Misconceptions: Islamic Nation Has Endured the Negative and Dangerous Impact of
Classification and Exclusion, Including Takfir
Leaders to Seek UNSC Resolution against US Decision on Golan Heights
Pulwama, CRPF Officer Wrote To HQ about Holes in Anti-Terror Training
General Backs ‘Soft Power’ To Fight Pak’s ‘Proxy Hybrid War’ In J&K
Ulema Say Islam Doesn’t Allow Forced Conversions
Tax Fraud Funded al-Qaida in Pakistan, Afghanistan: Report
Setbacks, Hamas’ Grip on Gaza Has Never Been Tighter
Misconceptions: Islamic Nation Has Endured The Negative And Dangerous Impact Of
Classification And Exclusion, Including Takfir
Leaders to Seek UNSC Resolution against US Decision On Golan Heights
soldier killed in attack in northwest Syria
children abducted by their ISIS father rescued
Sends Military Equipment to ISIL Terrorists in Western Iraq
of Golan Heights Hold Protest Rallies to Condemn Trump's Decision
Car Hits CRPF Bus and Explodes On Jammu-Srinagar Highway, Driver Missing
and Loose Ends
militants killed in gun battle security forces in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama
conflict takes centre stage at Aligarh Muslim University
hands over to US evidence of Pakistan's F-16 misuse: Report
Marriage Lands Muslim Man in Pakistani Prison
moving towards debt trap, cautions Nisar
invites opposition for dialogue on national security
Pakistan’s support to peace process, says Khalilzad
China Warn Against Politicising UN Anti-Terrorism Regime
musters support for Islamabad sit-in
urges Catholics in Morocco to dialogue, not proselytize
resolution of Syria conflict must guarantee its territorial integrity: UN
Zealand shooters back gun control after massacre
Israel Take First Steps toward Gaza Cease-Fire Deal
forces target Saudi bases in Jizan, Asir with 7 missiles, causing casualties
to approve over 1,400 settler units in West Bank: Report
army shoots down another Houthi drone
Homecoming for Afghans Paid By Iran to Fight in Syria
Reacts to Taliban Militants Attack on Afghan Vice President’s Convoy In Balkh
Miller reaffirms support to Afghan forces, reiterates continued war against
Taliban militants killed, wounded in coalition airstrikes in Helmand province
militants suffer heavy casualties during the latest counter-terrorism
ISIS Khurasan militants killed, wounded in Nangarhar airstrikes
official: Taliban strike checkpoints in north, kill 5
Ambassador: Saudi Arabia and Malaysia Agree On How to Fight Extremism
men arrested far from Philippine militant bases
Izzah: Govt’s first year performance vital to show political change commitment
says it executed 4 accused spies in Somalia
Car bomb blast by Al-Shabaab in Mogadishu, 16 dead
Union to host Libya ‘reconciliation’ conference
protest against 30th Arab Summit
Jewish New York Councilman Said ‘Palestine Does Not Exist.’ Now He May Be
Calls for New Internet Regulations after New Zealand Massacre
by New Age Islam News Bureau
The Islamic nation has endured the negative and dangerous impact of
classification and exclusion, including Takfir, said Dr. Mohammed bin
Abdulkarim Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League (MWL), during
the Friday sermon at the Grand Mosque in Grozny, Chechnya.
a first in the history of Russia, the Muslim World League (MWL) launched an
international conference in Moscow on religious peace and coexistence.
MWL conference promoted values of coexistence and peace, and emphasized the
importance of “working in the common humanitarian and national circle.”
sermon delivered by the MWL chief was attended by the president of Chechnya,
Ramzan Kadyrov, senior muftis and scholars, and a large gathering of worshipers.
highlighted that “there are young men who, in their diversion, got caught up in
the illusion of their superficial knowledge, which is neither firm nor based on
the teachings of scholars and, thus, had the nerve to declare other believers as
non-believers (takfir), fuelling great sedition.”
added: “Every time one sedition dies, another rises, revealing its horns in the
name of Islam. It believes no one is right except its prodigal followers. Not
only that, but it took upon itself to fight all others after having declared
all the people on Earth as non-believers.”
similar to those are the people who monopolized righteousness in place of
discretion and claimed that people were denied access to the truth except
pointed out that monopolizing righteousness in the place of discretion is a
systematic error and an intellectual danger that jeopardizes the harmony and
unity of the (Islamic) nation.
problem is not limited to the narrative of this tragedy, which has damaged the
reputation of the Islamic nation, but extends to every person who was
privileged with extensive knowledge in Islamic sciences yet did not fulfill his
duty in combating the wrongful ideology, especially in dismantling its
structure,” he continued. “This ideology was not based on a military or
political entity, as you know, but on misguided concepts that exploited the
passion for religion in the youth that lack knowledge and wisdom.”
said: “We do not exaggerate when we say the amount of carelessness, sedition
and misguidance is proportionate to the amount of the scholars’ failure, and
part of this failure is a lack of addressing the misconceptions and fabricated
concepts about Islam.”
stressed in his sermon that good behavior and common decency are instinctively
well-received by all people, and that convenience and tolerance with positive
open-mindedness are in the core of our Islamic concepts, highlighting that
Shariah’s purpose is to establish mercy and tolerance, not difficulty and hardship.
Muhammad (PBUH) had delivered the message, fulfilled his mandate, advised the
(Islamic) nation, strived for God as he ought to, invited (mankind) to the way
of God with wisdom and fair preaching, did not assault anyone, and did not
force anyone to follow his religion,” he said and quoted a verse from the
Qur’an: “There is no compulsion in religion.” [2:256]
was chosen as the site of the summit because it has been a model of religious
and ethnic harmony in recent years, according to the MWL.
leaders to seek UNSC resolution against US decision on Golan Heights
leaders warned on Sunday any country from following in the US footsteps in
recognizing Israel sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
a statement agreed by the 22 member states at the closing session of the
Sunday’s summit of the Arab League in the Tunisian capital Tunis, the Arab
leaders said they will seek a UN Security Council resolution against the US
decision on the Golan Heights.
the leaders of the Arab countries gathered in Tunisia ... express our rejection
and condemnation of the United States decision to recognize Israel’s
sovereignty over the Golan,” Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit
said Arab countries would present a draft resolution to the UN Security Council
and seek a legal opinion from the International Court of Justice on the US
decision. It warned other countries away from following Washington’s lead.
signed a proclamation last week recognizing the Golan Heights as part of
Israel, which annexed the area in 1981 after capturing it from Syria in 1967.
earlier decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital also drew Arab
condemnation. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future
Arab leaders also invited non-Arab Iran to work with Arab countries on the
basis of good neighborly ties and without interfering in each others’ internal
affairs, according to Reuters.
affirm that cooperative relations between Arab countries and the Islamic
Republic of Iran be based on good neighborliness,” they said in the statement
at the end of the 30th summit held in Tunis.
the statement stopped short from naming the hosting country for the upcoming
summit of the Arab League.
President Beji Caid Essebsi said Arab nations needed to ensure the
international community understood the centrality of the Palestinian cause to
the final statement, Arab states renewed support for an Arab peace initiative
that offers Israel peace in exchange for withdrawal from all lands occupied in
the 1967 war and said they would seek to revive peace talks with the Jewish
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who also addressed the meeting in Tunis,
said any resolution to the Syrian conflict must guarantee the territorial
integrity of Syria “including the occupied Golan Heights.”
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz said that he “absolutely rejects” any
measures that undermine Syrian sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
the summit, he also reiterated Saudi Arabia’s position supporting the
establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with
East Jerusalem as its capital.
is worth mentioning that the leaders of Sudan and Algeria were not at Sunday’s
meeting as both nations have been roiled by anti-government protests.
Syria’s seat at the summit was vacant. Damascus as been suspended from the
League since 2011 over its crackdown on protesters at the start of its civil
war. The League has said no consensus has yet been reached to allow Syria’s
by Deeptiman Tiwary
is a key training centre for the largest force fighting insurgency and
terrorism in the country. But it has no permanent structure, no firing range,
no boundary wall. In the last four years, over 150 training and administrative
staff have been posted there “to merely fill the vacancies”. And, it does “not
offer a single CIAT (Counter Insurgency and Anti Terrorism) related course”.
is the essence of a report and a series of letters sent between January and
November 2018 by a senior officer to the CRPF headquarters in New Delhi
highlighting the poor condition of its counter-terror training apparatus.
last of these letters was sent by CRPF IG Rajnish Rai on November 22, 2018,
less than two months before the Pulwama terror attack on February 14 this year
when 40 CRPF men lost their lives.
was in charge of the CRPF’s 175-acre CIAT school in Andhra Pradesh’s Chittoor,
one of the three such schools allotted to the force by the Union Home Ministry,
which envisaged 21 such facilities in 2007 for various forces.
1992-batch IPS officer of the Gujarat cadre, Rai was serving as CRPF IG
(Northeast Sector) till June 2017, when he was asked to take charge of the CIAT
school in Chittoor. The transfer came three months after he had called for a
probe into what he alleged was a fake encounter — by a joint team of Army,
CRPF, SSB and police — in Assam’s Chirang on March 30.
December, Rai was suspended by the Home Ministry for “unauthorised handing over
of charge” after he quit the service citing an application for voluntary
retirement in August, which had been rejected. In January, the Central
Administrative Tribunal (CAT) stayed the Centre’s action; Rai has since moved
the Gujarat High Court.
his letters, Rai pointed out that the CRPF schools only provide
theatre-specific, short-term pre-induction (PI) training to personnel headed
for Kashmir, the Northeast or LWE areas.
was not available for comment. But a senior CRPF officer, speaking on condition
of anonymity, said that “some kind of training” could have been started in
Chittoor by Rai despite the drawbacks.
is true that the Chittoor school has no infrastructure. There is no proper
infrastructure at the Silchar and Shivpuri schools, either. Bureaucracy has its
own pace. But as officers we have to learn to use the resources available to us
in the best possible way. Some kind of training could have been started at
Chittoor. After all, PI training is also a form of counter-terror training,”
the officer said.
his letter on February 5, 2018, Rai wrote: “Presently, CRPF has three CIAT
Schools in the country; yet, contrary to what the name suggests, we do not
offer a single CIAT related course in any of these locations. This is even more
surprising since we know very well that CRPF is in the forefront of facing
three internal security challenges: terrorism in Kashmir Valley, the insurgency
in Northeast, and left-wing extremism (LWE) in Central India.”
November 22, 2018, Rai wrote: “…even when no training was conducted… almost
full strength of officers/men were posted at CIAT School, Chittoor since its
inception, and salaries and allowances were paid to the CRPF personnel posted
Chittoor school, spread over 175 acres, was set up in 2014 — the other two CRPF
schools are in Assam’s Silchar and Madhya Pradesh’s Shivpuri.
contacted by The Indian Express, the CRPF did not respond specifically to the
contents of Rai’s report and letters. However, it said that through “multiple
centres across the country”, it provides training to soldiers and officers in
“over 20 different courses ranging from basic training for recruits to jungle
warfare and IED training to those being deployed in LWE area, Kashmir and the
said training of 15,256 personnel is envisaged in 2019 at its four Central
Training Colleges while 6,903 personnel would be trained at CIAT schools. It
also said that a CIAT course for a Quick Action Team (QAT) has been started in
Chittoor, and 1,274 personnel were being trained.
schools impart theatre-specific specialised training on CIAT operations.
NE-theatre specific training is imparted at CIAT Silchar. LWE theatre specific
training is imparted as CIAT Shivpuri,” the CRPF said.
his letters, Rai pointed to the difference between PI and CIAT training. “PI
training introduces participants to the new operational theatres… whereas, CIAT
training are essential for understanding the geographical and cultural terrain,
operational tactics, and the psychological profiles of insurgents/terrorists.
While PI training provides perspectives on challenges facing an operational
theatre, strategic insights on how to deal with insurgents/terrorists in
specific contexts can be acquired only through in-depth CIAT training,” he
of truthful and transparent analysis of operations has meant the CRPF has
little institutional ability to learn from its mistakes,” he wrote. Read | Script
same as after 26/11, Pathankot attacks: MEA on Pakistan Pulwama report
2016, when Rai was posted in the Northeast, he had pointed out that no CIAT
training was being conducted at the Silchar school since September 2015.
Sources told The Indian Express the CRPF has recently been holding QAT training
there while a similar course focused on LWE areas was started in Shivpuri this
Rai was the supervising officer with Gujarat’s CID-Crime probing the
Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case – in 2007, he had arrested three top
officers, D G Vanzara, M N Dinesh, Rajkumar Pandiyan.
CIAT letters red-flagged a number of issues at the Chittoor school:
It was operating out of 44 pre-fabricated (PF) huts with no permanent
structure. There are plans to construct 26 more PF huts.
Only 39 training staff have been sanctioned for around 800 personnel. Out of 15
sanctioned officers in supervisory roles, only four are “physically present”.
It has not conducted a training needs analysis and there is “no clear
direction” for providing counter-terror training.
No boundary wall or fencing, Battle Obstacle Assault Course infrastructure,
running track and IED lane for IED-related training.
No firing range. The 169 acres allotted for the range is stuck in a land
dispute, and the state police range, 70 km away, is subject to availability.
There is also lack of access to a jungle, and no indoor classrooms for
elaborate training on jungle survival, or sand-model tutorials.
Only one of the five sanctioned borewells has been set up, which is not
adequate for the three storage tanks of 8 lakh litres each.
The 25 KVA transformer is “grossly inadequate” — an audit had shown that the
school needs a 100 KV transformer and two generator sets.
general backs ‘soft power’ to fight Pak’s ‘proxy hybrid war’ in J&K
Ata Hasnain, former general-officer-commanding of the Indian army’s
Srinagar–based 15 Corps, wants the government to balance its hard approach in
Jammu and Kashmir with ‘adequate doses of soft power’, without pulling back
from its ground operations.
General (Retd) Hasnain told officials, diplomats and researchers at the
International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) that Pakistan’s ‘proxy
hybrid war’ in the state could not be met only by conventional force or a
situation, he said, needs a comprehensive ‘all-of-government’ response that
includes the political, social, economic and psychological domains, not only
military. India also needs what he called ‘a mature information strategy’ to
to him, Pakistan’s Inter Services Public Relations has developed a cogent
information strategy, mixing doses of radicalisation and creating alienation
among the Kashmiri people. With radicalisation rife, more IEDs and suicide
bombings in Kashmir can be expected, he warned.
