of our unilateral strikes, we do think they are being contained more than they probably were last fall.”
The General did not have a specific number of how many ISIS fighters remain in the country.
However, earlier estimated indicated there are about 1,000 to 3,000 fighters, and that the number is probably on the lower end of that range, he added.
Gen. MuradThe deputy Chief of Army Staff General Murad Ali Khan Murad said the anti-government armed militant groups’ only achievement during the year would be defeat and abjection during the current year.
In his speech during a gathering in Kabul, Gen. Murad said the Afghan forces are prepared for all type of campaign against the terror groups.
He said the Afghan people are supporting their security forces with honesty and faith and the gathering organized by the Afghan youth is an example of support to the Afghan National Security Forces.
Gen. Murad further added that the sign of unity further strengthens the Afghan security forces who are fighting the terrorist groups.
He also added that the anti-government armed militant groups have no justification for their ongoing insurgency but the Afghan forces have national and religious basis to defend the country against the militants’ aggression.
The remarks by Gen. Murad comes as the Taliban militants group announced their spring offensive earlier this week and vowed to carry out more insurgency activities.
Taliban said they will carry out more suicide and coordinated attacks as their insurgency marks 15th year, emphasizing that they will continue to violence and insurgency until their demands of establishment of Shari law and withdrawal of foreign forces have not been met.
By KHAAMA PRESS - Thu Apr 14 2016
The story of a young disabled Afghan girl has gone viral in Afghanistan with reports and stories surfacing the media regarding her extraordinary drawing skills.
The young Rubaba is disabled from her legs and hands but she dreams to become a professional teacher in the future despite her family is suffering from poverty and she is not able to walk and perform like other children.
Her heartbreaking story has attracted the attention of hundreds of thousands of people after she appeared she in various Television reports, causing the social media users to overwhelmingly share her stories in the internet.
The 16-year-old Rubaba says she wants to become a professional artist and teacher in the future as she is practicing the art at home using her teeth to grab the pencil.
The young girl says she is also interested to learn English language and attend classes in school similar as other children.
She was born disabled but Rubaba says she has learnt a lot by studying at home and looking at her brothers and sisters.
Rubaba is now able to write and is hopeful to have more achievements in the future as she believes disability is not a barrier to stop someone from reading, writing and participating in social affairs.
An Afghan man has reportedly been arrested in western Herat province of Afghanistan allegedly for smuggling a teenage Syrian girl from Turkey.
According to the local security officials in Herat, an investigation is underway regarding the alleged smuggle of the girl from Turkey.
Provincial governor’s spokesman Jilani Farhad said they are aware regarding an alleged smuggle of a 16-year-old girl from Turkey.
He said an investigation is underway and it has been reported that the girl is originally hailing from Syria.
According to Farhad, the arrested man is originally a resident of Ghor province and was keeping the girl in Injil district of Herat province.
Turkey is host to millions of refugees who have fled civil war from Syria as well as Afghan migrants who have left the country during growing instability.
Scores of Afghans are leaving the country and heading towards Turkey in a bid to reach the European countries by travelling through the Turkish waters.
Merkel accepts Turkish request to prosecute German comedian over ‘insulting poem’
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on April 15 that she accepted Turkey’s request to seek prosecution of German comedian Jan Boehmermann who recited a sexually crude poem about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on television.
AP | Apr 15, 2016
BRUSSELS: Belgium's transport minister has resigned after a secret European Union report detailing lapses in airport security oversight was leaked in the wake of the March 22 bombings at Brussels Airport and subway.
Prime Minister Charles Michel said on Friday that, after talks with transport minister Jacqueline Galant, "the minister presented her resignation to the King and the King accepted it."
The confidential EU document from last year was made public by two Belgian opposition parties. It says the oversight of security measures at the nation's airports was flawed and cited serious deficiencies in the way safety checks are managed.
The revelations came after the March 22 attacks in Brussels killed 32 victims, including 16 at the national airport. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
APRIL 14, 2016
MESSINA, Sicily — The old music school is overflowing. The building is now a migrant shelter for unaccompanied minors, able to house 224 teenagers — except that it is overstuffed with 281. And it is only early April. Migrant season in Sicily is just beginning.
Ninety miles away near the ancient hilltop town of Mineo, the story is the same. At a repurposed military housing complex that is now Sicily’s biggest center for migrants, nearly 1,000 new people arrived in March. They were among the almost 10,000 migrants rescued at sea last month and brought to Italy, a fourfold increase from a year ago. Add to that tally 2,150 people rescued at sea just this Monday and Tuesday.
A woman in Siracusa, Italy, gave money to an African migrant outside a church on Sunday. Credit Uriel Sinai for The New York Times
Now that the European Union has struck a deal with Turkey to curb the record refugee flow into Greece, the question is whether the migrant flow into the Continent has been stanched, or whether migrants will simply find a different entry point, such as the more dangerous sea route from Libya into Italy. Migration into Greece has dropped sharply since the new deal, and it is too soon to know if the Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans who favored that route will shift their attentions to Italy.
Either way, Italy could surpass the record 170,000 migrants who arrived in 2014, a reminder of an often-overlooked dimension of Europe’s refugee crisis. Even as last year’s stampede of Syrians through Greece and the Balkans plunged Europe into a political crisis, Italy was absorbing migrants from Gambia, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia and other sub-Saharan African countries.
“Now with the Balkan route closed, people are asking, ‘What will happen with the central Mediterranean?’ ” said Medea Savary, a spokeswoman in Sicily for the United Nations refugee agency. “There is never enough attention on this.”
Abrahim and Marry Adams, migrants from Ghana, with their 5-month-old baby, Juliano, in the bedroom of a house in Siracusa. The couple arrived in Italy 10 months ago, and they live in a house attached to a church. Credit Uriel Sinai for The New York Times
Before last summer, Italy was the epicenter of the refugee crisis — and the rest of Europe largely ignored the problem. Tens of thousands of migrants risked their lives on dangerous journeys aboard rickety smuggler boats leaving the coasts of Libya or Egypt to reach Italy. The trip could take several days, in difficult seas, and more than 3,000 people died last year.
But then smugglers discovered routes from the Turkish coastline to Greek islands such as Lesbos and Chios. Many Syrians and Afghans who had been trying to reach Italy quickly shifted to this more convenient journey. During the final six months of last year more than 780,000 people went through Turkey into Greece, and then through the Balkans toward Germany and Sweden, until Balkan countries and others began erecting fences to block their passage.
Greece Holds Activists as Migrants and Police Clash Anew at Macedonia Border APRIL 13, 2016
A ‘High Degree of Miserable’ in a Refugee-Swollen Greece MARCH 17, 2016
Deal Appears to Curb Migrant Flow, but Greece Still Faces ‘Uphill Effort’ MARCH 21, 2016
Smugglers Prey on Migrants Desperate to Find Back Doors to Europe MARCH 11, 2016
With No Unified Refugee Strategy, Europeans Fall Back on Old Alliances FEB. 25, 2016
Now Austrian leaders are concerned that as many as 300,000 migrants could arrive in Italy this year and attempt to move north. In response, the Austrian defense minister, Hans Peter Doskozil, announced this week that the country would introduce tougher border controls at the crucial Brenner Pass, the alpine crossing to Italy that is one of Europe’s most important north-south corridors.
