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Islamic World News (20 Mar 2019 NewAgeIslam.Com)



New Zealand Parliament Session Starts with Recitation of Holy Quran after Christchurch Mosques Massacre















REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi (IRAN)A woman dances with men during the Chaharshanbeh Soori festival in Tehran, March 18, 2008.

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New Zealand Parliament Session Starts with Recitation of Holy Quran after Christchurch Mosques Massacre

Azaan to Be Broadcast Nationally In Solidarity with Muslims: NZ PM

Iran’s Islamic Authorities Slowly Embrace Ancient Festival of Fire

Facebook Says Nobody Reported New Zealand NZ Massacre Livestream As It Happened

Fatwas against Ram Janmabhoomi Film; Clerics Asks Actor Nazneen Patni to 'Revive' Her Faith in Islam

Hefazat Chief Calls Ahmadiyyas Infidels, Urges Followers to Boycott Them

Will Support Pak’s Territorial Integrity, No Matter What: China

PM Khan Wishes Hindu Community A 'Very Happy, Peaceful' Holi

 

Europe

New Zealand Parliament Session Starts with Recitation of Holy Quran after Christchurch Mosques Massacre

Azaan to Be Broadcast Nationally In Solidarity with Muslims: NZ PM

‘Systemic Islamophobia’ Fuels Terror Attacks, Say Muslim Leaders

Christchurch copycat threatens to kill Muslim worshipers at Australian mosque

The New Zealand shooting victims spanned generations and nationalities

Letter points to terror motive in Dutch tram attack

Australian PM slams Erdogan’s 'reckless' comments on Christchurch carnage

1000s rally in Melbourne against racism after Christchurch mosque attacks

UK: Finsbury Park imam suffers Islamophobic attacks

UK: Muslim leaders warn of 'systemic' Islamophobia

Britain to spend £1.6m to improve security in places of worship after New Zealand mosque attacks

British Conservative Party suspends members for anti-Muslim comments

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Mideast

Iran’s Islamic Authorities Slowly Embrace Ancient Festival of Fire

New Zealand Envoy Headed To Turkey To ‘Confront’ Erdogan’s Mosque Shooting Comments

President Assad: Iran-Iraq-Syria Ties Strengthened by Campaign against Terrorism

Turkey’s Erdogan urges New Zealand to restore death penalty over mass shooting

Saudi war machine kills 3 Yemeni civilians every day: Report

Two Palestinians killed by Israeli army in West Bank clashes: health ministry

Rare protests erupt against Hamas’ 12-year rule over Gaza

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North America

Facebook Says Nobody Reported New Zealand NZ Massacre Livestream As It Happened

US tells Afghan president it won’t deal with his NSA

US Muslim group calls for Fox News boycott

US-backed forces capture Syria suspects tied to American deaths

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India

Fatwas against Ram Janmabhoomi Film; Clerics Asks Actor Nazneen Patni to 'Revive' Her Faith in Islam

Cleric Dismayed At Muted Response to NZ Terror Attack

ED attaches 13 Hizbul Mujahideen properties bought with Rs 11 crore terror funds

Kartarpur corridor: India, Pakistan technical teams hold talks, discuss coordinates

Pulwama not forgotten, govt fully capable to act against terror: NSA Doval

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South Asia

Hefazat Chief Calls Ahmadiyyas Infidels, Urges Followers to Boycott Them

Will Support Pak’s Territorial Integrity, No Matter What: China

“I Am Your Mother Now”: New Zealand Mosque Shootings Hit Tight-Knit Bangladesh Community Hard

Bangladesh issues travel alert for visiting Australia

4 killed in Afghan operation against Taliban high-profile attack facilitators in Kabul

U.S. envoy for Afghan peace met with Afghan Ambassador in Washington

Senior Taliban commander killed in Afghan Special Forces operation in Nangarhar

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Pakistan

PM Khan Wishes Hindu Community A 'Very Happy, Peaceful' Holi

New Zealand PM Has 'Won Hearts of Pakistanis' With Her Leadership after Mosque Attacks: FO Spokesman

Pakistan court mulls options for recording Musharraf's statement in treason case

Pakistani churches on high alert after New Zealand attacks

New chapter for minority religions in Pakistan

Holi to be celebrated with traditional zeal today in Pakistan

PTI brands Bilawal as ‘anti-state’ for calling out ministers over ‘militant links’

Will keep going to mosques: wife of Pakistani martyr Naeem Rashid

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Arab World

Corpses of More Victims of US, ISIL Attacks Discovered in Raqqa

Syria’s Assad Censures Some Countries’ Double Standards In Terror Fight

Syrian Army Gives Crushing Response to Terrorists in Hama, Idlib

US-backed SDF says it captured 157 militants, mostly foreigners

ISIS calls for revenge against Syria Kurds, brushes off near-defeat in Baghouz

Father and son who fled Syria conflict are buried in New Zealand

US spending millions on White Helmets while preventing aid to Syria’s Rukban camp: Damascus, Moscow

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Africa

US military, aid group at odds over Somalia civilian deaths

Civilians killed in US airstrikes targeting al-Shabaab

Nigeria: Boko Haram blamed as roadside bomb kills 8 near Gwoza

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Southeast Asia

Penang CM attends prayer for NZ mosque shooting victims

Report: Weak laws behind religious discrimination in Malaysia

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/new-zealand-parliament-session-starts-with-recitation-of-holy-quran-after-christchurch-mosques-massacre/d/118084

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New Zealand Parliament Session Starts with Recitation of Holy Quran after Christchurch Mosques Massacre

March 19, 2019

Caravan Desk

CHRISTCHURCH — The first Parliament session in New Zealand, after the deadly attack in Christchurch on the Muslim community during Friday prayers by a far-right terrorist, commenced with the recitation from the Holy Quran, according to reports.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, addressing the Parliament, also greeted the gathering with “Assalamo alaikum” and expressed unity with the families of the victims and also vowed on Tuesday never to utter the name of the twin-mosque gunman.

“The families of the fallen will have justice,” said Ardern during her address, adding she would never mention the gunman’s name.

“He may have sought notoriety, but we in New Zealand will give him nothing. Not even his name.”

The victim of the indiscriminate shooting at two mosques in Christchurch were largely Muslim migrants, refugees, and residents from countries including Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Turkey, Kuwait, Somalia, UAE, and others.

In the wake of the mass shooting, Prime Minister Ardern has promised to reform New Zealand gun laws that allowed the gunman to legally purchase the weapons he used in the attack on two Christchurch mosques, including semi-automatic rifles.

New Zealanders have already begun answering government appeals to hand in their weapons, including John Hart, a farmer in the North Island district of Masterton.

The way New Zealand Prime Minister reacted to the deadly incident which caused 50 deaths of Muslim worshipper is commendable and unparalleled. She was moved and shocked by the sudden and unexpected terror attack by a terrorist from Australia.

She not only offered words of sympathy to the affected people but personally met the bereaved families and consoled them while wearing hijab, a Muslim woman dress to cover the head, to stand in solidarity with Muslim women. The display of amazing leadership by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is what the traits of a good leader should be.

http://caravandaily.com/new-zealand-parliament-session-starts-with-recitation-of-holy-quran-after-christchurch-mosques-massacre/

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Azaan to be broadcast nationally in solidarity with Muslims: NZ PM

March 20, 2019

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern  has said that the nation will observe two minutes of silence on Friday to mark one week since the deadly attack.

Ardern said that they were   planning for the   memorial service which would  be held in Christchurch, adding that  the government  wants to involve the rest of New Zealand.

Speaking to media on her second visit to Christchurch since the terror attack, She said: "There is a desire to show support to the Muslim community as they return to Mosques, particularly on Friday, adding: "To acknowledge this there will be a two minutes' silence on the same day. We will also broadcast nationally, via TVNZ and RNZ, Azaan  (the call to prayer)."

AT least 50 worshippers were killed and dozens injured when a n Australian terrorist opened fire at two mosques in Christchurch during Friday prayers.

Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, was charged with murder on Saturday.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/446482-azaan-to-be-broadcast-nationally-in-solidarity-with-muslims-nz-pm

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Iran’s Islamic Authorities Slowly Embrace Ancient Festival of Fire

Zahra Alipour

March 19, 2019

"[Chaharshanbeh Soori] not only lacks a religious basis, it also brings about harm and misdeed. It is advised that [the rituals] be refrained from." That's the text of a fatwa published by the official website of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in response to a religious query about Chaharshanbeh Soori, the ancient Iranian Festival of Fire held on the eve of the last Wednesday before Nowruz, the start of the Iranian New Year. The festival is largely marked with bonfires set up in alleyways and streets nationwide with people gathering around to jump over the flames and celebrate the arrival of spring.

The Iranian supreme leader's statement is not the sole opinion expressed by clerics and political figures within the Islamic Republic in rejection of Chaharshanbeh Soori. Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, a number of religious figures have repeatedly dismissed the ceremony on the grounds that it runs counter to Islamic principles. They consider the celebrations to be a series of "superstitions" characterized by "religiously forbidden" customs. For instance, Morteza Motahari — a key ideologue of the Islamic Revolution — considered the popular epigram shouted when jumping over fires on the annual occasion as a manifestation of blasphemy and polytheism. "Jumping over the fire … bears signs of blasphemy. … Such slogans are descriptive of fire worshippers. Islam was introduced to battle these very rituals," Motahari wrote in one of his religious essays.

Meanwhile, foreign-based opposition groups such as Mujahedeen-e Khalq have issued calls ahead of the same festival to turn the event into political rallies against the Islamic Republic.

In recent years, however, the conservative clerical community's rejection has not managed to throw the festival into oblivion. Moreover, calls from the opposition for protests have not given the event a political color either. Days ahead of this year's Chaharshanbeh Soori, which falls on March 19, opposition groups have been launching campaigns across social media for organized rallies against the Islamic Republic. But the state is seemingly easing restrictions and exhibiting far less strictness about the ancient festival this year. To many pundits, this is partly explained by a gradual reemergence of patriotism and a strong emphasis on "Iran's glory" in remarks by the country's senior leadership.

In one such speech addressing a gathering of members of the hard-line volunteer Basij militia, Ayatollah Khamenei made a rare reference to nationalism as a top value. "The gist of my speech today is about putting Iran's glory first. Then comes the Islamic Republic's power, followed by [protecting] the insurmountable nature of the Iranian nation." For the first time ever, the Iranian leader seemed to be elevating the concept of the homeland in a highly patriotic sense, placing it above the Islamic Republic. A historical and social study of Chahrshanbeh Soori leads to few clues as to where the origins of the festival were laid. Researchers are divided on whether the tradition came into being before or after the advent of Islam in Iran. There are even etymological differences over the roots of the word "Soor" in Persian, as it could signify both "celebration" and "ruddiness." But what has remained indisputably unchanged in the original ritual is the practice. Iranians have jumped over the flames for centuries, as they deem fire to be a sacred phenomenon that is capable of cleansing them of illnesses and evil. They repeat "Bestow upon me your ruddiness," the epigram to highlight the symbolic power of fire, as they jump over bonfires.

Abbas Abdi, a Tehran-based political activist and sociologist, contends that negative sensitivities toward the festival in the post-revolution era were rooted in the attitude that Chaharshanbeh Soori violated the ideals of the revolution and the principles of Islam. "The revolutionary and Islamic atmosphere back then had pushed Chaharshanbeh Soori to the corner. Anyone trying to celebrate the event would have to face hostile reactions from the public," Abdi told Al-Monitor. But he added that over time such a stance has been moderated with the society turning less "revolutionary and religious," offering more room for the restoration of ancient Iranian culture and traditions.

The recent shift in the Iranian leadership's stance toward Chaharshanbeh Soori, according to Abdi, is an outcome of the vehement denial of nationalistic sentiments in the aftermath of the revolution. "The shah’s regime sought to reinstate ancient and patriotic values by suppressing tendencies toward Islam, but the effort backfired," Abdi noted. On the very opposite side of the extreme, he said, the Islamic Revolution took a similar unsuccessful approach of rejection. He added, "In spite of the two approaches, ordinary Iranians still support a compromise between both nationalistic and Islamic values and even find bonds that link these two."

"The Evolution of Children's Names in Tehran from 1996 to 2015" is the title of sociological research conducted by Abdi and released in 2017. In it, he detects a growing inclination toward both Islamic and patriotic principles. "These days, parents tend to choose names that represent a mixture of nationalistic and religious elements, meaning that the two do not contradict one another," Abdi said. He argued that a denial of either nationalism or religiosity has proven to be met with public backlash. "People demonstrate more eagerness toward anything that the government propagates against," he noted.

Abdi also believes that employing Chaharshanbeh Soori for political purposes by opposition groups is in contrast with what the public generally pursues in the festival. He said, "People hold the celebrations and keep their own way, inattentive to the opposition’s calls for protests." Such moves, he maintains, are mainly aimed at highlighting certain developments that happen very rarely. Abdi added, "But let’s also not underestimate the fact that rituals like Chaharshanbeh Soori do always suffer a susceptibility to alterations and are subject to redefinition by political groups."

In post-revolution Iran, the ritual's content and form have both undergone changes. Passionate teenagers are no longer satisfied with bonfires alone. They have introduced a variety of firecrackers and tiny dynamites, modifying the ancient festival into a loud one. The nonstop, battle-zone-like sound of the small explosives has come to characterize the eve of the last Wednesday in recent years. The substantial deaths and injuries from the accidents caused by the fireworks have now fueled concerns about citizen safety.

"Given the harm inflicted upon citizens, what happens during Chaharshanbeh Soori is forbidden from a religious point of view," said ultraconservative cleric Mohammad Khatami in sermons addressing Friday prayer worshippers in March 2014.

Three days after the speech, however, the social affairs department chief at the Islamic Republic Police expressed support for the ritual, promising that the force will "vigilantly stand by the people as always during the event and the entire New Year holidays."

Last year's festival resulted in at least four deaths and 2,082 injuries — 23 were left permanently maimed. Some 160 building blazes were also reported nationwide. Still, the casualty figures marked an overall 50% decline in the capital city of Tehran compared to the previous year.

In a March 9 statement, days ahead of this year's festival, the Iranian Police asserted that it has no intention of standing in the way of the public’s joy and celebration, but it urged the nation not to turn the Festival of Fire into a "festival of damage and burns." "People have every right to observe traditions, but the red line needs to be observed as well," the statement read. It also warned that "police will not tolerate any move that disrupts public order and irritates fellow citizens," promising to "severely deal" with those who cause injuries to individuals and inflict damage upon public property.

https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2019/03/iran-nowruz-chaharshanbe-soori-fire-festival-authorities.html

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Facebook Says Nobody Reported New Zealand NZ Massacre Livestream As It Happened

Mar 19, 2019

Facebook has stated that  nobody reported the videos of the shooter who livestreamed his terrorist attacks on two Christchurch, New Zealand mosques until minutes after the attack had ended.

In a blog post on Monday, Facebook vice president and deputy general counsel Chris Sonderby said that the 17-minute video of the attacks was first reported 29 minutes after it started streaming, or 12 minutes after it had ended.

Sonderby added that the video was viewed less than 200 times during the live broadcast, during which no users reported it.

Including views during the live broadcast, the video was viewed about 4,000 times before it was removed from Facebook.

Facebook removed the video almost immediately after the New Zealand police contacted them about it, roughly 29 minutes after the video started streaming and 12 minutes after it ended.

Facebook and other platforms like YouTube, Twitter and Reddit have worked around the clock to remove the video.

According to the company, around 1.5 million uploads of the video were blocked on Facebook, and 1.2 million of those were blocked on upload and therefore not seen by anyone.

"We continue to work around the clock to prevent this content from appearing on our site, using a combination of technology and people," Sonderby said in the statement.

Facebook designated both shootings in the city of Christchurch as terror attacks and the site's standards prohibit any representation of the events as well as any praise or support.

Sonderby also said that the company hashed the original Facebook Live video to help detect and remove other visually similar videos from Facebook and Instagram.

It has also shared more than 800 visually-distinct video related to the attack through a database it shares with members of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT). “This incident highlights the importance of industry cooperation regarding the range of terrorists and violent extremists operating online,” he wrote.

Other online platforms, however, have also struggled to stop the video’s spread. For example, uploaders were able to use minor modifications, like watermarks or altering the size of clips, to stymie YouTube’s content moderation tools.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Tuesday that she had reached out Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and expressed concerns people could still see the footage.

"You can't have something so graphic and it not [have an impact] ... and that's why it's so important it's removed," she said, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/03/19/591501/US-Facebook-New-Zealand-terror-attack

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Fatwas against Ram Janmabhoomi Film; Clerics Asks Actor Nazneen Patni to 'Revive' Her Faith In Islam

Mar 19, 2019

Bhopal: A body of clerics in Madhya Pradesh has issued two 'fatwas' asking Muslims to avoid watching the film "Ram Janmabhoomi" and its woman actor to "revive" her faith in Islam. The All India Ulama Board (AIUB) demanded the central and MP governments to prevent the film's release, alleging it was "an instrument to create hatred between two communities of society".

It said the movie was being released to "vitiate" the atmosphere at a time when efforts were being made to resolve the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute in Ayodhya through mediation. Uttar Pradesh's Shia Waqf Board president Syed Waseem Rizvi has written and produced the film, which portrays the events related to the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. It is set for release on April 29.

"The film's release should be stopped till the completion of Lok Sabha polls as it is a conspiracy by the film's producer to create hatred between the two communities in society and polarise votes in elections," AIUB MP unit vice president Noor Ullah Yousuf Zayi told reporters here.

He demanded that a four-member panel be formed to review the movie. He also shared two fatwas, signed by AIUB MP chapter president Qzai Syed Anas Ali Nadwi, with reporters. One of the fatwas appealed to Muslims to avoid watching the TV shows and movies which spread obscenity, communalism and portray Islam in poor light, and also films like "Ram Janmabhoomi".

Another fatwa was issued against the film's actor Nazneen Patni, advising her to "revive her belief in the light of Shariat". It said the film was made with a conspiracy to harm the communal accord of the country and incite the Muslim community's sentiments.

Asserting that AIUB would not accept any mockery of the Shariat, Yousuf Zayi alleged that the film portrayed 'nikah halala' and talaq in a wrong way, as seen in its promos released so far. He said the AIUB would take legal recourse on this.

https://www.timesnownews.com/india/article/fatwas-against-ram-janmabhoomi-film-in-madhya-pradesh-clerics-asks-actor-nazneen-patni-to-revive-her-faith/385488

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Hefazat Chief Calls Ahmadiyyas Infidels, Urges Followers To Boycott Them

March 19th, 2019

The Hefazat leader demands once again that the government declare the community as non-Muslim

Leader of the fundamentalist group Hefazat-e-Islam Shah Ahmed Shafi has urged his followers to socially boycott the Ahmadiyya religious community, calling them kafir – infidels.

