Photo: U.S. volunteer John Cole (C), 23, carries his assault rifle at a checkpoint in Makhmour, Iraq April 17, 2016. Reuters/Ahmed Jadallah
Despite Crackdown, Some Pakistani Militants Walk the Streets
Islamic State's Chief India Recruiter Killed In US Drone Strike
6 Militant Groups Join Syrian Ceasefire in Damascus Province
U.S. Volunteers Seek Adventure Fighting Islamic State alongside Kurds
ISIS Targeted By Cyber-Attacks in a New U.S. Line of Combat
Russia and China rush to fill Mideast void left by Obama
UNO professor wins Islamic finance prize, and other news of higher education
Rumours swirl around Pakistan’s role in antiterror Islamic Alliance
PTI MPA killed over political rivalry, TTP claim false
Eight Muslim Men Discharged In Malegaon 2006 Blast Case
Bomb Banane Ka Asaan Tarika: How ‘Islamic State Recruits’ Got Tips Online
Syrian Army's Heavy Fire Pushes ISIL back from Battlefield Northeast of Damascus
Hezbollah Seizes Terrorists' Huge Arms Cargo at Syria-Lebanon Border
Syrian Soldiers, Russian Warplanes Hit ISIL Heavily near Deir Ezzur
President Rouhani: Iran Ready to Share Anti-Terrorism Experiences with Macedonia
More ISIL Tunnels Found Near King Ashurbanipal's Ancient Palace in Mosul
Syria: 50 Villages Won Back in Lattakia in Six Months
Russian Air Force Intensifies Bombardment of Terrorists' Logistical Movement across Syria
Iran, S. Africa stress speedy reconnection of banking links
Philippines Jihadists Loyal To Islamic State Warn They Will Behead Western Hostages
Radicalisation and Its Threats to a Small Nation, Singapore
30 Killed As Taliban and ISIS Loyalists Clash in Nangarhar Province
20 Militants Killed As Major Taliban Offensive Repulsed In Farah
Bangladesh Jamaat-E-Islami Activist Held over Professor’s Murder, Say Police
Taliban deputy shadow district chief killed in Takhar province
Ghani promises to introduce Defense Minister, NDS Chief nominees in coming days
Taliban military chief in Kunduz arrested by Afghan special forces
Afghan president calls on Pakistan to battle Taliban
Turkey Needs Armed Drone to Defend Syrian Border
Two Killed in PKK Attack in Turkey’s southeast
Israel says Istanbul bomber did not target Israelis
One killed, 10 wounded after second explosion caused by rockets in Turkey’s Kilis
Scotland Yard Warns Muslims against Sectarian Feuds after Glasgow Murder
Britain Grapples With Enduring Questions of Religion and Race
The Cheap Propaganda Tactics of Daily Trust against Islamic Movement in Nigeria & Sheikh Zakzaky
Zuma says South Africa wants trade with Iran to rise to $8bn
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
U.S. volunteers seek adventure fighting Islamic State alongside Kurds
Mon Apr 25, 2016
Towering over his Kurdish partner at a checkpoint in northern Iraq, U.S. volunteer John Cole cuts an unusual figure on the road to the newest front in the war against Islamic State.
Seven feet (2.1 meters) tall and holding his assault rifle upside down, Cole is among a relatively small band of Westerners who have made their own way to Iraq to take up arms against the militant group - even though Kurdish authorities say they need foreign money and weapons more than men.
Exactly how much fighting Cole has done is unclear, but the 23-year-old said that - unlike most regular U.S. soldiers stationed nearby - he has participated in offensives against Islamic State that involved artillery fire and airstrikes.
"You can feel the explosions in your teeth. It's kind of cool actually," he told Reuters, nervously pulling on a cigarette.
Cole, from Charlotte, North Carolina, said he had come for more than excitement after quitting his job transporting biohazardous materials such as medical waste. For all the violence, his fascination with northern Iraq - a mosaic of ethnic and religious groups - was a strong draw too.
"Some people take a year off before they go to college, other people just do this," he said. "I'd like to spend time here and learn more about the culture, the people, the history of this land and then go home."
Thousands of foreigners have flocked to Iraq and Syria in the past three years, mostly to join Islamic State. But smaller numbers - estimated now at several dozen - are with groups fighting the radicals.
Cole fell in with Kurdish fighters in neighboring Syria last July and a few months later went to Iraq, where he plans to stay until at least October.
He says he had been inspired to come after Islamic State overran the northern town of Sinjar, slaughtering, enslaving and raping thousands of people from the Yazidi minority.
Peshmerga forces of the autonomous Kurdish region, backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, retook Sinjar in November while he was back in the United States for a break.
Last week, Cole was manning a roadblock near the town of Makhmour and just outside Camp Swift, a base for U.S. forces helping the Iraqi army and peshmerga in a slow-going offensive aimed at eventually recapturing the northern city of Mosul.
Unlike many of the volunteers, Cole is no seasoned ex-serviceman. He said he had received training on field artillery at a base in Oklahoma but quit due to a hip injury and flagging motivation.
The U.S. troops that remain in Iraq are largely on a mission to train and support Iraqi government and peshmerga forces, with those at Camp Swift restricted to their base several kilometers (miles) from the front line.
While the volunteers are less restricted, their roles can appear routine. Cole insisted he had no regrets about coming to Iraq, where his chores involve checkpoint duty, helping internally-displaced people, and "prisoners" - a task he declined to detail.
"I'm not angry about stuff like a lot of Westerners ... (They) think they're going to fight every day and kill tons of people, and then they come here and it's not what they expected and they leave," he said, adding that he had has picked up some Kurdish and Arabic phrases.
"MINI WORLD WAR"
Many of the volunteers are veterans of Western militaries, including Ryan O'Leary, a divorced 29-year-old from Iowa who came to Kurdistan a year ago after tours with the army in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He and two other former U.S. servicemen, both around 50 years old, are working with the peshmerga north of Mosul. They say they've apprehended a dozen Islamic State fighters in recent months, but daily work more often involves training the Kurds on first aid and weapons handling.
"Right now it's just mainly being bored on the frontline and getting artillery and mortar all the time," O'Leary told Reuters.
Some Westerners, inspired by religion, have also joined Christian militias such as Dwekh Nawsha, which operates alongside the peshmerga to protect Assyrian villages on the frontline in Nineveh province.
Cole said he was surprised how Islamic State fighters - whose corpses he had photographed and posted to Instagram - had come from so many different countries.
"It's fascinating, like a mini world war because you have all these people from everywhere coming to one centralized place to fight," he said.
Kurdish officials have long pleaded with the West to provide the peshmerga with more direct support, and last week Washington pledged $415 million in aid.
The Kurdish authorities in Erbil have also increasingly pressed foreign governments to discourage their citizens from traveling to Iraq to join their ranks because they can become a liability.
Jabbar Yawar, secretary general of the peshmerga, said his ministry was not responsible for Western volunteers. "There is no formal body in the ministry of peshmerga that allows them or gives them permission," he told Reuters.
O'Leary acknowledged that the ministry was pushing out many Westerners, whose number he estimated was now less than 40 and included criminals and troublemakers.
"One got kicked out of a unit two days ago. They booked him a one-way ticket back home," he said. "He didn't understand the culture.
O'Leary plans to stay on past the campaign for Mosul, expecting the peshmerga to face a new confrontation with Shi'ite militias over disputed boundaries of the Kurdish region.
"I don't really have a timeframe," he said during a recent overnight watch duty less than a kilometer from Islamic State positions.
Mon Apr 25 2016
After a suicide bomber killed more than 70 people on Easter Sunday in a park in the eastern province of Punjab, the government vowed to go after Islamist militants in the area.
The massacre in the provincial capital of Lahore, which targeted the city’s sizable Christian minority, was claimed by a faction of the Pakistani Taliban, long a major target of the security forces. But another outlawed extremist group, one with ties to al Qaeda, continues to operate openly at its base in this city of 600,000, which also is headquarters of the Pakistani army’s XXXI Corps. On a recent visit, a bearded gunman lounged by the entrance of Jaish-e-Mohammad’s four-story compound downtown, which also houses an affiliated seminary. Residents and a member of the group said there hadn’t been any crackdown—even after India accused Jaish of being behind a cross-border attack in January.
Outside town, an even bigger Jaish installation is under construction, spread over at least 10 acres just off a highway. A new madrasa, crowned with white domes, loomed over the surrounding farmland.
“We don’t hide who we are. We are a jihadist group,” said a cleric affiliated with Jaish.
Pakistan’s powerful military and its spy agency have long been accused by neighbouring countries and the U.S. of nurturing jihadists as proxy warriors for use in Afghanistan and India even as it campaigns against organizations that carry out domestic attacks.
Under international pressure, Islamabad has said it is waging a concerted campaign against all militants. But critics say the military still shelters jihadists it finds useful, an impractical strategy because the groups share an ideology and their members move back and forth.
“In reality, there is no clear separation between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ militants,” said Ayesha Siddiqa, an independent expert on Pakistan’s military.
Over the past two years, the country’s armed forces have tackled jihadists, especially the Pakistani Taliban, in the north-western tribal areas and the southwestern province of Balochistan. Both areas border Afghanistan, where officials believe Pakistani Taliban leaders are based. There has also been a cleanup in the southern city of Karachi.
But the group is extending its reach. The Easter bombing was claimed by Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a Pakistani Taliban affiliate that has established itself as the most brutal and capable militant group in the country
Punjab, home to more than half of the country’s population, has seen a far more low-key approach to fighting extremists, run largely by the provincial police. Punjab is the political base of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Mr. Sharif’s brother, Shehbaz Sharif, is the province’s top elected leader.
“Operations are only against those that shoot the police or army,” said Riaz Husain Pirzada, minister of federal-provincial coordination and a member of parliament from Bahawalpur, about 300 miles southwest of Lahore.
“The breeding grounds remain, the madrasas are still being financed,” said Mr. Pirzada, whose father was assassinated by Sunni Muslim jihadists who target Muslims from the minority Shiite sect.
Pakistan’s military spokesman didn’t respond to repeated requests to comment. A security official said the authorities would confront “all militants in time.”
A retired senior security official in Punjab said members of domestically focused militant groups in the province are taking shelter with Jaish and Lashkar-e-Taiba, another Punjab-based group that seeks to attack India, to escape counterterrorism operations.
A Western diplomat said that “while there seems to be an increasing recognition that the India-focused groups—Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad—represent real risks to Pakistan itself, it is not clear that anyone has settled on whether or how to address them.”
The Jaish cleric said his group opposes attacks in Pakistan. “We carry out attacks against the infidel in their country,” he said.
India alleges that Jaish was behind an attack on the Pathankot air base near the Pakistani border in early January. Seven Indian security personnel were killed in a battle that lasted more than 40 hours.
New Delhi says it has given Pakistan “leads” connecting Jaish to the attack. A team of investigators from Pakistan recently visited India to gather evidence.
Pakistan said after that assault that it was “tracing and sealing” the offices of Jaish, which has been banned in Pakistan since 2002 and is also labelled a terrorist organization by Washington.
Islamabad also said after the attack that Jaish’s leader, Masood Azhar, had been placed in protective custody. A senior security official now says he wasn’t detained, but was “within reach, if needed.”
Last month, Pakistan’s close ally China blocked India’s bid to have Mr. Azhar listed as a terrorist at the U.N. Security Council.
A sign outside the Jaish complex in central Bahawalpur says it houses a madrassa “under the guidance” of Mr. Azhar, who has written a four-volume treatise on jihad. Another of his books, “Forty Diseases of the Jews,” says there is a global alliance of the enemies of Islam, including Israel, India and the U.S.