Mr. Doskozil said that the new controls would take effect on June 1, and has suggested that Austria may build fencing similar to the controls the country erected along its border with Slovenia. Italian leaders have expressed serious concerns and sent a letter to the European migration commissioner asking his office to “verify with extreme urgency” whether the Austrian plans violated Europe’s Schengen agreement on open internal borders.
Beyond the negative impact on trade and shipping, tightening controls at the Brenner Pass could also bottle up migrants inside Italy.
“There is a risk that Europe will die here,” Arno Kompatscher, the president of the Italian autonomous province of Alto Adige, which borders Austria, told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica this week. “The Brenner is the symbol of European unification, of 70 years of peace and social and economic well-being. If we devalue that symbol, if we return to the idea of small states, everything will change.”
African migrants at the port of Augusta, Italy, on the Sicilian coast, after their rescue by a German Navy ship on Tuesday. Credit Uriel Sinai for The New York Times
Hundreds of miles to the south, in Sicily, aid workers and Italian officials are preparing for a busy summer as the warmer weather and calmer seas of springtime have already arrived. The latest rescues came on Tuesday, when 17 migrant ships bearing 2,150 people were intercepted at sea.
Adm. Nicola De Felice, who oversees the Italian Navy’s operations in Sicily, said that for now the biggest problem was the lack of a stable government in Libya. Smugglers can operate with little impediment, even as the Islamic State controls part of the Libyan coastline, barely 300 miles across the sea from Italy.
“The situation there is very confused,” Admiral De Felice said in an interview. “That could create problems, both in lacking any controls over the migrant influx, and to the terrorist threat. We don’t know what is happening in Libya.”
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Migrants who have reached Sicily describe a chaotic situation in Libya that has only worsened in recent years. Many of the migrants are sub-Saharan Africans who had been working in Libya before the country destabilized, or who are passing through to reach Europe. Many are fleeing political persecution in countries like Ivory Coast, Gambia and Mali. Or, in some cases, they are fleeing persecution for being gay.
The most striking change this year is the sharp rise in the number of unaccompanied minors. Nearly 2,700 of the 19,000 arrivals in Italy through the end of March were under 18, and traveling alone. One 17-year-old Malian, Ibrahim, who was rescued at sea on Feb. 22, had gunshot wounds. He said he was shot through the arm, back and thigh as he fled a Libyan prison.
He had originally left Mali at the end of 2012, after his father decided to take a second wife and cast him out, along with his mother. Needing to earn money, Ibrahim spent two years herding goats near the Algerian border and eventually went to Libya, where the police harassed and imprisoned him. He was shot during his escape and a man who helped him insisted that he depart immediately on a smuggler boat, rather than be hospitalized.
“There are lots of other boys waiting in Libya to come here,” Ibrahim said during an interview at the center in Messina. “Some are working jobs there so they can come here. I want to stay here for my future. Italy saved my life. I can’t go anywhere else.”
Aid workers say such stories are commonplace. Another minor, Karim, 17, fled his native Ivory Coast after his family became entangled in the de facto civil war there last year. “First of all, I want to feel safe,” Karim said, explaining why he came to Italy. “When I was home, I never felt safe. I want to go to school and play soccer.”
Muslim states to work closely to fight terrorism: Erdogan
April 15th, 2016
ISTANBUL: Muslim countries have agreed to work together more closely to fight terrorism and other crimes and will establish an Istanbul-based centre for greater police cooperation, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday.
Leaders from the Muslim world are attending a summit in Istanbul this week of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to discuss issues facing the grouping’s 57 member states, including the humanitarian fall-out from Syria’s civil war.
“It would be appropriate to create a structure among OIC countries which would strengthen and institutionalise cooperation against terror and other crimes,” Erdogan said in his opening address at the summit.
“With this in mind, our proposal for the establishment of an OIC police cooperation and coordination centre based in Istanbul found acceptance.” Erdogan, whose country is set to take over the three-year rotating presidency of the OIC, gave no details about the new police centre or say when it might start work.
Turkey has long pressed for closer regional cooperation in tackling terrorism as its army and security forces battle Kurdish militants that Ankara and its Western allies classify as terrorists.
Turkey is part of the US-led coalition against the militant Islamic State (IS) in neighbouring Syria and is also a vocal opponent of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a stance that has put it at odds with Assad’s ally, Iran.
On Thursday Erdogan called for greater unity among Muslim countries.
“The more that we as Muslims, as Muslim countries, fall out with each other, the more the innocents who have put their hopes in us will be exposed to strife,” he said.
Also speaking at the summit, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke out against divisions among Muslims. Shia Iran is at loggerheads with Sunni Muslim powers including Saudi Arabia in Yemen as well as in Syria.
“No message which would fuel division in the Islamic community should come out of the conference,” Rouhani told the conference, according to Iranian state television.
JERUSALEM: Israel has approved plans for more than 200 new settler homes in the occupied West Bank, adding to a sharp increase in settlement projects so far this year, Israeli campaigners said on Thursday.
Israel’s government disputed the claim, saying nearly all approvals involved “upgrading existing structures” and not new construction, without providing a more detailed breakdown. Settlements are considered illegal under international law and are seen as major stumbling blocks to peace efforts since they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.
Hagit Ofran, a spokeswoman for settlement watchdog Peace Now, said the government had given the green light for at least 229 new homes, which are at various stages in the planning process.
The new units were also reported by Israeli newspapers.
The projects must pass through five administrative stages before winning final approval from Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon. An Israeli government statement said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yaalon had “not approved new construction”.
“Almost all of the permits are for upgrading existing structures,” it said.
“The small proportion of them pertaining to new construction are for the community of Ganei Modiin, which abuts the fence and which will be part of Israel in any future agreement.” Peace Now however later hit back, saying its “aerial photos illustrate that this is not the case, and much of the planning is for new housing units”.
The NGO said this week that the number of West Bank settlements Israel plans to build more than tripled in the first quarter of 2016 compared with the same period last year.
Between January and March, projects for 674 housing units passed at least one of the steps in the planning approval process, up from 194 in the first quarter of 2015, it said.
The head of Turkey’s top business organization has given strong signals about Turkey’s commitment to democratic values in a speech at the Brookings Institute during a three-day visit to the U.S., underlining strong transatlantic ties between the two countries.
“We hope that this long-term partnership has been strong enough in resisting to any derailing,” said the president of the Business and Industry Association of Turkey (TÜSİAD), Cansen-Başaran-Symes.
A senior TÜSİAD delegation visited the U.S. on April 12-14 to meet leading political and economic figures.