Shafi, who has long been clamouring for the government to declare the community as non-Muslims, was speaking at an Islamic rally in Madaripur on Tuesday.

“They are infidels because they do not accept Hazrat Muhammad (SM) as the last prophet,” he said.

“Do not associate with them or form kinships with them.”

Also Read- 50 Ahmadiyyas injured in co-ordinated attack on the community in Panchagarh

He urged the audience to observe religious rituals and carry out pious acts.

Shafi reiterated a six-point demand, including arrest and punishment of Rashed Khan Menon MP for his ‘statements against Islam,’ governing the nation on the basis of Qur’an and sunnah, and death penalty for the New Zealand mosque attacker.

Former Awami League minister Shajahan Khan and Madaripur municipal Mayor Khalid Hossain Yad were present, alongside religious leaders and scholars, at the event.

https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/nation/2019/03/19/shafi-calls-ahmadiyyas-infidels-urges-followers-to-boycott-them

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Will support Pak’s territorial integrity, no matter what: China

Written by Sowmiya Ashok

March 20, 2019

Reaffirming its support to Pakistan, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi Tuesday pledged to uphold Pakistan’s sovereign independence and territorial integrity saying its commitment will remain despite changes in the international landscape.

Speaking in Beijing at the first-ever China-Pakistan Foreign Minister-level strategic dialogue, Wang said: “No matter how things change in the world and in the region, China will firmly support Pakistan in upholding its sovereign independence and territorial integrity and dignity.”

Wang was with his Pakistan counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who acknowledged China’s support to his country in “difficult times” and thanked Beijing for its support to Pakistan.

Their remarks come weeks after India carried out airstrikes in Pakistan’s Balakot following a Jaish-e-Mohammad suicide attack on a convoy in Pulwama on February 14, which killed 40 CRPF personnel. The attack and the subsequent airstrikes have heightened tensions along the Line of Control. The Foreign Ministers’ meeting was held less than a week after China put a technical hold on the proposal to list Jaish chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist in the UN Security Council 1267 committee for the fourth time.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday raised the recent Pulwama suicide attack in her crucial bilateral meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi here, a day after India destroyed a major Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM) terror training ...

Qureshi also said that the two countries discussed the situation after the Pulwama incident. “I also briefed the Foreign Minister (Wang) on the rapidly deteriorating situation on the Indian side of Kashmir, intensification of human rights violations, especially after Pulwama,” he said. “Pakistan appreciates the role that China has played, once again, in standing by Pakistan in these difficult times.”

China’s remarks underscoring firm support to Pakistan come in the backdrop of heightened tension between India-Pak since the February 14 Pulwama terror attack and the Belt and Road Forum (BRF) in Beijing next month. This is the second Forum and India chose to skip the first BRF in 2017 in protest against the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flagship Belt and Road Initiative project. India has said the CPEC runs through the disputed PoK. How Delhi engages with Beijing in April remains to be seen.

Referring to Kashmir, Qureshi said: “This is a concern because that leads to a reaction, and that reaction at times creates tensions in the region that must be avoided. I think there is a need for a new assessment on how the situation on the Indian side of Kashmir should be handled by the Indians.”

With China set to host the second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing next month, Qureshi said: “The Chinese government was very generous in supporting Pakistan. We had good discussions…We are committed to the expeditious implementation of CPEC,” Qureshi said. https://indianexpress.com/article/world/will-support-paks-territorial-integrity-no-matter-what-china-5634929/

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PM Khan wishes Hindu community a 'very happy, peaceful' Holi

March 20, 2019

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday wished the Hindu community "a very happy and peaceful Holi, the festival of colours".

PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also took to Twitter to wish "happy Holi" to the community.

"Happy Holi to all my Hindu brothers & sisters. On the happy occasion of Holi, let us spread the wonderful message of peace and happiness," he wrote.

Holi is a Hindu festival that takes place on the last full moon day of the Hindu lunisolar calendar month and marks the start of spring. This year, the Hindu community across the globe is celebrating the national holiday on Wednesday (today).

https://www.dawn.com/news/1470779/pm-khan-wishes-hindu-community-a-very-happy-peaceful-holi

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Europe

 

‘Systemic Islamophobia’ fuels terror attacks, say Muslim leaders

18 Mar 2019

Muslim leaders from around the world have accused the mainstream media, politicians and academics of contributing to the conditions fuelling terrorist violence against their community such as Friday’s attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand, which claimed 50 lives.

More than 350 leading Islamic figures from countries including the UK, US and South Africa have signed a letter to the Guardian, which links the actions of the suspected shooter, the 28-year-old Australian Brenton Tarrant, to an atmosphere of “systemic and institutionalised Islamophobia”.

The letter says: “This bigotry has been fuelled by certain callous academics, reckless politicians as well as media outlets who regularly feature those who demonise Islam and Muslims with impunity, disguising their vile mantra behind a veneer of objectivity.

“The massacre of Muslims did not just begin with bullets fired from the barrel of Tarrant’s gun. Rather it was decades in the making: inspired by Islamophobic media reports, hundreds and thousands of column inches of hatred printed in the press, many Muslim-hating politicians and unchecked social media bigotry.

“Muslims have been constantly cast as suspect communities, foreigners with barbaric views who are a threat to our society. We are now reaping the awful outcome of systemic and institutionalised Islamophobia woven into many sections of our societies.”

The letter came as the Conservative peer Sayeeda Warsi called on ministers to heed demands from Muslim leaders for an increase in funding for mosque security after the New Zealand terrorist attack. She said Islamophobia was the party’s “bigotry blind spot”.

The former Tory party chair said there was overwhelming evidence to support an increase in funding for mosque protection following the Christchurch attacks.

The Muslim Council of Britain has called for increased funding for Muslim places of worship amid a rise in the number of suspected far-right incidents across England, some of which are alleged to have been inspired by the atrocities in New Zealand.

Lady Warsi made the comments as a row continued over the Conservatives’ record on tackling Islamophobia. Earlier this month, Warsi repeated calls for an internal inquiry and suggested the most senior figures in the party – including Theresa May – needed to take the problem more seriously.

Responding to claims that mosques were inadequately funded, Warsi said: “That’s not an opinion, that’s a fact. There are two different pots of funds: there’s a fund specifically for the protection of synagogues and then a fund of about £2.4m for the protection of all other religious institutions.

“The government has to go back and recognise that there is a need right now – and there’s overwhelming evidence that there’s clearly a need – and therefore how quickly is it going to respond to that.”

But she added: “I’m really cautious about making comparisons. Each form of hate is unique and specific and has its own challenges. It was quite right for thegovernment to respond when they identified a form of hate with antisemitism and made sure places of worship were protected.”

Warsi said a change the government should make – to show it has learned from the attacks in New Zealand – is to adopt a formal definition of Islamophobia. A definition put forward by the all-party parliamentary group on British Muslims had been adopted by the Lib Dems, was being considered by the Labour party and was backed by councils, academics, 850 Muslim organisations and about 70 parliamentarians, she said.

“Whether it’s in relation to the protection of mosques, whether it’s in relation to engagement with British Muslim communities, whether it’s in relation to acknowledging the level of hate either within the party or within government policymaking, whether it’s the way we use the language of British Muslim communities, it is our bigotry blind spot.

“It comes back down to the fact that we fail to see it and recognise it as a specific form of racism that it is, directed at British Muslim communities, and we therefore fail to make adequate policy and respond.”

Harun Khan, the secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, will be writing to May raising the “palpable sense of fear” felt by Muslim communities after the attack in Christchurch, and warning of the risk of copycat attacks in the UK.

The government increased security funding for Jewish institutions after the rise in antisemitic attacks, pledging £14m to support the security at about 400 synagogues and 150 Jewish schools, equivalent to more than £25,000 per institution.

Khan called on the government to demonstrate equivalent support to Muslim communities.

The former integration tsar Dame Louise Casey warned that a New Zealand-style atrocity could occur in the UK. Casey said Britain needed to “wake up” as extremism had not been tackled sufficiently.

She also strongly criticised the “appalling behaviour of far too many politicians” and the “mood music” they were creating.

The security minister, Ben Wallace, said: “The funding for protective security tacks with the threat. As the threat changes that funding will change with it.

“In response to increased threat, we will increase and seek to change the funding around that, and that is why we do have the places of worship scheme. We will absolutely be looking at seeing whether that needs to be increased over the short and longer term.”

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/mar/18/uk-muslim-leaders-seek-funding-for-mosque-security

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Christchurch copycat threatens to kill Muslim worshipers at Australian mosque

19.03.2019

A person inspired by the brutal terrorist attack carried out by a white nationalist at two mosques in New Zealand last Friday pledged to kill worshipers at a mosque in Australia, reports said.

The terrorist copycat posted a threat on social media Sunday, pledging to carry out an attack on the Islamic Society of Geelong Mosque, located southwest of Melbourne.

Victoria Police reportedly confirmed the threat, noting that they are currently carrying out an investigation regarding the matter.

"Yes I am a copy cat I will be visiting the mosque and kill as many invaders as I can in the time I get I will then shoot myself in front of police," the post read.

Police reportedly contacted the mosque officials regarding the threat and increased presence near the building.

The mosque's imam Shaykh Mohammad Ramzan told the Geelong Advertiser that the Muslim community will not give in to such threats.

"Our main message to the community is that everything is normal," he said.

Full report at:

https://www.dailysabah.com/asia/2019/03/19/christchurch-copycat-threatens-to-kill-muslim-worshipers-at-australian-mosque

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The New Zealand shooting victims spanned generations and nationalities

March 20, 2019

One was a dairy farmer. Another aspired to be a pilot. One was an elder known for helping newcomers. Another was a teenager who called his mother when the shooting started. The 50 people slaughtered by a gunman at two Christchurch mosques last week spanned a range of backgrounds. Here is what we know about many of them.

Atta Elayyan

Atta Elayyan, 33, was a technology entrepreneur, a goalkeeper and a new father. He played for New Zealand’s national futsal team, according to the New Zealand Football association, which confirmed his death. Futsal is a version of five-a-side soccer played indoors.

Teenagers at a secondary school in Christchurch performed a haka — a ceremonial dance or challenge in Māori culture — in tribute to the victims of the New Zealand mosque shootings.

“There are no words to sum up how we are all feeling,” one of his teammates, Josh Margetts, said in a statement. “There is a huge hole in our hearts as we come to terms with the loss of a great person and a good mate. He will be sorely missed.”

Elayyan was born in Kuwait and studied computer science at the University of Canterbury. He was the chief executive and a co-founder of LWA Solutions, a mobile app startup. He was well known in the futsal world and in Christchurch’s tech community.

He and his wife, Farah, have a young daughter, Aya, whose photos appear in abundance on his Facebook page. In one, she is wearing a bib that says: “My dad rocks.”

Three-year-old Mucad Ibrahim was the youngest person confirmed to have been killed in the attacks at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Source: Abdi Ibrahim via The New York Times)

Mucad Ibrahim

Three-year-old Mucad Ibrahim is the youngest person confirmed to have been killed in the attacks. He was at Al Noor mosque and became separated from his brother and father when the shooting began.

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“He was a Muslim-born Kiwi who was full of energy, love and happiness,” his family said in a statement. “He is remembered in our community as a young boy who emanated nothing but the representation of God’s love, peace and mercy.”

“Will miss you dearly brother,” Mucad’s brother Abdi Ibrahim wrote on Facebook.

Mucad was wearing a white thobe and his favorite white hat Friday, “and so returned to His Lord in a state of pure innocence and spiritual beauty,” the family’s statement said.

The family said they had taken solace from a global outpouring of support. “Knowing that New Zealand and the whole world stands behind our boy reassures us that violence and racism are unwelcome in our world,” they said.

“I’ve lost my little boy; he’s just turned 14,” Sayyad Milne’s father, John Milne, told The New Zealand Herald through tears.

Sayyad was one of two Cashmere High School students killed in the attack, according to the school’s principal, Mark Wilson. The boy was an avid soccer player.

“He proved himself to be not only a truly outstanding goalkeeper, but a great friend and colleague, a real team player with a fabulous attitude and a warm and friendly personality,” St. Albans Shirley Football Club said in a statement on Facebook.

“Sayyad was one of our own, and we will always remember him.”

Lilik Abdul Hamid

Lilik Abdul Hamid, originally from Indonesia, had been an aircraft maintenance engineer with Air New Zealand for 16 years, the company’s chief executive, Christopher Luxon, said in a statement.

“He first got to know the team even earlier when he worked with our aircraft engineers in a previous role overseas,” Luxon said. “The friendships he made at that time led him to apply for a role in Air New Zealand and make the move to Christchurch.”

Hamid is survived by his wife and two children, Luxon said. On Facebook, one of Hamid’s friends called him “a man with a gold heart who always opened his heart and home to everyone.”

Areeb Ahmed

Areeb Ahmed, 27, was an employee of PricewaterhouseCoopers, a statement released by the company said. Pakistan’s foreign ministry said he was originally from that country’s largest city, Karachi.

“Areeb was a loved and respected member of our PwC family,” the company wrote on Facebook. “His smile, warmth, dedication, respect and humor will be deeply missed.”

The New Zealand shooting victims spanned generations and nationalities

Tariq Omar, a soccer player with Christchurch United Football Club, was one of the 50 people killed in the attacks at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Source: Adam Dean/The New York Times)

Tariq Omar

New Zealand Football confirmed the death of Tariq Omar, 24, a soccer player who coached for several of Christchurch United Football Club’s junior teams. Colin Williamson, the club’s academy director, called him “a beautiful human being with a tremendous heart and love for coaching.”

“Our coaches and his players are struggling to understand what has happened, and we are trying to support our club members as best as we can,” Williamson said in a statement released by the club. “But of course our main thoughts and concerns go out to Tariq’s family who are in our hearts and prayers.”

Shahid Suhail

Shahid Suhail, 35, from Pakistan, was an engineer who worked for a resin manufacturer in Christchurch, according to Stuff, a news website. He had a wife and two young daughters. “His daughters were his life,” said his wife, Asma.

Syed Jahandad Ali

Syed Jahandad Ali, 34, originally from Lahore, Pakistan, worked at Intergen, a software company, and had a wife and three children, according to a fundraising page created by the company. In a statement, the company called him “a kind and gentle man.”

“Syed Jahandad Ali has deeply touched the lives of his friends, colleagues and wider technology community through his knowledge and skills. We are devastated to have lost a very loved Intergenite” the statement read.

Haroon Mahmood

Haroon Mahmood, 40, had worked in banking in Pakistan before moving to New Zealand, Stuff reported. He taught at a private school for international students and had been a tutor at Lincoln University in Christchurch, according to Radio New Zealand. He had a wife and two children.

Farhaj Ahsan

Farhaj Ahsan, originally from Hyderabad, India, had lived for 10 years in New Zealand, where he worked as an electrical engineer. He left behind a wife and two children, according to his brother, Kashif Ahsan, who spoke to the BBC.

Maheboob Khokhar

Maheboob Khokhar, a 65-year-old Indian engineer, was on his first trip to New Zealand, visiting his son, who had moved there from India eight years ago.

His wife, Akhtar Khokhar, said they had been in the country for two months. He was at Al Noor mosque the day before they had planned to leave.

Asif Vora

Asif Vora was among five Indian nationals whose deaths were confirmed by the Indian High Commission in New Zealand. Radio New Zealand said that he was 58 and that he and his son had been killed at Al Noor mosque.

Ramiz Vora

Asif Vora’s son, Ramiz Vora, 28, had become a father just days before his death, according to Radio New Zealand.

The New Zealand shooting victims spanned generations and nationalities

Two women read the messages left at a makeshift memorial to Ansi Alibava, one of the people killed in last week’s attack in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Source: Adam Dean/The New York Times)

Ansi Alibava

Ansi Alibava, 25, another of the Indian nationals among the victims, had moved to New Zealand with her husband, Abdul Nazer, in 2018, a year after they had married, he told CNN. She had just completed a master’s degree in agribusiness management.

Nazer was near an emergency door at Al Noor mosque when the shooting began and managed to escape. Outside, he saw Alibava lying facedown and ran to her, but was stopped by a police officer.

“She had so many dreams,” he told CNN.

Ozair Kadir

Ozair Kadir, 25, dreamed of being a commercial pilot like his older brother. Originally from Hyderabad, India, he had moved to New Zealand in recent years and was set to make that a reality.

Messages of grief and support for Kadir’s family poured in on the Facebook page of the International Aviation Academy of New Zealand, where he was in pilot training. Fellow students gathered Monday to lay flowers at a makeshift memorial.

“Ozair’s presence will be sadly missed by all staff and students at the Academy,” the institute said in a statement. “Our love, thoughts and prayers are with his family who are now in New Zealand preparing to take Ozair home.”

Haji Daoud al-Nabi

Haji Daoud al-Nabi, 71, arrived in New Zealand from Afghanistan about 30 years ago and was a central figure in Christchurch’s small Afghan community. He was a leader who welcomed everyone, his son Yama al-Nabi said.

His son was running 10 minutes late for Friday Prayers, along with his 8-year-old daughter, when they came upon a police cordon. The younger al-Nabi’s hands trembled as he held up his mobile phone to show a picture of his father with his daughter in the mosque on a different day.

“I thought I’d make it to the prayers. When I got there, the police were there. I was running, and a guy said there was shooting in the mosque,” Yama al-Nabi said. He knew his father was inside, but news of his death only came hours later.

The New Zealand shooting victims spanned generations and nationalities

A young man is comforted as he grieves for a friend at a makeshift memorial near the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Adam Dean/The New York Times)

Salwa Mirwan Mohamad

Salwa Mirwan Mohamad was named in a court document charging the alleged gunman with murder. Further details on her identity are still unclear.

Ali Elmadani

Ali Elmadani, 65, immigrated to New Zealand from the United Arab Emirates with his family in 1998, his family confirmed to the Stuff news site. His daughter, Maha Elmadani, said her father had always told the family to be strong, so that was what she was trying to do.

“He considered New Zealand home and never thought something like this would happen here,” she told Stuff.

Husna Ahmad

Husna Ahmad, 47, led a number of women and children to safety after the shooting at Al Noor mosque began, said Farid Ahmad, her husband. Farid Ahmad, who is in a wheelchair, said she was killed when she returned to the mosque to check on him.

“She was busy with saving lives, forgetting about herself,” said Ahmad, 59.

Ahmad said he had forgiven the gunman and believed good would eventually come from the killing. “This is what Islam taught me,” he said.

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“What he did was a wrong thing, but I would tell him that inside him, he has great potential to be a generous person, to be a kind person, to be a person who would save people, save humanity rather than destroying them,” Ahmad said. “I hope and I pray for him that he would be a great savior one day. I don’t have any grudge.”