Choudhry of the United Kashmir Peoples National Party, who is also one of the
founders and former president of the recently-banned Jammu & Kashmir
Liberation Front, wants India and Pakistan to focus on conflict resolution,
rather than a conflict management strategy.
party to the dispute could impose a solution, it has to be negotiated, and the
people of Jammu and Kashmir must be made part of that process, Choudhry told
the event titled ‘Civil society in Jammu and Kashmir: democracy versus
terrorism’ last week.
analyst Nitin Gokhale believed that the recent Balakot air-strike was the
manifestation of India’s new approach, by which the Narendra Modi government
has decided to respond militarily to an outrageous or spectacular terrorist
event was chaired by Rahul Roy-Chaudhury, senior fellow for South Asia at IISS,
who noted that a coordinated focus on governance, radicalisation, separatism,
terrorism and the media provides an opportunity to ‘look forward’, not
‘backwards’, and towards political and regional stability.
A joint sitting of the representatives of different religions and religious
sects on Sunday said Islam doesn’t allow forced conversion of non-Muslims and
prevailing Hindu-girls and other subsequent issues should be settled in
accordance with the law and justice.
joint sitting was arranged by Punjab Muttahida Ulema Board in collaboration
with Pakistan Ulema Council which was presided over by Muttahida Ulema Board
and Pakistan Ulema Council Chairman Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, said
a press release.
joint declaration pointed out that Islam is a religion of peace, harmony,
stability and that teachings of Islam and Quran-o-Sunnah have categorically
defined rights for non-Muslim communities residing in Muslim country.
sitting demanded of the government to ensure implementation on National Action
Plan by initiating the consultative process for formal legislation of
declaration condemned terrorist activities being carried out on account of
sitting also demanded constitution of a judicial commission to probe the
killing of Bhawalpur professor to avert such extremist incidents in the future.
joint sitting pointed out that ‘Paigham-e-Pakistan Draft’ has been unanimously
endorsed by all the religious sections of Pakistan and the formal consultative
process should be ensured for formal legislation of ‘Paigham-e-Pakistan Draft’.
joint sitting condemned the prevailing western rhetoric of Islamphobia stating
that Islam is a religion of peace and harmony, adding that prevailing move
relating targeted attacks on mosques in US and European countries is a planned
bid to sabotage the process of peace, harmony and Interfaith dialogue.
joint sitting lauded efforts on part of Mutahida Ulema Board to keep a check on
hateful content being propagated through social media and also lauded
endeavours of Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar for taking immediate action
against elements fanning hatred and violence in society.
joint sitting also lauded the efforts of Muttahida Ulema Board for reinforcing
coordination relating interfaith harmony and for constituting the coordination
committees at Divisional, district and Tensil level to ensure implementation on
decisions of Punjab Muttahida Ulema Board.
joint declaration of the meeting also lauded role of Prime Minister of New
Zealand Jacinda Ardern on terrorism incident stating that world leadership
should learn from PM New Zealand Jacinda Ardern, how to eradicate the menace of
terrorism and extremism.
joint sitting lauded endeavours of Pakistani forces and people of Pakistan in
defeating the menace of terrorism stating that 2019 will be observed as the
year to mark the eradication of terrorism and extremism from Pakistan.
was also also announced in the joint sitting that peace awards will be
conferred to all those political and religious personalities who played a
heroic role in eradicating the menace of terrorism and extremism on April 14 at
4th International Message of Islam Conference in Islamabad.
scholars from all over the Muslim world and Pakistan will attend the 4th
International Message of Islam Conference.
notable clerics and representatives of the joint sitting include Maulana
Muhammad Hussain Akbar, Professor Zakirur Rehman, Mufti Muhammad Naqshbandi,
Maulana AsadUllah Farooq, Hafiz Kazim Raza, Father James, Father Shahzad,
Maulana Aseed ur Rehman, Amarnath Randhawa, Pastor Imanuel Khokhar and Pastor
tax fraud funded al-Qaida in Pakistan, Afghanistan: Report
A British Asian gang of fraudsters may have been involved in misusing billions
of pounds of British tax-payers money to fund terrorist networks in Pakistan
and Afghanistan, claims a UK media investigation based on police and
gang, based in London, Buckinghamshire, Birmingham, north-west England and
Scotland, is alleged to have sent 1 per cent of its gains from their elaborate
tax fraud to al-Qaida in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where it funded madrasas,
training camps and other terrorist activities, according to the leaked files
seen by ‘The Sunday Times'.
estimated 80 million pounds is believed to have been funneled out by the
fraudsters as part of an elaborate VAT and benefits fraud against the UK's
revenue department over the past two decades, with further gains made through
mortgage and credit card fraud targeting banks and individuals.
intelligence held by MI5 states that some of the money reached the Pakistani
compound that housed the al-Qaida mastermind Osama bin Laden before US forces
stormed it in 2011,” the newspaper reports as part of a two-year investigation.
gang, made up of British men of Asian-origin who cannot be named due to court
orders, reportedly infiltrated multiple UK government agencies and even
corrupted local politicians.
gang members have been sentenced to more than 100 years in prison for fraud and
money laundering in a series of linked trials.
crimes have reportedly cost the UK taxpayer an estimated 100 million pounds.
restrictions imposed at the start of the first trial prevent the identification
of any of the gang because several kingpins fled the UK before they could be
arrested and are now thought to be based in the Middle East.
UK's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) insists that details cannot be reported
until the masterminds have been returned to the UK to face trial.
to evidence pieced together so far, the gang was using a network of factories
and companies and exploiting their workers for identity and benefit frauds, the
sale of counterfeit goods, car crash scams and mortgage and credit card frauds.
Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) inquiries found the gang used “hijacked or
altered National Insurance numbers to create false records” and exploited
“illegal immigrant labour” before laundering the cash “through bogus offshore
involved in the investigation say the gang was extremely difficult to
penetrate. Undercover agents eventually resorted to attaching a camera to a dog
and encouraging it to run around inside one of the network's factories to find
out how many people worked there,” the newspaper reports.
large proportion of these frauds originated from just a few families (covering
several generations) perpetrating serious, organised and sustained attacks
against any agency with apparently weak systems,” the report said, adding that
the money was sent mainly to Pakistan but also Hong Kong and Dubai and "is
most likely to be linked to terrorism”.
files reportedly also show that the gang enjoyed links with a top politician in
setbacks, Hamas’ grip on Gaza has never been tighter
CITY, Gaza Strip: Over the weekend, Gaza’s Hamas rulers marked a year of
bloody, weekly protests that have failed to break the Israeli blockade. Rocket
attacks brought a wave of Israeli airstrikes and unprecedented protests broke
out against the Islamic militants’ increasingly unpopular rule.
yet Hamas’ control over Gaza is tighter than ever.
militants’ rule has been strengthened by an unlikely overlap of interests with
Israel’s right-wing government. Neither wants to see an independent state
established in all the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, as the
resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And Hamas’ refusal to give up
power — the asking price of its West Bank-based Palestinian rival for
reconciliation — aligns with Israel’s long-standing policy of maintaining a
separation between the West Bank and Gaza.
even though Israel and Hamas have fought three wars and dozens of skirmishes,
and even though Hamas remains committed to Israel’s eventual destruction, the
two are once again meeting with Egyptian mediators and working to keep things
an emerging arrangement, Hamas would halt rocket fire and keep border protests
peaceful in exchange for Israel easing its border blockade and allowing $30
million a month in Qatari aid into the territory. On Sunday, Israel reopened
Gaza crossings to limited traffic.
has brokered short-lived deals in the past, and it is not clear if the current
arrangements will last beyond Israel’s April 9 election. In a close race, Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come under fire for what his challengers say is
a Gaza policy that exposes Israel to Hamas blackmail.
Gaza residents, open-ended Hamas rule is a bleak prospect. Gaza’s 2 million
people have endured rising poverty and unemployment, undrinkable ground water
and frequent electricity outages since Israel and Egypt closed Gaza’s borders
after Hamas seized power in 2007.
recent weeks, hundreds dared to protest Hamas policies, such as new tax hikes,
chanting “We want to live.” Many were jailed and beaten. Protester Amer
Balousha, a 27-year-old unemployed law school graduate, said he and others were
mistreated in Hamas detention but will not be deterred.
the situation does not improve, the protests will continue,” he said.
has demonstrated that it prefers an understanding with Netanyahu over
reconciling with its Palestinian rival, President Mahmoud Abbas.
deal with Israel would help keep Hamas in power. By contrast, Abbas — who
presides over autonomous enclaves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank — wants
Hamas to hand control of Gaza to him, a demand the group has repeatedly
and Netanyahu both oppose Abbas’ goal of Palestinian statehood in the West
Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in 1967. Hamas seeks to
establish an Islamic state in the area encompassing Israel and the war-won lands,
while a majority in Netanyahu’s Cabinet and Likud Party reject a two-state
solution along the 1967 lines.
month, Netanyahu was quoted as saying that those who oppose Palestinian
statehood should back his policy of allowing Qatari aid into Gaza and maintaining
the separation between the rival Palestinian governments.
is a great confluence of interests” between Israel and Hamas, said Tareq
Baconi, an analyst at the International Crisis Group think tank. “Netanyahu
prefers to deal with Hamas because clear dynamics have been established and
Hamas will not seek a final resolution (of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict)
and Hamas have fought three wars, most recently in 2014. In between, there have
been repeated cross-border skirmishes and periods of calm brokered by Egypt,
which has close security ties with Israel and controls part of the Gaza border.
stated reason for the blockade is to contain Hamas and prevent it from
rearming, while rights groups denounce the restrictions as collective
summer, amid weekly mass protests along the frontier in which scores of
Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire and thousands wounded, Egypt started
new cease-fire talks. Hamas hoped they would lead to an easing of the blockade.
on, Israel consented to Qatari cash shipments and Hamas pledged to halt rocket
fire, but then the talks stalled. In March, with Israel’s election campaign
heating up, Hamas sensed an opportunity to apply pressure on Netanyahu to
resume negotiations, twice firing rockets into central Israel.
worked. Two Hamas officials, speaking Sunday on condition of anonymity because
of the delicate nature of the renewed truce talks, relished in the group’s
apparent leverage. But they also expressed concern any new deal could quickly
new Gaza policy?
main challenger, former army chief Benny Gantz, has said he would handle Gaza
differently. His party’s platform pledges a “powerful response to any
provocation and violence,” while improving the lives of Gaza civilians and
driving a wedge between them and Hamas.
the plan is short on specifics.
and two other ex-military chiefs in his team held top command roles in the last
three wars with Hamas, exacting a heavy price for rocket fire but coming up
against the limits of military action. A consensus has emerged in Israel that
Hamas cannot be brought down by force, short of a bloody reoccupation of Gaza.
any easing of the blockade, meant to bring relief to Gaza’s residents, would
also prolong Hamas rule.
has given up on reconciliation with Hamas after years of failed efforts. He has
stepped up financial pressure on Gaza, including cutting in half salaries for
tens of thousands of ex-civil servants who were replaced by Hamas in 2007 but
remained on the Abbas government payroll.
cutbacks worsened Gaza’s economic deterioration. But instead of stoking a
popular uprising against Hamas, anger turned toward Abbas.
is also suspicious of multi-million-dollar Gaza development projects proposed
by the UN and Qatar, with US and Israeli backing. He fears it’s a plot to turn
the territory into a Palestinian mini-state and undercut Palestinian political
claims to the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
the analyst, said that Abbas’ policies are counterproductive, even if his
concerns are understandable. “Putting more sanctions on Gaza or trying to break
the Hamas government will further entrench the division,” he said.
Turkish soldier was killed in a mortar attack on Sunday near the northern
Syrian town of Afrin, the Turkish ministry of defense said, blaming the attack
on “terrorists” and responding with a barrage of shelling.
ministry said another soldier was wounded in the attack, and that Turkish
forces had struck back against “terrorist targets.”
Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, said Turkey
shelled at least three villages north of the town of Afrin, mainly causing
and allied Syrian fighters took control of Afrin last year, expelling local
Kurdish fighters that Ankara considers terrorists.
Turkish takeover set off a series of attacks against Turkey’s presence in the
originally Kurdish-dominated areas.
Observatory said at least 140 Turkish shells hit the villages. The area north
of Afrin is controlled by the Syrian government, but Kurdish militia fighters
have maintained some presence there.
Kurdish-run Hawar news agency also reported the shelling but gave no details on
authorities succeeded in returning two young siblings home after their father
abducted them to join ISIS in Syria.
kidnapping of Saudi citizens Abdallah and Ahmed took place five years ago,
under the pretense that they were going on holiday to Turkey, from where they
were then taken to Syria. A month after their arrival, the father handed his
children to ISIS and proceeded to commit a suicide bomb attack.
boys’ mother told Al Arabiya that she could not stop the abduction because she
had been divorced from her husband years before they traveled.
problem is that I was not around my children nor their father. We got divorced
way before they traveled,” she said.
return of Abdullah, 16, and Ahmed, 113, to their hometown of Riyadh was made
possible by a strategic and dangerous mission by Saudi authorities who helped
them escape from Syria to Turkey.
you are in Saudi Arabia, you are in bliss, safety, and comfort. You are in
God’s mercy,” says older sibling Abdullah as he expresses his relief to be back
home. Pointing at his younger brother’s eye, he adds: “Ahmed doesn’t see with
injured his eye during a blast during the last few days he spent in Syria. “We
experienced an attack that caused a piece of metal to cut my eye. They (ISIS)
did not treat it; they just sewed it up and told me to go. If anything, they
kicked me out and told me to be on my way,” he said.
mother of the kidnapped boys warned other parents to keep an eye on their
children and take note of any odd behavior because “if you remain silent, you
are causing them more harm than good,” she said.
Arabiya captured the moment Abdullah and Ahmed reunited with their family at
the King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh. The entire family was present
to receive the children, in a reunion mixed with joy and pain.
Arabic-language al-Ma'aloumeh news website quoted an informed source in
al-Anbar province as saying on Saturday that the US forces have supplied tens
of ISIL terrorists in al-Anbar desert with weapons and military equipment.
added that the measure is aimed at assisting the terrorist group to launch
attacks against the bordering towns of the province with Syria and occupy the
source also warned that the US wants to prepare a shelter in al-Anbar province
for the terrorists who have left Baqouz region in Syria.
head of Badr organization's office in al-Anbar province had earlier this month
warned of the American forces' suspicious moves in the Western deserts of the
province, saying that the US was aiding the terrorists stationed in the region.
news website quoted Qusai al-Anbari as saying that the Americans were assisting
a terrorist group called Ghosts of Desert in desert areas of al-Anbar, adding
that they had been airdropping foodstuff packages for the ISIL from helicopters
hovering over the region in the past few days.