Başaran-Symes made a speech at the Brookings Institute in a session titled “Turkey, Its Region and International Order.”
“Following the global economic crisis, the Western world has started to face various hurdles, which might destroy the foundations of the liberal democratic rule. The economic inequalities have undermined the social cohesion in the western societies, triggering populism, radicalism and political polarization. Turkey has also faced the same problems under the shadow of some unresolved historic political conflicts,” she said.
She noted there were two main pillars of Turkey’s strategic orientation: The membership process to the European Union and its NATO membership and strategic relations with the U.S.
“Turkey needs to accelerate its political and technical reforms in its negotiations with the EU and reshape its foreign policy in line with the values of the transatlantic union. This perspective needs to continue in line with the membership to the EU rather than an open-ended and uncertain economic cooperation perspective.
Besides, Turkey’s transatlantic position should not be reduced to a strategic military partnership within the NATO. We believe that the ties between the U.S. and Turkey must be based on common values rather than common interests,” she said.
Başaran-Symes noted these common values were liberal and plural democratic values based on the rule of law and secularism principles.
“The separation of powers, check and balance mechanisms, independent courts, a strong civil society, the freedom of expression, the right of assembly, the freedom of enterprise and all other basic freedoms are the parts of these political values,” she said.
She noted Turkey has remained a part of the transatlantic system in terms of its democratic targets and strategic alliance.
“To be sure, the Turkish business world and the TÜSİAD will remain to be a loyal supporter of this stance,” she added.
Turkey ranks bottom out of 41 countries for child inequality in health and life satisfaction, according to a recent study by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) measuring disparities between middle and low-income children.
In its report titled “Fairness for Children: A league table of inequality in child well-being in rich countries,” UNICEF measured how far the gap has widened between the “average” children and those with lowest household income levels, rather than focusing on the gap between the richest and the poorest. For the report, data from 41 countries of the EU and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) were studied across four dimensions: Income, education, health and life satisfaction.
The most drastic negative results for Turkey were noted in health and life satisfaction, where in both cases the country was listed in the bottom two of all compared nations.
The largest relative health gaps, designated by comparing a child with frequent reporting of health symptoms and an “average” child at the median of the health scale, was found in Israel, with 38.9 percent, and Turkey, with 34.5 percent. However, Turkey performed worse than Israel in the frequency of health complaints from children at the bottom end, as some 53.3 percent of disadvantaged children reported one or more health symptoms a day. UNICEF also noted this pattern, remarking that “only Turkey shows both high bottom-end inequality and high frequency of reported health complaints.”
The country also ranked at the very bottom in terms of life satisfaction, where the relative gap between an average child and a disadvantaged child stood at 36 percent. Accordingly, the life satisfaction score of a child at the bottom is 36 percent lower than the average child.
Moreover, some 15.3 percent of Turkish children rate their life satisfaction below 4 on a scale of 0 (“worst possible life”) to 10 (“best possible life”). The figure is noteworthy as the second worst performer, Poland, only sees 10 percent of children report such high degree of dissatisfaction.
Income inequalities were also measured by comparing the household income of the median child and the household income of the child at the 10th percentile, who is poorer than 90 percent of children. The gap between the two was the indicator of income inequality between the average child and poorest children.
The data shows that 22.8 percent of Turkish children are members of households with incomes below 50 percent of the national median income, the highest ratio after Israel and Chile.
UNICEF noted that Turkey’s performance, along with that of Israel, was the worst among the 41 states studied.
“Israel and Turkey rank lowest in the overall league table. They have comparatively high bottom-end inequality in each of the four domains of child well-being for which they have valid data,” it said, arguing that social inequalities among children are unjustifiable as “merit cannot reasonably be advanced as justification for inequalities.”
IRNA – An Iranian high-ranking delegation headed by President Hassan Rouhani presented the country's viewpoints on Islamic world unity and serious fighting against extremism during the 13th OIC Summit.
President Rouhani said in his speech that the Islamic world does not deserve to plunge into a wave of insecurity, violence and organized terrorism and caught into extensive backwardness and underdevelopment; rather, it should stand on a top status and this is only possible through contemplating deeply on current situation.
The President also warned about the main threat, that's to say, Zionist regime's plots and neglecting the oppressed nation of Palestine.
He underlined the threat of Zionist regime as the main source of creating violence and extremism, stating that the regime keeps massacre of the innocent Palestinians and such crimes are going unnoticed by the global community, particularly western powers.
The president also said that OIC which was established in the name of unity should not issue a message fueling the flames of division among the Islamic Ummah.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif criticized inclusion of an anti-Hezbollah clause in the draft of communiqué of OIC proposed by Saudi Arabia, saying that the move is against the spirit of Islamic solidarity and warned about the repercussions of the destructive measure.
Zarif also called on OIC to contribute to reinforcement of the Islamic unity, saying that disputes between the countries should be solved through dialogue.
China will not allow India into NSG: Former Pakistani diplomat
IANS | Apr 14, 2016, 07.26 PM IST
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is banking on good friend China to block India's chances of making it to the coveted Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a former Pakistani diplomat has said, adding that "chances of India gaining entry into NSG are virtually nil".
Zamir Akram, Pakistan's former permanent representative at the United Nations in Geneva and envoy at the Conference on Disarmament, said on Wednesday that China would not allow India to enter the NSG because this would affect its nuclear cooperation with Pakistan, according to Dawn online.
Akram said China is committed to ensuring that both India and Pakistan gain membership to the 48-nation NSG at the same time.
Besides China, there are some countries that are upset by the "double standards" being shown in India's case, and are calling for an approach based on criteria, he added.
Akram was speaking at a conference on the International Nuclear Order, organised by the Strategic Vision Institute (SVI) and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.
According to Dawn, this is the second time in a month that a senior official involved in Pakistan's nuclear affairs has dismissed India's chances.
At a conference late last month, adviser to the National Command Authority Lt. Gen. (retd) Khalid Kidwai had said: "We also have friends in NSG who would not let it happen."
Discussing the global nuclear order, Akram said it had been destabilised by a number of factors, including the world powers' double standards and discriminatory exemptions granted to India.
Former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General Ehsanul Haq, criticised the world nuclear order for being "highly discriminatory and obstructive".
He said Pakistan's nuclear programme would continue, "no matter how adverse the environment, to provide us the credible deterrence against the existential threats we confront".
SVI president Zafar Iqbal Cheema said the world powers were using the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Non-Proliferation Regime (NPR) for their political, strategic and foreign policy objectives, thereby diminishing their credibility.
He said Pakistan was a victim of the West's discriminatory attitude. The Indo-US nuclear deal provides India with fissile material for 50 additional warheads every year by sparing local resources.
SVI also called for maintaining credible deterrence capability against India, and advised against compromising security for mainstreaming in the nuclear order.
PTI | Apr 15, 2016
NEW YORK: India is "not forthcoming" in resuming comprehensive dialogue with Pakistan and such an attitude is "impeding" prospects of normalization of bilateral relations, Pakistan's envoy to the UN has said.