The New Zealand shooting victims spanned generations and nationalities

A woman who said she frequented the Al Noor Mosque, but was away when a mass shooting occurred there days ago, prays at a makeshift memorial in front of the building. (Adam Dean/The New York Times)

Naeem Rashid

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In the gunman’s self-made video of the killings he had posted to Facebook, a man can be seen trying to tackle him as he began firing in Al Noor mosque. That man was Naeem Rashid, according to witnesses.

His family described him as an intelligent, ambitious and devout father of three. His eldest son, Talha Naeem, was also killed.

Rashid was in his 40s, according to Stuff and Radio New Zealand. His brothers, interviewed in Pakistan, said he had left a senior position at Citibank in the city of Lahore in 2010 to pursue a doctorate in Christchurch and raise his children in a peaceful country. Starting over proved more difficult than he had expected.

“Like everybody who leaves this country, he left Pakistan because of lack of opportunities here,” said Dr. Khurshid Alam, one of Rashid’s brothers. “He went there to do his Ph.D. Because of the financial situation, he couldn’t complete it, so he was teaching part time.”

He became much more devout during his time in New Zealand, according to his brothers. They said he talked about wanting to die a martyr, which he felt was the most honorable way for a Muslim to die.

The New Zealand shooting victims spanned generations and nationalities

A woman lights a candle at a makeshift memorial near the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Adam Dean/The New York Times)

Talha Naeem

Talha Naeem, 21, had just graduated from college and entered the workforce. He was the eldest of Naeem Rashid’s three children — the second is 18, the youngest is 5 — and his father was especially proud of him, according to his family.

The family had planned to return to Pakistan in May to help Naeem find a wife.

Amjad Hamid

Amjad Hamid was a cardiologist who had spent the last few years working with rural communities in the mountainous area of Taranaki, on New Zealand’s North Island, though he continued to live in Christchurch with his wife and family. At Hawera Hospital in Taranaki, he often brought colleagues fresh baklava from a Christchurch bakery.

“He was well liked for his kindness, compassion and sense of humor,” the Taranaki District Health Board said in a statement. “He was a hardworking doctor, deeply committed to caring for his patients, and a thoughtful team member who was supportive of all staff.”

His wife, Hanan al-Adem, told Radio New Zealand she still could not believe he was gone.

“He was the perfect man; it’s a big loss,” she said.

Kamel Darwish

Kamel Darwish, 38, arrived early at his brother’s home in Christchurch on the eve of the attack. He had traveled from the countryside, where he worked at a dairy farm, because “he didn’t want to miss Friday prayers,” said his brother, Zuhair Darwish.

New Zealand had been his home for just six months. He had moved from Jordan because his brother had convinced him there was no safer, better place to raise a family. His wife and children were set to arrive in a month.

“He was caring; he was honest; he was a loving person,” his brother said.

Linda Armstrong

Linda Armstrong, 64, was a third-generation New Zealander who grew up in Auckland and converted to Islam in her 50s, her nephew Kyron Gosse said.

“Linda had a huge heart, and what little she had, she was more than happy to share with her family and Muslim community,” Gosse wrote in a tribute to his aunt on Facebook. “She would tell me stories about Ramadan when all the families would come together at the mosque sharing homemade meals and having a feast, laughing and chatting.”

Lateef Alabi, a leader at the Linwood mosque, told The New York Times that Armstrong had been among the victims there.

Her younger brother, Tony Gosse, remembered her as a peaceful woman with a “stubborn ideology of this world.”

“We didn’t always see eye to eye, but she lived a very humble lifestyle and was always unselfishly helping others. She volunteered at refugee centers and was an advocate for women’s rights,” he said. “She always had an open ear and a shoulder to lean on.” Mohammed Imran Khan

Mohammed Imran Khan, 47, also known as Imran Bhai, was originally from India and was killed at the Linwood mosque, Stuff reported. He owned a restaurant, the Indian Grill, and two other Christchurch businesses. A post on the restaurant’s Facebook page the day after the attacks said it would be closed indefinitely.

Hamza Mustafa

Hamza Mustafa, 16, called his mother when the shooting began at Al Noor mosque, she told Stuff.

“He said, ‘Mum, there’s someone come into the mosque, and he’s shooting us,’ ” Salwa Mustafa said. “I called, ‘Hamza, Hamza,’ and I can hear his little voice, and after that it was quiet.”

Hamza Mustafa attended Cashmere High School, as did Sayyad Milne, another teenager killed in the attack.

Khaled Mustafa

Khaled Mustafa, Hamza Mustafa’s father, was also killed at Al Noor mosque.

Radio New Zealand said that the Mustafas were originally from war-ravaged Syria and that they had moved to New Zealand from Jordan last year. Hamza’s 13-year-old brother Zaed was wounded.

“Our lives have completely changed,” Salwa Mustafa told Stuff.

Junaid Ismail

Junaid Ismail, 36, was a Christchurch native who worked at the family business, a dairy, according to Radio New Zealand. He had a wife and three children. His twin brother, Zahid, survived the shooting.

Abdelfattah Qasem

Abdelfattah Qasem, a 60-year-old Palestinian, worked in Kuwait for much of his life, Stuff reported. He moved to New Zealand with his family in the early 1990s, after the first Gulf War. A relative told Stuff that Qasem was “like an elder for the community,” known for helping newcomers to Christchurch. He had three daughters and was about to become a grandfather.

Ashraf Ali

Originally from Fiji, Ashraf Ali, 61, had lived in Christchurch for 17 years, Stuff reported.

Ashraf Ali Razat

Ashraf Ali Razat, 58, was visiting New Zealand from Fiji when he was killed, according to Radio New Zealand.

The New Zealand shooting victims spanned generations and nationalities

A makeshift memorial near the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand for victims of last Friday’s mass shooting at two mosques in the city. (Adam Dean/The New York Times)

Mathullah Safi

Mathullah Safi, 55, killed at Al Noor mosque, came to New Zealand from Afghanistan through India about nine years ago, Stuff reported. He was married with seven children.

Hussein Al-Umari

Hussein Al-Umari, 35, killed at Al Noor mosque, worked in the travel industry but had recently lost his job, his parents told Stuff. The family moved to New Zealand from the United Arab Emirates 22 years ago, according to the news site.

Musa Vali Suleman Patel

Musa Vali Suleman Patel, 60, an imam in Fiji for about 25 years, had traveled to Australia and then New Zealand to spend time with children and friends, the Fiji Muslim League said in a statement. He “served selflessly as an imam, teacher, mentor, and was much sought after as a powerful orator and speaker,” the organization said in a statement. He is survived by his wife and five children.

Ashraf al-Masri

Ashraf al-Masri had two young children and worked in a shop, according to Stuff. His age was not reported.

Hussein Moustafa

Hussein Moustafa, 70, was originally from Egypt, according to Stuff. “He loved the mosque, he loved tidying it, he loved nourishing it, and he was always a welcoming face there,” his daughter-in-law, Nada Tawfeek, told the news site.

Mounir Soliman

Mounir Soliman, 68, had been a design engineer and quality manager at Scotts Engineering in Christchurch since 1997, according to Stuff. He was a “lovely man,” said a spokeswoman for the company, Glenda Hillstead. He was married and had no children.

The New Zealand shooting victims spanned generations and nationalities

Students in Christchurch perform a haka, a traditional dance and chant, at a student-led memorial on Monday, for victims of last Friday’s mass shooting at two mosques in the city. (Source: Adam Dean/The New York Times)

Zeeshan Raza

Zeeshan Raza, 38, a mechanical engineer, moved to New Zealand last year from Karachi, Pakistan, Stuff reported. He and his parents were killed at the Linwood mosque.

Ghulam Hussain

Raza’s father, Ghulam Hussain, was in his 60s, Stuff reported. He and his wife, Karam Bibi, came to New Zealand last month to visit their son.

Karam Bibi

Bibi was also in her 60s, according to Stuff. She and Hussain are survived by a daughter.

Abdukadir Elmi

Abdukadir Elmi, 78, came to New Zealand with his family about 10 years ago, Stuff reported. In a Facebook post, his son, Said Abdukadir, said he was “a giant among his community,” generally known as Sheikh Abdukadir. “Kids would run to grab his chair when they hear the noise of his cane hitting against ground upon his entrance,” he wrote. He is survived by five sons, four daughters and his wife of nearly 50 years, according to Stuff.

Mohsin Al Harbi

Mohsin Al Harbi had lived for 25 years in New Zealand, where he worked in water desalination. After the shooting, his wife, Manal, was hospitalized with a heart attack while searching for him, Stuff reported.

Osama Adnan Youssef Kwaik

Osama Adnan Youssef Kwaik, 37, was born in Gaza and raised in Egypt, according to Stuff. A civil engineer, he moved to Christchurch in 2017 and was in the process of applying for New Zealand citizenship. He had a wife and three children, one of whom was born in Christchurch.

Mojammel Hoq

Mojammel Hoq, 30, moved to New Zealand from Bangladesh a few years ago and was studying in Christchurch, according to Radio New Zealand.

Mohammed Omar Faruk

Mohammed Omar Faruk, 36, was a welder who came to New Zealand from Bangladesh about two years ago, a friend told Stuff. His pregnant wife remained in Bangladesh, the friend said.

Muhammed Abdusi Samad

Muhammed Abdusi Samad, 66, from Bangladesh, was a lecturer at Lincoln University who often led prayers at Al Noor mosque, Stuff reported.

The New Zealand shooting victims spanned generations and nationalities

A man prays at a makeshift memorial for the victims of the Christchurch shooting. (Source: Adam Dean/The New York Times)

Muse Nur Awale

Muse Nur Awale, 77, had been living in Christchurch for about 30 years, Stuff reported. He was married and had no children.

Ahmed Gamaluddin Abdel-Ghany

Ahmed Gamaluddin Abdel-Ghany, 68, emigrated from Egypt with his wife and son in 1996, Stuff reported. His son, Omar, called him “a great man with the purest of hearts” in an Instagram post.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/world/new-zealand-shooting-victims-christchurch-attack-spanned-generations-and-nationalities-5635028/

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Letter points to terror motive in Dutch tram attack

March 20, 2019

UTRECHT: Dutch authorities said on Tuesday they were “seriously” investigating a terrorist motive for the Utrecht tram attack because of evidence including a letter found in the suspected gunman’s getaway car.

Police were questioning Turkish-born main suspect Gokmen Tanis, 37, and two other men over Monday’s rampage in which three people were killed and seven injured, three of them seriously.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte had earlier said they “cannot exclude” other motives including a family dispute, but police and prosecutors on Tuesday said the probe was leaning towards terrorism.

“So far, a terrorist motive is seriously being taken into account. This is based on a letter found in the getaway car among other things and the nature of the facts,” they said in a joint statement.

“Our investigation has established no link between the main suspect and the victims.” The three people who died in the shooting were a 19-year-old woman from Vianen, south of Utrecht, and two men aged 28 and 49 from Utrecht itself, the statement said.

Armed police captured Tanis after an eight-hour manhunt that virtually shut down the Netherlands’ fourth largest city and saw security stepped up at airports and key sites across the country. Police said they found a red Renault Clio that the suspect had used as a getaway car after the attack. They had also found a firearm after his arrest.

Tanis and two other men aged 23 and 27 are still being interrogated, police said. Reports said the two other suspects were brothers but unrelated to Tanis.

A stream of mourners laid flowers on Tuesday at the site of the attack near the 24 Oktoberplein square.

“One of the victims was my friend’s girlfriend. So coming here today was the least I could do,” Marco van Rooijen, 43, said.

“I am here to pay homage to the victims and to support their families,” said local resident Yvette Koetjeloozekoot, 29.

Rutte and justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus were to visit Utrecht later on Tuesday to privately meet those caught up in the attack, officials said. “A day later, I am still filled with horror,” Rutte told parliament.

“There are still many questions about the motive, and the police and prosecutors still have to do a lot of work. But there is no doubt that the impact was huge.” The attack raised security fears ahead of Wednesday’s provincial elections in which Rutte’s centrist coalition is set to lose seats in the upper house of parliament.

Flags were flying half-mast on many buildings around the Netherlands and on foreign embassies.

Public transport was running again after forensic police finished their investigations at the scene and removed the tram on which the shooting erupted. But there was also growing anger after it emerged that the suspect had only been freed from jail in a rape case two weeks ago.

Tanis was originally arrested in 2017 then released from pre-trial detention, before being taken back into custody when he breached his bail conditions, the central Netherlands district court said. He was freed again at the start of March.

In 2014, he was also convicted of “illegal possession of weapons” and attempted theft but acquitted of attempted manslaughter. He was also convicted in recent months for shoplifting and burglary.

Broadcaster NOS meanwhile said some of his relatives had links to Islamic groups, but also that he was known for unstable behaviour after divorcing his wife two years ago.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1470727/letter-points-to-terror-motive-in-dutch-tram-attack

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Australian PM slams Erdogan’s 'reckless' comments on Christchurch carnage

Mar 20, 2019

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has censured latest "reckless" and "highly offensive" remarks by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the wake of a mass shooting which killed 50 people at two New Zealand mosques, warning that he consider "all options" considering bilateral relations with Ankara.

“Remarks have been made by the Turkish President Erdogan that I consider highly offensive to Australians, and highly reckless in this very sensitive environment,” Morrison said on Wednesday after summoning Turkish Ambassador Korhan Karakoc and dismissing the “excuses” offered.

On Monday, Erdogan described the Christchurch massacre as part of a wider attack on Turkey, and threatened to send back “in caskets” anyone who tried to take the battle to Turkey’s largest city of Istanbul.

“They are testing us from 16,500 km away, from New Zealand, with the messages they are giving from there. This isn’t an individual act, this is organized,” he said as he attended a ceremony marking the 104th anniversary of Battle of Canakkale, also known as the Gallipoli Campaign, in the northwestern Turkish city of Canakkale.

Erdogan also displayed extracts from a “manifesto” posted online by the attacker and later taken down.

He said the gunman, identified as 28-year-old Australian Brenton Tarrant, issued threats against Turkey and the president himself, and wanted to drive Turks from Turkey’s northwestern, European region. “We have been here for 1,000 years and will be here until the apocalypse, God willing,” Erdogan noted.

“You will not turn Istanbul into Constantinople,” he highlighted, referring to the city’s name under its Christian Byzantine rulers before it was conquered by Muslim Ottomans in 1453. “Your grandparents came here... and they returned in caskets. Have no doubt we will send you back like your grandfathers."

Victims laid to rest

Also on Wednesday, 44-year-old Khalid Mustafa and his 15-year-old son Hamza Mustafa became the first of the Christchurch shooting victims to be laid to rest.

New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said it was hoped most victims would be formally identified by the end of the day.

He said repatriation of victims was a priority for family, compassionate and cultural reasons.

"I want to assure people about how much we're doing in this area.  We have over 120 people involved in this process … whose absolute focus is reuniting these victims with their loved ones,” he said.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/03/20/591511/Australian-PM-slams-Erdogans-reckless-Christchurch-comments

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1000s rally in Melbourne against racism after Christchurch mosque attacks

Mar 19, 2019

Thousands of Australians rally against racism and Islamophobia in Melbourne, days after the terrorist attacks on two mosques in Christchurch on Friday.

Protesters chanted anti-racist slogans as they filled the streets of Melbourne's CBD on Tuesday and accused the government of fear-mongering against Muslims in Australia.

"Whenever our politicians dog-whistle, whenever they attack Muslims, or whenever they lock up refugees, they're helping to fuel attacks such as this," one speaker stated.

A statement from Australian Senator Fraser Anning in the wake of the shootings sparked international outrage on Friday, after he blamed Muslim immigration to New Zealand for the attack. More than 1 million Australians have since signed a petition demanding the Senator's removal from Parliament for his comments.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/03/19/591479/1000s-rally-Melbourne-against-racism-after-Christchurch-mosque-attacks

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UK: Finsbury Park imam suffers Islamophobic attacks

Ahmet Gürhan Kartal 

19.03.2019

LONDON

Mohammed Mahmoud, the hero imam who calmed down Muslim worshippers immediately after the terror attack that killed 1 person and injured more than 10 in Finsbury Park in 2017, has been targeted in an Islamophobic attack.

The Finsbury Park mosque imam has become one of the latest victims of Islamophobic hatred, which spiked following the terror attack in New Zealand that killed 50 people.

Mahmoud, who attended an interfaith meeting with Home Secretary Sajid Javid, religious leaders and London Mayor Sadiq Khan at Regent’s Park mosque on Monday, was called “despicable” and sworn at by a man on a bus and later he was spat at by a cyclist, according to the Evening Standard.

Mahmoud said his experiences while he was returning home has illustrated the continuing threat posed by Islamophobia in the U.K. as he described how he had been “subject to Islamophobic abuse in two separate incidents on my way home from the event.”

“The first was on public transport on my route home,” he said.

Mahmoud said: “A middle aged white male on the bus told me I was “despicable” and a “s***hole” and that the whole country was “f***”. When I asked why - he said it was because I was wearing a dress.”

The imam said that a “white lady on the bus” had “clearly showed her disapproval of the Islamophobe and support for me - which was nice to see” but that, after getting off, he was abused for a second time “on Whitechapel Road where a cyclist spat at me.”

“I chased after him but he got away. It was so sad to see such reckless hate and Islamophobia after the event and after all we have been through this week,” he said.

Mahmoud was in the meeting promoting inclusion and tolerance and to hear Javid, who today announced a boost in security funding for mosques and pledged to do all in his power to protect Muslims in this country from aggression and intolerance, according to the British daily.

Mahmoud prevented the terrorist Darren Osborn from being harmed following the 2017 terror attack at the Muslim Welfare Centre after he killed one Muslim man and injured others when he plowed into people leaving the mosque after Ramadan prayers.

Islamophobia is blasphemy

Also attending the same meeting with Mahmoud, the Archbishop of Canterbury said people who twist Christian language and history to incite hatred against Muslims commit "blasphemy".

Full report at:

"For British Muslims who are feeling under threat, we are with you,” the Archbishop said.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/uk-finsbury-park-imam-suffers-islamophobic-attacks/1423024

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UK: Muslim leaders warn of 'systemic' Islamophobia

Ahmet Gurhan Kartal

19.03.2019

LONDON

The horrific terror attack on two mosques in New Zealand was "inspired by Islamophobic media reports" and "unchecked social media bigotry", more than 350 Muslim leaders from countries including the U.K., U.S. and South Africa said in a letter.

The letter published by The Guardian said Islamophobia has been fueled by many individuals and it is "systemic".

"This bigotry has been fueled by certain callous academics, reckless politicians as well as media outlets who regularly feature those who demonize Islam and Muslims with impunity, disguising their vile mantra behind a veneer of objectivity," the letter said.