Hassan Salem, a representative of Iraq's al-Fatah coalition in the parliament,
referred to the American forces' illegal deployment in Iraq and Washington's
attempts to revive the terrorist groups in the country, and stressed the
legislature's firm determination to expel them and close Ain al-Assad base
which is under the US occupation.
news agency reported that the residents of the villages of Majdal al-Shams,
Baqa'atha, Mas'adeh, Ain Qineh in occupied Golan rallied in Baqa'atha to blast
carried Syria's flag, chanting slogans against Trump's "illegal"
remarks and stressing the Arab nature of Golan.
protestors underlined continued resistance against the US-Israeli plots and
measures, saying that occupied Golan should be liberated and return to Syria.
last Monday formally recognized Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan
Heights, reversing decades of United State's policy. The announcement came as
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the White House in a trip.
nations and prominent international rights groups condemned the recent decision
by Trump to recognize Israel’s “sovereignty” over the Golan Heights, which has
been under the Tel Aviv regime’s occupation for more than 50 years but belongs
Thursday, large groups of people in different Syrian provinces continued
rallies for several consecutive days to protest at Trump's recognition of
Israeli occupation over Syria's Golan Heights.
Arabic-language service of SANA news agency reported that a large number of
people and civil activists in different parts of Syria, including Hasaka,
Quneitra, Aleppo and Sweida, held protest rallies to condemn Trump's decision.
slammed Trump for declaring Israel's sovereignty over the occupied Golan
Heights, stressing that the Syrian nation may never compromise its sovereignty
right over the region.
Car hits CRPF bus and explodes on Jammu-Srinagar highway, driver missing
by Arun Sharma
car hit a bus carrying CRPF personnel, burst into flames, and exploded at
Banihal near the Jawahar Tunnel on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway on
Saturday morning. The car was destroyed, but no one on the bus or the road was
injured. The rear of the bus, where the car hit it around 10.30 am, was
slightly damaged, police said.
full 12 hours after the incident, the fate or whereabouts of the driver of the
car, a Hyundai Santro coming from the Kashmir side, was not known. In the
evening, PTI quoted Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik as saying it was
yet to be established whether the incident was a terror attack, or why the car caught
Jammu Zone M K Sinha told The Sunday Express that an IED and some detonators
were found inside the wrecked car.
officer also said that a note in English, written on plain paper apparently by
the driver of the Santro, had been found at the site, which raised questions
about the incident.
writer of the note claimed that he was a member of the Hizbul Mujahideen, and
that he was “taking the extreme step in view of continued atrocities on
Kashmiris since 1947”, Sinha said. “We are verifying the authenticity of the
letter,” he added.
month and a half ago, a Jaish-e-Mohammad suicide bomber had rammed his
explosives-laden vehicle into a bus carrying CRPF personnel in Pulwama. Forty
men had died in the attack on February 14, and India had responded by striking
a Jaish terror camp in Balakot deep inside Pakistan.
and kashmir, car blast jammu-srinagar highway, jammu-srinagar highway blast,
crpf bus attacked, crpf convoy attacked, crpf, car blast jammu-srinagar
highway, pulwama attack, pulwama crpf attacks, india news
personnel inspect the mangled remains of a car which exploded near a CRPF
convoy on the Jammu-Srinagar highway at Banihal, in Ramban district of Jammu
and Kashmir Saturday. (Source: PTI)
has not been established whether it (Saturday’s incident) was a (terror) attack
or not. It has also not been established why the vehicle caught fire,” Governor
Malik told reporters in Jammu, PTI said. “No explosive of sorts, but nothing
can be said (at the moment),” Malik said.
car appeared to have been carrying two LPG cylinders, one of which exploded.
The other cylinder was found at the site of the incident, police said.
is an exploded cylinder along with an unexploded one found at the blast site,”
IGP Sinha said. Nothing could be said about the cause of the blast until
experts gave their report after examining the blast site, he added.
traffic was restored on the highway a few hours after the incident, police
parties were searching the forests on either side of the incident site at
Tethar village, 7 km from Banihal town in the Jammu region, until evening.
quoted Banihal Sub-Divisional Police Officer Sajad Sarwar as saying the driver
of the Santro was believed to have escaped. “Efforts are on to identify the driver
of the vehicle for questioning,” he said.
did not rule out a terror angle, PTI said. Earlier in the day, a CRPF
spokesperson had said that the incident was being investigated “in respect of
all possible angles”.
and loose ends
Abdul Aziz stares hard at the house he has just been given. It has a room, a
small yard, a bathroom next to the gate. His wife Dilshan pulls him to a corner
and they whisper as she points to the thin steel doors, the single window and
the non-functional toilet.
was among 85 families who fled their homes during the Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013
and were on March 28 given new houses by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, the
Delhi-based organisations of imams, at Bhagonwali village, some 10 km from
Muzaffarnagar city. Click for more election news
is relieved but not very happy, I think,” says Aziz, “The house that we
abandoned in 2013 was at least twice this size and had windows all around. But
we live in a world where I cannot even get a house on rent, forget buying my
year, as a wave of violence spread across the region, Aziz, Dilshan and their
two children escaped in the dead of night from Sisauli village in
Muzaffarnagar, leaving behind everything: school books, ID cards and, most
importantly, newly stitched clothes.
am a tailor and all I know is stitching clothes. All my clients were in Sisauli
and they drove me out. I had to start afresh,” he says, adding that the family
moved to a relative’s house in Muzaffarnagar for a few weeks before shifting to
rented homes across the district. “During the 2014 elections, I was shifting
from one house to another and could not vote. This election, I will make it
count. We all will.”
while Aziz will still vote in Muzaffarnagar, the 2013 violence displaced
thousands, many who still cannot vote in their original constituencies.
brothers Qayyum and Shakeel Basheer. They are originally from Phogana village
in Muzaffarnagar but after fleeing their homes, shifted to a rehabilitation
colony in Nahid Colony, which falls under Kairana seat, where they are now
Muzaffarnagar violence and its aftermath may have changed the demographics of
the region forever but six years on, the shadow of the riots still looms over
all eight seats in western UP — Saharanpur, Muzaffarnagar, Baghpat, Bijnore,
Kairana, Ghaziabad, Meerut and Gautam Budh Nagar. But added to political mix
now is a slew of new issues that have emerged since 2014, when the BJP won all
eight seats — from a sluggish farm economy that stems from sugarcane arrears to
the stray cattle menace which has wiped out crops, the SP and BSP joining
forces, the Congress refusing to back the SP-BSP gathbandhan, and the BJP
attracting young and first-time voters.
first phase of polling across Western UP on April 11 may well set the trend for
the remaining 72 seats in the state, all of which will arguably decide who
forms the government. The significance of this region can be gauged from the
election blitzkrieg in the region — the PM kicked off the Phase 1 campaign with
his rally in Meerut on March 29 and the gathbandhan will launch theirs in Deoband
on April 7, with the Samajwadi Party’s (SP) Akhilesh Yadav, Bahujan Samaj
Party’s (BSP) Mayawati and the RLD’s Ajit Singh addressing their first joint
Supporter of Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Lok Dal
Alliance waves party flags in Muzaffarnagar, Western Uttar Pradesh. (Express
photo: Praveen Khanna)
UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath addressed a rally in Saharanpur on March 24,
he scornfully called Congress candidate Imran Masood “son-in-law” of
Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar.
Masood’s son-in-law comes to Saharanpur and speaks his language. Should someone
who speaks Masood’s language be allowed to win from Saharanpur or should the
symbol of development and security, Raghav Lakhanpal (the BJP candidate), win?”
Adityanath had said without naming Imran.
remarks drew widespread criticism from Opposition parties but a BSP leader from
Saharanpur calls it “tactical”. Explaining that the BJP stands to benefit, he
says that the Muslim votes, which would have gone to the “winnable” Muslim
gathbandhan candidate of the BSP who would have anyway got the Dalit votes,
will now, after Yogi’s comment, be split. “See, Imran is locked in a three-way
contest with Lakhanpal and the gathbandhan candidate Fazlur Rahman. Yogi’s
remarks against Imran will now move some Muslims towards the Congress,” he
also admits the tactic has worked in the past. He points to the 2014 campaign,
when Imran had threatened to “chop” then prime ministerial candidate Narendra
Modi “into pieces” and ended up polling more than 4 lakh of the seat’s 12 lakh
votes, eventually losing to Lakhanpal by more than 60,000 votes. The BSP’s
Jagdish Singh Rana came third with around 2.3 lakh votes.
in Saharanpur account for close to 6 lakh votes and Dalits for around half of
that. Without support from both communities, Saharanpur, leaders admit, is
impossible to win for any of the non-BJP candidates.
to a Congress leader, the party — and Imran Masood — still enjoy the support
they got in 2014. “It is clear that Imran has the support of the Muslim
community. The smart thing for the gathbandhan would have been to give us BSP
support. But instead, the gathbandhan has nominated a Muslim candidate who is
bound to split votes,” he says.
in Saharanpur is the Harora Assembly seat, from where BSP chief Mayawati made
her debut in 1986. She lost that year only to win the seat in 1996 and again in
2002. Almost two decades later, the BSP is still strong in the region but amid
a challenger. Bhim Army founder Chandrashekhar Azad is from Chutmalpur, just a
few kilometres from Harora. Here, locals say the Bhim Army has thrown its
weight behind Imran.
a sanitation worker, says, “A few days ago, some men came to the village and
said we must make our vote count and that maybe BSP was not the correct choice.
I have always voted for Behenji, I don’t know what they were talking about.”
Bhim Army did not confirm or deny the tacit support to the Congress. The
organisation’s national president Vinay Ratan Singh told The Sunday Express,
“Our mission is to stop the BJP and Modi. We will support candidates who can
defeat the BJP.”
the Bhim Army’s tilt towards the Congress came days after Congress’s East UP
general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra met Chandrashekhar in a Meerut
BSP gathbandhan up lok sabha elections
to a BSP functionary, the Bhim Army’s influence is limited. “Nobody is stronger
than Behenji here. We will wipe out the BJP,” he says.
in Saharanpur and elsewhere, this fight to “wipe out the BJP” repeatedly comes
up against the fact that the non-BJP votes face a certain split, given that the
Congress is not part of the gathbandhan and is fighting on its own in all seats
in the region, except two — Muzaffarnagar and Baghpat, where RLD leader and a
partner in the BSP-SP alliance, Ajit Singh, and his son Jayant are contesting.
Bijnore, for instance, the Congress has nominated former BSP strongman
Naseemuddin Siddiqui against the gathbandhan’s Malook Nagar, a Gujjar leader,
and BJP’s sitting MP Bhartendra Singh, a Jat.
Muslims account for around 30 per cent of Bijnore’s electorate, the BSP
believes the Congress is out to sabotage its campaign. “The Congress has
fielded strong candidates where the gathbandhan candidate is from the BSP — in
Saharanpur and in Bijnore. With a Dalit and Muslim combination in these seats,
we would have been unbeatable. But now it is an uphill battle,” he says.
leaders deny the charge. “In constituencies where we can win, we will nominate
our own. This is not about sabotaging the BSP, but defeating the BJP,” says a
Congress leader in Muzaffarnagar.
there’s more. The Congress’s recent announcement that if voted to power, they
would initiate a minimum income scheme, giving Rs 72,000 a year to the poorest
20 per cent of households, has fired up its cadre.
Muzaffarnagar, Bijnore and Saharanpur, the scheme has sparked interest,
particularly among BPL families. While Monu Jatav in Muzaffarnagar’s Bopa
village wonders if such a scheme is even possible and if she will be eligible
for it, Khurshida Begum in Badwana and Ravindra Nishad in Shamli town say Rs
6,000 a month, in addition to work under the MGNREGA, will only help their
SP, however, believes the Congress’s presence will help the gathbandhan by
splitting the BJP vote. “In Kairana, both the Congress’s Harendra Malik and the
BJP’s Pradeep Choudhary, are Jats. So the Congress will split the BJP’s Jat
votes,” says an SP leader. In Kairana, Tabassum Hasan, the sitting MP who
defeated Mriganka Singh in a bypoll in 2018 after the death of BJP MP Hukum
Singh, is contesting on an RLD ticket for the gathbandhan.
take part in an election meeting of Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samajwadi Party
and Rashtriya Lok Dal Alliance in Muzaffarnagar, Western Uttar Pradesh.
(Express photo: Praveen Khanna)
complex theories, calculations and mud-slinging have the BJP elated that the
Opposition narrative of jobs, demonetisation and the economy — which had started
gaining momentum — have had to make way for the tried and tested formulae of
caste, community and religion.
BJP district leader says, “We already have the development plank with PM
Narendra Modi. This infighting will only help. And with the Balakot air strike,
our cadre is energised and vote base is strong.”
on the ground, particularly among farmers, the BJP’s Balakot air strike
narrative is a double-edged sword. Take Om Pal Singh in Bijnore’s Raipur
Berisal village. “I will not keep quiet if I am told about this air strike,
armed forces or Pakistan again. The Army’s job is to protect the borders and
give Pakistan a fitting reply and they are doing that well. Who are you to crow
about it?” he says, adding that many of his relatives serve in the armed
forces. “It is our sons who serve in the Army and defend the country; not
politicians. Their children are in air conditioned rooms. We give food and our
sons protect the land. Do not tell us about the military, it is demeaning to us
and to the Army,” he says.
Jat sugarcane farmer, Om Pal says the government has let the farmers down. “We
voted for this government. But for five years we have not been paid our dues.
The government pays the sugar mills but not us,” he says.
about this anger among its traditional voters, many of them Jats who form about
15 per cent of the population in Western UP, a BJP leader says they are not
worried. “It is true that some farmers are angry, but not all. Moreover, it’s
not about community or caste votes. This time, the voters are different,” he
says, indicating that the party’s poll plank of development and national
security will counter other biases.
to latest data compiled by the Cane Commissioner’s Office in Lucknow, dues that
sugar mills in UP owe farmers now totals Rs 10,074.98 crore. As The Indian
Express reported, of this, Rs 4,547.97 crore or over 45 per cent is due from
mills in six of the eight constituencies going to the polls on April 11.
is the sentiment in the region that PM Modi referred to cane payments in his
Meerut rally. “I assure you that CM Yogi Adityanath will get all your payments
done very soon,” he said, accusing the earlier BSP and SP governments of
few km away, in Bhokaredi village, Kripal Singh, also a Jat cane farmer, echoes
Om Pal. As Kripal complains about not being paid dues from mills for several
weeks now, his son Manoj, who is travelling with him to the main market to buy
new water pipes, disagrees. “But papa, this election is not about sugarcane; it
is about the nation and security,” he chimes in.
father raises his hand as if to land him a mock blow, “You are young, you know
little of these matters….”
I voted last time and I will vote again. My vote is for the PM. See how he
handled Pakistan, which is encroaching on our land. He has stamped out
corruption. Desh ke hith mein vote dena hain, desh ke liye (We have to vote for
the country’s interest, for India),” says Manoj, dressed in jeans and T-shirt.
says his son knows little, particularly since he does not work on the field.