Pakistan's Permanent Representative to the UN ambassador Maleeha Lodhi told a group of students and faculty members from the US Army War College last week that despite a positive start following the coming to power of the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India suspended talks between the two countries on "flimsy grounds and set unacceptable pre-conditions" for their revival.
According to a press release by the Pakistan Mission at the UN, Lodhi said in spite of Pakistan's call to resume broad-based, comprehensive dialogue, "India was still not forthcoming".
"This attitude was impeding prospects of normalization between the two countries," the release said.
Lodhi said that defeating terrorism, growing the economy and building a peaceful neighbourhood were among Pakistan's top priorities, including promoting peace and security in Afghanistan and normalizing relations with India on the basis of resolution of outstanding disputes.
"These national priorities frame our international diplomacy and our foreign engagements," she said.
Lodhi further said one of Pakistan's key priorities was regional connectivity and integration and cited the connectivity project with China linking the two countries through an economic corridor.
"The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that would link Pakistan to Central Asia and the Eurasian landmass will not be confined to China and Pakistan but will be win-win for the entire region," the release said.
Syria: Heavy Infighting Erupts Between Terrorists Near Border with Turkey
15 Apr 2016
TEHRAN (FNA)- Military sources reported heavy infighting between terrorist groups in the Northernmost regions of Syria near Turkish border on Thursday.
"The clashes erupted on Thursday morning when ISIL militants, trying to take more territories from their rival groups in the border area, started attacking other terrorist groups' positions in a strategic region near Turkish border," a battlefield source said.
The source further added that ISIL militants captured several villages, including Ikda, Brisha, Brikada, Hawar kilis, Shimareen in Northern Aleppo, adding that local villagers left their homes to avoid ending up in the regions under ISIL control.
The clashes flared as ISIL has intensified its offensives against rival militants in Northern Aleppo.
The development comes as, yesterday, the Syrian Air Force pounded and destroyed the military positions and gathering centers of the Takfiri terrorists in the Eastern part of Aleppo province.
The ISIL's concentration centers were razed down by the Syrian fighter jets in Deir Hafer, Ereime and al-Bab regions in Eastern Aleppo.
Scores of the ISIL Takfiri terrorists were killed and wounded in the Syrian airstrikes on their military positions.
The Syrian fighter jets also destroyed the ISIL's military positions in the town of Maskana, some 100 km Southeast of Aleppo city, in addition to pounding the gathering centers of the ISIL Takfiri terrorists in Tal Sheir and West of Oweijel in the farthest Northeastern regions of the province.
TEHRAN (FNA)- The ISIL Takfiri terrorist group launched a large-scale assault on Deir Ezzur military airport, striking the army’s front-line defenses but the timely reaction by the Syrian soldiers repelled their offensive.
The Syrian army soldiers thwarted ISIL assault before Takfiri terrorists' vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) reached its destination.
After hours of fierce clashes, pro-government forces managed to foil the assault, killing and injuring at least 22 Takfiri terrorists.
Also, on Wednesday, the Syrian fighter jets pounded and destroyed the military centers and headquarters of the ISIL Takfiri terrorists in Deir Ezzur province, inflicting heavy losses and casualties on them.
The ISIL's military positions and headquarters were razed down in al-Roshdiyah, Hosseiniyeh, Sheikh Yassin and Saker regions in the Syrian airstrikes.
Scores of the ISIL terrorists were killed and wounded in the Syrian fighter jets' raids on their positions.
The Takfiri terrorists' military hardware and vehicles were also destroyed in the Syrian warplanes' attacks.
TEHRAN (FNA)- Military sources in the Northern province of Aleppo revealed the army's plans to start massive operations against the remaining Takfiri terrorists with 10,000 operating soldiers.
"The Syrian army has deployed 10,000 soldiers in Aleppo front to begin a large-scale military operation to push the Takfiris back from the remaining villages which are under the terrorists' control," the military source said on Thursday.
Relevant reports on Tuesday said that the commanders of the Syrian Ground and Air Forces, their allies and the Russian military advisors, in a joint meeting, coordinated the last steps of a large-scale operation in Aleppo to liberate the terrorist-held territories as soon as possible, military sources said.
"The Large-scale operation to wipe out the militancy in Aleppo province is expected to start in the next 10 days," the sources said, adding, "Fresh recruits in large groups are heading Aleppo from the coastal province of Lattakia."
Also, on Monday, a report said that the al-Nusra Front terrorist group, for its part, dispatched more troops to Aleppo following the rapid victories of the Syrian Armed Forces in the Northwestern part of the province.
"The al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front have dispatched nearly 350 fresh forces to join the terrorist front near the refugee camp of Handarat and Yarmoun to slow down the rapid advances of the Syrian Army troops and their popular allies in the region in the last two-three days," the sources said.
BEIRUT: Islamic State seized a hilly area southeast of the Syrian city of Aleppo, it and monitors said on Friday, after making advances near the border with Turkey that the United Nations said forced inhabitants to flee.
The militant jihadist group said in a statement it had gained control over Dureihem and surrounding hills about 65 km (40 miles) southeast of Aleppo, an area that overlooks the government-held town of Khanaser.
Syrian state media reported late on Thursday that the army had engaged in operations against Islamic State near Khanaser, inflicting "large losses" on the insurgents.
Fighting between the army and Islamic State in the area continued as the government sought to regain control there, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group that tracks Syria's civil war, said on Friday.
The United Nations said that as of Thursday, an Islamic State attack on border areas held by Syrian rebel groups had put camps for displaced people at risk, causing more than 20,000 of them of them to flee towards the opposition-held town of Azaz.
On Monday, Islamic State retook the town of al-Rai, 36 km (22 miles) east of Azaz, from factions fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army, part of months of back-and-forth fighting in northern Aleppo province.
The Syrian army backed by Russian warplanes launched an assault north of Aleppo on Thursday, threatening to block a vital rebel route into the city in fighting that has cast new clouds over peace talks in Geneva.
(Reporting By Angus McDowall; Edeiting by Mark Heinrich)
TEHRAN (FNA)- Syrian Army forces backed by popular forces managed to liberate the strategic region of al-Mallah farms from the control of the Al-Nusra Front terrorists in Northwestern suburbs of Aleppo, military source said on Thursday.
"The Syrian army began the operation to recapture more regions in the Northern suburb of Aleppo on Thursday and pushed the al-Nusra terrorist to evacuate Mallah farms and retreat Eastward after heavy clashes which ended in significant casualties on the terrorist group," the battlefield source said
The source added that the al-Nusra militants fired dozens of rockets at residential areas with dozens of civilian casualties reported.
The victory paves the way for more advances by the Syrian Army in strategic regions in the Northern suburbs of the city of Aleppo.
The development comes as military sources in the Northern province of Aleppo revealed the army's plans to start massive operations against the remaining Takfiri terrorists with 10,000 operating soldiers.