It said: "The massacre of Muslims did not just begin with bullets fired from the barrel of Tarrant’s gun. Rather it was decades in the making: inspired by Islamophobic media reports, hundreds and thousands of column inches of hatred printed in the press, many Muslim-hating politicians and unchecked social media bigotry."

The letter was referring to the suspect identified as an Australian-born Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 28, who fired on Muslim worshippers at Al Noor mosque where at least 50 victims were killed in Friday's twin terror attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand.

"Muslims have been constantly cast as suspect communities, foreigners with barbaric views who are a threat to our society."

"We are now reaping the awful outcome of systemic and institutionalised Islamophobia woven into many sections of our societies," it added.

Increased security at mosques

Sayeeda Warsi, a senior Conservative peer called on ministers to pay attention to demands from Muslim leaders for an increase in funding for mosque security after the New Zealand terrorist attack.

She said Islamophobia was the Conservative party’s "bigotry blind spot".

British Security Minister Ben Wallace said the government is seeking ways to increase security funding for British mosques and Muslim communities across the country to prevent such an attack which "absolutely could happen" in the U.K.

"In response to increased threat, we will increase and seek to change the funding around that [mosques] and that is why we do have the Places of Worship Scheme," Wallace said.

"We will absolutely be looking at seeing whether that needs to be increased over the short and longer term," he added.

The minister’s announcement was made following the stabbing of a young victim on Saturday by a 50-year-old suspect, who shouted “kill all Muslims”.

The incident is being treated by the police as an act of terrorism inspired by the far-right.

Wallace also said the government was increasingly concerned over the growth of far-right extremism in the U.K. and the rising number of people who are identifying with such an extreme ideology and mindset.

Harun Khan, head of the Muslim Council of Britain, said a "palpable sense of fear" had surfaced among British Muslims following the New Zealand terror attack in a letter sent to Prime Minister Theresa May.

“Open seven days a week, especially on Fridays, mosques across the U.K. are places servicing well attended congregations,” Khan said.

“This makes the risk of copy-cat attacks here in the UK a real possibility, especially in a climate where we are now fully appreciating the growth in the far-right,” he added.

“There is form here when, in 2017, we saw a terrorist attack against Muslim worshippers during the holy month of Ramadan at Finsbury Park.”

Darren Osborne, 48, killed Makram Ali, 51, and injured 11 others in June 2017 when he plowed a van into a group of Muslim worshippers after they left Ramadan prayers at the Muslim Welfare House in Finsbury Park.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/uk-muslim-leaders-warn-of-systemic-islamophobia/1422518

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Britain to spend £1.6m to improve security in places of worship after New Zealand mosque attacks

Jack Dutton

March 20, 2019

British Home Secretary Sajid Javid has increased funding for security in places of worship to £1.6 million for next year.

The funding, announced in a written ministerial statement, comes after the terror attacks in Christchurch claimed the lives of 50 people and wounded 40.

After the massacre, police presence was stepped up at mosques across the UK to reassure communities fearing similar attacks.

The places of worship fund, established in 2016 as part of the government’s hate crime action plan, provides financial support for protective security such as fencing, lighting and CCTV.

The government previously committed funding of £2.4m over three years.

So far, more than a third of grants under the scheme have been awarded to mosques.

The government will open a £5m fund to provide security training at mosques and other places of worship.

“The horrific events in New Zealand are a direct attack on the values of tolerance and freedom of worship that unite us all,” Mr Javid said.

“Nobody should ever fear persecution of their faith and it’s vital that we stand together to reject those who seek to spread hatred and divide us.”

On Sunday, just hours after the New Zealand mosque attack, two men in their 20s were caught on camera in London brandishing a hammer or another blunt object before attacking a worshipper near a mosque in East London.

Reports also emerged on Twitter that a group of men had been caught with flaming rags soaked in petrol outside a Muslim prayer centre in Southall, West London.

Although many Muslim communities in the UK are feeling anxious after recent attacks, Mr Javid said they “should seek comfort from knowing we are doing everything to tackle hate and extremism”.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/britain-to-spend-1-6m-to-improve-security-in-places-of-worship-after-new-zealand-mosque-attacks-1.839146

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British Conservative Party suspends members for anti-Muslim comments

Shafi Musaddique

March 19, 2019

Britain’s governing Conservative Party has been forced to suspend up to 25 activists found to have posted racist comments on Facebook. This is in addition to the 40 members already suspended from previous investigations into Islamphobia.

An inquiry into the growing anti-Muslim problem in the Tory Party by organisers of the @MatesJacob Twitter account showed comments on killing Muslims, by people claiming to be Conservative party members.

“I was going through a few magazines the other day down at the local Mosque. I was really enjoying myself. Then the rifle jammed,” said one activist on the Jacob-Rees Mogg Supporters Group Facebook page, named after but not affiliated with the backbencher member of parliament.

One activist wrote “No Muslim will get my vote”, while another referenced British Prime Minister Theresa May’s use of the word "simples" in a recent parliamentary speech: “tow them back out to sea, sink the boat. Simples”.

Twenty-five members were found to have made racist comments on the Facebook group page, but the Tory Party have not specified how many of them have been suspended. The number could well be below the 25 outed.

Forty self-identifying party members in total have been banned on the back of screenshots posted by the @MatesJacob Twitter account investigating institutional racism in the Conservative Party.

Former Tory party chair Sayeeda Warsi, Britain’s first Muslim woman cabinet minister, criticised her party for failing to handle complaints in an open and transparent process.

"The system of complaints is opaque and mired in bureaucracy. There is no clarity on which complaint has been considered, what action was taken and no transparency of eventual outcome,” Ms Warsi told news and entertainment website Buzzfeed.

“This is what makes this issue of Islamophobia institutional – the party as an organisation is failing those that raise concerns.”

Sayeeda Warsi

@SayeedaWarsi

Years of raising Islamaphobia w/n my Party had left me weary but #NZMosqueShooting tragically reminded me that this fight is essential &must go on

So @Conservatives u can duck &dive but I will keep bringing this fight to u - the longer we deny it the more we confirm we hav a prob

5,537

2:43 PM - Mar 18, 2019

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Ms Warsi is a vocal critic of her successor Brandon Lewis and has been extensively campaigning for senior politicians in the Conservative Party to take Islamophobia seriously.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Sayeeda Warsi

@SayeedaWarsi

Another week , another bunch of bigots to exclude from @Conservatives

Is Annette Susan Martin a member as she claims?

See attached her vile islamophobic views @BrandonLewis

Please update. #DailyDetox

431

2:25 PM - Mar 18, 2019

359 people are talking about this

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“Party members who have been found to have made inappropriate comments have been suspended pending further investigation.”

A report by anti-fascist organisation Hope Not Hate found Conservative voters are more likely to have anti-Muslim views compared to voters from other British political parties.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/british-conservative-party-suspends-members-for-anti-muslim-comments-1.838893

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Mideast

 

New Zealand envoy headed to Turkey to ‘confront’ Erdogan’s mosque shooting comments

March 20, 2019

SYDNEY: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Wednesday Foreign Minister Winston Peters will travel to Turkey to “confront” comments made by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on the killing of at least 50 people at mosques in Christchurch.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, was charged with murder on Saturday after a lone gunman opened fire at the two mosques during Friday prayers.

Erdogan — who is seeking to drum up support for his Islamist-rooted AK Party in March 31 local elections — said Turkey would make the suspected attacker pay if New Zealand did not.

The comments came at a campaign rally that included video footage of the shootings which the alleged gunman had broadcast on Facebook.

Ardern said Peters would seek urgent clarification.

“Our deputy prime minister will be confronting those comments in Turkey,” Ardern told reporters in Christchurch. “He is going there to set the record straight, face-to-face.”

Peters had earlier condemned the airing of footage of the shooting, which he said could endanger New Zealanders abroad.

Despite Peters’ intervention, an extract from Tarrant’s alleged manifesto was flashed up on a screen at Erdogan’s rally again on Tuesday, along with footage of the gunman entering one of the mosques and shooting as he approached the door.

Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he summoned Turkey’s ambassador for a meeting, during which he demanded Erdogan’s comments be removed from Turkey’s state broadcaster.

“I will wait to see what the response is from the Turkish government before taking further action, but I can tell you that all options are on the table,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

Morrison said Australia’s ambassador to Turkey will on Wednesday meet with the members of Erdogan’s government.

Morrison said Canberra is also reconsidering its travel advice for Australians planning trips to Turkey.

Relations between Turkey, New Zealand and Australia have generally been good. Thousands of Australians and New Zealanders travel each year to Turkey for war memorial services.

Just over a century ago, thousands of soldiers from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) struggled ashore on a narrow beach at Gallipoli during an ill-fated campaign that would claim more than 130,000 lives.

The area has become a site of pilgrimage for visitors who honor their nations’ fallen in graveyards halfway around the world on ANZAC Day every April 25.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1469521/world

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President Assad: Iran-Iraq-Syria Ties Strengthened by Campaign against Terrorism

Mar 19, 2019

Assad made the remarks in a meeting with a high-ranking Iranian military delegation headed by Chief of Staff of Iran's Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri in Damascus on Monday night.

He added that blood of the Syrians, Iranians and Iraqis shed in the fight against terrorism and their supporters further strengthened the three countries' relations.

General Baqeri arrived in Damascus on Sunday to take part in a tripartite meeting on combating terrorism with Iraqi and Syrian military officials.

Upon arrival in Damascus, he reiterated Tehran’s call that the foreign military forces in Syria without Damascus’s permit must leave the Arab country.

"(Those foreign) forces who are present in Syria without any authorization from the country's government must leave the Syrian soil as soon as possible," General Baqeri said on Sunday.

The Iran military chief of staff said that the foreign troop’s withdrawal would be underlined in the tripartite meeting.

He added that Iran was in Syria at the official request of the Syrian government, stressing that the troops of the other countries need to secure the permission of the Arab country government.

He pointed to the illegal presence of foreign troops in Idlib province and the eastern Euphrates region and underscored that these forces should leave those areas as soon as possible.

“The purpose of the trip to Syria is to participate in the tripartite summit between Iran, Syria and Iraq with the participation of their senior commanders to coordinate efforts on the fight against terrorist groups in the region,” Baqeri said.

“Over the last few years, excellent coordination has been achieved between Iran, Syria, Russia and Iraq, and there has been solidarity with the Resistance Axis that led to significant victories in countering terrorism, and today, on the basis of these victories, the consolidation of sovereignty and progress towards the liberation of the rest of Syria would is taking place.”

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971228000281

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Turkey’s Erdogan urges New Zealand to restore death penalty over mass shooting

Mar 19, 2019

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged grief-stricken New Zealand to restore capital punishment for the mass murderer who shot dead scores of people in the Pacific Ocean country last week, vowing that Ankara would make the assailant “pay” for his “heinous” crime if Wellington did not.

On Friday, a 28-year-old Australian national, identified as Brenton Tarrant, killed 50 people and wounded 50 others at two mosques in Christchurch, a city located on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island. The mass shooting is regarded as the deadliest ever attack in New Zealand.

The attacker, who broadcast live footage on Facebook of the attack on one mosque in Christchurch, was detained shortly afterwards and on Saturday stood handcuffed before a New Zealand district court judge and was charged with murder. He was remanded without plea until his next appearance in the High Court on April 5.

“You heinously killed 50 of our siblings. You will pay for this. If New Zealand doesn’t make you, we know how to make you pay one way or another,” the Turkish president told an election rally of thousands in northern Turkey on Tuesday.

The attacker, a suspected white supremacist, wrote a lengthy manifesto, titled “The Great Replacement,” in which he described the Turkish leader as a “warlord” who is leading a country that is among “the oldest enemies of our people.”

He further issued threats against Turkey and Erdogan himself, calling for the drive of Turks from Turkey’s northwestern European region, where Istanbul is located, a Muslim-majority city and Turkey’s largest urban center.

Erdogan on Tuesday also said his country was wrong to have abolished the death penalty 15 years ago, adding that Wellington should make legal arrangements so that Tarrant could face capital punishment.

“If the New Zealand parliament doesn’t make this decision I will continue to argue this with them constantly. The necessary action needs to be taken,” he said.

At weekend election rallies Erdogan showed appalling video footage of the shooting, as well as excerpts from the attacker's so-called manifesto. The move, however, drew a rebuke from New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters, who said he had told Turkey’s foreign minister and vice president that showing the video could endanger New Zealanders abroad.

Nevertheless, an extract from Tarrant’s manifesto was again shown on a screen at Erdogan’s rally on Tuesday, as well as short part of the footage.

On Monday, Erdogan addressed a rally in the northwestern province of Canakkale commemorating the 1915 Gallipoli campaign, when Ottoman soldiers defeated British-led forces including Australian and New Zealand troops trying to seize the peninsula, a gateway to Istanbul.

He said the mass shooting of Muslims in New Zealand is part of a wider attack on Turkey, calling on Wellington to launch a serious investigation into the massacre and threatening to send back “in caskets” all those who try to take the battle to Istanbul.

Citing Turkey’s intelligence, Erdogan also said on Monday that the mass murderer had visited Turkey twice in 2016.

Earlier in the day, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern vowed “the terrorist” would face “the full force of the law.”

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/03/19/591472/Turkey-New-Zealand-death-penalty-mass-shooting-Tarrant-Muslims

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Saudi war machine kills 3 Yemeni civilians every day: Report

Mar 19, 2019

Every day, three civilians are killed in Yemen amid the deadly campaign led by the regime in Riyadh against the impoverished country, says a report co-sponsored by aid group Oxfam.

Since mid-December 2018, persisting violence and war have killed one person every eight hours, according to the report, which was published on Tuesday.

The date is when a UN-sponsored ceasefire was agreed between Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement and Saudi-backed forces during talks in Sweden. The Stockholm negotiations were supposed to come up with a mechanism to end the war on Yemen that began in March 2015.

The report further said the number of fatalities had doubled in the provinces of Hajjah and Ta'izz.

Although a truce had reduced hostilities in Hudaydah, the report said, a third of over 230 civilians killed nationwide, including 56 children, were reported in that province.

Civilian death toll, which the UN reported was as high as 100 a week in 2018, has dropped but it remains unacceptably high following the ceasefire, the report said.

Muhsin Siddiquey, Oxfam’s Yemen Country Director, said more Yemenis were also dying due to lack of food and basic necessities.

“Every day that passes without concrete progress towards peace, more Yemenis lose their lives and the suffering deepens for those struggling to find food and shelter amid the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.”

“The backers of the warring parties are complicit in this man-made crisis; we call on them to stop arming the belligerents. They and the rest of the international community need to do all they can to help bring about a lasting peace in Yemen.”

A number of Western countries, the United States and Britain in particular, supply the Saudi-led forces with advanced weapons and military equipment as well as logistical and intelligence assistance.

Late February, media reports said the Australian government had provided $36 million to a Canberra weapons manufacturer to support the development of a system that has been sold to Saudi Arabia.

On Tuesday, Conor Costello, Oxfam Australia Yemen campaigns lead, spoke against exports of Australian arms to Saudi Arabia.

"Oxfam Australia is demanding a halt to Australian arms exports to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other parties to the Yemen conflict."

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/03/19/591468/Yemen-Saudi-Muhsin-Siddiquey-Oxfam

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Two Palestinians killed by Israeli army in West Bank clashes: health ministry

March 20, 2019

NABLUS, Palestinian Territories: Two Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in clashes near a flashpoint religious site in the occupied West Bank overnight Wednesday, the Palestinian health ministry said.

The health ministry said Raid Hamdan, 21, and Zaid Nouri, 20, died after being shot late Tuesday by Israeli troops near the Joseph Tomb’s religious site close to the Palestinian city of Nablus.

The Israeli army said explosives were hurled as Jewish worshipers visited the site late, with troops opening fire on the assailants.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1469531/middle-east

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Rare protests erupt against Hamas’ 12-year rule over Gaza

March 19, 2019

GAZA CITY: Hamas is facing the biggest demonstrations yet against its 12-year rule of the Gaza Strip, with hundreds of Palestinians taking to the streets in recent days to protest the dire living conditions in the blockaded territory.

With little tolerance for dissent, the militant group has responded with heavy-handed tactics. It has arrested dozens of protesters, beaten activists and violently suppressed attempts by local media to cover the unrest.

Hamas has accused the rival West Bank-based Palestinian Authority of orchestrating the protests — a charge that organizers vehemently reject.

“There is no political agenda at all,” said Amin Abed, 30, an organizer who has been forced into hiding. “We simply want to live in dignity,” he said by telephone. “We just ask Hamas to ease the economic hardships and tax burdens.”

Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007 from the forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade, a step meant to prevent Hamas from arming.

The blockade, and three wars with Israel, have ravaged Gaza’s economy but done nothing to loosen Hamas’ grip on power.

Unemployment is over 50 percent and much higher for young university graduates like Abed. Tap water is undrinkable, electricity is limited and travel abroad severely restricted. Hamas’ cash-strapped government recently raised taxes on basic goods like bread, beans and cigarettes.

Protesters accuse Hamas of corruption and imposing the hefty taxes to enrich itself. They used social media to organize protests last week with the slogan “We want to live!”

The protests come just as Hamas marks the one-year anniversary of its weekly demonstrations along the frontier with Israel. The demonstrations, aimed largely at easing the blockade, have accomplished little, even as some 190 Palestinians have been killed and thousands wounded by Israeli fire.

This is not the first time people have taken to the streets against Hamas. Two years ago, protesters demonstrated against the chronic power cuts on a cold January day before Hamas violently dispersed them. This time around, the sporadic rallies have continued for five days, despite a similarly violent response.

“These protests were the largest, the longest and the most violent in terms of Hamas’ suppression,” said Mkhaimar Abusada, political science professor at Gaza’s Al-Azhar University.

“This was a message of anger to Hamas that the situation is unbearable and that it must reconsider all its policies,” he added.

On Monday, Amnesty International reported that hundreds of protesters have been beaten, arbitrarily arrested, tortured and subjected to ill-treatment. Journalists and human rights workers, including a researcher for the London-based organization, were also roughed up, Amnesty said.

“The crackdown on freedom of expression and the use of torture in Gaza has reached alarming new levels,” said Amnesty’s Middle East deputy director Saleh Higazi.

Osama Al-Kahlout, a journalist with the local news site Donia Al-Wattan, last week published a photo of a protester on crutches raising a sign that said “I want to live in dignity.” The next day, he was detained as he went live on Facebook during another protest.

Al-Kahlout said police smashed furniture, seized his belongings and beat him on the way to the police station. “I’m a journalist,” he said. “I don’t regret covering it.”

He said he was released after a meeting with the police chief in which officials “advised” journalists not to cover the protests.

Heba el-Buhissi, 31, who filmed the raids at her family home, said a policeman fired a warning shot in the air as others cursed and yelled at her after she started filming. Her videos show a group of Hamas police beating her cousin with wooden batons.