Rana Sanaullah, Punjab province’s law minister, said in an interview that Jaish “isn’t involved in terrorism in Pakistan.” He said he hadn’t seen any evidence from India to implicate Mr. Azhar in the Pathankot attack. He said that the Jaish madrassa in Bahawalpur was searched and “nothing found” there.
“If there is an area anywhere in Punjab where there is some safe haven, militancy training, recruitment, if there is a madrassa, mosque or neighborhood like that, we will go there and sort it out,” said Mr. Sanaullah, adding that 500 madrassas had been searched in the province.
The leader of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an al Qaeda ally that attacks Pakistani Shiites and security forces, was killed by police in Punjab last year.
Experts say that madrasas in the less-developed south of Punjab, districts like Bahawalpur as well as Multan and Dera Ghazi Khan, serve as a nursery for jihadist groups by teaching the hard-line Deobandi version of Islam, a puritan Sunni movement that is followed by the Pakistani Taliban and most other militant groups.
A leaked U.S. diplomatic cable from 2008 warned of growing jihadist recruitment from southern Punjab, and reported estimates of $100 million a year flowing to local radical clerics from Gulf countries.
A State Department spokeswoman pressed the U.S. message to Pakistan last week after a truck bomb in Kabul killed 64 people, which Afghan authorities blamed on militants based in Pakistan: don’t discriminate between terror groups, “regardless of their agenda.”
Islamic State's chief India recruiter killed in US drone strike
Apr 25, 2016
NEW DELHI: Mohammad Shafi Armar, the head and principal recruiter of Islamic State (IS) in India, died a few days ago in a US drone strike in Syria, sources said.
Shafi, also known as Yousuf, had reportedly become an important ally of IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and was helping establish the outfit in India. He is learnt to have recruited at least 30 men for the group. According to 23 IS recruits arrested over the past year and a half by the NIA, Delhi Police and police forces of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Jammu and Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh and Kerala, Shafi planned to establish an IS unit in every Indian state.
According to top government sources, the death of 26-year-old Shafi, a native of Bhatkal in Karnataka, may have left the Indian unit of IS "headless" for now. His elder brother Sultan Armar, who was heading the outfit's India franchise till last year, died in March 2015 in the same manner. TOI confirmed Shafi's death from three top government and intelligence sources. The agencies are ascertaining the exact circumstances under which he was killed.
Listed on the Interpol website, Shafi had recently formed Junud al Khalifa-e-Hind (Soldiers of the Indian Caliphate) by dismantling the Ansar-ul-Tauhid (AuT). AuT was born out of Indian Mujahideen (IM) after Shafi and Sultan developed differences with Riyaz and Iqbal Bhatkal, the Pakistan-based chiefs of IM, over misuse of funds received for terror activities. AuT had pledged loyalty to IS and Shafi conducted talent-scouting from his Syrian base.
Wary of NIA crackdown, ISIS big fish ask Indian scouts to ‘lie low’
It is suspected that Shafi was in touch with at least 600-700 Indian youngsters on closed Facebook groups and messaging platforms like Trillion, Surespot, WhatsApp and Skype over the past one year, and may have recruited some men for the outfit. He even arranged funds - through transfers and hawala transactions - for IS recruits here. He sent some Rs 6 lakh to the module of Mudabbir Mushtaq Shaikh, whom Shafi made the 'amir' of IS in India while keeping the larger 'head' designation with himself. Sources said very few IS recruits have managed to travel to Syria as security agencies have been keeping a close watch on their activities in India.
"We have learnt about his death. We are gathering more details. The final confirmation and details may take time as it is difficult to get information from Syria, where IS has presence, but it's big news," said a top official.
Officials said Shafi was the common link between several IS suspects caught or questioned by different agencies. Sultan Armar, who headed AuT before his death, allegedly appeared in many videos (now blocked) with his face digitally masked, asking Indian Muslims to join AuT and wage a war in the name of jihad. In one of the videos, he reportedly exhorted, "Rise like Ahmad Shah Abdali and Muhammad ibn-Qasim, like Syed Ahmad the martyr, like the Prophet and his companions, take the Quran in one hand and the sword in the other, and head to the fields of jihad." He also asked IS recruits to "teach Brahmins and worshippers of cows, as well as the whole world of unbelievers, that the Indian Muslim is no coward".
The Armar brothers' links to the IS first emerged during the interrogation of Yasin Bhatkal, who headed IM and was arrested in 2013.
April 25, 2016
TEHRAN (FNA)- Six militant groups in Damascus Province have joined the ceasefire agreement, Russian Center for Reconciliation Spokesman Yuri Zraeyev said Monday.
Yuri Zraeyev said the six militant groups, which include around 600 fighters who control the Syrian city of Ruheiba in Damascus province, have joined the cessation of hostilities agreement, Sputnik reported.
“The Syrian local and government officials were able to sign papers with the representatives of armed formations. This process was very complex, however there was a positive side at the same time, as the different sides were nonetheless able to reach an agreement,” Zrayev told journalists.
He said the agreement guarantees a ceasefire in the region of Ruheiba and would help in expanding the ceasefire regime into neighboring cities.
APRIL 24, 2016
The United States has opened a new line of combat against the Islamic State, directing the military’s six-year-old Cyber Command for the first time to mount computer-network attacks that are now being used alongside more traditional weapons.
The effort reflects President Obama’s desire to bring many of the secret American cyber weapons that have been aimed elsewhere, notably at Iran, into the fight against the Islamic State — which has proved effective in using modern communications and encryption to recruit and carry out operations.
The National Security Agency, which specializes in electronic surveillance, has for years listened intensely to the militants of the Islamic State, and those reports are often part of the president’s daily intelligence briefing. But the N.S.A.’s military counterpart, Cyber Command, was focused largely on Russia, China, Iran and North Korea — where cyber attacks on the United States most frequently originate — and had run virtually no operations against what has become the most dangerous terrorist organization in the world.
A review of what should be done to confront the Islamic State is on Mr. Obama’s agenda on Monday, when he is scheduled to attend a conference in Hanover, Germany, with the leaders of Britain, France, Italy and Germany. Of these efforts, the cyber campaign is the newest. It is also the one discussed in least detail by officials of many countries, and its successes or failures are the most difficult to assess from the outside.
The goal of the new campaign is to disrupt the ability of the Islamic State to spread its message, attract new adherents, circulate orders from commanders and carry out day-to-day functions, like paying its fighters. A benefit of the administration’s exceedingly rare public discussion of the campaign, officials said, is to rattle the Islamic State’s commanders, who have begun to realize that sophisticated hacking efforts are manipulating their data. Potential recruits may also be deterred if they come to worry about the security of their communications with the militant group.
Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter is among those who have publicly discussed the new mission, but only in broad terms, and this month the deputy secretary of defense, Robert O. Work, was more colourful in describing the effort.
“We are dropping cyber bombs,” Mr. Work said. “We have never done that before.
The campaign has been conducted by a small number of “national mission teams,” newly created cyber units loosely modelled on Special Operations forces.
While officials declined to discuss the details of their operations, interviews with more than a half-dozen senior and midlevel officials indicate that the effort has begun with a series of “implants” in the militants’ networks to learn the online habits of commanders. Now, the plan is to imitate them or to alter their messages, with the aim of redirecting militants to areas more vulnerable to attack by American drones or local ground forces.
In other cases, officials said, the United States may complement operations to bomb warehouses full of cash by using cyber attacks to interrupt electronic transfers and misdirect payments.
The fact that the administration is beginning to talk of its use of the new weapons is a dramatic change. As recently as four years ago, it would not publicly admit to developing offensive cyber weapons or confirm its role in any attacks on computer networks.
That is partly because cyber attacks inside another nation raise major questions over invasion of sovereignty. But in the case of the Islamic State, officials say a decision was made that a bit of boasting might degrade the enemy’s trust in its communications, jumbling and even deterring some actions.
“Our cyber operations are disrupting their command-and-control and communications,” Mr. Obama said this month, emerging from a meeting at the C.I.A. headquarters in Langley, Va., on countering the Islamic State.
Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, offered broad outlines of the new campaign against the Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS or ISIL, during a news conference in February.
“We’re trying to both physically and virtually isolate ISIL, limit their ability to conduct command and control, limit their ability to communicate with each other, limit their ability to conduct operations locally and tactically,” he said.
“But I’ll be one of the first ones arguing that that’s about all we should talk about,” General Dunford said. “We want them to be surprised when we conduct cyber operations. And, frankly, they’re going to experience some friction that’s associated with us and some friction that’s just associated with the normal course of events in dealing in the information age.”
In an interview this month in Colorado Springs, where she talked to Air Force Academy cadets, Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, said that the fight against the Islamic State had to be thought of as a multi-front war — and that computers were just another weapon in the arsenal.
“It should not be taken out of proportion — it is not the only tool,” she said when asked about Mr. Work’s “cyber bombs” comment. In fact, some of Mr. Work’s colleagues acknowledged that they had winced when he used the term, because government lawyers have gone to extraordinary lengths to narrowly limit cyber attacks to highly precise operations with as little collateral damage as possible.
But Ms. Rice said the Islamic State had “uniquely utilized cyberspace” to recruit, to communicate over encrypted apps and to coordinate its operations from Syria to Europe.
Ms. Rice would not comment on reports from officials in the Pentagon that Mr. Obama had asked — quite pointedly — in the fall why the arsenal of cyberweapons that had been developed at a cost of hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars was not being used in the fight against the terrorist group.
Several officials said that Mr. Carter had complained that Cyber Command was too focused on traditional adversaries, and that he had set deadlines for a new array of operational cyberplans aimed at the Islamic State. Those were ultimately delivered by Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the commander of Cyber Command and the director of the National Security Agency.
But inside Fort Meade in Maryland, home to the N.S.A. and Cyber Command, initial demands from the White House generated some resistance, according to officials involved in the debate.
The N.S.A. has spent years penetrating foreign networks — the Chinese military, Russian submarine communications, Internet traffic and other targets — placing thousands of implants in those networks to allow it to listen in.
But those implants can be used to manipulate data or to shut down a network. That frequently leads to a battle between the N.S.A. civilians — who know that to make use of an implant is to blow its cover — and the military operators who want to strike back. N.S.A. officials complained that once the implants were used to attack, the Islamic State militants would stop the use of a communications channel and perhaps start one that was harder to find, penetrate or de-encrypt.
“It’s a delicate balance,” Ms. Rice said. “We still have to keep our eye on the Russia-China state-sponsored activity, but this was a new mission, one where we have to balance the collection equities against the disruption equities.”
In Britain, the Government Communications Headquarters, the country’s equivalent to the N.S.A., has been going through a similar debate. It is a familiar one for the British: According to an oft-repeated legend from World War II, Winston Churchill decided to let the Nazis bomb Coventry, at a cost of hundreds of lives, rather than reveal that Britain had used its Enigma machine to crack German codes. (There is a historical dispute about whether Churchill knew the city was to be targeted.)
Lisa O. Monaco, a deputy national security adviser and Mr. Obama’s top adviser for counterterrorism, has led efforts examining how to disrupt the use of social media for recruiting. She has met technology executives in Silicon Valley; Austin, Tex.; Boston; and Washington to come up with a more integrated plan for both taking down social media posts and encouraging the development of a counter narrative.
One effort has included amplifying the testimony of Islamic State recruits who have escaped and now describe the group’s brutality and question its adherence to the true tenets of Islam. Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are also growing more efficient at finding and removing Islamic State posts — which they can take down without court orders because the posts are a violation of the companies’ terms of service, executives say.
But Ms. Monaco suggested that the effort was just beginning. “We are not going to kill our way out of this conflict,” she said. “And we are not going to delete our way out of it, either.”