All Al-Nusra Leaders inside Dara'a Center Killed, Wounded in Army Attack
TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian army offensive on a gathering of al-Nusra Front leaders in the Southern province of Dara'a killed or injured all inside the building.
A Syrian army unit destroyed the al-Nusra leaders' center in al-Hammadin area in Dara'a al-Mahatta on Thursday.
A military source explained that an army unit directly hit the fortified positions of al-Nusra terrorists in al-Hammadin area, which resulted in destroying its headquarters where the terrorist group's leaders had convened for a highly important strategic meeting.
In a relevant development in Dara'a on Wednesday, the Syrian army repelled an attack by the Takfiri terrorists on its military positions in the Eastern part of the province.
The Takfiri terrorists affiliated to the al-Nusra Front tried to attack the Syrian army's military positions in Dara'a al-Mahatta, but were pushed back by the army units.
The Syrian army destroyed the two heavy machinegun-equipped military vehicles of the al-Nusra terrorists in Dara'a al-Mahatta region in Eastern Dara'a.
Meantime, battlefield sources announced that a Syrian army unit drove out the Takfiri terrorists from al-Hammadin neighborhood in Dara'a province.
Also, an army unit destroyed two machinegun-equipped military vehicles of al-Nusra terrorists in Tal al-Sheikh Hussein and Teloul Khleif regions.
TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Army, backed by Hezbollah and the National Defense Forces (NDF) cut off another key supply route of the terrorists in the Southern parts of Aleppo province, a military source said on Thursday.
The Syrian Army forces and their allies recaptured the main road used by Al-Nusra Front and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) at the Al-Ramouseh Industrial Zone after a tough battle in the region, the battlefield source said.
"As a result of this latest attack, the terrorists are now without a much-needed supply route to the Al-Ramouseh Industrial Zone," an army strategist said, adding that "the achievement by the Syrian Army means a seroius problem for the al-Nusra and the Free Syrian Army in near future".
"The terrorists will now have to use rural and secondary roads to deliver their supplies to Ramouseh Industrial Zone, if they are up to keep their presence there," he explained.
Earlier in Aleppo province, Syrian Army forces repulsed ISIL's assault on their positions in Southern Aleppo and killed or injured a number of militants.
"The ISIL militants in an attempt to prevail over army positions East of Khanaser attacked the region, however, the Syrian Army troops fended off the attack and killed several fighters," a military source said.
The source added that ISIL militants conducted an immense attack in Khanaser region, but the attack ended in another defeat for the militant group as the army forces destroyed several ISIL heavily-armed pick-up truck vehicles and defused some explosive devices left by the militants in the region.
TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari announced the country's plans to equip its fleet in the Caspian Sea with new missile-launching vessels.
"This year, new missile-launching vessels will join the Navy in the Caspian Sea," Sayyari said on the sidelines of a ceremony to deliver a 2,000-ton floating dock to the Naval forces in the Northern port city of Anzali on Thursday.
In relevant remarks in August, Sayyari announced the country's plans to equip the naval forces with new advanced missile-launching warships.
"The Iranian Navy will be equipped with new units and equipment, including missile-launching warships, destroyers and surface and subsurface units, in the current year and next year," Sayyari said.
He said that the new home-made naval equipment which indicates Iran's self-sufficiency will certainly surprise the world once again.
Tehran launched an arms development program during the 1980-88 Iraqi imposed war on Iran to compensate for a US weapons embargo. Since 1992, Iran has produced its own tanks, armored personnel carriers, missiles and fighter planes.
Yet, Iranian officials have always stressed that the country's military and arms programs serve defensive purposes and should not be perceived as a threat to any other country.
Iran Equips Helicopters with Anti-Armored Weapons, Modern Missiles
TEHRAN (FNA)- The Iranian Air Force has mounted anti-armored weapons and state-of-the-art missiles on its helicopters to increase their destruction power, a senior commander announced on Thursday.
"Anti-armored weapons, night vision equipment and new missiles (in addition to TOW missiles) have been mounted on our helicopters," Commander of the First Airborne Combat Base General Yousef Qorbani told reporters in the Western city of Kermanshah on Thursday.
He described Iran's Airborne Force as among the most powerful forces in the Middle-East.
In relevant remarks in August, Iranian Ground Force Commander Brigadier General Ahmad Reza Pourdastan announced that the country has equipped its helicopters with night vision equipment.
"Optimization of helicopters is carried out by the Islamic Republic of Iran Army's Air Borne force and the Ground Force engineers have the same capability and today our helicopters have been equipped with the night vision capability and many of other helicopters like Cobra have also been equipped with weapon systems," Pourdastan told reporters in the Western city of Kermanshah.
Also in December 2014, Iran's latest home-grown torpedo was fired by the Naval forces' anti-submarine SH-3D helicopters on the fifth day of the massive Mohammad Rasoulallah (PBUH) wargames in the Southern and Southeastern parts of the country.
The torpedo successfully hit and destroyed the specified sub-surface target in the waters of the Sea of Oman, Southern Iran.
TEHRAN (FNA)- Commander of Iran's Northern Fleet Rear Admiral Afshin Rezayee Haddad announced plans to equip his forces in the Caspian Sea with a drone battalion.
"A drone battalion will join the Naval fleet in the Northern parts of the country which will further strengthen the Navy in that region," Rezayee Haddad said on the sidelines of a ceremony to deliver a 2,000-ton floating dock to the Naval forces in the Northern port city of Anzali on Thursday.
He also announced that a missile-launching vessel named 'Sina 4' will join Iran's Northern fleet in the current Iranian year (started on March 20).
Lieutenant Commander of the Iranian Navy Rear Admiral Gholam Reza Khadem Biqam announced in 2013 that the Iranian Navy is equipped with various types of long-range Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), including intelligence gathering and combat drones.
"At present, the Navy is in possession of drones in proper sizes and with good range that are used for our intelligence domination in the region," Khadem Biqam told FNA.
Noting that the Navy is equipped with different types of UAVs, he said his forces are equipped with various types of combat drones.
In recent years, Iran has made great achievements in its defense sector and attained self-sufficiency in producing essential military equipment and systems, including the UAVs.
TEHRAN (FNA)- An informed military source strongly rejected rumors spread by the Takfiri terrorists about their victories against the Syrian government forces in al-Dumeir military airbase in Damascus province.
"Such rumors have been spread by the Takfiri terrorists due to the heavy blows that they have sustained from the army across Syria," the source said on Thursday.
"The airbase is under the full control of the Syrian army soldiers," he underlined.
The ISIL launched powerful assault to enter the strategic al-Dumeir military airport, but the Syrian army and popular forces repelled their attempts.
During the weekend, the Syrian Army troops fended off the terrorist groups' attempts to prevail over the government forces' strongholds around the vital al-Dumeir military airport and forced them to retreat from the battlefront.