Other amateur videos have shown protesters burning tires and hurling stones toward Hamas forces. Hamas gunmen can be seen jumping out of vehicles and beating people with clubs. Other videos show Hamas going door to door and carrying out mass arrests.

El-Buhissi filmed the incident last Thursday when she saw Hamas dispersing some of her neighbors who had hoisted banners against tax hikes. Her family opened the home to allow youths to escape the police.

“This is what drove the police crazy, and that’s why they stormed our houses,” she said. “I felt I have to film to prove what was going on.”

The Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists reported Monday that 42 Palestinian journalists “were targeted” by Hamas forces in the past five days. The abuses included physical assaults, summons, threats, home arrests and seizure of equipment.

The official Palestinian Authority news agency Wafa reported Monday that the spokesman of Abbas’ Fatah movement in Gaza, Atef Abu Saif, was badly beaten by Hamas.

It showed pictures of Abu Said with a bandaged leg, bruises and blood-stained clothes lying on a hospital bed.

Ammar Dwaik, director of the Independent Commission for Human Rights in Gaza, said Hamas forces have dispersed 25 protests with excessive force and arrested about 1,000 people. He said some 300 people remain in custody.

“This is worst crackdown in Gaza since the Hamas takeover in 2007 in terms of its scope and cruelty,” Dwaik said.

On Tuesday, Hamas issued a brief statement “rejecting the use of violence and repression against any Palestinian for practicing his legitimate right of expression.”

But Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas official, used tougher language in a Twitter post, accusing Israel and the Palestinian Authority of conspiring to organize protests. “The attempts of the Palestinian Authority and the occupation to drive a wedge between the people and the resistance have failed,” he said.

The demonstrations appeared to subside on Monday, but organizers say the protests will continue until Hamas cancels taxes on dozens of goods, creates a national employment program and releases everyone who has been arrested in the crackdown.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1469321/middle-east

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North America

 

US tells Afghan president it won’t deal with his NSA

Anwar Iqbal

March 20, 2019

WASHINGTON: The United States has told Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that Washington will no longer deal with his national security advi­ser Hamdullah Mohib, the US and Afghan media reported on Tuesday.

On Monday afternoon, US special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khal­ilzad met Pakistan’s ambassador Asad Majeed Khan and told him that everyone will benefit from peace in Afghanistan.

“Met with Pakistani and British Ambassadors to Washington. Whe­ther your perspective is regional or international, everyone benefits from the security and economic dividends an end to war in Afghanistan will bring,” he wrote in a tweet.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Reuters news agency reported that on March 15, US Under Secretary of state for political affairs David Hale told President Ghani by phone that Mohib would no longer be received in Washington and that US civilian and military officials would not do business with him.

“Mr Hale called President Ghani and told him that Mr Mohib is no longer welcome in DC. The US will not deal with him in Kabul or in DC anymore,” the report added. Other media reports claimed that the move was part of a US effort to pressure Ghani to fire Mr Mohib.

Mr Khalilzad, also a senior US diplomat, leads the US team in the talks with Taliban in Doha. So far, the two sides have held five rounds of talks with the Taliban in Doha and Mr Khalilzad returned to Kabul late last week after the fifth round to brief US officials and representatives of other governments on the talks. But during the weekend, the Afghan NSA Mohib triggered a major controversy when he claimed that Mr Khalilzad had intentionally kept the Afghan government out of the talks because he wanted to be the next “viceroy” of Afghanistan.

The statement annoyed the US State Department, which summoned Mr Mohib to protest. Because of the dispute, US National Security Adviser John Bolton also cancelled a meeting with Mr Mohib and he was told that he may not be issued a US visa for future visits, although he has an American wife.

Washington also denies Mr Mohib’s claim that the US has created an information vacuum regarding the peace talks with the Taliban to delegitimise the Afghan government. The United States says that it has been trying hard to persuade the Taliban to talk to the Afghan government but they are refusing to do so. The Afghan government suggests that the United States should also opt out of the talks if the Taliban continue refusing to talk to Kabul, a condition apparently unacceptable to Washington. Mr Mohib did not comment on the report but he tweeted on Tuesday that he was back in Kabul after his visits to the US and Abu Dhabi to” join President Ghani on his state visit to the UAE.”

In earlier tweets, he said that in Washington he met “many friends of Afghanistan, including in the US government, Congress, think tanks, and the media. “I voiced our people’s legitimate concerns and made Afghanistan’s principled position clear,” he wrote.

He also said that the Afghan people and government valued their partnership with the United States and were especially grateful for America’s generous support to Afghan armed forces. But he also cautioned Afghan politicians, particularly the Afghan presidential hopefuls, to “exercise restr­aint” and not end up on the wrong side of history. “The country will judge you on how you treat your own, not what you do for others. Patriotism above all,” he wrote.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1470725/us-tells-afghan-president-it-wont-deal-with-his-nsa

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US Muslim group calls for Fox News boycott

Michael Hernandez

19.03.2019

WASHINGTON

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) advocacy group is calling on advertisers to pull their support for Fox News unless a pair of hosts who are facing criticism for Islamophobic rhetoric are fired.

“Fox News must clearly state that Jeanine Pirro will not be allowed back on the air after her long history of Islamophobic hate rhetoric and the network must also take similar action against other Islamophobic hosts like Tucker Carlson,” CAIR Director Nihad Awad said in a statement issued Monday.

“All existing advertisers should drop their ads on Fox News to ensure that they are not associated with the promotion of hate," Awad added.

CAIR called for Pirro's firing after she criticized U.S. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar for her choice to wear the Muslim headscarf, or hijab. Pirro called Omar's decision "antithetical to the Constitution".

Fox News has "strongly" condemned Pirro's remarks but has yet to take known punitive actions against the Saturday night television show host.

It is unclear if the television network is weighing additional actions against Pirro. Her show did not air over the weekend.

At least four advertisers have pulled out of Pirro's show, including Botox-maker Allergan, online marketplace Letgo, personal finance firm NerdWallet and pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

CAIR is further calling for Fox News to remove Carlson, another host who has been embroiled in controversy in recent weeks after tapes were unearthed of him making chauvinist, racist and Islamophobic comments.

Some advertisers have already pulled their support after the Media Matters website released the recordings.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/us-muslim-group-calls-for-fox-news-boycott/1422788

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US-backed forces capture Syria suspects tied to American deaths

March 19, 2019

US-backed forces have captured ISIS fighters tied to a January suicide bombing in Syria that killed four Americans, U.S. officials say, generating concrete leads for Washington about the deadliest attack to date there against US personnel.

The bombing killed Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan Farmer, Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician Shannon Kent and Scott Wirtz from the Defense Intelligence Agency. It also killed Ghadir Taher, a naturalised US citizen working as a civilian interpreter for a US contractor.

One of the officials told Reuters the number of people detained was in the "single digits." A second official said there were several "initial detentions" made in February, without offering a specific number. The detentions have not been previously reported.

"Those initial detentions have provided some leads and opportunities that we are continuing to exploit," the second official said, speaking on condition of anonymity and declining to offer additional details.

"The investigation is ongoing as are efforts to bring all of those terrorists responsible to justice."

The attack was the worst single incident involving US personnel in Syria since they deployed on the ground there in 2015 and took place at a cafe in the town of Manbij, which was controlled by a militia allied to US-backed Kurdish forces.

The bombing occurred nearly a month after President Donald Trump confounded his own national security team and allies with a surprise decision on December 19 to withdraw all 2,000 US troops from Syria, declaring ISIS had been defeated there.

Critics seized on the killings as clear evidence that ISIS still posed a threat.

Trump backtracked in February, agreeing to leave a small US presence to help keep pressure on ISIS during what the US military believes will be a critical stabilisation phase in Syria. The United States is seeking contributions from allies including Britain and France to remain in Syria.

The US military has warned that ISIS may still count tens of thousands of fighters, dispersed throughout Iraq and Syria, with enough leaders and resources to present a menacing insurgency in the months ahead.

The Pentagon's own internal watchdog released a report last month saying Islamic State remained an active insurgent group and was regenerating functions and capabilities more quickly in Iraq than in Syria.

"Absent sustained [counterterrorism] pressure, ISIS could likely resurge in Syria within six to 12 months and regain limited territory," the report from the Pentagon's inspector general said. The report, citing information from US Central Command, said ISIS would portray the withdrawal as a "victory" and conduct attacks on American personnel during the pullout process.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/us-backed-forces-capture-syria-suspects-tied-to-american-deaths-1.838913

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India

 

Cleric dismayed at muted response to NZ terror attack

19 March 2019

Prominent cleric and Imam of Aishbagh Eidgah, Maulana Khalid Rashid Farangi Mahali, expressed dismay at the muted response of secular parties to massacre of 50 Muslims who were praying in Al Noor mosque in Christchurch (New Zealand).

The Maulana also accused the media of adopting double standards in this case.

“I am at my wits end to comprehend the response of secular parties to the New Zealand tragedy. The same parties condemned the incident when two Muslim gunmen in Paris attacked the office of French satirical weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people and injuring 11 on January, 2015. The secular parties vied with each other in condemning the incident in strongest possible terms but they have maintained studied silence over the Christchurch incident,” Farangi Mahali said on Monday.

The Maulana, also a member of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, said, “We should have a uniform approach in condemning acts of terror. If a Muslim is involved in the act of terror, he is immediately dubbed as terrorist while non-Muslims indulging in such acts are described as ‘gunmen’ and `shooter’.”

Firangi Mahali added, “Anybody killing innocent person is a terrorist and those having soft corner for terrorists are mentally sick. I feel that the root cause of terrorism is Islamophobia.”

https://www.dailypioneer.com/2019/state-editions/cleric-dismayed-at-muted-response-to-nz-terror-attack.html

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ED attaches 13 Hizbul Mujahideen properties bought with Rs 11 crore terror funds

Mar 20, 2019

NEW DELHI: India-Pakistan barter trade through PoK (Pakistan occupied Kashmir) has received a setback with the Enforcement Directorate attaching 13 properties of Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) militants in the Valley, allegedly purchased using Rs 11 crore terror funds sent by PoK-based HM founder Syed Salahuddin through the barter trade channel.

According to ED, Salahuddin had sourced the funds from Pakistan government funded J&K Affectees Relief Trust (JKART) and another trust meant for providing relief to Kashmiri Muslims in Pakistan. Militants on both sides, in PoK and in the Valley, were engaged in barter trade and channeled the terror funds, the probe revealed.

The ED money trail showed that Rs 10.5 crore of the Rs 11.26 crore sent through barter trade was withdrawn in cash in the Valley and distributed to terrorists. About half a dozen associates of Salahuddin and HM militants in the Valley have been named by the agency in its attachment order having received these funds and investing part of it in properties.

“As on date, 13 properties of Md Shafi Shah and six other terrorists of Hizbul Mujahideen worth Rs 1.22 crore located in J&K have been attached under PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act),” ED said.

Shafi Shah, alias Doctor, has been identified by the agency as the mastermind in the Valley who received the funds and further distributed them to HM militants from Bandipora, Budgam and Anantnag. Some of these terrorists have already been arrested and lodged in Tihar jail, the agency said.

The ED has also identified 25 properties of militants in the Valley which received investments from Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed. Last week, it had attached a Gurugram property worth over Rs 1 crore allegedly funded by Hafiz Saeed. So far, the agency has identified properties worth over Rs 7 crore, the funds for which had come from Pakistan and Dubai through hawala channels.

In its money laundering case registered against Hafiz Saeed, the agency has accused several Hurriyat leaders and militant sympathisers — including Kashmiri businessman Zahoor Shah Watali and Altaf Ahmad Shah, alias Fantoosh, son-in-law of Syed Ali Shah Geelani — of having received terror funds.

“The probe has identified proceeds of crime (terror funds) of more than Rs 7 crore out of which Rs 5.62 crore was received in India from Dubai and Rs 1.62 crore received from Hafiz Saeed and ISI through the Pakistan High Commission,” the agency claimed.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/ed-attaches-13-hizbul-mujahideen-properties-bought-with-rs-11-crore-terror-funds/articleshow/68489787.cms

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Kartarpur corridor: India, Pakistan technical teams hold talks, discuss coordinates

Mar 19, 2019

To discuss the technical issues regarding the proposed corridor to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, teams of officials from Pakistan and India on Tuesday held a meeting in no man’s land on Indo-Pak border in Dera Baba Nanak. The team of experts from both the countries discussed alignment, coordinates, and other engineering aspects of the proposed crossing points.

The meeting, held in makeshift tents, comes days after the two countries held talks to finalise the modalities for the corridor. The technical meeting at the level of experts, including engineers and surveyors, was held in the follow up to the decision reached in the March 14 meeting, said sources.

The Pakistani team that included 20 delegates was received by the Dera Baba Nanak sub-divisional magistrate Gursimran Singh Dhillon. The 14-member Indian team had officials from the Land Ports Authority of India, National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), BSF and the Punjab government.

After discussions, the teams demarcated points with green and orange flags on the passage. The outcomes of the site visit and survey would be discussed at a meeting on April 2, said sources.

The teams discussed about the exact location of the zero point where both the roads, one leading from Pakistan and the other from Indian side will meet. This road will form an integral part of the corridor. The construction of the integrated check post (ICP) on the Indian side, too, was discussed. The construction and alignment of two gates, one on each side, was also discussed, said sources.

The media and officials of the Gurdaspur administration were not allowed to be part of the meeting. Even devotees who had come to view the shrine associated with Guru Nanak were asked to deposit their mobile phones and other gadgets with cops.

The construction of the ICP, to be built on 50 acres, started on Monday. “The construction of the ICP is a cumbersome and time-consuming process. The actual road (corridor), which will be 4.5km, will be completed within 60 days. That’s why we are interesting in building the ICP first. Later, we will focus on the road,” said an official of the Land Ports Authority of India.

Last November, India and Pakistan agreed to set up the border crossing linking Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, the final resting place of Guru Nanak, to Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/kartarpur-corridor-india-pakistan-technical-teams-hold-talks-discuss-coordinates/story-tAKApTvYT867p64K6NqcQM.html

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Pulwama not forgotten, govt fully capable to act against terror: NSA Doval

Mar 19, 2019

India has neither forgotten nor will forget the Pulwama terror attack and the country’s leadership is “capable and courageous” to mete out effective responses to such acts, NSA Ajit Doval said Tuesday.

Speaking for the first time about the attack in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed on February 14 in Jammu and Kashmir, the national security advisor (NSA) asked the paramilitary force to “constantly” enhance their professionalism, training, physical capabilities and quick response skills.

“What should we do? What should be our way, our aim and our response and time to respond? The country’s leadership is both capable and courageous to (do) that,” Doval said.”The country will tackle all such challenges and we have the courage to do this,” he said while addressing Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel on the paramilitary force’s 80th raising day celebrations at its group centre here.

Doval began his 16-minute speech by paying tributes to the 40 personnel who were killed when a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist blew up his explosives-laden vehicle alongside their bus, which was part of a convoy going from Jammu to Srinagar.The country has not forgotten and will not forget the terror attack, Doval said, referring to the Pulwama incident.

The NSA reiterated that the leadership of the country is fully capable to deal with any act of terror and also against those who abet it.

Doval, a close aide of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is believed to be the person behind the planning of the air strike on a JeM camp in Balakot in Pakistan.

The strike was carried out by the Indian Air Force (IAF) in retaliation to the Pulwama terror incident, which was one of the worst attack on security personnel in Kashmir in three decades.

The Pulwama attack was a “very sad incident”, Doval said, adding that the country will always be indebted to these personnel and their families. He asked CRPF personnel to “not look back” as they have a golden future ahead.

“If your morale is high, then the country’s future is safe,” the retired Indian Police Service (IPS) officer and chief of the Intelligence Bureau (IB), said.

World history is replete with examples when weak internal security mechanisms led to loss of independence, constitutional crises and collapse of governments, he said.

Doval said after World War II, out of the 37 nations that faced such crisis, 28 suffered it because of internal security problems.Therefore, the CRPF, as the lead internal security force of the country has an important role and onerous responsibility in ensuring peace, and law and order, he said.

Doval praised the force for its quick response in moving from one conflict or combat theatre to the another in a short time and for being a very “credible” force for the Indian government when it comes to ensuring law and order anywhere in the country.

He said anywhere in the country if there is a internal security challenge, “you will find CRPF’s tackling it”The CRPF, with about 3 lakh personnel, has 246 operational battalions, and was raised in 1939 as the Crown Representatives Police during British rule. It was re-named as the CRPF in 1949.

It was granted the President’s colour this day in 1950 by the first home minister of the country, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.It is the highest honour bestowed on a force in recognition of exceptional service rendered by it to the nation, both during war and peace.This is the second time that Doval attended as chief guest a martial event conducted by any of the Central Armed Police Forces since he was appointed the NSA by the Modi government in 2014.

Doval had reviewed an Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) parade in 2015 when the force guarding the China border marked its 54th years of raising.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/pulwama-not-forgotten-govt-fully-capable-to-act-against-terror-nsa-doval/story-8WjQzYp6dIJ1KtPgaOnTdK.html

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South Asia

 

“I am your mother now”: New Zealand mosque shootings hit tight-knit Bangladesh community hard

March 20, 2019

Husna Ahmed was 19 when she arrived in New Zealand from Bangladesh on her wedding day. Waiting to meet her was Farid, the man she would marry in a few hours, as their families had agreed. A quarter of a century later, the life they had built together was torn apart at the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch when a gunman walked into the building, firing on worshippers at Friday prayers.

Husna encountered the gunman on his way out of the mosque. He shot her on the footpath. She fell and he fired two more shots, killing her instantly. Farid, who uses a wheelchair after an earlier accident, was talking to a friend and was delayed from joining worshippers at his usual spot at the front of the mosque, instead praying in a small side room.

He managed to escape when he heard the shooting begin, returning when the gunman left, to find many of his friends and community members dead, and comfort those who were dying.

Farid found out about his wife’s death when a detective he knew called his niece as they waited outside the mosque.

She passed the phone: “I don’t want you to wait the whole night, Farid. Go home, she will not come,” Farid said the detective told him. “At the moment I hear that, my response was I felt numb,” Farid told Reuters. “I had tears but I didn’t break down.” His niece crumbled.

A total of 50 people were killed in the rampage, with as many wounded, as the gunman went from Al Noor to another mosque in the South Island city. Most victims were migrants or refugees from countries including Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Syria, Turkey, Somalia and Afghanistan.

The Bangladesh cricket team manager Khaled Mashud recounts the chilling details of the shooting incident in Christchurch, New Zealand on Friday. The Bangladesh cricket team were on their way to one of the mosques for Friday prayers when the shooti...

Husna was one of five members of a growing but tight-knit Bangladeshi community killed, according to the Bangladesh consul in New Zealand, Shafiqur Rahman Bhuiyan. Four others were wounded, one critically, he added.