April 24, 2016
It was meant to be a farewell visit by a cherished friend heading for retirement. Instead, Barack Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia Tuesday and Wednesday turned into an unwanted call by an uninvited guest at an inconvenient time.
It started a the airport, when Saudi King Salman sent one of his nephews to greet the US president on arrival in Riyadh. The gesture was specially telling because the Saudi monarch had spent much of the day personally welcoming other leaders at the airport. It ended not much better: forced smiles, unconvincing statements of solidarity.
It was typical of what has become the Obama Doctrine: dropping old allies in the hope of turning adversaries into new friends.
Needless to say, the gamble has failed.
None of America’s old adversaries, be it the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt or the Khomeinist mullahs in Iran, have become allies of the United States. At the same time, some old allies of Washington have started looking for new allies in unlikely places as Moscow and Beijing. Some others have simply decided to sit Obama out in the hope that the next US administration would correct at least some of his mistakes.
Across the region, old alliances are falling apart, and with it American influence.
Another GCC member, Qatar, is trying to tone down its high profile of the last decade. It had helped broker Obama’s alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood, in the process gaining a much bigger say for itself. The collapse of the Brotherhood in Egypt and Obama’s imminent departure have deprived Qatar of the main ingredients of its strategy. It has tried to compensate partly by trying to woo Iran, angering the Saudis in the process.
To some extent, Kuwait, too, has tried to hedge its bets, including by keeping a line open to the Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad and the mullahs of Tehran.
All in all, the only GCC members still sticking together in a firm way are Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, and both are deeply suspicious of Obama.
The absence of US leadership has also led to confusion among NATO and other allies. Turkey is playing its own game, often in direct contrast to that of the US in Iraq and Syria.
Britain and France are competing against one another for future influence in Libya, including by sending separate military missions to the fragile government in Tripoli.
Egypt is spending the cash it gets from US buying fighter-bombers from France and other weapons from Russia.
Israel, too, is trying to diversify contacts as symbolized by this week’s visit to Moscow by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a bête noire of Obama.
Pakistan is taking the US cash but looks to China as its main protector. while rival India is allying itself with Russia and Iran to gain influence in Afghanistan and Central Asia.
rying to put the “American absence” to good use, Russia is rebuilding its network in the Middle East and strengthening its position in the Caucasian isthmus between the Caspian and the Black seas. On May 11 it will organize a referendum for South Ossetia, a region annexed from Georgia, to formally become part Russia, a repeat of the Crimean scenario.
In October another referendum in Abkhazia, also annexed by Russia in its invasion of Georgia in 2008, will lead to the absorption of that strategically located piece of real estate.
Russia’s next target is the oil-rich south Caucasian Republic of Azerbaijan. Last month, Russia used a three-day war over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, disputed between Armenia and Azerbaijan, to test Washington’s resolve to continue as guarantor of status quo.
Washington’s lethargic reaction showed Moscow, and its allies in Tehran, that Azerbaijan may be as defenseless as Georgia was when the Russia snatched 25% of its territory.
Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, has tried to make the best of a bad situation by rushing to Tehran and Moscow signaling readiness to distance himself from Washington.
Obama’s farewell visit resembled a tour of the wreckage not only of decades of efforts to give the region an anchor of stability but also of his own illusions.
Obama says he is practicing 21st century diplomacy. Maybe. But others, notably in the world’s most unstable and dangerous zone, everyone else is engaged in 19th century diplomacy of the deadliest kind.
University of New Orleans finance professor M. Kabir Hassan has won the IDB Prize in Islamic Banking & Finance from the Islamic Development Bank, the development bank of the Muslim world.
The prize is awarded for outstanding merit in the fields of Islamic economics, banking and finance. Hassan will receive an award of about $47,000.
He will be presented with the prize at the IDB board of governors’ annual meeting May 15-19 in Jakarta, Indonesia, where he will also deliver a lecture on his research in Islamic finance.
Hassan is the Hibernia professor of economics and finance and Bank One professor in business in the Department of Economics and Finance at UNO.
His research focuses on the need for empirical tests of the effectiveness of the Islamic finance and economic model on an international scale. The Islamic model strives to promote growth similar to that under conventional or Western models while also aiming to adhere to Islamic religious and ethical standards.
Hassan’s research looks at whether the Islamic economic system hinders access to economic growth and prosperity or if it advances a long-term model of economic growth and fairness.
Hassan earned his Ph.D. in finance from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He serves as the editor or co-editor of several international financial journals and provides consulting services to banks, governments, private organizations and universities around the world.
Delgado professor wins LCTCS fellowship
Mark McLean, of Delgado Community College, was selected as the winner of the first Louisiana Community and Technical College System President’s Faculty Fellowship award this month. He was recognized at the LCTCS annual conference in Baton Rouge.
McLean is an assistant professor at Delgado’s West Bank Campus in Algiers, teaching courses in project management, business communication, principles of management and human resource management. He has been a Delgado faculty member since 2009.
“I accept the award on behalf of all the faculty who are working very hard to make a difference every day, just like me,” McLean said. “Let’s keep impacting student lives and building the workforce of tomorrow!”
The President’s Faculty Fellowship provides opportunities for LCTCS faculty to prepare themselves for top-level management and instructional positions within the system. It provides financial support to those in pursuit of doctoral degrees.
McLean is pursuing a Ph.D. in human capital development at the University of Southern Mississippi.
The fellowship will be awarded annually to an outstanding LCTCS educator. The award includes a grant of $8,500.
UNO graduate students win petroleum prize
A team of University of New Orleans graduate students won the 2016 Gulf Coast Regional Imperial Barrel Award in Houston for the second straight year and will advance to the international finals in June. It’s the first time that a team has claimed back-to-back Gulf Coast titles in the nine-year history of the event.
The Imperial Barrel program, organized by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, pits geosciences teams from universities around the world against each other in a competition to analyze an oil and gas reservoir.
UNO’s team beat out 11 regional competitors including Texas A&M, Rice, the University of Houston, Tulane, the University of Alabama and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
The team members are Ryan Jones, Zexuan Wang, Will Morrison, team leader Josiah Hulsey and Celeste Woock. The faculty adviser is Royhan Gani, an associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, assisted by industry mentors Toby Roesler, of Stone Energy, and Benjamin Kirkland, of Nexen Petroleum.
The $3,000 prize will go toward scholarships in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.
In the regional competition, teams analyze a dataset for eight weeks and deliver their results in a 25-minute presentation to a panel of industry experts.
UNO is one of 12 regional winners that will participate in the international competition in Calgary, Alberta, on June 17-18.
Rumours Swirl around Pakistan’s Role in Anti-terror Islamic Alliance
Since last month’s visit by the Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif and the army chief, Gen Raheel Sharif, to Saudi Arabia, rumours have been afloat in Pakistan that King Salman has offered Gen Raheel the command of all forces under the Saudi-led Islamic Alliance.
Last December, the Saudi defence minister, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who seems to be leading a more vigorous foreign policy, announced the creation of the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism. Its primary objective was “to protect the Muslim countries from all terrorist groups and terrorist organisations irrespective of their sect and name".
It was announced that the coalition would work to target any terrorist organisation, not just ISIL, operating in countries including Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s inclusion has been a matter of controversy domestically. Apparently, the Pakistan government was initially unaware that it had been included in the alliance.
Despite some hue and cry from the opposition, the idea seems to have been accepted. The strong rumour that Gen Sharif has been offered the assignment of leading the military alliance has also been received with mixed feelings.
Many feel that it’s an honour and a recognition that Pakistan has a military force that is successfully combating terrorism. Others are opposed to it.
They hold the view that the Saudis are using it to ensure that Pakistan’s military makes a meaningful contribution to the alliance. They also feel that this inclusion forces Pakistan into an alliance that it should avoid for reasons including the apparent dearth of Shias in the force.
A number of Muslim-majority countries have not been invited – including Syria, Iraq and Iran. On the other hand, Benin, Gabon and Togo are not Muslim-majority countries, but are members of the alliance.
My concern is a conceptual one. Practical difficulties may be addressed after the concept is clear. How is it supposed to work? It is not clear whether the alliance will have a standing military or follow the United Nations model and draw forces from member states when required.
The UN began its peacekeeping operations very humbly. Over decades it has reached the stage where it now has a permanent military adviser for peacekeeping operations. Perhaps the Islamic Alliance will have a similar structure.
While the UN force has sometimes violated and, on exceptional occasions, overstepped its assigned role, it claims to be bound by the principle of “acceptance" – that, at the very least, the states involved in hostilities want UN intervention.
One might assume that the same would apply to the anti-terrorist operations that member states of the alliance might undertake.
On the same assumption, funding for these operations would come from contributions by member states. And here is where we begin to hit snags.
The UN is essentially based on an elitist concept, where some states are more equal than others and exercise the right to veto. A measure of balance is provided by the fact that, among the states that can veto, not all are on the same page.
Will members of the Islamic Alliance be similarly organised? If so, who will have the right of veto and on what basis?
In the UN, the United States is the largest contributor in terms of funds. (It is also the largest defaulter.) This makes it capable of exerting an inordinate influence over the UN decision-making process. Some member states feel that the UN has, over time, become an extension of US policy.
Will the Islamic Alliance take a similar direction?
Much remains unknown about how it will operate. Will only member countries be able to seek assistance in counter terrorist operations? If neighbouring countries are excluded, will this limit the alliance’s effectiveness or jeopardise its operations?
Whether it is headed by Gen Sharif or an officer from elsewhere, these and other issues – both conceptual and practical – will have to be addressed.
MINGORA: Malakand police on Monday claimed that Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) minority MPA Soran Singh was killed over political rivalry, and the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan's (TTP) claim to have killed him is false.
Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Malakand Azad Khan in a press conference claimed that a fellow PTI leader Baldev Kumar was behind the murder of Soran Singh as he wanted to avenge political rivalry.
"Baldev Kumar wanted to contest the election instead of Singh... after failing to get the party ticket, Kumar planned the murder," said DIG Khan.
The officer said police had arrested six people in connection with the murder including Baldev and the assassins hired to kill the PTI lawmaker, and registered cases against them.
DIG Malakand further said that anti-terrorism clauses have been included in the cases as the murder invoked fear among the people of the area and minority community.
Answering a question about the police security provided to the slain MPA, the officer said Singh always refused to keep police guards with him in Buner, "as he felt safe enough in his hometown".
Police had arrested Baldev on Sunday from Barikot tehsil of Swat and shifted him to an unspecified location for interrogation.
Sardar Soran Singh, special assistant to chief minister KP on minorities’ affairs and an MPA, was gunned down in a targeted attack near Pir Baba in Buner district on Friday. TTP had claimed responsibility for the assassination.
Elected to the provincial assembly on a reserved seat and a Sikh by faith, the deceased was revered by minorities for promoting interfaith harmony, installing boxes in the streets to collect torn pieces of sacred scriptures, and promoting the country’s soft image through speeches.
Eight Muslim men discharged in Malegaon 2006 blast case
A special court in Mumbai discharged eight of the accused in the 2006 Malegaon blast case on Monday, stating there was no material evidence against them.
All accused were granted bail by a trial court in November 2011 after the National Investigation Agency (NIA) gave no objection to their bail pleas. Of the nine accused, one Shabir Ahmed died in an accident in 2015.
The accused, including Salman Farsi, Noorulhuda Doha, Rais Ahmed, Mohammed Ali, Asif Khan, Javed Sheikh, Faroogue Ansari and Abrar Ahmed, were being investigated for four bomb explosions on September 8, 2006, that killed 37 people and injured more than 100. The explosions took place near Hamida Masjid in the Bade Kabarastan area of Malegaon.