“He works in a mobile shop. He does not know about the realities of farming.
But he will vote with his heart. I cannot stop him,” he says.
to Manoj, most of his final-year BCom classmates think like him. “We now have
24-hour electricity compared to just eight hours during the previous SP
government. This is the development we need. We know what we have to do. I may
be only 23, but this will be our country soon. We must decide the course,” he
father shakes his head. “We have 24-hour electricity but the power tariff for
our irrigation pumps and tubewells have almost doubled. Between the two, I
prefer cheaper power for the farm. But you only want to charge your mobile
phone,” he says.
UP — like elsewhere where an analysis of Election Commission data by The Indian
Express showed that the average number of new eligible voters is over 1.15 lakh
per constituency — this 2019 election might just upend all traditional wisdom
of election politics, which has until now sworn by the sure-shot formulae of
caste and community. Like in the case of Kripal and Manoj, this election might
even cleave through generations and their loyalties.
Malhendi village of neighbouring Kairana constituency, Suresh, who wants to be
identified only by his first name, says his father has not spoken to him for
father says we are Dalits and must vote for Mayawati. Why? What has she done? I
will vote for anyone I want,” he says.
farm labourer, Suresh, 25, says he is yet to make up his mind on voting, but
indicates that “desh hith (welfare of the country)” and “vikas (development)”
will help him decide.
there’s something that’s gnawing away at Suresh’s mind. Last year, his
23-year-old neighbour was arrested for social media posts against Modi and
Adityanath. “Last year, my friend was angry that stray cattle had eaten away
all his crop. He went to the field one morning and realised it was all gone. He
was so angry that he made a video criticising Modi and Adityanath, and was
arrested. These arrests are bad, par yeh toh UP sarkar ke galti hain, Modi ki
thodi hain (but this is the UP government’s fault, not Modi’s),” he says.
23-year-old’s uncle says the younger generation has little patience. “They are
all hotheads. My son will not listen to me anymore. When they are happy, they
are very happy and when they are angry, they are very angry. We had a meeting
last night and decided the Dalit basti must vote for BSP, my son though
refuses,” he says.
a few km away from Malhendi, in Kudana, the same demographic group believes
otherwise. Vipin, 21, who has cleared all the tests to join the UP police,
says, “Only Behenji speaks up for us. Any Dalit who thinks otherwise is either
uneducated or watches too much TV. They only show lies on news these days. In
our village, go and survey and you will find that most people have given up
their cable connections.”
neighbour Naveen agrees. “How can anybody forget April 2 (the Bharat bandh
called by Dalit groups against the alleged dilution of the SC/ST Atrocities
Act). We were attacked brutally by all those who are BJP voters. That was
unforgivable. Dalits will show their power this time,” he says.
have come to attend a public meeting in the village that includes Kairana’s RLD
candidate Tabassum Hasan’s son Nahid Hasan. Yogendra Singh, a campaign
coordination functionary, says, “Nahid is an MLA and everybody knows him well.
We have split the constituency in such a way that between the mother and son,
they will cover most villages in the constituency.”
about the Congress fielding a candidate in Kairana, Singh is not concerned.
“There is a Congress candidate but the question is who will he help and who
will he hurt? Maybe he will take away Muslim votes, but then again he is a Jat,
maybe he will attract that BJP vote base,” says Singh.
also refers to the Muzaffarnagar riots and reclaiming “honour”. “In 2013, the
world heard about Muzaffarnagar in horror. In this election, we must reclaim
our name. You must help by voting out those who caused the riots. This will
send a message across the country,” he says.
150 km away in Dadri — Gautam Budh Nagar constituency — another village fights
to reclaim its own honour. There were no riots here, but in 2015, 50-year-old
Mohammad Akhlaq was beaten to death in Bisara village on September 28 on
suspicion of cow slaughter.
a former Armyman, says the village is yet to recover from that lynching. “If
only elders were around, we would have stopped those boys. Now Bisara is spoken
of as a curse,” he says.
to a shopkeeper, who requested anonymity, young men and women from Bisara have
found it difficult to find jobs. “There are many private companies around this
area where all our youth were employed. Once this happened, slowly they were
sacked. The companies said they did not want trouble-makers in their midst,” he
house stands abandoned in Bisara as is his brother’s. They moved out in 2016
and vowed never to return. “See, people mix a lot of issues. We are not happy
at all with the BJP candidate here (Union Minister Mahesh Sharma) but will vote
for Modi. He will bring people in line. If not for Modi, maybe we would not
have voted at all. Why should this Akhlaq incident be tied to politics? That
has nothing to do with elections,” says a farmer, requesting anonymity.
militants have been killed by security forces in an ongoing gun battle in Jammu
and Kashmir’s Pulwama district, an Indian Army spokesperson said.
Rajesh Kalia said several weapons and “warlike stores” have been recovered from
the encounter site in Lassipora area of Pulwama.
army did not confirm whether security personnel were also injured in the
details are awaited.
a university of world repute; it’s a university in decline. It’s a progressive
centre as any; it is a conservative university. Its founder was a proponent of
the two-nation theory; its founder was a votary of Hindu-Muslim unity. It has
failed its founder’s vision of providing Indian Muslims with a modern
education; it has given India, and the subcontinent, Muslim intellectuals. It’s
doomed beyond repair; it’s the only hope.
Muslim University (AMU) is many things to many people, but for now, the only
certainty is that it’s walking a thin line. Talk to students, teachers, or
other staff in the largely residential campus of more than 30,000 and the
consensus is that the university is under attack for political gains of a few.
a time when the 2019 general elections are set to begin, the past few months have
been particularly eventful.
students have been asked to sign bonds of ?500,000 against protesting; sedition
charges have been slapped against three Kashmiri students for allegedly
offering funeral prayers for a militant, a former student of the university;
and charges of discrimination against Hindu students have been made.
only a group of five or six students that creates controversies,” said Salman
Imtiaz, the president of the university’s student union. “It’s not a
coincidence that it’s always the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its youth
wing,” added Ambreen Fatima, the president of university’s women’s college.
are directed primarily towards Ajay Singh, a student of law at the university,
and the grandson of a BJP MLA from Aligarh district. Among his demands is
building a temple on the campus. He was a presidential candidate of the
university student union in 2017 but lost.
January 26, he insisted that he will bring out a tiranga rally in the campus
even though the university organises its own Republic Day function. Within a
week of that incident, Aligarh MP Satish Gautam demanded that the word Muslim
be removed from the university’s name. “The word ‘Muslim’ makes a large section
of the society uncomfortable,” Gautam said. Asked if Banaras Hindu University
should also be renamed, the BJP MP said, “India is a Hindu Rashtra and there is
no point in removing ‘Hindu’ from BHU.”
and predictability, of issues raised clouds motives. “There are 5,000-6,000
Hindu students in the university. Why do only these five-six always have
problems?” asked Nishant Bhardwaj, a leader of the students’ union. Does the
university discriminate against Hindu students as these “five-six” allege? “I
am here since 2007. If that was so I would have left long ago,” said the
student leader. To re-empahise the point, Imtiaz said, “Nishant got more votes
than I did.”
Singh dismisses the allegations. “The union and student leaders communalise
everything. They blame everything on us.”
university has seen difficult days but nothing of this sort. Sajjad Ahmad,
professor of history, sees the “vilification of the university” as a reflection
of majoritarian politics across the country. “Elections or no elections, it
will continue to happen... [because] “once you pit two communities against each
other all other significant demands are pushed aside.”
institution was established in 1875 as Anglo-Mohammedan College to impart
western education to Muslims. By the time the founder, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan,
died, Gandhi was still in his teens, so was Jinnah – and a mainstreamed
anti-British discourse led by Indian nationalists was still some years away.
But as it emerged across the country, AMU turned into an important centre for
Muslims opposing the British rule. A major rift appeared, when, in 1920, the
British decided to fund institutions such as AMU and BHU. To protest that, the
nationalists decided to establish Jamia Millia Islamia - the National Islamic
the national discourse turned increasingly communitarian, many in AMU rallied
around Jinnah. But it was Gandhi who was given the first lifetime membership of
the university students’ union, in 1925. Ambedkar, Azad, and others followed.
Jinnah’s turn came in 1938, by the time he was undeniably a prominent leader
besides being a frequent donor to the university.
continued presence in the AMU discourse eight decades later is a testimony to
the twists and turns the region’s shared history has taken. Partition cocooned
the Indian Muslim community, but it weakened it as well. To challenge that, the
AMU community tried to safeguard what it had and demanded minority status for
the university. It was eventually granted one in 1981 by an act of Parliament –
it has since been challenged in court – but the political developments in
recent years seem to have converted even the staunchest critics of the original
approach. “It was a parochial idea in the 1960s. But this debate is now
happening in a different context,” said Irfan Habib, prof emeritus at AMU, who
had earlier opposed the minority status of the university. NEW DAY, NEW SCANDAL
of small events in the recent past doesn’t help either. On February 12, a TV
correspondent entered the campus to report, as she claimed, “on a story that
had nothing to do with AMU”. Students claim that she called it a university of
terrorists (she denies that). Soon it turned ugly, and AMU was back in Delhi’s
TV studios as it had been many times in last few months.
the same morning, a meeting of the country’s Muslim leaders, called by some
student leaders of the university, was scheduled. Their advertised motive was
to chalk out a political alternative, and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi was
rumoured to attend.
before the scheduled meeting, Nishit Sharma, a former student of the university
and now a BJP leader in the university town ,wrote to Union human resources
development minister Prakash Javadekar: “These students are trying to hurt the
sentiments of the Hindus by inviting Owaisi.” He further wrote, “Though we will
not allow him to enter Aligarh, if he comes then he will not be able to go
the morning of the meeting, a group of students led by Ajay Singh, the former
presidential candidate, entered the union hall. There was no sign of Owaisi.
They took their protest to the V-C’s office. Counter protests happened. Soon,
the two cases – the protest over the TV reporter and Owaisi – got mixed.
Allegations flew that Singh’s alleged accomplice fired at a student union
leader; photos were circulated on social media that showed him with a pistol.
Singh has denied any wrong doing.
the evening, the police filed a case of sedition against 14 students of the
university based on an FIR filed by a BJP youth wing leader, Mukesh Lodhi. “But
the police chose not to turn the students’ complaint into an FIR,” said
Sharjeel Usmani, a student of the university.
BJP leader’s FIR mentioned that he saw a few AMU students assaulting the TV
journalist and Hindu students from the university and shouting “Hindustan
Murdabad, Pakistan Zindabad.” Lodhi also alleged that he was fired at. The
police later dropped the sedition charges.
was in many ways a continuation of previous events – such as the Jinnah
controversy last May. Gautam, the MP, had written to the university to explain
Jinnah’s picture in the student union hall, which is accompanied by those of
Gandhi, Ambedkar, Azad. The letter was timed to coincide with the visit of
Hamid Ansari, the former vice-president of India, the former V-C of the
university, and an alumnus as well. He was scheduled to be given the lifetime
membership of the students’ union, but after the protests, he returned without
university community saw these events as a design to whip up emotion before
state elections in four states. Prof Sajjad asked, “Jinnah was discussed on one
TV channel for five hours. Why not the enactment of Godse shooting Mahatma
Gandhi?” –which was organised by Aligarh-based members of Hindu Mahasabha, on
January 30, the date on which he was assassinated in 1948.
the animosities drawn out of the Hindu-Muslim shared past, the university
community is also challenged by the demons within - some unique, some generic.
The AMU founder’s vision to become the Oxford of the East is challenged, in
part, because of nepotism in the hiring of its faculty members. It still
produces a vast number of first-generation learners and non-metro aspirants to
the educated class – but a bitter regionalism prevails, and continues to affect
the university. It continues to extract a little too much discipline from women
students in the name of “tehzeeb” (manners).
has purportedly shared critical evidence with the United States that indicates
Pakistan's Air Force used American-made fighter jets to attack Indian military
positions during the recent flare-up between the two nuclear neighbors over the
disputed region of Kashmir, a move that runs against existing military
agreements between Washington and Islamabad.
officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told local media on Saturday
that the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) had indeed used F-16 fighters in its February
27 strikes in Jammu and Kashmir’s Nowshera sector as part of attempts to
retaliate an Indian Air Force (IAF) strike on a militant training camp in
Pakistan’s Balakot the previous day.
Indian officials said the evidence of their claim, including call signs
associated with PAF F-16 jets and specific details of the AIM-120 Advanced
Medium Range Air To Air Missile (AMRAAM) used by the PAF jets, had been shared
with the US through intelligence channels.
details in missile debris from the February 27 strikes correspond to the
consignment lot sold by the US to Pakistan, the officials added.
and Pakistani fighter jets staged tit-for-tat cross-border raids last month as
they wrangled over a bomb attack in the Indian-controlled Kashmir that New
Delhi said was conducted by the Pakistani Jaish-e-Mohammed militant group and
left at least 40 Indian paramilitary forces dead.
said it had shot down two Indian MiG-21 Bison fighter jets and captured one of
their pilots during the dogfight. Islamabad later handed over the pilot,
identified in reports as Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, to India.
also said that it had downed a Pakistani F-16, a claim dismissed by Islamabad.
unnamed Indian government officials doubled down on Delhi's claim, saying
inspections of a recovered engine cowling found in Kashmir showed that it had
nothing to do with Varthaman’s MiG-21 Bison and most certainly belonged to a
PAF F-16 Fighting Falcon.
of the wreckage show a part without rivets while the MiG-21 engine cowling has
rivets at multiple places, they said.
General Asif Ghafoor, chief spokesperson of the Pakistan Armed Forces, who had
initially denied the use of F-16s in the Nowshera fight on February 27,
contradicted his own remarks in a March 24 interview with Sputnik in Islamabad,
where he implied that the F-16 had been scrambled at the time and that his
country was discussing the matter with Washington.
regards to how to use F-16, in what context (they) were used or not — because
at that point of time our entire Air Force was airborne — it remains between
Pakistan and the US to see how the MoUs (memorandums of understanding)
regarding the use of F-16 have been adhered to or otherwise,” General Ghafoor
was quoted as saying.
alleged move by the Pakistani Air Force could amount to a violation of US
agreements since Washington sold F-16 fighters to Islamabad on condition that
they will not be used in aggression against any other country but only in the
war against terrorist outfits.
bought several batches of the Lockheed Martin F-16s from Washington before
relations between the two sides soured over the fight against the Taliban and
then US President Barack Obama cut off subsidized sales to Islamabad in 2016.
investigating possible friendly fire in chopper crash
Indian media reported on Friday that investigators had found that an Indian air
defense missile had been fired shortly before the crash of a Mi-17 V5
helicopter at Budgam, near Srinagar in the disputed region of Kashmir on
February 27, which left six air force personnel and a civilian dead.