"Al-Dumeir airbase that is 40 kilometers to the Northeast of Damascus city is under the full control of the Syrian army men," a source in the airbase said.
"The military airport is secure and no terrorist group can approach it," he further added.
"The terrorist groups left behind scores of the dead or wounded members and fled the battlefield," the commander pointed out.
SANAA: Heavy storms have claimed the lives of at least 42 people over the past week in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, officials in the two neighbouring states said on Thursday.
Twenty-four people were killed in northern Yemen, while 18 lives were lost in Saudi Arabia in flooding caused by heavy rains, the officials said.
Security sources said 10 people died in the province of Amran, north of the Yemeni capital Sanaa, and more people were missing.
Flooding damaged several houses and cut off roads in both Amran and Hajjah, northwest of Sanaa, where 14 people were killed, some of them in landslides.
South of Hajjah in the province of Al-Mahwit, a dam burst causing flooding of farmland and the collapse of bridges, the sources said.
In Saudi Arabia, 18 people were killed in heavy rains during the past week, the civil defence agency said.
In a statement, it said the toll covered much of the country, from Riyadh to Hail, Makkah, Medina, Al-Baha, Asir, Najran and Jazan. The agency said it rescued 915 people.
Among the dead were two people in the southwestern Jazan region, which borders Yemen.
The pair died when three areas in the mountainous district were inundated by flood waters, Al-Ekhbaria news channel reported on its Twitter feed.
The Saudi Red Crescent separately reported one death in Al-Baha, more than 300 kilometres north of Jazan city.
Another 27 people in Al-Baha were injured over three days because of accidents during heavy rains.
Severe downpours have struck Saudi Arabia this week, including in the desert capital Riyadh where schools closed on Wednesday after floods caused traffic chaos during a storm.
Flint-area Muslim cleric blasted in ISIS magazine
A Flint-area Muslim cleric is among the global figures the Islamic State has called out in its online magazine for allegedly straying from the faith.
In the newest Dabiq, the Islamic State’s English-language online magazine, the authors of an article titled “Kill the Imams of Kufr in the West” claim Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani is “quick to ally with any (disbeliever) who will allow them to spread their message and take the wealth of ignorant people to pay off their extravagance.”
The writers say “kufr” refers to any religion outside Islam. They also suggest the ruling for a person who commits riddah, or apostasy, is death “unless he repents before he is apprehended.”
Kabbani, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Detroit News Thursday night, also was shown in a picture with England’s Prince Charles and a caption referring to him as a “murtadd,” or apostate.
The 71-year-old Muslim leader is considered “one of the world’s most renowned scholars of Islamic history and the spiritual science of Sufism,” according to the web site for the Islamic Supreme Council of America, which has headquarters near Flint and lists Kabbani as its chairman.
“As deputy leader of the Naqshbandi Haqqani Sufi Order, Shaykh Kabbani also serves as a guide and teacher to approximately 2 million Muslims throughout the world, particularly in the United States, England and Southeast Asia,” the web site says.
Kabbani, who studied at the American University of Beirut, has also founded 23 Sufi study and meeting centers in the United States and Canada as well as authored books on Islam, according to the web site.
He warned in a 1999 speech to the State Department that extremism posed a threat to national security and for years chastised other Islamic leaders over failing to speak out against terrorism, The Detroit News reported. Shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, Kabblani was among the regional officials who publicly requested Arabs or Muslims come forward if they know something that could help investigators.
A copy of the latest edition of Dabiq was provided through the website for Aaron Zelin, the Richard Borow fellow at the Washington Institute who studies jihadist groups.
Other high-profile figures the Islamic State mentions in the article discussing Kabbani included U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, a Detroit native who represents Minnesota in Congress, and Huma Abedin, a Kalamazoo native and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s longtime personal assistant.
FBI officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday night about the citations.
Muslims, S. Asians are targeted for their faith and looks: US A-G
WASHINGTON: Muslim, Arab, Sikh and South Asian Americans are often the target of threats because of their appearance or religion, according to US Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch.
On Wednesday, the US Department of Justice launched a nationwide campaign to protect these groups from a backlash that followed recent terrorist attacks in Brussels, Paris and San Bernardino, California.
The department has also included law enforcement and community leaders in this campaign to make it more effective.
“There is no place for intolerance in our country,” said Mr Lynch in an appeal released with the campaign. The department plans to hold 14 events in 11 districts in the next two week to expedite legal actions for countering this backlash.
It also launched a new interagency initiative to combat religious discrimination throughout the country. From April 12 through May 6, Attorneys in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio and Utah will work with community leaders and law enforcement to address discrimination, violence and harassment targeting people because of what they look like, which country they come from or where they worship.
The Justice Department announced that the aim of this campaign was to reaffirm the commitment to protecting civil rights and preventing and prosecuting hate crimes.
“The Department of Justice is determined to uphold the fundamental principle that all Americans should be free from violence and protected from hatred no matter who they are, what they look like, or where they’re from,” Mr Lynch said.
“These events underscore our ongoing commitment to safeguard the civil rights of every American — including Muslim, Arab, Sikh and South Asian Americans, who are so often the targets of threats on the basis of their appearance or religion.”
Mr Lynch said that even after the campaign was over, the Department of Justice would continue to work with local law enforcement partners and community leaders to defend the safety and dignity of all American people.
During the last several months, individuals who are, or who are perceived to be, Muslim, Arab, Sikh and South Asian have been targeted for harassment and violence around the country, said a Justice Department report released with the campaign.
A Connecticut man pleaded guilty to firing a high-powered rifle at a mosque; a Florida man pleaded guilty to threatening to firebomb two mosques and shoot their congregants; a former Missouri man pleaded guilty to violating the civil rights of others by leading a conspiracy to deface a local Islamic centre with graffiti and burn two copies of the Holy Qur’an; and a New York man was sentenced to 13 months in prison for emailing death threats to the executive director of an Islamic advocacy group.
WASHINGTON: The US has asked Pakistan to target all militant groups, including the Lashkar-e-Taiba(LeT), after release of a state department cable which suggested strong links between the notorious spy agency ISI and the Haqqani network.
"We have been consistently clear with the highest levels of the government of Pakistan that it must target all militant groups, including the Haqqani Network, al-Qaida, Lashkar-e-Taiba," said state department spokesman John Kirby.
"The government of Pakistan itself has repeatedly said it's not going to discriminate against a terrorist group regardless of their agenda or affiliation," he said.
Kirby was responding to a question on a series of latest US cable released by the National Security Archive which suggest strong links between Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence and the Haqqani network.
According to one of the cables, the ISI paid a whopping USD 200,000 to the dreaded Haqqani Network for a suicide attack on a CIA camp in Afghanistan in 2009 that killed seven American agents and contractors and three others.
The CIA declined to comment on the cable.
But an intelligence official told PTI there was no evidence which proves the information mentioned in the cable, which though is genuine.
The US has maintained that the attack on a CIA base in Afghanistan was the handiwork of al-Qaida and not the Haqqani network.