Five days later, on September 13, a fake bomb was found on the staircase of Mohammedia Mosque.
The probe was taken over by the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS), which arrested the nine people, claiming the blasts were carried out by the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). The case was later handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation. Endorsing the ATS’ claims, the central agency added four more names to the list of accused.
After Swami Aseemanand confessed before a court that the blasts were carried out by a Hindu group, the investigation was transferred to the NIA on April 6, 2011.
The agency claimed that Sunil Joshi, who was a key conspirator in the 2008 Malegaon blast and was found murdered later, was also the conspirator of the 2006 blasts.
The agency filed a charge sheet in the case against Lokesh Sharma, Dhan Singh, Manohar Singh and Rajendra Choudhary.
Bomb banane ka asaan tarika: How ‘Islamic State recruits’ got tips online
A document titled ‘Bomb banane ka asaan tarika (Easy way to make a bomb)’ posted on the website justpaste.it, with instructions on how to make bombs using household materials like matchsticks, was shared among suspected Indian recruits of the Islamic State (IS), security agencies have found.
Instructions to access the nearly 12-page document were sent to several suspected recruits through secure messaging platforms like Kik, investigations by agencies such as the NIA into the activities of those arrested from across the country for alleged IS links have shown.
NIA investigations of the December 28, 2014 bomb blast at Bengaluru’s Church Street, following the arrest of former activist of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) Alamzeb Afridi this January, have revealed that he assembled the bomb with the help of this document. It was allegedly provided to Afridi by an unidentified person he was in touch with on Kik, investigators found.
The document outlines methods of using substances like firecrackers and matchsticks as sources of explosives, and two small bulbs — one with its filament exposed — as detonators, apart from giving multiple options for containers for the bomb, ranging from cookers to GI pipes. Afridi allegedly told investigators that he shaved off the tips of matchsticks to generate explosive material and mixed it with substances such as sugar (also listed in the manual) to create the bomb that exploded on December 28, 2014, killing a woman who was out for dinner with her family. Since Afridi’s arrest, the bomb manual has been retrieved as evidence in the case. “The document has been created by someone in the Middle East. The link to the document was sent to Afridi via Kik messenger by an anonymous person,” said sources familiar with the probe. “The document is a step-by-step guide on making an IED with details of the kind of pipe to be used and household materials that can serve as explosives,” said sources. The mixture of potassium chlorate and sulphur that goes into tips of matchsticks is an explosive material when used in large quantities, according to forensic experts. A forensic report soon after the blast in Bengaluru had revealed the presence of potassium and sulphur as residual material. The document was also found in the possession of Mohammed Nafees Khan, 22, a youth from Hyderabad who was arrested by the NIA in January this year for allegedly being part of a group of Indian IS supporters called the Janood-ul-Khalifa-e-Hind, sources said. Investigations have shown that Afridi allegedly shared know-how on making bombs with Khan. Sources said Khan also received links to the same document from an anonymous source, suspected to be former Indian Mujahideen operative Shafi Armar, who is now believed to be in Syria with the IS. Investigations found that Khan, at the time of his arrest, had begun the process of attempting to create an IED using the instruction manual he accessed online. He is alleged to have purchased a GI pipe and got a hole drilled in it as specified in the manual. Khan was also found to have been collecting matchsticks to allegedly derive explosives for a bomb. The instruction manual was also found to have been used by another alleged member of the Janood-ul-Khalifa-e-Hind group, arrested in January and identified as Mumbai-based Mudabbir Shaikh. Home-made detonators described in the manual and matchbox cartons were seized from his residence, too. Four youths arrested in Uttarakhand in January for alleged links to the IS — Akhlaq ur-Rehman, Mohammed Osama, Mohammed Azim Shah and Mehroz — were also found to be in possession of a large quantity of matchsticks with the intent of extracting explosive material. One of the common links to emerge among the over two dozen Indian youths, investigated for their close links with the IS in recent months, is their association with a man who has used multiple online identities, said sources. He is suspected to be former Bhatkal resident Shafi Armar, 29, whose older brother Sultan Armar, 39, was reported by IS websites to have been killed in Syria in 2014, said sources. Shafi Armar is alleged to have been the provider of the bomb instruction manual to Afridi and Khan. Prior to the recent arrests of youths linked to the IS, the use of matchsticks to generate explosives for IEDs was known to have been attempted by a group of SIMI fugitives who escaped from a prison in Madhya Pradesh in 2013. On September 12, 2014, there was an accidental explosion at the gang’s hideout in Bijnor, Uttar Pradesh. Investigations of the hideout after the blast revealed two unopened cartons of matchsticks, apart from a pile of matchsticks that had been stripped of the potassium chlorate and sulphur tips. A large amount of the inflammable material was found reduced to ashes in the accidental blast. During interrogations following their arrest in February this year in Rourkela, Odisha, three of the alleged SIMI fugitives revealed that they were initially trying to use LPG cylinders and oxygen to create an IED but switched to matchsticks and firecrackers when this failed, said sources.
TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Army troops and the Lebanese Hezbollah Resistance Movement fighters opened heavy fire at the gatherings of the ISIL terrorists and thwarted their attempts to capture the government forces' positions in al-Qalamoun mountain.
The Syrian army's artillery units and Hezbollah's heavy machineguns targeted the ISIL forces and inflicted a major death toll on them in the mountainous region of the Northeastern part of Damascus city.
In the meantime, the government forces repelled the Takfiri terrorists' offensives near the passages of al-Zamrani and al-Qasireh, which ended in the killing or wounding of several terrorists and prevent them to assist their defeated comrades in al-Qalamoun.
In relevant developments on Sunday, the Syrian army foiled an attempt by the Takfiri terrorists to attack its military positions in Damascus countryside.
The terrorists of Faylaq al-Rahman were trying to launch a large-scale attack on the Syrian government troops and their military positions in Jobar, but were pushed back.
Over 22 Takfiri terrorists were killed in tough battle with the Syrian government troops.
TEHRAN (FNA)- The Lebanese Hezbollah fighters, tipped off by the intelligence agents, stopped a convoy of al-Nusra Front vehicles carrying a large volume of arms and ammunition in a village near the border between Syria and Lebanon.
The al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front's arms cargo was attacked by the Hezbollah fighters near the Syrian village of Jaroud heading toward the Lebanese border-crossing of Jaroud al-Jarajir.
Two of the terrorists' machinegun-equipped armored vehicles were exploded by the Hezbollah's heavy fire and at least 10 Takfiri terrorists guarding the convoy were killed in the attack.
Earlier this month, the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement attacked the ISIL's military positions in Al-Qalamoun region of Lebanon.
The ISIL's military positions were razed down by Hezbollah's artillery fire in Abu Hadish mountainous area of Jaroud al-Jarajir region in the Western part of al-Qalamoun region.
ISIL's arms and ammunition depot was also destroyed in the Hezbollah attacks.
Scores of ISIL terrorists were killed and wounded in the artillery attack.
The ISIL terrorists have been present along the Syria-Lebanon border, specially in Jaroud region, since several months ago.
TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Army troops, backed up by the Russian fighter jets, pushed the ISIL terrorists back from part of al-Sina'ah district near the Eastern city of Deir Ezzur.
The Syrian army men and the Russian bombers at first fended off the ISIL assaults, and then in a rapid counter-attack, the pro-government fighters forced the terrorists to retreat from al-Sina'ah.
At least 10 members of the ISIL were killed and several more were wounded in the counter-attack.
The ISIL weapons and ammunition were also seized by the army men.
Reports said also on Saturday that the Syrian fighter jets carried out several combat flights over ISIL strongholds in five different districts and regions across the Eastern province of Deir Ezzur and targeted them heavily.
The Syrian Army's aircraft struck the ISIL concentration centers and gatherings in al-Sina'ah districts, the regions of Haweija Sakar, Jafreh and Baqaliyeh and the farms of al-Mura'yeh in the Southern side of airport, which not only claimed the lives of several terrorist but ended in destruction of their military hardware and vehicles.
TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani underlined his country's preparedness to provide Macedonia with its experiences in the fight against terrorism, and stressed the need to protect the youth against extremist thoughts.
"Iran enjoys valuable experiences in the war on terrorism and it can share them with other countries, including Macedonia," Rouhani said on Monday in a meeting with Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki who is leading a large delegation of his country's businesspersons in a visit to Tehran.
He underlined the need for vaccinating the youth against extremist thoughts, specially those promoted through the internet, and said, "Some people are attempting to attribute deviating thoughts to Islam - that of course aren’t related to Islam and Muslims - to attract the youth to terrorism and extremist moves."
Poposki, for his part, underscored the necessity for global campaign against terrorism, and expressed regret that "Europe has, unfortunately, ignored this problem for a long time".
Elsewhere, he emphasized his country's enthusiasm for the further expansion of all-out ties with Iran, adding that Macedonia will soon inaugurate its embassy in Tehran which was welcomed by President Rouhani.
President Rouhani also said that the Iranian companies which are active in many world states can also implement different high-quality projects in Macedonia.
Iran has pioneered in helping the regional states' fight against terrorism, specially Iraq and Syria, and has offered many regional and world states to cooperate in campaign against terrorist groups.
In relevant remarks earlier this month, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei said Iran and Italy can cooperate in the war against terrorism and extremism.
Ayatollah Khamenei made the remarks in a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his accompanying delegation in Tehran.
“A number of European countries used to support certain violent terrorist groups for some time and today the dangerous and overarching wave of terrorism has reached Europe too,” the Leader added.
Ayatollah Khamenei cited Washington's financial and arms support for terrorist groups as an obstacle to the eradication of terrorism, adding, “There is authentic and accurate information about aid by the US for ISIL, and certain other terrorist groups. Even now that they have formed an anti-ISIL coalition certain American organs are helping ISIL in one way or other.”
The Leader criticized major propaganda apparatuses in the world for spreading anti-Islam sentiments under the pretext of “actions committed by certain wicked and terrorist” elements.
TEHRAN (FNA)- Iraqi sources revealed that five other tunnels dug by the ISIL terrorist group near the Assyrian King Ashurbanipal's ancient palace in Mosul were found which were used to smuggle Iraq's invaluable artifacts.
Ain al-Mosul website was quoted by Sputnik news agency as saying that in addition to a tunnel beneath the ancient al-Tawba hill whose footages were released last week, five other tunnels were found in the region to steal the invaluable artefacts of the Iraqi city of Nineveh.
The website has also released a detailed report of the crimes that the ISIL terrorists have committed against the Iraqi ancient monuments, including destruction of wings of colossal statue of two winged human-headed bulls in Nineveh.
A video released recently showed that the ISIL has dug a tunnel beneath al-Tawba hill to steal the invaluable artifacts of the Iraqi city of Nineveh and smuggle them to Israel and Europe via Turkey.
The video released on Friday by the Arabic section of Sputnik news agency and taken by one of Mosul's residents showed how the ISIL dug the tunnel near the walls of the ancient city of Nineveh to take the antiquities out of the region.
The eyewitness who took the footages of the tunnel said that the ISIL smuggles the ancient artifacts every day, adding that the tunnel is equipped with electrical lamps using a generator.
Also, Amer Abdullah al-Jomaili, a professor at Mosul's university, revealed that 25 pieces of the antiquities have already been smuggled to Israel via Turkey and the rest are being sold in the European auctions.
The city of Nineveh was mentioned in the Bible, dates to the 7th century BC, and was once the largest city in the world.
Earlier reports also said that the ISIL terrorist group has destroyed a 2,000-year-old gate near the Iraqi city of Mosul.