Indian daily newspaper Economic Times said the investigators were examining the
sequence of events which preceded the crash.
final moments prior to the crash, including whether the IFF (Identity, Friend
or Foe) systems were switched on or not, are being carefully looked at to
determine what went wrong, according to ET sources.
the report, the investigation is seeking to determine “if multiple layers of
safeguards meant to protect assets from friendly fire failed and how systems
need to be improved to prevent any such incident in the future”.
told the daily that the missile, which is believed to be of Israeli origin, was
activated after an air defense alert was issued, signalling presence of
Pakistan Air Force jets along the border.
sources claimed that the alert meant Pakistani jets may have breached the
border. “A slow moving target like the Mi-17 helicopter could potentially be
mistaken for a low flying armed UAV homing into an air base.”
have reported that a loud explosion was heard in the air before the chopper
crashed in a trail of smoke, indicating that a possible catastrophic external
event contributed to the incident.
Russian-made Mil Mi-17 is one of the world's sturdiest military helicopters in
service and is not usually prone to technical faults of catastrophic nature.
in the air force told ET they have made it clear that the military would not
shy away from initiating court-martial proceedings against personnel if they
were found blameworthy in the inquiry.
incident took place on the same day that the Pakistan’s military shot down two
Indian aircraft in the Islamabad-administered side of Kashmir and arrested one
of the pilots on the ground.
has been split between India and Pakistan since partition in 1947. Both
countries claim all of Kashmir and have fought three wars over the territory.
troops are in constant clashes with armed groups seeking Kashmir’s independence
or its merger with Pakistan.
marriage lands Muslim man in Pakistani prison
– A man has been sentenced to three-month jail and Rs 5,000 fine for
contracting second marriage without mandatory permission of first wife,
according to local media.
Younas had filed a complaint against her husband Shoaib Zahid in Lahore’s
Cantonment Courts, pleading that he contracted second marriage without
obtaining her consent required under section 6 of Muslim Family Law Ordinance
the woman’s counsel produced verbal and documentary evidence to prove the
offence of the respondent, the Dawn reported, Magistrate Kashif Abbas handed
down three-month imprisonment to the respondent and Rs5,000 fine.
December, in a similar case of second marriage without first wife’s permission,
a man was sentenced to three months imprisonment and fined Rs 30,000 by a
Rawalpindi’s civil court.
convicted man’s wife Sajida Bibi had filed a petition in district civil court
under Section 6 of Muslim family law, claiming that her husband Liaqat Khan had
contracted a second marriage without her permission. However, Liaqat’s lawyer
presented a divorce deed and other documents in the court as evidence and two
witnesses who testified about his divorce before the judge.
to the divorce deed, Liaqat had divorced Sajida on June 1, 2017, and got
married again on July 9, 2017, but Sajida rejected the divorce claim and said
that Liaqat had fabricated the document. Upon this, the judge sent Liaqat to
jail for three months.
it was two years ago when for the first time a court in Pakistan had sided with
the woman under a 2015 family law, and followed a petition by Ayesha Bibi, who
said her husband, Shahzad Saqib, had wed for a second time without her
November 2, 2017, Judicial magistrate Ali Jawwad Naqvi announced the verdict in
a Lahore lower court, ordering the man to serve a six-month jail term and pay a
fine of Rs200,000.
court rejected the man’s argument that he did not need her permission because
his religion allowed him four marriages.
Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), a body that advises the government on the
compatibility of laws with Islam, has often criticised the demand for a wife’s
written approval if her husband wants to remarry. But the CII’s recommendations
are not legally binding.
Former interior minister and disgruntled Pakistan Muslim League-N leader
Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said on Sunday that the country was moving towards a
to journalists, he said the future of Pakistan would be bleak if its economy
was run through loans, adding the country needed years to get rid of these
loans and to achieve these goals there was dire need of political stability in
the country responsibility for which rested with the government.
reply to a question, Mr Khan said that the Financial Action Task Force was
apparently a political institution adding that some international powers were
hatching conspiracies to blacklist Pakistan for their own interests and that
had nothing to do with terrorism or terror financing.
interior minister asks govt to ensure political stability
reply to a question about recent steps taken by the current government
regarding crackdown against some religious groups and taking control of some
seminaries, he said the government’s actions were dubious as on the one hand it
claimed there was no non-state actors involved in the Pulwama attack or other
activities and on the other hand it had launched a crackdown against some
religious groups and was taking control of some seminaries.
urged political leaders to restrain from delivering such statements which
weakened Pakistan’s stance on international forums just for some political
reply to a question about leaving the PML-N or joining another party, he said
he would make a decision in this regard at an “appropriate time”.
PML-N leader said that he was in contact with the PTI but said that he would
announce his future political strategy at an appropriate time in consultation
with his supporters.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Sunday that he had invited leaders
of all opposition parties, including Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman
Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president
Shahbaz Sharif, for a dialogue on national security.
to reporters here, he said he had asked political leaders of the country that
they should be united for the sake of national security.
political parties should be united on national security and I have invited all
of them,” he said, adding that keeping in view the challenges the country was facing
today the unity of the political leadership was the need of the hour.
foreign minister said that the devaluation of Pakistani rupee against US dollar
would cause price hike in the country. But there was a need to determine who
had stopped the dollar from “reaching its actual value,” he said in reference
to claims by some Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) leaders that the previous
PML-N government had artificially stopped the devaluation of the local
all-out efforts for creation of south Punjab province
Qureshi said that creation of a south Punjab province was not merely a slogan,
rather it was the need of hour.
have made a promise for the creation of south Punjab province and we will make
all-out efforts to achieve this goal. The PTI leadership is making sincere
efforts in this regard as running a province of 120 million people is not any
easy task,” he added.
said the PPP and PML-N, which were traditional rivals in Multan for long, were
in cahoots with each other in a bid to defeat the PTI in the Sunday’s
by-election for provincial assembly’s constituency PP-218 (Multan).
are raising the voice against these cahoots. Voters are more mature as compare
to politicians,” he added.
Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua who is going to retire on April 16, Mr Qureshi
said that she was a person full of wisdom. “I have been working with her for
seven months and I have learnt a lot from her,” he said, adding that everyone
in the Foreign Office appreciated the performance of Ms Janjua.
said the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was an independent institution
and the government neither interfered in its affairs today, nor it would do so
ever in future.
said that Prime Minister Imran Khan was not in favour of a “deal or dheel”,
rather he wanted accountability of all those who had looted the nation’s
Qureshi said that during a meeting with the prime minister recently, leaders of
opposition parties in the Sindh Assembly had expressed reservations over the performance
of the provincial government. They had requested PM Khan to ask the Sindh chief
secretary and the inspector general of police to decide matters on merit, he
foreign minister claimed that the PPP government in Sindh had released development
funds of Rs200 million to each of its provincial legislators. He said the PTI
allies in Sindh had accused the provincial government of misusing of the funds
for the Benazir Income Support Programme.
US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, while recognising Pakistan’s neutrality in
the Afghan peace process, has urged all Afghans to approach the forthcoming
elections and the ongoing talks with the Taliban with equal seriousness.
negotiations as if there were no elections, united as a country, and do
elections as if there were no negotiations,” he wrote in a tweet, pointing out
that the suggestion came from EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs
Federica Mogherini at a meeting in Brussels earlier this week.
this month, Afghanistan delayed its presidential election for a second time.
Originally scheduled for April 20, the elections were first delayed to July
20, because of security concerns. And then to Sept 28, apparently to gain time
for talks with the Taliban, who are refusing to hold direct talks with Kabul.
particularly appreciated Federica Mogherini’s thoughts for Afghans concerned
about potential overlap in timing of elections and the Afghan peace process,”
Khalilzad, on a multi-nation trip for his efforts of facilitating intra-Afghan
talks, also noted that Pakistan has assured Afghanistan it has no intention to
interfere in its internal affairs.
Pakistan’s and other regional support for Afghan Peace Process and agree that
Afghans have the right to live in peace after a long period of war,” he wrote.
media outlet reported last week that Prime Minister Imran Khan believes an
interim setup in Afghanistan will be better placed to hold direct talks with
the Taliban. Later, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs clarified that the media
had ‘misinterpreted’ Mr Khan’s comments as he never implied interference in
Afghanistan’s internal affairs.
clarification satisfied the Afghan government as well, which sent back its
ambassador to Islamabad who had been recalled to Kabul for consultations after
the media report.
Khalilzad began his latest peace mission on March 25 with visits to London and
Brussels and will also travel to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Jordan and
Qatar before returning to Washington on April 10.
Khalilzad said that in Brussels, US, EU and Nato officials talked about “the
meaningful political and social gains” in Afghanistan over the last 18 years,
especially for women and children, and agreed that those gains “must be
prioritised” in the peace process.
shared goal is to reach a peace agreement worthy of the sacrifices made over
decades of war. Together we’re committed to achieving genuine intra-Afghan
dialogue on a political settlement that ends the conflict,” he wrote.
a separate tweet, US Permanent Representative to Nato Kay Hutchison also
endorsed Mr Khalilzad’s views, indicating that the Trump administration
continues to support its special envoy in his dispute with Kabul.
China warn against politicising UN anti-terrorism regime
Pakistan has warned that politicising the UN counterterrorism machinery would
only compromise the integrity of the regime, as China also warned against
“forcefully moving” a resolution in the UN Security Council.
in a Security Council debate on “Preventing and Combating the Financing of
Terrorism” on Thursday afternoon, Pakistan’s Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi said that
current structures like FATF and the 1267 Sanctions regimes should not be used
as political tools by some to advance their geopolitical goals.
is also a need to make these institutions more inclusive of the wider
membership in their decision-making processes,” she added.
follows tabling in Security Council of resolution by US, seeking to list JeM
chief as global terrorist
Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a media briefing
in Beijing that “forcefully moving” a resolution directly in the UNSC
undermined the authority of the UN anti-terrorism committee.
is not in line with resolution of the issue through dialogue and negotiations.
This has reduced the authority of the Committee as a main anti-terrorism body
of the UNSC and this is not conducive to the solidarity and only complicates
the issue,” he said.
Wednesday, the United States directly moved a resolution in the UNSC, seeking
to list Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar as a UN-designated global
March 13, the US, Britain and France had moved a similar resolution in a forum
known as the 1267 or the Islamic State and Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee. Since
members of this committee are the same as those of the UN Security Council,
China used its discretionary powers to put a technical hold on the resolution.
China also promised to review the situation, including Indian allegations
against Masood Azhar, and reconsider its position on the resolution.
instead of waiting for the final Chinese decision, the United States moved the
resolution in the Security Council. China, as one of the Permanent Five, can
veto the resolution but this will put Beijing in a direct confrontation with
the other four. Both Washington and New Delhi hope that China will avoid a
direct confrontation and let the resolution pass.
in the general debate, Ambassador Lodhi pointed to the several gaps that
existed in the international community’s counterterrorism strategy.
identified the lack of international attention given to foreign intervention
and foreign occupation, denial of the right to self-determination to peoples
living under foreign occupation and continued violations of international law
and the UN Charter as examples of such gaps.
pointed out that continued and persistent violations of human rights
contributed to violent extremism. Yet killings continue in India-held Kashmir
Lodhi said that brutalisation and oppression of people struggling for their
legitimate right to self-determination constituted state terrorism, which
should also be the focus of international attention.
has been the principal victim of terrorism, including that supported, sponsored
and financed from abroad,” she said. “But this has not diminished my country’s
resolve to eliminate this scourge.”
Lodhi also told the Security Council that Pakistan had criminalised terrorist
financing in accordance with the Terrorism Financing Convention and had enacted
laws to eliminate terrorism financing risks and implement its international
obligations, including those arising from FATF recommendations and 1267
Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng said China put a technical
hold on the US move because it wanted to conduct an in-depth assessment and was
“in communication with all parties to seek a settlement through dialogue. We
hope this will be a common goal of all the members of the UNSC.”
about Pakistan rejecting the evidence put forward by India on the Pulwama
terrorist attack, he said, the 1267 committee had detailed and clear
stipulation and requirements on the listing issue.
China has done is in line with the requirement of the UNSC and rules and
procedures of the committee. We are always working in a constructive manner and
stay in communication with the relevant parties and seek a proper solution,” he
Geng said that moving a resolution directly in the UNSC undermined the
authority of the UN’s anti-terrorism committee.
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam chief Maulana Fazalur Rehman has launched a campaign to
motivate his supporters for the `million march’ he has planned against the
present regime is a product of rigging. It is following the agenda of foreign
lobby and destroying cultural heritage and religious assets of the nation.
Therefore, we have decided to launch a million march to get rid of this fascist
government,” he told a news conference on Sunday.
said the JUI-F was motivating all opposition parties to join its proposed
sit-in in Islamabad. He said PPP Co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari will support
said that those who had been abusing the parliament in the past were fooling
the nation by their false statements and had not given up the style of abusing
opposition. “Therefore, people have realised the fact that this party will rather
ruin the entire set-up through its foul play.”
said that his party’s move against the present regime was to make it to enforce
Islamic Shariah in the country and frustrate the evil agenda of Jewish lobby.
He said present regime was promoting nepotism and obscenity beside fooling the
nation on oil and gas reserves. .
said Prime Minister Imran Khan was misusing his authority by doing the politics
of revenge. He regretted that he planned to unite all parties against rigging
and malpractices in general elections but none bothered to join hands but now
those who brought Imran Khan into power had realised their mistake.
will convince all political parties to unite and join him at the Islamabad
sit-in to save the country from collapse and for revival of true democracy.”
his press conference, Fazl addressed a gathering at Fatima Jinnah Road and
sounded optimism for a considerable support for the sit-in which he said would
remain peaceful.He said the 18th Amendment was introduced for the best interest
of provinces and all political parties would resist government move to scrap
said the JUI-F would gather at Bab-e-Khyber on April 21 and in Mansehra on
April 28 before moving to Islamabad for a “historic million march.”