"During discussions at an unknown date between Haqqani Salar and an unidentified ISID officer or Officers, Haqqani and Salar were provide $200,000 to enable the attack on Chapman," says the cable released by the National Security Archive of George Washington University which obtained it from the state department under the Freedom of Information Act.
The state department did not answer questions on the cable.
According to an intelligence official, the information in the cable obtained from a source on the ground could not be corroborated and there is no other cable matching this information.
"We've made it clear what our expectations of the Government of Pakistan are, and the government of Pakistan has made it clear publicly, repeatedly that it's not going to discriminate against groups," Kirby said.
Musharraf’s non-bailable arrest warrants ‘could not be executed’
ISLAMABAD: Aabpara police, on Thursday, submitted a report to an additional district and sessions judge (ADSJ) stating that the non-bailable arrest warrants against former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf in the Lal Masjid cleric murder case could not be executed.
The submission of the report is part of a process initiated earlier this month by ASDJ Pervaizul Qadir Memon to declare Musharraf a ‘proclaimed offender’.
Under sections 87 or 88 of the CrPC, the court – due to the absence of an accused – can start a process to declare the accused a ‘proclaimed offender’ and then deem him an absconder.
The report was submitted before the court during the proceedings of the Abdul Rashid Ghazi murder case. In the report the Aabpara police said police officials visited Musharraf’s Chak Shahzad residence to execute his non-bailable arrest warrants, but he was not present.
According to the report, security officials deployed at the residence’s main gate informed the police that Musharraf was not residing there, but had been living in Karachi for the last couple of years.
The report also cited the Supreme Court verdict after which the federal government removed Musharraf’s name from the exit control list (ECL).
It said that after the removal of his name from the no-fly list, Mr Musharraf left the country.
After perusing the report, Mr Memon adjourned the proceedings until April 30.
In September 2013, Aabpara police registered an FIR against Musharraf under the direction of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) where Haroon Rashid, the son of the deceased, had filed a petition seeking legal action against the former military dictator for launching a military operation against Lal Masjid in 2007.
The petitioner’s father and grandmother, Sahib Khatoon, were among those killed in the operation.
The operation against the Lal Masjid administration was launched in July 2007, after the civil administration failed to get the children’s library vacated from their possession.
In Islamabad, six artists explore how our hyper-visual world affects us
Satrang Gallery on Thursday presented ‘Fragmented Epiphanies’, a collection of the works of six celebrated young artists: Inaam Zafar, Mohsin Shafi, Rabeya Jalil, Saba Khan, Sehr Jalil and Shameen Arshad. All six artists are exhibiting internationally and their work is inspired, unusual and original.
The artists created works inspired by the visual stimuli encountered through their readings, interests and daily lives. They incorporated text-based visuals into their work to express their responses to scenarios impacting their worlds.
Asma Rashid Khan, the founder and director at Satrang Gallery, said: “This show appropriately coincides with the Islamabad Literature Festival and is in keeping with the new literary trend of art serving the purpose of ideas that influence our thinking, our trends and bringing about the societal change we need.”
Zahra Khan’s curatorial perspective was based upon text-based visual stimuli that have an impact on the human subconscious, and the subtle ways in which they manifest themselves. The curator was looking for artists who are fluid with their thoughts and practices.
Ms Khan said: “In today’s rapidly paced, nuanced world, our minds are bombarded with continuous images, lights, texts and associations which our brains process and connect at lightning speeds. This information, some of which is fractured, is absorbed and stored; it is regurgitated or accessed whenever necessary.
“This exhibition seeks to present the impact of these visual stimuli, particularly those that are text-based, on the human subconscious and the subtle way in which they manifest themselves through creative outlets.”
Mohsin Shafi and Rabeya Jalil have worked with multiple mediums. Utilizing found materials, images and writings both artists created unique and dynamic pieces which explore identities.
Mr Shafi said: “We are using text more than we have ever used it before, and I used old photographs, ideas and fragments to create my pictures.”
Some of the exhibited works are humorous, like those of Sehr Jalil, which are reminiscent of fragments of conversations or ideas – partly overhead and partly ignored. Shameen Arshad, conversely, has focused entirely on texts and words.
Ms Jalil calls herself an existentialist whose inspiration comes from everyday bursts.
Ms Arshad has played with text in large monochromatic pieces and said: “My aim is to break down words in such a way so that a person has to struggle to read an entire statement.”
Inaam Zafar and Saba Khan both deal with ecological and environmental issues that are rapidly becoming increasingly problematic partly due to sprawling developments, but largely due to neglect and disinterest.
Mr Zafar said: “The referential stimuli for my work are the allegories, the notes, and the acquaintances, observed and learnt from different places at different times. Art does not bring change right away but it affects perspectives and with time changes attitudes and preferences.”
Saba Khan said: “The past decade has seen rapid urban development in the city of Lahore and as it sprawls it eats up previous landmarks, trees and name of places that once resonated within the pluralistic land of South Asia.
“The city is adamant on providing dream homes to the middle and upper classes, mushrooming miniature American McMansions with Punjabi baroque sensibilities are the norm which I have depicted.”
KARACHI: Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Friday put an end to wild speculation about a possible meeting between his father Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif with a short post on Twitter.
"AZ is NOT meeting NS," read the tweet, which contained the link of a newspaper article titled 'Zardari ready to meet Nawaz in London'. Using the initials of their names, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal was referring to former president Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif who are currently in London.
A recent report published in Dawn quotes PPP leader Aitzaz Ahsan as making the remark, “The prime minister has no medical issues and is only visiting London to present himself in the court of Asif Ali Zardari.”
He was also quick to add that whenever the prime minister came under pressure, he always looked towards the PPP leadership for help.
But in response, Dr Musadik Malik, one of the many spokespersons from the Prime Minister’s Office, said that the PM had neither expressed a desire to meet the PPP leader nor had he scheduled a meeting with him. The PM is only visiting London for a medical check-up, Dr Malik said.
However, when asked, a senior Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leader said that there was every likelihood that the PM was going to ask the PPP to bail him out, considering the pressure mounting on him to have the claims against his family investigated.
In return for coming to his rescue, the PPP may ask for something, since Dr Asim Hussain and many other senior PPP leaders in Sindh were facing serious charges, he said.
Many of the PPP’s detractors argued that last year’s acquittal from much-talked about SGS and Cotecna references was made possible due to a weak prosecution of the case by the PML-N government.
In background discussions, a well-connected PML-N lawmaker admitted that there was a great deal of nervousness among the party’s top leaders following the leak of the Panama Papers.
ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani president rejected as many as 513 mercy petitions of condemned prisoners over the last five years, an Interior Ministry document revealed on Friday.
The Interior Ministry, in a written response to a question raised by Jamaat-i-Islami Senator Sirajul Haq, said that all mercy petitions sent to the president during the time period were rejected.
Only 38 mercy petitions of condemned prisoners who were awarded a death sentence are pending with the Interior Ministry, of which 13 cases are under submission to the President Secretariat for decision, the document said.