The structure is known as the Gate of God, and used to guard the ancient Assyrian city Nineveh, a British archaeological studies institute in Iraq reported earlier this month.
The destruction of the ancient structure, also called the Mashqi Gate, has been confirmed by the British Institute for the Study of Iraq, and the Antiquities Department in Baghdad hasn’t denied the demolition.
The terrorists demolished the 2,000-year-old gate using military equipment, activists in Mosul said.
Media activist Zuheir Mousilly added that ISIL have destroyed many of Iraqi historic sites and monuments, including the Assyrian city of Nimrud, the Winged Bulls, and the Mosul National Museum.
As for the gate, other reports suggested that the ISIL terrorists were dismantling it and selling separate blocks.
The historic Mishqi gate, which was discovered in 1968, is believed to be one of the ancient gates in Eastern Nineveh province.
“ISIL views tombs they destroy as sacrilegious and a return to paganism,” Syrian antiquities chief Abdul Maamoun Abdulkarim said.
April 24, 2016
TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Army and its popular allies, backed up by the Russian fighter jets, have pushed the terrorist groups back from over 50 villages across the coastal province of Lattakia in less than six months and are preparing to storm the terrorists' center in neighboring Idlib province, military sources said.
"In the matter of barely 6 months, an estimated 50 villages have been captured in the Northern and Northeastern parts of Lattakia province as the Syrian Army is slowly pushing towards Idlib which is almost controlled by the Jeish al-Fatah terrorist coalition," the sources said.
A report said on Saturday that the Syrian and Russian fighter jets, in over 40 combat sorties, targeted jointly the strongholds of al-Nusra Front in the Northeastern part of the coastal province of Lattakia, inflicting a heavy death toll on the Takfiri terrorists.
The Syrian and Russian warplanes turned the Northeastern territories of Lattakia province into hell for the terrorist group.
Over 40 combat flights carried out by the Russian and Syrian air fleets inflicted major losses on the terrorists and meantime, paved the wary for the Syrian army to have easier advance against the terrorist groups in the mountainous battlefield.
The heavy air attacks of the Russian and Syrian jets pinned the militants down behind their positions.
TEHRAN (FNA)- Military sources said that the Russian reconnaissance-combat jets have doubled their sorties over the terrorist-held regions across Syria in the last three weeks to slow down the ISIL and al-Nusra Front's growing military-logistical movements in battlefields.
"The number of airstrikes carried out by the Russian Air Force from Hmeimim Airbase in Jableh in Lattakia province has been doubled and has reached to the pre-ceasefire number in the last three weeks due to the increase in ground activity of the ISIL and al-Nusra Front," the sources said.
TEHRAN-During a meeting between Iranian Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Ali Tayyebnia and his South African counterpart Pravin Gordhan in Tehran on Saturday, the two ministers underscored accelerating reconnection of banking links between the two countries.
As the IRNA news agency quoted Tayyebnia, Iran and South Africa are determined to improve bilateral relations, thanks to the removal of financial sanctions against Iran as of January.
“Iran regards South Africa as a gateway to Africa,” he said, adding that easing and cementing baking relations will play a pivotal role in enhancing the volume of trade between the two countries.
“Iranian banks have taken positive steps towards expanding relations with their South African partners in the hope for Pretoria supporting the move,” he added.
Gordhan, for his part, said Pretoria is strong-minded to deepen trade and economic cooperation with Tehran and underlined that resuming banking ties with Iran will boost common trade between the two countries.
The South African minister, leading a 150-member politico-economic delegation, entered Tehran on Saturday on the invitation of Tayyebnia.
South African President Jacob Zuma, at the head of a high-level delegation, arrived in Tehran on Sunday. During his two-day stay, President Zuma will explore the grounds for converting bilateral and economic relations with Iran into a substantive strategic partnership.
South Africa is among those countries with positive investment experience in Iran in projects such as MTN.
MTN group is one of the shareholders of Irancell, one of the largest mobile phone network operators in Iran.
Philippines jihadists loyal to Islamic State warn they will behead Western hostages
APR 25, 2016
Two Canadians, a Norwegian and a Filipina held captive for seven months in the southern Philippines could be beheaded on Monday by an Islamic rebel group that operates a ruthless kidnapping and piracy enterprise.
The Abu Sayyaf faction, which pledged allegiance first to al-Qaeda and now Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), has set a deadline of 3pm for ransoms of £4.5 million to be paid for the three Westerners.
In videos chillingly reminiscent of those that have emerged from Syria, the three haggard-looking men plead with their families and governments to pay the money.
One captor presses a machete to their necks, while other armed men stand behind them carrying assault weapons and the distinctive black flag of Isil.
The shocking images and looming deadline have focused fears that Islamic extremists are carving out a safe haven for terrorists to use as a base to strike targets across South East Asia.
Abu Sayyaf splinter groups have also seized 18 Indonesian and Malaysian sailors in raids on coal tugboats in the past month, as they intensify their attacks in some of the world’s busiest waterways.
The surge in piracy prompted Indonesia’s security chief to warn that the trading route – part of major shipping arteries carrying $40 billion of cargo a year – could “become a new Somalia”.
Britain and the US last week urged their citizens to treat the Sulu archipelago region as a “no-go zone” because of the “high threat” of kidnappings, piracy and terrorism-related violence.
Abu Sayyaf has its roots in the long-standing Islamist insurgency in the southern islands of the predominantly Roman Catholic Philippines, and has focused its operations on lucrative banditry.
The faction – a loose alliance of splinter groups – has survived the deployment of US special forces “advisors” as part of George W Bush’s “war on terror” and a series of offensives by the poorly-equipped Philippine army.
In the latest hostage video, John Risdel, 68, a Philippine-based Canadian businessman, said this was the “final absolute warning” from their hostage-takers.
The group has made similar threats to kill Western captives in the past, but released them after ransoms were reportedly paid. But it has also beheaded local captives – most recently two Filipinos this month and a Malaysian hostage in November.
Mr Risdel, fellow Canadian Robert Hall, 50, Filipina Tess Flor, 48, and Kjartan Sekkingstad, 56, a Norwegian resort manager, were seized in September from their boats in a sea-borne raid on the Holiday Oceanview Marina in Mindanao.
The first video featuring the Western hostages demanded the end to Philippine military operations in the region. But the subsequent three videos have involved ransom demands.
The “final warning” video was released on April 15 and included the threat that beheadings would start on April 25 if the ransoms were not paid.
The Philippine military campaign against the rebels has suffered a series of setbacks and a faltering peace process has also bolstered the insurgents.
Most recently, on April 9, 18 Philippine soldiers were killed in an ambush that also left more than 20 Abu Sayyaf fighters dead - including a Moroccan thought to be an explosives expert.
“With attention in the Philippines focused on the presidential election and the rest of the world distracted by the alarming increase in tensions between China and the US in the South China Sea, it is easy to miss the significance of the turmoil in the adjacent Sulu Sea,” said Michael Vatikiotis, a regional security expert who is Asia director of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue.
Writing in the Nikkei Asian Review, he continued: “The presence until recently of around 200 US military advisors made a dent on Abu Sayyaf leadership and activity, but clearly has not eradicated the group, which is in reality a hydra-headed array of individual commanders and their dependent fighters.
“Without addressing the security situation in the Sulu Sea, however, the Philippines will face violent instability along its borders with Indonesia and Malaysia, with the prospect of both of them using force to defend themselves.
“Even then, it may be too late to prevent the movement of violent extremists who have been sheltering and training in the area to commit terrorist acts in the wider region.”
A string of high-profile attacks in Paris, Istanbul, Jakarta and Brussels in the past five months has left little doubt that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) poses real danger to people everywhere.
Singaporeans are no exception.
In those attacks, the terrorist group has shown a high degree of sophistication and planning. Bombs were set off in a coordinated manner to inflict maximum casualties and sow widespread panic. ISIS today poses a far graver threat than its predecessor Al-Qaeda ever did, Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said in Parliament earlier this month.
As devastating as suicide bombings and shootings are, they represent the conclusion of a journey that begins with radicalisation.
Radicalisation In Singapore
Terrorism is today broadly defined as the use of violence to intimidate people and governments. Its perpetrators have a political agenda. To achieve their goals, religion and ideology are used to divide society along sectarian lines to incite hatred.
ISIS, which grew to prominence in 2013, has shown a mastery of global communication networks, using the Internet to disseminate graphic videos and electronic magazines to spread its perverted form of Islamic teachings. These include convincing Muslims that to be true to their faith, they should migrate to ISIS-held territories to fight and kill non-believers. On social media, sympathisers and militants echo these messages and reach out to the curious and impressionable.
Twitter said in February that it has closed more than 125,000 accounts since last year over links to terrorism, most of which were ISIS-related.
Unfortunately, several Singaporeans have fallen prey to the militant group's twisted ideas. Some, like Muhammad Shamin Mohamed Sidek, 29, and Harith Jailani, 19, were self-radicalised through online propaganda and aimed to travel to Syria to fight for ISIS. The two were detained by the Internal Security Department last August.
Another potential ISIS terrorist, Mustafa Sultan Ali, 52, was arrested by the Turkish authorities and deported while trying to cross into Syria. He was detained by the Singapore authorities last July.
There also was polytechnic student M. Arifil Azim Putra Norja'i, 20, the first ISIS-linked individual who posed a threat on Singapore soil.
He planned to assassinate President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong if he was unable to travel to Syria. If that was not possible, he would carry out attacks in public places, with weapons such as knives. He was detained in April last year.
Last month, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said two Singaporeans at a religious school in Yemen were detained for their involvement in skirmishes there. Many were also alarmed by the case of Wang Yuandongyi, 23, who was detained for trying to join a Kurdish militia that is battling ISIS in Syria.
But cases are not confined to Singaporeans. Last November, 27 Bangladeshi workers were arrested and deported after they were found to have met regularly to discuss carrying out armed jihad in their home country.
The message is clear: Singapore does not condone supporting or carrying out armed violence, no matter how it is rationalised or where the battlefield is. Such acts show "a dangerous tendency to support the use of violence", said the MHA.
More worrying is what happens when those who have gone to Syria return home. About 500 South-east Asians are known to be fighting in Syria, and a number have returned.
In Singapore, the authorities stopped most who tried to travel to Syria. But at least two Singaporeans and their families were successful in getting there. The fear is that battle-experienced combatants, steeped in extremist ideology, will heed ISIS' call to carry out violent attacks at home.
Such concerns are well-founded: The masterminds of the Paris attacks last year and the Jakarta bombings in January spent time with ISIS in Syria, as did three of the five bombers involved in the Brussels attacks last month.
Singapore At 'Epicentre' Of Region Targeted By Isis
But should Singapore worry about a terror attack happening here?
ISIS has made it clear that it aims to expand its reach and influence globally - by establishing "wilayats", or provinces, around the world. This includes South-east Asia, which ISIS views as fertile ground because of its large Muslim population and the successes it has chalked up in recruitment. It even set up a Malay Archipelago Unit, which, besides fighting at the front line, aims to spread propaganda material translated into Malay and recruit fighters.
Already, more than 30 militant groups from South-east Asia, mostly from Indonesia, have pledged allegiance or expressed their support for ISIS, said regional terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna.
Mr Shanmugam said this puts Singapore at the "epicentre of the caliphate that ISIS wants to establish in this region".
The island's multiracial and multi-religious make-up and status as a financial and aviation hub also make it a prime target, said officials.
A strike here will be a symbolic victory that will gain ISIS both prestige and new volunteers.
Why? Singapore is well known for its uncompromising stance against terrorism, its participation in the global coalition against ISIS, and its efforts to combat terrorism in South-east Asia. That it has been spared attacks is not for lack of trying by the terrorists, said analyst Jasminder Singh of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research.