Pope Francis sought to encourage greater Christian-Muslim dialogue on Sunday,
telling his flock that showing the country’s Muslim majority they are part of
the same human family will help stamp out extremism.
his second and final day in Morocco, Francis told Catholic priests and sisters
that even though they are few in number, they shouldn’t seek to convert others
but rather engage in dialogue and charity.
this way, you will unmask and lay bare every attempt to exploit differences and
ignorance in order to sow fear, hatred and conflict,” he said. “For we know
that fear and hatred, nurtured and manipulated, destabilize our communities and
leave them spiritually defenseless.”
has stressed a message of Christian-Muslim fraternity during his first trip to
Morocco, a majority Muslim nation of 36 million. Proselytism is a prominent
issue in religious discourse in the north African country, even though
Christians, Muslims and Jews have coexisted peacefully here for centuries.
reaching out to the Sunni majority and Morocco’s ever growing community of
migrants from countries in sub-Saharan Africa on Saturday, Francis turned his
attention Sunday to Christian minorities. His aim was to highlight their
constructive presence in Moroccan life.
visited a social center run by Catholic religious sisters that serves a poor
Muslim community south of the capital, Rabat, with medical, educational and
vocational services. The Temara center operates a pre-school, treats burn
victims, trains women in tailoring and provides meals for 150 children a day.
catechism isn’t taught at the pre-school.
teachers are all Muslims and speak in Arabic and they prepare them on Muslim
religion,” said sister Gloria Carrillero. “We did not come here with the
purpose of doing proselytism. We came here just to help.”
represent less than 1 percent of Morocco’s population and most are foreign-born
migrants. Morocco also has between 2,000 and 6,000 homegrown converts to
Christianity who are obliged to practice their faith privately because Morocco
prohibits Muslim conversions.
Moroccan converts often celebrate Masses in their homes and hide their
religious affiliations for fear of prosecution and arrest. Yet many flocked to
Francis’ afternoon Mass in a Rabat sports stadium with the hope the pope’s
visit would compel Moroccan authorities to be more tolerant of religious
this visit, we want to tell the pope and the Moroccan society that we are proud
to be Christians,” said Moroccan Christian Adam Rbati, who was attending the
Mass with his Christian wife and newborn son. “It might not change much, but it
will certainly create the space for future positive change.”
touched on the issue of religious freedom in his opening speech to King
Mohammed VI on Saturday, urging Morocco to move beyond just freedom of worship to
true respect for an individual’s faith.
touched on the issue of religious freedom in his opening speech to King
Mohammed VI on Saturday, urging Morocco to move beyond just freedom of worship
to true respect for an individual’s faith.
General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres has stressed the importance of
guaranteeing Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity in any resolution on
the conflict in the Arab country.
resolution of the Syrian conflict must guarantee the unity, [and] the
territorial integrity of Syria, including the occupied Golan,” he said in an
address to an Arab League summit in the Tunisian capital of Tunis on Sunday.
“millions of Syrians remain displaced and in need, and tens of thousands are
arbitrarily detained…we must keep working to forge a political path to a
sustainable peace in which all Syrians are heard, grievances are addressed, and
needs are met,” he added.
remarks came days after US President Donald Trump broke decades of
international consensus and formally recognized Israeli "sovereignty"
over the occupied Golan Heights, a border area the Tel Aviv regime seized from
Syria in 1967.
was a long time in the making. Should have taken place decades ago,” Trump said
while signing the proclamation in the presence of Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump's Jewish son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, in
the White House in Washington, DC.
a Wednesday meeting of the UN Security Council turned into another stage for
the isolation of the US, as other countries on the council opposed Trump’s move
the meeting, Syria's Ambassador to the United Nations Bashar Jaafari lashed out
at President Trump's recognition, describing the move as part of a “criminal
project” aimed at prolonging chaos and destruction in the region.
is a criminal project or plan for which the US government and its allies have
used all tools at their disposal,” Jaafari said, adding that the plan is aimed
at guaranteeing chaos and destruction in the region, and dividing the people of
the region on religious and ethnic basis in order to “build a new reality.”
has repeatedly reaffirmed its sovereignty over Golan, saying the territory must
be completely restored to its control.
in his Sunday address, the UN chief said the Middle East faces “turbulent
winds” from “the wars in Yemen and Syria,” to “the rise and fall of Daesh” and
"the persistent denial of the right to self-determination for the
strongly appeal for the unity of the Arab world as a fundamental condition for
peace and prosperity in the region, and to avoid leaving the region vulnerable
to interference by foreign parties with destabilizing effects,” Guterres said,
calling for a regional vision rooted in cooperation, respect and mutual
recognized the need to “untangle the Gordian knot of insecurity, allow no space
for sectarianism, and deliver the peace, stability and effective, responsive
governance that the people of the region deserve.”
further pointed to the Stockholm agreement aimed at solving the conflict in
Yemen and said, “Following last December’s breakthrough in Stockholm, we
continue to work closely with the parties to achieve progress towards the
redeployment of forces in Hudaydah and the opening of humanitarian corridors on
the way to a political solution for Yemen.”
in December, representatives from the Houthi Ansarullah movement and the
Riyadh-sponsored government of ex-president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, reached
the truce deal during UN-mediated peace talks in Sweden.
the deal, they agreed to the withdrawal of their troops and the deployment of
UN monitors to the port city, a lifeline for millions of Yemenis.
President Michel Aoun told the Arab League summit that Beirut was threatened by
Trump's decision to recognize Israel’s illegal annexation because the Tel Aviv
regime was still occupying some Lebanese lands.
decision does not only threaten the sovereignty of a brotherly state [Syria],
but rather threatens as well the sovereignty of the Lebanese state, which owns
lands that were gradually bitten off by Israel,” Aoun said.
can we, small countries, feel reassured anymore when international charters and
rights are being undermined, and when the international legitimacy which
governs the UN-recognized borders between states is being challenged?”
Aviv considers Shebaa Farms part of the occupied Golan while both Damascus and
Beirut say the area is Lebanese.
Golan move raises alarm in Lebanon over Shebaa Farms
Salman: Saudi rejects Trump's move
speaking at the summit, Saudi King Salman rejected any measures that undermine
Syrian sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
reaffirm our absolute rejection of any measures that encroach upon Syrian
sovereignty over the Golan, and we stress the importance of reaching a
political solution to the Syrian crisis that will guarantee Syria's security,
unity and sovereignty and prevent foreign intervention.”
said the Riyadh regime still supported the establishment of a Palestinian state
in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Ignoring UN resolutions on Golan Heights 'not a solution'
the Arab League summit, European Union foreign policy chief, Federica
Mogherini, said that ignoring United Nations Security Council resolutions on
the Golan Heights was "not a solution."
also said a two state solution for Israel and Palestine was "the only
viable and realistic solution ... we have a responsibility to prevent the two
state solution from being irreversibly dismantled."
future plan will have to recognize the internationally agreed parameters
including on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, and the status of
Jerusalem [al-Quds] as the future capital of the two states," she pointed
trying to sabotage Arab Peace Initiative for Palestine: Abbas
President Mahmoud Abbas warned Arab leaders that the Trump administration was
going to "destroy" the Arab Peace Initiative by letting Israel annex
portions of the West Bank.
US will tell Israel, annex part of the Palestinian lands and grant self-rule to
what's left of the land, and give the Gaza Strip a state so that Hamas can play
there," he said.
US administration's decision is to destroy the Arab Peace Plan and constitutes
a dramatic change from the positions of previous US administrations,” Abbas
Arab Peace Initiative, proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2002, calls on Israel to
agree to a two-state solution along the 1967 lines and a “just” solution to the
Palestinian refugee issue. The initiative has been repeatedly endorsed by the
Arab League in 2002, 2007, and 2017.
ended a two-decade US commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state in
February 2017, when he said the two-state solution was only one of Washington's
options for resolving the conflict.
looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like.
I’m very happy with the one that both parties like,” he said at a joint press
conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House.
Trump administration has been promoting what it refers to as the "deal of
the century," which Palestinians say is a collection of tried and failed
ideas that ultimately serve Israel's interests.
can't solve Israel-Palestine issue: Bolton
League summit must send message on Palestinian state: Tunisia
President Beji Caid Essebsi, for his part, said the Arab League summit in Tunis
must send a message on the importance of establishing a Palestinian state.
added that regional and international stability should come through "a
just and comprehensive settlement that includes the rights of the Palestinian
people and leads to the establishment of a Palestinian state with [East]
Jerusalem [al-Quds] as its capital."
Emir walks out of summit
Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani abruptly left the opening session of the
summit without delivering his welcoming remarks, Qatar News Agency reported.
to the report, the emir headed to the airport and sent a message to Essebsi,
thanking him for Tunisia's hospitality during his stay.
emir is said to have left the summit after Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed
Abul Gheit lauded Saudi Arabia for its handling of the League's rotating
presidency last year.
New Zealand will crack down on firearms ownership this week after the
Christchurch mosques massacre that claimed 50 lives — and the Kiwi gun lobby,
for the most part, is okay with that.
stark contrast to the United States, where even the most minor curbs on gun
ownership meet ferocious opposition led by the National Rifle Association, New
Zealand gun owners agree action is needed.
March 15 rampage by a white supremacist gunman has been a shock to the
want to support our government in any changes to prevent a terrorist attack
from happening in New Zealand again,” Nicole McKee, secretary of the Council of
Licensed Firearm Owners said.
Minister Jacinda Ardern’s government announced an immediate ban on
military-style semi-automatic rifles (MSSAs) after the shooting and will put
laws to parliament formalising its action on Tuesday.
such legislation can often take months but Ardern says the matter is so urgent
it will be done by April 11.
curbs — potentially including a gun register, tighter vetting and stricter gun
storage rules — are set to be passed by the end of the year.
a move that would be unthinkable in the United States, one of New Zealand’s
largest gun retailers, Hunting & Fishing, voluntarily stopped selling MSSAs
and halted online firearms sales.
weapons of war have no place in our business — or our country,” chief executive
Darren Jacobs said.
Zealand has its own National Rifle Association, but since the shooting, it has
been at pains to point out it is a small sporting organization, not a wealthy
political lobby group like its American counterpart.
members shoot with single-shot bolt action rifles at paper targets,” president
Malcolm Dodson said.
office holder has told media the New Zealand NRA is considering changing its
name to avoid any association with the American body.
the surface, New Zealand and the United States share many historical
similarities, but they have a fundamentally different attitude toward firearms.
are former British colonies that fought bitter wars against indigenous
populations and forged an individualistic frontier mentality.
statistics highlight the difference.
2016, New Zealand, with a population of about 4.7 million, had nine
the United States, population approximately 327 million, there were 14,415,
more than two hundred times the per capita rate as New Zealand.
are approximately 393 million guns in private hands in the United States, or
1.2 for every person, whereas New Zealand has about 1.5 million, or 0.3 per
New Zealand government believes there are 13,500 MSSAs in the country, while
estimates put the number in the US at 15 million.
Alperts, a gun policy researcher at the University of Sydney, said the crucial
difference between New Zealand and the United States was the US Constitution’s
Second Amendment, which guarantees the right to keep and bear arms.
himself a Kiwi, said countries such as New Zealand viewed gun ownership as a
privilege, while in America it was seen as an inalienable right.
have a population who, when they traveled to America would get off the plane
and be absolutely horrified to see people walking around with a gun,” he said,
adding that safety was at the center of New Zealand gun culture.
Dawn Picken covered scores of shooting deaths in the United States and once had
bullets lodged in her bedroom when a random gunman opened fire on her apartment
building in Spokane, Washington state.
said she had found a different mindset since moving to New Zealand in 2011.
was quite refreshing as an American to come here and hear Kiwis who own guns
say ‘I don’t think they should be easy to get and it’s not my right, they
should check I’m not predisposed to violence or going to go off the rails,” she
like anywhere, New Zealand has a vocal fringe element.
Prime Minister Kills Sports Shooting,” screams the headline on one prominent
former police minister Judith Collins had a blunt message for the US NRA and
any other gun lobbyists who tried to inject themselves into New Zealand’s gun
control debate: “Bugger off.”
difference in gun cultures has played out on social media since the
a right-wing US website tweeted that “armed government thugs” were carrying out
door-to-door gun confiscations in New Zealand, dozens of Kiwis left mocking replies.
Israel take first steps toward Gaza cease-fire deal
cease-fire deal appeared to take hold between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers on
Sunday, with Israel expanding the permitted fishing zone and easing some tight
restrictions on movement through its two main crossings with the Palestinian
mediators have worked in recent days to broker a cease-fire agreement, but
talks have been repeatedly interrupted by Palestinian rocket attacks and
Israeli military reprisals.
violence has heightened tensions just over a week before Israeli national
a sign that Egyptian efforts have made progress, the Gaza fishermen’s committee
said Israel would be extending the permitted fishing zone along the
Mediterranean coast to a maximum of 15 nautical miles (28 kilometers), up from
the previous limit of nine nautical miles (17 kilometers). Fishing had been
off-limits since Gaza militants launched a rocket toward Tel Aviv
week, touching off rounds of short but intense cross-border fighting between
the bitter enemies.
officials confirmed that the reopening of the fishing zone would go into effect
lifting of some restrictions on the passage of people and cargo in and out of
Gaza further indicated a strengthening of the cease-fire, which Hamas officials
say would see Israel easing its blockade in exchange for guarantees of quiet.
and Hamas officials confirmed that the Erez and Kerem Shalom border crossings
were re-opened, in a very restricted fashion, for the first time since violence
flared up last Monday.
first steps toward the restoration of calm were nonetheless punctuated by
exchanges of fire along the border. Just hours after Israel announced the
re-opening of its main Gaza crossings Sunday, a mortar shell was launched from
the Gaza Strip toward Israel, the army said.
projectile did not cross into Israeli territory but did set off air-raid sirens
in the country’s south.
was no immediate claim of responsibility, and no immediate Israeli response.
Yemeni army and fighters from allied Popular Committees have launched several
missiles at Saudi military positions in the kingdom’s southern regions in
retaliation for Riyadh's deadly military campaign against their country.
Yemeni forces fired five Zelzal-1 (Earthquake-1) missiles at Saudi military
positions near Alab border crossing in the kingdom's southwestern region of
Asir on Sunday, Yemen’s al-Masirah news website reported.
military source said that the attack left an unspecified number of Saudi troops
dead and injured, the report added. Saudi authorities usually keep the number
of their war casualties a secret.
Yemeni forces fired two more missiles at military positions east of al-Nar
Mountain in Jizan.
days earlier, they foiled a massive Saudi offensive in the city of Sa'ada,
killing at least 90 mercenaries and injuring over 100 others.
under the order of its de-facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, leads a
coalition of Arab nations -- including the United Arab Emirates (UAE) -- that
began indiscriminately pounding targets across Yemen in March 2015, with the
aim of crushing the Houthi Ansarullah movement and bringing former president
Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi’s government back to power.
to a new report by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED),
a nonprofit conflict-research organization, the Saudi-led war has so far
claimed the lives of about 56,000 Yemenis.