“The country is viewed as a slice of paradise,” he told Reuters. “Everyone is in shock. It will certainly take time for the residents to come out of the trauma.”

Members of the Bangladesh cricket team, in town for a test match against New Zealand, narrowly avoided the carnage, turning up at the Al Noor mosque soon after the attack took place. Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, has been charged with murder. He entered no plea and police said he is likely to face more charges.

The slaughter has rocked Christchurch, and New Zealand, to its core, blanketing the city in grief and driving Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to promise swift gun law reform. Based on what eyewitnesses told him, Farid said instead of hiding, Husna helped women and children inside the mosque and ran to the front of the building to look for him.

“She’s such a person who always put other people first and she was even not afraid to give her life saving other people,” Farid said.

Husna was born on 12 October in 1974 in Sylhet, a city on the banks of the Surma River, in northeastern Bangladesh. She was so fast that Shahzalal Junior High School would only let her run three races, to give her rivals a chance, Farid said. (Reuters)

Farid said he had forgiven his wife’s killer. “I want to give the message to the person who did this, or if he has any friends who also think like this: I still love you,” Farid said. “I want to hug you and I want to tell him in face that I am talking from my heart. I have no grudge against you, I never hated you, I will never hate you.”

A few hours after the massacre as evening fell, the front room of Farid’s home in a sleepy Christchurch suburb where he runs a homeopathy business was full with survivors and friends, grieving for a woman many described as like a mother to them.

Husna was born on 12 October in 1974 in Sylhet, a city on the banks of the Surma River, in northeastern Bangladesh. She was so fast that Shahzalal Junior High School would only let her run three races, to give her rivals a chance, Farid said. She moved to New Zealand in 1994.

Thin, nervous and overwhelmed by leaving everyone she knew for a new life in an alien country, she burst into tears when her husband-to-be picked her up from Auckland airport. He comforted her on the long drive back to Nelson, where he was living, and where she quickly found her feet.

With almost no other Bangladeshis in the small city, Husna made English-speaking friends and learned the language within six months. Farid said she spoke it with more of a Kiwi accent than he did. When Farid’s workmates at a meatpacking plant agreed to work half an hour longer on Fridays so he could take a break to pray, she cooked them a feast every week in thanks. And when Farid was partially paralysed after being run over by a car outside his house, after four years of marriage, she moved with him to Christchurch and became his nurse.

When Christchurch was razed by a deadly earthquake in 2011, Husna helped settle an influx of Bangladeshi migrants – qualified engineers, metalworkers and builders – who came to assist the rebuilding of the shattered city. Mohammad Omar Faruk, 36, was one of the new arrivals. Faruk was working as a welder in Singapore but leapt at the opportunity to come to New Zealand where working conditions were better and permanent residency was possible.

Faruk was also killed at Al Noor mosque. His employer, Rob van Peer, said he had allowed his team to leave early last Friday after they finished a job by lunchtime, meaning Faruk could attend Friday prayers. Van Peer said Faruk was loved by his colleagues for his loyal and friendly personality and fast, precise welds. Faruk’s wife in Bangladesh is three months pregnant.

“My husband had so many dreams for our baby,” said Sanjida Zaman, 19. “He dreamed of us being moved to New Zealand in a few years and my baby will get education there. What will happen to baby? Who will take care of my baby? I just can’t think.”

Zakaria Bhuiyan, a welder at another engineering firm, also died. He was waiting for a visitor visa so his wife could travel from Bangladesh.

Mojammel Haque worked as a dentist in Bangladesh and was studying in New Zealand for an advanced medical qualification when he was killed. All three men knew Husna, said their friend Mojibur Rahman, a welder and former flatmate of Faruk. “It’s really hard because we are a little community but everyone’s living here in unity, we know each other, we share everything with each together,” he said. “Now I don’t know what’s going to happen, how we become normal.”

The fifth Bangladeshi victim was Abus Samad, 66, a former faculty member of Bangladesh Agriculture University who had been teaching at Christchurch’s Lincoln University.

Many new workers to Christchurch brought young families, or were starting them and Husna took it upon herself to care for women through their pregnancies, often waking Farid at all hours so he could drive her to the births.

“We think she’s like a mother…if there’s something we needed, we go to Husna,” said Mohammed Jahangir Alan, another welder.

Husna guided his wife, then 19, to a midwife and a doctor and joined her in the delivery room as she gave birth to a baby girl, Alan said. A few days later Husna shaved the infant’s head, an Islamic ritual which she did for dozens of children in the community. She was so gentle the baby fell asleep while she pulled the razor over the soft skin.

Husna would also lead the customary washing and prayer ritual for women who died. She was due to lead a workshop the day after her death to teach other women the process.

Now, Husna’s devastated female family members will wash her for her funeral, expected later this week. “We know she would just want us to be a part of it, to wash her,” said her sister-in-law Ayesha Corner. After the burial, Farid says he wants to continue the work he and his wife used to do and to care for their 15-year-old daughter.

When the lockdown at her school lifted on Friday, their daughter returned home, knowing only her mother was missing and asking where she was. “I didn’t miss a second, I said: ‘She is with God,'” Farid said.

“She said: ‘You are lying’. She said: ‘Are you telling me I don’t have a mother?'”

“I said: ‘Yes, but I am your mother now and I am your father…we have to change the roles.”

https://indianexpress.com/article/world/i-am-your-mother-now-new-zealand-mosque-shootings-hit-tight-knit-bangladesh-community-hard-5635062/

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Bangladesh issues travel alert for visiting Australia

March 19, 2019

Bangladesh today issued a travel advisory warning for citizens travelling to Australia following terror attacks in two mosques of New Zealand on March 15 that left five Bangladeshi killed and three injured.

“Bangladesh nationals living in Australia and Bangladesh nationals travelling to Australia are advised to be vigilant at all times, particularly in public places, stay informed of potential risks to safety and security by monitoring the media and other local information sources,” the travel advice issued by Bangladesh Ministry of Foreign Affairs reads.

An Australian named Brenton Tarrant who is allegedly a "White Supremacist" has been charged for attacking with gun Muslims while praying that left 50 people dead and 48 injured, says the travel alert.

Five people of Bangladeshi origin died and three others were injured by the gun attack.

Before perpetrating the attack on worshippers, he declared himself a “racist” in his 74-page manifesto containing slogans, poems and diatribes against immigrants and Muslims.

Hours after the shocking attack on two mosques in New Zealand, an Australian Senator issued a statement blaming mosque massacre on Muslims and expressed growing fear within Australian community of the increasing Muslim presence in Australia and New Zealand.

Such extremist stands from an Australian Lawmaker triggers fears of hatreds of racisms in Australia, the foreign ministry said.

Read more: Australian senator egged after racist comments

“In this backdrop, Bangladesh nationals living in Australia and Bangladesh nationals travelling to Australia are advised to be vigilant at all times, particularly in public places, stay informed of potential risks to safety and security by monitoring the media and other local information sources.

The High Commission of Bangladesh in Canberra remains at service and can be contacted at the following numbers for information: Phone: +61 424472544, +61 424472544, +61 450173035.

On Monday, Bangladesh Foreign Minister at a press briefing  informed that they had issued a travel advisory for New Zealand immediately after twin mosque attacks in Christchurch aiming to alert the Bangladesh nationals aware of the situation as well as to take precautionary measures for safety.

“Further attacks in public places on foreigners are possible. Muslims and Migrants from Bangladesh are advised to be vigilant at all times, particularly in public places, and stay informed of potential risks to safety and security by monitoring the media and other local sources. We recommend exercising caution around potential attack targets such as mosques, restaurants, markets shopping malls, conference centres, public transport hubs, etc,” reads the travel advisory issued by the Foreign Ministry.

It said Bangladeshi nationals travelling New Zealand should have a comprehensive travel insurance policy that includes provision for medical evacuation by air.

Full report at:

https://www.thedailystar.net/politics/bangladesh-issue-travel-alert-for-visiting-australia-1717330

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4 killed in Afghan operation against Taliban high-profile attack facilitators in Kabul

20 Mar 2019

At least four Taliban militants were killed during an operation of the Afghan armed forces against the high-profile attack facilitators of the group in Kabul.

Informed military sources said Wednesday “In an operation targeting Taliban high-profile attack facilitators in Kabul, Afghan forces killed 4 Taliban fighters and destroyed one vehicle.”

The sources did not provide further information in this regard and it is yet not clear where and when the operation was conducted.

This comes as the U.S. Embassy in Kabul had earlier warned of possible attacks by militants during the Afghan New Year which will be observed on 21st of March.

“As of mid-March 2019, the U.S. Embassy has received increased reports regarding possible attacks coinciding with the Afghan New Year holiday that will be observed on March 21,” the U.S. Embassy in Kabul said in a statement.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/4-killed-in-afghan-operation-against-taliban-high-profile-attack-facilitators-in-kabul-03528/

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U.S. envoy for Afghan peace met with Afghan Ambassador in Washington

20 Mar 2019

The U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad on Tuesday met with Roya Rahmani, the Afghan Ambassador to United States.

“Had my first meeting w/ #Afghanistan’s Ambassador to US @RoyaRahmani. We had a substantive discussion & talked next steps in the #AfghanPeaceProcess,” Ambassador Khalilzad said in a Twitter post following his meeting with Ambassador Rahmani.

He also added “It is neither an easy nor straight path we are walking. To stay on track it’s of utmost importance we continue to walk it together.”

The meeting between Ambassador Khalilzad and Ambassador Rahmani took place days after the remarks of Afghan National Security Adviser regarding peace process sparked furor among U.S. officials.

National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib had earlier accused the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad of ‘delegitimizing’ the Kabul government by excluding it from peace negotiations with Taliban.

Speaking to a news conference in Washington on 14th of March, Mohib said Khalilzad is acting like a ‘viceroy’ and has “his own personal history — he has ambitions in Afghanistan. He was wanting to run for president twice.”

In reaction to Mohib’s remarks, the State Department officials had said that the attack on Ambassador Khalilzad is considered as an attack on State Secretary and the Department of State.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/u-s-envoy-for-afghan-peace-met-with-afghan-ambassador-in-washington-03527/

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Senior Taliban commander killed in Afghan Special Forces operation in Nangarhar

19 Mar 2019

A senior commander of Taliban group was killed during an operation of the Special Forces of Afghan Military in eastern Nangarhar province.

Informed military sources said Tuesday “A Taliban commander and seven other combatants were killed during an Afghan Special Security Forces raid in Khugyani district, Nangarhar province, March 17, 2019.” 

The sources further added that the Senior Taliban commander, who went by the name Zirak Gul, was in charge of commanding and recruiting Taliban fighters to carry out attacks against innocent Afghan civilians.

“He was directly responsible for numerous attacks and abductions that have plagued innocent Afghan civilians,” the sources said.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/senior-taliban-commander-killed-in-afghan-special-forces-operation-in-nangarhar-03526/

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Pakistan

 

New Zealand PM has 'won hearts of Pakistanis' with her leadership after mosque attacks: FO spokesman

March 20, 2019

Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal on Tuesday said that New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had "won the hearts of Pakistanis" with the compassion and leadership she demonstrated after a right-wing white supremacist murdered 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch during Friday prayers.

"The clear [and] decisive manner in which NZ PM has dealt with Christchurch terrorist attack has won her many admirers in Pakistan," Dr Faisal said in a tweet.

He also thanked her for recognising the bravery of Dr Naeem Rashid, a Pakistani victim of the massacre who was reported to have saved lives by trying to tackle the attacker.

Ardern has been praised globally for reaching out to the local Muslim community following the horrific attack, which she has termed terrorism.

Wearing a black scarf over her head, she was photographed hugging members of the Muslim community at a Christchurch refugee centre. She also vowed to change the country's gun laws, saying a ban on semi-automatic weapons would be considered.

On Tuesday, the 38-year-old leader opened her remarks in parliament with a symbolic gesture, repeating the greeting uttered every day across the Islamic world: “As-salaam alaikum”. She has also announced an inquiry into the intelligence and security services' failures to detect the risk from the attacker or his plans.

In a tweet, President Arif Alvi thanked Ardern "for the strong compassion she has shown in the face of [the] terrorist killing of 50 Muslims".

He also lauded the people of New Zealand for their "unanimous outpouring of love" towards the Muslim community and rejecting of Islamophobia.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1470615

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Pakistan court mulls options for recording Musharraf's statement in treason case

Mar 19, 2019

ISLAMABAD: A special court hearing the treason case against Pervez Musharraf on Tuesday ordered the preparation of a questionnaire for the former military ruler and sought assistance to determine whether or not he can record his statement via video link.

The previous Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government had filed the treason case against the ex-army chief general (retd) Musharraf in 2013 over the imposition of extra-constitutional emergency in November 2007.

The trial has not seen much progress since Musharraf, 75, went to Dubai in March 2016 after his name was removed from the exit control list.

He has not returned since, and is said to be suffering from Amyloidosis, a rare condition for which he has been receiving medical care.

On Saturday night, he was shifted to a hospital in Dubai after suffering a reaction from the condition.

The three-judge bench headed by Justice Tahira Safdar accepted an affidavit submitted by Musharraf'slawyer Tuesday and ordered the preparation of a questionnaire for the former president to respond to, Dawn newspaper reported.

However, Musharraf's lawyer maintained that the former president's presence in court was essential and that his statement could not be recorded via video link, the report said.

The prosecution lawyer said that Musharraf's not recording his statement in the case should not hinder it, and that the trial should move forward.

The bench asked that assistance be provided to ascertain whether the former president could record his statement via video link within the parameters of the law.

In 2018, the special court resumed proceedings in the treason case and ordered the blocking of Musharraf's identity card and passport.

However, ex-chief justice Saqib Nisar while hearing a case regarding Musharraf's disqualification in the run-up to the 2018 elections had allowed him to return and restored his travel documents. The former dictator, however, did not return.

While delivering his arguments, Musharraf's lawyer said his client is ill and that the statements of eight witnesses had been recorded in his absence. The court, however, commented that the statements had been recorded in his presence, the report said.

The hearing was adjourned till March 28.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-court-mulls-options-for-recording-musharrafs-statement-in-treason-case/articleshow/68485480.cms

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Pakistani churches on high alert after New Zealand attacks

03/19/2019

Lahore (AsiaNews) – Pakistan's Catholic Church is on high alert after the attacks against two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in which 50 Muslims were killed at Friday prayers.

The sectarian nature of the attack by a white supremacist has enraged Pakistan’s most radical Islamic groups and newspapers who blame New Zealand Christians.

The man who killed Muslims, "Branton Tarrant, is not a Christian, he is an atheist,” said Fr Inayat Bernard, rector of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Lahore. “We want to reiterate this to our Muslim brothers. We pray that the minds behind such tragedies will respect humanity and fear God.”

Meanwhile, Pakistani Christians have held interfaith prayer vigils across the country for the victims who died, their families and the wounded (at least 50 people are still in serious conditions).

The National Commission for Justice and Peace, led by Mgr Joseph Arshad, strongly condemned "the increase in the wave of extremism and radicalisation throughout the world that shows that terrorism has no religion or national borders".

"We must condemn in the strongest possible way the senseless and inhuman act that led to the murder of people gathered to pray,” said Mgr Joseph Coutts, archbishop of Karachi and Pakistan’s only cardinal.

"It is the duty of all Christians to condemn such a terrible act fuelled by hatred. I urge all Christians to pray during this season of Lent, a time for fasting and penance, and pray for all the victims of violence,” he added.

An interfaith vigil was held in Faisalabad on Sunday, organised by the National Justice and Peace Commission, in cooperation with the local diocese. Other rallies took place in Lahore, at the cathedral and during press conferences with bishops and politicians.

According to Fr Bernard, "the victims must be considered martyrs".

Asiya Nasir, a Christian, a former Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan affiliated with the Jamiat Ulma-e-Islam (JUI-F) party, the largest religious party in the country, issued a statement calling for religious unity.

“Terrorists have no religion,” she says. “Terrorism is not permissible in any faith but sadly there has been an increase in attacks on worshipers. We should discourage elements that are spilling innocent blood and defaming their own religion.”

For Presbyterian Interfaith Ecumenical Commission Chairman Rev Amjad Niamat, churches must remain vigilant for Easter gatherings.

Full report at:

http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Pakistani-churches-on-high-alert-after-New-Zealand-attacks-46542.html

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New chapter for minority religions in Pakistan

March 20, 2019

Catholic educators are lauding Allama Iqbal Open University Islamabad for recognizing the human rights of people following minority religions in Pakistan.

A chapter titled “Human rights in Islam and other religions” adds the teachings of Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism to a human rights textbook for students in grades 11 and 12. The latest edition dedicates seven pages to Biblical teachings.

“Except Islam, no other religion or its concepts were part of education policy. For the first time in the history of our country, students will be able to study references of different sacred books. This will dispel the general impression in our society that only the majority religion guarantees fundamental rights,” Catholic professor Anjum James Paul, chairman of Pakistan Minorities Teachers' Association, told ucanews.com.

“We made sure that there is no comparison between religions mentioned in the book. The new additions will promote the culture of human dignity, social harmony, respect for religious diversity, peaceful coexistence and acceptance of diverse religious and ethnic communities.”

Last year Punjab Assembly passed a bill making the teaching of the Quran compulsory in schools across the province. Catholic educators had long been requesting the education board to introduce human rights in all educational institutes as a compulsory subject.

Although non-Muslim students can opt for ethics instead of compulsory Islamic studies in pre-high school examinations, Catholic institutes prefer to teach Islam for better scores and access to competent teachers.

According to the latest research by the National Commission for Justice and Peace, the Catholic Church's human rights body in Pakistan, there is an overemphasis on religion in Pakistan's education system, often with a bias against non-Muslims.

Full report at:

https://www.ucanews.com/news/new-chapter-for-minority-religions-in-pakistan/84771

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Holi to be celebrated with traditional zeal today in Pakistan

March 20, 2019

LAHORE: Hindu community is all set to celebrate the colourful festival of Holi in different parts of the country and across the globe with traditional enthusiasm. The Holi celebrations – which formally mark the beginning of spring season – will span over two days, commencing today.

Prime Minister Imran Khan wished “a very happy and peaceful Holi, the festival of colours” to the minority community.

Imran Khan

@ImranKhanPTI

Wishing our Hindu community a very happy and peaceful Holi, the festival of colours.

21.3K

07:39 - 20 Mar 2019

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Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari also extended his greetings on Twitter.

“Happy Holi to all my Hindu brothers & sisters. On the happy occasion of Holi, let us spread the wonderful message of peace and happiness,” he wrote.

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

BilawalBhuttoZardari

@BBhuttoZardari

 Happy Holi to all my Hindu brothers & sisters. On the happy occasion of Holi, let us spread the wonderful massage of peace and happiness.