"ISIS is aware of what Singapore is doing to counter its ideology, and it knows it will be a big coup if it ever executes an attack here," he said. "It hasn't had the opportunity because of the security environment. But that means we can't take our safety for granted."
The threat of an attack here is at the highest it has been in decades, said Mr Shanmugam, while PM Lee warns that it is no longer a question of whether, but when, an attack happens here.
In such an event, the damage will be measured not only in lives lost but also whether Singapore's social fabric remains intact. As terrorism today is largely perpetrated by those claiming to represent Islam, the question is whether trust and solidarity between communities can weather such an atrocity. Or will society succumb to anger and retaliation? The litmus test of whether Singapore can withstand any attack will be what happens the day after: Will Singaporeans be able to rise above ethnic and religious divides to pick up the pieces together, or will a rift open that makes healing impossible?
Strengthening The Response
In a sign that the Government recognises these realities, this year's Budget saw significant boosts to counter-terrorism efforts.
These include greater protection of both hard targets such as Jurong Island and Changi Airport, and soft targets such as shopping malls and MRT stations, as well as increasing the size of emergency response teams to deal with multiple attacks. The Home Team will begin using data from traffic cameras and the Electronic Road Pricing system to analyse suspicious travel patterns.
Greater emphasis is also placed on community response. That includes mobilising and training Singaporeans to guard against attacks and to maintain social harmony and unity. This complements a psychological element of sensitising Singaporeans to the terror threat.
The Government is also stepping up efforts against extremist propaganda online. These include integrating lessons about online radicalisation into adult and youth Islamic education programmes.
Community groups are developing materials to help religious leaders counter hardline ideology, and reaching out to parents through seminars on how to foster critical thinking and protect their children against radical teachings.
Whether such initiatives succeed will hinge on Singaporeans recognising that the threat is real and being willing to participate actively. After all, the aim of any terror attack is to spread fear and cause divisions in the population. How the average citizen responds after an attack determines whether the terrorists have truly succeeded.
30 killed as Taliban and ISIS loyalists clash in Nangarhar province
ISIS-terrorist-killed-in-Nangarhar-strikesAt least 30 militants were killed during a clash between the Taliban militants and loyalists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in eastern Nangarhar province.
Provincial police spokesman Hazrat Hussain Mashriqwal said the clash took place in Da Nari Aab area of Haska Mina district on Sunday.
He said a commander of ISIS loyalists identified as Zamin was killed along with 10 other loyalists of the terror group and 15 others were wounded.
Mashriqwal further added that 6 Taliban militants were also killed during the clash and 4 others were wounded.
According to the local officials, at least 2 ISIS loyalists were also killed during an airstrike involving unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) in Achin district on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Mashriqwal said a commander of the Taliban group who was involved in insurgency activities in Shenwar district, joined peace process as a result of the efforts of the Afghan Local Police (ALP) forces.
The Taliban commander has been identified as Fateh Khan who is originally a resident of Kunar in eastern Afghanistan.
The Taliban militants group has not commented regarding the report so far.
20 militants killed as major Taliban offensive repulsed in Farah
Taliban attack repulsed in FarahAt least 20 militants were killed after a major Taliban offensive was repulsed in western Farah province of Afghanistan.
The Ministry of Defense (MoD) said the Taliban militants launched the offensive on an Afghan National Army (ANA) base in Anar Dara district.
A statement by MoD said the offensive was repulsed by the Afghan security forces by receiving close-air support from the Afghan Air Force.
MoD said at least 16 militants were also wounded during the clash while the remaining militants fled the area.
Farah is among the relatively volatile provinces in western Afghanistan where anti-government armed militant groups are actively operating in a number of its districts and often carry out insurgency activities.
The attack on the army base in Anar Dara district comes as the group has launched coordinated attacks across the country following the announcement of their spring offensive earlier this month.
Police arrested a young man on Sunday, reportedly an activist of Jamaat-e-Islami, in connection with the murder of A.F.M. Rezaul Karim Siddiquee in northern Rajshahi, but rejected the claim of the involvement of the Islamic State (IS) in the killing.
A senior police officer admitted that Saturday’s murder bore similarity to the previous killings of bloggers. However, he claimed that those behind the murders were local Islamists and purported messages from IS and al-Qaeda were only aimed at confusing the investigators.
Siddiquee, a professor at the English department of Rajshahi University, was hacked to death by two unidentified gunmen on Saturday morning near his home in Rajshahi when he was waiting for a university bus to go to the campus.
The murder case has been handed over to the Detective Branch of Police, to be investigated on “top priority”.
Though monitoring group SITE reports that the IS has claimed responsibility for the murder for the professor’s alleged views on religion, the murdered professor had reportedly never written or spoken anything against religion.
Family members, friends, colleagues and students of Prof. Siddiquee found him “a quiet man who loved music and culture”. They also said the late professor was not involved in any politics, nor he did he ever receive any threat from any radical group. Apart from teaching, Prof. Siddique edited a literary journal Komal Gandhar and was involved with some cultural organisations. He loved to play musical instruments, especially sitar. He had also established a music school at his residence, testified locals.
Prof. M. Shahidullah, president of Rajshahi University Teachers Association, said, “It is beyond our imagination that he can be a victim of such gruesome killing. He was never engaged in writing against any person or religion.”
Attacks on teachers with a liberal bent of mind at Rajshahi University, believed to be a den of radical Islamist groups, is nothing new. Prof. A.K.M. Shafiul Haque was killed in 2014, a murder for which al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent had claimed responsibility. Geology teacher Prof. S. Taher Ahmed was found dead in a septic tank of his house in 2006. His colleague and a Jamaat-backed teacher were among the three were sentenced to death for the murder.
Economics department teacher Prof. Mohammad Yunus was hacked to death, allegedly by Jamaat-e-Islami students, in 2004. Police charged eight members of banned militant outfit Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) for the murder. Two of them were given death penalty in 2010.
Earlier this month, Nazimuddin Samad, an activist, was killed in Dhaka. Earlier, in 2015, four bloggers were murdered, all for their writing and views against religious bigotry.
Taliban deputy district chief killed in Takhar_censoredThe shadow deputy district chief of the Taliban group for Khwajah Bahauddin was killed during a gun battle in northeastern Takhar province.
The Ministry of Interior (MoI) said Mullah Hassan who was also famous as Abu Bakr was appointed as the deputy district chief by the Taliban group for Khwajah Bahauddin.
A statement by MoI said Mullah Hassan was killed along with another prominent Taliban leader during gun battle with the police forces.
According to MoI, Mullah Hassan was involved in major terrorist attacks in Takhar province, specifically in attacks on security posts.
MoI also added that the security personnel and local residents did not suffer any casualties during the gun battle.
Takhar is among the relatively volatile provinces in northeastern Afghanistan where anti-government armed militant groups are actively operating and frequently carry out insurgency activities.
The volatile Kunduz is bordering Takhar province in the west where the Taliban militants recently launched a major offensive which was repulsed by the security forces.
Meanwhile, the Afghan special forces arrested Taliban’s military chief during a special operation in Kunduz province recently.
Ashraf Ghani on NDS and DM nomineesPresident Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has promised to introduce the nominees for Minister of Defense and National Directorate of Security (NDS) Chief in the coming days.
In his speech during a gathering in the Afghan Parliament, President Ghani promised to end the process of acting ministers, hoping that the Afghan lawmakers assist to appoint NDS Chief and Minister of Defense.
Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi, speaker of the Lower House of the Parliament, Wolesi Jirga, in his opening remarks called on President Ghani to take immediate steps in this regard.
He said there is an urgent need for coordination among the three security institutions, urging President Ghani to consider the issue and take appropriate actions.
Ibrahimi further added that the introduction and appointment of Defense Minister and Intelligence Chief are the demand of not only the House of Representatives but the Afghan people, considering the current security situation.
Masoom Stanikzai was the last nominee for the Ministry of Defense who was rejected by the Afghan lawmakers following his introduction to the parliament house.
The National Directorate of Security, the key intelligence agency of the country got an acting chief following the resignation of Rahmatullah Nabil last year.
Meanwhile, the Afghan lawmakers unanimously approved General Taj Mohammad Jahid as the new Minister of Interior during a confidence voting process earlier this month.
Taliban military chief arrested_censoredThe Afghan National Security Forces have arrested a military chief of the Taliban group in northern Kunduz province of Afghanistan.
According to the security authorities, the military chief, Qari Salim, was arrested during a special night raid.
Qari Salim was a key leader of the Taliban group who played a vital role in the collapse of Kunduz city last year.
The officials further added it took at least a week for the Afghan special forces to search and arrest Qari Salim.
At least two security guards of Qari Salim have also been arrested by the security forces during the operation.
The Taliban group has not commented regarding the report so far.
This comes as the Taliban group launched a major offensive to take control of key areas of Kunduz province, inclduing the strategic Kunduz city.
The Taliban militants seized the control of the city late in mid-2015 after launched coordinated attacks on the city.
However, the Afghan Special Operations Forces have retaken the control of Kunduz city from the Taliban militants earlier in the month of October after the city was in control of the militants for almost a week.
The Taliban insurgents were accused of horrific criminal activities after they seized control of the city, including target killings, rape, kidnappings, use of civilians as shields, looting of public and private properties.
KABUL: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, in a sombre speech to the Afghan parliament on Monday, called on Pakistan to battle some factions of the Taliban rather than try to bring them into peace talks.
Ghani's statement comes a week after a Taliban assault on the Afghan capital, Kabul, killed 64 people and wounded another 340.
Although President Ashraf Ghani said Afghanistan faced a terrorist enemy led by Taliban "slaves" in Pakistan, his statement appeared to leave the door open to resuming peace talks with some factions of the Taliban as he suggested there was still some hope of compromise with at least some Taliban.
He said that the doors of negotiation would remain open for those Taliban ready to stop bloodshed but added: "This opportunity will not be there forever."
He said Taliban leaders finding shelter in Peshawar and Quetta were "slaves and enemies of Afghanistan who shed the blood of their countrymen" and he called on Pakistan to wipe them out.
Ghani stopped short of declaring a state of national emergency, pledging war against radical groups like the militant Islamic State (IS) and the Haqqani network.
The Afghan president did not say whose slaves he thought the Taliban were, but his predecessor, Hamid Karzai, has accused Pakistan of harbouring the Taliban and supporting other militant groups in the past.
Pakistan denies harbouring and aiding the Taliban but Ghani urged the Pakistan government to "fulfill promises and carry out military operations against those whose bases are in Pakistan".
Ghani said there are "no good or bad terrorists, they are just terrorists", and that "Pakistan must understand that and act against them."
The response from the Taliban, who have already rejected peace talks while Western forces remain in Afghanistan, was scornful.
"The nation is not blind, people understand who the slave is and who works for the interest of others," spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a tweet.
Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States have been trying to revive peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban in recent months, but have made little progress.
Intelligence head, defence minister to be appointed soon
After a year that saw 11,000 civilian casualties and some 5,500 members of the security forces killed fighting the Taliban, the distinction may make little concrete difference to the fighting on the ground.
But two weeks after the Taliban announced the start of their annual spring offensive and then followed up with the biggest single attack seen in Kabul since 2011, there had been wide speculation among politicians in Kabul that Ghani could declare the stalled peace process formally dead.
The Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan with an iron fist from 1996 to 2001, are seeking to topple the Western-backed government in Kabul and reimpose Islamic rule.
Ghani's speech came at a time of growing apprehension in Kabul at the prospect of more intense fighting over the summer months.