Saudi-led war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure,
destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The UN has warned that a record
22.2 million Yemenis are in dire need of food, including 8.4 million threatened
by severe hunger. According to the world body, Yemen is suffering from the most
severe famine in more than 100 years.
number of Western countries, the US and Britain in particular, are also accused
of being complicit in the ongoing aggression as they supply Riyadh with
advanced weapons and military equipment as well as logistical and intelligence
and their allies, however, remain steadfast in their resolve to fight off the
enemy with a powerful arsenal of domestically-developed missiles that have
struck as far as the Saudi capital.
building military base in Yemen’s Socotra
to Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper, a video circulating on social media shows
Emirati forces constructing a private port inside a military base they have
been building near Socotra Island's main port, which is run by Hadi loyalists.
located near Somalia in the Gulf of Aden, is protected by the United Nations
cultural agency UNESCO as a world heritage site, meaning that even the Yemeni
government is not allowed to interfere in the natural habitats and places of
natural beauty in the area.
May, UAE forces landed in Socotra along with tanks, armored transports and
heavy equipment in a move that sparked the anger of the island’s residents.
websites also reported that the Emirati troops operate a private port in
Yemen’s Mukalla to transport detainees and unknown materials to and from the
city. The port in Mukalla is also used to transport the American investigators
who are interrogating Yemeni detainees held in secret prisons run by the UAE,
the sources added.
officials were expected to approve more than 1,400 new settlement units on
Sunday and to announce plans to build thousands more next week in the occupied
West Bank, a report says.
Palestinian Ma’an news agency, citing a report by the Israeli daily Haaretz,
said on Sunday that an Israeli body overseeing settlement construction was
expected to approve the building of 1,427 settler units across the West bank
later in the day.
also quoted some unnamed sources as saying that the Israeli body would also
announce plans to construct 3,500 other settler units and possibly approve an
additional 1,500 ones in the region in the coming week.
1967, the Israeli regime has been uprooting Palestinians from their homes under
various pretexts, grabbing more and more land.
to Peace Now, an Israeli anti-settlement NGO that monitors settlement activity
in the West Bank, since US President Donald Trump came to power in early 2017,
more than 14,450 settler units in the West Bank have been approved. That figure
is over three times the number of units approved in the year and a half before
his inauguration — some 4,475 units.
than a month before Trump took office, the United Nations Security Council
(UNSC) adopted Resolution 2334, calling on Israel to “immediately and
completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian
territories, including East Jerusalem” al-Quds.
600,000 Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967
Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli regime has been building
settlements more deeply into Palestinian lands, in an attempt to diminish
chances of the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Yemen’s army shot down the fourth Houthi drone in March while it was in Nihm
district of the Sanaa governorate airspace, Saudi news agency SPA reported on
is the seventh drone the army shoots down in Nihm since the start of the year,
this month, the Saudi-led Arab coalition raided two caves in Sanaa used by
Houthi militants to store drones.
spokesperson Colonel Turki Al-Malki said the militia was planning to use the
drones hidden in the caves for “terrorist operations.”
week’s raid was part of previous military operations which started in January
and targeted Houthi drone networks and foreign experts helping the militants.
homecoming for Afghans paid by Iran to fight in Syria
poor to even buy pens and notebooks for school, Mehdi left his home in
Afghanistan soon after his 17th birthday and headed to Iran, hoping to make his
way to Europe and find work.
Mehdi ended up fighting in Syria’s civil war, a conflict he had nothing to do
with, 2,000 km from home. He was one of tens of thousands of Afghans recruited,
paid and trained by Iran to fight in support of Tehran’s ally, Syrian President
he found himself thrown into one of the war’s bloodiest front lines, surrounded
by the bodies of his comrades, under fire from ISIS extremist group so close he
could hear their shouts of “Allahu akbar” (“God is greatest”) before each
ran an extensive drive to bring Shiites from across the region and create a
network of militias to help save Assad from the uprising against his rule - not
only Afghans but also Pakistanis, Iraqis and Lebanese.
with the 8-year war in Syria winding down, the question is what will Tehran do
with those well-trained, well-armed forces.
and other soldiers-for-hire from Afghanistan’s impoverished Shiite Muslim
communities are returning to their homeland, where they are met with suspicion.
Afghan security officials believe Iran is still organizing them, this time as a
secret army to spread Tehran’s influence amid Afghanistan’s unending conflicts.
in Afghanistan we are afraid. They say we are all terrorists,” said Mehdi, now
21 and back in his home city of Herat. He spoke on condition he not be fully
identified for fear of retaliation.
wouldn’t meet The Associated Press at home or in public - only in a car parked
in a remote, mostly Shiite neighborhood. Even there, Mehdi kept his face
obscured with a scarf, glancing suspiciously at every passing car.
return to Afghanistan at the Islam Qala border with Iran, in the western Herat
veterans returning from Syria are threatened from multiple sides. They face
arrest by security agencies that view them as traitors. And they face violence
from the brutal ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan, which views Shiites as heretics
and vows to kill them.
May, ISIS gunmen burst into Herat’s Jawadia Shiite mosque, opening fire and
setting off their suicide belt explosives among worshippers, killing 38 people.
knowing people who fought in Syria can land someone in jail, said a local elder
in a village near Herat. He spoke on condition of anonymity for that reason.
men from his village were killed fighting in Syria, but there are no graves for
them here. All were buried in Iran, he said.
intensified its role in Syria when Assad appeared to be losing the fight
against rebels in 2013 and 2014.
sent hundreds of Revolutionary Guard troops and began bringing in allied
militias. The most well-known and most powerful was Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
the largest was the force made up of Afghans, known as the Fatimiyoun Brigade,
which experts have estimated numbered up to 15,000 fighters at any one time.
the years, tens of thousands of Afghans likely trained and fought in it. Most
of them are from Afghanistan’s ethnic Hazara minority, who are among the
10,000 veterans of the brigade have returned to Afghanistan, says a senior
official in Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry who is familiar with government
intelligence. The official was not authorized to brief reporters and spoke on
condition of anonymity.
Afghan government and many experts believe Iran could mobilize these
ex-fighters once more to assert its influence in Afghanistan, particularly as
the United States accelerates its efforts to end its nearly 18-year military
the Iranians to reconstitute their militias inside Afghanistan at some point,”
warned Bill Roggio, editor of the Long War Journal, a site devoted to coverage
of the US war on terror.
added: “Iran does not discard assets in which it invests time, treasure and
is already tormented by an overabundance of armed groups, many divided on ethnic
include militias loyal to several warlords, who are aligned with the government
but often at odds with each other.
are also the Sunni militants: Taliban insurgents rule in nearly half the
country, and ISIS affiliate has proven to be a stubborn enemy, even in the face
of relentless US bombing raids.
those factions could turn their massive arsenals on each other after a US and
has happened before. In the early 1990s, factions of the US-backed mujahedeen
who took power after the Soviet withdrawal turned on each other in fighting
that leveled large parts of the capital, Kabul, and killed an estimated 50,000
will likely seize on any turmoil to mobilize the Fatimiyoun with the very real
pretext that Afghan Shiites need a defender, said Michael Kugelman, Asia
Program deputy director at the Washington-based Wilson Center.
Afghanistan is plunged into more unrest, “the Iranians would have a strong
motivation to help a Shia force that would face intensified threats from the
Taliban and especially ISIS,” he said.
is already supporting Syria war veterans living in Kabul and in central
Afghanistan’s Hazara-dominated region of Bamiyan, said the Interior Ministry
said Afghan intelligence agencies have identified senior Iranian government
officials who are “managing the activities” of returning fighters, including
providing them arms and money and building a structure for quick
re-mobilization if needed.
warlord Abdul Gani Alipur, an ethnic Hazara, is also implicated in aiding Iran,
was arrested late last year on charges of having an illegal militia, but he was
released after thousands of Hazaras protested.
Kasimi, a researcher with the independent Kabul-based research group,
Afghanistan Analysts Network, speaks during the interview. (AP)
of those who joined the Fatimiyoun Brigade were driven by hopelessness and
poverty, not loyalty to Iran, said Reza Kasimi, a researcher with the
independent Kabul-based research group, Afghanistan Analysts Network.
first thing is that most of these people don’t see a future for themselves in
Afghanistan,” he said.
Mehdi went to Iran in 2015, he worked, mostly on construction sites, to earn
enough money to make a run for Europe. But by the time he did, Europe’s borders
was very disappointed. I had come to Iran to go to Europe, to study, to have a
better life, but I was still there, with nothing,” Mehdi said.
Afghan friend suggested they enlist for Syria. As a fighter for Iran, they
could earn the equivalent of $900 a month. At the time Mehdi was making barely
$150 a month.
thought about it and I made my heart strong, like a raging river,” Mehdi said.
“I decided, ‘Live or die, I’ll go.”
reported to a recruitment center in Tehran. There, officials gathered his
personal details - the names of his parents and relatives and the street where
he lived in Herat. “I understood they wanted all that information if I died,”
and other Afghan recruits were flown the next day to Iran’s southern Yazd
province, where they underwent 27 days of training under the Revolutionary
Guard. Mehdi’s marksmanship impressed the trainers, and he was made a sniper.
it was over, Mehdi was flown to Damascus with around 1,600 other new recruits.
Damascus, the recruits opened bank accounts where their salary would be
deposited. They were taken to the shrine of Sayeda Zeinab, a site outside
Damascus revered by Shiites, for final blessings before battle. The next day,
they were taken by bus to the northern city of Aleppo and sent immediately to
Mehdi was thrown into one of the fiercest battles of the war - a campaign that
began in the spring of 2016 against extremist militant factions, including the
al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front, over the town of Khan Toman and nearby villages
on Aleppo’s edge.
was a fight that showed the international nature of the war. Among the
militants were Syrians, Iraqis, Chechens, Turkmens, Uzbeks and other foreign fighters;
on the other side were Syrian government troops, Iranian soldiers, Lebanese
Hezbollah fighters, Iraqi Shiites and Afghans, backed by Russian warplanes -
all battling for a piece of Syrian land.
fighting went on for months and it is estimated hundreds on both sides were
killed or wounded. On a single day, militants killed an estimated 80
pro-government fighters, including at least 13 Iranians and dozens of Afghans,
Iraqis and Lebanese. In the end, the militants held Khan Toman, as they do to this
described terrifying bloodshed. He said in one battle, 800 Afghans were sent to
the front line and only 200 returned alive and unwounded. “Often in the morning
I saw seven, eight dead bodies.” he said.
added: “For the first couple of days I was very scared. The explosions were so
Afghan veteran of the same battle, Abdullah, said he still has nightmares of
the dead, their limbs missing.
said the Afghans were sent as cannon fodder. “I saw Afghan fighters rolled over
by tanks the way someone steps on ants,” he told the AP in Kabul.
added: “Dead bodies were scattered everywhere.”
returned to Afghanistan a year ago, and his life has changed little from when
he left. He remains poor and unable to find a job.
nearly 18 years and more than $1 trillion spent by the United States, Afghans
are only getting poorer.
to a 2016-17 Afghanistan Living Conditions Survey, co-sponsored by the European
Union, 55 percent of Afghans live below the poverty level, compared to 38
percent in 2011-12.
spoke bitterly of his lack of options. He’s considering re-enlisting for Syria.
The brigade is still operating there, and some Afghan veterans stayed in Syria
to find jobs, mostly in construction.
said: “I don’t know what my future brings. Maybe I become a thief or maybe I go
back to Syria.”
reacts to Taliban militants attack on Afghan Vice President’s convoy in Balkh
government of Qatar has reacted to Taliban militants attack on convoy of First
Vice President General Abdul Rashid Dostum in northern Balkh province.
State of Qatar expressed its strong condemnation and denunciation of the
assassination attempt against First Vice-President of Afghanistan Abdul Rashid
Dostum, in which four of his bodyguards were killed and six others were
injured,” the Foreign Ministry of Qatar said in a statement.
statement further added that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs expresses the
State of Qatar’s firm stance on rejecting violence and terrorism regardless of
the motives and causes. “It considered the attempt an unaccepted criminal act,
stressed the importance of arresting those involved in it and bringing them to
209th Shaheen Corps had earlier issued a statement, stating that the Taliban
militants had laid an ambush against the convoy of Gen. Dostum at around 5:00pm
local time on Saturday in Alam Khel, Margin Tapa, Sharsharak, Khanabad, Slaiman
Khel, Joi Uzbek, Timorak, and Choba villages of Chahar Bolak district.
statement further added that the Afghan Special Forces who were conducting
operations in the area were deployed to support the security guards of Gen.
to 209th Shaheen Corps, at least 4 Taliban militants including their commander
Zalmai alias Sangari were killed and 7 others were wounded
Commander of the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission and the U.S. Forces in
Afghanistan Gen. Scott Miller reaffirmed the alliance’s support to Afghan armed
forces while reiterating continued war against terrorism.
Office of Chief Executive of the Government of National Unity in a statement
said Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah met with the Commander of the Resolute Support
Mission and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan Gen. Scott Miller in Spidar Palace this
statement further added that Gen. Miller the coalition supports ongoing peace
efforts, emphasizing that the coalition will continue supporting the Afghan armed
forces and will maintain counter-terrorism operations besides supporting
reconciliation efforts, describing a fair and lasting peace agreement as the
main demand of the Afghan nation.
Miller also added that Afghanistan, the United States, and NATO maintain a
strong relationship based on joint values and interests.
least 17 Taliban militants were killed or wounded in separate airstrikes
conducted by coalition forces in Nad-e-Ali and Nahr-e-Saraj districts of
provincial government media office in a statement said the first airstrike was
carried out at around 12am local time on Sunday, targeting a Taliban compound
which left 4 militants dead and another militant wounded.
statement further added that the second airstrike was carried out at around 2am
local time in Nahr-e-Saraj district which also targeted a Taliban compound.
least 10 militants were killed and two others were wounded in the second
airstrike, the provincial government added in its statement.
Taliban militants have suffered heavy casualties during the latest operations
of the Afghan Special Forces and airstrikes which were conducted in Ghazni,
Uruzgan, Kandahar, and Helmand provinces in past 24 hours.
to informed military sources, at least 3 Taliban militants including one of their
senior commanders were killed in Special Forces operations and airstrikes which
were conducted in Jaji and Qarabagha districts of Ghazni province.
operations were conducted in Tainkot city of Uruzgan province leaving at least
30 militants dead, 1 wounded. The soldiers also found and destroyed 13 IEDs and
IED making material.
Special Forces conducted a raid on a suspected Taliban IED-making facility in
Maywand district of Kandahar province killing 3 Taliban fighters, the sources
said, adding that Afghan Special Forces conducted a raid in Sangin district of
Helmand province and arrested 4 Taliban fighters and leaders.
least eleven militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria
Khurasan (ISIS-K) were killed or wounded in separate airstrikes conducted in eastern
Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.
to informed military sources, the airstrikes were carried out in Achin and Deh
Bala districts of Nangarhar province in past 24 hours.
sources further added that five of the militants were killed in Achin while 4
others were killed in Deh Bala district.
in Achin district of Nangarhar killed 5 ISIS-K fighters and wounded another,”
the sources said, adding that similar airstrikes in Deh Bala district killed 4
ISIS-K fighters and wounded another.