1,494

09:23 - 20 Mar 2019

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Earlier on March 10, the Pakistan Hindu Council had passed a unanimous resolution against Indian aggression and lauded Pak Army for defending motherland. It also decided to celebrate the anticipated festival on March 23 – the eve of Pakistan Day – to show solidarity with the army.

A formal program was also issued stating that the central ceremony will be held at Krishna Mandir, Ravi Road, under the auspices of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB).

The ETPB has completed arrangements, including security, on the directions of ETPB Chairman Siddiqul Farooq.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/03/20/holi-to-be-celebrated-with-traditional-zeal-today/

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PTI brands Bilawal as ‘anti-state’ for calling out ministers over ‘militant links’

March 20, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawmakers reacted strongly to Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s demand of removal of three ministers from the federal cabinet for their alleged affiliation with banned outfits, accusing the young PPP chief of toeing India’s line.

They were responding to late night tweets of Bilawal, containing links of articles and videos of the ministers meeting the leaders of proscribed organisations in the run-up to the general elections.

Bilawal said that instead of taking action against some ministers who had sought the support of banned militant outfits, the ruling PTI was accusing him of being anti-state and involving him in corruption cases as a pressure tactic.

In a series of tweets, he demanded that the government must remove the ministers “having ties with [any] proscribed organisation”.

BilawalBhuttoZardari

@BBhuttoZardari

The government has responded to my demand to sack ministers associated with banned outfits by declaring me anti-state, issueing death threats & NAB notices. None of this deters us from our principle stand; form joint NSC parliamentary committee & act against banned outfits.

4,991

10:47 - 19 Mar 2019

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Taking a swipe at the ruling PTI, Bilawal said: “The government has responded to my demand to sack ministers associated with banned outfits by declaring me anti-state, issuing death threats & NAB notices.” “None of this deters us from our principle stand; form joint NSC parliamentary committee & act against banned outfits.”

“As long as compromised individuals remain in the cabinet no one will take GOP claims seriously. Those who have supported such groups and their training camps must be removed from the federal cabinet,” he added.

“Ministers who have been part of mainstreaming and got the support of such outfits during the elections must be removed from the federal cabinet,” he demanded.

He said that the ministers who promised mutiny to such groups under the PTI must go if the government wants the opposition to believe “they are serious about taking on extremism, banned organizations and distancing themselves from past support to such groups.”

PTI SENATOR LABELS BILAWAL ANTI-STATE:

PTI Senator Faisal Javed Khan accused the chairman of Pakistan’s third largest political party of making statements to appease the ‘anti-Pakistan and anti-peace lobby’.

“Bilawal wants to erase whatever sacrifices our brave soldiers made for global peace. Pakistan has risen as a messenger of peace across the world. We laid 70,000 lives in the war against terror,” the PTI senator said in the statement.

“This war wasn’t ours … for the sake of global peace we gave a financial sacrifice of $123 billion,” Khan continued.

He said the PPP won’t able to pressurise the PTI government as it was ‘naya Pakistan’. He also took a jibe at PPP’s Sindh government, claiming that 70 per cent of the province’s population was living below the poverty line.

Meanwhile, Asad Umar, who was mentioned in a tweet of Bilawal’s, also responded to the PPP chairman in a press conference.

“Brother, I had [relations] with only those who had announced support for us in the elections and I have just received a message from one of them … these are the organisations and sects that had been a victim of terrorism themselves,” the minister said.

“When these allegations were hurled, they messaged me the next day and said that they are still standing with you [Umar] and if you want we can issue a statement,” the minister said responding to PPP chief’s accusations.

‘FEDERAL MINISTERS CONTRADICT STATE’S AGENDA’:

Bilawal’s spokesperson Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar on Tuesday asked that if the federal ministers continue to support banned outfits then how will the government implement the National Action Plan (NAP).

“What kind of government is this where the federal ministers contradict the state’s agenda?” he asked.

In a reference to Finance Minister Asad Umar’s statement, he said that one federal minister says that the banned outfits still support him.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/03/19/bilawal-demands-sacking-of-ministers-with-ties-to-militant-outfits/

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Will keep going to mosques: wife of Pakistani martyr Naeem Rashid

March 20, 2019

CHRISTCHURCH: Amber Naeem, 22-year-old Talha Naeem’s mother and Naeem Rashid’s wife who lost their life in Christchurch attack saving others in New Zealand last Friday, has said that Islam is the religion of peace which teaches to save other peoples life.

While giving an interview to The Project NZ, a television news show in New Zealand on Tuesday, Ambreen said that she feels 'sorry for the terrorist who attacked the mosque and she pities him cause he had hate in his heart and that he can’t feel the peace which we can'.

The extremely courageous woman said, "Naeem Rashid tried to save the people because he was a loving man, and love made him do that courageous attempt of saving others life on Friday."

During the interview she also mentioned that her faith has made her stronger at this time of grief and she will definitely go to Masjid for praying and nothing can stop her from that.

The interviewer Kanoa Lloyd said that it takes a lot to hold up after that kind of an incident but the way Ambreen is recovering from it is because of her strong faith.

Lloyd went on to mention that one of Ambreen's goals now is to learn driving because her son and her husband used to drive her younger son to the school in New Zealand, however she would want to learn how to do that now.

Pakistani immigrant Naeem Rashid received bullets while he tried to tackle the terrorist in Christchurch attack on Friday, March that 15 left 50 dead. The terrorist was identified as Brenton Terrant, white supremacist, who was charged with murder on Sunday.

Full report at:

https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/446488-to-save-other-people-is-the-teachings-of-islam-says-naeem-rashids-wife

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Arab World

 

Corpses of More Victims of US, ISIL Attacks Discovered in Raqqa

Mar 19, 2019

"The dead bodies of at least 21 civilians, including children and women, massacred by the ISIL were retrieved from Fakhikheh mass grave South of Raqqa City," media activists said.

They also said that the Syrian Army troops also discovered the corpses of seven Syrian citizens, including children, who had been killed in the US airstrikes on Raqqa from the districts of al-Adkhar and al-Haramiyeh of the city.

In a relevant development last month, the corpses of over several people who have been killed by the ISIL terrorists or in airstrikes by the US-led coalition were found from mass-graves and rubble of buildings in Raqqa.

Media activists in Raqqa reported that the civil workers have discovered the bodies of 28 people, including women and children, from a mass-grave near Fakhikheh.

They added that corpses of 4 other civilians, including one child, killed in the US airstrikes, have been found from under the debris of a building in al-Haramiyeh and al-Badou districts in Raqqa.

After one year of occupation of Raqqa by the US and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the corpses of ISIL and US victims are everyday pulled out of the mass-graves and ruins.

In a relevant development late last month, tens of dead bodies of the victims of the US-led airstrikes and the ISIL's crimes were discovered from the debris of ruined buildings and mass graves in Raqqa, media sources said.

Media activists said the corpses of four civilians were retrieved from the debris of buildings ruined in US airstrikes last year in al-Sokna district of Raqqa city.

Moreover, four dead bodies of civilians were recovered from the buildings destroyed in US air assaults in al-Bayatareh in Raqqa city, the activists added.

They also said that the corpses of about 50 people, including women and children, were discovered from a mass grave in al-Fakhikheh South of Raqqa city.

This is while the ISIL had taken control over several villages and al-Tabaqa military airport in Southwestern Raqqa in 2014.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971228000460

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Syria’s Assad censures some countries’ double standards in terror fight

Mar 19, 2019

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has lambasted the policy of double standards certain countries have adopted in the fight against terrorism.

The Syrian leader made the comments in a meeting with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in the capital Damascus on Tuesday.

Assad said some countries have confined the fight against terrorism to issuing official statements while "in reality" they "support terrorism and work with it" and further offer "protection" to terrorists in a number of areas.

According to a report by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), Assad said by pursuing double-standard policies, these countries put themselves behind the huge civilian casualties and, moreover, help spread the persistent terrorism as we witness today.

Shoigu, who handed a message from Russian President Vladimir Putin to the Syrian president, said for his part that Russia fully supports the Arab country in its eight-year-old battle against terrorism.

“Russia will continue offering all forms of possible support to the Syrian people to complete liberation of all Syrian territories and preserve the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Syria,” the Russian minister said.

The United States has been leading a coalition consisting of some of its allies, most notably France and the UK, in what it has termed as fighting terror in Syria since 2014. Damascus has invariably called for the coalition’s withdrawal, asserting that it rather serves to boost the terrorism that has been targeting the Arab nation.

The military alliance has repeatedly been accused of targeting and killing civilians. It has also been largely incapable of achieving its declared goal of destroying the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group.

Daesh, which once held large swaths of land in Syria, has been completely defeated in the Arab country and has lost almost all of its occupied territories. Despite the terror group's collapse, the US-led coalition has refused to end their aerial operations in defiance of the Damascus government.

In contrast, Russia started an aerial bombardment campaign against foreign-backed militants in Syria on a formal request from the Syrian government in September 2015.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/03/19/591497/Syria-Assad-Russia-terrorism

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Syrian Army Gives Crushing Response to Terrorists in Hama, Idlib

Mar 19, 2019

The Syrian Army's missile and artillery units pounded the movements of Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board or the Al-Nusra Front) and their allies in Tal Osman, Mourek and al-Janabareh in Northern Hama as well as al-Sahrieh, al-Hawija, al-Sharia'a and al-Sarmanieh in Western Hama, inflicting heavy losses on the terrorists.

In Southern Idlib, the Syrian Army troops also engaged in heavy clashes with the terrorists who were intending to penetrate into the government forces' positions from the surrounding areas of Ma'arat al-Numan, Talmanes and al-Katibeh al-Mahjoureh, killing a large number of them.

The Syrian Army troops, meantime, destroyed several military vehicles and hideouts of the terrorists in Wadi Huweir, Khan Sheikhoun and Talmanes in Southern Idlib.

The Arabic-language service of the Russian Sputnik News Agency reported that six Syrian soldiers were wounded in TOW missile attacks by Turkistani and Ansar al-Tawhid terrorist groups on Northern Hama from Sahl al-Ghab region.

The terrorists also pounded the two towns of al-Rasif and al-Azizieh in Sahal al-Ghab in Northwestern Hama with rockets and artillery canons.

In a relevant development on Sunday, the Syrian Army warded off attacks by terrorists of Tahrir al-Sham al-Hayat in Northern Hama, Southern Idlib and Western Aleppo, destroying their key military positions.

The Syrian Army units engaged in heavy clashes with the terrorists in al-Sharia, al-Tavineh and al-Karim towns in Northern Hama, inflicting major losses on the terrorists and forcing a large number of them to retreat from the battle scene.

The Syrian Army's artillery and missile units also heavily pounded the terrorists' gatherings near the town of al-Jamaseh and West of Kafar Naboudeh in Northern Hama, destroying the terrorists' military positions and killing a large number of them.

This comes as Tahrir al-Sham terrorists launched a large number of rocket attacks on the town of al-Saqilbiyeh West of Hama, killing and injuring a number of civilians.

In Southeastern Idlib, the Syrian Army troops pounded the movements of Tahrir al-Sham and its allied militants from Badama and al-Najieh towns, inflicting heavy losses on them.

In a relevant development last Wednesday, the Syrian army pounded and destroyed a command headquarters of Tahrir al-Sham amid fierce attacks by terrorists on their military positions.

The Damascus army attacked the terrorists' military positions and movements in al-Habit and around Babilon town, destroying a meeting of militant commanders and killing all those present at the venue.

A military source also confirmed that the Syrian Army troops have destroyed a command center of Tahrir al-Sham together with several military vehicles in Harash Abedin town in Southeastern Idlib, inflicting heavy casualties on the terrorists.

In Northern Hama, the Syrian Army troops engaged in heavy clashes with terrorist groups who had concurrently attacked the Syrian Army's military positions near the town of Mahradeh and the al-Jadideh town in Northern Hama, inflicting heavy losses on the assailant terrorists after warding off their attack.

Meantime, the Syrian Army troops attacked the terrorists' military positions in Tal-e Shaviheneh, Kafar Hamreh and Haritan in response to their attacks on the civilian population in al-Zahra, al-Mokambo, al-Shahba al-Jadideh regions in Western Aleppo.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971228000346

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US-backed SDF says it captured 157 militants, mostly foreigners

19 March 2019

US-backed fighters besieging the last shred of ISIS territory in eastern Syria said on Tuesday they had captured 157 mostly foreign fighters as they tracked efforts by extremists to escape the enclave.

“Our units monitored a group of terrorists, trailed them and captured 157 fully militarily equipped terrorists,” a statement by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said.

ISIS’s Baghouz pocket is tiny, wedged between the Euphrates river and a row of hills at the Iraqi border. It is crammed with vehicles and makeshift shelters and pummeled at night by artillery and air strikes.

It is the last populated area remaining to ISIS from the third of Syria and Iraq it suddenly seized in 2014 before its cruelties and attacks brought together local and foreign countries to push it back.

The captured extremists were “mostly foreign nationals” said Mustafa Bali, head of the SDF’s media office, on Twitter. Neither he nor the SDF statement said when the capture took place.

Both the SDF and the US-led coalition that backs it have said the remaining ISIS militants inside the Baghouz pocket are among its most hardened foreign operatives.

Over the past two months, more than 60,000 people have poured out of the group’s dwindling enclave, nearly half of whom were surrendering supporters of ISIS, including some 5,000 fighters.

However, while the capture of Baghouz will mark a milestone in the battle against ISIS, regional and Western officials say the group will remain a threat.

Some of its fighters hold out in the central Syrian desert and others have gone underground in Iraq to stage a series of shootings and kidnappings.

Nobody knows how many remain inside the last scrap of ground. Reuters footage of the encampment on Monday showed large explosions there and smoke billowing overhead with the sound of gunshots.

On Monday night ISIS released an audio recording of its spokesman, Abi al-Hassan al-Muhajer, saying the group would stay strong.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/03/19/US-backed-SDF-says-it-captured-157-militants-mostly-foreigners.html]

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ISIS calls for revenge against Syria Kurds, brushes off near-defeat in Baghouz

19 March 2019

As ISIS defended its last scrap of territory against Kurdish-led forces in eastern Syria, a spokesman Monday urged followers to attack them elsewhere in the war-torn country.

An ISIS spokesman, in an audio recording posted on Telegram, called for action from the group’s supporters in areas held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

“Avenge the blood of your brothers and sisters... Set up the (explosive) devices, deploy the snipers,” said the spokesman, named as Abi Hassan al-Mujahir.

Al-Mujahir also said that the displacement of “the weak and poor” from Syria’s Baghouz would not weaken the group.

“Do you think the displacement of the weak and poor out of Baghouz will weaken the Islamic State? No,” Abi al-Hassan al-Muhajer said in a recording distributed by Al Furqan, a media organization linked to ISIS.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/03/19/ISIS-calls-for-revenge-against-Syria-Kurds-brushes-off-Baghouz-near-defeat.html

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Father and son who fled Syria conflict are buried in New Zealand

20 March 2019

A father and son who fled the civil war in Syria for “the safest country in the world” were buried before hundreds of mourners Wednesday, the first two funerals for victims of shootings at two mosques in New Zealand that horrified a nation known for being welcoming and diverse.

The funerals of Khalid Mustafa, 44, and Hamza Mustafa, 15, came five days after a white supremacist methodically gunned down 50 worshippers at two mosques in Christchurch – a massacre that he broadcast live on Facebook.

Hamza’s high school principal described the student as compassionate and hard-working, and said he was an excellent horse rider who aspired to be a veterinarian.

Those present included Hamza’s younger brother, 13-year-old Zaed, who was wounded in an arm and a leg. The boy tried to stand during the ceremony but had to sit back into his wheelchair, one mourner said.

“We tried to not shake his hand and not touch his hand or his foot but he refused, he wanted to shake everybody’s hand, he wanted to show everyone that he appreciated them. And that’s amazing,” said Jamil el-Biza, who traveled from Australia to attend the funeral.

The Mustafas had moved to New Zealand last year, after spending six years as refugees in Jordan.

Mustafa’s wife, Salwa, told Radio New Zealand that when the family asked about New Zealand they were told “it’s the safest country in the world, the most wonderful country you can go ... you will start a very wonderful life there.”

She added: “But it wasn’t.”

Families of those killed had been anxiously awaiting word on when they could bury their loved ones. New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said police have now formally identified and released the remains of 21 of those killed.

The burials got under way shortly after the country’s prime minister renewed her call to remember the victims rather than the Australian gunman accused of slaughtering them.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s plea not to give any notoriety to the accused 28-years-old Australian white supremacist first came in a speech to Parliament prompted by the accused gunman’s decision to dismiss his lawyer and represent himself.

The move had raised concerns he would use the trial as a platform for his racist views. During a visit to Hamza’s high school on Wednesday, Ardern revisited that thought and asked students not to say the attacker’s name or dwell on him.

“Look after one another but also let New Zealand be a place where there is no tolerance for racism,” she told students at Cashmere High School. “That’s something we can all do.” Another Cashmere student, 14-year-old Sayyad Milne, also died in the attack.

The shooter’s desire for attention was made clear in a manifesto sent to Ardern’s office and others minutes before Friday’s massacre and by his livestreamed footage of his attack on the al-Noor mosque.

The video prompted widespread revulsion and condemnation. Facebook said it removed 1.5 million versions of the video during the first 24 hours, but Ardern expressed frustration that the footage remained online, four days later.

“We have been in contact with Facebook; they have given us updates on their efforts to have it removed, but as I say, it’s our view that it cannot - should not - be distributed, available, able to be viewed,” she said. “It is horrendous and while they’ve given us those assurances, ultimately the responsibility does sit with them.”

Arden said she had received “some communication” from Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg on the issue. The prime minister has also spoken with British Prime Minister Theresa May about the importance of a global effort to clamp down on the distribution of such material.

Lawyer Richard Peters, who was assigned to represent Brenton Harrison Tarrant at his initial court appearance on Saturday, told the New Zealand Herald that Tarrant dismissed him that day.

A judge ordered Tarrant to return to New Zealand’s High Court on April 5 for his next hearing on one count of murder, though he is expected to face additional charges. The 28-year-old Australian is being held in isolation in a Christchurch jail.

“He seemed quite clear and lucid, whereas this may seem like very irrational behavior,” Peters told the newspaper. “He didn’t appear to me to be facing any challenges or mental impairment, other than holding fairly extreme views.” Peters did not return a call from The Associated Press.

Peters told the paper that Tarrant didn’t tell him why he wanted to represent himself. He said a judge could order a lawyer to assist Tarrant at a trial, but that Tarrant would likely be unsuccessful in trying to use it as a platform to put forward any extremist views.

Under New Zealand law, a trial is “to determine innocence or guilt,” Peters said. “The court is not going to be very sympathetic to him if he wants to use the trial to express his own views.”