Over recent days, Afghan security forces have fought back Taliban attacks on Kunduz, the northern city that briefly fell to the insurgents last year.
Large parts of the southern province of Helmand are now in insurgent hands and there has been heavy fighting in several other provinces from Herat in the west to Kunar in the east.
Ghani said security forces, fighting alone since the end of Nato's main combat mission in 2014, were in a stronger position than last year and said a permanent minister of defence and head of the main intelligence agency would be appointed soon.
Turkey needs armed drone to defend Syrian border
Katyusha rockets fired by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants into the southeastern province of Kilis were a new threat for Turkey, according to Turkey’s top defense procurement official, who said Kilis could be protected by armed drones.
“It is difficult to detect and fight with them [rockets] technologically ahead of their firing. There are several countries which are in an active fight with such early systems, but even their systems reach partial success. The best method is to develop and have a capability that will monitor the region which is under threat and to hit this target immediately. Armed drones constitute a good example here,” said İsmail Demir, head of the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM), in an exclusive interview with daily Hürriyet at the production hub of Turkey’s Roketsan.
He noted that Turkish commanders were pleased to use local products, as they found them of high quality.
Demir said that Turkey has now reached a crucial point in terms of local defense production and aimed to make the development of several key products by 100 percent indigenous means, praising the high quality of many local defense products by Roketsan, Aselsani Havelsan, TAI and others in a complementary and integrated way.
“In the past, we tried to figure out from where we should buy our defense products. Yet we have been asking ourselves: How can we develop which product? It is of course not possible for any country to make all parts of any products. The point is to make a priority classification to determine which parts are of the most crucial… Turkey has been in urgent need of some defense products in several fields on which it has been in an active fight. Our companies are ready to meet these demands immediately. Our slogan is as following: We can make the better version of any human-made product,” he said.
“The point is here to be able to make products with the capability of destroying, monitoring and receptivity of higher quality at home. Our aim is to reach 100 percent locality in such products, as the dependability on foreign sources in these fields is always a problem. Although Turkey has been a late comer in local defense production, its sector has now reached some $15 billion project development capacity while employing more than 35,000 people,” he noted, adding that the know-how here could be used in any key sectors.
Demir noted that Turkey’s defense exports were currently around $1.67 billion, and the country’s target was to increase this figure to $25 billion in the next seven years.
He said a Turkish-made basic training aircraft called the Hürkuş, which was designed and manufactured by TAI, will be ready to be used by the Air Force by 2018, and its armed version will follow.
There is also a submarine project in the pipeline now, he noted.
Joint work with NATO ‘key’ in air defense system
Turkey will gradually develop an air defense system which will be integrated into the NATO system, said Demir, adding that joint work with NATO would accelerate the process.
In 2013, Turkey selected, over European and U.S. rivals, a Chinese contender for the construction of its first long-range air and anti-missile defense system. In November 2015 it scrapped that competition, saying two local companies would instead build the air defense system.
“We did not cancel the project, but just scrapped the bidding. We will soon enter to a new development process, in which our local companies, including Roketsan and Havelsan, will take part. We have already continued our projects to develop systems with medium, high and low ranges… We will gradually extend the ranges. As we will not make any direct acquisition, our gradually developed system will be integrated into NATO’s system. Our doors are open for any support here. We believe that any joint work with NATO will accelerate the process,” said Demir.
Two killed in PKK attack in Turkey’s southeast
Two soldiers were killed in an attack by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the Nusaybin district of the southeastern province of Mardin on April 25.
Three others were wounded in the attack amid a continuing curfew that was imposed 43 days ago.
Five soldiers were wounded when militants detonated a home-made bomb that was hidden in a trench.
The wounded soldiers were taken to Nusaybin State Hospital, where two soldiers succumbed to their injuries.
The treatment of the two others is continuing while security operations continue in the district.
Israel's counterterrorism bureau has said the suicide bomber who killed Israeli tourists in Istanbul last month did not specifically target Israelis but was taking aim at tourism in Turkey in general.
The bureau, connected to the Israeli prime minister's office, recently issued a travel advisory for Turkey, warning Israeli citizens to leave as soon as possible and avoid traveling there.
The travel advisory remains in place despite the new security assessment.
The bureau said on April 24 that Israeli security agencies carried out a month-long investigation into the blast, which took place next to an Israeli culinary tour group and also killed an Iranian tourist.
Turkey identified the bomber as having links to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Mon Apr 24 2016
One killed, 10 wounded after second explosion caused by rockets in Turkey’s Kilis
One person was killed and 10 others were wounded when a second explosion has occurred in the border province of Kilis on April 24, Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan has announced.
Two Katyusha projectiles fired from Syria hit a mosque, just 100 meters away from the Kilis Governor’s Office.
People were seen escaping the area in panic in live footage after the explosion as smoke rose.
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan was at the Governor’s Office at the time of the explosion.
Akdoğan told reporters that Turkish Army responded with artillery fire across the border within the rules of engagement.
He also added that a total of 16 people have been killed in 45 rocket firings in the province since Jan. 18
Earlier in the day, a total of 16 people, including children, were wounded when two rocket projectiles fired from ISIL positions in northern Syria hit the province.
Scotland Yard warns Muslims against sectarian feuds after Glasgow murder
Saturday 23 April 2016
The head of Scotland Yard has warned British Muslims that attacks on a minority Islamic sect will not be tolerated amid concern over the growing sectarianism on UK streets that recently led to the murder of a British shopkeeper.
Bernard Hogan-Howe, responding to reports of crime against members of the Ahmadiyya sect, said his officers would “robustly police anyone who carries out or threatens violence or, indeed, any other crime” against the 30,000-strong Ahmadiyya community.
Disquiet over the levels of anti-Ahmadiyya sentiment prompted the Metropolitan police commissioner on Friday afternoon to make a personal visit to Britain’s largest mosque, the 10,000-capacity Baitul Futuh in Morden, south London, which belongs to the Ahmadiyya community, in an attempt to reassure followers.
An Ahmadiyya shopkeeper, Asad Shah, was stabbed to death in Glasgow last month by another Muslim in an attack that police have described as “religiously prejudiced”.
The Ahmadiyya community says it has detected a hardening of attitudes among orthodox Muslims, with leaflets recently found in a south London mosque calling for the killing of Ahmadiyyas. At another mosque in Berkshire an anti-Ahmadiyya poster advised mosque-users that the sect was “non-Muslim” and “therefore, please don’t have any relationship or any friendship with them”.
Farooq Aftab, vice-president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association, said the community was pleased police were taking “the issue of extremism and radicalisation very seriously”.
Ahmadiyyas face persecution and bloody violence in countries such as Pakistan and Indonesia because they believe that their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who died in 1908, was a prophet, a view that is anathema to most Muslims.
A University of Cambridge lecturer, Timothy Winter – who is also known as Sheikh Abdul-Hakim Murad – was accused of exhibiting bigotry after rejecting an invitation by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Students Association to speak on Islamic theology at an inter-faith meeting in 2013. He replied: “Please do not bother me with this. You know your status in the eyes of the Muslim community.”
Aftab said: “His blunt email response gave us the impression he had declined the invitation on the basis that the majority of the Muslim community do not consider Ahmadis to be Muslim. We all felt this reply was highly unethical and lacked academic integrity. At the time, we put the email down to the usual bigotry that Ahmadi Muslims often face and moved on. But it’s clearly in the best interests of our members that we do all we can to highlight, and to safeguard them from, all forms of prejudice.”
Winter, a former pupil of Westminster school, converted to Islam as a teenager and in 2010 was listed among the world’s 50 most influential Muslims, ahead of the presidents of Iran and Egypt at that time, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hosni Mubarak. The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre, which is based in Jordan, has described Winter as “one of the most well-respected western theologians”.
Winter, 55, said his reply was “somewhat waspish because I regard it as extremely unwise for them to toss their views into the bear garden of undergraduate debate, particularly in the light of certain very generally held views within the Muslim community and the real risk that the event would attract fundamentalist participation”.
APRIL 25, 2016
LONDON — As Britain engages in fierce debates centered on national identity, it is also confronting challenges to traditional norms of political discourse, with issues of race and religion surfacing more overtly and provocatively.
The looming referendum on whether to leave the European Union, the place of Muslims in British society at a time when Islamic terrorists are targeting Europe, the broader question of the island nation’s openness to immigration and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict all have recently sparked controversy and heated commentary about discrimination and tolerance.
Like most European countries, many of which are facing growing populist movements on the far right, Britain has always grappled with a strain of racial and religious bias. But the political calendar and global events have combined to push the topic to center stage.
President Obama, during his three-day visit here that ended on Sunday, was the focus of an extraordinary squabble that centered on his Kenyan father and attitudes toward British imperialism.
Boris Johnson, the Conservative legislator, mayor of London and leader of the campaign against British membership in the European Union, responded to Mr. Obama’s robust call for Britain to stay in the bloc with an opinion piece centering around Mr. Obama’s removal of a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office.
Mr. Johnson suggested that Mr. Obama may have been motivated by “the part-Kenyan president’s ancestral dislike of the British Empire, of which Churchill had been such a fervent defender.”
That comment provoked furious claims that Mr. Johnson, often mentioned as potential successor to Prime Minister David Cameron as leader of the Conservatives, was making a smear based on Mr. Obama’s race in order to undermine his arguments in favor of Britain remaining in the bloc.
Britain’s foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, told the Telegraph icily about Mr. Johnson: “People who aspire to hold offices of great responsibility do have to show that even under pressure they retain their cool and they don’t step over any red lines.”
Mr. Obama neatly parried the thrust without responding in kind, saying that he thought even Britons would understand that he might find it “appropriate” to have a bust of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. instead.
But the dispute touched deeper chords here about whether Britain can better control its borders and defend itself from terrorism from within or outside the European Union. Mr. Johnson argued that Mr. Obama is “hypocritical,” saying the United States would never cede such control over its sovereign borders to anyone.
Many of those who favor a British exit, or “Brexit,” argue that only outside the European Union can Britain truly control its borders and limit immigration. But behind the anxiety about immigration is not only fear of losing jobs to foreigners, but of potential terrorist acts carried out by Muslim extremists with European Union citizenship and passports who have gone to Syria to join jihad and then have returned to Europe and its freedom of travel.
That freedom is limited by Britain’s refusal to join the Schengen passport-free zone, meaning that all foreigners who wish to enter Britain can be checked. But it is also true that one or more of the men responsible for the November terrorist attacks in Paris, reportedly including the apparent ringleader, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, were able to come to Britain the previous summer and leave again without difficulty.
All of those anxieties have surfaced in what has become a nasty campaign to succeed Mr. Johnson as mayor of London. In both the exit debate and the mayoral race, it is the side that is thought to be losing that has ratcheted up the rhetoric, at times verging on racism and Islamophobia, that has upset many Britons.
The Labour Party candidate for mayor, Sadiq Khan, has been attacked by his Conservative opponent, Zac Goldsmith, for previous appearances alongside Islamic extremists — criticism repeated by Mr. Cameron in Parliament.
The contrast between Mr. Khan, 45, and Mr. Goldsmith, 41, is stark. Mr. Khan, the son of Muslim immigrants from Pakistan, was raised with seven siblings in a public housing unit with three bedrooms. His father drove a London bus, and his mother worked as a seamstress.
Mr. Goldsmith lived in an 18th-century mansion; attended Britain’s most exclusive school, Eton College (where he was thrown out for smoking cannabis); and inherited a fortune from his billionaire father, the publishing tycoon Sir James Goldsmith.
Were Mr. Khan to succeed in the May 5 election, he would be the first Muslim to lead the city that dominates Britain’s economic, cultural and political life, and where nearly one in eight residents is Muslim.