Afghanistan: An Afghan official says the Taliban stormed two checkpoints in
northern Sari Pul province, killing at least five members of the security
forces and setting of an hours-long gunbattle.
Amani, spokesman for the provincial governor, say the attack in the province's
Sozma Qala district started late on Sunday night. The fighting lasted until
Monday morning and also left two troops wounded.
says the insurgents captured six soldiers before fleeing the scene. Their fate
remains unknown. The checkpoints were retaken and the area was brought under
control once reinforcements arrived.
The Saudi ambassador to Malaysia, Mahmoud Qattan, attended the opening ceremony
of the Kingdom’s pavilion at the 38th Kuala Lumpur International Book Fair on
fair, at the World Trade Centre in the Malaysian capital, will run until April
was received by Dr. Khalid Al-Mutlaq, the cultural attache at the Saudi Embassy
and the pavilion’s supervisor. He touched upon the historical relations between
the Kingdom and Malaysia, which were solidified by the visit of the late King
Faisal bin Abdul Aziz to the country in 1974, and the subsequent joint work
between the two that eventually led to the establishment of the Organization of
added that the Kingdom and Malaysia hold a shared view on the future of Islam,
based on moderation, tolerance and the rejection of extremism. He also praised
the work of the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance,
represented by the religious attaché in Malaysia, which has helped to fund and
provide moderate preachers to work in Malaysian universities and religious
institutions for several years.
the opening ceremony, Qattan toured the exhibition and discussed the selection
of books on moderate Islam and rejecting extremism, praising the wide range of
subjects and that multiple texts in different languages were also available.
Philippine police say two extremist have been arrested with guns, explosives and
Daesh group-style black flags in a northern province far from the traditional
lairs of militants in the volatile south.
police chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde said Monday the arrest last week of the two
militants in Baggao town in Cagayan province in the northern tip of the main
Luzon island was not an indication that Daesh-linked militants have been able
to expand their presence far beyond their traditional southern bases.
Emmanuel Santa Maria Chi
LUMPUR, March 31 — The first year in power for any new government is the most
vital as it sets the tone for the administration’s commitment towards political
change and reforms, said Nurul Izzah Anwar today.
have to understand the first year in any transition of power is a very
is the year that we can see their political commitment to make sure changes
actually happen,” said the Permatang Pauh MP when asked for her view on the
reforms undertaken by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration
was speaking to reporters after the launch of six books published by Angkatan
Belia Islam Malaysia (Abim) at the Putra World Trade Centre today.
the six included one titled Anwar Ibrahim: Semangat Darah Muda, a memoir of
reform aspirations published by Abim in collaboration with Datuk Seri Anwar
Izzah and her opinions on reforms have made headlines the past week, after she
announced her resignation from all government and political party positions,
citing her dissatisfaction at the sluggish pace of reforms as one of her
Izzah had said she would also not seek re-election at the next general
also caused another stir last week when she labelled Prime Minister Tun Dr
Mahathir Mohamad a ‘former dictator’ during an interview with a Singaporean
daily, later defending her position as saying the moniker given to the
nonagenarian was factually correct.
Izzah today also touched on her fight for prison reforms, saying those within
the entire institution, including the incarcerated, wardens, and the labour
that goes into maintaining the prisons must always be championed.
said dialogues between her and the affected agencies had agreed that financial
allocation for the prison systems must not be solely to sustain inmates and
those working there, but should instead be spent on making the rehabilitation
system more effective.
agencies have shared their ideas with me that allocations should not be used to
sustain more and more inmates in jails.
is to make sure the inmates are more effective to be absorbed back into the
society and given a second chance in line with their levels of preparations
towards rehabilitation,” she said.
Kenya — Somalia’s al-Shabab Islamic extremist group says it has executed four
men accused of spying for the British, Djibouti and Somali intelligence
announced the killings on its Andalus radio station on Sunday, saying they were
carried out by a firing squad in a public square in Kamsuma, a town in the
Lower Jubba region.
group’s spokesman said its recent spate of attacks on hotels in the capital,
Mogadishu, have been part of its drive against Somali intelligence agents and
other government officials who he said were staying at the hotels.
don’t attack every hotel in Mogadishu, but those specific ones (hotels)
attacked by Mujahideen fighters have got specific features meriting them for
attacks,” said Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, on the rebels’ radio station.
standard public hotel that civilians stay in is not protected by blast walls
and soldiers. These apostates have got no distinct offices, and most of those
men were killed at hotels they use as their offices,” he said, apparently
referring to Somali government officials.
has seen series of attacks by al-Shabab in recent weeks, highlighting
challenges facing the Somali government, which said recently that it is considering
imposing a state of emergency in Mogadishu to try to contain the attacks.
also said that the recent withdrawal of Kenyan forces, who are part of the
multinational African Union forces in Somalia, from villages were made as
result of increased attacks and deaths and budget constraints faced by the
which is al-Qaida’s East Africa affiliate, has fought for years to impose a
strict version of Islam in the Horn of Africa nation. Despite losing territory
in recent years, the extremist group continues to carry out deadly attacks in
many parts of the country, especially in Mogadishu. A truck bomb there in
October 2017 killed more than 500 people.
Somalia (AA) – At least 16 people were killed, 17 others wounded in a car bomb
blast in the Somali capital Mogadishu on Thursday, officials said.
Bulle, a police officer, told Anadolu Agency over the phone that the attack
targeted a busy restaurant on the Maka al-Mukarama road in Mogadishu.
huge car bomb blast exploded in front of the Filsan Restaurant near Dabka
junction at the Maka al-Mukarama road, killing at least 11 people” Bulle said.
Thursday, the death toll has increased to 17, according to the police.
group Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the deadly blast in Mogadishu.
African Union will host a “reconciliation” conference in July aimed at uniting
Libya’s political rivals, AU commission chief Moussa Faki said late Saturday.
an opportunity for the Libyans,” Faki said during a press conference in Tunis,
on the sidelines of an Arab League summit in the Tunisian capital.
announcement of the July talks in Addis Ababa followed a meeting on Libya which
included Faki, UN chief Antonio Guterres and the EU’s top diplomat Federica
high time that the (political) actors discuss the fate of their country,” Faki
has been mired in chaos since the 2011 ouster of dictator Muammar Qaddafi and a
series of international efforts have so far failed to unite the country.
United Nations is due to hold another conference next month in the central
Libyan city of Ghadames, which is aimed at drawing up a “roadmap” to lead to
120 and 150 delegates are expected to attend the forum from April 14-16, UN
envoy Ghassan Salame said earlier this month.
UN backs a Government of National Accord in the capital Tripoli, while a rival
administration in the east is supported by Khalifa Haftar and his self-styled
Libyan National Army.
of Tunisians protested in the Tunisian capital Tunis against the Arab summit
being held on Sunday.
on Sunday, the 30th Arab Summit kicked off in Tunis amid absence of almost half
of the Arab leaders.
demonstration -- called by Tunisian Network to Address Normalization, a
non-governmental organization -- saw banners reading "no normalization
deals on Tunisian territory" and "the liberation of Palestine is a
duty of the nation".
protesters were reportedly trying to stage their protest close to the building,
where the Arab Summit was convened, before the Tunisian security forces banned
al-Kahlawi, chairman of the Tunisian Organization for the Support of the Arab
Resistance, told Anadolu Agency that their move comes as "such summits are
ways for surrender and normalization."
went on to say that this summit came to normalize with Israel.
13 Arab leaders are attending the one-day summit, including Qatar's emir Tamim
bin Hamad and Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi.
attending leaders include Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad of Kuwait and King Abdullah II
of Jordan as well as the leaders of Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Yemen, Mauritania
is also represented by the head of the country's presidential council Fayez
eight leaders are absent from the summit; most notably Sudanese President Omar
al-Bashir, Algeria's Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said and
Moroccan King Mohammed VI.
Syria is not represented by any official at the summit as the country's Arab
League membership has been frozen since 2011.
Jewish New York councilman said ‘Palestine does not exist.’ Now he may be
York City, home to the largest Jewish population outside Israel, has often
served as a proxy battleground for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Mayors,
dating to Robert Wagner, who in 1957 barred a welcome for a Saudi king he
deemed anti-Jewish, to Bill de Blasio, who in 2015 canceled a plan to meet
Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, have been forced to confront the highly
as more Palestinian immigrants have settled in New York, the political calculus
has grown slightly more complicated, as seen last week, when Councilman Kalman
Yeger, D-Brooklyn, who represents the Orthodox Jewish community of Borough
Park, took to Twitter on Wednesday to state that “Palestine does not exist.”
remarks came after Zainab Iqbal, a journalist for Bklyner, reported that Yeger
had referred to “so-called Palestinians” in a tweet. Yeger responded by calling
U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., anti-Semitic. The councilman’s pronouncements
led to a cascade of criticism calling his comments “hateful” and
“Islamophobic,” and prompted demands for an apology and his removal from the
City Council’s immigration committee.
latest such call came from de Blasio, who said Friday that if Yeger is “not
going to apologize, he shouldn’t be on that committee.”
was unapologetic about his comments during a news conference Thursday. “There
is no state by that name. There is no place by that name. That’s a fact. I
didn’t make it up, I didn’t invent it,” Yeger said.
to the United Nations, 137 states bilaterally recognize Palestine.
earlier remarks led to a small protest by pro-Palestinian groups outside his
office in Borough Park, which was met with a much larger counterprotest from
Yeger’s supporters, including one incident where a protester asked a Muslim
woman whether her young daughter had “any bombs on her to blow us up.”
Sarsour, a Palestinian-American activist from New York, also found herself
caught up in the controversy when her name was used to draw counterprotesters
to Yeger’s office.
is a lot more complicated than a councilman makes a comment,” Sarsour said.
“It’s on a deeper level and represents a bubbling up of long-standing conflicts
around the Palestinian and Israeli conflict.”
the city’s politics have frequently been roiled by the Israeli-Palestinian
1966, Mayor John Lindsay canceled a dinner for a Saudi king who said that any
friends of Israel were his enemies. Mayor Abraham Beame rescinded giving
President Anwar Sadat of Egypt a key to the city after a United Nations
committee labeled Zionism a form of racial discrimination.
Ed Koch had an argument at City Hall with the Austrian foreign minister in 1984
about whether the Palestine Liberation Organization served as the voice of
Palestinian people. Mayor David Dinkins took criticism from his black
constituents for not scheduling any meetings with Palestinians during a 1991
trip to Israel. Mayor Rudy Giuliani expelled Yasser Arafat, chairman of the
Palestine Liberation Organization, from a concert for world leaders at Lincoln
in 2016, the City Council passed a resolution condemning the call for a boycott
of Israel over its treatment of Palestinians.
reaction to Yeger’s remarks suggests that things are changing.
Johnson, the City Council speaker, called Yeger’s remarks “dehumanizing” during
a news conference Thursday and said that he would be “uncomfortable” having
someone with Yeger’s point of view serve on a committee designed to “welcome”
all immigrants. “I very vigorously condemn his comments in no uncertain terms.
They have no place in New York City,” Johnson said. “The best thing about our
city is our diversity, and that includes our Jewish community and it includes
our amazing Palestinian community as well who live here.”
mayor, who is considering a run for president, has come under criticism
recently for speaking at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a
pro-Israel lobbying group, even as other declared Democratic presidential
candidates declined to do so this year.
some saw de Blasio’s initial response to Yeger’s comments as inadequate,
especially given the strong criticism of Omar’s remarks about Israel.
mayor sought to fortify his comments Friday during his weekly radio appearance
on “The Brian Lehrer Show” on WNYC: “I made very clear that the councilman was
wrong. I made very clear that there has to be a Palestinian homeland,” said de
Blasio, who went on to call Yeger’s comments “destructive and divisive.”
should apologize. Look, people in public life should be about unifying people
and finding ways to work together. What he is doing is the opposite, he should
stop,” the mayor added.
Hikind, a former Democratic assemblyman from Brooklyn who helped organize the
counterprotest outside Yeger’s office, was disheartened by the criticism of
Democrats, liberals, have unfortunately moved away from the kind of support for
Israel that we are used to,” said Hikind, who said he saw nothing wrong with
there Palestinians? Yes, of course. Palestine doesn’t exist,” Hikind said. “It
may exist in the future if the Israelis and Palestinians come to an agreement.
If they negotiate and one day there are two states, so be it.”
characterized the person who made the bomb remark to the young Muslim woman as
an individual who said “terrible things,” but who did not represent the
majority of counterprotesters. “The people that came out did not come out of
hate,” he said. “They came out of love for the people of Israel.”
and Hikind do agree that the unequivocal political support for Israel that used
to exist in New York among the city’s politicians is no more. The response to
Yeger’s comments prove that, she said.
been a long time coming for elected officials to say anti-Palestinian things
with any sort of consequences,” Sarsour said. “We are in a new era.”
calls for new internet regulations after New Zealand massacre
has called on governments to play a “more active role” in establishing new
rules and regulations that govern the internet and protect people from harmful
social media company's director Mark Zuckerberg made the appeal in an article
published by the Washington Post on Saturday.
believe we need a more active role for governments and regulators,” Zuckerberg
said. “By updating the rules for the internet, we can preserve what’s best
about it — the freedom for people to express themselves and for entrepreneurs
to build new things — while also protecting society from broader harms.”
Facebook chief proposed that new regulations were needed in four areas,
including harmful content, election integrity, privacy and data portability.
impossible to remove all harmful content from the internet, but when people use
dozens of different sharing services — all with their own policies and
processes — we need a more standardized approach," Zuckerberg said.
regulations, however, could help establish baselines for what content is
harmful rather than leaving various social media platforms and services to set
their own different standards,” he added.
CEO of the tech giant also stressed that there should be "clear
rules" set "about who's responsible for protecting information when
it moves between services."
mechanism "shouldn't require data to be stored locally, which would make
it more vulnerable to unwarranted access," Zuckerberg said. "And it
should establish a way to hold companies such as Facebook accountable by
imposing sanctions when we make mistakes."
rules governing the Internet allowed a generation of entrepreneurs to build
services that changed the world and created a lot of value in people’s lives.
It’s time to update these rules to define clear responsibilities for people,
companies and governments going forward," Zuckerberg concluded.
announced earlier this week a ban on "praise, support and representation
of white nationalism and white separatism," which the social media giant
said would be enforced over the next few days.
statement came after Facebook live-streaming was used during the 15 March
attacks on two Muslim mosques in New Zealand, which claimed the lives of 50
New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, African
Muslim News, Arab
World News, South
Asia News, Indian
Muslim News, World
Muslim News, Women
in Islam, Islamic
In Arab, Islamophobia
in America, Muslim
Women in West, Islam
Women and Feminism