Ardern previously has said her Cabinet had agreed in principle to tighten gun restrictions in New Zealand and those reforms would be announced next week. She also had announced an inquiry into the intelligence and security services’ failures to detect the risk from the attacker or his plans.

There have been concerns intelligence agencies were overly focused on the Muslim community in detecting and preventing security risks. New Zealand’s international spy agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau, confirmed it had not received any relevant information or intelligence before the shootings.

As of Tuesday evening, 30 people were still being treated at the hospital, nine of them in critical condition, medical officials said. A 4-year-old girl was transferred to a hospital in Auckland and is in critical condition. Her father is at the same hospital in stable condition.

Sheik Taj el-Din Hilaly, of Sydney, traveled to Christchurch to attend or lead some of the funerals. Through a translator, he said he felt compelled to support the grieving.

A nationwide lockdown on mosques was imposed until Monday, which Hilaly said had upset Muslims whom he had visited in Auckland. Police continue to guard mosques across the country. Residents of this close-knit city have created makeshift memorials near the two targeted mosques and at the botanical gardens, where a mountain of flowers has grown by the day.

Janna Ezat, whose son, Hussein al-Umari, was killed in the al-Noor mosque, visited the memorial at the gardens and became overwhelmed by the outpouring of love. She knelt amid the flowers and wept, grabbing at daisies and lilies as though she might find her boy in them.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2019/03/20/Father-and-son-who-fled-Syria-conflict-are-buried-in-New-Zealand.html

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US spending millions on White Helmets while preventing aid to Syria’s Rukban camp: Damascus, Moscow

Mar 19, 2019

The Russian and Syrian coordination centers on returning refugees have censured the US over its latest decision to provide millions of dollars to the Western-backed White Helmets “aid” group, while preventing aid from reaching a refugee camp in southern Syria.

The centers said in a joint statement released on Tuesday that the United States had pledged $5 million in donation to the Western-backed group, which has been repeatedly accused of cooperating with Takfiri terrorists and staging false-flag gas attacks, at the third Conference on “Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region” in Brussels, Belgium, earlier this month.

During the conference, the EU also pledged €8 billion and the US $400 million in so-called aid to Syrian refugees.

“This aid will not reach Syrian people; but will rather end up in the hands of White Helmets terrorists to fund their acts of fabricating incidents involving toxic chemicals,” the statement read.

It further noted that the participants in the Brussels conference, who claim to be supporting Syrians, are actually those who have imposed severe economic sanctions on them.

“The money raised [during the event] will go only to displaced people in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, which seek to encourage them to remain there and hinder their return to Syria,” the statement pointed out.

The centers also renewed their calls for the US to provide access to Rukban camp and ensure the safe exit of civilians stranded there. They also asked for the withdrawal of American troops from al-Tanf area.

The United Nations says about 45,000 people, mostly women and children, are trapped inside Rukban, where conditions are desperate. This is while Geneva-based international aid agency Doctors Without Borders has put the number there at some 60,000.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on March 6 that the United States needs the Rukban refugee camp in order to justify its illegitimate military presence in Syria.

“The fact that people are not allowed to leave [the camp] and are held hostage makes one suggest that the US needs this camp to continue justifying its illegitimate presence there,” Lavrov said at a joint press conference with Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid al-Hamad Al Sabah in Kuwait City.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/03/19/591490/US-spending-millions-on-White-Helmets-while-preventing-aid-to-Syrias-Rukban-camp

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Africa

 

US military, aid group at odds over Somalia civilian deaths

March 20, 2019

WASHINGTON: There is credible evidence that US military airstrikes in Somalia have killed or wounded nearly two dozen civilians, an international human rights group said Tuesday, charging that the Pentagon is not adequately investigating potential casualties.

US Africa Command officials immediately disputed the allegations laid out in a report by Amnesty International, and insisted that the military has investigated 18 cases of possible civilian casualties since 2017 and found that none were credible.

The seemingly contradictory information underscores the complexities of military operations against the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab group in Somalia, involving airstrikes by several allied nations in hostile, remote locations that are difficult to access safely.

The report came the same day that a Somali intelligence official and two local residents said a US drone strike on Monday killed civilians.

The Somali official said the drone targeted a vehicle carrying suspected militants and apparently hit another vehicle that may have been carrying civilians. The official was not authorized to talk with the media and did so on condition of anonymity.

Residents concurred with the official’s assessment.

Mohamed Siyad, an elder in Lanta Buro, a village near the farming town of Afgoye, Somalia, told The Associated Press that four civilians including employees of a telecom company were killed.

“They were known to us — they had nothing to do with Al-Shabab,” he said by phone.

Another resident, Abdiaziz Hajji, said that the drone destroyed the vehicle. “Bodies were burnt beyond recognition,” he said. “They were innocent civilians killed by Americans for no reason. They always get away with such horrible mistakes.”

In a rare move, US Africa Command on Tuesday mentioned those possible casualties in a press release about the strike and said officials will look into the incident. But, more broadly, US defense officials said casualty allegations in Somalia are questionable because Al-Shabab militants make false claims or force local citizens to do the same.

Amnesty International, however, said it analyzed satellite imagery and other data, and interviewed 65 witnesses and survivors of five specific airstrikes detailed in the report. The report concludes that there is “credible evidence” that the US was responsible for four of the airstrikes, and that it’s plausible the US conducted the fifth strike. It said 14 civilians were killed and eight injured in the strikes.

“Amnesty International’s research points to a failure by the US and Somali governments to adequately investigate allegations of civilian casualties resulting from US operations in Somalia,” the report said, adding that the US doesn’t have a good process for survivors or victims’ families to self-report losses.

US Africa Command said it looked at the five strikes and concluded there were no civilian casualties. In the fifth case the command said there were no US strikes in that area on that day.

The group’s report and Defense Department officials also agreed that the strikes usually take place in hostile areas controlled by Al-Shabab militants. And those conditions, the report said, “prevented Amnesty International organization from conducting on-site investigations and severely limited the organization’s ability to freely gather testimonial and physical evidence.”

US defense officials told reporters that American troops were on the ground at strike locations in a very limited number of cases. Even in those instances, they said, US troops ordered strikes to protect local Somali forces they were accompanying, and there was little opportunity to investigate possible civilian casualties at that moment.

Still, the rights group concluded that the US military’s insistence that there have been zero civilian deaths is wrong.

“The civilian death toll we’ve uncovered in just a handful of strikes suggests the shroud of secrecy surrounding the US role in Somalia’s war is actually a smoke screen for impunity,” said Brian Castner, a senior adviser at Amnesty International.

US officials countered that they have access to information not readily available to nonmilitary organizations, including observations from people on the ground at the site and post-strike intelligence gathering from various electronic systems. Those systems can include overhead surveillance and data collected through cyber operations and other intercepted communications and electronic signals.

The defense officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the issue publicly.

They said the US rigorously assesses targets in advance to make sure no civilians will be hurt or killed.

The officials noted that Kenya and Ethiopia also conduct airstrikes in the region, but provided no details. There are 500 to 600 US troops in Somalia at any time.

The pace of US airstrikes in Somalia has escalated during the Trump administration, from 47 in all of 2018 to 28 already this year. So far more than 230 militants have been killed in 2019, compared to 338 killed in all of 2018.

In March 2017, President Donald Trump approved greater authorities for military operations against Al-Shabab, allowing increased strikes in support of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somali forces.

Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, who heads Africa Command, told reporters in a recent interview that Al-Shabab controls about 25 percent of the country and the key effort is to help the government regain control of its land.

“The intention is to keep the pressure on that network,” he said.

He said there are three categories of strikes: ones to target senior Al-Shabab leaders, ones to take out training camps or involve Daesh militants in the north, and ones aimed at helping the government increase security and regain control of the country. He said the last group involves the most strikes.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1469441/world

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Civilians killed in US airstrikes targeting al-Shabaab

20.03.2019

The U.S. is killing Somali civilians in airstrikes targeting al-Shabaab militants, Amnesty International said in a report on Wednesday noting it has evidence to prove it.

The regional Amnesty International office in Nairobi, Kenya called the civilian deaths war crimes, adding that forensic investigation has yielded credible evidence that 14 civilians were killed in just five out of the more than 100 airstrikes that the U.S. has carried out in Somalia.

The report “the Hidden U.S. War in Somalia" noted that the civilians were killed by "reaper drones and manned aircraft in Lower Shabelle, a region largely under Al-Shabaab control outside the Somali capital Mogadishu".

"The attacks appear to have violated international humanitarian law, and some may amount to war crimes,” it added.

The international rights group said that it approached the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) many times with evidence but they denied killing any civilians in their Somali operations.

Brian Castner, the group's senior crisis advisor on arms and military operations, noted that the number of civilians killed by the U.S. airstrikes probably are higher than detailed in the report.

“The civilian death toll we’ve uncovered in just a handful of strikes suggests the shroud of secrecy surrounding the U.S. role in Somalia’s war is actually a smokescreen for impunity.”

“Our findings directly contradict the U.S. military’s mantra of zero civilian casualties in Somalia,” he added.

Blaming U.S. President Donald Trump for proliferating the strikes after weakening safeguards, the report said: "The number of U.S. strikes in Somalia surged after 30 March 2017, when President Trump signed an Executive Order declaring southern Somalia an 'area of active hostilities'."

“In one case, a U.S. military airstrike in farmland near the village of Darusalaam killed three local farmers in the early morning hours of 12 November 2017. They were resting in the open after working well into the night digging irrigation canals. At around 3 a.m. an airstrike targeted them without warning.”

Responding to the Amnesty report in a statement, AFRICOM denied the allegations saying: "We believe the report does not accurately reflect AFRICOM’s record in mitigating civilian casualties. In fact, AFRICOM goes to extraordinary lengths to reduce the likelihood of civilian casualties, exercising restraint as a matter of policy.”

AFRICOM added: "Our assessments found that no AFRICOM airstrike resulted in any civilian casualty or injury. Our assessments are based on post-strike analysis using intelligence methods not available to non-military organizations.”

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/civilians-killed-in-us-airstrikes-targeting-al-shabaab/1423345

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Nigeria: Boko Haram blamed as roadside bomb kills 8 near Gwoza

MARCH 19, 2019

Eight people were killed and seven other injured near Gwoza in northeast Nigeria’s Borno state when a vehicle hit a roadside bomb on Monday, March 18, security sources told AFP.

Military and civilian militia sources blamed Boko Haram for planting the mine, underlining the persistent threat to civilians in the remote region.

One vehicle, part of a civilian convoy under military escort, veered off the road in an attempt to overtake another vehicle when it hit the device.

“The vehicle exploded and all the eight people inside were killed,” said a military officer. “Seven more people from the other vehicle we’re injured from the explosion.”

The convoy had left Gwoza and was heading to Pulka around 18 km (11 miles) away when the incident occurred at about 10 a.m. at Warabe village, around 5 km (3 miles) south of Pulka, civilian militia leader Umar Ari said.

Gwoza is near the border with Cameroon, around 100 km southeast of Borno state capital Maiduguri, and the Boko Haram faction led by Abubakar Shekau is known to be active in the area.

There were also reports of Boko Haram attacks on Monday in Michika Local Government Area of neighbouring Adamawa state, around 70 km southwest of Gwoza.

Update March 20 Residents told AFP that militants overpowered soldiers who withdrew. The insurgents attacked a bus killing three people, and robbed and burned a bank. They left the town and drove towards Lassa after military reinforcements arrived from Gulak.

“Soldiers pursued them while vigilantes in Lassa laid in wait for them. They suffered a lot of casualties from the two fronts,” Daniel Bature said.

The Nigerian Army said troops in Lassa received a distress call from vigilantes in Maikadiri village at about 7:20 p.m. and deployed along the road, intercepting the militants and exchanging fire. Reinforcements from Gulak then engaged on a second front, and the insurgents were routed by the troops.

Boko Haram split into two factions in mid-2016. One is led by Shekau and is notorious for suicide bombings and indiscriminate killings of civilians.

Shekau pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi in March 2015, but ISIS central only gives formal backing to the other faction, which is known as Islamic State West Africa province.

The ISWA faction, which largely focuses on attacking military and government targets, was led by Abu Mus’ab Al-Barnawi, but earlier this month, audio recordings revealed that ISIS appointed Abu Abdullah Idris bin Umar also known as Ibn Umar al-Barnawi as leader. ISIS has not yet made a public statement confirming the change.

In August 2014 Boko Haram captured Gwoza, which it renamed Darul Hikma (House of Wisdom). In a video released later that month that celebrated Gwoza’s capture, Shekau declared the establishment of a “caliphate” in Nigeria, and the town became Boko Haram’s headquarters.

Although Nigerian troops recaptured Gwoza in March 2015, Shekau’s faction has been blamed for attacks in the wider Gwoza area, targeting troops and displaced people in recent months.

In January, two soldiers were killed and seven civilians injured in an ambush on a convoy of traders under military escort in Chachile village.

Troops in Pulka fought off an attack by fighters believed to be from Abubakar Shekau’s Boko Haram faction on January 24.

Six days later, Nigerian troops “neutralized” five Boko Haram insurgents and captured a suspected militant in the Gwoza area.

On February 17, two soldiers were killed and six others injured fighters believed to be from the Shekau faction attacked a military location around 15 km from Banki, which is about 40 km east of Gowza..

Six days later on election day, three people were injured and a mosque was damaged when rocket-propelled grenades were fired into Gwoza from a hilltop outside the town, security sources said.

Full report at:

https://thedefensepost.com/2019/03/19/boko-haram-roadside-bomb-kills-8-warabe-gwoza-nigeria/

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Southeast Asia

 

Penang CM attends prayer for NZ mosque shooting victims

20 March 2019

GEORGE TOWN, March 20 — About 200 Muslims in Penang held a special prayer following the attacks at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand which resulted in the deaths of 50 people on Friday.

The ceremony, organised by the Penang India Muslim Community, was held at the Kapitan Keling Mosque here which was also attended by Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow.

Mosque chairman Datuk Meera Mydin Mustar said the event was also held to seek god’s grace to help the victims, who were injured in the attack during the Friday prayers, to recover.

‘’Our aim to organise this event tonight is in remembrance of the shooting victims in the incident in Christchurch and at the same time pray for the safety and well-being of Muslims worldwide.

‘’In addition, we also pray that another Malaysian, Mohd Haziq Mohd Tarmizi, 17,  a son of a Malaysian who was also injured in the incident, can be found safe and sound,’’ he told reporters here tonight.

Meanwhile, Chow said the Penang government lauded and praised the noble effort by the mosque in holding the prayer.

He said the state government also prayed that all the victims especially the three Malaysians who were injured in the incident would recover quickly. — Bernama

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/03/20/penang-cm-attends-prayer-for-nz-mosque-shooting-victims/1734431

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Report: Weak laws behind religious discrimination in Malaysia

20 March 2019

KUALA LUMPUR, March 20 — Religious minorities like the Shiah and Ahmadiyyah Muslim communities risk persecution and discrimination because of weak legislation, a report by international judges and lawyers revealed.

The report by the Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) pointed out that even though the right to equality and freedom from discrimination was recognised under Article 8 of the Federal Constitution, there were no laws that specifically protected religious minorities from unequal treatment.

“Under international law, the principle of non-discrimination applies and is integral to the enjoyment of all human rights. Thus it applies to the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief.

“The Constitution however provides no specific protections for the freedom of ‘thought and conscience’, which includes the freedom to have a theistic, non-theistic or atheistic beliefs and the freedom from coercion to adopt a religion or belief of one’s own choice,” said ICJ in its report titled “Challenges to Freedom of Religion or Belief in Malaysia” released last night.

The report produced with support from the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion and Belief said the State was obligated to take necessary measures to prevent discrimination as such principles were part of customary international laws.

“‘Fatwa’ effectively criminalised both communities while discriminatory rhetoric exacerbates religious hatred,” said ICJ, referring to edicts issued by Muslim clerics.

“Malaysia’s treatment of the Shiah and Ahmadiyah minorities is directly contrary to its obligations to guarantee the rights to freedom of religion or belief and to equality under the law and non-discrimination of religious minorities,” it added.

The report noted that while both communities were not the only minorities facing persecution, their situation were seen as emblematic of the situation faced by those in minority sects in Malaysia.

As part of its recommendation, the ICJ said harassment, detention and forced rehabilitation of religious minorities must be stopped to allow these individuals to exercise their right to freedom of belief without the state intervention.

The Shiahs and Ahmadis are barred from practising their faiths here and are also pursued for Shariah offences, even though the latter are not recognised as Muslims.

States such as Selangor and Sabah have lumped Shiahs and Ahmadis together with “liberalism” and “pluralism” as deviant teachings and extremists.

Disputes under dual legal system

ICJ’s report also highlighted jurisdictional disputes concerning cases of religious freedom due to Malaysia’s dual legal system comprising common and Shariah law.

“Jurisdictional disputes affecting the adjudication of matters relating to religion and belief — between civil courts which apply federal and state laws and Shariah courts which apply Islamic laws — have become a main arena of contestation,” it said.

The report further suggested that the dual jurisdiction has also resulted in negative implications on the protection of the rights of children and exacerbated child marriages in Malaysia.

Citing the marriage between a 41-year-old man and an 11-year-old girl widely reported in the media last year, it said that the man was instead tried under Islamic jurisprudence for solemnising the polygamous marriage without the permission of the Shariah Court.

Under the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976, a marriage is void if either party to the marriage is below 18 years of age.

Muslim marriages, however, are governed by state Shariah laws that often allow for girls under the age of 16 to be married with the approval of a Shariah court judge.

“Furthermore, no clear guidelines exist for Shariah judges who have full discretion to determine whether a child is ‘suitable’ for marriage,” the report said.

The Pakatan Harapan (PH) government has yet to ban child marriage, although Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Fuziah Salleh reportedly said stricter standard operating procedures (SOPs) would be put in place.

ICJ also noted that jurisdictional disputes arose in religious conversion cases, as such cases are often ceded to the Shariah court when they are brought before a civil court.

“Shariah courts have the power to deny applications submitted by Muslims to convert out of Islam and have often ordered applicants into ‘rehabilitation’, counselling sessions and other interventions.

“The criminalisation of apostasy also violates the principles of non-discrimination and equality before the law in indiscriminately targeting those who wish to leave the religion of Islam,” it said.

Pointing out the widening of Shariah courts’ jurisdiction in matters of renouncing religion, ICJ said such circumstances have resulted in encouraging and prolonging discriminatory practices by authorities, social stigmatisation, and threats to the safety of individuals wishing to change their religion.

“The ICJ therefore recommends Malaysia to amend or repeal all laws that criminalise the propagation of religious beliefs among people of all faiths.

“The right to freedom of religion or belief is guaranteed in international human rights law, including in a number of core human rights instruments,” it said.

Full report at:

https://sg.news.yahoo.com/report-weak-laws-behind-religious-221536002.html

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