But his past as a human rights lawyer and activist has been highlighted by Mr. Goldsmith, who describes Mr. Khan as a “threat to London,” accusing him of “appalling judgment.” Mr. Goldsmith has suggested that by speaking on the same platform as those with radical views or who had been accused of supporting terrorists, Mr. Khan gave tacit support to extremism.
In response, Mr. Khan has defended his commitment to human rights. He claims that Mr. Goldsmith wants to divide communities and accuses him of targeting voters, especially Indian voters, along ethnic lines during a “desperate, negative campaign” intended to inflame anxiety about Muslims.
Mr. Goldsmith said that Mr. Khan “has over and over again given platforms and oxygen and even cover and excuses for people who do have extremist views.” He said that he could not trust Mr. Khan “to be in charge of City Hall, in charge of our security, in charge of our police.”
Mr. Cameron recently joined the argument, telling Parliament that Mr. Khan had appeared publicly nine times with Suliman Gani, an imam who Mr. Cameron claimed “supports I.S.,” referring to the Islamic State.
Mr. Khan has acknowledged contacts with Mr. Gani, a constituent. But Mr. Khan said that his support for plans to legalize same-sex marriage prompted Mr. Gani to campaign against him, and that Mr. Khan helped remove Mr. Gani as a local imam.
Mr. Gani called the allegation a “smear on my good name” and described the Islamic State as a “terrorist and inhumane organization.” He also released a photograph of himself alongside Mr. Goldsmith.
Mr. Khan also supported Babar Ahmad, another constituent, in an eight-year battle against extradition to the United States for trial. Mr. Ahmad was eventually extradited and later pleaded guilty to providing material support to terrorism online, but he has been released and is back in Britain.
In an interview, Mr. Khan acknowledged that the accusations may have done him damage. “If I have given the impression, somehow, by being a human rights lawyer that somehow Ihave similar views to people I abhor, that would be something that I would regret,” he said.
He emphasized that he has a plan to tackle radicalization and has run risks for confronting extremists, including receiving death threats over his support for same-sex marriage.
Part of the background to the Khan debate is not about Islam at all but elements of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. The party’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has been criticized for not doing enough to stamp out anti-Semitic views in the party.
The difficulty is defining the line between anti-Semitism and principled support for Palestine, opposition to Israeli settlements in occupied territory and “anti-Zionism.”
Mr. Corbyn, who has been a fierce critic of Israel, has spoken out against anti-Semitism in the party, but critics say he has not taken tough enough action to expel those who evince it.
The same issue has come up again recently with the election of Malia Bouattia, 28, as the first black Muslim woman to lead the National Union of Students.
For her supporters, her election is a victory for diversity and radical politics. But Jewish students’ groups are alarmed, citing her criticism of the influence of “Zionist-led media,” her description of her Birmingham University as “something of a Zionist outpost” because of its active Jewish organizations and her talk at a meeting that was advertised with a poster featuring Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah.
Within a few hours of her victory, students at the University of Cambridge called for a referendum on whether their union should quit the national body, describing her election as “a horrifying message to Jewish students.” Students at various other colleges, including Oxford, York, Durham, Edinburgh, King’s College London and the London School of Economics, called for their own unions to sever ties with the national union.
Ms. Bouattia has denied any anti-Semitism and has offered to meet with her critics.
AhlulBayt News Agency - The cheap propaganda tactics of the Daily Trust Newspaper against Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) & Sheikh Zakzaky: “Those who commit the murders write the report.” -Idah B. Wells
“If you are not careful the newspapers will have you hating the people that are oppressed and loving those who are doing the oppressing.” -Malcom X
After the brutal and inhuman Zaria Massacre by the Nigerian army that killed close to 1000 defenceless and unarmed Shia Muslims, there were outcry from within and outside Nigeria that an Independent, impartial and credible probe should be conducted to investigate the massacre.
The masterminds and perpetrators of the massacre quickly set up a kangaroo Judicial Commission of Inquiry (JCI) and populated it with die-hard Wahhabis and retired military officers to tele-guide the proceedings and influence the eventual report of the Commission.
The masterminds of the massacre also mobilized Wahhabi and neo-Wahhabi groups that have Shia Genocide as a Global agenda to dominate the proceedings of the Commission.
The Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) under the leadership of His Eminence Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky decided to completely boycott the Commission as it lacks all credibility, independence and impartiality.
One trend that I noticed in the proceedings of the Commission is that all Nigerian print and electronic media only report negative allegations against IMN by Wahhabi groups and government institutions such as the army, police, DSS etc. When Prof Dahiru Yahya made a brilliant presentation in support of IMN and called for the punishment of the culprits that perpetrated the brutal massacre, there was no single print and electronic media in Nigeria that reported his presentation.
The most notorious of the print media in this smear campaigns of calumny and demonization is the Daily Trust Newspaper, today the Daily Trust is at the forefront of the government – sponsored smear campaigns of calumny and demonization against IMN, Shia Islam and Iran.
To underlined their extreme hatred for Sheikh Zakzaky and Shia Islam, Daily Trust went as low as interviewing a Wahhabi half-brother of Sheikh Zakzaky who hate Shia Islam with passion.
Sheikh Zakzaky has other brothers and sisters who are close to him, love him and are supporting him but the Daily Trust went so low as to interview the only one that hate him! Those conversant with polygamy will understand the “half-brother syndrome” & that is what this Sheikh Zakzaky half-brother is suffering from.
The Daily Trust did this to deceive the gullible and the unenlightened into believing that Sheikh Zakzaky is a threat to the Nigerian state.
To rubbish this cheap tactics of the Daily Trust, let’s go to history and excavate one “Abu Lahab” who was the Uncle of Prophet Muhammad (S).
I will like Daily Trust to interview this Abu Lahab about the programs and activities of the Prophet (S)! Abu Lahab will surely repeat what the Wahhabi half-brother of Sheikh Zakzaky said against Sheikh Zakzaky.
Responsible and balance Journalism demands reporting from both sides of any crisis or conflict but the Daily Trust chose to abandon the ethics of Journalism and become the unofficial mouthpiece of the Nigerian regime.
In its recent editorial on the Zaria massacre the Daily Trust maliciously insinuated that the women and children that the Nigerian army killed in the massacre were put up as human shield by “someone”.
In the past the Daily Trust was one of the most objective and balanced Newspapers in Nigeria that called for not only unity of Northern Nigeria but unity of all Nigerians irrespective of tribe, religion and region but sadly the opposite is the case today.
Today Daily Trust represent the narrow sectarian agenda that is characterized by bigotry, division, intolerance and open support for injustice and oppressor.
On a last note, to the owners of the Daily Trust Newspaper, you might be doing what you are doing to demonize Sheikh Zakzaky because you were paid to do so by the bloodthirsty war criminals that killed close to 1000 Nigerians and wickedly buried them in mass Graves.
It is also possible that you are launching this smear campaign because you are contaminated with the potent poison of Wahhabism that has ShiaGenocide as a global agenda. And it is possible that the two above mentioned are your reasons for your anti-Zakzaky crusade.
Finally, the owners of the Daily Trust will fail just like Abu Lahab failed woefully in history because evil will never win.
Innocent Nigerians were brutally slaughtered and Daily Trust want to wash away what is undoubtedly a war crime by protecting and defending the criminals and at the same time demonizing the victims.
TEHRAN – On Sunday, Iran and South Africa signed eight cooperation documents in trade, economy, joint investment, management of water resources, industry, fight against money-laundering, culture, and art.
The agreements were signed at the presence of President Hassan Rouhani and his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma who arrived in Tehran on Sunday for a two-day visit at the head of 180-strong delegation including six ministers.
In a joint press conference Rouhani and Zuma also insisted on the need to strengthen ties now that sanctions against Iran have been lifted.
Rouhani called South Africa an important country and said, “The Islamic Republic of Iran has always had friendly and close ties with the Republic of South Africa since the post-apartheid government started work and the African National Congress took power.”
The Iranian people stood beside the South African people during their struggle against the apartheid regime.
Zuma: Iran-South Africa ties should turn into ‘strategic partnership’
The South African president said that in the meeting with Rouhani discussions were made to turn the relations into “strategic partnership”.
Zuma also said that Iran has an important status in the views of South African people as the country supported them in their fight against apartheid.
South Africa‚ Iran plan to increase non-oil trade to $1bn by 2020
Zuma also told a meeting of Iranian and South African businessmen that his country plans to increase the volume of trade with Iran to as high as $8 billion by 2020.
According to Press TV, Zuma said the figure had been agreed on in his meeting with President Rouhani earlier in the day.
Zuma also the two sides agreed to increase non-oil trade to $1bn by 2020, Times LIVE reported.
He added that it was imperative that the two countries focused on diversifying their respective trade baskets in favor of value-added trade.
This would add much impetus towards addressing issues of job creation as well as skills and technology transfer in both countries.
“South Africa views the Islamic Republic of Iran as a strategic trading partner within the Middle East and Central Asian regions. Within the bilateral sphere‚ South Africa and the Islamic Republic of Iran share a long historical relationship.
“Total trade‚ however‚ has unfortunately been falling over the past decade owing to‚ amongst others‚ the non-existence of banking relations between South Africa and the Islamic Republic of Iran and the various sanctions imposed by the West‚” Zuma noted.
As of 2015‚ total trade between the two countries stood at R358m‚ which did not reflect the optimal capabilities of the two economies‚ he said.
“In this regard‚ I welcome the Memorandum of Understanding on the establishment of the Joint Investment Committee which puts in place‚ a measured and pragmatic form of cooperation.
“I am of the firm belief that these measures will enable us to significantly increase our levels of trade. “I believe the MoU on Cooperation in the field of trade and industry that we signed today‚ which was one of eight MoUs that were signed‚ and the accompanying roadmap provides a good departure point for strengthening our economic cooperation. It aptly outlines the objectives that both our sides wish to achieve‚” Zuma stated.
“I‚ however‚ believe that this would not be optimally realised in the absence of your involvement‚ as the captains of industry. It is in this regard that I welcome the establishment of the envisaged South Africa-Iran Business Council. It is imperative that the council members streamline their planning so as to complement the objectives of the roadmap.
“This would translate into tangible deliverables and would add further impetus towards expanding on the economic ties between our respective business communities‚” Zuma explained.
Rouhani says close ties with South Africa will bear positive international effects
In a joint meeting of the senior delegations of Iran and South Africa, Rouhani said there is fierce competition for signing contracts with Iran yet the Islamic Republic will not forget the friends of sanctions time.
“We will never forget our amicable friends during the sanctions times,” Rouhani noted.
The president also said South Africa can be one of the most important trade partners of Iran.
Rouhani also said expansion of Iran-South Africa relations can have “positive international effects”.
“Expansion of ties between Iran, as an important country in the volatie Middle East region, and South Africa, as an important country in Africa, can have positive regional and international effects,” Rouhani stated.
Rouhani said Iranians show great respect for South Africans due to their long years of resistance against “the arrogant and apartheid system.”
He also said Iran’s “good experience” of cooperating with South African corporations in various fields has provided “good ground” for expansion of relations.
He added an expansion of banking relations is an “important step” in accelerating ties.
Rouhani also highlighted the importance of Iran-South Africa cooperation in fight against terrorism. “All countries’ cooperation and solidarity are required to establish peace and stability in the region.”
Zuma also said Iran has a “strategic” position in the region, adding the nuclear agreement between Tehran and great powers and a consequent removal of sanctions are indications of Iran’s “wise policies”.
Iran and the 5+1 group - the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia plus Germany - finalized the text of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in Vienna on July 14, 2015. The deal took effect in January, 2016.
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