"Appeals of these condemned prisoners have already been rejected by higher courts," the Interior Ministry said.
Earlier this month, an Amnesty International report said Pakistan carried out 326 executions last year – the highest ever recorded by the organisation for the country.
In 2015, Pakistan completely removed a seven-year moratorium on the death penalty after a Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan attack on Peshawar's Army Public School in which at least 144 people, most of them children, were killed.
Amnesty said it received information that Pakistan was one of two countries that had executed people in 2015 who were under the age of 18 when their crimes were committed, and it said juveniles face the death sentence in several other countries.
Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s Director of South Asia Regional Office told said that Pakistan had vaulted to the third spot for recorded state executions in the world. Patel added that most of those executed were not convicted of terror-related offences, and there is evidence that at least two and possibly more of them were juveniles when they committed their alleged crimes.
"The death penalty is always a rights violation, but its use in Pakistan is all the more troubling given the serious fair trial concerns – including insufficient access to lawyers and endemic police torture to extract confessions," Patel said.
Malaysia 1MDB: Saudi minister says Najib funds were donation
Allegations about 1MDB have hit Prime Minister Najib Razak
Saudi Arabia's foreign minister has said funds found in Malaysian PM Najib Razak's personal account were a donation, say Malaysian state media.
Last year, the Wall Street Journal accused Mr Najib of corruption, claiming that the $681m (£478m) had come from troubled state fund 1MDB.
Mr Najib has faced repeated calls to step down as prime minister but has been cleared of wrongdoing.
He said the Saudi statement confirmed what he had always maintained.
The full background to the 1MDB scandal
Malaysia PM in the clear?
The 1MDB fund was set up by Mr Najib in 2009 to pay for major new economic and social developments in Malaysia.
Last July, Malaysia's then-Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail linked the $681m in Mr Najib's account to companies and bodies which had ties to 1MDB.
Mr Patail was replaced, and, after an investigation, his successor cleared Mr Najib of corruption, saying that the money was a personal donation by the Saudi royal family to the prime minister's private bank account.
'The matter is closed'
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir was speaking at a summit in Istanbul after meeting with Mr Najib on the sidelines
"We are aware of the donation and it is a genuine donation with nothing expected in return. We are also fully aware that the attorney general of Malaysia has thoroughly investigated the matter and found no wrongdoing," he said.
"So, as far as we are concerned, the matter is closed," Mr Jubeir said, after a meeting with Mr Najib on the sidelines of the summit.
The fund has been dogged by allegations of corruption.
Last week, a Malaysian parliamentary enquiry found its entire board 1MDB had been acted irresponsibly, and called for an investigation into the former chief, although it did not implicate Mr Najib.
A Swiss investigation into 1MDB was opened last year, citing "suspected corruption of public foreign officials, dishonest management of public interests and money laundering".
Regulators in the US and Hong Kong are also reported to be investigating 1MDB.
Uighur terror suspects not detected in Malaysia
April 15, 2016
Police have not detected the two alleged Uighur terror suspects who are believed to have entered Malaysia from Thailand, said Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar.
"We are not sure as we have their names and their details but not their pictures," Khalid said.
Khalid was responding to a Bernama report that two Turks of Uighur descent, suspected of plotting terrorist attacks in Thailand, had left for Malaysia.
It was reported last week that Malaysian authorities were on high alert following information from Thailand that the two were heading to Malaysia.
Deputy Prime Minister Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was quoted saying on Sunday that the two were actually economic refugees.
Dr Ahmad Zahid, who is also the Home Minister, said at the time that Malaysia received information from Interpol, as well as the Homeland Security of China, about this intelligence memo issued by the Phuket Immigration Office of Thailand.
Thai officials were quoted as saying that they had been informed of the men's recent departure by Phuket Immigration Office.
The names of the two Uighurs were believed to be the same as those in a leaked intelligence memo, which had claimed that the duo and two Russians of Chechen descent were plotting terror attacks in Thailand.
JAKARTA: Indonesia’s central bank said on Friday it will adopt a new benchmark policy rate starting Aug 19 to make its monetary policy more effective in guiding money market rates.
The new benchmark is the seven-day reverse repurchase rate, Governor Agus Martowardojo said in a teleconference from Washington DC.
The seven-day reverse repo rate was 5.50% in Bank Indonesia’s last auction.
The current benchmark rate is 6.75% and it is not tied directly to the money market.
Martowardojo stressed that the change does not mean Bank Indonesia is changing its monetary stance. - Reuters
Africa is a Land of Promising Future, Say Ambassadors in Cuba
Santiago de Cuba, Apr 14 (Prensa Latina) African Ambassadors attending the 15th Conference on African and African-American Culture, in its third day today, described this continent as a land of a promising future, plunged into advances and challenges in the path to development.
In the panel on the current situation in the region, Ethiopian Ambassador Michel Takele said that the hegemonic media promote a distorted image of these countries, some of which offer many opportunities for investments and have a swift progress in their economies.
Meanwhile, Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Gambia Masanneth Kinteh mentioned as challenges the terrorism, the conflicts amid ethnic groups and countries, the wrong managements that have led to stagnation, the mental colonization, financial instability and indebtedness.
Ambassadors from the Republics of Namibia, South Africa and Mali, Jerobean Shaanika, Napthal Manana and Abdoul Kaoler, respectively, agreed to express themselves in support of prosperity of their nations with a sustainable and inclusive development and the elimination of scourges as poverty and lack of health.
African Ambassadors praised Cuba, a country that has taken roots in the feelings of the people in Africa, where many specialists graduated in Cuban universities during more than 50 years contribute to these positive changes.
April 14 2016
East African Community’s member states will be among over 130 countries to sign the Paris Climate Change Agreement in New York, US, next week, paving the way for the global pact to enter into force.
The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon will host the signing ceremony on April 22 when it opens for signature. The event is set to break the record for the highest number of countries signing an international treaty. The 1994 Law of the Sea Treaty set the record with 119 countries signing it on its first day of signature.
“Paris was historic,” Ban said in a statement. “But it’s only the beginning. We must urgently accelerate our efforts to tackle climate change.”
The Paris agreement sets a goal of limiting global warming by capping temperature rise to 2oC while aiming at a target of 1.5oC. Part of the effort includes cutting back or eliminating use of coal, oil and gas for energy and adopting cleaner sources, such as solar, wind and nuclear power.
A country’s signature on the agreement initiates the domestic process, which may be rapid or lengthy depending on its practices, that culminates in depositing its instruments of ratification with the UN. It is only once such an instrument is deposited that a country can be said to have ratified the Paris Agreement.
A number of countries have already indicated that they will deposit their instruments of ratification immediately after signing the agreement, the UN said.
All 195 nations that are parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change were invited to sign the agreement that will take effect 30 days after at least 55 countries, accounting for 55 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, have deposited their instruments of ratification or acceptance.
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